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DOE selects Babcock & Wilcox for Small Modular Reactor program

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.



At last the giant obstruction of the vast approval cost for small reactors starts to crumble!
Not only did they have to pay all the training costs at around $200/hour for NRC staff to study new designs so that no progress was made beyond light water reactor designs, but there was a fixed charge per reactor, making big the only way to go.

The NRC has actually decreased reactor safety, by making newer inherently safe designs prohibitively expensive to get authorised.

That was likely the reason that the NRC was set up anyway, to keep a coalition of the mountain top removal and the renewables everywhere crowd happy.

The only way that could be achieved was by putting obstructions in the way of nuclear power, or we wouldn't have any greenhouse gas worries by now.


Unfortunately the selected design is III+ (not IV or breader type). B&W too big and robust to be interesting in real inovations.


Gen IV faces the same prohibitive NRC process as always.  Flibe Energy was talking about doing a reactor for the Department of Defense (which is not subject to NRC oversight or fees) to get around it.


The U.S. Navy currently has a research project underway to put a modified Fischer Tropsch plant on-board an aircraft carrier. The idea is to pull CO2 out of seawater, reduce it to CO, and combine it with H that's been split from seawater via electrolysis and make jet fuel. The whole thing is to be powered by excess electricity from the ship's nuclear reactor.

IMO, it would be easier to just create a standalone nuclear powered "fuel factory" ship that would travel with the battle group. Said reactor could be of a LFTR design.

... and yes, EP, the DOD is not subject to the purview of the NRC (imagine getting a design certification for a tactical nuke, ha!)

it would be easier to just create a standalone nuclear powered "fuel factory" ship
An oiler that's really an oiler?

Should USA, EU and others consider to go from current worn out democracies to meritocracies to keep up with China?

Human judges and deciders could then be replaced by properly programmed computers to very quickly establish the relative merit levels.


Just requiring that our leaders have some technical background instead of just "community organizer" would do the trick.. at least a basic understanding of mathematics


That reminds me of a 2008 joke:

Q: What's the difference between a community organizer and a shi-tzu?

A::  Zu.

Kit P

How stupid is this concept? Next you will be seeing TVA using pickup trucks to haul coal to power plants instead of barges.

First of all 180 MWe is not a small power plant. It will have many large buildings that will be custom designed based on local geological conditions and cooling requirements.

All reactors are small and placed in large very robust containment building. All containment buildings are small in comparison to the boilers at coal plants.

Second there is not market for small reactors. As demand grows, it is added in small increments. At some point, transportation of fossil fuels becomes a issue. Then a large base load nuke becomes economical and the small units are put in standby and only run during peak demand months.


I know you do not know much about how we actually do things in the US so I not sure why you are commenting.

“The NRC has actually decreased reactor safety, by making newer inherently safe designs prohibitively expensive to get authorised. ”

Can you tell me which LWR design approved by the NRC has resulted in some one being hurt which is the definition of safe. First of all, 'inherently safe' is just a marketing term for 'new' paper designs.

I have never heard a claims by anti-nukes that is credible when it comes to hurt someone. While the evil empire demonstrated how it can be done, we demonstrate how it is done safely.

“That was likely the reason that the NRC was set up anyway,”

The NRC was set up to be independent. If you look at evil empire and our own DOE, their goal was to build more weapons that the other. Putting weapons production reactors without containment building near cities would not have been approved by the NRC.

The commercial nuke and the NRC have a common goal, safety. I have seen little evidence that anti-nukes are interested in safety. They are more about drama. If these loons ever had a better idea about safety, I would faint from shock.

Nick Lyons

Mmmm--not my favorite SMR design--not really 'small'. I hope NuScale can hang in there.

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