Bechtel and BWXT have announced an acceleration of Generation mPower
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
Very good news. Us Brits need some credible alternatives for when the EPR at Hinckley C gets canned. SMRs will help remove the massive upfront capital.
@ Murray: See Westinghouse looks to UK for vessel manufacture. NuScale is showing interest as well. And its not just Rosatom ready to step up with GW scale should EPR head south: UK Generic Design Assessments are currently under way for Hitachi-GE’s UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor and Westinghouse’s AP1000 designs.
Hi Ed, I was aware of the Horizon ABWR and AP1000 but they’ll both still be massive capital projects so can be attacked in the same way as EPR (multiple appeals that they constitute state aid, no institution large enough to fund, cost of delay massive due to cost of capital, long time to completion).
I live on the HS2 rail route and the anti HS2 campaign has used the same delaying tactics to push up cost and try and kill that. It’s a good technique but doesn’t work well against smaller projects.
I think Nuscale’s design is a better PWR SMR as its shutdown is entirely passive. On the molten salt reactor side Moltex Engergy’s design looks to have the fewest challenges.
Rod, you say:
So first of all, what distinguishes a Gen III++? Also it’s unclear whether you’re pointing out that it’s not yet commercially-viable or whether there’s another Gen III++ SMR that precedes it.
I’ve got to wonder about the timing of this, coming so closely after the DOE’s siting announcement with NuScale. Does BWXT now see themselves in danger of being left in the dust by competitors who didn’t engage in a development slowdown? If so, it’s a testament to the power of small policy changes in high places.
I definitely suspect that recent positive news regarding support for advanced reactor designs/SMRs has caused this decision to be made.
Since the Integrated System Test (IST) facility was mentioned, I’d recommend watching its short promotional video or on youtube.
I found it especially interesting as I built a similar facility on a smaller scale (e.g., 4 heater rods vs the 8×8 grid they mentioned in the video… neat seeing all the power leads in the video) for my graduate work. A lot of work goes into these facilities as I’m sure many readers are already aware.
Why would they proceed unless a potential client or two gave some sort of indication that they were interested. Not sure what Rod was meaning regarding the attorneys were done talking. Personally I would be nervous to proceed with other 4th gen SMR models being submitted for review that are promising $40 – 50/MWh LCOE delivered to the grid and can compete without subsidy with coal and natural gas. My understanding is that NuScale is around $100/MWh.
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