Incentives needed to jump start the SMR industry in US

Reforms Are Called for to Support Development
of Small Modular Reactors

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance recommends targeted incentives to accelerate technology development and deployment

leader smr report coverThe Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) has released recommendations to support the development and commercialization of small modular reactors (SMRs) by U.S. companies.

The report provides guidance for state and federal governments to accelerate both light water and non-light water SMR design availability to meet global energy challenges and national security imperatives.

“By supporting new SMR technology deployment, the United States can help secure its position as an international leader on nuclear technology for decades to come,” said Ashley Finan, NIA policy director.

“Our report makes discrete recommendations to federal and state policymakers and officials to support the development of this extremely valuable energy technology.”

With aging U.S. coal and nuclear plants slated for retirement, and the urgency of combating climate change, SMRs are well-suited to help provide the next generation of much-needed clean, dispatchable energy, alongside renewable energy and other low-carbon energy sources.

wind smr

On a global scale, the report notes that SMRs have the potential to help meet growing international energy demand, as nations work to lift billions of people out of poverty. These technologies offer an alternative to traditional, large light water reactors with power outputs that can better match the scale of developing world energy needs. SMRs have enhanced safety cases and operational flexibility, including the ability to better complement variable energy sources such as wind and solar.

Advanced Safety Characteristics of SMRs

NIA’s analysis describes the advancing safety and increasing safety margins which are priorities for every new generation of nuclear reactor designs. It has become clear that reactors that do not need off-site electricity, off-site water, or operator intervention would provide safety advantages.

Achieving these types of robust safety characteristics is generally easier for smaller reactors due to the lower total heat produced in a smaller reactor core. In this way, SMR designs could set a new standard for passive nuclear energy safety in the U.S. commercial nuclear fleet.

nuscaleFor example, the use of natural circulation in some light-water SMR designs allows for the elimination of traditional components, such as reactor coolant pumps. Eliminating reactor coolant pumps means that off-site electricity is not required to continue cooling the fuel rods in the event of an accident. Light-water SMRs also have a smaller amount of nuclear material on-site compared with the larger LWRs and thus a smaller source term.

Alternative fuel forms, such as the particle based fuel used in HTGRs, have higher melting temperatures than conventional light-water reactor fuels. The multiple barriers to the release of radioactive material in particle-based fuels include layers of ceramic coatings on the nuclear fuel, the carbon encasement, and the graphite core structure.

These design innovations mean that fuel melting and radiation release is ruled out in postulated accident conditions, leading to power plants with very long to unlimited coping times.

arc-100Liquid-metal-cooled designs, such as the sodium fast reactor ARC-100 (shown in Figure 6), contain coolants with much greater effectiveness at heat transfer than water-cooled designs.

Their low pressure operation and
significant margins to boiling also mitigate loss of coolant concerns, as well as the need for coolant injection systems.

The experiments performed at EBR-II demonstrated that for those design parameters, as temperature increases and materials expand, a net negative reactivity feedback leads to inherent safety responses.

In this full-scale reactor  test, it was demonstrated that without any coolant flow and with control rods out of the core, the reactor would shut itself down naturally without any fuel damage, due to this negative temperature reactivity feedback.

SMR Offer Options for Technology Selection

“By investing in a portfolio of reactor technologies and providing a continuum of support through different stages of development, the U.S. government can bolster SMR innovation while allowing the market to guide technology selection,” said Matt Bowen, author of the report.

“Our findings indicate that we are at an important juncture where targeted incentives for SMRs can make a big difference for the country’s future clean energy options.”

NIA’s SMR recommendations

  • Congress and the Administration to expand support for new reactor design and licensing to include non-light water designs and extend support through final design.
  • Congress to amend the nuclear energy tax credit to help first-of-a-kind SMR projects to close the economic gap with carbon-emitting natural gas plants;
  • The Secretary of Energy to procure clean, secure power for federal facilities through power purchase agreements with the SMR projects under development by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); and
  • State governments to expand existing or proposed Renewable Portfolio Standards into Clean Energy Standards that could include SMRs and other advanced nuclear technology.

tugboat smrTo download a copy of the report, please visit the NIA website

About the Nuclear Innovation Alliance

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) leads advanced nuclear energy innovation. We assemble companies, investors, experts and stakeholders to advance nuclear energy innovation and enable innovative reactor commercialization through favorable energy policy and funding.

We research, develop and advocate policies that enable the efficient licensing and timely early-stage demonstration of advanced reactor technologies.

Learn more about NIA at http://www.nuclearinnovationalliance.org/ and on Twitter at @theNIAorg and Facebook at www.facebook.com/theNIAorg

Technical Contact

Ashley E. Finan, Ph.D.
Policy Director
Nuclear Innovation Alliance
ashley@nuclearinnovationalliance.org
Tel:  617-733-5458

Media Contact

Christina Walrond
Potomac Communications Group
cwalrond@pcgpr.com
Tel: 202-349-9682

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

Czech Republic Near Kickoff of Tenders for 5 Nuclear Reactors

CEZ, the state-owned nuclear power utility, has offered and withdrawn tenders for new reactors twice in the past decade. This history isn’t stopping vendors from expressing interest in the newest round.

lucy footballIf you want to know how the major nuclear reactor vendors view plans to expand nuclear energy in the Czech Republic, you need look no further than a famous American comic strip “Peanuts.”

In a famous and iconic sequence, the scheming character Lucy holds a football for the hapless character Charlie Brown to kick. Just as he approaches the kick off, she whisks the ball out of the way causing Charlie Brown to do an airborne summersaults which ends with a heavy thud as he hits the ground.

This is more or less the experience nuclear reactor vendors have had bidding on tenders from the Czech government’s utility CEZ which has offered and whisked away at least two major tenders for up to 3 GW of nuclear power. The utility also unceremoniously ejected Areva from the game in 2012 over as yet unexplained claims that that firm’s bid did not comply with the requirements of the procurement action. (WNA Profile for Czech Republic)

cez nuclearHowever, at least six firms appear to be undeterred since CEZ is expected to come back in 2018 with a new tender for two new units at Dukovany (5 & 6), two more later on at Temelin (3 & 4), and an entirely new nuclear block in Slovakia at Bohunice. Each of these units will be specified to be approximately 1,200 MW which fits nicely with an offering from just about all concerned.

That puts a total of 6 GW of power in play and at an estimated overnight cost of $5,000/KW, rounds out to $30 billion. Even getting a piece of this pie is too tempting for bidders to ignore hence their apparent disregard for prior instances of “now you see it now you don”t” tenders.

The expected bidders are EDF/Areva, Mitsubishi/Areva, Westinghouse, China General Nuclear, Rosatom, and Korea Hydro Nuclear Power.

Has the Czech Government Finally Grown Up?

Even more interesting is it appears the government has finally recognized the need to put reliable financial plans in place including rate cases. Also, the government will require that the vendors hire a capable EPC firm and not be both supplier and builder.

This brings us to the question of political leadership, and there politics once again offers the Czech government another opportunity to play Lucy’s game with the football.

A key player, Billionaire Andrej Babis, who is likely to become the next Czech prime minister, wants to expand the country’s nuclear energy capacity without the help of foreign investors. Industry and Trade Minister Jiri Havlicek disagrees and wants the government to have an equity stake if for no other reason than to have a seat at the table in terms of controls on schedules and costs.

(NucNet) According to media reports, Mr Babis, the second richest Czech whose centrist ANO party has a double-digit lead in polls before the October 20-21 elections, said state-controlled utility CEZ is able to finance the construction of at least one new unit at the Dukovany nuclear power station on its own.

“They can easily finance it, easily,” Mr Babis said in an interview in Prague, reported Bloomberg on 28 September 2017.

“CEZ is in a very good condition. It has the best balance sheet among energy companies in all of Europe.”

The government, which controls about 70% of the company, is discussing possible ways to finance new reactors with six potential investors. In June 2017 the Czech Cabinet approved a national action plan for the long-term future of nuclear energy, including plans to build new nuclear units at the existing Temelín and Dukovany nuclear sites. The government said the plan foresees at least one new power reactor being built at Dukovany and Temelín, with a probable total of four new reactors in the long term at the two locations.

The Bloomberg wire service reported that Babis expressed frustration over what he said was lack of state’s influence at the utility, and said he will try to bring the company under more direct government control if his party wins the election.

CEZ Can’t Fund New Czech Reactors on Its Own, Minister Says

Czech utility CEZ  can’t invest billions of dollars in new nuclear reactors without government assistance, in spite of what the nation’s prospective leader says, according to the government’s industry minister.

The Prague-based utility, while profitable, must protect the interest of minority shareholders by offering some form of state guarantee in any nuclear project, according to Industry and Trade Minister Jiri Havlicek.

He rejected the view of billionaire Andrej Babis, whose ANO party is poised to win this month’s general election, that CEZ should finance new reactors on its own.

“Without the participation of the state, whether in the form of taking over CEZ’s nuclear assets or some form of indirect state support, there won’t be any new nuclear units,” Havlicek said in an interview with wire services.

The Social Democrat-led government, which controls about 70 percent of CEZ, has repeatedly called for new nuclear capacity as aging coal-fired power plants and Soviet-era reactors are retired in the coming decades.

Havlicek’s ministry is preparing three scenarios for funding the nuclear project, all involving the state, and urged the next government to use them as guidance.

“It’s obvious there are no easy solutions,” the Havlicek said. “It’s not possible to simplify it like Mr. Babis did. Profit generation at CEZ can’t be the only source.”

Poland Considering ‘Domestic’ Financing For First Nuclear Project

(NucNet) The Polish government is considering using “domestic” financing for the construction of the country’s planned first nuclear power station, Jozef Sobolewski, director of the Polish ministry of energy’s nuclear energy department, told a parliamentary committee on nuclear energy in late September.

Mr Sobolewski was quoted in wire service reports as saying that the government does not want to have its decision about the project dominated by financial markets.

“It’s not a financial project, it’s an energy project”, Mr Sobolewski said.

He also said that the ministry of energy is considering “many financial models” and has not taken a final decision.

Mr Sobolewski said the cost of building 1 GW of nuclear capacity could be estimated at €2.8bn to €3.25bn ($3.28-$3.83bn), based on the assumption that a 3-GW nuclear power station will eventually be realised.

A 2015 plan by the previous government laid out ambitions for 6 GW of nuclear by 2030 with the first unit starting commercial operation in 2024.

In January 2017, the new Polish government postponed a decision on the new-build programme and its financing model until mid-2017, but that deadline was not met.

NuGen to Secure Buyer for UK Moorside Nuclear Project by Early Next Year

(Reuters) Toshiba’s NuGen nuclear project in Britain expects to secure a new investor by early next year, assuring the project’s future, NuGen’s chief executive officer told Reuters in an interview. That said the firm also said it would result in a delay of three to five years in terms of breaking ground.

NuGen, in Moorside, northwest England, is expected to provide around 7 percent of Britain’s electricity when built but was thrown into doubt after developer Toshiba’s nuclear arm Westinghouse declared bankruptcy in the U.S. earlier this year.

Toshiba’s NuGen joint venture partner Engie subsequently pulled out of the project, leaving the Japanese firm searching for new investors. The plain English translation is that Toshiba wants to offload all financial commitments for the project, but still wants Westinghouse to be able to sell the project its reactors. There is no guarantee of that outcome.

“There are multiple credible bidders and we expect to find a new buyer, and a clear way forward by early next year,” NuGen Chief Executive Tom Samson told Reuters in an interview.

South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) and China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) have both said they are interested in bidding for the project. Either of these firms would have to take their reactor designs through the UIK’s nuclear safety review process, the generic design assessment, which could add time to the project of two years or more.

It was initially hoped electricity generation would begin by 2025 but Samson said a new delivery plan will be set up by the new owners which will involve a new completion date.

“Clearly there will be a shift in the start date from 2025 to later in the 2020s, but the plant could still be up and running before 2030,” Samson said.

KEPCO’s reactor design has yet to start the regulatory process, while CGN began the approval process earlier this year as the company also plans to build a new nuclear plant in Bradwell, Essex.

Toshiba’s Westinghouse was initially expected to provide the reactor technology, and this already has GDA approval.

“We are not ruling out any technology at this stage,” Samson said.

Britain needs to invest in new capacity to replace ageing coal and nuclear plants that are due to close in the 2020s, but large new plants have struggled to get off the ground due to high costs and weak electricity prices.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

SMR Supply Chains, Costs, are Focus of Key Developments

Small modular reactors won’t be able to compete with natural gas plants combined with renewables unless and until they get enough orders to justify building factories to manufacture them in a mass production environment.

Holtec Opens SMR Manufacturing Center in New Jersey

In September Holtec announced the grand opening of a $360M, 50 acre SMR manufacturing center in Camden, N.J. The firm was incentivized by the State of New Jersey to locate there with $260M in tax breaks.  According to Holtec the Camden plant will eventually employ up to 1,000 people.

The center’s opening is consistent with the company’s plans, for now, as portrayed in this video on its website, that all of the components of the SMR-160 will be manufactured in the U.S.

The plant is focused on two spheres: production of container fleet for spent nuclear fuel, as well as reactor pressure vessels for small modular reactors of the SMR-160 project.

holtec-160-mw-smr.jpg

Conceptual Drawing of SMR-160 – image source via Holtec International

The Camden plant features a large manufacturing plant, a light manufacturing plant, and a 7-story engineering office building.  Holtec said in a statement that its fabrication capabilities can be deployed to extrude, roll, form, weld, machine and finish precision custom parts for multiple industries.

Dr. Singh, Holtec’s President and CEO, declared the factory to be “Ground Zero” for the renaissance of nuclear energy and heavy manufacturing in America.

“It will serve as the launching pad for the regeneration of manufacturing in the United States.”

He added, “We will build nuclear reactors here, and they will sail from the port of Camden to hundreds of places around the world.”

Is Holtec Headed for Ukraine to Manufacture SMRs for Europe & Asia?

The maturing of an American supply chain to support mass production of components for SMRs might develop, but not all of it may be in the U.S. Holtec International, is reported to be in talks about planning to arrange the production of small modular reactors (SMRs) for nuclear power plants in Ukraine, and for export to Europe and Asia.

The Interfax wire service report, which was not confirmed by Holtec, comes on the heels of the firm’s grand opening of a $360M nuclear energy component manufacturing center in Camden, NJ. It is the second report in three months providing details of Holtec International’s discussions with Energoatom. However, a spokesperson for Holtec declined to comment on these discussions as reported by Interfax.

unian_nedashkovskyj_jurij_582042_e5e59

Yuriy Nedashkovsky

The Intefax report quotes Energoatom National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine President Yuriy Nedashkovsky who said,

“There is a very interesting offer made by Holtec International CEO Kris Singh to President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko  – to create a hub in Ukraine, distributing small modular reactors to Europe, Asia and Africa, with the localization of production and a large number of equipment at Ukrainian enterprises.”

According to Nedashkovsky, Ukraine’s Turboatom has already been involved in the project, as it has the required turbines in its production line.

“This project has already been developed conceptually. The launch of licensing procedures (in the U.S.) is expected next year, and an active phase of construction – approximately in 2023.”  Nedashkovsky added.

Talking of the long-term prospects, Nedashkovsky noted that the demand for small modular reactors after 2025 was estimated to grow over time.

Is the Ukraine SMR Story Ahead of Holtec’s Headlights?

headlightWhat’s unclear is whether Nedashkovsky was speaking off-the-top-of-his-head, commenting officially on behalf of Holtec International, or did he let a proverbial cat out of the bag?

A spokesperson for the firm said in an email to this blog on 10/4 that the firm, “cannot confirm this article (the September Interfax wire service report) , as the quote is not ours.” The firm declined further comment.

What is clear is that Holtec knows about the quote because it posted the Intefax September report in the press section of its website. The company also posted a previous Interfax article, published last July, which noted that National Nuclear Generating Company Energoatom and Holtec International have discussed the prospects of licensing and building small module reactors, the SMR-160, in the United States, Ukraine and other countries.

“Holtec International specialists pointed out the possibility of localization of equipment production for SMR-160 at Ukrainian enterprises and the possibility of making fuel for these reactors in the country.”

What’s confusing about the disconnects here is that Nedashkovsky is a member of Holtec’s advisory council.  According to the company’s website, “The Holtec Advisory Council consists of recognized industry leaders with a corporate nexus to Holtec International. The Council’s principal role is to provide input to the Company’s executive leadership with respect to both the technical and commercial merits and weaknesses of the SMR-160 program.”

Holtec has an existing relationship with Ukraine’s nuclear energy sector manufacturing spent fuel casks for an interim storage facility there. It is also working on a proposal for a commercial interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel to be located near Hobbs, N.M.

According to the S&P Global Market Intelligence, Holtec International Inc. with HQ in Jupiter, FL, is privately held and does not report earnings on any public stock exchange.

Other Agreements

According to World Nuclear News last July Holtec International announced a teaming arrangement with SNC Lavalin to collaborate in the development of Holtec’s SMR-160 small modular reactor (SMR).

Under the agreement, SNC-Lavalin – parent company of Candu Energy – will provide Holtec with nuclear engineering services, including supporting the licensing of the SMR-160 reactor. Holtec said it expects to submit its design to the NRC for review by the end of 2018.

Holtec said, “The partnership aims to vigorously accelerate the reactor system’s ongoing development and international licensing efforts by linking SNC-Lavalin’s world-class nuclear team with Holtec’s SMR team.”

Holtec has previously secured engineering, design and qualification support for its work on the SMR-160 from the Shaw Group and URS Corporation, and has a strategic alliance with utility PSEG Power, operator of three nuclear units at Salem and Hope Creek in southern New Jersey.

In August 2015, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc signed a long-term partnership agreement with Holtec to develop the instrumentation and control systems for the SMR-160.

US Organizes to Ramp up SMR Supply Chain

While Holtec is working in Urkaine, a conference being held this week in Idaho Falls, ID, is looking for ways to spin up a supply chain for SMR manufacturing in the U.S.

The two-day Advanced Manufacturing & Supply Chain innovation Leadership Summit & Showcase (press statement) is sponsored by the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council in conjunction with the Idaho National Laboratory. It will be followed by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s annual review of the current projects that are part of its Advanced Methods for Manufacturing program.

The Advanced Manufacturing & Supply Chain Summit & Showcase is an inaugural meeting (agenda) of leading U.S. nuclear energy suppliers and manufacturers including the new Center for Advanced Nuclear Manufacturing (CANM).

During the DOE AMM workshop, more than a dozen principal investigators will review the status of their research and discuss the relevance of their findings to advanced manufacturing.

The Workshop presentations will cover advancements in: Welding and Joining Technologies; Additive Manufacturing; Modular Fabrication; Concrete Materials and Rebar Innovations; Data Configuration Management; Surface Modifications and Cladding Processes.

How Rolls-Royce Aims for SMRs To Compete With Wind And Solar

(NucNet) The UK nuclear industry is hoping that claims by Rolls-Royce that small modular reactor (SMR) projects could deliver electricity for a similar cost to offshore wind will provide much-needed impetus to government plans for the country to develop a “best value” SMR and put it into commercial operation by the end of the next decade.

Rolls-Royce and its consortium partners, including Amec Foster Wheeler, Arup, Laing O’Rourke and Nuvia, say the UK SMR they are developing could produce energy for as low as £60 (€66, $79) per MWh, which is competitive against wind and solar. It is significantly lower than the £92.50 per MWh agreed by the government and project developer EDF for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear station.

However, Rolls-Royce also warned in its report that the government needs to “move forward with pace” towards establishing the conditions required for a UK SMR to flourish. The Rolls-Royce report is online  Press Statement here http://bit.ly/2woHjuf

SMRs Can Rival Gas If Risks Facing New Technologies Are Addressed

(NucNet) Small modular reactors (SMRs) could rival the costs of natural gas plants if the risks typically facing new technologies are properly addressed, says a study by US-based SMR Start, the consortium of SMR developers and potential customers formed in January 2016 to help commercialize small reactor technologies.

“There are many conditions and scenarios that could occur that would result in SMRs being comparable with the costs of a natural gas combined cycle plant,” the study, ‘Economics of Small Modular Reactors,’ says.

“The first SMRs are expected to be within the range of natural gas plants costs assuming appropriate private-public partnerships to help reduce technology risks and keep first-of-a-kind costs low.”

The study evaluates market opportunities, commercialization time frames and cost competitiveness for SMRs. It also assesses various policy tools to help “first movers” overcome the costs of first-of-a-kind technology, including production tax credits, investment tax credits, loan guarantees, power purchase agreements and other policy tools.

The study says SMRs will be needed as large retirements of baseload generation and an increase in intermittent renewables have negative impacts on the grid. Private companies continue to invest in SMRs – more than $1bn (€840m) so far.

The first SMR applications to the NRC – by NuScale Power (deisgn review) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (ESP) – have been submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with the first approval expected in the early-2020s. Holtec International is reported to be planning to submit their SMR-160 to the NRC for design review in 2018.

Westinghouse Says It Remains Committed To UK SMR Development

(NucNet) Westinghouse Electric Company said last week it remains committed to developing a 225-MW small modular reactor (SMR) that the company believes will allow the UK to move from buyer to global provider of SMR technology.

The company said in a statement that more than 85% of its SMR’s design, license and procurement scope can be delivered by the UK. The fuel would be manufactured at its Springfields facility in northern England.

“This is a special offering that only Westinghouse, with UK partners, can deliver,” the statement said.

Media reports in the UK have suggested that ministers are ready to approve the development of a fleet of SMRs to help guard against electricity shortages as older nuclear power stations are decommissioned.

Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection in the US March 2017, citing costs from the Summer and Vogtle nuclear projects in the US. Company president and chief executive officer José Gutiérrez said the problems that led to the Chapter 11 filing have nothing to do with the AP1000 technology and that AP1000 reactors being built in China are proceeding well. Westinghouse said it filed for bankruptcy protection in the US to protect its core businesses and give the company time to restructure for continuing operation.

It remains unclear where the company will get the capital to pay for development of the SMR, complete a Generic Design Review in the UK, and build a manufacturing center there to produce the reactors.

China National Nuclear to Develop Traveling Wave Reactor

(Reuters) The China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) has signed an agreement with the Shenhua Group, China’s biggest coal producer, to promote the development of advanced “travelling wave” reactor technology, the state nuclear giant said.

In late September two sides signed an investment agreement to promote fourth-generation travelling wave reactors (TWR), CNNC said in a notice posted on its website. The deal also involved the Zhejiang Energy Group and the Hebei Construction and Investment Group.

TWR, one of several new “fourth-generation” reactor designs, uses depleted uranium and is more fuel-efficient and cheaper to run than conventional nuclear reactors.

Leading developers of TWR include the Bill Gates-backed Terrapower, which is working on large scale projects aimed at providing base-load electricity. CNNC has an agreement with Terrapower to jointly develop the advanced reactor.

The Shenhua Group said it entered the agreement to diversity away from coal production and related power plant infrastructure.

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Posted in Nuclear | 3 Comments

Meet & Greet at ANS Winter Meeting in DC 10/29-31

Readers of this blog are invited to meet the publisher to share their likes, ideas, comments, and views on what this blog should cover in the coming year.

ANS Winter Meeting & Expo 2017

The Winter Meeting of the American Nuclear Society takes place in Washington, DC, the last weekend of this month and into the first week of November.  The details of the program, how to register, and where to stay are online at the ANS web site.

I’ll be there not only to attend various technical sessions, but also because I serve on the the ANS Communications Committee.  Its business meeting takes place at the conference.  This is my second tour on the committee having previously served on it 2010-2013.

What Do You Want to Read About on this Blog?

For the most part this blog reflects the unique judgment and perspective of the publisher, that’s me, on a weekly basis to figure out what stories are going to be interesting to readers.  I’ve tried over the past ten years to cast a wide net covering everything from advanced nuclear technologies to zirconium cladding on fuel bundles. A lot of what I write about is focused on the “so what” question of why a story deserves your attention.

What Readers Have Been Interested in So Far?

I know there are a lot of people who read the blog because WordPress provides anonymous data on the number of readers, the articles that interest them, and their country of origin. Here is a brief summary for the calendar years 2015 & 2016, and 2017 year-to-date.

  • There were 118,474 visitors to the the blog
  • There were 200,443 page views
  • 63% of all page views are from U.S. locations
  • The next most frequent countries for readers, in descending order, are Canada, U.K., France, India, Japan, South Korea, and Australia.

blog stats

Vogtle & V C Summer are Top Reader Topics

The top nine article this year so far are all about the financial and management failures at the two U.S,. nuclear projects under construction in Georgia and South Carolina and the factors that led to them including the action by Westinghouse parent Toshiba to cook the books by claiming $1.2 billion in revenue that never existed.

This situation continues to be a story of diverging destinies for the two site.  This week the Vogtle project got a lifeline from the Department of Energy in terms of an increase in loan guarantees.  The project is expected to continue to completion. The now cancelled V C Summer site got more bad news with medias reports about efforts to cover up a critical technical report and a raft of lawsuits from ratepayers and stockholders among others.

In the next ten most read article this year readers were interested in NuScale’s progress with its SMR, TerraPower’s work to develop an advanced reactor with China, NASA’s efforts to restart production of PU-238 for RTGs, China’s work on advanced nuclear reactors including HTGRs, and various developments related to TRIOS fuel.

One article stands out from all the technical, management, and business aspects of the industry. It is the inside story of how the Temelin nuclear site in the Czech Republic got wrapped around the axle by a swimsuit company’s public relations stunt that used it as backdrop for the rollout of a new product line.  You cannot  make this stuff up.

What’s Next for the Next 12 Months?

This is where you come in.  I’ll be at the ANS Winter meeting from Saturday afternoon 10/28 through Tuesday evening 10/31. Work commitments require that I return to Cleveland  Wednesday morning 11/1.

I’m offering an invitation to meet, greet, talk, discuss, kick around ideas, and consider any thoughts you have for what this blog should cover in the next year.  These discussions can be ad hoc in the halls, over coffee, or if you want, we can set a mutually convenient time for dialog.

I’m interested in what topics you think will be of interest to readers and how best to cover them. I’m also interested in constructive ideas of where the blog can do better. If you are in the DC area, but not attending the ANS meeting, and have some ideas you want to share, get in contact with me so we can work something out.

This is probably also a good place to set expectations. The blog is very much a part-time effort done at home after hours. I have a consulting business during the day. I publish about 100 posts a year, usually two a week, and each post is usually 1,000-2000 words.

Within these limits I’m looking for the best ways to publish a pro-nuclear blog in what is clearly a challenging era for the industry.  I hope you will take some time to share your views with me about how to do this.

How to Contact Me

Dan Yurman CDPUG Feb 2014On the main menu of my blog click on the About tab. There you will find my phone, email, and Twitter links.  Pick the one that works for you and let me know when and where I can talk to you.

A good place to start is the President’s Reception Sunday evening. I look forward to hearing from you.  BTW: Here’s what I look like.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Making case for nuclear power in new book ‘Seeing the Light’

Nuclear power is not merely an energy option for the future, geoscientist Scott L. Montgomery writes in his new book, it is a life-saving and essential way for the world to provide energy and avoid “carbon and climate failure.”

2-seeing-the-light_cropped-375x574In “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear power in the 21stCentury,” Montgomery, who is an affiliate with the University of Washington’s Jackson School of International Studies, writes that nuclear power is the most reliable form of energy in the world, with the smallest environmental impact and fewest related injuries and fatalities.

“To say that it has saved a good many lives by replacing what would have been many hundreds of coal plants defines a clear truth,” Montgomery writes.

He adds, “To say that its expansion will make this even more true in the future, when climate concerns are taken into account, is no less accurate.”

Montgomery — who co-authored the book with Thomas Graham Jr. of the nuclear fuel technology company Lightbridge Corporation — answered a few questions about the book.

Public fear of nuclear power is a limiting factor to its expanded use, but you write that such fears are overblown, borne of myths and “dark fairy tales … from the fearful childhood of the Atomic Age.” In light of the accidents at Fukushima and Chernobyl, why should the public not fear nuclear power?

Scott L. Montgomery: First, I should say that it doesn’t help to blame or criticize people for being afraid. Public fear is a complex thing, with much history behind it, and I try to clarify this one of the book’s chapters. Yet it’s also true that this fear is a serious roadblock to progress against climate change and lethal air pollution. Moreover, some key reasons for not fearing nuclear power come from the very accidents you mention.

We can say, as a broad average, that 300 power plant reactors have operated worldwide for 50 years. In all that time, three major accidents have occurred, only one of them — the poorly designed Chernobyl reactor — causing any radiation casualties. Multiple, long-term study documents 56 deaths and about 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer.

Nearly all of these casualties were preventable if first responders had been warned and given protective equipment, and if people living in the greater affected area were given iodine pills and told not to drink the milk of their animals, which had fed on contaminated pasture.

But even beyond this, research has repeatedly shown that by far the worst health effects from nuclear accidents come from trauma, PTSD, depression, stigmatization and other forms of mental distress — sourced in the dread of radiation itself.

Coal use has little of such dread, yet today causes over 1.5 million premature deaths worldwide, including more than 3,000 in the United States. No member of the U.S. public has ever been injured by radiation from a nuclear power plant, including Three Mile Island. Meanwhile, many hundreds have been killed since the 1940s by failures of hydroelectric dams, explosions at oil/gas facilities and air pollution due to diesel and gasoline use.

You write that the West still views itself as the center of the nuclear power landscape, but this is no longer the case. What is happening instead?

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Peter Montgomery

In September 2017, 58 new reactors are being built, with 160 more planned, and over 350 more proposed. Most of this activity is in China, Russia and India, but also in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Nigeria, Ghana, Kazakhstan, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia, among others.

China is especially important, as it has major plans for new types of reactors and for exports. The same is true of Russia and possibly South Korea.

How can safety in nuclear power be assured in developing countries, and in places like China and North Korea?

While there are concerns about nuclear power being acquired by nations in conflict zones, with high levels of corruption, low transparency and state support for terrorist activity, there are also measures in place to minimize related problems. Any country that belongs to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (189 do; Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea do not) can only develop a nuclear program under the auspices and close, detailed guidance of the International Atomic Energy Agency, while remaining open at all times to expert inspections.

China is on good terms with that agency and is itself extremely concerned about the quality of its nuclear power plants, especially in the wake of Fukushima. The government has major long-term plans for nuclear power — there has been talk of China building perhaps as many as 500 reactors or more this century — and is very concerned about accidents.

As for North Korea, no one outside the inner circle of that country’s power elite can assure anything. Right now North Korea has no nuclear power, only a small research reactor able to generate plutonium.

Such a reactor was dismantled in Iran as part of the nuclear deal. Also removed was that country’s supply of moderate enriched uranium, most of its centrifuges (for enrichment), and connection between cascades of its remaining centrifuges. Sanctions had a major negative impact on the country’s economy, helping bring it to the negotiating table and providing a sobering example for other nations. North Korea, meantime, is an example for no one.

You write that in 2007 the world crossed a key threshold, with the number of people living in cities surpassing the number living in rural areas. How are urbanization and nuclear power connected? What is the meaning of that connection to the future of nuclear power?

These are essential questions. Population experts forecast that as much as 70 percent of humanity could live in cities by 2040, most with populations of 500,000 or more, and over 700 urban areas having at least a million people.

Cities, we know, are huge centers of energy use, electricity above all else. This is being accelerated by the spread of IT and the diversification and expansion of the service sector in most of the world’s economies. It will receive a significant surge in demand if electric cars become mainstream.

pull quoteAs things stand now, climate change and urbanization are in a mutually reinforcing loop. Carbon sources — coal and natural gas — are used for most new power plants worldwide, with non-carbon sources, such as renewables, lagging far behind.

It is a dangerous fantasy to believe that solar and wind power can both replace existing carbon sources and satisfy the massive new power demands on the horizon. These and other renewable sources are necessary and must be supported and incentivized. But unless you live in the fairyland of idealized computer models, renewables will need lots of help for the future.

Big cities require enormous amounts of steady power at all hours, no matter what the weather. Nuclear is by far the best source to match this and is able to stabilize grid systems as they continue to add intermittent solar and wind power systems. A sustainable, non-carbon, highly urbanized future depends upon the combined use of renewables and nuclear power.

While other nations plan new reactors, as of 2016, you write, more reactors are being shut down in the United States than are being built. You ask, will the west join the new nuclear era or be left behind? What are the dangers of the U.S. falling behind?

There are many, but let me just mention a few to give a sense of what’s involved. First, nuclear power represents 60 percent of all non-carbon electricity generated in the U.S. Allowing it to decay away makes as much sense in the face of climate change as providing large subsidies to coal-fired power.

Second, the U.S. has been the global leader in nuclear science, technology, and nonproliferation for more than 60 years. Letting our reactor fleet go dark, one plant at a time, is to give up this leadership role, leaving it to China and Russia.

Also, an important safeguard for new nuclear power countries is the 123 Agreement, by which a nation is granted access to U.S. expertise and technology in exchange for certain nonproliferation guarantees. This powerful tool will weaken as the U.S. retreats from its standing as a global leader. Can we assume China or Russia will adopt such a key role?

Not participating in the new nuclear era at any significant level also means that, in essence, the U.S. does not take the climate challenge seriously. It is a form of climate change denial, nothing less.

Finally, the U.S. stands to render itself a kind of super-pariah in this context. This means spending hundreds of billions of dollars to upgrade its nuclear arsenal, maintaining an ability to destroy life on a global scale, while diminishing its ability to deal with climate change and to maintain the world’s competence in avoiding nuclear war.

You describe a new era of nuclear power plants that are “cheaper to build, easier to operate, much more efficient, proliferation resistant, and producing less waste.” What are the best practices for dealing with waste?

It’s been known for many years that nuclear waste isn’t a technical problem but a psychological-political one. We’re all familiar with Yucca Mountain and the presumed dangers of nuclear waste, but how many Americans know that billions of gallons of industrial waste, some of it highly toxic and lethal, are injected underground every year at hundreds of sites, such as chemical plants, pesticide manufacturers, and oil refineries located on the margins of ports, towns, and cities across the country?

This happens with barely a whimper of resistance at the national level. High-level nuclear waste in the U.S. amounts to about 88,000 metric tons, which would fill a football field to a depth of about 30 feet. In comparison, over 5 million tons of highly toxic chemical substances and waste are produced each year and are stored onsite.

There is a strong international consensus that waste is best handled by underground storage in a geologic repository. This was mandated in the 1980s by U.S. law to be achieved by 1998, but local groups in candidate states mobilized effectively against it and convinced senators and members of Congress they would lose their seats if they supported such a repository. Yucca Mountain became the chosen site because at the time it had the politically weakest Congressional delegation.

That changed in 2008, when Harry Reid became the Senate Majority Leader and forced President Obama to take Yucca off the menu. Today, there exists a storage site, the Waste Isolation Pilot Project, in thick-bedded salt in southeast New Mexico, but it only accepts low-level waste, not the high-level waste that really needs deep storage.

Fortunately, a precedent is being set in Finland, where a repository in granite for all types of waste will soon open at Oikiluoto. This site has three operating reactors at two power plants. The local community is strongly behind the effort.

Nuclear power is a unique technology for modern society, as we have concentrated a great number of our fears about the present and future in it, including our anxieties about the destruction of humanity itself.

But we now have 60 years of evidence that such fears are unfounded. And we have evidence that a very different global threat is real — a threat moreover that nuclear power can act directly to significantly reduce.

As our book says, it is definitely time for us to become sensible about these realities, in our own interest and survival.

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Questions in this interview were posed by Peter Kelley of UW News. For more information about Montgomery and his book, contact him at scottlm@uw.edu.

Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by the UW’s Scott L. Montgomery with Thomas Graham Jr., was published in September by Cambridge University Press.  ISBN: 9781108418225

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Saudia Arabia Plans Nuclear Energy RFI for 2.8 GWe

  • The plan is for a modest 2.8 Gwe of power far smaller than the 16 GWe reported in 2014.
  • Details revealed by Newsweek about former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s untimely efforts to secure nuclear energy deals in Saudi Arabia and Jordan

Reuters reports Saudi Arabia is expected to launch a tender process for its first nuclear reactors as early as next month and will reach out to potential vendors from countries including South Korea, France and China, industry sources told the Reuters wire service.

The world’s top oil exporter wants to start construction next year on two plants with a total capacity of up to 2.8 GWe as it follows Gulf neighbor the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in seeking atomic energy. This future suggests that two KEPCO 1400 MW PWR type reactors, similar to the ones under construction in the UAE are on a short list.

Update — Reuters added the following to the initial report on 9/18/17.

“We are carrying out feasibility studies, technically and economically to build those nuclear reactors … in addition to detailed technical studies for the selection of the best locations,” said Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, president of the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE).

“In addition we have a cooperation with the government of China in order to develop the high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors which also can be used in non-power applications in industries, petrochemicals and water desalination,” he said.

The 2,9 GWe target is far smaller than a 16 GWe plan that was abandoned due to costs and complexity.  Announced in September 2014 the original plan called for 16 1000 MW reactors to be built at three sites to provide electricity and to power desalinization stations.

Just four months later in January 2015 the government kicked the entire project into the indefinite future as the price of oil plummeted raising questions of how the massive new nuclear build would be paid for.

“Competition will be fierce,” an industry source told Reuters, adding Saudi Arabia was expected to send a Request for Information (RFI) to suppliers in October, marking the official start of the tender process following feasibility studies.

A South Korea-based industry source with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed Riyadh was expected to issue the RFI for the first two plants in October to five potential bidders – South Korea, China, France, Russia and Japan.

Mike Flynn’s Untimely Efforts to Secure Nuclear Energy Deals in Saudi Arabia and Jordan

Two powerful committees in the U.S. House of Representatives have launched probes into a complex case involving efforts by now former U.S. National Security Advisor Mike Flynn to enlist Rosatom, the Russian nuclear energy export agency, in a deal to deliver nuclear reactors to Saudia Arabia.  Newsweek reporter Jeff Stein broke the story last June.

Democrats on the two House Committees sent a letter to Flynn and his business associates asking him to explain his actions.

What is unresolved in all the complexities of these reports is why Flynn got involved with the project in the first place in late 2016 nearly a year after the Saudi government cancelled its plans for full size nuclear reactors and began talks with South Korea about fall less costly small modular reactors in September 2015.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Flynn continued to discuss the project even while serving in the White House and directed National Security Council staffers to meet with the companies involved in the plan.

And in yet another development former national security adviser Michael Flynn and several other top aides to President Trump reportedly met secretly with Jordan’s King Abdullah II while Flynn was pushing for a for-profit deal to build more nuclear reactors in the Middle East.

Buzzfeed News reported that Flynn, along with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, met with Abdullah in Jordan in January, just days before they would officially join the White House.

In September 2014 Jordan inked a deal with Rosatom to build two 1000 MW VVER at a desert site.  That project never got off the ground due to the inability of Jordan to raise the money needed to fund its 50% share of the costs. At one time Jordan tried to broker its reported uranium deposits as collateral for investors, but prospecting by Areva and Rio Tinto said the deposits weren’t economically viable.

Flynn also involved with Turkey

The New York Times reports investigators working for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, in August asked the White House for documents related to the former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn, and have questioned witnesses about whether he was secretly paid by the Turkish government during the final months of the presidential campaign, according to people close to the investigation.

Flynn published an OP ED in the Hill on November 8, 2018, election day, praising the current government in Turkey. His company was paid $530,000 to run a campaign to discredit an opponent of the Turkish government who has been accused of orchestrating last year’s failed coup in the country. Flynn did not disclose he’d been paid the money until March 2017.

Investigators want to know if the Turkish government was behind those payments — and if the Flynn Intel Group made kickbacks to the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, for helping conceal the source of the money.

The House Committees charge that Flynn failed to disclose these meetings and activities and details as to whether and who was paid for his time as he was also preparing to take his government post in the White House and later when he was the lead national security official in the Trump administration.

Separately, Flynn has refused to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee about his alleged interactions with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign.

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Japan May Set Target of 20% Nuclear Share By 2030

(NucNet): Japan’s policy-setting Atomic Energy Commission has called for nuclear power to remain a key component of the nation’s energy supply, recommending in a report that nuclear power account for at least 20% of Japan’s energy supply in 2030.

Before Fukushima, Japan generated about 30% of its electricity from nuclear and had planned to increase that to 40%.

It said rising utility costs caused by expensive fossil fuel imports and slow reactor restarts have affected the economy. The 322-page “nuclear white paper” is the commission’s first since the accident at Fukushima-Daiichi in 2011.

Much of it explains government efforts to clean up the damaged plant and tighten safety standards.

“The government should make clear the long-term benefit of nuclear power generation and consider measures that need to be taken,” the report said.

The country shut down all nuclear reactors after the 2011 accident but has restarted five of them. With up to four reactors operating last year, they accounted for around 2% of Japan’s power.

TEPCO gets OK to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear reactors, with conditions

(The Asahi Shimbun) The nation’s nuclear watchdog gave conditional approval Sept. 13 to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s application to resume operations of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

It marks the first time that reactors operated by TEPCO, which manages the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, have passed more stringent reactor regulations imposed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority after the Fukushima crisis in 2011.

The two reactors at the plant in Niigata Prefecture–the No. 6 and No. 7 units–are the first boiling-water reactors in Japan to clear the regulations. They are the same type as the reactors at the Fukushima plant.

The NRA already accepts that TEPCO has the technological know-how to operate the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, one of the world’s largest.

But it wrote that it has doubts about the company’s fitness to operate a nuclear plant, given its tendency to put its balance sheet ahead of safety precautions.

The NRA ordered TEPCO to provide in the legally required safety code a detailed explanation of procedures it will take to ensure that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is operated safely.

It will also closely monitor the utility’s actions in adhering to the safety code once the NRA approves the measures proposed by TEPCO.

Despite the NRA’s conditional approval, the utility will need to gain consent from local governments for a restart.

Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, who took office last year, has made it clear that he will not agree to the restart until the prefectural government completes its investigation into the Fukushima nuclear disaster to determine what went wrong. The investigation is expected to take several years. In effect he wants a perpetual “no” vote on restart of any of the reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa.

At some point the central government may address the issue of veto power by provincial governments over reactor restarts.  It will have to prove that the NRA has sufficient independence and power to control TEPCO and other nuclear utilities in Japan.

The NRA said, partially in response to this issue, that if TEPCO fails to adhere to its “promise” to heed to safety, it will exercise the power to suspend the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant’s operations or revoke its license to operate it.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant has seven reactors. The No. 6 reactor and the No. 7 reactor started operations in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Each has a capacity of 1350 MW.

Chinese nuclear giant may bid for Toshiba’s £15bn Cumbrian NuGen plant

A Chinese nuclear firm is considering a bid for the £15bn NuGen nuclear plant on the Cumbrian coast that is owned by Toshiba, according to reports. That firm has been struggling to exist from the nuclear energy business as Westinghouse, its U.S. business unit, struggles with a complex bankruptcy case involving the cancellation of the V C Summer power station in South Carolina.

China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) has taken equity stakes in a number of UK nuclear projects, including a 33 percent holding in the consortium building Hinkley Point C in Somerset and a 20 percent stake in a project at Sizewell, Suffolk, and it will eventually own 66.5 per cent of a plant at Bradwell, Essex, where it will install its HPR1000 reactor also known as a Hualong One..

The Sunday Times reported (paywall) CGN was considering an equity strake in the Cumbrian new build as it looks to showcase its reactor technology in the UK before exporting it more widely around the world.

NuGen’s planned nuclear reactor will have a gross capacity of  3800 MW, enough to power up to six million homes in the UK. The entire nuclear new build is a vital piece of the UK’s future energy mix. However, the project is being reviewed after Westinghouse, Toshiba’s nuclear arm, went bankrupt earlier this year, causing France’s Engie to back out, selling its 40 percent stake to Toshiba.

Other bidders have expressed interest in the site, including South Korea’s Kepco and China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation.

World Nuclear Association issues ‘call to action’

(WNA) World Nuclear Association Director-General Agneta Rising has called on governments, expert bodies and the nuclear industry to do more to ensure that nuclear energy can make the full contribution that society requires to meet its future clean energy needs. Rising spoke at a press event at the World Nuclear Association Symposium held in London last week.

Rising said that nuclear generation has been providing low-carbon electricity for more than 60 years, Rising said she was issuing a “call to action.”

“The world is not on track to provide reliable and affordable electricity to our global population, while meeting our environmental targets,” Rising said. “Access to electricity remains out of reach to hundreds of millions of people.”

She noted that, at the Paris climate change conference nearly two years ago, governments pledged to keep the rise in global temperatures below 2 degrees. She said the actions they set out, however, will “barely limit” the temperature rise to 3 degrees.

“We need to do more. Nuclear power is a proven source of reliable, cost effective and clean power with significant public benefits. In 2015 and 2016, 20 new nuclear power plants started supplying electricity. Around 10 GWe of new nuclear capacity was added to the grid in each year. This is a higher amount than seen over the preceding 25 years. Nuclear generation has increased every year for the last four years.”

The Association’s latest Fuel Report projections, released today, suggest that – unless action is taken – the pace of growth in nuclear generation will slow.

Rising said: “Under our reference case the projection for 2035 is 482 GWe. The upper scenario, where governments and companies succeed in meeting their declared plans for nuclear, global capacity is projected to reach 625 GWe.”

“But even our upper scenario would not be enough to meet this climate goal. Nuclear needs to do more. Action is required in three key areas to enable nuclear generation to grow at a faster rate. This will require reform of energy markets, regulation and our perception of safety to make it possible.”

In many countries electricity markets are “failing to deliver the energy choices” needed.
“We need a level playing field in energy markets that utilizes existing low-carbon energy resources already in place and drives investment in additional clean energy resources.

A key component of this is that nuclear energy must be included along all other low-carbon technologies. As the only zero-emission generating resource that can be scaled to meet actual demand, nuclear power must also receive recognition and compensation for its contribution to system reliability and for other public benefits,” she said.

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