NuScale gets Letter of Intent for 2500MW Project in South Africa from US Development Finance Agency

The United States International Development Finance Corp. (DFC) has signed a letter of intent to support NuScale Power LLC, a U.S. nuclear energy technology firm, to develop 2,500 megawatts of power in South Africa based on its 60MW SMR.

africa-nuclearThe action is the second blockbuster funding event this week following a commitment by the U.S. Department of Energy for $1.355 billion to UAMPS which is NuScale’s first US customer for its 60 MW SMR. The 12 SMR plant will be built at a site in Idaho.

The DFC, which ended its prohibition on supporting nuclear power in July, signed a letter of intent this week to support NuScale’s bid for South Africa’s independent power producer (IPP) program, the development bank said in an statement emailed to the Bloomberg wire service on Friday 10/16.

The letter of intent is not a funding commitment. A lot of work lies ahead for NuScale, for South Africa, and the bank which has said that it has an upper limit of $1 billion for new nuclear projects. The bank has a separate fund for technology development, but it isn’t clear how much funding is available for a single applicant or whether NuScale would quality for it. The intent of both funds is to spur development in non-OECD countries.

Diane Hughes, Vice President, Marketing & Communications, said in an emailed statement;

“NuScale is excited to work with the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) to explore the applications of our groundbreaking technology to provide clean, cost-effective energy to South Africa. The signed Letter of Intent by the DFC marks an important step in the process to bring the first and only, approved, U.S. small modular reactor to the African continent and support the growing energy demands and resilience needs of South Africa. We are committed to working with the DFC to support its comprehensive process as we collaborate with entities in South Africa interested in NuScale’s energy solutions.”

The 2500 MW figure is the same power rating as cited by the South African government in a draft energy plan released last May. At 60MW each, it would take 42 of NuScale’s SMRs, or 3+ of its 12 SMR plants, to hit that number in terms of generating capacity.

At $4,000/Kw, which is a plausible competitive benchmark that NuScale could hit with factory production of multiple units, the cost of the entire program would be $8-10 billion including grid upgrades.

With South Africa’s history of demands for localization of the supply chain for new nuclear projects, it is likely that NuScale would have to build a factory in that country to assemble the reactors and work with the government to capitalize a supply chain to feed it.

According to Bloomberg, South Africa’s government recently drafted an economic recovery plan in conjunction with business and labor groups in a bargaining forum known as the National Economic Development and Labour Council. The action was in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

A version of the strategy that was discussed by the cabinet and reportedly was seen by Bloomberg this week, includes recommendations to secure reliable energy supply through the construction of new nuclear plants.

Great Ideas Need Lots of Funding – Where is it?

The draft strategy calls for $1.4 billion to be spent on private investment in infrastructure. However, as is typical of grand plans put forth by the South African government, no one is quite sure where the money is coming from.

Eskom, the state-owned nuclear utility, has been broke for years due to the refusal by the government to raise rates to cover infrastructure improvements including new generation capacity.

Coal is the Key Competitor

Another issue is that South Africa has a new coal fired power plant, the Medupi power station, situated north of Johannesburg, which produces 4,800MW of electricity. It is the 8th largest coal fired plant in the world.

With a 60 year life cycle, it’s likely that coal interests in South Africa have engaged in significant efforts to influence the government to not bring competing power sources, such as nuclear energy, into the mix. The five biggest coal mining companies are responsible for approximately 85% of all the coal production. These companies are; Anglo American PLC, Sasol Mining, Glencore Xstrata, Exxaro and South32’s South Africa Energy Coal.

South Africa has proven reserves equivalent to 173.3 times its annual consumption. In other words, South Africa has more than a century and a half of coal supplies for the Medupi plant or its successors. South Africa holds 35,053 million tons (MMst) of proven coal reserves as of 2016, ranking 8th in the world and accounting for about 3% of the world’s total coal reserves.

History of Prior Efforts for Nuclear Energy in South Africa

In May 2020 South Africa’s Director of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe told the nation’s legislative body that his agency is developing a road map for 2,500MW of nuclear-powered generating capacity with the procurement process completed by 2024.

The South African plan is to allow vendors to self-finance 100% of the cost which means the national government will not provide any funding. This policy opens the door to all types of technologies and reactors sizes from big iron at 1,000MW or more to small modular reactors (SMRs) that range from 50-300MW.

The agency said it will issue a request for information to assess the market with a focus on SMRs. However, Mr. Mantashe said that all options are being explored and if the market indicates one design is more affordable and can e built more efficiently; he wants to go with it. However, at the time he did not say when his agency would expect a vendor to break ground nor did he specify LWR v. advanced reactor designs as preferences.

He told the Reuters wire service, “We may give a company a right to develop a nuclear station (modular or other) on a build, operate, and transfer basis. It means there is no  funding from the state.”

The announcement immediately ran into significant challenges. Opposition leader Kevin Mileham questioned whether the 100% vendor financed approach would work and discounted the feasibility of the short time line to issue and evaluate a tender for the reactors.

Additionally, he pointed to the national government’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for 2019 which he said makes no mention of nuclear energy at least the next decade.

The Mining Weekly, a trade publication, checked the IRP found that there is a brief mention of “preparations for nuclear energy,” but no mention of a specific level of generating capacity nor a timeline for a procurement nor starting work on a new power station.

Past Efforts to Launch a Nuclear Energy Program Have Not Been Successful

In 2018 South Africa halted an ambitious plan put forward by then President Jacob Zuma that would have inked a deal with Russia’s Rosatom for eight 1,200 MW VVER nuclear reactors at a projected cost of between $30-to-$50 billion dollars. Rosatom’s terms were that it would provide 50% of the financing.

The plan died for three reasons.

  • The first is that is South Africa couldn’t afford it, even with generous financial terms from any vendor, given the condition of its economy.
  • The second is that Zuma’s administration was rife with allegations of corruption and nepotism.
  • The third was the lack of transparency related to how the procurement process for the deal was done. It came about as a result of a “secret” meeting between Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin in a side meeting at a development conference in Brazil. No tender had been released for the project prior to that meeting.

Eskom Out of Position to Lead Financially

Separately, the nation’s economy has been hobbled by a series of electricity brown outs due to a lack of electrical power and an aging grid infrastructure. Eskom, the state owned utility, has been thwarted in its requests to raise rates as the government uses cheap electricity as a way to address the appalling levels of poverty in the country. The government has also declined to subsidize Eskom directly.

A proposed turnaround plan for Eskom has been put on hold due to the Coronia virus pandemic. Eskom’s turnaround plan includes proposed debt transfer to the government, cost containment, operational reforms and the company’s unbundling into three separate entities (generation, transmission and distribution). In April 2020 the Fitch rating service downgraded ESKOM’s massive unsecured debt as a result.

Conditions for financing a new nuclear program remain difficult as the country’s economy, like many others, has taken a deep dive into a major recession adding to the country’s budget deficit.

South Africa has one nuclear power station which is the Koeberg plant that was connected to the grid in 1984. It is composed of two 970 MW PWR type units.

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DOE Awards UAMPS $1.355 Billion for NuScale SMR in Idaho

  • DOE Cost-share Award of $1.355 billion Approved for UAMPS NuScale SMR in Idaho
  • Framatome and General Atomics In Joint Effort to Build Fast SMR
  • Canadian Government Invests in SMR Commercialization Plan
  • Terrestrial Energy USA and Centrus Energy Partner on Fuel Supply for IMSR Generation IV Nuclear Plants
  • TerraPower To Work with Bechtel On Natrium Reactor Project
  • Bulgaria to Consider U.S. Technology for New Kozloduy Nuclear Reactor

DOE Cost-share Award of $1.355 billion
Approved for UAMPS NuScale SMR in Idaho

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has approved a multi-year cost-share award to a new special purpose entity named the Carbon Free Power Project, LLC (CFPP, LLC) for the development and construction of the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP)

nuscale SMR

Conceptual image of NuScale 50 MW SMR. Image: NuScale

It will built a 720 MWe NuScale small modular reactor power plant to be located at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory site. This award will serve as a funding vehicle to advance the CFPP as funds are appropriated by Congress.

The award demonstrates the importance of the CFPP, which will be the first NuScale small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) project in the United States.

CFPP LLC is wholly owned by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS).

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.

CFPP is a 720 MWe nuclear plant to be located at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, Idaho. It will be composed of 12 60 MWe nuclear power modules to be provided by NuScale Power based in Portland, Oregon. Electricity from the plant will be distributed to customers of 33 UAMPS member utilities in five states. Other western utilities are expected to join the project in the future.

“We appreciate this tremendous vote of confidence in CFPP by the Department of Energy,” said Douglas Hunter, UAMPS CEO & General Manager.

“It is entirely appropriate for DOE to help de-risk this first-of-a- kind, next-generation nuclear project. This is a great example of a partnership with DOE to lower the cost of introduction of transformative advanced nuclear technology that will provide affordable, carbon- free electricity all over the country and the world. This project is much bigger than UAMPS itself.”

Hunter said UAMPS members are especially supportive of the project because it will complement and enable additional intermittent renewable energy, especially wind and solar, that are being added to member energy portfolios.

“The ideal world for utility companies and their customers, and the most cost-effective,” said Hunter, “are portfolios containing a high percentage of low-cost renewables, backed up by stable, carbon-free nuclear energy that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

The CFPP has received strong bipartisan support across several administrations and has broad support in the U.S. Congress. The SMR technology will help UAMPS’ participating member communities, states, and regions to meet their goals to de-carbonize the electrical grid.

About the Carbon Free Power Project

About UAMPS. Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems is an energy services interlocal agency of the State of Utah, established in 1980. As a project-based consortium, UAMPS provides a variety of power supply, transmission, and other services to its 47 members, which include public power utilities in six western states: Utah, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

Framatome and General Atomics
in Joint Effort to Build Fast SMR

framatome3-e1582621045657Framatome and General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced plans to collaborate on the development of GA-EMS helium-cooled 50-MWe fast modular reactor (FMR).

The joint effort will develop a reactor design that can be built in a factory and assembled on-site, which helps to reduce capital costs and enables incremental capacity additions.

Framatome’s U.S. engineering team will be responsible for designing several critical structures, systems and components for the FMR.  The firm is also a major supplier of nuclear fuels. It has teamed with General Atomics to produce accident tolerant fuels.

Only a few technical details or images of conceptual design features are available. The company issued a statement to the media this week regarding the technical innovations in the new project. So far no customer has been named by the collaboration for the first of a kind unit nor has it indicated yet how its supply chain will be set up.

A demonstration of the FMR, which will verify the design, manufacturing, construction and operation of the technology, is targeted for completion in the early 2030s. Commercial deployment is anticipated in the mid-2030s.

Key Design Elements

Load following – The FMR is being designed for enhanced safety and ease of operation with fast-response load following and overall high efficiency. It will offer stability for the electricity grid and reportedly be able respond to meet demand based on the wide variation in generation of electricity from renewable energy sources. The gas-cooled FMR uses inert helium gas as a coolant while eliminating the need for the graphite common in other helium-cooled designs.

No water required – Because the reactor is dry-cooled and uses virtually no water to operate, it can be sited at locations that can’t support light water reactors that require an external source of a significant supply of water for the steam and cooling system. The power conversion does not use complex steam generators and pressurizers, and the fuel will operate for approximately 9 years before requiring replacement.

This fact suggests the design will use HALEU type fuel with an enrichment level higher than 5% U235 but not higher than 19% U235. Other high temperature helium cooled reactor designs have favored using TRISO “pebbles” as fuel elements.  Some HTGR designs have used a molten salt loop to step down the heat to conventional levels and then to run a water based steam generator. This design appears to take the heat directly from the reactor.  See this briefing (PDF file) by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency on an HTGR that uses the Brayton cycle with a gas turbine.

Automatic controls – The direct helium Brayton cycle using a gas turbine will enable fast grid response, with up to a 20% per minute power ramping rate for load following, and high overall efficiency of 45% during normal operation. The automatic control of the reactor power and turbomachinery will keep the reactor at a constant temperature that mitigates thermal cycle fatigue associated with most load-following reactors.  Direct use of the helium coming out of the reactor vessel implies advanced materials to deal with the extreme heat at the outlet that could exceed 700 C.

“This collaboration builds on our long relationship with General Atomics with a shared interest in advancing nuclear energy technologies to create a cleaner world for generations to come,” said Bernard Fontana, CEO of Framatome.

“Designing and deploying a safe, cost-effective, modular reactor is critical in helping the world move closer towards a clean energy future,” stated Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. “We look forward to leveraging our two companies’ decades of experience in advancing nuclear technology and demonstrating the next generation of commercially viable nuclear reactors.”

“We are pleased to work with GA-EMS to advance this innovative and promising reactor,” said Gary Mignogna, president and CEO of Framatome in North America. “The synergies between our teams make this an ideal project for demonstration and subsequent commercialization.”

This is a new effort by GA. The firm has been and may still be working on a GA’s Energy Multiplier Module (EM2).  The company’s statement about new effort makes no mention of it.

Prior work by GA on an Advanced SMR

The EM2 is a helium-cooled gas turbine fast reactor with a core outlet temperature of 850°C. It is designed as a modular, grid-capable power source with a net unit output of 265 MWe. The reactor employs a “convert and burn” core design which converts fertile isotopes to fissile and burns them in situ over a 30-year core life.  (IAEA ARIS status report)

The reactor is sited in a below-grade sealed containment and uses passive safety methods for heat removal and reactivity control to protect the integrity of the fuel, reactor vessel and containment. EM2 also employs a direct closed-cycle gas turbine power conversion unit for added efficiency.

Canadian Government Invests in SMR Commercialization Plan

(NucNet) The Canadian government took a step forward on its national small modular reactor (SMR) plan with an investment to help Terrestrial Energy, an Ontario company, move closer to commercializing its Generation IV reactor technology. A $15M investment will help with pre-licensing of SMR.

Canada’s innovation ministry said the CAD20M ($15.1M) investment will help Terrestrial Energy complete a pre-licensing milestone at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for its technology, which is part of an effort to bring next-generation nuclear energy to industry. The firm entered Phase II of the CNSC Vendor Design Review (VDR) process in December 2018. Completion of a VDR does not license a reactor . A VDR is a feedback mechanism that enables CNSC staff to provide feedback early in the design process based on a vendor’s reactor technology.

As part of the investment, the company has committed to creating and maintaining 186 jobs and creating 52 co-op positions nationally. In addition, Terrestrial Energy is spending at least another $91.5 million in research and development.

Throughout the two and a half year project, Terrestrial will engage with its Canadian nuclear supply chain, potentially creating over a thousand jobs nationally. It will also undertake gender equity and diversity initiatives, including increasing female representation in STEM fields.

This is the first investment from the government’s strategic innovation fund for an SMR. Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plant, according to the company, to be 50% more efficient than traditional reactors and suited for deployment in remote communities and industrial operations, including on-grid and off-grid power provision.


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

The announcement comes just one week after Ontario Power Generation announced it will advance work with Terrestrial Energy and two other grid-scale SMR developers as part of the utility’s goal to deploy SMR technology.

Ontario-based Terrestrial Energy, established in 2013, is proposing to build a 195-MW IMSR at Chalk River in Canada. It wants to commission the first IMSR power plants in the late 2020s.

The company said IMSR plants can be built in four years and produce electricity or industrial heat at prices competitive with fossil fuels while emitting no greenhouse gases. They can provide energy for generating on-grid electric power and heat for industrial processes, such as hydrogen production, synthetic fuel production, natural resource extraction, and desalination.

“The Government of Canada supports the use of this innovative technology to help deliver cleaner energy sources and build on Canada’s global leadership in SMRs,” said Minister Bains.

“By helping to bring these small reactors to market, we are supporting significant environmental and economic benefits, including generating energy with reduced emissions, highly skilled-job creation and Canadian intellectual property development.”

“SMRs are a game-changing technology with the potential to play a critical role in fighting climate change, and rebuilding our post COVID-19 economy,” said Hon. Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources.

Terrestrial Energy USA and Centrus Energy Partner
on Fuel Supply for IMSR Generation IV Nuclear Plants

centrrus logoTerrestrial Energy USA and Centrus Energy Corp. have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to secure fuel supply for a future fleet of Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plants.

The two companies will evaluate the logistical, regulatory, and transportation requirements to establish fuel supply for Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plants, which use standard-assay low-enriched uranium (LEU).

Standard-assay LEU has an enrichment level less than 5% U-235 and is the current industry standard for today’s commercial nuclear plants in the United States and worldwide. While employing Generation IV technology, IMSR power plants are designed to use standard-assay LEU fuel, and this provides important advantages for rapid commercial deployment.

Centrus Energy is a supplier of nuclear fuel and services to the nuclear power industry. In addition to uranium enrichment and standard-assay LEU supply, Centrus Energy has expertise in the design and licensing of packaging for nuclear fuel transportation. As part of a program to establish a supply chain for IMSR fuel, the companies will study the regulatory requirements for transportation from the fuel fabrication facility to the plant. They will also evaluate packaging options for fuel shipment.

“Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor technology can play a critical role in bringing affordable, reliable, carbon-free next-generation nuclear power to market, and we look forward to helping make that happen,” said Daniel B. Poneman, President and CEO of Centrus.

“Centrus Energy has global experience in fuel supply and transportation, and provides these important services for the safe and reliable operation of today’s nuclear power plants,” said Terrestrial Energy’s CEO, Simon Irish.

TerraPower To Work with Bechtel On Natrium Reactor Project

TerraPower, the US-based innovation company founded by Bill Gates, has selected US-based Bechtel as the design, licensing, procurement, and construction partner for building a demonstration plant for the Natrium reactor technology.

projmgt file imageThe move is part of the TerraPower-led proposal for the US Department of Energy’s advanced reactor demonstration program, which is intended to support the deployment of two first-of-a-kind advanced reactor designs in the next five to seven years.

Bechtel joins a team that also includes GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, PacifiCorp, Energy Northwest, and Duke Energy. Bechtel has designed, built, or provided services to 80 nuclear reactors in the United States and 150 worldwide, across all major reactor designs.

The Natrium system, unveiled in August, features an advanced, sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system based on those used in solar thermal generation.

The Natrium system features an advanced, sodium fast reactor along with an  molten salt energy storage system based on those used in solar thermal generation. The Natrium technology also separates nuclear and non-nuclear facilities and systems within the plant footprint, with the objective of simplifying the licensing process and lowering construction costs.

TerraPower said that breakthroughs in sodium fast reactor technology allow the Natrium reactor to operate at much higher temperatures and lower pressures than conventional nuclear reactors, with heat being also used for industrial processes or stored in molten salt.

Bulgaria to Consider U.S. Technology
for New Kozloduy Nuclear Reactor

(wire services) Bulgaria will consider using U.S. technology (Westinghouse?) for a new nuclear reactor it wants to build at the country’s 2,000 megawatt Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said this week. 

Borissov said the Balkan country was looking to diversify its nuclear energy assets and cut greenhouse emissions by building a new reactor based on modern technology that will work with U.S. commercial nuclear energy fuel for LWRs.

Bulgaria operates two Soviet-made nuclear reactors, Unit 5 and Unit 6, at its Kozloduy plant. For quite some time it has been seeking investors for its Belene project to build two 1,000 megawatt Russian nuclear reactors. (See WNA profile of Bulgaria’s nuclear energy program)

“We want to make Unit 7 with a completely different technology, with different nuclear fuel,” Borissov said in a post and video on his official Facebook account during a visit to the plant on the Danube River in northwestern Bulgaria.

Borissov’s statement comes days after a visit of U.S. top energy diplomat Frank Fannon to Sofia, who slammed the 10 billion euros ($11.8 billion) Belene project as being based on an outdated Russian technology that fails to advance Bulgaria’s energy security and locks its energy dependency to Russia.

NucNet reported that according to the BTA news agency, energy minister Temenuzhka Petkova told the Bulgarian parliament’s energy committee of the decision and said the rationale behind the move is the European Union’s policy of decarbonization and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

She told Bulgarian television that the project for a new reactor at Kozloduy would not necessarily prevent the development of an existing project to build two Russian reactor units at a new site. Belene, about 160 km east of Kozloduy.

In the past several western nuclear reactor vendors have passed on taking on the role of EPC for a new build in Bulgaria due to problems with the stability of the government’s commitment and allegations of corruption in and outside of the government. For its part, Russia has regarded Bulgaria as a captive market and has sought to defend its place as a preferred developer of new nuclear plants in that country

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DOE Awards $80M each to TerraPower, X-Energy for ARDP

U.S. Department of Energy Announces $160 million in
First Awards Under Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program

nricThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today (10/13/20)) announced it has selected two U.S.-based teams to receive $160 million in initial funding under the new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). ARDP, announced in May, is designed to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the United States.

DOE is awarding TerraPower LLC (Bellevue, WA) and X-energy (Rockville, MD) $80 million each in initial funding to build two advanced nuclear reactors that can be operational within seven years.

The awards are cost-shared partnerships with industry that will deliver two first-of-a-kind advanced reactors to be licensed for commercial operations. The Department will invest a total of $3.2 billion over seven years, subject to the availability of future appropriations, with our industry partners providing matching funds.

“The awards are the first step of a new program that will strengthen American leadership in the next generation of nuclear technologies,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.

“These partnerships will help maximize DOE’s investment in advanced reactors, which play a vital role in our clean energy strategy.”

Secretary Brouillette said DOE would spend $3.2B over the next seven years on ARDP subject to appropriations.  This award is part of phase 1 of the program. (See below for information on Phases 2 & 3)

Update 10/14/20Additional details on the awards by DOE Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Rita Baranwal

Specifically, TerraPower will demonstrate the Natrium reactor, a sodium‐cooled fast reactor that leverages decades of development and design undertaken by TerraPower and its partner, GE‐Hitachi.

The high-operating temperature of the Natrium reactor, coupled with thermal energy storage, will allow the plant to provide flexible electricity output that complements variable renewable generation such as wind a solar. In addition, this project will establish a new metal fuel fabrication facility that is scaled to meet the needs of this demonstration program.

X-energy will deliver a commercial four-unit nuclear power plant based on its Xe-100 reactor design. The Xe-100 is a high temperature gas-cooled reactor that is ideally suited to provide flexible electricity output as well as process heat for a wide range of industrial heat applications, such as desalination and hydrogen production. The project will also deliver a commercial scale TRi-structural ISOtropic particle fuel (TRISO) fuel fabrication facility, leveraging DOE’s substantial investment in development of this highly robust fuel form.

Both projects incorporate a range of design features that will not only enhance safety, but make them affordable to construct and operate, paving the way for the United States to deploy highly competitive advanced reactors domestically and globally.

“DOE and U.S. industry are extremely well-equipped to develop and demonstrate nuclear reactors with the requisite sense of urgency, which is important not only to our economy, but to our environment, because nuclear energy is clean energy,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy.

Congress appropriated $160 million for the Fiscal Year 2020 budget as initial funding for these demonstration projects. Funding beyond the near-term is contingent on additional future appropriations, evaluations of satisfactory progress and DOE approval of continuation applications.

ARDP Has Three Phases – this is Phase 1

Applicants tot he ARDP can receive support through three different development and demonstration pathways:

  • Advanced reactor demonstrations, which are expected to result in a fully functional advanced nuclear reactor within 7 years of the award.
  • Risk reduction for future demonstrations, which will support up to five additional teams resolving technical, operational, and regulatory challenges to prepare for future demonstration opportunities.
  • Advanced reactor concepts 2020 (ARC 20), which will support innovative and diverse designs with potential to commercialize in the mid-2030s.

ADRP will leverage the National Reactor Innovation Center to efficiently test and assess ARD technologies by engaging the world-renowned capabilities of the national laboratory system to move these reactors from blueprints to reality. (Overview of NRIC – PDF file)

In addition, the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriation also provided initial year funding of $30 million for two to five Risk Reduction for Future Demonstrations projects and $20 million initial year funding for at least two Advanced Reactor Concepts-20 (ARC-20) projects. Awards for these projects are expected to be announced in December 2020.

ANS Statement on DOE Advanced Reactor Demonstration Funding Awards

The American Nuclear Society congratulates TerraPower and X-energy for being chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to participate in the cost-sharing Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

“The successful demonstration of TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s Natrium and X-energy’s Xe-100 reactor designs through the cost-sharing ARDP partnership, will help kickoff a new chapter in U.S. nuclear technology advancement,” said Craig Piercy, CEO and Executive Director of ANS.

“America’s nuclear professionals are ready to design, build and operate these advanced nuclear technologies,” Piercy said. “The deployment of American-designed advanced reactors around the world means job growth and new career opportunities for our nuclear professionals but also progress in halting climate change.”

“The ARDP is a great start but we can’t rest on our laurels,” continued Piercy. “We need continued robust federal research and development funding for nuclear innovation and implementing climate policies that are performance-based and technology-neutral, such as carbon pricing.”

According to Third Way analysis, the global market for nuclear reactors is expected to average at least $75 billion annually – not including fuel and maintenance contracts.

“Commercialization of U.S. advanced nuclear technologies could create tens of thousands of new jobs in nuclear engineering, manufacturing and construction,” said Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar, President of ANS.

“Along with reestablishing U.S. competitiveness in nuclear exports, advanced reactors will also help improve living standards by supplying clean energy security to developing economies,” Dunzik-Gougar said.

NEI Applauds DOE Funding Commitment

Maria Korsnick, president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute said, ““Today’s announcement signifies a pivotal development for the United States. The ARDP builds on the momentum already seen through the dozens of companies investing in the next generation of nuclear technologies.”

“Rapid progress on the pathway towards deployment is more critical than ever to address our climate challenges and secure a carbon-free future across the world. The advanced reactors designs selected by DOE will also be able to support non-electricity applications, opening the door for nuclear to play new roles in our nation’s efforts to decarbonize.”

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Ontario Power Boosts Prospects for Three SMRs

  • Ontario Power Boosts Prospects for Three SMRs
  • Bruce Power & Westinghouse Team Up for SMRs
  • Cernavoda / US And Romania To Sign $8B Agreements For New Reactors
  • CANDU Owners Group, Nuclear Energy Agency to collaborate on PHWRs
  • UK / UK Considers Equity Stake In New Reactors
  • UK / Prime Minister Is Backing Plans For Fleet Of SMRs
  • Floating Nuclear Plants / South Korea Companies Sign MoU On Development

Ontario Power Boosts Prospects for Three SMRs

nuclear iconOntario Power Generation (OPG) announced this week it is advancing engineering and design work with three grid-scale Small Modular Reactor (SMR) developers: GE Hitachi, Terrestrial Energy and X-energy. The announcement is the result of several ongoing processes with the developers, other Canadian nuclear utilities, and with several Canadian provinces.

The action by OPG accelerates the development of SMRs in Canada and places significant bets on the commercial prospects for three distinct types of advanced nuclear reactor technologies.

For a detailed analysis of this development, including a brief overview of the technical scope of  contributions by the three reactor developers, see the report by Power Engineering reporter Sonal Patel.

Ken Hartwick, OPG President and CEO, said in a press statement “OPG is leveraging more than 50 years of nuclear experience to support the development of carbon-free nuclear technology.”

“Our work with these three developers, along with our Global First Power partnership with Ultra-Safe Nuclear Corporation and its SMR project to support remote energy needs, demonstrates OPG’s unique position to become a world leader in SMRs,”

“SMRs will play a key role in helping to reinvigorate Ontario’s economy and further support the province and Canada as they work toward meeting their climate change targets of zero-emission electricity.”

On December 1, 2019, the Provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that puts into place a framework for action on the deployment of SMRs in their respective jurisdictions. In August 2020, Alberta also signaled their intention to enter into the MOU.


Map of Canada’s nuclear power plants and uranium mines

OPG recently concluded a due diligence process, in collaboration with other major energy utilities, to advance the development of an SMR in Ontario that would pave the way for the potential deployment of SMRs in other jurisdictions.

The deployment of Small Modular Reactors in Ontario would do the following;

  • capitalize on the existing nuclear supply chain within the province
  • enable other provinces to transition away from coal;
  • provide alternative energy options to benefit energy intensive industries;
  • drive national job creation and innovation;
  • facilitate deep, economically sustainable reductions in greenhouse gas emissions;
  • accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to a zero emissions electrical grid in Canada.

Quick Facts

Nuclear power is the backbone of Ontario’s electricity system and provides affordable and reliable energy 24/7 – avoiding 45 million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

The Canadian nuclear industry is growing in size and now accounts for 76,000 jobs across Canada (an increase from 60,000 jobs in 2012), with most of those jobs concentrated in Ontario.

SMRs, like traditional nuclear reactors, are designed to provide safe, reliable, carbon-free electricity, and offer lower capital cost and faster deployment than current reactors.

By generating up to 300MW of electrical power, SMRs are expected to be a reliable alternate energy source to replace diesel in rural communities and mines and to eliminate the need for coal plants.

Bruce Power & Westinghouse Team Up for SMRs

nuclear batteryBruce Power and Westinghouse Electric Company announced this week an agreement to pursue applications of Westinghouse’s eVinci micro reactor program within Canada.

The eVinci micro reactor is a next-generation, small nuclear battery for decentralized generation markets and micro grids such as remote communities, remote industrial mines. and critical infrastructure.

It is designed to provide competitive and resilient power and superior reliability with minimal maintenance and its small size allows for standard transportation methods and rapid, on-site deployment. The reactor core is designed to run for three or more years, eliminating the need for frequent refueling.

The key benefits of the eVinci Micro Reactor are attributed to its technical profile which include a solid core and advanced heat pipes. The heat pipes enable passive core heat extraction, allowing autonomous operation and inherent load following capabilities. These advanced technologies together make the eVinci Micro Reactor, in effect, a “solid-state” reactor with minimal moving parts.

Over the next year, the work between the two companies will focus on assessing the economic, social and environmental contribution of the eVinci technology compared to alternates such as diesel or other fossil fuels; identifying potential industrial applications.

“Bruce Power and Westinghouse Canada have a strong existing relationship and as Canada seeks new innovative options to build on its existing clean, CO2-free nuclear advantage, this is an exciting opportunity to advance further towards a Net Zero Canada by 2050,” said Mike Rencheck, President and CEO of Bruce Power.

“Bruce Power will leverage our relationships and capacity within the Nuclear Innovation Institute (NII) and Laurentian University-based Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation and Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO) towards this exciting opportunity for Canada.”

“Small modular and micro reactors represent an incredible opportunity to bring GHG-emission free, affordable energy to the farthest regions of our province, supporting resource and economic development across our country,” said Greg Rickford, Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines.

“Our eVinci technology can provide clean, reliable energy to remote areas and industrial applications across Canada,” said Patrick Fragman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Westinghouse Electric Company.

This agreement is the latest partnership between Bruce Power, Westinghouse and key Canadian stakeholders to work towards Canada’s Net Zero by 2050 goal. This follows a Westinghouse presentation on the eVinci program at a conference hosted by the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCNI) last month and attended by 200 people from leading Canadian suppliers.

Cernavoda / US And Romania To Sign $8B Agreements For New Reactors

trasury check(NucNet) Romania has signed a cooperation and financing agreements with the US on Friday for the refurbishment of one nuclear power reactor and the completion of construction of two more at the Cernavoda nuclear power station, US ambassador to Romania Adrian Zuckerman said this week.

Romania will invest €8-9B to complete the two new plants, Units #3 & #4, which are CANDU type PHWRs. The projects are planned, based on the new financing, to be completed by 2030.

US is in, China is Out

The agreement culminates a series of events that took place over the past six years in which the U.S. has successfully blocked efforts by Chinese State Owned nuclear enterprises to win the business from Romania.

Press reports in Romania said CGN had been criticized by Romania’s “strategic partners” over security issues tied to the use of Chinese technology. Reports also said there had been cost concerns related to the Cernavoda project.

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

Romanian Energy Minister Comes to DC to Pick Up an $8B check

In a statement posted on the US Embassy in Romania’s website, Mr Zuckerman said Romania’s energy minister Virgil-Daniel Popescu met with US energy secretary Dan Brouillette in Washington to initial an intergovernmental cooperation agreement for the refurbishment of one nuclear reactor and the building of two new reactors at Cernavoda.

“Nuclear energy is crucial to ensuring Romania has a reliable, affordable, and emissions-free supply of electricity, and the U.S. nuclear industry looks forward to providing their expertise to advance this important energy source,” said DOE Secretary Brouillette.

That same day Mr Popescu met with the president and chair of the US Exim Bank, Kimberley Reed, to execute a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the financing of the Cernavoda nuclear project and other projects in Romania.

The financing package is the largest financing package ever received by Romania  from the US.

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

Unit 1 began commercial operation in 1996. Unit 2 was subsequently completed and began commercial operation in 2007. Efforts to resume work on Cernavodă-3 and -4 began in 2003.

The Cernavoda -3 and -4 project consists of completing and commissioning two CANDU 6 type units with a minimum installed capacity of 720 MW each. According to Nuclearelectrica existing structures for the two units include the reactor building, the turbine-generator building and hydrotechnical circuit structures. These are in various stages of completion and will be used for any future construction.

US construction and engineering firm AECOM will be the EPC and lead the $8 billion project to complete two reactors at Romania’s nuclear power plant on the river Danube and refurbish one of its existing units, Romania’s Economy Ministry said in a statement after the US agreement was signed.

CANDU Owners Group, Nuclear Energy Agency to collaborate on PHWRs

(WNN) The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the CANDU Owners Group (COG) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to cooperate in research and activities related to pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs). The purpose of the MOU is to advance the scientific and technical knowledge base for PHWRs and foster cooperation amongst research organizations that support PHWRs.

The MOU outlines the scope of a five-year agreement and provides a framework for collaboration between the NEA and COG. Under the new framework, the organizations will develop joint research activities and workshops, and exchange project on a range of technical subjects.

The PHWR has been developed since the 1950s in Canada as the CANDU, and from 1980s also in India. PHWRs generally use natural uranium oxide as fuel, and hence need a more efficient moderator, in this case heavy water. The PHWR produces more energy per kilogram of mined uranium than other designs, but also produces a much larger amount of used fuel per unit output.


Newer PHWR designs, such as the Advanced CANDU reactor, have light water cooling and slightly-enriched fuel. CANDU reactors can accept a variety of fuels. They may be run on recycled uranium from reprocessing light-water reactor (LWR) used fuel, or a blend of this and depleted uranium left over from enrichment plants.

The Canadian-designed CANDU, are currently in operation in four of its member countries: Argentina, Canada, South Korea and Romania. NEA said it is reaching out to India and China to explore their interest in participating in the project. Both nations have operating CANDU plants.

“The NEA has done much to bring countries together to conduct research in areas particularly related to nuclear safety. We have not, however, done very much in the area of PHWRs as the vast majority of our members operate LWRs,” said NEA Director General William Magwood.

The Candu Owners Group is a private, not-for-profit corporation funded voluntarily by CANDU operating utilities worldwide, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and supplier participants.

The NEA facilitates cooperation among countries with advanced nuclear technology infrastructures to seek excellence in nuclear safety, technology, science, related environmental and economic matters and law.

UK / UK Considers Equity Stake In New Reactors

(NucNet) The UK government is considering taking an equity stake in new nuclear power plants as part of the financing measures being put forward to advance the nations nuclear new build program

The announcement comes in the wake of the calamitous departure of Hitachi from the Wylfa and Oldbury nuclear projects which, if built, would represent 5,400 MW of CO2 emission free electrical generation capacity.

Hitachi quit because the UK government low-balled its offer for equity investment and rate guarantees for the projects. Also, it continued to dither over whether to implement the regulated asset base (RAB) method of financing the plants which is a “pay as you go” method of covering construction costs.

The nuclear industry has been calling for the introduction of the regulated asset base (RAB) proposal for the financing of nuclear power plants. The government has already said the model has the potential to reduce the cost of raising private finance.

The Times, London, reported that EDF wants a tax on UK household energy bills to help pay for Sizewell C, with other options including the British government taking a stake.

The UK Treasury is looking at having “a portion of equity from the government being invested” as a way of backing nuclear energy, energy minister Kwasi Kwarteng said during discussions at the ruling Conservative Party conference.

“It would be unrealistic to say that all the finance questions have been resolved,” he said.

“There is a broad strategic commitment and the way in which the finance is arrived at and categorized are questions for further debate.”

France’s EDF and China General Nuclear are 80% and 20% shareholders in the Sizewell C project. The cost of the project has been estimated at £18bn.

After Sizewell C, CGN is set to build a single HPR1000, or Hualong One, reactor design at Bradwell in Essex. This project has not been cancelled, but BBC News cited sources in the government, mostly from opponents of the project, saying this idea “‘looks dead”, given security concerns and deteriorating diplomatic relations between London and Beijing.

The project could be revived if the UK government and China find ways to settle their differences and fund both the Sizewell C project, with a 20% equity stake from CGN, and fund the Bradwell project, which could include up to thee Hualong One Units.

The HPR1000 is a China-designed 1,100-MW Generation III pressurized water reactor which incorporates elements of China’s ACP1000 and ACPR1000+ reactor designs.

On the other hand, the UK government could be pursuing a deliberate policy of causing foreign nuclear reactor vendors to exit the market to insure 100% of the supply chain is addressed by UK firms. This would be consistent with the UK’s BREXIT policy of separation of the UK from the European Union

UK / Prime Minister Is Backing Plans For Fleet Of SMRs

(NucNet) UK prime minister Boris Johnson is backing plans to spend £1.5B-2.4B of public money on a fleet of up to 16 small modular reactors, as part of a project being proposed by a nine-member industrial consortium, the Financial Times reported.

The money would be sufficient to pay for the first of a kind 440MW unit, a PWR, to be built by Rolls-Royce. A nine-member consortium led by engineering companies Rolls-Royce, Laing O’Rourke and Atkins wants to build the 16 SMRs by 2050.

The consortium, which also includes the National Nuclear Laboratory, will seek additional funding of at least £2bn, including from private investors and the capital markets. The government could also commission the first SMR, giving confidence to suppliers and investors.

Rolls-Royce has said the target cost for each new SMR is £1.8B by the time five have been built, with further savings possible.

The Rolls-Royce design is not complete and has not yet been submitted to the Office of Nuclear Regulation to enter the four year long Generic Design Review to assure that it is safe.

Floating Nuclear Plants / South Korea Companies Sign MoU On Development

(NucNet) South Korea’s Kepco Engineering & Construction Company and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on the development of floating nuclear power plants.

The two companies said they will develop technology for offshore nuclear power plants equipped with Bandi-60S reactors, a small modular reactor design that Kepco Engineering & Construction has been developing since 2016.

According to documents published by the Korean Nuclear Society, the Bandi-60S is a 60-MW block-type pressurized water reactor unit. The block-type design means the main components are directly connected, nozzle-to-nozzle, instead of using connecting pipes. This can eliminate the risk of a large-break loss-of-coolant accident.

The plant has a fuel cycle of 48-60 months and a design life of 60 years.

Floating nuclear plants are seen as a way of providing energy to remote regions. In May, the world’s only floating nuclear plant, Russia’s Akademik Lomonosov, began commercial operation. The plants are designed to provide power to remote Siberian oil and gas producing communities.

China has also  been developing floating SMRs to power artificial islands on the South China sea as part of its effort to project naval power in that region.

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Is There New Hope for UK’s Wylfa Nuclear Project?

  • Is There New Hope for UK Wylfa Nuclear Project?
  • UK / Head Of EDF ‘Demands Clarity’ on Funding For New Nuclear Projects include Sizewell C
  • China Launches CAP1400 a New Generation III Reactor Design
  • US / DC Based Energy Impact Center Widens Its Circle of Collaboration
  • DARPA Awards $14M for HALEU Fueled Nuclear Thermal Propulsion System for Deep Space Missions

Is There New Hope for UK Wylfa Nuclear Project?

The BBC reports that there are “fresh talks” underway to save £20bn Wylfa nuclear plant from oblivion. The fat lady may not have sung her last aria about the plant according to letters sent by Horizon, the UK business unit that was working with Hitachi to build the 2700 MB project (twin 1350MB ABWRs).

wylfa location

Map showing the location in the UK of the proposed Wylfa nuclear project. Image: Horizon Nuclear

Hitachi pulled the plug on the site at Wylfa on Anglesey two weeks ago citing a distinct lack of government commitment to guaranteed rates and equity investment.

The strike price offered by the government to Hitachi was £75/Mwh which was less than 80% of what it offered for the Hinkley Point C project. The lower price would mean over the years billions of pounds less in return on the investment. Hitachi walked away from the project as much for this reason as any other. Also, the government offered a one-third equity stake which was insufficient as a confidence building measure for private investors.

However, since then, according to the BBC, Wylfa developer Horizon Nuclear Power sent two letters to UK government ministers that disclosed talks with other “third parties” are continuing. That “third party” is reported to be Westinghouse. The firm has a unique advantage in that its AP1000 LWR type AP1000 has passed the UK Generic Design Review and can be built in the country.

The Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactor successfully completed review by regulators in the UK, who concluded the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) by issuing Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) and Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA) for the Westinghouse AP1000 technology. The DAC and SoDA were issued in March 2017 by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA), respectively.

Westinghouse had at one time plans to build three 1150MW AP1000s at the Moorside project, but lost its chance due to two factors. Toshiba, which owned Westinghouse at the time, withdrew from Moorside and all of its nuclear projects citing global financial difficulties. Also, Westinghouse itself declared bankruptcy due to the termination of the U.S. V C Summer project in South Carolina. Westinghouse was subsequently purchased by Brookfield, a Canadian equity investment firm.

While Westinghouse is unlikely to position itself as the engineering procurement and construction (EPC) firm for a revival of Wylfa, and perhaps Oldbury, it could be energized to sell its reactors to whomever could assemble the funding to pick up the projects. A revised and enriched UK financial package would be a key success factor.

The chief executive of Horizon Nuclear wrote to the UK government’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Alok Sharma on September 22 and again on September 28. In the letters, Horizon’s Duncan Hawthorne asked for a “short extension” on the deadline to announce the government’s decision on whether it would allow planning permission for the original Hitachi plans for Anglesey. Instead of rolling up the sidewalks this month, Horizon asked for an extension to December.

Hawthorne’s second letter to the energy secretary said: “Since Hitachi Ltd’s announcement to cease development activities associated with the Wylfa Newydd Project, Horizon has been engaged in discussions with third parties that have expressed an interest in progressing with the development of new nuclear generation at the Wylfa Newydd site.

“These discussions are still at an early stage and it is felt that a short deferral would allow time for Horizon and those interested parties to determine whether, and if so how, the Wylfa Newydd DCO Project could be taken forward in Hitachi Ltd’s absence.”

Horizon did not specifically name Westinghouse, but other news media reports in the UK have cited Westinghouse as being the “third party.”

The BBC noted that Horizon said it could not reveal any more details about the talks, or who was involved, due to discussions being “commercially sensitive”.

Stay tuned as this is a developing story

UK / Head Of EDF ‘Demands Clarity’ on Funding For New Nuclear Projects include Sizewell C

(NucNet) EDF chairman and chief executive officer Jean-Bernard Lévy has demanded clarity from British chancellor Rishi Sunak regarding the country’s plans for funding nuclear power.

His trenchant call for reason comes after Hitachi announced last month that it was scrapping plans to build two UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) at the Wylfa Newydd nuclear site in north Wales, blaming the lack of a viable financing structure as a reason for the decision.

A key area where EDF wants answers is whether the government will fish or cut bait on the use of the regulated asset base (RAB) proposal has been the subject of a government consultation which concluded that it has the potential to reduce the cost of raising private finance for new nuclear projects. The government has dithered endlessly about making a decision to proceed with this method of financing large nuclear projects.

The Times said EDF wants a tax on UK household energy bills to help pay for the Sizewell C project with other options including the British government taking a stake.

EDF is already building two 1650 MW EPR units at Hinkley Point C in southwest England and has submitted a planning application for two more similar EPR units at Sizewell C in Suffolk, east England.

EDF and China’s China General Nuclear (CGN) are 80% and 20% shareholders in the Sizewell C project. The cost of the project has been estimated at £18bn, although this has not been confirmed by either EDF or CGN.  Chinese state owned enterprises have a 33% equity stake in the Hinkley Point C project.

After Sizewell C, CGN was set to build a or or more HPR1000, or Hualong One, reactors at Bradwell in Essex.

China Launches CAP1400 a New Generation III Reactor Design

(NucNet) China’s State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) has officially launched the Generation III CAP1400 reactor design following 12 years of research and development. The design is based on expanding the Westinghouse 1150 MW AP1000.

Four of these units were built and commissioned in China. However, as part of that deal, Westinghouse released China from having to pay royalties on the use of the design for its own purposes if it ramped up the power above 1350 MW. The CAP 1400 was developed by the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC).

The 1,400 MW design, also known as Guohe One, is intended for deployment both in China and overseas, SPIC said. It is China’s second indigenous Generation III reactor design, following the HPR1000, or Hualong One. China’s National Energy Administration approved the design in January 2014. It passed a safety review by the National Nuclear Safety Administration in February 2016.

In May 2016, the CAP1400 design passed the International Atomic Energy Agency’s generic reactor safety review. This does not clear the design for use, but reviews the quality of safety documentation. Use of the CAP1400 plant is still dependent on it meeting country-specific standards and requirements, although passing the IAEA review will make this easier.

Hao Hongsheng, general manager of SPIC’s nuclear energy department, told the Global Times that SPIC is promoting the Guohe One brand for export and is discussing potential partnerships with countries including Turkey and South Africa. Turkey has plans for a third nuclear site on the west coast of the Black Sea, but has not formally committed to the project. Prospects for South Africa are even less certain as that nation is considering SMRs due to their being much less costly that larger full size plants.

The results of the IAEA review means meant it could now sell the technology, based on a US design, to other countries and without getting approval from the American makers of the original. It also marks a shift towards domestically produced technology that has been accelerated by the ongoing tensions with the United States.

One CAP 1400 reactor could meet the average annual energy demands of more than 22 million residents and cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 9 million tonnes.

US / DC Based Energy Impact Center Widens Its Circle of Collaboration

(WNN) The Energy Impact Center (EIC) has announced the first major update to OPEN100 – the world’s first open-source design and implementation platform for a small, standard nuclear power plant. Launched in February 2020, the project aims to offer developers everything from a web interface to visualize plant and component design, costs studies and construction plans. (Fact Sheet – PDFD file)

The OPEN100 project includes a detailed engineering design of a nuclear power plant based on a pressurized water reactor. It includes process engineering design, electrical design, preliminary equipment specifications, CAD modelling and site layout.

The engineering data is downloadable directly from the website for public use. Future versions ae expected to include neutronics analysis, probabilistic risk assessment, detailed equipment specifications, structural design and environmental impact assessments. An economic analysis is also available on the EIC website.

“After our February launch, we experienced an outpouring of support and an influx of interest to participate,” said EIC’s director of Stakeholder Relations Michelle Brechtelsbauer.

“We formed strategic collaborations enabling OPEN100 to incorporate institutional knowledge from the best-in-class laboratories, power plant developers, and nuclear industry specialists around the world.”

EIC has now announced an expanded cohort of organizations actively collaborating to support OPEN100. Collaborators in the OPEN100 project include: Framatome of France, Studsvik of Sweden, the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory, Siemens, Pillsbury, the Electric Power Research Institute, as well as the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

eic partners

“Each organization brings unique expertise and a shared commitment to the simple principle that nuclear energy should be affordable and accessible,” Brechtelsbauer said.

“The diversity of skills is noteworthy, with several organizations advising on aspects of core design, equipment vendors providing cost modelling, engineering firms advising on component integration, and others assisting with activities that range from construction scheduling to regulatory compliance.”

OPEN100’s engineering files are now accompanied by a detailed construction timeline and an interactive economics dashboard, each providing greater transparency for project stakeholders.

“With OPEN100, we aim to encourage the growth of a robust developer industry, one that relies on a set of common standards that taps into an existing supply chain and enables fast-tracked licensing,” said Brechtelsbauer.

EIC says OPEN100’s design prioritizes supply chain standardization and speed of delivery.

DARPA Awards $14M for HALEU Fueled Nuclear Thermal Propulsion System for Deep Space Missions Beyond LEO

Getting beyond low earth orbit (LEO) (200-300 miles up) requires more push and power. To that end the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) awarded Gryphon Technologies (“Gryphon”), a $14M task order to support the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program. Specifically, Gryphon will support the development and demonstration of a High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) system.

The new rocket will enable the U.S. military to operate spacecraft in cislunar space, which is the region outside Earth’s atmosphere and extending out to just beyond the Moon’s orbit.


An artistic impression of a cislunar rocket (Image: DARPA)

“A successfully demonstrated NTP system will provide a leap-ahead in space propulsion capability, allowing agile and rapid transit over vast distances as compared to present propulsion approaches,” said Dr. Tabitha Dodson, Gryphon’s Chief Engineer on the support team and a national expert in NTP systems.

“Gryphon is committed to providing high-end technical solutions to our nation’s most critical national security challenges,” said P.J. Braden, CEO of Gryphon. “We are proud to support DRACO and the development and demonstration of NTP, a significant technological advancement in efforts to achieve cislunar space awareness.”

According to World Nuclear News, the objective of the DRACO program is to demonstrate a NTP system in orbit. NTP uses a nuclear reactor to heat propellant to extreme temperatures before expelling it through a nozzle to produce thrust. Compared to conventional space propulsion technologies, NTP offers a high thrust-to-weight ratio around 10,000 times greater than electric propulsion and a two-to-five times greater specific impulse than chemical propulsion.

The DRACO program anticipates two tracks. Track A will include the baseline design of an NTP reactor and culminate in a baseline design review. Track B will include development of an operational system concept and a demonstration system design.

Existing power and research reactors typically operate on low-enriched uranium, usually containing up to 5% uranium-235. HALEU fuel, which is enriched to between 5% and 20% uranium-235, will be required by many advanced reactor designs that are under development in both the commercial and government sectors, but such fuel is not yet commercially available. HALEU offers improved reactor economics, greater fuel efficiency, enhanced safety and proliferation resistance, lower volumes of waste and other advantages.

Centrus Energy is currently working under a three-year, USD115 million cost-shared contract with the US Department of Energy to deploy 16 of its AC-100M centrifuges at its Piketon, Ohio, facility to demonstrate HALEU production.

About Gryphon Technologies Inc.

Gryphon Technologies Inc. is a transformational leader in providing digital engineering, cyber, cloud solutions, predictive analytics and technical solutions and services to national security organizations. From science and technology, research and development, to design, to construction, to operations and sustainment, to decommissioning and disposal; our experience across this spectrum informs our approach to each stage, allowing us to deliver maximum value to our customers in each of our engagements.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Big News for Nuclear Energy in Small Packages

  • Netherlands Looks to SMRs for Green Energy Policy
  • Finland SMR Project Aims to Build Them for District Heating and Export
  • Micro-Reactor Startup Radiant Raises $1.2M in Angel Funding
  • X-energy Signs Agreement with Hatch to Promote Canadian SMR Development

Other Nuclear News

  • Japan / Regulator Says Tepco is Ready To Operate Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station
  • Energy Department Green Lights Critical Decision 1 for Versatile Test Reactor Project
  • NJ PSEG to Close Fossil Plants, Keep Nuclear Reactors
  • Brazil’s Eletronuclear Sets Plans for Restart of Construction on Angra 3 Nuclear Plant in 2022

Netherlands Looks to SMRs for Green Energy Policy

runaway-costs.jpgDutch minister for economic affairs and climate Eric Wiebes said this week in a report to the nation’s parliament that small modular reactors “are expected to resolve the biggest obstacle for large nuclear power plants: long construction periods causing high prices for the installed capacity.”

The Netherlands is launching a public consultation whether to build up to 10 nuclear power plants after a study commissioned by the Ministry of Economics found that nuclear energy would be as cheap as wind or solar power. The report by nuclear consultancy Enco backs the addition of nuclear capacity.   (PDF file)

The firm ENCO is a Vienna-based engineering and management consultancy, established in 1994 by former officers of the International Atomic Energy Agency and other nuclear specialists.

The report did not reference a specific vendor’s SMR noting that according to the IAEA there are more than 50 SMRs design under development. To that point the government included this finding in report on the role of nuclear energy in its future energy policy.

According to English language European Union trade press reports, Wiebes said that the report considers the cost of nuclear to be comparable to wind and solar when including all system costs.

“A levelized cost of electricity for a new nuclear plant in the Netherlands (in 2040) might be expected to be €72/MWh [$84/MWh]. This cost is 40% higher than the equivalent cost, for example, with offshore wind.”

“An important qualification is that in this figure the system costs are not taken into consideration. Because nuclear power is a dispatchable electricity source and wind and solar are not, the system costs for nuclear power are lower than for the other two.

With this system cost correction, the levelized cost for new nuclear is €74/MWh [$86/MWh], compared to offshore wind 85€/MWh [$99/MWh].”


Mark Harbers, a VVD MP, told the Dutch news site AD: “We will not be able to achieve the climate goals by 2050 with only solar and wind energy. I don’t want a messy landscape, filled with windmills and solar meadows.”

He added, “And I don’t want to become dependent on gas from Russia. You have to take steps now to be able to open a nuclear power plant after 2030. Nuclear energy is simply desperately needed.”

Harbers said in his statement to parliament that between three and 10 reactors are needed.

“It would be nice if the first shovel would go into the ground around 2025, so that the first power plant could be opened in the 2030s.”

Currently, the Netherlands has one nuclear power station, a 485MW facility in Borssele.

Finland SMR Project Aims to Build Them
for District Heating and Export

A two-year EcoSMR (Finnish Ecosystem for Small Modular Reactors) project, which began in August 2020 and is funded by Business Finland, brings together Finnish actors to develop business around the possibilities of small reactors.”  (Press Release)

“The project supports Finnish industry to create an international innovation and business ecosystem that understands customer needs and the potential of Finnish technological know-how in the global energy market,” said Ville Tulkki, VTT’s responsible director for the project.


Conceptual drawing of a Finnish SMR to be used for district heating. Image: WNA

The project analyses the requirements, licensing and business of nuclear energy technology and supports their development to meet market needs. Networks of actors, activating joint innovation activities and getting to know customers and their real needs are the key ways of working on the project. The project will also investigate the piloting of technology in Finland, as the domestic reference is an important accelerator of knowledge exports.

VTT and LUT University are responsible for the research of the EcoSMR project. There are currently nine business partners in the project.

Fortum, Teollisuuden Voima Oyj and Refinec have launched their own product development projects, which package know-how into products and services for sale.

In its business project financed by Business Finland, Fortum Power and Heat Oy are developing the export operations and production of nuclear district heating. Other business partners include: Helen Oy, Vantaan Energia Oy, Clenercon Oy, Environmental research and assessment EnviroCase Oy, and Rock Design Ltd Rockplan Ltd.

“We see small nuclear power as a significant part of the future of nuclear power. We consider it important that small nuclear power technology and export opportunities for high-quality Finnish nuclear power expertise are developed in Finland. We want to be involved in a national project to develop our expertise and business,” said Eero Vesaoja, Fortum’s head of Nuclear Research and Development

The EcoSMR project will also investigate boundary conditions for the use of a nuclear power plant for district heating. In Central and Eastern Europe, for example, district heating is also widely used, which requires a low-emission energy source.

Research Professor for Reactor Safety Jaakko Leppänen from VTT describes the advantages of a dedicated district heating reactor as follows:

“The safety design of traditional second-generation pressurized and boiling water reactors is based on active systems with high level of redundancy. The complex technology is inevitably reflected in the construction costs. Innovative new reactor concepts rely on passive safety, such as heat removal by natural circulation. The low operating temperature and pressure in district heating reactors enables implementing these passive safety features using very simple technology.”

See also World Nuclear News Finnish regulator prepares for SMR licensing

Micro-Reactor Startup Radiant Raises $1.2M in Angel Funding

radiant logoRadiant, a nuclear energy startup, said it has raised $1.2 million from angel investors including Charlie Songhurst, Hank Vigil, Josh Manchester and Tom McInerney.

The firm says it is working on a 1 MW reactor design what the company calls a “clean energy alternative to fossil fuels for military and commercial applications.”

“The innovative and ambitious team at Radiant has expertise from SpaceX as well as impressive nuclear industry credentials,” said investor Tom McInerney.

Radiant will use the funds – a combination of cash and cost-share commitments – to continue development of its low-cost, portable nuclear microreactors that provide an alternative to fossil fuels for both military and commercial applications.

The company also announced that it has just received two provisional patents for its portable nuclear reactors. One of these technological advances decreases the cost and time needed for refueling the reactor, and the other enables greater efficiency in heat transport from the reactor core.

Radiant and Battelle Energy Alliance, the contractor that manages operations at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), recently signed a MOU seeking collaboration for development and testing of this technology.

“The National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) looks forward to working with Radiant to test its portable nuclear microreactor at Idaho National Laboratory. It’s part of our mission to empower innovators, and deliver successful outcomes. This is an opportunity to innovate in ways that bring a cleaner energy future,” said Dr. Ashley Finan, Director of NRIC at INL.

Rationale for the Design

Radiant founder Doug Bernauer is a former SpaceX engineer, who while at SpaceX researched energy sources for an eventual Mars colony. Bernauer felt nuclear microreactors held the most promise but realized there was an immediate opportunity for microreactors on Earth, and left SpaceX to found Radiant.

According to Bernauer, there are many remote locations around the world that require portable power such as arctic villages and remote military bases. These locations currently rely on fossil fuel-powered generators, which is not only bad for the environment, but also challenging logistically, because generators require constant shipments of fuel over rural roads.

In the military, transporting fuel can be dangerous: according to an October 2018 U.S. Army report titled, “Mobile Nuclear Power Plants For Ground Operations,” (PDF file) about half of the 36,000 casualties in the nine-year period during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom2 occurred from hostile attacks during land transport missions.

Design Elements

Radiant’s microreactor outputs over 1MW, enough to power about 1,000 homes continuously for up to eight years, while several microreactors could be used together to power an entire town or military base. The microreactor is designed to fit in a shipping container and can be easily transported by air, ship, and road.

Radiant’s microreactor design leverages TRISO type fuel that does not melt down and withstands higher temperatures when compared to traditional nuclear fuels. The use of helium coolant greatly reduces corrosion, boiling, and contamination risks associated with more traditional water coolant.

X-energy Signs Agreement with Hatch
to Promote Canadian SMR Development

X-energy, the US developer of its HTGR type Xe-100 small modular reactor (SMR) design for deployment in Canada has signed a collaboration agreement for engineering and project management with Hatch Ltd for projects in Canada and globally. (Press Release)

“With this agreement, X-energy and Hatch will work together to create a clean energy future here in Canada and worldwide,” said Katherine Moshonas Cole, X-energy’s Canada country manager.

“The Xe-100 design can be a catalyst for building a Canadian SMR industry that will provide global leadership in achieving this goal,” says Moshonas Cole.


X-Energy conceptual image of its HTGR design. Image: X-Energy file

Hatch is a global engineering and project management firm founded in Ontario (Canada) 65 years ago. As part of the agreement, Hatch will provide technical services to assist X-energy in advancing the design for the Xe-100 SMR, as well as associated engineering required for site-specific infrastructure planning for potential projects in Canada, the United States and for global export.

X-energy entered the Canadian market in 2019. In 2020 X-energy initiated a combined Phase 1 and 2 Vendor Design Review (VDR) of the Xe-100 with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The Xe-100 is an 80MWe (scalable to a 320 MWe four-pack) SMR design that can serve several purposes for both electric and non-electric power:

It can be integrated into large, regional electricity systems as a base and load-following source of low-carbon power that will optimize use of low-emission, intermittent renewables and other clean power.

It can provide an all-in-one solution for self-sufficiency in remote communities, providing electricity as well as other power applications including district heating and water desalination. The Xe-100 is also intended for infrastructure development including hydrogen production, mining and other remote-site projects

Japan / Regulator Says Tepco is Ready To Operate
Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station

(NucNet)  Japan’s nuclear regulator announced on September 23 that Tokyo Electric Power Company is ready to operate the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station, based on new legally binding safety rules the company drafted and pledged to follow. It is the world’s largest nuclear power station.

Local governments must agree in the coming months to restart the seven-unit station in Niigata Prefecture, northwestern Japan. Local opposition to restart of any of the reactors runs high due to mishandled public information by TEPCO about fires and radioactive waste management at the site.  Bashing TEPCO is a long standing plank in the platform of local elected officials seeking approval from voters.

Kashiwazaki Kariwa was not affected by the earthquake and tsunami which damaged Fukushima-Daiichi in 2011. The station’s reactors were all offline at the time following a 2007 earthquake.

Tepco said in June it was concentrating its resources on restarting the newer Units 6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki Kariwa while it also dealt with the cleanup at Fukushima-Daiichi. Units 6 and 7 originally began commercial operation in 1996 and 1997 respectively.

tt seven

The seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant

In 2017, the regulator cleared Units 6 and 7 for restart under new regulations established in 2013 in response to Fukushima-Daiichi. It also scrutinized Tepco’s ability to run the station safely.

Tepco has not announced specific plans on what it intends to do with the older five reactors at the facility.

Energy Department Green Lights Critical Decision 1
for Versatile Test Reactor Project

greenlight_thumb.jpgThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week it has approved Critical Decision 1 for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project, a one-of-a-kind scientific user facility that would support research and development of innovative nuclear energy and other technologies.

Critical Decision 1, known as “Approve Alternative Selection and Cost Range,” is the second step in the formal process DOE uses to review and manage research infrastructure projects. As part of Critical Decision 1, federal committees reviewed the conceptual design, schedule, and cost range, and analyzed potential alternatives.

The VTR project now moves to the engineering design phase as soon as Congress appropriates funding. DOE has requested $295 million for FY 2021 for the project. Congress is likely to pass a continuing resolution for FY2021 by September 30, and an omnibus appropriation bill during a so-called “lame duck” session in December. The final funding level for the VTR in the coming fiscal year will be set in the Omnibus Bill.

Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said the approval of Critical Decision 1 represents a significant step toward re-establishing the United States as a global leader in nuclear energy research, safety and security, and developing new technologies that will help supply the world with low-carbon energy.

“The Versatile Test Reactor addresses a long-standing gap in research infrastructure in the United States,” Brouillette said.

“We have not had a fast neutron spectrum test facility for decades. Many of the new reactor designs under development by in the United States require this sort of long-term testing capability. Not only will VTR support the research and development of much-needed clean energy technologies, but it is key to revitalizing our nuclear industry, which has long been the model for safe operations and security for the world.”

DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy established the VTR program in 2018 in response to reports outlining the need for a fast spectrum test reactor and requests from U.S. companies developing advanced reactors.

Many of the new designs require different testing capabilities than the existing testing infrastructure that supports today’s nuclear energy technologies. Since then, a team of experts from six national laboratories, 19 universities and nine industry partners have been developing a design, cost estimate, and schedule for VTR.

VTR will generate neutrons at higher speeds and higher concentrations than existing test infrastructure. It will provide leading edge capability for accelerated testing of advanced nuclear fuels, materials, instrumentation, and sensors.

“The approval of Critical Decision 1 establishes a solid foundation upon which the design phase can begin,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

“We have repeatedly heard from industry and other stakeholders that the United States needs a fast neutron scientific user facility to maintain our global leadership in nuclear energy. This decision puts us firmly on the path toward achieving that goal.”

The Department will make a final decision on the design, technology selection and location for VTR following the completion of the EIS and Record of Decision, which is expected in late 2021. The cost of the reactor is estimated to be in the range of $3-6 billion.

See also prior coverage on this blogVersatile Test Reactor

NJ PSEG to Close Fossil Plants, Keep Nuclear Reactors

(Reuters) PSEG New Jersey wants all of its electricity to come from non carbon emitting sources, like renewables and nuclear, by 2050. PSEG said that it expects to sell its non-nuclear generating plants in 2021 including 6,700 megawatts (MW) of fossil-fired generation in New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Maryland, and over 400 MW of solar power in various states.  (List of power plants in NJ)

PSEG CEO Ralph Izzo said the investment will also drive “significant progress” toward achieving New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s clean energy agenda by avoiding 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2050.

“Our CO2 emissions (from power plants) are going to drop to zero by the end of 2021 as we exit the fossil generation business,” Izzo said.

He told the wire service that the only big power plants the company plans to keep are the nuclear reactors, which produce about 90% of the New Jersey’s carbon-free energy.

New Jersey regulators also approved Public Service Electric and Gas Co’s (PSE&G) plan to invest $1 billion on energy efficiency programs over the next three years.

Izzo told Reuters its near term energy investments would cut customer bills by about $1 billion and stimulate economic growth by creating up to 4,300 jobs that will help the state recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brazil’s Eletronuclear Sets Plans for Restart
of Construction on Angra 3 Nuclear Plant in 2022

Brazil’s state-owned Eletronuclear and development bank BNDES are working on the complete restructuring of the Angra 3 1405 MW nuclear power project. The goal is to update financing and hire an EPC to resume construction as of the second half of 2022, the mines and energy ministry (MME) told BNamericas.

The resources are being assembled under Electrobras’ investment plan, while financing for the construction is being arranged with BNDES through a restructuring of the current debt and a new loan.

After construction was halted in the 1980s, the Angra 3 project resumed in 2008 but was interrupted again in 2015 when corruption scandals brought work to a halt.

According to the national energy plan which runs out to 2050, Brazil has the potential to add up to 10GW of new nuclear power capacity, besides Angra 1 (640MW), 2 (1,350MW) and 3 (1,405MW). Angra 1 and 2 are already operating. (Profile: Angra Power Plant)


Angra III Construction Site as of 2015. Image: Wikipedia Commons

The government defends growth of nuclear power on the grounds that it provides continuous, dispatchable energy that does not produce greenhouse gases.

“This base generation will bring the necessary stability to enable the electric power system to receive growing volumes of energy from intermittent renewable sources, like solar and wind,” according to the government.

Earlier in the week, mines and energy minister Bento Albuquerque highlighted the role of nuclear power in the energy transition process during a speech at the IAEA Scientific Forum 2020 in Vienna.

“The future is clear: hybrid energy systems that combine nuclear technologies with intermittent renewable sources, both for electric power generation and industrial heating,” he said.

See also coverage on this blogBrazil Seeks Private Investment from US for SMRs

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Webinar: National Reactor Innovation Center 9/29 5:00 PM ET

The National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC)
launches the first webinar in its series “What Inspires Us”.

NRIC image

This 90-minute webinar will be moderated by Ashley Finan, director of the National Reactor Information Center. She will be joined by Mark Peters, Idaho National Laboratory director, and Suzanne Baker, creative director at the University of Michigan’s Fastest Path to Zero Initiative and founder of Good Energy Collective.

They will talk about what inspires them to promote nuclear energy as part of the broader clean energy initiative, and give an update on the NRIC program.

Webinar will be held on Tuesday, September 29, 2020, from 5-6:30 p.m. ET (3-4:30 p.m. MT)

“What Inspires Us,” 5-6:30 p.m. ET, Sept. 29. The event features @Dr_Mark_Peters, @INL & @SuzyHobbsBaker, @FastPathToZero.

Register here:

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Hitachi Calls it Quits for UK Wylfa Nuclear Project

  • Hitachi Ends Its Engagement at Wylfa
  • Rolls Royce to Offer Mid-size Reactor as a Lifeline for Wylfa Site
  • Nuclear Essential to Hydrogen Future, says LucidCatalyst

Hitachi Calls it Quits for UK Wylfa Nuclear Project

  • UK / Hitachi Confirms Plans To Scrap Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Project
  • Company blames lack of a viable financing package from the UK Government

(NucNet) Hitachi this week announced that it is permanently scrapping plans to build two 1350 Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) at the Wylfa Newydd nuclear site in north Wales and at the Oldbury site.

horizon logoThe Japanese firm blamed the lack of a viable financing structure in an “increasingly severe” post-Covid investment environment. It also cited the uncertainties created by the UK government as a result of the erratic path taken by PM Boris Johnson to address the UK exit from the European Union called Brexit.

  • For the UK the decision is a first class energy policy disaster caused by indecision and a lack of political will to support the project with a feasible financial package comprised of guaranteed rates and equity investment from the government.
  • The latest decision by Hitachi is a severe blow to efforts by Tokyo to promote infrastructure exports as a key driver of economic growth.

Of six sites originally identified over a decade ago for replacements for the UK’s nearly ancient nuclear fleet, only one, Hinkley Point C, is under construction, three have been mothballed and two others are waiting approval. Hinkley, Moorside, Wylfa, Oldbury, Bradwell and Sizewell were identified as the sites for the most significant national wave of new nuclear power construction under the government of then PM David Cameron.


Current and Planned Nuclear Power Stations in the UK. Map: BBC

The Wylfa project had an estimated cost of $16 billion for the two reactors, but some estimates reported in the news media, without substantial supporting evidence, put the price at one-third more or $24 billion. This number created a political backlash and  contributed to the UK government’s delays in approving the use of  the RAB method and equity financing for the project.

Strike Price Strikes Out

The UK government is said to have failed to offer a “strike price” for electricity that gave Hitachi’s investors a return on investment that included the “risk premium” for the long lead time to see profits from construction of the nuclear power station.

The nuclear strike price refers to the price the government will guarantee per unit of electricity produced.

Over the years successive UK governments have tried to find ways of making investment in new nuclear power plants an attractive and secure proposition – without breaking their pledge of no direct subsidies from the public sector. In effect, the UK government tried to finesse its response to climate change without changing the paradigm of building new nuclear power plants that provide CO2 emission free electricity.

As a politically expedient policy, it flew in the face of financial reality that indicated that for a large nuclear new build, only governments can take on the kinds risks that come with these projects.

In 2016 the government proposed new nuclear reactors at Hinkley in Somerset with a strike price of £92.50 per megawatt hour (Mwh) which came in for fierce criticism. At the time the wholesale price of electricity was about £44/Mwh or less than half the price of power proposed for the nuclear plant which is composed of twin 1650 MW EDF EPRs.

Financial analysts said that as a result of strong political blow back, the message for Hitachi and Horizon, its UK business unit, after this was clear. Any future strike price would have to be lower, even though the company was taking the same financial risk as EDF at Hinkley Point C.

The strike price eventually offered to Hitachi was £75/Mwh. The lower price would mean over the years billions of pounds less n return on the investment. Hitachi walked away from the project as much for this reason as any other.  Also, the government offered a one-third equity stake which was insufficient as a confident building measure for private investors.

Other reasons include that the government repeatedly delayed a crucial decision regarding going forward to proceed with its Regulated Asset Base (RAB) financial investment model. The plan, which the government has not yet implemented, would have allowed future revenues to be paid upfront to the utility at guaranteed rate.

This Time They Really Mean It

Hitachi said it had now made the decision to abandon the project with no prospects of being involved in any future delivery plan.

When it first suspended the project in 2019, Hitachi kept a small staff at Horizon, its British nuclear subsidiary, and continued to push for planning permission after the government began reviewing a regulated asset base (RAB) funding model.

It limits construction risk for developers by having consumers pay upfront for a new plant through their energy bills. Horizon wanted clarity from the government on whether it could use the RAB model for Wylfa. The answer never came.

  • Horizon said that following Hitachi’s decision it will be ceasing its activities to develop projects at Wylfa Newydd and also at Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire where it was to have built twin 1350 MW ABWRS.
  • In all Hitachi’s decision will result in the cancellation of 2,700 MW of CO2 emission free power generation.

Swift Reaction Brings a Firestorm of Criticism to the UK Government

Reacting to today’s news, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, said it was disappointing news and underscored the urgent need for progress on new nuclear projects in the UK if net zero carbon emissions is to become a reality.

“Wylfa is probably the best site in the UK for new nuclear capacity, and has strong community and stakeholder support. It is imperative that a way forward is found for the site, to deliver thousands of jobs, hundreds of apprenticeships and millions of pounds of investment into an economic boost for the area while delivering secure, reliable and low-carbon power to underpin the UK’s transition to net zero.”

firestormGMB, the energy union, described the collapse of the project as “utterly predictable” and “the outcome of successive government failures to act decisively around new nuclear, and in particular how it is financed.”

“It’s no coincidence that around the world – almost without exception – it is governments who finance these projects, as they are the lender of last resort when it comes to keeping the lights on,” GMB said.

GMB added it was “bewildered” by the UK government’s de facto position of asking the private sector to shoulder the burden and long lead time of building a $16 billion nuclear power station. GMB called it “a fanciful experiment of trying to get foreign companies or governments to fund our future energy needs.”

The union says the UK needs at least six new nuclear power plants to meet the country’s future energy demands and green targets.

Cameron Gilmour, spokesman for the Sizewell C Consortium said: “This news will have serious ramifications for companies both in Wales and across the UK. The Wylfa nuclear project would have been another important milestone for the UK’s nuclear supply chain and would have created thousands of jobs.

“Unless Sizewell C, a replica of the under-construction Hinkley Point C, is given the go-ahead, there is now a serious risk to the future of the UK’s civil nuclear construction capability and the tens of thousands of jobs that go with it.”

EDF is promoting the advantages of reproducing the design of Hinkley at Sizewell. The 1650 MW EPR design had major cost and schedule overruns in France and Finland, EDF says they UK can benefit from the lessons learned from those mistakes. It also points out that the UK will benefit from transferring high skilled jobs from one site to another.

Boris Johnson’s government did not directly respond to the decision by Hitachi to quit the Wylfa project.

What Ever Happened to Moorside?

(WNN) A group of companies, trade unions and individuals have launched an initiative to develop a Clean Energy Hub centered on a package of nuclear and renewable energy projects at Moorside in Cumbria, north-west England.

The proposal is based on projects including a new 3.2 GW UK EPR plant with links to technologies including renewables and hydrogen production. Several of the companies are involved in the construction of Hinkley Point C, and many are involved in Sizewell C.

The Moorside Clean Energy Hub plans to capitalize on the design and project experience from the Hinkley Point C UK EPR and the follow-on Sizewell C project to develop Moorside.

The hub will link the nuclear plants with other energy technologies such as renewable energy generation, hydrogen production and energy storage. It will explore ways of providing clean heat to industry and could also produce hydrogen to be used as a “green” fuel for local transport and industry.  The consortium said it would also consider small modular reactors and advanced designs for the site.

Moorside, which lies to the north side of the Sellafield site, had been earmarked by the NuGeneration (NuGen) consortium to build a nuclear power plant of up to 3.8 GWe gross capacity using Westinghouse AP1000 reactor technology.

Toshiba, which was to build the AP1000s, withdrew from the nuclear industry. Westinghouse declared bankruptcy after the failure of the V C Summer project in South Carolina and was later sold to a Canadian private equity fund. Although the AP1000 passed the UK Generic Design Assessment in 2017, there is no indication that it has a buyer for this design in the UK.

At one point South Korea entered negotiations with Toshiba to take over the project, but there was no deal.  The UK government squandered an opportunity to put money on the table to make it happen.

The Moorside site itself, which NuGen bought from the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in 2009, remains designated by government for nuclear new build. As of June 2020 no nuclear reactor vendor is slated to build on it.

Rolls Royce to Offer Mid-size Reactor
as a Lifeline for Wylfa Site

(UK Construction Trade Press Reports) Rolls-Royce has floated the prospect of building the first of the next generation of compact nuclear power stations at the Wylfa site in North Wales. Rolls Royce said its power station would be able to operate for 60 years and provide 440MW of electricity, enough to power a city the size of Leeds.

Rolls-Royce, which is leading a consortium including BAM Nuttall and Laing O’Rourke, has said sites at Anglesey and Trawsfynydd could be homes to new small-scale power stations.

What Rolls-Royce says it is doing is taking commercial off the shelf components for light water reactors and bolting them together into a 440 MWe affordable package with a  focus on being competitive in terms of costs. At this size it is larger that the range normally assigned to small modular reactors (SMRs) by the IAEA.  As such it might more accurately be described as a mid-sized PWR.


Conceptual drawing of a Rolls Royce 440MW PWR plant. Image: Rolls Royce.

At an estimated overnight cost of $5,000/Kw, the Rolls-Royce 440 MWe unit would come in at $2.2 billion. By comparison, the proposed twin 1350 MW ABWRs for the Moorside project, led by by Japan’s Hitachi, had projected costs that some sources estimated had soared into the stratosphere from an initial estimate of $16 billion ($5925/Kw) to over $24 billion ($6,480/Kw).

The consortium calculates it can get the cost of a Rolls Royce nuclear power station producing 440 MWe to about GBP1.75 billion, ($2.29 billion)($5,200/Kw) which means being able to sell electricity at below GBP60/MWh ($78.44/MWh). Hitachi had been offered GBP75/MWh ($98.04)/Mwh) by the UK government for power from Wylfa, but walked away from it.

Challenges and Opportunities Ahead

Challenges ahead include the fact that design for the reactor must complete the complex and expensive Generic Design Assessment by the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency. It takes about four years for a new reactor design to complete all the phases of the process

So far four full size nuclear reactors have completed the process including the Westinghouse AP1000, Hitachi ABWR, EDF EPR, and CGN HPR1000 aka Hualong One.

Tom Samson, interim chief executive officer of the UK SMR consortium, said: “The UK SMR consortium’s ambitions for a fleet deployment of clean, cost-effective power plants across the UK remain unchanged and we believe sites such as those at Wylfa, Trawsfynydd and in West Cumbria still have major roles to play.

“Such a program would drive industrial activity to manufacture our modular, factory-built power plants and create thousands of high-skilled jobs, both where the power stations are located and across the UK supply chain.”

By 2050, a full program of 16 power stations (7,700 MW or the equivalent of six 1350 MW ABWRs) could create 40,000 jobs and add £52bn of value to the UK economy, the government added.

Nuclear Energy is Essential to Hydrogen Future – LucidCatalyst

(WNN) Untapped options for clean hydrogen – including the use of advanced modular reactors – can put the world back on the pathway to meeting the Paris climate goals, according to a new report from energy research and consultancy firm LucidCatalyst. (Report – Large PDF file)

The report says the clean energy transition from oil to hydrogen-based fuels could be achieved with a global investment of USD $17 trillion, spent over 30 years from 2020 to 2050

The world can still meet the Paris goals of limiting temperature changes to 1.5-2°C if sufficient, low-cost, clean hydrogen is produced to replace oil and gas in shipping, aviation and industry according to the report.

“If difficult-to-decarbonize sectors continue to be ignored, the world risks experiencing increasingly extreme climate impacts.”

Renewables Can’t Do the Job Alone

The report says the amount of hydrogen required to do this is far more than can be produced with renewables alone. For this reason, a new generation of advanced modular reactors will be required to produce enough climate-neutral fuel to displace the 100 million barrels of oil that are currently consumed around the world each day.

In its report – titled ‘Missing link to a livable climate: How hydrogen-enabled synthetic fuels can help deliver the Paris goals‘ – it says new modelling results show that hydrogen must achieve a target price of USD  $0.90/kg by 2030 to enable broad scale fossil fuel substitution.

Current published projections for renewable-generated hydrogen estimate prices of USD $0.73–USD $1.64 will not be achieved before 2050. New hydrogen production facilities powered by advanced modular reactors could instead deliver at global scale for USD $1.10/kg, with further cost reductions reaching the target price of USD $0.90/kg by 2030.

Hydrogen generations and uses

Hydrogen generation and uses. Image: U.S. Department of Energy

Advanced modular reactors are the only technology that can realistically achieve this low price from electrolysis in the short to medium term according to the report. These technologies and accompanying cost reductions can enabled by a shipyard-based manufacturing and delivery model for advanced reactors. Several developers of advanced reactors are taking this approach to bringing their plants to market.

“Innovative heat sources need to be fully brought into the world’s decarbonization efforts. Therefore, for the near term we are referring to advanced modular reactors, but in the longer term, advanced heat sources could also include fusion and high-temperature geothermal.”

“This transition will not begin without urgent action by governments and other actors to bring down costs and accelerate innovation and deployment,” the report says.

It adds, “This report sets out a pathway to decarbonize a substantial portion of the global energy system, for which there is currently no viable alternative.”

“There is simply no other way to make the numbers add up,” added Kirsty Gogan, LucidCatalyst’s managing director.

“This truly is the missing link we need to maintain a livable climate on this planet.”

Can Hydrogen Save Nuclear Energy?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Nuclear power plants can produce hydrogen in a variety of methods that would greatly reduce air emissions while taking advantage of the constant thermal energy and electricity it reliably provides.

Existing nuclear plants could produce high quality steam at lower costs than natural gas boilers and could be used in many industrial processes, including steam-methane reforming.

However, the case for nuclear becomes even more compelling when this high-quality steam is electrolyzed and split into pure hydrogen and oxygen.

A single 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor could produce more than 200,000 tonnes of hydrogen each year.

Ten nuclear reactors could produce about 2 million tonnes annually or one-fifth of the current hydrogen used in the United States.

This process would allow utilities to produce and sell hydrogen regionally as a commodity in addition to providing clean and reliable electricity to the grid.

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TerraPower Teams with Centrus Energy to Produce HALEU Fuel

  • TerraPower and Centrus Propose HALEU Facility
  • CNL and Terrestrial Energy to Collaborate on IMSR Power Plant
  • DOE Heads North to Alaska to Work on Micro Reactors
  • World Nuclear Association Appoints Sama Bilbao y León, Ph.D as New Director General
  • UAE May Build Four More Nuclear Reactors
  • Energy Communities Alliance Launches a “New Nuclear” Initiative

TerraPower and Centrus Propose HALEU Facility

terrapower_thumb.jpgTerraPower announces plan to invest in domestic advanced nuclear fuel production to ensure U.S.-based fuel supply for advanced reactors. Will team with Centrus Energy to create domestic, commercial-scale HALEU production

TerraPower announced September 15th its plans to team with Centrus Energy Corp. (NYSE American: LEU) to establish commercial-scale, domestic production capabilities for high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU), which will be needed to fuel many next-generation reactor designs.

The fuel would be used by the recently announced Natrium Power Storage System designed by TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

The proposed investment is part of the TerraPower-led proposal for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), which is intended to support the deployment of two first-of-a-kind advanced reactor designs in the next five to seven years.

The ARDP requires applicants to “establish a plan by which they would obtain the fuel/special nuclear material needed for their projects.”

The TerraPower application proposes that, if selected for ARDP, the company would work with Centrus to build commercial-scale capacity to produce HALEU and fabricate it into metal fuel assemblies. HALEU, which is not commercially available today, offers improved reactor economics, greater fuel efficiency, enhanced safety and proliferation resistance, lower volumes of waste and other advantages.

terra power ge hitachiThe first year of scope initiates the facility’s design and licensing and involves detailed planning and cost estimating for implementation of the new infrastructure and production.

The Natrium reactor technology employs a metal fuel form that is not currently available from any U.S. commercial nuclear fuel supplier. This contract will close the gap in metal-specific fabrication infrastructure and meet growing HALEU needs.

“We are investing in American capability because it offers advantages related to assured domestic supply for the Natrium technology’s long-term commercialization prospects,” said Chris Levesque, TerraPower President and CEO.

“By catalyzing commercial-scale HALEU production, the proposed investment would put America in the leadership position when it comes to fueling the advanced reactors of tomorrow,” said Daniel B. Poneman, Centrus President and CEO.

“This partnership with TerraPower would enable us to expand beyond demonstration scale and we have more than enough room at the Ohio plant to continue expanding uranium enrichment and fuel fabrication capability as demand grows and the market matures.”

Centrus Energy is currently working under a three-year, $115 million cost-shared contract with the Department of Energy to deploy 16 of its AC-100M centrifuges at its Piketon, Ohio, facility to demonstrate HALEU production. Once the demonstration is complete in mid-2022, TerraPower would work with Centrus to expand the plant to meet the fuel requirements of the Natrium demonstration reactor.

HALEU is Number 1 “Keep Awake” Issue for Developers of Advanced Reactors

In a survey of America’s advanced reactor developers conducted by the U.S. Nuclear Industry Council, the availability of HALEU was cited as the number one issue that “keeps you up at night.”

The Department of Energy’s U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group report also identified HALEU production capability as a key priority in restoring U.S. leadership in nuclear technologies, and bills supporting HALEU have passed the House of Representatives and received bipartisan support in the Senate.

TerraPower and Centrus Make Plans Beyond DOE Contract

To ensure that both the reactor can be commercialized within five to seven years and that new HALEU production capacity can be built, the Natrium proposal includes additional private investment levels, beyond the 50% cost share minimum required by the Department of Energy for ARDP demonstration reactors.

This additional investment will be used to build HALEU infrastructure that can benefit the large number of advanced reactor developers planning on using HALEU.

In addition to creating HALEU production capacity, TerraPower and its partners plan to establish a new Category II metal fuel fabrication facility that is scaled to meet the needs of the Natrium demonstration program.

The facility will include the capability to manufacture the Natrium technology’s advanced metal fuel forms that will be included as lead test assemblies in the demonstration plant. Specific terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.

CNL and Terrestrial Energy to Collaborate on IMSR Power Plant

Terrestrial Energy announced an agreement with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) to collaborate on a program of work evaluating safeguards related to the operation of Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), a Generation IV advanced nuclear power plant.

pathways to uses of IMSRThe work will involve establishing material accounting methods to track the IMSR’s nuclear fuel salt and is being supported by CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI). The CNRI was launched in 2019 to support the deployment and advance the commercialization of SMRs, as envisioned in Canada’s SMR Roadmap, by using the facilities and expertise within Canada’s national nuclear laboratories.

“Safeguards” is an international regulatory framework that ensures the security of nuclear material. This system is administered in Canada by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and verified internationally by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) under national treaty arrangements.

Terrestrial Energy has developed a Safeguards program for the IMSR power plant operation. These Safeguards follow Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) regulatory requirements on Safeguards and nuclear material accountancy.

“The CNRI program was established to make our facilities and researchers easily accessible to SMR developers, such as Terrestrial Energy, so that we can help support deployment of these technologies,” said Joe McBrearty, CNL’s President and CEO.

“This CNRI-supported project will help to enable Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR Safeguard program and methods, which are essential for regulatory approval.”

“CNL has a long and reputed history delivering world-class services to the nuclear industry, and we intend to leverage this expertise as part of our supply chain strategy,” said Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy.

The IMSR’s molten salt fuel cycle has been designed to meet the stringent nuclear safety, performance, and reliability requirements for IMSR power plant operation. The collaboration agreement between CNL and Terrestrial Energy further strengthens the relationship between the two companies that started in June 2016 with a Master Task Agreement for consulting, technical and scientific services.

DOE Heads North to Alaska

US Energy Department reopens Arctic office with focus on methane hydrates, microgrids and nuclear micro reactors.


Conceptual image of a micro nuclear reactor in at an arctic site. Image: Third Way

The office will also focus on oil recovery, carbon reinjection, extended-reach drilling, liquefied natural gas, gas hydrates and alternative energy.

The U.S. Department of Energy announced Sept 16th it would reopen its Arctic Energy Office, located at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The office will collaborate internationally on Arctic issues, as well as advancing research on methane hydrates and the development of microgrids and nuclear power.

Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said in a statement that the office would “strengthen and coordinate our work in energy, science, and national security.”

Deputy Secretary Mark W. Menezes said that international collaboration with other Arctic nations was important as “the region’s geopolitical importance increases.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, had set a priority on the reestablishment of the office in the 2020 Energy-Water Appropriations bill.

The Arctic Energy Office will research, develop and deploy energy technology particularly in rural and remote parts of the country and “especially where permafrost is present or located nearby.”

The office won’t belong to a specific program area, and it will report to the Under Secretary of Energy. The office will coordinate work both within the U.S.

World Nuclear Association Appoints Sama Bilbao y León, Ph.D, as New Director General

Sama Bilbao y León, Ph.D., Head of the Division of Nuclear Technology Development and Economics at OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, has been appointed as the next Director General by the World Nuclear Association.  From the WNA press release . . .

World Nuclear Association announces that Agneta Rising, Director General since January 2013, will be stepping down from her position at the end of October to move to new endeavors.

Dr Sama Bilbao y León, currently the Head of the Division of Nuclear Technology Development and Economics at OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, has been appointed as the next Director General by the World Nuclear Association Board of Management.

Sama brings a very diverse professional experience, having worked in the nuclear industry, in academia, and in international organizations, including the IAEA.

Her background is in Nuclear Engineering, and she is well versed in all topics relating to nuclear energy including nuclear safety, energy and environmental policy, electricity markets and economics. Her extensive experience working in international environments makes her particularly suited for this role.

UAE May Build Four More Nuclear Reactors

(SPGlobal/Platts) The trade wire service reports that the UAE, which became this year the first Gulf country to use nuclear power to generate electricity, may in the future construct four more nuclear reactors, depending on the country’s needs, a government official said Sept. 17

“We designed Barakah for eight units,” Mohamed al-Hammadi, CEO of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. told a webcast organized by the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency.

“The government decision — whenever we decide to go beyond the four — that depends on the energy strategy. The government does every 10 years a comprehensive review of the energy policy.”

When all four units at Barakah are operational, they will produce 5.6 GW of electricity, meeting up to 25% of the country’s power needs.

Construction of the three remaining nuclear units is almost complete and the full commissioning of all units will take a few years, Hammadi said, without giving a specific timeline. The 1.4-GW Barakah-1 was connected to the grid in August.

ECA Launches “New Nuclear” Initiative

The board of directors of the Energy Communities Alliance (ECA), an organization known more for its work in advancing the cleanup of Department of Energy sites, is launching a new initiative aimed at supporting the development of new nuclear technologies. As announced by the ECA on September 15, the self-funded, one-year initiative will focus on small modular reactors, micro and advanced reactors, a skilled nuclear workforce, and new nuclear missions around DOE facilities. facilities.

eca logo2The board of directors of the Energy Communities Alliance (ECA), an organization known more for its work in advancing the cleanup of Department of Energy sites, is launching a new initiative aimed at supporting the development of new nuclear technologies.

As announced by the ECA on September 15, the self-funded, one-year initiative will focus on small modular reactors, micro and advanced reactors, a skilled nuclear workforce, and new nuclear missions around DOE facilities. facilities.

“With growing bipartisan support for nuclear energy in Congress, new federal demonstration projects led by DOE and the Department of Defense, and notable investment from the private sector, local governments want to be meaningfully engaged—and prepared—to match the strengths and needs of our communities with new nuclear opportunities,” the ECA said in its announcement.

Why new nuclear? The ECA, a nonprofit, membership organization of local governments adjacent to or impacted by DOE activities, said that its communities host and support the nuclear research and development that is under way across the DOE complex.

This includes, the organization said, the advanced nuclear reactors at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee; the production of high-assay low-enriched uranium in Piketon, Ohio; and the development of the Versatile Test Reactor and the NuScale small modular reactor at Idaho National Laboratory.

The ECA also points to private-sector initiatives such as Bill Gates’ TerraPower, Deep Isolation’s nuclear waste disposal solution, and NDB’s battery that is powered by nuclear waste.

“ECA communities are knowledgeable about and, in many ways, driven by the nuclear missions they already host,” the ECA said.

“These local governments are eager to fill vital roles, from establishing new U.S.-based manufacturing and supply chains to promoting creation of training programs at local community colleges around existing nuclear sites.”

A new subcommittee: To focus its work, the ECA formed the New Nuclear subcommittee, led by Rebecca Casper, mayor of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and identified the three core questions the subcommittee will address:

  • What do communities need to know to attract and support new nuclear development/missions?
  • What and how should communities communicate to industry, national laboratories, and state and federal governments about local resources and development opportunities?
  • What hurdles and challenges will communities face and who can the ECA work with to overcome them?

The ECA said that it will build on former successful efforts working cooperatively with the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, industry, contractors, educators, and labor unions to address these issues, ensure information sharing, and identify how best to take action on common goals.

First steps: The New Nuclear subcommittee intends to begin by hosting a series of educational webinars to facilitate interaction and develop a shared understanding of the outlook for developing technologies, messaging and advocacy strategies, national security implications, and supply chain impacts and needs.

The ECA will also develop written resources to support education and outreach in communities on specific issues, including understanding priorities and timelines, federal and state regulatory requirements, community and workforce needs related to siting, potential cost-sharing, and public/private partnership opportunities. New issues are expected to be identified through ongoing discussions throughout the project year.

Participation: Those looking to collaborate or provide educational resources, or those wanting more information about the ECA New Nuclear subcommittee, are asked to contact Kara Colton, ECA director of nuclear policy, at or MacKenzie Kerr, ECA program manager, at

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NASA Seeks Industry Proposals for Compact Nuclear Power Systems to be Used in Exploration of the Moon and Mars

  • NASA Seeks Industry Proposals to Put Nuclear Reactors on Moon and Mars
  • General Atomic Delivers Nuclear Propulsion Plans To NASA
  • Framatome Partners with ADAGOS to Use AI in Nuclear Engineering
  • CNL Announces SMR Research Partnership with Kairos Power
  • Approval Granted for Four New Chinese Nuclear Reactors

(SpaceNews) NASA and the Department of Energy will seek proposals for industry later this year for the development of a compact nuclear power system that can support the agency’s long-term lunar and Martian exploration plans.

NASA Simple-Compact-Nuclear-Reactor

NASA Conceptual Image of a Nuclear Power System for the Moon and Mars

In a Sept. 1 presentation to the Technology, Innovation, and Engineering Committee of the NASA Advisory Council, agency officials said they expected to release a request for proposals in late September or early October for the first phase of its Fission Surface Power effort. (Presentation – PDF file)

The project seeks to develop a 10-kW fission power system that could be placed on the moon as soon as 2027 The purpose of the system is to provide power to support long-term lunar surface activities, especially during the two-week night when solar power is not an option.

The DOE said 10 kW would be enough to power one-hundred 100-watt light bulbs or roughly 1/100,000 of the power produced by a typical 1,000-MW commercial reactor.

“That may not seem like a lot of juice, but it will be enough to power a portion of the infrastructure and equipment needed by astronauts on the lunar surface,” a speaker from DOE said at the briefing.

“It’s an enabling capability for a sustained lunar presence, particularly for surviving a lunar night,” said Anthony Calomino, nuclear systems portfolio manager in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, at the meeting.

“The surface of the moon provides us an opportunity to fabricate, test and flight qualify a space fission system.”

NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE) have been working together in recent years on a space nuclear power project called Kilopower, which featured a demonstration of the technology at the Nevada Test Site in 2018 with a one-kilowatt reactor. That project used highly enriched uranium (HEU), which enables an efficient and lightweight reactor.

DOE issued a request for information for the Fission Surface Power effort in July to seek ideas from industry for these types of power systems.

According to SpaceNews, Calomino said, “This is a new capability. The system is rather complex. There isn’t one provider that could be a one-shot do-all kind of thing,” he said.

“Partnering is important, and we wanted to give ample time for the aerospace and nuclear industries to identify common needs and common capabilities, and build up those teams.”

SpaceNews reported that at the NASA meeting it was announced that DOE will lead the procurement in cooperation with NASA. A formal RFP is expected in October after the start of the new federal fiscal year.

The agencies expect to make several awards for phase one to work on preliminary designs that would be completed by the end of 2021. A second phase, starting in early 2022, would select one company to develop a unit that would be ready and qualified for flight and for launch in 2027.

It was not lost on people attending the briefing that the technologies developed for missions to the Moon and Mars might also have commercial prospects here on earth.

General Atomic Delivers Nuclear Propulsion Plans To NASA

(Nuclear Street) San Diego-based General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems said this week that it delivered a design concept of a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) reactor to power future astronaut missions to Mars for a NASA-funded study. (DOE – Six things you should know about nuclear thermal propulsion)

The study, managed by Analytical Mechanics Associates (AMA), explored a design space defined by key performance parameters as well as figures of merit. The GA-EMS design exceeded the key performance parameters and optimized the NTP reactor for manufacturability, the highest ranked figure of merit.

“This is an exciting effort that directly aligns with our 60+ years of nuclear energy research and development, including nuclear reactor design and deployment and our expertise in space systems,” said Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS.

Dr. Christina Back, vice president of Nuclear Technologies and Materials at GA-EMS, said that NTP systems for NASA Human Mars Missions “are achievable in the near-term.”

Framatome Partners with ADAGOS for Use of AI
in Nuclear Engineeringt Applications

Framatome has signed an exclusive partnership agreement with France-based computer software provider ADAGOS to bring advanced, parsimonious artificial intelligence technology to the nuclear energy sector.

adagos logoADAGOS’ NeurEco architecture introduces a third-generation neural network to solve large and complex problems using fewer computational and data resources compared to previous generations.

Neural networks analyse data and information in a way that mimics the human brain. Framatome said NeurEco addresses common challenges to artificial intelligence and deep-learning technology as its new neural network approach based on parsimony reduces resources such as the amount of learning data, energy consumption, size of neural network, requested memory and computing time required to implement deep-learning methods.

Calculation times for non-linear fields such as neutronics and computational fluid designs can be reduced from days to a few minutes, and the generated metamodel provides more information on the output.

Sensitivity studies are raised to the next level with extensive results verses one for consideration. Calculation files are several hundred times smaller and can be compressed and decompressed infinitely, saving time and money for operators.

“Artificial intelligence is a game changer for advancing technologies and increasing the competitiveness and efficiency of the nuclear energy industry now and in the decades to come,” said Catherine Cornand, senior executive vice president of the Installed Base Business Unit at Framatome.

“This partnership combines Framatome’s engineering expertise and ADAGOS’ cutting-edge technology to automate and resolve complex issues,” said Alexis Marincic, senior executive vice president of the Engineering and Design Authority at Framatome.

CNL Announces SMR Research Partnership with Kairos Power

(WNN) Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has announced a collaboration agreement with US-based Kairos Power, which is working to develop and license fluoride salt-cooled small modular reactor (SMR) technology. The agreement is funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI) program and will cover research and engineering of technologies to separate, analyse and store tritium generated through the reactor’s operation

The reactor, known as Kairos Power FHR (KP-FHR) (interactive graphic) uses tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) ceramic fuel combined with a low-pressure fluoride salt coolant. The heat generated through the nuclear reaction is then converted into electricity through a flexible steam cycle. Tritium – a radioactive isotope of hydrogen – will be produced as a by-product of reactor operations, and this means the company must incorporate and maintain engineering controls to ensure the protection of workers and the environment.

CNL President and CEO Joe McBrearty said partnering with Kairos Power on this research was a “natural fit” at CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories.

“With four projects now under way through our CNRI program, it’s clear that there is a need for this type of collaborative research and financing to advance SMR technologies here in Canada.”

Kairos Power has conducted extensive testing and analysis related to tritium behavior and management, and is now working to identify and assess options for a tritium recovery and storage system.

CNL said it will work with Kairos to identify the best engineering designs for tritium recovery from various locations within the reactor system. Researchers will also work to identify experimental instrumentation and testing methods to measure tritium in various chemical forms, including nitrate salts.

In November 2019 Kairos Power was selected alongside Moltex Canada, Terrestrial Energy Inc and UltraSafe Nuclear Corporation as one of the first recipients of funds under the CNRI, which was launched in July last year to provide reactor vendors access to CNL’s research facilities.

Approval Granted for Four New Chinese Nuclear Reactors

(WNN) China’s State Council has approved the construction of four Hualong One reactors: two as phase one of the San’ao plant in Zhejiang province and two as the second phase of the Changjiang plant in Hainan province. Total investment in the projects exceeds CNY70 billion (USD10 billion).

At a September 2, 2020, meeting, the State Council noted that actively and steadily promoting the construction of nuclear power projects is an important measure to expand effective investment, enhance energy support, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Following the new approvals, two Hualong One units will be built as phase two – units 3 and 4 – of the Changjiang plant by state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and China Huaneng Group. Construction of unit 3 is scheduled to be completed in 2025, with unit 4 following in 2026.

hualong one profile

Hualong One profile, a 1000 MW PWR. Image: IAEA

CNNC and Huaneng are also cooperating in several other projects

  • phase one of the Changjiang plant (which comprises two CNP-600 pressurized water reactors),
  • the Shidaowan HTR-PM project (a demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor in Shandong province) and
  • the 600 MWe demonstration fast reactor at Xiapu, Fujian province.

The State Council has also approved the construction of two Hualong One units at China General Nuclear’s (CGN’s) new San’ao site in Zhejiang province.

This project will mark the first Chinese nuclear power project involving private capital, with Geely Technology Group will take a 2% stake in the plant. CGN holds 46% of the shares of the project company Cangnan Nuclear Power, with other state-owned enterprises holding the remainder.

The South China Morning Post reported that a number of factors have provided new impetuses for the approval of more nuclear plant projects. The coronavirus pandemic has strained the national economy, tensions are rising with the United States, and China is looking to cut its reliance on fossil fuels while reducing pollution.

Liu Jing, an analyst at Huajin Securities, said the State Council’s decision meant that China’s construction of nuclear plants would return to a more active track, with four to six projects expected to be approved annually over the next few years.

“Nuclear power … plays a pivotal role in ensuring China’s energy security and in achieving the [government’s] goal for non-fossil energy to account for 20 per cent [of China’s energy consumption] in 2030,” Liu wrote in a note to clients

There are now seven Hualong One reactors under construction in China and two in Pakistan. Two are planned for Bradwell in UK. Fuel loading has commenced at the first of the Chinese units – Fuqing 5.

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