Ameren, Westinghouse form nuclear alliance

Gov. Jay Nixon announces Westinghouse’s decision to seek federal funding to build Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in Missouri.

Gov. Jay Nixon announces Westinghouse’s decision to seek federal funding to build Small Modular Nuclear Reactors in Missouri. Photo by The Associated Press.

Ameren Missouri announced Thursday it has entered into an agreement with Westinghouse Electric Company to exclusively support Westinghouse’s application for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Small Modular Reactors (SMR) investment funds of up to $452 million.

The investment funding, announced by the DOE on March 22, will support first-of-its-kind engineering, design certifications and operating licenses for up to two SMR designs over five years.

The objectives of the DOE program are to support efforts for the United States to become the global leader in the design, engineering, manufacturing and sale of American-made SMRs around the world, as well as expand our nation’s options for nuclear power. Westinghouse expects to submit the investment fund application by mid-May.

A final decision on awarding the investment funds is expected in the summer of 2012.

"Our focus at the Callaway Energy Center is on safety. When we evaluated the Westinghouse SMR, we were really impressed with the enhanced safety features. The reactor and containment building are below ground, which provides additional protection from natural disasters. The Westinghouse SMR has a simple design and can be safely shutdown after a loss of power with very little operator action. All of this makes for a very attractive package,” explained Ameren Missouri Chief Nuclear Officer Adam Heflin.

All of Missouri’s electric energy providers, which includes Ameren Missouri, the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, Associated Electric Cooperative, Inc., The Empire District Electric Company, Kansas City Power & Light Company, and the Missouri Public Utility Alliance, have also committed to supporting the Westinghouse application to the DOE.

Should Westinghouse be awarded DOE investment funds, Ameren Missouri will be the first utility in the country to seek a Combined Construction and Operating license (COL) for a Westinghouse SMR. A COL is issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to construct and operate a nuclear power plant at a specific site in accordance with established laws and regulations. Obtaining a COL from the NRC does not obligate Ameren Missouri or Missouri’s other electric energy providers to build a SMR at the Callaway site; however, it does preserve an important energy option and positions Missouri to move forward in a timely fashion should conditions be right to build a SMR in the future.

Westinghouse officials said they selected Missouri because the state offers a strong nuclear operator with an excellent site for development, expertise to support and obtain a COL, an unprecedented alliance of electric energy providers, investment and supportive actions to date for new nuclear development, strong support from key state and federal policy makers, including Governor Jay Nixon, Senator Mike Kehoe and Representative Jeanie Riddle, and broad public support, including labor, suppliers, and businesses.

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