Competition for SMR DOE Funding Heats Up

Three companies vying for a $452 million cost-sharing funding opportunity through the Energy Department to help commercialize their small modular reactor (SMR) designs made major announcements over the past weeks.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) first cost-share funding award to accelerate commercialization of an SMR design that targets a 2022 deployment date went to Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) for its mPower SMR technology. Under that agreement, the DOE will share costs on the design, certification, and licensing of the B&W mPower design, with B&W providing at least 50% of the total cost. The Tennessee Valley Authority plans to deploy two 180-MW SMR units for commercial operation in Roane County, Tenn., by 2021, and anticipates having as many as six mPower units at that site.

The DOE this March issued a new cost-shared funding opportunity for SMR projects that have the potential to be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and achieve commercial operation around 2025, while offering innovative and effective solutions for enhanced safety, operations, and performance.

The competition is heating up between three companies vying for that funding opportunity: NuScale Power, of Corvallis, Ore.; Westinghouse Electric, based in Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Holtec International, based in Marlton, N.J.

Westinghouse Electric Co. on July 1 submitted its proposal to the DOE. The company last week also announced it had completed the manufacturing and assembly of two nuclear fuel test assemblies for the Westinghouse SMR at its Columbia Fuel Fabrication facility in South Carolina. Final preparations are now being performed on the two fuel assemblies before hydraulic testing begins, where SMR reactor operation will be simulated to confirm acceptable performance of the fuel design. Hydraulic testing of the fuel designs will continue through August 2013.

The Toshiba company in May signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. (SNPTC) to develop a SMR standard design based on Westinghouse SMR technology that would be licensable both in the U.S. and China. The Westinghouse SMR is a 225-MWe integral pressurized water reactor, with all primary components located inside of the reactor vessel.

Holtec also submitted its proposal to the DOE for its 160-MW SMR design on July 1. That company’s bid is backed by New Jersey power generator PSEG Power, and it has also signed a memorandum of understanding with Fort Mill-based URS Nuclear Energy Center. URS Nuclear, a unit of Princeton, N.J.-based URS Corp., which will assist Holtec in the design and qualification of the various plant systems and ancillaries.

On July 9, the company also announced it has lined up CB&I (which acquired the Shaw Group in February 2013 and is building the first sets of AP1000 reactors in South Carolina, Georgia, and China) and South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) to support Holtec’s development of the SMR-160.

Last week, NuScale Power announced the launch of the Western Initiative for Nuclear (WIN)—a broad, multi-western state collaboration — to study the demonstration and deployment of a multi-module NuScale SMR plant in the western U.S. A NuScale SMR built as part of WIN is projected to be operational by 2024, NuScale said.

NuScale also signed teaming agreements with Energy Northwest in Washington State and the Utah Association of Municipal Power Systems. According to Energy Northwest, if NuScale receives federal development funding, "Energy Northwest will have first right of offer to operate such a project and by doing so, become one of the industry experts for small modular reactor operation."

NuScale and partners are exploring a six- to 12-module facility to be located at a site like the Idaho National Laboratory.

Sources: POWERnews, Westinghouse, Holtec International, NuScale

Sonal Patel, Senior Writer (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)