Washington--The Department of Energy passed over a request by Ameren Missouri and Westinghouse for funds to advance development of a small nuclear reactor to be built next to the utility’s Callaway plant, disappointing building trades unions, Ameren, and federal and state officials who had anticipated thousands of new construction and follow-on jobs coming from the project.
The small-scale reactors, generally less than a third the size of today’s plants, have been touted by the nuclear industry as carbon-free sources of around-the-clock electric generation that offer safety benefits and would be easier for utilities to finance and deploy.
The Energy Department held out a light for companies that weren’t chosen for grant money by announcing plans to make additional funding available.
“The Obama administration continues to believe that low-carbon nuclear energy has an important role to play in America’s energy future,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement. “Restarting the nation’s nuclear industry and advancing small modular reactor technologies will help create new jobs and export opportunities for American workers and businesses, and ensure we continue to take an all-of-the-above approach to American energy production.”
The Energy Department was expected to choose two nuclear consortia to share $452 million in federal funds. But in the end, only one of four teams that applied — a group led by Babcock & Wilcox — was chosen.
Ameren officials played down the disappointment, saying they planned to pursue the second phase of funding .
While expressing disappointment in the Energy Department’s decision, Gov. Jay Nixon and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill both vowed their continuted support for the project.
“This project would be a tremendous opportunity for Missouri jobs and American energy security,” McCaskill said. “I plan to keep working with the folks at Ameren and Westinghouse to pursue new opportunities.
Missouri will continue to move forward on the partnership formed to produce this reactor technology in the state, Nixon said in a news release.
“This impressive coalition of public and private stakeholders will continue its work to put Missouri at the forefront of America’s energy future,” Nixon said.
Officials see the modular reactors as another piece of an American manufacturing revival — one with potential to generate thousands of jobs building components that can be shipped overseas.