DOE unveils another funding opportunity for small reactors

Months after the U.S. Department of Energy agreed to offer funding to a group led by Babcock & Wilcox (NYSE: BWC) that is seeking to develop a small modular reactor (SMR) at a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) site, DOE is announcing another funding opportunity for SMR technology.

DOE said March 11 that it is again offering a cost-sharing funding agreement to help U.S. companies design and certify innovative SMRs. “The funding opportunity announced today is focused on bringing innovative small modular reactors to market, creating new jobs and businesses in the United States,” departing Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.

Interested parties are encouraged to file a letter of intent by April 5. The application due date is July 1.

The Energy Department 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. Selected projects will span a five-year period with at least 50% 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 $452m identified for the Department’s Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support program.

The Energy Department 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.  

Back in November, DOE said it would support a joint cost-sharing effort between B&W, Bechtel International and TVA to develop 180-MW nuclear units at TVA’s Clinch River nuclear site in Roane County, Tenn., by 2022.

The fact that the TVA project was the only one awarded during November disappointed a group that includes Ameren (NYSE: AEE) and Westinghouse Electric, which hope to develop a small reactor at the Callaway 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.