Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) signed with a contractor to design, license and build six prefabricated nuclear reactors on the former Clinch River Breeder Reactor site in Roane County, TN.

And recent correspondence with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) indicates the utility may by 2020 site 10-12 of the small modular reactors, called SMRs. The NRC has never issued a license for an SMR before.

The reactors — each capable of producing about one-tenth the power of a large, traditional nuclear reactor — would be the first “commercially viable” small nuclear plants, said Babcock & Wilcox, the contractor.

“Successful deployment of small reactor technology will increase the options available for clean, reliable and safe power generation,” said TVA Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum in a Babcock & Wilcox news release.

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But some critics are saying Tennessee and its ratepayers again may be guinea pigs, and TVA and the nuclear industry, to keep costs down, are pressuring NRC to short-cut safety concerns.

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