Southern Company on Friday said it had been awarded up to $40 million from the Department of Energy (DOE) to “explore, develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear reaction technology.”
The funds will be channeled to Southern Company Services, a subsidiary of the utility giant that has managed more than $2 billion in research and investment programs since the 1960s.
The current research effort will be managed through a new public-private partnership with TerraPower, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute and Vanderbilt University. The research program will be housed at the Oak Ridge facility in Tennessee and focus on developing molten chloride fast reactors.
Many believe molten chloride fast breeder reactors (MCFR) could be part of a new renaissance in nuclear power in the United States. The MCFR project is one of two DOE cost-shared advanced reactor concept development projects awarded $6 million in 2016 with an opportunity for $40 million each in total funding over multiple years.
Southern Company President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Fanning said the collaborative effort “will help accelerate the development of next generation nuclear reactors.”
The importance of nuclear power, now responsible or about 20 percent of the country's electricity generation, will continue to grow in the coming years, as the country meets consumer demands while developing a low carbon-emissions future, Fanning said.
Southern Company “is the only electric utility in America today developing the full portfolio energy resources,” the company said in a statement, tying that claim to the development, through subsidiary Georgia Power, of two new reactors at the Plant Vogtle generating station in Waynesboro, Ga.
In addition to leading the MCFR effort, Southern Company operates the DOE's National Carbon Capture Center in Alabama. The company is also conducting the nation's largest demonstration of carbon capture on a pulverized-coal power plant at subsidiary Alabama Power's Plant Barry, the company noted.
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