November 11, 2010

Tennessee Valley Authority takes first step to build six mPower mini nuclear reactors



The Tennessee Valley Authority has taken the first step toward gaining regulatory approval to build up to six new mini-nuclear reactors on the site of the abandoned Clinch River Breeder Reactor in Oak Ridge

The federal utility "is evaluating the feasibility" of erecting two of the new Babcock & Wilcox-designed "mPower reactors" by 2020. Each of the new reactors would produce 125 megawatts of electricity -- about 10 percent as much as conventional reactors at TVA's other plants -- and could be built in controlled factory conditions to cut production costs and ensure construction quality.

The mPower reactor has been covered here



mPower technical details

* The mPower reactor will use 5% enriched uranium in fuel rod assemblies which are similar in design to those used in 1,000 MW plants.

* At a hypothetical price of $3,000/Kw, a single unit would cost $375 million

* One of the intended uses of the mPower reactor is to “repower carbon-intensive plants where the transmission and distribution infrastructure is already in place. (coal to nuclear ? )

* First units could be received by customers by 2018 and that the reactor can can be shipped by truck and rail to a customer site and installed below grade by skilled trades without complex training.

Reactor type: Integral PWR
Power: ~125MWe, ~400MWt
Reactor coolant: <14mpa (2000psia), ~600K (620F)core outlet
Steam conditions: <7MPa (1000psia), superheated
Reactor vessel diameter: ~3.6m (12ft)
Height: ~22m (70ft)
Fuel assemblies Sixty-nine 17x17, uranium dioxide
Height: ~half of standard fuel assembly
Fuel assembly pitch: 21.5cm
Active core height: ~200cm
Core diameter (flat to flat): ~200cm
Fuel inventory: less than 20t
Average specific power: ~20kW/kgU
Core average fuel burnup: less than 40GWd/tU
Target fuel cycle length: ~5 years
Maximum enrichment: less than 5%
Reactivity control: Control rods
Other features: No soluble boron, air cooled condenser,spent fuel stored in containment for 60 year design life 
TVA opted to pursue regulatory approval for any mPower units built in Oak Ridge under the NRC's older, two-step licensing process. Rather than the single combined-operating license process being used for other new plants. The utility is using the two-step licensing approach to allow more flexibility for TVA and the manufacturers of the mPower reactor to change the way the plant is designed and built over the next decade. Under the single combined operating license, the NRC must pre-approve the design and construction method for any new plant before any building work begins. The new reactor could be build as soon as 2020 as a follow-up to TVA's Watts Bar Unit 2 reactor scheduled for completion in 2012 and the Bellefonte Unit 1 reactor scheduled for possible completion as soon as 2018.
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