KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Tennessee Valley Authority says it has signed an agreement with Babcock & Wilcox to explore building the nation's first small modular nuclear reactor.
TVA hopes to build the unit at its Clinch River Site in Oak Ridge and to eventually add three more such reactors there.
The reactors would produce about 20 percent of the electricity generated by standard light-water reactors now in use. Advantages would be more of the manufacturing being done in factories, reducing construction time, and more standardization of reactors.
The agreement announced Wednesday was signed Feb. 7. It formalizes the process under which a license application will eventually be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. TVA is still years away from deciding whether it will actually build small modular reactors.
"TVA and B&W have now officially launched their team effort toward evaluating this new technology for the nuclear industry and starting the analysis process at TVA's Clinch River Site," said Dr. Joe Hoagland, TVA senior vice president for policy and oversight. "With strong support from DOE, we look forward to the successful development, demonstration, and analysis of SMR technology as a potential option to help TVA and the nation meet our clean-energy goals for the future."
The federal utility said other potential benefits of the modular reactors include fully underground containment for improved safety and security, and clean base-load generation capacity in smaller, more flexible, lower-cost increments.
TVA provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states.