DoE agrees partnerships for SMR deployment

05 March 2012

The US Department of Energy (DoE) has announced three public-private partnerships to develop deployment plans for small modular reactor (SMR) technologies at its Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina.

The DoE said that it had signed three separate memorandums of agreement (MoA) with Hyperion Power Generation, NuScale Power and Holtec International's SMR LLC subsidiary. Hyperion has designed a 25 MWe fast reactor, while Holtec and NuScale have designed small pressurized water reactors with capacities of 140 MWe and 45 MWe, respectively.

According to the DoE, the agreements will "help leverage Savannah River's land assets, energy facilities and nuclear expertise to support potential private sector development, testing and licensing of prototype SMR technologies." In addition, they would help private companies to "obtain information on potential SMR reactor siting at Savannah River and provide a framework for developing land use and site services agreements to further these efforts."

The DoE said, "By strengthening information sharing and access to site facilities and technical expertise, these MoAs will help break down engineering and testing barriers to advanced nuclear reactor research and development while providing these nuclear companies with the resources to support effective deployment plans."

Savannah River manager Dave Moody said, "We have a unique combination of nuclear knowledge and laboratory expertise, infrastructure, location and much more to make the site a natural fit for advancing the small modular reactor technology."

However, the DoE stressed that the new agreements "do not constitute a federal funding commitment." It said that it envisages private sector funding to be used to develop these technologies and support deployment plans. The DoE added that the agreements are unrelated to its funding opportunity announcement for SMR cost-share projects announced in January.

Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, which manages SRS on behalf of the DoE, has proposed a demonstration complex with prototype or demonstration models. Hyperion has signed an agreement to build the first and SRNS has approached several other small-reactor developers. The DoE has the authority to build and operate such small reactors if they are not supplying electricity to the grid.

Generically, 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 1000+ MWe nuclear power plant, or in remote locations. Small reactors are expected to offer greater simplicity of design, economy of mass production, and reduced siting costs. A number of small reactor designs from 25 MWe up to around 300 MWe are in various stages of development around the world.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News