White House May Relax 123 Rules for Westinghouse Saudi Nuclear Deal

  • atoms for peace stampThe U.S. government is pursuing an effort to promote the sale of Westinghouse 1150 MW AP1000 nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia.
  • Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act requires a bilateral agreement with any country that wants U.S. nuclear technology exports. The U.S. has insisted that countries signing such agreements set aside any plans for enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.  (See summary below)
  • A total of 48 countries have signed such agreements but Saudi Arabia is not one of them. Saudi Arabia has for years resisted accepting a 123 agreement with these conditions.
  • The Trump Administration is now considering accepting Saudi Arabia’s objections in order to support a Westinghouse bid for at least two and as many as 16 nuclear reactors. At $5,000/Kw, the projects would be worth about $12 billion for the first two units.

The Bloomberg wire service reports that U.S. President Donald Trump considering easing nuclear rules for the Saudi project.

The wire service reports that Westinghouse is looking for new markets after it emerges from bankruptcy. Past deals have barred uranium enrichment for international projects which is an issue which has prevented Saudi Arabia from signing a 1-2-3 Agreement with the U.S. Without it U.S. nuclear firms cannot do business with that country.

The change that is on the table is that the Trump administration wants Saudi Arabia to consider bids by Westinghouse Electric Co. and other U.S. companies such as Curtis Wright, which makes reactor pumps, to build nuclear reactors in that country. To get to that point it may make a policy change and allow enrichment of uranium as part of that deal.

The action by the Trump Administration follows an unsuccessful effort by Michael Flynn, the former National Security Adviser, working with several consulting firms, to sell nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia and Jordan in return for lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia.

Paradoxically, while Flynn claimed he was promoting U.S. reactor firms, had he been successful, Russian and/or Chinese firms would have won the business. Flynn has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. about lifting the sanctions.

Alarm bells go off among weapons control experts

This proposal has alarmed nonproliferation experts at the Lawfare Center / Brookings Mieke Eoyang and Laura S. H. Holgate, both experts in these matters, point out that Flynn’s plan was dangerous because it could set off an arms race in the Middle East. They write that “Flynn’s actions could have further destabilized an already volatile region.” The experts say Saudi Arabia wants the enrichment capability so that it could eventually develop a nuclear weapons program to counter Iran

Bloomberg quotes Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, who said weakening the prohibition against enrichment and reprocessing, often referred to as “the gold standard,” is disturbing given what he said was Saudi Arabia’s “sub-par nuclear nonproliferation record.”

“We shouldn’t compromise our longstanding efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons in order to play favorites with certain companies or countries,” he said in an email, calling the idea “disturbing and counterproductive.”

At the Nuclear Policy Education Center executive director Henry Sokolski and nonproliferation expert Victor Gilinsky published an essay in November critical of efforts by DOE Energy Secretary Rick Perry to promote Westinghouse reactors for export to the Middle East.

Perry, told Congress in October 12 testimony,  that “we have to support this industry,” because, among other things, it is important to the success of our nonproliferation policy. Sokolski and Gilinski argue that Perry’s position actually would, if implemented, do the opposite.

For its part Westinghouse told Bloomberg “Westinghouse is pleased that Saudi Arabia has decided to pursue nuclear energy,” Sarah Cassella, a spokeswoman, said.

“We are fully participating in their request for information and are pleased to provide the AP1000 plant, the industry’s most advanced technology.”

Is Saudi Arabia ready to buy nuclear reactors from Westinghouse?

There are a a few reasons why the Saudi Arabian government isn’t 100% ready to to want to do business with Westinghouse even if the U.S. loosens the requirements of the Atomic Energy Act.

What the firm has in terms of a reputation is that it ran the V C Summer project into South Carolina into the ditch with bad project managers and is bankrupt for it. That project is now cancelled by the utilities that got started with it with little prospect that another firm will want complete it.

The surprise about the failure at V C Summer is that there are no surprises. All of the faults that caused the project in South Carolina to come to an early halt are with failures to follow project management schedule and cost control standard practices that have been known since Admiral Rickover supervised the construction of the first nuclear submarines in the 1950s.

This is not a sterling recommendation. Note that the UAE decided not to accept a bid from Areva for four nuclear reactors after learning of costly schedule delays at a project in Finland. The Saudi energy ministry would undoubtedly do similar reviews of the track record of any bidder for its program.

South Korea seems to be in a better position to win the Saudi contracts

In September 2017 the Saudi energy ministry released an RFP that cites the power rating (1400 MW of the nuclear reactors being built by South Korea in the UAE.  It follows that the Saudi government, if they do anything, will be to try to get the South Korean units.

Most importantly, the Saudi procurement team can kick the tires of the UAE units, so to speak, prior to signing on the bottom line.  The first of four UAE units comes online in 2018 and South Korea has a similar reactor in revenue service at home which is where the UAE plant operators are learning how to run it.

Another reason is that the experienced skilled trades that are building the four units in the UAE would be available. This experience is invaluable and could shave costs of construction since the workers would have already built these types of units. The UAE units will be operating in revenue service and available to train the Saudi plant operators in Arabic.

Add to that the experience of the South Korean project managers, and the supply chain for long lead time large components like steam generators and reactor pressure vessels that is in place in South Korea, and the choice becomes more attractive

The UAE model of eventually returning the spent nuclear fuel to its suppliers (Areva and Tenex) is an obvious model for any commercial deal with Saudi Arabia. It would be the one reason Congress might accept a Westinghouse deal, but it would thwart the Saudi desire for enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.

South Korea’s 123 agreement, updated in 2016,  with the U.S. still prohibits reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel so it would not be able to take back fuel from Saudi Arabia for this purpose. The agreement between South Korea and the U.S. opens the door for enrichment of uranium by South Korea, but only after further consultations. In diplomatic speak, that means the door is open without a specific timetable.

In signing the updated agreement South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized the fact that it is exporting nuclear reactors to the UAE and hopes to do the same to other countries, including the USA.  South Korea has recently entered into negotiations to supply its reactors to the UK’s NuGen Moorside project following its abandonment for financial reasons by Toshiba, the parent firm of Westinghouse.

It occurs to me, and other observers, that Westinghouse has asked the White House for help to promote the Saudi deal in an effort to get the price up for sale of the troubled and bankrupt business unit to a buyer. By touting the potential for a Saudi deal, a buyer might be more interested. Hopefully, any buyer will have good help with their due diligence.

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty Picked for DOE Nuclear Security Undersecretary Post

nnsalogoLisa Gordon-Hagerty, president of national security consulting firms Tier Tech International and LEG Inc., will be nominated by President Donald Trump to serve as undersecretary for nuclear security at the Energy Department.

Gordon-Hagerty previously worked at DOE as director of the department’s emergency response office and acting director of its nuclear weapons surety office.

She also served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and spent more than five years as director for combating terrorism at the National Security Council, where she helped coordinate U.S. governmental efforts to prevent, deter and respond to chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and conventional threats.

Her professional career also includes time as executive vice president and chief operating officer of enriched uranium fuel supplier USEC Inc. (now Centrus) and a health physicist at DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The Under Secretary for Nuclear Security, in the United States Department of Energy, is the Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).  At DOE nonproliferation of nuclear weapons is one of its key missions.

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s responsibilities include designing, producing, and maintaining safe, secure and reliable nuclear weapons for the U.S. military, providing safe, militarily effective naval nuclear propulsion plants, and promoting international nuclear safety and nonproliferation.

REFERENCE
Summary of a 123 Agreement

Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act requires the conclusion of a peaceful nuclear cooperation agreement for significant transfers of nuclear material, equipment, or components from the United States to another nation.

Moreover, such agreements, commonly referred to as “123 Agreements,” facilitate cooperation in other areas, such as technical exchanges, scientific research, and safeguards discussions.

In conjunction with other nonproliferation tools, particularly the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) ,123 Agreements help to advance U.S. nonproliferation principles.  They establish the legal framework for significant nuclear cooperation with other countries.

In order for a country to enter into a 123 Agreement with the United States, that country must commit to U.S.-mandated nuclear nonproliferation norms.

The U.S. State Department is responsible for negotiating 123 Agreements, with the technical assistance and concurrence of DOE/NNSA and consultation with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

As of January 20, 2017, the United States has entered into 23 such agreements that govern peaceful nuclear cooperation with 48 countries, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the governing authorities on Taiwan.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Flynn’s Saudi Nuclear Deal; What do we know so far?

  • bid cover sheetMichael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and briefly, the National Security Adviser to the President, is reported from 2015-2017 to have been engaged in an effort to sell 16 nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia. The project did not succeed.
  • Flynn’s efforts were first revealed in Newsweek in June 2017 by reporter Jeff Stein. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn made an unreported trip to the Middle East in 2015 to work on a U.S.-Russian venture in Saudi Arabia before he joined the Trump campaign, possibly having multiple contacts with Saudi officials that he also failed to disclose when seeking renewal of his security clearances.
  • In December 2017, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) released documents, briefings, and emails collected by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. They provide extensive details about Flynn’s consulting work related to the proposed Saudi nuclear deal. Cummings says he was aided in his discovery of the documents by an unnamed whistle blower.
  • Other news organizations including Reuters and the Washington Post have reported in-depth on Flynn’s marketing activities. Reuters reported on the relationship Flynn had with two beltway consulting firms. The Washington Post reported that the undisclosed trip could add to Flynn’s legal woes. The public interest news site ProPublica reported on the nonproliferation issues associated with the proposed deal.
  • Flynn pleaded guilty on December 1, 2017, to lying to the F.B.I. about conversations he had in December 2016 with the Russian ambassador about U.S. sanctions.  He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel in the ongoing Russia investigation.

Coverage of Flynn’s activities to sell 16 nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia, with two different consulting firms, are reported in great detail in the news media reports cited in the summary.

Yet, there are significant contradictions between what Flynn is reported by the media to have done and the elements of a successful nuclear deal. This blog post takes a look at the most significant of these contradictions and tries to put them in context.

There are many other aspects to Flynn’s proposed nuclear deal having to do with U.S. sanctions on Russia and relationships with other countries including Ukraine. These are political questions that impact the proposed nuclear deal, but they are not dealt with here.

Flynn’s Saudi Nuclear Project Does Not Make Commercial Sense

The mainstream media continues to describe Flynn’s involvement in the Saudi nuclear deal as driven by greed. It isn’t clear that this was his sole motivation.

What does appear to be true is that most of his wires for this project were crossed and shorted out before his plane ever took off from the U.S. to the Mideast in April 2015.

At the top of the list of things that make no commercial sense is the fact that the Saudi energy ministry cancelled its plans for 16 full size (1000 MW) nuclear reactors four months (January 2015) before Flynn even started his project (April 2015).  By the time Flynn arrived in Riyadh in April 2015 the 16 reactor project was stone cold dead.

Whatever Flynn was doing in the Middle East in promoting nuclear energy, it appears from the news media coverage that he was a day late and a dollar short. Did Flynn not know that the Saudi energy ministry had walked away from nuclear energy?

What made him think that by bringing a team of high powered door openers that they would change their mind? The iron imperative of needing enough oil revenue to pay for it, and not having it, was and remains the determining factor.

It has only been since October 2017 that the Saudi energy ministry put its toe back in the water with an RFI for just two reactors. The document released to potential bidders references a power rating that matches the four South Korean reactors being built for the UAE. If the Saudi energy ministry sticks to that specification, it could knock out competition from Russia and China both of which currently offer 1000 MW units for export.

Why the Saudi energy ministry walked away
from a plan for 16 nuclear reactors

The reasons the Saudis cancelled in January 2015 include;

(1) Due to drastic drop in price of oil, below $60/bbl, they could not afford $80 billion in spending over the next 10-15 years. They needed $100/bbl sustained over that period to afford the project, Note that the Saudis shot themselves in the foot by contributing to this price point. The price of oil has remained around $60/bbl since January 2015.

(2) There are major supply chain issues for a project involving 16 1000 MW nuclear reactors including an inability to source from the U.S. due to long standing policy differences over a 1-2-3 agreement under the Atomic Energy Act. The Saudi government wants to enrich uranium, but the U.S. has said no, at least for now.

Black & Veatch in a recent report for the Department of Energy National Renewable Laboratory (NREL) estimated that the cost of the turbine for a 1000 MW nuclear reactors ( same size as a Rosatom VVER ) is $300/KW with a total cost of $6,100/KW for the entire installation plus or minus 30 percent. Yet, ACU’s emails reported by Reuters produced significantly different cost estimates for the turbines and the reactors.NREL reactor costs by component

(3) There is not a mature domestic regulatory agency in Saudi Arabia capable of supervising safety during construction, or future operation, of 16 full size reactors. Plus getting a workforce to show up in the desert kingdom to build them would also be a major challenge. The Saudi energy ministry chose three widely separated coastal sites for the 16 reactor plan making work force integration and supply chain management an especially difficult set of issues.

(4) Even if the Saudi government decided not to get any nuclear reactor components, and fuel for the reactors, from the U.S (Russia, China, and South Korea are available), they still don’t, at this time, have the management capacity to build two nuclear reactors much less 16 of them. All of this expertise would have to be brought in by contractors.

Perhaps another plausible reason for a lack of involvement by U.S. firms is that Saudi Arabia does not have a 1-2-3 Agreement with the U.S.  The lack of such a bilateral agreement prevents a U.S. firm like Westinghouse from doing business there.

It remains unlikely that the U.S. would waive the restriction on uranium enrichment for Saudi Arabia having put the Iran nuclear deal in place and having imposed that same limitation on the United Arab Emirates which is building four commercial nuclear reactors supplied by South Korea. BTW: South Korea’s 1-2-3 agreement with the U.S. also has a restriction on uranium enrichment.

Short List of  Project Contradictions

1. Where’s Westinghouse in the mix?

While Flynn said that in congressional testimony he wanted to promote American nuclear technology in Saudi Arabia, everything he did there, if it had turned out to be successful, would produced exactly the opposite outcome and that is to enhance either Russian or Chinese market shares in that country. This is one of the major contradictions of Flynn’s activities.

ACU, the first consulting firm Flynn was working with, would have brought in Rosatom, the Russian nuclear energy export group, to build the 16 reactors as VVERs. IP3, the second firm, would have brought in the CNNC and CGN the two major Chinese state owned nuclear firms to build the new export model, the Hualong One, which is slated also to be built for the UK.

vver

Neither consulting firm Flynn worked with ever mentioned promoting Westinghouse, in any significant way, which the one U.S. nuclear company that would have been capable of entering that market.

Worse for U.S. export interests, Westinghouse declared bankruptcy earlier in 2017 after the South Carolina utilities behind V C Summer commercial nuclear reactor project cancelled it. The root cause of the decision to cancel that project was poor project management. These facts might have been red flags for ACU and the Saudi energy ministry regarding a nuclear export deal with Westinghouse.

2. Claims about a “proliferation resistant” light water reactor

ACU claimed that it could address fears about nuclear proliferation by deployed a “proliferation resistant” LWR. Another contradiction is that despite ACU’s claims, Russia does not have a “proliferation resistant” nuclear reactor for export. There is no such thing when it comes to “light water reactors” like the Russian 1000 MW VVER which is what they offer to export customers.

This claim of “proliferation resistance” was made by an associate of Flynn’s named Reuben Sorensen who wrote about the concept in terms of control of PU-239 in the burn-up of nuclear fuel in a LWR in his PhD thesis at University of Michigan in 2006. He later worked at the Pentagon on nonproliferation issues during Obama administration.

Reuters reported (citation URL at top) that “on November 18, 2016, 10 days after Trump won the presidential election, ACU’s Alex Copson received an email from nuclear non-proliferation expert Reuben Sorensen saying that he had updated Flynn on the nuclear project’s status.” His role in the project remains unclear as does the nature of his relationship with Flynn.

In terms of preventing diversion of spent nuclear fuel to rogue reprocessing, what Rosatom, the Russian export agency, does do as standard practice is to take back the spent fuel from its customers, and turn some of it into an advanced nuclear fuel called MOX.

This prevents diversion of the spent fuel by customers, but there is no advanced technology involved in shipping the spent fuel back to Russia once it has cooled off enough to handle in a dry cask, which takes about five years. Areva/EDF, the French state owned nuclear firm, does the same thing with its customers. About 30 reactors worldwide have safely used MOX fuel for decades.

3. Egypt & Jordan had deals with Rosatom as early as 2014

In terms of getting the attention of Egypt and Jordan, which was on Flynn’s agenda, the Russians made significant inroads with Egypt and Jordan back in 2014 and neither nation is likely to deal with U.S. reactor vendors for the simple reason that Rosatom promised both countries to provide 50% of the financing. No U.S. firm was ever going to do that.

Egypt has since committed to have Rosatom build two reactors, the 1000 MW VVERs, but raising the money for the half, and doing the other things a customer in Egypt’s shoes needs to do remain a question.  Reuters reports that a deal is expected to be formally signed in an upcoming visit of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to Egypt.  Significantly, Rosatom is offering Egypt its latest version of the VVER, a 1200 MW design, and plans to build four of them in that country.

Jordan signed an agreement in principle for two 1000 MW Russian reactors, but never had the money for its 50% share nor the domestic political commitment to close the deal.

Since then Jordan has shown interest in small modular reactors from other vendors. They are Rolls Royce from the UK for water cooled design and X-Energy from Greenbelt, MD, which has a helium cooled reactor design. Jordan is very interested in the affordability of the small gas cooled design since the country doesn’t have a lot of water to spare, much less for two giant 1000 MW water cooled reactors from Russia.

& & &

So far no conclusions but the case is not closed

It isn’t possible to draw a conclusion out of all of these contradictions about what Flynn knew, or did not know, as part of his dealings with two consulting firms.  The facts are that the deal was a few beers short of a six pack whether Flynn knew it or not.

The entire affair is so complicated that reminds a reader of the ending of the story “Murder on the Orient Express” where world famous detective Hercule Poirot tells the Yugoslavian police “bandits trying to rob the luxury train killed Samuel Ratchett, an American businessman.”

300px-Orient_Express_Buchs

1st Class Passenger Railroad Car on the Orient Express. Image: Wikipedia

What we find out is that Ratchett is really John Cassetti who kidnapped the (fictional) Armstrong baby (based on the Lindbergh kidnapping) and caused her death.  The real story is that just about everyone in 1st Class took part in the murder. The local  police accept the plausible story from Poirot about the bandits and move on.  See the 1974 movie version for the best dramatic presentation of the story.

In the case of Flynn’s nuclear deal, the desire to make a lot of money may be a motivation, and a label of “greed” is one easily accepted by the public reading multiple media reports about it. It is an “inside the beltway” story thatr doesn’t affect major consumer markets or lifestyles.

Whether that’s the only reason for Flynn’s tenacious attachment to the complex project remains to be seen. The politics of lifting Russian sanctions as part of the Saudi nuclear deal remain murky.

There’s a lot more that may come out as part of Flynn’s plea deal with the Special Prosecutor.  Until that happens we’re left with a lot of unanswered questions.

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

Major SMR Funding Opportunities Open Up in the US and UK

  • U.S. Department of Energy releases $30 million funding opportunity for advanced nuclear technologies including SMRs using LWR and fast reactor designs
  • U.K. releases £100m for SMRs in a drive to make that nation a leader in this technology

small reactors

U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry this week released a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) to support development of advanced nuclear energy technology.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is soliciting proposals for cost-shared projects to develop innovative, industry-driven reactor designs and accompanying technologies with high potential to advance nuclear power in the United States.

“Targeted early-stage investment in advanced nuclear technology will support a strong domestic industry now and into the future,” said Secretary Perry.

“This funding opportunity is an important step to ensure our nation continues to benefit from this clean, resilient source of electricity.”

holtec-160-mw-smr.jpg

Conceptual image of  Holtec 160 MW SMR via firm’s website

DOE expects to make up to $30 million or more available in FY 2018 awards, subject to the availability of funding. The FOA will be open for a five-year period accepting applications on a year-round basis, with a quarterly selection process. Additional funding will be available in future years, as allocated by Congress.

Through this competition, DOE encourages U.S. companies to partner with other U.S. federal agencies, public and private laboratories, institutions of higher education, and other domestic entities to share expertise needed to successfully develop these innovative technologies.

high-temperature-reactor-htr.png

Conceptual image of a high temperature gas cooled reactor – Image: World Nuclear Association

Key Points of Contact

Pathways to DOE Funding

Here’s a summary of the opportunity announcement in terms of focus areas and funding levels.

Pathway 1: First of a Kind Nuclear Demonstration Readiness Projects

Addresses major advanced reactor design development projects or complex technology advancements for existing plants which have significant technical and licensing risks. Support will be provided for one or more advanced reactor projects that have the potential to be deployed by the mid-to-late 2020s.

Federal Cost Share: $10 million-$40 million
Project Duration: 3 years
Number of anticipated projects:1 – 2
Cost Share Required: 20%-50% depending on technology readiness
Collaborations are allowed with U.S. national laboratory, academic, and for-profit institutions.

Pathway 2: Advanced Reactor Development Projects

Leads to advancements in the innovation and competitiveness of a broad set of domestic nuclear reactor designs and technologies. The Government will support applications involving concepts and ideas that they believe are best suited to improving the capabilities and commercialization potential of advanced reactor designs and technologies.

Federal Cost Share: $0.5 -$10 million
Project Duration: 2 years
Number of anticipated projects: 3-6 per fiscal year
Cost Share Required: 20%-50% depending on technology readiness
Collaborations are allowed with U.S. national laboratory, academic, and for-profit institutions.

Pathway 3: Regulatory Assistance Grants

Supports industry efforts to work with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to resolve design regulatory issues, to review topical reports or papers, and other efforts focused on obtaining certification and licensing approvals. Support for salaries, travel, or other costs under this application pathway are not allowed.

Federal Cost Share: $50,000-$500,000
Project Duration: 1 year
Number of anticipated projects: 10-20 per fiscal year
Cost Share Required: 20%-50% depending on technology readiness
No Collaborations allowed.

Britain Kicks Off Funding for SMR Development

The British government will provide up to 56 million pounds ($75 million) of funding for research and development for small nuclear reactors. The funding level is the first part of a 250 million pounds promised to support the industry in the government’s long delayed SMR competition.

The government is determined to make the UK a leader in SMR technology and to search for less costly solutions to providing nuclear energy for electricity generation and process heat applications.

The UK level of funding vastly exceeds the U.S. commitment in this area. U.S. firms NuScale and Westinghouse have offices in the UK as part of their efforts to secure a share of these markets as they develop.

RollsRoyceSMRGraphic

Conceptual image of an SMR plant. Image: Rolls Royce from the firm’s website

The funding will be available over the next three years and will be used to assess the potential of designs of advanced and small modular reactors (SMRs) and accelerating their development.

Although SMRs initially have a higher cost, that should go down over time as experience drives down the capital cost of production, the report said.

“Nuclear is a vital part of our energy mix, providing low carbon power now and into the future so today’s package of new measures will help to boost innovation and provide greater clarity on our future plans,” British energy minister Richard Harrington said.

WNN reported that the government will also be supporting “early access” to regulators to build the capability and capacity needed to assess and license small reactor designs and will establish an expert finance group to advise how small reactor projects could raise private investment in the UK.

Stage 1 comprises up to GBP4 million for feasibility studies and up to GBP7 million to further develop the capability of nuclear regulators who support and assess advanced nuclear technologies.

Subject to Stage 1 demonstrating clear value for money through a formal re-approval process with the Treasury, up to GBP40 million will be available for advanced modular reactor R&D projects and up to a further GBP5 million for regulators.

In addition, the government plans to launch soon the second phase of its Nuclear Innovation Program, including up to GBP8 million for work on modern safety and security methodologies and studies in advanced fuels.

Tender

Separately the UK is announcing a tender for GBP4 million in funding to develop feasibility projects for nuclear advanced modular reactors, the government said that up to GBP40 million of further funding may be available for development, subject to government approval.

Applicants to lead such a project needs a “viable route to market”, it said, and can be an organization of any size or type, and work with others as sub-contractors. This is a Small Business Research Initiative and projects will receive 100% of their eligible costs.

The final date for registration is February, 2018, and applications must be submitted by February 14, 2018. A decision will be made to applicants on March 30, 2018, with contracts to be awarded in May.

Background

In March 2015, government commissioned an independent Techno-Economic Assessment (TEA) of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) in order to contribute to the evidence base and help inform policy decisions.

There are a total of 7 projects that make up the TEA:

Project 1: Comprehensive analysis and assessment of SMRs. Led by Atkins
Project 2: Systems optimization modeling for SMRs. Led by the Energy Technologies Institute
Project 3: Assessment of emerging SMR technologies. Led by the National Nuclear Laboratory
Project 4: Assessment of UK regulatory regime for SMRs. Led by Checkendon Hill
Projects 5-7: SMR Cost reduction study. Led by EY
Project 5 – Advanced manufacturing
Project 6 – Advanced assembly, modularisation and construction
Project 7 – Control, operation and electric systems

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

ThorCon’s Nuclear MSR Design Gains Momentum

Fall 2017 has been a watershed of progress for ThorCon, a startup developing liquid fuel fission power plants. The company is working to implement its molten salt reactor (MSR) technology first in Indonesia.

The Argonne National Lab has teamed up with ThorCon to apply for DOE grants that would support the development of ThorCon’s advanced MSR technology. One of the proposed projects would have Argonne apply its new high-fidelity simulation tools to ThorCon’s reactor design See also this technical summary of its MSR reactor (PDF file).

ThorCon employs a moderately high energy density resulting in a short (4 year) moderator life. A ThorCon plant is made up  of one or more 250 MWe modules. Each module consists of two sealed Cans. Each Can houses a 250 MWe primary loop including a  Pot (reactor), pump, and primary heat exchanger. The two Cans are duplexed. At any time, one Can is operating and the other is in cool-down or stand-by mode. The plant is designed so that the change out of a cooled-down Can is safe and quick.

thorcon1

Meeting at Argonne.  From left: Cherria Supit (secretary KEIN), Lars Jorgensen (CEO of ThorCon US), Bo Feng (ANL reactor design expert), Tanju Sofu (ANL Program Manager), Florent Heidet (ANL Section Manager), Zulnahar Usman (head of KEIN delegation), David Devanney (CEO of ThorCon International), Bob Effendi (KEIN), Deltadi Nurwijayanto (KEIN).

thorcon at argonne

KEIN delegate meeting with Argonne MSR team chaired by Dr Tanju Sofu (sitting in front, brown jacket) Others are members of the workgroup from ANL and Thorcon.

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First Investor

ThorCon’s first round of funding has been achieved. One of the investors, Dr. Gary Bergstrom, the founder of Acadian Asset Management, states;

“I was impressed by the extraordinary engineering abilities of the team as well as the project’s potential to make a dent in the climate change problem. Over my career I have been extensively involved with investing in emerging economies and I believe that many are promising markets for ThorCon’s clean, non-intermittent, and low cost (under 7 cents/kWh) electric power. It also offers dramatic benefits in facility placement options and safety versus other alternatives.”

Indonesian Delegation Visit

In early November, a delegation from Indonesian President Widodo’s special advisory Council on the National Economy and Industry (KEIN), made a visit to the United States to carry out due diligence on molten salt reactor (MSR) technology and on the ThorCon design.

The delegation was escorted by ThorCon on visits to the Braidwood Nuclear Generating Station, the Argonne National Lab, the Oak Ridge National Lab, and the Office of Nuclear Energy of the Department of Energy in Washington, DC.

Mr. Zulnahar Usman, the chairman of the delegation, summarized the trip as “an unqualified success. Our meetings and discussions with various nuclear and molten salt reactor experts in the United States have confirmed the safety and viability of the MSR technology.”

He added, ” The ThorCon power plant has also been confirmed as an excellent design whose stated schedule and costs are doable. I am going to strongly recommend to President Widodo that the Government add the Thorium MSR technology to the country’s energy mix.”

thorcon2

Meeting at ORNL.  From left:  Dr. David Holcomb (ORNL), Dr. Gary T. Mays (ORNL headof MSR program, Mr. Zulnahar Usman (head of KEIN delegation), Mr. Bob Effendi (KEIN), Lars Jorgensen (CEO of ThorCon US), Ms. Cherria Supit (KEIN).

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DOE Office of Nuclear Energy Meeting

One of the highlights of the delegation’s US trip was a meeting  the DOE’s acting head of nuclear energy, Mr. Ed McGinnis, who showed strong interest in Indonesia’s  progress towards nuclear power.

Mr. McGinnis and Mr. Usman agreed that the two countries would take steps to increase cooperation in support of Indonesia’s nuclear plans with the understanding that a ThorCon demonstration power plant would most likely be Indonesia’s first step.

thorcon3

Meeting at DOE  From Left:  Tom Blees (SCGI), Zulnahar Usman (head of KEIN delegation), Ed McGinnis (DOE head of nuclear power), BobEffendi (KEIN), Lars Jorgensen (CEO of ThorCon US)

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Cost of Thorcon Power in Indonesia

At a recent meeting hosted by the Deputy Minister of Energy in Indonesia, a day long review was undertaken by the various stakeholders in the Government and private industry regarding adding nuclear power to the country’s energy system.

A comparison of all offered sources of nuclear found ThorCon’s power to be 4 to 5 cents per kWh lower than the competition and the only clean source of non-intermittent power that was competitive with coal.

PLN, the national utility company, expressed its willingness to buy nuclear power if it was under 7 cents per kWh.  ThorCon’s willingness to provide power at this level was made clear to the Deputy Minister who expressed a preference for this low-cost option while at the same time acknowledging its unproven nature at commercial scale.

Media Contact

Robert Hargraves
co-founder: ThorCon International
author: THORIUM: energy cheaper than coal
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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

UK to Boost Investment in New Nuclear Projects and SMRs

  • The government has announced funding for small modular reactors.
  • South Korea will partner with a UK nuclear firm to rescue the Moorside Project

The Financial Times reports that UK ministers will this week renew their support for nuclear power with measures to strengthen the industry’s supply chain and develop a new generation of small-scale reactors.

The newspaper says the action will signal the government’s continued support with a package of measures to increase spending on nuclear research.

The announcement will also reportedly include long-awaited details of how the government plans to promote development of “mini nuclear plants” known as small modular reactors.

Separately, there has been a breakthrough in plans for a new full size nuclear plant at Moorside in Cumbria. KEPCO, the South Korean utility, is said to be developing a deal to invest in the NuGen consortium, owned by Toshiba, which is the current owner of Cumbrian project.

Due to its financial troubles and the bankruptcy of its nuclear business unit Westinghouse in the U.S., Toshiba has been trying to sell the project to a new developer. It appears that KEPCO’s interests is the answer to Toshiba’s prayers.

The project was originally scoped as supporting three Westinghouse 1150 MW AP1000 LWR PWR type reactors. It isn’t known at this time if KEPCO is interested in building these units or its own 1400 MW LWR PWR similar to the four it is building for the UAE.

Last June KEPCO said it would only invest in the Moorside project if it could build its own reactors. If this course of action is chosen, the design would have to complete the UK Generic Design Assessment which can take four-to-five years.  The Westinghouse units cleared the GDA last March.

Small Modular Reactors to Get Funding in UK

After a long delay the UK government is finally ready to push funding out the door to kick start the development of an industry to produce small modular reactors in the UK.

The Guardian newspaper reports that government ministers are expected to back the first generation of small nuclear power stations in Britain with £100 million this week, in an attempt to give the UK a competitive edge on the technology and provide a new source of clean power.

Rolls-Royce as well as US and Chinese companies have been lobbying for the support since George Osborne first promised them a share of £250m two years ago. The Guardian reports that the energy minister, Richard Harrington, is expected to make an announcement this week.

U.S developer NuScale has opened an office in the UK specifically to get business there as the SMR industry develops. Like many SMR designs that depend on LWR technology concepts, the entire assembly is underground, passively safe, and incorporates the steam generator within the reactor pressure vessel.

Diagram_of_a_NuScale_reactor

Several sources told the Guardian that the industry had been angered by government vacillation on whether to throw its weight behind the technology.

“They have blown a bit hot and cold on SMRs. There’s a sense that if we’re going to be part of this, we need to get on with it quite quickly,” said one.

Another source said: “The way this has dragged on has hacked off the better ones [SMR developers].” They added that while the funding was welcome, it was expected to be a relatively small sum and they were unsure it would be enough to make a difference.

Also, the newspaper noted that t is not yet clear who will win a share of public funds, or how the pot will be carved up between the 33 participants in the SMR competition.

Government officials have repeatedly made it clear that developers will only get financial help if they can prove their SMR will be affordable and competitive with rival energy sources. The earliest an SMR is thought likely to be ready for deployment in the UK is around 2030.

Jordan Signs MOU with X-Energy

The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) and the U.S X Energy, LLC (X-energy) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to assess X-energy’s advanced nuclear reactor – the Xe-100 – and its potential for deployment in Jordan.

The reactor is a high temperature gas cooled unit based on the “pebble bed” design pursued by South Africa and other nations. Several veterans of the PBMR effort now work on the X-Energy project.  If built the reactor would address a significant problem for nuclear energy in Jordan, which is scarcity of water for cooling systems. The X_Energy unit is cooled by gaseous helium.

X-Energy-Reactor-Steam-Generator

Chairman JAEC Dr. Khaled Toukan said in a press statement that “the HTR’s potential once implemented, will provide Jordan with opportunities that include both electric generation and non-electric utilizations such as water desalination and industrial applications. “This reactor is the nexus between 3rd and 4th generation technologies.” he added.

Vice-Chairman of the JAEC Kamal Araj said the MoU comes within studies carried out by the Commission on a number of small nuclear reactors to select the best for Jordan. “Such a reactor does not need large amounts of water for cooling as it is cooled by gas,” he noted.

Dr. Kam Ghaffarian, Chief Executive Officer X-energy said he was honored and excited about this MOU with JAEC. “Delivery of our Xe-100 for electricity, water desalination and other thermal applications in Jordan represents a breakthrough for the advanced nuclear reactor industry. ”

World Nuclear News reported that last January, X-energy was awarded cost-shared funding of $53 million over five years from the DoE to support the development of the Xe-100, working in partnership with BWX Technology, Oregon State University, Teledyne-Brown Engineering, SGL Group, Idaho National Laboratory and ORNL.

WNN also noted that in September 2017, Greenbelt, Maryland-based X-energy signed an MoU with uranium enrichment company Centrus. Under the MoU, the two parties will work towards the development of a fabrication facility to provide Triso fuel for the Xe-100 reactor.

The companies will jointly prepare a deployment plan for the fuel technology; design a cost-effective, highly automated manufacturing process line; and seek funding for a future commercial fuel production facility.

Rolls Royce MoU with Jordan for LWR SMRs

Jordan is also conducting a feasibility study to establish of two Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) based on light water dsesigns in Jordan for the production of electricity and water desalination, Vice Chairman of Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), Kamal Araj in revealed on 11/14/17.

Araj signed a memorandum of understanding with the British Rolls- Royce company to conduct a joint feasibility study to build a reactor designed by led by the company.

The JAEC commissioner said that building the SMRs comes in partnership with the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI).

Australia to Consider SMRs as Element of Energy Security Plan

(WNN) A small modular reactor (SMR) could be in operation in Australia by 2030, according to Sydney-based SMR Nuclear Technology Pty Ltd (SMR-NT). The country would be imprudent not to factor SMRs into its energy security plan, the company has told the body established by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to implement energy security reforms.

SMR-NT has set a timeline for development which would require a site to be identified within three years, and is looking for volunteer communities to host it.

Building nuclear power stations in Australia would require changes to state and federal laws and overcoming deep community objections, and SMR-NT director Robert Pritchard said the company had adopted an “aggressive” approach to SMR-based nuclear development in Australia.

“We now realise that politicians will follow the community view,” Pritchard said. “We have to get out and spend a year getting the community on side.”

The Energy Security Board was established in August by the COAG Energy Council to coordinate implementation of the reform blueprint for Australia’s electricity market produced by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel earlier this year. The board also provides whole-of-system oversight for Australian energy security and reliability.

First Concrete Poured For Unit 1 At Bangladesh’s Rooppur

(NucNet): First concrete was poured today for the nuclear island basemat of Unit 1 at the planned Rooppur nuclear power station in Bangladesh, Russian state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom said in a statement.

The ceremony was attended by Rosatom’s director-general Alexey Likhachev and the prime minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina,

In October 2013, Russia signed an agreement with Bangladesh for design work on Rooppur, on the banks of the Ganges river about 160 km from the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka. In 2014, Rosatom said the Rooppur units – the first nuclear power reactors in Bangladesh – would both be 1,200-MW V-392M pressurized water reactors.

According to Rosatom, the first unit at Rooppur is scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2023 with the second unit following in 2024. In July 2017, Russia agreed to release a state loan to finance the construction of the bulk of the Rooppur project. No mention was made of the amount of the loan, but earlier media reports put it at $12.6bn (€10.6bn).

General Electric Signs Contract for Steam Generators at Akkuyu

(WNN) GE Steam Power Systems has announced the signing of a contract to deliver the main equipment of the conventional island for the Akkuyu nuclear power plant in Turkey. The contract has been awarded to AAEM Turbine technology LLC, the Saint Petersburg, Russia-headquartered joint venture between Atomenergomash JSC (AEM) and General Electric (GE). GE Steam Power Systems will supply the four nuclear turbine generator sets.

The first Akkuyu unit, a 1200 MW VVER, is scheduled to be commissioned in 2023, while each of the remaining units are expected to become operational every year by the end of 2026. The plant will be owned and operated by Akkuyu Nuclear AS, a joint venture led by Rusatom Energy International.

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Looking Ahead to 2018 for Nuclear Energy

earth day nuclearEach year this blog looks ahead to issues it will follow in the coming 12 months.

What this look into the future does is to provide some check marks on the page of news about nuclear energy to return to from time-to-time to see what’s going on.

Readers also know that this blog presents a “realist” perspective and, while pro-nuclear in perspective, it also faces facts as they are and not as some may want them to be.

This list of issues is not comprehensive nor does it represent a set of predictions. Here without further fudging is the 2018 list.

China is outpacing all other countries except Russia in the development of advanced nuclear reactor technologies. The U.S. has lost its place as  global leader in this field.

China is placing multiple bets on advanced reactors including HTGR, Molten Salt, and other types of fast reactors. It has two 250 MW HTGRs in hot testing in Shandong province.  It is developing 100 MW SMRs.  It has a joint development effort with TerraPower.

Other milestones are that China will complete four AP1000 units at Sanmen and Haiyang. It will start building the demonstration CAP1400 reactor at Rongcheng (Shidaowan).

CGN’s Hualong One has entered the detailed review phase of the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) in the UK. In return for a 33% equity stake in the Hinkley Point C twin EPRs, the Chinese state owned firm gets a shot at building two of its reactors at the Bradwell site. It is a major coup for China’s nuclear export effort which is part of its grand “Belt & Road” effort.

Nonproliferation experts are watching with interest the maturing of a deal between China and France to build a $15 billion spent fuel reprocessing center that can turn 800 tonnes per year of it into MOX fuel.

A U.S. effort to build a MOX plant using similar technology is over budget with schedule delays and perpetually behind the political eight ball with the Department of Energy which has repeatedly tried to kill it.

Congress continues to fund it, but the level of funding guarantees more schedule and related cost delays. Politicians never seem to learn that stretching out the funding results in higher costs.

Advanced Reactors

In North America (U.S. and Canada) there are several dozen entrepreneurial start ups by developers of advanced nuclear reactors, but the earliest any of them would be ready for market will be the late 2020s or early 2030s.

So far the only advanced reactor effort that has deep pockets, and a published schedule for commercialization, is TerraPower which also has partners in China to build the first of a kind unit there by the mid-2020s.

Washington, DC, think tank Third Way keeps an eye on the advanced reactor development community and advocates for policy and funding support for the emerging industry. It’s updated website provides a list of projects and information about the technologies involved in them. An exhibition of use cases and drawings of how advanced reactors might look as implemented is online.

On the other hand NuScale has submitted its 50 MW LWR SMR design to the NRC for a safety evaluation and is on track, according to the firm, to break ground for UAMPS in Idaho in 2023. Also, in the LWR SMR world, Holtec opened a manufacturing center in New Jersey intended to support export of its 160 MW SMR to Europe and other regions.

In Canada the Chalk River nuclear R&D center is setting itself up to be a center of expertise for technology and commercialization of SMRs of all types. It hired experts from the U.S. to drive the process and developers responded enthusiastically to a request for information posted earlier this year.

The UK facing the end of life of the North Sea oil & gas fields will build 15 or or more full size, e.g., 1000 MW, nuclear reactors over the next decade to keep the lights on. As noted above two of them will be from China. The UK will also proceed aggressively to build smaller versions, called small modular reactors (SMRs), in sizes ranging from 50-300 MW of conventional light water reactors. Rolls Royce, which has built small reactors for the Royal Navy, is pushing the government to put its money on the table to support the new industry.

In terms of large projects EDF is building two 1600 MW Areva EPRs at Hinkley Point which is under a seemingly endless series of assaults by ratepayers and politicians of various stripes over its guaranteed rate case. The project, which will provide 7% of England’s electricity when complete, is needed not only because the North Sea oil and gas is coming to an end, but also because most of the UK’s first generation reactors are also reaching the end of their service lives.

The Moorside project, which was to have built Westinghouse AP1000s is in suspended status due to Toshiba’s financial problems and the Westinghouse bankruptcy. Don’t expect clarity on the future of this project in 2018.

Finally, the one bright spot is that the Wylfa project in North Wales is based on the Hitachi ABWR which is scheduled to complete the GDA in the next month or two. The Japanese government, seeking to restart its export efforts, is reported to be ready to offer significant financing for the twin 1350 MW units.

India will continue to keep western vendors at arms length preferring to build a ten units of a domestic reactor design (700 MW PHWR)  using Indian companies to supply the components.

This may be the year that Areva either gets NPCIL to commit fully to the Jaitapur project or call it quits. The Indian state owned nuclear firm has objected to the cost of the 1600 MW units, and with six of them planned at the site, fears they will gobble up funds that could be used for the smaller PHWRs elsewhere in the country. Also, NPCIL points to schedule delays and cost overruns at Areva’s EPR projects in Finland and France as caution flags.

Russian has poured first concrete for Kudankulam 3 & 4 and is working out the details for units 5 & 6 with NPCIL.  All of these units, which are 1000 MW VVERs, are in Tamil Nadu, India’s southern most state. Units 1 & 2 are in revenue service. Localization for the units has been mostly for the non-nuclear island components such as turbines. India has pressed Rosatom for a bigger share of the long lead time pie.

Bangladesh Construction work on Bangladesh’s first nuclear power reactorswill start by the end of the year.. Work on the nuclear reactors (Russian VVERs) is slated to be complete by 2024.

Japan will struggle to restart its nuclear reactor fleet due to the Fukushima disaster and deep skepticism about safety issues by provincial officials who have virtual veto power over the restarts. It will continue to import LNG and coal to make up the difference. The Nuclear Regulatory Agency has told Japan’s utilities it is in no hurry to certify shuttered reactors as being safe for restarts.

TEPCO has struggled to restart the two most modern of the seven BWR type reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, but a series of provincial governors have resisted giving their OK to that decision. The plant has had a series of minor accidents with LLW and small fires, but TEPCO’s problems with transparency in reporting them have not been confidence builders with regional officials.

Despite a brief show of political spin, South Korea finds it doesn’t have a choice about keeping its nuclear reactors going. A hand picked panel voted against the South Korean president’s plan to shut down two reactors now under construction. Work will continue on them. U.S activist Michael Shellenberger, MD, helped South Korean pro-nuclear groups make the case for setting aside the shutdown plan.

Former US DOE Sec Steven Chu has warned South Korea about the consequences of closing operating nuclear reactors and canceling new units. It won’t be able to make up the difference in power with imported coal and natural gas. South Korea’s highly industrialized economy needs the electricity to keep the export engine humming.

Chu also pointed out that Germany implemented the similar “green” energy policy to do away with nuclear power, but it ended up hurting public health by boosting dependence on coal-fired power plants.

In fact, Germany has expanded its lignite coal fields which leads to more CO2 being spewed into the atmosphere. The policy also burdened ordinary Germans with higher electricity bills while benefiting only industry.

Similarly, France is not going to scale back on its use of nuclear energy. Every time government makes a statement about closing half of its nuclear plants it gets a wake up call that 75% of the nation’s electricity comes from them.

The result is that the government then kicks the can down the road, but does nothing to plan for replacement of units once they hit the 60 year mark. All of the nation’s first generation 900 MW units hit that milestone by the early 2040s. To replace them construction must start a decade earlier.

Turkey will likely finally break ground in 2018 on Rosatom’s build of the first of four of its advanced 1200 MW VVER nuclear reactors at Akkuyu on its Mediterranean coast.

Less certain are schedules for projects at Sinop (Mitsubishi/Areva to build 4 1100 MW Atmea PWRs) on the Black Sea coast or another project at Igneada near the Bulgarian border.

For Sinop construction was supposed to start this year with completion in 2023. No update is available on a revised schedule.

Negotiations are ongoing for a nuclear project at Igneada in Kirklareli province on the Black Sea. No specific site has been selected. WNA reports that in November 2014 EUAS signed an agreement with the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) of China and Westinghouse to begin exclusive negotiations to develop and construct a four-unit nuclear power plant. Designs will be either the AP1000 or the new CAP 1400 both PWR type units.

The Czech Republic may finally, after several false starts, get a tender out the door for new reactors at Temelin and Dukovany. Rosatom would like to get its arms wrapped around these deals, but so would Areva and Westinghouse.

Germany, which is struggling with the self-imposed pain of high electricity prices after closing half its nuclear fleet, would love to buy cheap nuclear power from CEZ, the Czech state-owned power utility.

Romania, which has two 600 MW CANDU 6 PHWR reactors at Cernavoda, is building two more there. China Nuclear Power Engineering Co. (CNPEC), a subsidiary of China General Nuclear Power Group, (CGN) is partnered with Candu Energy, the former reactor division of AECL that was sold to off to a private sector engineering firm. China has agreed to provide {euro} 6.5 billion in financing for the project.

Hungary will build two Russian VVERs at the PAKs site after clearing a case of political correctness with the European Union which seems to want to turn the continent into the energy equivalent of a children’s’ petting zoo. The Russians see the deal as pulling its former Cold War satellite back into its economic sphere of influence.

The United Arab Emirates has four South Korean 1400 MW PWR type units under construction at a site on the Persian Gulf at a cost of $20 billion. The first unit is expected to be complete in 2018. The project is a showcase for South Korean expertise in meeting schedule and cost commitments and for the UAE in developing peaceful uses of atomic energy in a politically volatile region.

Saudi Arabia continues to slowly develop a nuclear energy program with a RFI type tender for two 1400 MW PWR type reactors. South Korea, which is already developing a 300 MW SMR for KSA, is expected to bid as will Rosatom. The Russians managed to get wire services on a tizzy over its claim that the tender was for a now cancelled plan for 16 reactors. Westinghouse is also reported to want to bid, but the lack of a 1-2-3 Agreement between the U.S. and KSA is going to be a problem.

Egypt will sign a deal with Rosatom to build four 1200 MW VVER reactors. This is Rosatom’s most advanced light water reactor and the export agency will provide 50% of the funding.  For Egypt’s part, it must raise the $12-15 billion that will be its share of the cost and fully organize a nuclear safety and regulatory agency to supervise the construction and operation of the units.  Also, it must vastly improve its electrical grid to deliver the power to customers and it must develop new and reliable methods for getting paid by customers for the power.

South Africa continues to engage in a frenzied debate over a plan to build 9.6GWe of nuclear power (8 1200 MW units). In 2014 South African President Zuma accepted a proposal from Rosatom for 50% financing of the project which ran into a buzz saw of political opposition over the back door procurement process and also where the South African portion of the financing would come from.

President Zuma has cycled through three finance ministers all of whom told him the government can’t afford the project and a fourth is now at loggerheads with Zuma’s energy minister on the same issues.

More troubles for South Africa’s plan to build the reactors came in late November 2017 as S&P cut the country’s debt rating and Moody’s issued a warning to investors. The Bloomberg wire service reported that S&P Global Ratings cut South Africa’s local-currency debt score to junk, while Moody’s Investors Service also threatened to slash its ranking to the same level, raising the risk of a selloff.

In 2017 Vietnam cancelled its plans for eight nuclear reactors from Russia and Japan for two reasons. The first is that it can’t afford them. The second is that despite nearly a decade of work it still didn’t have the institutional capacity nor expertise to regulate them.

In South America Argentina started construction in 2014 of a 25 MW SMR. The first fuel load was scheduled for late 2017, but an exact date has not been confirmed.

Argentina has plans to start work on a 750 MW Candu 6 type unit in partnership with China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) which also has an agreement with Argentina to build a 1150 MW Hualong One. The Candu 6 unit is supposed to break ground in 2018 and the Hualong One in 2020. Both dates are subject to change.

Separately, Rosatom has an agreement in principle to build a 1200 MW VVER for Argentina, but no site nor construction schedule has been announced for the project.

In Brazil Angra 3, a 1400 MW PWR which has been under construction in fits and starts since 2010, is now scheduled to be complete in 2018. Plans to build another four-to-six 1000 MW units at various site remain on the budget wish list due to a lack of funding.

Mexico would like to build two more nuclear reactors at Laguna Verde. However, that project would require a supply chain that includes firms in the U.S. Mexico’s 1-2-3 Agreement with the U.S., nearly completed in July 2016 under President Obama, remains in limbo more than a year later under President Trump.

In Finland the agonizing saga of construction of Olkiluoto 3, an Areva 1600 MW EPR, is finally coming to an end with start up testing now scheduled for 2018. Construction of a fifth reactor for Finland at Fennovoima, the Hanhikivi 1 a 1200 MW VVER from Rosatom, has encountered schedule delays, but is expected to proceed.

In the U.S. the cancellation of the twin Westinghouse AP1000s for the V C Summer project in South Carolina has sent shock waves through the industry. Meanwhile, two similar units being built at the Vogtle site in Georgia are moving ahead with delayed start dates now in the 2020s.

Westinghouse declared bankruptcy, and while its new CEO has plans to emerge from that status in 2018, the complexities of the case leave some analysts skeptical of the company achieving that milestone.

Toshiba, the parent firm, has announced plans to sell the firm, and soon, to pay off its creditors which include cash settlements to the utilities building the AP1000s at Vogtle and V C Summer. Both utilities have factored their settlements to get cash ahead of the sale.

The U.S. continues to close nuclear reactors due to the low cost of natural gas. Efforts to subsidize their operation to give them credit for CO2 free electricity generation have met with mixed results in New York and Illinois. Efforts to save two reactors in Ohio so far have fallen short with strong opposition from rate payer groups.

In New York Entergy gave up the effort to get 20 year license extensions for the twin reactors at Indian Point. Well-funded green groups convinced New York Governor Cuomo to press for closure.

Entergy had previously closed the Vermont Yankee reactor soon after getting a 20 year renewal due to low natural gas prices and an untenable political situation in Vermont.

Entergy has also announced plans to close the Pilgrim reactor in Massachusetts ion 2019. It refueled the plant for the last time this year. However, in September Energy reversed plans to close the Palisades plant in Michigan keeping it open at least until 2022.

Separately, Dominion filed for another 20 year license extension, to 80 years, of its twin reactors at North Anna.

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Dan’s Idaho Nuclear Chili for 2017

This is a Thanksgiving tradition now published for the 10th year in a row here and at my previous blog Idaho Samizdat

PotChili1In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and wanting to take a break from reading, thinking, and writing about nuclear energy, I’m offering my tried and true cooking instructions for something completely different.

By Sunday night you will be stuffed, fed up, literally, and figuratively, with turkey. Instead of food fit for pilgrims, try food invented to be eaten in the wide open west — chili. Cook this dish on Saturday. Eat it on Sunday.

These instructions take about an hour to complete. This chili has a few more vegetables and beans than some people might like, but we’re all trying to eat healthy. Although the name of this dish has the word “nuclear” in it, it isn’t that hot on the Scoville scale. If you want some other choices for nuclear chili there are lots of recipes on Google

six pack of beerThe beer adds sweetness to the vegetables, as does the brandy, and is a good for cooking generally. In terms of the beer, which is an essential ingredient, you’ll still have five cans or bottles left to share with friends so there’s always that.

However, I recommend dark beers or amber ales such as Negra Modelo or Anchor Steam for drinking with this dish and Budweiser or any American pilsner for cooking it. Alternatives for drinking include local western favorites such as Moose Drool or Black Butte Porter, and regional amber ales like Alaskan Amber or Fat Tire. Do not cook with “light” beer. It’s a very bad idea! Your dinner guests will not forgive you.

History of the cooking instructions

Scoville, Idaho, is the destination for Union Pacific rail freight for the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) way out on the Arco desert.

There is no town by that name, but legend has it that way back in the 50s & 60s, when the place was called the National Reactor Testing Station, back shift workers on cold winter nights relished the lure of hot chili hence the use of the use of the name ‘Scoville” for shipping information.

arco-desert

The Arco desert west of Idaho Falls is both desolate and beautiful.

In winter overnight temperatures on the Arco desert can plunge to -20F or more. The men and women running the reactors couldn’t drink beer, but they did have coffee. It’s still that way today.

Why ‘2nd day’ in the name?

This is “2nd day chili.” That means after you make it, put it in the unheated garage to cool, then refrigerate it, and reheat the next day. The flavors will have had time to mix with the ingredients, and on a cold Idaho night what you need that warms the body and the soul is a bowl of hot chili with fresh, hot from the oven cornbread on the side.

inl.map

The Idaho National Laboratory is located about 45 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID 43.3N;112.1W 

 

Dan’s 2nd day Idaho Nuclear Chili

If you make a double portion, you can serve it for dinner over a hot Idaho baked potato with salad. Enjoy.

Ingredients

1 lb chopped or ground beef (15% fat)
1 large onion
1 sweet red pepper
1 sweet green pepper
10-12 medium size mushrooms
1 can pinto beans (plain, no “sauce”)
1 can black beans
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can small, white ‘shoepeg” corn
1 12 oz can beer
1 cup hot beef broth
1 tablespoon cooking brandy or sherry and bourbon is ok too
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno peppers
2-4 tablespoons red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse powdered garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin

Directions

1. Chop the vegetables into small pieces and brown them in cooking oil. Add 1 tablespoon of cooking brandy near the end. Drain thoroughly. Sprinkle chili powder, salt, pepper, to taste on vegetables while they are cooking. The onions should be more or less translucent to be fully cooked.
2. Brown the meat separately and drain the fat. Also sprinkle chili power and the cumin on the meat while cooking.
3. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Be sure to drain the beans, and tomatoes before adding. Simmer slowly for at least one-to-two hours Stir occasionally.
4. Set aside and refrigerate when cool. If the pot doesn’t fit in the frig, and the garage is unheated, put it out here to cool off.
5. Reheat the next day. Garnish with shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Serve with cornbread.
Feeds 2-4 adults.

inl_bus

Idaho bus drivers say “eat more chili.”

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