Use of Nuclear Energy to Produce Hydrogen Gains Ground

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

Lucid Catalyst Report –
Advanced Heat Sources are Key to Decarbonization

green h2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lucid chart 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can the Production of Hydrogen Can be Achieved?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

uses of hydrogen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

japan htgrimg_data_01

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

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

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

Chinese Fast Reactor Begins High-Power Operation

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

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

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

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

Update on the CFR-600

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

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

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

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

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

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

bn-800-large-image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japanese Utilities Revise MOX Utilization Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speeding Up Time to Market for Advanced Reactors
Using Reference Designs

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

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

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

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

adv nuc reactors

Framework of Advanced Nuclear Reactors. Image: Third Way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moving Designs from Hype to Prototype

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Role for the ANS Standards Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advantages of Reference Designs

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

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

A Proposal for Roles and Responsibilities for Collaboration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1918 Railroads Weren’t Getting the Job Done

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

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

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

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

USRA Heavy Mikado 2-8-2

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

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

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

History of Reference Designs for Nuclear Reactors – GEN IV

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

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

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

gen iv reactor types

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

Finding a Path to Development of Advanced Reactors: Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Organizations

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

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

Statements Of Support From Endorsing Organizations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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ANS Task Force Seeks Support for Nuclear Energy R&D

Recommended R&D increase just 0.6% the cost of Biden climate plan

ANS logoA task force commissioned by the American Nuclear Society (ANS) issued an assessment of U.S. nuclear energy research and development funding needs for the 2020s.

The study is a prospectus for appropriations as Congress and the Biden administration consider ways to support and expand America’s largest carbon-free energy technology, nuclear energy.

The study, titled “The U.S. Nuclear R&D Imperative,” outlines the level of federal investments for meeting nuclear energy R&D needs and enabling a commercial scale-up of U.S.-designed advanced reactors in the 2030s. The report also looked at maximizing nuclear energy for decarbonization, economic growth through high-paying nuclear jobs, and preservation of U.S. influence in global nuclear safety and standards.

“Accelerating R&D support now will help secure America’s clean energy future by deploying first-of-a-kind advanced reactors later this decade,” said Task Force co-chair Dr. Mark Peters, Executive Vice President for Laboratory Operations at Battelle and former Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

“An affordable, deep decarbonization of the energy sector requires a significant increase in federal investments in nuclear energy research and development,” Peters said. “Without increased and sustained R&D support, more U.S. reactors will be shut down by 2035 and advanced reactor systems will not be deployable, resulting in a weakened power grid, higher emissions, and higher energy costs.”

ans report coverThe ANS Task Force on Public Investment in Nuclear Research and Development brought together 20 technical experts from the DOE’s national laboratories, universities, private developers, utilities, suppliers, and professional divisions within ANS. The Task Force’s six-month assessment focused on nuclear fission R&D funding levels of programs within the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

The Task Force determined that a near doubling in annual appropriated funding levels for core nuclear R&D activities would ensure the commercial deployment of U.S. advanced reactors in the 2030s. In all, the Task Force recommends approximately $10.3 billion in additional discretionary spending by 2030, when compared to levelized funding at FY 2021 enacted levels. Concepts that progress from R&D to deployment may receive early market support through other federal mechanisms.

The Task Force noted that the additional funding would be valuable to catalyze the deployment of an advanced reactor fleet at levels required to meet the Biden administration’s climate goals of a carbon-free power sector by 2035 and a net-zero economy by 2050.

Additional funding could offset high regulatory costs for advanced reactor licenses, jumpstart the production of hydrogen and other low-carbon fuels with advanced nuclear energy, and deploy new nuclear manufacturing and supply chain capabilities and industries across the U.S.

The recommended additional federal nuclear R&D investments are a small fraction of the total cost needed to mitigate climate change. In comparison to the costs of President Biden’s $1.7-trillion climate plan, the requested additional nuclear R&D support of $10.3 billion over nine years is approximately 0.6 percent the size of the price tag for the administration’s 10-year strategy.

“In the face of the threats of climate change and America’s declining world influence, sustained nuclear R&D investment pales in comparison to the cost of inaction,” said Craig Piercy, Executive Director and CEO of ANS. “It is prudent to act now to support and expand nuclear energy, rather than to pay a heftier price later under duress.”

“As a dispatchable zero-carbon energy source, nuclear energy can be called upon at any time to ensure electricity demand is always met,” Piercy said. “Accelerated and sustained R&D investments will preserve this unique carbon-free energy source for the decades to come when we will need it the most.”

The Task Force’s requested nuclear R&D levels would fully fund and sustain programs already authorized by Congress, including:

  • Demonstrations of two designs by 2027 under Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) cost-sharing partnerships with private developers.
  • Demonstrations of additional designs expected to mature from the current ARDP Risk Reduction for Future Demonstration award recipients.
  • Support for early R&D concepts through the ARDP Risk Reduction and Advanced Reactor Concepts programs.
  • Construction of the DOE’s Versatile Test Reactor by 2030 to provide the U.S. with a fast-neutron capability required for accelerated testing of advanced nuclear technology.
  • Build out of the National Reactor Innovation Center for testing and demonstrations.
  • And the construction of an advanced light-water reactor by 2029 through the UAMPS/NuScale Carbon Free Power Project at INL.

hybrid systems

The Task Force believes it is also incumbent on the DOE to ensure that R&D investments build a sustainable innovation pipeline for existing and advanced nuclear technologies.

“Sustained R&D support will strengthen a vibrant national testbed and technology pipeline for nuclear energy,” said Task Force co-chair Dr. Christina Back, Vice President of the Nuclear Technologies and Materials Division at General Atomics and former Physicist at the DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

“A cohesive nuclear R&D strategy will produce advanced reactors ready for deployment by 2030 as well as preserve our national scientific capabilities and nuclear workforce,” Back said. “A series of milestones is envisioned to measure and assess R&D progress, ensuring that only the most efficient nuclear innovations and designs are brought to market.”

The Task Force also recommends, as a baseline, modest funding increases for existing programs which support essential research, development, and infrastructure. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Maintaining the nation’s essential nuclear science and engineering infrastructure at our national laboratories and universities,
  • The testing and development of advanced nuclear fuels for existing and advanced reactors, and
  • Operational improvements of the existing fleet of nuclear power plants through the Light Water Reactor Sustainability program.

Visit www.ans.org/rnd21 to read the full report.

Established in 1954, ANS is an international professional organization of engineers and scientists devoted to the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology. Its more than 10,000 members represent government, academia, research laboratories, medical facilities, and private industry. ANS’s mission is to advance, foster, and spur the development and application of nuclear science, engineering, and technology to benefit society.

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Montana Sees an Energy Future in Small Modular Reactors

  • New Lamps for Old. Montana Sees an Energy Future in Small Modular Reactors
  • Canadian SMR Developer Gets $20M boost from New Brunswick Province
  • Brookfield Looks at Option to Cash Out Westinghouse Investment
  • GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Announces Formation of Canadian SMR Business
  • Estonia / Fermi Energia ‘Raising Capital’ To Begin SMR Licensing Process
  • Rolls-Royce on Track for 2030 Delivery of UK SMR
  • Construction License for 1st Gen Russian Fast Reactor

The  state legislature of Montana,  in the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee, this week passed Senate Joint Resolution 3 by Sen. Terry Gauthier, R-Helena, that would have a legislative interim committee study the possibility of small nuclear reactors. The study needs to be completed by September 2022. At the core of the proposal is a  plan to replace aging coal fired power plants with small modular reactors (SMRs).

The idea is that the boiler and its related equipment at a coal fired plant will be removed leaving behind an electrical switchyard and connection to the grid as well as other infrastructure. The SMR would then be built on the site.

NuScale Power, an Oregon-based company that designs and markets SMRs, testified in support of the legislation.

Gauthier has said SMRs will fit into Colstrip Power Plant’s footprint and the turbines can be fitted with the new reactors. Gauthier said officials should consider building alternate energy generation facilities like solar and wind at the plant site as well that will help keep costs down.

The coal-fueled Colstrip Power Plant started dismantling its Unit 1 and 2 cooling towers in July following a 2016 air pollution lawsuit settlement between its six owners and the Sierra Club in conjunction with the Montana Environmental Information Center.

Units 3 and 4 remain in operation, though four of the power plants’ owners face coal power bans in Washington and Oregon beginning in 2025. A major investor recently withdrew a bid to buy a larger share in the Colstrip coal power plan.

With the looming closure of the coal fired power plant on the horizon, and the potential loss of the electrical power from it, SMRs are looking like a feasible energy solution.

Referendum Requirement to Be Set Aside?

The Helena Independent Record reports that a separate bill would remove a four decade old requirement implemented via a ballot issue by anti-nuclear groups that calls for a referendum on any proposal to build any type of nuclear power plant in the state. Montana voters passed the Montana Empowering Voters to Approve Proposed Nuclear Facilities Initiative in 1978.

House Bill 273, as proposed by Rep. Derek Skees, R- Kalispell, would eliminate having to put the construction of a nuclear facility up to a public vote. Instead, it would require a vote by the state legislature. It passed 8-4 out of a House committee  with four Democrats opposing the bill.

Supporters of nuclear power reactors said in support of HB 273 that nuclear reactors do not produce direct carbon dioxide emissions in comparison to the state’s coal fired power plants. They also said that fears about spent nuclear fuel are unfounded as it can be safely stored in dry casks.

Speaking in favor of the bill, Rep. Skees said HB 273 removed the ballot referendum “where such proposals can join the circus of modern media” and still leaves it in the hands of Montana citizens, but through elected officials.

Rep. Katie Zolnikov, R-Billings, said nuclear power was the only energy source in Montana that had to jump through such hoops, and she would support Skees’ bill.

Skees said the choices about nuclear power before voters in 1978 are “vastly different” than today and need to come before the legislature again.

Canadian SMR Developer Gets $20M boost from New Brunswick Province

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs used his state of the province speech to announce his government will spend taxpayer dollars to support the development of small modular nuclear reactors in the province.

Higgs announced that the province will grant St. John’s ARC Clean Energy $20 million dollars to support its SMR technology.

“We are convinced that, through this investment, not only will we support the development of local expertise, we will also contribute to creating a critical mass to attract the best talent, which will enable other companies to grow,” Higgs said.

He said the funding “will unlock significant private-sector investment.”

ARC is one of two companies with operations in Saint John hoping to develop and market the technology for small modular nuclear reactors.

Higgs didn’t mention any new money for the other company, Moltex Energy, but said he expects the federal government to announce funding to support its work.

See prior coverage on this blog Argonne’s IFR to Live Again at Point Lepreau, New Brunswick

Brookfield Looks at Option to Cash Out Westinghouse Investment

Canada’s Brookfield Business Partners is considering whether to sell Westinghouse Electric Company, the investment company’s CEO, Cyrus Madon, said in a conference call with analysts on 02/05/21 to discuss its fourth-quarter financial results.

“We are sort of at a little bit of crossroads, because we could sell part of the company or all of the company, I suppose, if we wanted to,” Madon said.

“We could hang onto it and continue milking these incredible cash flows, but it will all come down to what’s the value we can get versus what we can create by keeping it. But at some point in time, we certainly will test the market a little bit and see if we can get a read on market value for the business.”

Madon stressed the “incredible” value of the US reactor vendor. Brookfield’s “initial equity investment” was $920 million for 100% of the business, which is generating a 30% free cash dividend yield.

“Westinghouse truly is a great cash generator,” Madon said. Most of Brookfield’s profitability comes from businesses that “have scale and generate stable cash flows”, he added.

So why sell now? Madon didn’t directly address that question, but a read of his remarks could lead investors to interpret them that Brookfield feels the firm has taken Westinghouse as far as it can in terms of return on investment, and that cashing out now at its peak value is the best path forward.

Brookfield COO Denis Turcotte said Westinghouse “plays a critical role in ensuring the safe and uninterrupted operation of customers’ power facilities.” The majority of the company’s profits come from regularly recurring plant and refueling maintenance outages. He added that despite the COVID19 pandemic, demand for Westinghouse fuel and services have been largely unaffected over the last 12 months, he added.

Turcotte cited Brookfield’s “revamping” of Westinghouse’s technology and closing four acquisitions in the last 18 months that have augmented core engineering and service capabilities especially in the Canadian nuclear energy market which consists of CANDU type reactors.

Brookfield completed its purchase of Westinghouse from Japan’s Toshiba Corporation in August 2018.  The original purchase by Brookfield marked Westinghouse’s exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as a restructured company. The firm’s finances collapsed in 2017 due to problems with the failed V C Summer project in South Carolina where it was the EPC for construction of two 1150 MWe AP1000 nuclear reactors.

Westinghouse Notes Progress on SMR Design

Separately,Turcotte  touted Westinghouse’s work on a micro reactor design to provide “competitive power with minimal maintenance.”

See prior coverage on this blog – Westinghouse Launches New SMR Effort
https://neutronbytes.com/2019/03/31/westinghouse-launches-new-smr-effort/

After several earlier false starts, including a complete withdrawal in 2014 from efforts to enter the SMR market, Westinghouse was buoyed with a $12.9 million grant in 2019 from the Department of Energy, is making another go of it. The firm said it will spend $28.9 million to demonstrate the readiness of the technology of its 25-MWe eVinci micro-reactor by 2022. It isn’t clear how much progress the firm has made since then.

The government money, which is covering about half of the costs, will cover costs used toward design, analysis, licensing to manufacture, siting, and testing work.

According to Power Magazine, eVinci’s design is envisioned to operate autonomously. Its reactor core is a solid-steel monolith that features channels for fuel pellets, the moderator (metal hydride), and heat pipes, which are arranged in a hexagonal pattern.

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Opens Canadian SMR Business

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has announced the formation of GEH SMR Technologies Canada, Ltd. to support the deployment of the BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor (SMR) in Canada.

Lisa McBride has been named Country Leader, Small Modular Reactors. In this role she will collaborate with Canadian customers, stakeholders, suppliers and partners in GEH’s pursuit to bring the first grid-scale SMR to market by 2028.

McBride brings nearly 18 years of nuclear experience gained in a number of key roles throughout her career in the Canadian energy sector. She is deeply involved in the Canadian nuclear energy industry’s efforts to bring women into the business as technical leaders.

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s U.S. NRC-certified ESBWR. GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared to other SMR designs.

The firm has made several claims of extraordinary cost savings, but has yet to build a unit that comes in at these numbers. Until it does, the claims have to be taken with a grain of salt.

GEH believes, it can become the lowest-risk, most cost-competitive and quickest to market SMR. It says it can do this by leveraging the existing ESBWR design certification, utilizing the licensed and proven GNF2 fuel design and incorporating proven components and supply chain expertise.

As far as progress in Canada is concerned, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission reports on its website that the BWRX-300 entered into a combined Phase 1 & Phase 2 process for Vendor Design Review in Janaury 2020. It is one of 11 SMR developers participating in the VDR process which is a qualification process that occurs prior to licensing.

canadian smrs

Status of Canadian SMRs in CNSC VDR Process

“As we continue to advance the BWRX-300 we look forward to making future announcements about the Canadian SMR business,” Allen said.

“We continue to make significant progress in advancing the BWRX-300 in Canada and are on track to make additional submittals to the regulator in the coming months as part of the Vendor Design Review of the technology.”

The majority of the engineering work in support of the design and licensing efforts for the BWRX-300 will take place in Wilmington, NC.

However, McBride said in a node to Canadian suppliers that, “We are quickly progressing to further build our local presence by identifying key suppliers and enhancing relationships with stakeholders and communities. She added that a location on Ontario would be the manufacturing hub for a planned fleet of SMRs for domestic customers and possibly export.

Fermi Energia ‘Raising Capital’ To Begin SMR Licensing Process

(NucNet) Declaration signed at virtual conference calls for reactor deployment in Europe by 2030s

Estonian company Fermi Energia is raising capital to start the official planning process for new generation small modular reactor units and has signed a declaration with eight other firms and organizations calling for deployment in Europe by the 2030s.

The declaration calls for “a pragmatic approach” to SMR licensing to overcome licensing and regulatory challenges and reduce SMR project risk relating to nuclear regulation and the licensing process. It says SMR design standardization must be facilitated “to the greatest extent possible”.

The declaration says. “Regulatory frameworks should be based on International Atomic Energy Agency safety standards and European Union nuclear safety directives should be implemented.”

SMR host countries should also consider compatibility with relevant vendor and reference plants.

The declaration was signed during a virtual conference on SMR deployment in Estonia by Fermi Energia, Finland’s Fortum, Tractabel of Sweden, Vattenfall of Belgium, Synthos of Poland, the Czech Republic CEZ Group, Nuclearelectrica of Romania, the e-Lise Foundation of the Netherlands and the 18for0 lobby group from Ireland.

The Fermi Energia SMR initiative also involves Finnish energy companies Vattenfall and Fortum and Belgian engineering company Tractebel. For the past year they have been working on a feasibility study into SMR deployment in Estonia.

Fermi Energia said during the conference that it plans a start of the planning process for an SMR in late 2021, with the process expected to take up to five years. The first SMR could be operational in the early 2030s and would be one of the first in Europe and the first commercial nuclear plant in Estonia.

Fermi Energia, established in 2019, has said it is “technology neutral” and is following the licensing process for SMR designs in the US and Canada to see which technologies are suitable. The firm has ono-binding MOUs with half a dozen developers of advanced SMRs, It has not yet selected a design from any of them.

“Estonia has set an ambitious goal to end electricity production from oil shale by 2035,” Fermi chief executive Kalev Kallemets told the conference. “The reactor would solve this challenge for Estonia and is relevant for the wider region.”  Most of the electricity generated in Estonia comes from shale oil.

In a press statement Fermi Energia announced it is seeking Series A funding on Funderbeam to complete their €2,5M series to finance a new generation small modular reactor’s designated spatial planning process in Estonia. Fermi confirmed Bolt founder Martin Villig and Pipedrive founder Martin Henk, as key investors in this round.

Rolls-Royce on track for 2030 delivery of UK SMR

(WNN) Rolls-Royce is nearing completion the feasibility stage in the development of its UK small modular reactor (SMR), In May of this year it will focus on securing investment, its chief technology officer, Paul Stein, said this week. He claimed that the 440 MWe LWR type nuclear reactor design will begin the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process with UK regulators in 2024 and will be ready for customers before the end of he decade.

See prior coverage on this blog:  Rolls-Royce to Focus on Competitive Costs in UK for 440 MWe LWR Nuclear Reactor

Speaking to delegates at the Westminster Energy Forum webinar Materiality of Nuclear for Global Net Zero, Stein highlighted the consortium Rolls-Royce is leading for the UK SMR project. Members includes Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and TWI.

Stein said: “Phase 1 is now coming to an end.  We’re now moving into Phase 2 will which is a joint investment by the UK government, by the consortium members, and now, very importantly, third-party equity is coming in.”

Stein did not provide specifics as to how much government funding would be available or under what policy. He did not name any investors. The UK government has handed out some initial funding to Rolls-Royce and other SMR firms, but not nearly enough to design and build a fleet of them.

Each Rolls-Royce UK SMR will cost GBP1.8 billion (capex) and GBP40-60/MWh over 60 years. The firm says it has plans to build 16 units in the UK which leads to a requirement for capital of GBP288 billion.

rollsroycesmrgraphic_thumb

Conceptual Image of Rolls-Royce SMR Installation. Image: Rolls-Royce

“By getting the price down to GBP1.8 billion (per unit), it’s very much in the territory now of being able to access private equity to buy and run a reactor, which means we believe that nuclear power can really mushroom in a way that hasn’t been the case for when it’s been a state-funded enterprise,” Stein said.

Beyond its consortium membership, Rolls-Royce recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with US utility Exelon, “which will run the power station and act as the liaison between us and the financing partners.”

Construction License for 1st Gen Russian Fast Reactor

(WNN) Russian regulator Rostechnadzor has issued a construction license to Siberian Chemical Combine at Seversk for a lead-cooled fast neutron reactor, the BREST OD-300. This is a new-generation fast reactor which supersedes Russia’s established sodium-cooled BN 600 and BN 800 fast reactor designs. Lead cooling enables greater utilization of minor actinides from recycled fuel than in BN reactors.

Brest 300

Plans have evolved since 2010 and in 2012 Rosatom announced that a pilot demonstration BREST-300 fast reactor with associated fuel cycle facilities would be built at the Siberian Chemical Combine at Seversk, near Tomsk, 3500 km east of Moscow. The SCC is a subsidiary of TVEL, the nuclear fuel manufacturing subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom.

See prior coverage on this blog:  Update on Russian Fast Reactor Projects

The project comprises three phases:

  • a mixed uranium-plutonium nitride fuel fabrication/re-fabrication module;
  • a nuclear power plant with BREST OD-300 reactor; and
  • a used nuclear fuel reprocessing module.

It is known as the pilot demonstration energy complex (PDEC) and is a key part of Rosatom’s high-priority ‘Proryv’ (Breakthrough) project to create a new generation of nuclear power technologies on the basis of a closed nuclear fuel cycle using fast neutron reactors.   If BREST is successful as a 300 MWe unit, a 1200 MWe version will follow.

A related facility is the multi-purpose fast neutron research reactor, MBIR. This is a 150 MWt multi-loop reactor under construction since 2015 at the Research Institute for Atomic Reactors at Dimitrovgrad, about 800 km east of Moscow.

It will be capable of testing lead or lead-bismuth and gas coolants as well as sodium, simultaneously in three parallel outside loops. Initially it will have sodium coolant and will run on MOX fuel with high plutonium content. Completion was expected in 2020, but the project was paused after starting construction and commissioning is now expected in 2028.

It is to be part of an international research center at RIAR’s site, with the project open to foreign participation in connection with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO). MBIR will replace the old BOR-60 fast reactor at the site which has been widely used by international researchers since 1969.

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Nuclear Propulsion Fastest Way to Get Astronauts to Mars

A National Academy of Sciences Report recommends that NASA get moving to develop nuclear propulsion technologies that will get U.S. astronauts to Mars much faster than conventional chemical rockets. The NAS report says that in order for humans to reach Mars, major advances are needed in space nuclear propulsion technologies and soon. The study — undertaken by the Space Nuclear Propulsion Technologies Committee — was sponsored by NASA.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 2021. Space Nuclear
Propulsion for Human Mars Exploration. Washington, DC: The National Academies
Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25977

NASA Will Need Nuclear Power to Get Astronauts on Mars

The NAS report says using nuclear propulsion technologies to support a human mission to Mars by the late 2030s will require NASA to pursue an aggressive and urgent technology development program.

The NAS committee doubles down on its use of term “urgent.” The report calls on NASA to commit by this time next year to conduct an extensive assessment of the merits and challenges of using different types of space nuclear propulsion systems and to making significant technology investments as a result over the next decade. Such a program must include prototype systems, ground testing, and cargo missions as a means of flight qualification prior to first crewed use

Challenges and Merits of Space Nuclear Propulsion Technologies

The report assesses the primary challenges, merits, and risks for developing a nuclear electric propulsion (NEP) system and a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system for a human mission to Mars.

spqace nuclear

While NEP converts the thermal energy from a nuclear reactor into electrical energy to power electric thrusters, NTP uses the thermal energy from a nuclear reactor to heat a rocket propellant and create thrust. Each system has its own advantages and limitations for use in a crewed mission to Mars.

“Safely transporting astronauts to and from Mars will require advances in propulsion systems to develop spacecraft that are up to the challenge,” said Roger Myers, owner of R. Myers Consulting and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report.

“Nuclear propulsion systems have the potential to substantially reduce trip time compared to non-nuclear approaches. Synergy with other space mission applications and terrestrial power programs is also significant and will bring about added value.”

Studies comparing NEP and NTP systems are needed to assess the viability of each system for a crewed mission to Mars. Given the need to send multiple cargo missions to Mars prior to the first crewed mission, NASA should use those cargo missions as a means of flight qualification of the selected nuclear propulsion system before it is incorporated into the first crewed mission.

NEP – The fundamental challenge for developing an NEP system is scaling up the operating power for each subsystem, something that requires power levels that are orders of magnitude greater than have ever been achieved to date. Another challenge is developing a compatible chemical propulsion system to provide the primary thrust when departing Earth’s orbit and when entering and departing Mars’ orbit.

NTP – The fundamental challenge facing an NTP system is the ability to heat its propellant to the proper temperature, approximately 2,700 K. Other challenges include the long-term storage of liquid hydrogen in space with minimal loss; the need to rapidly bring an NTP system to full operating temperature, preferably in under one minute; and the need to develop full-scale ground test facilities that can safely capture the NTP exhaust.

The NAS committee recommends that the development of operational NTP and NEP systems include extensive investments in modeling and simulation. Ground and flight qualification testing will also be required.

  • For NTP systems, ground testing should include integrated system tests at full scale and thrust.
  • For NEP systems, ground testing should include modular subsystem tests at full scale and power.

Fuels – In the near-term, NASA and the Department of Energy (DOE), with inputs from other key stakeholders, including commercial industry and academia, should conduct a comprehensive assessment of the relative merits and challenges of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and high assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuels for NTP and NEP systems as applied to the baseline mission.

There are significant problems with using low enriched uranium as a lot more of it is needed to produce the same amount of power. This adds weight to the launch vehicle and produces a penalty in terms of payload.

Given the need to send multiple cargo missions to Mars prior to the flight of the first crewed mission, the committee also recommends that NASA use these cargo missions as a means of flight qualification of the space nuclear propulsion system that will be incorporated into the first crewed mission.

Cost Benefits of Nuclear Propulsion Systems

In Ars Technical, Eric Berger writes that NASA’s Space Launch System rocket, a chemical rocket, will have a carrying capacity of 105 tons to low-Earth orbit. NASA expects to launch this rocket once a year, and its cost will likely be around $2 billion for flight. So to get enough fuel into orbit for a Mars mission would require at least 10 launches of the SLS rocket, or about a decade and $20 billion. And that’s just for the fuel.

The bottom line Berger writes, “ if we’re going to Mars, we probably need to think about other ways of doing it.”

Berger also noted that nuclear propulsion requires significantly less fuel than chemical propulsion, often less than 500 metric tons.

What would be helpful for a Mars mission is that it would include several advance missions to pre-stage cargo on the red planet. Nuclear propulsion’s fuel consumption is also more consistent with the launch opportunities afforded by the orbits of Earth and Mars. During some conjunctions, which occur about every 26 months, the propellant required to complete a Mars mission with chemical propellants is so high that it simply is not feasible.

Getting NASA to Get a Move On

The problem with developing these types of nuclear propulsion systems isn’t technical feasibility, it is bureaucratic thinking by NASA. According to Berger, if NASA is to use nuclear propulsion in human missions during the 2030s, it must get started on technology development immediately.

So far, Berger writes, the agency has been “reticent” to move quickly on nuclear propulsion. This may be partly due to the fact that the space agency is heavily invested in the Space Launch System rocket and chemical propulsion needed for the Artemis Moon Program.

In recent years, NASA has not asked for nuclear propulsion funding. Congress has appropriated money for the effort anyway. In the fiscal year 2021 budget bill, NASA received $110 million for nuclear thermal propulsion development. Of this amount, $80 million is for work on a future flight demonstration program.

“Space nuclear propulsion technology shows great potential to facilitate the human exploration of Mars,” said Bobby Braun, director for planetary science at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and co-chair of the NAS committee that wrote the report.

“However, significant acceleration in the pace of technology maturation is required if NASA and its partners are to complete this mission within the stated timeline.”

Military Interested in Space Nuclear Power

In a separate report on Ars Technical Berger writes that the US Department of Defense is getting interested in space-based propulsion. In May 2020. through a pre-solicitation, the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced its intent to have a flyable nuclear thermal propulsion system ready for a demonstration in 2025.

Through this Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, or DRACO program, the defense agency seeks technology that will allow for more responsive control of spacecraft in Earth orbit, lunar orbit, and everywhere in between, giving the military greater operational freedom in these domains.

“Activity in cislunar space is expected to increase considerably in the coming years,” Maj Nathan Greiner, manager of the DRACO Program, told Ars. “An agile nuclear thermal propulsion vehicle enables the DOD to maintain Space Domain Awareness of the burgeoning activity within this vast volume.”

According to the solicitation . .

The space domain is essential to modern commerce, scientific discovery, and national defense. Maintaining space domain awareness in cislunar space – the volume of space between the Earth and the Moon – will require a leap-ahead in propulsion technology.

The goal of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) program is to demonstrate a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system on orbit. NTP uses a nuclear reactor to heat propellant to extreme temperatures before expelling the hot propellant through a nozzle to produce thrust.

Compared to conventional space propulsion technologies, NTP offers a high thrust-to-weight ratio around 10,000 times greater than electric propulsion and two-to-five times greater specific impulse (i.e. propellant efficiency) than chemical propulsion.

The DRACO program anticipates two tracks.

  • Track A will include the baseline design of a NTP reactor and culminate in a baseline design review.
  • Track B will include development of an operational system concept to meet operational mission objectives and a demonstration system design that is traceable to the operational system but focuses on demonstrating the propulsion subsystem. Track B is anticipated to culminate in a technology maturation plan review for the demonstration system.

BWXT’s Nuclear Propulsion Efforts

In a separate interview with Berger, Jonathan Cirtain, president of advanced programs at BWXT Technologies, told Ars Technica’s reporter that DARPA’s decision to push forward with development of nuclear thermal propulsion comes as critical enabling technologies are maturing.

Cirtain’s company, which makes most of the nuclear reactors found on US Navy submarines and aircraft carriers, is working with NASA on the design of a reactor to enable Mars missions. (BWXT Space Nuclear Propulsion Program)

BWXT Thermal Nuclear Propulsion Concepts

Conceptual Design of BWXT Nuclear Propulsion System; Image: BWXT file

A key technical milestone is the ability to manufacture metals which are extraordinarily resistant to heating. To operate efficiently, Cirtain said, an engine must be able to withstand huge temperature and pressure changes across just two meters in length. Hydrogen fuel is stored at just 19 Kelvin and heated to 2,500 Kelvin or higher.

Cirtaina also said that engineers designing nuclear reactor cores have access to computational power that allows them to iterate new designs—calculating such variables as neutron flux and fluid dynamics—quickly.

“Now, with supercomputers on your desk, you can go from years’ worth of calculation time to days, and iterate to a design solution much faster than you could previously.”

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

Canada’s CAMECO Boosts Silex Stake to 49%

Cameco_thumb[3]In a move to secure  future supplies of high assay low enriched fuel (HALEU) for future customers with advanced small modular reactors that will need it, Canadian uranium miner CAMECO has boosted its stake in the Silex laser enrichment process.

The business driver for the investment is that there are a growing number of developers in Canada, and elsewhere, who are doing work on advanced small modular reactors (SMRs) that have core designs the will depend on burning HALEU fuel which is enriched to greater than 5% and less than 20% U235. Some of these designs are expected to achieve commercial status in the 2030s timeframe.

canadian advanced smrs in CNSC vdr V2

Table: Advanced Reactors in CNSC VDR Process that Will Use Advanced Fuels:
Source: NeutronBytes, CNSC VDR status website., IAEA Report on SMRs

Regarding the line entry in the table above for Moltex, readers are advised that there is new information about this entry that corrects it. See the comment below which addresses it.

Cameco, which is one of the world’s leading uranium mining firms, has increased its equity stake in laser enrichment, an innovative technology from 25% to 49%. Silex owns the other 51% with GE Hitachi now having exited the project. At one time GE Hitachi was planning to build a laser enrichment plant in Wilmington, NC.

Cameco: (TSX: CCO; NYSE: CCJ) announced this week the successful closure of the binding Membership Interest Purchase Agreement (MIPA) between Cameco Corporation, Silex Systems Limited (Silex) and GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy, completing the ownership restructuring of Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE).

With the restructuring, Cameco’s interest in GLE increases from 24% to 49%, with Silex acquiring the remaining 51%. Cameco is the commercial lead for the project and has an option to attain a majority interest of up to 75% ownership in GLE. (More on this below)

GLE is the exclusive licensee of the proprietary SILEX laser enrichment technology, third-generation uranium enrichment technology that is currently in the development phase.

Cameco president and CEO Tim Gitzel said, “While there are still a number of development milestones before this technology could be commercialized, we believe it has excellent potential to expand Cameco’s reach in the nuclear fuel cycle in the future, building on the existing world-class assets and capabilities we already possess in uranium production, refining, conversion and fuel fabrication.”

Two key objectives of the business include;

  • Producing high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), the primary fuel stock for the majority of small modular reactor (SMR) and advanced reactor designs that are proceeding through the development stage and continuing their march toward commercial readiness.
  • Producing low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel for the world’s existing and future fleet of large-scale light-water reactors with greater efficiency and flexibility than current enrichment technologies.

Canada and the United States are among the nations around the world pursuing ambitious carbon reduction strategies. Governments in both countries have signaled significant interest in cooperating on clean energy solutions, developing and deploying SMR technologies, and collaborating to bolster critical mineral and nuclear fuel cycle security.

GLE said it sees its business as helping to de-risk any HALEU fuel concerns impeding the progress of emerging SMR designs. “Nuclear power plays a massive role in the global clean energy equation,” Gitzel said.

“That role will only increase in a carbon constrained world, particularly with the momentum behind SMR and advanced reactor technologies, a focus on the electrification of transportation systems, and the many other innovations that countries and companies are counting on to help meet their emission reduction targets.”

Financial Terms of the Deal

The acquisition came after a restructure was completed of Silex technology licensee Global Laser Enrichment, which resulted in Silex acquiring the interest in GLE, and Cameco Corporation increasing its interest to 49%.

The MIPA will be paid in four annual instalments of US$5 million (roughly A$6.57 million), shared pro-rata by Silex and Cameco, which will be triggered for the first year after GLE generates US$50 million (around A$65.7 million) in revenues.

Silex and Cameco have also executed several additional documents offering the option for Cameco to purchase an additional 26% interest in GLE. This option can be exercised by Cameco from January 2023 up until the date 30 months after the technology is satisfactorily demonstrated at full commercial pilot scale.

“The completion of this acquisition represents a significant achievement for Silex, giving us greater control over the commercialization of the Silex laser enrichment technology,” said Silex CEO and Managing Director, Dr Michael Goldsworthy.

“This new ownership structure, together with the recently announced U.S. Government approval, represents the start of an important new era for GLE and the Silex technology, at a time when nuclear power is coming back into focus as a key source of zero-emissions base load electricity in an emissions constrained world.”

Additionally, Silex and Cameco have amended their previous commercialization and license agreement from 2013 to align it with the new GLE ownership, although key commercial terms of the technology license remain unchanged.

Silex and Cameco have also executed several additional documents offering the option for Cameco to purchase an additional 26 per cent interest in GLE, which could potentially take its interest in the company to 75%, dropping Silex’s interest to 25%.

Future Development of the Technology

A spokesman for the company emailed a response on 02/01/2021 to several questions from this blog about the deal.

According to Cameco, the laser enrichment technology is currently in the development phase, and there are still a number of development milestones before the commercialization of that technology could be contemplated.

GLE will continue to focus on the uranium enrichment plant demonstration program, with completion anticipated by the mid-2020s.  However, that timeline will depend on the annual budgets and funding agreed to by the project partners going forward, which will depend on market fundamentals.

GLE’s present activities will continue at its current location in Wilmington, North Carolina. GLE has a site lease agreement in place with GE-Hitachi to permit continued test loop operations in Wilmington as part of its ongoing development phase.

Assuming the development program continues to proceed successfully, a commercialization decision would come sometime thereafter.  If the project successfully progresses through to commercialization, GLE’s first commercial plant would be built in Paducah, Kentucky, adjacent to a previous gaseous diffusion enrichment plant the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) operated until 2013.

GLE has a contract with DOE to re-enrich depleted uranium tails (DUF6) from this plant, repurposing legacy waste into uranium and conversion products for nuclear energy and aiding in the clean-up of enrichment facilities no longer in operation.

GLE will enrich about 300,000 tonnes of depleted uranium tails to natural-grade uranium at a Silex plant to be built at Paducah, Kentucky. The material is leftover as a by-product of previous-generation enrichment technologies. Also, it will repurpose legacy waste into uranium and conversion products to fuel nuclear reactors, and support the responsible clean-up of enrichment facilities no longer in operation.

As for whether Cameco will trigger its option to acquire a majority interest in the project, Cameco says it’s too early to say.  Terms of the option are confidential, but the firm says it is  pleased to have the option to attain up to 75% ownership of GLE.  For now, the spokesman says the firm is  focused on continuing along the development path with its project partners, Silex Systems.

Nonproliferation Concerns

GEH submitted a license application for the plant in 2009 which had the following characteristics. The GLE project was to be conducted in multiple phases:

  • Test Loop operations;
  • A license for a commercial-scale enrichment plant in Wilmington, NC; and
  • An  agreement with the Department of Energy (DOE) to purchase high assay uranium tails for re-enrichment at a proposed Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility (PLEF), in Paducah, Kentucky.

The science journal Nature reported in September 2012 that nuclear nonproliferation experts expressed a concern to the U.S.Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) that building a fully operational laser enrichment plant could encourage other countries to to adopt the technology, making it easier for them to develop bombs.

Nature noted that the original application for the GE Hitachi plant in 2009 set off a debate over whether the NRC sufficiently weighs proliferation risks when licensing new types of enrichment technology

The American Physical Society (APS) in College Park, Maryland filed a formal petition with the NRC asking that such licenses be subject to a formal review of proliferation risks.

Calling the new technology a “game changer,” the APS argued that a laser enrichment plant would, in theory, be smaller than one that uses gas centrifuges, and thus if the technology were to spread, it would be more difficult to spot would-be proliferators.

Despite a high profile effort, including congressional hearings, in September 2012 NRC issued the license to GE-Hitachi for the laser enrichment plant

In its official notice, the NRC said: “The license authorizes GLE to enrich uranium up to 8 percent by weight in the fissile isotope 235U, using a laser-based technology. This low-enriched uranium will be used in fuel for commercial nuclear power plants.

However, some aspects of the Silex process remain classified by the U.S. government to deter its use by rogue nations to make nuclear bombs.

For a deeper dive into the technologies that make it tick and the issues surrounding laser enrichment, see IEEE Spectrum, 09/30/2010;  Laser Uranium Enrichment Makes a Comeback

What is HALEU?

HALEU is a component for advanced nuclear reactor fuel that is not commercially available today in commercial quantities and may be required for a number of advanced reactor designs currently under development in both the commercial and government / military sectors. Existing commercial reactors typically operate on low-enriched uranium (LEU), with the uranium-235 isotope concentration just below 5 percent.

HALEU has a uranium-235 isotope concentration of up to 20% U235, giving it several potential technical and economic advantages. For example, the higher concentration of uranium means that fuel assemblies and reactors can be smaller and reactors will require less frequent refueling. Every time a reactor shuts down for refueling, the utility operating it loses revenue during that process.

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

In the US Centrus Energy is currently working under a three-year, $115 million cost-shared contract with the Department of Energy to deploy 16 of its AC-100M centrifuges at its Piketon, Ohio, facility to demonstrate HALEU production.  TerraPower and Arc100 have agreements with Centrus to use the fuel when it becomes available.

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

Competition from TRISO Fuel

A competing fuel type is TRISO fuel. BWXT is developing a TRISO fuel fabrication facility in Lynchburg, VA. In June 2020, BWXT announced a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory to expand BWXT’s TRISO manufacturing capacity and produce a demonstration quantity of the fuel.

The project is jointly funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Operational Energy Capabilities Improvement Fund Office and NASA, with overall program management provided by the DoD’s Strategic Capabilities Office.

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

Bulgaria Bids Bye Bye to Belene Again

  • Bulgaria PM Switches Horses from Belene to Kozloduy
  • China’s 1st Hualong One Goes into Revenue Service
  • Czech Republic / China Will Be Left Out of €6B Dukovany Tender
  • Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Plant Cost Soars £500M due to Effects of UK’s Second COVID 19 Lockdown
  • Think Tank Explores Timing of Development of a Hydrogen Economy

Bulgaria Bids Bye Bye to Belene Again /
Prime Minister Blinks over Completion Costs of €10B

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has proposed that the equipment purchased from Russia for the planned Belene nuclear power plant (NPP) be used instead to expand the existing Kozloduy NPP.

Borissov added that two new units could be built at the Kozloduv power station, rather than the single unit previously discussed, using a combination of €600M worth of equipment previously purchased to build two 1000 MW VVERs and new components from other reactor vendors.

This latest development may be the final straw for the Belene nuclear power project, which has been pronounced to be dead as a doornail more than once only to be revived by new possibilities for it to be completed, but this time it really looks like it is the end of the road.

belene siteThe Belene site is 11 km from Svishtov in Pleven Province, northern Bulgaria, near the Danube River just south of Bulgaria’s border with Romania.

It was originally planned to be a replacement for the Kozloduy plant’s four reactors that were decommissioned as a condition for the country to join the EU.

PM Borissov was then also the prime minister who cut the cord in 2012 over concerns as to whether it was financially viable.

That decision led to an expensive outcome as Bulgaria was ordered to reimburse over €600mn to Atomstroyexport, a unit of Russia’s Rosatom, which had won the contract to build the power plant and had already started work. The money was needed to pay for long lead time components like the reactor pressure vessel, steam system, turbines, and switch gear.

The prospect of paying for the equipment without a project in which it could be used resulted in a reversal of Borissov’s plans.  However, getting western reactor vendors to complete the project turned out to be a tough sell. Westinghouse declined to bid on Belene due to uncertainties over the government’s long-term commitment to the project.

Bulgaria was behind Russia’s iron curtain until 1991 when the then Communist government collapsed in response to a general strike. Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007. Historically, Russia has regarded Bulgaria’s nuclear energy plants as a captive market and has thwarted efforts by western firms to bid on projects there.

In 2012 Westinghouse signed a contract to prepare a proposal for a third reactor at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy site. Efforts by the firm to take over construction of the plant came to an end when Russia said has no intention of sharing information with Westinghouse regarding a feasibility study. That project is designed to scope out the potential for a seventh unit at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant.

In 2010 Westinghouse reportedly told the US Embassy in Sofia that the 1st unit was “a lemon” according to a US State Department Cable as reported by the UK Guardian newspaper. The embassy cable, dated February 17, 2009, also complained about endemic corruption in Bulgaria associated with the project.

In 2016 the former Bulgarian energy minister and two executives of the state owned national electric utility were indicted over alleged illegal activities involving the disputed sale of equipment ordered for the original construction of the plant. The defendants denied the charges and said they were brought by state prosecutors for “political reasons.”

vver at belene

Conceptual diagram of Belene VVER. Image: Rosatom

In  2018 the project was revived, and work on a tender was started to pick a strategic investor for Belene. It has attracted interest from Russia, China, France and the US. Financing remains an issue as the government has not committed to an taking an equity stake in the project nor to establishing rate guarantees for the production of electricity.

According to English language media reports from Bulgaria, in 2019, the government said was thinking aboutt launching a tender for a new unit for either Belene or at the Kozloduy site. Borissov then said that the equipment purchased for Belene could be used for that project instead of completing Belene.

Borissov’s sudden mercurial decision to consider switching horses has been criticized by opposition members in the Bulgarian parliament. Calling the decision as being influenced by election year politics, critics cited the lack of a financial plan to address the estimated €10B for the two units.

US efforts to spike Russia’s growing market share of energy equipment sales to EU countries also may be playing a role. In the waning days of the Trump administration, US Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources Francis Fannon said that his country is maintaining its position against the construction of the Bulgarian section of the Turkish Stream (TurkStream) pipeline and of the Belene NPP, as it considers they will not help Bulgaria achieve energy diversification and security.

He added that the US would consider supporting completion of the Belene project. He added that the existing equipment supplied by Rosatom in 2012 was “outdated technology.”

This political stance flies in the face of the fact that Russian companies would have been in a strong position to complete Belene as the existing equipment was supplied by Atomstroyexport.

Only one other nation has successfully completed a commercial, full size, nuclear reactor by integrating VVER components with those of other vendors. Iran’s Buscher nuclear plant was begun in 1975 by a consortium of German firms, but a ruinous war with Iraq and other delays prevented substantial progress until 1995 when Russia took over the effort completing it in 2007.

Initially, Bulgaria claimed that Belene would replace the two existing units at Kozloduy once their lifespan ends, but as the two reactors have now been upgraded, and had their licenses extended, that’s no longer a viable business case.

Fannon is now out of office and the policy priorities of President Biden have not yet been articulated with regard to nuclear energy exports and financial support from the government for them.

China’s Hualong One Nuclear Reactor in Revenue Service

  • China now is a country that has mastered independent third-generation nuclear power technology’, CNNC party chief says
  • Almost 90% of the equipment used in Hualong One, including all elements of its core, was made in China, the company says

(South China Morning Post) The first of China’s Hualong One third-generation pressurized water nuclear reactors went into commercial operation on Saturday, according to its developer China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

Construction of the home-grown reactor in Fuqing in the southeastern province of Fujian began in 2015 and it was connected to the grid in November last year following more than five years of construction work.

The Hualong One units, designed to have a 60-year lifespan, have an installed capacity of 1,161 MWe each, CNNC said.

Chinese nuclear officials took a victory lap over completing the project

“This marks that China has mastered independent third-generation nuclear power technology following the United States, France, Russia and others,” the company said in a statement on its official WeChat account.

“China has become a country that has truly mastered independent third-generation nuclear power technology after the United States, France and Russia,” Yu Jianfeng, CNNC’s Communist Party secretary, said in a statement.

“We must not only export our own nuclear power but also build it according to our own standards, so that we can’t be controlled by others,” chief designer Xing Ji said.

CNNC said the Hualong One project in Fuqing, where construction of a second unit is set to be completed this year, would help China improve its energy mix and reach carbon neutrality. Both units are designed to have a 60-year lifespan. Construction of a second Hualong One unit at the Fuqing site is due to be completed this year.

China is the world’s third-largest producer of nuclear power, with its 49 operational reactors boasting 51 gigawatts of capacity last year. A further 19 reactors are under construction, which once completed will add 20.9GW of capacity, according to the China Nuclear Energy Association (CNEA).

Czech Republic /
China Will Be Left Out of €6B Dukovany Tender

(NucNet) The parties remain divided over whether to also exclude Russia.

slam doorThe planned €6B tender to choose a supplier for a new nuclear unit at the Dukovany nuclear power station will probably go ahead without a Chinese bidder, the Czech government and leaders of the opposition parties agreed in late January which slammed the door on the prospects for a Hulalong One export deal by a Chinese state owned enterprise.

According to trade and industry minister Karel Havlicek, China is an “unimaginable” main supplier for all political parties. At the same time, he said, the parties are divided about proposals by some politicians to exclude Russia from the tender.

“We have come closer on one issue, we nearly all agree that China at this point is not realistic, now the discussion is whether to allow Russia in some form or not,” Mr Havlicek said. The main issue for China, and Russia, he said, are “security concerns.”

Six companies have announced their intention to bid for the contract. The companies are Westinghouse of the US, Rosatom, CGN, France’s EDF, South Korea’s KHNP, and joint French-Japanese company Mitsubishi Atmea.

CEZ has said one Generation III+ reactor is planned for the site, with a maximum installed capacity of 1,200 MW. However, the company has filed for permission to build up to two new units.

The Czech state has long been in talks with CEZ about expanding its nuclear fleet, but costs and financing have been sticking points. The utility has balked at providing the financing for the project on the grounds that it is a “bet the company” effort and has demanded that the government provide the financing including guarantees to cover cost overruns.

Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station Cost Soars £500M

According to multiple UK news media reports, France’s EDF has once again revised the expected cost of Hinkley Point C, the nuclear power station.

It said that that delays arising from the COVID19 pandemic government mandated “lockdowns”will add about £500M and push back the station’s estimated start-up date to 2026.

EDF, which is financing the construction of the plant along with its partner CGN of China, which has a one-third equity stake in the effort, said it expected the project to cost up to £23B compared with a 2019 estimate of a maximum of £22.5B. Once inflation is taken into account, the final price tag undoubtedly will be higher.

Covid-19-1The UK is now in its second and tougher ‘lockdown’ to try to stem the growing number of fatalities from the virus. EDF said that it has not been able to catch up with work that was delayed from the first lockdown last year.

“Ten months after it began, we are still facing the full force of the pandemic,” Stuart Crooks, managing director of Hinkley Point C, said.

“Even though experience has allowed us to increase numbers on site during the pandemic from below 2,000 to more than 5,000, social distancing requirements still limit the number of people we can safely have on site at any one time,” he said.

Mr Crooks added that “a longer construction period also adds some cost — as does the reduced efficiency of operating a site for a long period under Covid-19 conditions”.

Hinkley Point C is one of three EDF projects in Europe where the French company is using next-generation European Pressurized Reactor technology. The other two, the Flamanville power plant in France and Olkiluoto in Finland, have both been affected by long delays and cost overruns and their problems occurred long before the COVID19 virus appeared on the scene.

areva-epr_thumb

In 2013 the UK government struck a deal with EDF that guaranteed a price of £92.50/MWh for the electricity produced at Hinkley Point C in exchange for the French company financing its construction. At the time, the estimated construction cost was £16bn.

The French company is in talks with the UK government to build another plant, Sizewell C in Suffolk, although executives have made clear that a different financing model will be required for construction.

Ministers are examining taking a direct stake in Sizewell C as well as using a “regulated asset base” model that would involve consumers paying upfront through their energy bills.

Think Tank Explores Timing of Development of
a Hydrogen Economy

(WNN) Using nuclear plants to generate heat as well as electricity for non-grid industrial applications could be central to deep decarbonization efforts that go beyond being a source of zero-carbon electricity.

Speakers at the fifth Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum this month looked at how hydrogen, and how using nuclear energy to produce it, can reduce CO2 emissions for industries which have been tough nuts to crack in terms of decarbonization.

The Day 2 session on Nuclear Beyond Power: Hydrogen, Heat, and Desalination focused on the opportunities for light-water-cooled and high temperature gas-cooled reactor designs to support the heat and electricity demands of industrial processes, hydrogen production and desalination to produce potable water.

The session was moderated by Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Ph.D., lead for Integrated Energy Systems at the Idaho National Laboratory.

In the presentation Briggs pointed out that without nuclear energy the costs associated with achieving the ambitious decarbonization targets embedded in the 2015 Paris Agreement will make it difficult to achieve them.

She said that for periods of low electricity demand, or when renewables like solar and wind are generating electricity, the heat from nuclear reactors can be used to supply steam to industry, to produce hydrogen, or to make synthetic fuels.

As a result, using heat directly and leveraging energy at a time when it may not be needed to meet grid demands could also provide nuclear plants with an additional revenue stream, supporting their long-term economic viability.

nuclear and hydrogen

The fact that the world is not on track to meet the Paris 2015 goals was highlighted by Kristy Gogan,  managing partner of research and consultancy firm Lucid Catalyst which last year published a report setting out how producing hydrogen can help various industries reduce their carbon footprint.  See Missing Link to a Livable Climate: How Hydrogen-Enabled Synthetic Fuels Can Help Deliver the Paris Goals  (PDF file)

“Our report shows that it’s not too late to still meet the Paris goals – but only if we are prepared to make major investments in clean hydrogen production. There is simply no other way to make the numbers add up – this truly is the missing link we need to maintain a liveable climate on this planet,” Gogan said.

Gogan focused her remarks on markets for hydrogen and making the cost of producing competitively priced.

“Large-scale, low-cost hydrogen is the key ingredient that can enable the production of clean substitute fuels that can enable decarbonization of those really tough-to-abate sectors like aviation, shipping, cement production, and industry.”

However, to achieve this hydrogen needs to be cheap and competitive. “We estimate that the target price for hydrogen is around 90 [US] cents per kg. Current projections for renewables-generated hydrogen don’t expect to achieve those costs until around 2050.”

According to Gogan existing nuclear technology could already produce hydrogen at below $2.00/kg, and a new generation of advanced small modular reactors could achieve the $0.90/kg target price potentially by 2030

According to the Lucid report, nuclear energy’s attributes – its production of low-cost power and heat combined with high capacity factors and a small land use footprint – make it well suited to enable the highly efficient and low-cost production of hydrogen, at a scale large enough to be relevant to global oil supply, which is currently around 100 million barrels per day.

Gogan cautioned that it won’t be easy to make the transition to leveraging hydrogen as a means to achieve climate goals. She said that a fundamental shift to using the volatile gas will require significant investments in infrastructure to produce, distribute, and use it.

One way to speed things up, she said, is to focus on production of substitute fuels that could enable a new business model for oil and gas sectors, opening an entirely new business opportunity, with the oil sector continuing to leverage its existing industrial capabilities.

It is not Easy to Be Green Hydrogen

Some of the challenges facing Gogan’s strategy include the fact that energy density of hydrogen at atmospheric pressure isn’t sufficient to position it as an alternative fuel.

As a practical matter DOE notes that early uses of hydrogen as an alternative fuel will be in fuel cells that will make electricity. Future cars and trucks would operate in a similar  way today’s gasoline / electric hybrids operate. The car starts using electricity stored in a battery and once moving uses hydrogen in the fuel cell to make electricity to power the car.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas is about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline.

Because hydrogen has a low volumetric energy density, it needs to be stored onboard a vehicle as a compressed gas to achieve the driving range of conventional vehicles. Most current applications use high-pressure tanks capable of storing hydrogen at either 5,000 or 10,000 pounds per square inch (psi).

For example, the fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in production by automotive manufacturers and available at dealerships have 10,000 psi tanks. Retail dispensers, which are mostly co-located at gasoline stations, can fill these tanks in about 5 minutes. Other storage technologies are under development, including bonding hydrogen chemically with a material such as metal hydride or low-temperature sorbent materials.

Sedan_GasV6

Conceptual Design of a fuel cell powering an electric vehicle. Image: US DOE

Even so Grogan says it will take time to move the world’s fossil fuel burning industrial and transport sectors to hydrogen.

“We could really accelerate deep decarbonization across parts of our economy which frankly right now we do not have good answers for. By 2050 we could see low-cost clean hydrogen help to avoid really substantial global cumulative future carbon emissions from a very large fraction of otherwise locked-in fossil fuels.” 

Other Non-traditional Uses of Nuclear Power

Three critical factors must be addressed for advanced nuclear reactors to deliver their maximum contribution to non-traditional applications of nuclear power, said Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy, which is developing the Integral Molten Salt Reactor power plant. These are right-sizing, cost and power.

“For example, for industrial applications requiring thermal power and heat, that must be supplied in situ or close to where it is required,” he said, but “even the largest industrial applications rarely have a thermal load above 500-1000 MWt.”

TEI-ISMR-HowItWorks-Diagram

IMSR Conceptual Design. Image: Terrestrial Power

Irish said that a small reactor generating 200-400 MWt is “in the right spot” to provide a significant source of both heat and power to an industrial facility, he said, and advanced reactors are able to be sized to meet that demand.

  • First, this provides a means of generating power at a higher thermal efficiency, leading to an increase in capital efficiency and the ability to deliver cost-competitive power.
  • Second, it provides a heat quality that is relevant to the thermal load of the industrial facility.

“That is the exciting opportunity for advanced nuclear, and why it gives it the ability to cover a much greater range of industrial applications and not just on-grid power applications.”

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

Christopher Hanson Named 18th NRC Chairman

  • Christopher Hanson Named NRC Chairman by President Biden
  • — NEI Statement on Appointment of NRC Chair
  • — NEI – Russia and China Are Dominating Nuclear Energy Exports. Can the U.S. Catch Up?
  • Indian 700 MWe PHWR Reactor Connected to the Grid
  • — Western Vendors are Frozen Out of India’s Commercial Nuclear Market
  • China / First Concrete Poured For New Hualong One at Zhejiang
  • — Tables: China’s Nuclear Power Plans by the Numbers
  • Russia Organizes a Consortium of R&D Centers to Design and Test Advanced Nuclear Reactor Designs

Christopher Hanson Named 18th NRC Chairman
by President Biden

nrc logoNRC Commissioner Christopher T. Hanson has been designated by U.S. President Joe Biden as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 18th Chairman, effective immediately. Hanson replaces Kristine L. Svinicki, who departed the agency on Jan. 20, 2021, after serving as Chairman since 2017

“I am honored to have been selected by President Biden to serve as the next NRC Chairman and to lead the talented women and men who oversee the licensing and regulation of our nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials,” said Hanson.

Hanson extended his gratitude to Svinicki for her service as an NRC Commissioner and Chairman, a career that began at the NRC in 2007. She is the longest serving member of the Commission in the agency’s history.

“I look forward to building on Chairman Svinicki’s many accomplishments as the Commission takes on new challenges and faces new opportunities as nuclear energy technologies continue to evolve and uses of nuclear materials expand in the future,” said Hanson.

The NRC is comprised of five Commissioners, one of whom is designated by the President as Chairman. The Commission was established to be a collegial body that formulates policies, develops regulations, issues orders to licensees and adjudicates legal matters. The Commissioners serve five-year terms, with one term expiring every year on June 30. No more than three Commissioners may be of the same political party. Hanson is a registered Democrat.

NRC License Renewal Process

The complex NRC license renewal process. Image: NRC

Hanson was sworn in as a Commissioner of the NRC on June 8, 2020. He has more than two decades of government and private-sector experience in the field of nuclear energy. Prior to joining the NRC, he served as a staff member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he oversaw civilian and national security nuclear programs.

Before working in the Senate, Hanson served as a senior advisor in the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. He also served in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, where he oversaw nuclear and environmental cleanup programs, and managed the department’s relationship with Congressional Appropriations committees.

Prior to joining DOE, he served as a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, where he led multiple engagements for government and industry in the energy sector.

Hanson earned master’s degrees from Yale Divinity School and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where he focused on ethics and natural resource economics.  He earned both degrees at the same time (1993-1996) He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind. He is a native of South Haven, Indiana.

S&P Global/Platts reported that the the White House has not announced who will be appointed to fill the vacant fifth seat on the commission. The commission can continue to conduct business with a quorum of at least three commissioners.

Under the Atomic Energy Act, there can be no more than three NRC commissioners from any single political party and they serve staggered five-year terms. Commissioner Jeff Baran is a Democrat. Commissioners Annie Caputo and David Wright are Republicans.

Caputo’s term expires June 30. Baran’s and Wright’s terms expire in 2023 and 2025, respectively.

The Platts report noted that NRC commissioners must be confirmed by the US Senate, but the president has discretion to appoint any currently serving commissioner chairman without further congressional approval.

NEI Statement on Appointment of NRC Chair

Maria Korsnick, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Nuclear Energy Institute issued a statement in support of Hanson’s appointment.

“We congratulate the Honorable Christopher T. Hanson to serve as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We look forward to continuing to work with him and his Commission colleagues as they make important decisions critical to ensuring the continued safe operation of the nuclear industry. These decisions enable our nation’s largest source of carbon-free energy to play a key role in achieving our nation’s carbon reduction goals.”

“With the administration and Congress prioritizing climate policy, it is essential that the NRC, led by Chairman Hanson, recognize the important role the agency plays within broader U.S. climate and energy policy.”

“Nuclear energy is essential to meeting the ambitious climate goals that President Biden has set and we are proud to be part of that solution. With that in mind, the NRC’s continued progress to become a transformed, modern regulator is essential as we move toward a decarbonized economy.”

“Recognized globally as the premier nuclear regulatory body in the world, the NRC should continue efforts that make possible the innovation we see across the nuclear industry.”

Statement by American Nuclear Society

The American Nuclear Society also released a statement in support of Hanson’s appointment.  The group urged President Biden and Congress to quickly nominate and confirm a qualified candidate to fill the vacant seat of former Chair Kristine Svinicki. A fully functioning, five-member commission is important to the mission success of the NRC as an agency.

NEI – Russia and China Are Dominating Nuclear Energy Exports.
Can the U.S. Catch Up?

The nuclear industry trade group also issued a statement about the geopolitical competition the U.S. is facing from Russian and Chinese investments in exports of commercial nuclear power plants.

NEI said in a a fact sheet, “As it stands now, the dominant global supplier is Russia and the fast-rising rival is China”

NEI Russia China Market Share

Russia is building seven new reactors domestically and claims to have $133 billion in foreign orders. In just the past
five years, China has brought 21 reactors on line and today has 19 additional plants under construction.

NEI went one to write, “There’s more than just overseas business at stake;it’s our national security that could be at risk. The trade group pointed our that reactor exports allow countries to form 100-year strategic relationships that span the construction, operation and decommissioning of a nuclear plant.

NEI said, thirty-eight national security experts wrote to Congress about the importance of nuclear exports last year, championing how these supplier relationships bring “long-term influence on nuclear safety, security and nonproliferation, as well as the ability to advance energy security and broader foreign policy interests.”  (Press release) (Full text – PDF file)

Compared the the private sector approach taken by the U.S., Russia and China have state-owned and sponsored nuclear suppliers, meaning they can provide competitive financing and other support that U.S. nuclear suppliers have not been able to match.

NEI said that the roles of the the Export-Import Bank  and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation will be important in supporting the growth of U.S. firms seeking global customers for commercial nuclear energy exports.

Indian 700 MWe PHWR Reactor Connected to the Grid

(WNN)  Unit 3 of the Kakrapar nuclear power plant in India’s Gujarat state has been connected to the electricity grid. The reactor – the country’s first indigenously-designed 700 MWe pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) – achieved criticality in July last year.

Kakrapar 3 was synchronized with the grid at 11.37am on 10 January, the Press Trust of India reported.

“A true example of indigenous technology developed and built in India with 15 more such units to follow in fleet mode,” Anil Kakodkar, former secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy, was quoted as saying.

In April 2007, the Indian government approved plans for the first four of eight planned 700 MWe PHWR units: Kakrapar units 3 and 4 and Rajasthan units 7 and 8, to be built by Hindustan Construction using indigenous technology.

India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) told Parliament August 2018 that it will complete nine 700 MW PHWR commercial nuclear reactors which are under construction by 2025 for a cumulative total of 6700 MW. That numbers has since been increased to 16 units.

The PHWR is a domestic design based on the CANDU type reactor which uses heavy water and U238 to provide a critical reaction.

Indian-PHWR-Schematic-Layout-Diagram

The design does not require a reactor pressure vessel (RPV) like a PWR or BWR. This is important because India does not have the manufacturing capability to produce the large forgings needs to make RPVs. It also means that all of the long lead time large components for the reactors can be built by Indian firms and their workers.

Additionally, NPCIL reported that two 1000 MW VVER reactors being built by Rosatom at Kudankulam are also expected to be completed in this timeframe by mid0-decade.

Western Vendors are Frozen Out of India’s Commercial Nuclear Market

India has kept western vendors at arms length for over a decade due in part to a strict supplier liability law and also strong political pressure to use the domestic 700 MW PHWR design which can be built entirely by Indian companies. A second political influence comes from India’s coal interests who have no desire to see fossil fuel electric power plants shut down and replaced by nuclear reactors.

Where things become interesting is that the government has no plans to also complete any reactors provided by western vendors. In August 2018 a DAE official told Parliament, “This planned expansion till 2031 will involve only home-grown reactors and not imported ones.”

The policy decision could be a major blow to plans by France’s state-owned EDF/Areva to build six 1650 MW European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs) at Jaitapur on India’s west coast. It could also put on ice, perhaps indefinitely, plans by Westinghouse to restart a project to build six 1150 MW AP1000s in Andhra Pradesh on India’s east coast.

China / First Concrete Poured For New Hualong One
at Zhejiang

(NucNet) First concrete has been poured for the first of six planned indigenous Hualong One HPR1000 nuclear power plants at the Zhejiang site, south of Shanghai in eastern China, China General Nuclear (CGN) announced. The indigenous unit will be first of six at site in east of country.

The Hualong One, or HPR1000, is a three-loop pressurized water reactor. It incorporates elements of CNNC’s ACP1000 and China General Nuclear’s ACPR1000+ reactor designs. Both designs are based on the same French M310 design.

hualong one

Image: Wikipedia

In 2014 it was announced that the merged design was moving from preliminary design to detailed design. Power output was set at 1090 MWe net, with a 60-year design life. The reactor uses a combination of passive and active safety systems with a double containment.

Hualong One Construction Schedules

The government of China approved the construction of two reactor units in phase one of the project in September 2020. State media also reported at the time that Changjiang phase 2 in Hainan, southern China, had been approved.

The reports said the Hainan facility is expected to be finished by 2026 and Zhejiang by 2025. The South China Morning Post reported that the total expected cost of both projects was 70 billion yuan ($10.24bn), but did not specify how many plants this was for. China’s methods for accounting for the costs of the reactors produces significantly lower numbers in terms of the global benchmarks of between $5,000-$6,500/Kw.

The Zhejiang Sanao project is being developed by Cangman Nuclear Power Company, a subsidiary of CGN. CGN holds a 46% stake in the project, while the other development partners include Zhejiang Energy Power (34%), Cangnan Haixi Construction Development Company (9%), Wenzhou Nuclear Energy Development Company (9%) and Geely Maijie Investment Group (2%).

According to International Atomic Energy Agency statistics there are seven Hualong One units under construction in China, not including the Zhejiang Sanao project. China National Nuclear Corporation is building two at Fuqing, one at Taipingling and two at Zhangzhou, while CGN is building two at Fangchenggang.

There are two Hualong One units under construction at Kanupp in Pakistan. These are the first of their type being built outside China.  CGN is proposing to use a UK version of its Hualong One design at Bradwell, England.

China has 50 nuclear power plants in commercial operation, providing around 4.9% of its electricity production share. It has 11 units under construction.  See also “Nuclear Power in China,” published by the World Nuclear Association

Tables – China’s Nuclear Power Plans by the Numbers

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

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

Russia Organizes a Consortium of R&D Centers to Design and Test Advanced Nuclear Reactor Designs

mephi logoNine Russian scientific institutes, centers and universities have united into a consortium for the development of new generation nuclear energy technologies the National Research University – Moscow Power Engineering Institute (NRUN-MEPhI) announced., including;

  • closed nuclear fuel cycle technologies,
  • fast neutron reactors (FBR),
  • new materials for advanced energy technologies and innovative projects of nuclear power plants,

In a press statement, translated from the Russian, the NRNU-MEPhI press service said;

Consortium members will train personnel for scientific organizations involved in the creation of two-component nuclear power based on thermal and fast reactors with a closed nuclear fuel cycle, study the experience of international organizations, including the IAEA, and will develop new network educational programs.

The consortium includes:

  • NNRU-MEPhI, Nuclear Safety Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences (IBRAE RAS), Joint Stock Company Proryv (responsible for the Breakthrough Project),
  • the AI Leipunsky Institute of Physics & Power Engineering (IPPE),
  • the AA Bochvar Research Institute of Inorganic Materials (VNIINM),
  • Research Institute Scientific and Production Association LUCH,
  • the State Research Institute of Constructional Materials Graphite (NIIgrafit),
  • the Federal State Research & Design Institute of Rare-Metal Industry (Giredmet), and
  • the RE Alekseev Nizhny Novgorod State Technical University (NNSTU).

The consortium members will focus on the following main areas:

  • Achieve Lean Life Cycle and Energy Production Costs through Innovative Approaches to Nuclear Power Plant and Fuel Cycle
  • Development of methods for safety justification of projects of closed nuclear fuel cycle and fast reactors
  • Development of new materials for advanced nuclear and thermonuclear reactors
  • Development of a database of experimental data for verification of safety justification programs for nuclear facilities
  • Study of international experience in using codes of full-scale computer engineering modeling for the development and engineering design of various products and objects
    Expansion of experimental data bases used in modeling physical processes in nuclear power plants
    Application
  • Methodological approaches to the development, verification and validation of computer programs (codes) and databases for full-scale computer engineering modeling of physical processes in nuclear facilities
  • Development of test problems for verification and validation of codes for modeling physical processes

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

Russian nuclear fuel cycle  image WNA

The Russian nuclear fuel cycle. Image courtesy of World Nuclear Association

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

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

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

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

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

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NuScale / UAMAPS Set Course for NRC COLA by 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shearwater Energy and NuScale sign memorandum of understanding to investigate project

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

hybrid nuclear wind conceptual diagram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

supply chain nuscale

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

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

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

Romania / US Awards $1.2 Million Grant For SMR Development

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

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

SMR-graphic-Vert-600px

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baranwal will be based in Charlotte, NC.

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

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

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

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

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

rolls royve nuclear 1

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

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

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

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

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