APR: your source for nuclear news and analysis since April 16, 2010

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Generation mPower and TVA

According to World Nuclear News, the company known as Generation mPower, on which APR has reported before and which is jointly owned by Babcock & Wilcox and Bechtel has signed a letter of intent with the Tennessee Valley Authority to build as many as six of its modular PWR plants, rated tentatively at 125 MWe, at a site formerly cleared for the long-abandoned Clinch River Breeder Reactor.

Above, illustration from APRA collection showing the final site layout for the Clinch River Breeder Reactor. Post card view; credit on card is to Breeder Reactor Corporation.

The CRBR project was begun in the late 1960's by the AEC to develop a breeder reactor that would also produce a useful amount of energy commercially, and built on experiences gained from the EBR series of reactors and Fermi-1 near Detroit. Initial investigations and requests for bid proposals are mentioned in the "Nuclear Industry - 1969" volume produced by the AEC and the project was formally initiated in 1970. The project dragged out through developmental, budgetary and licensing problems for many years and was finally the subject of a bruising Congressional fight that began the end of the days of the JCAE and which led to the cancellation of the project for good in 1983.

The private sector companies involved in this project, Babcock & Wilcox, and Bechtel Corporation, are no strangers to those familiar with nuclear energy. Babcock & Wilcox was one of the four largest commercial reactor vendors, receiving its first commercial plant order for what became Indian Point 1 in 1955 and receiving the contract for the nuclear plant for the N.S. Savannah in 1956.

B&W then spent a number of years without receiving any further orders as a reactor vendor per se but continued to construct major components for many nuclear plants, especially pressure vessels. Finally, in 1966, during the first flood of nuclear plant orders, B&W received its first orders for what it termed at the time to be its "second generation" plant designs - the first being two units for Duke Power (these became Oconee 1 and 2) in July 1966 and then Met Ed's order for Three Mile Island 1 in November of that year.

B&W's last orders for new plants were received in 1976; according to B&W's 1975 edition of STEAM, the company had sold 29 of its second-generation design plants and that 24 of them "were in the process of detailed design, fabrication, installation, testing, or operation." Five of these were at that time in commercial operation, with a sixth undergoing power escalation testing, according to this volume.

Referencing an EIA document covering nuclear plant orders we find the following orders for B&W by year:

None of the plants ordered later than 1968 were ever completed. Some of these later plants were the advanced BW-205 design with more fuel elements, higher power (3760 MWt) and raised loops to allow natural circulation cooling. (Although as one reader points out, Davis-Besse does have elevated loops..see the 'comments' section.) Of the completed Babcock & Wilcox plants, Three Mile Island 2 suffered an accident in 1979; Rancho Seco was shut down in 1989. This leaves the following operating plants:

Arkansas Nuclear One, Unit 1
Crystal River 3
Davis Besse
Oconee 1, 2, 3
Three Mile Island 1
Total 7 reactor plants.

Above, from APRA collection - Oconee Nuclear Station, Seneca, South Carolina. Owned and operated by Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC. The first large order for Babcock & Wilcox, and the longest-operating site using B&W plants.

Above, wire photo in APRA collection showing the Midland Nuclear Station in May, 1978. This two-reactor station, with B&W plants that were the first to be designed to provide both process steam (to Dow Chemical Corporation) and commercial electric power (Consumers Power Company) suffered massive problems with buildings settling unexpectedly, problems with reactor vessels and financial problems, finally being cancelled in 1984. Item: An unused reactor vessel head on this site was later shipped to Davis-Besse for use on that site's B&W plant.

B&W, shortly after the TMI-2 accident, stopped offering for commercial sale any new reactor plants, so that this project through Generation mPower is its first as a reactor vendor in many years. The modular reactor concept isn't new to B&W either; it was shopping around a small compact NSSS in the late 60's which actually was built in modified form for use in the German nuclear ship Otto Hahn, and was built in Germany by a B&W license arrangement so that it is not wholly improper to say that B&W design plants powered 2/3 of the free world's commercial nuclear shipping... namely the NS Savannah, and the Otto Hahn.

COMING IN PART 2: Some background on TVA.

10:10 PM Eastern Sunday June 26, 2011


  1. Davis Besse is a raised loop plant. http://adamswebsearch.nrc.gov/idmws/ViewDocByAccession.asp?AccessionNumber=ML070860253

  2. Good catch! The NRC document I consulted(Operating Reactor Plants, USA, Rev 8.2009) lists every single plant as B&W LLP but upon looking at this:


    ... I see that this should actually be listed as RLP.

  3. Further: See Appendix A.


  4. I love their STEAM book! A must for the library of nuclear engineers.

    Doesn't B&W do work for construction of US Navy ship reactors? I don't see any mention of this, and it seems like it would be a huge omission. I'm curious as to why.

    Could you provide a link to the EIA data where you found the number of orders for the vendor? I have not seen that time of data before on their site.