A new U.S. Energy Department funding initiative could give Savannah River Site a second chance to host the development of small, modular nuclear power reactors.
The “funding opportunity” announced this week would provide matching funds to stimulate the licensing and manufacture of portable reactors.
At least three groups – Gen4 Energy, Holtec International subsidiary SMR and NuScale Power LLC – expressed interest in using the South Carolina site as a venue for such projects, but were passed over last November when Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the inaugural grant would go to a group led by Babcock & Wilcox in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel International.
“Building off the cost-share agreement announced in November 2012, this follow-on solicitation is open to other companies and manufacturers and is focused on furthering small modular reactor efficiency, operations and design,” the department’s new announcement said.
New proposals for cost-shared mini reactor projects must have the potential to be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and achieve commercial operation around 2025.
Selected projects will span a five-year period with at least 50 percent provided by private industry, the department said, noting also that the funds are “subject to congressional appropriations” and would come from the total $452 million identified for the department’s Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support program.
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 use upon arrival, reducing both capital costs and construction times.
An Energy Department spokesman said some of the small modular reactor vendors remain interested in SRS as a future location for siting such a project.