The Department of Energy (DOE) on Friday announced a draft funding opportunity to establish cost-shared agreements with private industry for the design and licensing of small modular reactors (SMR), targeting their deployment by 2022.

“Small modular reactors, approximately one-third the size of current nuclear plants, have compact designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, siting, construction and economic benefits,” the DOE said. “Specifically, they could be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to ‘plug and play’ upon arrival, reducing both capital costs and construction times. The small size also makes SMRs ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors, providing utilities with the flexibility to scale production as demand changes.”

The draft funding opportunity announcement solicits input from industry in advance of a full funding opportunity announcement. The full announcement will support first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing through a cost-shared partnership. It will fund up to two SMR designs with the goal of deploying these reactors by 2022.

The announcement comes on the heels of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC’s) certification of Westinghouse Electric’s AP1000 nuclear reactor design, “which was supported through a cost-shared agreement with the Energy Department,” the DOE said.

Several SMRs are under development by a host of companies, and the NRC has said it expects to receive applications for staff review for some designs as early as this year.

In the U.S., so far only the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has submitted a set of key licensing assumptions to support licensing and construction of up to six Babcock & Wilcox mPower small modular reactor modules at the Clinch River site in Roane County, Tenn.

For more information on small modular reactors, see POWER’s November 2010 story, “Are Smaller Reactors Better?”

Sources: POWERnews, DOE, NRC

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