NRC Approves Clinch River Nuclear Site for Potential Small Modular Reactors

DECEMBER 17, 2019 - Today, TVA became the first utility in the nation to successfully obtain approval for an early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to potentially construct and operate small modular reactors--a carbon-free energy alternative that aligns with TVA’s mission to pursue innovative technologies.

The 20-year permit--referred to as an Early Site Permit--approves the 935-acre Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tenn. for a nuclear facility that can produce up to 800 megawatts total.

 “The early site permit is a significant step in the potential development of small modular reactor technology,” said Dan Stout, director, nuclear technology innovation at TVA. “Although we have no plans to build at this time, this permit will give TVA flexible options to prepare for future energy needs.”

Small modular reactors are a next-generation nuclear technology with potential for improved safety and increased flexibility. Less than one-third the size of a conventional reactor, SMR designs offer more standardization, reduced construction times and the ability to deploy in smaller increments.

TVA applied for an early site permit in 2016, and the NRC began formally reviewing the 8,000-page application in January 2017. The application addressed the site safety, environmental and emergency preparedness requirements to determine approval of the site.

TVA will have up to 20 years, with a possibility of an extension, to make a decision to pursue the construction of small modular reactors. Another NRC application is required to build and operate this kind of facility.

“We’ve been working with the Department of Energy to partner on this innovative nuclear technology,” Stout said. “It is on the path of developing new carbon-free technology options.”

“The decision to build will be based on energy needs and economic factors – we want to make the best decision for the people of the Valley,” said Chief Nuclear Officer Tim Rausch.

“SMRs are more attractive where load growth is slow, and they provide a more affordable option than the higher up-front capital costs associated with larger nuclear facilities,” said Stout.