China Ramps Up New Nuclear Reactor Construction

  • China expands nuclear new build; 6-8 new starts a year for next five years
  • China in dual disputes with UK that could impact its export plans there
  • China nuclear energy by the numbers

Other Nuclear News

  • Westinghouse Program Awarded £10m From UK Government for Advanced Modular Reactor Project
  • BWXT Gets TRISO Fuel Contract for Idaho National Laboratory

Media reports: China will to start construction of six-to-eight plants a year for the next five years

(See tables below – China’s nuclear program by the numbers)

The Reuters wires service reports, based on a news item in the official China Daily, and quoting the China Nuclear Energy Association, that China will build six to eight nuclear reactors a year between 2020 and 2025 and raise total capacity to 70 gigawatts (GW).

The China Nuclear Energy Association said the country’s total installed nuclear capacity is expected to be at 52 GW by the end of 2020, but which falls short of a 58 GW target.

China Nucler Power Map - WNA

By the end of the decade, China could have over 80 Gwe of nuclear power generating capacity. If it continues this pace, it could have 200 GWe by the mid-2030s according to the China Nuclear Association.

Some assumptions about the impact of this aggressive new build include the staffing profile for China’s conventional full size light water reactors is similar to global averages of about 500-700 staff for a 1000 MW reactor. Each plant would require 700 operators, skilled trades, and support staff. Construction of each 1000 MW unit will take 3-4 years and require up to 5,000 workers per project.

A world record amount of concrete and steel will be needed for the projects. Suppliers of these materials will be stressed to keep up with the demand.

In addition to the enormous number of people who will be involved in the construction and operations of the reactors, the demand on the nation’s nuclear supply chain will be very significant especially for long lead time components like reactor pressure vessels, steam generators, main cooling/circulation pumps, turbines, and switchyard gear.

China’s regulatory safety agency will have to ramp up technical staffing to review the licensing applications for these units and to conduct safety inspections as the plants are being built and once they are in operations.

Production of commercial grade nuclear fuel will increase substantially, and will be sustained over time, e.g., the 40-60 year service lives of all these units.

Eventually, China will have to come to terms with a vast increase in the tonnage of spent nuclear fuel. China has been negotiating with EDF/France for construction of an 800 tonne/year spent fuel reprocessing plant. However, given China’s current inventory, and the future inventory of spent fuel that it will accumulate, both interim and permanent storage sites will be needed to accommodate this material.

Tables – China Nuclear by the Numbers

These tables list China’s operating reactors and the plants which are under construction or approved for construction. China has not yet announced which of its future planned reactors will be approved for construction under the new push for starting 6-8 units a year. Also, some of the reactors approved for construction have not yet broken ground.

Note: These tables rely on data from the World Nuclear Association and the IAEA.  Readers who want to do their own analysis can download the NeutronBytes spreadsheet 

China’s Dueling Disputes with UK
Could Impact its Export Plans

Reuters reports that China and the UK are in serious diplomatic disputes due to PM Boris Johnson’s offer for up to three million Hong Kong citizens have the right to live and work in the UK. The offer is seen by some as mere political posturing since the relocation of three million people to the UK is a major logistical challenge and a long term financial commitment.

Also, Johnson is reported to be leaning towards banning equipment made by China’s Huawei Technologies from British 5G mobile networks. This issue is separate from Hong Kong as other UK and EU telcom firms are lobbying for the contracts.

Where the rubber meets the road is that China has made significant financial and program commitments to the UK nuclear new build with equity investments at the Hinkley Point C and Sizwell C projects. In return, China is expected to seek to build two or more 1000 MW Hualong One PWRs at the Bradwell site.

CTHD Michelle Yeoh 1

All of these plans are now at risk because of the current disputes which have nothing to do with the nuclear projects themselves. Also, most nations regard trade deals as one-offs separate from their diplomatic differences. The 5G telcom dispute creates a knot of linked issues. The two countries’ collaboration on nuclear power stations could hit the rocks if China gets serious about its protests.

Reuters notes that China General Nuclear Power (CGN) holds a 30% equity stake in the 20 billion pound Hinkley Point C power station in the west of England. The state-owned Chinese group also has an option to acquire 20% of the Sizewell C project in Suffolk. Both projects are building dual 1650 MW EPRs.  China has already built and commission two of these giant plants and has crucial experience to help the UK keep its efforts on schedule and within budget.

The projects are also crucial to Britain’s ambition to decarbonize its energy supply by replacing the fifth of electricity provided by ageing, soon-to-be-decommissioned nuclear plants.

China desperately wants all of its UK nuclear projects to succeed to drive future export sales to other countries. For this reason, China may huff and puff, but in the end may stay the course in the UK. The UK would prefer that China not pursue a linkage with the 5G telcom issue.

Westinghouse Awarded £10m From UK Government
for Advanced Modular Reactor Project

Westinghouse Electric Company (WEC) announced their Lead-cooled Fast Reactor (LFR)  program has successfully progressed to Phase 2 of the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s (BEIS) Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Feasibility and Development project. It is receiving £10m ($12.5m) in funding from the BEIS Energy Innovation Portfolio.

WEC LFR

Conceptual diagram: WEC LFT: Image: WEC

As part of Phase 2, Westinghouse, in collaboration with industry, research centers and academic partners, will utilize the funding to undertake applied research and development activities. The award will be used to demonstrate LFR components and accelerate the development of high-temperature materials, advanced manufacturing technologies and modular construction strategies for the LFR.

“Our progression to Phase 2 builds on our eighty-year history in the UK as a Strategic National Asset,” said Patrick Fragman, Westinghouse president and chief executive officer.

Westinghouse claims that its LFR, a 450 MWe-class Generation IV reactor design, has the potential to have a transformative effect on the cost and market flexibility of new nuclear. The key features of the Westinghouse LFR include a simplified design, flexible operations and fuel cycle capabilities, zero CO2 emissions, walk-away safety features and modular assembly. The  firm also claims that its LFR will also achieve a competitive Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCoE) to ensure economic competitiveness in the most challenging global electricity markets. (Fact sheet – PDFfile)

Westinghouse will deliver the Phase 2 program in collaboration with Ansaldo Nucleare and ENEA, in addition to Bangor University, Frazer-Nash Consultancy, Jacobs, National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NAMRC), the University of Cambridge, the University of Manchester and Vacuum Process Engineering, Inc. (VPE).

Overall the UK government is spending £40 million to kick start next-gen nuclear technology. £30 million of funding will speed up the development of 3 AMR projects in Oxfordshire, Cheshire and Lancashire and drive them closer towards supplying low-carbon energy to the nation. The remaining £10 million will be invested into unlocking smaller research, design, and manufacturing projects to create up to 200 jobs.

BWXT Gets TRISO Fuel Contract for Work
at the Idaho National Laboratory

This $26 million, 20-month contract award will both expand BWXT’s TRISO capacity for the manufacture of TRISO fuel compacts as well as upgrade existing systems for delivering production-scale quantities of TRISO fuel. Restart activities will be finalized in the fall of this year.

At a later date, BWXT anticipates potential awards for additional contract options that would enable the fabrication and delivery of the fuel in support of future game-changing missions for both the Department of Defense and NASA.

This project is an effort jointly funded by the Department of Defense’s Operational Energy Capabilities Improvement Fund (OECIF) Office and NASA, with overall program management provided by the Strategic Capabilities Office.

TRISO refers to a specific design of uranium nuclear reactor fuel. TRISO is a shortened form of the term TRIstructural-ISOtropic. TRIstructural refers to the layers of coatings surrounding the uranium fuel, and ISOtropic refers to the coatings having uniform materials characteristics in all directions so that fission products are essentially retained.

Triso-fuel_thumb.png

BWXT is the only U.S. company to manufacture irradiation-tested uranium oxycarbide TRISO fuel using production-scale equipment.

BWXT already has the required safety, security, quality, material accountability, and operational systems needed to execute this work.  The firm performs TRISO work at its Nuclear Operations Group-Lynchburg facility.

BWXT said in a press statement that its existing infrastructure would contribute to far lower initial costs as compared to setting up a new facility, and it will not significantly increase current decontamination and decommissioning liabilities.

TRISO production with HALEU requires at least an NRC Category 2 license, which can take several years and substantial investment to obtain. BWXT currently has the only private Category 1 licenses in the U.S., and they can also be utilized to produce Category 2 material.

Its TRISO production facility is currently licensed to produce this type of High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel, which is undergoing validation in a series of experiments at Idaho National Laboratory at their Advanced Test Reactor under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor program. BWXT has worked with the DOE in support of TRISO-based fuel development and qualification for more than 15 years.

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In Congress July 4, 1776

in-congress-july-4-1776_thumb.jpg

Painting by John Trumbull, 1818. The artist’s work hangs in the Capitol Rotunda, Washington, DC.  Image source: Architect of the Capitol.

About this photo

This painting depicts the moment on June 28, 1776, when the first draft of the Declaration of Independence was presented to the Second Continental Congress. The document stated the principles for which the Revolutionary War was being fought and which remain fundamental to the nation. Less than a week later, on July 4, 1776, the Declaration was officially adopted, it was later signed on August 2, 1776.

In the central group in the painting, Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration, is shown placing the document before John Hancock, president of the Congress. With him stand the other members of the committee that created the draft: John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston and Benjamin Franklin. This event occurred in the Pennsylvania State House, now Independence Hall, in Philadelphia.

Word to Live By

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

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The full text of the Declaration courtesy of the National Archives.

& & &

Neutron Bytes is off this week.

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Update on Russian Fast Reactor Projects

  • MBIR Seeks International Partners. Completion set for 2025
  • BN-600 Up for 15 year life extension to 2040

Other Nuclear News

  • X-energy Teams with Nuclear Fuel Industries to Supply TRISO Fuel to Japan’s High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR)
  • NRC Accepts Centrus Energy Application for License Expansion to Produce HALEU
  • Lucideon Partners with UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory on Advanced Fuel Cycle R&D
  • World Nuclear Association Launches Fuel Report Summary

MBIR Test Reactor Positioned as
International Test Plantform for Advanced Designs

Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation, is promoting the use of its multi-purpose fast neutron research reactor (MBIR) which is under construction at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR) in Dimitrovgrad in the Ulyanovsk region of Russia, located about 1,600 miles east of Moscow. The state owned enterprise is hawking its capabilities and soliciting partnerships on an international scale.

It is creating an International Research Center (IRC) to be a home for cooperative R&D and test projects. According to the June 2020 briefing, four nations have signed up so far –  the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia  The briefing says these arrangements, and others like it, will support the IRC’s ambitions to become a world class center of excellence for testing materials to be used in fast neutron reactors.

The purpose of the MBIR construction effort  is to have a high-flux fast test reactor with unique capabilities to implement the following tasks:

  • in-pile tests and post-irradiation examination,
  • production of heat and electricity,
  • testing of new technologies for the radioisotopes, an;
  • modified materials production.

MBIR will be used for materials testing for Generation IV fast neutron reactors including high temperature gas-cooled, molten salt, and lead-bismuth designs. Experiments that are proposed to be undertaken include measuring the performance of core components under normal and emergency conditions.

conceptual image MBIR

MBIR Conceptual Diagram: Image: Rosatom

In mid-June Rosatom released details of a government briefing that indicated the R&D facility will be operational in 2025. The project broke ground in 2015 and was scheduled to be finished in 2020.  According to a 2018 progress report, that date has bee pushed back by five years, but did not give a reason for the delay. The project is expected to cost $1.1 billion.

mbir schedule

MBIR  Estimate at Completion: Image: Rosatom

The MBIR is a 150 MWt multi-loop sodium-cooled fast research reactor. It will have a design life of up to 50 years, and will use MOX fuel.  When complete it will replace the BOR-60  fast reactor which has been in operation at NIIAR since 1969.

U.S. Test Reactor Development Update

Russia’s June 2020 announcement may be a competitive response to the May 2020 U.S announced $230M in funding as the first step in a multi-year commitment through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program to upgrade the nation’s capabilities to support development of advanced reactors. A key facility will be the versatile test reactor.

It will have three different development and demonstration pathways.

  • Advanced reactor demonstrations, which are expected to result in a fully functional advanced nuclear reactor within seven 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.

ad reactor pipeline

The project will be housed at the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) at the Idaho National Laboratory. The NRIC will provide private sector technology developers the necessary support to test and demonstrate their reactor concepts and assess their performance. This will help accelerate the licensing and commercialization of these new nuclear energy systems.

BN-600 Life Extension to Seek 2040 Date

Rosatom, the state owned enterprise that operates the BN-600 fast reactor that is in commercial service, says it has submitted the paperwork needed to support a request to extend the reactor’s life from 2025 to 2040 at which point it would be 60 years old.

According to the proposal, extending the life of the reactor by 15 years would displace the burning of 33 million tonnes of coal on fossil fueled power plants.

The two-stage process of life extension involves technical and economic feasibility analysis and justification. The technical stage will evaluate safety requirements for reactor components that cannot be replaced over the entire service life of the plant.

A modernization program that began in 2009 replaced the steam generator and made unspecified safety upgrades.

The economic analysis will address the cost of running the plant and the payments it receives for the generation of electricity. as Unit 3 of the Beloyarsk nulear power plant.

The BN-600 is a sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor which started operation in 1980. (Gen_IV Briefing – Operating Experience of the BN-600 – PDF file)

bn-800-large-image

BN-600 Conceptual Diagram: Image: Rosatom

World Nuclear News reports that the sodium-cooled BN-series fast reactor plans are part of Rosatom’s Proryv, or ‘Breakthrough’, project to develop fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle whose mixed oxide (MOX) fuel will be reprocessed and recycled.

In addition to the BN-600 reactor, the 789 MWe BN-800 fast neutron reactor – constructed as Beloyarsk unit 4 – entered commercial operation in October 2016. This is essentially a demonstration unit for fuel and design features for the larger BN-1200 being developed by OKBM Afrikantov.

Other Nuclear News

X-energy Teams with Nuclear Fuel Industries to Supply Exclusive TRISO Fuel to the High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR) in Japan

X-energy announced it has teamed with Nuclear Fuel Industries (NFI) to be the exclusive counterpart to supply fuel to the Japanese high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). X-energy is purchasing the compact press equipment that can make annular fuel compacts for the “prism-type” HTGR core from Japanese-based NFI.

X-energy will use the TRISO-X fuel facility and the former NFI compact press equipment to form tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) fuel, which seals uranium particles in a protective coating, eliminating the meltdown risk associated with traditional nuclear plants.

triso fuel for u battery

X-energy has been manufacturing its patented TRISO-X fuel for over three years, and to date, it is the only U.S. company actively producing TRISO fuel. The company is currently engaging with the Department of Energy to further develop and design its TRISO-X fuel facility.

Since 2009, X-energy has focused on designing state-of-the-art nuclear systems and establishing leading TRISO fuel fabrication capabilities that have broad applicability – from large commercial plants to small, remote military applications, to nuclear thermal space propulsion concepts.

NRC Accepts Centrus Energy Application for License Expansion

Centrus Energy Corp. (NYSE American: LEU) announced that the Company’s application to produce High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) at its Piketon, Ohio, facility has been accepted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for formal review.

HALEU-based fuels will be required for most of the advanced reactor designs currently under development and may also be utilized in next-generation fuels for the existing fleet of reactors in the United States and around the world.

“With support from the U.S. Department of Energy, Centrus is proud to be leading the way in the development of a domestic source of HALEU that can meet a wide range of commercial, nonproliferation and other national security requirements,” said Daniel B. Poneman, Centrus President and CEO.  (DOE Briefing on HALEU production – PDF file)

“Providing an assured, domestic supply of HALEU will help restore U.S. nuclear leadership internationally, and is a prerequisite for the United States to play a major role in building and fueling the world’s nuclear reactors and setting global standards for nuclear safety and nonproliferation. We appreciate the dedicated work by the NRC on this initial step and look forward to working with them as the process moves forward from here.”

In 2019, Centrus entered into a three-year, $115 million cost-shared contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to deploy its AC-100M centrifuge technology and to demonstrate production of HALEU.

The demonstration program is on schedule and on budget, with the first set of outer casings for the centrifuges delivered to Piketon after being manufactured in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

Upon final approval of this license amendment, Centrus would be licensed to enrich uranium up to 20 percent U-235. Next-generation reactors and fuel designs will require a range of enrichment levels, but many are expected to be as high as 19.75 percent. A number of advanced reactor and fuels developers have announced plans to use HALEU-based fuel in their designs.

Centrus’ Piketon, Ohio, facility is already licensed to enrich uranium to a Uranium-235 (U-235) concentration of up to 10 percent.

A recent report by the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group cited HALEU as a key step toward re-establishing U.S. leadership in advanced nuclear technology. This echoes the findings of an April 2020 survey by the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council in which U.S. advanced reactor companies identified the availability of HALEU as the number one issue that “keep(s) you up at night.”

What is HALEU?

When uranium ore is extracted from the earth, the concentration of the fissile isotope Uranium-235 is less than one percent. Most existing reactors in the United States and worldwide operate on Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) fuel that has been enriched to increase the concentration of the U-235 isotope to slightly less than 5 percent.

3.31_haleu-overview_742x960

High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium is further enriched so that the U-235 concentration is between 5 percent and 20 percent. While this is still far below the levels needed to produce weapons or power U.S. Navy vessels, HALEU offers unique advantages as an advanced nuclear fuel for both existing and next generation reactors, including greater power density, improved reactor performance, fewer refueling outages, improved proliferation resistance, and smaller volumes of waste.

Lucideon Partners with UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory
on Advanced Fuel Cycle R&D

The international materials technology company has signed a £350,000 partner agreement with the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) Advanced Fuels Cycle Program (AFCP) as a research and development (R&D) partner.

The AFCP is part of the UK Government’s £180M Nuclear Innovation Program, and is focused on the development of skills, knowledge and capabilities in the areas of advanced recycle and waste management and advanced nuclear fuels.

NNL will draw on Lucideon’s expertise in its flash (field enhanced) sintering technology to significantly improve the production of advanced nuclear fuels, through new developments in the structure and performance of materials.

Lucideon has made a multi-million investment in flash sintering technology – which centers around an electric field being applied to a ceramic at specific temperatures – at its Stoke-on-Trent headquarters.

The partner agreement will also see Lucideon collaborate with the University of Manchester, who will provide specialist resources to support the development.

Lucideon has carved out a niche as experts in the nuclear industry, in areas including the development of novel materials and processes, materials analysis, complex testing and additive manufacturing.

Technology areas include the development of accident tolerant fuels, fast reactor fuels, nuclear data development, separations technology, modelling and fabrication.

World Nuclear Association Launches Fuel Report Summary

Uranium-symbol.jpg(WNN) World Nuclear Association has published a first-of-a-kind Expanded Summary of the latest edition of its biennial nuclear fuel report. The Association is making the summary, which describes the major conclusions of the 2019 edition of the report, freely available.

“The increased projections in all scenarios of The Nuclear Fuel Report reflect the renewed recognition of nuclear generation’s roles, both in meeting the need for a reliable supply and contributing to our clean energy future,” World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising said.

“By making the main findings of the Report available more broadly in this new summary we hope to better inform key decision makers, as well as provide a valuable educational tool that will provide everyone with a broader understanding of the key issues facing the nuclear industry today.”

Published biennially since the 1970s, The Nuclear Fuel Report is a highly authoritative publication used as a reference by industry and state authorities worldwide. The 48-page Expanded Summary of the report’s 19th edition covers the report’s key findings – in particular, supply/demand projections in different stages of the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear generation projections for the next 20 years – and explains the methodology and assumptions underlying the report’s three scenarios for future nuclear fuel demand and supply.

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NRC Accepts Oklo Micro Reactor License Application for Review

Micro and Small Modular Reactor News

  • NRC Accepts Oklo Micro Reactor License Application for Review
  • Canadian Companies Form JV To Build And Own Chalk River Plant
  • Fermi Energia / US Venture Capital Fund Invests In Estonia SMR Company
  • NuGen Receives Two Patents for its “Spiral Fuel Core” HTGR SMR

Other Nuclear News

  • South Africa / Energy Ministry Starts Consultations on Nuclear New Build
  • Romania / Shareholders Approve Strategy To Complete Units 3 And 4 At Cernavodă
  • Russia / Beloyarsk-4 Fast Reactor Set To Fully Run On MOX Fuel In 2022

NRC Accepts Oklo Micro Reactor License Application for Review

In a foklo logoirst, the regulatory agency, which will issue either a pass or a fail grade, has agreed to review the application for a combined license for a 1.5 MW micro reactor, developed by Oklo, a Sunnyvale, California, based nuclear entrepreneur.

The firm is the leader in what is expected to be a veritable conga line of applicants for all types of advanced reactors with each of them hoping that their particular technology will be the right combination of competitive performance and costs to woe customers to build them.

For them, the NRC’s acceptance of a novel application and application structure by Oklo is a breakthrough for advanced fission technologies. In a press statement the firm takes credit for setting, “a solid example for future advanced fission applications.”

Olko’s Director of NRC Licensing, Alex Renner, also that the stakes are high not only for the firm, but also that “the company’s accepted application will serve as a critical precedent for future advanced fission license submissions.”

That’s certainly a consideration for other developers of advanced reactors like X-Energy, Terrestrial Energy, Kairos, Elysium Industries, NuGen, ThorCon, and many others. All of them will be watching Olko’s progress like hawks to see what happens, what work , and what needs more work.

Oklo’s CEO and co-founder, Jacob DeWitte, said the acceptance “is a great indicator that the NRC is prepared to license advanced fission technologies” like its Aurora design. The NRC and Oklo have engaged in “pre-application” discussions since 2016.

“Advanced reactors are an important tool for climate change, and we are proud to be the first to submit a full license application and the first to have it accepted,” said Oklo’s CEO and co-founder, Jacob DeWitte.

What Does the NRC Mean by “Acceptance” of Oklo’s Application?

The NRC’s decision to accept the application for review, or “docketing,” does not indicate whether the Commission will ultimately approve or reject the request for a license. The NRC said it is focusing on “aligning on key design and safety aspects early in the process to provide a predictable and efficient licensing schedule.” Information regarding the Combined License process is available on the NRC website.

The NRC’s acceptance letter of 6/5/20 lists four topics to be addressed in the first step of the licensing review.

  • Maximum credible accident
  • Classification of Structures, Systems and Components
  • Applicability of Regulations
  • Quality Assurance Program

Step 3 will include detailed reviews of structure, schedule, and an updated estimate of how much effort will be needed to complete the process.

Seveal key topics are called out in the NRC letter including (1) emergency planning, security, and site characterization, (2) adequacy and completeness of technical specifications and pre-operational and start-up testing.

Key success factors are completion of the review by the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safety and a staff written Final Safety Evalution Report.

According to the NRC’s June 5th letter, the agency has a peliminary estimate that the level of effort by its engineers to review the Oklo application is about 4,000 hours.  At just under $300/hr, that comes to about $1.2 million.

About the Oklo Reactor

The nuclear news wire service NucNet reports that the Aurora is an advanced fission power system that consists of a small reactor with integrated solar panels. It uses liquid metal to move fission heat out of the reactor core and into a secondary power generation system and generates approximately 1.5 MW of power.

The proposed Aurora design uses heat pipes to transport heat from the reactor core to a supercritical carbon-dioxide power conversion system to generate electricity.

Oklo has said it has budgeted “in the order of” $10M for construction and $3M a year for operations of the Aurora plant.

On fuel cycle costs Oklo said that because of the type of reactor and fuel cycle, only a single core load is required for the license lifetime of 20 years. The Aurora will generate both usable heat and electricity.

The firm has not yet publicly named its first commercial customers, but there have been public statements by potential interested parties in Alaska who want to replace expensive and dirty diesel fueled electrical generators with the Oklo reactor.

Oklo, which is solely venture-funded and backed primarily by US-based investors, announced last year that it had successfully demonstrated prototypes of a metallic fuel at INL for the Aurora reactor. It said it had fabricated prototypes with multiple fuel elements reaching production specification.

Separately, Oklo has received a Site Use Permit from the U.S Department of Energy to build a first of a kind unit at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Also working at the INL the firm has demonstrated fabrication of its fuel and gained access to recovered HALEU type used fuel which can be burned in its reactor.

Oklo would use high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel. However, in common with many other advanced reactor developers, the lack of reliable access to HALEU remains a challenge.

The sooner Oklo can “have access to be able to work with that, the faster we’re going to be able to actually get something built,” company co-founder Jacob DeWitte said.

Microreactors / Canadian Companies Form JV To Build And Own Chalk River Plant

cnl-smr-logo_thumb.png(NucNet) Three Canadian companies have formed a joint venture – the Global First Power Limited Partnership – which will build, own, and operate the proposed micro modular reactor (MMR) project at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Ontario.

The three companies are Global First Power (GFP), Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) and Ontario Power Generation (OPG). The joint venture is owned equally by OPG and USNC-Power, the Canadian subsidiary of USNC.

GFP, based in Ottawa, will oversee the proposed MMR project and provide project development, licensing, construction and operation of a planned commercial demonstration reactor at Chalk River.

The project will serve as a model for potential future microreactor projects across Canada. The aim is to build reactors that can provide sustainable low-carbon power and heat to industries such as mining and remote communities.

The MMR project is in the third stage of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ four-stage process to site a demonstration small modular reactor at Chalk River Laboratories, a site owned by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and operated by CNL. The 15 MWt, or about 5 MW electrical, MMR project is currently undergoing an environmental assessment.

The MMR consists of two plants: the nuclear plant that generates heat, and the adjacent power plant that converts heat into electricity or provides process heat for industrial applications. The system is designed to be uniquely simple, with minimal operations and maintenance requirements, and no o-site fuel storage, handling, or processing.

Fermi Energia / US Venture Capital Fund Invests In Estonia SMR Company

fermi_e(NucNet) US venture capital fund Last Energy, which has raised $3M to fight climate change, has invested in Fermi Energia, a company set up to build a small modular reactor in Estonia.

Neither company said how much is  being invested. but an outside source said it is believed to be about $100,000. Fermi Energia said in a statement the funds, together with contributions from Estonian investors made during 2020, will help it conduct studies to find the best location for the plant and on licensing and construction processes.

Fermi Energia founder and chief executive officer Kalev Kallemets said the studies will be carried out by Fermi Energia’s partners Fortum, Vattenfall and Tractebel in cooperation with Estonian experts. The results will be ready by January 2021.

In January 2020 Mr Kallemets said Fermi Energia was set to begin the process of site selection for a first unit. He said Estonia needs to consider new generation SMR technology to maintain energy independence and achieve climate neutrality. He said an “optimistic scenario” provides for the first plant to begin operation in the early 2030s.

Fermi Energia is “technology neutral” and is following the licensing process for SMR designs in the US and Canada to see which technologies are suitable.

Last Energy’s Investment Strategy

Last Energy is a venture capital fund set up in early 2020 by the Energy Impact Center, a research institute in Washington that studies the possibilities of reversing climate change.

Bret Kugelmass, the head of the company, is a technology and robotics expert working in the fields of climate and energy. Kugelmas recently launched a program called Open100 which is an effort to build a conventional 100MW PWR type reactor using existing supply chain components and open source funding.

Kugelmass told the Baltic Times that his firm Last Energy serves as a broker between private capital markets and SMR development opportunities around the world and it invests in companies deploying SMR technologies.

NuGen Receives Two Patents
for its “Spiral Fuel Core” HTGR SMR

NuGen, the U.S.-based developer of a 20 MW HTGR, announced that this week it has achieved an important step in its commercialization plan. The US Patent Office issued NuGen the following two new patents: Integrated System for Converting Nuclear Energy into Electrical, Rotational, and Thermal Energy, US Patent Nos. 10,685,755, (6/17/2020) and 10,685,756 (6/17/2020).

nugen slide

Conceptual Image of NuGen Reactor as of 2016: Image: NuGen

Steve Rhyne, CEO of the firm, told this blog in an email that after exploring various market opportunities in 2018 and 2019, “we now are focused on a transportable microreactor to be used for providing power (electricity and heat) to remote locations, military installations (including secure off-grid electricity), and mining sites.

NuGen’s self-funded startup is developing the NuGen Engine [tm]  which is a high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR) in a small package. Previously, Mr. Rhyne told this blog in an email last year that the design will have power ratings of up to 20 MWe for remote site terrestrial applications. Some details of the reactor core and fuel remain proprietary information at this time.

Rhyne added that he sees a competitive advantage in the ability of supply chain vendors to provide components to build the reactor. Rhyne said it will be relatively easy to manufacture the HTGR, “due to its simple compact integrated configuration.”

Looking ahead, Rhyne said the firm is working in collaboration with Texas A&M and other partners, and plans to submit an application later this summer under DOE’s current Advanced Reactor Demonstration FOA. If funded it will allow the firm to accelerate its work towards completion of the design.

Other Nuclear News

South Africa Starts Consultations on Nuclear New Build

(WNN)  South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to enable it to assess nuclear technologies that could be considered for a national program to build 2,500 MWe of new nuclear capacity. The programme could include conventional pressurized water reactors (PWRs), small modular reactors (SMRs) or a blend of technologies.

Publication of the RFI is the start of preparatory work to develop plans for a future nuclear program, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, who has been on the job since February 2018, said on Twitter @GwedeMantashe1, “Given the long lead-time of building additional new nuclear capacity, upfront planning is necessary for security of energy supply to society.”

Mantashe said in May the DMRE would start work on a roadmap for nuclear procurement, which is in line with South Africa’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan.

“It is envisaged that the South African Nuclear Power Program may comprise a blend of baseload power combining both conventional PWR and SMR technologies to a total of 2500 MW at a pace and scale the country can afford,” the RFI notes.

PWR technologies submitted to the RFI should be currently commercially available. SMR technologies are expected to be under development for commercialization by 2030. Submissions must address the these items;

  • costing and financing;
  • plant design features;
  • licensing of the plant design in South Africa;
  • feasibility of construction at South African sites;
  • detailed project management plan; and
  • options for using the reactor for the desalination of sea water.

Participants in the RFI – which DMRE describes as a stand-alone information-gathering and market-testing exercise only – have until July 15th to register their interest in the RFI.

Romania / Shareholders Approve Strategy To Complete Units 3 And 4 At Cernavodă

(NucNet) Shareholders in Romania’s state-controlled nuclear energy producer Nuclearelectrica have approved a new investment strategy for 2020-2025 that includes proposals to go ahead with the completion of two new units at the Cernavoda nuclear station at an estimated cost of €6.45 billion.

Investment-StrategiesThe strategy says fiscal mechanisms and commercial instruments adapted to the energy field would give potential investors predictability of their return on investment in energy production through low-carbon technologies like nuclear.

It says the Romanian authorities have, in different stages of analysis, a series of measures intended to stimulate investment interest in such projects.

The strategy raises the possibility of some form of state loan and rate guarantees as necessary tools to secure funding for large energy infrastructure investments “which bring economic and social added value.”

The Cernavoda-3 and 4 project consists of completing and commissioning two CANDU 6 type units with a minimum installed capacity of 720 MW each.

Last month Nuclearelectrica said it would begin talks to terminate an agreement signed with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) for the construction of Units 3 and 4.

Russia / Beloyarsk-4 Fast Reactor Set To Fully Run On MOX Fuel In 2022

(NucNet) Russia’s BN-800 fast neutron reactor at Beloyarsk-4 is expected to fully switch to commercial uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel use in 2022, according to a statement by state nuclear operator Rosenergoatom.

bn-800-large-image

The development, a first for Russia, will be an “important step” towards closing the fuel cycle, the statement said.

Rosenergoatom said transition to MOX fuel is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2021, with loading of one-third of the reactor’s core with the new fuel. Rosenergoatom said full transition to MOX fuel operation is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022.

In January 2020, operators loaded the first batch of commercial MOX fuel, consisting of 18 assemblies, at Beloyarsk-4. The plant haD been operating on a mix of conventional uranium-based fuel and MOX assemblies.

The MOX fuel project has been led by state nuclear fuel company Tvel. Production began in late 2018 at the Mining and Chemical Combine in Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk region.

According to Tvel, the BN-800 reactor unit had already used a mix of experimental MOX assemblies and uranium fuel during its initial physical startup testing phase.

Beloyarsk-4, near Yekaterinburg in central Russia, is an 820-MW fast neutron reactor unit of the BN-800 design. It began commercial operation in 2016.

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China Nuclear Energy News for 06/14/20

  • Chinese Nuclear Generating Capacity to Double by 2030
  • HTGR at Shandong Delayed
  • CFR600 Advanced Reactor Expected to Complete Construction in 2023
  • China Faces Mixed Futures in the UK
  • Huawei Issues Threaten UK Nuclear New Build

Recent Developments in China’s Commercial Nuclear Power Program

hualong one profile

Hualong One profile, a 1000 MW PWR. Image: IAEA

The Bloomberg Wire Service reported June 1 that while China’s nuclear powered generating capacity will likely double by 2030 to 130 GW, it will miss its goal of having about half that capacity (58 GW) by the end of 2020. That would still amount to 10% of total electricity generated by CO2 emission free sources and future growth in nuclear energy will come at the expense of building some coal-fired plants.

According to the Bloomberg report, Global Data PLC, a market research firm, estimates that China will pass France as the world’s number two generator by 2022 and could claim the top spot by 2026 based on its growth and the disturbing trend in the U.S. of closing perfectly good plants due to the low price of natural gas. Also, the U.S. has no new full size plants scheduled for construction once the twin units at the Vogtle site are completed later this decade.

According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), China has six 1100 MW Hualong One units, a domestic design, under construction and four ACPR 1000 MW units also being built.

China Nucler Power Map - WNA

Map of China’s nuclear power plants.  Source: World Nuclear Association.

China has not entirely abandoned the construction of new units based on reactor designs from other countries. It has plans to build four Russian 1200 MW VVER, two at Xudabao and two at Tianwan. First concrete at these sites is expected in 2020 or 2021.

HTGR Delayed

Plans to build 20 200 MW HTGR advanced reactors, based on a demonstration unit at Shidao Bay in Sahndong Province, have not materialized despite fact that work began on it in 2012. The design involves two small high temperature gas-cooled units, using pebble bed type HALEU type fuel (8.9% U235), and using helium as the coolant and primary heat transfer medium. The twin reactors are linked to a single turbine.

The HTGR facility was expected to enter revenue service in 2019, but that milestone has been delayed without setting a new date. Separately, a 600 MW fast reactor, the CFR600, is expected to be complete by 2023.

It has been reported by several sources that the high cost of manufacturing the HTGR reactor components and building it are caused, in part, by the need for specialty materials to deal with the high heat it generates, and by the usual first-of-a-kind costs of a new design which have conributed to the schedule delay. In any case, China’s ambitious plans to make Shandong Province a showcase for advanced nuclear reactors have been put on hold.

According to English language wire service reports, the president of the China Nuclear Society, Wang Soujun, told a government meeting in Beijing that work is progressing with an plan to complete work on the demonstration unit and to offer the HTGR design for export. The plan is to sell it to utilities which would use the high temperatures of the primary loop to provide process heat for electricity and for industrial steam for heavy industries. The reactor will produce an outlet temperature of 750 C.

China has promoted the HTGR, known as the HTR-PM, as inherently safe. Due to the nature of the pebble bed fuel in a helium gas coolant in the reactor, it can shut down safely in the event of an emergency without a core meltdown or release of radioactivity.

CFR600 Advanced Reactor Expected to be Completed in 2023

Separately, a 600 MW fast reactor, the CFR600, is expected to be complete by 2023. The CFR-600 is a sodium-cooled pool-type fast-neutron nuclear reactor under construction in Xiapu County, Fujian province, China, on Changbiao Island. Work began on building it in 2017.

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. The reactor will have an output of 1,500 MWth thermal power and 600 MW electric power. A larger commercial-scale reactor, the CFR-1000, is also planned.

According to Word Nuclear News, China, and CNNC expects the fast neutron nuclear reactor type to become predominant by mid-century. The country’s research and development on fast neutron reactors started in 1964.

The CFR600 reactor will use mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. It will feature two coolant loops producing steam at 480°C. The reactor will have active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.

A commercial-scale unit, the CFR1000, will have a capacity of 1000-1200 MWe. Subject to a 2020 decision to proceed, construction could start in December 2028, with operation slated for 2034.

China Faces Mixed Futures in the UK

China’s effort to export its nuclear energy expertise to the West took a major step forward in late May as China General Nuclear (CGN) joined with France’s EDF in presenting an application to the UK government to build twin 1600 MW EPRs at the UK’s Sizewell C site. The project is expected to cost $20 billion according to some early estimates. Ground breaking is expected in 2021. CGN is taking a 20% equity stake in the project.

China has also taken a 33% equity stake in a similar project in the UK which is the construction of twin 1600 MW EPRs at the Hinkley Point C project. That construction effort is underway. Taken together the two projects, when completed, will provide 14% of all the electricity generated in the UK.

From an economic development perspective, the projects are hugely popular due to the enormous number of construction and permanent jobs to be created at each site and through the supply chains for both projects. EDF has estimated that the cumulative employment created is 25,000 jobs.

All this economic activity has collided with a demand by China that the UK government, headed by PM Boris Johnson, not block the efforts of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to build 5G wireless networks in the UK. National security concerns have fueled opposition in Parliament. Members of Johnson’s Conservative Party want to block CGN from participating in the Sizewell C. project.

MP Dunan Smith was widely quoted in news media reports as saying that the UK should not be overly dependent on China for major infrastructure projects. He urged the government to tighten foreign investment rules.

In the U.S. the government placed China General Nuclear on a “blacklist.” for stealing U.S. nuclear technology. In 2018 federal prosecutors secured guilty pleas from several former TVA nuclear engineers who sold U.S. nuclear intellectual property to CGN. One was sentenced to two years in jail and another, who turned states’ evidence, got probation.

Huawei Issues Threaten UK Nuclear New Build

5G TowerChina’s growing presence in the UK nuclear new build could come to screeching halt over a dispute involving an unrelated plan for the UK to buy 5G wireless networks from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.

The Chinese government issued a statement on June 1 that UK PM Boris Johnson’s consideration of a plan to cancel contracting with Huawei to build the networks could result in China pulling the plug on its plans to fund and build nuclear power plants at the Sizewell and Bradwell sites and the HS2 high speed rail line.

Johnson’s government has been spooked by reports that the Huawei might be able to spy on sensitive business and government telecommunications traffic once the network was built. Based on these concerns, Australia and Japan have already canceled their contracts with Huawei for this reason.

The U.S. went a step further in its dealing with Huawei creating a world class diplomatic dust up in the process. It arranged for the arrest in Canada in 2018, to hold for extradition, of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer (and daughter of its founder), for doing business with Iran in defiance of U.S. sanctions.

In parallel actions, the U.S. federal government has pushed U.S. wireless providers to ditch contracts with Huawei for this alleged violation and also over allegations that the firm is a cybersecurity threat.

The Chinese government is more than just annoyed by these developments and said it might pull the plug on the Sizewell investment and Bradwell project and the rail line if PM Johnson does not stand up to members of his own party who want Huawei kicked out of the UK.

As a practical matter a lot of this is posturing as CGN is deeply invested in the Hinkley C and Sizewell C projects and desperately wants to build a Hualong One in a western country to prove its value for exports. The Bradwell site is the first and only opportunity so far to do that as plans for building one in Argentina have ground to a halt due to the terrible state of Argentina’s finances.

Push back by some members of the UK Parliament to stop te Huawei contract on cybersecurity grounds may be cloaking an effort by other wireless firms, and not just some in the UK, to get the Chinese firm out of the picture so that they can build the UK’s 5G networks. Separately, a bizzare string of arson attacks on 5G towers in the UK have been fueled by online conspiracy theories that the telecommunications signals are the cause of the corona virus pandemic.

The U.S. actions against Huawei are part of President Trump’s ill-advised trade wars with China which have extended from telecommunications to computer ship manufacturing and to farm products. American consumers have paid the price for these actions due to the high tarriffs the Trump administration has imposed on Chinese imports.

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Federal Agency Airs Plan to Finance Exports of Nuclear Power Plants

dfc logoWith an eye towards eventually helping the U.S. compete in the global nuclear market to counter the export efforts by Russia and China, a key federal agency announced June 10th that it has opened a 30-day public comment period to gauge support for the plan.

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) said it plans to update its procedures for making investments as part of its $60 billion of lending authority as authorized by Congress.  As a practical matter the agency is more likely to favor bank-to-bank financial arrangements rather than getting directly involved in specific nuclear power projects.  Here’s a summary of information from the “Products” section of their website.

DFC offers equity and debt financing and political risk insurance and funds technical assistance to plan new technology development efforts.  It’s priorities include investments in low-income and lower middle-income countries (as defined by the World Bank).

The agency considers other investments that are important to U.S. foreign policy and national security or address key agency priorities such as women’s economic empowerment.

DFC, under the European Energy and Diversification Act of 2019, is authorized to support energy infrastructure projects in upper middle-income and high-income countries in Central and Eastern Europe that strengthen regional energy security, which is essential to economic growth and U.S. foreign policy interests

Note that the third paragraph makes no mention of developing nations which is the global market where Rosatom, and Chinese state owned firms, have grown their order books. For Russia, examples include countries like Egypt and for China examples include countries like Pakistan.  U.S. prospects could include Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic.

All that said, does the agency understand what it is getting into and will it reach out for help from the U.S. nuclear industry in order to achieve success with its investments?

What to Export?

According to the press statement by the DFC, the agency sees opportunities for financing “advanced nuclear technologies under development and deployment in the United States, including small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors, will have significantly lower costs than traditional nuclear power plants, and may be well suited for developing countries.”

Export Gains for U.S. Nuclear Industry or Foreign Policy Outcomes?

There are foreign policy objectives at work. Both Russia and China use nuclear energy exports as tools of foreign policy by bringing much needed energy projects, with attractive financial terms, to developing nations like Egypt, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Pakistan. Russia has far outpaced China in this regard despite China’s globe spanning “belt and road” infrastructure investment program.

China has taken equity positions in two of the UK’s biggest nuclear power station projects which are Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C. Both projects are expected, when completed, to each generate 3,200 MW of carbon emission free electricity.

In return, China has a gained a commitment to build multiple units of its 1000 MW Hualong One PWR at the Bradwell site. Its Hualong One Design has completed about three-quarters of the UK Generic Design Review process which is a safety certification required to build the reactor in the U.K.

China is using its massive investments in the U.K. nuclear new build as political leverage to insure that its telecommunications giant Huawei is not locked out of doing business to build 5G networks in the UK, due to cybersecurity concerns, and to preserve plans to build a high speed rail line in the U.K.

Countering this growing influence, the U.S. hopes to match the efforts by Russia and China with similar attractive financial incentives for advanced and affordable nuclear reactors such as small modular, micro, and mini scale designs. Significantly, the DFC has twice the financial loan authority ($60 billion) of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which it replaced, to throw at the program.

A Look at the Political Calendar

The DFC declined to put a timeline on its decision to proceed with this strategy nor did it explain how it would develop inhouse the technical and financial expertise to identify and select projects, conduct due diligence assessments on candidates countries for financing, or monitor funded projects. (more on this issue below)

The DFC’S executive director has experience as an investor in the health care industry. Key executives with the agency have backgrounds in finance, management consulting, and politics. None of them have ever led or worked on a nuclear power plant new construction project or an energy project at a similar financial scale. The agency has tilted over time, and has obligated so far about half of its investment authority,  mostly on projects to alleviate poverty in developing nations.

Working through the comment period, and the congressional debate that may follow, it could be late 2020 before the DFC’s board feels confident to enact the policy and begin its shift in investments to consider nuclear energy projects as part of its portfolio. The first investment decisions could be several years in the future.

green_earth_nuclear_atom-1_thumb.jpgAnother imponderable is that in less than a year a new President and Congress will take office and will likely include a Democratic president and majorities for the party in both the House and Senate. The left wing, or progressive wing, of the Democratic Party has struggled with the concept of investing in nuclear energy as an essential part of the strategy to decarbonize the U.S. economy.

During the public comment period, DFC said it would reach out to external engagement with stakeholders representing Congress, peer U.S. Government agencies, NGOs, and the private sector.  Getting the green wing of the Democratic party onboard ought to be an important part of that outreach effort.

Management and Supply Chain Challenges

While there is no shortage of U.S. based consulting financial and technical capabilities to help the DFC make and manage its investment decisions, it needs to be wary of the condition of the U.S supply chain and to take action to get its house in order.

The U.S. has not sold any reactors overseas for decades. The sole U.S. manufacturer of nuclear reactors is Westinghouse which, following a bankruptcy, is now owned by a Canadian private equity firm that counts as its investors including several nations including Qatar.

In 2014 completion of the four Westinghouse 1150 MW AP1000s to exported to China was delayed by issues with the reactor cooling pumps (RCPs) requiring them to be replaced.  In 2019 one of the four RCPs installed at the operating Sanmen project failed after being fully qualified and installed taking the reactor off line and out of revenue service for months.

The Vogtle project in Georgia, twin Westinghouse AP1000s, is running over budget and behind schedule at the cost of billions more than budgeted due in part to problems with installed components that didn’t work as advertised.

The V C Summer project, two Westinghouse AP1000s, in South Carolina failed due in large part to the inability of the utility and its EPC contractors to manage the supply chain and deliver major components on time leaving a $9 billion hole in rate payer pocketbooks. A  failure of the project management function, and allegations of fraud allegedly carried out by the utility’s executives, also contributed to the collapse of the project.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said in a recent complaint that with the V C Summer project the lure of tax credits for the utility building the reactor led the former CEO and EVP to lie about progress in order to quality for the federal financial support.

“The SEC’s complaint alleges that SCANA, its former CEO Kevin Marsh, former Executive Vice President Stephen Byrne, and subsidiary SCE&G misled investors about a project to build two nuclear units that would qualify the company for more than $1 billion in tax credits. According to the complaint, the defendants claimed that the project was on track even though they knew it was far behind schedule, making it unlikely to qualify for the tax credits.”

Management and Due Diligence Issues

The issue of corruption and potential for fraud in developing countries should be a particular focus of the DFC’s due diligence efforts. South Africa’s struggles to start a new nuclear power station are a case study in the perils of double dealing that can affect a nation’s plans to spend billions on a new nuclear power plant.

In Brazil in 2014 the volume of bank notes involved in bribery of the CEO and executives of the state owned nuclear utility by the construction firms and suppliers to the Angra III project was so immense that the people taking the bribes ran out of room to keep them secret and some of the paper was stashed in a car wash.

A Win Strategy for the DFC

If the DFC is going to loan tens of billions of taxpayer dollars for the export of U.S. sourced commercial nuclear energy technologies, it needs to get it right. In addition to rigorous due diligence on the award and execution of loans, it needs to collaborate with a broad range of associations of nuclear subject matter experts for project management and supply chain issues. It is not enough to just write a check. The success of the DFC loan program depends on successful nuclear reactor projects to earn and keep the confidence of congress and the public.

Organizations that can help include the Nuclear Energy Institute, the Nuclear Industry Council,  American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Nuclear Society, and the industry trade groups representing engineering services and manufacturers of nuclear reactor components.

The objective is to work on a national strategy of getting all U..S. vendors fully capable of supporting these export projects. Also, DFC needs to include expertise of U.S. firms who have a baked in project management culture to focus on delivery of the projects receiving the loans on time and within budget. Congressional funding for the Department of Energy to organize and pay for the effort is a necessary success factor. The industry can’t do it alone.

Stakeholder Support for the DFC Proposal

(NEI) The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the inside the beltway trade group for the U.S. nuclear industry, announced on its website that it was thrilled with the proposed policy change which would overturn a decades long ban on government financial support for U.S. nuclear technology exports.

Maria Korsnick, president and chief executive officer of NEI said, “The proposed policy change to lift its legacy prohibition on nuclear energy projects supports the development of clean, reliable energy worldwide, helps countries reach their energy development goals, buttresses U.S. national security, and can help level the playing field for U.S. firms.”

In her statement, Ms. Korsnick echoed the view of former INL Director John Grossenbacher who said way back in 2010 that development and operation of a nuclear reactor is a “50-100 year proposition.” By this he meant that the stages of a reactor’s life span can be measured by these milestones. Here’s a more current example.

  • Year 1 – Start project preceded by up to a decade of planning and efforts to arange finacing
  • Year 4 – Construction and operations license
  • Year 10 – Start up with 40 year license
  • Year 50 – First 20 year license renewal
  • Year 70 – 2nd 20 year license renewal
  • Year 90 – Life extension 20 year license
  • Year 110 – Start decommissioning

NEI’s Korsnick apparently has taken a page from Grossenbacher’s book. She said, “Partnering with U.S. companies would position countries to provide long-term clean, reliable energy for electricity grids, desalination, and other applications. In addition, these partnerships will forge long-term strategic economic and security relationships with the United States that can last 100 years.”

Clearpath, a conservative clean energy group, also said it supported the change in DFC’s investment policy. Rich Powell, the groups’s executive director, said in a press statement;

“As Russia and China utilize their command and control government-owned enterprises to attempt to gain influence internationally, the American government must ensure that our companies, our innovators, and our clean energy technologies have the best possible chance to compete internationally.”

“By lifting the previous restrictions on the U.S. nuclear energy industry to develop internationally, America is taking a huge step to truly offer a competitive product — similar to the incentives China and Russia provide when they approach other countries with offers to develop infrastructure and energy.”

(ANS) World Nuclear News reported that the DFC announcement came during the annual meeting of the American Nuclear Society (ANS) held last week with a virtually connected attendance of about 2,300 people. The potential change in U.S. policy to begin offering financing solutions was highlighted in a statement during one of the ANS conference session by US Assistant Secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy Rita Baranwal.

She identified the ability to offer attractive financing options as one of two areas of deficiency which the government could address to support US exports, the other being the ability to take back used nuclear fuel.

“We really need to be offering a comprehensive global package to countries that really do want to deploy US technology.”

Brazil / Business Model Approved for Angra-3 Nuclear Plant

(NucNet)  The Reuters wire service reports that Brazil has approved a business model to complete the Angra-3 nuclear power plant, with or without a partner joining Eletronuclear, the Eletrobras subsidiary that operates the country’s nuclear reactors.

The business model is said to have been approved recently, although there has been no official confirmation. Reuters said was devised by major lender, state development bank BNDES, and requires a private partner to share the financial burden.

Eletronuclear president Leonam Guimaraes said last month that Brazil wanted to find a partner by 2023 to help finish and operate Angra-3, with companies in China, Russia, France and South Korea among possible candidates. He said lower demand for electricity and a fall in the value of the Brazilian real during the coronavirus crisis could push completion of Angra-3 into 2027,

Construction of the 1,245-MW Siemens/KWU pressurized water reactor unit began in 1984 but was halted in 1986 because of a lack of financing. In 2010, a construction permit was reissued by the authorities, but the project was suspended again in 2015 because of financing concerns and corruption investigations that snared the CEO of the Brazilizan nuclear utility and execuives of of construction firms building the plant.

According to Eletrobras Eletronuclear, almost 47% of civil work at the site had been completed in 2014. So far, 9 billion reals ($1.6 bn) has been spent on the project.

Brazil has two operational nuclear plants, Angra-1 and Angra-2, which provide around 2.7% of its electricity production.

U.S. Seeks Brazilian Nuclear Business

In April a U.S. trade delegation visited Brazil to promote U.S. exports of nuclear technology.

As a result Brazil and the USA have signed agreements on extending the operation and generating capacity of Angra unit 1 and on cooperation in new nuclear technologies.

The agreements, between Westinghouse and Eletronuclear, and between the US Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and the Brazilian Association for the Development of Nuclear Activities (Abdan), were signed in February at the Brazil-US Energy Forum in Rio de Janeiro in the presence of Brazilian Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque and US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

The U.S. delegation also included representatives of Framatome, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, and Holtec International, among others. An agreement for bilateral cooperation on development of nuclear energy was the key outcome of the meeting.

Brazil has also expressed an interest in small modular reactors.

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Japan’s HTGR Gets Green Light for Restart

  • Japan HTGR Cleared to Resume Operations
  • Japan’s Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Plant Gets Safety Review OK’d
  • Recent NRC Actions for Two Proposed Interim Storage Sites for Spent Nuclear Fuel

Japan HTGR Cleared to Resume Operations

greenlight_thumb.jpgThe Japan Atomic Eergy Agency (JAEA), which operates a 30MWt graphite-moderated helium gas-cooled reactor (HTGR), has received a green light to restart the unit from the country’s Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The restart decision marks a a major milestone for the project. It follows the completion of a series of safety upgrades that are designed to prevent fires from starting due to the extremely high emperatures that occur inside the reactor and with the secondardy loop.

japanhtgr

Image source: JAEA

The High-Temperature Engineering Test Reactor, whch is an HTGR, has a long history as a reseach platform with the first instance of going critical taking place in late 1998. In 2011 a hydrogen production system as added to the reactor facility. In 2014, three years after the Fukushima disaster, the JAEA applied for a review as to whether the reactor could meet new safety standards.

According to a press statement by the JAEA, “the safety review by the NRA against the new regulatory requirements has confirmed that no fuel damage would occur in the event of a beyond design basis accident such as multiple losses of reactor shutdown functions.”

Commercial Future for the HTGR

Further, the JAEA said that the completion of the safety review will contribute to the development of an internationally recognized safety standard for HTGR type reactors. The agency said that it plans to develop a commercialization plan for the HTGR. It has a collaborative R&D effort to do this in Poland.

In May 2017 Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA, President: Toshio Kodama) and National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) in the Republic of Poland concluded a memorandum of cooperation in the field of HTGR technologies. In Poland, construction of a practical HTGR (200-350 MW thermal) with heat supply to a variety of industries and a research HTGR (10 MW thermal) are the expected outcomes of the agreement.

tem range htgr apps

JAEA Chart

Work scope includes efforts to design and build the prototype units and eventually to assess irradiation effects on fuel and material. The use of heat from the reactor at the commercial stage is expected to be focused on its use by various industries as well as for the production of hydrogen.

Japan’s Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Plant
Gets Safety Review OK’d

mox-fuel-word-cloudThe Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on May 13th announced that the nuclear fuel (LWR) reprocessing plant located in Rokkasho, Aomori Province, has successfully completed upgrades that meet the post-Fukushima safety standards that were created following the March 2011 disaster caused by an earthquake and tsunami.

The cost of the original construction and subsequent upgrades to the plant have totaled an astounded $130 billion according to a report in the Japan Times.

The plant, which has a long troubled history of technical problems, is now scheduled to restart in mid-to-late 2022. However, the Mainichi newspaper reported on May 13 that Toyoshi Fuketa, Chairman of the NRA, told the newspaper “it may be a very long time before the plant comes online.”

His statement is based on the fact that while the project broke ground in 1993, and was scheduled for completion four years later, technical issues including problems with vitrification of the waste from reprocessing, and mismanagement of the facilty by its owner Japan Nuclear Fuel, Ltd., have plagued efforts to start commercial scale capabilities.

However, Fuketa also said on behalf of the NRA, “We believe the facility’s design ensures high safety margins against nuclear accidents.”

He added that an examination of the seismic faults near the reactor have been examined an are deemed not to be a threat to a restart of operations with the new safety features in place.

According to a report in World Nuclear News for May 13, 2020, additional equipment and systems have been installed for the recovery of radioactivity in the event of a severe accident. A new emergency control room is also being constructed at the plant. Additional safety-related countermeasures are also being put in place, such as internal flood protection, strengthening of the seismic resistance of pipework, improving cooling water tower resistance against tornadoes and improving measures against internal fires.

Once it is in operation, the reprocessing plant is expected to be able to handle 800 tonnes per year converting spent nuclear fuel into mixed oxide fuel (MOX) that can be burned in conventional light water reactors (LWR).

MOX fuel for LWRs has an equivalent enrichment level of about 5% U235 and is composed of the plutonium extracted from the spent fuel and the non-fissile uranium U238 that was also part of the original fuel assemblies. Curently, there is a stored inventory of 2,900 tonnes at the site which indicates a nearly four year backlog once it begins operations.

The Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, ad Industry (METI) had envisioned when it started the project that the plant would supply MOX fuel to up to 18 of the nation’s then 54 nuclear reactors. Since 2011, only four of the 11 operating units are taking taking MOX to use for as fuel for up to one-third of their cores. The MOX fuel is expected to be more expensive than conventional LWR fuel raising the question of demand for it.

In the list that follows the reactors with an asterisk (*) can burn MOX. The nine units that have been restarted in Japan since the Fukushima accident: Ohi-3, Ohi-4, Genkai-3*, Genkai-4, Sendai-1, Sendai-2, Ikata-3*, Takahama-3* and Takahama-4*.

The Monju fast reactor located in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture was also expected to be a key customer for MOX fuel However, it never started full operations after a sodium leak in 1995. It is now being decommissioned.

Japan currently has a total inventory of 45 tonnes of plutonium extracted from a now closed plant at Tokai which halted operations in 2014.  According to a report in World Nuclear News, the plant has reprocessed a total of some 1,052 tonnes of used fuel comprising 88 tonnes of fuel from the Fugen ATR, 644 tonnes of boiling water reactor fuel, 376 tonnes of pressurized water reactor fuel and 9 tonnes of fuel from the Japan Power Demonstration Reactor (JPDR).

Japan’s Plutonium Inventory

It isn’t clear how much plutonium was extracted from the spent fuel processed by Tokai plant. What is known is that Japan has a reported inventory of 45 tonnes of plutonium which only nine tonnes are held in storage in Japan.

An estimated 21 tonnes is held in the UK and another 15 tonnes is held in France. The U.S. and other countries have raised concerns about the possible use of the plutonium in nuclear weapons.

However, a 1988 agreement between the U.S. and Japan arranged for the plutonium to be sent to the UK and France to their respective reprocessing facilities until the Rokkasho plant was able to being full operation.

Prior Coverage on this Blog

Recent NRC Actions for Two Proposed Interim Storage Sites for Spent Nuclear Fuel

  • Interim Storage Partners Gets Finding of No Significant Impact in NRC EIS

On May 4th Interim Storage Partners was advised by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that finding in the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) that there will be no discernable negative effects from the proposed project on the environment or natural resources.

Concurrently, the NRC is also conducting a safety and technical review of the application to store up to 40,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel at a bone dry, seismically stable site near Andrews,TX. The storage canisters would be transported to the site by rail from operating, decommissioning, and decommissioned commercial nuclear power plants around the country.

The NRC draft EIS assesses the environmental impacts of the entire project, including construction, operation, transportation, and decommissioning. During development of the draft EIS, staff looked at the impacts to land use, geology and soils, surface waters and wetlands, groundwater, ecological resources, historic and cultural resources, environmental justice and several other areas.

A safety evaluation report (SER) and final environmental impact statement (FEIS) are due by the second quarter of 2021. The license application was accepted by the NRC in August 2018.

Interim Storage Partners is a joint project of Waste Control Specialists and the U.S. business unit of Orano, a global nuclear energy firm based on France.

  • HOLTEC Survives Contentions by Anti-nuclear Groups on its Plans for an Interim Storage Site in New Mexico

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has upheld a 2019 decision by the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board that rejected claims by several anti-nuclear groups that the project is illegal under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The NRC said that the law “does not prohibit a nuclear power plant licensee from transferring spent nuclear fuel to another private entity.”

The NRC also rejected contentions made against the use of HOLTEC’s HI-STORM UMAX system for dry cask storage of spent nuclear fuel. The agency said the casks are already “federally certified.”

“Because certified designs are incorporated into our (NRC’s) regulations, they may not be attacked in an adjudicatory proceeding . . . because this would challenge matters already fully considered and resolved in the design certification review.”

According to the Holtec website, the HI-STORM UMAX (Holtec International Storage Module Underground MAXimum Capacity) “is an underground Vertical Ventilated Module (VVM) dry spent fuel storage system engineered to be fully compatible with all presently certified multi-purpose canisters (MPCs) under USNRC CoC 72-1014 (HI-STORM 100 dry cask storage system) and CoC 72-1032 (HI-STORM FW dry cask storage system).”

The license application for the Holtech interim storage site was submitted to the NRC in March 2017 and was accepted by the Commission in February 2018 (USNRC Docket No. 72-1051).

HOLTEC is applying to the NRC for a license to build and operate the interim storage site near Hobbs, NM, for spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s fleet of light water reactors. Like the project site proposed by Interim Storage Partners, the area is bone dry and seismically stable.

Holtec is requesting authorization from the NRC for for the initial phase (Phase 1) of the project to store up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium (MTUs) [9,568 tons] in 500 canisters for a license period of 40 years.

Holtec plans to subsequently request amendments to the license to store an additional 500 canisters for each of 19 expansion phases of the proposed CISF (a total of 20 phases) to be completed over the course of 20 years, to expand the facility to eventually store up to 10,000 canisters of spent nucler fuel.

According to a Federal Register Notice for March 20, 2020, the NRC said the draft EIS for Holtec’s license application includes the preliminary analysis that evaluates the environmental impacts of the proposed action and alternatives to the proposed action.

“After comparing the impacts of the proposed action (Phase 1) to the No-Action alternative, the NRC staff, in accordance with the requirements in part 51 of title 10 of the Codes of Federal Regulations, recommends the proposed action (Phase 1) [emphasis added], which is the issuance of an NRC license for 40 years to Holtec to construct and operate a CISF for SNF at the proposed location. In addition, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) staff recommends the issuance of a permit to construct and operate the rail spur.”

The NRC extended the comment period to Juy 22, 2020, due to the corona virus crisis which may have prevent interested parties from submitting their comments by the original deadline of May 20, 2020.

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Big News for Big Iron in UK and Czech Republic

  • French Utility EDF has Submitted an Application to Build Two 1600 MW EPRs at the Sizewell C Site in the UK
  • The Government of the Czech Republic Will Lend its State Owned Utility CEZ up to 70% of the Cost of a New Full Size Nuclear Power Station,
    • Buy the Electricity from it at a Fixed Rate, and
    • Release a Tender for Bids by the end of 2020 with a Decision in 2022

Other Nuclear News

  • NRC Approval Of New Framework ‘Paves Way For Next Generation Reactors’
  • Terrestrial Energy IMSR Supplier Forum Hosted by Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries

French Utility EDF Submits an Application to Build Two 1600 MW EPRs at the Sizewell C Site in the UK

The French state-owned utility EDF has submitted an application to UK regulators to build two massive 1600 MW EPRs a the Sizewell C site in the UK at an estimated cost of $22 billion or about $6,800/Kw. When completed it will be the second pair of EPRs in the UK delivering in combination 14% of the electricity needed in the UK. The first two units are under construction at the Hinkley Point C site and are expected to come online in 2025.

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The application, which goes by the bureaucratic title of “Development Consent Order, was delivered to the UK Planning Inspectorate after a two-month delay due to the corona virus crisis.

New Financing Method

EDF is requesting financing using a method that will allow it to be paid as progress is made in building the units. The plan will provide for cheaper financing and lower costs. The method, call the “regulated asset base” or RAB, has been successfully used for other very large infrastructure projects in the UK including the massive flood control measures on the Thames River. The use of this method, EDF said, will insure that the majority of the financing will come from UK investors.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK Nuclear Industry Association, said told World Nuclear News in July 2019 the RAB model “promises to make a substantial contribution” to reducing the cost of building the new nuclear capacity the country needs if it is to meet its climate change targets.

“This approach is already well established with investors in large infrastructure projects, and will reduce the cost to consumers as we replace our ageing fleet. Doing so is fundamental to meeting net zero, and we need to get on with it now,” Greatrex said.

China’s Role in the UK Nuclear New Build

Additional financing will come from China General Nuclear (CGN) which will provide a 20% stake worth an estimated $3.6 billion. CGN has already taken a 33.5% stake in the Hinkley Point C project.

Additionally, CGN has a commitment from the UK government to build two Chinese designed Hualong One 1000 MW PWR type reactors at the Bradwell site. The design is currently working its way through the four-year generic design assessment process in the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR). In February 2020 ONR reported on its website that the Hualong One had completed three of the four phases of the GDR.

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Controlling Construction Costs

According to EDF, construction of the two EPRs at Sizewell will create 25,000 jobs and a permanent workforce of 900 plant operations staff. About 70% of the supply chain procurement are slated for UK firms.

EDF said Sizewell C will be a near replica of Hinkley Point C in Somerset. As a near replica of Hinkley Point C, EDF as said said that Sizewell C will be cheaper to construct and finance.

“It will benefit from the experience of Hinkley Point C’s engineers, contractors and suppliers and lessons from other nuclear projects, including operational EPR plants. It can also repeat the huge boost for industry, jobs and skills already happening due to Hinkley Point C’s construction.”

The public review of the EDF application for Sizewell C will begin after an internal acceptance review and public notice. Public consultations are likely to take place this Fall. EDF has not yet released a construction start date for the project.

Czech Republic Government to Finance 70%
of New Nuclear Plant at Dukovany

According to wire services, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said on May 29 that his government will provide a loan to state-owned Czech utility CEZ to cover 70% of the cost of a new 1200 MW nuclear power station at the utility’s Dukovany site. The utility is then expected to provide 30% of the remaining funding.

The cost of the project has a preliminary price tag of $6.7 billion or about $5,600/Kw. A tender for award of the construction and EPC contracts is expected to be released by the end of 2020, or earlier, with announcement of the winning bidders by the end of 2022.

So far six firms have expressed interest in the project – China Nuclear General, EDF, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Rosatom, the Atmea consortium of Mitsubishi and EDF, and Westinghouse.

CEZ officials told wire services that they are working with the government on a plan to buy electricity from the completed power station at a fixed rate of return and that if the market price for electricity drops below it, the government will make up the difference. If the price goes above it, the utility will not gain from that increase.

The utility may have to buy out the shares held by outside investors as some of them have objected to the financial risks from cost overruns.

OTHER NUCLEAR NEWS

NRC Approval Of New Framework ‘Paves Way
For Next Generation Reactors’

(NucNet)  The U.S Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) voted unanimous approval of a licensing framework for advanced non-light water reactors. The decision paves the way for regulatory reviews to be aligned with the safety characteristics and simplified designs of Generation IV advanced reactors.

On May 26 the NRC voted 4-0 to approve the implementation of a more streamlined and predictable licensing process for advanced non-light water reactors.

  • For background see “A Regulatory Review Roadmap For Non-Light Water ReactorsML17312B567 
  • For all NRC documents related to the decision, see VR-SECY-19-0117: Technology-Inclusive, Risk-Informed, and Performance-Based Methodology to Inform the Licensing Basis and Content of Applications for Licenses, Certifications, and Approvals for Non-Light-Water Reactors ML20147A149

This approach is consistent with the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (NEIMA), which was passed last year by Congress and signed into law in January 2020. The legislation calls for the development of a licensing process for advanced reactor developers.

The NRC decision received two important statements of support from the industry.

Doug True, chief nuclear officer at the trade group Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), said: “A modernized regulatory framework is a key enabler of next-generation nuclear technologies that can help us meet our energy needs while protecting the climate.”

True said a well-defined licensing path will benefit the next generation of nuclear plants, which could meet a wide range of applications beyond generating electricity such as producing heat for industry, desalinating water, and making hydrogen.

He added that it will help regulators develop a new rule for licensing advanced reactors, as required by NEIMA.

Marilyn Kray, president of the American Nuclear Society, said earlier this year that the passage of the NEIMA legislation was a “big win” for the nation and its nuclear community.

“By reforming outdated laws, the NRC will now be able to invest more freely in advanced nuclear R&D and licensing activities. This in turn will accelerate deployment of cutting-edge American nuclear systems and better prepare the next generation of nuclear engineers and technologists.”

Background Document

Last February the NRC released its ‘Advanced Reactors Program Status’ paper, aimed toward informing the public of its progress and providing an overview of factors related to the licensing and deployment of advanced reactors.

The paper discusses the progress made in six strategic areas: (1) staff development and knowledge management, (2) analytical tools, (3) regulatory framework, (4) consensus codes and standards, (5) resolution of policy issues, and (6) communications. ML19331A034 

Terrestrial Energy IMSR Supplier Forum Hosted by
Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries

Terrestrial Energy executives discussed plans for developing the Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR®) power plant and opportunities for suppliers on a May 26 webcast hosted by the Organization of Canadian Nuclear Industries (OCNI).

The Terrestrial Energy IMSR Supplier Forum was led by OCNI President and CEO Ron Oberth. After an introduction by Dr. Oberth, Robin Manley, Vice President, New Nuclear Development at Ontario Power Generation (OPG), discussed OPG’s plans to review and assess SMR designs for the utility’s future use.

Terrestrial Energy CEO Simon Irish provided an overview of the development of the 195 MW IMSR® Generation IV advanced nuclear power plant and its progress to market in Canada and internationally.

Terrestrial Energy said at the forum it is on track to commission with first utility customers the first commercial IMSR power plants in the late 2020s. The IMSR was the first advanced reactor to complete Phase 1 of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Vendor Design Review in November 2017, and the company expects to complete that process in 2021.

TEI-ISMR-HowItWorks-Diagram

Conceptual image of Terrestrial Energy Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Design and Applications

“Timely supply of IMSR components and services is now a key objective of IMSR development,” said Mr. Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy.

“We are grateful to the OCNI for its supply chain outreach and the opportunity to provide an update on IMSR® progress to more than 200 companies in the nuclear supply chain.”

Terrestrial Energy’s Bill Smith, Senior Vice President, Operations and Engineering, and Iftikhar Haque, Head of Supply Chain, discussed the company’s procurement strategy, IMSR supply chain development, and opportunities for Canadian companies to participate.

The speakers also highlighted how exports of IMSR Generation IV power plants would create large additional opportunities for Canadian nuclear companies. An overview of Terrestrial Energy’s Quality Assurance program was provided by Cathy Clavel, QA Manager, and Mr. Smith.

Video _Terrestrial Energy IMSR Shown at Supplier Forum

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New Lamps for Old: Australia, Puerto Rico Open to Efforts for Small Modular Reactors

  • Australia / Government To Examine SMRs As Part Of Energy Planning
  • Puerto Rico / New Report Finds Small Modular Reactors are Feasible
  • U.S. / New TVA Board Members Support Development Work for SMRs
  • France / Nuclear Society Urges Government To Commit To New-Build
  • South Africa / Nuclear Industry Association Supports Government Proposals for Nuclear Power
  • Brazil / COVID-19 to Delay New Nuclear Plant

Australia / Government To Examine SMRs As Part Of Energy Planning

new lamp(NucNet) The Australian federal government has taken a major step forward in addressing the need for CO2 emission free electrical generation power sources.

In a major new report it says it wants to look at the possibility of deploying small modular reactors (SMRs) as part of its policy to achieve its medium-and long-term greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target which is a strategy that is  part of its obligation under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The discussion paper said emerging nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, have potential but require R&D and identified deployment pathways.

“Engineering, cost and environmental challenges, alongside social acceptability of nuclear power in Australia, will be key determinants of any future deployment,” the paper said.

The paper examined more than 140 energy technologies including nuclear, hydrogen, renewables, biofuels and carbon capture and storage.

It said while solar and wind were the cheapest forms of generation, reliability was still an issue and gas would play an important part in “balancing” renewable energy sources. The natural gas industry has lobbied for investments in gas-fueled electrical generation projects and also development of carbon capture technologies.

Over time Labor and coalition governments have maintained a bipartisan moratorium on the construction and operation of nuclear power plants in Australia. That changed in December 2019 as a parliamentary committee said the Australian government should consider a partial lifting of an existing moratorium on nuclear energy to allow the deployment of new and emerging technologies including Generation III+ and Generation IV reactors.

The back story on this development is the request of energy minister Angus Taylor to the parliament’s House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy which began in August 2019 as an inquiry into the nuclear fuel cycle and Australia’s potential future use of nuclear energy.

In its final report the committee said the government should consider the prospect of nuclear technology as part of Australia’s future energy mix.

Companies including Russia’s Rosatom and U.S. based NuScale told the inquiry that small modular reactor technology could be a perfect fit for Australia because they provide the reliable, load-following power needed to address the intermittency of renewables.

“Nuclear energy should be on the table for consideration as part of our future energy mix,” committee chairman Ted O’Brien said.

“Australia should say a definite ‘No’ to old nuclear technologies but a conditional ‘Yes’ to new and emerging technologies such as small modular reactors. And most importantly, the Australian people should be at the center of any approval process.”

“If we’re serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we can’t simply ignore this zero-emissions baseload technology. But we also need to be humble enough to learn lessons from other countries who have gone down this path. It’s as much about getting the technology right as it is about maintaining a social licence based on trust and transparency.”

New Report Finds Small Modular Reactors are Feasible in Puerto Rico

naplogo(WNN)  Advanced nuclear reactors can meet Puerto Rico’s unique energy needs by complementing renewable sources with zero-emission electricity resilient to extreme natural events, including hurricanes, a preliminary feasibility study has concluded.

The study conducted by Puerto Rican-led not-for-profit organization the Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP) was funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

NAP has completed the first comprehensive Preliminary Feasibility Study for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and Microreactors for Puerto Rico. The study was led by Puerto Rican engineers who work in the U.S. nuclear industry, with the support of industry partners, U.S. national laboratories and local contributors.

pr report participants

Scope of the Report

This Preliminary Feasibility Study aims to address critical questions specific to Puerto Rico. Economic and safety assessments will follow eventually. Our Study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy. The topics covered in this Preliminary Feasibility Study include:

  • ​Market conditions in Puerto Rico
  • Technology assessment
  • Public perception
  • Grid assessment
  • Legal and regulatory framework
  • Financing, ownership and operation mechanisms
  • Weighing the benefits and challenges for Puerto Rico

Background for the Report

Puerto Rico currently generates 98% of its electricity from imported fossil fuels, and its power plants, built in the late 1960s, experience outage rates 12 times higher than the US average. Within the next decade, Puerto Rico proposes a transition from a centralized system dependent on fossil fuels to a distributed system centred on clean energy. Its legislature in 2018 passed a bill calling for an investigation into the possibility of building nuclear power plants on the island, which suffered widespread outages following Hurricane Maria in 2017.

NAP, founded in 2016 by Puerto Rican engineers in the US nuclear industry to inform and advocate for small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors in Puerto Rico, proposed a feasibility study to the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy, to evaluate the economic, safety and social impact of deploying microreactors and SMRs on the island.

The study began last October, having received receipt of a “notice to proceed” from the US DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory. The findings of that feasibility study were released by NAP this week.

Looking Ahead for Nuclear Energy Development in Puerto Rico

The Integrated Resource Plan proposed by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) calls for Puerto Rico to have new solar, storage and natural gas capacity in the order of 3000 MWe by 2025. The Puerto Rico Renewable Portfolio Standard mandates 40% renewable energy generation by 2025, 60% renewables by 2040 and 100% renewables by 2050.

smrs for pr

“Only nuclear reactors can complement the intermittency of renewable power sources with zero-emission baseload power generation,” the feasibility study said. It found small nuclear reactors can integrate with renewable energy and the existing transmission and distribution grid as well as with a decentralized system envisioned for the island.

According to the study, the delivery of electricity from SMRs and microreactors can be cost competitive when compared with natural gas generation from mobile gas units and combined cycle gas turbine units proposed by PREPA as part of the island’s fleet replacement.

“Advanced nuclear reactors provide a combination of reduced electricity costs, zero-emission baseload electricity and minimal dependency on fuel imports that can lead to a strong degree of energy security and reliability much needed for a robust manufacturing and industrial sector in Puerto Rico,” the report says.

prtimeline

“A strong local industry translates into job creation, economic growth, additional exports, and global competition and innovation expansion among many others.”

NAP said it is now preparing for phase two studies which will focus on the viability of constructing small reactors at specific locations on the island and an education campaign for the people of Puerto Rico. The suitability of sites for advanced nuclear reactors in Puerto Rico will be performed in accordance with US Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations.

New TVA Board Members Support Development Work for SMRs

tva-logo_thumb.jpgTwo new incoming members of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are reported to support building small modular reactors at the Clinch River site according to the Times Free Press.

East Tennessee State President Brian Noland and former Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell are slated for confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Both nominees told the newspaper they support TVA’s work to add SMRs to the utility’s energy generation portfolio. Their statements came during their confirmation hearings chaired by Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind) who chairs the Senate panel that oversees TVA.

Noland said in his confirmation statement, “I feel it is important that TVA continue to work to diversify its portfolio and central to that is working in the nuclear space.”

In the hearing by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Harwell also voiced support for “innovation” in development of new nuclear reactor technologies

The newspaper also reported that while backing the potential of more nuclear power from small modular reactors, Noland and Harwell also voiced support for more renewable power such as solar and wind where it makes economic sense.

At the urging of U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Del., the TVA board nominees pledged to work to go beyond even TVA’s state goal of generating 70% of its power from carbon-free sources by 2030.

TVA received an early site permit from the NRC in December 2019 for an SMR at the Clinch River site, but has not made a decision to build one or more units. Despite citing a target of 800 MW for the plant, the utility has not indicated a preference for any current or future design or technology.

France / Nuclear Society Urges Government To Commit To New-Build

(NucNet)  Six new EPR 2 plants would ‘stimulate economy and help recovery from pandemic according to a communication from the French nuclear energy society SFEN

A commitment by the government to build a series of new EPR nuclear power reactors in France 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, the French nuclear energy society SFEN said in a position paper.

areva-epr_thumb
SFEN said a new-build program would have a strong ripple effect on the rest of the economy. In France, each euro invested in nuclear generates €2.5 in the rest of the economy and particularly in areas where nuclear facilities are built.

Press reports in France in October 2019 said the government had asked state-controlled power utility EDF to prepare for a new start for nuclear energy with plans to construct six Generation III EPR type units over the next 15 years.

Quoting a letter sent by environment minister Elisabeth Borne and finance minister Bruno Le Maire to EDF’s chairman Jean-Bernard Lévy, Le Monde said the company would be required to build three pairs of EPR reactors on three sites.

In a separate report days later Le Monde quoted Mr Lévy as saying “it is clear” that France is preparing to build new nuclear power plants and the best way to deliver them while bringing down costs is to build them in pairs.

Le Monde also reported that EDF had estimated it would cost at least €46bn to build six EPR nuclear power reactors. Each 1,600-MW reactor would cost €7.5bn to €7.8bn, (€4600-4800/Kw) based on building the units in pairs with financing over about 20 years, Le Monde reported. This would include “dismantling provisions” of €400m and provisions for “uncertainties” of €500m for each reactor.

Ms Borne said last year that the decision whether or not to build new EPR plants would not be taken before the end of 2022, pushing it beyond the date of the country’s next general election.

During a hearing of the commission for sustainable development Ms Borne said there would be no decision on new units before the commissioning of the Flamanville-3 EPR plant under construction in northern France, where she said fuel loading is planned for the end of 2022.

South African Nuclear Industry Association Supports Government Proposals for Nuclear Power

(Engineering News)  The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa) on May 8th welcomed a commitment by the South African Energy Ministry to develop a road map for a program to build new nuclear power plants (NPPs) with a total capacity of 2500 MW.

niasa.logoThe Society’s news release followed the recent announcement to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe that his department would soon start a process to develop 2 500 MW of new nuclear power.

“This gives the requisite policy certainty which enables industry to respond accordingly,” affirmed the association. Niasa is particularly happy to see the commitment by government to entertain innovative funding models.”

The Energy Ministry has indicated that new nuclear power plants would likely be small modular reactors and could be built by the private sector, requiring no State funding. Or they could be built in partnership with the State, on a build, operate, transfer basis, not requiring any upfront or early State funding. In South Africa, renewable energy projects had been funded and built by the private sector.)

South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which outlined the country’s future energy needs., It also referred to the need for South Africa to monitor international developments regarding small modular NPPs.

“Niasa has forged solid relationship[s] with sister organizations around the world to capitalize on information sharing and benchmarking.”

“The extension of the life of Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant beyond 2024 is another exciting opportunity for the industry as it will provide opportunities to embark on real tangible projects, which will in turn lay the foundation for skills development, ensuring readiness for the NNB program,” pointed out Niasa.

COVID-19 to Delay Brazil Nuclear Plant

(Wire services) Lower demand for electricity and a steep currency slide during the coronavirus crisis will push completion of Brazil’s third nuclear reactor into 2027, the head of state-run nuclear power company Eletronuclear told Reuters.

eletronuclearAs economic activity slacks off due to unemployment caused by closed businesses, electricity demand in Brazil has taken a nose dive. Reuters reported that Brazil began to process the accelerating horrors of the spread of the new coronavirus, slashing economic growth outlooks, warning of a healthcare collapse, and failure by the government to take measures to control the virus have contributed to the drop in use of electricity.

Eletronuclear president Leonam Guimaraes said Brazil still plans to find a partner by 2023 to help finish and operate the long-delayed 1,400 megawatt Angra 3 nuclear reactor. China, Russia, France and South Korea are among the possible candidates.

Construction, which began in 2010, is set to restart this year after a long delay caused by financial difficulties and corruption investigations. Financial issues will affect future work. Volatility of the real, which has weakened by 28% against the dollar this year, is a key uncertainty.

According to Reuters, the Economy Ministry lowered its growth forecast from 2.1% to zero – a number many economists believe remains highly ambitious – with a “significant” contraction coming in the second quarter.

A paper published by the Brazilian Center for Applied Macroeconomics and Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) showed that the worst-case combination of simultaneous international and domestic shocks could see Brazil’s gross domestic product shrink by 4.4% this year.

These grim numbers make the prospects for progress for new electrical generation capacity, including nuclear, highly diminished at least for the next year.

Impact of the Corona Virus Crisis in Brazil

corona cases May 24 2020

Corona Virus Cases by Country May 24, 2020. Source: Johns Hopkins COVID-Map.

Guimaraes said the “brutal” 15-20% drop in power consumption caused by the coronavirus pandemic means future demand is very uncertain.

Brazil has surpassed Russia as the country with the second-highest reported coronavirus cases in the world according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.

Brazil as of mid-May has recorded 347,398 cases of the virus and 22,013 deaths from the disease, trailing only the U.S., which has recorded 1.6 million confirmed cases of the virus and 96,983 deaths from the disease.

Russia, which is now has the third most confirmed coronavirus cases, has reported 335,882 infections and 3,388 deaths.

Utility Remains Committed to the Project

Eletronuclear’s owner, Eletricas Brasileiras SA , has agreed to maintain its investment for this year of 1 billion reais to get the project restarted and make it more attractive for a partner. Under the current business model, the private partner would be expected to come in with 20% of the investment.

The utility hopes to restart work soon as that will be a confidence builder to bring foreign direct investment to the project.

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A Short Stack of Hot Nuclear News 5/23/20

  • StarCore Nuclear Gets A Boost from Partnership with Investment Bank
  • X-energy to Irradiate TRISO-X fuel with MIT’s Nuclear Reactor Lab
  • Kairos Power and Materion Partner To Develop And Supply Materials For Advanced Reactor Technology
  • NASA has Plans for Going Nuclear on Spaceflights to the Moon and Mars

StarCore Nuclear Scores an Investment Banker

starcore logoInvestment banker RWT Growth and StarCore Nuclear Canada have announced a partnership to bring low cost, clean nuclear energy to remote locations and industries that rely on less environmentally friendly sources power, such as diesel generators.

StarCore Nuclear Canada has engaged RWT Growth as the exclusive corporate and capital advisor for its global operations and StarCore’s imminent small modular nuclear reactor power project(s) in Canada. StarCore said the deal represents a benchmark investment both in terms of scale and innovation.

RWT Growth is a boutique corporate advisory and investment banking advisory banking firm with offices in Canada and London UK. StarCore and RWT have been working together since June 2019.

David Dabney, CEO of StarCore Nuclear, said: “RWT and Reece have been working with StarCore for several years and have become an integral part of our team. They brought a Canadian centric view to our investment structure that has opened a lot more doors and expanded the range of investment options.”

“StarCore represents a technology that can change the way we provide power and provide economic power solutions while dramatically lowering CO2,” said RWT Growth CEO Reece Tomlinson.

StarCore Nuclear Canada is a Generation IV High Temperature Gas Reactor technology that has been designed, optimized and patented for the purpose of providing small-scale, safe, low cost and low CO2-emission power production in remote locations.

The StarCore says its nuclear technology can significantly reduce reliance on diesel to produce power and by doing so reduce greenhouse gasses and lower the cost of energy production, which is critical for remote communities, mines, island communities and large industry.

Compared with usual nuclear reactor costs the firm says StarCore’s reactors will cost considerably less to build and run with only few staff required to maintain the reactors.

X-energy to Irradiate TRISO-X fuel with MIT’s Nuclear Reactor Lab

Nuclear reactor startup X-energy has reached an agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for the Institute’s Nuclear Reactor Laboratory to use its research reactor to irradiate X-energy’s TRISO-X fuel. The irradiation process will provide data in support of licensing X-energy’s Xe-100 and other TRISO-based reactors.

“This research with MIT will provide confirmation of the performance and quality of our TRISO-X fuel,” said X-energy CEO Clay Sell.

Data from the project would enable licensing for the company’s Xe-100 small modular reactor. The 200 MWt (75 MWe) SMR will use TRISO-X fuel. The irradiation is scheduled to occur later this year.

X-energy’s reactors all use tri-structural isotropic (TRISO) particle fuel. For over three years, X-energy has manufactured a proprietary version, TRISO-X, which seals uranium particles in a protective coating, eliminating the meltdown risk associated with traditional nuclear plants.

“This is an incredible milestone for the X-energy team as we will now have irradiation tested fuel for the first time,” said Pete Pappano, PhD, Vice President of Fuel Production at X-energy.

The company’s Vice President of Fuel Production, Pete Pappano, described the first-time irradiation testing as an “incredible milestone” for the team.

X-energy was one of three companies – the others being BWX Technologies Inc and Westinghouse Government Services – selected earlier this year by the US Department of Defense to begin design work on a mobile nuclear reactor prototype.

Since 2009, X-energy has focused on designing state-of-the-art nuclear systems that have broad applicability – from large commercial plants to small, remote military applications, to nuclear thermal space propulsion concepts.

X-energy Awarded $6 Million DOE Grant

DOE Grant title: Advanced Operation & Maintenance Techniques Implemented in the Xe-100 Plant Digital Twin to Reduce Fixed O&M Cost – $6,000,000

X-energy’s digital twin project aims to reduce the fixed O&M cost of its advanced nuclear reactor design to $2/MWh. The project will use human factors engineering, probability risk assessment, hazard analysis, and security and maintenance evaluations to identify areas for optimization.

Further, X-energy will develop innovative ways to leverage advanced technologies—including automation, robotics, remote and centralized maintenance, and monitoring—to optimize staffing plans while ensuring optimal plant operation.

The team will develop two modeling frameworks to evaluate and validate these solutions. X-energy’s Immersive Environment Toolset is a multi-disciplinary 3D model that, when combined with virtual reality, will test techniques that optimize maintenance and security.

Kairos Power and Materion Partner To Develop And Supply Materials For Advanced Reactor Technology

Kairos Power and Materion Corporation (NYSE: MTRN) have announced the formation of a strategic collaboration to develop a reliable and cost-effective supply of salt coolant for high-temperature molten salt reactors. This coolant is a key component of Kairos Power’s fluoride salt-cooled, high-temperature reactors (KP-FHR). Under the agreement, Materion will supply beryllium fluoride, expert technical consultation, key interfaces, and support services.

The KP-FHR, an advanced reactor technology being commercialized by Kairos Power, is a zero-carbon source of electricity with cost targets that are competitive with natural gas combined cycle plants. Kairos Power recognizes the commercial potential of this technology and will work with Materion to enable its success.

“The collaboration with Materion creates a powerful combination that builds on the unique capabilities of both companies,” said Dr. Michael Laufer, CEO and Co-Founder of Kairos Power.

“For decades, Materion has proven that they are a reliable supplier that can deliver specialized materials across many types of applications, including reactor technology, and this agreement will make a major impact in our ability to accelerate the deployment of our advanced reactor technology and to enable the world’s transition to clean energy.”

Jugal Vijayvargiya, President and CEO of Materion said, “The agreement underscores Materion’s ability as a leading solution provider of advanced materials to consistently leverage new market opportunities for our products and services, while supporting Kairos’ important mission of providing clean and sustainable energy for the future.”

About Kairos Power

Kairos Power is a nuclear energy technology and engineering company whose mission is to enable the world’s transition to clean energy with the ultimate goal of dramatically improving people’s quality of life while protecting the environment. To achieve this goal, Kairos Power is singularly focused on the commercialization of the fluoride salt-cooled, high temperature reactor, which has the potential to transform the U.S. clean energy landscape.

About Materion

Materion Corporation is headquartered in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. The Company, through its wholly owned subsidiaries, supplies advanced materials to global markets. Our unique product portfolio includes high performance alloys, beryllium products, clad metal strip, composite metals, ceramics, inorganic chemicals, microelectronics packaging materials, precision optics, thin film coatings and thin film deposition materials.

Kairos Power Collaborates with Argonne National Laboratory on $2.2 Million DOE Grant

Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) aims to reduce the O&M cost of the Kairos Power fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactor through advanced sensing and automation. The team will develop advanced distributed sensing and data generation techniques to characterize critical components and systems.

Further, the ANL project will increase sensor diversity and develop multi-functional sensors measuring several process variables simultaneously. Finally, the ANL team will develop machine learning-based signal processing algorithms for automated analysis of sensor data. Accomplishing these objectives will reduce the number of advanced reactor staff, as well as repair and replacement costs. The proposed methods are aimed to achieve $2/MWh O&M costs.

NASA has Plans for Going Nuclear on Spaceflights to the Moon and Mars

  • Why NASA thinks nuclear reactors could supply power for human colonies in space
  • Simplicity is the key to designing reactors for missions to the moon and Mars

(American Chemical Society)  NASA is preparing to build colonies on the moon and, eventually, Mars. With NASA planning its next human mission to the moon in 2024, engineers are looking for options to power settlements on the lunar surface. According to a new article in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly news magazine of the American Chemical Society, nuclear fission reactors have emerged as top candidates to generate electricity in space.

When it comes to powering an astronauts’ settlement, there are many factors to consider, writes correspondent Tien Nguyen in collaboration with ACS Central Science.

A key success factor is that the power source must be capable of being transported safely from Earth and of withstanding the harsh conditions of other worlds. Also, the nuclear power unit must be able to survive a failed launch intact with no release of radioactive material.

Past space missions have used solar power as a scalable and renewable source of electricity, but the dark craters of the moon or the dusty surface of Mars don’t not offer enough light. The limited lifespans of the battery and fuel cell technologies typically relegate them to backup options.

Nuclear devices that run on decay heat from plutonium-238 have been used to power spacecraft since the 1960s, including Mars rovers and the space probes Voyager and Cassini, but they don’t provide enough power for a settlement. I

In contrast, nuclear fission reactors that are based on HEU U-235, could provide a reliable power source for a small space settlement for years at a time.

NASA’s long term plan is to create a nuclear reactor for space travel and settlement. The reactor uses a core containing molybdenum and highly enriched uranium. The reactor uses nuclear fission to generate heat, which is converted to electricity by simple piston-driven engines.

The prototype, which was tested in 2018, produced up to 5 kilowatts of electricity. NASA hopes to optimize the technology to achieve the desired 10-kilowatt output.

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