The Department of Energy (DOE) and Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W) announced yesterday that a subsidiary of B&W—B&W mPower, LLC—will receive at least $150 million to support the commercial demonstration of its 180 megawatt (MW) small modular reactor (SMR) design before 2022. The final amount of the award could reach $226 million but remains dependent on Congressional appropriations and the outcome of DOE’s second funding solicitation announced earlier this year.
The funding for B&W’s award will come from DOE’s small modular reactor licensing technical support program which so far has been appropriated $134 million. In March 2012, DOE committed to obtaining funding for up to $452 million of support over five years for the licensing of the first small modular reactors. In November 2012, B&W was selected among four other applicants to receive the first award to demonstrate its SMR design. For their SMR work, B&W is partnering with Bechtel Power Corporation and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to construct and install up to four SMRs at TVA’s Clinch River site.
In March 2013, DOE announced plans for a second funding opportunity for up to $226 million for its SMR program. While some in Congress and at the DOE are selling small modular reactors as the next best thing, the commercial viability of these mini-nukes remains in question. To date, there are no reliable cost estimates for SMRs creating major uncertainties whether SMRs will be able to compete with large-scale reactors in the future.
If DOE believes there is a ‘need and market’ for SMRs, the mature and profitable nuclear industry should bear the full risk and cost of making SMRs a reality. In these tight budget times, federal taxpayers cannot afford to provide additional subsidies to the nuclear power industry.