A nuclear option for zero-carbon steel
Nucor, NuScale explore wider benefits of SMRs for steelmaking Metal Tech News - May 17, 2023
Last updated 6/8/2023 at 11:04am
Fueling the furnaces that turn iron ore and scrap metal into new steel is an energy-intensive business that accounts for roughly 7% of carbon dioxide emissions globally. Two North American companies are exploring a nuclear option for decarbonizing steel needed to build the clean energy future.
Under a preliminary agreement reached on May 16, Nucor is taking a closer look at the use of Nuscale Power's VOYGR small modular reactors (SMR) to provide reliable zero-carbon baseload electricity to its electric arc furnace steel mills.
"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," said Nucor Chair and CEO Leon Topalian.
VOYGR are scalable heat and electrical generation plants powered by Nuscale Power Modules, the first and only SMRs to receive design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
VOYGR-12, the largest of three configurations currently offered by NuScale, can produce 924 megawatts-electrical with a footprint of only 0.05 square miles, about the same size as three American football fields. This is orders of magnitude smaller than the roughly 94-square-mile footprint needed to generate the same level of power with wind and a 17-square-mile area for solar.
NuScale's VOYGR plants include fully passive safety features which eliminate the need for an external grid connection to perform key safety functions, which provides site selection flexibility for industrial users like Nucor.
"NuScale is thrilled to take this step forward with Nucor, a company that shares our commitment to sustainability and deeply understands the role of NuScale's technology in delivering clean, reliable baseload power to support the global energy transition," said NuScale President and CEO John Hopkins.
CO2 diminishing spiral
The Nucor-NuScale partnership has the potential to create a CO2 emissions diminishing spiral that lowers the carbon footprint of both companies, which would extend to companies that use the steel and nuclear power they have to offer.
As the seventh largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the United States and an investor in zero-carbon emission technologies, Nucor has already cut the carbon dioxide footprint of its steelmaking business to less than one-third of the worldwide average.
Committed to a goal of further reducing its CO2 emissions to 77% less than the global steelmaking average during the 2020s by 2030, the company continues to invest in carbon-free sources of electricity, such as NuScale's SMRs to power its electric arc furnace steel mills.
"Not only will Nucor's partnership with NuScale help pave the way for a zero-carbon energy future for our nation, but we will be building this new generation with the cleanest steel products made anywhere in the world," said Topalian.
And under the memorandum of understanding between the companies, some of that clean steel could be used to build future VOYGR SMR plants.
The companies are exploring the idea of Nucor supplying Econiq, the first commercially manufactured steel with a net-zero carbon certification, for NuScale projects.
In addition to VOYGR power plants powering Nucor electric arc furnaces, these projects could include a NuScale manufacturing facility near one of Nucor's steelmaking plants.
Overall, using zero-carbon steel to build VOYGR reactors, as well as the facility where they are built, would bolster the climate benefits inherent to nuclear power generation. In turn, this would lower the wider CO2 emissions footprint for Nucor's steelmaking.
"We look forward to determining how our SMR technology can best serve Nucor's sophisticated steelmaking operations and how our companies can work together to drive a more sustainable future," said NuScale President and CEO John Hopkins.
The agreement strengthens NuScale's partnership with Nucor, which invested $15 million in NuScale last year.