TVA moving forward with plans for smaller nuclear reactors to achieve carbon-free goal

Contributed by GE Hitachi / A rendering shows the proposed GE Hitachi BWRX-300 small modular reactor, which the Tennessee Valley Authority is considering building in Oak Ridge and other sites.

Nearly four decades after the Tennessee Valley Authority abandoned construction of more than half of the nuclear plants it once planned to build, the federal utility is moving forward again with plans to pursue the next generation of nuclear power.

The federal utility said Tuesday it has an agreement with a nuclear manufacturer to pursue a small modular reactor design at the Clinch River reactor site near Oak Ridge and will spend the next year preparing a possible construction permit to build a couple of the 300-megawatt reactors.

TVA President Jeff Lyash said smaller nuclear reactors such as the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 being studied by TVA can be built more cost effectively and offer more flexibility than the previous generation of nuclear plants. Lyash said while TVA is pursuing a range of energy options for its future, he thinks the small modular reactors will be needed to help TVA achieve its long-term goal of being carbon-free by 2050 while still maintaining reliable and relatively low-cost power.