TVA, ORNL partner to explore new nuclear, other clean technologies

March 2, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
High-voltage power lines carry electricity generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. (Photo: Dobie Gillispie/ORNL, DOE)

The Tennessee Valley Authority and Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed a memorandum of understanding to advance decarbonization technologies in pursuit of the federal government’s net-zero-by-2050 goal, the utility and the lab announced yesterday in a joint press release.

What they’re saying: “ORNL applies a broad range of scientific capabilities to the development of clean energy solutions, and TVA is an invaluable partner for deploying these technologies for the benefit of East Tennessee and the nation,” said Thomas Zacharia, ORNL’s director.

Jeff Lyash, TVA’s president and chief executive officer, said, “TVA is proud to partner with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to identify and scale innovative nuclear and other technologies that will create a cleaner, carbon-free future. This is right in TVA’s wheelhouse, and our partnership will redefine what’s possible for the national and global energy industry.”

A little history: Partnerships between TVA and ORNL date to the earliest days of the lab, with more recent collaborations including the first full-scale computer simulation of a working nuclear reactor and the installation of 3D-printed reactor components, both aimed at accelerating cost-effective deployment of carbon-free nuclear power.

The plan: The institutions will work together to promote, pursue, evaluate, and demonstrate the feasibility, operability, and affordability of utility-scale decarbonization technologies, the press release stated, adding that while the focus will be on electricity, related developments, such as hydrogen generation and grid modernization and security, may also be explored.

Details: Under the new MOU, TVA and ORNL intend to explore the following:

  • Direct air carbon capture from power-generating plant exhaust and from dilute sources such as the atmosphere.
  • Converting carbon dioxide into valuable products.
  • Hydrogen generation and utilization.
  • Static and dynamic electric vehicle charging and applications that pair electric vehicles and the electrical grid.
  • Light water small modular reactors and fourth-generation advanced nuclear reactors, building on the partners’ 2020 advanced reactor technology MOU.
  • Long-duration energy storage.
  • Electrification of parts of the economy currently fueled by fossil energy, as well as solutions related to geothermal heating and cooling, along with process heating.
  • Modernization of the grid to enhance reliability and resiliency, improve cybersecurity, and prevent outages due to extreme weather.

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