X-Energy Signs on with Jordan for Four 75 MWe HTGR

xenergy logoJordan and X-energy Agree to Accelerate Work to Deploy a 300 MWe Nuclear Power Plant

According to a statement released by X-Energy on November 15, 2019,  Jordan and X-Energy have moved to the second stage of their relationships by signing off on a letter of intent (LOI) to build four 75 MWe high temperature gas cooled reactors that burn Triso fuel.

The objective of the LOI is to accelerate the process to build a nuclear power plant project in Jordan by 2030. The LOI contemplates the power plant will be four of X-energy’s 75 MWe Xe-100 reactor plant which are helium cooled reactors and supplied by X-energy’s patented TRISO fuel.

Dr. Khaled Toukan, Chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), and Dr. Kam Ghaffarian, Executive Chairman of X-energy, LLC, signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) on Monday, November 11, 2019

The agreement was witnessed by Dr. Kamal Araj, Vice Chairman, JAEC and Mr. Clay Sell, CEO, X-energy, in a ceremony hosted by Ambassador Dina Kawar at the Jordanian Embassy in Washington, DC. Attendees included representatives from both organizations as well as representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Commerce and other industry representatives.

JAEC is seeking to encourage the development of a civilian nuclear power program in Jordan to meet its energy security objectives. As part of that effort, the JAEC is in the process of evaluating the most attractive nuclear design technology vendor to select the best that would meet the country’s requirements.

X-energy has been engaged in discussions with JAEC since 2017 and had previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding, November 5, 2017, that provides for a technology feasibility and deployment readiness evaluation of the Xe-100 in Jordan.

Prior coverage on this blogJordan Downsizes its Nuclear Energy Ambitions to SMRs

In July 2018 Jordan decided as a matter of policy to replace a prior deal with Rosatom for two 1000 MW VVER commercial nuclear reactors with a plan for small modular reactors including consideration of designs from the U.S. U.K., and South Korea. Jordan cited the financial burden of funding $10 billion for the two 1000 MW Rosatom VVERs as he reason for the decision.

Rosatom offered Jordan 50% financing with Jordan having the requirement to raise the other 50% with a combination of government funding and outside investors. The financial plan never came together for Jordan and the deal became a non-starter as a result.

Other SMR Deals?

Jordan has been in talks since 2017 with at least three different vendors of LWR and advanced small modular reactors. The talks include UK Rolls Royce for a to be named LWR type SMR, US based X-Energy which has a new generation of South Africa’s PBMR “pebble bed” high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR), and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) which also has an HTGR design.

According to the World Nuclear Association, in March 2017 an agreement between JAEC and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) was signed for a feasibility study on construction of two SMRs in Jordan for the production of electricity and desalinated water. KA-CARE has an agreement with Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) to build its 330 MWt (100 MWe) SMART pressurized water reactor.

In November 2017 JAEC signed a memorandum of understanding with Rolls-Royce to conduct a feasibility study for the construction of an SMR, and another with X-energy to consider building that company’s 75 MWe Xe-100 high temperature gas-cooled reactor.

In April 2018 JAEC said it was in advanced negotiations with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to build a 220 MWe HTR-PM high temperature gas-cooled reactor for operation in 2025.

In November 2017, Rolls-Royce signed a memorandum of understanding with JAEC to carry out a technical feasibility study for the construction of a Rolls-Royce SMR in Jordan. A similar agreement was also signed in November 2017 with X-Energy for electricity, water desalination and other thermal applications.

The Jordan Times reported separately that work on selecting a site for an SMR was proceeding in the Qusayer region near Azraq about 60km east of Amman. The paper reports that studies were conducted on the site by Belgium’s Tractebel, Korea Electric Power Corporation and Worley Parsons, with findings showing the suitability of the location for the facilities.

Jordan HTGR candidate site

Azraq, Jordan, location reported to be candidate site for X-Energy HTGR

Jordan has had a safeguards agreement in force with the IAEA since 1978, and an Additional Protocol in force since 1998.

About X-Energy’s Reactor Technology

Each Xe-100 reactor will generate 200MWt and approximately 75MWe. The standard X-energy Reactor “four-pack” plant generates approximately 300MWe and will fit on as few as 13 acres. All of the components for the Xe-100 are intended to be road-transportable, and will be installed, rather than constructed, at the project site to streamline construction.

X-Energy-Reactor-Steam-Generator_thumb.png

The Generation IV X-energy reactor is helium cooled with a heat source based on pebble bed technology which has a proven meltdown proof core. Heat transfer is via a proven helical coil steam generator. Small size and modular construction result in relatively low cost. On-line fueling allows for continuous operations.

X-energy has not posted information on its website about the estimated cost of the units. However, using a hypothetical cost of $5,000/kw, the 300 MW of power would cost $1.5 billion which interestingly is same rough order of magnitude as the cost of the 300 MW PWR design that GE Hitachi recently announced in a deal with Estonia.

Note also that for a desert region like Jordan, a helium cooled reactor would not need the supplies of water required by a PWR, but would need the water for the steam cycle. This could be a source of competitive advantage for X-energy in he Middle East.

What is TRISO Fuel?

The X-Energy design is intended to run on TRISO fuel. TRistructural ISOtropic (TRISO) coated fuels start with a uranium kernel, which is coated with three layers of pyrolytic carbon and one layer of silicon carbide. These coatings encapsulate all product radionuclei under all operating conditions. TRISO particles can be formed into numerous fuel element geometries thus supporting multiple advanced reactor designs and concepts.

TRISO Development Center

X-energy is currently manufacturing uranium oxide/carbide (UCO) based kernels, tristructural isotropic (TRISO) particles, and fuel pebbles at a 5,000-sq. ft. pilot fuel facility located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as part of the DOE Advanced Reactor Concept 2015 Cooperative Agreement.

This DOE Project allows X-energy to move from Pilot toward a FOAK fuel facility that serves advanced reactors with HALEU requirements, TRISO-based fuel forms, and Accident Tolerant Fuel.

See prior coverage on this blogDOE Takes Divergent Paths to Fabrication of High Assay Fuels

X-energy is working to design, finance, and license their TRISO-X Commercial Fuel Fabrication Facility, scheduled to begin commercial-scale fuel production in the 2023-2024 timeframe.

Global Nuclear Fuel and X-energy Announce TRISO Fuel Collaboration

Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) and X-energy announced November 6th a collaboration to produce low-cost, high-quality TRi-structural ISOtropic (TRISO) particle nuclear fuel.

The companies have signed a teaming agreement for the purpose of developing High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) TRISO fuel to potentially supply the U.S. Department of Defense for micro-reactors and NASA for its nuclear thermal propulsion requirements.

See prior coverage on this blog – TRISO Fuel Drives Global Development of Advanced Reactors

“TRISO is a robust fuel form well suited for military and space applications,” said Clay Sell, X-energy’s CEO.

“The extremely high and unnecessary cost of working with HALEU in a Category I NRC facility has, in the past, limited TRISO’s economic viability in the marketplace. Utilizing X-energy’s already operational state-of-the-art equipment in GNF’s licensed facility changes the dynamic for TRISO-fueled reactor deployment.”

By leveraging X-energy’s currently operating commercial-scale TRISO production equipment and GNF’s NRC-licensed fuel fabrication facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, the teaming arrangement is expected to produce TRISO fuel of significantly higher quality and at costs that are substantially lower than other potential manufacturers.

TRISO coated fuels start with a uranium kernel, which is coated with three layers of pyrolytic carbon and one layer of silicon carbide. These coatings encapsulate all product radionuclei under all operating conditions. The enrichment level of TRIO fuel varies according to the reactor design with levels ranging from 9% U235 to not more than 19% U235.

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About X-energy

X-energy is an advanced nuclear reactor design and TRISO-based fuel fabrication company headquartered in Rockville, Maryland. X-energy’s reactor designs

  • utilize high temperature gas-cooled pebble bed reactors which cannot melt down,
  • are “walk-away” safe without operator intervention and;
  • reduce costs by utilizing factory-produced components that significantly reduce construction time.

X-energy is also manufacturing uranium oxide/carbide (UCO) based kernels, TRISO particles, and fuel pebbles at a 5,000-sq. ft. fuel facility located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as a prototype for its commercial fuel manufacturing facility.

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Dan’s Idaho Nuclear Chili Recipe

This is a Thanksgiving tradition now published for the 12th year in a row here and  previously at my former blog Idaho Samizdat (2007-2012)

PotChili1In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and wanting to take a break from reading, thinking, and writing about nuclear energy, I’m offering my tried and true cooking instructions for something completely different.

By Sunday night you will be stuffed, fed up, literally, and figuratively, with turkey. Instead of food fit for pilgrims, try food invented to be eaten in the wide open west — chili. Cook this dish on Saturday. Eat it on Sunday. Take it to work for lunch on Monday. 

colored-hot-peppers-300x199These instructions take about an hour to complete. This chili has a few more vegetables and beans than some people might like, but we’re all trying to eat healthy these days. Although the name of this dish has the word “nuclear” in it, it isn’t all that hot on the Scoville scale. If you want some other choices for nuclear chili there are lots of recipes on Google

six pack of beerThe beer adds sweetness to the vegetables, as does the brandy, and is a good broth for cooking generally. In terms of the beer, which is an essential ingredient, you’ll still have five cans or bottles left to share with friends so there’s always that.

However, I recommend dark beers or amber ales such as Negra Modelo or Anchor Steam for drinking with this dish and Budweiser or any American pilsner for cooking it. Remember, good chili requires good beer.

Alternatives for drinking include local western favorites such as Moose Drool or Black Butte Porter, and regional amber ales like Alaskan Amber or Fat Tire. Do not cook with “light” beer. It’s a very bad idea! Your dinner guests will not forgive you. 😦

The men and women running the reactors couldn’t drink beer, but they did have coffee. It’s still that way today.

History of the cooking instructions

Scoville, Idaho, is the destination for Union Pacific rail freight for the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) way out on the Arco desert. The line comes up from Blackfoot, ID, using the UP spur that connects Pocatello with Idaho Falls, and, eventually, to Butte, MT.

There is no town by the name of “Scoville,” but legend has it that way back in the 1950s & 60s, when the Idaho National Laboratory was called the National Reactor Testing Station, back shift workers on cold winter nights relished the lure of hot chili hence the use of the use of the name ‘Scoville” for shipping information.

The Arco desert west of Idaho Falls is both desolate and beautiful. In winter overnight temperatures on the Arco desert can plunge to -20F or more.  Bus riders on their way to work in the early morning hours have sometimes been astonished to see the aurora borealis full of streaming electrons in the skies overhead of the sagebrush landscape.  Some workers have a shorter trip than bouncing over Highway 20 from Idaho Falls. Their “commute” is from the small town of Arco which has a fabled history in the development of atomic energy.

arco-desert

The Arco Desert is home to several two million year old volcanic calderas that trace the travels of the hot spot now under Yellowstone National Park

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The Idaho National Laboratory is located about 45 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID 43.3N;112.1W more or less.  Note to readers:  I worked at the Idaho National Laboratory for 20 years on the Arco desert, aka “the site,” and in town. I developed this recipe there and am pleased to share it with readers.

Why ‘2nd day’ in the Name?

This is “2nd day chili.” That means after you make it, put it in the unheated garage or a refrigerator to cool, and then reheat it on the stove top the next day.  Do not microwave it.  That will turn the beans to mush.

By waiting a day the flavors will have had time to mix with the ingredients, and on a cold Idaho night what you need that warms the body and the soul is a bowl of this hot chili with fresh, hot from the oven cornbread on the side.

Dan’s 2nd day Idaho Nuclear Chili

If you make a double portion, you can serve it for dinner over a hot Idaho baked potato with salad. Enjoy.

Ingredients  ( for spices kick it up a notch or tone it down to taste )

1 lb chopped or ground beef (15-20% fat)
1 large onion
1 sweet red, orange or yellow pepper
1 sweet green pepper
10-12 medium size mushrooms
1 can pinto beans (plain, no “chili sauce”)
1 can black beans
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can small, white ‘shoepeg” corn
1 12 oz can beer
1 cup hot beef broth
1 tablespoon cooking sherry, brandy; or, bourbon is ok too
2 tablespoons finely chopped medium heat jalapeno peppers
2-4 tablespoons red chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarse powdered garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cilantro

Directions

1. Chop the vegetables into small pieces and brown them at medium heat in canola cooking oil. Add 1 tablespoon of cooking sherry, brandy, etc., to the vegetables near the end. Drain thoroughly. Sprinkle chili powder, salt, pepper, spices, etc., to taste on vegetables while they are cooking. The onions should be more or less translucent to be fully cooked. Don’t let them burn. Put the mushrooms in last as they cook fast.  Drain the vegetables and put them into the pot with beer and beef broth.
2. Brown the meat separately and drain the fat. Also sprinkle chili power and the cumin on the meat while cooking.
3. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Reminder – be sure to drain the beans, and tomatoes before adding. Simmer slowly on low heat for at least one-to-two hours Stir occasionally.
4. Set aside and refrigerate when cool. If the pot doesn’t fit in the frig, and the garage is unheated, put it out here to cool off.
5. Reheat the next day. Garnish with shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Serve with cornbread and beer.
Feeds 2-4 adults.

inl_bus

Idaho bus drivers say “eat more chili.”  Enjoy.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Rolls Royce Reveals 440 MW Commercial Reactor Design

Rolls Royce Consortium Plans SMR Units For Existing UK Sites

The firm says that once it has orders for at least five of them, it can deliver each unit for about $2.2 billion. It has plans to build a fleet of them at existing nuclear power stations in the UK starting in the early 2030s.

(NucNet) A consortium headed by British engineering giant Rolls Royce announced this week it expects to develop its first-of-a-kind small modular nuclear reactors in Cumbria, northwest England. The firm has made nuclear reactors for decades that fit inside the UK nuclear submarines and is now adapting that expertise to commercial applications.

Alan Woods, director of strategy and business development at Rolls Royce, told delegates at the Global Reach 2019 event in Manchester, UK, that the company is focusing its efforts on developing small modular reactors (SMRs) at existing licensed nuclear sites – with Cumbria and Wales its top targets.

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Illustration of the Rolls Royce Plant. Image: Rlls Royce.

In July the government said it will invest up to £18m to support the design of the UK-made SMRs. And this week UK Research and Innovation pledged to provide a further £18M, U$D23M, which will be matched by members of the consortium, to progress the project.

The government said in July that the Rolls-Royce consortium had proposed a significant joint investment of more than £500M, U$D640M, focused on designing a first-of-a-kind SMR.  In fact the consortium could easily add a third zero to the investor led funding goal given the costs of completing the design, testing and qualifying the fuel, getting the design through the UK GDR, a minimum four year process, and building the First of a kind (FOAK) assuming a customer comes onboard on a timely manner.

The consortium is led by Rolls-Royce, which is responsible for the design, construction and support of the small nuclear power plants that power Britain’s atomic submarines The consortium comprises firms Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear AMRC, Rolls-Royce, Wood and The Welding Institute.

“The consortium expects to more than match any government funding both by direct investment and by raising funds from third-party organisations,” a statement said. However, the firm did not announce a customer for the units. The Rolls Royce consortium aims to have the first working model up-and-running in the early 2030s.

Mr Woods told the conference that despite being at the design stage, Rolls Royce is already considering sites for SMRs.

“They will be built on existing nuclear licensed sites,” he said. “We expect to build them on sites in Wales and particularly in Cumbria. That’s where we’re focusing, that’s where we’ll put our effort.”

“All our focus has been on reducing the capital, absolutely reducing the construction period, and removing risks where we can. It opens the market to much greater potential investors. We have to make them cost competitive.”

Technical Specifications

The Rolls Royce design is actually larger than what is considered by the IAEA as an SMR. The upper limit by the agency is 300 MW. The Rolls Royce design comes in at 400-450 MW. This makes it more of a mid-size reactor.

rr coolIt is a three loop, close-coupled, Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) provides a power output at circa 400-450 MWe from 1200- 1350 MWth using industry standard UO2 fuel.

Coolant is circulated via three centrifugal Reactor Coolant Pumps (RCPs) to three corresponding vertical u-tube Steam Generators (SGs). The design includes multiple active and passive safety systems, each with substantial internal redundancy. (See image right)

Target Costs

The target cost for each station is GBP1.8 billion, U$D 2.3 billion, by the time five have been built, with further savings possible, Rolls-Royce said. Each power station will be able to operate for 60 years and provide 440 Mwe of electricity.

Estimates of the cost of smaller SMRs, that is with power ratings of less than 300 MWe, are currently in the range of $4,000 to $5,000 / Kw. A 440 MW plant would therefore cost, using these numbers, between $1.76B and $2.20B which puts the Rolls Roye number in the neighborhood of $5,000/kw.

Next steps for Rolls Royce, once the design is complete, is to enter it in the UK nuclear safety regulatory Generic Design Assessment Process. At the same time, Rolls Royce said, it will begin to develop the supply chain for what it hopes will be a fleet of these types of units.

The GDR can take four years and construction for the FOAK could easily be a three year journey. Best estimate for the first commercial unit being in revenue service would be by the early 2030s.  While the firm said it would target existing nuclear sites for the plants, it did not specify any commitments from electric utilities to buy one of the units. Such a commitment would be crucial for gaining investor confidence.

According to World Nuclear News, the concept is that the components for the SMRs would be manufactured in sections in factories across the UK. They would then be taken to their construction sites where they would be quickly assembled within weatherproof canopies.

This approach would allow incremental efficiency savings through the use of standardized and streamlined manufacturing methods for the components. It would also reduce costs by preventing weather disrupting the assembly process. The SMRs would be assembled at existing nuclear sites.

Key UK Business Group Pushes for SMRs and Innovative Financing

The Confederation of Business & Industry (CBI) has weighed in on the need for small modular reactors as a way to replace the UK aging power stations of full size units. The CBI has also demanded progress on using a new way for financing large-scale developments.

At the launch of “The low-carbon 2020s: A decade of delivery” report, CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn, said in a statement that the business organization believed a Regulated Asset Base (RAB) model “could be the answer” to replacing the UK’s ageing nuclear fleet. And she also called on the Government to identify sites for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and put in place regulatory processes to ensure the technology to be deployed by the 2030.

Ms Fairbairn said “We believe a RAB approach could be the answer — given its potential to reduce risks and costs for investors as well deliver better value to consumers and taxpayers.”

Meanwhile, the CBI report also calls for greater momentum behind SMRs, which it says have the “potential to be cost-effective, innovative contributors to the UK’s energy mix”.

A consultation by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on adapting the RAB model to fund new nuclear came to a close last month. The UK government has been considering it as more conventional financing methods haven’t produced agreements with global vendors to deliver multiple nuclear reactors for a fixed price.

Industry leaders in Cumbria think using the RAB method will resurrect the potential for a large-scale development to take place at the Moorside site adjacent to Sellafield, after NuGen’s plans for three reactors collapsed in November 2018. Since then plans for nuclear power stations at Wylfa Newydd, Anglesey and Oldbury, Gloucestershire, have also been shelved due to issues over financing them.

In fact, with the exception of Hinkley Point C, which will provide 3,200 Mwe, when complete in the mid-2020s, no other new nuclear project has broken ground in the UK this decade despite a need to build out at least 19 Gwe of nuclear power to replace declining yields from North Sea Oil & Gas and, of equal importance, to to meet decarbonization / climate change goals.

BWX Technologies Developing Microreactors
With Military Customers In Mind

(USNI) BWX Technologies is developing tractor trailer-sized micro nuclear reactors that could illuminate a small U.S. city, run a forward operating military base, power directed energy weapons or fuel deep-space missions.

BWX Technologies – the prime contractor building the reactors on the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers – has for years devoted a portion of its earnings to fund microreactor research and development funding, Rex Geveden, chief executive of BWX, said during a conference call with analysts. Fiscal Year 2020 could be the year micro nuclear reactors move from proposal to reality.

The types of microreactors the military is interested in would generate 5-10 MWe of electricity and a similar amount of thermal power.

BWX Technologies is banking on the military and NASA seeing multiple uses for reactors that can be towed by a truck, loaded on a ship or launched into space. The company is also developing a fuel source that can power these microreactors.

The U.S. Army released a report a year ago detailing the possible uses of mobile nuclear power. The ideal is a power plant system that can fit inside a standard 40-foot shipping container, can be loaded onto a military transport plane or Navy ship, and can generate up to 20 megawatts of power for 10 years or longer without resupply, according to the report.

See prior coverage on this blogArmy RFI for SMRs Could be Boon for Commercial Developers

The Army report also suggests the use of tristructural-isotropic (TRISO) fuel, which is a series of tiny pellets packed into larger fuel assemblies for a reactor. Each TRISO fuel kernel is coated with layers of three isotropic materials that retain the fission products at high temperature while giving the TRISO particle significant structural integrity.

BWX Technologies announced on Oct. 2 it was restarting its existing TRISO nuclear fuel production line to “position the company to meet emergent client interests in Department of Defense microreactors, space reactors and civil advanced reactors.”

“The way we think about these new projects, the space and defense reactors and the fuel and the related work around that, we will as a company will spend some money on R&D to develop a new capability, new technology for these kinds of markets,” Geveden said.

Global Nuclear Fuel and X-energy Announce TRISO Fuel Collaboration

Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) and X-energy announced a collaboration to produce low-cost, high-quality TRi-structural ISOtropic (TRISO) particle nuclear fuel.

The companies have signed a teaming agreement for the purpose of developing High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) TRISO fuel to potentially supply the U.S. Department of Defense for micro-reactors and NASA for its nuclear thermal propulsion requirements.

See prior coverage on this blogTRISO Fuel Drives Global Development of Advanced Reactors

“TRISO is a robust fuel form well suited for military and space applications,” said Clay Sell, X-energy’s CEO.

“The extremely high and unnecessary cost of working with HALEU in a Category I NRC facility has, in the past, limited TRISO’s economic viability in the marketplace. Utilizing X-energy’s already operational state-of-the-art equipment in GNF’s licensed facility changes the dynamic for TRISO-fueled reactor deployment.”

By leveraging X-energy’s currently operating commercial-scale TRISO production equipment and GNF’s NRC-licensed fuel fabrication facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, the teaming arrangement is expected to produce TRISO fuel of significantly higher quality and at costs that are substantially lower than other potential manufacturers.

TRISO coated fuels start with a uranium kernel, which is coated with three layers of pyrolytic carbon and one layer of silicon carbide. These coatings encapsulate all product radionuclei under all operating conditions.

rriso fuel 2
X-energy is currently manufacturing TRISO particles at a pilot fuel facility located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Centrus Finalizes Three Year Contract to Demonstrate HALEU Production

Centrus Energy Corp. (NYSE American: LEU) today announced the company has signed a three-year contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to deploy a cascade of centrifuges to demonstrate production of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel for advanced reactors.

The program has been underway since Centrus and DOE signed a preliminary letter agreement on May 31, 2019, which allowed work to begin while the full contract was still being signed off by all parties.

“Our partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy to develop and demonstrate a U.S. source of high-assay, low-enriched uranium will help America lead the transition to the next generation of advanced reactors,” said Daniel B. Poneman, president and CEO of Centrus.

Work under the contract will include licensing, constructing, assembling and operating AC100M centrifuge machines and related infrastructure in a cascade formation to produce HALEU at the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio, for the demonstration program.

HALEU is a component for advanced nuclear reactor fuel that is not commercially available today and may be required for a number of advanced reactor designs currently under development in both the commercial and government sectors.

Existing reactors typically operate on low-enriched uranium (LEU), with the uranium-235 isotope concentration just below 5 percent. HALEU has a uranium-235 isotope concentration of up to 20 percent, giving it several potential technical and economic advantages.

For example, the higher concentration of uranium means that fuel assemblies and reactors can be smaller and reactors will require less frequent refueling. Reactors can also achieve higher “burnup” rates, meaning a smaller volume of fuel will be required overall and less waste will be produced.

HALEU may also be used in the future to fabricate next-generation fuel forms for the existing fleet of reactors in the United States and around the world; these new HALEU-based fuels could bring improved economics and inherent safety features while increasing the amount of electricity that can be generated at existing reactors.

The lack of a U.S. source of HALEU is widely seen as an obstacle to U.S. leadership in the global market for advanced reactors. For example, in a 2017 survey of leading U.S. advanced reactor companies, 67 percent of companies responded that an assured supply of HALEU was either “urgent” or “important” to their company. The survey also showed that “the development of a U.S. supplier” was the most frequently cited concern with respect to HALEU.

INL Gets Green Lights for Spent Fuel R&D from State of Idaho
if Progress is Made with Long Delayed Cleanup of Nuclear Waste at the Site

greenlight_thumb.jpgIdaho Governor Brad Little and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced that the state of Idaho and the U.S. Department of Energy have reached an agreement establishing a pathway for small quantities of commercial spent nuclear fuel to come to Idaho National Laboratory for research.

This is a significant change since the State of Idaho had previously refused to allow the spent fuel in any quantity to come to the Idaho lab even for R&D purposes.

Under the framework, INL is granted a one-time waiver to receive 25 commercial power spent nuclear fuel rods – approximately 100 pounds of heavy metal – from the Byron Nuclear Generating Station in Illinois. Before this can occur, however, the Department of Energy must begin successfully treating sodium bearing liquid high level waste at INL by turning it into a safer dry, solid state.

Currently, the liquid waste sits in tanks directly above the Snake River Aquifer, while the Department of Energy works to resolve operational problems at the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit.

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The Department of Energy has also pledged to allocate at least 55 percent of all future transuranic waste shipments to New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant facility to shipments originating at INL, and to give Idaho priority when additional shipments become available.

This allocation will remain in place until all transuranic waste has been shipped out of Idaho. To date, the Department of Energy has shipped more than 31,500 cubic meters of transuranic waste out of Idaho to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

In exchange for the one-time shipment, the Department of Energy also agreed to remove at least 300 pounds of special nuclear material from Idaho by the end of 2021, and agreed to treat at least 165 pounds of Sodium Bonded EBR II Driver Fuel Pins each year until all pins have been treated – no later than the end of 2028.

A second part of the agreement provides that once the Department of Energy has produced 100 canisters of the dry, treated sodium-bearing high level waste, INL may receive additional research quantities of spent nuclear fuel, per a 2011 Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of Energy and the State of Idaho. This can only occur, though, if the high-level waste treatment process is ongoing and the Department of Energy is not in breach of any terms of the 1995 Settlement Agreement.

The agreement only allows commercial spent nuclear fuel to be sent to INL in research quantities and does not allow for the Department of Energy to bring any other type of fuel to Idaho for storage purposes. Any commercial research fuel brought to INL is subject to language in the original 1995 agreement that requires all Department of Energy spent nuclear fuel to be shipped out of Idaho by 2035. The cap on all Department of Energy nuclear waste in Idaho established in the 1995 Settlement Agreement also remains in place.

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Posted in Nuclear | 4 Comments

Be an Advocate for Nuclear Energy ~ Here’s Where to Start

Don’t just sit there – do something!

green_earth_nuclear_atom-1.jpgThe pressing issues of climate change and the need to decarbonize our highly technological societies have led to many people toward thinking that the CO2 emission free nature of nuclear power is one of the answers, along with renewable energy technologies like solar and wind.

People who are just starting to realize that the planet might be in peril, in fact it is, next ask, “well who is telling the story about nuclear energy and doing something about it?”

As it turns out there are a lot of people who are doing just that. To that end here is a short list, not meant to be all inclusive, that is provided for your use so that you have a place to start. This list is intended to be a starting point of organizations which have a demonstrated track record of doing useful work and are accessible via their websites.

The brief list here is divided into four general groups which are more or less arbitrary and there is no small amount of overlap among them in terms of what each one of them does. The names of the groups are more or less self-explanatory.

So what do these groups do?

  • Some provide information to elected officials, lobby legislative bodies, and seek commitments from governments and business to develop new nuclear power plants and technologies and to extend the lives of the ones we already have.  
  • Some groups are thought and opinion leaders, but don’t lobby, but their influence is widely felt.
  • At the grass roots level some groups knock on doors, hand out information packets, and urge people to get involved in the issue. 

Depending on your preferred method of getting involved in the issue, here is a list of places to begin. This isn’t a complete list but you don’t need a “complete” list. You just need a jumping off point. All of them have value. The important thing is to get started.

Included below is the name of each organization, a link to its home page, and a brief statement of purpose from the group’s web site. Note that some of the “about” statements are edited for space.

Large Non-governmental Organizations

Amerian Nuclear Society – The American Nuclear Society is a professional organization of engineers and scientists devoted to peaceful and beneficial applications of nuclear science and technology. Its members come from diverse technical backgrounds covering the full range of engineering disciplines as well as the physical and biological sciences within the nuclear field.

Nuclear Energy Institute – The Nuclear Energy Institute is the policy organization of the nuclear technologies industry based in Washington, D.C. NEI has hundreds of members and, with their involvement, develops policy on key legislative and regulatory issues affecting the industry.

U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council – The United States Nuclear Industry Council (USNIC) is a U.S. business consortium advocate for nuclear energy and promotion of the American supply chain globally. Composed of over 80 firms, USNIC represents the “Who’s Who” of the nuclear supply chain community, including key utility movers, technology developers, construction engineers, manufacturers and service providers.

FORATOM – (the European Atomic Forum) is the Brussels-based trade association for the nuclear energy industry in Europe. Its main purpose is to promote the use of nuclear power in Europe. The membership of FORATOM is made up of 15 national nuclear associations representing nearly 3,000 firms.

U.S. Think Tanks and Thought / Opinion Leaders

Breakthrough Institute – Since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and Fukushima nuclear accident, Breakthrough’s energy work has focused heavily on the future of nuclear energy. Along with a growing cohort of scientists, journalists, philanthropists, and environmentalists, we have made the case that addressing climate change will require abundant, cheap, safe, and reliable nuclear energy. Toward that end, Breakthrough has been a leading advocate for innovation in advanced nuclear designs and business models.

Clean Air Task Force – CATF aims to make nuclear energy a viable option for decarbonizing the world energy system at needed scale and speed. We catalyze private sector and government activity to lower the cost and deployment speed of current nuclear technology.

Energy For Humanity – Energy for Humanity is a UK-and Switzerland-based non-profit organisation with a global outlook focused on solving climate change and enabling universal access to modern energy services. Energy for Humanity strongly advocates for evidence-based, whole-system, and technology-inclusive solutions in pursuit of the best (fastest, most cost-effective, most feasible) outcomes for people and nature. Our goal is to address these themes and to inspire meaningful action.

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

Third Way – Advanced Nuclear Energy Programs – Our team designs and advocates for policies that will drive innovation and deployment of clean energy technologies, and deliver the emissions cuts we need to win the fight against climate change. The more low-carbon options we have to work with, the better our chances of success.

Fastest Path to Zero Initiative – We are an interdisciplinary team of experts, including University of Michigan staff and students, working to support communities as they plan and pursue ambitious climate goals. We offer a variety of tools to help communities transform their energy systems while adapting to a changing climate. Our tool belt includes big data analytics combined with a passion for human-centered design and engagement. We specialize in working at the intersection of NGOs and academia.

U.S. Grass Roots Activism

Californians for Green Nuclear Power – Californians for Green Nuclear Power, Inc. is dedicated to promoting the peaceful use of safe, carbon-free nuclear power, and to keeping Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant open, so it can continue in its important role of generating clean energy for the benefit of California’s economy.

Environmental Progress – Environmental Progress (EP) is a research and policy organization fighting for clean power and energy justice to achieve nature and prosperity for all.

Generation Atomic – Our Mission: To energize and empower today’s generations to advocate for a nuclear future. Gen A works to cultivate relationships with business leaders, pro-nuclear donors, and grassroots advocates. By engaging stakeholders at all levels, Gen A is working together with many partners to create a loud, effective, and sustainable pro-nuclear constituency.

Mothers for Nuclear – We are mothers who used to be skeptical about nuclear energy, but now believe it is essential to protect our children from pollution, our landscapes from sprawl, and future generations from global warming.

Thorium Energy Alliance – We are a nonprofit group composed of engineers, scientists, and concerned citizens interested  in creating a working Thorium powered reactor. It is one of T.E.A.s goals to restart a Homogeneous Fuels Research Reactor program and commercialize the Molten Salt Reactor and the supply chain infrastructure behind it.

U.S. Special Interest Groups

Millennial Nuclear Caucus – The Millennial Nuclear Caucuses bring together the next generation of innovative leaders through a series of events that feature discussions on the path forward for the nuclear industry and the role innovative technology will play. Participants at the events represent the full spectrum of the nuclear field, including young leaders supporting the existing fleet, those designing small modular and advanced reactors, and those advocating for a thriving nuclear future.

North American Young Generation in Nuclear – Our Vision – Developing leaders to energize the future of nuclear. Our Mission – NAYGN provides opportunities for a young generation of nuclear enthusiasts to develop leadership and professional skills, create life-long connections, engage and inform the public, and inspire today’s nuclear technology professionals to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

Women in Nuclear – Positioning the United States for the future of nuclear energy and technology through the advancement of women. Create professional development and networking opportunities for career advancement. Enhance understanding and awareness of the value of nuclear energy and technology.

For really complete lists of organizations and people involved in advocacy for nuclear energy, this wide ranging page on Wikipedia is helpful and perhaps overwhelming hence this “getting started” blog post.

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Nuclear Energy in South America Remains at a Standstill

  • nucdev symbolArgentina and Brazil Face Formidable Funding Issues to Start or Complete Long Planned New Nuclear Power Stations.
  • Argentina Scaled Down a Two Reactor Deal with China, Amidst a Crashing Economy, Over Concerns about Its Ability to Pay for Them
  • Brazil is Seeking a Partner to Finish a Long Delayed Third Reactor Who Can Fund It and Build It.

Other Nuclear News

  • Perry – US Continues Talks with Saudi Arabia on Nuclear Energy
  • India Plans Expansion of Nuclear Fleet with 17 PHWRs, says DEA Chairman
  • Romania Considering SMRs For Beyond 2030
  • Czech Republic Needs More Nuclear Reactors to Power the Nation Say Utility Study by Grid Operator

China’s Investments in Argentina’s Nuclear Energy Projects May Not Pan Out as the Country’s Economy Takes a Nose Dive

(Diálogo Chino – Buenos Aires) Argentina is facing a new economic crisis that severely challenges its ability to repay foreign lenders. This includes China – its fourth largest lender – which has issued US$16.9 billion in loans from 2007 to 2018, according to the Inter-American Dialogue. The country is regarded by some financial analysts as being on the brink of financial default.

With few new means of servicing the country’s debts, including payments of US$52 billion due next year, President Mauricio Macri ends his term with Argentina on the brink of default.

Loans Haven’t Helped

Over the past decade, Argentina has secured Chinese funds for eleven projects, including railways, solar energy, nuclear energy and dams, mainly through the Export Import Bank of China (China Exim) and China Development Bank. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to provide a record US$57 billion bailout package in August.

Critics have warned of tying Argentina to expensive infrastructure projects that would limit the country’s future policy choices.

Key Loans from China

Over the past decade, Argentina has secured Chinese funds for eleven projects, including railways, solar energy, nuclear energy and dams, mainly through the Export Import Bank of China (China Exim) and China Development Bank.

All of these financial issues are coming to head and will likely have an impact on China’s offer to build a new nuclear power station in Argentina. In 2015 the $10 billion deal involved two plants, a 700 MW CANDU type reactor and a 1000 MW PWR design offered by China for export and known generally as the Hualong One.

Argentina already has two CANDU type nuclear reactors and building a third one would have made a lot of sense in terms of fueling and servicing all three.

One of the most significant China loans was for 85% of the cost of constructing two hydroelectric dams in Patagonia, at a cost of US$4.7 billion. The project was awarded in 2013 and construction began in 2015. It then stalled due to environmental groups’ concerns over unsatisfactory environmental impact studies.

The China Development Bank included a loan clause that made other infrastructure projects in Argentina, including the nuclear power plants, conditional on the approval of the dams. Aware of this, Argentina President Macri gave them the green light to resume construction but at at reduced scale.

Chinese lenders have had to downsize their ambitions to build nuclear power stations in Argentina. Originally, the $10 billion project involved two plants, but President Marci froze the project amid doubts over whether the country could afford it. The result was that the CANDU plant was cancelled and China, seeking global acceptance of its flagship design of the Hualong One, apparently insisted on going ahead with it. The deal also includes selling fuel to the plant for its projected 60 year service life.

The result is that Argentina will lose the advantages of a third CANDU type plant by agreeing to China’s patience in funding the Hualong One. China has always made these kinds of loans with geopolitical goals in mind.

“When I ask Chinese companies why they come here with such a difficult financial situation, they always say the same thing. They invest abroad always thinking of the long-term, so they are not worried about not being paid,” said Ernesto Fernández Taboada, head of the China-Argentina chamber of commerce.

Critics point out that these projects don’t help Argentina’s financial situation. The loans have enabled projects that were not feasible for Argentina to fund on its own. However, they also concentrated Argentina’s debt obligations to China on big projects that take a long time to provide returns.

Former energy secretary Jorge Lapeña told Diálogo Chino that Argentina has agreed to build large dams and nuclear plants with no long-term strategy for the energy sector or assessment of the costs of different energy sources. Lapeña and a group of other ex-energy secretaries claimed political ties, rather than sound economics, were responsible for the approval of the China-backed projects under Fernández de Kirchner.

“Projects are now decided based on political convenience. Then we have to deal with the problems when they have to be implemented.”

Alberto Fernández is odds on favorite to become the next president after winning 47% of the vote in the primaries. Macri earned just a 32% share.

Should Fernández win, it will likely mean deepening ties with China, which Macri was hesitant to do amid US warnings about China’s “predatory” activity in Latin America.

Brazil Solicits Bids from China, Russia, France to Complete Angra 3 Nuclear Project

(Reuters) – Brazil’s state nuclear power company Eletronuclear said thuis week it plans to complete its long-delayed Angra 3 plant by partnering with one of three firms – China’s National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), France’s EDF or Russia’s Rosatom.

Eletronuclear said it will decide by the end of the year whether to create a subsidiary joint venture or if the foreign partner will become a minority shareholder in the state company, which would also entitle it to a stake in its existing Angra 1 and 2 nuclear power plants.

The project is expected to cost an additional $3.7 billion on top of the $2.2 billion already spent on it. Angra 3 is 70% finished and 80% of the nuclear reactor equipment has been purchased by previous efforts.

Reuters reported that a spokesman for Eletronuclear said “the partner would require deep pockets.”

“We are looking for an international partnership to invest in the completion of Angra 3 and that partner would own part of the plant until the end of its life,” he said.

The firm made it clear that it is looking for a partner that will fund and build the plant. It said that firm will decide who the suppliers of equipment will be to complete it. This policy removes firms like U.S. based Westinghouse which has retreated from being the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) lead for new nuclear power station and instead wants to provide components for them.

Reuters also noted that South Korea’s Kepco Engineering and Construction and China’s State Power Investment Corporation also showed interest in Angra 3, located on the coast south of Rio de Janeiro, but that both firms seem less committed to exploring this type of partnership.

History of Angra 3

The plant was first planned in the 1980s but work stopped due to lack of funding. Building restarted in 2010, but Eletronuclear was devastated by a corruption scandal in 2015. It then stopped paying contractors such as French company Areva, which was installing the Siemens-designed reactor technology now owned by Framatome. The scandal involved the CEO of the state owned utility and construction firms. There was so much bribe money floating around that the cash was stashed odd places including a car wash.

President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in January, has pledged to complete Angra 3 and to study new plants in a push to expand the contribution of nuclear power to Brazil’s electricity output which stands at 3% of electricity generation.

Eletronuclear said two potential sites for future plants have been identified, one in the northeastern state of Pernambuco and another in southeastern Minas Gerais state. Funding for these plants has not yet been approved nor has a design been selected for them.

Other Nuclear News

Perry – US continues talks with Saudi Arabia on nuclear energy

(S&P Global – Platts) The US continues to talk with Saudi Arabia about its plans to produce nuclear energy for power generation according to a statement from outgoing DOE Energy Secretary Rick Perry.

Perry told Platts that he will meet next week with Riyadh with Abdulaziz bin Salman, the energy minister for Saudi Arabia which had previously stated its ambitions to enrich its own uranium deposits to produce nuclear power. According to Perry, bin Salman’s claim that Saudi Arabia will exploit its own uranium resources for development may not hold water. Perry said that his agency has data that questions whether the uranium deposits are sufficient for this purpose.

Perry added that any nuclear agreement and protocols with Saudi Arabia would need approval of the US Congress.

President Trump has nominated Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette to replace Perry who will leave the post before the end of the year.

India Plans Expansion of Nuclear Fleet with 17 PHWRs, says DEA Chairman

(WNN) India is aiming for “fleet mode construction” for future nuclear power plant projects in order to reduce costs and construction times, according to Kamlesh Vyas, chairman of the country’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Speaking at the India Energy Forum’s 11th Nuclear Energy Conclave in New Delhi on October 18, he said 17 nuclear power reactors are planned in addition to those already under construction.

It is expected that all 17 will be 700 MW PHWR based on an Indian design derivied from the CANDU units already in service. India’s heavy industry firms will be able to provide the component for the plants which have the advantage of not requiring the large forgings for PWR or BWW type designs.

Plans for Uranium Fuel for New Reactors

Speaking at the same event, former Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Anil Kakodkar said access to imported uranium can accelerate the nuclear program’s size. Referring to the waiver of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to India in 2008, he said the nuclear program now has much less constraints.

The NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that contributes to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons by controlling the export of materials, equipment and technology that could potentially be used in their manufacture. All of its members, unlike India, are signatories of the NPT. Measures including a comprehensive specific safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, an exception under NSG rules and a round of bilateral nuclear cooperation deals have enabled India to play an increasing part in the international nuclear marketplace.

India applied to join the NSG in May 2016, and the USA has previously pledged to work towards its entry into the group. The NSG at its June 2018 plenary said it “continued to consider all aspects” of its 2008 Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India and its relationship with the country. For geopolitical reasons, China has opposed India’s entry into the NSG.

Status of Proposals from Western Firms

Plans to build reactors based on designs from Areva/EDF and Westinghouse have not moved forward due to India’s draconian supplier liability law. This legislation has not stopped Rosatom which commissioned two 1000 MW VVER at Kudankulam and is building two more at that site.

The French government initially inked a deal for up to six 1600 MW EPRs at Jaitapur a decade ago,  but while the technical details have long since been worked out, NPCIL, which builds, owns, and operates India’s nuclear power stations has balked at the costs. It is not clear where a proposal by Westinghouse stands which was to have provided six 1150 MW AP1000s to a site at Andra Pradesh.

Romania Considering SMRs For Beyond 2030

(NucNet) Ramona Manesco, the country’s minister for foreign affairs, told a forum in Brussels Romania’s objective is to refurbish the Cernavoda-1 nuclear power plant and by 2030 to build a new unit on the same site, although beyond 2030 the country is considering new Generation IV reactors including small modular reactors.

“There is great potential in SMRs and we must work together to overcome all the challenges – financial, technological and regulatory – to demonstrate their feasibility, she said. “We have to make sure that appropriate funding is available for low-carbon Generation IV technology.”

In May Nuclearelectrica and China General Nuclear Group signed an agreement to set up a joint venture project company for the planned completion of the two units. CGN will hold a 51% stake in the company with Nuclearelectrica holding the remaining 49%. Nuclearelectrica said the two partially complete units are also Candu-6 plants.

Ms Manesco told the forum there is a need for a wide range of energy technologies and new nuclear technology including SMRs could help Europe achieve its climate goals.

Separately, Ms Manesco told the first US-EU High-Level Industrial Forum on Small Modular Reactors that Romania remains very interested in R&D in this field and is developing the Advanced Lead Fast Reactor European Demonstrator (Alfred) at the Institute of Nuclear Research.

The project aims at constructing a scaled-down 125-MW (300-MW thermal) next-generation reactor unit.

Czech Republic Needs More Nuclear Reactors to Power the Nation

(WNN) The Czech Republic will need to build not only one new unit at its Dukovany nuclear power plant, but also more reactors at Temelín if it is to avoid becoming dependent on electricity imports from 2030, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Industry and Trade Karel Havlíček said yesterday. Havlíček cited the latest Mid-term Adequacy Forecast (MAF CZ 2019) published on October 18th.

The Czech Republic has six nuclear reactors generating about one-third of its electricity. Four VVER-440 units are at Dukovany and two VVER-1000 units are at Temelín. The country is phasing out its coal-fired power plants and will need to increase the share of nuclear power if it is to remain self-sufficient in electricity supply.

The government’s long-term energy strategy, adopted in 2015, forecasts the need to increase the share of nuclear power in the country’s electricity mix by 20-25% to 50-55% by 2050. Czech utility CEZ has said it expects to operate the four Dukovany units until 2045 and 2047, and the two Temelín units until 2060 and 2062.

Havlícek told reporters that the government will need to start a debate within the next five years on expanding the Temelín nuclear power plant. According to Info.cz, he said: “We are analysing the situation, saying what’s going to happen. To tell the truth, that should have been done 10 years ago.” He added: “Five years ago, we were at the eleventh hour and now, so to speak, the energy clock is ticking away, and if we don’t make a decision and set a clear path … then we may have problems in 2030.” Havlícek said CEPS’s scenarios were “optimistic” regarding renewables.

Czech Power Profile

  • Czech power demand rose by 0.2% year on year to 73.9 terawatt hours (TWh) last year, which is its highest level since 1981, when records began.
  • Production was 1.1% higher at 88 TWh, with brown-coal-fired facilities accounting for 43% of that figure, which was the highest share.
  • Exports of electricity rose by an annual rate of 9.3% to 25.5 TWh – mainly to Slovakia and Austria – and imports – mostly from Germany and Poland – decreased by 23.2% to 11.6 TWh last year.

Significantly, Austria, which has pursued an anti-nuclear policy regarding expansion of the Czech nuclear fleet, stands to benefit if it is expanded.  Go figure.

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NRC & DOE to Share Expertise to Speed Up Development of Advanced Nuclear Reactors

  • NRC & DOE to Share Expertise to Speed Up Development of Advanced Nuclear Reactors
  • Recent Developments at NRC to Streamline Licensing of Advanced Nuclear Reactors
  • Oklo Fabricates Fuel Prototypes at Idaho National Laboratory
  • Czech Republic PM – We Must Build New Nuclear Even if in Breach Of EU Law
  • Nuclear Remains in South Africa’s Energy Plans With a Focus on Affordable Small Modular Reactors

(NucNet) The US Department of Energy and US Nuclear Regulatory Commission this week signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to share technical expertise and computing resources to speed up the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies.

The MOU centers on the DOE’s new National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC), located at the Idaho National Laboratory, which was established to accelerate commercialization of advanced nuclear technologies.

nuclear TRLs

The agreement couples the research capabilities of the DOE’s National Laboratories with the regulatory expertise of the NRC to help the development and licensing of advanced reactors.

“The US has the technology, expertise and facilities to lead the world in developing next-generation reactors,” said assistant secretary for nuclear energy Rita Baranwal.

“This partnership between the DOE and the NRC is a crucial step forward in making sure US nuclear technologies are available, both domestically and abroad, as soon as possible to bring clean and reliable energy to everyone around world.”

According to the agreement, the DOE and the NRC will share technical information and expertise. In addition, the NRC will have access to capabilities developed through NRIC, including high-performance computers and modelling codes, to support licensing of advanced nuclear reactors.

In return, the NRC will provide the DOE and the nuclear community with information on its regulations, guidance and licensing processes for new or advanced nuclear reactor technologies.

Recent Developments at NRC to Streamline Licensing of Advanced Nuclear Reactors

nrc-seal.png

According to a report by Morgan Lewis published in Jsupra on 10/18/19 a number of developments have occured in recent weeks at the NRC that will make it easier and faster to license advanced nuclear reactors.

The NRC’s Division of Advanced Reactors released for public review a draft white paper titled “Non-Light Water Review Strategy” ML19275F299 (PDF file, 52 pages) on September 30, 2019. The white paper will “support the [NRC’s] review of applications for non-LWR designs submitted prior to the development of the technology-inclusive, risk-informed and performance-based regulatory framework.

According to the summary in Jsupra, the white paper addresses the following topics:

  • Various approaches to developing the licensing basis for non-LWR designs
  • Background and references for pre-application interactions, contents of applications, and development of safety evaluation reports
  • The scope and focus of the Staff’s technical review
  • The acceptance criteria that could be considered by the Staff during the technical review of a non-LWR application
  • The analysis and evaluation of the integrated system design and expectations for probabilistic risk assessments for non-LWRs
  • Expectations for the applicability of current LWR regulations

The NRC Staff expects the draft white paper “will be final by November 2019 to aid in the reviews of non-LWR applications, which may be submitted as soon as December 2019.”  [See below Oklo, a developer of an advanced reactors, is one of them.]

The NRC is working on a separate draft paper that will potentially change the siting guidance as to where advanced reactors can be located by changing the population density limits for the surrounding area. The paper looks at estimates of radiological consequences, based on dose calculations, from design-specific events.

The report also notes that the NRC Staff hosted a public meeting with industry groups and other stakeholders on October 10, 2019, to discuss potential regulatory process improvements related to the licensing of advanced reactors.

The NRC staff told the meeting the agency does not plan to implement a new licensing process. It said applicants will continue to apply for either a construction permit and operating license (i.e., the Part 50 framework) or a combined operating license (i.e., the Part 52 framework)

Oklo Fabricates Fuel Prototypes at Idaho National Laboratory

(Morning Consult) ( @JackieTothDC ) The online wire service reports that Oklo, a developer of a mini nuclear reactor, said it has successfully demonstrated prototypes of its uranium metallic fuel. It is a key development for the company and for the U.S. advanced nuclear reactor community.

oklo logoOklo is developing a compact 2 MWe fast spectrum reactor. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) is working with the company on fuel development and qualification.

Oklo fabricated the fuel prototypes, with multiple prototype fuel elements reaching production specification, for anticipated use in its 1-2 MWe fast reactor. The reactor design is intended to generate both process heat and electricity.

OKLO is a partner with the INL on a DOE ARPE-E $1.8 million award of federal funding. INL and its partners are proposing a next generation uranium metal fuel in support of a 1-2 MWe compact fast reactor that is sized for off-grid applications. It would only need refueling once every 12 years.

The Oklo team believes it has demonstrated fuel prototypes that will support production processes. Key fearures are that it incorporate engineered porosity to absorb and retain produced gasses, allowing for higher operating temperatures.It has a diffusion barrier between the fuel alloy and the cladding to avoid material degradation, which Oklo clais removes the need for the complicated-to-manufacture sodium bond between fuel and cladding.

The Oklo design would be using high assay low enriched fuel (HALEU) which is enriched to greater than 5% U235 but less than 20% U235. Having reliable supplies of HALEU fuel is one of the challenges the design faces in its path to market. Earlier this year DOE announced a $115M contract to produce the fuel with Centrus Energy in Ohio.

Background on the Oklo Design

The Energy Policy Center Columbia University in New York has this information about the Oklo design (Pages 89-90 PDF file –A Comparison of Advanced Nuclear Technologies)

“The plant is designed to be a metal block containing uranium based metallic fuel in a heat pipe configuration that uses liquid sodium. The power conversion system is not final, but consideration is being given to organic Rankine cycle, steam, or super-critical CO2. There is insufficient technical information available publicly to put together a table of key parameters.”

“The design is such that the nuclear plant can ft into a standard shipping container. Two additional containers would house the power conversion system. With mass manufacturing of these small modules, designers claim they can produce electricity for $0.03/kWh. While the design is only in very preliminary stages, they have received venture capital funding to move the design forward.”

According to a brief description of some of the work taking place at the INL with Oklo, in addition to the fuel work, the firm and its partners are looking at ways to place the reactor closer to heavily populated areas.

“Oklo reactors have the potential to be located close to populated areas, enabling flexible siting to meet a wide variety of potential customer needs. One of the biggest challenges for design and siting for advanced reactors is determining source terms and accident scenarios. To properly account for the unique characteristics of an advanced reactor, many effects must be accounted for which may be particular to a certain design. For example, the Oklo reactor has a small core, is not pressurized, operates without pumps, and does not have a large coolant inventory. Using a physics-based mechanistic source term calculation, the beneficial effects of these unique characteristics can be quantified.”

Oklo’s Engagement with the NRC

Jacob DeWitte, CEO of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company, said in an interview with the Morning Consult that the demonstration of the fuel protoype is “one of the bigger steps on the pathway for us moving towards ultimately submitting a license application.”

He added that the firm plans to build a commercial unit in the early 2020s. To that end Oklo is also the first advanced fission company to begin paid pre-application talks with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Since November 2016, the staff of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has been engaged in pre-application activities with Oklo. The docket number 99902046  in the NRC ADAMS system, which contains OKLO’s pre-application documents.

Oklo is aiming to submit its license application to the NRC in the next six months, and is working toward filing a combined construction and operation license (COL) application in late 2019.  The firm has not announced a customer nor a site for the first-of-a-kind unit.

Other Nuclear News

Czech Republic PM – We Must Build New Nuclear Even if in Breach of EU Law

(NucNet) The Czech Republic must build new nuclear units at the Temelín and Dukovany nuclear power stations even if it means violating European law, prime minister Andrej Babis told the European committee of the lower house of parliament.

The European Union, strongly influenced by the anti-nuclear advice of Germany and Austria, has promulgated rules that make it difficult for other EU nations to develop new nuclear reactors. The issues revolve around the degree of govenment support, including loan guarantees and rate floors, for new builds.

Nuclear electricity 2016

Mr Babis said, “We overslept in regards to nuclear energy. We could have been building Temelín by now. We must push this through even if it means violating European law. Energy security is our priority.”

In July the Czech government approved a preliminary plan for a subsidiary of state power company ČEZ to build a new nuclear power station at Dukovany.

A tender for the project is expected to be organized at the end of 2020 with construction beginning before 2030 and completed between 2035 and 2040. The contract will be worth about $4.8bn.

In a major change in policy, the government has said it will provide financing and political guarantees for the project. A 2015 Czech state energy policy calls for one new unit at Dukovany and possibly three more either at Dukovany or Temelín.

Nuclear Remains in South Africa’s Energy Plans With a Focus on Affordable Small Modular Reactors

(WNN) The operation of the Koeberg nuclear power plant will be extended by 20 years and a nuclear new build program involving small modular reactors (SMRs) will be launched as part of South Africa’s energy plans for the next decade. The plans were approved this week by the country’s government.

South Africa’s long-term energy plans are outlined under the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which first came into effect in 2011. The IRP is the national electricity infrastructure development plan based on least cost-electricity supply and demand balance, which takes into account security of supply and the environment.

The 2011 plan called for construction of 9600 MWe of new nuclear capacity over the period to 2030. That plan was based on a now discredited offer by Rosatom to supply eight 1200 MW VVER PWR type reactors and also sell South Africa the fuel for them for 60 years.

The plan died for multiple reasons the primary one being that South Africa didn’t have the means to finance its end of the project. Critics of the plan also point to the backroom negotiations to ink the deal that took place between South Africa’s then PM Zuma and Russian PM Putin.

A draft update to the IRP released for public comment in 2018 proposed nuclear capacity remaining at 1860 MWe – the capacity of the Koeberg nuclear power plant. The plan calls for operation of the Koeberg plant to be extended by 20 years to 2044, “subject to the necessary regulatory approvals”.

IRP 2019 states: “In order to avoid the demise of the nuclear power program, South Africa has made a decision to extend its design life and expand the nuclear power program into the future.”

Focus on Small Modular Reactors

In a media briefing, Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe said,

“It is a globally accepted fact that nuclear as a clean source of energy can contribute significantly to the reduction of emissions. There is a move globally towards the development of small modular reactors that are considered more manageable investment when compared to a large fleet approach.”

According to the IRP, “Small nuclear units will be a much more manageable investment when compared to a fleet approach. The development of such plants elsewhere in the world is therefore particularly interesting for South Africa, and upfront planning with regard to additional nuclear capacity is requisite, given the >10-year lead time, for timely decision making and implementation.”

small-reactors_thumb.jpgAccording to a Reuters report South Africa will not adopt a “big bang” approach to building new nuclear power capacity but instead add capacity in an affordable way,

“It comes back to a resolution we took as a government: not going big bang into nuclear, but going at a pace and price that the country can afford. Go modular, go at a pace and price that the country can afford,” Mantashe told Reuters.

“The fact that we suspected corruption (in the previous Russia deal) doesn’t mean that nuclear is irrelevant for the country in 2019.”

Mantashe would not give a timeline for any new nuclear capacity, saying the government’s energy plan would need to be approved first. The apparent timeline is to build new nuclear capacity sometime after 2030.

Mantashe said the IRP contained provision for “modular nuclear technology.” According to the plan, “Small nuclear units will be a much more manageable investment when compared to a fleet approach.”

Update 10/20/19 – South Africa government says it posted the wrong version of the IRP on its website. Details here.  The government also said emphatically it will NOT seek help from Russia to build SMRs.

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Duke to Seek 20-year License Extensions for 11 Reactors

  • Duke Energy Announces Plans To Extend Operation Of Entire Nuclear Fleet by 20 Years
  • At the IAEA Atoms4Climate Meeting China’s CNNC Talks About Its Confidence in a ‘New Era’ for Nuclear Energy

Duke Energy New Logo(NucNet) Duke Energy (NY:DUK) has announced that to achieve its aggressive carbon emission reduction targets it plans to extend the life of its entire fleet of nuclear power plants.

The North Carolina based company said in a statement it will pursue second licence renewals which, if approved, would enable the 11 nuclear power reactors the company operates at six sites to keep operating for another 20 years beyond their current lifespans.

The company expects to submit a licence renewal application for Oconee nuclear station in 2021, followed by its other nuclear stations. Oconee is the company’s largest nuclear station, with three generating units that produce more than 2,500 MW.

Duke Energy’s nuclear plants are at six sites across the Carolinas: Brunswick, Catawba, Harris, McGuire, Oconee and Robinson.

duke nuclear fleet

Duke Energy Nuclear Fleet

Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet marked its 20th consecutive year with a fleet capacity factor – a measure of reliability – greater than 90%.

The first Duke Energy nuclear power plants will approach the end of their current operating licenses in the early 2030s. The company said rigorous preventive maintenance programs across the nuclear fleet and technology upgrades and investments over the years at all stations have contributed to their continuing strong operating performance. In 2018,

Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet plays an important role in the company’s efforts to lower carbon emissions. Half of all the electricity used by Duke’s customers comes from these 11 nuclear plants.  In 2018, the Duke Energy nuclear fleet generated more than 72 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity and avoided the release of about 54 million tons of carbon dioxide – equivalent to keeping more than 10 million passenger cars off the road.

The company has set aggressive carbon reduction goals of at least 50% by 2030 and net-zero by 2050, and keeping its nuclear fleet operating is key to achieving these goals.

License History & Process

U.S. nuclear facilities are licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and were originally licensed to operate for 40 years based on economic considerations, not technology limitations. Regulations allow nuclear licensees to renew their licences for up to 20 years at a time. (NRC backgrounder on license renewal)

NRC License Renewal Process

Nuclear Reactor License Renewal Process. Image; US NRC

All Duke Energy-operated nuclear units have previously received one renewed license for an additional 20 years. The process to renew licenses for a second 20 years requires a comprehensive analysis and evaluation to ensure the units can safely operate for the extended operation period.

According to the NRC, the agency uses a 22-month schedule to evaluate license renewal applications, but it encourages utilities to start work on them much earlier, perhaps as soon as five years prior to the end of the current license.

Renewing the nuclear licenses will provide significant value to Duke Energy customers, as well as continue to support communities where the utility provides power through jobs, tax revenues and partnerships. Duke Energy employs about 5,000 workers in its nuclear group, with additional contract workers supporting refueling outages and project work.

Duke Abandoned More than 6 GWe of Planned
New Nuclear Construction

However, this significant move to preserve the existing fleet comes at the same time that the company has over the past few years abandoned plans for more than 6 GWe in new builds. The firm cancelled two 1100 MW AP1000s at the Levy County, FL, site, two more AP1000s at the William States Lee site, in NC, and a third set of two AP1000 plants at the Harris plant also in NC.

Duke decided to decommission to Crystal River reactor, and replace it with a natural gas plant, rather than make repairs to the damaged containment structure that resulted from a failed effort by Progress Energy to replace the unit’s steam generators.

Duke has made no secret of its deep reluctance to engage in any new builds for two reasons – flat demand for electricity, following the 2008 recession, in its enormous multi-state service area, and the uncertainty of being able to contain costs for “bet the company” projects in a time of weak economic growth.

duke-progress-electricity-service-areas_thumb

Duke Energy Service Area Map. Image: Duke Energy

The company’s caution flag under the rationale of being a “prudent investor” is mirrored by similar actions by DTE for Fermi III and Dominion’s plans for North Anna III.

Small modular reactors may be in the future though Duke has not invested in any designs. The firm has talked about them on its website, but hasn’t made any commitments. Meanwhile, other utilities are taking action.

For its part Dominion has expressed interest in the newly announced GE-Hitachi 300 MW SMR.  It has made a financial commitment to the design work taking place in Duke’s backyard in Wilmington, NC.

In Idaho NuScale has a customer, UAMPS, for its planned new build of dual six-packs of 50 MW SMRs.  NuScale has said it will break ground in 2023 and complete the first unit by 2026. (See Neutron Bytes interview with NuScale CEO Jose Reyes)

Several U.S. firms are working on smaller, advanced fast reactors including molten salt and sodium cooled designs, but these projects are unlikely to see commercial success in the current decade.  Challenges include building and testing prototypes, developing and qualifying unique fuels, navigating the NRC’s licensing process, and most of all, convincing a skeptical publicly traded nuclear utility that it can make a profit with one of them at a competitive construction cost per kilowatt relative to new gas plants. (See INL/Gain list as of September 2019)

No other U.S. nuclear utility has plans for a new start to build a full size nuclear reactor. The collapse of the V.C. Summer project in South Carolina, (two 1100 MW AP1000s) which left rate holders with a $9 billion headache and the cost over runs at the Vogtle project  (Two 1100 MW AP1000s) in Georgia are events that are clearly visible to Duke’s stockholders and the company’s executives.

At IAEA Meeting China’s CNNC Talks About its Confidence in a ‘New Era’ for Nuclear Energy

cnnc logo(WNN) Nuclear power is “irreplaceable” and international cooperation in the technology “indispensable” in reducing global CO2 emissions, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) President Jun Gu told delegates at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power in Vienna.  (Atoms4Climate) (Closing IAEA Conference Press Statement)

Climate change may in fact be an “opportunity to create a new era for nuclear energy”, he said, and CNNC (company profile) “is willing to work with all countries” to bring about a clean energy transition and mitigate climate change.

Of the 449 reactor units in operation in 30 countries today, 47 are in China. At nearly 50 GWe, they place the country in third ranking in terms of installed nuclear generating capacity.  However, Russia leads China in its export efforts with new reactors completed and/or under construction in China as well as India, Iran, and Turkey.

Like China with its international ‘Belt & Road’ program, Russia uses nuclear energy exports as a means of projecting influence and power in the global realms of economic trade and political influence.

China also has 11 units under construction with an installed capacity of about 12 GWe, ranking the country first in the world in that respect. In 2018, nuclear power generated 287 TWh of electricity in China, accounting for 4.2% of national power generation, and Gu said he is “fully confident” that China will add a further six-to-eight units each year over the next 10 years. That’s a total of 60-80 Gwe by 2030.

“We have developed the capacity to manufacture equipment for eight to ten units every year,” he said. “At present, more than 85% of the key equipment and materials of our own HPR-1000 can be produced in China.”

“With technological progress, the world is entering an age of clean energy with less dependence on fossil fuel,” Gu said.

“The shares of natural gas, nuclear energy, solar power, wind power and hydropower in energy production and in consumption are increasing markedly. In some countries, clean energy takes about 60% of the energy mix. However, we think that hydropower is highly restricted by regional resources, and wind and solar power also have natural constraints. They can hardly be the main power producers without a breakthrough in energy storage technology.

Also, nuclear power has been demonstrated as an important option in replacing coal-fired power plants on a large scale. Nuclear power is an important baseload option to avoid price fluctuation and the grid risk from renewable energy.”

The country’s international cooperation in nuclear power is is visible in its use of reactor designs that include French PWRs, Canadian CANDUS, Russian VVERs and US AP1000s. It is also working on its own design, the HPR-1000, AKA Hualong One, and is developing an indigenous equipment supply chain.

The Long Reach of the Hualong One

The HPR-1000, also known as Hualong One, is a Chinese pressurized water reactor design developed by CNNC and the China General Nuclear Power Group. The first HPR-1000 units to be constructed will be Fuqing units 5 and 6, followed by Fangjiashan units 3 and 4, and Fangchenggang units 3 and 4. Gu said that Fuqing 5 had entered the commissioning stage and would achieve power operation by the first-half of next year.

Hualong One Cooling Systems Schemata

Active and passive cooling systems of HPR1000 (aka Hualong One) nuclear reactor. Red line; active systems; Green line; passive systems; IRWST – in-containment refueling water storage tank. Source: Science Direct http://bit.ly/2EzKjus Author: Ji Xing, Daiyong Song, Yuxiang Wu

There are five Hualong One reactors planned for Pakistan – four at Karachi and one at Chashma, of which two are under construction at Karachi. Construction of another HPR-1000 is planned to start next year in Argentina assuming the financial terms o the deal can be satisfied for both countries. Export prospects for the Hualong One also the U.K. at the Bradwell site.

China is one of five bidders for construction of two full size reactors in Saudia Arabia. The tender is expected to be released in 2020. Due to Saudi Arabia’s insistence on the right to enrich uranium, it may not be abe to complete a 123 Agreement with the U.S. That outcome would improve the prospects for China to sell the Hualong One to Saudi Arabia.

Prospects for SMRs and HTGRs

CNNC is working on new nuclear technologies, CNNC’s Gu said, including small modular reactors, nuclear waste transmutation and treatment, accident-tolerant fuel, high-temperature reactors, fast breeder reactors, nuclear fusion technology, and used fuel disposal.

In July, CNNC announced the launch of a project to construct an ACP100 small modular reactor at Changjiang in Hainan province. Construction of the demonstration unit – also referred to as the Linglong One design – is scheduled to begin by the end of this year.

China’s work on small modular reactors, using LWR-based designs, for use at military bases on artificial islands in the South China Sea has been seen as a means of cementing its influence in that region.

CNNC’s HTR-PM, a 200-megawatt high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (GEN IV Forum briefing), can supply industrial heat of above 750 degrees Celsius, he said, and is expected to have “broader prospects” in hydrogen production. He revealed that the first unit will be in operation by the end of next year, “laying a solid foundation for further commercial application.”

CNNC HTR

GEN IV International Forum – DESIGN, SAFETY FEATURES & PROGRESS OF HTR-PM
Yujie Dong, INET, Tsinghua University, China, January 24, 2018 (PDF file)

This statement may indicate that CNNC has now positioned the HTR-PM, which is a pebble bed fueled fast reactor, for process heat applications and production of hydrogen rather than as a primary source of electricity.  At one time CNNC had plans for building 20 units in configurations of two reactors for each turbine. These plans were later shelved as the state-owned firm took a second look at performance issues. The new focus on alternative uses of the design apparently revives China’s plans for use of high temperature gas cooled technologies.

CNNC Ended Work with TerraPower in 2018

The company was forced to abandon its joint development effort with TerraPower in 2018 due to President Trump’s ill-advised trade war with China.

The decision to end the work in China followed a new set of U.S. government rules on export of nuclear technology to China. The rules were issued in October 2018 in response to repeated instances by China of stealing intellectual property related to nuclear energy from U.S. firms.

TerraPower formally set up an agreement with state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) in 2013 to build its first of a kind half size version of its Traveling Wave reactor. The design is unique in that it is based on the use of depleted uranium to run the reactor.

“We had hoped to build a pilot project in China, but recent policy changes here in the US have made that unlikely,” Gates wrote in a blog post.

Since then TerraPower has spun up its work on a molten chloride salt reactor. Working with multiple partners in the U.S., TerraPower’s research and development of the MCFR project has already expanded into design and testing activities.  The company has published an ambitious timeline that calls for commercialization of the design by 2030.

terrapower

In January 2016, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded a five-year, $40 million cost share award for continued research and development into TerraPower’s MCFR project. This award served as the impetus for a new public-private MCFR project development partnership that includes TerraPower, the Southern Company, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute and Vanderbilt University.

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