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Business and Labor

An Oregon company is going public to raise money for nuclear power ambitions

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NuScale Power
Artist rendering of NuScale Power's nuclear power plant design, which would use small modular reactors.

Portland-based company NuScale Power, which specializes in small nuclear reactors, is set to go public.

NuScale Power makes modular nuclear reactors that the company says can be combined to form carbon-free power plants. NuScale is working with a Utah-based regional utility to build the first such nuclear power plant in Idaho. The first module at that plant could be online by 2029.

The company’s plans to go public signal it’s now looking to generate cash to scale up its operation.

“It provides us access to the capital that we need to complete our commercialization to get our product to market in the way that we want to,” said NuScale chief financial officer Chris Colbert.

The U.S. consumes more nuclear energy than all other clean power sources like wind, solar and hydropower. The Biden administration committed $6 billion to nuclear energy in the infrastructure bill recently signed into law.

That money will go toward extending the life of the country’s existing nuclear power plants, which in many cases could include replacing reactors with new ones like those NuScale plans to build.

NuScale says its reactors can produce up to 77 megawatts of electricity apiece per day. When combined in configurations of four, six or 12 reactors, they can mimic the production of a coal-fired power plant — without the heavy carbon emissions driving climate change.

President Joe Biden wants U.S. energy production to be carbon-free by 2035. NuScale’s Colbert said nuclear energy will be critical to achieving that goal.

“Wind and solar with batteries will get you part of the way there, but they can’t get you the whole way there,” Colbert said. “And that’s where nuclear plays a key role of complementing those resources to ensure that you have both affordable and reliable carbon-free electricity.”

NuScale will go public by merging with what’s known as a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, called Spring Valley Acquisition Corporation, which is already publicly traded. Such mergers have recently gained popularity on Wall Street by allowing private companies the option to go public without the costs or risks associated with the more conventional initial public offering, or IPO.

Other Oregon businesses like the vacation rental company Vacasa and battery manufacturer ESS Tech have also gone public by merging with so-called “blank check” companies. In each of those cases, some investors pulled out when news of the mergers dropped, leaving each company with less money than they’d initially hoped.

Colbert said proceeds from NuScale’s merger with Spring Valley could range from $181 million to $413 million.

“The proof is in the pudding,” Colbert said, “but based upon what we’ve done and our achievements so far, we believe as long as we continue to progress through our business plan and deliver those results we’ll be in good shape.”

NuScale Power’s estimated value after the merger would be about $1.9 billion, according to the company. NuScale plans to use the ticker symbol SMR, which is the abbreviation for small-scale, modular reactor.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting