April 23rd, 2014
The Small Module Reactor Market Melts DownBy Kent Harrington | 76214Comments (1)The+Small+Module+Reactor+Market+Melts+Down2014-04-23+11%3A26%3A59Kent+Harringtonhttp%3A%2F%2Fchenected.aiche.org%2F%3Fp%3D76214
The US nuclear industry's hopes for a brighter, more profitable future, represented by the development of small modular reactors – the Easy Bake Ovens of nuclear energy – have suddenly dimmed. Unlike Hollywood's "If you build it they will come" fantasy-based business model, few if any SMR customers have even shown up. So both Westinghouse and Babcock Wilcox, after already pumping $100's of millions into new designs, have had second thoughts about their chances of success in a new and untested market. After all, when the industry touted SMR's as a game-changer, the benefits of mass production – shorter factory build times, reduced shipping costs, and quicker installation – required a steady stream of orders to pan out. In February, Danny Roderick, CEO of Westinghouse, announced that his firm was calling off R&D for their SMR, which is designed to produce 225 MWe, the high-end of the new market. His decision came after two setbacks. In November 2012, competitor Babcock & Wilcox, along with minority partner Bechtel, won the first DOE R&D subsidy round for its proposed 180-megawatt reactor, mPower. Working with the Tennessee Valley Authority, Babcock and Wilcox has received $101 million from the energy department so far. Then last December, NuScale Power, its 45-mw reactor design backed by Fluor and Rolls-Royce, won the second round, grabbing $226 million.