Ameren still interested in small-scale nuclear growth

Ameren (NYSE: AEE) is still looking to add a small modular reactor (SMR) to its Callaway nuclear power station in Missouri, although the effort could be affected by whether the company lands U.S. Department of Energy funding.

The company noted in a Nov. 9 10-Q filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that cost of obtaining a construction and operating license (COL) for a small reactor from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would probably be in the neighborhood of $80m to $100m.

In March, DOE announced the availability of $452m of investment funds for the design, engineering and certification of a COL for up to two small reactor designs over five years.

In April, Ameren Missouri entered into an agreement with Westinghouse Electric to exclusively support Westinghouse’s application for the DOE’s small modular reactor investment funds.

Ameren expects its incremental investment to obtain the small modular reactor COL “to be minimal due to several factors,” including the company’s capitalized investments in new nuclear energy center development of $69m as of Sept. 30. DOE investment funds to support the COL application, and the Westinghouse agreement would also defray Ameren’s cost. Westinghouse submitted its application to the DOE in May, with the agency expected to issue a decision on awarding the investment funds in 2012.

“If the DOE does not approve Westinghouse’s application for the small modular reactor investment funds, Ameren Missouri is not obligated to pursue a COL for the Westinghouse small modular reactor design and may terminate its agreement with Westinghouse,” the company said in the filing.

Back in 2008, when the market dynamics were different, Ameren was thinking about larger-scale nuclear power.

That year the company filed an application with the NRC for a COL for a new 1,600-MW nuclear project at the Callaway County nuclear center. In 2009, Ameren Missouri suspended its efforts to build a full-size nuclear unit at Callaway, and the NRC suspended review of the COL application.

Small modular reactors, with electric output of more than 300 MW, and less than 100 MW in some cases, have been the subject of increased interest in recent years, by utilities that cannot afford a 1,000-MW-plus nuclear plant.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.