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Jeff Perry

Senior Project Manager | Nuclear Engineering and Support Services

This spring, TVA will ask the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for an early site permit for potential development of small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear technology at a 1,200-acre site along the Clinch River in east Tennessee.

That step will cap off years of work by employees across TVA who have been involved in drilling core samples and documenting geologic, hydrologic and seismic conditions at the site. But, for Jeff Perry, it will be an especially big day.

Jeff is a project manager of the SMR program and a true believer in the first-of-a-kind TVA project.

“Personally, I’m convinced that SMRs are critical to the future of nuclear power,” Perry says. “Going forward, we have to allow for a broader nuclear power mix, and the way to do that is to provide it in smaller, more affordable pieces.”

Large two-unit plants being built in Georgia and South Carolina are expected to cost more than $10 billion, while SMRs should cost less than $3 billion. Cost savings are due both to the smaller size of the plants and shorter construction times.

The four SMR reactor designs TVA is evaluating also show significant improvements in safety and security.

“One design will safely shut down and self-cool indefinitely with no operator action, no AC or DC power and no additional water,” says Perry. “The number of safety-related systems and required actions are minimal compared to a traditional light water reactor. And, because they are designed to be built underground, they reduce vulnerabilities related to both natural disasters and terrorism.”

Perry cites many of these same advantages in explaining how the SMR program supports TVA’s mission of service.

“SMRs have the potential to bring safe, affordable power to places in the world that are still much like the Tennessee Valley was in the 1930s – places where big power plants just aren’t an option,” Perry says. “It excites me to think that we may play a role in transforming those areas just as TVA transformed the Tennessee Valley. And we will benefit here, too, because of the economic, environmental and safety advantages associated with SMRs.

“TVA has a history of finding new and better ways to do things—a history of making technological advances that improve people’s lives—and I believe our SMR program continues that tradition.”

Perry is also a believer in a more traditional sense. He is an ordained pastor serving an independent non-denominational church in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, where he is the worship leader.

In addition, Perry is active in a prison ministry called Kairos. Twice a year, he joins 40 other men who spend a four-day weekend inside Walker State Prison, only leaving after the inmates return to their cells for lights out. Perry admits he was a little uneasy his first weekend at Walker.

“Hearing that massive door lock behind me and knowing I was locked in with guys who were there for good reasons was a little scary the first time,” says Perry. “But I’ve gotten to the point where I’m really comfortable going inside. And every time I go in, I see lives change. Kairos brings light and hope into some of the darkest places in our communities.”

Perry and his wife, Virginia, have four children. They recently celebrated their 30th anniversary by scuba diving and spelunking in Belize.

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