New US partnership for SMR development

20 April 2012

Ameren Missouri and Westinghouse Electric Company are to collaborate to secure federal funding for the development and licensing of Westinghouse's Small Modular Reactor (SMR).

 Westinghouse SMR
Cutaway of the Westinghouse SMR

Under an agreement signed by the two companies, utility Ameren Missouri will co-chair a Westinghouse-led Utility Participation Group which will seek Department of Energy (DoE) funds to develop and license the Westinghouse SMR technology. The group will also include other utilities and industrial companies. Assuming DoE support is secured, the two companies will then work together to seek design certification and a combined construction and operation licence (COL) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for an SMR at Ameren's Callaway site.

Support for the plan goes beyond Ameren. State governor Jay Nixon noted that Westinghouse's application to the DoE has secured the support of all of Missouri's electricity providers and expressed his commitment to work with all the companies involved. "This investment is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that could spark a next-generation manufacturing industry in Missouri," he said.

The DoE announced in March 2012 that a total of $450 million would be available to support first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing for up to two SMR designs over five years. The DoE is seeking proposals for SMR projects that have the potential to be licensed by the NRC and to be in commercial operation by 2022. The total funding, through cost sharing agreements with private industry, are expected to provide a total investment of about $900 million. Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor design, to be built at Vogtle in Georgia after receiving the first new construction licence in three decades, received DoE support for licensing reviews and reactor design certification through a similar cost-share agreement.

EPC is go for Summer

South Carolina Electric & Gas has given a full notice to proceed with the VC Summer expansion to the Shaw-Westinghouse consortium that will build the two AP1000s. Summer became the second US new-build project to receive NRC construction and operation licences in March.

The Shaw-Westinghouse consortium signed an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for the plant in 2008. The new notice gives the companies full authorisation to provide EPC services for the new units, according to Shaw president JM Bernhard.

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. 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 Westinghouse SMR is a 200 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 those developed for the design of the AP1000.

Ameren submitted a COL application for a US EPR reactor at its Callaway site in 2008 but suspended its application a year later. Ameren Missouri chief nuclear officer Adam Heflin said the Westinghouse SMR's enhanced safety features made it a particularly attractive proposition for Callaway. "The reactor and containment building are below ground, which provides additional protection from natural disasters. The Westinghouse SMR has a simple design and can be safely shutdown after a loss of power with very little operator action. All of this makes for a very attractive package," he said.

Earlier in March the DoE announced a separate initiative of public-private partnerships to develop deployment plans for SMR technologies at its Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina through three separate memoranda of agreement with Hyperion Power Generation, NuScale Power and Holtec International's SMR LLC subsidiary.

A final decision on the award of the latest DoE investment funds is expected in summer 2012.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News