NASA Plans to Deploy Nuclear Power on Lunar Surface

  • NASA Plans to Deploy Nuclear Power on Lunar Surface
  • Tractebel Leads EU Project on Nuclear Space Power Technologies
  • Repowering Coal Plants with SMRs is the Largest Carbon Abatement Opportunity on The Planet’ – TerraPraxis
  • Nuclear Start-Up Raised €300M; Wants to Turn UK Waste Plutonium Into Clean Energy
  • Orano and TerraPower Awarded GAIN Vouchers to Help Advance Nuclear Technologies
  • Lightbridge Fuel in MIT Study of Accident Tolerant Fuels
  • BN-800 Fast Reactor Fully Loaded With MOX Fuel
  • SMRs Could Massively Expand US Nuclear Fleet By 2050 – NEI

NASA Plans to Deploy Nuclear Power on Lunar Surface

  • NASA Announces Artemis Concept Awards for Nuclear Power on Moon

NASA’s plan is that fission surface power systems could provide reliable power for human exploration of the Moon.  Three contracts, to be awarded through the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, valued at approximately $5 million, will fund the development of initial design concepts for a 40-kilowatt class fission power system planned to last at least 10 years in the lunar environment.

Relatively small and lightweight compared to other power systems, fission systems are reliable and could enable continuous power regardless of location, available sunlight, and other natural environmental conditions. A demonstration of such systems on the Moon would pave the way for long-duration missions on the Moon and Mars.

nasa stirling engine for lunar missions

The Phase 1 awards will provide NASA critical information from industry that can lead to a joint development of a full flight-certified fission power system. Fission surface power technologies also will help NASA mature nuclear propulsion systems that rely on reactors to generate power. These systems could be used for deep space exploration missions.

Battelle Energy Alliance, the managing and operating contractor for Idaho National Laboratory, led the Request for Proposal development, evaluation, and procurement sponsored by NASA. Idaho National Laboratory will award 12-month contracts to the following companies to each develop preliminary designs.

  • Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Maryland – The company will partner with BWXT and Creare.
  • Westinghouse of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania – The company will partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne.
  • IX of Houston, Texas, a joint venture of Intuitive Machines and X-Energy – The company will partner with Maxar and Boeing.

“New technology drives our exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “Developing these early designs will help us lay the groundwork for powering our long-term human presence on other worlds.”

“The Fission Surface Power project is a very achievable first step toward the United States establishing nuclear power on the Moon,” said Idaho National Laboratory Director John Wagner.

Partners

NASA’s fission surface power project is managed by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The technology development and demonstration are funded by the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Technology Demonstration Missions program, which is located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. For more information, visit the fission surface power project website.

Returning to the Moon’s surface for human and robotic missions is within reach with the assistance of the Fission Surface Power (FSP) project. This project works toward providing a power-rich environment supporting lunar exploration.

The FSP project seeks to bring about new capabilities supporting a lunar sustainable presence and crewed Mars exploration while providing near-term opportunities for fabrication, testing and flight of a space fission system.

NASA’s fission surface power project builds on heritage projects spanning 50 years, including SNAP-10A, NASA’s Kilopower project, and recent developments in commercial nuclear power and fuel technology.

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Tractebel Leads EU Project on Nuclear Space Power Technologies

Tractebel has been selected to head the consortium of PULSAR. It is a research and innovation project funded by the European Commission to develop nuclear technology to power space missions. The project will be funded by the Euratom Research and Training Program (2021-2025), a complementary funding program to Horizon Europe covering nuclear research and innovation.

The technology could be used to explore the moon and Mars. It could also help establish a permanent base on the moon, the so-called “Moon Village” promoted by ESA. Moreover, the technology has applications beyond space exploration. The RPS could be easily adapted to provide power in challenging environments on earth such as in deep geological repositories for storing nuclear waste, the deep sea or in isolated areas where a deployable long-lived power system is required such as remote mines

Tractebel will conduct research on dynamic radioisotope power systems (RPS) fueled by plutonium 238 (Pu-238) for space applications. The project will complement the study that Tractebel has already been carrying out on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) to evaluate the possibility of producing Pu-238 in Europe. RPS are vital to providing spacecrafts and astronauts with electricity and heat where the sun does not provide sufficient power usually set as being beyond the orbit of Mars.

ASRG RPS

A typical configuration of an ASRG. Image: NASA Glenn.

An RPS uses the heat from the natural radioactive decay of PU-238 to produce electric power. An RPS provides power for spacecraft by converting heat generated by the natural radioactive decay of its fuel source, plutonium dioxide, into electricity using devices called thermocouples.

European Consortium Stakeholders

The PULSAR project brings together leading stakeholders in the fields of aerospace and nuclear within a consortium led by Tractebel. The consortium includes the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK CEN, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission CEA, INCOTEC, ArianeGroup, Airbus Defense and Space, the University of Bourgogne Franche Comté and Arttic. Each partner will bring state-of-the-art expertise in its respective field, to contribute to the success of this Europe-wide project.

Weight to Power / Efficiency Ratiospu238 pellet

The project aims to address the issue in two ways. It aims to further develop technology and capabilities in Europe to produce Pu-238 to fuel radioisotope power systems (RPS). Its second objective is to significantly increase the efficiency and weight to power performance ratios of the RPS thanks to an advanced Stirling engine which has moving parts.

Current nuclear batteries, the so-called radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), have low conversion efficiencies. This means that substantial amounts of fuel and large RTGs are needed to power missions, which increases the weight to be launched by the space rocket, adversely affecting rocket payload capability. The project aims to address the issue in two ways. It aims to further develop technology and capabilities in Europe to produce Pu-238 to fuel radioisotope power systems (RPS). Its second objective is to significantly increase the efficiency of the RPS thanks to an advanced Stirling engine.

Every measure of weight for the power system is a claim on the payload weight of scientific instruments hence the drive for higher efficiencies and lower weights for the power systems. Higher levels of power increases the options for the instruments to be part of the payload and the bandwidth of data transmission to get the information from the spacecraft back to earth.

HEU v. LEU in Power and Propulsion Systems

A problem for all space faring missions that will use nuclear energy, is that if the power source is uranium fuel, highly enriched uranium (HEU) provides more electrical power per pound than fuel with enrichment levels below 20% U2325.  The trade off is that the lower enriched fuel is required in greater quantity, e.g., weight, than the HEU which means less weight available for science instruments. An early version of the Kilopower design concept called for the use of HEU to power the system. The LEU version was assessed to be three times as heavy as the HEU design.

In 2020 NASA banned the use of HEU in space power and propulsion systems. Opponents of civilian use of HEU welcomed the policy directive. Alan Kuperman, director of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin, told Physics Today, “It is essentially what we requested when we met with NASA and the National Security Council over the last few years.”

Anthony Calomino, nuclear systems portfolio manager in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, told the news wire, HEU’s weight, cost, and performance advantages over LEU reactors won’t be sufficient to justify its use as fuel. Under the new directive, “it would really have to be that we can’t close a mission with LEU” for NASA to allow HEU in space.

Neither Pu-238 nor RPS are currently manufactured on European soil. As space has become a strategic and economic priority for Europe, Europe’s dependence on other countries in the fields of energy and aerospace is a major concern. PULSAR is a step forward for Europe to become an autonomous global leader in space exploration.

pu-238-production-process

See also U.S. Department of Energy – What is a radioisotope system?

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Repowering Coal Plants with SMRs is the Largest Carbon Abatement Opportunity on The Planet – TerraPraxis

(NucNet) Repowering existing coal plant infrastructure, including with small modular reactors (SMRs), is the largest single carbon abatement opportunity on the planet and could greatly accelerate the clean energy transition while using existing infrastructure and maintaining vital jobs, according to a report.

The report by TerraPraxis, a non-profit organization focused on action for climate and prosperity, says replacing coal-fired boilers at existing coal plants with carbon-free SMRs, also known as advanced heat sources, would transform coal-fired power plants from polluting liabilities facing an uncertain future, into a central component of a clean energy system transition – an important part of the massive and pressing infrastructure buildout needed to address climate change.

TerraPraxis has assembled a consortium of partners including Bryden Wood, Microsoft, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and University at Buffalo, along with a consortium of global utilities, to launch the ‘Repowering Coal’ initiative. The aim is to provide standardized, pre-licensed designs supported by automated project development and design tools to enable customers to be ready to start construction on their SMR projects in the late 2020s.

Bryden Wood, a UK-based design and engineering firm, has created a new design and construction solution that the group says would make such a program possible at scale and speed, in part by deploying a new digital platform.

Converting 5,000 – 7,000 coal plant units globally between 2030 and 2050 (250 – 350 per year) will require a “redesigned delivery model” that has to de-risk the construction process. This means providing coal plant owners and investors with high-certainty schedules and budgets. Purpose-built automated tools can achieve rapid, repeatable, and confident project and planning assessments.

Power-Graphs

Kirsty Gogan, co-founder and managing partner of TerraPraxis, said: “The challenge is not only to build enough clean electricity generation to power the world, but to do so quickly while building the infrastructure required to decarbonize end-use sectors such as heat, industry, and transport,” she said at the Nuclear Innovation Conference in Amsterdam.

Grogan told the conference that there will be regulatory challenges to repurposing coal plants. They vary widely and developing a new SMR design for each plant would be complex, costly, and slow. Rather than thousands of individual projects, TerraPraxis’ aim is to develop a unified approach where the design is simplified and standardized to make this plan a reality as quickly as possible.

According to TerraPraxis, some policymakers, climate modelers and activists assume that countries will simply shut down their coal plants to reduce carbon emissions. However, because more than half of coal plants worldwide are less than 14 years old, it is unrealistic to expect such young assets to simply retire, especially considering growing energy demand and supply shortages.

“Even in countries with relatively old coal plants, such as the US, Canada and Europe, closing coal plants is difficult and controversial because the loss of jobs and revenues can be devastating for communities, and utilities continue to value the reliable electricity generated,” TerraPraxis says.

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Nuclear Start-Up Raises €300 million; Wants To Turn UK Waste Plutonium Into Clean Energy

lead cooledA nuclear power start-up is seeking to create clean energy from 140 tonnes of waste plutonium stored in Cumbria. Nucleo hopes to use spent fuel in a new reactor design. The firm’s lead-cooled reactor models use a mixture of uranium and plutonium, which is a waste product from existing plants in the UK.

While the company’s designs are still in the early stages, it raised €300 million (£257 million) this week to help fund its first reactors after raising €100 million last year from investors including ex-Goldman Sachs banker Claudio Costamagna and asset manager Azimut.

According to Italian physicist Stefano Buono, chief executive officer, London-based Nucleo will likely place its first reactor on British soil, setting a precedent for private operators of nuclear plants in Britain. At specific site has not yet been selected.

There firm says there is no problem with fuel supply as the UK has the largest civilian plutonium stockpile in the world, which includes material from nuclear programs of other countries such as Japan.

Nucleo also intends to build 30MWe of sealed reactor units, which can be used to power ships at a cost of €150 million each. The proposed sealed units would last for 15 years and would be filled with all the fuel needed to operate during their time at sea.

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Orano and TerraPower Awarded GAIN Vouchers to Help Advance Nuclear Technologies

gain logoThe Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative awarded vouchers today to Orano Federal Services (Charlotte, NC) and TerraPower (Bellevue, WA) to help advance their nuclear technologies. Both voucher recipients will gain access to the U.S. Department of Energy’s national lab complex.

Orano is partnering with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop a new technical study that updates the physical chemistry limits of uranium hexafluoride gas enriched up to 10 percent that can be safely transported in existing shipping containers. The new study will be used for review and approval by radioactive material transport regulators.  Abstract

TerraPower will leverage the neutron testing capabilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory to measure the properties of chlorine isotopes to determine how they will behave in the company’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor Experiment. The data generated will help reduce regulatory uncertainty of chloride salt reactors. Abstract

GAIN voucher recipients do not receive direct financial awards but are provided access to the national labs at no cost. All awardees are responsible for a minimum 20 percent cost share, which could be an in-kind contribution.

GAIN was established by the Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy and provides the nuclear community with the technical, regulatory, and financial support necessary to move innovative nuclear technologies toward commercialization while ensuring the continued, safe, and economic operation of the existing fleet.

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Lightbridge Fuel in MIT Study of Accident Tolerant Fuels

  • Lightbridge Announces U.S. Department of Energy Award to MIT to Study the Deployment of Accident Tolerant Fuels in Small Modular Reactors

Lightbridge Corporation (Nasdaq: LTBR), an advanced nuclear fuel technology company, announced that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been awarded approximately $800,000 by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Nuclear Energy University Program R&D Awards to study the deployment of Accident Tolerant Fuels in Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).

The project will be funded in its entirety by the DOE, with the goal of bringing collaborative teams together to solve complex problems to advance nuclear technology and understanding. Among other objectives, the project will simulate the fuel and safety performance of Lightbridge Fuel inside a small modular reactor (SMR) designed by industry leader NuScale Power (NYSE: SMR). An abstract of the study can be found here

Seth Grae, President and CEO of Lightbridge commented, “We are honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with MIT’s prestigous Department of Nuclear Science & Engineering (NSE) in this important study, where MIT will simulate the usage and safety performance of Lightbridge fuel inside of a NuScale Power small modular reactor. Importantly, this research dovetails with our strategic focus on fueling SMRs of the future and the potential additional benefits Lightbridge fuel rods will bring to SMRs.”

José N. Reyes, Ph.D., Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of NuScale Power commented, ”NuScale is proud to have our groundbreaking SMR technology as a part of this important study. We share the goals of the DOE and the Nuclear Energy University Program in expanding access to nuclear energy, the nation’s largest source of clean power, while collaborating with the next generation of nuclear industry leaders at MIT.”

“SMR’s enhanced safety features provide flexibility in adoption of future advanced fuel technologies for improved performance,” commented Koroush Shirvan, Principal Investigator of the study and assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.

“We also appreciate the lasting commitment demonstrated by the DOE to support the development of advanced nuclear technologies like Lightbridge Fuel. Previously, Lightbridge had been awarded two GAIN vouchers by the DOE, relating to our fuel and our proprietary manufacturing process, respectively. This announcement provides Lightbridge another non-dilutive opportunity to advance our fuel development, while further strengthening our association with the DOE,” concluded Mr. Grae.

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BN-800 Fast Reactor Fully Loaded With MOX Fuel

(Nuclear Engineering International) The BN-800 fast reactor at unit 4 of Russia’s Beloyarsk NPP will be fully loaded for the first time with innovative uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX)) fuel.

“Prior to this, for half a year, the BN-800 operated at a 60% load of the core with mox fuel,” explained Ivan Sidorov, director of the Beloyarsk NPP. “After the current refueling, for the first time in the history of global nuclear energy, a fast reactor will be fully operated on fuel from a mixture of depleted uranium and plutonium.”bn-800-large-image_thumb.png

According to World Nuclear News, in 2021 the BN-600 was loaded with 60% MOX fuel.  The unit is a sodium-cooled fast reactor which produces about 820 MWe. It started operation in 2016 and in 2020 achieved a capacity factor of 82% despite having an experimental role in proving reactor technologies and fuels.

WNN also reported that the uranium came from depleted uranium tails left over from the enrichment process that creates fuel for light-water reactors. In this way MOX uses depleted uranium that had no other immediate use and was held in storage with plutonium recycled from previously used fuel.

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SMRs Could Massively Expand US Nuclear Fleet By 2050 – NEI

(NucNet) The Washington, DC,-based Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is expecting that about 300 new small modular reactors (SMRs), at 300 MWe each, could be deployed in the US by 2050, adding roughly 90 GWe of new nuclear capacity to the national grid, according to the institute’s CEO Maria Korsnick.  (speech)

what-are-SMRs_thumb.pngMs Korsnick, who spoke at the NEI’s Nuclear Energy Assembly conference, said the industry’s challenge is not the lack of demand for nuclear but being able to build fast enough to meet those needs.

She said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will face “a rapidly growing volume of applications for new reactors” and they must have the capacity to efficiently go through the review and licensing processes. The NRC funds much of its work by recovering its costs from fees charged to applicants for licenses.

“There is a “growing list” of utilities who are new to nuclear and are demonstrating interest in advanced technologies, Ms Korsnick said.

According to Ms Korsnick, the US Department of Energy (DOE) loan program office is working on several applications for nuclear projects in the US while the US Export-Import Bank is working to mobilize funding for overseas customers.

Asked about the cost of nuclear new-build, Ms Korsnick said the US nuclear industry “had not built in a while”, which led to supply chain effectiveness and efficiency losses.

“We need to get on with it, and a natural process of improvement will bring costs down,” she said while also noting that SMRs could have their costs controlled by being manufactured in a factory setting.

Separately, Korsnick called for the government’s support to re-establish a “US leadership” in fuel conversion and enrichment capabilities in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

She said: “We are working with the administration, with congress, and with our allies to establish a secure and reliable uranium fuel supply that will eliminate the need for Russian imports.”

“I won’t sugarcoat the current difficulties. While the decision is simple from a diplomatic and moral standpoint, it won’t be easy to execute — and it can’t be done overnight,” Ms Korsnick warned.

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INL to Test Thorium Fuels in ATR

  • Clean Core Thorium Energy Partners with DOE for Thorium Fuel Testing
  • Senator Tuberville (R-Ala) Introduces the Thorium Energy Security Act
  • Denmark’s Seaborg Wins EU Grant for Floating Nuclear Plants
  • Seaborg and South Korea’s BEES Sign MOU for a Floating Molten Salt Reactor
  • Keeping Diablo Canyon Power Plant Online Would Help California Decarbonize
  • DOE Proposes Changes to Help Rescue California’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant
  • UAE Regulator Issues Operating License For Barakah  3
  • Sizewell C Twin EPRs Eligible for RAB Method Funding

Clean Core Thorium Energy Partners with DOE for Thorium Fuel Testing

A schedule is set for qualification tests for advanced thorium fuel at the Idaho National Laboratory

11-INL_Logo-2Clean Core Thorium Energy (CCTE) (Clean Core), based in Chicago, announced a new strategic partnership agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy for the testing of Clean Core’s innovative thorium fuel for nuclear power plants. The agreement is the next step for irradiation testing and qualification in Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor of Clean Core’s advanced nuclear fuel. The firm said the agreement is a “major milestone in the commercialization of thorium-based energy.”

Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life (ANEEL) is a proprietary fuel technology using a combination of thorium and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to enhance the performance of CANDU reactors and other pressurized heavy-water reactor designs. Proliferation-resistant ANEEL fuel will decrease the operating costs of CANDU and pressurized heavy-water reactors (PHWRs) while significantly reducing the volume of high-level waste generated.  (large image: comparison of uranium v. thorium fuel cycles)

INL expects to begin testing of the ANEEL fuel in their Advanced Test Reactor by the end of 2022 or early 2023. Clean Core, in partnership with Texas A&M University and INL, completed the fabrication of the ANEEL fuel pellets under INL’s quality assurance requirements. The pellets are ready to be inserted into a testing assembly.

The ATR recently successfully completed a once a decade core internal changeout to upgrade its functions. The reactor is used to perform irradiation testing of many nuclear materials and fuels that support a wide range of goals, including the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered fleet, the development of accident tolerant fuels, advanced fuels for small modular reactors and microreactors, and production of Plutonium-238 for future NASA deep-space missions.

Concurrently with fuel testing at INL, Clean Core will complete performance and safety assessments and a demonstration irradiation of full-size fuel assemblies in a CANDU reactor with partners in Canada. Clean Core expects to have ANEEL fuel assemblies producing carbon-free power in commercial CANDU reactors by the end of 2025.

  • Background on the Development of the ANEEL Fuel

In October 2020 Researchers in the Nuclear Engineering and Science Center (NESC) at Texas A&M and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory (INL) partnered with Clean Core Thorium Energy (CCTE) to fabricate a proprietary thorium-based nuclear fuel called Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life (ANEEL). This fuel is a combination of thorium and high-assay low-enriched uranium and addresses issues including cost, safety, proliferation and waste management.

Use of ANEEL Fuel in PHWRs

When used in small heavy water reactors, ANEEL fuel is ideal for deployment to emerging countries where the need for additional clean energy is most urgent in developing nations and for prevention of proliferation of weapons grade nuclear materials.

Two such existing heavy water reactors designs are the Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) and the Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR). These reactors are heavy water-cooled and moderated pressurized water reactors where the nuclear core is contained in hundreds of pressurized tubes.

candu reactor

Conceptual drawing of a CANDU type nuclear reactor

They usually employ natural uranium oxide as fuel, with heavy water as the moderator (a material used in a nuclear reactor to slow down the neutrons produced from fission).

There are currently 49 operating PHWR/CANDU reactors in seven countries including Canada, Argentina, India, Romania, and China. Because of the global nuclear industry’s experience with this  fleet of reactors, the Clean Core team feels it can benefit by use existing reactor technology to minimize the cost and avoid decades-long regulatory hurdles for deployment. In 2018 India committed to building a fleet of ten 700 MWe PHWRs using a completely domestic supply chain.

  • MOU with Centrus for Commercial Scale Production

In a separate MOU with Centrus, Clean Core is collaborating to promote the use of ANEEL advanced nuclear fuel in CANDU reactors around the world, together with other PHWRs. While the initial test pellets being fabricated by Texas A&M are using a small quantity of HALEU supplied by INL, Clean Core Thorium Energy plans to use HALEU from Centrus for commercial-scale production of ANEEL fuel.

Centrus CCTE grabUnder a three-year contract signed with the U.S. Department of Energy in 2019, Centrus is constructing the first NRC-licensed HALEU production line in Piketon, Ohio.

Using thorium as the main ingredient also has many advantages in CANDU/PHWR existing reactors. With its higher melting point, and lower internal operating temperature, thorium is inherently safer than uranium, making a core meltdown less likely.

Due to the higher fuel burn-up possible with ANEEL fuel, radioactive waste is decreased substantially. Higher fuel burn-up also means more uranium and plutonium are burned to make energy while the end product is significantly denatured, reducing the possible proliferation risk of the used fuel. Thorium is also found more abundantly than uranium on Earth.

According to the US Geological Survey, Thorium resources are found throughout the world, most notably in Australia, Brazil, India, and the United States. India has the largest resources (850,000 tons), followed by Brazil (630,000 tons) and Australia and the United States (600,000 tons each).

“With this collaboration, ANEEL-fueled PHWRs/CANDUs could provide abundant, safe and clean energy in order to build a path to development and dignity for emerging nations,” said Mehul Shah, founder and CEO of CCTE.

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Senator Tuberville (R-Ala) Introduces the Thorium Energy Security Act

The Department of Energy has so far spent $657 millions to destroy the supply of U-233 under the Defense Environmental Cleanup Program. Senator  Tommy Tuberville is convinced this a waste of a key nuclear fuel. (press release)

He introduced legislation – S.4242. Under his new bill, known as the Thorium Energy Security Act, Tuberville hopes to see the U.S. save its U-233 and put it toward the development of new nuclear reactors. The bill would preserve the remaining inventory of U-233 for use in making medical isotopes and for development of fuels for thorium-powered nuclear reactors.

Tuberville notes that China has been hard at work refining its thorium technology. Beijing has produced its first reactor powered by U-233, and began testing it last September.

“Uranium-233 is too valuable and too useful to just be thrown in the trash, a fact that China understands but our Department of Energy clearly does not. While we are spending millions of dollars to destroy U-233, China is investing in it by preparing to build a new generation nuclear reactors powered by U-233.The United States needs to lead on advanced nuclear reactors and not leave the future of innovative clean energy technologies in the hands of China. Preserving this valuable national resource is the first step on that path.”

He claims that the country could soon introduce additional U-233-powered reactors as a part of its Belt and Road Initiative. So far, China has promoted for export its light water design, an 1100 MWe PWR called the Hualong One that burns conventional uranium fuel, building one in Pakistan. China is in talks with Argentina to build another one there. So far there have not been any reports of China having a thorium-fueled nuclear reactor available for export nor is one under development other than at the R&D stage.   (Neutron Bytes report on China’s thorium reactor R&D program)

Tuberville said he is worried that China will be able to gain a significant advantage in its development of U-233 technology based on a program, long since canceled, in which the U.S. shared technical data about thorium reactors designs with Beijing.

Initiated in 2011 under the Obama administration, DOE entered a cooperative agreement with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The program, which took place over several years, shared information on U-233 processing in an effort to promote China’s movement away from coal and toward clean energy solutions.

“China’s ahead of us because they got the technology, and they’re running with it, and we’re not running with it,” Tuberville told Newsweek. “There’s a will and a way here for us to make progress with energy.”

  • Why U-233 is Important to Thorium Reactors

Thorium cannot in itself power a reactor, Unlike natural uranium, it does not contain enough fissile material to initiate a nuclear chain reaction. As a result it must first be bombarded with neutrons to produce the highly radioactive isotope U-233 which makes thorium reactors very dependent on U-233 to operate.

Critics of the fuel have raised questions about nonproliferation risks in the thorium fuel cycle and overall whether it is safer than uranium fueled reactors in terms of the inputs needed to fabricate U-233, which is a man-made metal.

Also they note there are issues with the use of plutonium to make the fuel and the resulting waste form that contains PU-239, which can be used to make bombs. Various approaches to making U-233 have involved reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from light water reactors to harvest the plutonium needed to make U-233.

Jim Conca, a Ph.D., nuclear scientist, addressed these concerns in comments to Popular Mechanics Magazine in September 2020.

“The ANEEL fuel has a very high fuel burn-up rate[, which] means the fuel stays in the reactor longer and gets more energy out of the same amount of fuel. [It’s] prohibitively difficult to make into a weapon. [And] ANEEL fuel will reduce the waste by over 80% and end up with much less plutonium. Less spent fuel means less refueling, less cost, less fuel handling and less volume to dispose.”

A 2005 IAEA report “Thorium fuel cycle — Potential benefits and challenges” explains the thorium fuel cycle in great detail.   See Table 1 in this report for a list of thorium fueled reactors by nation.

India, China, and other countries have been experimenting with thorium reactors and fuels for decades, but without translating the R&D efforts into successful commercial designs. India’s interest in a thorium-fueled reactor was based on the fact that for decades it was locked out of accessing global uranium markets to get fuel for its civilian and military reactors due to its refusal to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

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Denmark’s Seaborg Wins EU Grant for Floating Nuclear Plants

(NucNet) Danish nuclear technology company Seaborg Technologies has won a European Innovation Council grant for the continued development of floating nuclear power plants based on its compact molten salt reactor (CMSR).

seaborg logoThe company said it is one of only 74 European companies selected from over 1,000 proposals to be awarded an EIC Accelerator Grant so far in 2022.

The EIC is Europe’s flagship innovation program, with a budget of €10 billion, to identify, develop and scale up breakthrough technologies and innovations across all EU member states.

The EIC Accelerator provides financial support and business acceleration services to companies, which will each receive grants and/or equity investments, depending on their needs, of up to €17.5 million.

Mastering molten salt technology is a key element of Seaborg’s Generation IV CMSR strategy in which the company aims to deploy on “power barges.” providing clean and affordable electricity worldwide.

The first power barges will have two reactors installed delivering 200 MWe. The modular design allows for up to 800 MWe over a 24-year lifetime. Seaborg is aiming to produce commercial prototypes of its reactor by 2024 with serial production in 2026.

In a CMSR reactor, the fuel is mixed with molten fluoride salt, which also acts as a coolant. According to Seaborg, this provides significant safety benefits. At the end of the 12-year fuel cycle, the fuel is returned to the supplier, where the short-lived fission products are separated and transferred to secure storage.

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Seaborg and South Korea’s BEES Sign MOU for a Floating  Molten Salt Reactor

South Korean firm Best Engineering in Energy Solutions (BEES) and Seaborg have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate with South Korean regulators to identify and meet requirements for the construction and export of the Danish company’s floating nuclear power plants.

seaborg floating

Seaborg’s Compact Molten Salt Reactor (CMSR) power barge is designed to be a turn-key product which can be moored in a harbor, and be of a modular design and able to deliver between 200 MWe and 800 MWe for its 24-year lifetime.

In April 2022, Seaborg and South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries signed a partnership agreement to develop floating nuclear power plants based on Seaborg’s CMSR.

The floating nuclear power plant comes as a turn-key product, ready to be moored at an industrial harbor. In the harbor, a transmission cable will be connected from the barge to the electric grid on shore. An optional solution is to place a hydrogen or ammonia production plant next to the nuclear power barge utilizing the CO2-free fission energy from the barge to produce hydrogen and ammonia.

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Keeping Diablo Canyon Power Plant Online Would Help California Decarbonize

Extending operations at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, California’s largest single source of carbon-free electricity production, would significantly reduce emissions and natural gas use, and accelerate progress toward the state’s ambitious clean energy goals, according to a new study released by Carbon Free California.  The Brattle Group’s full analysis is available here.

diablo canyonRetaining Diablo Canyon could help avoid blackouts, significantly reduce electric power costs and provide the best opportunity for California to meet its climate goals, even with the widespread deployment of renewables and energy storage.

The analysis, conducted by the Brattle Group, found that keeping Diablo Canyon online could also help enable California to achieve a carbon-free grid by 2035, a decade earlier than the state’s current goal, at a cost $5 billion lower than if the plant were retired. These early reductions could help jumpstart economy-wide decarbonization and reduce California’s dependence on gas-fired power generation, lowering cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by 40 million metric tons of CO2.

“Diablo Canyon is already the largest clean energy resource in California, a state that has set the ambitious goal of a carbon-free electric grid,” said Brattle Group Principal Sam Newell.

“In combination with a dramatic expansion of solar, wind, storage and dispatchable clean technologies, the study shows that keeping Diablo Canyon online will help California achieve its goals faster, at less cost and with greater grid reliability.”

The study found that keeping Diablo Canyon in California’s energy portfolio could reduce costs for ratepayers by a net present value (NPV) of approximately $4 billion, even with an assumed capital investment of $2 billion to meet the state’s ocean water intake standards. These system-wide savings result from displacing gas-fired generation and fossil fuel imports and reducing other costs for resources needed to meet clean energy and reliability goals.

This report comes at a time when the Newsom Administration has indicated its interest in exploring the option of retaining Diablo Canyon and the state faces significant electricity reliability challenges. Recently released polling found that 58% of state residents believe Diablo Canyon should continue to operate, with even greater support in the local community surrounding the plant. Power industry analysts are predicting that the current record high temperatures in the state this summer, due to climate change, could lead to brown outs if Diablo Canyon is shut down.

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DOE Proposes Changes to Help Rescue California’s Diablo Canyon Plant

The Bloomberg wire service reports that the US Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing changes requested by California Governor Gavin Newsom that will allow the state’s only remaining nuclear power plant to qualify for federal financial assistance.

The Energy Department has proposed removing a requirement, related to financial losses, that would have prevented PG&E Corp.’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant from getting a portion of $6 billion in funds the Biden Administration is making available to rescue reactors at risk of closing early because they are losing money.

Newsom is reconsidering a state plan, approved in 2016 with support of NRDC and other anti-nuclear groups, to retire Diablo Canyon in 2025 because of projected electricity shortages that could lead to brownouts and  blackouts in the state.

The effort to keep Diablo Canyon open would gain momentum if the plant can qualify for federal financial aid. California’s potential reversal of its anti-nuclear power stance underscores the crisis the state is facing as it seeks to decarbonize its grid.

  • California Senator Feinstein Does a 180 on Diablo Canyon

Back in 2012 California Senator Diane Feinstein was a critic of the SONGS nuclear energy plant in her state and nuclear energy in general. A decade later she has become a supporter of keeping the twin reactors at Diablo Canyon open past their planned shutdown date of 2025 .Relicensing the plant would add 20 years to its operational life to the mid-2040s

In an OP ED in the Sacramento Bee she referenced projected electricity shortfalls in California due to the effects of climate change, Feinstein writes that “Pacific Gas and Electric Company should reconsider its decision to close Diablo Canyon by 2025. The utility should get the plant relicensed instead, retiring it once the state can replace its production with clean sources.”

She also references a joint Stanford University–Massachusetts Institute of Technology study which found that delaying Diablo Canyon’s retirement to 2035 would lower California power sector carbon emissions by more than 10% from 2017 levels and reduce reliance on gas, save $2.6 billion in power system costs, and bolster system reliability to mitigate brownouts.

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UAE Regulator Issues Operating License For Barakah  3

(NucNet) The United Arab Emirates’ nuclear regulator has issued the operating license for the third unit of the four-unit Barakah nuclear power station.

The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) said that under the license, Nawah Energy Company, the subsidiary of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) responsible for operating the plant, is authorized to operate it for 60 years

The assessment process included reviewing the plant’s layout design and analysis of the site’s location in terms of geography and demography. The assessment also included the reactor design, cooling systems, security arrangements, emergency preparedness, radioactive waste management and other technical aspects. FANR assessed Nawah’s organizational and manpower readiness.

The Barakah power station is located on UAE’s coast of the Persian Gulf about 280 km (155 miles) northwest of Abu Dhabi. It is one of the largest nuclear energy new-build projects in the world, with four APR-1400 units supplied by South Korea. Construction began in 2012 and the project as a whole is now more than 96% complete.

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Sizewell C Twin EPRs Eligible for RAB Method Funding

(WNN) The British government has published documents which show “significant progress” towards implementing a Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding model for new nuclear power projects. It has set out its case for the Sizewell C project to receive funding under the model and launched a consultation on how projects would receive RAB financing.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced in June 2018 that the government would review the viability of a RAB model for new nuclear projects and committed in January 2019 to publishing an assessment of this model.

BEIS has now published draft policy for designating the company operating Sizewell C, NNB Generation Company (SZC) Limited, to receive money through the RAB model. It said the reasons set out the case for the Sizewell C project meeting the criteria of the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Act, introduced earlier this year

BEIS said in a statement,. “Their publication brings the government a step closer to deciding on its commercial negotiations with the project developer.”

The plan is for Sizewell C to feature two EPRs producing 3200 MWe of electricity. It would be the same design as the Hinkley Point C plant, under construction in Somerset. In January, Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced GBP100 million to advance the Sizewell C project to the next stage of negotiations, and help it attract further private investment.

Sizewell C is also subject to an ongoing application for development consent, which is entirely separate to commercial negotiations on the project. The deadline for a decision on Sizewell C’s application for a development consent order has been also been set for a  July date.

Separately, the UK government is seeking new investors to take equity stakes in the Sizewell C project to replace a commitment by China General Nuclear Power. The Guardian newspaper reported that the government has bought an option to take a 20% stake in Sizewell C in a move that could ease China’s state nuclear company China General Nuclear (CGN) out of the project.

Ministers took a £100m option to invest in Sizewell C’s holding company in January and said this week it would convert that into equity if the project reaches a final investment decision.

  • What is the RAB Method?

(WNN) Under this model a company receives a license from an economic regulator to charge a regulated price to consumers in exchange for providing the infrastructure in question. Most recently, the RAB model was used to successfully finance the construction and operation of the Thames Tideway Tunnel and Heathrow’s Terminal 5. In December 2020, the UK government announced it would begin talks with EDF to enable investment in the planned Sizewell C nuclear power plant project.

The government published a statement on the procedure and criteria for designating projects to benefit from the RAB model in April this year, setting out some of the factors the Secretary of State is likely to take into account when assessing the maturity of the projects of prospective nuclear companies, and whether designating a company for the purposes of the RAB model is likely to result in value for money for consumers and taxpayers.

As required by the Act, the document is currently being consulted on with the Environment Agency, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, electricity markets regulator Ofgem and NNB Generation Company (SZC) Limited. The consultation will close in July and is the first step in potentially allowing the company to receive funding under the RAB model.

The RAB model of funding nuclear projects is expected to help the government realize its ambitions to approve up to eight new nuclear reactors by 2030, boosting UK nuclear power capacity up to 24 GW by 2050.

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An Early Bird Strategy Aims to Hire Future STEM Graduates

Recruitment of STEM Graduates Now Begins in High School

ThinkTinkering-Light-Bulb-tinypng

Any firm that is planning to hire from the pool of future STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) graduates knows it is not getting bigger. This is an issue for the advanced industrial society we live in which depends in STEM technologies in key industries, including nuclear energy and oil and gas.

These, and other high tech industries, will need many more STEM graduates over the coming decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the strongest growth in STEM jobs will concentrate in Computers & Mathematics, Architecture and Engineering, Robotics and Manufacturing, and Life, Physical & Social Science.

Where will the workers come from to fill these jobs? Absent significant changes in the U.S. government’s immigration policies, from a demographic perspective growth in the U.S. population pyramid for new workers in the their late teens and early 20s does not look promising in terms of increasing numbers coming up in future generations compared to those already in early and mid-careers.

US Pop pyr by age

The percentage of men and women age 14-18, who will soon enter the workforce, has declined every year since 2016. In a country with a population of 330 million people, about two-thirds of them were in the workforce prior to the onset of the COVID pandemic or 218 million.

A decline of even 1% in this number equals over 2 million workers. To put that number in context, this same as losing the equivalent of the entire population of Houston, TX. It means that recruitment of STEM workers from a shrinking labor pool will be more competitive than ever.

The options are that the U.S. as a nation works harder to produce graduates in STEM fields, outsources some of the work to other countries with higher birth rates, or opens its doors to immigration of talent and with less restrictive conditions than are currently on the books.

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In the near term, high tech firms are focusing on getting the attention of the next generation of potential STEM professionals any way they can. For one firm that makes measurement devices for nuclear reactors, a maxim from 17th century old English texts may turn out to be a key strategy.

Reuter-Stokes is Pursuing an Early Bird Strategy

What this means for high technology firms like Reuter-Stokes, a Baker-Hughes Company, which makes instruments for the nuclear energy industry, is that competition for future STEM graduates will get more challenging over time. For this reason, the firm, with its global HQ and major manufacturing center located in Twinsburg, OH, about 30 miles south of downtown Cleveland, is that it is starting its recruitment process with high school students. It is doing this by making them aware of STEM related opportunities in its industry.

rs logo

Reuter-Stokes designs and manufactures sensors that operate in some of the most critical applications across the globe, including sensors for nuclear reactors, oil & gas, radiation detection and other markets.

The company is looking ahead, and is casting its recruitment net more widely to attract high school students who are trying to figure out what to study in college and how that degree will result in landing a high paying job.

On May 6th Reuter-Stokes hosted a successful STEM awareness event for about 100 Twinsburg-Area High School students. Reuter-Stokes hailed the event in a press statement as a ‘resounding success’ and promises to repeat it in 2023. It is the kind of event any supplier to the nuclear energy industry needs to think about hosting to get a handle on its STEM staffing needs over the next decade.

Spanning the science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines, a series of interactive activities and demonstrations across the Reuter-Stokes instrument product line at the event made a lasting impression on students. Activities included a panel discussion that addressed topics such as women in STEM and career paths for young engineers in various disciplines. The overall focus of the panel was to give the students an idea of what the future could hold for them if they choose to pursue STEM careers.

martinez

“Our objective today was to open minds,” said Rod Martinez, vice president of Reuter-Stokes (right) told this blog in an interview at the STEM event.

“I hope that we’ve inspired a few students to consider a career in the STEM fields.”

Martinez emphasized the firm is hiring electrical and mechanical engineers and technical staff for its product lines in the nuclear energy and oil and gas industries.

In terms of the nuclear industry, Martinez said the firm is producing sensors and other technologically complex products “for the first wave of small modular reactors (SMRs). The BWRX-300 is one of our focus areas.”

“Reuter-Stokes is excited to see a revived interest in nuclear energy and to be able to bring our solutions to the industry.”

In terms of job prospects for the students who attended the STEM event, Martinez said, “We are always looking to recruit talented people; I’d love to think that in a few years some of today’s students will be back at Reuter-Stokes and developing the cool, tough, ground-breaking sensor technology that we deploy in some of the world’s most challenging applications.”

Enthusiasm for STEM careers was not lacking among the students who attended the day long event. Asia Howard, a student from Twinsburg High School said: “I’ve always been interested in how things work. Learning how sensors are used around the world was really cool – nuclear power plants could literally not produce power without Reuter-Stokes sensors! Thank you to everyone involved.”

Race Car Driving Requires STEM Skills – A highlight of the day long event was a VIP appearance from Cruz Pedregon, two-time winner of the National Hot Rod Association Drag Racing Series Funny Car competition, who championed the theme of the event, “driving technology innovation.”

race car

Pedregon (right) is sponsored by Reuter-Stokes, At the Twinsburg STEM event he showcased his $325,000 ‘Nitro Funny Car’ to deliver a series of presentations that demonstrated the cutting-edge technology used in Funny Car drag racing vehicles – technology that allows the cars to reach speeds of more than 330 mph.

“I’m passionate about STEM Programs, so it was a privilege to meet the students today and explain a little more about the boundary-busting technology that we use to get our car to hit zero to 100 in under 0.8 seconds,” said Pedregon.

Q&A with Twinsburg High School Students

During the morning program, a panel of Reuter-Stokes management and technical staff, and a representative from human resources, explained what it is like to have STEM careers at the company. Here’s summary of some of the questions the students asked and the answers to them as provided by the panel.

Q: For students seeking STEM carriers, what opportunities are available at Reuter-Stokes in the area of instrumentation for the nuclear energy industry? Can the firm provide some example profiles of roles / responsibilities, etc. What is a day at work like for them?

A: For instance, as an electrical engineer you will be responsible for working as an integral member of the multidisciplinary engineering team.

  • Developing analog and digital signal processing electronics, either as improvements to existing designs or from scratch.
  • Ensuring electrical component and system designs have appropriate analytical verification, production level validation, and field-testing.
  • Working with other engineers, technicians, and designers in a team environment to foster a creative workplace, allowing for new ideas while embracing speed and excellence.
  • Documenting work products in written form, e.g., technical notes, design specifications, journal publications

Q: What types of engineering studies, such as a degree program, should a student seeking these opportunities pursue to earn the necessary qualifications to work in the field?

A: Really any of the STEM fields would be applicable, however, the most prevalent roles at our site are in the areas of electrical and mechanical engineering but we do have opportunities for every functional field.

stem logo

Q: Which are the university programs which are producing graduates with the kinds of knowledge and skills that Reuter-Stokes seeks? Where has Reuter-Stokes recently held recruiting events for recent graduates in STEM programs?

A: We work closely with most of the local universities in northeast Ohio focused on the sciences – Akron University, Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University, etc. We have done recruiting events at these universities. We are always looking to build relationships with universities across Ohio and in the neighboring states.

Q: Is a four-year college degree the only path forward to employment with Reuter-Stokes? Are there two-year and technical trade schooling paths that would also lead to careers in this field?

A: We have opportunities for all levels of education starting from high school graduates to Ph.D. level positions. A four-year degree is not requirement for all positions that we have opportunities for. We also offer tuition reimbursement for anyone looking to further their education and to then use that applied knowledge for opportunities within Reuter-Stokes.

Q: Does Baker Hughes offer internships during the college years so that a student can try out the job to see if they are a good fit for it?

A: We offer internships in all functional areas. The majority are in the field of engineering or other sciences.

Q: Who should students contact at Reuter-Stokes to learn more about the company? Please visit our careers web page to see what positions we recruit for to support our business.

About Reuter-Stokes

getty_105202852_nuclear-control-room_web

Reuter-Stokes, a Baker Hughes business, designs and manufactures mission-critical measuring devices for precise radiation measurement, pressurized and boiling water reactor monitoring, UV flame detection, and downhole sensors for directional drilling.

Based in Twinsburg, Ohio, Reuter-Stokes offers more than six decades of on-going expertise in the design, manufacturing and installation of its extensive portfolio of gamma and neutron detection technologies. As an industry leader, the company provides innovative technologies and services including extensive research, development, and production of high-quality detectors for a broad range of radiation monitoring applications.

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What is the Future of Westinghouse Now that Brookfield Wants to Sell It?

  • What is the Future of Westinghouse Now that Brookfield Wants to Sell It?
  • No Fueling Around – Senate Gets Serious about HALEU
  • NuScale Power Reaffirms Financial Outlook and Provides Business Update

What is the Future of Westinghouse Now that Brookfield Wants to Sell It?

For the past three years Westinghouse has been informing the nuclear energy industry of its plans to design and offer for sale a 1-5 MWe microreactor which is calls the ‘eVinci’.  According to the company’s website, the eVinci micro-reactor design is transportable, designed for government usage allows for mobile operations utilizing standard military transportation vehicles and containers.

evinci-reactor

The nature of the design will allow the reactor to be rapidly transported to sites as needed to create an abundant and resilient power supply to support advanced defense systems. The firm also plans to offer it for sale for micro-grid applications and stand alone power sources for industry and other commercial applications.

What is the Future of Westinghouse as Brookfield is Offering it for Sale?

In order to put these plans in perspective, it is important to look at the overall future of Westinghouse as a nuclear reactor vendor. As reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, Brookfield Business Partners is seeking to sell all of its interest Westinghouse Electric Company just four years after buying it out of bankruptcy according to a May 10th report.  (Brookfield profile) (institutional shareholders)

This is the second time Brookfield has put Westinghouse on the market. Brookfield told the newspaper they didn’t get enough investor interest to sell last year. Brookfield says now that the now there is an energy crisis in Europe, due to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, there is revived interest in nuclear energy. According to public filings cited by the newspaper, Brookfield Business Partners lists its investment in Westinghouse at $405 million.

Readers of this blog may have noticed a significant increase in the number of press releases from Westinghouse about its nuclear reactor business. This is entirely logical as the firm is on the auction block. The firm’s executives want to do everything in their power to make the company look good to a potential buyer and to get a fair price as a result.

Brookfield has done well with Westinghouse. and the firm wants to cash out on the value of Westinghouse’s cash cow businesses of nuclear fuel fabrication and reactor services., According to its CEO the firm sees new opportunities with greater potential for returns on investment.

Brookfield Business Partners CEO Cyrus Madon told the Post-Gazette newspaper, “Look, we’ve made many times our investment in Westinghouse. We’ve already pulled out more than our invested capital just through regular dividends. And I would say our job is sort of done here.”

Questions for Westinghouse

A few weeks ago this blog submitted a list of questions to Westinghouse about its plans for the eVinci micro-reactor, and its reactor business in general, and how they might be affected by being acquired by a new equity fund or other institutional investor.  The firm isn’t the only fish in the pond that is seeking customers at the low end of power ratings and for full size reactors.  It’s a competitive environment in either market.

The market for full size reactors in heating up especially in the UK where PM Boris Johnson has pledged to build eight new reactors in the next two decades. Poland is a particularly hot focus for nuclear new builds with vendors from France, the UK, and the U.S. positioning themselves for a tender expected to be released this year. Poland is also a market where interest in small modular reactors by private industry has seen a lot of activity.

So with all this “action” in the mix, one would think that the one thing that Westinghouse would really want to do, and be focused on, is to be clear in its press relations with a consistent narrative about its plans and overall business objectives. For Westinghouse to succeed in achieving its global ambitions to participate in the nuclear reactor new build of nations wanting to decarbonize their economies, it needs to tell its story beyond the bare bones of press releases.

According to a Westinghouse spokesperson this week, the firm declined to respond to these questions (below) saying company executives are too busy with all of their new initiatives to answer press inquiries at this time.

While it is understandable that Westinghouse is cautious about giving away its business strategy to the competition by talking ahead of its own headlights to the press, these are reasonable questions that would be asked of any reactor vendor, by investors, especially considering how many opportunities it has to once again become a leading global vendor of nuclear reactor technologies. In point of fact, these are also the types of questions Wall Street analysts are likely to ask.

This is a message for the nuclear industry in general.  Bottom line, it is never to early to get your story out there on news wires. When there is a news vacuum, the risk is that something other than the firm’s fact-based narrative will come along to fill it.

For example, just recently, streaming media service Netflix recently aired a docu-drama about Three Mile Island. The film’s producer interviewed one nuclear industry subject matter expert extensively, but used only a few minutes of his comments. The American Nuclear Society published a rebuttal to the film’s misinformation on its website calling it “drama disguised as documentary.”

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So, here for the rhetorical record, are the questions, along with a few clarifications, that hopefully, at some future time, the firm will respond to with answers.

War in Ukraine?

Once the war in Ukraine is settled, and the threats of Russian attacks on Ukraine’s nuclear plants are over, how will construction of four new reactors, and one rebuild of a VVER, for Energoatom be financed?  Last week Westinghouse and Energoatom said they’ve expanded their plans to build as many as nine 1150 MWe AP1000s. Assuming the funds are found for these projects, what is the timetable by site in Ukraine for new construction?

Ukraine is borrowing $51 million to buy nuclear fuel for its fleet of Russian built VVER reactors.  Energoatom operates four nuclear plants in Ukraine, with a total of 15 units, although the six-unit Zaporizhyzhia plant, operated by its Ukrainian staff, is currently under Russian military control. The Russians have more or less retreated from trying to conquer the entire country and are focusing their unprovoked invasion of the country on Ukraine’s eastern provinces. This development, if it holds, may make the rest of the nuclear fleet more or less safe from Russian attacks.

Whether Ukraine’s forces can liberate the Zaporizhyzhia plant, with its six large VVERs, is unknown, but it could be a significant addition to the demand for nuclear fuel from Westinghouse if that happened. It is unclear whether the Russians plans to refuel any of the reactors themselves. What is Westinghouse’s overall risk assessment of supply fuel to Ukraine’s reactors?

For the new build, how much material /components can be salvaged from the V C Summer project for reactors in Ukraine? Energoatom, Ukraine’s nuclear utility, paid a visit to the South Carolina site in 2021 to do some shopping for the left over parts that might be available for a new AP1000.

eVinci and the NRC?

Relative to the eVinci micro reactor, when does Westinghouse plan to submit it to the NRC for safety design review? The firm filed a “regulatory engagement plan” in December 2021. What progress has been made towards a license application submittal? Given the unique nature of the eVinci reactor, what challenges does the firm see that will need to be addressed in the NRC application review process? Separately, what work has Westinghouse done to develop the supply chain for the eVinci reactor?

Work Scope for Canadian Government Grant of  CAD27 Million?

What is the work scope and schedule for major deliverables for the CAD27 million in funding in Canada? What does Canada’s government expect, in term of progress milestones and deliverables, as a result of providing the funding to the firm? Will any of the funds be used to support preparing documentation for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission? Can the firm provide more details on Westinghouse recently signed agreements with Canada’s Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC)? Are any other provinces interested in the eVinci micro-reactor?

There are more than a dozen small modular and micro reactor developers which have submitted their applications for Phase 1 of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) Vendor Design Review (VDR), and several of them have “graduated” to Phase 2. CNSC’s VDR process is like training wheels on a bicycle. It helps firms get their data and analyses in order to address CNSC’s regulatory requirements and to be ready to submit an application for a license to build their designs in Canada.

In response to an inquiry sent to CNSC asking about the status of the eVinci VDR effort, the agency said via an authorized spokesperson that there has not been any change since it was submitted in February 2018 asking for a combined Phase 1 & 2 process although there could be developments in the future. CNSC did not have a timetable for them.

Future of DOD Applications?

The eVinci microreactor was not selected last September for round two of Project Pele which is a plan to deploy micro reactors at military sites worldwide. The first of a kind (FOAK) unit will be built by BWXT for $300 million at the Idaho National Laboratory by 2024. It will use TRISO fuel enriched to between 5% and 19% U235.  Absent the DOD contract, what are the prospects for the eVinci design going forward for other DOD or related commercial applications?

Expectations for New Reactor Business in the U.K.?

What are Westinghouse’s prospects for building new reactors in the UK given that the AP1000 design is already approved by the ONR GDA process?  Will the new UK emphasis on nuclear energy create new opportunities for Westinghouse to build AP1000s, e.g., re-visit Moorside or replace China at Bradwell or Wylfa & Oldbury?

Expectations for New Reactor Business in Poland?

What are Westinghouse’s prospects for building AP1000s in Poland? How much support is the firm getting from the U.S. government to pursue this opportunity and how much support will it need in the future to close the deal and to finance and build the six to nine reactors that Poland wants to replace its coal-fired power plants?

Expectations for New Reactor Business with South Korea?

This week State utility Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) agreed with Westinghouse to explore ways to cooperate on international nuclear power generation markets, with South Korea saying it plans to export 10 nuclear power plants by 2030. Last week, Westinghouse signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Hyundai Engineering and Construction to jointly participate in global AP1000 plant opportunities. Kepco, its subsidiary Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), which operates the country’s nuclear fleet, and Westinghouse aim to set up a joint working group to draw up detailed plans. Ten new reactors for export is an ambitious goal. What countries are publicly listed prospects for these deals?

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No Fueling Around – Senate Gets Serious about HALEU

America’s nuclear power plants depend on enriched uranium fuel, but we still depend heavily on Russia for nuclear fuel and fuel services. This dependence is more acute for high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), which is used in fuel for advanced reactors now under development in the US.

The latest blog post from Third Way experts Alan Ahn and Ryan Norman examines two nuclear bills in the Senate aimed at addressing the gaps in America’s nuclear fuel cycle and provides a useful side-by-side comparison of the proposed legislation.

“Enriched uranium fuels are the lifeblood of our nuclear reactors,” write Ahn and Norman. “Russia is a major global provider of LEU fuel services and is currently the only commercial supplier of HALEU in the world. Thus, the need to secure uranium fuel supply and ensure long-term availability is even more urgent in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Without a reliable supply of nuclear fuel, we risk our energy security, technological leadership, and climate goals, among other national priorities.”

haleu infographic

The post provides a detailed comparison of the two bills recently introduced in the Senate:

“Ultimately, a comprehensive solution that includes efforts to produce HALEU from existing fuels, develop domestic HALEU enrichment capability, and enable the foundations of an assured fuel supply for US advanced reactors is urgently needed,” Ahn and Norman conclude.

Read the full article Fueling American Reactors: A Tale of Two Nuclear Bills

NuScale Power Reaffirms Financial Outlook and Provides Business Update

  • Reports $383.7 million of total capital available to fund strategic growth plan, including upsized $341 million raised through successful merger with Spring Valley Acquisition Corporation
  • Maintains significant commercial momentum year-to-date with three new active engagements in the United States and Europe, expanded coalition of strategic partners and investors in the U.S., South Korea and Japan, and reached key technological and licensing milestones
  • Now a publicly-listed company under ticker symbol SMR on the New York Stock Exchange

Business Updates

 Deal Flow –  Grew customer pipeline to four active relationships around the world. These customers include NuScale Power’s anchor relationship with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and newer agreements with Dairyland Power Cooperative in the U.S., S.N. Nuclearelectrica S.A. in Romania and KGHM in Poland.

UAMPS in Idaho – Made substantial progress with its anchor client UAMPS towards deployment in 2029. The Company recently completed its field investigation activities at the project site located within the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, Idaho. In parallel, NuScale Power continued to develop a Combined License Application (COLA) and is currently analyzing data collected from the comprehensive site investigation and a two-year monitoring process, which will be presented in the COLA to address key safety and environmental considerations. The COLA will also provide additional project-specific facility design information, which will support the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (“NRC”) safety and environmental reviews, as well as public consultations.

Strategic Partnerships – Formed new strategic partnerships. NuScale Power partnered with steel manufacturer Nucor in the U.S. and with the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (“JBIC”) in Japan, as well as strengthened a partnership with Doosan Enerbility in Korea. All of these partnerships are emblematic of the growing importance of nuclear energy in these regions and around the world, and will play key roles in driving the commercialization of NuScale Power’s SMR.

Supply Chain Update – Made significant progress on commercialization process including technology and production process development. The Company is ordering long lead-time equipment now, which it believes is a significant competitive advantage. NuScale Power is simultaneously working with its commercial and supply partners on various testing and validation campaigns, while priming the production process through initiatives such as FXM-19 forging trials with both domestic and international forging sources.

NRC Update – Reached additional licensing milestones with the NRC in addition to its COLA associated with the UAMPS project. This includes the recent approval of the Building Design & Analysis Licensing Topical Report and the acceptance of three other topical reports for review, including the Rod Ejection Accident Methodology Licensing Topical Report Revision, the Framatome Fuel Applicability Topical report supplement and the Critical Heat Flux Topical report supplement.

Financial Update and Outlook

Total available capital remains strong at $383.7 million. This includes $42.7 million in cash or cash equivalents as of March 31, 2022 and $341 million from the assets in trust and upsized PIPE, net of transaction expenses, raised in connection with the recently closed combination with Spring Valley Acquisition Corp. (“Spring Valley”).

Revenue of $2.4 million and net loss of $(23.4) million for the three month period ended March 31, 2022, compared to revenue of $0.7 million and a net loss of $(22.7) million, respectively, for the same period in 2021.

Research and development expenses of $24.4 million for the three month period ended March 31, 2022, compared to $18.8 million for the same period in 2021.

NuScale Power reaffirms financial outlook including $16 million cash revenue for full year 2022 as first shared in its merger announcement with Spring Valley.

Sufficient capital to support longer-term business development plans, thanks in part to a $54 million increase in PIPE proceeds from $181 million to $235 million. Actual merger proceeds of $341 million exceeded the $200 million cash need forecasted through 2024 in the projections shared in its merger announcement with Spring Valley

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

BWXT to Build First Advanced Microreactor in U.S.

  • BWXT to Build First Advanced Microreactor in United States
  • Poland / Capital Expenditure On First BWRX-300 SMR Project At €1.1 Billion
  • Bechtel, Toshiba to Pursue Polish Nuclear Energy Projects
  • Energoatom and Westinghouse to Expand Supplies of VVER Fuel
  • US and Canadian Regulators Complete Joint Technical Review of IMSR
  • KBR and Terrestrial Energy Agree to Collaborate on Hydrogen and Ammonia Production
  • Foratom Rebrands Itself as Nucleareurope

BWXT to Build First Advanced Microreactor in the U.S.

  • U.S. Department of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office Selects BWXT to Manufacture and Deliver Project Pele Prototype Reactor to Idaho National Laboratory in 2024

BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) will build the first advanced nuclear microreactor in the United States under a contract awarded by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO). The Project Pele full-scale transportable microreactor prototype will be completed and delivered in 2024 for testing at the Idaho National Laboratory.

gao-dod-mini-reactor

SCO has partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop, prototype and demonstrate a transportable microreactor that can provide a resilient power source to the DoD for a variety of operational needs that have historically relied on fossil fuel deliveries and extensive supply lines.

Transportable microreactors deliver clean, zero-carbon energy where and when it is needed in a variety of austere conditions for  the DoD. These plants can also deploy potential commercial applications for disaster response and recovery, power generation at remote locations, and deep decarbonization initiatives.

The prototype will be built under a cost-type contract valued at approximately $300 million, depending on options selected, by BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC in facilities in Lynchburg, Virginia and Euclid, Ohio. Over the next two years, BWXT expects that approximately 120 employees will work on the project, including roughly 40 skilled trades, engineers and other positions that will be hired to support this effort and other projects.

“We are on a mission to design, build and test new nuclear technology to protect the environment while providing power, and we are thrilled with this competitively bid award after years of hard work by our design and engineering team,” said Joe Miller, BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC president. “The entire nuclear industry recognizes that advanced reactors are an important step forward to support growing power needs and significant carbon reduction imperatives.”

Safe Design for HTGR

The high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) will operate at a power level between 1 and 5 MWe and will be transportable in commercially available shipping containers. It will be powered by TRISO fuel, a specific design of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel that can withstand extreme heat and has very low environmental risks.

The transportable reactor core and associated control system is designed to maintain safety under all conditions, including transitional conditions throughout transport. The fuel has been tested and verified to temperatures far exceeding the operating conditions of the reactor.

The transportable design consists of multiple modules that contain the microreactor’s components in 20-foot long, ISO-compliant CONEX shipping containers. The reactor is designed to be safely and rapidly moved by road, rail, sea or air. The entire reactor system is designed to be assembled on-site and operational within 72 hours. Shut down, cool down, disconnection and removal for transport is designed to occur in less than seven days.

Team Members

A diverse team of experienced companies are joining BWXT to support delivery and successful operation of the Project Pele prototype. BWXT is the prime contract and integration lead, and is responsible for reactor module manufacture. Among the other companies playing key roles on the team are:

· Northrop Grumman
· Aerojet Rocketdyne
· Rolls-Royce LibertyWorks
· Torch Technologies, Inc.

Testing and Licensing

The reactor and fuel will be safely shipped separately, with fueling to occur at the test site. Once fueled, the system will undergo up to three years of testing at Idaho National Laboratory to confirm performance and operability. The test program will demonstrate that the reactor can produce reliable off-grid electric power. Power generated by the reactor will be transferred to load banks that accurately mimic the operational load that a power source would see in actual application.  In addition, the system will be disassembled and re-assembled to prove transportability.

Consistent with the non-commercial nature of the project, testing and operation of this prototype reactor will proceed under authorization by the Department of Energy. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, consistent with its role as an independent safety and security regulator, is participating in this project to provide SCO with accurate, current information on applicable regulations and licensing processes.

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Poland / Capital Expenditure On First BWRX-300 SMR Project

(NucNet) The estimated capital expenditure for the first BWRX-300 small modular reactor unit deployed in Poland at the end of the decade will be €1.1 billion ($1.17 billion) with 50 percent of this spent domestically, a conference in Warsaw heard.

About 33 percent of the total will be spent by plant developer GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) outside Poland and 17 percent will be spent on design, analysis, licensing, logistics and training.

Prof. Waclaw Gudowski, advisor to the Polish company Synthos Green Energy, told the inaugural conference of the Desire project said the BWRX-300 technology offers lower investment costs, a levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) of about €50/MWh and a shorter investment process than large-scale nuclear power plants.

Construction Cost and Operating Estimates

An LCOE of €50/MWh would put the BWRX-300 at the low end of the cost range for new reactors. According to a joint Nuclear Energy Agency and International Energy Agency report, the LCOE of large-scale nuclear in 2025 will range from about $55-$95/MWh (€43/MWh-(€75/MWh.

This compares to a maximum of almost $100/MWh for coal and about $80/MWh for gas. The cheapest non-dispatchable source of electricity is onshore wind of more than 1 MWe, with an LCOE of $40-$50/MWh. Offshore wind is about $80-$110/MWh and utility scale solar PV $40-$80/MWh.

US SMR developer NuScale said its first customer for its SMR has set an LCOE target of $55/MWh (€43/MWh).

LCOE captures both capital and operating costs that need to be covered. It is essentially the long-term price at which the electricity produced by a power plant will have to be sold at for the investor to cover all their costs.

Prof. Gudowski said the first BWRX-300 project in Poland will be built on a “nth of a kind” (NOAK) basis and SMRs will act as “a great stabilizer” for a planned hybrid electricity grid that also accommodates heat and renewables. Like many new technologies the cost for a first-of-a-kind (FOAK) plant is higher than for subsequent NOAK projects.

Synthos Green SMR Effort

The reference project for Synthos Green Energy’s deployment of SMRs will be GEH’s deployment of its BWRX-300 SMR units in Canada, scheduled for 2028. Ontario Power Generation has selected the BWRX-300 SMR to be built at one of its Darlington, Ontario reactor site.

Prof. Gudowski said Synthos Green Energy is working closely with Canadian investor Ontario Power Generation (OPG). The Canadian utility and and GEH will collaborate on SMR engineering, design, planning, preparing the licencing and permitting materials, and site preparation for the BWRX-300.

Last year, ZE PAK, the largest private energy group in Poland, and Synthos Green Energy announced they would work together to explore building BWRX-300 SMRs at the site of the Patnow coal plant in central Poland.

Synthos Green Energy is a subsidiary of Synthos, a manufacturer of synthetic rubber and one of the biggest producers of chemical raw materials in Poland. It has signed a number of agreements on SMR and microreactor development with companies including GEH, Tractabel and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, a US-based company developing a 15-MW micro modular reactor.

Poland’s “Desire Project” for Nuclear Energy

(NucNet) The Project Desire initiative, was launched by a consortium consisting of five Polish entities: consortium leader the Silesian University of Technology, the climate and environment ministry, Energoprojekt-Katowice SA, the Institute of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology and the Sobieski Institute. The consortium officially became operational on 1 April 2022.

The project’s aim is to plan for decarbonizing Poland’s power sector using nuclear technologies with the intention of producing a roadmap that will detail potential investment in 27 locations.

The Polish government said in a statement related to Project Desire that its nuclear power program will be developed based on analysis of potential investment in the 27 sites, which are already listed as part of the country’s nuclear power program. It said the aim is to build a second large-scale Generation III or Generation III+ nuclear station to replace coal-fired plants that are being shut down.

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Bechtel, Toshiba to Pursue Polish Nuclear Energy Projects

Bechtel, an engineering, construction, and project management partner to the global nuclear industry for nearly 70 years, has announced a Memorandum of Understanding with Toshiba America Energy Systems and Toshiba Energy Systems & Solutions to pursue a new civil nuclear power plant project in Poland.

Toshiba is the latest company to join the group of U.S. and Polish companies organizing a team led by Bechtel and Westinghouse Electric Company. The plant would be Poland’s first nuclear power station as the country transitions away from coal-fired energy while maintaining its energy independence.

“Any new nuclear plant requires expertise from proven companies with the required certifications,” said Ahmet Tokpinar, general manager of Bechtel’s Nuclear Power business line. “Toshiba has supplied steam turbines, generators, and services to power plants of all types for nearly 100 years. This is a team with proven manufacturing capabilities and a record of excellent service.”

Bechtel and Westinghouse are jointly preparing a front-end engineering design for the Polish government’s consideration for a three-unit plant on the Baltic Sea coast. The plant would use proven Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. The companies are also engaging with the Czech Republic on the possible expansion of that country’s civil nuclear power program.

The Polish government said its plans to build large-scale nuclear reactors are in line with the plans of major Polish industrial companies to work towards the deployment of SMRs.

Warsaw is planning to choose a technology for a total of six large-scale plants at two large-scale nuclear stations this year. It also aims to obtain an environmental and siting decision for the first station and to sign an agreement with the technology vendor and the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor.

Current Offers to Build Nuclear Reactors in Poland

(NucNet) Poland has received two preliminary offers for the construction of its first commercial nuclear power station with one more to follow by the end of the summer as Warsaw prepares to make a final decision on a technology supplier in the autumn.

Piotr Naimski, secretary of state of the Polish government for strategic energy infrastructure, said in an interview with Polish legal and business daily newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna that the offers had come from France and South Korea with another due from the US which is expected to be from Westinghouse for its AP1000 1150 MWe PWR. Mr Naimski said the US offer is being developed on the basis of a US-Poland intergovernmental agreement signed in October 2020.

The French offer was from state-owned EDF with its EPR technology. The South Korean offer was from state-owned Korea Hydro Nuclear Power (KHNP) with its APR-1400 plant.

“The power station will operate for 60 to 80 years,” Mr Naimski said. “This means that we must take into account not only business criteria, but also strategic, geopolitical criteria.”

The Polish government is negotiating with potential partners about financing the project.

“We are talking about large amounts of money, but to be managed by the Polish state. This financing – tens of billions of dollars in total – will be spread over time, as we plan to commission the first reactor in 2033,” Mr Naimski said.

Poland wants to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MW of installed nuclear capacity based on proven, large-scale, pressurised water reactor technology. Commercial operation of a first unit in a proposed set of six is planned for 2033.

In December 2021, Polskie Elektrownie Jedrowe (PEJ), the state-owned company in charge of Poland’s nuclear new-build plans, said Lubiatowo-Kopalino in the northern province of Pomerania near the Baltic coast was the preferred location for the country’s first nuclear project.

Profile of Poland’s Program to Build Nuclear Reactors

(World Nuclear Association) In April 2021 a new state-owned company, Polish Nuclear Power Plants (Polskie Elektrownie Jedrowe, PEJ), was set up to lead the investment eefort for new nuclear reactors. It will seek investment and government funding with  51% of the construction company and project owned by the government.  It expects to raise $21 billion of which 49% being sought from investors outside the government. At least 6 GWe and possibly 9 GWe is planned, with the first unit online in 2033 and a further unit every two years. The first units are to be built in Lubiatowo and Zarnowiec in Pomerania, northern Poland.

In March 2021, the government ratified an intergovernmental nuclear cooperation agreement that gives the USA 18 months to prepare a technology and financing offer for nuclear power plants.

In June 2021 the US Trade & Development Agency provided a grant to Polish Nuclear Power Plants (PEJ) to assist front-end engineering and design studies by Westinghouse and Bechtel with a view to building an AP1000 reactor as the country’s first nuclear power plant. Further US government funding is anticipated but is not yet committed at this time. The studies will be reviewed in mid-2022 by the Polish government to help it select a partner for PEJ.

In October 2021 EDF offered to build up to six 1650 MWe EPR units and thus decarbonize 40% of the country’s electricity. In April 2022 Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) submitted an equivalent offer to build six of its 1400 MWe APR1400 units, stating the first reactor could be in operation by 2033. KHNP has said it is willing to finance 20-30% of the project.

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Energoatom and Westinghouse to Expand Supplies of VVER Fuel

Westinghouse Electric Company and Energoatom, the state-owned nuclear utility of Ukraine, have signed expanded agreements for Westinghouse to supply all nuclear fuel for the Energoatom operating fleet in Ukraine (table below) and increase the planned number of AP1000 plants Energoatom intends to build from five to nine units.

wna ukraineIt is unlikely that any progress to build the new AP1000s, or complete an partially built VVER, will occur until hostilities with invading Russian forces comes to an end. None of the planned Westinghouse reactors have received any funding from either the U.S. nor Ukraine governments.

The two companies also affirmed their intention to establish a Westinghouse Engineering Center in Ukraine to support the planned AP1000 reactor projects, as well as Energoatom’s operating fleet and future decommissioning program.

Petro Kotin, President of SE NNEGC Energoatom, and Patrick Fragman, President and Chief Executive Officer of Westinghouse, signed the agreements at the Khmelnytskyi NPP (KhNPP) site where the first two AP1000 reactors will are anticipated to be built. Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko and Swedish Ambassador to Ukraine Tobias Thyberg witnessed the signing of this historic agreement and participated in the site tour.

Nuclear Fuel Deal

Energoatom selected Westinghouse to fully supply nuclear fuel for its installed fleet of Russian built VVER PWRs. The fuel will be supplied out of Westinghouse’s fabrication site in Västerås, Sweden,with continued localization of fuel assembly component production in Ukraine. Atomenergomash, a subdivision of Ukraine’s Energoatom, is currently completing qualification to manufacture top and bottom nozzles for Westinghouse fuel.

Russian Forces Occupy Ukraine’s Largest Nuclear Plant

Russian military forces currently occupy the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant which is composed of six 950 MWe VVER. It is one of the largest nuclear power stations in Europe. Currently, it is reported that only one or two of the reactors are generating electrical power for the grid.

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The IAEA has been trying to go to the plant to verify the safety of the facility. The Ukraine government has opposed this mission on the grounds it would legitimize the Russian presence there.

This week the Russian military reportedly abducted 11 employees of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP).  The Russians took 20 people from the nearby residential area which included the 11 nuclear workers. According to Ukrainian government sources, there are an estimated 500 Russian military troops stationed in the area. Rosatom, the Russian state owned nuclear firm, is reported to have sent technical personnel to the plant.

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US and Canadian Regulators Complete Joint Technical Review of IMSR

Terrestrial Energy announced that the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have completed a first joint technical review of Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), a Generation IV reactor system.

The agencies conducted the IMSR technical review as part a cross-border regulatory program established in August 2019 by a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) between the CNSC and the NRC.

This review expands on a 2017 cooperative agreement between the agencies to review activities associated with advanced reactor and SMR technologies. It also strengthens the agencies’ commitment to share best practices and experiences through joint reviews of advanced reactor and SMR technology designs. The MOC’s collaborative technical reviews aim to increase regulatory effectiveness as well as reaffirm the agencies’ commitment to safety and security.

pathways to uses of IMSR

As part of the MOC, the agencies undertook a joint review of Terrestrial Energy’s Postulated Initiating Events (PIE) analysis and methodology for the IMSR. This work is foundational for further regulatory safety reviews and supports Terrestrial Energy’s regulatory program to prepare license applications required to operate IMSR plants in Canada and the United States.

“The completion of the joint review is an important step in supporting Terrestrial Energy’s technology and regulatory programs. It is also clear evidence that international regulatory harmonization is possible. Reviews by independent national regulators provide confidence and credibility to the technologies involved as well as build momentum for global rollout,” said Michael Binder, former President of the CNSC.

“The joint review of the Terrestrial Energy IMSR represents a milestone in efforts of the CNSC and NRC to reduce regulatory duplication and is an important step in harmonizing the regulatory reviews of the two regulators. This is a very positive step for the advanced reactor community and efforts to deploy a new generation of nuclear facilities in North America,” said Jeff Merrifield, former NRC Commissioner.

“Careful and purposeful pre-licensing engagement is essential preparation that precedes the submission of license applications. This review by the Canadian and U.S. regulators is a joint examination of the fundamentals of IMSR safety and is a cornerstone technical nuclear safety review that builds further confidence in IMSR technology and supports our national regulatory programs. Completing this joint review is an important step forward in the commercialization of the IMSR and paves the way for further cross-border collaboration,” said Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy.

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KBR and Terrestrial Energy Agree to Collaborate on Hydrogen and Ammonia Production

kbrTerrestrial Energy announced today that it has signed an agreement with KBR to investigate the application of zero-emission thermal energy for hydrogen and ammonia production.

Headquartered in the U.S. with its center for international operations in the U.K., KBR is a global leader in the supply of ammonia production technology to operators of chemical facilities worldwide. The company is at the forefront of innovation in the ammonia market, with proven implementation solutions, tools and methodologies that help customers achieve predictable results.

Through the collaboration, KBR’s market-leading energy advisory services team and Terrestrial Energy will analyze the integration of Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) nuclear cogeneration technology for use in green ammonia and hydrogen production. KBR’s program management and integrator solutions teams will further support the development of commercial frameworks for future deployment and routes to market for ammonia production technology with IMSR cogeneration.

Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR plant is a cogeneration facility that supplies zero-emissions thermal energy at high-temperature for direct use in industrial process and for high efficiency on-site electric power generation. The plant uses the company’s IMSR technology, a Generation IV fission technology, which drives the plant’s 585o C thermal energy supply, a heat quality essential for broad industrial use, including green hydrogen and ammonia production.

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Foratom Rebrands Itself as Nucleareurope

muceurAs of this week, FORATOM officially becomes nucleareurope.  The goal of this rebranding is to bring more clarity to stakeholders in Brussels about who we represent. This official announcement comes under the umbrella of our annual conference – #nucleareurope2022 – currently being held in Helsinki, Finland.

Established in 1960, the ‘Forum Atomique Européen’ – as it was known then – has seen many changes over the last 62 years. For example, the number of issues tackled by the sector has shifted from the ‘pure’ nuclear topics, such as the Euratom Treaty, radioactive waste management and innovation, to a broader range of issues which include tackling climate change, environmental matters, sustainability and security of supply. Hence the importance of having a strong nuclear representation in Brussels.

“I personally believe that the future of nuclear in Europe is bright once again. This has given us a new impetus – and we are extremely proud to represent the nuclear industry” states Yves Desbazeille, nucleareurope Director General. “Hence our decision to rebrand our organisation and make clear exactly who we represent at EU level.”

As highlighted by Yves Desbazeille during the #nucleareurope2022 conference “It is clear that the current situation in Ukraine is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve had clear signals over the last 18 months in Europe that the energy crisis – reflected by increasing prices – was looming. We will continue to navigate through this crisis as best we can. However, we must also actively take lessons from it. Europe must become less dependent on external sources of energy”.

Given this, nucleareurope will now focus on highlighting the solutions which the sector can bring. These including:

  • Providing a stable, affordable and low-carbon source of electricity
  • Contributing to the production of low-carbon hydrogen in Europe
  • Focusing on innovation, in particular the development of Small Modular Reactors

In his concluding remarks, Mr Desbazeille called on industry, policymakers, stakeholders to “work together for our future. Let’s sit around a table and come up with practical solutions to fighting climate change and to improve Europe’s energy independence.”

Nucleareurope is the Brussels-based trade association for the nuclear energy industry in Europe. The membership of nucleareurope is made up of 15 national nuclear associations and through these associations, nucleareurope represents nearly 3,000 European companies working in the industry and supporting around 1,100,000 jobs.

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Kathryn Huff, DOE AS/Sec Nuclear Energy, Lists Priorities

Note to readers: This is a transcript of an interview with Dr. Kathryn Huff, Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, which was released by the agency on 06/08/22. 

K Huff DOEDr. Kathryn Huff (right) was  confirmed by the Senate and takes over a $1.7 billion R&D portfolio for the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). Prior to her confirmation, she served as a senior advisor to Secretary Jennifer Granholm and was NE’s principal deputy assistant secretary.

Dr. Huff steps into the role at a crucial moment for nuclear energy as the industry looks to maintain its existing fleet, deploy advanced reactors, and address key issues with its infrastructure and supply chain.

She recently shared her priorities for the office, thoughts on the challenges ahead, and her perspective on future role of nuclear energy in the nation’s clean energy transition.

Q: DOE is requesting $1.7 billion in FY23 for the Office of Nuclear Energy. What are your top priorities in managing the office’s R&D portfolio?

A: We need to maintain the existing nuclear fleet and enable light-water reactors to sustain our carbon-free transition. We also need to build out advanced reactors. I think we have a lot of programs that target that, both from the R&D side but also in demonstration and deployment, particularly through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. Of course, none of it will be sustainable unless we put sufficient attention towards our spent nuclear fuel challenges and ensure that the government is making progress on its commitments to manage it responsibly.

Q: During your time as the principal deputy assistant secretary for NE, you spearheaded the restart of the consent-based siting process for federal interim storage facilities. Why is this an important step forward?

A: The federal government is responsible for managing spent nuclear fuel and the industry has paid a mil per kilowatt-hour for a very long time to support that endeavor and I’m a big fan of living up to your commitments. By making progress toward consent-based siting for an interim storage facility, we can take on the responsibility of removing that spent nuclear fuel from the sites at which it’s been abandoned. But broadly, I think this is a start that has a lot of roots in processes that have succeeded elsewhere. I think by leveraging a consent-based strategy for siting these facilities, we have a real chance of succeeding this time and we can rely on the things that we’ve learned before, as well as what’s been learned internationally about making these sites work.

Q: Prior to your confirmation, you were advising the secretary during Russia’s invasion in Ukraine. How has this conflict impacted civil nuclear programs both at home and abroad?

A: The images coming out of Ukraine over the course of the last few months have been deeply impactful and distressing. As a democratic nation, we should be concerned for the safety and security of all democratic nations…One of the key components of this is energy security. Nuclear power provides a clean option that also has some energy security associated with it. By being a highly dense energy source that’s refueled very seldom, we have an opportunity to bring up that supply chain in such a way that it’s robust, it doesn’t require constant attention, shipments, pipelines etc… We recognize now that we have, over the last many years and decades, allowed other competitor nations to play a role in the supply chains for our fuels, including nuclear fuel, and this is an opportunity for the United States to bolster the security of those supply chains for us, as well as our democratic allies.

Q: U.S. sanctions on Russia could impact the nation’s ability to acquire enough enriched uranium for the current fleet and new advanced reactor demonstration projects. What is DOE doing to ensure they can help meet this fuel demand?

A: The secretary has stood up a really important endeavor—a uranium strategy tiger team that the Office of Nuclear Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration are working together on. That tiger team is focused on enabling a strategy that can give a comprehensive look at where our fuel cycle supply chain stands and how the DOE can bolster it. Our goal here is to ensure that, in the very near term, we have a plan. If Congress decides to appropriate funding and authorities to do so, we have a plan to help encourage our existing commercial nuclear fuel cycle suppliers to stand up new capacity and enable our fuel supply chain.

Q: What do you feel is the biggest challenge for nuclear energy right now?

A: In the United States, we have lost a lot of capability to build big complex engineering projects on time and on budget. I do think that this is a moment for us to seize an opportunity and demonstrate that we still can do this. The investors and financial interests that are ready to put dollars on the table for our clean energy transition, they need to see some predictability in those timelines and budgets and I think that’s an opportunity that nuclear really could hold in its hand if we can see these new demonstration projects come through as expected in a predictable way.

Q: DOE’s new Civil Nuclear Credit Program is accepting applications to support the continued operation of U.S. reactors. How impactful can this program be?

A: This program is absolutely critical. Nuclear power provides half of our nation’s clean electricity and it is the single largest source of our clean electricity. We cannot allow these plants to be economically at risk because we failed to recognize their important contributions to our clean energy system, to our firm energy capacity, and our energy resilience. Once a nuclear plant closes, it can be very hard to start it back up again, so we really just cannot allow them to close in the context in which we need them.

Q: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also includes more than $2.5 billion to support the demonstration of two advanced reactors in the U.S. and at least one nuclear-hydrogen demo project. How important are these projects to the future of the industry?

A: The two demo projects and the hydrogen demonstrations are the future of the industry. As we look at those technologies being demonstrated here in the United States, they create the opportunity for the second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-of-a-kind to be built, not only here in the United States, but elsewhere with our democratic partners interested in expanding their nuclear capacity. If we want to enable nuclear and renewables to work together on a clean energy grid, hydrogen is going to be absolutely necessary. Heat plus electrons is a great way to create hydrogen and can be an excellent demonstration of what’s possible with nuclear.

Q: Advanced nuclear will be in the clean energy conversation at several high-profile international events this year, including the Nuclear Power Minsterial and Clean Energy Ministerial that will both be held in the U.S. What role do you see for nuclear energy in global efforts to combat climate change?

A: This is a fantastic moment for the United States to reclaim global nuclear energy leadership. We’re really in a position to lead in the conversations, the bilateral and multilateral engagements that will come out of these meetings, and in the incentives that we can see broadly for energy security and the carbon transition worldwide.

Q: You also helped create a new funding line in the congressional budget for nuclear R&D at U.S. universities and colleges. What does this mean for the university research community moving forward?

A: There is nothing more important to me personally than education. Making sure that this university R&D line has its own particular place in our budget, really highlights its importance and enables us to think critically about bigger problems and to enable bigger solutions.  It’s really going to enable bright ideas to come out of the university. Those ideas can be picked up by the national laboratories that can bring those bright ideas and creative high-risk, high-reward concepts into fruition and then the industry can pick up the down-selected ideas from the national laboratories. This is how innovation should work and making it its own line really enables us to focus on that and think bigger.

Q: As a professor, what advice would you have for those who might want to join a STEM field and what are some of the opportunities available within NE for those interested in pursuing the nuclear field?

A: This is a great time to join nuclear energy. It’s not only in a growth period right now but, because of the bimodal distribution of ages in nuclear energy, there are a lot more positions open in nuclear energy spaces, whether it’s startups, national laboratories, or here in DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy. We have opportunities where folks are retiring today who have incredible expertise that you can learn from. So, my advice is definitely to get into it whether it’s as a nuclear engineer, as a communications specialist, as a policy maker, or even a social scientist. It should be clear the role that nuclear energy can play and I hope folks can find a role for themselves in that space.

Dr. Huff received her Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her undergraduate degree in physics from the University of Chicago. Her research focused on modeling and simulation of advanced nuclear reactors and fuel cycles. Prior to joining DOE in 2021, Dr. Huff served as a professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She was also a Blue Waters assistant professor with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Dr. Huff was previously a postdoctoral fellow in both the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium and the Berkeley Institute for Data Science at the University of California-Berkeley.

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Saudi Arabia Kicks Off RFP for Twin 1400 MWe PWRs

  • Saudi Arabia Kicks Off RFP for Twin 1400 MWe PWRs
  • New South Korea Gov’t Commits $320M to Develop SMRs
  • South Korea’s KHNP Ready To Invest In Poland’s Nuclear Program
  • Westinghouse and Hyundai Ink Nuclear Energy MOU
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  • NuScale / Nuclearelectrica MOU to Deploy First SMR
  • NRC Staff Says Nuscale Design Is Safe
  • Vietnam Airs Prospect Of Resuming Nuclear Power Development
  • Alaska Governor DunLeavy Signs Micro Reactor Bill

Saudi Arabia Kicks Off RFP for Twin 1400 MWe PWRs

saudi_arabia_pol_2003

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) issued an inquiry last week on the construction of two 1400 MWe nuclear power plants. The inquiry was sent to South Korea, France, China and Russia. The process of acquiring two reactors is a down sized effort from an ambitious goal set in 2014 to build 16 1000 MWe units.

Location?

It’s not clear what site(s) would be included in the project. Saudi Arabia has considered three separate sites after an process of evaluating prospective locations. As a practical matter it would be economically and logistically efficient to build both reactors at the same location.

In November of 2011, KA-CARE hired WorleyParsons to conduct site surveys to determine the best possible sites for development of the nuclear power generating stations. In September of 2013 three sites were identified as the primary options, given their proximity to coolant water sources, their position on the KSA’s electrical grid, and their location near electricity-intensive consumers, such as desalination plants. The identified locations are Jubail on the Gulf Coast and Rabuk and Jizan on the Red Sea.

Riyadh, the capitol is 264 miles west of Jubail the Persian Gulf and the two sites on the Red Sea are 450 miles to the east. Due to the lack of nearby sea water for desalination, it is unlikely that any site near the capitol would be chosen for the reactors.

Costs?

At $5,000/Kw, for bench marking purposes, the cost of the two reactors would be $7 billion each or $14 billion. South Korean sources told a business trade publication that they understand the expected price would be $9.76 billion for both units which seems to be a significant under shoot even with the efficiencies South Korea achieved in the UAE with similar reactors.

The timing of the long anticipated tender process is likely a function of the price of oil sailing past $100/bbl. As of 06/01/22 it is $117/bbl but the price is expected to moderate over time. At even $100/bbl Saudi Arabia can self-finance without accessing its sovereign wealth fund. The two reactors can be paid for with just 12-14 days of oil production a year. Saudi production capacity is about 12-13 million/day. At $100/bbl this revenue could pay for the two reactors and include a modest management reserve for cost overruns on a $14 billion project.

Management

In March, Saudi Arabia established a national nuclear energy company to develop and operate nuclear facilities. Riyadh said the Saudi Nuclear Energy Holding Company (SNEHC) will participate in nuclear projects locally and internationally.

The company will develop nuclear facilities for the production of energy and desalinated water, map out a strategy for the development of human resources in nuclear energy and cooperate with international institutes on nuclear energy research. The new KSA nuclear firm appears to combine the functions of a conventional nuclear electric utility, its financing arm, and possible export functions.

Competition for the Deal

France is expected to bid with its EPR design but its continued inability to fully commission the Finland unit may be a caution flag for KSA. Russia’s prospects are unknown due to the uncertainties of the war in Ukraine and the potential impact of western sanctions on Rosatom’s supply chain. Surprisingly, India was not invited to bid despite its expertise building 700 MWe PHWRs which use natural uranium. The CANDU type reactors could be fueled by Saudi Arabia’s extensive domestic uranium deposits without the need for an enrichment plant.

Would KSA Play the China Card?

KSA is interested in China’s Hualong One and said as much in 2019. China is the wild card in the mix. It is one of KSA’s biggest customers for oil and could potentially propose a swap of nuclear reactors for oil without involving payment in U.S. dollars.

  • The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has long maintained that if it doesn’t get what it wants from a US 123 Agreement for export of nuclear reactor technologies, it has other options including buying Chinese Hualong One PWRs, at 1100 NMW each, similar to the two units now being built at a coastal site in Pakistan near Karachi.
  • Such an scenario would be a win for China, which would benefit from a long-standing relationship, first documented in 2003, between KSA and Pakistan, involving KSA’s financial support for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.
  • The Chinese Hualong One, a PWR at 1100 MWe is comparable in electrical power output to the Westinghouse AP1000 at 1150 MWe.
  • For its part, the US reiterated at the Munich Security Conference on 02/16/19 that the U.S. will not open door to Saudi Arabia building nuclear weapons, or predecessor facilities like uranium enrichment plans, and thus abandoning the “gold standard” set with a similar 123 agreement with the United Arab Emirates.
  • Saudi Arabia may be playing a double game with the U.S. On one hand it makes fiery disclaimers that if it doesn’t get a modified 123 agreement, it will talk to China. On the other hand, getting the reactors from Westinghouse and big chunks of its supply chain makes protecting Saudi Arabia from Iran much more in the US interest. Because KSA will now have our nuclear reactors, the US would want to keep an eye on them for all of the obvious security reasons.

South Korea’s Prospects Could Make it the Front Runner

According to industry sources, the Saudi government sent the solicitation to South Korea because the latter has successfully built the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in the United Arab Emirates. South Korea won the UAE contract in 2009 and has built four APR1400 reactors at a cost of US$18.6 billion. Unit 1 of the country’s first nuclear power plant was connected to the grid in August 2020, followed by unit 2 in September 2021.

The South Korean project came in at half the cost French company Areva proposed at that time for its 1600 MWe EPRs. Also, the UAE was concerned about schedule delays and cost overruns at EPR projects in Finland and France.

Just two weeks ago U.S. President Joseph Biden traveled to South Korea as part of a tour of Asian nations. The two nations signed a nuclear cooperation agreement including plans to continue cooperation in the development of small modular reactors (SMRs). The agreement also covers collaborative actions involving a long list of high technology industries including computer chips. Full Text Joint Statement White House Fact Sheet

The bilateral agreement has set high expectations for joint efforts supporting exports of South Korean nuclear technology.

“The United States and South Korea recently agreed to further cooperate in the industry and this can have a positive effect on the project in Saudi Arabia,” said an South Korean industry source.

“For example, South Korea may win the contract on condition that U.S. companies such as Westinghouse supply components and share the proceeds of the project.”

In the case of Barakah, about 10 percent of the total project proceeds went to U.S. companies.

South Korea is a clear front runner. Most importantly, the Saudi procurement team can kick the tires of the UAE units, so to speak, prior to signing on the bottom line.

Another reason for KSA to go with South Korea is that the experienced skilled trades that are building the four units in the UAE will be available as the UAE units will be completed in the next two to three years. This experience is invaluable and could shave costs of construction since the contractors and their 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 even more attractive. Also, the South Korean 1400 MWe PWR earned the NRC’s design certification in August 2019 which is considered to be the global “gold standard” for safety reviews. Finally, and perhaps not coincidentally, the Saudi “inquiry” asks for a 1400 MWe power rating.

U.S. Nonproliferation Policies Could be a Deal Breaker

A potential stumbling block for South Korea is that Saudi Arabia does not have an agreement with the U.S. under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act which promotes the peaceful use of electricity.

The U.S. has insisted that countries signing such agreements set aside any plans for enrichment of uranium and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel. For its part Saudi Arabia has insisted it will not give up these plans. The absence of such an agreement could prevent U.S. firms like Westinghouse from supplying components to South Korea for a project in Saudi Arabia.

South Korea’s 1400 MWe PWR design, which is the basis for construction of four units in the United Arab Emirates, has substantial U.S. technology in it. South Korea would be seen by the U.S. as walking on thin ice if it claims that a modified version of the APR1400 is unencumbered by U.S. intellectual property (CE System 80+), and that it can be sold to Saudi Arabia even if there is no 123 Agreement in place.

South Korea’s 123 agreement, updated in 2016, with the U.S. still prohibits use of generally accepted methods of reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel (dissolving it in nitric acid which recovers plutonium as well as uranium) so it would not be able to take back fuel from Saudi Arabia for this purpose due to nonproliferation concerns. The 123 agreement between South Korea and the U.S. could opens the door for enrichment of uranium by South Korea, but only after further consultations. In diplomatic speak, that means the door is currently closed.

South Korea has long standing ambitions to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from its domestic fleet of reactors using pyroprocessing which does not produce plutonium as an output. In 2021 a joint U.S. / South Korea R&D effort proved the principle which is called PYRO-SFR. It is expected to help South Korean nuclear utilities utilize spent nuclear fuel since the technology allows it to process transuranic waste (TRU) in fuel rods for recycle in accordance with the nuclear non-proliferation policy.

President Biden’s Planned Trip to KSA

President Biden, on the heels last month of inking a collaborative approach to nuclear technology exports with South Korea, is scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia later this month. A question for bilateral discussions is whether the Saudi government will agree to modify its demand to the right to uranium enrichment in order to open the door to a 123 agreement and access to the South Korean PWR. Update: NBC News reports the President’s trip to the Middle East will now take place in July.

That seems unlikely for now given that re-establishing the Iran nuclear deal remains in limbo. Saudi Arabia’s stance on uranium enrichment is seen as a response to a perceived threat from Iran’s nuclear energy program. Absent any constraints on Iran with a revised nuclear deal, KSA will remain unwilling to give up the deterrent policy of insisting on the right to uranium enrichment. This puts the US in an uncomfortable corner of on one hand wanting to insure that KSA does not get its nuclear reactors from China, and on the other insisting on compliance with the spirit and text of U.S. nonproliferation policies which have been applied to other countries, e.g., the United Arab Emirates for one.

President Biden’s trip to the Middle East also includes Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates and all of these countries share KSA’s anxieties about Iran’s nuclear program. Whether there will be progress to break the current impasse with Iran to close the deal for a new nuclear agreement is unknown, but presidential trips are intended to produce significant results. Another key objective for Biden is to discuss with Saudi officials ways to manage their production of oil to stabilize global markets due to European nations ending their purchases of Russian oil because of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

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New South Korea Gov’t Commits $320M to Develop SMRs

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Newly elected South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is offering the nation’s nuclear power industry a new opportunity to rebound after the prior government tried to put it out of business.

The new administration this week endorsed a budget of $320 million as a massive injection of state money for the development of a small modular reactor called “i-SMR” that can be operated underground and is water cooled naturally in case of emergency.

Yoon, who took office in early May, ended his predecessor’s “nuclear-exit” policy of phasing out nuclear power plants. He vowed to revitalize South Korea’s nuclear power industry and develop next-generation reactors. During his campaign he insisted that nuclear power plants are an essential factor in restoring industrial competitiveness.

The proposed development of i-SMRs has passed a preliminary feasibility study, according to the Ministry of Science. The budget of $320 million is aimed at developing a reactor with a power generation capacity of less than 300 MWe.

In a press statement the South Korean science ministry described SMRs as a “gamechanger” for the nuclear power market and said South Korea aims to develop “an innovative SMR that is competitive in terms of economy, safety and flexibility to preoccupy the world’s SMR market.”

The domestic design of the i-SMRs will be manufactured in the form of a module at a factory for easy transportation to secure economic feasibility, the ministry said. It added the i-SMR project would create an opportunity to strengthen the export competitiveness and ecosystem of South Korea’s nuclear power industry.

No mention was made of previous efforts by South Korea to develop a 100 MWe “smart” SMR in collaboration with Saudi Arabia. In January 2020 Saudi Arabia updated its agreement with South Korea to complete a 100 MWe SMR, to license it for use in that country and to offer it for export.

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South Korea’s KHNP Ready To Invest In Poland’s Nuclear Program

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(NucNet) South Korea’s state-owned Korea Hydro Nuclear Power (KHNP) said it is ready to take up to a 49% equity stake in Poland’s nuclear power program.

Poland is expected to choose a technology vendor by the end of 2022. Commercial operation of a first unit in a proposed set of six is planned for 2033.

KHNP vice-president Seung-Yeol Lim told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) that the company has “sufficient financial potential” to take part in the project’s financing. Financial and legal issues will need to be resolved to close the deal.

“It is a large project requiring huge financial resources, which depends on various factors on financial markets,” he said.

Last month, KHNP presented an offer to build six of its APR-1400 pressurized water reactors (PWRs) for Poland with a combined capacity of 8.4 GW, with the first to be operational in 2033. For bench marking purposes, and assuming the reactors can be built for $5,000/KW, the six units would represent a combined investment of $42 billion from South Korea and Poland.

For the 49% equity stake, KHNP said it would, acting alone, be willing to take a 20-30% of the proposed 49% stake in Warsaw’s nuclear project. A 30% stake would represent $12.6 billion more or less depending on the actual agreed contract price for the reactors.

“This (20-30%) would be KHNP’s direct contribution to the investment. The rest would be covered by financial institutions. On the Korean side, it would be export credit agencies,” Mr. Lim said.

It isn’t clear whether the contract to develop the six reactors will be a turnkey effort or a build and operate deal. KHNP would train Polish plant operators on South Korean reactors and most likely provide continuing on-site operational support once the reactors are commissioned. Poland has no nuclear reactors of its own and would be creating the necessary entities to regulate safety and operate the plants from scratch.

It remains to be seen if Poland can raise the other $21 billion. So far, despite repeated attempts, it has not been able to arrange for a combination of government funding and investor commitments to get its program off the ground to build full size nuclear reactors.

KHNP said it expects to get financial and rate guarantees from the Polish government for the project and could seek financing from commercial banks and other countries’ export credit agencies presumably including the U.S.

The Polish government wants to initially have 100% of shares in a company set up to invest in nuclear energy, but once a co-investor is chosen the state will maintain 51% and the co-investor will take 49%. The nuclear program requires the co-investor be related to the technology provider.

According to KHNP, it intends to provide financing for Poland’s new-build project in phases, proportionate to the progression of the capital expenditure. The firm said funds could be provided in three batches for each two units of the six-unit program with the goal to preserve competitiveness and internal rate of return for the investor.

In terms of competition, in October 2021, France’s state-controlled EDF submitted a preliminary offer to the Polish government for the construction of four to six EPR nuclear power plants at two or three different locations in Poland.

US-based Westinghouse has also formally expressed interest in the project. In July 2021, Westinghouse and US partner Bechtel agreed to provide Poland’s Polskie Elektrownie Jadrowe (PEJ) with a front-end engineering and design study for the deployment of two nuclear power stations, each consisting of three AP-1000 PWRs.

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Westinghouse and Hyundai Ink Nuclear Energy MOU

Westinghouse Electric Company and Hyundai Engineering & Construction (E&C) signed a strategic cooperation agreement to jointly participate in global AP1000 plant opportunities. The signing ceremony at Hyundai E&C headquarters was led by Yoon Young-Joon, President and CEO of Hyundai E&C, and David Durham, President of Westinghouse Energy Systems, along with officials from both companies.

Yoon Young-Joon, CEO of Hyundai E&C said, “The Strategic Cooperation agreement enables Hyundai E&C to have an opportunity to demonstrate our exceptional engineering, procurement and construction capabilities applied to Westinghouse’s AP1000 plant. Also, Hyundai’s presence in the green energy sector is expected to grow by jointly participating in the global conventional nuclear power plant projects led by Westinghouse.”

“Westinghouse’s proven AP1000 technology leads the industry in safety and operational performance; we look forward to collaborating with Hyundai E&C, a global EPC leader, on future AP1000 plant projects to jointly help countries achieve their decarbonization and energy security objectives,” said David Durham, President, Westinghouse Energy Systems.

If a customer is found it will be the first time a South Korean firm will be able to participate in building the 1150 MWe PWR. Westinghouse built four AP1000s in China and will be a supplier to new CAP1000 units, the licensed Chinese version, of four more units.

Two AP 1000s are under construction in Georgia and are approaching the finish line. However, due to supply chain problems and the inherent issues associated with first of a kind units, the twin reactors have been significantly delayed and nearly doubled in cost. The Westinghouse brand must also overcome the legacy of the failed V C Summer project in South Carolina.

Further complicating matters is that Brookfield, the Canadian parent equity firm that owns Westinghouse, has put it on the market, for the second time creating uncertainty about whether the eventual buyer will be interested in building new nuclear reactors. When Brookfield bought Westinghouse from Toshiba, it said it was primarily interested in the firm for its cash cow businesses of nuclear fuel fabrication and reactor maintenance contracts.

Hyundai Sets Roadmap For SMRs

South Korea’s Hyundai Engineering is doubling down on micro reactor sector to cement leadership in the burgeoning small modular reactor (SMR) market and hydrogen generation for carbon emission control and energy security.

It plans to secure engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) rights for micro module reactor (MMR) building in Canada, the United States, and Poland by 2029, based on its current MMR project in Chalk River, Canada. It also plans to mass-produce hydrogen using high temperatures through technological advancement.

A joint venture has been formed between Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to build, own and operate the proposed Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) project at the Chalk River Laboratories site. The joint venture – the Global First Power Limited Partnership – is owned equally by OPG and USNC-Power, the Canadian subsidiary of USNC.

Other Markets

For the nuclear power plant decommissioning and nuclear fuel cycle, the firm will participate in the design procedure of temporary storage facilities for nuclear fuels after use in domestic power plants. Based on the expertise it will gain from the work, it plans to advance into overseas markets.

It also plans to bolster its business by securing EPC rights for pyroprocessing and radioactive waste treatment facilities in South Korea if the government and the U.S. can agree to authorize it.

There have been growing concerns about nuclear waste and the management of spent fuel because so far Washington has refused to ease restrictions on the development of reprocessing facilities in South Korea to acquire enriched uranium as fuel. This policy position may change if the U.S. sees that it really needs new sources of HALEU fuel.

Separately, the South Korean government approved the proposed spending of $282 million from 2023 to 2030 to develop technologies for the dismantling of reactors taken out of service due to their age.

Hyundai E&C has working with its American partner, Holtec International, for the decommissioning of defunct nuclear power plants, starting with the Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan in Westchester County.

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NuScale / Nuclearelectrica MOU to Deploy First SMR

(NucNet)

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US-based SMR developer NuScale has signed a memorandum of understanding with Romania’s state nuclear power corporation Nuclearelectrica. The purpose of the agreement is to conduct engineering studies, technical reviews, and licensing and permitting activities at a site in Doicesti, south-central Romania, and about 60 miles northwest of Bucharest, that is the preferred location for the deployment of what could be the first SMR in Europe.

NuScale said Romania has the potential to accommodate the first deployment of SMRs in Europe and become a catalyst for SMRs in the region, as well as a base for supporting operatorship of this new technology in other countries.

The announcement is the latest step in a partnership to bring advanced nuclear technology to Romania and “a key advancement” of an agreement signed last year . NuScale and Nuclearelectrica – operator of Romania’s only nuclear station at Cernavoda – are planning to eventually deploying a NuScale Voygr-6, six-module, 462 MWe power plant in Romania. The project would use NuScale’s 77 MWe SMR design and the first unit would be completed by 2028.

The agreement, signed with great media fanfare at the COP26 climate conference, was the only tangible commitment by the US to nuclear energy to come out of the global meeting.

In a related development, NuScale announced plans to open an “energy exploration center” that includes an SMR simulator at the University Politehnica of Bucharest to support workforce capacity building of Romania’s next generation of nuclear experts, technologists and operators. The center will be the first of its kind overseas. There are three in the US, at Oregon State University, the University of Idaho and Texas A&M University.”

The United States Trade and Development Agency awarded a grant to Nuclearelectrica in early 2021 for a study to identify and assess several sites across Romania, including locations where existing coal-fired power plants could be replaced with SMR plants. The funding amount for the project was not disclosed.

The study, by US firm Sargent & Lundy, identified several potential suitable sites, including the Doicesti site, which Nuclearelectrica has determined to be the preferred location for the first SMR deployment.

Nuclearelectrica chief executive officer Cosmin Ghita said the site selection is “a great first step for Romania in our SMR roadmap, after more than three years from our first MoU with NuScale, in which we analyzed the technology, its safety, its maturity and its readiness towards deployment and meeting Romania’s energy security and decarbonation goals.”

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NRC Staff Says Nuscale Design Is Safe

(Reuters) –

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Following the release of an ambiguous statement in May that appeared to indicate the NRC might reopen NuScale’s license to build its 50 MWe SMR, the agency’s reactor regulation staff said this week that its evaluations are acceptable and that updates to design approval are unnecessary.

“Based on the material reviewed, the … staff continues to conclude that there is reasonable assurance of adequate protection,” the staff said in a note from Andrea Veil, the director of the NRC’s reactor regulation office.

The statement by the reactor regulation staff put an end to speculation that there was a deficiency in the license granted to NuScale by the agency.

NuScale Power Corp’s (SMR.N) design for a new kind of nuclear reactor is adequate to protect the project from damage by earthquakes, staff at the agency said in documents seen by Reuters.

The flurry of media activity around the NRC’s statements was initially addressed by the agency’s public affairs staff. Scott Burnell, an NRC spokesperson, downplayed the move saying Dorman wanted staff there to better document their work on the reactor’s earthquake protection.

“The bottom line is that the agency’s standard design approval remains valid for the NuScale 50 MW/module design,” Burnell said in an email to the news media.

The issue arose after NRC engineer John Ma raised concerns about the project’s vulnerability to earthquakes. Ma’s position was supported by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Edwin Lyman, the director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists said an independent panel of experts external to the NRC should evaluate Ma’s concerns. The NRC did not take any action related to Lyman’s request.

NuScale plans to build multiple small modular reactors (SMR) at the Idaho National Laboratory for UAMPS, its customer, with the first unit coming online in 2029.

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Vietnam Airs Prospect Of Resuming Nuclear Power Development

(Vietnam English language business wires) Vietnam’s industry minister, Nguyen Hong Dien, told the national assembly that developing nuclear power is an “inevitable trend,” He said the ministry may be considering resuming a plan to construct nuclear power plants after the program was suspended six years ago. At that time Vietnam had an ambitious plan to build four 1000 MWe reactors, but it abandoned the program due to its cost.

The proposed nuclear plants, with a combined capacity of 4,000 megawatts, were due to be built by Russia’s Rosatom and Japan Atomic Power Co. in the central province of Ninh Thuan.

One of the reasons for the proposed project was to provide electrical power to exploit bauxite mines in the central highlands. In turn it would supply a planned aluminum smelter that would support export of the metal in ingots for export and also help develop a manufacturing center for finished aluminum products.

Dien also said Vietnam will boost development of renewable energy following a commitment made in November last year to become carbon neutral by 2050, but stressed this week that it still needed a “stable energy source.”

Dien said plans to develop the country’s first nuclear power plants were “suspended, not completely cancelled,” according to the government statement.

“We can’t develop more coal-fired power plants, while the country’s hydropower potential has been fully tapped,” Dien said.

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Alaska Governor DunLeavy Signs Micro Reactor Bill

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(Alaskan Business Wires) Alaskan Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed legislation that could help bring nuclear microreactors to Alaska in an effort to help villages lower high electricity prices.

Senate Bill 177, introduced by the governor early this year and passed by the Alaska Legislature, streamlines regulatory procedures so that Alaska communities can pursue using the nuclear microreactors.

Nuclear microreactors are being considered as a potential alternative for Alaska villages that rely on diesel fuel for electricity, or for industrial sites like mines. Any installation of a microreactor would not happen for several years, the governor’s office said.

Currently, the U.S. Air Force is evaluating a plan to install a microreactor at Eielson Air Force Base by 2027. And Copper Valley Electric Association is also considering one in Valdez.

The microreactors could be shipped to Alaska villages by barge, and connected to existing micro power grid. The idea is to reduce power prices in rural Alaska using nuclear power instead of expensive and dirty diesel powered generation.

According to news media reports about the Alaska Sustainable Energy Conference, nuclear reactor vendors are already communicating their marketing messages to potential prospects.

Westinghouse is promoting its preliminary design of a micro reactor. Michael Valore, speaking for Westinghouse Electric, said nuclear waste from its eVinci microreactor system would not be left in villages.

“We bring the unit with the fuel in it, and we take the reactor away with the fuel in it,” Valore said. “There is no radiated material handling required in any remote area of Alaska with this design.It does not need to be refueled in Alaska., We designed this to be almost a drop-in type replacement for diesel generation.”

A representative of another vendor, Mary Woollen, with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. based in Seattle, is working on a feasibility study of the technology for the Copper Valley Electric Association.

Woollen said the microreactors use safe designs and technology. Temperatures in the reactor would not be hot enough to cause a meltdown, and the amount of waste the company would remove every 20 years would be about the size of a refrigerator.

“It simply can’t melt down,” she said.

Actual construction of a micro reactor for an Alaskan village is years in the future even if a lot of folks in the state are thinking about it now.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Stanford’s Questionable Study on Spent Nuclear Fuel for SMRs

questionA Stanford University and University of British Columbia study into the waste streams from three proposed small modular reactor (SMR) designs predicts complex technical problems and high costs that will occur in the management of spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive waste from both light water and advanced SMR designs

The Stanford-led research, published this week by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), finds “small modular reactors will exacerbate challenges of highly radioactive nuclear waste.”

“The takeaway message for the industry and investors is that the back end of the fuel cycle may include hidden costs that must be addressed,” says study co-author and UBC professor Allison Macfarlane, who is also a former NRC Commissioner (2012-2014).

There are significant issues regarding the findings of the report. This blog post briefly describes the main findings of the NAS published report and then poses some questions about the caveats and limitations of the study that will add some much needed perspective to the press statement.

According to a press statement from Stanford University, released ahead of the NAS report, the study has following conclusion.

“Our results show that most small modular reactor designs will actually increase the volume of nuclear waste in need of management and disposal, by factors of 2 to 30 for the reactors in our case study,” said study lead author Lindsay Krall, a former MacArthur Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). “These findings stand in sharp contrast to the cost and waste reduction benefits that advocates have claimed for advanced nuclear technologies.”

Krall and her team say that for this study, they analyzed the nuclear waste streams from three types of small modular reactors being developed by Toshiba, NuScale, and Terrestrial Energy. Each company uses a different design. Results from case studies were corroborated by theoretical calculations and a broader design survey. This three-pronged approach enabled the authors to draw disturbing conclusions but these findings come along with a very big caveat.

“The analysis was difficult, because none of these reactors are in operation yet,” said study co-author Rodney Ewing, the Frank Stanton Professor in Nuclear Security at Stanford and co-director of CISAC. “Also, the designs of some of the reactors are proprietary, adding additional hurdles to the research.”

The Stanford study focuses on neutron bombardment of structural materials that make up the reactor including its steel and concrete.

Energy is produced in a nuclear reactor when a neutron splits a uranium atom in the reactor core, generating additional neutrons that go on to split other uranium atoms, creating a chain reaction. Some neutrons escape from the core. This is a problem called neutron leakage, These materials become radioactive when “activated” by neutrons lost from the core.

Too Many Neutrons

The new study found that, because of their smaller size, small modular reactors will experience more neutron leakage than conventional reactors. This increased leakage affects the amount and composition of their waste streams.

“The more neutrons that are leaked, the greater the amount of radioactivity created by the activation process of neutrons,” Ewing said. “We found that small modular reactors will generate at least nine times more neutron-activated steel than conventional power plants. These radioactive materials have to be carefully managed prior to disposal, which will be expensive.”

The study also asserted that the spent nuclear fuel from small modular reactors will be discharged in greater volumes per unit energy extracted and can be far more complex than the spent fuel discharged from existing power plants.

“Some small modular reactor designs call for chemically exotic fuels and coolants that can produce difficult-to-manage wastes for disposal,” said co-author Allison Macfarlane, professor and director of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia. “Those exotic fuels and coolants may require costly chemical treatment prior to disposal.”

“The takeaway message for the industry and investors is that the back end of the fuel cycle may include hidden costs that must be addressed,” Macfarlane said. “It’s in the best interest of the reactor designer and the regulator to understand the waste implications of these reactors.”

The study also concludes that SMRs “are inferior to conventional reactors with respect to radioactive waste generation, management requirements, and disposal options.”

The research team estimated that after 10,000 years, the radiotoxicity of plutonium in spent fuels discharged from the three study modules would be at least 50 percent higher than the plutonium in conventional spent fuel per unit energy extracted.

Because of this high level of radiotoxicity, geologic repositories for small modular reactor wastes should be carefully chosen through a thorough siting process, the authors said.

“We shouldn’t be the ones doing this kind of study,” said Ewing. “The vendors, those who are proposing and receiving federal support to develop advanced reactors, should be concerned about the waste and conducting research that can be reviewed in the open literature.”

What’s Wrong with this Study?

To begin with the text of the Stanford press statement has a caveat the size of the Brooklyn Bridge.

“The analysis was difficult, because none of these reactors are in operation yet,” said study co-author Rodney Ewing, the Frank Stanton Professor in Nuclear Security at Stanford and co-director of CISAC. “Also, the designs of some of the reactors are proprietary, adding additional hurdles to the research.”

This is a significant shortcoming of the report. The absence of quality assured test data is a compelling reason to question the report as a whole as well as its particular findings. Had the authors called for such testing, rather than leaping to conclusion in its absence, the report might have built a stronger case for its conclusion.

In short, without this kind of information, the report’s conclusions will be seen as resting on conjecture, and theory, and not engineering test results. It is plausible to predict the report will be strongly criticized on this point. In point of fact, the report’s press statement notes, “results from case studies were corroborated by theoretical calculations.” Simulation and modeling will only take you so far.

Also, the authors don’t include references to any findings about the spent fuel from SMRs that have emerged from the NRC’s licensing review of NuScale’s SMR nor any of the pre-licensing topical reports from other vendor applicants that can be released without compromising proprietary information. There are multiple light water and advanced reactors in pre-licensing talks with the agency so there is no shortage of data in the NRC’s ADAMS online library to review.

The research team had an obligation to discuss the report with the NRC prior to publication, especially due to the fact that Allison MacFarlane, a former NRC Commissioner, is one of the co-authors. Her expertise alone is insufficient for this purpose.

There is no reference to findings about spent fuel for SMRs undertaken by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) vendor design review (VDR) which included the NuScale SMR as well as 12 other SMR designs of which 9 are advanced designs that use HALEU fuels with enrichment levels of between 5-19% U235.

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Also, since the report carries the imprint of the National Academy of Sciences, one would assume that peer review would have included experts on spent nuclear fuel at the NRC and outside the government who would have questioned some of the report’s findings. More than a decade ago the US government published a “Blue Ribbon Report” on spent nuclear fuel. At a minimum its findings should have been part of the baseline literature review of your study. A review of the cited references in the report indicates it was not accessed by the research team.

The Stanford study focuses on neutron bombardment of structural materials that make up the reactor including its steel and concrete. Typically, materials testing takes place in test reactors to address in exact engineering terms how much impact the neutrons in the reactor will have on materials. The study’s principals could have picked up the phone and called the scientists at the Idaho National Laboratory familiar with the work that has been done over decades at the Advanced Test Reactor to get some answers to their questions. Apparently, the research team did not do this as there is no citation for it in the full text of the report.

IAEA Addressed the Issue of Spent Fuel for SMRs in 2019

The research team also had an obligation to address the global aspects of SMRs as there are dozens of designs in development worldwide. The IAEA would have been a good place to start.

The IAEA said in 2019 that spent fuel from SMRs could be handled according to methods used for existing reactors. Here’s a section of their article along with the URL for the complete post

what are SMRs

“Countries with established nuclear power programs have been managing their spent fuel for decades. They have gained extensive experience and have proper infrastructure in place. For these countries, management of spent fuel arising from SMRs shouldn’t pose a challenge if they opt to deploy SMRs based on current technologies, said Christophe Xerri, Director of the Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology at the IAEA.”

“Since this type of small modular reactor will be using the same fuel as conventional, large nuclear power plants, it’s spent fuel can be managed in the same way as that of large reactors,” Xerri said.”

Even for SMRs based on new technologies, such as high temperature gas cooled reactors, which will use fuel packed in graphite prismatic blocks or graphite pebbles, countries that have nuclear power plants will already have solutions in place for storing and managing spent fuel. “They can either use existing infrastructure or adjust it for the new radioactive waste streams,” Xerri said.”

wippThe report sails past obvious solutions which include reprocessing spent nuclear fuel or using salt formations like the one at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant for a geologic repository.

Jim Conca, a Ph.D. nuclear scientist, wrote to me in an email about the Stanford study saying, “The salt in New Mexico that hosts WIPP could take all of this no problem, as the salt’s performance is independent of the waste form or level of activity, although bureaucratically we can only put TRU there even though WIPP was designed and built for everything.”

Readers should also know that when WIPP was first being designed in the late 1970s, it was intended to take not only spent nuclear fuel, but also high level military nuclear waste such as spent fuel from navy ships and submarines. Instead, the navy reprocessed its spent fuel at the Naval Reactors site in Idaho until the early 1990s.

Swift Response from SMR Developers

Although the Stanford report was released over the long US Memorial Day weekend, responses to it from the SMR developer community were swift and to the point.

Terrestrial Energy

(05/31/22) “Our IMSR Generation IV fission plant generates electric power at nearly 50 percent higher thermal efficiency than a conventional reactor, so clearly it produces less radioactive waste or activity per unit power.  Terrestrial Energy is developing a conversion process using ANSTO Synroc technology for a waste form that is far more geologically stable than that of current reactors. The Generation IV International Forum in part defines a successful Generation IV technology as one that creates less waste – our IMSR technology embodies that objective, which was set by international experts,” said Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy.

06/03/22: Terrestrial Energy responded further to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) article on used fuel from SMRs.  (Full Text of letter PDF file with extensive comments)

“Terrestrial Energy is deeply disappointed in the poor quality of this article and its numerous and significant factual errors. The article in several instances implies that any single shortfall of any small modular (SMR) system is universal to other SMR designs. As such, the article fails to comply with the Academy’s high standards. The article’s conclusion is the most egregious case in point:”

“Molten salt- and sodium-cooled SMRs will use highly corrosive and pyrophoric fuels and coolants that, following irradiation, will become highly radioactive.”  (italics added)

“Such a statement ignores well-established fact in the field: No reactor uses or proposes using pyrophoric fuels. While sodium reactors indeed have a pyrophoric coolant, the coolant does not become highly radioactive. However, the sentence clearly implies both molten salt and sodium cooled reactors have pyrophoric fuels and coolants, which is simply false.”

NuScale

(05/30/22) The firm lodged this objection. “We don’t agree with the conclusion that the NuScale design creates more used spent fuel per unit of energy compared to currently operating light water reactors,” says NuScale spokesperson Diane Hughes.

“The paper uses outdated design information for the energy capacity of the NuScale fuel design and wrong assumptions for the material used in the reactor reflector, and on burnup of the fuel.  With the correct inputs, NuScale’s design compares favorably with current large pressurized water reactors on spent fuel waste created per unit of energy. These inputs are publicly available to the paper’s authors and their omission undermines the credibility of the paper and its conclusions.”

(06/01/22: NuScale has written a letter to NAS about the paper. It disputes on technical grounds the assertion by the authors of the NAS study that SMRs produce more nuclear waste than conventional large scale PWRs. Read the full text here.   bit.ly/3MaX9PT

Third Way

(05/31/2) A spokesman for the DC think tank which studies energy issues, said this about the report, “It fails to recognize that because some advanced SMRs are more efficient than existing reactors they are expected to produce less waste overall not more. The study mixes different reactor designs and uses what appears to be old information. Any long-term waste solution, whether a centralized repository or recycling, can easily accommodate the waste, because nuclear plants, whether large or small, produce a small amount of high-level waste.”

It is entirely predictable that there will be more and considerable criticism of the report from developers of SMRs and the nuclear energy industry in general.

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Krall is now a scientist at the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company. Co-authors of the study are Rodney Ewing, the Frank Stanton Professor in Nuclear Security at Stanford and co-director of CISAC, and Allison Macfarlane, professor and director of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia and former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where she took a particular interest in waste management.

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Posted in Nuclear | 16 Comments

South Korea and US Sign Nuclear Energy Pact

  • South Korea and US Sign Nuclear Energy Pact – Updated 05/21/22
  • Turkish Nuclear Plant Threatened By Russian Sanctions
  • Ukraine Planning For Post-War Nuclear Power Plants
  • Ukraine Rejects Use of  Zaporizhzhia NPP Exporting Electricity To Russia
  • DOD Selects Selects Nuclear-Powered Spacecraft Designs
  • Artificial Intelligence Used to Assess Metallic Nuclear Fuel

South Korea and US Sign Nuclear Energy Pact – updated 05/21/22

higbh tech(NucNet contributed to this report) US President Joseph Biden traveled to South Korea as part of a tour of Asian nations. The two nations signed a nuclear cooperation agreement including plans to continue cooperation in the development of small modular reactors (SMRs).

The agreement also covers collaborative actions involving a long list of high technology industries including computer chips.  Full Text Joint Statement  White House Fact Sheet 

In a May 20th weekly newsletter, Ken Luongo, President, Partnership for Global Security, a DC think tank, wrote there are serious issues that need attention if the two nations are to reap real benefits from collaboration in nuclear energy projects.

“If the U.S. and Korea are going to reboot their nuclear energy relationship, they will need to move beyond the summit rhetoric and take specific and difficult actions,” he said.

“In the area of civil nuclear cooperation, the essential objective is to resolve the Westinghouse-KEPCO dispute. Numerous discussions have occurred at working levels without result. . . . Without resolution of this issue, U.S.-Korea collaboration on large reactor projects won’t happen and suspended technical-level engagement won’t resume.”

Luongo also wrote, “The U.S. and Korea should have two overriding goals in this new environment – position themselves as reliable nuclear exporters that support the highest levels of nuclear governance and prevent China from filling the gap left by Russia’s nuclear export implosion.”

“This discussion should target opportunities, assess supply chain issues, and identify the strengths and weaknesses of each country in nuclear export. Second, identify how to create collaborative financing for third country reactor exports and equitable mechanisms for profit sharing. Third, identify the research and test capabilities required to support next-generation advanced nuclear power technologies that can replace facilities in Russia or China.”

South Korea’s 180 on Nuclear Energy

Unlike its predecessor, which wanted to shut down all of the nation’s reactors, the new Yoon government is bullish on nuclear and recently said construction of two plants at the Shin-Hanul nuclear power station will resume in 2025 and an application will be made next year so that Kori-2 can be operated beyond its service life.

Work on the Shin-Hanul-3 and Shin-Hanul-4, 330 km from Seoul in the southeast of the country, was halted in 2017 under the nuclear phaseout policy of the previous administration.

U.S. Firms Firmly in the Mix

Considerable collaboration is already underway between South Korean heavy industry firms and two US firms – NuScale and TerraPower. Both firms are developing smaller scale nuclear reactors than the 1000 MWe or larger plants that have been built in past decades.

what are SMRs

NuScale – Samsung and two other Korean conglomerates have signed equity agreements with U.S.-based NuScale to build small-scale modular nuclear reactors in Asia as demand for clean energy grows globally.

NuScale and Samsung C&T and business units of Korean conglomerates Doosan Group and GS Group, will pursue the deployment of NuScale’s SMR power plants. Samsung, Doosan and GS Energy will advise NuScale in component manufacturing, plant construction and plant operation.

The deal was announced after Yoon Suk-yeol was elected South Korea’s president in March. Yoon, who took office on May 10, has pledged to embrace nuclear energy to accelerate South Korea’s goal to zero out emissions.

In April 2022 NuScale Power LLC and Doosan Enerbility Co., Ltd. announced through a signed agreement that Doosan will begin production of forging materials for NuScale’s Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) with expectations for full-scale equipment manufacturing by the latter half of 2023. Specifically, Doosan, a Korean industrials and energy company, will begin production of forging dies for NuScale’s Upper Reactor Pressure Vessel, marking the start of NuScale Power Module (NPM) production.

This milestone builds upon NuScale and Doosan’s existing relationship, which began in 2019 when Doosan made its initial equity investment in NuScale. Since then, Doosan has conducted an extensive multi-year effort, completing the design for manufacture of the NPM and performing manufacturing trials to reduce schedule risk and increase cost certainty.

TerraPower – TerraPower entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with SK Inc. and SK Innovation on May 17, 2022. This MOU is in support of commercializing advanced reactor technologies and will allow the organizations to jointly explore potential synergies between TerraPower’s technology and SK Group’s energy portfolio.

A spokesman for TerraPower said the groups will also explore opportunities between TerraPower’s medical isotopes production capabilities and SK Group’s biopharmaceutical investment portfolio. TeraPower has the technology to produce actinium-225 (Ac-225), a radioactive isotope fortargeted alpha radiation therapy that destroys cancer cells without damaging nearby normal cells.

SK Group will also cooperate with TerraPower for development and commercialization of SMR technology and joint advancement into domestic and foreign nuclear power plant markets. The cooperation between the two sides are expected to help Korean nuclear-related companies secure SMR core technology and foster related industries.

Update: 05/21/22 US & ROK Joint Statement on Nuclear Energy

The two leaders recognize the importance of nuclear energy as a critical and reliable source of carbon-free electricity, an important element to grow our clean energy economy, and an integral part of enhancing global energy security.

The two leaders commit to greater nuclear energy collaboration and accelerating the development and global deployment of advanced reactors and small modular reactors by jointly using export promotion and capacity building tools, and building a more resilient nuclear supply chain.

The two Presidents reaffirm that both countries will engage in global civil-nuclear cooperation in accordance with the highest standards of nuclear nonproliferation, including the IAEA Additional Protocol as the standard for both international safeguards and for nuclear supply arrangements.

Acknowledging the shared goals of deepening strategic ties, while respecting each country’s intellectual investments, both leaders commit to using tools such as the ROK-U.S. Memorandum of Understanding on Nuclear Technology Transfer and Export Cooperation to provide a solid foundation for strengthened cooperation in the U.S., ROK and overseas nuclear markets and the High-Level Bilateral Commission, to further cooperation for spent fuel management, nuclear export promotion, assured fuel supply and nuclear security.

The U.S. welcomes the ROK’s decision to join the U.S.-led Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program.  (link to full text at White House press room)

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Turkish Nuclear Plant Threatened By Russian Sanctions

(Aljazeera)(AFP) Unprecedented sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine have led to fresh concerns about Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, which is being built by Rosatom, Moscow’s state-owned nuclear company.

The first reactor of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, located on the Mediterranean coast near Mersin, is due to start production next year, but potential problems may arise from western sanctions on Russia that will affect financing and equipment from third countries have threatened to delay the $20 billion project. The sanctions are a response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

Rosatom, the Russian firm behind Akkuyu, has so far escaped sanctions but the option has reportedly been discussed by the United States. Banks such as Sberbank, Russia’s largest financial institution and a major backer of the nuclear plant, have been hit by these measures.

The Akkuyu plant, to be composed of four 1200 MWe VVER nuclear reactors, is expected when complete to provide Turkey with 10% of its electricity needs when all of its reactors come on line. According to Turkey’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority, the project is 100% financed by Russian capital. Efforts by Rosatom to attract investors from Turkey and other countries has not proved to be successful.

Russia’s Sberbank has provided Akkuyu NPP, which is mostly owned by Rosatom, with loans worth $1.2 billion since 2019. Sovcombank, another Akkuyu creditor subject to sanctions, gave loans valued at $300 million in March last year.

Possible sanctions against Rosatom could also affect the flow of equipment to Akkuyu, barring suppliers from providing energy industry equipment, technology and services.

In an interview with Turkish broadcaster NTV, aired on February 23, Akkuyu CEO Anastasia Zoteeva highlighted the “large amount of equipment” produced for the plant in countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary and South Korea. A key component was manufactured by General Electric Steam Power. French company Assystem is also involved in construction supervision.

Other components that could be affected include turbines, reactor pumps, transformers and other electrical equipment to put power from the reactor on the grid, and, significantly, computer chips for sensors and gauges that are essential to build the four control rooms.

American Nuclear Society CEO Says Russian Exports Will Be Hurt By Sanctions

In a May 11th post at the ANS Nuclear News Wire, Craig Piercy, CEO of the American Nuclear Society, wrote, “Russia’s actions in Ukraine have also done material damage to the reputation of its own commercial nuclear enterprise. Putin has made clear his intentions to use energy as a political weapon, if there was any question before. Multilateral economic sanctions will significantly degrade Russia’s ability to provide state-sponsored financing for new nuclear builds, a key competitive advantage it enjoyed before the war in Ukraine began. You have to ask: How can any unaligned nation look upon Russia as a trustworthy partner?”

He added that China may be the main beneficiary of Russia’s loss of traction in the global nuclear market due to sanctions from NATO nations.

“Has this affected China’s ability to fulfill its nuclear ambitions? Perhaps. Siding with Russia at the beginning of the war must have resulted in some degree of reputational damage. But with a big checkbook, a comprehensive technology development program, and a clear commitment to use commercial nuclear exports as a tool of diplomacy, China’s nuclear sector could just as easily end up being the beneficiary of the vacuum left by a sidelined Russia.”

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Ukraine Planning For Post-War Nuclear Power Plants

(WNN contributed to this report)  Energoatom’s CEO Petro Kotin says that construction work on two new Westinghouse AP1000 units at the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant “will begin as soon as the war is over.” He did not indicate where the financing would come from to pay for the project. EnergoAtom has said that the US Export/Import Bank would be a source of financing, but that agency did not respond to a media inquiry to confirm this claim. The US Department of Energy also declined to comment.

In an interview with news media in Ukraine, he said that the agreement signed last November with Westinghouse covered the construction of five AP1000 units in total, with the other three units to be distributed at the country’s other existing nuclear power plants.

Kotin said that in addition to those five units “we are looking at new sites. The most promising thing we are working on now is the Chyhyryn site in the Cherkasy region, where a power unit was planned to be built in Soviet times. There was a site allocated for this and there are good conditions, the population is positive about the construction of such a facility. It is the center of Ukraine, there is a high-power transmission line nearby, and a lot of water, which is important for a high-capacity nuclear power unit.”

Kotin added that before the war with Russia began the administration of the Odessa region had been keen to build a nuclear power unit. There had been plans, he said, during Soviet times for such a plant but it was cancelled after the Chernobyl accident.

Electricity Exports Planned

Another issued raised in the media call was that Ukraine currently has “a lot of capacity that is in reserve due to the reduction of electricity consumption in Ukraine,” which,could be exported. Interfax Ukraine reported that Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said at a government meeting Ukraine planned to resume addiingl power lines with Poland “to export electricity from Ukrainian nuclear power plants. It will help Europe stop importing Russian gas sooner.”

npp ukraine

Ukraine Rejects Use of  Zaporizhzhia NPP Exporting Electricity To Russia

(BBC) As a consequence of Russian troops having seized the Zaporizhzhia plant, the biggest in Europe, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin has falsely claimed the facility would export electricity to Russia.

Ukrenergo, the Ukraine grid operation said not so fast. It said the plant was in the Ukrainian grid and the grid remains under the control of Ukrainian specialists.

“Ukraine’s power system currently has no physical connections with Russia’s power system. Therefore, the supply of electricity from Ukrainian power plants to Russia is currently physically impossible,” the grid operator said in a statement to wire services.

ZAP NucA spokesman for Ukraine’s state nuclear agency Energoatom said it would take years to link the plant to Russia.

The facility is one of the largest nuclear power stations in Europe composed of six 1000 MWe VVER reactors five of which were built between 1984 and 1989. The sixth unit was completed in 1995.

“The plant only works in Ukraine’s energy grid,” Leonid Oliynyk told the BBC.

“Now the power station is working at a minimum level, but Kyiv remains in charge, all the power lines are controlled by Ukraine. The Russian statement is wishful thinking,” Mr Oliynyk added.

Ukrenergo said Moscow is trying to destabilize talks with the European Union about the possibility of boosting electricity exports.

The EU and Ukraine linked Europe’s electricity system to the Ukrainian grid on March 16 in response to Russia’s invasion. The move means Ukraine can receive emergency power from Europe if military attacks caused power outages. Last month Ukraine said it could export more power to Europe without requiring grid upgrades.

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DOD Selects Selects Nuclear-Powered Spacecraft Designs

(Space News) The DOD Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) announced May 17th it selected Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. and Avalanche to develop small nuclear-powered spacecraft for in-space demonstrations planned for 2027.

DIU, a Silicon Valley-based Pentagon organization that works with commercial industries and startups, awarded both companies  contracts to demonstrate nuclear propulsion and power technology for future DoD space missions.

The selection of Ultra Safe Nuclear and Avalanche comes just seven months after DIU issued a solicitation for small nuclear-powered engines for space missions beyond Earth orbit. The deliverables are due from both firms in 2027.

“Advanced nuclear technologies will provide the speed, power, and responsiveness to maintain an operational advantage in space,” said U.S. Air Force Maj Ryan Weed, Program Manager for the Nuclear Advanced Propulsion and Power (NAPP) program at DIU.

“Nuclear tech has traditionally been government-developed and operated, but we have discovered a thriving ecosystem of commercial companies, including start-ups, innovating in space nuclear.”

nas-ntp-propulsion

Conceptual image of a nuclear propulsion system. Image: NASA file

Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear will demonstrate a chargeable, encapsulated nuclear radioisotope battery called EmberCore.

Avalanche, a venture-backed fusion energy startup also based in Seattle, developed a handheld micro-fusion reactor called Orbitron.

“Compared to other fusion concepts, Orbitron devices are promising for space applications as they may be scaled down in size and enable their use as both a propulsion and power source,” said DIU.

Future missions will demand more maneuverability and electrical power to expand the capabilities of spacecraft, allowing for orbital changes, methods to control or facilitate de-orbiting, the transfer of materials between orbits and solar shadow operations to name a few, etc.

DIU expects that its NAPP program will have a direct impact on how the U.S. employs space power, ushering in an era where spacecraft can maneuver tactically in cislunar space.

Ultra Safe Nuclear last year won a contract from the Idaho National Laboratory to develop a nuclear thermal propulsion reactor concept for a NASA space exploration mission. The company also is a subcontractor to General Atomics and Blue Origin in the first phase of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program overseen by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. DARPA plans to launch the DRACO nuclear thermal propulsion demonstration in 2025.

Air Force Maj. Ryan Weed, DIU’s program manager for nuclear advanced propulsion and power, said the two small spacecraft prototypes funded by DIU complement the work being done by DARPA and NASA on nuclear propulsion for larger spacecraft.

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Artificial Intelligence Used to Assess Metallic Nuclear Fuel

A team of Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and University of Idaho researchers has successfully applied machine learning to characterizing the microstructure of metallic nuclear fuel. The data collected through this technique will be used by engineers to predict fuel performance more accurately as they develop fuel for the next generation of nuclear power reactors.

The research team at INL’s Irradiated Materials Characterization Laboratory developed machine learning approaches to extract and analyze the size and connectivity of fission gas bubbles from irradiated uranium-zirconium fuel.

Gas bubbles are a natural byproduct of nuclear fission. As uranium atoms split apart, they produce heat along with smaller atoms including xenon and krypton. These and other byproducts are stored as bubbles within the fuel elements, resulting in microstructural changes that can limit the fuel’s ability to transfer heat to the reactor coolant, reducing efficiency.

The uranium-zirconium fuel under study by the INL team is being considered as an option for several next-generation reactor designs and has advantages such as a simplified manufacturing process and increased fuel burnup.

“The new approaches we developed will help us uncover the dynamic environment inside irradiated fuel in a nondestructive manner,” said Tiankai Yao, a post-irradiation examination specialist at INL.

“It also allows us to significantly accelerate our post-irradiation examination work via an automated process and provides us with accurate information including fuel morphology, fission gas bubble density and lanthanide distribution.” Lanthanides are elements that form during reactor operations and inhibit fuel efficiency.

“We are building reliable and efficient machine learning approaches to help reveal and interpret valuable insights from high-quality nuclear fuel data,” said professor Min Xian, director of the University of Idaho’s Machine Intelligence and Data Analytics Lab.

The data generated will enable a better understanding of fuel performance dynamics, such as how the distribution of microstructures evolve as thermal conductivity decreases over time.

“We look forward to further refining this capability and potentially applying our algorithms to other areas of post-irradiation examination work,” said Luca Capriotti, an INL post-irradiation examination specialist.

The project has produced several notable insights into uranium-zirconium fuel performance, including identifying fuel thermal conductivity degradation due to extensive pore structure and an increase of connected pores in hotter regions of the fuel.

The findings have been published in the scientific journal “Materials Characterization,” available by subscription. Abstract

The work was funded through the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy and supported by the DOE Advanced Fuel Campaign.

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

TVA Targets 2024 for BWRX300 SMR License Application

  • TVA Targets 2024 for BWRX300 SMR License Application
  • Nuward / Tractebel To Work With EDF On Pilot SMR
  • Brookfield Set to Sell Westinghouse
  • UK Cavendish Nuclear and X-energy collaborate on HTGRs
  • S. Korea to Re-start Construction of two 1400 MWe PWRs
  • DOE/ARPA-E Seeks Proposals to Recycling Spent Fuel for Use in Advanced Reactors
  • MIT Signs on for New Five-Year Collaboration with Commonwealth Fusion Systems

TVA Targets 2024 for BWRX300 SMR License Application

(WNN contributed to this reportcopyTVA announced that it will leverage its current early site permit (ESP) for a small modular reactor (SMR) to submit an application for a construction license for a GE-Hitachi 300 MWe BWRX-300 SMR.

As one of the largest nuclear utilities in the US, its plan to move forward with an effort to eventually build one or more SMRs is a game changer for the nuclear industry and its supply chains.

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) CEO Jeff Lyash said licensing work would be the next milestone for project to build a BWRX-300 small modular reactor at Clinch River near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Lyash’s comments were made in a conference call to discuss the authority’s financial results for the second quarter of fiscal 2022.

Last year, TVA’s board approved investment of up to $200 million in a new nuclear program centered on Clinch River, and the authority is now in the process of supporting the detailed design development of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s BWRX300 and developing the licensing application package.

According to the NRC the BWRX-300 is in Pre-Application review of Licensing Topical Reports. A date has not been announced for submission of an application for a design certification review. Applications must closely analyze the design’s appropriate response to accidents or natural events. Applications must also lay out the inspections, tests, analyses and acceptance criteria that will verify the construction of key design features.

It takes a minimum of 42 months for the NRC to complete a review of an accepted application. Getting it accepted is the first milestone and sometimes the NRC kicks the application back for not being complete enough for the agency to conduct its review.

TVA’s New SMR Program

In February, TVA announced a new program to explore advanced nuclear technology as part of its decarbonization goals, with the pursuit of a construction license application for an SMR at the Clinch River site one of its first tasks.

It already has an early site permit (ESP)- issued by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2019 which certifies that a site is suitable for the construction of a nuclear power plant from the point of view of site safety, environmental impact and emergency planning, but does not specify the choice of technology. The ESP does not certify the safety of an specific SMR design.

“The milestone for that license application, while we haven’t said it yet, is most likely fourth quarter of 2023 or first quarter of 2024,” TVA’s CEO Jeff Lyash said.” That’s really the next decision point.”

Design, cost estimates, schedules, and risk assessments are being developed in parallel with the license application, and this will “put us at the next major gate” when TVA will be able to make a decision whether to go ahead with the next phases of design and procurement, Lyash  said.

TVA went down this road once before with BWXT for its 180 MWe MPower SMR. Despite a lot of work on the joint design and licensing program, the two nuclear organizations did not continue it leading TVA to pursue an ESP instead that didn’t specify a vendor design.

In April, TVA announced a partnership with Ontario Power Generation which has also selected BWRX-300 for deployment at its Darlington site. This partnership will allow the companies to find efficiencies and share best practices through coordinating their SMR design and licensing efforts and also, potentially, construction and operation.

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Nuward / Tractebel To Work With EDF On Pilot SMR

(NucNet)  The engineering company Tractebel, part of the French Engie group, has signed an agreement to provide engineering services to France’s EDF for the development of its Nuward small modular reactor design.

NUWARD is a 340 MWe European Pressurized Water SMR plant composed of 2 reactors of 170 MWe each, designed to address the world energy mix decarbonization challenge with a complementary solution to large size reactors and renewables. This technology is billed to replace old high-emitting coal, fuel, oil and gas plants around the world.

Nuward SMR

The company, head-quartered in Belgium, said in a statement that it will help during the conceptual design phase of the SMR plant. Engineers have already conducted technical and economic studies to confirm several design options.

The statement said the contract with EDF will include conceptual design studies for parts of the plant’s conventional island, water intake and servicing system, and the 3D modelling of buildings for these systems.

Tractebel will also be responsible for civil engineering preliminary studies, the evaluation of costs, and will draw up a Nuward site layout.

In 2019, EDF, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), reactor design and maintenance company TechnicAtome and the Naval Group announced plans to develop an SMR that could be on the market by the end of the next decade.

France wants to market NUWARD to expand the the French nuclear sector, which has depended largely on sales of its EPR, a large, 1,600-MW pressurized water reactor that has been sold to China, the UK, Finland and domestically is also under construction at Flamanville.

The NUWARD will be a multi-purpose plant, with a design that can be adapted for several uses including green hydrogen production, desalinization and heat cogeneration. This is another key attraction of SMRs – their potential uses beyond the production of electricity for established grids.

Tractebel said the basic design completion stage for the SMR plant is expected to start in 2023. The company said it is planning to work with EDF during this new phase on systems studies, civil and layout engineering, and electrical and safety licensing studies.

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Brookfield Set to Sell Westinghouse

(Pittsburgh Post Gazette) Brookfield Business Partners is seeking to sell all of its interest Westinghouse Electric Company just four years after buying it out of bankruptcy according to a May 10th report published in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette. (Brookfield profile) (institutional shareholders)

The newspaper cited a statement from Brookfield that Westinghouse has been profitable and that the firm now wants to cash out and use the proceeds for newer, even more profitable investments. As noted in the paper’s report, the question is why sell if the firm is doing so well?

This is the second time Brookfield has put Westinghouse on the market. Brookfield told the newspaper they didn’t get enough investor interest to sell last year. Brookfield says now that the now there is an energy crisis in Europe, due to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, there is revived interest in nuclear energy.

What’s interesting about this statement is that when Brookfield bought Westinghouse from Toshiba, the firm was emerging from bankruptcy caused in part by its mis-management of the now cancelled V C Summer nuclear plant that would have built twin AP1000 nuclear reactors in South Carolina.

ap1000
Brookfield’s primary interest in buying the firm from Toshiba was its nuclear fuel and reactor services lines of business both of which are reliable cash cows. It had no interest in building new reactors.

Brookfield Business Partners, a business unit of the Canadian firm Brookfield Asset Management, owns a 44% interest in Westinghouse. The remaining 56% is owned by private equity funds that are managed by Brookfield. In the end it is all one pile of money. According to public filings, Brookfield Business Partners lists its investment in Westinghouse at $405 million.

Brookfield Business Partners CEO Cyrus Madon told the newspaper, “Look, we’ve made many times our investment in Westinghouse. We’ve already pulled out more than our invested capital just through regular dividends. And I would say our job is sort of done here.”

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UK Cavendish Nuclear and X-energy collaborate on HTGRs

Cavendish Nuclear, part of Babcock International Group, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with US nuclear reactor and fuel design engineering company X-energy to act as its deployment partner for High Temperature Gas Reactors in the UK.

X-energy’s High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR) can support the decarbonization of industrial heat and hydrogen at scale, as well as electricity, helping to meet the growing demand for low-carbon energy.  It offers rapid deployment, with the first units set to be deployed in the US from 2027 with the UK planning to follow.

The MoU complements Cavendish Nuclear’s support to all three nuclear streams in the UK Government’s Energy Security Strategy: Large Gigawatt Reactors, Small Modular Reactors, and Advanced Modular Reactors such as HTGRs with the capability to focus on industrial heat and hydrogen.

Together the companies would combine world-leading US technology with the project integration, manufacturing, modularization and O&M capability of Cavendish Nuclear.

Mick Gornall, Cavendish Nuclear, Managing Director said, “This is an exciting opportunity for Cavendish Nuclear and X-energy to bring together the collective breadth and depth of our expertise and experience to forge opportunities to develop and deploy HTGRs in the UK.

“The UK Government’s choice of HTGRs as its preferred technology for the Advanced Modular Reactor Research Development & Demonstration Program, gives us the opportunity to explore the significant contribution X-energy’s technology can make to decarbonizing the wider energy sector.”

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South Korea to Re-start Construction of two 1400 MWe PWRs

Business Standard) South Korea seeks to resume construction of 2 nuclear reactors in 2025.
The project to build the two 1,400-megawatt reactors has been on hold since 2017; they had been scheduled to be completed by 2023

South Korea’s new administration will seek to resume currently suspended construction of two nuclear reactors in the coastal county of Uljin in 2025, government and industry sources said.

In its key policy implementation plan  President Yoon Suk-yeol’s transition team proposed restarting the construction of Shin-Hanul reactors No. 3 and No. 4 in the first half of 2025.

Yoon said multiple times during his election campaign that he would scrap the Moon Jae-in administration’s nuclear phase-out drive, Yonhap news agency reported.

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DOE/ARPA-E Seeks Proposals to Recycling Spent Fuel for Use in Advanced Reactors

(WNN) The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced funding of up to $48 million for a new program to recycle used nuclear fuel to produce feedstocks for advanced reactor fuel. The program named “Converting UNF Radioisotopes Into Energy (CURIE)” will be operated under the auspices of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

The acronym for the program is a respectful reference to Marie Curie, a physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1903 for defining what we now call “radioactivity,” and in 1911 for chemistry her discovery of the elements polonium and radium using techniques she invented for isolating radioactive isotopes.

“CURIE will fuel advanced reactors and provide important clean energy elements, all while drastically reducing waste,” Acting Director of ARPA-E Jennifer Gerbi said.

According to ARPA-E’s funding opportunity announcement, CURIE’s goal is to enable commercially viable reprocessing of used nuclear fuel – or UNF – from the current light water reactor fleet by resolving key gaps/barriers in reprocessing technologies, process monitoring, and facility design.

nuclear fuel cycle

Image: Nuclear Regulatory Commission from US – The Nuclear Fuel Cycle

The used fuel would be reprocessed into feedstock that would be used to fuel advanced nuclear reactors, while other commercially valuable materials from it would be harvested for industrial and medical uses.

Program Description

The U.S. has accumulated approximately 86,000 metric tons of used nuclear fuel (UNF) from light-water reactors (LWRs), a value that increases by approximately 2,000 tons per year. This UNF is destined for permanent disposal even though more than 90% of its energy remains.

Reprocessing UNF to recover reusable actinides and recycling them into new fuel for advanced reactors (ARs) would improve fuel utilization and drastically reduce the volume of waste requiring permanent disposal.

The CURIE program seeks to develop innovative separations technologies, material accountancy, and online monitoring technologies, as well as designs for a reprocessing facility that will enable group recovery of actinides for AR feedstocks, incorporate in situ process monitoring, and minimize waste volumes. A key cost metric is to enable a 1¢/kilowatt-hour (kWh) fuel cost for AR fuels, and maintain disposal costs in the range of 0.1¢/kWh.

By enabling the secure and economical recycling of the nation’s inventory of LWR UNF, CURIE will improve U.S. energy security, help protect the environment, and contribute to the economy in the following ways:

Individual awards will be for amounts ranging from $250K to $10M. At this level of funding it appears that most of the responses will be for paper feasibility studies. Building a spent fuel reprocessing facility would require funding in the range of billions of dollars.

Recent DOE experience in this area is problematic. DOE cancelled construction of a partially built plant in South Carolina to reprocess surplus weapons grade plutonium into MOX fuel do to a combination of cost overruns and a loss of political will by the then Obama administration.

The US Navy reprocessed spent nuclear fuel at a chemical processing plant in Idaho for decades, but the facility was shut down in 1991 and is now part of the Idaho Cleanup Project. A federal consent decree requires that all of the remaining spent nuclear fuel at the site, now in dry storage, must be removed from the site by 2025.

It is not clear whether ARPA-E would accept any proposals for reprocessing the Navy spent fuel which was fabricated using highly enriched uranium. Russia has been downblending its HEU to fabricate high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel for advanced reactors. However, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, access to the Russian fuel has been off limits to western nations.

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MIT Signs on for New Five-Year Collaboration with Commonwealth Fusion Systems

MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) will substantially expand its fusion energy research and education activities under a new five-year agreement with Institute spinout Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS). The key objective of its research collaboration with Commonwealth Fusion Systems is to build net energy fusion machine, SPARC.

types of fusion techA new five-year agreement will support SPARC science, increase graduate students and postdocs, and support interdisciplinary work toward fusion power plants.

This new agreement doubles CFS’ financial commitment to PSFC, enabling greater recruitment and support of students, staff, and faculty.

“We’ll significantly increase the number of graduate students and postdocs, and just as important they will be working on a more diverse set of fusion science and technology topics,” notes Whyte. It extends the collaboration between PSFC and CFS that resulted in numerous advances toward fusion power plants, including last fall’s demonstration of a high-temperature superconducting (HTS) fusion electromagnet with record-setting field strength of 20 tesla.

The combined magnetic fusion efforts at PSFC will surpass those in place during the operations of the pioneering Alcator C-Mod tokamak device that operated from 1993 to 2016. This increase in activity reflects a moment when multiple fusion energy technologies are seeing rapidly accelerating development worldwide, and the emergence of a new fusion energy industry that would require thousands of trained people.

The new agreement, administered by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), where CFS is a startup member, will help PSFC expand its fusion technology efforts with a wider variety of sponsors. The collaboration enables rapid execution at scale and technology transfer into the commercial sector as soon as possible.

“This expanded relationship puts MIT and PSFC in a prime position to be an even stronger academic leader that can help deliver the research and education needs of the burgeoning fusion energy industry, in part by utilizing the world’s first burning plasma and net energy fusion machine, SPARC,” says PSFC director Dennis Whyte.

“CFS will build SPARC and develop a commercial fusion product, while MIT PSFC will focus on its core mission of cutting-edge research and education.”

MITEI director Robert Armstrong adds, “Our goal from the beginning was to create a membership model that would allow startups who have specific research challenges to leverage the MITEI ecosystem, including MIT faculty, students, and other MITEI members. The team at the PSFC and MITEI have worked seamlessly to support CFS, and we are excited for this next phase of the relationship.”

In the push for commercial fusion energy, the next five years are critical, requiring intensive work on materials longevity, heat transfer, fuel recycling, maintenance, and other crucial aspects of power plant development. It will need innovation from almost every engineering discipline.

On a strategic level, climate change and the imperative need for widely implementable carbon-free energy have helped orient the PSFC team toward scalability.

“Building one or 10 fusion plants doesn’t make a difference — we have to build thousands,” says Whyte.

“The design decisions we make will impact the ability to do that down the road. The real enemy here is time, and we want to remove as many impediments as possible and commit to funding a new generation of scientific leaders. Those are critically important in a field with as much interdisciplinary integration as fusion.”

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