A flagship project that planned to use a leading-edging small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear to generate power has been cancelled, in a setback to a technology that hopes to play a key role in the energy transition.

SMR pioneer NuScale Power Corporation said it had agreed with Utah power group UAMPS to terminate the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) that planned to deploy 462MW of nuclear generation.

“Despite significant efforts by both parties to advance the CFPP, it appears unlikely that the project will have enough subscription to continue toward deployment. Therefore, UAMPS and NuScale have mutually determined that ending the project is the most prudent decision for both parties,” said a statement.

CFPP – which had secured the promise of up to $1.4bn in support from the US government – looks to have fallen victim to the soaring cost increases that have ravaged other major energy infrastructure projects, notably in offshore wind.

NuScale in January set a new target price for power from CFPP at $89/MWh, an increase of more than 50% on previous estimates. It noted then that the upward revision “has been influenced by external factors such as inflationary pressures and increases in the price of steel, electrical equipment and other construction commodities not seen for more than 40 years”.

Levelised costs of energy for onshore wind and solar come in as low as $24/MWh and gas around $39/MWh, according to latest analysis by Lazard.

NuScale, which has ambitions elsewhere in the US and in international markets in Europe and Asia, said it would build on the lessons of 10 years of development at CFPP.

The cancellation is a setback for hopes in the nuclear industry that SMRs – also known as ‘mini-nuclear’ technology – can play a pivotal role in the energy transition by supplying carbon-free power from plants that are easier, quicker and cheaper to build than the multi-gigawatt mega-power stations seen previously in the sector.

Other companies involved in advancing SMR systems include the UK’s Rolls-Royce, GE Hitachi and Bill Gates-backed TerraPower.

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