The nuclear power operator said it will explore technologies and potential locations for advanced nuclear reactors and will partner with other utilities, government agencies and research institutes to mitigate costs and risks associated with advancing this new technology.
TVA said it was already in discussions with GE Hitachi to support its BWRX-300 light-water SMR design.
Advanced nuclear is one of several technologies TVA is investigating as part of what it called the development of “innovative, cost-effective technologies” that will achieve TVA’s aspiration of a net-zero carbon energy future. Other technologies include next generation energy storage, carbon capture, new hydroelectric pumped storage and hydrogen.
TVA’s nuclear fleet – the nation’s third-largest – has a generating capacity of approximately 8,000MW and is the backbone of the company’s clean generation portfolio. In FY20, the fleet is supplied 42% of the region’s energy supply.
TVA owns and operates three nuclear stations with a total of seven units in Tennessee: Browns Ferry (three units), Sequoyah (two units) and Watts Bar (two units).
The company said the nuclear programme will provide a roadmap for its exploration of advanced nuclear technology, both in terms of various reactor designs and potential locations.
“The process will include specific decision points that would allow TVA to withdraw from plans or projects if they are no longer feasible or not in the best interest of the region,” a statement said.
One of the first tasks will be a project to develop a Nuclear Regulatory Commission construction permit application and potentially deploy a light-water SMR at the Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, which currently holds the only NRC early site permit for SMRs in the US.
“While we will continue to support and examine all of the various SMR designs being proposed, we believe that light-water SMR designs, which are closely related to the current generation of TVA’s large nuclear units, are more mature and closer to commercial deployment within the next decade,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA president and chief executive officer.
“For that reason, we are currently in discussions with GE Hitachi to support their BWRX-300 light-water SMR design, which will help inform a future decision about potential deployment.”
TVA has not selected a reactor technology to be constructed at the Clinch River site. Instead, a set of bounding plant parameter values has been identified, based upon the available information from various light-water-cooled, SMR designs. This set of bounding values, referred to as the plant parameter envelope (PPE), provides the basis for future site development at the site.
The Clinch River site, owned by TVA, comprises approximately 380 hectares of land next to the Clinch River arm of the Watts Bar Reservoir. The site is the location of the former Clinch River breeder reactor project.