Westinghouse Electric Company and Ameren Missouri have entered into an agreement to jointly seek US Department of Energy (DoE) funds for developing and licensing the Westinghouse Small Modular Reactor (SMR) at the Callaway plant site outside of Fulton.
Under the agreement, Ameren Missouri will partner with Westinghouse-led Utility Participation Group (UPG). UPG comprises Missouri utilities, non-Missouri utilities and firms interested in seeking the DOE’s Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) – aid for Westinghouse’s SMR technology – which includes a phased development and implementation of the SMR programme for the State of Missouri.
After securing DoE funding, Westinghouse and Ameren Missouri plan to work collectively to seek Design Certification of the Westinghouse SMR and a combined construction and operating license (COL) with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for the Westinghouse SMR at Callaway.
Both companies are upbeat on this historic alliance to advance SMR technology and bring economic development to Missouri. The programme has the support of the governor and the backing of many state legislators, local officials and workforce-infrastructure leaders.
The Westinghouse SMR is a 225 MWe integral Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR), with all primary components located inside the reactor vessel. It utilizes passive safety systems and proven components, as well as modular construction techniques already licensed and implemented in the AP1000 reactor. The technology boasts the highest level of safety standards and a reduced number of components. Westinghouse believes this approach will provide the licensing, construction and operation certainty that no other SMR supplier can match with competitive economics.
The DoE funding could help Westinghouse with the first-mover advantage in the SMR market. The ten-year-old DoE-funded Westinghouse project for the development of the large AP1000 capacity reactor has been recently approved by the NRC for construction. The NPP, based on passive cooling technology, will be the first reactor to be built in the US in three decades.
Winning the DoE cost-share agreements with private industry would offer Missouri a new economic development opportunity to become the hub for design, engineering, development, manufacturing and construction of American-designed SMR technology in the US and worldwide. These agreements will cover a five-year period and, subject to Congressional appropriations, provide a total investment of approximately US$900 million, with at least 50% provided by private industry. SMR projects are expected to be licensed by the NRC and achieve commercial operation by 2022.
Toshiba-owned Westinghouse Electric is a leading supplier of NPP technologies. The Westinghouse SMR has been built on advanced Generation III+ AP1000 reactor technology, and has received Design Certification from the US NRC. Currently, four AP1000 units are being built in China, with the first unit expected to come online in 2013, and another four AP1000 units are being built in the US for sites in Georgia and South Carolina. The first unit is due to be operating in 2016.
Reactors with an output of up to 300 MWe are generally categorized as SMRs. SMR technology requires lower upfront costs and shorter development lead times compared to large-sized reactors. These reactors can be manufactured at a central plant and shipped wherever required. The capacity of a plant can be increased as required by adding modules.
According to experts, even if Ameren and Westinghouse get the DoE grant, and licensing and development goes as planned, the plan to build more nuclear power in Missouri will still need to go through the General Assembly. State law prohibits utilities from charging consumers for new NPPs until they are commissioned. The construction work in progress (CWIP) law, which would have allowed for charging consumers upfront, has been a matter of debate in Missouri and the issue could come up again when Ameren looks to finance construction.