TVA eyes Tennessee site for small modular nuclear reactor test facility
- The Tennessee Valley Authority is pursuing a proposal to build new nuclear power generation on a a site the federal utility had plans to build a breeder reactor upon more than forty years ago, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reports.
- Next month, TVA plans to request permission from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to locate two or more small modular reactors near the 1,200-acre Clinch River site.
- TVA is participating in joint pilot project with the U.S. Department of Energy to test the smaller nuclear modular reactors, though a spokesperson told the news outlet any final decision will require that the resource is cost effective.
Even as nuclear generation is squeezed by low gas prices and high operating costs in organized markets, the development of small modular reactors [SMRs] is slowly moving forward.
The Department of Energy recently tapped locations to host pilot projects for the technology, including the Clinch River facility and similar sites in Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia.
The hope is that these smaller, more scalable designs could potentially supply carbon-free baseload power to small electric systems and in areas where larger reactors cannot be constructed. For TVA, the reactor design makes them cheaper and more flexible than current nuclear plant designs, the Free Press noted.
"We're focused on providing an option that provides reliable, affordable and carbon-free energy, and so we want to pursue this early site permit to give us the option for possibly locating SMRs on the site for 10 to 20 years," TVA spokesman Dan Stout told the paper.
The project was first proposed in 2010, according to TVA's filings with the NRC, with TVA working with nuclear power company Babcock and Wilcox to develop and test the modular reactor, but the company backtracked from its original schedule last year after being unable to secure enough early utility interest, the news outlet noted.
None of other developing designs of small modular nuclear reactors have obtained certifcation, the news outlet noted, and TVA has no plans to bring any of the new units on for at least ten years even if they meet economic and environmental requirements.
TVA proposes to build SMRs on 935 of the 1,200 acres at the site, comprising as much as 800 MW of generation capacity. The NRC staff is set this week to outline the process for regualtors to decide whether or not to issue an early site permit for the Clinch River property and others, according to the Free Press.
- Chattanooga Times Free Press Oak Ridge could take lead in new TVA nuclear design, but critics question secrecy, need
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