(Updates with comments from conference, background, changes
dateline from NEW YORK)
WASHINGTON, June 10 McDermott International Inc's
(MDR.N) Babcock & Wilcox Co (B&W) subsidiary on Wednesday unveiled a
small 125-megawatt North American-manufactured nuclear power
The small size of B&W's mPower reactor design makes it cheaper
and more flexible than the big reactors of over 1,000 MW that
utilities are currently looking to build.
The reactors are scalable and can be constructed in multiples
over time to help utilities diversify their fuel mix, reduce carbon
dioxide emissions and meet growing demand. Each reactor could power
more than 100,000 homes.
The first mPower reactors could enter service as soon as 2018,
B&W CEO Brandon Bethards said at a conference in Washington.
B&W expects to submit the design for certification by the U.S.
Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2011. The company also hopes to
find a customer in 2011 who could file a construction and operating
license with the NRC in 2012 with approval and construction starting
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 reactor.
TVA said it was evaluating the environmental suitability of
several sites and may choose a site that was previously considered
for a power plant.
B&W also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with TVA and a
consortium of regional municipal and cooperative utilities to
explore the construction of a fleet of mPower reactors to meet the
consortium's need to diversify its generation assets.
COST NOT DISCLOSED
B&W did not disclose the cost of its reactor but noted it would
likely be less than some industry estimates.
Using an industry estimate of $3,300 per kilowatt, each B&W
mPower reactor would cost more than $400 million. That compares with
about $2,100 per kW for a new coal plant, $1,000 per kW for combined
cycle natural gas, $1,900 per kW for wind and $6,000 per kW for
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 of the utilities considering building the big
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 NRC.
The mPower system would provide a passively safe Advanced Light
Water Reactor (ALWR) design with a below-ground containment
structure and store all of the fuel "burned" during its 60-year life
in an underground spent fuel pool..
B&W formed a new unit, B&W Modular Nuclear Energy LLC, headed by
Christofer Mowry that will lead the development, licensing and
delivery of mPower reactor projects.
B&W plans to build the nuclear steam supply system at existing
facilities in North America and rail-ship them to construction
sites. The company mentioned facilities in Virginia, Ohio, Indiana
and a subsidiary in Canada.
To keep operating costs low, B&W expects the new reactors to be
able to operate for five years 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, Eileen O'Grady and Tom Doggett;
Editing by Marguerita Choy)