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TVA Takes the Lead in Modular Nuclear Technology

Jan. 14, 2017 (EIRNS)—On Jan. 12, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has accepted the TVA’s site permit application to build this nation’s first small modular nuclear reactor. The TVA has chosen the site of the never-completed Clinch River Breeder Reactor for the small modular plants. It is fitting that the site will once again be where advanced nuclear technology will be demonstrated. The breeder reactor project, designed to produce power and breed nuclear fuel, was halted by anti-nuclear political sabotage in the Carter Administration, and was ended by budget austerity in 1983. The site permit application is the first step of many for the TVA to be able to build the first-of-its-kind power plant. These small plants (up to about 300 Megawatts) will be built in factories and completed modules will be delivered and assembled on site.

TVA’s plan is to build multiple units, in a first-ever commercial demonstration of the technology. Small module reactors have been under development for a number of years, and since 2012, the Department of Energy has had a program to accelerate development to bring them to the commercial market. The TVA, which regulates and controls its own investment (and gets no funds from the federal government) last year placed on line the first nuclear power plant in the 2000s at Watts Bar. As a public utility, the TVA can take the risk a commercial utility would not, and continue to be the test bed for new nuclear technology.