- UK Picks HTGR for Pilot SMR Program
- Japan’s HTTR Restarts And Could Be Used To Demonstrate Green Hydrogen Production
- Russia Plans More Floating Nuclear Power Plants
- NRC Recommends License Approval For ISP Spent Fuel Storage Facility In Texas
- New Video “The Green Atom: Our Most Misunderstood Power Source”
UK Picks HTGR Design for Pilot SMR Program
The U.K. government has picked its preferred type of small nuclear reactor (SMR) for a 170 million-pound ($236 million) demonstration program. The government will likely have to expand the funding level from millions to billions to achieve its objectives which is to build a fleet of dozen of these types of reactors.
Another challenge is that the government is going to have to move a lot faster than planning to build a demonstration prototype by the mid-2030s. The UK generates about 20% of its electricity from nuclear, but almost half of current capacity is to be retired well before the end of this decade and one reactor was already prematurely shut down for good.
Also, while the UK has lots experience with full size gas reactors, none are SMRs which typically have ratings of less than 300 MWe. Any HTGR SMR design that comes across the energy minister’s desk in the next few years will likely be imported from the U.S. or Canada. Several firms from both countries have opened offices in the UK to enter the market for this purpose.
Despite these issues, UK government ministers said that they consider high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) as the “most promising model” for the pilot program. The plans will now be consulted on with industry and the public with a demonstration unit slated to be built and operated in the early 2030s. HTGR reactors can produce electricity, hydrogen, and process heat.
In some designs, molten salt is used as an intermediate loop between the helium and the steam generator. The molten salt can also be stored for off-grid process heat applications.
A Baseload Role for HTGRs
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Minister of State (Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change) at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said, “While renewables like wind and solar will become an integral part of where our electricity will come from by 2050, they will always require a stable low-carbon baseload from nuclear.”
“Advanced modular reactors are the next level of modern nuclear technology and have the potential to play a crucial role in tackling carbon emissions and in powering industry.”
She added that small modular reactors and advanced designs in their size range are expected to be cheaper and quicker to build than larger (1000 MWE) conventional light water reactors such as the Hinkley Point C which is composed of two 1650 MWe pressurized water reactors (PWR).
The UK government has dithered up to now over how to proceed with SMRs first delaying a competition for funding and then handing out crumbs in terms of funding. In the meantime, Rolls-Royce has proposed building a fleet of 16 470 MWe PWRs based on current supply chains and LWR design principles. If completed by the mid-to-late 2030s, the entire fleet would equal the electrical generating capacity of the now moribund Wylfa and Oldbury projects.
The government said this new step builds on the commitment made in a recent energy white paper and prime minister Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan for £170m of investment in an R&D program for advanced SMRs, as part of a £385m package to accelerate the development of more flexible nuclear technologies.
Ministers are now inviting views from industry and the public on the government’s preference to explore the potential of HTGRs for its demonstration project. The call for evidence seeks to strengthen the government’s evidence base around the potential of advanced modular reactors and HTGRs in particular.
A research paper from the Nuclear Innovation & Research Office (NIRO) presents an assessment of the most promising reactor technologies to identify the preferred choice of technology that could support UK objectives of meeting net zero climate change targets by 2050.
The analysis indicates that high temperature gas reactors (HTGRs) are the preferred technology, with respect to the key objective of demonstrating the ability to generate high-temperature heat which could be used for:
Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs): Technical Assessment
This analysis indicates that High Temperature Gas Reactors (HTGRs) are the preferred
technology of choice Report Executive Summary
- HTGRs have a high Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 7, and with further
development and demonstration could potentially make a significant contribution to
achieving Net Zero by 2050.
- With output temperatures of 700°C – 950°C, HTGRs provide for greater versatility in the
applications that they could potentially support to supply heat and hydrogen to the
economy, and thus provide the greatest opportunity for achieving Net Zero by 2050.
- HTGRs can be considered as evolutions of Advanced Gas Reactor (AGRs), a
technology which the UK has significant experience in and many of the safety
characteristics of the HTGR design concepts, including passive safety are broadly
proven, however these will need to be substantiated for a particular SMR design.
- HTGRs operate with an open fuel cycle, as with existing nuclear plants in the UK,
therefore present no significant issues for security and safeguards, or additional costs
associated with closed fuel cycle infrastructure. (TRISO and HALEU fuels typically run between 5% and 15% U-235 in terms of enrichment levels.)
- The UK’s historical experience with Magnox reactors and AGRs could provide an
advantage for the development and fleet roll-out for HTGRs in terms of transferable
skills and supply chain capability, the potential for the development of UK intellectual
property, and the potential for international partnership which could further reduce cost
and risk to an advanced reactor R&D Demonstration Program.
UK Green Taxonomy Will Include Nuclear
The green taxonomy will be a common framework setting rules for investments that can be defined as environmentally sustainable. This would help deal with a rising problem of “greenwashing” which is the practice of making unsubstantiated or exaggerated claims that an investment is environmentally friendly.
The energy ministry said it is preparing to submit a summary of evidence on nuclear energy to a working group, which will report to the government on how to address nuclear energy in the UK’s green taxonomy. The report noted, “It will make it easier for investors and consumers to understand how a firm is impacting the environment to encourage greater investments in funds that will help the UK achieve net zero.”
The London-based Nuclear Industry Association said the announcement was “an exciting and important” step towards the delivery of an advanced reactor demonstrator, a key part of a nuclear future in the clean energy mix.
“We hope the government will move swiftly forward to agree a funding settlement and delivery timeline for a demonstrator this year,” a statement said.
NIA chief executive Tom Greatrex also called for urgent action on a new financing model that ensures the UK can deliver nuclear, large and small, to secure its net zero future.
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Japan / HTTR Restarts And Could Be Used To Demonstrate Green Hydrogen Production
(NucNet) The High-Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) in Ibaraki prefecture north of Tokyo has been restarted with plans to use to demonstrate the production of green hydrogen already under discussion, owner and operator the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said.
The restart comes after the Nuclear Regulatory Authority said in a draft report in 2020 that the HTTR was compatible with new regulatory standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident. The HTTR was shut down following the accident along with other Japanese reactors.
The NRA examined the HTTR’s resilience against various hypothetical accidents, including tsunami and seismic risks. JAEA said it had been given permission to restart the plant “without significant reinforcement”.
The 30 MWe HTTR is a graphite-moderated gas-cooled research reactor. JAEA said the heat produced by the HTTR has applications for a range of purposes, including power generation, fuel performance and the desalination of seawater. “Furthermore, the demonstration plan of hydrogen production by the HTTR is under discussion,” it said.
Japan has signed an MOU with Poland for a joint R&D/Demonstration program of the reactor. So far work on it is still in the paperwork stage. It is a first of a kind effort by a Japanese organization to seek to deploy an advanced reactor design that could form the basis, long term, of an export opportunity.
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Russia Plans More Floating Nuclear Power Plants
(WNN) Rosatom and a subsidiary of Kaz Minerals have signed for power supply to the new Baimskaya copper mining project in the Chukotka region of eastern Siberia. Rosatom proposes to use three SMR type floating nuclear power plants each employing a pair of the new 55 MWe RITM-200M reactors, a version of which is in service powering icebreakers.
A fourth unit would be held in reserve for use during repair or refueling. The first three reactors are already under construction by Atomenergomash.
The mine is expected in operation about 2027, contingent on the regional government agreeing to share infrastructure development costs, in particular to finance and construct the power lines which is not a trivial effort.
The first two nuclear vessels are expected to be delivered to their working location at the project’s port, Cape Nagloynyn, Chaunskaya Bay and connected to 110 kV power lines leading via Bilibino to the Baimskaya mine over 400 km away by the end of 2026. The third unit is due to be connected at the end of 2027, increasing power supply to about 330 MWe.
The overall project is expected to cost $8 billion. In the first few years it is expected to produce 320,000 t/yr copper as well as gold and other minerals providing one-third of revenue that will help pay for the SMR project.
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NRC Recommends License Approval For ISP Spent Fuel Storage Facility In Texas
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued its final environmental impact statement on an application by Interim Storage Partners, LLC, to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Andrews County, Texas.
The site is located on the Texas / New Mexico border about 100 miles due east of Carlsbad, NM. The new Texas facility would be built next to the Waste Control Specialists low-level radioactive waste disposal site.
After considering the environmental impacts of the proposed action, the NRC staff recommended granting the proposed license. If granted, the license issued by the Commission, it would authorize ISP to build a facility to store the first of eight modules of 5,000 tons each of spent commercial nuclear fuel. ISP plans to expand the facility to a total capacity of 40,000 tons of spent fuel over its life cycle.
The spent fuel will be stored in dry casks and could be retrieved at a future date for reprocessing into new fuel. It is not a permanent facility in terms of final disposition of the spent fuel.
The NRC published a draft environmental impact statement on the project in May 2020. Agency staff held four public meetings by webinar to present the draft findings and receive public comments. To complete the final document, the staff received and evaluated approximately 2,500 unique comments submitted by nearly 10,600 members of the public.
ISP is a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists and Orano CIS, a subsidiary of Orano USA.
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New Video “The Green Atom: Our Most Misunderstood Power Source”
The seven minute video is available for free on YouTube. According to a spokesperson for the agency, the firm’s principals have been producing a series of short, factual videos like this one to address misinformation in social media and the mainstream media. Their basic approach is “just the facts please.”
No Punches Pulled Narration
The video starts out with this right to the point bit of narration – “You know what power source is more dangerous than nuclear? Literally, all of them. When you add up industrial accidents and the effects of pollution, nuclear is safer than coal or petroleum or natural gas.”
The video doesn’t pull any punches elsewhere either. It rolls out a trenchant comparison between France and Germany. It reports that French electricity costs are about half of costs in Germany, while Germany, which relies on solar and wind for its carbon-free generation, produces 10 times the emissions of France.
The narrator does a slam dunk on Germany’s energy folly with a quote by French President Emmanuel Macron who said, “They worsened their CO2 footprint. It wasn’t good for the planet. So I won’t do that.”
Macron has been outspoken on the subject despite an objective, in diplomatic terms, to retain good relations with Germany which is his next door neighbor in Europe.
Turning its attention to the US, the video highlights the hypocrisy of the State of California. It cites the work of Environmental Progress which found that if California had dedicated the amount of money it has spent on wind and solar since 2001 on nuclear instead, it could be generating 100 percent of the state’s electricity without carbon emissions.
The website lists the sources used to produce the video, a list of readings on nuclear energy, and a complete text / transcript of the video as a downloadable PDF.
The firm says it takes its name from Benjamin Franklin’s experiment with a key attached by a string to a kite in a thunderstorm near Philadelphia in June 1752. Of course, as we all know, what Franklin learned from the experience is that thunder is only noise, lightning does the work.
The Kite & Key staff previously worked for several conservative think tanks in NYC and the DC area, and they launched the PR agency in Texas about 18 months ago.
The firm said its purpose is to take important data and research and translate them into smart, well-produced, witty, baloney-free visual fare that will pass any sniff test for accuracy.
Funding for the video project came from several private sources which the firm did not disclose. The project manager for the video is Troy Senik, who is a co-founder with CEO Victoria Mendoza, at Kite & Key Media. He has been a White House speechwriter, a think tank executive, a newspaper columnist, and a podcaster. Ms. Mendoza is an attorney and also was previously an executive at several nonprofits in New York.
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