published Thursday, November 11th, 2010

TVA could take lead for 'mini nuke' plants

The Tennessee Valley Authority is first in line to test a new type of modular nuclear plant that designers boast will be smaller, cheaper and safer than existing reactors.

TVA officials said Wednesday they have taken the first step toward gaining regulatory approval to build up to six new mini-nuclear reactors on the site of the abandoned Clinch River Breeder Reactor in Oak Ridge. In a four-page letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, TVA Vice President Jack Bailey said the federal utility "is evaluating the feasibility" of erecting two of the new Babcock & Wilcox-designed "mPower reactors" by 2020.

Each of the new reactors would produce 125 megawatts of electricity -- about 10 percent as much as conventional reactors at TVA's other plants -- and could be built in controlled factory conditions to cut production costs and ensure construction quality.

"The mPower design makes substantial use of modular construction technology which enables major portions of the plant to be fabricated in controlled manufacturing environments and shipped to the site via rail and trucks," Bailey said.

If approved by the TVA board and regulators, TVA would be the first utility to build the new reactor design.

But critics question why TVA is pursuing a new plant design that is yet to be certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

"We are highly skeptical that these modular designs are going to deliver as promised," said Stephen Smith, executive director for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. "There is a whole set of issues that are likely to be raised about these plants so TVA, the NRC and the contractors should expect a real fight."

Smith said he is encouraged that TVA opted to pursue regulatory approval for any mPower units built in Oak Ridge under the NRC's older, two-step licensing process. Rather than the single combined-operating license process being used for other new plants, TVA will seek a construction permit to build the new units and a separate licensing permit once the units are completed.

TVA spokesman Terry Johnson said the utility is using the two-step licensing approach to allow more flexibility for TVA and the manufacturers of the mPower reactor to change the way the plant is designed and built over the next decade. Under the single combined operating license, the NRC must pre-approve the design and construction method for any new plant before any building work begins.

Johnson said the Oak Ridge site was deemed appropriate for a nuclear plant in the 1970s when the U.S. Department of Energy planned to build a breeder reactor on the Clinch River site. The nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which helped develop the first atomic reactors in the post World War II "atoms for peace" program, could help support and use the power from at least one of the new reactors, Johnson said. TVA has set a goal of generating at least half of its power from noncarbon sources and the Oak Ridge lab has set a goal of being carbon-free in its own energy consumption by 2020.

Rick Bonsall, vice president of business development for Babcock & Wilcox, said the proposed TVA plant in Oak Ridge will be the launch site for the new mPower reactor. But he said B&W and its alliance partner, Bechtel Corp., are talking with several utilities also interested in using the new modular design reactors.

Although the design of the mPower reactor is still under regulatory review, Bonsall said it uses many of the technologies of existing pressured water reactors and the reactors will be small enough to be built underground to add extra containment.

"Any time you can do a lot of work in a factory environment, you have a lot more control on schedule and costs," he said.

TVA and B&W declined to release any early cost estimates for the new reactors, but Johnson said any units "will be competitive in price" with other power options available for the future.

The new reactor could be built as soon as 2020 as a follow-up to TVA's Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor scheduled for completion in 2012 and the Bellefonte Unit 1 reactor scheduled for possible completion as soon as 2018.

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mrredskin said...

why does anyone continue to quote anything that clown Stephen Smith says?

November 11, 2010 at 8:40 a.m.
TeaParty330 said...

Why is TVA willing to undertake what no other utility in the world is yet willing to do? Mini nukes were developed for small utilities to add incremental nuclear power. Instead, we have the biggest government utility and DOE joining forces with federal dollars to back a technology that the NRC has yet to certify. The nuclear industry begged Congress for a single-step licensing process for new plants. But TVA is the only utility building nukes today and they continue to use the old, two-step licensing process. I guess the combined operating license isn't working out so well, or maybe utilities with private funds can't yet take the risk for nuclear plants without firm cost estimates

November 11, 2010 at 10:56 a.m.
sideviews said...

Factory-built modular design has been key to American manufacturing since Henry Ford brought the assembly line to car production more than a century ago. This approach makes sense and limits the risk for building a major new nuclear plant. The new design must be carefully assessed, as Stephen Smith suggests. But I'm confident the regulators will protect the public safety.

November 11, 2010 at 11:37 a.m.
harlz said...

Part of the problem is we don't call things by their real names.

"Southern Alliance for Clean Energy" should more properly be called the "Anti-Nuclear Alliance for Unreliable Energy Backed Up by Fossil Gas".

But then they might lose a lot of their funding.

November 11, 2010 at 12:28 p.m.
GarryMorgan said...

I guess TVA's Integrated Recourse Plan, IRP, is just propaganda for the citizen to be fooled? Is the TVA Act's approval authority chain just for show to Mr. Bailey and executives involved in nuclear power decision making?

TVA's deceit and disrespect for the law is revealed. Has the board approved a modular reactor program? Are the executive officers of the TVA operating beyond the scope of law as evidenced in the Bellefonte Nuclear Construction issue? Or maybe the TVA Board conducts secret "star chamber" approvals outside of public purview?

It is all about money for specific corporate interests and their bureaucratic puppets, to hades with a financial prudent or safe product?

Where will TVA get the money, bleed the tax payers through DOE Grants? I guess the Republicans and their Tea Party extremists are not so supportive of free market capitalism after all, are they just deceitful right wing socialists who deceive the public and operate outside of laws?

What say you Lamar Alexander, how much money are you and the other nuclear corporate political puppets receiving from the nuclear corporations, enough not to provide Congressional oversight, enough to disregard the IRP and the law?

November 11, 2010 at 9:47 p.m.
hambone said...

Maybe China will build a big power line across the Pacific and we can pay our power bill at WalMart.

November 12, 2010 at 2:48 p.m.
GarryMorgan said...

Hambone, I understand why you would make such a comment. Either you are not aware of the problem or you are a nuclear mouthpiece. We do not need nuclear power, it is dangerous, not clean, very expensive and it kills.

Improvement of our hydroelectric fleet, construction of energy storage-pumped hydro facilities, construction of mini hydro facilities, build hydro facilities at Normandy and other small dam locations, solar power sites, biomass, wind, all are viable options other than deadly nuclear power.

Energy efficiency and conservation measures will produce as much power as a nuclear reactor. Improving the efficiency of current generation and distribution facilities will realize tremendous savings instead of building an out of control bureaucracy of deceit within the TVA which nuclear power represents.

Nuclear power kills, the fuels manufactoring process is nuclear power's dirty secret. Thousands have died and are sick from the nuclear fuels manufactoring process. Nuclear power is dangerous to children. Learn more about the truth of dangerous nuclear power at

November 13, 2010 at 10:21 a.m.
Fryyo said...

Wow - Can we get a net for GarryMorgan? Holy crap, I bet the ghost of Elvis told him to say all that before he hid all the secrets about UFOs.

So - lets shed some facts on this. What has TVA done really? They've agreed to work with the manufacture to pursue licensing of a potential reactor design. This means they are going to spend small time dollars working with the vendor and the NRC to start the process of licensing. They did the same things for the APG 1000s for Bellefonte 3 & 4. They didn't build it. They'll see how it goes, how the detailed plans and costs come out before committing real dollars to it. Businesses do this all the time - I think it is called "R&D" isn't it.

Why build more nuclear power? With the clean air controls for coal, its becoming very expensive to burn coal, particularly on those old 1940s-50s units. TVA built a lot of natural gas, which is pretty clean and not a bad source of power, but it has financial risk. 4 years ago, natural gas was 4 times as expensive as it is today. If TVA doesn't have more options, then every rate payer in the Valley is at huge cost risk if natural gas goes back to its old price.

Once built, nuclear power is a very cheap and reliable power source. Every TVA nuclear plant has paid for itself several times over. They keep power rates down not just for the people of the valley, but for the industries of the valley - and more importantly, for those looking to place jobs in the valley. While Michigan needs a miracle for their state because of the down turn in the car industry, TVA has been a critical partner in bringing Volkswagen, Nissan, Saturn, Toyota, NUCOR and others, which have brought good jobs to the valley.

TVA has the responsibility to balance the needs of the envionment, the needs of the river, the needs of the valley economy and most importantly - and over all - the many needs of the people of the valley. They have a lot to balance and they do it by looking at a lot of facts and data and staying grounded in reality. If you really care about energy policy, I encourage you to learn about power generation, conservation, alternative power, about the strength and weaknesses of the options, then look and judge TVA.

November 13, 2010 at 2:18 p.m.
GarryMorgan said...

"Fryyo," typical comment of nuclear-corporate-extremist in support of dirty, unsafe and deadly nuclear power. You can't discuss an issue without the ad hominem personal attack. Flaming attacks are typical of right wing socialist propaganda artists who display deceit at the behest of the nuclear contractors and the NEI.

Regardless of your deceit and propaganda you can not hide the facts, nuclear power kills and apparently you are encouraging nuclear operations outside the legal scope of the approval process. Are you representitive of the NEI, TVA and various nuclear contractors???

The nuclear industry contractors and TVA bureaucracy grows while the ratepayer/taxpayer pays the price of bloated, egotistical "crystal palace TVA management philosophy." The TVA executives often act like puppets at the end strings of the NEI, nuclear contractor puppet masters.

Questions for "fryo." You say,"they've agreed to work with the manufacture to pursue licensing of a potential reactor design." Really, who is they? Care to disclose specific names?

You support non accountable executives? The TVA executives can not make any commitments without the TVA Board's approval. Do you not understand this basic principle of the TVA Act or do you support operating beyond the scope of law?

The nuclear industry is used to deceiving the public with massive propaganda, just like you "fryyo"

I encourage you to stop "spurting off" faux knowledge and deceit supportive of unlawful acts of bureaucrats and the corporate powers of the NEI.

November 13, 2010 at 9:01 p.m.
hambone said...

Garry, "thousands have died from nuclear" Really? When, where, back up your claim please?

November 14, 2010 at 7:55 a.m.
GarryMorgan said...

For you Hambone. Department of Labor Statistics concerning the nuclear fuels process. My exact quote is: "Nuclear power kills, the fuels manufactoring process is nuclear power's dirty secret. Thousands have died and are sick from the nuclear fuels manufactoring process."

Benefits paid including death benefits to survivors at: Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Stats: (billions of $$ in claims) Part B&E summary- . Video's of those already dead and those dying-- A special lady tells her story- Mike Drivers story--

Yes Hambone, thousands are sick, dying and dead from the nuclear fuels process. How many TVA executives and Board Members care about those facts? How many executives employed by the nuclear fuels manufacturers care about those facts? How many American Citizens know the truth about the nuclear fuels process dirty secret?

November 30, 2010 at 10:33 p.m.
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