NEW YORK, June 10 (Reuters) - McDermott International Inc's (MDR.N) Babcock & Wilcox Co (B&W) subsidiary plans to unveil a small 125-megawatt North American-manufactured nuclear power reactor, the company said in a release Wednesday.
The small size of B&W's mPower reactor design could be cheaper and more flexible than larger reactors and could be built in multiples over time to meet a utility's demand growth.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has already signed a Letter of Intent to begin the process of evaluating a potential lead plant site for the B&W mPower reactor.
And, B&W, TVA and a consortium of regional municipal and cooperative utilities signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the construction of a fleet of mPower reactors to meet the consortium's need to diversify its generation assets.
B&W did not say in the release how much the small reactors would cost.
The recession and tight credit markets have pared some predictions for a nuclear "renaissance" given that a big reactor capable of generating from 1,100 to 1,600 MW of power would cost an estimated $5 billion to $12 billion, which is more than the market value of some utilities considering building a big reactor.
B&W formed a new business unit, B&W Modular Nuclear Energy LLC, to lead the development, licensing and delivery of mPower reactor projects with Christofer Mowry named as the unit's President and Chief Executive Officer.
"We believe this reactor will offer a practical, affordable near-term solution to the world's growing demand for the clean, zero-emission operations base load power necessary to support the emergence of renewable energy solutions," Mowry said in the release.
The mPower system would provide a passively safe Advanced Light Water Reactor (ALWR) design with a below-ground containment structure.
Other companies are also looking to build small light water reactors, including Toshiba Corp (6502.T)/Shaw Group Inc's SGR.N Westinghouse Electric Co, NuScale Power Inc, Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Ltd (PBMR), Toshiba Corp (6502.T), Hyperion Power Generation Inc and General Electric Co (GE.N)/Hitachi Ltd (6501.T) GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
B&W has notified the NRC of its intent to submit an application for design certification of the reactor in 2011.
B&W plans to build the nuclear steam supply system at existing facilities in North America and rail-ship them to construction sites. Specifically, the company mentioned its facilities in Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and a subsidiary in Canada.
In addition, B&W expects the reactors to have a 60-year life and a planned five-year operating cycle without refueling. That compares to the 18- to 24-month refueling cycles for the 104 reactors currently operating in the United States. (Reporting by Scott DiSavino and Eileen O'Grady; Editing by John Picinich)