CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Nuclear power -- maybe it makes you think of the two nuclear plants surrounding Charlotte. Maybe the big cooling towers come to mind. Or maybe you just think of The Simpsons. Those power plants put out enough electricity to power an entire city.
What Babcock & Wilcox was developing was a much smaller reactor called mPower. It puts out a tenth of the power of our local nuclear power plants, just enough to power a small town. They're also supposed to be quicker to build.
This week the company killed most of the funding for its mPower project, going from $80 million to $15 million a year. The company said it couldn't find enough investors or buyers for mPower. The Tennessee Valley Authority had committed to the project, and an mPower reactor was set to go online in Tennessee in 2022. Now, its future is unclear.
The company says to expect layoffs, although it's not sure how many jobs will go just yet. Most of the mPower project is being developed at B&W's facility in Lynchburg, Va. Fewer than 50 people work on the project in Charlotte, where the company has its headquarters.
Nuclear power's popularity took at hit after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Germany is closing down its nuclear plants. Some other countries say they won't build new ones. Babcock's stock price took a nosedive when the disaster hit, but has come back since then. But even if smaller reactors are the future of nuclear power, the present isn't looking so good.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said the Tennessee Valley Authority had agreed to purchase an mPower reactor.