Although Missouri lost out on being awarded a federal grant to develop small modular reactors (SMRs), the decision will not affect Missouri University of Science and Technology’s agreement with Westinghouse Electric Company.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Nov. 20 that it had awarded a five-year grant to support a new project to design, license and help commercialize SMRs in the United States to Babcock and Wilcox Company, headquartered in Charlotte, N.C.
The company will work with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel, headquartered in San Francisco, Calif. on the project.
Andrew Careaga, director of communications at Missouri S&T, said the multi-year master research and collaboration agreement among the Rolla campus, the University of Missouri-Columbia campus and the UM system with Westinghouse still stands.
“Our agreement was not contingent on this particular project,” Careaga said, “even though it was a big part of it.”
The agreement with Westinghouse will support the development of multiple cutting-edge research projects at Missouri S&T and the other institutions that will benefit the Westinghouse SMR project.
“We’re disappointed Westinghouse didn’t get the award for the first round, but we’re still very involved, working with Ameren and Westinghouse in pursuing the small modular reactors program in Missouri,” Careaga said.
Westinghouse and Ameren Missouri were among several partnerships seeking up to more than $450 million in federal funding for the reactors through the DOE grant program.
Both Missouri U.S. senators issued statements shortly after the announcement Nov. 20.
“I’m deeply disappointed in today’s announcement,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill. “This project would be a tremendous opportunity for Missouri jobs and American energy security. I plan to keep working with the folks at Ameren and Westinghouse to pursue new opportunities, and to continue working across the aisle to expand innovation and strengthen security in American energy.”
Sen. Roy Blunt issued this statement: “Missouri’s central location, key infrastructure and universities with nationally recognized nuclear engineering programs make it the best location for this project. I’m disappointed the Obama administration did not heed my calls to strongly consider this application, and I’ll continue to support Ameren and Westinghouse as they continue to pursue this important energy and economic development opportunity for our state.”
As part of the grant award agreement, the DOE will invest up to half of the total project cost, with Babcock and Wilcox and its industry partners matching this investment by at least one-to-one. The specific total will be negotiated between the DOE and Babcock and Wilcox.
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The DOE investment will help Babcock and Wilcox obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing and hopefully achieve commercial operations by 2022.
The project will be based in Tennessee and will support additional suppliers and operations in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, according to the DOE.
In the same announcement of the grant award, the DOE also stated that it plans to issue a follow-on solicitation open to other companies and manufacturers, focused on furthering SMR efficiency, operations and design.
Westinghouse and Ameren said they plan to pursue federal support in this second phase of the project.
According to the DOE, SMRs — which are approximately one-third the size of current nuclear power plants — have compact, scalable designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, construction and economic benefits.
SMRs can also be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival, reducing both capital costs and construction times, according to the DOE.
The smaller size also makes these reactors ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors, offering utilities the flexibility to scale production as demand changes.