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DOE to invest in small modular reactor project at TVA


From the November 29, 2012 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published November 29, 2012

The Energy Department on Nov. 20 announced an award to support a new project to design, license and commercialize small modular reactors in the United States. The project supported by the award will be led by Babcock & Wilcox in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel. DOE also announced plans to issue a follow-on solicitation open to other companies and manufacturers, focused on furthering small modular reactor efficiency, operations and design. 

"The Obama administration continues to believe that low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America’s energy future," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "Restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing small modular reactor technologies will help create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses, and ensure we continue to take an all-of-the-above approach to American energy production."

This project "represents a significant investment in first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing for small modular reactors in the United States," DOE said. Through a five-year cost-share agreement, the Energy Department will invest up to half of the total project cost, with the project’s industry partners matching this investment. The specific total will be negotiated between DOE and Babcock & Wilcox. 

The Energy Department will help B&W obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing, with a goal of the TVA project starting commercial operation by 2022. 

Small modular reactors, which are approximately one-third the size of current nuclear power plants, have compact, scalable designs "that are expected to offer a host of safety, construction and economic benefits," DOE said. Small modular reactors can also be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to "plug and play" upon arrival, reducing both capital costs and construction times. The smaller size also makes these reactors ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors, offering utilities the flexibility to scale production as demand changes.

DOE said it is "committed to supporting research and development that will advance efficient, safe and cost-effective small modular reactor technologies," and said it plans to issue a new funding opportunity announcement to support continued design development and certification of innovative small modular reactor technologies.

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