On Monday, the Department of Energy issued a new funding opportunity announcement designed to help U.S. industry design and certify innovative small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). This follow-on solicitation to the cost-share agreement with Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) for its mPower SMR technology, announced in November 2012, is open to other companies and manufacturers and is focused on furthering SMR efficiency, operations, and design.

The DOE will solicit proposals for cost-shared 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 announcement said. Selected projects will span a five-year period with at least 50% of funding provided by private industry. Subject to congressional appropriations, federal funding for this solicitation and the project announced last year will be derived from the total $452 million identified for the DOE’s Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support program.

SMRs, which are approximately one-third the size of current nuclear power plants, have compact, scalable designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, construction, and economic benefits. The DOE is seeking 300-MW or smaller reactor designs that can be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival. The smaller size reduces both capital costs and construction times and also makes these reactors ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors.  

This week’s funding opportunity announcement follows the DOE’s cost-share agreement announced last year to accelerate commercialization of an SMR design that targets a 2022 deployment date. 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, Tennessee, by 2021, and anticipates having as many as six mPower units at that site.

Sources: POWER, DOE, B&W

—Edited by Gail Reitenbach, Managing Editor (@POWERmagazine, @GailReit)

Note: This story was originally published on Wednesday, March 13, 2013.