Tennessee governor gives nuclear another rhetorical boost

February 3, 2022, 7:22AMNuclear News


In his annual State of the State Address on January 31, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee offered more praise for nuclear energy, after lauding it earlier in the month during a tour of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar nuclear plant

“For decades, East Tennessee has been home to some of the best-kept secrets in nuclear energy and American innovation,” Lee told the state’s General Assembly. “Today, many may not realize that Tennessee derives more power from nuclear energy than from any other source. Recently, I visited the TVA’s Watts Bar nuclear facility, the last nuclear facility to be built in America, to see firsthand how nuclear power keeps our grid dependable even when the weather is not. Nuclear power is clean energy that actually works for the private sector.”

Lee also promoted the “expanded nuclear potential” of Clinch River, TVA’s 935-acre site near Oak Ridge, Tenn. “We are working directly with TVA to formalize a long-term strategy so the Clinch River site can be part of powering America,” he said. “If we’re going to have a real conversation about energy in America, it needs to be safe, cheap to produce, and reliable. I believe that conversation starts right here in Tennessee at the Clinch River site.”

A little history: In December 2019, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued TVA an early site permit for small modular reactors at Clinch River. The permit, valid for 20 years, closed several site-related issues for the deployment of two or more SMRs with a total output that would not exceed 800 MWe.

In February 2020, TVA and Oak Ridge National Laboratory inked a memorandum of understanding promising collaboration on ways to improve the economic feasibility of licensing, building, and operating one or more advanced reactors at Clinch River. That agreement was followed in April by one between TVA and the University of Tennessee to evaluate the development of a new generation of cost-effective advanced reactors at the site.

And in May of last year, TVA and nuclear technology and engineering company Kairos Power announced plans to collaborate on the deployment of the latter’s low-power demonstration reactor, dubbed Hermes, at the East Tennessee Technology Park in Oak Ridge. TVA will provide engineering, operations, and licensing support to help Kairos with deployment, according to the announcement.

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