INL’s Marvel Micro Reactor Prepares for Testing

  • INL’s Marvel Micro Reactor Prepares for Testing
  • Nuclear Startup Wants to Build a Commercial Version of Marvel
  • China Halts Its Floating Nuclear Power Plan
  • DOE Announces $50 Million for a Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program
  • Key Collaborations Announced for Fusion Projects
  • Senate EPW Committee Advances Risch, Crapo Nuclear Energy Bill

INL’s Marvel Micro Reactor Prepares for Testing

mrp logoA non-nuclear (electric powered) prototype of the Idaho National Laboratory Marvel microreactor is almost ready for testing. The Marvel micro-reactor will be the first new test reactor to be built at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in more than four decades.

The Microreactor Applications Research Validation & Evaluation (Marvel) Project covers the design, development, construction, and start-up of an INL test microreactor, funded by the Department of Energy through the Microreactor Program (MRP).

The Marvel project goal is to provide a 100 kw fission reactor for researchers and technology developers to gain operational experience with a real microreactor and to advance technological maturity for reactors at this scale, and to enable new microreactor applications.

The object of building and operating Marvel is to establish a fully functional nuclear applications test bed that can generate combined heat and power to enable integration and R&D with end-user technologies. It will also allow microreactor technologists to test next-generation control systems. (Fact Sheet).

The DOE Microreactor Program supports research and development (R&D) of technologies related to the development, demonstration, and deployment of very small, factory-fabricated, transportable reactors to provide power and heat for decentralized generation in civilian, industrial, and DOE uses.

A key focus of the program is engagement and outreach with end users and stakeholders to perform R&D on integration of microreactors with a range of anticipated applications including load-following electricity demand, process heat, hydrogen production, and water purification. Eventually, INL expects to be in a position to offer non-exclusive licensing of the reactor design to firms that wanted to use it to develop commercial versions.

Another applied R&D focus is to address challenges related to fabrication of microreactor components, assembly of systems, rapid installation at customer sites, and other measures to facilitate end-user adoption. The outcome of this scope of work will be of particular interest to developers of microreactors especially those who want to license the open source design data of the Marvel Reactor for scaled-up versions.  (See next story below).

The microreactor design is a thermal reactor that will use uranium zirconium hydride fuel (Technical Paper on UZrH). To speed up deployment, Marvel will be established in INL’s Transient Reactor Test (Treat) Facility making use of existing operating Category B reactor facility, approved facility safety basis, operating crews, and recent re-start experience. DOE has completed an environmental impact statement on the project.

The reactor will be a sodium-potassium cooled reactor with natural circulation cooling and and operating temperature of 500-550C. Off-the-shelf Stirling engines will convert thermal energy to 20 kw electrical power.

Marvel is currently in Final Design Phase, with 90% construction planned to conclude in in 2023, and fuel load and initial criticality in 2024.

Non-nuclear Prototype Installed

INL built the full-scale, electrically heated prototype, known as the primary coolant apparatus test or PCAT, last year. It was then loaded onto a truck and transported from INL to Creative Engineers Inc (CEI)’s  manufacturing facility in New Freedom, Pennsylvania. The firm’s expertise is in alkali metals.

CEI installed the PCAT into a two-story frame and where it will be loaded with sodium-potassium and lead-bismuth coolants. It is a full-scale replica of microreactor, which is 12 feet tall and weighs 2,000 pounds.

PCAT will be electrically powered during testing, instead of using fission, and data will be collected on the system’s temperatures, and coolant flow. The information will ensure the accuracy of Marvel’s computer modelling and simulation tools.

“Validation of our physics models is critical to nuclear quality assurance for any new reactor development project,” said Yasir Arafat, Marvel Chief Design and Project Lead.

“PCAT will generate this first-of-a kind-data for validating our thermal-hydraulics simulation tools and quantifying uncertainty for liquid metal thermal reactors, like Marvel.”

The Marvel team consists of Idaho INL, Argonne National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Walsh Engineering, Qnergy, Munro & Associates, and CEI. Contact information about the project is included in the fact sheet.

Recently, Premier Technology, located in Blackfoot, ID, received a DOE contract to begin metal fabrication of parts for the Marvel reactors.

& & &

Nuclear Startup Wants to Build a Commercial Version of Marvel

startup stepsA small nuclear start up based on Toronto, Canada, announced last month that it has plans to adapt the design of the Marvel reactor for a commercial version.

Aalo Atomic issued a statement in social media that it has plans to jointly commercialize the INL Marvel SMR.

The firm reports that it raised $6.26M from multiple early-stage investors. It describes itself in reporting the new funding as “a new startup that will be commercializing small nuclear fission reactors of high technological readiness.”

In a telephone interview with Matt Loszak, CEO of Aalo Atomics, said the firm plans to build a scaled-up version of Marvel to achieve 20 MWt / 8 MWe of combined heat and power. He said the INL microreactor design is attractive to Aalo Atomic because “the INL is making the design open source and we can license it from the lab.”

Asked about Aalo’s commercialization plans, an INL media spokesperson wrote in an email “it has had partnership conversations with Aalo related to them developing a microreactor design leveraging technical information and lessons learned from the MARVEL microreactor. While INL and Aalo Atomics are working on partnership agreements, there are currently no agreements in place and INL is not an exclusive collaborator with Aalo relative to MARVEL.”

The first step in commercialization Losazk said, once Marvel is complete and its design is available, is for Aalo Atomic to build a full size non-nuclear test stand.

“We will get the neutronics from Marvel.”

Next steps will be to pursue licensing through the Canadian Nuclear Regulatory Commission (CNSC) Vendor Design Review process and licensing in the US with the NRC.

Loszak said he is also in the process of recruiting for an advisory committee of nuclear subject matter experts to help guide the firm through the complex process of commercializing the Marvel design.

In terms of commercial prospects, the firm isn’t ready to announce any customers, but Loszak said, “the market for microreactors will be huge. There is plenty of room for many winners.”

Loszak said the firm will move to the US from Canada because that’s where its investors are located. He indicated that Texas looks promising as a market because of the unique nature of its grid and its growing use of wind and solar energy which will need reliable base load power to keep its grid stable.

Applications of the firm’s reactor, to provide power when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine, could include support for microgrids in remote areas, for offshore islands, and especially for businesses and institutions that need reliable power such as data centers, hospitals, and high tech factories.  Austin, TX, Loszak noted, is a rapidly growing center of electronics and semi-conductor manufacturing.

Asked why he got into the nuclear energy business, after a decade of starting and selling several business-to-business software applications, Loszak said, “It is a cruel twist of fate that nuclear energy, the technology that could be playing the largest role in solving so many of today’s most pressing challenges, is a technology that was invented decades ago, and has since sat on the sidelines, widely misunderstood.”

Loszak said he studied physics and got a degree in the field in college. “Now I’m back to my roots,” he said.

& & &

China Halts Its Floating Nuclear Power Plan

  • The plan would have deployed 20 SMRs among various artificial islands in the South China Sea that would serve as military bases

(SCMP) China’s plan to build a fleet of nuclear power reactors that would provide electrical power to islands on the South China Sea have been suspended over security concerns, the South China Morning Post reports. As construction of the first units was about to begin, regulators announced that they were withholding approval.

In 2017 China first announced its policy to build floating SMRs in the South China Sea to achieve geopolitical ends. China  later announced its plans for construction of the SMRs in December 2019.

conceptual image china floating nuclear power stastions

Conceptual image of China’s planned floating nuclear power plants.
Image: Nuclear Power Institute of China

At the time The China Daily reported that a joint venture to develop and produce as many as 20 small, floating nuclear power plants had been set up by State-owned China National Nuclear Power Co and four other domestic companies. China has been building a series of artificial islands in the South China sea as a means of projecting military power in the region.

The decision to halt the construction of the fleet of SMRs came as a surprise for the project’s scientists, who believed the technology was mature and that floating reactors were generally safer than those on land, since the ocean acts as a natural heat sink and is immune to seismic activity.

Writing in the journal Nuclear Power Engineering, Wang Donghui, a scientist at the National Energy Offshore Nuclear Power Platform Technology Research Centre, Nuclear Power Institute of China, said safety and feasibility were the main concerns of authorities.

He said the decision was made in spite of a 10-year research project into floating plants, and the fact that China has advanced ship design capabilities, as well as domestic design and manufacturing units capable of building floating platforms.

Not stated by Chinese news media announcement is the obvious fact that the planned SMRs, to be located at artificial islands built by China to serve as military installations, would be sitting ducks as targets in any outbreak of hostilities in region. A conventional explosion at the site of one of the SMRs would likely contaminate the entire island rendering it unusable for tactical operations.

China has built military installations on several disputed islands in the region, including the Spratly and Paracel islands. The facilities, which include radar systems, communications equipment and other electronics, require a significant amount of electricity.

The SCMP notes that the decision may have more to do with regional politics than technical issues. It comments that the presence of floating reactors could increase tensions between countries and raise the risk of accidents or hostile incidents with serious environmental or geopolitical consequences.

One of the major safety concerns is that floating power plants could face attacks from sea and air, but also from underwater attacks, according to Wang.

& & &

DOE Announces $50 Million for a Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program

types of fusion imageThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $50 million to launch a new milestone-based fusion development program as authorized in the Energy Act of 2020.

This program will support for-profit entities, who may team with national laboratories, universities, and others to meet major technical and commercialization milestones toward the successful design of a fusion pilot plant (FPP) that will help bring fusion toward technical and commercial viability.

“Fusion holds the promise of being an on-demand, safe, abundant source of carbon-free primary energy and electricity, with the potential to transform the way we generate and use energy,” said David Turk, DOE Deputy Secretary

“Today, there is nearly $5 billion of private capital invested into predominantly US-based fusion companies. This administration is eager to partner with these companies and work together to accelerate progress toward a future powered by fusion, offering energy abundance and energy security around the world.”

“Since the White House Fusion Summit in March 2022 and a DOE fusion workshop in June 2022, DOE has worked hard to establish this program, which makes use of DOE’s available contracting mechanisms to allow for milestone-based payments and other flexibilities to invite strong industry participation,” said Geraldine Richmond, DOE Under Secretary for Science and Innovation.

Richmond said the milestone-based concept is different from traditional DOE programs.

“This public-private partnership where the federal government provides fixed payments in private companies for reaching mutually negotiated technical, business, commercialization, and community benefits milestones, as particularly inspired by the NASA Commercial Orbit Transportation Services Program that helped enable the commercial space launch industry.”

Asmeret Asefaw Berhe, Director of the DOE’s Office of Science, added, “Through the milestone program, these companies will work with researchers at our national labs and universities to advance their designs for fusion pilot plants and receive payments from DOE along the way for reaching key milestones. This is a different approach from what we typically do in the Office of Science, but one that has proven successful in other areas.”

A note of caution was sounded by White House Office of Science and Technology Policy director Arati Prabhakar. She said that while decades of work have established the scientific basis for fusion, which “is necessary, but it’s very, very far from sufficient.”

“There’s so much more work that has to be done to turn this into something that is a commercial capability that’s consistent and safe and reliable, that deals with all the thermal issues, deals with all the materials issues, deals with all of the radiation issues that will still be there even with this much more advanced technology.”

Total planned funding is up to $50 million for awardees to deliver FPP pre-conceptual designs and technology roadmaps by 18 months after award. Funding for meeting subsequent milestones toward full conceptual FPP designs, up to a total period of performance of five years, will be contingent upon meeting early milestones and future annual appropriations.

Project teams are to be led by for-profit entities, who must meet particular milestones before being awarded funds by the Department. Significant commitment of non-Federal resources by awardees is expected. This program requires awardees to implement a community benefits plan in support of the Department’s equity and justice priorities.

The firms receiving funding from DOE include Commonweath Fusion Systems, Focused Energy Inc., Princeton Stellartors, Realta Fusion Inc., Tokamak Energy Inc., Type One Energy Group, Xcimer Energy Inc., and Zap Energy Inc. Funding amounts by firm were not provided by DOE. (List of awards and their technical scope)

Fusion Energy Association Applauds the Fusion Awards

According to the Fusion Energy Association, the milestone-based public-private partnership program was first authorized by Congress in the bipartisan Energy Act of 2020 and finally funded in the 2022 Fiscal Year.

The $50 million in funding over 18 months will be matched by private sector investment. However, further funding will allow for further progress towards building pilot plants on an accelerated timeline.

The program is authorized in the CHIPS and Sciences Act at up to $415 million through 2027, but based on a survey of FIA members, applications were significantly oversubscribed for the initial $50 million.

FIA said there were enough quality applications for at least $140M in the initial 18-months of the program, growing to over $2.6 billion in leveraged cost-share requests over 5 years, the full life of the program.

The FIA, as quoted by Reuters, said the firms in the race to commercialize the technology plan to spend about $7 billion by the time their first plants come online. In terms of supply chain orders they could add up, potentially, to trillions of dollars in high-grade steel, concrete and superconducting wire. A mature industry, is estimated to be plausible sometime between 2035 and 2050.

The DOE Funding Opportunity Announcement was sponsored by the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences within the Department’s Office of Science.

& & &

Key Collaborations Announced for Fusion Projects

collaborationIn the category of the phase, “your arms too short to box with god,” some fusion companies are realizing that the yellow brick road to Oz will require multiple deep pocket partners to complete the journey.

World Nuclear News reports that General Atomics (GA) of the USA and Tokamak Energy of the UK have agreed to collaborate in the area of high temperature superconducting (HTS) technology for fusion energy and other industry applications.

Separately, Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics will work with Proxima Fusion to further develop the stellarator concept.

Collaboration on Tokamaks

General Atomics, which began working on superconducting magnet technologies in the 1980s, and Tokamak Energy said the collaboration under a newly-signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) would “leverage GA’s world-leading capabilities for manufacturing large-scale magnet systems and Tokamak Energy’s pioneering expertise in HTS magnet technologies.”

“GA is excited to collaborate with Tokamak Energy on HTS magnets,” said GA Senior Vice President Anantha Krishnan.

“Tokamak Energy is a leader in HTS magnet modelling, design and prototyping and GA has expertise in developing and fabricating large-scale superconducting magnets for fusion applications.”

“GA has significant experience, knowledge and facilities to produce large superconducting magnets at scale,” said Tokamak Energy Managing Director Warrick Matthews.

“Tokamak Energy has been developing HTS technologies for fusion for over a decade. The integration of these complementary capabilities promises to accelerate the development and production of HTS technologies in additional fields, such as aviation, naval, space and medical applications.”

Tokamak Energy’s roadmap is for commercial fusion power plants deployed in the mid-2030s.

Collaboration in Stellarators

The Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) has signed a cooperation agreement with Munich-based Proxima Fusion, which was spun out of IPP earlier this year and was founded by a team which includes six former IPP scientists, to develop the stellarator concept for fusion power. Proxima Fusion intends to design a nuclear fusion power plant based on IPP research.

“With this cooperation, Proxima Fusion will primarily advance technological approaches, while IPP will contribute its know-how as the world’s leading institute in stellarator physics,” IPP said.

World Nuclear News noted that the institute is the only institution in the world that carries out research on both essential concepts of magnetic confinement fusion with the help of large-scale experiments: it operates the ASDEX Upgrade tokamak in Garching near Munich, and the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator in Greifswald.

In February, the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator succeeded for the first time in generating a high-energy plasma that lasted for eight minutes. The facility is designed to generate plasma discharges of up to 30 minutes in the coming years. Scientists are also working in the field of stellarator optimisation at IPP’s Stellarator Theory Division in Greifswald.

“With our research, we want to further develop stellarators towards application maturity,” said IPP Scientific Director Sibylle Günter.

“With Proxima Fusion’s technological focus, we see great synergies in a collaboration and look forward to working together in a public-private partnership”.

& & &

Senate EPW Committee Advances Risch, Crapo Nuclear Energy Bill

The ADVANCE Act would boost development and deployment of new nuclear technologies and facilitate American nuclear leadership. It now heads to the full Senate with widespread bipartisan support.

The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee has passed legislation, introduced by U.S. Senators Jim Risch and Mike Crapo (both R-Idaho), Committee Ranking Member Shelley Moore Capito (R-West Virginia), Chairman Tom Carper (D-Delaware) and a bipartisan group of their colleagues, that would help position the United States as the undisputed international leader for nuclear energy technologies. (Fact Sheet)

The Accelerating Deployment of Versatile, Advanced Nuclear for Clean Energy (ADVANCE) Act of 2023, which Crapo and Risch introduced in March, passed out of the EPW Committee by a vote of 16-3.

“With the ADVANCE Act’s passage out of committee, we are one step closer to spurring the development and deployment of advanced nuclear technologies,” Risch said.

“ Idaho is home to the world-leading Idaho National Laboratory, a facility responsible for promoting international nuclear competitiveness through research, innovation and workforce development,” Crapo said.

“The ADVANCE Act shows bipartisan support for continuing our investment in nuclear energy—strengthening national security, diversifying our energy portfolio and growing the economy.”

Facilitate American Nuclear Leadership

The bill empowers the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to lead in international forums to develop regulations for advanced nuclear reactors.

The bill establishes a joint Commerce Department and Energy Department initiative to facilitate outreach to nations that are seeking to develop advanced nuclear energy programs.

Develop and Deploy New Nuclear Technologies

The bill reduces regulatory costs for companies seeking to license advanced nuclear reactor technologies.
The bill creates a prize to incentivize the successful deployment of next-generation nuclear reactor technologies. The bill requires the NRC to develop a pathway to enable the timely licensing of nuclear facilities at brownfield sites.

Preserve Existing Nuclear Energy

The bill modernizes outdated rules that restrict international investment. The bill extends a long-established, indemnification policy necessary to enable the continued operation of today’s reactors and give certainty for capital investments in building new reactors.

Strengthen America’s Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Supply Chain Infrastructure

The bill directs the NRC to establish an initiative to enhance preparedness to qualify and license advanced nuclear fuels. The bill identifies modern manufacturing techniques to build nuclear reactors better, faster, cheaper and smarter.

Authorize funds for Environmental Cleanup Programs

The bill authorizes funding to assist in cleaning up legacy abandoned mining sites on Tribal lands.

Improve NRC Efficiency

The bill provides flexibility for the NRC to budget and manage organizational support activities to ensure the NRC is prepared to address NRC staff issues associated with an aging workforce.

The bill provides the NRC Chair the tools to hire and retain highly-specialized staff and exceptionally well-qualified individuals to successfully and safely review and approve advanced nuclear reactor licenses.

The bill requires the NRC to periodically review and assess performance metrics and milestone schedules to ensure licensing can be completed on an efficient schedule.


Additional co-sponsors of the ADVANCE Act include Senators Tom Carper (D-Delaware), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Jim Risch (R-Idaho), John Barrasso (R-Wyoming), Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Martin Heinrich (D-New Mexico) and Mark Kelly (D-Arizona).

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | Leave a comment

Poland’s Power Progress Gains with Plans for Nuclear Energy

  • Poland’s Power Progress with Nuclear Energy
  • Westinghouse And Bechtel To Form Consortium To Design And Build Country’s First Nuclear Station
  • Poland / State Control Over Strategically Important Nuclear Project Essential
  • Advanced Reactors / NRC’s ACRS Recommends Approval Of Kairos Power Construction Permit

Poland’s Power Progress with Nuclear Energy

  •   Poland / Regulator Confirms BWRX-300 Nuclear Plant Meets Safety Standards

PAA Logo(NucNet) Poland’s nuclear regulator, the National Atomic Energy Agency / PAA, has issued a “general opinion” to Orlen Synthos Green Energy (OSGE) that confirms the design of US-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s (GEH) BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) meets nuclear safety requirements.  (Full text source document in English)

OSGE said the PAA’s opinion is an important element in the process of preparing its BWRX-300 deployment project. The ruling for OSGE will be used to work on the detailed design for the power station reactor.

A company spokesperson said the general opinion means the assumptions adopted in the design of the technology are correct and meet the requirements of Poland’s atomic law and the safety of nuclear facilities.

“The conclusions presented by PAA will be used in the work on a detailed design for GE Hitachi reactors to be built in Poland.”

OSGE recently became the third company in Poland to submit an application for a decision-in-principle on the construction of new nuclear power reactors.

The company submitted six applications for the construction of nuclear power plants using BWRX-300 SMR technology, which is being developed by GEH for global deployment.

OSGE Announces Seven Possible Sites

OSGE, which is a joint venture between Polish multinational oil refiner and petrol retailer Orlen and Synthos Green Energy, is part of the largest chemicals industrial group in Poland. It has released a list of seven possible locations for the construction of SMRs in Poland.

The sites are Wloclawek in central Poland, Ostroleka in northeastern Poland, Warsaw in central Poland, Stawy Monowskie in southern Poland, the Nowa Huta area of Krakow, near the border with the Czech Republic in southern Poland, Tarnobrzeg special economic zone in southeastern Poland and Dabrowa Gornicza, southern Poland. It was not clear if the applications submitted by OSGE were for particular sites.

OSGE sites

OSGE has said it intends to deploy a first unit by the end of this decade with the potential in the future for a fleet of BWRX-300s.

In a document concerning the OSGE joint venture, the European Commission said OSGE’s aim is the commercialization of SMR and micro modular reactor (MMR)-generated electricity in Poland.

“Ultimately, OSGE’s core business activity will shift from manufacturing of industrial chemicals to the generation and supply of electricity in Poland.

World Nuclear News noted in this report that OSGE’s is the latest in a flurry of applications for decisions-in-principle for nuclear power plants in Poland.

On April 14th, copper and silver producer KGHM Polska Miedź SA submitted an application for a decision-in-principle on the construction of a NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant in Poland.

Three days later, Polskie Elektrownie Jądrowe submitted an application for a decision-in-principle on the construction of the country’s first large nuclear power plant, at either Lubiatowo or Kopalino in Poland’s Choczewo municipality in the province of Pomerania. The plant would be based on Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor technology.

& & &

Westinghouse And Bechtel To Form Consortium To Design And Build Country’s First Nuclear Station

(Nucnet) bechtel logoWestinghouse and Bechtel will jointly form a consortium to design and build Poland’s first commercial nuclear power station in the northern province of Pomerania.

A May 25th announcement said the two US companies had signed an agreement in Warsaw with Poland’s nuclear project company Polskie Elektrownie Jadrowe (PEJ) to define the terms of cooperation. The contract for the design of the power plant is planned to be signed later this year.

The agreement with PEJ is the result of “intensive negotiations” in recent months, a statement said. The agreement will apply to commercial contracts for the construction of a nuclear power station in Pomerania. This is not one of the sites selected by OSGE for SMRs.

The agreement defines responsibilities and key rules and conditions to be followed by the partners. It specifies that Westinghouse and Bechtel will work together in areas such as designing the nuclear power station, implementing schedules, project control and quality control.

The EPC leader of the consortium at the design stage of the power plant will be Westinghouse and then during construction it will be Bechtel.

PEJ said earlier this month that it considered the establishment of a consortium involving Westinghouse and Bechtel to be its preferred model for the Pomerania nuclear station.

In November 2022, Warsaw said it had chosen Westinghouse to supply its AP1000 reactor technology for the three-unit nuclear power station at the Lubiatowo-Kopalino site near the Baltic coast in Pomerania. Westinghouse will supply three AP1000 PWR type nuclear reactors with an estimated power rating of 1,150 MWe each. Warsaw wants construction to start in 2026 with the first unit online in 2033.

& & &

Poland / State Control Over Strategically Important Nuclear Project Essential

(NucNet) Poland’s first nuclear power station project in Pomerania is of strategic importance for the government and maintaining state control over it is “essential,” Adam Guibourgé-Czetwertynski, deputy climate and environment minister, told Polish news portal WNP.

He said the government is working on a financial model for the project but is “not predetermining” what it will look like at this stage.

“There are several possibilities for it,” Guibourgé-Czetwertynski said, adding that discussions are being held at EU level on reforming the bloc’s electricity market design, which could “create a framework for price support for all investments in the energy sector.”

He said these possibilities will form part of Warsaw’s approach to designing an appropriate financing model for its nuclear new-build ambitions.

According to Guibourgé-Czetwertynski, EU regulations do not allow the formal inclusion of local company participation in large projects at the contractual level, but the domestic Polish industry will have “the most competitive” offers for the nuclear project.

He said a localization content target for the new reactors of about 50% could be “realistically” attainable.

“If our companies will be able to prove their capabilities for the Polish nuclear project, they will also have a chance to work on other projects across Europe.”

Under a 2020 nuclear program, Poland has ambitious plans to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MW of installed nuclear with commercial operation of a first nuclear unit in a proposed set of six is planned for 2033, with the rest to follow throughout the 2030s and into the early 2040s.

& & &

Advanced Reactors / NRC’s ACRS Recommends Approval Of Kairos Power Construction Permit

(NucNet) The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s independent Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) has recommended approval of Kairos Power’s construction permit application for the Hermes low-power demonstration reactor.  (Full text ACRS Letter to Chairman, NRC 05/16/23)

Kairos Power, which is developing a fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR), said the ACRS safety evaluation is one of the final milestones in the NRC’s review of the Hermes construction permit application, which was submitted just 18 months ago.

That application is for a 140-MW low-power demonstration reactor known as Hermes to be built at the East Tennessee Technology Park Heritage Center site in Oak Ridge.

Karios Power reactor concept image

Kairos Power reactor concept image: Image: NRC

“Kairos Power plans to break ground at the Hermes site pending receipt of our construction permit, with operations scheduled to begin in 2026,” the company said in a statement to NucNet.

Kairos Power said the ACRS credited key attributes of the Hermes design, including low thermal power, functional containment, and passive heat removal capability, for providing large margins to regulatory siting criteria that allow a unique approach to safety classification.

In 2022, Kairos Power announced it had formed an advanced nuclear development advisory consortium with four North American nuclear operators – Bruce Power, Constellation, Southern Company, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Earlier this year the company signed an agreement to produce Triso fuel pebbles for the Hermes demonstration reactor at Los Alamos’ low enriched fuel fabrication facility in New Mexico.

Triso, or tri-structural isotropic particle fuel, consists of particles made up of a uranium, carbon and oxygen fuel kernel. The kernel is encapsulated by three layers of carbon- and ceramic-based materials that prevent the release of radioactive fission products.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | Leave a comment

Fact Checking a Nuclear Startup’s Claims

Fact Checking a Nuclear Startup’s Claims

fact-check_thumb2A nuclear energy startup, Nano Nuclear Energy, based in New York, NY, issued a press release in mid-May in which the firm’s CEO is quoted in a trade press report as saying that said “all the necessary approvals are nearly complete” for construction and operation of an $150M HALEU fuel fabrication plant to be built at the Idaho Nuclear Laboratory (INL) at the Materials Fuels Complex (MFC). The MFC, which is located at the old Argonne West site, is located about 25 miles due west of Idaho Falls, ID. The company’s statement was reported May 17th by Utility Dive, a nuclear industry trade press news website.

A spokesman for the Nano Nuclear reiterated in a call with Neutron Bytes on 5/20/23 that the resulting HALEU nuclear fuel plant, once built, would be “jointly funded and operated with the INL [at the Materials Fuels Complex] and that uranium fuel produced by the plant would also be sold commercially as well as being used for R&D purposes at the INL.

This announcement, and one issued last April announcing a “strategic partnership” with the INL, caught my eye since it was the first time I’d heard about these efforts. Significantly, in neither case was there a companion press statement from the INL or fact sheet, on the lab’s web site. As it turns out there is a reason for the lack of a public press statement from the lab.

As far as “approvals being almost ready” are concerned, building a $150M HALEU fuel fabrication plant at the Idaho lab site would require a federal environmental impact statement (EIS) and regulatory review and licensing by the NRC. Both processes are lengthy, costly undertakings. An EIS for a project of this size can take one-to-two years at a minimum. An NRC license for a nuclear fuel plant is also a multi-year undertaking even with no hiccups along the way.

DOE is if anything an overachiever when it comes to issuing public statements about any EIS.  DOE has neither completed nor initiated an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a $150M HALEU fuel plant to be built at the MFC. Given the intense attention the issue of HALEU fuel supply has in the industry, an EIS for a plant to build one at the federal lab site would have generated intense interest. DOE would not fail to publicize such a project. Yet, DOE was unresponsive to a request for comment on Nano Nuclear’s claims about its fuel fabrication project at the INL. A search on the Internet did not turn up an notice about one.

Note to Readers: There are several HALEU fuel fabrication plants that are announced most recently by TerraPower and X-Energy both of which are funded under DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

A document content search at the NRC ADAMS library, which contains the agency’s publicly accessible regulatory documents, has nothing submitted by Nano Nuclear this calendar year. In short, none of these “approvals” claimed by Nano Nuclear are in place, “nearly complete,”  or even pending approval.

In response to my inquiry about the press statement, a spokesperson for the firm said in a  call to this blog that the “CEO’s statement was taken out of context” by Utility Dive and that the firm had refined the CEO’s statement to now say that “applications for approvals” were nearly complete.” That’s a big distinction with a huge difference. It means the firm’s paperwork is incomplete and has not been submitted to INL, DOE, or NRC.

The firm also said it had subsequently contacted Utility Dive, which published the firm’s original press statement, asking it to retract the company’s original statement and to publish the refinement in its place. The original press statement wording remains unchanged in the main text of the story on the Utility Dive web site as of 05/29/23.

However, at the end of the story, Utility Dive subsequently added this note on its website: “Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the expected start of design work for the fuel fabrication facility. [James Walker, Nano Nuclear’s Head of Nuclear Reactor Development] Walker said it can begin in the next few months.”

Earlier when asked about the absence of any corroborating statements from the INL in the original press report, the reporter for the Utility Dive story emailed this blog on 5/20/23 saying, “INL has not disputed my reporting.”

In short, Utility Dive did not fact check the company’s initial claims. Given the scope and significance, e.g., building a $150M HALEU fuel fabrication plant, an announcement of this type should have triggered a call by the trade press staff to INL’s Media Relations office to verify it.

It appears that INL’s Media Relations staff didn’t know about the trade press report until Neutron Bytes sent them an inquiry about it. This week the INL office of Media Relations, responding to my inquiry, issued this clarification via email on 5/24/23.

“Idaho National Laboratory has been working with NANO Nuclear to review its microreactor design. INL is aware NANO Nuclear is working on a site use application for their fuel fabrication facility.”

“However, there are currently no agreements in place to site a NANO Nuclear fuel fabrication facility at INL and the process should be viewed as preliminary at this point. For more details about their plans, please reach out to NANO Nuclear directly.”

NANO’s First Press Statement About Working with INL

Last April the firm issued a press release that said it had signed a “Strategic Partnership Project Agreement” with Idaho National Laboratory (INL), which is managed by Battelle Energy Alliance for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The scope noted in the INL Media Relations statement above about the review of the firm’s reactor design matches the April press statement text.

According to the Nano Nuclear press statement, ”INL will provide an expert design review panel of the NANO Nuclear Energy Inc. proprietary “ZEUS” portable and micro reactor design.”

Over a 6-month period, NANO said, “INL will review technical information from NANO on its reactor design, siting, fuel, and decommissioning strategy and will organize a Panel Review Workshop to discuss numerous areas of the design. This review panel will provide recommendations on the current design as well as outline a path forward for further design and collaboration between INL and the Company. Following the review, INL subject matter experts will provide written feedback regarding design options, questions, or areas to explore.”

However, Nano Nuclear would have been better served if it had included confirmation details from a spokesperson at the INL in its April press statement. Going forward, the firm might consider including that kind of content as a standard practice.

In the end what we have with the May press statement are incorrect claims about a $150M HALEU fuel plant  by a startup business which were made without any corroboration by the INL.

When reviewed with fact checking, these claims turn out to be much less than what the company stated in the original. The process of validating these claims was not helped by Utility Dive’s initial indifference to the lack of a supporting statement from the lab about the project. The site’s post publication correction addresses the problem.

Bottom line there is nothing to indicate that Nano Nuclear is anything more than a business startup that in its enthusiasm got in front of its own headlights in dealing with the nuclear trade press. That’s not an uncommon phenomenon among early stage entrepreneurs. For instance, Transatomic basked in the spotlight of news media attention as a new nuclear startup, for a time, until it was disclosed its technology wasn’t going to work as planned.

Hopefully, Nano Nuclear will be more diligent in the future about the facts it puts in its press releases. Nano Nuclear has a long way to go before it and its investors will know whether its nuclear reactor and/or the HALEU fuel fabrication plant will be commercial successes.

Why is this Type of Fact Checking Important in the Nuclear Energy Industry?

  • The Legacy of Idaho’s Invisible Nuclear Reactor Lives On

The basis for the skepticism noted in this blog post is an experience reporting more than a decade ago on a penny stock fraud scheme (pump & dump) in Idaho that led to SEC and IRS criminal charges against the principals of a firm falsely claiming to be building a nuclear power plant there.

AEHI’s CEO failed to show up for a court appearance in May 2015 and has been a fugitive since then. AEHI’s VP pleaded guilty, went to jail, and was directed by the federal court to pay restitution to investors. The entire scam was nicknamed “Idaho’s invisible reactor.”

AEHI’s PR firm, based on Boise, had an unusual ability to frequently cite the committed or inferred involvement of multiple large nuclear firms in its project without there ever being a similar press statement from those cited in AEHI’s releases. Two reactor vendors and several EPC firms found themselves having to deny any involvement in the project.

Its not that people weren’t warned about what AEHI was up to. Interestingly, anti-nuclear groups were among those sounding the alarm early on. In fact, AEHI sued the Snake River Alliance (SRA) who’s 20-something leader at the time brazenly the company a scam without any paperwork to prove it. She later turned out to be right and was exonerated by the courts as having engaged in protected free speech.

In a September 2007 visit to Boise then NRC Chairman Dale Klein, when asked about the AEHI project, commented that the agency had not received an application for a license from the firm. Klein had previously coined in a speech in June 2007 what became known, without his blessing, as the “no bozos rule” for new nuclear plants saying that the industry has no room for amateurs.

“My subject is something that each of the five Commissioners believe in, and have said before—which is this: owning a commercial nuclear reactor is not a business for amateurs. If the nuclear power business is treated with less than the seriousness it deserves—and people begin to think that anyone can just jump on the nuclear bandwagon—it opens up the very real danger of making the “wave” of the nuclear resurgence look more like a “bubble.” And bubbles have a tendency to pop.”

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Memorial Day 2023

Saving Private Ryan – A Letter to Mrs Bixby

This is a segment available on YouTube from the movie Saving Private Ryan (1998). In a a US Army General reads aloud a letter sent to a mother who lost five sons in the Civil War on the Union Side.

It sets the stage for the rescue mission in the movie to save Private Ryan and prevent a repeat in WWII. While it is only a movie, tt seems appropriate to post it here for the observation of Memorial Day to remember the men and women of the armed forces who made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our freedom.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | Leave a comment

US Commits $275M to NuScale SMR for Romania; $4B Pledged for Future Funding

  • US Commits $275M to NuScale SMR for Romania; $4B Pledged for Future Funding
  • Oklo Announces Sites for Two Nuclear Power Plants in Southern Ohio
  • SMRs Considered For Indonesian Fertilizer Plant
  • UK’s Newcleo Launches €1 Billion Equity Raise For LFR Development
  • Zeno Power Gets $30M to Build a Radioisotope powered satellite for DOD
  • IAEA- Action Needed In Bid To Meet Rising Demand for Uranium
  • Fusion Industry Association Releases Supply Chain Report
  • DOE Launches Inertial Fusion Energy Program

US Commits $275M to NuScale SMR for Romania; $4B Pledged for Future Funding

US Department of State Press Releasedos logoThe United States and Multinational Public-Private Partners Look to Provide Up To $275 Million to Advance the Romania Small Modular Reactor Project; United States Issues Letters of Interest for Up To $4 Billion in Project Financing

On May 20th at the G7 Leaders Summit in Hiroshima, President Biden announced concrete steps to implement the vision of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) to mobilize $600 billion by 2027 in infrastructure investments around the world.

The announcement included public-private support for the Romania small modular reactor (SMR) project from the United States, Japan, Republic of Korea, and United Arab Emirates of up to $275 million, which includes a Letter of Interest from U.S Export-Import Bank (EXIM) for up to $99 million from the EXIM Engineering Multiplier Program.

In addition, EXIM and U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) issued Letters of Interest for potential support of up to $3 billion and $1 billion, respectively, for project deployment.

Together with new pledges by Romania, these commitments demonstrate the power of multinational cooperation and public-private partnership on transformative infrastructure projects and will move forward Romania’s leading-edge SMR project, based on the U.S. firm NuScale Power LLC technology, towards deployment in 2029.

The Romania SMR project will replace a former coal plant at Doicesti, located about 55 miles northwest of Bucharest, with clean power and will capitalize on the experience gained on the first SMR project under development in the United States at the Carbon Free Power Project in Idaho.  The Doicesti SMR project builds on over a quarter century of Romania’s safe and secure nuclear power plant operation experience.

Project Partners

Partners advancing the SMR project include Japan Bank for International Cooperation (Japan); DS Private Equity (Republic of Korea); EXIM Bank Romania, S.N. Nuclearelectrica S.A., Nova Power & Gas S.R.L. (Romania); Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC, United Arab Emirates); DFC and EXIM (United States).

Commitments will support procurement of long lead materials, finalization of front-end engineering and design (FEED) work, provision of project management expertise, site characterization and regulatory analyses, and precise schedule and budget estimates for project execution.

ENEC’s involvement in the Romanian SMR project, through in-kind contribution of nuclear experts, represents the first nuclear energy-focused activity undertaken within the U.S.-UAE Partnership for Accelerating Clean Energy (PACE) platform.

PACE was launched in November 2022 to catalyze $100 billion in financing, investment, and other support to deploy 100 new gigawatts of clean energy capacity by 2035, delivering further momentum and impact on the road to the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28), which the UAE will host in November 2023.

US Multi-Lateral Support for Nuclear Energy

The State Department press statement added that “this multilateral endeavor to deploy safe and secure civil nuclear technology is a testament to the essential role nuclear energy plays in the global clean energy transition and meeting our collective goal to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The United States is committed to supporting the use of innovative clean energy technologies to power global decarbonization efforts and provide energy security and independence to partners around the world.”

NuScale “”Thrilled” with the News

Nuscale-Logo(Horizontal_BlueTM)wTagNuScale said in a social media statement, “At the #G7 Summit in Japan, the Biden Administration announced global partner commitments including up to $275M for the deployment of a NuScale VOYGR™ #SMR power plant. The commitment from the U.S. government, alongside support from public-private partners, highlights the crucial role NuScale SMRs will play in the future of global decarbonization.”

“As an integral part of the U.S. government’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, the announcement comes at a pivotal time to propel plans to deploy the first NuScale VOYGR™ SMR power plant in Romania.”

“NuScale is thrilled to have support from the Biden Administration and these international partners as we work to transform the energy sector with carbon-free and reliable power.”

More information: (NuScale Press Release)

& & &

Oklo Announces Sites for Two Nuclear Power Plants in Southern Ohio

oklo logoOklo, a developer of commercial nuclear power plants, and the Southern Ohio Diversification Initiative (SODI), an economic development organization in Piketon, OH, have signed an agreement for a site to host second and third commercial powerhouse sites.

The agreement also details collaboration on jobs, community engagement, facility repurposing, and the potential for additional power plants.

Oklo’s commercial power plants will provide up to 30 MWe of clean electric power, and over 50 MW of clean heating, with opportunities to expand. The plants will also support job creation in the area, furthering SODI’s mission to improve the quality of life for the southern Ohio community through both economic diversification and the advancement of clean energy solutions.

SODI is one of the leading partners for the Site Reuse Deployment Guidance for Advanced Reactors project, along with team members from Orano Federal Services LLC, Southern Nuclear Company, Electrical Power Research Institute Inc, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

The project was funded through a grant from the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy to support the deployment of advanced reactor technology and the use of former nuclear sites.

“Oklo is accelerating our commercialization plans with sites for two more plants confirmed, building on our commercial deployment in Idaho,” said Jacob DeWitte, co-founder and CEO of Oklo.

Oklo obtained a site use permit from the DOE for the Idaho site at INL in 2019. Oklo was awarded fuel for its first reactor and is a leader in advanced reactor licensing and deployment. These plants will also help scale up the supply chain for Oklo’s plants.

“Our business model, and use of mature, demonstrated reactor technologies allow us to provide power to customers who want the reliable, clean, and affordable energy we can provide,” added DeWitte. Oklo’s unique business model centers around owning and operating its power plants, making it easier for customers to procure energy through power purchase agreements or similar structures.

The development of Oklo’s commercial power plants will help reinvigorate the local communities surrounding the site, paving the way for a cleaner and more resilient energy infrastructure and long-term and high-tech economic benefits to the region.

“SODI is proud to partner with Oklo and see the land developed in a way that will provide benefits to the community and the entire region,” said Kevin Shoemaker, Legal Counsel of SODI.

As Oklo and SODI forge ahead for the deployment of the power plants, the site is also being evaluated for potential future manufacturing or industrial facilities, demonstrating Oklo’s dedication to fostering a long-term relationship with the community for a clean and prosperous future for communities across Southern Ohio and beyond.

Note to Readers: For a deeper dive into the details of this deal, check out the excellent report by Sonal Patel at POWER which, among other things, reveals that Oklo has significantly uprated its reactor design.

According to the POWER report, until recently, Oklo marketed a 1.5-MWe microreactor version of its microreactor trade named “Aurora.” According to Patel’s report, it has expanded its capacity offerings from 15 MWe to 100 MWe.

In addition to providing customers with choices for more electrical generation capacity, Oklo told POWER that “the design is simplified with more affordable and simpler components, and it is modular, which allows the company to achieve cost competitiveness.”

“This is an uprate of the Aurora design, and we consider it part of the Aurora liquid metal fast reactor product family. With the same amount and type of fuel but different heat transport mechanisms (flowing sodium versus liquid metal in heat pipes), significantly more heat can be transported from the fuel—hence being able to produce 15 MWe versus 1.5 MWe nominally.”

& & &

SMRs Considered For Indonesian Fertilizer Plant

(WNNAMMONIAA collaboration between Danish and Indonesian companies will study the operational and regulatory conditions for constructing an ammonia production facility in Indonesia powered by Copenhagen Atomics’ small and modular thorium molten salt reactors.

Four Danish companies – Copenhagen Atomics, Aalborg CSP, Alfa Laval and Topsoe – have signed a memorandum of understanding with Indonesian ammonia producer Pupuk Kalimantan Timur (PKT), together with Pertamina New & Renewable Energy to investigate building a facility in the city of Bontang on the eastern coast of the island of Borneo, in the province of East Kalimantan.

The facility, expected to open in 2028, will produce 1 million tonnes of ultra-low emission ammonia annually, with an estimated investment of USD4 billion. This is sufficient to produce fertilizer for the production of food for 45 million people, about one-sixth of the Indonesian population. During the plant’s 50-year lifetime, it will produce ammonia worth USD25 billion at today’s prices.

In addition to the ammonia synthesis, Topsoe will supply newly-developed electrolysis cell technology, called Solid Oxide Electrolyser Cell (SOEC). SOEC is claimed to make the production of hydrogen up to 30% more efficient than competing technologies. Hydrogen is an intermediate stage in the production of ammonia.

  • Alfa Laval will deliver heat exchangers to optimize the energy balance of the plant, and desalination to produce ultra-pure water for the electrolysis process.
  • Copenhagen Atomics will supply its thorium molten salt small modular reactors (SMRs). The nuclear power plant part of the project will comprise of 25 SMR modules proving a total of 1 GWe.

Aalborg CSP will design and supply thermal energy storage systems, molten salt based steam boilers providing the energy balancing required to integrate the energy production from the SMR modules with electricity production and waste heat from power turbines with production of ultra clean water.

& & &

UK’s Newcleo Launches €1 Billion Equity Raise For LFR Development

(NucNet) Generation IV nuclear power plant developer Newcleo is aiming to commission a 30 MW demonstrator and pilot nuclear power plant for innovative fuels by 2030.

The company, which has facilities in London, England and Lyon, France, said it is planning a “major investment” of €3bn ($3.2bn) to build the plant in France.

Last year London-based nuclear startup Newcleo, which is looking to develop Generation IV small reactor technology, announced the successful closure of a €300m ($315m) equity raising campaign.

Newcleo, founded by Italian physicist and entrepreneur Stefano Buono, aims initially to develop small 20-30 MW reactors that could be used to power ships or islands and can be safer, cleaner and cheaper than existing reactors.

Within the next five years, the company intends to finalizee the design and realize a full-scale non-nuclear industrial prototype in collaboration with the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development (ENEA).

Newcleo said it wants to build a plant to produce mixed plutonium-uranium oxides (MOX) and is contracting France-based Orano to conduct feasibility studies. The use of MOX fuels in Newcleo’s reactors will be a further step towards their cost-competitive, sustainable approach, as it will decrease the environmental and financial cost of radwaste disposal, the company said.

The industrial-scale manufacturing of MOX fuel will secure the future fuel supply needed for the operation of the company’s first 30 MW prototypes in France and the UK, Newcleo said.

& & &

Zeno Power Gets $30 Million to Build a Radioisotope Powered Satellite for DOD

(Space News) Zeno Power Systems was awarded a $30 million contract to build a radioisotope-powered satellite for the U.S. Air Force by 2025. The startup develops RPS systems, a type of nuclear energy technology that converts heat from decaying nuclear materials into electricity.

The company’s co-founder and chief executive Tyler Bernstein told SpaceNews, the four-year contract is a “strategic funding increase” agreement that provides $15 million in government funds, matched by $15 million from private investors.

Zeno, a startup founded in 2018, develops radioisotope power systems (RPS), a type of nuclear energy technology that converts the heat from decaying nuclear materials directly into electricity.

Bernstein said the company designed an RPS concept for small satellites with the goal of making the technology more accessible. NASA for decades has used RPS to power deep-space probes but the technology has not been commercialized due to cost and high regulatory hurdles.

Zeno’s RPS is smaller and uses other materials than normally found in RPS. Bernstein expects the system to clear regulatory hurdles and be approved for launch in 2025, taking advantage of a more streamlined U.S. government review process for nuclear-powered space missions.

According to Space News, a key feature of Zeno’s system is that it does not rely on plutonium. NASA’s planetary missions use RPS fueled by plutonium 238 isotope, which is in short supply and not commercially available. The Department of Energy produces only enough plutonium 238 to support key NASA missions.

The Air Force in the past has used the isotope strontium-90 as a power source but its applications were limited due to its large mass and low efficiency. Zeno’s RPS uses strontium isotope with a novel design that results in a lighter weight heat source. Bernstein said the company is exploring the use of other isotopes in the future.
The first demonstration of Zeno’s RPS heat source will take place this summer at a Department of Energy lab.

& & &

IAEA- Action Needed In Bid To Meet Rising Demand for Uranium

Uranium symbol(NucNet) Significant innovation and qualified personnel will be needed to recover untapped uranium resources to fuel the reactor fleet of the future, International Atomic Energy Agency director-general Rafael Grossi told the International Symposium on Uranium Raw Material for the Nuclear Cycle in Vienna.

“When we look at the global situation as well as the UN sustainable development goals and the Paris Agreement, addressing it all will largely depend on our ability to have one factor right: energy,” Grossi said.

Currently, some 60,000 tonnes of uranium are required annually to fuel the world’s 410 operating nuclear power plants, according to the 2022 Red Book, a publication on uranium resources, production and demand issued by the IAEA and the Nuclear Energy Agency.

However, with countries increasingly expected to turn to nuclear power to address climate change, energy security and sustainable development, demand could be as high as 100,000 tonnes of uranium per year by 2040.

That would require a near doubling of uranium mining and processing from current levels, the IAEA said. Amid this fresh focus on uranium during the global energy crisis, which has seen energy costs skyrocket, uranium spot prices have increased by some 50% over the last two years.

Nuclear power generating capacity could more than double by 2050, according to the IAEA’s latest projections. According to the International Energy Agency, nuclear power capacity must double in a secure global pathway to net zero emissions by mid-century.

According to the Red Book, there are more than six million tonnes of uranium resources in the ground, roughly equivalent to 100 years of current demand. Not all this identified uranium is expected to become nuclear fuel and a large amount is technically challenging to recover.

“Globally, there is a need for more uranium exploration and new mine development in the near term to meet growing demand,” said Brett Moldovan, leader of the IAEA uranium resources and production team.

“Looking further ahead, to ensure the long-term sustainability of nuclear energy, further innovations will be needed so that challenging low-grade uranium resources can be identified and mined in a safe, secure and environmentally sound way.”

& & &

Fusion Industry Association Releases Supply Chain Report

  • Report Finds Billions in Opportunities in the Fusion Supply Chain, Calls for More Investment
  • Fusion companies spent over $500 million on their supply chain in 2022
  • Supply chain spending set to grow to over $7 billion by “First of a Kind” power plant
  • Over half of fusion companies say suppliers need to invest now to meet scaling ambitions
  • But suppliers reluctant without firm commitments

types of fusion image

The Fusion Industry Association (FIA) today released a reportThe Fusion Industry Supply Chain: Opportunities and Challenges – analyzing the current fusion supply chain and projecting a huge growth in demand for fusion suppliers over the coming years. The report also found limited concern about geopolitical supply risk and a reluctance amongst suppliers to make the investments needed without firm commitments.

The survey of 26 private fusion companies and 34 supplier companies (all FIA affiliate members) calculated that the supply chain was worth over $500 million in 2022. That figure is set to increase to over $7 billion by the time companies build their “First of a Kind” power plants and when the fusion industry reaches maturity, the supply chain is predicted to be worth trillions of dollars.

However, fusion companies are getting signals from suppliers that they are reluctant to make the necessary investment right now. Seventy percent of fusion companies said their suppliers see building the capacity to meet future demand as too risky without committed orders.

“The projected growth of the fusion industry creates a huge business opportunity for current and new suppliers,” says Andrew Holland, CEO of the FIA.

“It is clear more long-term certainty is needed – through a mix of finance, regulation, risk-sharing mechanisms, and more communication – so suppliers are prepared to scale ahead of industry need.

“The fusion supply chain has a unique advantage as it is not reliant on rare materials only found in unstable countries, but on high quality manufacturing and specialist components that come from open economies. With appropriate private and public investment, fusion energy will one day provide a sustainable, reliable, and abundant form of clean energy to communities around the world.”

The report makes several recommendations to address supplier reluctance:

  • Increase investment, both public and private, into fusion to give confidence about the necessity of supplier scale.
  • Experiment with risk-sharing financing to enable suppliers to invest in new capacity – such as through fusion investors making investments in key suppliers.
  • Create online networks and an annual supplier event, to help communication and awareness between fusion companies and suppliers.
  • Deploy standardization and regulation to bring more certainty to the supply chain and confidence to make long-term investments.

& & &

DOE Launches Inertial Fusion Energy Program

(AIP) The Department of Energy issued a funding opportunity through which it expects to award a total of $45 million to establish a series of multi-institutional “hubs” for inertial fusion energy R&D.  (DOE Press statement)

It is the first solicitation from a new program in DOE’s Fusion Energy Sciences program called Inertial Fusion Energy Science & Technology Accelerated Research (IFE-STAR) and is the start of a foray by DOE into R&D related to producing energy from inertial fusion methods such as laser-driven fusion.

Most DOE inertial fusion research is funded through the National Nuclear Security Administration and is aimed primarily at obtaining data relevant to the long-term stewardship of nuclear warheads. Congress mandated the creation of an inertial fusion energy program through the Energy Act of 2020.

DOE’s solicitation also notes that the move follows from a recommendation in a 2013 National Academies report that “a national, coordinated, broad-based inertial fusion energy program” be created once the threshold of fusion ignition is crossed — a milestone the National Ignition Facility achieved in December. DOE plans to provide $9 million for the program in 2023 and hopes Congress will appropriate the remainder in coming years.

The Funding Opportunity Announcements titled “Inertial Fusion Energy Science & Technology Accelerated Research (IFE-STAR)” can be found on the Funding Opportunities Announcements page   (Full Text)

  • Submission Deadline for Pre-Applications: May 30, 2023, at 5 PM Eastern Time
  • A Pre-Application is required
  • Pre-Application Response Date: June 6, 2023, at 5 PM Eastern Time
  • Submission Deadline for Applications: July 11, 2023, at 11:59 PM Eastern Time

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

NuScale Inks MOU for SMRs at Nucor Steel Mills

  • NuScale Inks MOU for SMRs at Nucor Steel Mills
  • Terrestrial Energy Awarded U.S. Department of Energy Grant for IMSR Licensing
  • AECL, CNL and Global First Power to Build Micro Reactor at Chalk River site
  • 16 Firms Including Mitsubishi Make $74M Bet on Fusion Power in Japan
  • Westinghouse Submits AP300 SMR Regulatory Engagement Plan to NRC
  • Great Lakes Clean Hydrogen Hub Coalition Submits Application for DOE Funding
  • Italy / Parliament Votes In Favor Of Return To Nuclear Power
  • EPRI, NEI Release Roadmap for Advanced Reactor Deployment

NuScale Inks MOU for SMRs at Nucor Steel Mills

NuScale Power Corporation (NYSE: SMR) and Nucor Corporation (NYSE: NUE) announced the two companies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to explore co-locating NuScale’s VOYGR small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) power plants to provide clean, reliable baseload electricity to Nucor’s scrap-based Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) steel mills.

The companies will also explore an expanded manufacturing partnership through which Nucor, the largest steel producer and recycler of any type of steel material in North America, would supply Econiq, its net-zero steel products, for NuScale projects.

For instance, the plate steel originally designed for use in offshore wind energy projects, may find a new market for use in fabrication of some of the components for NuScale’s SMRs.

sustainable steelThe significance of the company’s emphasis on the environmental angle for its net-zero steel products is that in October 2022 Nucor Corporation, Inc. signed off on a federal consent decree with EPA and DOJ agreeing to spend nearly $100 million to settle an environmental suit alleging that it failed to control the amount of pollution released from its steel factories in seven states. This is the largest and most comprehensive environmental settlement ever with a steel manufacturer.

Separately, the U.S. Department of Energy has identified emissions reductions in the steel manufacturing industry as an important step to reach net-zero by 2050.

The new agreement with Nucor strengthens NuScale’s partnership with the firm, which invested $15 million in NuScale in 2022, and highlights the growing global interest in SMRs among industrial leaders.

As part of the MOU between NuScale and Nucor, the companies will evaluate site suitability, transmission interconnection capabilities and capital costs for potential NuScale plants to be sited near and provide carbon free electricity to Nucor EAF steel mills. In addition, NuScale will study the feasibility of siting a manufacturing facility for NuScale Power Modules near a Nucor facility.

The use of NuScale SMRs to provide electricity to Nucor’s scrap-based Electric Arc Furnace (EAF) steel mills will potentially provide a second environmental benefit related to dealing with climate change. Depending on the steel mill(s) selected for NuScale SMRs, zero carbon electricity supplied by the nuclear reactors could replace electricity generated by fossil fuels resulting in significant reductions of CO2 emissions.

nucor steel plant locations

Nucor Steel Mill Locations. Map & Data: Nucor.

NuScale’s VOYGR power plants, which can be scaled in different plant configurations, up to 12 77 MWe SMRs, to produce up to 924 MWe of output, can be deployed for industrial applications as a reliable source of carbon-free energy.

“Nucor is committed to supporting the development of transformative technologies that will deploy safe, reliable, affordable, 24/7, base-load carbon free power, like NuScale’s VOYGR SMR plants,” said Leon Topalian, Chair, President and Chief Executive Officer of Nucor Corporation.

“Not only will Nucor’s partnership with NuScale help pave the way for a zero-carbon energy future for our nation, but we will be building this new generation with the cleanest steel products made anywhere in the world.”

Nucor stock closed on 5/15/23 at $140/share against a 52-week high of $182/share and a low of $$100/share. The firm has an estimated market capitalization of $35.3 billion.

& & &

Terrestrial Energy Awarded U.S. Department of Energy Grant for IMSR Licensing

nrc sealThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded Terrestrial Energy USA a regulatory assistance grant to support the company’s U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing program for the Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) plant, as part of the company’s strategy to secure a Standard Design Approval (SDA) under 10 CFR Part 52 in advance of commercial use.

“The industry funding opportunity vitally assists in reducing technical and economic challenges associated with current and future nuclear technologies,” said Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dr. Kathryn Huff.

“This final round of awards ($22M to ten firms) supports technological advancements to ensure nuclear energy keeps delivering emissions-free power for all Americans.”

The regulatory assistance grant to Terrestrial Energy is composed of $500,000 in DOE funds and a cost share by Terrestrial Energy of $226,482. According to an abstract of the scope of work, released by DOE, the objectives of this project are:

  • Complete and submit to the NRC a select set of IMSR® prelicensing topical reports that are essential to
    preparing an SDA application.
  • Facilitate a timely and efficient NRC review of each topical report.
  • Complete and submit revisions of each topical report incorporating feedback received from the NRC.
  • Obtain from the NRC, a Safety Evaluation for each topical report.
  • Initiate preparation of the SDA application for the Core-unit of the IMSR.

According to the abstract, successful completion of the project objectives will enable TEUSA to advance the development of its license application for an IMSR® Core-unit SDA. Additionally, it will provide the advanced reactor industry, including advanced SMR and microreactor design vendors, with a prelicensing framework he benefit of supporting the NRC’s efforts to develop a comprehensive regulatory framework for licensing non-LWR designs, and 4) provide valuable review opportunities for the NRC staff to exercise its review guidance.

CNSC  & NRC Progress

In April 2023, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) concluded, following a systematic and multi-year review against Canadian regulatory requirements, that there were no fundamental barriers to licensing the IMSR plant for Canadian commercial use. This was the first regulatory review of a nuclear plant using molten salt reactor technology and the first advanced, high-temperature fission technology to complete a review of this type.

Its successful completion supports Terrestrial Energy’s engagement with the NRC and enables future collaboration between the U.S. and Canadian nuclear regulatory agencies.

In June 2022, the NRC and the CNSC completed a joint technical review of IMSR as part of the 2019 inter-agency Memorandum of Cooperation to accelerate the licensing of Generation IV nuclear plants for commercial use. The agreement’s collaborative technical reviews aim to increase regulatory effectiveness as well as reaffirm the agencies’ commitment to safety and security.

“The Department of Energy’s support for our IMSR licensing program with the NRC is well timed. It follows the successful completion last month of an extensive multi-year review of the IMSR plant design against Canadian regulatory standards. The experiences and engineering capabilities we developed over that extensive regulatory engagement are consequential to our business,” said Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy. “This DOE regulatory assistance grant helps accelerate our NRC licensing activities.”


Low Enriched Fuel is a Competitive Advantage

The IMSR plant is designed to use standard assay Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) civilian nuclear fuel, enriched to less than 5 percent, thereby avoiding the need for High Assay LEU (HALEU) fuel. This assures a stable supply of fuel essential for a fleet of IMSR plants operating in the 2030s and increases the IMSR’s international regulatory acceptance. Terrestrial Energy is developing its fuel supply program with Springfields Fuel (Westinghouse) in the UK and Orano in France.

The DOE grant to the firm is part of a series of projects that are funded through the Office of Nuclear Energy’s industry funding opportunity announcement (iFOA). Since 2018, the iFOA has invested more than $230 million into 48 projects from 31 different companies across 18 states. To date, 28 of the selected projects have successfully been completed. This is the final round of awards DOE will make through this funding opportunity.

& & &

AECL, CNL and Global First Power to Build Micro Reactor at Chalk River site

global firstAtomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and Global First Power (GFP) are announce that GFP has selected a location at the Chalk River Laboratories to site its proposed Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR) project. (Technical details)

GFP is proposing to construct and operate a 15 MWt/5 MWe MMR plant at the Chalk River campus that would serve as a model for future small modular reactor (SMR) deployments to support remote and industrial applications.

The demonstration reactor technology, developed by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), is designed to provide a clean energy solution to displace fossil fuel use and support Canada’s climate change targets. The energy output of the MMR makes it well suited for application in off-grid remote communities and industrial sites.

The site of the proposed MMR demonstration reactor is currently a CNL staff parking lot that will be repurposed to accommodate the new facility. By selecting this location, GFP will have good access to campus utilities and to CNL’s many technical and operational support services.

The nearby site also has the potential to benefit CNL once the reactor is operational, who may be able to leverage the energy that is produced by the reactor in order to better operate the campus and conduct related research activities.

GFP’s proposal is also subject to regulatory processes and requirements, which are independent of CNL’s rigorous review and evaluation process. GFP has submitted an application for a License to Prepare Site to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and an environmental assessment for the project is underway.

&  & &

16 Firms Including Mitsubishi Make $74M Bet on Fusion Power in Japan

A consortium of public- and private-sector groups in Japan will invest in a startup working to commercialize fusion power. Sixteen companies, including Mitsubishi Corp., Kansai Electric Power Co., and a government-affiliated fund will invest 10 billion yen ($73.6 million) in the startup begun at Kyoto University. The investment support fusion work by Tokyo-based Kyoto Fusioneering.

In addition, Mitsui & Co., J-Power, Inpex and 10 other companies, including MUFG Bank and JIC Venture Growth Investments, a government-affiliated fund, have subscribed to the startup’s private share placement.

The startup will use the funds raised to establish technology enabling stable operation of a fusion reactor. In 2024, a small-scale experimental fusion reactor plant will be built in Japan to determine whether gyrotrons and other devices can perform over extended periods. The company will also hire an additional engineers, brining the total to 300 technical staff. The investment will be used to accelerate the development of fusion power. The all-Japanese consortium seeks to compete globally for market share.

Kyoto Eng Fusion Plant Concept

Kyoto Fusioneering Plant Concept: Image: Kyoto Fusion

Competition is in the private sector. According to a July 2022 report by the U.S. Fusion Industry Association, there are now more than 30 fusion-related companies worldwide, with funding totaling more than $4.8 billion raised in 2022.

kyoto gyrotron

Kyoto Gyrotron System Concept: Image: Kyoto Fusion

UKAEA Collaboration

Kyoto Fusioneering employs advanced plasma-heating equipment called gyrotrons (plasma heating system). These are key components for creating nuclear fusion reactions and the company is a world leader in their development. Its technological sophistication has won the company an order from the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority.

The first project will involve the development of a ‘fusion-grade’ silicon carbide composite system (SiC/SiC), suitable for use as a structural material inside a fusion machine and to understand its stability under simulated fusion conditions.

The use of SiC/SiC composites within the breeder blanket of a fusion machine will increase the efficiency and commercial viability of fusion power stations by providing a material that operates at high-temperatures and is resistant to neutron damage. The Self-Cooled Yuryo Lithium Lead Advanced (SCYLLA) blanket developed by KF is compatible with the lithium-lead based coolant and fuel breeding fluids. Novel materials enable compatibility with the corrosive lithium lead.

& & &

Westinghouse Submits AP300 SMR Regulatory Engagement Plan to NRC

  • Key Document Outlines Path Forward Toward Design Certification

(NucNet contributed to this report) Tag Cloud for US NRCFollowing up on its release of news May 4th of a design of a 300 MW SMR using LWR engineering principles based on the full size AP1000, Westinghouse Electric Company announced the submission of its pre-application Regulatory Engagement Plan to the NRC for the new reactor. (ML23124A015)

The engagement plan outlines the pre-application activities Westinghouse will have with NRC staff to support the AP300 SMR licensing. It documents the basic design philosophy of the AP300 technology, an overview of the proposed licensing approach, and a timeline for the planned pre-application interactions between the NRC and Westinghouse, with the goal of soliciting NRC feedback on noteworthy topics.

wec smr

Westinghouse has launched what it calls a “game-changer” AP300 small modular reactor, a scaled-down version of its AP1000 reactor, with a goal for the first one to deliver power to the grid within a decade. (WNN)

The firm asserts that it will complete licensing of the AP300 by the end of 2027 and be ready to offer it to customer of a cost of about $1 billion per unit.   It is unclear how mature the design of the reactor is so far.

However, given the 42 month NRC process for completing the review of a new reactor, a 2027 completion date suggests the firm would need to submit its formal application to the agency by mid-2024. Westinghouse has said in media statements that since the AP300 is based on the design of the AP1000 that licensing will go smoothly.  So far, according to an ADAMS search in the NRC library, only the regulatory engagement plan has been filed with the agency.

Assuming the firm meets its self-imposed time to market milestone, some customers placing their first orders for single units may have in mind multi-unit power stations using the SMR.

As prudent investors, these customer will likely want to see the actual cost of building the reactors and have operational data that they can be operated at a profit before placing orders for second or third units.

“Basing the AP300 SMR on an Nth-of-a-kind operating reactor is a key differentiator for our SMR technology, and the work we are undertaking with the NRC should minimize regulatory complexity and create a timely and efficient path for the licensing of the AP300 SMR design,” said David Durham, Energy Systems President for Westinghouse.

Durham added that basing the AP300 SMR on an nth-of-a-kind operating reactor is a key differentiator. He said the work Westinghouse undertaking with the NRC should minimize regulatory complexity and create an efficient path for the licensing of the AP300 SMR design.

There are four Westinghouse AP1000 units in commercial operation, two at Sanmen in China and two at Haiyang in China, with six more under construction in China. Two are nearing commercial operation at Vogtle in the US state of Georgia.

Westinghouse’s Generation III+ advanced technology has regulatory approval in the US, Great Britain and China, and compliance with European Utility Requirements (EUR) standards for nuclear power plants. Durham said that these approvals will speed up acceptance of the reactor in global markets.

& & &

Great Lakes Clean Hydrogen Hub Coalition Submits Application for DOE Funding

The Great Lakes Clean Hydrogen Hub coalition (GLCH) has submitted an application for federal funding from the $8 billion U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) program to support the creation of regional clean hydrogen hubs under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

GLCH’s full application details a $2 billion plan to create a clean hydrogen hub to serve Ohio, Michigan, and portions of Pennsylvania and Indiana. The proposed hub will use carbon-free nuclear power to produce clean hydrogen at a competitive cost. It contains a target of achieving full production of 100+ metric tonnes of hydrogen per day.

Markets for hydrogen from nuclear energy

Markets for Hydrogen from Nuclear Energy. Image: DOE

By creating a supply of clean hydrogen, GLCH aims to help major industries across the Midwest to decarbonize. It will also serve the hydrogen needs of the growing mobility market (including trucking, transit buses, rail, aviation, and marine) as it transitions to a zero-emission future. The hub is expected to benefit local communities through stakeholder engagement, job creation, and workforce partnerships and investments, particularly in disadvantaged communities.

GLCH is led by Linde (NYSE: LIN), as the prime applicant, and includes Energy Harbor, Cleveland-Cliffs Inc. (NYSE: CLF), GE Aerospace, the University of Toledo, and the Glass Manufacturing Industry Council.

GLCH includes diverse companies with “shovel-ready” opportunities to replace fossil fuels with clean hydrogen.  It has been actively working with the states of Ohio and Michigan, technology suppliers, hydrogen consumers, state and regional academic institutions, national laboratories, and nonprofit organizations.

& & &

Italy / Parliament Votes In Favor Of Return To Nuclear Power

(NucNet) The Italian parliament has backed the government’s plan to include nuclear in the country’s energy mix as part of its decarbonization efforts after the country abandoned its nuclear program nearly four decades ago.

In a press statement the Italian energy ministry said, “We will now discuss with our European partners and evaluate how to include it in the national energy mix of the next decades with the aim of achieving, also with the help of nuclear power, the decarbonization objectives set by the European Union.”

The motion passed in the Italian parliament calls on the country’s center-right ruling coalition, led by prime minister Giorgia Meloni, to examine nuclear energy as part of the national energy mix. It says Italy could have a nuclear capacity of 35 GW from seven plants by 2050.

The motion did not commit to a financial plan to pay for the reactors. The ambitious plan could involve as many as ten 3.3 GWe dual 1,650 MWe EPR PWR type reactors. The astronomical cost, at $6,000/Kw, would be about $10 billion per reactor or $100 billion for the entire fleet. Assuming the country built the fleet over a 20-to-30 year year period, it could spread the cost of investing in nuclear power at a rate of $5 billion a year.

Could the country afford a two-to-three decade long new build at a cost of $100 billion? The world’s eighth-largest GDP belongs to Italy. It is also the eurozone’s third-largest economy. (World Bank data)

A key problem would be upfront development of a supply chain that could sustain that level of construction as well as recruitment of the necessary skilled workforce to build the reactor fleet at the this scale.

Italy would also have to re-establish the government’s ability to license and conduct safety oversight of the construction and eventual operation of the reactors.

While the government said it was open to “European and international” initiatives,  France’s EDF will push hard to re-establish itself as the preferred vendor for the new build.

The government said it will also consider Generation IV small modular reactors and examine incentives for research into nuclear fission reactors.

Since she took office late last year, Italian PM Meloni has openly supported the reactivation of the country’s long-shuttered nuclear power plants.

A key element of the legislative measure is that nuclear utilities would be guaranteed the sale of all their production through auctions and contracts dedicated to low-carbon technologies, with consequent reductions of financial costs and some degree of certainty regarding rates of return.

A Pioneering Nuclear History

Italy was a pioneer of nuclear power and had four commercial nuclear plants – Caorso, Enrico Fermi, Garigliano and Latina – providing almost 5% of the country’s electricity production share at their peak in 1986-1987.

Italy shut down the last of the plants, Caorso and Enrico Fermi, in July 1990 following a referendum in the wake of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

In January the Italian Nuclear Association said Italy needs to develop a national energy policy that includes restarting its nuclear power program as it seeks to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and imports from Russia.

Roberto Adinolfi, president of Italy-based nuclear technology company Ansaldo Nucleare, said that despite Italy having no operating nuclear power plants since 1990, “the Italian nuclear supply chain is among the most important in Europe, it is highly competitive and it’s taking part in several European and international projects.”

Luca Oriani, senior vice-president of engineering services at Westinghouse said several critical components and safety systems for nuclear power stations are produced and assembled in Italy, including those for Westinghouse’s AP1000 plants.

& & &

EPRI, NEI Release Roadmap for Advanced Reactor Deployment

EPRI and the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) jointly released the first phase of their Advanced Reactor Roadmap at the Nuclear Energy Assembly. The roadmap outlines an achievable path for the successful deployment of advanced reactors as part of the clean energy transition. (full report)

Advanced nuclear reactors encompass several designs and have the capability to deliver affordable, reliable, and resilient, power from a zero-carbon emissions energy source.

The roadmap comprises three sections:

  • Outlining a recommended approach to help the nuclear industry fully realize the potential value of advanced reactors
  • Discussing seven enablers for large-scale deployment of advanced reactor technologies, including conditions related to policy, regulatory, and public acceptance
  • Establishing ownership and implementation targets for 45 key actions necessary for delivering advanced reactors into the market; the actions address strategic priorities, including licensing, fuel cycle, supply chain, construction, operation, and workforce development.

Specific actions outlined in the roadmap include engaging with governments to ensure a stable supply of enriched fuel; providing recommendations to enable more timely and efficient reviews and approvals of advanced reactors by U.S. and Canadian regulators; developing specific programs to create a skilled labor workforce for both existing and new reactors; and ensuring the industry is prepared to execute the first deployment projects.

Multiple stakeholders were engaged in developing the roadmap to ensure it reflected various perspectives, including advanced reactor developers, suppliers, utilities, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, NGOs and national laboratories. An industry steering group composed of industry leaders will be formed to assess the status of action items from the roadmap and ensure their completion.

The roadmap’s first phase is focused on North America, and additional phases will be focused on other global regions.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

X-Energy, DOW Select Texas Site for SMR Power Plant

  • X-Energy, DOW Select Texas Site for SMR Power Plant
  • X-energy Seeks Financing from South Korea Export-Import Bank
  • NuScale to Build South Korea’s First SMR to Produce Hydrogen
  • NRC Issues License to Holtec for Spent Nuclear Fuel Interim Storage Facility in New Mexico
  • Micronuclear Selects Premier Technology To Manufacture Its Molten Salt Nuclear Battery
  • Nuclear Fusion / Helion Announces World’s First Purchase Agreement with Microsoft

X-Energy, DOW Select Texas Site for SMR Power Plant

Dow (NYSE: DOW), the world’s leading materials science company, and X-Energy Reactor Company, LLC, a developer of advanced nuclear reactors and fuel technology for clean energy generation, announced that Dow has selected its Seadrift Operations manufacturing site in Texas for its proposed advanced small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear project. The project is focused on providing the Seadrift site with safe, reliable, zero carbon emissions power and steam as existing fossil fuel energy and steam assets near their end-of-life.

The plant is located 150 miles southwest of Houston, TX, on the Gulf Coast of Texas at the southwest end of Matagorda Bay. The plant is the second largest DOW facility of its kind in Texas.

Dow said in a press statement that Seadrift site’s power and steam needs match capabilities of X-energy’s Xe-100 small modular reactor. The next step is that Dow and X-energy will prepare and submit construction permit applications to the NRC. According to the press statement, the project expected to be complete by the end of the decade. The project is expected to reduce the Seadrift site’s emissions by approximately 440,000 MT CO2e/year.

In March 2023 Dow and X-energy announced their entry into a joint development agreement (JDA) to install an advanced SMR nuclear plant at an industrial site in North America. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) named Dow a sub-awardee under X-energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) cost sharing cooperative agreement. 

The JDA provides for up to $50 million in engineering work, up to half of which is eligible to be funded through ARDP, and the other half by Dow. Dow also said it intends to take a minority equity stake in X-energy.

X-energy was selected by the DOE in 2020 to develop, license, build, and demonstrate an operational advanced reactor and fuel fabrication facility by the end of the decade. Since that award, X-energy has completed the engineering and basic design of the nuclear reactor.

Dow and X-energy will now prepare and submit a Construction Permit application to the  Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which is an important milestone for the project. Construction on the four-reactor project is expected to begin in 2026 and to be completed by the end of this decade. An operating license will be required from the NRC for the plant to enter revenue service.

The XE-100 SMR is an advanced reactor based on the GEN-IV high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR) design. Each unit is expected to produce 80 MWe of electrical power and 200 MWt thermal. TRISO fuel uses inert helium to transfer heat to the steam systems. The reactor is designed for a 60-year operational life. The Xe-100 would use HALEU enriched to 19.75 percent U-235. X-Energy is building its own fuel fabrication plant at an estimated cost of about $300 million near Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Dow’s Seadrift site covers 4,700 acres, employs over 1,200 people and manufactures more than four million pounds of materials per year used across a wide variety of applications including food packaging and preservation, footwear, wire and cable insulation, solar cell membranes, and packaging for medical and pharmaceutical products.

Jim Fitterling, Dow chairman and chief executive officer, said using X-energy’s Generation IV nuclear technology will enable Dow to take a major step in reducing its carbon emissions while delivering lower carbon footprint products to our customers and society.

“The collaboration with X-energy and the DOE will serve as a leading example of how the industrial sector can safely, effectively and affordably decarbonize.” 

Other Recent Developments

Separately, in July 2022, X-energy and Ontario Power Generation signed an agreement to look for opportunities to deploy the Xe-100 reactor at industrial sites in Ontario and identify further potential end users and sites throughout Canada. In July 2020 X-Energy kicked off a combined Phase 1 & Phase 2 vendor design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

Last December the X-Energy Reactor Company, LLC, and Ares Acquisition Corporation (NYSE:AAC), a publicly-traded special purpose acquisition company, announced that they have entered into a definitive business combination agreement.

The combination will establish X-Energy as a publicly-traded developer of an advanced small modular reactor (SMR) and proprietary TRISO fuel. X-Energy’s entry into the public markets is expected to accelerate its growth strategy through additional investment opportunities. 

& & &

X-energy Seeks Financing for Xe-100 SMR from South Korea Export-Import Bank

X-Energy has signed an agreement with the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) to obtain project financing for the deployment of its Xe-100 advanced small modular reactor (SMR). The bank will work with X-energy to provide financing for new or existing projects that utilize South Korean manufacturing and supply chain partners.

The engagement with the bank follows recently announced partnerships between X-energy and major Korean conglomerates Doosan and DL E&C. Both companies are expected to play significant roles in developing and manufacturing key components and systems for the Xe-100.

Doosan Enerbility started a collaboration with X-energy in 2021 by participating in the design of an SMR with high-temperature gas promoted by X-energy. In January, the company further strengthened cooperation with X-energy by signing an agreement to make an equity investment in X-energy and supply core equipment to X-energy.


X-energy CEO J Clay Sell said, “Our Korean partners bring deep nuclear expertise and track strong records to support the successful deployment of our advanced nuclear technology on a global scale.”

Kexim Chairman & President Hee-sung Yoon said through the business agreement with X-energy, “we expect business opportunities of Korean companies to expand in various areas of the next-generation SMR field beyond water-cooled reactors.”

& & &

NuScale to Build South Korea’s First SMR to Produce Hydrogen

NuScale Power Corp. is expected to build its first small modular reactor (SMR) plant in South Korea in Uljin, which is already home to Korean nuclear power plants.

GS Energy Corp., an energy unit of GS Group that is NuScale’s Korean partner, has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) supporting development of a national nuclear hydrogen industrial complex in Uljin (map). The main focus of the agreement is the construction of NuScale Power’s SMR plant inside the complex. It is a coastal town on the country’s eastern seaboard about 135 miles southeast of Seoul.

A Uljin County government official said GS Energy and Uljin County will together aim to lead carbon neutrality and promote sustainable economic growth in the face of the global climate crisis while enhancing energy security through their partnership. 

“We have chosen NuScale Power’s SMR because it is considered the world’s safest SMR,” Uljin County Governor Sohn Byong-bok said in a telephone interview with The Korea Economic Daily.

“Our goal is to build an industrial complex centered around nuclear and hydrogen energy by recruiting more hydrogen companies that can benefit from an SMR plant, the primary role of which is to supply eco-friendly power to the industrial complex.” 

Once NuScale Power’s SMR is built, it is expected to provide power mainly to run the nuclear hydrogen industrial complex, which has been under construction on a 1,580,000-square-meter (400 acres) site in Uljin since last year for an investment of 400 billion won ($300 million).

Uljin County plans to build an SMR plant with six 77 MWe SMR modules which can generate 462 MWe, enough to power 900,000 four-person households. Its construction is projected to be completed by 2030 when the industrial park is slated to open.

The construction of its SMR plant in Korea would kick off in 2028, considering that it is projected to take about five years to get approval for its construction from the Korean government. GS Energy will operate it once the SMR plant is completed.

Other Korean companies are also expected to join the NuScale Power SMR project in Korea. Doosan Enerbility Co., Korea’s major power plant engineering company, and Samsung C&T Corp., a construction and engineering company of Samsung Group, will likely build the SMRs, based on NuScale Power’s technology, along with related non-nuclear balance of plant and facilities.

Doosan Enerbility has become a major stakeholder of NuScale Power after investing $140 million, while Samsung C&T and GS Energy, respectively, invested $70 million and $40 million.

Uljin is already the site of nuclear power plants. The Shin Hanul unit 1, the country’s 27th nuclear reactor located in Uljin, entered revenue service in December 2022. The Shin Hanul unit 1 is based on APR-1400, an advanced pressurized water nuclear reactor considered Korea’s next-generation reactor model. The Shin Hanul unit 2, located next to the unit 1, is due to be completed in September this year, while two more reactors, also based on the APR-1400 design, the Shin Haunl 3 and 4, are under construction in Uljin.

& & &

NRC Issues License to Holtec International for Nuclear Fuel Interim Storage Facility in New Mexico

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a license to Holtec International to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel near Hobbs, NM.

The license, issued May 9, authorizes the company to receive, possess, transfer and store 500 canisters holding approximately 8,680 metric tonnes of commercial spent nuclear fuel for 40 years. The company said it plans to eventually store up to 10,000 canisters in an additional 19 phases. Each expansion phase would require a license amendment with additional NRC safety and environmental reviews.

The spent fuel must be stored in canisters and cask systems certified by the NRC as meeting standards for protection against leakage, radiation dose rates, and criticality under normal and accident conditions. The canisters are required to be sealed prior to arrival at the facility. They will be inspected upon arrival and will remain sealed during onsite handling and storage activities.

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. A final environmental impact statement was published last July and supplemented in October. The environmental study included extensive public input during its development and during the comment phase. The adjudication resolved contentions filed by several local and national petitioners.

The NRC has previously issued similar licenses for away-from-reactor storage installations. Private Fuel Storage received a license in 2006, but was never constructed. The NRC issued a license in September 2021 to Interim Storage Partners LLC for a proposed storage site in Andrews, Texas. ISP has not yet initiated construction. 

Reuters reported that a New Mexico state law that goes into effect on June 15 could complicate Holtec’s plans. It bans storage of the waste, until the state agrees to handle it and until the federal government figures out permanent storage. Similar legislation in Texas was passed in an effort to stop work on the spent fuel site planned for Andrews, TX. Both states have sued in federal court in efforts to overturn the NRC licenses.

The Biden administration prefers a consent-based siting of nuclear waste facilities in which local communities are involved in the site selection process. DOE’s effort is ongoing with no specific sites under consideration.

“What a path forward and timeline looks like is still to be determined,” said Pat O’Brien, a Holtec spokesperson. O’Brien said “strong local support” from New Mexico counties solidifies its belief the project is viable.

& & &

Micronuclear Selects Premier Technology To Manufacture Its Molten Salt Nuclear Battery

MicroNuclear, LLC, based in Brentwood, TN, has selected Premier Technology, Inc. of Blackfoot, ID to manufacture its Molten Salt Nuclear Battery. The Molten Salt Nuclear Battery (MsNB) is a microreactor designed to generate heat and electricity.  Nuclear batteries are typically very small nuclear reactors with electrical output in the range of 1-10 MWe.

The MsNB was conceived by Tennessee-based MicroNuclear LLC’s Dr. Paul Marotta, CTO Dr. Richard Christensen, and Idaho National Laboratory Research Scientist Piyush Sabharwall. 

The MsNB design is based upon the successful molten salt reactor experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1960s. It is referred to as a battery because it is manufactured in a factory, transported to the site, installed, and at the end of its 10-year life, is simply replaced with a new MsNB.

Richard Christensen, CTO of MicroNuclear, said, “Premier Technology, Inc. has partnered with MicroNuclear since the beginning of our effort to develop the molten salt nuclear battery. They have fabricated the electrically heated prototypes as per our specifications and have materially added to the design by bringing their expertise in manufacturing to bear. 

Doug Sayer, Founder of Premier Technology, said, “Premier Technology has spent more than a decade preparing our team, facilities, and equipment to be ready to support the needs of reactor developers and researchers. We are honored to support MicroNuclear with their efforts to deploy the Molten Salt Nuclear Battery.”

About Premier Technology

Premier Technology, Inc. is a privately held small business, serving a wide range of global industries with innovative design, engineering, custom fabrication, system integration, and field installation support. Premier Technology is a full-service design to delivery provider, with a customer base in the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, commercial nuclear, food processing, and mining industries.

Last December, Premier was selected by Idaho National Laboratory as the metal fabricator for the Department of Energy’s Microreactor Applications Research Validation and Evaluation (MARVEL) sodium-potassium cooled test microreactor that will generate 100-kilowatts of thermal power.

About the Molten Salt Nuclear Battery

The MsNB is a molten mix of nuclear fuel and a chemical salt. It uses fluoride salt because of its desirable characteristics when mixed with either uranium or plutonium fuel. The MsNB uses natural circulation, moving the molten salt nuclear fuel through the reactor without the need for pumps, valves, or coolant loops, enhancing safety, reliability, and reducing cost.

The MsNB is compact, will be factory produced, and transportable. It can be installed in critical infrastructure such as municipal buildings, hospitals, military bases, and is ideal for industrial applications, desalination facilities, hydrogen production, and remote towns, providing reliable, sustained, and uninterrupted energy.

& & &

Nuclear Fusion / Helion Announces World’s First Purchase Agreement with Microsoft

Plant could be providing technology giant with power by the end of the decade

(NucNet) US-based Helion Energy has announced an agreement to provide Microsoft electricity from its first nuclear fusion power plant. It is the first power purchase agreement for a fusion plant. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Helion, a privately held fusion research company founded in 2013 and based in Everett, Washington, said the plant is expected to be online by 2028 and will target power generation of 50 MWe or greater after a one-year ramp up period.

The planned operational date for this first-of-its-kind facility is significantly sooner than typical projections for deployment of commercial fusion power. Many of the leading fusion developers project commercial versions of their designs to be ready for customers in the mid-to-late 2030s. Also, the hot spot for commercial fusion work globally isn’t in the US. It is at the UKAEA site in Culham near Oxford University. In the US Commonwealth Fusion opened its Devon, MA, campus in February 2023 which will be the home of the first commercial scale plant for its design. Construction actually began in December 2022. So far the firm has reported public investment of more than $2 billion in four rounds.

Helion has so far raised more than $570M in private capital, but still needs design and construction approvals from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, as well as local permits, before it can break ground at a site in Everett, WA.

Both Commonwealth and Helion will have a bit of a wait as the NRC is a long way from issuing regulations to license fusion power plants in the US. The agency is officially skeptical that it will see any viable designs coming in for review in the near term. In February 2023 NRC Chair Christopher Hanson said the “precise future” for fusion in the USA is uncertain. Paradoxically, Helion praised the statement at the time calling it a “clear and effective regulatory path” for fusion.

Helion also said that Baltimore, Maryland-based Constellation will serve as the power marketer and will provide power and transmission needs for “the nation’s first fusion power plant.”

Helion said the development of a commercial fusion power facility is a crucial step in the transition to a sustainable energy future. It will help Microsoft to achieve its goal of being carbon negative by 2030 and support the development of a new clean energy source.

“This collaboration represents a significant milestone for Helion and the fusion industry as a whole,” said Helion chief executive officer David Kirtley. 

“We are grateful for the support of a visionary company like Microsoft. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are confident in our ability to deliver the world’s first fusion power facility.”

Brad Smith, Microsoft president and vice-chair, said the multinational technology company is optimistic that fusion energy can be an important technology to help the world transition to clean energy.

“Helion’s announcement supports our own long term clean energy goals and will advance the market to establish a new, efficient method for bringing more clean energy to the grid, faster,” Smith said.

Helion said it has been advancing its fusion technology for more than a decade. The company has built six working prototypes and was the first private fusion company to reach 100-million-degree plasma temperatures with its sixth fusion prototype.

The company is building its seventh prototype, known as Polaris, which is expected to demonstrate the ability to produce electricity in 2024.

A Different Approach To Fusion

The company says its approach to fusion does three major things differently from other fusion approaches. It uses a pulsed non-ignition fusion system, which helps overcome the hardest physics challenges, keeps the fusion device smaller than other approaches, and allows adjustments in power output based on need.

Like regenerative braking in an electric car, the system is built to directly recover electricity. Other fusion systems heat water to create steam to turn a turbine which loses a lot of energy in the process.

Helion uses deuterium and helium-3 as fuel. Helium-3 is a cleaner, higher-octane fuel, which helps keep the system small and efficient. 

According to Helion, its fusion power will be one of the lowest cost sources of electricity with a production cost of $0.01 per kWh without assuming any economies of scale from mass production, carbon credits, or government incentives. According to Helion, its fusion power will be one of the lowest cost sources of electricity. 

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on X-Energy, DOW Select Texas Site for SMR Power Plant

Westinghouse to Develop a 300 MW Light Water SMR

  • Westinghouse to Develop a 300 MW Light Water SMR
  • NuScale in Talks with the Philippines on SMRs
  • USNC to Offer Advanced HTGR Reactor to Philippines
  • NPCIL Signs Agreement For Six New 700 MW PHWR Nuclear Reactors
  • Dutch Government Allocates Significant New Funding for Its Nuclear Program
  • Norway Startup Signs Agreements With Three Municipalities for SMRs
  • Jamaica Intends to Go Nuclear
  • France, Japan Sign Nuclear Partnership

Westinghouse to Develop a 300 MW Light Water SMR

Westinghouse Electric Company(WEC) has launched its newest nuclear technology, the AP300 small modular reactor (SMR), a 300-MW single-loop pressurized water reactor (PWR). The AP300 SMR design is scaled down from the 1,150 MW AP1000 reactor and is the only SMR based on an operating plant with, and this is significant, having multiple units in revenue service. The AP300 SMR will utilize identical systems to the larger AP1000 reactor albeit at a scaled down size.

The Westinghouse strategy follows a path blazed by GE-Hitachi (GEH) with its 300MW BWRX-300 which is based on the 1,500 MW ESBWR that received NRC certification in 2014. In terms of strategic differences, while several US utilities received COLs from the NRC to proceed with new nuclear projects using the ESBWR, none ever actually built them. On the other hand, GEH has inked deals for the BWRX-300 with the Tennessee Valley Authority in the US and Ontario Power Generation in Canada. It has market prospects in Poland with private firms.

Competitive Space for SMRS

Both GEH and Westinghouse are competing head-to-head in Europe, and especially the UK with the Rolls-Royce 470 MW PWR that this year began the complex and expensive generic design assessment with the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation.

The front runner in terms of SMRs continues to be NuScale which plans to build six 77 MW LWR type (462 MW) type SMRS for UAMPS, a consortium of electric utilities, at a site in eastern Idaho. The 77 MW design is based on a 50 MW plant design certified by the NRC and will need regulatory approval to proceed.

Lagging behind these efforts is Holtec, a privately held firm based in Jupiter, FL, which has a 160 MW LWR type design that is currently in pre-licensing work with the NRC. The firm recently signed an MOU with EnergoAtom in Ukraine for multiple units, but with the uncertainty of the war effort, and a long regulatory road ahead in the US with the NRC, the firm has limited prospects for catching up with its competition.

About the AP300

The AP300 SMR features an compact footprint. Westinghouse released a conceptual drawing of a typical single unit plant. While architectural renditions like the one below, released by Westinghouse, make for pretty pictures, the more likely scenario is a multi-plant facility. For instance, GEH plans to build two or three of its BWRX-300 SMRs at TVA’s Clinch River site. OPG has similar plans for multiple units at the Darlington site.

wec aerial
WEC is on the money that shrinking the size of the safety-related footprint leads directly to cost savings and reduced construction time. WEC adds that once its order book has enough ink on it, the SMRs will be built in a “modularized” construction process.

The firm notes that the effort to downsize the design from the AP1000 scale of 1150 MW will rely on re-engineering major equipment, structural components, passive safety, proven fuel, and I&C systems. Another advantage, once the firm clears regulatory review and sales come in, is that the AP300 will bring be able to draw on a mature supply chain, lessons learned, fast load-follow capabilities and proven O&M procedures and best practices from 18 reactor years of safe AP1000 operations.

wec 2
Another feature of the AP300 is the safety feature that Westinghouse pioneered which is an advanced passive safety system that automatically achieves safe shutdown without operator action and eliminates the need for backup power and cooling supply. This also directly translates into a simplified design, lower CAPEX and smaller footprint. Like the AP1000, the AP300 is designed to operate for an 80+ year life cycle.

Westinghouse will fabricate the LWR type fuel for the SMR at its US plant in South Carolina. If it succeeds in booking export sales to Europe, the firm’s nuclear fuel plant in Sweden will be part of the supply chain there.

Regulatory Heritage Will Help

In its press statement the firm notes that the AP300 SMR design utilizes Westinghouse’s Gen III+ advanced technology, which has regulatory approval in the U.S., Great Britain and China, as well as compliance with European Utility Requirements (EUR) standards for nuclear power plants.

This brings licensing advantages and substantially reduces delivery risk for customers in the utility, oil & gas and industrial space. The firm estimates that NRC design certification is anticipated by 2027, followed by site specific licensing, and start of construction on the first unit toward the end of the decade. Given the 42 month long approval process for the NRC, and working backwards, this suggests the design for the AP300 may be nearly done as the firm would have to submit its application by the end of this year or early 2024 to meet these milestones.

It is in any case an ambitious program driven by the competition and the likelihood of customers drawn to the Westinghouse nameplate. David Durham, Westinghouse’s president of energy systems, told a press conference the company is in discussions with customers and has been for a while, but “I won’t name them. We also envision there will be non-utility customers who want to get off the grid and decarbonize.”

Baranwal to Spearhead AP300 Effort

Westinghouse has named Dr. Rita Baranwal, currently WEC’s Chief Technology Officer, to Senior Vice President in the Energy Systems business unit, to lead the team developing the AP300 SMR.

Baranwal is the former Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, with decades of experience in the nuclear energy field including as director of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative at Idaho National Lab.

Baranwal said the reactor will not use special fuels or liquid metal coolants unlike some other next-generation reactors. For this reason it will not depend on HALEU fuel being available which is enriched to between 5-19% U235. The WEC AP300 will use low enriched fuel at less than 5% U235. In an interview with the Reuters wire service, Barawall said she is confident about the SMRs prospects.

“We’ve kept it simple, designed it on demonstrated and licensed technology, and I think that’s one of the advantages that we have with this concept. Our plans are to start constructing the reactor by 2030 and have it running by 2033.”

Baranwal did not reveal how much the first reactor would cost, but said later units would cost about $1 billion. This is about on par with cost estimates released by GEH for its BWRX300.

The company, located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said it has had informal talks with parties in neighboring states Ohio and West Virginia about the potential building of AP300s at the sites of former coal plants.

In terms of global market prospects, Baranwal mentioned marketing efforts in Europe. She told Reuters the company is not sure yet whether the technology can be exported to China. Baranwal said if the U.S. government designates AP300 to be a subset of the earlier reactor technology “then we can start entertaining the possibilities” of exporting it to China.”

Patrick Fragman, President and CEO of Westinghouse added, “The launch of the AP300 SMR rounds out the Westinghouse portfolio of reactor technology, allowing us to deliver on the full needs of our customers globally, with a clear line of sight on schedule of delivery, and economics.”

According to press materials released by Westinghouse, the AP300 SMR offers reliable, safe and clean electricity, as well as additional applications for district heating and water desalination. Its fast load-follow capabilities make it ideally suited for integration with renewable resources. It will also pave the way toward the hydrogen economy by enabling cost-effective, clean production of hydrogen integrated with the plant. The firm also noted its small size makes it an ideal choice to replace coal-fired power plants while taking advantage of the other infrastructure already in place at these sites.

History of the AP1000

WEC has made a rather big deal, perhaps justified, out of the technical basis for the AP300. There are four Westinghouse AP1000 units in commercial operation, two at Sanmen in China and two at Haiyang in China, with six more under construction in China. Two AP1000s are nearing completion at Vogtle in the US in Georgia.

In terms of the Georgia plants, when they were approved, the two 1,117-megawatt Westinghouse AP1000 reactors were expected to cost about $14 billion and enter service in 2016 and 2017. The current estimated total costs, including financing, have more than doubled to exceed $30 billion. The causes include delays related to the coronavirus pandemic, difficult problems with supply chains, and many first of a kind issues with building the two plants. Both units are now expected to enter revenue service this year.

Two AP1000 units that started construction in South Carolina were terminated prior to completion due in part to mismanagement and also criminal wrong doing by project managers.

Two SCANA utility executives and one from WEC have pleaded guilty to felony charges related to covering up project delays and cost over runs. Westinghouse fired all of the executives charged with criminal wrong doing and cooperated with federal prosecutors plus it paid a $21M fine for its role in the collapse of the project which left rate payers with a $9B debt.

Westinghouse declared bankruptcy and was subsequently purchased by a Canadian private equity firm which still owns a stake it, via a subsidiary, in along with Cameco, a Canadian uranium mining firm.

Taken together, the experiences in Georgia and South Carolina have likely convinced electric utilities in the US that building a full size reactor is simply too much of a “bet the company” risk. This is why interest in the less costly, less complicated, small modular reactors (SMRs) is such a red hot prospect not only in the US but also on a global basis.

Asked about the Vogtle project, Westinghouse CEO Patrick Fragman told the news media that when the project began the AP1000 design was not stable, the supply chain was not there and Westinghouse EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) role was “not really in our comfort zone because we are more a technology provider.”

The US had not built a new nuclear plant in decades and then COVID came, Fragman said. “We have taken hard lessons from this and we now have a very good line of sight on new AP1000s and new AP300s.”

& & &

NuScale in Talks with the Philippines on SMRs

(WNN)  US SMR developer NuScale Power is interested in investing in the Philippines, the country’s President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos said during a five-day visit to the USA. He said NuScale plans to conduct a siting study in the Philippines. A spokesman for the government said it is targeting completion of construction by 2031.

nuscale php

A meeting with NuScale was held in Washington, DC, on May 1st attended on the Philippine side by President Marcos, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Lagdameo, Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil and Philippine Ambassador to the USA Jose Manuel Romualdez.  (Photo: Philippine Gov’t)

Among the NuScale officials present were Clayton Scott, executive vice president for business, and Cheryl Collins, director for sales. NuScale was accompanied by Filipino partner Enrique Razon, representing Prime Infrastructure Capital Inc (Prime Infra).

The meeting followed initial discussions held in September last year in New York on the sidelines of Marcos’s participation at the United Nations General Assembly.

NuScale is partnering with Razon-led Prime Infrastructure Capital Inc. for the effort. Prime Infra has estimated that the future investment value of the project would be in the range of $6.5-to-$7.5 billion to provide 462MW to the country by the early 2030’s.

In response to the 1973 oil crisis, the Philippines decided to build the two-unit Bataan plant. Construction of Bataan 1 – a 621 MWe Westinghouse PWR – began in 1976 and it was completed in 1984 at a cost of $460 million. However, due to financial issues and safety concerns related to earthquakes, the plant was never loaded with fuel or operated. The plant has since been maintained and there have been multiple proposals over the years to complete it and put it in revenue service.

& & &

USNC to Offer Advanced HTGR Reactor to Philippines

According to English language press reports in Manila, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is considering using a “cutting-edge” micro nuclear fuel technology to address the country’s power woes. Marcos met with officials of US-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), an integrator of nuclear technologies and services in Seattle, Washington.

USNC FUELUSNC is developing a high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR) which is positioned as a “nuclear battery” designed to produce 5-10 MWe and 15-30 MWt using specially designed TRISO type fuel.

Francesco Venneri, CEO of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, expressed interest to bringing clean and reliable nuclear energy to the Philippines, which the firm is seriously considering for its first nuclear energy facility in Southeast Asia.

“We also note that there’s a great deal of discussion about Mindoro having blackouts and that might be an excellent….a good science [solution],” said Venneri.

The MMR is being licensed in Canada and the US and considered the first “fission battery” in commercialization. The company said it envisions the Philippines as its nuclear hub in the SE Asia region.

& & &

NPCIL Signs Agreement For Six New 700 MW PHWR Nuclear Reactors

  • New Delhi pushing ahead with ambitious plans for 10 plants

(NucNet) State-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Indian utility company the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) have signed a supplementary joint venture agreement to develop six nuclear power plants in the country.

They will build two plants at the Chutka nuclear power station in Madhya Pradesh state, central India and four plants at the Mahi Banswara nuclear station in the northern state of Rajasthan.

Press reports said the plants will be domestically developed Generation III 700-MW pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) known as the IPHWR-700. The IPHWR-700 was designed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre near Mumbai from earlier Candu 220 MW and 540 MW designs from Canada. In December 2022 India confirmed ambitious plans to build at least 10 more nuclear power plants to increase the production of clean energy.

India PHWR

Union minister of state for science and technology Jitendra Singh said the government had, in principle, given approval for five new locations for building nuclear power plants.

First Concrete At Kaiga Planned This Year

In March 2022, media reports in India said the first pour of concrete for two 700 MW IPHWRs at Kaiga in western India was scheduled in 2023, marking the start of a major project to build a fleet of 10 units over the next three years.

Officials of the Department of Atomic Energy earlier told a parliamentary panel on science and technology that after first concrete for Kaiga-5 and Kaiga-6, first concrete will follow for Mahi Banswara 1-4, Gorakhpur-3 and -4 in Haryana state and Chutka-1 and -2.

India, which relies on coal for about 48% of its energy generation, has 22 nuclear power plants in commercial operation and eight under construction – one 700 MW IPHWR at Kakrapar, four Russia-supplied VVERs at Kudankulam, two 700 MW IPHWRs at Rajasthan and the 47-MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) at Madras.

& & &

Dutch Government Allocates Significant New Funding for Its Nuclear Program

(WNN) In its draft Climate Fund for 2024, the Dutch government has budgeted funds totalling EUR320 million (USD352 million) for the development of nuclear energy. The funds will be used for the preparation of the operational extension of the existing Borssele nuclear power plant, the construction of two new large reactors, the development of small modular reactors (SMRs) and for nuclear skills development in the Netherlands.

Based on preliminary plans, two new reactors will be completed around 2035 and each will have a capacity of 1000-1650 MWe. The two reactors would provide 9-13% of the Netherlands’ electricity production in 2035. The cabinet announced in December 2022 that it currently sees Borssele as the most suitable location for the construction of the new reactors.

The draft climate budget includes EUR10 million over the period 2023-2025 for extending the operation of the Borssele plant. The funds – which are subject to the approval of the European Commission – are intended for additional studies regarding aging, shareholder structure and business economic feasibility of the extension. The 485 MWe (net) pressurised water reactor currently provides about 3% of the Netherlands’ electricity. The plant has been in operation since 1973 and is scheduled to close in 2033.

A further EUR117 million has been budgeted for additional studies on the construction of two new nuclear power plants. In addition, EUR65 million has been budgeted for building the country’s “knowledge infrastructure”. The resources are for education and research, “so that the Dutch nuclear knowledge and research infrastructure can be strengthened.”

Funding for Rolls-Royce PWRs

Support for the development of SMRs also receives funds of EUR65 million in the draft budget. In August 2022, the UK’s Rolls-Royce SMR signed an exclusive agreement with ULC-Energy to collaborate on the deployment of Rolls-Royce SMR power plants in the Netherlands.

The formal planning phase is to start this year, and ULC’s timeline sees site selection and contract negotiations taking place in 2024, with a formal licensing application the following year and construction of a first SMR unit beginning in 2027 with a start-up date in the 2030s.

The Dutch regulator must make a final decision on a licence within six months of receiving an application, and ULC is already undertaking pre-licensing work as well as starting EPC negotiations with Rolls-Royce.

& & &

Norway Startup Signs Agreements With Three Municipalities for SMRs

(NucNet) In the category of “will wonders never cease,” a company operating in Norway, one of the more nuclear phobic nations in Europe said it believes “the time is right” for Norway to return to nuclear power. it said it has signed agreements with three municipalities to investigate the construction of small modular reactors (SMRs).

Bergen-based Norsk Kjernekraft, part of the M Vestt energy gas and oil group, said the agreements were with the municipalities of Aure, northern Norway, Heim in central-west Norway and Narvik, also in northern Norway.

Norsk Kjernekraft, founded in 2022 with the aim of building and operating SMRs, said it will work with the three municipalities to investigate the technical, financial and safety aspects of building one or more small modular reactors in their area.

“This is the first time such an agreement has been entered into in Norway,” said Norsk Kjernekraft chairman Jonny Hesthammer.

Rolls-Royce Agreement

Last March Rolls-Royce signed a letter of intent with Norsk Kjernekraft, which billionaire Trond Mohn is behind, together with Paul Christian Rieber and Autostore founder Jakob Hatteland to work together to increase acceptance of nuclear power in Norway, and to potentially establish future projects that “could lead to the deployment of Rolls-Royce’s small, modular nuclear power plants in Norway.”

Norsk Kjernekraft said it had seen “a rapid and positive turn” in favor of considering nuclear power in Norway. The company said it was “already in dialogue” with politicians from a number of parties and perceives them to be interested in learning more. “That includes the governing parties,” the company said.

Norway has never had commercial nuclear power plants, but has operated two research reactors for the production of medical radioisotopes and research purposes.

& & &

Jamaica Intends to Go Nuclear

Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in a statement to local news media last week the government intends  integrate nuclear energy in the country’s energy mix.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of Expo Jamaica 2023 on April 28th he said he’d been in contact with the  International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about using nuclear energy to generate electricity.

He said, “Jamaica has to explore new technology in [the form of] nuclear energy — small nuclear plants to generate in Jamaica — which is cheaper, more stable and more affordable. So the Jamaica Government is serious about insulating our economy [against] energy shocks and high energy prices.”

The move to pursue SMRs has been in motion for some time. Last October, Jamaican billionaire and chairman of Portland Holdings Michael Lee-Chin signed a memorandum of understanding with the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory (CNL) under which he will be promoting nuclear technology — through small modular reactors (SMRs) — as the means to decarbonize electricity production.

According to the recent energy reports, 89% of Jamaica’s energy use is derived from fossil fuels, 7% from wind, and 4% from hydro. Residential electricity is expensive at an average cost of $0.28/KwH. Image and data: DOE/EIA

jamaica energy use

A spokesman for the Jamaican Renewable Energy Association immediately issued a statement to the news media opposing the government’s plans. Vice-president of JREA Jason Robinson said that Jamaica is not ready “or will ever be ready” for such energy source. In addition to raising issues regarding weather and geophysical concerns, he also loading in lifestyle values as part of the organization’s issues.

“Jamaica is located in a hurricane and earthquake zone which puts us in extreme danger with out having to worry about a nuclear meltdown. Also Jamaica’s brand is a natural vibe not a one that fits well with nuclear energy. I think it would take a lot away from Brand Jamaica in terms of tourism as well.”

Meanwhile, PM Holness pointed out that in his budget presentation in March that the Government of Jamaica of creating “a new Integrated Resource Plan [IRP]” that will facilitate the introduction of new energy sources to the energy mix and ensure that the grid is stable and has the capacity to respond to the growing demand for electricity.”

“The introduction of new energy sources, the prime minister argued, will create a new paradigm in energy and “change the parameters that can reduce the cost of production, increase [businesses’] capacity, and ensure [businesses] can innovate integrate technology and compete effectively with the rest of the world”.

& & &

France, Japan Sign Nuclear Partnership

Reuters reports that France and Japan have signed a nuclear cooperation agreement in Paris. The joint declaration pledges to deepen and accelerate ties in the research and development of next-generation nuclear reactors. Additional work scope is slated to include safe life extension of existing reactors, decommissioning of nuclear plants including Japan’s Fukushima Dai’ichi reactor, developing civil nuclear capacity in interested countries, and promoting the recycling of used nuclear fuel to minimize the need for uranium by turning the spent fuel into mixed oxide fuel (MOX)..

French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher met Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s minister of trade, economy and industry (METI) to discuss accelerating technical cooperation on the nuclear fuel cycle.

Japan has an estimated 47 tonnes of plutonium, but according to the IAEA most of the inventory is held in the UK and France for eventual reprocessing into MOX fuel. Only about 10 tonnes are in Japan. In 2018 the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, which coordinates the operations of Japan’s 10 electric power companies, reportedly told JAEC that it will aim to eventually introduce the MOX fuel in 16 to 18 reactors. Currently, only four of Japan’s operating  reactors are licensed to burn MOX fuel.

what is MOX fuel

Image: Japan Nuclear Fuels Limited

New Effort to Develop Sodium Cooled Advanced Reactors

Japan’s Sankei newspaper reported that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has earmarked some 46 billion yen ($337 million) over three years beginning in April 2024 to help develop sodium-cooled fast reactors.

In February 2022 US based TerraPower signed an MOU with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and two Mitsubishi business units to collaborate on sodium fast reactor technology.  [press release]

It isn’t clear what the scope of the expertise Japan’s team is bringing to the agreement. Mitsubishi’s development of the the Japan Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor (JSFR) was linked in a partnership with the French ASTRID project.

The JSFR was a 750 MWe fast reactor design which would burn MOX fuel. Japan had visions of turning its spent nuclear fuel from its fleet of commercial reactors and having it reprocessed into MOX fuel and burned in fast reactors like the JSFR.

In September 2019 France pulled the plug on the effort saying it was not commercially viable as a design. Further, Japan’s plans to have a commercial fast reactor by 2050 were probably impacted by the French decision to kill the ASTRID effort.

Japan’s Monju nuclear power plant, a sodium cooled design, was close in 2010 after years of disappointing results.

Obviously, the Japanese nuclear industry, and hence the government, still see a future in advanced sodium-cooled reactors that burn MOX.


The joint declaration came a day after a Paris appeals court allowed the French government to proceed with a buyout of nuclear giant EDF as part of its long-term plan to reinvigorate the nuclear sector and build up to 14 new full size light water reactors by 2050.

# # #


Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on Westinghouse to Develop a 300 MW Light Water SMR

South Korea Expands Its Export Possibilities for SMRs

  • South Korea Expands Its Export Possibilities for SMRs with NuScale, TerraPower, X-Energy, and Holtec
  • KHNP to Set Up Enriched Uranium Supply Chain with Centrus and Orano
  • South Korea Calls on US to Resolve Legal Dispute On Nuclear Reactor Export To Czech Republic
  • KHNP CEO Elected EPRI Board Member
  • Kazakhstan / Minister Confirms Four Offers For Country’s First Nuclear Power Station

South Korea Expands Its Export Possibilities for SMRs

  • Doosan Enerbility executives meet with global SMR companies. The objective is to solidify its market position in the supply chain for this sector.

large-nuclear-img02Business Korea reports, based on press releases from South Korean industry sources, that Doosan Enerbility’s executives met with the CEOs of NuScale Power and X-energy in Washington, D.C., to discuss future business cooperation.

This agreement is a follow-up to the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the Korea-U.S. Advanced Industry and Clean Energy Partnership. The agreement outlines areas of cooperation, such as marketing, technical support, and further development of a global supply chain. Doosan and NuScale committed to strengthening their cooperation to deploy NuScale VOYGR plants globally.

Specifically, Doosan will establish a US-based supply chain for NuScale Power Module production through capacity expansion and advancement of manufacturing technology of long lead time components.

Fig-1-Schematic-of-a-NuScale-power-moduleNuScale Power will work with Doosan Enerbility to make the most of the latter’s supply chain in South Korea. Doosan Enerbility will leverage its capacity and experience in nuclear cycle production to help lay the foundation for NuScale Power’s SMRs to be manufactured in the United States.

Doosan Enerbility became the first Korean company to make an equity investment in NuScale Power in 2019. To date, the company has invested a total of US$104 million in equity with other Korean investors, maintaining a close relationship with NuScale Power.

Doosan Enerbility will begin manufacturing long lead time components for NuScale Power’s first SMR-based power plant in the United States later this year. At the end of 2022, NuScale placed the order for first upper reactor pressure vessel with Doosan.

UAMPS’ Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) plant, using NuScale Power’s first SMR project in the United States, will build a power plant in Idaho with the goal completing it in 2029. The SMR power plant will have six 77 MW reactor modules that total 462 MW of power.

NuScale Inks MOU with Export-Import Bank of Korea

NuScale Power also announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Export-Import Bank of Korea (KEXIM) to support NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR) deployment.

In March 2023, KEXIM and NuScale signed an MOU in which they agreed to financial cooperation in support of deploying NuScale VOYGR plants. KEXIM is the official export credit agency of Korea providing comprehensive export credit and guarantee programs to support Korean enterprises conducting overseas business.

The organization continues to explore potential opportunities to provide credit facilities to NuScale and facilitate overseas business of Doosan in collaboration with NuScale. With KEXIM’s assistance, Doosan and NuScale will be able to deploy NuScale VOYGR plants worldwide and utilize a Korean supply chain when deploying NuScale plants in the Asian market.

Doosan Meets with X-Energy

The Doosan Enerbility executives also met with Chairman of X-energy Kam Gafarian and CEO of X-energy Clay Sell to discuss cooperation plans about hydrogen production using SMRs.

The firm is participating in the Department of Energy’s advanced reactor demonstration program, a cost shared effort, and has signed an agreement with DOW to build its first of a kind unit to provide electricity and process heat at one of the firm’s gulf coast production facilities.

Doosan Enerbility started a collaboration with X-energy in 2021 by participating in the design of an SMR with high-temperature gas promoted by X-energy. In January, the company further strengthened cooperation with X-energy by signing an agreement to make an equity investment in X-energy and supply core equipment to X-energy.

& & &

South Korea Agreements with TerraPower and Holtec

(NucNet contributed to this report) US and South Korean companies have signed several  agreements related to the deployment of small modular reactors including a key collaboration agreement with TerraPower.

SK and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) agreed to collaborate with TerraPower. SK Inc. and SK Innovation, collectively known as SK, invested $250 million in TerraPower last fall during an equity raise of $830 million, the largest private raise among advanced nuclear companies to date.

At a signing ceremony for the TerraPower agreement, the company’s president Chris Levesque spoke about the importance of bilateral relationships and global cooperation in developing nuclear technology.

“These partnerships are critical for the first Natrium reactor and the many additional facilities we plan to construct in the US and globally,” Levesque said. “We already have a strong partner in SK and look forward to adding the recognised global expertise of KHNP as a long-term partner to help realise the benefits of advanced nuclear energy.”

The company said earlier this year that it is looking for more sites as the company steps up efforts to deploy the Natrium reactor technology beyond the first proposed location in Wyoming. PacificCorp has included five new sites for Natrium reactors to replace coal fired power plants in its Integrated Resource Plan.

The Natrium technology features a 345MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500MW of power for more than five and a half hours when needed. This innovative addition allows a Natrium plant to integrate seamlessly with renewable resources and could lead to faster, more cost-effective decarbonization of electricity generation.

Holtec Agreement

Separately, Holtec International, Korea Trade Insurance Corporation and Hyundai E&C signed a financial support agreement to deploy Holtec’s SMR-160s globally. The Holtec agreement will enable “multi-lateral financing support” from the US and South Korea to meet the world’s demand for 24/7 clean energy provided by the SMR-160 power plant. No other details were provided by the parties about the agreement.

& & &

KHNP to Set Up Enriched Uranium Supply Chain with Centrus and Orano

haleu factBusiness Korea reports, based on press releases from South Korean industry sources, that Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) will seek to stabilize the supply chain of uranium, a key fuel for nuclear power plants (NPPs), with the United States.

This week it announced it will build a supply chain for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) which holds the key to the commercialization of advanced small modular reactors (SMRs) that are not based  on light water design concepts.

KEPCO announced on April 27th that it signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Centrus for the supply of HALEU nuclear fuel. KHNP also signed a memorandum of understanding with French enriched uranium producer Orano on April 25th for HALEU fuel although it said the French deal would develop later than the one with Centrus. No time frame for delivery of the HALEU fuel was included in either announcement.

Uranium, a fuel for nuclear power plants, comes from more than 50 countries in the world including Australia and Canada. More than 20 of them are exporting uranium so its supply and price are stable.

However, the supply of enriched uranium for actual nuclear power plants is extremely limited. This is because there are only a few countries and companies that can produce it including Russia-based Tenex, the United Kingdom-based Urenco, France-based Orano, China-based China National Nuclear Corporation, and the United States-based Centrus.

Urenco also has a uranium enrichment plan in New Mexico. In 2019 the firm said it was “exploring the production of HALEU.”  It is not clear what commitments it has made since then since the Department of Energy’s (DOE) contract for HALEU went to Centrus. In November 2022 DOE signed a $150M contract with Centrus for production of HALEU.

Separately, TerraPower and X-Energy are using some of their cost-shared funding from DOE to separately build fuel fabrication facilities for their new reactors. TerraPower will make uranium metal fuel for its Natrium reactors and X-Energy will make TRUISO pebbles for its HTGR. Both facilities will be ready to start production by 2025.

In terms of domestic needs and for export, KHNP is planning to create a standard model of Innovative SMR (i-SMR) by 2028 in cooperation with the Korean government and to enter the overseas markets after completing licensing which make it vital to secure a reliable supply of HALEU for it. In May 2021  Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) said it was speeding up the development of a small modular reactor and plans to invest around $350m to design a plant over five years and obtain licenses over three years.

No details have been released about the design of the SMR. However, South Korea has been developing a 100 MW LWR type reactor since 2011 and has explored a joint effort with Saudi Arabia to deploy multiple units there for desalination stations.

“This is an important achievement in strengthening our nuclear fuel supply chain cooperation with allies amid geopolitical instability and a global supply chain crisis,” said a KHNP official, “It also raises the possibility of preempting fuels needed for future SMRs.”

& & &

South Korea Calls on US to Resolve Legal Dispute On Nuclear Reactor Export To Czech Republic

litigationThe energy ministers of South Korea and the United States held a meeting in Washington last week according to South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy in an effort to resolve the intellectual property dispute between KHNP and Westinghouse. A high level official of the South Korean ministry spoke with DC-based news media last week about the meeting.

Westinghouse Electric filed a lawsuit against South Korea’s Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power in October 2022 claiming that KHNP needs to obtain approval from the US government to export its nuclear reactor because it contained design information that was intellectual property that belonged to Westinghouse.

Westinghouse claims in its lawsuit that the South Korean nuclear manufacturing firm had used design and engineering information from a Westinghouse reactor in its APR1400 PWR.

South Korean Industry Minister Lee Chang-yang called on the United States to make joint efforts to resolve a legal dispute over Seoul’s potential export of nuclear reactors to the Czech Republic. The US Department of Energy had rejected KHNP’s filing on its bid for a nuclear reactor construction project in the Czech Republic earlier this year.

The Czech Republic has a tender in place for a single 1200 MW PWR to be built at Dukovany.  Westinghouse is a bidder and so is KHNP. The lawsuit appears to be intended to spike KHNP’s prospects to win the business.

It could also affect KHNP’s bid to supply two PWRs to Saudi Arabia. Westinghouse is not bidder on that tender because Saudi Arabia does not have a 123 Agreement with the US. If KHNP is eliminated from the bidding for Saudi Arabia’s reactors, it could open the door for a win by either China or Russia which would be a national security concern for the US.

On April 24th KHNP said it is close to signing a binding deal with Poland to build two or possibly four 1400 MW APR-1400s in Poland.  Last February Westinghouse announced progress in contracting for construction of multiple AP1000s in Poland. The lawsuit involving Westinghouse and KHNP will cause problems in Poland

Lee reportedly raised some of these issues during a meeting with US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm in Washington on the sidelines of President Yoon Suk Yeol’s state visit. In the meeting with Granholm, Minister Lee stressed the rising dependence on nuclear power amid a global energy crisis, and asked for the US government’s cooperation in resolving the legal dispute on intellectual property infringement.

Lee is no stranger to the US. He earned an MPA at Harvard (1995) and a PhD (1999) from Harvard in public policy. He began his career in government service in South Korea in 1986. As sign of his standing in South Korea, Minister Lee attended the state dinner held at the White House on April 26th honoring the visit of South Korean President Yoon to the US.

A Lost Opportunity

It was widely expected that Westinghouse and KHNP would resolve their intellectual property dispute prior to the visit this past week to the White House by South Korea’s President President Yoon Suk Yeol.

The fact that they did not is a significant missed opportunity for the two world leaders to celebrate collaboration on nuclear energy. Instead, corporate intransigence introduced an unwanted level of tension into the meeting which neither country desired to see be a part of the state visit. There were no media statements by either party about the dispute during the state visit.

During the ministerial level talks, they also agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation on clean energy, climate and energy security.  Lee and Granholm also agreed to cooperate on establishing a more resilient supply chain of nuclear plants to promote the development and supply expansion of private nuclear power plants, the ministry said.

In a joint press release the two energy ministries said, “The US Department of Energy and South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy recognize the critically important role of private industry to foster innovation and technology deployment, promote joint demonstration projects and expand clean energy jobs and looks forward to engaging with a range of private and public stakeholders to advance clean energy and decarbonization efforts. . . . Additionally, Minister Lee and Secretary Granholm reiterated the commitment of President Biden and President Yoon to cooperate in nuclear markets in third countries.”

& & &

KHNP CEO Elected EPRI Board Member

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) CEO, Whang Joo-ho, was elected as a member to the board of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).  He is the only Asian to join the group of 39 EPRI board members.

Whang is among four directors elected for a four-year term during an EPRI annual board meeting on April 27th. Dr.Whang received his B.S. in Nuclear Engineering from Seoul National University and his M.S. and Ph. D. in Radioactive Waste Management, Nuclear Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.

The remaining three newly elected board members are Justin E. Driscoll, acting president and CEO of New York Power Authority, Thomas J. Kent, president and CEO of Nebraska Public Power District and Jeffrey B. Guldner, president and CEO of Pinnacle West Capital Corporation. Guldner is chairman of the board and CEO of Arizona Public Service Company.

The Korean CEO met with EPRI CEO Arshad Mansoor later in the day to discuss cooperation in the fields of small modular reactor (SMR) business, digitization and extended stable operation of nuclear power plants.

In a press statement, KHNP said, “Whang is expected to strengthen cooperation with over 1,000 EPRI members, including power providers, equipment manufacturers, technology providers, government entities and stakeholders in the power industry in the U.S., France, Italy, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).”

EPRI is an American independent, nonprofit organization that conducts research and development related to the generation, delivery and use of electricity to help address challenges in the energy industry, including reliability, efficiency, affordability, health, safety and environment.

& & &

Kazakhstan / Minister Confirms Four Offers For Country’s First Nuclear Power Station

  • The government plans to choose technology supplier this year

(NucNet) Kazakhstan has received offers from France, China, South Korea, and Russia for the eventual construction of the country’s first nuclear power station, according to energy minister Almasadam Satkaliyev. Kazakhstan has said it is planning to choose the reactor technology supplier for its first commercial nuclear power station this year.

Satkaliyev told journalists that Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom has “certain leadership” in the world in terms of nuclear island equipment and in view of the number of nuclear plants it has been involved in building. However, he said French companies have the lead in “power equipment”, automation and control systems, and auxiliary equipment.

Kazakhstan, the world’s leading supplier of uranium, has not chosen a technology supplier for its first plants, but the minister said the country is considering “a combination” of companies, making use of “the best” expertise available.

According to Satkaliyev, the nuclear stations being built in Turkey and Egypt have been “proving the effectiveness” of such an arrangement. Russia is building four 1200 MW VVR plants in Turkey and has delivered the first batch of fuel for the first of the four light water reactors at the Akkuyu site.

Russia is building the first of four 1200 MW VVER reactors at the El Dabaa site west of Cairo and has received authorization from the Egyptian government to start on the work on the second unit.

Both plants, however, will use Arabelle steam turbines, delivered by GE Steam Power, which was last year bought by France’s EDF. Rosatom has signed agreements with France’s Framatome to cooperate in the delivery of instrumentation and control systems for VVER projects. The French government has signed off on both deals despite EU sanctions on various Russian industries over the invasion of Ukraine. Rosatom was not one of the firms sanctioned due to its role in supplying uranium for French reactors.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on South Korea Expands Its Export Possibilities for SMRs

NAS Report on Challenges Ahead for Advanced Reactors

U.S. Must Lay the Foundation for New and Advanced Nuclear Reactors

nas adv reactor report coverNew and advanced types of nuclear reactors could play an important role in helping the U.S. meet its long-term climate goals.

A range of technical, regulatory, economic, and societal challenges must first be overcome, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

Development, testing, and widespread deployment of these reactors could occur over several decades.

The report makes recommendations for the U.S. Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, other federal and state agencies, and private industry to lay the groundwork required for advanced reactors to become a viable part of the U.S. energy system.

Currently, the U.S. electricity system includes large light water reactors (LWRs) that produce electricity for commercial use. LWRs use water to cool the reactor and moderate the speed of the nuclear chain reactions taking place. Many advanced reactor concepts use conventional fuels, materials, and manufacturing methods, but some also employ a wide array of new coolants, designs, fuels, materials, and technologies. Among these are modular LWRs that are smaller, simpler, and rely mainly on passive safety features. Other examples include reactors that use liquid metal, molten salt, or high-temperature gas as coolants.

The U.S. electricity system is already undergoing massive shifts, but economy-wide decarbonization efforts will span decades, and electricity demand is projected to continually grow over that period.

The report says advanced nuclear technologies likely will not be able to markedly contribute to electricity generation until the 2030s at the earliest. However, there are opportunities for them to compete with other energy technologies in the long term.

“Our report shows new and advanced nuclear reactors could play an important role as the U.S. works to decarbonize the economy,” said Richard A. Meserve, Senior Of Counsel for Covington & Burling LLP, former chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. “

There are significant hurdles that must be overcome to enable advanced nuclear reactors to succeed and reach commercial and globally competitive viability ― among them, economic challenges, technological challenges, regulatory changes, and societal acceptance.  If we want the ability to pursue this option, the U.S. should address these barriers now.”

Innovative ideas for reactors, if fulfilled, may provide on-demand power generation to complement variable sources of energy, such as solar and wind energy, and help decarbonize challenging industrial sectors by providing high-temperature heat for chemical processes, such as hydrogen production.

Advanced Reactors Will Drive Innovation in Revenue Streams for Utilities 

Some advanced nuclear reactor concepts, due to their size or the way they are to be produced, offer new ways for nuclear power to be used, including:

  • Major portions or even the entirety of the reactor system could be produced in factories, potentially reducing project costs and uncertainties and increasing quality.
  • Existing power generation sites using fossil fuel (e.g., coal plants) could be repurposed for nuclear power generation.
  • Small reactors or microreactors could be transported to meet off-grid emergency needs.
  • Reactors could produce localized thermal energy for industrial applications that otherwise have hard-to-abate emissions because of high temperature requirements, such as cement, hydrogen, and steel production; for district heating (heat distributed through pipes to keep residences or businesses warm); or for desalination.

Meeting the Technological Promise

There are many differences between nuclear reactors currently in use and proposed advanced nuclear reactors. For advanced reactors to be able to compete in a decarbonized economy, the report makes a range of recommendations, including:

  • DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy should initiate a research program that sets aggressive goals for improving performance of fuels and materials used to build or operate reactors.
  • The nuclear industry and DOE should fully develop a structured, ongoing program to ensure the best-performing technologies (as measured by technical, financial, regulatory, and social acceptance milestones) move rapidly through demonstration.
  • DOE should expand its efforts in advanced construction technology research and development and make advanced construction technologies broadly available to reduce costs.
  • Significant incentives, such as those that have nurtured solar and wind technologies, should be provided to enable the wide commercial deployment of advanced reactors.
  • Widespread deployment of advanced reactors will require more skilled workers. DOE should initiate a whole of government partnership, and work with labor organizations, industry, regulatory agencies, and other organizations to identify gaps in critical skills, and fund training and development solutions.

Accelerating Advanced Reactors infographic-1200x900-01

Policies and Regulations for Economic Competitiveness

Nuclear power reactors are tightly regulated by the NRC in all phases of their life cycle ― design, construction, operations, and decommissioning. The report says that the NRC must maintain its overarching commitment to safety

The report has a specific finding that regulations governing existing LWR reactors are not suitable for advanced reactors. These designs will present novel regulatory issues, particularly reactors that use new coolants, have advanced safety capabilities, or are factory made or transportable.

nrc sealCongress should provide the NRC with more resources to enhance its capability to deal with these differences and create efficient, effective, and flexible regulatory processes. This means changing the funding paradigm for the NRC from full cost recovery to a mix of appropriated funds and applicant fees.

In addition, differing regulatory requirements between countries can discourage international sales, which may be an essential part of making nuclear vendors’ business plans competitive. The report urges broader international regulatory harmonization, in the short term through bilateral arrangements ― such as the U.S. agreement with Canada ― and in the long term through engagement with the International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Energy Agency.

There are considerable regulatory and economic risks that can deter potential investors in the advanced nuclear industry, including uncertainties around whether the NRC might reject a new approach, impose new design or operational requirements, or bring about added costs through delayed action.

Some regulatory risks are particularly difficult for industry to evaluate because there is often no past guidance that would apply to novel reactor designs, so more regulatory certainty will help industry and its investors make informed plans.

Federal and state governments should take actions that enable the industry to be cost-competitive with other low-carbon energy technologies, including through tailored financial incentives.

The U.S. should also foster a healthy international market for advanced nuclear technologies, and better equip itself to swiftly negotiate nuclear cooperation arrangements. The report recommends steps for Congress and the federal government to help U.S. vendors compete with state-owned and state-financed vendors in the international energy market.

Assurance of Safety, Security, and Safeguards

New deployment scenarios can introduce new physical and cyber risks, which should be dealt with through safety, security, and safeguards requirements as appropriate. NRC staff have proposed significant modifications to the physical security requirements for nuclear facilities to take into account novel designs and operations of advanced reactors. However, clear regulatory guidance is still needed, the report notes, and the NRC will need sufficient expert staff to provide this guidance.

Earning Societal Acceptance

While nuclear power must be safe and secure, it must also be accepted by society and by the communities in which new reactors are built. The advanced nuclear industry should adopt consent-based approaches for new facilities, adjusted for place, time, and culture, the report says. Consent-based processes ― still nascent in the industry, where plans for new reactors are typically only reviewed after design and siting are completed ― should include participatory site selection methods and incorporate more value-focused thinking.

Industry should adopt research-backed approaches to community engagement, enduring through the life of a project, and these should be treated with the same seriousness as technological development. The report charts a path forward for better engagement, recommending a set of best practices for the industry.

A 2022 National Academies report, written by a separate committee, discusses nuclear fuel cycle options for both existing and advanced reactors, nonproliferation and security considerations for these fuel cycles, as well as issues related to the waste associated with advanced nuclear reactors.

About the Report and the NAS

This study, undertaken by the Committee on Laying the Foundation for New and Advanced Nuclear Reactors in the United States, was supported by a gift donation by James J. Truchard, a National Academy of Engineering member, and by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, engineering, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on NAS Report on Challenges Ahead for Advanced Reactors