The Tennessee Valley Authority and Babcock & Wilcox announced Wednesday a major step in their joint effort to build and test the nation’s first small modular reactor at TVA’s Clinch River Site in Oak Ridge Tn.
TVA and B&W signed a contract on Feb. 7, formalizing the process toward the eventual submittal and Nuclear Regulatory Commission review of a licensing application for a B&W mPower small modular reactor nuclear plant at Clinch River.
The agreement is the first definitive milestone in the U.S. Department of Energy’s recently initiated SMR Licensing Technical Support Program, which aims for commercial demonstration of SMRs by 2022. DOE chose TVA in November for cost sharing in the design and licensing of the B&W mPower small modular reactor as part of the mPower America Team.
“TVA and B&W have now officially launched their team effort towards evaluating this new technology for the nuclear industry and starting the analysis process at TVA’s Clinch River Site,” said Dr. Joe Hoagland, TVA senior vice president for Policy and Oversight. “With strong support from DOE, we look forward to the successful development, demonstration, and analysis of SMR technology as a potential option to help TVA and the nation meet our clean-energy goals for the future.”
The contract also defines respective responsibilities and work scopes for TVA and B&W in preparing a license application for NRC review, including a Clinch River Site geological characterization, preliminary safety analysis report, and site environmental report.
Work under this contract will commence at the Clinch River Site once B&W mPower and DOE sign a cooperative agreement for the grant funds. The DOE program, which provides $452 million in funding over five years, has received more than $67 million in appropriations from Congress. Under the program, DOE will fund as much as 50 percent of the cost of design and licensing.
TVA is evaluating the Clinch River Site for potential deployment of up to four B&W SMRs. Some site characterization work is already under way as part of the license application preparation, expected to be submitted to the NRC in 2015.
B&W’s mPower reactor is being designed to produce 180 megawatts, about one-sixth the size of large light-water reactors being built today. More of the equipment will be constructed in factories and shipped by rail to the plant site, resulting in reduced construction time and more standardization from plant to plant.
Other potential benefits include fully underground containment for improved safety and security, and clean base-load generation capacity in smaller, more flexible, lower-cost increments.
TVA has been evaluating SMRs, one of its signature technologies, since 2009, but SMRs are still in the early phase of design and licensing. TVA’s nuclear construction project priority remains completion of Watts Bar Unit 2. As the Clinch River project matures, it will be evaluated at certain progress points to ensure its continuation makes sense for TVA.