augusta free press news

Webb announces nuclear initiative

Edited by Chris Graham

U.S. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., joined Virginia-based Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Energy Inc. and Bechtel Power Corporation on Wednesday to announce a formal alliance to design, license and deploy the world’s first commercially viable Generation III++ small modular nuclear power plant.

Design work for the small modular reactors will take place in Lynchburg, Virginia, where Babcock & Wilcox’s nuclear operations are headquartered.

“I cannot be more enthusiastic about the development of these small modular nuclear reactors, and the incredible potential that this technology holds worldwide,” Webb said. “Investing in nuclear technology will move the United States toward clean, carbon-free sources of energy, bolster our energy independence, invigorate our economy, and strengthen our workforce with high-paying jobs on U.S. soil. Small modular reactors offer a solution to our nation’s energy needs with a very small physical footprint. The development of these reactors offers great promise for the United States to reassert its competitiveness and position as a world leader in the field.”

Sen. Webb has a long history with nuclear power, dating back to his days in the Naval Academy and as Secretary of the U.S. Navy. In November 2009, Webb introduced the Clean Energy Act of 2009 with Sen. Lamar Alexander. This bipartisan bill would invest $20 billion over 10 years to fund loan guarantees, nuclear education and workforce training, nuclear reactor lifetime-extension, and incentives for the development of solar power, biofuels, and alternative power technologies.

Webb’s legislation directs the Department of Energy to conduct five “Mini-Manhattan Projects” to study carbon capture technologies, non-ethanol biofuels, electric vehicles and electricity storage, cost-competitive solar power, and Generation IV reactors and technologies that will ultimately reduce nuclear waste. The initiative is designed to keep the United States competitive in a global marketplace that has accelerated the development of nuclear power.

“The expansion of nuclear and alternative energies is achievable, and reasonable in scope and cost,” Webb said. “It will go a very long way toward our eventual goal of dramatically reduced carbon dioxide emissions, and as a result, it is going to be beneficial to our economy and our national health.”

Based on B&W mPower™ small modular reactor (SMR) technology, the new alliance announced today, to be known as Generation mPower, brings together two recognized and established energy industry leaders in engineering, manufacturing and construction.

As a more practical clean energy option for power generation, the 125 megawatt B&W mPower SMR development program underway for the past two years has already gained wide recognition for its substantial electric utility involvement, cost competitiveness and innovative design.

The alliance is expected to generate new jobs in engineering, manufacturing and utility operations. B&W will focus on designing and testing the nuclear steam supply system (NSSS) and nuclear island, including the design certification application development and submission, and NSSS production. Bechtel, backed by 60 years of experience in the nuclear power industry, will complement these responsibilities with integrated engineering and project management leadership.

Depending on regulatory approval and other factors, the first plant could be deployed as early as 2020.