SMR developers reapply for federal funds

02 July 2013

UPDATED - This article has been updated to reflect that Hybrid Power Technologies has also applied for federal funding for the development of its hybrid-nuclear SMR.

The three small modular reactor (SMR) developers that missed out in the first round of US Department of Energy (DoE) funding have all applied for the second round. Hybrid Power Technologies has also applied.

The DoE intends to fund up to two designs for SMRs through a cost-shared partnership which will support first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing.

In November 2012, the Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) mPower reactor was selected as the winner of the first round of funding, receiving access to $79 million to commercially demonstrate the design by 2022.

A second round of funding was announced in March, with the deadline for proposals being 1 July. Westinghouse, NuScale Power and Holtec International - who were all unsuccessful in the first round - have each confirmed that they have submitted proposals in the latest round. Hybrid Power Technologies has also applied for funding under the second round.

The DoE anticipates awarding those funds by mid-January 2014. The maximum amount available in each of the first and second rounds is set at $226 million.

The contenders

Westinghouse is developing a 225 MWe integrated pressurized water reactor (PWR) in which all primary components are located inside the reactor pressure vessel. It is designed to be completely fabricated in the factory and is scaled to be shippable by rail, with passive safety systems and components drawing on the full-sized AP1000 reactor design.

The company has now completed the manufacturing and assembly of two nuclear fuel assemblies for its SMR at its Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina. Hydraulic testing of the assemblies will soon start, where SMR operation will be simulated to confirm acceptable performance of the fuel design. These tests are expected to be completed next month.

Meanwhile, NuScale is developing a 45 MWe self-contained pressurized water reactor and generator set, which would be factory made and shipped for deployment in sets of up to 12. These could result in scalable nuclear power plants with capacities from 45 MWe to 540 MWe. Using conventional fuel assemblies, the core would be cooled by natural circulation, requiring fewer components and safety systems.

As well as pursuing DoE funding, NuScale has also announced the launch of the Western Initiative for Nuclear (WIN) - a broad, multi-state collaboration to study the demonstration and deployment of a multi-module NuScale SMR plant. The initiative includes participation by US states including Idaho, Oregon and Arizona, as well as by utilities Energy Northwest and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems.

"The first NuScale plant will most likely be developed, built and owned by a consortium of regional utilities like WIN, and operated by one of these utilities," according to NuScale.

Holtec is developing the 160 MWe SMR-160, which can be operated with conventional water or air cooling, making it suitable for sites without access to large volumes of water. Shaw and Areva Inc are participating in development work on the project. Last week Holtec announced that URS Nuclear - a unit of URS Corporation - will assist it in the design and qualification of the various plant systems.

Holtec said that its proposal to the DoE for funding has been prepared with "substantial assistance" from utility PSEG Power. The company noted that the development of the design certification application for the SMR-160 "is being directly supported" by PSEG through their strategic alliance.

Hybrid Power Technologies is developing a hybrid-nuclear SMR which it claims "combines the best features of nuclear and fossil fuels." Its design consists of a small helium-cooled, graphite moderated reactor that drives the decoupled air compressor of a combustion turbine.

The company claims that "the hybrid's parallel use of nuclear and fossil fuels will significantly extend the life of the world's energy resources for generations to come."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News