The U.S. Department of Energy last week announced a second round of funding for small modular reactors.
The first award, announced earlier this year, provided support to Babcock and Wilcox Co. through a program that could result in small modular reactors at the former Clinch River Breeder Reactor site in west Oak Ridge. In November, B&W announced it had already invested more than $360 million in that project, and the North Carolina company was looking for investors and possibly majority owners.
DOE said the new award was given to Oregon-based NuScale Power LLC to support a new project to design, certify, and help commercialize innovative small modular reactors in the United States.
The department said the reactors could provide clean, safe, and cost-effective nuclear energy, and build on President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to “continue America’s leadership in clean energy innovation.”
“Small modular reactors represent a new generation of safe, reliable, low-carbon nuclear energy technology and provide a strong opportunity for America to lead this emerging global industry,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “The Energy Department is committed to strengthening nuclear energy’s continuing important role in America’s low carbon future, and new technologies like small modular reactors will help ensure our continued leadership in the safe, secure, and efficient use of nuclear power worldwide.”
DOE said the project represents a significant investment in first-of-a-kind engineering and design certification 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 NuScale and will be derived from the total $452 million identified for the department’s Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support program.
“This is another step toward an additional source of clean, cheap, reliable energy,” said U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican. “Congress directed the U.S. Department of Energy to make up to two competitive licensing support awards, and now the department has done so.”
In Oak Ridge, the mPower small modular reactor, or SMR, program is expected to have a nuclear power plant operating at the former Clinch River Breeder Reactor Site by 2022. Initially, it could have two small reactors, a “twin pack,” and produce 360 megawatts.
Alexander said small modular reactors are a form of technology under development that would allow for nuclear power installations that are smaller than traditional nuclear power plants, with less capital investment.
Here is more information from the press releases from DOE and Alexander:
The Energy Department investment will help NuScale obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission design certification and achieve commercial operation around 2025, while providing innovative and effective solutions for enhanced reactor safety, operations and performance. The Energy Department’s cooperative agreements require that the reactors be built domestically—strengthening American manufacturing capabilities and creating important export opportunities for the United States. The project will be based in Oregon and will support additional suppliers and operations in California, Idaho, Washington, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Kansas, Texas, and Maryland.
Small modular reactors—which are approximately one-third the size of current nuclear power plants—have compact, scalable designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, construction, and economic benefits. The Energy Department is seeking small modular reactor designs that can be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready for installation upon arrival. The smaller size could reduce both capital costs and construction times—helping to provide U.S. utilities with more nuclear energy options and support new low-carbon capacity for small electric grids and locations that cannot support the traditional large reactor designs.
Find more information on the important steps the Energy Department is taking to jumpstart America’s nuclear industry and support clean energy innovation at www.energy.gov/ne.
View an Energy Department infographic on small modular reactors here.