Thursday, February 21, 2013

Small Modular Reactor Deal between B&W and TVA

Small modular nuclear generation by 2022?

WASHINGTON — The Tennessee Valley Authority will pay Babcock & Wilcox, a nuclear equipment company, to complete extensive design work and apply for permission to build a new kind of nuclear plant, a “small modular reactor,” at a site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., the T.V.A. and the company announced on Wednesday.
The two entities did not disclose the value of the contract, which will be paid in part by the Energy Department under a program to encourage nuclear innovation. The announcement is a step forward in a program that advocates hope will develop a new class of nuclear plants that can be mostly built in a factory, shipped by rail or barge, deployed quickly, and sold around the world, especially in places where the power grid could not handle a big plant....

...the idea is that in an emergency they can be cooled with the natural circulation of water and heat, rather than by systems that require pumps and valves and that could be disabled by power failures or human errors. The goal for Babcock & Wilcox is a reactor that can be operated by a relatively small control room crew, perhaps two operators, and meet security requirements with fewer guards.
The reactor is intended as a direct challenge to natural gas generators, and it is intended to share two characteristics that make gas attractive.
First, the builders say they can be built quickly and be added onto later, so there is less risk of building too much capacity or running short. Second, they are meant to do something that is difficult for existing nuclear plants but easy for gas: change power output rapidly.
He [Mowry] said his company wanted to have the first of two units in service at Oak Ridge by 2022, an aggressive schedule that he said was “eight years and change.”
The Energy Department could match costs up to 50 percent, depending in part on how much Congress allocates. Mr. Mowry, using a standard electric industry yardstick, said the intended cost was $5,000 per kilowatt of capacity, about $900 million a unit.
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