Just as NPPD and the Nebraska G&T continue to follow the development of emerging small reactor technologies, Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) is investing in the development of their modular reactor design. The B&W mPower reactor, with its scalable, modular design, is capable of adding generating capacity in 180 MWe increments to match a utility’s load growth projections. The B&W mPower reactor features a four-year operating cycle without refueling and is designed to produce zero emissions. B&W, along with other small modular reactor developers like Westinghouse, NuScale and Holtec, applied for funding from the Department of Energy to further develop their respective designs. B&W was successful in signing a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy receiving $79 million in federal funding to support the commercial development of its mPower small reactor by 2022. Under the Small Modular Reactor Licensing Technical Support Program, DOE selected the mPower America team – which includes Babcock & Wilcox, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Generation mPower, made up of B&W mPower and Bechtel. The team aims to build up to four, mPower units at the Clinch River site in Tennessee. The current construction timeline for this reactor type is estimated at 18-24 months. The first build of this new generation of reactors is expected online in 2022.
On March 22, 2012, the DOE announced new funding to advance the development of American-made small modular reactors (SMRs). A total of $450 million will be made available to support first-of-its-kind engineering, design certification and licensing for up to two SMR designs over five years. On November 20, 2012, the DOE selected B&W’s mPower design for funding support. The DOE authorized about $150 million over the next five years, but the agreement allows for $226 million or more of funding. Babcock & Wilcox mPower said it will use any additional funding to support licensing and engineering. The next steps for the project include geological characterization studies, which will begin at Clinch River in the near future. The team will also develop a preliminary safety analysis report, a design certification application and a construction permit application.
On December 12, 2013, the Department of Energy announced that it will provide up to $226 million in federal funding to NuScale Power to support the development, licensing and commercialization of the company’s nuclear small modular reactor (SMR) technology. With this announcement, DOE is now funding two different approaches to this technology which should help improve the viability of this technology from a technical perspective.
While significant progress has been made in developing the technology for these new reactor designs, the challenge of bringing these new modular reactors to fruition will be the economics of operating these small units in the current, highly regulated environment. More information on modular reactor technology is available at the mPower http://www.generationmpower.com/ and NuScale websites http://www.nuscalepower.com.
In December 2011, NPPD’s Board of Directors approved extending NPPD participation in the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) programs for three years, 2012-2014. NPPD’s dues to participate in the four major research sectors of environment: power delivery, energy supply and nuclear for the year 2013 are $1,599,045.NPPD is a full participation member of EPRI with opportunities for participation in the following areas:
Environment - Provides timely and credible scientific and technical knowledge and tools to inform critical policy and regulatory deliberations. Supports cost-effective compliance, stewardship, strategic issue management, and business strategy; and addresses longer term sustainability issues. Examples of NPPD participation include: air quality, greenhouse gas reductions, and water quality issues.
Power Delivery & Markets – Increase the reliability, cost effectiveness, security, and value of power delivery infrastructure, as well as promote enhanced productivity, economic development, and end-use customer satisfaction. Examples of NPPD participation include: power quality, transmission reliability and asset management issues.
Generation – Delivering tools to generation stakeholders (owners, operators, and investors) that optimize assets for today’s dynamic energy markets and the future. Examples of NPPD participation include: environmental controls, advanced coal technologies and major component reliability issues.
Nuclear – Developing cost-effective technology for safe and environmentally sound electricity generation. Examples of NPPD participation include: material aging, spent fuel management and equipment reliability issues.
Technology Innovation – Catalyzing the creation of advanced science & technology, incubating it along the path toward practical application, and accelerating its use throughout the electricity enterprise. Examples of NPPD participation include participation in hydrogen development initiatives, energy storage and energy efficiency workshops.
The Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Energy Association (FCHEA) is the advocacy organization dedicated to the commercialization of fuel cells and hydrogen energy technologies. FCHEA and its membership are at the forefront of efforts to transform the energy network, fundamentally altering the way energy is generated and used. Fuel cells and hydrogen technologies are being commercially deployed today to solve critical problems in our energy infrastructure and deliver clean, reliable power to leading edge corporate, academic and public sector users. FCHEA’s membership represents the full spectrum of the supply chain from universities, government laboratories and agencies, trade associations, fuel cell materials, components and systems manufacturers, hydrogen producers and fuel distributors, utilities and other end users. With nearly ten times the power density of batteries, the technology has many applications. Fuel Cells can prolong the life of laptops from hours to days and cell phones from days to weeks, without needing additional space. They can also be refueled in minutes using compressed hydrogen and other liquid fuels, giving particular advantage to electric powered vehicles using fuel cells instead of batteries which can take hours to recharge.
NPPD has practical applications for hydrogen technology today. Cooper Nuclear Station separates hydrogen from water utilizing electrolyzer technology. The hydrogen generated on site is injected into the reactor feedwater flow to help to reduce the possibility of corrosion and cracking in the reactor vessel and its internal structures. This technology helps protect the long-life of these important components. Hydrogen is also used at Cooper Nuclear Station to cool the main electricity generator. NPPD is also investigating the use of fuel cells through an Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) distributed generation project.
NPPD has statutory authority by the State of Nebraska under 70-601.01. Hydrogen Production and Distribution to participate in the development and deployment of this technology. The State of Nebraska has recognized that the experience of the public power industry could be used in the development of the production, storage, and distribution of hydrogen for use in fuel processes and in the enhancement of the economic well-being of this state. While the future of fuel cells and hydrogen energy is still being imagined, NPPD is in a good position to provide benefit to its customers with this technology in the future.
NPPD conducted a study to assess the potential of hydroelectric generation capacity in Nebraska. The objectives were to look for new potential traditional hydro as well as conduit, low head or hydrokinetic capabilities. Also, upgrades and enhancements to existing hydro’s were considered. Any existing and new facilities were to be evaluated to their ability to integrate with wind energy production. The study found limited opportunities for efficiency improvements at the North Platte, Kingsley, Monroe and Columbus hydro plants. The study indicated that hydrokinetics is somewhat a new technology and Nebraska’s canals and rivers do not provide the necessary depth and velocity. Screening considerations identified four sites with suitable topography for pumped storage, however the sites were fairly small, would need additional hydro generation facilities totaling 31 MW of capacity and able to produce 129,000 MW’s annually. Five of the 10 sites were at NPPD owned facilities (11 MW). These sites would support additional planning consideration. The study also found there were no opportunities to integrate hydro and wind projects.