Small modular nuclear reactor research approved

04/05/13 00:31:00    

By Michael Mealling

In late 2011 I spent two weeks in China with my MBA class visiting various companies. One of the more interesting was the Shaw Group (now part of CG&I). They work with Westinghouse Nuclear to actually build the AP1000 nuclear power plant.

We met with their CFO and learned that in order to win the contract for the first plants in China they had to agree to teach China how to build it themselves. And yes, that did mean build it so they didn't have to pay Westinghouse for the design. At the time the only other plant being built anywhere in the world was Plant Vogle in Georgia. Shaw said it was a choice of taking the contract or going out of business. That's when I decided it was nearly impossible to do business in China.

So I was happy to see that, while China is copying our old designs, we are quickly changing the game be redefining what a nculear reactor is and where you build them. Early last month the Energy Department Announced New Funding Opportunity for Innovative Small Modular Reactors:

Small modular reactors – which are approximately one-third the size of current nuclear power plants – have compact, scalable designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, construction and economic benefits. The Energy Department is seeking 300 megawatts or smaller reactor designs that can be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival. The smaller size reduces both capital costs and construction times and also makes these reactors ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors.

Lets hope research like this will keep us and Westinghouse ahead of the game.

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