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Oregon nuclear reactor company gets federal funding to take its plan to market

by: COURTESY OF NUSCALE  - A simulated photo shows how a NuScale reactor might be transported by truck. Portland-based Nuscale Power is aiming to get its innovative small nuclear reactor into commercial operation by 2025, after the U.S. Department of Energy awarded it up to $226 million in development funding Thursday.

The federal funding, which must be matched 1-to-1 by NuScale and its investors, is designed to help the company get federally licensed and operating its first nuclear plant in around 12 years.

“This project represents a significant investment in first-of-a-kind engineering and design certification for small modular reactors in the United States,” the Energy Department noted in a press release announcing the award.

"It's a really big day for NuScale," said Mike McGough, NuScale chief commercial officer.

"It means a great deal to Oregon," he added, "and can change the shape of the world's energy markets."

Since 2003, NuScale has been testing a one-third-size prototype in Corvallis, where most of its Oregon staff works.

The small reactors are designed to be easily and safely transported, with the potential for multiple modules to expand the generating capacity. The smaller size also incorporates safety features that, the company says, make the reactors much less vulnerable to a Fukushima, Japan-type incident.

NuScale hopes to submit its design to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission by late-2015, he said, and the approval process is expected to take three and a half years.

NuScale is owned by the Fluor Corp., a Fortune 500 engineering and construction company based in Texas.

That should help NuScale raise the matching money, though raising an amount of that size is never easy, McGough said.

NuScale has already invested $170 million to get its nuclear design to this point, he said, and he predicts it will take a total of $1 billion to get the initial reactor designed and approved.

The federal money and matching money will go a long way towards that, he said, but it still won't be enough.

NuScale, which employs about 140 people in Corvallis, has about 240 people working on the project, including contractors.

The project will remain based in Oregon, where NuScale has operations in Corvallis and Portland, with additional suppliers and operations in nine other states.

NuScale is based on technology developed at Oregon State University.

The specific funding total will be negotiated between NuScale and federal officials, but is designed as a five-year cost-sharing agreement.

McGough said he expected negotiations with the Energy Department to take about two months, and the flow of funds to begin shortly after that.

Steve Law can reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Twitter: @SteveLawTrib