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ORNL, TVA to collaborate on advanced nuclear reactor technologies

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

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, 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 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.

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.

This 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. Specific areas of importance 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 Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power companies serving nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity.


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