Southern Company subsidiary in Alabama awarded grant to lead advanced nuclear technology development

Southern Company subsidiary in Alabama awarded grant to lead advanced nuclear technology development
Plant Farley in Southeast Alabama is among those operated by Southern Nuclear. (file)

Southern Company Services, an Alabama-based subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Company, has been awarded up to $40 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to explore, develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear reactor technologies.

The effort will be managed through a new public-private partnership with TerraPower, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute and Vanderbilt University. Housed at the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, the research will bolster the development of molten chloride fast reactors (MCFR), an advanced concept for nuclear generation.

Plant Farley in Southeast Alabama. (file)
Plant Farley in Southeast Alabama. (file)

“Nuclear energy currently accounts for about 20 percent of the nation’s energy mix, and its importance will continue to grow as America transitions to a low-carbon energy future,” said Southern Company Chairman, President and CEO Thomas A. Fanning. “This collaborative research effort will help accelerate the development of next generation nuclear reactors.”

“For Southern Nuclear and the rest of our industry to be viable – and successful – in the long term, we have to take steps now to bring the next generation of nuclear reactors to fruition and then to market,” said Southern Nuclear CEO Steve Kuczynski. Southern Nuclear, the Southern Company subsidiary that operates and manages Southern Company’s three nuclear plants, including Plant Farley in Houston County, is also headquartered in Alabama.

Researchers believe MCFRs could provide enhanced operational performance, safety, security and economic value, relative to other advanced reactor concepts. The MCFR project is one of two DOE cost-shared advanced reactor concept development projects awarded $6 million in 2016, with an opportunity for $40 million each in total funding over multiple years.

A long-standing proponent of nuclear power, Southern Company – through its subsidiaries – is the only electric utility in America today developing the full portfolio of energy resources, including being one of the first to build new nuclear units in more than 30 years. The company is building the two new nuclear units at subsidiary Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle, which are expected to provide enough emission-free generation to power 500,000 homes and businesses.

An industry leader in robust, proprietary research and development, Southern Company has managed approximately $2 billion in research and development investments since the 1960s, leading to the development and deployment of new, innovative technologies that are changing the way America produces electricity. In addition to leading the MCFR effort, Southern Company operates the DOE’s National Carbon Capture Center, located adjacent to Alabama Power’s Plant Gaston in Shelby County. Southern Company is also conducting the nation’s largest demonstration of carbon capture on a pulverized-coal power plant at Alabama Power’s Plant Barry, located in Mobile County. Southern Nuclear is headquartered in Shelby County and Southern Company Services is headquartered in Jefferson County.

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