TVA announces updated nuclear plan

Plan to use small reactors is part of utility’s decarbonization goal

Visualization of a modular reactor, provided by TVA.

The Tennessee Valley Authority board announced plans to introduce new modular nuclear reactors as part of the utility’s goal of a “net zero carbon energy future.”

TVA provides power to 13 counties in northern Alabama.

In addition to nuclear options, TVA is also investigating next generation energy storage, carbon capture, hydroelectric pumped storage and hydrogen, and has a goal of 10,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2035.

“We cannot meet the energy needs of tomorrow by making small changes in today’s power system,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA president and chief executive officer. “We must work toward a net-zero carbon future today at a programmatic level and, combined with the efforts we’ve already undertaken over the past few years, that is what TVA’s New Nuclear Program enables us to do.”

Next step is study of advanced nuclear options — new reactor designs and potential locations.

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“One of the first tasks the New Nuclear Program will pursue is a project to develop a Nuclear Regulatory Commission construction permit application and potentially deploy a light-water small modular reactor at the Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, which currently holds the only NRC early site permit for SMRs in the nation,” the utility said in announcing the plan.

“While we will continue to support and examine all of the various SMR designs being proposed, we believe that light-water SMR designs, which are closely related to the current generation of TVA’s large nuclear units, are more mature and closer to commercial deployment within the next decade,” said Lyash. “For that reason, we are currently in discussions with GE Hitachi to support their BWRX-300 light-water SMR design, which will help inform a future decision about potential deployment.”

The utility is also working in concert with other parties to share financial and technical risks associated with new technologies.

“TVA is a nuclear energy leader with extensive experience and expertise in building and operating nuclear facilities,” said Lyash. “We are uniquely positioned to lead this effort. Clean, reliable advanced nuclear technologies will be an essential part of our region and nation’s clean energy future.”

Lyash also emphasized the importance of working toward such energy goals in concert with other parties.

“Achieving a carbon-free energy future is a shared priority and TVA is developing a diverse portfolio of clean energy sources – like advanced nuclear technologies – that will help address this challenge,” said Lyash. “There is no single answer to achieving our nation’s clean energy targets — it will require collaboration and innovation.”

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