Utilities join Westinghouse SMR alliance

18 May 2012

Three major US nuclear utilities have joined an alliance formed by Westinghouse and Ameren to support the licensing and deployment of Westinghouse small modular reactor (SMR) technology.

Plant based on Westinghouse SMR
How a plant based on Westinghouse's SMR technology could look (Image: Westinghouse)

Exelon, Dominion Virginia and FirstEnergy are among a dozen power utilities and electricity suppliers to sign up to the NexStart SMR Alliance - a group formed by Westinghouse and Missouri Electric Alliance to help secure investment funds from the US Department of Energy (DoE).

Also signing up to the NexStart Alliance are Tampa Electric Company; Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation; and Savannah River National Laboratory. The Missouri Electric Alliance is led by Ameren Missouri and its members include Missouri Public Utility Alliance; Associated Electric Cooperative; Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives; Empire District Electric Company; and Kansas City Power and Light Company.

Members of the NexStart SMR Alliance have signed a memorandum of understanding that recognizes "the importance of advancing nuclear energy in helping secure clean, safe and reliable electricity in the future by deploying the Westinghouse SMR."

Discussions are said to be underway with other utilities and enterprises considering membership to NexStart in order to support the potential deployment of a Westinghouse SMR at Ameren's existing Callaway nuclear power plant site in Missouri.

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, is expected to provide a total investment of about $900 million.

Westinghouse said that NexStart will submit its application for DoE funding "by mid-May" and expects a final DoE decision on awarding the investment funds in late summer 2012.

Ameren Missouri and Westinghouse announced the signing of an agreement last month under which utility Ameren would co-chair a Westinghouse-led Utility Participation Group which will seek DoE funds to develop and license the Westinghouse SMR technology. At that time the partners said the group would also include other utilities and industrial companies.

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 large 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.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News