NuScale Has Promising Potential, But Can it Deliver?

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Written By Dean McHugh

NuScale is a pre-commercialization technology company that has designed a Small Modular Nuclear reactor (SMR). They aim for the technology to be safe, carbon-neutral, scalable, and cost-efficient.

The global push for increased electricity usage and the need for carbon-neutral energy sources suggest that small modular reactors (SMRs) could play a significant role in the future energy landscape.

While NuScale has promising technology and strong backers, the intense competition and recent concerns about their go-to-market strategy make it a cautious investment for now.

Company Overview

Credits: DepositPhotos

NuScale Power is focused on developing and commercializing its VOYGR SMR, a nuclear fission reactor designed to produce less than 300 MWe. The technology leverages pressurized light water-cooled nuclear reactors to deliver safer, lower-cost nuclear energy.

The company’s mission is to support the transition to a carbon-neutral energy future by providing scalable and efficient nuclear power solutions.

The Good: NuScale’s Market and Support

Growing Market for SMRs

The market for small modular reactors is expected to grow significantly in the coming decades. The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) defines SMRs as nuclear fission reactors with outputs of less than 300 MWe.

The technology promises safer, more cost-effective nuclear energy that can replace aging coal power plants and support decarbonization efforts. According to IDTech, the total addressable market (TAM) for SMRs is forecasted to reach $72 billion by 2033 and $295 billion by 2043.

This growth is driven by the rising demand for cheaper zero-carbon energy and the increasing electricity needs due to data centers and electrified transportation.

Strong Partnerships and Government Support

NuScale has established significant partnerships, particularly in South Korea. Key partners include GS Energy, Korea’s largest private utility company, which will operate the NuScale SMR once completed. GS Energy has invested $40 million in NuScale.

Doosan Enerbility Co., a major power plant engineering company, has invested $140 million in NuScale and owns over 4% of its shares. Doosan is set to manufacture core SMR equipment for NuScale installations and has built a dedicated SMR factory in Changwon, Korea.

Samsung C&T Corp, a subsidiary of Samsung Group, holds a 5.9% stake in NuScale and will lead the construction and engineering of the new plant.

The US government has provided substantial support to NuScale, including over $400 million in funding from the Department of Energy (DoE) and a $1 billion cost-share award for constructing a NuScale site.

Additionally, the Biden administration announced $275 million to help NuScale deploy its equipment in Romania, with further support from Japan and South Korea.

The US Development Finance Corporation and the US International Development Finance Corporation have issued letters of intent to support an additional $4 billion for project deployment.

The Bad: NuScale Competition

The competitive landscape for NuScale is intense. The NEA recognizes 56 SMR technologies under development globally, ranging from fundamental research to commercial deployment.

NuScale’s technology is based on existing light water reactor designs, but it faces competition from both established nuclear companies and startups with next-generation technologies.

Competition from Established Players and New Entrants

Large companies like Westinghouse Electric, with over 130 years of experience and a significant global presence, and TerraPower, founded by Bill Gates, are formidable competitors.

TerraPower is developing advanced reactors with enhanced safety and efficiency and has received significant investments, including $250 million from South Korea’s SK Group. BWX Technologies (BWXT) is another major competitor with a long history in the nuclear industry.

In addition to US competitors, Canadian companies like GE Hitachi are also developing SMR technologies, further intensifying the competition. NuScale is financially and reputationally outgunned by these large-scale companies with substantial balance sheets and extensive operational histories.

The Ugly: The Go-to-Market Strategy and Short Seller Reports

Concerns from Short Sellers

NuScale has been the subject of scrutiny from short sellers, notably Iceberg Research. In October 2023, Iceberg published a report questioning NuScale’s go-to-market strategy and customer base. The update in the following month claimed that NuScale management was misleading investors about having serious customers, and suggested that its main shareholder, Fluor, wanted to divest its holding.

Iceberg also raised concerns about NuScale’s financial stability, suggesting it had only around 18 months of cash left.

Doubts about Key Customers

One of NuScale’s key customers, StandardPower, has been questioned in the short seller report. StandardPower is a private company backed by high-net-worth family offices, with plans to deploy NuScale SMRs at sites in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

However, the opaque nature of StandardPower’s operations and funding has raised doubts. StandardPower’s CEO, Maxim Serezhin, has been scrutinized for alleged tax issues, and the company’s former managing director, Adam Swickle, was involved in a securities fraud case.

Entra1 Energy and Habboush Group

NuScale’s go-to-market strategy involves partnerships with Entra1 Energy and Habboush Group. Both are private investment firms with limited public information available.

Entra1’s claims about their pipeline and projects have been difficult to verify. The Habboush Group, another strategic partner, also lacks transparency about its operations and financial backing.

Can NuScale Capitalize?

Credits: DepositPhotos

NuScale has promising technology and strong support from both private and public sectors. However, the intense competition from established nuclear companies and the lack of transparency surrounding some of its key partners raise concerns.

While the market potential for SMRs is enormous, NuScale’s ability to capitalize on this opportunity remains uncertain.


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