Energy Investment Good News for Indiana

A southwestern Indiana company received very good news from Washington last week. Babcock & Wilcox, developing small nuclear reactors, will receive substantial funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Below is a portion of the DOE press release. Learn more about the company (headquartered in North Carolina but with a significant portion of its nuclear development operation in Mount Vernon, Indiana) and its product here.

As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above strategy to deploy every available source of American energy, the Energy Department today announced an award to support a new project to design, license and help commercialize small modular reactors (SMR) in the United States.  The project supported by the award will be led by Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) in partnership with the Tennessee Valley Authority and Bechtel International.  In addition, the Department announced plans to issue a follow-on solicitation open to other companies and manufacturers, focused on furthering small modular reactor efficiency, operations and design.  

“The Obama Administration continues to believe that low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America’s energy future,” said Secretary Chu.  “Restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing small modular reactor technologies will help create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses, and ensure we continue to take an all-of-the-above approach to American energy production.”

This project represents a significant investment in first-of-a-kind engineering, design certification and licensing for small modular reactors in the United States. Through a five-year cost-share agreement, the Energy Department will invest up to half of the total project cost, with the project’s industry partners matching this investment by at least one-to-one.  

The Energy Department investment will help B&W obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission licensing and achieve commercial operations by 2022 – helping to provide U.S. utilities with low carbon energy options as well as create important export opportunities for the United States and advance our nation’s competitive edge in this emerging global industry. The project will be based in Tennessee and will support additional suppliers and operations in Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

Small modular reactors – which are approximately one-third the size of current nuclear power plants – have compact, scalable designs that are expected to offer a host of safety, construction and economic benefits. Small modular reactors can also be made in factories and transported to sites where they would be ready to “plug and play” upon arrival, reducing both capital costs and construction times. The smaller size also makes these reactors ideal for small electric grids and for locations that cannot support large reactors, offering utilities the flexibility to scale production as demand changes. 

Clearing Up the Nuclear Footprint

In the last two issues of BizVoice magazine, we’ve touched on the fact that there are no nuclear power facilities operating in the state of Indiana. And that fact is true.

While we’ve stated that a nuclear plant in Michigan (the Donald C. Cook Nuclear Plant just north of Bridgman, Michigan or 25 miles north of the Hoosier border) supplies Northwest Indiana with a small portion of nuclear power, we didn’t tell the whole story. The Indiana Michigan Power facility actually sends 80% of its 2,200 megawatts to Indiana.

That 80% of the 2,200 MW (about a third of the company’s total generation in Indiana) "assists with our coal, hydro and wind facilities in providing power to our roughly 500,000 customers in Northeast Indiana, East Central Indiana and the South Bend/Mishawaka areas in addition to selling to wholesale customers throughout the state."

Thus, the nuclear facts are now in order. And, who knows, nuclear may one day become a bigger part of the energy mix in Indiana and beyond.

I Was Just Wondering …

  • Why does the U.S. Senate routinely have meetings scheduled at 2 p.m. to discuss what is commonly termed "morning business?"
  • Speaking of the Senate, will it actually add strong nuclear energy language to the climate legislation that is almost assuredly becoming a 2010 topic?
  • Outside of Washington, does an Alabama state senator really expect to generate support for an amendment to abolish gambling in the state? Although we’re talking charity bingo and betting at dog tracks, an apt phrase might be that "the horse is out of the barn" on that one
  • On the topic of gaming, what will be the fate of several of Indiana’s establishments? The Hoosier state is no doubt "all in" and individual riverboats, racinos and the like are faced with the continued slow economy, company bankruptcies and further competition on the way from Ohio (and maybe others)
  • Where will ethics reform go in the state General Assembly? Legislative leaders are talking about it and the state’s leading newspapers are advocating for it. My unofficial take: set the rules and we’ll play by them, just as we do now
  • No question to close; just a compliment. In the state’s largest newspaper, congrats to Matt Tully for his continuing series of columns exploring the challenges at Indianapolis Manual High School. You can agree or disagree with his opinions and insights, but the work put into the project and the writing is exemplary