Feds offer new nuclear grant proposal

Project in Callaway County may have a chance

The U.S. Department of Energy this week announced a new federal grant to develop small modular nuclear reactors, which could potentially benefit a proposed project in Callaway County.

The federal agency announced it has decided to make available up to one-half of the $452 million authorized last year by Congress in one new grant worth up to $226 million.

Like the initial grant, the new proposal requires 50-50 industry cost sharing with the federal government for SMR development.

Last year, the federal agency awarded the first grant with an unspecified amount to develop small modular nuclear reactors to a project in Tennessee led by Babcock & Wilcox Corporation in partnership with the federal government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority and the Bechtel Corporation.

Meanwhile, Westinghouse has teamed up with Ameren Missouri and an alliance of other private utilities around the state to develop small modular reactors. The alliance plans to use the Callaway Energy Center south of Fulton, Mo., as the base for developing small modular reactors for use at the plant as needed and also to manufacture them for sale around the world.

In January, 3rd District Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer and five other members of the Missouri delegation in the U.S. House — along with Senators Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill — sent a joint letter to the Department of Energy asking why only one grant was awarded when the department announced earlier it was seeking competitive grants.

On Friday, Peter Lyons, assistant secretary for nuclear energy, said the department reconsidered its stand after applications were received.

Lyons said the department developed concerns that the 2022 target date for development of small modular nuclear reactors might be too soon and more safety requirements might be necessary.

The new grant proposal announced Monday envisions a 2025 target date for SMR development, and the Department of Energy announced Monday the Tennessee project is expected to be up and running by 2021.

That would give the initial grant in Tennessee a four-year head start on SMR development.

The grant proposal offered Monday states: “The Department of Energy is soliciting applications for SMR designs that offer unique and innovative features that can serve to improve nuclear safety, operability, efficiency, economics, security, and performance over existing plants and previously certified nuclear plant designs and that can achieve Nuclear Regulatory Commission design certification on a schedule that supports deployment in the 2025 time frame.”

Total government funding available for any single award cannot exceed $226 million over five years, subject to availability of funds appropriated by Congress.

Applications for the grant announced Monday are due by July 1.

In his letter responding to Missouri senators and representatives, Lyons said:

“Our intention is to issue the second SMR grant and make one award. However, multiple awards could be made if more than one application of sufficient merit is received and funding is available.”

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