Second round of SMR funding announced

13 March 2013

The US government has announced another funding opportunity to help industry design and certify small modular reactors (SMRs).

The Department of Energy (DoE) said that it 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." The deadline for applications is 1 July.

At less than 300 MWe in capacity, SMRs are much smaller than typical nuclear reactors and are considered an ideal choice for areas which can't support a larger reactor. The DoE notes that an SMR's compact scalable design offers a host of potential safety, construction and economic benefits.

The DoE said, "Selected projects will span a five-year period with at least 50% [of funds] provided by private industry." It noted, "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."

In November, the Babcock and Wilcox (B&W) mPower reactor was selected as the winner of the first round of funding, launched by the DoE in March 2012. The exact amount of funds that B&W will receive has not been disclosed, but the maximum amount available in each of the first and second rounds is set at $226 million.

Previous contenders

The mPower - a 180 MWe integral pressurized water reactor (PWR) that would be housed in an underground containment building - was one of four SMR designs to apply for funding. The other applications were submitted by consortiums led by Westinghouse, NuScale Power and Holtec International.

Westinghouse put forward its 200 MWe SMR design - an integrated PWR in which all primary components are located inside the reactor pressure vessel. After failing to secure funding in the first round, the company said it was "very much interested" in competing in the follow-on solicitation.

NuScale submitted an application for 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. NuScale said it is "eager to compete" for the next round of funding.

Meanwhile, Holtec is seeking funding for its 160 MWe SMR-160. Each unit would occupy less than five acres (just over 2 hectares) of land and 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 also participating in development work on the project. Holtec has already said that it would pay back any public money if it fails to secure a licence for the SMR-160.

Outgoing energy secretary Steven Chu commented, "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."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News