Poland Counts Costs for New Nuclear Reactors

  • Poland / New Nuclear Could Cost €14Bn Over a Decade
  • Poland / Utility PGE ‘Could Not Bear’ Investment in First Nuclear Plant
  • Micro Reactors / Oklo’s Aurora Will Cost $10m to Build And $3m A Year To Operate
  • Advanced Reactors / BN-600 Licensed to Operate Until 2025
  • Small Modular Reactors / Finland’s VTT Develops an SMR for District Heating

Poland / New Nuclear Could Cost €14Bn Over A Decade

(NucNet) The country’s ambitions include building a minimum of six reactor units over 20 years with the equivalent of 9000 MW by the 2040s. Paying for them remains a supremely vexing problem for the Polish government which is conflicted about these plans and how to fund them.

Poland will have to spend €14 billion in the first 10 years of its planned nuclear power program, the Polish government secretary responsible for energy infrastructure Piotr Naimski said in media interviews

Mr Naimski said the country’s plans include building six nuclear reactor units over 20 years with a combined output of between 6 and 9 GW.

At $4,500/Kw, 6000 MW will cost $27 billion. The €14 billion will buy the country only half of its planned new electrical generation capacity of just 3000 MW. A new build of 9000 MW will come in at about $42 billion depending on what a Euro is worth a decade or two from now.

As of today this cost is the same for full size nuclear reactors, e.g., 1000 MW or small modular units. Marketing claims by two vendors of SMRs (GE-Hitachi 300 MW) and mid-size units, Rolls Royce 440MW) that they can cut this cost in half will need to be proven by building one.

(Note to readers: The exchange rate of dollars to euros as of April 1 is 1.00 USD equal 0.93 euro. For the purposes of this article, I am treating dollars and euros on a one -for-one basis.)

Poland is the only EU state that has not pledged to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The coal plants are significant sources of pollution and CO2 emissions.  About 80% of Poland’s electricity comes from ageing coal plants, many of which will have to close in the coming decade. Poland wants to reduce that to 60% in the 2030s.

coal in europe

Coal-fired power plants in Europe with a focus on Poland. https://www.powerplantmaps.com/Poland.html

Facing pressure from the European Union to reduce emissions, it has issued plans to build significant nuclear capacity by 2040. Poland wants to invest in a new low-carbon energy source like nuclear to help it reduce its CO2 emissions in line with EU targets.

However, the country’s political leadership has repeatedly walked up to the line of committing to new nuclear energy projects, and then stepped back when it saw the price tag.

Poland launched a national nuclear power program in 2014 which included the construction of up to 6 GW of capacity by 2035, but the government delay a final decision on the program because it had doubts about its ability to finance the project and attract investors to it.

By November 2019, Mr. Naimski told reporters that officials were once again in the process of conducting a “very detailed review” of all available reactor technology options.

Mr Naimski said in a news media interview in March 2020 that the most difficult task will be to build a nuclear power station on schedule because it is a long-term undertaking which needs 10 to 12 years.

“The point is to stick to a perfect schedule all the time, without any delays, because delays are most expensive.”

He’s got that right, and with Poland having no experience building nuclear power plants, nor a work force or supply chain to support such projects, it will have to import all of these capabilities and resources which will add to the cost of the units.

Mr Naimski nevertheless remains confident about the future. He said the money to be spent on new nuclear is “a lot”, but “economically developing” Poland could afford it. The state owned utility isn’t so sure. More on this in the next story.

On the current status of Poland’s nuclear program, Mr Naimski said decisions to be taken over the course of 2020 will relate to the choice of a technology vendor and financing the news build.

He said the government has been discussing its nuclear plans with the US Department of Energy and is expecting an offer from the US side which will be reviewed. Such offers would likely come from Westinghouse and GE Hitachi. Last fall then Secretary of Energy Rick Perry made a trade mission trip to Poland to promote the possibility of U.S. firms getting the business.

Perry’s visit prompted a competitive response from Russia’s nuclear export agency Rosatom which regards eastern Europe as a captive market though so far it has not booked any new business in elsewhere including Romania, Czech Republic, and Estonia. Russia’s Gazprom, which derives significant revenues by supplying natural gas to Poland saw the trip as “bad news” for its long term prospects there.

Asked about potential partners from France or South Korea, Mr Naimski said he wants, “suppliers who have proven technology and are able to build on budget and schedule, and with whom we also want to have a strategic partnership for decades.”

With regard to France, EDF’s dismal record with building new 1600 MW EPRs in Finland and France take it out of the running for the competition based on cost effective delivery of new reactors. However, Poland might want to take a second look at South Korea which is well on its way towards completion of four 1400 MW reactors in the UAE.

Government sources have said Poland will be aiming at a possible 6% nuclear share for electricity generation in the early to mid-2030s and a 15-20% nuclear share by 2050, although this would depend on a final decision about the nuclear program and its financing.

Poland / Utility PGE ‘Could Not Bear’ Investment In First Nuclear Plant

(NucNet)  The estimated amount would exceed the firm’s capabilities, says company’s president

While Poland’s energy ministry is confident about forging ahead with a nuclear energy new build, Poland’s state-controlled power company PGE (Polska Grupa Energetyczna) says not so fast.

The utility said this week it will most likely not be able to bear the burden of building the country’s first nuclear power station. Significantly, this assessment comes from the company’s recently appointed president Wojciech Dabrowski who gave a statement to the national press agency PAP.

“The size of this investment would exceed our capabilities,” Mr Dabrowski said during a press conference on PGE’s 2019 performance. However, he declined to be pinned down as to the actual numbers involved in this assessment.

The government secretary responsible for energy infrastructure, Piotr Naimski, has said Poland will have to spend €14bn in the first 10 years of its planned nuclear program.

In 2019 then energy minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski was quoted in media reports as saying Poland will probably need around €27 billion by 2040 from foreign investors to build its first nuclear power station, but this would be provided over 20 years.

He estimated the total investment at around €54 billion, but he did not specify how many units this would buy.

At $4500/Kw €27 billion buys 6000 MW of nuclear powered electrical generation capacity. Doubling the amount to €54 billion  could buy 9000 MW of power plus grid upgrades to deliver the power to all parts of the country.

According to PAP, Mr Dabrowski said a political decision about nuclear power in Poland has not happened yet. However, the utility is reported to be working on site selection and environmental characterization of several sites.

Earlier reports in the Polish media had suggested PGE is probably not willing to fund the nuclear project on its own and would like to receive financial support from the state. It would also need outside investors, loan and rate guarantees, and much less to launch its nuclear program.

cost of reactor by type

Costs of Nuclear Reactors by Technology Type. Image: Environmental Progress

A number of vendors of small modular reactors, both those based on LWR technology and advanced designs, have proposed swapping out coal fired boilers in Poland for their units to take advantage of the existing local infrastructure and grid connections. So far Poland hasn’t ruled them in or out relative to building multiple SMRs at a lower cost per unit v. a few large LWR reactors in the range of 1000 MW.

Oklo’s Aurora Will Cost $10m To Build And $3m A Year To Operate

(NucNet) The company behind plans to build a compact fast reactor known as Aurora in the U.S. has budgeted “in the order of” $10 million for construction and $3m a year for operations.

oklo logoIn its combined operating licence application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build an Aurora plant at the federal Idaho National Laboratory (INL), California-based Oklo Power said the construction cost includes the small building required, including the power conversion system and a solar power facility.

The company said the application, which has now been made available online, was “a landmark milestone” in the development of advanced fission technologies. (Summary here:  PDF file)

On fuel cycle costs Oklo said that because of the type of reactor and fuel cycle, only a single core load is required for the licence lifetime of 20 years.

Last month Oklo said it had reached an agreement with the INL to use recovered material from used nuclear fuel to develop and demonstrate the Aurora.

“Because the material is waste material which must otherwise be stored, there is not a price associated for use of the material,” Oklo said in its application.

“At the conclusion of the use of the fuel in the plant, it will be returned to the Department of Energy.”

The Aurora is an advanced fission power system that generates approximately 1.5 MW of power. It consists of a small reactor with integrated solar panels. The Aurora will generate both usable heat and electricity, run for at least 20 years on one load of fuel and operate without the need for water.

Oklo, which is funded by venture capital firms and backed primarily by US-based investors, announced last year that it had successfully demonstrated prototypes of a metallic fuel at INL for the Aurora reactor. It said it had fabricated prototypes with multiple fuel elements reaching production specification.

BN-600 licensed to operate until 2025

(WNN) Russian nuclear regulator Rostekhnadzor has extended the operating licence for unit 3 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in the Sverdlovsk district by a further five years. The license for the BN-600 fast reactor, which began operating in 1981, was due to expire this year.

A large-scale modernization program has been under way at the unit since 2009, which has affected all areas operations. A large amount of work has been carried out on the inspection and replacement of equipment, including the replacement of the unit’s steam generators.

Investigations conducted since then by Russian nuclear engineering company OKBM Afrikantov, part of Atomenergomash, together with the Kurchatov Institute and FSUE CRI KM “Prometey” concluded that it is technically possible to continue operation of the reactor. Based on this, Rostekhnadzor has now extended the operating licence of the 560 MWe Beloyarsk 3 until 2025.

“We have completed work to extend the life of unit 3 until 2025,” said Ivan Sidorov, director of the Beloyarsk plant. “In the course of our research, we proved that the technical parameters of the BN-600 allow us to operate it until 2040.”

Briefing: GEN-IV Forum Briefing on Operating Performance of BN-600 and BN-800 (PDF file)

The sodium-cooled BN-series fast reactor plans are part of Rosatom’s Proryv, or ‘Breakthrough’, project to develop fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle whose mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. In addition to the BN-600 reactor, the 789 MWe BN-800 fast neutron reactor – constructed as Beloyarsk unit 4 – entered commercial operation in October 2016.

This is essentially a demonstration unit for fuel and design features for the larger BN-1200 being developed by OKBM Afrikantov. However, work on the BN-1200 has been pushed back to the 2030s with no specific time frame in place to start work on construction of the design.

Finland’s VTT Develops a Small Modular Reactor for District Heating

(English language wire services) VTT has launched the Finnish development of a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) intended for district heat production. The first phase of the project will involve the conceptual design of a nuclear power plant suited for the heating networks of Finnish cities.

The objective of the project is to create a new Finnish industrial sector around the technology that would be capable of manufacturing most of the components needed for the plant. Designing the district heating reactor will require expertise from a wide range of Finnish organizations.

In 2019, the emissions from district heat production using fossil fuels were more than four million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Decarbonizing the heat production system is one of the most significant climate challenges faced by many cities. Finland has decided to phase out of coal in energy production by 2029.

“The schedule is challenging, and the low-cost alternatives are few. To reach the target, new innovations and introduction of new technologies are required. Nuclear district heating could provide major emission reductions,” says Ville Tulkki, Research Team Leader at VTT.

Economic solution for heating Finnish homes

Internationally, many SMR projects have advanced to the licencing phase, but most of them are intended for power production or as energy sources for high-temperature industrial processes. This design is intended to provide as being the primary output of the reactor to be used to make steam for district heating to deal with Finland’s long cold winters.

VTT aims to develop a plant tailored for producing district heat. It would be a cost-effective solution for heating Finnish homes in cities and densely populated areas. District heating is also widely used in for example Central and Eastern Europe, which requires a low-emission energy source.

nuclearcogeneration-653x523

Options for Nuclear Co-Generation Using Process Heat. Image: IAEA Industrial applications and nuclear cogeneration

Many of the plans for replacing fossil fuels used for district heat production are largely based on bioenergy. However, in the future biomass may become a valuable raw material replacing oil in, for example, industry and production of transport fuels. Nuclear energy offers an alternative that liberates biomass from heat production to other uses.

Software tools aid the design effort

In the development of the SMR, VTT will rely on in-house calculation tools and use its strong multidisciplinary competence.

“For example, in the modelling of the reactor core, we are able to apply high-fidelity numerical simulation methods that have become feasible by the advances in high-performance parallel computing,” says Jaakko Leppanen, Research Professor for Reactor safety at VTT.

The Serpent software developed by Leppanen is being applied for reactor modelling and applications related to radiation transport in 250 universities and research organization in 44 countries.

VTT has about 200 research scientists working with nuclear energy and related applications. For the last five years, VTT has been continuously involved in projects examining the opportunities and introduction of SMRs.

At the European level, VTT is coordinating the ELSMOR (towards European Licencing of Small MOdular Reactors) project, launched last year. In addition, VTT is leading one of the work packages of the new McSAFER project, which is developing next generation calculation tools for the modelling of SMR physics.

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A Short Stack of New Reactor Developments

  • pancakesCzech Republic Files to Build Two 1200 MW PWRs at Dukovany
  • Rosatom Pursues Development of SMRs
  • Key Components of Second HTR-PM Reactor in China are Connected
  • Japan / Regulator Says HTTR Is Compatible With Post-Fukushima Standards
  • New Report on Chinese and Russian Nuclear Energy Exports

Czech Republic / State Utility Files Application
To Build Two New Reactors At Dukovany

(NucNet) Bidders are lining up to offer technology for new units of up to 1,200 MW each.

The Czech Republic’s state-owned utility CEZ filed for permission with the State Office for Nuclear Safety last week to build two new nuclear power plants at the existing Dukovany site in the southeast area of the country.

The announcement follows approval by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in September 2019 of an environmental impact assessment for the construction of the two plants. The ministry said the approval was for up to 2,400 MW of new capacity.

CEZ said the filing concludes a five-year preparation process. The company gave no details of possible reactor technology, but said each plant would have a single pressurized water (PWR) reactor of electrical power up to 1,200 MW.

Prime minister Andrej Babiš was quoted in local press reports last year as saying a technology supplier should be chosen by the end of 2022.

CEZ chief executive Daniel Benes said last year the company should have a tender ready by June 2020 and expects offers in 2021 from up to five bidders. CEZ gave no details of how financing would be arranged, but press reports have said the state has set aside $6-7 billion for the project.

According to media reports, six firms have shown interest in building the new nuclear unit or units. They are China’s CGN, Russia’s Rosatom, South Korea’s KHNP, France’s EDF, Westinghouse, and the Atmea consortium of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and EDF.

The Czech government, which owns 70% of CEZ, had been in discussions with the utility about how to expand nuclear power and to replace aging commercial reactors that are scheduled to be permanently shut down in the decades ahead.

There are four Russia-designed VVER-440 reactor units at the Dukovany site and the government has said they should be replaced by new ones in about 20 to 30 years.

The Czech Republic has six commercially operational reactor units. In addition to the four units at Dukovany, there are two Russian VVER-1000 units at Temelín. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, in 2019 the six units provided about 35% of the country’s electricity production.

In 2014, CEZ cancelled the tender for construction of two new Temelín units after it failed to get state guarantees for the project. It isn’t clear what the Czech government will do this time that is different, but getting the financing in order is a top priority.  The firm may have to buy out its minority of private equity investors to avoid lawsuits seeking to spike the project based on the risk of cost overruns.

Rosatom Pursues Development of Small Modular Reactors

Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom says it has plans start construction of a small-scale land-based nuclear power plant in 2024 with commissioning in 2027.

According to a report in Nuclear Engineering International, Ryan Collyer, acting CEO of Rosatom Central and Southern Africa presented details of the RITM-200 reactor at Energy Indaba earlier in March.

Collyer told delegates that Rosatom SMRs could be a good alternative to diesel generators, providing reliable power supply and preventing harmful emissions at a competitive price. They could also be used for desalination, heat production and supply of electricity.

He pointed out that Rosatom has already constructed six RITM-200 reactors and that two onboard the Arktika icebreaker have already attained criticality.

Rosatom had identified two sites in Russia for the potential construction of small reactors – the Chelyabinsk region and Yakutia. The project plans for the sites reportedly include a procedure for construction of a land-based power plant based on the RITM-200 reactor, including site selection and a feasibility study.

Specialists from the Melentiev Energy Systems Institute of Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences are also studying the feasibility of constructing a land-based plant with a RITM-200 reactor in Chukotka.

Profile of the RITM-200

ritm200

RITM-200 crross section. Image: Rosatom

The RITM-200 is a light water nuclear reactor developed by OKBM Afrikantov and manufactured by ZiO-Podolsk.  (Technical briefing – PDF file)

It has a dual circuit with four steam generators integrated into the body of the reactor. Traditionally, steam generators are housed separately and connected to the reactor by primary coolant pipelines. The integrated layout reduces the material consumption and dimensions of the installation, reduces the risk of leaks from the primary reactor loop, and facilitates installation and dismantling of the installation. Four main circulation pumps are located around the reactor vessel.

The reactor will have a thermal capacity of 175MW, providing power on the shaft of the propulsion system of 30MWe (in the transport version) or 55MWe (in the energy version).

It uses uranium fuel enriched to 20% with a new fuel load every seven years. Because of its integrated design, the RITM-200 is two times lighter, more compact and 25 MWe more powerful than the KLT-type reactors used on the Akademik Lomonosov floating NPP.

See also: NEI Report on Six Russian SMR Designs

Key Components of Second HTR-PM Reactor in China are Connected

(WNN) The reactor pressure vessel, steam generator and hot gas duct of the second reactor at China’s demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor plant (HTR-PM) have been successfully paired and connected, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced this week.

Work began on the demonstration HTR-PM unit – which features two small reactors and a turbine – at China Huaneng’s Shidaowan site in Weihai city, in East China’s Shandong province, in December 2012.  (Technical Briefing – PDF file)

htr image

DESIGN, SAFETY FEATURES &PROGRESS OF HTR-PM, Yujie Dong, INET, Tsinghua University, China; January 24, 2018

China Huaneng is the lead organisation in the consortium to build the demonstration units together with CNNC subsidiary China Nuclear Engineering Corporation (CNEC) and Tsinghua University’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology, which is the research and development leader. Chinergy, a joint venture of Tsinghua and CNEC, is the main contractor for the nuclear island.

The pressure vessel of the first reactor was installed within the unit’s containment building in March 2016. The vessel – about 25 meters in height and weighing about 700 tonnes – was manufactured by Shanghai Electric Nuclear Power Equipment. The second reactor pressure vessel was installed later that year.

CNNC said the “pairing of the key nodes” of the second reactor was completed on March 18. The pressure vessel, steam generator and hot gas duct, it said, have been “rigidly connected in the form of a flange to form a primary circuit system for the thermal energy transmission of the reactor, which constitutes a second barrier to prevent the leakage of radioactive materials.”

The demonstration plant’s twin HTR-PM reactors will drive a single 210 MWe turbine. Helium gas will be used as the primary circuit coolant. The steam generator transfers heat from helium coolant to a water/steam loop. The design temperature of the HTR-PM reaches 750 degrees Celsius. A further 18 such HTR-PM units are proposed at Shidaowan.

Beyond HTR-PM, China proposes a scaled-up version called HTR-PM600, which sees one large turbine rated at 650 MWe driven by some six HTR-PM reactor units. Feasibility studies on HTR-PM600 deployment are under way for multiple sites including Sanmen, Zhejiang province; Ruijin, Jiangxi province; Xiapu and Wan’an, in Fujian province; and Bai’an, Guangdong province.

Japan Regulator Says HTTR Is Compatible
With Post-Fukushima Standards

(NucNet) The Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Japan (NRA) has said in a draft report that the country’s High-Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) is compatible with new regulatory standards, according to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (Jaif).

The high-temperature test reactor (HTTR) is a graphite-moderated gas-cooled research reactor in Oarai, Ibaraki, Japan operated by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. It is reported to use long hexagonal fuel assemblies, unlike competing pebble bed reactor designs for high temperature ga cooled reactors.

The 30-MW HTTR is a graphite-moderated gas-cooled research reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo. It is owned and operated by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA).

In November 2016, the JAEA submitted an application to the NRA for a safety examination under new regulatory standards in place since the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident. The HTTR was shut down following the accident along with other Japanese reactors.

Jaif said the NRA examined the HTTR’s resilience against various hypothetical accidents, including tsunami and seismic risks.

The reactor achieved first criticality in 1998, but reached its design thermal output of 950℃ in 2004.

Jaif said the heat produced by the HTTR has applications for a broad range of purposes, including hydrogen production, power generation, and the desalination of seawater.

New Report on Chinese and Russian Nuclear Energy Exports

The CSIS Energy Security and Climate Change Program has released a report, The Changing Geopolitics of Nuclear Energy, analyzing how the changing market competition among the United States, Russia, and China will impact future geopolitical relations with nuclear recipient nations, and offering recommendations to continue U.S. commercial competitiveness in the global nuclear energy market. (See video report below)

The nuclear industry of advanced industrialized countries is under significant pressure to remain competitive as the market landscape for new nuclear power opportunities changes. The relative decline of U.S. nuclear export competitiveness comes at a time when Russia is boosting its dominance in new nuclear sales, and China is doubling down on its effort to become a leader in global nuclear commerce.

This report illuminates how the changing market competition among the United States, Russia, and China will affect their future relations with nuclear commerce recipient countries, and discusses why Russia and China promote nuclear commerce, as well as which factors may alter their market competitiveness. The report further provides recommendations regarding the U.S. approach to continued commercial competitiveness in nuclear energy.

Nuclear power generation projects have never been a purely commercial endeavor in the United States, and civilian nuclear export is difficult to be viable as a purely commercial undertaking.

Global nuclear market dominance by state-led capitalist economies with limited accountability and governance capacities would endanger the future of global nuclear safety and nonproliferation.

The U.S. retreat could bifurcate the use of nuclear power generation along with similar political or economic systems.

Nuclear commerce is geopolitical in nature and creates multi-decadal ties between supplier and recipient countries, but nuclear commerce may not be an effective tool of foreign policy leverage.

VIDEO Jane Nakano with the CSIS Energy Security and Climate Change Program introduces her new report, The Changing Geopolitics of Nuclear Energy, that illuminates why and how Russia and China are promoting nuclear power technology exports, and what the United States should do to address the foreign policy and commercial implications.

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AI Software Speeds Up Reactor Designs

  • Advanced Reactor Simulation Software Gains Commercial License
  • Argonne Uses AI to Improve Reactor Simulations
  • IAEA Launches Economic Feasibility Study of SMRs

VERA Nuclear Reactor Simulation Software Licensed

OAK RIDGE, TN – A software package, 10 years in the making, that can predict the behavior of nuclear reactors’ cores with stunning accuracy has been licensed commercially for the first time.

The nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is the first organization to hold a commercial license for the Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications, or VERA, a set of tools developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Consortium for the Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL).

“EPRI, one of our core CASL industry partners, now has the right to use VERA to perform services for its member utilities,” said Dave Kropaczek, CASL director.

vera image

CASL is a partnership of the DOE national laboratories, universities and nuclear industry companies working together to find solutions to specific challenges of efficiently operating nuclear reactors. Based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and established in 2010, CASL was the first DOE Energy Innovation Hub.

The VERA software suite is a collection of interfacing codes that can simulate reactor core behavior from the large-scale down to the molecular scale.

“By licensing VERA to EPRI, CASL is delivering a first step in handing its work off to industry,” Kropaczek said.

“EPRI’s mission is to advance safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electricity,” said Erik Mader, Technical Executive with EPRI Nuclear Fuels and Executive Director of the CASL Industry Council.

“VERA’s coupled multiphysics modeling and simulation tools can be used to better inform operating performance, safety margins and transient behavior in nuclear power plants. This could improve plant operator decision-making, reduce uncertainty and accelerate innovation in nuclear energy.”

vera2

As the 10-year CASL project winds down this spring, the program has established the VERA Users Group, which provides training, ongoing support and access to DOE’s high-performance computing resources to perform large-scale simulations.

VERA provides advanced modeling and simulation capabilities to help address several challenges, leading to improved performance and longer lifetimes for the current reactor fleet. These include predictions of departure from nucleate boiling; growth of corrosion deposits on fuel rods; stress caused by pellet expansion; and performance of reactor parts when exposed to high temperatures and radiation.

Last year, CASL brought the VERA software suite up to Nuclear Quality Assurance-1 level in preparation for widespread industry use. The NQA-1 rating, the gold standard for the nuclear industry, signifies extensive efforts in the areas of procedures, training and software control.

Argonne Uses Artificial Intelligence to Improve
the Safety and Design of Advanced Nuclear Reactors

ArgonneArgonne National Laboratory is integrating decades of knowledge with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) methods and tools. Doing so can help researchers better understand the mechanics that govern nuclear reactors, which reactor designers and analysts can use to improve their design, operation and safety.

Machine learning helps systems to learn automatically based on patterns in data, and make better searches, decisions, or predictions. Nuclear engineer Acacia Brunett and other researchers in Argonne’s Nuclear Science and Engineering division are using machine learning methods to generate fast-running models of various nuclear thermal-hydraulic processes.

They are exploring behavior that includes the mixing and flow of coolants as well as thermal stratification, which describes the changes in temperature that emerge within liquids held in large vessels generally under low-flow conditions.

These processes can be difficult to accurately predict without significant computational burden. But they can heavily affect reactor safety and performance.

For example, when temperatures vary across layers of liquid within a pool, that condition can lead to thermal fatigue, a process that can degrade components in a reactor. This shortens the overall lifetime of the component or reactor as a whole. It could also weaken the safety features of certain kinds of advanced reactors. With methods to explore these phenomena, researchers can create a framework for more rapid and comprehensive design and analysis of these issues.

Quantifying Uncertainty

Argonne researchers are investigating ways of using machine learning to more quickly measure uncertainty, which reveals how confident they can be in their predictions.

“Predictive simulations all have some amount of uncertainty, which are features, or characteristics that we don’t know exactly,” Brunett said.

“Examples could include the material properties of manufactured components, such as thickness, emissivity (how much heat surfaces emit), or some other physical phenomena. It’s our responsibility to understand what those uncertainties are, which is typically a very arduous process.”

The process takes time because it typically requires hundreds to thousands of repeated analyses, and in some cases, several high-fidelity simulations, which carry a high computational burden. Brunett and others are exploring ways to create and use machine learning models to make this analysis more efficient and reduce the total time required to quantify uncertainty and optimize design.

With machine learning, scientists are analyzing large volumes of computational data and identifying the key components which describe the fundamental behavior of a system.

machine learnng

For example, the behavior of an advanced reactor was characterized using millions of data points. But with this new method, the system can instead be represented by a few thousand data points. Characterizing the system’s response with these methods can reduce the total analysis time while still directly quantifying uncertainties.

Traditional vs. AI-integrated Approach

Nuclear experts have traditionally used theory and observation to create models of nuclear processes and run high fidelity simulations with them. They would then compare simulation results against real-world observations, adapt their model accordingly and run simulations all over again, until their model could accurately predict real-world behavior.

Using machine learning instead, researchers can create relatively accurate models much faster. Unlike the traditional approach, machine learning tools can, with relatively high accuracy, predict behavior of safety-critical features, phenomena, or trends that may have otherwise been omitted by the analyst.

“High fidelity simulations help us to calculate the micro-details of different nuclear phenomena and then generate the training data to develop machine learning models,” Brunett said.

“Those models can then accurately estimate parameters that define these micro-details, such as mass and energy transport.”

Integrating with System Level Codes

After developing these models, Brunett and others will integrate them directly into Argonne-developed advanced reactor safety analysis tools for further testing. Machine learning models may replace existing models built within system code today, which would improve the predictive capabilities of the software and/or address known limitations within the software. With these tools, researchers can continue to improve the design and safety of next-generation technologies, advancing nuclear energy in the U.S.

IAEA Launches Project to Examine Economics of SMRs

(WNN) The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is launching a three-year Coordinated Research Project focused on the economics of small modular reactors (SMRs). The project will provide Member States with an economic appraisal framework for the development and deployment of such reactors.

small-reactors.jpgThe IAEA said it had launched the project in response to increased interest in SMRs, noting that multiple SMR projects are currently under development (involving about 50 designs and concepts) and at varying technology readiness levels.

Their costs and delivery times need to be adequately estimated, analysed and optimized if these designs are to be successful in the global marketplace.

Specific business models have to be developed to address the market’s needs and expectations. The market itself should be large enough to sustain demand for components and industrial support services.

Participants in the research project will cover:

  • market research; analysis of the competitive landscape (SMR vs non-nuclear alternatives);
  • value proposition and
  • strategic positioning; project planning cost forecasting and analysis;
  • project structuring,
  • risk allocation and financial valuation;
  • business planning and business case demonstration; and
  • economic cost-benefit analysis.

The framework they establish will be applied, in particular, to assess the economics of multiples (serial production of reactors in a factory setting), factory fabrication (conditions to be met for a factory to exist), and supply chain localisation (opportunities and impacts).

The deadline for proposals to participate in the research project is April 30, 2020.

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COVID-19 News: Nuclear Industry in EU Begins To Isolate Key Operational Staff

1800x1200_coronavirus_1(NucNet) The operators of nuclear power plants in Europe are taking steps to minimize the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Actions include isolating key staff and stockpiling items workers might need if they are unable to leave a site.

In Europe, Nuclearelectrica, which operates the Cernavodă nuclear power station in Romania, has already isolated about 400 essential operating and production staff at Cernavodă. A spokeswoman told wire services that the measure, based on established emergency plans, will remain in place as long as necessary. The staff are isolated in a specially designated area within the Cernavoda plant site.

France, the world’s most nuclear energy dependent nation, announced staff reductions at its Flamanville nuclear station. EDF said that due to high regional infection rates it was reducing the staff at the plant from 800 to 100.

A spokesman for the Flamanville plant told Reuters that “we have decided to only keep those in charge of safety and security” working while the coronavirus crisis runs its course.

Vattenfall, which owns 10 nuclear reactors in Sweden and Germany, said measures are in place to deal with the outbreak.

”We are well equipped to carry out our yearly outage season and plan to continue to supply fossil-free electricity to our customers, both in the short and long term,” the company said in an email statement.

CEZ, state-owned operator of the Czech Republic’s nuclear fleet, said it has been applying preventive measures since the end of February. Business trips have been suspended and all information centers including those at nuclear plants, have been closed and all excursions and visits to the plants suspended. Bus services used by employees and suppliers to and from nuclear plants are being frequently disinfected.

Last week further preventive measures were applied by CEZ at Temelin, Dukovany and other facilities that are considered critical state infrastructure. The measures include taking the temperature of everyone entering a facility and social distancing in canteens.

Personal meetings have been suspended in favour of electronic means of communication and “several hundred” employees are working from home.

“All these measures are purely preventive [and] we have not registered any case of coronavirus at the nuclear plants so far,” a spokeswoman said.

Madrid-based industry group Foro Nuclear said Spain’s seven commercial nuclear units remain in operation and operators are focused on the security of workers. They have implemented, in conjunction with the regulatory body, measures to protect workers including flexible working hours and remote working in positions that allow it.

New-build projects, including those at Hinkley Point C in England, Hanhkivi-1 in Finland have not been delayed by the outbreak.

Construction at Hinkley Point C in the UK has not been affected by the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, but EDF Energy said it will be working with contractors and trades unions to review the developing situation in the coming days and weeks.

Also in the UK, authorities announced they are shutting down a nuclear fuel reprocessing site at Sellafield after 8% of its 11,500-strong staff were forced to self-isolate. The move came after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus and will lead to a gradual shutdown of the site’s Magnox facility, which is scheduled to close permanently later this year.

The UK’s nuclear regulator said it is “actively engaged” with all its nuclear sites to ensure that appropriate contingency plans are in place, given the developing national and international situation.

The Canadian Nuclear Association reported that Canada’s nuclear stations are helping keep hospitals clean and safe during these critical times through the production of cobalt-60. It is a medical isotope used to sterilize medical equipment such as gowns, gloves, masks, implantable devices and syringes in hospitals. It is also used to preserve foods so that they have a long shelf life.

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Nuclear Energy Projects Move Ahead Despite Global Virus Threat

  • Canadian Partnership Announces SMR Fuel Research
  • Rolls-Royce and Turkey’s EUAS  Plan Joint SMR Construction Effort
  • NRC Issues Draft EIA For Holtec Spent Fuel Facility In New Mexico
  • Indonesia Dusts Off Plans for Nuclear Energy
  • IAEA Addresses Safety of Smart Devices in Nuclear Power Plants

Canadian Partnership Announces SMR Fuel Research

cnl2.logo(WNN) Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has agreed to collaborate with USNC-Power, a subsidiary of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), on research in support of USNC’s Micro Modular Reactor(MMR). The project will include exploring the feasibility of siting a reactor component manufacturing facility for USNC’s fuel at CNL’s Chalk River campus.

The project, which is funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), will include research related to the manufacturing of USNC’s proprietary Fully Ceramic Microencapsulate (FCM) fuel, the design of an irradiation program for the reactor’s graphite core, and the establishment of a laboratory for fuel analysis at Chalk River.

It will also include the development of a multi-year testing program to support the validation of USNC’s fuel and core as they progress through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s vendor design review process.

CNL President and CEO Mark Lesinski said the agreement with USNC-Power represented a step forward in pursuit of the organization’s goal of making the “next generation” of nuclear reactors a reality. ”

“Based on our ongoing dialogue with SMR vendors, it’s clear that there is a need for increased access to our expertise and facilities to support SMR research and development. The CNRI program is intended to fill this void.”

The MMR features a core of hexagonal graphite blocks containing stacks of FCM fuel TRISO type pellets, which USNC says has a low power density and a high heat capacity resulting in very slow and predictable temperature changes. The helium-cooled reactor is fueled once for its 20-year lifetime.

USNC CEO Francesco Venneri said the joint research will be “an important next step in validating our approach to SMR reactor and fuel design”.

The agreement with USNC is the first under the annual CNRI program, launched by CNL in 2019 to accelerate the deployment of SMRs in Canada by enabling R&D and connecting the SMR industry with the facilities and expertise within Canada’s national nuclear laboratories. The agreement includes CAD1.5 million (USD$1.1 million) of in-kind contributions from CNL for the project and will be completed by the spring of 2021.

CNL has identified SMRs as one of eight strategic initiatives it is pursuing as part of its long-term strategy, with the goal of siting an SMR by 2026. At present four proponents are engaged in a four-stage invitation process launched in in 2018 to evaluate the construction and operation of a demonstration SMR at a CNL site.

  • U-Battery Canada Ltd, with a design for a 4 MW high-temperature gas reactor;
  • StarCore Nuclear, with a proposed 14 MW high-temperature gas reactor; and
  • Terrestrial Energy, with a 190 MW integral molten salt reactor, have all completed the first stage of the process.
  • Global First Power, with a proposal for a 5 MW MMR supported by USNC and Ontario Power Generation, has completed the first two stages and begun the third stage.

Rolls-Royce and Turkey’s EUAS  Plan Joint SMR Construction Effort

rolls royve logo(NucNet) The companies plan to look at market potential for small modular nuclear plant.

Rolls-Royce and Turkey’s state-owned electricity generation company EUAS have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to carry out a study to evaluate the possibility of building small modular reactors in Turkey.

Rolls-Royce said the two companies would evaluate the technical, economical and legal aspects of SMR construction. They will also look into the joint production of SMRs. Rolls Royce has recently rolled out plans for a 440 MW PWR, but SMRs are usually considered to have power ratings of 300MW or less.

The agreement, which Rolls-Royce has signed in its role as a member of a consortium designing an SMR, said the agreement commits to a study that will look at market potential for the plant in Turkey and for global markets.

EUAS chief executive officer Yahya Yılmaz Bayraktarlı said Turkey wants to diversify electricity resources with nuclear power. His cautious statement may indicate that the MOU is the first step in a long journey to a deal.

“The feasibility of small modular reactors is a research and development issue we continuously monitor.”

The consortium which is designing the power station comprises Rolls-Royce, Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Jacobs, The Welding Institute and Nuclear AMRC.

Components for the Rolls-Royce SMR would be manufactured in standardized sections in factories, before being transported to sites for rapid assembly inside a weatherproof canopy. The result is lower upfront costs, and a faster, predictable construction and commissioning periods

Status of Turkey’s Commercial Nuclear Program

Turkey has begun construction of its first commercial nuclear station at Akkuyu. It will have four Russian Generation III+ 1,200-MW VVER units, with the first expected to come online in 2023 and a further unit starting every year afterwards.

Rosatom, the Russian export agency funding the project, has been seeking investors for Turkey’s 50% share of the project. So far several potential deals have fallen through.

A second site proposed for the Sinop site on Turkey’s Black Sea Coast was abandoned by its Japanese investors in December 2018.  According to a Reuters report, escalating costs, and the unproven nature of the 1100 MW ATMEA PWR, were the reasons for the decision.

Plans for a third site remain in the talking stage although a general location has been selected by Turkey’s energy ministry.  The Igneada site is located on Turkey’s Kirklareli Peninsula about 12 miles from the border with Bulgaria. China is reported to be proposing to build two CAP1400 PWRs there, but little progress has been made on the project since it was announced four years ago.

NRC Issues Draft EIA For Holtec Spent Fuel Facility

(NucNet) Holtec International is planning to build an underground fuel storage facility called Hi-Store in southeastern New Mexico. Holtec International and its partner, the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), decided to establish the facility on land owned by ELEA in 2015.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a draft environmental impact statement for a proposed consolidated interim storage facility in New Mexico.

The draft statement includes the NRC staff’s preliminary recommendation that there are no environmental impacts that would preclude the NRC from issuing a license for environmental reasons.

Holtec said the Hi-Store project will provide a significant step on the path to the federal government’s long-standing obligation for disposition of used nuclear fuel by providing a centralised facility for storage of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste until such time that a permanent solution is available.

The initial application for the Hi-Store facility includes storage of up to 8,680 tonnes of uranium in commercial used fuel (500 canisters) with future amendments for up to 10,000 storage canisters total.

Holtec said the US has more than 80,000 tonnes of used nuclear fuel in storage and more is being generated at a rate of 2,000 tonnes a year.

In a separate effort, Interim Storage Partners, which is developing a similar site in Andrews, TX, says on its website it expects an NRC license for it in 2021.

Indonesia Dusts Off Plans for Nuclear Energy

(Wire Service Reports) According to trade press and English language media in Indonesia, the country is said to be considering updating its plans to building one or more nuclear energy power plants.  Over the years several vendors have approached the government with proposals, but so far no commitments have been made.

State utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara and US nuclear energy startup ThorCon International reportedly planned a preliminary study for the $1.2 billion development of a 500 MW reactor that uses thorium rather than uranium.  Russia has also proposed to build 1000 MW VVER type reactors and China has proposed a high temperature gas cooled reactor with a power rating of approximately 250 MW.

Recently, Indonesia’s parliament has begun consideration of a bill has omnibus bill to encourage private sector investment in nuclear energy. According to media reports the legislation has the support of Indonesia President Joko Widodo.

The legislation loosens requirements for the private sector to pursue nuclear power projects especially in the area of getting permits from the government.

IAEA Addresses Safety of Smart Devices in Nuclear Power Plants

(WNN) The safety of smart digital devices used in nuclear power plants – some of which were not initially designed for nuclear-related purposes – was discussed last month at a meeting in Vienna organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The objective of the meeting was to establish guidance on the selection and evaluation of smart devices to be used in systems important to the safety of power plants.

Smart digital devices such as smart sensor transmitters, electrical protective devices, and variable speed drives, are increasingly used at many nuclear power plants. Old and obsolete equipment in power plants is often replaced with smart devices

These devices are connected to other devices or networks via different communication protocols and are able to operate to some extent interactively and autonomously. This can include devices with artificial intelligence software.

However, the nuclear market is too small for the development of customized smart devices specifically for power plants. Adaptation is key. Operators are turning to devices initially developed for other market segments and certified by non-nuclear authorities. The result is that they may require extra reviews to be used for nuclear power plants.

“Smart devices can be used in equipment or systems to increase nuclear power plant safety and reliability, enhance safe operation or improve various functions,” said Alexander Duchac, nuclear safety officer at the IAEA.

“However, if not properly selected and qualified, they may potentially introduce new hazards, vulnerabilities, and failure modes. It’s a potential issue for both operating and new nuclear power reactors.”

However, regulators do not normally have access to the design information of equipment to make an informed decision on the devices’ safety.

The equipment qualification is very often almost impossible without cooperation from the vendor, who tends to protect the intellectual property of commercial development processes. Moreover, operators often lack guidance on how to provide sufficient information to the regulator under such circumstances

The IAEA plans to produce its first safety report on the use of smart devices, which will be published later this year. The report intends to provide a common technical basis for all countries. It will contain a model of how to design, select and evaluate candidate smart devices for their safe use in nuclear safety systems, including instrumentation and control, electrical, mechanical and other areas.

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DOD Awards $39M to Three Firms to Design Microreactors

  • US Defense Department Awards Contracts Worth $39 Million
  • Units could also be used for civilian applications like disaster response work

(NucNet) The US Department of Defense has issued three contracts for companies to start design work on mobile, small nuclear reactors, as part of a plan towards deploying nuclear power for US forces at home and abroad.

The DOD awarded contracts to Westinghouse Government Services of Washington for $11.9M; BWX Technologies of Virginia for $13.5M; and X-energy of Maryland for $14.3M, to begin a two-year engineering design competition for a nuclear microreactor designed to potentially be deployed with the nation’s armed forces

The combined $39.7m in contracts are from Project Pele, a project to develop a prototype microreactor in the 1-5 MW power range. The Department of Energy has been supporting the project at the Idaho National Laboratory.

The DOD said in a press statement that Project Pele involves the development of a safe, mobile and advanced nuclear microreactor to support a variety of missions such as generating power for remote operating bases. The prize at the end of the two year “bake off” could be huge with contracts to build a fleet of the selected design for all branches of the military.

“After a two-year design-maturation period, one of the three companies may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype.”

GAO grId14_image5

The statement said microreactors would significantly reduce the need for investments in costly power infrastructure and use of fossil fuels. In civilian applications, they could be easily relocated to support disaster response work and provide temporary or long-term support to critical infrastructure like hospitals, as well as remote civilian locations where delivery of electricity and power is difficult.

A May 2019 study concluded that mobile nuclear microreactors can support armed forces deployment and meet power demands in developed areas such as Europe and “immature theaters” of conflict in lesser developed areas.

The study said a microreactor could deliver one to 10 MW or so of electrical power for years without refuelling, in a size small enough to be transported by road and air.

Microreactors, usually of 10MW or less, are under development in the US by companies like Westinghouse, NuScale and Terrestrial Energy, and also by NASA for space exploration.

Industry Response to the Contract Awards

The Nuclear Energy Institute said in a statement on its website that DOD’s program was the latest example of public-private partnerships allowing developers to demonstrate technology prior to commercial deployment and verify the capabilities of their designs.

NEI Senior Director of New Reactors Mark Nichol said, “We are entering a decade of nuclear innovation where we will see advanced nuclear technologies developed and deployed to address the energy needs in a wide variety of markets,”

“Micro-reactors will offer tremendous social benefits, bringing carbon-free electricity to remote communities and developing countries across the globe.”

Pele is not the only attempt at introducing small nuclear reactors to the Pentagon’s inventory.

A second effort is being run through the office of the undersecretary of acquisition and sustainment. That effort, ordered in 2019, involves a pilot program to demonstrate the efficacy of a small nuclear reactor, in the 2-10 MW range, with initial testing at a Department of Energy site by 2023.

Features of Micro Reactors

Microreactors are not defined by their fuel form or coolant. Instead, they have three main features:

Factory fabricated: All components of a microreactor would be fully assembled in a factory and shipped out to location. This eliminates difficulties associated with large-scale construction, reduces capital costs and would help get the reactor up and running quickly.

Transportable: Smaller unit designs will make microreactors very transportable. This would make it easy for vendors to ship the entire reactor by truck, shipping vessel, airplane or railcar.

Self-regulating: Simple and responsive design concepts will allow microreactors to self-regulate. They won’t require a large number of specialized operators and would utilize passive safety systems that prevent any potential for overheating or reactor meltdown.

Microreactors Infographic-2-01

Microreactor infographic courtesy of U.S. Department of Energy.

Benefits

Microreactor designs vary, but most would be able to produce 1-20 megawatts of thermal energy that could be used directly as heat or converted to electric power. They can be used to generate clean and reliable electricity for commercial use or for non-electric applications such as district heating, water desalination and hydrogen fuel production.

Other benefits include:

  • Seamless integration with renewables within microgrids
  • Can be used for emergency response to help restore power to areas hit by natural disasters
  • A longer core life, operating for up to 10 years without refueling
  • Can be quickly removed from sites and exchanged for new ones.

Most designs will require fuel with a higher concentration of uranium-235 that’s not currently used in today’s reactors, although some may benefit from use of high temperature moderating materials that would reduce fuel enrichment requirements while maintaining the small system size.

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COVID-19 News: Nuclear Workers May Live On-Site During Virus Crisis

Nuclear Reactor Operators May Live at their Plants

1800x1200_coronavirus_1The New York Times reports via Reuters that the nation’s electric power utilities are planning to set up housekeeping for cadres of healthy workers at the plants to keep the lights on for millions of Americans.

According to the newspaper, the utilities, which include the nation’s nuclear reactor operators, are stockpiling food, beds, and laundry, and other supplies for the workers.

See also: North Carolina nuclear plants brace to operate during coronavirus pandemiclink

In the past when hurricanes have threatened power stations along the nation’s gulf and east coasts, workers hunkered down for a few days until the storm’s fury had moved on. This time it’s different. The virus crisis that is immobilizing the U.S. economy could last for several months or longer.

Maria Korsnick, president of the Nuclear Energy Institute, told the ‘Times the some of the 60 operating reactors are “considering measures to isolate a core group to run the plant.” She added that they are getting ready to live at the facility for perhaps what could be a considerable period of time.

The reality is there are only a certain number of people who are trained and certified to run the reactors. Keeping them isolated from exposure to the coronavirus is a top priority according to James Slevin, president of the Utility Workers of America which represents 50,000 members. He told the ‘Times utilities are making plans to have the workers spend more time at the plant or remain there between shifts.

EDF Readies Emergency Plans for the French Nuclear Fleet

A business continuity plan that relies on experience with prior pandemics, like the 2003 SARS and 2009 H1N1 events, is being put into motion in France by all business units of the state owned electric utility. The plan includes a provision to have teams on site 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure minimum staffing levels are maintained at nuclear reactors.

EDF said that during the prior pandemics it experienced absenteeism of up to 40% of the workforce. This time it is mandating work at home arrangements for those workers whose jobs can continue remotely. However, workers who are involved in plant operations, safety, security, maintenance, and other essential on-site functions, will be authorized to use “new operating modes” which include taking up temporary residence at the reactor sites.

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