The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors on Feb. 10 approved a programmatic approach to exploring advanced nuclear technology as a component of its decarbonization goals.
TVA said that as part of the development of innovative, cost-effective technologies that will achieve TVA’s aspiration of a net-zero carbon energy future, advanced nuclear is one of several technologies TVA is investigating.
Other technologies include next generation energy storage, carbon capture, new hydroelectric pumped storage and hydrogen.
In addition, TVA continues to expand its renewable energy portfolio, including the targeted addition of up to 10,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2035.
The new nuclear program will provide a disciplined, systematic “roadmap” for TVA’s exploration of advanced nuclear technology, both in terms of various reactor designs being proposed and potential locations where such facilities may be needed in the region to support future energy needs, TVA said.
The process will include specific decision points that would allow TVA to withdraw from plans or projects if they are no longer feasible or not in the best interest of the region.
The new program will also coordinate TVA’s collaborative efforts with other utilities, government agencies, research institutions and organizations on advanced nuclear technologies. “Working with other interested parties helps spread the financial and technical risks associated with developing new, innovative solutions,” TVA said.
One of the first tasks the new program will pursue is a project to develop a Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) construction permit application and potentially deploy a light-water small modular reactor (SMR) at the Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, which currently holds the only NRC early site permit for SMRs in the nation.
“While we will continue to support and examine all of the various SMR designs being proposed, we believe that light-water SMR designs, which are closely related to the current generation of TVA’s large nuclear units, are more mature and closer to commercial deployment within the next decade,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA President and CEO. “For that reason, we are currently in discussions with GE Hitachi to support their BWRX-300 light-water SMR design, which will help inform a future decision about potential deployment.”
“TVA has a long history of leadership on nuclear energy, a history that is positioning them well for the future of reliable and affordable electricity that is a hallmark of public power in the Valley,” said Joy Ditto, president and CEO of the American Public Power Association.
“It’s exciting that TVA’s Board has approved the new nuclear program, which will allow TVA to further explore deploying an advanced nuclear reactor to provide clean baseload power to its public power and rural cooperative customers,” she said.
Although no final decisions have been made, TVA said the knowledge gained from collaborative efforts with GE Hitachi and others, combined with a draft programmatic environmental impact statement that will be issued in the near future, and will examine various advanced nuclear technologies, will help inform a future TVA Board decision on whether or not to proceed with construction at Clinch River.
TVA operates the nation’s third largest nuclear fleet, which currently supplies more than 40% of the energy produced to supply the region.