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Nuclear energy startup NuScale Power (which aims to revolutionize the industry with its small modular reactor (SMR) technology) has announced a massive layoff of nearly half of its workforce.

The company was founded in 2007 based on research funded by the United States Department of Energy (DOE), and has been one of the most promising players in the emerging billion-dollar SMR market.

SMRs are nuclear reactors that have a power output of less than 300 MWe, and offer the potential for improved economics, safety, and flexibility compared to conventional large-scale reactors. NuScale Power developed a 77 MWe SMR design, called the NuScale Power Module, which can be deployed for various applications such as power generation, desalination and heating.

The company raised over $1.3B in funding over the past 14 years, and boasts a portfolio of more than 400 patents. In 2022, NuScale made history as the first SMR developer to receive design certification from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), after a decade-long review process.

NuScale Pitch Deck: $1.9B SPAC for nuclear energy startup

Following this milestone, NuScale Power went public in 2023 through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) merger with SMR Acquisition Corp., valuing the company at $1.9 billion and raising $380 million in cash.

NuScale Pitch Deck: $1.9B SPAC for nuclear energy startup

However, despite claiming to “maintain a healthy cash position” of $196 million with “no debt” in its November 2023 investor presentation, the company has faced mounting costs and the cancellation of its flagship project, the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP), which was supposed to be the first commercial deployment of its SMR technology.

The CFPP, a 720 MWe power plant consisting of 12 NuScale Power Modules, was planned to be built in Idaho by 2030 for the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS). However, the project was cancelled in 2023 after the estimated cost soared from $3.6 billion to $9.3 billion, and several UAMPS consortium members withdrew from the deal.

The cancellation of the CFPP was a major blow for NuScale Power, which had no other confirmed orders for its SMR technology. The company’s stock price has plummeted by 74% since its IPO, in yet another story of SPAC mania gone bad.

NuScale Power is the second major US reactor company to slash jobs in recent months (after Bill Gates-backed TerraPower cut 20% of its staff in November). These layoffs reflect the harsh realities and uncertainties facing the nuclear industry, especially the SMR sector, which has been hailed as a key solution for the global energy transition and climate change mitigation.

You can see the full 45-slide NuScale SPAC deck at