Three developers of small modular reactor (SMR) technology - Babcock & Wilcox, NuScale Nuclear and Westinghouse - have submitted applications to the US Department of Energy (DoE) for funding to support first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing.
The DoE announced in March 2012 that a total of $450 million would be available to support the development and licensing for up to two SMR designs over five years. The funding, through cost sharing agreements with private industry, is expected to provide a total investment of about $900 million. The deadline for applications was 21 May.
In its call for applications, the DoE said that the funding program was "to promote the accelerated commercialization of SMR technologies that offer affordable, safe, secure and robust sources of nuclear energy that can help meet the nation's economic, energy security and climate change objectives." It requested that applicants "provide their plans for attaining design certifications and licences in order to identify the most viable candidates for accelerated commercialization."
Small modular reactors are seen as offering a number of advantages over typical nuclear plants in various circumstances, such as where grid systems cannot cope with the load from a large nuclear power plant, or in remote locations. They are expected to offer greater simplicity of design, economy of mass production, and reduced siting costs, and a number of small reactor designs from 25 MWe up to around 300 MWe are in various stages of development around the world.
The DoE defines an SMR as a reactor with an output of up to 300 MWe that can have large components or modules fabricated remotely and transported to the site for assembly and operation.
Applications have now been submitted by Babcock & Wilcox (B&W), NuScale Nuclear and Westinghouse.
Westinghouse said that it submitted its application on 18 May on behalf of its recently-announced Ameren Missouri-led NexStart AMR Alliance. The company also reported that two more companies - engineering firm Burns & McDonnell and modular design specialist General Dynamics Electric Boat - have joined the alliance. The membership of the alliance already includes a dozen power utilities and electricity suppliers, including Exelon, Dominion Virginia and FirstEnergy.
Westinghouse's 200 MWe SMR design is an integrated pressurized water reactor (PWR) in which all primary components are located inside the reactor pressure vessel.
NuScale Power also reported that it had submitted its application to the DoE ahead of the deadline. Last month, NuScale said that it had partnered with NuHub - an economic development initiative in South Carolina - to pursue the deployment of a demonstration unit of its SMR at the Savannah River site.
NuScale is putting forward a 45 MWe self-contained PWR 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.
Meanwhile, B&W senior vice president Ali Azad told Platts that the company submitted its application to the DoE on the day of the deadline.
In June 2009, B&W announced plans to develop and deploy a scalable, modular nuclear power reactor. Originally rated at 125 MWe but later raised to 180 MWe, the mPower design is an integral PWR designed to be factory-made and transported to the site by rail. Bechtel later entered into a formal alliance with B&W to develop the design. At the time of its launch, B&W said that it had already received a letter of intent from Tennessee Valley Authority to begin the process of evaluating a potential lead site for an mPower reactor.
The DoE plans to perform an initial review of the applications to determine that the applicants are eligible for the funding; that the required information has been submitted; and that the proposed projects meets with the funding program's criteria. "Applications that fail to pass the initial review may be eliminated from further consideration," it said. This will be followed by a more in-depth review of the applications. The DoE said that it "anticipates notifying applicants selected for award by July/August 2012 and making award by December 2012."
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News