China Startup – a Thorium-powered Molten-salt Reactor

  • China to Start Operations for a Thorium-powered Molten-salt Reactor
  • Terrestrial Energy Signs Agreement for IMSR Deployment in Alberta
  • Brief History of Reactor Design Efforts Related to Canada’s Tar Sands
  • Deep Isolation / Amentum Form to Commercialize Nuclear Waste Disposal Technology
  • Argonne National Lab Aims to Lower Nuclear Energy Costs with Artificial Intelligence
  • Studsvik Scandpower / Blue Wave AI Labs Partner on Nuclear Plant Analytics

China Startup – a Thorium-powered Molten-salt Reactor

(WNN) The Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) – part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) – has been given approval by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment to commission an experimental thorium-powered molten-salt reactor following a three-year construction effort. The TMSR Centre at SINAP at Jiading, Shanghai, is responsible for the project.

china MSR

In January 2011, CAS launched a CNY3 billion (USD444 million) R&D program on liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs). Another name for the technology is as a thorium-breeding molten-salt reactor (Th-MSR or TMSR).

The thorium molten salt reactor nuclear energy system (TMSR) is designed for thorium-based nuclear energy utilization and hybrid nuclear energy application, based on a liquid-fueled thorium molten salt reactor (TMSR-LF) and a solid-fueled thorium molten salt reactor (TMSR-SF).

China claims to have the world’s largest national effort on thorium fueled MSR reactor designs and plans to assert global intellectual property rights on the technology. If the TMSR-LF1 proves successful, China plans to build a reactor with a capacity of 373 MWt by 2030.  (Reference: Molten Salt Reactors – WNA)

The TMSR-LF1 will use fuel enriched to under 20% U-235, have a thorium inventory of about 50 kg and conversion ratio of about 0.1. A fertile blanket of lithium-beryllium fluoride (FLiBe) with 99.95% Li-7 will be used, and fuel as UF4.

tmsr

Image: Thorium molten salt reactor nuclear energy system (TMSR)
Zhimin Dai – Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP), Shanghai, China

The project is expected to start on a batch basis with some online refueling and removal of gaseous fission products. The reactor will discharge all fuel salt after 5-8 years for reprocessing and separation of fission products and minor actinides for storage. It will proceed to a continuous process of recycling salt, uranium and thorium, with online separation of fission products and minor actinides. The reactor will work up from about 20% thorium fission to about 80%.

As this type of reactor does not require water for cooling, it will be able to operate in desert regions. The Chinese government has plans to build more across the sparsely populated deserts and plains of western China, complementing wind and solar plants and reducing China’s reliance on coal-fired power stations. The reactor may also be built outside China in Belt and Road Initiative nations.

The liquid fuel design is descended from the 1960s Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA. In 2012 the Department of Energy inked a collaboration effort with China on thorium fueled molten salt reactors. (Briefing on the Oak Ridge / China collaboration effort (PDF file 48 pages)

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Terrestrial Energy Signs Agreement to Advance IMSR Deployment in Alberta

  • The MOU supports job creation and small modular reactor development in Alberta with a focus on reducing emissions in the oil and gas, and petrochemical industries

Terrestrial Energy, an industry-leading nuclear technology company, and Invest Alberta, the Government of Alberta’s crown corporation promoting high-value investments, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to support commercialization of Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) Generation IV small modular reactor (SMR) plant in Alberta.

Terrestrial Energy said in a press statement its IMSR plant “has unique potential to supply the heat and power (cogeneration) needs of many industrial activities, including those in the Alberta oil and gas, and petrochemical sectors.”

Under the terms of the Terrestrial Energy MOU, Invest Alberta will work with Terrestrial Energy on federal and provincial policies, and industrial incentives supporting transformative energy innovation in the province. Alberta is one of four provinces working to advance SMR technologies through an interprovincial memorandum of understanding.

Terrestrial Energy’s said its IMSR plant is intended to supportr natural resource extraction, low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia production, as well as other energy-intensive industrial activities.

Terrestrial Energy said it anticipates supporting high-quality jobs as it expands its activities in western Canada. Terrestrial Energy has previously invested over $100 million in its Ontario operation, where it employs more than 100 personnel.

About the Terrestrial Energy IMSR

Terrestrial’s 195-MWe IMSR power plant is a thermal-spectrum, graphite-moderated, molten-fluoride-salt reactor system that uses standard-assay low-enriched uranium (less than 5% U-235) fuel. In the integral process—which takes place within the “Core-unit”—the fuel salt is diluted with coolant salt (consisting of fluorides such as sodium fluoride, beryllium fluoride, and/or lithium fluoride), and the mixture serves both as fuel and primary coolant.

The mixture is pumped between a critical, graphite-moderated (thermal spectrum) core, and then through the integral heat exchangers to transfer its heat to the external secondary coolant salt loop.

te imsr

The secondary loop consists of bare diluent salts (without fuel salt added), and it, in turn, transfers its heat to another intermediate nitrate salt loop, which essentially serves as a barrier between the radioactive primary components and the end-users. The nitrate salt–heated steam generator finally produces steam that can be used for power generation or industrial applications.

Brief History of Reactor Design Efforts Related to Tar Sands

The Terrestrial Energy MOU is the latest in a long series of proposals to use nuclear reactors to supply process heat for the tar sands oil extraction companies in Alberta. As long ago  as the mid-1980s there were proposals for larges and small reactors to do the job. Terrestrial Energy’s small size, and therefore more affordable cost, may give the firm aa competitive path forward whereas other full size reactor efforts have failed. Here are two examples.

Energy Alberta – More than a decade ago, Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL), then a state owned enterprise, proposed to build two 1,000 MWe advanced CANDU type reactors in northern Alberta for this purpose.

Power from the reactors would be used in oil sands extraction, which uses large volumes of steam to soften and recover oil from the gritty mixtures of bitumen. Canada has huge reserves of oil sands but recovery of the oil is energy intensive – natural gas can account for up to 60% of operating costs at current recovery facilities, not to mention the associated carbon emissions.

The proposal never got off the ground being rejected by the oil companies as too expensive and with a time line that far exceeded their capital requirements planning horizons. These two factors remains the main challenges for nuclear reactor developers pitching the use of their designs for the tar sands region.

NGNP – In 2011 the Idaho National Laboratory published an updated study of the prospects for the use of nuclear reactors to provide process heat for tar sands operations. Developed as part of the now defunct Next Generation Nuclear Plant project, it had the following parameters.

The Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) was expected to be a demonstration of the technical, licensing, operational, and commercial viability of high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) technology for the production of process heat, electricity, and hydrogen.

ngnp logosA key partner for the Next Generation Industry Alliance was Dow Chemical which wanted to swap out its enormous use of fossil fuels for process heat with a nuclear reactor. (NGNP Briefing – PDF file 17 slides)

Its nuclear-based technology was intended to provide high temperature process heat (up to 950°C) that can be used
as a substitute for the burning of fossil fuels for a wide range of commercial applications.

The substitution of the HTGR for burning fossil fuels would conserve these hydrocarbon resources for other uses, reduces uncertainty in the cost and supply of natural gas and oil, and eliminates the emissions of greenhouse gases attendant with the burning of these fuels.

The NGNP 500 MWt  HTGR was pitched a passively safe nuclear reactor concept with an easily understood safety basis that permits substantially reduced emergency planning requirements and improved siting flexibility compared to other nuclear technologies. There were four competing design alternatives for the NGNP reactors. See Table below.

NGNP design alternatives

Tar Sand Applications

At the Idaho National Laboratory a  technical evaluation (TEV) was prepared in 2011  as part of a study for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) Project to evaluate the integration of high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) technology with conventional chemical processes. This TEV addresses the integration of HTGR heat and power into oil sands recovery via steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD); specifically, the technical and economic feasibility of the HTGR integration.

The following conclusions were drawn when evaluating the nuclear-integrated SAGD process versus the conventional process:

  • Four 600 MWt HTGRs are required to support production of steam and power for a
    190,000 barrel per day SAGD facility.
  • Nuclear-integration decreases natural gas consumption by up to 100% using HTGR
    generated steam as the heat source, eliminating 192.5 MMSCFD of natural gas usage.
  • Nuclear-integration also eliminates almost 12,000 tons per day of CO2 production from
    the SAGD process, as natural gas combustion is eliminated.

Pre-licensing discussions at the NRC regarding the NGNP were suspended in 2013 after a DOE decision in 2011 to not proceed into the detailed design and license application phases of the NGNP Project. DOE’s decision reportedly cited impasses between DOE and the NGNP Industry Alliance in cost sharing arrangements for the public-private partnership required by Congress. The project ended in 2015.

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Deep Isolation and Amentum Form Partnership to Commercialize Nuclear Waste Disposal Technology

Deep Isolation Inc. and Amentum have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) to work together to further the commercialization of Deep Isolation’s technology on a global basis. The agreement is intended to position the companies as global leaders in a multi-billion-dollar nuclear waste disposal industry.

Initial target markets for joint work include countries in Europe and the Pacific for geologic disposal of spent fuel and high-level waste.

There is a new sense of urgency to dispose of nuclear waste. Low-carbon nuclear energy is a powerful alternative to fossil fuels in the fight against climate change, but much of the world is requiring a waste solution to be in place before investments are made in new nuclear power installations.

The agreement provides Amentum with access to more than 50 proprietary Deep Isolation inventions, engineering specifications, and know-how. A key item is Deep Isolation’s detailed and compliant process based on IAEA guidance for tailoring a deep borehole repository to the specific regulatory requirements, waste inventory, stakeholder needs and local geology of each client.

Deep Isolation said in its press statement that its advanced nuclear technology leverages directional drilling practices to safely and efficiently isolate waste deep underground in borehole repositories, providing many countries with an alternative to a traditional mined repository.

Deep Isolation offers licenses that allow nuclear industry firms access to its protected intellectual property. The program features access to Deep Isolation’s patents and engineering work, as well as planning and operational processes that could be used independently of Deep Isolation technology.

“The world is changing fast, and it’s imperative for the success of nuclear energy that we solve the nuclear waste challenge,” said Deep Isolation CEO Elizabeth Muller, an environmentalist and co-founder of the company.

“Deploying the solution requires a large-scale team effort. We are excited to work with Amentum to bring this solution to market,” Muller said. “We are pleased at the value they are placing in Deep Isolation’s solution by investing in this license.”

Amentum, a premier global technical and engineering services provider, brings numerous proven strengths: maintaining complex and high hazard facilities and processes; delivering environmental solutions to customers worldwide; and capabilities in environmental management and waste management.

“Amentum has unparalleled engineering expertise and experience in the use of science and advanced technologies to successfully clean up highly complex nuclear sites,” said Jim Blankenhorn, Senior Vice President of Amentum.

“This partnership strengthens our collective position in a growing market to provide innovative solutions for nuclear disposal around the world.”

After just four years as a public-facing company, Deep Isolation’s milestones include: work with a dozen countries across three continents; a subsidiary in Europe; the acquisition of Freestone Environmental Services; and recently, two multi-million awards from the U.S. Government.

About Deep Isolation

Deep Isolation is an innovator in nuclear waste storage and disposal solutions. The company’s patented solution of advanced nuclear technologies will enable global delivery through its partnerships with industry leaders as well as flexible IP licensing options.

About Amentum

Amentum is a global technical and engineering services partner supporting programs of national significance across defense, security, intelligence, energy, and environment. The company has vast experience in the nuclear cleanup market with a successful track record in reducing risk and solving waste management challenges around the world.

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Argonne National Lab Aims to Lower Nuclear Energy Costs with Artificial Intelligence

ai imageNuclear power plants provide large amounts of electricity without releasing planet-warming pollution. But the expense of running these plants has made it difficult for them to stay open.

If nuclear is to play a role in the U.S. clean energy economy, costs must come down. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are devising systems that could make nuclear energy more competitive using artificial intelligence.

Nuclear power plants are expensive in part because they demand constant monitoring and maintenance to ensure consistent power flow and safety. Argonne is midway through a $1 million, three-year project to explore how smart, computerized systems could change the economics.

“Operation and maintenance costs are quite relevant for nuclear units, which currently require large site crews and extensive upkeep,” said Roberto Ponciroli, a principal nuclear engineer at Argonne.

“We think that autonomous operation can help to improve their profitability and also benefit the deployment of advanced reactor concepts.”

The project, funded by the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy’s Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies program, aims to create a computer architecture that could detect problems early and recommend appropriate actions to human operators. Ponciroli and colleagues estimate the technology could save the nuclear industry more than $500 million a year.

A typical nuclear plant can hold hundreds of sensors, all of them monitoring different parts to make sure they are working properly.

“In a world where decisions are made according to data, it’s important to know that you can trust your data,” Ponciroli said. “Sensors, like any other component, can degrade. Knowing that your sensors are functioning is crucial.”

The job of inspecting each sensor—and also the performance of system components such as valves, pumps, heat exchangers—currently rests with staff who walk the plant floor. Instead, algorithms could verify data by learning how a normal sensor functions and looking for anomalies. Having validated a plant’s sensors, an artificial intelligence system would then interpret signals from them and recommend specific actions.

“The lower-level tasks that people do now can be handed off to algorithms,” said Richard Vilim, an Argonne senior nuclear engineer. “We’re trying to elevate humans to a higher degree of situational awareness so that they are observers making decisions.”

Four Types of Nuclear Sensors

(Courtesy of AZO Sensors) Nuclear Reactor Sensors are critical to nuclear safety and can be classified into four categories.

  • Nuclear sensors measure the parameters of the nuclear chain reaction, such as neutron flux density, thus providing information about the reactor power.
  • Process sensors are used to monitor non-nuclear processes, such as reactor coolant pressure, temperature and flow, containment pressure, and others.
  • Radiation monitoring sensors for monitoring radiation levels in coolant lines, gas effluents, and the environment around the reactor.
  • Special sensors that monitor seismic activity, vibration, hydrogen concentration, water conductivity, and many others.

nuclear reactor

Reference and Further Reading

INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY (2011) Core Knowledge on Instrumentation and Control Systems in Nuclear Power Plants, IAEA Nuclear Energy Series No. NP-T-3.12, IAEA, Vienna. (download link)

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Studsvik Scandpower and Blue Wave AI Labs in Partnership to Deliver Next Generation Accuracy to Nuclear Power Analytics

Studsvik Scandpower, Inc. is pleased to announce a strategic partnership with Blue Wave AI Labs to deliver enhanced diagnostic and predictive capabilities to nuclear energy facilities around the globe. The partnership will create a growing product line for Studsvik Scandpower.

Using Studsvik Scandpower’s state-of-the art codes, CASMO5 and SIMULATE5, coupled with Blue Wave’s innovative cloud-based Nuclear-AI Platform, plant operators will improve plant predictions, reduce operational challenges, and increase the efficiency of core design and cycle management in a direct way. According to the press statement the collaboration is expected to provide visibility into the fuel cycle will allow operators to reclaim unnecessary design margin, reduce reload fuel costs, and eliminate potential lost generation revenue.

CASMO5 is Studsvik Scandpower’s state-of-the-art 2D lattice physics code for modeling square and hexagonal LWR nuclear fuel. SIMULATE5 is a 3D, steady-state, multi-group nodal code for the analysis of LWRs delivering vendor independence and unparalleled accuracy.

Blue Wave AI Labs’ Nuclear-AI Platform components have been recognized by the Nuclear Energy Institute with a 2021 Top Innovative Practice (TIP) award. The prestigious award in the nuclear fuel category recognizes creative ideas that have substantial impact on improving the safety and reliability of nuclear energy.

“Blue Wave has proven to be the trusted leader in AI solutions for the nuclear industry, already serving over half the U.S. domestic fleet of boiling water reactors and making a significant difference in their operational efficiency,” says Rob Whittle, President and CEO of Studsvik Scandpower.

“Partnering with Blue Wave AI Labs brings enhanced value to the Studsvik Scandpower offerings and allows us to continue to meet our brand promise of always being state-of-the-art while delivering advanced solutions to our international customers.”

“We are proud to partner with the worldwide leader in commercial neutronics software to deliver enhanced product offerings and services around the globe,” says Tom Gruenwald, Senior Vice President at Blue Wave AI Labs.

“This partnership with Studsvik Scandpower will broaden the reach of our AI-based analytical tools to the international marketplace and accelerate the development of revolutionary analytical techniques necessary for next generation nuclear power systems.”

Nuclear energy providers are being increasingly pressured by market changes to decrease costs while maintaining, and if possible, increasing production revenue. The Studsvik Scandpower and Blue Wave AI Labs strategic partnership brings together simulation capabilities with advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable new levels of provider competitiveness.

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IAEA’s Grossi Briefs UN Security Council on Zaporizhzhia NPP

  • Ukraine / IAEA’s Grossi Tells UN ‘Time Is Of Essence’ at Occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP
  • G7 Demands Russia Hand Over Zaporizhzhia
  • Global Nuclear Community Calls for Immediate IAEA Access to Zaporizhzhia NPP

IAEA Briefs UN Security Council on Zaporizhzhia NPP

iaeaflag11140x640(NucNet contributed to this report) IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi told the United Nations Security Council this week that the current situation at the six unit Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine is  ‘alarming,’ and he renewed his agency’s call for experts to assess on-site the safety and security at the nuclear power station. The plant is Europe’s largest with six 1,000 MWe Russian built VVERs.

Grossi said the IAEA has been ready since June to provide a “stabilizing” onsite presence at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Ukraine, but due to political factors and ongoing military hostilities, a mission has not been possible. He added, “we cannot allow such factors to delay us any longer. Time is of the essence.”

zaporozhye_aes_280222

Grossi said “IAEA experts would assess physical damage at the six-unit Zaporizhzhia, to determine if main and backup safety and security systems are functional, and evaluate working conditions of control room staff.

“A mission would also allow us to perform urgent safeguards work,” he said.

Based on most recent information provided by Ukraine, IAEA experts have made a preliminary assessment from the IAEA office in Vienna, Austria, that there is no immediate threat to nuclear safety as a result of the shelling or other recent military actions. However, Grossi warned that this could change at any moment.

“I remain very concerned about situation at Zaporizhzhia and reiterate that any military actions jeopardizing nuclear safety and security must stop immediately. These military actions near such a large nuclear facility could have serious consequences.”

Another key issue Grossi said is that, “the plant has limited availability of offsite power due to damage from the shelling last week.”

The loss of external power from the regional grid could cause what is known as a “station blackout.”  Emergency diesel generators would supply power for as long as their fuel lasts, but if they fail, there will be loss of the operation of cooling systems in the reactors which could lead to a nuclear emergency.

Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine over the status of the site have not reported much progress. Russian forces have made claims they plan to disconnect the plant from the Ukraine regional electrical grid and send the power to Crimea. So far no actions along these lines have taken place. The New York Times reported on 08/12/22 and also on 08/13/22 intermittent shelling in the area around the site by Russian forces with some damage to non-nuclear plant equipment.

On Saturday morning 8/13, two of the station’s six units were operating and the radiation situation was normal, Ukraine told the IAEA.

Russian Military Actions Continue to Damage the Plant

Ukraine said shelling on 08/12/22 damaged the facility’s external power supply system, but that two power lines remained operational. The shelling also triggered the emergency protection system of one of the station’s three operating reactors. Ukraine said renewed Russian shelling on 08/13/22 damaged three radiation sensors and hurt a worker at station.

Ukraine told the IAEA that there had been no damage to the reactors themselves, no radiological release and no reports of injuries. However, it said a nitrogen-oxygen station, which supports plant operations, and an auxiliary building were damaged. Firefighters had quickly extinguished a fire at the nitrogen-oxygen station, but it still needs to be repaired, Ukraine said. The IAEA said it has also received information about shelling near the dry cask spent fuel storage facility.

International Concerns Mount about Status of Zaporizhzhia NPP

UN secretary general António Guterres called for international inspectors to be given access to Zaporizhzhia after Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over the shelling of the facility.

“Any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing,” Guterres told a news conference in Japan.

Guterres said the IAEA needed access to the facility. “We fully support the IAEA in all their efforts in relation to create the conditions of stabilization of the plant,” Guterres said.

Europe’s energy commissioner Kadri Simson joined condemnation of shelling at and around Zaporizhzhia, which she said had “caused significant damage to infrastructure, including near the dry cask storage of spent nuclear fuel within the nuclear power plant perimeter.”

A State Department spokesman said the United States supported a demilitarized zone around the nuclear plant and called on Russia to cease military operations on its grounds or nearby.

Russia Is Waging ‘Nuclear Terror’ – Zelenskiy

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of waging “nuclear terror” that warranted more international sanctions, this time on Moscow’s nuclear sector. “There is no such nation in the world that could feel safe when a terrorist state fires at a nuclear plant,” Zelenskiy said in a televised address.

On social media Zelenskiy said he had talked with Charles Michel, president of the European council, and told him about the situation on the battlefield, in particular at Zaporizhzhia. “Russian nuclear terror requires a stronger response from the international community – sanctions on the Russian nuclear industry and nuclear fuel.”

Energoatom Calls For Military-Free Zone

The head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom called for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station to be made a military-free zone, warning of the risk of a Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster after the site was hit by shelling.

Petro Kotin called for a team of peacekeepers to be deployed at the site. “The decision that we demand from the world community and all our partners… is to withdraw the invaders from the territory of the station and create a demilitarized zone on the territory of the station,” Mr Kotin said on television. He added that Russian forces have placed some of their weapons between the reactors to use them as shields against return fire from Ukraine’s forces.

Energoatom said on Telegram that the periodic shelling of Zaporizhzhia by Russian troops with anti-aircraft missiles had caused “a serious risk to the safe operation of the plant”. The company said: “Given that it is impossible to predict the actions of invaders, the threat to the station’s physical security remains.”

While under Russian control, the facility is operated by about 10,000 Ukrainian civilians, who are tasked with keeping the plant safely running while facing harsh conditions from occupying Russian forces.

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G7 Demands Russia Hand Over Zaporizhzhia

(WNN)  G7 foreign ministers have demanded Russia “hand back full control” of the plant “to its rightful sovereign owner, Ukraine”.

The foreign ministers of the G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and USA – said “we demand that Russia immediately hand back full control to its rightful sovereign owner, Ukraine, of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as well as of all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders to ensure their safe and secure operations …  it is Russia’s continued control of the plant that endangers the region”.

It added: “We underline the importance of facilitating a mission of IAEA experts to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to address nuclear safety, security and safeguard concerns, in a manner that respects full Ukrainian sovereignty over its territory and infrastructure.”

nuclear reactors in Ukraine

World Nuclear Association, which represents the global nuclear industry, issued a statement condemning the shelling and called “on all parties to immediately cease all hostilities in the vicinity of the plant.

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Global Nuclear Community Calls for Immediate IAEA Aaccess to Zaporizhzhia NPP

Representatives of nuclear industry trade associations and professional societies have issued the following statement regarding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine: (full text follows below)

logos wns zap

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should be granted immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant to assess the well-being of staff there as well as the ongoing safety of the facilities. The IAEA mission should be guaranteed safe conduct across the military line of contact in southern Ukraine by both Ukraine and Russia.

We note that the Zaporizhzhia facility has robust reactor and plant designs, and that operating staff have done their utmost to maintain all safety protocols. We would like to draw the world’s attention to the outstanding courage and extraordinary dedication of our Ukrainian colleagues who have continued to discharge their duties in the most trying of circumstances. Their personal safety must be respected by all parties.

The Russian forces currently occupying the site must withdraw to allow the plant operating staff to fulfil their safety and security duties and to make decisions free of undue pressure, in line with the seven pillars of nuclear safety set out by the IAEA. It is unacceptable to use a nuclear power plant as a military base.

Ukrainian and Russian forces should also cease military activity in the vicinity of the plant and observe a 30km safe zone around the site.

We stand ready to give the IAEA and Ukraine the support necessary to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities and staff.

This statement is issued jointly by World Nuclear Association, Canadian Nuclear Society, European Nuclear Society, Nuclear Industry Association, Nuclear Energy Institute, Canadian Nuclear Association, American Nuclear Society, Nucleareurope, and the Nuclear Institute.

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NRC Authorizes Vogtle Unit 3 Fuel Loading and Operation

  • NRC Authorizes Vogtle Unit 3 Fuel Loading and Operation
  • Senate approves Caputo, Crowell for NRC Seats
  • Nuclear Startup Last Energy Lands Polish MOU
  • TVA And GEH Sign Agreement To Begin Design And Licensing Of SMRs
  • ARC Canada Partners With CNL To Advance Fuel Development Program
  • INL Update on Its Net-Zero Microgrid Program

NRC Authorizes Vogtle Unit 3 Fuel Loading and Operation

Nuclear fuel assembly colorThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has authorized Southern Nuclear Operating Company (SNC) to load nuclear fuel and begin operation at Vogtle Unit 3 in Georgia, the first reactor to reach this point in the agency’s combined license process.

SNC recently informed the agency that the company completed the inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria  (ITAAC) needed to show Vogtle Unit 3 and can begin safe operations.

“This is the first time we’ve authorized a reactor’s initial startup through our Part 52 licensing process,” said Andrea Veil, Director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.

“Before authorization, we independently verified that Vogtle Unit 3 has been properly built and will protect public health and safety when it transitions to operation. Our resident inspectors at Vogtle will keep a close eye on Unit 3 as the fuel load and startup testing move forward. We’re focused on safety so the country can use Vogtle’s additional carbon-free electricity. We will maintain this focus as we
license the next generation of new reactors.”

The NRC’s decision moves Vogtle Unit 3, adjacent to the operating Units 1 and 2, near Waynesboro, Georgia, out of the construction reactor oversight program and into the operating reactor oversight process. Vogtle Unit 4 remains under construction.

What’s an ITAAC?

World Nuclear News reported that The process of satisfying the 398 ITAACs (inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria) outlined in the COL – all verified independently by the NRC – was completed on July 29th.

The on-site team is now working on final preparations to load fuel, begin startup testing and bring the unit online, Georgia Power said. The company has previously said it is targeting the end of October to complete loading of the fuel – which is already on site – into the reactor, in order to achieve an in-service date at the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Over the following several months, start-up testing will demonstrate the integrated operation of the primary coolant system and steam supply system at design temperature and pressure with fuel inside the reactor, before the plant is brought to initial criticality and synchronized to the grid.

Construction of Vogtle 3 began in March 2013 and unit 4 in November that year. Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power, both subsidiaries of Southern Company, took over management of the project to build the units in 2017 following Westinghouse’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Unit 4 is now over 96% complete, with a target in-service date of December 2023.

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Senate approves Caputo, Crowell for NRC Seats

nrc logoThe US Senate confirmed in a voice vote August 2nd the nominations of Annie Caputo and Bradley Crowell to serve as commissioners on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The vote gives the five-member agency a full house of commissioners for the first time since then-Chairman Kristine Svinicki left when her term ended in 2021.

President Joe Biden nominated the two new commissioners last May. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works unanimously approved their nominations July 27th.

The American Nuclear Society applauded the pair’s confirmation.

“The American Nuclear Society applauds the Senate for restoring the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to five commissioners with the confirmations of Annie Caputo and Bradley Crowell,” ANS President Steven Arndt and Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy stated in a press release.

“A full five-member commission is essential to the effectiveness of the NRC in protecting public health and safety while enabling the deployment and applications of new nuclear technologies. The American Nuclear Society has consistently highlighted the need for a full commission of qualified individuals, preferably with strong technical education and backgrounds.”

“The NRC has a vital role to play in addressing our most pressing climate and energy security challenges. We look forward to commissioners Caputo and Crowell’s tenures in overseeing the continued safe and efficient operation of our current nuclear power plants and in establishing an effective licensing framework for a new generation of nuclear technologies.”

Commissioner Profiles

Caputo, a nuclear engineer, was previously nominated to the commission by then-President Donald Trump and served from May 2018 to June 2021 when her term expired. She was previously a majority senior policy adviser for nuclear issues for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees NRC. Caputo was also a staffer for the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee and, before that, was a congressional affairs manager for Exelon.

From 2004 to 2007, Crowell was a legislative advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) which has a significant anti-nuclear policy position.  The group has a long history of litigation filing lawsuits against the NRC over a range of issues.

Some pro-nuclear advocates worry that Crowell will be influenced by his experience at NRDC and might follow in the footsteps of former NRC Commissioner Allison MacFarlane who continued her anti-nuclear efforts long after leaving office.

Crowell served at DOE as assistant secretary for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs from 2010 to 2016. In December 2016, Crowell was appointed to serve as director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by Governor Brian Sandoval.

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Nuclear Startup Last Energy Lands Polish MOU

last energy logoUS-based Last Energy, a DC based startup working on a 20 MWe SMR (PWR design basis),announced an agreement with Poland’s Legnica Special Economic Zone (LSSE) to build its SMRs in Poland.

Last Energy said it has ambitions to develop 10 SMRs in the LSSE to fuel industrial activity. LSSE is home to more than 75 companies and over 16,000 jobs. The 10 power plants, if built, would deliver 200MWe of capacity to the region.

A letter of intent was signed between LSSE, Last Energy and DB Energy in late July concerning participation in the construction and integration process in the Zone of the 10 SMRs and their operation for 24 years. Last Energy’s offer covers the entire investment process – from the design concept, through design, arrangements, financing, implementation, service, maintenance and production of energy for the client, to the disposal of installations and fuel.

Last Energy said its power plant uses a pressurized water reactor (PWR) and modular plant design, which, it said, dramatically reduces the time and cost of plant construction.  On its website it claims a CAPEX cost of $3,000/Kw or $60M a unit, and a construction period of 24 months.

“Poland is one of the first countries where Last Energy plans to implement our SMR technology,” said Damian Jamroz, General Manager of Last Energy Polska.

“We’re glad that the Legnica Special Economic Zone has expressed its interest in locating one of the planned investments in their area, as well as the intention to sign a long-term contract for the energy produced. Now, we will begin the process of identifying potential locations.”

LSSE President Przemyslaw Bozek noted: “Potential investors are increasingly faced with a lack of availability of energy and gas in the quantities they need. This project would allow for a safe, stable and emission-free source of energy for factories located in the Zone. We are taking another step not only towards green energy, but also to strengthen energy security.”

Bret Kugelmass, founder and CEO of Last Energy, said: “Nuclear energy offers countries a powerful strategy to achieve both. Today’s agreement is a critical step toward bringing stable, reliable and cost-competitive energy to Poland, and establishing a much-needed model for how energy security and climate goals can align for the industrial sector.”

Q&A With Last Energy

  • How will the deal be financed and by whom?

This deal will be entirely privately funded from a combination of Private Equity funds, Infrastructure funds, and Family Offices.

  • What is your time frame to break ground on the first unit?

Our next steps include working with LSSE to identify locations for the plant and to secure design approval. Our fully modular design is manufactured entirely off-site, to minimize field construction time and the complexity that comes with it – and our goal is to be able to manufacture and deliver a plant within two years of final deal approval.

Last Energy’s spokesperson did not respond to several other questions including the firm’s plans for the US supply chain for its export reactor and localization in Poland or its competitive prospects there given the number of the other SMR developers also seeking market share in that country.

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TVA And GEH Sign Agreement To Begin Design And Licensing Of SMRs At Clinch River

(NucNet) tva-logoThe Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has signed an agreement with nuclear plant manufacturer GE-Hitachi (GEH) to deploy small modular reactors (SMRs) at Clinch River near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and will spend the next year preparing a construction permit to build two of the BWRX-300 small modular reactors.

The agreement is part of plans to pursue phased activities that will kick off with design and licensing of a potential GEH light-water BWRX-300 SMR at Clinch River, a 914 acre site in Roane County for which TVA holds the nation’s only early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

TVA president Jeff Lyash said during a report on quarterly earnings, “TVA recently issued an industry-leading request for proposal for 5,000 megawatts of carbon-free energy to be available by 2029 and, knowing the critical role advanced nuclear technology will play in our nation’s drive to decarbonization, we signed a partnership with GEH to advance our pursuit of small modular reactor technology.”

While TVA is pursuing a range of energy options for its future, Mr. Lyash said he thinks the SMRs will be needed to help TVA achieve its long-term goal of being carbon-free by 2050 while still maintaining reliable and relatively low-cost power.

“I am pleased to announce that TVA has taken another step on that road [to building an SMR] and signed a two-party agreement with GE-Hitachi which will support our planning and preliminary licensing for the potential deployment of an SMR at the Clinch River site,” Mr Lyash said during the earnings presentation. “The agreement will provide additional information to analyze the viability of SMRs in the Valley.”

Company Ready To Invest $200 Million In First Phase

TVA said earlier this year it would invest $200M (€196m) in the first phase of a new program to explore advanced nuclear technology, including plans to prepare a construction license application for an SMR at Clinch River.

The company said it would explore technologies and potential locations for advanced nuclear reactors and will partner with other utilities, government agencies and research institutes to mitigate costs and risks associated with advancing this new technology. TVA said at the time it was already in discussions with GEH to support its BWRX-300 SMR design.

TVA-plants-map529px

TVA’s nuclear fleet – the nation’s third-largest – has a generating capacity of approximately 8,000 MWe and is the backbone of the company’s clean generation portfolio. TVA owns and operates three nuclear stations with a total of seven units in Tennessee: Browns Ferry (three units), Sequoyah (two units) and Watts Bar (two units).

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ARC Canada Partners With Canadian Nuclear Labs To Advance Fuel Development Program

cnl logoARC Clean Energy Canada (ARC Canada) announced a partnership with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization.

Funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), the joint agreement will deliver a technology demonstration of the fuel fabrication process for ARC Canada’s advanced small modular reactor (aSMR) scheduled for deployment at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station (PLNGS) in New Brunswick, Canada, within the decade.

The ARC 100 is a sodium cooled fast reactor with a design legacy that links back to the Integral Fast Reactor developed and operated at the Argonne West site in Idaho.

“This is a significant first step towards establishing capability in Canada to manufacture fuel assemblies for the ARC technology,” said Dr. Maggie Manley, Fuel Systems Engineer, leading the project for ARC Canada.

“Our collaboration with CNL, with access to their world-class facilities and qualified technical experts, is critical to validate our fuel qualification program and deployment approach. ARC Canada is proud to have been selected to partner with our national laboratories as we work towards a clean energy future.”

CNL will support ARC Canada with expertise in nuclear fuel fabrication and access to state- of-the-art research facilities at Chalk River to develop a fuel pin prototype fabrication line for ARC technology. The prototype work will also deliver a qualified set of procedures for the development of a “made in Canada” production line to support a Canadian fleet approach.

“Fuel development is a particular strength of the team here at the Chalk River Laboratories,” commented Dr. Jeff Griffin, Vice-President of Science and Technology.

The joint project will began in July and is expected to be completed within two years.

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INL Update on Its Net-Zero Microgrid Program

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has a Net-Zero Microgrid (NZM) program based on funding from the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity. This program is conducting research on carbon-free solutions that offer enhanced resilience to critical isolated electrical grid and generation infrastructure that are located in under-served communities.

net zero microgrid

“Microgrids are a set of electricity generators that can manage themselves without being connected to the grid,” said Tim McJunkin, a distinguished researcher in INL’s Power and Energy Systems department.

“If they are connected to the grid, they can support themselves as well as the distribution and transmission systems.” This means they can provide grid services to both local utilities and larger power authorities.”

Recently INL released its latest report addressing economic issues for microgrids in the series this month.  “Small Reactors (SRs) in Microgrids – Technoeconomic Analysis

This report recognizes that the development of technoeconomic analysis for SRs in microgrids must consider that:

  • Microgrids built with SRs have different configurations depending on their boundaries, the loads and resources within those boundaries, energy storage, and the connection and interaction with the distribution network. Primary technical design principles include power and energy adequacy, system economics, system reliability, and operational resilience.
  • Technical studies required to evaluate the feasibility of SR in microgrids include siting, generation optimization, operational framework and feasibility, economic optimization, and risk analysis. Technoeconomic models specific to SRs are necessary to conduct these feasibility studies.

Cross-Cutting Research

The Net-Zero Microgrid program  conducts cross-cutting research to accelerate the removal of carbon-emitting technologies. It organizes research and development activities across multiple energy resources.

For example, the program leverages the expertise and platforms in INL’s Energy Systems Laboratory and its nuclear energy research testbeds. This includes the Microreactor Applications Research Validation and EvaLuation (MARVEL) research microreactor, funded under the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

“Nuclear, renewables and energy storage can potentially have a large advantage over typical diesel or natural gas microgrids,” INL senior microgrid researcher Kurt Myers said.

He noted that decreasing or removing the fuel supply chains can reduce potential impacts and costs for remote applications and improve availability in cases where gas pipelines or fossil fuel supply systems could be disrupted by weather, disasters or cyberattacks.

“Today microgrids provide stable and high-quality power to critical military and community needs. But they almost all use conventional fossil energy generators,” McJunkin said. “This program will address roadblocks to moving away from the fossil-fuel-based option.”

INL is committed to demonstrating the viability of microgrids that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from greater than 80% in 2020 to less than 50% within the next four years. Integrating renewable energy sources with small reactors, hydrogen fuel cells and energy storage will allow us to meet these goals.

Other reports published in prior years by the micro grids program can be accessed via the INL Digital Library.

INL is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory that performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

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Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant Under Fire

News Headlines Paint an Alarming Picture of a Potential Nuclear Disaster

Note to Readers – this is a rapidly evolving new story.
Use Google News for updates.
  (search string)

zap npp site plan

08/08/22 – Radiation levels remain normal after shelling at nuclear plant, official says
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/08/07/russia-ukraine-war-latest-updates/

Radiation levels at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant are still within normal range, a Ukrainian official said Sunday, after Kyiv accused Russia of carrying out artillery strikes on the grounds of the facility, damaging monitoring sensors and heightening concerns of a “nuclear disaster.” The situation remains “tense,” the official said.

Energoatom said the Russian shelling was aimed at 174 containers of spent nuclear fuel stored in the open air at the Zaporizhzhia plant. Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has underscored that Russian strikes on the plant could have “catastrophic consequences,” including a “nuclear disaster.”

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08/07/22 – Ukraine’s state nuclear agency, Energoatom, said parts of the captured Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant were “seriously damaged” after a station containing oxygen and nitrogen and an “auxiliary building” were struck by shelling. There is now an increased risk of fire and radiation.

On Telegram, the agency said Saturday: “The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is operating at risk of violating the norms of radiation and fire protection.”

“There remains a risk of hydrogen leaking and radioactive particles dispersing, and the risk of fire is also high,” Enerhoatom added.

https://www.dw.com/en/russia-ukraine-updates-parts-of-nuclear-plant-seriously-damaged/a-62729710

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Washington Post – Fresh shelling at nuclear plant as U.N. warns of possible ‘disaster’

Heavy shelling continued around Europe’s largest atomic power plant overnight, as the United Nations nuclear chief warned of potentially “catastrophic consequences.”

Ukraine Live Briefing: Fresh shelling at nuclear plant as U.N. warns of possible ‘disaster’
washingtonpost.com

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/08/07/russia-ukraine-war-latest-updates/

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NYT – Fighting Around Ukrainian Nuclear Plant Heightens Safety Fears

A series of blasts Friday at the plant, which the Russian military is using as cover for artillery attacks, renewed concerns of a radiation catastrophe.

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Reuters – Ukraine accuses Russia of shelling nuclear plant again

  • Europe’s biggest nuclear plant, Zaporizhzhia, hit again
  • Zelenskiy urges new sanctions on Russia; Moscow blames Kyiv
  • Atomic energy agency chief worried about potential disaster

Ukrainian nuclear company Energoatom said the latest Russian rocket attacks hit the plant’s dry storage facility, where 174 containers with spent nuclear fuel were stored in the open air.

“Consequently, timely detection and response in the event of a deterioration in the radiation situation or leakage of radiation from containers of spent nuclear fuel are not yet possible,” it said.

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/ukraine-says-worker-wounded-new-russian-strike-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-plant-2022-08-07/

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(Ukraine Wire Services) Russia planning to disconnect Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from Ukraines power grid, cutting off power in southern Ukraine

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/russia-planning-disconnect-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-172435213.html

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(Ukraine Wire Services) Radiation emission risk: Russian troops seriously damage nitrogen-oxygen unit at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant Energoatom

https://news.yahoo.com/radiation-emission-risk-russian-troops-100058788.html

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Radio Free Europe – Atomic Energy Chief Warns Of Risk Of ‘Nuclear Disaster’ At Ukraine Power Plant –

https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russia-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-fighting-bakhmut/31976299.html

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IAEA – Director General Grossi Alarmed by Shelling at Ukraine NPP, says IAEA Mission Vital for Nuclear Safety and Security

https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/director-general-grossi-alarmed-by-shelling-at-ukraine-npp-says-iaea-mission-vital-for-nuclear-safety-and-security

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Zaporizhzhia NPPNews Headlines Paint an Alarming Picture of a Potential Nuclear Disaster

Note to Readers – this is a rapidly evolving new story.
Use Google News for updates.
  (search string)

Ukraine’s state nuclear agency, Energoatom, said parts of the captured Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant were “seriously damaged” after a station containing oxygen and nitrogen and an “auxiliary building” were struck by shelling. There is now an increased risk of fire and radiation.

On Telegram, the agency said Saturday: “The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is operating at risk of violating the norms of radiation and fire protection.”

“There remains a risk of hydrogen leaking and radioactive particles dispersing, and the risk of fire is also high,” Enerhoatom added.

https://www.dw.com/en/russia-ukraine-updates-parts-of-nuclear-plant-seriously-damaged/a-62729710

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Washington Post – Fresh shelling at nuclear plant as U.N. warns of possible ‘disaster’

Heavy shelling continued around Europe’s largest atomic power plant overnight, as the United Nations nuclear chief warned of potentially “catastrophic consequences.”

Ukraine Live Briefing: Fresh shelling at nuclear plant as U.N. warns of possible ‘disaster’
washingtonpost.com

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/08/07/russia-ukraine-war-latest-updates/

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NYT – Fighting Around Ukrainian Nuclear Plant Heightens Safety Fears

A series of blasts Friday at the plant, which the Russian military is using as cover for artillery attacks, renewed concerns of a radiation catastrophe.

& & &

(Ukraine Wire Services) Russia planning to disconnect Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from Ukraines power grid, cutting off power in southern Ukraine

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/russia-planning-disconnect-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-172435213.html

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(Ukraine Wire Services) Radiation emission risk: Russian troops seriously damage nitrogen-oxygen unit at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant Energoatom

https://news.yahoo.com/radiation-emission-risk-russian-troops-100058788.html

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Radio Free Europe – Atomic Energy Chief Warns Of Risk Of ‘Nuclear Disaster’ At Ukraine Power Plant –

https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russia-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-fighting-bakhmut/31976299.html

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IAEA – Director General Grossi Alarmed by Shelling at Ukraine NPP, says IAEA Mission Vital for Nuclear Safety and Security

https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/director-general-grossi-alarmed-by-shelling-at-ukraine-npp-says-iaea-mission-vital-for-nuclear-safety-and-security

& & &

Zaporizhzhia NPPNews Headlines Paint an Alarming Picture of a Potential Nuclear Disaster

Note to Readers – this is a rapidly evolving new story.
Use Google News for updates.
  (search string)

Ukraine’s state nuclear agency, Energoatom, said parts of the captured Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant were “seriously damaged” after a station containing oxygen and nitrogen and an “auxiliary building” were struck by shelling. There is now an increased risk of fire and radiation.

On Telegram, the agency said Saturday: “The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is operating at risk of violating the norms of radiation and fire protection.”

“There remains a risk of hydrogen leaking and radioactive particles dispersing, and the risk of fire is also high,” Enerhoatom added.

https://www.dw.com/en/russia-ukraine-updates-parts-of-nuclear-plant-seriously-damaged/a-62729710

& & &

Washington Post – Fresh shelling at nuclear plant as U.N. warns of possible ‘disaster’

Heavy shelling continued around Europe’s largest atomic power plant overnight, as the United Nations nuclear chief warned of potentially “catastrophic consequences.”

Ukraine Live Briefing: Fresh shelling at nuclear plant as U.N. warns of possible ‘disaster’
washingtonpost.com

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/08/07/russia-ukraine-war-latest-updates/

& & &

NYT – Fighting Around Ukrainian Nuclear Plant Heightens Safety Fears

A series of blasts Friday at the plant, which the Russian military is using as cover for artillery attacks, renewed concerns of a radiation catastrophe.

& & &

(Ukraine Wire Services) Russia planning to disconnect Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from Ukraines power grid, cutting off power in southern Ukraine

https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/russia-planning-disconnect-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-172435213.html

& & &

(Ukraine Wire Services) Radiation emission risk: Russian troops seriously damage nitrogen-oxygen unit at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant Energoatom

https://news.yahoo.com/radiation-emission-risk-russian-troops-100058788.html

& & &

Radio Free Europe – Atomic Energy Chief Warns Of Risk Of ‘Nuclear Disaster’ At Ukraine Power Plant –

https://www.rferl.org/a/ukraine-russia-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-fighting-bakhmut/31976299.html

& & &

IAEA – Director General Grossi Alarmed by Shelling at Ukraine NPP, says IAEA Mission Vital for Nuclear Safety and Security

https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/director-general-grossi-alarmed-by-shelling-at-ukraine-npp-says-iaea-mission-vital-for-nuclear-safety-and-security

& & &

Nuclear Diner – Russia Continues To Put The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant At Risk

https://nucleardiner.wordpress.com/2022/08/07/russia-continues-to-put-the-zaporizhzhia-nuclear-plant-at-risk/

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DOE Decides to Build the Versatile Test Reactor at INL

  • DOE Decides to Build the Versatile Test Reactor at INL
  • NRC To Certify NuScale Small Modular Reactor
  • NRC Issues Final EIS for License Renewal of Westinghouse Fuel Fabrication Facility
  • Westinghouse & Bechtel Complete Study for Nuclear Reactors in Poland
  • Germany May Keep Three Reactors Open
  • Japan’s PM Kishida Pushes Nuclear Reactor Restarts
  • Saudi Arabia May Seek SMRs

DOE Decides to Build the Versatile Test Reactor at INL

Despite completing the necessary environmental studies and issuing a record of decision, the VTR program has no funding this fiscal year. DOE has requested only $45 million for FYY2023 for what is expected to be at least a $3 billion effort to build the test reactor but only if Congress eventually appropriates funds toward that end.

vtr logo

(NucNet contributed to this report) The Department of Energy has chosen a 300 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor design to build a multibillion-dollar test nuclear reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) that could help develop fuels, technologies, and materials for advanced nuclear reactors. This policy milestone completes the legal requirements for a formal record of decision based on a final environmental impact statement.

The PRISM reactor, which is the technology basis for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR), is based on the EBR-II, an integral sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype that operated at the Argonne West National Laboratory in Idaho from 1963 to 1994. It is the only sodium-cooled reactor to date to have successfully completed the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission pre-application review process. In 2018 INL selected GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s (GEH) PRISM technology for the VTR.

vtr core map

The Versatile Test Reactor, or VTR, will provide a source of fast neutrons for testing and evaluating nuclear fuels, materials, sensors and instrumentation to support the development of advanced reactor technologies. Such facilities are available in only a few locations worldwide, and the US has not operated one in more than 20 years. (INL FAQ on VTR)

FEIS & ROD for VTR

The DOE has issued a record of decision for the EIS, formally documenting its plan to build the VTR at INL. The record of decision also includes establishing facilities at the same site for the post-irradiation examination of test products and management of spent VTR driver fuel.

“The VTR will provide US researchers from industry, academia, and our national laboratories with a critical tool for developing transformational technologies that will expand nuclear energy’s contribution to abundant, carbon-free energy,” assistant secretary for nuclear energy Kathryn Huff said. (VTR Fact Sheet)

Project Costs & Future Funding

The VTR project did not get any money from Congress during fiscal year 2022. DOE had multiple opportunities to make its case to Congress, but somehow never quite got the message in place that would convince the Senate Appropriations Committee to write the checks for this fiscal year. DOE submitted a modest funding proposal of $45 million for fiscal year 2023.

If Congress eventually provides funding, once built it would be the first fast nuclear test reactor to operate in the US in nearly three decades. Initial costs estimates, for a plant that won’t break ground in the near-term, range from $3 billion to double that amount or more. Every year that DOE and Congress kick the can down the road is another step up in cost escalation for a completed facility.

HALEU Fuel Issues

Even if the project were to break ground later this decade, finding fuel for it looks like it will be a problem. DOE has not moved with the necessary speed to even fuel its ARDP reactors with HALEU according to an analysis by NEI. The VTR expected to be fueled using a uranium plutonium zirconium metal alloy fuel using surplus weapons grade plutonium or reactor grade plutonium available from Japan/France/UK.

This fuel profile was originally proposed by the PRISM reactor, which is the design basis for the VTR, when GEH pitched the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to burn its surplus plutonium and the Japanese inventory held in the UK.

The PRISM is also the design basis for the TerraPower ‘Naturium’ reactor planned to be built an a former coal plant in southwestern Wyoming. However, due to differences in fuels, the VTR will have much higher neutron flux which is needed for its research mission.

Just about everyone who has looked at this issue of HALEU fuel supply agrees that time is running short. Everett Redmond, a Senior Technical Advisor at NEI, told Neutron Bytes earlier this month that 20 metric tonnes of uranium (MTU) are needed by 2025 when the two reactors funded under the DOE Advanced Reactor Development Program (ARDP) are scheduled to need to load fuel and start up. Thereafter, 6 MTU a year are need for fuel reloads. The VTR will also run on HALEU fuel and its requirements could hit the supply chain at the same time as the ARDP reactors.

However, Redmond estimates that as things stand now the HALEU fuel that all of these reactors need won’t become available until mid-2028. According to a compendium of advanced reactors in the US published by the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, there are at least half a dozen reactor projects that will need HALEU fuels, including the two ARDP projects and VTR, before the end of the decade. For these firms, the need for on time delivery of HALEU is the one of their top ‘keep awake at night issues.’

The Need for Speed

Meanwhile, with the bulk of the capacity of the now restarted Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at INL devoted to defense needs, developers of advanced reactors who want to test materials and fuels may have to go overseas to test reactors in Europe.

flash_thumb.jpg

Opportunity awaits government and industry backers of the VTR but they must act. This will require concerted action by DOE which must proceed with a sense of urgency aided by support from the advanced nuclear reactor developer industry and also from the supply chain firms that will build the components for these projects.

Competition from Russia

The Russians are building an equivalent test reactor. Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation, is promoting the use of its multi-purpose fast neutron research reactor (MBIR) which is under construction at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR) in Dimitrovgrad in the Ulyanovsk region of Russia, located about 1,600 miles east of Moscow. The state owned enterprise is hawking its capabilities and soliciting partnerships on an international scale. The project is expected to cost $1.1 billion and be completed by 2025.

mbir-schedule_thumb.png

MBIR will be used for materials testing for Generation IV fast neutron reactors including high temperature gas-cooled, molten salt, and lead-bismuth designs. Experiments that are proposed to be undertaken include measuring the performance of core components under normal and emergency conditions.

The MBIR is a 150 MWt multi-loop sodium-cooled fast research reactor. It will have a design life of up to 50 years, and will use MOX fuel. When complete it will replace the BOR-60 fast reactor which has been in operation at NIIAR since 1969.

It is creating an International Research Center (IRC) to be a home for cooperative R&D and test projects. According to the June 2020 briefing, four nations have signed up so far – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia The briefing says these arrangements, and others like it, will support the IRC’s ambitions to become a world class center of excellence for testing materials to be used in fast neutron reactors.

mbir-IAEA-briefing-slide_thumb.png

The threat of competition from the Russian MBIR is stalled out for now due to a combination of the war in Ukraine and western sanctions. However, things could change in a year or two. Cracks in the Kremlin’s destructive military campaign in Ukraine include a surprising “agreement” to let Ukraine export its grain. It appears a world famine due to the blockade was too much even for the Kremlin.

Also, the New York Times reports that US intelligence agencies assess that Russia has terrifying losses in Ukraine with 75,000 soldiers killed or wounded in the war so far. That’s five times the number of casualties in Afghanistan 1979-1989. Overall, the war has not gone according to plan for Russia.

If hostilities were to come to an end this year or next, five years from now the MBIR and Russian HALEU sales could be back in business. If DOE and Congress do nothing about the VTR, it will be right back in the same ditch where it was in 2020.

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NRC To Certify NuScale Small Modular Reactor

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has directed the staff to issue a final rule that certifies NuScale’s small modular reactor design for use in the United States. NRC certification means the design meets the agency’s applicable safety requirements. The NRC staff met its schedule goals for completing its technical review.

The design certification approves the NuScale reactor’s “design control document,” which is incorporated by reference in the final rule. NuScale submitted an application to the NRC on Dec. 31, 2016, to certify the company’s small modular reactor design for use in the United States. More information about the NuScale design review can be found on the NRC’s website.

Diagram_of_a_NuScale_reactor

The design uses natural, “passive” processes such as convection and gravity in its operating systems and safety features, while producing up to approximately 600 megawatts of electricity. The SMR’s 12 modules, each producing 50 megawatts, are all submerged in a safety-related pool built below ground level.

The NRC has previously certified six other designs: the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, System 80+, AP600, AP1000, the Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) and the APR1400. Of these designs, since 2007 only two units, AP1000s in Georgia, have moved to construction.

According to World Nuclear News, in November 2020 NuScale Power announced a 25% increase in power output for its NuScale Power Module small modular reactor, which it says will lead to significant cost savings. It has also announced options for smaller four-module and six-module plant sizes in addition to its flagship 12-module plant.

The NuScale Power Module is a pressurized water reactor (PWR) with all the components for steam generation and heat exchange incorporated into a single integrated unit. The company said that, following value engineering efforts using advanced testing and modelling tools, it has now concluded that the unit can generate 77 MWe (gross) per module, or about 924 MWe for a 12-module power plant. The increased power output comes without any major changes to the SMR’s technology.

In past press statements NuScale has estimated the cost of the SMR in the range of $4,400/Kw. However, in the November 2020 press release, the company claimed the increase in generating capacity lowers the overnight capital cost of a 12-module facility from an expected $3,600 per kilowatt to about $2,850.

“Furthermore, the scalable, 12-module power plant will now approach a size that makes it a true competitor for the gigawatt-size market.”

According to NuScale the smaller four and six-module power plant solutions will give customers more options in terms of size, power output, operational flexibility and cost, NuScale added;

“This new solution allows NuScale to support a larger cross-section of customer needs including power for small grids such as for island nations; remote off-grid communities; industrial and government facilities; and coal power replacements that require less power and help customers meet clean air mandates.”

The company is expected to engage with the NRC this year to update its design certification for the 77 MWe power rating.

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NRC Issues Final EIS for License Renewal of Westinghouse Fuel Fabrication Facility in South Carolina

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued its final environmental impact statement regarding the proposed license renewal of Westinghouse Electric Co.’s Columbia Fuel Fabrication Facility in Hopkins, South Carolina. Based on its environmental review, the NRC staff recommends renewing the license, subject to the determinations in the staff’s safety review of the application.

fuel pellets

The Columbia facility produces nuclear fuel for use in commercial nuclear power reactors. Its license was issued by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1969 and was last renewed by the NRC in 2007 for a 20-year period. If the current request is granted, the facility would be authorized to operate for 40 years from the renewal date.

The report concludes that renewing the license would result in “small” impacts on all resources, except for groundwater and waste generation during decommissioning with “small to moderate” impacts.

According to information on the company’s website, the site houses fuel manufacturing facilities, product engineering and testing laboratories, as well as fuel marketing and contract administration. It covers 1,155 acres that include 550,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space. It is one of three Westinghouse nuclear fuel plants globally. The other two are in the UK and in Sweden.

The staff also considered a 20-year renewal period in its environmental review and concluded the impacts would be similar to those of a 40-year renewal but over a shorter timeframe.

The NRC published a draft environmental impact statement on Aug. 6, 2021. The staff conducted extensive outreach to communities near the facility, including an extended 105-day public comment period, a virtual public meeting, local newspaper and radio advertisements, direct mailings to residents and other measures. More than 70 people submitted comments, which are addressed in the final report.

In December 2021 the firm said it will spend $131 million over the next five years to expand the production capabilities of the plant. The money will cover upgrades to equipment and procedures, as well as enhancements to the CFFF’s pollution prevention systems and controls. The investment will expand automation and digitalization at the facility, improving inspection capabilities and product quality.

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Westinghouse & Bechtel Complete Study for Nuclear Reactor in Poland

  • Initial plan is for three AP1000 units at a site on the Baltic Sea coast

(NucNet) The Polish Press Agency (PAP) reported Westinghouse and Bechtel have completed a front-end engineering and design (Feed) study for the construction of nuclear power plants in Poland/

PAP said the Feed study is to be part of the US offer to the Polish government to build Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power plants in the eastern European country. The plants, if the contract is awarded to Westinghouse, would be Poland’s first commercial nuclear units as Warsaw moves away from coal-fired energy while maintaining its energy independence.

According to PAP, the Feed study includes an outline plan for the construction of three AP1000 plants and ancillary facilities at the Baltic seacoast Lubiatowo-Kopalino site in northern Poland. The Feed study includes a timetable for construction, an assessment of project risks and risk management, and analysis of the impact of nuclear power plants on the Polish economy.

poland nuclear site

In April, Bechtel signed memoranda of understanding with 12 companies in Poland for the potential development of nuclear power plants. In June, Bechtel announced a memorandum of understanding with Toshiba to pursue the nuclear power project in Poland. Bechtel said Toshiba has supplied steam turbines, generators, and services to power plants of all types.

First Unit Planned For 2033

Poland is planning the construction of six nuclear power units with a capacity of up to 9 GWe. Its energy policy to 2040 assumes that the first unit with a capacity of about 1-1.6 GWe will be commissioned in 2033. Subsequent units will be commissioned every two to three years.

There are three companies in the running for the project: Westinghouse, France’s state-owned power company EDF and South Korea’s Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power.

  • In October 2021, EDF submitted a non-binding preliminary offer to the Polish government for the provision of engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) services for four to six EPR reactors.
  • In April, KHNP submitted a non-binding offer for six plants using its APR-1400 reactor technology. The Polish government expects to make a final decision on the project by the end of the year. According to earlier reports,
  • Westinghouse is expected to submit an offer for its AP1000 technology by the end of August.

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Germany May Keep Three Reactors Open

Germany is considering keeping nuclear plants running beyond end-2022, when they are due to shut down as Russia continues to reduce natural-gas supply to Europe’s top economy.

worst-case-scenario

“The economy minister has commissioned an intensified worst-case scenario calculation. Let’s have a look at that,” said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday, Bloomberg reported. Scholz was responding to a question on whether he may reconsider keeping the plants online. He may not have much choice.

The development is a big deal as Germany has been phasing out nuclear energy. Just last month, Chancellor Scholz, who is from the Social Democratic Party, rejected a proposal to prolong the operations of the nuclear plants. The prospect of the German population freezing in the dark has apparently influenced his thinking.

Even the German Green Party, which has been the arch nemesis of nuclear energy since the 1970s, has started to panic. The loss of natural gas from Russia could be destabilizing for the government and social unrest may occur if people can’t get gas to keep their homes warm next winter. Job losses could pile up quickly as industries that depend on the gas shut down.

“At every moment in this crisis we need to react according to the current situation and to examine every measure,” Green Party coleader Ricarda Lang told German TV. “We have to prevent a wave of poverty,” Lang added.

The Green Party may not want to own up to it, but its ant-nuclear campaigns over the past several decades have led the country to its current crisis. Dependence on Russian natural gas could potentially put a chokehold on Germany’s economy.

Germany is reliant on piped natural gas from Russia, which accounts for 35% of the country’s imports of the fuel. It imports almost all of the natural gas it uses, which accounts for about a quarter of the country’s total energy mix, according to the economy ministry.

However, major natural-gas supplier Russia has been cutting supplies to Germany in retaliation for sweeping sanctions over the Ukraine war. Russia has slashed natural-gas flows to Germany to just 20% of key pipeline Nord Stream 1’s capacity. The supply squeeze has tripled the prices of European natural-gas futures, in turn pushing up power bills.

Germany industry leaders are also warning of a severe economic hardship should Russian gas be cut completely. Earlier this month, the country’s top union official said entire industries could collapse in such a scenario, wiping out jobs. On Monday, a popular measure of German business confidence slumped to its lowest level since June 2020 amid the threats of a gas shortage and soaring inflation.

Germany until March 2011 obtained one-quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy. It now has just three reactors providing 4,055 MWe. Then Chancellor Angela Merkel more or less had the political equivalent of a panic attack after the Fukushima crisis which set the country on its now disastrous energy policy of relying on renewables and coal. The country has reopened some of its coal mines. Public opinion in Germany remains broadly opposed to nuclear power with virtually no support for building new nuclear plants.

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Japan’s PM Kishida Pushes Nuclear Reactor Restarts

green_earth_nuclear_atom (1)

(Japan Times) Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is seeking the restart of up to nine nuclear power reactors this year as his government launched a “green transformation” panel on Wednesday for the fight against climate change.

The nine reactors have already passed screenings by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Kishida is expected to push for restarting reactors that have yet to clear NRA screenings. In the future, he is also expected to seek building new nuclear plants and expand or rebuild existing ones.

His policy is a strategic move to us nuclear energy by reversing the policy of moving away from nuclear energy following the March 2011 accident at Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Kishida apparently aims to restart up to nine nuclear reactors by this winter, as he indicated at a news conference on July 14. He expects the move to secure electricity supplies equivalent to about 10% of total domestic consumption.

In a speech last Friday, Kishida said, “We want to work on the research and development of technologies such as next-generation light-water reactors, small modular nuclear reactors and nuclear fusion.”

Masakazu Tokura, chairman of the Japan Business Federation, or Keidanren, and a member of the green transformation panel, told reporters after the panel meeting that “there’s no time to lose” in utilizing nuclear plants.

PM Kishida has said he believes nuclear plants are indispensable for green transformation, which means stopping reliance on fossil fuel. The government is also working on issue of limits of fossil fuel supplies from Russia due to the war in Ukraine. It is also warning of possible supply shortages this winter.

Kishida appointed industry minister Koichi Hagiuda to double as minister for promoting green transformation, or GX, with the government slated to draw up a 10-year, $146 million roadmap by the end of the year for Japan’s transition to a greener economy. The government will hammer out the details of how the funds, to be raised via green transition bonds, should be spent.

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Saudi Arabia May Seek SMRs

(Wire services) RIYADH: Saudi energy ministry is interested in developing small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs), Saudi energy minister said. “The SMRs will help to generate electricity to power remote areas,” said Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman who has served as the Minister of Energy since 2019.

smr-vs-npp-v5

He added that Saudi Arabia isn’t looking for funding from any country to help it with its energy transition plan.

The Prince, speaking at an economic development conference inn Riyadh, said that the Kingdom will develop more technologies at home.

“The future of the world and society lies not in us waiting for someone else to build the things we should use, but for us to build them ourselves.”

This report indicates the Saudi government may realize that current high oil prices will not last forever. This insight is important because the Saudi nuclear program has been based on paying for it out of current oil revenues and not dipping into the sovereign wealth fund for the billions of dollars that would be needed to build the two 1400 MWe units detailed in the current tender. At $5,000/Kw the reactors would cost $7 billion each for a total of $14 billion and that cost doesn’t include improvements to the regional electrical grid to deliver power to customers.

The Russians are selling their oil to India and China at a 30% discount which makes $100/bbl oil go for $70/bbl to these customers. It also means that every tanker full of Russian oil sold globally at this discounted price means no sale for Saudi Arabia for the volume of each of these shipments.

Sooner or later that loss of market share will have an impact on Saudi finances. The last time oil price took a dive, to $60/bbl in 2015, the Saudi finance ministry hit the brakes for an ambitious plan to build 16 1000 MWe nuclear reactors. The latest tender is for just two units which indicates there was a huge reality check that reduced Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions from 16 reactors to two.

On the other hand, small modular reactors, such as the South Korean SMART design, at 100 MWe, can be built for $500 million each. With an extended timeframe for building a fleet of them, the short term cash flow problem goes away, and at least a dozen of them could be built for the price of one 1,400 MWe PWR. Because the South Korean SMR is an entirely new design, with no US intellectual property in it, South Korea will not have to discuss issues related to its 123 Agreement with the US before doing a deal with the Saudi government.

Lurking in the background is the question of whether the Iran nuclear deal will be renewed and when. Iran has imposed unrelated demands on the negotiations in return for a deal. If one is not inked, it could set off a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on DOE Decides to Build the Versatile Test Reactor at INL

UK Gives Go-Ahead for Sizewell C Nuclear Power Plant

  • UK Gives Go-Ahead for Sizewell C Nuclear Power Plant
  • EDF to Address Taishan Fuel Rod Issues for Hinkley Point and Sizewell EPR Reactors
  • Holtec Submits Federal Loan Application For $7.4 Billion SMR Plan
  • Kairos Power and Materion Commission Molten Salt Purification Plant to Produce Coolant for High-Temperature Reactors
  • Curio and Lightbridge Corporation Sign MOU on Nuclear Fuels
  • Terrestrial Energy and South Korea’s Dl E&C Sign MOU To Drive IMSR Cogeneration Plant
  • X-Energy Selects Firms for Design and Deployment of Xe-100 Advanced Reactor Fleet
  • Ghana To Announce Decision On Nuclear Plant Vendor Country, Technology

UK Gives Go-Ahead for Sizewell C Nuclear Power Plant

(WNN contributed to this report)

EPR image

The UK government committed this week to build EDF’s twin 1600 MWe EPR type nuclear reactors at the Sizewell C nuclear site at an estimated cost of GBP100 million (USD120 million).

The two huge reactors will be built next to the existing Sizewell B plant. The new plant would generate about 7% of the UK’s electricity needs and operate for at least 60 years.

It will be a mirror of of the Hinkley Point C plant, which is under construction in Somerset. All four plants are expected to be completed in the late 2020s. EDF is running behind schedule for the Hinkley Point C plant due in part to the fact that the labor force, and the firms in the supply chain, have been ravaged by successive spikes of the COVID 19 virus.

The formal decision is that the application for the construction of Sizewell C power plant has been granted development ‘consent’ by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng. The decision to move forward with the project is a key step in addressing the UK’s energy security needs and was widely welcomed by the industry.

Tom Greatrex, CEO of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association said, “This is a huge step forward for Britain’s energy security and net zero ambitions. Sizewell C will provide reliable low-carbon power for more than 80 years, cutting gas use, creating thousands of high-quality, skilled jobs, and long-term investment and opportunity up and down the country.”

“When operational, Sizewell C will produce enough electricity to supply six million homes with affordable 24/7 clean electricity,” said Sama Bilbao y León, Director General of World Nuclear Association.

“Today’s decision is the next important step, not only for Sizewell C, but also for the UK as a whole, as it looks to make much greater use of new nuclear capacity to meet its net-zero targets. Sizewell C will be one of the UK’s largest ever green energy projects, and this decision significantly strengthens the pipeline of new nuclear capacity in Britain.”

UK Investment Decisions

Earlier this year, the UK government provided GBP100 million (USD120 million) in funding to develop the project, and also took legislation through parliament allowing a new way of funding new large infrastructure projects. The Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding model – gave the government the option to take a 20% stake in the project which would when executed be worth at least USD20 billion.

Under the RAB model a company receives a license from an economic regulator to charge a regulated price to consumers in exchange for providing the infrastructure in question. It is a pay-as-you-go system with the utility allowed to recover construction costs by charging rate payers over time as it completes progress milestones. It is similar to the US system of “construction while in progress” (CWIP) which is being used to finance the construction of twin Westinghouse 1150 MWe AP000s at the Vogtle site in Georgia.

The action by the government to take a 20% equity stake in Sizewell C is intended to accomplish two objectives. First, it will replace a planned 20% equity investment by Chinese state owned enterprises which was cancelled by UK PM Boris Johnson on security grounds. Second, by having a significant equity stake in the project, the government has the expectation that this will be a confidence building measure to bring private (institutional) investors to also take a significant equity position in the plant.

EDF is expected to take an 20% equity stake (USD5 billion) in the project. As the French government is in the process of 100% nationalizing EDF, that funding will in effect be a government to government investment.

The Sizewell C decision is part of a UK government plan to completely decarbonize the country’s electricity by 2035. This means that all our electricity will be produced from renewable or low-carbon sources like solar, wind and nuclear.

Not everyone was thrilled with the decision. Greenpeace called the project an “expensive white elephant” that was “trashing an important nature reserve.” Local environmental groups echoed the comments from Greenpeace and expressed concerns about the impact of the plant on local water supplies. This is patent nonsense since the plant is located on the shores of the Bristol Channel that leads into the Atlantic ocean.

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EDF to Address Taishan Fuel Rod Issues for Hinkley Point and Sizewell EPR Reactors

In July 2021 China General Nuclear (CGN) shut down one of two operating EDF’s 1750 MWe EPR reactors at the Taishan power station due to problems with the fuel rods and assemblies. Despite some sensational media reports by CNN and others, the problem was not seen as a big deal at the time by either the CGN, which is the Chinese plant operator, or EDF, which has a 30% equity stake in the plant.

reactor containment epr

CGN noted in July 2021 that the situation was “not urgent.” CGN blamed minor fuel rod damage for a build-up of radioactive gases at the Taishan plant describing it as a “common phenomenon” with no need for concern.”

“There are more than 60,000 fuel rods in the reactor and the proportion of damaged rods is “less than 0.01 percent.”

CGN called the damage “inevitable” due to factors including factors associated with fuel manufacturing. EDF said it was advised of operating problems with the fuel rods in the Taishan reactors in October 2020 but didn’t learn about a build up of unwanted gases until June 2021.

epr fuel assembly

The EPR fuel system consists of a reactor core containing 241 fuel assemblies and 89 control rods, or rod cluster control assemblies. Each fuel assembly is made up of 265 fuel rods and 24 guide tubes arranged in a 17×17 array.

The life of a fuel assembly in a reactor core is regulated to a burn-up level at which the risk of its failure remains low. Fuel “failure” in this context means a situation when the [zirconium] cladding has been breached, and radioactive material leaks from the fuel ceramic (pellet) into the reactor coolant water. The radioactive materials most likely leak through a cladding breach into the reactor coolant are fission-product gases and volatile elements, notably krypton, xenon, iodine and cesium. Xenon is of particular interest to reactor operators.

Such fuel leaks do not present a significant risk to plant safety. They can have an impact on reactor operations and hence plant economics.

In December 2021 an anonymous whistleblower told the French nuclear safety regulator that the scope of damage to the reactor involved a larger number of fuel rods. According to media reports, the problem with the fuel assemblies was caused by vibration resulting from uneven flows of cooling water in the reactor pressure vessel.  However, the number of fuel rods cited in the whisteblower report is consistent with the estimate by CGN of 1% of all fuel rods in the reactor being affected by the problem.

However, according to several UK news media reports this week, almost a year to the day since the noble gas problems were identified, EDF says it now plans to prevent future problems with the fuel rods by changing the way they are held in place. The firm is also looking into potential changes in the way cooling water is managed in the reactor pressure vessel. As of July 2022 the IAEA reports that both Taishan 1 & Taishan 2 are operational.

What is at stake for EDF and the UK is the fact that EDF is now building two EPRs in the UK, one at the Hinkley Point site and another at the Sizewell site. The latter was just approved for construction a few days ago.

EDF said it is focused on a redesign of the EPR reactor to avoid a repeat of the fuel rod failures that led to the plant shutdown in China. A spokesman for Hinkley Point C told the UK Telegraph newspaper that the Taishan fuel assembly issue was “investigated and understood.”

“Framatome has identified a detailed solution to be implemented for Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C. We are confident that this will be effective as it is based on a detailed understanding of the issue and experience from operating existing power plants, including Sizewell B in the UK. As a prudent operator, we will explore all potential alternative mitigation measures and share this information with the nuclear regulator.”

A spokesman for the UK’s Office of Nuclear Regulatory (ONR) told the Telegraph newspaper it is in regular contact with counterparts in France, Finland and China on the Taishan issue.

He added: “The knowledge gained in relation to this matter will be used to inform the ONR about the regulation of nuclear plants in the UK, such as Hinkley Point C, where an EPR reactor will be installed.”

The ONR stated that the EDF had “more than enough time” to make any changes to Hinkley based on Taishan’s lessons.

Taishan 1 and 2 are the first two reactors based on the EPR design to begin operating anywhere in the world so far. The 1750-megawatt reactors entered commercial operation in December 2018 and September 2019, respectively. The Taishan project – 140 kilometres west of Hong Kong – is owned by TNPJVC, a joint venture between CGN (51%), EDF (30%) and the Chinese utility Guangdong Energy Group (19%).

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Holtec Submits Federal Loan Application For $7.4 Billion SMR Plan

(NucNet contributed to this report) US small modular reactor developer Holtec has submitted a loan application to the Department of Energy (DOE) on 7/19/22 for $7.4 billion (€7.2bn)> The funds, if granted as a loan, would be used to build the first SMR-160 SMRs as a four-unit power station, to expand the output capacity of its existing heavy manufacturing plant in Camden, New Jersey, and to establish a new “supersize” factory to manufacture SMR-160s. The loan would help fund the company’s plan to build up to four of its SMR-160 reactors and to expand its manufacturing capacity to build the first wave of SMRs in large numbers.

Holtec is well versed in seeking government support for its SMR design and related manufacturing plants. In 2014 the firm won a $260 million tax credit from the State of New Jersey to build an OEM manufacturing plant to make components for SMRs at a site in Camden, NJ. The firm promised the plant would create or save over 400 high paying jobs. The firm later revealed plans, since set aside, to build a similar plant in Ukraine to serve European markets.

holtec SMR

Unlike the loan guarantees issued by the Obama administration, this application to DOE is for cash to build the first four SMRs and new manufacturing plants. At a hypothetical benchmark cost of $4,500/Kw, the four 160 MWe PWR type SMRs would cost about $2.9 billion in today’s dollars. This would leave over $4 billion for the expansion of the Camden heavy manufacturing plant and construction of a “supersize factory” to build future SMRs.

Holtec’s SMR is still in the pre-licensing stage at the NRC. Once a an application for a combined construction and operating license (COL) is submitted, the NRC estimates the process for the safety design review can take up to four years. Assuming Holtec submits a application to the NRC before 2025, the first 160 MWe SMR could break ground before the end of this decade. Long before that happens the firm needs to select a site for the four unit power station and an adjacent manufacturing plant.

A Holtec spokesman confirmed to Neutron Bytes that the former Oyster Creek nuclear power station in southern New Jersey is a potential site for the SMR and the manufacturing plant. Holtec is currently decommissioning the boiling water reactor that operated at the site. The firm is also decommissioning three other nuclear reactors but they are not considered to be candidates for co-location of an SMR according to a Holtec spokesman.

A spokesman for Holtec told Neutron Bytes, “Oyster Creek is the only Holtec decommissioning site under consideration at this time. Its close proximity to the Camden manufacturing facility make it an ideal location. I would also like to note that under an agreement we signed with New York, SMRs will not be considered for the Indian Point site.”

The other two sites where Holtec is decommissioning closed nuclear power plants are Pilgrim in Massachusetts and Palisades in Michigan. Neither site as this time is slated for SMR development though their proximity to transportation and grid connections make then plausible choices for an SMR developer.

If the New Jersey site doesn’t turn out to be suitable for the SMR, there are other options Holtec said. “Inevitably, the first mover state will become the leader in the emerging industry of small modular reactors with tens of thousands of new high-paying jobs in manufacturing, reactor support services, nuclear plant operations and related areas,” Holtec said. The spokesman add that the expanded factory to build SMRs would likely be located near the site for the first four-unit power station.

Holtec Plans for SMR Manufacturing Plants

Holtec’s Camden and Pittsburgh plants, both equipped to manufacture heavy capital equipment of the kind needed in SMRs, produce nearly 1,000 pieces of heavy equipment and weldments each year.

Under the Holtec plan, Camden will be enlarged with additional machining, robotic welding, and material handling equipment to increase the throughput of SMR-160 components to help meet the projected rise in demand for the SMR-160s expected in the next decade.

Holtec said in a statement on its website the advanced manufacturing capabilities located in Camden will be enlarged with additional machining, robotic welding, and material handling equipment to increase the throughput of SMR-160 components to help meet the projected rise in demand for the SMR-160s expected in the next decade.

Holtec said it plans to build the new facility to materially improve America’s nuclear manufacturing capacity, and to make it available to other nuclear plant suppliers with capital hardware needs.

Entergy MOU for Holtec SMRs at Existing Sites

Separately, nuclear operator Entergy Corporation has signed a memorandum of agreement with Holtec for Entergy will evaluate the feasibility of deploying one or more SMR-160s on one or more of its existing sites. Entergy has four remaining nuclear reactors that it owns and operates.

A spokesman for Holtec said Entergy would not be involved in the Oyster Creek location at this time. He said future sites for Holtec’s SMRs at the site of one or more of its operating reactors are still to be determined. The MOU with the utility Entergy, which operates nuclear power plants at five sites, is to evaluate the feasibility of deploying a Holtec SMR in Entergy’s service area.

Entergy’s chief nuclear officer Chris Bakken said in a press statement the company will be evaluating Holtec’s SMR-160 system as a means to potentially help it meet net-zero goals. Entergy operates six nuclear units at five stations: Arkansas in Arkansas state, Cooper in Nebraska, Grand Gulf in Mississippi, and River Bend and Waterford in Louisiana. The Cooper nuclear power plant is owned by the Nebraska Public Power District and operated on its behalf by Entergy.

Holtec’s coordination with the DOE Loan Programs Office is being led by its wholly owned subsidiary, Holtec Government Services (HGS). As the executive sponsor of the loan application, HGS President Vice Admiral Fritz Roegge, USN (retired) credited the federal loan as the essential vehicle to help build and deploy SMRs to meet the demand for reliable clean energy. He acknowledged the consistent support of Loan Programs Office personnel to the HGS proposal team throughout the complex loan application process

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Kairos Power and Materion Commission Molten Salt Purification Plant to Produce Coolant for High-Temperature Reactors

kairos power logo

As part of a Cooperative Development Agreement with Materion Corporation, Kairos Power has commissioned a Molten Salt Purification Plant (MSPP) at the Materion campus in Elmore, Ohio, which is 30 miles southeast of Toledo, OH. The plant, designed by Kairos Power, will produce large quantities of fluoride salt coolant to be used in high-temperature molten salt reactors.

Kairos Power’s fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR) technology is cooled by a mixture of lithium fluoride and beryllium fluoride salts known as “Flibe” which is chemically stable and operates at low pressure. This molten salt coolant will be used in Kairos Power’s Engineering Test Unit (ETU), and the Hermes demonstration reactor, as well as future commercial KP-FHR reactors. (image below courtesy of Kairos)

kairos molten

As an industry leader in the production and manufacturing of beryllium-based materials, Materion supplies beryllium fluoride for the MSPP plant and contributes the expertise, staffing and will operate the plant. The decision to locate MSPP at Materion’s Elmore facility reinforces a long-term, strategic commitment by both companies to demonstrate leadership in molten salt production.

By confirming the chemical process to produce Flibe at industrial scale, MSPP will help ensure the success of Kairos Power’s iterative hardware demonstrations, reducing risk in a critical path workstream for the commercialization of KP-FHR technology while delivering cost certainty.

Keith Smith, Materion vice president of Nuclear, Science, and Government Affairs, said in a press statement, “This is the largest Flibe production facility ever built and has the capacity to generate commercial quantities of the material,”

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Curio and Lightbridge Corporation Sign MOU to
Explore Collaboration in the Nuclear Fuel Supply Chain

  • Curio’s TRUfuel Technology, Coupled with Lightbridge-Designed Metallic Fuel Rods, Can Power the Existing Fleet and the Next Generation of Nuclear Reactors

Curio announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Lightbridge Corporation (Nasdaq: LTBR) as an industry partner and potential off-taker of products produced through Curio’s TRUfuel technology.

“Our collaboration with Lightbridge is an important step to ensuring there is an adequate fuel supply chain to maintain our current fleet of nuclear reactors and deploy the next generation of reactors,” said Edward McGinnis, Chief Executive Officer of Curio. “Curio’s TRUfuel is the fuel of the future, and we stand ready to help the U.S. reclaim global nuclear energy leadership.”

McGinnis said the Curio process will have the strongest proliferation barriers possible. Plutonium that could be used for weapons would remain commingled with highly radioactive materials as a self-protective measure, he said. He added that the firm is focused on recovery of uranium for use in making new fuel and specific isotopes for medical purposes.

Curio, which has yet to pick a site for its fuel recycling plant, estimates that its plant could be operating in possibly 12 years. The costs of such a plant are enormous and face significant risks.

The Department of Energy shut down construction of a plant in South Carolina to reprocess weapons grade plutonium into MOX fuel assemblies for PWR reactors after spending $4.5 billion with off the charts estimates of costs to complete it. It didn’t help that Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), in who’s district the plant was being built, was a vocal opponent of the Obama administration.

Seth Grae, CEO at Lightbridge, told Neutron Bytes in a video conference call that his firm is very interested to see what Curio is able to deliver with its TRUfuel technology. “We are excited to enter into this agreement with Curio as we explore future government funding opportunities.”

He emphasized that technical details of Curio’s process are still under wraps and declined to provide any details of how the firm’s plans to reprocess spent nuclear fuel would provide a feedstock to Lightbridge to manufacture nuclear fuel.

Grae did say the MOU is based on the plausible path forward of Curio’s business plan.

“There is a potential use of transuranic material as feedstock material in Lightbridge-designed metallic fuel rods to power existing large reactors and coming small modular reactors.”

Grae said his firm could potentially use output from Curio’s process to manufacture both conventional light water reactor fuel at enrichment levels up to 5% U235 and HALEU fuel with enrichment levels up to 19% U235. Grae did not have a timeline for when Lightbridge might receive usable output from Curio’s planned reprocessing plant.

Grae said that the fuel that Lightbridge would manufacture from Curio’s reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel would not be mixed oxide fuel (MOX) which is a powdered mix of plutonium and uranium in standard fuel pellets and assemblies.

Lightbridge is working on developing a Zirconium clad metallic fuel at HALEU levels of enrichment. The advantages, Grae said, “are much more surface area where the water touches the fuel rod, a shorter path to heat conductivity, and no gaps between fuel pellets and the fuel assembly tube.”

lb fuel slide

Overall, Grae said the MOU with Curio “is a big deal because we do not do many MOUs unless something really looks interesting.”

Looking to the future, Grae sees in the coming decades more small modular reactors being built.

SMRs will be especially attractive to countries that can’t afford full size reactors, and some won’t have the capabilities to manage the spent after it is ready to come out of the spent fuel pool. That’s where reprocessing could come in.

Earlier this month Energy Northwest of Richland became the first commercial nuclear power producer to sign up to potentially buy recycled nuclear fuel from Curio.

About Curio’s Reprocessing Plans

Melanie White, Director of Communications at Curio, said in an emailed statement to Neutron Bytes that Curio’s plans to deploy the nation’s first state-of-the-art commercial nuclear fuel recycling facility will provide a variety of in-demand commodities and products.

White wrote that these products will include domestically produced low-enriched uranium (LEU) nuclear fuel for the current U.S. fleet of nuclear reactors as well as HALEU (high-assay low-enriched uranium) and transuranic based TRUfuel [tm] for advanced reactors.

“Our technology combines well-understood processes utilizing molten salts and high-temperature chemistry. Little attention is given to the fact that only 4% of the energy value has been consumed from our so-called used nuclear fuel, which is actually a national treasure. Curio will solve the waste issue by recycling and developing these isotopes for a wide variety of industries: advanced nuclear, medicine, space, and advanced batteries.”

White addressed a key question which is how much fuel would the plant produce once in operation.

“Our technology is compact, modular, scalable integrated, proliferation-hardened, and substantially autonomous. A NuCycle facility will have a throughput of 4000 MT/yr, recovering enough uranium to produce 40% of America’s existing uranium demand.”

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Terrestrial Energy and South Korea’s DL E&C Sign MOU To Drive IMSR Cogeneration Plant

  • The agreement aims to accelerate deployment of IMSR Generation IV nuclear plants for industrial, chemical and petrochemical applications

Terrestrial Energy and DL E&C have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOU) to cooperate in the development and accelerated deployment of the IMSR cogeneration plant in the industrial sector.

Terrestrial Energy’s MOU with DL E&C is the latest entry into the North American nuclear market by a South Korean firm driven by firms there which have experience with nuclear exports including the construction of four 1400 MWe PWRs in the United Arab Emirates.

pathways to uses of IMSR

According to the agreement, Terrestrial Energy and DL E&C intend to partner and accelerate the development and deployment of IMSR plants that produce cost-competitive, carbon-free thermal energy for specific industrial applications, notably in the chemical and petrochemical sectors, where DL E&C excels in design and construction.

DL E&C is a recognized leading global engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor. DL E&C provides a comprehensive array of services including feasibility studies, project management, engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning and start-up, operation and maintenance, investment, and project financing across a broad field, which includes petroleum refining, chemical, petrochemical, power, and energy plants, building and housing, and civil works.

Jae-Ho Yoo, Chief Executive of DL E&C Plant Business Division, said: “Our interest in SMR technology as a next-generation energy source has grown considerably in the last couple of years. We saw the potential of Terrestrial Energy as our business partner with its safer and more energy efficient IMSR technology.

Simon Irish, Chief Executive of Terrestrial Energy, said: “DL E&C’s deep industrial reach across global markets will aid Terrestrial Energy as we advance commercial IMSR plant deployment.”

In Canada Terrestrial Energy is competing with US based X-Energy which recently signed on with Ontario Power Generation to build an advanced SMR to provide process heat for industrial uses.

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X-Energy Selects Firms for Design and Deployment of Xe-100 Advanced Reactor Fleet

X-energy announced a significant step toward the creation of a unique energy delivery model with the selection of Zachry Group and the combined team of Burns & McDonnell and Day & Zimmermann as constructors to collaborate and work with the company on the next phases of design and deployment of its Xe-100 advanced reactor fleet.

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X-Energy is currently in a cost-sharing contract under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) to build a first of a kind unit at a site near Richland, WA, adjacent to the Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station. Also, X-Energy recently signed on with Ontario Power Generation to build an advanced SMR to provide process heat for industrial uses.

To deliver on the anticipated demand for its advanced reactor technology, X-energy selected two world-class constructors able to deliver an optimized construction schedule, standardized advanced work packages, and the latest construction techniques and digital technology. The selection culminates a detailed, year-long process with a host of qualified construction firms having global and scalable experience.

Previous new nuclear projects have utilized standard methods of contracting for construction services, with owners often engaging constructors after or in the late stages of project development.

Under the X-energy Project Delivery Model (X-PDM), constructors and suppliers work alongside X-energy in all phases of design, equipment supply, fabrication, and construction to develop detailed project costs, project schedules, advanced work plans and four-dimensional modeling prior to the start of safety-related construction. This collaborative approach aims to greatly reduce risk and uncertainty as early as possible.

X-energy selected the two constructors because of their demonstrated commitment to the X-PDM, their use of advanced construction technology, their deep experience in delivering large, complex projects, and willingness to work together and combine their expertise with X-energy to create a fleet of Xe-100 advanced reactors.

“Selecting and partnering with our constructors this early in the development process is a paradigm shift for the entire nuclear energy industry,” said Clay Sell, CEO of X-energy.

“X-energy’s Xe-100 is a next generation high-temperature gas reactor built on decades of research, development, and operating experience. Each reactor is engineered to operate as a single 80 MW electric unit and is optimized as a four-unit plant delivering 320 MW electric.”

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Ghana To Announce Decision On Nuclear Plant Vendor Country, Technology

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(Wire services) Deputy Minister of Energy, William Owuraku Aidoo said this week Ghana’s government will soon announce its decision on the vendor country to build Ghana’s first one-gigawatt nuclear plant by 2030. The plant will serve as a sources of baseload electricity for the country.

The announcement will announced the type of nuclear power technology it will seek and the vendor to supply it. Aidoo said government and technical experts were finalizing the selection of a preferred site for the nuclear power plant.

The Ministry of Energy had issued Requests for Information to six vendor countries to seek technical, financial and contractual information from the vendor countries regarding the technology to deploy for the building of nuclear power plant. A total of 15 responses were received from vendor countries, including China, Russia, United States of America, South Korea, Canada and France.

Six of the responses received proposed large nuclear reactor technology while nine made offers for small nuclear reactors. The decision will focus on the both large Reactor (1000+ MWe) and Small Modular Reactor (< 300 MWe, in modules).

Dr Stephen Yamoah, Executive Director of Nuclear Power Ghana, said the country was in its second phase and that key expected deliverables at the end included a site approval report for site permit, and site evaluation report for construction permit. Previously, he said Ghana is seeking to have the reactor operating by 2030. He did not disclose how the project would be financed to build it.

Dr Yamoah said four candidate sites had been identified which met requirements such as closeness to a water body, security, safety, and population density.

Experts say Ghana has exhausted its hydro base as an energy source and looking to explore other clean options such as nuclear power that has a long-term energy security.

The nuclear projects will help the country achieve its updated ten-year, Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, which aims at reducing 64 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO).

US Involvement for SMRs in Ghana

World Nuclear News reported in March 2022 that he US and Ghana have announced their partnership to support Ghana’s adoption of small modular reactor (SMR) technology under the US Department of State’s Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program.

It will support Ghana’s adoption of SMR technology, including support for stakeholder engagement, advanced technical collaboration, and project evaluation and planning. Japan, which has partnered the USA on the FIRST program, will also build on its existing partnership with Ghana to advance Ghana’s civil nuclear power aspirations, the Department of State said.

Minister of Energy Matthew Opoku Prempeh said the FIRST program will further develop Nuclear Power Ghana’s competencies towards delivering on its mission to build and safely operate Ghana’s first nuclear power plant.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

What’s the Holdup with the HALEU Fuel Supply Chain?

  • Developers of advanced nuclear reactors in the US are wound up like tops over the issue of whether DOE will be able to provide HALEU fuels for their designs in time.
  • The agency seems to be bogged down in its internal decision making process with no timetable for issuing an RFP to make the government the 1st supplier of the fuel.
  • The consequences of delay are readily apparent given the enormous commitment of funds DOE has already made in advanced reactors along with matching private equity investments as part of the cost shared program. 
  • This report includes a comprehensive Q&A with DOE about its progress towards providing HALEU fuel at commercial scale.

The Department of Energy raised expectations last December about quick action to develop new supplies of high assay low-enriched uranium fuel (HALEU) which is needed in the next few years by developers of advanced nuclear reactors. The nuclear energy industry assumed that the agency’s request for information (RFI)  would be followed in short order by a request for proposal (RFP) to make the agency the “1st supplier” of HALEU which would create a functioning market for the fuel.

DOE said last December it projects that more than 40 metric tons of HALEU will be needed by 2030 with additional amounts required each year to deploy a new fleet of advanced reactors in a timeframe that supports the Administration’s net-zero emissions targets by 2050. At that time DOE recognized the need for speed in getting the HALEU supply chain in place, but progress since then has not matched early expectations by the firms that need the fuel.

“Advanced reactors are an incredible asset to have in our collective fight against climate change,” said Dr. Kathryn Huff, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy.

“If we don’t proactively take the steps now to ensure a sufficient and diverse supply of HALEU, then reactor demonstration and deployment projects, like those funded in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, won’t be fueled in time to help us slow the impacts of climate change.”

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Just about everyone who has looked at this issue agrees that time is running short. Everett Redmond, a Senior Technical Advisor at NEI, told Neutron Bytes earlier this month that 20 metric tonnes of uranium (MTU) are needed by 2025 when the two reactors funded under the DOE Advanced Reactor Development Program (ARDP) are scheduled to need to load fuel and start up. Thereafter, 6 MTU a year are need for fuel reloads.

However, Redmond estimates that as things stand now the HALEU fuel that the reactors need won’t become available until mid-2028. According to a compendium of advanced reactors in the US published by the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, there are at least half a dozens reactor projects that will need HALEU fuels, including the two ARDP projects, before the end of the decade. For these firms the need for on time delivery of HALEU is the one of their top ‘keep awake at night issue.’

advanced reactors by type

In the eight months that have passed since the RFI was released, the agency appears to be tied up in knots of its own making with uncertain indications of visible progress. DOE is still working on a strategic plan, which it would seem, is a precursor to a RFP for fuel. (See Q&A with DOE below).

The delay in getting an adequate and reliable supply of HALEU fuel is enormously frustrating to US developers of advanced reactors including two funded by the agency under its ARDP. TerraPower and X-Energy are enrolled in the cost-shared program which includes ambitious schedule milestones for deployment of their new designs.

Yet, according to a white paper prepared by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), in a best case scenario DOE won’t be able to supply HALEU in the quantities needed until a year after the reactors are supposed to start up based on ARDP milestones. (See NEI bar chart below). The ARDP milestones are scheduled by DOE for completion in 2027 but the HALEU fuel doesn’t become available until mid-to-late 2028.

nei haleu schedule

For its part DOE says it is working on what it calls the agency’s Advanced Nuclear Fuel Availability Program.  The program as authorized bv the eanabling legislation has three main objectives.

  • Directs the Department of Energy to establish a program that supports development of a domestic source of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HA-LEU) for commercial use
  • Directs DOE to assess the quantity of HA-LEU needed for domestic commercial users biennially and report on the amount of its current uranium inventory that can be converted to HA-LEU
  • Instructs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to assess regulatory policies changes that are necessary to enable the commercial use of HA-LEU

DOE said it is up to Congress to appropriate the funds needed to make it work. As these things go, the agency doesn’t need a lot of money, considering the size of its overall 2022 budget of $46 billion. The cost of a an HALEU program to meet the estimated needs of the industry, according to Redmond, is $300 million for HALEU fuel enrichment and manufacturing and another $60 million for down blending HALEU from the agency’s stocks of highly enriched uranium (HEU).

Given that it is now 2022, Redmond said that if DOE started today to work on getting the RFP out the door to make it the 1st supplier of HALEU by buying it from enrichment firms and then selling it to developers of advanced reactors, the government’s ponderous procurement process to make multiple awards to firms like Centrus, Orano, and Urenco could take an astonishing 12 months.

What these firms said in their comments on the DOE FFI is that building new enrichment capabilities for HALEU fuel isn’t quick or simple, and they includes new licensing actions with the NRC. Redmond estimates from the time DOE cuts purchase orders until the first deliveries of 10 MTU/year arrive could be as long as four years.

chicken and eggJust about everyone who has looked at the issue of HALEU suppliers, now that the US can’t buy it from Russia, has said the same thing. There is a classic “chicken and egg” issue. Fuel firms don’t want to commit resources to build fuel enrichment and deconversion capacity ahead of the uncertainties of demand. In other words, it is up to DOE to establish a stable market.

Both enrichment and deconversion facilities to fabricate the fuel types (uranium metal, TRISO, and molten salt) won’t get built by the private sector unless DOE primes the pump to develop a market by being the 1st supplier.

ANS HALEU Webinar

This is not news to DOE. Last March via an online webinar the American Nuclear Society (ANS) assembled a panel of experts on the subject. ANS addressed the issue of HALEU supplies for the ARDP reactors and for other developers of advanced reactors. (Video link and text summary of the session)

The developer community is anxious about DOE’s slow pace towards making HALEU fuel available. Ben Reinke, a senior executive with X-Energy, which is one of the two ARDP funded firms, said, “We must have HALEU two years before we go on the grid. DOE must get a 1st supplier RFP out ASAP.”

Brad Williams, an INL engineer assigned to the staff of the Senate Energy & Water Committee, said the anxiety of advanced reactor developers is based on the fact that “DOE is not moving nearly fast enough to establish the fuel supply.”

Scott Kopple, Senior Director for Government Relations at BWXT, sees down blending of HEU as a near term option but notes that there are NRC licensing issues for fuels at greater than 5% and less than 20% U235 that sit on the critical path for fuel firms. He added that a DOE program which fulfills the role of being the first buyer of HALEU would could also be used to replace the HEU down blended to meet near term needs for ARDP projects.

Redmond added a key observation that no new R&D is needed to make HALEU. “We know how to manufacture the fuel,” he said.

Third Way Report on Down Blending

fuel assemblyAlan Ahn, a resident fellow at the Third Way, a DC-based think tank, in an interview with Neutron Bytes cited a recent report published by Third Way on down blending options.

“One metric ton of HEU will produce approximately 4-5 metric tons of HALEU through down blending. Given that the first cores of the ARDP Pathway 1 demonstrations will require an estimated 25 metric tons of HALEU, roughly 6-7 metric tons of HEU would be needed for down blending.”

Ahn added that in declassified reports, NNSA said that 42 metric tonnes of HEU  are available for down blending and would not impact national security needs. This inventory of HEU could yield between 168 and 210 metric tonnes of HALEU assuming the funds, facilities, and licensing issues can be resolved in a timely manner. The rate at which the down blending could produce HALEU is a key question.

NIA HALEU Webinar

More recently, during a webinar held last week by the Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) Patrick White, an NIA project manager, said that down blending should be a near term priority for DOE. However, NEI’s Redmond pointed out that NNSA’s reluctance to support it is based the need for a facility to do it, and there are questions of whether the HEU is in a form that readily supports the process.

In the NIA webinar Art Hyde, Portfolio Manager at Segra Capital  Management, agreed with Redmond that enrichment and manufacturing of HALEU fuel “are not technical issues.”

Hyde also pointed to another factor that is holding back fuel firms from taking early action to address the potential for an HALEU market.

“There is a lack of expertise in the investment world about nuclear energy. DOE and the advanced reactor firms must talk to investors to educate them. Addressing the issues of pricing, raising capital for equipment, and addressing the commercial issues are solvable.”

He added that early action by DOE “is incredibly important” as part of an overall public private partnership between the government, the nuclear fuel industry, and the developers of advanced reactors.

According to NIA’s White, if DOE becomes the 1st supplier of HALEU fuel, the agency will be able to sell it to reactor developers. The agency’s program will be paid for, in effect, by the reactor firms buying the fuel from the agency. The promised purchase orders from DOE to the fuel firms will justify their seeking investors to fund building the facilities needed to enrich and manufacture it. In other words, the cash flow goes through DOE.

“In this way there is no net outlay by DOE, and it creates a functioning market,” White said.

Q&A with the Department of Energy

DOE Nuke Ofc logoWith all the loud knocking on DOE’s door following the release of the RFI, Neutron Bytes asked the agency to provide an update on its current efforts to address the HALEU supply issues. Because of the number of different parts of the agency that are involved, all of the comments below are attributable to an “agency spokesman” which represents a consolidated response.

Q – STRATEGY — Regarding the HALEU RFI and work on a “more comprehensive uranium strategy,” does DOE have a timeline and/or target date for completion and release of a strategy?  What is the list of issues that it will address?

A – The Department of Energy team focused on the comprehensive uranium strategy is working with a clear sense of urgency to identify options that will meet commercial and DOE uranium needs in the near-term, mid-term and long-term. This strategy has the mutual objectives of expanding our domestic fuel cycle supply capacity and limiting our dependence on Russian-supplied uranium. An initiative of this magnitude requires extensive input, coordination, and endorsement, so a precise timetable cannot be provided.

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Q – One of the issues is whether HALEU fuel will be available in a timely manner for the two advanced reactors funded under DOE’s ARDP program. That program has ambitious milestones set by the agency that the two firms must meet. The availability of HALEU fuel is a key item on their respective critical paths. DOE’s role in making the fuel available is a key factor in achieving success. How is DOE planning to address this?

A – As previously noted, the Department is considering all near-term and mid-term HALEU supply options until a commercial supply of HALEU enrichment is established. We consider HALEU supply for the two ARDP demonstration reactor projects as one of our highest priorities.

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Q– DOWNBLENDING HEU  — With regard to down blending of HEU, it is my understanding that the down blending of the EBR-II fuel in Idaho is specific for the Oklo advanced reactor effort and not generally applicable to other developers.

Is that assumption correct?  The EBR-II fuel is not technically HEU, e.g., 20%+ U235, so what will be the final enrichment level of the down blended HALEU and what form will it be in?

A – The EBR-II spent nuclear driver fuel currently being down blended at the Idaho National Laboratory is HEU. The batch process being used doesn’t result in a precise, uniform enrichment level, but is targeting a level just under 20%. The material produced is a uranium metal.

Nearly 10 metric tons of HALEU should be produced from the finite supply of EBR-II driver fuel. Five metric tons were set aside for Oklo’s use based on a prior solicitation of interest in the material issued by the INL.

Additional developers have expressed some interest in the material as well, but it is not suitable for all applications due to the impurities remaining from being previously irradiated. The two ARDP demonstration projects are not interested in using the EBR-II material.

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Q – Also, With regard to the FY 2023 budget request, how much HEU would be down blended, based on this funding if approved by Congress, and in what form will it be in based on the funding request?

A – The FY23 budget request within the Office of Nuclear Energy includes the initial year of funding for a 3-year project at the Savanah River Site which will ultimately produce about 2 MT of HALEU. The NNSA/DNN FY23 request contains a similar multi-year funding request for material at Y-12 that will produce just over 2 MT of HALEU. Both of these projects would produce HALEU in oxide form.

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Q – Also, a recent report by Third Way, a DC based energy related think tank, has some estimates about down blending needs for HALEU and available supplies of HEU. How does DOE’s program in the FY2023 budget request compare to the report. See URL and snip below.  I assume that DOE is aware of the report.

“HALEU needs require just a modest amount of HEU based on the latest assessments, down blending HEU would also entail a modest investment—between $150 to $200 million over the next few years to expand down blending capacity—compared to the massive political and financial commitments the federal government has made toadvanced nuclear development in the last several years. A temporary down blending program is a necessary complement to the investments we’ve already made in advanced reactors, while accompanying efforts to develop domestic enrichment capabilities will likely enable options to replace the HEU used for down blending, if necessary. Of the nearly 42 metric tons of HEU that was previously available for down blending, it is likely that adequate stockpiles remain to produce the 25 metric tons of HALEU that is immediately needed to support our energy security and climate priorities.”

Also, it has been noted that it is not clear that all of the HEU that could be down blended for HEU is in a form that allows for early action on it. Is this an issue?

A – We are aware of and have read the June 17 Third Way report. The report generally describes quantities of HEU within DOE’s inventory and notes that specific quantities of HEU can be down blended into larger quantities of HALEU. The report also notes the importance of finding a fuel source for the ARDP demos and accelerating U.S. innovative reactor concepts to the marketplace. The vast majority of DOE’s HEU inventory is allocated to national security missions, so it would be a misconception to assume that the various materials in inventory are readily available and can simply or quickly be processed into HALEU. The Department is thoroughly evaluating what is feasible to achieve without adverse programmatic, cost or schedule impacts.

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Q – PROPOSED LEGISLATION — The International Nuclear Energy Act of 2022, introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and James Risch (R-ID), authorizes $3.5B towards the build-out of domestic low-enriched uranium (LEU) and HALEU production infrastructure.  If this bill is added as an amendment to the FY2023 Energy & Water Appropriation, which looks like a plausible scenario, how would DOE proceed to spend the money in FY 2023 to produce HALEU fuel?

Separately, The Fueling Our Nuclear Future Act, introduced by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), specifically focuses on HALEU supply challenges and provides funding for down blending to assure timely supply for our vanguard advanced reactor deployments.

What is the administration’s position, if any, on these bills?

A – The Administration has not taken a formal position on these two Bills. The Department is closely monitoring proposed legislation which addresses the nuclear fuel cycle and has provided technical assistance as requested by Congress. The Department has interacted with relevant House and Senate Committee staff on these topics. It would be premature to comment on how the Department would implement the specific provisions of the various Bills, noting that some of them take different approaches. It should also be recognized that authorizing legislation ultimately requires appropriations for the Department to implement actions.

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Posted in Nuclear | 3 Comments

OPG and X-energy Team Up for Industrial Process Heat

  • OPG and X-energy Team Up for Industrial Process Heat
  • OPG Updates Green Bond Framework to Include Nuclear Energy
  • TerraPower Seeks NRC Construction Approval By 2025
  • NRC Issues Final EIS for Holtec’s Spent Fuel Interim Storage Facility
  • Two Applications for SMRs Submitted to Polish Nuclear Safety Regulator
  • Poland’s KGHM – Nu Scale SMRs May Cost $2 Billion to Build
  • Westinghouse and Energoatom Sign Agreement For New AP1000s
  • Japan / Prime Minister Calls For Restart Of Nine More Reactors
  • Curio and Energy Northwest Sign MOU for Nuclear Fuel Recycling
  • NIA Publishes Two New Reports on Advanced Reactors

OPG and X-energy Team Up for Industrial Process Heat

  • Deployment of the Firm’s Xe-100 HTGR Can Reduce Industrial Carbon Emissions

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and X-energy have signed a framework agreement to pursue opportunities to deploy Xe-100 small modular reactors (SMRs) for industrial applications in Canada. The Xe-100 is a Gen-IV High-Temperature Gas-cooled Reactors (HTGR). As a pebble bed HTGR, the Xe-100 would use TRISO fuel particles encased in graphite pebbles as the fuel and helium as the coolant.

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OPG and X-energy will pursue opportunities to deploy Xe-100 advanced reactors in Ontario at industrial sites and identify further potential end users and sites throughout Canada. OPG owns and operates four commercial nuclear power plants at the Darlington nuclear station and six at the Pickering station.

The Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled reactor optimizes proven technology to enable decarbonization of industrial end use applications. Efficiently combining high-temperature steam and power production, the Xe-100 can directly support heavy industry including oil sands operations, mining applications, and other industrial processes. Temperatures in the chart below are in Celsius.

Process Heat Temps and Uses1

X-energy developed and designed its Xe-100 reactor by building and improving on decades of high-temperature gas reactor research, development, and operating experience. This Generation IV reactor is scalable to meet demand.

One unit can generate up to 80 MWe of electricity from 200 MWt of thermal power. It efficiently produces steam at 565C and offers highly flexible co-generation options, making it the ideal candidate for decarbonizing multiple industrial processes and supporting end-user power needs.

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Image: Royal Society, UKX-Energy’s Xe-10 is currently in the 2nd Phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) Vendor Design Review process. No date has been identified on the CNSC website for a license application.

This is the second SMR effort inked by OPG. In November 2021, OPG announced it would work with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to deploy a BWRX-300 SMR at the Darlington new nuclear site. It is the only site in Canada currently licensed for a new nuclear construction, which is expected to be completed by the end of this decade.

The BWRX-300 is in Phase 2 of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Vendor Design Review process. No date has been identified on the CNSC website for a license application.

OPG Collaboration with TVA

OPG also has a collaboration agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on SMRs that also involves the BWRX-300. TVA announced in May that it will leverage its current early site permit (ESP) for a small modular reactor (SMR) to submit an application for an NRC Part 50 construction license for a GE-Hitachi 300 MWe BWRX-300 SMR by 2024..

Last year, TVA’s board approved investment of up to $200 million in a new nuclear program centered on Clinch River, and the authority is now in the process of supporting the detailed design development of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s BWRX300 and developing the licensing application package.

According to the NRC the BWRX-300 is in Pre-Application review of Licensing Topical Reports. A date has not been announced for submission of an application for a design certification review. Applications must closely analyze the design’s appropriate response to accidents or natural events. Applications must also lay out the inspections, tests, analyses and acceptance criteria that will verify the construction of key design features.

OPG Support for NRCan SMR Action Plan

Natural Resources Canada’s SMR Action Plan shows an estimated global value of $150B per year by 2040 in the following areas. It calls for which called for the development, demonstration and deployment of SMRs with the first units potentially operating in the late 2020s. The SMR Action plan says development and deployment of SMRs in Canada could yield up to $19B in total annual economic impact between 2030-2040, creating more than 6,000 new jobs annually across the country.

  • To replace coal-fired generation;
  • To provide heat and power for mines;
  • To provide steam for heavy industry; and
  • For remote island nations and off-grid communities.

Four Canadian provincial governments are pushing ahead with a plan to develop nuclear power in Canada with calls for the federal government to back ambitious plans for SMRs and a new class of Generation IV micro-SMR for remote communities and mines. The provinces are calling for a grid-scale SMR project of 300 MWe constructed at the Darlington nuclear site in Ontario by 2028 with subsequent units to follow in Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan Follows OPG’s Lead

SaskPower has selected the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 for potential deployment in Saskatchewan in the mid-2030s. The decision follows an  assessment of several SMR technologies. The utility has plenty of choices as there are 13 reactor designs involved in Vendor Design Review (VDR) at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Three are light water designs and the other 10 are a variety of advanced designs.

SaskPower’s assessment focused on several key factors including safety, technology readiness, generation size, fuel type and expected cost of electricity.

The selection follows an independent and comprehensive assessment process that also included close collaboration with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and a review by Calian, an independent engineering firm with extensive experience in Canada’s nuclear industry.

The likely clinchers for the BWRX-300 at SaskPower is that it has been selected by Ontario Power Group (OPG) as its first SMR design and that its design can be supported by supply chains familiar with BWR type reactors.

OPG Updates Green Bond Framework to Include Nuclear Energy

green-bonds.pngOntario Power Generation (OPG) released an update to its green bond framework that now includes eligible nuclear projects. Net proceeds from CAD300M ($232M) in green bonds will be used to finance Darlington Refurbishment, one of Canada’s largest clean energy projects.

Once complete, this $12.8 billion project will enable production of clean, safe, low cost and emission free electricity from Darlington for an additional 30-plus years.  Execution of Darlington Refurbishment recently passed the half-way point, on time and on budget.

In addition, CICERO Shades of Green, a leading provider of independent, research-based evaluations of green bond and sustainability financing frameworks, completed a second-party opinion on OPG’s green bond framework with a CICERO Medium Green shading and a governance score of Good.

According to OPG in a statement to investors, this issuance brings OPG’s green bond program to a total of $2.8 billion. The bonds were offered as part of OPG’s medium term notes series in each of the provinces of Canada, through a syndicate of agents co-led by BMO Capital Markets and CIBC World Markets as Lead Agents and Joint Bookrunners. It was well received by the market despite recent historical Bank of Canada rate hike of 100 basis points and was oversubscribed 5.8 times.

Ontario continues to invest in nuclear power as a key component of the province’s climate goals. More than 60% of the province’s power is generated by nuclear energy and the two largest stations – Darlington and Bruce – are scheduled to operate for decades to come. The continued operation of Darlington Nuclear to 2055 will create the same emissions reduction as taking 2 million Ontario cars of the road per year.

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TerraPower Seeks Construction License By 2025

  • First reactor planned for a retiring coal plant site in Wyoming

terrapower_logo_black_hi_res (2)(NucNet) US-based TerraPower, the nuclear technology company founded by Bill Gates and who continues as one of its major investors, is aiming to get construction approval from the NRC under the Part 50 process by 2025 for its first Natrium nuclear power plant in Wyoming, according to Chris Levesque, the company’s CEO. The Natirum reactor is a 345 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system.

Mr Levesque said about 800 people are working on the Natrium nuclear power reactor project across a partnership with GE Hitachi and Bechtel.

TerraPower and its partners are developing the Natrium reactor demonstration project, which is one of two projects supported through dollar-for-dollar cost sharing by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (DOE Infographic – large file)

Levesque said half of the cost of the first Natrium plant in Wyoming will be financed by the US government, whose support is “crucial” in assisting US companies in competing with state-owned champions from Russia and China.

TerraPower has said the plant’s simplified design and use of advanced construction methods will make it faster and more affordable to build than conventional plants, and its constant high operating temperature can be used to generate carbon-free heat or electricity to drive other energy-intensive manufacturing processes.

According to Levesque, TerraPower’s approach to the Natrium plant is to “decouple” its nuclear island construction from conventional construction, which will help deliver the project on schedule and within cost estimates.

He said since many of the plant systems will not be nuclear-related, a major part of construction could begin even before the NRC issues the construction permit. Under the Part 50 licensing process the firm will have to submit a separate application for an operating license which includes a safety evaluation report.

In November 2021, TerraPower announced it has chosen the site of the Naughton coal-fired power plant near Kemmerer, Wyoming, as the preferred location for the first Natrium nuclear plant.

The Naughton coal plant, operated by utility PacifiCorp, is scheduled for retirement in 2025. TerraPower has said it is aiming for its first Natrium plant at the site to begin operation in 2028.

By locating the Natrium reactor near the retiring coal plant, TerraPower has said it could take advantage of the existing energy infrastructure that is in place including cooling water and grid transmission and also the workforce.

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NRC Issues Final EIS for Holtec’s Spent Fuel Interim Storage Facility

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has published its final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for Holtec International’s application for a license to construct and operate a consolidated interim spent nuclear fuel storage facility near Hobbs, NM. Based on its environmental review, the NRC staff recommends issuing the license, subject to the determinations in the staff’s safety review of the application.

Holtec proposes initially to store 500 canisters holding approximately 8,680 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel in a first phase and eventually to store up to 10,000 canisters in an additional 19 phases. The canisters would be transported by rail from operating, decommissioning,  and decommissioned commercial nuclear power plants around the country.

According to Holtec, the Hi-Store consolidated interim storage facility, will provide a significant step on the path to the federal government’s longstanding obligation for disposition of used nuclear fuel. The company said the facility will bring to one location used nuclear fuel canisters presently scattered across the country at dozens of independent used fuel storage sites.

“Every nuclear plant stores used fuel on site as the industry awaits the completion of either a consolidated interim storage site or permanent disposal repository by the federal government,” Holtec said.

“Taxpayers are assessed $800 million annually because of the federal government’s failure to meet its obligation to dispose of used fuel that currently resides at nuclear plants across the country, creating a liability that has cost American taxpayers $6.9 billion through 2017.”

Onsite storage of used nuclear fuel at nuclear power plants was never intended to be permanent. Spent nuclear fuel is being stored at 121 different facilities in 39 states. Each facility has its own security, operations, and maintenance requirements. A single facility would be beneficial because it would consolidate security, operations, and maintenance resources.

The NRC’s EIS assesses the environmental impacts of the entire project, or all 20 possible phases, from construction through decommissioning. It looked at the impacts to land use, transportation, geology and soils, surface waters and wetlands, groundwater, ecological resources, historic and cultural resources, environmental justice and several other areas.

The agency published a draft EIS for public comment in March 2020. Due to the Covid-19 public health emergency, the public comment period was extended to six months. During that time, the NRC staff held six online public meetings to present the draft EIS and receive public comments. More than 4,800 comment submissions with 3,718 individual comments were received and addressed in the final EIS.

Publication of the final EIS completes the environmental portion of the NRC’s licensing review. The staff will make a licensing decision following completion of its safety evaluation report, expected in January 2023. New Mexico state officials and the oil and gas industry in New Mexico have opposed the NRC license and have disregarded the safety track record of dry casks for storage of spent fuel. Holtec is a global expert on manufacturing of the casks.

Interim Storage Partners Licensed in Texas

The Holtec proposed facility is the second effort underway to establish an interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel. Interestingly, it is less than an hour’s drive from Andrews, TX, which is the site of another planned interim storage facility.

In September 2021 the NRC issued a license to Interim Storage Partners LLC to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in Andrews, Texas. Interim Storage Partners is a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS) and Orano USA.

The license authorizes the company to receive, possess, transfer and store up to 5000 tonnes of used fuel and 231.3 tonnes of Greater-Than-Class C (GTCC) low-level radioactive waste for 40 years. GTCC is defined by the NRC as low-level radioactive waste with concentrations of radionuclides that exceed certain limits.

Interim Storage Partners intends to construct the storage facility on property adjacent to WCS’s existing low-level radioactive waste disposal site, which is already operating under a Texas license. The company has said it plans to expand the new facility in seven additional phases, of 5,000 tonnes each up to a total capacity of 40,000 ton of fuel. Each expansion would require a license amendment with additional NRC safety and environmental reviews.

Texas state officials and the oil and gas industry have opposed plans for the facility and have disregarded the safety track record of dry casks for storage of spent fuel. Orano, one of the partners in the project, has decades of experience safely managing spent nuclear fuel at US reactors.

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Applications for SMRs Submitted to Polish Nuclear Safety Regulator

(WNN contributed to this report) Two applications have been submitted to Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency (Panstwowa Agencja Atomistyki, PAA) for the assessment of small modular reactor (SMR) technology. Copper and silver producer KGHM Polska Miedz SA‘s application is based on NuScale’s VOYGR SMR power plant, while Orlen Synthos Green Energy’s application concerns GE Hitachi (GEH) Nuclear Energy’s BWRX-300.

The applications are for a ‘general opinion’ on the planned organizational and technical solutions used in the respective reactors. PAA said a general opinion, “as a prelicensing instrument, may apply to any solutions planned by the investor, including design, technological and organizational solutions, which will have a direct impact on the issues of nuclear safety and radiological protection.”  It could take six-to-nine months to complete the review process.

The resulting opinion will determine whether the planned organizational and technical solutions comply with the requirements of nuclear safety and radiological protection resulting from the provisions of the country’s Atomic Law Act, or whether the investor will need to make changes to its proposal.

In February this year, KGHM,  which submitted its application on July 8th, signed a definitive agreement with NuScale to initiate work towards deploying a first NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant in Poland as early as 2029. The first task under that agreement will identify and assess potential project sites and develop project planning milestones and cost estimates.

Orlen Synthos Green Energy, a joint venture between chemical producers Synthos Green Energy (SGE) and PKN Orlen, also submitted its application on July 8th. SGE, together with its partners, aim to deploy the first BWRX-300 in 2029 and to have at least 10 of the reactors in operation by the early 2030s. In terms of its supply chain the firm has signed on BWXT Canada to provide components for the reactors.

Orlen Synthos Green Energy said that the technical documentation submitted with its application is based on the documentation prepared by GEH for the Canadian nuclear regulator as part of the Vendor Design Review (VDR) process. The BWRX-300 is in Phase 2 of the VDR process. No date has been identified on the CNSC website for a license application.

Ontario Power Generation last year selected the BWRX-300 for deployment at its Darlington site, where it says Canada’s first commercial, grid-scale SMR could be completed as soon as 2028.

“Thanks to this, it will be possible to use the Canadian experience in the field of development, preparation of the investment process, licensing, construction and operation of a nuclear power plant of the same type in Poland,” Orlen said.

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Poland’s KGHM – SMRs May Cost $2 Billion to Build

Six small modular nuclear reactors which Polish miner KGHM (KGH.WA) aims to build with technology firm NuScale Power could cost up to $2 billion, Chief Financial Officer Andrzej Kensbok told the Reuters news service at a press event. KGHM and NuScale Power signed a deal in February to start deploying small modular reactors in Poland, aiming to have the first one operational by 2029.

“The cost of six units may be around $1.5 billion to $2 billion,” Kensbok told a news conference. At 77 MWe per unit, for a total of 462 MWe, the cost of $2B would indicate a unit cost of just over $4,300/Kw.

Synthos Green has not released information on a cost estimate for its plans to deploy up to 10 GE Hitachi (GEH) BWRX300 SMRs. GEH has previously claimed it can deliver the SMRs, using factory based production and assembly methods, for about $3,000/Kw.

Based on the firm’s estimate, each 300 MWe unit would cost approximately $900M. A 10-unit fleet would cost about $10 billion. Synthos Green has not released a schedule for production and deployment of the fleet. Assuming it can pay for and take delivery of one unit every two years, the $10 billion cost, spread over two decades, would require the firm to raise $500M/year in capital.

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Westinghouse and Energoatom New Sign Agreement For New AP1000s

  • Kyiv Is Updating a Feasibility Study For Two New Reactors at the Khmelnitski Site

(NucNet) Westinghouse Electric Company has signed a contract with Energoatom, Ukraine’s national nuclear power company, to provide technical information about the AP1000 nuclear plant in support of Energoatom’s feasibility study update for the construction of two reactors at the Khmelnitski nuclear power station site in southwestern Ukraine.

The contract builds on an earlier agreement between Westinghouse and Energoatom to construct AP1000s for Khmelnitski units 5 and 6 and begin the licensing process for the two plants.

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Energoatom has said that the two new planned Westinghouse units at Khmelnitski will be separate from the unfinished Khmelnitski unit 3 and  unit4 plants and will be built on a new site at the existing station. An earlier agreement called for Westinghouse to consider completing one of the two partially built Russian VVERs. This effort would have required cooperation from Rosatom which is now impossible given Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The companies have also announced plans to set up a Westinghouse engineering center in Ukraine to support the new-build program, the present operating fleet of 15 commercial nuclear units, and future decommissioning.

In June 2022, Westinghouse and Energoatom expanded agreements for Westinghouse to supply all nuclear fuel for the Energoatom operating fleet in Ukraine.

Financing for the deal for new reactors has not been announced though EnergoAtom has previously claimed that the US government would provide some of the funds needed for the project. However, both the US Export/Import Bank and the US Department of Energy have declined to comment.

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Japan / Prime Minister Calls For Restart Of Nine More Reactors

(NucNet) Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida said he will aim to restart up to nine commercial nuclear power plants to address a looming winter electricity shortage. The move will allow the country to secure about 10% of its electricity needs from nuclear energy  Kishida said.

“Safety will be a prerequisite for taking this forward,” Kishida said. He added: “We need to have a balanced mix of various energy sources.”

Before the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011, Japan’s fleet of 54 nuclear power plants generated about 30% of the country’s electricity. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency that figure was 5.1% in 2020.

Mr Kishida, whose LDP won recent upper house elections that confirmed his position as prime minister, is facing rising energy prices that are squeezing voters’ budgets. He said nuclear reactors would be part of the country’s future energy security policy.

Nine regional power utilities and a wholesaler, Japan Atomic Power Company (Japco), now have 33 reactors available for commercial use, but they need to meet post-Fukushima safety standards before they can operate and safety upgrades and regulatory approvals have been slow to be completed due to security concerns.

Japan has nine commercial nuclear reactors in operation. They are Genkai-3, Genkai-4, Ikata-3, Ohi-3, Ohi-4, Sendai-1, Sendai-2, Takahama-3 and Takahama-4.

While the public remains cautious about nuclear energy because of safety concerns, their attitude has shifted somewhat in light of the shifting geopolitical developments. According to a poll by Nikkei in March, 53% of respondents said they would support restarting nuclear reactors if their safety could be assured, the highest proportion since the 2011 disaster.

More than Two Dozen Restarts are Pending

While traveling in Japan recently, Jessica R. Lovering, Ph.D., @J_Lovering, of the DC based Good Energy Collective, Tweeted that 27 reactors in Japan have applied for license to restart, and 10 have already restarted. She said, “The country is trying to accelerate process in light of capacity shortfall during this summer (and winters),and it looks like 2023 could see 5 more restarts.”

“They are very focused on restarts right now. But they currently have a limit on relicensing, it can only happen once extending lifetimes to 60 years. And they can’t build nuclear on *new* sites, so there’s lots of interest in future SMRs at existing nuclear sites”

She added that construction on Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility will finish this year and they will start reprocessing soon. Fuel fabrication will start in first half of 2024 according to plan. Japan has long sought to convert its surplus stocks of plutonium into MOX fuel and to reprocess spent fuel from its fleet of light water reactors into future MOX fuel assemblies for domestic use.

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Curio and Energy Northwest Sign MOU for Nuclear Fuel Recycling

Curio announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Energy Northwest as an industry partner and potential off-taker of products produced through Curio’s NuCycle nuclear waste recycling process.

curio logoThis MOU is part of Curio’s plans to deploy the Nation’s first state-of-the-art commercial nuclear fuel recycling facility that will provide a variety of in-demand commodities and products including domestically produced low-enriched uranium (LEU) nuclear fuel for the current U.S. fleet of nuclear reactors as well as HALEU (high-assay low-enriched uranium) and transuranic based TRUfuel for advanced reactors under development.

Curio developed NuCycle to recycle used nuclear fuel and develop off-take isotopes for a wide variety of industries to include space, advanced batteries, and nuclear medicine. NuCycle leverages decades of American R&D to create a compact, clean, economical, scalable and proliferation resistant nuclear waste recycling process.

With NuCycle, Curio said it will be able to dramatically reduce the quantity of radioactive nuclear waste and create a new and unprecedented standard for nuclear used fuel recycling across the globe.

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NIA Publishes Two New Reports on Advanced Reactors

  • New Company Compendium Highlights Advanced Nuclear Industry Leaders and Updates its First-Ever Primer on Advanced Reactor Technology Basics

nia-logo_thumb.pngThe Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) released a new report, Advanced Nuclear Reactor Technology: A Company Compendium and an update for their report Advanced Nuclear Reactor Technology: A Primer

The NIA’s new and updated reports provide information, resources and insights into advanced nuclear technology innovation and commercialization. They are resources for investors, reporters, policymakers, regulators and others who want to learn more about advanced nuclear technologies and the key players building this industry.

With increasing attention being paid to supporting the technologies required to meet mid-century climate goals, these documents should serve as helpful guides to understanding the basics of advanced nuclear energy technology and what companies are involved in the design, licensing, construction, and operation of advanced nuclear reactors.

“We created this Company Compendium and updated our Primer to provide investors, media, congressional and administration staff and others the key information they need to understand the rapidly evolving advanced nuclear energy space”, explained NIA Executive Director Judi Greenwald.

“The Company Compendium serves as an introduction to the advanced reactor business ecosystem for potential investors and other key stakeholders while the Primer is intended as a “101” document that explains the characteristics of the most common advanced nuclear reactors and leading designs. Considering how both the business side and the technology side of the advanced nuclear energy community are evolving, both documents are intended to be “online” documents and they will be updated over time.”

The company held a webinar on  July 13th to present the two reports. A video recording of the one-hour long program is available. The briefing featured NIA Executive Director Judi Greenwald, NIA Project Manager Patrick White, NIA Nuclear Innovation Analyst Victor Ibarra, Jr and two special guests: Art Hyde, Portfolio Manager at Segra Capital Management and James Wolf, Vice President, Finance, ARC Clean Energy.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on OPG and X-energy Team Up for Industrial Process Heat

South Korea Removes Shackles of Nuclear Phase Out Policy

  • South Korea Removes Shackles of Nuclear Phase Out Policy
  • A Record Heat Wave in Japan May Speed Up Nuclear Reactor Restarts
  • UK Delays Sizewell C Decision; Political Turmoil Causes Caution Flags
  • PG&E to Submit Request to DOE for Funding to Keep Diablo Canyon Open
  • France to Complete Nationalization of EDF
  • Fermi-Energia Says SMR in Estonia Could be Online by 2032

South Korea Removes Shackles of Nuclear Phase Out Policy

  • The New Government Reverses Phaseout Plans. Targets 30% Nuclear Share In 2030
  • Seoul to Resume Construction of Two Units. President Says Building Reactors is a ‘Global Trend’

start(NucNet contributed to this report)  South Korea announced a new energy policy that calls for a “feasible and reasonable energy mix” with restarts for construction of the Shin-Hanul Unit-3 and Unit-4 nuclear power plants. The new policy is to increase the share of nuclear power to a minimum of 30%  of electrical generation by 2030. The policy effectively reverses the previous administration’s plans to phase out commercial nuclear energy.

Former president Moon Jae-in’s policy had been to retire the country’s 24 commercial reactors by 2050 and to stop building new ones. Moon’s aggressive efforts to strangle the country’s nuclear utilities was a ‘populist’ and political strategy relative to their combined corporate economic power.

By contrast, new president Yoon Suk-yeol, who recently took office, is bullish on the need for South Korea to embrace nuclear energy. He has said  earlier this week that building nuclear power plants is a global trend and that it is essential to the reduction of carbon and energy security. He specifically took note of the fact that the European Union parliament has now classified nuclear power as ‘green energy’ in its sustainable finance taxonomy.

The plan to boost the country’s electrical generation to 30% provided by nuclear energy means existing reactors will be kept in operation as long as regulations allow. Their contribution to the nation’s energy security currently stands at 27% of electrical generation.

According to a statement from the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy, “The 30% goal for nuclear (electric generation) makes official the policy of increasing nuclear power utilization in view of [the need for] carbon neutrality and energy security.”

The ministry added that the new energy policy is intended to replace the previous government’s nuclear phaseout plan. The government said the new policy takes into account changing factors including South Korea’s desire for climate neutrality, the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine war, uncertainty in the global supply chain and energy security. A July 5th cabinet meeting chairs by President Yoon ratified the new policy.

South Korea Energy Use by the Numbers

According to International Atomic Energy Agency data South Korea’s fleet of 25 commercial nuclear plants generated about 27% of the country’s electricity in 2021. According to the World Nuclear Association, in South Korea the 25 reactors provide South Korea’s electricity from 23 GWe of plant generation capacity. Coal remains the leading fuel source for electricity generation.

Total electric generation in 2020 is composed of: coal 227 TWh (39%); nuclear 160 TWh (27%); natural gas 151 TWh (26%); solar 19 TWh (3%); biofuels & waste 10 TWh; hydro 8 TWh; oil 7 TWh; wind 4 TWh.

s korea energy fuelsAccording to the US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, South Korea’s energy-intensive heavy industrial sector, mostly manufacturing of machinery, shipbuilding cars & trucks, textiles, steel, and petrochemical production, drives the country’s electricity consumption.

In 2019, about 54% of electricity consumption came from industries, 26% from commercial and service sector enterprises, 14% from the residential sector, and 7% from other sectors such as transportation and agriculture.

With a focus on exports, South Korea was the world’s ninth-largest energy consumer in 2020.

Restarts of Reactor Construction

Work on Shin-Hanul-3 and Shin-Hanul-4 was halted in 2017 under the nuclear phaseout policy of the previous administration. According to press reports in South Korea, the government has said approvals would be completed and contracts concluded by 2024 so construction of both Shin-Hanul plants can resume in the first half of 2025.

South Korea has two APR-1400 units in operation at Shin-Kori-3 and Shin-Kori-4 and four units nearing completion or under construction at Shin-Hanul-1, Shin-Hanul-2, Shin-Kori-5 and Shin-Kori-6.

Planned Expansion of Exports of Nuclear Reactors

Business Korea reported that the government is going to set up task forces in 10 to 15 embassies globally this year to help South Korean nuclear power plant builders win contracts abroad. The locations of the task forces are predicted to include the Czech Republic, Poland, Saudi Arabia, the UK, the Netherlands, South Africa and Slovenia among other locations.

The government has also said it plans to spend $320 million over the next six years to develop next-generation small modular reactors with an eye towards exports.. The SMR will be designed to have power generation capacity of 300 MW or less. Several South Korean heavy industry firms have business commitments with U.S. developers of SMRs which may lead to collaboration in this area.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement on July 7th that South Korea’s nuclear power plant exports are expected to increase based on the inclusion of nuclear power in the EU taxonomy.

“The European Parliament’s decision means that financing will be facilitated on the part of EU member states planning to build nuclear power plants such as the Czech Republic and Poland. “

South Korea’s state-owned Korea Hydro Nuclear Power (KHNP) said it is ready to take up to a 49% equity stake in Poland’s nuclear power program. Last May KHNP presented an offer to build six of its APR-1400 pressurized water reactors (PWRs) for Poland with a combined capacity of 8.4 GW, with the first reactor to be operational in 2033.

UK Interest in South Korea’s 1400 MWe PWR

The South Korean Trade Ministry also revealed that the head of the U.K. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is about to visit South Korea for cooperation in the nuclear power industry.

One possible agenda item for the visit is to restart negotiations for South Korea to take on a new build at the Wylfa and Oldbury sites in the UK. Japan’s Hitachi, which was to develop four 1350 MWe ABWRs, two at each location, backed out of these projects citing the uncertainties of the UK’s commitment under BREXIT and the lack of a viable financing plan. Since then the UK has committed to the RAB financing plan which is a ‘pay-as-you-go’ method similar to the US CWIP financing method in regulated markets.

Another possibility is the Bradwell site which is now in play since UK PM Boris Johnson ejected Chinese state owned enterprises from an agreement that they could build a 1000 MWe Hualong One at that site in return for a 20% equity stake in the Sizewell C site. China took the Hualong One through the UK ONR GDA  process as part of the deal which Johnson cancelled on security grounds.

Prospects in the US

In the U.S. South Korea has completed the safety design review process for its 1400 MWe PWR at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Ltd. (KHNP) jointly submitted the application in 2013.

In August 2019 the NRC certified the Korean-designed Advanced Power Reactor 1400 (APR-1400). The certificate states that the NRC finds the design fully meets US safety requirements. So far there are no near-term market prospects for the South Korean PWR in the US.

South Korea is nearing completion of four of its APR 1400s in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The design of the APR1400 includes some intellectual property from Westinghouse. An agreement between the UAE and the US based on section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act allowed the $20 billion deal to go forward.

Prospects for a South Korean bid on a tender from Saudi Arabia, which does not have a 123 agreement, will depend in part on how the US State Department handles the issue.

In June Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) says that it discussed with Westinghouse ways to cooperate on international nuclear power generation markets. South Korea has a goal of exporting 10 nuclear power plants by 2030.

The aim is to deepen cooperation in international nuclear power generation markets, KEPCO said, and follows the meeting between US President Joe Biden and President Yoon Suk-yeol in May which included an agreement to deepen ties in nuclear energy, with the discussions “expected to be the beginning of practical cooperation in the nuclear power sector between the companies of the two countries”.

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A Record Heat Wave in Japan May Speed Up Nuclear Plant Restarts

The combination of a record heat wave in Japan and a favorable political climate for nuclear energy, after years of caution caused by the Fukushima disaster, may result in speeding up reactor restarts.

heat waveAccording to the World Nuclear Association, until 2011, Japan was generating 30% of electricity from its reactors and this was expected to increase to at least 40% by 2017.

The plan is now for at least 20% of electricity to be generated by nuclear energy by 2030, from a down sized fleet. The first two reactors restarted in August and October 2015, with a further eight having restarted since. Another 16 reactors are currently in the process of restart approval. A total of 10 reactors, six at Fukushima Daiichi and four at Fukushima Daini are permanently offline and in the process of being decommissioned.

Of particular interest are planned restarted of the seven BWRs at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa site which is one of the largest nuclear power stations in the world. It consists of five 1,000 MWe BWRs and two 1300 MWe BWRs.

Progress towards restart there has been repeatedly delayed by management issues, including security gaffs, as well as deep distrust by provincial elected officials. In 2021 TEPCO, which is the owner and operator of the reactors, said in a business plan that it assumed unit 7 of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant would be restarted in October 2022 at the earliest, and unit 6 would restart in April 2024. It also said that one of units 1-5 would be restarted in 2028. The Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Authority has the final say on restarts.

Heat Waves and Public Support for Nuclear Reactor Restarts

According to a Reuters wire service report, Japan’s push to restart nuclear reactors, shut down after the Fukushima disaster a decade ago, could get a tailwind as the governing coalition looks set for gains in a national election on Sunday.

Reuters reported that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s coalition is on track to expand its majority in the upper house of parliament, polls show, in an election where nuclear restarts have been an issue, along with inflation and defense.

Record heatwaves and authorities’ daily pleas to save energy have helped push Japanese voters toward the idea of more restarts. Local communities have substantial influence in the politics of restarting reactors after they receive regulatory approvals. Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) wants to boost nuclear back to 20%-22% of Japan’s energy mix by 2030 from less than 5% now.

The public mood related to energy security got a severe jolt last week after the government warned of shortages in electricity during the hottest June on record which prompted a surge in electricity demand. The prospect of brownouts or outright blackouts has resulted in a shift in public approval for nuclear energy. Reuters reported that a Mainichi newspaper poll in May found 47% favored restarts vs 30% opposed. This is a turnaround from 2018 when opponents outnumbered supporters 48% to 32%.

nuclear reactors in Japan
Voters have a grudging sense that restarts cannot be helped, said Daiwa Securities senior economist Toru Suehiro.

“The aversion towards nuclear power is waning a bit now since people have high utility bills and the power shortage on their mind,” Suehiro told Reuters.

“What’s clear from this situation is that we need to make more progress to restart nuclear reactors that are deemed safe.”

His brokerage estimates as of right now only four more reactors will come online by March 2024, bringing the total to 14 of the 33 available nationwide for commercial use, and increasing nuclear to 9% of Japan’s energy mix.

“There’s got to be some soul-searching over why action couldn’t be taken earlier,” Kengo Sakurada, head of the Keizai Doyukai business lobby, said last week. The government’s warnings to conserve energy caused some of Japan’s heavy industries to suspended production at their plants drawing comparisons to South Africa’s troubles with electricity supply which has limited economic growth in that country.

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UK Delays Sizewell C Decision; Political Turmoil Causes Caution Flags

A decision on whether to approve a £20 billion nuclear power plant has been delayed. The government was expected to make an announcement about the application for Sizewell C in Suffolk by July 8th. Business Minister Paul Scully said he had “set a new deadline of no later than July 20th for deciding this application.”

In a written statement to the House of Commons, Scully said that Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s decision would now be set for July 20th.

Political turmoil caused by the resignation of UK PM Boris Johnson, and the resignation of more than 50 his key ministers, has thrown off the timeline for the huge energy investment. One of the issues is whether a new PM might stop the project. On the other hand, now former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, who is one of a half dozen politicians vying for the PM’s job, is in favor of building the plant.

World Nuclear News, which is based on London, observed that although any change of leadership produces uncertainty around government direction and policy, it is thought likely that the energy strategy – which did not face any big challenge from Conservative MPs – will survive the forthcoming change of prime minister.

Mr. Scully said, without providing details, that the delay in the decision about Sizewell C is “to ensure there is sufficient time to allow the secretary of state to consider the proposal.”

He added, “The decision to set the new deadline for this application is without prejudice to the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.”

The government has already committed £100 million to Sizewell C and plans to take a 20% stake which would be worth £4 billion. In June the project was approved for public funding under the regulated asset base model (RAB).

French developer EDF will also take a 20% stake in the Suffolk power station. Taken together, the combined 40% stake is worth £8 billion. Outside investors are being sought to complete financing for the twin 1700 MWe reactors. Sizewell C is expected to cost a minimum of £20 billion.

Earlier this year, Kwarteng unveiled the UK’s supply security strategy, which included a pledge to boost nuclear energy generation from 7GWe to 24GWe over the next three decades. This is an increase from an earlier objective of 19 GWe.

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According to the City AM news service, Sizewell C head of financing Julia Pyke argued the long-term dividends such as supply security are key objectives.

“To me this is a bit like: Was the 1858 sewerage system late and over budget? Yes, it was. Do you wish London didn’t have a sewage system? No, you don’t. Was the London Underground in Victorian era built late and over budget? Yes, it was. Do you wish you didn’t have the Circle Line? No, you don’t. So, there’s a lack of proportionality in the way that people look at the cost of these mega projects.”

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PG&E to Submit Request to DOE for Funding to Keep Diablo Canyon Open

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the owner and operator of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant, said this week it will submit a bid to obtain funding under the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) $6 billion program to keep nuclear plants open. The government’s funding is intended to sustain CO2 emission free electric generation and to stabilize the grid. The utility has until September 6th to apply for funding from the Civil Nuclear Credit program.

diablo canyon

The action has the support of California Governor Gavin Newsome, and Sen. Diane Feinstein who very recently reversed a decades old policy of opposition to nuclear power.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, wrote an opinion piece June 15 in the Sacramento Bee, saying, “Drought could force California to significantly increase natural gas generation and power purchases from neighboring states. If California is to lead the clean energy transition, as state law mandates, Diablo must keep operating, at least for the time being.”

Diablo Canyon is the only nuclear power plant in the state. The 2,240 megawatts of production from the plant is scheduled to shut down Unit 1 November 2024 and Unit 2 in August 2025. The plant produces 9 percent of the state’s electricity.

A prolonged record heat wave has put a huge strain on the state’s electrical grid. The loss of the plant would very likely create rolling brownouts especially in highly urbanized areas like Los Angeles and throughout southern California.

Saying “we would be remiss not to put that on the table as an option,” Governor Newsom has spoken favorably of PG&E applying for funding from the Civil Nuclear Credit, or CNC, which is part of the recently passed infrastructure law. In a May 23rd letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Newsom’s Cabinet Secretary, Ana Matosantos, urged a change in the program’s eligibility requirements so that Diablo Canyon would be included. DOE granted PG&E a 60-day extension to submit its application.

Neither PG&E nor the governor’s office have said how much money the utility will ask for from DOE. A PG&E spokesperson said the utility “does not have a cost estimate to share with you now,” and added that extending Diablo Canyon operations beyond 2024 would require additional funding as well as approvals from federal (NRC), state (California PUC), and local regulatory authorities.

In the meantime, the California legislature passed a bill last week that allocates a reserve fund of up to $75 million to the Department of Water Resources and gives the agency authority to buy power from Diablo Canyon — as well as from fossil fuel power plants — when state power supplies run low.

PG&E in 2016 agreed to shutter Diablo Canyon after coming to an agreement with a combination of environmental and labor groups. The utility justified its action by saying that a combination of new natural gas plants and renewable energy (solar, wind) facilities would make for the loss of over 2 GWe of CO2 emission free power. Critics shredded the company’s claims and subsequent grid issues in California have borne them out.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved the deal in 2018. It is likely the groups involved in the 2016 decision will go to court to enforce the originally scheduled closure.

On June 27th, a group of 37 scientists, academics and entrepreneurs sent a letter to DOE Secretary Granholm in support of funding for Diablo Canyon.

“While California boasts a very high portion of electricity from renewable sources, California will have to boost its total renewable energy production by an enormous 20 percent in just two years to replace the clean energy being produced at Diablo Canyon,” the letter said.

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France to Complete Nationalization of EDF

(WNN contributed to this report) The French prime minister says the government will increase its shareholding in EDF from 84% to 100%, while the search for a successor to Chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy, who is approaching the mandatory retirement age, is under way. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told France’s lower house of Parliament: “I confirm to you today that the state intends to control 100% of EDF’s capital.”

Re-elected President Emmanuel Macron earlier this year proposed the re-nationalization of EDF as well as a big expansion of nuclear energy in the coming decades, with six new reactors planned, eight more considered as well as the development of small modular reactors.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said the French government has set aside €12.7 billion for the full nationalization of state-controlled electricity provider EDF as well as other investments in the energy sector. Minority shareholders will need to be bought out by a mechanism that is still to be determined.

“It’s an investment, not spending,” Le Maire said which is necessary to secure full state control over the country’s strategic nuclear industry.

The French government is working with Goldman Sachs and Société Générale on how to take full management of utility EDF. The state owned enterprise is also gearing up for extra investments in nuclear reactors. As the same time it is facing significant financial challenges.

Corrosion issues at several reactors have reportedly sliced EDF’s electrical energy output, and the group has warned its core revenue can be hit by €18.5 billion this fiscal year. Also, EDF is very significantly over budget and behind schedule at two EPR projects, one in Finland and the other in France. It is building two more EPRs at the Hinkley Point C site in the UK and is poised to begin a similar project at the Sizewell C site in the UK. In summary, the firm is over-extended and needs a huge infusion of new capital to meet its current and future obligations.

“In the short term, you have a situation in which the financial results are going to be catastrophic,” Nicolas Goldberg, a senior power analyst at Columbus Consulting told wire services. “There was going to be a need for another recapitalization and the status quo was no longer possible.”

Two options are being considered to finance the nationalization scheme. The first is a protracted legislative process which French President Macron probably won’t favor because his party doesn’t hold a majority in the French parliament. The other is to issue financial bonds at market rates which would be much faster and politically cleaner to execute the buyout of minority investors and to finance Macron’s ambitious plans for new reactors.

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Fermi-Energia Says SMR in Estonia Could be Online by 2032

A nuclear power plant could be on-line and functioning in Estonia buy 2032 according to Fermi-Energia, a private sector nuclear energy firm. The plant would likely be a small nuclear reactors with a power rating of less than 300 MWe. A 300 MWe plant would provide about 20 percent of Estonia’s daytime electricity needs.

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The company said it was encouraged to proceed with its plans by the recent decision by the EU parliament to designate nuclear energy as “sustainable.” The action opens nuclear power projects in EU nations to new investment.

Kalev Kallemets, head of Fermi Energia, said that the plant would not require state support for its construction. He said there was a better than 50% chance the plant could be built and be in revenue service by 2032.

“We need four 300 MWe units in total,” he said. At $4,000/Kw, the four unit installation would cost about $4.8 billion.

The firm sees a bigger opportunity for additional revenue streams in addition to generation of electricity.

“We are seriously looking at producing on a large scale in order to produce large amounts of hydrogen. In addition to electricity, fertilizer production also needs to be decarbonized on a large scale in Europe, and this is a very large market.”

Fermi has so far involved €3.9 million towards the development of the project, but investor interest is growing, Kallemets said.

The small and compact nature of Estonia and rapid decision making processes lend themselves to the project’s realization as well, he said.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on South Korea Removes Shackles of Nuclear Phase Out Policy

EU Parliament Goes Green for Nuclear Energy

  • European Parliament Votes To Include Nuclear in Its Green Taxonomy

EU Taxonomy_Blog

(NucNet) Members of the European parliament have decided to “follow the science” and support legislation which includes nuclear in the bloc’s sustainable finance taxonomy for green investment. ( Full text ).

The vote to include nuclear energy in the “green taxonomy from a total of 639, was 328 for, and 278 against, with 33 abstentions.

A nuclear industry source told NucNet: “This result is actually even better than our most positive expectations based on calculations prior to the vote. Especially given the very aggressive misinformation campaign which the opponents have been running over the last 10 days (and right up until the last minute).”

The Washington Post reported there was significant opposition within the EU Parliament to the proposal. The plan was opposed not just by environmentalists but also by some E.U. advisers and even the CEO of a group representing large investors which opposed the inclusion of gas in the policy. Critics said a positive vote for gas would open up investors to the risks of “green washing.”

Those who oppose the inclusion of gas in the green taxonomy have expressed concern that it will incentivize investment in fossil fuels and delay the E.U.’s transition to renewable energy. Supporters of the plan argued for realism in energy policy.

“The ‘Immaculate Energy Transition’ does not exist,” Luis Garicano, a Spanish member of the European Parliament said. “A sensible transition requires more than just renewables.”

Stringent Conditions For Nuclear

The legislation means that under certain conditions nuclear will be labelled as a “green” energy source that could contribute to Europe’s transition to climate neutrality. According to the taxonomy, nuclear can now be considered as taxonomy compliant as long as it meets several conditions, including:

  • The member state in which the project is located must have operational final disposal facilities for very low, low and intermediate radioactive waste;
  • The member state must have plans in place for an operational disposal facility for high level radioactive waste;
  • As of 2025, existing and new build projects must use accident-tolerant fuel, which has been certified and approved by the national regulator.

What is the EU Taxonomy?

The EU taxonomy is a classification system, establishing a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities. It could play an important role helping the EU scale up sustainable investment and implement the European green deal.

The EU taxonomy would provide companies, investors and policymakers with appropriate definitions for which economic activities can be considered environmentally sustainable. In this way, it should create security for investors, protect private investors from greenwashing, help companies to become more climate-friendly, mitigate market fragmentation and help shift investments where they are most needed.

The taxonomy became law in July 2020, but legislators left important details to be resolved through complementary delegated acts – secondary legislation meant for technical issues that is not subject to the same degree of ministerial and parliamentary oversight.

Support for the EU Green Taxonomy

Nucleareurope, a Brussels-based nuclear industry group said in a statement after the result was announced that the science “clearly states that nuclear is sustainable and essential in the fight against climate change”.

“It is fantastic to see that a majority in the European parliament has decided to listen to the experts and take the right decision” said Yves Desbazeille, nucleareurope’s director-general.

“We have less than 30 years left to decarbonize our economy in a sustainable way. By listening to the science, the EU has strengthened the EU’s chances of achieving this ambitious goal.”

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The World Nuclear Association said that the European Parliament has chosen to listen to the science.

“Today’s decision by the European Parliament to include nuclear energy in the EU taxonomy will help the fight against climate change and accelerate progress towards a sustainable low-carbon energy system by stimulating investment in new nuclear projects, not just in Europe, but worldwide.

Reacting to the vote, Sama Bilbao y León, Director General, World Nuclear Association said,

“The European Parliament’s positive vote sends a clear endorsement of nuclear energy to the financial community. It has listened to the science and recognized that sustainable investment in nuclear energy will help the EU reach net-zero by 2050. Now governments, investors, and industry must act urgently and accelerate the deployment of new nuclear capacity to achieve this goal.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington, DC, based trade group, issued the following statement.

“Today the European Parliament took an important step forward as Europe seeks a pathway to meet its sustainability and climate goals. It illustrates the consensus opinion that existing and new nuclear generation are critical to global decarbonization efforts. The decision also demonstrates the critical role that nuclear carbon-free generation can play as countries seek greater energy security as the Russian Federation weaponizes energy production to influence the geopolitical landscape.”

“By including nuclear energy in the taxonomy, the European Union has signaled the importance of advancing nuclear projects. Many Europeans nations including France, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and The Netherlands have made the commitment to expand nuclear generation in order to achieve climate and energy security.”

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OPINION – Neutron Bytes

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Opponents of including nuclear energy in the EU’s green taxonomy, who lobbied against it right up to the last moment with a toxic mix of disinformation, are living in a fantasy world where renewables can provide baseload power and people in a highly industrialized society are expected to suddenly and inexplicably like living off the grid with their evenings illuminated with beeswax candlelight. There is no free lunch.

Some of the more obsessed proponents of renewables see the green taxonomy as a zero sum competitor for private equity investment funds relative to nuclear. Here’s a reality check. Funding for nuclear power in the EU will come from public/private partnerships with governments leading the way not only with equity but also with rate guarantees to bring investors to the table.

In order to decarbonize major sectors of Europe’s highly industrialized society, nuclear energy will be needed to provide CO2 emission free baseload power for factories, homes, electric vehicles, mass transit, hydrogen production, and desalination along with many other uses. Renewables will benefit from nuclear energy by keeping the grid stable in order to handle their intermittent contributions to it.

Thankfully, science based decision making prevailed today in Brussels. It paves the way for investments in an energy technology that will substantially contribute to preserving a livable planet for future generations. They’re depending on us today for their tomorrow.

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