TVA, OPG & Synthos Green Team Up for BWRX300 SMR

  • TVA, OPG & Synthos Green Team Up for BWRX300 SMR
  • BWXT Inks Engineering Contract for BWRX-300 SMR
  • Fast Reactors / China And Russia Sign Fuel & Technology Agreements for CFR-600
  • Ultra Safe Nuclear Hires U-Battery Talent for Its UK Reactor Team
  • Urenco Exits U-Battery Micro-reactor Project
  • Japan Partners with US and UK  on Fusion Materials R&D (Two reports)

TVA, OPG & Synthos Green Team Up for BWRX300 SMR

partnershipTennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Ontario Power Generation (OPG) , and Synthos Green Energy (SGE) agreed this week  to invest in the development of the GE-Hitachi BWRX300 small modular reactor (SMR).

The new team is a major international collaboration involving three key customers for multiple units of the 300 MW SMR in the US, Canada, and Poland.

Through a technical collaboration agreement that was announced in Washington, D.C., TVA, OPG and SGE will invest in the development of the BWRX-300 standard design and detailed design for key components, including reactor pressure vessel and internals.

GEH is committed to standard design development and anticipates a total investment of around $400 million associated with the development. Each contributor has agreed to fund a portion of GEH’s overall cost and collectively will form a ‘Design Center Working Group’ with the purpose of ensuring the standard design is deployable in multiple international jurisdictions. The long-term goal is for the BWRX-300 design to be licensed and deployed in Canada, the U.S., Poland and beyond.

Competitive Advantages

The collaboration could have significant impacts in terms of increasing competitive advantage for the BWRX300. By aligning three major customers to commit to building multiple units of the 300 MW SMR, GEH will be able to reap significant benefits. Here are a few examples.

  • Provide supply chain partners with a robust order book that will impel them to invest in production capacity to supply key long lead time systems and components for the SMR.
  • Achieve economies of scale for production of systems and components due to the fact that of the partners in the team are likely to commit to building multiple units of the reactor.
  • Speed up licensing in the US Canada. TVA and OPG will be able to take advantage of the collaboration between CNSC and NRC on licensing of the BWRX300. Synthos Green will be able to reference the licenses issued in the US and Canada with Poland’s nuclear safety ministry.
  • Advanced licensing in Poland. Recently, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency signed an agreement to collaborate on SMR technology reviews which will also speed up regulatory approval in Poland.
  • Train all reactor operators for all three customers in a single program and at a single digital twin simulator site.

US DOE Response to the Announcement

Addressing the event in Washington, US Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff said the partnership was a model for “precisely the kind of first-mover visionary private investment-driven effort” needed to drive deployment at scale.

“It takes a lot of dollars to make real change happen, and the federal government can’t provide all of those dollars.”

This comment may be a reference to the fact DOE has not made major development investments in the BWRX300 SMR similar to the scope of its support for the NuScale SMR which is also a light water reactor design.

In terms of “not providing all of these dollars,” as Sec. Huff noted, the agency’s FY2024 budget request has a number of big holes in it. How Congress will react to these numbers, given the administration’s commitment to deal with climate change, remains to be seen. Here are a few highlights.
-$160M / -62% Reactor concepts R&D
-$ 82M / -29% ARDP
-$ 36M / -52% National Reactor Information Center
-$ 60M / -100% Demonstration Reactor Programs (zero funding for the Versatile Test Reactor)

GEH Progress in Canada Earlier this month GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) announced that its BWRX-300 small modular reactor has achieved a significant pre-licensing milestone in Canada with the completion of phases one and two of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) vendor design review process. It is part of a field of a dozen or so SMR developers involved in the VDR process. The other two light water designs in the VDR process are by NuScale and Holtec.

CNSC VDR Process Heat

Site preparation is now underway for a BWRX-300 at OPG’s Darlington New Nuclear Project site in Clarington, Ontario, with construction expected to be complete by the end of 2028. This will be the first grid-scale SMR in North America.

“Nuclear power will play a key role in meeting increasing clean electricity needs in Ontario and beyond, which is why OPG is constructing North America’s first grid-scale SMR at the Darlington New Nuclear Project site,” said OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick. The collaboration agreement “will help advance necessary work to develop this next generation of nuclear power efficiently, benefiting electricity-users in all our jurisdictions.”

TVA is preparing a construction permit application for a BWRX-300 at the Clinch River Site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee and exploring additional sites in the TVA service area for potential SMR deployments. It’s objective to deploy 800 MW of nuclear generation indicates a need for multiple units of SMRs at the Clinch River Site. It is unlikely that TVA will invest in any full size nuclear power plants at other locations.

“Working together, we are taking intentional steps to advance new nuclear in the US and around the world,” TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash said.

“Getting this right is critical,” GEH President and CEO Jay Wileman said. “We all know nuclear has to be part of the equation, if you want to achieve net-zero by 2050,” but to “earn” its seat at that table “we’ve got to be on schedule, on budget, and it’s got to be at competitive cost. That is one of the foremost purposes of our design-to-cost [approach], in our common design, where you design it once, and you build it multiple times.”

Each of the companies will benefit from the “unprecedented” collaboration, which will further strengthen the cost competitiveness of the BWRX-300, he added.

ORLEN Synthos Green Energy (OSGE), a joint venture between SGE and PKN Orlen, and its partners have started the pre-licensing process in Poland by submitting an application to the National Atomic Energy Agency for assessment of the BWRX-300. OSGE has initiated a site selection process for its proposed first BWRX-300, and intends to deploy this first unit by the end of this decade with the future potential for a fleet of BWRX-300s. OSGE has initiated a site selection process for this first unit.

The SMRs will provide electricity, removing the need for coal fired power plants, and process heat for industrial production. The firm’s ambition to build a “fleet of SMRs” could transform it into a major energy utility in Poland and nearby nations in Central Europe.

“For the first time ever, a private Polish company is investing in a design for nuclear power plants,” Rafał Kasprów, CEO of SGE, said, adding that GEH’s modular technology is “simply ideal” for decarbonizing energy and heat production in Poland, and also for the company’s other zero-emission projects in the UK and throughout Central Europe.

UK Effort

In the UK GEH has submitted the BWRX-300 for review under the Office of Nuclear Regulation Generic Design Assessment (GDA).

“We believe the BWRX-300 is the ideal technology to help the UK meet its decarbonization and energy security goals,” said Sean Sexstone, executive vice president for advanced nuclear at GE Hitachi.

“Regulatory agencies in Canada and the US are collaborating on their licensing review of the BWRX-300. Through the GDA process we look forward to engaging UK regulators and enabling collaboration with their global counterparts.”

About the BWRX-300

The BWRX-300 is being designed to reduce construction and operating costs below other nuclear power generation technologies. Specifically, the BWRX-300 is being developed to leverage a unique combination of existing fuel, (commercial enrichment at less than 5% U235 which avoids HALEU supply challenges), plant simplifications, proven components and a design based on an already licensed reactor (ESBWR 1500 MW).

Global Interest in SMRs

An increasing number of countries are looking to SMRs to provide energy for everything from heavy industry to rural communities. SMRs, deployable either as single or multi-module plant, offer the possibility to combine nuclear with alternative energy sources, including renewables.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, global interest in SMRs has been increasing due to their ability to meet the need for flexible power generation for a wider range of users and applications and replace ageing fossil fuel-fired power plants.

There are about 50 SMR designs and concepts globally. Most of them are in various developmental stages and some are claimed as being near-term deployable. There are currently four SMRs in advanced stages of construction in Argentina, China and Russia, and several existing and newcomer nuclear energy countries are conducting SMR research and development.

The IAEA defines SMRs as advanced reactors that produce electricity of up to 300 MW per module. They are designed to be built in factories and shipped to utilities for installation as demand arises.

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BWXT Inks Engineering Contract for BWRX-300 SMR

BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) announced an engineering contract awarded by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) for its BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) reactor pressure vessel (RPV).

The RPV, which contains the reactor core and associated internals, comprises the largest component within the BWRX-300. Work associated with the contract includes engineering analysis, design support, manufacturing and procurement preparations.

This announcement supports recent commitments for SMR development by utilities and project developers across North America and Europe.

“Intricate design projects like the RPV for GEH’s BWRX-300 are well-suited for BWXT’s engineering capabilities, as BWXT excels in supplying design solutions for complex nuclear components that BWXT can efficiently manufacture,” said John MacQuarrie, president of BWXT Commercial Operations.

“We are grateful to GEH for their confidence in our experience and are thrilled to be one of the first to execute an SMR design contract for a North American deployment.”

About the BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor

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

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Fast Reactors / China And Russia Sign Fuel Agreement

(NucNet) China and Russia have announced a long-term deal to continue developing fast-neutron nuclear power reactors and closing the nuclear fuel cycle.

Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom said the agreement was signed on March 21st on the sidelines of the state visit to Russia of China’s president Xi Jinping. The document was signed by Rosatom director-general Alexey Likhachev and Zhang Kejian, chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority. (Time Mag profile 2019)

Russia and China are cooperating on several reactor projects, including construction of Russian VVER plants at Tianwan and Xudabao in China and the supply of fuel for China’s experimental fast neutron reactor, the CFR-600 in the southeastern province of Fujian. (Prior coverage of the CFR-600 on this blog)

Russia’s MBIR multipurpose fast neutron research reactor is under construction at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors site at Dimitrovgrad in the Ulyanovsk region of western Russia and is scheduled for completion in 2028. The US, having killed off funding for a similar advanced test reactor, will be at a competitive disadvantage once the MBIR is operational. In short, the Russians are coming for lunch – ours.

In 2021, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin said Moscow was considering the possibility of China joining a consortium for construction of the CFR-600 plant.

In October, Russia’s state nuclear fuel company Tvel said it had begun deliveries of nuclear fuel for China’s CFR-600. In 2021, Tvel started up a production facility to fabricate fuel for the CFR-600. The facility is part of the Elemash Machine-Building Plant, a Tvel plant in Elektrostal, near Moscow.

Construction of unit 1 of what is also known as the Xiapu fast reactor demonstration project began in 2017. It is part of China’s plan to achieve a closed nuclear fuel cycle. China National Nuclear Corporation announced in December 2020 that construction work had begun on a second unit at the plant.

The aim has been for the first unit to be grid connected around 2023. The reactors will be 1500 MWt, 600 MWe, with 41% thermal efficiency, using mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel with 100 GWd/t burn-up, and with two sodium coolant loops producing steam at 480C. Later fuel will be uranium metal with burn-up 100-120 GWd/t. Breeding ratio is about 1.1, design operational lifetime 40 years. The design has active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.

After the launch of the first CFR-600 power unit, Xiapu NPP in China’s Fujian province will become the first nuclear power plant with a high-capacity fast reactor outside of Russia. The other two functioning installations are the BN-600 and BN-800 sodium-cooled reactors at Beloyarsk NPP in the Urals region of Russia.

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Ultra Safe Nuclear Hires U-Battery Talent for its UK Reactor Team

bird_worm_webUltra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) announced this week the addition of key UK personnel to its team supporting the Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) program funded by the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

The move by USNC takes advantage of the recent release of personnel from the U-Battery Team and effectively doubles the size of its UK Team (USNC-UK, Ltd) underscoring the global importance of the AMR program and supporting and augmenting the UK expertise needed to realize the program’s benefits as intended by the UK Government.

This is a clear case of the early bird getting the worm. It is similar to the tactic executed by X-Energy to hire key personnel from South Africa’s PBMR advanced reactor R&D effort to build a commercially viable HTGR.

USNC-UK is building on USNC’s product, the Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR), to develop an advanced Micro-Modular Reactor design that will be best suited to the UK’s industrial process heat and power needs. The MMR-III will be a high power version of USNC’s flagship MMR, capable of producing 750C heat and specifically designed to be utilized in multi-unit “nuclear battery packs” at industrial sites.

“This is a great opportunity to move forward for the talented experts on the team in the face of an otherwise challenging situation,” said Prof. Tim Abram, former Head of Engineering and Design Authority for the U-Battery project, who joins the USNC-UK team together with other key former members of the U-Battery team.

“We are proud of the contributions made to HTGR technology in the UK by the U-Battery project, and the team are looking forward to carrying on their mission with Ultra Safe Nuclear, the world’s leading microreactor team.”

“The UK is a must-have market, the ideal launch pad for the global deployment of our industrial-grade high-temperature nuclear batteries”  said Francesco Venneri, CEO of Ultra Safe Nuclear.

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Urenco Exits U-Battery Micro-reactor Project

(WNN) Urenco has announced that it is withdrawing its support for the U-Battery advanced modular reactor (AMR) project “having exhausted its attempts to secure the commitment of new commercial investors.”

“The U-Battery team has completed its current program of work under the UK’s AMR RD&D program, and after dialogue and consultation with the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, and with other stakeholders, Urenco’s intention is to preserve the public investment in U-Battery by transferring its intellectual property to the National Nuclear Laboratory, subject to necessary due diligence and governance approvals.”

In addition to Urenco, U-Battery’s supporting organizations included BWXT Technologies Inc, Cavendish Nuclear, Costain, Kinectrics, Jacobs, the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear AMRC, Rolls-Royce and the University of Manchester.

In January, U-Battery was granted its first legal patent for the design of its high temperature gas-cooled reactor fuel element and core from the UK Intellectual Property Office. It means the fuel element and reactor core design are protected in law for five years and up to a maximum of 20 years. At that time, U-Battery said it was pursuing similar patents in the USA and Canada.

It is unclear how granting the publicly funded National Nuclear Laboratory with custody of U-Battery’s intellectual property will affect the ability of  U-Battery’s former employees to transfer their knowledge and expertise to Ultra Safe without some kind of non-exclusive licensing arrangement.

U-Battery Chief Technology Officer Chris Chater said, “While Urenco has refocused its priorities, we continue to believe in the U-Battery design which could provide an innovative decarbonization solution for hard-to-abate sectors.”

U-Battery is a 4 MWe high-temperature gas-cooled micro-reactor, using TRISO fuel, which will be able to produce local power and heat for a range of energy needs. The project was initiated by Urenco in 2008 and the concept design was developed by the Universities of Manchester and Dalton Institute in the UK and Technology University of Delft in the Netherlands.

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Japan Partners with US and UK  on Fusion Materials R&D (two reports)

(WNN) The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have entered a strategic research partnership to better understand the performance and behavior of materials required for use in future commercial fusion power plants.

Examination of irradiated composites, such as silicon carbide, can only be carried out in a suitable active testing facility and KF has looked to UKAEA’s Materials Research Facility (MRF) for support.

“One of the major challenges in harnessing fusion energy is developing materials to cope in extreme environments,” UKAEA said.

“This is because high energy neutrons and extreme temperatures can weaken or change the desirable mechanical, thermal, optical or electronic properties of materials, which can reduce the lifetime of fusion machines.”

Under the GBP3 million (USD3.6 million), five-year partnership, materials will be irradiated using neutrons at the ORNL High Flux Isotope Reactor, a DOE Office of Science user facility, located in the USA. These materials will then be tested at ORNL and at UKAEA’s Materials Research Facility at the Culham Campus in Oxfordshire, England.

Post irradiation testing will include tensile and hardness property measurements, to understand both the effect and extent of radiation-induced hardening and concurrent loss of ductility in these materials.

UKAEA said these assessments are critical to provide assurance that these alloys will be sufficiently durable and reliable to support a fusion power plant throughout the expected lifetime of each component.

The partnership will also see staff from the USA and UK visit their counterpart facilities to share industry skills.

The project is part of the UK Fusion Materials Roadmap, which was launched by UKAEA in 2021 with the aim of delivering new neutron-resilient materials as well as irradiation and post-irradiation testing to provide design engineers with data to build future fusion power plants.

“The partnership will allow UKAEA access to ORNL’s archive of existing irradiated materials, which include binary iron-chromium alloys, advanced steels, silicon carbide composites and copper alloys,” said Amanda Quadling, UKAEA’s Director of Materials Research.

“Alongside this, UKAEA will also be placing entirely new materials into the ORNL High Flux Isotope Reactor, including new high-temperature steels developed by both UKAEA and wider UK industry, permeation barrier coatings and welded materials.”

Kyoto Fusioneering

(WNN) A collaboration agreement has been signed between Japan’s Kyoto Fusioneering (KF) and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to develop fusion related technologies. The first project under the collaboration will be the development of a ‘fusion-grade’ silicon carbide composite system.

The use of SiC/SiC composites within the breeder blanket of a fusion machine will increase the efficiency and commercial viability of fusion power stations by providing a material that operates at high temperatures and is resistant to neutron damage, they noted.

The Self-Cooled Yuryo Lithium Lead Advanced (SCYLLA) blanket developed by KF is compatible with the lithium-lead based coolant and fuel breeding fluids.

“The several contracts we have with UKAEA have demonstrated the win-win relationship that can create new value for the society and fusion research and fusion industry,” said Kyoto Fusioneering CEO Taka Nagao. “Kyoto Fusioneering will continue to build on our successful technology collaboration to help achieve industrialization of fusion energy.

japan fusion

“The development of a ‘fusion-grade’ silicon carbide composite system is not only a huge advancement to the realization of commercial fusion, but also yet another advantage of the blanket system, which is so important in our collective battle against climate change.”

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SMRs See Progress in US, Canada, & Europe

  • GEH’s BWRX-300 Completes First Two Phases Of Design Review
  • NRC to Start Technical Review of NuScale 77 MW Design
  • Czech Republic / CEZ, Wants First SMR In Operation In 2032
  • Sweden / Vattenfall Talking To Reactor Suppliers For SMR Deployment
  • UK Launches 2nd Competition To Support Small Nuclear Reactors
  • SMR Dashboard / NEA Tracking Progress Of 21 New Reactor Designs
  • Holtec, NRC, to Discuss Restarting Palisades Plant

GEH’s BWRX-300 Completes First Two Phases Of Design Review

(NucNet) GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) announced that its BWRX-300 small modular reactor has achieved a significant pre-licensing milestone in Canada with the completion of phases one and two of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) vendor design review process.

GEH said the BWRX-300 is the first SMR technology to have completed two phases of the CNSC’s vendor design review (VDR) process. It is part of a field of a dozen or so SMR developers involved in the VDR process.  A key feature of all designs in the competitive field is that every one of the contenders is promoting their designs as being capable of supplying both electricity and process heat for customers.

CNSC VDR Process Heat

Table Data from CNSC VDR and Vendor Websites:  Image: Neutron Bytes

In 2020, GEH made its first submittal to the CNSC for its review of the BWRX-300 design. Since then, GEH has made submittals addressing 19 vendor design review areas that included general plant description, control system and facilities, research and development, and design process.
After a detailed assessment of reactor designs, in 2021 Ontario Power Generation (OPG) selected the GEH BWRX-300 as the technology to be deployed at its Darlington nuclear power station site.

Sean Sexstone, the company’s executive vice-president of advanced nuclear, said: “The successful completion of these phases and the feedback that we have received on our SMR design are important steps in the deployment of this technology.”

Growing, Global Interest In BWRX-300

Recently, GEH, OPG, SNC-Lavalin and Aecon signed a project delivery agreement for the partners to provide expertise and services to develop, engineer and construct a BWRX-300 SMR, with construction to be complete by late 2028.

GEH said there is growing, global interest in the BWRX-300

Last month, Fermi Energia announced that it had selected the BWRX-300 for potential deployment in Estonia. Tennessee Valley Authority has begun planning and preliminary licensing for potential deployment of a BWRX-300 at the Clinch River Site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. SaskPower has chosen the BWRX-300 for potential deployment in Saskatchewan in the mid-2030s.

In Poland, Orlen Synthos Green Energy and its partners have started the pre-licensing process by submitting an application to Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency for assessment of the BWRX-300. Orlen plans to deploy a fleet of BWRX-300s with the potential for deployment of the first of those units by the end of this decade.

The CNSC and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission are collaborating on reviews of SMRs such as the BWRX-300 and last month the CNSC and Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency agreed to cooperate in the review of SMR technologies including the BWRX-300.

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NRC to Start Technical Review of NuScale 77 MW Design

nrc-logo_thumb.jpgThe U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that it will begin the technical review of NuScale Power Corporation’s (NYSE:SMR) second Standard Design Approval (SDA) application.

NuScale submitted the application in late 2022, which is based on the VOYGRTM-6 (6-module) power plant configuration powered by an uprated 250 MWt (77MWe) SMR design. The design reflected in this application features the same fundamental safety case and passive safety features approved by the NRC in 2020, with a focus on the power uprate and select design changes to support customers’ capacity needs and further improve economics.

In a press statement the NRC said its staff will begin reviewing most of NuScale Power LLC’s application for standard design approval of the company’s 77 MWe/module Small Modular Reactor design once the company provides additional details on a key safety topic. NRC staff has concluded the majority of NuScale’s application supports the start of review activities.

The staff has determined portions of the application, discussing steam generator safety performance under certain conditions, require additional information. Once NuScale provides that information, the staff will develop a full review schedule.

A standard design approval is a determination by the NRC staff that a reactor design meets applicable NRC design requirements. Companies can reference a standard design approval when applying for a license to build and operate a reactor in the United States.

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Czech Republic / CEZ, Wants First SMR In Operation In 2032

(NucNet) Czech state-run power group CEZ, already considering ambitious plans for new large-scale nuclear reactors, is planning to begin operation of its first small modular nuclear reactor in a decade followed by another two units by 2040. Two more small units could follow in second half of 2030s as Prague steps up bid to switch from fossil fuels. The first SMR will be built at Temelín, one of CEZ’s two existing commercial nuclear power station sites.

“The first one will be launched around 2032 and the other two in the second half of the 2030s,” CEZ spokesman Ladislav Kriz said.

CEZ plans to build the next two at its current coal-fired power plants in a bid to switch from fossil fuels to greener technologies.

The company has already signed agreements to explore various SMR technology options with reactor developers NuScale, GE Hitachi, Rolls-Royce and Holtec.

The company said it was looking at other locations for future SMRs, including its other nuclear station at Dukovany and several coal-fired plants.

Coal to Nuclear Sites Identified

Czech state power company CEZ has tentatively identified two preferred sites for additional small modular reactors following plans for a first such unit at the existing Temelín nuclear power station site. The two sites are coal-fired generation sites at Detmarovice in the east of the country close to the border with Poland, and Tusimice in the northwest, close to the border with Germany.

Deploying SMRs will transform both plants into emission-free sites, CEZ Group has committed itself to preparing the construction of small modular reactors with a total capacity of over 1,000 MW after 2040.

CEZ said it is exploring other locations where additional SMRs could be built, including the existing Dukovany nuclear station site. All the other potential sites are coal sites. One, at Porici in the west of the country, has already been ruled out “due to the almost certain presence of an active fault near the site.”

The Detmarovice and Tusimice power plant sites will undergo “further intensive exploration and monitoring works” before it is finally clear whether they are suitable locations for SMRs. The exploration work, which began in the first half of February and is scheduled to be completed in the autumn, is primarily focused on excluding the existence of active tectonic faults, assessing the hydrogeology of the area and analysing the bedrock.

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Sweden / Vattenfall Talking To Reactor Suppliers or SMRs

(NucNet) Vattenfall has contacted potential reactor technology suppliers as it seeks to begin commercial operation of a first small modular reactor at the Ringhals nuclear power station in Sweden in the early 2030s.

A preliminary feasibility study will investigate the commercial, legal and technical conditions for building at least two new SMRs at Ringhals.

“We already have a dialogue with several potential technology suppliers and will proceed later this year with one or more of them to get concrete proposals for reactors,” Desirée Comstedt, business development manager for nuclear power at Vattenfall, said.

“We are also starting the work required for an environmental impact statement, which includes field studies and soil surveys in the area around Ringhals. And we are preparing to invite to local consultations after the summer to discuss with the parties concerned.”

‘Obvious Need’ For Nuclear, Wind And Solar

The feasibility study is expected to be completed later this year and is a central part of Vattenfall’s decision-making process towards submitting a permit application for new nuclear power plants.

Earlier this year Sweden’s prime minister Ulf Kristersson said his government was preparing legislation to allow the construction of more commercial nuclear power plants to boost electricity production and improve energy security.

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UK Launches 2nd Competition To Support Small Nuclear Reactors

(WNN) rolls-royve-logo.pngBritish finance minister Jeremy Hunt said he would boost investment in nuclear power by launching a competition for small modular reactors (SMRs), such as those being developed by Rolls-Royce.

Britain aims to replace its ageing nuclear power stations as all but one of the plants, which generate around 13% of the country’s electricity, are due to close by 2030.

“I am launching the first competition for Small Modular Reactors,” Hunt said in his budget statement on Wednesday. It will be completed by the end of this year and if demonstrated to be viable we will co-fund this exciting new technology.”

Britain previously announced a competition for SMRs in the 2015 Autumn Statement with the first phase opening in 2016 and attracting interest from 33 eligible parties. The government broke its promise for funding a winner by closing the “competition” without moving beyond the initial, information gathering first stage.

Last year the government committed 210 million pounds to Rolls-Royce for its 500-million pound SMR program which could see the company open factories to build the reactors in Britain.

“Rolls-Royce SMR has called for rapid progress from the Government and we welcome the adoption of that principle in this process,” Tom Samson CEO of Rolls-Royce SMR said in a statement.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation has begun a Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of the Rolls-Royce SMR  saying that the process – which looks at the design of a generic nuclear power station and is not site-specific – could take between four and five years. Rolls-Royce said in press statements it hoped to complete the process in two years.

Rolls-Royce SMR, which in November 2021 received GBP210 million (USD285 million) of UK government matched funding, has selected a shortlist of three sites for its first factory producing components for a fleet of its SMRs and identified a range of existing nuclear power plant sites in the UK that could potentially host its SMRs.

UK Policy is that Nuclear Energy is “Sustainable

The UK’s Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has announced that nuclear will “subject to consultation, be classed as environmentally sustainable in our green taxonomy” – he also launched a competition, to be completed by the end of the year, which could lead to co-funding for small modular reactors (SMRs).

In his set-piece address to the House of Commons outlining the government’s tax and spending plans, Hunt said “increasing nuclear capacity is vital to meet our net-zero obligations so to encourage the private sector investment into our nuclear program, I today confirm that, subject to consultation, nuclear power will be classed as environmentally sustainable in our green taxonomy, giving it access to the same investment incentives as renewable energy”.

He added: “Today I can announce two further commitments to deliver our nuclear ambitions. Firstly … I am announcing the launch of Great British Nuclear which will bring down costs and provide opportunities across the nuclear supply chain to help provide up to one quarter of our electricity by 2050. And secondly, I am launching the first competition for small modular reactors. It will be completed by the end of this year and if demonstrated as viable we will co-fund this exciting new technology.”

CEO of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association, Tom Greatrex, welcomed the chancellor’s announcements, saying: “This is a huge step forward for UK energy security and net-zero. Nuclear’s inclusion in the UK green taxonomy is a vital move, following the example set by other leading nuclear nations, and will drive crucial investment into new projects, making it cheaper and easier to finance new reactors.”

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SMR Dashboard / NEA Tracking Progress Of 21 New Reactor Designs

(NucNet) A new Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) publication tracks the progress of various small modular reactor designs towards deployment and finds there is substantial momentum towards “game changing” commercialization that could help governments and policymakers around the world reach net zero by 2050. (OCED / NEA SMR Dashboard)

According to the Paris-based NEA new SMR designs are at various stages of development, from fundamental research on new concepts to commercial deployment and operation of mature designs.

nea dashboard template

It said innovation in nuclear energy – particularly various SMRs and Generation IV systems – is advancing in several countries and SMRs could reshape the energy market while supporting global efforts to decarbonize electricity.

SMRs can replace fossil fuels for on-grid power generation, replace diesel generators for off-grid mining and industrial operations, replace fossil fuels for cogeneration of heat and power for heavy industries and district heating, and enable large-scale water treatment and desalination to produce clean potable water.

“These varied market needs have prompted the development of a range of SMR technologies, which vary in technology, sizes, and configuration,” the NEA said. “They can be land-based or floating on water, fixed installations or transportable.

Policymakers Are ‘Overwhelmed’

“Policymakers are often overwhelmed with this great variety as they strive to consider which designs might meet their particular needs and in what time frame.”

The NEA SMR Dashboard is designed to help navigate this complex area of technology. It looks beyond the technical feasibility and technology readiness level of each SMR design to track the progress of specific designs across six parameters: licensing readiness, siting, financing, supply chain, societal engagement and fuel availability.

This publication tracks the progress of 21 SMR designs towards first deployment. It includes reactors under development in Argentina, China, France, Russia, the UK and the US.

reactor concepts

Future editions will continue to track the progress of these designs and include additional SMR technologies as verifiable information becomes available and is assessed.

NEA director-general William Magwood said the nuclear sector is experiencing a level of interest and attention not seen since the early 1960s.

“This interest is largely sparked by the wave of innovation in small modular reactors that has the potential to reshape the way society and industry produces and uses energy.

“The next five to 10 years is going to be pivotal in terms of getting these new technologies to market.”

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Holtec, NRC, to Discuss Restarting Palisades Plant

The Holland Sentinel newspaper reports the owners of Palisades Nuclear Power Plant are set to meet with federal officials to discuss plans to potentially restart the shuttered plant.

Holtec Decommissioning International, which purchased Palisades in June 2022, will meet March 20th with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to discuss the “proposed regulatory path to reauthorize operations at Palisades.”

“This meeting is an important discussion in Holtec’s efforts to re-power Palisades and potentially return 800 megawatts of safe and reliable carbon-free electricity back to Michigan,” Holtec said in a statement to the newspaper.

Earlier this month, Holtec applied for funds from the U.S. Department of Energy to aid in the reopening, its second attempt at funding after applying for, and being denied, funds through the Civil Nuclear Credit Program in late 2022.

The plant closed in May after more than 50 years in operation. Only months later, new owner Holtec applied for funding to reopen. That application was made public in September, with support from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, but was denied by DOE in mid-November which awarded funds to keep the Diablo Canyon twin reactors open in California.

The newspaper reported that Holtec has acknowledged there will be “a number of hurdles” to reopening the plant, even if funding is secured. Those include financial commitment from the state, procuring a power purchasing agreement, upgrading the switchyard, partnering with a licensed operator for the restart, rehiring qualified and trained staff and maintenance and delayed capital improvements of the facility.

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Energy Harbor Sells Four Reactors to Texas Holding Company

  • Energy Harbor Sells Four Reactors to Texas Holding Company
  • France / 10 European Countries Join Macron’s Push To Promote Nuclear Power
  • France’s CEA Spins Off Two Companies For SMR Development
  • NuScale Power Places First Long Lead Production Order with South Korea’s Doosan
  • X-energy to Open First Plant Support Center for Xe-100 SMR
  • Poland / Private Project To Build South Korean Reactors At Patnow Coal Site
  • Uganda Inks Deal with China for New 1000 MW PWR by 2031

Energy Harbor Sells Four Reactors to Texas Holding Company

eggs one basketVistra Corp (NYSE:VST) announced this week it is to acquire Energy Harbor Corp, formerly FirstEnergy, which it intends to merge into a new zero-carbon generation and retail subsidiary called Vistra Vision.

The giant corporate acquisition is one of the largest nuclear energy deals of its kind in recent years putting a lot of energy eggs in one basket.

FirstEnergy, rebranded and reorganized as as Energy Harbor  (ENGH:OTC) operates the Beaver Valley nuclear power plant (2 reactors) in Pennsylvania and the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, both in Ohio. Vistra subsidiary Luminant operates the twin reactors at the Comanche Peak nuclear power plant in Texas. The companies anticipate closing the transaction in the second half of 2023, subject to regulatory approvals, which will include transfer of the current NRC licenses to the new owners.

Vistra Vision will combine Energy Harbor’s nuclear and retail businesses with Vistra’s nuclear and retail businesses and Vistra Zero renewables and storage projects. Energy Harbor’s legacy conventional generation fleet is not included in the sale. Energy Harbor has previously signed definitive agreements to sell these assets to third parties.

Vistra said the nuclear plants, and other Energy Harbor assets, will become part of Vistra Vision, a business unit that will have 7,800 MW of zero-carbon generation capacity, about five million customers across the country, and access to renewable energy projects for additional capacity.

Vistra Deal by the Numbers

The deal’s total compensation will consist of $3 billion cash and a 15% equity interest in Vistra Vision, with most Energy Harbor shareholders receiving cash at closing. Energy Harbor’s two largest shareholders, Avenue Capital Group and Nuveen, are to receive a combination of cash and the 15% ownership interest in Vistra.

Vistra Vision also will add $3.4 billion in debt, according to a company statement. Vistra will also assume about $430 million of net debt from Energy Harbor in the transaction. The firm comes to the deal carrying a market capitalization of $9.35 billion.

Vistra stated it intends to finance the majority of the $3 billion of cash consideration through debt financing, with all or a portion of the debt expected to be invested in Vistra Vision via an inter-company loan.

six pack of beerIt’s a great deal for Vistra. Four new nuclear reactors could cost $8-10 billion each for a total of $32-$40 billion. By comparison, Vistra is paying $3 billion in cash (new debt), offering current investors a 15% equity stake equal to $1.4 billion, and assuming $0.43 billion in debt from Energy Harbor, for a total of $4.83 billion or roughly 12% of the cost of four new reactors.

The company’s strategy to own and operate new capacity is no different than a giant brewery snapping up smaller ones to gain market share without having to build new plants from scratch.

Morningstar describes VISTRA Energy, based in the Dallas, TX, metro area, is one of the largest power producers and retail energy providers in the U.S. Excluding the Energy Harbor acquisition, Vistra owns and operates 38 gigawatts of nuclear, coal, natural gas, and solar power generation. Its retail electricity segment serves 4.3 million customers in 20 states. Vistra’s retail business serves almost one third of all Texas electricity consumers.

FirstEnergy’s Scandal Ridden History

The planned transaction will bring to a close Energy Harbor’s (formerly FirstEnergy) presence in Ohio as a corrupt corporation. It has admitted to the US Department of Justice it paid bribes to multiple elected officials and the chairman of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in return for passage of legislation that provided subsidies for its nuclear power plants and for favorable rate rulings by the PUC.

householder briberyFormer state House Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges were convicted in Federal District Court on March 9th in a $60 million bribery scheme that federal prosecutors have called the largest corruption case in state history. Both men face up to 20 years in prison. The verdict was announced following a trial that began on Jan. 23 before Senior U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black.

During the seven week trial jurors were presented with firsthand accounts of the alleged scheme, as well as stacks of financial documents, emails, texts and wire-tap audio recordings.

A jury in Cincinnati found the two guilty of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise involving bribery and money laundering after nine hours of deliberations over two days. Two defendants previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the bribery scheme along with a former dark money group, while a third died by suicide.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker said the government’s prosecution team showed that “Householder sold the Statehouse, and thus he ultimately betrayed the people of the great state of Ohio he was elected to serve.” He called Borges “a willing co-conspirator.”

The Ohio news media has called it the most elaborate and extensive bribery scandal in the history of Ohio politics, with $60 million in bribes paid by FirstEnergy, one of the nation’s largest investor-owned electric systems, to influence legislation in Ohio to get their customers to bail out two failing nuclear power plants.

dark moneyThe conspiracy involved nearly $61 million in bribes paid to a 501(c)(4) “dark money” entity to pass and uphold a billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout.

According to court documents and trial testimony, from March 2017 to March 2020, the enterprise traded millions of dollars in bribery campaign donations in exchange for Householder’s and the enterprise’s help in passing House Bill 6. The defendants then also worked to ensure that Ohio legislative bill HB 6 went into effect by defeating a ballot initiative to overturn the legislation.

In March 2017, Householder began receiving quarterly $250,000 payments from the related-energy companies into the bank account of his 501(c)(4) political action committee called Generation Now. Householder and his team spent millions of the company’s dollars to support Householder’s political bid to become Speaker, to support House candidates they believed would stand by their pledges to back Householder, and for their own personal benefit.

DOJ detailed that Householder spent more than half a million dollars of the dark money to pay off his credit card balances, repair his Florida home, and settle a business lawsuit. Borges used approximately $366,000 for his personal benefit.

The other parties involved include former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder, Householder’s political staffer Jeffrey Longstreth, former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones, former FirstEnergy senior vice president for external affairs Michael Dowling, former chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Sam Randazzo, Cleveland business owner Tony George, lobbyist and former chair of the Ohio republican party Matt Borges, Ohio lobbyist Juan Cespedes, and deceased Ohio lobbyist Neil Clark.

FirstEnergy later admitted to its role in the corruption and fired six top executives including CEO Chuck Jones. The State of Ohio eliminated surcharges for taxpayers in a partial repeal of the legislation. However, other parts of HR6 remained on the books including a subsidy for an unrelated coal fired power plant and the gutting of support for renewable energy projects.

PUC Chairman also Bribed

Separately, the US Justice Department investigated whether a $4M payment to the now former head of the State Public Utility Commission was intended to influence his decision making relative to the utility’s filings with the PUC. In July 2021 FirstEnergy said it bribed a regulator for $4.3 million.

FirstEnergy admitted in court documents it paid the state’s top utility regulator $4.3 million to use his position to save the company hundreds of millions via favorable administrative rulings. It previously had paid him a reported $22M in consulting fees in prior years.

The company’s allegation against Sam Randazzo, the now former chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, came in a deferred prosecution agreement in July 2021with the U.S. Attorney’s office. FirstEnergy agreed to pay a $230 million criminal penalty and admit to a lengthy statement of facts about its conduct. So far Randazzo has not been charged with a crime. He has resigned from the PUC.

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France / 10 European Countries Join Macron’s Push To Promote Nuclear Power

(NucNet) France is making an aggressive push to promote nuclear power in the European Union, persuading 10 countries to join an alliance calling on Brussels to do more to back the construction of reactors, a move they argued would help meet climate goals while protecting the bloc’s energy independence.

The move comes amid a dispute between France and like-minded countries who want more EU policies to promote nuclear as a low-carbon energy source, and those like Germany and Spain who say nuclear should not be put on a level footing with renewable energy.

A meeting, convened by French energy minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher on the sidelines of a meeting of EU countries’ energy ministers in Stockholm, discussed the contribution of nuclear energy to climate change goals and energy security, a French official said.

The French government said that at the meeting 10 member states – Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Finland, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia – had joined France in reaffirming their desire to strengthen European cooperation in nuclear energy.

Pannier-Runacher said she had a “productive discussion” with her German in Stockholm, but the pair did not resolve their differences. “We do not want nuclear to be discriminated against,” she said.

Call For Nuclear-Based Clean Hydrogen

France, which has historically derived about 70% of its power from nuclear reactors, and the other 10 countries, want more EU recognition of nuclear energy. They are, for example, pushing for nuclear-based hydrogen to count towards EU renewable energy targets.

nuclear energy production of hydrogen

Nuclear Energy Production of Hydrogen: Image: US DOE

On the other side are countries such as Germany, which is phasing out its reactors, and Spain. They say they acknowledge nuclear’s low-carbon contribution, but that it should not be put on a level footing with renewable energy sources like wind and solar.

Earlier this month the European Commission published rules that could allow some hydrogen produced by nuclear-based energy systems to count towards EU renewable energy goals.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron focused on nuclear energy in late 2021 with a €50 billion plan to renew some of France’s ageing nuclear reactors from 2035, and, significantly, to build six new 1600 MW EPRs.

Pannier-Runacher told Les Echos newspaper this week she had asked industrial groups whether building more than 14 reactors by 2050 was feasible.

In a sign of Macron’s commitment to the issue, he used a video address this week to urge the European Investment Bank to break wih its past lending practices to finance all “low carbon technologies at our disposal, including nuclear”.

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France’s CEA Spins Off Two Companies For SMR Development

(WNN) The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) has spun off two nuclear start-ups – Hexana and Stellaria – for the development of small modular reactors (SMRs).

sodium cooled fast reactorHexana aims to develop an SMR featuring a sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor, integrated with a high temperature storage device. A plant would comprise two of these reactors (400 MWt each) supplying a heat storage device. An adjoining conversion system will allow it to produce electricity on demand and in a flexible manner to compete with gas-fired power plants, but also to supply heat directly to nearby energy-intensive industries. (Image: GEN IV)

CEA said fast neutron and sodium-cooled reactors are of “major interest in the management of nuclear materials: they operate without natural or enriched uranium but with depleted uranium combined with plutonium from reprocessed fuel from the French nuclear fleet in the form of mixed oxide fuel (MOX).

It added: “These reactors will thus contribute to energy sovereignty and to the reduction of the volumes of high-level nuclear waste in a logic of closing the nuclear fuel cycle.”

Stellaria aims to develop an energy system based on a chloride molten salt reactor (MSR). The reactor proposed by Stellaria will be very compact – measuring 4 cubic metres – and, like Hexana, will be able to use a diversified range of nuclear fuels (uranium, plutonium, MOX, minor actinides, even thorium), “thus fitting perfectly into the French strategy of closing the cycle.” The reactor will produce 250 MWt.

The CEA intends to find partners beyond the nuclear sector for these two start-ups, which will be able to apply for the France 2030 call for “innovative nuclear reactors” projects: a program endowed with EUR500 million (USD534 million) which will part of the government’s desire to close the nuclear fuel cycle.

In addition, Macron said EUR1.0 billion will be made available through the France 2030 re-industrialization plan for France’s Nuward small modular reactor project and “innovative reactors to close the fuel cycle and produce less waste”. He said he had set “an ambitious goal” to construct a first prototype in France by 2030.

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NuScale Power Places First Long Lead Material Production Order with South Korea’s Doosan


NuScale Power Corporation (NYSE: SMR), announced that at the end of 2022, as scheduled, it placed the first upper reactor pressure vessel (RPV) long lead material (LLM) production order with Doosan Enerbility (Doosan), a  manufacturing and engineering company based in South Korea.

The order includes key materials necessary for NuScale’s clean-energy technology, the NuScale Power Module, and is a significant step toward commercialization. (Image: NuScale)

The order is for materials essential to commence manufacturing of the first NuScale Power Modules that are scheduled to be in commercial operation at the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems’ Carbon Free Power Project as early as 2029. In addition, NuScale and Doosan are aligned to manufacture additional modules for future NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant projects with similar delivery dates.

In preparation for the long lead order, NuScale and Doosan initiated an effort in April 2022 to complete the manufacturing for the forging dies for the upper RPV. Building on this completion, the new LLM order includes heavy forgings, steam generator tubes, and weld material for six upper RPVs. The total estimated weight of the materials for six upper RPVs is more than 2,000 tons.

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X-energy to Open First Plant Support Center for Xe-100 Advanced Small Modular Reactor Fleet

X-Energy Reactor Company, LLC announced plans for its first Xe-100 reactor fleet management, monitoring, and training facility in Frederick, Maryland. Called the Plant Support Center-East (PSCE), this regional center marks the first step in X-energy’s Commercial Operations Services business and will support the initial deployment of the Company’s advanced modular reactor plants.

X-energy recently announced plans to install its first Xe-100 reactor at one of Dow’s U.S. Gulf Coast sites. X-energy’s PSCE will support training and operations for that plant, as well as subsequent owners and operators of the first Xe-100 plants. The Company will open additional regional centers to support a growing reactor fleet, which will become hubs for X-energy’s operations, maintenance, and training services business.

Xe_MCR_CornerRenderA 3D rendering of a high-fidelity main control room simulator which integrates real-time plant instrumentation and control systems with X-energy’s custom 3-D virtual reality environment.
Image: X-Energy

The PSCE’s centerpiece is a high-fidelity main control room simulator that integrates real-time plant instrumentation and control systems with X-energy’s custom 3-D virtual reality environment. This innovative technology builds on more than two years of work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to develop an innovative “digital-twin” maintenance lab and a U.S.-based, continuous fleet monitoring and diagnostics initiative.

X-energy is combining this technology with artificial intelligence and machine learning into a suite of proprietary tools called Xe-100 Data Analytics Tools & Applications, or X-DATA, to improve reliability as well as reduce predictive and preventative maintenance costs for X-energy’s customers.

A 3D rendering of a high-fidelity main control room simulator which integrates real-time plant instrumentation and control systems with X-energy’s custom 3-D virtual reality environment

As the Xe-100 fleet grows, regional centers will be expanded to provide support services to Xe-100 owners and operators, offering business services in areas such as plant diagnostics, maintenance planning, outage scheduling, supply chains, human resources, and regulatory compliance.

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Poland / Private Project To Build South Korean Reactors At Patnow Coal Site

(NucNet) Polish private energy company ZE PAK and state-controlled Polska Grupa Energetyczna (PGE) have signed an agreement to establish a joint company to manage the proposed deployment of an APR-1400 power station in Poland.

A joint statement by the companies said that the new entity will carry out a feasibility study, site survey, and environmental impact assessment in preparation for construction of at least two, and as many as four, South Korean APR-1400 pressurized water reactor units. They said the first unit of the proposed power station could be online as early as 2035.

APR1400 schematicIn October 2022, ZE PAK and PGE signed a letter of intent with Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) for eventual deployment of the company’s APR-1400 PWR technology at the Patnow coal-fired generation site, owned by ZE PAK.

The project is to be developed as a private initiative and would not be run by the government under its central 2020 nuclear energy program, although PGE is majority-owned by the Polish state.

PGE and ZE PAK said they will each have a 50% share in the new company. The move will be subject to regulatory approval before taking effect later this year.

The companies said two APR-1400 PWRs at Patnow could provide Polish homes and businesses with about 22 TWh of electricity or about 12% of today’s power consumption in Poland. Patnow is close to a key national power hub and this is expected to minimize losses related to energy transmission and enable the optimal use of the power grid, PGE and ZE PAK said.

In November 2022 Poland chose Westinghouse to supply and build its first nuclear power plants, but France’s EDF and KHNP are still potentially in the running for a second phase of new-build being. Both companies had offered bids to build Poland’s first reactors. The government’s program expect to see Poland’s first nuclear station built by US-based Westinghouse Electric in the Pomerania region of northern Poland.

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Uganda Inks Deal with China for New 1000 MW PWR by 2031

(Reuters) – Uganda said on Thursday it expects to start generating at least 1000 megawatts (MW) from nuclear power by 2031 as it moves to diversify its sources of electricity and accelerate its energy transition, a key part of its climate change response.

Uganda has uranium deposits and President Yoweri Museveni has said his government was keen to exploit them for potential nuclear energy development.

The east African country has signed a deal with China under which the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) would help Uganda build capacity in the use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

Energy and Minerals Minister Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu told the Reuters wire service the first nuclear project, Buyende Nuclear Power Plant, would be located at Buyende, about 150 km (93 miles) north of the capital Kampala. The best site will likely be on the shore of nearby Lake Yyoga.

“Preparation to evaluate the Buyende Nuclear Power Plant site is ongoing to pave the way for the first nuclear power project expected to generate 2,000 MW, with the first 1000 MW to be connected to the national grid by 2031,” she said.

The cost of the first unit, which will likely be a 1000 MW PWR type Hualong One, is said to be $10 billion based on a 2022 estimate.

Uganda has an installed generating capacity of about 1,500 MW but officials say they expect the country’s energy needs to jump in coming years as earnings from oil exports fuel an economic boom.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on Energy Harbor Sells Four Reactors to Texas Holding Company

Saudi Nuclear News Update for 03/10/23

saudi nuclearAs you are probably aware this week the WSJ and NYT published reports that Saudi Arabia, in a reported surprise move, has approached the US for so-called “security guarantees” and for assistance with its civilian nuclear energy program.

The Saudi government also asked for help in normalizing relations with Israel. This morning (03/10/23) the Washington Post reports that Saudi Arabia is planning to restore diplomatic relations with Iran based on negotiations reported to have been brokered by China.

These actions can be seen as part of a larger effort across multiple vectors to blunt Iran’s nuclear drive as evidenced by IAEA reports that Iran has enriched U235 to 84% which is HEU in weapons’ grade range.

For this reason, normalization of relations with Israel, and a request to the US for help with the Saudi nuclear energy program, can be seen as being part of the same playbook.

Starting with a premise that the IAEA report about Iran’s highly enriched uranium is the driver of these actions, nevertheless there are other factors at work.

Despite two high profile trips last year to visit potential vendors for its two reactors, Saudi Arabia has not made a decision on a selection. MBS came back from China and South Korea without making any indication to proceed with a contract for either party.

Saudi Arabia released a tender for two 1000-1400MW PWR type nuclear reactors last June. This offer was downsized from a plan first announced in 2014 to build 16 full size reactors. Volatility in the price of oil, some of which was created by the Saudi government, served to make the larger vision unattainable in the current era.

Behind it may be a domestic reason which is that the Saudi government does not yet have ability to successfully manage a civilian nuclear reactor construction program. It raises a question of whether the request to the US can even be taken seriously other than being part of a larger package of actions aimed at influencing Iran’s next moves.

It is reasonable to ask the question if the Saudi nuclear reactor program is a case of being “all hat and no cattle,” for the time being, absent the management capabilities that would be needed to handle all aspects, including regulation and safety, of contracting for two 1400 MW PWRs much less 16 of them which was the original plan released in 2014.

While any of the four apparent bidders on the tender could do the job – China, France, Russia, and South Korea – it is unclear whether at this stage Saudi Arabia has made the necessary investment in its own capabilities to identify, manage, and contain the risks inherent in a $14 billion, or more, construction program for nuclear power plants that would be expected to have service lives of 60-80 years.

The request to the US from Saudi Arabia for technical help with its reactor effort is a political nonstarter due to the lack of a 123 Agreement. This is due to a risk of Saudi plans to pursue dual use of nuclear technologies. Saudi officials have repeatedly insisted on their right to exploit their domestic uranium resources and to enrich uranium as a deterrent to Iran’s nuclear program. By comparison, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) did sign a 123 Agreement with the US to advanced its program to build four 1400 MW PWRs with South Korea’s expertise and US technology embedded in the design.

You can expect to see more news on these topics in the coming days so it probably helps to tag recent events as a “developing story.”

Separately, the intellectual property dispute between Westinghouse and South Korea over reactor technology will likely be resolved in an out of court settlement prior to an April 26th visit to  the US by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.  The agreement will likely either result in a buyout of the Westinghouse IP or some hybrid arrangement. Either way it would remove a barrier to South Korea bidding on the Saudi nuclear deal.

South Korea has successfully delivered four very large commercial nuclear reactors to the UAE which strongly positions South Korea firms to repeat their success in other countries. From the US perspective, a South Korean win in Saudi Arabia, would block Russian and Chinese influence in a key oil producing state. Whether the Saudi government is ready to make any contract award seems unlikely given its request this week for US help.

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X-Energy Inks SMR Deal with DOW

  • X-Energy Inks SMR Deal with DOW
  • Saving Nuclear Reactors One at a Time; Holtec, Diablo Canyon
  • Urenco to Supply Ultra Safe Nuclear with Enriched Uranium
  • Lightbridge Completes Fuel Casting Project at PNNL
  • Silex Raises $81M to Advance Laser Enrichment of Nuclear Fuel
  • NuScale / Utah Reactor Projects Gets Boost

X-Energy Inks SMR Deal with DOW

DOW Chemicals PlantA key nuclear reactor project in the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) originally slated for a site in eastern Washington is headed for a new home.

X-Energy, which will receive $1.2 billion in cost shared funding from DOE  over the life of the ARDP effort, announced this week that it has signed a joint development agreement (JDA) with DOW (NYSE: DOW) to build its first grid-scale advanced nuclear reactor at a DOW industrial site on the Gulf coast. The company has multiple manufacturing sites along the gulf coast in Louisiana and Texas. A site is expected to be chosen by the end of this year.

Dow operates manufacturing sites in 31 countries and employs approximately 37,800 people. Dow delivered sales of approximately $57 billion in 2022. The company is a financial giant with a market capitalization of $41.1 billion. The stock has been trading at $59/share since the start of 2023.

The selection of X-Energy for process heat and electricity is a major step toward decarbonization of its global operations. The commitment by the firm, and its execution, will be closely watched for competitive reasons by every other major manufacturer which has multiple sites that require a reliable large supply of process heat and electricity. DOW has a history of thinking long term about its capital requirements, and getting its plants off fossil fuels to run their operations just got a major emphasis with this deal.

DOW intends to work with X-energy to install their Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) plant at one of Dow’s U.S. Gulf Coast sites, providing the site with safe, reliable, low-carbon power and steam within this decade.

X-energy is a developer of an advanced small modular reactor (SMR) and proprietary TRISO fuel for carbon-free and reliable baseload power production. Unlike existing light water and other small modular reactors, X-energy’s HTGR technology can also support broad industrial use applications through its high-temperature heat and steam output that can be integrated into and address the needs of both large and regional electricity and/or industrial manufacturing systems.


The JDA includes up to $50 million in engineering work, up to half of which is eligible to be funded through ARDP, and the other half by Dow. The JDA work scope also includes the preparation and submission of a Construction Permit application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). A separate licensing process will need to be completed in order for the reactors to operate.

The cost of licensing and building the four reactors planned for the project will far exceed the initial commitment of $50M in funds by the JDA. While X-Energy is slated to receive up to $1.2 billion from DOE, that money comes with a cost sharing requirement.

In addition to completing the design of the reactor and pursuing a construction license, and eventually, an operating license, X-Energy is also using ARDP money to build a nuclear fuel plant in Tennessee. Last October the company broke ground on a $300M TRISO nuclear fuel plant.

Last December X-Energy announced that it was going public to raise funds from investors. It isn’t known whether DOW plans to eventually take an equity position in the firm.

For now the two companies intend to perform ARDP-funded work under the JDA. Additionally, the companies have agreed to develop a framework to jointly license and utilize the technology to enable other industrial customers to effectively deploy the Xe-100 reactor.

X-energy was selected by DOE in 2020 to receive up to $1.2 billion under the ARDP in federal cost-shared funding to develop, license, build, and demonstrate an operational advanced reactor and fuel fabrication facility by the end of the decade. Since that award, X-energy has completed the engineering and basic design of the nuclear reactor, advanced development of a fuel fabrication facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and is preparing to submit an application for a license to the NRC.

“Today’s announcement demonstrates the commercial versatility of the Xe-100 and is an important milestone for the future of advanced nuclear and carbon-free energy around the world. X-energy’s collaboration with Dow brings added significance because of the immense opportunity to further reduce emissions in the energy-intensive industrial sector,” said X-energy CEO J. Clay Sell.

Sell added he anticipates the first X-energy project built on a Dow site could be in operation by 2029.

Why X-Energy Changed Horses

The Seattle Times reported that X-energy initially selected Washington state as the site of its first project inking partnerships in 2021 with the Grant Public Utility District (PUD) and Energy Northwest, operator of the Columbia Generating Station, which is the state’s only commercial nuclear power plant.

The newspaper revealed that X-energy has been assessing how it would meet an ambitious Energy Department timeline as part of the ARDP effort that calls for bringing the project on line by 2028. A determining factor in the switch to DOW, and a gulf coast sitem is that Grant County, WA, had delayed taking an ownership stake in the project and also delayed a decision on selecting a site for the X-Energy plant. The company, frustrated by the lack of progress, eventually decided to look for other partners and sites.

“We needed clarity on the site, and clarity on the ownership stake,” Clay Sell, X-energy’s chief executive officer, said Wednesday. “Building a nuclear project, even with substantial government subsidies, it’s no small matter.

X-Energy Not Burning Its Bridges

Despite the announcement of the new partnership with DOW, X-Energy CEO Sell told the Seattle Times that X-energy retains partnerships with Energy Northwest and Grant County and still anticipates building its reactors in Washington. The difference is that now Grant County and Energy Northwest will be second, or third, but not the first customers to partner with the firm in deploying the company’s reactors.

Energy Northwest and Grant County officials say they still are hopeful of obtaining financing and moving forward developing new nuclear plants in Washington.

In a written statement to the Seattle Times, Bob Schuetz, Energy Northwest’s chief executive officer, said, “we remain committed to developing a small, modular reactor in Washington by the end this decade, and that the X-energy technology could be an ideal fit for our region.”

In what now appears to be a separate effort, Grant PUD is considering financing a next-generation nuclear power plant to help meet growing demand for power from data centers and industry.

“We’ll learn from the lessons of this first deployment with DOW, so that we may quickly follow with our Xe-100 plant in Grant County by 2032,” said the Kevin Nordt, PUD’s chief resource officer said in a press statement.

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Saving Nuclear Reactors One at a Time

  • DOE Offers $1.2 billion for Continued Operation of “at risk” and shut down nuclear plants
  • Holtec re-submits its request for funding for Palisades to DOE
  • NRC announces a license exemption for Diablo Canyon licenses

(NucNet contributed to this report) As part of a program to support nuclear power generation and the goal of zero-carbon electricity by 2035, the Biden administration last week offered funding of $1.2 billion to nuclear power utilities whose reactors are at risk of retiring soon or that ceased operations since November 2021.

The US Department of Energy released application guidance for the second award cycle of the Civil Nuclear Credit Program, a $6 billion line item that is part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to prevent the premature retirement of nuclear plants across the country.

In the first award cycle, nuclear power plants eligible for the funding were limited to owners or operators of nuclear power reactors that had announced intentions to retire within the four-year award period. The second round of funding makes funds available, for the first time, to reactors that ceased operations after November 2021. Applications are due to the agency by the end of May.

Holtec / Palisades – The announcement means Holtec International, the current owner of the Palisades nuclear power station in Michigan, is now eligible to apply for funding to restart the single reactor power station.

Palisades closed permanently in May 2022, nearly two weeks earlier than its planned date, after then-owner Entergy Corp discovered a coolant system leak. The plant has significant deferred maintenance. Even if it gets the funding, it still must navigate NRC’s expensive and complex licensing’s process to essentially resurrect the reactor from the dead. Additionally, it must find a customer who will buy power from the plant at an auction price that will make a profit for Holtec.

Diablo Canyon – Meanwhile, in California last November, DOE announced the conditional selection of the Diablo Canyon power station in California to receive the first round of funding from the program.

Units 1 and 2 at the two-unit Diablo Canyon were scheduled to be decommissioned in 2024 and 2025, but the conditional award of credits valued at up to $1.1 billion creates a path forward for Diablo Canyon to remain open.

Diablo Canyon aerial

In September 2022, California legislators voted to extend the life of the state’s last nuclear power station by five years as protection against possible blackouts provided the federal government pays much of the cost. California lawmakers sided with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call to loan Pacific Gas & Electric up to $1.4 billion and reverse plans to shutter the facility.

NRC Announces Diablo Canyon Exemption

In a related development, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it has granted an exemption to Pacific Gas & Electric Company that would allow Diablo Canyon to continue operating while the agency considers its license renewal application.

After evaluating the company’s exemption request, the NRC staff determined that the exemption is authorized by law, will not present undue risk to the public health and safety, and is consistent with the common defense and security.  In addition, the NRC staff determined;

“Diablo Canyon’s continued operation is in the public interest because of serious challenges to the reliability of California’s electricity grid. The agency’s statement added, “After evaluating the company’s exemption request, the NRC staff determined that the exemption is authorized by
law, will not present undue risk to the public health and safety, and is consistent with the common defense and security. In addition, the staff determined Diablo Canyon’s continued operation is in the public interest because of serious challenges to the reliability of California’s electricity grid.”

“The current operating licenses for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, Units 1 and 2, expire on Nov. 2, 2024, and Aug. 26, 2025, respectively. The exemption granted today will allow those licenses to remain in effect provided PG&E submits a sufficient license renewal application for the reactors by Dec. 31, 2023. The NRC will continue its normal inspection and oversight of the facility throughout the review to ensure continued safe operation. If granted, the license renewal would authorize continued operation for up to 20 years.”

Adam Stein, PhD, Director of Nuclear Energy Innovation, at the Breakthrough Institute, an energy related think tank, commented in a social media post, “Diablo Canyon’s continued operation is in the public interest because of serious challenges to the reliability of California’s electricity grid and because it will help mitigate climate change impacts. This is a major change for the NRC that we have long identified as necessary. The NRC needs to consider the benefits and costs of nuclear energy in the public interest, not just exemptions, but as a fundamental part of decision-making and licensing like other regulators.”

PG&E said it will submit a license renewal application by the end of this year.

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Urenco to Supply Ultra Safe Nuclear with Enriched Uranium

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) and Urenco USA (UUSA), operated by Louisiana Energy Services LLC, which is the only U.S. commercial producer supplying uranium enrichment services, announced an enrichment services supply agreement as part of the fuel supply program for USNC’s Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR).

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation will purchase enriched uranium product (EUP) from Urenco USA for use in the manufacture of Tri-structural Isotropic (TRISO) particles and Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated (FCM) fuel via USNC’s planned joint venture with Framatome in the United States.

triso fuel pellets

The EUP will be produced and supplied by the Urenco USA uranium enrichment facility located in New Mexico. This purchase marks the first commercial supply of EUP for use in an advanced reactor anywhere in the world.

“We’ve been working hard to manage and de-risk the front end of our fuel cycle,” said Kurt Terrani, Executive Vice President at Ultra Safe Nuclear. “With others facing so much uncertainty regarding fuel supply, it is vital to have reliable commercial partners to source, transport, and deconvert our EUP, feeding our fuel factory operations.”

This first batch of EUP is slated for delivery to the USNC-Framatome fuel manufacturing joint venture in 2025, coinciding with the start of their TRISO and FCM fuel factory operations. This fuel production capacity will be used to fuel USNC’s MMR deployments with some be made available to the wider advanced reactor market.

The MMR Energy System is a fourth-generation nuclear energy system designed to deliver electricity and process heat to users. The MMR is being licensed in Canada and the U.S. and will be the first commercially available “nuclear battery.” MMR deployments are moving forward, including the projects at Chalk River which is on target for first power in 2026, and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, targeted for first power the following year.

The company said , “this agreement strengthens USNC’s vertical integration across the value chain to maximize competitive advantage and reduce risk by securing sufficient quantities of EUP to support MMR active deployments.” Terms and details of the supply agreement were not disclosed.

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Lightbridge Completes Fuel Casting Project at PNNL

Lightbridge Corporation (Nasdaq: LTBR), an advanced nuclear fuel technology company, announced that it has successfully completed work under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) voucher program to support the development of Lightbridge Fuel, in collaboration with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

lightbridge fuel assemblyWorking in collaboration with PNNL, the project scope was to demonstrate Lightbridge’s nuclear fuel casting process using depleted uranium, a key step in manufacturing Lightbridge Fuel. Several castings were performed throughout the project, and the cast ingots were analyzed.

The results of this work will help Lightbridge determine a final process suitable to produce fuel material coupons for the firm’s upcoming irradiation tests in the Advanced Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Ali Zbib, PNNL nuclear industry program manager, commented, “One of our missions at PNNL is to support U.S. nuclear industry partners in advancing their technology. Working on this GAIN-funded project was an excellent opportunity to use national laboratory resources and expertise on these fuel development efforts for light water reactors.”

Seth Grae, President and CEO of Lightbridge, commented, “Completing the work under our second GAIN voucher advances our ability to develop, demonstrate, and optimize the manufacturing processes for Lightbridge Fuel.”

The PNNL report is titled; Casting and Characterization of U-50Zr – PDF file

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Silex Raises $81M to Advance Laser Enrichment of Nuclear Fuel

Silex Systems, an Australian company working on laser separation of chemical isotopes, says it has raised AUS$120 million (US$81 million) equity funding that should enable it to accelerate commercialization for the nuclear industry.

The firm, headquartered near Sydney at Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO), has been collaborating with US-based Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), a joint venture involving Silex and uranium producer Cameco, for several years.

Silex says that the new funding will also help it further develop two other potential uses of the technology – separating different forms of silicon for quantum computing, and creating radioactive isotopes for nuclear medicine.

The firm also reported that it and GLE were currently focused on construction of full-scale laser and separator equipment to be deployed in GLE’s “test loop” facility in Wilmington, North Carolina, with a commercial-scale pilot demonstration expected as early as 2024.

The first commercial-scale laser system module is reported to be installed and commissioned, with construction and integration of the pilot-scale equipment currently said to be on track to be completed by the end of this year.

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NuScale / Utah Reactor Projects Gets Boost

  • UAMPS Consortium Votes ‘Overwhelmingly’ To Go Ahead
  • NuScale SMR, threatened by inflation and high interest rates, could be online in 2029

Nuscale-Logo(Horizontal_BlueTM)wTag(NucNet) The project to deploy the first small modular reactor in the US got a major boost on last week when the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) consortium “overwhelmingly approved” by a vote of 26 to 1 plans to continue, despite costs that have increased above the target price due to high inflation and interest rate increases.

UAMPS said in a statement that with this week’s approval, the CFPP project management committee also approved a new budget and plan of finance.

“That action will move the small modular nuclear reactor project into an aggressive 2023 workplan, which focuses on completing the preparation of the application to construct and operate the plant, to be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in January 2024.”

It said other activities for 2023 include the procurement of long lead material and the development of a construction estimate, which will provide a more detailed cost estimate for the project.

UAMPSs said participants were provided an opportunity to withdraw from the project, or revise subscription levels, after costs increased above the target price due to high inflation and interest rate increases. Of the 27 participants in the project, 26 voted to continue, with one participant reducing its subscription level and one participant substantially increasing its subscription in the project.

Project ‘Remains Viable And Is Key Energy Resource’

Mason Baker, UAMPS chief executive officer and general manager said, “Despite the project’s rising costs, felt worldwide by all large energy projects due to interest rates increases and rapidly escalating inflation in commodities such as fabricated plate and structural steel, copper wire and cable, not seen for over 40 years, participants felt overwhelmingly that the CFPP remains viable and is a key energy resource for the future,”

“The project will support our decarbonization efforts, complement and enable more renewable energy, and keep the grid stable. It will produce steady, carbon-free energy for 40 years or longer.”

Power from the CFPP will be distributed among UAMPS’’ members that are participating in the project. The first module is scheduled to be operational in 2029 to meet UAMPS timeline for replacing aging assets.

In November 2022, press reports in the US said higher steel prices and interest rates were driving up the projected cost of energy from the planned CFPP. Previous cost estimates were for the project to generate power at a price of $58/MWh. Since then that number has increased to an estimated $89/MWh,  NuScale said its Voygr SMR power plant remains a competitive source of reliable, affordable and carbon-free power for customers.

NuScale plans to build a demonstration Voygr SMR power plant at the Idaho National Laboratory. The facility will deploy six 77-MW modules to generate 462 MW of electricity and could be online in 2029.

The project is wholly owned by UAMPS, a political subdivision of the state of Utah. UAMPS provides a variety of power supply, transmission, and other services to its 50 members, which include public power utilities in seven western states: Utah, Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

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Westinghouse Launches Joint Regulatory Reviews at CNSC and NRC for eVinci 25MW Micro Reactor

  • Westinghouse Launches Joint Regulatory Reviews at CNSC and NRC for eVinci Advanced Micro Reactor
  • NRC’s Draft Part 53 Regulation for Advanced Reactors Faces Strong Industry Headwinds
  • Canada Launches New Small Modular Reactor Funding Program
  • Third UAE Reactor Starts Revenue Service
  • UAE’s ENEC Visits DOE’s Idaho Lab
  • UK Launches Effort for New Build of 1st Prototype Fusion Plant by 2032
  • Tokamak Energy to Build Fusion Prototype at UKAEA’s Campus

Westinghouse Launches Joint Regulatory Reviews at CNSC and NRC for eVinci Advanced Micro Reactor

WEC Logo(NucNet contributed to this report) Westinghouse, fueled by a $27M grant from the Canadian government, has begun a joint licensing process for the eVinci microreactor in Canada and the US.

The company said in a press statement that it has filed a notice of intent to submit key licensing reports for the eVinci design to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a joint review. The two nuclear regulatory agencies previously signed an MOU in 2019 to facilitate technical reviews of advanced nuclear technologies.

In March 2022 The Canadian Ministry of Innovation, Science and Industry granted Westinghouse Electric Canada CAD27.2 million (USD21.5 million) to support further development and progress towards licensing of its eVinci micro reactor. As a result of a recent sale, the firm is for all intents and purposes a Canadian firm despite having significant assets in the US and overseas.

In an email statement, a ministry spokesperson said that the investment will support funding for the development and eventual licensing of the eVinci micro-reactor. The spokesman said the grant was made because smaller size of the reactor design will result in a more accessible, widespread, and transportable nuclear source of energy with additional security and regulations to ensure its safety.

In October 2022 Westinghouse gave a green light for participation in the CNSC Vendor Design Review (Phases 1 & 2 combined). The firm actually filed three years earlier in 2018 but took no action until September 2022.

Relative to progress in the US at the NRC, the firm filed a “regulatory engagement plan” in December 2021.  A review of documents in NRC’s ADAMS public online library on 10/01/22 indicates that Westinghouse has submitted to the NRC 24 pre-licensing work products.

Examples include Fuel Qualification and Testing, Emergency Planning Zone Sizing Methodology and Heat Pipe Design, Qualification and Testing.  However, as is the usual case for new reactor technologies, the substance of these white papers and technical documents is restricted from public access due to the proprietary nature of the information.

Topics for the newly announced joint review include a common set of key requirements for the classification of systems, structures and components for the eVinci microreactor. This approach will enable deployment of a standard design in both the US and Canada. Other topics for review are defining the necessary transportation requirements for shipment of the eVinci microreactor across the border and factory safety testing and inspection programs.

According to Westinghouse, eVinci is a next-generation, very small modular reactor for decentralized heat and power generation including off-grid sites, remote communities, disaster recovery, industrial sites, defense facilities, marine propulsion, hydrogen generation, and water purification among other uses. The small size of the eVinci reactor, between 5-10 MW, will allow for easier transportation and rapid onsite installation.

David Durham, president for energy systems at Westinghouse, said,  “The eVinci will “unlock additional potential in remote communities and decentralized industrial sites” and can operate without refueling for up to eight years.”

About the eVinci Micro Reactor

In March 2019. after several earlier false starts, including a complete withdrawal in 2014 from efforts to enter the SMR market with an LWR design, Westinghouse buoyed with a $12.9 million grant from the US Department of Energy, decided to  make 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. The government money, which is covering about half of the costs, will cover design, analysis, licensing to manufacture, siting, and testing work.

eVinci Micro Reactor Concept Image Westinghouse

Conceptual Image eVinci Micro Reactor: Image: Westinghouse

Key Technical Attributes

On its website Westinghouse said the reactor’s small size and innovative design set it apart. (Fact Sheet and  Technical Profile – PDF file) Here’s a short list of key technical details.

  • Transportable as a reliable energy generator
  • Fully factory built, fueled and assembled
  • Output of up to 25 MWe electrical
  • Up to 600ºC process heat for petr chemical and other industrial uses
  • Five to ten year life with walkaway inherent safety
  • Target less than 30 days for onsite installation
  • Autonomous load management capability
  • Proliferation resistance through encapsulation of fuel
  • Minimal moving parts

Westinghouse said in a statement to the nuclear trade press that it faces several key challenges. First among them is getting enough HALEU fuel for a fleet of the reactors to be shipped to various customers. In its fact sheet the firm says the rector’s fuel load could be viable for eight to ten years without refueling depending on use and power rating.

According to the fact sheet, the core design is built around a solid monolith with channels for both heat pipes and fuel pellets. Each fuel pin in the core is adjacent to three heat pipes for efficiency and redundancy. Overall, there is a 1-to-2, heat-pipe-to-fuel ratio throughout the core. The large number of in-core heat pipes is intended to increase system reliability and safety. Decay heat also can be removed by the heat pipes with the decay heat exchanger.

The firm said in 2019 it planned to deploy a licensed commercial version by 2025. Given the three year delay in kicking off the CNSC VDR process, it is plausible to assume that date will be pushed back, but it could still be achieved prior to the end of the 2020s.

Westinghouse is an all Canadian Company in Terms of Ownership

In October 2022, just months after giant Canadian private equity firm Brookfield put Westinghouse up for sale in May 2022, a deal appeared. In an all Canadian line up, uranium miner Cameco has teamed with Brookfield Renewable Partners to acquire the company. Brookfield Renewable, with its institutional partners, will own a 51% interest in Westinghouse and Cameco will own 49%.

The total enterprise value for Westinghouse is $7.875 billion. Westinghouse’s existing debt structure will remain in place, leaving an estimated $4.5 billion equity cost to the consortium. This equity cost will be shared proportionately between Brookfield and its institutional partners (approximately $2.3 billion) and Cameco (approximately $2.2 billion).

Brookfield Renewable Power Fund originated as the Great Lakes Hydro Income Fund before changing its name in 2009. Brookfield Renewable Power Inc. was a wholly owned subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management.

The deal appears to be, on the Brookfield side, a shift of the Westinghouse assets from one part of the overall fund balance sheet to a subsidiary.

A key benefit for Cameco, according to an analysis by the Seeking Alpha website, is that it expands the firm’s market for its uranium. Defending the $7.9B deal, Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel said acquiring Westinghouse allows Cameco (CCJ) to capitalize on the full nuclear supply chain, rather than only being a source of the base fuel, and he sees a “wave” of demand coming for nuclear power as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “game changer” for countries seeking energy security.

Other Joint CNSC / NRC Regulatory Reviews

This is not the first time the two nuclear safety agencies have agreed to jointly review the design of an advanced small modular or micro reactor. In December 2019 CNSC and the NRC selected Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR for the first joint technical review of an advanced, non-light water nuclear reactor technology.


The selection of Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR for joint technical review follows the August 2019 Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) between the CNSC and the NRC that further expands the agencies’ cooperation on activities associated with advanced reactor and SMR technologies. The MOC’s collaborative technical reviews are intended to increase regulatory effectiveness as well as reaffirm the agencies’ commitment to safety and security.

The CNSC-NRC Memorandum of Cooperation is intended to expand the cooperation provisions of the 2017 MOU between the two agencies to include activities associated with advanced reactor and SMR technologies, and to further strengthen the agencies’ commitment to share best practices and experience through joint reviews of advanced reactor and SMR technology designs. (CNSC statement) (NRC statement)

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NRC’s Draft Part 53 Regulation for Advanced Reactors Faces Strong Industry Headwinds

nrc logoTwo nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), funded in part by the nuclear energy industry, have issued reports sharply critical of the upcoming release draft.  Most recently, the Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) said in a press statement on 02/24/23 and accompanying report that NIA understands that the industry is likely to see the draft rule package published in the coming weeks.

The NGO called the effort “flawed but fixable.” NIA Project Manager Patrick White, Ph.D., writes in the Executive Summary of the Report

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is about to make a decision with important implications for the future of advanced nuclear energy and for the United States’ ability to address its climate and energy security challenges.”

“A flawed but fixable draft rule for licensing advanced reactors is coming before the NRC’s five Commissioners this month. This moment requires the Commission to exercise its leadership role and provide clear and specific direction to NRC staff and management. With the right Commission direction, the capable NRC staff can modify the rule so that it will enable the safe and rapid deployment of gigawatts of new clean energy in the United States in the next two decades.”  (Full Text NI Briefing PDF file)

Separately, the Breakthrough Institute (BI) issued a similarly sharply worded and detailed critique of the 1,200 page regulatory effort saying the NRC “proposed rule is more complex and burdensome than existing regulations.”  (Full Text BI White Paper – PDF file)

“The draft framework is twice as long as either of the legacy, prescriptive licensing frameworks, Part 50 and 52, that it is intended to supplant. That is because the staff largely cut and pasted the old rules into the new framework, then added further burdensome regulations, including qualitative health objectives that cannot be complied with and expanded requirements for the notorious “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” radiation standard, a further invitation to endlessly ratchet regulatory requirements. These latter two standards have been added by NRC staff despite longstanding and clear direction from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission not to use either standard in the way that staff proposes to use them.”

Given these early warnings of  trouble ahead for the draft package, BI noted that few developers of advanced nuclear reactors would likely use the draft rules, if they go final as is, preferring the older Part 50 and Part 52 rules with specific references removed for light water reactors.

BI also said that additional action is needed by Congress to reform the NRC as it has not, in BI’s view, lived up to the mandates of prior legislation that clearly called on the agency to streamline its regulation of new reactors. BI said on conclusion that with regard to the draft, “ the NRC staff should go back to the drawing board, start with a clean sheet of paper, engage stakeholders seriously, and draft a truly modernized and risk-informed licensing framework.”

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Canada Launches New Small Modular Reactor Funding Program

As Canada advances toward a low-carbon economy, many forms of clean energy are needed to power the growing demand for clean, affordable, and reliable electricity. These include nuclear energy, which is non-emitting, consistent and safe. The next generation of nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, will play an important role as Canada faces growing energy demands and is called upon to export our critical minerals and clean technologies to partners around the world.

This past week at the Canadian Nuclear Association’s annual conference, Canadian government officials announced the “Enabling Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) Program.” This program will promote the safe, commercial development of SMRs to contribute to our low-carbon economy and help fight climate change.

The new program will provide CAD29.6 million over four years, to:

  • Develop supply chains for SMR manufacturing and fuel supply and security to support the crucial elements necessary for Canada’s SMR industry to thrive;
  • Fund research on safe SMR waste management solutions to ensure that SMRs, and the waste they generate, will be safe now and into the future.
  • Eligible applicants could include private companies, utilities, provinces and territories, universities and Indigenous groups.

The Program is open to R&D projects that request up to $5,000,000 (where the Program can provide up to 75% of the total project costs). It is anticipated that the Program’s average funding for a project will be between $500,000 and $2,500,000 with variation based on the size, scope, timeline and leveraged funding. Program funding is available for projects until March 31, 2027.

The officials noted that SMRs “offer a promising approach to support Canada’s low-carbon energy transition. They are less complex, easier to operate and more affordable than new, large-scale nuclear technology. For example, a 300MW SMR could supply enough clean power for an estimated 300,000 homes. SMRs could support the decarbonization of provincial electricity grids and heavy-emitting industries and could help remote communities transition away from diesel power.”

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Third UAE Reactor Starts Revenue Service

(World Nuclear News contributed to this report) Unit 3 of Abu Dhabi’s Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has begun commercial operations. Each of the reactors supplies 1,400 MWe of power. This action boosts total production to 4,200MW of CO2 emission free electricity. It is the third unit to be delivered by South Korea to the UAE in three consecutive years.

Barakah 3

Barakah’s operations teams were able to shorten the time taken to reach commercial operations after fuel loading by using their experiences from the first two units. ENEC said this took four months less for Barakah 3 than it did for unit 2, and more than five months less compared with unit 1. Construction of Barakah 3 was completed in November 2021. The Barakah site is located 175 miles west of Abu Dhaibi on the coast of the Persian Gulf.

Work to construct four South Korean-designed APR-1400 units at Barakah began in 2012. The first unit started up and was connected to the grid in August 2020 and began commercial operation in April 2021. Only one of the four planned units has yet to start operations. Unit 2 was grid-connected in September 2021 and began commercial operation in March 2022.

The three units at the plant already provided more than 80% of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi’s clean electricity consumption in December 2022, ENEC said. When complete, the four-unit plant is expected to meet up to 25% of the UAE’s electricity demand.

The UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) confirmed that Nawah has met all regulatory requirements for commercial operation to begin.

“The commercial operation of Unit 3 of Barakah Nuclear Power Plant is another major achievement which is the result of significant efforts made over the past years since the establishment of the UAE Nuclear Energy Program,” FANR Director General Christer Viktorsson said.

“During that period, FANR reviewed the nuclear power plant in terms of site selection, construction, testing and finally operation to ensure the operator complies with all regulatory requirements to ensure the safety of the public and the environment.  FANR will continue to inspect the oversight activities for the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant during the operation phase to ensure all requirements are met.”

“Barakah is a successful global benchmark for other nations looking to diversify their energy portfolio during a time of international energy crises,” said Mohamed Al Hammadi, managing director and chief executive of ENEC.

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UAE’s ENEC Visits DOE’s Idaho Lab

A delegation from the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) met last week with experts from Idaho National Laboratory (INL), one of the world’s largest and most advanced scientific research institutions, to evaluate the latest developments in clean energy technologies, as part of its mission to rapidly decarbonize the UAE’s electricity grid.

The senior delegation, led by Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ENEC, received a comprehensive briefing during the two-day tour from officials of INL and the US Department of Energy on the latest developments in the relevant sectors.

They discussed plans for advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, clean hydrogen generation, advanced nuclear fuels and materials, as well as the latest technologies in integrated grid management and cybersecurity.

As ENEC now focuses on realizing the full value of the UAE Program, developing partnerships with institutions including INL is key to driving decarbonization, as well as developing clean energy molecules, in a manner that is realistic, data driven, and supports energy security in addition to energy sustainability.

“INL is excited to partner with ENEC,” said INL Director John Wagner. “This is a key step forward to bring about a global clean energy future.”

About the INL

Idaho National Laboratory was founded as the National Reactor Testing Station in 1949 and encompasses about 900 square miles, or more or less the size of Rhode Island and is home to about 6,000 researchers and support staff members innovating nuclear energy research, renewable energy systems and security solutions.

The desert research site, euphemistically known during the Cold War era as the mythical railroad terminal of “Scoville, ID,” is located about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID on the Arco desert. INL also has a large multi-building research center and its administrative offices in Idaho Falls.


Several small modular reactor developers have agreements with the Department of Energy to deploy their first of a kind installations at the remote site in Idaho. They include;

  • NuScale which is planning to build its 77 MWe light water design SMR for UAMPS, which is a commercial utility with customers in several rocky mountain states.
  • Oklo is planning to build its micro reactor at the Idaho site. The advanced design uses liquid sodium metal to deliver hear to a steam generator.
  • Project Pele is a US Department of Defense effort to build a first of a kind unit at INL that wlll be a transportable micro reactor to provide reliable power to support tactical readiness at US and foreign military bases. It is expected that lessons learned from the project will benefit the US commercial SMR industry.

The INL hosts the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) for assessing fuels and materials to be used in nuclear reactors. The INL has also done advanced work on simulation of nuclear reactors with its Digital Twins program.

TerraPower is planning to build a molten salt chloride advanced reactor at the site. A unique aspect of the project is that the firm is collaborating with Southern Nuclear, a commercial utility, in the effort.

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UK Launches New Build Effort for 1st Prototype Fusion Plant at Culham with a Plan to Break Ground by 2032

In addition to commitments by several commercial developers of fusion power plants, the UK Atomic Energy Authority has launched a new organization at the UKAEA site in Culham near Oxford University. Organization of the government owned enterprise will take about 18 months.

UK Science Minister George Freeman announced the UK Industrial Fusion Solutions Ltd (UKIFS) will deliver the prototype STEP fusion energy plant, called STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), which is planned to be built by 2040. The UK government is providing £220m ($249M) to fund the first phase of STEP. A concept design could be released by the end of 2024. He added that the long term objective is to have a completed design and regulatory approval to build by 2032.


What is a Tokamak Fusion Reactor? Image: US Department of Energy

The STEP program is intended to pave the way to the commercialization of fusion and the potential development of a fleet of future plants around the world. Freeman said: “The UK is the world-leader in fusion science and technology, and now we are moving to turn fusion from cutting edge science into a billion-pound clean energy industry.”

The project has a three-phase timeline.

  • The aim for this first phase of work is to produce a ‘concept design’ by 2024. This means an outline of the power plant, with a clear view on how we will design each of the major systems.
  • Through phase 2 the design will be developed through detailed engineering design, while all consents and permissions to build the plant completed by 2032.
  • Construction of the prototype power plant will begin in phase 3, targeting completion around 2040.

UKAEA CEO Professor Sir Ian Chapman said the establishment of UKIFS “will enable STEP to accelerate its journey towards delivery of electricity from fusion energy to the grid.”

That’s not an idle boast. Three commercial developers of fusion plants are already working to deploy fusion demonstration plants at the Culham site. They include General Fusion, First Light, and Tokamak Energy. The UKAEA site is now literally a global hot spot for fusion R&D and commercial development activities.

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Tokamak Energy to Build Fusion Prototype at UKAEA’s Campus

Tokamak_Energy_LogoIn the latest in a series of like announcements, a new fusion energy advanced prototype with power plant-relevant magnet technology will be built by Tokamak Energy at UKAEA’s Culham Campus, near Oxford.

Tokamak Energy’s compact spherical tokamak, ST80-HTS, will demonstrate multiple technologies required for the delivery of fusion energy. This includes a complete set of high temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets to confine and control the hydrogen fuel, which becomes plasma many times hotter than the sun.

Tokamak Energy’s ST80-HTS will target the significantly longer pulse durations needed for sustained high power output in commercially competitive fusion power plants. It will also inform the design of its ST-E1 fusion pilot plant, which will demonstrate the capability to deliver electricity into the grid in the early 2030s – demonstrating up to 200 MW of net electrical power.

Constructing the new purpose-built facility at United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Culham Campus will provide the company with access to leading science and engineering capabilities, including knowledge and experience in designing, constructing and operating the record-breaking Joint European Torus.

It further builds on the framework agreement signed by Tokamak Energy and UKAEA in October 2022 to enable closer collaboration to develop spherical tokamaks as a route to commercial fusion energy. Designs for the new facility are underway in partnership with construction consultants McBains, with build completion planned for 2026.

Chris Kelsall, Tokamak Energy CEO, said: “Today’s exciting announcement is a major step forward on our mission to demonstrate grid-ready fusion energy by the early 2030s. Our next device, ST80-HTS, aims to validate key engineering solutions needed to make commercial fusion a reality and will showcase our world-class magnet technology at scale. It’s clear public and private partnerships of this nature will be a crucial catalyst for fusion to deliver global energy security and mitigate climate change.”

Professor Sir Ian Chapman, CEO, UKAEA, said: “Our ability to host major facilities extends right across the supply chain from design to decommissioning. The announcement is testament to Culham’s attractiveness for fusion development as we welcome Tokamak Energy to the cluster on the Campus.”

Tokamak Energy’s current ST40 fusion device in nearby Milton Park, Oxfordshire, has recently been upgraded to enable experiments relating to future features that will be incorporated in both ST80-HTS and ST-E1. Last year it achieved a 100 million degrees Celsius fusion plasma – the highest temperature ever recorded in a compact spherical tokamak.

Rolls-Royce Executive Joins Tokamak

UK fusion company Tokamak Energy has appointed Warrick Matthews as managing director and chief commercial officer.

Matthews joins the company from Rolls-Royce where he worked for over two decades most recently as as chief procurement officer for the Civil Aerospace division. At Rolls-Royce, Matthews led a team of more than 2,000 people in the engine control systems business unit and oversaw the engine production and test facilities.

He will now steer Tokamak Energy’s business towards its goal of demonstrating grid-ready fusion power by the early 2030s. The company believes his experience in global industrial partnerships and supply chain development will be invaluable in executing its growth strategy.

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IAEA Reports Surveys Scope of Fusion Energy Devices

types of fusion techVienna, Austria – IAEA Public Information Office (02/20/2023) There are currently over 130 experimental public and private fusion devices operating, in construction or planned around the world, based on different approaches to producing fusion reactions and having a variety of designs.

To review this multitude of fusion devices, the IAEA has published a new report World Survey of Fusion Devices 2022, which further elaborates the information available on the IAEA’s online database called Fusion Device Information System (FusDIS).

Replicating fusion, the power source of the stars, here on Earth has been a great challenge ever since the first experiments took place in the 1950s. Today, scientists and engineers continue to make new discoveries, bringing this virtually limitless energy source closer to the present.

Over the years, a variety of experimental fusion devices have been designed and constructed, including tokamaks, stellarators, inertial confinement, and laser-based technology, to advance the promise of fusion energy and one day drastically transform the way we generate energy.

concept fusion demo plant

Image: EUROfusion schematic diagram of fusion power plant

Matteo Barbarino, an IAEA Nuclear Plasma Fusion Specialist, said, “All over the world, researchers and engineers are exploring different fusion device designs to move progress forward and our new publication provides a comprehensive overview of fusion research and development activities from the perspective of those devices capabilities.”

“When it is realized, fusion would benefit every country and work alongside nuclear energy and other forms of sustainable energy, supporting climate change mitigation and contributing to the energy mix. Fusion could benefit virtually every country and that is one of the reasons why it is so important.”

How Fusion Works

Nuclear fusion is a process in which atomic nuclei combine to form a heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy. However, achieving sustained and controlled fusion reactions in a practical setting is associated with a number of scientific and technical challenges.

To keep such a reaction going, the fuel — usually isotopes of hydrogen — must be confined and maintained at intense pressures and extremely high temperatures several times hotter than the core of the Sun.

how fusion works

Image: IAEA

Considerable progress continues to be made. More than 30 countries have carried out experiments with different types of fusion devices, often successfully achieving fusion reactions, although for short periods and without generating yet useful amounts of energy.

Different Approaches, Same goal

The new report dedicates each chapter to a different design class, providing details including its name, status, ownership, host country and organization with short descriptions of the device’s goals and main features. It also provides statistics about publications, funding and other parameters that help create a comprehensive picture of the status of global fusion efforts.

types of nuclear fusion NIA

Image: Nuclear Innovation Alliance

Tokamaks and stellarators, for example, are the most common devices and the focus of much of the current research. These toroidal devices contain large magnets that control the movement of plasma — a high temperature, charged gas – where fusion occurs. The report shows that there are currently more than 50 tokamaks and over 10 stellarators in operation in the world. The world’s largest tokamak, ITER, is currently under construction in France, with 35 countries involved in the project.

Another approach includes inertial confinement fusion, which uses high-power lasers (or other means) to heat and compress spherical capsules containing fuel pellets.

In December last year, using this approach the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in the United States made significant progress in fusion research, generating about 3.15 megajoules (MJ) of energy from the 2.05 MJ energy output of its 192 lasers.

“This year we find ourselves in a position where we can talk about the milestones of burning plasmas, fusion ignition, and target energy gain greater than unity in the past tense – a situation that is remarkable,” said Omar Hurricane, Chief Scientist for the Inertial Confinement Fusion Program Design Physics Division, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, USA.

Survey of Fusion Demonstration Plants

The report also details the alternative designs scientists continue to work on for producing fusion, for example, colliding two ion beams generated by particle accelerators with each other, with fusion taking place at their collision point, or trying out fuels other than hydrogen isotopes, such as those based on fusing a proton with boron-11.

To demonstrate that fusion can effectively produce electricity, there is an increasing effort towards design and construction of demonstration fusion power plants, or DEMOs, which today also include investments being made by the private sector.

The report dedicates a chapter to the 12 DEMO concepts at various stages of development in China, Europe, Japan, Russia, the Republic of Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, with varying target completion dates spanning the next three decades.

“We’ve made significant progress in understanding fusion and its science, but there is still much work to do before it can become a practical source of electricity,” said Barbarino.

Find out more about fusion and the role of the IAEA visit What is Nuclear Fusion?

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South Korean Team to Develop SMR-powered Ships

  • South Korean Team to Develop SMRs to Power Ships
  • Poland / France’s EDF Signs MOU for SMRs
  • NANO Nuclear Closes $4.14M Funding Round for Micro Reactor
  • NANO Nuclear Energy Inc Creates HALEU Fuel Spinoff
  • Clean Core Thorium Energy Begins VDR Process at CNSC for ANEEL Fuel
  • Argonne National Lab Kicks off Three GAIN Funded Advanced Nuclear Projects

South Korean Team to Develop SMRs to Power Ships

(WNN) Nine South Korean organizations have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate on the development and demonstration of ships and offshore systems powered with small modular reactors (SMRs). The partners will also develop marine systems and the production of hydrogen using molten salt reactors (MSRs).

According to the World Nuclear Association nuclear power is particularly suitable for vessels which need to be at sea for long periods without refueling, or for powerful submarine propulsion.

  • Over 160 ships are powered by more than 200 small nuclear reactors.
  • Most are submarines, but they range from icebreakers to aircraft carriers.
  • In future, constraints on fossil fuel use in transport may bring marine nuclear propulsion into more widespread use.
  • So far, exaggerated fears about safety have caused political restrictions on port access.

nuclear ship engine

Image: World Nuclear Association

The South Korean consortium MoU was signed by representatives from Gyeongju City and North Gyeongsang Province, as well as shipping companies H-Line Shipping, Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM), Janggeum Merchant Marine (Sinokor) and Wooyang Merchant Marine, plus the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), Korea Register of Shipping and the Korea Ship & Offshore Plant Research Institute (KRISO).

A joint statement released by the consortium stated, “This agreement establishes a cooperative basis for commercialization in the future through the development and demonstration of SMR technology for propulsion of large ships.”

Under the MoU, the nine organizations agree to cooperate in the development and demonstration of SMRs for marine use; the development of SMR-propelled vessel/marine system interface technology and seek licenses and permits; and to pursue nuclear-powered ship operations and establishment of related industrial infrastructure.

The partners will jointly develop a molten salt reactor suitable for use in marine vessels. They noted that with MSRs, there would be no need to replace nuclear fuel during operation of the ship. Its compact design also makes it easy to load large quantities of cargo. Unlike diesel engines, it is also an eco-friendly energy source that does not emit CO2.

Samsung Heavy Industries / Seaborg CMSR Power Barge

Last month, South Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) announced it had completed the conceptual design for the CMSR Power Barge. It is a floating nuclear power plant based on compact molten salt reactors.

Seaborg CMSR Barge

Image: Seaborg CMSR Barge

World Nuclear News (WNN) reported in January 2023 that the American Bureau of Shipping said it had completed a new technology qualification of a compact molten salt reactor (CMSR) developed by Danish company Seaborg Technologies. The concept was found to satisfy the Feasibility Stage, the first milestone in the ABS New Technology Qualification process. The company plans to commercialize the CMSR Power Barge by 2028 once the detailed design of all of the plant’s power generation facilities has been completed and regulatory reviews are done.

In April last year, Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) and Seaborg signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to manufacture and sell turnkey power plants combining SHI’s ship-building expertise and Seaborg’s CMSR. It also covered the development of hydrogen production plants and ammonia plants.

Seaborg’s design is for modular CMSR power barges that can produce between 200 MW and 800 MW of electricity, with an operational life of 24 years. Instead of having solid fuel rods that need constant cooling, the CMSR’s fuel is mixed in a liquid salt that acts as a coolant.

SHI said the CMSR Power Barge can be equipped with two to eight 100 MW CMSRs depending on demand for power production. It describes the CMSR Power Barge as “a fusion of nuclear power and shipbuilding technology.”,

SHI told WNN it is “a ‘nuclear power plant on the sea’ with steam turbine generators and transmission/distribution facilities in the floating body”.

The company says that compared with conventional land-based nuclear power plants, “the site selection and facility constraints are relatively less demanding, the construction period is as short as about two years, and the cost is low.”

SHI told WNN it expects the CMSR Power Barge to “expand demand not only as an alternative demand for existing fossil fuel power generation facilities, but also as an electricity and thermal energy source for industrial heating systems, hydrogen production, and seawater desalination facilities.”

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Poland / France’s EDF Signs MOU for SMRs

(NucNet) France’s state-controlled energy company EDF and Polish operator and trader of renewable energy Respect Energy have signed an MOU to jointly develop nuclear power projects in Poland based on Nuward small modular reactor (SMR) technology. The MOU represents a major development for the Polish firm which until now has focused on “renewable” energy technologies. The French SMR is still in the design stage and commercialization is likely to be targeted for the early 2030s.

EDF said the agreement marks the companies’ “firm intention” to proceed with the development of SMR projects in Poland and confirms the “strong interest” towards Nuward technology, which has been chosen by Respect Energy to expand its footprint in the nuclear energy field. This is a major diversification for the firm which historically has focused managing investments in solar and wind projects.

EDF and Respect Energy will now start the evaluation process of specific new greenfield sites and continue to work on detailed business and financing plans for the Nuward venture.

EDF, the largest nuclear operator worldwide and developer of Nuward SMR technology, said the agreement is testimony to its commitment to deploying a European nuclear strategy for new nuclear, with its SMR Nuward technology supplementing its large-scale EPR nuclear plant portfolio. France is playing catch up to enter the global SMR market compared the the development of LWR type SMRs in other countries notably the US, Canada, and the UK. China has made significant progress to deploy a 100 MWe SMR to power its military bases on artificial islands in the Pacific rim.

Respect Energy Holding is a European trader of renewable energy that serves as a one-stop shop for green energy investors in Europe. Respect Energy Holding brings together independent power producers, accredited and institutional investors holding assets in renewables, or undertaking investments in new green energy production such as wind and solar photovoltaic power plants.

More than 600 institutional and accredited investors are identified by the firm as having commercial relationships with Respect Energy Holding for the sale of their electricity production, portfolio management, O&M services, EPC and project development.

Nuward is a Generation III pressurized water reactor design combining two 170 MWe reactors for a total output of 340 MWe. One of the main characteristics of the plant will be the integration of proven PWR technology into a compact modular configuration.

The French effort is following the example set by Rolls-Royce in the UK. That firm has been the prime contractor for small nuclear power plants for the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines. It is now seeking to leverage that experience by offering SMRs for commercial electricity generation. France is following in these footsteps.

The Nuward project, which is in the conceptual design phase, is being led by EDF with contributions from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), French industrial group Naval Group, reactor design and maintenance company TechnicAtome, nuclear company Framatome and engineering company Tractebel.

CEA will offer its research and qualification knowledge, EDF its expertise on systems integration and operation, Naval will offer its knowledge of compact reactors, and TechnicAtome its design, assembly and commissioning expertise. The Naval Group has been building nuclear submarine and aircraft carriers whose propulsion energy is supplied by small nuclear power units.

Nuward SMR


IAEA Profile of Nuward SMR Conceptual Design

Target Markets

An EDF spokesman said the Polish MOU is in line with the strategy that the Nuward SMRs is primarily aimed at export markets, including countries where the grid is not robust enough to take up the output of a large nuclear plant. Potential markets could include eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

In addition to generating electricity, the SMRs could also be used for desalination and for producing hydrogen through electrolysis, and could typically replace a coal-fired power plant or even a gas-fired plant. Load following is a key attribute which would be implemented not by changing the reactor’s output from 100%, but by shifting the electricity generated from the grid to these types of applications.

EDF has not been able to gain a foothold in tenders for large, full size reactors in several recent tenders including Poland which recently selected reactors, for separate power stations, from Westinghouse and KHNP in South Korea. However, market opportunities for SMRs globally are still emerging which may create openings for EDF’s business.

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NANO Nuclear Closes $4.14M Funding Round for Micro Reactor

NANO Nuclear Energy Inc announced in New York it has closed its oversubscribed $4.14M funding round in New York. The firm is developing  its transportable “Zeus” micro reactor which has an as yet unspecified power rating but which is expected to be in the range of 1-20 MW.

Jay Jiang Yu, NANO Nuclear Energy’s Founder, Chairman and President, said that key investors are in the transportation and logistics industries.

NANO TeamNANO Management Team –
Left to Right

  • Dr. Jeffrey L. Binder (Head of Nuclear Laboratories & Technologies),
  • David Huckeba (Chairman of the Executive Advisory Board for USA),
  • Dr. Ian Farnan (Lead of Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Radiation and Materials),
  • Jaisun Garcha (CFO & Board Member),
  • Jiang Yu (Founder, Chairman & President),
  • James Walker (CEO, Head of Reactor Development & Board Member

Mr. Yu Mr. Yu has the lead role in corporate structuring, capital financings, executive level recruitment, governmental relationships, and international brand growth of NANO Nuclear Energy Inc.

The current conceptual design features a solid core, removing heat through thermal conduction, eliminating the need for coolant and pumps. The firm notes that its design has few moving components. The fuel in the reactor could have a 20-year cycle.

The compact design will fit within an ISO container, taking advantage of the existing transportation infrastructure to allow for easier shipping and delivery to customers. The reactor will be modular and able to connect with local power grids or power systems, so multiple reactors can be deployed to an area.

NANO ZEUS concept design

NANO noted in its press statement that micro SMRs produce between 1 and 20 MW of thermal energy that could be used directly as heat or converted to electric power. Generating clean and reliable electricity for commercial use or for non-electric applications such as district heating, water desalination and hydrogen fuel production,  Micro SMRs are a highly adaptable and portable alternative to traditional nuclear reactors.

Additional proposed uses include the modular design being able to connect with local power grids or power systems, support recovery from natural disasters and remote communities, mining project, and military bases, among others, to obtain consistent electricity.

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NANO Nuclear Energy Inc Creates HALEU Fuel Spinoff

The startup firm announced in New York this week that it has formed a subsidiary, HALEU Energy Fuel Inc., to develop, improve, and accelerate the domestic production of High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) and meet the growing demand for the fuel required to power advanced nuclear reactors and reinforce the United States of America’s energy security.

HALEU is uranium that has been enriched so that the concentration of the fissile isotope U-235 is between 5 and 19.9 percent of the mass of the fuel (uranium-235 is the main fissile isotope that produces energy during a chain reaction.)

HALEU fuel has many advantages that improve reactor performance and is required for most U.S. advanced reactors to achieve smaller designs that get more power per unit of volume. HALEU will also allow developers to optimize their systems for longer life cores, increased efficiencies and better fuel utilization.

The firm said in a press statement the subsidiary will focus on the future development of a domestic HALEU fuel fabrication pipeline for the broader advanced nuclear reactor industry, a national laboratory fuel supply, and providing fabricated fuels for research purposes. Furthermore, it will play a crucial role in powering NANO Nuclear’s own proprietary portable advanced nuclear reactor, “ZEUS.”

The new company said in its press statement that HALEU Energy Fuel Inc. is focused on the development and manufacture of High Assayed Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU). Given the current civilian nuclear fuel landscape, HALEU Energy Fuel has identified major challenges for fueling its anticipated portable micro reactors and is looking to invest its resources into developing enrichment facilities and securing enriched fuel.

The firm said on its website the company has identified an opportunity to work in combination with the U.S. national nuclear labs to provide the country with additional sources of enriched nuclear fuel for its domestic and commercial nuclear industry development. It did not provide details of these relationships. (management team)

The Company said it is seeking collaboration with international industry and government involved in the enrichment of nuclear fuel, for the purposes of understanding the development challenges and resource requirements to realize a successful enrichment program. The company intends to assist in the financing, staffing, and support of these projects to develop and deliver long-term and consistent sources of enriched uranium.

HALEU Efforts Abound

The firm joints a busy emerging market of fuel fabrication efforts. The two DOE ARDP reactor developers are spending some of their cost shared government funding on HALEU fuel fabrication plants. Ultra Safe Nuclear is also investing in HALEU fuel fabrication.

What all of these firms are waiting for is CENTRUS to start producing HALEU levels of enrichment in UF6 form from its new centrifuges. Last November the Department of Energy (DOE), with a $700M bankroll to help the US advanced reactor industry by being the first buyer of high assay low enriched uranium fuel (HALEU), spent some of its cash. DOE announced it inked a $150M deal with American Centrifuge Operating, LLC of Bethesda, Maryland, a subsidiary of Centrus Energy Corp to ramp up production to be able to produce a ton of the fuel (900Kg) every year starting in 2024.

But there is still a long way to go. The Centrus centrifuges will only produce enriched uranium in a gas form, which is uranium hexafluoride (UF6). The nation’s sole uranium conversion plant in Illinois has to be restarted and there are three fuel fabrication plants being built by advanced reactor developers to meet their specific needs and to sell HALEU fuels in other forms to other customers in the US and for export. NANO is now the fourth to seek to enter the market. The firm did not provide details on funding for the new subsidiary nor major milestones for building a fuel fabrication plant.

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Clean Core Thorium Energy Begins VDR Process at CNSC for ANEEL Fuel

aneel fuelClean Core Thorium Energy announced in Chicago that it has begun its engagement with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s vendor design review (VDR) process for its advanced nuclear fuel. The VDR process is an pre-licensing process that allows a firm to learn how to best meet the agency’s regulatory requirements. It is the first thorium fuel to enter the VDR process.

The VDR review will be of the company’s advanced nuclear fuel (called “ANEEL Fuel”) that utilizes thorium and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). The firm describes ANEEL fuel on its website.

ANEEL is a proprietary fuel technology using a combination of thorium and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to enhance the performance of CANDU reactors and other pressurized heavy-water reactor designs. The firm said in its press statement the fuel can reduce the amount of waste produced in such reactors by over 80%, offering waste management and safety benefits, as well as non-proliferation benefits.

The firm enters a crowded field as 12 other advanced reactor firms are also involved in the CNSC VDR process. Three of them are LWRs (NuScale, GEH, and Holtec) and the rest are a variety of advanced reactor design types. Completion of the VDR stages is a predecessor step to entering the formal licensing process.CNSC VDR SMRs

Expected Results of VDR Effort

The CNSC’s pre-licensing review process will provide Clean Core with clear and early feedback on use of the ANEEL fuel design in a CANDU reactor. During this process, CNSC staff will conduct an assessment of the proposed fuel design and qualification program.

It will seek to confirm that Clean Core will be capable of demonstrating it can meet CNSC expectations, applicable regulatory documents and applicable Canadian codes and standards in the Clean Core programs pertaining to nuclear fuel design and qualification.

Clean Core said in a press statement it is confident that the safety case it is putting together in support of the use of the ANEEL fuel in CANDUs is solid, and will be shown to meet CNSC’s requirements and expectations.

DOE/INL Partnership

The Department of Energy (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the Nuclear Engineering & Science Center at Texas A&M have partnered with Clean Core Thorium Energy (CCTE) to fabricate a new type of nuclear fuel, called “Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life”, or ANEEL.

World Nuclear News reported in June 2022 Nuclear fuel innovation company Clean Core Thorium Energy has signed a new strategic partnership agreement with the US Department of Energy (DOE) which details next steps for irradiation testing and qualification of its Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life (ANEEL) fuel in Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL’s) Advanced Test Reactor.

The Advanced Test Reactor at the U.S. DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory is currently conducting high-burnup irradiation testing and qualification of the ANEEL Fuel for commercialization.  Next, Clean Core aims to carry out a demonstration irradiation of ANEEL fuel in a commercial CANDU/PHWR upon regulatory approval.

CANDU Reactors are Target Customers

The ANEEL fuel is designed to improve the accident tolerance characteristics and economics of heavy water reactors globally while achieving proliferation resistance and a dramatic reduction in nuclear waste. Once approved for use, this fuel will be poised to replace the existing fuel utilized in heavy water reactors and immediately enable these next-generation benefits.

“The initiation of the CNSC pre-licensing process marks a significant leap towards unlocking ground-breaking performance with heavy-water reactors by utilizing thorium and HALEU,” said Mehul Shah, CEO of Clean Core.

“Once approved for use in Canada, ANEEL Fuel will make CANDU reactors safer, cleaner, and cost effective, while supporting Canada’s long-term clean energy goals. Future use by a Canadian licensee also sends a clear signal to current and potential users of heavy water reactors who could benefit from cheaper carbon-free nuclear power that mitigates the concerns of weapons proliferation and waste disposal.”

Clean Core said it expects to have ANEEL fuel assemblies in use at commercial CANDU reactors by the end of 2025.

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Argonne National Lab Kicks off Three GAIN Funded Advanced Nuclear Projects

fuel assemblyThe U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory will be partnering with three companies as part of a voucher program provided by the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program of DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

As part of the projects, Argonne will help industry develop a range of new reactor and fuel cycle concepts that go beyond today’s traditional large, water-cooled reactors. Argonne is pairing with industry to improve three different types of nuclear reactors,

Radiant Industries

Argonne will work with Radiant Industries, a start-up based in California, to perform numerical modeling of heat production and removal in Radiant’s 1.2 Me, 1.9MWt,  advanced high-temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) microreactor concept. Helium gas transfers heat from the core. An air jacket cools the core passively through fans that drive natural convection.  The reactor is designed to run on TRISO fuel.

According to the company’s website the reactor will be capable of being delivered by truck to a site and placed on a concrete pad. No excavation will be required for the plant. The advantage of this microreactor, called Kaleidos, is that it is portable and designed to replace diesel generators.

Argonne nuclear engineer April Novak, one of the laboratory’s Maria Goeppert Mayer fellows, said, “This type of reactor is quite different from conventional reactors because of its small size; it is targeting diverse applications for nuclear energy, such as remote communities and electric vehicle charging.”

Novak will help create high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics models of the microreactor in shutdown conditions, including its passive heat removal systems. One of these heat removal systems is called an air jacket, which consists of a thin layer of ambient air in between the reactor and the shielding.

“The air jacket is designed to passively remove decay heat, improving the safety of nuclear power production,” Novak said.

“The air jacket modeling work with Argonne will be truly novel and a critical requirement with unique benefit to passive cooling,” says Radiant CEO Doug Bernauer

“We plan to be the first new commercial reactor design to achieve a fueled test in more than 50 years. Full commercialization for advanced reactors will require partnerships across DOE and several national labs like Argonne and the Idaho National Lab.”

The award will also help researchers identify the heat sources in the reactor, based on how fuel is burned, Novak said.

Argonne’s work on Kaleidos through the GAIN voucher is an extension of earlier work performed through the Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation program.  The Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation (NEAMS) program is a U.S. Department of Energy-Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) program developing advanced modeling and simulation tools and capabilities to accelerate the deployment of advanced nuclear energy technologies, including light-water reactors (LWRs), non-light-water reactors (non-LWRs), and advanced fuels.

The program leverages the nation’s scientific talent focused on nuclear energy objectives across six technical areas: fuel performance, reactor physics, structural materials and chemistry, thermal fluids, multiphysics, and application drivers.

Oklo Aurora Micro Reactor

In another GAIN award project, Argonne nuclear engineer Darius Lisowski will lead a team of researchers working with Oklo, a nuclear company also based in California working on small fast reactors as part of the Aurora product line. The project will measure heat transfer for some of the reactor’s components.

This is the latest collaboration between Oklo and a DOE national laboratory. In November 2022 Oklo, Argonne National Laboratory, Deep Isolation, and Case Western Reserve University were awarded $6.1 million in funding to enable the recycling of used nuclear fuel from the current light water reactor fleet into advanced reactor fuel.

oklo DOE work

Over the last year, Oklo has been selected by the U.S. DOE for four cost-share projects, totaling over $15 million to commercialize advanced reactor fuel from nuclear waste. Oklo’s CURIE project will focus on one of the critical steps for recycling waste from the current fleet, converting used oxide fuel into metal so it can be recycled using the process that Oklo is commercializing.

“Fuel recycling can impact how quickly we decarbonize. Since used fuel is about 95% recyclable, you can transform waste into a viable resource,” said Jacob DeWitte, Co-founder and CEO of Oklo.

“There is enough energy content in today’s used fuel to power the entire country’s power needs for over 100 years without carbon emissions. Additionally, certain long-lived radioactive isotopes get consumed in the power generation process, which reduces and transforms the disposal burden of used fuel.”

Flibe Energy

A third project to receive GAIN funding will involve a team led by Argonne nuclear engineer Melissa Rose to look at reactors powered and cooled by a molten salt mixture. Although no molten salt reactors are currently commercially in use, Rose said that a molten salt reactor is conducive to nuclear fuel recycling via pyroprocessing, a technology Argonne also developed.

“About 97% of nuclear fuel can theoretically be used; it’s just contaminated by fission products that have to be separated out,” she said.

“A molten salt reactor could get us closer to a closed fuel cycle in which much of the nuclear fuel is used over and over again.”

In a molten salt reactor, the fuel is dissolved in the molten salt and the liquid moves through the reactor. In her GAIN-funded program, Rose is working with Flibe Energy, based in Alabama. Flibe is pursuing a molten fluoride reactor that could be used for both energy generation and to provide medical isotopes for life-saving cancer treatments.

The Lithium Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) is a thermal-spectrum molten-salt reactor operating on the thorium fuel cycle.

Argonne developed and maintains specialized facilities that Rose and her colleagues will use to measure the properties of these molten salts. From melting point to phase behavior to heat capacity and thermal diffusivity, Argonne’s analysis of these properties will help Flibe bring their reactor closer to construction. This is Argonne’s seventh GAIN voucher measuring properties in support of molten salt reactors.

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BNF Capital Takes 10.7% Equity Stake in Lightbridge

  • BNF Capital Takes 10.7% Equity Stake in Lightbridge
  • Centrus Completes Construction and Initial Testing of HALEU Demonstration Cascade
  • Fermi Energia Selects GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 SMR for Estonia
  • Rolls-Royce SMR Signs Agreement in Poland for its 470MW PWR
  • Sheffield Forgemasters to Collaborate with Holtec for SMRs

BNF Capital Takes 10.7% Equity Stake in Lightbridge

Lightbridge Corp announced last week that it had received a significant investment by BNF Capital, a London-based family office owned by the Anglo-French Perrodo family, with significant investments in the energy sector.

Lightbridge is an advanced nuclear fuel technology development company. The investment was revealed via a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) on 01/19./2023.

The company is developing Lightbridge Fuel, a proprietary next-generation nuclear fuel technology for Small Modular Reactors (SMS), as well as existing light-water reactors, which significantly enhances reactor safety, economics, and fuel proliferation resistance.

Lightbridge (LBTR:NASDAQ) closed on Friday 02/10/2023 at $4.09/share with a market cap of $47,378,000 with 11.58 million shares outstanding. A year ago on 02/07/2022 the stock was listed at $10.54/share. For the 12-month period Feb 2022 to Feb 2023, the stock recorded a high of $12.56/share and a low of $3.62/share.

According to the SEC filing on 01/31/23, BNF purchased 1,241,165 shares at $4.26/share which is of interest since the stock on average hasn’t cracked $4.50/share since September 2022. The stock purchase does not provide new capital to Lightbridge.

In response to a question from Neutron Bytes as to why BNF Capital made the investment now, a spokesman for Lightbridge cited a press statement by Sean Benson, Portfolio Manager of BNF Capital.

“Our strategic shareholding in Lightbridge Corporation reflects the belief that nuclear power will play an essential role in the energy transition away from fossil fuels. Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), where our investors have partnered with the leading UK technology, will drive this reality and advanced nuclear technology must include the fuel that will power such reactors.”

“Lightbridge Fuel clearly suits this investment thesis, as they rethink the nuclear fuel rod, making it safer, more efficient, and cost-effective while bringing operational benefits that current fuels cannot achieve. Their recent milestones with the American government have led us to believe that Lightbridge Fuel is progressing toward the goal of supplying batch reloads to existing large reactors as well as SMRs once commercially available.”


In addition to his role as portfolio manager of BNF Capital, Sean Benson is the portfolio manager and founder of the Tees River Funds, managing a dedicated Uranium fund and a Critical Resources fund. Benson sits on the board of directors of Rolls Royce SMR (Small Modular Reactors), where BNF Capital is also an investor.

In September 2021 BNF Capital and Exelon Corp participated in a the three-year, £195 million equity investment in Rolls-Royce to leverage a£210 million in U.K. Research and Innovation funding. These investment are unrelated to the announcement this week concerning Lightbridge.

As to what Lightbridge will do next, the firm pointed to its announcement of a strategic partnership with INL in December which gives it access to the ATR and TREAT test reactors. Lightbridge plans to test its innovative fuel at these facilities in pursuit of commercializing this technology. According to the agreement, DOE will supply Lightbridge with the enriched uranium required to conduct these tests.

About Lightbridge Fuel

Fabrication – Lightbridge Fuel has three components that are metallurgically bonded during the fabrication process. The bonding improves fuel rod integrity, thermal conductivity and eliminates a source of fission product release in the event of a bonded barrier breach. Importantly, this reduces potential radiation exposure for plant workers.

lightbridge fuel cross sectionShape – Lightbridge Fuel has a helical multi-lobe fuel rod which increases fuel surface area. At the same time, it reduces the distance it takes heat generated in the fuel rod to reach water, improving fuel cooling. Swelling occurs primarily in the valleys between the lobes to maintain the fuel rod diameter.  (Image right: cross section of a fuel assembly)

Materials – The fuel core is uranium zirconium alloy with high thermal conductivity and low irradiation-induced swelling.

The metallurgically bonded barrier consists of corrosion-resistant zirconium-niobium alloy with variable thickness to increase protection at the lobe tips. The displacer contains burnable poison alloys for neutronics control.

Operations – Lightbridge Fuel has a low fuel operating temperature. Fission products behave like solids and remain where they are created. During design basis events, no fission products are released.

Proliferation – The fuel enrichment is level 15-20%, making it the lowest strategic value for proliferation potential. Lightbridge Fuel contains significantly less plutonium than conventional uranium oxide fuel and consumes more uranium during its operating cycle. Any plutonium in our spent fuel is “useless” for nuclear weapons.

Lightbridge Fuel May Outperform MOX in Plutonium Disposition

Lightbridge Corporation announced that a recently published peer-reviewed technical paper on the disposition of weapons-grade plutonium revealed that a Lightbridge-designed fuel rod significantly outperforms traditional mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in consuming plutonium in a computer simulation, making the Lightbridge designed rods well suited for consuming excess weapons-grade plutonium.

The paper was co-authored by Braden Goddard, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical and Nuclear Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University, and Aaron Totemeier, Ph.D., Senior Nuclear Fuel Consultant to Lightbridge, for Nuclear Technology (NT) published online on 01/27/2023.

The paper’s title is Improved Disposition of Surplus Weapons-Grade Plutonium Using a Metallic Pu-Zr Fuel Design.”

The simulation detailed in the paper demonstrated that the Lightbridge plutonium disposition fuel variant consumes approximately 5.5 times more plutonium per fuel rod than MOX fuel. The high burnup of metallic fuel makes it particularly useful for consuming plutonium and reducing the material usefulness of the residual plutonium in the used fuel for weapons purposes.

The simulation utilized the design of a variant of Lightbridge Fuel, consisting of solid multi-lobe helically twisted metallic fuel rods (as opposed to the ceramic fuel rods currently used in nuclear power plants), which increases the fuel surface area, substituting the uranium-zirconium alloy with an equivalent plutonium-zirconium composition.

The proliferation resistance of Lightbridge Fuel rods has been presented previously in Nuclear Engineering and Design, a technical journal affiliated with the European Nuclear Society. This peer-reviewed paper reported the results of a study that showed that Lightbridge’s spent fuel could not be used by rogue nations to make nuclear weapons.

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Centrus Completes Construction and Initial Testing of HALEU Demonstration Cascade

Centrus Energy Corp. (NYSE:LEU) announced that it has completed construction of a cascade of advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges as well as most of the associated support systems. This milestone puts Centrus on track to begin demonstrating first-of-a-kind production of High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) in Piketon, Ohio, by the end of 2023, after completing remaining support systems and obtaining final approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This will be the first new U.S.-owned, U.S.-technology enrichment plant to begin production in 70 years.

Construction began in 2019 under a prior contract with DOE. In November 2022, DOE announced a new, competitively-awarded contract with Centrus to finish the cascade, complete final regulatory steps, begin operating the cascade, and produce HALEU for the production years at the Department’s sole discretion and subject to the availability of Congressional appropriations.

Before operations can begin, Centrus needs to finish construction of the remaining support systems, including a fissile materials storage area, so that the HALEU produced for the Department can be stored onsite, and complete final operational readiness reviews with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to obtain NRC approval so that production can begin.

The operational readiness reviews are required under Centrus’ Nuclear Regulatory Commission license, which was successfully amended in 2021 to allow for HALEU production, and made the Piketon site the only NRC-licensed HALEU production facility. Cascade operations and HALEU production are anticipated to begin by the end of 2023.

Expanding to Commercial Scale Production

Separate from the operations contract, Centrus is investigating the possibility to scale up the Piketon facility with additional centrifuge cascades for expanded HALEU production – provided that sufficient funding or offtake contracts can be secured.

A full-scale HALEU cascade, consisting of 120 individual centrifuge machines, with a combined capacity of approximately 6,000 kilograms of HALEU per year (6 MTU/year), could be brought online within about 42 months of securing the funding to do so.

Centrus has the capability to add an additional cascade every six months after that. Such an expansion would mobilize hundreds of union workers in Ohio to build and operate the plant and support thousands of direct and indirect jobs across a manufacturing supply chain that is 100 percent domestic and will be capable of meeting U.S. national security requirements.

HALEU is an advanced nuclear fuel required for most of the next-generation reactor designs currently under development. Nine of the ten advanced reactor designs selected for funding under the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, including the two demonstration reactors, will rely on HALEU, as will the first non-light water reactor to enter licensing review by the NRC.


“This is a major milestone for Centrus, for the advanced nuclear sector, and for the vital effort to restore America’s domestic uranium enrichment capability,” said Centrus Energy President and CEO Daniel B. Poneman.

“We are strongly committed to pioneering production of HALEU to support the deployment of U.S. advanced reactor designs around the world. Our goal is to scale up this facility to meet the full range of commercial, government, and national security requirements for uranium enrichment, including Low-Enriched Uranium for existing reactors and HALEU for advanced reactors.”

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Fermi Energia Selects GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 SMR for Estonia

Fermi Energia, Estonian privately held nuclear energy company planning a nuclear power plant in country by early 2030s, chose GE Hitachi as a technology provider for BWRX-300 SMR.

Kalev Kallemets, CEO of Fermi Energia, said in a press statement, “The BWRX-300 is in principle a boiling water reactor, which is used and well known by many European countries, including Finland and Sweden. However, the specific reactor model is much smaller than the ones used in the nuclear plants of our northern neighbors, which allows greater safety, lower cost, and shorter build time.”

He added that since Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is launching the construction of the BWRX300 at its Darlington power station in Ontario, Canada, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has committed to seeking a license to build the SMR at its Clinch River site, Estonia feels confident that it can learn from their experiences. The two utilities are collaborating in their respective efforts to deploy multiple units of the reactors. OPG has committed to three units of the 300 MW BWR with an option for a fourth. TVA has not yet said how many it planned to deploy.

As Fermi-Energia was making its announcement, separately, one of Europe’s largest energy companies, PKN Orlen, announced that it wants to build 74 small modular reactors in Poland, at least some of which would be BWRX-300.

Jay Wileman, President & CEO, GEH said, “This technology selection further validates the BWRX-300 as the leading SMR solution. By leveraging a unique combination of existing fuel, plant simplifications, proven components and a design based on an already licensed reactor, the BWRX-300 offers cost-competitive zero-emission generation in a meaningful timeframe.”

Fermi-Enegia added that the government in Estonia needs to take policy actions to support site selection for the SMR. However, Kallemets said he is confident about the future of the project.

“We have analyzed all the work ahead and consider it realistic to produce reliable, clean and affordable nuclear energy in Estonia by Christmas 2031, which should also be in the interest of society and the country’s climate goals. Understandably, this goal requires a serious effort from both the state and Fermi Energia.”

Financing of the project was not disclosed by the firm at the time of the press statement.

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Rolls-Royce SMR Signs Agreement in Poland for its 470MW PWR

  • The firm says its reactors could be in revenue service in Poland in the 2030s.
  • The plants could produce hydrogen and decarbonize regional energy infrastructure

(NucNet) UK’s Rolls-Royce SMR has signed a memorandum of intent with Polish industrial group Industria that could lead to the deployment of SMRs in central and southern Poland in the 2030s.

rolls-royce-nuclear_thumb.pngRolls-Royce SMR’s technology could be used to power a central hydrogen cluster in the Swietokrzyskie region in southeast Poland and as part of Industria’s plans to produce 50,000 tonnes of clean hydrogen every year.

Industria is wholly owned by the Polish Government as part of the Industrial Development Agency (ARP), which supports the development of business and enterprise in Poland.

Rolls-Royce SMR chief executive officer Tom Samson said the agreement sets out the basis on which the companies will work together to develop joint plans for using SMR technology in Poland to decarbonise energy intensive industry and produce clean power for generations to come.

ARP president Cezariusz Lesisz said cooperation with Rolls-Royce SMR is an opportunity for the Swietokrzyskie region in southeast Poland and ARP’s group companies to develop a high-tech industrial base for small-scale nuclear power in Poland.

ARP wants to support projects to transform energy intensive industry, which will benefit from both renewables and nuclear energy, which will be available in Poland in the next decade or faster, Lesisz said.

Industria is also leading efforts to develop a supply chain of parts and modules for SMR production.

As a leader of the central hydrogen cluster, Industria is looking to deploy up to three SMRs to produce hydrogen.

SMRs Could Replace Coal-Fired Plants

Industria chief executive officer Szczepan Ruman said there are additional future opportunities to replace more than 8 GW of coal-fired power plants in southern Poland with SMRs throughout the 2030s.

He said Rolls-Royce SMR is “unmatched” in terms of its manufacturing concept and processes.  “Participation in a supply chain of parts and modules for Rolls-Royce SMR is a great opportunity for our region and for entire industry in southern Poland.”

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Sheffield Forgemasters to Collaborate with Holtec for SMRs

sheffield-forge-BBC-photo_thumb.jpgSheffield Forgemasters has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to collaborate with Holtec Britain on the development of components for its SMR-160 reactor.

Following similar agreements signed with three other nuclear power companies, the MOU with Holtec will see Sheffield Forgemasters develop the design of Holtec’s SMR-160 components to identify the best routes to manufacture them.

Dominic Ashmore, head of strategy and business development – Clean Energy at Sheffield Forgemasters, said: “We are looking forward to working closely with Holtec Britain on the SMR-160 designed reactor.

“This MOU complements a broader body of work that we are undertaking for the UK’s future civil nuclear programme, with Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) as a key element, alongside larger nuclear power plants and the real possibility of fusion power.

“We’ll work with Holtec to jointly develop the design for manufacture and purchase specifications for specific forgings, with specific attention on providing components which reduce the required machining, assembly, welding, and in-service inspection requirements for those components.”

Dr Rick Springman, senior vice president of international projects said, “Holtec is seeking to deploy a fleet of SMR-160 plants in the UK to supply nine million homes. We are pleased to partner with Sheffield Forgemasters to further manufacturing routes for key forgings required for this project.”

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NRC Requires New License Renewal Effort for Diablo Canyon

  • NRC Requires New License Renewal for Diablo Canyon to Effort to Stay Open
  • South Korea Offers to Build Four Nuclear Reactors at Turkey’s Sinop Site
  • Bulgaria’s Ambitious Plan for Four New Nuclear Reactors
  • EDF Proposes New 1200 MW EPRs for Kazakhstan
  • NASA, DARPA Will Test Nuclear Engine for Future Mars Missions

NRC Requires New License Renewal for Diablo Canyon to Effort to Stay Open

diablocanyon aerial(WNN contributed to this report) The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which charges nuclear utilities nearly $300/hr for its engineers to review license applications for life extension, or renewal, has socked it to Diablo Canyon big time.

Sitting on its hands in the federal government’s equivalent of an ivory tower in Rockville, MD, the agency did what all bureaucracies do when faced with a novel set of circumstances. It ducked and ran for cover.

In a letter to the utility, the agency cited “the lack of relevant precedent”  to support the request by PG&E which formally asked the NRC to resume its review of the license renewal application for the Diablo Canyon plant after the state of California passed legislation that would enable the plant to continue operating until 2030.

wafflesThe agency talks a lot about its “risk informed” approach to licensing, but when the opportunity presents itself to walk the talk, the agency apparently waffles on its commitment.

Plus, whatever happened to the NRC’s promise to California Senator Diane Feinstein made last September.

Senator Feinstein told the Associated Press that she wrote a letter to the NRC about the licensing issue and received assurances that the agency is, “prepared to conduct the review in the necessary timeframe.”

Conducting a major “do over” of the utility’s previous license renewal effort doesn’t sound like the kind of assurance Senator Feinstein had in mind. Every anti-nuclear wing nut in California now has a “license,” so to speak, to seek every method of intervention allowed by the NRC’s convoluted regulatory pathway to a license renewal to prevent the NRC from ever making a decision.

According to the NRC and PG&E, the “timely” NRC license renewal application (LRA) process will take a minimum of 18 months after PG&E’s LRA is submitted to the agency which is expected by the end of 2023. This is the best case if there is no hearing required. Unit 1’s operating license expires a few months later in 2024. Unit 2 follows 12 months later. There is no time to lose – literally.

The anti-nuclear strategy will likely be “paralysis by analysis” to hold the future of the twin reactors in limbo. Doing so will prevent the utility and the federal government from effectively planning for another 20 years of carbon free generation of electricity by the plant. As for all of California’s “green” consumers buying electric cars, their power will come from fossil fueled power plants.

The upside down nature of the NRC’s thinking is a significant impediment to the Biden administration’s efforts to promote decarbonization of the electric power section of the US economy. Here is where things stand as a result.

Status of License Renewal For Diablo Canyon

Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) plans to submit a new license renewal application  by the end of 2023 for its Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) because the NRC said it will not resume its review of the previously submitted and subsequently withdrawn application.

PG&E submitted its application to renew the operating licenses for the two pressurized water reactors in 2009, but withdrew it in 2018 after the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a joint proposal from the company together with labor and environmental organizations like NRDC, Sierra Club, and others, to close the plant at the end of its current licenses, in 2024 for unit 1 and 2025 for unit 2.

At that time, it was inexplicably presumed that the plant’s output would no longer be required as California focused on an energy policy that relied on natural gas plants, energy efficiency, and renewables.

Guess what? The plan has proved to be unworkable with grid reliability issues have prompted rush to rethink on the plant’s early closure. The California State Legislature, understanding that blackouts and brownouts lead to lost elections, overwhelming approved an emergency funding bill for Diablo Canyon last September and in record time to address key maintenance issues for the plant.

Senate Bill 846 allows the two reactors to operate for up to five years beyond 2025 to act as a bridging technology to ensure a reliable energy system and reduce greenhouse gas emissions until additional renewable and zero-carbon energy sources come online. It also includes a $1.4 billion loan to PG&E.

What PG&E Asked of NRC

The utility asked the NRC to resume its review of the license renewal application “as it existed” when the review ceased in 2016, “including all associated correspondence and commitments.”

PG&E said it would “develop and submit an amendment” to the previously withdrawn license renewal application that identifies changes to the current licensing basis that materially affect the contents of the withdrawn application.

Alternatively, PG&E requested an exemption from 10 CFR 2.109(b), which provides that if a nuclear power plant licensee files a sufficient license renewal application “at least 5 years before the expiration of the existing license, the existing license will not be deemed to have expired until the application has been finally determined.”

Specifically, the company requested timely renewal protection under 10 CFR 2.109(b) if it submitted a new license renewal application for Diablo Canyon by 31 December 2023.

NRC’s Rejection Letter

In a letter dated 01/23/2023, the NRC told PG&E that “based on NRC regulations, NRC’s Principles of Good Regulation, the lack of sufficient information to support your request that the staff resume its review of the withdrawn application, and the lack of relevant precedent to support that request,(italics added)  the NRC staff will not initiate or resume the review of the withdrawn DCPP application.

“This decision does not prohibit you from resubmitting your license renewal application under oath and affirmation, referencing information previously submitted, and providing any updated or new information to support the staff’s review.”

Hold on to Your Hats

rough rideThe NRC added that it has not made a determination on PG&E’s request for an exemption from 10 CFR 2.109(b). “The NRC staff is evaluating that exemption request and expects to provide a response in March 2023.”

Hold on to your hats ladies and gentlemen. If the NRC does not approve the requested exemption, it is going to be a rough ride in Rockville for Diablo Canyon.

Update 02/06/2023 

As noted previously, the NRC relies on “precedent” in dealing with licensing matters. In a comment to this blog post, reader Brian Nichols points out that the NRC as recently as March 2022 granted an “exemption” related the license renewal of the Dresden nuclear power plant which is located in Morris, IL, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago, IL.

Mr. Nichols writes, “The NRC has already granted exemptions for 10 CFR 2.109(b), so this should be the route that is taken. As long as that happens, then all will be fine. The NRC is afraid of precedents and the re-activation of a previously withdrawn application would have been just that.”

The Federal Register Notice documenting the exemption to Dresden, granted by the NRC on 03/15/22, was published on 03/22/22.  The full text of the FR notice follows below.

“The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued an exemption in response to an October 28, 2021, request from Exelon Generation Company, LLC to allow the submittal of sufficient Dresden Nuclear Power Station, Units 2 and 3, subsequent license renewal applications no later than 3 years prior to expiration of the existing renewed operating licenses and still place the licenses in timely renewal under NRC regulations.”

One would expect that the NRC, having previously granted an exemption under analogous circumstances, will also grant one to Diablo Canyon given its current circumstances.

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South Korea Offers to Build Four Nuclear Reactors at Turkey’s Sinop Site

sinop mappedSouth Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) said last week it has submitted a preliminary proposal to Turkey to take part in a project to build four nuclear power plants at or near the former Sinop site on Turkey’s northern Black Sea coast.

KEPCO chief Cheong Seung-il met with Turkey’s energy minister, Fatih Donmez, presenting a proposal to build four 1400 MW PWR type commercial nuclear reactors there.

The two countries have been in talks about the project, which is forecast to be worth about $32.55 billion), since December 2022. The proposal includes South Korea’s plan to be the vendor and the EPC for the project.

“The two sides began discussions on the project in earnest. They will carry out a feasibility test to come up with an optimum way to push for the project,” KEPCO said in a release.

Cheong has stressed that 10 nuclear reactors based on the advanced APR1400 technology have been successfully built and managed both at home and abroad, including four at the Barakah nuclear power plant in the United Arab Emirates. He said this makes South Korea a credible business partner that meets customer nations’ budgets and construction periods while ensuring safety.

“The main contents of the proposal include the introduction of KEPCO and Korea’s excellent nuclear power plant construction capabilities, the business structure of the Turkey nuclear power plant, the construction period, and localization,” KEPCO said in a statement.

The company added, “With the submission of a preliminary proposal by KEPCO, full-fledged discussions for the export of new nuclear power plants to Turkey began, and KEPCO plans to conduct a project feasibility study jointly with Turkey, expected to derive the optimal business promotion plan.”

Four VVER-1200 reactors are currently being built by Russia at Akkuyu on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast under a 2010 intergovernmental agreement. Two further sites were proposed for nuclear development: Sinop, which is central on Turkey’s Black Sea coast, and Ignaeda, which is on the Black Sea in the European part of Turkey.

Various plans have been discussed for the two proposed sites. Four 1100 MW Atmea1 units by a joint venture of Framatome and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries were discussed for Sinop and an intergovernmental agreement was signed with Japan giving it “exclusive negotiating rights to build a nuclear power plant.”

The project never got off the ground due to a combination of escalating costs and uncertainties around the fact the new reactor design had never been through a safety design review by any nation’s regulatory process.

IgneadaSeparately, since 2016 Turkey has been considering a multi-reactor power station at Ignaeda on the country’s western Black Sea coast not far from Turkey’s border with Bulgaria.

Multiple discussions have reportedly taken place with Westinghouse and separately with China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) regarding AP1000s and SNPTC’s development of them, the CAP1400.

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Bulgaria’s Ambitious Plan for Four New Nuclear Reactors

(WNN contributed to this report) According to English language media reports from Sofia, Bulgaria, Energy minister Rossen Hristov has announced plans for two new reactors at Kozloduy and two at Belene. Previously, the ministry had closed off further consideration of new reactors at Belene.

Hristov reportedly said he wants Bulgaria “to remain a leader in the production and export of electricity in the region.”

Hristov said Bulgaria has “all the prerequisites for the development of nuclear energy with trained staff, traditions, infrastructure and licensed sites.”

In the meantime Bulgaria will continue to rely on coal fired power plants as the main source of electricity generation in the country and for export to nearby nations.

An energy strategy released by the ministry called for 7GW of solar and 2GW of wind by 2030 and 12GW of solar and 4GW of wind by 2050, plus 870MW of new hydropower projects by 2030 and 1270MW by 2050.

There will also be an expansion of hydrogen production, to reduce natural gas imports, and the introduction of 600MW of battery storage by 2030 and 1.5GW of seasonal storage systems by 2050, according to the BTA news agency. There will also be modernization of about 2000 kilometers (1200 miles) of the electricity transmission network.

Bulgaria’s two operating Russian-designed VVER-1000 reactors at Kozloduy, units 5 and 6, generate about one-third of the country’s electricity. Life extension programs have enabled operation from 30 to 60 years.

Kozloduy 1-4 reactors were VVER-440 models which the European Commission classified as not being candidates for upgrades. Bulgaria agreed to close them down during their negotiations to join the European Union in 2007.

The troubled Belene project has had a series of on again/off again efforts. It was to have seen the construction of two Russian supplied 1000 MW VVER units. Preliminary site works began in 2008, and contracts for components including large forgings and I&C systems were signed with suppliers, but the project was stymied by financing problems and was suspended in 2012.

Westinghouse briefly considered taking over the project, but Rosatom balked at having an American firm be the EPC for Russian reactors. Bulgaria had to pay Rosatom an estimated $600 million for the failed effort.

In 2019, the then government advertised for a strategic investor to participate in the Belene project to build two large reactors, but said that neither funding guarantees nor long-term electricity sales contracts would be offered. Not surprisingly, no one showed up with an offer.

Last week Bulgaria’s National Assembly voted to ask ministers to negotiate with the US government for the new AP1000 unit at Kozloduy and urged action by March to speed up the process for approval and construction of the unit. It also called for a licensing and environmental impact assessment procedure for another reactor, which would be unit 8 at Kozloduy.

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EDF Proposes New 1200 MW EPRs for Kazakhstan

(NucNet) France’s state nuclear power company EDF said in a proposal that it is ready to supply Kazakhstan with a new 1200 MW design of its EPR PWR type nuclear reactors. The proposal comes as Kazakhstan is planning to make a decision on a vendor by the end of 2023.

Vakisasai Ramany, EDF’s senior vice-president for development of new nuclear projects and engineering, said he had met Kazakhstan’s energy minister Bolat Akchulakov and energy vice-minister Zhandos Nurmaganbetov to discuss “the perspectives of the cooperation in the civil nuclear domain between Kazakhstan and France, for the development of their nuclear power plant program.

“EDF is strongly committed to bringing its state-of-the-art EPR1200 technology, its competences, skills and dedication to support [project company] Kazakhstan Nuclear Power Plants for the construction and safe operation of its future nuclear power plants in the spirit of a long-term partnership.”

EDF’s Generation III+ EPR1200 technology is a smaller version of the large-scale EPR1650-MW nuclear plant. EDF is also proposing the EPR1200 for new build in other countries such as Slovenia and the Czech Republic.

Kazakhstan’s energy ministry said EDF is one of four potential suppliers of nuclear technology now being considered by Kazakhstan. Vendors include China National Nuclear Corporation, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and Rosatom of Russia. Commissioning of a first plant is potentially earmarked for 2035.

Kazakhstan is a major producer of uranium for nuclear power plants. In June, the government said it was planning to build it first nuclear power station on the western shore of Lake Balkhash in the Almaty region in the southeast of the country.

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NASA, DARPA Will Test Nuclear Engine for Future Mars Missions

NASA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) announced on 01/23/23 a collaboration to demonstrate a nuclear thermal rocket engine in space, an enabling capability for NASA crewed missions to Mars.


Artist concept of Demonstration for Rocket to Agile Cislunar Operations (DRACO) spacecraft, which will demonstrate a nuclear thermal rocket engine. Nuclear thermal propulsion technology could be used for future NASA crewed missions to Mars.
Credits: DARPA

NASA and DARPA will partner on the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations, or DRACO, program. The non-reimbursable agreement designed to benefit both agencies, outlines roles, responsibilities, and processes aimed at speeding up development efforts.

“NASA will work with our long-term partner, DARPA, to develop and demonstrate advanced nuclear thermal propulsion technology as soon as 2027. With the help of this new technology, astronauts could journey to and from deep space faster than ever – a major capability to prepare for crewed missions to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

Using a nuclear thermal rocket allows for faster transit time, reducing risk for astronauts. Reducing transit time is a key component for human missions to Mars, as longer trips require more supplies and more robust systems. Maturing faster, more efficient transportation technology will help NASA meet its Moon to Mars Objectives.

Other benefits to space travel include increased science payload capacity and higher power for instrumentation and communication. In a nuclear thermal rocket engine, a fission reactor is used to generate extremely high temperatures. The engine transfers the heat produced by the reactor to a liquid propellant, which is expanded and exhausted through a nozzle to propel the spacecraft. Nuclear thermal rockets can be three or more times more efficient than conventional chemical propulsion.

“NASA has a long history of collaborating with DARPA on projects that enable our respective missions, such as in-space servicing,” said NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy. “Expanding our partnership to nuclear propulsion will help drive forward NASA’s goal to send humans to Mars.”

Under the agreement, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) will lead technical development of the nuclear thermal engine to be integrated with DARPA’s experimental spacecraft. DARPA is acting as the contracting authority for the development of the entire stage and the engine, which includes the reactor.

DARPA will lead the overall program including rocket systems integration and procurement, approvals, scheduling, and security, cover safety and liability, and ensure overall assembly and integration of the engine with the spacecraft. Over the course of the development, NASA and DARPA will collaborate on assembly of the engine before the in-space demonstration as early as 2027.

“DARPA and NASA have a long history of fruitful collaboration in advancing technologies for our respective goals, from the Saturn V rocket that took humans to the Moon for the first time to robotic servicing and refueling of satellites,” said Dr. Stefanie Tompkins, director, DARPA.

“The space domain is critical to modern commerce, scientific discovery, and national security. The ability to accomplish leap-ahead advances in space technology through the DRACO nuclear thermal rocket program will be essential for more efficiently and quickly transporting material to the Moon and eventually, people to Mars.”

The last nuclear thermal rocket engine tests conducted by the United States occurred more than 50 years ago under NASA’s Nuclear Engine for Rocket Vehicle Application and Rover projects.

“With this collaboration, we will leverage our expertise gained from many previous space nuclear power and propulsion projects,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for STMD.

“Recent aerospace materials and engineering advancements are enabling a new era for space nuclear technology, and this flight demonstration will be a major achievement toward establishing a space transportation capability for an Earth-Moon economy.”

NASA, the Department of Energy (DOE), and industry are also developing advanced space nuclear technologies for multiple initiatives to harness power for space exploration. Through NASA’s Fission Surface Power project, DOE awarded three commercial design efforts to develop nuclear power plant concepts that could be used on the surface of the Moon and, later, Mars.

NASA and DOE are working another commercial design effort to advance higher temperature fission fuels and reactor designs as part of a nuclear thermal propulsion engine. These design efforts are still under development to support a longer-range goal for increased engine performance and will not be used for the DRACO engine.

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