On Friday, former Senator Pete Domenici and former Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Pete Miller hosted the third BPC Nuclear Initiative event, “Preparing for Deployment of Small Modular Reactors.” As Senator Domenici noted in his opening remarks, “Small modular reactors [SMRs] are an exciting frontier for nuclear technology and a compelling example of U.S. ingenuity, scientific capability, and manufacturing potential.”
In his keynote address, Dr. Pete Lyons, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), demonstrated DOE’s significant recent progress on SMRs. Under the leadership of both Dr. Miller and Dr. Lyons, DOE Nuclear Energy has made SMR technologies a top priority. The DOE SMR Licensing Technical Support program is a $452 million, five-year industry cost-effort to achieve design certification for two SMR designs and to support early stages of deployment. This initiative builds on the successful Nuclear Power 2010 program, a government and industry cost-sharing program that supported design certification for two Generation III+ reactor technologies (the AP1000 and the ESBWR), as well as three early site permits and two combined construction and operating licenses.
The event also featured the Clean Air Task Force’s Mike Fowler, who provided an overview of several advanced reactor technologies that may be candidates for relatively near-term deployment. His presentation outlined the potential long-term value of advanced nuclear technologies, addressed in a new whitepaper from the Clean Air Task Force—The Nuclear Decarbonization Option: Profiles of Selected Advanced Reactor Technologies.
Dr. Miller moderated a diverse panel that engaged several questions from expert audience participants.
- Michael R. Johnson, Director of the Office of New Reactors, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, addressed the ongoing NRC staff work and industry efforts coordinated by the Nuclear Energy Institute to resolve generic licensing issues. The conversation covered licensing challenges associated with SMRs, including security and emergency planning issues and multi-module facilities.
- William “Bill” R. McCollum, Chief Operating Officer of the Tennessee Valley Authority provided an operator’s perspective on the potential role for SMRs in a diverse future electricity portfolio. TVA has partnered with technology vendor mPower to explore deployment opportunities.
- Victor H. Reis, Ph.D., a Senior Advisor in DOE’s Office of the Undersecretary for Science, provided an overview of the SMR subcommittee recently formed by the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board. The Subcommittee will address the strategic questions regarding how and why SMRs are strategically important for the U.S.
- In response to questions about U.S. technological leadership and international competition, Dr. Miller stressed the national security importance of U.S. involvement in nuclear technologies to ensure effective influence in international nonproliferation efforts.
BPC’s Nuclear Initiative will hold additional events during the coming months and will issue a report during summer 2012.