TVA, DOE laboratory sign MOU to evaluate advanced nuclear reactors

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Tennessee Valley Authority have signed a memorandum of understanding to evaluate a new generation of flexible, cost-effective advanced nuclear reactors, TVA reported on Feb. 19.

Under the agreement, ORNL and TVA will collaborate on ways to improve the economic feasibility of potentially licensing, building, operating and maintaining one or more advanced nuclear reactors, such as a small modular reactor (SMR), at TVA’s 935 acre Clinch River site in East Tennessee.

“Such advanced reactors offer the potential of lower-cost carbon-free energy through reduced construction times and greater operational flexibility, TVA noted. TVA has not made a decision to build and would first need approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a specific design.

The research performed at ORNL through DOE’s national programs has enabled multiple utilities to innovate and improve power generation through the development and use of new materials, processes and state-of-the-art technologies, TVA said.

“Nuclear generation plays an important role in providing clean, reliable power at TVA,” TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash said. “This partnership with ORNL supports TVA’s mission for innovation and will allow us to better explore potential future nuclear technologies that benefit the 10 million people across seven states and help lead nuclear energy’s future in the United States.” 

TVA said the partnership will take advantage of ORNL’s scientific expertise and its unique facilities including the High Flux Isotope Reactor, Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility.

Specific areas that will be evaluated by the participants of the MOU include, but are not limited to:

  • Development of advanced construction techniques.
  • Evaluation of integrated development activities for site infrastructure support.
  • Development of various economic deployment catalysts.
  • Innovation of advanced manufacturing technologies.
  • Use of technology deployment to meet regulatory and safety requirements more efficiently.

The new effort builds on decades of collaboration between TVA and ORNL, leveraging nuclear capabilities and assets from both organizations, including a 2016 effort using modeling tools developed at ORNL to predict the first six months of operations of TVA’s Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear power plant.

UAMPS pursues SMRs

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is also pursuing SMRs.

Members of UAMPS last summer executed power sales contracts totaling more than 150 megawatts of subscription in a 12-module SMR that will be built at the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory under UAMPS’ Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP).

UAMPS said that reaching this subscription level triggered continued work and evaluation of the project, including increased focus on site characterization and preparation of a Combined License Application (COLA) for submittal to the NRC.