|The B&W mPower reactor integrates the nuclear core and steam generators in a single vessel. Source: B&W. Click to enlarge.|
The US Department of Energy (DOE) selected a project led by Babcock & Wilcox (B&W), in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel, to design, license and help commercialize small modular reactors (SMR) in the United States. B&W will receive funding that will support accelerated development of its B&W mPower SMR technology.
This award follows a competitive funding opportunity announcement (FOA) in March 2012. (Earlier post.) In addition, DOE 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. 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.—Energy Secretary Stephen Chu
This project represents a significant investment in first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing for small modular reactors in the United States. 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 by at least one-to-one. The specific total will be negotiated between the Energy Department and Babcock & Wilcox (B&W).
|Conceptual drawing of an underground containment structure housing two B&W mPower reactor modules. Click to enlarge.|
The Energy Department investment will help B&W obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing and achieve commercial operations by 2022—helping to provide US utilities with low carbon energy options as well as create important export opportunities for the United States. The project will be based in Tennessee and will support additional suppliers and operations in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
Small modular reactors—approximately one-third the size of current nuclear power plants—have compact, scalable designs that are expected to offer a number of safety, construction and economic benefits. 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 suited for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors, offering utilities the flexibility to scale production as demand changes.
As this nascent industry continues to grow, DOE said it is committed to supporting research and development that will advance efficient, safe and cost-effective small modular reactor technologies. The Department plans to issue a new funding opportunity announcement to address this goal and support continued design development and certification of innovative SMR technologies.
B&W mPower America. B&W formed the mPower America project team with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Bechtel to pursue an award under this program. The mPower America team and its members currently have nearly 400 employees working on the development and licensing of the B&W mPower SMR. B&W subsidiaries have executed 150 agreements with suppliers in 36 states to support the B&W mPower program.
TVA is preparing an application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to license up to four B&W mPower SMRs at its Clinch River Site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
B&W mPower SMR. The B&W mPower reactor design is a scalable, modular, Advanced Light Water Reactor (ALWR) system (optimized ALWR Generation III++) in which the nuclear core and steam generators are contained within a single vessel. The modular B&W mPower SMR is designed to provide 180 MW of carbon-free electricity per reactor unit in four-year operating cycles without refueling, using standard pressurized water reactor (PWR) fuel.