By C. Grant Jackson
Senior Vice President/Community Development
Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce
The 2nd annual Small Modular Reactor Conference held last month in Columbia clearly added to central South Carolina’s evolution as the center of the nuclear power renaissance.
Nearly 300 global nuclear power executives gathered for the meeting. Small modular reactors are defined as those with an output of less than 300 megawatts. They can be manufactured at a plant and shipped to a site fully constructed. They are expected to be the next generation of nuclear energy power.
Two announcements, one a week before the conference and one the day of, make Columbia and central South Carolina the focus for small modular reactors.
NuScale Power LLC of Portland, Ore., said on April 11 it would partner with NuHub, the region’s nuclear collaborative, to recruit the nation’s first small modular nuclear reactor models to South Carolina.
“One of the key initiatives of NuHub is to support the manufacturing and deployment of SMRs domestically to meet demand for clean energy nationally and abroad,” said Ted Speth, chair of NuHub’s SMR Committee and managing shareholder at Ogletree Deakins’ in Columbia. “NuHub was impressed with NuScale’s dedication to investing in the growth and prosperity of the Midstate of South Carolina.”
NuHub, an initiative of EngenuitySC, comprises public, private, higher education and workforce development stakeholders working to maximize economic and job opportunities for the nuclear industry in central South Carolina, and to make the region a global leader for nuclear innovation. NuHub is co-chaired by Steve Byrne, COO and executive vice president for generation and transmission at SCE&G, and Sonny White, president of Midlands Technical College. The website is http://www.NuHubSC.com.
Then the first morning of the SMR conference, Speth announced another partnership, this time between NuHub and SMR developer Holtec International, a diversified energy technology company headquartered in Florida.
Both partnerships will compete for one of two federal grants from the Department of Energy for small modular reactor development. The recently announced federal funding opportunity, totaling up to $452 million, will support engineering, design certification and licensing for up to two prototype SMR designs.
NuScale and Holtec propose locating their SMRs at the Savannah River Site in Aiken and both have indicated that manufacturing operations would be located in central South Carolina.
“We are pleased to partner with NuHub to help incubate the SMR technology in South Carolina,” said Pierre Oneid, president of Holtec’s SMR subsidiary. “The coalition of industry, academic and community leadership represented by NuHub and the strongly supportive nuclear culture in the Palmetto State presents an ideal opportunity for us to build our first SMR-160 at the Savannah River Site. With help from NuHub and the state we hope to establish a local manufacturing facility for building reactor components in South Carolina that replicates our existing fabrication capabilities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida.”
Michael McGough, NuScale’s vice president of business development, said, “We at NuScale are excited and enthusiastic at the tremendous opportunity that lies before NuHub and NuScale to develop a powerful economic growth engine with world-class excellence and worldwide reach. We believe our programs will generate superior economic returns to the state of South Carolina, particularly in the Midstate region. “
In addition to NuScale and Holtec, SRS has signed an agreement with SMR developer Hyperion Power Generation to build an advanced reactor on the site.
Westinghouse, also looking to build a prototype, had sought to partner with NuHub, but was unable to reach agreement. Westinghouse partnered with Ameren Missouri, a gas and electric utility. When it announced the deal, although the news was public, Westinghouse seemed the odd man out, not to be in the SMR business in South Carolina.
But the nuclear renaissance is not just about SMRs.
NuHub is also focusing efforts on making the region a global leader in nuclear training. That message is clearly getting out. One of those who came by the NuHub booth at last month’s conference was John H. Levan, president and CEO of the United States – Vietnam Foundation. Prof. Levan was seeking information on Midlands Technical College’s nuclear education and training program.
In addition to having an outstanding nuclear operator training program up and running, Midlands Tech is a partner in a $3.12 million National Science Foundation grant to create a Regional Center for Nuclear Education and Training, RCNET, linking seven Southeastern states.
Graduates of MTC’s nuclear operator program are being snapped up by utilities and are likely to be in higher demand as SCE&G builds and operates two new reactor units at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Power Station in Jenkinsville.
In the next 15 years, $40 billion will be invested in nuclear power generation to be deployed within a 100 mile radius of Columbia. That’s a renaissance.