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TVA Board Authorizes New Nuclear Program to Explore Innovative Technology

Feb 10, 2022

Key Points –

  • TVA will lead the way for advanced nuclear technology, applying a systematic approach to exploring technologies and potential locations for advanced nuclear reactors to support TVA’s decarbonization goal as outlined in its Strategic Intent and Guiding Principles.
  • TVA will partner with other utilities, government agencies and research institutes to mitigate costs and risks associated with advancing this new technology.
  • The New Nuclear Program would also oversee a project to prepare an NRC construction license application for a light-water, small modular reactor at the Clinch River site, subject to required environmental reviews and Board approval.
  • Key national, regional and industry leaders are supportive of TVA’s plans for advanced nuclear technology.

BOWLING GREEN, Ky. ― The Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors ratified approval of a programmatic approach to exploring advanced nuclear technology as a component of its decarbonization goals as discussed at its meeting on the campus of Western Kentucky University on Feb. 10, the board’s first in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

As part of the development of innovative, cost-effective technologies that will achieve TVA’s aspiration of a net-zero carbon energy future, as outlined in its Strategic Intent and Guiding Principles, advanced nuclear is one of several technologies TVA is investigating. Other technologies include next generation energy storage, carbon capture, new hydroelectric pumped storage and hydrogen. In addition, TVA continues to expand its renewable energy portfolio, including the targeted addition of up to 10,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2035.

“Achieving a carbon-free energy future is a shared priority and TVA is developing a diverse portfolio of clean energy sources – like advanced nuclear technologies – that will help address this challenge,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA president and chief executive officer. “There is no single answer to achieving our nation’s clean energy targets – it will require collaboration and innovation. Working alongside industry partners will allow TVA to go further, faster in developing innovative, cost-effective technologies that will not only help the people of the Tennessee Valley but also support the energy security of the nation.

“We cannot meet the energy needs of tomorrow by making small changes in today’s power system. We must work toward a net-zero carbon future today at a programmatic level and, combined with the efforts we’ve already undertaken over the past few years, that is what TVA’s New Nuclear Program enables us to do.”

The New Nuclear Program will provide a disciplined, systematic “roadmap” for TVA’s exploration of advanced nuclear technology, both in terms of various reactor designs being proposed and potential locations where such facilities may be needed in the region to support future energy needs. The process will include specific decision points that would allow TVA to withdraw from plans or projects if they are no longer feasible or not in the best interest of the region.

The New Nuclear Program will also coordinate TVA’s collaborative efforts with other utilities, government agencies, research institutions and organizations on advanced nuclear technologies. Working with other interested parties helps spread the financial and technical risks associated with developing new, innovative solutions.

One of the first tasks the New Nuclear Program will pursue is a project to develop a Nuclear Regulatory Commission construction permit application and potentially deploy a light-water small modular reactor at the Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, which currently holds the only NRC early site permit for SMRs in the nation.

“While we will continue to support and examine all of the various SMR designs being proposed, we believe that light-water SMR designs, which are closely related to the current generation of TVA’s large nuclear units, are more mature and closer to commercial deployment within the next decade,” said Lyash. “For that reason, we are currently in discussions with GE Hitachi to support their BWRX-300 light-water SMR design, which will help inform a future decision about potential deployment.”

Although no final decisions have been made, the knowledge gained from collaborative efforts with GE Hitachi and others, combined with a draft programmatic environmental impact statement that will be issued in the near future, and will examine various advanced nuclear technologies, will help inform a future TVA Board decision on whether or not to proceed with construction at Clinch River.

TVA operates the nation’s third largest nuclear fleet, which today supplies more than 40% of the energy produced to supply the region.

“TVA is a nuclear energy leader with extensive experience and expertise in building and operating nuclear facilities,” said Lyash. “We are uniquely positioned to lead this effort. Clean, reliable advanced nuclear technologies will be an essential part of our region and nation’s clean energy future.”

The Board also recognized the continued dedication and skill of the TVA team, including ongoing work to assist with recovery from December storms that devastated parts of western Tennessee and Kentucky. In the wake of the storms, hundreds of TVA personnel worked 24/7 to repair 100 damaged transmission structures and restored power to 21 impacted customer connection points within 136 hours. The TVA team also provided food, water and supplies to local power companies to help restore their own power distribution systems in the hardest hit areas.

TVA also announced an additional $250,000 in donations to assist with storm recovery efforts. The funds will be used by the Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund, Kentucky’s Family Resource and Youth Service Centers and Mayfield Electric and Water Systems to support communities most in need, as well as Living Lands and Waters for ongoing cleanup activities in Kentucky Reservoir.

“I am immensely proud of the women and men of TVA whose passion and dedication to serving the people and communities of this region is evident each and every day,” said Lyash.

TVA’s support for communities extends to the ongoing Pandemic Recovery Credit, which provides a 2.5% monthly credit on each customer’s wholesale power bill and returned $50 million to communities in the first three months of the fiscal year alone. In addition, since April 2020, TVA’s Community Care Fund has provided more than $5 million in matching dollars through local power companies that ultimately provided nearly $11 million to help fund local nonprofits and community programs.

“Our continuing strong operational and financial performance enables us to provide this type of needed community support without significantly impacting rates,” said John Thomas, chief financial officer. “Even in the face of volatile market conditions that have dramatically raised fuel costs over the past three months, TVA’s diversified generation fleet and low debt have allowed us to shield customers from the kinds of rate increases seen in other parts of the country. “

TVA reported $2.6 billion in total operating revenues on 37 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity sales for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2021. Net income was $11 million during the same three months due mainly to higher operating expenses. Interest expense was 6% less than last year due to lower average long-term debt balances.

Strong performance, reliable energy and low rates also helped TVA’s economic development team, local power companies and partner agencies to build on their record-setting performance last year. In the first three months of fiscal year 2022, TVA helped attract or retain more than 24,500 jobs and more than $5.1 billion in capital investment in the first three months of FY22. Over the past five years, TVA’s reliable, low-cost energy have helped attract or retain 350,000 jobs and $45.9 billion to the region.

In other business, the Board:

  • Recognized TVA’s 2022 Ike Zeringue Engineer of the Year, Chris Saucier, who served as the technical director on the Boone Dam Remediation project, which is expected to be complete this year, on time and on budget.
  • Updated Board Practices for Real Property, Capital Project Approval and Economic Development Programs to delegate specific authorities to the CEO in line with industry best practices.
  • Approved the renewal of charters for the Regional Energy Resource Council and the Regional Resource Stewardship Council, two advisory panels that obtain public and private views and opinions on TVA’s energy and environmental stewardship missions.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.



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New Nuclear Program

Click here for a two-page overview of the New Nuclear Program

Click here for quotes from national, regional and industry leaders on TVA’s New Nuclear Program

Click here for an artist rendering of a proposed small-modular reactor site at Clinch River