Friday, December 13, 2013

Energy Department Puts Half A Billion Dollars Into Small Reactors

The Energy Department will give NuScale Power, a small company in Corvallis, Oregon, up to $226 million to advance the design of small nuclear reactors.  The NuScale reactor would be installed under water, making meltdown far less likely and opening the door to markets around the world.
The award is the second of two under a $452 million, multiyear program to assist in the development of “small modular reactors,” which would be built in American factories, potentially improving quality and cutting costs, and delivered by truck.
The first award, in November 2012, went to Babcock & Wilcox, which formerly sold full-scale reactors. Its small model, called mPower, is a step ahead of NuScale’s because it has a preliminary agreement with a customer, the Tennessee Valley Authority.
While the two designs chosen by the Energy Department are radically smaller in their size and method of construction, both mPower and NuScale use ordinary water to transfer the heat created in the reactor so that the water can be used to make steam for electricity and help control the flow of neutrons, the subatomic particles that sustain the chain reaction.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the agency that will decide whether to license the reactors.  (NYT, 12/12/2013) 

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