Southern gets $40m from DOE for molten chloride fast reactor research

Southern Co. (NYSE: SO) announced Jan. 15 that it has been awarded up to $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to explore, develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear reactor technologies through subsidiary Southern Company Services.

The effort will be managed through a new public-private partnership with TerraPower, DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute and Vanderbilt University. Housed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the research will bolster the development of molten chloride fast reactors (MCFR), an advanced concept for nuclear generation.

“Nuclear energy currently accounts for about 20 percent of the nation’s energy mix, and its importance will continue to grow as America transitions to a low-carbon energy future,” said Southern Co. Chairman, President and CEO Thomas A. Fanning. “This collaborative research effort will help accelerate the development of next generation nuclear reactors.”

Researchers believe MCFRs could provide enhanced operational performance, safety, security and economic value, relative to other advanced reactor concepts. The MCFR project is one of two DOE cost-shared advanced reactor concept development projects awarded $6 million in 2016, with an opportunity for $40 million each in total funding over multiple years. 

“In order to ensure that nuclear energy remains a key source for U.S. electricity generation well into the future, it is critically important that we invest in these technologies today,” said Secretary of Energy Dr. Ernest Moniz. “Public-private partnerships to develop advanced nuclear capabilities will enable low-carbon nuclear energy to power America for years to come.”

Southern Co. – through its subsidiaries – is the only electric utility in America today developing the full portfolio of energy resources, including being one of the first to build new nuclear units in more than 30 years. It is building the two new nuclear units at subsidiary Georgia Power‘s Plant Vogtle.

An industry leader in robust, proprietary research and development, Southern Company has managed about $2 billion in research and development investments since the 1960s, leading to the development and deployment of new, innovative technologies that are changing the way America produces electricity. In addition to leading the MCFR effort, Southern operates the DOE’s National Carbon Capture Center in Alabama, and is conducting the nation’s largest demonstration of carbon capture on a pulverized-coal power plant at subsidiary Alabama Power‘s Plant Barry.

Southern Co. owns electric utilities in four states and a growing competitive generation company, as well as fiber optics and wireless communications.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.