A test facility billed as the first of its kind is now operational in Virginia to study the mPower small modular reactor design.In a release Wednesday, Babcock and Wilcox announced its Integrated System Test facility in Bedford County, Va., has achieved full operating conditions.“Technology validation facilities like the IST are critical to our country’s ability to bring an innovative nuclear reactor to market and help meet the growing power generation needs of the U.S. and the world," Babcock and Wilcox mPower President Christofer M. Mowry said in the announcement.The company can now test systems within the 180 megawatt SMR design under real-life conditions. It is built to full scale and uses electricity to create the heat that would be produced by uranium fuel. According to B&W, both primary and secondary systems have achieved full reactor operating pressures and temperatures since commissioning in February.Previously, B&W has stated its intent to apply for funding through a Department of Energy public-private partnership program enacted to encourage the development and eventual licensing of SMRs. The mPower project received $7.4 million in funding from the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission for the test facility at the Center for Advanced Engineering and Research. Construction began in 2010.Last summer, Generation mPower signed a letter of intent with the Tennessee Valley Authority outlining plans for up to six of the SMRs at the Clinch River site in Tennessee, with deployment envisioned by 2020.