Nuclear Reactors 1195 - The Tennessee Valley Authority Is Collaborating With Three Other Companies To Build Small Modular Reactors At The Clinch River Site
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a federally owned electric utility corporation in the United States. TVA's service area covers all of Tennessee, portions of Alabama, Mississippi, and Kentucky, and small areas of Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. The utility is finalizing plans for the next generation of commercial nuclear power plants with the announcement this week that it will construct a cutting-edge reactor near Oak Ridge, Tennessee in partnership with three other companies which include the joint American-Japanese GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Ontario Power Generation in Canada and Synthos Green Energy in Poland.
The federal utility has signed an agreement with the companies to collaborate on the design for a new small modular reactor (SMR) that will be far smaller than the existing plants known for their massive cooling towers. The new reactor will be less expensive and easier to build.
The TVA and its collaborators will spend about four hundred million dollars on the project. The board of the TVA has already authorized two hundred million dollars for the program. This will cover the TVA’s portion.
The Clinch River site is located in Kingston, Tennessee near the Oak Ridge Turnpike. Tennessee Governor Bill Lee visited the site on March 3rd. Jeff Lyash is the CEO of the TVA. He accompanied the governor’s visit to the site. Lyash said that the location was perfect because it is near Oak Ridge’s longstanding nuclear sites. It is on a bend in the Clinch River where the cold water can be used for cooling the reactor.
The TVA owns the land because it was part o a previous project in the 1970s. Using the site for SMRs means a return on the TVA’s investment decades later.
SMRs are designed to be much safer than current large reactor operating around the U.S. However, it is a new technology so there is no safety record yet. The design for SMRs and the construction process will be regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC oversees the civilian use of radioactive materials.
The emergency planning zone surrounding the TVA’s current nuclear reactors is ten miles in every direction. These zones are established by the NRC to reduce or prevent radiation exposure in an emergency for those who live near operating nuclear power plants. The SMR emergency zone will not extend beyond the boundary of the plant property.
Joe Shea is the TVA’s senior technical advisor for the project. He said that the Clinch River site could host at least four SMRs. Lyash mentioned that if the TVA is successful in building a single unit it would be then build three more. The federal utility could also install small reactors at other sites.
One SMR is about the size of a football field according to Shea. The SMR will include a reactor building, a turbine building and a control room. This information comes from a TVA rendering of the design.
Shea added that it will be the early 2030s at best before the SMR is generating electricity.