A summary of the SMR webinar held on 29th January 2014 with guests from Generation mPower, T.V.A. and FirstEnergy.

Speaking first, Chris Mowry of Generation mPower discussed the benefits of SMR technology in general and then specifically mPower’s own SMR concept. He stated that the mPower design utilizes proven technologies (light water SMR) but adds innovations to bring about a variety of new benefits. The goal of the mPower design and why it presents value is that it is safer, proven, affordable and practical.

In looking at the actual layout of the SMR plant itself, it was mentioned that it would be much different than the traditional view of a nuclear power plant. Most of the new site will be underground (providing safety benefits) and mostly factory constructed (providing economic benefits). Key elements making the design attractive to utilities are the ability to use an SMR to balance their energy portfolio (along with natural gas), flexible deployment and the addressing of post-Fukushima safety expectations.

Dan Stout of T.V.A. began his discussion by looking at the background of T.V.A. as the largest public power provider that was originally established by the U.S. Congress. He stated that T.V.A. have been evaluating SMR designs as the option for clean and reliable energy in lower cost increments. Along with this, the compatibility with renewables (by being able to adjust power quickly) and the requirement of a more diversified generating fleet was also discussed.

While discussing the feasibility of SMRs he noted that T.V.A. are currently establishing success criteria and researching energy requirements for the site. The discussion finished by noting that although significant work has to be done to mature the design, the benefits of SMRs warrant continued research.

Closing the guest speaker presentations, Greg Halnon of FirstEnergy discussed the use of SMR designs as a viable generation strategy for providing nuclear energy. Also mentioned was the benefit of compatibility with renewals, echoing a point made earlier in the discussion. In reviewing current attitudes towards SMRs it was noted that there has been a recent acceptance of SMR technology by both the public and policy makers.

Along with sentiments made by Dan Stout of T.V.A., Greg Halnon also emphasized the need for definite answers regarding the economic value and feasibility of SMR functionality. This was put in context of the current research being done and the value in continuing to look into these issues.

An audience poll that was conducted concurrently with the webinar provided interesting results. When asked when are SMRs likely to achieve commercial deployment? the answers were:

54% – 10yrs, 40% – 20yrs, 4% – 30yrs, 3% – never

When asked what are the most difficult challenge to adapting SMRs as next form of generation?

Economic Risks – 49%, Regulatory Risks – 34%, Public Policy Risks – 28%, Safety Risks – 6%

The webinar ended with a Q&A session of questions sent by webinar attendees.  The questions covered issues such as; the total number of workers required to operate an SMR plant, post-Fukushima safety and the required number of SMR units at any one site to achieve economic benefits.