NuScale / UAMAPS Set Course for NRC COLA by 2023

  • NuScale/UAMPS To Submit COLA to NRC for Idaho Site in Three Years
  • NuScale in UK Partners with Wind Farm Developer for a Hybrid Power Plant at Wylfa
  • Romania / US Awards $1.2 Million Grant For SMR Development
  • EPRI Names Rita Baranwal as New VP of Nuclear, Chief Nuclear Officer
  • Rolls-Royce & UK Space Agency Launches Effort on Use of Nuclear Power for Space Exploration

NuScale & UAMPS Take Next Steps to License, Manufacture, and Build the First of 12 SMRs

nuscale logoNuScale Power has gotten the go ahead to prepare a Combined License Application (COLA) to be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The UAMPS COLA is expected to be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by the second quarter of 2023.

NRC review of the COLA is expected to be completed by the second half of 2025, with nuclear construction of the project beginning shortly thereafter. NuScale expects to have the first of 12 units in revenue service before the end of the decade. Eventually, plans are for the site to have 12 SMRs. The power rating of the site is a work in progress as NuScale started with an estimate of 50 MWE, but has since increased its design objective to 60 MWe and indicated it has plans for 77 MWe.

The NuScale reference power plant can house up to 12 NuScale Power Modules for a total facility output of 924 megawatts of electricity (MWe). NuScale also offers smaller power plant solutions in 4-module and 6-module sizes with outputs of 308 MWe (gross) and 462 MWe (gross), respectively. The multi-module NuScale plant design is scalable, allowing customers to incrementally increase facility output to match demand.

NuScale Power announced this week together with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) that it has executed agreements to facilitate the development of the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP), which will deploy NuScale Power Modules at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

Fluor Corporation and NuScale (as a subcontractor to Fluor) are to develop higher maturity cost estimates and initial project planning work for the licensing, manufacturing and construction of the CFPP.

“The orders between NuScale and UAMPS mark the next major step in moving forward with the commercialization of NuScale’s groundbreaking small modular reactor (SMR) technology,” said John Hopkins, NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

The order to proceed with preparation of the COLA are the result of recently signed agreements to manage and de-risk the development of the Carbon Free Power Project. These include the Development Cost Reimbursement Agreement (DCRA) between UAMPS and NuScale, and the $1.355 billion multi-year Financial Assistance Award from the U.S. Department of Energy to CFPP LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UAMPS established to develop, own and operate the CFPP. The cost of producing a COLA for an SMR like NuScale’s is one of the things this stage of the project needs to figure out. Ggiven the smaller size of the plant, it will likely cost considerably less than one for a 1000 MW unit.

In addition, UAMPS and Fluor Corporation have signed a cost-reimbursable development agreement to provide estimating, development, design and engineering services to develop the site-specific cost estimates for deployment of the NuScale technology at the INL site.

Concurrently, UAMPS will continue to evaluate the size of the NuScale power plant as Fluor refines the engineering of alternatives to ensure that the plant is the best overall cost of energy and size to meet the CFPP participants’  needs.

“The orders executed today allow for important progress in the development of the Carbon Free Power Project, and we are excited to take this next step alongside our partners NuScale Power and Fluor Corporation” said Doug Hunter, UAMPS’ Chief Executive Officer and General Manager.

“We are confident that NuScale’s small modular reactor will deliver affordable, stable, carbon-free energy to participating members, complementing and enabling large amounts of renewable energy in the region.”

In 2020 several member utilities pulled out of UAMPS plans to build the Idaho plant citing concerns for cost overruns. As part of an effort to prevent further defections, NuScale has undertaken detailed studies of capital, operating, and decommissioning costs for its 12-module, 924 MWe plant design.

Results demonstrated that the total capitalized cost of the NuScale plant is approximately 38% of a reference 4-loop pressurized water reactor (PWR) of 1,147 MWe net output, (the power rating of a Westinghouse AP1000) representing a reduction of nearly $4 billion. Accounting for differences in power output, the capitalized construction cost per kW for the NuScale plant is 62% of the 4-loop PWR ($3,466/kW versus $5,587/kW).

NuScale’s SMR became the first and only design to ever receive approval from the NRC in August 2020. NuScale and UAMPS expect that the initial orders will address the final step in the regulatory process to proceed with plans to build a NuScale Power Plant as they plan for and develop the Combined License Application (COLA) for the CFPP.

NuScale in UK Partners with Wind Farm Developer for a Hybrid Power Plant at Wylfa

Shearwater Energy and NuScale sign memorandum of understanding to investigate project

Shearwater Energy Ltd., a UK-based hybrid energy company, is developing a wind and SMR (Small Modular Reactor) and hydrogen production hybrid energy project in North Wales. The project would provide 3 GWe of zero-carbon energy and is also expected to produce over 3 million kilograms of green hydrogen per year for use by the UK’s transport sector. The company said the project’s cost to build would be 40% less than a conventional nuclear plant.

hybrid nuclear wind conceptual diagram

Image source: The Economic Potential of Nuclear-Renewable Hybrid Energy Systems Producing Hydrogen; Mark Ruth, Dylan Cutler, Francisco Flores-Espino, and Greg Stark National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Technical Report, NREL/TP-6A50-66764 April 2017

Shearwater has submitted an outline proposal to the British Government and the governments of Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland, all of whom stand to derive considerable economic benefits in connection with the proposed project.  So far it is not clear where the financing for the project will come from. No commercial investors have made public comments expressing interest in the project.

Shearwater said it could build the hybrid plant for “less than £8bn” and start generating carbon-neutral power by late 2027.

The BBC quoted Shearwater as saying it would take at least four years of detailed planning and design before the plant could be built, and it was currently at phase one of the process “in order to demonstrate both viability and speed of installation”.

Shearwater Energy’s director Simon Forster said his company started pulling together proposals after Japanese energy giant Hitachi pulled out of the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant project in September.

Although several firms have indicated to the UK government that they are interested in building full size nuclear reactors at the Wylfa and Oldbury sites, financing the $20 billion project remains elusive.

Shearwater has selected the leading U.S. SMR technology being developed by NuScale Power, LLC to provide the clean, base load and load-following energy for the proposed hybrid energy project. Shearwater has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with NuScale Power to further collaboration in advancing the proposed project.

Under the MOU, Shearwater and NuScale will explore opportunities for the combined generation of nuclear power based on NuScale’s SMR technology, offshore wind energy and hydrogen production at sites in the UK, with a flagship opportunity being explored at Wylfa on Anglesey.

As international renewable energy portfolios grow, this collaboration highlights the increasing momentum and need for more flexible and reliable low-carbon energy generation. NuScale will also specifically support Shearwater as it continues to develop the project, including conducting project-specific engineering, planning, and licensing activities for their SMR technology.

NuScale’s assessment of the UK supply chain concluded that more than 75% of the content of a NuScale plant could be sourced within the UK. Both parties are committed to further exploring British companies’ capabilities to participate in maximizing the UK content of this project.

supply chain nuscale

When fully developed, an offshore SMR-wind plant at Wylfa could provide 3 GWe of reliable, zero-carbon electricity at a fraction of the cost of a conventional nuclear power station with surplus energy generation focused on the production of hydrogen to support the transport sector’s transition to low-carbon fuels. Power generation at Wylfa could begin as early as 2027 if the UK government will step up with financial backing.

Given the UK’s recently announced plans to rapidly expand offshore wind capacity by 2030 and invest in SMR development to meet net-zero carbon emissions goals by 2050, a Shearwater-NuScale wind-nuclear energy system could  provide reliable, load following power to overcome intermittency and grid stability issues.

Additionally, green hydrogen produced by a Shearwater-NuScale wind-nuclear energy system could support industry, transport, power and homes providing a further opportunity for decarbonization and affordable energy security.

Romania / US Awards $1.2 Million Grant For SMR Development

(Nucnet) The US Trade and Development Agency has awarded a $1.2M grant to Romania’s national nuclear energy company Societatea National Nuclearelectrica, to support the development of small modular reactor solutions in Romania.

USTDA said its technical assistance will support Romania’s efforts to include SMR technology in its national energy strategy. The assistance will identify a short list of SMR-suitable sites, assess SMR technology options and develop site-specific licensing roadmaps. Nuclearelectrica has chosen Illinois-based Sargent & Lundy to carry out the assistance.


Image source: Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (SMR report)

Nuclearelectrica chief executive officer Cosmin Ghita said that in addition to the current development of two new units at the Cernavoda nuclear power station, the company is also interested in assessing the development of SMRs as a long-term solution for development of the Romanian nuclear industry.

“We are interested in features like flexibility, modularity and higher efficiency that could provide advantages for both the energy system and businesses after 2035,” he said. “The grant awarded by USTDA will allow us to further explore siting and technology compatibility with the proper technical assistance and have this assessment process initiated in due time for further decision-making.”

In March 2019, NuScale Power and Nuclearelectrica signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the exchange of business and technical information about NuScale’s nuclear technology, with the goal of evaluating the development, licensing and construction of a NuScale SMR in Romania.

In October 2020, Romania and the US signed a draft cooperation agreement for the refurbishment of one nuclear power reactor and the construction of two more at the Cernavoda. In July last year, Romania launched a tender for a new feasibility study to complete units 3 and 4.

Nuclearelectrica said the draft agreement included plans for the refurbishment of Unit 1, a 650-MW Candu 6 unit which began commercial operation in December 1996. The US DOE, meanwhile, confirmed that the agreement includes plans for two more units at the Cernavoda site.

EPRI Names Rita Baranwal as New VP of Nuclear,
Chief Nuclear Officer

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) announced Dr. Rita Baranwal as its new Vice President of Nuclear Energy and Chief Nuclear Officer.

Baranwal succeeds Neil Wilmshurst, who was promoted to Senior Vice President of Energy System Resources in November.

RITA_BARANWAL_PORTRAIT_DSF1980Baranwal most recently served as the U.S. Energy Department’s Assistant Secretary for its Office of Nuclear Energy, where she managed DOE’s portfolio of nuclear research for existing and advanced reactors and new designs.

Prior to that role, Baranwal directed the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative at Idaho National Laboratory. Under her leadership, GAIN positively impacted over 120 companies with state-of-the-art R&D expertise, capabilities, and infrastructure that supported faster, cost-effective development, demonstration, and ultimate deployment of innovative nuclear energy technologies.

Before GAIN, Baranwal led the creation and development of industry-changing technologies and managed characterization and hot cell laboratories as the director of technology development and application at Westinghouse. She is also a Fellow of the American Nuclear Society.

“EPRI’s nuclear sector is a world-class resource for optimizing plant performance, sharing best practices, and applying innovative technology solutions for existing and emerging plants,” said EPRI President and CEO Arshad Mansoor. “We are thrilled to welcome a leader of Rita’s caliber as we collaborate with global nuclear operators to create a cleaner energy future.”

“Rita has a great strategic and global perspective, and is widely respected for her many achievements,” said Wilmshurst. “I am confident her broad expertise and knowledge of the industry are going to inspire and further enable the EPRI nuclear research team’s work and the value they provide to our members and society.”

At EPRI, Baranwal will lead a team of more than 200 researchers, scientists, engineers and technical staff who provide objective, science-based nuclear R&D to more than 80 percent of the world’s commercial nuclear fleet.

“I look forward to working with EPRI’s incredibly talented team to find answers to pressing nuclear energy challenges during the clean energy transition,” said Baranwal. “Together we can accelerate new nuclear technology development, enable more flexible operation, and deliver value beyond electricity generation in a low-carbon energy future.”

Baranwal will be based in Charlotte, NC.

Rolls-Royce & UK Space Agency Launches Effort on Use of Nuclear Power for Space Exploration

Rolls-Royce has signed an contract with the UK Space Agency for a study into future nuclear power options for space exploration. This first contract between both organizations represents an opportunity to define and shape the nuclear power solutions required in space in the decades to come.

Universe Today reports that the purpose of this program was to develop a nuclear-thermal rocket (NTP) that could allow for rapid transport to the Moon, Mars, and other locations in deep space. In an NTP rocket, uranium or deuterium reactions are used to heat liquid hydrogen inside a reactor, causing it to ionize into a hot plasma that is then directed through nozzles to create thrust.

Rolls Royce said in a statement that nuclear propulsion, which would involve channeling the energy released in splitting the atom to accelerate propellants, like hydrogen, at huge speeds, has the potential to revolutionize space travel.

According to Universe Today by some estimates, this kind of engine could be twice as efficient as the chemical engines that power rockets today. Spacecraft powered by this kind of engine could, conceivably, make it to Mars in just 3 to 4 months – roughly half the time of the fastest possible trip in a spacecraft using the current chemical propulsion.

rolls royve nuclear 1

According to a technical report drafted by Doctor Michael G. Houts (the NTP principal investigator at NASA Marshall), an NTP rocket could generate 200 kWt of power using a single kilogram of uranium for a period of 13 years – which works out to a fuel efficiency rating of about 45 grams per 1000 MW-hr (twice that of chemical rockets). At that rate, a nuclear thermal rocket could make the trip to Mars in half the time (100 days!)

It would not just mean a time saving. It would also radically reduce the dose of radiation taken on by astronauts that would be making future trips to Mars or other planets. The size of the dose increases the longer you spend in deep space, away from the bubble of protection given by the Earth’s magnetosphere.

The appeal of a small nuclear power generator for propulsion also comes from the fact that power in space becomes increasingly precious with distance from the Sun. In the outer Solar System, sunlight gets too dim for solar panels

Universe Today noted that in recent years, research into nuclear propulsion has once again resumed at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. With the UK Space Agency on board now as well, it’s likely that the ESA will be investigating nuclear propulsion for future missions as well. Roscosmos is also pursuing NEP technology with its Transport and Energy Module (TEM) program, with plans to make the first reactor tests in the early 2020s and the first orbital flight test by 2030.

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Holtec Plans 160 MWe SMR at Oyster Creek Nuclear Site in NJ

  • Holtec Airs Plans for 160 MWe SMR at Oyster Creek, NJ, Site
  • Holtec Submits a Key Topical Report on SMR-160 to the NRC
  • China Starts Building a Second CFR-600 Fast Reactor
  • Call For Nuclear Coalition To Challenge Rising Influence Of Russia And China
  • DOE Announces Strategy To Develop Nuclear Power For Space Exploration

Holtec Airs Plans for 160 MWe SMR at Oyster Creek

(NucNet)  Holtec International announced this week it is considering building a next-generation small modular reactor (SMR) at the site of the former Oyster Creek nuclear power station in New Jersey. Holtec is currently carrying out the D&D work at the closed nuclear reactor.

Update 01/15/20 – Holtec issued a statement that news media reports it has decided to build a 160 MWe SMR at the Oyster Creek site are “premature.”

Joe Delmar, Holtec’s senior director of government affairs and communications, said.

“This concept is only preliminary and something we would likely discuss with Lacey Township and the community if plans to locate an SMR-160 small modular reactor at Oyster Creek evolve,” he said.

“Though we are actively engaged with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its regulatory process, we have not submitted a formal licensing application to date.”

Holtec owns the site which was a 619-MW GE BWR unit that began commercial operation in 1969 and was shut down in September 2018. The plant was hounded into early retirement 10 years earlier than as provided for in its NRC license by then NJ Governor Chris Christie.

map oyster creek nj

Ownership of the facility was transferred from Exelon Generation to Oyster Creek Environmental Protection and Holtec Decommissioning International in July 2019. Holtec is also decommissioning the Pilgrim nuclear power station in Massachusetts.

A Holtec spokesman told the Associated Press that part of its application to the Department of Energy for its advanced reactor demonstration program, Holtec expressed interest in locating one of its SMR-160 SMRs at the Oyster Creek site.

“This concept is only preliminary and something we would likely discuss with Lacey Township and the community if plans to locate [the reactor] at Oyster Creek evolve.”

The spokesman added Holtec is “actively engaged with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission” about the project, but has not yet formally applied to build the reactor.

The advantage of locating the SMR at the site is that is has a switchyard and ready made connection to the grid. Also, there are roads and local utilities already in place.

In December Holtec was awarded $116 million from the US Department of energy to complete research and development work on its SMR-160 SMR design.

In November 2020, Holtec said it was preparing to submit to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission a topical report covering the essential safety features of the SMR-160 SMR.  (more on this below)

The SMR-160 is a light-water based pressurized SMR, which generates 160 MWe (525 MWth). The cooling system relies on gravity as to operate the reactor and it has a completely passive safety systems.

Earlier this year, the SMR-160 completed Phase 1 of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) “Pre-Licensing Review of a Vendor’s Reactor Design.”

Holtec is building a factory in Camden, NJ, to be an OEM manufacturer of parts, components, and systems for SMRs. The firm is also committed to build similar factories in Ukraine and India.

Holtec Submits a Key Topical Report on SMR-160 to the NRC

In a key milestone for the advancement of the SMR-160 Small Modular Reactor, Holtec International submitted the first of five planned Topical Reports on December 21, 2020 to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC). The firm said the report  demonstrates the  safety of the reactor under any credible loss-of-coolant-accident (LOCA).

In particular, the firm said, the  case of a “large break LOCA,” which theoretically requires evaluation in standard designs of light water nuclear reactors, is shown to be physically impossible for our reactor’s pressure retention boundary.

The SMR-160 is designed such that all the cooling water needed for safe shutdown of the plant, under even the most severe accident scenarios, is housed within  the plant to protect the reactor from overheating. The plant safety systems that access the plant’s cooling water reserve are passive, meaning they operate under the force of gravity to enable cooling of the heat generated from reactor operations.

As the illustration below show, the reactor pressure vessel, the steam generator and the pressurizer form a single reactor pressure vessel assembly without any intervening piping.

holtec design

Holtec’s SMR-160 Reactor Coolant System Has No Pumps or Valves

In addition to presenting the basis for the elimination of the large break LOCA from safety considerations, this Topical Report unveils the gravity-actuated operation of the Reactor Coolant System (RCS) and the other safety systems of the SMR-160, which are engineered to nullify the impact of a breakage of any piping in the containment building without the recourse to any pumps and motors.

“This submittal is a key step in demonstrating to the regulator, our stakeholders and the public of the robust innovative design and safety systems that make Holtec’s SMR-160 the future of safe, clean and efficient energy for our nation and the world,” said Holtec’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Kris Singh.

This submission also evaluates the current regulations, General Design Criteria and guidance applicable to LOCAs, and establishes plant specific acceptance criteria for the LOCA events.

China Starts Building a Second CFR-600 Fast Reactor

(WNN) Construction work has started on the second CFR-600 sodium-cooled pool-type fast-neutron nuclear reactor in Xiapu County, in China’s Fujian province.  CNNC has announced that construction of unit 2 started on December 27, 2020. Also known as the Xiapu fast reactor demonstration project, the CFR-600 is part of China’s plan to achieve a closed nuclear fuel cycle. IAEA ARIS DBMS Link

The CFR-600 demonstration fast reactors (CDFR) are the next step in China Institute of Atomic Energy’s (CIAE) program. Xiapu 1 is expected to be grid connected in 2023. The reactors will be 1500 MWt, 600 MWe, with 41% thermal efficiency, using MOX fuel with 100 GWd/t burn-up, and with two sodium coolant loops producing steam at 480°C.

The design has an operational life of 40 years. Also, it has active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.

Construction of CFR-600 unit 1 started in late 2017. The fuel will be supplied by TVEL, a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom.

Call For Nuclear Coalition To Challenge Rising Influence Of Russia And China

Study says 71% of reactor deployment since 2000 is associated with two countries

The rising influence of Russia and China in the development, construction and deployment of civilian nuclear reactors around the world raises significant geopolitical challenges for the US, according to a study by two University of Georgia professors.

The study’s authors are David Gattie, an associate professor in the UGA College of Engineering, and Joshua Massey, director of the Master of International Policy program in UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs.

They write that if the US retreats from the civilian nuclear field, China and Russia will become the global leaders in nuclear science, nuclear engineering and nuclear technology with adverse implications for US national security.

To address China’s and Russia’s growing influence in the nuclear power sphere, Mr Gattie and Mr Massey said the US should unite its allies in a new coalition of civilian nuclear power partners.

The coalition must be capable of competing with China and Russia in the deployment of nuclear technology, fuel and services in emerging economies where energy demand is increasing rapidly and countries are seeking partnerships for expertise, technology, supply chains, and financing.

“While international control of atomic energy in the 20th century was accomplished by a US-led coalition designed to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons, the retreat of the US and its allies from nuclear research and development has allowed authoritarian powers to leverage nuclear technology to project soft power and advance their geopolitical interests, according to the researchers.”

The analysis stems from an ongoing interdisciplinary collaboration between the College of Engineering and UGA’s Center for International Trade and Security, an effort to fuse energy systems engineering with international policy in response to emerging national security issues.

“Energy animates a country’s economy and underpins the technological capacity to protect itself and defend its interests. It has a value proposition beyond that of a market commodity as it defines and shapes geopolitical relationships and international stature,” Gattie and Massey said in their analysis.

The researchers acknowledge nuclear power is a complex and controversial energy source, particularly when climate change is factored into the equation. But they said it may be impossible for the U.S. to sustain its global leadership role in nuclear science and technology, uphold its commitment to international control of nuclear energy, maintain a reliable electric grid, and meet the additional challenge of climate change while unilaterally disengaging from civilian nuclear power.

Their study, ‘Twenty-First Century US Nuclear Power: A National Security Imperative,’ was published in Strategic Studies Quarterly, a peer-reviewed academic journal sponsored by the US Air Force covering issues related to national and international security.

DOE Announces Strategy To Develop Nuclear Power For Space Exploration

(NucNet) The US Department of Energy says it is working with NASA, other federal agencies, and commercial entities to develop and design nuclear power systems for both near-term and future space missions.  DOE said it will develop space-capable energy technologies, both nuclear and non-nuclear, for US space customers.

kilopowerDOE’s announcement follows the release of a national strategy that define key goals such as nuclear fuels, fission reactors for surface power, thermal propulsion technology, and radioisotope power systems for space exploration.

The main goals of the DOE plan are to power space exploration, increase space science research, support the defense of space-related US national security interests and help the development of the US commercial space industry.

The increased power demands of long-duration surface crewed missions and crewed flights beyond the Moon have led to serious consideration in the US of surface nuclear fission power and nuclear propulsion technologies.

Surface nuclear fission power reactors could provide stable, baseload power to meet anticipated habitat and exploration missions on other worlds, while space nuclear propulsion systems offer advantages for exploration missions to Mars and beyond, including increased flexibility and reduced cost. Solar energy panels are not viable power options beyond the orbit of Mars,

Does space nuclear power have a future?

A key element of the DOE strategy is that it appears to ban the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in space power and propulsion systems. The problem with the policy, from a technical perspective, that the use of uranium at enrichment levels below 20% U235 will add significant weight to power and propulsion systems and reduce the amount of electrical power for instruments or for life systems for crewed missions.

It seems like DOE is on one hand promoting the use of nuclear power in space and on the other, more or less tying itself in politically correct knots at the expense of its own objectives. The American Institute of Physics has a summary of the HEU debate that was aired by a panel at the June meeting of the American Nuclear Society

Scientific American reports that nuclear power will be a big part of the United States’ space exploration efforts going forward, a new policy document affirms.

“Space nuclear power and propulsion is a fundamentally enabling technology for American deep-space missions to Mars and beyond,” Scott Pace, deputy assistant to the president and executive secretary of the National Space Council, said in an emailed statement.

Mr. Pace resigned his position shortly after issuing this statement as it ends on January 20th. As of the date of this report, the incoming Biden administration has not named a Science Adviser as part of the White House staff.

NASA’s budget request for fiscal year 2021 includes $100 million for the space nuclear technology portfolio, of which $62 million is for surface power and the remainder is for propulsion. The agency projects its request for the portfolio will grow to $250 million in fiscal year 2025.

NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy are working together on a fission-reactor project called Kilopower, which could provide electrical power for crewed outposts on the moon and Mars.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has talked about nuclear thermal propulsion as a potential game-changer for the agency’s deep-space exploration efforts.

The document states that the U.S. should develop, by the mid-2020s, fuel production and processing capabilities sufficient to support a variety of nuclear space systems, from RTGs to nuclear thermal and nuclear electric propulsion.

Another goal is the demonstration of a “fission power system on the surface of the moon that is scalable to a power range of 40 kilowatt-electric (kWe) and higher to support a sustained lunar presence and exploration of Mars.” This should happen by the mid- to late 2020s if possible, the document states.

Biden Transition Team Focused on Space Policy and China

A key focus of the Biden transition team has been how to deal with China’s aggressive space program.

Politico reports top advisers to Joe Biden have argued that it’s important to cooperate with China on space exploration, even as the incoming administration treats Beijing as its top economic and military competitor in virtually every other realm.

They assert that despite China’s pattern of stealing American technology and diverting it for military purposes, a limited space partnership between Washington and Beijing could reduce tensions and the likelihood of a destabilizing space race. The move would be akin to the cooperation between the U.S. and Russia’s civilian space programs during the height of the Cold War.

“Trying to exclude them I think is a failing strategy,” Pam Melroy, a former astronaut who is serving on Biden’s NASA transition team and is among those being considered to lead the space agency, told POLITICO before the election. “It’s very important that we engage.”

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Top Posts for 2020 at Neutron Bytes

nuclear-flag.jpgAs 2020 has come to close, it is time to check in on what readers found most interesting on this blog.  Here are the top posts for 2020 based on Google Analytics data.

COVID-19 News: Nuclear Workers May Live On-Site During Virus Crisis 

Nuclear Reactor Operators May Live at their Plants. The New York Times reports via Reuters that the nation’s electric power utilities are planning to set up housekeeping for cadres of healthy workers at the plants to keep the lights on for millions of Americans.

According to the newspaper, the utilities, which include the nation’s nuclear reactor operators, are stockpiling food, beds, and laundry, and other supplies for the workers.

Will 2020s Be the Decade SMRs Take Off?

If current developments with small modular reactors in first month of 2020 are any indication of interest in this scale of nuclear technology, the 2020s could be the decade that SMRs take off. Here are six reports of interest in SMRs the U.S. and Europe.

Key success factors include affordability, ease of construction compared to 1000 MWe units, enhanced safety features, and for some, using well-known light water reactors as the design basis, a faster path through the regulatory reviews and thus faster time to market.

A Forecast for the Future of GEN IV Reactors ~
A 50/50 Chance of Success for Three Types

Designers of advanced nuclear reactors that are moving beyond the conceptual phase and are now deeply invested in hardware design are seeking to bridge the gap between design concept and working prototype.

The problem for developers of Generation IV nuclear power plants in western industrialized countries is that it may still be too early in the development process for investors and potential customers to bet significant money on the winners from an increasingly crowded field.

New patterns of investment could help. Public-private cost sharing partnerships with the US Department of Energy (DOE), for reactor development, of the type formed by NuScale, a light water small modular reactor and TerraPower, which is a sodium-cooled 1,100 MW design, are creating similar opportunities for entrepreneurial developers who can harness the know how and get access to government funds which is also a confidence builder for investors.

A working prototype for any of the Gen IV designs built by any of the developers would attract the interest of potential customers. As yet, no one has gotten that far.

ThorCon Inks MOU to Develop a 50MW Thorium Reactor for Indonesia

According to ThorCon, the firm and Indonesia’s Defence Ministry have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to study developing a 50 MW thorium molten salt reactor (TMSR) for either power generation or marine vehicle propulsion.

China Ramps Up New Nuclear Reactor Construction

According to 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.

Poland Counts Costs for New Nuclear Reactors

The country’s ambitions include building a minimum of six reactor units over 20 years with the equivalent of 9000 MW by the 2040s. Paying for them remains a supremely vexing problem for the Polish government which is conflicted about these plans and how to fund them.

Poland will have to spend €14 billion in the first 10 years of its planned nuclear power program, the Polish government secretary responsible for energy infrastructure Piotr Naimski said in media interviews

Mr Naimski said the country’s plans include building six nuclear reactor units over 20 years with a combined output of between 6 and 9 GW.

South Korea’s SMART SMR Gets New Life

The government of South Korea and the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy in Saudi Arabia have updated their agreement to create a joint venture for the construction of a low-power small modular nuclear reactor (100 MWe).

The SMR design planned for Saudi Arabia is the Korea Atomic Research Institute’s “system-integrated modular advanced reactor” (SMART), a LWR type unit, is designed for generating electricity and for thermal applications such as seawater desalination. Scientists in South Korea have been developing the technology for 22 years. Work has been going on in Saudi Arabia with its South Korean partners since 2011.

Rolls Royce Reveals 440 MW Commercial Reactor Design

Rolls Royce consortium plans SMR units for existing UK nuclear sites including Moorside, Wylfa, and Oldbury. 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 16 of them at existing nuclear power stations in the UK starting in the early 2030s.

France Launches First SMR Development Effort

France will leverage its experience building small nuclear reactors for submarines and the expertise of state-owned EDF to create commercial small modular reactors (SMRs).

France’s nuclear agency has announced a project to develop a small modular reactor that could be on the market before 2030. CEA said the planned SMR plant will be a PWR-based solution in the 300-400 MW range. A spokesman said the SMRs would typically consist of 170 MW reactors sold in sets of two or more.

The Atomic and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA) said the Nuward SMR project is a joint venture with state-controlled utility EDF, the Paris-based Naval group, and reactor design and maintenance company TechnicAtome, which is based at the CEA nuclear site in Cadarache, southern France.

DOE Awards $80M each to TerraPower, X-Energy for ARDP

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today (10/13/20)) announced it has selected two U.S.-based teams to receive $160 million in initial funding under the new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). ARDP, announced in May, is designed to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the United States.

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

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

Where Do Readers Come from?

In 2020 49% of all readers came from the U.S.  Another 28% of readers came from these countries: Canada, UK, Germany, Australia, Japan, India, France, China.

Later this winter I plan to share analytics data from the syndication site Energy Central / Energy Collective where the same 75 blog posts that appeared here pulled more than 400,000 page views in calendar year 2020.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Japan’s MOX Fuel Plan Gets a Green Light, but Reprocessing Start Delayed for Two Years

  • Japan Struggles to Make Progress with MOX Fuel Program Despite Ambitious Goals
  • DOE ARDP Program Awards $20 million for Advanced Reactor Concepts
  • BWXT to Start $106.6 Million Microreactor Design Project
  • Battelle Energy Alliance and NASA Seek Private Industry Partners to Build Nuclear Power Solutions for Moon Bases
  • Russia’s Roscosmos Starts Development of Nuclear-Powered Space Tug for Flights to Moon, Jupiter, Venus

Japanese Power Companies Line Up for Use of MOX Fuel

mox-fuel-word-cloud(NucNet) The Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) of Japan, which includes 11 operators comprising nine utilities along with Japan Atomic Power Company, and Electric Power Development Co (J-Power), said it was continuing to promote the use of mixed uranium-plutonium (MOX) fuel in nuclear power plants, in line with the Pluthermal Program formulated in June 2009.

A statement said that as circumstances changed in the wake of the Fukushima accident, FEPC continued “to work diligently” to promote MOX fuel “as a critical task.”

Shikoku Electric Power’s Ikata 3, Kyushu Electric Power’s Genkai 3, and Kansai Electric Power’s Takahama 3&4 all began to use MOX when they restarted in the post Fukushima era.

This year Japan saw progress towards the completion of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP) and the MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant (J-MOX), which received approvals by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. FEPC noted this progress somewhat prematurely as within days of the announcement the start date for reprocessing operations was pushed back by two years.  (More on this below)

Based on the Japan Atomic Energy Commission “Basic Principles on Japan’s Utilization of Plutonium” (2018)(PDF file) and respecting the principle of not possessing plutonium without specific purposes, “we will continue to do our utmost to manage the plutonium stockpile appropriately”, the statement said.

Given recent circumstances, and considering each utility’s MOX requirement, FEPC decided on a new Pluthermal Program (PDF file) “in order to manage plutonium stockpiles appropriately on the premise that each utility is responsible for using its own plutonium.”  Note that only a fraction of Japan’s surplus plutonium is located in the country. Most of it has been shipped to the UK and France for reprocessing there.

The program statrement added that,, “we will aim to have at least 12 reactors running on pluthermal use by FY2030.”  This assumes that Japanese utilities can restart the required reactors and qualify all of them to burn MOX fuel which includes approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority.  Adding the MOX fuel to the core is a change in fuel type which requires a modification of the reactor license.

Further Two-year Delay for the Japanese MOX plant

(WNN) Operation of the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant under construction in Rokkasho, in Aomori Prefecture, is now expected about two years later than previously planned. Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) had aimed to complete its construction in the first half of 202, but now expects this in the first half of 2024.

Construction of the MOX fuel fabrication plant began in late 2010. Construction of the plant had previously been delayed by three years from the planned 2007 start by the revision of seismic criteria following  the powerful Niigata-Chuetsu-Oki earthquake.

Construction of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant began in 1993 and was originally expected to be completed by 1997. So far since then Japan has spent close to $30 billion on the combined project of a reprocessing plant and MOX fuel factory.

The facility is based on the same technology as Orano’s La Hague plant in France. Once operational, the maximum reprocessing capacity of the Rokkasho plant will be 800 tonnes per year, according to JNFL. The fuel fabrication plant is expected to be able to produce about 160 tonnes of MOX fuel per year at startup. It is assumed that initially the MOX fuel assemblies will be for PWR reactors.

The Nuclear Reprocessing Organization of Japan (NuRO) requested JNFL to prepare a five-year provisional operation plan for the reprocessing plant and MOX fuel fabrication plant to account for the newest round of delays.

The NuRO is composed of the utilities that own the reactors which are planning to burn MOX fuel. As the fuel will come from spent fuel assemblies created by these utilities, they have a vested interest in seeing the spent fuel turned into MOX fuel rather than having to spend money on dry cask storage perhaps for decades while Japan tries to develop a final disposition plan for it which could include a deep geologic repository.  Given Japan’s history with catastrophic earthquakes, it isn’t clear whether a suitable location will be found.

What’s New in the Plan?

According to several trade press reports, company president Masuda Naohiro said that the five-year provisional plan will document that more time is needed to add additional fireproofing measures. It isn’t clear why these requirements weren’t part of the original design or what happened this late in the construction effort to force the addition of what are likely major new additions for safety throughout the plant.

Japan pluthermal program

Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited process description and flow diagram for production of mixed oxide fuel (web page and large graphic).

Under the latest schedule, completion of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant has been put back to the first-half of 2022 to allow for implementation of safety measures (fire detection and control) at the plant and construction of a new cooling tower. Critics of the project are asking why this infrastructure wasn’t in the original design and why now, so late in the day, it is being added for the first time?

Earlier this month, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) approved the plan for modification of safety measures at the Rokkasho MOX fuel fabrication plant.

Can JNFL Deliver?

The planned operation dates prepared by JNFL are provisional. JNFL said there are two years between reprocessing the spent fuel and pushing fabricated MOX fuel out the door to customers. For example, the estimated production for 2025 is based on the amount of Pu recovered in FY2023.

Reliable fuel services doesn’t seem to have been noted in the company’s comments on the delays. Having the fuel delivered to the customer’s reactor at the exact time of the scheduled outages is a key success factor for MOX production.

Also, the fuel must be fabricated according to the specific requirements of each reactor and in compliance with the safety requirements for its use mandated by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency as embedded in the operating license for each reactor. With all of the new construction taking place, JNFL must still circle back to these hard truths before it ships a single MOX fuel assembly.

Prior Coverage on this blog

DOE ARDP Program Awards $20 million for Advanced Reactor Concepts

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $20 million in awards for the third of three programs under its new Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP )(Large InfoGraphic).

DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) has selected three teams to receive FY20 funding for the ARDP’s Advanced Reactor Concepts-20 (ARC-20) program. ARDP is designed to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the United States.

DOE issued an ARDP funding opportunity announcement in May 2020 which included the ARC-20 awards, the Advanced Reactor Demonstration awards, and the Risk Reduction for Future Demonstration awards. For the ARC-20 projects, DOE expects to invest a total of approximately $56 million over four years with our industry partners providing at least 20 percent in matching funds.

Advanced Reactor Concepts-20 (ARC-20) Projects

The goal of the ARC-20 program is to assist the progression of advanced reactor designs in their earliest phases. DOE has selected three U.S.-based teams to receive ARC-20 funding:

Inherently Safe Advanced SMR for American Nuclear LeadershipAdvanced Reactor Concepts, LLC (Herndon, VA) will deliver a conceptual design of a seismically isolated advanced sodium-cooled reactor facility that builds upon the initial pre-conceptual design of a 100 MWe reactor facility. Total award value over three and a half years: $34.4 million (DOE share is $27.5 million)

Fast Modular Reactor Conceptual Design – General Atomics (San Diego, CA) will develop a fast modular reactor conceptual design with verifications of key metrics in fuel, safety, and operational performance. The design will be for a 50-megawatt electric (MWe) fast modular reactor (FMR). Total award value over three years: $31.1 million (DOE share is $24.8 million).

Horizontal Compact High Temperature Gas Reactor – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (Cambridge, MA) will mature the Modular Integrated Gas-Cooled High Temperature Reactor (MIGHTR) concept from a pre-conceptual stage to a conceptual stage to support commercialization. Total award value over three years: $4.9 million (DOE cost share is $3.9 million) (See this IAEA profile of the R&D effort that preceded the current project.)

“ARDP is significant because it will enable a market for commercial reactors that are safe and affordable to both construct and operate in the near- and mid-term.” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.

“All three programs under ARDP pave the way for the United States to be highly competitive globally.”

Funding for ARDP beyond the near-term is contingent on additional future appropriations, evaluations of satisfactory progress, and DOE approval of continuation applications.

BWXT to Start $106.6 Million Microreactor Design Project

The firm, which several years ago abandoned plans for a 180MWe PWR type SMR, has rejoined the race to market with a new effort to deploy a commercial scale small modular reactor (SMR).

BWXT) announced in December that it has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to lead a $106.6 million microreactor development project. The DOE is contributing $85.3 million to the cost-share project over seven years, with BWXT funding the remaining amount.

The company’s BANR (BWXT Advanced Nuclear Reactor) program will pursue the development of a transportable microreactor with the design focused on advanced TRISO fuel particles to achieve higher uranium loading and improved fuel utilization. TRISO refers to a specific design of uranium nuclear reactor fuel that has many operational and safety benefits.

So far the firm has provided only a few details concerning the conceptual design of the reactor. An image released with the press statement shows an above ground SMR type facility (below). The system components are not labeled.

According to industry trade press reports, the reactor isn’t slated to be completed until the 2030s, The the design uses a high-temperature gas design and TRISO fuel to produce an estimated 50 MWE of thermal energy. BWX is currently working on the reactor jointly with the Idaho National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

bwxt image

BWXT said it will leverage its ability to fabricate TRISO fuel as a source of competitive advantage. As part of the program, BWXT plans to partner with two national laboratories, Idaho National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, to benefit from their extensive experience and capabilities with TRISO fuel and advanced reactor development.

The selection of BWXT Advanced Technologies, LLC was announced by the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy earlier in December under its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), which is designed to help domestic private industry demonstrate commercially viable advanced nuclear reactors in the U.S. The DOE expects to invest approximately $600 million over seven years in the ARDP’s risk reduction pathway.

Battelle Energy Alliance and NASA Seek Private Industry Partners to Build Nuclear Power Solutions for Moon Bases

Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC (BEA), the managing and operating contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and NASA are seeking feedback from leaders in the nuclear and space industries to develop innovative technologies for a fission surface power (FSP) system that can be operated on the moon.

Following up on the request for information issued in July, BEA released a draft request for proposal (RFP) has been released to solicit industry feedback to inform a final RFP that will be released in February. The draft RFP can be viewed here. Responses are sought by January 22, 2021.

Sponsored by NASA in collaboration with the DOE and INL, the draft RFP provides the first phase of technical requirements and work products for an FSP system that can be built, tested, and deployed on the moon and potentially used for subsequent missions.

“Idaho National Laboratory is the nation’s leader in nuclear innovation. By partnering with the private sector to develop a first-of-kind lunar nuclear reactor, the government is advancing the United States’ leadership in both space exploration and advanced nuclear technology,” said Sebastian Corbisiero, senior technical adviser leading the FSP project for INL’s Nuclear Science & Technology Directorate.

For more information on the draft RFP, please visit the FSP website at

Also, interested parties may contact Sebastian Corbisiero at

Program Goals

According to the joint DOE/NASA website, the opportunity to return to the Moon’s surface for human and robotic missions is within reach with the assistance of the Fission Surface Power (FSP) Project—a project working towards providing a power-rich environment that can support lunar exploration.

The FSP project seeks to bring about new capabilities to support a lunar sustainable presence and crewed Mars exploration while providing a near-term opportunity for fabrication, testing, and flight of a space fission system.

Additionally, this program aims to establish inter-disciplinary industry teams to partner with NASA and DOE and bring about new concepts on fission surface power systems and gain valuable insights into barriers and challenges faced by the industry in furthering space nuclear power and propulsion technologies.

Russia’s Roscosmos Starts Development of Nuclear-Powered Space Tug for Flights to Moon, Jupiter, Venus

Russia’s state space corporation Roscosmos has signed a contract to develop nuclear-powered space tug Nuklon for flights to the Moon, Jupiter and Venus. According to a report of Sputnik News, documents released on the public procurement website revealed that Roscosmos had signed a contract worth 4.2 billion rubles ($57.5 million) with Arsenal, the design bureau of St. Petersburg, on December 10.

Roscosmos announced the project to create is a unique space “tug” – a transport and energy module (TEM) (large JPP image)– based on a megawatt-class nuclear power propulsion system (YaEDU), designed to transport goods in deep space, including the creation of long-term bases on the planets. A technical complex for the preparation of satellites with a nuclear tug is planned to be built at Vostochny Cosmodrome and put into operation in 2030.

The space tug is being assembled by KB Arsenal under the project name Transport and Energy Module (TEM.)  The TEM is a nuclear electric spacecraft, designed around a gas-cooled high temperature reactor and a cluster of ion engines.

The contract has been signed for the “development of a preliminary design for the creation of a space system with a nuclear-based transport and energy module (TEM).” Tthe documents showed. Roscosmos had in past disclosed some details about developing a spacecraft fitted with a nuclear power module that would serve as a “tug” for flights to other plants such as the Moon, Jupiter and Venus.

Alexander Bloshenko, Executive Director of Roscomos said in a press statement the nuclear-powered space tug’s first flight will be a full-fledged scientific mission that will deliver a research satellite to the Moon and head for Venus. It will then perform a gravity assist maneuver to head towards Jupiter. The payload also uses solar panels for some of the electrical power needed by the scientific instruments.

The Russian announcement is the latest in a series of commercial efforts, some state sponsored, to develop space tugs.  On this page with your browser search for the term “Russia” to read an extensive technical discussion of the Roscomos design effort and development work to date.

Technical Requirements & Notes

According to the requirements for the nuclear tug, it must ensure “the implementation of a transport operation as part of an orbital complex for the delivery of a payload module weighing up to 10,000 kilograms inclusive from the initial orbit (900km above the Earth’s surface) to the orbit as an artificial satellite of the Moon for a period not exceeding 4800 hours (200 Earth days)”.

Corresponding member of Russia’s Tsiolkovsky Academy of Cosmonautics, Andrei Ionin, told RIA Novosti that he did not see any special problems in such long delivery times. He said the cargo will be sent to the moon in advance, and their delivery by towing will be much cheaper than traditional space vehicles.

He added that systems for transporting people and goods should be separate as they are on Earth. “People do not travel in freight cars, and coal is not transported in passenger cars. While in space, both cargo and people, by and large, are transported by practically the same space systems. People need to be delivered safely and fast. As for cargo, here, the economic efficiency of delivery is important. And you just need to deliver it on time.”

In July, Dmitry Rogozin, Director General of Roscosmos, revealed that the space agency’s an ambitious plan and said it was working on a nuclear propulsion system that would enable heavy cargo spacecraft to travel to the furthest reaches of our Solar system and beyond. In November, Energia, Russia’s rocket and space corporation, also announced that it was working on the development of a new homegrown multi-functional space station.

Russia’s own orbital station will consist of three to seven modules unmanned or with a crew of two to four people, Xinhua news agency had quoted Vladimir Solovyov, first deputy general designer of Energia, as saying. Roscosmos had said that it plans to discuss the operational lifespan of the ISS with NASA early next year.

YouTube video in Russian and English subtitles about the space tug

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Will the UK Govt Take a £20bn Equity Stake in Sizewell?

  • Will the UK Government take an Equity Stake in Sizewell C?
  • DOE Grants $30M to Five US Firms for Advanced Nuclear Reactor Designs
  • Canada Outlines Next Steps for Progress on Small Modular Reactor Technology

Will UK Govt Take a £20bn Equity Stake in Sizewell?

Talks with EDF could lead to energy customers to be charged for construction costs as the Sizewell reactors are being built

(NucNet) The UK government has reignited a contentious debate over over the country’s nuclear energy ambitions by agreeing to restart talks with EDF over plans to build a reactor at Sizewell C in Suffolk.

Money-futures_thumb.jpgFor years successive conservative governments have lived in a fantasy world that hugely expensive nuclear power stations can be completely financed by the private sector with zero public support including rate guarantees.

That dream state came to rude awakening with the decision to build the Hinkely Point C nuclear project (twin EDF 1650 MW EPRs) financed by a combination of a guaranteed sky high rate for electricity (£95/MWh) and a 33% equity stake by Chinese state owned enterprises.

It should not have come as a surprise to anyone that as a result Hitachi walked away from the Wylfa and Oldbury projects, a total of four 1350 MW ABWRs, when the government tried to go down market by offering the Japanese firm a “strike price” that was 20% lower than what it awarded EDF.

Sizewell C is the only nuclear new-build project in the UK that has prospects for going ahead. Three projects – Wylfa, Moorside and Oldbury – have either been cancelled or shelved, largely because of financing problems, while Bradwell remains in the early stages. Two EPR units under construction at Hinkley Point C are the only commercial nuclear plants being built in the UK.

NucNet UK Nuclear 20201208

UK Nuclear New Build – December 2020. Image: NucNet

As a result of these and other policy hiccups, the government appears to be coming to it senses with talks that could lead to the government taking a direct financial stake in the project, and to use the new RAB financial model that would make the public liable for costs as they occur. How much of an equity stake depends in part on whether the project’s Chinese investors stick around. The Chinese government is not happy with UK PM Boris Johnson’s actions on an unrelated telecommunications tender.

The decision to restart formal negotiations with EDF follows a hiatus in talks that have been shadowed by concerns over cost, and the involvement of China General Nuclear Power (CGN), which owns 20% of the project.

The formal negotiations over the £20bn nuclear plant will hinge on whether the French state-owned EDF can prove it has learned cost saving lessons from its Hinkley Point nuclear project in Somerset, and that a successor plant would offer the public value for money.

If the government inks a deal for Sizewell with EDF, the French state-owned nuclear energy conglomerate may be offered a multi-billion-pound deal that allows it to charge energy customers for the cost of construction while it builds the reactor. Critics have come down hard on this aspect of the financial plan saying it puts rate payers on the hook for any delays or cost overruns.

Ed Miliband, Labor’s shadow business secretary, accused the government of “kicking big decisions into touch” and failing to offer a “definitive statement today one way or the other on financing, costs or an overall plan.”  In other words, he doesn’t trust the government’s numbers or the process for getting to them. Then again, throwing shade on the opposition party’s financial plans is part of Miliband’s job description.

The RAB model encourages investment in major infrastructure projects by delivering reliable returns, at a reduced rate, before a plant is operational. This tempers the need for large-scale, long-term borrowing at high interest rates, which significantly increases the cost of power once the power station is commissioned and in revenue service.

The RAB approach is widely used internationally and has attracted investors for the construction of UK infrastructure projects including the Thames Tideway Tunnel and the Heathrow Terminal 5. What is lost sight of in all the sound and fury of the financial debate is that Sizewell C, if built, will spend the next 80 years providing CO2 emission free electricity to a big chunk of the UK demand for electrical power.

Is the UK Nuclear New Build ” still vital” to the Nation?

The decision to restart talks is also expected to reopen a debate over whether nuclear energy can offer good value for money, and whether the UK needs new nuclear reactors to help meet a steep rise in demand for low-carbon electricity to power a boom in electric vehicles, induction heaters, and heat pumps. A basic principles that is sometimes lost sight of, from the perspective of climate change, it makes no sense to ramp up investments in electrification, especially in the transportation sector, if the power comes from fossil fuels.

The government of PM Boris Johnson, which is currently overwhelmed at this time by the country’s COVID19 crisis, for which Johnson’s mismanagement is mostly to blame, says that Sizewell is indeed “a vital next step” in the UK’s efforts to secure new no carbon emission electricity as older nuclear reactors prepare to shut down. The government said in a recent white paper that “an appropriate financing model” would help cut costs and unlock major benefits for the UK economy.

The government said it is also planning to back a new generation of small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) which can be built at a lower cost based on designs capable of being assembled in factories.

The government is offering £215m in funding which is to be cost shared with industry cover design costs for SMRs that can be built in factories rather than “stick built” on site. Also, the government said that in 2021 it would accept applications by SMR vendors for the generic design assessment, which is the safety review carried out by the Office of Nuclear Regulation to license new reactors to be built in the UK. To help bring advanced nuclear technologies to the market, the government will also invest an additional £40m in developing the regulatory frameworks and supporting UK’s supply chain.

The UK Nuclear Industry Association said the government’s decision to enter advanced negotiations with EDF on Sizewell C is “very good news for our environment and our economy.”

Chief executive Tom Greatrex also said Sizewell is “a vital next step towards the net zero power mix we need for the future.”

Is the UK Government Doing Enough to Advance its Nuclear New Build?

In a nutshell, the answer to the question of whether the UK government is back on track to replace its aging fleet of nuclear reactors and keep the lights on after the North Sea oil and gas runs out is mostly a an ambiguous “not yet.”

There are two huge challenges facing the UK government. The first is the role of China in the UK nuclear new build, and the second is the role of current fossil fuel interests who see plans for new nuclear reactors in the UK as a threat to their long term profitability.

China – Chinese state owner enterprises have committed to a 33% equity stake the Hinkley Point C project in return for a promise to be allowed to build one and perhaps as many as three 1000 MWe PWR type reactors at the Bradwell site. These same firms are also committed, in principle, but have not yet written checks, for a 20% equity stake in the Sizewell C project. In return, China is expected to be allowed to build one or more of its reactors at the Bradwell site.

The Hualong One, which is the Chinese domestic design, based on a a Framatome design of the reactors at China’s Daya Bay power station, has all but completed (step 4) the rigorous and expensive General Design Assessment (GDA) process run by the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation.

The problems for the UK in its relations with China, and for the equity investments in nuclear projects, are two fold.

First, China is seriously annoyed that Chinese telecommunications firm Huawei was kicked out of the bidding for the 5G wireless network in the UK over allegations of “security concerns,” but mostly as a result of pressure from the U.S. According to experts that this blog has talked to, the security concerns are legitimate.

Second, the Financial Times reported on 12/11/20 that China has realized it is overextended globally in terms of its global financial commitments for the Belt & Road program and may never recoup a lot of the money it has loaned for various third world infrastructure projects. Some reports have also indicated that domestic economic issues are playing a role in decisions about the future of the program.

While it does not face any deadbeat debtors in the UK, the global economic downturn, caused by the COVID19 crisis, which began in China, has harshly limited the ability of countries that have borrowed heavily from China to repay the loans.

It is probably too late for China to pull out of Hinkley Point, and thus jeopardize the right to build at Bradwell, but Sizewell may or may not be also in the mix. China could potentially pull out of Sizewell and still claim the right to build at Bradwell, but the UK government might not be in a charitable mood if that happens.

Fossil Fuels – Separately, an ongoing challenge to Sizaewell and other nuclear projects in the UK is that oil and gas interests in the UK are undoubtedly doing whatever they can to delay the commitment of government support for new nuclear projects and thus to postpone the inevitable replacement of their fuels with uranium fuel reactors.  Oil and gas interests with resources still to be tapped in the North Sea won’t go quietly in this debate.

Domestic Supply Chains will Create Jobs and Build Support for New Nuclear 

This position of fossil fuel interests in the UK mirrors what is happening with India which has come up against its domestic coal miners as it tries to move ahead with its nuclear new build.

India has to some extent overcome some of the opposition by fossil interests by committing to an indigenous design of a 700 MW PHWR which does not require a reactor pressure vessel (RPV) build by offshore vendors.

All of the major components, and supply chain employment, are of domestic origin which means the tens of thousands of jobs that will be created building 10 of the units in the first wave, and another 7 units in the second, will be Indian workers. This combination of an ‘India first’ emphasis on parts and people is showing results.

Earlier this month India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) approved first concrete for first two of four planned new 700 MW PHWRs at the Gorakhpur site in Haryana. The AERB also announced two new sites for the new PHWRS at the Kaiga nuclear power station in Karnataka. Elsewhere, another seven units are under construction including two 1000 MW Russian VVER at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. By 2032 Indian has a realistic chance of having 15 new nuclear power stations completed representing about 23 GWe.

Separately, Rolls Royce, a UK based defense firm that has built the small reactors that power the UK nuclear navy, is promoting a design of a 440 MW PWR and proposes to build 16 of them.

Taken together, all 16 units would be about equivalent to the Wylfa and Oldbury projects (2.7 GWe each). If successful, it will take 10-15 years for the “fleet” to be built assuming the design is successful and financing for it can be secured by the vendor and its customers.

Like the situation in India, all of the UK domestic supply chain and employment for the Rolls Royce SMRs will be based in the UK. The RPV for the design is small enough that a UK firm, Sheffield Forgemasters, could fabricate them. Significantly, when Westinghouse was still planning to build three 1150 MW AP1000s at Moorside, the firm took an equity stake in Sheffield to firm up its supply chain for the new build.

Sadly for Westinghouse, Toshiba pulled the rug out on Moorside ending for now its ambitions to gain a piece of the market in the UK. A recent exploratory move by Westinghouse, partnered with US construction giant Bechtel, to restart Moorside came with no equity funding to back it.

DOE Grants $30 Million to Five Firms for Advanced Reactor Designs

The US Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) has selected five teams to receive $30 million in initial funding for risk reduction projects under its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). All five of the selected designs have the potential to support vendor ambitions for export sales.

The risk reduction program is one of three development and demonstration elements under the ADRP . The plan is to design and develop safe and affordable reactor technologies that can be licensed and built in the US as well as for export over the next 10 to 14 years.


Risk Reduction for Future Demonstration Projects

The goal of the Risk Reduction program is to design and develop safe and affordable reactor technologies that can be licensed and deployed over the next 10 to 14 years. DOE has selected these five U.S.-based teams to receive cost shared Risk Reduction funding:

  • Hermes Reduced-Scale Test Reactor – Kairos Power, LLC (Alameda, CA) will design, construct, and operate its Hermes reduced-scale test reactor. Hermes is intended to lead to the development of Kairos Power’s commercial-scale KP-FHR (Kairos Power Fluoride Salt-Cooled High Temperature Reactor), a novel advanced nuclear reactor technology that leverages Tri-structural ISOtropic particle fuel (TRISO) fuel in pebble form combined with a low-pressure fluoride salt coolant. The firm projects the 140 MWe reactor might be be ready for commercial operation by 2026. Total award value over seven years: $629 million (DOE share is $303 million)
  • eVinci Microreactor – Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC (Cranberry Township, PA) will advance the design of a heat pipe-cooled microreactor to support a nuclear demonstration unit by 2024. The goal is to have a commercial design by 2030.  The project will serve to reduce technical risks associated with the moderator canister design, improve the ability to manufacture heat pipe wicks, and develop an economically viable refueling process and licensing approach. Westinghouse is reported to be working with LANL, INL, and Texas A&M University to design and fabricate the necessary components to develop a demonstration unit of the micro-reactor. Total award value over seven years: $9.3 million (DOE share is $7.4 million)
  • BWXT Advanced Nuclear Reactor (BANR) – BWXT Advanced Technologies, LLC (Lynchburg, VA) will develop a commercially-viable transportable 50 MW (thermal) microreactor based on an HTGR design focused on using TRISO fuel particles to achieve higher uranium loading and an improved core design using a silicon carbide (SiC) matrix. The BWXT design is aimed at off-grid applications and remote areas. Total award value over seven years: $106.6 million.  (DOE share is $85.3 million)
  • Holtec SMR-160 Reactor – Holtec Government Services, LLC (Camden, NJ) is receiving funding for early-stage design, engineering, and licensing activities to accelerate the development of Holtec’s light water-cooled SMR-160 (small modular reactor).  Holtec is partnering with several industry counterparts, including Mitsubishi Electric Power Products and is also reported to have a collaboration agreement with the INL.  Holtec, which is decommissioning the Oyster Creek nuclear plant, is said to plan to use the site host the first commercial prototype. Total award value over seven years: $147.5 million (DOE share is $116 million)
  • Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment – Southern Company Services, Inc. (Birmingham, AL) will lead a project to design, construct, and operate the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) – the world’s first critical fast-spectrum salt reactor relevant to TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor. Total award value over seven years: $113 million (DOE share is $90.4 million)

“All of these projects will put the US on an accelerated timeline to domestically and globally deploy advanced nuclear reactors that will enhance safety and be affordable to construct and operate,” Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said.

“Taking leadership in advanced technology is so important to the country’s future because nuclear energy plays such a key role in our clean energy strategy.”

DOE expects to invest about $600 million over the next seven years in ARDP, which aims to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the USA.

Update on ARDP Funded Projects

Two projects led by TerraPower and X-energy were selected in October to receive $160 million in initial funding for under its Demonstration projects pathway to develop and construct two advanced nuclear reactors that can be operational within seven years.

Recently, Energy Northwest, which is a partner with the two firms for design and licensing efforts, told a business trade newspaper the plants would be located at the Columbia Generating station, which it owns and operates, near Richland, WA.

The source of Energy Northwest’s confidence that the reactors will be located at a site in Washington is a statement on October 13, 2020, by US Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.

Brouillette said the locations of the two demonstration plants have still to be finalized, but added that “a place like Washington state” was likely. Energy Northwest. Energy Northwest CEO Brad Sawatzke said in response such reactors are a “promising future component” of the company’s resource portfolio.

“Under the partnership agreement Energy Northwest will assist with the licensing of the [X-energy] design, and – if the design is determined to be a viable option for development in Washington – Energy Northwest expects to own and operate the plant,” Energy Northwest said.

ADRP’s third pathway, Advanced reactor concepts 2020, will support innovative and diverse designs with potential to commercialize in the mid-2030s.

ARDP will also leverage the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) at Idaho National Laboratory to test and assess these technologies.

“These projects show the importance of continuous innovation in advanced reactors and NRIC looks forward to working with each of the companies on successful demonstrations,” said Ashley Finan, Director of the NRIC.

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

Canada Outlines Next Steps for Progress on Small Modular Reactor Technology

maple leafSmall modular reactors (SMRs) represent a promising new non-emitting technology that has the potential to produce reliable electricity in Canada, supporting the  country’s transition to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan, released a national SMR Action Plan, which responds to the 53 recommendations identified in Canada’s SMR Roadmap that was launched in November 2018. In Canada 109 businesses and organizations have signed on to support the SMR plan.

Canada’s SMR Action Plan seeks to advance the safe and responsible development and deployment of SMRs through a pan-Canadian approach in partnership with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous peoples, organized labor, utilities, industry, innovators, academia and civil society.

Seamus O’Regan, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources said:

“Canada’s SMR Action Plan is the pan-Canadian result of the collective efforts of governments, Indigenous partners, labour, industry and civil society. Canada can be a world leader in this promising, innovative, zero-emissions energy technology, and this is our plan to position ourselves in an emerging global market.”

“Building on Canada’s nuclear expertise, we are working collaboratively with provincial and territorial leaders to develop SMRs to meet emissions targets while creating economic opportunities for Canadians post-pandemic.”

“This is a long-term play,” O’Regan said.

“We are really looking at SMRs, utilized and deployed, between the years 2030 and 2050, but you’ve got to lay the groundwork for that now.”

He said governments and companies in the United States, China, United Kingdom, France and South Korea are all researching and developing mini-nuclear reactors.

“They are making those steps now, this is a very competitive space now, and if we don’t move on it now then we lose out,” O’Regan said.

The government believes there’s an opportunity to deploy SMRs in remote locations, including in the territories, where diesel generators continue to be a major part of the electricity mix and a large source of emissions in the region.

The Action Plan responds to all 53 recommendations in Canada’s SMR Roadmap and also includes voluntary actions that go beyond the SMR Roadmap recommendations. The four thematic pillars which emerged through the Roadmap process continue to guide our actions:

  • Pillar 1: Demonstration and Deployment, including risk sharing
  • Pillar 2: Policy, Legislation, and Regulation, including nuclear liability, security and waste management
  • Pillar 3: Capacity, Engagement, and Public Confidence, with an emphasis on Indigenous engagement
  • Pillar 4: International Partnerships and Markets, including international enabling frameworks

The action plan enshrines nuclear energy to reduce emissions and transition the country’s electricity mix away from carbon-based energy, but it will face some opposition from the Green Party and the Bloc Quebecois, which favor energy sources such as wind and solar power.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Nuclear Reactors Cost Too Much. Here are Some Ideas to Fix it.

  • New Nuclear Economics Book has an Action Plan for Dealing with Reactor Costs
  • MIT Study Cites Changes to Design and Fabrication as Key Drivers of Overruns
  • EDF Commits to Success Factors on Costs for Next EPRs to Be Built in France
  • Three DOE National Labs Team Up to Get Synergies for Hybrid Energy Systems
  • Kairos Power to Deploy Molen Salt Test Reactor at ORNL site
  • GE-Hitachi Passes NRC Milestones in Licensing Effort for BWRX-300

Nuclear energy is too expensive to build and it is also too important, relative to dealing with climate change, to have its future left to market forces.  Several new efforts address these issues with ideas about how to fix the problem.

Nuclear Economics Book & Action Plan

Ed Kee, at the Washington, DC, based Nuclear Economics Consulting Group, has published a new book, available on Amazon next month, that explains why a market-based electricity industry is killing existing nuclear power plants and stopping new nuclear power plants. In the book he analyses the issue and presents an action plan with multiple recommendations to fix the problem.

MIT Cost Study

Separately, researchers at MIT have published an important new study, which finds that the “stick built” approach to design and construction of new nuclear power plants is one of the reasons these projects wind up with cost overruns. The study says that building more plant components, or even the entire plant, offsite under controlled factory conditions, could substantially cut extra costs. It also called for getting a better grip on design processes to prevent changes after sending the specifications off to suppliers.

A New Nuclear Economics Book Details Cost Issues
and What to Do about Them

According to nuclear energy expert Ed Kee, in his new book, titled. “Market Failure – Market-Based Electricity is Killing Nuclear Power,” he writes that the biggest threat faced by nuclear power is from a market approach to the electricity industry.

This book includes information on the nuclear power and electricity industries, market failure in the nuclear power industry, and some ideas about resolving this market failure.

Electricity industry reforms have led to the early closure of existing nuclear power plants and stopped new nuclear power development. The consequences are already here and more are coming.

In the US, 6,778 MWe of operating nuclear power plant capacity was closed early between 2013 and 2020, an additional 9,162 MWe of operating nuclear power plant capacity is scheduled to close early by the end of 2025, and more US merchant nuclear plants face financial issues that may lead them to close early.

In the market approach to electricity, short-term electricity market prices set the value of commodity electricity, electricity prices define power plant value, and private companies develop and own power plants based on financial returns. This market approach leads to less nuclear power, with the loss of the considerable public benefits that nuclear power provides.  Economists call this a ‘market failure.’

A market approach to electricity will mean fewer nuclear power plants. The public good, e.g., millions of tonnes of CO2 not released into the atmosphere, from these missing nuclear power plants will be lost.

This book explains why nuclear power matters, nuclear power, electricity and electricity reform, the market failure concept, real-world experience with nuclear power, and how nuclear power market failure can be resolved.

Quick Summary of the Book’s Chapters

  • Why Nuclear Power Matters‘ outlines the author’s view of the valuable attributes that should make nuclear power a preferred electricity source.
  • Nuclear Power‘ provides information on the nuclear power industry. It explains industry terminology, nuclear power project development phases, costs of building and operating nuclear power plants, operating modes, industry organization, business models, and key industry risks and issues.
  • Electricity‘ provides information on the electricity industry. Nuclear power plants, almost exclusively, are special-purpose machines that generate electricity. The value of electricity determines the value of nuclear power. The electricity industry has a traditional approach that has been in place for almost a century, and a new industry approach developed during electricity industry reforms started in the 1990s.
  • Market Failure‘ explains market failure, which is when private companies acting in markets fail to maximize the public good. This book is about market failure for nuclear power from a market-based approach to electricity.
  • Nuclear Power in the Real World‘ provides detailed information on nuclear power in the US, the UK, Canada, France, and China. In these five countries, differences in electricity and nuclear power industry approaches lead to very different nuclear power outcomes. This chapter provides clear evidence of market failure.
  • What Can be Done? outlines some actions that could help resolve market failure for nuclear power.
  • A Call to Action‘ explains the urgency and importance of recognizing market failure for nuclear power and taking action to stop it.

Kee’s Call to Action

The book has an extensive list of actions national and state governments can take to stop the further erosion of nuclear energy in the US and elsewhere. Here are just a few of the examples.

ANS Toolkit The 2017 American Nuclear Society Toolkit has a long list of actions focused on the US.  It covers an increased government role, a return to the traditional electricity industry approach, control of negative externalities, payment for nuclear power’s positive externalities, and improved electricity market designs could help resolve nuclear power market failure.

Nuclear In the States Toolkit, Policy Options for states considering the sole of nuclear power in their energy mix, Version 2.0, ANS Special Committee on Nuclear in the States, June 2016.  (PDF file)

Government Build, Own, Operate New government utilities could be formed to purchase, build, own and operate nuclear power plants or to purchase the output of nuclear power plants Governments in market economies could acquire or nationalize existing nuclear power plants to establish a state-owned nuclear power fleet.

Targeted Intervention at the State and National Level State or federal government intervention in the electricity industry and electricity markets could help support existing and new nuclear power.

  • Governments can provide higher and more certain revenue to merchant nuclear power plants than electricity spot markets by requiring government electricity users to buy nuclear electricity under long-term power purchase agreements.
  • Governments might provide credit support or funding for new nuclear power projects. The US DOE loan guarantee program is an example of this. The UK announced in late 2020 that it might make equity investments in new nuclear power plants.
  • Governments could fund nuclear power plant construction with the completed plant sold to the market after commercial operation.
  • Government support for nuclear industrial companies could help form national nuclear power industry champions that could deliver nuclear power plants in their home country and compete with state-owned nuclear industrial companies worldwide.

Nuclear as Critical Public Infrastructure Most countries have a direct government role in national defense, long-distance transportation (e.g., highways, railroads, airports), water, public health, and other sectors. Some countries have government-owned electricity companies, and even in countries with the new market-based electricity industry approach, the transmission system remains regulated or government owned. Designating nuclear power as a critical public infrastructure could be a step toward a more significant government role in supporting the nuclear power industry.

MIT Study Cites Design and Component Fabrication Issues
as Reasons for New-build Cost Overruns

(WNN)  Building nuclear power plants based on existing designs actually costs more, rather than less, than building plants based on new designs, according to a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Rethinking engineering from the outset can help to avoid increased indirect costs.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal Joule in a paper titled “Sources of Cost Overrun in Nuclear Power Plant Construction Call for a New Approach to Engineering Design.” [citation – firewall]

The paper is authored by MIT professors Jessika Trancik and Jacopo Buongiorno, along with Philip Eash-Gates, Magdalena Klemun, Goksin Kavlak and James McNerney.

It is well known that nuclear plant costs in the USA and in global markets have repeatedly exceeded cost estimates. The authors used 50 years of data and “bottom-up” cost modelling to identify the mechanisms behind this widespread problem. Two issues emerged from the review.

  • A counter-intuitive finding is that the team found nth-of-a-kind plants are more costly, not less, expensive than first-of-a-kind plants.”
  • Most of the increases in costs are due to indirect expenses, which are largely due to the the need to make last-minute and costly design changes with downstream impacts on the fabrication of large long lead time and other nuclear-related components as well as non-nuclear elements of the project. Changes in safety regulations account for some cost increases but are not the only factor.

What to Do About Runaway Costs?

Building more plant components, or even the entire plant, offsite under controlled factory conditions, could substantially cut extra costs. This approach is already being advocated for small and modular reactors, which could be completely manufactured off-site.


Larger plants could be designed to be assembled on site from an array of smaller factory-built sub-assemblies. Specific design changes to containment buildings, such as using new kinds of concrete, could also help to reduce costs significantly by reducing the overall amount of material needed. This would cut onsite construction time as well as the material costs.

“[W]e need to be rethinking our approach to engineering design,” Trancik told WNN. “This requires new methods and theories of technological innovation and change.”

The work was supported by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation and the MIT Energy Initiative.

EDF Commits to Success Factors for Next EPR Projects in France

(WNN) France’s EDF has issued plan the aims to enhance the French nuclear industry’s manufacturing quality, boost skills and tighten governance of major nuclear projects.

EDF and Framatome are developing a simplified version of the EPR design, known as EPR2. Its aim is to incorporate design, construction and commissioning experience feedback from the EPR reactor, as well as operating experience from the nuclear reactors currently in service.

areva-epr_thumbThe state-owned firm said it will leverage cost savings methods learned at the UK Hinkley and Sizewell projects which involve the construction of four EPRs for a total of 6.4 Gwe of electrical generating capacity. The firm will also leverage its experience building and commissioning two 1650 MW EPRs at the Taishan site in China.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has called for improvements in the construction methods which lead to cost reductions and to avoid schedule delays for new units. Le Maire told EDF to implement an action plan laying out how it will address skills shortages and other issues that have caused delays and cost increases at new nuclear power plant projects.

The execution of the plan is being overseen by Alain Tranzer, EDF’s executive director for industrial quality and nuclear skills. He reports directly to Jean-Bernard Lévy, the company’s chairman and CEO.

“We intend to achieve results quickly in all companies and plants forming part of the nuclear industry,” Lévy said.

“Our aim is to be up to the mark for our current and future projects both in France, the United Kingdom and in other parts of the world, thereby making nuclear energy an instrumental player in the fight against climate change.”

EDF said the French nuclear industry is making 25 commitments in 2021. These commitments revolve around 5 “cornerstones.”

  • State-of-the-art project governance, with an oversight function for major nuclear new-build projects in order to ensure that each milestone is fully completed.
  • Scaling-up of competencies in France’s nuclear sector, with a focus on the 21,000 professionals joining the industry over the period of 2019 to 2022.
  • The industry’s manufacturing and construction companies will develop a plan for “zero defects”.
  • There will be a supply chain relationship based on more streamlined and result-driven contracts.
  • In a related action, the industry will raise quality and nuclear safety standards through standardization lower costs and insure on-time delivery.

Also, a welding plan has been established to address specific competency and quality challenges, EDF noted. This plan will support the training and qualification of welders working on nuclear projects.


Three DOE National Labs Team Up to Get Synergies for Hybrid Energy Systems

Future novel hybrid energy systems could lead to paradigm shifts in clean energy production, according to a paper published last week in a major energy journal (abstract)

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) three applied energy laboratories—Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)—co-authored the paper describing such integrated energy systems.

Their effort outlines novel concepts to simultaneously leverage diverse energy generators—including renewable, nuclear, and fossil with carbon capture—to provide power, heat, mobility, and other energy services.

The new effort presents an objective new framework for engineering-based modeling and analysis to support complex optimization of energy generation, transmission, services, processes and products, and market interactions.

Hybrid Energy Systems

The study outlines a viable path forward for hybrid energy systems. Such systems are capable of leveraging multiple energy sources to maximize the value of each. They do this by creating higher-value products, delivering lower-emission energy to industry, and better coordinating demand with energy production.

The paper describes an example of the multi-input, multi-output nature of these systems: a hypothetical, tightly coupled industrial energy park that uses heat and electricity from highly flexible advanced nuclear reactors, small-scale fossil generators, and renewable energy technologies to produce electricity and hydrogen from electrolysis.


“In this scenario, depending on market pricing, electricity and or heat could be sold into the grid, used on-site, or stored for later distribution and use,” said David C. Miller, NETL’s senior fellow for Strategic Systems Analysis & Engineering and co-author of the article.

Furthermore, the output streams could also be used to produce hydrogen or other valuable chemicals and products.”

This flexibility could provide an abundant supply of clean energy for a larger net-zero-emission energy system. Such systems could support sectors of the economy that are more difficult to decarbonize, such as industry and transportation.

“Considering complementary attributes among various energy technologies opens up new opportunities for asset use optimization that meet multiple energy services and maximize economic value,” said Douglas Arent, NREL’s executive director for Strategic Public-Private Partnerships and the study’s lead author.

“The design of integrated energy systems is a significant challenge—and opportunity,” INL Director Mark Peters said.

“The collaboration by the three applied national laboratories, and the setup and operation of real-world experiments at their testing facilities, represents a comprehensive and focused effort that is transparent and objective. This work will help realize future advanced energy systems that should help our nation expand affordable energy options and significantly contribute to wide-scale decarbonization efforts.”

Kairos Power to Deploy Fluoride Salt-Cooled High-Temperature
Test Reactor at Oak Ridge

Kairos Power announced this week it plans to deploy a test reactor at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, pending completion of due diligence and the results of discussions with state and local officials.

Kairos reactor conceptual design

“Simulating a Salt-Cooled Reactor for Safety” by By Fatih Sinan Sarikurt, CFD & Thermal Fluids Engineer, Kairos Power, Alameda, U.S.A. Ansys Advantage Magazine, Vol 14, Issue 1, 2020

“We are thrilled at the prospect of coming to East Tennessee,” said Michael Laufer, Co-Founder and CEO of Kairos Power.

“The infrastructure available at ETTP, combined with its proximity to key collaborators at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory makes this a great location to demonstrate our technology.”

“The Oak Ridge Corridor will be a great location for Kairos Power,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said.

“The national lab has a number of efforts under way to advance nuclear technologies, including world-class capabilities in molten salt reactors. We have worked with Kairos Power in the past and are pleased that they selected the ETTP site for this project.”

Kairos Power has executed a Memorandum of Understanding with Heritage Center, LLC, to acquire the cleaned up former K-33 gaseous diffusion plant site at ETTP, subject to ongoing due diligence evaluations.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor
Achieves U.S. Licensing Milestone at NRC

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) announced that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a Final Safety Evaluation Report for the first of several licensing topical reports (LTRs) that have been submitted for the BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR). (See docket number 99900003 in NRC ADAMS)

The LTR, which was submitted to the NRC in December 2019, forms the basis for the dramatic simplification of the BWRX-300. Two additional LTRs were submitted in early 2020 and GEH anticipates the review of these LTRs will be completed in the coming months. A fourth LTR was submitted in September 2020. GEH expects such LTRs to serve as a foundation for the development of a Preliminary Safety Analysis Report that could potentially be submitted to the NRC by a utility customer.

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s U.S. NRC-certified ESBWR.

Through dramatic design simplification, GEH said in its press statement that the it projects the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared to other water-cooled SMR designs or existing large nuclear reactor designs.

The firm noted in its press statement that as the tenth evolution of the Boiling Water Reactor (BWR), “the BWRX-300 represents the simplest, yet most innovative BWR design since GE began developing nuclear reactors in 1955.”

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Posted in Nuclear | 4 Comments

UK to Invest $700M in SMRs as Part of 10 Point Plan

  • Boris Johnson’s 10 Point Plan is Missing a Few Points
  • Idaho Site Selected for DOE Versatile Test Reactor
  • Bipartisan Legislation Offered To Revitalize Nuclear Energy Industry
  • Danish Nuclear Lands $24 million for First Asian Reactor
  • Czech PM Signals Delay in $7 Billion Nuclear Reactor Project

UK to Invest $700M in SMRs as Part of 10 Point Plan


UK PM Boris Johnson is seeking to create a “green industrial revolution.” While it represents a start, it will also be seen as an effort that falls far short of the financial commitment needed for success to keep the lights on in the next decade.

His ten point plan, which contains promises of up to £12 billion of government investment, has four small parts for nuclear energy. The vast bulk of the promised spending for the total package is expected to come from as yet uncommitted industry agreements. Of that amount, just £300 million in industry marched funding will be allocated for small modular reactors (SMRs.) [UKGov’t source documents]

The ten points include: offshore wind; hydrogen; nuclear; electric vehicles; public transport; ‘Jet Zero’ and greener maritime; homes and public buildings; carbon capture; nature; innovation and finance.

While these are all reasonable areas for future “green” investments to decarbonize the economy, the UK is facing a long-term and significant crisis in terms of electricity generation capacity.

Of 17.5 GWe of nuclear power planned to replace the country’s aging nuclear fleet, almost all of which is expected to be in D&D status by 2028, only one-third of the new capacity is actually launched as live projects. The other two-thirds represent either failed or conflicted efforts to come off the drawing boards.

Another issue is that further extraction of North Sea oil and gas has been hampered by record low prices caused by the economic effects of the COVID19 pandemic. Some estimates are that as much as one-third of the remaining fossil fuel reserves may never come out of the ground unless or until oil prices return to levels prior to the onset of the COIVID19 virus crisis.

Status of the UK Nuclear New Build

At $5 billion a GWe, the UK has yet to figure out how to fund roughly 11 GWe or, at $5K/Kw, a minimum of $55 billion in new nuclear electric generation capacity. If the costs come in at closer to $6.5K/Kw, the unfunded financial outlook for nuclear reactor construction costs rise to almost $72 billion. Every year of delay adds more uncertainty for supply chains, and having available skilled workers to build the projects, along with the eventual effects on the price of electricity charged to consumers.

The British PM clearly has other budget priorities on his mind with a recent announcement of a proposed $22 billion increase in defense spending. The increase in defense spending, if applied to the nuclear new build, would cover the cost of either the Wylfa or Oldbury projects. That said, here is a blow-by-blow status report of the sad shape of the UK nuclear new build.

> Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C, representing 6.4 GWe of electrical power, are expected to be completed in the late 2020s and early 2030s, respectively, depending on the scope of schedule delays and resulting cost overruns that are predicted for these projects. They represent 36% of the UK’s planned new build.

> The Wylfa and Oldbury projects, 2.7 Gwe each, were unceremoniously ditched by Japan’s Hitachi earlier this year due to the inability of Johnson’s government to commit to an equity position in the projects, and failure to execute a program of “pay as you go” financing under the much discussed RAB finance mechanism. Also, Johnson’s government low balled the rate guarantee or “strike price” offered to Hitachi for Wylfa compared to what it offered EDF at Hinkley Point C by nearly £20/KwH. An added complication, cited by Hitachi, is the looming BREXIT deadline for the UK’s departure from the European Union.

A consortium of Westinghouse, Bechtel, and other firms is reported to be in talks with the government to take over the Wylfa project. Unless Johnson’s government has a major change of policy, and opens its checkbook to significant equity financing and competitive rate guarantees, the plans for new reactors at Wylfa and Oldbury will remain in limbo.

Adherence to a fantasy policy that the risk of financing nuclear energy projects can be carried by the private sector could create a future for the UK characterize by rolling brown outs not unlike what has happened to Eskom in South Africa with the resulting impacts on the country’s economy and employment.

> The Moorside project, at 3.3 Gwe, was to be a crown jewel for Westinghouse after building and commissioning four 1150 MWe AP1000s in China. However, the financially catastrophic cancelation of the V C Summer project in South Carolina, combined with the withdrawal of Toshiba, which owned Westinghouse at the time, from the nuclear industry shattered hopes for progress on this project.

Westinghouse was forced into a painful bankruptcy that caused it to withdraw from Moorside even though it had invested in the long and costly UK generic design assessment to allow its AP1000 reactors to be built in the UK. Westinghouse was purchased by a Canadian private equity fund, but there has been no public indication the firm, with its new owner, wants to take a second bite at the Moorside apple.

> The Bradwell site, which could be either 2.0 or 3.0 GWe, was offered by the UK to Chinese state-owned enterprises to be built using a Chinese indigenous design in return for China’s equity investments in Hinkley Point C (33%) and Sizewell C (20%).

Relations between China and the UK have been testy of late due to PM Johnson’s ejection seat politics regarding a Chinese telecommunications firm that wanted to bid on the UK 5G wireless network. UK and other western firms convinced Johnson to boot the firm off the tender over allegations of “security issues.”

For its part, the Chinese firms desperately want the chance to build their domestic design of a 1000 MW PWR, known as the Hualong One [IAEA Profile], in a western nation and the UK is still their best shot at doing do.

hualong one profile

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

The reactor has reached stage 4 of the UK Generic Design Assessment and is on its way, from a regulatory perspective, to be ready to be built at the Bradwell site.

China is unlikely to quit the UK nuclear build over the telecommunications contract snub, but it has put up a noisy front through diplomatic channels about it annoyance over the issue.

Overall, the UK has a long way to go in terms of investment in nuclear energy before it can credibly claim to be driving a “green revolution” in that country.

UK Treasury Advocates for Investments in Nuclear Energy


In a late breaking development November 25th, World Nuclear News reported that the UK Treasury said it is important to unlock government financing for large-scale nuclear projects in addition to Hinkley Point C (HPC) if the country is to meet its net-zero by 2050 target.

This assessment rejects the advice of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) two years ago that the government should not agree support for more than one nuclear power station beyond HPC, before 2025. Until this change, PM Johnson had been adhering to the NIC line which matched the fiscal conservatism of his ruling party in Parliament.

In the policy paper, the ministry said, “Nuclear is a proven, value-for-money source of reliable low carbon power which can complement renewables. The government is pursuing large-scale nuclear projects, subject to clear value for money for both consumers and taxpayers and all relevant approvals, with further details to follow in the Energy White Paper.”

“Last year, the government consulted on a nuclear Regulated Asset Base (RAB). Alongside considering the RAB model, the government will also continue to consider the potential role of government [equity] finance during construction.”

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association, UK’s Nuclear Industry Association commented on the Treasury’s assessment of new nuclear.

“It is right that the UK government have rejected [NIC Chairman] John Armitt’s group in clear and stark terms – nuclear alongside other low-carbon technologies will be required to decarbonize, and it was never a sound position to suggest otherwise. The focus now must be on delivering the infrastructure required to meet net zero – and avoiding wasting further time, effort and attention in seeking to pit low carbon technologies against each other.”

The Treasury paper said that it expected the government “to move forward with a “response for financing new nuclear in due course.”

Funding for Small Modular and Advanced Reactors

According to the UK 10 point plan, the scope of investment in nuclear energy includes specific line items for small modular reactors (SMRs):

  • About £385 million in an Advanced Nuclear Fund, which includes £215 million for small modular reactor early development work through the UK SMR consortium.
  • About £170 million for an R&D program on advanced modular reactors (technologies to be determined) with an objective of having a first of a kind demonstration unit by the early 2030s. The cost of the demonstration reactor would likely be at least 10 times this initial level of funding.
  • The plan has an additional £40 million to develop the regulatory frameworks and support spinning up the UK supply chains for new reactor designs.

Starting next year the UK SMR Consortium is pinning its hopes on the Rolls-Royce 440MW PWR. Tom Samson, interim CEO for the UK SMR consortium, said in a press statement that he welcomed the government’s funding.

The consortium will raise, initially, about £300 million in new capital to deliver a fully-engineered solution with regulatory approval. The consortium of Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.

Rolls-Royce and TWI are developing a 440MW factory-built SMR. The consortium’s ambition is to deliver a fleet of 16 reactors across multiple sites in the UK. At $5K/Kw, the 7 GWe of electrical power associated with the planned build out would cost a minimum of $35 billion, or ten times the initial equivalent of Series A investment, over a decade or longer time frame.

Other UK Small Modular Reactors

The following SMR developers have expressed interest in UK development. Some of them are also pursuing opportunities in the UK, Canada, and the US. Briefly, this is what is known about their proposals.

  • Westinghouse is developing a 225MWe PWR based on technologies in its AP1000 design. In 2014 the firm abandoned a similar effort citing the lack of market opportunities. An alliance with Ameren, US nuclear utility in Missouri, ended when the utility over reached lobbying the state legislature to change state law to allow ratepayers to cover the costs of construction on a “pay as you go” basis. In 2015 Westinghouse restarted is SMR efforts with an eye on offering its SMR to Poland to replace coal fired power plants.
  • NuScale Power is developing a 50MWe PWR designed to be deployed in clusters of up to 12 per site. It has also announced planned power upgrades to the design, but has not yet submitted these plans to the NRC for safety design review. In the US NuScale and its customer UAMPS have been busy firming up commitments by ratepayers and holding the line on the expected costs of electricity to be generated by the first 12-unit plant to be built in Idaho. A target price of $55/MWh has been aired by UAMPS.
  • Urenco is leading development of an ultra-small design called U-Battery. Based on pebble bed technology, each reactor will produce just 4MWe plus 10MWt. Target markets include back-up power, desalination plants and smart cities.
  • China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is also adapting Westinghouse AP1000 technology for its ACP100 SMR, with an output of 100MWe plus 310MW thermal power which can be used in district heating schemes. CNNC started a demonstration site in 2019 for district hearing using the two AP1000 units at the Haiyang site in Fujian province.
  • Moltex Energy, a privately-held UK company, is developing a 150MWe stable salt reactor, designed for modular deployment in clusters of up to 10 units per site. Moltex is involved in a “bake off” in New Brunswick province in Canada to test the economic and technical viability of its design.
  • GF Nuclear is an independent power generation company which aims to develop the South Korean 100MWe Smart reactor in the UK. GF Nuclear says it will localize some elements of the supply chain in the UK though this plan may come in for stiff resistance from South Korean heavy industries. South Korea has a credible shot at selling the 100 MW SMART SMR to Saudi Arabia once oil prices recover if and when the COVID19 virus crisis abates.

As things stand now the SMR end of the UK nuclear new build has a clear opportunity to mature into funded projects, but there are a lot of “ifs,” and the biggest one remains the question of whether and how the UK government will lend it a hand.

Idaho Site Selected for DOE’s Versatile Test Reactor

The Department of Energy says that the Idaho National Laboratory is its preferred choice for a new advanced versatile test reactor (VTR). The project, which is expected to cost between $3-6 billion, has been sought by several DOE labs including Oak Ridge and Argonne. The confirmation of the designation came only after the Associated Press called the agency for clarity about it.

The U.S. Department of Energy said the site at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) will be listed as its preferred alternative in a draft environmental impact statement planned for release in December. The final environmental impact statement (FEIS) is due in 2021, followed by a record of decision to select the site. The actual physical site at the Idaho lab for the VTR has not been officially selected, and won’t be until after the FEIS is done. A reasonable guess is for a site located near the current Advanced Test Reactor.


If built, the VTR will become the long sought “anchor facility” for INL that will serve as a nexus for nuclear R&D funding at the INL for decades to come.

According to DOE the Versatile Test Reactor, or VTR, would give the US a dedicated “fast-neutron-spectrum” testing capability. Russia is building a similar R&D capability and a global race is on between the US and Russia to signup other nations to test their advanced designs. DOE has an aggressive schedule, subject to congressional funding, to complete the VTR by 2025.

“The Versatile Test Reactor continues to be a high-priority project for DOE to ensure nuclear energy plays a role in our country’s energy portfolio,” Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said.

advanced nukes

DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy established the VTR program in 2018 in response to (NEICA), which called for a reactor-based fast neutron source to be in place in the mid-2020s.

nric logo

The VTR will be operated by the National Reactor Testing Center. Its mission is to accelerate the demonstration and deployment of advanced nuclear energy, to empower innovators, and deliver successful outcomes.

NRIC is is a national Department of Energy program led by Idaho National Laboratory, allowing collaborators to harness the world-class capabilities of the U.S. National Laboratory System. NRIC is committed to demonstrating advanced reactors by the end of 2025.

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Revitalize Nuclear Energy Industry

(NucNet) Four senators have introduced bipartisan legislation to revitalize the US’s nuclear infrastructure in a move they say will enable leadership in the industry, preserve the nuclear fuel supply chain, reduce carbon emissions and strengthen the country’s economic, energy and national security.

doe logo

The bipartisan legislation, the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act of 2020, was introduced by the Republican John Barrasso (R-WY), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Barrasso said the legislation will strengthen US energy and national security.

“In the face of Russian and Chinese aggression, it’s critical we remain the world’s leading developer of nuclear energy technology.”

The bill supports the continued operation of the US’s existing reactors and sets the stage to deploy advanced nuclear technologies. It will also ensure that the fuel for nuclear plants comes from the US or its “trusted allies.”

Sen. Barrasso said Russia has flooded the global uranium market with cheap nuclear fuel. This costs jobs in the state he represents, Wyoming, and undercuts domestic producers. Wyoming has significant uranium deposits, but the mines there have been suffering from the low price of yellowcake.

According to a summary of the proposed legislation from Barrasso’s office, the bill would require the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to review the permitting process for nuclear reactors, create new incentives for developing certain types of reactor projects and keep reactors that might otherwise shut down open as part of a “carbon emissions avoidance program.”

It would bar the import of nuclear fuel from Russia or China. Separately, it would let Japanese or South Korean firms, or those from NATO countries, to obtain a license for a nuclear facility in the United States if the NRC approves one.

It would create a national strategic uranium reserve and require the NRC and U.S. Department of Energy to work on the development of high-assay low-enriched (HALEU) uranium, which is expected to be used in small advanced reactors.

The legislation would make the permitting process for advanced nuclear designs more predictable and efficient and incentivize the deployment of next generation reactor technologies.

On existing nuclear plants, the legislation authorizes a credit program to preserve nuclear reactors that could prematurely shut down.

The civilian nuclear energy industry has long argued that nuclear energy’s contribution to energy security and grid stability should be rewarded. The Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute has said nuclear energy’s attributes, including resiliency and reliability, are not being fairly valued in the market.

Six commercial nuclear plants have shut down in the US since 2013 and 12 more are scheduled to retire within seven years.

The American Nuclear Society (ANS) said in a press statement that it supports the bill.

“Taken together, we believe this legislation would provide an expanded set of policy tools for ushering in a new generation of advanced reactors needed for deep decarbonization in the U.S. and around the world.”

ANS noted the provisions empowering the NRC to incentivize the commercial use of new reactor designs and the development of advanced nuclear fuels, lead international forums to develop regulations on advanced reactor designs, reduce “unnecessary regulatory barriers” and “establish a more predictable and efficient permitting process.”

NEI Calls for Reprocessing of Spent Nuclear Fuel

Reuters reported that the the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is now advocating that reprocessing of nuclear waste could the problem of spent fuel which is now sitting at the nations reactors.

The statement comes more than a year after the Department of Energy (DOE) shut down the construction of a spent fuel reprocessing plant in South Carolina that was to produce mixed oxide fule (MOX) (U238/U235/PU239) for use in commercial reactors. DOE took the action after a string of delays and cost overruns that raised doubts whether the plant would ever be completed.

“Reprocessing is a very interesting part of the solution set,” Maria Korsnick, the head of the Nuclear Energy Institute, said during an interview with Reuters. She said the technology “would be really closing the fuel cycle in a very useful way” because it squeezes more energy from the waste that cannot be used when it is disposed permanently.

Efforts are underway to develop two interim spent fuel storage sites, one in Texas and the other in New Mexico. The governors of both states are wary of these plans because they fear the sites will become, de facto, permanent storage sites.

On reprocessing, France has demonstrated it can be done safely, Korsnick said. “These are all conversations that we would have to step through as we design our final solution,” she said. “I’m confident that we have the technological expertise to do this well.”

Danish Nuclear Startup Lands $24 Million for First Asian Reactor

The firm Seaborg Technology AS, a Danish company, is planning to manufacture small modular reactors. It reportedly has raised about 20 million euros ($24 million) to bring a floating nuclear-power station to southeast Asia.

Last year, Russia floated a two small reactors on a barge to power remote Arctic sites. Seaborg raised the money to update the concept for parts of southeast Asia that are currently relying on fossil fuels for power and where renewables aren’t yet an option.

Seaborg envisions building its molten-salt reactors in South Korean shipyards after developing the technology in Denmark in a bid to keep costs down. Completed barges will then be towed to where they’re needed. The plan is to connect the first unit to a grid by 2025.

seaborg product pipeline

“We will provide a significantly cheaper alternative to coal in regions with no access to renewable energy,” said Troels Schonfeldt, chief executive officer of Seaborg. Applications include taking advantage of process heat from the reactor in addition to its role to provide electricity.

Each barge can be outfitted with 200MWe units and as many as three at a time. The money, raised from mostly private investors including fashion billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, will be used to hire about 50 people and build a state of the art laboratory, Schonfeldt said.

Czech PM Signals Delay in $7 Billion Nuclear Reactor Project

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has all but pulled the plug, again, on the country’s efforts to build new nuclear reactors at the Dukovany site. He said the country isn’t yet ready to start a tender for a new nuclear reactor.


Last July state-controlled CEZ and the government signed a contract providing price guarantees and financial help in the form of equity investment. A tender was due by the end of this year.

Babis sited problems with getting approval from the EU, due to opposition from Austria, and political problems associated with an upcoming election.

The plan had been that CEZ should pick vendor and EPC by the end of 2022 and the construction should by complete in about six to eight years. The tender was to have included a provision that CEZ would have the the right to pull out of the project give it back to the government if the vendor ran into trouble building the reactor.

CEZ estimated the planned 1,200 MW unit would cost about 6 billion euros ($7.1 billion) in today’s prices, more than a half of its market capitalization. In short, it is a ‘bet the company’ project which made its director nervous.

The Bloomberg wire service reported that postponing the government’s decision until after the parliamentary elections next fall could push back the rest of the timetable, according to Martin Cakl, an analyst at brokerage Patria Finance AS in Prague.

“It’s hard to say whether a possible delay would be positive or negative for CEZ shares,” Cakl said. “Overall, investors find the project troubling.”

This would be the second time CEZ pulled the rug out from under a tender for new nuclear power. In 2014 the utility first downsized an ambitious $25 billion plan for new reactors at Dulovany and Temelin, and then cancelled a downsized tender that kicked France’s Areva out of the running leaving Rosatom and Westinghouse to learn they were just wasting their time.

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Dan’s Idaho Nuclear Chili Recipe

This is a Thanksgiving tradition now published for the 14th 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, and now “world famous” 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.

Remember, good chili requires good beer. Do not cook with “light” beer. It’s a very bad idea! Your dinner guests will not forgive you. 😦

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. Other choices for drinking include local western favorites such as Moose Drool or Black Butte Porter, and regional amber ales like Alaskan Amber or Fat Tire.

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

History and Culture Behind 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 the UP main line in 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.


Another thing about the name “Scoville” is that during this era the ‘Cold War’ with Russia was in high gear so anything involving the transport of nuclear materials, like spent fuel from U.S. Navy ships and submarines, got an operational security cover name.

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.


On a clear winter morning, before the sun rises, as the bus heads toward the site in its 45 minute trip west on US 20, and reaches the top of the rise to Signal Hill, a rider can see the lights of facilities of the Idaho lab strung out across the desert like a sting of pearls, or, like cities on the earth as seen from the International Space Station.

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. Electricity was generated for the first time by a nuclear reactor on December 20, 1951, at the EBR-I experimental station near Arco, Idaho, which initially produced about 100 kW.


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 is ‘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 action 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. Add shredded sharp cheddar cheese over it,  and have something cold and sweet for dessert. Enjoy.

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

1 lb chopped or ground beef (15-20% fat)
large yellow onion
1 sweet red, orange or yellow pepper
1 sweet green pepper
10-12 medium size mushrooms, chopped into small pieces
1 can pinto beans (plain, no “chili sauce”), drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 can chopped tomatoes, drained
1 can small, white ‘shoepeg” corn, drained
1 12 oz can beer
1 cup hot beef broth, instant is ok
1 tablespoon cooking sherry, brandy; or, bourbon
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 teaspoon cilantro


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 in winter, put it out here to cool off.
5. Reheat the next day. Garnish with shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Serve with cornbread and beer.
6. Feeds 2-4 adults.


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

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Rolls-Royce Enlists Exelon to Help Deploy 16 440MW PWR

  • Rolls Royce Inks MOU with Excelon for 440MW Reactors in UK
  • Rolls-Royce Signs New Build Nuclear Energy MOU with CEZ
  • NuScale Bumps Up Power Rating of its SMR
  • Holtec Accelerates US NRC Design Certification for SMR-160
  • UK / US Consortium In Talks To Take Over Wylfa Development
  • Multinational Team to Develop MSR-based Marine Reactor

Rolls-Royce Enlists Exelon to Help Deploy 16 440MW PWRs

rolls royve logoRolls-Royce and Exelon Generation have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to pursue the potential for Exelon Generation to operate compact nuclear power stations both in the UK and internationally. Exelon Generation will be using their operational experience to assist Rolls Royce in the development and deployment of the UKSMR.

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.

The consortium is working with its partners and UK Government to secure a commitment for a fleet of factory built nuclear power stations, each providing 440MW of electricity, to be operational within a decade, helping the UK meet its net zero obligations.

A fleet deployment in the UK will lead to the creation of new factories that will make the components and modules which will help the economy recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and pave the way for significant export opportunities as well. Rolls-Royce has touted the plan for its ability to create thousands of new jobs.

The consortium members feature the best of nuclear engineering, construction and infrastructure expertise in Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Rolls-Royce and TWI. Exelon will add valuable operational experience to the team.

Tom Samson, interim Chief Executive Officer of the UKSMR consortium, said: “Nuclear power is central to tackling climate change and economic recovery, but it must be affordable, reliable and investable and the way we manufacture and assemble our power station brings its cost down to be comparable with offshore wind.

The power stations will be built by the UKSMR consortium, before being handed over to be operated by power generation companies. Exelon Generation will work closely with the consortium during the pre-operation period. Exelon Nuclear operates 21 nuclear reactors in America. Rolls-Royce has already signed a number of MoU with overseas utilities and organizations to cooperate on SMRs.

16 PWRs by the Numbers

The Rolls Royce plant is a mid -size reactor in the same power range as early versions of the CANDU type reactors built for India. The PWR design will have the advantage of being able to get a supply chain in place without a lot of custom fabrication of components and fuels.

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)

Funding Scenarios

Getting funding for 16 of these units is an entirely different story. Assuming the plants cost $4,000/Kw, a 440 MW(e) unit will require $1.76 billion. So, 16 units, absent calculations for inflation or factory production cost savings, over time, will cost $28.2 billion providing just over 7 GW(e) of electrical power.

The UK has had multiple setbacks in it grand plan for deploying fully size reactors. Moorside (three Westinghouse AP1000s or 3.3 GW(e), Wylfa (two Hitachi ABWRs or 2.7 GW(e), and Oldbury (two Hitachi ABWRs or 2.7 GW(e) have all hit the brakes over the UK government’s inability to come to terms with the need for robust financial plans to pay for the projects.


Conceptual drawing of a Rolls Royce 440MW PWR plant. Image: Rolls Royce.

If all of these plants had been built, they would have had a cumulative effect of adding 8.7 GW(e) of electrical power to the UK grid at a cost of $34.8 billion.

It follows that the Rolls Royce plan at $28.2 billion for 7 GW(e) of power comes close and might be easier to execute assuming factory production of major long lead time components gets an early start.

The consortium says the first of these modular plants could be up and running in 10 years, after that it will be able to build and install two a year.

Government Dithers while the Planet Burns

The sticking point has been the political decision making, or lack of it, by the UK government over taking equity positions in new nuclear projects and paying vendors that are building the plants on a cost/performance basis, e.g., pay as you go rather than turnkey payment on completion. Also, while the government has talked a lot about the so-called RAB method, it hasn’t put a policy in place to use it. So far the government has put up about $20M for design work on the 440 MW unit.

What is a regulated asset base funding model? A RAB model is used to incentivize private investment into public projects by providing a secure payback and return on investment for developers. Within this mechanism, energy companies manage the infrastructure project, taking ownership of the assets and operating costs. It has been used successfully in the UK for very large civil infrastructure projects and is being considered as a model finance mechanism by other countries.

The UK SMR Consortium said it is working with its partners and UK Government to secure a financial commitment for a fleet of factory built nuclear power stations in the UK, with exports of the design being explored in tandem. The government has said it will issue a revised policy on nuclear energy soon, but has been distracted by a rapid rise on cases of the COVID19 virus.

According to the BBC, PM Boris Johnson is rumored to be planning to take a big policy decision on nuclear power. His government has always said new nuclear is going to be a key part of Britain’s future energy system. According to the BBC, Johnson will the long-discussed new large nuclear plant at Sizewell in Suffolk the go-ahead.PM Johnson is expected to say these investments are essential if the UK is going to meet its promise to decarbonize the economy by 2050 as part of the worldwide effort to tackle climate change.

UKSMR is pitching its PWR concept reactor as a UK solution to the global challenge of tackling climate change and says there will be a vast export market as the world starts to switch to low carbon energy.

GDR Awaits for Rolls Royce

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.

Rolls-Royce Signs New Build Nuclear Energy MOU with CEZ

Rolls-Royce and CEZ have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the potential for compact nuclear power stations, known as small modular reactors (UKSMR), to be built in the Czech Republic.

Daniel Beneš, Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO of CEZ, said: “New energy solutions and technologies play an important role in our business and we have been focusing on small modular reactors for quite some time now, especially in our top research company UJV Rež.

In the future, they can be an important alternative that we cannot ignore. The partnership with Rolls-Royce and other global companies is therefore a logical step in our endeavor.”

CEZ, which is the state-owned nuclear electric utility, has plans to build a 1200 MW nuclear plant at its Dukovany site.  CEZ will launch the tender for a supplier, the result of which should be known at the end of 2022.

Rolls-Royce is leading the UK SMR Consortium, Its plans include a standardized, factory-made components and advanced manufacturing processes to push down costs; and the rapid assembly of the modules inside a weatherproof canopy at the power station site itself speeds up schedules.

NuScale Bumps Up Power Rating of its SMR

Based on new analyses, the NuScale Power Module is able to increase its power output to 77 MWe and offer power plants with multiple units in 300-460 MWe ranges to meet varying power needs of customers

NuScale Power announced that through further value engineering efforts, using advanced testing and modeling tools, NuScale analyzed and concluded that the NuScale Power Module (NPM) can generate an additional 25 percent more power per module for a total of 77 MWe per module (gross), resulting in about 924 MWe for the flagship 12-module power plant.


Additionally, NuScale is announcing options for smaller power plant solutions in four-module (about 308 MWe) and six-module (about 462 MWe) sizes.

“Without impacting the unparalleled safety of our design, our engineers have proven yet again that NuScale’s technology is first-class, and can offer significant cost-savings and customization at a level yet to be seen in the nuclear energy market,” said NuScale Power Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins.

Increasing the power generating capacity of a 12-module NuScale small modular reactor (SMR) plant by an additional 25 percent lowers the overnight capital cost of the facility on a per kilowatt basis from an expected $3,600 to approximately $2,850. As NuScale has yet to build any units, this number is probably based on factory production of reactors after the first of a kind (FOAK) is completed.

NuScale claims for its change to the design to offer smaller power plant solutions will give NuScale customers more options in terms of size, power output, operational flexibility, and cost. The firm says he increased power output comes without any major changes to the NPM technology. They will also have a smaller and innovative footprint with a focus on simplifying construction, reducing construction duration (schedule) and lowering costs.

This new solution allows NuScale to support a larger cross-section of customer needs including power for small grids such as for island nations; remote off-grid communities; industrial and government facilities; and replacement of coal-fueled generation that require less power and help customers meet clean air mandates. The concept of replacing coal boilers with SMRs has gotten a lot of attention in EU countries which rely heavily on coal plants for electricity.

The regulatory process of increasing the level of maximum reactor power at which a nuclear plant can operate is referred to as a power uprate. The power increase will be reviewed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as part of NuScale’s Standard Design Approval (SDA) application, which NuScale is scheduled to submit in 2022.

Holtec Accelerates US NRC Design Certification for SMR-160

Holtec International said that its drive to secure design certification for its SMR-160 small modular reactor from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) was “on an accelerated schedule.”

smr-160At a kickoff meeting with the NRC officials on September 30, Holtec presented a licensing roadmap that envisages a seamless progression from Part 50 to Part 52, and a Licensing Topical Report (LTR) submittal schedule to support an accelerated availability plan.

However, the firm did not disclose details of the roadmap nor the chedule during the public portion of its NRC meeting on 09/30/20.

The greater part of the meeting, about three hours, was held in closed session due to the proprietary nature of the technical  information presented by Holtec.  The NRC listed references to the public presentation slides on its ADAMS library, but did not post the slides themselves.

At the September 30, 2020 public meeting (summary in ML20288A210), the open session covered key principles of the SMR-160, including passive operation, near-zero site boundary dose, maximum factory fabrication and minimal site construction to reduce costs. The closed session agenda included a design overview of the SMR-160 major systems including:

  • Reactor coolant system, the reactor core
  •  Instrumentation and Controls
  •  Major structures
  •  Inherently safe design features, including passive safety systems
  •  Low core damage frequency
  • Plant response to loss of coolant accidents
  •  Pre-application topical report topics and submittal timeframe
  •  Application submittal timeframe

Holtec said the SMR-160 PCCS, referred to as the Emergency Core Cooling System, is an innovative embodiment that ensures the SMR-160 plant’s safety during postulated accidents. “An essential aspect of the PCCS is its reliance on redundant, diverse, and passive heat removal systems”.

Holtec completed the Vendor Design Review Phase 1 in Canada earlier this year and is currently planning the next step in the Canadian design approval process. Holtec submitted its pre-applications documents in July 2018.

The SMR-160 is a small modular pressurized light-water reactor, which generates 160MWe (525MWth). The plant safety systems that access the SMR-160 cooling water reserve are passive, meaning they operate under the force of gravity to enable rejection of the waste heat generated from reactor operations.

International Development Plans for the SMR-160

In the UK Holtec has joined a consortium with 15 major companies to establish the Moorside Clean Energy Hub in North West England. At the center of the Hub’s plan is a number of nuclear projects at Moorside, including a new UK-EPR pressurized water reactor together with potentially a clutch of small modular reactors and other innovative technologies.

Discussions are also underway with nuclear policy makers in India to deploy SMR-160s  to generate geographically dispersed clean energy. With its small footprint (4.5 acres per reactor) and its ability to be operated without a natural water source, SMR-160 provides a solution that may be attractive to meeting India’s energy needs.

“We are poised to build major components for SMR-160 locally to accord with Prime Minister Modi’s national manufacturing drive,“ says Holtec’s SVP Jyoti Chatterjee based in Pune, India.

The development of SMR-160 has been led since 2013 by Thomas Marcille, previously of Los Alamos National Lab and NuScale Power. MEPPI, the U.S. subsidiary of Mitsubishi Electric Company (Japan) and Kiewit Engineers and Constructors of Kansas City are key partners. SVP Pierre Oneid and SVP Jyoti Chatterjee are in charge of SMR-160’s adoption efforts in North America and Asia, respectively

UK / US Consortium in Talks To Take Over Wylfa Development

(NucNet) A group of US companies has reportedly approached the UK government about taking over the development of a nuclear power station at Wylfa in north Wales.

News media reports in the UK said global engineering and construction giant Bechtel will lead the consortium as EPC and will be joined by utility Southern and nuclear technology provider Westinghouse, which designed and manufactures the AP1000 reactor technology. The Westinghouse AP1000 has completed the UK GDR regulatory process and is approved from a safety perspective to be built in the UK.

wylfa location

Map showing the location in the UK of the proposed Wylfa nuclear project. Image: Horizon Nuclear

The Financial Times reported that talks about taking over the project began in September after Japanese company Hitachi pulled out of the project. Hitachi announced that it was scrapping plans to build two UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactors at the site, blaming the lack of a viable financing structure and the uncertainties looming over BREXIT as the reasons.

The Financial Times reported that the consortium’s plans could deliver power to the electricity grid on both a similar timescale to that proposed by Horizon and at “a market competitive price” per megawatt hour, despite switching to a different reactor technology.

“A deal over Wylfa would be dependent on the UK government introducing a new funding model for large nuclear projects in the UK and the US consortium striking an agreement to acquire the site on Anglesey from Hitachi, which spent about GBP2 billion on developing the Wylfa project,” the newspaper said.

The reported development on Wylfa comes with prime minister Boris Johnson set to lay out a “10-point plan” explaining how the UK will meet its 2050 climate commitments.

Sizewell C is now the only new-build project in the UK for which planning permission is being sought. Three projects – Wylfa, Moorside and Oldbury – have either been cancelled or shelved, while Bradwell remains in the early technical stages.

The Bradwell project is slated to included two or three Hualong One PWRS to be built by Chinese state owned enterprises. The arrangement is that permission to build the Chinese plants is part of the deal that brought Chinese equity investments in the Hinkley Point C (33%) and Sizewell C (20%) projects. That plan has come under review by China following a decision by UK PM Johnson to eject a Chinese telecommunications firm from bidding on the UK 5G wireless network.

The main obstacle to new-build has been finding the right financing package. The nuclear industry has been calling for the introduction of the regulated asset base (RAB) proposal for the financing of nuclear plants. The government has already said the model has the potential to reduce the cost of raising private finance.

The Times newspaper reported recently that EDF wants a tax on UK household energy bills to help pay for Sizewell C, with other options including the British government taking an equity stake.

Multinational Team to Develop MSR-based Marine Reactor

(WNN)  A multinational team says it has plans to develop MSR-based marine reactor. A team including Core Power (UK) Ltd, Southern Company, TerraPower and Orano USA has applied to take part in cost-share risk reduction awards under the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program to build a proof-of-concept for a medium-scale commercial-grade marine reactor based on molten salt reactor (MSR) technology.

Over the next few decades, as many as 60,000 ships must transition from combustion of fossil fuels to zero-emission propulsion, London-based Core Power said.

The United Nations International Maritime Organization has mandated that shipping must reduce emissions by 50% of the 2008 total, before 2050, it said, which will mean an actual emission reduction of almost 90% by that time.

MSR technology being developed by the consortium could achieve that goal, by powering production of green sustainable fuels for smaller ships and providing onboard electric power for large ships, “with zero emissions as standard”, Core Power said.

“The implications of the MSR for transport and industry could be transformational, as we seek to build scale-appropriate technology and broad acceptance of modern and durable liquid-fueled atomic power to shape the future of how we deal with climate change,” Core Power Mikal Bøe said.

The MSR can be the technology that forms the start of “a second atomic era, where climate change is the main driver of powerful, inexpensive, and safe new energy solutions”, the company said.

Caveats Ahoy

Commercial shipping interests were not quite as enthusiastic about the idea. One source told an industry trade publication that international trans-oceanic shipping involving the operation of a nuclear reactor would be restricted to routes where navies could assure ships security from piracy. Also, the initial application might be for intercoastal shipping rather than ocean spanning shipping due to the relatively lower power of the SMR type MSR design.

History of NS Savannah

The NS Savannah was the first nuclear-powered merchant ship. She was built in the late 1950s at a cost of $46.9 million (including a $28.3 million nuclear reactor and fuel core) and launched on July 21, 1959. She was funded by United States government agencies. Savannah was a demonstration project for the potential use of nuclear energy.


The ship was named after SS Savannah, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic ocean. She was in service between 1962 and 1972 as one of only four nuclear-powered cargo ships ever built. (Soviet ice-breaker Lenin launched on December 5, 1957, was the first nuclear-powered civil ship.)

Savannah was deactivated in 1971 and has been moored at Pier 13 of the Canton Marine Terminal in Baltimore, Maryland, since 2008. The ship was a demonstration project with cargo space about one-third that of fossil fueled freighters. Cost issues and labor disputes sidelined the ship from showing its true competitive nature.

The ship is now a floating museum tied up at the Port of Baltimore. Savannah was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 14, 1982. She was designated a National Historic Landmark on July 17, 1991. Savannah is notable as one of the most visible and intact examples of the Atoms for Peace program, and was designated a National Historic Landmark in advance of the customary fifty-year age requirement because of her exceptional national significance.

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Feds Pump $10M into Xcel Energy for Hydrogen Production

  • DOE/INL Fund $10M for Hydrogen Production at Xcel Nuclear Reactor
  • John Wagner Named INL Director
  • BWXT Fires Up TRISO Fuel Manufacturing Operations
  • Terrestrial Energy Inks Molten Salt Testing Program at ANL
  • ORNL to Produce Solid Metal Hydride Moderator for Advanced Reactors

A Private-public Partnership Will Use Nuclear Energy
to Produce Hydrogen for Industrial Customers

  • Project is first U.S. pairing of high-temperature steam electrolysis with commercial heat
  • More than $10 million in federal funding will help a Minnesota nuclear power plant make hydrogen in a way that could transform the nuclear energy industry.

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy will work with Idaho National Laboratory to demonstrate a system that uses a nuclear plant’s steam and electricity to split water. The result will be the production of hydrogen which will initially be used at the power plant, but it could eventually be sold to other industries.industry uses of hydrogen

The U.S. Department of Energy announced the funding award on Oct. 8. The new project is the first of its kind in pairing a commercial electricity generator with high-temperature steam electrolysis (HTSE) technology. It builds on a project launched last year to demonstrate how hydrogen production facilities could be installed at operating nuclear power plants. The project showcases collaboration between DOE’s Nuclear Energy and Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy offices.

“This is a game-changer for both nuclear energy and carbon-free hydrogen production for numerous industries,” said Richard Boardman, national technical lead for the DOE Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program’s Flexible Plant Operations and Generation Pathway.

Today, industrial-grade hydrogen is produced by stripping it from natural gas molecules, releasing carbon monoxide (CO) in the process. Since nuclear power plants do not emit CO or CO2 or other air pollutants, hydrogen made by splitting water at nuclear plants can help lower the carbon footprint of industrial hydrogen customers.

“Xcel Energy was the first major American utility to pursue a vision of 100% carbon-free electricity, and now we’ll be the first company to produce carbon-free hydrogen at a nuclear plant using this technology,” said Tim O’Connor, Xcel Energy chief generation officer.

The project will demonstrate HTSE using heat and electricity from one of Xcel Energy’s nuclear plants, likely the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Station. HTSE technology is a fit at nuclear power plants, where high-quality steam and electricity are both readily accessible without having to pipe it off-site to another plant.

Xcel Energy also has a large amount of wind in its energy generation portfolio, which offers an opportunity to demonstrate how a nuclear plant’s electricity could be used to make hydrogen when wind energy satisfies grid demand.

This arrangement allows the nuclear plant to operate near 100% of capacity 24X7 and eliminates the need for complex load following procedures that ultimately reduce electricity output.

A recent analysis under DOE’s H2@Scale initiative, led by the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office, estimated that hydrogen produced by HTSE at a nuclear plant could be cost competitive in today’s market. The report was published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.  (Fact Sheet PDF file)


“Today, a number of nuclear power plants could produce cost-competitive hydrogen – and, with additional electrolyzer R&D and more installations, many more nuclear plants could in the future,” said Mark Ruth, a group manager with NREL’s Strategic Energy Analysis Center who is lead author of the report.

“Hydrogen is a versatile energy carrier that can help the decarbonization of major energy sectors,” said Amgad Elgowainy, a senior scientist and group leader with Argonne National Laboratory’s Energy Systems Division, and a report author.

Commercial hydrogen production via low-temperature electrolysis will be demonstrated by a previously awarded project, which launched in September 2019. Led by Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Plant near Toledo, Ohio, the two-year project will demonstrate a 1-to-3-MWe low-temperature electrolysis unit to produce commercial quantities of hydrogen.

The third utility participating in the project, Arizona Public Service (APS), which operates the Palo Verde Generating Station, is also evaluating the integration of nuclear energy with hydrogen production.

Many industrial sectors, including steel and ammonia production, use hydrogen to make their products. Hydrogen also is a form of clean energy that can power vehicles. The goal of these projects is to traverse technical barriers, so commercial nuclear power plants can make and sell commodities such as hydrogen in addition to electricity.

John Wagner Named Idaho National Laboratory Director

Battelle Energy Alliance’s (BEA) Board of Managers announced that John Wagner, Ph.D., will be the next director of Idaho National Laboratory (INL). BEA manages and operates the laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Wagner will begin his new role on 12/11/20. Wagner has been at INL since 2016 and has been Associate Laboratory Director for Nuclear Science and Technology since 2017.

Wagner has more than 20 years of experience performing research and managing and leading research and development projects, programs and organizations. Prior to joining INL, he worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for nearly 17 years, where he held several research and leadership roles in reactor and fuel cycle technologies.

Wagner earned his doctorate and master’s degrees from Pennsylvania State University and his bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology.

He is an American Nuclear Society Fellow, the highest honor bestowed by the Society and a recipient of the 2013 E.O. Lawrence Award. He has authored or co-authored more than 170 refereed journal and conference articles, technical reports and conference summaries.

Wagner succeeds Mark Peters as INL laboratory director who last August accepted the position of executive vice president for laboratory operations at Battelle.

BWXT Restarts TRISO Nuclear Fuel Manufacturing

BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) announced that its BWXT Nuclear Operations Group, Inc. subsidiary has completed its TRISO nuclear fuel line restart project and is producing fuel at its Lynchburg, Va. facility.

In June 2020, BWXT announced a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory to expand BWXT’s TRISO manufacturing capacity and produce a demonstration quantity of the fuel. The project is jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Operational Energy Capabilities Improvement Fund Office and NASA, with overall program management provided by the DoD’s Strategic Capabilities Office.

TRISO Fuel for U Battery

Previously, in March 2020, BWXT announced a contract with the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to demonstrate capability to manufacture TRISO nuclear fuel to support the continued development of the Transformational Challenge Reactor.

The scope of the contract includes the fabrication and delivery of uranium kernels, TRISO coated surrogate materials, and TRISO coated uranium kernels for a demonstration batch.

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. 

BWXT is in the process of hiring 25 additional workers for its TRISO operations.

Wide Interest in TRISO Fuel

TRISO fuel testing is gaining a lot of interest from the advanced reactor community. Some reactor vendors such as X-energy and Kairos Power, along with the Department of Defense, are planning to use TRISO fuel for their designs—including some small modular and micro-reactor concepts.

X-energy is currently manufacturing uranium oxide/carbide (UCO) based kernels, (NRC Briefing – PDF file) TRISO particles, compacts and fuel pebbles at an ~5,000-sq. ft. fuel facility located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as part of the DOE Advanced Reactor Concept 2015 Cooperative Agreement.

Terrestrial Energy Inks Molten Salt Testing Program
at Argonne National Laboratory

Terrestrial Energy USA and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) have begun a detailed testing program for the fuel salt to be used in the Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) Generation IV nuclear power plant. The fuel salt testing program is part of a broader ongoing testing program for fuel, components, and systems used in the IMSR power plant. The results of these tests will support licensing applications in Canada and the U.S.

Terrestrial Energy USA began working with ANL in 2016 after receiving an award from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program. GAIN directs support to the nuclear community commercializing innovative nuclear technologies.

ANL will use an extensive array of characterization techniques and advanced laboratory equipment to determine the compliance of thermo-physical properties of the IMSR fuel salt to regulatory standards. ANL will prepare and test fuel salt mixtures that replicate the fuel salt composition over the full IMSR operating cycle. The laboratory investigations will include melting point determinations, density, viscosity, heat capacity, and thermal diffusivity measurements.

Oak Ridge National Lab Designs System
to Produce Solid Metal Hydride Moderator

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) developed a system to fabricate large quantities of solid yttrium hydride—a rare earth metal and hydrogen mixture that will be used as a moderator for its Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR).  Citation: Development of Yttrium Hydride Moderator for the Transformational Challenge Reactor, (PDF file) Xunxiang Hu*, Chinthaka Silva&, and Kurt A. Terrani† all at ORNL.

The new moderator is getting the interest of a number of microreactor programs and could also open up opportunities with NASA as it develops new space reactors and propulsion systems.

For decades, scientists have been interested in using metal hydrides as a moderator in compact, high-temperature reactors. While most existing reactors use pressurized water as a moderator, metal hydrides contain an equivalent or higher concentration of hydrogen and can work at high temperatures without the high pressure that water requires. The high hydrogen density and moderating efficiency of metal hydrides enables smaller reactor cores that can operate more efficiently and reduce waste products.

To achieve optimal performance as a high-temperature moderator, the yttrium hydride must be a flawless solid piece. Any cracks in the material can decrease thermal conductivity and impact the release of hydrogen. Yttrium hydride is not commercially available in a solid form, so scientists created a system in just 10 months to mass produce flawless pieces at a scale required for TCR.

By the end of the project, researchers had perfected large-scale yttrium hydride production and established a reliable database with detailed information that fully captures its specific characteristics. The process identifies the thermal, mechanical and neutron scattering properties to better determine yttrium hydride’s stability within a nuclear reactor core.

The TCR design, development and operation of the metal hydriding system is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

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