China comes calling for CANDU

SNC-Lavalin has signed an agreement with two Chinese nuclear energy firms to develop, market and build an advanced CANDU type nuclear reactor

The Montreal, Canada, based engineering and construction giant SNC-Lavalin, which five years ago, bought AECL’s reactor division from the government, has a new joint venture with China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) and Shanghai Electric Co.

The immediate results of the agreement will be the creation of two nuclear reactor design centers, one in China and the other in Canada. The design centers will collaborate to complete the Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR). It is expected that the first two units will be then built in China and then the reactor will offered via export to global markets.

In a press release, SNC-Lavalin said;

snc lavalin logo“’The market potential for AFCR technology in China is considerable. Each AFCR can use recycled-fuel from four light-water reactors (LWRs) to generate six million megawatt-hours (MWh) of additional carbon-free electricity without needing any new natural uranium fuel.

This would be enough new electricity to power four million Chinese homes, and also displace six million tonnes of carbon emissions per year vs. coal, the equivalent of removing one million cars from the road. China has more than 33 LWR nuclear power reactors in operation and another 23 LWRs under construction.”

The agreement occurred during an official four-day visit to Canada by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau promoted the visit as a thaw in relations between the two nations following a decade of chilly diplomacy under the Conservative government of PM Stephen Harper.

According to news coverage in the Toronto Globe & Mail for 9/22/16, John Luxat, a professor of nuclear safety analysis at McMaster University, told the newspaper the new reactor technology has “high potential for use in China because of the large number of light water reactors” who spent fuel could be used by CANDU designs.

However, AltgaCorp investment analyst Chris Murray told the newspaper he sees the design and marketing effort to be a slow, drawn out effort and does not expect there to be any near-term financial impact.

What is CANDU?

CANDU stands for CANada Deuterium Uranium, because it was invented in Canada, uses deuterium oxide (also known as heavy water) as a moderator, and uranium as a fuel.

CANDU reactors are unique in that they use natural, unenriched uranium as a fuel; with some modification, they can also use enriched uranium, mixed fuels, and even thorium. Thus, CANDU reactors are ideally suited for using spent fuel from light water nuclear reactors, or downblended uranium from decommissioned nuclear weapons, as fuel, helping to reduce global arsenals.

candui schematric

CANDU technical description and schematic courtesy of
AECL and the Canadian Nuclear Association

CANDU reactors can be refueled while operating at full power, while other light water designs, including PWRs and BWRs, must be shut down for refueling. Moreover, because natural uranium does not require enrichment, fuel costs for CANDU reactors are very low.

Canada is one of the world’s leading sources of uranium with rich deposits in Saskatchewan and other provinces. It has no uranium enrichment capabilities.

The safety systems of CANDU reactors are independent from the rest of the plant, and each key safety component has three backups. This redundancy increase the overall safety of the system, and it also makes it possible to test the safety system while the reactor is operating under full power.

There are 19 CANDU reactors in Canada and 31 globally including two in China, two in Argentina, and two in Romania. While all three countries are potential markets for the new SNC-Lavalin / CNNC design, only China has committed, in principle to building the new ACFR.

  • ACR heritage to migrate to AFCR?

It is unclear to what extent the new AFCR benefits from a design heritage with the now suspended work on the ACR-1000 which was proposed in 2007 and 2008 for Canadian and UK power markets.

The ACR-1000, a 1200 MW CANDU type reactor design, was proposed to be built in the tar sands region of Alberta for power and process heat customers and at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick for electric power customers. Neither projects ever made it off the drawing boards.

Efforts to license the 1200 MW unit with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission ended in Spring 2008 when AECL also withdrew the design from consideration in the UK generic design assessment.

AECL CEO Hugh MacDiarmid was quoted at the time as saying, “We believe very strongly that our best course of action to ensure the ACR-1000 is successful in the global market place is to focus first and foremost on establishing it here at home.”

But there were no sales at home due to Bruce Power declining to consider the 1200 MW reactor.

In June 2011 SANC-Lavalin bought the reactor division of AECL for the bargain basement price of $15 million which included all of AECL’s intellectual property related to CANDU reactor designs.

  • Features of the ACR

The advanced CANDU reactor (ACR), in its current design status, frozen in 2008, is a Generation III+ nuclear reactor design and is a further development of existing CANDU reactors designed by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).

The ACR is a light-water-cooled reactor that incorporates features of both pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWR) and advanced pressurized water reactors (APWR) technologies. It uses a similar design concept to the steam-generating heavy water reactor (SGHWR).

The difference between heritage CANDUs and the ACR is that it uses low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel, (3-5% U235), ordinary (light) water coolant, and a separate heavy water moderator.

The ACR also incorporates characteristics of the CANDU design, including on-power refueling with the CANFLEX fuel; two fast, totally independent, safety shutdown systems; and an emergency core cooling system. The relatively small reactor core reduces core size by half for the same power output over the older CANDU design.

The ACR fuel bundle is a variant of the 43-element CANFLEX design (CANFLEX-ACR). The use of LEU fuel would result in higher burn-up operation than traditional CANDU designs.

None of these features were found to be compelling by potential customers and AECL shelved the entire effort to develop the ACR.

About the New AFCR

According to SNC_Lavalin the Advanced Fuel CANDU reactor (AFCR) (fact sheet) is a 700MW Class Generation III reactor based on the successful CANDU 6 and Enhanced CANDU 6 (EC6) reactors with a number of adaptations to meet the latest Canadian and international standards. This is 300 MW less in power than the ACR and also differs technically from the ACR in that it uses only heavy water as a moderator.

acfr

Image of ACFR courtesy of SNC-Lavalin

Its fuel flexibility allows it to use recycled uranium or thorium as fuel. SNC-Lavalin calls such materials “natural uranium equivalent” fuels, It uses a heavy water moderator and heavy-water coolant in a pressure tube design. CANDU reactors can be refuelled on power. The firm claims it will have “one of the highest lifetime capacity factors among the world’s reactors.”

The development of the AFCR was first reported by World Nuclear News in November 2014. That report also provided insights into the place in China’s nuclear fuel cycle that would be the niche for the reactor.

China fuel cycle source WNA

China Fuel Cycle Diagram courtesy of World Nuclear News

WNN noted in its report that the used fuel from four conventional PWR reactors can completely supply one AFCR unit (as well as providing recycled plutonium for MOX). This process significantly reduces the task of managing used fuel and disposing of high-level wastes. The R&D effort also explored the use of thorium as a fuel for the new reactor.

History of CANDU in China

In June 1998, construction started on a CANDU 6 reactor in Qinshan China of the Qinshan Nuclear Power Plant, as Phase III (units 4 and 5) of the planned 11 unit facility. Commercial operation began in December 2002 and July 2003, respectively. These are the first heavy water reactors in China.

In 2015 China signed agreements in principle with Romania and Argentina to supply CANDU reactors.

Argentina

In a World Nuclear News report in November 2015 report details were revealed that   China and Argentina had in 2014 signed a new high-level agreement towards construction of a third CANDU type pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) at the Atucha plant in Argentina.

Under the agreement, CNNC will be providing goods and services and long-term financing. The utility in Argentina will be designer, architect-engineer, builder and operator of the new PHWR (Atucha 3).

Under the agreement, over 70% of the components to be used in the plant will be supplied by Argentine companies. CNNC is now expected to advance the negotiations with Chinese financial institutions to conclude project financing.

Atucha 3 will be a part Canadian-developed Candu reactor running on natural uranium fuel, like the 648 MWe Embalse Candu reactor in Córdoba province.

Because of the localization strategy for major components, and the history of the supply chain in Argentina with the other CANDU reactors, it is unlikely that Atucha 3 could be based on the new AFCR design.

Atucha 3 is expected to cost almost $6 billion and to take eight years to build at the Atucha Nuclear Power Plant Complex in Buenos Aires province, where the 335 MWe Atucha I and 745 MWe Atucha 2 currently operate.

Romania

Also in November 2015 World Nuclear News reported Romania’s Nuclearelectrica signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China General Nuclear (CGN) for the development, construction, operation and decommissioning of units 3 and 4 of the Cernavoda nuclear power plant.

The Romanian national nuclear company said a joint venture project company is to be established, with CGN owning at least 51% of the share capital.

That company will oversee construction of the units, which will be 700 MWe Candu 6 reactors. Two Candu units already operate at the Cernavoda site.

Romania and China signed a letter of intent in November 2013 during a visit to Bucharest by Chinese premier Li Keqiang.

Cernavoda is home to two operating Candu 6 pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) supplied by Candu Energy’s predecessor, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), and built by a Canadian-Italian consortium of AECL and Ansaldo. Unit 1 started up in 1996, but work was suspended on a further four units in 1991. Unit 2 was subsequently completed and has been in operation since 2007.

Given Romania’s history with CANDU reactors, and its intent to apply its operating experience with them to Units 3 & 4, it is unlikely that country would be a market for the new AFCR model. Romania will supply the fuel for all four reactors.

According to the same World Nuclear News report, the new conventional CANDU units will have an operating life of 30 years with the possibility of extension by an additional 25 years.

Future Markets for the AFCR?

With Argentina and Romania committed to conventional CANDU, off-the-shelf, technology, it is unclear what the commercial prospects will be for the new AFCR CANDU design. The design intent to use spent nuclear fuel in the reactor would make it attractive to many countries.

China will build and operate the first two units to prove to potential customers that the design is safe, affordable, and will have a long and cost-competitive service life.

Assuming the units can be built in China for $3,000 to $4,000 per Kw, a 700 MW unit will cost approximately $2.1 billion to $2.8 billion which is far less than the cost in the U.S. for a 1000 MW Westinghouse AP1000. Similar cost comparisons would be expected for new nuclear reactors in the UK. However, China is proposing its new PWR design, the Hualong One, for the UK market.

Once China has proven the technical and financial viability of the AFCR  CANDU, it will face the uncertain prospects of design safety reviews for first-of-a-kind units by nuclear regulatory agencies in countries where it wants to sell the reactors. By leveraging the well-known CANDU technology, SNC-Lavalin and CNNC are placing a bet that they will find willing buyers of their new nuclear reactor.

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UK’s Hinkley Point Nuclear Project Gets Green Light

greenlightPrime Minister Theresa May approved construction by EDF of two Areva 1650 MW nuclear reactors that when complete will provide 7% of the nation’s electricity.

The project is the first in a series of new nuclear reactors which will eventually total 19 GW of nuclear generated power by the end of the 2020s decade.

After a tense month of high wire international politics involving the UK, France, and China, the government has agreed to go ahead with the $24 billion project albeit with significant new safeguards that address foreign investment in the nation’s critical infrastructure.

The UK government imposed a “special share” on Hinkley and all future nuclear new builds which prevent the sale of “significant stakes” in the projects without its consent. The condition is aimed at both EDF, which is a state-owned corporation in France, and China Nuclear General, which is also a state-owned firm.

EDF is supplying the Areva nuclear reactors and is the main engineering procurement contractor (EPC). China Nuclear General (CGN) is taking a 33% equity stake in the project and is also poised to supply some of the major components to it.

Even what many thought would be a US entry to the project turns out to primarily be a benefit to France. General Electric said it will receive $1.9 billion for a contract to supply steam turbines, generators and other equipment to the Hinkley Point project.

The U.S. industrial company purchased the power assets of France’s Alstom last year. Alstom won the competition for the steam generator before it was sold to GE which means it inherits the ink on Alstom’s order book.

PM May’s Review Upset Three Nations

Just as EDF was ready to finally announce its investment decision to proceed with the Hinkley project last July, PM May stopped the process cold with a statement that her new government, rising out of the chaos caused by the Brexit vote, would review it.

Her decision enraged the Chinese government which made a series of undiplomatic statements about relations between the two countries, and split the board at EDF in Paris which was never wholly in favor of the project to begin with.

In the UK unions and firms poised to supply materials, components, and workers to the massive project went on tilt with anger and surprise over the delay.

The UK press has made a big deal out of May’s former role as Home Secretary and her obvious security concerns about China. Is that all there is to it? The cost issues have been with the project all the time so how were these two issues be reconciled to move forward with the project?

The key thing to keep in mind about PM May’s strategy on Hinkley Point is that it is linked to a whole series of political objectives. Some of them are using Hinkley as a springboard for achieving other objectives. Here’s a speculative short list.

The Buck Stops Here May’s top objective is to prove to the British people that she is a capable leader. The American analog is President Harry Truman’s dictum, “the buck stops here.”

This objective transcends the scope of the Hinkley Point effort because the waves from this rock in the pond will travel to distant shores. She emerged at PM after the rest the leadership of the conservative party collapsed following the Brexit vote. Her political objective to earn public trust. She will do so by being decisive as well as cautious in making big decisions.

Costs Count May inherited the Hinkley project from a failed Conservative Party PM, David Cameron, who’s political misjudgment brought about the Brexit vote and all the negative consequences coming after it. Simply endorsing anything with the significance of Hinkley that was initiated by him wasn’t going to fly.

No political leader worth their salt is going to just roll over on a $24 billion nuclear project, especially one coming to the table with Areva’s track record in Finland and France of schedule delays and cost overruns.

May hasn’t said it yet, but it is likely that an unannounced element of her decision to go forward with Hinkley includes a side agreement that has clawback provisions for EDF, aka the French government, to make good on cost over runs, etc. It won’t matter who the next President is in Paris. They will need to be prepared to write checks to cover their markers.

Accountability for China May will present a firm position in the face of Chinese bullying at the G20 summit to send them a message that the UK won’t be pushed around over something as important as the next 100 years of electricity generation in her country.

May wants to do business with China, but on her terms, and not theirs. This means she will hold them accountable for the components they propose to supply for Hinkley and she will make success with Hinkley a precondition to build Hualong One reactors at two other UK sites.  She will make them wait for a decision to allow them to build Bradwell until Hinkley is in revenue service.

Bottom line for China – the investment money is fine, but there is no free ride to making the UK nuclear program a showcase for Chinese technology. PM David Cameron’s promise to “facilitate” the review of the Hualong One through the Generic Design Assessment is a non-starter. The Chinese will have to prove the safety of every rivet and welded seam to the get approval to build one in the UK even if they successfully complete two in Fujian in China.

Consensus for Security As predicted, May turned over the assessment of the security issues to a high profile panel of experts within the government which speedily issued a report laying out recommendations for the conditions of China’s engagement with Hinkley and two other nuclear power stations. The key provision protects the UK from having the nation’s reactors sold off to foreign interests.

This report and its implemented key recommendation shows the British people, EDF, and China that she is not just shooting from the hip, but that there are substantive issues which can be addressed in the UK’s bilateral relations with China.

Timing is Everything  As predicted May made her decision before the end of September.  She didn’t let the issue fester. This near-term combination of careful consideration, application of accountability for results, and decisiveness are all qualities that send a message to the British people that she is a capable leader worthy of their trust.

May’s focus on Hinkley won’t end her scrutiny of the UK nuclear new build. She’s likely commission a complete review which will assess not only the construction of new full scale conventional reactors, but also explore the potential for small modular reactors (SMRs) and development of advanced reactors like GE-Hitachi’s PRISM.

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ORNL Sets 2nd MSR Conference for 10/4-5; Updated

Save the dates for the next workshop on molten salt reactors

The 2016 workshop will build upon the highly msr sponsorssuccessful “50th Anniversary of the Startup of the MSRE” held last year at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). This year’s event will also be held at ORNL.  (Updated with a link to the full agenda including all speakers and topics)

ORNL will again host this second MSR workshop with the theme of “Moving MSRs Forward -The Next Steps.”

Reference: World Nuclear Association profile of Molten Salt Reactors

From the the conference web site:

We plan to have sessions on MSR related progress made in the areas of R&D, technology enhancements, and commercial developments since the 2015 workshop.

Additional topics include the status of licensing related initiatives that are being undertaken via the DOE-NRC collaborations on advanced reactors. DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy’s GAIN program is assisting in the sponsorship of this workshop.

Speakers to Highlight New MSR Developments

  • Governmental Agencies and Initiatives
  • Non-governmental Organizations
  • International Activities- China, Czech Republic, Australia
  • DOE-NE University-led Integrated Research Projects on MSRs
  • MSR Designers and Developers
  • Thermal Hydraulic Loop Operations and Materials R&D
  • Safety and Licensing
  • Special Poster Session on University MSR R&D

More Information

David E. Holcomb, Ph.D.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Reactor and Nuclear Systems Division
DOE Salt Reactor National Technical Lead
DOE Instrumentation & Controls Technical Lead
Bethel Valley Road; X-10 Plant
P.O. Box 2008; Bldg. 5700
Oak Ridge, Tennessee   37831-6165
Office: +1 (865) 576-7889
Cell:  +1 (865) 898-2193
email:  HolcombDE@ornl.gov
http://www.ornl.gov/msr

Reference: (2015 conference presenters’ slides)

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Nuclear News Roundup for 9/17/16

Holtec Secures Land Deal For Fuel Storage Facility In New Mexico

NucNet) New Mexico has allowed US-based Holtec International to buy about 1,000 acres of land to be used for the construction of an interim spent nuclear fuel storage facility. The area is literally a hotbed of nuclear energy activities.

Holtec gave no information on the value of the deal nor has it said in media reports how much spent fuel the site is expected to store. Holtec said the region of southeast New Mexico, where the land is located, is a dry isolated area, geographically stable “with a populace highly educated in the nuclear industry.”

Holtec is planning to build and operate an underground consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) in New Mexico and plans to file its license application with the NRC by the end of November.

The planned spent fuel facility will use Holtec’s Hi-Storm Umax subterranean storage system which can store all US commercial nuclear fuel types, Holtec said. The firm said in a public briefing that it expects to begin operations in 2020.

The site is located a few miles away from the DOE WIPP site in far southeastern New Mexico. The nearest towns Carlsbad, NM, to the west and Hobbs, NM, to the east. The area is also home to Unrenco’s uranium enrichment plant located just east of Eunice, NM.

International Isotopes, of Idaho Falls, ID, has plans to build a uranium deconversion plant on a 640 acre site west Hobbs, NM, to support fluorine extraction from depleted UF6. The product can be used in petroleum operations, photovoltaic solar cells, and refrigerant and aluminum production. A 40-year NRC license was approved for the project in October 2012. The firm has a signed deconversion contract with Urenco.

nuclear sites in SW

(Map from Holtec submission to US NRC ADAMS ML16133A100)

Waste Control Specialists Appoints New VP to Lead NRC License Effort for Interim Storage of Spent Fuel site in West Texas

Mike Ford has accepted the position of Vice President of Licensing and Corporate Compliance at WCS.

Ford previously served as  Chairman of both the Texas Compact Commission and the Texas Radiation Advisory Board, and most recently, as a consultant to WCS on radiation safety projects.

Ford is a Certified Health Physicist; he received a B.S. in Radiological Health Engineering and an M.S. in Health Physics from Texas A&M University.

He will manage the ongoing application process with the NRC to license, construct and operate a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) for used nuclear fuel.

WCS submitted an application for a license for a consolidated interim spent fuel storage facility in Andrews, TX, to the NRC on 5/20/16 (Adams ML16133A100)

The firm intends to initially build a 5,000 metric ton above-ground storage facility for interim storage of spent nuclear fuel on its 14,000 acre site located west of Andrews, TX, just off state highway 176.

It plans to build up to eight storage units to host up to 40,000 MTHM of spent fuel.

WCS has partnered with waste storage and transport experts Areva and NAC International for its project, which would see spent fuel canisters located at decommissioned power plants transported by rail to the CISF facility.

According to the license application filed with the NRC, the Electric Power Research Institute estimated the operating and labor cost needed to store 5,000 MTU of SNF at an interim consolidated storage facility for 40 years at just under $400 million or about $10m/year. To be precise, the figure cited is $394,612,500.

WCS will obtain funds to operate the CISF based on a contract with the DOE. WCS expects that the DOE will be its only customer for storage of 5,000 MTU of SNF. WCS cannot receive spent nuclear fuel until a contract with the DOE is provided to the NRC as a condition of the license.

Molten Salt Reactor Developer Seeks DOE Loan Guarantee

(WNN) Terrestrial Energy USA has been invited by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to submit the second part of its application for a US federal loan guarantee to support the licensing and construction of its Integrated Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR).

The company is applying for a loan guarantee of between $800 million to $1.2 billion to support financing of a project to license, construct and commission the first US IMSR.

Molten salt reactors use fuel dissolved in a molten fluoride or chloride salt which functions as both the fuel (producing the heat) and the coolant (transporting the heat away and ultimately to the power plant).

(Image from Terrestrial Energy)IMSR_INFO-GRAPHIC_Colored

In a press release date 9/13/16 the firm said it has identified a number of potential sites suitable for the first commercial IMSR power plant deployment of its 190 MW design.

The firm said the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is a lead candidate site, and also a center of research excellence for the integration of nuclear reactor systems into industrial heat applications and hybrid energy systems.

The company added in a statement to World Nuclear News that it is working with Idaho National Laboratory to develop one of several IMSR siting plans.

It is not clear whether Terrestrial Energy simply wants the infrastructure and security of the remote Idaho site or whether it would also want to partner with the DOE lab for technical collaboration to develop its reactor design.

So far the firm has raised about $20 million in Series A funding. Success with a DOE loan guarantee application would go a long way to securing funding to achieve its goal to design, license, and sell a first of a kind unit to a customer.

Locating at the INL would follow in the footsteps of NuScale which has partnered with its customer UAMPS to build a small modular reactor, using conventional light water reactor technology, at a site at the INL.

Officials at the INL declined to comment on both the statements in the company’s press release and the WNN report. Also, an executive from the company declined to make any statement beyond what is in the press release.

A search on Google produced this fact sheet by INL on the technology. A search of the INL web site using the term “molten salt” produced no results.  However, as late as 2014 the INL was reported to have simulated the performance of molten salt inside a reactor vessel using high temperature steam and a molten salt bath.

Korean power firm KEPCO near joining UK nuclear plant project

(Reuters) State-controlled South Korean electric power utility KEPCO has plans to invest in a 10 billion-pound ($13 billion) project in Britain to construct a new nuclear power plant near Sellafield, northwest England, the Financial Times reported 9/12/16, citing sources close to the negotiations.

According to the Financial Times report the Korea Electric Power Corporation is considering taking an equity stake and a role in constructing the new Moorside Power Station.

NuGen, a joint venture between Toshiba and French utility company Engie, plans to build three 1150 MW AP1000 reactors at the Moorside site on the coast in Cumbria and expects electricity generation to start in 2025.

“We are looking for investors and are talking to a wide range of people,” said a spokesman for NuGen when contacted by Reuters, declining to comment on whether talks were taking place with KEPCO.

NuGen is expected to have a generating capacity of up to 3.8 gigawatts when all three reactors are completed, around 7 percent of Britain’s total electricity demand.

Russia’s BN-800 Completes 15 Day Trial Run

(Nuc Eng Intl) Russia’s BN-800 reactor at unit 4 of the Beloyarsk NPP, a sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor, completed 15-day integrated trials operating at 100% on 9/2/16.

The trials confirmed ability of the power unit “to bear load steadily at the nominal power level as per design parameters without departures”, a plant statement said.

It was the last stage of testing for the BN-800 equipment. The 789MWe Beloyarsk 4 was first connected to the grid on 12/10/15 and brought to the rated power for the first time in late May.

Kansai Electric Confirms Life Extension Work For Takahama Reactors

(NucNet):  Kansai Electric Power Company has published details of work it will carry out to improve the safety of its Takahama-1 and -2 nuclear reactor units in Fukui prefecture, southwest Japan, in an effort to operate them for 60 years, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (Jaif) said.

In June 2015 the two units were approved to have their operating periods extended to 60 years, or two decades beyond the original 40 years. It was the first time that nuclear units in Japan had been granted such clearance.

However, various upgrades need to be carried out including installation of shielding for the upper parts of the containment vessels, replacement of refuelling water tanks, additional fire protection, relocation of the seawater intake facility for Unit 2 and replacement of central control panels.

The work is scheduled to be completed the work during the 2019 fiscal year, Jaif said. Both units are 780-MW pressurized water reactors. Takahama-1 began commercial operation in November 1974 and Takahama-2 in November 1975. They have been shut down since inspections in 2011 following the Fukushima-Daiichi accident.

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X-Energy Scouts West Texas for HTGR Site

odessaTXA small entrepreneurial start-up developing a high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR), based on the design work of the pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR), is looking for a site to build a test bed for its technology in the Odessa, TX, area.

X-Energy sent company representatives to the area last week who met with a team from the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB) and the Odessa Development Corp which serves Ector County, TX.

According the local news media reports, Eben Mulder, X-Energy’s Chief Nuclear Officer, said his firm is hoping to pull together academic and community resources to create the basis for building a test facility for its Xe-100 HTGR. UTPB has a newly developed nuclear engineering program that could work with the company on the reactor design and test program.

The Xe-100 at full commercial scale is expected to be able to generate 80 MW of electricity and provide 200 MW of process heat from extremely hot helium used in the reactor. X-Energy plans to offer the reactor to customers in configurations of four units each.

Last January the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) awarded X-Energy a $40 million grant. The firm has also invested $13 million of its own money. More recently, it partnered with Southern Nuclear with also has a $40 million grant from DOE to conduct work on design of a molten chloride salt reactor MCSR).

What is common to both the HTGR being worked on by X-Energy and the MSR being developed by Southern Nuclear is that they use TRISO “pebble bed” fuel which was developed for the PBMR work in South Africa. Several of the key technology executives at X-Energy are veterans of the PBMR project.

While no formal commitments have been made by the parties involved, the enthusiasm for the effort, expressed by the parties in the talks, embodies traditional Texas values that the effort will be a very big deal.

Mulder told the Odessa news media that “nuclear energy is a sustainable solution.”

“I’m talking about cost, safety, proliferation resistance, emissions, and security of [electricity] supply.”

Jim Write, UTPB’s director of economic development, expressed enthusiasm for the X-Energy project. He said the firm could be expected to spend more than $1 billion on development of the Xe-100 including a test and demonstration facility.

Terrestrial Energy Lands $4M in New Round of Funding

A Canadian company developing a integrated molten salt reactor (IMSR) has landed a new round of Series A funding. The $4 million added to previous funding raises the total in Series A funding so far to $17.2 million.

The funds are being used to develop a commercial implementation of the IMSR which is based on a design originally developed at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in the 1950s. Unlike conventional light water reactors, the IMSR uses a liquid fuel suspended in a hot liquid salt medium, which doubles as the coolant, and which operates at atmospheric pressure.

The firm is reportedly working with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to conduct an assessment of its technology relative to the agency’s safety standards.

In March 2016, Terrestrial Energy announced a grant award of CAD $5.7 million from the Canadian Federal Government’s Sustainable Development Technology Canada’s (SDTC) SD Tech Fund. The source of the latest investment was not disclosed by the company.

The firm is targeting having a design ready for customers in the 2020s.

Urenco Takes the Wraps Off its Nuclear Battery Project

A firm that operates a uranium enrichment plant in southeastern New Mexico is developing a 4 MW HTRG that will use TRISO fuel enriched to 19.2% U-235.

fuel cycle week logoFuel Cycle Week (FCW) publisher Andre Jennetta reported the development in the September 8, 2016, issue of the industry newsletter. According to the FCW report, Urenco’s work is in its initial phase of design.

According to the company’s website, Urenco has initiated talks with potential technology partners and investors in Poland, Japan, and the UK. The firm’s technology executives have significant experience with work on small modular reactors.

The company reports on its website that in May 2016 it announced the agreement of terms with the National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) to cooperate for the deployment of U-Battery in Poland.

Agreement was reached and a Confidentiality Agreement was signed during the visit of the Polish Undersecretaries of State for Energy, Andrzej Piotrowski and Michal Kurtyka, to the United Kingdom on 24-25 May, accompanied by other senior officials from the Polish Ministry of Energy.

In July Urenco team members conducted a working level meeting with officials from the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

Urenco is also targeting the SMR competition for $250M in the UK.

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Nuclear News Roundup for September 11, 2016

Wyoming Lawmakers Warm Up to Spent Nuclear Fuel Site

Wyoming lawmakers and regulatory officials are reported to have said that they’re ready to consider revising laws and possibly take part in a federal effort to build temporary and permanent storage for spent nuclear fuel nuclear power plants.

The Legislature’s Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee is considering the possibility of participating in what the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says would be a voluntary and “consent-based” approach. The committee heard testimony and public comment on the topic in Casper, resurrecting a controversial idea for Wyoming.

“We are at the very beginning of saying, ‘Hey, what if?’ and ‘How do we do it?’” said Rep. Lloyd Larsen (R-Lander).

The DOE under the Obama administration has started looking for new temporary and permanent storage sites.

Separately, there are two other commercial efforts to license and build interim storage sites for spent nuclear fuel. One is in Andrews, TX, and the other is near Hobbs, NM.

South Africa Energy Minister Says 9.6 Gwe Tender Due this Month

(Reuters) – South Africa will put out requests for proposals on a nuclear procurement process on Sept. 30, energy minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson told parliament.

South Africa has said it intends to build new nuclear power stations to reduce its heavy dependence on coal, but critics have said the costs will be prohibitive and have questioned the transparency around the process.

Last year Rostom said it has locked up the deal worth at least $50 billion. The premature announcement followed a meeting between South African President Zuma and Russia President Putin. The news set off a firestorm of controversy in South Africa.

It is unclear how the reactors will be paid for since Russia is unlikely to offer more than 50% of the funding.  Eskom, the South African electric utility, has been hobbled by political decisions that have prevented it from raising rates.

Government officials from the South Africa Department of Energy and the Treasury have feuded over financing and the terms of a public tender.

Electricity shortages in South Africa has caused brownouts and the episodic shutdown of heavy industries. Work on a major coal fired power plant has been hit by construction delays.

Argentina’s President Promises Cooperation With CNNC On New Reactors

(NucNet) Argentina will work closely with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to ensure a new Candu heavy water reactor will be put into commercial operation in 2017 and construction of a planned pressurised water reactor (PWR)(Hualong One) unit can begin in 2019,

Argentinian president Mauricio Macri met CNNC’s president Qian Zhimin during the G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, last week, and said the two sides will aim to extend their cooperation to the entire nuclear industry supply chain and shared projects in third-party countries “within three years.”

In November 2015, China and Argentina signed a memorandum of understanding reaffirming plans to build two new nuclear power reactors in the Latin American country with financing from Chinese banks.

The site for the unit has not been announced. The agreements will require China to provide most of the financing for the two new plants.

One of the units will be a third 600 MW Candu reactor at the existing Atucha site. According to CNNC, the second unit will be a 1000 MW Hualong One, which China is  heavily promoting in western countries.

In the UK its efforts have hit headwinds with PM Therresa May calling for a security review of the proposal.

Construction in Vietnam on Ninh Thuan Nuclear Plant Delayed Again

(VietNamNet Bridge) Experts believe the construction of the Ninh Thuan nuclear power plant should be delayed because the country has not adequately prepared for it.

The Prime Minister in March 2016 approved the adjusted 7th power development plan for 2011-2020, which says that the first power generation unit of the first nuclear power plant would be operational by 2028. However, the project could be delayed to 2030.

Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung is quoted as saying if Vietnam still cannot have nuclear power, it would have to develop coal thermal power instead. Vietnam would have to push up the development of renewable energy.

If the domestic sources cannot satisfy demand, Vietnam would have to import electricity from China or Laos.

Meanwhile, Nguyen Nhi Dien, Deputy Director of the Institute of Vietnam Atomic Energy and Director of the Da Lat Nuclear Research Institute, on August 29, affirmed that the Prime Minister’s Decision No 428 remains the latest legal instruction on the project implementation.

“The document says that the first power generation unit would become operational by 2028, while another 3-4 units would be operational by 2030,” Dien said.

However, Dien also said that further delays are possible.  Commenting about the delay, Dien said it was reasonable to delay the operation beyond 2028 because there are still some problems that need to be solved.

“It will take time to examine the project’s items, call for bids and make designs,” he said.

He also emphasized the necessity of preparing the labor force well. About 300-400 engineers have been sent to training courses in Russia, while 100 engineers will return from Japan soon.

According to Nguyen Minh De from the Vietnam Economics Science Association, there are still problems to be discussed. Vietnam will have to import foreign technologies, possibly Japanese and Russian. The terms are still under negotiation.

Vietnam has ambitious plans for nuclear energy with provisional agreements with Russia and Japan to each provide up to four nuclear reactors. Start-up of work  on the power stations has been delayed several times.

The first units are slated to be built in the central highlands by Rosatom. The 1000 MW VVER units will supply electricity for manufacturing and to support development of the country’s aluminum deposits by building smelters and factories to produce finished aluminum products.

IAEA Notes China’s Regulatory Framework Will Need Further Development

(NucNet)  China’s regulatory framework for nuclear and radiation safety is effective but will require further development due to rapid nuclear energy growth, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team of experts said.

The Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) team, which recently concluded a 10-day mission to assess the regulatory safety framework in China, found that most of the recommendations made during an initial mission in 2010 had been implemented

Key areas where further work is needed in areas include managing long-term operation of nuclear power plants and waste management.

China’s authorities should continue progress toward adopting the country’s Nuclear Safety Act, ensuring that it embeds in law the independence and transparency of the regulatory body, and that it assigns responsibility for safety to operators in line with IAEA safety principles.

The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) and the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) should expand requirements for operators to ensure financial provisions for decommissioning so they include facilities other than nuclear power plants and fuel cycle facilities.

According to the IAEA, China has 32 nuclear power reactors in commercial operation, 22 more than in 2010. There are 24 nuclear power reactors under construction – the highest number globally – and the country aims to have about 90 reactors in operation or under construction by 2020.

In 2015, nuclear power reactors generated 3% of China’s electricity, a share the country aims to increase to 4% by 2020.

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A prediction of UK PM Theresa May’s strategy for deciding the future of the Hinkley Point nuclear project

What does UK PM Theresa May wants from Hinkley Point? The short odds she is going to kill the project because it is too expensive and the Chinese are untrustworthy. These odds may get another look if some strategic thinking about how people at the top assess their options gets some traction.

The UK press has made a big deal out of May’s former role as Home Secretary and her obvious security concerns about China. Is that all there is to it? The cost issues have been with the project all the time so how can these two issues be reconciled to move forward with the project?

The key thing to keep in mind about PM May’s strategy on Hinkley Point is that it is linked to a whole series of political objectives. Some of them are using Hinkley as a springboard for achieving other objectives. Here’s a speculative short list.  Updated: 9/5/16

The Buck Stops Here May’s top objective is to prove to the British people that she is a capable leader. The American analog is President Harry Truman’s dictum, “the buck stops here.” This objective transcends the scope of the Hinkley Point effort because the waves from this rock in the pond will travel to distant shores. She emerged at PM after the rest the leadership of the conservative party collapsed following the Brexit vote. She has to earn public trust and will do so by being decisive as well as cautious in making big decisions.

Costs Count May inherited the Hinkley project from a failed Conservative Party PM, David Cameron, who’s political misjudgment brought about the Brexit vote and all the negative consequences coming after it. Simply endorsing anything with the significance of Hinkley that was initiated by him won’t fly. No political leader worth their salt is going to just roll over on a $24 billion nuclear project, especially one coming to the table with Areva’s track record in Finland and France of schedule delays and cost overruns. May hasn’t said it yet, but it is likely that any decision to go forward with Hinkley will include clawback provisions for EDF, aka the French government, to make good on cost over runs, etc. It won’t matter who the next President is in Paris. They will need to be prepared to write checks to cover their markers.

Accountability for China May will present a firm position in the face of Chinese bullying at the G20 summit to send them a message that the UK won’t be pushed around over something as important as the next 100 years of electricity generation in her country. May probably does want to do business with China, but on her terms, and not theirs. This means she will hold them accountable for the components they propose to supply for Hinkley and she will make success with Hinkley a precondition to build Hualong One reactors at two other UK sites.  Bottom line – the investment money is fine, but there is no free ride to making the UK nuclear program a showcase for Chinese technology. PM David Cameron’s promise to “facilitate” the review of the Hualong One through the Generic Design Assessment is a non-starter. The Chinese will have to prove the safety of every rivet and welded seam to the get approval to build one in the UK even if they successfully complete two in Fujian in China.

Consensus for Security May will turn over the assessment of the security issues to a high profile panel of experts within the government which will speedily issue a report laying out recommendations for the conditions of China’s engagement with Hinkley and two other nuclear power stations. This report will show the British people, EDF, and China that she is not just shooting from the hip, but that there are substantive issues which can be addressed in the UK’s bilateral relations with China.

Timing is Everything May will make her decision by the end of September or the beginning of October.  She won’t let the issue fester. This near-term combination of careful consideration, application of accountability for results, and decisiveness are all qualities that will send a message to the British people that she is a capable leader worthy of their trust.

May’s focus on Hinkley won’t end her scrutiny of the UK nuclear new build. She’s likely commission a complete review which will assess not only the construction of new full scale conventional reactors, but also explore the potential for small modular reactors (SMRs) and development of advanced reactors like GE-Hitachi’s PRISM.

Update 9/5/16: British Prime Minister Theresa May said 0n 9/4/16 she wanted her security advisers to help review the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant project. As she arrived for the G20 summit in China, May was asked whether she would ask the National Security Council, a team of ministers supported by intelligence officers, to look at the potential security implications of the Hinkley deal.

“I will be doing exactly as you’ve said which is – as you know, I’ll be looking at all the evidence around this issue,” May replied, according to Reuters.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government has sent an official message to Britain and the EU on Brexit. It calls on May “to maintain the UK’s basic policy of keeping its market open to foreign capital” in nuclear power plant construction and other sectors.

Source: World Nuclear News 9/5/16

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