All opportunities for a small modular reactor (SMR) manufacturing plant location in Missouri are being explored, Rick Eastman, legislative representative for Ameren Missouri, told Lions Club members Tuesday.
Eastman, who has worked for Union Electric/Ameren Missouri for 28 years, visited Washington to discuss Missouri’s energy future.
Other representatives of Ameren, including Gary Marquart, supervising engineer, and Larry Shroth, customer service adviser, also attended the event.
SMRs are pressurized water reactors. The containment dome would be made of steel and buried under concrete.
Reactor vessels, steam generators and pressurizers all would be below-grade, Eastman explained. Even the used fuel pool would be underground.
“The hope is that we would have a manufacturing plant in the United States, and hopefully Missouri, that would assemble these components,” he said.
Components would be created in various locations and shipped by truck, rail or barge to an assembly plant where they would be assembled in about two years.
Missouri is in the running to be the first to capitalize on this significant economic investment by establishing Missouri as the global home for the design and manufacture of SMR technology.
In November of 2010, an alliance of all electric providers in Missouri was created.
This spring, the statewide alliance partnered with Westinghouse to pursue the development of small modular reactors in Missouri.
The company, which employs more than 18,000 people in 18 countries, chose to partner with Missouri, Eastman said.
At the same time, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it would make $452 million available for an alliance of utilities who have partnered with a manufacturing company to pursue the development of SMRs.
The Missouri alliance has applied for the 50-50 cost-share, Eastman said.
“The intent by the DOE is to fund the formation of these SMRs and not only put them in the U.S. for the benefit of our utility customers, but to manufacture these and send them all around the world,” he said.
“We want to be the global market leader for small modular reactor technology around the world,” he added.
An SMR can be no larger than 300 megawatts. For comparison, the Callaway plant is 1,900 megawatts.
The Westinghouse design is 225 megawatts. To qualify for the funds, the SMRs must be in service no later than 2022, he said.
South Carolina, Ohio and other states are competing for the cost-share funds.
Benefit of SMRs
Eastman told the group that SMRs are competitive costwise with large nuclear plants.
Small reactors can be built for $1 billion or less, compared to $6 to $8 billion for a larger plant. SMRs have a 24-month installation period and a modular design.
The design has reduced components and systems and only uses about 15 acres per SMR.
“This would keep our customers’ rates as affordable as possible,” Eastman said. “This would be the (best) choice to make electricity going forward. This is what Ameren is trying to do is look forward for the next 60 to 100 years . . . and build something that will provide safe, clean and reliable energy.”
Eastman said the energy is “very clean.”
It is estimated that SMRs could create an annual economic impact as high as $37 billion per year including $25 billion in sales and $12 billion in economic impact.
Other Energy Sources
During the presentation, Eastman compared nuclear fuel pellets to other sources of energy, including wind turbines and photovoltaic solar cells.
“As you know, the wind doesn’t always blow and the sun doesn’t always shine,” he said. Currently, Ameren Missouri owns 8,000 acres of land in Callaway County. Of that, it occupies 900 acres for the nuclear plant site.
Acreage-wise, he noted, to get the same amount of energy with wind turbines, it would take 2,400 1.5 megawatt wind turbines that would occupy 180,000 acres. Solar panels would require 50,000 acres of land to create the same amount of energy.
Uranium fuel pellets are a little larger than two pencil erasers stacked vertically.
One fuel pellet provides as much energy as 1 ton of coal, 149 gallons of oil or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas. Five pellets meet a household’s electricity needs for one year.
Eastman also explained a COL, which is a combined construction and operation license from the Nuclear Regulatory Committee that permits a company to proceed with construction of a nuclear plant technology at a site.
Licenses are good for 40 years and can be extended for 20 years.
The COL review process takes up to four years from the date of application and costs approximately $80-$100 million, Eastman said.
Some of the funds, if received from the DOE, will be used for the review process.
If funding is secured, the alliance will apply to build up to five SMRs at the Callaway site.
The Missouri River or another water source will be used for cooling water for the sites with 150-foot-deep collector wells created under the water source.
Possible locations for an assembly site are being explored.