Published March 19, 2013
NuHub, the commercial nuclear advocacy group in the Midlands, and the state of South Carolina said today they’ll back Holtec International’s bid for a federal grant to build a small modular reactor at Savannah River Site in Aiken County.
The Marlton, N.J.-headquartered company was one of two vendors the state and NuHub backed when the initial round of funding was announced in 2012. Neither Holtec nor NuScale Power, of Corvallis, Ore., was successful in their quest for a share of $452 million in federal money.
Charlotte-based Babcock & Wilcox received the first award from the Energy Department to design, license and help develop a commercial version of a small modular reactor in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel International.
A week ago, the Department of Energy announced that it would offer a second grant of up to $226 million to at least one vendor to develop a small modular reactor, commonly referred to as a SMR, to be licensed and in commercial operation by 2025.
Following the Energy Department announcement, NuHub said it would back only one vendor this time around.
The Energy Department said it favors SMR designs that can be made in factories and hauled to sites where they would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival.
NuHub and the state are backing SMR development because the units could be built in South Carolina and exported through the Port of Charleston to overseas markets. Experts believe annual sales of SMR units could reach $50 billion and lead to thousands of new jobs.
“Our statewide team approach to attracting business investment and jobs will serve a strong company like Holtec International well, and strategically position South Carolina to continue to lead the advanced manufacturing renaissance in a number of sectors including the nuclear industry,” said state Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt.
Kris Singh, president and CEO of Holtec, added: “We will reciprocate the state's faith and confidence in our technology by directing our industrial development focus on the state and by playing a major role in building it as a center of excellence to insure America's pre-eminence in the evolving age of small modular reactors.”
South Carolina Electric & Gas, a member of the public-private collaborative, said it’s backing efforts to bring SMR technology to South Carolina.
“SCE&G has a longstanding relationship with Holtec at our current nuclear plant, V.C. Summer, and we hope to bring our new nuclear construction expertise to the table to support the development of the project,” said Steve Byrne, co-chair of NuHub and COO and president of generation and transmission for SCE&G.
Small modular units are about one-third the size of current nuclear power reactors, generating no more than 300 megawatts. The units also have to be compact, scalable and provide a number of safety, construction and economic benefits.
SMR proposals would have to offer “innovative and effective solutions for enhanced safety, operations and performance,” the Energy Department said. And, at least 50% of the project has to be funded from private sources.
Holtec's SMR is a 160-megawatt pressurized water reactor that has been designed to withstand severe natural disasters by relying on gravity under all operating and emergency conditions.
Holtec has nuclear projects in the United States, United Kingdom, Spain, Ukraine, China, South Korea, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland. It also is involved in the defueling of Chernobyl's shuttered reactors in Russia.
NuScale, which has been working on developing a small modular reactor since 2000, said it will apply for the second round of funding.
Westinghouse Electric, designer of the two AP1000 reactor units being built at the Summer nuclear plant, also is pursuing SMR technology. The Pittsburgh-based company, which operates a nuclear fuel manufacturing facility in Columbia, is developing a 225-megawatt integral pressurized water reactor at Ameren Missouri's Callaway Energy Center.
NuHub said it will continue to support Holtec both during and after the Energy Department application process, with the deadline slated for July 1.
"We have a tremendous opportunity to be a global leader in nuclear technology by developing the nation's first small modular reactors,” said Gov. Nikki Haley. “Holtec International is a highly competitive firm in SMR technology, and we are excited to partner with them."