Facilitating the Next-Generation Nuclear Renaissance, Standardization, Design, and Cross-Sector Considerations

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Reference Blog Post:
Speeding Up Time to Market: A Role for Standards and Reference Designs for Advanced Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

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NuScale Power gets $40M Investment from Japanese EPC

NuScale Power gets $40M Equity Investment from a Japanese Firm that Will Also Be Its EPC

banniere_24917NuScale Power announced April 5 on that it has completed an investment and strategic partnership agreement with JGC Holdings Corporation (JGC HD), a holding company of one of the world’s leading EPC contractor group companies headquartered in Japan.

As part of a commercial relationship with Fluor Corporation, NuScale’s majority investor and EPC partner in the United States, JGC HD will provide a $40 million cash investment in NuScale Power and partner with Fluor on the deployment of NuScale Power Plants.

It positions a key supply chain partner close to potential future customers in Asia seeking smaller, cheaper nuclear energy solutions compared to 1000MWE units being exported by Russia and China.

The Asia Nikki wire service reported that the deal involves a 3% equity stake in NuScale. However, a spokesman for NuScale declined to confirm that amount. In an email the firm said;

“We confirm the $40 million. The JGC investment results in JGC having a small minority interest in NuScale. We will not be disclosing the exact percentage at this time and cannot confirm the percentage identified in the Nikkei article.”

When asked if the deal involve any licensing of NuScale intellectual property to JGC Holdings, the spokesman said that no transfer of IP is included in the deal.

In response to a question about how the deal will work with Fluor being the majority investor and which also plans to do the engineering procurement and construction (EPC) work for NuScale in the US, NuScale’s spokesman would only say that JGC is an “EPC partner with Fluor.”

Fluor shed some light on the partnership with a statement that indicated the two firms have collaborated on major projects over the past decade.

“This new ownership stake and partnership with JGC is aligned with Fluor’s long-term strategy to bring aboard new strategic investors to NuScale as the U.S. and international demand for new carbon-free base-load energy grows,” said Alan Boeckmann, executive chairman, Fluor Corporation.

“Fluor has been collaboratively executing projects with JGC for more than 10 years and we believe JGC is an ideal partner for effectively bringing this innovative carbon-free energy transition solution to realization.”

power-module-dissection

These responses raise an interesting question. What is it that JGC brings to the table the Fluor does not have or which it does not want to commit, on the NuScale project?

A look at JGC’s website shows the firm has deep experience providing engineering services to Japan’s nuclear fleet and that may be one of the reasons for this deal.  In particular the firm promotes its experience with management of spent nuclear fuel.

For its part NuScale is positioning the news about the deal because it “signals the first commercial relationship and investment in NuScale Power from a Japanese-based company and is indicative of growing Japanese and global interest in NuScale’s groundbreaking small modular reactor (SMR) technology.”

“JGC HD’s investment and partnership with NuScale Power is a welcome endorsement of our SMR technology and its international viability,” said NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins.

“NuScale looks forward to demonstrating how our cleaner and safer advanced nuclear technology can bring numerous benefits – economic and environmental – to countries around the world as they seek innovative solutions to complete a clean energy transition.”

Tadashi Ishizuka, Representative Director, President and COO of JGC Holdings Corporation, said in a press statement, “Our investment in NuScale technology, with its enhanced safety features, will enable JGC to expand our EPC business and deliver a zero carbon resource to the growing demands of the global energy market.”

According to the Nikkei report, “The partners eventually could set their sights on similar projects in the Middle East — where JGC boasts a long track record in oil and petrochemical infrastructure — and Southeast Asia.”

This blog also ask for confirmation of this part of the wire service report, which is whether NuScale and JGC have plans for joint export deals to Asian or Middle Eastern countries under the agreement or even new builds in Japan. It is important to note that Japan has no SMR type design available for export and nothing that is even close to one emerging from the r&d bench scale by the end of this decade.

NuScale’s spokesman said deal will support the firm’s plans for global export sales.

“We expect that Fluor and JGC will team on providing EPC service as part of delivering NuScale Plants in markets worldwide. We are excited about the prospect of being able to offer NuScale’s passively safe SMR technology to help Japan achieve its commitments to reduce carbon emissions. We look forward to being able to speak about specific deployments once we secure customer commitments.” ​​

And a spokesman for JGC echoed NuScale’s response. The firm said it is expanding its business in the nuclear-related sector in response to the ongoing global transition from fossil fuels to hydrogen and renewable energy.

“In the medium and long term, JGC Corporation will work with Fluor to secure and execute SMR EPC projects on a global basis, and intends to seek opportunities in integrating SMRs with renewable energy, as well as with hydrogen production and seawater desalinization.”

International politics may also play a part in the arrangement. Nikkei hinted that relations between the US and Japan will be enhanced by it. Fighting climate change will be on the agenda when President Joe Biden meets Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for a summit in the U.S. later this month. President Biden is seeking help from Asian allies to counter China’s growing assertiveness in the region and Japan will play a key role in that effort.

The Asia Times reported on April 5 that when Prime Minister Yosihide Suga walks into the Oval Office of the White House on April 16, he will be the first foreign leader to meet President Joe Biden. The visit is reportedly intended to showcase the Biden administration’s central foreign policy goal – to challenge and encircle China.

“They all believe that to get China policy right, you have to get Asia right, and to get Asia right, you have to start with Japan,” said James Schoff of the Carnegie Endowment for Peace and a former Obama administration Japan expert who advised the Biden campaign in a statement to the Asia Times.

The deal with JGC is NuScale’s second contract with an offshore firm for key elements of its new build. Previously, NuScale inked a deal with Doosan Heavy Industries of South Korea.

On April 29, 2019, NuScale Power and Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Co., Ltd. (Doosan) announced a $44M strategic cooperation to support deployment of the NuScale Power Module (NPM) worldwide. Doosan and its financial partners provided a cash investment in NuScale as part of this strategic relationship.

Doosan will supply long lead time components and other equipment. DHIC is expected to bring its expertise in nuclear pressure vessel manufacturing. Doosan also signed the ‘unit purchase agreement’ through which it will make a cash equity investment in NuScale with Korean financial investors. The terms of the equity deal were not disclosed but it will involve transfer of NuScale stock to Doosan.

The strategic cooperation between DHIC and NuScale is not limited to the USA, but will extend to global nuclear markets. DHIC and NuScale expect the value of equipment supplied through the contract will total at least S1.2 billion. Like the deal with JGC, the deal with Doosan is intended to place NuScale’s supply chain partners closer to future customers.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in September 2020 issued a standard design approval to NuScale Power for the NuScale SMR. This allows the design to be referenced in applications for construction, operating and manufacturing licenses and permits in the USA. Site-specific licensing procedures must still be completed and a combined construction and operating license obtained before any construction can begin.

Fluor and NuScale are working with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems in the development of a 720-megawatt plant that is to be built at a site at the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.

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X-Energy Signs MOU to Build XE-100 at Richland, WA, Site

    • X-Energy Signs MOU to Build Advanced Reactor at Richland, WA, Site
    • China Begins New Builds of Two New 1000 MWe Hualong One Reactors At Changjiang
    • OPG Collaborating with Moltex to Study Clean Energy Solutions
    • BWXT Awarded Additional Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Work for NASA
    • New Mexico Sues NRC Over Review of Holtec Interim Storage Spent Fuel Facility Plan
    • NRC Tells Holtec More Work is Needed on License Application

X-Energy Signs MOU to Build Advanced Reactor at Richland, WA, Site

As part of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) funding to X-Energy, the firm announced this week it is evaluating a site in Richland, WA, to build a first of a kind advanced nuclear reactor. The proposed site is not far from other nuclear facilities in Washington including the Columbia Generating Station and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

columbia generating station

Separately, Bellevue, WA, is the home to TerraPower which also is a grantee for $80M under the ARDP program. With GE-Hitachi and Bechtel, TerraPower says it will deploy its cost-competitive, sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system.

In December 2020 the Tri-City Business Journal reported that TerraPower was also considering a site in the Richland, WA, region. However, the firm declined to comment on that report to this blog when asked about it. The editor of the paper told this blog the published report relied on a statement from the Department of Energy.

In October 2020 then DOE Secretary Dan Brouillette said the locations of the two ARDP demonstration plants have still to be finalized, but added that “a place like Washington state” was likely. Energy Northwest, which operates the Columbia nuclear power plant in Washington, is a utility partner on both TerraPower and X-energy’s ARDP applications.

About the Xe-100

X-energy’s Xe-100 is an 80 MWe reactor with a modular design permitting it to be scaled into a “four-pack” 320-MWe power plant. The design is based around the concept of a pebble bed high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). The Xe-100 will use TRISO particles encased in graphite pebbles as the fuel and helium as the coolant.

xe-100

It is designed for a 60-year operational life. The reactor could be used to produce process heat as well as electricity and could be operated as a baseload or load-following plant, according to X-energy. The heat output helium temperature is 750°C which X-Energy says means the plant would have a thermal output of 200 MW. The Xe-100 reactor is planned to use off-the-shelf components that can be manufactured and shipped by road and rail to sites where they are needed.

X-Energy signed the MOU as part of a  partnership formed between X-energy, Energy Northwest, and the Grant County (Washington) Public Utility District (PUD).

The TRi Energy Partnership will support the development and demonstration of X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor, which was selected by the Department of Energy for a cost-shared commercial demonstration by 2027 through the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

The new partnership was announced on April 1, when Clay Sell, X-energy’s chief executive officer; Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest’s CEO; and Kevin Nordt, the Grant County PUD’s CEO, met in Richland, Wash., to sign a memorandum of understanding.

According to the MOU the TRi Energy partners will collaborate to evaluate siting, building, and operating a Xe-100 advanced nuclear power plant. The team plans to identify the best approach to licensing, permitting, construction, operation, and ownership.

Several ownership arrangements are being considered, including joint or sole ownership by a utility. Financial arrangements and commitments from investors are still in the future. On March 1, 2021, X-Energy signed a formal agreement with DOE as part of its participation in the ARDP program which includes $80M in federal funding.

The project is estimated to cost about $2.4 billion. Half of the funds will be provided through ARDP and half must be raised through private investment, equity capital, and financing.

Progress towards designing, licensing, building, and profitably operating an advanced reactor, especially a first-of-a-kind (FOAK) unit, will be closely watched on a global basis. Success for X-Energy will be to prove that advanced and small modular reactors can be cheaper and easier to deploy than large light water reactors.

In the press statement, the partners in the MOU said they are not ready to break ground, but they have a preferred location lined up: Known as Site 1, the previously licensed site is located near Energy Northwest’s Columbia plant, a 1,174-MWe boiling water reactor plant located near Richland, Wash.

TRi Energy Partnership takes its name from its location in Washington’s Tri-Cities area and from the three parties that have signed on to the agreement, but also from the Xe-100 design, which utilizes TRISO (TRi-structural ISOtropic) fuel that X-energy plans to manufacture. X-energy plans to use part of its ARDP funds to build the first commercial TRISO fuel fabrication facility in the United States.

triso fuel

According to the Tri Energy Partnership, “While a final decision will be made in the future, following extensive site, environmental, and financial analysis, this is our preferred site and offers many benefits: access to available infrastructure and the transmission grid, existing water intake, a local workforce with strong nuclear energy expertise, and considerable transportation resources vital to a large energy project: road, rail, and river access.”

China Begins New Builds of Two New 1000 MWe Hualong One Reactors At Changjiang

(NucNet) Construction has begun in China of two indigenous Hualong One nuclear power plants at the Changjiang nuclear station in the island province of Hainan off the country’s southeast coast, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said in a statement on its website. The reactors could be in operation by end of 2026.

Construction of the new units, Changjiang-3 and Chiangjang-4, was approved by China’s state council in September 2020.
The total investment for the two new units is estimated to be more than 39 billion yuan (€5bn).

The Hualong One, or HPR1000, is a three-loop pressurized water reactor. It incorporates elements of China National Nuclear Corporation’s ACP1000 and China General Nuclear’s ACPR1000+ reactor designs. There are eight Hualong One units at various stages of construction or operation in China.

There are six other Hualong One Units under construction: two at Taipingling in Guangdong province, southern China; two at Zhangzhou in Fujian province, eastern China; and two at Fangchenggang in Guangxi province in the south of the country. Fuqing-5 in Fujian province, southeastern China, recently became the first Hualong One to begin commercial operation. Fuqing-6, also a Hualong One, is under construction.

HPR1000,_cooling_systems_schemata

Image: By Ji Xing, Daiyong Song, Yuxiang Wu – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095809916301515 (from PDF version of paper)Journal: Engineering. 2 (1). doi:10.1016/J.ENG.2016.01.017, CC BY 4.0,

There is a Hualong One unit, Kanupp-2, nearing commercial operation in Pakistan and another, Kanupp-3, under construction. These are the first of their type outside China.

There are already two units in commercial operation at Changjiang. Changjiang-1 and -2 are both CNP600 units developed by China National Nuclear Corporation and have a net capacity of 601 MW. They began commercial operation in 2015 and 2016.

OPG Collaborating with Moltex to Study Clean Energy Solutions

Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG) Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability (CCNS) has joined forces with Moltex Energy on a project aimed at recycling used fuel from CANDU reactors.

OPG’s CCNS will provide $1 million CDN in funding to assist Moltex in demonstrating the technical viability of a new process to recycle used CANDU fuel.

When removed from an operating reactor, used CANDU fuel still contains energy. Moltex’ process would extract the remaining energy source and prepare it for use as new fuel in other advanced reactor designs, potentially reducing the volume of the material requiring long-term storage in a Deep Geological Repository.

The project would contribute to the development of Moltex’ WAste To Stable Salt (WATSS) technology, which could lead to a more sustainable form of nuclear power.

moltex cutaway

  • OPG’s Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability launched in 2020 with a focus on advancing nuclear innovation, collaboration and research to seek solutions for minimizing nuclear materials and recycle clean materials.
  • Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), through its Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative is supporting the design, construction and optimization of the testing apparatus.
  • The University of New Brunswick is involved in the project in a research and testing capacity.
  • NB Power is committed to building the first WATSS facility in Saint John, New Brunswick. The used fuel from the CANDU reactor at the utility’s Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station would power a 300 MW Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W), also under development by Moltex.

candui-schematric

“Our goal is to advance solutions for nuclear materials, with a continued emphasis on minimizing our environmental footprint,” says Carla Carmichael, Vice President, Nuclear Decommissioning Strategy and Lead for OPG’s Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability.

About Moltex:

Moltex is a privately held company striving that is developing a small modular reactor. Moltex was selected by NB Power and the Government of New Brunswick to progress development of its reactor technology in New Brunswick, Canada, with the aim of deploying its first reactor at the Point Lepreau site by the early 2030s.

BWXT Awarded Additional Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Work for NASA

BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) announced that it is continuing its Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) design, manufacturing development, and test support work for NASA. NTP is one of the technologies that is capable of propelling a spacecraft to Mars, and this contract continues BWXT’s work that began in 2017.

bwxt ntp-overviewUnder the terms of a $9.4 million, one-year contract awarded to its BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC subsidiary, BWXT will focus primarily on nuclear fuel design and engineering activities.

Specifically, BWXT will produce fuel kernels, coat the fuel kernels, design materials and manufacturing processes for fuel assemblies, and further develop conceptual reactor designs, among other activities.

The work will be conducted primarily at BWXT’s Advanced Technology Laboratory, Specialty Fuel Facility, and Lynchburg Technology Center, and it will involve more than 50 employees.

BWXT said in its press statement that it has been making significant progress on NASA’s NTP initiative, which has progressed from the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development program to its Technology Demonstration Mission program.

BWXT’s progress to date includes evaluating various fission fuel and reactor options, developing a conceptual reactor design, tailoring the fuel design to use High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU), and delivering specialty fuel particles for testing.

In 2020, as part of NASA’s in-space demonstration mission, BWXT delivered a study exploring several reactor configurations and fuel forms capable of delivering space nuclear propulsion. Two of the designs focused on power levels suitable for space demonstration in the near term. A third design was developed that leverages more advanced technology and higher power levels that could be ready in time for a Mars mission.

Rocket engines based on NTP technology are designed to propel a spacecraft from Earth orbit to Mars and back. Nuclear Thermal Propulsion for spaceflight has a number of advantages over chemical-based designs. In particular, NTP provides a low mass capability that allows astronauts to travel through space faster, thereby reducing supply needs and lowering their exposures to cosmic radiation.

New Mexico Sues NRC Over Review of Holtec Interim Storage Spent Fuel Facility Plan

(wire services) New Mexico attorney general Hector Balderas has filed suit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the United States, seeking to stop Holtec International’s application to build and operate its HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in the state. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico on March 29, seeks a declaratory judgment that the NRC is acting beyond the scope of its authority and an injunction preventing the licensing from moving forward.

“I am taking legal action because I want to mitigate dangers to our environment and to other energy sectors,” Balderas said. “It is fundamentally unfair for our residents to bear the risks of open-ended uncertainty.”

A letter sent from the NRC to Holtec earlier this month said more information is needed to complete the safety evaluation report. Also, the agency delayed completion of the report until the firm submits the requested data and the agency can evaluate it.

Holtec International wants to build an interim storage (dry cask) facility for spent nuclear fuel near Hobbs, NM in the southeast corner of the state. Holtec is seeking a 40-year license to build it.

State officials claim that New Mexico could become a permanent dumping ground for the radioactive material. Note that the state has multiple nuclear facilities in it already including the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Urenco’s uranium enrichment facility, two defense related DOE nuclear weapons labs as well as the White Sands proving ground.

NM cited the potential for disruption of oil and gas development which is a major industry in the region. The state also raised concerns about a similar project planned just across the state line in Andrews, TX, and for the same reasons.

New Mexico’s oil and gas industry, which is a driver for the state’s lawsuit, worries that a release of radioactive materials from the site could contaminate their wells. On a technical basis that fear is pretty much unfounded as the spent fuel would be stored in dry casks.

The bone dry region has little surface or ground water to act as a transport mechanism. Holtec has said the site in New Mexico, about 35 miles from Carlsbad, is remote, bone dry, and geologically stable. The same conditions exist just across the Texas border where another firm., Interim Storage Partners, is proposing to develop a similar facility (FAQ).

The Associated Press reported that the NRC did not respond to questions about New Mexico’s complaint. However, the NRC issued an order last year that denied appeals from several groups with arguments similar to the state’s. The commission has held public hearings during the licensing process and an environmental review was done. From a process standpoint, the agency appears to be on firm ground.

Separately from the state’s complaint, the NRC informed Holtec last week that the final safety evaluation report (SER) would be delayed because the company provided inadequate answers in several technical areas, including soil settlement and an analysis of flooding and aircraft crash hazards.

NRC Tells Holtec More Work is Needed on License Application

The NRC has delayed the release of a safety evaluation report for Holtec International’s HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility proposed for New Mexico. The agency said it needs additional information to complete its review of the license application. The request will delay the release of the final report which had been scheduled for next month.  Holtect submitted an application to build and operate the HI-STORE facility in March 2017.

The NRC said in its letter dated March 25, 2021, ML21083A302 :

“The staff has identified multiple RAIs that remain unanswered or incomplete in several different technical review areas and disciplines. The staff has identified that the following areas will require the most substantive supplementation:
1) analyses and calculations of soil bearing capacity and soil settlement;
2) site flooding hazards analyses;
3) analysis of aircraft crash hazards;
4)
building design specifications and hazards analyses for the proposed Canister Transfer Building (CTB) structure and foundation; and
5) clarifications to the site’s shielding, thermal, and aging management analyses.”

Without the information, the NRC said, its staff is unable to complete a full safety and security review. The NRC said that it will send Holtec another set of questions regarding the facility within the month and will issue a revised schedule for its safety review after it receives and processes the company’s responses.

Background on the Holtec Plan

Holtec executives told the wire service the storage project is needed because the U.S. has yet to find a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of spent fuel building up at commercial nuclear power plants.

According to the U.S. Energy Department, nuclear reactors across the country produce more than 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel a year. Almost all of it is stored at the reactors that produced it. There is roughly 83,000 metric tons of spent fuel sitting at temporary storage sites in nearly three dozen states. T

The first phase of the proposed New Mexico project calls for storing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium, which would be packed into 500 canisters. Future expansion could make room for as many as 10,000 canisters of spent nuclear fuel over six decades.

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Centrus Aims for HALEU Production by 2022

  • Haleu Fuel / US Production Could Begin ‘By Next Year’
  • Lightbridge Sets Priorities for SMR Fuel Development
  • Olkiluoto-3 / Finland’s Regulator Issues Fuel Loading Permit For EPR Unit
  • Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency Spikes TEPCO Plans to Restart 7-Unit Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Plant
  • TVA CEO Reverses Course Saying the Giant Utility Will Need SMRs in the Future
  • DOD Awards Contracts for Advanced Microreactors
  • NEI CEO Maria Korsnick – Swift Action Needed on Nuclear Energy

Haleu Fuel / US Production Could Begin ‘By Next Year’

mug of uranium(NucNet) (Centrus) Construction of the first facility in the US for the production of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (Haleu) (DOE Infographic) fuel is on track with the first fuel expected to be produced by next year according to a forward looking statement by Centrus Energy Corp.. (NYSE:LEU).

The firm’s stock closed on Friday 03/26/21 at $24.30 against a 12 month high of $30.97.  This time last year the stock was $5.20/share.

Design and engineering work on the non-centrifuge or “balance of plant” systems is near completion and system construction is well under way. Auxiliary and support systems necessary for operation of the cascade are being installed.

Under a 2019 contract with the US Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Centrus is licensing and constructing a cascade of 16 AC100M centrifuges, which is a US technology, to demonstrate production of Haleu.

DOE said the objective is to demonstrate a domestic technology that could be used in any type of advanced reactors, including defense reactors. The three year, $115m, cost-shared contract runs until mid-2022.

Centrus submitted a license amendment request (LAR) to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) last year to modify its commercial license to authorize it to enrich uranium up to 20 percent U-235. The NRC has accepted the LAR for technical review and that review is under way.

The facility has an existing NRC license for production up to 10 percent and, if this amendment is approved, will become the first U.S. facility licensed for the full range of LEU and HALEU production up to 20 percent U-235. On June 27, 2019 Centrus formally withdrew the request to terminate the American Centrifuge Lead Cascade Facility (Lead Cascade) NRC Materials License in order to design and construct the HALEU cascade under NRC oversite. ML20136A471

This month, Centrus completed assembly of all AC100M gas centrifuges. The centrifuges will undergo final preparations prior to being installed into the production cascade.

To support the construction effort, Centrus has reactivated its domestic supply chain for centrifuge components and supporting equipment needed for the demonstration, and restored its capacity to manufacture centrifuge parts in its Oak Ridge, Tennessee, manufacturing facility.

Centrus president and chief executive officer Daniel Poneman said the facility, in Piketon, Ohio, is on schedule “despite the impact of the [Covid-19] pandemic and the extraordinary steps we have taken to protect our workforce – including limiting the number of people who can be on the construction site at any one time.”

He said the first-of-a-kind facility can play a critical role in meeting both government and commercial requirements for Haleu, powering the country’s nuclear leadership as the world turns to a new generation of advanced reactors and advanced nuclear fuels.

Haleu is an advanced nuclear fuel material that is not commercially available in the US today. It is likely to be required in the future to fuel both existing and next generation reactors. According to Centrus, many of the designs selected by the DOE for its advanced reactor demonstration program are expected to operate on Haleu.

Haleu, which is enriched so that the concentration of the U-235 isotope is higher than the 4-5% level typically used in existing reactors but lower than 20%, offers numerous advantages in reactor performance and a lower volume of waste produced.

Lightbridge Sets Priorities for SMR Fuel Development

lb logoLightbridge Corporation (NASDAQ:LBTR) has decided to prioritize developing fuel for future small modular reactors rather than fuel for large reactor designs, President and CEO Seth Grae said this week in a business update ahead of a webcast and conference call to discuss the company’s financial results. The stock closed on 03/26/21 at $6.10/share. This time last year the price was $6.99/share.

Seth Grae, Lightbridge CEO, said the firm is giving priority to its fuel development program with a focus on powering small modular reactors (SMRs). SMRs are expected to have much lower capital costs per module than larger reactor designs, making their deployment easier to finance and support by private and government sectors.

In addition, Grae said the firm expects SMRs using Lightbridge Fuel will have the ability to load follow renewables, helping to expand markets for renewables and SMRs together as countries seek to decarbonize energy generation.

“We believe that Lightbridge Fuel’s most significant economic benefit to SMRs will be to provide a 30% power uprate that will allow SMRs greater flexibility in power levels,” Grae said.

“We want to position Lightbridge as an essential company for the world to meet its climate goals. While existing large reactors can present an additional market opportunity for Lightbridge Fuel, we do not expect significant future growth in the number of these large reactors/ They will not move the needle on climate change.”

“Lightbridge is going where the industry is heading, along with the significant government funding opportunities we expect to go toward SMRs in the coming years, and we remain focused on our pursuit of full-scale commercialization of Lightbridge Fuel as quickly as possible.”

Recently, the firm announced a settlement agreement with Framatome terminating their Enfission joint venture, which will allow Lightbridge to pursue “various promising opportunities” unencumbered by any constraints on the Lightbridge Fuel technology platform.

Olkiluoto-3 / Finland’s Regulator Issues Fuel Loading Permit For EPR Unit

(NucNet) (Framatome) Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk) this week issued a fuel loading permit for the Olkiluoto-3 nuclear power plant with the 1,600 MWe Generation III EPR unit scheduled to start up in October and to begin commercial operation in February 2022.

Areva EPR

Stuk said it had verified plant operator Teollisuuden Voima Oyj’s (TVO) readiness to begin the fuel loading. TVO’s Olkiuoto-3 project director, Jouni Silvennoinen said the permit was the most significant step in the commissioning of the plant unit so far. He said systems have now been rigorously tested and “we will be able to begin fuel loading soon”.

The fuel arrived in Olkiluoto in 2018. During the fuel loading, 241 fuel assemblies, comprising about 128 tonnes of uranium, will be transferred from storage into the reactor’s pressure vessel.

The assemblies have all been manufactured in Framatome’s plants in Germany and in France. Framatome said that to carry out the loading operations, a team made up of approximately 40 employees from TVO, Areva and Framatome is leading the effort. It includes 15 fuel handlers, employees specializing in the fuel handling operations, and four neutronics engineers in charge of monitoring the core during loading.

Completion of the fuel loading will be followed by a new series of hot functional tests before the first criticality and commissioning for commercial operation.

Once the reactor is in service, Framatome teams will contribute to the maintenance of the Olkiluoto-3 reactor under a long-term service contract signed between Framatome and TVO in late 2019. They will be supported by the new subsidiary, Framatome Finland, created in 2019.

The cost of Olkiluoto-3 was initially put at €3.2B, but in 2012 Areva estimated the overall cost at closer to €8.5B. Since then, it has not made public any updated cost projection. The plant is 10 years behind schedule.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency Spikes TEPCO Plans to Restart 7-Unit Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Plant

(Japan Times) Japan’s nuclear regulatory body decided last week to effectively halt all plans by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (Tepco) to restart a seven unit (BWRs) nuclear plant on the Sea of Japan coast after the complex was found to have serious safety flaws.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided at its meeting to suspend efforts by Tepco transport nuclear fuel to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture or to load it into the reactors.  (Image: TEPCO)

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa-NPP-(Tepco)

The punitive measure will be effective until Tepco’s response to the incident is “in a situation where self-sustained improvement is expected,” according to the regulator.

It will be the second administrative order to be issued for a violation of rules under the law to regulate nuclear reactors. The first was imposed in 2013 on the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant was found to have been vulnerable to unauthorized entry at 15 locations in March last year when both its primary intruder detection system and the backup system were found to be defective.  Some of the violations included employees swapping badges for access to controlled areas of the plant.

The regulator provisionally rated the breach at the plant to have been at the worst level in terms in safety and severity, marking the first time it has given such an assessment. The NRA has been aggressive in its insistence that Japan’s nuclear utilities secure their plants against terrorist intrusions.

Facing huge compensation payments and other costs stemming from the 2011 crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant it also operates, Tepco had been seeking to resume operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant to reduce its dependence on costly fossil fuel imports for nonnuclear thermal power generation.

The No. 7 reactor of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant has passed the NRA’s safety screening in order to restart. Tepco will have to suspend its preparations for reactivating the reactor because the NRA order will prohibit the company from loading nuclear fuel into the reactor.

The NRA is expected to take at least one year to confirm improvements to security measures at the plant. It is uncertain when Tepco will be able to restart the reactor.

TVA CEO Reverses Course Saying the Giant Utility Will Need SMRs in the Future

tva-logoThe Chattanooga Times Free Press reports that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), after nearly a decade of closing its coal fired plants, and replacing them with natural gas generation,  may be returning, at least in part, to its nuclear roots. It was once the nation’s most ambitious developer of nuclear power of any U.S. utility, but it hasn’t started building a new nuclear reactor in nearly a half century.

This week TVA President Jeff Lyash told a Senate panel studying the future of nuclear power that he hopes TVA will bring online new small modular reactors in Oak Ridge within the decade even as the federal utility extends the life of its existing fleet of seven reactors. (Full text of Lyash testimony)

“Our schedule is to have a small modular reactor (SMR) perhaps in service at Clinch River (in Oak Ridge) by 2032,” Lyash told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“Our Clinch River site is the only site in the nation with an NRC-approved early site permit for small modular reactors. This effectively eliminates a number of risks that have stopped or delayed many nuclear projects previously.”  The permit is good for 20 years so TVA has plenty of time to make up its mind whether it sees a positive path forward for SMRs both financially and technically.

TVA is pursuing plans to build several SMRs on the 935-acre now abandoned Clinch River Breeder Reactor site in Anderson County, TV. However, the TVA board has yet to authorize the building of more nuclear reactors.

In its early site permit from the NRC, TVA has referenced several SMR types of designs, but it has not expressed a preference for any of them.  The permit authorizes power production of up to 800 MWe which most likely would come from multiple units of the same design.

Legacy of Bellefonte and Watts Bar Costs Haunt TVA

TVA is also embroiled in a complex court dispute with a Tennessee real estate developer who purchased the partially built Bellefonte nuclear plant and who wants to complete it. The developer., Franklin Haney, has pitched the city of Memphis, TN, one of TVA’s biggest customers, to go with his project if it is completed. TVA had at one time considered completing the planned twin 1200 MWe plant, but abandoned it after cost overruns incurred in the completion in 2016 of the Watts Bar plant pushed the utility closer to its debt ceiling.

To complete the final phase of building Watts Bar Unit 2, TVA spent $4.7 billion, or nearly twice the projected $2.5 billion cost estimate made when the project was restarted. Only seven of the 18 nuclear reactors originally planned by TVA were ever completed. Even so TVA remains America’s third-biggest nuclear utility and in 2019-2020 generated 42% of its power from nuclear power.

TVA-plants-map529pxLyash said nuclear power is TVA’s second cheapest source of electricity over the long run, behind only the hydroelectric power TVA gets from its 29 power-generating dams. Nuclear plants are typically the most expensive to build, but Lyash said with proper maintenance and upgrades, he believes TVA’s nuclear plants should be able to run for 100 years.

DOD Awards Contracts for Advanced Microreactors

The US Department of Defense (DOD) said on March 22nd that it exercised contract options for two teams, one led by BWXT Advanced Technologies and the other by X-energy, to proceed with development of a final design for a transportable advanced nuclear microreactor prototype. The two teams were selected from a preliminary design competition, and will each continue development independently under a Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) initiative called Project Pele.

After a final design review in early 2022 and completion of environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, one of the two companies may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype.

“We are thrilled with the progress our industrial partners have made on their designs,” said Dr Jeff Waksman, Project Pele program manager.

“We are confident that by early 2022 we will have two engineering designs matured to a sufficient state that we will be able to determine suitability for possible construction and testing.”

DOD noted that a safe, small, transportable nuclear reactor would address a growing demand for electricity “with a resilient, carbon-free energy source that does not add to the DOD’s fuel needs, while supporting mission-critical operations in remote and austere environments.”

Project Pele is a fourth-generation nuclear reactor, which, once prototyped, could serve as a pathfinder for commercial adoption of such technologies, thereby reducing US carbon emissions and providing new tools for disaster relief and critical infrastructure support.

The prototype reactor will be designed to deliver between 1 MWe and 5MWe for at least three years of operation at full power. To enable rapid transport and use, it will be designed to operate within three days of delivery and to be safely removed in as few as seven days.

project pele

“Production of a full-scale fourth-generation nuclear reactor will have significant geopolitical implications for the United States,” said Jay Dryer, SCO director. “The DOD has led American innovation many times in the past, and with Project Pele, has the opportunity to help us advance on both energy resiliency and carbon emission reductions.”

Project Pele is a whole-of-government effort, with critical expertise provided by the US Army, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

BWXT said in a press statement that it received $28M for the 2nd round of the project. In the first round it received $14M.  X-Energy also received $14M for the 1st round and is eligible to receive up to $30M in this 2nd round. As of 03/27/21 the firm had issued a press statement about the contract award.  Westinghouse, which was a third competitor in the first round, offering its advanced eVinci microreactor, was not selected by DOD for funding in the 2nd round.

DOD will award a contract to one of the two firms for a third “demonstration” phase to build a prototype unit once it evaluates the results of this round of funding.

NEI CEO Maria Korsnick – Swift Action Needed on Nuclear Energy

nei speech(NEI) (WNN) (Video of the speech) Nuclear energy is the key to making climate commitments work and will play a critical role in meeting the Biden Administration’s ambitious climate goals, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) President and CEO Maria Korsnick said this week at the organization’s annual State of the Nuclear Energy Industry event.

“There is no bigger opportunity in front of us than rebuilding the world’s energy system around carbon-free sources,” Korsnick said, adding that there is “no more debate about the need for swift action”.

Over the last year, utilities, state governments, and the new Administration have made “concrete commitments” to bring carbon emissions from electricity generation close to zero by 2035 – even sooner than the 2050 target already acknowledged to be necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

“While we need to scale up every carbon-free source available, no other source can match nuclear energy’s unique combination of attributes,” she said.

The value of nuclear energy’s reliability has become even more apparent over the past year, with US nuclear power plants working on through “unprecedented” conditions like the COVID-19 pandemic and devastating winter storms across the southern USA, she said. ”

Nuclear has become the second-largest source of electricity in the USA overall and surpassed coal for the first time ever”

Nuclear Energy is a Game Changer

“Governments, NGOs, and the private sector all agree: ambitious climate plans only work with nuclear energy. The only question is whether we’re serious about making them work,” she said.

“To meet the challenge before us, we need to move the next generation of nuclear rapidly from design, to demonstration, to build. Across the country, talented innovators are making that happen. Spurred on by commitments from utilities, private investment, and government support, the next generation of nuclear is poised to come online.

“Technologies such as small modular reactors, micro-reactors, and other advanced designs will make nuclear even more efficient, even more affordable and even more versatile. These reactors will come in different sizes and designs. They will be able to change their output, pairing perfectly with more variable sources such as wind and solar.”

Awards made last year under the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program mean that US companies “are able to actually build” advanced reactors, she said. “These are exciting steps towards getting the next generation of nuclear online before the end of the decade.

“Right now, TerraPower and X-Energy are finalizing contracts with DOE for these kinds of demonstrations. Kairos Power and Southern Company Services are finalizing contracts with DOE on risk-reduction projects. General Atomics, MIT, and Advanced Reactor Concepts are all delivering their own conceptual designs.

Elsewhere in the federal government, the Defense Department is moving forward with its own micro-reactor demonstration program to improve national security and address some of the largest threats to our armed forces.”

“The move to demonstration is significant. These new technologies will be cost-competitive, especially with carbon-emitting sources. The next generation of nuclear can not only make a decarbonized energy system work – it can make it affordable,” she said. To form the core of a clean energy system such technologies must be commercialized successfully, she added.

Reactors Under Threat of Closure

She added: “Our climate plans can’t work if we go backwards by shuttering our nuclear plants. But that is exactly the possibility we face. This year, four reactors are under threat of closure in Illinois alone. In that state, they produce twice as much clean electricity as wind and solar combined,” she said. “If they shut down, carbon-emitting sources will likely fill the gap. In 2020, our lost generation from coal was replaced almost entirely with natural gas.”

Korsnick urges state-level action to prevent future nuclear shut-downs and put nuclear on an “even playing field” with other carbon-free sources. Washington and Virginia have already passed clean energy standards, she noted, while Illinois and Minnesota, where clean energy debate, interrupted by the pandemic, have now resumed. She also highlighted state-level actions, such as tax incentives in Nebraska, a small modular reactor study in Montana and funding for SMR manufacturing in Washington.

“We’re seeing movement because these states are realizing an obvious truth: We can’t talk about the urgency of decarbonizing while sacrificing our most reliable source of carbon-free electricity. We can’t celebrate bold plans while conceding defeat against the climate crisis.”

“Either we’re serious about building a better energy future, or we aren’t. Action on nuclear energy will show our true priorities. Nuclear energy is the power source that can make it all work. It can turn some of the biggest threats we face into opportunities.”

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Moltex Gets $50.5M CDN in Gov’t Grants for its Advanced SMR

  • Moltex Receives $50.5M in Canadian Government  Grants for its Advanced SMR
  • DOD Eyes 2023 for Decision to Build Micro Reactors
  • CEZ Can’t Make Up Its Mind About Who Can Bid on 1200 MWe Nuclear New Build at Dukovany
  • France / Finance Minister Tells US That Nuclear Should Continue To Play Role

Moltex Receives $50.5M in Canadian Government
Grants for its Advanced SMR

moltex logoAdvanced nuclear energy developer Moltex received $50.5M CDN funding from Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to fund further development and commercialization of the company’s molten salt reactor and spent fuel recycling technology at a site in St. John, New Brunswick province.

Moltex plans to build the world’s first 300MWe Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W) and WAste To Stable Salt (WATSS) facility at the Point Lepreau Generating Station site in Saint John, New Brunswick, and provide carbon-free electricity to the grid by the early 2030s.

In addition to Moltex, ACOA provided $4,999,568 to NB Power and $561,750 to the University of New Brunswick to strengthen the small modular reactor (SMR) cluster in New Brunswick.

The SIF funds represent $47.5 million CDN of the total federal government investment, and Moltex will match these funds dollar-for-dollar. The full amount will be used to progress the SSR-W and WATSS designs and validate key assumptions to support the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Pre-Licensing Vendor Design Review Phase 2. The ACOA funds represent $3 million of the total, and will be used to further WATSS research.

Moltex said it will rely on a Canadian centric nuclear supply chain, and in the process create hundreds of high-value jobs. In the next 15 years, Moltex said, “these jobs will contribute approximately $1 billion to Gross Domestic Product and result in about $100 million in federal government revenue.”

The SMR technology being developed by New Brunswick-based Moltex Energy Canada Inc. is to be grid-connected and will produce 300 MW of electricity. It seeks to generate emissions-free energy through a process that recycles existing used nuclear fuel, potentially offsetting up to 2.1 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.

About Moltex Technology

According the World Nuclear News, Moltex Energy’s SSR is a conceptual UK reactor design with no pumps and relies on convection from static vertical fuel tubes in the core to convey heat to the steam generators. A key element of the design is that fuel assemblies are arranged at the center of a tank half-filled with the coolant salt which transfers heat away from the fuel assemblies to the peripheral steam generators, essentially by convection.

Core temperature is 500-600°C, at atmospheric pressure. Moltex has also developed its GridReserve molten salt heat storage concept to enable the reactor to supplement intermittent renewables.  See conceptual image below.

grid-reserve_thumb

The SMR design actually is expected to come in three versions.

  • SSR-W: Wasteburner (SSR-W) is a fast reactor that uses recycled nuclear waste as fuel.
  • SR-U: Uranium (SSR-U) is a uranium-fueled, thermal spectrum reactor which generates heat at higher temperatures.
  • SSR-Th: Thorium (SSR-Th) will use thorium.

The firm has not released a timeframe for each of these designs other than saying they will be available in the early 2030s.

DOD Eyes 2023 for Decision to Build Micro Reactors

(WNN) The US Department of Defense’s (DOD) project to develop a mobile reactor, Project Pele, is on track for full power testing of a mobile reactor in 2023, with outdoor mobile testing at a Department of Energy (DOE) installation in 2024, DOD’s Jeff Waksman told the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 33rd Regulatory Information Conference.

The DOD needs a mobile, reliable, sustainable, and resilient power source which does not require a long logistics tail, said Waksman, who is program manager for the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Desired features for the new reactors include quick set-up, shut-down, and the ability to facilitate rapid movement by road, sea, air, or train.  This prototyping project will ensure that critical functions remain operational regardless of the status of the local power grid and allow users to combat physical or cyber espionage from weak grids.

Advances in nuclear technology have made possible a largely autonomous, fully inherently safe reactor which can be safely moved. He added that TRISO – TRIstructural-ISOtropic – fuel is the “game-changing” element that DOD believes will make this feasible.

See prior coverage on this blogDOD Seeks SMRs for Tactical Readiness at Military Bases

TRISO fuel has already been developed by the DOE, and this has eliminated the need for the DOD to develop or qualify a new fuel, Waksman said. The nature of the fuel, with layers of silicon carbide surrounding the enriched uranium oxycarbide fuel kernel, which keep fission products sealed inside the TRISO particle, makes it resilient to proliferation

According to Waksman, DOE and the NRC are providing technical support, design/safety advice, and guidance on reducing current and future licensing risk. DOE is providing reactor safety oversight and authorization; the Army Corps of Engineers is the technical lead on preparing an environmental impact statement; the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration is providing Pele with enriched uranium from its stockpile; and NASA and the DOE are, jointly with SCO, developing a commercial-scale TRISO facility.

Design development is proceeding rapidly, Waksman said. A Preliminary Engineering Design has been completed and reviewed earlier this year, and an announcement narrowing down the three companies selected in 2020 to develop preliminary designs – BWX Technologies, X-energy and Westinghouse – is expected soon, he said. A draft Environmental Impact Statement is targeted for release later this year.

While the three vendors have not disclosed their design details, their selection for Project Pele indicates they have met the minimum technical requirements in the RFS. These include a weight of less than 40 tons, a core designed to use high-­assay low-­enriched uranium (HALEU) advanced gas reactor (AGR) tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel, and passive cooling capabilities.

Final engineering designs are expected to be complete no later than March 2022, allowing construction to begin in the middle of that year. The Army Mobile Reactor Advisory Council (AMRAC) is assisting the technical requirement development.

“We’re on pace on the regulatory front, on nuclear fuel, on NEPA [US environmental law], and everything else,” Waksman  said. A government decision on whether or not to go ahead with building the reactor will be made in 2022.

Project Pele involves the development of a safe, mobile and advanced nuclear microreactor to support a variety of Department of Defense missions, such as generating power for remote operating bases. After a two-year design-maturation period, one of the three companies may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype.

Update 03/23/21 DOD Selects Two Teams for Next Round

Teams led by BWXT Advanced Technologies and X-energy LLC have been selected by the US Department of Defense to develop a final design for a prototype of a transportable advanced nuclear microreactor under the Project Pele initiative.

Three companies – BWXT, X-Energy and Westinghouse Government Services – were selected last year to develop preliminary designs. One of the two remaining teams may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype reactor after a final design review in early 2022 and completion of environmental analysis.  (WNN 3/23/21)

CEZ Can’t Make Up Its Mind About Who Can Bid on 1200 MWe Nuclear New Build at Dukovany

Reuters and English language wire services in the Czech Republic report that state owned nuclear utility CEZ is looking for a political agreement in order to launch a tender to build a new 1200 MWe PWR unit at the Dukovany nuclear plant.

The tender has been delayed, Chief Executive Daniel Benes said, because of tensions rising over whether to invite Russia to submit a bid.. China has already been booted from the procurement process. The French state owned nuclear firm EDF is expected to offer itself as an alternative to Russia with a scaled down version of its 1600 MW EPR.

CEZ, which is 70% state owned, wants to launch the tender, estimated to be worth at least 6 billion euros ($7.17 billion) in current prices, as soon as possible.

The EU and NATO country’s security services have advised not to invite China and Russia into the tender,which is contrary to the perspective of  pro-Russian President Milos Zeman as well as Benes who have spoken in favor of keeping in Russia, seen as a strong contender.

The nuclear project has become a political football as opposition parties, seeking to take power as a result of the scheduled election next October, oppose allowing Russia to bid on the project.

Last January, all political parties agreed Chinese companies should not take part but disagreed on Russia.

Besides China’s CGNP and Russia’s Rosatom, France’s EdF , Korea’s KHNP and U.S. Westinghouse expressed their interest in building the around 1,200 megawatt plant.

Benes said consensus was not contractually necessary and stopped short of saying whether the tender — which would take about 18 months, into the next election period — would be launched amid political rows.

CEZ needs an official instruction from the Industry Ministry before it can go ahead. The ministry has been in favor of keeping the tender open to Russia, but the cabinet has not taken a final stance.

The government’s envoy for nuclear energy, Jaroslav Mil, told Hospodarske Noviny newspaper  that the tender should not be launched without a consensus. In 2003 Mil was removed from his position as the head of CEZ due in part at the time to disputes over plans to spin off government owned coal assets to the private sector. It’s not clear whether he is aligned with the current CEZ chief Daniel Benes on how to proceed with the bid process.

France / Finance Minister Tells US That Nuclear Should Continue To Play Role

(NucNet) French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said during a meeting with US climate change envoy John Kerry that nuclear energy should continue to plan a key role in low-carbon power generation.

Mr Le Maire also said he had proposed that the US and Europe work on a common taxonomy for green finance.

He said it was important to open discussions with the US on carbon border tax adjustments, and to avoid importing CO2 emissions from countries that do not respect climate issues in their production processes.

The EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy aims at creating a common language that investors can refer to when investing in projects and economic activities that have a substantial positive impact on the climate and the environment. Energy generation technologies under the taxonomy have been assessed on whether they do not cause significant harm to other EU environmental objectives.

A March 2020 report by a commission technical expert group omitted nuclear energy from its recommendations on the taxonomy rules, saying it was unable to conclude that the industry’s value chain meets these criteria. The nuclear industry and scientific organizations worked to overturn the policy. In September 2020 the commission reversed itself a move which was welcomed by nuclear energy utilities and organizations.

The French nuclear society SFEN called last year for a commitment by the government to build a series of new EPR nuclear power reactors. SFEN said this would stimulate the country’s economy as it recovers from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic with domestic companies likely to take an 80% share of the project.

In December, France’s president Emmanuel Macron said he saw nuclear energy as a solution for an eco-friendly future , calling for “key” preparatory studies around the construction of new reactors to be wrapped up in the coming months.

France derives around 75% of its energy from nuclear sources and has planned to reduce this to 50% by 2035. The country has a fleet of 56 commercial reactors, second only to the US, which has 94. EDF has proposed replace the units as they age out with a scaled down and cost competitive version of the 1600 MW EPR.

The only EPR unit under construction i France, the Flamanville-3 EPR in Normandy, has been hit by delays and cost overruns. The Generation III unit is 12 years behind schedule and €4m over budget. It has been hobbled by recurring delays regarding the quality of construction and the French nuclear regulator has halted work several times until the issues are corrected to its satisfaction.

The root cause of these problems is that the supply chain vendors are dealing with custom designs rather than mass producing components and the workforce is inexperienced in terms of building a project of this complexity.

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Barakah / UAE Regulator Grants Operating License For Unit 2

  • Barakah / UAE Regulator Grants Operating License For Unit 2
  • India / Government Pushing Ahead With Ambitious Plan For 10 New Nuclear Reactors
  • Czech Nuclear Regulator Grants Site License For Up To Two Reactors At Dukovany
  • Poland Eyes Coal Site For New Nuclear Power Stations
  • GEH and Fermi Energia Strengthen Collaboration on SMR Development
  • BWXT Awarded $35 Million in Uranium Processing and Research Reactor Fuel Contracts
  • Atlantic Council, a DC Think Tank, Publishes a New Report on US-South Korea Cooperation on Nuclear Energy

Barakah / UAE Regulator Grants Operating License For Unit 2

(NucNet)  The United Arab Emirates’ Nawah Energy Company, the facility’s operating and maintenance company, announced that the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), the UAE nuclear regulator, this week issued the operating license for Unit 2 of the Barakah nuclear power station. It is the second of four units at the site to get one.

Map of UAE Nuclear Plant LocationNawah said the FANR board of directors approved the license on March the following “rigorous assessments and independent reviews” of Nawah’s operational readiness, including the successful completion of a pre-startup review by the World Association of Nuclear Operators.

Hamad Al Kaabi, UAE permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency and FANR deputy chairman, said the review process had been exhaustive.

“This is the result of intensive work and collaboration with national and international stakeholders such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, Republic of Korea and other international regulatory bodies.”

Mr Al Kaabi said that the commercial operation of Unit 1 would be announced soon. In December 2020, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation said Barakah-1 had reached 100% of its rated power and commercial operation was scheduled for early 2021.

The Barakah nuclear station, in the Al Dhafra region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, is the first commercial nuclear energy facility in the Arab world and one of the largest nuclear energy new-build projects.

All four units are being supplied by main contractor and joint venture partner Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco). Each unit is 1,345 MW with a total net installed capacity for the station of 5,380 MW.

India / Government Pushing Ahead With Ambitious Plan For 10 New Nuclear Reactors

(NucNet) India is pushing ahead with ambitious proposals for the construction of 10 domestically-developed 700-MW pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs). The PHWR is a domestic design based on the CANDU type reactor which uses heavy water and U238 to provide a critical reaction.

See previous coverage on this blog: India Doubles Down on Domestic 700 MWe PHWR design

Indian-PHWR-Schematic-Layout-Diagram

The planned reactors are Kaiga-5 and -6 in Karnataka state, Chutka-1 and -2 in Madhya Pradesh, Mahi Banswara-1,-2,-3 and -4 in Rajasthan and Gorakhpur-3 and -4 in Haryana state, a facility officially known in India as the Gorakhpur Haryana Anu Vidyut Pariyojana nuclear station.

The government approved and financially sanctioned the construction of the 10 plants in 2017. At the time, a spokesman said they were scheduled to be completed by 2031. The total cost of constructing the reactors was estimated in 2017 at $16.3B. This is probably a very conservative estimate.

The design does not require a reactor pressure vessel (RPV) like a pressurized water reactor or boiling water reactor. This is important because India does not have the manufacturing capability to produce the large forgings needs to make RPVs.

However, what it means for Indian heavy industries is that they will get the procurement action for all long lead time components which will mean thousands of jobs for Indian workers.

Four of the 700 MWe PHWRs are already under construction: Kakrapar-3 and -4 in the state of Gujurat, western India, and Rajasthan-7 and -8 in the state of Rajasthan, northern India.

Construction is also scheduled to begin of two Russia-supplied VVER-1000 reactors as Units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam nuclear power station in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, minister of state Jitendra Singh told parliament.

India has about 7 GW of installed nuclear capacity today. India relies on coal for about 48% of its energy generation. It’s long term plan is to have 25 GWe of nuclear generating capacity which is significantly reduced from an earlier more ambitious plan for 60 GWe.

Czech Nuclear Regulator Grants Site License For Up To Two Reactors At Dukovany

bid cover sheet(Wire Services) The Czech State Office for Nuclear Safety said this week it will authorize construction of two new reactors at a single site. It issued a site permit for up to two new reactor units at the Dukovany nuclear power station.

Czech state utility CEZ has said it is planning to build one Generation III+ reactor at the Dukavny site, with a maximum installed capacity of 1,200 MW. The license allows for two nuclear units and calls for the design to be a Gen III+ PWR.

The government hopes to connect the first reactor to the grid by 2037. The government must release a tender for bids by vendors. There is intense interest in the project by France which has been lobbying hard to get the work. In an earlier tender, the Czech state owned utility CEZ forced Areva, now EDF, to drop out of the competition and then later cancelled the tender altogether in 2014. At that time CEZ was talking about up to five nuclear reactors with two are Dukovany and three at Temelin and with an estimated cost of $25B.

Five companies have expressed interest in building new nuclear power units – China General Nuclear, EDF, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Rosatom and Westinghouse.

The government’s plan to release a tender has been delayed by debates over whether to allow Chinese and Russian interests to participate in the bidding. In January the government said that China would not be allowed to submit a bid. The Russians tend to regard eastern European nations that are former communist bloc countries as captive markets, but so far this perspective hasn’t yet resulted in new projects outside of Hungary which is closely tied to Moscow.

The government and state-owned utility CEZ are reported to have agreed to a financing model for the new nuclear unit which is expected to cost approximately $7,4B for the 1200 MWe unit. The government has agreed to provide guarantees for any costs resulting from political or legislative risks. In other words, if a future government interferes with or shuts down the project any time before it is in revenue service, it is on the hook for all project costs.

A framework agreement was also signed under which CEZ is to hold a tender for the reactor supplier, negotiate a contract with an EPC to build it, and receive all the required construction licenses by 2024 with operations set for 2036.

Poland Eyes Coal Site For New Nuclear Power Stations

(Wire Services) Poland is considering the site of Europe’s largest coal-fired power station as a location for a nuclear plant as part of Warsaw’s ambitious reactor new-build program,

Piotr Naimski, secretary of state for strategic energy infrastructure, told local RMF FM radio Poland’s first two or three units will be built at one of two locations – Lubiatowo-Kopalino or Zarnowiec – in the northern province of Pomerania near the Baltic cost.

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

It’s an enormously ambitious plan and its likelihood of being realized depends on financing that is not in place. Asked about the cost of the nuclear program, Mr Naimski said it is estimated at about €17.5bn over 20 years.

Mr Naimski said using the sites of existing fossil fuel plants like Belchatow is “most rational” because of the existing grid infrastructure, which would allow the transmission of large amounts of electricity. He expects that  nuclear power could generate up to 25% of Polish electricity in the early 2040s.

A government issued timetable said Poland could sign a general contract for its first nuclear unit in 2022 and issue a construction permit in 2025. Construction of Unit 1 would begin in 2026. The first of six plants could begin commercial operation in 2033 with the starting in second in 2035, the third in 2037, the fourth in 2039, the fifth in 2041 and the sixth in 2043.

Poland has an October 2020 civil nuclear agreement with the U.S. It calls for it officially to come into force. According to the agreement, the U.S. now must prepare a technology and financing proposal within 18 months regarding Poland’s planned $18 billion investment in American nuclear technology and services.

The actual cost of 6,000-9,000 MWe at $4,500/Kw would be in the range of $27B to $36B which means the U.S. is looked at by Poland with an entirely unrealistic view of providing $18B or about up to two-thirds or at least one-half of the cost. The agreement was inked by the Trump administration as a way to block China from gaining access to the Polish nuclear market.

It remains unclear how Poland will pay for these nuclear energy investments and there is no guarantee that the U.S. will provide major financing for them now that China has been edged out of the bidding.

GEH and Fermi Energia Strengthen Collaboration on SMR Development

(Wire Services) US-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Estonia’s Fermi Energia have advanced their technology collaboration by entering into a teaming agreement to support the potential deployment of a BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) in Estonia, GEH said on 8 March.

bwrx300 GEH

Through the teaming agreement GEH expects to support Fermi Energia in key areas such as licensing, human resources and supply chain development as well as continued development of the information and analysis needed for potential deployment of the BWRX-300 in Estonia.

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation small modular reactor (SMR) with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s US NRC-certified 1530 MWe ESBWR. GEH claims that the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared with other SMR designs.

By leveraging the existing ESBWR design certification, utilizing the licensed and proven GNF2 fuel design, and incorporating proven components and supply chain expertise, the BWRX-300 can, GEH believes, become the lowest-risk, most cost-competitive and quickest to market SMR.

Fermi Energia has selected four SMR designs to be included in its feasibility study: Moltex Energy SSR-W300, Terrestrial Energy IMSR-400, GE Hitachi BWRX-300 and NuScale SMR.

The UK’s Rolls-Royce and Fermi Energia has also signed an MOU to study the potential for the deployment of SMRs in Estonia. The study will cover all aspects of deployment, including grid suitability, cooling, emergency planning, human resources, licensing feasibility, economics and the supply chain.

Bottom line Fermi Energia has its outreach ongoing with a wide spectrum of vendors are part of its due diligence and effort to get the best technology for a competitive price.

BWXT Awarded $35 Million in Uranium Processing and Research Reactor Fuel Contracts

BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) announced that its BWXT Nuclear Operations Group, Inc. (BWXT NOG) subsidiary has been awarded a total of $35 million in contracts under two separate programs – uranium recovery and conversion as well as construction of a new research reactor fuel line.

HALEU Research Reactor Fuel Project

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) awarded a $17.9 million contract to BWXT NOG to complete the second phase of the construction of a new research reactor fuel line.

The contract funds the repurposing of a portion of the Lynchburg uranium processing facility to be used to manufacture uranium-molybdenum alloy High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (U-Mo HALEU) fuel.

This fuel will facilitate conversion of high-performance U.S. research reactors that currently use high enriched uranium.

Separately, the U.S. Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program has awarded BWXT NOG a $17.4 million contract for uranium recovery and conversion.

Atlantic Council, a DC Think Tank, Publishes a New Report on US-South Korea Cooperation on Nuclear Energy

The Atlantic Council has released a new report on ‘Advancing US-ROK Cooperation on Nuclear Energy.’ The analysis recommends that commercial and government entities in the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK) collaborate on third-country projects (especially those involving advanced reactors).

Also, it recommends that both countries increase export financing for nuclear projects, cooperate on civil nuclear research endeavors like the U.S. Versatile Test Reactor, and strengthen commercial ties around next-generation technologies. Briefing documents made public by the Idaho National Laboratory have discussed the opportunity for a South Korean nuclear industry role with the Versatile Test Reactor.

The United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are longstanding civil nuclear partners, with the potential to intensify their collaboration, especially as global markets for nuclear energy expand.

A South Korean consortium that is building the Barakah project in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) successfully brought the two of four reactors online, which will likely be a selling point for future international projects.

According to the report, the US and ROK should seek opportunities for collaboration in the following areas:

  • Commercial and government entities in the US and ROK should identify opportunities for joint participation in third-country projects, especially with an eye toward advanced reactor projects.
  • Both countries should invest in export financing so that they can secure the long-term geopolitical relationships that accompany the sale of nuclear energy technologies.
  • The US and ROK governments should pursue cooperation on civil nuclear research, including the potential for cost-sharing on the US Versatile Test Reactor (VTR).
  • The nuclear energy industries in both countries should increase commercial cooperation on advanced reactors in order to strengthen the supply chain for initial deployment.
  • ROK nuclear firms should restore opportunities for US firms to participate in the ROK’s domestic nuclear energy infrastructure.

South Korean Ministry to Promote Nuclear Exports

South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy has established a support system for overseas nuclear power plant orders and is actively supporting the export of equipment by Korean small and medium-sized nuclear power companies.

In addition, a comprehensive portal site, Nuclear Power Export Information and Support System, has been launched that provides Korean companies with the information they need to enter the overseas nuclear power plant market. It also provides information on Korean companies and their products for overseas clients and buyers.

The group is targeting opportunities to build nuclear reactors in the Czech Republic and Poland.

UAE – South Korea Hydrogen Agreement

South Korean Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo said South Korea has signed an agreement with the UAE on March 4 to cooperate on the hydrogen economy, further expanding their partnership currently focused on nuclear energy, oil and gas.

During the Korea-UAE Industry and Energy Cooperation Forum held online, South Korean Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy Sung Yun-mo and UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Al Jaber inked a memorandum of understanding to share hydrogen trade regulations and policies and establish a cooperation channel between two parties’ hydrogen economy promotion agencies – H2Korea and Hydrogen Alliance. The plan includes the use of the four reactors South Korea is building for the UAE to produce hydrogen.

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X-Energy Signs on to DOE ARDP for $80M in Initial Funding

  • X-Energy Signs on for ARDP and $80M in Initial Funding
  • China  Five-Year-Plan Includes Proposals For Up to 20 New Reactors
  • China Commits to the ACP100 Small Modular Reactor
  • Tvel / Russian Company Starts Fuel Facility For China’s CFR-600 Fast Neutron Reactor
  • Dutch Consortium Plans Work on Molten Salt Reactors
  • Swedish Companies Seek Financial Support for Lead Cooled SMR Development

X-Energy Signs on for ARDP and $80M in Initial Funding

The advanced nuclear energy reactor developer X-Energy announced this week that it has signed the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) Cooperative Agreement, officially marking the beginning of the company’s participation in ARDP’s ~$2.5 billion program.

DOE is providing $80M in the first phase of the cost shared funding plan. DOE will invest approximately $1.23 billion in X-energy’s project over the seven-year period for this demonstration project.

X-Energy Technical Profile                                            X-Energy Xe-100 Profile: Chart: IAEA

This project will enable X-energy to build the world’s first commercial scale advanced nuclear reactor with Energy Northwest at a site in Washington state.

conceptual image X-Energy DesignARDP is designed to spur domestic private industry to demonstrate advanced reactors in the United States and the global export market. DOE selected X-energy as one of two firms for ARDP in October 2020. The other firm is TerraPower.

The Xe-100 is an 80 MWe (scalable to a 320 MWe four-pack) high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). (Image right is a conceptual view of the design. Image: X-Energy)

It uses TRi-structural ISOtropic particle fuel (TRISO), manufactured by X-energy, that can integrate into large, regional electricity systems as a base and load-following source of carbon-free power.

According to X-Energy the reactor as designed is expected to optimize grid use of low-emission, intermittent renewables and other clean energy resources.

The reactor is also ideal for project sites and other power applications, including as a source for industrial process heat.

As part of the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, X-energy and its supply chain partners will deliver a commercial four-unit nuclear power plant of its Xe-100 reactor design and a commercial scale TRISO fuel fabrication facility.

About the ARDP Program

ARDP is designed to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the United States. DOE expects to invest approximately $600 million over seven years with industry partners providing at least 20% in matching funds.

The Department of Energy ARDP program has three elements.

  • Advanced reactor demonstrations, which are expected to result in a fully functional advanced nuclear reactor within 7 years of the award.
  • Risk reduction for future demonstrations, which will support up to five additional teams resolving technical, operational, and regulatory challenges to prepare for future demonstration opportunities.
  • Advanced reactor concepts 2020 (ARC 20), which will support innovative and diverse designs with potential to commercialize in the mid-2030s.

NRIC imageARDP will leverage the National Reactor Innovation Center to efficiently test and assess ARD technologies by engaging the world-renowned capabilities of the national laboratory system to move these reactors from blueprints to reality. (Briefing slidesPDF file)

The National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) accelerates the demonstration and deployment of advanced nuclear energy. NRIC is is a national Department of Energy program led by Idaho National Laboratory, working with collaborators to demonstrate advanced reactors by the end of 2025.

Risk Reduction for Future Demonstration Projects

Last October DOE awarded TerraPower LLC (Bellevue, WA) and X-energy (Rockville, MD) $80 million each in initial funding to build two advanced nuclear reactors that can be operational within seven years.

See prior coverage on this blogDOE Awards $80M each to TerraPower, X-Energy for ARDP

The awards are cost-shared partnerships with industry that will deliver two first-of-a-kind advanced reactors to be licensed for commercial operations. The Department will invest a total of $3.2 billion over seven years, subject to the availability of future appropriations. The firms participating in the project will be providing matching funds.

TerraPower Role in ARDP

TerraPower, which is the other firm receiving the DOE funding, will demonstrate the Natrium reactor, a sodium cooled fast reactor that leverages of decades of development and design undertaken by TerraPower and its partner, GE Hitachi.

GE Hitachi will be leveraging the design work it has done on the PRISM reactor which in turn has its legacy in the design of the Integral Fast Reactor at the Argonne West site in Idaho.

The high-operating temperature of the Natrium reactor, coupled with thermal energy storage, will allow the plant to provide flexible electricity output that complements variable renewable generation such as wind a solar. In addition, this project will establish a new metal fuel fabrication facility that is scaled to meet the needs of this demonstration program.

DOE said that both projects incorporate a range of design features that will not only enhance safety, but make them affordable to construct and operate, paving the way for the United States to deploy highly competitive advanced reactors domestically and globally.

China / Five-Year-Plan Includes Proposals
For Up to 20 New Reactors

(Nucnet)  China is backing the further development of commercial nuclear power as a key tool in its drive to cut carbon emissions, according to the 2021-2025 five-year plan presented on Friday to China’s annual National People’s Congress.

Beijing said it aims to have 70 GW of installed nuclear capacity by 2025 from about 50 GW at the end of 2019. That would equate to about 20 new reactors, 2021-2025, although China already has 12 under construction.

China originally aimed to bring its nuclear installed capacity to 58 GW by 2020, but didn’t meet the target following a moratorium on new projects following the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident and delays at a number of Generation III plants that were under construction.

According to the World Nuclear Association January 2021 assessment of China’s nuclear energy program, these are the project (Table) which are getting underway in the near term.

china new nuclear march 2021

China Commits to the ACP100 Small Modular Reactor

According to several reports by World Nuclear New, two demonstration multi-purpose modular ACP100 ‘Linglong One’ units will be built at Changjiang. This will be China Guodian’s first mainland domestic nuclear power venture, with CNNC holding 51% of CNNC New Energy Corporation (CNNC-CNEC).

The ACP100 units are integral PWRs, 125 MWe, with passive cooling for decay heat removal. CNNC said that the units could provide electricity, heat and desalination. Construction time is expected to be 65 months.

The ACP100 was identified as a ‘key project’ in China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, and is developed from the larger ACP1000 PWR. The design, which has 57 fuel assemblies and integral steam generators, incorporates passive safety features and will be installed underground.

ACP100 Technical Profile
                                        ACP100 Technical Profile – Chart: IAEA

In 2016, China announced plans to build a demonstration floating nuclear power plant based on the ACP100S variant of the CNNC design. The use of the floating SMRs is targeted at providing power to artificial islands in the South China Sea for military bases there intended to project geopolitical influence in the region.

See prior coverage on this blogChina to deploy floating nuclear power plants to support geopolitical goals in S. E. Asia

The new mainland project involves a joint venture of three companies for the demonstration plant: CNNC as owner and operator, the Nuclear Power Institute of China as the reactor designer and China Nuclear Engineering Group being responsible for plan. Construction is expected to take 65 months, with the 125 MWe unit to start up by May 2025, subject to relevant governmental approvals.

China Slated to Become World Leader in Commercial Nuclear Power

China will have the world’s largest nuclear power fleet within a decade, an International Energy Agency official said during a session at the High-Level Workshop on Nuclear Power in Clean Energy Transitions according to World Nuclear News . The workshop was held jointly by the IEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IEA official, Brent Wanner, head of Power Sector Modelling & Analysis for the agency’s World Energy Outlook publication, said that as nuclear fleets in the United States, Canada, and Japan reach their original design lifetimes, the contribution of nuclear power could decline substantially in those countries while China’s reactor building program will boost it into first place.

china nuclear plants map WNN

   Map of Current and Planned Nuclear Power Plants in China. Ma: World Nuclear Assoc

China already has 50 nuclear reactors in commercial operation, the third highest number behind the US (94) and France (56). In 2019, nuclear energy accounted for 4.9% of the country’s electricity production share, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Tvel / Russian Company Starts Fuel Facility For China’s CFR-600 Fast Neutron Reactor

(Nucnet) Russian nuclear fuel manufacturer Tvel has started a production facility which will fabricate fuel for China’s CFR-600 fast neutron reactor under construction under construction in Xiapu County, Fujian province, China, on Changbiao Island, a coastal site 650 km south of Shanghai.. It is a generation IV demonstration project by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). The project is also known as Xiapu fast reactor pilot project.

Tvel said in a statement that the facility is part of the Elemash Machine-Building Plant, a Tvel plant in Elektrostal, near Moscow.

The CFR-600 is a 600-MW sodium-cooled pool-type fast reactor and is expected to begin commercial operation by 2023. The plant will be able to operate on both mixed oxide (MOX) and uranium dioxide (UO2) fuel types. It is expected to have a design life of 60 years.

Tvel said the new production facility in Elektrostal is a result of a contract signed as a part of a 2018 nuclear cooperation deal between Russia and China, which included the joint construction and operation of the CFR-600 plant.

According to Tvel, the fuel contract covers initial loading of nuclear fuel into the CFR-600 and a number of subsequent refuels covering the first seven years of the unit’s operation. It isn’t clear what the duration is for each fuel cycle.

Tvel said the new fuel fabrication facility will be used to produce fuel not only for the Chinese CFR-600 and CEFR fast reactors, but also for the Russian BN-600 fast reactor at the Beloyarsk nuclear power station.

See prior coverage on this blogRussia’s BN-800 Reactor Enters Commercial Operation

Profile of the CFR600

The CFR600 (China Fast Reactor-600) nuclear reactor pilot project represents the second step in fast reactor development in China following the success of the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR), which was connected to the grid in July 2010.

Designed by China Institute of Atomic Energy, the CFR600 is a prototype sodium-cooled pool-type fast reactor capable of generating 1,500MW of thermal power and 600MW of electric power. The reactor design aims at achieving a thermal efficiency of 40%. The medium-sized fourth-generation advanced nuclear reactor will feature two coolant loops and is designed to operate at 380°C and 550°C of inlet and outlet core temperatures, respectively.

Scheduled for commissioning in 2023, the CFR-600 pilot project is expected to pave the way for the development and commercialization of much larger CFR-1000 reactors in China by 2030.

The CFR-600 nuclear reactor will also feature design flexibility to use two fuel types. The reactor will be first loaded with uranium oxide (UO2) and then converted to run on mixed oxide (MOX) fuel.

Dutch Consortium Plans Work on Molten Salt Reactors

The Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) in the Netherlands said this month that it had set up a consortium to work on development of Molten Salt Reactors. The focus of the joint effort will be design and testing of important processes and materials needed to build them. A key emphasis is expected to be on the use of thorium as a fuel type.

440px-IMSR_heat_applications

                     Conceptual image of a molten salt reactor:  Image: Wikipedia

Members of the consortium include TU Delft, DIFFER, and reactor developer Thorizon. According to press releases, TU Delft has been involved in research into the thorium MSR for a number of years, and NRG in Petten has research facilities including the High Flux (research) Reactor.

The consortium members said they are making plans to have a first of a kind reactor built by 2035. This will be fueled with thorium with the objective of demonstrating the use of this fuel in MSRs.

NRG said said that it will carry out irradiations of materials intended to be used in MSRs. It will also work on testing and qualification of fuels for MSRs.

Swedish Companies Seek Financial Support for
Lead Cooled SMR Development

sunrise logoGerman utility Uniper Sweden, Swedish reactor company Blykalla and Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) said in February that they submitted an application to the Swedish Energy Agency for co-financing of a prototype to develop the reactor technology of the future.

This is the second step of three in the development and commercialization of a new type of reactor in Sweden during the 2030s.

The application is based on the project “Sunrise” which the Foundation for Strategic Research supported with SEK50 million ($6M) to develop design, material technology and safety analysis for an advanced lead-cooled research and demonstration reactor. Sunrise includes KTH, Luleå University and Uppsala University. An detailed workplan, in English, is posted at the project website.

Lead Cooled Reactor Conceptual Image

Conceptual image of a lead cooled reactor; Image: Gen IV

If funding is available, the next step will be to build an electrically powered non-nuclear prototype for testing and verifying materials and technology in an environment of molten lead at high temperatures. The prototype, which will be operated for five years starting in 2024, is planned to be built on OKG’s area at Simpevarp outside Oskarshamn.

Johan Svenningsson, CEO Uniper Sweden, said in a press statement, “We see a clear role for nuclear power in the energy system of the future, and we therefore invest in developing the nuclear power of the future in collaboration with the company Blykalla, which has patents on design and materials for a small modular reactor with lead cooling and passive safety.”

Nuclear Energy’s Role in Sweden

The path for advanced nuclear reactor technology in Sweden may face some stiff headwinds. In recent years Sweden has shut down four older nuclear reactors which led to the restart of fossil fuel power plants. The country’s political leadership has been ambivalent about challenging the influence of green parties who want to do away with all nuclear energy use in the country.

According to the World Nuclear Association, Sweden’s nuclear power reactors provide about 40% of its electricity.

The country’s 1997 energy policy allowed 10 reactors to operate longer than envisaged by the 1980 phase-out policy, but also resulted in the premature closure of a two-unit plant (1200 MWe).

Some 1600 MWe was subsequently added in uprates to the remaining ten reactors. In 2015 decisions were made to close four older reactors by 2020, removing 2.7 GWe. Nuclear power plants are heavily taxed by the government despite their role in abating further releases of greenhouse gases.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Use of Nuclear Energy to Produce Hydrogen Gains Ground

  • Lucid Catalyst Report Says Nuclear Reactors, Especially SMRs, are Key to Developing a Hydrogen Economy
  • UK / Roadmap Says Nuclear Could Produce One-Third Of Clean Hydrogen Needs By 2050
  • Japan Invests in an Advanced Small Modular Reactor Intended to Produce Hydrogen
  • Chinese Fast Reactor Begins High-Power Operation
  • BN-800 Fast Reactor Completes First Refueling with Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX); MBIR Research Reactor Set for Startup in 2028.
  • Japanese Utilities Revise MOX Utilization Plan

Lucid Catalyst Report –
Advanced Heat Sources are Key to Decarbonization

green h2

According to the UK based consulting firm Lucid Catalyst, in its latest report says that it’s not too late to meet the Paris goals. That finding comes with a big caveat.

The firm says that this is possible only if we are prepared to make major investments in clean hydrogen production.

“There is simply no other way to make the numbers add up – this truly is the missing link we need to maintain a livable climate on this planet.”

According to the firm’s research, given the scale and urgency of the required clean transition combined with the growth of the global energy system, all zero-carbon hydrogen production options must be pursued as fast as possible.,

The report, Missing Link to a Livable Climate, describes how to decarbonize “a substantial portion” of the global energy system, for which there is currently “no viable alternative”, and presents the six actions that are needed. (see summary below)

This report shows how existing industrial capabilities in the oil and gas sectors, combined with a new generation of advanced [small] modular reactors, can be re-deployed to fully and cost-competitively decarbonize aviation, shipping, cement, and other industries by mid-century.

To achieve this, the report says hydrogen-enabled fuels need to be produced, without emissions, at a price that is competitive with the fossil fuels they are replacing. It shows how advanced heat sources manufactured in high productivity environments, could deliver hydrogen on a large scale for USD1.10/kg, with further cost reductions at scale reaching USD0.90/kg by 2030.

These advanced heat sources can be built rapidly and at the required scale using a ‘gigafactory’ approach to modular construction and manufacturing, or in existing world-class shipyards.

The clean energy from these nuclear units, combined with “aggressive” renewables deployment, gives a much better chance of achieving the Paris goals of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius in the very limited time available

lucid chart 1

Report – Missing Link to a Livable Climate: How Hydrogen-Enabled Synthetic Fuels Can Help Deliver the Paris Goals

Note readers: The report is formatted to be read best in landscape mode

How Much Hydrogen is Needed at What Cost to Save the Planet?

To replace 100 million barrels of oil per day equivalent requires an investment of USD17 trillion, spent over 30 years from 2020 to 2050 or at an average rate of USD567 billion annually. (For comparison purposes, the total US defense budget in 2018 was USD618 billion) It follows that saving the planet won’t be cheap, but spending the money is better as an alternative to not having a livable planet.

The report notes that this level of spending is lower than the USD25 trillion investment otherwise required to maintain such fossil fuels flows in future decades, and contrasts with a USD70 trillion investment for a similarly sized renewables-to-fuels strategy.

“The potential of advanced heat sources to power the production of large-scale, very low-cost hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels could transform global prospects for near-term decarbonization and prosperity.

While it sounds daunting to achieve the scale of production needed, the scalability and power density of advanced heat sources, including nuclear energy, are a major benefit. By moving to a manufacturing model with [small modular reactor] designs, it is possible to deliver hundreds of units in multiple markets around the world each year.”

How Can the Production of Hydrogen Can be Achieved?

The study shows how scalable, cost-effective hydrogen can be produced in the near term. To facilitate informed decision-making, it says that government and industry should immediately issue requests for information and seek quotes for shipyard manufactured plants and begin commissioning refinery-scale clean fuels production now.

Shipyards are “masters of cost, scale, and engineering integration” and their “tightly integrated design and manufacturing processes”, combined with onsite steel mills and long-term supply chain relationships, “offer exactly the needed heavy manufacturing components and equipment,” the report says.

Domestic and global zero-CO2 hydrogen market development along with existing and emerging global and domestic zero-carbon hydrogen policy initiatives should be “technology inclusive”, it says. They should be focused on key outcomes related to cost and scale of production, creation of zero-carbon hydrogen markets, and increased market share for zero-carbon fuels, it adds.

A key issue is access to finance. “In the same way that investors must take a portfolio approach to investments in order to reduce exposure to risk, global efforts to limit climate change should be spread across a portfolio of technology options,” it says, adding that “consistent, technology-inclusive access to finance is critical to realizing this”.

Finally, noting that advanced heat source technology is not included by significant energy modelling programs active across the world today, the report recommends that policy makers consider adding this demonstrated technology option into modelling where it is currently absent.

UK / Roadmap Says Nuclear Could Produce One-Third Of Clean Hydrogen Needs By 2050

(NucNet) Nuclear reactors, including (small modular reactors) SMRs, could help meet ‘immense’ challenge of moving to net zero economy. Nuclear power could produce one-third of the UK’s clean hydrogen needs by 2050 with existing large-scale nuclear plants and a new generation of advanced reactors playing a role, according to a hydrogen roadmap published by the Nuclear Industry Council (NIC).

uses of hydrogen

The roadmap outlines how large-scale and small modular reactors can produce both the power and the heat needed to produce emissions-free hydrogen, or “green hydrogen”.

Existing large-scale reactors could produce green hydrogen at scale through electrolysis, as could the next generation of gigawatt-scale reactors. SMRs, the first unit of which could be deployed within the next 10 years, would unlock further possibilities for green hydrogen production near industrial clusters.

Advanced modular reactors under development offer one of the most promising innovations for green hydrogen production, since they will create temperatures high enough to split water without diverting production of electricity.

The ability to generate both power and hydrogen would cut costs, add flexibility, and allow co-location of reactors with industry to aid further decarbonization.

The roadmap estimates that 12-13 GW of nuclear reactors of all types could use electrolysis, steam electrolysis using waste heat and thermochemical water splitting to produce 75 TWh of green hydrogen by 2050.

“We will need to deploy every low-carbon technology at our disposal to produce clean hydrogen, especially “green hydrogen” from zero-carbon sources,” the roadmap says. “Nuclear, as a proven zero-carbon generator, should be a key part of the clean hydrogen mix.”

The NIC, a joint forum between the UK nuclear industry and government, sets priorities for government-industry collaboration to promote nuclear power in the UK. It says the UK depends on fossil fuels for more than three-quarters of its energy, but over the next 30 years, must transition to a net zero economy and the challenge is “immense.”

Japan Invests in an Advanced Small Modular Reactor Intended to Produce Hydrogen

In the trend toward decarbonized societies, hydrogen is gaining prominence as a new energy source that does not emit carbon dioxide (CO2). The Japan Atomic Energy Agency is developing a new type of reactor, called the “High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor” (HTTR), in the town of Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture.

The high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) is the next generation of nuclear power generation that can simultaneously produce unlimited amounts of hydrogen along with electricity.
Prior Coverage on this blogJapan Gets Green Light to Restart R&D HTGR

One feature of HTGRs is that they use helium gas to produce a high temperature of 950 degrees, three times higher than that of conventional nuclear power. This high temperature can be used to drive a gas turbine to generate electricity, while producing hydrogen through the thermochemical decomposition of water, in a cyclical process involving iodine and sulfur dioxide.

japan htgrimg_data_01

Commercialization of this reaction, called the IS (iodine-sulfur) process, has been considered problematic, but the HTTR research team achieved 150 hours of continuous hydrogen production — the standard for long-time operation — two years ago.

The thermal output of the HTTR is 30,000 kilowatts. Since it is in the first stage of development, it is not equipped with a power generator, but it has all the basic functions of a high temperature gas-cooled reactor.

The HTTR is currently undergoing a safety review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Compliance with new regulatory standards was confirmed in June 2020, and approval of the construction plan is underway. If construction work proceeds smoothly, operation is expected to resume in the summer of 2021.

Chinese Fast Reactor Begins High-Power Operation

(WNN) The China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) has been restarted and reconnected to the grid, marking its entry into its high-power operation phase. The sodium-cooled, pool-type fast reactor began a refueling and maintenance outage at the end of July last year, having completed commissioning tests for the power test phase of the reactor.

The China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIEA) said the CEFR had started its second operating cycle on January 19th this year and was connected to the grid in February. It said the high-power operation of CEFR is “an important way to master fast reactor technology and cultivate talents.”

The CEFR was constructed near Beijing with Russian assistance at CIEA, which undertakes fundamental research on nuclear science and technology. The reactor has a thermal capacity of 65 MW and can produce 20 MW in electrical power. The CEFR was built by Russia’s OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with OKB Gidropress, NIKIET and the Kurchatov Institute.

China’s fast reactor development has implemented a three-step strategy, namely going from an experimental fast reactor, to a demonstration fast reactor, to a commercial fast reactor.

Update on the CFR-600

Based on the CEFR, a 600 MWe design, the CFR-600, was developed by the CIEA. Construction of a demonstration unit in Xiapu County, in China’s Fujian province began in December 2017. This unit will have a power output of 1500 MWt and 600 MWe.

The reactor will use mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel with 100 GWd/t burnup, and will feature two coolant loops producing steam at 480°C. Later fuel will be metal with burnup of 100-120 GWd/t. The reactor will have active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal. Construction of a second CFR-600 unit at the Xiapu site began in December 2020.

A commercial-scale unit – the CFR1000 – will have a capacity of 1000-1200 MWe. Subject to a decision to proceed, construction could start in December 2028, with operation from about 2034. That design will use metal fuel and 120-150 GWd/t burnup.

BN-800 Fast Reactor Completes First Refueling
with Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX)

(WNN) Unit 4 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant, Russia’s BN-800 reactor, has been connected to the grid and resumed operations upon completion of scheduled maintenance. For the first time the refueling has been carried out with uranium-plutonium fuel only.
See prior coverage on this BlogUpdate on Russia Fast Reactor Projects

Distinct from traditional nuclear fuel with enriched uranium, mixed oxide (MOX) fuel pellets are based on the mix of nuclear fuel cycle derivatives, such as oxide of plutonium bred in commercial reactors, and oxide of depleted uranium which comes from defluorination of depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6), the tailings of uranium enrichment facilities.

bn-800-large-image

The first batch of 18 MOX fuel assemblies was loaded into the BN-800 reactor core in January 2020, and now 160 assemblies more with fresh MOX fuel have been added. These replace the fuel assemblies with enriched uranium. The BN-800 core is now one-third filled with MOX fuel. From now on, only MOX fuel will be loaded into this reactor.

The development moves the Beloyarsk plant a step closer to Rosatom’s strategic goal to close the nuclear fuel cycle, Ivan Sidorov, director of Beloyarsk NPP, told World Nuclear News.

“This means that using MOX fuel will make it possible to involve the uranium that is not currently used in the fuel manufacturing and expand the resource feed-stock of the nuclear power industry. In addition, the BN-800 reactor can re-use spent nuclear fuel from other nuclear power plants and minimise radioactive waste by ‘afterburning’ long-lived isotopes from them. Taking into account the schedule, we will be able to switch to the core fully loaded with MOX fuel as early as 2022,” he said.

The fuel assemblies were manufactured at the Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC), in Zheleznogorsk, in the Krasnoyarsk region of Russia.

Russia’s MBIR Research Reactor Scheduled for Start Up in 2028

Rapid progress is being made towards commissioning of a multipurpose research nuclear reactor, Russia’s MBIR, under construction at the research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR in Dimitrovgrad, Ulyanovsk region). Commissioning is now scheduled for 2028,

Alexander Kurskiy, the head of the project office of advanced technologies Rosatom’s Science and Innovations, Division told NEI Magazine that it is planned to obtain a license to operate the reactor in 2027 and to carry out the physical start-up by the end of the same year. An energy start-up of MBIR is planned for 2028 with formal commissioning in the fourth quarter of that year.

The 150MWt multipurpose sodium-cooled fast neutron MBIR research nuclear reactor is expected to provide the nuclear industry with a research infrastructure for the coming 50 years. Its unique technical characteristics will make it possible to solve a wide range of research problems to support the development new competitive and safe NPPs, including fast reactors based on closing the nuclear fuel cycle.

MBIR will also be the base for a companion international research center, where international researchers will be able to carry out their experiments.

Japanese Utilities Revise MOX Utilization Plan

(WNN) A revised mixed oxide (MOX) fuel utilization plan, based on the latest operational plan for the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and the MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant, has been released by Japan’s Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC).

While only four Japanese reactors have so far been restarted using MOX fuel, FEPC envisages at least 12 units running on the fuel by FY2030. The rate of usage of the surplus plutonium to make MOX fuel will be relatively low until more reactors in Japan are restarted and qualified to use MOX fuel.

Until 1998, Japan sent the bulk of its used fuel to plants in France and the UK for reprocessing and MOX fabrication. However, since 1999 it has been storing used fuel in anticipation of the full-scale operation of its own reprocessing and MOX fabrication facilities.

Construction of a reprocessing plant at Rokkasho began in 1993 and was originally expected to be completed by 1997. The facility is based on the same technology as Orano’s La Hague plant in France. Once operational, the maximum reprocessing capacity of the Rokkasho plant will be 800 tonnes per year. Construction of a 130 tonne per year MOX plant, also at Rokkasho, began in late 2010.

Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited said it now expects to complete construction of the reprocessing plant in 2022 and that of the MOX fuel plant in 2024. The start of use of domestically-produced MOX fuel is expected to be after 2026, FEPC said.

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Speeding Up Time to Market: A Role for Standards and Reference Designs for Advanced Nuclear Reactors in the U.S.

nuclear-imageThe use of reference designs in the U.S. has a good history in the form of the experience of the U.S. Railroad Administration during World War I.  To reason by analogy, nuclear reactors boil water to make steam to turn that energy into useful power.

Is there a case to be made to borrow the idea of reference designs from steam locomotives to apply it to the next generation of advanced nuclear reactors? This article explores this question.

In the second decade of the 20th century, just over 100 years ago, steam locomotives, which do somewhat the same thing as nuclear reactors, which is to boil water to make steam to produce useful work, were in need of a making a major leap in terms of designs that would deliver more power more efficiently and which could be manufactured quickly and  in large numbers.

The International GEN IV forum has been working on reference designs for advanced reactors since 2002. Two decades later, there is an opportunity to extend the idea of reference designs to incorporate a role for agencies and organizations that are involved with safety regulation, testing of prototypes, validation of the ability to manufacture components to build the designs, and to apply nuclear quality assurance standards to these designs and their components.

If there were detailed reference designs for advanced reactors, and the standards developed around them were integrated into the development process, could it boost confidence by potential customers and investors that the developers had a sound basis for their efforts?

If the global response to climate change, and the need for decarbonization of major industrial and transportation sectors that will use electricity, is to build hundreds of large and small nuclear reactors, they can’t be “stick built” one-a-time like the U.S. did in the 1960s and 70s.

Reference designs could be instrumental in standardizing component manufacturing which in turn could facilitate factory-based manufacturing of SMRs and large long lead time components / systems for larger reactors.

A key concept for this proposal is a systems perspective that runs from the proof of concept prototype to the specifications and quality assurance requirements for the supply chain to installation and operation.

Speeding Up Time to Market for Advanced Reactors
Using Reference Designs

The current state of play for development of the next generation of micro, mini, small, and full size nuclear reactors is that there are several dozen active developers (both LWR and fast spectrum), and other types of designs in the U.S. and Canada. Some analysts have referred to the startup landscape as a “cottage industry,” but there is nothing small about the thinking of talented engineers looking to deploy the next big thing in nuclear power.

While some of these developers may seek market share in the U.S., many are looking at export markets for customers and nations that cannot afford a large LWR type reactors in the power range of 1000MWe or more.

All of these developers will need to build and test prototypes of their reactors to prove to potential customers that the designs work, that they are safe and can be licensed by the regulatory agency having jurisdiction,  and that the designs can be built on time, within budget, and can be operated with known costs.

Every one of these designs is unique and therefore requires a built from scratch in a soup-to-nuts effort to determine if they will work, are they safe, and can they be built and operated by a commercial utility. If the design work used a detailed reference design as the kickoff point, a lot of the complexity might be removed from the process of getting a product to market in less than a decade.

adv nuc reactors

Framework of Advanced Nuclear Reactors. Image: Third Way

This is the premise and the goals of the GEN IV program, but it so far its effort hasn’t been linked as closely as some would like to the standards development process or supply chain feasibility for components based on these standards.

The problem for these developers is that while there are detailed reference designs for them to rely on, some of the relevant R&D work that might be helpful was done at least 50 years ago.  A case in point is the work on molten salt reactors that took place at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the 1950s.

If there were detailed reference designs, and the standards developed around them were integrated into the development process, then they might be able to boost confidence by potential customers and investors that the developers had a sound basis for their efforts.

Work by the international GEN IV program, discussed below, would be an important input to the U.S. effort to bring reference designs down to the working level and to link them to performance and risk based standards for nuclear reactors.

Currently, the knowledge engineering to understand what will work, and what won’t, for various types of designs is being developed from scratch. At least three types of designs seem to be at the head of the packs

  1. High temperature gas cooled (HTGR) often using TRISO fuel,
  2. Various kinds of molten salt reactors, both with the fuel dissolved in the salt and as separate elements in the core, and
  3. Sodium cooled reactors based on the concepts developed for the Integral Fast Reactor.

Other more exotic designs from the GEN IV reference design concepts include lead/bismuth, and, beyond that, several nations have development work underway for unique fast spectrum designs. GEN IV remains the most mature effort to date to develop reference designs.

Moving Designs from Hype to Prototype

time to marketThe challenge  is that the information needed to speed up time to market by shortening the duration of the design effort remains a key issue.

Next in line is the challenge of how to get the design from a being a paper reactor to building and testing a prototype with an eye on the eventual safety reviews by regulatory agencies and licensing for construction.

At the present time many of these designs may not be ready for commercial revenue service, in some cases, until the mid-2030s, or later. What can be done to shorten the development time frame?

Are These Ideas Feasible and Would They be Worth the Effort?

The ideas that follow are necessarily presented at a conceptual level. Of course, there are many reasons why these ideas could work, but also here are many institutional, commercial, and legislative/regulatory barriers might make such an effort more trouble than it is worth.

These ideas are presented with the intention of stimulating a dialog among key stakeholder groups to see if any of parts of this proposal are feasible, and if so, how it be implemented, in whole or part, to speed up time to market for advanced nuclear reactor designs.

A Role for the ANS Standards Program

ANS logoThe American Nuclear Society (ANS) has an ongoing standards development program with a long and successful track record of publishing nuclear safety and design standards in the U.S.

The question is could the ANS standards program be used as a fulcrum for leveraging its standards work to extend to development of reference designs for various types of advanced nuclear reactor? Obviously, ANS would need to collaborate with other key organization to carry out such an endeavor. Here are some ideas about how that collaboration could work.

A role for ANS Standards could be to convene working groups composed of relevant organizations to develop and document reference designs for these reactor types to help speed up the overall development timeline of these types of advanced reactors.

The designs could be made available in a knowledge engineering database that would also accumulated test data from work on prototypes which would be used to refine the reference designs.

As some of the testing of new advanced designs may take place at national labs, some of this information would automatically be in the public domain as it would have been paid for by the government. There would need to be careful to protect propriety information until such time as it was covered by patents and could be licensed if desired by the owners of the intellectual property.

The reason for this aside is that it may be that some developers of advanced nuclear reactor designs have it in mind to cash out by licensing their work to organizations that have the organizational horsepower, and investor confidence, to actually build them. 

Advantages of Reference Designs

As we know from the work of the GEN IV international forum, having a body of technology-based standards for each of the reactor types with regard to their unique characteristics is helpful. A force multiplier would be to address these conceptual efforts from the perspective of the technology neutral standards that ANS has published.

It would not only simplify the design effort for each developer, but also give the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)  a framework to assess the safety of each design type. The agency has been authorized by Congress to work on this issue since 2018. Over the years, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has identified specific policy issues associated with licensing advanced, non-light-water (non-LWR) and LWR reactor designs. Readers are advised that reviewing this library of policy papers an daunting undertaking.

A Proposal for Roles and Responsibilities for Collaboration

No single organization can make the journey alone to develop a series of reference designs. Nuclear reactors are just too complex for complete technical mastery to live in one place. The organizations that would need to be involved in the standards process are;

  • U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (regulation)
  • INL Nuclear Reactor Innovation Centers (testing)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (quality standards for components)
  • United States Nuclear Industry Council – (supply chain fabrication)
  • U.S. Department of Energy (funding and program management)

The ANS Standards program, as a neutral scientific and technical organization, is in a unique position to facilitate the development of reference designs through the standards development process because of its long experience in convening industry subject matter experts to come together to write performance and risk-based standards for the industry.

The role of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission would be to provide requirements on the types and level of detail of the data in the reference designs that it would need to conduct a safety design review and licensing of a new advanced reactor for each of the three types.

The role of the Nuclear Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) would be to develop methods of test to confirm design details, e.g., performance, materials, pressures, radiological protection, etc.

The role of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers would be to adapt its nuclear quality standards for the evolving technical performance characteristics of advanced reactors.

The role of the United States Nuclear Council  (USNC) would be to provide not only the one-off components for prototype systems for testing, but also to assess how manufacturing of key components could scale to support factor construction of reference designs as adapted by each nuclear reactor vendor.

The role of the Department of Energy would be to provide funding and program management to pull the pieces together.  This would lift the administrative burden from ANS and the other collaborating organizations so that they could conduct their work. 

If successful, the potential outcome is that the publication of reference designs for the three reactor types noted here, could reduce the development time scale for bringing these designs to market and to deploy them to address decarbonization objectives.

The ideas here aren’t unique for use just in the U.S. In fact, if successful in the U.S., the concept of linking performance and risk based standards to the conceptual reference designs developed by the GEN IV could be extended to international collaboration. Such an effort might break down regulatory barriers in export markets potentially speeding up the entry of advanced designs to them as a result. While GEN IV is indeed an international effort, the role of collaboration among key stakeholders at the national level looks like a useful next step.

History of the Impacts of  Reference Designs in the U.S. – Railroads

crescentTo reason by analogy, nuclear reactors boil water to make steam to turn that energy into useful power.

In the second decade of the 20th century, just over 100 years ago, steam locomotives, which do the same thing, were in need of a making a major leap in terms of designs that would deliver more power more efficiently and which could be manufactured in large numbers.

The United States Railroad Administration (USRA) was the name of the nationalized railroad system of the United States between 1917, and 1920. It was possibly the largest American experiment with nationalization, and was undertaken against a background of wartime emergency for World War I.

A later effort by the U.S. Government to deal with problem railroads took place during the 1970’s. The Department of Transportation created what became the Consolidated Rail Corporation to deal with several bankrupt railroads. It also consolidated designs for locomotives as well as freight and passenger rolling stock

Note: The government was not interested in permanent ownership of operating commercial railroads. In 1987 Conrail was returned to the private sector in what was then the largest initial public offering in U.S. history, raising $1.9 billion. Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS) and CSX Corporation (CSX) agreed to acquire Conrail through a joint stock purchase.

While the proposed ideas in this article do not include nationalization of the development of an advanced reactor fleet, the experience of the USRA is useful because it illustrates that good standards and reference designs, when developed in tandem, can have long lasting positive effects on adoption of improved technologies by an inherently conservative industry.

In 1918 Railroads Weren’t Getting the Job Done

The problem in 1918 was that U.S. railroads were unable to mobilize their equipment, locomotives and rolling stock, and rail lines, to support the vast logistical demands of the war effort. The locomotives in service at the turn of the century were under powered for the train loads that the war time effort demanded of them. Rail cars were unable to carry the larger volumes of cargo that needed to get materials and equipment to U.S. ports to support troops in Europe.

The USRA standard locomotives and railroad cars were designed by the United States Railroad Administration, the nationalized rail system of the United States during World War I. A total of 1,856 steam locomotives and over 100,000 railroad cars were built to these designs during the USRA’s relatively short three-year tenure.

The locomotive designs,, in particular were the nearest thing the American railroads and locomotive builders ever got to standard locomotive types. After the USRA was dissolved in 1920 many of the designs were duplicated in significant numbers with 3,251 engines of various designs being constructed overall. A total of 97 railroads used USRA or USRA-derived locomotives. U.S. railroads continued to adapt USRA designs for new steam locomotives until 1953 more than 45 years after the concepts came off the drawing  boards.

Here are two examples . . . A total of  625 of the USRA Light Mikado type were constructed, making it the most populous USRA type.

USRA Heavy Mikado 2-8-2

The USRA 2-8-2 in revenue service on the Nickel Plate Road RR

A total of 106 of the USRA articulated 2-8-8-2 locomotives were constructed primarily to haul long trains of coal hoppers to steel mills and power plants.

The Norfolk and Western Railway, in particular, continued building this type after the USRA period, developing and modernizing it over time. The railroad’s class Y6B was the last conventional freight-hauling steam locomotive built in the United States. Video – Norfolk& Western Articulated Locomotives

History of Reference Designs for Nuclear Reactors – GEN IV

gen iv logoGeneration IV Systems – For more than a decade, GIF has led international collaborative efforts to develop reference designs for the next generation nuclear energy systems that can help meet the world’s future energy needs.

Generation IV designs will use fuel more efficiently, reduce waste production, be economically competitive, and meet stringent standards of safety and proliferation resistance. These designs are the kinds of products that could be adapted to this proposal.

With these goals in mind, some 100 experts evaluated 130 reactor concepts before GIF selected six reactor technologies for further research and development. These include the:  Gas-cooled Fast Reactor (GFR), Lead-cooled Fast Reactor (LFR), Molten Salt Reactor (MSR), Supercritical Water-cooled Reactor (SCWR), Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor (SFR) and Very High Temperature Reactor (VHTR).

gen iv reactor types

Generation IV Goals – Eight technology goals have been defined for Generation  IV systems in four broad areas: sustainability, economics, safety and reliability, and proliferation resistance and physical protection.

These ambitious goals are shared by a large number of countries as they aim at responding to the economic, environmental and social requirements of the 21st century. They establish a framework and identify concrete targets for focusing GIF R&D efforts.

A Technology Roadmap for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems – The technology roadmap defines and plans the necessary research and development (R&D) to support the next generation of innovative nuclear energy systems known as Generation IV.

The six systems feature increased safety, improved economics for electricity production and new products such as hydrogen for transportation applications, reduced nuclear wastes for disposal, and increased proliferation resistance.

As part of the GIF Strategic Planning activity launched in 2012, the Technology Roadmap was updated.  The updated Roadmap takes into account plans to accelerate the development of some technologies by deploying prototypes or demonstrators within the next decade.

GEN IV Economic Modeling – G4ECONS – The Economic Modelling Working Group has upgraded the nuclear-economic model, G4ECONS and issued version 3 in 2018. This Excel-based model conforms to the assumptions and algorithms described in the Cost Estimating Guidelines for Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems and calculates two key figures of merit, namely, the levelized unit electricity cost (LUEC) and total capital investment cost (TCIC).

The model is generic in the sense that it can accept as input the types of projected performance and cost data that are expected to become available from Generation IV concept development teams and that it can model both open and closed fuel cycles.  The model is suitable for international use as it does not include country-specific taxation and other economic parameters.

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Finding a Path to Development of Advanced Reactors: Report

Leading Think Tanks Release a Strategy for Development of
Advanced Nuclear Energy in the United States

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) and Partnership for Global Security (PGS) released a joint report defining a comprehensive strategy for the U.S. to become the global leader in advanced nuclear power. Based on extensive stakeholder engagement, the strategy outlines the domestic and international activities that will be required to ensure the United States can lead in the development and deployment of next generation nuclear technologies through collaboration between government, industry, civil society, and other nations.

Note to readers: This is the first of two posts on the report. The second will cover the highlights of the recommendations in the report and the webinar the sponsoring organizations held with stakeholders to discuss it.

NINA PGS report coverThe strategy builds on input from multiple stakeholders. Organizations that generally endorse the strategy and the importance of advanced reactors include:

  • American Nuclear Society,
  • Bipartisan Policy Center,
  • Center for Climate and Energy Solutions,
  • ClearPath,
  • Energy Innovation Reform Project,
  • Good Energy Collective,
  • Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization,
  • Third Way.

“Clean energy technologies including advanced nuclear energy are essential to meet mid-century emission reductions goals,” explained NIA Executive Director Judi Greenwald.

“It will take a whole-of-society effort to address climate change and to fulfill advanced nuclear energy’s promise as a climate solution. This report’s high-level recommendations for government, industry and civil society are a starting point. We look forward to working with the endorsing organizations and others in the energy community to engage key audiences in Washington and elsewhere to ensure U.S. policy supports the development and deployment of advanced nuclear energy.”

“The intersection of climate change, nuclear power, and global security is an important and dynamic policy area and this report advances the actions required to manage that nexus,” said Ken Luongo, President of the Partnership for Global Security.

“The U.S. must again become a leader in the international nuclear market if it is to ensure that the next generation of nuclear technologies support effective global security by reducing climate impacts, responding to the need for clean energy growth, and ensuring strong global best practices for security and non-proliferation. There are many moving pieces required for advanced reactors to thrive in a complex energy and international environment and this report brings all those threads together in a concise set of well-informed recommendations.”

At the domestic level, the strategy explores how public-private partnerships can drive innovation to commercialize advanced reactor technologies. The Biden Administration and Congress have critical roles to play in leading government innovation efforts and funding demonstration projects. An emerging group of advanced reactor innovators must continue their work to design next generation technology that can deliver low-carbon competitive power. At the same time, federal policy must address environmental justice concerns and engage local communities.

Internationally, the strategy highlights how advanced nuclear energy can be imbued into U.S. foreign policy and international relations. The imperatives of climate change, as noted by the Biden Administration, underscore the importance of climate friendly technologies in U.S. foreign affairs. Domestic innovation is the foundation for global leadership and will enable the U.S. to open markets for U.S. exports and establish global norms in safety and non-proliferation.

The report was publicly released along with a webinar moderated by Dean Scott of Bloomberg Industry. It features presentations by Judi Greenwald and Ken Luongo along with comments from Jennifer Gordon of The Atlantic Council, Jessica Lovering of Good Energy Collective and Niko McMurray of Clear Path.   (Download the report)  (Watch the video of webinar about the report)

About the Organizations

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) is a non-profit think-and-do-tank working to enable nuclear power as a global solution to mitigate climate change. Through policy analysis, research, and education, we are catalyzing the next era of nuclear energy. Our organization is funded primarily through charitable grants and philanthropic donations from climate-concerned individuals and organizations.

The Partnership for Global Security (PGS) is a recognized international leader and innovator in nuclear and transnational security policy, developing actionable responses to 21st century security challenges by engaging international, private sector, and multidisciplinary expert partners to assess policy needs, identify effective strategies, and drive demonstrable results.

Statements Of Support From Endorsing Organizations

“On behalf of America’s nuclear technology community, the American Nuclear Society welcomes the new roadmap from the Nuclear Innovation Alliance and Partnership for Global Security. Congress and the administration would be wise to consider the strategy’s recommendations. By unleashing the next wave of nuclear technologies, the U.S. can decarbonize the power grid at a faster and more affordable pace without sacrificing our prosperity or security. American nuclear engineers and scientists are ready to design, construct and operate tomorrow’s advanced reactors.” – Statement from Craig Piercy, CEO and Executive Director of the American Nuclear Society

“For the United States—let alone the world—to meet mid-century climate goals we will need an array of new zero-carbon energy technologies including advanced nuclear reactors for power and industrial heat generation. This report lays out a blueprint for America to become the global leader of this clean industry of the future.” – Statement by Dr. Addison Killean Stark, Associate Director for Energy Innovation, Bipartisan Policy Center

“The climate challenge will require a whole-of-economy approach that includes both near-term solutions and longer-term innovative technology development. Existing nuclear power accounts for the majority of clean electricity in the United States, but as that fleet ages we need to invest in innovation that leads to more versatile and deployable zero-emission nuclear. With climate impacts already apparent and worsening, every solution is critical. From wind and solar to battery storage and advanced nuclear, each will play its part in the decarbonized economy of 2050.”  – Statement from Bob Perciasepe, President of Center for Climate and Energy Solutions

“The Advanced Reactor Strategy Report is an excellent roadmap for achieving the clean energy benefits of advanced nuclear and how we can drive down costs. This comprehensive report looks at what would take across the entire nuclear industry to make nuclear energy successful from modernizing the regulatory structure, demonstrating and deploying advanced reactors and ensuring American leadership.” – Statement by Jeremy Harrell, Managing Director of Policy, ClearPath

“Advanced nuclear reactors are critical to decarbonization, both domestically and internationally, and the U.S. role in the global nuclear energy marketplace is vitally important to our national security and economic competitiveness. EIRP applauds the work that NIA and PGS have done to map out a strategy for U.S. leadership in this essential industry at a time when policymakers should be giving the utmost attention to these questions.” – Statement by Sam Thernstrom, Energy Innovation Reform Project

“From its inception, the Nuclear Innovation Alliance has staked out the path for commercialization of advanced reactors. Their latest strategy builds on the major policy wins of the past five years, and incorporates new insights and issues for the next phase of work ahead. This is an exceptionally helpful effort for the nuclear policy community.” – Statement from Good Energy Collective

“The Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization supports the goals of the U.S. Advanced Nuclear Energy Strategy produced by the Nuclear Innovation Alliance and the Partnership for Global Security.  Nuclear power and advanced reactors are a critical component of a zero carbon future and the U.S. universities look forward to developing the people and ideas to help make this happen.” – Statement by Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization

“The Biden Administration has a window of opportunity to continue the nuclear innovation work started during the Obama-Biden presidency. This is important to follow through on deploying advanced reactors as part of an ambitious plan to decarbonize the power sector by 2035, which is essential for our climate goals and creating good-paying, union jobs. As a leader on this issue, Third Way works closely with organizations like NIA and PGS. We are excited to support a comprehensive strategy that captures the actions required to ensure these technologies move from the labs to commercialization.” – Statement from Jackie Kempfer, Senior Policy Advisor, Climate and Energy Program, Third Way

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