OPG, TVA partner to advance SMRs

20 April 2022

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have announced plans to work together to develop advanced nuclear technology including small modular reactors (SMRs) in both Canada and the USA, creating a North American energy hub.

OPG's Hartwick (L) and TVA's Lyash announced the partnership at the NEI in Washington, DC (Image: TVA)

The companies said their "pioneering partnership" will develop advanced nuclear technology as an integral part of a clean energy future, driving decarbonisation and advancing energy security in North America. The agreement allows the companies to coordinate their explorations into the design, licensing, construction and operation of SMRs.

OPG and TVA share a common goal to decarbonise energy generation while maintaining reliability and low-cost service, TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash said. "Advanced nuclear technology will not only help us meet our net-zero carbon targets but will also advance North American energy security."

"Nuclear energy has long been key to Ontario's clean electricity grid, and is a crucial part of our net-zero future," said Ken Hartwick, OPG's president and CEO. "Working together, OPG and TVA will find efficiencies and share best practices for the long-term supply of the economical, carbon-free, reliable electricity our jurisdictions need."

Nuclear generation accounts for significant portions of both companies' carbon-free energy portfolios: OPG operates the Darlington and Pickering nuclear power stations in Ontario, while TVA operates the Browns Ferry plant in Alabama, and the Sequoyah and Watts Bar plants, both in Tennessee. Both are also actively exploring SMR technologies. OPG is planning to deploy an SMR at Darlington - the only site in Canada with an accepted environmental assessment and site preparation licence for new nuclear, while TVA holds the only Early Site Permit issued to date by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for SMR deployment at its Clinch River site near Oak Ridge in Tennessee.

OPG last year selected GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's BWRX-300 SMR for deployment at Darlington, where it says Canada's first commercial, grid-scale, SMR could be completed as soon as 2028. TVA has not yet specified a technology for construction at Clinch River, but the company has been in discussions with GE Hitachi concerning the BWRX-300, with Lyash in February saying he believed light-water reactor designs which are closely related to TVA's existing large units are closer to commercial deployment within the next decade. TVA has also partnered with Kairos Power in its project to deploy the Hermes low-power demonstration reactor at the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge.

No exchange of funding is involved, the companies said, but the collaboration agreement will help OPG and TVA reduce the financial risk associated with the development of innovative technology, as well as future deployment costs.

"TVA has the most recent experience completing a new nuclear plant in North America at Watts Bar and that knowledge is invaluable to us as we work toward the new facility at Darlington," Hartwick said. "Likewise, because we are a little further along in our construction timing, TVA will gain the advantage of our experience before they start work at Clinch River."

Lyash described the agreement as a "win-win" for all those served by OPG and TVA, as well as the Canada and the USA. "Moving this technology forward is not only a significant step in advancing a clean energy future, but also in creating a North American energy hub," he added.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News