B&W scales back its small nuclear reactor project

Charlotte-based Babcock & Wilcox said Monday it will scale back its mPower small modular nuclear reactor program after being unable to attract needed investors or contracts.

The president of its mPower subsidiary, Christofer Mowry, left the company as of Sunday, B&W said in a securities filing. Mowry was terminated “without cause,” the filing said. William Fox III will replace him.

Announced in 2009, small modular reactor technology had been the company’s largest research and development project. SMRs would produce less than power than traditional reactors but could be built in factories and would feature an underground containment system.

mPower and the Department of Energy signed a five-year agreement in April 2013 that would bring in up to $226 million in federal funding to help develop and license the technology. The cost-share agreement followed a bid from a team comprised of B&W and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

B&W said it notified the Department of Energy of the scaled-back spending last week and will work with DOE and other parties over the next month or one two to decide what to do with the project.

“While we have made notable progress in developing a world-class technology, there is still significant work involved in bringing this climate-friendly technology to reality,” B&W CEO James Ferland said in a statement.

Ferland said B&W still expects to license mPower reactor by the mid-2020s.

Babcock & Wilcox announced an “accelerated” search for additional investors in the program last November.

But the project struggled to find additional investors or construction contracts that would bring in enough revenue to continue its development, B&W said Monday.

The company said it will spend up to $15 million a year on mPower, beginning in the third quarter. B&W had spent $60 million to $80 million a year on the project, spokeswoman Aimee Mills said.

mPower recorded an $87 million operating loss in 2013, B&W said in a March proxy statement.