Global engineering and construction leader Bechtel and nuclear technology leader BWX Technologies, Inc. have announced a new agreement to pursue accelerated development of the world's first commercially viable Generation III++ small modular nuclear reactor.
Bechtel will lead the program and leverage the company's historic strengths in engineering, licensing, procurement, construction, and project management. BWXT will focus on designing and testing the nuclear steam supply system. Both companies will collaborate to prepare a design certification application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Known as Generation mPower, the project is centered on the BWXT mPowerTM reactor—a 195-megawatt-electric power plant that will be a safe, cost-competitive, and innovative solution to provide low-carbon electricity—addressing the growing challenges of climate change and sustainable development.
"This technology holds great promise and we are firmly committed to doing everything we can to bring it to market," said Ty Troutman, general manager of Bechtel's nuclear power business unit. "It's one of the keys to solving the problem of replacing older power plants without relying on fossil fuels or the intermittent availability of solar and wind. Pound for pound, small modular reactors can deliver more 24/7 electricity than any other low-carbon alternative energy technology."
Generation mPower delivers greater certainty in nuclear power costs and schedule, which is needed to enable broader, more timely development of nuclear power. Its key features include:
- Compact size
- Factory built, rail shippable reactor
- Passive safety systems incorporating post-Fukushima design criteria
- Underground containment structure
- Standard fuel assemblies made from less-than-five-percent-enriched uranium
- Fit for purpose: designed for cost-effective deployment
"Bechtel is unique in that we have, and will continue to take, the long view on nuclear power," Troutman said. "We are an enduring presence in the industry."
Privately held, Bechtel has been a leader in nuclear engineering and construction for more than 60 years. The company has designed or serviced 80% of nuclear plants in the U.S. and 150 worldwide. In 2015, Bechtel completed construction on Watts Bar Unit 2 for the Tennessee Valley Authority in the U.S.—the first reactor this century to receive a new authorization to operate.
Generation mPower was founded in 2010 to develop a plant using the BWXT-designed reactor. Engineering and development continued through 2014 with the assistance of a Cooperative Agreement for funding made available through the U.S. Department of Energy's Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support Program.