Note: For an update on this topic see subsequent post titled Bechtel will “pursue” acceleration of mPower project.
On March 4, 2016, in a press release issued from Reston, VA, Bechtel and BWX Technologies (BWXT) announced that they would be accelerating their Generation mPower small modular reactor project. Bechtel will take over the project lead and focus on aspects of the development that take advantage of its “historic strengths in engineering, licensing, procurement, construction, and project management.”
BWXT will focus on completing the design of its 195 MWe BWXT mPowerTM reactor. Design completion tasks include the testing program that will be required to validate and verify the engineering assumptions and computer codes used to support the design certification application (DCA).
Both companies will play a major role in completing the DCA. The press release did not include a projected date when the application will be ready for submission.
This project acceleration decision follows a period lasting almost two years in which the Generation mPower team head count fell from about 600 people to substantially below 200. That reduction in force and slowdown in development occurred after the B&W board of directors determined they would reduce spending on the project from ~ $100 million/year to a maximum of $15 million per year.
Before the slowdown, substantial progress had been made in developing the DCA; the submission had been planned to occur by the first quarter of 2015. There was about a year’s worth of work remaining.
In the summer of 2015, the Babcock and Wilcox Company split into two separate companies. The units that focused on combustion-related products like boilers and pollution control systems now form the company that retained the B&W name. The units focused on nuclear energy products, including the large segment that supplies and services the Navy nuclear power program are now part of BWXT. The BWXT mPower reactor project is one of those business units.
Based on the existence of the new agreement, it’s apparent that Bechtel and BWXT have continued discussions about the best way to move forward with the promising technology. Between B&W, Bechtel and the Department of Energy there has already been nearly half a billion dollars invested in the mPower reactor and associated power conversion system.
The timing of the announcement will come as a surprise to the people who have remained on the project under its slowed spending rate. Several have been working diligently to find users for the multi-million dollar Integrated System Test (IST) facility that was put into a preservation mode when the operating crew was laid off.
Below is an excerpt from the press release issued yesterday afternoon.
Aside: The press release lede exaggerates to the point of inaccuracy by labeling the interrupted mPower reactor as “the world’s first commercially viable Generation III++ small modular nuclear reactor.”
RESTON, Va., March 4, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Global engineering and construction leader Bechtel and nuclear technology leader BWX Technologies, Inc. have announced a new agreement to pursue accelerated development of the world’s first commercially viable Generation III++ small modular nuclear reactor.
Bechtel will lead the program and leverage the company’s historic strengths in engineering, licensing, procurement, construction, and project management. BWXT will focus on designing and testing the nuclear steam supply system. Both companies will collaborate to prepare a design certification application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Known as Generation mPower, the project is centered on the BWXT mPowerTM reactor—a 195-megawatt-electric power plant that will be a safe, cost-competitive, and innovative solution to provide low-carbon electricity—addressing the growing challenges of climate change and sustainable development.
“This technology holds great promise and we are firmly committed to doing everything we can to bring it to market,” said Ty Troutman, general manager of Bechtel’s nuclear power business unit. “It’s one of the keys to solving the problem of replacing older power plants without relying on fossil fuels or the intermittent availability of solar and wind. Pound for pound, small modular reactors can deliver more 24/7 electricity than any other low-carbon alternative energy technology.”
Generation mPower delivers greater certainty in nuclear power costs and schedule, which is needed to enable broader, more timely development of nuclear power. Its key features include:
- Compact size
- Factory built, rail shippable reactor
- Passive safety systems incorporating post-Fukushima design criteria
- Underground containment structure
- Standard fuel assemblies made from less-than-five-percent-enriched uranium
- Fit for purpose: designed for cost-effective deployment
“Bechtel is unique in that we have, and will continue to take, the long view on nuclear power,” Troutman said. “We are an enduring presence in the industry.”
Fred de Sousa
t. 703 429 6435
For BWX Technologies:
t. 434 522 6462
Logo – http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20130124/SF47758LOGO