Small power plant company gets federal backing

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NuScale Power, a spin-off business out of Oregon State University, will receive up to $226 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.

NuScale Power is designing a small nuclear reactor — about the size of a tractor-trailer standing on its head.

Chief commercial officer Mike McGough says the money will be spent getting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to certify the design — a task that's expected to cost about $1 billion.

"Our plant can safely shut itself down and cool itself off indefinitely, with no operator action, with no source of power and no source of water other than what's already in inventory inside the plant," he said.

If NuScale secures certification, a reactor isn't expected to be up and running until at least 2023. It would be built in Idaho.

Oregon has tight restrictions on the construction of nuclear power facilities. For example, it would have to be approved by voters and builders would need to be able to demonstrate the safe disposal of high-level waste.

McGough says the small reactors could be assembled in a factory, then shipped to where they're needed.