Race for DOE SMR money heats up
B&W inks MOU with First Energy for economic, siting, and licensing studies
The Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W) (NYSE:BWC) and FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE:FE) announced July 25 that FirstEnergy and a B&W subsidiary, Generation mPower LLC (GmP), have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to conduct studies on the potential deployment of the B&W mPower ™ small modular reactor in FirstEnergy’s service territory.
FirstEnergy and GmP plan to work together to perform an independent financial review of mPower economics. The firms will evaluate several alternative potential sites for construction of the 180 MW B&W mPower plants, complete a preliminary pre-licensing analysis, and assess the need and timing for prospective deployment of B&W mPower plants in the FirstEnergy generation fleet.
First Energy currently operates two nuclear reactors in Ohio. They are the Davis-Besse plant near Toledo and the Perry plant east of Cleveland. Both are full size nuclear reactors. Based on additional information provided by B&W, the odds are the SMR studies will take a close look at sites in Ohio
Second deal with a utility
This is the second utility B&W has established an MOU with for development of its SMR. The first is TVA which is working with B&W on licensing and engineering studies. That agreement proposes that the two firms look at the Clinch River site in Tenneessee, which already has an operating nuclear reactor on it, for construction of two 180 MW mPower SMRs.
B&W executives said at the Platts SMR conference last May that the preferred configuration of an installation is two 180 MW units. It isn't known whether this is one of the alternatives FirstEnergy will look at presumably for an Ohio site. B&W has a power engineering and manufacturing facility in Barberton, OH, which is just 11 miles southwest of First Energy's offices in Akron, OH.
Race for $452 million gets political notice
The Department of Energy is reviewing proposals from B&W and several other SMR firms to be granted up to $452 million over five years to support SMR engineering and licensing work. The agency will make up to two awards by the end of September this year.
What's unusual about today’s news, and which puts it in perspective relative to a $452 million funding opportunity for SMRs from the Department of Energy, are statements from Ohio's senators.
On a normal day they rarely agree on anything. However, with the prospect of real money from the government for developing SMRs, and the possibility of the manufacturing jobs that could follow, they put aside their partisan differences. Both men noted the Ohio connection in their extensive remarks.
“This agreement between FirstEnergy and Generation mPower represents another significant step towards making Ohio a hub for advanced manufacturing and next-generation energy,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said.
“Sustained economic growth and job creation in the United States will require a domestic supply of safe, reliable, and cost-effective energy,” said Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH).
Other firms gain political support
The prospect of government money and manufacturing jobs to follow has brought out the “chicken in every pot” instincts of politicians in every state that has SMR bragging rights.
In Missouri on July 23 Governor Jay Nixon spoke in favor of a new plan by the state's utilities and Westinghouse to develop a small modular reactor there. Westinghouse has proposed to build a 225 MW SMR at Ameren’s Callaway site.
Earlier this month the State of Washington congressional delegation and the governor issued a joint statement urging DOE Sec. Chu to award the SMR money to NuScalefor a 45 MW reactor to be built at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. That firm proposes to build its units in six packs with the first unit financing the next, and so on.
And Holtec has cornered supportfrom South Carolina’s political leaders for development of its 160 MWSMR at the Savannah River Site. Like the other SMR developers, it has an agreement in principle with an economic development organization hoping for the manufacturing jobs that could follow successful development of the technology.
In a unique twist on government contracting, Holtec has also offered the government a “money back” guarantee if it fails to license and build an SMR by 2022.
All of the SMRs chasing the DOE money are based on well understood light water reactor designs.
No report about an agreement between First Energy and B&W would be complete without the usual corporate statements of confidence in the process which were included in a press statement from B&W.
“Our agreement today is an outgrowth of the company's involvement with B&W's consortium to promote the development of small modular reactors," said James H. Lash, president of FirstEnergy Generation and Chief Nuclear Officer.
Christofer M. Mowry, President and Chief Executive Officer of GmP said,
“This cooperative effort with FirstEnergy demonstrates growing interest in our B&W mPower. We appreciate FirstEnergy’s industry leadership, and look forward to working closely with them to complete these studies.”
So there you have it. It’s just another day in the race for $452 million.
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