The U.S. Department of Energy announced Tuesday its inaugural award of
matching funds to stimulate private development of small, portable nuclear reactors, but the recipient is not among the three firms connected to Savannah River Site.
The announcement by Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the chosen recipient
will be led by Babcock & Wilcox in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel International.
The partnership’s goal will be to design, license and help commercialize small modular reactors.
Through a five-year cost-share agreement, the department will invest up to half of the project’s cost, with industry partners matching that by at least one-to-one. The specific total will be negotiated between the Energy Department and Babcock & Wilcox.
Small modular reactors – which are about 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. 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 Energy Department investment will help
B&W obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing and achieve commercial operations by 2022. The project will be based in Tennessee and will support additional suppliers and operations in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The three firms involved in the SRS effort are Gen4 Energy, Holtec International subsidiary SMR and NuScale Power LLC.
Discussions were under way about using sites
within SRS as a venue to develop and eventually manufacture small reactors, providing new missions for the site and jobs for the community.
The award follows a funding opportunity announcement in March.
The Energy Department also announced plans to issue a follow-on solicitation open to other companies and manufacturers, focused on furthering small modular reactor efficiency, operations and design.
Earlier this month, the department directed
contractors at SRS to stop using funds earmarked
for environmental management programs for
the modular reactor