December 09, 2010

TVA and other utilities look to small modular nuclear reactors to replace coal plants

The Economist has a discussion of small modular nuclear reactors

Small nuclear reactor can use existing power-transmission lines without overloading them. mPower and other small reactors can act as a “drop-in replacement” for ageing coal furnaces without the need for costly refurbishment. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), America’s biggest public utility, hopes to put two of the firm’s reactors into an old coal plant. Five other American utilities are also considering replacing coal furnaces with nuclear reactors, according to Philip Moor of the American Nuclear Society, an industry group. He estimates that in America alone perhaps 100 old coal plants could be converted to nuclear within a decade—a trice by the industry’s standards.

The TVA has taken the first steps towards getting six mPower reactors

Hyperion Power Generation, a firm based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is building components for what it calls a “nuclear battery”. The refrigerator-sized Hyperion Power Module (HPM) reactor will shift much of the building from field to factory, where a controlled environment reduces costs. Also, fewer workers and families must be moved, at great expense, to distant building sites. HPMs would be delivered by truck with enough uranium to run for about ten years. They would be constructed in batches with interchangeable parts and cost about $100m each.

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