Westinghouse Files for Vendor Design Review with CNSC

  • Westinghouse Files for Vendor Design Review of eVinci Mini Reactor with CNSC
  • USAF Issues RFP for Micro Reactor at Alaskan AFB
  • MoltexFLEX Launches Flexible Molten Salt Reactor
  • Mitsubishi Heavy to Develop New 1200 MWe PWR
  • Saudi Arabia Begins Process to Issue License to Build Its First Nuclear Power Plant
  • Rosatom Ships First Fuel for China’s CFR-600

Westinghouse Files for Vendor Design Review with CNSC

Since 2018 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

This past week the firm finally gave the go ahead for Vendor Design Review (Phases 1 & 2 combined) with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The firm first contacted CNSC in 2018 but took no action until last September (2022). The updated for the firm with CNSC is aided by a grant from the Canadian Ministry of Innovation, Science and Industry for CAD27.2 million (USD21.5 million) to support further development and progress towards licensing of its eVinci micro reactor.

In an email statement at the time of the funding award (March 2022), a ministry spokesperson said that the investment will support funding for the development and eventual licensing of the eVinci micro-reactor. Details concerning specific milestones / deliverables were not released by the ministry. The spokesman said the grant was made because smaller size of the reactor design will result in a more accessible, widespread, and transportable nuclear source of energy with additional security and regulations to ensure its safety.

Relative to progress in the US at the NRC, the firm filed a “regulatory engagement plan” in December 2021.  A review of documents in NRC’s ADAMS public online library on 10/01/22 indicates that Westinghouse has submitted to the NRC ongoing pre-licensing work products in areas such as fuel qualification and testing. Additional examples include Emergency Planning Zone Sizing Methodology and Heat Pipe Design, Qualification and Testing.  However, as is the usual case for new reactor technologies, the substance of these white papers and technical documents is restricted from public access due to the proprietary nature of the information.

The IAEA in a publication on small modular reactors released this technical information (table below) on the eVinci reactor. As this information is about two years old, the parameters published by the IAEA may have changed since then.

evinci technical parameters  Table IAEA

CNSC Service Agreement for Vendor Design Review

According to a brief press statement from Westinghouse, the firm has signed a a “service agreement” with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to bring its eVinci microreactor closer to commercialization. The agreement initiates a Vendor Design Review (VDR) which is a pre-licensing technical assessment of the eVinci microreactor design. Westinghouse will execute both Phases 1 and 2 of the VDR as a combined program, signaling the eVinci microreactor’s design and technology maturity.

“Our state-of-the-art eVinci microreactor technology will unlock additional potential in remote communities and decentralized industrial sites,” said David Durham, President Energy Systems at Westinghouse.

In a reference to the generous funding the firm received from the Canadian government, Durham said, “Westinghouse’s nuclear battery technology can safely provide heat and power for more than eight years of continuous operations. We look forward to applying this technology across the country while creating local jobs and advancing Canada’s energy security and net zero goals.”

Not in Project Pele

In the U.S. Westinghouse suffered a setback in its promotion of the technology for military tactical readiness power. The eVinci microreactor was not selected in  September 2021 for round two of the high profile 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.

The firm declined to respond to an inquiry asking that absent the DOD contract, what are the prospects for the eVinci design going forward for other DOD or related commercial applications in the US?

It’s possible progress on the regulatory front in Canada and the US may improve the commercial outlook for the mini reactor design. However, Westinghouse has plenty of competition from other developers of advanced small and mini reactors. According to information on the CNSC VDR site, seven other firms are in various stages of VDR phase 1 or phase 2 of the process which is a precursor to submitting an application for a license to built an advanced nuclear reactor in Canada. Note that the status information on the web site is not current.

What’s Happening with the Planned Sale of the Firm?

The future of the advanced micro reactor faces one other uncertainty because Brookfield, the Canadian private equity firm that bought the firm from Toshiba in a fire sale transaction, now wants to sell it. As reported by the Pittsburgh Post Gazette last May, Brookfield Business Partners is seeking to sell all of its interest Westinghouse Electric Company just four years after buying it out of bankruptcy.   (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.

So far since the announcement of putting the firm on the auction block last Spring, neither Brookfield nor Westinghouse has said anything about a potential buyer. Last June Westinghouse declined to respond to an inquiry as to how the potential sale of the firm would affect its new technology efforts like the eVinci reactor.

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USAF Issues RFP for Micro Reactor at Alaskan AFB

ellison mapThe Department of the Air Force, in partnership with the Defense Logistics Agency Energy, has released a request for proposal for the Eielson Air Force Base Micro-Reactor Pilot Program. The air force installation is located 24 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska.

The microreactor pilot program began in response to the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act requirement to build and operate a microreactor by the end of 2027. The microreactor will be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but commercially owned and operated.

The USAF said in a press statement that the action is an important first step toward developing the next-generation energy technology needed for energy resilience at Eielson Air Force Base and to inform future initiatives to power national security infrastructure.

“The release of the RFP for the Eielson AFB micro-reactor is a critical next step in furthering the development and deployment of reliable and clean energy technology at Department of the Air Force installations,” said Ms. Nancy Balkus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety and Infrastructure.

“This program is extremely important to mission assurance and sustainment in the face of climate change and continued national defense threats, and demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring our installations have a safe, reliable supply of energy, no matter their location.”

In its press statement the USAF said that micro-reactors are small nuclear reactors that can produce clean energy and are equipped with built-in safety features that self-adjust to changing conditions and demands to prevent overheating. The technology’s ability to operate independently from the commercial grid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions make micro-reactors a promising power source for remote domestic military installations critical to the national security infrastructure.

transportable-micro-reactor-INL-image_thumb.pngThe Eielson microreactor will be stationary, but mobile microreactors are also being developed. A May 2019 study concluded that mobile microreactors can support armed forces deployment and meet power demands in developed areas such as Europe and “immature theatres” of conflict in lesser developed areas.

The study said a microreactor could deliver one to 10 MW or so of electrical power for years without refueling, in a size small enough to be transported by road and air.

In conjunction with the release, the DAF is hosting a pre-proposal conference and site visit at Eielson Air Force Base on October 12th. Interested parties intending to submit a proposal may attend the site visit, which will provide prospective offerors with information to prepare proposals.  Results of the pre-proposal conference will be documented and made available on the SAM.gov website. For more information about this project, check out the  Fact sheet and Q&A.

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MoltexFLEX Launches Flexible Molten Salt Reactor

(NucNet) UK-based MoltexFLEX has unveiled its FLEX molten salt reactor, described as an advanced lower-cost nuclear technology and an “ideal complement” to wind and solar power that can protect generations of consumers from rising energy bills without resorting to fossil fuels.

FLEX-reactor-site MoltexFLEXThe MoltexFLEX team, based in Warrington, northeast England, has developed the nuclear reactor which uses molten salt in an unprecedented way. As it has no moving parts, the FLEX reactor is simple in both design and operation, MoltexFLEX said. The company plans to have its first reactor operational by 2029. One possible site is at a current operating nuclear utility in New Brunswick province in Canada.

The company, a subsidiary of Canada-based Moltex Energy, said the advanced nuclear technology has the flexibility of gas-fired power stations, but it generates electricity at a lower cost, and without carbon emissions.

The reactor uses a patented system with two molten salts: one acting as a fuel, the other circulating as a coolant. This allows the reactor’s heat to be extracted through natural convection, without the need for pumps. The 750°C heat produced by the reactor could also be used for water desalination and more efficient hydrogen production. Roughly the size of a two-storied house, each reactor has the potential to power 40,000 homes.

Construction Would Take Just 24 Months

According to Moltex, the reactor can respond to changes in energy demand, automatically entering an idle state or returning rapidly to full power. Additionally, it would take just 24 months to build a 500 MWe power plant, the company said.

According to the company, the cost of electricity generated by the FLEX reactor will be comparable to that of wind at £40 (€45, $44) per MWh.

“We recognized the need for an energy supply that can support renewables when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow. In the FLEX reactor, we have a solution for consumers and countries alike,” said MoltexFLEX chief executive officer David Landon.

Due to its simplicity, the FLEX reactor does not require expansive steel and concrete structures, greatly reducing the operational and maintenance costs. Once online, it can be operated with the same skills and equipment used in a fossil fuel plant, and can last 60 years with only two scheduled breaks over that lifetime to refuel, MoltexFLEX said.

“The FLEX reactor provides the safety net of affordable domestic energy, but is versatile enough for applications ranging from decarbonizing heavy industry to powering cargo ships.”

World Nuclear News reported that in May 2021, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission completed the first phase of the pre-licensing vendor design review for Moltex Energy’s 300 MWe Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W 300) small modular reactor. The SSR-W is a molten salt reactor that uses nuclear waste as fuel. The company aims to deploy its first such reactor at the Point Lepreau site in New Brunswick by the early 2030s.

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Mitsubishi Heavy to Develop New 1200 MWe PWR

(The Asahi Shimbun) Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and four major Japanese power utilities will work together to develop a next-generation nuclear reactor that will go online in the 2030s.

The announcement comes as the central government is reversing its course from its cautious nuclear energy policies following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has laid out an ambitious plan to restart nine existing reactors by winter 2023 and to restart construction of several partially built reactors. Separately, he has plans to expand work on HTGR type designs.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries plans to develop an advanced light water reactor, an improved version of conventional pressurized water reactors. It will do so jointly with Kansai Electric Power Co., Kyushu Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Hokkaido Electric Power Co. It will be one of the next-generation light water reactors.

The new reactor is targeted to generate 1200 MWe of electricity. In addition, the SRZ-1200 design is intended to enhance operational flexibility, which will effectively allow for improved electrical power delivery relative to variable electric power sources, such as renewables.

mhi 1200 PWR

“The ability to adapt the SRZ-1200 for hydrogen production will also be studied to ensure that all potential uses of energy generated from this plant are efficiently and proactively applied for all of societal needs,” MHI said.

It noted that the name of the reactor design is derived from ‘S’ for supreme safety and sustainability, ‘R’ for resilience and ‘Z’ for zero-carbon emissions.

The design is new and is not related to a previous joint effort with France’s Areva a decade ago to develop an 1100 MWe PWR – code named ‘Atmea’. A proposal to build four of the new PWRs at the Sinop site on Turkey’s Black Sea coast was never funded due to cost and schedule issues associated with a first of a kind unit and no other reactors using this design were ever built.

The current effort has some major decisions ahead. MHI not decided which utility will build the planned reactor and where it will be built because of difficulties finding a new construction site amid a strong public distrust toward nuclear reactors. In one province, an effort to restart two of seven shut down BWRs has been repeatedly thwarted by local opposition driven in part by TEPCO’s mis-management and security issues flagged by Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

One potential candidate site for the MHI unit is KEPCO’s Mihama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, according to a source. The utility is decommissioning the plant’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors, while more than 40 years have passed since the No. 3 reactor first went online.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has not disclosed the cost to build the new reactor, either. One estimate cited by the Japanese news media indicates the construction of a new nuclear reactor will require 1 trillion yen ($6.91 billion. The firm has not said whether it would also position the new design for export.

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Saudi Arabia Begins Process to Issue License to Build Its First Nuclear Power Plant

  • Riyadh has already begun effort to choose reactor vendor

(NucNet contributed to this report) Saudi Arabia has begun the process to issue a license to build a first commercial nuclear power station, the Middle East kingdom’s energy minister Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud said. The license will be for a PWR type reactor using fuel enriched to less than 5% U235. KSA’s Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Commission will be in charge of the safety review of a vendor’s license application. Regardless of the vendor chosen, it will be a first for the agency for a project of this size and complexity.

Al Saud, in a speech at the International Atomic Energy Agency conference in Vienna, said that “the site will be finalized after completion of the technical specifications documents, which were drafted through an international competition.”

In June, Saudi Arabia began the process of choosing a vendor for the construction of the oil-rich kingdom’s first commercial nuclear power station with bids likely to come from South Korea, France, China and Russia.

Riyadh wants to build two 1,400 MW nuclear power plants, a down-sized effort from an ambitious goal set in 2014 to build 16 units of about 1,000 MW each. At $5,000/kW, for benchmarking purposes, the cost of the two reactors would be $7bn (€7.2bn) each.

nuclear-reactor_thumb.png

It is not clear where the proposed plants would be built. Saudi Arabia has considered three separate sites and as a practical matter it would be economically and logistically efficient to build both reactors at the same location.

Saudi Arabia does not have any commercial nuclear plants, nor fuel cycle facilities, but has expressed ambitions to build around 17 GW of nuclear energy after 2040. Nuclear power is expected to make Saudi Arabia independent of oil and diversify the energy mix.

Fuel for the Plants Could Come from Domestic Uranium Deposits

Earlier in 2022 Saudi Arabia updated its plans to mine its extensive domestic uranium deposits. Also, the New York Times reported that KSA will acquire uranium mill technology from China to convert uranium ore into yellowcake. from China.

According to a Reuters wire service report, Prince Abdulaziz said that Saudi Arabia would be mining and developing its uranium resources. The actual extent of the commercially viable ore remains uncertain but the intent to pursue the mining venture appears to be quite certain.

“We do have a huge amount of uranium resource, which we would like to exploit and we will be doing it in the most transparent way,” Prince Abdulaziz told the Future Minerals Summit in Riyadh.

S&P Global/Platts reported on 1/12/22 that while there are no official figures published on Saudi uranium reserves, in 2020, a report by UK-based newspaper the Guardian, based on leaked internal documents, put the kingdom’s “inferred deposits” at an estimated 90,000 mt, which would be equivalent to around 1.4% of current global reserves if verified by subsequent efforts. The prospecting that reports the inferred deposits was carried out by geologists from Chinese state owned enterprises. Their report identified three major sites where potentially uranium could be mined.

RFP Released Last June

In April, 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.

Saudi Arabia kicked off the process to select a vendor for the two PWRs last June. 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.

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.

Scenario for Timeline for Saudi Nuclear Build

A rough estimate is as follows. This is a simplified best case scenario. Saudi Arabia is serious about building at least two full size nuclear reactors. The IAEA has published a typical scenario for development of a new nuclear power plant (below) spanning 10-15 years on which these notes are based.

  • By the end of 2023 contract awarded to build two 1400 MWe PWR type commercial nuclear reactors using low enriched fuel (U235 at less than 5%) Value of the contract is approximately $12-14 billion.
  • By the end of 2026 complete all licensing and regulatory reviews and break ground for the first unit. Second unit breaks ground by the end of 2028.
  • No later than 2032 first of two units ready to load fuel and commence operations to generate electricity for the grid and to support desalination of seawater
  • No later than 2036 second unit ready to load fuel and commence operation
  • No later than 2040 first load of spent nuclear fuel moved from wet to dry storage and/or returned to country of origin.iaea-milestone_thumb.png

Key challenges: Almost Everything Will Be Imported Including the Workforce

  • Recruit and sustain a workforce of at least 3,000-5,000 people over a 8-10 year period
  • Manage nuclear safety regulatory compliance / quality assurance for construction, startup and operations;
  • Execute effective project controls for schedules, costs, etc.
  • Commit to long lead time procurement of major systems; reactor pressure vessels, steam generators, turbines; and, grid improvements to deliver electricity toc customers
  • Acquire nuclear fuel for the reactors in compliance with international nonproliferation agreements.
  • Construct and operate sea water desalination stations at coastal sites and delivery of potable water to customers.

Saudi Arabia, US Sign MoU on Cooperation in Nuclear Safety

Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Commission (NRRC) signed  a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, related to the technical information and cooperation in the nuclear safety.

It was co-signed by CEO of the NRRC Dr. Khalid Al-Issa and Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Christopher Hanson.

The signing of the MoU came within the activities of the 66th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

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Rosatom Ships First Fuel for China’s CFR-600

(WNN contributed to this report) Rosatom’s TVEL fuel company said it will complete this year all shipments needed to cover the initial load of the reactor core and the first refueling of China’s CFR-600. The shipments will comes from Elemash Machine-building plant, Rosatom’s TVEL fuel company.

Construction of unit 1 of what is also known as the Xiapu fast reactor demonstration project began in 2017. It is part of China’s plan to achieve a closed nuclear fuel cycle. China National Nuclear Corporation announced in December 2020 that construction work had begun on a second unit at the plant.

The aim has been for the first unit to be grid connected around 2023. The reactors will be 1500 MWt, 600 MWe, with 41% thermal efficiency, using mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel with 100 GWd/t burn-up, and with two sodium coolant loops producing steam at 480°C. Later fuel will be metal with burn-up 100-120 GWd/t. Breeding ratio is about 1.1, design operational lifetime 40 years. The design has active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.

cfr-600 fuel

After the launch of the first CFR-600 power unit, Xiapu NPP in China’s Fujian province will become the first nuclear power plant with a high-capacity fast reactor outside of Russia. The other two functioning installations are the BN-600 and BN-800 sodium-cooled reactors at Beloyarsk NPP in the Urals region of Russia.

Oleg Grigoriyev, Senior Vice President for Commerce and International Business at TVEL Fuel Company, said in a press statement on the company website that the Elemash plant’s CFR-600 fuel fabrication facility was launched in 2021 and late last year mock-ups of control and protection system assemblies for the CFR-600 were shipped to the customer for testing of the simulation reactor core.

“The project of fuel fabrication for CFR-600, lasting for already three years, has been a unique task for us in terms of complexity … TVEL has proved it is capable of solving outstanding tasks and being flexible for the customer’s requirements and we definitely see a great potential for the further development of our cooperation with the Chinese partners.”

About the CFR-600

The CFR-600 is a sodium-cooled pool-type fast-neutron nuclear reactor under construction in Xiapu County, Fujian province, China, on Changbiao Island. The coastal site is isolated from China’s mainland about 400 miles due south of Shanghai. Work began on building it in 2017. On the same site, the building of a second 600 MWe fast reactor CFR-600 was started in December 2020. (IAEA technical profile)

It is positioned as a civilian / commercial effort and is a GEN IV demonstration project operated by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) which is a commercial state owned enterprise. The project is also known as Xiapu fast reactor pilot project. The reactor will have an output of 1,500 MWth thermal power and 600 MWe electric power. A larger commercial-scale reactor, the CFR-1000, is also planned.

US nonproliferation experts have raised concerns about the reactor in that these plants will have more fuel generation than their actual usage. In other words, the question has been raised whether the plants will be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

One of the concerns that has also been highlighted is that China has stopped reporting to the IAEA on the quantities of plutonium produced by its civilian reactors. In a statement on May 19th to the Al Jazeera news service, Nickolas Roth, senior fellow and director of the Nuclear Security program at the think-tank the Stimson Center in Washington, DC, said, “Confidence-building measures like plutonium declarations to the IAEA are really important.”

“When countries don’t submit those declarations, particularly as they’re going down the path of producing more materials, that is a legitimate reason for concern.”

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Oklo Continues Its Pursuit of an NRC License

  • Oklo Continues Its Pursuit of an NRC License
  • SaskPower Chooses Two SMR Sites to Build on in 2030s
  • Czech Republic Targets Temelin Site for 1st SMR by 2032
  • China and Argentina Dispute Over Fuel Delays $8B Nuclear Deal
  • Third Barakah Nuclear Reactor Starts Up

Oklo Continues Its Pursuit of an NRC License

The nuclear startup’s efforts to obtain a a custom combined license for a compact fast micro-reactor from the NRC has the appearance of being like a classic match up in physics of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object.

In this case, Oklo Power’s spirit of technology innovation, inspired by the background of its founders having been formed in the crucible of MIT’s nuclear engineering programs, has come up against the bulwark of NRC’s regulatory framework that looks to some to be like the 73 mile long Hadrian’s Wall built by the Roman legions in AD 122 to keep the barbarians at bay. Hadrian’s Wall marked the boundary between Roman Britannia and unconquered Caledonia to the north.

hadrians-wall-1

Last January the Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied, without prejudice, Oklo Power, LLC.’s application to build and operate the company’s 1.5 MWe Aurora compact fast reactor in Idaho which was first announced in December 2019.

The denial is based on NRC’s finding that Oklo’s failed to provide information on several key topics for the Aurora design. The agency said the company is free to submit a complete application in the future. What it is doing now is part of the renewed effort.

Oklo Inc. has submitted a Licensing Project Plan (LPP) to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), The LPP outlines Oklo’s proposed engagement to support future licensing activities.

The NRC’s regulatory process is a minefield of potential scenarios in which the entire process can blow up in an applicant’s face. When the NRC kicked back Oklo’s application, the nuclear industry took notice. The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the US trade group for the industry, said through a spokesman that the NRC needs to update its licensing procedures.

“The next generation of nuclear technologies are being designed with inherent safety features and will require the NRC to modernize their approach in licensing the carbon-free nuclear reactors of the future.”

With more advanced reactors on their way to run the licensing gauntlet, streamlining the process is top of mind for all of them. The application at it start (image below from the NRC) has a split personality with the safety review and the environmental review running on parallel tracks. Public interventions from NIMBY and anti-nuclear green groups can derail the process at any stage and this comes along with the agency’s strict regulatory requirements. No pressure. Right? On top all this the applicant pays for the time of NRC engineers at a professional staff hour rate of just under $300/hr.

Congress has directed the agency to streamline its byzantine process but the community of advanced reactor developers are unsure whether it can do so and in time to make a difference for their planned efforts to go to market.

image

Yet, Oklo is confident this time the firm will prevail. In a press statement the firm said “the LPP presents pre-licensing interactions that will help the NRC and Oklo achieve an efficient and effective review process, including items necessary for advanced fission designs. An efficient and effective license application review schedule with the NRC will help unlock the commercialization of American innovation in advanced fission technologies to accelerate America’s ability to deploy clean energy technologies while ensuring energy safety and security.”

“Oklo’s reactor design has excellent safety characteristics and robust performance features. We are working to present these features in a manner similar to what the NRC is used to from licensing Light Water Reactors,” said Jacob DeWitte, co-founder and CEO of Oklo.

But last January the NRC said that Oklo didn’t answer the agency’s questions to its satisfaction. NRC Director of the Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation Andrea Veil said at the time, “Oklo’s application continues to contain significant information gaps in its description of Aurora’s potential accidents as well as its classification of safety systems and components. “These gaps prevent further review activities.”

Since then Oklo has taken some lessons learned from that setback.

“The experience and familiarity Oklo has with the NRC staff from our history of licensing engagement and our intentional and focused licensing interactions will help prepare for effective application reviews,” said Ross Moore, Oklo’s Director of Regulatory Affairs.

Oklo said in its press statement that its submission of the Licensing Project Plan “represents an important step towards submitting future applications and setting the stage for effective and efficient application reviews, which directly influences the country’s and the world’s ability to deploy clean energy technologies.”

Note the plan contains proprietary information
and the firm has asked the NRC to withhold its contents from public disclosure.

Oklo isn’t the only firm developing an advanced small modular reactor.  Four other firms are also engaged in pre-licensing work. See table below. Oklo’s experience with the NRC may be seen by them that the agency is a tough regulatory task master. Doubling down on getting the details right is the order of the day.

nrc_formal_licensing_pre-application_non-lwr_interaction_0

About Oklo Inc.

(Oklo) is a California-based company developing advanced fission power plants to provide emission-free, reliable, and affordable energy. Oklo received a Site Use Permit from the U.S Department of Energy to build its first of a kind unit at the Idaho National Laboratory. The proposed Aurora design would use heat pipes to transport heat from the reactor core to a power conversion system.

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SaskPower Chooses Two SMR Sites to Build on in 2030s

image(NucNet)  Canadian electric utility SaskPower has chosen two sites in Saskatchewan for the potential construction of a small, modular nuclear reactor. If approved, a first reactor could be operational by 2035.

The company said one site is the Estevan area – specifically, two sites around Boundary Dam and Rafferty Dam, located about 300 miles southeast of Saskatoon and another around the Grant Devine Dam. Estevan is a city about 16 km north of the Canada-US border.

The other area under consideration is near Elbow, a village about 85 miles due south of the Saskatchewan provincial capital of Saskatoon, around Lake Diefenbaker, from Gardiner Dam to the Diefenbaker Dam.

The two candidate areas needed to meet certain criteria, including proximity to a water source, existing power transmission and transportation infrastructure.

canadian plains provincesSaskPower said the final decision to selected a locale will take place in 2023, with a specific site to be chosen by 2024. However, the decision on whether to use SMR technology as part of the province’s power generation mix will not be made until 2029. If it is approved, the SMR could be operational by 2035.

SaskPower said it could build one or several reactors on the chosen site. It has estimated an SMR would cost CAD5B ($3.6Bn €3.7B). This cost estimate suggests that the project would be composed of several SMRs.

Using a hypothetical benchmark of $5,000/Kw, the power station could produce approximately 700 MWe. Actual costs in the early 2030s will depend on the design, component and construction costs at that time, and what it will cost to improve the regional grid to deliver electricity to customers and to sustain a large construction workforce at remote locations in the vast Canadian province.

Canada Can Become ‘World Leader’ In Nuclear Sector

In March 2022, Four provincial governments – Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick and Alberta – said they would push ahead with a plan to develop nuclear power in Canada with calls for the federal government to back ambitious proposals for SMRs and a new class of Generation IV micro-SMR for remote communities and mines.

The provinces called for a grid-scale SMR project of 300 MWe constructed at the Darlington nuclear site in Ontario by 2028 with subsequent units to follow in Saskatchewan.

Last year OPG chose GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy as its technology partner on a new SMR planned for Darlington, with the first grid-scale BWRX-300 plant scheduled to be completed by 2028.

Provinces Have Ambitious Plans For Nuclear

The four provinces said they want to see advanced SMRs developed in New Brunswick and a new class of micro-SMR designed primarily to replace the use of diesel in remote communities and mines. A 5-MW gas-cooled demonstration project is under way at Chalk River, Ontario, with plans to be in service by 2026. Of the 13 SMRs in vendor design review at the CNSC, nine are advanced designs.

process heat CNSC VDR firms

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Czech Republic Targets Temelin Site for 1st SMR by 2032

A small modular reactor (SMR) could be built in the Czech Republic at the Temelín nuclear power plant  as early as 2032, Daniel Beneš, the Director of the CEZ power group has said after signing a contract for the establishment of the South Bohemia Nuclear Park. The joint company South Bohemia Nuclear Park aims to facilitate construction of the first pilot project at Temelín.

small-reactors.jpg

South Bohemian Governor Martin Kuba, addressing an international conference, said: “We realize that nuclear energy is something that we fundamentally need in the republic. “Czech industry is not only driven by renewable sources, we are not Norway, which has unlimited water capacities and produces 95% of its energy with clean hydropower plants.”

This project has the support of the government, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said. “Due to supply cuts, we are facing an unprecedented increase in the price of electricity and gas, a situation that threatens us and with which we must deal quickly, and that includes SMRs,” he said.

Beneš emphasised that Temelin is the best possible place for the pilot project. “At the same time, preparation for the construction of two new standard units continues. We are also working on the project of a new nuclear unit at the Dukovany NPP, where we expect offers by the end of November.

These buildings are not in competition with the small modular reactors we are talking about.” He added that SMRs are complementary technologies and are more suitable for a range of different locations. “Everything is based on the energy mix, the Czech energy mix largely relies on nuclear energy.”

In the last year, the CEZ Group signed memorandums of cooperation with NuScale, GE Hitachi, Rolls Royce, EDF, KHNP and Holtec.

“Given the current situation, we are accelerating this project. We see that it will be necessary to replace a number of coal-fired power plants and heating plants, while maintaining the maximum degree of self-sufficiency,” said Tomáš Pleskac, member of the CEZ board of directors and director of the nuclear energy division. “SMRs are a safe and very efficient option from this point of view. ”

The South Bohemian Nuclear Park is a joint project of all parties involved, covering research, development, communication and preparation of the building itself. As yet no investors for the project have come forward one of the reasons being there is no cost estimate for the project.

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China and Argentina Dispute Over Fuel Delays $8B Nuclear Deal

(Wire services) Months after an announcement that China will build and largely finance an $8 billion nuclear power plant outside Buenos Aires, the deal is hung up over Argentina’s demand that its engineers be permitted to manufacture the reactor fuel domestically. This demand follows an earlier request that China pay upfront for all of the costs of the new reactors with terms for a 15 year loan.

If it became the the first nation licensed to make fuel for China’s Hualong One reactor, it would be a huge advance for Argentina’s nuclear program. It would also be a signal that China is willing to license proprietary technology to trading partners.

China has virtually no interest in allowing Argentina to make fuel for the proposed Hualong One 1100 MWe PWR. Given the plant’s likely 60-year operating life, if built, China expects to reap revenue from selling fuel for the plant to Argentina for the duration of its existence. Assuming fuel outages take place every 18 months, that comes for 40 scheduled events to provide new fuel that produce revenue that flows back to Chinese state owned enterprises.

Argentina doesn’t see it that way.

“We are trying to establish the best conditions to transfer the knowledge for making the fuel,” said Adriana Serquis, a physicist and president of Argentina’s National Atomic Energy Commission, in an interview with wire services.

“The commercial balance for us is very important. We are also hoping that the Chinese understand that a deal with us is also a win for them because that opens more possibilities.”

argentinanukes_thumb.jpgWhat she has in mind is that assuming China is successful in export of the Hualong One to other countries, that might position Argentina to sell fuel it fabricates domestically for export as well.

Licensing fuel technology could help China to sell more reactors overseas by creating more procurement options, Serquis said, adding, “We’ve been paying attention to what’s happening in Europe.”

The Argentine Council on Foreign Relations, a private research group, listed nuclear fuel-manufacturing capacity as the top strategic priority for the country’s nuclear program.

“Technological innovation aimed at the development of nuclear reactors, accelerators and the nuclear fuel cycle” including “the development and production of nuclear fuels,” is critical, says a Council report published late last year.

Serquis said that while Argentina confronts the financing difficulties faced by poor countries, its nuclear-science advances over 70 years often surpass those of richer economies. Communicating Argentina’s capabilities has been one of the biggest challenges in negotiations with China.

“We are not claiming to be in an equal position,” Serquis said. “We are a small economy dealing with one of the world’s biggest. Still, they don’t have to teach us the basics.”

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Third Barakah Nuclear Reactor Starts Up

start.png(WNN) The 1400 MWe unit is now producing heat from nuclear fission, and will be connected to the UAE’s electricity grid in the coming weeks, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) said. Two units at the site, in the Al Dhafra Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, are already in commercial operation.

Fuel loading began at Barakah 3 in June after the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) approved the unit’s operating license, and has progressed through a comprehensive testing program under FANR oversight. It will now be connected to the grid and undergo the Power Ascension Testing (PAT) process. This means that its operators will gradually increase the unit’s power, with constant monitoring and testing, until maximum electricity production is reached.

FANR has carried out regular inspections throughout the fuel loading and the testing processes leading up to first criticality, and confirmed that Nawah Energy Company – a joint nuclear operations and maintenance subsidiary of ENEC and reactor vendor Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO)  – has met all regulatory requirements to initiate this phase. The regulator said it is continuously verifying the emergency preparedness and response system as well as monitoring the environment through independent monitoring stations around the nuclear power plant and its environmental laboratory.

“We have reached another major milestone in the delivery of the UAE Peaceful Nuclear Energy Program today, as we move forwards with the provision of strategically significant clean energy for the UAE,” ENEC CEO and Managing Director Mohamed Al Hammadi said.

Construction of the four Korean-designed APR-1400 units at Barakah began in 2012, with work on unit 3 starting in 2014. Units 1 and 2, which began commercial operation in April 2021 and March of this year, respectively, are now supplying 2800 MW to the UAE’s grid and unit 4 is in the final stages of commissioning prior to construction completion.

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Estonia’s Fermi-Energia Releases Tender for SMRs

  • Estonia’s Fermi-Energia Releases Tender for SMRs
  • China Approves Four New Nuclear Reactors for $$11.5B
  • Japan to Draft  Nuclear Fusion Strategy to Keep Pace with Global Developments
  • Japan Joins with UK Partners to Develop HTGR Design
  • Japan’s Nuclear Regulator Throws Cold Water on Reactor Restarts
  • DOE Report Finds Hundreds of Retiring Coal Plant Sites Could Convert to Nuclear Power Stations
  • TerraPraxis Enters Strategic Collaboration with Microsoft to Repurpose Coal Fired Power Plants
  • Beloyarsk BN-800 Fast Reactor Running 100% on MOX

Estonia’s Fermi-Energia Releases Tender for SMRs

After signing MOUs over the past couple of years with multiple firms, Estonia’s Fermi-Energia this week released a tender to three leading developers for SMRs. Bids with comprehensive technical documentation needed to estimate the construction cost are expected by the end of the year. The firm will quickly evaluate offers with technology selection expected to made by Fermi Energia in February 2023. The three firms are NuScale, GE-Hitachi, and Rolls-Royce.

smr concept image

The procurement selection criteria are technological maturity, the establishment of a reference power station, economic competitiveness and the participation of Estonian companies in the supply chain. A project development and preliminary works contract will be signed with the selected bidder.

Kalev Kallemets, CEO of Fermi Energia, said in a press statement, “We started selecting the technology already in 2019, at that moment mapping all the companies developing new nuclear technologies, of which there were several dozen in the world at that time. We will choose the most suitable [bidder] for Estonian conditions and the electricity system, taking into account the final price of the produced electricity for the consumer.”

“All three small reactor manufacturers participating in the bid have initiated formal construction permit procedures with the regulator in major countries, and it is believed that the first reactors of their kind to be built will produce electricity at the end of the decade. It is justified to choose the best reactor technology of the new generation, which has already proven itself, to be built in Estonia.”

“Compared to the long-term fixed-price contracts offered to private and industrial consumers on the Baltic market, the electricity produced by a small reactor is many times more affordable, and we want to offer it to consumers with whom we have signed fixed-price electricity supply cooperation contracts,” Kallemets said.

Target Rate for Electricity

Fermi Energia is planning to seek long-term fixed price starting at 55€/MWh for its customers. The costs of building a small reactor with standardized, factory-produced components are significantly lower than in the case of large nuclear plants built so far, and the short construction time also helps to reduce the risk of delays and related costs. The company wants to harvest these cost savings for Estonia’s rate payers.

Henri Ormus, co-founder and member of the management board at Fermi Energia, said the company’s main targets markets are industry and large consumers who need “stable and predictable electricity prices.”

Fermi Energia told NucNet it is aiming to supply electricity to large customers in the Baltic region at €55/MWh over a 15-year period – a significant decrease from the €100/MWh that is common today, the company said.

By comparison the levelized capital costs of advanced nuclear energy generation in the United States are expected to be $50.51 per megawatt hour in 2026 and fall to $48.93 per megawatt hour in 2040. Total system levelized cost are forecast to amount to $67.87 by 2040.

In Europe the report, ‘Projected Costs of Generating Electricity’, says the LCOE of nuclear in 2025 will range from about $55-$95 per MWh. This compares to a maximum of almost $100/MWh for coal and about $80/MWh for gas. In the UK the Hingly Point C project is at the high end of the rate estimates. However, the UK government is expecting that promised cost savings for Sizewell C, as detailed by France’s EDF which will build the plant, will result in a significantly lower rate.

Marti Jeltsov, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Fermi Energia, said in a press statement, “Both NuScale and GE Hitachi are companies with financial support from the United States government, the British government has invested 210 million pounds in the development of Rolls-Royce’s small modular reactor.”

“All three companies have achieved design maturity over the past few years, which provides significant certainty to the feasibility of the projects. The arrival of the new generation of small reactors on the market also gives Fermi Energia the opportunity to move ahead with the technology selection at a faster pace than planned.”

GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 small reactor has so far been Fermi Energia’s reference technology in nearly ten studies, and work on this reactor project is already underway for Ontario Power Generation (OPG) near Toronto, Canada.

Regulatory Status of SMR Bidders

NuScale is expected to break ground at a site in Idaho by 2028. It completed all the necessary safety reviews at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build the reactors for US customers. A COLA application is expected to be submitted in 2023.

Rolls-Royce submitted its 470 MWe PWR design to the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation to engage in the Generic Design Assessment (GDA). It was accepted for review last May.  The process takes four-to-five years depending on the complexity of the design and the responsiveness of the vendor to ONR requests for additional information. The earliest  Rolls-Royce could break ground under a best case scenario would be late 2026 or early 2027.

GE-Hitachi has not yet submitted its design to the NRC although it is in pre-licensing discussions with the agency. The BWRX-300 is based on the 1,500 MWe ESBWR which was approved by the NRC. However, so far no ESBWR has been built in the US although the NRC issued COLAs to publicly traded utilities for one in Michigan and another in Virginia.

Financing Issues

Fermi Energia’s international partners and shareholders helped prepare the detailed call for tenders. NucNet reported Fermi Energia said it had raised more than the €2.5M it needed to start the official planning process for the deployment of an SMR. The investment was to kickstart a planning process with the Estonian government to analyze the building of a SMR and determine potential locations for a first plant.

FE’s Ormus said the call for funding resulted in almost 1,200 small investors offering commitments of approximately €4m. Another private financing round is planned by the end of 2022. Fermi Energia’s financing is “secured for the coming years” and collaboration with the Estonian government is progressing, Mr Ormus said.

Since its founding, Fermi Energia has developed an international network to attract investors and cooperate with companies developing SMR technologies. It’s not clear whether the firm is looking for equity investments from vendors. In any case, it will need at least $2.5 billion to complete the first nuclear power station. Currently, the the firm is working off of the equivalent of Series A seed investments.

One of the main partners is the Swedish utility Vattenfall, with which Fermi Energia has signed several cooperation agreements and begun an SMR feasibility study. In May 2021, Vattenfall became a minority shareholder in the Estonian company with a seed investment of €1M.

Cost for First- of-a-Kind Units

All three vendors solicited by FE have made claims for cost control efficiencies to be obtained through factory fabrication of major components. So far with no first of a kind (FOAK) units yet built to serve as a benchmark, a hypothetical benchmark of $4,000/Kw would yield per [equivalent power] reactors costs of nearly identical cost estimates for the NuScale (6  77MWe SMRs for 462MWe at $1.84B) and the Rolls-Royce at $1.88B for a single 470 MWe PWR.

These numbers put the NuScale and Rools-Royce choices in a more or less head-to-head bake off. By comparison, the BWRX-300 per unit would come in at $1.2B.  Buying a pair of them yielding 600 MWe would nearly double the cost assuming production efficiencies in the supply chain.

The competitive advance for NuScale is that it offers its SMR in configurations of 1, 4 and 6 units which would stretch out the upfront capital costs over time and allow revenue from operating the initial 77 MWe unit(s) to fund future construction. The benefit to Fermi-Energia would be less pressure on the firm raise the the entire capital for a full six pack of SRMs to start its nuclear energy program.

While all three vendors are likely to break ground for their first-of-a-kind units before the end of this decade, it could be well into the 2030s before real differences emerge in terms of costs and overall value to the customer. Here are some of the cost factors that Fermi-Energia will consider when it received proposals from bidders.

WNA nuclear capital costs

Capital Cost for a New Nuclear Reactor – World Nuclear Association

WNA Nuclear equipment costs

Equipment Costs for a New Nuclear Reactor – – World Nuclear Association

An uncertainty for vendors is that Fermi-Energia has not stated precisely how big a nuclear power station it wants in terms of electrical generation capacity, where the project will be located,, or the scale of substation, grid, and local infrastructure improvements that will be needed to deliver electrical power to customers. As far as locations are concerned, Estonia has a a long coastline with the best transportation networks parallel to its north coast and networked to the capitol city of Tallinn.

Also, the press statement does not indicate whether Fermi-Energi has plan for non-electrical use of reactor heat such as process steam for industry and district heating, hydrogen production, and desalination.  However, localization of the supply chain is a key success factor and potential uses of process heat applications will shape the supply chains.

As far as workforce to operate the plants, Fermi Energia is taking steps to train the nuclear specialists the country will need. It has put in place scholarships for students to study nuclear engineering overseas and is supporting nuclear-related education program in local universities and schools. Since no nuclear reactors have been built previously in Estonia, the construction workforce will have to be imported and trained to meet nuclear safety standards for concrete and installation of systems.

Energy Use in Estonia

According to the US Department of Commerce, International Trade Commission, Estonia is one of the most energy independent countries in the EU. Estonia’s need for low-carbon, reliable energy generation is clear. It produces most of its electricity from oil shale or imports it from neighboring countries.

According to the International Energy Agency, in 2018 oil shale accounted for 72% of country’s total domestic energy production, 73% of total primary energy supply and 76% of electricity generation. These figures make Estonia the country with the highest carbon intensity among all IEA members.

Biofuels, mainly woodchips, account for 26 percent of energy, gas is 7 percent, other renewables are 6 percent, and other fossil fuels are 5 percent.

Estonia has a country-wide smart metering network using Ericsson equipment that came online in 2017. In April 2020, together with other European grid operators, TSO Elering organized a Europe-wide competition to select pilots of innovative energy products and services leveraging smart meter data.

The largest ongoing energy project in Estonia is the desynchronization of the Baltic States from the BRELL grid shared with Belarus and Russia and synchronizing with continental Europe through Poland. The synchronization of the Baltic States’ power system with the Continental European Network is expected to be completed by 2025.

In the wake of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, Estonians are moving to stop buying Russian oil and gas. The private companies Alexela and Infortar are building an LNG terminal in Paldiski, situated on the Pakri Peninsula of northwestern Estonia, which is scheduled to receive first shipments by late autumn 2022. The LNG is expected to be mostly of U.S. origin.

To achieve renewable energy goals, Estonia is planning two large-scale (1,000 MWe each) offshore wind projects in Liivi Bay between Estonia and Latvia by 2030. Estonia is also exploring hydrogen and nuclear solutions to meet long term clean energy commitments.

About Fermi-Energia

Developer of modular reactor technology designed to meet and fulfill the security of energy supply and climate goals. The company has developed a modern small nuclear power plant to curb dependence on oil shale as a resource for electricity production, enabling clients to access electricity at economical rates. Web site: https://fermi.ee/en/

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China Approves Four New Nuclear Reactors for $$11.5B

(NucNet)  The units will be built at Lianjiang and Zhangzhou, state media reports.

China has approved four new reactors at two new nuclear power stations in the south of the country earlier this week, taking the total number of newly sanctioned nuclear power units to 10 in 2022, the highest yearly number in more than a decade, according top the state news agency Xinhua and the China Nuclear Energy Association.  The two projects that have been approved will cost about $11.5B (€11.5B), business news portal Yicai.com said.

china nuclear plants map WNN

Map courtesy of World Nuclear Association – Nuclear Power in China

The projects are the construction of two CAP1000 units as Phase I of the Lianjiang nuclear power station in Guangdong province, southern China, and two Hualong One, or HPR1000 units, as Phase II of the Zhangzhou nuclear station in Fujian province, southeastern China.

The CAP1000 is China’s indigenous version of the Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactor (PWR) nuclear plant.  Four more  CAP1000 plants are planned for the second phase of the Lianjiang project.

The Hualong One is China’s own Generation III PWR jointly developed by China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). There are already two Hualong One plants under construction for Phase I at Zhangzhou. Construction of Zhangzhou-1 began in 2019 and of Zhangzhou-2 in 2020.

In April, China approved the construction of six new commercial nuclear power plants as it seeks to increase its installed reactor capacity to 70 GW by 2025, state media outlets reported.

The China Daily newspaper said two new units will be built at each of three sites: Sanmen, in Zhejiang province, eastern China; Haiyang, in Shandong province, eastern China; and Lufeng in the southern province of Guangdong. The approvals were for Sanmen-3 and -4, Haiyang-3 and -4 and Lufeng-5 and -6.

Approvals Follow Crippling Power Shortages

China’s fast approval of new nuclear units comes in the backdrop of crippling power shortages experienced both last and this year across provinces, which shut down industries and led to the rationing of electricity. A record drought has dried up dozens of rivers limiting hydroelectric power generation.

China still relies on coal for more than half of its power. According to the US Energy Information Administration, coal supplied about 55% of China’s total energy consumption in 2021, down from 56% in 2020 and 70% in 2001.

Nuclear power accounts for about 5% of the country’s total electricity generation, up from 2% a decade ago, CNEA secretary-general Zhang Tingke told China Media Group.

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Japan to Draft  Nuclear Fusion Strategy to Keep Pace with Global Developments

(Asahi Newspaper) The government plans to compile a strategy by next spring on researching and developing nuclear fusion power generation, which could help it achieve its decarbonization goals.

types of fusion techJapan’s interest in fusion is sparked by the record amounts of investment that have been made globally in a variety of fusion energy startups

“We are no longer in the era of cooperation but the era of competition,” Sanae Takaichi, minister in charge of science and technology, said at a news conference on Sept. 13.

“We will further discuss the matter to draft a strategy while following the moves by other countries, including overseas private-sector firms.”

  • The U.S. government announced in March that it would draft a strategy to develop a fusion reactor over the next decade. It is also expanding investment in new private-sector venture businesses. (White House Fact SheetDeveloping a Bold Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy March 2022)
  • Britain has already compiled its own strategy on nuclear fusion, published last year, and the UKAEA is aiming to build a fusion energy plant in the early 2040s.
  • China has has a fusion strategy and intends to construct a test reactor on a similar scale as the one being built under the ITER project with the goal of turning the test reactor into an operational one by the 2030s with commercial plants in the 2040s.

At a meeting of the Japanese government’s expert panel on clean energy last month, Kishida instructed the participants to start discussions on the development of next-generation reactors, including fusion reactors.

The government aims to put a fusion reactor into revenue service around the middle of this century. To achieve that, the government’s new strategy would include support measures for small and mid-size companies and venture firms, as well as ways to attract private-sector investment.

In Japan, some firms are supplying key parts for the ITER project, while Kyoto Fusioneering Ltd., a Kyoto University startup, joined the British program to develop a fusion energy plant as a member in charge of its conceptual design.

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Japan Joins with UK Partners to Develop HTGR Design

(Japan Times) The British government has selected a Japanese-British team including the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) to develop high-temperature gas reactors (HTGR), which are next-generation nuclear reactors.

This project is one of the six cutting-edge nuclear technology projects across Britain receiving British government funding as part of its £385 million $440 million) Advanced Nuclear Fund. About £500,000 will go to the Japan-Britain project, according to an announcement by the British government.

The JAEA will leverage its technology acquired through the operations of its High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) in the design, construction and operations of high-temperature gas reactors in Britain. The HTTR is an experimental high-temperature gas reactor in the town of Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture.

japanhtgr

Japan is moving toward developing next-generation nuclear reactors, and the project is expected to become an opportunity for the country to obtain related practical experiences overseas.

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Japan’s Nuclear Regulator Throws Cold Water on PM Kishida’s Ambitions for Reactor Restarts

(Bloomberg) Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) threw a bucket of cold water on Japan PM Kishida’s plan to rapidly restart to 10 nuclear reactors and return them to revenue service. Last month the government announced plans to speed up nuclear reactor restarts to cope with the looming energy crunch.

nuclear reactors in Japan

The regulatory agency said in a press statement it would not shorten or otherwise modify its procedures for restarting nuclear reactors. The statement is a major blow to the PM Kishida’s to enhance energy security and to stop buying Russian natural gas and other fossil fuels.

In an uncharacteristic blast of impatience, Toyoshi Fuketa, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, told the wire service, that determining natural-disaster risk at nuclear power plants “intrinsically takes a long time.” The delays in approvals are making it difficult for operators to make management decisions on how much time and money they are willing to invest in restarts.

“Utilities are being asked to prove something extremely difficult, which is that their facilities are able to bear forces of nature,” Fuketa said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “The process isn’t something that can’t be dramatically sped up.”

The NRA chairman made the statements as he prepared to end his five year term at the agency. It’s possible that his statements are either a swan song in light of impending changes to agency policies expected from the government or he was firing a shot across the bow of his successor to tow the line. Either way the comments by Fuketa are a stark a reality check on plans for reactor restarts.

The comments did not sit well with other Japanese elected officials. Bloomberg reported that several lawmakers in Kishida’s ruling party have proposed allowing nuclear reactors that have passed safety measures to be turned online, even if they haven’t implemented other requirements such as adding facilities to take over operations at the plant in the event of a terrorist attack. The NRA revoked the restart of one reactor due to its finding of noncompliance with mandated security upgrades which sent shock waves through the industry and which generated the political backlash.

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DOE Report Finds Hundreds of Retiring Coal Plant Sites Could Convert to Nuclear Power Stations

climate_change_carbon_taxThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week released a report showing that hundreds of U.S. coal power plant sites could convert to nuclear power plant sites, adding new jobs, increasing economic benefit, and significantly improving environmental conditions.

This coal-to-nuclear transition could add a substantial amount of clean electricity to the grid, helping the U.S. reach its net-zero emissions goals by 2050. (Full report PDF file)

The study investigated the benefits and challenges of converting retiring coal plant sites into nuclear plant sites. After screening recently retired and active coal plant sites, the study team identified nationwide 157 retired coal plant sites and 237 operating coal plant sites as potential candidates for a coal-to-nuclear transition. Of these sites, the team found that 80%, or about 300 sites, are good candidates to host advanced reactors smaller than the gigawatt scale.

A coal to nuclear transition could significantly improve air quality in communities around the country. The case study found that greenhouse gas emissions in a region could fall by 86% when nuclear power plants replace large coal plants, which is equivalent to taking more than 500,000 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles off the roads.

It could also increase employment and economic activity within those communities. When a large coal plant is replaced by a nuclear power plant of equivalent size, the study found that jobs in the region could increase by more than 650 permanent positions. Based the case study in the report, long-term job impacts could lead to additional annual economic activity of $275 million, implying an increase of 92% tax revenue for the local county when compared to the operating coal power.

“This is an important opportunity to help communities around the country preserve jobs, increase tax revenue, and improve air quality,” said Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dr. Kathryn Huff.

“As we move to a clean energy future, we need to deliver place-based solutions and ensure an equitable energy transition that does not leave communities behind.”

The reuse of coal infrastructure for advanced nuclear reactors could also reduce costs for developing new nuclear technology, saving from 15% to 35% in construction costs. Coal-to-nuclear transitions could save millions of dollars by reusing the coal plant’s electrical equipment (e.g., transmission lines, switchyards), cooling ponds or towers, and civil infrastructure such as roads and office buildings.

Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducted the study, sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

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TerraPraxis Enters Strategic Collaboration with Microsoft to Repurpose Coal Fired Power Plants

TerraPraxis, a non-profit focused on actionable solutions for climate and prosperity, is collaborating with Microsoft to deliver a digital solution to tackle a significant decarbonization challenge – repurposing over 2,400 coal-fired power plants worldwide to run on carbon-free energy.  (White paper – Climate Solution Profile /Repowering The Global Coal Fleet By 2050 )

business workflow 2TerraPraxis is looking to combine its deep expertise in energy with Microsoft to build and deploy a set of tools to automate the design and regulatory approval needed to decarbonize coal facilities with nuclear power, helping transition one of the world’s largest sources of carbon to zero emissions.

TerraPraxis intends to develop a software application with Microsoft designed to analyze the existing coal fleet to determine the best avenue to retrofit the plants, saving coal plant owners time and money while giving their assets and the communities around them a new lease on life for decades to come.

“We are thrilled to see Microsoft enable the Repowering Coal Initiative and help deliver a fast, low-cost, and repeatable strategy to repower hundreds of coal plants that would otherwise continue to produce large quantities of emissions,” remarked Kirsty Gogan, Director at TerraPraxis.

Eric Ingersoll, another TerraPraxis Director, said, “Our work with Microsoft will accelerate the clean energy benefits that Repowering Coal will bring to each community while simultaneously initiating hundreds of projects by leveraging Microsoft’s unparalleled digital capability and global market scale.”

The relationship began during last year’s Microsoft Global Hackathon, where the team working with TerraPraxis won the Hack for Sustainability challenge sponsored by Microsoft President Brad Smith.

“The global energy transition requires partnerships and technology innovation like this one led by TerraPraxis to repurpose coal-based power plants with carbon-free energy generation,” said Darryl Willis, corporate vice president of Energy & Resources, Microsoft.

The burning of coal causes more than 40% of global carbon emissions and more than 75% of emissions from electricity generation. As global carbon emissions rebounded in 2021 to their highest level in history, increased use of coal was the main driving factor, reaching an all-time high of 15.3 billion tonnes. According to the International Energy Agency, the world’s consumption of coal is set to rise yet again in 2022.

About TerraPraxis

Powered 100% by philanthropy, TerraPraxis is a non-profit organization that innovates and incubates scalable solutions for a livable planet and human prosperity.

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Beloyarsk BN-800 Fast Reactor Running 100% on MOX

(WNN) Unit 4 of Beloyarsk nuclear power plant with a BN-800 fast reactor has been connected to the grid and resumed operations after being fully loaded with uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (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.

bn-800-large-image

The plutonium for the MOX fuel was produced from spent fuel assemblies returned from other nuclear power plants. MOX fuel is manufactured from plutonium recovered from used reactor fuel, mixed with depleted uranium which is a by-product from uranium enrichment. The depleted uranium has negligible amounts of the U235 isotope.

mox fuel process wna

Mixed Oxide Fuel Production Process – World Nuclear Assoc

“Full conversion of the BN-800 to MOX fuel is a long-anticipated milestone for the nuclear industry. For the first time in the history of Russian nuclear power, we proceed to operation of a fast neutron reactor with a full load of uranium-plutonium fuel and closed nuclear fuel cycle,” said Alexander Ugryumov, Senior Vice President for Research and Development at TVEL JSC.

“This is the original reason and target why the BN-800 was developed, and why Rosatom built the unique automated fuel fabrication facility at the Mining and Chemical Combine. Advanced technologies of fissile materials recycling and re-fabrication of nuclear fuel will make it possible to expand the resource feed-stock of the nuclear power, reprocess irradiated fuel instead of storing it, and to reduce the volumes of waste.”

Ugrymov added that the reactor was refueled with MOX fuel assemblies produced at the Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC) in Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk Territory). Unlike the enriched uranium fuel assemblies traditionally used in nuclear power plants, the raw materials for the production of MOX fuel pellets includes plutonium oxide obtained during the processing of used fuel from conventional VVER reactors along with depleted uranium oxide, obtained by deconversion of [gaseous] depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUHF – “tails” from enrichment production).

The first serial MOX fuel assemblies were loaded into the BN-800 core in January 2020. The first complete refueling of the BN-800 with MOX fuel took place in January 2021, and then, over the next two refueling events, all fuel assemblies were gradually replaced with innovative MOX assemblies.

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Holtec in Pursuit of Re-Starting Palisades Nuclear Plant

* Holtec in Pursuit of Re-Starting Palisades Nuclear Plant
* Westinghouse Submits Bid to Poland to Build Three AP1000s
* Ghana Takes Next Steps Toward Nuclear Energy
* MOUs are Hot for Nuclear Deals Across Europe
** GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Sheffield Forgemasters in MOU for BWRX-300
** Rolls-Royce and Škoda JS to collaborate on SMR deployment on 470 MWe PWR
** Nuclearelectrica And Polish Copper Giant KGHM To Collaborate On NuScale SMR
** NuScale Power, Habboush Group and ENTRA1 form Strategic Alliance

Holtec in Pursuit of Re-Starting Palisades Nuclear Plant

  •  Federal funding is a key success factor

Recently consigned to the fate of decommissioning, there is new hope for the restoration of the Palisades Nuclear Plant to revenue service. It is located on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest Michigan. Holtec, which bought the plant to be paid to decommission it has applied for a federal grant under the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) program.  (June 2022 Amended Guidance)

palisades nuclear plant

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is supporting the effort and wrote a Sept. 9 letter to the U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. “Keeping Palisades open is a top priority for the State of Michigan,” Whitmer wrote in a letter.

“I will do everything I can to keep this plant open, protect jobs, increase Michigan’s competitiveness, lower costs, and expand clean energy production. We know the path ahead is not easy, but we are not going to let that stop us from fighting for economic opportunity for Southwest Michigan and reliable, clean energy for the state. Just because something’s never been done before does not mean it cannot be done in Michigan,” she wrote.

palisades locationWhitmer noted that Palisades had 600 workers making an average of $117,845. It also supported over 1,100 additional local jobs and generated $363 million in regional economic development annually, she said.

“We applaud Governor Whitmer for her leadership in recognizing the vital importance of Palisades to Michigan’s clean energy future as a source of safe and reliable carbon-free electricity,” said Dr. Kris Singh, President and CEO of Holtec International.

“The Governor and her team have been instrumental in supporting this historic opportunity for Southwest Michigan and the country. We look forward to continuing to work with the administration as well as our federal, state, and community partners to make this hope a reality.”

The CNC program was established to avoid premature retirements of reactors across the country due to financial hardship, preserve thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs to sustain local economies, and protect our supply of carbon-free electricity generation. Palisades is a textbook example.

Holtec International applied for a Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) on July 5th to help them keep Palisades open.  If Holtec is approved for a CNC, the State of Michigan is reported to be ready to support the firm by identifying state funding and facilitating a power purchase agreement.

Separately, on March 9, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) approved Part I of Holtec International’s loan application for building small modular reactors (SMRs) and invited the company to apply for a federal loan to help build four SMR-160s and to expand the company’s manufacturing capacity to build the first wave of nuclear reactors in large numbers.

What About the NRC License?

There is a huge elephant in the room that needs attention. The current license status of the plant is that it is permanently closed and headed for decommissioning.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in an email statement to this blog that it has never dealt with a plant that involves re-licensing a closed nuclear reactor.

The agency has to tell Holtec what it needs to do and what information it must submit to get an operating license. So far it appears it is looking toward the company for ideas on how things would work. This is backwards. The NRC should be providing the brain power to figure it out and create a path forward to provide for a speedy relicensing effort.

The agency focuses on safety and will undoubtedly look at the deferred maintenance as a checklist for consideration among other things.

This does not mean the NRC is a deal breaker, but it could delay reopening and certainly will cost a lot of money not only in terms of the cost of relicensing (NRC is reimbursed for costs at a rate of about $300/hr) but also improvements and completion of maintenance items that the agency says are safety related.

Getting the license will be the #1 make or break issue for reopening the plant.

  • This is not a new problem for the agency

In 2016 the NRC asked the industry for input on the agency’s development of a “draft regulatory basis” to support modifications to existing regulations affecting nuclear power plant shutdown and decommissioning activities. Robert Sweeney wrote in his response that the agency has an opportunity to think “out of the box” about the issue. Here’s the nut of what he wrote.

“The NRC should take a serious “out-of-the-box” review of its regulations and give due consideration to construct a regulatory framework that would allow licensees to temporarily reduce or suspend certain activities and place their plant in a protected shutdown or “laid up” state.

A new framework could establish and implement a new operating license “mode”. Such a mode would allow a safe “pause” in plant operations but not necessarily suggest or require a plant begin taking steps towards decommissioning or being placed in SAFSTOR.

Rather, this new mode would cover an extended or term-limited shutdown case within a particular set of requirements, including newly established standardized technical specifications with limits and conditions for the particular mode, as well as accompanying programmatic and maintenance requirements, commensurate with safety-risk in a “pause” mode condition (i.e. a Mode 6/7 depending on reactor type).

Adopting conforming requirements should be risk-informed and assure continued operations and maintenance of designated or essential systems at levels commensurate with the planned shutdown activities and term. Such a construct could afford plant owners with economic options and generating flexibility without baring prospects for a plant restart later when system demands and/or economics may be more favorable, allowing it to continue through some remaining portion of its licensed term.”

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Westinghouse Submits a Bid to Poland to Build Three AP1000s

  • Warsaw has yet to take decision on a technology vendor with France and South Korea also in running

(NucNet) Westinghouse has submitted a bid to the Polish government the firm say is “a comprehensive offer” for the country’s nuclear new-build program including proposals on financing by US institutions to build three 1150 MWe AP1000  PWR tyype nuclear reactors.

ap1000

At a benchmark cost of $6500/kw, the reactors would cost about $7.5 billion each and $22.4 billion for all three. These cost do not include improvements to the regional grid to deliver electricity to customers. Localization agreements will relate to the non-nuclear elements of the projects. Westinghouse has a plant in Sweden that can provide fuel for the reactors.

Miroslaw Kowalik, president of Westinghouse Poland, said in a press statement that the offer was submitted by the firm and comes on top of a front-end engineering and design (Feed) study by US-based companies Westinghouse Electric and Bechtel which was completed in June. It addressed building three AP1000 reactor units at a site in northern Poland.

The Feed study provides layout plans for the location of the first nuclear power station at Lubiatowo-Kopalino,on Poland’s Baltic Sea coast about 60 miles northwest of Gdansk, a strategic licensing plan, a project schedule, and a cost estimate for delivery, construction and startup of the first power plant. The Feed study by Westinghouse and Bechtel was funded by a grant released by the US Trade and Development Agency in mid-2021.

Mr Kowalik added that the Feed study was the technical part to the project offer while the government has now been presented with a “concept execution report”, which includes details of financing for the project by US institutions. The Polish government will have at its disposal “a solid study” to use for its decision on the choice of a technology provider for its nuclear power program. However, the study does not guarantee Westinghouse will seal the deal.

Poland wants to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MWe of installed nuclear capacity based on Generation III and III+ large-scale, pressurized water reactor designs. Commercial operation of a first nuclear unit in a proposed set of six is planned for 2033.

Warsaw has not decided yet on who will be building the plants or providing the nuclear technology. It has already received offers from France’s EDF for its EPR reactor design and South Korea’s KHNP for its APR-1400 technology.

Study Puts Cost For Six Units At €39 Billion

The cost of building two new nuclear power stations in Poland with up to three reactors each is likely to be about €39bn ($38.6 billion), a recent study by the Polish Economic Institute found, or around $6.4 billion each. The actual delivered price will likely be higher and the cost per Kw per unit will vary depending on the size of the reactors offered by vendors.

So far no outside institutional investors have publicly expressed an interest in the project. However, in its bid to build six 1400 MWe PWR type reactors, South Korea offered to take a minority equity stake in the project as a contribution to financing it.

Mr Kowalik did not specify any of the US institutions to be potentially involved in financially supporting Poland’s nuclear program, but Warsaw signed in 2020 an agreement with the US Export-Import (ExIm) Bank to finance projects supporting climate change in Poland, including potential new reactors.

Poland’s representation that it has funding from the US is probably premature. The ExIm bank is usually tight lipped about any potential funding deals until all technical, financial, and political approvals are nailed down. Earlier this year Ukraine’s EnergoAtom made a similar claim that it had a funding commitment from the ExIm bank for five Westinghouse reactors. The bank declined to comment and so did the Department of Energy.

Nothing is Certain About Who Will Win the Business

The Bloomberg Wire service reported that Poland is keeping its options open in deciding who will build six full size nuclear reactors in that country. According to the Bloomberg report, Poland may work with more than one partner on its first nuclear power plant as it’s considering technology provided by companies from France, South Korea and the US.

Politics are playing a role in selecting prospects for a decision to proceed with one or more vendors. The chances of other partners joining the $39 billion program have grown after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in July dismissed Piotr Naimski, the official in charge of energy security and a staunch supporter of cooperation with the US. This change could affect advocacy for the Westinghouse bid within the government.

Naimski’s area of responsibility included the nuclear power program, diversification of gas sources, and coordination of energy transmission networks. He had served in the present government since it came into office in 2015.  English language press reports indicate his dismissal was based on differences over energy policy.

Naimski was seen too committed to the option of building nuclear power stations with American support over French or Korean offers. Advocates of solar and wind power are reported to have influenced PM Morawiecki’s decision.

In particular Naimski strongly supported the EU’s decision to include nuclear energy as a “green” technology in its energy taxonomy policy and thus became eligible for funding under this category. Renewable energy investors saw that move as possibly carving out chunks of investor capital being sought for their projects. Given the high cost of nuclear reactors, these were seen as possibly very large shifts in investor interest.

However, despite these reports and perhaps as an effort at damage control, PM Morawiecki recently traveled to Paris to discuss nuclear energy with President Emmanuel Macron, and spoke with South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol over the phone soon after. He also talked to US Vice President Kamala Harris about US support for Poland’s nuclear program.

Bloomberg quoted Morawiecki as saying, “The cooperation with the US on the nuclear project has been most advanced among other bidders and this is what I discussed with Kamala Harris in particular,” Morawiecki said at a press conference. “I spoke about it with President Macron in Paris, too, and I hope these cooperations will be compatible. It’s all a unified concept and negotiations aren’t contradictory.”

This statement could be a signal that Poland will split the six reactor project into two three-reactors installations. Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski told Bloomberg that the government may also decide on the technology by early 2023, while Morawiecki also said that the government may want to build more than the nine gigawatts it has originally planned.

“We’re are a big enough country so that we don’t need to pick one technology to be applied across the board,” Jablonski said in a Radio Zet interview. “We can’t rule out cooperating with more than one partner or all three at once.”

The European Union’s largest eastern economy is the only country in the region without a nuclear plant as it has historically relied on coal for most of its electricity generation. Replacing the coal fired power plants is a key element of the country’s climate change program.

In addition to the government’s efforts to secure bids for and fund construction of six full size nuclear power plants, private sector industrial firms in Poland are exploring deals with SMR developers GE Hitacti for its BWRX300, with NuScale for its 77 MWe SMR, and with Rolls-Royce for its 470 MWe PWR.

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Ghana Takes Next Steps Toward Nuclear Energy

Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has approved a policy to include nuclear energy in the country’s power generation mix. He said the announcement satisfied one of the key 19 infrastructure issues specified in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) Milestones Approach, which help member states understand the commitments and obligations associated with developing a nuclear power program. Ghana in 2013 submitted a letter to IAEA declaring the country’s intention to pursue a nuclear power program for peaceful purposes.

iaea milestone

“This development informs the international community that the country has done what is necessary under phase one, which includes making a knowledgeable commitment and making a formal declaration,” Akufo-Addo noted in a briefing to news media.

“It gives the country the leverage over other countries within the [African] sub-region, especially as there is a vision to make Ghana a power generation hub and provide stable electricity to propel development on the continent.”

Ghana_Atomic_Energy_Commission_(GAEC)_logoThe Director of the Nuclear Power Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, Professor Seth Kofi Debrah commended the government’s move.

He said in a press statement that the GNPPO would be dealing with trade, human resource development, energy generation and regulations that would need a higher body to ensure effective and efficient coordination and implementation.

Two other key institutions – the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) Ghana, an independent nuclear regulatory body, and project company Nuclear Power Ghana (NPG) as potential NPP owner-operator – are key to success for the program.

In 2017 and 2019, Ghana hosted IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) teams to assess its progress. The 2017 review provided 12 recommendations and eight suggestions to assist Ghana in making further progress in its infrastructure development. The follow-up INIR team in 2019 concluded that Ghana has completed eight of the recommendations and six of the suggestions.

“It is evident that Ghana has made a concerted effort to address the recommendations and suggestions our team made two and half years ago,” said Anthony Stott, leader of the 2019 mission.

“The main preparatory work needed for the government to be able to commit to go forward with the nuclear power program has been done. What remains is further consideration of certain options to ensure Ghana is well prepared for discussions with vendors and other potential partners.”

The IAEA noted that Ghana has safely operated a nuclear research facility for 24 years and has significant experience with the non-power application of nuclear technology, including in the medical and industrial fields.

MOUs are Hot for Nuclear Deals Across Europe

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Sheffield Forgemasters in MOU for BWRX-300

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Sheffield Forgemasters have agreed to cooperate in support of the potential deployment of the BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) in the U.K.

sheffield forge BBC photoThrough a memorandum of understanding (MOU)  GEH and Sheffield Forgemasters agree to discuss how the Sheffield-based company’s existing and future capabilities could help meet the potential demands of BWRX-300 deployment.

“As the U.K. government aims to expand nuclear power capacity to 25% of the nation’s electricity needs, we are pleased to be working with an industry leader like Sheffield Forgemasters to discuss a potential supply agreement for forgings in support of the deployment of BWRX-300 SMRs,” said Sean Sexstone, Executive Vice President, Advanced Nuclear, GEH.

“We will also look at how Sheffield Forgemasters’ unique capabilities can help meet the growing global interest in the BWRX-300.”

“SMRs have the potential to become a standard for civil nuclear power generation and as an emerging technology, our long track record of supplying nuclear grade components brings a wealth of technical forging experience to the market,” said David Bond, CEO, Sheffield Forgemasters.

GEH said in its press statement that the BWRX-300 has been designed to achieve construction and operating costs that are substantially lower than traditional nuclear power generation technologies. Specifically, the BWRX-300 leverages a unique combination of a new, patented safety breakthrough, proven components, the licensing basis of the U.S. NRC-certified ESBWR and an existing, licensed fuel design.

About Sheffield Forgemasters

Sheffield Forgemasters specializes in the design and manufacture of high integrity forgings and castings offering end-to-end manufacture for steel production from a single site in the UK. Global markets served include Defence, Marine, Civil Nuclear, Steel Processing, The company also offers design, project management, steel melting, forging, casting, machining, testing and delivery.

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Rolls-Royce and Škoda JS to collaborate on SMR deployment

(WNN) Rolls-Royce SMR of the UK has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Škoda JS to explore areas of collaboration for the Rolls-Royce small modular reactor (SMR) plant, for deployment both in the Czech Republic and broader central European regions.

rolls royce logoUnder the MoU, both companies will work together to understand how the capabilities Škoda JS possess, in the areas of nuclear engineering and manufacturing, can support the efficient deployment of Rolls-Royce SMR power plants across Europe.

“As a factory-manufactured product – with 90% of the entire Rolls-Royce SMR power plant built in factory conditions – having the right partners in key locations around the world is an important aspect of our international delivery model,” said Rolls-Royce SMR Business Development and Strategy Director Alan Woods.

Škoda JS specializes in the production of pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and critical components including reactor pressure vessels (RPVs), RPV internals, control rod drive mechanisms and safety control systems – supported by broader engineering design, calculation and analytical support services.

“SMR is a logical route the nuclear industry is taking to make nuclear energy more accessible and affordable in the immediate future,” said Škoda JS Commercial Director Milos Mostecky.

“Our shops in Pilsen were originally designed to produce the components for 440MW VVER reactors. The potential for utilization of our engineering, manufacturing and maintenance capabilities and know-how for SMR projects in Europe is, therefore, significant.”

The Rolls-Royce SMR is a 470 MWe PWR design. About 90% of the SMR, about 16 meters by 4 meters (52ft x 13ft), will be built in factory conditions, limiting on-site activity primarily to assembly of pre-fabricated, pre-tested, modules which significantly reduces project risk and has the potential to drastically shorten build schedules.

The design was accepted for Generic Design Assessment (GDA) review in March. Rolls-Royce SMR Chairman Paul Stein told the Reuters news agency in April that he hopes to get regulatory approval for the design by mid-2024, with the first unit producing power by 2029. This is an ambitious expectation as the GDA typically takes four to five years to complete which would put it at 2026/2027 to pass regulatory review.

In November 2020, Rolls-Royce and Czech utility CEZ signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the potential for small modular reactors in the Czech Republic. In June this year CEZ bought Škoda JS which is how it comes under CEZ’s control.

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Romania / Nuclearelectrica And Polish Copper Giant KGHM To Collaborate On NuScale SMR Development

Nuscale-Logo(Horizontal_BlueTM)wTag(NucNet contributed to this report) Romanian state-owned nuclear operator Nuclearelectrica and Polish copper producer and industrial group KGHM  have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in the development of small modular reactor (SMR) technology for potential deployment in both countries.

The 36-month agreement, signed during an economic forum in Karpacz, southwest Poland, will include the exchange of technical, economic, legal, financial and organizational experience and know-how.

It includes “a comprehensive approach to all SMR project development activities, from site selection to decommissioning, in order to develop robust, safe and cost-effective SMR projects in Romania and Poland,” Nuclearelectrica said.

SMR control room simulators will be built in Poland and Romania to train operators and nuclear specialists.

The planned SMR plant, which both Romania and Poland will develop in collaboration with US reactor developer NuScale, will have six modules, each with an installed capacity of 77 MWe, for a total of 462 MWe.
The project will will help Romania avoid releasing four million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere annually, Nuclearelectrica said.

KGHM, a leader in copper and silver production and large industrial energy user, said SMRs can help it assure its energy independence and lower operating costs.

Reactor Could ‘Repurpose’ Coal Plants, Says KGHM

KGHM is evaluating NuScale Voygr plants as a way of “repurposing” existing coal plants. The company is also looking at opportunities to deploy Voygr plants to provide energy for its industrial operations such as mining and smelting and to support other Polish industrial energy users.

KGHM has already applied to Poland’s nuclear regulator for a safety assessment of the Voygr nuclear technology.

Nuclearelectrica, which operates Romania’s two existing large-scale CANDU type reactors at the Cernavoda nuclear power station, has also signed an agreement with NuScale for engineering studies, technical reviews, and licensing and permitting activities at a site in Doicesti, south-central Romania that is the preferred location for the deployment of a Voygr SMR that could be the first in Europe.

NuScale Power, Habboush Group and ENTRA1 form Strategic Alliance

  •  Alliance establishes a “one-stop-shop” for nuclear power asset development, management, financing, investment, and execution

Money futuresNuScale Power Corporation (NuScale) and Habboush Group (HG) have entered into an agreement forming a strategic alliance that establishes a “one-stop-shop” for the financing, investment, development, execution, and management of NuScale-powered projects and opportunities.

This new globally-oriented, strategic alliance between NuScale and HG, long with energy transition platform ENTRA1, aims to provide integrated capabilities for financing, investment, development, management and execution of large-scale assets and projects in connection with the rapidly growing global demand for NuScale’s premier clean energy solutions.

  • About Habboush Group

HG is an international private asset management firm focused on developing, managing, operating and financing proprietary opportunities predominantly in energy and infrastructure sectors drawing on more than 40 years of experience and capabilities in executing projects. The company HQ is in New York. Recent media reports indicate it has made significant investments in Turkey and Iraq.

  • About ENTRA1

ENTRA1 is a private investment platform supporting investments and developments that bring positive impacts to communities around the world with a focus on global energy, infrastructure and related technology sectors.

The firm is based in London. It has a minimalist footprint in public information sources including social media. There is no “pull quote” from the firm in NuScale’s press release.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on Holtec in Pursuit of Re-Starting Palisades Nuclear Plant

Diablo Canyon is Saved For Now

  • Diablo Canyon Saved For Now
  • Swiss Politicians Form Lobby Group To Call End Nuclear Plant Phaseout
  • Boris Johnson Writes $809M Check for Sizewell C
  • UK Government Grants $4M in Funding For Advanced Reactor Development
  • Hyundai, Ultra Safe Nuclear Sign Micro Reactor Agreement
  • CORE Power and MIT Get DOE Funding for Floating Nuclear Power R&D

Diablo Canyon is Saved For Now

diablo canyonCalifornia’s state legislature, fearing the looming threat of a major political backlash over blackouts, on Friday 9/2 passed SB486 which provides a $1.4 billion forgivable loan to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open through the end of the decade.

The next step in retaining the 2,256 MWe of CO2 emission free electrical generating power on the grid is for PG&E to apply for funding under a U.S. Department of Energy $6 billion program to keep open nuclear power plants that might otherwise close.

The utility is expected to submit its application this week with a decision scheduled to be made by DOE by the end of 2022. It is expected that DOE will approve the funding as DOE Secretary Granholm has already telegraphed her support for it

Late last June the agency made a change in eligibility criteria for the program to fund nuclear power plants slated to close. The policy change opens the door to life extension the Diablo Canyon power plant in California and would save 1,500 jobs.

The vote in the legislature is a victory for California Governor Gavin Newsom who was a late arrival in the movement to save the plant. In 2016 he signed off on an agreement with anti-nuclear groups and PG&E to close the reactors by 2025. He changed his mind as it became clear that promises of a combination of natural gas plans, solar, and wind power to make up the difference wasn’t going to work.

As the state is now experiencing record heat waves related to global warming, the prospect of justifying the 2016 agreement in the face of looking blackouts represented a huge political liability.

The State Government is already dealing with the paradox of on one hand pushing hard for adoption of electric cars and on the other telling drivers not to recharge them over the Labor Day weekend due to estimates of high temperatures, increased air conditioning use, and limited electricity supplies.

Newsome’s 180 degree turnaround was matched by California Senator Diane Feinstein who for decades had taken her anti-nuclear talking points about closing the plant from Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, and NRDC. In a recent newspaper OP ED she reversed her long standing opposition and called for the plant to stay open.

Litigation over Gov Newsom’s legislative victory is likely just around the corner. Last month Friends of the Earth and NRDC filed a plea with the California Energy Commission. They claim the 2016 agreement is a valid contract and cannot be overridden by legislation. So far the agency has not made a public response to the submission.

Challenges Ahead

PG&E faces numerous challenges in terms of operating the plant for a least another five years. After the 2016 agreement was signed, it deferred significant maintenance items since the plant was then scheduled to be closed. The cost of this work, which now must be carried out, cannot exceed the $1.4 billion loan. It is going to be close according to news media reports.

Perhaps the biggest challenge is to extend the NRC licenses for the two reactors. When the 2016 agreement was signed, the utility told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) it would not seek a 20 year extension for the two plants. With the plant licenses expiring in 2025, a 20 year extension would authorize PG&E to keep operating the plant to mid-century.

Assuming PG&E notifies the NRC it has changed its mind, the agency can make a determination to keep the plants open under the current licenses while it considers the safety issues of a 20 year extension. Senator Feinstein told the Associated Press that she wrote a letter to the NRC about the issue and received assurances that the agency is, “prepared to conduct the review in the necessary timeframe.”

The process for consideration of safety issues will undoubtedly address seismic issues which will be a key attack vector of the anti-nuclear movement. The NRC has previously examined the seismic issue  and declared the plant safe. That won’t deter challenges to the finding.

PG&E must now place orders for fuel for the twin reactors and plan outages for refueling which is a multi-year process. DOE Secretary Granholm is working on a uranium strategy to replace nuclear fuel supplies previously purchases from Russia. Diablo Canyon’s need for fuel through 2030 will now need to be added to it.

Separately, while the legislation passed by the California legislature calls for expedited reviews by state agencies of permits to keep the plant running, every one of these regulatory processes is fraught with peril by potential hostile interventions over getting the necessary approvals. Anti-nuclear groups have long sought, and in some cases, gained leverage over the continued operation of the plant by loading the dockets in state regulatory proceedings with their pleadings.

Praise for the Win

While uncertainty about the long future of Diablo Canyon, e.g,, beyond 2030, remains up in the air,  there was positive reactions to the legislative vote on Governor Newsom’s efforts.

Craig Piercy, CEO of the American Nuclear Society, said in a statement that “California’s decision to keep Diablo Canyon running is just the latest indication of nuclear energy’s growing resurgence in the U.S.” The Nuclear Energy Institute said the California vote “mirrors actions we have seen around the country and around the world as governments recognize the critical role nuclear plays in decarbonizing the electric sector.”

Independent nonprofit Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) applauded the environmental leadership of California Governor Gavin Newsom in signing SB 846

“Governor Newsom’s team worked long and hard to establish California as a true climate leader today while protecting ratepayers and California public safety,” said CGNP Legal Assistant Gene Nelson, Ph.D.

“CGNP is optimistic the likely funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Civil Nuclear Credit program to Diablo Canyon’s owner will help to reduce California ratepayer costs while insuring our future grid reliability. The current California heat wave has already forced some of our state’s fossil-fired plants off line. Having reliable power for our residents is a matter of life and death.”

CGNP President Carl Wurtz said in a press release. “This has been the culmination of a decade of work for CGNP, of thousands of hours of research, filings, outreach, and testimony. It’s unfortunate it took the lights going out for many to appreciate Diablo Canyon’s value, but better late than never.”

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Swiss Politicians Form Lobby Group To Call End Nuclear Plant Phaseout

(NucNet) The country cannot do without reactors, says president of ‘Stop Blackouts’

blackoutsA group of Swiss politicians has formed a lobby group which is planning to petition the government to hold a referendum on revising the country’s energy policy to guarantee adequate power supplies and keep nuclear as part of the mix.

The lobby group Stop Blackouts said it plans to launch a petition calling for changes government policy that  would mean electricity supply is “guaranteed at all times” and for “any form of climate-friendly electricity generation is permitted.”

Five of the group’s six committee members are lawmakers from center and right-wing parties.

“Until recently, Switzerland had safe and virtually CO2-free electricity production: the environmentally and climate-friendly combination of hydro and nuclear power is to be abandoned for no reason at all,” the Stop Blackouts website says.

“We cannot do without nuclear power plants,” Vanessa Meury, president of the Stop Blackouts committee and the only committee member who is not a politician, told Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung.

Stop Blackouts quoted Werner Luginbühl, head of Switzerland’s independent electricity regulatory authority, as saying the availability of Swiss nuclear power plants can help Switzerland “avoid the worst” when it comes to power shortages. However, Mr Luginbühl warned in an interview with the Neue Zürcher Zeitung newspaper that “if a Swiss nuclear power plant were to be disconnected from the network unexpectedly, the situation could quickly become critical”.

The Swiss government and cantons are aiming to be prepared for “extreme scenarios” in the face of possible energy shortages this winter, a top cantonal security official says. Experts have already warned that Switzerland could face electricity and gas shortages in winter despite sufficient supplies at the moment and considerable reserves.

The Stop Blackouts initiative follows a recent poll that showed the use of nuclear energy is gaining ground in Switzerland with 52% in favor of the use of reactors and against the country’s ban on building new ones.

In July 2021, Swiss media reported that talks were being held between the federal administration and the country’s nuclear power operators on the possibility of operating nuclear plants for 60 years instead of a the presently assumed 50 years. Opponents to the nuclear phaseout have warned, however, that the government’s plans to push renewables and energy savings are costly and pose risks to energy security.

In 2018 an International Energy Agency report said Switzerland’s nuclear phaseout will create an energy gap of at least 20 TWh a year that will need to be replaced with other generation technologies, possibly including new fossil fuel capacity.

In May 2017 Switzerland voted to start phasing out the country’s nuclear plants, which provide around one-third of its electricity, as part of a 2014 energy policy which will also cut consumption and increase wind and solar power generation.

In December 2019, operators retired the Mühleberg plant after 47 years of operation because investments in its future operation were seen as no longer viable.

Switzerland has four nuclear plants at three sites – Beznau-1 and -2, Gösgen, and Leibstadt. No dates have been set for the shutdowns.

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Boris Johnson Writes $809M Check for Sizewell C

Outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week that Britain will invest 700 million pounds ($809 million) in EDF’s planned 3.4 GWe Sizewell C nuclear plant, his last major policy announcement before stepping down from the role.

“We need to get on with Sizewell C,” Johnson said, speaking at Sizewell in Suffolk. “In the course of the next few weeks, I am absolutely confident that it will get over the line.”

The promised injection of state funding for Sizewell would come out of 1.7 billion pounds pledged by the government last year for new nuclear power plants

However, it would be years before the plant is operational. The Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, which is also being developed by French energy group EDF, is currently expected to start in 2027.

EDF has said Sizewell C would benefit from being “a near replica” of the 25 billion pound ($29 billion), Hinkley plant, and predicted it would cost around 20% less.

The UK government also hopes to find private investors for the project and has launched a new funding model which it hopes will make the project more attractive. Under the regulated-asset-base (RAB) model, companies building new plants would be paid during the construction phase, cutting down their development risk and allowing them to secure cheaper financing for the projects.

Britain’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy did not immediately respond to a request from the Reuters wire service for clarity over whether the 700 million investment would see the government taking a direct stake in the Sizewell project. EDF has been seeking new investors to replace the 20% equity stake in the plant previously taken by Chinese state owned enterprises. PM Johnson booted the Chinese firms from the deal citing “security concerns.”

& & &

UK Government Grants $4M in Funding For Advanced Reactor Development

(WNN)  The UK government has announced GBP3.3 million (USD3.8 million) in funding to support the development of advanced nuclear technology. Six projects aimed at developing Advanced Modular Reactor) in the UK have been selected to receive funding totaling GBP2.5 million.

The GBP3.3 million funding through the Advanced Modular Reactor Research, Development and Demonstration (AMR RD&D) program – part of the GBP385 million Advanced Nuclear Fund – will support the development of innovative nuclear technology in the UK, such as high temperature gas reactors (HTGRs). It aims to demonstrate HTGR technology by the early 2030s. The government will need to add many more zeros to the initial funding level to attain that result.

Applications of HTGRs go beyond electricity generation including process heat for industry, desalination of sea water, district heating, and hydrogen production.

tem range htgr appsIn addition to work on HTGRs, it also provides grants of $250K for work on TRIO fuel.

Grantees for work on HTGRs include EDF Energy Nuclear Generation Limited; National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL); U-Battery Developments Ltd and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC)

Grantees for work on TRISO fuel include Springfield Fuel Ltd amd NNL.

In addition, the government is providing up to GBP830K to the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency to develop their capability and consider innovative regulatory approaches to HTGRs.

Energy Minister Greg Hands said: “This investment will help unlock the potential for new nuclear reactors in the UK, as we drive forward plans to boost clean, cutting-edge, homegrown technologies for our energy security, while driving down bills in the long term.”

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Hyundai, Ultra Safe Nuclear Sign Micro Reactor Agreement

Hyundai Engineering Co., announced on that it signed a framework agreement for procurement with Seattle-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. for building a next-generation micro-modular reactor (MMR) in Ontario, Canada.

Hyundai Engineering will provide power generation facilities, cooling systems and radioactive equipment for the Chalk River Laboratories.

mmr Ultra safe

Like batteries, multiple MMR units can be linked together to provide as much power as needed. Multiple MMR units can power communities in the middle of nowhere, large industrial sites, and cities. The modules can be combined in different ways for different sites and needs including integration with renewable micro grids.

Last June, Hyundai Engineering and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp. signed a detailed design contract for the joint MMR project at the lab. The two firms said in a joint statement the advanced reactor is planned to be “up and running in 2026.”

Earlier this year, Hyundai Engineering secured exclusive rights to USNC’s MMR engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) business through an equity investment worth $30 million.

Hyundai Engineering began partnering with Ultra Safe Nuclear in mini reactor projects in 2012 with an aim to develop an electrical high-temperature gas-cooled micro modular reactor.

“After a decade-long cooperation with Ultra Safe Nuclear, the fourth generation MMR building project is now underway,” a Hyundai Engineering employee told The Korea Economic Daily. “We will direct all available resources to the project as MMRs are gaining much attention as a means to achieving carbon neutrality.”

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CORE POWER and MIT Get DOE Funding for Floating Nuclear Power R&D

The US Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) has granted research funds to the MIT Energy Initiative, CORE POWER, and the Idaho National Laboratory for a three-year study into the development of offshore floating nuclear power generation in the US.  (CORE Power press release)

The NEUP funding will allow collaborative research into the economic and environmental benefits of floating advanced nuclear power generation and take a close look at all aspects of building, operating, maintaining, and decommissioning such facilities.

“It is an important step forward for CORE POWER to be working with the world-renowned MIT Energy Initiative. We believe this will help us take the next step in bringing groundbreaking new nuclear technology to the maritime market,” said Mikal Bøe, chairman and CEO of UK-based CORE POWER.

“This NEUP project will among other things look at how a nuclear-powered H2Hub (hydrogen) off the coast of the US could set the scene and demonstrate how we make hydrogen production, safe, cheap and reliable by placing the production unit offshore,” Bøe said.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is funding development of regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) across America, one of which must be powered by nuclear energy.

Tony Huston, US country head at CORE POWER, commented: “The transport of goods on the US coasts, Great Lakes and internal waterways offers strong proof of concept for nuclear powered decarbonization without the complex regulatory hurdles of moving reactors between nation states.”

MIT CANES on Benefits of Offshore Nuclear

conceptual image floating nuclear power plant

On its website MIT’s Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES) wrote that offshore floating nuclear plants (image) promise to be safer, less expensive, and easier to deploy than today’s land-based plants.

Currently, building a nuclear plant is a long and expensive process plagued by site concerns such as sourcing water for cooling, and providing for the safety of the neighboring population. Building nuclear plants in shipyards, like deep-sea oil platforms, would make it possible to use greatly streamlined methods of construction—significantly cutting costs.

The offshore strategy developed at MIT proposes situating reactors in relatively deep water far away from coastal populations, linked only by an underwater power transmission line. In addition, offshore siting minimizes safety concerns by eliminating risks of earthquakes and tsunamis as accident initiators, access to the essentially infinite ocean heat sink, and ensuring no one resides within the plant’s emergency planning zone

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Japan’s PM Kishida Launches a Major Push for Nuclear Energy

  • Japan’s PM Kishida Launches Major Push for Nuclear Energy
  • South Korea Signs $2.25 billion Deal for Egyptian Nuclear Project
  • India Continues Its Commitment to Build 700 MWe PHWRs with Two More
  • X-energy Completes $40 Million DOE Project Milestone
  • Holtec Ramps Up Its SMR Program; Seeks Restart of Palisades
  • Rolls-Royce to Open Dutch Market for its 470 MWe PWR Reactor
  • NuScale Power and Fermi Energia Sign MOU  in Estonia
  • DOE on the Hunt for Nuclear Fuel to Reduce Reliance on Russia for It

Japan’s PM Kishida Launches Major Push for Nuclear Energy

  • He wants to restart nine more reactors by this winter and 17 in all
  • Japan is considering development of new nuclear reactors including SMRs

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (profile) this week took a bold step to address looming energy shortages, potential blackouts, and soaring energy costs to keep the lights on and air conditioning running during record heat waves. The government announced plans to speed up nuclear reactor restarts and to have up to nine reactors restarted by winter to cope with the looming energy crunch.  The combined effort will be a major test of public sentiment towards nuclear energy which has been in the red zone of “no way” since the Fukushima crisis of 2011.

Kishida aims to restart seven more reactors by summer 2023 and to prolong the operational life of other reactors to beyond 60 years from the initial 40 years limit set by his predecessors.

The main drivers are concerns about power shortages and the threat of Russia cutting off natural gas supplies as a result of Japan’s alignment with western powers regarding the war in Ukraine. Energy blackouts, regardless of the cause, are detrimental to the ruling power retaining that status.

nuclear reactors in Japan

In 2019 nuclear power accounted for 6% percent of Japan’s electricity supply according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). The agency says that in 2022 the new goal for Japan is 20-22%. By the summer of 2023, Kishida has expectations that all 17 nuclear power plants that have passed the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety screening will be back online.

Kishida has instructed the government to come up with a detailed plan by the end of the year, with the goal of stabilizing the country’s energy supply and “gaining the understanding of the public” on the role of nuclear power in developing a sustainable source of energy. The METI is now studying how to safely build next-generation nuclear power plants in addition to re-energizing, literally, the existing fleet.

Until recently, prior Japanese government administrations took the position that under no circumstances would they consider building new reactors to replace aged reactors and hung their hat on the peg of 40 years of service as milestone for shutting down a reactor. Kinshida’s new stance represents a sharp reversal of all of these policies.

Electricity Shortages are Driving Changes to Public Perceptions of Nuclear

The public may be receptive to the prime minister’s message. Last March the government warned that there would be a shortage of electricity despite a winter season that reportedly dropped the temperature in Tokyo to just above freezing. This past June the government asked the public to cut back on air conditioning. Clearly, there’s a message in these events.

The shortages have been caused by a combination of closed nuclear power plants, shut down coal fired power plants, and record high costs for liquified natural gas.

The Washington Post reported that a recent poll asked about restarting nuclear reactors that have cleared the safety review. The results are that 58% were in favor while 39% opposed. The poll, conducted by Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun and the Waseda University Institute for Advanced Social Sciences, was the first time in five years of public polling by the organizations that supporters outweighed opponents with regard to relying on nuclear energy.

The Bloomberg wire service put it succinctly this way, “Japan is facing another winter where electricity demand is expected to be right up against supply. The reality is dawning that it can’t oppose Russian energy, climate change and nuclear power all at once.”

No everyone is onboard despite a national energy crisis. The Washington Post also reported that opposition parties in Japan will likely seize on the issue making it politically difficult for local government leaders to support rebooting nuclear plants. Given these political sensitivities, power companies may also have concerns about investing in new nuclear plants including SMRs and advanced designs.

Nuclear Safety Will Continue to Rank High as a Key Public Concern

One of the most closely watched effort to restart reactors involves the massive Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata province which has five 1000 MWe BWRs and two 1300 MWe BWRs. Local opposition to restarting the two 1300 MWe BWR, which are the newest units, remains strong. Niigata Provincial officials have made entire careers getting elected to office by engaging in vigorous media bashing of the plant management’s missteps in dealing with the public’s safety concerns.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has contributed to the problem of a lack of public confidence in its operations with repeated miscommunications about minor incidents at the plants. These incidents included a transformer fire, other minor fires, and uncontrolled minor releases of radioactivity from the plants and with issues involving handling of low-level radioactive waste management operations.

nra logoToyoshi Fuketa, commissioner of Japan’s nuclear watchdog (profile of commissioners), the Nuclear Safety Authority (NRA), told wire services that despite PM Kinshida’s drive to open more reactors,  his agency’s safety standards are not affected by the government’s nuclear energy policy. He also said that nuclear reactor life extension beyond 40 years would need “careful examination.”

According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA) profile of Japan’s nuclear fleet, the NRA’s glacial approach to progress in reviewing reactor restarts is a major challenge for Kinshida’s push to reopen them. The NRA pre-operational inspections, with reference to the engineering work program, took an average of 137 days for the five reactors that had restarted by end 2016. For the five reactors that have started since, the inspections took an average of over 200 days. The NRA’s dismal record of gumming up the works speaks for itself.

Plans for New Full Size Reactors are  in the Mix

Kishida has called for proposals for the development and construction of “new innovative reactors designed with new safety mechanisms.” He called on the government to speed up its examination of “every possible measure” and set a deadline for the end of 2022 to have a plan ready to go forward. That may extend to jaw boning with the NRA about its methods in approving new starts.

“In order to overcome our imminent crisis of a power supply crunch, we must take our utmost steps to mobilize all possible policies in the coming years and prepare for any emergency,” Kishida said.

“It is extremely important to secure all options to redesign a stable energy supply for our country,” METI’s Yasutoshi Nishimura told wire services. “From that perspective, we will also consider all options regarding nuclear power.”

Japan hasn’t built a new reactor since the Fukushima crisis. In 2011 there were  three units under construction and another six in the planning stages. It’s conceivable that the six sites in the planning stage could be reconfigured to be populated with SMRs with multiple small units combining to produce the equivalent of a large 1000 MWE reactor.

For the nearly 12 GWe of planned reactors, Japan could instead build 39 300 MWe SMRs spreading them around the country to support grid resilience and bring the economic benefits of jobs to more communities boosting national support for nuclear energy in the bargain.

The World Nuclear Association in its profile of Japan’s nuclear energy industry posted these numbers as of June 2022 for nuclear reactors under construction and planned reactors which were deferred following the Fukushima crisis in 2011.

Japan plants under consrtuction - WNA

Japan reactors planned and proposed

Japan to Pursue Development of SMRs but How?

Kishida instructed his government to consider developing small nuclear reactors (SMRs). The action is a signal that there needs to be a renewed emphasis on nuclear energy.  This isn’t a new position for him. Last June at a party conference he spoke with enthusiasm about the potential for SMRs

“Going forward, it will be important to secure technologies such as SMRs and small fusion reactors,” Kishida said during the LDP election.

smr_info_text_en

More recently, Kishida said on August 24th, “The government is not just imagining” the building of new nuclear plants. At a possible plan for discussion will be presented [to the Diet] within the calendar year.”

At the same conference Japan’s major power companies, while acknowledging development is still a long way off, said they are positive about the future. A Kansai Electric Power Co. spokesperson remarked, “In addition to studying the design of next-generation light water reactors, we would like to proceed with technical studies on new reactor types, including SMRs and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors.”

Getting to a Viable SMR Design for Construction in Japan

Japan’s problem is that it does not have a viable SMR design that is ready to come off the drawing boards. This raises the previously unthinkable prospect of importing an SMR via licensing from a country that has one ready to go.

Japan is behind the technology eight ball in terms of developing  its own SMRs. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority has no policy framework for dealing with them. In addition to being notoriously sluggish in reviewing reactor restarts, so far in its history has not reviewed and approved a single application for a new reactors of any kind or size.

Last June Takanori Tanaka, a fellow at the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, told the Japan Forward, “If we are serious about development, we must secure a site on the grounds of a national research institute for construction and verification of an SMR, as they have done in the United States and Canada.”

He called for increased funding to build a first of a kind commercial prototype, not a test reactor, to advance the use of the design in Japan. To get that kind of budget authority, the nuclear industry in Japan will have to overcome the inherent conservatism of the Japanese government bureaucracy which is wary of negative public opinion about new publicly funded nuclear energy initiatives.

Private Sector Initiatives for SMRs in Japan

In the private sector, JGC Holdings Corporation (JGC HD) and IHI Corporation have invested in  NuScale Power, One feature of NuScale SMR is that multiple modules can be built over time in an underground silo. As a selling point on nuclear safety, the NuScale SMR,  in the event of an accident, the nuclear core could be cooled by natural circulation without the need for operators.

NuScale’s international efforts have recently gotten a boost with US government funded progress towards building its SMR in Romania. Earlier this month it signed an MOU with Estonia’s Fermi Energia to explore opportunities in that country.  (See report below in this post)

Japan’s Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy is currently developing a 300 MWe boiling water reactor (BWR) SMR, the “BWRX-300,” in collaboration with U.S.-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. The design has gained traction in Canada at Ontario Power Generation and in the US at the Tennessee Valley Authority. The two utilities are collaborating on their respective efforts to take the BWR to licensing (CNSC)(NRC) and construction. The two regulatory agencies have an agreement to coordinate reviews of new reactors designs to speed up approvals in both countries.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries is also working on the demonstration of a small PWR-type SMR. According to a World Nuclear News report from May 2022, the company is developing a small modular light water reactor, with a power output of 300 MWe. Providing power for distributed, small-scale grids, the SMR will feature fully passive safety systems and an integrated reactor vessel design.

What’s interesting about Kishida’s new nuclear policy is that his hometown is Hiroshima. This makes him an unexpected advocate for new nuclear energy projects. On the other hand, it gives him credence for his policy because of this background.

From the perspective of energy security and dealing with climate change, Japan’s policy shift on nuclear energy could not have come a day too soon.

Japanese Fuel Fabrication Plant to Restart

(WNN) Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Co (MNF) is to resume production of pressurized water reactor fuel at its refurbished Tokai plant after receiving approval from the Japanese nuclear regulator.

The NRA introduced new regulatory standards in 2013, following the Fukushima accident. MNF suspended production at the 440 tU/year Tokai fabrication plant in 2018 while construction work was carried out to meet the new requirements. Fuel fabrication is expected to begin immediately.

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South Korea Signs $2.25 billion Deal for Egyptian Nuclear Project

South Korea has signed a $2.25 billion contract with a Russian state-run nuclear energy company to provide components and construct turbine buildings for Egypt’s first nuclear power plant, officials said Thursday.

According to South Korea’s presidential office and trade ministry, the state-run Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power was subcontracted by Russia’s Atomstroyexport to provide to construct turbine buildings and other non-nuclear structures at the plant being built in Dabaa. The Mediterranean coastal town is about 130 kilometers (80 miles) northwest of Cairo.

Atomstroyexport (ASE) is a subsidiary of Rosatom, a state-owned Russian nuclear conglomerate. The company has a contract with Egypt to deliver four 1200 MWe VVER reactors through 2030. The project also includes grid improvements to delivery electricity to customers.  Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power’s part of project is from 2023 to 2029.

Although the project was announced in April 2018, Egypt’s nuclear safety agency did not give a go ahead to break ground until last month. The huge project is being paid for almost entirely by Russia with Egypt covering just 15% of the costs.

enrra logoThe bureaucratic delay came as a surprise because ASE is building four similar units in Turkey at the Mediterranean coastal town of Akkuyu in Mersin province. The first of the four VVER type PWRs, which broke ground in 2018, is scheduled to be completed next year and the fourth one in 2026. Egypt’s Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority (ENRRA) apparently never took the opportunity to satisfy some of their their safety concerns by taking a 400 mile flight to the Turkish site to kick the tires.

A senior aide of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said the negotiations with ASE were also delayed by “unexpected variables,” mainly Russia’s war on Ukraine and the U.S  led sanctions campaign against Moscow over its aggression. South Korean officials said the United States was consulted in advance about the deal and that the technologies being supplied by Seoul for the project would not clash with international sanctions against Russia.

Go Myong-hyun, a senior analyst at Seoul’s Asan Institute for Policy Studies, told South Korean news media that the deal wouldn’t have been possible without an export approval by the United States as the components to be provided by Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power likely include U.S. technology.

President Yoon’s office expressed hope that South Korea’s participation in the Dabaa project would help the country gain a foothold in future nuclear projects across Africa. Ghana and Kenya have kicked off ambitious plans to build full size reactors by the 2030 timeframe.  South Korea is also pursuing opportunities to export to the Czech Republic, Poland and Saudi Arabia.

Yoon’s office said the Dabaa project is South Korea’s biggest export of nuclear power technology since 2009, when a South Korean-led consortium won a $20 billion contract to build four 1400 MWe PWR type nuclear  reactors in the United Arab Emirates.

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India Continues Its Commitment to Build 700 MWe PHWRs

India’s largest power producer is looking to develop another nuclear project just weeks after announcing its entry into the sector.

The Bloomberg wire service reported that a venture between NTPC Ltd., which relies mostly on coal to supply energy to the world’s fastest growing population, and India’s monopoly nuclear developer NPCIL .is in advanced talks with the government to develop two 700 MWe PHWRs in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.

The announcement follows a similar one earlier this month from NTPC, which said it’s seeking to build two 700 MWE PHWR reactors at Gorakhpur in the northern state of Haryana.

India is relying on the indigenous 700 MWe PHWR design for its fleet because it does not require reactor pressure vessels, relies almost entirely on natural uranium for fuel, and all of the components can be soured from Indian firms.

Indian-PHWR-Schematic-Layout-Diagram_thumb.jpg

India’s refusal to set aside its so-called “supplier liability law” has frozen out western nuclear reactor vendors from its domestic market. Only Rostatom, which self-insures as an agency of the Russian government, is building reactors all of them at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. There two 1000 MWe PWR type reactors are in operation, two more are under construction, and two more are planned.

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X-energy Completes $40 Million DOE Project Milestone

X-Energy, which is developing a high temperature gas reactor (HTGR), has completed a major milestone in its development of the reactor design funded by a $40 million cost shared agreement with the Department of Energy.

X-energy is one of two U.S. companies moving forward with funding under DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. The company plans to site a four-unit Xe-100 power plant in eastern Washington state at a site near the Columbia Generating Station.

Over the next year, X-energy plans to submit additional topical reports to the NRC as part of the overall licensing process in addition to selecting a specific site for their demonstration project. The company plans to submit a construction permit application to the NRC by the end of 2023. A separate operating license will be needed from the NRC for each of the four first-of-a-kind units.

X-Energy-Technical-Profile_thumb.png

Plans for Nuclear TRISO Fuel Production

X-energy is also seeking to license and operate first commercial nuclear fuel facility in Tennessee dedicated to fabrication of HALEU fuel.

“The Advanced Reactor Concepts award was the catalyst for X-energy’s progress toward the deployment of the Xe-100 reactor and our TRISO-based fuel fabrication facility,” said Dr Pete Pappano, President of TRISO-X.

x-energy-triso-fuel_thumb.pngX-energy’s pebble bed high-temperature gas reactor uses specialized TRISO particle fuel that the company is confident cannot melt in their reactor design. DOE previously invested more than $30 million through two separate cost-shared agreements to further develop the Xe-100 and demonstrate a production process for its fuel.

The company successfully submitted their application to NRC in early April to build a commercial-scale “TRISO-X” Fuel Fabrication Facility (TF3). When commissioned, TF3 will bring an estimated 400 new jobs to the state of Tennessee and become a key enabler for other advanced reactor designs leveraging TRISO fuel. TF3 could be operational as early as 2025.

“DOE is committed to supporting our industry partners in their efforts to deploy advanced reactors that help grow our economy during this clean energy transition,” said Alice Caponiti, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Reactor Fleet and Advanced Reactor Deployment. “X-energy has made tremendous strides in moving the Xe-100 design toward eventual deployment.”

Separately, X-energy recently signed a Letter of Intent with Dow Chemical to collaborate on the possible deployment of Xe-100 small modular reactor technology to provide electricity and process heat at one of Dow’s manufacturing sites.

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Holtec Ramps Up Its SMR Program

(WNN contributed to this report) Holtec International says it has “significantly boosted” its clean energy R&D budget and now aims to bring the first SMR-160 online as early as 2029 a year ahead of its previous schedule. It plans to pair the SMR-160 with a clean energy storage and generation system dubbed the Green Boiler.

The company said it has been encouraged by the US government’s “supportive posture” including the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which it said will “turbocharge the rise of nuclear energy in the US.” It envisages its SMR-160 advanced reactor, coupled with its clean energy storage and generation (CESG) technology, as the centerpiece of a “distributed clean-energy ecosystem.”

Holtec recently submitted an application to the Department of Energy for a $7.4 billion federal loan to enable it to increase capacity for SMR production at its existing manufacturing facilities, to construct and operate four SMR-160s, and to build a new Holtec Heavy Industries (HHI) complex for high capacity manufacturing of components and modules for SMR-160s. It is still evaluating the location of HHI, but said the proposed plant would likely be close to the site of its first US SMR-160.

Several sites are being considered for the first SMR-160. The sites include the former Oyster Creek nuclear power plant site, for which work is already under way on the site-specific plant layouts and environmental monitoring that will be needed to support an application for a construction permit. Holtec took over ownership of the New Jersey plant for decommissioning in 2019 following Exelon’s closure of the of the single-unit boiling water reactor unit the previous year.

Other nuclear decommissioning sites owned by the company, as well as “nuclear, coal and greenfield sites”, are also being considered, Holtec said. This statement is a significant change from its previous statement that it was not considering other D&D sites for an SMR.

Restart of Palisades Nuclear Plant in Michigan?

The New York Times reported on August 22nd that Holtec is considering applying to the NRC to restart the Palisades Nuclear Plant in Michigan. Holtec purchased the plant from Entergy on June 30th for the purpose of decommissioning it.

“There are a number of hurdles to restarting the facility that would need to be bridged,” the company said in a statement to the newspaper, “but we will work with the state, federal government and a yet to be identified third-party operator to see if this is a viable option.”

Commissioned in 1971 the 805 MWe PWR was owned at operated by Entergy at the time it was sold to Holtec for decommissioning. In April Michigan Governor Whitmer appeals to the federal government to use money from a $6 billion DOE fund to keep the plant open. She said keeping the plant on the grid would help fulfill her goal of making Michigan carbon neutral by 2050 and secure hundreds of higher-paying jobs in Van Buren County’s Covert Township which is where the plant is located. Situated on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, it is 40 miles due west of Kalamazoo, MI (2020 population 76,000).

About the SMR-160

The SMR-160 is a pressurized light-water reactor, generating 160 MWe (525 MWt) using commercially available low-enriched uranium fuel, with flexibility to produce process heat for industrial applications and hydrogen production. Holtec finalized an agreement with South Korea’s Hyundai in 2021 for the turnkey supply of the SMR-160 worldwide.  (conceptual image below)

conceptual image holktec SMR plant

The company envisages pairing an SMR-160 plant with a its Green Boiler CESG system to store surplus energy from the power plant itself and from the general grid, which can then be used in periods of generation deficit. A variation of the CESG system called HI-HEAT has been engineered to provide district heating systems.

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Rolls-Royce  Seeks to Open Dutch Market for its 470 MWe PWR Reactor

Rolls-Royce SMR has signed an exclusive agreement with the Dutch development company ULC-Energy to work together to deploy Rolls-Royce 470 MWe PWR in the Netherlands.

(Note to readers: Rolls-Royce for marketing purposes calls its PWR an “SMR” but its size exceeds the IAEA limit of 300 MWe for SMR designs)

Rolls-Royce SMR and ULC-Energy said in their joint statement they believe nuclear energy can accelerate the transition to a clean, affordable, and reliable energy system in the Netherlands.

ULC-Energy B.V. is a nuclear development company, established in 2021 in The Netherlands and based in Amsterdam. ULC-Energy’s mission is to accelerate decarbonization in the Netherlands by developing nuclear energy projects that efficiently integrate in residential and industrial energy networks in The Netherlands.

Dirk Rabelink, ULC-Energy’s CEO, has experience with uranium mining. At BHP Billiton Dirk led the commercial nuclear fuel activities for over 5 years. He also worked as an investment banker in London.

ULC-Energy intends to develop nuclear projects deploying modern, state-of-the-art, modular reactors that are based on proven technology. The Rolls-Royce reactor has been selected by ULC-Energy as its nuclear energy technology provider of choice.

According to Rolls-Royce, 90% of its PWR reactor can be built in factory conditions, limiting on-site activity primarily to assembly of pre-fabricated, pre-tested, modules which significantly reduces project risk and has the potential to drastically shorten build schedules.

rolls royce nuclearTom Samson, CEO of Rolls-Royce SMR, said: “This is an important and exciting step forward towards deploying Rolls-Royce SMRs in the Netherlands. Working under the agreement with ULC-Energy, as a developer who will deploy our technology, we will pursue a range of opportunities to provide affordable low-carbon energy for domestic and industrial uses.”

Dirk Rabelink from ULC-Energy, said, “Challenging energy market conditions, particularly in Western Europe, have clarified the importance of having reliable and affordable energy systems. The Dutch Government believes that nuclear can and should play a meaningful role in the Netherlands. The Rolls-Royce SMR is ideally suited for the Dutch market. At 470 MW, and with a capacity factor >95%, each unit makes a meaningful difference and can be deployed efficiently to either supply power to the grid, or supply power and heat to dedicated industrial users.”

UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, said: “It is fantastic to see UK firms like Rolls-Royce SMR leading the way on sustainable energy and exporting green technology around the world.

Last December the new Cabinet in the Netherlands pledged to allocate 35 billion euros for climate measures over the next ten years. A big chunk of it, more than EUR5 billion, will allocated to support construction of two new nuclear reactors.

World Nuclear News reports that the Netherlands’ new coalition government has placed nuclear power at the heart of its climate and energy policy. Some EUR500 million (USD564 million) has been earmarked to support new nuclear build in the period to 2025. The new government said it will assist parties wishing to bid for the two unit nuclear power station. This will also mean financing. The level of financial support, including loan and loan guarantee mechanisms, rate guarantees, etc., are still to be determined. The government did not set a date for a tender for the reactors.

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NuScale Power and Fermi Energia Sign MOU  in Estonia

  • The agreement to explore how NuScale’s innovative technology can benefit Estonia’s carbon-free energy goals

nuscale fermiNuScale Power (NuScale) announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Fermi Energia, an Estonian energy company that is looking to adopt clean energy power sources to meet the country’s ambitious climate goals.

Under the agreement, Fermi Energia will evaluate NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR) design for deployment in Estonia.

This is the latest in a series of MOUs signed by Fermi Energia which is seeking the best bang for the buck in an SMR developer. The Estonian firm is also on the hunt for major investor funding beyond the current startup funds it has obtained to explore partnerships.

Under this new MOU, NuScale will support Fermi Energia as it conducts further analysis and considers deploying a NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant in country to meet clean, baseload energy needs by 2031.

“Considering the geopolitics of today, this agreement builds upon the existing momentum and strong interest from the international community who are looking to NuScale’s SMR technology as the premier, flexible, and cost-competitive climate solution,” said John Hopkins, NuScale Power President and Chief Executive Officer.

“The great advantage of the new generation of small modular reactors is clearly manifested in the case of Estonia. They fit better into the electricity grid, are more flexible and economical to operate, and meet stricter safety requirements than the existing nuclear plants,” said Kalev Kallemets, Fermi Energia CEO and co-founder.

“Before choosing the most suitable technology for Estonia, we will conduct a comprehensive analysis and evaluate which of the small reactors that will become market-ready in the near future best meets Estonia’s needs to produce CO2-free energy year-round, in any weather, at an affordable price.”

Estonia has committed to stop using oil shale, currently its largest source of energy, in its power plants by 2030. To replace this greenhouse gas intensive power source, Fermi Energia has advocated to utilize SMR technology to secure the country’s energy independence.

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DOE on the Hunt for Nuclear Fuel to Reduce Reliance on Russia for It

Uranium symbolDOE Assistant Secretary Kathryn Huff  told the DC news media this week she is on the hunt for alternatives for Russian nuclear fuel. The Biden administration is planning a future for the U.S. nuclear fleet without relying on  Russian uranium because of the war in Ukraine. Huff named securing nuclear fuel for the US reactor fleet as a key priority in a Q&A post on the DOE web site last June.

“The U.S. is acting with the same initiative on nuclear fuel as the Europeans are with respect to natural gas: develop alternatives to Russian supplies, and do it fast,” Huff said.

The power sector could voluntarily stop doing business with Russian uranium providers, as has happened in other industries, or Congress could ban imports as it did with Russian fossil fuels. Legislation currently before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee would ban Russian uranium imports.

Either way, reliance on uranium sourced from Russia poses both energy security and national security risks. Huff said these risks add a sense of urgency to her quest.

“Russia is not a trustworthy source of our fuel, and we need to find alternatives here and build up that supply chain. “We have the largest nuclear fleet in the world, and we currently do not have the capability to provide fuel for all of our reactors.”

The problem is the in terms of building new enrichment capacity, it’s not as simple as adding water and microwaving a bowl of oatmeal. Huff says DOE needs to prime the pump to get the market moving and suppliers to ramp up to meet  US demand for nuclear fuel.

“Worldwide, there’s not enough capacity to replace that gap from trusted sources. So, it’s our responsibility to encourage and incentivize that enrichment and conversion capability here in the U.S. so that we can return to a time when we have a more fulsome capability.”

DOE plans to offer long-term contracts to buy enriched uranium, giving US-based suppliers of nuclear fuel a reason to build new facilities across the entire nuclear fuel production cycle. The ramped up demand for us nuclear fuel may also stimulate activity at US uranium mines for both hard rock and ISR sites.

The need for nuclear extends to high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). This is the fuel, enriched between 5% and 20%, what the next generation of reactors will use. advanced reactor developers were expecting to source from Russia before the war changed things. Congress just authorized $700 million in new funding for DOE to develop HALEU in the US which is funding that Huff pledged to roll out “as quickly as humanly possible.”

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Effort to Save Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Hits Headwinds

  • Effort to Save Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Hits Headwinds
  • TerraPower Raises $750 Million in Equity Funding
  • Ultra Safe Nuclear Opens Pilot Nuclear Fuel Plant
  • HALEU Fuel Funding in Biden Energy Climate Legislation
  • Survey – Utilities Could Add 90 GWe of Nuclear, Including 300 SMRs
  • Taishan-1 EPR Reconnected To Grid After Extended Fuel Outage
  • UKAEA Appoints Consortium to Help Deliver STEP Fusion Project

Effort to Save Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Hits Headwinds

(NucNet contributed to this report) While there have been a number of positive developments in the effort to keep the twin 1100 MWe PWRs at Diablo Canyon open, opposition groups are mounting a significant effort to defeat this outcome and retain the closing dates of the reactors in 2024/2025 as spelled out in a 2016 agreement with PG&E.

Two of the leading pro-nuclear groups that have been working to keep the plant open this past week set off alarm bells about growing opposition to achieving that outcome.

diablocanyon aerial

    • Carl Wurtz, President of Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP), said in a press statement that opposition by green groups was unexpected in its ferocity, and he called it “a last-ditch attempt to counter widespread support for the re-licensing of California’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant.”
    • Heather Hoff, co-founder of Mothers For Nuclear, noted the contrast between the professed aims of “green” groups and their actions.  “I find it baffling that environmental groups are protesting this effort,” she said. “California still relies on natural gas for 50% of our electricity, and closing Diablo Canyon would create a bigger hole in our clean energy supply. With the impacts of climate change growing by the day, it should be obvious we need more clean energy, not less.”

Taken together it appears the opposition efforts by “green groups” and fossil fuel industries, if successful in blocking efforts to save the plant, would increase CO2 emissions due to the need to build new gas fired power plants to keep the California electrical grid stable. Both sets of interests have aggressively mobilized to prevent the unraveling of the 2016 agreement to prematurely shut down the twin reactors.

Austrian-soprano-Anna-209x300Overall, if anyone thinks the reactors are “saved,” they need to think again. As it is said in the world of opera, “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”

For those of you puzzled by this idiomatic phase, ‘It ain’t over till the fat lady sings’ is a phrase that means a person should not assume the outcome of a situation until it reaches its end, because the circumstances can change.

Given the amount of flux in California’s politics over the reactors, getting a decision to save the plant could be a long wait or it could turn into a Marx Brothers farce.

However, there are several positive developments which have occurred offering hope for keeping the reactors opens.

  • DOE Funding for Reactors at Risk of Closure

Last June a change in eligibility criteria by DOE  to fund nuclear power plants slated to close opened the door to life extension for the 2,256 MWe of CO2 emission free electrical generating capacity at the Diablo Canyon power plant in California and if awarded would save the plant in the near term as well as 1,500 jobs. PG&E is expected to apply for the funds in September.

  • A $1.4 Billion Lifeline

A bill proposed by California governor Gavin Newsom, if passed, would give Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) a $1.4 billion government loan from the State of California to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power station running up to 10 years beyond its current 2025 closure date.

The proposal would exempt the extension of the reactor’s operating life from some of the state’s environmental rules and would compel some state regulatory agencies to act quickly to clear the way for the facility’s two reactors to continue operating.

How this would work remains to be seen. The complex regulatory environment spanning multiple state agencies is rife with opportunities for interventions by green groups and fossil interests any one of which could throw a monied money wrench into the effort to keep the reactors from being shut down.

Newsom’s proposal, which will have to be introduced as a bill in the state legislature, is the latest in a series of steps California has made this year to reconsider its 2016 decision to retire the Diablo Canyon power plant by 2025.  The proposal says continued operation beyond 2025 is “critical to ensure statewide energy system reliability” as climate change stresses the energy system.

Newsom also said he would seek federal funding to support nuclear power plants under president Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The US Department of Energy has $6 billion available to save multiple nuclear power plants that are at risk of shutting down before the end of their service life.

Newsom’s office said the loan proposals and DOE money are part of a plan to increase its energy security while moving away from fossil fuels. California wants to produce all of its electricity from clean sources by 2045, but has faced challenges with that transition, such as rolling blackouts during a heatwave in 2020.

“The governor supports keeping all options on the table as we build out our plan to ensure reliable energy this summer and beyond,” a spokesperson in his office said.

“This includes considering a limited term extension of the Diablo Canyon power station, which continues to be an important resource as we transition away from fossil fuel generation to greater amounts of clean energy.”

It is no secret that from a political perspective, Newsom’s new found enthusiasm for the Diablo Canyon reactors is based on the fact that blackouts and brownouts come with huge political costs. Diablo Canyon, located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, produces 9% of California’s electricity. That number alone should tell you that Newsom doesn’t trust the “fairy dust” promises of the renewables crowd.

The AP reported that Newsom spokesperson Anthony York said the governor “wants California to go faster to meet our climate goals, while ensuring we can keep the lights on and safely transition to clean power.”

York said the proposal came out of the state Assembly and “feels like fantasy and fairy dust, and reflects a lack of vision and a lack of understanding about the scope of the climate problem.”

Call to Action – Bottom line if you live in California, now, not tomorrow, it the time to call your state legislator and make the case for keeping Diablo Canyon Open. There are powerful interests among green groups and fossil fuel industries who don’t want this to happen.

NRDC’s Efforts to Thwart Life Extension for Diablo Canyon

The inks was hardly dry on Newsom’s press release to ask the legislature to approve a $1.4 billion load to PG&E to keep Diablo Canyon open before the Natural Resources Defense Council fired off a broadside of its own statements of outrage in opposition to the plan.

Opposition to Newsom’s plans to keep the reactors operating flared quickly with a series of fiery press releases and social media posts published by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Ralph Cavanagh, Energy Co-Director, NRDC Climate & Clean Energy Program in an online post dripping with contempt criticized the loan proposal and plans for keeping the plant open arguing  that legislators should reject it out of hand. His harshly worded post left no doubt NRDC would yield no quarter in its fight to close the plant.

Amory Lovins, who has peddled “soft paths to energy” for most of his career, wrote in a guest NRDC blog that he has strongly held concerns about the issue of costs to rate payers but he does not mention that nuclear energy is CO2 emission free compared to the CO2 emissions that will be released by construction of new gas burning plants that are needed for grid reliability relative to the intermittent nature of solar and wind power. In short, Lovins seems to know the cost of everything related to rates but fails to grasp the price of losing the planet.

  • Money Talks Nobody Walks

According to Influence Watch, NRDC itself may benefit from the success of companies that deal in fossil fuels, fueling charges of hypocrisy. The Nation found in an investigation in 2017 that the group holds stocks in mutual funds and other assets that do not screen for fossil fuels.  These are not pint size buckets of investments. Influence Watch reported in 2015 that NRDC reports $155,192,637 in revenue and $126,749,686 in expenses on its IRS 990 form.

Fast forward to 2021 the organization’s consolidated financial statement lists revenue of $217M ($92M in memberships) and expenses of $161M (energy programs $51M).  Total assets are listed as $693M and of that amount $349M or 50% has no donor restrictions on it. These numbers are the answer to the proverbial question of where does a 500 lb canary sit which is anywhere it wants.

Influence Watch also reports that the Energy Foundation is a major funder of NRDC, having given nearly $3 million in 2011, for example. That organization opposes fossil fuels and is heavily backed by environmental activist and billionaire Tom Steyer.  He made substantial profits from investments in oil and gas, particularly with Farallon Capital, which Steyer founded in 1986.

What’s painfully ironic here is that the rear guard action of fossil fuel interests to preserve their place in the economy is being spearheaded by green groups like NRDC.

How Will One NRC Vote be Cast?

Another somewhat imponderable issue is how the appointment of Bradley Crowell, who is scheduled to be sworn in as a commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, may eventually vote on a 20 year license renewal for the twin reactors.

Crowell was previously a legislative advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 2004-2007 which has a significant anti-nuclear policy position. The group has a long history of litigation filing lawsuits against the NRC over a wide range of issues related to the agency’s oversight role of the nation’s nuclear energy industry.

Some pro-nuclear advocates worry that Crowell might be influenced by his experience at NRDC, and might therefore follow in the footsteps of former NRC Commissioner Allison MacFarlane who continued her anti-nuclear efforts long after leaving office.

Despite who he worked for in the past, Crowell’s appointment received a positive response from the American Nuclear Society.  It said in a press statement, “the American Nuclear Society applauds the Senate for restoring the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to five commissioners with the confirmations of Annie Caputo and Bradley Crowell.”

Crowell is a veteran of DC politics. He served at DOE as assistant secretary for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs from 2010 to 2016. In December 2016, Crowell was appointed to serve as director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by Governor Brian Sandoval.

Green Wing of the California Democratic Party is Not Onboard

NRDC, the Sierra Club , and other like Friends of the Earth aren’t the only groups that have their backs up over plans to undo the 2016 agreement. The Associated Press reported this week a proposal circulated by California Democratic legislators would reject Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to extend the lifespan of the state’s last operating nuclear power plant and instead spend over $1 billion to speed up the development of renewable energy, new transmission lines and storage to maintain reliable power in the climate change era.

According to the AP report, the legislative plan drops the idea of keeping the decades-old reactors running. Instead, it would funnel the $1.4 billion Newsom proposed for PG&E into speeding up other zero-carbon power and new transmission lines to get the electricity to customers.

AP noted that the conflict over Diablo Canyon reveals deep anxiety among some legislators that Newsom wants an abrupt, complex turnaround in state energy policy with less than two weeks left in the legislative session, which ends for the year at the end of August.

The Power of Fossil Fuel Lobbyists

In addition to opposition from green groups, oil and especially gas interests would like nothing better than for the two reactors to shut down and for the replacement power to come from fossil fuels.  The influence of these industries with the state legislature should not be underestimated. While their influence often takes place out of view of the news media, their presence in Sacramento is an undeniable factor in determining the fate of Newsom’s load proposal.

Oil and gas interests spent four times as much as environmental advocacy groups and almost six times as much as clean energy firms on lobbying efforts in California between 2018 and 2021, according to a Capital & Main analysis. The numbers reflect the intensity of the industry’s efforts to influence policy in a state whose leaders have vowed to build an energy future free of fossil fuels.

The analysis shows that between 2018 and 2021, lobbying organizations representing oil and gas companies spent almost $77.5 million advocating for the industry’s interests in Sacramento. That’s approximately 400% more than environmental advocacy groups, which spent roughly $15 million over that same period. And it’s 560% more than the renewable energy sector, which spent $11.6 million.

Craig Holman, an expert on lobbying, campaign finance reform and governmental ethics who works as a lobbyist for Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization and think tank in Washington, D.C., told a trade press wire service, “The oil and gas industry has a very disproportionate influence here on Capitol Hill as well as within the states and state governments.”

A Deluge of Anti-nuclear Propaganda

Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP), a pro-nuclear group, which has been influential in the movement to save Diablo Canyon, called out the “deluge of fearmongering, anti-nuclear propaganda” that has filed the airwaves in the state.

Carl Wurtz, President of Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP), said opposition by green groups was unexpected in its ferocity, and he called it “a last-ditch attempt to counter widespread support for the re-licensing of California’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant.”

He added that the  ‘green’ that’s really talking to the legislature, which must approve the loan in the closing weeks of the current session, is the money to be made by parties which stand to benefit financially from the plant’s closure.  By comparison, “Gov. Newsom’s leadership on this issue has been exemplary,” Wurtz said.

“We expected opposition to his initiative from the Western States Petroleum Association,  They have billions of dollars to gain from closing the plant, and they’re grasping at straws.”

  • It’s More than a Ratings Game

CGNP Legal Assistant Gene Nelson explained why concerns about higher rates, as called out by Amory Lovins, are unjustified.

A major California newspaper reported that rates could go up by 3%. But when construction costs are paid off in 2025, Diablo Canyon will be generating clean electricity at a marginal cost of 2.56¢/kWh – 23% lower than in 2020. That’s cheaper than solar+gas, wind+gas, every other source except hydropower. If rates reflect the true costs of Diablo’s operation, PG&E rates should go down.”

“First, we need to lay blame where it’s due,” cautioned Nelson.

“It wasn’t Diablo Canyon that caused reliability problems on our grid – it was unpredictable output from California solar panels and wind turbines. The Sun doesn’t always shine. The wind does not always blow hard enough. Additional investment will not correct this physical problem. Whether the situation improves when Diablo is relicensed depends on other factors, but if it’s closed, I can assure you the situation will get a whole lot worse.”

  • Baffling that Green Groups Oppose This

Heather Hoff, co-founder of Mothers For Nuclear, noted the contrast between the professed aims of “green” groups and their actions.  “I find it baffling that environmental groups are protesting this effort,” she said.

“California still relies on natural gas for 50% of our electricity, and closing Diablo Canyon would create a bigger hole in our clean energy supply. With the impacts of climate change growing by the day, it should be obvious we need more clean energy, not less.”

Anyone who wants to dive into the cost, rate, and reliability issues about the plant can check a briefing provided by the California state government at a Joint-Agency Workshop – Diablo Canyon Power Plant on August 12th. (PDF file August 12th Power Point Presentation)

Bottom line if you live in California, now, not tomorrow, it the time to call your state legislator and make the case for keeping Diablo Canyon Open.

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TerraPower Raises $750 Million in Equity Funding

terrapower-logo_thumb.pngTerraPower has scored a large private capital fundraise in support of advanced nuclear deployment. The firm announced the close of an equity raise that yields a minimum of $750 million. This is one of the largest advanced nuclear fundraises to-date.

The fundraise was co-led by SK Inc. and SK Innovation (collectively, “SK”) and TerraPower’s founder Bill Gates. SK invested $250 million. SK Group is among South Korea’s largest energy providers and the second-largest conglomerate. Additional funding worth $500 million will come from other investors. Their details were not disclosed

TerraPower’s growth is partially driven by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) (infographic) and the construction of the cost shared Natrium demonstration plant at a retiring coal facility in Wyoming. Part of the ARDP award requires a match of 50% of project costs, up to $2 billion. This new fundraise further builds on the support of existing investors and will support TerraPower’s current implementation efforts. TerraPower must meet the terms of an ambitious DOE schedule to complete the first-of-a-kind reactor well before the end of this decade.

The collaboration agreement with SK was originally announced in May of this year. At that time SK announced a wide-ranging partnership with TerraPower with a focus on small reactors, spanning technology development and commercialization. With energy company SK Innovation taking on a central role, SK seeks to harness the group’s expertise in each step, from development to installation to operation.

SK will use the partnership to gain know-how and train specialized staff, hoping to take on small-reactor projects at home.

Credit Suisse acted as the exclusive placement agent to TerraPower. Perkins Coie LLP acted as outside corporate counsel to TerraPower.  The firm will continue to be a privately held company.

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Ultra Safe Nuclear Opens Pilot Nuclear Fuel Plant

  • New pilot manufacturing facility to produce TRISO and FCM fuel for qualification for U.S. advanced microreactors
  • Production-scale radiological manufacturing line includes advanced manufacturing process licensed from ORNL

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (Ultra Safe Nuclear), a Seattle, WA,-based developer of micro reactors, announced the opening of its Pilot Fuel Manufacturing (PFM) facility in Oak Ridge, TN. Located in the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), the facility will produce the first fuel for testing and qualification for use in Ultra Safe Nuclear’s advanced Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) Energy System.

The PFM facility uses the same production-scale modules for manufacturing TRISO coated fuel particles and the company’s patented Fully Ceramic-Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel that will go into Ultra Safe Nuclear’s future commercial fuel manufacturing facility. PFM is a radiological facility capable of producing FCM for testing and qualification in multiple-kilogram quantities. In the process, PFM will also codify and demonstrate the manufacturing modules that will be used in the company’s future commercial fuel manufacturing factory.

fcm fuel

Ultra Safe Nuclear said earlier this year it would invest $13M over five years to open the pilot fuel manufacturing operation to meet demand for fueling its own micro modular reactor and other advanced terrestrial and space energy systems.

The fuel manufacturing processes and modules are based on nuclear fuels research and development efforts of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). The 3D printing process for manufacturing refractory ceramic carbides was developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and licensed by Ultra Safe Nuclear for use in the PFM production line.

Ultra Safe Nuclear was able to design and construct this privately funded facility in less than twelve months. The PFM facility will produce the first private sector TRISO and FCM fuel in the nation. This groundbreaking presence in Oak Ridge has already created more than 40 highly skilled jobs.

“It’s great to see technology developed at ORNL being used by industry – tech transfer is an important role that the national labs play.” Said Associate Laboratory Director for Fusion and Fission Energy and Science Dr. Kathryn A. McCarthy, ORNL.

Dr. Kathryn Huff, the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy remarked “The group of people here is truly star-studded. I’m incredibly impressed at the folks who have joined us here, and I think it’s an indication of how clearly important this mission is going to be and what part this facility will play in the future of our nuclear energy as we transform this nation into a factory fighting the calamity of climate change.”

“With this facility, Ultra Safe Nuclear moves one step closer to the commercialization if its fuel production,” stated USNC’s CEO, Dr. Francesco Venneri. “The market is ready. The nation is ready. The world is ready. Ultra Safe Nuclear is proud to be leading the way with the Department of Energy, with Oak Ridge, and with all our partners every step of the way.”

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HALEU Fuel Funding in Biden Energy Climate Legislation

The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress and signed by President Biden this month appropriates a $700M  to support production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) nuclear fuel for research, development and demonstration.

HALEU is currently the fuel required to operate advanced reactors like those being built by TerraPower and X-Energy under DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

3.31_HALEU-Overview_742x960.jpg

A breakdown of the total funding includes;

  • $100M to support production of HALEU for civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use;
  • $500M to ensure HALEU is available from a stockpile of uranium to produce HALEU for the first advanced reactors, estimate HALEU quantities necessary to support the development of a commercial, domestic HALEU market, and develop a consortium to support the availability of HALEU for civilian use; and
  • $100M to provide financial assistance to commercial entities, design and license transportation packages, and to develop benchmark data to assist licensing and regulation of special nuclear material fuel fabrication, enrichment facilities, and transportation packages. This funding will also support the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in identifying updates to its regulations and certifications for HALEU to be commercially available.

Statement by Centrus Energy

Centrus Energy Corp. (NYSE American: LEU) President and Chief Executive Officer Daniel Poneman made the following statement about the nuclear energy related investments in the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by president Biden. The firm is expected to be one of DOE’s key contractors to manufacture HALEU fuels.

“The Inflation Reduction Act makes a historic commitment to combating climate change while restoring America’s nuclear leadership on the world stage. In addition to providing critical support to our existing fleet of reactors, the new law includes a $700 million appropriation to help jump-start domestic production of High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) – an advanced fuel that’s needed to power the next generation of nuclear reactors.

“Establishing the necessary infrastructure to produce and transport HALEU will take sustained public and private investment over several years.  The $700 million in the new law represents a critical down payment on this effort.

“In the meantime, with the only U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission license for HALEU production, Centrus is strongly committed to serving this market and helping to fuel the future of nuclear energy around the world so that we can achieve our net-zero climate goals.”

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Survey – Utilities Could Add 90 GWe of Nuclear, Including 300 SMRs

A Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) survey of 19 utility members, that already have nuclear as part of their energy generation mix on the role new nuclear could play to reach decarbonization goals, reports that they expect to add up to 90 GWe of new nuclear generation by the 2050s, including more than 300 new small modular reactors (SMRs) in the US over the next 25 years.

smr-vs-npp-v5_thumb.png

According to NEI the results indicate significant demand for new nuclear power construction in the US.

  • NEI said in a press statement that while that figure would effectively double US nuclear energy capacity from around 954 GW today, it may even be a “conservative estimate.”
  • NEI’s statement said, “The electricity generated by these SMRs is more than the total 2020 generation in any one country except for China, the US, India, Russia, and Japan.”
  • NEI said the survey suggests that utilities are evaluating sites that currently host operating or retired coal plants for new SMRs.

An INL analysis utilizing a Global Change Analysis Model predicted an even higher increase of nuclear generating capacity—more than 150%—in order to achieve economy-wide net-zero emissions by mid-century.

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Taishan-1 EPR Reconnected To Grid After Extended Fuel Outage

(NucNet) The Taishan-1 EPR nuclear plant in Guangdong province, southern China, has been reconnected to the grid after being taken offline a year ago for maintenance and to replace damaged fuel.

taisan wna

The 1,750 MW PWR, supplied by France, was taken out of service this time last year following a minor fuel rod cladding failure which resulted in increased radioactivity in the unit’s primary reactor coolant.

Operators reconnected the damaged plant after months of “inspection and maintenance”, China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) said in a stock exchange filing on the Hong Kong Exchange.

In July 2021, French nuclear company Framatome, which helps operate the plant, reported a “performance issue” which caused the US government to look into the possibility of a leak at Taishan-1.

“After lengthy conversations between French and Chinese technical personnel, Taishan Nuclear Power Plant decided to shut down Unit 1 for maintenance,” CGN said in a statement at the time, adding that “a small amount of fuel damage” occurred during the operation of the reactor.

Regulator Details Damage To Fuel Rod Cladding

China’s nuclear safety regulator said that of the more than 60,000 fuel rods in the Unit 1 core, the number of damaged fuel rod claddings was about five, less than 0.01% of the total. This was significantly lower than the maximum level of 0.25% allowed in the plant’s design parameters. The core of Taishan 1 contains 241 fuel assemblies, each of them made from 265 fuel rods.

epr fuel assembly

Plant supplier EDF said a build-up of noble, or inert, gases at the plant seemed to have occurred because of issues with the casing around some fuel rods.

Further details about the cause and extent of the fuel damage have not been disclosed.

Taishan-1 was the first EPR unit to begin commercial operation, in December 2018. A second EPR at Taishan began commercial operation in September 2019.

According to the World Nuclear Association, the Taishan project, locateed 140 kmwest of Hong Kong, is owned by TNPJVC, a joint venture between CGN (51%), EDF (30%) and the Chinese utility Guangdong Energy Group (19%).

In Finland the Olkiluoto-3 EPR has been connected to the grid while in France the Flamanville-3 EPR is nearing completion. In the UK there are two EPRs under construction at Hinkley Point C wich are scheduled to enter revenue service in 2026. An additional two units have been approved for construction at the Sizewell C site.

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UKAEA Appoints Consortium to Help Deliver STEP Fusion Project

(WNN) A consortium led by Atkins as prime contractor, alongside Assystem, has been appointed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) as Engineering Delivery Partner (EDP) to its Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) program.

The aim for the first phase of work on STEP is to produce a ‘concept design’ by 2024. The UK government is providing GBP220 million of funding for the first phase of STEP.

ukaea step

The next phase of work will include detailed engineering design. In parallel all relevant permissions and consents to build the prototype are sought. The final phase is construction, with operations targeted to begin around 2040. The aim is to have a fully evolved design and approval to build by 2032 to enable construction to begin.

Atkins, which is a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, and Assystem have a long history of collaboration across nuclear and fusion energy projects, including their work as architect-engineer for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).

The STEP EDP consortium includes:

  • Fusion in-vessel component materials technology and safety specialist Oxford Sigma;
  • In-vessel components and tritium specialists Kyoto Fusioneering; and Ansaldo Nuclear.

Combined, the consortium will bring more than 30 years’ experience in fusion delivery from across JET (Joint European Torus), ITER, STEP and the Demonstration Fusion Power Reactor (DEMO).

Assystem is currently delivering the STEP shielding design project, and has a wide range of in-vessel experience including pioneering the safe lithium breeder concept, and robotics and remote handling expertise under the LongOps program.

  • Finding a Site for STEP

In December 2020, the government called on local communities across the country to put forward proposals to host the STEP plant. Communities had until the end of March 2021 to submit their nominations and were required to demonstrate that their local area has the right mix of social, commercial and technical conditions to host the new plant – such as adequate land conditions, grid connection and water supply. A total of 15 potential sites were subsequently long-listed.

The UKAEA, which carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the government, announced in October 2021 that, following an initial phase of assessment, five bids to host STEP had now been shortlisted. These are: Ardeer in North Ayrshire; Goole in East Riding of Yorkshire; Moorside in Cumbria; Ratcliffe-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire; and the so-called ‘Severn Edge’ bid from South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire.

The site of the demonstration plant is expected to be announced at the end of this year.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on Effort to Save Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Hits Headwinds

China Startup – a Thorium-powered Molten-salt Reactor

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China Startup – a Thorium-powered Molten-salt Reactor

(WNN) The Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP) – part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) – has been given approval by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment to commission an experimental thorium-powered molten-salt reactor following a three-year construction effort. The TMSR Centre at SINAP at Jiading, Shanghai, is responsible for the project.

china MSR

In January 2011, CAS launched a CNY3 billion (USD444 million) R&D program on liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTRs). Another name for the technology is as a thorium-breeding molten-salt reactor (Th-MSR or TMSR).

The thorium molten salt reactor nuclear energy system (TMSR) is designed for thorium-based nuclear energy utilization and hybrid nuclear energy application, based on a liquid-fueled thorium molten salt reactor (TMSR-LF) and a solid-fueled thorium molten salt reactor (TMSR-SF).

China claims to have the world’s largest national effort on thorium fueled MSR reactor designs and plans to assert global intellectual property rights on the technology. If the TMSR-LF1 proves successful, China plans to build a reactor with a capacity of 373 MWt by 2030.  (Reference: Molten Salt Reactors – WNA)

The TMSR-LF1 will use fuel enriched to under 20% U-235, have a thorium inventory of about 50 kg and conversion ratio of about 0.1. A fertile blanket of lithium-beryllium fluoride (FLiBe) with 99.95% Li-7 will be used, and fuel as UF4.

tmsr

Image: Thorium molten salt reactor nuclear energy system (TMSR)
Zhimin Dai – Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (SINAP), Shanghai, China

The project is expected to start on a batch basis with some online refueling and removal of gaseous fission products. The reactor will discharge all fuel salt after 5-8 years for reprocessing and separation of fission products and minor actinides for storage. It will proceed to a continuous process of recycling salt, uranium and thorium, with online separation of fission products and minor actinides. The reactor will work up from about 20% thorium fission to about 80%.

As this type of reactor does not require water for cooling, it will be able to operate in desert regions. The Chinese government has plans to build more across the sparsely populated deserts and plains of western China, complementing wind and solar plants and reducing China’s reliance on coal-fired power stations. The reactor may also be built outside China in Belt and Road Initiative nations.

The liquid fuel design is descended from the 1960s Molten-Salt Reactor Experiment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the USA. In 2012 the Department of Energy inked a collaboration effort with China on thorium fueled molten salt reactors. (Briefing on the Oak Ridge / China collaboration effort (PDF file 48 pages)

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Terrestrial Energy Signs Agreement to Advance IMSR Deployment in Alberta

  • The MOU supports job creation and small modular reactor development in Alberta with a focus on reducing emissions in the oil and gas, and petrochemical industries

Terrestrial Energy, an industry-leading nuclear technology company, and Invest Alberta, the Government of Alberta’s crown corporation promoting high-value investments, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to support commercialization of Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) Generation IV small modular reactor (SMR) plant in Alberta.

Terrestrial Energy said in a press statement its IMSR plant “has unique potential to supply the heat and power (cogeneration) needs of many industrial activities, including those in the Alberta oil and gas, and petrochemical sectors.”

Under the terms of the Terrestrial Energy MOU, Invest Alberta will work with Terrestrial Energy on federal and provincial policies, and industrial incentives supporting transformative energy innovation in the province. Alberta is one of four provinces working to advance SMR technologies through an interprovincial memorandum of understanding.

Terrestrial Energy’s said its IMSR plant is intended to supportr natural resource extraction, low-carbon hydrogen and ammonia production, as well as other energy-intensive industrial activities.

Terrestrial Energy said it anticipates supporting high-quality jobs as it expands its activities in western Canada. Terrestrial Energy has previously invested over $100 million in its Ontario operation, where it employs more than 100 personnel.

About the Terrestrial Energy IMSR

Terrestrial’s 195-MWe IMSR power plant is a thermal-spectrum, graphite-moderated, molten-fluoride-salt reactor system that uses standard-assay low-enriched uranium (less than 5% U-235) fuel. In the integral process—which takes place within the “Core-unit”—the fuel salt is diluted with coolant salt (consisting of fluorides such as sodium fluoride, beryllium fluoride, and/or lithium fluoride), and the mixture serves both as fuel and primary coolant.

The mixture is pumped between a critical, graphite-moderated (thermal spectrum) core, and then through the integral heat exchangers to transfer its heat to the external secondary coolant salt loop.

te imsr

The secondary loop consists of bare diluent salts (without fuel salt added), and it, in turn, transfers its heat to another intermediate nitrate salt loop, which essentially serves as a barrier between the radioactive primary components and the end-users. The nitrate salt–heated steam generator finally produces steam that can be used for power generation or industrial applications.

Brief History of Reactor Design Efforts Related to Tar Sands

The Terrestrial Energy MOU is the latest in a long series of proposals to use nuclear reactors to supply process heat for the tar sands oil extraction companies in Alberta. As long ago  as the mid-1980s there were proposals for larges and small reactors to do the job. Terrestrial Energy’s small size, and therefore more affordable cost, may give the firm aa competitive path forward whereas other full size reactor efforts have failed. Here are two examples.

Energy Alberta – More than a decade ago, Atomic Energy Canada Limited (AECL), then a state owned enterprise, proposed to build two 1,000 MWe advanced CANDU type reactors in northern Alberta for this purpose.

Power from the reactors would be used in oil sands extraction, which uses large volumes of steam to soften and recover oil from the gritty mixtures of bitumen. Canada has huge reserves of oil sands but recovery of the oil is energy intensive – natural gas can account for up to 60% of operating costs at current recovery facilities, not to mention the associated carbon emissions.

The proposal never got off the ground being rejected by the oil companies as too expensive and with a time line that far exceeded their capital requirements planning horizons. These two factors remains the main challenges for nuclear reactor developers pitching the use of their designs for the tar sands region.

NGNP – In 2011 the Idaho National Laboratory published an updated study of the prospects for the use of nuclear reactors to provide process heat for tar sands operations. Developed as part of the now defunct Next Generation Nuclear Plant project, it had the following parameters.

The Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) was expected to be a demonstration of the technical, licensing, operational, and commercial viability of high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) technology for the production of process heat, electricity, and hydrogen.

ngnp logosA key partner for the Next Generation Industry Alliance was Dow Chemical which wanted to swap out its enormous use of fossil fuels for process heat with a nuclear reactor. (NGNP Briefing – PDF file 17 slides)

Its nuclear-based technology was intended to provide high temperature process heat (up to 950°C) that can be used
as a substitute for the burning of fossil fuels for a wide range of commercial applications.

The substitution of the HTGR for burning fossil fuels would conserve these hydrocarbon resources for other uses, reduces uncertainty in the cost and supply of natural gas and oil, and eliminates the emissions of greenhouse gases attendant with the burning of these fuels.

The NGNP 500 MWt  HTGR was pitched a passively safe nuclear reactor concept with an easily understood safety basis that permits substantially reduced emergency planning requirements and improved siting flexibility compared to other nuclear technologies. There were four competing design alternatives for the NGNP reactors. See Table below.

NGNP design alternatives

Tar Sand Applications

At the Idaho National Laboratory a  technical evaluation (TEV) was prepared in 2011  as part of a study for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) Project to evaluate the integration of high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) technology with conventional chemical processes. This TEV addresses the integration of HTGR heat and power into oil sands recovery via steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD); specifically, the technical and economic feasibility of the HTGR integration.

The following conclusions were drawn when evaluating the nuclear-integrated SAGD process versus the conventional process:

  • Four 600 MWt HTGRs are required to support production of steam and power for a
    190,000 barrel per day SAGD facility.
  • Nuclear-integration decreases natural gas consumption by up to 100% using HTGR
    generated steam as the heat source, eliminating 192.5 MMSCFD of natural gas usage.
  • Nuclear-integration also eliminates almost 12,000 tons per day of CO2 production from
    the SAGD process, as natural gas combustion is eliminated.

Pre-licensing discussions at the NRC regarding the NGNP were suspended in 2013 after a DOE decision in 2011 to not proceed into the detailed design and license application phases of the NGNP Project. DOE’s decision reportedly cited impasses between DOE and the NGNP Industry Alliance in cost sharing arrangements for the public-private partnership required by Congress. The project ended in 2015.

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Deep Isolation and Amentum Form Partnership to Commercialize Nuclear Waste Disposal Technology

Deep Isolation Inc. and Amentum have signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) to work together to further the commercialization of Deep Isolation’s technology on a global basis. The agreement is intended to position the companies as global leaders in a multi-billion-dollar nuclear waste disposal industry.

Initial target markets for joint work include countries in Europe and the Pacific for geologic disposal of spent fuel and high-level waste.

There is a new sense of urgency to dispose of nuclear waste. Low-carbon nuclear energy is a powerful alternative to fossil fuels in the fight against climate change, but much of the world is requiring a waste solution to be in place before investments are made in new nuclear power installations.

The agreement provides Amentum with access to more than 50 proprietary Deep Isolation inventions, engineering specifications, and know-how. A key item is Deep Isolation’s detailed and compliant process based on IAEA guidance for tailoring a deep borehole repository to the specific regulatory requirements, waste inventory, stakeholder needs and local geology of each client.

Deep Isolation said in its press statement that its advanced nuclear technology leverages directional drilling practices to safely and efficiently isolate waste deep underground in borehole repositories, providing many countries with an alternative to a traditional mined repository.

Deep Isolation offers licenses that allow nuclear industry firms access to its protected intellectual property. The program features access to Deep Isolation’s patents and engineering work, as well as planning and operational processes that could be used independently of Deep Isolation technology.

“The world is changing fast, and it’s imperative for the success of nuclear energy that we solve the nuclear waste challenge,” said Deep Isolation CEO Elizabeth Muller, an environmentalist and co-founder of the company.

“Deploying the solution requires a large-scale team effort. We are excited to work with Amentum to bring this solution to market,” Muller said. “We are pleased at the value they are placing in Deep Isolation’s solution by investing in this license.”

Amentum, a premier global technical and engineering services provider, brings numerous proven strengths: maintaining complex and high hazard facilities and processes; delivering environmental solutions to customers worldwide; and capabilities in environmental management and waste management.

“Amentum has unparalleled engineering expertise and experience in the use of science and advanced technologies to successfully clean up highly complex nuclear sites,” said Jim Blankenhorn, Senior Vice President of Amentum.

“This partnership strengthens our collective position in a growing market to provide innovative solutions for nuclear disposal around the world.”

After just four years as a public-facing company, Deep Isolation’s milestones include: work with a dozen countries across three continents; a subsidiary in Europe; the acquisition of Freestone Environmental Services; and recently, two multi-million awards from the U.S. Government.

About Deep Isolation

Deep Isolation is an innovator in nuclear waste storage and disposal solutions. The company’s patented solution of advanced nuclear technologies will enable global delivery through its partnerships with industry leaders as well as flexible IP licensing options.

About Amentum

Amentum is a global technical and engineering services partner supporting programs of national significance across defense, security, intelligence, energy, and environment. The company has vast experience in the nuclear cleanup market with a successful track record in reducing risk and solving waste management challenges around the world.

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Argonne National Lab Aims to Lower Nuclear Energy Costs with Artificial Intelligence

ai imageNuclear power plants provide large amounts of electricity without releasing planet-warming pollution. But the expense of running these plants has made it difficult for them to stay open.

If nuclear is to play a role in the U.S. clean energy economy, costs must come down. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory are devising systems that could make nuclear energy more competitive using artificial intelligence.

Nuclear power plants are expensive in part because they demand constant monitoring and maintenance to ensure consistent power flow and safety. Argonne is midway through a $1 million, three-year project to explore how smart, computerized systems could change the economics.

“Operation and maintenance costs are quite relevant for nuclear units, which currently require large site crews and extensive upkeep,” said Roberto Ponciroli, a principal nuclear engineer at Argonne.

“We think that autonomous operation can help to improve their profitability and also benefit the deployment of advanced reactor concepts.”

The project, funded by the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy’s Nuclear Energy Enabling Technologies program, aims to create a computer architecture that could detect problems early and recommend appropriate actions to human operators. Ponciroli and colleagues estimate the technology could save the nuclear industry more than $500 million a year.

A typical nuclear plant can hold hundreds of sensors, all of them monitoring different parts to make sure they are working properly.

“In a world where decisions are made according to data, it’s important to know that you can trust your data,” Ponciroli said. “Sensors, like any other component, can degrade. Knowing that your sensors are functioning is crucial.”

The job of inspecting each sensor—and also the performance of system components such as valves, pumps, heat exchangers—currently rests with staff who walk the plant floor. Instead, algorithms could verify data by learning how a normal sensor functions and looking for anomalies. Having validated a plant’s sensors, an artificial intelligence system would then interpret signals from them and recommend specific actions.

“The lower-level tasks that people do now can be handed off to algorithms,” said Richard Vilim, an Argonne senior nuclear engineer. “We’re trying to elevate humans to a higher degree of situational awareness so that they are observers making decisions.”

Four Types of Nuclear Sensors

(Courtesy of AZO Sensors) Nuclear Reactor Sensors are critical to nuclear safety and can be classified into four categories.

  • Nuclear sensors measure the parameters of the nuclear chain reaction, such as neutron flux density, thus providing information about the reactor power.
  • Process sensors are used to monitor non-nuclear processes, such as reactor coolant pressure, temperature and flow, containment pressure, and others.
  • Radiation monitoring sensors for monitoring radiation levels in coolant lines, gas effluents, and the environment around the reactor.
  • Special sensors that monitor seismic activity, vibration, hydrogen concentration, water conductivity, and many others.

nuclear reactor

Reference and Further Reading

INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY (2011) Core Knowledge on Instrumentation and Control Systems in Nuclear Power Plants, IAEA Nuclear Energy Series No. NP-T-3.12, IAEA, Vienna. (download link)

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Studsvik Scandpower and Blue Wave AI Labs in Partnership to Deliver Next Generation Accuracy to Nuclear Power Analytics

Studsvik Scandpower, Inc. is pleased to announce a strategic partnership with Blue Wave AI Labs to deliver enhanced diagnostic and predictive capabilities to nuclear energy facilities around the globe. The partnership will create a growing product line for Studsvik Scandpower.

Using Studsvik Scandpower’s state-of-the art codes, CASMO5 and SIMULATE5, coupled with Blue Wave’s innovative cloud-based Nuclear-AI Platform, plant operators will improve plant predictions, reduce operational challenges, and increase the efficiency of core design and cycle management in a direct way. According to the press statement the collaboration is expected to provide visibility into the fuel cycle will allow operators to reclaim unnecessary design margin, reduce reload fuel costs, and eliminate potential lost generation revenue.

CASMO5 is Studsvik Scandpower’s state-of-the-art 2D lattice physics code for modeling square and hexagonal LWR nuclear fuel. SIMULATE5 is a 3D, steady-state, multi-group nodal code for the analysis of LWRs delivering vendor independence and unparalleled accuracy.

Blue Wave AI Labs’ Nuclear-AI Platform components have been recognized by the Nuclear Energy Institute with a 2021 Top Innovative Practice (TIP) award. The prestigious award in the nuclear fuel category recognizes creative ideas that have substantial impact on improving the safety and reliability of nuclear energy.

“Blue Wave has proven to be the trusted leader in AI solutions for the nuclear industry, already serving over half the U.S. domestic fleet of boiling water reactors and making a significant difference in their operational efficiency,” says Rob Whittle, President and CEO of Studsvik Scandpower.

“Partnering with Blue Wave AI Labs brings enhanced value to the Studsvik Scandpower offerings and allows us to continue to meet our brand promise of always being state-of-the-art while delivering advanced solutions to our international customers.”

“We are proud to partner with the worldwide leader in commercial neutronics software to deliver enhanced product offerings and services around the globe,” says Tom Gruenwald, Senior Vice President at Blue Wave AI Labs.

“This partnership with Studsvik Scandpower will broaden the reach of our AI-based analytical tools to the international marketplace and accelerate the development of revolutionary analytical techniques necessary for next generation nuclear power systems.”

Nuclear energy providers are being increasingly pressured by market changes to decrease costs while maintaining, and if possible, increasing production revenue. The Studsvik Scandpower and Blue Wave AI Labs strategic partnership brings together simulation capabilities with advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning to enable new levels of provider competitiveness.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on China Startup – a Thorium-powered Molten-salt Reactor

IAEA’s Grossi Briefs UN Security Council on Zaporizhzhia NPP

  • Ukraine / IAEA’s Grossi Tells UN ‘Time Is Of Essence’ at Occupied Zaporizhzhia NPP
  • G7 Demands Russia Hand Over Zaporizhzhia
  • Global Nuclear Community Calls for Immediate IAEA Access to Zaporizhzhia NPP

IAEA Briefs UN Security Council on Zaporizhzhia NPP

iaeaflag11140x640(NucNet contributed to this report) IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi told the United Nations Security Council this week that the current situation at the six unit Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine is  ‘alarming,’ and he renewed his agency’s call for experts to assess on-site the safety and security at the nuclear power station. The plant is Europe’s largest with six 1,000 MWe Russian built VVERs.

Grossi said the IAEA has been ready since June to provide a “stabilizing” onsite presence at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Ukraine, but due to political factors and ongoing military hostilities, a mission has not been possible. He added, “we cannot allow such factors to delay us any longer. Time is of the essence.”

zaporozhye_aes_280222

Grossi said “IAEA experts would assess physical damage at the six-unit Zaporizhzhia, to determine if main and backup safety and security systems are functional, and evaluate working conditions of control room staff.

“A mission would also allow us to perform urgent safeguards work,” he said.

Based on most recent information provided by Ukraine, IAEA experts have made a preliminary assessment from the IAEA office in Vienna, Austria, that there is no immediate threat to nuclear safety as a result of the shelling or other recent military actions. However, Grossi warned that this could change at any moment.

“I remain very concerned about situation at Zaporizhzhia and reiterate that any military actions jeopardizing nuclear safety and security must stop immediately. These military actions near such a large nuclear facility could have serious consequences.”

Another key issue Grossi said is that, “the plant has limited availability of offsite power due to damage from the shelling last week.”

The loss of external power from the regional grid could cause what is known as a “station blackout.”  Emergency diesel generators would supply power for as long as their fuel lasts, but if they fail, there will be loss of the operation of cooling systems in the reactors which could lead to a nuclear emergency.

Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine over the status of the site have not reported much progress. Russian forces have made claims they plan to disconnect the plant from the Ukraine regional electrical grid and send the power to Crimea. So far no actions along these lines have taken place. The New York Times reported on 08/12/22 and also on 08/13/22 intermittent shelling in the area around the site by Russian forces with some damage to non-nuclear plant equipment.

On Saturday morning 8/13, two of the station’s six units were operating and the radiation situation was normal, Ukraine told the IAEA.

Russian Military Actions Continue to Damage the Plant

Ukraine said shelling on 08/12/22 damaged the facility’s external power supply system, but that two power lines remained operational. The shelling also triggered the emergency protection system of one of the station’s three operating reactors. Ukraine said renewed Russian shelling on 08/13/22 damaged three radiation sensors and hurt a worker at station.

Ukraine told the IAEA that there had been no damage to the reactors themselves, no radiological release and no reports of injuries. However, it said a nitrogen-oxygen station, which supports plant operations, and an auxiliary building were damaged. Firefighters had quickly extinguished a fire at the nitrogen-oxygen station, but it still needs to be repaired, Ukraine said. The IAEA said it has also received information about shelling near the dry cask spent fuel storage facility.

International Concerns Mount about Status of Zaporizhzhia NPP

UN secretary general António Guterres called for international inspectors to be given access to Zaporizhzhia after Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over the shelling of the facility.

“Any attack to a nuclear plant is a suicidal thing,” Guterres told a news conference in Japan.

Guterres said the IAEA needed access to the facility. “We fully support the IAEA in all their efforts in relation to create the conditions of stabilization of the plant,” Guterres said.

Europe’s energy commissioner Kadri Simson joined condemnation of shelling at and around Zaporizhzhia, which she said had “caused significant damage to infrastructure, including near the dry cask storage of spent nuclear fuel within the nuclear power plant perimeter.”

A State Department spokesman said the United States supported a demilitarized zone around the nuclear plant and called on Russia to cease military operations on its grounds or nearby.

Russia Is Waging ‘Nuclear Terror’ – Zelenskiy

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of waging “nuclear terror” that warranted more international sanctions, this time on Moscow’s nuclear sector. “There is no such nation in the world that could feel safe when a terrorist state fires at a nuclear plant,” Zelenskiy said in a televised address.

On social media Zelenskiy said he had talked with Charles Michel, president of the European council, and told him about the situation on the battlefield, in particular at Zaporizhzhia. “Russian nuclear terror requires a stronger response from the international community – sanctions on the Russian nuclear industry and nuclear fuel.”

Energoatom Calls For Military-Free Zone

The head of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom called for the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station to be made a military-free zone, warning of the risk of a Chernobyl-style nuclear disaster after the site was hit by shelling.

Petro Kotin called for a team of peacekeepers to be deployed at the site. “The decision that we demand from the world community and all our partners… is to withdraw the invaders from the territory of the station and create a demilitarized zone on the territory of the station,” Mr Kotin said on television. He added that Russian forces have placed some of their weapons between the reactors to use them as shields against return fire from Ukraine’s forces.

Energoatom said on Telegram that the periodic shelling of Zaporizhzhia by Russian troops with anti-aircraft missiles had caused “a serious risk to the safe operation of the plant”. The company said: “Given that it is impossible to predict the actions of invaders, the threat to the station’s physical security remains.”

While under Russian control, the facility is operated by about 10,000 Ukrainian civilians, who are tasked with keeping the plant safely running while facing harsh conditions from occupying Russian forces.

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G7 Demands Russia Hand Over Zaporizhzhia

(WNN)  G7 foreign ministers have demanded Russia “hand back full control” of the plant “to its rightful sovereign owner, Ukraine”.

The foreign ministers of the G7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and USA – said “we demand that Russia immediately hand back full control to its rightful sovereign owner, Ukraine, of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant as well as of all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognised borders to ensure their safe and secure operations …  it is Russia’s continued control of the plant that endangers the region”.

It added: “We underline the importance of facilitating a mission of IAEA experts to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant to address nuclear safety, security and safeguard concerns, in a manner that respects full Ukrainian sovereignty over its territory and infrastructure.”

nuclear reactors in Ukraine

World Nuclear Association, which represents the global nuclear industry, issued a statement condemning the shelling and called “on all parties to immediately cease all hostilities in the vicinity of the plant.

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Global Nuclear Community Calls for Immediate IAEA Aaccess to Zaporizhzhia NPP

Representatives of nuclear industry trade associations and professional societies have issued the following statement regarding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine: (full text follows below)

logos wns zap

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) should be granted immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted access to Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant to assess the well-being of staff there as well as the ongoing safety of the facilities. The IAEA mission should be guaranteed safe conduct across the military line of contact in southern Ukraine by both Ukraine and Russia.

We note that the Zaporizhzhia facility has robust reactor and plant designs, and that operating staff have done their utmost to maintain all safety protocols. We would like to draw the world’s attention to the outstanding courage and extraordinary dedication of our Ukrainian colleagues who have continued to discharge their duties in the most trying of circumstances. Their personal safety must be respected by all parties.

The Russian forces currently occupying the site must withdraw to allow the plant operating staff to fulfil their safety and security duties and to make decisions free of undue pressure, in line with the seven pillars of nuclear safety set out by the IAEA. It is unacceptable to use a nuclear power plant as a military base.

Ukrainian and Russian forces should also cease military activity in the vicinity of the plant and observe a 30km safe zone around the site.

We stand ready to give the IAEA and Ukraine the support necessary to ensure the safety of nuclear facilities and staff.

This statement is issued jointly by World Nuclear Association, Canadian Nuclear Society, European Nuclear Society, Nuclear Industry Association, Nuclear Energy Institute, Canadian Nuclear Association, American Nuclear Society, Nucleareurope, and the Nuclear Institute.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

NRC Authorizes Vogtle Unit 3 Fuel Loading and Operation

  • NRC Authorizes Vogtle Unit 3 Fuel Loading and Operation
  • Senate approves Caputo, Crowell for NRC Seats
  • Nuclear Startup Last Energy Lands Polish MOU
  • TVA And GEH Sign Agreement To Begin Design And Licensing Of SMRs
  • ARC Canada Partners With CNL To Advance Fuel Development Program
  • INL Update on Its Net-Zero Microgrid Program

NRC Authorizes Vogtle Unit 3 Fuel Loading and Operation

Nuclear fuel assembly colorThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has authorized Southern Nuclear Operating Company (SNC) to load nuclear fuel and begin operation at Vogtle Unit 3 in Georgia, the first reactor to reach this point in the agency’s combined license process.

SNC recently informed the agency that the company completed the inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria  (ITAAC) needed to show Vogtle Unit 3 and can begin safe operations.

“This is the first time we’ve authorized a reactor’s initial startup through our Part 52 licensing process,” said Andrea Veil, Director of the NRC’s Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.

“Before authorization, we independently verified that Vogtle Unit 3 has been properly built and will protect public health and safety when it transitions to operation. Our resident inspectors at Vogtle will keep a close eye on Unit 3 as the fuel load and startup testing move forward. We’re focused on safety so the country can use Vogtle’s additional carbon-free electricity. We will maintain this focus as we
license the next generation of new reactors.”

The NRC’s decision moves Vogtle Unit 3, adjacent to the operating Units 1 and 2, near Waynesboro, Georgia, out of the construction reactor oversight program and into the operating reactor oversight process. Vogtle Unit 4 remains under construction.

What’s an ITAAC?

World Nuclear News reported that The process of satisfying the 398 ITAACs (inspections, tests, analyses, and acceptance criteria) outlined in the COL – all verified independently by the NRC – was completed on July 29th.

The on-site team is now working on final preparations to load fuel, begin startup testing and bring the unit online, Georgia Power said. The company has previously said it is targeting the end of October to complete loading of the fuel – which is already on site – into the reactor, in order to achieve an in-service date at the end of the first quarter of 2023.

Over the following several months, start-up testing will demonstrate the integrated operation of the primary coolant system and steam supply system at design temperature and pressure with fuel inside the reactor, before the plant is brought to initial criticality and synchronized to the grid.

Construction of Vogtle 3 began in March 2013 and unit 4 in November that year. Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power, both subsidiaries of Southern Company, took over management of the project to build the units in 2017 following Westinghouse’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Unit 4 is now over 96% complete, with a target in-service date of December 2023.

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Senate approves Caputo, Crowell for NRC Seats

nrc logoThe US Senate confirmed in a voice vote August 2nd the nominations of Annie Caputo and Bradley Crowell to serve as commissioners on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The vote gives the five-member agency a full house of commissioners for the first time since then-Chairman Kristine Svinicki left when her term ended in 2021.

President Joe Biden nominated the two new commissioners last May. The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works unanimously approved their nominations July 27th.

The American Nuclear Society applauded the pair’s confirmation.

“The American Nuclear Society applauds the Senate for restoring the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to five commissioners with the confirmations of Annie Caputo and Bradley Crowell,” ANS President Steven Arndt and Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy stated in a press release.

“A full five-member commission is essential to the effectiveness of the NRC in protecting public health and safety while enabling the deployment and applications of new nuclear technologies. The American Nuclear Society has consistently highlighted the need for a full commission of qualified individuals, preferably with strong technical education and backgrounds.”

“The NRC has a vital role to play in addressing our most pressing climate and energy security challenges. We look forward to commissioners Caputo and Crowell’s tenures in overseeing the continued safe and efficient operation of our current nuclear power plants and in establishing an effective licensing framework for a new generation of nuclear technologies.”

Commissioner Profiles

Caputo, a nuclear engineer, was previously nominated to the commission by then-President Donald Trump and served from May 2018 to June 2021 when her term expired. She was previously a majority senior policy adviser for nuclear issues for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees NRC. Caputo was also a staffer for the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee and, before that, was a congressional affairs manager for Exelon.

From 2004 to 2007, Crowell was a legislative advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) which has a significant anti-nuclear policy position.  The group has a long history of litigation filing lawsuits against the NRC over a range of issues.

Some pro-nuclear advocates worry that Crowell will be influenced by his experience at NRDC and might follow in the footsteps of former NRC Commissioner Allison MacFarlane who continued her anti-nuclear efforts long after leaving office.

Crowell served at DOE as assistant secretary for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs from 2010 to 2016. In December 2016, Crowell was appointed to serve as director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by Governor Brian Sandoval.

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Nuclear Startup Last Energy Lands Polish MOU

last energy logoUS-based Last Energy, a DC based startup working on a 20 MWe SMR (PWR design basis),announced an agreement with Poland’s Legnica Special Economic Zone (LSSE) to build its SMRs in Poland.

Last Energy said it has ambitions to develop 10 SMRs in the LSSE to fuel industrial activity. LSSE is home to more than 75 companies and over 16,000 jobs. The 10 power plants, if built, would deliver 200MWe of capacity to the region.

A letter of intent was signed between LSSE, Last Energy and DB Energy in late July concerning participation in the construction and integration process in the Zone of the 10 SMRs and their operation for 24 years. Last Energy’s offer covers the entire investment process – from the design concept, through design, arrangements, financing, implementation, service, maintenance and production of energy for the client, to the disposal of installations and fuel.

Last Energy said its power plant uses a pressurized water reactor (PWR) and modular plant design, which, it said, dramatically reduces the time and cost of plant construction.  On its website it claims a CAPEX cost of $3,000/Kw or $60M a unit, and a construction period of 24 months.

“Poland is one of the first countries where Last Energy plans to implement our SMR technology,” said Damian Jamroz, General Manager of Last Energy Polska.

“We’re glad that the Legnica Special Economic Zone has expressed its interest in locating one of the planned investments in their area, as well as the intention to sign a long-term contract for the energy produced. Now, we will begin the process of identifying potential locations.”

LSSE President Przemyslaw Bozek noted: “Potential investors are increasingly faced with a lack of availability of energy and gas in the quantities they need. This project would allow for a safe, stable and emission-free source of energy for factories located in the Zone. We are taking another step not only towards green energy, but also to strengthen energy security.”

Bret Kugelmass, founder and CEO of Last Energy, said: “Nuclear energy offers countries a powerful strategy to achieve both. Today’s agreement is a critical step toward bringing stable, reliable and cost-competitive energy to Poland, and establishing a much-needed model for how energy security and climate goals can align for the industrial sector.”

Q&A With Last Energy

  • How will the deal be financed and by whom?

This deal will be entirely privately funded from a combination of Private Equity funds, Infrastructure funds, and Family Offices.

  • What is your time frame to break ground on the first unit?

Our next steps include working with LSSE to identify locations for the plant and to secure design approval. Our fully modular design is manufactured entirely off-site, to minimize field construction time and the complexity that comes with it – and our goal is to be able to manufacture and deliver a plant within two years of final deal approval.

Last Energy’s spokesperson did not respond to several other questions including the firm’s plans for the US supply chain for its export reactor and localization in Poland or its competitive prospects there given the number of the other SMR developers also seeking market share in that country.

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TVA And GEH Sign Agreement To Begin Design And Licensing Of SMRs At Clinch River

(NucNet) tva-logoThe Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has signed an agreement with nuclear plant manufacturer GE-Hitachi (GEH) to deploy small modular reactors (SMRs) at Clinch River near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and will spend the next year preparing a construction permit to build two of the BWRX-300 small modular reactors.

The agreement is part of plans to pursue phased activities that will kick off with design and licensing of a potential GEH light-water BWRX-300 SMR at Clinch River, a 914 acre site in Roane County for which TVA holds the nation’s only early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

TVA president Jeff Lyash said during a report on quarterly earnings, “TVA recently issued an industry-leading request for proposal for 5,000 megawatts of carbon-free energy to be available by 2029 and, knowing the critical role advanced nuclear technology will play in our nation’s drive to decarbonization, we signed a partnership with GEH to advance our pursuit of small modular reactor technology.”

While TVA is pursuing a range of energy options for its future, Mr. Lyash said he thinks the SMRs will be needed to help TVA achieve its long-term goal of being carbon-free by 2050 while still maintaining reliable and relatively low-cost power.

“I am pleased to announce that TVA has taken another step on that road [to building an SMR] and signed a two-party agreement with GE-Hitachi which will support our planning and preliminary licensing for the potential deployment of an SMR at the Clinch River site,” Mr Lyash said during the earnings presentation. “The agreement will provide additional information to analyze the viability of SMRs in the Valley.”

Company Ready To Invest $200 Million In First Phase

TVA said earlier this year it would invest $200M (€196m) in the first phase of a new program to explore advanced nuclear technology, including plans to prepare a construction license application for an SMR at Clinch River.

The company said it would explore technologies and potential locations for advanced nuclear reactors and will partner with other utilities, government agencies and research institutes to mitigate costs and risks associated with advancing this new technology. TVA said at the time it was already in discussions with GEH to support its BWRX-300 SMR design.

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TVA’s nuclear fleet – the nation’s third-largest – has a generating capacity of approximately 8,000 MWe and is the backbone of the company’s clean generation portfolio. TVA owns and operates three nuclear stations with a total of seven units in Tennessee: Browns Ferry (three units), Sequoyah (two units) and Watts Bar (two units).

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ARC Canada Partners With Canadian Nuclear Labs To Advance Fuel Development Program

cnl logoARC Clean Energy Canada (ARC Canada) announced a partnership with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization.

Funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), the joint agreement will deliver a technology demonstration of the fuel fabrication process for ARC Canada’s advanced small modular reactor (aSMR) scheduled for deployment at the Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station (PLNGS) in New Brunswick, Canada, within the decade.

The ARC 100 is a sodium cooled fast reactor with a design legacy that links back to the Integral Fast Reactor developed and operated at the Argonne West site in Idaho.

“This is a significant first step towards establishing capability in Canada to manufacture fuel assemblies for the ARC technology,” said Dr. Maggie Manley, Fuel Systems Engineer, leading the project for ARC Canada.

“Our collaboration with CNL, with access to their world-class facilities and qualified technical experts, is critical to validate our fuel qualification program and deployment approach. ARC Canada is proud to have been selected to partner with our national laboratories as we work towards a clean energy future.”

CNL will support ARC Canada with expertise in nuclear fuel fabrication and access to state- of-the-art research facilities at Chalk River to develop a fuel pin prototype fabrication line for ARC technology. The prototype work will also deliver a qualified set of procedures for the development of a “made in Canada” production line to support a Canadian fleet approach.

“Fuel development is a particular strength of the team here at the Chalk River Laboratories,” commented Dr. Jeff Griffin, Vice-President of Science and Technology.

The joint project will began in July and is expected to be completed within two years.

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INL Update on Its Net-Zero Microgrid Program

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has a Net-Zero Microgrid (NZM) program based on funding from the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity. This program is conducting research on carbon-free solutions that offer enhanced resilience to critical isolated electrical grid and generation infrastructure that are located in under-served communities.

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“Microgrids are a set of electricity generators that can manage themselves without being connected to the grid,” said Tim McJunkin, a distinguished researcher in INL’s Power and Energy Systems department.

“If they are connected to the grid, they can support themselves as well as the distribution and transmission systems.” This means they can provide grid services to both local utilities and larger power authorities.”

Recently INL released its latest report addressing economic issues for microgrids in the series this month.  “Small Reactors (SRs) in Microgrids – Technoeconomic Analysis

This report recognizes that the development of technoeconomic analysis for SRs in microgrids must consider that:

  • Microgrids built with SRs have different configurations depending on their boundaries, the loads and resources within those boundaries, energy storage, and the connection and interaction with the distribution network. Primary technical design principles include power and energy adequacy, system economics, system reliability, and operational resilience.
  • Technical studies required to evaluate the feasibility of SR in microgrids include siting, generation optimization, operational framework and feasibility, economic optimization, and risk analysis. Technoeconomic models specific to SRs are necessary to conduct these feasibility studies.

Cross-Cutting Research

The Net-Zero Microgrid program  conducts cross-cutting research to accelerate the removal of carbon-emitting technologies. It organizes research and development activities across multiple energy resources.

For example, the program leverages the expertise and platforms in INL’s Energy Systems Laboratory and its nuclear energy research testbeds. This includes the Microreactor Applications Research Validation and EvaLuation (MARVEL) research microreactor, funded under the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

“Nuclear, renewables and energy storage can potentially have a large advantage over typical diesel or natural gas microgrids,” INL senior microgrid researcher Kurt Myers said.

He noted that decreasing or removing the fuel supply chains can reduce potential impacts and costs for remote applications and improve availability in cases where gas pipelines or fossil fuel supply systems could be disrupted by weather, disasters or cyberattacks.

“Today microgrids provide stable and high-quality power to critical military and community needs. But they almost all use conventional fossil energy generators,” McJunkin said. “This program will address roadblocks to moving away from the fossil-fuel-based option.”

INL is committed to demonstrating the viability of microgrids that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from greater than 80% in 2020 to less than 50% within the next four years. Integrating renewable energy sources with small reactors, hydrogen fuel cells and energy storage will allow us to meet these goals.

Other reports published in prior years by the micro grids program can be accessed via the INL Digital Library.

INL is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory that performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

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