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Virginia Helps Pioneer New Nuclear Reactor Technology

Another major development in the advancement of Virginia as a high-tech state occurred this week. The Babcock & Wilcox Company announced that the production-standard control room prototype for its small modular reactor is now operational. This engineering simulator is a key milestone in the B&W mPower development program. “Our vision is simple and I think it’s bold. We see that the future in Nuclear Energy lies with small modular reactors,” states Christofer Mowry, President of B&W’s mPower Division. WCVE Public Radio’s Charles Fishburne has more in this Science Matters video report. 

Video segments courtesy of Babcock and Wilcox, Inc.

The reactor, at 1/5th the size, is small enough to be transported by rail, is buried underground and the associated generating and maintenance equipment fits on a small lot. “This is an effort to make something that is rail shippable and reduces the cost, the risk and the schedule of doing Nuclear plant construction out in the field,” shares Mowry. The Federal Government is interested enough to have awarded Babcock and Wilcox a 452 million dollar development grant because of potential applications in defense, the environment and energy independence.

The B&W mPower control room prototype, located in Lynchburg, Virginia, is built to the same specifications as that which will control the two reactors in an actual B&W mPower SMR control room. The control room is connected to a plant engineering simulator to allow validation of the man-machine interfaces and operating controls architecture. Initially, the control room will help the B&W mPower design team to effectively incorporate lessons learned from real world operating experience, and discover any design issues early in the development cycle, reducing B&W mPower development risk and cost. As the B&W mPower program moves closer to deployment, the control room will be used to train future reactor operators.

“Completing the control room prototype at this stage of B&W mPower development program allows us to begin an intensive testing and development of the training program well in advance of deployment,” said Christofer Mowry, President, Babcock & Wilcox mPower, Inc. “Having the ability to train operators two to three years ahead of commercial operation will keep us on the critical path toward timely development and operation at our Clinch River project by 2021.”

The facility will be used by about two dozen engineers, creating new jobs starting next year. Using their experience operating existing reactors, these engineers will refine B&W mPower plant system design and the reactors response to a variety of anticipated events.

Story by Charles Fishburne, WCVE Public Radio

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