$21 Million to Support a Stronger, Diverse Nuclear Field

  • MacArthur Foundation Awards $21 Million to 28 Groups for Diversity in Nuclear Energy Field
  • American Nuclear Society Provides Repository Of Diversity, Equity, And Inclusion

Editor Note: Monday 01/17/22 is Martin Luther King Day in the U.S. These announcements fit the theme of observing the values associated with remembering his work.

MacArthur Foundation Awards $21 Million to 28 Groups for Diversity in Nuclear Energy Field

macfoundThe MacArthur Foundation has made grants for a total of $21 million to 28 organizations on 01/11/22 for its nuclear capstone project will cultivate diversity in the field, challenge nuclear deterrence theory, lead at the nexus of climate and nuclear issues, and support key organizations.

MacArthur’s nuclear capstone focuses on four areas of work:

  • encouraging a diverse pipeline of talent in the nuclear field,
  • challenging nuclear deterrence theory,
  • providing leadership around the intersection of nuclear and climate issues, and
  • supporting key organizations in the nuclear field.

“These grants represent our hopes that the nuclear field will continue to grow and evolve in ways that make it stronger and more effective,” said Valerie Chang, MacArthur’s Managing Director of Programs.

“We firmly believe that the areas of work touched by our capstone are fundamental to success in reducing nuclear threats in the decades ahead.”

“These grants represent our hopes that the nuclear field will continue to grow and evolve in ways that make it stronger and more effective.

Following is the list of grants by program areas. 

Cultivate Diversity and New Voices

An initial four organizations will receive a total of $2.7 million to cultivate diversity and empower new voices and underrepresented communities in the nuclear talent pipeline.

12-Healthy-Talent-PipelineMacArthur’s goal for these grants is to help generate increased attention, recognition, and influence of diverse voices including voices of women and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color experts in the nuclear field.

The Foundation also hopes to encourage new and strengthened policies and practices in the field that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. Today’s set of grant recipients are:

Innovate to Challenge Deterrence Theory

deterenceMacArthur will provide a total of $4.2 million to three organizations to support research to challenge nuclear deterrence theory.

The Foundation’s goal is the development of a body of research that seeds new thinking on challenging, and ultimately replacing, nuclear deterrence theory as the predominant lens through which we view nuclear weapons strategy. The grant recipients are:

Lead at the Nexus of Nuclear and Climate Risks

Four organizations will receive grants totaling $2.2 million to provide leadership at the nexus of nuclear and climate risks, with a focus on mitigating the security implications of nuclear power’s expansion as a climate solution.

atoms for peaceMacArthur’s goals for this area of work are to model productive dialogue on the future of nuclear energy in the climate battle, elevate policy questions about nuclear energy in U.S. domestic and foreign climate policy, and reimagine the global nuclear governance system for a world with more nuclear energy. The grant recipients are:

Preserve Support for Critical Work

nuclear nonproWith $9.6 million in grants, MacArthur will preserve support for a limited number of organizations critical to the nuclear dialogue.

The Foundation’s goal is to ensure the field maintains trusted and effective organizations at this challenging moment and into the future. The grant recipients are:

Additional Grants

In addition to these grants, MacArthur has awarded $2.6 million in final grants to organizations previously involved with the Nuclear Challenges strategy. MacArthur will announce additional capstone grants in the months ahead, but the Foundation is not currently accepting proposals for funding under the Nuclear Challenges capstone project.

MacArthur announced in February 2021 that the Foundation would shift away from the Nuclear Challenges program strategy and implement a capstone project. At the conclusion of the capstone grants in 2023, MacArthur will exit the nuclear field.

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American Nuclear Society Provides Web Repository Of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Educational Resources

ans logo(Editor Note: This press release was issued in 2020. It is included here because of the continuing value of the resources on diversity in the nuclear industry available at the cited web page.)

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) has introduced a new curated list of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) educational resources to its website. These collected resources can help educate ANS members and the nuclear science and technology community on the many facets of DEI.

“ANS continues to strive to better represent and reflect the nuclear community as a whole,” said ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy. “We recognize that we have more work to do in fostering an inclusive Society.”

“We want all ANS members to know that the Society continues to hold discussions on diversity and inclusivity,” said Piercy. “Continuing that dialogue is essential going forward.”

“Providing this list is a step towards making ANS and the wider scientific and engineering fields more inclusive and welcoming,” said ANS President Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar.

“We encourage all ANS members, especially those not well-acquainted with the subject matters and issues, to visit the page and read the materials,” said Dunzik-Gougar.

Available at ans.org/diversityresources, the list will be continually updated with new resources. The categories currently covered include: Anti-Racism, Being an Ally, Workshops and Trainings, Recruitment Resources, Evaluation Resources, For Academia, For Families, For Our Communities, and General Information. To suggest additional resources, please email drizzo@ans.org.

The Diversity and Inclusion in ANS (DIA) Committee inspired this effort and provides direction on the selected resources. The group was launched in 2018 to promote and support the participation of underrepresented and marginalized groups within the Society. Such groups include, but are not limited to, women, persons of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, persons with disabilities, and other underrepresented groups.

“As a Society, we strive for our members to be continually learning in both technical and social aspects of nuclear engineering,” said Lane Carasik, DIA Committee Chair. “The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion educational resource list supports this goal for ANS members to learn about DEI issues encountered by African Americans and other underrepresented and marginalized groups.”

The goals of the DIA Committee are to help the Society promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in nuclear science, technology, and engineering; and to attract and retain diverse and underrepresented groups into nuclear-related fields.

Learn more about the Society’s diversity and inclusion initiatives at ans.org/diversity. See also the ANS Statement on Diversity.

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Saudi Arabia Updates Plans to Mine Its Uranium Deposits

  • Saudi Arabia Updates Plans to Mine Its Uranium Deposits

800px-Saudi_Arabia_mapFollowing on a NYT August 2020 report that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) plans to use technical expertise from Chinese state-owned enterprises to process uranium ore from hard rock mines to make yellowcake, this week (01/13/22) Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman al-Saud told a mining conference in Saudi Arabia that the kingdom plans to use its uranium resources to develop a nuclear power program.

According to a Reuters wire service report, Prince Abdulaziz said that Saudi Arabia would be mining and developing its uranium resources. The actual extent of the commercially viable ore remains uncertain but the intent to pursue the mining venture appears to be quite certain.

“We do have a huge amount of uranium resource, which we would like to exploit and we will be doing it in the most transparent way,” Prince Abdulaziz told the Future Minerals Summit in Riyadh.

For the time being the program’s public profile is that in terms of the nuclear fuel cycle, it only goes to the extent of turning natural uranium (U308) into yellowcake. So far there has not been an announcement from KSA officials that the country plans to build conversion and enrichment facilities to produce nuclear fuel at commercial levels (U235 at 3-5%) or beyond that point.

The cost of the nuclear fuel facilities need to get to that point is not trivial. They would include hard rock mining operations which would require multiple mines, a mill and a related facility to convert the extracted uranium, perhaps at a rate of 4 pounds per ton of ore, into yellowcake.

Commercially recoverable rates of uranium from ore run from dismal, at less than 1 pound per ton to exceptional, at 11-15 pounds per ton of ore which are found in Saskatchewan, Canada. Knowing how much uranium is available and how much can be retrieved per ton of ore are crucial commercial metrics for making a decision to open a mine and build processing facilities to make yellowcake.

It has not been a secret for a long time that Saudi Arabia has deposits of uranium that could be commercially viable to form the basis for mining operations. However, the deposits are not listed in directories of uranium deposits with verified estimates of recoverable quantities.

S&P Global/Platts reported on 1/12/22 that while there are no official figures published on Saudi uranium reserves, in 2020, a report by UK-based newspaper the Guardian, based on leaked internal documents, put the kingdom’s “inferred deposits” at an estimated 90,000 mt, which would be equivalent to around 1.4% of current global reserves if verified by subsequent efforts. The prospecting that reports the inferred deposits was carried out by geologists from Chinese state owned enterprises. Their report identified three major sites where potentially uranium could be mined.

The Guardian newspaper reported that Prof Kip Jeffrey, head of Camborne school of mines at the University of Exeter, commented, “If some of these became actually viable deposits – and there’s no way of knowing whether that’s possible or not – the actual amounts are probably going to be well in excess of what a power plant, or a few power plants would need.”

Mark Hibbs, senior fellow in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, told the newspaper, “If you are considering nuclear weapons development, the more indigenous your nuclear program is, the better. In some cases, foreign suppliers of uranium will require peaceful-use commitments from end users, so if your uranium is indigenous, you don’t have to be concerned about that constraint.”

Note that in the world of uranium prospecting the U.S. Geological Survey defines “inferred deposits” as the least accurate method of estimating commercially recoverable quantities of uranium from ore. This is the method Saudi Arabia is using to report its recoverable levels of uranium based on prospecting surveys. It means that Saudi Arabia doesn’t really know at this stage how much uranium can be taken from their domestic deposits or what the yield will be from the ore.

“Inferred reserves” are those for which quantitative estimates are based largely on broad knowledge of the geologic character of the deposits, and for which there are few, if any, samples or measurements.

By comparison, “indicated reserves” are much more accurate. They are defined as those for which the grade is computed from drill-hole samples, exposures in mine workings and natural outcrops, gamma-ray logs, and production data, and for which the tonnage is computed by projection for a reasonable distance on geologic evidence from points of exposure (drill holes, mine workings, and natural outcrops).

To get to the next step in the nuclear fuel cycle in terms of producing usable nuclear fuel, once you have the ore out of the ground and into a mill, the yellowcake it produces would have to then be sent to a conversion facility to make a gaseous form of uranium hexafluoride (UF6).  From there the gaseous form would go to an enrichment facility to extract the fissile U235 isotope to make nuclear fuel (5% U235)  Note that bomb material has an enrichment level greater than 80% U235.

The enrichment facility spins the gas in centrifuges at a very high rate of speed to separate the lighter U235 isotope (the fissile material) from the heavier U238 raw uranium. The reason it is called “enrichment” is that U235 in raw uranium is only 0.7% of the mass. It takes a lot of spinning centrifuges to get to 5% U235 which is the high end for commercial nuclear fuel.

nuclear fuel cycle

Saudi Arabia has none of these facilities and the cost of building them would be several hundred million dollars and take two-to-three years. Yet, Prince Abdulaziz said in his remarks that KSA would consider exporting the yellowcake to other countries which could include its long time partner Pakistan or China.

Saudi Arabia currently has no nuclear power generation plants but has said it will add around 17 GW of nuclear capacity by 2040 and has ambitions to bring two reactors with a combined capacity of 2.8 to 3.2 GWe online within the next decade. Plans to release a tender to bidders for the first two units have repeatedly been pushed back repeatedly although a request for information from potential vendors was distributed several years ago.

Last August there was an indication that the process was underway once again. A Saudi note published in a construction trade press journal requested management consulting support services for the nuclear program indicating the country’s energy ministry may be restarting the bid and proposal process.

After a long period of relative quiet, KSA announced in August 2021 that The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) plans to hire the services of a global management service company to advise on Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear project in the next two months. The report was monitored on a CNBC Arabia TV channel.

According to the report, the global bidders for the project include Deloitte, Ernst & Young, HSBC and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

KSA does not have a 123 Agreement with the US and has repeatedly affirmed its “right” to develop uranium enrichment and spend fuel reprocessing facilities albeit without have the capacity or budget to build them.  In rejecting U.S. nuclear technologies by refusing to sign on to a 123 agreement, KSA has turned to China as a potential partner for new nuclear reactors.

Plans for Making Hydrogen

S&P Global / Platts also reported that KSA has expressed interest in becoming a leader in blue and green hydrogen as it looks at alternative energy sources. Saudi Arabia will adopt a partnership approach towards developing hydrogen, Prince Abdulaziz told the summit.

“We are working with our friends from the EU but we hope that we can aggregate for example, our EU partners to work with us on delivering hydrogen, either it is ammonia [that is] shipped or even piping it,” he said.

Saudi Aramco signed agreements last year to develop hydrogen manufactured from electrolysis powered by solar and wind. In 2020, the company shipped a cargo of blue ammonia to Japan, one of its biggest buyers of crude. Ammonia is the currently easiest way to store and transport hydrogen.

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EU Nations Need EUR500 Billion for New Nuclear Reactors

  • EU Need “Colossal” Amounts of Funding for New Nuclear Reactors to Meet Climate Goals by 2050
  • France Expects Next Fleet of Reactors to Be Complete by 2035
  • Czech Republic to Launch Tender for 1200 MWe PWR for Dukovany
  • Construction Begins of Two New Hualong Units at Changjiang and Sanaocun
  • Beloyarsk-4 / Fast Reactor To Fully Use MOX Fuel In 2022
  • Japan Seeks Nuclear Fusion Reactor Prototype by 2050

EU Nations Need “Colossal” Amounts of Funding for New Nuclear Reactors to Meet Climate Goals by 2050

lots of dollars(WNN) Investment in nuclear power totaling around EUR500 billion (USD565 billion) by 2050 will be needed if the European Union’s goal of carbon neutrality is to be hit, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton has said in an interview with France’s Le Journal du Dimanche.

Breton, speaking after the EU proposed to include nuclear and natural gas in the taxonomy, said nuclear energy had a fundamental role to play if the  EU was to achieve net-zero.

“To achieve carbon neutrality, it is really necessary to move up a gear in the production of carbon-free electricity in Europe, knowing that the demand for electricity itself will double in 30 years,” Breton said.

He said that the taxonomy, which is designed to allow access to capital on favorable terms if they have a “green label,” would be crucial for nuclear to attract the finance needed, adding that “the objective of zero emissions implies the mobilization of colossal investments.” He said that existing nuclear power plants require EUR50 billion investment by 2030, with EUR500 billion required by 2050 for new generation.

“The green transition will lead to an industrial revolution of unprecedented scale,” Breton said.

He said that around half of the EU’s member states had decided to include nuclear power in their energy mix while “some prefer to bet on gas”.

“I am not passing judgment on the sovereign choices made by states,” he added. “The main thing is that the effort of the European continent, by far the most committed in the world for the protection of the planet, can be successful within the allotted time.”

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France Expects Next Fleet of Reactors to Be Complete by 2035

france map of reactors(Wire services) The French Government boosted its commitment to dealing with climate change this week with an announcement that it expects the next fleet of nuclear reactors to power the nation to be complete by 2035.  (Map right courtesy of WNA)

According to wire service reports, Berangere Abba, Secretary of State to the Minister for the Ecological Transition, said during a parliamentary debate on 01/06/22 that the government is looking for plans for new nuclear reactors to be submitted in 2023. The announcement comes as a result of a commitment French president Emmanuel Macron made at the COP26 climate conference to invest billions of dollars in new nuclear plants.

She said the new reactors would be EPR2 models, which is an improved versions of EDF’s 1600 MWe European Pressurized Reactor (EPR). The current design has been been a financial disaster for Finland and for France with FOAK units in both countries experiencing staggering cost overruns and schedule delays. Previously, the government had said it would not launch any new third-generation EPR reactor projects until Flamanville 3 is completed.

According to Ms. Abba, in her statement, she said EDF, which inherited the original design from Areva, has submitted safety documentation to the Autorité de sûreté nucléaire (ASN) for the new model and that the regulator had validated its design concept.

According to media reports, EDF submitted a proposal to build six new generation EPR2s for around €50 billion ($56.8bn) or $11.4 billion each. At 1,600 MWe, the cost is $7,100/Kw. Given that the construction period will not begin until the end of this decade, at best this is a projected cost estimate and not a firm fixed price.

The current French fleet has 56 reactors. According to a profile of the French nuclear fleet, the oldest reactor was built in the early 1970s the newest in the late 1980s. All of the reactors will be 50 years old or more by 2030.

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Czech Republic to Launch Tender for 1200 MWe PWR for Dukovany

(WNN) bid cover sheetCzech utility CEZ expects to announce the tender process for a new reactor at Dukovany in February CEO Daniel Benes said in a radio interview.  He said the company is ready to accelerate and expand its nuclear plans to potentially build four new reactors in light of the EU Taxonomy.

Beneš said that a timetable for the tender could be confirmed “sometime in early February” and the actual process would begin quickly. He added that a startup by 2036 is “realistic.”

Benes said in response to a question from the news media that he is confident about the prospect of continuing to expand nuclear energy after the new Dukovany unit. “The site at Temelín has always been intended for four large units,” he noted. “There is room for [new build], so it is on offer.”

Setting up an entirely new nuclear power plant would be “a big problem in terms of permitting”, said Benes. “So if we are going to build more units somewhere after the Dukovany unit, it will be two units at Temelín. That means Temelín 3 and 4, and then we can talk about Dukovany Unit 6.”

“Whether it is in the new units at Temelín or Dukovany unit 6. We will speed up everything that we can,” said Beneš. Recent representative public polling in the Czech Republic showed support for the use of nuclear power at 65%, while 93% of people want the country to remain self-sufficient in electricity generation.

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Construction Begins of Two New Hualong Units at Changjiang and Sanaocun

(NucNet) State-owned China General Nuclear (CGN) and China Huaneng Group (CHG) said in separate statements last week that construction has started for two new Hualong One reactors at Changjiang And Sanaocun. The units are Changjiang-4 and Sanaocun-2.

CHG said the two Changjiang Hualong One units are expected to be online at the end of 2026 and cost about €5.6bn ($6.3bn). The Hualong One is a 1000 MWe PWR. At this cost the price price for each, $3.25 billion, comes in at the low price of $3,250/Kw. Due to differences in Chinese construction cost accounting methods, the price is not directly comparable to western nuclear reactor projects at the same scale and for similar technology.

HPR1000,_cooling_systems_schemata

Conceptual diagram of a Hualong One

Image: Ji Xing, Daiyong Song, Yuxiang Wu – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095809916301515 (from PDF version of paper) Journal: Engineering. 2 (1). doi:10.1016/J.ENG.2016.01.017

Active and passive cooling systems of HPR1000 (aka Hualong One) nuclear reactor. Red line − active systems; green line − passive systems; IRWST − in-containment refueling water storage tank.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Sanaocun nuclear station, south of Taizhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang, has one Hualong One unit under construction since 31 December 2020.

The Changjiang nuclear power station in the island province of Hainan, southern China, has had two units in commercial operation since 2015 and 2016, both of the 601-MW domestic CNP-600 PWR design. Construction of a third unit, a Hualong One at Changjiang-3, began on 31 March 2021.

Reports said the station will eventually have six of the domestically developed PWR units for a combined output of 6 GWe, but only two have so far been authorized for construction.

China now has 10 Hualong One units under construction at five sites – two at each of the Zhangzhou, Taipingling, Fangchenggang, Changjiang and Sanaocun sites.

Fuqing-5 in the southeastern province of Fujian is China’s only commercially operational Hualong One. Fuqing-6, also a Hualong One, was recently connected to the national grid and is close to going commercial.

The IAEA says China has 53 commercial nuclear plants in operation, but the addition of Sanaocun-2 and Chiangjiang-4 will take that to 55. It says there are 13 units under construction – a figure that now increases to 15.

The International Energy Agency said in September that nuclear power could expand rapidly if China meets its Paris Agreement goals on carbon neutrality. Potentially, it could become the largest commercial reactor fleet in the world after 2030.

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Beloyarsk-4 / Fast Reactor To Fully Use MOX Fuel In 2022

(NucNet) Russia expects to load the reactor core of the BN-800 fast neutron reactor at Beloyarsk-4 entirely with commercial mixed oxide uranium-plutonium (MOX) fuel in 2022, according to station director Ivan Sidorov.

bn-800-large-image

Conceptual image of the BN-800 – Image: Rosatom

In February 2021, a third of the reactor core was loaded. Operator Rosenergoatom said at the time that from then on only MOX fuel would be added to the BN-800 core. Currently, 60% of the core is MOX fule. Mr. Sidorov said that,
“Taking into account the scheduled pace [of loading] we will be able to fully switch to MOX fuel in 2022.”

MOX fuel contains more than one oxide of fissile material, usually plutonium oxide blended with natural uranium, reprocessed uranium or depleted uranium oxide. MOX fuel can also use weapons-grade plutonium from military sources.

The industrial production of MOX fuel in Russia is part of a federal program to develop a new generation of nuclear technologies. The MOX fuel project was led by Tvel. Production began in late 2018.

State nuclear corporation Rosatom has said the fuel pellets in the MOX assemblies were made of a mixture of depleted uranium oxides accumulated from enterprises connected to Tvel and plutonium oxides separated during the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

Recycling fissile material in this way is known as closing the nuclear fuel cycle. The overall toxicity, fissile content and volume of the waste produced is reduced while the fissionable residuals are recycled for energy production.

The Beloyarsk nuclear power station is near Yekaterinburg in central Russia. Apart from the BN-800 at Beloyarsk-4, there is another commercially operational fast reactor unit at the site – the Beloyarsk-3 BN-600, a smaller version of the BN-800.

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Japan Seeks Nuclear Fusion Reactor Prototype by 2050

(Nikkei) Japan said it will deploy and R&D strategy within the next six months and that a key milestone in it will be the goal of operating a commercial prototype fusion reactor by around 2050. The strategy, which has not yet been produced, will likely specify, at least initially, exploration of multiple technological scenarios for development.

types-of-fusion-tech_thumb

Illustration by Ana Kova for U.S. Fusion Outreach

Japan plans to increase the competitiveness of its domestic industry by promoting research and development of equipment needed for fusion power generation. The technology acquired by participating in ITER will be applied to a domestically produced prototype reactor. The hope is that in the future it will become a baseload source for stable power supply.

In Japan, small and midsized companies are working on making components for nuclear fusion reactors. The government will consider support for them to boost technological innovation.

Investment in nuclear fusion ventures is growing in the U.S., and in the U.K., a “government fusion strategy” is in place and there is a goal to build a prototype reactor by 2040.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida mentioned his support for nuclear fusion in connection with a clean energy strategy in a recent press conference.

Japan is working with the U.S. and other countries on the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), which is now being built in France. The project aims to see if the technology is technically feasible, though it will not generate electricity. Assembly began in 2020 with completion slated for 2025.

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IAEA Guide to Stakeholder Engagement for Nuclear Energy

(Press Release) To succeed, nuclear power and other nuclear projects need to engage with all relevant stakeholders, including the public. The IAEA has now released its first guide-level publication to support national efforts to engage with stakeholders throughout the life cycle of all nuclear facilities—from uranium mining and new and operating reactors to non-electric applications, radioactive waste management and decommissioning.

Stakeholder Engagement in Nuclear Programmes (Nuclear Energy Series No. NG-G-5.1) provides theoretical and practical guidance on developing and implementing stakeholder engagement programs and activities. It is the latest in a series of IAEA initiatives to support countries in this area, including through the Agency’s Milestones Approach for countries introducing nuclear power, technical meetings, webinars and other publications.

Stakeholders come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some, such as regulators, are required by law to be involved in projects. Others include any individuals or groups who feel affected by an activity. In order to enhance confidence in the project and build trust, organizations are encouraged to develop and implement a stakeholder engagement program, which can enable those individuals and groups to be involved and understand the basis for decisions.

“This publication builds on years working directly with governments and organizations, identifying good practices and crafting methodologies and approaches for effective stakeholder engagement,” said Lisa Berthelot, Technical Officer of the publication.

“There is no engagement recipe, in the end, because each context is different, but this guide lays out the foundations for what is a crucial element in any nuclear program.”

Explaining nuclear energy, strengthening relationships and building trust with stakeholders is key to the successful implementation, operation and expansion of all nuclear facilities, including nuclear power plants. The new guide will assist communication experts, senior managers and other experts to establish and maintain a long-term stakeholder engagement strategy and activities for a nuclear program.

These experts work for key organizations involved in the nuclear project or facility, including government, owner/operator and regulator. Other employees who are involved in communication or engagement activities will also find the content of this guide useful and relevant to their work.

“The publication is an excellent, basic principle level document which will be used as a part of our internal familiarization and on-job-training programs for new communication officers and for senior and midlevel managers,” said Jaana Isotalo, Senior Vice President (HR & Communication) at TVO, a Finnish nuclear power company.

“It gives an overview of the key elements of open, successful and transparent stakeholder engagement, as key components for the sustainable use of nuclear power.”

The publication identifies five key principles for effective engagement:

  • building trust, demonstrating accountability,
  • exhibiting openness and transparency,
  • practicing early and frequent consultation and
  • communicating the benefits and risks of the nuclear technology.

After providing an overview of the topic, the new guide covers the development of stakeholder engagement strategies and plans, including practical information such as stakeholder mapping. It then discusses the roles and responsibilities of key nuclear organizations and how the types of approaches and activities selected differ. Finally, engagement approaches for the different life cycle stages are examined, showing how each stage requires its own strategic approach.

Last month, the IAEA organized two events on stakeholder engagement and public acceptance. The “19th INPRO Dialogue Forum on Enhancing Public Acceptance of Nuclear Energy through Institutional Innovations” and the webinar on “Engaging with Policy and Decision Makers: Knowledgeable and Interested Leaders” underscored how effective stakeholder engagement is needed to support nuclear energy in fulfilling its potential to help countries to mitigate climate change and achieve energy security and sustainable development.

Stakeholder engagement is of particular interest to newcomer countries seeking to introduce a new nuclear power program and is one of the 19 nuclear infrastructure issues that make up the IAEA’s Milestones Approach, together with others such as nuclear safety and security, funding and financing and radioactive waste management. There are currently around 30 such newcomers, with Bangladesh and Turkey already constructing their first nuclear power plants.

‘’The IAEA has provided newcomer countries with insightful capacity building support in stakeholder engagement for years,” said Arda D. Duran of the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.

“This new publication is an addition to its valuable bibliography as the first ‘guide level’ document on the topic. With this publication, the IAEA will keep helping newcomer countries to improve our understanding and ability to effectively engage with stakeholders.’’

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NRC Denies OKLO’s Application for a License

  • NRC Denies Oklo’s Application for a License
    • What’s in the NRC Review?
    • Why the NRC Did Not Proceed with its Technical Review of Oklo’s Application
    • Oklo Says it Will Re-submit Its Application
    • Cost of the Application
    • Impact of the NRC Action on Oklo’s Prospects for Commercial Success
  • NIA Issues Report on Licensing Fee Reforms for the NRC

Update 01/17/2022 – In an interview with the DC based trade news wire Morning Consult, Oklo CEO Jacob DeWitte said the firm will re-submit its application to the NRC for a license for its mini advanced nuclear reactor. He added the the firm still expects to get the license, build the first of a kind unit at the Idaho National Laboratory, and begin operations by 2025.

NRC Denies OKLO’s Application for a License

oklo logoThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission has denied, without prejudice, Oklo Power, LLC.’s application [ML20075A000] to build and operate the company’s 1.5 MWe Aurora compact fast reactor in Idaho  first announced in December 2019.

The denial is based on Oklo’s failure to provide information on several key topics for the Aurora design. The agency said the company is free to submit a complete application in the future. (press statement )

NRC Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation Andrea Veil said, “Since Oklo submitted its application almost 22 months ago, our engagement with the company has included multiple information requests, audits and public meetings. We thoroughly considered Oklo’s proposals for satisfying our safety requirements.”

“Oklo’s application continues to contain significant information gaps in its description of Aurora’s potential accidents as well as its classification of safety systems and components,” Veil said. “These gaps prevent further review activities. We are prepared to re-engage with Oklo if they submit a revised application that provides the information we need for a thorough and timely review.”

Oklo submitted the application on March 11, 2020, seeking an NRC license for an advanced reactor to be built at the Idaho National Laboratory site. The proposed Aurora design would use heat pipes to transport heat from the reactor core to a power conversion system. The NRC staff accepted the application on June 5, 2020.

What’s in the NRC Review?

The NRC’s letter to Oklo of June 5, 2020 [ML20149K616] identified numerous topics to be addressed in “a full, detailed technical review.”  (Timeline of Topics of NRC / Oklo actions) Several of the key topics included;

  • Maximum Credible Accident (MCA)  – An analysis and evaluation of the design with the objective of assessing the risk to public health and safety and for prevention of accidents and the mitigation of the consequences of accidents.
  • Classification of Structures, Systems, and Components (SSC) – a description and analyses of the structures, systems,and components of the facility with emphasis on performance requirements . . .
  • Quality Assurance Program (QA) – Identification of components under the scope of the quality assurance program and its application to the design and fabrication  of them . . .

The NRC said that it had taken “a novel approach” of working to align with Oklo on identified information gaps related to key design and safety aspects early in the process before developing a review schedule. Those alignment efforts included Oklo’s submission of reports on several topics in July 2021. The company supplemented those reports in October of that year, and the staff has concluded the reports fail to close the information gaps.

A timeline of the interactions between Oklo and the NRC that in September 2020 the agency requested additional information (RAI) on multiple items related to all three categories and the company responded the following month. The agency and the company has three rounds of RAIs on topics related to the category of Maximum Credible Accident which were completed a year later in October 2021.

oklo-tech_thumb.png

Why the NRC Did Not Proceed with its Technical Review of Oklo’s Application

However, in early January 2022 the NRC informed the company in a letter dated 01/06/22 [ML21307A108] that Oklo’s submissions in response to the RAIs that, even with three rounds of RAIs, the NRC said it “finds that Oklo had not provided sufficient technical information to resolve previously identified deficiencies in the topical reports.”

The NRC letter provides numerous examples of these “deficiencies.” Here are three examples.

“For example, the topical reports would leave the resolution of several important safety issues associated with a design’s MCA to the discretion of an applicant that references the topical reports in a licensing action. Moreover, the topical reports include generalized concepts rather than rigorous, repeatable methodologies and lack specific guidelines and sufficient technical information. As a result, the NRC staff is unable to determine whether and how the topical reports or applicants that reference them would meet applicable safety requirements.”

“For example, the topical reports are vague about how to determine and implement proper treatment of uncertainties, appropriate design margins, and adequate defense-in-depth.”

“The topical reports do not commit to consensus codes or standards and do not provide alternate guidance for users to meet the regulatory requirement to consider codes and standards in the design. The MCA topical report states that it is acceptable not to use established methods to select a comprehensive set of accident initiators, but it does not provide a detailed methodology of its own as a substitute, leaving an open question how a user of the methodology will prepare a robust safety analysis that meets the regulatory requirements for the technical contents of applications.”

Next Steps for NRC

nrc-seal_thumb.pngAs a result, the NRC said in its press statement, “As the application lacks information on key topics, the NRC’s action makes no safety findings regarding the Aurora design.”

“Following the publication of an upcoming Federal Register notice, Oklo will have 30 days to request a hearing regarding the agency’s decision. Other interested persons or entities who might be affected by the decision can also ask to participate in a hearing.”

new-reactor-licensing-process

Oklo Says it Will Re-submit Its Application

Oklo told CNBC that the firm was not aware that the agency was planning to decide not to accept its application for a license. A spokesperson for Oklo said in an emailed statement that the firm is planning to resubmit its application.

“We are eager to continue moving forward on not just this project with the NRC, but also other projects we are already engaged on with the NRC, including other budgeted application submittals.  Our combined license application was the first ever accepted for an advanced plant, so there are many new things for all to learn from and work through to support a successful review, and it provides a foundation from which we can supply additional information and continue work with the NRC.  The application was accepted as an important step for the nation’s interest, and we are continuing our work on advanced fission unabated as key to a clean energy future.”

CNBC reported that Caroline Cochran, one of the two principals at the firm, said she was hopeful the issues with the firm’s application for a license can be addressed. Cochran said she has been encouraged by some conversations she and the Oklo team have had with members of the NRC since the decision was made public.

“After chatting with some folks with the NRC yesterday after it went public, they made pretty clear that there’s a pathway for us to provide more information again, and just continue the process,” Cochran said.

The NRC said in its press statement that it has made the decision “without prejudice” and that Oklo “is free to submit a complete application in the future.”

Cost of the Application

The cost of the license application process so far for Oklo has been substantial. In its June 5, 2020, letter to Oklo, the NRC estimated that the agency would need 1,800 hours for its review of safety and design issues and another 700 hours for an environmental review. A productive work year in the federal government is about 1,800 hours, not counting holidays. sick days, weather days, etc., out of 2,080 available hours (52 weeks x 40 hours/week). The NRC’s estimate, taken as a whole for 2,500 hours, is 1.4 full time equivalent (FTE) staff for the Step 1 review.

According to the NRC, reimbursement rate for these reviews is $288/hour. Taken together, the two review processes requiring 2,500 hours have a potential cost of $720,000. This is for Step 1 of the review process. The full technical review, for which the agency determined there was insufficient information to proceed, follows successful completion of Step 1. The agency did not provide an estimate of the cost of Step 2.

These costs are solely in terms of paying for the NRC’s time. They don’t include Oklo’s staff time to develop the license application itself or to respond to multiple rounds of RAIs.

Impact of the NRC Action on Oklo’s Prospects for Commercial Success

The NRC’s rejection of the license application could have a chilling effect on Oklo’s prospects for commercial success. Investors who may have been considering the firm, based on a near term future milestone of getting a license from the NRC, may now have second thoughts. CNBC reported, citing Pitchbook, that since it started the firm has raised more than $25M from investors.

The challenge for the firm is that it still has to address the NRC’s key concern regarding the MCA topical report. While the NRC said it is acceptable not to use established methods to select a comprehensive set of accident initiators, “it [Oklo] did not provide a detailed methodology of its own as a substitute, leaving an open question how a user of the methodology will prepare a robust safety analysis that meets the regulatory requirements for the technical contents of applications.”

CNBC also reported that the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the US trade group for the industry, said that the NRC needs to update its licensing procedures, according to Doug True, NEI’s Chief Nuclear Officer.

“The next generation of nuclear technologies are being designed with inherent safety features and will require the NRC to modernize their approach in licensing the carbon-free nuclear reactors of the future,”

Alex Gilbert, a project manager for nuclear power think tank the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, also told CNBC the decision was a disappointment and a sign of out dated regulatory processes.

Also, as the firm has stated it will resubmit its application, it is on the hook to pay the agency, potentially, another $720,000 for review time not counting its own internal costs. It is a good guess that the firm would prefer to use these funds for development of the business rather than feeding the bureaucracy. The completion of the entire entire licensing process, and get a decision from the NRC to issue a license, is now further in the future.

The following article discusses some ways the costs of getting advanced reactors through the NRC process without burning the firm’s bank account to the ground.

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NIA Issues Report on Licensing Fee Reforms for the NRC

NIA logoThe Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) released a new report, “Promoting Efficient NRC Advanced Reactor Licensing Reviews to Enable Rapid Decarbonization.”

In this report, the NIA explores how the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Industry can make advanced reactor licensing both more effective and more efficient. Unnecessarily long licensing reviews raise significant barriers to investment, reduce customer interest in advanced reactors, and threaten successful long-term deployment of advanced nuclear reactors.

NIA Executive Director Judi Greenwald provided the following statement on the relevance of this new NIA work to ongoing regulatory innovation:

“Historically, NRC often takes five years or more to conduct a license review and make a safety determination for a large light water reactor (LWR) application. This length of time reflects both the engineering complexity of such large LWRs as well as the length of the LWR project lifecycle. Simpler, smaller, and even safer advanced reactors would benefit from more efficient and effective licensing reviews. Shorter reviews enable business models that reduce costs and meet the public’s need for clean energy. We recommend actions that both NRC and industry can take to reduce licensing durations while continuing to ensure safety.

“Emerging factors, especially the growing concern about climate change, signal that advanced reactors are needed as soon as possible. Recognizing the recent bipartisan support in Congress for advanced nuclear innovation, the NRC and advanced nuclear industry should drive rapid advanced nuclear deployment by re-imagining advanced nuclear reactor licensing. The keys to success will depend on a sense of urgency, maintaining safety standards, and improving both industry applications and NRC regulatory processes.”

To read the report, visit the NIA website here: Promoting Efficient NRC Advanced Reactor Licensing Reviews to Enable Rapid Decarbonization

The report was released in a virtual webinar moderated by former NRC Commissioner and current Third Way Fellow Stephen Burns and featuring NIA Project Manager Alex Gilbert and Hogan Lovells Global Energy Practice Chair Amy Roma. The recording can be accessed here: Video

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A New Year’s Resolution for U.S. Nuclear Utilities

Welcome to 2022! This is my ‘new years resolution’ which I offer for adoption by publicly traded nuclear energy utilities in the U.S.

These firms have communicated to shareholders and stakeholders about sustainability issues, including climate change, but what does that means when it comes to reporting on their operations and measuring accountability for compliance with their ESG reports (environmental, social, governance).

esg-1_thumb

In 2022 the opportunity exists for these firms to reaffirm their sustainability claims to their stockholders and stakeholders by forming a national effort to develop a new SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board) standard, or modifying an existing standard, that addresses Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting requirements associated with the development, construction, and operation of nuclear reactors for electric power generation, process heat for industry, hydrogen production, and desalinization of sea water.

sasb-logo_thumb.pngBy way of background SASB Standards connect businesses and investors on the financial impacts of sustainability. SASB has published a standard for electric utilities and power generators, but its coverage does not address the technology development efforts now underway for 4th generation advanced reactors and new types of light water reactors such as small modular reactors and mini reactors nor their uses beyond electricity production.

Compliance with SASB standards forms the basis for materially significant reports to investors on how well a firm is doing relative to the principles of environmental, sustainable, and governance (ESG) elements of its operations and that of its supply chains.

  • The environmental data elements of an ESG report cover items like climate change, pollution/waste management, as well as prospective actions like green buildings and clean technologies.
  • The social data elements of an ESG report cover relations with internal and external stakeholders, not just stockholders.
  • The governance data elements of an ESG report in broad terms it covers all aspects of corporate behavior internally and externally.

Companies prepare ESG reports in compliance with SASB standards and its “materiality map.” SASB’s Materiality Map identifies sustainability issues that are likely to affect the financial condition or operating performance of companies within an industry. In part its an exercise in risk management.

SASB identifies 26 sustainability-related business issues which encompass a range of Disclosure Topics and their associated Accounting Metrics that vary by industry.  So far 77 industries are covered, but the nuclear energy utility industry, its suppliers, and especially firms involved in new reactor development, are not covered by one.

The reason a nuclear utility or a reactor technology developer, or both in a partnership, would want to prepare and publish a materially significant ESG report is to attract “green  investors” to fuel growth and/or to bring their technologies to market

clean energyThere has been a paradigm shift, especially among investors who want their funds to be a force for good. They care about what their funds and investments are doing and given a choice will select an ESG compliant firm every time. A firm that meets these requirements can attract more capital or lower the cost of capital.

The opportunity for publicly traded utilities is to organize a task force on a peer-to-peer basis identify either changes to the current SASB standard for Electric Utilities & Power Generators or to work with SASB to develop a revised or a new standard that establishes a basis for ESG reporting for the nuclear energy industry.

The two main benefits of such a task force being successful are to enable ESG driven investors to justify putting their funds into nuclear energy utilities, and to tell the story of the industry to the public as well as business and government decision makers.

Collaboration with the American Nuclear Society and the American Society for Mechanical Engineers would bring added value and credibility to the effort. This effort could also involve trade organizations for nuclear utilities that live and work inside the DC beltway.

As for the answer to the question of who else thinks this is a good idea, the World Nuclear Association and the GEN IV forum have published reports and white papers advocating ESG reporting for the nuclear industry. (more on this below) Just last week the European Union published a draft taxonomy labeling nuclear energy is being “green.” If you pursue this idea, you will be in good company.

World Nuclear Association on Nuclear Energy & Sustainable Finance

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) on (12/20/21) published an examination of the issue on its website. WNA’s publication of this document becomes a globally significant touchstone for all other advocates for nuclear energy to assess how they might approach the issue.  Here is a summary and a link to the full document – Nuclear Energy and Sustainable Finance

WNA Summary

  • Increasingly, jurisdictions are taking policy and regulatory steps to enhance the role of the financial system in the transition towards low-carbon and sustainable economies.
  • These regulatory actions focus on three broad themes: disclosure, risk management and the mobilization of capital. There is a move towards mandatory disclosure internationally.
  • Over 20 countries have either implemented or are currently developing taxonomies. Some of the taxonomies issued to date specifically include nuclear energy while others currently exclude it. Many taxonomies under development intend to align with the EU taxonomy for sustainable activities.
  • The ongoing evolution of environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria presents both opportunities and risks to the nuclear industry.
  • Multiple international initiatives are working to help mobilize capital for the sustainability transition by seeking to harmonize ESG standards and reduce market fragmentation. Some of these are likely to result in major changes to non-financial reporting and risk assessment by financial institutions

GEN IV Forum Report

gen iv forumIn September 2021 the the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) published a report on the topic of nuclear energy as an asset class. The report said that nuclear energy has the potential to show up positively against a wide range of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) data collection and accounting metrics. This outcome should allow nuclear energy to be considered as an investable asset class, thereby allowing nuclear companies and projects to access climate finance.

The report – Nuclear Energy: An ESG Investible Asset Class – was produced by a finance industry taskforce set up in 2020 by GIF’s Economic Modelling Work Group. “The report has been produced by the finance community for the finance community. It is intended to provide guidance to the finance community and wider stakeholders on how nuclear assets could report against ESG.”

See this summary of the GEN IV report and its significance in this World Nuclear News report from September 7, 2021

References: SASB Standards

SASB’s Materiality Map identifies sustainability issues that are likely to affect the financial condition or operating performance of companies within an industry. In the left-hand column, SASB identifies 26 sustainability-related business issues, or General Issue Categories, which encompass a range of Disclosure Topics and their associated Accounting Metrics that vary by industry.  SASB Materiality Map

Electric Utilities & Power Generators SASB Standard

The Electric Utilities & Power Generators industry is made up of companies that generate electricity; build, own, and operate transmission and distribution (T&D) lines; and sell electricity. Utilities generate electricity from a number of different sources, commonly including coal, natural gas, nuclear energy, hydropower, solar, wind, and other renewable and fossil fuel energy sources.

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UKAEA Issues Two Contracts Worth £7.5M for Fusion Energy

  • UKAEA Issues Two Contracts Worth £7.5 for Fusion Energy
  • US DOE Announces 2nd Round of Fusion Energy Public / Private Projects
  • New Website for Public Outreach on Fusion Energy

UKAEA Issues Two Contracts Worth £7.5 for Fusion Energy

  • World-leading experts join UKAEA fusion energy mission

types of fusion tech

Illustration by Ana Kova for U.S. Fusion Outreach

According to a press statement issued by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), world-class engineering and science experts have joined the agency to lead the delivery of sustainable fusion energy. The frameworks will allow companies to embed their own specialists in project roles or add experience and expertise to UKAEA research into the development of fusion energy.

UKAEA has signed two multimillion-pound framework agreements to aid the development of safe, efficient, and low-carbon fusion energy. According to the UKAEA fusion has the potential to be a critical component in the global effort to tackle climate change.

Paula Barham, UKAEA Head of Procurement, said: “Signing these two major framework agreements in the run up to Christmas is a big boost for UKAEA and our partners. Joining forces with such world-class organizations brings exciting opportunities for us to team-up with a wide range of experts, with this type of collaboration vital to UKAEA succeeding and positioning the UK as a leader in sustainable fusion energy.”

Gary Stables, Engineering Contract Project Manager at UKAEA, added: “This is another example of how UKAEA works closely with its industrial partners to access resources as well as help develop the UK manufacturing supply chain in the push towards our goal of delivering fusion energy, which has huge potential as a low carbon energy source.”

STEP Program

The framework, a £3.5 million  ‘Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) Manufacturing Support Services’ agreement, will push forward UKAEA’s plans to deliver the first prototype fusion energy plant in the UK by 2040.

STEP will also determine how the plant will be maintained through its operational life, and demonstrate its potential to recycle its fuel. Five sites have been shortlisted across the UK, with a decision on the final location to be made by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) around the end of 2022.

There are three phases to the STEP Program

  • The goal for the first phase of work is to produce a ‘concept design’ by 2024. This means development of an outline of the power plant, with a clear view on how we will design each of the major systems.
  • Through phase 2 the design will be developed through detailed engineering design, while all regulatory permissions to build the plant will be sought.
  • Construction of the prototype power plant will begin in phase 3, targeting completion around 2040.

Engineering Resource Framework

A £4 million, four-year ‘Engineering Embedded Resource Framework’ agreement with seven companies, Assystem, Atkins, IDOM, Morsons, NUVIA, EASL and Norton Straw Consultants, will cover fusion research, powerplant design, robotics, modelling, materials, and other specialist technology areas.

Interview with Tim Bestwick, Chief Technology Officer, UKAEA

In an interview with Power Engineering International, reporter Pamela Largue spoke to Tim Bestwick, Chief Technology Officer at UK Atomic Energy Authority. Here is a brief summary of two key points from the entire interview.

  • What is the status of fusion in the UK?

At the Culham Science Centre, which is the main center near Oxford, there are two major fusion experiments. One is called MAST, which stands for Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak. The other is JET, the Joint European Torus and currently the world’s largest operating fusion experiment.

A number of dynamic private sector fusion companies are developing, with two of them based near UKAEA. Tokamak Energy is a tokamak-based fusion company, and First Light Fusion is an inertial confinement fusion company.

Recently, there was an announcement that General Fusion, headquartered in Vancouver, Canada was going to build its next fusion demonstration plant at Culham, joining these other two businesses at Oxford..

  • How does fusion get to become commercially viable?

This is a big question. Fusion is very technically demanding. It’s a set of big challenges that have not all been fully solved.

Deploying fusion in a practical sense requires both developing fusion systems that function as long-term power production facilities – not just experimental systems – and secondly scaling up and rolling out on a large scale.

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U.S. Department of Energy Announces Second Round of FY 2021 Public-Private Partnership Awards to Advance Fusion Energy

infuseThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced awards for eight projects with private industry that will allow for collaboration with DOE national laboratories on overcoming challenges in fusion energy development.

The awards are provided through the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy, or INFUSE, program, which was established in 2019. The program is sponsored by the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences within DOE’s Office of Science and is focused on accelerating fusion energy development through public-private research partnerships.

“This series of selections marks the conclusion of the third year of the INFUSE program, which continues to draw in new applicants every call,” said James Van Dam, DOE Associate Director for Fusion Energy Sciences. “Support for INFUSE remains strong in the private fusion sector and we anticipate growing interest as the program continues to evolve moving forward.”

The funded projects will provide companies with access to the leading expertise and facilities of DOE’s national laboratories to assist in addressing critical scientific and technological challenges in pursuing fusion energy systems.

The program solicited proposals from the fusion industry and selected projects for one- or two-year awards of between $50,000 and $500,000 each, with a 20% cost share for industry partners. The awards are subject to a successful negotiation of a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) between the companies and the partnering laboratories.

“Some of these recent awards are focused on technology development, material testing, and machine learning,” said Ahmed Diallo, deputy director of INFUSE and a fusion scientist at DOE’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory.

The eight selected projects include representation from six private companies. The projects will take advantage of INFUSE’s areas of focus: enabling fusion technologies; materials; diagnostics; modeling and simulation; and experimental capabilities.

For lists of all projects and full abstracts for each project are available on the INFUSE website. https://infuse.ornl.gov/  The projects awarded last July in the first round are also listed at this site.

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New Website for Public Outreach on Fusion Energy

US_Fusion_Energy_Outreach_What_is_FusionThe U.S. Fusion Energy website is your view into the world of fusion energy. Read the latest news, find upcoming events, search for opportunities and jobs, meet the people behind the science, and get the background information you need to understand the language of fusion energy. Illustration by Ana Kova for U.S. Fusion Outreach

Key topics covered by the website are:

  • Fundamentals: Briefings about the world of fusion energy.
  • News: Curated stories featuring fusion energy.

  • Events:
    Learn more about fusion energy at public and technical events.

  • Resources & Jobs
    : Organizations and job listings

The website’s content is guided by a technical committee of subject matter experts.

The website includes  the ability to sign up for updates or follow the site on Twitter

Fusion, the process that powers the sun and stars, promises a near-limitless clean electricity source for the long term. Fusion power creates nearly four million times more energy for every kilogram of fuel than burning coal, oil or gas.

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European Union Goes Green for Nuclear Energy

  • EU Goes Green for Nuclear Energy
  • Poland Selects Site for 1st New Nuclear Reactor
  • South Korean Presidential Candidate Calls for Nuclear Energy Exports
  • South Korea Announces New Plan on Nuclear Fusion R&D
  • Japanese Heavy Industries Sign On to Supply Chain for TerraPower

EU Goes Green for Nuclear Energy

eu logoDespite setbacks in Germany and Belgium, the European Union this week published a draft document that labels nuclear energy as being “green” because they are zero CO2 emission power plants.

It also applied this label to gas power plants which emit half the CO2 of coal fired units. Both designations are intended to facilitate financial support for new nuclear power plants in EU member countries. The EU Taxonomy guides and mobilizes private investment in activities that are needed to achieve climate neutrality in the next 30 years. (EU Fact Sheets on sustainable finance)

“Taking account of scientific advice and current technological progress as well as varying transition challenges across member states, the Commission considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future,” the European Commission said in its statement

A Majority of EU Members Support the Policy

EU states including the Czech Republic, Finland and France, which gets around 70% of its power from the fuel, see nuclear as crucial to phasing out CO2-emitting coal fuel power. The Czech Republics is expected to release a tender for a 1200 MWE PWR for Dukovany. Finland is expanding its nuclear fleet and is opening Europe’s first deep geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel.

In addition, Poland and Romania, also EU members, have ambitious plans, which are not yet funded, to swap out coal fired power plants with new nuclear reactors. Poland is looking at SMRs and Romania wants to complete two partially built 700 MWe CANDU type units.

AP reported that France has asked for nuclear power to be included in the so-called “taxonomy” by the end of the year, leading the charge with several other EU countries that operate nuclear power plants and want to make it eligible for green financing.

French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said the proposal is good on a technical level and insisted on Sunday that the bloc “cannot become carbon neutral by 2050 without nuclear energy.

Germany Stands Behind Its Renewable Energy Investors

windmillThe EU’s decision to release the draft with nuclear energy getting the “green” designation set off a political food fight with Germany. It issued a strongly worded protest to the publication of the draft document even as it took steps to close three of its remaining six nuclear reactors. Austria, Spain, and Luxemburg support Germany’s position.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck criticized the plan to classify investments in gas and nuclear power plants as climate facilitating each EU country meeting its climate goals.

AP reported he said that “the EU Commission’s proposals water down the good label for sustainability,” Habeck, who represents the Germany’s environmentalist Greens in the country’s coalition government, told German news agency dpa. “We don’t see how to approve the new proposals of the EU Commission.”

“In any case, it is questionable whether this greenwashing will even find acceptance on the financial market,” Habeck stressed, referring to the practice of painting investments as sustainable when they actually are not.

The German reactors are Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen-C, run by E.ON and RWE, and began operation in the 1980s. The PWrs have a gross combined capacity of 4,254 MW. The last three nuclear power plants, Isar-2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim-2, will be turned off by the end of 2022, removing another 4,291 MWe (gross) of capacity from the grid.

This heart of the food fight over the”green”  label is that investors in renewables do not want to have to compete for EU financial support with nuclear power plants. The “green” classification will support access to capital as well as setting a reduction in financing costs. Germany has gone all in on the use of renewable energy technologies and, in effect, the government has been captured by investors in solar and wind energy industries.

The decision by Germany to phase out nuclear power and shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy was first taken by the center-left government of Gerhard Schroeder in 2002. In 2005, shortly after his term ended, Schröder joined the board of directors of the Nord Stream joint venture (Gazprom) which is intended to ship Russian natural gas to Germany. If the Nord II gas line is completed and turned on, it will tighten Russia’s grip on Germany’s energy security. Russia uses gas supplies as a tool of geopolitical influence.

The combination of reliance on renewable energy and Russian gas has backed Germany into a corner. Instead of figuring a way out of the hole its has dug itself into, apparently, its plan is to keep on digging.

US Newspaper Calls Germany’s Energy Policies “a Mistake”

In the US the Washington Post published an editorial which called Germany’s energy policy “a mistake.”

Mistakes_topbannerThe newspaper pointed out that the consequences of Germany’s decision to phase out its nuclear plant are that it now has the highest electricity rates in the EU due to its reliance on the intermittent nature of solar and wind power.

Also, Germany is now burning more lignite which is the dirtiest type of coal in terms of conventional pollutants and CO2 emitted per ton of the fossil fuel. In October of this year as gas prices rose, Germany stepped up its coal burning operations.

The Post praised France’s Emmanuel Macron for his renewed commitment to nuclear energy.

“Next door, French President Emmanuel Macron is moving in the opposite direction, announcing plans for new nuclear reactors. France relies more on nuclear power than any other nation, a major reason the country has about half the per capita greenhouse emissions Germany does. Mr. Macron rightly sees expanding the nation’s nuclear capacity as a better alternative than attempting to rely on renewables alone.”

EU Green Taxonomy Will Drive Energy Investments

fees_thumb.pngThe draft document defines the criteria for classifying investments in nuclear or gas-fired power plants for electricity generation as “sustainable,” with the objective of directing “green finance” towards activities that contribute to reducing greenhouse gases.

Reuters reported that by focusing the “green” label on climate-friendly projects, the system aims to make those investments more attractive to private capital, and stop “greenwashing , where companies or investors overstate their eco-friendly credentials.

The Brussels proposal sets conditions for the inclusion of nuclear and gas including a time limit. For the construction of new nuclear power plants, projects will have to have obtained a building permit before 2045. Work to extend the life of existing plants will have to be authorized before 2040.

It also required guarantees regarding waste treatment and the dismantling of nuclear installations at the end of their operational life.

The EU draft text, which has been under discussion for months, was sent to all member states on 12/31/21.  Member states have four months to decide whether to support the final document. Given the contentious nature of the debate within the EU so far, it is likely the decision will be postponed while the EU sorts things out.

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Poland / Company Overseeing Nuclear Project Announces Preferred Site In Pomerania

(NucNet) Warsaw has ambitious new-build plans and is targeting commercial operation of first reactor in 2033. A site in the northern province of Pomerania near the Baltic coast has been selected as the preferred location for Poland’s first commercial nuclear power station, Polskie Elektrownie JDR (PEJ), the company charged with managing the project, said in a media statement monitored in Brussels. The largest city in the region is Gdansk.

The site, Lubiatowo-Kopalino, in the coastal province of Choczewo, was chosen on the basis of detailed site investigation and environmental surveys. According to PEJ, three of the key factors in choosing the site were the area’s lack of existing stable power generation, unlimited access to cooling water and the potential for transport of oversized loads by sea.

At the beginning of the site selection process, more than 90 potential locations were considered. Analysis took into account factors such as land features, availability of cooling water, nature conservation and infrastructure.

PEJ said it will now apply for administrative approvals and permits. “We are working as planned and the site selection has confirmed it,” said Anna Moskwa, minister of climate and environment.

Piotr Naimski, the government’s lead official for strategic energy infrastructure, said Poland aims to diversify its energy mix and the announcement of a preferred nuclear power station site is “tangible proof of that fact”.

Poland wants to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MWe of installed nuclear capacity based on proven, large-scale, pressurized water nuclear reactors of the Generation III and III+ design. Commercial operation of a first nuclear reactor unit in a proposed set of six is planned for 2033.

PEJ has not yet chosen the technology type for the project, but France’s EDF, US-based Westinghouse and South Korea have all expressed their formal interest in Warsaw’s nuclear plans.

In July 2021, EDF opened an office in Warsaw to support the preparation of a nuclear offer. At the time the company said the move confirmed its long-term commitment to support the Polish nuclear ambition by proposing the development of four to six EPR units in the country.

In September, Westinghouse opened a global shared services centre in Krakow, where about 160 staff will work to support the company’s global operations and to provide Poland with “the best technology to support its climate change goals and secure the energy needs of its economy.”

Separately, there is intense competion among US and UK vendors to sell small modular reactors (SMRs) to Polish industrial firms that want them for their ability to provide combined heat and power to their plants. GE Hitachi recently announced it has hired BWXT Canada to build the major components of 10 BWRX300 SMRs to be sold to Polish firms.

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South Korean Presidential Candidate Calls for Nuclear Energy Exports

Main opposition presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol said last week that he will export 10 nuclear power plants by 2030 if elected, and he continued to slam the Moon Jae-in administration’s nuclear phase-out policy.

Yoon said he will deepen nuclear cooperation with the United States to create 100,000 jobs by winning orders for more than 10 nuclear power plants from eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Yoon said he will “form a pan-governmental organization for exports of nuclear power plants and build a process to push for exports of nuclear power plants.”

“By strengthening the foundation for exports of nuclear power plants, I will create decent jobs at home and abroad for future generations,” Yoon said.

Yoon also vowed to resume construction of two nuclear reactors — Shin-Hanul No. 3 and No. 4. Construction work for the two reactors has been suspended since 2017 under the nuclear phase-out policy.

He announced the campaign pledges on the nuclear industry as he visited the construction site of the two reactors in the coastal county of Uljin, 330 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

The nuclear phase-out scheme set by Moon’s government centers on refraining from building additional plants while retiring old ones. Under the roadmap, South Korea plans to decrease the number of nuclear plants in operation to 17 by 2034, from this year’s 24.

Voters go to the polls on March 9, 2022. There are multiple candidates who are on the ballot and nuclear energy isn’t a leading issue with voters. Moon has seen a significant drop in his ratings in the polls which accounts for the number of candidates who want his job.

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South Korea Announces New Plan on Nuclear Fusion R&D

fusionSouth Korea’s National Fusion Research Institute is leading the development of its Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) project.

Minister of Science and ICT Lim Hye-sook visited the National Fusion Research Institute and attended a virtual fusion reactor demonstration on 12/30/21.

“The government is preparing an R&D roadmap regarding a demonstration reactor for nuclear fusion-based power generation,” she said, adding, “It is going to provide extensive support for the commercialization of nuclear fusion energy.”

She said the new plan of the government also focuses on commercial nuclear fusion. In order to be able to initiate nuclear fusion-based power generation in the 2050s, it is going to accelerate the development of eight key technologies and increase the domestic procurement of key components.

In terms of progress to date, the minister said the ultra-high temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius was maintained for 30 seconds, which is a world record. The institute is planning to continue to improve its technology so that the temperature can be maintained for 300 seconds in 2026, which is critical for commercial nuclear fusion.

At the same time, it is going to work more closely with other governments so that the development of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor can be accelerated and related construction plans can be improved.

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Japanese Heavy Industries Sign On to Supply Chain for TerraPower’s Wyoming Nuclear Project

(Wire services) The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (7011.T) are set to cooperate with TerraPower to build an Advanced nulear reactor in Wyoming. The project is funded under a cost-sharing arrangement with the U.S. Department of Energy under its Advanced Reactors Demonstration Program. The 345 MWe sodium cooled reactor is intended to replace an existing operational coal fired power plant.  Natrium Reactor Fact Sheet

JAEA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) will provide technical support and data from their respective subject matter experts. MHI is also expected to be a supplier of some of the key components of the reactor.

The Japan Times reports while the specifics of the collaboration are still being discussed, the JAEA is also considering using its sodium experimental facility Athena in Ibaraki Prefecture to develop safety technology.

JAEA, which has a history of operating sodium-cooled fast reactors such as the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture and the Joyo experimental fast reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture, is considering providing operational data and designs to TerraPower.

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DOE Establishes Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations

  • US DOE Establishes Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations
  • DOE Loan Programs Office Backs Loan Guarantees

US DOE Establishes Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations

clean energyThe US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced the establishment of the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, a new DOE office that aims to help deliver the administration’s climate agenda.

President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides more than $20 billion to establish the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations and support clean energy technology demonstration projects in areas including clean hydrogen, carbon capture, grid-scale energy storage, and small modular reactors.

Mitch Landrieu, White House Senior Advisor and Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator, said the new office “reflects President Biden’s commitment to help Americans turn on the lights in their homes, drive to work, and power their businesses using clean, affordable, and sustainable energy.”

“Thanks to the investments Congress made in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations will move clean energy technologies out of the lab and into local and regional economies across the country, proving the value of technologies that can deliver for communities, businesses, and markets,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M Granholm.

“This new office will hire the best and brightest talent to invest in cutting edge clean energy projects, and DOE is calling on anyone dedicated to addressing the climate crisis to roll up their sleeves and join us.”

DOE said the office would be the department’s “hub” for speeding the maturation of near- and mid-term clean energy technologies, “with the goal of quicker commercial adoption and increased availability.”

The new DOE office will award funds through a competitive process, and “will solicit demonstration projects that address energy challenges that cut across technology silos.”

S&P Global quoted Meghan Claire Hammond, an associate with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, who represents energy industry clients on regulatory and transactional matters.

The office will consolidate project management expertise in one place “as opposed to being siloed in each of the applied energy offices,” Hammond said in an interview. “It’s a good way to get these projects through kind of the ‘valley of death’ between funding and demonstration.”

clean energy funds

DOE is expected to expand its workforce of civil servants and contractors by more than 1,000 positions to staff the new office. Visit energy.gov/careers for job listings.

DOE is receiving $62 billion total from the President’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the largest infusion of funding since the Department was created.

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DOE Loan Programs Office Backs Loan Guarantees

Under the new leadership of Director Jigar Shah, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office (LPO) has announced that more than $40 billion is available in loans and loan guarantees to fund innovative energy infrastructure projects.

The LPO has also announced new procedures, making it easier to apply for loan guarantees. Pursuing a loan or loan guarantee through the LPO offers unique funding opportunities and DOE support for energy and clean technology project developers, particularly those that are pursuing innovative technology for which commercial lending is less readily available.

LPO provides debt financing for the commercial deployment of large-scale energy projects; however, for research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) and smaller projects, other offices within DOE offer funding and financing opportunities.

lpo role

After reading about the respective program’s requirements, potential borrowers are encouraged to seek a pre-application consultation to discuss eligibility requirements and the application process directly with LPO staff. Including a brief description of the proposed project in your email is helpful.

Title 17 Innovative Energy Loan Guarantee Program (Advanced Fossil Energy, Advanced Nuclear Energy, Renewable Energy & Efficient Energy), email lgprogram@hq.doe.gov
Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, email atvmloan@hq.doe.gov
Tribal Energy Loan Guarantee Program, email telgp@hq.doe.gov

To learn more about how LPO likes to work with borrowers and how to eventually apply, visit the LPO Process page.

Information on loan guarantees for advanced nuclear energy projects is available here.

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Free Webinar on Future of Fusion Energy with Arthur Turrell

turrell header

Find out about fusion energy and question Arthur Turrell, author of The Star Builders: Nuclear Fusion and the Race to Power the Planet  (Amazon US)

About this event  ( Registration Link )  January 25, 2022 at 2:30 PM EST

Fusion Energy Insights is excited to present a free, open-to-all author Q&A event with plasma-physicist-turned-economist Arthur Turrell in conversation with Melanie Windridge on January 25, 2022 at 2:30 PM EST.

Come to find out about fusion energy and some of the key public and private players in the growing fusion industry. Read the book and put your own questions to Arthur Turrell in our Q&A. The event will be recorded and the replay shared with registered participants.

About the book

sb coverWhen asked what problem he hoped scientists will have solved by the end of the century, Professor Stephen Hawking replied “I would like nuclear fusion to become a practical power source. It would provide an inexhaustible supply of energy, without pollution or global warming.”

But what is nuclear fusion, and could it really be the answer to the climate emergency? Fusion exists already in the stars that fill our universe with light, but can we harness that power here on earth? This is the question The Star Builders seeks to answer.

In his compelling new book, Dr Arthur Turrell makes the case for cutting-edge new techniques in nuclear energy – innovations that would allow us to recreate the power of the stars on our own planet. Filled with the remarkable stories of the scientists and entrepreneurs who have dedicated their lives to a seemingly impossible dream, The Star Builders is an unmissable insight into the future of life – and space – on our planet.

Prior Coverage on this Blog

About Arthur Turrell

Bio_Arthur_Turrell_Feb2021-150x150Dr Arthur Turrell holds a PhD in plasma physics from Imperial College London, for which he won the Atomic Weapons Establishment thesis prize. From 2013 to 2015 he worked as a Doctoral Prize Fellow in the plasma physics group at Imperial alongside renowned starbuilders such as Professor Steve Cowley, former head of EURATOM and former CEO of the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

Since 2021, Arthur has worked at the Office for National Statistics, as the Deputy Director of the Data Science Campus. He previously worked at the Bank of England where he applied his scientific training to questions about the macro-economy, most recently being featured alongside several Nobel prize-winners in articles on how to ‘rebuild macroeconomics’.

About Melanie Windridge

mw tedDr Melanie Windridge is a specialist in fusion energy who helps people see the value and opportunities of fusion to society and their businesses. She is a plasma physicist, speaker, writer… with a taste for adventure. For instance, she climbed to the top of Mt. Everest.

Melanie has a PhD in plasma physics (fusion energy) from Imperial College London, is Communications Consultant for privately-funded fusion company Tokamak Energy and Founder of Fusion Energy Insights.

She was previously UK Director of the Fusion Industry Association. Melanie is the author of two books – the award winning volume  Aurora: In Search of the Northern Lights and Star Chambers: the race for fusion power. She hosts a blog, Science at Extremes, on her website and writes for Forbes online.

By registering for this event you agree to be added to the Fusion Energy Insights mailing list. You will receive news and insights on fusion energy but never spam. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info at fusionenergyinsights.com

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