The first Department of Energy step toward manufacturing small modular nuclear reactors in the United States within a decade was announced Friday by DOE.
Small modular nuclear reactors are one possibility for a proposed clean energy park on unneeded and uncontaminated Hanford land near Energy Northwest.
DOE will establish cost-shared agreements with private industry to support the design and licensing of small reactors, it announced Friday.
It has issued a draft Funding Opportunity Announcement to solicit input from industry in advance of a full Funding Opportunity Announcement. The full Funding Opportunity Announcement will help pay for up to two designs with the goal of deploying these reactors by 2022.
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The move demonstrates the Obama administration's commitment to advancing U.S. manufacturing leadership in low-carbon, next generation energy technologies and restarting the nation's nuclear industry, according to DOE.
"America's choice is clear. We can either develop the next generation of clean energy technologies, which will help create thousands of new jobs and export opportunities here in America, or we can wait for other countries to take the lead," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu, in a statement.
"The funding opportunity announced today is a significant step forward in designing, manufacturing, and exporting U.S. small modular reactors, advancing our competitive edge in the global clean energy race," he said.
Small modular reactors, approximately one-third the size of current nuclear plants, have compact designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, siting, construction and economic benefits, according to DOE.
They could be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to "plug and play" upon arrival, reducing capital costs and construction times.
The small size also makes them suitable for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors, providing utilities with the flexibility to scale production as demand changes.