Bechtel, BWXT end modular reactor project

Article by Staff Writer

BECHTEL and BWXT have abandoned their joint small modular reactor (SMR) programme, Generation mPower, after failing to attract financial backing for the nuclear project.

Bechtel says that it notified BWXT earlier in March that it could not find a development partner or investor for Generation mPower. Under the terms of March 2016 termination agreement, BWXT will pay Bechtel US$30m. The programme will come to a close over the coming months.

“We continue to believe in the potential of the mPower technology and the SMR concept overall. SMRs deserve to play a key role in generating low-carbon electricity for the US and the world. However, bringing a new reactor programme through the design, engineering, and regulatory process is a very complex and expensive proposition. It needed a plant owner with an identified location and an investor willing to wait a significant period of time for a return, and these were not available,” Bechtel spokesman Fred deSousa said in a statement to The Chemical Engineer.

BWXT spokesman Jud Simmons said that the companies are “disappointed” that additional investment has not materialised, but added that they plan to keep a complete archive of all the work on the project, so that it can be used at a future date “should conditions warrant in the future”.

Bechtel and BWXT set up Generation mPower in July 2010 to develop BWXT’s mPower 195 MWe pressurised water small modular reactor. The reactor uses conventional pressurised water reactor (PWR) technology, scaled down and contained within a single vessel. This vessel is designed to be installed underground in a steel containment vessel. Modular reactors will allow for easy fabrication and shipping, and provide flexible, tailored power supplies, for example to cities and industrial complexes. None have yet been installed or licensed however.

Other companies have been a little more successful with SMRs. In January, NuScale, majority owned by Fluor, became the first company to seek approval for its SMR design from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), and plans to build its first commercial 12-module power plant at the Idaho National Laboratory. Also in January, Rolls Royce announced that it was partnering with Amec Foster Wheeler, Nuvia, Arup and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre to develop small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in the UK. Terrestrial Energy, which raised US$7m in investment in 2016 for its integral molten salt reactor, also recently announced plans to license its technology with the NRC, and plans to bring it to market in the 2020s.

Article by Staff Writer

Recent Editions

Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.