What’s Up for Nuclear Energy at COP26? – Updated

Focus on COP26

  • cop26What’s Up for Nuclear Energy at COP26?
  • EU Nations Divided in Support of Nuclear Energy
  • Lobbying Underway to Water Down the IPCC Report
  • UK Net Zero Strategy Includes Large-Scale Nuclear
  • A Role for SMRs in the UK; Rolls-Royce to the Rescue??
  • UKAEA Shortlists Five Sites for STEP Fusion Plant
  • France Offers €30 billion in Initiatives on Nuclear Energy
  • Japan / Nuclear Reactor Restarts Key To Meeting Climate Targets

Other Nuclear News – SMRs

  • GEH, BWXT team up to support BWRX-300
  • Terrestrial Energy And Cameco Sign MOU for SMRs
  • X-energy and Kinectrics Sign MOU to Support Helius Clean Energy Innovation Center

Note to Readers: Due to some rapidly changing events, this blog post has been updated as of 10/24/21.

Focus on COP 26:

What’s Up for Nuclear Energy at COP26?

The UK will host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow for two weeks starting October 30th. The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Andy D. Paterson, a Washington, D.C., based policy & politics expert at Environmental Business International (EBI), wrote in an email to subscribers recently that this is not a “normal COP.” He said  that coming five years since the Paris “it will ask for emboldened commitment.” It is a tall order for parties attending the meeting many of whom have radically different ideas about climate change. How will nuclear energy fit in it?

Paterson points his readers to the World Resources Institute website which lays out four key topics and ten solutions that climate negotiators must address during the meeting. Also, The World Nuclear Association has a suite of special web pages on nuclear energy and COP26 which are excellent references to dive deeper into the issue.

net zero

Investing in Climate Change

A key area,, among others, will be financing climate action. Money will come in two forms  (1) financing from “donor” nations and international banks and (2) private investment driven in part by the growing trend towards sustainable development and “ESG” (environmental, social, governance) investors. Ahead of the money will be policy commitments to specific decarbonization technologies including nuclear energy.

One of the major concerns that will be discussed at COP26 is whether on a global basis there is enough political will and money to address climate change, by any means, at the same rate at which the world is warming up. Advocates for using nuclear energy as a means to achieving decarbonization of the electrical utility industry, argue that the world is falling behind and may fall behind further if quicker action isn’t one of the outcomes of COP26.

One of the key problems is that many countries have huge investments in fossil fuel power plants, and cannot quickly transition to nuclear energy nor replace fossil fueled baseload power with renewables.

They either do not have the capital to pay for new nuclear power plants or lack the political will to make a decade long commitment to build full size new ones or both. As no one has yet built a small modular reactor (SMR) on time and within budget, the risk of committing to this technology slows down the decision process to proceed with these more affordable designs.

Getting to Net Zero

In a new IAEA ‘Report on Nuclear Energy for a Net Zero World’ issued ahead of the COP26 climate summit, the IAEA highlights nuclear power’s critical role in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development by the following actions.

  • displacing coal and other fossil fuels,
  • enabling the further deployment of renewable energy and
  • becoming an economical source for large amounts of clean hydrogen.

John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate for the US, said in his statement for the IAEA report, “The task ahead of us — limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5°C and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 — is a formidable challenge and an immense economic opportunity.”

“The global clean energy transition will require deploying, at massive scale, the full range of clean energy technologies, including nuclear energy, over the next decade and beyond.”

Russia and China Go Their Own Way

Despite being significantly committed to the use of nuclear energy, neither Russia nor China are planning to have their heads of state attend COP26. Both countries have pushed back in various ways on engagement with the conference. Their energy policies reflect a strong focus on self-interest and continued use of their fossil fuel resources.

In Russia’s case it continues to use control of natural gas supplies for export as a means of geopolitical influence in Europe which is facing predictions of a severe winter and limited gas supplies.

China continues to develop its domestic coal resources, and will do so for the next four decades, despite a major commitment of adding full size nuclear reactors to its nuclear fleet. However, China says it has stopped building new coal fired power plants for export as part of its Belt & Road initiative,

According to the World Nuclear Association, China has become largely self-sufficient in reactor design and construction, as well as other aspects of the fuel cycle, but it is making full use of western technology while adapting and improving it. China built and commissioned four Westinghouse AP1000 PWRs and then leveraged that experience to deploy a 1400 MWe domestic version. Also, relative to the rest of the world, a major strength is the nuclear supply chain.

Except for a single (Hualong One) 1000 MWe PWR being built in Pakistan, China has not booked any other nuclear export deals. Its prospects for exports to the UK are in question and a revised effort to negotiate a deal with Argentina is yet to be completed. Discussions with Turkey for a project on the western coast of the Black Sea have been ongoing for the past five years without a timeline for closing a deal in sight.

Russia’s nuclear reactors export policy has been driven by favorable financial terms offering nations buying their 1200 MWe VVERs between 50% (Turkey, Finland) and 80% (Egypt, Bangladesh) of the costs. India has commissioned two 1000 MWe VVER at Kundakulam, is building two more, and has units 5 & 6 in the planning stage for the same site.

Where is the US?

The US presence at COP26 will be led by the State Department with support by the Department of Energy. Unlike some other nations (UK, France, Japan), the US has not (yet) issued any statements about newly energized commitments to nuclear energy. A statement on “global partnerships” issued by DOE last April doesn’t mention nuclear energy. Efforts by the Biden administration to get a climate change legislative package passed by Congress have been in disarray due to opposition by several key Democratic party senators including Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) who reportedly made over $5M in income from investments in coal mining last year.

The closest thing to DOE’s international presence regarding nuclear energy is that DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm and IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi met in Vienna in September during the agency’s 65th General Conference, to launch preparations for the next IAEA International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century, slated for October 26–28, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

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Focus on COP 26:

EU Nations Divided in Support of Nuclear Energy

eu greenThere are different stories among western nations especially in Europe. According to the French 24 wire service, France, Czech Republic and others are pushing for nuclear energy in the EU’s green investment rules. Germany and Austria are pushing back.

The European Commission is expected to make a decision on whether the climate taxonomy will label nuclear energy and natural gas as green investments. It is deeply divided on the subject and missed a major opportunity to commit to nuclear energy ahead of COP26 by postponing its decision to December or later. In terms of achieving progress to address climate change, the so-called “green movement” in western Europe appears to be its own worst enemy.

The first-of-its-kind “green investment” regulation would drive private capital out away from polluting economic activities, like new coal-fired and gas powered plants, and into those the EU deems environmentally friendly including solar, wind, and nuclear. The European Union’s inability to come to a consensus on this effort is a blot on its credibility.

“To win the climate battle, we need nuclear power,” said a recent statement from the pro-nuclear EU countries, which was also signed by representatives of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, and Slovenia. These countries are pushing for nuclear energy to be included as a means of achieving climate goals.  (Full text)

“All scientific assessments requested by the European Commission on the environmental impacts of nuclear energy come to the same conclusion: there is no science-based evidence that nuclear power is less climate-friendly than any of the energy sources included in the taxonomy. It is, for us all, a crucial and reliable asset for a low-carbon future.”

These countries, led by France, said rising energy prices, especially for Russian gas, show the importance of cutting dependence on third countries as soon as possible.

Among other things, the statement says, “If Europe is to win the climate war, it needs the nuclear energy. It is a vital and reliable resource for all to secure a low-carbon future.”

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Focus on COP 26:

Lobbying Underway to Water Down the IPCC Report

water downNot everyone is so ambitious on behalf of nuclear energy. According to a report by the BBC, a document leak reveals several nations are lobbying to change a key IPCC climate report by watering down its recommendations.

A huge leak of documents seen by BBC News shows how some countries are trying to change a crucial scientific report on ways to tackle climate change. The leak reveals Saudi Arabia, Australia, and India are among countries asking the UN to play down the need to move rapidly away from fossil fuels. It also shows some wealthy nations are questioning paying more to poorer states to move to greener technologies. The push by third world countries for more commitments from donor nations needs to be accompanied by governance measures that reduce the risk of foreign direct investment in climate related projects like wind, solar, and nuclear. Donor financing will never be enough to meet their needs.

The leak reveals which countries are pushing back on UN recommendations for action and comes just days before they will be asked at the COOP26 summit to make significant commitments to slow down climate change and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees. These countries argue that the world does not need to reduce the use of fossil fuels as quickly as the current draft of the IPCC report recommends. It follows that their financial commitments to climate change decarbonization will be scaled to these policies.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, requests the UN scientists delete their conclusion that “the focus of decarbonization efforts in the energy systems sector needs to be on rapidly shifting to zero-carbon sources and actively phasing out fossil fuels.”

A document in the leak, which is actually a “comment” submitted to the IPCC report, reveals that an adviser to the Saudi oil ministry demands, “phrases like ‘the need for urgent and accelerated mitigation actions at all scales…’ should be eliminated from the report.”

A senior Australian government official rejects the conclusion that closing coal-fired power plants is necessary, even though ending the use of coal is one of the stated objectives the COP26 conference. Australia asks IPCC scientists to delete a reference to analysis of the role played by fossil fuel lobbyists in watering down action on climate in Australia and the US.  In other words, the lobbying effort has been called out and now those state actors so identified want to change the narrative. Australia’s leading politicians remain staunchly in support of the country’s coal exports and its use for domestic electric power and hard over against nuclear energy including SMRs. Sadly for these countries, the pace of climate change doesn’t care about the narrative in the IPCC report.

A senior scientist from India’s Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research, which has strong links to the Indian government, warns coal is likely to remain the mainstay of energy production for decades because of what they describe as the “tremendous challenges” of providing affordable electricity. India is already the world’s second biggest consumer of coal globally and its state-owned, contractor operated, coal mining operations wield significant influence with the government.  That said India has recently committed to building a fleet of ten 700 MWe PHWRs using an all domestic supply chain relying on India’s heavy industry firms.

What Me Worry? IPCC Deflects the Lobbying Label.

In a statement to the BBC, the IPCC denied that these lobbying efforts would have any effect on its recommendations.

“Our processes are designed to guard against lobbying from all quarters”, the IPCC told the BBC. “The review process is (and always has been) absolutely fundamental to the IPCC’s work and is a major source of the strength and credibility of our reports.”

In one positive note, the BBC report indicates that the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia criticized a table in the IPCC report which finds nuclear power only has a positive role in delivering one of 17 UN Sustainable Development goals. They argue it can play a positive role in delivering most of the UN’s development agenda.

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Focus on COP 26:

UK  Net Zero Strategy Includes Large-Scale Nuclear

(NucNet) The UK will secure a final investment decision, worth $20-25 billion, on the Sizewell C nuclear plant ( 1600 MWe reactors) by 2024 and launch a new £120 million ‘Future Nuclear Enabling Fund’ with options for new nuclear technologies including small modular reactors (SMRs).

In a net zero strategy the government said the new fund will provide targeted support for the development and deployment of new reactor technologies. Details of the fund will be announced in 2022, along with a roadmap for deployment.

The government has already committed £385 million to an advanced nuclear fund with £215 million of that for SMRs. It has allocated the remaining £170 million for an R&D program on advanced reactors which could reach the commercial stage in the 2030s. Critics of the plan say that while the funding commitments are on the scale of hundreds of millions, the actual need for financing Sizewell C and other sites (Moorside, Wylfa, Oldbury, and Bradwell)  would be $50-80 billion over a 10-15 year period or about $5-7 billion a year for the ten year scenario

The strategy confirms that the UK will create a new financing model for nuclear projects. This is a reference to the regulated asset base (RAB) model, which encourages investment in major infrastructure projects by delivering reliable returns, at a reduced rate, before a plant is operational. Legislation on RAB funding is due to progress through parliament in the coming weeks. The UK government has been dithering about it for several years and is now finally moving ahead to implement via legislation rather than executive action.

The nuclear industry welcomed the net zero strategy, saying it was pleased to see the government commit new money to the development of nuclear projects and to set out its intention to bring Sizewell C to a final investment decision.

Tom Greatrex chief executive of the London-based Nuclear Industry Association, said: “We need to invest quickly to clean up the grid by 2035 and ensure our energy security, so we look forward to seeing details of this new fund, money for SMR deployment and legislation for regulated asset base financing coming forward soon.”

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Focus on COP 26:

A Role for SMRs in the UK? Rolls-Royce to the Rescue?

rolls royve logoThe Financial Times, London, reported on 10/20/21 that SMRs will have a “key role” in the UK effort to hit climate targets. One of the major selling points of SMRs is that they promises significant cost savings compared to traditional large-scale reactors. Rolls-Royce, a British engineering firm that leads an SMR consortium, estimates that the first five of a fleet of up to 16 of its 470 MWe SMR reactors that it hopes to build will cost £2.2 billion each and subsequent units will cost £1.8 billion. These estimates assume that a factory can be built to fabricate the reactors on a mass production basis rather than “stick building” them one at a time. The firm doesn’t expect to stop at 16 as it is already marketing the mid-range reactor for export to Poland and other countries.

Rolls-Royce has been not revealed much about its effort to raise SMR funds from private investors, but said consortium director Tom Samson says he is in talks with “many investors and developers interested in deploying technology.”

The firm said that what amounts to seed money given the scope of its ambitions of £215 million will be granted by the UK government to the firm to get the fleet effort off the ground.

A spokesperson for the firm told the newspaper that it is seeking private matching funding so that SMR reactor designs can be submitted to to the Office of Nuclear Regulation generic design assessment (GDA) process by the end of the year. It takes about four to five years to complete the process which means the target date for breaking ground for a first of a kind unit is probably not sooner than 2027. If the GDA is delayed, or if enough investors aren’t committed soon enough, it could be the early 2030s before the first of a kind plant is commissioned.

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Focus on COP26:

UKAEA Shortlists Five Sites for STEP Fusion Plant

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) announced that five sites had been shortlisted for the UK’s Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) fusion energy plant. A final decision on the plant’s location will be made by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy around the end of 2022. STEP is a government-backed program to build a prototype fusion energy plant in the UK. The STEP plant aims to generate net electricity as well as demonstrating how the plant will be maintained and how it will produce its own fuel.

fusion homes 5 sites

Originally, 15 sites were selected following an open call for sites between December 2020 and March 2021. Five have been shortlisted following an initial phase of assessment. These are:

  • Ardeer (North Ayrshire)
  • Goole (East Riding of Yorkshire)
  • Moorside (Cumbria)
  • Ratcliffe-on-Soar (Nottinghamshire)
  • Severn Edge (South Gloucestershire & Gloucestershire)

STEP will pave the way to the commercialization of fusion and the potential development of a fleet of future plants to be exported around the world. The aim for the first phase of work on STEP is to produce a ‘concept design’ by 2024.

The next phase of work will include detailed engineering design, while all relevant permissions and consents to build the prototype are sought. The final phase is construction, with operations targeted to begin around 2040. The aim is to have a fully evolved design and final approval to build by 2032, enabling construction to begin by then. As a practical matter, if fusion can be made to work on a commercial scale by 2040, its major impact on decarbonization will be in the second half of this century.

In addition to its initial £222 million commitment to STEP, the government has already invested £184 million for new fusion facilities, infrastructure and apprenticeships at Culham Science Centre near Oxford and at Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Earlier this year the government published a green paper on the future of fusion energy regulation and a separate Fusion Strategy.

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Focus on COP 26:

France Offers €30 billion for New Nuclear Initiatives

French President Emmanuel Macron announced a shift to small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) as he unveiled his €30 billion, five-year strategy, to boost France’s high-tech sectors. Analysts hail the technology as “promising,” especially in the face of Chinese competition. About €1 billion is allocated in the plan for development of SMRs. This is five times the amount committed by the UK.

Macron announced that the “number one priority” for his industrial strategy is for France to develop “innovative small-scale nuclear reactors” by 2030. The focus is on PWR technology designs. France has been late to the table in terms of developing SMRs and, despite rebooting a previously stalled effort in 2017, has not caught up to the U.S., the U.K. or Canada in this regard. It could take until the 2030s before France has an SMR design ready for domestic commercial use and export.

Switching to small modular reactors is a strategic pivot to allow France to deal with competition from countries like China, which has increasingly big ambitions when it comes to nuclear power. It’s export offer centers on a 1000 MWe PWR plant. China’s SMR effort has been devoted to supplying electricity to military bases on islands in the South China Sea. So far it hasn’t positioned its 100 MWe PWR for export, but it does have export ambitions for a 230 MWe HTGR which is being developed in Shandong Province. China plans to build as many as 20 of them for domestic use.

Separately, French President Emmanuel Macron wants to announce before Christmas plans for the construction of six new nuclear (1600 MWe) EPR reactors in France according to Le Figaro. Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said France could decide to build the six new EPR reactors even before Flamanville is fully operational. Flamanville has suffered a decade of delays and huge cost overruns, and ministers decline to say when it will go online. An EPR under construction in Finland still isn’t commissioned despite more than a decade of effort. The cost and schedule overruns at that project probably contributed to the UAE not selecting the EPR for its nuclear energy program instead building four South Korean 1400 MWe PWRs.

Focus on COP 26:

Japan / Nuclear Reactor Restarts Key To Meet Climate Targets

(NucNet) A government taskforce will speed up efforts to restart nuclear plants that have been offline since Fukushima in 2011. Japan has adopted a new energy policy that promotes nuclear and renewables as sources of clean energy to achieve the country’s pledge of reaching carbon neutrality in 2050.

The new basic energy plan keeps the target for nuclear power unchanged at 20-22% and says reactor restarts for the current fleet are key to meeting emissions targets. The plan, compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), says Japan should set ambitious targets for hydrogen and ammonia energy, carbon recycling and nuclear energy.

The changes in the plan are meant to achieve the carbon emissions reduction target announced in April by former prime minister Yoshihide Suga. His successor, Fumio Kishida, who has backed nuclear plant restarts and SMRs, took office this month. There is no mention of SMRs in the new energy policy.

The plan does not mention the possibility of new reactors, despite calls for new-build from some industry officials and a number of lawmakers.  It will complete the Oma nuclear plant which was already started when the tidal wave and earthquake destroyed the reactors at the Fukushima site. The reactor, which is expected to be completed sometime after 2025, will exclusively burn MOX fuel.

Japan is pursuing research and development of small modular reactors but it does not have a viable path to building SMRs at this time. A joint R&D effort with Poland to develop an HTGR SMR got underway in 2020. The idea is to position to design to replace coal fired boilers while taking advantage of other existing infrastructure like switch yards, turbines, etc.

Japan has pledged to reduce its CO2 emissions by 46% from 2013 levels, up from an earlier target reduction of 26%, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Japan says it would try to push the reduction as high as 50% to be in line with the European Union’s commitment.

In June, the Mihama-3 nuclear power unit in Fukui prefecture, western Japan, was restarted, becoming the 10th plant out of a possible 33 to return to service in Japan since Fukushima-Daiichi. The other units that have returned to service are Sendai-1 and -2, Genkai-3 and -4, Ikata-3, Ohi-3 and -4 and Takahama-3 and -4. Interestingly, several of these plants are configured to burn MOX fuel.

Other Nuclear News – SMRs

GEH, BWXT team up to support BWRX-300 deployment

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and BWXT Canada have entered into an agreement to cooperate on engineering and procurement to support the design, manufacturing and commercialization of the BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR). The BWRX-300 is one of three SMR designs under consideration for deployment at Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) Darlington site.

bwrx 300

“Through the agreement, if the BWRX-300 is selected for deployment at Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington Nuclear Generation Station, BWXT Canada could provide detailed engineering and design for manufacturability for BWRX-300 equipment and components and ultimately could supply certain key reactor components for the deployment of the BWRX-300 in Canada,” GEH said.

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s 1500 MWE ESBWR boiling water reactor, which has been certified by the NRC. It is currently undergoing a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission pre-licensing Vendor Design Review (VDR).

Ontario Power Generation(OPG)  last year announced it was resuming planning activities for additional nuclear power generation via an SMR at its Darlington New Nuclear site. It is the only site in Canada licensed for new nuclear with a completed environmental assessment. the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission announced its decision on 10/13 to renew the existing Site Preparation License for the project.

GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 is one of three SMR designs under consideration for deployment at Darlington. The others are Terrestrial Energy’s Integrated Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) and X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR).

Terrestrial Energy And Cameco Sign MOU for SMRs

(NucNet) SMR developer Terrestrial Energy and uranium company Cameco have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to examine potential partnership opportunities to deploy Terrestrial Energy’s integrated molten salt reactor (IMSR) Generation IV nuclear power plants in North America, and worldwide, and to evaluate possible opportunities for the supply of uranium, fuel and other services.

The two Canadian companies said in a joint statement that they are investigating the potential of Cameco’s Port Hope uranium conversion facility in southern Ontario for IMSR fuel salt supply.

Cameco is a provider of uranium, refining, conversion, fuel fabrication and component manufacturing services for the global nuclear energy industry. The company is one of the world’s largest producers of uranium fuel for nuclear power generation, including supplying fuel and fuel assemblies for CANDU reactors in Canada and abroad.

The IMSR uses nuclear fuel at standard enrichment, e.g., >5% U235. It is the only Generation IV SMR power plant designed to do this today. This design avoids the considerable cost and time of re-licensing uranium enrichment plants and removes hurdles to commercialization. Given the nuclear industry’s concerns about getting adequate supplies of HALEU fuel, at 5-19% U235, this may be a considerable competitive advantage in the short-term.

In August, Terrestrial Energy signed an agreement with Westinghouse and the UK National Nuclear Laboratory to advance the industrial scaleup and commercial supply of enriched uranium fuel.

X-energy and Kinectrics Sign MOU to Support Helius Clean Energy Innovation Center

Envisioned as a collaborative research hub bringing together clean energy technology developers, academia, industry and other key stakeholders, the Helius R&D hub will support thermal hydraulic testing; materials testing and qualification; component functional or performance testing; and other related activities.

The world-class facility will also house equipment enabling research and development and will come with extensive capabilities to demonstrate proof of concept for SMR viability in non-electrical market applications. This kind of commitments is intended to speed up time to market for the firm. It also is a signal that the firm is not making plans to use US an Canadian national laboratory testing facilities which have limited capacity.

“Helius will provide critical infrastructure for our plans to net-zero,” said Katherine Moshonas Cole, President of X-energy Canada. Most recently, Katherine served as X-energy’s Canada Country Manager before joining Kinectrics.

“As well as testing our Xe-100’s systems and components in helium and high-temperature environments, the facility will also enable us to demonstrate the use of our reactor’s high temperature steam for hydrogen production and direct industrial uses. These capabilities are integral to Canada’s transition to a clean energy future.”

Kinectrics is the supplier for execution of X-energy’s test program. X-energy and Kinectrics recently signed a collaboration agreement to advance the design and deployment of the Xe-100 SMR in Canada, the United States and worldwide. Kinectrics has been instrumental to X-energy’s progress in the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) Pre-Licensing Vendor Design Review (VDR).

The MOU builds on this partnership, advancing efforts to establish the infrastructure required to develop, test and commercialize clean energy technologies, such as the Xe-100.

The Xe-100 is the catalyst to the world’s net-zero future. The Generation IV advanced reactor design builds on decades of HTGR operation, research, and development. It is designed to operate as a standard 320 MWe four-pack power plant or be scaled in units of 80 MWe, as needed. At 200 MWt of 565°C steam, the firm says the Xe-100 is also ideal for heavy industry, mining, petrochemical and other power applications.

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What’s Needed to Save Funding for the Versatile Test Reactor?

vtrlogo

It is time for the major developers of advanced nuclear reactors, and small modular light water reactors, in the U.S. to support funding for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR).

The reason is that these firms will need its testing capabilities to certify that their fuels, materials, sensors, and components will work in the demanding conditions that these plants are designed to operate in. There is no other way to do it. Self-certification either directly or with fuel and component vendors, is not a viable strategy.

Real-time measurements and post-irradiation examination techniques will provide valuable information on how fuels, materials, components and instrumentation withstand the extreme conditions inside nuclear power plants. This is crucial information needed to design, license, and build successful implementations of advanced nuclear reactors.

inl logo

The Advanced Test Reactor (ATR), which has performed this mission for the past 60 years, is undergoing a once-a-decade refurbishment and will be available soon to continue this scope of work while the VTR is being built. The VTR is the next generation of test reactors.

The Funding Problem

Here’s the funding problem. In mid August the House Appropriations Committee reported out a bill for 2022 with $1.7 billion in funding for Department of Energy programs but it set zero funding for the versatile test reactor (VTR). The committee report did not provide an explanation for this action. Supporters of the VTR project hope to restore the line item in DOE’s spending plan later this year in an omnibus bill that will be used to fund the entire federal government.

What remains unexplained, even by Congress, is why if there is broad technical support for the VTR, why no money was provided for it? The answer, according to several sources who remain anonymous, is that the commercial side of the nuclear industry, especially developers of advanced nuclear reactors, didn’t step up to the plate. With no in the batter’s box from the commercial lineup, Congress didn’t score the VTR for funding.

Apparently, the story is that the Appropriations Committee was told developers felt that instead of waiting for the VTR to be built, and to be ready to test their fuels, components, and sensors, that they could do the fuel testing and other certification work themselves. This is a position by the commercial side of the industry in the service of speeding up time to market for their designs, but it is a mistake. By saying they can’t wait for impartial testing, these firms may be digging themselves into a hole rather than gaining market share. The position also slides by the fact that support for the VTR is not a waiting game as the ATR will be available for these testing missions.

This picture of sending a mixed message to a congressional appropriations committee, faced with multiple decisions about spending billions of dollars, is a sure path to zero dollars for the program at hand and that appears to be exactly what happened.
When faced with a message from the technical side of the nuclear industry over the need for the VTR, and a shoulder shrug at best from the commercial side, the appropriations committee likely said something along the lines of “ if these guys can’t get on the same page, we’re not going to fund it.”

Why Boeing 737 MAX Case Matters

It is not a good idea for developers of any large scale, complex technology to do their own testing, especially without the involvement of impartial third parties. The case in point is the costly debacle for Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allowed the aircraft manufacturer to test and report the results, including on the software for its autopilot functions, as part of the certification of the plane for commercial use. It turned out very badly financially for the firm and the credibility of the FAA, as a regulatory agency, was called into question.

Boeing agreed to pay more than $2.5 billion in fines and compensation after reaching a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Justice Department over the MAX crashes, which cost Boeing overall more than $20 billion. Also, what Boeing could have done with that money to get the 737 to market if it hadn’t cut corners with the required testing of the auto pilot software? From the perspective of nuclear energy, a firm could build more than a few advanced reactors for that kind of money.

The Brookings Institution studied the faults in the FAA’s process, and lack of oversight, testing, QA compliance, and other measures to insure a new airplane is ready for commercial service. The independent task force commissioned by the FAA to investigate the 737 Max situation concluded that the FAA failed to adequately monitor Boeing.

The report found that the aircraft manufacturer’s employees performed almost all of the analysis of the 737 Max safety system that contributed to the accidents, which was in turn reviewed by FAA employees who were unfamiliar with the complex underlying safety systems.
The task force concluded that the FAA would have closely scrutinized the aspects of the 737 Max that caused the accidents had its staff been more familiar with the technical details. The lesson learned from the Boeing case is that it is in the interest of commercial nuclear firms to avoid at all costs going down the same road.

What Needs to Be Done to Save Funding for the VTR?

Currently, a broad coalition of nuclear scientists and technical experts at national laboratories and research universities have published articles and white papers explaining why the versatile test reactor is necessary. In 2020 some commercial developers also spoke up.

Dr. Kathryn Huff, DOE’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, has a stump speech on the VTR which she presents in response to every chance she gets to speak. Advocacy by technical experts is necessary but not sufficient to get the attention of congress.

What is needed is to energize the lobbying influence of the commercial nuclear industry to restore the funding for the VTR. It is in the interests of these developers to do everything they can to get the VTR built and operating and that means getting the money from Congress to make these things happen.

It also wouldn’t hurt for commercial developers to mobilize their supply chains by congressional district since the House is where the VTR got zero funding. Plus, the more congressional districts that have skin in the game in terms of jobs and tax bae from being part of the supply chain for nuclear developers, the more receptive members of congress will be to restoring funding for the VTR.

Partner with DOD and Make the National Security Case

There is a natural partner for this joint messaging effort of technical and commercial interests. It is the Department of Defense which under Project Pele is developing 1-5 MWe mini reactors for use to insure tactical readiness of military bases by supplying reliable electricity to them. There are two reasons why this partnership is necessary.

project pele

The commercial nuclear industry is the the supplier of the mini reactor designs. If the commercial nuclear industry hopes to benefit from DOD’s work on Project Pele, it is going to need the VTR to validate key elements of their designs. The military does not buy technologies that are self-certified by their vendors.

The best outcome would be for developers of advanced nuclear reactors and DOD to jointly, or at least coordinate their efforts to make national security case for the VTR to Congress to restore funding for it, to fund its construction, and operation.

Don’t Waste Time. The Russians are Coming

It is time to get moving because the continuing resolution to fund the government for the rest of this fiscal year has to be passed by both chambers and signed by the president by mid-December.

By the way, the Russians will be happy to do exactly the same thing as the VTR with their version of it which they are building right now. Developers in other countries will have access to it. The message to US commercial developers is that it they want market share, support the VTR or others will take it from you. Losing the funding for VTR would be a terrible missed opportunity. Don’t blow it

What is the Versatile Test Reactor?

VTR will help scientists and engineers create safer, longer-lasting and more efficient fuels, materials, sensors and instrumentation required for nuclear technologies.

It will streamline the development of new nuclear technologies that can help bring reliable, affordable electricity to remote areas or provide the heat and energy needed to produce hydrogen, provide the high-temperature process heat needed for industrial applications, and produce clean water from brackish water, salt water or wastewater.

The Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) is a one-of-a-kind scientific user facility capable of performing large-scale, fast-spectrum neutron irradiation tests and experiments simply not possible today. It will support research, development and demonstration of innovative nuclear energy technologies (with a focus on fuels, materials and sensors in representative environments) that can supply the world with abundant carbon-free energy.

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With the addition of VTR, the United States will again lead the world in nuclear energy research, safety and security while also supporting United States industry partners as they commercialize new technologies. See also the full VTR FAQ https://inl.gov/vtr/

What will VTR do?

Test reactors are scientific research tools. They provide intense neutron fluxes that are used to simulate prototypical conditions or conduct accelerated neutron damage irradiation studies.

Real-time measurements and subsequent post-irradiation examination techniques provide valuable information on how fuels, materials, components and instrumentation withstand the extreme conditions inside nuclear power plants and even future fusion reactors. This enables scientists and engineers to design safer, longer-lasting and more efficient fuels, materials and components for nuclear energy systems.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

IAEA Report on Nuclear Energy for a Net Zero World

The report is released ahead of the COP26 Climate Summit

iaea logoAhead of the COP26 climate summit, the IAEA has released Nuclear Energy for a Net Zero World. The special report  (Full Text 73 page PDF) highlights nuclear power’s critical role in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development by the following actions.

  • displacing coal and other fossil fuels,
  • enabling the further deployment of renewable energy and
  • becoming an economical source for large amounts of clean hydrogen.

As government, business and societal leaders from around the world prepare to gather at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on 31 October-12 November, the IAEA report lays out the reasons why nuclear must have a seat at the table whenever energy and climate policies are discussed.

In addition, nine countries—Canada, China, Finland, France, Japan, Poland, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom—provided statements in the report in support of its findings on nuclear power’s contributions to climate action.

Marking the launch of the report, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said “Over the past five decades, nuclear power has cumulatively avoided the emission of about 70 gigatonnes (Gt) of carbon dioxide (CO2) and continues to avoid more than 1 Gt CO2 annually,”

“As we head toward (COP26), it is time to make evidence-based decisions and ramp up the investment in nuclear. The cost of not doing so is far too high to bear.”

The report demonstrates how nuclear power is vital for achieving the goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring 24/7 energy supply, which provides stability and resilience to electrical grids and facilitates the wider integration of variable renewables such as wind and solar needed to drive the clean energy transition.

Replace Coal / Make “Green Hydrogen”

In addition, nuclear power as a firm source of low carbon electricity is well suited to replace coal and other fossil fuels while also providing heat and hydrogen to decarbonize hard-to-abate sectors such as industry and transportation. As such, nuclear power represents one of the most effective investments for the post-pandemic global economic recovery, contributing directly to UN Sustainable Development goals on energy, economic expansion and climate action.

nuclear and hydrogen

A key topic at COP26 will be accelerating the transition from coal. According to the report, replacing 20% of coal generation with 250 GW of nuclear generation would reduce emissions by 2 Gt CO2, or around 15% of electricity sector emissions per year. Nuclear power can also substitute coal-fired boilers for district heating and industry.

Abundant CO2 Emission Free Energy Drives Economic Growth

The report also outlines how nuclear power can be a significant driver of economic growth, generating jobs in many sectors and enabling a just transition to clean energy. Nuclear power, with a 10% share of global electricity generation, already provides over 800 000 jobs.

process heat rs

International Monetary Fund estimates show that investments in nuclear power generate a larger economic impact than those in other forms of energy, making it among the most effective actions for a sustainable economic recovery as well as the transition to a resilient net zero energy system.

Partnership with Renewables

Nuclear power’s partnership with renewables will be key to driving emissions to net zero, according to the report. Because it is dispatchable, low emission, flexible and reliable, nuclear power can underpin net zero energy mixes based on electricity, while also helping to lower the costs of the overall electricity generating system. Baseload power from nuclear plants stabilize the grid for use by intermittent sources like solar and wind.

Process Heat for Industry

Non-power sectors including steel, cement and chemical production, shipping and air transport—which together account for around 60% of energy-related global emissions—will require the deployment of heat or energy carriers such as hydrogen which must be produced with a low carbon footprint. Nuclear energy can provide low carbon heat and be used to produce hydrogen, particularly with high-temperature reactors currently under development.

Resilience Grids Based on Distributed Small Modular Reactors

The report underscores how resilient energy systems will rely on the robustness of individual generation technologies, grid infrastructure and demand side measures. A distributed fleet of small modular reactors (SMRs) is ideal for this reasons for some nations that are not positioned to develop large reactor power stations, e.g., 1000  MWe/unit.

Reliability in the Face of Extreme Weather

The nuclear sector is well prepared to face the challenges posed by climate change including the risks of more frequent and more extreme weather events and has developed specific adaptation measures to mitigate these risks.

While the frequency of weather-related outages at nuclear power plants has increased over the last 30 years, total production losses were minor, with reduced losses over the past decade, according to data from the IAEA’s Power Reactor Information System.

Action Item List for COP26

The publication recommends a series of actions aimed at accelerating the wider deployment of nuclear power, including:

  • Introduce carbon pricing and measures to value low-carbon energy
  • Adopt objective and technology neutral frameworks for low carbon investments
  • Ensure markets, regulations and policies value and remunerate nuclear energy’s contribution to reliable and resilience low-carbon energy systems
  • Boost public investment and support for private investment in nuclear power, including reactor lifetime extensions, as part of “green deal” and recovery packages
  • Promote diversified electricity systems to mitigate climate risks to energy infrastructure, ensuring the continuity and quality of electricity services

“The task ahead of us — limiting global average temperature rise to 1.5°C and achieving net zero emissions by 2050 — is a formidable challenge and an immense economic opportunity,” John Kerry, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate for the United States of America, said in his statement for the IAEA report.

“The global clean energy transition will require deploying, at massive scale, the full range of clean energy technologies, including nuclear energy, over the next decade and beyond.”

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Posted in Nuclear | 3 Comments

Are Big Nuclear Reactor Deals Right for Europe?

  • Are Big Nuclear Reactor Deals Right for Poland, Romania, and Czech Republic?
  • A Modest Proposal to Fund Sizewell C – which is a very big deal
  • UK’s Financial Times Weighs in on ESG for Nuclear Energy
  • NIA Offers Guidance on “Due Diligence” for Investors in Advanced Nuclear Technologies
  • Want to Buy an SMR? Fluor is Offering Equity in NuScale to New Investors
  • Kairos Submits PSAR for Oak Ridge Demonstration Reactor
  • Rolls-Royce Said to Be Pitching Its Mid-Size Nuclear Reactors for U.S. Cloud Computing Data Centers

Are Big Nuclear Reactor Deals Right for Poland, Romania, and Czech Republic?

There is a lot of activity, if you count the number of MOUs, in Poland, the Czech Republic, and Romania regarding full size nuclear power plants. Of the three countries, only Poland appears to have ambitions, so far unfunded, to build both full size reactors, e.g., 1000MWe and small modular reactors (SMRs) at less than 300 MWe.

It is not going to be easy to be a vendor of nuclear power plans, or an EPC, in any of these three countries even if they get investors, or other nation states, to help fund the projects. The situation in Poland, Czech Republic, and Romania regarding nuclear energy projects is colored by several imponderables.

All three governments are more or less unstable. It is unreasonable to expect a utility or nuclear reactor vendor will commit to the long time frame for even an SMR under these circumstances. Yet, all three countries are engaged in what one energy analyst calls “the dance of the mastodons.” By this the analyst doesn’t mean to imply that large reactors are going to be extinct, but the phaser does nicely indicate the size and weight of these creatures as a metaphor. If you prefer a more modern comparison, think about an 18 wheel tractor trailer compared to any gas efficient compact passenger car.

NPS Mstds

The analyst means that what the three countries have in common is that they are committed to building large nuclear power stations. The questions are whether these plans are realistic and whether focusing on SMRs might be a better and more affordable way to go.

For instance, Poland is talking to Westinghouse about building that firm’s 1150 MWe AP1000. The Czech Republic wants to build a 1200 MWe PWR at Dukovany and perhaps two more of equal size later on at Temelin. Romania remains engaged in a perpetual quest to complete two 700 MWe PHWRs at Cernavoda.

So far none of these projects have been tied to any plausible plan for financing them. Besides the problem of where the money will come from, there are additional imponderables that have no easy solutions.

Poland has a brittle, increasingly unpopular, and authoritarian government that is both unpredictable and ruthless in its efforts to stay in power. The current government is locked in a series of self-destructive disputes with the European Union over various governance and judicial issues.

In response the EU has told Poland if it continues down this road it may lose access to certain lines of funding from Brussels and that could include energy projects of all kinds, not just nuclear. None of these conditions are predictors for the kind of long term stability needed to build and commission a major nuclear reactor project or a fleet of them over a 10-15 year period.

The Czech Republic election taking place this week could toss out the current PM, or weaken his political hand, and possibly end all of his nuclear energy plans. The government finally got over its nervous views about having a regulated rate for the plants, but naysayers may gain more leverage depending on who the voters choose and that will be mostly over issues unrelated to the next nuclear plants.

Update 10/10/21: Babis lost the election by a narrow margin. Petr Fiala, chairman of the center-right Civic Democratic Party, has acknowledged widespread support in the Czech Republic for nuclear energy and was a vocal opponent of allowing either Russia or China to bid on a tender for a new reactor at Dukovany. Prospects for that tender will depend on the composition of the new coalition, and that it elects Fiala as prime minister.

Romania has tried multiple times to bring investors to the table to complete Cernavoda units 3 & 4 (CANDU type 700 MWe PHWRs) without success. It recently doubled down on its ambitions by announcing a new energy policy that calls for construction of two new PHWRs.

U.S. Promised a Lot. Can it Deliver?

The Trump administration recklessly made promises, that it could not keep, to Poland and Romania, regarding financial support for their nuclear energy ambitions mostly as part of an effort to keep China and Russia from dominating the nuclear energy market in eastern Europe.

The promises made in 2020 by now then Secretary of State Pompeo are not sustainable. He offered Poland $18 billion for a fleet of full size reactors. In particular, in the absence of US funding, no way will government of Poland proceed with commitments to these nuclear reactors. Pompeo’s promise covered just half of what the country needs for its ambitious plans for full size reactors to replace coal plants and to meet climate goals. Poland is one of Europe’s most prolific users of coal for power plants.

Romania was offered $8 billion by Pompeo for completion of its stranded assets at Cernavoda. That country took the US promises seriously enough to tell China it was no longer welcome to bid on completing the two PHWRs.

Separately, the Czech Republic acted on long-standing tensions over Russia’s plans to bid on Dukovany denying them permission to do so. The reason is allegations that Russian operatives blew up an warehouse full of weapons to be shipped to Ukraine. Just to put a point on it, the Czech government also declared 18 Russian embassy staff as persona non-grata and had them sent home to Moscow.

Biden’s Domestic Priorities Will Come First

With US President Biden scrambling for every $1B for his domestic priorities, it doesn’t seem plausible that he is going to approve financing for Poland ($18B) or Romania ($8B) in the near term.

Biden is already in a bind trimming his domestic agenda to meet demands by Democratic Party moderates. He’s not going to further annoy the progressive wing by sending that kind of money overseas when they want ever dime of it for their agenda. Progressives have dug in their heels on these issues and the White House has moved appropriately in response to this political reality

Plus, between now and December, Biden not going to talk about tens of billions in foreign aid when the continuing resolution for funding the federal government and the debt ceiling hang in the balance. However, look for a “deal” on a whole bundle of federal financial issues sometime in the dark news hole between X-mas and New Years. Maybe 2022 will be better for foreign aid and export financing for European reactors that buy from US vendors.

Bring on the SMRs

SMRs would be a better and more affordable path for all three countries. Several major vendors including GE Hitachi (BWRX300), NuScale (a PWR type SMR at 77 MWe), and Rolls Royce with a 470 MWe mid-size PWR are all pitching all three countries with their designs.

circus peanuts

The SMRs are affordable because the up front cash needed to build the first of a kind (FOAK) is peanuts compared to the “mastadon” approach to tying up several billion dollars in a single large project.

The time needed to build them is a lot quicker than their extra size large cousins. This means after you build the first one you can raise the money for the second in part from revenue from the first, and so on.

Poland has several proposals by the private sector to pursue SMRs especially for process heat applications for chemicals manufacturing.. Right now these are just paper MOUs with a long path ahead to break ground. Even so the prospects for SMRs look better than other options.

Poland has taken several new steps to prepare for nuclear technologies. Polish company KGHM has partnered with American NuScale Power and Piela Business Engineering (PBE) Molecule to develop small modular reactor (SMR) technology to replace existing coal-based energy sources.

Additionally, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between Cameco, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Synthos Green Energy (SGE), and GEH SMR Technologies Canada, Ltd. The companies have agreed to collaborate on the evaluation of a potential Canadian supply chain for a fleet of BMRX-300 SMRs in Poland.

The UK understands this model. It is working hard to get Rolls Royce set up to undercut US full size reactors with exports of its now 470 MWe PWR to eastern Europe including Poland.

At $4000/Kw, its a price of $4 billion for a 1000 MWE PWR v. $1.9 billion for the Rolls-Royce “compact” model is an easy comparison. Build one now, then build another when it’s done, and so on and pretty soon you’ve got a whole fleet without locking up all that cash in one huge make-or- break project. Rolls-Royce is also pitching the UK government for funding to build a fleet of 16 of these mid-size units aqcross the UK completing them by the mid-2030s.

The claims by Ukraine with plans for five AP1000s, one a rebuilt VVER and four new, are even more problematic. The government is unstable, corrupt, and does not have the cash for such an ambitious plan. The Russians have little green men occupying Crimea and parts of one its eastern provinces. The word “instability” would be front and center in any due diligence report.

For similar reasons, export funding from the US is not a near term prospect. Meanwhile, Holtec has a foothold in Ukraine for its 160 MWe SMR which includes a factory to make parts on an OEM basis for SMRs. It’s time for Ukraine to get its head out of the clouds and make a deal with someone to embrace for SMRs based on the paradigm that “small is beautiful.”

How the US Could Make Credible Promises

If the US wants to pursue credible commitments to nuclear power plants to replace coal in eastern Europe, it can expand the current 3 Seas initiative by focusing on two important initiatives.

First, create a multi-national buying consortium across as many of the 12 member countries as possible to get the cost of nuclear reactors down based on volume purchases of long lead time components.

Second, create a multi-national energy bank that would draw public and private investments from the 3 Seas member countries as well as from the US, the UK, and other countries, to fund SMRs. Risk sharing on a multi-lateral basis makes a lot of sense.

By combining buying power with multi-lateral investments, 3 Seas member countries, which include Poland, Czech Republic, and Romania will have a faster path to nuclear power projects and with a focus on SMRs.

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A Modest Proposal to Fund Sizewell C – a very big deal

equity

It is no secret that UK PM Boris Johnson has been convinced by his advisers to boot China off of the Sizewell C nuclear power project and then repurpose the 20% equity stake that China was slated cover to be taken up by western investors.

This is a perilous move since it will undoubtedly annoy China which has it firmly in mind on being able to build one of its Hualong One 1000 MWe PWRs at the UK Bradwell size in return for the Sizewell investment.
Actually, there is a way for EDF to get funded for SizewelL C, for which it still does not have a formal deal with the UK, and to soften the blow to China. The proposed move is a major swap of equity for EDF and China. Here is how it would work.

Back in 2008 EDF signed a deal with Chinese state owned nuclear energy firms for a 30% equity stake in the construction of two 1650 MWe EPRs in Taishan, China. The two reactors have since been built and commissioned into revenue service. Suppose for the sake of discussion that EDF swaps its 30% stake in Taishan for China’s 20% stake in Sizewell C and takes the additional 10% to boost its stake in Sizewell C?

Advantages of the Swap

The advantages of the deal are that China saves face, though not completely, in exiting Sizewell C. It takes some of the bite out of a deal they can’t refuse.

The advantage for EDF is that it now has a 30% stake in Sizewell with capital it can’t raise for now in France.

The advantages for the UK government is that now has to raise only 70% instead of 80% of the capital needed to build the two reactors. Also, it takes the sharp edge off of ending China’s equity stake.

Also, with a price tag of about $25 billion, a 10% reduction for the UK government in a combination of public and private funds is worth $2.5 billion. That’s money that could be invested in SMRs or other of the UK full size nuclear power plants.

It looks simple on its face, but probably has the potential to get complicated which means that if the UK and EDF think this is a good idea, time is being wasted just thinking about it. Obviously, valuations will have to be compared and due diligence worked out, but as a concept it makes a lot more sense than just running China off with a political pitchfork and having a big unresolved investment headache that will take a lot more effort to resolve.

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UK’s Financial Times Weighs in on ESG for Nuclear Energy

A key investment paradigm that is sweeping the globe is the use of metrics of company performance based on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) indicators Many of these measures are tied to concepts related to climate change and sustainable development that measure best business processes that do not further degrade the planet and which promote equitable practices in terms of social and corporate operations and governance with internal and external stakeholders.

esg infographic

It is more than just “green investing” as it broadens the roles and responsibilities of public and private firms that go well beyond the dead hand of conservative economist Milton Friedman who asserted that the only obligation firms have is to their stockholders.

ESG measures look at how the firm is a participant in its community, the nation, and how it acts on a global basis including its supply chains. A perfect example of this, and one you likely see a lot of, is Starbucks Coffee campaign to tell its customers it sells “fair traded coffee.”

How does all this apply to nuclear energy? The Financial Times (FT) , a UK leading business newspaper, ran a major piece on this subject on October 7th. Gillian Tett, an editor at the FT, wrote a column in which she addressed ESG for nuclear energy. The piece is behind the FT firewall but here are a couple of take-aways.

“Until very recently, the word “nuclear” was toxic to most green activists and many politicians, both because of the pollution risks linked with spent nuclear fuel, and due to previous accidents at nuclear plants. Indeed, events such as the 1986 meltdown in Chernobyl, Ukraine or the 2011 tsunami at Japan’s Fukushima plant have left such a legacy of fear that countries such as Germany have been shutting their existing plants, along with US states such as New York and California.”

She adds how this applies to nuclear energy.

“However, there are now two factors which could (and should) change this conversation. First, nuclear technology is shifting. Whereas 20th century reactors were so big and expensive that they required a decades-long commitment to install, the new generation of [small modular reactors] SMRs are smaller, cheaper and far more flexible. This means that they can be located in more convenient places, and — crucially — treated as a temporary or transitional energy source.

Evangelists for nuclear power, such as Bill Gates, claim that such technological breakthroughs have also made plants far safer than before, with less pollution risk, because they can be run on recycled fuel.

The FT column notes that second factor changing the conversation is a growing sense of realism — or desperation — about carbon emissions ahead of COP26.  Look for countries like the UK, France, and others to make significant commitments, at least on paper, to new nuclear energy projects.

The advantages for firms that publish ESG reports is that they tend to attract more investors, not fewer. and, can lower the cost of capital as a result. This is a big challenge for a utility which has nuclear power plants as it may also have plants that burn natural gas and coal.

This is an area where we will see more dialog like Ms. Tett’s column so stay tuned.

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NIA Offers Guidance on “Due Diligence” for Investors in Advanced Nuclear Technologies

duediligence

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) released a new report, “Due Diligence for Advanced Nuclear Technology Companies: A Guide for Potential Investors.”

This report is an introductory guide for potential investors in companies developing advanced nuclear technologies for electric power generation, industrial or district heating, hydrogen production, or other applications. The guide describes advanced reactor characteristics and considerations that may be of particular interest for evaluating investments.

NIA Executive Director Judi Greenwald provided the following statement on the relevance of this new NIA work to ongoing efforts to enable decarbonization of energy systems:
“Investor interest in advanced nuclear energy is growing because it has attributes that can help meet urgent energy and environmental needs, both here and abroad: it is carbon-free, emits no conventional pollution, and is highly reliable. Advanced reactor technology is promising, rapidly evolving, highly regulated, but also unfamiliar to many. The new guide is designed to provide potential investors with helpful context as they begin to navigate the advanced nuclear space.”

“The guide will also help advanced nuclear innovators understand what questions to expect from savvy investors. We have published the guide as part of our ongoing effort to ensure that advanced nuclear energy plays a role in helping the United States and other countries reach their zero-carbon emission goals.”

To read the report, visit the NIA website here:

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Want to Buy an SMR?
Fluor is Offering Equity in NuScale to New Investors

In May 2021 Fluor announced that Nuscale Power has engaged Guggenheim Securities to explore financing options. Fluor said in a press statement that it has been actively engaged with potential strategic investors in NuScale since 2013, and recent milestones have been achieved which have rapidly increased the number of interested parties.

It is expected that any potential proceeds raised through this process would be used by NuScale to accelerate and expand its SMR development program including those elements currently supported by a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) cost-share awards.

Options for Fluor include selling some or all of its current equity shares in the firm while continue to to provide engineering services, project management and supply chain support to NuScale as part of any contemplated future projects.

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Kairos Submits PSAR for Oak Ridge Demonstration Reactor

(WNN) US company Kairos Power has submitted the preliminary safety analysis report (PSAR) for its fluoride salt-cooled, high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR) to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) as part of its application for a construction permit for the Hermes low-power demonstration reactor, which is to be built in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The KP-FHR is a novel advanced reactor technology that leverages TRISO “pebble bed” type fuel combined with a low-pressure fluoride salt coolant. The Hermes unit, designed to achieve a thermal power level of 35 MWt. It will not generate electricity. It’s purpose is to demonstrate the technology’s capability to deliver low-cost nuclear heat and is part of a “rapid iterative development” approach.

The company says it will help to mitigate technical, licensing, manufacturing and construction risk while establishing cost certainty on the pathway to commercial deployment of the KP-FHR. The demonstration prototype is expected to be operational by 2026.

Kairos Power CEO and co-founder Mike Laufer said in a press statement, “We look forward to working with the NRC staff, State of Tennessee and City of Oak Ridge to build Hermes, demonstrating our ability to deliver safe and affordable nuclear heat.”

Kairos received a DOE Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) cost-shared award for risk reduction funding to support development of the Hermes reactor worth $303M in government cash.

The company is partnering with Materion Corporation, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, and the Electric Power Research Institute, and has has also established a cooperative development agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority to collaborate on the development and demonstration for Hermes.

The company has also established an interactive virtual open house to share information about the project and the technology.

Kairos is one of seven non-light water reactor designers that have formally notified the NRC of their intent to engage in regulatory interactions, the others being;

  • General Atomics for the Energy Multiplier Module;
  • X-Energy for the XE-100;
  • TerraPower and GE Hitachi for the Natrium reactor;
  • TerraPower for its Molten Chloride Fast Reactor;
  • Westinghouse Electric Company for its eVinci micro reactor; and
  • Terrestrial Energy USA for its Integral Molten Salt Reactor.

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Rolls-Royce Said to Be Pitching Its Mid-size Nuclear Reactors for U.S. Cloud Computing Data Centers

Rolls-Royce is planning to offer small nuclear reactors to US-based cloud operators so their data centers, with their huge appetites for reliable electrical power, can have net zero emissions and be independent of the electric grid. While data centers have become more energy efficient over time, they still need a lot of electricity. As the US becomes more digital, it will need more data centers.

Rolls-Royce is talking to Amazon, and other US cloud providers like Google and Microsoft, about the possibility of using a proposed mid-size PWR (470 MWe), currently under development with UK government funding.

The story surfaced according to a computer industry trade press report, as UK premier Boris Johnson promised that Britain’s electricity grid will be carbon-free by 2035, and told the media that this would require nuclear power as part of the country’s baseload electric grid.

The SMR project is a consortium led by Rolls-Royce, which received £215 million from the UK government in 2020 to develop its new) reactor. The proposed design is a 470MW power plant that can be built in Rolls-Royce factories and delivered on-site in modular form, and could be available by 2030.

According to Rolls-Royce’s site, the SMR “takes advantage of factory-built modularization techniques to drastically reduce the amount of on-site construction and can deliver a low-cost nuclear solution that is competitive with renewable alternatives”.

The promise is for long-term, guaranteed, low carbon power which can support baseload without the variability of solar and wind power. This will help support the decarbonization of industries, including data centers.

“Our SMR program has been designed to deliver clean affordable energy for all and does so with a revolutionary new approach aimed at commoditizing the delivery of nuclear power through a factory build modularization program,” said Tom Samson, CEO of the Rolls-Royce SMR Consortium last July.

The trade press report quoted a Rolls-Royce spokesperson saying: “A number of major companies have set low-carbon or green targets for securing their power, and rather than just buying a contract they’re thinking: plug an SMR into a data center and you’ve got full availability of low-carbon power. This is partly a way to keep shareholders happy.”

Cavendish Nuclear, a subsidiary of Babcock International, recently joined the SMR consortium, joining existing members Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Jacobs, The Welding Institute (TWI), and Nuclear AMRC.

Both Rolls-Royce and Cavendish are involved in a similar project to build an Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR), called U-Battery. This is also aiming to deliver reactors built in factories, with a capacity of around 10MW, by the 2030s. Last week U-Battery demonstrated a mock-up of its reactor vessel and heat exchangers, as a milestone towards delivery of an actual system.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Terrestrial Energy Signs Molten Salt Fuel Deal with Orano

  • Terrestrial Energy Signs Molten Salt Fuel Deal with Orano
  • Poland / GEH Boss Says First SMR Could Be In Operation By 2030
  • Czech Energy Plans Now Include Temelin Expansion that May Follow a New Dukovany unit
  • Group of Vienna Aims to Tackle Global Nuclear Energy Challenges Working with the IAEA
  • MIT / INL Center for Reactor Instrumentation and Sensor Physics Makes Joint Appointment of Dr. Sacit Cetiner

Terrestrial Energy Signs Molten Salt Fuel Deal with Orano

Terrestrial Energy and Orano have signed a comprehensive agreement for nuclear fuel supply for a IMSR Power Plant. Last weekTerrestrial Energy has entered into an agreement with Orano, a global leader in the nuclear fuel cycle, as part of its fuel supply program for operation of the Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), a Generation IV “next-generation” nuclear power plant.

TEI-ISMR-HowItWorks-Diagram
The agreement’s broad scope of services includes uranium enrichment, chemical conversion to IMSR fuel form, its production, transportation, packaging, and logistics. This scope covers analysis for full-scale commercial production and supply of IMSR fuel and applies to major markets for IMSR power plant deployment today, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan.

This agreement is part of Terrestrial Energy’s multiple-sourcing strategy for IMSR fuel supply and reflects Orano’s intention to support next-generation reactor commercialization with its broad range of fuel services. The relationship between the companies is non-exclusive and allows both parties to pursue other similar business opportunities in the nuclear industry.

“This agreement with Terrestrial Energy applies the global fuel supply scope and experience of Orano to focus on powering the next generation of innovative, clean-air nuclear energy in Canada,” said Amir Vexler, President and CEO of Orano USA.

“Utility requirements for fuel supply extend beyond enrichment of uranium to a range of essential services that together provide secure supply of reactor fuel to power plant gate,” said Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy. “The scope of our agreement covers that full range from enrichment, production, with its transport elements, including packaging and logistics, for comprehensive commercial supply. This range of services is essential for first IMSR power plant operations as early as 2028.”

IMSR fuel uses standard assay low enriched uranium (LEU), which has become the commercial fuel standard over many decades of power plant operation. With the exception of CANDU plants (which use unenriched uranium), commercial nuclear power plants around the world today use standard assay LEU.

Firm Doubles Down on its Design

Terrestrial Energy introduced on September 14 its new IMSR400 power plant, which consists of twin reactors and generators to produce 390 MW of clean electricity at one site. It will be composed of two 195 MWe units which is the current design.

About the IMSR Reactor

The IMSR400 is one of three small modular reactor (SMR) power plant designs under consideration for deployment at Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. It is one of two Generation IV technology candidates, and the only Canadian technology candidate. Terrestrial Energy’s Oakville, Ontario, operation represents one of the the largest SMR power plant technology development project in Canada.

About Orano

For more than 50 years, the Orano Group has provided nuclear fuel products and expert services across the entire nuclear fuel cycle to the global nuclear industry. These services include uranium enrichment as well as fuel conversion, production, packaging, and transportation. The security of commercial fuel supply over life-of-plant is backed by Orano’s conversion and enrichment facilities performing at the highest standards of safety, quality and security while achieving a reduced environmental footprint.

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Poland / GEH Boss Says First SMR Could Be Built by 2030

Reactor could be built at Patnow coal plant west of Warsaw

(NucNet) GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) is targeting 2030 for completion of its first BWRX-300 small modular reactor in Poland with the plant to be built either at the site of the Patnow coal plant about 200 km west of Warsaw or at a site proposed by state oil and petrol company PKN Orlen, GEH president and chief executive officer Jay Wileman said in an interview with Business Insider Polska.

Wileman said China and Russia are still producing large reactors, but there is less and less investment in this sector globally. “These large nuclear projects, which are now underway, are long overdue, have gone severely over budget, and have seen investment of more than $20 billion.

Mr Wileman said few companies or countries can afford such costs and delays. “That is why, together with our engineers, we started to consider how to meet these challenges and respond to the current needs of customers. We concluded that a reactor must first and foremost be small and cost $1 billion at most.”

At $5,000/kw, a 300 MWe SMR would cost more coming in at $1.5 million. GE Hitachi, which is designing the BWRX-300, has made claims that it can deliver the reactor at about half that price. GEH says that overall the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared to other SMR designs.

So far, the firm is a long way from proving that point as the reactor has not been approved by any nuclear regulatory agency for construction. The US process is 42 months and the UK process is even longer at 48 months. However, 2030 might be a reasonable target date for building a first of a kind (FOAK) unit.

The BWRX-300 is a 300-MW water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that uses elements of the design and licensing basis of GEH’s US-certified economic simplified boiling water reactor (ESBWR) nuclear plant.

Earlier this month, Synthos Green Energy and Poland-based private equity group ZE Pak announced they would work together to explore building BWRX-300 SMRs at the Patnow coal plant site. In 2019, Synthos and GEH agreed to collaborate on potential deployment applications for the BWRX-300 in Poland. The companies signed a strategic agreement in 2020 that further advanced that cooperation.

Daniel Obajtek, president PKN Orlen, recently became the latest of a number of high-profile Polish businessmen and entrepreneurs to announce their support for SMRs. He said SMRs are not a technology “from space” and could be part of Poland’s long-term strategic energy planning.

In a related development, Polish chemicals giant Ciech SA has signed a letter of intent with Synthos Green Energy to cooperate on the possible development of small and micro modular reactors for industrial use.

GEH has also entered into a memorandum of understanding to evaluate the potential establishment of a uranium fuel supply chain in Canada capable of servicing a potential fleet of BWRX-300 SMRs in Poland.

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Czech Energy Plans Now Include Temelin Expansion that May Follow a New Dukovany unit

(wire services) On 9/27 Czech President Miloš Zeman signed into law an act which allows a state-owned company to purchase electricity from new nuclear plants at a fixed rate for at least 30 years, with the possibility of extension. The power will be resold on the wholesale market and any profit or loss translated into an adjustment to power bills, although the government said it will set an upper limit on any extra cost.

The key section of the legislation reads,

“In addition to stable electricity supplies nuclear power plants also enable the provision of stable heat supplies, which is another advantage due to the extensive system of central heat supply in the Czech Republic. Therefore, “Nuclear energy has been identified as the primary means of ensuring energy security in the Czech Republic in the context of achieving the goal of a climate-neutral EU by 2050 due to its ability to ensure low-carbon, stable and cheap electricity supplies.”

Russia and China Out of Consideration

However, the new law also specifies that Russian and Chinese companies will not be allowed to participate in either the construction or maintenance of the new unit to be built at the Dukovany NPP. It states that only technology from suppliers from countries that have acceded to the 1996 International Government Procurement Agreement will be accepted. Russia and China are not among the signatory states.

Originally, many government ministers and President Zeman were supportive of Russian technology for new nuclear plants. However, media reports indicate that under pressure from right-wing political parties in parliament and the security services, the Ministry of Industry and Trade announced its intention to exclude China at the end of March and Rosatom was excluded in mid-April.

Russia’s exclusion followed allegations of Russian involvement in explosions at the ammunition complex in Vrbetice in the Zlín region in 2014. The munitions were reported to be bound for Ukraine and the Czech government assessed that the explosion was set by Russian operatives to prevent the shipment from taking place.

Success at Dukovany Could Lead to New Reactors for Temelin

Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlícek said that, as well as the new unit at  Dukovany, two other reactors could be constructed at the Temelín NPP by the company that wins the tender for the Dukovany unit. A non-binding option for the possible construction of one or two units in Temelín will be part of the tender documentation for the project.

“If we  are in the next government, we will also start preparing for Temelín. We say that, whoever wants to deliver to Dukovany, could also  be connected with Temelín. It is a greater motivation for the suppliers, and so we are pushing even harder on the price.”

Timeline for the Tender. Does One Size Fit All?

The tender documentation will be handed over by state-owned power company CEZ as an investor to companies that apply to take part in the tender, which should start by the end of the year. Before that, interested parties must submit a completed safety questionnaire, which CEZ has already sent to the companies and which must be submitted by November 30th.

Havlícek’s deputy Tomáš Ehler also confirmed that the tender contains an option for the completion of Temelín. However, he said that the option is non-binding and is therefore one of the bases for future decisions by the investor and the state on the development of nuclear resources.

“Nevertheless, from a technical and economic point of view, it makes sense to build and operate a single type of unit in the Czech Republic from one supplier.”

According to Havlícek, during meetings with potential participants in the tender, including the France’s EDF, South Korea’s KHNP and the US-based Westinghouse, there is interest in linking Temelín  to the Dukovany tender.

“In other words, this is expected to put a downward pressure on prices. They perceive it very positively, because building two or three units is a quite different matter compared with a single unit.

Havlícek said new Temelín units will be needed. “Anyone who is sensible and sees the situation in Europe knows that we need to phase out 10,000MWe of coal. We have 4,000MWe of nuclear resources and Dukovany will eventually have to close at best, in the 2040s, and worse in the 2030s, and that will leave us with only 2,000 MWe,” he said. He noted that the planned fifth Dukovany will only replace half of the current Dukovany capacity.

CEZ wants to have an evaluated order of tender participants by the end of next year, construction should begin in 2029. The new unit should be put into operation in 2036. According to Havlícek, the fundamental requirement of the state is the greatest possible involvement of Czech companies. “Sixty percent is the minimum for me. We are already cooperating with Czech suppliers, meeting them and it is a huge chance for Czech industry.”

Czech Republic’s Energy Outlook

Energy policies currently in place call for coal to be phased out in the Czech Republic in 2038. The International Energy Agency recently encouraged a faster schedule. By that time renewables are expected to provide 25% of electricity and nuclear as much as 58%.

The Czech Republic operates six commercial nuclear power units – four Soviet-built VVER-440s at the the Dukovany NPP and two Russian VVER-1000 units at the Temelin NPP, which together provided about 35% of total electricity production. The current units at Dukovany, which were commissioned in 1985-1987, will be decommissioned no later than 2045-2047.

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Industrial ‘Group of Vienna’ Aims to Tackle Global Nuclear Energy Challenges Working with the IAEA

(WNN) Global nuclear industry leaders have agreed to work together with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the Group of Vienna to apply nuclear energy to addressing climate change and advancing sustainable development.

“The existential threats of our times require all actors to work together in order to secure a better future for coming generations,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi at the group’s inaugural meeting.

He assembled thirteen industry CEOs on his own initiative to create The Group of Vienna as a high-level platform for discussion between the IAEA and industry on how new nuclear technologies and techniques can be used to their full potential. Grossi said he wants to use “the amazing ability of the atom to combat climate change, treat disease, prevent hunger and much else.”

Founding members at the meeting yesterday were the heads of 13 nuclear companies from around the world: China National Nuclear Corporation, EDF, Eletronuclear, Kazatomprom, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nucleoeléctrica Argentina, NuScale, Rolls Royce SMR, Rosatom, SNC-Lavalin, Teollisuuden Voima Oyj and Urenco. They were joined by the Brazilian minister of mines and energy, Bento Albuquerque, as a guest.

A joint statement set out the Group of Vienna’s aims: “Nuclear technologies make a vital contribution to addressing the world’s unprecedented challenges, including climate change, poverty, equitable access to clean and affordable energy and human health. (Full text joint statement from Group of Vienna,)

“Energy is a key enabler of sustainable development and nuclear power provides clean, reliable, safe and sustainable energy, thereby helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, enabling the achievement of internationally agreed climate goals, and supporting other important environmental objectives,”

The statement continued. “Other nuclear technologies and techniques play important roles in supporting social and economic objectives, for example, by diagnosing and treating cancer and by improving food production.”

The group intends to meet regularly to discuss “the latest developments in the nuclear field and their contribution to addressing key challenges.” It will also “support the IAEA in its mission to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of nuclear technologies to meeting environmental, social, and economic objectives and to improve the health and well-being of people.”

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MIT / INL Center for Reactor Instrumentation and Sensor Physics Makes Joint Appointment of Dr. Sacit Cetiner to Lead the Effort

MIT Nuclear Reactor Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory collaborate to run the center.

inl logo 2018The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Nuclear Reactor Laboratory (NRL) and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) announced the appointment of Dr. Sacit M. Cetiner as the director of the newly established joint MIT and INL Center for Reactor Instrumentation and Sensor Physics (CRISP).

CRISP will function as a technology innovation, development and maturation hub by connecting experts from diverse organizations to devise solutions for sensing and instrumentation, and to test these systems under irradiation. The goal of CRISP is to advance the current state of automation in nuclear systems.

As CRISP director, Dr. Cetiner will continue his role as the Technical Point of Contact (TPOC) for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) Experiment I&C area. In this role, he is responsible for coordination of research and development activities led by national labs, universities and industry on several sensor concepts for deployment in the VTR cartridge loop experimental facilities. Development of the eddy-current flow meter (ECFM), in collaboration with Westinghouse, will be one of the initial VTR-related technology development activities for CRISP.

Dr. Cetiner will continue to be an INL employee in this new role. He comes to MIT and INL from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), where he was a senior R&D scientist and served as the lead for the Modern Nuclear Instrumentation and Controls Group. Over the course of his career at ORNL,

Dr. Cetiner led projects focusing on advanced reactor instrumentation and control system development. He also served as the technical lead for the Transformational Challenge Reactor Sensing and Controls Thrust.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

New Hopes for New Nuclear and Fusion Projects in UK

UK’s Existential Energy Emergency Spurs Funding Fixes

indeciciveThe UK Government is finally realizing that its once upon a time grand plan for 19.3GWe of new nuclear energy projects is in a shambles.

The good news is that after nearly a decade of dithering, and other forms of indecisive policy consultations, it is finally getting around to doing something about it.

Due to the perils of climate change, the U.K. needs zero carbon power from nuclear energy to meet its net-zero targets and to prevent a major energy crisis. The nation’s current fleet of reactors are scheduled to close by the end of the decade. The fact that only one of the 10 other planned new reactor projects is under construction has alarmed the UK government and finally impelled it to action.

Update: 10/04/21: (WNN) UK needs new nuclear, says Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The UK government is in discussions regarding proposals for a new nuclear power plant at Wylfa on Anglesey, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed in an interview with BBC Wales. He said previous governments in the country “have refused to take the tough decisions on nuclear for too long.” Meanwhile, EDF Energy has called for the government to make prompt decisions regarding the Sizewell C project.

The government’s attentions span for focusing on nuclear energy improved recently as a result of the wind not blowing as predicted leading to a crisis for electricity supply that came on top of a self-inflicted shortage of gasoline caused by the BREXIT deal with the EU.

According to wire service reports, the UK government will seek legislative approval from Britain’s Parliament for a new mechanism to fund the Sizewell C project. It is planned nuclear power station that will be composed of twin 1650 MW EDF EPRs. It will cost in excess of  $27 billion.

The funding estimate is still a work in progress though EDF claims that lessons learned from building the Hinkley Point C project, composed of the same two types of reactors, will make them more predictable in terms of construction costs and less likely to go over significantly budget or fall behind schedule.

Why China is Out in the UK?

The main problem for funding Sizewell C is that the UK is in the process of booting its Chinese equity partner, China General Nuclear (CGN), out of an agreement to invest in a 20% equity stake in the project. In return, the UK government had promised CGN that it would be allowed to build one and perhaps as many as three 1000MWe Hualong One (PWR design) at the Bradwell site.

The Chinese are determined about wanting to build one of their Hualong One reactors in a first world country to prove its value for export. China has extensive experience with the design and all of the major nuclear components are manufactured by Chinese firms. In China the reactor has been built or is under construction or planned to be built at 11 sites: Fuqing 5 and 6 (Fujian Province), followed by Fangchenggang 3 and 4 (Guangxi), Zhangzhou 1 and 2 (Fujian), Taipingling 1 and 2 (Guangdong), and San’Ao 1 and 2 (Zhejiang). Fuqing 5 began commercial operation in January 2021. Negotiations with Argentina are ongoing for a single unit.

So far two of five planned reactors of this design have been built for export near Karachi, Pakistan. Also, the design is under review by the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation in its Generic Design Assessment. The process is in Phase 4 and at last report is expected to be completed this year.

The UK move to give CGN the heave ho from Sizewell C will be a huge bucket of cold water on these global ambitions. It will create serious tensions between the two countries and China is likely to retaliate in some manner that hurts UK trade. It will be the second time the UK has torched a major trade deal with China in the past few years.

China is already fuming over having  lost a major telecommunications contract in July 2020 in the UK mostly at the behest of UK firms which wanted the business and convinced PM Boris Johnson the action would protect UK jobs. Security issues were also a major consideration based on fears China would use the equipment to conduct cyber espionage in the UK especially focused on stealing intellectual property from businesses.

Will a New Financing Method Raise $6 Billion?

The UK government must now find a way to bring at least $6 billion from new investors, and maybe much more, to pay for the project. Government funding through the much analyzed RAB method seems to be an early option. The UK government is reported to seek legislation this month for a funding mechanism to cover the costs of the construction of new nuclear power plants.

The regulated asset base (RAB) model is a government-funded mechanism that combines private-sector investment in a project, which is meant to cover the construction costs. The plan has been used successfully in the UK for airports, flood control, and other major infrastructure efforts.

Sizewell is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of financing the nuclear new build in the UK. Ten other full size reactors are still planned for six sites. On a rough order of magnitude, the total costs will likely be in the range of $81 billion or more over the next two decades. (see list below)

  • Sizewell C – two 1650 MWe EPRs ($28 billion)
  • Wylfa & Oldbury – fund the equivalent of four 1350 MWe ABWRs originally planned to be built at these sites by Japan’s Hitachi. That firm pulled out about a year ago due to an inability of the UK government and Hitachi to come to terms on costs and financing. ($20 bilion +)
  • Moorside – fund the equivalent of two or three 1150 MWe AP1000s originally planned to be built at this site by Westinghouse. These plans collapsed due the bankruptcy of Westinghouse over the failure of the V C Summer project in South Carolina and the decision by Toshiba, the parent firm, to exit the nuclear industry and to sell off Westinghouse to a Canadian private equity firm. ($12-18 billion +)
  • Bradwell – If the UK goes through with its decision to boot CGN off the Sizewell C project, it will need an entirely new vendor, EPC, and funding to complete it. ($15 bilion +)

What UK politicians are just now realizing is that the costs to the economy of not having the reactors, and turning into a British version of South Africa in terms of brown outs and shuttered major industries due to energy issues is way more costly than paying for the new power stations.

The new UK financial plan could become one of global industry’s most ambitious public / private funding efforts for new nuclear power. In addition to Sizewell C, it would also cover the following efforts. (Infographic courtesy of NucNet).

UK nuclear projects

Waiting in the wings are multiple proposals to build small modular reactors (NuScale, GE Hitachi), and mid-size reactors (Rolls-Royce proposes a fleet of 16 470 MWe PWRs to be built out by the mid 2030s)

What’s Likely to be in the UK Financial Plan?

The RAB model is the government’s go to method of financing. The mechanism would be included in an investment decision for funding Electricite de France (EDF) 20 billion-pound ($27 billion) Sizewell C nuclear plant project in southeast England. The UK government would cover the 20% stake that had been part of the deal with CGN.

Unfortunately, the UK government moves about as fast as a pouring from jar of molasses in January and says that its first action, which is funding Sizwell C, is likely to take another year or two. Getting a clear line on funding earlier would be a huge boost to the project as every month of delay increases the cost of the twin reactors. It would also set the basis for funding all other other reactors.

The government is planning to hold on to CGN’s 20% stake, worth about $6 billion, until it can be sold  to institutional investors. Britain is reported to be examining the option to float the stake on the stock market through an initial public offering. If the government were to provide guarantees to investors for the bonds, it would not only lower the cost of capital but also attract world wide attention.

The UK government has not set a timeline for working out all the details of its new grand financial plan. An announcement could be made prior to or during the COP26 climate change meeting that will take place in Glasgow (10/31-11/13). EDF and CGN declined to comment in response to inquiries from the Financial Times and Reuters.

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Small Modular Reactors to the Rescue in UK?

(New Civil Engineer)  According to a report the the New Civil Engineer (NCE), a UK trade press news service, Wylfa, Bradwell, and Oldbury among 18 sites lined up for small nuclear reactors.

Clean energy developer Shearwater Energy has identified “about 18 sites around the UK” that could be used as small modular reactor (SMR) power plants. Shearwater Energy director Simon Forster told NCE it is a “dynamic situation,” adding that the existing Wylfa Newydd site on Anglesey is the current front-runner in its plans.

“We’ve been looking first and foremost at the existing nuclear sites and where they can be developed – can we develop on the footprint of the existing Magnox and AGR sites, for example? We rank the sites in order of likelihood of happening. It’s no secret that Wylfa is at the top. We think that’s a great site.”

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On the Wylfa Newydd site, the firm proposes to build 10 GEH BWRX-300 SMR reactors. It has submitted a proposal for this to GE Hitachi and a cost estimate to the UK BEIS. Construction could start in 2025, and the project could generate power by 2028.

This is a schedule seems overly ambitious as GEH has not submitted has not submitted the BWRX-300 in an application to the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to get approval to built the design in the UK.

Forster told NCE that other potential sites include Bradwell B in Essex, currently being progressed by CGN and EDF Energy and the  Oldbury site.

“If we lose Wylfa we’ve got another few sites after that,” he said. “We’re keeping a wary eye on Bradwell – if the Chinese decide to relinquish that site it might be something we look at.”

In total, Shearwater has a list of 40 SMRs that could be deployed at the 18 potential sites. These SMRs are three different sizes – 5Mw, 77Mw and 300Mw. Interestingly, none of the firm’s proposals include the Rolls-Royce 470 MWe mid-size PWR. The firm has also touted its plans to pair the SMRs with wind projects.

The 300Mw reactors are complementary base load stations, while the 77Mw is “a wonderful complement for renewable energy and dealing with the intermittency of wind farms,” Forster said. “Finally, the 5Mw reactors could be used by industries that need to decarbonize and require an onsite source of energy.”

The final hurdle to overcome is government support. “So in our case a government agreement needs to come first, not years later. That means we need policies in place on SMRs, and a decision on whether the RAB going to be extended to SMRs.”

Shearwater Energy Also Talking to Westinghouse About Wylfa

US company Westinghouse wants to build its AP1000 reactor technology at the north Wales site. The British government is in discussions with US nuclear reactor manufacturer Westinghouse to develop up to three 1150 MWe AP1000 PWR type nuclear reactors at the Wylfa Newydd site in Anglesey, Wales. If the project goes through, US engineering firm Bechtel would be the EPC to build a Westinghouse AP1000 reactor.

Neither firm brings any investors to the table which places the burden on the UK government to round up a combination of public funding as well as private money. Positioning the project to be attractive to investors will require a full steam ahead effort by the government to address concerns about financial risk.

In terms of investors for the Wylfa project, wire service reports in the UK indicate that a number of pension funds have also expressed interest in building reactors at Wylfa. According to the Times of London, Simon Forster, director of UK clean energy company Shearwater, which is interested in taking on the project, told MPs he was in contact with a “group of pension funds who are very keen to invest” in the project.

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U-Battery Unveils Full-scale SMR Mock-up at UK Site

nuclear(WNN) A full-scale first-of-its kind mock-up of the main vessels of the U-Battery advanced modular reactor (AMR), revealed by U-Battery and Cavendish Nuclear, has demonstrated how the reactor can be built using modular techniques.

The project was made possible with funding from the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) under its Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Program.

“By building a full-scale model, people get a real sense of what an AMR looks like as well as how it can be built,” U-Battery General Manager Steve Threlfall said. “It also enabled us to determine the requirements for the concept design and justify the nuclear power plant’s operational safety case. This is why the mock-up is essential to the delivery of what will be our first power plant.

“Our aim is to take advantage of the economies of scale used in advanced manufacturing and modularization settings and production line assembly techniques to produce this new generation of AMR technology, which will make a valuable contribution to the UK’s decarbonization efforts, and, in turn, help deliver Net-Zero.”

The project to build the mock-up, which includes the reactor vessel, the intermediate heat exchanger vessel, and the u-shaped connecting duct, began in February 2020, Threlfall said at an event held at Cavendish Nuclear’s Whetstone facility in Leicestershire..

U-battery is an advanced small modular reactor based on proven high-temperature gas cooled reactor technology, using highly accident tolerant TRISO fuel and delivering a scalable output from 10 MW thermal (4 MW electrical) with a footprint of 350 square meters. Each unit is projected to cost about GBP50 million (USD68 million).

The reactor’s high-temperature output of 710°C means it is ideally suited to provide a sustainable source of process heat for difficult-to-decarbonize industrial processes. The company says its cogeneration capabilities mean it can provide a locally embedded and reliable source of heat and power,

As well as Cavendish Nuclear, U-Battery’s supporting organizations include BWXT Technologies Inc, Costain, Kinectrics, Jacobs, the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear AMRC, Rolls-Royce, the University of Manchester and Urenco.

U-Battery is participating in the second phase of the UK Government’s Advanced Modular Reactor Competition, through which in July 2020 it was awarded GBP10 million of funding to initiate design and development work.

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UK Government Issues Plans for Fusion Energy

(WNN) The UK government published a strategy this past week that describes how it will leverage scientific, commercial and international leadership, through public and private partnerships, to enable the commercialization of fusion energy. It has also launched a consultation seeking views on the regulatory framework for ensuring the safe and effective rollout of fusion energy.

The government plans to demonstrate the commercial viability of fusion by building a prototype fusion power plant, STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production). The UK hopes to deliver the world’s first prototype fusion power plant by 2040. The site of the demonstration plant is expected to be announced sometime in 2022.

The government strategy has two overarching goals:

  • 1st –  for the UK to demonstrate the commercial viability of fusion by building a prototype fusion power plant in the UK that puts energy on the grid; and
  • 2nd – for the UK to build a world-leading fusion industry which can export fusion technology around the world in subsequent decades. This means developing a regulatory framework to insure the systems are safe and a supply chain and factory facilities to build them,

The strategy is focused on achieving these goals by working with the UK Atomic Energy Authority – the UK’s research organization responsible for the development of fusion energy – to secure UK leadership across three ‘pillars’: collaborating internationally; strengthening cutting-edge scientific research; and releasing private sector innovation to achieve its commercialization.

Regulating Fusion

The UK government also published a green paper setting out its proposals for the regulation of fusion energy. The proposals cover the regulation of: occupational and public health and safety; environmental protection; planning consent; third party liabilities; security and safeguards for radioactive material.

The government said it believes that any regulatory framework for fusion energy facilities should serve to maintain safety and security in a way that is proportionate to the hazards involved.

“Due to the expected low hazard of fusion power, the government is proposing the continuation of a proportionate ‘non-nuclear’ regulatory approach. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said in a statement. “This will allow for the safe and efficient rollout of the technology through innovation-friendly regulation.”

To inform policy on the regulation of fusion energy in the UK, the government has launched a consultation to share knowledge and offer views on the proposals in the green paper. The consultation closes on 12/24/21. The government will publish its response in early 2022.

Science Minister George Freeman said: “By putting in place the crucial foundations we’re setting out today, we will ensure the UK is uniquely placed to capitalize on this innovative and revolutionary energy source in the years ahead – helping to tackle climate change and reduce our dependence on unreliable fossil fuels at the same time.”

Oxford, England-based Tokamak Energy, developer of the ST-40 compact spherical tokamak, welcomed the publication of the Fusion Strategy and the green paper.

“It’s tremendous news for UK fusion as it highlights a smooth pathway for regulating and stimulating a sector that aims to provide low-cost, limitless, low-carbon energy,” Chris Kelsall, its CEO, said.

“Today’s announcement shows the government’s clear commitment to establish the UK as an international leader in fusion – scientifically and commercially.”

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

DOD Plans Mobile Microreactor for Idaho Lab Site

  • Defense Dept Plans Mobile Microreactor for Idaho Lab Site
  • South Africa to Release a Tender for 2500 MWe of Nuclear Reactors in 2022
  • US Spreads Pro-Nuclear Promises of Support in Europe
  • MOUs are Flying as U.S. SMR Vendors Ink Agreements with Polish Firms
  • Post Script: Is the “Opportunity” Real for Nuclear Energy in Poland?

Defense Dept Plans Mobile Microreactor for Idaho Lab Site

In a draft environmental impact statement (EIS), the Department of Defense (DOD) said on 09/24/21 that it is requesting public comment on a plan to build an “advanced microreactor” on a site at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID.

The device as planned would be designed to produce between one and five MWe of electrical power. It would need to be able to provide this power on a 24×7 basis for three full years without refueling. It would need to be transportable by truck, train, or plane and to be set up or packaged to be moved in under a week. INL is served by a spur of the Union Pacific Railroad that connects to the line that runs from Pocatello, ID, to Butte, MT, which makes it suitable for testing this capability.

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In its request for comments on the draft EIS, for which the public has 45 days to respond, DOD said powering [military] bases using diesel generators strains operations due to threats to fuel supply lines. The need for secure, reliable power is expected to grow during a transition to an electrical, non-tactical vehicle fleet.

DOD said that a safe, small, transportable nuclear reactor would address a growing demand for electricity “with a resilient, carbon-free energy source that does not add to the DOD’s fossil fuel needs, while supporting mission-critical operations in remote environments.”

In the 314-page draft EIS DOD said it wants to reduce reliance on local electric grids, which are vulnerable to prolonged outages from natural disasters, cyberattacks, domestic terrorism and failure from lack of maintenance. In short, it does not want tactical readiness of a military base compromised by a range of plausible grid outages or by hostile actions. It is envisioned that the microreactors would eventually be used on U.S. bases overseas assuming the host countries don’t object.

Opposition to the plan came from Edwin Lyman, the arch druid of anti-nuclear messages at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He told the Associated Press, “In my view, these reactors could cause more logistical problems and risks to troops and property than they would solve problems.”

Lyman added that the reactors would be targets for hostile action including during times they are being transported to a military base.

The Defense Department said a final environmental impact statement and decision about how or whether to move forward is expected in early 2022. If approved, preparing testing sites at the Idaho National Lab and then building and testing of the microreactor would take about three years.

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Completion of the construction and testing of a prototype depends on a steady stream of congressional funding. Earlier this year the House Appropriations Committee zeroed out funding for the Versatile Test Reactor despite years of work by the Department of Energy to make the case for it.

Two Contractors Selected in a Bake Off to Build the Prototype

The Department of Defense (DOD) said on March 22 of this year that it exercised contract options for two teams, one led by BWXT Advanced Technologies and the other by X-energy, to proceed with development of a final design for a transportable advanced nuclear microreactor prototype. The two teams were selected from a preliminary design competition, and will each continue development independently under a Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) initiative called Project Pele.

Project Pele is a fourth-generation nuclear reactor, which, once prototyped, could serve as a pathfinder for commercial adoption of such technologies, thereby reducing US carbon emissions and providing new tools for disaster relief and critical infrastructure support.

After a final design review in early 2022 and completion of environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), one of the two companies may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype.

“We are thrilled with the progress our industrial partners have made on their designs,” said Dr Jeff Waksman, Project Pele program manager.

“We are confident that by early 2022 we will have two engineering designs matured to a sufficient state that we will be able to determine suitability for possible construction and testing.”

BWXT said in a press statement last March that it received $28M for the 2nd round of the project. In the first round it received $14M. X-Energy also received $14M for the 1st round and is eligible to receive up to $30M in this 2nd round. Westinghouse, which was a third competitor in the first round, offering its advanced eVinci microreactor, was not selected by DOD for funding in the 2nd round. If approved, the selected contractor would prepare a test site at the Idaho National Lab and then build and test the design selected for the microreactor. Additional funding would be needed for this stage of the program.

About the EIS

The Department of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office released a draft environmental impact statement for building and demonstrating a mobile microreactor. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the SCO published a notice of availability in the Federal Register, starting a 45-day public comment period on the draft EIS.

Two public hearings will be held in Idaho and livestreamed online on Oct. 20. More details about the public hearings and the draft EIS are available online at https://www.MobileMicroReactorEIS.com The public is invited to submit written comments through the website during the public comment period. A final EIS and record of decision regarding potential construction and testing are expected in early 2022.

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South Africa to Release a Tender for 2500 MWe of Nuclear Reactors in 2022

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Speaking on at the 65th International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ) gathering in Vienna, Austria, South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Nobuhle Nkabane said this week the country intends to issue the Request for Proposal for a 2 500 megawatt (MWe) nuclear program at the end of March 2022 and complete the procurement in 2024.

She added that in June 2020 South Africa issued a Request for Information for the 2500MW of nuclear energy and received positive responses from 25 companies. She said these responds show there is interest in the program.

South Africa abandoned a plan for 9600 MWe of nuclear power in 2018 after it was deemed to be too expensive. A proposal to build and operate eight 1200 MWe Russian VVER reactors, promoted by then South African President Jacob Zuma, was rejected for this reason and for the unfavorable terms, which among other things, locked the country into buying fuel and maintenance from Russia for their 60 year operating life.

South Africa, which experiences regular blackouts due to erratic power supplies, has said it said it will look to expand its nuclear capacity at a pace and time it could afford.

In the meantime Nkabane said said that the Koeberg Power Station (1900 MWe) design life span was being extended by another 20 years.

Last month, South Africa’s energy regulator backed a long-term government plan to build new nuclear power units. This decision will help to shift the country away from coal and into less carbon-intensive means of generating electricity.

Most of South Africa’s electricity comes from a fleet of coal-fired power plants. A recently opened coal fired plant was shut down just a week after commencing operations due to a massive explosion of leaking hydrogen that substantially damaged the facility.

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UK Government In Talks to Revive Abandoned Wylfa Nuclear Project

(NucNet) US company Westinghouse wants to build its AP1000 reactor technology at the north Wales site.

The British government is in discussions with US nuclear reactor manufacturer Westinghouse to develop up to three 1150 MWe AP1000 PWR type nuclear reactors at the Wylfa Newydd site in Anglesey, Wales. If the project goes through, US engineering firm Bechtel would be the EPC to build a Westinghouse AP1000 reactor.

Neither firm brings any investors to the table which places the burden on the UK government to round up a combination of public funding as well as private money.

In terms of investors for the Wylfa project, wire service reports in the UK indicate that a number of pension funds have also expressed interest in building reactors at Wylfa. According to the Times of London, Simon Forster, director of UK clean energy company Shearwater, which is interested in taking on the project, told MPs he was in contact with a “group of pension funds who are very keen to invest” in the project.

Japan’s Hitachi walked away from a plan to build two 1350 MWe ABWR nuclear reactors at Wylfa, and another two at Oldbury, after the government low balled its proposed level of financing for the projects. Hitachi was also reportedly concerned that the UK government was not reliable as a partner due to the looming BREXIT plan separating the UK from the European Union. The cost of the project had been put at about £20 billion.

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What is driving the renewed interest in the site is that government Ministers are reportedly concerned existing nuclear projects do not support the country’s ambition of reducing its carbon rates. Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is reported to be having reservations that by the early-2030s there will not be enough nuclear power to phase out gas power. He is understood to back plans to build a new plant at Wylfa, and is lobbying the Treasury to seek private investment.

It has finally dawned on the UK government that its ambitious plans for wind power and natural gas are not enough to meet demand for electricity and that a commitment to nuclear power is urgently needed to keep the lights on,

Current plans are to complete two 1650 MWe EPR units under construction by EDF at Hinkley Point C, and a proposal for two new similar EPR units at Sizewell C, Suffolk, which is in advanced planning stages.

The timeline for EDF to decide whether to go ahead with the £20bn Sizewell C project has reportedly slipped because of a lengthy planning approval process and continuing negotiations over funding. The UK government and local jurisdictions have tied the project up in a tangled net of red tape. The French state-owned energy company had been hoping to make a decision this year, but now expects to leave it until up to 2023 before deciding whether to proceed, press reports said.

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US Spreads Pro-Nuclear Promises of Support in Europe

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In a multi-country trip, 24 in all, that included several European nations the DOE Secretary focused her eye on stemming Russia’s growing control over Europe’s energy security, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm reached for the brass ring of market share.

She said in a press briefing the climate crisis presents “a market opportunity for carbon-reducing technologies” such as nuclear power.

If anyone doubts the stakes, Granholm put a number on them saying there is a $23 trillion market for nuclear energy in countries in Central and Eastern Europe by 2030. They include Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states among others.

In Poland, Granholm expressed “our strong support for the Three Seas Initiative”, which brings together 12 EU countries – Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia – between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic Seas.

The U.S. views the Three Seas Initiative as a vehicle to win the geopolitical battle for ‘hearts and minds’ in the region, in a bid to reduce Chinese and Russian influence there especially with regard to nuclear energy projects.

In addition to geopolitical considerations, for Granholm, transatlantic cooperation on clean energy is becoming more urgent due to climate change.

“Nuclear energy is the reason we’re here,” she said.

“Our collaboration to develop Poland’s civil nuclear program is vital to Poland achieving EU carbon reduction targets and to guarantee its energy security,” Granholm said. “That dispatchable, clean, uninterruptable power is the gold standard of what every nation is looking for” in their quest to reduce CO2.”

Granholm admitted that not everybody in Europe is comfortable with nuclear energy. “But I will say that, for countries that do want it, we cannot afford to ignore clean, safe, reliable sources of energy.”

Austria and Germany are hard over in anti-nuclear energy policies and both nations have meddled aggressively with the plans of other EU countries to pursue nuclear energy projects. This hasn’t deterred the U.S.

“The reason we’re here in Poland is because we have been talking about a partnership in the area of nuclear,” Granholm said. “We’re really excited that we may have this partnership here with Poland”.

In October last year, Warsaw and Washington signed a 30-year intergovernmental agreement on future cooperation in the development of the Polish civil nuclear energy program. The problem is setting reasonable expectations. In October 2020 then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a grandiose promise of $18 billion in financial support to Poland to help with its plan to build six full size nuclear reactors by the end of the 2030 or early 2040s.

The problem for Poland is assessing whether the U.S. will keep that problematic promise. President Biden is in the midst of asking Congress to spend trillions of dollars on domestic infrastructure which may not leave much headroom for a financial commitment like the one Pompeo made in the closing days of the Trump administration.

Warsaw expects its first nuclear power station to start operating in 2033. A total of 6-9 GW of nuclear power is expected to be installed by 2043. The Polish energy ministry said the cost would be an estimated €4.66 million per MWe. Pompeo’s promised financial support works out to about half of the costs.

Also on Pompeo’s mind was on a key concept of American foreign aid which is “buy American” which may rub a few other vendors, notably France’s EDF, the wrong way. That country is already bent out of shape over a submarine deal that went south.

American firms aren’t waiting to see if the U.S. is ready to write checks to build. In July, Westinghouse announced the launch of a front-end engineering and design study – or FEED – under a grant from the US Trade Development Agency to advance Poland’s nuclear energy program. It also opened an office in Poland.

“It’s an opportunity to give American technology to help meet Poland’s clean-energy needs, and Westinghouse is going to offer its AP1000 nuclear reactor for the project,” Granholm said.

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MOUs are Flying as U.S. SMR Vendors Ink Agreements with Polish Firms

NuScale Signs MOU withe Polish Mining Firm

KGHM, the Polish copper and silver mining giant, has signed a joint commitment with NuScale Power to develop its small modular reactor (SMR) for electricity and process heat applications. In accordance with its signed commitment, KGHM Polska Miedz will not only be a recipient of the final product, but will also actively participate in the development of this technology.

NuScale Power, Getka Group (Getka) and UNIMOT S.A. (UNIMOT) announced the three companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with business purposes including to explore the deployment of NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR) technology as a coal repurposing solution for existing coal-fired power plants in Poland.

Getka is an Oklahoma-based integrated energy company providing construction, and delivery of petroleum, refined products, and alternative energy. Through its Zero Impact Strategy, Getka is focused on reducing emissions output through renewable energy.

UNIMOT is a Poland-based multi-energy Capital Group that offers its wholesale and retail customers fuel products, gas and electricity, including renewable energy. This agreement demonstrates the value of international partnership and collaboration in utilizing NuScale’s SMR technology to repurpose coal plants across the country.

Under the MOU, NuScale will support Getka and UNIMOT’s assessment of NuScale’s SMR technology to replace coal-fueled power plants and more broadly for new nuclear plant implementations in Poland. The examination will include an analysis of technical, economic, legal, regulatory, financial, and organizational factors.

Marcin Chludzinski, President of the Management Board of KGHM Polska Miedz SA said; “The changes in the climate are forcing us to take decisive actions. We are already feeling the impact, including in a financial sense, connected among others with the increases in energy prices. The construction of small nuclear reactors by 2030 is a solid declaration and an element our energy transformation. We are pioneers in Poland, as we expect that the first of our nuclear power plants will come online in 2029.”

“This project aligns with our commitment to decarbonize and diversify Poland’s energy infrastructure,” said Dariusz Cichocki, Chairman and CEO of Getka Group. “Through our ongoing partnership with UNIMOT, we are pleased to partner with NuScale to bring innovative solutions to market in Central Europe.”

GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 Gets a Boost in MOU with Poland’s Synthos Green Energy

Cameco, GE Hitachi, GEH SMR Canada and Synthos Green Energy announced they will collaborate on potential deployment of the BWRX-300 small modular reactors in Poland.

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s U.S. NRC-certified ESBWR. Through innovative design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MWe when compared to other SMR designs.

By leveraging the existing ESBWR design certification, utilizing the licensed and proven GNF2 fuel design, and incorporating proven components and supply chain expertise, GEH said it believes the BWRX-300 can become a low risk, cost-competitive offering to the market for SMR for Poland.

The BWRX-300 is in pre-licensing discussions with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (NRC). A series of topical reports, typical for this stage, have been submitted, but there is no timeline for submission of a license application posted on the agency’s website.

About the BWRX-300 MOU

This past week, Cameco (TSX: CCO; NYSE: CCJ), GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), GEH SMR Technologies Canada, Ltd. (GEH SMR Canada) and Synthos Green Energy (SGE), a member of the Synthos Group S.A., have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to evaluate the potential establishment of a uranium fuel supply chain in Canada capable of servicing a potential fleet of BWRX-300 small modular reactors (SMRs) in Poland.

Synthos, a manufacturer of synthetic rubber and one of the biggest producers of chemical raw materials in Poland, is interested in obtaining affordable, on-demand, carbon-free electricity from a dependable, dedicated source. In 2019 SGE and GEH agreed to collaborate on potential deployment applications for the BWRX-300 in Poland. SGE and GEH signed a strategic agreement in 2020 that further advanced the cooperation.

Cameco supplies uranium, uranium refining and conversion services to the nuclear industry worldwide. In July 2021, Cameco, GEH and Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas (GNF-A) agreed to explore several areas of cooperation to advance the commercialization and deployment of BWRX-300 SMRs in Canada and around the world.

“We believe nuclear energy will play a major role in helping countries and companies around the world achieve their net-zero emission targets,” said Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel. “This MOU is a great example of the kind of innovative solutions businesses like Synthos Green Energy are exploring and how SMRs could contribute to industry-driven efforts to decarbonize.”

“We look forward to working with Cameco and GEH in understanding the uranium requirements for a fleet of BWRX-300s in Poland and the support that Canada has to offer,” said Rafal Kasprów, President of the Board of SGE. “In addition to this MOU, SGE is working closely with GEH to identify supply chain opportunities in Poland that complement the export capabilities being developed in Canada for the BWRX-300, which could enable us to successfully deliver carbon-free electricity to the grid.”

“GEH is honored to be working with Cameco and Synthos Green Energy to deploy the BWRX-300,” said Jay Wileman, President & CEO, GEH. “Through our collaboration we look forward to the opportunity to bring carbon-free energy generation to Poland and support the creation of valuable uranium supply jobs in Canada.”

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Post Script: Is the “Opportunity” Real for Nuclear Energy in Poland?

The Oklahoma Land Rush vibes I get from news about nuclear energy “opportunities” in Poland reminds me of a TV commercial from the early 1960s. Hundreds of people are seen running across a landscape towards a floating image of a giant bottle of chocolate syrup.

The TV commercial was aired for a chocolate flavored syrup called “Coco Marsh.” One of the spots that aired on prime time had the theme of “everyone is running to get Coco Marsh.”

coco marsh

It showed an old time movie clip of crowds running across a field towards a giant replica of a bottle of the stuff. The product was promoted as having marshmallow cream in it to make the drink smoother.

For a while the commercial became a “thing,” kind of like the famous Wendy’s commercial of “where’s the beef?” The product went off the market due to competition from powdered chocolate flavoring products.

Time will tell whether prospects for a nuclear energy in Poland will turn out to be the real deal or just a transitory sugar high lasting as long as it takes to chug 8oz of chocolate flavored beverage.

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

NRC Issues License to Interim Storage Partners for Spent Nuclear Fuel at Texas Site

  • NRC Issues License to Interim Storage Partners to Store Spent Nuclear Fuel in Texas
  • China’s HTR-PM 1st Criticality at Shidao Bay
  • Terrestrial Energy Upgrades IMSR400 Gen IV Nuclear Power Plant
  • Cameco And X-energy Sign MOU for Deployment Of Xe-100 SMR In Canada And US
  • Polish Chemical Giant Looks to Nuclear Process Heat to Decarbonize its Operations
  • Recent Developments in Space Nuclear Propulsion / Fuel for Earth Orbit and Deep Space Missions
  • NRC Updates Its Interest in Artificial Intelligence

NRC Issues License to Interim Storage Partners to Store Spent Nuclear Fuel in Texas

isp logoThe US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has 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.

The used fuel and waste must be stored in canisters and cask systems, and they must meet NRC standards for protection against leakage, radiation dose rates, and criticality, under normal and accident conditions. The canisters are required to be sealed when they arrive at the facility, and remain sealed during onsite handling and storage activities. ( See below a conceptual view of a dry cask for spent fuel storage. Image: US NRC)

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In a news release this week, the NRC said the proposal passed its extensive reviews for environmental impact, technical safety and security. The canisters that will contain the waste must also meet federal standards for protecting against leakage.

The NRC’s review of the license application included a technical safety and security review, an environmental impact review and adjudication before an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board. A safety evaluation report, documenting the technical review, is being issued along with the license. The NRC issued a final environmental impact statement on the application in July.

Interim Storage Partners said in a statement that the planned facility satisfies “all environmental, health, and safety requirements without negative impact to nearby residents or existing industries.”

Texas State Government is Opposed to the Project

The Washington Post reports that in Texas, environmental activists have forged a rare alliance with oil interests and powerful state Republicans to prevent the site from moving forward.

In a direct challenge to the authority of the NRC, Texas Gov. Abbott signed legislation preventing federally approved waste facilities from obtaining local construction and wastewater permits. The governor has framed the license as an unwelcome incursion by the Biden administration, which he accused of “trying to dump highly radioactive nuclear waste” into the oil fields in the Texas Permian basin.

Oil and gas companies expressed concerns that radioactivity from the casks could contaminate their operations. Green groups in Texas attacked the project claiming the risk of transporting spent fuel by rail to the site was too dangerous. In fact, actual tests of collisions of trains moving at high speed with the dry casks has shown no possible releases of radioactivity. The casks have also been tested regarding fires and other types of accidents.

Critics of the plan also disregarded the fact that the U.S. Navy has been delivering spent nuclear fuel by train to a site in eastern Idaho for decades with no accidents.

Business Model

The business model for Interim Storage Partners is that the facility once approved would be eligible for nuclear waste fee payments from the U.S. government. According to estimates reported by the Washington Post, the firm could earn large fees from the U.S. government.

The Energy Department makes annual payments to the companies that store spent nuclear fuel at their reactors. In 2015, a Congressional Budget Office report said the department had already paid more than $5 billion to utility companies for storing waste and estimated such payments could eventually total $29 billion.

The Andrews, TX, project is a joint venture between the U.S. subsidiary of Orano, a French state-owned corporation, and Waste Control Specialists, a landfill company acquired by New York private equity firm J.F. Lehman in 2018. J.F. Lehman also owns NorthStar, a nuclear decommissioning firm that buys and dismantles old nuclear power plants, and has signaled its interest in shipping used nuclear material to the Texas storage facility.

Separately, the NRC  is currently reviewing an application from Holtec International for a similar facility proposed for Lea County, New Mexico, on which it currently anticipates reaching a decision in January 2022. Holtec’s business includes decommissioning closed nuclear power plants. It also manufactures the dry casks that store the spent nuclear fuel.

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China’s HTR-PM 1st Criticality at Shidao Bay

(NucNet) The first of the two high-temperature gas-cooled reactors at the Shidao Bay demonstration HTR-PM plant in Facility scheduled to begin generating power for grid in 2021, eastern China, attained reached first criticality on Monday, China National Nuclear Corporation said. The facility is scheduled to begin generating power for grid later this year.

The No.1 reactor at the plant, also known as at Shidaowan, achieved first criticality 09/12/21, CNNC announced. It said the milestone was reached 23 days after the start of fuel loading. Operators will now perform zero-power physical tests to verify the core and control rod performance and the functionality of monitoring equipment.

The gas-cooled HTR-PM is a Generation-IV reactor design with twin reactor modules of 100 MW each driving a single 200-MW steam turbine.

Its fuel is in the form of 420,000 six-centimeter graphite pebbles containing uranium enriched to 8.5% U-235. Instead of cooling water, the reactor’s graphite core is submerged in inert helium gas with an outlet temperature of from 250-to-750°C. The heated helium goes directly to the steam generator.

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China Huaneng, the lead organization in the consortium to build the HTR-PM with a 47.5% stake, said the plant is suitable for small and medium-sized power grids and has a range of potential commercial applications, including power generation, cogeneration of heat and power, and high-temperature process heat applications.

Other consortium members are China National Nuclear Corporation subsidiary China Nuclear Engineering Corporation (32.5%) and Tsinghua University’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (20%), which is the research and development leader.

Work on the HTGR began in December 2012 and it had had been expected to start generation in 2019, which would have made it the first Generation IV reactor to enter operation. Unconfirmed reports indicate the delay was the result of redesign work after the first prototype had disappointing results in terms of performance. China has plans to build as many as 19 more units.

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Terrestrial Energy Upgrades IMSR400 Gen IV Nuclear Power Plant

Terrestrial Energy announced its upgraded Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) nuclear power plant design – the IMSR400 – a facility with a net 390 MWe of electric generation capacity for grid supply from twin reactors and generators. The company said the upgrade was the result of input it received from potential customers.

imsr400 cutaway“With our upgraded IMSR400 Generation IV nuclear power plant, Terrestrial Energy is raising the bar for innovative carbon-free technology in terms of cost-competitiveness, resilience, and scalability,” said Simon Irish, CEO, Terrestrial Energy.  (IMSR cutaway right. Image: TE file)

Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR400 is one of three Small Modular Reactor (SMR) power plant designs under consideration for deployment at Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. It is one of two Generation IV technology candidates, and the only Canadian technology candidate.

The company said in its press statement that using Generation IV molten salt reactor technology, the IMSR400 generates electric power 50 percent more efficiently than conventional nuclear power plants that use water cooled and moderated reactor technology.

With this 50 percent efficiency improvement, the company said, the IMSR400 has a reduced capital requirement and waste footprint, and improved economics per kWh of electricity for new nuclear power plants.

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Since early 2016 Terrestrial Energy has been committed to the CNSC’s Vendor Design Review process. It completed Phase 1 in 2017 and expects to complete Phase 2 by early 2022. Since late 2019, the company has also been engaged with the CNSC and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as the two regulatory agencies collaborate to develop licensing practices to support efficient reviews of nuclear power plants.

The IMSR400 uses nuclear fuel at standard enrichment of less than 5% U235 which avoids the considerable cost and time of re-licensing uranium enrichment plants and removes hurdles to commercialization. The company announced an agreement on August 17 with Westinghouse and the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory to provide the IMSR’s nuclear fuel supply, the first Generation IV Small Modular Reactor (SMR) to have such an agreement.

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Cameco And X-energy Sign MOU for Deployment Of Xe-100 SMR In Canada And US

Cameco (TSX: CCO; NYSE: CCJ) and X-energy have entered a non-binding and non-exclusive Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore possible areas of cooperation to support the potential future deployment, fueling and servicing of Xe-100 small modular reactors (SMRs) in Canada and the United States. Cameco has no SMR development effort of its own.

“We intend to be a fuel supplier of choice for the emerging SMR and advanced reactor market and look forward to working with X-energy to see what opportunities might exist around their innovative reactor technology.” said Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel.

“We feel very confident about the future of nuclear power and the future of SMRs, here in Canada, in the U.S. and across the globe.””

“Cameco is a cornerstone of the Canadian nuclear industry and has global reach,” said Pete Pappano, President of TRISO-X, which is X-energy’s fuel fabrication subsidiary.

Cameco is one of the largest global suppliers of uranium and a leader in uranium mining, refining, conversion and fuel manufacturing services. For more than three decades, Cameco has been safely and reliably producing uranium and nuclear fuel products to generate electricity at the world’s nuclear reactors.

Maryland-based X-energy is developing Generation IV high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactors and the structural isotropic particle fuel (Triso) fuel to power them.

In August 2020, X-energy began its vendor design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for the Xe-100 design. The review will demonstrate X-energy’s understanding of Canadian requirements and confirm there are no fundamental licensing barriers for the Xe-100 in Canada. The process will also provide the company valuable early feedback to further strengthen its design.

The Xe-100 is an 80 MWe reactor that can be scaled into a “four-pack” 320 MW power plant. It uses Triso fuel that can integrate into large, regional electricity systems as a base and load-following source of low-carbon power.  (Xe-100 Tech specs)

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Polish Chemical Giant Looks to Nuclear Process Heat to Decarbonize its Operations

(WNN) Polish chemical producer Ciech will consider using nuclear technologies to replace coal burning for power and process heat in its plants. Ciech has signed a Letter of Intent to cooperate with Synthos Green Energy, which is already working with GE-Hitachi and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation. Both of the reactor designs from these firms can produce process heat, at 100-200°C and at 630°C, respectively.

Ciech and Synthos said they will “define the possibility of building small or “micromodular” nuclear reactors on the premises of Ciech’s production plants.

“If the licensing process in Poland runs correctly, there is nothing to prevent the Generation IV reactors from being commissioned at Ciech plants before the end of the decade,” said Rafał Kasprów, chairman of Synthos Green Energy.

Ciech said it is considering nuclear to replace coal at its plants producing soda ash (sodium carbonate), which has applications ranging from the manufacture of glass and bricks, to domestic soap and food additives. The company is the second largest producer of soda ash in the EU, with large, energy-intensive plants at Inowrocaw and Janikowo. The plants currently burn coal in combined heat and power plants that provide steam for process heat.

Synthos is a large chemicals group based in Poland. It has taken a leading role in the pursuit of nuclear energy in the country, particularly in the industrial sector, through Synthos Green Energy.

In June Synthos began cooperation with Polish state petrochemical firm PKN Orlen to cooperate on small and modular reactors. The company is also developing cooperation in the field of hydrogen production with the use of micro reactors.

Recent Developments in Space Nuclear Propulsion / Fuel for Earth Orbit and Deep Space Missions

nuc pro(Space News & wire services) A new solicitation from the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) seeks “mature commercial technologies that can provide power and propulsion in the near term.” The Defense Innovation Unit has issued a call for bids for small nuclear-powered engines for space missions beyond Earth orbit.

DIU says electric and solar-based propulsion systems are not suitable for missions beyond Earth orbit and are too bulky for use on modern commercial spacecraft.

“Advanced propulsion technology that enables high delta-V and electrical power to payloads, while maintaining fuel efficiency, is required to enable new DoD mission sets in space.”

Bidders have to show “credible manufacturing, regulatory, and licensing paths toward prototype development within three to five years and a follow-on path to flight based testing.”

NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency currently are funding the development of fission-based propulsion and power such as nuclear thermal propulsion technology. DIU says it is not duplicating existing programs but is seeking to support current government projects with “mature commercial technologies that can provide power and propulsion in the near term.”

DARPA believes that nuclear-powered propulsion could enable rapid maneuver in space which is a capability that is difficult to achieve with current electric and chemical propulsion systems. Propulsion systems are generally used to readjust satellite positions when they drift out of their assigned position or to avoid collisions, while occasionally transporting those satellites to new orbits to continue their mission or for new tasks.

However, future U.S. military missions may require much more maneuverability and power. Future U.S. missions will need more electrical power to more frequently change orbits, transfer other objects to new orbits and operate beyond Earth’s orbit.

Moreover, the shrinking size of many space systems driven by the increased capabilities of small satellites and cubesats imposes volume constraints on future propulsion systems. In other words, the military wants more power, but not by simply building bigger propulsion systems or adding more solar panels.

Interested companies that can show a plan for prototype development within three to five years could be awarded other transaction authority contracts to support laboratory-based prototyping of such systems, followed by a path to flight-based testing.

Last April the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued contracts to three companies to design a nuclear thermal propulsion system for space. The program, known as the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, seeks to build nuclear thermal propulsion that can enable rapid maneuver in space, particularly for cislunar operations. General Atomics, Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin are the prime contractors on that effort.

ESA To Investigate Production of PU-238 for Space Missions

The European Space Agency (ESA) has awarded a contract to Tractebel to evaluate the possibility of producing plutonium 238 (Pu-238), the nuclear fuel used to power deep space missions.

The fuel powers nuclear batteries known as radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) and radioisotope heater units (RHUs) that are vital to providing spacecrafts and astronauts with electricity and heat where the sunlight isn’t strong enough to power solar panels. This is generally beyond the orbit of Mars,

The system could also be used for the European Lunar Lander to explore the moon. The lander is expected be launched by the end of the decade.

Together with its partners SCK CEN and ORANO, Tractebel will study the possibility of manufacturing Pu-238 by bombarding neptunium-237 from the La Hague recycling facility in France with the neutron flux of the BR2 research reactor in Mol, Belgium, operated by SCK CEN.

pu-238 production process

Nuclear batteries (RTGs and RHUs) are a proven technology for space exploration. However, producing plutonium 238 is complex and costly, and for the time being only the United States and Russia can do it. The companies will develop a roadmap for the creation of a Pu-238 production chain in Europe that will include a timeline and estimated production capacity and costs. They will also evaluate regulatory acceptance.

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NRC Updates Its Interest in Artificial Intelligence

Earlier this year the NRC posted a Federal Register Notice asking for input on the use of machine learning and other modes of artificial intelligence to enhance safety for nuclear power plants.

Despite getting fewer than about half a dozen comments, based on documents associated with the Docket ID NRC-2021-0048, there has been progress.

According to Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the agency, the staff has collected and analyzed the responses to the Federal Register Notice. The analysis was communicated during a public NRC workshop on AI/ML and is expected to be documented in a publicly available report later this year. Insights from the responses are being considered in the agency’s effort for developing strategies related to the use of AI/ML in NRC activities.

However, AI or machine learning is a work in progress for the NRC at this time.

“We’re still in the early stages of developing strategies and applications for the use of AI/ML. The agency is not currently undertaking any activities with respect to a proposed rule for AI/ML,” Burnell said.

Burnell also noted that this summer the NRC conducted a series of workshops to provide a forum for the NRC, nuclear industry and stakeholders to discuss the state of knowledge and research activities related to data science and AI and their application in the nuclear industry.

At these workshops, the agency worked with internal and external stakeholders to identify the benefits and risks associated with the use of AI in regulatory activities and discussed ongoing and planned projects in the nuclear industry. The third and last workshop on Future Focused Initiatives is scheduled for October 2021. More information about the workshops can be found online at the NRC website.

The presentations from the first of the three workshops are also online.  Presentations for the 2nd and 3rd workshop will be online also so check back for them.

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One Million Page Readers Milestone

tec logo2Readers of this blog are in good company. As some readers know, this blog is syndicated at Energy Central in the Energy & Sustainability Network / Energy Collective.

In October 2018 the Energy Collective (TEC) began publishing statistics of the number of readers / pageviews for each of its contributors as well as for each of their posts.

I am pleased to report that as of 09/13/21 the syndicated content at the Energy Collective passed the one million page views milestone. This statistic is an affirmation that there is strong interest in the application of nuclear energy to decarbonization strategies worldwide.

The reason I comment on the global impact of this blog is based on its global readership. While 45% of all readers are from the U.S., the following countries represent about 35% of all other readers outside the U.S..  In rough order of magnitude the countries are; Canada, U.K., India, Germany, Sweden, Australia, France, South Africa, Japan, China, and Finland.  Another 50+ countries represent the other 20% of readers.

readers

Readers coming directly to this blog and from social media platforms, since 2015, run between 80,000 to 90,000 a year. The blog is also syndicated at Nuclear Street, and selected blog posts have been published at NucNet. Between 2010 and 2019 selected posts also were published at the American Nuclear Society blog – ANS Nuclear Cafe.

This blog is independent of any corporate or consulting sponsorship. It has been online in this form, and in a prior incarnation as Idaho Samizdat, since 2007. I plan to continue to publish it.

I would like to mention with gratitude the support over the years from Energy Central key personnel; Audra Drazga, Matt Chester, and Rachel Lewis as well as their development team. None of this would have happened without their work at Energy Central.

I know there are lots of places online to read about news about developments in the global nuclear industry. Thank you all for your interest and support for reading about it here and at the Energy Collective.

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Fusion Start Up at MIT Hits Critical Milestone with a New Superconducting Magnet

  • Fusion Start Up at MIT Hits Critical Technical Milestone with Superconducting Magnet
  • House Science Committee Passes Legislation Making Significant Investments in Fusion Energy
  • Chinese Fusion Energy Programs Are A Growing Competitor in the Global Race to Fusion Power
  • Site Analysis Proposed for SMR in Puerto Rico
  • DOE Building a Bridge to Bankability for Nuclear Energy Through Its Loan Program Office
  • U.S. Consultant IP3 to Develop Plan for Nuclear Energy in Poland

Fusion Start Up at MIT Hits Critical Technical Milestone with Superconducting Magnet

(MIT Press Office) Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS) and MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) today announced the successful test of the world’s strongest high temperature superconducting (HTS) magnet, the key technology for a device that will unlock the path to clean commercial fusion energy for the world.

maxresdefaultThe milestone test, conducted at MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, proved that the magnet built at scale can reach a sustained magnetic field of more than 20 tesla, enough to enable CFS’s compact tokamak device, called SPARC, to achieve net energy from fusion, which is a historic first result.

“This record-breaking magnet is the culmination of the last three years of work and will give the world a clear path to fusion power for the first time,” said Bob Mumgaard, CFS CEO.

“The world needs a fundamentally new technology that will support efforts to decarbonize on a timeline that can mitigate climate change. This test of our magnet proves we have that technology, and we’re on our way to producing clean, limitless energy for the entire world.”

CFS and MIT’s PSFC used new commercially available high temperature superconductors (HTS) to build the magnets that will enable significantly stronger magnetic fields in a fusion device called a tokamak. While existing tokamaks rely on device scale to attempt net energy, HTS magnets enable a high-field approach that will enable CFS to reach net energy from fusion with a device that is substantially smaller, lower cost, and on a faster timeline.

“This groundbreaking magnet opens a widely identified transformational and accelerated opportunity for advancing fusion science and commercial fusion energy,” said Dennis Whyte, Director of MIT’s PSFC and CFS Co-Founder.

CFS has been focusing onmagnet technologies historically used for fusion plants. They announced that they have successfully fabricated a full, plant-sized magnet with high temperature superconductor (“HTS”) material.

This magnet operates at a magnetic field strength significantly higher than current technologies, and is one hundred times larger than previous HTS magnets. Using this material means that power needed to produce the field is very low, compared to other materials. CFS said in a press statement that it has confidence that this magnet will very likely allow the CFS plant being built in Massachusetts to be the world’s first net-energy-out fusion plant.

About the Magnet and Fusion Devices

The core challenge for fusion is making a magnetic field strong enough to contain the reaction, while also generating more energy from the reaction than it takes to run the magnets.

In fusion, two hydrogen atoms fuse, which liberates energy for power and helium, which is not a challenging product for the environment. Both nuclear and fusion do not emit carbon or any other gas emissions. And both nuclear and fusion have advantages over wind, solar and other non-emitting energy types, given you can produce large amounts of energy in very small land footprints that can be located anywhere, and can run every hour of every day.

Tokamaks are donut-shaped devices that use magnets to control and insulate a plasma in which fusion occurs. While no fusion device has yet to achieve net energy from fusion, tokamaks have come the closest with more than 160 tokamaks built and successfully operated around the world.

In the past, tokamaks used low-temperature superconducting magnets that required them to be enormous in size to create the magnetic field needed to attempt to achieve net energy. CFS HTS magnets will enable significantly stronger magnetic fields and as a result significantly smaller tokamaks.

Fusion power plants will have advantages over traditional fossil fueled power plants as they will be carbon-free, dispatchable, have limitless fuel supply, and are inherently safer than other types of electrical generation plants.

This HTS magnet technology will next be used in SPARC, which is under construction in Devens, Massachusetts and on track to demonstrate net energy from fusion by 2025.

CFS was spun out of MIT and combines the decades of research experience of MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center with the innovation and speed of the private sector.

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House Science Committee Passes Legislation Making Significant Investments in Fusion Energy

On September 9, 2021 the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology passed legislation that would invest in new scientific infrastructure, new clean energy research initiatives, and new innovative demonstration programs. Fusion energy research and development featured strongly in the Committee’s legislation, and there was  discussion about fusion’s importance during the markup.

This legislation provides landmark investments into fusion energy over the next decade.  In total, the House Science Committee bill includes $2.8 billion for Fusion Energy-related projects and research, including:

  • $1.325B for U.S. Contributions to ITER
  • $212.3M for the Matter in Extreme Conditions Upgrade Upgrade at SLAC
  • $59.2M for the Material Plasma Exposure Experiment
  • $250M for Fusion Materials Research and Development
  • $140M for Inertial Fusion Research and Development
  • $275M for Alternative and Enabling Fusion Energy Concepts
  • $325M for the Milestone-Based Fusion Energy Development Program
  • $250M for Fusion Reactor System Design

fusion energy research

Public / Partnerships

Of particular interest is the addition of $325 million for a public-private partnership program, passed in law as a “Milestone-Based Fusion Energy Development Program” that directs the Secretary of Energy to develop a performance-based cost share program to support the development of fusion energy in the United States.

According to the legislative language, “The purpose of the program shall be to support the development of a U.S.-based fusion power industry through the research and development of technologies that will enable the construction of new full-scale fusion systems capable of demonstrating significant improvements in the performance of such systems within 10 years of the enactment of this section.”

The Fusion Energy Association (FIA) said in a press statement that its members are pleased to see this new investment into fusion energy in the United States. However, FIA also noted that its analysis indicates that the fusion industry could support a program of $1 billion, not $325 million.

FIA added that “a reduced-sized program will only result in missed opportunities for scientific advances, reduced private investment, and the loss of projects to overseas competitors.”

Chinese Fusion Energy Programs Are A Growing Competitor in the Global Race to Fusion Power

China is growing as a hub for active fusion research, as its scientists and entrepreneurs are making significant investments in fusion energy. China has two main fusion enterprises driving scientific advances and investment: the government-funded research based at the Institute of Plasma Physics at the Hefei Institute of Physical Science and the privately-funded fusion research of ENN Group.

In Hefei, government-funded scientists operate the recently-upgraded Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST). The machine is government-funded, through the National Nuclear Corporation, a large state-owned corporation. It cost nearly USD$900 million to build and operate through 2019. Since then, the government has been investing large sums of money into development with there recently being awarded a second tranche of another US$900 million in funding for the project. (See below an estimated timeline for China’s development of a full scale commercial fusion plant.)

china fusion timeline

In the past year, the EAST device has achieved world records, maintaining a plasma temperature of 120 million degrees Celsius for 101 seconds and 160 million Celsius for 20 seconds. These achievements should be seen as a huge success for a fusion device and show the scientific prowess of China’s research teams.

The project is attracting  attention among Chinese cities which hope to host construction for the first of a kind facility. At least three Chinese cities are vying to host the world’s first experimental nuclear fusion power station after the country’s government threw its weight behind the ambitious project.

The central government’s imprimatur has now taken it on to the next stage – drawing up the engineering blueprints. Shanghai, mainland China’s financial hub, has been joined by Hefei, the capital of Anhui province, and Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, in the race to win the lucrative project, which, according to some estimates, could cost more than 100 billion yuan (USD$15.2 billion).

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Site Analysis Proposed for SMR in Puerto Rico

(WNN) Consideration of small modular reactors (SMRs) for the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico is advancing to the second stage. Having concluded such a deployment was feasible, the Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP) is now looking at siting requirements.

Speaking at World Nuclear Association’s Annual Symposium yesterday, Eddie Guerra of NAP said the results of a study currently underway “will help to move the discussion how the sites will fit and how they will align with the mini grids already planned.”

Applying the requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, NAP has so far identified two potential sites. One lies on the island’s north coast near an industrial hub; the other on its east coast at the former Roosevelt Roads Naval Station. Guerra said the ongoing study “aims to develop a list of suitable sites with ranking and plant parameter envelopes for Puerto Rico.”  (See map below)

site map nuclear PR

It follows a conclusion made in a NAP study last year that SMRs are feasible in the Puerto Rican context. The assessment was made according to International Atomic Energy Agency criteria.

Key to the analysis is Puerto Rico’s energy strategy, which is to rebuild from the damage of 2017’s Hurricane Maria in a more resilient way by creating a web of micro grids. Some 3000 MWe of the island’s 3247 MWe of operable power units will be replaced by 2025, with solar energy expected to take an ever-increasing share of generation.

However, the dynamics of island grids are challenging for solar. Puerto Rico has a steady level of demand at around 2500 MWe, with peaks of around 3000 MWe. Last year’s NAP feasibility study said only nuclear reactors can complement the intermittency of renewable power sources with zero-emission baseload power generation.

At the same time, a high degree of flexibility to load follow would be required from any units joining a solar-dominated grid. Also, energy prices remain high – around 19 cents per kWh whereas the price in most US states is in the range of 9-11 cents per kWh.

DOE Building a Bridge to Bankability for Nuclear Energy Through Its Loan Program Office

(WNN) (click on link to read full report – long) The private sector must be prepared to provide the funds needed to take new and innovative reactor technologies from the first deployment stage to wide-scale commercial operation, Jigar Shah, director of the Loans Program Office (LPO) at the US Department of Energy, said during World Nuclear Association’s Annual Symposium. He said the LPO is developing the business models needed to deploy new nuclear.

Shah noted that the Biden-Harris Administration has put a focus on scaling up commercial deployment of the next generation of nuclear power technology, including smaller and more flexible advanced reactor designs and on the advanced fuels that will be needed to operate them.

“With these new innovative technologies (such as small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors), when combined with innovations in manufacturing, product delivery models and innovations in financing led by the LPO, utilities and other potential buyers of nuclear power plants can once again begin to order new units for deployment.”

He added, “In addition to new, technically-ready designs, we need to consider how government and private industry can work together on new approaches – both technically and from a business execution approach.”

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U.S. Consultant IP3 to Develop Plan for Nuclear Energy in Poland

IP3 International and ZE PAK will work out a plan for the development of nuclear power plants in Poland.

nuclearcogeneration-653x523-5IP3 Corporation (IP3) and  Zespół Elektrowni Ptnów-Adamów-Konin SA (ZE PAK) power plant complex have signed an agreement regarding the implementation and development of nuclear power plants in Poland.

The cooperation between the parties will result in the development of a plan for the fast introduction of nuclear power to Poland.

  • IP3 will be ZE PAK’s main advisor in the process.
  • The firm also announced that Georgette Mosbacher, a former U.S. Ambassador to Poland, has joined the IP3 team and management board.

The joint effort will help to develop projects, plan implementation and secure permits from relevant authorities and institutions, including American, and from Polish and international institutions, as may be required.

The cooperation may also cover aspects of the acquisition of approvals from supervising and regulatory bodies in the countries which will be supplying the respective technologies and especially long lead time components and systems that will be exported to Poland from these countries. The parties will work together on the development of the Implementation and Financing Plan to define the requirements and then order specific solutions.

“Nuclear power will play the key role in the global energy mix. We want the highly industrialized countries to be able to tap on the existing technologies and to effectively pursue the climatic goals set for 2040,” said Michael Hewitt, Co-Founder and CEO of IP3.

“The plan, which will be among others implemented by the private sector, will enable Poland to successfully enter the demanding market and migrate to hydrogen and nuclear technologies.”

Former US Ambassador on Board

Georgette Mosbacher, a former U.S. Ambassador to Poland, has joined the IP3 board. “We are excited to announce that former U.S. Ambassador Georgette Mosbacher has joined the board of IP3 and will lead our efforts in Poland,” said Michael Hewitt.

“Nuclear technologies are the key element which can offer Poland, as well as the remaining member countries of the Three Seas Initiative, a sufficient volume of clean energy. Poland’s long-term energy security also requires the presence of the private sector in this sphere, along with a plan for supporting innovation in the field of nuclear power systems,” said Amb. Georgette Mosbacher.

Mr. Zygmunt Solorz, one of the biggest and most important private entrepreneurs in Poland, and a majority shareholder of ZE PAK said:

“Poland, its inhabitants and economy need clean and cheap energy, and this can be provided in a short time with the use of nuclear technologies. Nuclear power projects, regardless of whether they are planned in Poland or abroad, must deal with complex regulatory issues and political circumstances. That is why we have turned to IP3, a renowned American consulting firm, for assistance in the project. We count on the cooperation to help us arrive at the right decisions in the areas in which we have no expertise. I am glad that ZE PAK will be cooperating with IP3 and that our project will be supported by Georgette Mosbacher.”

Ending Production of Electricity from Coal

Last year ZE PAK announced that it would end the production of electricity from coal by 2030.

“It is the most ambitious and the most concrete of the de-carbonization declarations which have been made by Polish power engineering companies. ZE PAK is already developing projects related to the production of clean and green energy, such as a hydrogen economy, wind farms or the recently completed largest solar farm in Poland” – said Piotr Woźny, the CEO of ZE PAK.

ZE PAK is currently involved in various initiatives associated with nuclear technologies which can offer clean and affordable energy for Poland. There is also a plan of using nuclear power for the production of hydrogen to improve various branches of the economy.


About ZE PAK

Zespó Elektrowni Ptnów – Adamów – Konin SA (ZE PAK) is Poland’s second-largest producer of electricity from brown coal, involved for decades in the production of electricity from lignite mined in the surrounding open-pit mines. Last year, ZE PAK announced its exit from coal-fired power generation by 2030. Since 2012 the company has been listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. (About the Company)

About IP3

IP3 is a specialized enterprise operating in the areas of planning, development, financing, and operations of new nuclear energy projects. IP3 and its partner Minard Capital have mapped a global investor network representing USD$2.8 trillion of investable capital with clean energy as a primary investment focus. (Management team and Board of Directors)

Prior Coverage on this Blog

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