2019 Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp Comes to Europe – August 19-30

The Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp seeks to train students and early-career professionals in skills essential to accelerate innovation in nuclear energy through self-selected team projects.

The 2019 Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp aims at being the premier nuclear innovation contest in Europe attracting bright young people from all nationalities interested in nuclear energy. The choice of this localization should foster the participation of young Europeans.

  • Who: Students and early career professionals interested in nuclear energy
  • When: August 19-30
  • Where: OECD Nucear Energy Agency headquarters, Paris France

Associating with the French Innovatome Contest, the 2019 Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp in Paris should be a great success as these two events share the same objectives and have over the years gained visibility and recognition to spark innovation in nuclear energy among young generations.

The 25 selected participants will gain a greater understanding on various topics key to the nuclear industry while nurturing their own project. The two-week program is centered on real-world team projects, and includes expert-led sessions as well as hands-on activities to boost creativity and innovation, including:

  • Cross-cutting Needs in Nuclear Energy Systems
  • Innovations, Creativity & Product Development
  • Advanced Nuclear Technologies
  • Government, Policy, and Communications
  • Venture Fundamentals, Markets and Financing
  • Licensing and Export Control

The participants challenge is to design a company and a product that will transform the global nuclear enterprise. All projects will be presented at the end of the Bootcamp, and judged by a panel of experts from the nuclear industry.

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Why apply?

​​If  you are curious and dynamic, if you would like to contribute to the future of nuclear energy and stimulate your creative thinking… You may have what it takes to be selected to participate in the 2019 Nuclear Innovation Bootcamp and perhaps even be the winner!

If you needed further encouragement, here you have five good reasons to apply:

  • Grow your knowledge through a fun and life-changing experience
  • Understand various innovation processes and tools
  • Enhance your professional network on an international level
  • Engage with innovative industries and start-ups
  • Have a chance to win a trip to Sydney in 2020 to present your project at I4N

Links

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Poland Sets Plans for Nuclear Energy

  • Poland Takes Yet Another Run at Nuclear Energy

Other Nuclear Newsczech-power_thumb.jpg

  • Saskatchewan Considering SMRs to Replace coal power plants by 2030
  • NuScale Power and Enfission Agree to Work on Advanced Nuclear Fuels
  • China’s CNNC Achieve Mass Production of Hualong One Fuel
  • DOE Sec Perry Says US Needs Nuclear Energy and Must Not Depend On Renewables Alone

Poland Takes Yet Another Run at Nuclear Energy

In the latest of a series of government actions that stretch back more than a decade, energy minister Krzysztof Tchórzewski told Polish Radio this week it was, “laying the groundwork to build its first commercial nuclear power reactors in the Pomerania region in the north of the country.

Tchórzewski acknowledged that the time between thinking about building a full size nuclear reactor and actually completing one takes about a decade. His key focus in his remarks was on rounding up investors for the project to take equity positions in it.

According to reports by NucNet and World Nuclear News, government sources said Poland will be aiming at a possible 6% nuclear share in the early to mid-2030s and a 15-20% nuclear share by 2050, although this would depend on the timning of the final decision about the nuclear program and its financing.

A recent draft energy strategy called for construction of Poland’s first nuclear unit by 2033 and another five or six by 2043.

Poland launched a national nuclear power program in 2014 which included the construction of up to 6 GW of capacity by 2035. However, the government has repeatedly postponed these plans.  In 2015 the government cancelled a contract by a consortium for European firms to start site characterization and develop a project management capability due to slow progress in both areas.

World Nuclear News reported Poland’s first nuclear power plant will be in operation by 2033, according to a draft energy policy document released for public consultation last November by the Ministry of Energy. The document envisages 6-9 GWe of nuclear capacity in operation by 2043, accounting for about 10% of Poland’s electricity generation.

The selection of location for the first plant would be made in 2020, while the selection of the technology and general contractor would take place the following year. The first plant, with a capacity of 1000 MW to 1500 MW – would be completed by 2033. Up to six reactors, with a combined capacity of 6-9 GWe, would be put into operation by 2043.

This ambitious energy policy plan, with multiple targets for total nuclear generating capacity, could cost $45 billion or more, was announced without an accompanying financial plan to execute it. Poland is reluctant to finance the construction of nuclear power stations with debt.

Instead, it wants a model based on equity capital. Polish energy officials have said that the key to equity financing would be guarantees on rates for electricity produced by the reactors once they enter revenue service. The government has not specified how much cash it would put into the project and how much would need to come from investors. Without a clear idea of how much of a stake the government will have, it may be difficult for investors to make a reasonable evaluation of the risk associated with the project.

The government said it is hoping to make a final decision on nuclear power in the coming months, but the key to the venture is an agreement on a financing model.

Poland had four 440 MWe Russian VVER-440 units under construction in the 1980s at Zarnowiec, but these units were cancelled in 1990 and the components were sold.

Polish Academics Urge End to Germany’s Nuclear Phaseout

(WNN) A group of nearly 100 Polish environmentalists and scientists has written an open letter to the leadership and people of Germany asking the country to reconsider its nuclear phaseout plans.

German utilities were forced to shut down their nuclear power plants by the Energiewende, or energy transition, that the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel introduced in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in Japan in March 2011. At that time, Germany was obtaining around a quarter of its electricity from 17 nuclear reactors operated by EnBW, E.On, RWE and Vattenfall.

Other Nuclear News

Saskatchewan Considering Investing in SMRs to Lower Carbon Emissions by 40% in Next 11 years

Uranium-symbol_thumb.jpgAccording to a Canadian wire services report Provincial Premier Scott Moe said the provincial government has been in discussion with Ontario and New Brunswick about small modular nuclear reactor technology. The province, which is a major exporter of uranium, has no nuclear power plants within its borders.

“That’s not saying we’re moving ahead with [SMRs] but we’d most certainly want to have the conversation around the clean supply of nuclear power here in the province,” Moe said.

The Premier said the province will look at cleaner power generation while keeping the assets it already has, such as carbon capture storage (CCS).

Commenting on the SMR plan, Esam Hussein, dean of engineering and applied science at the University of Regina, said the smaller nuclear reactors could be beneficial for smaller jurisdictions because they don’t put a big strain on the province’s grid.

If a reactor goes down, the grid could still function, he added. A challenge with bigger reactions is the possibly delays for construction time, as well as cost.

Smaller reactors could be built on site and if there is a part that needs to be replaced, the entire system will not need to replaced.

“These reactors are designed to be inherently safe, which means that if something goes wrong, if the reactor heats up, the physics will shut down the reactor automatically,” Hussein said.

It’s ironic that Saskatchewan, which has produced huge amounts of Yellowcake for export, has only begun to think about replacing its coal fired power plants with SMRs. That size reactor is probably a good fit for the sparsely populated province which has a population of 1.162 million.  There are slightly more people living in Dallas, TX.

Saskatoon, with a population of 300,000, is the 17th largest city in Canada. A 50 MW SMR can power about 50,000 homes which means the province could meet most of its needs for residential electricity in Saskatoon with just six units.

Provincial Premier Scott Moe wants to have an impact on CO2 emissions by 2030. He needs to get busy now. A couple  of factors in his favor are the Canada has nearly a dozen SMR designs in various early stages of review by the country’s nuclear regulatory agency, the government has published a roadmap to build them, and a national laboratory that is planning to support at least two demonstration projects in the near term.  Surely, with this announcement, at least one of the SMR developers should be knocking on his door any day real soon now.

NuScale Power and Enfission Sign MOU
to Develop Next Generation Nuclear Fuel Technology

NuScale Power and Enfission, LLC, a joint venture of Lightbridge Corporation (NASDAQ: LTBR) and Framatome, announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to explore the use of next generation nuclear fuel technology in NuScale’s small modular reactors. uScale said Lightbridge Fuel™ could spur improvements in core design, performance, and levelized costs of electricity.enffisionNuScale and

Enfission will collaborate on the development of research and testing programs to explore the application of Enfission’s nuclear fuel rod technology, which being adapted for NuScale’s natural circulation design.

NuScale said  the advanced fuel rod design is expected to increase core performance, extend core life, reduce refueling outages and offer reduced levelized cost of electricity.

On December 1, 2015, Framatome signed an agreement with NuScale to manufacture fuel assemblies for its SMR based on conventional ceramic uranium dioxide fuel and provide testing and analyses needed for its Nuclear Regulatory Commission design certification application.

self spacingThe addition of Enfission’s Lightbridge Fuel™ to the fuel development effort may provide future flexibility, at some point in time after the NRC review is done, on fuel types depending on the reactor demands.

New fuel types require the plant operator to file an application with the NRC for a change in fuel. It’s not something that would be done mid-stream in the original safety review for the reactor.

Neither firm said when the advanced fuel would be ready for testing nor whether UAMPS, which is NuScale’s first customer for its reactor, would be willing to test the fuel.  It’s possible that one of the 12 50 MW units built at the Idaho site would be paid for by the Department of Energy to support R&D projects like testing of advanced fuels.

NuScale’s technology is the world’s first and only SMR to undergo design certification review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC is scheduled to complete its review of NuScale’s design in September 2020.

Enfission is a US-based 50-50 joint venture between Lightbridge Corporation (NASDAQ: LTBR) and Framatome. Enfission was established January 25, 2018 to complete the development, regulatory licensing, and commercial deployment worldwide of nuclear fuel assemblies based on multi-lobe metallic twisted fuel technology.

Enfission will produce Lightbridge Fuel™ assemblies initially for operators of U.S. commercial nuclear power plants, then follow with production of Lightbridge Fuel™ assemblies for other types of reactors and for markets around the world.

CNNC Achieve Mass Production of Hualong One Fuel

(WNN) China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) says it is now capable of mass producing China Fuel 3 (CF3) fuel assemblies for the domestically-designed HPR1000 (Hualong One) pressurised water reactor design.

The CF3 fuel assembly is composed of 264 fuel rods arranged within a 17 x 17 supporting structure. The fuel rods contain pellets of either uranium dioxide or a mixture of gadolinium oxide and uranium dioxide. The rods feature a zircalloy cladding material. A total of 177 CF3 fuel assemblies will be loaded into the core of the Hualong One reactor which is a PWR type design.

In March, long-term irradiation testing of the CF3 fuel was completed. Four sets of CF3 fuel assemblies were loaded into Qinshan II unit 2 – a Chinese-designed CNP-600 PWR – in July 2014. The assemblies underwent poolside inspections during each fuelling cycle, CNNC said. Inspection results showed that the performance of the design met internationally accepted standards.

According to World Nuclear Association information, CF3 fuel assemblies are being manufactured at CNNC’s main PWR fuel fabrication plant at Yibin in Sichuan province, using fuel pellets from Kazakhstan’s Ulba Metallurgical Plant.

CNNC said achieving mass production of CF3 fuel “further strengthened CNNC’s position in the field of nuclear fuel assemblies, and will help the HPR1000 be exported overseas.”

In November 2014, CNNC announced that the fifth and sixth units at Fuqing will use the domestically-developed Hualong One design, marking its first deployment. The pouring of first concrete for Fuqing 5 began in May 2015, marking the official start of construction of the unit. Construction of unit 6 began in December the same year. Fuqing 5 and 6 are scheduled to be completed in 2019 and 2020, respectively.

Construction of two Hualong One units is also under way at CGN’s Fangchenggang plant in the Guangxi Autonomous Region. Those units are also expected to start up in 2019 and 2020.

In December 2015, CNNC and CGN agreed to create a 50-50 joint venture to promote the Hualong One in overseas markets.

Two HPR1000 units are under construction at Pakistan’s Karachi nuclear power plant. Construction began on Karachi unit 2 in 2015 and unit 3 in 2016; the units are planned to enter commercial operation in 2021 and 2022. The HPR1000 has also been proposed for construction at Bradwell in the UK, where it is undergoing Generic Design Assessment.

US Needs Nuclear And Must Not Depend
On Renewables Alone, Says DOE Secretary Perry

(NucNet) Depending on renewable energy alone is not a reliable option and nuclear is needed because it is emissions-free and offers “rock-solid, 24/7 reliability”, US energy secretary Rick Perry said in a speech this week at the EarthX conference in Dallas.

Perry said: “Now some people want us to take renewables… and rely on them alone. If we followed their advice our energy might be cleaner, but nowhere near as reliable.”

Perry express reservations about how renewables would perform if the sun doesn’t shine or the wind blow, and what might happen if a single natural disaster or serious cyberattack occurred.

“Our lights could go out and stay out, impacting our entire way of life,” he said.

“And imagine the costs to our economy and society of maintaining a grid that is completely reliant on intermittent energy.”

Mr Perry said this danger can be averted by adding nuclear to the energy mix. From small modular reactors to advanced reactors and micro reactors, American-led innovation “can and will blaze a trail for a truly amazing nuclear energy revival”, Mr Perry said.

He added that the US nuclear energy industry has said the US needs significant investment and bold policy to maintain its position as a world leader in nuclear safety, technology, and operation. He intends to provide it.

Perry’s remarks will surely create annoyance among the arch dukes of renewables supporting the mostly non-nuclear green new deal. So, there might be a partisan point to Perry’s remarks, but it also contains basic truths about the physics of the national electrical grid. That’s encouraging news.

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Posted in Nuclear | 5 Comments

South Korea Seeks New Deals in the Global Reactor Market

  • slice of pieKEPCO and KHNP succeeded in completing the process of a design review at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for their 1400 MW PWR. It’s not clear that there is a market for the design in America, or even the slice of a pie, given the current energy picture here.
  • KEPCO is seen by the U.S. as walking on thin ice by claiming that a modified version of the APR1400 is unencumbered by U.S. intellectual property, and that it can be sold to Saudi Arabia even if there is no 123 Agreement in place. There’s plenty of pie to be had there with prospects for two 1000 MW+ reactors likely to be put out for bids by Saudi Arabia later this year.
  • The United Arab Emirates has changed horses in midstream hiring a new Chief Nuclear Officer to try to get the startup schedule back on track for the first of four South Korean nuclear reactors.

NRC Certifies Korean APR1400 Reactor

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on April 30, 2019, issued a ruling that the APR1400 design is “fully acceptable for U.S. use.” The certification is good for 15 years and was issued to the Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP).

KEPCO and KHNP submitted the Standard Design Certification Application on December 23, 2014. The massive application for Standard Design Certification was for the Advanced Power Reactor 1400 (APR1400), a 4,000-MWt pressurized-water reactor (PWR).

The certification allows a utility to reference the design when applying for a Combined License to build and operate a nuclear power plant. According to press materials distributed by the two South Korean firms involved in developing the reactor, the APR1400 is an evolutionary pressurized water reactor.

The technological roots are with CE System 80+ model. It produces 1400 MWe and has a 60-year design life. It is the next generation of reactors for South Korea following the deployment of 12 of units of the 995 MWe OPR-1400 design. Design certification by the Korean Institute of Nuclear Safety was awarded in May 2003. (Schematic and technical profile of the APR 1400 here – scroll down)

World Nuclear News reports that construction of the first two APR1400s – as units 3 and 4 of South Korea’s Shin Kori plant – began in October 2008 and August 2009, respectively. Unit 3, which was originally scheduled to enter commercial operation at the end of 2013, eventually reached first criticality in December 2015, was connected to the grid in January 2016 and entered commercial operation in December that year. Unit 4 achieved first criticality on April 8th of this year, with grid connection on April 22.

Construction of two further APR1400 reactors at Shin Kori – units 5 and 6 – began in April 2017 and September 2018, respectively. Unit 5 is scheduled to begin commercial operation in March 2022, with unit 6 following one year later. Two further APR1400 units are under construction in South Korea as units 1 and 2 of the Shin Hanul site.

Where’s the Market?

While all this is very good news for South Korea, the question remains, why go to the expense and trouble to certify a new reactor design in the U.S.? The market for full size reactors here is frozen and may not thaw out for a decade or longer.

Consider the following – four major U.S. nuclear utilities that already have COL for a total of six reactors have no plans to break ground in the foreseeable future. Worse, six units that were under construction have terminated their licenses after no buyers could be found for them. Who does KEPCO and KHNP think they are going to sell their reactor to here?

What comes to mind, and its a stretch, is that the NRC safety review and design certification is considered to be the “gold standard” for a new reactor. With deals pending in the UK, and expressions of interest in several other countries, including Saudi Arabia, maybe the NRC imprint is a seen as a brand building, confidence booster for global sales.

A report in Business Korea noted that since the NRC’s design approval is recognized as an indicator of technological reliability by the global nuclear power industry, it will strengthen the overall export base for Korean nuclear power plants. KHNP is also reported to be on track to obtaining a European design approval on the reactor as a standard design for the EU-APR, a version of the APR1400 tailored to Europe, passed the screening of the European certification body in October last year.

Given the cost of a design review of a new reactor by the NRC, which can run upwards of $200-500M, that’s a lot of money that could have been spent elsewhere. KEPCO and KHNP must have had a very good reason to spend the money. Maybe in time we’ll know, but for now it is a mystery.

History of Recent Design Reviews in the US

South Korea is entering a U.S. market where nuclear plants are closing due to the low cost of natural gas. Currently, none of the following plants are scheduled for construction starts even though they have COLs from the NRC.

  • Fermi 3 – DTE Electric Company holds a COL issued May 2015 for a GE-Hitachi Economic Simplified Boiling-Water Reactor (ESBWR)
  • William States Lee III Nuclear Station Units 1 & 2 – Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC holds the COLs, issued December 2016, for two Westinghouse AP1000s
  • Turkey Point Units 6 & 7 – Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) hold the COLs, issued April 2018, for for these two Westinghouse AP1000s
  • North Anna Power Station, Unit 3 – Virginia Electric & Power Co. holds the COL, issued JUne 2017, for a GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy/(ESBWR)

Three U.S. nuclear utilities started construction on total of six units and all of them have also quit work and terminated the licenses.

  • Levy Nuclear Plant Units 1 & 2 – Terminated (4/26/2018)
  • South Texas Project Units 3 & 4 – Terminated (7/12/2018)
  • V.C. Summer Units 2 & 3 – Terminated (3/6/2019)

The reasons vary for these decisions, but all of them point to market failures, management dysfunction, or both. These were ‘bet the company’ decisions to start and failure has, financially speaking, tough consequences.

With KEPCO’s track mixed track record in the UAE of good performance in building the reactors, but startup delays caused by management and safety issues, can it persuade a U.S. utility to consider an APR1400?

US / KEPCO at Odds Over A Close Call in a Play at Home

Out_at_Home_print

Image Credit – Reproduction of a painting by Fletcher C. Ransom (1870-1943) entitled “Out at Home.” Boston Public Library, Print Department, Source: Wikipedia Commons.

One of the “inside baseball” elements of a 123 Agreement under the Atomic Energy Act is that a country that has imported or licensed U.S. nuclear reactor technology for its own designs cannot resell a reactor with that technology to a third country that does not have a similar 123 Agreement.

This is the position South Korea finds itself in with regard to its plans to bid on an expected RFP from Saudi Arabia later this year. It finds itself thrown out at the plate in the U.S. despite success elsewhere on the field, e.g., building four APR14000s in the UAE.

According to a report dated April 26, 2019, published in the Energy Intelligence nuclear industry trade newsletter, a consortium led by KEPCO threw the U.S. a curve ball by announcing it is planning to offer a modified version of the APR1400 to Saudi Arabia.

The revised design is reported to be unencumbered by U.S. intellectual property and thus isn’t subject to the restrictions of South Korea’s 123 Agreement with the U.S. In words of one syllable, KEPCO sees the Saudi deal as money on the table, and it doesn’t want to be hobbled on the path to taking it by the requirements of U.S. export regulations.

This claim has DOE Energy Secretary Rick Perry coming on to the field from the dugout. He’s reported to have demanded that KEPCO stop the effort immediately. For KEPCO’s part, the answer was also reported to be an astonishing reply of “rotate,” or something equivalent of that in Korean. Understandably, he’s not about to take “no” for an answer.

Energy Intelligence reports that DOE is considering taking drastic steps, including asking the Justice Department to bring criminal charges against KEPCO executives if they don’t back down. DOE’s hair is also on fire because the decision to proceed with the APR1400+, which is what the “clean” design is called, took place without the usual consultations.

Saudi Arabia has two reasons to want the South Korean reactors..

  • First, four of them are being built in the United Arab Emirates, and despite delays in commissioning the first unit, they are still good examples of South Korean technology and ability to build commercial units.
  • Second, South Korea has been working with Saudi Arabia on a 100 MW small modular reactor project since 2011, and both parties now have years of experience working together. Relationships matter a great deal in the Middle East, and South Korea certainly has one with the Saudi energy ministry.

Another issue is that Westinghouse wants the Saudi work, and is not happy about the end run KEPCO is making with its claim it doesn’t need US permission to do the deal.

The Westinghouse vision has two possibilities both of which depend on Saudi Arabia doing something which do far it hasn’t indicated it wants to do, and that is to sign a 123 Agreement with the U.S. that gives up on uranium enrichment.

First, it would like to win the business as a vendor of AP1000 nuclear reactors and control the supply chain for all components. In an international deal like this, the firm may have to share, especially for non-nuclear long lead time systems like turbines, transformers, etc.

Second, even if the Saudi energy ministry decided it really wanted South Korea, Westinghouse could still earn a healthy profit as a supplier to KEPCO of pumps, instruments, etc., if there was a 123 agreement.

None of this is going to happen if Saudi Arabia and the U.S. don’t come to terms on a 123 Agreement, and, South Korea decides to roll the dice with its plan to offer a APR1400+ design.

A final issue is that while KEPCO, Westinghouse, and the U.S. government arm wrestle over who has the right to do what, another vendor, possibly the Chinese, could waltz into Riyadh and win the business with their Hualong One.

UAE Hires a New Chief Nuclear Officer

A few weeks ago the MIT Technology Review magazine published an article detailing the issues faced by South Korea’s project in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to build four new 1400 MW PWR type reactors at a site on the Persian Gulf. Mostly, that article focused on problems with counterfeit parts in the supply chain. The article cast the project in a harsh light.

In my blog post on the magazine’s article, which reported multiple delays in startup of the first unit, now scheduled for late 2019 / early 2020, I found that an Operational Readiness Review (ORR) held in April 2018 triggered the delays which were announced the following month.

This week (5/5/19) the UAE plant operator announced it replaced its Chief Nuclear Officer (CNO), who came to the project in February 2018 from a major US nuclear utility, with a new CNO hired from First Energy. That utility has reactors in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

According to a report on NucNet, Nawah Energy Company, the joint venture nuclear operating subsidiary formed by Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and Korea Electric Power Corporation, has appointed Paul Harden as the company’s new chief nuclear officer.

Mr Harden will be responsible for operations at the Barakah nuclear power station, which will have four South Korean APR1400 reactors.

Mr Harden most recently he served as senior vice-president and chief operating officer for FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company in the US where he was responsible for the safety and financial performance of three nuclear sites.

Nawah Energy Company said in a  press statement that “Barakah is progressing steadily with overall construction more than 93% as of the end of March 2019. Unit 1 construction is complete and it is undergoing commissioning and testing.”

The UAE project has faced challenges with its safety culture and systems due in part as a result of not having access to a reactor in South Korea to conduct the training of new staff. Completion of that reactor was delayed by almost two years due to the discovery of counterfeit cables in the nuclear island and transformers in the switch yard. All of cables and equipment affected by forged certificates had to be replaced.

As to why the UAE plant operator replaced its CNO, the facts point to a desire by its senior management to switch horse in mid-stream as a result of the findings in the ORR, the complaints from the UAE nuclear regulatory agency(FANR) about safety culture issues, and the resulting startup delays of Unit 1. All of these facts are well known to key stakeholders in the UAE.

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EBR-I Lives Again in LEGO

A research scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory has developed a complete representation in LEGO [tm] of the Experimental Breeder Reactor I which at the Idaho site in 1951 was one of the first nuclear reactors to generate electrical power.

ebr1 in legos

EBR-I in LEGO[tm] by Catherine Riddle, PhD aka RadCat

radcatCatherine Riddle, PhD, (right) is a research scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory. She developed the concept of EBR-I in LEGO as a product idea and posted her information about it at the LEGOs web site.

Calling her project Atomic Power Town, it is a complete representation in LEGO of the EBR-I. On the LEGO website she goes by the nickname of RadCat.  The web site displaying her project has a 15 image photo gallery. It is not to be missed!

Riddle describes the project this way;

“Atomic Town Power is the electricity producing heart of our mini-figures town! It lights, heats and runs all of their favorite electrical gadgets using clean energy.”

The building itself is based on the 1951 Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 (EBR-1) which produced electricity for the very first time using nuclear power. The string of four bulbs on the generator level of Atomic Town Powers interior are reminiscent of the four 200 watt light bulbs which glowed brightly at EBR-1 the afternoon of December 20, 1951.

EBR-1-chalkboard_thumb.jpg

EBR-I chalkboard announcing successful use of atomic energy to generate electricity

As to why she devoted what appears to be an enormous amount of time and energy to deploy the EBR-I model, she writes;

“It is my greatest hope to not only work towards establishing clean energy but also to educate the next generation in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) which is why both the STEM and clean energy flags fly proudly over Atomic Town Power. What better way for everyone to think clean energy than to build their very own EBR-1 nuclear reactor.”

See also this YouTube video in which Riddle talks about her project.

A summary of the project includes these details.

Inside the power plant Riddle tells readers we find an experimental breeder reactor at the heart of the building along with multiple support areas including;

  • a hot cell that can be rotated to the inside of the reactor,
  • a cooling canal for fuel removal,
  • electrical generator,
  • chemistry laboratory,
  • overhead crane to open the reactor lid,  and
  • reactor control room

According to Riddle, the reactor lid can be opened using the overhead crane to reveal the core design and fuel rods. When the lid is closed, the reactor lights up using a light brick and the acronym EBR-1 shines through on both sides of the reactor into our power plant.

On the second floor mezzanine level, Riddle notes there are two steam vessels and a generator producing electricity to light four bulbs as scientist and engineers take data. Each of the EBR-1 LED light bulbs light up to indicate the flow of electricity to Atomic Town. The generator mezzanine level lifts off to reveal the power plants reception area and the reactor control operations room.

On the main floor, left of the reactor, Riddle has included a chemistry laboratory where tests are performed to keep the reactor in good health and producing power for the residence of Atomic Town. The laboratory in LEGO assembled by Riddle has instruments and sample containers ready for testing.

Side Notes on SCRAM

To the back wall of the reactor room are steps that lead to the control and reception area as well as a radiation safety control area and the safety control rod axe man (SCRAM) with his trusty axe in case of emergency.

SCRAM Man

Imaginary image of Enrico Fermi’s legendary axe man keeping an eye on the pile

Note to Readers: See this blog post at the NRC on the origin of the term “SCRAM.” Here’s a summary.

“One deeply engrained legend about the origin of the word dates to the first sustained chain reaction on December 2, 1942, at the Chicago Pile (CP-1), the first atomic reactor developed for the Manhattan Project. “

“According to the legend, Enrico Fermi created the acronym, Safety Control Rod Axe Man, for Norman Hilberry.

It was Hilberry’s assignment that day to kill a possible runaway reaction by using an axe to cut a rope to allow the backup safety control rod to drop into the pile.”

Side Note on Fast than Light Electrons

In Riddle’s LEGO setup the hot cell, on the right side of the reactor, has cell manipulator handles that rotate and a turntable that can bring samples from the reactor into the hot cell. Anyone viewing the area would see one of the unique displays of light in physics.

Chernkov radiation at the Advanced_Test_Reactor

The reactor cooling canal area is a pool of Cherenkov radiation infused blue water and fuel rods from the core can be laid in it to cool down. Here’s what the real thing looks like. The blue color results when a charged particle, most commonly an electron, travels through water with a speed greater than that at which light propagates in the same body of water.

Photo Credit:  Advanced Test Reactor core, Idaho National Laboratory

About EBR-I – Wikipedia

Experimental Breeder Reactor I (EBR-I) is a decommissioned research reactor and U.S. National Historic Landmark located in the desert about 18 miles (29 km) southeast of Arco, Idaho. It was the world’s first breeder reactor.

EBR-I became one of the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power plants when it produced sufficient electricity to illuminate four 200-watt light bulbs. EBR-I subsequently generated sufficient electricity to power its building, and continued to be used for experimental purposes until it was decommissioned in 1964.

Visit a Piece of Nuclear Energy History

The EBR-I museum located 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID, is open for visitors from late May until early September. Directions – take US 20 west from Idaho Falls. Driving time is about an hour.  Check museum web site for tour information, map (below), and phone number. Admission is free.

ebr-i-map-lg

Map and Directions to EBR-I Museum

About Dr. Catherine Riddle

Catherine Riddle, PhD, is a research scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory. Her radiochemistry research involves multiple areas and disciplines including; separations science for nuclear energy and new clean energy technologies. Catherine is an inventor with multiple science based patents and international research collaborations.

Her goal is to leave the world a better place and educate children to do the same. Catherine has been a leader in not only technological advances, but she also is a champion of mentoring young upcoming scientists and future scientists through volunteering her time, energy, and expertise to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) programs for K-12 students.

Catherine has reached multiple thousands of students over the past 13 years with workshops and presentations using chemistry and physics to show children science can be fun.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Advanced Nuclear Fuels Open Doors to New Applications

New Fuels for Old

  • new lamps for oldUK Generates Electricity from Americium. Plans Use for Deep Space Missions
  • Russia’s TVEL Announces New Nuclear Fuel Types and Customers
  • X-energy Partners with Nuclear Fuel Industries on Future TRISO Fuel Production

Other Nuclear News

  • NuScale and South Korea’s DHIC Announce Strategic Cooperation
  • Argonne Pushes Ahead with Work on Versatile Test Reactor
  • France to Delay Closing 14 Nuclear Reactors by a Decade

UK Generates Electricity from Americium.
Plans Use for Deep Space Missions

Americium_Tile-300x300(WNN) The UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and University of Leicester have generated usable electricity from the chemical element americium in what it believes to be a global first. The achievement is seen as a step towards potential use of americium in space batteries, which may mean future space missions can be powered for up to 400 years. This is a new use for the element an isotope of which is widely used in home smoke detectors.

Americium is an element not found in nature, but which is produced by the radioactive decay of plutonium – which itself is produced during the operation of nuclear reactors. A team led by NNL has extracted americium from some of the UK’s plutonium stocks, and used the heat generated from this highly radioactive material to generate electric current, which in turn lit up a small light bulb at NNL’s Central Laboratory in Cumbria, England.

Space batteries are power sources for space probes which would use the heat from americium pellets to power sensors and transmitters as the probes head into deep space where other power sources such as solar panels will no longer function, NNL said. In this way, such probes can carry on sending back vital images and data to Earth for many decades – far longer than would otherwise be possible.

The technical program to deliver this world first has been running for several years, supported by funding from the European Space Agency (ESA), and has seen NNL working very closely with the University of Leicester.

The work of European Thermodynamics Ltd in helping to develop the thermoelectric generator unit was a vital part of this collaboration, and support from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, who permitted the use of plutonium from the UK stockpile under their stewardship, was also essential.

NNL has had interest from space agencies which want to have the system ready to power a lunar mission later next decade. There is also interest for applications on the Earth where a power source that potentially lasts 100s of years has benefits.

NNL spokesman Adrian Bull added: “Some current probes use an isotope of plutonium for this purpose – but that’s in increasingly short supply. This route of using Americium takes something that’s generally regarded as a problem and turns it into an asset. Our work is funded by the European Space Agency and they are interested to use the americium approach for future European space missions.”

Bull added: “The americium in plutonium is potentially a problem for re-using the plutonium as new fuel. In extracting the americium from aged plutonium stocks, we end up with both the separated americium and also ‘cleaner’ plutonium – for potential re-use in the fuel cycle. So it’s a win-win.”

The plutonium is not recycled the process “cleans” the americium from it, which would have been a waste. With sufficient applications, all of the UK plutonium could be ‘cleaned’ of the americium. The returned plutonium is in a better condition, ready for further storage or reuse as nuclear fuel.

NNL have produced a short film that explains the technical milestone, which can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/a3wqv27ftr4

Until now space batteries, known as radio isotope thermonuclear generators (RTGs), have been powered by the decay heat of PU-238.

Meanwhile NASA continues work on KiloPower, an uranium powered system, capable of providing up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power – enough to run several average households – continuously for at least 10 years. Four Kilopower units would provide enough power to establish an outpost on Mars or the Moon.

One of the trade offs involved is that the energy density of Americium is much less by orders of magnitude than PU-238. This means more mass of the material is needed to produce the same level of electrical energy.  In terms of launch costs, mass equals cost, and an increase in mass not only means more costs, but also could impact payload especially the very science instruments the missions is intended to carry.

Russia’s TVEL Announces New Nuclear Fuel Types and Customers

(WNN) TVEL, the nuclear fuel subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom,  is working on a ‘dual-component’ approach to closing the nuclear fuel cycle, as well as innovations in fuel for VVER units.

In an exclusive interview with World Nuclear News, Konstantin Vergazov, TVEL’s senior vice-president for Science, Technology and Quality, explained progress in these areas.

Until now space batteries, known as radio isotope thermonuclear generators (RTGs), have been powered by the decay heat of PU-238. spoke to WNN on April 16, during the XI International Forum Atomexpo 2019 held in Sochi, Russia.

See the full text of the exclusive interview here

Last year Rosatom adopted a strategy with a 100-year outlook based on fast neutron reactors and thermal neutron reactors. For this, TVEL is developing mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel and REMIX fuel, with both using recycled uranium together with plutonium. This is the dual-component approach.

Rosatom to launch commercial fast neutron reactors

At the Siberian Chemical Combine [SCC] site, in Seversk, Russia is building a demonstration center, a reactor installation, a facility for recycling used nuclear fuel and a shop floor for fabrication of nuclear fuel for the fast reactor.

“This is an R&D investment project and once we obtain the results we’ll apply them all over the world in the nuclear market, but we’ll start in Russia first,” Vergaazov said in his WNN interview.

The BREST-OD-300 lead-cooled fast-neutron reactor is part of Rosatom’s Proryv, or Breakthrough, project to enable a closed nuclear fuel cycle. The ultimate aim is to eliminate production of radioactive waste from nuclear power generation. The Breakthrough project comprises a fuel production/fabrication module for production of dense uranium plutonium (nitride) fuel for fast reactors; a nuclear power plant with a BREST reactor; and a used fuel retreatment module.

In December 2018, TVEL launched batch production of MOX fuel assemblies for the BN-800 fast neutron reactor – constructed as unit 4 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in the Sverdlovsk district – which entered commercial operation in October 2016. The 789 MWe unit’s capacity exceeds that of the world’s second most powerful fast reactor – the 560 MWe BN-600 Beloyarsk 3.

bn-800-large-image

On plans for a BN-1200 reactor, for which a target date of 2027 has been reported, Vergazov plans are not yet firm for construction of the plant.

“In the near term we will be studying the idea at the site in Seversk where we are building the demonstration centre and energy complex, but there hasn’t yet been any official decision about building that reactor installation, nor on making an investment into it. Within our strategy with a 100-year outlook, there are still two options of how we should develop the fast neutron reactor technology, whether we will have sodium or lead coolant.”

VVER-1000 Fuel

TVEL has developed a “fourth-generation” fuel line – TVS-4 – for VVER-1000 reactors. These fuel assemblies, with increased capacity and more advanced design, are expected to significantly improve the economic performance of nuclear power plants while maintaining the same level of safety.

Fourth generation fuel assemblies are being introduced at European nuclear power plants with VVER reactors – last year, the third batch of TVSA-12 fuel was loaded into the Kozloduy reactors in Bulgaria and the first batch of TVSA-T.mod.2 fuel cassettes was loaded into the Temelín nuclear reactor in the Czech Republic. TVEL has plans to supply fourth-generation fuel assemblies to other countries.

TVEL is also ready to introduce fuel with an enrichment of more than 5% (up from 4.85% currently). It will allow nuclear power units to switch to the 24-month fuel cycle – that is, shutting down operations to load fresh fuel assemblies into the reactor will occur once every two years, instead of every year and a half, as it is now.

X-energy Partners with Nuclear Fuel Industries
on Future TRISO Fuel Production

Triso-fuel_thumb.pngX-energy has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Nuclear Fuel Industries, Ltd. (NFI) of Japan that establishes a partnership on the supply of tristructural isotropic (TRISO) nuclear fuel fabrication equipment. The equipment will be installed in X-energy’s planned TRISO-X Commercial Fuel Fabrication Facility in Tennessee.

Under the MOU, X-energy and NFI will begin planning the transfer of commercial-scale equipment from NFI’s Tokai Works facility to X-energy’s Oak Ridge TRISO fuel fabrication facility. The study is scheduled to begin this year and include the discussion of fuel kernel production, TRISO fuel compacts production and uranium recovery equipment – which have actually been used for the production of fuel in prismatic high temperature gas-cooled reactors in Japan.

“Our MOU with NFI is another significant stride forward to establish our TRISO-X fuel business as the world leader in TRISO fuel fabrication for both commercial and government applications. Advanced reactors are the bridge to our energy future and our TRISO-X Facility will be a key enabler for deployment of the advanced reactor industry,” said X-energy’s Vice President of Fuel Production Dr. Pete Pappano.

“X-energy’s pilot fuel facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is complete and fully operational. We now turn our focus to completing the design, financing, and licensing of our TRISO-X Commercial Fuel Fabrication Facility, scheduled to begin commercial-scale fuel production in the 2023-2024 timeframe,” Pappano continued.

X-energy is actively producing TRISO-based fuel forms and is implementing pilot scale manufacturing capacities. Tristructural Isotropic (TRISO) coated fuels are unique in their multi-layer encapsulation of uranium, leading to increased safety and proliferation resistance while employing functional containment.

X-energy is an advanced nuclear reactor design and TRISO-based fuel fabrication company. The firm says its design of a high temperature gas-cooled pebble bed reactors will require less time to construct, use factory-produced components, cannot melt down, and IS “walk-away” safe without operator intervention.

NuScale and South Korea’s DHIC Announce Strategic Cooperation

NuScale Power LLC and Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Co., Ltd. (DHIC) have announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for strategic cooperation to support deployment of the NuScale Power ModuleTM (NPM) worldwide. The relationship includes DHIC, a member of the Doosan Group, and potential Korean financial investors, which, commensurate to final due diligence, plan to make a cash equity investment in NuScale.

DHIC is expected to bring its expertise in nuclear pressure vessel manufacturing, and will join the larger U.S.-led manufacturing team to build NuScale’s NuScale Power ModuleTM (NPM).

“NuScale welcomes this strategic relationship with DHIC – a leader in the global manufacturing industry,” said John Hopkins, Chairman and chief executive officer of NuScale Power.

Under the terms of the MOU, DHIC, which is a manufacturer of nuclear reactor pressure vessels, is expected to build a portion of the most critical and complex NPM sub assemblies for the plant under development for Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems. NuScale has said elsewhere that it plans to break ground in the early 2020s and begin operation in 2026.

“We are impressed with the simplicity, safety and cost-effectiveness of NuScale’s design, and we look forward to collaborating with the company as they bring America’s first SMR to market,” said Ki Yong Na, CEO of Doosan Nuclear Power Plant Business Group.

“Furthermore, we see great potential for international applications of NuScale’s carbon-free technology, and look forward to collaborating with NuScale as the company pursues additional opportunities.”

Under the terms of the MOU, which is subject to a satisfactory due diligence negotiation of a definitive agreement and regulatory approvals, the companies are aiming to close the strategic supplier agreement in July 2019.

NuScale’s technology is the world’s first and only SMR to undergo design certification review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC is scheduled to complete its review of NuScale’s design in September 2020.

Argonne Pushes Ahead on Versatile Test Reactor

vtr-logo_thumb.pngPivotal technology will enable evaluation of many advanced reactor fuels and designs. National labs are competing for the project as DOE has not yet selected the site where it is to be built.

Argonne is working on the development of a conceptual design for an irradiation test reactor called the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR).

Although the VTR will not produce electricity, it will allow nuclear engineers to try out different fuels, coolants and other reactor components as they evaluate new technologies for future generations of advanced nuclear reactors.

Within the VTR, scientists will perform irradiation experiments in several different test locations where they can evaluate innovative fuels or other experimental setups

The VTR will consist of a sodium-cooled fast reactor, a design that has been around for several decades; the reactor will be the first fast-neutron spectrum testing facility built in 20 years. Within that platform, scientists believe that the VTR can reveal the advantages of different reactor technologies.

The fundamental purpose of the VTR is scientific discovery integral to a better understanding of how different fuels and reactor materials behave under real-world conditions,  Experiments using the VTR could examine how materials change during and after irradiation.

The site of the VTR has not been determined, although it will likely reside near or at a DOE national laboratory. According to scientists at Argonne, the could be completed in 2026 — a relatively short time given the amount of work and investment that goes into building a new reactor.

The VTR program is led by Idaho National Laboratory, with Argonne leading the core design and safety analysis. Other national laboratories participating in the VTR program include Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pacific Northwest and Savannah River. Funding for the VTR program is provided through DOE’S Office of Nuclear Energy. On February 22, 2019,

DOE determined the need for a fast neutron testing capability and estimated its costs between $3.0 to $6.0 billion with an estimated completion date between 2026 and 2030.

General Electric will design the structural components of the reactor. See prior coverage on this blog – GE Tapped for Design Work on Versatile Test Reactor

France to Delay Closing 14 Nuclear Reactors by a Decade

The Financial Times, London, reports that France will delay by 10 years the shutdown of part of its nuclear power industry in order to fulfill President Emmanuel Macron’s aim of making the country carbon-neutral by 2050.

According to the newspaper, François de Rugy, environment minister, presented an energy and climate bill to the cabinet that will place the 2050 target in law> it will propose to cut greenhouse gas emissions to less than a sixth of their 1990 levels.

The overall French 2050 target is the same as that recommended by the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, which wants legislation to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by that year.  The net result of the new law would be that France would not close 14 reactors by 2028.

World Nuclear News reported that to achieve this carbon-neutral objective, France has adopted a strategy for energy and climate, broken down into two major pillars: the National Low Carbon Strategy and the Multiannual Energy Program presented at the end of 2018 by the government, and that will formally come into force when the energy-climate bill is passed by parliament.

The draft bill sets a trajectory to decarbonise the energy mix by accelerating the decline in fossil energy consumption to at least 40% in 2030, instead of the less than 30% forecast in the French Energy Transition for Green Growth Law. It also calls for the end of electricity production from coal in metropolitan France by 2022, by putting in place a legal framework allowing the shutdown of coal-fired power plants.

However, the bill also calls for “realistic goals to transform our energy model by increasing the timeframe for reducing nuclear power to 50% by 2035 instead of 2025, which would have required the construction of new gas-fired plants, and would have involved an increase in our greenhouse gas emissions.”

In the background the French government is working with EDF to develop a new, smaller version of the 1600 MW EPR and to reduce the cost of building new full size nuclear reactors. The government will also consolidate EDF as a wholly owned state corporation buying out some institutional investors who have a minority stake in the firm.

Last January World Nuclear News reported that Framatome will develop a new version of the EPR large reactors, as well as working with EDF and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission to develop a small modular reactor based on French technology.

“This contract defines the roadmap and reciprocal commitments between industry, the state and trade unions to build the future of the nuclear industry and support the achievement of projects with high stakes, particularly on skills, digital transformation, R&D and exports, said Framatome Chairman and CEO Bernard Fontana.

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Delays in Startup of 1st UAE Nuclear Reactor Linked to Problems with South Korean Firms Building all Four Units

ENEClogoDelays in the startup of the first of four South Korean 1400 MW PWR type nuclear reactors being built for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Program in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have cascaded forward affecting the next three due to a combination of safety issues and quality assurance problems with components and systems.

The first unit was scheduled to begin the process of fuel loading and startup in 2018. However, that milestone has now been pushed back to late 2019 or early 2020. This is the second significant delay in startup of the first of four reactors being built at the site.

report published in MIT Technology Review this week describes some of the nuclear plant issues while also dwelling on related sensational political developments in South Korea.

This blog post steps through some of the issues covered in the MIT Technology Review magazine article and looks at how they have affected not only the construction of four plants in the UAE, but also South Korea’s future as a global leader in nuclear energy.

These issues are not new. The New York Times first reported the problems in 2013 with construction of three nuclear plants in South Korea in 2013. At the core of the issue are fabricated safety certificates for parts shipped to nuclear reactors under construction in South Korea and bribes paid by supplier chain firms to nuclear construction managers to accept the substandard components.

Note to Readersthe 2013 New York Times article includes a deep dive into the culture of relationships between supply chain firms and managers at nuclear utilities.

According to the report, counterfeit parts, cables and possibly other components, sidelined construction and startup of a key South Korean nuclear reactor in 2014 to 2016 which also setback training of NAWAH operators at that plant.

The reference South Korean plant for the training work is the Shin Kori-3, an APR-1400, which is the same design as the units being built in the UAE. It was supposed to start up in 2013/2014. However, it didn’t have its first criticality until December 2015 and wasn’t connected to the grid for revenue service until December 2016. The delays were caused by the need to rip and replace counterfeit cables and other components installed in the plant.

Separately, the MIT Technology Review magazine article documents a long history of double dealing among firms supplying components and systems to be used in the construction of South Korean nuclear reactors. Two kinds of problems are reported – first, substandard transformers for the switchyard, a reported 300 units in all, and second, and more significantly, counterfeit cables which impacted both PWR and CANDU type reactors being built in South Korea.

According to the magazine, some of the counterfeit parts made their way to the UAE units under construction which resulted in a loss of confidence by Emirati nuclear officials in the reliability of the South Korean supply chain. The magazine’s report did not cite evidence that anyone in the UAE knowingly accepted parts with false safety certificates

“Several faulty parts had also found their way into the UAE plants, angering Emirati officials. “It’s still creating a problem to this day,” Neilson-Sewell, the Canadian advisor to Barakah, told the magazine

“They lost complete faith in the Korean supply chain.”

It isn’t clear whether parts were intended to be installed in the nuclear island or in the non-nuclear areas such as turbine or electrical switch yard, where power is transferred from power station to the regional grid. We don’t know the extent of the problem because neither the UAE nor South Korea provided those details to the magazine’s reporter.

An 18-24 month delay in startup based on the need to clear hundreds of RAIs in an April 2018 Operational Readiness Review (ORR) points to numerous and serious findings, and may also be related to the report about counterfeit components having been shipped to the UAE from South Korean suppliers.

Outcome of the Operational Readiness Review for Unit 1

The primary cause of the delay in startup of Unit 1, which was the second postponement of startup process, is that the unit had problems with a management process called an “Operational Readiness Review” or ORR. This led to a statement by the UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation  (FANR) about problems with the “safety culture” at the plant. FANR had been raising the issue of “safety culture” since 2016.

As readers of this blog well know the ORR is a standard check point or milestone in the startup of any new commercial nuclear reactors, and the process is more or less the same for any new commercial reactor globally.

The basic intent of an ORR is to check that ALL of the equipment is installed properly, and that EVERY piece of equipment functions exactly as specified in terms of its function within the reactor system.

On the human factors side, an ORR checks that staff are fully trained and that they are following all of the procedures for safely operating the reactor.

If deficiencies are found either in terms of equipment installation or operation, or in terms of staff correctly following procedures, a “finding” is documented and the plant operator has to take “corrective actions” to fix the problem. The ability of the Emirates Energy utility to license the plant depends on a successful ORR with closure of all findings. The more serious the issue that is found, the longer it usually takes to fix it.

Organizational Readiness Inspections at Barakah 1

The ORR included multiple areas resulting in approximately 70 inspections which  took place.  Organizational issues are as important as technical concerns. In terms of safety culture, key items included;

    • Control room crew readiness
    • Training and qualification of All Technical Staff
    • Staffing levels of the operating company
    • Implementing procedures in all technical areas
Role of ORR in UAE nuclear licensing

Licensing for Emirates Nuclear Reactors

The result is that first UAE reactor, same design as the one in South Korea, has twice postponed startup dates due in part to this delay. The unit also did not pass its operational readiness review.

Nawah Energy Company said it “has completed a comprehensive operational readiness review (ORR)” in April 2018 for an updated start-up schedule for the reactor, but in May as a result of over 400 “findings” from the ORR postponed startup by 18-24 months. (Briefing on April 2018 UAE ORR – PDF file)

Examples of the findings include problems with radiological control management programs and monitoring systems. (UAE April 2018 ORR summary report – PDF file)

FANR Inspectors identified several Issues of Concern. Here are a few examples.
Descriptions are not sufficient to address all the elements of the Program scope.
• IOC2 – Quality Control Issues associated with the REMP Program.
• URI1 – Unable to verify that the alarm/trip set points for effluent radiation monitors will alarm/trip as required by Technical Specifications

Radioactive Effluent Control Program (RECP)
o Radiological Environmental Monitoring Program (REMP)
o Radioactive Effluents Controls

Once the ORR has documented findings, the plant operator has to take “corrective actions” and document the closure of each finding. According to the ORR report, it found more than 400 items requiring this response from the plant operator.

The Case of the Counterfeit Parts

The first reports of problems with parts not being up to code that had been installed in three nuclear reactors under construction in South Korea surfaced in 2012 and by May 2013 South Korea had suspended the operations of two nuclear power reactors and extended a shutdown of a third to replace cables that were supplied using fake safety certificates.

The new case relates to forged documents on cables worth a reported $5.35 million.  Of the three reactors, two are in Kori, about 320 km southeast of the capital Seoul, and one is in Wolsong.  Significantly, for the UAE, the Shin Kori 3 reactor was one of the affected units.

And there were consequences for the suppliers who shipped bogus parts to the plants. The MIT Technology Review magazine article provides this summary of how the government responded to the scandal.

“By the time it was completed in 2014, the KHNP inquiry [over counterfeit parts] had escalated into a far-reaching investigation of graft, collusion, and warranty forgery; in total, 68 people were sentenced and the courts dispensed a cumulative 253 years of jail time. “

“Guilty parties included KHNP president Kim Jong-shin, a KEPCO lifer, and President Lee Myung-bak’s close aide Park Young-joon, whom Kim had bribed in exchange for “favorable treatment” from the government.”

Updated Schedule for Unit 1

NucNet reported in May 2018 that the second delay and updated schedule for Unit 1 was announced on May 26,  2018, and follows “a comprehensive operational readiness review” (ORR) by Nawah Energy Company, the joint venture company formed by Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and Korean Electric Power Corporation (KEPKO) to operate the four-unit Barakah nuclear power station.

Nawah said the schedule review was carried out “in strict accordance with the principles of a healthy nuclear safety culture, which requires conservative decision-making to support nuclear safety.”

“Consequently, the resulting projection for the start-up of Unit 1 operations reflects the time required for the plant’s nuclear operators to complete operational readiness activities and to obtain necessary regulatory approvals, all of which are all designed to ensure safe, sustainable nuclear operations after start-up,” the company said.

The first delay occurred in May 2017 and was updated in January 2018.  ENEC said at that time commercial operation of Barakah-1 had been put back from 2017 to 2018.

Christer Viktorsson, director-general of UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), told Reuters in January 2018 that while the reactor was almost technically ready, the regulator could not yet issue an operating licence to Nawah and could not say when the firm would get its licence.

ENEC said the first delay in 2017 was to “ensure sufficient time for international assessments and adherence to nuclear industry safety standards, and “as a reinforcement of operational proficiency for plant personnel.”

A translation of this statement is that the lack of access to the Shin Kori 3 reactor denied the UAE the use of the unit for training purposes. The language of the press statement for the second delay, announced in Spring 2018, is in a way a statement of confidence that the ORR process worked and that the findings documented in the ORR would require more work to get the plant ready to be licensed.

ENEC also said that the second delay followed a series of assessments and lessons learned from Shin-Kori-3 in South Korea, the reference plant for Barakah.

Shin Kori-3, an APR-1400 which was supposed to start up in 2013/2014, but which didn’t have its first criticality until December 2015 and wasn’t connected to the grid for revenue service until December 2016. The primary reason for the delay was the issue of forged safety certificates for cables and components installed in the plant.

UAE Invests in Reactor Control Room Simulation

So what do you do if you don’t have a real operating reactor to train your people? The next best step is to build a simulation facility which is a mock up of the real thing.

ENEC said in a press statement in 2015 that critical part of its safety culture and ongoing work toward operational readiness is simulation training. The Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has two full scope, digital training simulators, which are housed in the 7,000-square-meter Simulator Training Center.

Individuals who are working toward their certification to operate the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant gain hands-on experience by interfacing with an exact replica of the Main Control Room. Trainees are exposed to a series of virtual scenarios that prepare them to play a key role in delivering safe, clean nuclear energy to the UAE.

ENEC said the teams have completed more than 20 emergency response drills and will continue to conduct these exercises at regular intervals during construction and operations of the plant.

Overcoming Language Issues at a Globally Sourced Site

The plant operator also invested in addressing the language issues at the plant.  Nawah Energy Company (NAWAH), the operator of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant, says it is among the first sites to develop English language standards for nuclear plant operations. These standards are need for safety communication as part of a viable nuclear safety culture.

Consider that there may not be more than a handful of nuclear engineers in the world who speak both Arabic and Korean. And it is a bigger problem than just these two cultures.

Suppose you are a South Korean Senior Reactor Operator and your boss shows up one day with a dozen or so trainees from the UAE none of whom speak a word of Korean. Actually, you would have known they were coming, but unless everyone in the room speaks a common language, like English, or that you have very good translators, getting the trainees certified is going to be a slog.

Nawah Energy Company took action in October 2018 because it had become acutely aware of the problem, which was an underlying contributor to some of the findings on safety in the ORR in April 2018. If the staff all don’t talk the same language, how are they going to run the plant?

“With employees from more than 40 nationalities, NAWAH is the most multinational and multicultural nuclear operating company in the world.”

“As we prepare to begin operating the first nuclear energy reactor in the Arab World, everyone at Nawah has been working to maintain high standards of effective safety communications,” said Mark Reddemann, NAWAH CEO, in a press statement.

“With the development of the first ‘Nuclear English’ standards, we can now ensure that our staff have the language ability to effectively communicate, to support safe, reliable operations.”

“Our current focus is to finalize the assessment of the people who are essential to the Fuel Load and start-up of Barakah Unit 1, comprising operators, maintenance and security personnel, and emergency response officers.”

He added that the Organizational Effectiveness team “is working around the clock to ensure that these people sit the exams and obtain the official certification needed to meet the Nuclear English standard,” added Mr Reddemann.

“So far, we have evaluated about 90 percent of the staff and around 55 percent have already achieved the required level.”

Reddemann added, “In fact, Peter Dietrich, Nawah’s Chief Nuclear Officer who is from the US, recently took the Nuclear English Test as this is a requirement.”

Implications of Problems in UAE for South Korea’s Nuclear Future

The prosecution and punishment of the people in South Korea responsible for the problems with substandard parts won’t bring back the lost money, or time, or restore the reputation of the South Korean nuclear program.

These delays, and the problems with substandard parts, produced serious consternation at the UAE and, the situation may eventually affect South Korea’s prospects for winning new export work with Saudi Arabia or elsewhere.

South Korea has had an aggressive posture in terms of seeking new export deals, and is well on its way to getting its 1400 MW design through the US NRC safety review process.

South Korea has also been negotiating to sell its reactors to the UK, but has not yet started the equivalent safety review process there, called the Generic Design Assessment (GDA), for its products there. The key reason is that it lost its “preferred bidder” status from Toshiba for the Moorside project after the two firms came to loggerheads over differences on costs and related finances.

In all South Korea’s nuclear industry has some serious challenges ahead. The government doesn’t trust it, wants to shut it down, and its key foreign customer is bent out of shape over the delays in start up of the first unit which cascades into delays for the next three.

Insofar as shutting down the domestic reactors in South Korea are concerned, that may not happen right away if at all. South Korea would have to wind up either buying LNG on the global market or natural gas from Russia via an undersea pipeline. The shutdown deadline is 2045 so a lot can happen by then.

The World Nuclear Association, which prepares profiles of nuclear energy in each country, describes the current domestic nuclear energy profile for South Korea in this summary.

  • Reactors provide about one-third of South Korea’s electricity from 22 GWe of plant.
  • Nuclear energy has been a strategic priority for South Korea, but the new president elected in 2017 is aiming to phase it out over some 45 years.

It will be tough for South Korea to give up its commitment to nuclear energy, and meet climate change goals at the same time. A loss of one third of the power generation capacity for this heavily urbanized and industrialized sectors seems to be simply unthinkable.

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Key Questions for Developers of Small Modular Reactors

nuclear questionDespite the tremendous levels of excitement and publicity for development of small modular reactors (SMRs), many questions remain unanswered about the success factors for bringing them to market.

For competitive reasons, some firms will keep the answers to themselves, but investors and others, including suppliers, eventually will want to learn about what SMR developers are thinking.

Here are some key questions that SMR developers will have to answer sooner or later.

Key Questions About SMRs

Inquiring Minds Want Answers

While this blog does not give investment advice, it does ask a lot of questions. If this blog could convene a round table of various types of SMR developers, it would ask them the questions (below) to help clarify their intentions and the reasonableness of their expectations for success.
Keep in mind that skeptical questions are not an indication of bias, but rather are part of a continuing quest for the facts and an unbiased view of market realities.

The race for investor commitments of cash and eventual market share among developers of small modular reactors (SMRs) globally is on. Developers in the U.S., Canada, U.K., South Korea, Russia, and China, and in other nations are pursuing their technology visions for a variety of designs concepts including light water (LWR), molten salt, HTGR, and other GEN IV types.

Success is not certain for any of them given the huge costs and long time frames needed to bring these reactors to market and to sell enough of them to produce an acceptable return for the investors.

The IAEA ARIS Database lists two dozen efforts globally to develop commercially successful SMR efforts followed by another dozen or so demonstration units of which a few might also join that crowd.

Conventional wisdom within the global industry says that LWR type designs have the fastest path to commercial success because the technology has a tried and true technical legacy which offers a quicker response from regulatory agencies and more cost competitive pricing and reliability in terms of quality from suppliers of components. For suppliers, first of a kind issues relate to fabrication, but not to design principles.

That said in the U.S. several major nuclear utilities have put up cash money to partner with developers of advanced reactors. Southern Nuclear is working with TerraPower on a molten chloride salt design and with X-Energy on TRISO fuel for it. NuScale has in UAMPS its first customer for its LWR design to be built at a site in Idaho with ground breaking expected in the early 2020s.

In Canada New Brunswick Power has inked development agreements with two distinctly different types of reactor suppliers – the ARC100, which is based on the sodium cooled Integral Fast reactor developed and operated at Argonne West and Moltex, which is a Molten Salt Reactor that has a unique capability in its design to do load following by storing some of the hot salt to coordinate timing of its use with wind and sale electrical generation sources.

Where Will Investors Place their Bets and Why?

The challenge for an investor who wants to place substantial bets on one or more of these efforts is that it seems to be a daunting task, especially at this early stage for some projects, to figure out which ones will go the distance and which ones will fold.

The failure of Transatomic to produce a design with the necessary power and efficiency needed to come to market is an object lesson for anyone with stars in their eyes about the brave new world of nuclear energy entrepreneurship.

What are the prospects for global SMR sales? The host nation of your development effort, no matter how large or small, is at best a springboard for entry into the global effort to decarbonize the electrical generation industry.

Bigger isn’t Always Better when it Comes to Host Countries for SMR Efforts

Several nations, including the U.S. and the U.K., say they are interested in SMRs, but both nations have put up peanuts in terms of the cash needed to jump start the industry. The U.K. government went so far a few years ago to announce a “competition” for SMRs, and then it sat on its hands and did nothing thereafter while the Prime Minister and Parliament dithered over Brexit.

The U.S. government has one major cost sharing agreement with an SMR developer for design and licensing costs. It has handed out lots of awards of small amounts of money ($millions) for slices of technology development, but hasn’t committed to creating an industry ($billions).

Meanwhile, two other U.S. LWR developers dropped out of the race lacking both potential customers and the cash to continue their efforts

Being a big nation has not translated into being a big player in terms of the growing the global SMR industry. By comparison, Canada’s competition effort through its national laboratory has yielded at least a dozen new efforts and two of the developers recently achieved new levels of maturity in terms of development and regulatory review.

A country with one tenth the population of the U.S. is punching above its weight in terms of producing winning rounds of progress with SMRs..

Are Small Countries Better Bets for SMRs?

Many SMR firms have inked memorandums of understandings for LWR and advanced reactors with countries across the globe. How will these firms present their technological differentiation cost competitive numbers to customers who at best is risk adverse to all but the most well understood reactor technologies which already are embedded in operating plants? How will these firms present an SMR as an alternative business case to a 1000 MW mainstream LWR?

What’s the best path for raising the $500M or more needed to take an SMR design from drawing board to production and what country is the best place to do it? How will these firms leverage global prospects for raising money and what kinds of investors will have the patience to wait a decade for their payoffs?

Is it worth talking to small countries for which a large reactor, e.g. 1000 MW, is a “bet the state-owned utility” proposition?

The sticking point once they get past the price difference between big and small units is the apparent unwillingness of many governments to offer regulated rate structures, and a floor on the rate of return to attract investors to specific new builds assuming the reactor technology itself is mature enough to break ground?

Examples of Small Nations with Big Interests in SMRs

  • Bulgaria went so far recently to offer virtually nothing to developers other than a qualified site and some long lead time equipment from a previous failed new build as incentives. While it appears to be stuck on large reactors, an SMR effort might be a more plausible path for the country.
  • The Czech Republic may have to buy out its minority investors in CEZ, the state owned electric utility, before it can commit to a new nuclear projects. These investors have threatened to sue over the risks of building new full size reactors at the country’s two power stations. The government could make a plausible case for lower risk SMRs at the same time it buys out the thorn in its side.
  • Poland has kicked its start date for a new nuclear energy project into the future more than once due to an inability to commit to a financial package to pay for one.
  • Jordan has entertained proposals from three or or four SMR developers but faces similar issues of raising the necessary funds and getting public approval for a nuclear reactor energy project.
  • Romania, which is well on its way to adding two new 700 MW CANDU type units to its fleet, is nevertheless talking to at least one SMR developer.
  • Ukraine is committing to building an SMR component factory for exports and also, possibly, to build them for its own use once its fleet of Russian VVERs reach the end of their service lives.
  • South Africa, which ditched an ill-fated plan the buy eight 1200 MW units from Russia, is rethinking its plans for electrical power from nuclear energy, and smaller, more affordable units, are clearly one of the things it has in mind.

The key question is in terms of global target markets which ones offer the best opportunities for a favorable investment climate in new nuclear energy projects and are predisposed to SMRs due to the daunting costs of their bigger brothers?

What About the Regulatory Hurdles?

Are nuclear regulators going to continue to treat SMRs the same way they’ve dealt with large LWRs? How will agencies steeped in light water expertise move up the learning curve to address safety issues for molten salt, high temperature gas, and other advanced designs? In the U.S. and Canada, respectively, their nuclear regulatory agencies are moving ahead to adapt to the times, but globally, lots of smaller nations may have to rely on safety reviews from other countries.

Will some countries decide the cost of being able to certify the safety of an SMR, especially an advanced design, just isn’t worth the trouble and cost? Will this perception be a barrier to entry into markets which are most likely to see the affordability of SMRs as a plus?

How and Where will the Supply Chain and Production Savings Appear?

How many units does an SMR need in terms of ink in its order book to make a substantial development in supply chain and production capabilities. No suppliers will be able to pass along volume discounts to SMR developers if there aren’t enough units to bring up a new production facility of fabrication process.

One SMR developer is building an factory in the U.S. to manufacture components with an eye towards making them not only for its own LWR SMR, but also to be a global center for production for other firms. Can an OEM industry achieve success and when?

Are Alternative Uses of SMRs Something that Customers Will Want?

Almost every developer of SMRs, both LWR and advanced types, touts alternative uses of the power of the reactor for efforts like hydrogen production, water desalinization, process heat, etc. It would be interesting to see how developers quantify these market opportunities relative to the needs of their customers for electrical power. What’s the best mix of offerings of electrical generation and use of their reactor for their other outputs?

Fuel In and Fuel Out Questions

Fuel fabrication capabilities for LWR and advanced reactors are developing. For LWRs, existing fuel suppliers can adapt to meet near-term demand. However, advanced reactors that need low enriched high assay fuel (greater than 5% but less than 20% U235) are looking at a development landscape that even with DOE money is at a minimum three to five years away from production. The same can be said for TRISO fuel. Will the fuel supply be ready when the designs are ready to come to market?

Spent fuel management for LWRs faces the same challenge as for existing nuclear utilities. The lack of deep geologic disposal and reprocessing facilities means the spent fuel will be stored at the reactor. For advanced reactors, such as molten salt and HTGRs, less has been said about disposition of the spent fuel. Some developers take the “bathtub” approach which is that the entire small reactor module is disposed of? Exactly where is that going to occur and how will it be done?

& & &

There are lots of other questions that could be asked? What are your questions? Please post yours in the comments section?

~ Other Nuclear News ~

NRC Completes Environmental Review for TVA Small Modular Reactor Project

(NucNet): The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has completed its environmental review for the potential construction of a small modular reactor unit at the Clinch River site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

The NRC said there are no environmental impacts that would prevent the issuing of an early site permit for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) project.

TVA submitted the Clinch River application in May 2016. The early site permit process determines whether a site is suitable for potential future construction and operation of a nuclear power plant.

Once issued, the permit is good for 20 years,  TVA has no near term plans to build any new nuclear based electrical generation capacity. It has closed some of its coal plants and replaced them with natural gas peaking plants.

TVA’s application is seeking resolution of safety and environmental issues related to siting a potential SMR at the site. The utility did not indicate a preference for any specific SMR design in its ESP application to the NRC.

China to Break Ground on ACP100 SMR by End of 2019

(WNN) China’s Ministry of Environment is planning to break ground to build an ACP100 small modular reactor (SMR) at Changjiang, Hainan, with construction by the end of this year.

According to Chinese publication Nuclear World, first concrete is to be poured next December. Construction is expected to take 65 months, with the 125 MWe unit expected to start up by May 2025.

The ACP100 was developed from the larger ACP1000 pressurized water reactor (PWR). The design, which has 57 fuel assemblies and integral steam generators, incorporates passive safety features and will be installed underground.

A two-unit demonstration plant is planned for a site on Hainan island, with a larger reactor to be built at Putian.

The ACP100 plant will be located on the northwest side of the existing Changjiang nuclear power plant, according to the March 22nd announcement. The site is already home to two operating CNP600 PWRs, with two Hualong One units also planned for construction.

EDF Moves into the Hydrogen Market

(WNN) France’s EDF has launched a hydrogen production and distribution subsidiary to support decarbonization of industry and mobility using low-carbon electricity from its nuclear and renewable energy fleet.

The new company, Hynamics, will offer hydrogen to industrial customers through services to install, operate and maintain hydrogen production plants. It will also support hydrogen in transport applications, by supplying service stations that refuel fleets of electric vehicles “such as trains, buses, refuse collection vehicles, commercial vehicles, or even river transport systems.”

“EDF aims to become a major player in the hydrogen industry in France and internationally,” it said, enhancing its “contribution to the fight against global warming and for a low-carbon world.”

In June last year EDF invested EUR16 million (USD18 million) in a partnership with McPhy, a specialist in electrolysers, hydrogen storage and charging stations, becoming its main shareholder.

Hynamics said it has identified 40 target projects in France, Belgium, Germany and the UK.

Rolls-Royce Confirms It Is ‘Reviewing Options’ For its Civil Nuclear Business

(NucNet) UK engineering giant Rolls-Royce has confirmed it is reviewing options for its civil nuclear business.

The company was responding to a report in The Sunday Times which said it has hired consultancy KPMG to find a buyer for its nuclear division, in a move which could result in a deal worth around £200m. The nuclear division is also a key part of the firm’s efforts to develop small modular reactors.

Rolls-Royce NucNet that it is “conducting a review of options for its international civil nuclear business”.

The proposed move is thought to be part of chief executive Warren East’s plans to re-focus the engineering giant on its core jet engine, power generation turbine, and defense interests.

Rolls Royce denied reports that the sale will affect the company’s involvement in a consortium working on plans for a new generation of small modular reactors.

In July the Financial Times reported that Rolls-Royce was preparing to shut down its project to develop SMRs if the government does not make a long-term commitment to the technology, including financial support.  So far that hasn’t happened.

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