NORTH MISSISSIPPI — The Tennessee Valley Authority has advised nuclear regulators that the utility wants to potentially begin using new and smaller nuclear reactors by 2020.
The Babcock & Wilcox-designed “mPower reactors” would each produce 125 megawatts of electricity, or about 10 percent as much as conventional reactors at TVA’s other plants. TVA vice president Jack Bailey told the Chattanooga Times Free Press the modular design would allow major portions to be built elsewhere, which would help cut costs.
If approved, TVA would be the first utility to build the new reactor design, the newspaper reported.
The design of the mPower reactor is still under regulatory review.
TVA officials said Nov. 10 that a letter sent to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is a first step toward approval to possibly build the reactors on the site of the abandoned Clinch River Breeder Reactor in Oak Ridge.
The prospect of using the smaller reactor design has raised questions.
“We are highly skeptical that these modular designs are going to deliver as promised,” said Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “There is a whole set of issues that are likely to be raised about these plants so TVA, the NRC and the contractors should expect a real fight.”
TVA spokesman Terry Johnson said the utility is using the two-step licensing approach to allow more flexibility for TVA and the manufacturers of the mPower reactor to change the way the plant is designed and built.
TVA and Babcock & Wilcox declined to release any cost estimates for the new reactors.
Johnson said the Oak Ridge site was deemed appropriate for a nuclear plant in the 1970s when the U.S. Department of Energy planned to build a breeder reactor on the Clinch River site. He said the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which helped develop atomic reactors after World War II, could help support and use the power from at least one of the new reactors.
BEFORE YOU GO…
… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.
If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.Click for more info