Letter to Editor at NYT about UAE Nuclear Energy Program

Letter to the Editor, New York Times

Reference  NYT 08/01/20 – U.A.E. Becomes First Arab Nation to Open a Nuclear Power Plant. The launch is raising concerns about the growing number of nuclear programs in the volatile Middle East.

LETTER-TO-THE-EDITORThis article by NYT reporter Vivian Lee @VivianHYee skates past important facts to present a point of view that equates commercial nuclear reactors with nuclear weapons. It fails to put the UAE nuclear program in context and neglects to report on the actions of other nuclear states, like Russia, in the region.

The UAE has signed an agreement with the U.S. under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act which removes the possibility the country will enrich uranium or reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

The article fails to mention the UAE’s rigorous nuclear safety program to license its reactors implemented by an independent regulatory agency.

The reactors at the Barakah site in the UAE are shielded by four foot thick containment structures which are impervious to the kind of attack launched by the Houthi rebel group.

Barakah-units-1-and-2-July-2020-(ENEC)

UAE Barakah Units 1 & 2: Image: World Nuclear News

Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to build nuclear power plants have been downsized from a plan to construct 16 1000 MW units to just two 1400 MW units. The reason is the original plan became unaffordable due to the low price of oil.

It is true the Saudi government has stated it will not sign a ‘123″ agreement similar to the one for the UAE leaving the U.S. with little influence over its plans. That country could easily get all the nuclear reactor technology it needs from Pakistan or China.

The article neglects to point out the Russians have plans to build four 1200 MW commercial nuclear reactors for Egypt. The article neglects to report that the Russians are also building four similar commercial nuclear power plants in Turkey and two of them are already under construction.

The New York Times would do a service for its readers by updating the current news report to present a more complete picture of the outlook for nuclear energy in the region.

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ThorCon Inks MOU to Develop a 50MW Thorium Reactor for Indonesia

  • ThorCon to Develop 50MW Thorium Fueled Reactor in Indonesia Leading to 500MW Units Built in Shipyards.
  • Rosatom Pitches Indonesia for Conventional Light Water Reactors
  • USNC Collaborates with South Korean Industry Leaders to Develop Advanced Nuclear Reactor Power Systems
  • CEZ Signs Framework Deal with Czech Govt for New Nuclear Unit

ThorCon to Develop 50MW Thorium Fueled Reactor
for Indonesia

thorium periodic table symbol

According to ThorCon, the firm and Indonesia’s Defence Ministry have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to study developing a 50 MW thorium molten salt reactor (TMSR) for either power generation or marine vehicle propulsion. In an email to this blog, Robert Hargraves, a spokesman for ThorCon, said several developments are taking place in Indonesia for the company.

  • The ongoing work to develop shipyard-produced thorium/uranium fueled power plants generating electricity cheaper than coal, and  the MOU establishes the basis for providing technical advice for building 50 MW thorium fueled plants. ThorCon is a graphite-moderated thermal spectrum molten salt reactor.
  • In 2019 the Ministry of Energy successfully completed a study of the safety, economics, and grid impact of the 500 MW prototype ThorConIsle (Fact Sheet – PDF file).
  • Phase 1 is to build and test it with step by step commissioning, ending in a licence for future power plants. Phase 2 is shipyard production of multiple 500MW ThorCon plants to provide an additional 3000MW of cheap, reliable electric power.
thorcon timeline

ThorCon Timeline: Image: company website

The MOU was signed by the head of ministry’s Defense Research and Development Agency, Dr Anne Kusmayati, and ThorCon International Chief Representative Bob S. Effendi. According to the ThorCon statement, the project expects to make significant progress by 2025.

The proposed reactor is, however, much smaller than a fully commercial 500 MW nuclear power plant that Thorcon has been designing over the past five years and which is the ultimate design objective.

MOU Details

ThorCon provided the following details of the agreement. According to Mr. Effendi at ThorCon, Indonesia’s Dr Kusmayati said;

“The thorium-based power development research and development in the Defence Research and Development Agency is in line with the policy of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources which mandates the need for concrete steps to prepare nuclear power development projects, bearing in mind dwindling fossil energy sources and the length of time needed to construct a nuclear power plant.”

“The thorium-based power development research program represents the Ministry of Defence’s efforts to be the initiator or lever in mastering 4th generation nuclear technology that utilises thorium, which is available in abundance in Indonesia.”

ThorCon said it would provide technical support to the ministry’s research and development (R&D) body to develop “a small-scale TMSR reactor under 50 megawatts (MW).”

The Jakarta Post ran a more conservative report which quoted Indonesia’s National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) director Dandang Purwadi. He reportedly told the newspaper that thorium nuclear technology is not yet ready for commercial application.

“We have to wait around 10 years for the technology to mature, then it takes 10 years to build the facility.”

Progress Reported on Design of 500 MW Thorium Fueled Reactor

Thorcon said a fair amount of the design phase for the 500 MW design has been completed, which is documented in 2D drawings and 3D CAD models, and which has been shared with potential suppliers. The firm did not provide additional details on its potential supply chain for a thorium-fueled nuclear reactor.

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Conceptual Image of ThorCon 500 MW Design

The World Nuclear Association has a review of the technology related to the thorium fuel cycle and describes historical and current efforts by multiple countries to develop thorium fueled reactors. At this time no other thorium fueled reactors are in commercial revenue service though there are multiple prototype efforts ogoing globally.

Plans for a Prototype

The company said it will build a pre-fission test facility (PTF) at full scale, including the components of the fission island and the thermal power conversion chain. The fuel salt will not contain enriched uranium and will not sustain a chain reaction to generate power.

The components will be brought up to operating temperatures using electric heating. The absence of radioactivity allows intrusive instrumentation, direct observation, and internal access to components.

EPC Role for First of a Kind Unit

The plan is to build a 500 MW power plant at a world-class shipyard. The shipyard will be ThorCon’s EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) contractor. The expensive, massive, precision supercritical steam turbine-generator must be pre-ordered to achieve the one-year shipyard build time. ThorCon’s ship with the thorium reactor will be towed to the Indonesia near-shore site prepared with breakwaters and seawater cooling piping and a connection to the PLN electric power grid.

The firm has outlined plans for testing and commissioning of the first of a kind unit supervised by Indonesia’s Bapeten nuclear safety regulator. Once the first unit is in revenue service, it hopes to book orders for at least six more 500 MW units in global markets. The firm did not name potential customers.

India and China have been adapting CANDU type reactors to use thorium fuel. In 2018 English language media reports indicate that the Chinese Academy of Sciences has announced plans to invest $3 billion (USD) over the next two decades in development of molten salt reactors of various designs. A first order objective is reported to be the  development of a first of a kind 100MW thorium molten salt reactor in 2020 in the city of Wuwei in Gansu province. Commercial development is targeted for the early 2030s.

The program is called the Thorium-Breeding Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR). According to the media reports, the R&D program has two major components and both are tied to fuel types (solid and liquid) for various kinds of molten salt designs.

Indonesia / Officials Studying Russian Plans For New Nuclear,
Says Its Ambassador

(NucNet) Indonesian officials are studying a proposal by Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom to build the Southeast Asian country’s first nuclear power plant, the country’s ambassador to Russia Mohamad Wahid Supriyadi told state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti.

“Rosatom has prepared a detailed proposal for the first nuclear power plant in Indonesia. And we have already sent it… because various ministries in Indonesia will deal with this,” the ambassador said.

According to the ambassador, the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo has been proposed as a potential site for the plant.

USNC Collaborates with South Korean Industry Leaders
to Develop Advanced Nuclear Reactor Power Systems

Hyundai Engineering, Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute to Cooperate with USNC on Incorporating Best-in-Breed Technologies into Micro Modular Reactor

U.S.-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) announces the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hyundai Engineering (HEC) and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI). The five-year agreement outlines goals for development of technologies that enhance the USNC Micro Modular Reactor’s (MMR) ability to produce and deliver carbon-free power, heat, and hydrogen. The value of the agreement in terms of cash, or engineering design and support services in return to equity, was not disclosed.

ulta safe process heat as a product

Potential end uses of heat from the MMR. Image: Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp.

There are two primary areas of exploration outlined in the MOU: Multiple MMR reactors can be linked together to provide between 5 and 10 MW of electricity per unit, up to 150 MW of heat, or a combination of the two.

High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR) plant – development and deployment of HTGR technology for supplying power as well as process-heat production, critical to the operations of industrial processing plants.

Very High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (VHTR) plant – development and deployment of a VHTR system for production of hydrogen for use in fuel cells.

“We are committed to combining the simple, elegant design of our MMR with state-of-the-art energy-production technologies from around the world,” stated Francesco Venneri, CEO, USNC.

“Working with leaders like Hyundai Engineering and KAERI on advanced nuclear reactor technologies will improve the overall performance and value of our MMR, and accelerate our path to wide-scale deployment.”

USNC plans to incorporate technologies resulting from this collaboration into the MMR Project at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Ontario. The Chalk River MMR is currently in Stage 3 of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ thorough process to select proponents to construct and operate a small modular reactor (SMR) at that location. The firm is also involved in an R&D collaboration with CNL on fuel for the reactors.

According to the website of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, UNSC initiated Phase 1 of the vendor design review process in December 2016.

The USNC MMR Reactor consists of two plants: the nuclear plant that generates heat, and the adjacent power plant that converts heat into electricity or provides process heat for industrial applications.

The USNC system is designed to be uniquely simple, with minimal operations and maintenance requirements, and no on-site fuel storage, handling, or processing. Key to the overall design is USNC’s Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel, providing a new approach to reactor safety at the fuel level.

About The Ultra Safe MMR Reactor

Reactor Core – The reactor core consists of hexagonal graphite blocks containing stacks of FCM fuel pellets. The MMR reactor core has a low power density and a high heat capacity resulting in very slow and predictable temperature changes. The MMR reactor is fueled once for its lifetime.

Helium Coolant – Helium gas is the MMR™ reactor’s primary coolant. The helium passes through the nuclear core and is heated by the controlled nuclear fission process. The helium then transports the heat away from the core to the Molten Salt System.

The MMR reactor uses helium as it is an inert gas; a radiologically transparent, single-phase gas with no flashing or boiling possible. Helium does not react chemically with the fuel or reactor core components. It is easy to accurately measure and control the helium pressure in the reactor. The FCM fuel ensures the helium is clean and free of fission products.

Molten Salt Loop – Intermediate Heat Transfer Loop; The MMR plant is simple to operate, and flexible in its outputs. The use of molten salt thermal storage allows for significant flexibility in the supply of both electricity and process heat.

CEZ Signs Framework Deal with Czech Govt
for New Nuclear Unit

(Reuters) – The Czech government this wek signed agreements with CEZ for a planned multi-billion dollar expansion of the majority state-owned utility’s Dukovany nuclear power plant.

The agreements cover the general framework of the project and its initial phase, including a competitive tender in which CEZ will seek to have a preferred list of suppliers by 2022 and sign a contract with one by 2024. Construction should start in 2029, when the bulk of costs will start, and the new unit is expected to be operational in 2036.

The Czech government is seeking to expand the use of nuclear energy to reduce its use of lignite coal for power generation.

The state, which holds a 70% stake in CEZ, last week approved plans to give an interest-free loan for the roughly 1,200 megawatt unit. Recently, it approved a model to buy electricity from the new unit at a determined price, with consumers making up the difference if that price is higher than wholesale market prices.

Officials have estimated a cost of approximately $7 billion. Critics, including some CEZ minority shareholders, argue costs could be much higher. CEZ may have to buy out the minority shareholders to stem the threat of lawsuits.

Russia’s Rosatom, China’s China General Nuclear Power, France’s Electricite de France, South Korea’s KHNP, U.S group Westinghouse, and a joint venture between France’s Orano – formerly known as Areva – and Japan’s Mitsubishi are expected to participate in a tender to build the plant.

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US Agency to Fund Nuclear Energy Exports

  • US Agency to Fund Nuclear Energy Exports
  • India’s First New PHWR Kakrapar 3 Achieves First Criticality
  • Czech Government Approves Interest-Free Loan for New Reactor at Dukovany
  • Romania / Government Close To Signing Agreement On New Cernavoda Units
  • Russia / Reload MOX Fuel Ready for BN-800 Fast Reactor
  • HALEU / US Energy Secretary Says Processing Could Begin Next Year

US Agency to Fund Nuclear Enegy Exports

loansU.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) announced this week a change to its Environmental and Social Policy and Procedures (ESPP). As a result of a brief public consultation, it has changed its policy to fund nuclear power projects.

The announcement follows a 30-day public comment period on the proposed change and external engagement with stakeholders representing Congress, peer U.S. Government agencies, NGOs, and the private sector. DFC received more than 800 responses during the public comment period. It said 98% were in support of the proposed change.

Feedback included support from academics, nuclear experts, industry stakeholders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and bipartisan members of Congress. The feedback will also inform DFC’s implementation of the new policy.

Nonproliferation experts Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolsk writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists sharply criticized the policy.  They said that the policy would harm global efforts to control the spread of nuclear materials. The article also criticized the policy in terms of US exports not being economically competitive and that the policy is aimed at achieving foreign policy objectives to blunt the aggressive nuclear energy export efforts of Russia and China.

The DFC’s ‘Environmental and Social Policies and Procedures’ had previously prohibited the agency from investing in the production of, or trade in, nuclear reactors and related components. The US nuclear industry had pushed for the change to the policy on the grounds that it it made it impossible to offer attractive financing options for the export of US reactors and nuclear technology.

The update recognizes the “vast” energy needs of developing countries as well as new and advanced technologies such as small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors that could be particularly impactful in these markets. However, while press coverage of the policy change has emphasize SMRs, he agency’ is not exclusively wedded to this power rating.

DFC said that modernizing the nuclear energy policy will help deliver a zero-emission, reliable, and secure power source to developing countries in order to promote economic growth and affordable energy access in under-served communities. DFC noted that the change will also offer an alternative to the financing from Russia and China while advancing U.S. nonproliferation safeguards and supporting U.S. nuclear competitiveness.

“Today marks a significant step forward in U.S. efforts to support the energy needs of allies around the world. The change also positions DFC to accelerate growth in developing economies with limited energy resources,” said DFC CEO Adam Boehler.

“We look forward to exploring opportunities to leverage this new capability to deliver affordable, reliable, and emission-free energy where it is needed most. At the same time, these efforts will also advance innovative technologies that adhere to the United States’ high safety, security, and non-proliferation standards.”

“I applaud the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) for moving forward with the implementation of a key recommendation of President Trump’s Nuclear Fuel Working Group Strategy,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.

NEI Supports the New DFC Policy

Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said the policy change will enable US nuclear exports to compete on a more level playing field against state-owned entities from countries such as Russia and China, with the potential for multi-billion-dollar growth in exports.

“US nuclear energy companies are poised to offer a broad portfolio of innovative technologies to meet the growing worldwide demand for reliable, carbon-free energy over the next decade.”

Korsnick called for a “consistent, coordinated” US government policy on projects to reassure potential international partners, and she recommended the country adopt the Ex-Im Bank’s existing guidelines – which were designed and implemented in accordance with International Atomic Energy Agency standards – when reviewing applications for nuclear energy projects.

India’s First New PHWR Kakrapar 3
Achieves First Criticality

(WNN) Unit 3 of the Kakrapar nuclear power plant in the Surat district of the Indian state of Gujarat has attained a sustained chain reaction for the first time. It is the country’s first indigenous-designed 700 MW pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) to reach the commissioning milestone. Loading of fuel into the reactor’s core was completed in mid-March.

Kakrapar-3 is a first-of-its-kind indigenous 630MW PHWR unit designed by Indian scientists and engineers. The Department of Atomic Energy said the plant’s components and equipment have been manufactured solely by Indian industries and construction undertaken by Indian contractors.

“Thereafter, many tests and procedures were carried out during the lock down period following all COVID-19 guidelines,” Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) noted in a statement. The reactor achieved first criticality marking a “historic development”.

NPCIL said, “As a next step, various experiments/tests will be conducted and power will be increased progressively. Thereafter it will be connected with the western grid.” The unit is India’s 23rd reactor to enter operation.

Site works at Kakrapar were completed by August 2010. First concrete for Kakrapar 3 and 4 was in November 2010 and March 2011 respectively, after Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) approval. The AERB approved Rajasthan 7 and 8 in August 2010, and site works then began. First concrete for those units was in July 2011. Construction had been expected to take 66 months.

In a 5 March written answer to India’s upper house, the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State Jitendra Singh said commissioning of the first of the country’s 700 MW PHWRs, Kakrapar 3, is expected by this October and Kakrapar 4 in September 2021. The 700 MW PHWRs under construction at Rajasthan are expected to be commissioned in March 2022 for unit 7 and 2023 for unit 8.

India plans to put 21 new nuclear power reactors – including 10 indigenous designed PHWRs – with a combined generating capacity of 15,700 MW into operation by 2031.

Czech Government Approves Interest-Free Loan
To Push Down Cost of Planned Nuclear Plant

The Reuters wire service and others English language news media have reported that the Czech government has approved a plan to give an interest-free loan to state-owned utility CEZ to push down the cost of building a new nuclear power station at the Dukovany site that it wants to replace the country’s ageing coal and nuclear plants.

The loan would help the new unit at the existing Dukovany nuclear plant get closer to being easier to finance that with conventional investment plans. The government is reported to be planning to buy power from the 1,200 megawatt unit at a price that reflects recovery of the construction costs. A profit margin would be built into the rates.

A government document seen by Reuters showed the loan aimed to cover 70% of the cost. It would initially be interest free, with 2% interest charged after the unit is brought on line.

The plan needs to win approval from the European Commission to ensure it meets EU state aid rules. Anti-nuclear states like Austria and Germany, which share borders with the Czech Republic, are likely to oppose the plan.

The government and CEZ have said the project could cost about 6 billion euros ($6.9 billion) or about $5,700/Kw which is a reasonable estimate relative to global “overnight costs” for new reactors in western industrialized countries.

Russia’s Rosatom, China’s China General Nuclear Power, France’s EDF, South Korea’s KHNP, U.S group Westinghouse, and a joint venture between France’s Areva and Japan’s Mitsubishi are expected to participate in a CEZ tender to build the plant.

Czech and security officials plan to keep Russian and Chinese firms out of the deal, but the cabinet has insisted on keeping all interested parties involved to try to ensure competitive bids. CEZ is expected to choose the supplier by the end of 2022.

Romania / Government Close To Signing Agreement
for New Cernavoda Units

(NucNet) Development follows cancellation of deal with China’s CGN.

Romania is close to signing an agreement with undisclosed “Euro-Atlantic partners” to complete the third and fourth units at the Cernavoda nuclear power station, prime minister Ludovic Orban announced on July 23 during a visit to the plant.

Romania will invest €8-9 billion to build the two new plants, at 700 MW each. Mr Orban said that if the deal goes through, the plans would be online by 2030. Last month shareholders in Nuclearelectrica approved a new investment strategy for 2020-2025 that included proposals to go ahead with the completion of two new units at the Cernavoda at an estimated cost of €6.45bn. This number is substantially less than the cost estimate cited by Mr. Orban.

“As soon as possible, after we establish a team at government level to explore the best options, we will negotiate and sign agreements to start these fundamental investments for Romania. Earlier this year state-controlled nuclear energy producer Nuclearelectrica terminated an agreement signed with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) for the construction of Units 3 and 4. The agreement with China had been pending for several years without a sign off by all parties.

Cernavoda has two commercially operational CANSU 6 pressurized heavy water reactors supplied by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd and built under the supervision of a Canadian-Italian consortium of AECL and Ansaldo.

Cancellation of China Deal May Be Due to US Influence

Neither Nuclearelectrica nor the government has said why Romania cancelled the deal with CGN. Press reports in Romania said CGN has been criticized by Romania’s “strategic partners” over security issues tied to the use of Chinese technology. Reports also said there had been “cost concerns” related to the project.

Cooperation between Nuclearelectrica and CGN became uncertain after Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis and US president Donald Trump signed a joint declaration in Washington last year that called for closer cooperation between US and Romania in nuclear energy.

In August 2019 the US added four Chinese nuclear entities to a trade blacklist, accusing them of helping to acquire advanced US technology for military use in China. The four were CGN and its subsidiaries China General Nuclear Power Corporation, China Nuclear Power Technology Research Institute Company and Suzhou Nuclear Power Research Institute Company.

Efforts to resume work on Cernavoda-3 began in 2003. The project has restarted several times only to falter due to the lack of financing. It may be that Romania is looking at changes in the policy of the Development Finance Agency (DFA) which now allow the US government to make loads for export of nuclear technology. A sticking point is that the two partially built nuclear reactors in Romania are PHWRs and no US firm has expertise with this technology. SNC Lavalin, a Canadian firm, is the global supplier of this technology.

On the other hand, it is also possible that Romania just citied US influence as a justification to end the China deal, but also as a bargaining chip to get better terms from European investors.

Reload MOX Fuel Ready for BN-800 Fast Reactor

(WNN) The manufacture of the first full reload batch of uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for unit 4 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in Russia has been completed by the Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC) in Zheleznogorsk, in the Krasnoyarsk region. The 169 fuel assemblies have been accepted by operator Rosenergoatom, and its authorized representative VPO ZAES, which has confirmed the consignment is ready for shipment.

TVEL, the fuel manufacturer subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, will supply the fresh MOX fuel for Beloyarsk 4, providing the shipments throughout the rest of this year. The refueling at the 789 MWe BN-800 reactor is scheduled for January 2021. The shift towards fully loading the BN-800 core with MOX fuel is scheduled for completion in early 2022.

The BN-800 reactor was initially launched with a hybrid core, partially loaded with uranium fuel produced by Elemash, TVEL’s fabrication facility in Elektrostal in the Moscow region, and partially with experimental MOX fuel bundles manufactured at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors in Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk region. It entered revenue service in 2016.

MCC started serial batch-production of MOX fuel in late 2018. The first serial batch of 18 MOX fuel assemblies was loaded into the reactor’s core in late-2019, and the rest of the fresh fuel were bundles with enriched uranium.

“Starting from the nearest refueling, the BN-800 core will be loaded with fresh MOX fuel,” said Alexander Ugryumov, vice-president for research and development at TVEL.

MCC’s MOX fuel production line – located in a mine 200 meters underground – was built as part of Russia’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 BN-800 reactor was connected to the grid in December 2015. The 789 MW reactor entered commercial operation on 31 October 2016.

A U.S. program to produce MOX fuel from weapons-grade plutonium at a site in South Carolina was scrapped in 2018. A plan to produce MOX fuel in Japan has stalled based on management and technical issues.

HALEU / US Energy Secretary Says Processing Could Begin Next Year

(NiuCNet) New fuel type is seen as crucial for next generation reactors

The US Department of Energy is working to end US reliance on Russia for nuclear fuel and plans to begin processing US uranium into high-grade fuel at a DOE facility in Portsmouth, Ohio, as early as next year, energy secretary Dan Brouillette told members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy.

Mr Brouillette said the “high-assay low-enriched uranium”, or HALEU fuel, is particularly important for new and smaller commercial reactors that the DOE considers critical to grid stability as renewables replace aging fossil fuel power plants,

He told lawmakers the DOE has moved centrifuges from its Oak Ridge laboratories to a mothballed uranium processing plant built in the 1950s at Portsmouth, Ohio, and expects to begin processing to produce HALEU next year.

“I think it is absolutely critical that we further develop the front end of the fuel cycle,” Mr Brouillette said. “We have lost our leadership edge in America with regard to the provision of nuclear power. And today… the vast majority of the fuel purchased by the civilian nuclear fleet in the United Sates is primarily from Russia.”

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Image: US Department of Energy

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) asked the DOE over a year ago to begin a HALEU project as a way to ensure the development of advanced reactors after surveying reactor developers and determining the absence of a high-energy fuel supply could stymie further commercial development.

“The development, demonstration, and deployment of many advanced nuclear technologies is in jeopardy since there is no certainty that a HALEU fuel infrastructure will be in place when they are ready to enter the market,” NEI president and chief executive officer Maria Korsnick, wrote in a letter to the DOE.

HALEU is a component for advanced nuclear reactor fuel that is not commercially available today and may be required for a number of advanced reactor designs under development in both the commercial and government sectors.

Existing reactors typically operate on low-enriched uranium (LEU), with the uranium-235 isotope concentration just below 5%. HALEU has a uranium-235 isotope concentration of up to 20%, giving it several potential technical and economic advantages.

The higher concentration of uranium means that fuel assemblies and reactors can be smaller and reactors will require less frequent refueling. Reactors can also achieve higher “burnup” rates, meaning a smaller volume of fuel will be required overall and less waste will be produced.

In a 2017 survey of leading US advanced reactor companies, 67% of companies responded that an assured supply of HALEU was either “urgent” or “important” to their company. The survey also showed that “the development of a US supplier” was the most frequently cited concern with respect to HAEU.

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INL Requests Partners to Develop Nuclear Reactors to Use on the Moon and Mars

  • Idaho National Laboratory Issues RFI for Nuclear Power Systems for Moon and Mars
  • NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Gets its Nuclear Power source for a July 30 Launch
  • Senate Passes Nuclear Energy Leadership Act In Defense Authorization Bill

The Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC (BEA), the managing and operating contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL), is seeking information from firms in the nuclear and space industries to develop innovative technologies for a fission surface power (FSP) system that can be operated on the moon.

Link: Detail technical requirements and contracting information here

Responses are sought by Sept. 8. After receiving responses, INL will issue a request for proposal. For more information on the RFI, interested parties may contact Aaron Weston at aaron.weston@inl.gov 

Sponsored by NASA in collaboration with the Department of the Energy and INL, the request for information seeks partnership on technologies and approaches to test and validate an FSP design that can be built and deployed on the moon, and used for subsequent missions such as to Mars.

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Map of the Major Facilities of the INL located about 40 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID. 43:35N;112:39W more or less. The Materials Fuels Complex, formerly Argonne West, is the site where the work is done on nuclear power systems for space.

The Energy Department said the reactor is intended to support exploration in the south polar region of the moon. Ice has been detected in the craters at the Moon’s south pole which could be used for a variety of purposes by astronauts. The agency said a specific region on the Martian surface for exploration has not yet been identified.

“Small nuclear reactors can provide the power capability necessary for space exploration missions of interest to the Federal government,” the Energy Department wrote in the notice published this week.

“Idaho National Laboratory has a central role in emphasizing the United States’ global leadership in nuclear innovation, with the anticipated demonstration of advanced reactors on the INL Site,” said Dr. John Wagner, associate laboratory director of INL’s Nuclear Science & Technology Directorate.

“The prospect of deploying an advanced reactor to the lunar surface is as exciting as it is challenging, and partnering with the most forward-thinking companies in the private sector and national laboratory system will help us get there.”

The plan has two phases. The first is developing a reactor design. The second is building a test reactor, a second reactor be sent to the moon, and developing a flight system and lander that can transport the reactor to the moon. The goal is to have a reactor, flight system and lander ready to go by the end of 2026.

The reactor must be able to generate an uninterrupted electricity output of at least 10 kilowatts. The Energy Department said it would likely take multiple linked reactors to meet power needs on the moon or Mars.

In addition, the reactor cannot weigh more than 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms), be able to operate in space, operate mostly autonomously, and run for at least 10 years.

NASA’s Perseverance Mars Rover Gets its Nuclear Power Source
for a July 30 Launch

(Space.com) The installation of the power system is a vital step toward liftoff for the rover, which will rely a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG), to keep its instruments running and to stay warm during the cold Martian nights and winters. The United Launch Alliance, which is responsible for launching Perseverance on its way next Thursday (July 30) made the announcement.

In a statement to the media, a spokesman for the launch contractor said, “The Mars Perseverance MMRTG is installed and doing well. This Red Planet dune buggy is fueled and ready to go!”

The MMRTG is designed to power the rover for up to 14 years, which is far beyond the $2.7 billion spacecraft’s initial mission lifetime of nearly two Earth years, or one Martian year. It is based on the system that powers NASA’s Curiosity rover, which launched in 2011 and has been roving the Red Planet since August 2012.

The nuclear power pack can produce about 110 watts of power, according to NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE). The MMRTG contains radioactive plutonium (PU-238), which naturally decays into more stable atoms. As it does so, it releases heat, which the MMRTG converts into electricity. Excess heat keeps a spacecraft’s instruments warm on cold Martian nights so it can keep working.”

DOE and NASA point out that for Mars missions, MMRTGs offer a key benefit. Unlike solar panels, they aren’t affected by local weather, which means a spacecraft that carries one isn’t vulnerable to dust storms which can cover the solar cells.

Another MMRTG is scheduled to power NASA’s Dragonfly mission, a rotorcraft designed to explore the hazy skies of Saturn’s massive moon Titan in 2026.

About the Spacecraft

mars perseverence

NASA Mars Perseverence Rover & Ingenuity Helicopter.  Image: NASA/Cal Tech

In February 2021, NASA’s Mars 2020 Perseverance rover and NASA’s Ingenuity Mars Helicopter (shown in an artist’s concept) will be the agency’s two newest explorers that will land on Mars. Both were named by students as part of an essay contest.

Perseverance is the most sophisticated rover NASA has ever sent to Mars. Ingenuity, a technology experiment, will be the first aircraft to attempt controlled flight on another planet. Perseverance will arrive at Mars’ Jezero Crater with Ingenuity attached to its belly.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory built and will manage operations of Perseverance and Ingenuity for the agency. Caltech in Pasadena, California, manages JPL for NASA.

For more information about the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission, go to: https://mars.nasa.gov/perseverance

For more information about Ingenuity, go to: https://mars.nasa.gov/technology/helicopter

Senate Passes Nuclear Energy Leadership Act In Defense Authorization Bill

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, thanked her colleagues for supporting the inclusion of S. 903, her Nuclear Energy Leadership Act (NELA), in S. 4049, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021. The Senate today passed the NDAA bill, with NELA incorporated by amendment, by a vote of 86 to 14 this week. Murkowski is Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

NELA aims to reestablish U.S. leadership in nuclear energy. The bill focuses the Department of Energy on demonstrating advanced reactor concepts, providing fuel for initial advanced nuclear reactors, and developing the nuclear energy workforce. The advanced reactors supported by NELA have significant potential to provide safe, clean, reliable, and affordable energy to installations such as military bases, remote communities in states like Alaska, and to larger towns and cities across the country.

“For too long, the United States has lagged woefully behind on innovative nuclear energy technologies, which comes at great cost to our economy, our global leadership, and the environment,” Murkowski said.

“The Department of Defense is a logical first customer for advanced reactors, especially the microreactors currently under development, which can be deployed to remote regions. Nuclear energy can also provide safe, clean, and affordable power to homes, schools, and businesses that traditionally rely on more costly energy sources.”

Murkowski and Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., led a bipartisan group of 20 Senators last month in sending a letter to urge the inclusion of NELA in NDAA, based in part on nuclear energy’s contribution to national security.

When floor debate began on NDAA, Murkowski and Booker introduced Amendment #2012, containing the text of NELA, along with 15 additional Senators: Thom Tillis, R-NC; Joe Manchin, D-WV; Martha McSally, R-AZ; Tammy Duckworth, D-IL; Marsha Blackburn, R-TN; Doug Jones, D-AL; Lamar Alexander, R-TN; Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI; Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-MS; Benjamin Cardin, D-MD; Jim Risch, R-ID; Chris Coons, D-DE; Mike Crapo, R-ID; Rob Portman, R-OH; and Kevin Cramer, R-ND.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Ohio House Speaker, Four Others, Charged in $60M Bribery, Money Laundering Scheme for Legislation to Save Two Ohio Nuclear Plants

what-is-an-indictment-1024x682Five people, including Larry Householder, the Speaker of Ohio’s House of Representatives, have been charged in a federal racketeering conspiracy involving $60M spent to pass legislation last year to provide financial support to two nuclear power plants.

The bill provides $150M annually to financially bailout First Energy’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants.  Newspapers in Oho called it a “textbook case of how big money influences politics” in the state. Others called it a classic example of “pay for play.”

According to the charges brought by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, it is alleged that Speaker Larry Householder “conspired to violate the racketeering statute through wire fraud, receipt of millions of dollars in bribes, and money laundering.”

Approximately $60 million was paid to a 501(c)(4) entity to pass and uphold a billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout.

The 80-page criminal indictment contains extensive details of the scheme to elect Householder speaker and to pass the bailout legislation. The money was also used to cover some of the personal expenses of the five men named in the indictment. Generation Now, a corporate entity registered as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization, was also charged. The Enterprise received approximately $60 million into Generation Now from an energy company, presumably First Energy and its affiliates, during the relevant period.

In short, Householder and his indicted co-conspiritors, didn’t care about whether saving the two nuclear power plants would reduce global warming. Instead, they saw HB6 as a legislative vehicle to obtain and hold political power in the Ohio House and to have their rising influence paid for by one of Ohio’s largest firms in the electric utility and energy industry.

Four other individuals were also arrested and charged. They include:

  • Mathew Borges, 48, of Bexley, a lobbyist who previously served as chair of the Ohio Republican Party;
  • Jeffrey Longstreth, 44, of Columbus, Householder’s longtime campaign and political strategist;
  • Neil Clark, 67, of Columbus, a lobbyist who owns and operates Grant Street Consultants and previously served as budget director for the Ohio Republican Caucus; and
  • Juan Cespedes, 40, of Columbus, a multi-client lobbyist.

According to the criminal complaint, from March 2017 to March 2020, the enterprise received millions of dollars in exchange for Householder’s and the enterprise’s help in passing House Bill 6, a billion-dollar bailout that saved the Davis-Besse and Pery nuclear plants from closing.

The defendants then also allegedly worked to ensure that HB 6 went into effect by defeating a statewide ballot initiative to overturn the legislation. The enterprise engaged in so-called “dirty tricks” by paying professional firms that gather signatures for initiated referendums to not work for the recall effort. In one incident, an employee of one of the firms was paid $15,000 to not work for the recall effort. He notified the FBI of the payment.

As alleged, in February 2017, Longstreth incorporated Generation Now as a 501(c)(4) social welfare entity to promote energy independence and economic development. However, the organization was secretly controlled by Householder. As Clark stated in a wiretap, “Generation Now is the Speaker’s (c)(4).”

In March 2017, Householder began receiving quarterly $250,000 payments from the related-energy companies into the bank account of Generation Now. The defendants allegedly spent millions of the company’s dollars to support Householder’s political bid to become Speaker, to support 21 other House candidates they believed would back Householder, and for their own personal benefit. When asked how much money was in Generation Now, Clark said, “it’s unlimited.”

Additional Charges May Be Pending

The FBI said it is continuing to investigate the case.  According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, in 2018, the enterprise spent energy company-to-Generation Now money on approximately 21 different state candidates – 15 (including Householder) in the primary, and six additional candidates in the general election.  It is unclear whether any of the other Ohio legislators have any legal exposure as a result of receiving the money from Generation Now.

The Enterprise spent more than $1M in fall 2018 alone to flood the airways with negative ads against enterprise opponents. Most of these candidates won the 2018 general election. All who won voted for Householder as Speaker.

Householder received more than $400,000 in personal benefits as a result of the payments into Generation Now, including funds to settle a personal lawsuit, to pay for costs associated with his residence in Florida, and to pay off thousands of dollars of credit card debt.

FirstEnergy Solutions’ former parent company, FirstEnergy Corporation, confirmed it has received subpoenas in connection with the investigation. “We are reviewing the details of the investigation and we intend to fully cooperate,” the company said.

So far no charges have been brought by the US Attorney’s office against the firm or any of its employees.  However, the news site Cleveland.com has posted the names of senior First Energy executives who are referenced by their titles in the 80 page complaint.

Ohio Gov Mike DeWine Calls for Repeal of Nuclear Bailout Bill

(Crains Cleveland) Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has called on the state Legislature to “repeal and replace” House Bill 6, the nuclear bailout legislation behind the arrest of House Speaker Larry Householder and four others.

DeWine maintained his support of the policy laid out in the bailout. He said it’s needed to preserve jobs at the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants and keep carbon-free sources of energy.

“It is clear that no matter how good this policy is, the process is simply not acceptable,” DeWine said. He added that “the process has forever been tainted.”

Also, DeWine called for Householder to resign as speaker previously, but did not withdraw his support for the bill.  He said that he did not know of the involvement by anyone in his administration in the alleged corruption scheme.

“I’m asking the Legislature to revisit this and come back with an alternative,” DeWine said. “It needs to happen in the open and needs to happen rather quickly.”

Crains Cleveland reported that the fallout in Ohio has been swift, with Democratic and Republican lawmakers calling for the nuclear bailout law to be repealed immediately. Shares of FirstEnergy, which received a subpoena related to the investigation, plunged the most on record, 21%. Taken together, the two scandals could undermine future efforts by utilities to seek support from lawmakers.

“Fairly or not, these events add a level of regulatory risk,” said Karl Rabago, founder of consulting firm Rabago Energy LLC and a former regulator on the Public Utility Commission of Texas. “That is, more questions, more time, more cynicism, more covering one’s exposure.”

The newspaper reported that State Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, Sen. Stephanie Kunze, R-Hilliard, and Rep. Rick Carfagna, R-Genoa Township, held a joint news conference announcing they are introducing legislation to repeal the law.

“We’re up to 33, bipartisan co-sponsors — I think that’s an important thing to note,” Carfagna said.

“Leadership is talking about this right now and we are in the process of organizing,” Lanese said. “I expect in the next day or two you’ll see a lot more on it.”

Statement from the American Nuclear Society

ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy on Ohio bribery scandal:

The American nuclear professional community is deeply disturbed by alleged political corruption in Ohio related to the passage of House Bill 6. If the allegations are true, they represent a breach of public trust that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Sadly, the shameful conduct of a few have put the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants, and the hundreds of men and women who work there, into the crossfire.

Ohio’s nuclear plants currently provide 87% of the states zero carbon electricity in a highly reliable, 24/7 manner, and are critical assets needed to ensure Ohio’s clean energy future.

We urge Governor DeWine and members of the Ohio state legislature to work together in a bipartisan way to ensure their continued operation.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Czech Govt / CEZ Deal for New 1200 MW Reactor at Dukovany Nears Finish Line

  • Czech Govt Deal with CEZ for New 1200 MW Reactor at Dukovany Expected Soon
  • Romania / Prime Minister Sets Up Committee To Consider New Cernavoda Units
  • UAE Completes Unit 2 of Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant
  • U-Battery Awarded £10 million to Bring Its Technology to Market
  • NuScale Moves to Phase 2 of CNSC Vendor Design Review
  • Bruce Power partners with McMaster University to Advance Nuclear Technologies
  • US / Biden’s $2 Trillion Clean Energy Plan Includes Nuclear Energy
  • United States Nuclear Industry Council Elects New Board Members

Czech Govt Deal with CEZ for New 1200 MW Reactor at Dukovany Expected Within Weeks

czech-power

(NucNet) A general framework agreement between the Czech government and state utility CEZ detailing plans for the construction of a new 1200 MW nuclear power plant at the Dukovany nuclear site could be signed within weeks, a CEZ spokesperson told NucNet.

The spokesperson said in an email that the Czech state will sign a framework agreement with CEZ which will cover the framework of the project from the announcement of the tender to the start of operation of the new nuclear power plant.

“This year, the government started negotiating agreements between the state and CEZ and will begin the notification process with the European Commission,” the spokesperson said.

“CEZ will also launch the tender for a supplier, the result of which should be known at the end of 2022.”

The spokesperson said one Generation III+ reactor is planned for the site, with a maximum installed capacity of 1,200 MW. In March, CEZ filed for permission with the State Office for Nuclear Safety to build up to two new nuclear power plants at Dukovany.

The signing of a contract with the supplier is expected in 2024. Construction of the new plant could begin in 2029 and operation in 2036.

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

With a target power rating (electrical) of 1200 MW, the “overnight” prices comes out to be $4900-$5750?Kw which is well within global cost averages for new nuclear power stations. These costs are only for the reactor and balance of plant. The costs do not include expansion of the existing switch yard nor new long distance transmission lines.

CEZ has held consultations with possible tender participants and all of them confirmed their interest. They include CGN of China, EDF of France, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Russia’s Rosatom and US-based Westinghouse.

Industry minister Karel Havlícek said recently that “we are absolutely determined that the new unit will be built. “It is decided and cannot be retracted even slightly,” he said, adding that the timetable for construction is being refined.

Four stages for the Agreement

The agreement will define four basic stages in the preparation and construction of the new plant. The first stage covers the tender process, the selection of the technology supplier, zoning permission and site permit. This part of the framework agreement will be detailed in a “first implementation contract”.

The spokesperson said a “positive statement” had been received from the environmental impact assessment process. The siting procedure, including submission of the initial safety report, began last March.

According to press reports earlier this year, state and company officials agreed a state loan is possible for construction of a new plant, pending European Commission approval. The Czech state has long been in talks with CEZ, in which it owns a 70% stake, about expanding its nuclear fleet, but costs and financing have been sticking points.

The spokesperson said new legislation is being planned concerning low-carbon electricity sources. This would allow the government to sign a contract with an investor for the purchase of electricity from a low-carbon source.

The contract would guarantee the return of investment in the construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant through the purchase of electricity for a predetermined price. This is a major policy change for the government. In 2014 resistance to this policy sank the chances for a successful tender for new nuclear plants.

Current Status of Nuclear Energy in Czech Republic

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

Operating Czech Reactors

Table courtesy of World Nuclear Association

There are four Russia-designed VVER-440 reactor units at the Dukovany site and the government has said they should be replaced by new ones in about 20 to 30 years. However, the CEZ spokesperson said the fact that there are four Russian units already in operation at Dukovany will not influence the choice of the technology for the new units.

The current Dukovany units, which were commissioned between 1985-1987, will be taken out of operation between 2045 and 2047 at the latest, which means the original units and the new unit will operate jointly for up to 10 years. The new unit is meant as a partial replacement for current units.

The government is planning for the long-term operation of the existing Dukovany units for up to 60 years. CEZ recently announced a CZK 55 billion (€2bn) investment in the LTO project. This means annual investments in the modernization and refurbishment of the existing units will increase from about €56m to up €93 from 2028.

In 2014, CEZ cancelled the tender for construction of two new Temelín units after it failed to get state guarantees for the project.

Romania / Prime Minister Sets Up Committee To Consider New Cernavodă Units

(NucNet) Romania’s prime minister Ludovic Orban has ordered setting up of a committee to consider options for the construction of Units 3 and 4 of the Cernavodă nuclear power station.

The Romanian nuclear industry association Romatom welcomed the decision to set up a committee. It said nuclear production needed to be increased, especially in the context of European decarbonization policies and environmental targets.

Nuclear provides about 18% of Romania’s electricity and 33% of low-carbon electricity, Romatom said, adding investment and nuclear can increase energy security and contribute to the country’s post Covid-19 recovery.

Earlier this year state-controlled nuclear energy producer Nuclearelectrica terminated an agreement signed with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) for the construction of Units 3 and 4. In January Mr Orban announced that the government would exit the deal with CGN.

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

Neither Nuclearelectrica nor the government has said why Romania cancelled the deal with CGN. Press reports in Romania said CGN has been criticized by Romania’s “strategic partners” over security issues tied to the use of Chinese technology. Reports also said there had been “cost concerns” related to the project.

According to press reports, cooperation between Nuclearelectrica and CGN became uncertain after Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis and US president Donald Trump signed a joint declaration in Washington last year that called for closer cooperation between US and Romania in nuclear energy.

In August 2019 the US added four Chinese nuclear entities to a trade blacklist, accusing them of helping to acquire advanced US technology for military use in China. The four were CGN and its subsidiaries China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC), China Nuclear Power Technology Research Institute Company and Suzhou Nuclear Power Research Institute Company.

Last month shareholders in Nuclearelectrica approved a new investment strategy for 2020-2025 that included proposals to go ahead with the completion of two new units at the Cernavodă at an estimated cost of €6.45B. The two units are partially built 700 MW CANDU type reactors.

Cernavodă has two commercially operational Candu 6 pressurized heavy water reactors supplied by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd and built under the supervision of a Canadian-Italian consortium of AECL and Ansaldo.

Unit 1 began commercial operation in 1996, after work had been suspended on a further four units in 1991. Unit 2 was subsequently completed and began commercial operation in 2007. Efforts to resume work on Cernavoda-3 began in 2003.

Other Nuclear News

UAE Completes Unit 2 of Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has successfully completed the construction of Unit 2 of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra region. The unit has now officially been handed over to the ENEC’s operating and maintenance subsidiary – Nawah – for operational readiness activities, testing, regulatory inspections and international assessments.

The accomplishment was preceded by the successful completion of hot functional testing (HFT) in August 2018, as well as structure integrity testing (SIT) and integrated leak rate testing (ILRT) in March 2019.

ENEC CEO Mohamed Al Hammadi said, “These achievements also highlight the benefits of building four identical reactors simultaneously, as the lessons learned during the construction of Unit 1 have contributed to the successful development of Units 2, 3 and 4 of the Barakah Plant.”

As per UAE law, the construction and operation of nuclear energy plants are subject to regulation from the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). Once Nawah staff has confirmed that the plant, its people and related programs are ready, it will seek FANR’s approval to begin the loading of nuclear fuel assemblies and commence start-up.

Construction of the plant began in 2012, with construction of units 3 and 4 at 92 percent and 85 percent complete, respectively.

U-Battery Awarded £10 million to Bring Its Technology to Market

The nuclear start up U-Battery has been selected as one of several firms to proceed to Phase 2 of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) competition.

The AMR competition is part of the UK Government’s Energy Innovation Portfolio in which U-Battery has been awarded almost £10m to conduct design and development work, the next step in bringing the new nuclear technology to market.

This funding was awarded following U-Battery’s successful participation in Phase 1 of the AMR competition, which sought to determine the feasibility of, and provide support for, the design and development of advanced modular reactor designs.

In Phase 1, U-Battery conducted a feasibility study that made the business, economic and technical case for the deployment of U-Battery in the UK and in Canada, where it would be deployed in industrial applications, mining sites and remote locations.

A key achievement of Phase 1 was to clearly demonstrate to Government how U-Battery supported its strategic objectives on climate, and how it could contribute to the UK’s decarbonization efforts, and in turn, deliver net-zero.

The study demonstrated how U-Battery could support the decarbonization of a number of the UK’s critical and strategic heavy and energy intensive industries, including the paper, glass, steel, ceramics, minerals and chemicals sectors.

U-Battery will now progress to Phase 2 of the AMR program as one of the Government’s preferred bids, and will use the funding from Government to initiate design and development work this year, contributing to the first of a kind (FOAK) deployment of a U-Battery, expected to be completed by 2028.

U-Battery has received additional funding from BEIS to design and build mock-ups of the two main vessels for the reactor and the connecting duct. The investment was awarded under the ‘Call for Advanced Manufacturing and Materials Phase 2B’, which opened in January 2020.

During the next phases of the program, U-Battery will be working to form new commercial partnerships to support the next phase, and the development of the technology.

  • U-Battery Design

U-Battery is an advanced/small modular reactor, capable of providing a low-carbon, cost-effective, locally embedded and reliable source of power and heat for energy intensive industry and remote locations.

According to World Nuclear News, U-Battery is a 4 MWe high-temperature gas-cooled micro nuclear reactor which will be able to produce local power and heat for a range of energy needs. The firm says says the technology, which uses high-integrity TRISO fuel, aims to replace diesel power with clean, safe, and cost-effective energy for a variety of applications, including remote communities and other off-grid locations such as mining operations.

The conceptual design was developed by the Universities of Manchester (UK) and Delft (Netherlands) after the project was initiated by Urenco, a global leader in the nuclear industry. U-Battery’s Design Office is located at Urenco’s UK site in Capenhurst.

Continued progress with licensing and design work have confirmed and refined the conceptual U-Battery model toward the next phase of investment opportunities. Advancements include an improved nuclear island (reactor pressure vessel, core design, intermediate heat exchanger and helium pump) and refined conventional equipment including turbine/generator sets.

  • TRISO Fuel
TRISO Fuel for U Battery

TRISO Fuel for U Battery. Image: U Battery file.

U-Battery is powered by accident tolerant TRISO fuel, which prevents the release of radioactive material, minimizing the need for back-up shutdown systems.

The reactor size and design, when combined with robust fuel, delivers inherent safety and reduces the size of any emergency planning zone, allowing the energy source to be located directly adjacent to the point of use.

TRISO fuel is constructed by triple-coating spherical particles of uranium fuel. A uranium center is coated in a layer of pyrolytic carbon, which in turn is coated in silicon carbide, with a further outer layer of carbon. The structure and spherical shape of TRISO fuel means that it maintains its integrity under extreme conditions.

TRISO fuel is proven technology. It was originally developed in the 1960s and has been manufactured recently in the USA by BWXT. The fuel has been developed and tested under a program funded by the US Department of Energy (Advanced Gas Reactor Fuel Development and Qualification Program).

NuScale Moves to Phase 2 of CNSC Vendor Design Review

The firm is making progress in its Vendor Design Review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. NuScale’s submission is a combined Phase 1 and 2 level VDR, as the company’s SMR design is mature and can directly enter VDR Phase 2. NuScale joins about another dozen or so firms enrolled in the process.

NuScale continues progress on its per-licencing evaluation against Canadian regulatory requirements as it also forges ahead to deliver its first plant in North America

NuScale Power announced that it completed its second submittal to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for per-licencing Vendor Design Review (VDR) of its groundbreaking small modular reactor (SMR) design.

“NuScale is excited about the opportunities in Canada for our SMR technology, and we continue to make significant market entry progress,” said NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins.

“Working with our majority owner Fluor, NuScale has developed an extensive supply chain in Canada through which it can serve customers in Canada and around the globe.”

“Completion of the Vendor Design Review provides assurance to both the regulator and potential customers that the NuScale design will be acceptable to build and operate in Canada,” said NuScale Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Tom Bergman.

NuScale has signed an agreement with Bruce Power to develop a business case to support the company’s efforts to bring its innovative and unique SMR technology to Canada. Ontario Power Generation participates on the NuScale Advisory Board and provides advice on potential deployment of NuScale technology in Canada.

Bruce Power partners with McMaster University
to Advance Nuclear Technologies

The new partnership will see Bruce Power and McMaster work together to develop, advance and promote nuclear technologies in Ontario, including next generation reactors, life extension and medical isotopes.

Bruce Power and McMaster initially linked up over a shared role as leaders in the global medical isotope supply chain. McMaster is home to Canada’s most powerful nuclear research reactor, and is the leading producer in the world of Iodine-125. They also are a major supplier of Holmium-166, and both are used to treat various cancers.

“This is an exciting day as we mark the beginning of a renewed partnership to explore avenues of collaboration with one of Canada’s most reputable universities,” says Mike Rencheck, Bruce Power’s President and CEO.

“We want to ensure Canada remains at the forefront of global isotope development and production, while advancing new technologies around life extension and new reactor development. Today’s announcement is a big step forward in achieving these goals.”

US / Biden’s $2 Trillion Clean Energy Plan Includes Nuclear

(NucNet) Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has released a $2 trillion clean energy plan designed to achieve a carbon emissions-free energy sector by 2035. The plan includes keeping existing nuclear energy plants in operation.

Mr Biden announced plans to spend $2 trillion over four years to significantly escalate the use of clean energy in the transportation, electricity and building sectors, part of a suite of sweeping proposals designed to create economic opportunities and strengthen infrastructure while also tackling climate change.

Campaign officials said they expected to achieve the goal by encouraging the installation of “millions of new solar panels and tens of thousands of wind turbines,” but also keeping in place existing nuclear energy plants.

Mr Biden backed nuclear power, unlike some of his Democratic primary opponents. However, it’s not clear what, if any, position he has on development of advanced nuclear reactors. Mr. Biden must contend with soliciting support from the Democratic party’s green wing which has struggled to come to terms with the need for nuclear energy as a means to address climate change. While some green groups have reluctantly agreed on preservation of the existing fleet of large LWRs, they have not expressed support for SMRs nor advanced accident tolerant designs.

He called for increasing research on developing power technologies like hydrogen and grid-size storage to store power from solar and wind, overcoming a key drawback of those carbon-free energy sources now.

The civilian nuclear energy industry has called for market reforms to help the nuclear industry and has long argued that nuclear energy’s contribution to energy security and grid stability should be rewarded.

Maria Korsnick, president and chief executive officer of the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute has said the status quo, in which markets recognize only short-term price signals and ignore the essential role of nuclear generation, will lead to more premature shutdowns of well-run nuclear facilities. “Once closed, these facilities are shuttered forever,” she said.

United States Nuclear Industry Council Elects New Board Members

The United States Nuclear Industry Council (USNIC) announced the addition of seven new members to its board of directors. This move expands the board from nine to fourteen, and brings a more diversified and expansive set of views into the organization’s leadership structure.

“The men and women elected to the board represent the best of the best in their various areas of nuclear and corporate management expertise,” said Bud Albright, president and CEO of the organization.

“The expansion of our board is a part of a broader effort and commitment to bring enhanced value to USNIC’s well-established role as the lead organization representing the entire advanced nuclear industry. Our commitment is to continue to grow our positive impact throughout the advancement of nuclear technology, and to expand U.S. presence throughout the world. These men and women will help USNIC direct its resources, and focus our policies and actions, towards ensuring that research, development, and deployment of clean, safe, and reliable nuclear energy is available both for this generation and for those to come,” Albright said.

The newly elected board members join our current board members:

  • Jeremy Harrell (ClearPath) – Chair
  • Eric Knox (Amentum) – Vice Chair
  • Mike Telson (General Atomics) – Treasurer
  • Jon Ball (GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy) – New
  • Harlan Bowers (X-Energy) – New
  • Elmer Dyke (Centrus Energy)
  • Mike French (Orano)
  • Peter Hastings (Kairos Power) – New
  • Scott Kopple (BWX Technologies) – New
  • Jeff Merrifield (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman) – New
  • Chip Pardee (Terrestrial Energy)
  • Kirk Schnoebelen (URENCO, USA) – New
  • Wendy Simon-Pearson (Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation) – New
  • Dan Stout (Tennessee Valley Authority)

The United States Nuclear Industry Council (USNIC) is a leading U.S. business advocate for increased nuclear energy use and global deployment of U.S. advanced nuclear technologies and services.

USNIC represents over 80 companies engaged in nuclear innovation and supply chain development, including technology developers, manufacturers, construction engineers, key utility movers, and service providers. For more information visit www.usnic.org Contact: Caleb Ward (202-270-1690 | caleb.ward@usnic.org)

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Advanced Reactors / Capex Of $3,000/kW Represents ‘Attractive Investment’

(NucNet) Advanced nuclear power reactors that cost less than $3,000/kW in capital expenditure will represent an attractive investment and create the most value for plant owners, a new study has found.

The latest study, by LucidCatalyst for the US government-funded ARPA-E Meitner program, warned, however, that “meaningful cost reduction” would be needed in all systems and components, and all aspects of the plant delivery process, if the $3,000/kW level is to be met.

3rd way global nuclear map

The report is important because cost competitiveness is a partner with technology innovation. The two go hand-in-hand. One cannot do enough to open a market for new reactor designs without the other. The global race for market share for advanced reactors will be won by developers who can deliver on their promises for both outcomes.

The 90-page report (PDF file), “Cost and Performance Requirements for Flexible Advanced Nuclear Plants in Future US Power Markets”, examines two future scenarios for four independent system operators (ISOs) in 2034. These were:

  • A low renewables baseline scenario, assuming continuation (and eventual expiration) of existing renewables policy.
  • A high renewables scenario based on National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Regional Energy Deployment System low renewables and natural gas costs.

These scenarios were modelled across four principal US power markets: ISO-New England; Pennsylvania, Jersey, Maryland Power Pool; Midcontinent Independent System Operator; and California ISO.

FERC Map of US Power Markets

FERC Map of U.S. Regional Power Markets

The study found that, by modelling high penetrations of renewables in the mid-2030s following NREL scenarios, advanced reactors can complement wind and solar. Together, these technologies drive down costs, reduce emissions, and improve performance in future US electricity grids.

In each of the markets modelled, the addition of advanced reactors lowered the overall system cost. Since advanced nuclear power reactors are not yet being built, there is no data on what they cost. However, previous studies indicate that a range of $1,965/kW to $4,503/kW is possible. Developers of small modular reactors using light water reactor (LWR) technologies, have estimated their initial costs to be in the range of $4,000-$4,500/KW.

While the study focused on cost reduction, it also mentioned that the cost of components coming through the supply chain, and the cost of fabrication for the reactors, are also key areas where progress will be needed to hit the required numbers.

LucidCatalyst managing director Eric Ingersoll (bio) said: “Delivering plants for less than $3000/kW requires meaningful cost reduction in all systems and components, and all aspects of the plant delivery process. Key strategies include reuse of designs, high productivity manufacturing, and separation of the nuclear safety case from the balance of plant.”

Key strategies for cost reduction include reuse of designs, high productivity manufacturing, and separation of the nuclear safety case from the balance of plant.

Ingersoll added that if the nuclear heat source can be separated from the balance of plant by a thermal energy storage system, then the balance of the plant can be constructed using conventional power plant components at conventional cost. Balance of plant, or BOP, is generally used to refer to all the supporting components and auxiliary systems of a power plant needed to deliver the energy, other than the generating unit itself.

Molten salt as a secondary coolant has been proposed for this purpose by two Canadian SMR developers – Terrestrial Energy and Moltex.

TEI-ISMR-HowItWorks-Diagram

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

 

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Conceptual diagram by Moltex on use of heat from the reactor stored in molten salt used for power generation or process heat applications when renewables are not available

Also, Ingersoll said advanced reactors can supply clean dispatchable power without raising the overall cost of electricity.

“This conclusion should motivate ISO operators, public utility commissioners, policymakers, utilities, and other stakeholders to investigate the role that these products could play in the grids of the future and in particular to continue and increase their support for acceleration of advanced reactor commercialization efforts.”

Rachel Slaybaugh (bio), Director of the ARPA-E MEITNER Program, said: “Advanced reactor developers are at various stages of commercializing new products, with an opportunity now to integrate identified future market requirements into early stages of their designs.” 

“Studies like this can provide these reactor design teams with information allowing them to make evidence-based decisions with a realistic understanding of future requirements in large markets, helping demonstrate the compelling growth potential for the future of advanced reactor technology.”

According to the study, advanced reactor developers are at various stages of commercializing new products and must design for future market environments that will exist when their plants are available. The study’s sponsors say it is critical to have a clear understanding about what plants will need to cost to be attractive investments, and what performance characteristics will create the most value for plant owners.

By modelling high penetrations of renewables in the mid-2030s the study shows how advanced reactors can complement wind and solar.

Key Take-Aways of the LUCID Catalyst Study

Key Findings

A 12-hour thermal energy storage system enables higher allowable CapEx, assuming it receives capacity payments. Across ISOs modeled, co-locating enegy storage systems (ESS) makes economic sense, on average, for less than $1,126/kW. Without energy storage, a plant’s capacity factor suffers in zones with high variable renewables.

Developers should aim for a CapEx of less than $3,000/kW. Increasing or decreasing the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) by a percentage point changes the maximum allowable CapEx by around 8 – 9%. Fuel cost and fixed O&M expenses are material considerations—as these decrease allowable CapEx increases.

A ‘fleet’ deployment of advanced reactors combined with ESS that meet these cost targets, can lower the total cost of energy delivery within the ISO. Competition from natural gas plants will remain a competitive factor for at least the next several decades.

Capacity price is critically important. A ‘mid-range’ capacity price of $75/kW-year, relatively consistent with today’s prices, allows for:
~$2,500/kW CapEx without storage
~$3,500/kW CapEx with storage

Insights from the study include:

  • Advanced reactors that cost less than $3,000/kW will be attractive investments for owners.
  • There will be large markets for advanced reactors that cost less than $3,000/kW.
  • Flexible advanced reactors complement wind and solar in markets with high penetrations of renewables.
  • Flexible advanced reactors can enable high penetrations of variable renewables in future energy systems.
  • Together, renewables plus advanced nuclear (with thermal energy storage) lower overall system costs, reduce emissions, and improve performance in future U.S. electricity grids.
  • In all of the markets modeled, adding advanced reactors lowered overall system cost.

About ARPA-E’s Program

Potential Program Impacts

If successful, developments from MEITNER projects will inform the development of lower cost, safe, and secure advanced nuclear power plants.

Security:  Nuclear power plants contribute to grid stability by providing reliable baseload power and are among the most secure facilities in the country.

Environment: Nuclear power has low lifecycle emissions, making it an ideal source of clean electricity.

Economy:  Nuclear power provides high-efficiency electrical generation for the U.S. grid. Reducing plant costs can mean more affordable electricity for businesses and families.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) aims to empower US energy researchers with funding, technical assistance, and market readiness. The projects that are funded by ARPA-E’s MEITNER (Modelling-Enhanced Innovations Trailblazing Nuclear Energy Reinvigoration) program seek to identify and develop innovative technologies that can enable designs for lower cost, safer advanced nuclear reactors.

In May 2020, ARPA-E announced $27 million in funding for nine projects as part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) Generating Electricity Managed by Intelligent Nuclear Assets (GEMINA) program.

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Posted in Nuclear | 4 Comments

China Ramps Up New Nuclear Reactor Construction

  • China expands nuclear new build; 6-8 new starts a year for next five years
  • China in dual disputes with UK that could impact its export plans there
  • China nuclear energy by the numbers

Other Nuclear News

  • Westinghouse Program Awarded £10m From UK Government for Advanced Modular Reactor Project
  • BWXT Gets TRISO Fuel Contract for Idaho National Laboratory

Media reports: China will to start construction of six-to-eight plants a year for the next five years

(See tables below – China’s nuclear program by the numbers)

The Reuter wires service reports, based on a news item in the official China Daily, and quoting the China Nuclear Energy Association, that China will build six to eight nuclear reactors a year between 2020 and 2025 and raise total capacity to 70 gigawatts (GW).

The China Nuclear Energy Association said the country’s total installed nuclear capacity is expected to be at 52 GW by the end of 2020, but which falls short of a 58 GW target.

China Nucler Power Map - WNA

By the end of the decade, China could have over 80 Gwe of nuclear power generating capacity. If it continues this pace, it could have 200 GWe by the mid-2030s according to the China Nuclear Association.

Some assumptions about the impact of this aggressive new build include the staffing profile for China’s conventional full size light water reactors is similar to global averages of about 500-700 staff for a 1000 MW reactor. Each plant would require 700 operators, skilled trades, and support staff. Construction of each 1000 MW unit will take 3-4 years and require up to 5,000 workers per project.

A world record amount of concrete and steel will be needed for the projects. Suppliers of these materials will be stressed to keep up with the demand.

In addition to the enormous number of people who will be involved in the construction and operations of the reactors, the demand on the nation’s nuclear supply chain will be very significant especially for long lead time components like reactor pressure vessels, steam generators, main cooling/circulation pumps, turbines, and switchyard gear.

China’s regulatory safety agency will have to ramp up technical staffing to review the licensing applications for these units and to conduct safety inspections as the plants are being built and once they are in operations.

Production of commercial grade nuclear fuel will increase substantially, and will be sustained over time, e.g., the 40-60 year service lives of all these units.

Eventually, China will have to come to terms with a vast increase in the tonnage of spent nuclear fuel. China has been negotiating with EDF/France for construction of an 800 tonne/year spent fuel reprocessing plant. However, given China’s current inventory, and the future inventory of spent fuel that it will accumulate, both interim and permanent storage sites will be needed to accommodate this material.

Tables – China Nuclear by the Numbers

These tables list China’s operating reactors and the plants which are under construction or approved for construction. China has not yet announced which of its future planned reactors will be approved for construction under the new push for starting 6-8 units a year. Also, some of the reactors approved for construction have not yet broken ground.

Note: These tables rely on data from the World Nuclear Association and the IAEA.  Readers who want to do their own analysis can download the NeutronBytes spreadsheet 

China’s Dueling Disputes with UK
Could Impact its Export Plans

Reuters reports that China and the UK are in serious diplomatic disputes due to PM Boris Johnson’s offer for up to three million Hong Kong citizens have the right to live and work in the UK. The offer is seen by some as mere political posturing since the relocation of three million people to the UK is a major logistical challenge and a long term financial commitment.

Also, Johnson is reported to be leaning towards banning equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies from British 5G mobile networks. This issue is separate from Hong Kong as other UK and EU telcom firms are lobbying for the contracts.

Where the rubber meets the road is that China has made significant financial and program commitments to the UK nuclear new build with equity investments at the Hinkley Point C and Sizwell C projects. In return, China is expected to seek to build two or more 1000 MW Hualong One PWRs at the Bradwell site.

CTHD Michelle Yeoh 1

All of these plans are now at risk because of the current disputes which have nothing to do with the nuclear projects themselves. Also, most nations regard trade deals as one-offs separate from their diplomatic differences. The 5G telcom dispute creates a knot of linked issues. The two countries’ collaboration on nuclear power stations could hit the rocks if China gets serious about its protests.

Reuters notes that China General Nuclear Power (CGN) holds a 30% equity stake in the 20 billion pound Hinkley Point C power station in the west of England. The state-owned Chinese group also has an option to acquire 20% of the Sizewell C project in Suffolk. Both projects are building dual 1650 MW EPRs.  China has already built and commission two of these giant plants and has crucial experience to help the UK keep its efforts on schedule and within budget.

The projects are also crucial to Britain’s ambition to decarbonize its energy supply by replacing the fifth of electricity provided by ageing, soon-to-be-decommissioned nuclear plants.

China desperately wants all of its UK nuclear projects to succeed to drive future export sales to other countries. For this reason, China may huff and puff, but in the end may stay the course in the UK. The UK would prefer that China not pursue a linkage with the 5G telcom issue.

Westinghouse Awarded £10m From UK Government
for Advanced Modular Reactor Project

Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC) announced their Lead-cooled Fast Reactor (LFR)  program has successfully progressed to Phase 2 of the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Feasibility and Development project. It is receiving £10m ($12.5m) in funding from the BEIS Energy Innovation Portfolio.

WEC LFR

Conceptual diagram: WEC LFT: Image: WEC

As part of Phase 2, Westinghouse, in collaboration with industry, research centers and academic partners, will utilize the funding to undertake applied research and development activities. The award will be used to demonstrate LFR components and accelerate the development of high-temperature materials, advanced manufacturing technologies and modular construction strategies for the LFR.

“Our progression to Phase 2 builds on our eighty-year history in the UK as a Strategic National Asset,” said Patrick Fragman, Westinghouse president and chief executive officer.

Westinghouse claims that its LFR, a 450 MWe-class Generation IV reactor design, has the potential to have a transformative effect on the cost and market flexibility of new nuclear. The key features of the Westinghouse LFR include a simplified design, flexible operations and fuel cycle capabilities, zero CO2 emissions, walk-away safety features and modular assembly. The  firm also claims that its LFR will also achieve a competitive Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCoE) to ensure economic competitiveness in the most challenging global electricity markets. (Fact sheet – PDFfile)

Westinghouse will deliver the Phase 2 program in collaboration with Ansaldo Nucleare and ENEA, in addition to Bangor University, Frazer-Nash Consultancy, Jacobs, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC), the University of Cambridge, the University of Manchester and Vacuum Process Engineering, Inc. (VPE).

Overall the UK government is spending £40 million to kick start next-gen nuclear technology. £30 million of funding will speed up the development of 3 AMR projects in Oxfordshire, Cheshire and Lancashire and drive them closer towards supplying low-carbon energy to the nation. The remaining £10 million will be invested into unlocking smaller research, design, and manufacturing projects to create up to 200 jobs.

BWXT Gets TRISO Fuel Contract for Work
at the Idaho National Laboratory

This $26 million, 20-month contract award will both expand BWXT’s TRISO capacity for the manufacture of TRISO fuel compacts as well as upgrade existing systems for delivering production-scale quantities of TRISO fuel. Restart activities will be finalized in the fall of this year.

At a later date, BWXT anticipates potential awards for additional contract options that would enable the fabrication and delivery of the fuel in support of future game-changing missions for both the Department of Defense and NASA.

This project is an effort jointly funded by the Department of Defense’s Operational Energy Capabilities Improvement Fund (OECIF) Office and NASA, with overall program management provided by the Strategic Capabilities Office.

TRISO refers to a specific design of uranium nuclear reactor fuel. TRISO is a shortened form of the term TRIstructural-ISOtropic. TRIstructural refers to the layers of coatings surrounding the uranium fuel, and ISOtropic refers to the coatings having uniform materials characteristics in all directions so that fission products are essentially retained.

Triso-fuel_thumb.png

BWXT is the only U.S. company to manufacture irradiation-tested uranium oxycarbide TRISO fuel using production-scale equipment.

BWXT already has the required safety, security, quality, material accountability, and operational systems needed to execute this work.  The firm performs TRISO work at its Nuclear Operations Group-Lynchburg facility.

BWXT said in a press statement that its existing infrastructure would contribute to far lower initial costs as compared to setting up a new facility, and it will not significantly increase current decontamination and decommissioning liabilities.

TRISO production with HALEU requires at least an NRC Category 2 license, which can take several years and substantial investment to obtain. BWXT currently has the only private Category 1 licenses in the U.S., and they can also be utilized to produce Category 2 material.

Its TRISO production facility is currently licensed to produce this type of High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel, which is undergoing validation in a series of experiments at Idaho National Laboratory at their Advanced Test Reactor under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor program. BWXT has worked with the DOE in support of TRISO-based fuel development and qualification for more than 15 years.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

In Congress July 4, 1776

in-congress-july-4-1776_thumb.jpg

Painting by John Trumbull, 1818. The artist’s work hangs in the Capitol Rotunda, Washington, DC.  Image source: Architect of the Capitol.

About this photo

This painting depicts the moment on June 28, 1776, when the first draft of the Declaration of Independence was presented to the Second Continental Congress. The document stated the principles for which the Revolutionary War was being fought and which remain fundamental to the nation. Less than a week later, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration was officially adopted, it was later signed on August 2, 1776.

In the central group in the painting, Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration, is shown placing the document before John Hancock, president of the Congress. With him stand the other members of the committee that created the draft: John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston and Benjamin Franklin. This event occurred in the Pennsylvania State House, now Independence Hall, in Philadelphia.

Word to Live By

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

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The full text of the Declaration courtesy of the National Archives.

& & &

Neutron Bytes is off this week.

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Posted in Nuclear

Update on Russian Fast Reactor Projects

  • MBIR Seeks International Partners. Completion set for 2025
  • BN-600 Up for 15 year life extension to 2040
  • Progress milestones for the BREST OD 300 prototype

Other Nuclear News

  • X-energy Teams with Nuclear Fuel Industries to Supply TRISO Fuel to Japan’s High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR)
  • NRC Accepts Centrus Energy Application for License Expansion to Produce HALEU
  • Lucideon Partners with UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory on Advanced Fuel Cycle R&D
  • World Nuclear Association Launches Fuel Report Summary

MBIR Test Reactor Positioned as
International Test Plantform for Advanced Designs

Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation, is promoting the use of its multi-purpose fast neutron research reactor (MBIR) which is under construction at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR) in Dimitrovgrad in the Ulyanovsk region of Russia, located about 1,600 miles east of Moscow. The state owned enterprise is hawking its capabilities and soliciting partnerships on an international scale.

It is creating an International Research Center (IRC) to be a home for cooperative R&D and test projects. According to the June 2020 briefing, four nations have signed up so far –  the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia  The briefing says these arrangements, and others like it, will support the IRC’s ambitions to become a world class center of excellence for testing materials to be used in fast neutron reactors.

The purpose of the MBIR construction effort  is to have a high-flux fast test reactor with unique capabilities to implement the following tasks:

  • in-pile tests and post-irradiation examination,
  • production of heat and electricity,
  • testing of new technologies for the radioisotopes, an;
  • modified materials production.

MBIR will be used for materials testing for Generation IV fast neutron reactors including high temperature gas-cooled, molten salt, and lead-bismuth designs. Experiments that are proposed to be undertaken include measuring the performance of core components under normal and emergency conditions.

conceptual image MBIR

MBIR Conceptual Diagram: Image: Rosatom

In mid-June Rosatom released details of a government briefing that indicated the R&D facility will be operational in 2025. The project broke ground in 2015 and was scheduled to be finished in 2020.  According to a 2018 progress report, that date has bee pushed back by five years, but did not give a reason for the delay. The project is expected to cost $1.1 billion.

mbir schedule

MBIR  Estimate at Completion: Image: Rosatom

The MBIR is a 150 MWt multi-loop sodium-cooled fast research reactor. It will have a design life of up to 50 years, and will use MOX fuel.  When complete it will replace the BOR-60  fast reactor which has been in operation at NIIAR since 1969.

U.S. Test Reactor Development Update

Russia’s June 2020 announcement may be a competitive response to the May 2020 U.S announced $230M in funding as the first step in a multi-year commitment through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program to upgrade the nation’s capabilities to support development of advanced reactors. A key facility will be the versatile test reactor.

It will have three different development and demonstration pathways.

  • Advanced reactor demonstrations, which are expected to result in a fully functional advanced nuclear reactor within seven years of the award.
  • Risk reduction for future demonstrations, which will support up to five additional teams resolving technical, operational, and regulatory challenges to prepare for future demonstration opportunities.
  • Advanced reactor concepts 2020 (ARC 20), which will support innovative and diverse designs with potential to commercialize in the mid-2030s.

ad reactor pipeline

The project will be housed at the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) at the Idaho National Laboratory. The NRIC will provide private sector technology developers the necessary support to test and demonstrate their reactor concepts and assess their performance. This will help accelerate the licensing and commercialization of these new nuclear energy systems.

BN-600 Life Extension to Seek 2040 Date

Rosatom, the state owned enterprise that operates the BN-600 fast reactor that is in commercial service, says it has submitted the paperwork needed to support a request to extend the reactor’s life from 2025 to 2040 at which point it would be 60 years old.

According to the proposal, extending the life of the reactor by 15 years would displace the burning of 33 million tonnes of coal on fossil fueled power plants.

The two-stage process of life extension involves technical and economic feasibility analysis and justification. The technical stage will evaluate safety requirements for reactor components that cannot be replaced over the entire service life of the plant.

A modernization program that began in 2009 replaced the steam generator and made unspecified safety upgrades.

The economic analysis will address the cost of running the plant and the payments it receives for the generation of electricity. as Unit 3 of the Beloyarsk nulear power plant.

The BN-600 is a sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor which started operation in 1980. (Gen_IV Briefing – Operating Experience of the BN-600 – PDF file)

bn-800-large-image

BN-600 Conceptual Diagram: Image: Rosatom

World Nuclear News reports that the sodium-cooled BN-series fast reactor plans are part of Rosatom’s Proryv, or ‘Breakthrough’, project to develop fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle whose mixed oxide (MOX) fuel will be reprocessed and recycled.

In addition to the BN-600 reactor, the 789 MWe BN-800 fast neutron reactor – constructed as Beloyarsk unit 4 – entered commercial operation in October 2016. This is essentially a demonstration unit for fuel and design features for the larger BN-1200 being developed by OKBM Afrikantov.

Progress Milestones for BREST OD 300

The Pilot Demonstration Energy Complex (ODEK), which is under construction at SCC as part of the Proryv (Breakthrough) project, will include three linked facilities: a fuel fabrication/re-fabrication unit, a 300MW nuclear power plant with the lead-cooled fast neutron BREST-OD-300 reactor, and a unit for used fuel.

BREST OD 300 is a lead cooled fast reactor fuelled with uranium plutonium mononitride (PuN UN) that uses a two circuit heat transport system to deliver heat to a steam turbine.

Reactor type: Liquid metal cooled fast reactor
Electrical capacity: 300 MW(e)
Thermal capacity: 700 MW(th)
Coolant: Lead
Core inlet/outlet temperature: 420 / 540°C
Thermodynamic cycle: Indirect Rankine cycle
Fuel material: PuN UN
Fuel enrichment: ~13,5%
Fuel cycle: 5 6 years, partial refuelling 1/year

BREST OD 300

Image: IAEA ARIS data

Key Milestones for BREST OD 300

According to the IAEA ARIS database profile, the BREST OD 300 power unit is designed as a pilot and demonstration unit intended for studying the reactor facility operation in different modes and optimizing all processes and systems that support reactor operation. Furthermore, BREST OD 300 is also considered the prototype of a fleet of medium sized power reactors

Other Nuclear News

X-energy Teams with Nuclear Fuel Industries to Supply Exclusive TRISO Fuel to the High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR) in Japan

X-energy announced it has teamed with Nuclear Fuel Industries (NFI) to be the exclusive counterpart to supply fuel to the Japanese high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). X-energy is purchasing the compact press equipment that can make annular fuel compacts for the “prism-type” HTGR core from Japanese-based NFI.

X-energy will use the TRISO-X fuel facility and the former NFI compact press equipment to form tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) fuel, which seals uranium particles in a protective coating, eliminating the meltdown risk associated with traditional nuclear plants.

triso fuel for u battery

X-energy has been manufacturing its patented TRISO-X fuel for over three years, and to date, it is the only U.S. company actively producing TRISO fuel. The company is currently engaging with the Department of Energy to further develop and design its TRISO-X fuel facility.

Since 2009, X-energy has focused on designing state-of-the-art nuclear systems and establishing leading TRISO fuel fabrication capabilities that have broad applicability – from large commercial plants to small, remote military applications, to nuclear thermal space propulsion concepts.

NRC Accepts Centrus Energy Application for License Expansion

Centrus Energy Corp. (NYSE American: LEU) announced that the Company’s application to produce High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) at its Piketon, Ohio, facility has been accepted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for formal review.

HALEU-based fuels will be required for most of the advanced reactor designs currently under development and may also be utilized in next-generation fuels for the existing fleet of reactors in the United States and around the world.

“With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, Centrus is proud to be leading the way in the development of a domestic source of HALEU that can meet a wide range of commercial, nonproliferation and other national security requirements,” said Daniel B. Poneman, Centrus President and CEO.  (DOE Briefing on HALEU production – PDF file)

“Providing an assured, domestic supply of HALEU will help restore U.S. nuclear leadership internationally, and is a prerequisite for the United States to play a major role in building and fueling the world’s nuclear reactors and setting global standards for nuclear safety and nonproliferation. We appreciate the dedicated work by the NRC on this initial step and look forward to working with them as the process moves forward from here.”

In 2019, Centrus entered into a three-year, $115 million cost-shared contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to deploy its AC-100M centrifuge technology and to demonstrate production of HALEU.

The demonstration program is on schedule and on budget, with the first set of outer casings for the centrifuges delivered to Piketon after being manufactured in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Upon final approval of this license amendment, Centrus would be licensed to enrich uranium up to 20 percent U-235. Next-generation reactors and fuel designs will require a range of enrichment levels, but many are expected to be as high as 19.75 percent. A number of advanced reactor and fuels developers have announced plans to use HALEU-based fuel in their designs.

Centrus’ Piketon, Ohio, facility is already licensed to enrich uranium to a Uranium-235 (U-235) concentration of up to 10 percent.

A recent report by the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group cited HALEU as a key step toward re-establishing U.S. leadership in advanced nuclear technology. This echoes the findings of an April 2020 survey by the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council in which U.S. advanced reactor companies identified the availability of HALEU as the number one issue that “keep(s) you up at night.”

What is HALEU?

When uranium ore is extracted from the earth, the concentration of the fissile isotope Uranium-235 is less than one percent. Most existing reactors in the United States and worldwide operate on Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) fuel that has been enriched to increase the concentration of the U-235 isotope to slightly less than 5 percent.

3.31_haleu-overview_742x960

High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium is further enriched so that the U-235 concentration is between 5 percent and 20 percent. While this is still far below the levels needed to produce weapons or power U.S. Navy vessels, HALEU offers unique advantages as an advanced nuclear fuel for both existing and next generation reactors, including greater power density, improved reactor performance, fewer refueling outages, improved proliferation resistance, and smaller volumes of waste.

Lucideon Partners with UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory
on Advanced Fuel Cycle R&D

The international materials technology company has signed a £350,000 partner agreement with the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) Advanced Fuels Cycle Program (AFCP) as a research and development (R&D) partner.

The AFCP is part of the UK Government’s £180M Nuclear Innovation Program, and is focused on the development of skills, knowledge and capabilities in the areas of advanced recycle and waste management and advanced nuclear fuels.

NNL will draw on Lucideon’s expertise in its flash (field enhanced) sintering technology to significantly improve the production of advanced nuclear fuels, through new developments in the structure and performance of materials.

Lucideon has made a multi-million investment in flash sintering technology – which centers around an electric field being applied to a ceramic at specific temperatures – at its Stoke-on-Trent headquarters.

The partner agreement will also see Lucideon collaborate with the University of Manchester, who will provide specialist resources to support the development.

Lucideon has carved out a niche as experts in the nuclear industry, in areas including the development of novel materials and processes, materials analysis, complex testing and additive manufacturing.

Technology areas include the development of accident tolerant fuels, fast reactor fuels, nuclear data development, separations technology, modelling and fabrication.

World Nuclear Association Launches Fuel Report Summary

Uranium-symbol.jpg(WNN) World Nuclear Association has published a first-of-a-kind Expanded Summary of the latest edition of its biennial nuclear fuel report. The Association is making the summary, which describes the major conclusions of the 2019 edition of the report, freely available.

“The increased projections in all scenarios of The Nuclear Fuel Report reflect the renewed recognition of nuclear generation’s roles, both in meeting the need for a reliable supply and contributing to our clean energy future,” World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising said.

“By making the main findings of the Report available more broadly in this new summary we hope to better inform key decision makers, as well as provide a valuable educational tool that will provide everyone with a broader understanding of the key issues facing the nuclear industry today.”

Published biennially since the 1970s, The Nuclear Fuel Report is a highly authoritative publication used as a reference by industry and state authorities worldwide. The 48-page Expanded Summary of the report’s 19th edition covers the report’s key findings – in particular, supply/demand projections in different stages of the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear generation projections for the next 20 years – and explains the methodology and assumptions underlying the report’s three scenarios for future nuclear fuel demand and supply.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment