TVA to Collaborate with Kairos Power on 140 MWe SMR

  • TVA to Collaborate with Kairos Power on Development of a 140 MWe Advanced SMR
  • Russia Approvs’ $2.4 Billion Project To Use Five Floating Reactors For Remote Minerals Deposit
  • UK ‘Remains Committed’ To Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Project
  • NuScale Engages Guggenheim Securities to Explore Financing Options

TVA to Collaborate with Kairos Power on Development of a 140 MWe Advanced SMR

Kairos Power and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have announced plans to collaborate on deploying a low-power demonstration small modular reactor (SMR) at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP)(map) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  The project is a paradigm change for TVA which in its early site permit for the Clinch River site for an SMR only referenced light water reactor designs and did not indicate a preference for any of them.

The joint TVA/Kairos project involves design and development of an advanced small modular reactor (SMR). Nicknamed ‘Hermes’ it is a demonstration version of Alameda, California-based Kairos Power’s KP-FHR, a 140 MWe fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactor using TRISO (TRI-structural ISOtropic) fuel pebbles with a low-pressure fluoride salt coolant. (interactive design image)

Kairos tech specs

Table: KP-FHR Key Characteristics.  Data/Table:IAEA

The Alameda, California-based company plans to design, construct, and operate its Hermes reduced-scale test reactor. Kairos Power will fund most of the project. The company plans to assemble the reactor in Oak Ridge using specialized parts and components manufactured in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Named Hermes, the Kairos’ reactor could be built by 2026 and will be used to help test  the new technology, which is designed to be simpler and more efficient than the previous generation of nuclear plants and potentially less costly to build and maintain.

Cindy Chen, a spokeswoman for Kairos Power, said the company is planning a $100 million investment in the test facility in the East Tennessee Technology Park, making it one of the biggest projects among the 20 or so companies now operating in the technology campus.

The Kairos SMR has been selected by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to receive $629 million in cost-shared risk reduction funding over seven years (DOE share $303 million), under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

“Additional expansion at the Oak Ridge site is under consideration for future manufacturing and engineering capabilities,” Chen said. “We anticipate at least 55 employees for the Hermes operations.”

“Teamwork is the hallmark of the nuclear industry, and through this partnership with Kairos Power we can share TVA’s safety and innovation insights to advance nuclear technology while gaining experience with licensing for advanced reactors,” said TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash.

“Nuclear power is the key to fueling our economy with reliable, affordable, and clean electricity, and it is critical to our national security.”

“We look forward to collaborating with TVA, and drawing upon the well-versed knowledge and expertise of their team,” said Mike Laufer, Co-Founder and CEO of Kairos Power. Kairos senior leadership team

TVA has reportedly indicated it may also aid in the preliminary licensing the Hermes reactor from the NRC. TVA holds the nation’s first Early Site Permit (ESP) for a small modular reactor from the NRC.

The utility is evaluating the potential environmental impacts associated with deployment of more than one reactor and more than one design at the Clinch River Nuclear Site. What is interesting about the Kairos project is that TVA’s ESP references four SMRs all of which are based on light water reactor (LWR) designs.

In terms of location,  this joint announcement with TVA follows one made last year by Kairos Power that it planned to deploy a test reactor at ETTP, at the former K-33 gaseous diffusion plant site which has now been cleaned up by DOE.

Kairos is partnering with TVA  to deploy the demonstration reactor on 185 acres the company is buying on the ETTP campus, which was developed on a brownfield site reclaimed from the U.S. Department of Energy.

In Greek mythology Hermes functioned as the emissary and messenger of the gods. As adopted by the Romans, Hermes is also known today as Mercury and also in Roman context, was considered to be a messenger. Kairos is an ancient Greek word that relates the importance of timeliness and a call to action.

Kairos Power CEO Mike Laufer said his objective is for the Hermes project to demonstrate the capability to deliver an advanced reactor at the costs necessary to make nuclear power the most affordable source of dispatchable energy in the USA.

Russia / Putin ‘Has Approved’ $2.4 Billion Project To Use Floating Reactors For Remote Minerals Deposit

(NucNet contributed to this report)  Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has reportedly approved a proposal by state nuclear corporation Rosatom to power a far eastern copper mining venture by building as many as five floating nuclear power plants, according to a report in the RBC business newswire.

RBC said the plan is to supply power for the Baim (also known as Baimskaya) minerals deposit in Chukotka, in the country’s far east.

The exact timeline for the $2.3 billion plan is still a work in progress, but according to RBC, Mr Putin signaled his approval to build the plants in response to a letter sent by Sergei Kiriyenko, who heads Rosatom’s supervisory board and is the president’s first deputy chief of staff.

RBC said that, according to Kiriyenko, Rosatom will order the construction of five FNPPs with a capacity of 500 MWe  at the Baltic Shipyard (Baltzavod), which is part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC). The reference design for the project is the RITM 200 SMR which has an output of 165 MWt and 54 MWe.   These numbers suggest that while five units are being authorized, it will take another five of them to hit the goal of 500 MWe.

The main equipment for the Rosatom power units (RITM 200 reactor plants) is manufactured in Russia. However, the turbines are expected to be built in South Korean or Chinese shipyards which adds some risk to the project.

RITM-200 is the latest development in III+ generation SMR line designed by the JSC ‘Afrikantov OKBM’. It has incorporated all the proven features from its predecessors. It is  based on PWR technology and 400 reactor-years of Rosatom experience in operation of small reactors in icebreakers.

nuclear powered ice breaker Arktika Six RITM-200 reactors are successfully installed on icebreakers Arktika (right), Sibir and Ural. The two reactors of Arktika icebreaker successfully passed all power up tests during dock-side trials.

RITM reactor core accommodates low enriched fuel assemblies similar to KLT-40S that ensures long time operation without refueling and meets international non-proliferation requirements.

RITM 200

Key Characteristics of the RITM SMR.  Tab;e/Image: IAEA

Incorporation of the steam generators into the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) has made the reactor system and containment very compact as compared to the larger KLT-40S at 300 MWt / 70 MWe in a configuration of two units.

Advantage of SMR over Natural Gas

In the letter, Mr Kiriyenko, the former chief executive officer of Rostom, was said to have explained the advantages of Rosatom’s proposal over an alternative proposal from Novatek, Russia’s second largest natural gas corporation, which had proposed building floating natural gas plants to electrify the mining venture.

Vyachesla Ruksha, Rosatom’s deputy director general and head of the Northern Sea Route Directorate said in a statement to RBC, “We won the competition because, as a vertically integrated corporation, we fully control the entire energy production cycle and are less dependent on market volatility than Novatek.”

Russia already has one floating nuclear power plant in operation which is the Akademik-Lomonosov. The 21,000-tonne vessel has two KLT-40S reactor units with an electrical power generating capacity of 35MWe each, sufficient for a city with a population of around 200,000 people.

Construction of the two units began in April 2007 and first criticality was November 2018. In September 2019 the Akademik Lomonosov arrived at a specially constructed wharf at Pevek after an 18-day, 9,000 km journey from its original base in Murmansk, where fuel was loaded into the reactors.

UK ‘Remains Committed’ To Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Project

(NucNet) The UK government remains committed to new nuclear investment at the Wylfa Newydd site in north Wales and is continuing to talk to potential developers, energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said last week according to UK news media reports.

The minister said: “We all appreciate that Wylfa Newydd is a great site and we have the commitment within our energy white paper and the 10-point government plan that new nuclear investment is a critical part of our energy mix going forwards.”

“We have regular discussions with a number of potential developers and investors and that will continue because we are absolutely committed to having at least one more large-scale nuclear plant.”

In January, developers behind Wylfa Newydd officially cancelled the project, despite saying they had held “positive and encouraging” talks with multiple parties that had expressed an interest in moving ahead with new reactors at the site.

Japan’s Hitachi has told staff it was shutting its Horizon subsidiary, which was to build two 1350 MWe UK advanced boiling water reactor (UK ABWR) units at Wylfa. The cost of the project had been put at about £20 billion.

A companion project with the same configuration was to have been built at the Oldbury site. The loss of both projects would represent a setback of 2.7 Gwe in the UK nuclear new build.

So far the project continues to unwind to the detriment of energy security for the UK. Horizon announced it had officially withdrawn its application for planning permission for the construction and operation of the station and associated infrastructure.

In a letter to the planning inspectorate, Horizon chief executive officer Duncan Hawthorne said discussions with multiple parties “have not, unfortunately, led to any definitive proposal that would have allowed the transfer of the sites to some new development entity willing to replace Hitachi Ltd”.

Hitachi announced the suspension of the project in January 2019 and its intent to withdraw entirely in September 2020.

The UK has two EPR units under construction at Hinkley Point C – the only commercial nuclear plants being built in the country. Sizewell C is the only new-build project in the UK for which planning permission is being sought.

The Moorside project, which was to have been built with three Westinghouse 1150 MWe AP1000 nuclear reactors, is moribund due to the bankruptcy of Westinghouse and withdrawal from the global nuclear market of Toshiba, its then parent firm. While Westinghouse was subsequently acquired by a Canadian private equity firm, that company has no apparent interest in building new nuclear reactors. Its focus for the acquisition was the profitable nuclear reactor fuel and maintenance contracts held by Westinghouse.

Only the Bradwell remains in the early technical stages. The plan involves at least one and as many as three reactors to be built by Chinese state owned enterprises. The project, if it gets the go ahead, would be the first major export deal for the Hualong One, a 1000MWe LWR.

The future of that project has within the past year encountered some diplomatic headwinds due to UK PM Boris Johnson booting a Chinese telecommunications firm from bidding on a massive 5G wireless network contract.

NuScale Engages Guggenheim Securities to Explore Financing Options

Money futuresNuScale Power, LLC (“NuScale”) announced that it has retained Guggenheim Securities, LLC, a leading financial advisory and capital markets firm, to explore financing options to accelerate the commercialization of the Company’s groundbreaking small modular reactor (SMR) technology.

NuScale is majority owned by Fluor Corporation (“Fluor”) (NYSE: FLR), a global engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company.

John Hopkins, NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer said, “Given the level of interest from potential customers, investors and partners and growing global demand for clean energy alternatives, we have engaged Guggenheim Securities to evaluate the right options to raise additional capital and accelerate the development of our carbon-free power solution.”

According to a report in the Portland Business Journal, Fluor’s chief executive, David Constable, said the company is looking to “unlock more value from NuScale for Fluor’s shareholders.”

He suggested interest was high.

“It’s very exciting times and not just in the U.S., but internationally,” he told analysts. “Canada, obviously, is a nuclear country as is Japan and many others that we’re getting a lot of incoming interest. So we’ve got renewed interest from existing investors that we’ve got and new investors post the JGC announcement.”

It is expected that any proceeds raised through this process would be used by NuScale to accelerate and expand its SMR development program, including those elements currently supported by a DOE cost-share award. Fluor and its partners will continue to provide engineering services, project management and supply chain support to NuScale as part of any contemplated future agreement.

Separately, UAMPS, NuScale’s customer, received a $1.355 billion, ten-year award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), subject to annual appropriations, for the project in October 2020.

The $1.355 billion award, allocated over 10 years, will fund the one-time costs for the first-of-a-kind project, as funds are appropriated by Congress, to reflect what second and subsequent NuScale plants would cost. This will help ensure that the levelized cost of energy target price of $55 MWh can be achieved at a level of risk UAMPS can manage.

That price makes the CFPP competitive with other non- intermittent dispatchable energy sources like combined cycle natural gas plants, but without greenhouse gas emissions. It will ensure long-term affordable energy to UAMPS member participants while avoiding exposure to greenhouse regulation and compliance costs.

The 12 small modular reactors in the project will provide the flexibility to ramp up and down as needed to follow load and complement intermittent renewable supply. The plan calls for construction of the 60 MW design which has not yet been approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  Earlier this year the 50 MW design completed its safety design review with the regulatory agency.

Energy from the project will replace electric generation from coal plants that are nearing the end of their life cycles. The CFPP, combined with UAMPS renewable projects, will enable many members to completely decarbonize their energy portfolios.

NuScale’s SMR design can generate 77 MWe of zero carbon electricity using a safer, smaller and scalable version of traditional pressurized light water reactor technology.

Modules safely shut down and self-cool, indefinitely, with no need for AC or DC power, operator or computer action, or additional water. This provides what is called an unlimited coping period – a first for light water reactor technology.

The fully factory-made NuScale module offers scalable power based on demand and can meet grid capacity needs by providing both high capacity factor base load power and flexible load following power to support intermittent wind, solar and hydropower resources.

NuScale and Fluor – NuScale’s EPC partner – have an agreement with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) to build the first NuScale power plant, which will bring the United States’ first clean energy, carbon-free SMR project to commercialization.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Katy Huff to DOE as Acting @DOE_NE1 and permanent NE2

Kathryn Huff, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy

Dr. Kathryn D. Huff was most recently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she led the Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycles Research Group and was a Blue Waters Assistant Professor with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Dr. Huff received her Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013, and a B.A. in Physics from the University of Chicago.

Her research includes modeling and simulation of advanced nuclear reactors and fuel cycles.

She has been an active member of the American Nuclear Society, Chair of the Nuclear Nonproliferation and Policy Division, a past chair of the Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division, and a recipient of both the Young Member Excellence and Mary Jane Oestmann Professional Women’s Achievement awards.

Through leadership within Software Carpentry, SciPy, the Hacker Within, and the Journal of Open Source Software, she has also advocated for best practices in open, reproducible scientific computing.

Before her faculty appointment, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in both the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium and the Berkeley Institute for Data Science at the University of California-Berkeley.

From Twitter . . .

05/10/21 at 10:30 AM Eastern – via: https://twitter.com/katyhuff

<begin full text of Twitter thread>

“I’m thrilled to finally share that today is my 1st day in the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (@Energy @GovNuclear)

I’m joining as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (NE2). I will also serve as its Acting Assistant Secretary (Acting @DOE_NE1).

I expect DOE will be sharing a press release shortly, but I’ve just been sworn in officially and I know many of you have now heard the good news, so it’s time for twitter to hear it from me!

I’m honored that the Biden-Harris administration has called me to serve as part of @GovNuclear during a crucial time in humanity’s endeavors toward sustainability, re-imagination of our energy infrastructure, and centering of environmental & energy justice in technology policy.

Taking an extended, unpaid leave of absence from my beloved faculty job (@illinoisNPRE @uofigrainger) was a big decision, but I had lots of support! I’m particularly grateful to @gonuke, @munkium, @deniadjokic, my husband, family (@Harold_Huff), colleagues, friends, and students.

In this position, I hope to work across institutional and other barriers, listen to many voices, strive boldly, and serve responsibly.

To kick it all off, I hope to learn more of what you can teach me! So, #nuclear and #energytwitter, I have three questions for you:

(1) Lots of great organizations & people have recently published recommendations for nuclear & energy policy. Is there anything in particular you think I should read, hear, or watch?

(2) What, specifically, would YOU like to see (or not see!) from @GovNuclear this year?

(3) In these next years, you can rely on me to listen to your voices while I try to do the best job I possibly can. Can I rely on you to keep openly sharing your ideas, expertise, wisdom, questions, challenges, hopes, and especially your constructive criticisms with me?

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/katyhuff/status/1391773175772585984

<end Twitter thread>

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced additional Biden-Harris Administration appointees that have joined the team to help build a more prosperous and equitable clean energy future for the American people.

“During the first 100 days of this Administration, the DOE team has been working quickly and urgently to deliver on President Biden’s bold climate and clean energy goals—and these latest additions bring even more muscle to our efforts,” said Chief of Staff Tarak Shah.

“We’re thrilled to have their talent and expertise in our ranks as we continue to advance innovative, equitable clean energy solutions that will create millions of good-paying jobs and launch every American worker and community into a greener future.”

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

SMRs Get Wind in their Sails from 3 Seas Initiative

  • U.S. State Dept. Commits $5.3M to Promote SMRs
  • Nuclear Energy Developments in 3 Seas Countries – State by State
  • US State Department Offers Support for SMRs and 3 Seas but Not in the Same Breath
  • Rosatom’s Fennovoima Project Revises Construction License Application for Hanhikivi-1
  • TVA CEO: Utility Will Invest in SMRs

U.S. State Dept. Commits $5.3M to Promote SMRs in the Region

A key geopolitical area of competition. between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas, for new nuclear reactors deals is heating up. Russia and China see opportunities to deploy financially attractive package deals for their LWR type full size nuclear reactors via state owned enterprises. In contrast, firms from the U.S. are seeking market share in the same region with proposals for small modular reactors (SMRs).

Recently, these efforts got a small boost from an unlikely agency – the US State Department – which rolled out a video by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and a $5.3M grant program to promote development of SMRs in a 12 nation region in Europe. The double shot of support is intended to blunt Russian, and to some extent, Chinese efforts to dominate the energy supply chain for these countries.

Russia has been seeking to dominate the energy security realm for Europe via provision of natural gas. The big energy bullseye regarding Russian gas projects is the highly controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

If completed it will run from Russian territory under the Baltic Sea and connect to Europe via Germany. Oil and gas interests in the US are pushing Biden to sanction the project mostly as a self dealing move for them. Frankly, few see this administration taking foreign policy advice from Sen. Ted Cruz. US allies in Europe are also weighing in.

gazprom pipeline

The threat of having Russia control the energy security of Baltic and European states has produced a response to pursue initiatives to deter it. Since 2020 an initiative for economic development, including energy security, has been organized as the 3 Seas Initiative.

The countries involved in Three Seas share the same objectives: economic growth, security and a stronger and more cohesive Europe. To achieve these goals, cooperation is promoted for the development of infrastructure in the energy, transport, and digital sectors.

What is the 3 Seas Initiative?

Three Seas is an initiative that brings together 12 EU Member States between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. CRS report – PD file.

3 seas map

The Atlantic Council, which hosted an early meeting of the group of nations in 2015 that are part of it, wrote on its website;

“As the United States looks to confront Russian and Chinese economic and geopolitical competition in Europe and across the world, the Three Seas Initiative offers an opportunity to strengthen the economies of US allies in Central and Eastern Europe and reduce their dependence on Moscow and Beijing’s economic overtures.”

While the nations of Western Europe are linked by roads and railways, power lines, and oil and gas pipelines, countries in Central and Eastern Europe remain comparatively disconnected from one another in terms of modern infrastructure. The deficit is particularly acute along the region’s north-south axis.

Attention was drawn to Europe’s disparity in development in 2014 by the Atlantric Council, a US based think tank, in a report entitled ‘Completing Europe.’ This inspired the then heads of state of two countries – President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia and President Andrzej Duda of Poland – to launch the initiative.

To date, Three Seas Initiative summits have been held four times at the presidential level. What started out as a platform for the exchange of thoughts among the presidents of the countries involved, has expanded to include an annual business forum and the launch of an investment fund operating on a commercial basis.

Seeking a Way to Boost Economies on a Regional Basis

According to economic statistics released by the group in 2019, the member states comprise 28% of the EU’s territory and 22% of the population, yet only contribute 10% of the bloc’s GDP.

3 seas economics

In Tallinn, Estonia, nine member states and fund manager Amber Infrastructure Group pledged a total investment via the 3 Seas Investment Fund of €923 million, while Poland announced a €250 million increase in its investment into the fund.

US Focus on International Collaboration

In April the US State Department announced an initial $5.3 million investment. This amount of funding won’t building anything, but it will help support the kind of international collaboration that IAEA Director Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi talked about this past week in a teleconference with former US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The state department program will strengthen international collaboration between the U.S. and partner countries seeking to deploy nuclear energy in their clear energy initiatives. This cooperation includes supporting the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors (SMRs. (More on this below).

Separately, the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has committed $300M to the Three Seas Fund. The funds will advance investment in sectors such as energy, transportation and digital infrastructure in Eastern Europe. The DFC said its aims are to overcome existing market challenges to raise capital for critical infrastructure projects.

Not Everyone is Onboard

Despite these high sounding objectives, some of the member states have widely differing positions on some issues. Hungary remains closely aligned with Russia and has accepted telecommunications infrastructure from a Chinese firm that has been rejected by other nations due to security concerns.

Also, Poland and Hungary has authoritarian regimes that have attempted to squash political unrest in these nations as result of disenfranchisement of some groups. Austria has a an anti-nuclear policy stance and has repeatedly tried to interfere in the plans for it within the European Union.

Interestingly, as a counterpoint to right wing thinking in Europe, the DC-based conservative Heritage Foundation think tank said in a statement of support for the 3 Seas program in February of this year;

“The Three Seas Initiative (3SI) helps the U.S. to build strengthened transatlantic business, energy, and geopolitical ties to Central and Eastern Europe, while also counterbalancing Chinese and Russian efforts to forge inroads to the region. In 2021, the Biden Administration and Congress should continue to feature the 3SI as a central component of U.S. policy in Europe. Bipartisan U.S. support for the 3SI, which encompasses a strategic, long-term outlook and brings along Western European nations as strategic partners, is smart policy that will pay dividends for decades to come.”

Nuclear Energy Developments in 3 Seas Countries

Of the 12 nations involved in the 3 Seas effort, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, and Romania have been pitched by U.S. firms to build SMRs in competition with Russian and Chinese offers for full size plants. The competitive environment varies significantly from country to country, and a key factor for all of them is how to pay for new nuclear reactors to meet climate goals.

Bulgaria – Efforts to build one or two full size nuclear reactors are complicated by the legacy of an incomplete project to build two 1000 VVER type reactors for the Belene project. Additionally, Bulgaria has indicated to potential bidders that it has no plans to provide government funding for the project nor rate guarantees / subsidies. In October 2020, Bulgaria and the USA signed a memorandum of understanding concerning strategic civil nuclear cooperation.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has proposed that the equipment purchased from Russia for the planned Belene nuclear power plant (NPP) be used instead to expand the existing Kozloduy NPP.

Borissov added that two new units could be built at the Kozloduv power station, rather than the single unit previously discussed, using a combination of €600M worth of equipment previously purchased to build two 1000 MW VVERs and new components from other reactor vendors.

Czech Republic – After a false start in 2014 the government is moving towards release of a tender later this year for a 1200 MWE PWR type reactor at Dukovany. The government has blocked China from bidding on the project, by offering its 1000MWe Hualong One, on security grounds.

More recently, it also ejected Rosatom, Russia’s state owned enterprise for nuclear reactor exports, from the bidding, over the recent news that a group of Russian operatives was responsible for blowing up a munitions shipment in 2014 in that country meant for shipment to Ukraine.

This leaves EDF, Westinghouse, and a South Korean consortium, as the remaining possible bidders on the project. The timing of the tender, expected later this year, could be upended by elections scheduled for October.

Estonia – Fermi Energia, a startup firm, has entertained proposals from several developers of small modular reactors and highlighted each proposal with all the allure, glitz, and energy of a major beauty pageant. Kalev Kallemets, chief executive officer of Fermi Energia, said that Estonia needs to consider new generation SMR technology to maintain energy independence and achieve climate neutrality.

The effort has not gone unnoticed among the other members of the 3 Seas effort which see it, in part, as a public relations effort to create a seawall against encroachment by Russia and China energy proposals in the region.

CEO Kavel Kallemets said in a Tweet this week he plans to fire off a request to the US State Dept for a piece of the $5.3M in cash it just announced to support SMRs in Baltic states among other places..

Poland – As one of Europe’s biggest coal users, the country has been trying for the better part of a decade to put together a financial package that would build nuclear reactors to replace its dirty coal plans. Poland wants to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MWe of nuclear capacity based on proven, large-scale, PWR nuclear reactors of Generation III+ designs. Commercial operation of a first nuclear reactor unit in a proposed set of six is earmarked for 2033. Poland has repeatedly made policy level commitments to pursue nuclear projects and then shelved them due to a lack of financing.

Michał Sołowow, billionaire owner of chemical company Synthos SA, is planning to build a 300 MW small modular reactor (SMR) in Poland in the next decade in cooperation with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH).

Romania – Completion of Cernavoda Units #3 & #4, which are CANDU type PHWRs, has long been the goal of the Romanian government. In 2020 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 October 2020 the Trump administration offered Romania $8 billion for US contractors to do the job but progress on the deal had not reached a final signoff before Trump left office. The status of the agreement is unclear.

In February 2021 Nuclearelectrica, said, without mentioning US cash, that a final investment decision for the Cernavoda nuclear power plant expansion project is expected in 2024, with commissioning of unit 3 planned within the next 10 years. An earlier feasibility study put the cost of completing the two units at $8.56 billion.

In March 2019, Romania signed a memorandum of understanding with NuScale power to evaluate the development, licensing and construction of a small modular reactor (SMR).

Hungary – According to World Nuclear News, Russia and Hungary signed an inter-governmental agreement in early 2014 for Russian enterprises and their international sub-contractors to supply two VVER-1200 reactors at Paks, including a Russian state loan of up to EUR10 billion to finance 80% of the project, which is known as Paks II. The high cost has resulting in Hungary recently renegotiating the start date for payments on the loans.

US State Department Offers Support for SMRs and 3 Seas but Not in the Same Breath

Last February U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed the Biden administration’s support for the Three Seas Initiative, telling Three Seas foreign ministers in a video address;
“Bringing the private sector to the table alongside governments is a smart way to make big infrastructure projects happen. This support is representative of the type of essential U.S. (and EU) support that will bolster investment, security, and rule of law for Three Seas nations and their partners.” Video https://youtu.be/ZZsNd40DYdE

Support for SMRs

More recently, the State Department announced on April 27, 2021, a ‘Program To Create Pathways to Safe and Secure Nuclear Energy Included in Biden-Harris Administration’s Bold Plans To Address the Climate Crisis’ Press Statement

“Through an initial $5.3 million investment, this program will strengthen international collaboration between the U.S. and partner countries seeking to deploy nuclear energy in their clear energy initiatives. This cooperation includes supporting the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors (SMRs), in a manner consistent with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Milestones Approach for implementing a responsible nuclear power program.”

Here is a summary of the activities the funds will support;

  • Provide capacity building support to partner countries consistent with the IAEA Milestones Approach
  • Supports building engagements on variety of topics, including SMR technology selection, safety and licensing, financing, workforce development, nuclear security, nonproliferation, project localization, stakeholder outreach, spent fuel management, etc.
  • US Govt experts from appropriate agencies will work closely with partner governments to identify gaps which US can help fill
  • Experts from both countries work together to assess necessary training, workshops, study tours, table-top exercises, etc.
  • Projects to be funded for a one-year period of performance, with possible extensions

While the Department of State did not identify any potential partner countries or funding criteria, it stated the program would engage government, industry, national laboratories and academic institutions. Also, the statement didn’t explicitly mention the 3 Seas program. It may support similar activities outside of Europe.

The State Department does not mention the 3 Seas Initiative in its press statement. The Public Affairs Office did not respond to two inquiries as to whether the effort is in direct support of it. It’s possible this deliberate omission is related to the US not wanting to make too much of a point relative to its relations with Russia.

Clearly, from a geopolitical view, the 3 Seas initiative may be the first of many efforts to prevent Russia from expanding its influence in the region by gaining control of the energy security needs of these nations. It also can be seen as a blockade to China’s Belt & Road initiative which offers infrastructure projects at favorable financial terms.

The Three Seas Initiative can be seen as a counter weight to Russian and Chinese influence by creating economic growth and regional prosperity that doesn’t depend on Russian natural gas. The effort also has another effect and that is to promote democraties against foreign and domestic forces that spread distrust of democratic institutions.

The State Department said in its press release that the effort “strengthens the USA’s relationships with international partners, including through government, industry, national laboratory, and academic institution engagements.”

Fennovoima Revises Construction License Application for Hanhikivi-1

(NucNet) A flagship effort by Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear energy export state owned enterprise, to build a state of the art 1200 MWe PWR type nuclear reactor in Finland has hit another delay.

Finnish company Fennovoima said on April 28, 2021, that it “updated” the application for a construction license for the Hanhikivi-1 NPP. The Hanhikivi-1 project provides for the construction in Pyhajoki of a single-unit nuclear power plant based on a Russian-design VVER-1200 generation 3+ reactor. A construction license had been expected in 2021.

The Finnish utility was quick to act to address the announcement about the delay. Joachim Specht, CEO of Fennovoima, said, “The rationale for the project is unchanged, and the scope of it will not be affected by the update.”

Fennovoima said changes are related to design solutions, supply chain, environmental issues and site security and preparedness arrangements. The key operating principles of the power plant have not changed.

He said that Fennovoima now estimates that it could obtain the construction license by summer 2022 and that construction of the power plant would begin in the summer 2023. Commercial operation of the plant would begin in 2029 instead of 2028.

Fennovoima also revised the total investment costs of the project. Instead of the previously announced €6.5-7 billion ($7.7-8.5bn), the estimated total cost is currently €7-7.5 billion.

In terms of global exports, Rosatom is building four of the 1200 MWe VVER at two sites in China. It has two of four planned units under construction in Turkey, and another four units are in the planning stages in Egypt.

TVA CEO: Utility Will Invest in SMRs

tva-logo

According to wire service reports, TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash said last week during an online energy conference hosted by the Atlantic Council that to reach the 100% reduction goal, the utility will need technological advances in energy storage, carbon capture and small modular nuclear reactors. (YouTube video) Lyash said TVA is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2035.

Lyash said TVA can reach an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over 2005 levels “with existing technology and without raising price or adversely impacting reliability.”

But to do that, it will need to extend the life of the utility’s existing nuclear fleet. The final 20% will be harder, especially considering the new energy demands that are expected from electrification of transportation, Lyash said.

Lyash said the utility will position small modular nuclear reactors as integral to that goal. He added that government support is needed to push forward new technologies that are currently under development.

“TVA is ready to lead in this area if the nation needs it to lead and with the right level of support, we can build small modular reactors as a lead plant at the Clinch River site.”

“First-of-a-kind risk and cost are substantial,” Lyash said. He added that the investment would help the U.S. achieve a low-carbon future and create a valuable export.

In 2019 TVA received a preliminary site permit from the NRC for a small modular reactor at the Clinch River site. The utility has not selected set a date for a license application nor indicated a preference for a specific design or vendor.

Coal Plants Converted to SMRs?

Lyash said that the hundreds of shuttered US coal power plants could be repurposed as small nuclear reactor sites citing easy access to water resources and existing power grid connections. “I see those sites as very viable small modular reactor (SMR) sites.”

Lyash does not see coal as part of the utility’s future, saying TVA will continue to phase it out over the next 15 years because its coal plants are reaching the end of their lives.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who also attended the virtual meeting, agreed, “You could come online much quicker and we could accomplish this at a much faster rate than anything else we could do.”

“Some of our better manufacturing sites are the coal-fired power plants,” said Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia. “You could come online much quicker and we could accomplish this at a much faster rate than anything else we could do,” he said about the SMR potential.

In fiscal year 2020, the portion of TVA’s power that came from nuclear was 42%. Gas accounted for 28%, coal for 15% with hydro generation just behind at 12%. Only 3% of TVA’s power came from wind and solar.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

EDF Makes Its Best Offer to NPCIL for Six EPRs at Jaitapur

  • France’s EDF Makes Best office to India for Six EPR
  • Could Small-Scale Nuclear Power Be a Part of Alaska’s Future Energy Mix?
  • Russia / Construction Start of Brest-OD-300 Pilot Plant
  • NRC Wants to Know if Computers Can Think About Nuclear Safety Like People

Will France Cross the Finish Line with NPCIL for Its Long Sought Deal to Build Six 1650 MWe EPRs?

French energy group EDF this week said in a press statement that it took a key step towards helping to build the world’s biggest nuclear power plant at Jaitapur, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra , in the west coast of India about 250 mile south of Mumbai. The project involves building six huge, 1650 MWe EPR nuclear reactors for a whooping total of 9.9 GWE.

The project will likely involve very significant elements of local fabrication of the non-nuclear long lead time components such as the turbines. Although labor costs in India will be lower than in Finland and France, the total expenditures for all six units could come in at $4,000/Kw or just under $40 billion.

Areva EPR


What is the EDF Deal?

EDF said in its statement that it has filed “a binding offer” to supply engineering studies and equipment to build six, third-generation EPR reactors in Jaitapur. . Construction is expected to take 15 years, but the site should be able to start generating electricity as the first unit comes online probably in less than six years. The contract is not a done deal EDF said, but it expressed confidence that it would be signed off NPCIL in later this year.

EDF would not be the EPC to build the power plant itself. NPCIL will have that role. EDF would provide the nuclear reactors in a deal that includes US partner GE Steam Power. NPCIL will be responsible for both the construction and commissioning of the units, as well as obtaining all necessary permits and consents in India as the owner and future operator of the plant. This includes certification of the EPR technology by the Indian regulator. EDF will not be an investor in the project.

EDF has proposed to provide the EPR technology, which includes getting expertise from its subsidiary Framatome for engineering studies and supply for six nuclear steam systems. It will partner with GE Steam Power for the supply of the engineering studies and equipment of the six conventional islands.

The French company has also guaranteed the performance of each of the six EPR units under specific conditions and for a predefined period of time and will also offer training services for NPCIL’s future operating teams.

EDF estimates the project will create around 25,000 local jobs during the construction phase, and around 2,700 permanent jobs. This number is expected to be widely publicized in an effort to overcome local opposition to the project. Environmental groups have campaigned against the project and have raised all kinds of alarms, some real, some imagined, in an effort to block it.

Xavier Ursat, head of EDF’s nuclear division, told AFP that the company estimates that the site’s “geological conditions are excellent and fully comparable to what we find in a country such as France.”

EPR v. PHWR?

As the units will likely be built in a serial manner, with some overlap in terms of major project phases, completing all six units could extend over a period of a decade or more. Given EDF’s track record of delays with the EPRs it is building in Finland and France, that timeline is likely an optimistic estimate.

All this assumes the Indian government signs off on the deal, which is not a sure thing. The project has been under negotiation will India for more than a decade. The project has been blocked due to its high cost, and India’s desire to build a fleet of 700 MWe PHWRs using all Indian firms for each plant. The units don’t require reactor pressure vessels which means every component in them can be manufactured and installed by Indian firms.

The PHWR units come in at under $3,000/Kw or about $2.1 billion each. In other words, the $40 billion cost of the six EPRs could alternatively finance 19 of the PHWRs for a total of 13 GWE or 4 more GWe than the six EPRs.  Further, the PHWRs could be spread around India in terms of location reducing the costs of new transmission lines.  The geographic distribution of the 700 MWe units would add resiliency to the Indian electrical grid. These kinds of calculations are part of the reason NPCIL has dug in its heels for years regarding EDF’s offering.

Update: 04/27/21: According to a report in Nuclear Engineering Intl, There are new details on EDF’s offer to build 6 EPR nuclear reactors at Jaitapur. The cost could be as high as $4600/Kw or $45.5 billion due to upgrades needed to deal with India’s tropical climate.

India’s Competitive Landscape

India has also blocked western reactor firms from entering the market with its “supplier liability law” which, although it has promoted as a safety measure, has been an effective trade barrier to market entry to all vendors except Rosatom.

For their part the Russians have commissioned two 1,000 MWe units at Kudankulam, are building two more 1000 MWe units, and have plans in place for a 5th and 6th unit. Additionally, Rosatom is working with NPCIL in a plan to build four 1200 MWe units at Andhra Pradesh. Significantly, at one time this site was planned to be the home for six Westinghouse AP1000 units.

Despite the competitive environment, EDF remains confident the time has now come for NPCIL to sign on the dotted line.

“This key milestone has been achieved thanks to the trust-based relationship built over time with our Indian partner, and the excellent collaboration and continuous efforts of the EDF and NPCIL teams,” EDF Group’s chairman and chief executive Jean Bernard Levy said.

“The submission of EDF’s binding technocommercial offer for the Jaitapur project is a major step forward for the Group and the French nuclear industry,” he said.

Could Small-Scale Nuclear Power Be a Part of Alaska’s Future Energy Mix?

(Alaska Journal of Commerce) An emerging technology, micro-nuclear reactors, is being considered as an option for powering Alaska’s remote microgrids. Micro-nuclear reactors, with power ratings of 1-5 MWe, and approximately the size of a shipping container or small house, could offer Alaskan communities consistent, nearly maintenance-free power for 10 to 20 years before requiring refueling.

acep logoAt the University of Alaska Fairbanks Center for Energy and Power, Gwen Holdmann, Director of ACEP, and her team says they are dedicated to applied energy research and technology testing focused on lowering the cost of energy in Alaska. Holdmann thinks nuclear energy has the potential to replace diesel fuel in rural communities.

“The nuclear energy industry has really evolved over time. The last 10 years have seen a new, much more flexible approach to how nuclear energy can be deployed. Systems are smaller, modular, and with more inherent built-in safety features.”

Richelle Johnson, lead analyst at the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development, or CED, recently completed a project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and Idaho National Labs researching potential use cases for small scale nuclear power.

“Alaska’s future energy landscape is going to look a lot different than it does today,” says Johnson. “It’ll be a mix of renewables and fossil fuels, but realistically it could also include nuclear.”

Johnson and CED researchers interviewed a number of potential energy users, ranging from small villages and hub communities to remote mining projects and military installments.

“The people we interviewed for the report were experts in their field, and were very aware of the limitations of renewables in Alaska — you can only gather wind resources when the wind is blowing, you can only collect solar power when the sun is up — you still need a consistent baseload, and right now that comes from diesel,” Johnson said.

Despite interest in the benefits of nuclear power, researchers found skepticism about operating a new nuclear technology in remote areas and a preference to see it proven out elsewhere first.

“When it’s -20 degrees outside, you have to know how to fix something, and right now it is still unclear what that looks like for micro-reactors,” says Johnson.

Oklo May Have a Shot at Business in Alaska

Silicon Valley-based Oklo, a venture-funded company founded in 2013, is the sole company with an NRC license application to build and operate a micro reactor that could meet Alaska’s needs.

CEO Jacob DeWitte is looking for an Alaska site for his second deployment project, and has spent time in the state as a portfolio company for Launch Alaska, an Anchorage-based nonprofit dedicated to energy innovation. The firm is also working on a plan to build one of its first of a kind units at the Idaho National Laboratory. The deployment at INL is planned for the early 2020s. An Alaska project would follow.

“Right now we’re in the process of finding partners and end users for our system. Alaska offers so much diversity in culture, climate, and geographic regions,” DeWitte said.

“From a technical perspective, making something work in Alaska would help us evaluate our capacity to deliver in the most demanding environments in the world, to really prove out what we can do. If we can do it there, we can do it anywhere.”

oklo tech

In terms of addressing concerns that have been voiced in Alaska about micro reactors, DeWitte says, “Our microreactors are inherently safe, self stabilize, are able to shut themselves down, and stay cool without a lot of operational involvement. These are simple, safe systems.”

Russia / Construction Start of Brest-OD-300 Pilot Plant

(NucNet) Construction of the Brest-OD-300 pilot demonstration power plant in Russia will begin this Fall according to a report by Rosatom in a corporate message to employees and government officials.

The Brest unit, a Generation IV lead-cooled fast reactor, is being built at the Siberian Chemical Combine, near the city of Seversk in central Russia, and was scheduled for completion at the end of 2026.

od300

In January, the nuclear regulator Rostechnadzor issued a license to SCC for construction of the Brest-OD-300 reactor.

The plant is part of a pilot demonstration energy complex which comes under Russia’s Breakthrough project for the development of closed fuel cycle technology.

A closed nuclear fuel cycle means spent fuel is reprocessed, and partly reused. Closing the nuclear fuel cycle would ease concerns over limited uranium resources and contribute towards making nuclear energy sustainable over the long term.

od300 tech spects

The complex will include a fuel fabrication module for the production of dense uranium-plutonium (nitride) fuel and a fuel recycling unit.

The start date for the construction of the plant has been postponed several times because of the need for additional testing of key reactor structural elements. RUB1.1 bn ($15m) was allocated for additional R&D in 2017.

In February Rosatom said it had signed key contracts related to the project. One contract, signed between SCC and CKBM, both Rosatom subsidiaries, was for manufacturing and supply of equipment for the refueling complex. Rosatom also signed a contract with subsidiary Zio-Podolsk Machine-Building for the production, supply and installation of steam generators.

NRC Wants to Know if Computers Can Think About Nuclear Safety Like People

(NextGov) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has published a Federal Register notice asking for feedback on using artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the safety and reliability of the grid.

The agency wants to to know how artificial intelligence and machine learning tools can improve the reliability and safety of nuclear energy production. The agency says it wants public input on how AI and machine learning technologies are currently being used in nuclear power operations, as well as “future trends” on the horizon.

what is AI

Specifically, the commission wants feedback on “the state of practice, benefits and future trends related to the advanced computational tools and techniques in predictive reliability and predictive safety assessments in the commercial nuclear power industry.”

The request for comment includes a series of questions (below) designed to help the commission understand where and how these tools are being used and the benefits—including potential cost savings and risks.

Here are the NRC’s questions. Buckle up!

  • What is status of the commercial nuclear power industry development or use of AI/ML tools to improve aspects of nuclear plant design, operations or maintenance or decommissioning?
  • What tools are being used or developed? When are the tools currently under development expected to be put into use?
  • What areas of commercial nuclear reactor operation and management will benefit the most, and the least, from the implementation of AI/ML? Possible examples include, but are not limited to, inspection support, incident response, power generation, cybersecurity, predictive maintenance, safety/risk assessment, system and component performance monitoring, operational/maintenance efficiency and shutdown management.
  • What are the potential benefits to commercial nuclear power operations of incorporating AI/ML in terms of (a) design or operational automation, (b) preventive maintenance trending, and (c) improved reactor operations staff productivity?
  • What AI/ML methods are either currently being used or will be in the near future in commercial nuclear plant management and operations? Example of possible AI/ML methods include, but are not limited to, artificial neural networks, decision trees, random forests, support vector machines, clustering algorithms, dimensionality reduction algorithms, data mining and content analytics tools, gaussian processes, Bayesian methods, natural language processing, and image digitization.
  • What are the advantages or disadvantages of a high-level, top-down strategic goal for developing and implementing AI/ML across a wide spectrum of general applications versus an ad-hoc, case-by-case targeted approach?
  • With respect to AI/ML, what phase of technology adoption is the commercial nuclear power industry currently experiencing and why? The current technology adoption model characterizes phases into categories such as: the innovator phase, the early adopter phase, the early majority phase, the late majority phase, and the laggard phase.
  • What challenges are involved in balancing the costs associated with the development and application of AI/ML tools, against plant operational and engineering benefits when integrating AI/ML into operational decision-making and workflow management?
    What is the general level of AI/ML expertise in the commercial nuclear power industry, e.g. expert, well-versed/skilled, or beginner?
  • How will AI/ML effect the commercial nuclear power industry in terms of efficiency, costs, and competitive positioning in comparison to other power generation sources?
  • Does AI/ML have the potential to improve the efficiency and/or effectiveness of nuclear regulatory oversight or otherwise affect regulatory costs associated with safety oversight? If so, in what ways?
  • AI/ML typically necessitates the creation, transfer and evaluation of very large amounts of data. What concerns, if any, exist regarding data security in relation to proprietary nuclear plant operating experience and design information that may be stored in remote, offsite networks?

How to Comment

The NRC is looking for responses within 30 days of the post going live in the Federal Register, or by May 21, 2021.

Addresses:
You may submit comments by any of the following methods; however, the NRC encourages electronic comment submission through the Federal Rulemaking website:  Go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2021-0048.

  • Address questions about Docket IDs in Regulations.gov to Stacy Schumann; telephone: 301-415-0624; email: Stacy.Schumann@nrc.gov.
  • Mail comments to: Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN-7-A60M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Program Management, Announcements and Editing Staff.
  • For Further Information Contact:
    John C. Lane, Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, telephone: 301-415-2476, email: John.Lane@nrc.gov.

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

Updated: A Role for Reference Designs and Standards to Speed up Time for Market for Advanced Nuclear Reactors

This is a summary of my comments made during a webinar hosted by the Global American Business Institute (GABI) on 4/22/21. The YouTube video of the Zoom session is online.

In November 2018 Energy Central posted a question about success factors for advanced nuclear reactors. The resulting Q&A discussion garnered over 6,000 page views. Now three years later some trends are emerging that indicate the answers are more complicated, but also there are opportunities to get to the answers in ways that rely on methods of producing industrial process which succeeded in the U.S. over 100 years ago.

As some readers may recall, US Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover pointed out that paper reactors are easy to design. The hard part is building one.

This axiom was proved recently as Transatomic Power folded its high-profile tent saying that their design would not be commercially viable.

7Examples of advanced designs include TRISO fueled systems, molten salt, sodium cooled, lead cooled, etc. It’s a long list. See the home page for the GEN IV international program which lists six generic types of advanced reactors.

gen iv reactor types

So, what are the success factors that will bring any of these designs to market and what firms are more likely to master them than others?

The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) publishes a directory of U,S, based developers of advanced nuclear energy technologies, suppliers, and national labs. The current edition lists nearly three dozen efforts in the U.S. to develop advanced nuclear reactors and about 30 key suppliers who want to produce components to build them. Efforts to build demonstration units are also underway.

This directory by GAIN was created in partnership between the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) and Third Way, with the help of the United States Nuclear Infrastructure Council (USNIC).
Questions About Advanced Reactors

In 2018 Energy Central posted just one question about what success might look like for advanced nuclear reactors. In 2021, as the number of efforts to design and build them has expanded. Here are three questions, and a take on the answers.

QUESTION #1: How do we balance diversity and standardization design of various types of advanced reactors? Is this a valid question or is that a false dilemma? Especially for smaller designs, it would appear to be imperative to standardize and expedite the development of economies of scale to help build robust supply chains and factory fabrication of small modular reactors, e.g., less than 300 MWe.

The theoretical global market for SMRs and advanced reactors is quite large, but at this stage, given current market opportunities and industrial/manufacturing capacity, what is the best way to proceed?

ANSWER #1 This is a false comparison. In any technology led industry there will always be customized, one-of-a-kind solutions for projects that have unique requirements, and for which the customer’s needs to satisfy them are not bounded by profitability considerations. A key example is the DOD effort to develop transportable 1-5 MWe SMRs for tactical readiness power supplies at forward locations.

Diagram

Description automatically generated with low confidence

The DOD effort is on to something which will be very important for industrial uses of process heat from micro reactors. The factor is that they will be transportable.

For instance, the life cycle of a chemical processing plant is such that at some point it will be rebuilt or a new plant will be built at another location.

Either way, a micro nuclear reactor that can be moved, to take advantage of new plant configuration, or moved to an entirely new location, is far more competitive than one that is much larger and is permanently in place for its entire life cycle.

Further, no commercial factory is going to want to deal with the burden of legacy spent fuel in dry casks at a site it no longer uses. These types of costs are unsustainable especially in the absence of a solution for permanent repositories for spent fuel.

For customers for whom profitability is a key factor, vendors will be forced to limit their investment in technological innovation in order to standardize components that can be delivered in volume by their supply chains at competitive price points. This is the only path that makes sense to enable factory production of SMRs.

Some vendors who are further along in their designs, such as TerraPower and X-Energy, may see standardization around reference designs as a non-starter given where they are in the maturity of their development cycle for their innovations in reactor design.

Light water SMRs, such as the one being developed by NuScale, will have an advantage in terms of time to market over advanced designs (thermal, fast) because LWR technologies, fabrication of components, and operations of these designs are well known and represent far lower risks for customers even for FOAK units.

Advanced designs will need to prove their worth and practicality of their technologies. These outcomes will be achieved through first-of-a-kind (FOAK) prototypes, making some test data public or at least available to potential customers under NDA, and other measures to build investor and customer confidence.

These measures are the same for LWR and advanced designs. These measures are that the units can be built on time, within budget, and successfully and reliably operated at a profit for electricity generation, process heat applications, and other uses such as desalinization.

In Canada there are 13 advanced reactor development efforts now in various stages of Vendor Design Review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Of the 13 designs, 11 will use HALEU or TRISO fuels and will offer customers multiple opportunities for process heat applications with the resulting additional revenue streams for utilities that deploy them.

Table

Description automatically generatedProcess Heat Profiles of Advanced Reactors in CNSC’s Vendor Design Review Program.
Table: NeutronBytes

Cost considerations for all types of SMRs will be in the forefront of customer issues in addition to questions of complexity, ability to produce large numbers of units in factory settings, thus achieving economies of scale, etc.

Also, advanced designs under 300 MWe, even in configurations of multiple units per site, are unlikely to be 100% “replacement” technologies for LWR SMRs or full size LWRs, e.g., 1000MWe or more. Both types of designs are likely to be offered by vendors through the rest of this century. Utilities may build SMRs in some markets such as eastern Europe,, but for Asia’s mega-cities, the full size units will be needed to meet demand for electricity.

Advanced designs at the lower end of the power spectrum, for niche uses such as off the grid locations, make be among the first types to enjoy market acceptance. Applications on a “micro grid” may be the unique kind of niche that can be filled by these advanced designs that will come as low maintenance “packages” that don’t require the support of a 50-300 MWe LWR SMR.

Examples of Trade-Offs Between Innovation and Market Share

Here are a couple of examples from other industries about the trade- off between technological competitiveness and market share.

  • IBM PC 8-Bit Bus and Add-on Cards

When IBM offered the first personal computer, it used an 8-bit bus for adapter cards because there was a robust after-market of video cards, modems, LAN network cards, etc., parallel and serial ports, and other devices that relied on the 8-bit architecture.

When IBM’s competitors Compag and AT&T offered faster PCs with a 16-bit bus, their market share struggled to have an impact on IBMs success due to a lack of after- market products. Compaq was eventually acquired by HP and the AT&T 6300, a unique and fascinating piece of hardware, only had robust sales with large federal government procurements.

  • Coal v. Diesel Power for US Railroads

coal tower for steam locomotiveThe U.S. railroad industry has more than 50 years of experience with coal fired steam engines when diesel electric locomotives were introduced in the 1930s.

It took more than two decades for railroads to make the transition to the highly efficient diesel electrics due to the huge investment railroads had in not only their existing steam locomotives, but also their reliance on existing suppliers of fuel (coal), parts, and services for them.

Ultimately, railroads switched from coal fired locomotives to diesel based on fundamental bottom line considerations. The huge infrastructure for coal-fired engines became a relic.

The switch from coal to diesel fuel required an entirely new and massive investment in support infrastructure for each railroad which in turn created a huge demand for components and facilities to support it that took time to be met by suppliers some of which were brand new to the industry. The technology to fuel diesel locomotives was entirely new for the industry in every respect which resulted in a huge demand for capital investments.

Because of the delay in adoption of diesels caused in part by World War II, the efficiencies offered by diesels, more horsepower per unit, much lower labor costs, and lower maintenance costs per mile of operation were not realized until the late 1950s.

A picture containing text, sky, outdoor, transport

Description automatically generated

A diesel fuel facility for the Union Pacific RR in California

QUESTION #2: there are host of design considerations for advanced nuclear: safety obviously, but also simplicity and ease of construction, supply chain availability, back-end fuel cycle sustainability, security and safeguards, flexibility in deployment and application, etc. Do you see any pair of design considerations for advanced reactors that may pose a dilemma—may be challenging to reconcile or perhaps even mutually exclusive?

ANSWER #2: For three of the leading types of advanced designs, HTGR (TRISO fuel or graphite block), sodium cooled (fuel in the sodium or heat pumps), and molten salt (fuel in the salt or in fuel assemblies) each of them will place demands on fuel fabrication suppliers that will be complex and expensive to meet their requirements. Like the transition from coal to diesel, the new fuel requirements will drive significant investments in capital equipment and plants. The availability of fuels for these designs will be a key factor in time to market for each of them.

The U.S. government is investing in development of high assay low enriched fuels (HALEU), e.g., greater than 5% and less than 20% U235 level of enrichment. The market for these fuels may develop slowly as the time to market for many advanced designs is at least in the latter part of this decade or the early-to-mid 2030s. Advanced reactors, including advanced SMRs, may develop more quickly in other countries in which case export opportunities could appear for U.S. based HALEU type fuel supplies.

A paradox may arise in which it will turn out the US government will have subsidized these fuels for use by global competitors to US developers of advanced reactors.

A picture containing indoor, wall

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Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCMTM) fuel pellets, an advanced and proprietary reactor fuel designed by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) for their Micro Modular Reactor (MMRTM). Funded through the Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI)

Management of spent fuel from advanced reactors will also be an issue as neither the US nor many other countries have yet to successfully provide permanent solutions for even LWR spent fuel.

Eventually, the use of interim storage sites and reprocessing of spent fuel or advanced designs that can use it, will provide a disposition pathway for spent fuel from advanced designs for some, but not all of the volume that will be produced over the next 100 years.

QUESTION #3: The nuclear community has been keen on seeking lessons, models, and templates from other industries and sectors. With respect to many of the issues, what are some industries, sectors, or even historical case studies that might be overlooked, but you believe would be invaluable for the nuclear industry, advanced reactor developers, etc. to examine or investigate further?

ANSWER #3: The case of the U.S. Railroad Administration (USRA) is instructive in this regard. The use of reference designs in the U.S. has a good history in the form of the experience of the U.S. Railroad Administration during World War I. Is there a case to be made to borrow the idea of reference designs from steam locomotives to apply it to the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors?

In the second decade of the 20th century, just over 100 years ago, steam locomotives needed to make a major leap in terms of designs that would deliver more power more efficiently and which could be manufactured quickly and in large numbers.

In 1918 Railroads Were not Getting the Job Done: The problem in 1918 AS THE U.S. entered the war in Europe, was that U.S. railroads were unable to mobilize their equipment, locomotives and rolling stock, and rail lines, to support the vast logistical demands of the war effort.

The locomotives in service at the turn of the century were underpowered for the train loads that the war time effort demanded of them. Rail cars were unable to carry the larger volumes of cargo that needed to get materials and equipment to U.S. ports to support troops in Europe.

The USRA standard locomotives and railroad cars were designed by the United States Railroad Administration (USRA), the nationalized rail system of the United States during World War I. A total of 1,856 steam locomotives and over 100,000 railroad cars were built to these designs during the USRA’s relatively short three-year tenure.

usra-heavy-mikado-2-8-2_thumb

A USRA designed ‘Mikado” 28-2 type steam locomotive built for the Nickel Plate Road

For instance, 625, or one third of the locomotives built using USRA designs in the period 1918-1928, were among the most powerful and efficient type for moving freight. This was the 2-8-2 wheel arrangement, also known as the Mikado type. The design was so successful that it was copied by 20 countries for their railroads.

The locomotive designs prepared by the USRA were the nearest thing the American railroads and locomotive builders ever got to standard locomotive types.

After the USRA was dissolved in 1920 many of the designs were duplicated in significant numbers with 3,251 engines of various USRA designs being constructed overall. A total of 97 railroads used USRA or USRA-derived locomotives. U.S. railroads continued to adapt USRA designs for new steam locomotives until 1953 more than 45 years after the concepts came off the drawing boards.

How to Develop Reference Designs and Standards for Advanced Reactors

A Role for the ANS Standards Program

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) has an ongoing standards development program with a long and successful track record of publishing nuclear safety and design standards in the U.S.

The question is could the ANS standards program be used as a fulcrum for leveraging its standards work to extend to development of reference designs for various types of advanced nuclear reactor? Obviously, ANS would need to collaborate with other key organizations to carry out such an endeavor. Here are some ideas about how that collaboration could work.

A role for ANS Standards could be to convene working groups composed of relevant organizations to develop and document reference designs for these reactor types to help speed up the overall development timeline of these types of advanced reactors.

The designs could be made available in a knowledge engineering database that would also accumulate test data from work on prototypes which would be used to refine the reference designs.

As some of the testing of new advanced designs may take place at national labs, some of this information would automatically be in the public domain as it would have been paid for by the government. There would need to be careful protection of proprietary information until such time as it was covered by patents and could be licensed if desired by the owners of the intellectual property.

The reason for this aside is that it may be that some developers of advanced nuclear reactor designs have it in mind to cash out by licensing their work to organizations that have the organizational horsepower, and investor confidence, to actually build them.

Advantages of Reference Designs

As we know from the work of the GEN IV international forum, having a body of technology-based standards for each of the reactor types with regard to their unique characteristics is helpful. A force multiplier would be to address these conceptual efforts from the perspective of the technology neutral standards that ANS has published.

It would not only simplify the design effort for each developer, but also give the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)  a framework to assess the safety of each design type.

The agency has been authorized by Congress to work on this issue since 2018. Over the years, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has identified specific policy issues associated with licensing advanced, non-light-water (non-LWR) and LWR reactor designs. Readers are advised that reviewing this library of policy papers is a daunting undertaking.

A Proposal for Roles and Responsibilities for Collaboration

No single organization can make the journey alone to develop a series of reference designs. Nuclear reactors are just too complex for complete technical mastery to live in one place. The organizations that would need to be involved in the standards process are;

  • U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (regulation)
  • INL Nuclear Reactor Innovation Centers (testing)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (quality standards for components)
  • United States Nuclear Industry Council – (supply chain fabrication)
  • U.S. Department of Energy (funding and program management)

The ANS Standards program, as a neutral scientific and technical organization, is in a unique position to facilitate the development of reference designs through the standards development process because of its long experience in convening industry subject matter experts to come together to write performance and risk-based standards for the industry.

The role of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would be to provide requirements on the types and level of detail of the data in the reference designs that it would need to conduct a safety design review and licensing of a new advanced reactor for each of the three types.

The role of the Nuclear Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) would be to develop methods of test to confirm design details, e.g., performance, materials, pressures, radiological protection, etc.

The role of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers would be to adapt its nuclear quality standards for the evolving technical performance characteristics of advanced reactors.

The role of the United States Nuclear Council  (USNC) would be to provide not only the one-off components for prototype systems for testing, but also to assess how manufacturing of key components could scale to support factor construction of reference designs as adapted by each nuclear reactor vendor.

The role of the Department of Energy would be to provide funding and program management to pull the pieces together.  This would lift the administrative burden from ANS and the other collaborating organizations so that they could conduct their work.

If successful, the potential outcome is that the publication of reference designs for the three reactor types noted here, could reduce the development time scale for bringing these designs to market and to deploy them to address decarbonization objectives.

The ideas here aren’t unique for use just in the U.S. In fact, if successful in the U.S., the concept of linking performance and risk-based standards to the conceptual reference designs developed by the GEN IV could be extended to international collaboration. Such an effort might break down regulatory barriers in export markets potentially speeding up the entry of advanced designs to them as a result. While GEN IV is indeed an international effort, the role of collaboration among key stakeholders at the national level looks like a useful next step.

Summary

  • American railroads in the middle of a war effort rose to the challenge and using reference designs brought the  design and manufacturing of steam locomotives into the 20th century.
  • One hundred years later the nation and the world are facing the challenge of global warming and the need to decarbonize electricity generation and process heat applications.
  • Building 100s or even 1000s of SMRs in both LWR and advanced designs will require a manufacturing base and supply chains similar to  the  profiles of the major automakers.
  • The examples exist for the nuclear industry to follow in the footsteps of the railroads. It isn’t only a matter of technology. It is  also a matter of resolve.

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TRISO Fuel Successfully Fabricated in Canada

  • Canadian National Laboratory Successfully Fabricates Advanced Small Modular Reactor Fuel
  • Canada / Power Companies’ Feasibility Study Says SMRs Can Be Economically Competitive
  • USA Preparing To Lead Advanced Nuclear Fuel Supply, Says Korsnick
  • China Gives Green Light To New Russian Nuclear Units To Cut CO2 Emissions
  • Zimbabwe Inks MOU with Russia to Set Up Nuclear Power Station To Ease Power Shortages
  • USA Awards Space Propulsion Contracts to Three Firms

Canadian National Laboratory Successfully Fabricates Advanced Small Modular Reactor Fuel

Funded through the Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), the research project culminates in the production of USNC’s proprietary new SMR fuel.

Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCMTM) fuel pellets

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization, announced that it has successfully fabricated Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCMTM) fuel pellets, an advanced and proprietary reactor fuel designed by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) for their Micro Modular Reactor (MMRTM). Ultra Safe notes on its website that the fuel is enriched to 19.5% U235.

TRISO fuel

Fabrication process for TRISO fuel

Funded through the Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), the project represents the first time that a Tristructural-Isotropic (TRISO) based fuel has been manufactured in Canada.

USNC’s innovative FCMTM pellet design consists of spherical TRISO particles dispersed in a matrix of silicon carbide. The TRISO particles have a layered structure with a dense fuel kernel, which are then coated with layers of graphite and silicon carbide making the particles incredibly robust and able to withstand intense heat and pressure.

canada SMRs in VDR at CNSC

For these reasons, TRISO fuels are proposed for a number of new small and advanced reactor designs currently under consideration in Canada. Of the 13 advanced reactors currently participating in CNSC’s Vendor Design Review, a per-licensing process, 8 plan to use TRISO or HALEU fuel.

CNSC Says It Is Ready if a Vendor Wants to License a TRISO Nuclear Fuel Facility

According to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, there are eight licensed facilities in the country that are involved in the nuclear fuel cycle.

This blog asked Rumina Velshi, President and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Safety, during an online webinar last week, if CNSC had received any inquiries about a new nuclear fuel facility or an upgrade to an existing plant, to manufacture TRISCO fuel in commercial quantitates.

Her response was that so far the agency has not received an inquiries nor have there been any pre-licensing talks with any of the current licensed facilities.

She added, “I would not be surprised to get one. We will be ready for an application if and when we get one.”

About CNRI and its Partners

Launched in 2019, the CNRI program was established by CNL to accelerate the deployment of SMRs in Canada by enabling research and development, and connecting the SMR industry with the facilities and expertise within Canada’s national nuclear laboratory.

The FCMTM project is part of a broader portfolio of work between CNL and USNC that includes the establishment of a functional laboratory for fuel analysis at CNL’s Chalk River campus. The work also includes the development of a multi-year testing program to support the validation of USNC’s fuel and core as they progress through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Vendor Design Review process.

USNC, along with Ontario Power Generation, is a key partner in Global First Power, the organization proposing to construct and operate a small modular reactor at Atomic Energy of Canada Limited’s Chalk River Laboratories campus in Ontario. The MMR project has begun licensing activities with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and an Environmental Assessment is currently underway.

Canada / Power Companies’ Feasibility Study Says SMRs Can Be Economically Competitive

(NucNet) Small modular nuclear reactors have the potential to be an economically competitive source of energy in Canada, but whether or not they are deployed will depend on factors including the availability of other low-carbon alternatives, natural gas prices and carbon pricing. These are the key findings of a feasibility study released by four Canadian power companies.

The study says energy generated by SMRs is expected to be economical compared to other low-carbon alternatives and could be used to support reduction in carbon emissions and meet new energy demands. The choice of SMR technology and speed of commercialization will play a significant role in the cost of deployment.

The study concludes that for off-grid applications, such as remote mines or communities, SMRs need to be economically competitive with diesel generation – including the cost of the fuel and transport.

SMRs could potentially reduce energy costs for remote sites and communities with electricity demand between 10 and 20 MWe. For smaller communities – those with demand of 3 MWe – the costs are near break-even.

As with on-grid applications, the choice of technology and speed of commercialization will play a key role in the cost of SMR deployment and its ability to compete with diesel.

Provinces Agree to Joint Development of SMRs

In December 2019, the provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan signed a memorandum of understanding that established a framework for deployment of SMRs in each province. This feasibility study, prepared by Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Bruce Power, NB Power and SaskPower for the governments of Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, represents one of the early deliverables from the MOU.

The study says the three provinces share a collective interest in SMRs as a clean energy option to address climate change and meet regional energy demands, while responding to the need for economic growth and innovation.

The provinces have agreed to engage with the federal government on issues related to SMR deployment, including technological readiness, regulatory frameworks, economics and financing, nuclear waste management and public and Indigenous engagement.

SMRs, of 300 MWe or less, are much smaller than traditional nuclear power plants. They are cheaper to mass produce and easier to deploy. Their modular design allows for deployment in large established grids, small grids, remote off-grid communities and as an energy source for resource projects.

SMRs In Canada: The Three Main Proposals

The four power companies have been working over the last two years to develop three “streams” of SMR project proposals. SMR projects being proposed to the governments of Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan are based on the three streams.

Stream 1 proposes a first grid-scale SMR project of about 300 MWe constructed at the Darlington site by 2028, followed by up to four subsequent units in Saskatchewan, with the first unit in Saskatchewan being in service in 2032.

This “fleet” approach would identify a common SMR technology to be more quickly and efficiently deployed in different areas. OPG, Bruce Power and SaskPower are collaborating to select the technology and developer by the end of 2021.

Stream 2 involves two SMR designs that will be developed in New Brunswick through the construction of demonstration units at the Point Lepreau nuclear site. With funding of CAD30m (€20m) from the provincial government, two developers – Moltex Energy and ARC Clean Energy Canada Inc – have opened offices in New Brunswick.

Stream 3 proposes a new class of micro SMR designed primarily to replace diesel use in remote communities and mines. To advance this technology, a 5-MW gas-cooled reactor project by Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) is underway at the Chalk River site in Ontario and is expected to be in service by 2026.

Alberta Joins the SMR Initiative

Alberta’s Jason Kenney became the fourth premier to sign an agreement supporting the development of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in Canada last week. Kenney signed a memorandum of understanding with the premiers of Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.

Kenney said signing on to the memorandum of understanding would help diversify Alberta’s energy sector and keep the province at the forefront of any future advancements in the technology.

Kenney said the province hopes the nuclear technology will allow the government to provide power to remote communities, diversify the economy, create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Alberta says small modular reactors could supply non-emitting, low-cost energy for remote areas in the province as well as industries that need steam such as the oilsands.

USA Preparing To Lead Advanced Nuclear Fuel Supply, Says NEI’s Korsnick

(WNN) There is bipartisan support in the US for the country to be the world’s leading supplier of fuel for advanced reactors, Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), said last week during the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle forum, which the NEI co-hosted with World Nuclear Association.

Korsnick said, “Ambitious climate commitments really demand a reimagined energy system with our largest, most reliable carbon-free source at its center,” she said.

“The President recently announced its $2 trillion American Jobs Plan and this legislation would establish a national clean energy standard that includes nuclear; recognizing its carbon-free production alongside sources like wind and solar. The plan would also include significant funding for the development of advanced nuclear technology.”

Jennifer Granholm, the new secretary of energy, has “spoken about her commitments to all emission-free technologies, including nuclear”, Korsnick said.

She added that John Kerry, the special presidential envoy for climate, “has stated his strong support for US nuclear exports.”

Fuel for Advanced Reactors

“With advanced reactors you have to say, What fuel are they going to run on? Many of these advanced reactors are going to require high assay and low-enriched uranium (HALEU),” Korsnick said.

nei adv nrc

US Commitment to Supply HALEU Ahead of the Market

“The US government has recognized the timing challenge for commercial entities to build out HALEU capacity without yet a clear market signal and so it’s taking concrete steps for the US to lead in this area,” she said.

Last year Congress passed legislation that instructed the US Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a HALEU program, and by this time next year, Centrus will be producing HALEU in their pilot facility, she said.

According to NEI, these actions, along with Congress passing support for the US uranium reserve, are “really reinvigorating” the entire US fuel supply chain and could allow the country to be a leading global supplier of advanced fuels.

Centrus Energy is working under a $115 million cost-shared contract with the DOE to deploy 16 of its AC-100M centrifuges at its Piketon, Ohio, facility to demonstrate HALEU production.

China Gives Green Light To New Russian Nuclear Units To Cut CO2 Emissions

The Reuters wire service reports that China has approved the construction of five nuclear power units, with total installed capacity of 4.9 GW, roughly 10% of the country’s total.

China’s state council approved five nuclear projects, which will be developed by China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC)

The five reactors approved include four regular nuclear units – number 7 and number 8 at Tianwan nuclear power plant in eastern Jiangsu province, and number 3 and number 4 in Xudapu in northeastern Liaoning province.

All four will use Russian-made VVER-1200 technology and each unit has a generating capacity of 1.2 gigawatts (GW).

The government also approved a small, 125-MW module reactor (SMR)(ACP100) demonstration project at Changjiang nuclear power plant in Hainan province.

Construction of three of the five units, the SMR and one each from Tianwan and Xudapu, is expected to start later this year and is scheduled for completion in 2026.

Zimbabwe Inks MOU with Russia to Set Up Nuclear Power Station To Ease Power Shortages

The governments of Zimbabwe and Russia this week signed an agreement that will see the Russians assisting the southern African nation setting up a nuclear power station to provide alternative sources of energy to the country facing years of perennial power cuts.

Zimbabwe Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa confirmed the development to local news media.

“The MoU seeks to facilitate higher level co-operation between the two countries in the use of nuclear energy, by laying a foundation for the execution of the agreed areas of co-operation.

In 2019, Zimbabwe joined the global Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) an initial stage in uranium enrichment. The country has uranium deposits in the coal rich Hwange and Binga districts. Prospecting and validation of the ability to recover uranium in economic quantities is ongoing.

In the past the country has been identified as a supplier of uranium to Iran. In the current era it may be positioning its uranium resources as financial leverage for obtaining commercial nuclear power plants.

USA Awards Space Propulsion Contracts to Three Firms

draco rocketDARPA has awarded contracts for the first phase of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program. The goal of the DRACO program is to demonstrate a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system above low Earth orbit in 2025. The three prime contractors are General Atomics, Blue Origin, and Lockheed Martin.

“The performer teams have demonstrated capabilities to develop and deploy advanced reactor, propulsion, and spacecraft systems,” said Maj Nathan Greiner, USAF, program manager for DRACO. “The NTP technology we seek to develop and demonstrate under the DRACO program aims to be foundational to future operations in space.”

Phase 1 of the program will last 18 months and consist of two tracks.

  • Track A will entail the preliminary design of an NTP reactor and propulsion subsystem concept.
  • Track B will produce an Operational System (OS) spacecraft concept to meet mission objectives and design a Demonstration System (DS) spacecraft concept. The DS will be traceable to the OS concept, but specifically focus on demonstrating an NTP propulsion subsystem.

nuclear propulsion

Rapid maneuver is a core tenet of modern Department of Defense (DoD) operations on land, at sea, and in the air. However, rapid maneuver in the space domain has traditionally been challenging because current electric and chemical space propulsion systems have drawbacks in thrust-to-weight and propellent efficiency, respectively.

DRACO’s NTP system has the potential to achieve high thrust-to-weight ratios similar to in-space chemical propulsion and approach the high propellent efficiency of electric systems. This combination would give a DRACO spacecraft greater agility to implement DoD’s core tenet of rapid maneuver in cislunar space (between the Earth and moon).

“This first phase of the DRACO program is a risk reduction effort that will enable us to sprint toward an on-orbit demonstration in later phases,” added Greiner.

  • General Atomics will perform the Track A reactor development work.
  • Blue Origin and Lockheed Martin will independently perform the Track B work to develop OS and DS spacecraft concept designs.

DRACO’s Phase 1 is expected to inform follow-on phases for detailed design, fabrication, and on-orbit demonstration. Any follow-on phases will be solicited by DARPA in a future announcement.

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Facilitating the Next-Generation Nuclear Renaissance, Standardization, Design, and Cross-Sector Considerations

Register here
https://bit.ly/3wFeo5k 

If you have any questions, please contact Mr. Alan Ahn at alanahn@thegabi.com. Thank you always for your interest and support.

Reference Blog Post:
Speeding Up Time to Market: A Role for Standards and Reference Designs for Advanced Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

Slides: https://bit.ly/3taUNrv 

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NuScale Power gets $40M Investment from Japanese EPC

NuScale Power gets $40M Equity Investment from a Japanese Firm that Will Also Be Its EPC

banniere_24917NuScale Power announced April 5 on that it has completed an investment and strategic partnership agreement with JGC Holdings Corporation (JGC HD), a holding company of one of the world’s leading EPC contractor group companies headquartered in Japan.

As part of a commercial relationship with Fluor Corporation, NuScale’s majority investor and EPC partner in the United States, JGC HD will provide a $40 million cash investment in NuScale Power and partner with Fluor on the deployment of NuScale Power Plants.

It positions a key supply chain partner close to potential future customers in Asia seeking smaller, cheaper nuclear energy solutions compared to 1000MWE units being exported by Russia and China.

The Asia Nikki wire service reported that the deal involves a 3% equity stake in NuScale. However, a spokesman for NuScale declined to confirm that amount. In an email the firm said;

“We confirm the $40 million. The JGC investment results in JGC having a small minority interest in NuScale. We will not be disclosing the exact percentage at this time and cannot confirm the percentage identified in the Nikkei article.”

When asked if the deal involve any licensing of NuScale intellectual property to JGC Holdings, the spokesman said that no transfer of IP is included in the deal.

In response to a question about how the deal will work with Fluor being the majority investor and which also plans to do the engineering procurement and construction (EPC) work for NuScale in the US, NuScale’s spokesman would only say that JGC is an “EPC partner with Fluor.”

Fluor shed some light on the partnership with a statement that indicated the two firms have collaborated on major projects over the past decade.

“This new ownership stake and partnership with JGC is aligned with Fluor’s long-term strategy to bring aboard new strategic investors to NuScale as the U.S. and international demand for new carbon-free base-load energy grows,” said Alan Boeckmann, executive chairman, Fluor Corporation.

“Fluor has been collaboratively executing projects with JGC for more than 10 years and we believe JGC is an ideal partner for effectively bringing this innovative carbon-free energy transition solution to realization.”

power-module-dissection

These responses raise an interesting question. What is it that JGC brings to the table the Fluor does not have or which it does not want to commit, on the NuScale project?

A look at JGC’s website shows the firm has deep experience providing engineering services to Japan’s nuclear fleet and that may be one of the reasons for this deal.  In particular the firm promotes its experience with management of spent nuclear fuel.

For its part NuScale is positioning the news about the deal because it “signals the first commercial relationship and investment in NuScale Power from a Japanese-based company and is indicative of growing Japanese and global interest in NuScale’s groundbreaking small modular reactor (SMR) technology.”

“JGC HD’s investment and partnership with NuScale Power is a welcome endorsement of our SMR technology and its international viability,” said NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins.

“NuScale looks forward to demonstrating how our cleaner and safer advanced nuclear technology can bring numerous benefits – economic and environmental – to countries around the world as they seek innovative solutions to complete a clean energy transition.”

Tadashi Ishizuka, Representative Director, President and COO of JGC Holdings Corporation, said in a press statement, “Our investment in NuScale technology, with its enhanced safety features, will enable JGC to expand our EPC business and deliver a zero carbon resource to the growing demands of the global energy market.”

According to the Nikkei report, “The partners eventually could set their sights on similar projects in the Middle East — where JGC boasts a long track record in oil and petrochemical infrastructure — and Southeast Asia.”

This blog also ask for confirmation of this part of the wire service report, which is whether NuScale and JGC have plans for joint export deals to Asian or Middle Eastern countries under the agreement or even new builds in Japan. It is important to note that Japan has no SMR type design available for export and nothing that is even close to one emerging from the r&d bench scale by the end of this decade.

NuScale’s spokesman said deal will support the firm’s plans for global export sales.

“We expect that Fluor and JGC will team on providing EPC service as part of delivering NuScale Plants in markets worldwide. We are excited about the prospect of being able to offer NuScale’s passively safe SMR technology to help Japan achieve its commitments to reduce carbon emissions. We look forward to being able to speak about specific deployments once we secure customer commitments.” ​​

And a spokesman for JGC echoed NuScale’s response. The firm said it is expanding its business in the nuclear-related sector in response to the ongoing global transition from fossil fuels to hydrogen and renewable energy.

“In the medium and long term, JGC Corporation will work with Fluor to secure and execute SMR EPC projects on a global basis, and intends to seek opportunities in integrating SMRs with renewable energy, as well as with hydrogen production and seawater desalinization.”

International politics may also play a part in the arrangement. Nikkei hinted that relations between the US and Japan will be enhanced by it. Fighting climate change will be on the agenda when President Joe Biden meets Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for a summit in the U.S. later this month. President Biden is seeking help from Asian allies to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region and Japan will play a key role in that effort.

The Asia Times reported on April 5 that when Prime Minister Yosihide Suga walks into the Oval Office of the White House on April 16, he will be the first foreign leader to meet President Joe Biden. The visit is reportedly intended to showcase the Biden administration’s central foreign policy goal – to challenge and encircle China.

“They all believe that to get China policy right, you have to get Asia right, and to get Asia right, you have to start with Japan,” said James Schoff of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and a former Obama administration Japan expert who advised the Biden campaign in a statement to the Asia Times.

The deal with JGC is NuScale’s second contract with an offshore firm for key elements of its new build. Previously, NuScale inked a deal with Doosan Heavy Industries of South Korea.

On April 29, 2019, NuScale Power and Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Co., Ltd. (Doosan) announced a $44M strategic cooperation to support deployment of the NuScale Power Module (NPM) worldwide. Doosan and its financial partners provided a cash investment in NuScale as part of this strategic relationship.

Doosan will supply long lead time components and other equipment. DHIC is expected to bring its expertise in nuclear pressure vessel manufacturing. Doosan also signed the ‘unit purchase agreement’ through which it will make a cash equity investment in NuScale with Korean financial investors. The terms of the equity deal were not disclosed but it will involve transfer of NuScale stock to Doosan.

The strategic cooperation between DHIC and NuScale is not limited to the USA, but will extend to global nuclear markets. DHIC and NuScale expect the value of equipment supplied through the contract will total at least S1.2 billion. Like the deal with JGC, the deal with Doosan is intended to place NuScale’s supply chain partners closer to future customers.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in September 2020 issued a standard design approval to NuScale Power for the NuScale SMR. This allows the design to be referenced in applications for construction, operating and manufacturing licenses and permits in the USA. Site-specific licensing procedures must still be completed and a combined construction and operating license obtained before any construction can begin.

Fluor and NuScale are working with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems in the development of a 720-megawatt plant that is to be built at a site at the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.

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X-Energy Signs MOU to Build XE-100 at Richland, WA, Site

    • X-Energy Signs MOU to Build Advanced Reactor at Richland, WA, Site
    • China Begins New Builds of Two New 1000 MWe Hualong One Reactors At Changjiang
    • OPG Collaborating with Moltex to Study Clean Energy Solutions
    • BWXT Awarded Additional Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Work for NASA
    • New Mexico Sues NRC Over Review of Holtec Interim Storage Spent Fuel Facility Plan
    • NRC Tells Holtec More Work is Needed on License Application

X-Energy Signs MOU to Build Advanced Reactor at Richland, WA, Site

As part of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) funding to X-Energy, the firm announced this week it is evaluating a site in Richland, WA, to build a first of a kind advanced nuclear reactor. The proposed site is not far from other nuclear facilities in Washington including the Columbia Generating Station and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

columbia generating station

Separately, Bellevue, WA, is the home to TerraPower which also is a grantee for $80M under the ARDP program. With GE-Hitachi and Bechtel, TerraPower says it will deploy its cost-competitive, sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system.

In December 2020 the Tri-City Business Journal reported that TerraPower was also considering a site in the Richland, WA, region. However, the firm declined to comment on that report to this blog when asked about it. The editor of the paper told this blog the published report relied on a statement from the Department of Energy.

In October 2020 then DOE Secretary Dan Brouillette said the locations of the two ARDP demonstration plants have still to be finalized, but added that “a place like Washington state” was likely. Energy Northwest, which operates the Columbia nuclear power plant in Washington, is a utility partner on both TerraPower and X-energy’s ARDP applications.

About the Xe-100

X-energy’s Xe-100 is an 80 MWe reactor with a modular design permitting it to be scaled into a “four-pack” 320-MWe power plant. The design is based around the concept of a pebble bed high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). The Xe-100 will use TRISO particles encased in graphite pebbles as the fuel and helium as the coolant.

xe-100

It is designed for a 60-year operational life. The reactor could be used to produce process heat as well as electricity and could be operated as a baseload or load-following plant, according to X-energy. The heat output helium temperature is 750°C which X-Energy says means the plant would have a thermal output of 200 MW. The Xe-100 reactor is planned to use off-the-shelf components that can be manufactured and shipped by road and rail to sites where they are needed.

X-Energy signed the MOU as part of a  partnership formed between X-energy, Energy Northwest, and the Grant County (Washington) Public Utility District (PUD).

The TRi Energy Partnership will support the development and demonstration of X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor, which was selected by the Department of Energy for a cost-shared commercial demonstration by 2027 through the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

The new partnership was announced on April 1, when Clay Sell, X-energy’s chief executive officer; Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest’s CEO; and Kevin Nordt, the Grant County PUD’s CEO, met in Richland, Wash., to sign a memorandum of understanding.

According to the MOU the TRi Energy partners will collaborate to evaluate siting, building, and operating a Xe-100 advanced nuclear power plant. The team plans to identify the best approach to licensing, permitting, construction, operation, and ownership.

Several ownership arrangements are being considered, including joint or sole ownership by a utility. Financial arrangements and commitments from investors are still in the future. On March 1, 2021, X-Energy signed a formal agreement with DOE as part of its participation in the ARDP program which includes $80M in federal funding.

The project is estimated to cost about $2.4 billion. Half of the funds will be provided through ARDP and half must be raised through private investment, equity capital, and financing.

Progress towards designing, licensing, building, and profitably operating an advanced reactor, especially a first-of-a-kind (FOAK) unit, will be closely watched on a global basis. Success for X-Energy will be to prove that advanced and small modular reactors can be cheaper and easier to deploy than large light water reactors.

In the press statement, the partners in the MOU said they are not ready to break ground, but they have a preferred location lined up: Known as Site 1, the previously licensed site is located near Energy Northwest’s Columbia plant, a 1,174-MWe boiling water reactor plant located near Richland, Wash.

TRi Energy Partnership takes its name from its location in Washington’s Tri-Cities area and from the three parties that have signed on to the agreement, but also from the Xe-100 design, which utilizes TRISO (TRi-structural ISOtropic) fuel that X-energy plans to manufacture. X-energy plans to use part of its ARDP funds to build the first commercial TRISO fuel fabrication facility in the United States.

triso fuel

According to the Tri Energy Partnership, “While a final decision will be made in the future, following extensive site, environmental, and financial analysis, this is our preferred site and offers many benefits: access to available infrastructure and the transmission grid, existing water intake, a local workforce with strong nuclear energy expertise, and considerable transportation resources vital to a large energy project: road, rail, and river access.”

China Begins New Builds of Two New 1000 MWe Hualong One Reactors At Changjiang

(NucNet) Construction has begun in China of two indigenous Hualong One nuclear power plants at the Changjiang nuclear station in the island province of Hainan off the country’s southeast coast, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said in a statement on its website. The reactors could be in operation by end of 2026.

Construction of the new units, Changjiang-3 and Chiangjang-4, was approved by China’s state council in September 2020.
The total investment for the two new units is estimated to be more than 39 billion yuan (€5bn).

The Hualong One, or HPR1000, is a three-loop pressurized water reactor. It incorporates elements of China National Nuclear Corporation’s ACP1000 and China General Nuclear’s ACPR1000+ reactor designs. There are eight Hualong One units at various stages of construction or operation in China.

There are six other Hualong One Units under construction: two at Taipingling in Guangdong province, southern China; two at Zhangzhou in Fujian province, eastern China; and two at Fangchenggang in Guangxi province in the south of the country. Fuqing-5 in Fujian province, southeastern China, recently became the first Hualong One to begin commercial operation. Fuqing-6, also a Hualong One, is under construction.

HPR1000,_cooling_systems_schemata

Image: By 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, CC BY 4.0,

There is a Hualong One unit, Kanupp-2, nearing commercial operation in Pakistan and another, Kanupp-3, under construction. These are the first of their type outside China.

There are already two units in commercial operation at Changjiang. Changjiang-1 and -2 are both CNP600 units developed by China National Nuclear Corporation and have a net capacity of 601 MW. They began commercial operation in 2015 and 2016.

OPG Collaborating with Moltex to Study Clean Energy Solutions

Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability (CCNS) has joined forces with Moltex Energy on a project aimed at recycling used fuel from CANDU reactors.

OPG’s CCNS will provide $1 million CDN in funding to assist Moltex in demonstrating the technical viability of a new process to recycle used CANDU fuel.

When removed from an operating reactor, used CANDU fuel still contains energy. Moltex’ process would extract the remaining energy source and prepare it for use as new fuel in other advanced reactor designs, potentially reducing the volume of the material requiring long-term storage in a Deep Geological Repository.

The project would contribute to the development of Moltex’ WAste To Stable Salt (WATSS) technology, which could lead to a more sustainable form of nuclear power.

moltex cutaway

  • OPG’s Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability launched in 2020 with a focus on advancing nuclear innovation, collaboration and research to seek solutions for minimizing nuclear materials and recycle clean materials.
  • Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), through its Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative is supporting the design, construction and optimization of the testing apparatus.
  • The University of New Brunswick is involved in the project in a research and testing capacity.
  • NB Power is committed to building the first WATSS facility in Saint John, New Brunswick. The used fuel from the CANDU reactor at the utility’s Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station would power a 300 MW Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W), also under development by Moltex.

candui-schematric

“Our goal is to advance solutions for nuclear materials, with a continued emphasis on minimizing our environmental footprint,” says Carla Carmichael, Vice President, Nuclear Decommissioning Strategy and Lead for OPG’s Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability.

About Moltex:

Moltex is a privately held company striving that is developing a small modular reactor. Moltex was selected by NB Power and the Government of New Brunswick to progress development of its reactor technology in New Brunswick, Canada, with the aim of deploying its first reactor at the Point Lepreau site by the early 2030s.

BWXT Awarded Additional Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Work for NASA

BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) announced that it is continuing its Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) design, manufacturing development, and test support work for NASA. NTP is one of the technologies that is capable of propelling a spacecraft to Mars, and this contract continues BWXT’s work that began in 2017.

bwxt ntp-overviewUnder the terms of a $9.4 million, one-year contract awarded to its BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC subsidiary, BWXT will focus primarily on nuclear fuel design and engineering activities.

Specifically, BWXT will produce fuel kernels, coat the fuel kernels, design materials and manufacturing processes for fuel assemblies, and further develop conceptual reactor designs, among other activities.

The work will be conducted primarily at BWXT’s Advanced Technology Laboratory, Specialty Fuel Facility, and Lynchburg Technology Center, and it will involve more than 50 employees.

BWXT said in its press statement that it has been making significant progress on NASA’s NTP initiative, which has progressed from the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development program to its Technology Demonstration Mission program.

BWXT’s progress to date includes evaluating various fission fuel and reactor options, developing a conceptual reactor design, tailoring the fuel design to use High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU), and delivering specialty fuel particles for testing.

In 2020, as part of NASA’s in-space demonstration mission, BWXT delivered a study exploring several reactor configurations and fuel forms capable of delivering space nuclear propulsion. Two of the designs focused on power levels suitable for space demonstration in the near term. A third design was developed that leverages more advanced technology and higher power levels that could be ready in time for a Mars mission.

Rocket engines based on NTP technology are designed to propel a spacecraft from Earth orbit to Mars and back. Nuclear Thermal Propulsion for spaceflight has a number of advantages over chemical-based designs. In particular, NTP provides a low mass capability that allows astronauts to travel through space faster, thereby reducing supply needs and lowering their exposures to cosmic radiation.

New Mexico Sues NRC Over Review of Holtec Interim Storage Spent Fuel Facility Plan

(wire services) New Mexico attorney general Hector Balderas has filed suit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the United States, seeking to stop Holtec International’s application to build and operate its HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in the state. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico on March 29, seeks a declaratory judgment that the NRC is acting beyond the scope of its authority and an injunction preventing the licensing from moving forward.

“I am taking legal action because I want to mitigate dangers to our environment and to other energy sectors,” Balderas said. “It is fundamentally unfair for our residents to bear the risks of open-ended uncertainty.”

A letter sent from the NRC to Holtec earlier this month said more information is needed to complete the safety evaluation report. Also, the agency delayed completion of the report until the firm submits the requested data and the agency can evaluate it.

Holtec International wants to build an interim storage (dry cask) facility for spent nuclear fuel near Hobbs, NM in the southeast corner of the state. Holtec is seeking a 40-year license to build it.

State officials claim that New Mexico could become a permanent dumping ground for the radioactive material. Note that the state has multiple nuclear facilities in it already including the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Urenco’s uranium enrichment facility, two defense related DOE nuclear weapons labs as well as the White Sands proving ground.

NM cited the potential for disruption of oil and gas development which is a major industry in the region. The state also raised concerns about a similar project planned just across the state line in Andrews, TX, and for the same reasons.

New Mexico’s oil and gas industry, which is a driver for the state’s lawsuit, worries that a release of radioactive materials from the site could contaminate their wells. On a technical basis that fear is pretty much unfounded as the spent fuel would be stored in dry casks.

The bone dry region has little surface or ground water to act as a transport mechanism. Holtec has said the site in New Mexico, about 35 miles from Carlsbad, is remote, bone dry, and geologically stable. The same conditions exist just across the Texas border where another firm., Interim Storage Partners, is proposing to develop a similar facility (FAQ).

The Associated Press reported that the NRC did not respond to questions about New Mexico’s complaint. However, the NRC issued an order last year that denied appeals from several groups with arguments similar to the state’s. The commission has held public hearings during the licensing process and an environmental review was done. From a process standpoint, the agency appears to be on firm ground.

Separately from the state’s complaint, the NRC informed Holtec last week that the final safety evaluation report (SER) would be delayed because the company provided inadequate answers in several technical areas, including soil settlement and an analysis of flooding and aircraft crash hazards.

NRC Tells Holtec More Work is Needed on License Application

The NRC has delayed the release of a safety evaluation report for Holtec International’s HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility proposed for New Mexico. The agency said it needs additional information to complete its review of the license application. The request will delay the release of the final report which had been scheduled for next month.  Holtect submitted an application to build and operate the HI-STORE facility in March 2017.

The NRC said in its letter dated March 25, 2021, ML21083A302 :

“The staff has identified multiple RAIs that remain unanswered or incomplete in several different technical review areas and disciplines. The staff has identified that the following areas will require the most substantive supplementation:
1) analyses and calculations of soil bearing capacity and soil settlement;
2) site flooding hazards analyses;
3) analysis of aircraft crash hazards;
4)
building design specifications and hazards analyses for the proposed Canister Transfer Building (CTB) structure and foundation; and
5) clarifications to the site’s shielding, thermal, and aging management analyses.”

Without the information, the NRC said, its staff is unable to complete a full safety and security review. The NRC said that it will send Holtec another set of questions regarding the facility within the month and will issue a revised schedule for its safety review after it receives and processes the company’s responses.

Background on the Holtec Plan

Holtec executives told the wire service the storage project is needed because the U.S. has yet to find a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of spent fuel building up at commercial nuclear power plants.

According to the U.S. Energy Department, nuclear reactors across the country produce more than 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel a year. Almost all of it is stored at the reactors that produced it. There is roughly 83,000 metric tons of spent fuel sitting at temporary storage sites in nearly three dozen states. T

The first phase of the proposed New Mexico project calls for storing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium, which would be packed into 500 canisters. Future expansion could make room for as many as 10,000 canisters of spent nuclear fuel over six decades.

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Centrus Aims for HALEU Production by 2022

  • Haleu Fuel / US Production Could Begin ‘By Next Year’
  • Lightbridge Sets Priorities for SMR Fuel Development
  • Olkiluoto-3 / Finland’s Regulator Issues Fuel Loading Permit For EPR Unit
  • Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency Spikes TEPCO Plans to Restart 7-Unit Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Plant
  • TVA CEO Reverses Course Saying the Giant Utility Will Need SMRs in the Future
  • DOD Awards Contracts for Advanced Microreactors
  • NEI CEO Maria Korsnick – Swift Action Needed on Nuclear Energy

Haleu Fuel / US Production Could Begin ‘By Next Year’

mug of uranium(NucNet) (Centrus) Construction of the first facility in the US for the production of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (Haleu) (DOE Infographic) fuel is on track with the first fuel expected to be produced by next year according to a forward looking statement by Centrus Energy Corp.. (NYSE:LEU).

The firm’s stock closed on Friday 03/26/21 at $24.30 against a 12 month high of $30.97.  This time last year the stock was $5.20/share.

Design and engineering work on the non-centrifuge or “balance of plant” systems is near completion and system construction is well under way. Auxiliary and support systems necessary for operation of the cascade are being installed.

Under a 2019 contract with the US Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Centrus is licensing and constructing a cascade of 16 AC100M centrifuges, which is a US technology, to demonstrate production of Haleu.

DOE said the objective is to demonstrate a domestic technology that could be used in any type of advanced reactors, including defense reactors. The three year, $115m, cost-shared contract runs until mid-2022.

Centrus submitted a license amendment request (LAR) to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) last year to modify its commercial license to authorize it to enrich uranium up to 20 percent U-235. The NRC has accepted the LAR for technical review and that review is under way.

The facility has an existing NRC license for production up to 10 percent and, if this amendment is approved, will become the first U.S. facility licensed for the full range of LEU and HALEU production up to 20 percent U-235. On June 27, 2019 Centrus formally withdrew the request to terminate the American Centrifuge Lead Cascade Facility (Lead Cascade) NRC Materials License in order to design and construct the HALEU cascade under NRC oversite. ML20136A471

This month, Centrus completed assembly of all AC100M gas centrifuges. The centrifuges will undergo final preparations prior to being installed into the production cascade.

To support the construction effort, Centrus has reactivated its domestic supply chain for centrifuge components and supporting equipment needed for the demonstration, and restored its capacity to manufacture centrifuge parts in its Oak Ridge, Tennessee, manufacturing facility.

Centrus president and chief executive officer Daniel Poneman said the facility, in Piketon, Ohio, is on schedule “despite the impact of the [Covid-19] pandemic and the extraordinary steps we have taken to protect our workforce – including limiting the number of people who can be on the construction site at any one time.”

He said the first-of-a-kind facility can play a critical role in meeting both government and commercial requirements for Haleu, powering the country’s nuclear leadership as the world turns to a new generation of advanced reactors and advanced nuclear fuels.

Haleu is an advanced nuclear fuel material that is not commercially available in the US today. It is likely to be required in the future to fuel both existing and next generation reactors. According to Centrus, many of the designs selected by the DOE for its advanced reactor demonstration program are expected to operate on Haleu.

Haleu, which is enriched so that the concentration of the U-235 isotope is higher than the 4-5% level typically used in existing reactors but lower than 20%, offers numerous advantages in reactor performance and a lower volume of waste produced.

Lightbridge Sets Priorities for SMR Fuel Development

lb logoLightbridge Corporation (NASDAQ:LBTR) has decided to prioritize developing fuel for future small modular reactors rather than fuel for large reactor designs, President and CEO Seth Grae said this week in a business update ahead of a webcast and conference call to discuss the company’s financial results. The stock closed on 03/26/21 at $6.10/share. This time last year the price was $6.99/share.

Seth Grae, Lightbridge CEO, said the firm is giving priority to its fuel development program with a focus on powering small modular reactors (SMRs). SMRs are expected to have much lower capital costs per module than larger reactor designs, making their deployment easier to finance and support by private and government sectors.

In addition, Grae said the firm expects SMRs using Lightbridge Fuel will have the ability to load follow renewables, helping to expand markets for renewables and SMRs together as countries seek to decarbonize energy generation.

“We believe that Lightbridge Fuel’s most significant economic benefit to SMRs will be to provide a 30% power uprate that will allow SMRs greater flexibility in power levels,” Grae said.

“We want to position Lightbridge as an essential company for the world to meet its climate goals. While existing large reactors can present an additional market opportunity for Lightbridge Fuel, we do not expect significant future growth in the number of these large reactors/ They will not move the needle on climate change.”

“Lightbridge is going where the industry is heading, along with the significant government funding opportunities we expect to go toward SMRs in the coming years, and we remain focused on our pursuit of full-scale commercialization of Lightbridge Fuel as quickly as possible.”

Recently, the firm announced a settlement agreement with Framatome terminating their Enfission joint venture, which will allow Lightbridge to pursue “various promising opportunities” unencumbered by any constraints on the Lightbridge Fuel technology platform.

Olkiluoto-3 / Finland’s Regulator Issues Fuel Loading Permit For EPR Unit

(NucNet) (Framatome) Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk) this week issued a fuel loading permit for the Olkiluoto-3 nuclear power plant with the 1,600 MWe Generation III EPR unit scheduled to start up in October and to begin commercial operation in February 2022.

Areva EPR

Stuk said it had verified plant operator Teollisuuden Voima Oyj’s (TVO) readiness to begin the fuel loading. TVO’s Olkiuoto-3 project director, Jouni Silvennoinen said the permit was the most significant step in the commissioning of the plant unit so far. He said systems have now been rigorously tested and “we will be able to begin fuel loading soon”.

The fuel arrived in Olkiluoto in 2018. During the fuel loading, 241 fuel assemblies, comprising about 128 tonnes of uranium, will be transferred from storage into the reactor’s pressure vessel.

The assemblies have all been manufactured in Framatome’s plants in Germany and in France. Framatome said that to carry out the loading operations, a team made up of approximately 40 employees from TVO, Areva and Framatome is leading the effort. It includes 15 fuel handlers, employees specializing in the fuel handling operations, and four neutronics engineers in charge of monitoring the core during loading.

Completion of the fuel loading will be followed by a new series of hot functional tests before the first criticality and commissioning for commercial operation.

Once the reactor is in service, Framatome teams will contribute to the maintenance of the Olkiluoto-3 reactor under a long-term service contract signed between Framatome and TVO in late 2019. They will be supported by the new subsidiary, Framatome Finland, created in 2019.

The cost of Olkiluoto-3 was initially put at €3.2B, but in 2012 Areva estimated the overall cost at closer to €8.5B. Since then, it has not made public any updated cost projection. The plant is 10 years behind schedule.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency Spikes TEPCO Plans to Restart 7-Unit Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Plant

(Japan Times) Japan’s nuclear regulatory body decided last week to effectively halt all plans by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (Tepco) to restart a seven unit (BWRs) nuclear plant on the Sea of Japan coast after the complex was found to have serious safety flaws.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided at its meeting to suspend efforts by Tepco transport nuclear fuel to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture or to load it into the reactors.  (Image: TEPCO)

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa-NPP-(Tepco)

The punitive measure will be effective until Tepco’s response to the incident is “in a situation where self-sustained improvement is expected,” according to the regulator.

It will be the second administrative order to be issued for a violation of rules under the law to regulate nuclear reactors. The first was imposed in 2013 on the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant was found to have been vulnerable to unauthorized entry at 15 locations in March last year when both its primary intruder detection system and the backup system were found to be defective.  Some of the violations included employees swapping badges for access to controlled areas of the plant.

The regulator provisionally rated the breach at the plant to have been at the worst level in terms in safety and severity, marking the first time it has given such an assessment. The NRA has been aggressive in its insistence that Japan’s nuclear utilities secure their plants against terrorist intrusions.

Facing huge compensation payments and other costs stemming from the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant it also operates, Tepco had been seeking to resume operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant to reduce its dependence on costly fossil fuel imports for nonnuclear thermal power generation.

The No. 7 reactor of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant has passed the NRA’s safety screening in order to restart. Tepco will have to suspend its preparations for reactivating the reactor because the NRA order will prohibit the company from loading nuclear fuel into the reactor.

The NRA is expected to take at least one year to confirm improvements to security measures at the plant. It is uncertain when Tepco will be able to restart the reactor.

TVA CEO Reverses Course Saying the Giant Utility Will Need SMRs in the Future

tva-logoThe Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), after nearly a decade of closing its coal fired plants, and replacing them with natural gas generation,  may be returning, at least in part, to its nuclear roots. It was once the nation’s most ambitious developer of nuclear power of any U.S. utility, but it hasn’t started building a new nuclear reactor in nearly a half century.

This week TVA President Jeff Lyash told a Senate panel studying the future of nuclear power that he hopes TVA will bring online new small modular reactors in Oak Ridge within the decade even as the federal utility extends the life of its existing fleet of seven reactors. (Full text of Lyash testimony)

“Our schedule is to have a small modular reactor (SMR) perhaps in service at Clinch River (in Oak Ridge) by 2032,” Lyash told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“Our Clinch River site is the only site in the nation with an NRC-approved early site permit for small modular reactors. This effectively eliminates a number of risks that have stopped or delayed many nuclear projects previously.”  The permit is good for 20 years so TVA has plenty of time to make up its mind whether it sees a positive path forward for SMRs both financially and technically.

TVA is pursuing plans to build several SMRs on the 935-acre now abandoned Clinch River Breeder Reactor site in Anderson County, TV. However, the TVA board has yet to authorize the building of more nuclear reactors.

In its early site permit from the NRC, TVA has referenced several SMR types of designs, but it has not expressed a preference for any of them.  The permit authorizes power production of up to 800 MWe which most likely would come from multiple units of the same design.

Legacy of Bellefonte and Watts Bar Costs Haunt TVA

TVA is also embroiled in a complex court dispute with a Tennessee real estate developer who purchased the partially built Bellefonte nuclear plant and who wants to complete it. The developer., Franklin Haney, has pitched the city of Memphis, TN, one of TVA’s biggest customers, to go with his project if it is completed. TVA had at one time considered completing the planned twin 1200 MWe plant, but abandoned it after cost overruns incurred in the completion in 2016 of the Watts Bar plant pushed the utility closer to its debt ceiling.

To complete the final phase of building Watts Bar Unit 2, TVA spent $4.7 billion, or nearly twice the projected $2.5 billion cost estimate made when the project was restarted. Only seven of the 18 nuclear reactors originally planned by TVA were ever completed. Even so TVA remains America’s third-biggest nuclear utility and in 2019-2020 generated 42% of its power from nuclear power.

TVA-plants-map529pxLyash said nuclear power is TVA’s second cheapest source of electricity over the long run, behind only the hydroelectric power TVA gets from its 29 power-generating dams. Nuclear plants are typically the most expensive to build, but Lyash said with proper maintenance and upgrades, he believes TVA’s nuclear plants should be able to run for 100 years.

DOD Awards Contracts for Advanced Microreactors

The US Department of Defense (DOD) said on March 22nd that it exercised contract options for two teams, one led by BWXT Advanced Technologies and the other by X-energy, to proceed with development of a final design for a transportable advanced nuclear microreactor prototype. The two teams were selected from a preliminary design competition, and will each continue development independently under a Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) initiative called Project Pele.

After a final design review in early 2022 and completion of environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, one of the two companies may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype.

“We are thrilled with the progress our industrial partners have made on their designs,” said Dr Jeff Waksman, Project Pele program manager.

“We are confident that by early 2022 we will have two engineering designs matured to a sufficient state that we will be able to determine suitability for possible construction and testing.”

DOD noted that a safe, small, transportable nuclear reactor would address a growing demand for electricity “with a resilient, carbon-free energy source that does not add to the DOD’s fuel needs, while supporting mission-critical operations in remote and austere environments.”

Project Pele is a fourth-generation nuclear reactor, which, once prototyped, could serve as a pathfinder for commercial adoption of such technologies, thereby reducing US carbon emissions and providing new tools for disaster relief and critical infrastructure support.

The prototype reactor will be designed to deliver between 1 MWe and 5MWe for at least three years of operation at full power. To enable rapid transport and use, it will be designed to operate within three days of delivery and to be safely removed in as few as seven days.

project pele

“Production of a full-scale fourth-generation nuclear reactor will have significant geopolitical implications for the United States,” said Jay Dryer, SCO director. “The DOD has led American innovation many times in the past, and with Project Pele, has the opportunity to help us advance on both energy resiliency and carbon emission reductions.”

Project Pele is a whole-of-government effort, with critical expertise provided by the US Army, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

BWXT said in a press statement that it received $28M for the 2nd round of the project. In the first round it received $14M.  X-Energy also received $14M for the 1st round and is eligible to receive up to $30M in this 2nd round. As of 03/27/21 the firm had issued a press statement about the contract award.  Westinghouse, which was a third competitor in the first round, offering its advanced eVinci microreactor, was not selected by DOD for funding in the 2nd round.

DOD will award a contract to one of the two firms for a third “demonstration” phase to build a prototype unit once it evaluates the results of this round of funding.

NEI CEO Maria Korsnick – Swift Action Needed on Nuclear Energy

nei speech(NEI) (WNN) (Video of the speech) Nuclear energy is the key to making climate commitments work and will play a critical role in meeting the Biden Administration’s ambitious climate goals, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) President and CEO Maria Korsnick said this week at the organization’s annual State of the Nuclear Energy Industry event.

“There is no bigger opportunity in front of us than rebuilding the world’s energy system around carbon-free sources,” Korsnick said, adding that there is “no more debate about the need for swift action”.

Over the last year, utilities, state governments, and the new Administration have made “concrete commitments” to bring carbon emissions from electricity generation close to zero by 2035 – even sooner than the 2050 target already acknowledged to be necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

“While we need to scale up every carbon-free source available, no other source can match nuclear energy’s unique combination of attributes,” she said.

The value of nuclear energy’s reliability has become even more apparent over the past year, with US nuclear power plants working on through “unprecedented” conditions like the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating winter storms across the southern USA, she said. ”

Nuclear has become the second-largest source of electricity in the USA overall and surpassed coal for the first time ever”

Nuclear Energy is a Game Changer

“Governments, NGOs, and the private sector all agree: ambitious climate plans only work with nuclear energy. The only question is whether we’re serious about making them work,” she said.

“To meet the challenge before us, we need to move the next generation of nuclear rapidly from design, to demonstration, to build. Across the country, talented innovators are making that happen. Spurred on by commitments from utilities, private investment, and government support, the next generation of nuclear is poised to come online.

“Technologies such as small modular reactors, micro-reactors, and other advanced designs will make nuclear even more efficient, even more affordable and even more versatile. These reactors will come in different sizes and designs. They will be able to change their output, pairing perfectly with more variable sources such as wind and solar.”

Awards made last year under the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program mean that US companies “are able to actually build” advanced reactors, she said. “These are exciting steps towards getting the next generation of nuclear online before the end of the decade.

“Right now, TerraPower and X-Energy are finalizing contracts with DOE for these kinds of demonstrations. Kairos Power and Southern Company Services are finalizing contracts with DOE on risk-reduction projects. General Atomics, MIT, and Advanced Reactor Concepts are all delivering their own conceptual designs.

Elsewhere in the federal government, the Defense Department is moving forward with its own micro-reactor demonstration program to improve national security and address some of the largest threats to our armed forces.”

“The move to demonstration is significant. These new technologies will be cost-competitive, especially with carbon-emitting sources. The next generation of nuclear can not only make a decarbonized energy system work – it can make it affordable,” she said. To form the core of a clean energy system such technologies must be commercialized successfully, she added.

Reactors Under Threat of Closure

She added: “Our climate plans can’t work if we go backwards by shuttering our nuclear plants. But that is exactly the possibility we face. This year, four reactors are under threat of closure in Illinois alone. In that state, they produce twice as much clean electricity as wind and solar combined,” she said. “If they shut down, carbon-emitting sources will likely fill the gap. In 2020, our lost generation from coal was replaced almost entirely with natural gas.”

Korsnick urges state-level action to prevent future nuclear shut-downs and put nuclear on an “even playing field” with other carbon-free sources. Washington and Virginia have already passed clean energy standards, she noted, while Illinois and Minnesota, where clean energy debate, interrupted by the pandemic, have now resumed. She also highlighted state-level actions, such as tax incentives in Nebraska, a small modular reactor study in Montana and funding for SMR manufacturing in Washington.

“We’re seeing movement because these states are realizing an obvious truth: We can’t talk about the urgency of decarbonizing while sacrificing our most reliable source of carbon-free electricity. We can’t celebrate bold plans while conceding defeat against the climate crisis.”

“Either we’re serious about building a better energy future, or we aren’t. Action on nuclear energy will show our true priorities. Nuclear energy is the power source that can make it all work. It can turn some of the biggest threats we face into opportunities.”

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