INL Versatile Test Reactor Gets First Expression of Interest

Plans by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to build the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) and complete it this decade got a boost this week. Two firms with deep expertise in sodium-cooled advanced reactors have teamed up to collaborate on a proposal to DOE/INL for a partnership on a cost sharing plan to develop the facility.

According to press releases and a blizzard of social media posts from the two firms, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and TerraPower say they plan to collaborate in the development of a public private partnership to design and construct the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) for the US Department of Energy (DOE).

vtr timeline

CD-2/3 are expected by 2022 at which point if Congress approves the funding, construction of the facility will begin.

Adding to the mix is a third party, nuclear utility Energy Northwest says it will also support the joint GEH-TerraPower effort. Significantly, this would be the latest in a series of engagements by the utility which is also leading the UAMPS consortium that wants to be the first customer of NuScale’s 60 MWe small modular reactor (SMR) that will be built at a site at the Idaho lab. Energy Northwest is the operator of the the Columbia Generating Station, a commercial nuclear plant in Washington.

The ball for this effort got rolling last November when the Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), which manages the INL, issued an Expression of Interest asking for responses from firms interested in forming a partnership for a cost-sharing arrangement to develop the VTR.

GEH and TerraPower are the first firms to respond to it. GEH and TerraPower said in their press statement that additional firms, and investors, may be brought onboard at a later date.

“To achieve nuclear energy’s full potential, business and government must work together to invest in both testing new materials and demonstrating advanced technologies,” said TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque.

The VTR will be used as a test platform to provide a source of fast neutrons to support the development of advanced reactor technologies. (Fact sheet on test configurations PDF file)

vtr core conceptual diagram

Conceptual design for VTR core. Image: INL

DOE said it will decide as early as 2021 whether to proceed with building the VTR. Congress must then decide whether to fund it. Construction could begin in 2022 with operations starting in 2026. 

The reactor is expected to be a version of the GE Hitachi PRISM power reactor, which is based on the EBR-II.  (Briefing – VTR Technical Overview – PDF file) The EBR-II reactor was a sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype that operated at the Argonne National Laboratory Idaho site from 1963 to 1994.

Not their First Rodeo

This isn’t the first rodeo for GEH with the VTR. In November 2018 The Idaho National Laboratory awarded a subcontract to GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) to support the conceptual design, cost/schedule estimate and safety framework activities for a proposed fast spectrum Versatile Test Reactor (VTR). The test reactor will be a critical facility for the development of innovative nuclear fuels, materials, instrumentation and sensors.

The subcontract is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s Versatile Test Reactor program, which is investigating what it would take to establish a reactor-based fast-spectrum neutron irradiation capability in the United States by 2026.

Bechtel will also support the project using its expertise in project management for cost, schedule, and related management systems.

Establishing a fast spectrum test reactor ensures continued U.S. technology leadership in nuclear energy innovation. Currently, only a few capabilities are available for testing fast neutron reactor technology in the world and none are in the U.S.

INL Names Christine King New Director for GAIN initiative

Christine King has been selected by Idaho National Laboratory as the next director of the lab’s program that oversees new nuclear energy developments and private sector partnerships.

As director, King will lead efforts on behalf of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy to provide the nuclear community with access to the technical, regulatory and financial support necessary to accelerate innovative nuclear energy technologies toward commercialization.

King will lead the lab’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program which uses commercial partnerships to advance the research and development of new forms of nuclear power.

gain logo

Dr. John Wagner, associate laboratory director of Idaho National Laboratory’s Nuclear Science & Technology Directorate, said,

“There is a growing number of nuclear innovators in the private sector that require access to the unique assets of the DOE’s national laboratory complex to achieve their commercialization goals,” said Wagner. “Christine’s experience in engaging with the nuclear community, particularly helping startups find their footing by connecting them with appropriate resources, makes her the ideal candidate to take on this unique leadership role.”

According to the press statement, King joins INL with 26 years of experience in the nuclear energy industry, “including a history of leading strategic initiatives with multimillion-dollar budgets, fostering relationships and expanding programs. ”

King spent 13 years with the Electric Power Research Institute before becoming the director of Nucleation Capital, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that specialized in advanced nuclear research.

There she built relationships with advanced nuclear entrepreneurs and members of the investment community. The experience helped her understand the challenges facing emerging nuclear technologies especially being able to compete within the broader energy and capital markets for funding.

“GAIN is a unique endeavor with a broad scope and a challenging mission, and there are a lot of exciting advances happening in nuclear right now.  Our national lab system is uniquely positioned to help the advanced nuclear community commercialize their designs,” King said.

Since its inception in November 2015, GAIN has built a unique bridge between the DOE complex and the advanced nuclear community. GAIN has focused on simplifying access to national laboratory resources, collaborating across the industry to address high-priority needs, and accelerating work with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for advanced reactor licensing.

  • With GAIN support, reactor developer Oklo recently received a site use permit to build its 1.5-megawatt Aurora plant at INL.
  • Another GAIN partner, X-energy, was also awarded nearly $3.5 million to further the development of its advanced reactor.
  • Since 2016, 45 GAIN vouchers have been awarded, including two last month, with 20 of those vouchers now completed.

With support and direction from the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy, GAIN is led by Idaho National Laboratory in coordination with Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory.

National Reactor Innovation Center at INL is Hiring

The National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) was recently established at INL to accelerate private-sector demonstration of advanced reactors. As part of the national strategy to expand nuclear energy markets for U.S. commercial suppliers, NRIC will play a key role through nuclear reactor demonstration and testing campaigns.

NRIC is the nation’s principal program to provide the capability to build and demonstrate advanced reactors and is a critical element in achieving INL’s vision to change the world’s energy future. (Briefing – PDF file)

nrts evolution

NRIC at INL is seeking an engineer to support its mission of enabling the demonstration of private-sector nuclear reactor concepts. An ideal candidate will be working to minimize the time required to build and operate novel reactor concepts.

nricThis may include coordinating experimental campaigns using existing DOE facilities, developing new facilities and/or capabilities to enable testing and demonstration, ensuring the availability and production of fuel for reactor demonstrations, and preparing sites for operational demonstration reactors.

This position will have a key role in the execution of infrastructure investments necessary to carry out future testing and demonstration campaigns. Ashley Finan, the newly appointed director of the NRIC, tweeted a note about the the job posting which closes 2/24.

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Rolls-Royce to Focus on Competitive Costs in UK for 440 MWe LWR Nuclear Reactor

  • The firm targets the end of this decade for roll out of its 440 MWe design
  • Romania curtails China agreement for Cernavoda and US makes a pitch for the business, but SNC Lavalin gets the nod for refurbishment of Unit 1
  • Egyptia media  reports first concrete for El Dabaa’s 4 1200 MWe VVERs planned in 2020

rolls royve logoWhile there is plenty of excitement in the U.S. over SMRs and micro reactors, across the pond in the U.K. the competition has not been asleep at the wheel. What Rolls-Royce says it is doing is taking commercial off the shelf components for light water reactors and bolting them together into a 440 MWe affordable package with a relentless focus on being competitive in terms of costs.

Paul Stein, chief technology officer for Rolls-Royce, told the BBC this week the British engineering firm has a target of 2029 for commissioning small modular reactors (SMRs) in the UK. The ambition is part of the country’s aim to achieve net zero by 2050, initially using former nuclear power sites in Cumbria and Wales.

If successful the project might break the funding stalemate that has brought work to a halt at several UK new build projects due to the high costs of reactors several orders of magnitude larger and way more costly than the Rolls-Royce design.

At an estimated overnight cost of $5,000/Kw, the Rolls-Royce 440 MWe unit would come in at $2.2 billion. By comparison, the proposed twin 1350 MW ABWRs for the Moorside project, led by by Japan’s Hitachi, had projected costs that soared into the stratosphere.

In August 2015 for Moorside the price tag had reached $20 billion for project.  Hitachi and its investors said they could not take the risk of further cost escalation and told the UK government it could not proceed with the project as a result.

Proponents of new nuclear builds might find the Rolls-Royce offer more affordable assuming the firm can deliver at its promised price. The government is considering the new RAB financial method of paying for new reactors, but the policy is not in place.

Rolls-Royce is leading a consortium for its SMR project, which comprises Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear AMRC, Rolls-Royce, Wood and The Welding Institute.

Stein waxed enthusiastically in his BBC interview about the firm’s plans.

“Our plan is to get energy on the grid in 2029. The obvious sites to put them are what we call brownfeld sites; sites where we’re running elderly or decommissioned nuclear power stations. There are two sites in Wales and one in the northwest of England. Eventually in the UK we’ll be rolling out 10 to 15. We’re also looking to a significant export market. ”

The consortium calculates it can get the cost of a nuclear power station producing 440 MWe to about GBP1.75 billion, ($2.29 billion)($5,200/Kw) which means being able to sell electricity at below GBP60/MWh ($78.44/MWh).

&&& Note to readers – calculating the levelized cost of electricity depends on complex calculations and assumptions.  See for instance this DOE EIA Analysis  for various power sources in 2019. &&& 

“Levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) represents the average revenue per unit of electricity generated that would be required to recover the costs of building and operating a generating plant during an assumed financial life and duty cycle.  LCOE is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competitiveness of different generating technologies.”

In November last year, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announced it was providing initial match funding to the Rolls Royce consortium. Stein said he has already received letters of intent from foreign governments and private equity firms. UKRI said that an initial GBP36 million joint public and private investment, with GBP18 million of the investment from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, will enable the consortium to further develop their design.

The consortium will probably need to see a couple of zeros added to the combined GBP54 million to complete the design and take it through the four year long perilously complex and expensive UK generic design review (GDR) process.

In an effort to differentiate the conventional LWR technology that is making up the design basis of the Rolls Royce unit from advanced sodium cooled or molten salt designs, Stein said the consortium has taken a “rather different” approach to the “science-based project approaches” of some of its competitors in SMRs.

“Our desire has not been to create a new nuclear reactor. In fact, the design of the nuclear reactor is one that we’ve been running for many, many years in nuclear power stations around the world. It’s been relentless focus on cost and it’s the first time that’s been done – to take a look at a whole power station design and not just the nuclear island, also the other parts of the power station, and the civil engineering construction, and the time from starting it to finishing it.”

Stein said the consortium has confidence in its numbers. Now all he has to do to prove them is to build one.

Romania / Prime Minister Says Cernavodă Deal
with China Will Be Called Off

Government ‘has already started looking for a new partner’ for the project

(NucNet) Romania’s government will cancel a deal with China for the construction of reactors 3 and 4 at the Cernavodă nuclear power station, prime minister Ludovic Orban said this week in an interview with Hotnews.ro.

“It is clear to me that the partnership with the Chinese company is not going to work,” Mr Orban said, adding that the government has already started to look for a new partner and financing for this project.

He also said that all new projects in Romania’s energy sector will depend on whether they meet the requirements of the European Union’s Green Deal, an initiative aimed at reducing CO2 emissions across the bloc.

The EU acknowledges member states’ right to decide on the technologies they will use in an effort to meet climate objectives, including nuclear.

History of the China Agreement

In 2015, Romanian state-owned electricity producer Nuclearelectrica, the company that operates the Cernavodă nuclear station, signed a memorandum of understanding with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) for the construction of two new  CANDU PHWR type reactors.  Canada’s SNC Lavalin, as the global source of expertise on this design, was also brought into the deal.

Candu schematic

Romania operates two Candu 6 reactors at the Cernavoda plant. Unit 1 started up in 1996, but work was suspended on a further four units in 1991. Unit 2 was subsequently completed and has been in operation since 2007. For this reason is made sense to finish Cernavoda uits 3 &4 which are also PHWR type designs.

In May Nuclearelectrica and CGN signed an agreement to set up a joint venture project company for the planned completion of the two units. CGN would have held a 51% stake in the company with Nuclearelectrica holding the remaining 49%.

The deal apparently became problematic for several reasons none of which were confirmed at press time by the government nor by the utility.  The cost of the project may have been the reason along with differences over the financial terms.

Also, it remains a mystery why China did not push its new 1000 MW PWR the Hualong One, or maybe it did so behind the scenes.  China’s efforts to push the design in Argentina against the tide of that country’s existing CANDU type PHWRs is on hold due to financial issues caused by gyrations in Argentina’s economy.

Last August the US added four Chinese nuclear entities to a trade blacklist, accusing them of helping to acquire advanced US technology for military use in China. The four were CGN and its subsidiaries China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC), China Nuclear Power Technology Research Institute Company and Suzhou Nuclear Power Research Institute Company.

The case in point is the espionage conviction of a former TVA engineer who sold US nuclear technology information to China without the necessary clearances from the Department of Energy and other agencies.

Press reports in Romania this week referred to the blacklisting, but did not say whether it was one of the reasons for the cancelling of the contract.  Meanwhile, the US has been busy courting the Romanian government for nuclear export deals.

US Courts Romania for Nuclear Export Business

Romanian prime minister Viorica Dăncilă and US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry signed in New York on September 24 a memorandum of understanding between Romania and the United States on strategic nuclear nuclear cooperation.

Romania’s 123 Agreement with the UScomes under the umbrella of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). This agreement allows US firms to export specific nuclear technologies to that country.

World Nuclear News reported that the Romanian government said the MoU will serve as a basis for encouraging bilateral cooperation in the promotion of state-of-the-art technologies in the nuclear field, radioactive waste management, development of the nuclear medicines sector, and research activities on the applicability of developing nuclear technologies in physics, biology, and agriculture.

In a separate development Candu Energy Inc., a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group (TSX:SNC), was awarded a $10.8 million (7.3M EUR) contract by Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica S.A. (SNN) for engineering analyses and assessments on the Cernavoda Unit 1 CANDU® nuclear reactor. The contracthas the objective of extending the operating life of the plant by approximately 4 years which will enable the plant to continue operating safely until it is ready for refurbishment in 2026.

First Concrete Expected at Egypt’s El Dabaa Project

NBN Media, a consulting firm based in Cyprus, reports that the Egyptian newspaper “Al-Youm Al-Sabee”  interviewed Mohamed Ramadan, the general manager of the El Dabaa nuclear power plant project, In December 2019. In the interview he reportedly confirmed that the Russian company Rosatom, which is responsible for the construction of the plant, has already started the drilling work for laying concrete foundations for the nuclear reactors.

Ramadan is quoted as having added, “It is expected that the concrete foundations for the first reactor will be set in the middle of next year (2020).”

H said that this work will take place once the project gets a permit from the Egyptian Nuclear & Radiological Regulatory Authority (ENRRA), and that that permit is expected this winter.

El Dabaa NPP will consist of 4 1200 MWe VVER type nuclear reactors. There are units of this type that are already operating in Russia in the nuclear plants at Novovoronezh and Leningrad.

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South Korea’s SMART SMR Gets New Life

  • Saudi Arabia has updated its agreement with South Korea to complete a 100 MWe SMR, to license it for use in that country and to offer it for export.
  • The joint project between the two countries, which began in 2011, had been stalled for several years, but is now moving forward.
  • The renewed development agreement places South Korea in a pole position relative to Saudi Arabia’s planned tender expected later this year for two full size nuclear reactors.

(NucNet) The government of South Korea and the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy in Saudi Arabia have updated their agreement to create a joint venture for the construction of a low-power small modular nuclear reactor (100 MWe).

The SMR design planned for Saudi Arabia is the Korea Atomic Research Institute’s “system-integrated modular advanced reactor” (SMART), a LWR type unit, is designed for generating electricity and for thermal applications such as seawater desalination. Scientists in South Korea have been developing the technology for 22 years. Work has been going on in Saudi Arabia with its South Korean partners since 2011.

conceptual SMART

Conceptual diagram comparing a conventional full size LWR with the SMART SMR LWR design. Image: Smart Power Co., Ltd.

According to South Korean sources, the plant is able to generate 100 MWe, or enough energy to supply a city with a population of 100,000 with 90 MWe of electricity and 40,000 tonnes of fresh water a day (10 MWe). The unit reportedly has a 60-year design life and three-year refuelling cycle. The LWR design uses LEU fuel at less than 5% U235.

The joint venture’s tasks are to complete the design of the reactor and non-nuclear infrastructure to support it. Additionally, the project will seek a license to build the unit in Saudia Arabia and to offer it for export. It is already licensed in South Korea.

The revised pre-project engineering contract stipulates that Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, the operator of all nuclear power plants in South Korea, will be the EPC for the project.

According to a report by World Nuclear News, while the basic design is complete, development had been stalled by the absence of any orders for an initial reference unit. Developed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), SMART received standard design approval from the Korean regulator in mid-2012. KAERI had planned to build a demonstration plant to operate from 2017.

IAEA_smart_thumb.jpg

In March 2015 ROK signed a deal with KSA to provide two SMART reactors in that country and to position the design for export sales. The 2015 agreement was signed by KAERI and KSA’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE). KA-CARE has stated it will take an equity stake in development and construction of the domestic build and marketing and sale of export units.

A three year $130 million feasibility study followed and has resulted in what could be a KSA commitment to build the first two units for a preliminary estimated cost of $1 billion. Assuming the cost of the 100 MWe units comes in at $4000/Kw, each reactor will cost $400 million with the remaining $200 million for balance of plant such as turbines, switch yard and grid improvements. Training of KSA experts to build and operate SMART reactors is part of the package.

Saudi Arabia does not have any commercial nuclear plants, but has expressed ambitions to build around 17 GW of nuclear energy over a long period of time possibly extending well past 2040. These ambitious plans were scaled back in 2015 due to a drastic drop in the price of oil from $100 bbl in September 2014 to $60 bbl the following January. Since then the price of oil has rattled around the $60 bbl line. When taking into account the number of days of production a year over at least two decades needed to pay for a fleet of reactors, the plans became unsustainable at this price.

Saudi Arabia plans to issue a tender in 2020 to construct its just two commercial nuclear power reactors and is discussing the project with U.S. and four other potential suppliers. In January 2019 Saudi Arabia said it had received expressions of interest from five countries to build the first two plants. It said the countries were Russia, China, the US, France and South Korea.

The world’s top oil exporter wants to diversify its energy mix, adding nuclear power so it can free up more crude for export. But the plans are facing scrutiny in the U.S. because of potential dual uses for the technology. Saudi Arabia would need a 123 Agreement for U.S. firms to export nuclear technologies to Saudi Arabia.

South Korea’s 123 Agreement with the U.S. would also come into play as some of the technologies in its 1400 MWe PWR, recently certified by the NRC, contain U.S. sourced elements and licensed intellectual property. South Korea cannot act as a vendor with the 1400 PWR selling it to another country that does not also have a 123 agreement in place with the U.S.

South Korea is already building the Middle East’s first commercial power reactors at the Barakah nuclear station in the United Arab Emirates. There are four South Korean APR1400 units under construction at Barakah. The UAE has a 123 agreement with the U.S. which is considered to be a “gold standard” because it bans uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. So far Saudi Arabia has declined to accept these terms for a 123 agreement with the U.S.

History of the SMART Reactor Project

The 300 MWt / 100 MWe small modular reactor (KEPCO technical briefing PDF file) is the product a consortium of 12 ROK companies which initially put up $83 million starting in June 2010 to design the reactor.

The 12 firms making the investment have a 51% equity stake in the project. Additional partners are the Posco Group with a 28% equity share and other companies having smaller equity positions include Daewoo, STX Heavy Industry, and Iljin Energy. Since 2010 over $300 million has been invested in development of the SMART reactor.

The consortium is led by the Korea Electric Power Co. (Kepco) and the design work was done at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI). SMART is an acronym for “System Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor.” (Project home page)

The SMART reactor received design approval from ROK’s nuclear safety regulatory agency in 2012. A FOAK demonstration unit will be built in South Korea.

Other Nuclear News

India to Consider Foreign Direct Investment In Nuclear Energy Plants

(NucNet) In a bid to make India a global player in nuclear power sector, the government is considering plans to allow foreign direct investment in nuclear energy. The decision would “open gates for multinational companies” to invest in India’s plans to build 10 700 MWe PHWR with additional plans to build seven more once the first ten units are operational.

Candu schematic

The Economic Times of India reported that the decision would represent “a paradigm shift” in India’s nuclear power policy and open the gates for multinational companies to invest in the country’s nuclear projects.

The Department of Atomic Energy has held talks with the prime minister’s office and sought legal opinion on whether direct foreign investment can be allowed in the nuclear sector.

The newspaper quoted a letter, document dated January 8, 2020, written by DAE joint secretary Anushakti Bhawan. as saying the DAE proposes to submit a report to the prime minister’s officer after seeking guidance from the Atomic Energy Commission about amending the policy.

An official of the DAE confirmed the content of the letter and said the department’s stand in simpler words is: “The Act allows private investment. However, the FDI policy of the government does not permit foreign investment in nuclear projects. Once the FDI policy is amended, it would open doors for more funds in the nuclear power sector.”

The Economic Times said the letter revealed that the DAE’s view is that “the Atomic Energy Act in no way prohibits private sector participation in nuclear power projects.”

Currently, there are restrictions on foreign direct investment in India’s nuclear power program, but not on foreign investment in nuclear industries for manufacturing reactor equipment and related components. It follows that India’s heavy industries will view a favorable decision by the government to open the doors to foreign direct investment as an invitation to go shopping for capital to expand their facilities.

India has discussed plans with France’s EDF for six EPRs, with the US for six AP1000s. These projects have been stalled for well over a decade due to India’ s supplier liability law. A decision to open the country’s nuclear sector to foreign direct investment won’t change that situation, but it could attract much needed financing for the huge effort to build 10 PHWRs.

Assuming the plants come in at an average cost of $3,000/Kw, a 700 MWe unit will cost $2.1 billion. That’s still a lot cheaper than the cost of the EDF EPR which at 1600 Mwe, would cost considerably more despite India’s low labor costs due to the need for import of a reactor pressure vessel and other major long lead time components.

It follows that the first ten PHWR units would cost an estimated $21 billion although cost savings could be achieved over time once the supply chain is up and running for the major components. Note that India can build everything it needs for the plants as the PHWRs do not require large forgings used in the fabrication of the French and American PWRs.

India’s chief challenge will be to obtain uranium to fuel the plants. It is not a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group having resisted signing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty due in part to its decades long nuclear weapons deterrence standoff with Pakistan.

U.S. Congress Reauthorizes Export Impact Bank

In an unrelated action relative to India’s pending decision on foreign direct investment last December the U.S. Congress reauthorized the Export Import Bank for another seven years.

export import bank

The Nuclear Energy Institute, a trade group, points out that the Ex-Im Bank is vital for U.S nuclear exporters.

As the official export credit agency of the United States, Ex-Im Bank provides loans, loan guarantees and other forms of financial assistance to the foreign customers of U.S. exporters to facilitate the sale of American goods and services.

Basically, it helps finance large export projects, making U.S. exporters more attractive to customers outside the country by making the investment less risky.

Currently, more than 95% of the world’s nuclear construction projects are being built outside of the United States. To compete, U.S. suppliers must be able to offer competitive financing to potential customers. In international nuclear energy markets, a competitive export credit agency is a requirement to bid on virtually every project.

NEI praised the action by Congress. It said in a press statement, “With a fully functioning Ex-Im Bank, U.S. nuclear exporters can better compete against state-owned and state-supported rivals such as Russia and China, which have used favorable export financing to achieve dominance in the global nuclear energy market.”

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NuScale Comes Calling in Canada, but Competition Awaits It There

cnl-smr-logo_thumb.png

NuScale, the developer of a 60 MWe small modular reactor, announced this week its submittal to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for pre-licensing vendor design review (VDR). In doing so it hopes to take advantage of the joint agreement between CNSC and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that was inked in 2019.

World Nuclear News reported last August that the agreement will expand the agencies’ cooperation on activities associated with advanced reactor and SMR technologies. Both regulators are already carrying out regulatory activities related to proposed SMR projects. The collaborative technical reviews are intended to increase regulatory effectiveness as well as reaffirm the agencies’ commitment to safety and security.

NuScale’s VDR will be completed in four submittals. The first submittal occurred on December 10, 2019. Significantly, NuScale’s submission is a combined Phase 1 and 2 level VDR as the company’s SMR design is mature and can directly enter VDR Phase 2.

Combining the two phases shaves a boat load of time off the process. This is a big deal because a number of other VDRs by NuScale’s competition do not have this advantage. [See CNSC table of VDR submissions and status.]

The remaining three submittals will be conducted at approximately six month intervals. A look at the calendar indicates NuSale’s entire VDR process would be completed by the middle of 2021.

The NRC is scheduled to complete its safety evaluation report in August 2020 and NuScale expects the application to be approved the following month.

Bruce Power Support for NuScale

NuScale said in its most recent press statement that it has signed an agreement with Bruce Power to develop a business case to support the company’s efforts to bring SMR technology to Canada. Bruce Power is supporting evaluation, planning, and licensing activities for NuScale’s Canadian efforts.

Bruce Power operates eight CANDU PWHR reactors in Canada. Privately owned Bruce Power operates 6400 MWe of nuclear capacity. It supplies 30% of Ontario’s electricity.

The firm has committed to a $13 billion program to refurbish six of the units which will significantly extend their operating lives. It follows that any new construction of SMRs, or anything else such as a molten salt or other type of advanced unit,, will have to get past a significant financial hurdle in terms of verified cost competitiveness for any utility to decide to proceed with it.

Mike Rencheck, president and CEO of Bruce Power, said in a press statement that the NuScale design had “advanced to a stage where Bruce Power can participate in understanding and developing a conceptual business case as part of our efforts to provide low-cost, clean, reliable electricity to Canadian families and businesses.”

Assessing the Demand for SMRs to Provide Electricity in Canada

According to 2018 data from Natural Resources Canada, nuclear energy currently accounts for 15% of the supply of electricity generated in Canada. By comparison, hydro accounts for four times that amount or 60% of the power generation capacity. Coal is at 9% and oil/gas is at 10%. Renewables are 7%.

Canada Elec Demand 2018

If NuScale and other SMR developers enter the Canadian market, their target for gaining market share for electricity generation at the expense of other souces will be oil and gas.

The reason is that Natural Resources Canada estimates that demand for electricity in that country will grow at a slow rate of about 1% a year between now a 2040. About 10% of the electricity generated in Canada is exported to the U.S.

Some of the developers of advanced designs working with the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory don’t see their units as necessarily being connected to the national grid by customers or used primarily for electric power. Process heat for industry and mining, and district heating, may turn out to be applications well suited for mini-reactors.

Canada is Chock Full of Competition

NuScale, which plans to bring its first unit into production in the U.S. by 2026 for UAMPS, its first customer, at a site in Idaho, sees opportunities for booking customers in Canada. Unlike the U.S. where no developers of SMRs or advanced nuclear designs have ink on their order books, Canada is chock full of developers hot on the trail of landing their own orders there.

Two other developers of light water based SMR designs also have similar VDR filings with the CNSC. These firms are GE-Hitachi with its 300 MWe BWRX SMR and Holtec with a 160 MWe SMR. The BWRX VDR, like NuScale, will combine Phases 1 & 2. Holtec is reported on the CNSC website as having a Phase 1 VDR in process

Behind the two LWR type SMRs there are half a dozen developers of advanced nuclear reactors including molten salt, sodium cooled, and high temperature gas designs.

Other Developers of SMRs in Canada

cnl logo The Canadian Nuclear Laboratory has a robust program to support a variety of SMR development efforts, but all of them are advanced designs.

According to conventional industry wisdom, this means that their time to market will probably occur after  leading light water designs, like NuScale’s, have completed their regulatory reviews, signed customers, ramped up their supply chains, and broken ground at customer sites.

Naturally, the responses of firms developing non-light water designs to this perspective is a quick “not so fast.” There may some justification for their confidence. For instance, Terrestrial Energy, like NuScale, has initiated a joint review with the CNSC and the NRC for its molten salt design.

Other developers of advanced designs have also made significant progress especially the firms collaborating with the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory in its program to support SMRs n Canada.

  • Terrestrial Energy

World Nuclear News reported in December the CNSC and the NRC selected Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) for their first joint technical review of an advanced, non-light water nuclear reactor technology.

TEI-ISMR-HowItWorks-Diagram

Conceptual image of Terrestrial Energy Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Design and Applications

The 195 MWe reactor is the only advanced reactor so far to have progressed to the second phase of the CNSC’s Vendor Design Review process, and it is also the subject of NRC pre-licensing activities in the U.S. supported by grant funding from the US Department of Energy.

  • Global First Power

Elsewhere, SMRs of all design types face competition from mini-reactors. For instance, Global First Power, with support from Ontario Power Generation, and which is being developed by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation plans to to deploy a 5 Mwe mini modular reactor plant at Chalk River site of the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory (CNL) in Ontario.

In February 2019 Global First Power’s proposal became the first design of its type to qualify to collaborate with the Canadian Nuclear  Laboratory (CNL) to discuss land arrangements for a site, project risk management, and contractual terms to build one of their units at a CNL site.

The proposed GFP project includes a molten salt design nuclear plant. It will provide approximately 15 MW (thermal) of process heat (up to 5 MWe of electricity) to an adjacent plant where it will be converted to electrical power or heat for clients. The electrical power could also be supplied to the area grid.

Global First MMR Uses

Conceptual diagram of applications of output of the Global First Micro Reactor Design

The Global First MMR™ energy system consists of two plants, the nuclear plant and the adjacent power plant. The nuclear plant contains the MMR™ reactors including all the equipment required to transport the heat to the adjacent plant. The adjacent power plant contains the equipment that converts heat to electricity or process heat as required by customer.

  • ARC-100

In the middle of the pack, in terms of SMR electrical power, is a 100 MWe SMR, the ARC-100, a 100 MWe sodium cooled, fast flux, pool type reactor with metallic fuel, is being developed in collaboration with the electric utility in New Brunswick province.

ARC Nuclear and New Brunswick Power (NB Power) have agreed to work together to take the necessary steps to develop, license, and build an advanced small modular reactor (SMR) based on ARC Nuclear’s Gen IV sodium-cooled fast reactor technology.

arc-100_thumb

At the CNSC the ARC-100 completed Phase 1 of the VDR in November. In its report about the achievement of this milestone, WNN noted that back in March 2017 the firm signed an agreement with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) to collaborate on development and licensing. Plus, it uses proprietary technology from GEH’s PRISM reactor.

Both the PRISM and ARC-100 designs are based on the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) integral sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype which operated at the Argonne National Laboratory site in Idaho. Despite being proven to be inherently safe, it was shut down by the federal government in 1994.

According to WNN this is the third successful advanced reactor design review conducted by the CNSC, the other two being Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation’s MMR-5 and MMR-10 high-temperature gas reactor.

SMR Prospects in the U.S.

NuScale’s Idaho project is the first mover for commercial LWR type SMRs. Other states may also offer new business opportunities, but much depends not only on NuScale’s success as the first of a kind effort, but also on more mundane issues like demand for electricity, rate issues, e.g., merchant markets v. regulated rates of return, and public acceptance. Here is a short list of possibilities, but only time will tell whether any of them will pan out.

Wisconsin’s legislature in 2016 lifted a three decade ban on new reactors after Dominion closed a full size nuclear plant back in 2013. The new law also specifies that regulators must consider nuclear energy as an option when designing new and replacement energy projects, and it contains this stipulation; “Advanced nuclear energy using a reactor design or amended reactor design approved after December 31, 2010, by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

With coal being a major fuel source for generation of electricity in Wisconsin, and the emerging threat of climate change from CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, SMR developers may see Wisconsin as being a good market opportunity assuming other factors are not deal breakers.

Policy ideas to promote a new nuclear plant for Wisconsin range from offering tax incentives or imposing a carbon tax, to the creation of a mandates that require utilities to purchase a specified amount of nuclear power, similar to renewable portfolio standards. Policy is one thing, customers are another. So far there are no public announcements for an SMR project in Wisconsin.

TVA just got an early site permit from the NRC for SMRs at Clinch River, but the permit is good for 20 years and the utility has no near term plans for building new nuclear generation capacity. The utility referenced four SMR LWR type designs in its application without expressing a preference for any of them. If and when it decides to pursue an SMR, it cites in the permit a plan for 800 MWe of electrical power which would imply the use of multiple units of any of the SMRs that we know about today.

Florida might go with SMRs after killing off plans for two 1150 MWE AP1000s at Levy County on the state’s west coast due to projected high costs and worries about the cost of the next two AP1000 units at Turkey Point.

Missouri could potentially see a utility build an SMR after the legislature twice rejected pleas to allow for construction cost reimbursement as a new plant is built. The third time might be the charm if the cost of the SMR can be validated by experience with other units.

Dominion invested in GE HItachi’s300 MWe BWRX SMR in May 2018 for North Anna which might be more affordable on a per kilowatt basis than a full size ESBWR (1530 MWe)

Fluor is maintaining its lead investment role in NuScale despite financial headwinds for other parts of the business, and last July NuScale went overseas to get investment funds from its RPV supplier Doosaninvestment funds from its RPV supplier Doosan. Other SMR developers may also seek equity investments from their key suppliers.

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Idaho National Laboratory Gets New Supercomputer for Simulation of Advanced Reactor Designs and the Fuels that Will Power Them

A powerful new supercomputer arrived in December at Idaho National Laboratory’s Collaborative Computing Center. The machine has the capability to run complex modeling and simulation applications, which are essential to developing next-generation nuclear technologies and the fuels that will power them.

Swatooth Mountains from Redfish Lake, ID

The Sawtooth Mountains as viewed from a boat on Redfish Lake near Stanley, ID

Named after a central Idaho mountain range, the Sawtooth supercomputer will be available to users in early 2020.

The $19.2 million system will enable researchers at INL and elsewhere to simulate new fuels and reactor designs, greatly reducing the time, resources and funding needed to transition advanced nuclear technologies from the concept phase into the marketplace.

By using simulations to predict how new fuels and designs will perform in a reactor environment, engineers can select the most promising technologies for the real-world experiments, saving time and money.

John Wagner, the associate laboratory director for INL’s Nuclear Science and Technology directorate, said Sawtooth plays an important role in developing and deploying advanced nuclear technologies and is a key capability for the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC).

nuclear TRLs

In August, the U.S. Department of Energy designated INL to lead NRIC, which was established to provide developers the resources to test, demonstrate and assess performance of new nuclear technologies, critical steps that must be completed before they are available commercially.

Use of Technology Readiness Levels to Asses Development Progress

One of the processes is to establish technology readiness levels that allow for objective evaluation of the maturity of development efforts.

smr-trls-nia

The Technology Readiness Level (TRL) process is used to quantitatively assess the maturity of a given technology. The TRL process has been developed and successfully used by DOD and NASA for development and deployment of new technology and systems. NASA has also successfully used the TRL process to develop and deploy new systems, and to qualify them for flight, for space applications.

Advanced nuclear fuels and materials development are critical items needed for closing the nuclear fuel cycle. Because the deployment of a new nuclear fuel forms requires a lengthy and expensive research, development, and demonstration program, applying the TRL concept to the advanced reactor design and fuel development an essential management and tracking tool.

“With advanced modeling and simulation and the computing power now available, we expect to be able to dramatically shorten the time it takes to test, manufacture and commercialize new nuclear technologies,” Wagner said.

“Other industries and organizations, such as aerospace, have relied on modeling and simulation to bring new technologies to market much faster without compromising safety and performance.”

Sawtooth is funded by the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy through the Nuclear Science User Facilities program. It will provide computer access to researchers at INL, other national laboratories, industry and universities. Idaho’s three research universities will be able to access Sawtooth and INL’s other supercomputers remotely via the Idaho Regional Optical Network (IRON), an ultra-high-speed fiber optic network.

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2020 Begins with a Cascade of Positive Developments for Nuclear Energy Projects Large and Small

  • SNC-Lavalin gets Contract to Start Work on Two CANDU type reactors for China
  • Czech Republic PM Calls for Supplier For New Dukovany Unit To Be Chosen In 2022
  • UAE 1st PWR at Barakah Operating License On Schedule for 1Q/2020
  • DOE Awards $3.5 Million to X-Energy for Work on Its New Gas Reactor Design
  • Advanced Reactors / NRC Adopts Recommendations for SMR Emergency Planning Zones

With 2019 being a year that great progress was made by multiple firms developing small small modulr reactors, it’s important to also track the progress in 2020 of projects that will deliver full size nuclear reactors.

The year has begun with a cascade of positive development for nuclear energy projects large and small.  First out of the box is an announcement that SNC-Lavalin, which in 2011bought the reactor division of AECL, has landed a contract with China National Nuclear Power (CNNP) to begin work on a two-unit 700 MWe Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR).

cascade

Cascade Mountains landscape

The firm says the AHWR design is based on the 700 MWe CANDU type (PHWR) model. Improvements are listed as compliance with current international safety standards (GEN III), active and passive safety systems, and design elements that are expected to reduce capital costs and operational maintenance requirements.

The contract is the result of an agreement inked in September 2016 to begin the design work. Also, the agreement called for the creation of two nuclear reactor design centers, one in China and the other in Canada. The design centers will collaborate to complete the Advanced CANDU type reactor. It is expected that the first two units will be then built in China and then the reactor will offered via export to global markets.

The CANDU type design basis features a heavy-water moderator and heavy-water coolant in a pressure tube design and can use both recycled uranium and thorium as fuel. This means that spent fuel from LWR type reactors can be burned in the AHWR as the fuel assemblies are approximaely 95% U238. India has made significant investments in the development of thorium-based PHWR type reactors as part of its long-term R&D efforts.

Units 1 and 2 of the Qinshan Phase III nuclear power plant in China – majority owned by CNNP – use the Candu 6 PHWR technology, with AECL being the main contractor of the project on a turnkey basis. Construction began in 1997 and unit 1 started up in September 2002 and unit 2 in April 2003. These reactors burn U238.

Candu schematic

CANDU Coneptual Image:  Image Source:  SNC Lavalin

In a press release, SNC-Lavalin said the market potential for this technology in China is considerable.

“Each reactor can use recycled-fuel from four light-water reactors (LWRs) to generate six million megawatt-hours (MWh) of additional carbon-free electricity without needing any new natural uranium fuel.”

First Deliverables

SNC-Lavalin will produce the top-level licensing basis document (LBD) to outline the licensing process along with the regulatory and safety requirements applicable to the design, analysis, construction, commissioning and operation of the AHWR.

SNC-Lavalin will prepare Safety Design Guides (SDG) and a description and assessment of the agreed to safety-related design changes. SNC-Lavalin will also review SDGs prepared by partner agencies involved.

Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research & Design Institute Co. Ltd. (SNERDI) serves as General Design Institute of project, and as technical manager for this contract to review and accept SNC-Lavalin’s deliverables on behalf of CNNP. China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) has been designated by CNNP as its foreign trade agent for this contract.

Czech Republic PM Calls for Supplier For New Dukovany Unit To Be Chosen In 2022

Construction of the new reator should start in 2029 and could be completed by 2036

(NucNet) A supplier/vendor for a new unit at Czech utility CEZ’s Dukovany nuclear power station should be chosen by the end of 2022, according to media reports which attribute the statement to Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš. The EPC would likely be a separate firm.

In July 2019 the Czech government approved a preliminary plan for a CEZ subsidiary to build a new unit at Dukovany. Czech energy policy calls for one new unit at Dukovany and possibly three more either at Dukovany or at Temelin.

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

A key issue for CEZ may be to buy out minority non-governmental investors in the utility who are opposed to construction of new nuclear power plants.

In September the Ministry of Environmental Protection approved the environmental impact assessment for the construction of up to two new nuclear power plants at Dukovany. The ministry said the approval was for up to 2,400 MW of new capacity at the site.

CEZ chief executive Daniel Benes said the company should have a tender ready by June 2020 and expects offers in 2021 from up to five bidders. He said market estimates for the new unit’s cost ranged from about $5.9bn to $6.9bn, but a final price would come out of the tender.

Taken together, two 1200 MW units costsing $5.9 Bn to $6.9 Bn would come in at at a very competitive price of $2500 to $2900/Kw. Benes’ numbers may be overly optimistic. None of the firms that have expressed an interest in the project are able to deliver full size reactors in this cost range. The Czech Republic is not India or China where very low labor costs and a heavily subsidized heavy industry for long lead time components might drive down costs.

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

There are four Russia-designed VVER-440 reactor units at the Dukovany site. The government has said they should be replaced by new ones.  The Czech Republic has six commercially operational reactor units. In addition to the four units at Dukovany, there are two Russian VVER-1000 units at Temelín. The newer VVER entered revenue service in 2000 and 2002 respectively. They are both due for a 20 year license extension.

UAE First PWR at Barakah Operating License
on Schedule for 1Q/2020

(Wire services) An official of the UAE nuclear energy regulatory agency said in a statement at an industry conference that the operating license for the first South Korean built PWR unit of the Barakah power station could be issued in the first quarter of 2020. Startup would follow later in 2020.

Christer Viktorsson, director-general of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, was cautiously optimistic about meeting this schedule.  He said that absent unforseen issues, the plant will meet these milestones.

The four Barakah reactors are being built by the Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO). There have been several delays in starting up the first unit due to problems getting enough staff trained and certified to run the reactor.

DOE Awards $3.5 Million to X-Energy
for Work on Its New Gas Reactor Design

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded nearly $3.5 million to X-energy to further develop its advanced nuclear reactor. The project will examine ways to reduce construction and maintenance costs of the developer’s Xe-100 reactor design.

X-energy, located in Rockville, Maryland, is developing a pebble bed, high-temperature gas-cooled reactor. The awarded project will specifically focus on cutting costs through underground construction, the use of pooled off-site resources and simplified passive safety systems that don’t rely on large local water sources or pumps to prevent fuel damage. DOE is funding $3,468,323 of the $7,127,814 cost-shared project.

x-energy-reactor-steam-generator_thumb

“Advanced reactors are taking off in the United States with more than 50 U.S. companies currently developing the technology,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.

“These private-public partnerships are critical to ensure the success of the next generation of nuclear reactors by making them more affordable to build and operate.”

DOE has awarded $195 million over the last two years through its U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity. Subsequent quarterly application review and selection processes will be conducted three times per year over the next three years.

Advanced Reactors / NRC Adopts Recommendations
for SMR Emergency Planning Zones

(NucNet) The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has voted to adopt staff recommendations to apply “appropriately-sized” emergency planning zone requirements for advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, according to a statement by the Nuclear Energy Institute.

The NEI said the move “demonstrates a commitment to modernizing regulations so they align with the smaller size and the inherent safety features of advanced nuclear technologies.”

The NRC has revised the process for establishing the size of an emergency planning zone basing its radius on the potential consequences related to the type of the advanced reactor.

Also, the NRC said it was seeking public comments on the proposed rule for emergency preparedness for SMRs and other new technologies. The NRC is proposing to amend its regulations and create alternative requirements adopting a “risk-informed, performance-based, and technology-inclusive” approach.

The agency said in its statement that the alternative requirements would include a scalable approach for determining the size of the emergency planning zone around each facility, based on the distance at which possible radiation doses could require protective actions. The public and other interested parties can use this rule making effort to comment on emergency preparedness policy issues such as:

• What planning activities should apply to the performance-based approach?
• How should hazard analysis be applied to the performance-based approach?
• What specific factors or technical considerations are needed when applying the scalable EPZ approach?

NEI praised the NRC  action calling is it a “major milestone”

In its press statement the NEI, which is a U.S. industry trade group for the nuclear energy industry, including utilities and product and service providers, said it was pleased by the NRC’s action.

“This is a major milestone.  The staff’s recommendation to define more appropriately-sized emergency planning zone (EPZ) requirements for advanced nuclear technologies, the NRC demonstrates a commitment to modernizing regulations so they align with the smaller size and the inherent safety features of advanced nuclear technologies.”

The 10-mile zone in use for existing plants was established 40 years ago; since then, there has been additional research and enhanced understanding of the safety benefits of advanced reactor designs.

NRC regulations on emergency preparedness were established in the late 1970s and have focused on large light-water reactors. In 2016, the NRC began reviewing its rule making process taking into accountant emerging nuclear technologies like SMRs.

 

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OKLO Announces 1.5 MWe Mini-Reactor

After working under wraps for several years, Oklo announced in December an advanced nuclear reactor that runs on a single fuel load for decades. Calling it the “Aurora Advanced Fission Clean Energy Plant,” the firm says the power plant would be integrated with solar panels to provide communities with 24×7, 365 days/year reliable electrical power.

Oklo_Aurora_powerhouse_arctic_night_rendering

Conceptual image of OKLO Mini-reactor Power Station

The Aurora powerhouse, which in a conceptual image looks like it is ski chalet A-Frame home, is designed produce about 1.5 MW of electric power, while also having the ability to produce usable process heat for residential or commercial applications. The plant uses metal uranium fuel to produce heat, an advanced fuel type which is well demonstrated with decades of experimental data. Heat pipes carry the heat to a heat exchanger, and a power conversion cycle converts the heat into electricity.

“The Aurora is built on years of technology research, development, and demonstration done at the U.S. national labs and universities, and work done by Oklo to make the Aurora possible. While heat and electrons are the product, the Aurora powerhouse is the main point for community interaction. We spent years thinking about how it could look, how it would function, and how it would become a point of pride in a community,” said Jacob DeWitte, CEO and co-founder of Oklo.

DeWitt said in the press statement that Aurora offers a number of unique capabilities. Among these are;

  • the ability to produce power for decades without needing to refuel, 
  • the small size of the Aurora design, 
  • the placement of the Aurora fuel underground, 
  • the ability to operate without needing cooling water, 
  • the demonstrated natural shutdown behavior of the fuel, 
  • the use of a fission spectrum which can recycle fuel 

About Oklo Inc:

Oklo is a small company based in Sunnyvale, CA, developing clean energy plants using advanced fission. Oklo has been engaged in pre-application activities with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission since 2016 for the Aurora design, and is preparing to submit its first license application.

Oklo Announces Site Permit at Idaho National Laboratory

Oklo Inc. announced in December that the firm Oklo has received a Site Use Permit from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to build its Aurora plant at Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

The site use permit is an important step toward commercializing advanced fission technologies, and is the first issued for a non-light water nuclear power reactor. The site use permit is in effect for the lifetime of the plant.

The site use permit makes a site available to Oklo to build its Aurora plant, which utilizes a compact fast reactor to generate about 1.5 MW of electric power. This site is anticipated to be the location of the first-of-a-kind deployment of the Aurora plant.

Oklo co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Caroline Cochran said receiving the site use permit is an exciting step on the path to deploying advanced fission technology. 

“Oklo entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with DOE in 2017, and the site use permit is an important resultant milestone,” Cochran said. 

“DOE is clearly demonstrating its commitment to enabling commercial deployment of novel clean energy technologies, and advanced fission in particular. We are excited to be among the first to exercise this new process.”

INL plays a key role in the development of advanced fission technologies. As the nation’s lead nuclear energy laboratory, INL will be a key collaborator with Oklo as Oklo licenses, constructs and operates the new plant. 

INL is also laying the groundwork for working with additional advanced reactor technologies to come. DOE recently established the legislatively authorized National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) led by INL, which provides resources for testing, demonstration and performance assessment to accelerate deployment of new advanced nuclear technology concepts.

Oklo has been engaged in pre-application activities with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) since 2016 for the Aurora design, and is preparing to submit its first license application to NRC. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), an upcoming step before the Aurora plant is built will include preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement.

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