Nucor Corp. entered into a memo of understanding with NuScale Power Corp. with an eye to co-locating small modular nuclear reactor power plants at Nucor Steel electric-arc furnace steel plants. While the scope of the MoU was not detailed, it follows Nucor’s $15-million equity stake in Portland, Ore.-based NuScale, taken last year.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) are scaled-down nuclear power plants conceived to have lower generating capacity than typical nuclear power reactors, with a modular design and compact infrastructure that reduces construction and operating costs.
NuScale’s VOYGR™ SMR concept is a pressurized water reactor that can each generate 77 megawatts of electricity (MWe) or 250 megawatts thermal (gross.) These units can be scaled as industrial power plants to meet customer needs through an array of flexible configurations – 12 modules, six modules, and four modules – to generate as much as 924 Mwe of electricity. As noted by the developer, to date VOYGR is the only SMR design to be approved and certified by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
It detailed that VOYGR plants would include “fully passive safety features which eliminate the need for an external grid connection to perform key safety functions and can achieve a site boundary Emergency Planning Zone, improving plant siting flexibility for industrial users like Nucor.”
Once defined as a “minimill” steelmaker, Nucor Corp. now is the largest steelmaker in the U.S. and among the largest in the world. It operates more than two dozen steelmaking operations through its Nucor Steel holding, producing an estimated 27 million tons of steel flat and long products in various grades and qualities, all sourced from electric-arc furnace melting.
Electric arc furnaces offer various operating and environmental advantages over the blast-furnace/oxygen-steelmaking route, but EAFs may be vulnerable to rising power costs and availability issues. While Nucor and NuScale emphasize the carbon-free potential for clean nuclear energy, the ready availability of SMR-based power could provide cost and availability advantages for steelmaking at a scale.
"Nucor is committed to supporting the development of transformative technologies that will deploy safe, reliable, affordable, 24/7, base-load carbon free power, like NuScale’s VOYGR SMR plants,” stated Leon Topalian, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Nucor Corporation.