Three big utilities, Tennessee Valley Authority, First Energy Corp. and Oglethorpe Power Corp., on Wednesday signed an agreement with McDermott International Inc.’s Babcock & Wilcox subsidiary, committing to get the new mPower factory mass producable 125-140 MWe reactor approved for commercial use in the U.S.
A new type of nuclear reactor—smaller than a rail car and one tenth the cost of a big plant—is emerging as a contender to reshape the nation’s resurgent nuclear power industry.
Small reactors are expected to cost about $5,000 per kilowatt of capacity, or $750 million or so for one of Babcock & Wilcox’s units. Large reactors cost $5 billion to $10 billion for reactors that would range from 1,100 to 1,700 megawatts of generating capacity.
The first certification request for a small reactor design is expected to be Babcock & Wilcox’s request in 2012. The first units could come on line after 2018.
The small reactors that are being developed in China, Russia and India seem to be more likely to dominate the nuclear market from 2016 onwards Of 53 reactors that are being built now 41 (or almost 80% are being built in China, Russia, India and South Korea.
The Hyperion Power Generation company has customer orders and is planning to have their first hot tub size uranium hydride reactors (27MWe) built in 2013. The Russians have built reactors like the SVBR (75/100 MWe) metal breeder reactor for their submarines. The SVBR reactor project is funded and should have a pilot reactor for 2020
B & W mPower
* mPower small reactor, a 125 MW LWR design that is still being completed on the drawing boards in Lynchburg, VA.
* The 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.
* three years from signed contracts to operational units
B&W boasts that when the mPower goes on the market in 2012, each 125MWe reactor would be made in a factory, cost about half a billion dollars firm fixed price, and could be built and installed, in multiples of two or four reactors, in only three years.
mPower – main data
Reactor type: Integral PWR
Power: ~125MWe, ~400MWt
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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