As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy, the Energy Department yesterday issued a new funding opportunity announcement to help U.S. industry design and certify innovative small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). 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.
“As President Obama said in the State of the Union, the Administration is committed to speeding the transition to more sustainable sources of energy. Innovative energy technologies, including small modular reactors, will help provide low-carbon energy to American homes and businesses, while giving our nation a key competitive edge in the global clean energy race,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “The funding opportunity announced today is focused on bringing innovative small modular reactors to market, creating new jobs and businesses in the United States.”
The Energy Department will solicit proposals for cost-shared small modular reactor projects that have the potential to be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and achieve commercial operation around 2025, while offering innovative and effective solutions for enhanced safety, operations and performance. Selected projects will span a five-year period with at least 50 percent provided by private industry. Subject to congressional appropriations, federal funding for this solicitation and the project announced last year will be derived from the total $452 million identified for the Department’s Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support program.
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 300 megawatts or smaller reactor designs that can be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival. The smaller size reduces both capital costs and construction times and also makes these reactors ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors.
New funding opportunity announcement follows the Energy Department’s cost-share agreement announced last year to accelerate commercialization of a small modular reactor design that targets a 2022 deployment date. Under that agreement, the Department will share costs on the design, certification and licensing of the B&W mPower small modular reactor design, with B&W providing at least 50 percent of the total cost. The Tennessee Valley Authority plans to deploy two 180 megawatt small modular reactor units for commercial operation in Roane County, Tennessee, by 2021, with as many as six mPower units at that site.