TVA eyes late 2023 or early 2024 for SMR licence application

13 May 2022

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) CEO Jeff Lyash said this would be the next milestone for project to build a BWRX-300 small modular reactor at Clinch River near Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

An artist rendering of a potential SMR facility at Clinch River (Image: TVA)

Lyash's comments were made in a conference call to discuss the authority's financial results for the second quarter of fiscal 2022.

In February, TVA announced a new programme to explore advanced nuclear technology as part of its decarbonisation goals, with the pursuit of a construction licence application for an SMR at the Clinch River site one of its first tasks. It already has an early site permit (ESP) - issued by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2019 - which certifies that a site is suitable for the construction of a nuclear power plant from the point of view of site safety, environmental impact and emergency planning, but does not specify the choice of technology. The ESP means that "a lot of site-based risk … is already behind us," Lyash said.

Last year, TVA's board approved investment of up to USD200 million in a new nuclear programme centred on Clinch River, and the authority is now in the process of supporting the detailed design development of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's BWRX300 and developing the licensing application package, he said. "The milestone for that licence application, while we haven't said it yet, is most likely fourth quarter of 2023 or first quarter of 2024," Lyash said. "That's really the next decision point."

Design, cost estimates, schedules, and risk assessments are being developed in parallel with the licence application, and this will "put us at the next major gate" when TVA will be able to make a decision whether to go ahead with the next phases of design and procurement, he said.

In April, TVA announced a partnership with Ontario Power Generation which has also selected BWRX-300 for deployment at its Darlington site. This partnership will allow the companies to find efficiencies and share best practices through coordinating their SMR design and licensing efforts and also, potentially, construction and operation, Lyash said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News