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Proposed “Mini-Nukes” Could Be the Next Big Thing

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Lynchburg, Va.-based Babcock & Wilcox will work with FirstEnergy, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Oglethorpe Power to place its small-scale, 125-MW modular nuclear unit, called mPower, into operation by 2020, says Chris Mowry, CEO of B&W Modular Nuclear Energy LLC. The company and the utilities, which announced their consortium on Feb. 17, will work with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to modify the licensing process for the modular reactors. None of the companies working with B&W has agreed to buy its reactor because “we really need to get deeper insight on this thing, where and how exactly to deploy,” says Mowry. The price for the units has not yet been determined, although he says they will be competitive, on a per kilowatt basis, with larger nuclear plants. B&W hopes to get design certification in the next two to three years, followed by its NRC license, with construction beginning in about 2017. Construction for the self-contained units is expected to take about three years, as opposed to four or five years for larger nuclear plants. The B&W-designed reactor will be a passively safe, advanced light-water reactor with an underground containment structure and a fuel pond to store all fuel used during the unit’s 60-year lifetime, according to company officials.

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