Energy secretary Jennifer Granholm visited the Clinch River Nuclear Site in Oak Ridge, Tenn., on December 5 to highlight the Biden administration’s support for the Tennessee Valley Authority’s advanced nuclear technology program.
Granholm indicated that the administration is willing to provide funding for the nation’s first commercial small modular reactor at the site. “Excited to see a shovel in the ground, hopefully in a few more years,” she said. “TVA is leading on small modular reactors with this site. Everybody’s looking to TVA to make sure that this can actually happen.”
Administration commitment: Granholm noted during her visit that clean energy technology is expected to grow into a $23 trillion global market by 2030, and that the Biden administration is committed to helping develop and commercialize advanced nuclear technology. Part of this commitment is the development of a strong domestic supply chain as well as the export of U.S.-made technology.
During her visit, Granholm met with TVA officials, TVA partners, and local government leaders for a briefing. She pointed out that to meet the COP28 goal of tripling nuclear energy capacity by 2050, the United States will have to add 200 gigawatts of nuclear energy, which she said was the equivalent to the energy from 100 Hoover Dams.
Benefits of advanced nuclear: TVA president and chief executive officer Jeff Lyash emphasized at the briefing that the development and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies like SMRs is crucial for the energy sector to achieve the objective of net-zero carbon emissions. He added that such technologies also benefit the United States through increased energy security, workforce development, and global technology leadership and that TVA hopes to begin building the first SMR at Clinch River by 2027.
One phase at a time: Bob Deacy, senior vice president for the Clinch River SMR project, said that the site is construction ready for the project, although the TVA has not yet made a formal commitment to complete the project. He explained that the TVA is currently following a road map for moving forward with the project in a series of phases, with each phase requiring approval from the authority’s board of directors.
In 2022, the TVA board approved an investment of $200 million for the project. An initial environmental impact assessment has since been performed. This year, the authority agreed to invest in the development of the GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy BWRX-300 SMR design. In 2024, the TVA plans to complete the environmental assessment and apply for the construction permit.