Dan’s Idaho Nuclear Chili Recipe

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 at the site, 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 south to Pocatello with Idaho Falls, and, eventually, north to Butte, MT.

inl.map

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.

spent-fuel-train-idaho

Another thing about the name “Scoville” is that when the early days of the ‘Cold War’ with Russia was in high gear 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.

arco-desert

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.

First-City-Atomic-Power

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

Directions

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

inl_bus

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

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DOE Rejects Funding for Holtec to Restart Palisades

  • DOE Rejects Funding for Holtec to Restart Palisades
  • UK Govt Gives Green Light to Build Sizewell C Twin 1600 MW Reactors
  • Nuclear Hydrogen ‘Can Help Build Economy of the Future’
  • Westinghouse to Study UK Production of TRISO Nuclear Fuel

DOE Rejects Funding for Holtec to Restart Palisades

A first of a kind effort to reopen a nuclear power plant that had been closed by its utility owner/operator, and slated for decommissioning, will not go forward. The reason is that an application by Holtec to the Department of Energy (DOE) to fund a reversal of the closure of the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in Michigan was not approved by the agency.  The plant is an 805 MW PWR type reactor built by Combustion Engineering for a cost of $630M and commissioned in 1973.

Palisades in 1973

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in 1973. Image: US DOE

The plan was supported by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer who  promised state funding if DOE came through on its end. The decision, which is most likely based on the numerous problems the plant faced on a path to being reopened, is nevertheless a blow to President Biden’s plans to address climate change.

The Detroit News reported that anti-nuclear groups vigorously opposed the plan to restart the reactor. The newspaper published a claim by one group that “a melt down was averted” by DOE’s decision not to fund the restart of the Palisades reactors.

Holtec apparently took the DOE decision in stride. Patrick O’Brien, a spokesperson for Holtec, said in a statement to Reuters, “We fully understood that what we were attempting to do, restarting a shuttered nuclear plant, would be both a challenge and a first for the nuclear industry.”

While DOE did not comment on the decision, ClearView Energy Partners, a nonpartisan research group, told the Reuters wire service that Palisades’ closure was “likely to be permanent.”

“Palisades was out of nuclear fuel, faced a control rod drive seal issue that needed to be fixed and likely needed a new company to operate it, as well as a buyer for the power it generates.”

Another issue is that Holtec isn’t a nuclear utility and needed to find one to operate the plant once it was on its way to a restart.

Even if DOE had come through with the money, relicensing the plant presented a major challenge to Holtec and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The agency public affairs office said in an email statement to this blog that the agency has never dealt with a plant that involves re-licensing a closed nuclear reactor. However, in 2016 the agency took a look at the possibility of restarting a closed reactor and solicited input from the industry to address the issue.

Background on the Plan to Restart the Plant

In May 2022 Holtec acquired the 800 MW nuclear power plant, built in 1973 and located on the eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan, to decommission it. The firm has made a business out of decommissioning nuclear power plants paid for by the assurances of each plants decommissioning fund.

The plant was closed due to its inability to compete in a merchant market with low priced natural gas. The plan to reopen the reactor was to ask DOE to fund the needed steps to restore the facility to a point where it could be relicensed from the initial phase of the Energy Department’s $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) program.

The CNC program has the objective to keep open nuclear plants in highly competitive electricity markets. In the past decade numerous reactors have closed due to their inability to meet the pricing of electricity from gas plants and subsidized renewable energy sources.

So far only one other utility has applied for funds under the CNC program. In California PG&E has asked for funding to keep the two nuclear reactors at Diablo Canyon open until 2030. That application is still pending although a decision is expected from DOE before the end of the year. Even after getting DOE’s money, PG&E must still address numerous deferred maintenance issues and convince the NRC to address plant licensing issues in the utility’s favor.

Separately, California’s state legislature, fearing the looming threat of a major political backlash over blackouts, last September passed SB486 which provides a $1.4 billion forgivable loan to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open through the end of the decade.

Holtec has Other Cards to Play

Elsewhere, Holtec is decommissioning several other shuttered nuclear reactors. However, at the Oyster Creek site in New Jersey, Holtec has aired preliminary plans to build at first of a kind 160 MW PWR type small modular reactor.

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. Holtec is also decommissioning the Pilgrim nuclear power station in Massachusetts.

The advantage of locating the SMR at the Oyster Creek 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.

Last March DOE approved Part I of Holtec International’s loan application for building small modular reactors (SMRs) and invited the company to apply for a federal loan to help build four SMR-160s and to expand the company’s manufacturing capacity to build the first wave of small modular nuclear reactors in large numbers.

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 also submitting topical reports as part of the pre-licensing process at the NRC.

Update

On 11/21/22 the Department of Energy announced that PGE, the owner and operator of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant has received the first round of funding, $1.1 billion, from the Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program. Funded by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the $6 billion CNC program supports the continued operations of nuclear energy facilities. The funds will be used to keep the plant open through 2030.

See prior coverage on this blog  Diablo Canyon is Saved For Now

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UK Gives Green Light to Build Sizewell C’s Twin 1600 MW Reactors

  • UK Confirms £700 Million State Backing As Nuclear Project Gets Green Light

greenlight(NucNet) The UK has given the green light for new nuclear at Sizewell C in Suffolk, southeast England, with chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirming £700m (€799m, $824m) in support for what would be “the first state-backed nuclear power station for 30 years.”

Boris Johnson gave the project the green light in one of his last acts as prime minister but Hunt’s plans to cut spending had created uncertainty around the planned power plant’s future.

Hunt said contracts would be signed in “the coming weeks” with partners in the project including French state energy firm EDF, which is building Sizewell’s sister station at Hinkley Point C.

Sizewell C will have two France-supplied EPRs producing 1600 MW each of electricity and is expected to cost about £20 billion.

Doubts had been raised two weeks ago after reports emerged that the project could face the axe in the new UK government’s search for savings, forcing the Prime Minister’s office to deny that it was considering such a measure.

Jeremy Hunt, Chancellor of the Exchequer, who took office last month, is the UK, told the BBC about the decision to fund the giant nuclear power plant, “There is only one way to stop ourselves being at the mercy of international gas prices: energy independence combined with energy efficiency.”

Hunt said “Britain is a global leader in renewable energy. We need to go further, with a major acceleration of home-grown technologies like offshore wind, carbon capture and storage, and, above all, nuclear.”

“This [project] will deliver new jobs, industries, and export opportunities and secure the clean, affordable energy we need to power our future economy and reach net zero by 2050. So I can today announce that the government will proceed with the new nuclear plant at Sizewell C.”

“Subject to final government approvals, the contracts for the initial investment will be signed with relevant parties, including EDF, in the coming weeks, it will create 10,000 highly skilled jobs and provide reliable, low-carbon, power to the equivalent of six million homes for over 50 years.”

“Our £700 million investment is the first state backing for a nuclear project in over 30 years and represents the biggest step in our journey to energy independence.”

The cash was initially announced by Boris Johnson, who urged the UK to “go large” on nuclear in his final major policy speech as prime minister. Johnson said it would be “madness” not to build Sizewell C.

Julia Pyke, Sizewell C financial director at EDF, told a UK parliament hearing on nuclear energy that the company is planning to take a final investment decision on the construction of Sizewell within 12 to 18 months.

‘Huge Moment’ For Energy Security

The government has already given planning consent for the project and in January announced £100 million of funding to support Sizewell C’s development, with the move aimed to attract further financing from private investors.

Sizewell C is expected to be funded, at least in part, under a new regulated asset base (RAB) model which will give nuclear projects the financial support they need and attract private investment.

EDF worked with China’s CGN on the first phase of the project. The Chinese state owned enterprise was expected to take a 20% equity stake in the project. However, PM Boris Johnson unceremoniously booted CGN off the project citing “security issues.”

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the UK-based Nuclear Industry Association, called the government’s decision to give a green light to Sizewell C “a huge moment for Sizewell C, for UK energy security and for the future of nuclear in Britain.”

He said Sizewell C will be one of the UK’s most important green infrastructure projects ever, and critical to the government’s commitment to strengthen energy independence, cut gas use and bring down bills.

“The UK now needs to urgently get on with building new nuclear plants alongside renewables to meet the targets set out in the Energy Security Strategy, and we look forward to Sizewell C contracts being signed in the next few weeks.

“This announcement also paves the way for the development of a pipeline of new nuclear projects, both large and small modular reactors, to deliver clean, reliable power for the British people.”

& & &

Nuclear Hydrogen ‘Can Help Build Economy of the Future’

  • DOE official tells Cop27 challenges remain with storage and transportation

(NucNet) Kathryn Huff, assistant secretary for nuclear at the US Department of Energy, told a panel discussion at the United Nations Cop27 climate conference in Egypt future nuclear reactors can help produce hydrogen to insure the stability of electric grids and decarbonizes industries such as transport and agriculture.

Huff told a #Atoms4Climate event organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency that nuclear power can play a role in the production of clean hydrogen because of its potential to generate large amounts of heat in addition to electricity.

markets for hydrogen

Most electricity generating stations primarily produce heat, which is converted to steam to power electric turbines. A nuclear reactor’s output is typically measured in MW electric (MWe), but reactors also produce large amounts of heat which is processed into steam, and that heat output is measured in MW thermal (MWt).

“The conversation from thermal to electric power is very inefficient”, she said. “So, let’s use nuclear for what it is good at.”

According to Huff, thermochemical water splitting, a method which uses a high heat source to generate hydrogen, is more efficient than the alternative method of using low-temperature electrolysis systems. Nuclear power can therefore harness some of the highest efficiency hydrogen production methods today.

Advanced Reactors And Hydrogen Hubs

Some advanced nuclear reactors under development can contribute to hydrogen generation. Huff gave the example of X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) design which can produce heat of up to 800 degrees C. The reactor is being developed and is expected to be built at a site in Richland, WA, under a cost shared funding effort through DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

The DOE has an $8 billion (€7.8bn) initiative to demonstrate six to 10 regional hydrogen hubs to couple consumers and producers of hydrogen, including nuclear producers of hydrogen, in a single location depending on the needs of the local industrial or agricultural sectors.

“If these hydrogen goals are achieved and we are successful with the hydrogen hubs, I really see a future in which a hydrogen economy underpins the stability of our electric grid in the US, decarbonizes our transportation, agricultural, and transportation systems, and deeply leverages the highest-temperature advanced reactors and existing light-water reactors,” Huff said.

She said the DOE is supporting four small nuclear power and hydrogen demonstration projects at four nuclear stations which are supposed to pave the way for the development of larger “hydrogen hubs”.

According to DOE the four projects include:

Nine Mile Point Nuclear Power Station (Oswego, NY): DOE is supporting the construction and installation of a low-temperature electrolysis system at the Nine Mile Point NPP. The project will be the first nuclear-powered clean hydrogen production facility in the US and will use the hydrogen to help cool the plant. Plant owner Constellation plans to begin producing hydrogen before the end of the year.

Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station (Oak Harbor, OH): Energy Harbor is working to demonstrate a low-temperature electrolysis system at the Davis–Besse Nuclear Power Station. The goal is to prove the technical feasibility and economic benefits of clean hydrogen production, which could facilitate future opportunities for large-scale commercialization. The single unit reactor is expected to produce clean hydrogen by 2023. Potential uses could be sold for local manufacturing and transportation services, including fuel for a local bus fleet.

Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant (Red Wing, MN): Bloom Energy and Xcel Energy are working on a first-of-a-kind project to demonstrate high-temperature electrolysis at the Prairie Island Nuclear Generating Plant. The data collected from this demonstration will be used to scale up this process. Hydrogen production is expected to begin in early 2024.

Palo Verde Generating Station (Tonopah, AZ): DOE is negotiating an award with Arizona Public Service (APS) and PNW Hydrogen to demonstrate another low-temperature electrolysis system at the Palo Verde Generating Station. The hydrogen will be used to produce electricity during times of high demand or to make chemicals and other fuels.  The project could start producing hydrogen in 2024, pending the completion of award negotiations.

Additional funding, through Inflation Reduction Act, also includes support for clean hydrogen production via tax credits that will award up to $3/kg for low carbon hydrogen. All of this work supports DOE’s Hydrogen Shot goal of reducing the cost of clean hydrogen by 80% to $1 per 1 kilogram in one decade.

Huff said, “Reaching this cost reduction goal would open new markets for hydrogen, in addition to creating more clean energy jobs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and making America a more competitive actor in the global clean energy market.”

She said nuclear is suited to heat production and called this a “special niche” for which other clean energy systems might not be the best fit. Hydrogen and nuclear power can be used to balance the variability of renewable energy sources.

She warned that challenges remain related to storage and transportation mainly due to the embrittlement of steel, or extreme corrosion caused by the absorption of hydrogen atoms or molecules by metals. Also, because hydrogen gas is a very small molecule, it can easily leak from containment systems, a problem NASA has dealt with for decades using liquid hydrogen as a fuel for its rockets.

A Role For Desalination?

Another concern is the availability of large amounts of water to be used in the water splitting process to produce hydrogen – an issue where ocean water desalination using nuclear power could be a solution.

In a recent report on the role of nuclear power in the hydrogen economy, the Paris-based Nuclear Energy Agency said the cost of hydrogen from new nuclear reactors is similar to the cost of hydrogen from variable renewables – solar and wind – in most places around the world.

According to Michel Berthelemy, a nuclear energy analyst at the NEA, hydrogen can be produced at a competitive cost, also levering existing nuclear power and its long-term operation.

He said, that the cost of hydrogen could be double or triple in cases where it will need to be transported over large distances.

Combining momentum in the development of advanced reactors with momentum for industrial hydrogen deployment will be essential for progress this decade and into the next, Berthelemy told the panel.

& & &

Westinghouse to Study UK Production of TRISO Nuclear Fuel

(WNN) x-energy triso fuelWestinghouse has been awarded a grant by the UK government to complete a Pre-Front End Engineering Design study, in collaboration with Urenco, for the production of TRISO fuels at its Springfields facility in Preston, Lancashire.

The grant, through the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), will consider a secure and reliable supply of advanced TRISO – tristructural isotropic – fuels to support a range of potential high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) technologies under development. Westinghouse will also receive support on this study from TRISO-X LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of X-energy of the USA. The value of the grant was not disclosed.

“This award is an important step in creating commercial-scale advanced fuel production in the UK at our Springfields facility for the reactors of tomorrow,” said Westinghouse President and CEO Patrick Fragman.

Earlier this month, TRISO-X broke ground for North America’s first commercial-scale advanced nuclear fuel facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility – or TF3 – is set to be commissioned and operational by 2025. It will initially produce 8 tonnes of fuel per year, supporting about 16 advanced reactors, and is envisaged to increase to 16 tonnes per year by the early 2030s.

Last September the UK government announced GBP3.3 million (USD3.8 million) in funding to support the development of advanced nuclear technology. The funding through the Advanced Modular Reactor Research, Development and Demonstration program – part of the GBP385 million Advanced Nuclear Fund – will support the development of innovative nuclear technology in the UK, such as HTGRs. It aims to demonstrate HTGR technology by the early 2030s.

Currently, the UK does not have an effort underway to develop an HTGR reactors which suggests that it could import such a design from the US, Canadian, or other developer of this type of reactors.

Under that funding, Springfields Fuels Ltd is receiving GBP243,311 for a project, in collaboration with Urenco, to determine the most effective route for the secure and reliable supply of coated particle fuel (CPF) to support the range of potential HTGR technologies which may come forward in the UK.

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Update on Saudi Arabia’s Quest for Nuclear Reactors

Earlier this year Saudi Arabia quietly released a tender for two full size light water design nuclear reactors.  The inquiry was sent to South Korea, France, China and Russia. The process of acquiring two reactors is a down sized effort from an ambitious goal set in 2014 to build 16 1000 MWe units.

Also, Saudi Arabia established a national nuclear energy company to develop and operate nuclear facilities. Riyadh said the Saudi Nuclear Energy Holding Company (SNEHC) will participate in nuclear projects locally and internationally.

saudi_arabia_pol_2003According to industry sources, the Saudi government sent the solicitation to South Korea because the latter has successfully built the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in the United Arab Emirates.

South Korea won the UAE contract in 2009 and has built four APR1400 reactors at a cost of US$18.6 billion. Unit 1 of the country’s first nuclear power plant was connected to the grid in August 2020, followed by unit 2 in September 2021, and unit 3 in October 2022.

Another reason for the Saudis to go with South Korea is that the experienced skilled trades that are building the four units in the UAE will be available as the UAE units will be completed in the next two to three years. This experience is invaluable and could shave costs of construction since the contractors and their workers would have already built these types of units.

MBS Visits Seoul

All this background came to a head this week as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the kingdom’s prime minister, aka MBS, visited South Korea this week. During the visit he signed MOUs for multiple civil infrastructure projects. For example,
Aramco will invest $7 billion in a petrochemical “steam cracker” in the east Asian country. The investment, which is named the Shaheen project, is Aramco’s largest-ever in South Korea. The project will be located at an existing site belonging to the South Korean energy company S-Oil.

However,  according to an English language news media report in the Korea Times, he did not sign off on a pending nuclear reactor deal for two full size commercial nuclear reactors.   The reason may be there are a couple of unresolved issues related to South Korea’s light water reactor design –  the APR1400.

APR1400 schematic

Westinghouse Litigation

While South Korea claims that it has full intellectual property rights to its reactor design, the APR1400 MW PWR, Westinghouse sued KHNP in US District Court that it still has rights to some of the engineering design information from the legacy System 80 reactor that was licensed by KHNP to build four of its PWRs for the United Arab Emirates. Since then KHNP claims its design has been updated to remove the engineering design elements previously licensed from Westinghouse.

IAEA Safeguards

IAEA_logoThe other issue, which is unrelated to the Westinghouse content, is that South Korea agreed with the US on compliance with IAEA nuclear safeguards which it is now obliged to conform to for any exports of the APR1400. In principle, countries doing business with South Korea would also have to sign off on the IAEA requirements for the order to go through.

The specific requirement is “ROK will adopt a common policy with the United States to require recipient countries have an IAEA safeguard agreement Additional Protocol in place as a condition of supply of nuclear power plants.”

However, Saudi Arabia has not signed off on the relevant IAEA  protocols for nonproliferation and has resisted calls for it to do so. This could put South Korea in a bind unless the US State Department issues a waiver for the South Korea deal with Saudi Arabia to go through.  It is unclear at this time, given the sour nature of relations between the US and Saudi Arabia, what the Biden administration will do, within the context of existing law and international agreements, assuming it is even paying attention to these developments.

At stake is the question of what Saud Arabia will do if it is denied its apparent first choice for South Korea. The limited options are Rosatom or one of the Chinese state owned enterprises in the nuclear reactor space.

Either option isn’t good for the US. Such a decision would position either to build 14 more reactors for Saudi Arabia assuming the winner of the deal for two reactors doesn’t eat the inevitable schedule delays and cost overrun for the next 14 units that will be associated with the project.

The nuclear deal, if won by either Russia or China, would give either nation a 60-80 year franchise for 16 nuclear reactors as well as the franchise to supply fuel to them in a country which will likely remain on top of the global oil market for the rest of this century.

Saudi Arabia Response to Iran’s Nuclear Program

With Iran moving ahead, absent an international nuclear deal to constrain its efforts, to add new uranium centrifuges and make more enriched uranium (20% U235), Saudi Arabia sees Tehran’s plans for a full blown nuclear weapons program as being on a fast track. In response, it has taken several preliminary steps towards its own nuclear deterrence efforts.

China has already committed to help Saudi Arabia build a hard rock uranium mill to turn ore from Saudi Arabia’s significant domestic uranium resources into yellowcake, which is the first step in uranium enrichment for the commercial nuclear fuel cycle. However, it is also the first step in uranium to levels that can be used to make nuclear weapons.

While Saudi Arabia may be on a path of deterrence relative to Iran’s nuclear program, it seems problematic that Saudi Arabia would get help from either Russia or China to pursue nuclear weapons. The last thing Russia and China want, as members of the exclusive nuclear weapons club, is another member. China has enough headaches as it is with North Korea.

On the other hand, there are credible doubts about the ability of either Russia or China to control the Saudi’s taking the path forward from HEU to a weapon or for extraction of PU-239 from spent fuel for the same purpose. Saudi Arabia can get all expertise it needs from Pakistan about uranium enrichment and nuclear weapons.

Overall, if the US government has any horse sense about these developments, it will do whatever it can, within existing law and international agreements, to keep Russia and China from getting the Saudi nuclear deal and insure South Korea wins the business with no extra baggage. A first step in the right direction would be to offer to mediate the current intellectual property issue raised by Westinghouse and avoid the protracted delays and costs of litigation.

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DOE Awards $150M HALEU Contract to CENTRUS

  • DOE Awards $150M HALEU Contract to CENTRUS
  • US Announces Nuclear Hydrogen Production for Ukraine Using NuScale SMR
  • US Export/Import Bank Offers Financing for Romania’s Cernavoda 3 & 4
  • Bulgaria To Speed Up Supply Of Non-Russian Nuclear Fuel
  • TerraPraxis Selects Terrestrial Energy for Coal to Nuclear Program
  • General Fusion Signs MOU with Canadian National Lab

DOE Awards $150M HALEU Contract to CENTRUS

bankrollThe Department of Energy (DOE), with a $700M bankroll to help the US advanced reactor industry by being the first buyer of high assay low enriched uranium fuel (HALEU), spent some of its cash this week. DOE announced it inked a $150M deal with American Centrifuge Operating, LLC of Bethesda, Maryland, a subsidiary of Centrus Energy Corp to ramp up production to be able to produce a ton of the fuel (900Kg) every year starting in 2024.

The contract is intended to demonstrate the nation’s ability to produce HALEU fuel. DOE’s action will undoubtedly be accompanied by a short sigh of relief from the CEOs of the nation’s developers of advanced reactors who have been saying for most of this year that looking to where they will get their first fuel loads of HALEU has been their number one ‘keep awake’ issue.

But there is still a long way to go. The Centrus centrifuges will only produce enriched uranium in a gas form, which is uranium hexafluoride (UF6). The nation’s sole uranium conversion plant in Illinois has to be restarted and there are three fuel fabrication plants being built by advanced reactor developers to meet their specific needs and to sell HALEU fuels in other forms to other customers in the US and for export.

First fuel loads are needed by DOE’s funded ARDP reactors later this decade so the race is on to get all the stars to align in time. The fuel fabrication plants have to be built, and licensed by the NRC, and be ready to produce fuel in the next three to four years.

DOE said in its press statement that the cost share contract “will serve as a key step in securing domestic HALEU for advanced reactors.”

HALEU is required by most U.S. advanced reactors to achieve smaller designs, longer operating cycles, and increased efficiencies over current technologies. HALEU is not currently available at commercial scale from domestic suppliers, a situation that could significantly impact the development and deployment of U.S. advanced reactors. Getting the fuel from Russia is not an option nor likely to be one for years to come.

Advancing domestic capability to produce HALEU will set the stage for larger, commercial-scale HALEU production in the U.S.

3.31_HALEU Overview_742x960
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said, “Reducing our reliance on adversarial nations for HALEU fuel and building up our domestic supply chain will allow the U.S. to grow our advanced reactor fleet and provide Americans with more clean, affordable power.”

“This demonstration shows DOE’s commitment to working with industry partners to kick start HALEU production at commercial scale to create more clean energy jobs and ensure the benefits of nuclear energy are accessible to all Americans.”

DOE projects that more than 40 metric tons of HALEU will be needed before the end of the decade, with additional amounts required each year, to deploy a new fleet of advanced reactors.

ARDP Reactors are Key Drivers of Need for HALEU

two potsEstablishing a sustainable commercial HALEU production program is essential to meeting DOE’s long-term objectives. The uranium enrichment cascade demonstration program is intended to address near-term HALEU needs and will be used to support fuel qualification testing and DOE-supported advanced reactor demonstration projects. DOE has two of them on the stove top for this program.

Both advanced reactor designs are funded under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). In return for the billions in cost-shared federal funding, DOE has imposed ambitious deadlines on both firms to have their reactors up and running by the end of this decade. Having HALEU fuel available in time for the first fuel loads is on the critical path and DOE’s milestones cannot be met without it.

The first ARDP reactor is TerraPower’s 345 MW Natrium reactor, which is a sodium- cooled design which has a legacy that links it to the GE-Hitachi PRISM reactor and from there to the Argonne West Integral Fast Reactor. Using the cost-shared DOE money, TerraPower plans to build the first-of-a-kind (FOAK) plant in the remote Wyoming town of Kemmerer, WY.

The new reactors will replace an aging coal fired power plant owned and operated by PacificCorp. TerraPower is sufficiently confident of the success of the first reactor that it has developed a joint plan with PacificCorp to build five more Natrium reactors within the utility’s service area and all of them will replace coal fired power plants.

Add it up and that’s six 345 MW plants, or 2,070 MW of electrical generating power, and all of them will need a lot of HAELU to keep the lights on in three rocky mountain states. DOE’s funding and contract award come not a moment too soon.

The second ARDP project is X-Energy’s Gen-IV inspired 80 MW high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). The firm plans to use its DOE cost-shared funding the build the first installation of what could be a four-pack in Richland, WA. Like TerraPower, it wouldn’t mind if DOE could please just spend its money as as fast as possible to insure that the HALEU fuel is available.

A challenge for DOE’s HALEU program is that these reactors use very different types of fuel. The Natrium reactor uses high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) metallic fuel. The X-Energy reactor used TRISO fuel.

Beyond the ARDP reactors, in the US there are a half dozen other developers of advanced reactors which will seek access to HALEU fuels. The short list of firms includes; Arc Clean Energy, General Atomics, Kairos Power, Oklo, and Ultra Safe Nuclear.

No Fueling Around, No Waiting

Neither ARDP reactor vendor is waiting for DOE to spend the rest of its newly appropriated funds ($550M) for HALEU. In October both firms announced independently that they are forging ahead to have their fuel they need fabricated via commercial contracts funded in part by some of their ARDP funding. Both new nuclear fuel facilities will require NRC licenses.

On 10/21/22 Global Nuclear Fuel–Americas (GNF-A), a GE-led joint venture, and TerraPower announced an agreement to build the Natrium Fuel Facility at the site of GNF-A’s existing plant site near Wilmington. The facility represents an investment of more than $200 million. The project will break ground in 2023.

On 10/13/22 TRISO-X LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of X-energy, broke ground and began construction activities on North America’s first commercial-scale advanced nuclear fuel facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The project will represent an investment of approximately $300 million. TF3 is set to be commissioned and operational by 2025.

The nuclear fuel facilities being built by both firms expect that DOE’s funded production of HALEU by the new centrifuges at CENTRUS will result in the required enrichment levels of U235 to meet their needs in the gaseous form of uranium hexafluoride (UF6). This material will go to a conversion plant to be converted from the gaseous state into the type of solid material forms needed to fabricate the uranium metal fuel for TerraPower or the TRISO “pebbles” needed by X-Energy. The fuel fabrication work will be done at each of the respective plants the two firms are committed to build.

CoverDyn’s uranium conversion plant in Illinois is expected to restart in 2023 but this is an “aggressive timeline” according to a statement the firm’s CEO made to World Nuclear News in April 2021. On a more hopeful note, ConverDyn stated in 2020 at a GAIN workshop at the Idaho National Laboratory that it could potentially reinstate a capacity of 15,000 tons of uranium per year should there be a market signal to do so. The plant has a current NRC license to operate which is good until 2060. It also has a license from the NRC to export enriched uranium in various forms.

The_Nuclear_Fuel_Cycle_(44021369082)_(cropped)

The two ARDP nuclear fuel plants, when completed, will have the capacity to meet not only the needs of TerraPower and X-Energy but also to supply finished nuclear fuel products to other developers of advanced nuclear reactors. Given the increasing isolation of Russia from global energy markets, these plants likely will position themselves for export sales. They’re not alone in this market.

Ultra Safe Nuclear Fuel Facilities

In August 2022 Ultra Safe Nuclear announced the opening of a new pilot manufacturing plant in Oak Ridge, TN, to produce TRISO fuel and the custom nuclear fuel needed for its reactor design  The plant’s fuel fabrication process is licensed from DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. In a statement tied the the opening  in 2020 of a ceramics and materials plant in Salt Lake City, UT,  the firm said materials developed at the new facility will be used in Ultra Safe Nuclear’s Micro-Modular Reactors (MMR) and other nuclear reactors, including gas-cooled reactors, light water reactors, CANDU reactors, and molten salt cooled reactors.

First Year, First Fuel Loads

Uranium-enrichment.jpgMeanwhile, back at the CENTRUS ranch, the DOE $150M contract includes a $30 million cost share during the first year to start up and operate 16 advanced centrifuges in a cascade at an enrichment facility in Piketon, Ohio.

American Centrifuge Operating will complete the final steps of centrifuge assembly and clear an operational readiness review to start up the demonstration cascade.

They will meet the demonstration requirements by enriching uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas to produce 20 kilograms of 19.75% enriched HALEU by the end of 2023.

They will then continue production in 2024 at an annual production rate of 900 kilograms of HALEU per year, subject to appropriations, with additional options to produce more material under the contract in future years. Annual Congressional appropriations will inform the duration of the contract based on the availability of funding. (BTW: 900 kilograms is just 16 pounds short of a ton of material.)

This latest award builds on DOE’s three-year cascade demonstration program with American Centrifuge Operating, to manufacture and demonstrate the centrifuge enrichment cascade. The cascade was assembled at the Department’s enrichment facility in Piketon, OH, which is currently the only U.S. plant licensed by the NRC to produce HALEU.

DOE is pursuing multiple pathways to produce HALEU through its HALEU Availability Program authorized by the Energy Act of 2020 to meet this pressing need. Following the HALEU demonstration, the centrifuge technology used at the facility will be available for commercial deployment. Learn more about HALEU and DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

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US Announces Nuclear Energy for Hydrogen Production in Ukraine Using NuScale SMR

At the COP27 climate conference this week, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate Kerry and Ukraine Minister of Energy Galushchenko announced a cooperation agreement to use small modular reactors to produce hydrogen and ammonia via reactor powered electrolysis.

nuclear and hydrogen
The project aims to carry out a first-of-a-kind pilot of commercial-scale production of clean fuels from SMRs using solid oxide electrolysis. The project seeks to support Ukraine’s energy security goals, enable decarbonization of hard-to-abate energy sectors through clean hydrogen generation, and improve long-term food security through clean ammonia-produced fertilizers. Further, it aims to demonstrate Ukraine’s innovative clean energy leadership through the use of advanced technologies.

Participating partners for the pilot include a multinational consortium from ;

  • Argonne National Laboratory,
  • Ukraine’s Energoatom, National Security and Defense Council, and State Scientific and Technical Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety, and
  • Private companies Clark Seed, Doosan Enerbility, FuelCell Energy, IHI Corporation, JGC Corporation, NuScale Power, Samsung C&T, and Starfire Energy.

Coal to SMR Initiatives

In a second announcement, Special Envoy Kerry launched a new initiative, Project Phoenix, to accelerate the transition in Europe of coal-fired plants to SMRs while retaining local jobs through workforce retraining. Project Phoenix will provide direct U.S. support for coal-to-SMR feasibility studies and related activities in support of energy security goals for countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

The United States is committed to supporting the use of innovative clean energy technologies to power global decarbonization efforts and providing options to achieve net zero transition in hard-to-abate energy sectors. This project is part of existing capacity-building cooperation launched under the U.S. Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of SMR Technology (FIRST) program.

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US ExIm Bank Offers Financing for Romania’s Cernavoda 3 & 4

1200px-Seal_of_the_United_States_Export-Import_Bank.svg(WNN) The Export-Import Bank (Exim), the USA’s official export credit agency, has issued two Letters of Interest for the financing of US-sourced pre-project technical services at the Cernavoda 3 and 4 nuclear power project in Romania.

Exim President and Chair Reta Jo Lewis, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and President of Romania Klaus Iohannis, Energy Minister Virgil Popescu, and Geoffrey Pyatt, Assistant Secretary at the State Department, announced two letters of interest.

According to Romanian utility Nuclearelectrica, Exim would be able to consider financing up to $50 million of the US export contract for pre-project engineering services as part of the engineering multiplier program and up to $3 billion of the US export contract for engineering and project management services for the completion of the partially-built Cernavoda units 3 and 4.

Three Part Strategy – Nuclearelectrica said the strategy for completing Cernavoda 3 and 4 is being implemented in three stages.

Stage 1 started at the end of 2021 will last up to 24 months, during which a set of engineering and safety documentation necessary for the project re-start and will be prepared/up-dated, required to substantiate a preliminary investment decision.

Stage 2 of the project consists of preparation of critical engineering for the definition of the project, structuring and contracting financing and agreeing upon an adequate contractual architecture for the implementation of the project, obtaining the construction license, reassessing the feasibility of the project based upon updated technical and economic indicators and making the final investment decision.

Stage 3 of the project consists of site mobilization, start of the construction works, commissioning and start of the commercial operation of unit 3 in 2030 and unit 4 in 2031.

In addition, Nuclearelectrica intends to deploy US-based NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR) technology for a 462 MW nuclear power plant on the site of a former coal plant.

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Bulgaria To Speed Up Supply Of Non-Russian Nuclear Fuel

(NucNet) Bulgaria’s parliament passed a motion this week to speed up licensing procedures and potential supply of non-Russian nuclear fuel for the country’s Kozloduy nuclear power station, which has two VVER-1000 pressurized water reactors (PWRs) in commercial operation. Sofia is planning for tender ‘within weeks’ and is likely to include invitations to US-based Westinghouse and France’s Framatome.

vver1000 fuel assemblyBulgaria receives nuclear fuel from Russia’s state-owned Tvel under a 2019 contract which is set to expire in 2025.

According to the motion, the first alternative VVER fuel supplies should be made by April 2024 for Kozloduy-5. The new fuel vendor will be required to use technologies and licenses which are not related to Russia. The parliament’s decision obliges the government to complete the licensing process by the end of 2023.

Westinghouse already has VVER-1000 fuel supply deals in the Czech Republic and Ukraine, where operators have decided to work towards cutting their dependency on Russia.

Framatome performs maintenance and modification activities for all types of reactor designs around the world including VVER pressurized water reactor designs. Its latest contract for services at the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant was announced last April.

The two Russia-designed VVER-1000 PWR units at Kozloduy, inherited from the socialist era, provide about one third of the country’s electricity.

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TerraPraxis Selects Terrestrial Energy for Coal to Nuclear Program

coal plantTerrestrial Energy, an advanced nuclear technology development company, and TerraPraxis, an organization that innovates, designs, and accelerates scalable, equitable climate solutions, have signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) to cooperate on ‘Repowering Coal.’

Under development by TerraPraxis, ‘Repowering Coal’ is a program to standardize the replacement of coal furnaces at existing coal-fired power plants with high-temperature heat supplied by Generation IV nuclear technology.

The Repowering Coal report, authored by TerraPraxis, was launched at COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021. In partnership with Microsoft, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bryden Wood, Schneider Electric and others, Repowering Coal is a program aimed at integrating clean heat sources with existing infrastructure at coal-fired power plants.

TEI-ISMR-HowItWorks-Diagram

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

TerraPraxis has selected Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) as the first candidate heat source vendor for its Repowering Coal program due to its unique capabilities. These include its high-temperature heat supply required to replace coal-fired boilers

According to the agreement, Terrestrial Energy and TerraPraxis will work on a standardized systems interface between the IMSR and coal-fired power plant systems, which they will apply to candidate sites as part of the program to repower coal projects in North America and elsewhere.

The U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) reported in a September 2022 study that over 300 coal-fired power plants in the United States alone are candidates for the Repowering Coal program. This represents over 260 Gigawatts of electric generation capacity, located at more than 300 sites. DOE estimated that “80% of retired and operating coal power plant sites that were evaluated have the basic characteristics needed to be considered amenable to host an advanced nuclear reactor.”

In September 2022, TerraPraxis and Microsoft entered into an agreement to deliver a digital solution that will catalyze significant decarbonization in areas where global industry has struggled to get results. TerraPraxis will combine its expertise in energy with Microsoft to build and deploy a set of tools to automate the design and regulatory approval needed to decarbonize coal facilities with nuclear power.

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General Fusion Signs MOU with Canadian National Lab

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and General Fusion announced that they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to pursue a series of joint projects to accelerate the deployment of commercial fusion power in Canada. The MOU will act as a framework for both companies to partner to advance fusion energy research and commercialization.

Under the terms of the agreement, CNL and General Fusion will collaborate on projects in key areas, including feasibility studies, regulatory framework, power plant siting and deployment, infrastructure design, and testing and operations support. Overall, the aim is to develop fusion energy research capabilities within CNL, to support the goal of constructing a General Fusion commercial power plant in Canada before 2030.

nuclear fusion reaction
“General Fusion is a Canadian company based in Vancouver and we are excited to advance this framework to collaborate with CNL, a leader in clean energy technologies,” said Greg Twinney, CEO, General Fusion.

The MOU with General Fusion builds upon previous work that the two organizations conducted under CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI) last year. Leveraging CNL’s state-of-the-art Tritium Facility, which is capable of handling materials required to conduct full-scale tests of tritium extraction technology, CNL and General Fusion partnered on the development of technologies to extract tritium for use in future fusion power plants.

This is the second MOU General Fusion has inked with Canadian energy-related organizations. In February 2022 General Fusion signed an MOU to support development of fusion energy with Ontario’s Bruce Power and the Nuclear Innovation Institute.  The goal is to support deploying a fusion energy electrical generation plant at a site to be determined in a three county region in Ontario.

General Fusion is committed to build a Fusion Demonstration Plant at the Culham, UK, site by 2025 and to have commercial fusion power units operational in the early 2030s.

General Fusion’s MTF technology is fueled by two hydrogen isotopes, deuterium and tritium, the latter of which can be produced as part of the fusion process within the company technology. General Fusion’s Magnetized Target Fusion technology involves injecting hydrogen plasma into a liquid lithium metal sphere, where it is compressed and heated so that fusion occurs.

The company is building a demonstration plant at the UK Atomic Energy Agency’s Culham Campus in England, which it says will validate the performance and economics of the technology prior to the construction of a pilot commercial power plant.

Sheffield Forgemasters Advances Fusion Energy Project for General Fusion

shef forgeSheffield Forgemasters will make a trial forging to advance the development of a pioneering green technology demonstration plant for fusion power.

The critical ring component, for Canada’s General Fusion, will confirm specifications for the next phase of the program, to create a thick-walled fusion vessel designed to withstand the extreme high-temperatures and compressive forces needed to create fusion energy.

The trial ring’s specifications match the 11 rings planned for the fusion demonstration machine. It will allow the engineering team to validate performance of the high-strength steel alloy, finalize the vessel design and confirm the manufacturing process for the fusion reactor.

The final trial ring will weigh 42 metric tons. Sheffield Forgemasters’ engineering team will complete non-destructive testing on the trial ring, which can include visual, ultrasonic, dye-penetrant and magnetic particle inspection, as well as eddy-current testing.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on DOE Awards $150M HALEU Contract to CENTRUS

New Twists and Turns in Poland’s Push for Nuclear Reactors

corn mazeThe two enormous nuclear energy projects agreed to in principle in Poland over the past two weeks for up to ten full size nuclear reactors are being overshadowed this week by the national security implications of a lawsuit filed by Westinghouse (WEC) against South Korea’s bid team KHNP.

The situation has evolved since the legal action by WEC was filed in Federal District Court two weeks ago. The twists and turns that have emerged this week have begun to look like  a complex corn maze and may be as difficult to navigate if the two parties cannot resolve their differences.

The issue is a claim by Westinghouse that the KHNP’s APR1400 PWR contains engineering design information and technology which were previously licensed from WEC and cannot be used in the South Korean bid for Poland’s nuclear reactor fleet without paying licensing fees. The precedent is that KHNP/KEPCO did exactly that (licensing the WEC IP) to a reported tune of $20M for permission to use it to sell and build four APR400s to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for a cool $20 billion.

The national security issue for the US is that WEC wants to block KHNP’s bid for the Polish reactors, for the Czech tender for Dukovany, and, most significantly, for its bid for two new reactors in response to a tender from Saudi Arabia.

If South Korea is blocked by the WEC lawsuit from selling its reactors to Saudi Arabia, it is possible that country might turn to Russia or more likely China for commercial nuclear power. Neither choice is in the national security interests of the US.

The Bloomberg wire service reported a stark challenge to KHNP by WEC.

“Korea Hydro’s bid faces hurdles after Westinghouse sued the company two weeks ago to prevent “unauthorized” sharing of nuclear technology with other countries including Saudi Arabia and the Czech Republic”

“I think that we have to let the litigation play out,” said David Durham, president of energy systems at Westinghouse, who doesn’t see the Korean bid as a threat. “If we win as we expect, then I do not see them building these reactors either in Poland or in the Czech Republic or Saudi Arabia.”

Here’s the Problem

If WEC prevails in federal court on the intellectual property issue, and knocks KHNP out of the ring, the Saudi Government, which is believed to favor South Korea based on its success in building four reactors in the United Arab Emirates, has said  previously it will turn to China for its reactors. Th original tender for the Saudi reactors even specified the power rating of the South Korean reactor at 1400 MW.

The Saudi government can, when it wants to, be very direct about its interests. As far back as early 2019 Saudi Arabia made it clear it said it would seriously consider the Chinese Hualong one, which is a 1000 MW PWR, if it can’t get western or South Korean reactors.

China has built one Hualong One for Pakistan, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, and is nearing completion of a second unit. It is easy enough for the Saudi energy ministry to take a trip to Karachi to kick the tires of the Chinese nuclear reactor to see if they like it. China is building the two reactors as part of its global Belt & Road program, but there has always been the thought that it chose reactors for Pakistan due to that country’s close relations with Saudi Arabia.

Plainly, it is not in the interests of the US to have China involved in the energy security of Saudi Arabia for the next 60-80 years which is why WEC’s efforts to interfere via litigation with the South Korean bid to Saudi Arabia and elsewhere are a big concern.

While WEC has a legal right to protect and be compensated for the use of its intellectual property, the outcome it seeks has some important consequences that go way beyond that objective.

As things stand now Westinghouse has no chance of winning the business in Saudi Arabia because of the lack of a 123 Agreement with the US and no prospects of there being one soon enough to matter. However, WEC may not have considered what happens to Saudi Arabia’s plans for nuclear power if WEC prevails in the US courts in its lawsuit against KHNP.

If the Saudis are denied their obvious first choice, based on South Korea’s experience in the UAE, they could turn to either Russia, a recent “partner” in managing global oil markets, or more likely China for their nuclear reactors  Either outcome is bad for the US.

Plus, President Biden went to South Korea last May and signed a bilateral agreement to cooperate on nuclear energy exports. Letting the Westinghouse suit go forward to trial is not the kind “cooperation” the South Koreans were thinking of at the time. Behind the scenes the South Koreans are probably making their displeasure known through diplomatic channels. Is anyone in the White House listening?

It would seem to a disinterested observer that the US government has an opportunity to mediate the dispute and not let the issue fester or worse. The blind spot Westinghouse has in pursuing its interests is that the lawsuit is bad for the government, bad for US cooperation with South Korea, and bad for giving either Russia or China a potential 60-80 year run of having significant influence over the energy security of the world’s major oil producer. So far there no news media reports that the Biden administration sees the problem or has taken any steps to address it.

KHNP Says the WEC Claim Lacks a Basis in Fact

Westinghouse is seeking to force KHNP to comply with US laws restricting nuclear power technology sharing. Under these rules – Part 810 requirements (10CFR810) – the US Department of Energy has statutory responsibility for authorizing the transfer of unclassified nuclear technology and assistance to foreign atomic energy activities within the USA or abroad.

KHNP denied that WEC has any legitimate claims. In a statement to the UK-based nuclear trade press magazine ‘Nuclear Engineering Week’ on 10/27, KHNP said,

“After launching its own nuclear program, Korea gradually built up technology, carrying out research and development projects with long-term plans for over 30 years. Thanks to this process, it gained competence in the design, production and construction of nuclear power plants in order to finally develop her own, independent technology.”

KHNP said in its planned exports of Korean nuclear power plants to Poland, “it will use its own nuclear technology developed by Korean companies, to which we have full intellectual property rights. Korean nuclear technology is independent of Westinghouse technology and can be exported without restrictions and without the consent of the US.”

A Short List of You Can’t Get There from Here Factors

Even if WEC were to prevail in court, the victory might not yield the results it seeks.

  • The Saudis didn’t ask WEC to bid on the tender. The firm can’t show up uninvited.
  • The Saudis released the tender last June. It is now October. WEC cannot make up for lost time relative to the Saudi timetable which they have indicated is to rack and stack all bids starting in December and to make a decision on a winner by the end of 2023.
  • Things have changed for the worse in terms of US/Saudi relations. It may be that any thoughts by the US government to cut WEC slack to”help it out with the Saudi tender, via a “waiver” of some kind of the 123 rules is probably not in the cards at least for now.

Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, also known as “MBS,” could simply blow off any litigation in the US on the grounds a federal court has no jurisdiction over his actions. He could then select KHNP to build its reactors. If that happens, from a realist perspective, the US government might breathe a sigh of relief that it isn’t China. The Czech government might take the same approach if it so chooses.

MBS has shown with his so-called “deal” on oil production with Russia that he doesn’t do alliances. He makes decisions on a transactional basis in terms of what is good for his country’s interests.

WEC also has a problem it that it has plans to source major long lead time components for the Poland reactors from South Korean heavy industry firms. In the current environment of it lobbing hot legal potatoes at South Korea, it could run into responses that are not in its best interests with this part of its supply chain. It is another reason for the two parties to seek mediation, and a solution, and not allow the case to go to trial.

The Road Ahead Has a Few Potholes

The timing of the Polish decision to award the first three reactors to WEC followed in very close proximity time wise to Brookfield shifting its equity in Westinghouse off its books and on to that of a wholly owned subsidiary plus bringing Canadian uranium miner Cameco into the deal with promises of uranium sales. That doesn’t look from here like its is a coincidence. However, the giant private equity firm does not have infinite deep pockets.

The Bloomberg wire service reported on 11/7  “Poland wants US partner in its first nuclear power plant to have a bigger stake than it offered, Rp.pl reports, citing unidentified person close to the government. According to Rp.pl, Westinghouse offered to take 10% stake in the company building the plant, while Poland would like that share to increase to 49%”

These kinds of contractual negotiations are common, but the leap from 10% to a 49% equity stake may not be what WEC’s owners have in mind to make a deal.

Poland had some internal issues to resolve. Some of the main issues are obvious without the government ever saying a word officially about them. First and foremost, where will it get the money for its 50% share of the cost of the Westinghouse reactors? Polish officials were noncommittal about this topic in response to media questions when the WEC deal was announced.

Just calculate any price in $1000/Kw times the electrical ratings of the three AP1000s and four APR1400s Poland has signed MOU’s for, and what you get is more money than Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge McDuck ever had in his treasury.

Does the Polish government have the money, the sustained political will, and the management capability to undertake the effort, to control it, and to avoid becoming captive to the vendors which raises the risks of schedule delays and cost overruns.  It’s not been made public how much financial support the US is offering Poland for the WEC reactors, but one thing is sure. It won’t be a nearly 100% free financial ride like the one Russia is giving Egypt.

On the KHNP side, its bid to Poland offered a much higher level of equity investment to build its reactors than Westinghouse did for theirs. It sweetened with an offer to sell high tech military gear to Poland which it wants given Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. These kind of side deals for major infrastructure and energy tenders are also not uncommon.

Saudi Arabia has Larger Nuclear Ambitions

Saudi officials have told the US that it reserves the right to enrich uranium and to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. Both actions are nonproliferation issues that the US avoided with the United Arab Emirates (UAE). That country used the WEC technology KHNP licensed to build four reactors there. The UAE has a 123 agreement, and has committed itself to the provisions of the agreement which ban uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing.

Also, Saudi Arabia has extensive domestic uranium deposits and contracted with China in August 2020 to build a hard rock uranium mill to process the ore into yellowcake, which is the first step in making nuclear fuel or the bomb making cycle or both.

Lurking in the background is the question of whether Saudi Arabia is pursuing these actions as part of a long term deterrent effort relative to Iran’s nuclear program. Current negotiations with Iran to reinstate the nuclear deal are on hold due to extensive unrest in Iran over its domestic policies.

If China is selected to sell its reactors to Saudi Arabia, it is one more way that country will have influence over the world’s largest oil producer. Note that China is Saudi Arabia’s biggest customer and depends on that supply of fossil fuel to keep it enormous economy energized.

South Korea Inches Toward a Solution

The South Koreans are publicly annoyed over the WEC lawsuit. In a policy paper released in Seoul, and reported by the news media there, the government said that the lawsuit will add complications to the ongoing trade dispute caused by  the USA Congress passing Inflation Reduction Act and calling for the exclusion of Korean-made electric vehicles from tax incentives.

In May, Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and US President Joe Biden had agreed to strengthen cooperation to jointly advance into overseas nuclear reactor markets. However, “the “nuclear reactor alliance is facing hurdles due to Westinghouse’s self-centered trade policy.”

The Korea Times cited an unnamed industry official who said, “Money trumps alliances. Maintaining amicable diplomatic relations is important, but not as much as financial interests in make-or-break business opportunities that can generate stable sources of income for at least a few years.”

The South Korean news media also reported that the government said it was interested in “minimizing the dispute with the US.”

KEPCO and KHNP said in a joint statement that they will continue efforts to remove any complications in the exports of the country’s nuclear power plants.

“We are aware of the lawsuit. We will outline strategies to respond to the developments in a timely and appropriately manner.”

The people who passed the European taxonomy labeling nuclear energy as “green” probably didn’t anticipate how hard it might be to get to “yes.”

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Posted in Nuclear | 3 Comments

Poland Plans a Nuclear Fleet of Up to 10 Reactors

  • Poland Signs MOU to Build Six Westinghouse AP1000s
  • South Korea Signs MOU to Build Four APR1400s in Poland
  • OPG Applies For License To Build First SMR At Darlington Site
  • U.S. and Japan in Bilateral Agreement Will Support Export of SMRs to Ghana
  • TVA Plans New Sites for Up to 50 SMRs
  • Mexico 123 Agreement is Confirmed

Poland Commits to a Nuclear Fleet of Big Iron

poland flag mapAfter years of small steps towards a decision to build new full size nuclear reactors, in the past two weeks the government inked an MOU with Westinghouse for two power stations composed of three reactors each. Just days later Poland signed an MOU with South Korea to build four nuclear reactors. The country’s Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin made the announcements last week.

If financing is secured for all 10 nuclear reactors, and the project is completed, probably by the mid 2030s, it would become one of the biggest commitments to nuclear power in Europe.

As delegates gather in Egypt for the COP27 climate conference, the Poland’s plan to replace its coal fired power plants will be an example of what can be done when a country puts its mind to it.

Poland Commits to Westinghouse with a Promise of US Financial Help

(NucNet) Poland has announced that US-based Westinghouse Electric Company has been selected to build the country’s first nuclear power station, a decision that has been pending since 2020 when Warsaw last updated its nuclear energy program. A promise of significant financial support from the US played a major role in the decision.

A schedule released by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki targets commercial operation of a first nuclear unit in a proposed set of six 1150 MW AP1000 PWRs as being planned for 2033, with the rest to follow throughout the 2030s and into the early 2040s.

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Mr Morawiecki said, “After talks with vice-president [Kamala] Harris and US DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm we confirm our nuclear energy project will use the reliable, safe technology of Westinghouse Electric.”

DOE’s Granholm said Warsaw’s decision is a “huge step” towards strengthening the relationship between the US and Poland and creating energy security for future generations.

Poland has ambitious plans to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MW of installed nuclear capacity based on Generation III and III+ large-scale, pressurized water reactor designs. Poland’s MOU with Westinghouse calls for the construction of two nuclear power stations with three reactors each.

At the end of 2021, the Lubiatowo-Kopalino site in the northern province of Pomerania near the Baltic coast was selected as the preferred location for Poland’s first commercial nuclear power station. Other proposed locations have included the central Belchatow and Patnow, both currently homes to coal-fired power generation.

In July 2021, Westinghouse and US partner Bechtel provided Poland’s state-owned Polskie Elektrownie Jadrowe (PEJ) with a front-end engineering and design study for the deployment of two nuclear power stations, each consisting of three 1150 MW AP-1000 pressurized water reactor (PWR) units.

Last month, the US ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski presented the Polish government with a final conceptual offer on the proposed construction of six Westinghouse-made PWRs, including financing commitments.

It is unclear what the price tag will be for the six reactors and how much US financial support will be provided in a final deal. Even with lower labor costs, and significant localization of materials and components, the plants will still be on the high end of costs for equivalent nuclear generating capacity.

Several unconfirmed media reports put the bid price from Westinghouse in the range of $4500/KW. At that benchmark, each reactor would cost about $5.2 billion and all six would cost well over $30 billion taking inflation into account over the five-to-ten years it will take the complete them

Reuters reported this week that the recent announcement by Polish prime-minister Morawiecki concerns the first three nuclear units to be built. A spokesman for the US embassy said, ““It is our expectation that Poland intends to eventually construct six AP1000 reactors from Westinghouse and will make a formal decision about the second set of three at a later date.”

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South Korea Signs MOU to Build Four APR1400s in Poland

(NucNet)  South Korea’s KHNP, with a promise of an equity investment in the project, has signed MOU to build four APR1400s at a site in Poland.

Just days after Westinghouse signed an MOU with the Polish government to build six AP1000s, three each at two sites to replace coal fired power plants, South Korea’s KHNP landed a similar MOU to build four of its 1400 MW APR1400s at one site.

APR1400 schematic

Polish energy companies ZE PAK and PGE (Polska Grupa Energetyczna) and the Polish ministry of state assets signed a letter of intent with South Korea’s Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) on the proposed construction of a nuclear power station at the central Patnow site.

The aim of the agreement is to assess the available options and to develop by 2022 preliminary plans for the deployment of KHNP’s APR-1400 pressurized water reactor (PWR) technology at Patnow, which currently houses a 1,674-MW coal-fired plant owned by private firm ZE PAK.

Jacek Sasin, Poland’s deputy prime-minister for state assets, said the construction of a nuclear power station at Patnow “is “crucial” for the country.”

In September 2021, ZE PAK, which is the largest private energy firm in Poland, signed an agreement with Synthos Green Energy to explore the deployment of a GE Hitachi BWRX-300 small modular reactor at Patnow. The company said at the time it wanted to invest in four to six SMRs with a capacity of 300 MW each. It isn’t clear whether ZE PAK will continue the SMR project or switch its focus to the APR1400s.

Financing Remains a Question

It is unclear what the delivered cost of the reactors will be.  Unconfirmed media reports put the bid price in the range of $4200/KW taking into account lower labor costs and localization of materials and components.  It is also unclear how KHNP will structure the minority equity investment over time. Polish government officials have not yet provided specifics of how it plans to play for the KHNP and Westinghouse reactors

Poland’s largest energy group issued a note of caution about the Westinghouse and KHNP MOUs especially as completion of financing is still to be arranged for both projects.

In March 2021, Poland’s largest energy group PGE sold to the Polish state treasury its 70% stake in PGE EJ1 (later renamed to PEJ), the company charged at the time with managing the first nuclear project.

PGE, which itself is nearly 60% owned by the Polish state treasury, had been wary of the financial burden of a nuclear new-build project. Its chief executive Wojciech Dabrowski had said on several occasions that a large investment in nuclear would exceed the financial capabilities of the company.

“Poland needs to invest in large-scale nuclear power in order to replace coal-based conventional energy in the future. Together with investments in renewables, this will be the basis of our energy security.”

“This is particularly important given the global energy crisis and fossil fuel market constraints caused by Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he said.

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OPG Applies For License To Build First SMR At Darlington Site

Canadian utility Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has submitted a construction license application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) which could pave the way to the deployment of a small modular reactor (SMR) at the site of the Darlington nuclear power station.

OPG said in a statement the application consists of several document packages which will be consecutively provided to CNSC over the next six months.

OPG is collaborating with TVA sharing lessons learned about design and licensing the BWRX300. In Canada the GEH reactor is still in Phase 2 of the CNSC Vendor Design Review (VDR) process. Similarly, in the US GE Hitachi continues to work with the NRC submitting topical reports as part of a pre-licensing dialog. OPG will proceed with non-nuclear work at the Darlington site for now.

The company said the CNSC application has been jointly prepared in partnership with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), which has proposed its BWRX-300 SMR for deployment at Darlington.

cnsc-logo_thumb.png

OPG said in an email statement to this blog the Vendor Design Review (VDR) process and the License to Construct application process are separate and distinct.

“The VDR is an optional service provided by CNSC when requested by a vendor and is not required in order to submit a License to Construct application.

“A VDR is a feedback mechanism that enables CNSC staff to provide feedback early in the design process based on a vendor’s reactor technology. The conclusions of any design review do not bind or otherwise influence decisions made by the Commission. The GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 VDR is in progress and phase 2 is expected to be complete by the end of 2022.”

“In parallel, OPG’s License to Construct application includes a detailed review of technology and associated safety systems. Key licensing documents will be available on OPG’s website over the next few weeks.”

In December 2021, OPG selected GEH as its technology partner for its Darlington SMR project. The first grid-scale plant is scheduled to be completed by 2028.

This new license submission comes after site preparation activities began in early October. Site preparation works are expected to continue into 2025 and consist of non-nuclear infrastructure activities, such as clearing and grading a portion of the new nuclear site to build roads, utilities and support buildings.

The Darlington SMR will be one of the first ever developed and is expected to spearhead similar projects in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta, with interest also growing in the US and Europe.

GEH’s BWRX-300 is a 300-MW water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems and based on an existing boiling water reactor design – the ESBWR – that is licensed in the US. It also uses an existing, licensed fuel design.

GEH has said the reactor will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared to other water-cooled SMR designs or existing large nuclear reactor designs.

Darlington, east of Toronto on the shore of Lake Ontario, is the only site in Canada with an approved environmental assessment and regulatory license for new nuclear. The station has four CANDU PHWRs in commercial operation.

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U.S. and Japan Bilateral Agreement to Support Export of SMRs to Ghana

The US said it will work with Japan toward exporting small nuclear reactor technology to Ghana, with the two allies promoting the advanced power generation method to help other countries meet their clean energy goals.

In an initial step to support the deployment of a so-called small modular reactor in the  African country, a feasibility study is planned to be conducted by companies including Japanese heavy machinery manufacturer IHI, plant builder JGC as well as NuScale Power, a small modular reactor developer based in the United States.

Through the project, Ghana will have the opportunity “not only to demonstrate leadership in advancing energy security and climate action globally, but also establish itself as a regional center of excellence in Africa for the deployment of innovative nuclear technologies,” the U.S. State Department said.

The department also said the United States, Japan and Ghana are committed to “upholding the highest standards of nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation.”

In 2021, the United States launched an initiative to support the use of small modular reactor technology. Countries such as Japan, Britain, Estonia, Ghana, the Philippines, Romania, South Korea and Ukraine are also engaged in the initiative, according to a joint statement issued in August this year.

More than 80 small modular reactor designs are under development in 19 countries and the first such units are already in operation in China and Russia, the IAEA said.

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TVA Plans New Sites for Up to 50 SMRs

TVA has told the US Department of Energy that it is now planning to build new small modular reactors (SMRs) within its multi-state service area to replace coal fired power plants.

“This project will screen the TVA service area to help determine suitable sites for future ANR (advanced nuclear reactor) deployment,” TVA said.

“TVA will work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) subject matter experts and the Oak Ridge Siting Analysis for power Generation Expansion (OR-SAGE) tool to assist in defining suitable candidate sites for ANR development.”

The TVA board in February authorized spending up to $200 million to pursue plans for several small modular reactors on the site of the former Clinch River Breeder Reactor in Oak Ridge. The utility’s early site permit for the project calls for up to 800 MW of generating capacity which implies multiple SMRs each with less than 300 MW of power.

In August, TVA announced an agreement with the manufacturer of the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 to pursue their small reactor design for the Oak Ridge site.

TVA President Jeff Lyash said he hopes to put these SMRs into revenue service within the next decade and, if successful, to pursue similar small modular reactors at other sites in the Tennessee Valley. He told news media in TVA’s home town of Chattanogga, TN, that the utility might be looking long term at up to 50 SMRs at various sites in its multi-state service area.

The TVA board and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must still sign off of the new reactors. Also, to finance them it may be necessary for TVA to ask Congress to raise its debt ceiling to pay for them.

“We are taking a disciplined, phased approach,” Lyash told TVA directors in August.

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Mexico 123 Agreement is Confirmed

(Wire Services)  A bilateral agreement on nuclear energy between the United States and Mexico entered into force, the U.S. State Department adding that it will enhance cooperation on energy security.

The agreement is the “first bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation” between the two countries, the department said.

Known as 123 agreements, such accords pave the way the peaceful transfer of nuclear material, equipment and information from the United States in adherence with nonproliferation requirements.

The US Department of State said in a press announcement, “The United States and Mexico’s Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy entered into force. The agreement will enhance our cooperation on energy security and strengthen our diplomatic and economic relationship.”

“This is the first bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the United States and Mexico. The Agreement builds on the nearly 80 years of peaceful nuclear cooperation between our two countries and establishes the conditions for continued U.S. civil nuclear trade with Mexico.”

“Civil nuclear cooperation agreements, also known as 123 agreements, provide a legal framework for exports of nuclear material, equipment, and components from the United States to another country. This agreement provides a comprehensive framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation with Mexico based on a mutual commitment to nuclear nonproliferation. It will permit the transfer of nuclear material, equipment (including reactors), components, and information for nuclear research and nuclear power production.”

Mexico and the United States signed the agreement in 2018, but Mexico’s Senate did not give its approval until March of this year.

The Mexican state power utility, Comision Federal de Electricidad, has one nuclear plant operating two reactors. Energy Minister Rocio Nahle has described nuclear energy as “clean, safe, constant and profitable.”

While Mexico has not announced plans for new nuclear reactors, the use of SMRs at coastal sites could support desalination of seawater for the country’s desert regions.

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Posted in Nuclear | 4 Comments

The Nuclear Energy Ice Age Appears to Be Over

The Nuclear Energy Ice Age Appears to Be Over

ice berg calveThe global scope and division of market segments for the international nuclear energy industry are becoming more clear.

As nations seek to replace fossil fueled power plants with reliable 24×7 CO2 emission free sources, global interest in nuclear energy has made a major turnaround in the past two years.

It has gone from being vilified over Fukushima that froze new efforts to a warming trend  of investment commitments to major new projects. The nuclear ice age appears to be over. Unlike the brief “nuclear renaissance” of the first decade of this century, which disappeared in a cascade of falling natural gas prices, this time the existential threat of global warming has convinced nations and their peoples that decarbonization in all its forms is here to stay.

Here’s a quick round the world tour of some of the more significant nuclear market segments by geographic region.

Starting in Europe, within the past several months several countries which share borders with Germany, which is famous for its strident anti-nuclear policies and actions, have taken actions that will over the long haul dramatically increase the number of new nuclear power plants in Europe.

While Germany is temporarily keeping its remaining three reactors open, make no mistake – the government wants to close them sooner rather than later. It is the threat of being cut off from Russian gas that has given these plants their brief reprieve from being closed. Germany has said it will only run the last three units from its fleet until April 2023. Depending on how aggressively Russia uses gas supplies as a weapon against the West in its war in Ukraine, these reactors could run well past that self-imposed deadline.

Yet, countries that share borders with Germany are ramping up their plans to build new reactors. Within a decade or less, Germany may have no operating nuclear reactors and yet may be able to buy all the nuclear powered electric generation power it needs from its neighbors.

France – As the worst energy crisis in generations grips Europe, French President Emanuel Macron announced the country will build six “next generation” 1600 MW EPRs. He told EDF’s new CEO, who heads the French state-owned enterprise in charge of the nation’s nuclear reactors, to break ground for the first unit by 2027. The other five EPRs are set to be built over the next decade with all of them completed by 2035. It is one of the most ambitious schedules for deploying new nuclear generating capacity so far this century. The country has the benefit of long experience with its current nuclear fleet and a workforce to boot to make it happen.

Poland – Within the past two weeks the government of Poland has inked separate MOUs with Westinghouse and South Korea to build a total of seven full size nuclear reactors at four separate sites. US government export agencies are reported to be working with Poland’s government to partially support the financing of the Westinghouse bid. South Korea’s KHNP has offered to take a minority equity stake in its project.

Polish officials have not been specific about how the government will finance its share of these projects. It is still a long road to line up the money for all of these plants, and sign off on terms sheets with vendors and EPCs, but this time it looks like that is an achievable goal. Poland will also need to move quickly up the learning curve to understand what it will take to manage the people and materials to build this fleet.

Czech Republic – In addition to its current open tender for one new 1200 MW PWR at the Dukovany site, the government recently announced long term plans for multiple new units at the Temelin site. The usual bidders – Westinghouse, KHNP, and EDF are all in the hunt for these contracts.

Significantly, Russia and China have been sidelined from pursing any of these opportunities in Europe.

Germany’s de facto Nuclear Colonialism Policy May Work

What’s interesting about these developments in France, Poland, and the Czech Republic is that while the main purpose of these new reactors is to replace aging coal fired power stations, there will be plenty of power left over in all of these countries to sell it to Germany should it desire to buy the power after eventually closing all of its nuclear reactors.

climate_change_carbon_taxThe de facto essence of Germany’s policy is what is sometimes referred to as “nuclear colonialism.” This is a phenomenon in which anti-nuclear political jurisdictions engage in the self-destructive closure of their nuclear fleets and then buy electricity from their neighbors which is generated by nuclear energy. If all of these projects are financed, and built, one clear benefit is that Germany might shut down its disastrously dirty lignite mines for good.

New Energy Iron Curtains

In addition to developments in France, Poland, and the Czech Republic, Romania is moving ahead on two fronts. It has taken essential first steps, following up on its MOU with NuScale, to develop small modular reactors. Also, it recently signed on to an agreement for bilateral support from the US and Canada to finish construction of its two partially built 700 MW CANDU type PHWRs at Cernavoda.

All of these developments are driven by the imperative to get off of Russian gas supplies, which are subject to repeated bouts of political interference by the Kremlin over the war in Ukraine. Natural gas will still be needed in all of these countries, but once the reactors are built, and in revenue service, by the mid 2030s, Russia’s influence over energy security for these countries will be measurably diminished.

Russia Remains a Significant Export Power

In Europe only Hungary remains inside Rosatom’s grasp for new nuclear reactors. Last August the government issued a license for construction of two 1200 MW VVER to be built at the PAKS II site by the Russian state owned enterprise.

Elsewhere Rosatom is headed towards completion of all four 1200 MW VVER at Turkey’s Akkuyu site and is in preliminary dialog with Turkey’s energy ministry about taking over the Sinop project on the Black Sea coast which was abandoned by a Japanese led consortium which never got off the ground.

Also, in Egypt Rosatom has finally, after much tape and delay, broken ground at the El Dabaa site, about 200 miles northwest of Cairo, which will be home to four 1200 MW VVER.

The key to Rosatom’s success in Turkey and Egypt is that it is financing both sites upfront. The plan on paper is that after 15 years of operation the plants will be sold to equity investors. However, Rosatom plans to retain its role of being the sole source supplier of nuclear fuel for these reactors for their expected 60 year service lives.  In the past that could have been a sure thing. However, Westinghouse was able to enter the Ukraine nuclear fuel market by successfully replicating the fuel needed for that country’s VVERs.

Russia has also more or less locked up the market for foreign direct investment in new nuclear reactors in India. It built and commissioned two 1000 MW VVER at Kudankulam, is building two more, and has also started building units 5 & 6. Westinghouse has been thwarted in its efforts to build four AP1000s for Kovvada 1-4 at Andhra Pradesh, due to India’s draconian supplier liability laws. The law, promoted by India’s massive coal interests, have been effective in acting as a trade barrier for western publicly traded firms to enter India’s nuclear market.  GE Hitachi exited the market for this reason. As a result, Rosatom, which as a state owned enterprise self-insures, reportedly has its eye on the site for six reactors.

Separately, India is building a fleet of at least 10 and as many as 17 700 MW PHWRs. The reason is the reactors do not need the large forgings of PWRs. Also, the CANDU type reactors can be fueled with natural uranium which all but eliminates the need for sourcing enriched uranium from the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Finally, all of the major systems and components for the reactors, turbines, switchyard, etc., can be supplied by Indian firms thus creating tens of thousands of jobs to build the reactors and at supply chain firms.

While French President Emmanuel Macron plans to visit India this winter to pitch construction of six 1600 MW EPRs at the Jaitapur site, it is unlikely that he will succeed. The trade off between the French champagne and caviar class EPRs and India’s tea and beans PHWRs is way too stark for him to make headway in this quest.

Note that by comparison with Russia, China has not yet landed a fully commercial export deal for its 1000 MW Hualong One PWR. While it has built one unit for Pakistan and will finish another next year as part of its self-financed Belt & Road program, it lost its chance to build one at the Bradwell site in the UK. An MOU to build one in Argentina has not moved forward to a signed contract over Argentina’s request for China to pay for the entire project as a loan. Given Argentina’s habit of giving haircuts to investors in its debts, China has balked at the request.

What About Small Modular Reactors?

US Plans and Prospects – In the US many energy experts agree that after the collapse of the V C Summer project in South Carolina, which left rate payers with a $9 billion debt and no new power, plus the Nantucket sleigh ride of cost escalation and delays for the Voglte project in Georgia, no electric utility CEO who wants to be around in time  to collect his stock options is going to commit to commit build a new full size reactor for quite a while.

A quick review of COLs issued by the NRC to utilities for new nuclear reactors projects that have not broken ground makes this point. Natural gas rates would have to go through the roof and interest rates for new capital would have to drop to pre-inflation numbers before a “prudent investor,” absent government support, would be willing to write any checks.

Several exceptions are Duke’s COL for the William States Lee twin AP1000s is one of the few issued by the NRC that hasn’t been built and which was not withdrawn by the utility. Also, DTE’s COL for FERMI III remains on the NRC’s books. FPLs plans for Turkey Point 6 & 7 may have a long wait. The utility was told by the NRC revise the environmental impact statements on its request for a 30 year license extension for its units 3 & 4 operating reactors.

SMRs for US

However, US utility executives are interested in small modular reactors (SMR). Recently, TVA’s CEO said the utility, which is planning to building a first-of-a-kind GE Hitachi BWRX300 at Clinch River, may eventually build as many as 50 SMRs over the next two decades.

In Idaho UAMPS remains steadfast in its commitment as the customer for NuScale’s six pack approach to lining up SMRs at a site at the Idaho National Laboratory. NuScale has gone public, which is a first for a nuclear energy startup in the current era.

A number of state legislatures have removed decades old bans on new nuclear power plants in order to explore building SMRs.

US Advanced Reactors

The Department of Energy through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) is throwing two reactors designs against the wall to see if they will stick. In Wyoming TerraPower is building a first of a kind sodium cooled 345 MW reactors, with attached energy storage, to replace an aging coal fired power plant. In Washington X-Energy is planning to build a small high temperature gas cooled reactor near the Columbia Generating Station.

TerraPower thinks it has a repeatable model and recently announced with its partner PacificCorp a plan to build five more of its Natrium reactors in rocky mountain states at sites within PacificCorp’s service area replacing coal fired power plants in the bargain.

Canada Punches Above its Weight

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has just last week submitted an application for a construction license for the GE Hitachi (GEH) BWRX 300 to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. The utility has plans to build the SMR at its Darlington site.

OPG is collaborating with TVA sharing lessons learned about design and licensing the BWRX300. In Canada the GEH reactor is still in Phase 2 of the CNSC Vendor Design Review (VDR) process. Similarly, in the US GE Hitachi continues to work with the NRC submitting topical reports as part of a pre-licensing dialog. OPG will proceed with non-nuclear work at the Darlington site for now.

Other SMR developers are working on projects that will build first of a kind advanced reactors at the Canadian National Laboratory and one or two more  at the Point Leprau nuclear site in New Brunswick province.

Overall, Canada, which has just 10% of the population of the US, is punching above its weight when it comes to nuclear power commitments for SMRs.

Middle East May Be South Korea’s Best Opportunity

With three of the four 1400 MW PWRs commissioned in the United Arab Emirates, and the fourth to be completed soon, South Korea has staked a credible claim to being the go to nation for building new reactors in the Middle East. South Korean firms are doing everything they can to win the tender for two new reactors by Saudi Arabia. It could be a doorway to build as many as 14 more over the next two decades.

From a geopolitical perspective, the US would prefer South Korea wins the business thus locking out Russia, and particularly, China, from establishing a foothold in the desert kingdom. The decision time frame, and the selection of a vendor are impossible to predict and much depends on the price of oil.

The UK Will Build Sizewell C

In the UK the new government late last week swatted back rumors it planned to cancel the Sizewell C project which is composed of two EDF EPRs. The project is nearing the finish line for a funding profile that will be a combination of French and UK government money and private investment. A plan for equity investment in the project by Chinese state owned enterprises is long gone over security concerns.

Separately, UK’s Rolls-Royce is ramping up to build a a fleet of 16 470 MW PWRs across the UK providing baseload power for all those offshore wind projects and grid resiliency for the nation.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

TerraPower and Pacific Corp Lay in Plans for Five New Natrium Reactors to Replace Fossil Fuel Power Plants

  • TerraPower and Pacific Corp Set Plans for Five New Natrium Reactors to Replace Fossil Fuel Power Plants.
  • Canada Commits CAD $970M for First SMR at Darlington
  • Holtec Project Delivery Plan for SMR-160 in Czech Republic
  • Czech Republic Sees Potential Of SMRs For Clean Hydrogen and Process Heat
  • US / Canada in Joint Effort to Support Romania’s Cernavoda 3 & 4
  • NuScale Power and Prodigy Clean Energy Advance SMR Marine Facility Design
  • $150M in Federal Funding for Upgrades to INL Infrastructure

Note to Readers – The  International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Ministerial Conference held in Washington, DC, this week stimulated many announcements about new commitments to the use of nuclear energy to address the challenges of climate change and to support sustainable economic growth. This week’s blog post is the first of two covering the flood of press statements. The rest will post next week.

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TerraPower and Pacific Corp Lay in Plans for Five New Natrium Reactors to Replace Fossil Fuel Power Plants.

  • TerraPower and PacificCorp to Assess Need for Five Natrium Nuclear Reactors

terrapower_logo_black_hi_res (2)TerraPower and PacificCorp announced this week plans to assess the need for five additional Natrium fast reactors in the utility’s service area. The objective is to replace its coal fired power plants with the reactors. The companies are exploring the potential for deployment of five additional Natrium reactors in addition to the one being built at Kemmerer, WY. The objective is to have all of the new units deployed by 2035.

At an estimated cost of under just $2 billion for each 345 MW unit, the total capital expense would be about $10 billion for 1,725 MW or the equivalent of one EDF EPR. Given the capacity of the grid in rocky mountain states, the smaller size Natrium reactors, at multiple locations, are likely a better fit with the existing infrastructure than a single large PWR at at one site.

PacifiCorp operates fossil fueled electric generation facilities in a service area that includes Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Montana.

TerraPower and PacifiCorp expect to finish a joint feasibility study evaluating candidate locations by the end of 2023. They’re looking for sites “that have the same energy expertise and capabilities as our demonstration site,” according to a press statement.

Last year PacifiCorp and TerraPower announced their plans to bring the Natrium demonstration plant to Kemmerer, Wyoming, where a PacifiCorp coal-fueled power plant is slated for retirement. The companies’ combined commitment to providing carbon-free energy solutions, while maintaining grid reliability and integrating baseload power that can support intermittent energy resources.

natrium power reactor facility

Potential Sites

The press statement said both companies will engage with local communities before any final sites are selected. Here are some potential sites.

The Casper, WY, Star Tribune reported 10/28/22 that candidate sites for the new plant include the Wyoming communities of Glenrock, Gillette and Rock Springs.

According to the newspaper, there’s no guarantee that all, or any, of PacificCorp’s remaining coal plants — Glenrock’s Dave Johnston, Gillette’s Wyodak and Rock Springs’ Jim Bridger — will turn out to be the right fit. To be considered for a Natrium reactor, each must meet not only TerraPower’s site criteria and also the strict safety and environmental requirements set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Under PacifiCorp’s most recent Integrated Resource Plan, released last September, Jim Bridger units 1 and 2 are scheduled for conversion to natural gas in 2024, and units 3 and 4 will retire in 2037. All four units at Dave Johnston will close in 2027. And Wyodak, the last to shutter, will stay open through 2039.

The Salt Lake City Tribune reported on 10/27/22 that the plan by the utility to locate nuclear plants near existing coal plants means the companies can use existing transmission lines to distribute the power. That could be good news for Emery County, UT, home to two of PacifiCorp’s largest coal-fired power plants that are set to be retired in the coming years. The utility is one of the county’s largest employers.

Wyoming Uranium Could Fuel the New Reactors

Sourcing uranium, a major concern for the company following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, won’t be a focus of the feasibility study, TerraPower CEO Chris Levesque told the Casper Star-Tribute.

He’s confident that the U.S. will have the capacity to enrich uranium to the higher level required for Natrium by the time a second wave of reactors comes online — and that Wyoming will supply at least some of it.

The Department of Energy is moving towards being a first buyer of HALEU fuel, which is needed for the Natrium reactor and other advanced designs, based on a $700M appropriation. The agency published a ‘sources sought request for information‘ (RFI) last month which is precursor to an actual procurement action.

The purpose of the RFI is to determine the interest and feasibility of both large and small businesses to produce HALEU. The DOE wants to see commercial HALEU enrichment facilities operating “as soon as possible,” backed by a sustainable U.S. uranium mining, conversion, storage, and transport infrastructure. CoverDyn’s uranium conversion plant in Illinois is expected to restart in 2023 but this is an “aggressive timeline” according to a statement the firm’s CEO made to World Nuclear News in April 2021.

Schedule for Licensing and Construction of 1st Unit

TerraPower expects the NRC safety evaluation for its first reactor to be complete by 2026, and it could to be a longer and more complicated process than for subsequent Natrium projects.

“I would fully expect to be starting new Natrium projects before we receive the operating license for Kemmerer,” Levesque said. “The urgency is really there to bring carbon-free electricity to the grid, so we can’t afford to wait.”

TerraPower has committed the company to an ambitious set of milestone for its first of a kind reactor at the Kemmerer, WY, site. Currently, it is funded under a multi-billion dollar cost sharing agreement with the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). To qualify to receive all of the government funding under the ARDP program, the first reactor has to be operational by 2028.

The planned demonstration project at Kemmerer will be a fully functioning power plant intended to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology.

The Natrium plant features a 345-MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 MW of power for more than five and a half hours when needed, which is equivalent to the energy required to power around 400,000 homes. TerraPower said the energy storage capability allows the plant to integrate seamlessly with renewable resources.

Natrium will be the first commercial reactor ever in the state of Wyoming and one of the first advanced reactors to operate in the US.

Sponsor Commitments

“This joint study is a significant step toward building the energy grid of the future for PacifiCorp’s customers and a tangible example of the promise advanced nuclear brings to utilities serious about leading the nation’s energy transition,” said TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque.

“The study will allow us to explore a carbon-free, dispatchable energy resource that could provide reliable power to our customers,” said Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp.

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Canada Commits CAD $970M for First SMR at Darlington

maple leafThe Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) has inked a final term sheet with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and committed CAD $970 million towards Canada’s first small modular reactor (SMR). It is CIB’s largest investment in clean power to date.

OPG is developing and constructing the GEH BWRX300 SMR next to OPG’s existing 3,500-megawatt Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ontario.

The CIB-financed Phase 1 work covers all preparation required prior to nuclear construction, including project design, site preparation, procurement of long lead-time equipment, utility connections, implementation of a digital strategy, and related project management costs.

The Darlington SMR will be one of the first ever developed and is expected to spearhead similar projects in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta, with interest also growing in the U.S. and Europe.

Zero-carbon energy from SMRs is a key pillar in OPG’s Climate Change Plan, which outlines OPG’s goals to become a net-zero carbon company by 2040 and a catalyst for achieving a net-zero economy by 2050.

The project will support Canadian efforts to become a global SMR technology hub in a market estimated to be $150 billion per year by 2040. Once fully constructed by the end of this decade, the SMR will avoid approximately 740,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually – equivalent to the emissions of nearly 160,000 gas cars.

Quick Facts on the Bank Deal

SMRs are a new class of nuclear reactors which are approximately 300 MW or less, have a smaller footprint and a shorter construction schedule, compared to traditional nuclear generating stations. SMRs can provide zero-carbon baseload power across all regions and are crucial to decarbonizing the electricity sector and broader economy.

OPG is an Ontario-based electricity generation company wholly-owned by the Province of Ontario and has more than 50 years of experience operating nuclear facilities.

With an approved Environmental Assessment already in place, the Darlington site is the only location in Canada licensed for new nuclear. The Darlington New Nuclear Project is being managed in a gated approach, subject to OPG board approval at each gate.

A 2020 study undertaken by the Conference Board of Canada shows strong economic benefits from construction and 60 years of operation of a single SMR facility.

CIB’s long-term capital can ensure critical, large-scale clean energy infrastructure projects are built.  Through its Clean Power priority sector, the CIB has committed $5 billion towards clean power, renewables, district energy, storage, and transmission.

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Holtec Project Delivery Plan for SMR-160 in Czech Republic

holtec 160 mw smrHoltec announced it has concluded a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Škoda Praha and Hyundai Engineering and Construction (HDEC) on October 11th to advance the planning for construction of SMR-160s in the Czech Republic.

Under the Agreement, the parties will develop the division of responsibilities for procurement, construction, and commissioning of SMR-160 plants in Czech Republic in accordance with Czech Codes and Standards and inclusion of Czech content in the delivery of the projects

The Parties will also develop a cost estimate for deployment of the SMR-160 standard design in the Czech Republic.

Holtec has been working with CEZ since 2019, supporting their technical and commercial evaluation of SMR-160 for deployment in Czech Republic and a feasibility study performed under an MOU and technical exchange.

The MOU with CEZ was signed last month to enable continued exchange between the parties for evaluation of SMR-160 deployment at Temelin, where CEZ plans to deploy a pilot SMR as early as 2032. CEZ is also evaluating future deployment of SMRs to replace several coal power plants planned for shutdown in the late-2030’s. Deployment of 24/7 clean nuclear power at these sites is important to ensure stability of the Czech electricity grid.

On a wider front, Holtec has been engaged in a formal technical exchange on SMR-160 with the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Czech Republic looking at broader applications for SMRs, such as district heating and industrial processes. Holtec has been engaged with electricity intensive consumers in the industrial and transportation sectors in the Czech Republic as future end-users of electricity and process heat produced by SMR-160 plants.

Holtec’s European Program Manager Rafael Marin noted, “SMR-160 modules are an ideal fit in terms of thermal and electrical power production for district heating and industrial applications. We can build as many SMR-160 modules as needed to meet the demands of the site, including traditional grid-scale electricity applications with 4-8 units deployed at a single location. In addition, SMR-160 is based on PWR technology and uses same fuel assembly type and enrichment levels that are in operation in PWRs plants currently, making SMR-160 licensing friendly.”

Holtec’s Senior Vice President of International Projects, Dr. Rick Springman, commented, “The importance of this Agreement should not be understated – it is the starting point for planning project execution of SMR-160 within the Czech and broader European context, supported by three companies with a reputation of delivering real projects in the nuclear sector.”

Holtec senior representatives have also noted that building a replica of Holtec’s planned U.S. SMR Gigafactory in Czech Republic is on the table, depending on the size of commitment for SMR-160 orders in the Czech Republic and competing offers from other European countries that have expressed interest in hosting a Holtec SMR Gigafactory.

& & &

Czech Republic Sees Potential Of SMRs For Green Hydrogen And Heat

  • New-generation reactors could be deployed at existing coal sites

(NucNet) The Czech government sees small modular reactors (SMRs) as potentially useful in an emerging hydrogen market and as a source of heat for centralized district heating systems, according to Jozef Sikela, the country’s minister for industry and trade.

nuclear-and-hydrogen.pngMr Sikela told a conference on nuclear and hydrogen in Prague that the Czech government has started working on an SMR roadmap due in April 2023.

“SMRs are not just a topic for energy policy but also for growth and internal market,” Mr Sikela said.

He said SMRs could be retrofitted at existing coal-fired power plants, replacing coal power generation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. SMRs at coal sites could use existing centralized district heating systems or could be coupled with hydrogen production.

Mr Sikela said hydrogen produced by nuclear power could help meet the future hydrogen demand because the potential for the production of green hydrogen “will be presumably limited”.

“As vendors already declare, hydrogen production from SMRs can be economically viable – the target is to produce it at a rate under $3 per kg of hydrogen,” he said.

A long-term goal is to develop a domestic fuel cell design and ensure the conditions for its local production. The efforts will eventually include the deployment of a large-scale electrolyser, with a capacity of up to 100 MW, at a domestic nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic. However, no timeline was given for the project.

According to the EU’s commissioner for the internal market Thierry Breton, for the success of its hydrogen strategy, the bloc will need a “significant” increase of decarbonized electricity generation.

“If we are serious about our hydrogen objectives, nuclear energy can and will have to contribute,” Mr Breton said.

He added that the nuclear industry should “harness” all the latest technological developments, including SMRs, which could be an “agile and affordable way” to generate power.

Czech state-controlled utility group CEZ plans to deploy new nuclear power capacities in the 2030s, both large-scale at the existing Dukovany site and small-scale at the existing Temelin site.

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US / Canada in Joint Effort to Support Romania’s Cernavoda 3 & 4

Romania’s Minister of Energy Virgil Popescu says Canada and the USA are both offering to help with the financing of the construction of Cernavoda 3 and 4 and said the US firms Fluor Corporation and Sargent & Lundy, Canada’s SNC Lavalin and France’s Framatome had agreed to “explore opportunities for cooperation in the civil nuclear field” with Nuclearelectrica.

Popescu said the “very important announcement for the development of the civil nuclear programme in our country” was unveiled alongside US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, at the International Atomic Energy Agency International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century.

Writing on Facebook, Popescu said, “through these partnerships we will also achieve our decarbonization targets and, at the same time, strengthen energy independence and security” and “demonstrate that we do not allow energy to be used as a political weapon”.

A separate meeting, with US Assistant Secretary for Energy David Turk, had discussed the status of projects covered by the two countries’ cooperation agreement, said Popescu, including small modular reactors (SMRs).

He added,”The American official conveyed that the Department of Energy is analyzing the possibility of involvement in the financing of the construction of reactors 3 and 4 at Cernavoda, in addition to the financial support we will have from Exim Bank.”

Popescu also said he had discussed joint projects with Canada’s Wilkinson, who had told him Romania had “support and funding from the Canadian government for the retrofitting of reactor 1 and the construction of reactors 3 and 4”.

He added that they had also “discussed the special importance we must give to the training of a new generation of specialists in the development of the nuclear field”.

Romania has tried for more than a decade to complete the two partially built CANDU type PHWRs which when complete are expected to be rated at about 700 MW each. The estimated cost to complete the two reactors is about $7 billion according to a web page posted by Nuclearelectrica.

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NuScale Power and Prodigy Clean Energy Advance SMR Marine Facility Design

NuScale Power LLC (NuScale) and Prodigy Clean Energy Ltd. (Prodigy) have announced a new conceptual design for a transportable and marine-based small modular reactor (SMR) power generating facility that provides improved transportability, manufacturability, economics, safety, and security. The updated concept will be used for engagements with utilities, regulators, and shipyard manufacturers.

Prodigy is a Canadian company specializing in the development of Transportable Nuclear Power Plants (TNPPs).

Prodigy_Image_NoFilter_Logos_FINAL

Conceptual layout and deployment of a Prodigy SMR Marine Power Station integrating 12 NuScale Power Modules (NPMs). Total gross capacity 924 MWe. Structures are not-self-propelled.

Similar to the terrestrial NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant, Prodigy’s SMR Marine Power Station (MPS) is scalable, being able to house from one to as many as 12 NuScale Power Modules (NPM) for a total output of 924 MWe.

After transport to the deployment location, the marine facility would be fixed in place within a protected harbor and connected to shoreside transmission and process heat systems. Nuclear fuel would be loaded in the NPMs as the last step of the commissioning process before beginning power generation.

Operations, security, and fuel handling protocols are equivalent to those used for a traditional nuclear power plant under existing nuclear regulations. At the end of its life, the marine facility would be transported to a marine-accessible center for decommissioning.

NuScale and Prodigy have been collaborating since 2018 under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the joint goal of bringing a competitive North American SMR marine facility to market.

The goal is to develop a product that can generate safe, affordable, and reliable electricity at grid-scale at any coastal location worldwide. Carbon-free power generated by these facilities would support at scale electrification, as well as production of zero carbon fuels, such as hydrogen and ammonia, to decarbonize the transport and shipping sectors.

“NuScale is extremely proud to continue this partnership with Prodigy, as utilization of a transportable marine facility will enable us to deploy the NuScale Power Module at more locations around the world,” said John Hopkins, NuScale Power President and Chief Executive Officer.

“By packaging the [NuScale Power Module] into Prodigy’s marine facility, we will offer countries a near-term solution to address energy security and to decarbonize their economies, including replacing coal-fired plants – many of which are located at the coast,” said Mathias Trojer, Prodigy Clean Energy President and Chief Executive Officer.

Advantages of Floating Power Stations

Compared to terrestrial deployments, the benefits of using Prodigy’s technologies to deploy the NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant begins with manufacturing and outfitting of the entire marine facility in a shipyard, enabling expedited delivery.

Further advantages include a significantly reduced capital expenditure; accelerated project schedule; minimized site preparation; reduced environmental impact; unlocked project financing structures that are not typically available to conventional site-constructed nuclear plants; and simplified and expedited decommissioning and site recovery. The marine facility’s design is standardized to allow for deployment at a wide variety of sites and for serial manufacturing.

Floating nuclear power is attracting more R&D attention as the push for decarbonization accelerates. The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has released a novel proposal in December 202 to manufacture green hydrogen using electricity from a floating nuclear power plant anchored at sea.

Core Power, a company headquartered in the UK, believes that it would be practical to produce one million tonnes of “green” ammonia per year using 1.2 GW of modular nuclear reactor power on a floating platform.

In South Korea, Samsung Heavy Industries has formed a partnership with Danish nuclear-reactor startup Seaborg to develop floating nuclear power plant barges using compact molten salt reactor technology.

Thorcon, a US startup, has a proposal to build floating molten salt reactors for Indonesia using shipyard construction methods. While the Thorcon power plant is floated from the shipyard where it is manufactured to its shoreside operational site, it once docked it will be firmly ballasted to the seafloor and managed as a land-based power plant, subject to existing regulatory rules.

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$150M in Federal Funding for Upgrades to INL Infrastructure

The US government announced $150 million in funding provided by President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act for infrastructure improvements at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to enhance nuclear energy research and development.

inl_map_facility_home_thumb

The funding through the DOE will support nearly a dozen projects at INL’s Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) and Materials Fuels Complex (MFC), both of which have been operational for more than 50 years and serve an instrumental role in advancing nuclear technologies for federal agencies, industry and international partnerships.

The funding will accelerate the replacement of aging plant infrastructure systems at ATR and MFC to ensure both remain operational in supporting several initiatives related to nuclear energy research and development.

ATR, for example, conducts research for the US Navy’s nuclear propulsion program and provides fuels and materials testing for industry. MFC contributes significantly to reactor fuels research and is working to produce small quantities of high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel to support future reactor demonstrations.

Infrastructure upgrades at both facilities are expected to be completed within the next four-to-five years and will include improvements to water and electrical distribution systems, process control systems, and roof replacements to improve research facility reliability and operability.

“More than 300 commercial reactors operating around the world today can trace their roots back to Idaho National Laboratory, and these infrastructure investments allow America to continue leading the world in groundbreaking nuclear energy research and development,” said US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.

Urban Legend

mighty fine cookiesWhen Argonne West, located on the Arco desert in Idaho, about a 25 minute drive due west of Idaho Falls, ID, on highway 20, managed by the University of Chicago, was transferred in 2005 to be managed  the Idaho M&O contractor, the name of the facility was changed to “Materials Fuel Complex.”

However, the choice of the name may have had an unusual source. During the University of Chicago’s tenure at the site, the cafeteria there used to produce an afternoon snack of scrumptious baked goods.

According to an urban legend, the name “materials fuels complex” has a hidden root of “mighty fine cookies” in memory of these tasty treats treats.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on TerraPower and Pacific Corp Lay in Plans for Five New Natrium Reactors to Replace Fossil Fuel Power Plants

Contentious Competition for Poland’s Nuclear New Build

settlement

South Korea’s KHNP and Westinghouse are the two leading bidders for Poland’s new nuclear build. France’s EDF is a lagging bidder reportedly having submitted the most expensive of the three bids. The competition for Poland’s business, six full size reactors, became contentious this week based on wire service reports from Poland and trade press reports in the US.

Update 10/31/22

ZE PAK, PGE and KHNP signed a letter of intent regarding the development of a nuclear power plant in the Patnów location to build the company’s 1400 MW PWRs.

Reuters reports Poland’s ZE PAK (ZEEP.WA) and PGE (PGE.WA) and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) have signed a letter of intent to build four 1,400MW nuclear reactors in Patnow, central Poland, the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a joint statement with the Polish Ministry of State Assets.

Update 10/29/22

Reuters reports Poland has picked Westinghouse’s PWR type 1150 MW AP1000 reactors aiming to reduce the country’s carbon emissions and phase out coal.

U.S. firm Westinghouse Electric Co will build Poland’s first nuclear power plant, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Friday, confirming a long-awaited decision aiming to reduce the country’s carbon emissions and phase out coal.

“We confirm our nuclear energy project will use the reliable, safe technology of @WECNuclear,” Morawiecki said on Twitter.

The announcement was confirmed in the US by Department of Energy Secretary Granholm speaking at the IAEA Ministerial Conference taking place this week in Washington, DC.

Poland is planning to spend $40 billion to build two nuclear power plants with three reactors each. The deal with the U.S. and Westinghouse is for the first three reactors of the Pomerania plant, which officials saying should start producing electricity in 2033.

South Korea’s KHNP has said in press statements that it expects an announcement for Poland to accept its bid for three of its PWR type APR1400 reactors on 10/31.

Contentious Competition Ahead

South Korea and Westinghouse are also competing in Dukovany, Czech Republic, where a one or more nuclear power plants will be built. The country has long range plans for new reactors at the Temelin site.

According to a US nuclear trade press report, the two firms are not in agreement about the intellectual property origins of the technology in the design of the KHNP APR1400. This dispute could affect KHNP’s Polish deals and future business elsewhere.

Background on Poland’s Nuclear Energy Procurement Effort

Early last week the South Korean trade press publication Business Korea reported that KHNP had won the business or at least part of it with a bid that included a equity investment for a minority share in the project. KHNP is  reported by Polish news media to have won at least two out of the six plants sought by Poland.

Business Korea reported that Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) is expected to sign a letter of intent with Poland’s state-run power company PGE Polska Grupa Energetyczna and private firm ZEPAK within two weeks regarding a new nuclear power plant construction project. The project is to replace ZEPAK’s lignite power plant in Patnow, Poland with one or more nuclear reactors. The operation of the lignite power plant is to continue until 2024. Lignite is the dirtiest form of coal for power production and produces the most CO2 when burned in production of electricity.

According to am Indian wire service report, translating a report in the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita published 10/19/22, Polish Energy Group, private energy concern ZE PAK, and KHNP will sign a declaration on the NPP’s construction. adding that the signing of the agreement, which should be overseen by Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State Assets Jacek Sasin “is expected in the next two weeks.”

Business Korea also reported Westinghouse currently has the upper hand to win the business for two reactors, one in Lubiatowo and another in Kopalino.  In anticipation of this business, the firm has signed multiple deals with potential Polish based suppliers as part of its localization strategy.

Older Updates

For an update on prospects for a deal for Westinghouse in Poland see the 10/24/22 report at World Nuclear News. There has not been any confirmation of a deal from the Department of Energy. The IAEA Ministerial is taking place in Washington, DC, all this week so watch the news for announcements during this conference.

A media report on 10/25/22 in the South Korean press reports the possibility that the South Korean government will raise the issue of the Westinghouse lawsuit against KHNP via diplomatic channels.  The basis for taking this route is President Biden’s agreement last May for “collaboration” on nuclear energy exports.  Clearly, the Westinghouse lawsuit doesn’t look much like “collaboration” to the South Korean government.

Business Korea reports on 10/26/22 that Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) is expected to sign a letter of intent with Poland on Oct. 31 regarding nuclear power plant construction.

According to Polish newspapers, Poland’s decision has to do with KHNP’s price competitiveness and technology transfer. According to them, KHNP is capable of building six 1.4 GW reactors at a total cost of US$26.7 billion ($4.45B/each) whereas the costs of the United States (Westinghouse) and France  (EDF) for the same number of similar PWR type nuclear reactors are US$31.3 billion ($5.27B/each)  and more than US$33 billion ($5.5B/each), respectively.

Note that the power ratings (electrical) of the reactors for each of these vendors as bid may be different than previously documented in other deals. These numbers may affect the calculation of the cost per Kw of potential generating capacity for each design.

The newspapers also reported that KHNP proposed post-construction technology transfer to Poland and this is why Westinghouse filed a suit on Oct. 21. According to Westinghouse, KHNP’s APR-1400 reactor that may be built in Poland is based on its technology and cannot be exported without its consent and the  approval of the US Secretary of Energy under US nuclear export rule in 10CFR810.

Lawsuit Over KHNP’s Alleged Use
of Its Intellectual Property

poLAND NUCLEAROn 10/23/22 S&P Global reported that Westinghouse has sued in federal court to block a potential deal for competitor Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power(KHNP) to sell nuclear reactors to Poland.

In a legal filing on 10/21/22 Westinghouse said KHNP’s reactor design includes intellectual property licensed by Westinghouse and requires permission from the US company before being transferred to Poland and other countries considering deploying the APR1400 reactor.

S&P Global reported that the filing was made because Westinghouse learned that Poland’s government was preparing to sign a preliminary agreement to buy nuclear reactors from government-owned KHNP instead of Westinghouse or some other source.

According to S&P Global, the lawsuit is based on a claim that intellectual property in KHNP’s APR1400 reactor design incorporates technology from the System 80 reactor design it acquired in 2000 from Westinghouse and that Westinghouse has intellectual property rights that matter as a result.

Westinghouse reportedly claimed in the lawsuit that KHNP conceded this need when the South Korean company sold four APR1400 reactors to the United Arab Emirates in 2010. Three of those reactors, the first to be operated by an Arab country, are connected to the grid with the fourth almost ready for operation.

The leverage Westinghouse is seeking is to force KHNP to comply with US laws restricting nuclear power technology sharing. Under these rules, known as Part 810 requirements, the US Department of Energy must clear the sharing of certain technologies with other countries.

Note that Poland as a country is listed in 10CFR810, which are the export control regulations that govern nuclear technology exports,  as a “Generally Authorized Destination” and so is South Korea.

US Export Control Regulations

export controlUnder DOE regulation 10CFR810 the Department of Energy (DOE) has statutory responsibility for authorizing the transfer of unclassified nuclear technology and assistance to foreign atomic energy activities within the United States or abroad.

S&P Global reported that Westinghouse asked the court to issue a judgment that the APR1400 reactor contains US-origin technology that is subject to DOE review under 10CFR810. Westinghouse also asked the court to enjoin KHNP from sharing technical information covered by Part 810 with Poland or with authorities in the Czech Republic or Saudi Arabia, which are also considering acquiring APR1400 nuclear plants.

Note that Westinghouse is ineligible itself from bidding on Saudi Arabia’s tender for two new full size nuclear reactors because the Saudi government does not have an agreement for peaceful use of nuclear energy under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act.

Given the currently antagonistic relations between Saudi Arabia and the US, it’s not clear what the State Department’s view would be on a request for support from Westinghouse for a waiver to bid on the Saudi tender.

The question may be moot since the tender was announced last June and Westinghouse was not included in the calls for bids from Saudi Arabia. What is clear is that the US government doesn’t want China or Russia to win the bid for the Saudi reactors which leaves KHNP as the only acceptable choice from the US prospective.

Opinion – Some Questions About the Lawsuit

Underwood-no5There are a few questions that aren’t addressed in the wire service report by S&P Global published online 10/23/22. This part of the blog post is personal opinion and is not a legal analysis or advice.

The first question is whether a US court has jurisdiction to affect the business operations of a domestic South Korean firm doing business in Poland? This is likely one of the first areas of contention that the court will have to decide.

Second, what  influence can  the lawsuit have, if successful, over any US supply chain procurements that KHNP would plan to make for its Polish effort? Examples include reactor cooling pumps, steam generators, turbines, and even fuel. Westinghouse is a major supplier of nuclear fuel to European reactors from its plant in Sweden. It’s a reasonable assumption that the Westinghouse bid for AP1000s would have included supplying the reactors, if built, with fuel from this plant.

Third, does KHNP have the domestic or international supply chain resources, including fuel, to avoid using US suppliers altogether, and would this strategy be in the firm’s best interests? Would its bid still be as competitive if it cannot use equipment from US nuclear technology manufacturers? For instance, would it buy its nuclear fuel from France if it cannot buy it from Westinghouse?

Fourth, given that there will be future deals, e.g., Czech Republic, where KHNP and Westinghouse are in competition with each other, would a settlement of some kind now be more cost effective for future business for both KHNP and Westinghouse rather than letting the case go to trial?

Keep in mind that KHNP is reported to have won the bid for two of Poland’s planned six reactors and Westinghouse is reported by Polish news media to have won two of the six planned reactors at separate locations. Is there enough business to go around if a licensing deal is crafted to settle Westinghouse’s intellectual property claims and to avoid protracted litigation?

Fifth, Westinghouse and Poland are betting on significant financial support from the US Export/Import bank for the AP1000 deal. KHNP is reported to be self-financing its share of the costs with a proposal for an minority equity investment as part of its bid. Poland may still seek US financial help for some of its financing which could be impacted by the lawsuit. In the past Poland’s plans for new nuclear reactors have come up short due to a lack of government commitment to fund them so US help is probably essential for a winning Westinghouse deal.

Sixth, Large globally significant export deals are often “sweetened” by what are loosely call  “offsets.” These are side deals at favorable terms and often are “buried” in the main transaction. In this case the trade publication “Business Korea” reports that “South Korea and Poland are cooperating closely in the defense sector, and this may have a positive effect on KHNP in the nuclear power plant construction projects.

s korean battle tanklSouth Korea recently signed contracts with Poland to export K239 Chunmoo MLRS, K2 tank, K9 howitzer and FA-50 light attacker. Presidents Andrzej Duda and Yoon Suk-yeol met with each other in June this year and discussed closer cooperation in the defense and nuclear power industries.”

This trade press report says there is a lot riding on the KHNP deal with Poland besides reactors. Given Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, Poland is likely keenly interested in acquiring the South Korean armaments.

There have not been any published media reports that the Westinghouse bid includes any similar offsets. The firm would have to partner with armaments manufacturers in the US in order to offer any since it is not, per se., a defense contractor for military equipment.

fat-lady-singsAny offset deal that Westinghouse might put together, to sweeten the Poland nuclear deal, with a US munitions manufacturer, would need approval from the Pentagon as well as the Bureau of Industry and Security at the Department of Commerce, the State Department, etc. Given the ongoing hostilities instigated by Russia in Ukraine next door to Poland, the White House National Security Council would likely also be involved in such a review.

As they say in the world of Opera, and baseball, “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” so watch this space for developments.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on Contentious Competition for Poland’s Nuclear New Build

Molten Chloride Salt Test Stand Launched by TerraPower & Southern Company

  • Molten Chloride Salt Test Stand Launched by TerraPower, Southern Company
  • Global Nuclear Fuel and TerraPower Announce Natrium Fuel Facility
  • NuScale’s EPC Validated Validated by NRC
  • Holtec & Hyundai Accelerate Work on SMR-160 Design
  • General Atomics Announces Plans for Fusion Pilot Plant
  • DOE Awards $38 Million For Spent Nuclear Fuel Recycling

Molten Chloride Salt Test Stand Launched by TerraPower, Southern Company

terrapower-logo_thumb.pngSouthern Company Services (SCS) and TerraPower recently built and installed a new test facility at TerraPower’s laboratory in Everett, Washington.

The Integrated Effects Test, or IET, is the largest chloride salt system in the world and will be instrumental in helping to develop the team’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR) technology.

The installation of the IET is part of a seven-year, $76 million cost-shared project with the U.S. Department of Energy to support development of the MCFR system. The initial agreement between Southern and TerraPower for the MCFR was signed in November 2021. TerraPower and SCS, a subsidiary of Southern Company, plan to demonstrate the reactor in the early 2030s.

The Integrated Effects Test is a multi-loop test facility that base on a series of smaller testing campaigns to inform its design. The non-nuclear system is heated by an external power source and will be used to  validate the thermal hydraulics and safety analysis codes needed to demonstrate molten salt reactor systems.

The IET also supports the development of the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment at Idaho National Laboratory, which will be the world’s first fast spectrum salt reactor.

TPMCSRTerraPower’s MCFR is a type of molten salt reactor (MSR) – meaning molten, or liquid, salts serve as both the reactor’s coolant and fuel.

The MCFR design specifically requires molten chloride salt, which allows for fast spectrum operation.

In the fast neutron spectrum, neutrons are not slowed down (e.g. by colliding with water or graphite) and move very quickly making the fission reaction more efficient.

In MCFR cores, nuclear fission occurs and heats the fuel salts directly. The MCFR then distributes heat from the molten fuel salt through a heat exchanger to an inert salt in a second loop. Heat from the non-nuclear secondary loop is then safely used to make steam for electricity generation, process heat or thermal storage.

The MCRE is being funded through DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program and will help inform the design, licensing and operation of the MCFR demonstration.

Jennifer M. Granholm, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, visited the TerraPower Research Facility in  Everett, WA, for an in-person update on research being conducted here to develop a sodium-cooled fast nuclear reactor

“We are in a worldwide nuclear competition and thanks to public partnerships like this we are no longer on the sidelines but leading the way,” Secretary Granholm said in a brief Q&A with reporters after touring the 65,000 square foot research facility.

“The completion and installation of the Integrated Effects Test is an important step to advancing TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor technology,” said Jeff Latkowski, TerraPower’s senior vice president of innovation programs.

“The MCFR will play a pivotal role in decarbonizing heavy industries, and we are proud to work with Southern Company, CORE POWER, and other partners to develop the systems necessary to bring new reactors to market.”

“Southern Company’s research and development program is committed to advancing next-generation nuclear as part of a diverse technology portfolio supporting our goal of a net-zero future for customers,” said Dr. Mark S. Berry, Southern Company Services senior vice president of R&D.

CORE POWER, EPRI, Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Vanderbilt University all contributed to the IET project.

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Global Nuclear Fuel and TerraPower Announce Natrium Fuel Facility

  • The new facility will bolster U.S. supply chain for advanced nuclear energy and create hundreds of new jobs

Global Nuclear Fuel–Americas (GNF-A), a GE-led joint venture, and TerraPower announced an agreement to build the Natrium Fuel Facility at the site of GNF-A’s existing plant site near Wilmington, NC. The Natrium Fuel Facility will be jointly funded by TerraPower and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, which aims to speed the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with U.S. industry.

The facility represents an investment of more than $200 million. Construction on the Natrium Fuel Facility is anticipated to begin in 2023. Recently, DOE was funded by Congress for $700 million to acquire HALEUY fuel. Contact awards are expected in mid-2023.

The Natrium Fuel Facility and other commercial nuclear power initiatives are projected to grow the GNF-A and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) workforce by approximately 500 new employees over five years. Many of these new employees will support the Natrium reactor technology that is being jointly developed by GEH and TerraPower as well as other commercial nuclear power initiatives.

General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) also announced plans to grow their workforce to support advanced nuclear growth and commercial deployment of BWRX-300 small modular reactors.

In 2021, TerraPower announced its intention to build the first Natrium reactor at a retiring coal facility in Kemmerer, Wyoming. The Natrium technology is a 345 MWe sodium fast reactor coupled with a molten salt-based integrated energy storage system. (Fact Sheet – PDF file)

natrium power reactor facility

Natrium Reactor Power Plant – Image: TerraPower

“Reinvigorating the domestic nuclear supply chain is a critical step in building the next generation of reactors,” said Tara Neider, TerraPower senior vice president and Natrium project director.

“This facility will create a reliable source of fuel for our first demonstration plant and additional Natrium plants in the future.”

“The Natrium Fuel Facility will help establish the fuel supply chain that will be required for the U.S. to deploy advanced reactors domestically and globally,” said Tammy Orr, senior vice president, fuel products, GNF-A.

The Natrium Fuel Facility would utilize high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU). The Energy Act of 2020 authorized DOE to support availability of HALEU for domestic commercial use. This provision aligns with the modern fuel needs of the Natrium demonstration plant and other advanced reactors and is another important step in building out the supply chain for the next generation of commercial nuclear power plants.

About Global Nuclear Fuel

Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) is a world-leading supplier of boiling water reactor fuel and fuel-related engineering services. GNF is a GE-led joint venture with Hitachi, Ltd. and operates primarily through Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas, LLC in Wilmington, N.C., and Global Nuclear Fuel-Japan Co., Ltd. in Kurihama, Japan.

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NuScale’s EPC Validated Validated by NRC

NuScale Power LLC (NuScale) announced that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) issued letter ML22287A155 concurring with NRC staff, stating that the NuScale methodology for determining the appropriate size of the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) is acceptable for use by NuScale small modular reactor (SMR) power plants.

nuscale facility

This methodology will determine an EPZ that provides the same level of protection to the public as the 10 mile radius EPZs used for existing U.S. nuclear power plants and is approved only for the NuScale SMR design, further demonstrating NuScale’s unparalleled safety.

The EPZ is the area surrounding a U.S. nuclear power plant, where special considerations and management practices are pre-planned and exercised in case of an emergency. Using this approved method, an EPZ that is limited to the site boundary of the power plant is achievable for a wide range of potential plant sites where a NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant could be located.

The significance of a NuScale plant with an EPZ limited to the site boundary is the NuScale plant can better accommodate siting of process heat off-takers, businesses, and housing in close proximity, and significantly reduces ownership costs to facilitate a plant’s emergency plan.

“Safety is NuScale’s priority, and on top of our design approval in 2020, this endorsement from a world-class regulator – the U.S. NRC – and the ACRS shows the global community our unmatched, innovative technology is first and foremost safe,” said John Hopkins, NuScale President and Chief Executive Officer.

“This also means NuScale’s game-changing technology can be sited where its needed most – powering our economy, communities, and lives.”

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Holtec & Hyundai Accelerate Work on SMR-160 Design

(NucNet) US small modular reactor (SMR) developer Holtec International and Hyundai Engineering and Construction (Hyundai E&C) of South Korea have launched an accelerated program to complete the balance of plant design of the remaining systems and structures for the SMR-160 advanced small modular reactor.

The two companies made the announcement and signed an agreement at a Holtec’s technology campus in Camden, New Jersey, marking one year of collaboration on the SMR-160 reactor program.

The Hyundai E&C and Holtec team, supported by US construction company Kiewit and Japanese multinational Mitsubishi Electric, have been collaborating to develop a standard design, which will be deployable in most regions of the globe without any significant modification, reducing the time from the customer’s authorization to proceed to the commissioning of the plant.

The latest agreement builds on a teaming agreement signed a year ago that envisaged the two companies jointly completing the SMR-160 detailed plant design, promoting SMR-160 business and marketing, and jointly participating in project tenders.

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Holtec said the SMR-160 team recognizes the urgent need to provide a clean energy eco-system that integrates the SMR-160 nuclear power plant with a competitive solar energy facility, and the clean energy storage and delivery system, called “Green Boiler”, being developed by Holtec to meet the needs of post-fossil fuel economies.

The Green Boiler system is essentially a large thermal reservoir filled with engineered salts spiked with infrared emitter particles or a highly conductive elemental metal. The Green Boiler stores the surplus (inexpensive) power from the grid and uses the stored thermal energy to run the existing plant’s turbogenerator to produce electricity on demand.

Other Developments

In 2020, Holtec completed Phase 1 of a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission pre-licensing review for the SMR-160. As of 10/05/22 the company is also in pre-licensing process with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In July 2022, Holtec submitted a loan application to US Department of Energy for a $7.4 billion program to help build four SMR-160s, to expand the output capacity of its existing advanced manufacturing plant in Camden, and to establish a new factory to manufacture SMR-160s.

Holtec has also entered into a memorandum of agreement with New Orleans-based utility Entergy Corporation, which will evaluate the feasibility of deploying one or more SMR-160s at one or more of Entergy’s sites within the Entergy service area.

Holtec said efforts are being made to install SMR-160-centered ecosystems in over 15 countries inclined to deploy SMR-160 and Green Boiler to meet their electricity and district heating needs.

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General Atomics Announces Plans for Fusion Pilot Plant

General Atomics (GA) announced a new concept for a fusion pilot plant (FPP) to deliver clean, safe, and economically viable fusion energy.

GA’s FPP concept utilizes a steady-state, compact advanced tokamak design approach, where the fusion plasma is maintained for long periods of time to maximize efficiency, reduce maintenance costs, and increase the lifetime of the facility.

GA wif

The GA Fusion Pilot Plant takes the approach of a compact steady-state system – a concept that has been well established and refined over decades of research and development.

Using powerful magnets and microwave heating, the GA fusion system creates a plasma – a hot gas in which electrons separate from atoms.

In steady-state operation, the fusion plasma is maintained for long periods of time to maximize efficiency, reduce maintenance costs, and increase the lifetime of the facility.

The GA FPP concept capitalizes on GA innovations and advancements in fusion technology. The facility would utilize GA’s proprietary Fusion Synthesis Engine (FUSE) to enable engineers, physicists, and operators to rapidly perform a broad range of studies and continuously optimize the power plant for maximum efficiency.

GA has also developed an advanced modular concept (GAMBL) for the breeding blanket which is a critical component (of the fusion power facility) that breeds tritium, a fusion energy fuel source, to make the fusion fuel cycle self-sufficient.

General Atomics recently announced a joint research partnership with Savannah River National Laboratory to address challenges of tritium handling as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) grant program.

GA’s proprietary Fusion Synthesis Engine (FUSE) integrates proven physics, engineering, and costing models into self-consistent simulations and designs. A product of GA’s expertise in fusion theory, FUSE can rapidly optimize the complex requirements of a fusion power facility.

FUSE is a highly flexible and modular modeling tool that will allow engineers, physicists, and operators to easily perform a broad range of studies spanning the design of specific components to the optimization of a power-plant concept. With FUSE, GA’s Fusion Pilot Plant can rapidly take advantage of new breakthroughs that improve efficiency and capacity, shaping the next generation of clean, safe, and sustainable energy.

“Excitement for fusion energy is at an all-time high, with historic interest from private industry and government,” said Dr. Anantha Krishnan, Senior Vice President of the General Atomics Energy Group.

Fusion is the process that powers the stars and offers the potential for nearly limitless clean energy. It occurs when two light nuclei combine to form a new one, releasing vast amounts of energy. Researchers can achieve fusion using a “tokamak,” which uses heat and electromagnets to create the necessary heat and pressure to force the nuclei to fuse.

Fueled primarily by isotopes of hydrogen found in seawater and capable of generating its own fuel during operation, the GA FPP would provide baseload energy without any harmful emissions or long-lived waste. Capable of operating around the clock, commercialized fusion power plants would provide sustainable, carbon-free firm energy for generations.

“The General Atomics Fusion Pilot Plant is a revolutionary step forward for commercializing fusion energy,” said Dr. Wayne Solomon, Vice President of Magnetic Fusion Energy at General Atomics.

“Our practical approach to a FPP is the culmination of more than six decades of investments in fusion research and development, the experience we have gained from operating the DIII-D National Fusion Facility on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, and the hard work of countless dedicated individuals. This is a truly exciting step towards realizing fusion energy.”

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DOE Awards $38 Million For Spent Nuclear Fuel Recycling

  • The Goal is to Advance Technologies to Recycle Used Nuclear Fuel Generated from Commercial Nuclear Power Reactors

curie logoThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $38 million for a dozen projects that will work to reduce the impacts of light-water reactor used nuclear fuel (UNF) disposal.

The projects, led by universities, private companies, and national laboratories, were selected to develop technologies to advance UNF recycling, reduce the volume of high-level waste requiring permanent disposal, and provide safe domestic advanced reactor fuel stocks.

Nuclear energy generates nearly a fifth of America’s electricity and accounts for half of all domestic clean energy generation. While used nuclear fuel (UNF), also referred to as spent nuclear fuel, is created during the process of generating nuclear energy, clean energy generated from this fuel would be enough to power more than 70 million homes.

Further, UNF can be recycled to make new fuel and byproducts that support the deployment of nuclear energy and advance President Biden’s goals to offset climate change and domestic reliance on fossil energy through widespread clean energy use. For a briefing on processing of used nuclear fuel globally see this fact sheet published by the World Nuclear Association. nuclear fuel assembly

“For America to further harness the safe, reliable clean energy produced at nuclear facilities across the country, the Biden-Harris Administration and DOE recognize the importance of developing practical uses for America’s used nuclear fuel,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

“Recycling nuclear waste for clean energy generation can significantly reduce the amount of spent fuel at nuclear sites, and increase economic stability for the communities leading this important work.”

Upon discharge from a nuclear reactor, the UNF is initially stored in steel-lined concrete pools surrounded by water. It is later removed from the pools and placed into dry storage casks with protective shielding. Most of the nation’s used fuel is safely and securely stored at more than 70 reactor sites across the country.

Projects funded through the Converting UNF Radioisotopes Into Energy (CURIE) program will enable  secure, economical recycling of the nation’s UNF and substantially reduce the volume, heat load, and radiotoxicity of waste requiring permanent disposal. These efforts will also provide a valuable and sustainable fuel feedstock for advanced reactors.

Led by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the following teams have been selected to develop separation technologies with improved proliferation resistance and safeguards technologies for fuel recycling facilities, and perform system design studies to support fuel recycling:

Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont, IL) will develop a highly efficient process that converts 97% of UNF oxide fuel to metal using stable next-generation anode materials. (Award amount: $4,900,000)

Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont, IL) will develop, produce, and test a suite of compact rotating packed bed contactors for used nuclear fuel reprocessing. (Award amount: $1,520,000)

Curio (Washington, DC) will develop and demonstrate steps of the team’s UNF recycling process—known as NuCycle—at the laboratory scale. (Award amount: $5,000,000)

EPRI (Charlotte, NC) will develop a recycling tool intended to address the coupled challenges of nuclear fuel life-cycle management and advanced reactor fuel supply. (Award amount: $2,796,545)

GE Research (Niskayuna, NY) will develop a revolutionary safeguards solution for aqueous reprocessing facilities. (Award amount: $6,449,997)

Idaho National Laboratory (Idaho Falls, ID) will design, fabricate, and test anode materials for electrochemically reducing actinide and fission product oxides in UNF. (Award amount: $2,659,677)

Mainstream Engineering (Rockledge, FL) will develop a vacuum swing separation technology to separate and capture volatile radionuclides, which should lower life cycle capital and operating costs, and minimize waste that must be stored. (Award amount: $1,580,774)

NuVision Engineering (Mooresville, NC) will design, build, and commission an integrated material accountancy test platform that will predict post-process nuclear material accountancy to within 1% uncertainty in an aqueous reprocessing facility. (Award amount: $4,715,163)

University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, AL) will develop a single-step process that recycles UNF by recovering the bulk of uranium and other transuranics from UNF after dissolution in nitric acid. (Award amount: $1,844,998)

University of Colorado, Boulder (Boulder, CO) will advance technology capable of high-accuracy, substantially faster measurements of complex UNF mixtures. (Award amount: $1,994,663)

University of North Texas (Denton, TX) will develop a self-powered, wireless sensor for long-term, real-time monitoring of high-temperature molten salt density and level to enable accurate safeguarding and monitoring of electrochemical processing of UNF. (Award amount: $2,711,342)

University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT) will develop a pyrochemical process for efficiently converting UNF into a fuel feedstock suitable for sodium-cooled fast reactors or molten-salt-fueled reactors. (Award amount: $1,454,074)

Learn more about the projects selected as part of the CURIE program as well as additional programs within ARPA-E that support the deployment of nuclear energy, including MEITNER, GEMINA and ONWARDS.

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