August 3, 2020, Virtual Los Alamos Town Hall
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Date and Time: Monday, August 3, 2020 at 6 PM via Zoom Webinar



QUESTION: Have you ever tested a full scale or other prototype of the reactor core and primary cooling system using nuclear fuel as the power source? If so, are the reports available?

ANSWER: Click on link to see NuScale written response.

QUESTION: If not, why not, and when do you expect to make such a test?

ANSWER: Click on link to see NuScale written response.

QUESTION: The uniqueness of the NuScale SMR concept rests squarely on the unique fuel and cooling that make it inherently safe, to shut down independently of outside power. It is the first reactor of this type to go into construction. Why should anybody invest in a power system whose fundamental basis has never seen a test of all its parts? 

ANSWER: Click on link to see NuScale written response.

QUESTION: One of the issues for using solar is the down time, or “quality” factor. Do we have any data on how often we get 1-day, 2-day, 3-day, etc. cloudy day period where solar would not be producing power in different potential solar areas in NM and what areas are possible for an 8 MW system close to transmission lines.

ANSWER: DPU staff have not yet collected or performed any statistical analysis of regional solar radiation data. Raw data sets are available from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Solar Radiation Database; The National Solar Radiation Database (NSRDB) is a serially complete collection of hourly and half-hourly values of the three most common measurements of solar radiation—global horizontal, direct normal, and diffuse horizontal irradiance—and meteorological data. These data have been collected at a sufficient number of locations and temporal and spatial scales to accurately represent regional solar radiation climates.

DPU staff has in the past and continue to maintain the pursuit and evaluation of opportunities for well-sited PV generation facilities; the Uniper agreement is an example of an on-going effort to secure renewable energy for Los Alamos County. Proximity to transmission lines on PNM’s network are one of the evaluation considerations.

QUESTION: What is the status and estimated cost of the solar-V battery project you mentioned early on? How many hours would the batteries purchased as part of this system provide?

ANSWER: Department of Public Utilities (DPU) staff has analyzed projected costs for vanadium redox flow and Li-Ion energy storage systems, based on costs taken from the Energy Storage Technology and Cost Characterization Report, U.S. Department of Energy, July 2019 (“the DOE Report”). The results of this analysis were, with all costs in 2018 dollars:

Cost of stored energy in 2030, vanadium redox flow: $0.13/kWh
Cost of stored energy in 2030, Li-Ion: $0.12/kWh
Using these costs together with the parameters for the solar with storage option from the Los Alamos County 2017 Integrated Resource Plan Report, which considered 8 hours of solar generation with 16 hours of storage each day, and using a rate of $0.03/kWh for solar energy, the following costs are calculated:

Average cost of solar with stored energy in 2030, vanadium redox flow: $0.098/kWh
Average cost of solar with stored energy in 2030, Li-Ion: $0.090/kWh
These costs do not account for the added cost of replacement power due to extended weather events which curtail solar generation.

For comparison, Lazard’s 2018 LCOE cost of storage analysis was ($/MWh):

Lazard’s 2018 LCOE cost of storage

Lazard’s 2019 analysis was ($/MWh):

Lazard’s 2019 LCOE cost of storage

The DOE Report’s 2030 cost projections were based on reported historical data and may be conservative, since they are in the same range as Lazard’s 2018 and 2019 analyses.

The Lazard analysis doesn’t forecast for future costs but does provide this note: “Solar PV + storage systems are economically attractive for short-duration wholesale and commercial use cases, though they remain challenged for residential and longer-duration wholesale use cases.”

QUESTION: Has CFPP considered much smaller micro reactors (5MWe) per unit like the Ultra Safe Nuclear Micro Modular Reactor? This could exactly match the 10-15 MW the county is currently signing up for with NuScale. It could be built in Los Alamos instead of in Idaho.

(ANSWER: see response to following Question)

QUESTION: Did the CFPP evaluate other options besides the NuScale reactor? Are new nuclear options being evaluated?

ANSWER (This and previous Question): UAMPS started investigating large reactors, then moved to SMR, first with Westinghouse, M Power and then landing on NuScale. We are not looking at any other reactors at this time. You should note that investigation of nuclear is not simple. NuScale is “off the shelf” technology repackaged into a smaller size. It does not require “unique” fuel and the design will be certified by the NRC. No other SMR or micro vendor can say that. Micro reactors will not be lower cost given the BOP and safety considerations all amortized over very few MWh.

QUESTION: If the Uniper project is successful, how does that impact the CFPP?

ANSWER: If all of the conditions precedent for the Uniper contract are met, the term of the contract is for fifteen years with the option for 5 year renewal periods at a renegotiated price. The County would begin receiving power in 2021 through 2036. This would have a 6 year overlap with the CFPP with a commercial operation date in 2030.

Currently the Uniper contract would not have any effect on the CFPP. The Uniper contract is projecting 80% of the contract to be from renewable resources with the balance coming from a fossil fueled generating resource. This type of contract could meet our carbon neutral goal if oversized to account for the 20% derived from fossil fuels.

Currently the County and DOE-NNSA are negotiating a post 2025 Electric Coordination Agreement contract whereby we will share some resources for the benefit of the pool but with a different allocation of benefits than what we do today which is based on energy and demand (approx.. 80/20 split). This would allow the County to meet its carbon neutral goal while also increasing DOE-NNSA percentage of carbon free energy. It must be noted that DOE-NNSA can only enter into a ten year contract. If the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA) is passed, it would allow DOE to enter into a 40-year contract.

QUESTION: How is waste handling and disposal accounted for in the planning? Reference?

ANSWER: Spent fuel is stored in the reactor building, under water until cool enough to move to dry storage which will be casks stored on a concrete pad at the plant site. The spent fuel will remain there until the DOE comes and takes it away. All costs associated with spent fuel are accounted for in the LCOE.

QUESTION: For a PV system, has reservoir (hydro) storage been considered?

ANSWER: This option was considered last summer by BPU and was not economically viable. View the AGENDA DOCUMENTATION from the August 22, 2019 Board of Public Utilities meeting.

QUESTION: What is the status of the fabrication plant?

ANSWER: Click on link to see NuScale written response

.QUESTION: What happens to the MW price if the project is extended for 5 more years?

ANSWER: There are many factors that go into the cost model and the project will not proceed until there are 100% design drawings and contractor price agreement in place before this major expenditure will occur. The cost model has a 2% per year inflation rate.

QUESTION: Exciting to see that this is seriously considered and that carbon is serious concern that nuclear options are in the mix, front and center. Wondering if this is too big a risk for Los Alamos. The 90+ M commitment is large, and the time scales are 2030+. Can Los Alamos afford to lose that money?

ANSWER: No, Los Alamos cannot afford to lose that money and that is why the UAMPS membership is using a phased approach with the CFPP. Each phase will de-risk the project so we can make an informed decision on whether to proceed to the next phase. This next phase is for the completion of the Combined Construction and Operating License Application that will be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in Licensing Period Phase II. The DOE Multi year award is front end loaded to de-risk the project and will pay 85% of the cost. The Development Cost Reimbursement Agreement with NuScale, will refund 80% of the participants 15% share if there is failure of the Economic Competitive Test which has a target price of $55/MWh in 2018 dollars.

QUESTION: Are there not lower cost bets we can make on nuclear technologies, with shorter time frames?

ANSWER: Los Alamos County Department of Public Utilities is looking at the CFPP as a future option to meet our Carbon Neutral goal. We consider this a viable option, supported by our 2017 Integrated Resource Plan. Currently the NuScale technology is the most mature advanced nuclear technology with the NRC design certification expect to be issued in the last quarter of 2020.

QUESTION: Probably should be very careful risking money on tech development that may or may not pan out. I think it’s unusual that we are being asked to spend on design, development, and licensing. I bet NuScale can make it work if they manage to get the $6B, but what cheaper / better options will be available in 2030? Has Los Alamos ever paid for the licensing/design/costing of other power producing prototypes? Really exciting project.

ANSWER: No. Click on link to see NuScale written response

QUESTION: At this point, am I correct that there is no plan to build a 1/3 nuclear fueled operating plant prior to going forward with the project to build the first reactor?

ANSWER: Click on link to see NuScale written response.