As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above strategy to deploy every available source of American energy, the U.S. Energy Department announced an award to support a new project to design, license and help commercialize small modular reactors (SMR) in the United States.
This award follows a funding opportunity announcement in March 2012. The project supported by the award will be led by Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel. In addition, the Department announced plans to issue a follow-on solicitation open to other companies and manufacturers, focused on furthering small modular reactor efficiency, operations and design.
“The Obama Administration continues to believe that low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America’s energy future,” said Secretary Chu. “Restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing small modular reactor technologies will help create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses, and ensure we continue to take an all-of-the-above approach to American energy production.”
This project represents a significant investment in first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing 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 Babcock & Wilcox (B&W).
The Energy Department investment will help B&W obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing and achieve commercial operations by 2022 – helping to provide U.S. utilities with low carbon energy options as well as create important export opportunities for the United States and advance our nation’s competitive edge in this emerging global industry. The project will be based in Tennessee and will support additional suppliers and operations in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
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. 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 smaller size also makes these reactors ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors, offering utilities the flexibility to scale production as demand changes.
As this nascent industry continues to grow, the Energy Department is committed to supporting research and development that will advance efficient, safe and cost-effective small modular reactor technologies. The Department plans to issue a new funding opportunity announcement to address this goal and support continued design development and certification of innovative SMR technologies.