Clarington SMR build leads to OPG nuclear partnership with Tennessee, Poland

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Published May 18, 2023 at 10:47 am

Rendering of the SMR build at Darlington nuclear plant

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates seven nuclear reactors in the state, is looking at building a small modular reactor (SMR) at its Clinch River site with the help of Ontario Power Generation.

TVA is studying the addition of the SMR and picked the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 design – the same SMR currently being built at the Darlington nuclear plant near Bowmanville.

TVA signed a technology collaborative agreement in March with OPG and Poland’s Synthos Green Energy to fast-track the SMR’s design and increase the odds of regulatory acceptance.

“Working together, we are taking intentional steps to advance new nuclear in the U.S. and around the world,” said TVA President Jeff Lyash, who said the BWRX-300 design will add more “reliable, resilient, affordable, and clean energy” on the grid and will help support “the energy security of the nation.”

OPG, TVA and Synthos Green Energy will invest in the development of the BWRX-300 standard design as well as detailed design for key components, including reactor pressure vessel and internals. GE-Hitachi is committed to standard design development and anticipates a total investment of around $400 million associated with the development, with each contributor agreeing to fund a portion of the overall cost.

The partners will also form a Design Center Working Group with the purpose of ensuring the standard design is deployable in multiple jurisdictions. The long-term goal is for the BWRX-300 design to be licensed and deployed in Canada, the U.S., Poland and beyond.

OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick is an enthusiastic backer of the partnership.

“The collaboration agreement will help advance necessary work to develop this next generation of nuclear power efficiently, benefiting electricity-users in all our jurisdictions,” Hartwick said. “Nuclear power will play a key role in meeting increasing clean electricity needs in Ontario and beyond.”

GE-Hitachi President Jay Wileman noted that Synthos Green Energy’s participation marks the first time a private Polich company is investing in nuclear design. “This unprecedented collaboration, which spans three countries, will offer benefits to each of the team members and demonstrates confidence in the role that our SMR technology will play in helping nations meet decarbonization and energy security goals. Building on our design-to-cost approach, this collaboration will further strengthen the cost competitiveness of the BWRX-300.”

TVA is preparing a construction permit application for a BWRX-300 at the Clinch River Site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and exploring additional sites in the TVA service area for potential SMR deployments. Meanwhile Synthos Green Energy and its partners have started the pre-licensing process in Poland and intends to deploy the first unit by the end of this decade with the future potential for a fleet of BWRX-300s.

The BWRX-300 is being designed to reduce construction and operating costs below other nuclear power generation technologies. Specifically, the BWRX-300 is being developed to leverage a unique combination of existing fuel, plant simplifications, proven components and a design based on an already licensed reactor.

TVA, a wholly-owned U.S. government corporation which is celebrating its 90th birthday today (May 18) – is eager to learn from OPG’s SMR build and from Darlington’s $12.8 billion refurbishment of the nuclear plants four units. TVA President Jeff Lyash told powermag.com that he hopes the work at Darlington will prove SMRs can be constructed on time and on budget.

Lyash also hopes the SMR addition will lead to a four-unit site and eventually four other locations in TVAs service area. “We picked the BWRX-300 technology because … we know this fuel works,” he said, adding that there is “50 years of experience behind the design. “We know this technology works.”

TVA is the largest public power company in the country, serving 10 million people in Tennessee and parts of six surrounding states.

Watts-Barr nuclear plant in Tennessee

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