Two University of Missouri campuses with experience in the nuclear energy industry will conduct research as part of a consortium on small modular reactors. The consortium, founded by Ameren and Westinghouse Electric Co., will be led by the Missouri University of Science and Technology in Rolla, with a satellite center in Columbia at MU. Joseph Smith, who holds the Laufer Chair of Energy at Missouri S&T, will serve as executive director.
Small modular reactors, or SMRs, have been of interest in Missouri as a potential driver of new industry and research. The reactors, smaller than current nuclear power plants, are expected to be more cost-effective, and a proposal by Ameren and Westinghouse last year to build one in Missouri failed to draw initial federal funding. However, the parties involved, including UM, have not given up on pushing such a project forward and are awaiting further word on the next round of funding.
The Small Modular Reactor Research and Education Consortium will initially focus on key areas including establishing computer-aided engineering tools to evaluate SMR design and operation, helping regulatory agencies to develop SMR licensing, and supporting the development of materials, research and technology for SMR design. Smith said there are many companies with potential to become members of the consortium, and he could see the University of Missouri-St. Louis and the University of Missouri-Kansas City as members in the future as well.
Last year, the U.S. Department of Energy announced plans to award as much as $452 million to design and build SMRs. DOE had plans to give two awards, but in November it gave a single award to the Tennessee Valley Authority and Babcock & Wilcox. Although Ameren and Westinghouse’s proposal for a Missouri project lost out on the first bid, Rob Duncan, vice chancellor for research at MU, said there was already talk of another solicitation for major funding from the federal government for SMRs.