Small Nuclear Electric Power Plants

First Energy Corp. is interested in buying a new, small nuclear electric reactor that  would be located somewhere in the First Energy service area. They have signed an agreement with a subsidiary of global manufacturer Babcock and Wilcox Co. (B&W) of Charlotte, NC. The agreement calls for a study to deploy B&W’s small reactor. The study will include financial analyses and an evaluation of potential sites.

Electric Power

The new reactor would generate 180 MW. First Energy has two nuclear electric power plants located on the Ohio shores of Lake Erie. One plant generates 900 MW and the other is rated at 1300 MW. One MW provides sufficient electricity for 800 homes.

Manufacture

The B&W reactor design is cylindrical in shape, having a diameter of 14 feet and a length of 75 feet. Unlike foreign manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels, B&W plans to design, fabricate components and completely assemble the reactor all in the U.S.A. This effort will truly provide sorely needed, new, long lasting employment opportunities. Once fully assembled the unit would be delivered to the utility site, installed and start operation.

Installation and Cost

The reactor would be installed 140 feet underground in a containment building. The electric generator would be located above ground for ease of maintenance. The cost for the small reactor is estimated at under $2.0 billion compared to about $15.0 billion for a larger above ground level plant. The reactors are referred to as modular.Two or more of the reactors can be purchased separately and connected to produce electricity as a single large reactor.

Safety

The design of the reactor includes a safety system that is much less complex than the larger nuclear plants located above ground level. The fact that the reactor will be installed well below ground level significantly reduces the chance of a catastrophic event. The small reactor can be easily hidden from ground level visual or aerial observation. This attribute substantially reduces the risk of terrorist activity compared to the same risk for larger above ground nuclear plants.

Current and Future Outlook

B&W plans to submit, before the end of 2013, the final design of the small reactor to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for licensing. Historically the NRC has taken several years of evaluation before granting a license. However they are gearing up to handle an influx of similar designs submitted by several other reactor manufacturers.

DOE FY 2012 Funding Comparisons: Nuclear, Solar, Wind, Biofuels and Clean Coal

Nuclear: The request for FY2012 is $852. million. Of the FY2012 request for nuclear, only $125 million was requested by Congress for RD&D Reactor Concepts (the small nuclear reactors). Compare the $125 million for small nuclear reactors with the DOE request for funding renewable energy sources and fossil energy.

DOE requests for FY2012:

Solar $457 million

Wind $147 million

Biomass $340 million

Fossil energy R&D $453 million.

Conclusion

The DOE funding for wind, solar and biofuels does not include the additional tax incentives and subsidies provided by the government for these renewables. The “Common Sense Energy Plan” for energy independence calls for increasing the number of nuclear electric plants. Small nuclear reactor electric plants are congruent with the plan.

If in your opinion, the DOE should be spending fewer of our tax dollars on renewable energy and clean coal and more should be invested in small nuclear electric plants, please tell your U.S. Representative and your State Senators. Save your time and ask them to read this website post.

References:

1. “FirstEnergy explores buying smaller, cheaper, in-ground nuclear reactor”, The Plain Dealer, p. C1, July 26, 2012, Cleveland OH, by: John Funk, PD reporter.

2. Department of Energy FY 2012 Congressional Budget Request.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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