Canada’s SMR Development Plan Leaves the Station

  • Roadmap shows Canada can lead in development of SMRs
  • Significant challenges face vendors and utilities to open these markets

cna logoThe Canadian Nuclear Association said (CNA) that a roadmap released this week for the deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) lays the groundwork for Canada to lead globally in the development of innovative nuclear technologies of the future. It is intended to add momentum to Canada’s efforts to be a center of SMR technology development, production, and use.

The association said the roadmap, produced by a group including experts from the provinces, territories and energy utilities in Canada, outlines potential applications for SMRs. The applications include

  • generating electricity and heat for small or remote communities;
  • providing clean process heat and electricity for resource industries; and
  • clean electricity to existing power grids, particularly those needing to replace fossil fuels for their baseload generation.

NucNet reports that the roadmap calls for clarity in several areas;

  • the value of different SMR technologies compared to fossil plants;
  • the identification of key issues related to regulatory readiness of SMR designs,
  • waste management and transportation policy;
  • analysis of risks and challenges; and
  • identification of policies that might impact SMR feasibility in Canada.

The roadmap does not make distinctions regarding light water v. advanced nuclear reactors designs such as molten salt. Market readiness along the line of technology maturity will be a success factor especially in this decade.

A Few Coordinates are Missing from the Roadmap

ice road truckerMissing from the list is an answer to the question how to develop a workforce that is willing and able to work for long periods of time in remote locations in Canada’s sparsely populated territories.

Aligned with that question is the issue of getting components to the sites, supporting the plants once they are in operations, and providing ongoing operations and maintenance of them in harsh winter conditions.

Note that while “ice road truckers” have brought heavy loads across frozen lakes and rivers, none of them have handled a freight manifest that includes an SMR RPV. For instance, NuScale estimates the total weight of one of its 50 MW units is about 700 tons.  Even if shipped in pieces, some regions lack both road and rail transportation infrastructure to support delivery of the components.

Even before that Canada’s indigenous communities have been notoriously hard over in opposition to uranium mining. Would anyone care to predict what their responses would be to small modular reactors?

While diesel fueled generator power is expensive, and dirty, SMRs would also bring growth and unpredictable and possibly disruptive socio-economic changes to their communities. This is why the roadmap puts so much emphasis on “consultations” with these communities.

There is a question of the long distances that electric distribution grids would have to cover to deliver the power. This raises the issue of pricing and whether the small communities targeted for SMRs could afford the electricity generated by them. While generation costs would be lower than diesel fuel, someone has to pay for the new power lines. Is this something the government is prepared to do?

Also, if this blog had a nickel for every time a nuclear reactor vendor had it in mind to sell its reactors to the Alberta tar sands oil companies, I’d have long since retired. The tar sands oil firms are not going to make these kinds of long term capital investments when current methods of producing steam for their operations are cheap and cost competitive.  Bruce Power learned this lesson nearly a decade ago when it tried to sell two 1,000 MW PWR type units to the tar sands industry.

Note that Canada’s more heavily populated areas in a string of cities from Montreal to Ottawa to Toronto might be more robust markets for SMRs, these regions are also served by existing full size nuclear power plants.  Similarly, there are population centers in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia that might be markets for SMRs. The roadmap also identifies exports of SMRs as a market mechanism and it should be explored.

Canada SMR Roadmap Signals ‘call to action’

World Nuclear News reports that the roadmap recommends actions according to four initiatives.

  • Demonstration and Deployment includes calling on the federal government, and provincial governments interested in SMRs, to provide funding to cost-share with industry in one or more SMR demonstration projects for advanced reactor designs.
  • Policy, Legislation and Regulation identifies priority actions under the Canadian impact assessment process, to ensure that nuclear liability limits for SMRs are aligned with the risks they pose.
  • Capacity, Engagement, and Public Confidence, calls for indigenous engagement in Canada’s far flung provinces,
  • International Partnerships and Markets focuses on frameworks for strong and effective international engagement on SMRs.

The report concludes that SMRs are a response to market forces for “smaller, simpler and cheaper” nuclear energy. If successful, it says, there will be a large global market for this technology, “driven not just by climate change and clean energy policies but also by the imperatives of energy security and access”.

The new roadmap is the result of a 10-month engagement process with the industry and potential end-users, including indigenous and northern communities and heavy industry. It includes over 50 recommendations in areas such as waste management, regulatory readiness and international engagement. It still has a long way to go.

The government said it welcomes the roadmap and is reviewing its recommendations. The report, A Call to Action: A Canadian Roadmap for Small Modular Reactors, was unveiled at the Generation IV and Small Reactor (G4SR) conference in Ottawa.

Industry Support for Roadmap is Crucial

CNA President and CEO John Barrett said the Roadmap lays the groundwork for Canada to lead in the development of innovative low-carbon nuclear technologies.

“The Canadian nuclear industry looks forward to working with federal and provincial governments to get these innovative power sources to market, both in Canada and abroad.”

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) last year set the goal of siting a new SMR on its Chalk River site by 2026, and co-hosted an SMR Vendor Roundtable as part of the G4SR conference.

“As a safe, reliable and low-carbon source of energy, SMRs have a number of unique features that could make them a unifying technology here in Canada,” CNL President and CEO Mark Lesinski said.

“In particular, SMRs are ideal for remote locations, such as mine sites, the oil sands or willing communities, which typically rely on diesel-fuelled generators for electricity. They can also be deployed alongside renewables, including wind and solar, offering reliable baseload power to these otherwise intermittent forms of energy.”

Canada’s mature nuclear supply chain and “vibrant pool” of skilled, innovative companies gives the country a distinct advantage in the deployment of SMR technology, he said.  Of course much of this “vibrant pool” is already employed at existing nuclear reactors. Where will the new workers needed to support a components supply chain, build and operate SMRs, come from? The roadmap could be improved if it addressed these labor force issues.

NuScale Inks MOU with Ontario Power for CNSC Review

Also at the G4SR conference, NuScale Power announced that Ontario Power Generation Inc (OPG) had agreed to support NuScale in its vendor design review (VDR) for its SMR with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding  (MOU) on the agreement, which NuScale Chairman and CEO John Hopkins said was an “important milestone” in the company’s efforts to bring its reactor to Canada.

Under the agreement, OPG will offer expertise to support NuScale’s VDR application, which is currently under development with the CNSC, as well as the further evaluation of development, licensing, and deployment of the first NuScale power plant in Canada.

The CNSC offers the pre-licensing VDR as an optional service to provide an assessment of a nuclear power plant design based on a vendor’s reactor technology.

The regulator announced in February 2018 that it had received NuScale’s application for a review of the self-contained 50 MWe integral pressurized water reactor, and is now developing a service agreement prior to setting a start date for the review.

CNNC lists 10 SMRs on its website as seeking or which have indicated intent to seek, pre-design reviews.

Westinghouse SMR Entry to Canadian Market

World Nuclear News reported last February that Westinghouse has also submitted an SMR design to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for pre-deign review. The firm is developing the eVinci micro reactor as a small nuclear energy generator for decentralized generation markets, such as remote communities, or arctic mines.

The frim describes the reactor has having a solid core, built around a solid steel monolith with channels for fuel pellets and heat pipes that remove heat from the core, and has minimal moving parts.

Fuel is encapsulated in the core, which the company says significantly reduces proliferation risk and enhances overall safety for the user. The heat pipes enable passive core heat extraction and inherent power regulation, allowing autonomous operation and inherent load following capabilities.

The reactor is designed to run for more than ten years without refueling. It can provide combined heat and power from 200 kWe to 25 MWe, and process heat up to 600 degrees Celsius.

Westinghouse said in October 2017 it plans to develop and demonstrate the eVinci reactor in less than six years. The company plans to develop a full-scale electrical demonstration unit to reduce technology gaps and demonstrate the ability to manufacture it by 2019, and has plans to qualify the eVinci micro reactor for commercial deployment by 2024.

Other Nuclear News

South Korea To Discuss
Moorside Future With UK Government

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UK Current and New Nuclear Energy Sites

(NucNet): South Korea’s state-controlled utility Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) has said it intends to talk to the British government about plans to build a new nuclear power station at the Moorside nuclear site in Cumbria, northwest England.

South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement: “The ministry plans to closely coordinate with the British government on the Moorside project while monitoring the NuGen liquidation process with Kepco.”

Kepco had been a preferred bidder but lost that status in July as delays to concluding a deal dragged on primarily over differing views about costs.

Last week Toshiba announced it had decided to wind up NuGen, the company overseeing the original plans to build three Westinghouse AP1000 units at the Moorside site.

Toshiba said that it was taking this action because of its inability to find a buyer and the ongoing costs it was incurring. The company has already spent more than €459M on the project.  From the outside what it looks like its that Toshiba, which is stretched for cash, wanted a premium price from Kepco for the project which that firm has so far refused to accept. The result is that Toshiba’s best alternative to a negotiated deal is to walk away.

Toshiba put NuGen up for sale as part of its wider restructuring in the wake of financial problems triggered by losses in its US nuclear business which included the collapse of the V C Summer project in South Carolina.

Kepco had said it wanted to use its own Generation III+ APR-1400 nuclear reactor design for the project, which has not yey been submitted for approval by Britain’s nuclear regulator.  Once that happens it could take up to four years to complete the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for the reactor.

UK Regulators Announce
Completion of 2nd Stage of Hualong One Review

(NucNet): Nuclear regulators have completed their initial “high-level” scrutiny of the UK HPR1000 reactor design. They said, in typical government fashion, that the review has “not identified any fundamental safety, security or environmental issues that would prevent it being approved.” The review completes step two in the four-step GDA.

The UK’s joint regulators – the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency – said in a statement that the initial scrutiny was part of their generic design assessment (GDA) for China’s Hualong One design which is a 1,000 MW PWR. (Wikipedia large image)

Power Magazine reported last May that China is making significant headway on its Hualong One design. CGN in May installed the dome on the containment building of Unit 3 at the Fangchenggang nuclear power plant in western China, the first of two demonstration units being built at that site.

China National Nuclear Corp., a separate nuclear company, is also building two Hualong One units at Fuqing plant in Fujian Province. The units are planned to enter commercial operation in 2019 and 2020.

China General Nuclear (CGN) is a majority shareholder in Bradwell Power Generation Company, a joint venture with EDF, which is planning to build a one or more Hualong One plants at Bradwell B in Essex, southeast England.

French government Delays Nuclear Energy Bill

(Reuters) The French government has postponed a bill that has the timetable for the opening and closing of power plants, government.

The delay to the bill, which was originally earlier this year, occurred because the government wanted to deal with another bill on financing railway and road projects.

The energy bill is due to set a calendar for the opening and closing down of nuclear power plants over the next decade or longer.

The previous administration committed to reducing France’s dependence on nuclear energy for electricity to 50 percent from 75 percent, which would require the closure of some reactors. France is conflicted over whether to replace its fleet of nuclear reactors as they age, or to seek other combinations of power sources. Green factions in the government have not supported the replacement scenario.

In September French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot resigned in frustration over what he said was “sluggish progress” on climate goals and nuclear energy policy.

Hulot, a former green activist, quit dramatically during a live radio interview following what he called an “accumulation of disappointments.”

He claimed that President Macron was not fulfilling his pledge to cut the share of nuclear power in French electricity to 50 percent by 2025 and to boost renewable energy.

In a burst of wishful thinking, on July 10, 2017, Hulot said on RTL Radio that France might close up to 17 nuclear reactors by 2025 in a new plan to reduce its share of nuclear power.  He did not offer a cost figure for conversion to renewable energy, but critics said it could be in excess of $200 billion.

Hulot complained that investments made in the nuclear industry, like the very expensive bailout of French nuclear company Areva, prevent money from going towards green policies and slow down the development of a renewable energy sector.

Another reason Hulot may have resigned is that the same week he quit the French government released a report calling for more nuclear reactors to be built to replace the country’s aging fleet.

According to a WNA profile of the French nuclear fleet, all of the 900 MW units (34 reactors) will hit their 40 year mark in the next five years. Given EDF’s difficulties controlling schedule and costs at Flamanville, the report may have been the last straw for Hulot. On the other hand, if EDF was building a fleet of these units, there is no question the cost per unit would come down especially as experienced mangers and workers moved from one project to the next.

Five groups Pitch Brazil’s Eletronuclear
to Complete Angra III

(Reuters) Five groups are considering whether to partner with Brazil’s state-controlled Eletronuclear to resume construction of nuclear power plant Angra III, already partially built by the government.

The interested groups are China’s National Nuclear Corporation and State Power Investment Corporation, South Korea’s Kepco Engineering and Construction, Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation, known as Rosatom, and a consortium comprised of France’s Electricité de France and Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries , the paper said.

Current Brazilian President Michel Temer’s government is organizing the process, but contracts would probably be signed under the administration of President-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who will take office in January.

Eletronuclear has said it wants to resume construction in 2020. An RFP is expected from the government in January. Brazil has a start and stop history of work on the Angra III reactor depending on whether the economy is flush or broke.  In 2016 work was stopped when the head of construction for the plant was arrested on charges of corruption.

Bulgaria to Launch Tender for Belene in December

(Reuters)  Bulgaria may launch a tender to choose a strategic investor for its Belene nuclear power project by the end of the year if the parliament gives its approval to the plan, Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova said.

Two Russian 1,000-MW VVER pressurized water reactor units were to be built at Belene before the project was cancelled in 2012 because of concerns over financing.

Bulgaria faces a legacy of criticism of the project, first launched in 1981, that the investment does not justify the benefits and that the project has been a source of corrupt practices for decades. In the past Westinghouse refused to bid on the project for these reasons. European Union nations, and the U.S., have pressured Bulgaria to become less dependent on Russian technology hence the periodic revival of prospects for the Belene project.

Reuters reports that Bulgaria lifted a six-year ban on a 2,000 megawatt (MW) plant at Belene in June and asked the energy minister to come up by the end of October with a procedure to choose a strategic investor for the project estimated to cost at least 10 billion euros ($11.3 billion).

Bulgaria has paid more than 620 million euros to Russia’s state nuclear giant Rosatom for scrapping the project but also received nuclear equipment for the two 1,000 MW reactors and has to decide what to do with the stuff.  It could sell it to another nation that has a deal for similar units. India is a good prospect due to it having broken ground for Units 3 &4 at Kudankulam and having started plans for Units 5 &6 also at that site. All of these reactors will be 1,000 MW VVERs.

Paying for the new plants will be a problem. The government has said it does not want to commit more public funds, extend state or corporate guarantees for any loan, or offer preferential power purchase prices for Belene.  External investor financing is hard to come by for new nuclear plants. Both Turkey and Romania have had problems raising money even with half of the financing coming from the nuclear vendors building the plants.

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GE Hitachi Tapped for Design Work on Advanced Test Reactor

prismThe Idaho National Laboratory has awarded a subcontract to GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to support the conceptual design, cost/schedule estimate and safety framework activities for a proposed fast spectrum Versatile Test Reactor (VTR).

The test reactor will be a critical facility for the development of innovative nuclear fuels, materials, instrumentation and sensors.

The subcontract is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s Versatile Test Reactor program, which is investigating what it would take to establish a reactor-based fast-spectrum neutron irradiation capability in the United States by 2026.

Within the INL-led VTR team, engineers from GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy will adapt the company’s PRISM sodium-cooled nuclear reactor design to the needs of a test reactor for state-of-the art research and development purposes.

“To meet our aggressive schedule for establishing this much-needed capability in the United States, it is necessary to leverage an existing and mature sodium-cooled fast reactor design that can be modified to meet the needs of a versatile test reactor,” said INL’s Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, the executive director of VTR.

“Having a timely and detailed conceptual design is critical to generating an accurate cost and schedule estimate, which will then be key to DOE’s decision on whether to move forward in 2020.”

Bechtel will also support the project using its expertise in project management for cost, schedule, and related management systems.

Establishing a fast spectrum test reactor ensures continued U.S. technology leadership in nuclear energy innovation. Currently, only a few capabilities are available for testing fast neutron reactor technology in the world and none in the U.S.

DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy established the VTR program earlier this year in response to reports outlining the need for a fast spectrum test reactor, including one issued by the agency’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee (NEAC) in 2017.

In that report, NEAC recommended “that DOE-NE proceed immediately with preconceptual design planning activities to support a new test reactor (including cost and schedule estimates).”

The recommendation, in part, was based on responses from U.S. companies developing advanced reactors, many of which require different testing facilities than the commercial nuclear power technology in use today.

Also recently, Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (S.97) highlighted the need for a reactor-based fast neutron source authorizing DOE to proceed with the relevant activities.

INL is one of the U.S. DOE’s national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

Prior coverage of GEH PRISM on this blog

Integral Fast Reactor to Live Again at Point Lepreau, NB – link 
NRC License to be Sought for GEH PRISM Advanced Reactor – link
Southern Signs-on for Prism Advanced Reactor – link

Idaho National Laboratory Names
Science and Technology Director

MWalck_INL

Marianne Walck, Ph.D.

Idaho National Laboratory Director Mark Peters has announced Dr. Marianne Walck will become the laboratory’s new director for Science and Technology. Walck will also serve as chief research officer beginning January 7, 2019.

“I am excited to have Marianne join the Laboratory to provide strategic leadership, direction, and integration for research, science, and technology at INL,” said Peters.

Walck was vice president of Sandia’s California laboratory and served as lead for Sandia’s Energy and Climate Program and has over 25 years of DOE National Laboratory leadership experience.

In California, she was responsible for principal programs, including nuclear weapons stewardship.  Her work with Homeland Security focused on defending against weapons of mass destruction, combustion, transportation, and hydrogen energy research.

Sandia’s Energy and Climate Program includes a variety of technology programs including renewable energy systems, energy infrastructure, climate and engineered systems, fossil energy, nuclear and fuel cycle and transportation energy systems.

Walck received a master’s and a doctorate in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree in geology/physics from Hope College.

She holds memberships in the American Geophysical Union, the Seismological Society of America, the Association for Women Geoscientists, the American Nuclear Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

She serves on several advisory boards for universities and technical institutes including the Texas A&M Energy Institute, and is a Senior Fellow of the California Council of Science and Technology.

DOE Awards $18 Million For
Advanced Nuclear Technology Projects

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced 11/13/18 funding selections for eleven domestic advanced nuclear technology projects. These projects, located across six states, will receive awards totaling $18 million in funding, with project values totaling approximately $25 million.

The projects are cost-shared and will allow industry-led teams, including participants from federal agencies, public and private laboratories, institutions of higher education, and other domestic entities, to advance the state of U.S. commercial nuclear capability.

The awards are through the Office of Nuclear Energy’s (NE) funding opportunity announcement (FOA) U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development.

The solicitation is broken into three funding pathways:

First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) Nuclear Demonstration Readiness Project pathway, intended to address major advanced reactor design development projects or complex technology advancements for existing plants which have significant technical and licensing risk and have the potential to be deployed by the mid-to-late 2020s.

Advanced Reactor Development Projects pathway, which allows a broad scope of proposed concepts and ideas that are best suited to improving the capabilities and commercialization potential of advanced reactor designs and technologies.

Regulatory Assistance Grants pathway, which provide direct support for resolving design regulatory issues, regulatory review of licensing topical reports or papers, and other efforts focused on obtaining certification and licensing approvals for advanced reactor designs and capabilities.

&  The following project was selected under the FOAK Nuclear Demonstration Readiness Project pathway:

Integral and Separate Effects Test Program for the Investigation and Validation of Passive Safety System Performance of SMRs – Phase 1 Only – SMR, LLC (Camden, NJ) will develop a uniquely configurable set of testing platforms to demonstrate small modular reactor (SMR) passive safety system performance, accelerate the SMR-160 and other SMR designs to market, and help license these designs with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and international regulators.
DOE Funding: $1,624,729; Non-DOE: $1,624,729; Total Value: $3,249,458

&  The following four projects were selected under the Advanced Reactor Development Projects pathway:

Development of Cable Aging Acceptance Criteria for Nuclear Facilities – This work proposed by Analysis and Measurement Services Corporation (Knoxville, TN) aims to develop acceptance criteria for mechanical, electrical, thermal, and chemical condition monitoring tests that trend with age-related degradation of electrical cables.
DOE Funding: $2,812,547; Non-DOE: $703,137; Total: $3,515,684

Modeling and Analysis of Exelon Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) for Eigenvalue & Thermal Limits Predictability – Under this proposal, Exelon Generation (Kennett Square, PA) will provide a deeper understanding of BWR core behavior (including Exelon’s 15 BWRs) using the reactor modeling tool Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications (VERA). This will lead to improved core performance predictions for BWRs including reactivity and thermal margins, which has a direct, positive economic impact in terms of cycle energy production and fuel costs.
DOE Funding: $5,000,000; Non-DOE: $1,740,000; Total Value: $6,740,000

Establishing Modular In-Chamber Electron Beam Welding – The Electric Power Research Institute (Palo Alto, CA) will demonstrate the capability to produce large, thick-section components to support nuclear production in the United States via Modular In-Chamber Electron Beam Welding.
DOE Funding: $2,925,057; Non-DOE: $731,265; Total Value: $3,656,322

Integrated Risk-Informed Condition Based Maintenance Capability and Automated Platform – A team comprised of Public Services Enterprise & Group (PSE&G) Nuclear, LLC, Idaho National Laboratory, and Rolls-Royce North America (Moon Township, PA) will develop and perform pilot implementation of a fully integrated risk-informed condition based maintenance capability, on an automated platform.  The key outcome of this project, when implemented, is significantly reduced O&M costs associated with time-based maintenance, across the U.S. nuclear fleet.
DOE Funding: $3,567,190; Non-DOE: $891,798; Total Value: $4,458,988

&  The following project was selected under the Regulatory Assistance Grant pathway:

TEUSA-USNRC Pre-Licensing Activities for the Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR®) – Terrestrial Energy USA (New York, NY) will conduct pre-application interactions with the US NRC to advance the progress of licensing the IMSR®.
DOE Funding: $499,232; Non-DOE: $124,808; Total Value: $624,040

Technology Vouchers

DOE has selected five companies to receive technology development vouchers under the GAIN program. The companies selected are;

  • Westinghouse Electric Company (Cranberry Township, PA) in the amount of $420,000;
  • Elysium Industries (Clifton Park, NY) in the amount of $500,000;
  • NexDefense (Atlanta, GA) in the amount of $400,000;
  • Exelon Generation (Kennett Square, PA) in the amount of $480,000; and
  • Eastman Chemical Company (Kingsport, TN) in the amount of $350,000.

& & &

“Nuclear energy plays an increasingly important role in reaching our country’s clean energy and economic goals,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry.

“These awards are prime examples of the private-public partnerships needed to help successfully develop and deploy innovative domestic nuclear technologies.”

This is the third round of funding through this FOA. The first group was announced on April 27 and the second group was announced on July 10. The total of the three rounds of awards is approximately $98 million.

The awards also include vouchers through the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative. Subsequent quarterly application review and selection processes will be conducted over the next four years.

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US Clamps Down on Nuclear Technology Exports to China

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The U.S. Energy Department (DOE), acting as the point agency for the Trump Administration, announced new policy guidance regarding China that is intended to prevent Beijing from illegally diverting nuclear technologies and materials from civil to military programs.

The policy seems unlikely to make an impact since China is essentially self-sufficient in the area of nuclear weapons. It doesn’t need U.S. civilian technologies to continue to develop its deterrent powers.

China does have a record of pilfering civilian technologies and the feds point to a 2016 case which not only involved unlicensed transfers of information on civilian nuclear fuels, but which also exposed significant gaps in China’s SMR R&D program.

Also, according to the New York Times for October 11, U.S. nuclear trade with China is almost inconsequential in terms of absolute dollars clocking in at a paltry $170M in 2017

What the policy does do is harm U.S. firms that have ongoing commercial relationships with China or which want to do business with China in the future.

What’s in the Policy?

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry issued new policy guidance in October saying that the government’s intent is to prevent China from using its civilian nuclear technologies to advance military goals. In particular, the national security issue is the placement of floating nuclear power plants moored to islands in the South China sea with the intent of establishing territorial controls over the region.  China broke ground on the first of 20 units at Shandong on 11/04/18,

Note the US is also exploring the development of SMRs for use at military bases to insure tactical readiness in cases where the local grid is unreliable.

The Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration, FBI, Intelligence Community, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and Department of State all participated in the U.S. policy review, which was led by the National Security Council.

Some of the basis for the policy was laid last July. Christopher Ford, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, outlined U.S. concerns about China’s policy of “military-civil fusion.”

He said that that Beijing is working “to eliminate all barriers between its civilian and defense industrial sectors to promote the free flow” of technology and expertise. In the case of plans to use floating SMRs to secure reliable power for artificial islands in the South China sea, this is already well known plan. That the US is finally acknowledging it is a key justification for the export ban

The new DOE policy is intended to provide a framework for assessing licensing requests by US nuclear firms to do business with China. A presumption of approval will still apply to certain requests for the sale of commercially available technology or extending existing authorizations, but there will be a presumption of denial for exports to China related to small modular reactors, new technology transfers, and any requests to direct economic competitors of U.S. entities.

The vague nature of the language in the policy statements set off a scramble, among DC-based law firms and lobbyists that work in the arcane area of nuclear export controls, to explain the details to their clients and what it all means.

The policy does get specific with regard to one Chinese state-owner nuclear firm. It says there will also be a presumption of denial for licensing exports related to the China General Nuclear Power Company (CGN).

The CGN Economic Espionage Case

China General Nuclear Power was indicted in April 2016 for “conspiracy to unlawfully engage and participate in the production and development of special nuclear material outside the United States, without the required authorization.”

This is a case that involved a US citizen and former TVA engineer who subsequently pleaded guilty to charges of illegally sharing U.S. technologies with the firm.

The indictment includes a long list of technical data and analyses provided to CGN. The key information passed by Allen Ho to CGN is described as nuclear reactor outage data for use at CGN’s Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant.

Daya Bay has two 944 MWe PWR nuclear reactors based on the Framatone ANP French 900 MWe three cooling loop design, which started commercial operation in 1993 and 1994 respectively. It is located on China’s southeastern coast in Longgang District, Shenzhen. Its design is believed to have helped China with the launch of its new 1000 MW Hualong One PWR that is intended for export markets.

China is building reference units at the Fangchenggang nuclear power plant in western China. The unit is the first of two demonstration Hualong One (HPR1000) reactors being built at the site in the Guangxi Autonomous Region, about 45 kilometres from the border with Vietnam.

The technical details of the information Ho is alleged to have shared with CGN also include data to assist CGN’s work on development of its ACPR-100 small modular reactor, nuclear fuel assembly design and fabrication, and computer codes for modeling the operation of commercial nuclear reactors.

Additionally, Ho is alleged to have obtained information on advanced nuclear reactor fuels performance data, and potential damage to reactor pipes caused by abnormal water pressure events.

U.S. Industry Response Mixed

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) said in a statement that “the policy framework is based on legitimate concerns,” but cautioned that careful implementation is critical to mitigate commercial harm.

“The US government has undertaken a thorough review of civil nuclear cooperation with China and developed a policy that seeks to balance national and economic security concerns with potential harms to our strategically important industry.

NEI is working with our member companies to determine the scope of commercial impact from the policy framework. Given that various nuclear technologies will be shut out of the world’s largest market that impact is clearly significant and we are reviewing this very carefully.”

The guidance, NEI said, “appears to have little effect on the approved transfer of large light water reactor technologies and components,” such as those for Westinghouse AP1000s that are now already operating in China.

Applications under 10 CFR parts 110 and 810 have been on hold since 2017, pending the policy review. DOE and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission have said they will meet with applicants “immediately” to clear the backlog of pending applications.

Even so the trade group asserted that the policy created uncertainties for its members and that some of them could be negatively impacted by it.

TerraPower Concerned about Impact of Policy on Investors

One firm that is developing an advanced nuclear reactor, and has a significant working relationship with China, is TerraPower. Marcia Burkey, senior vice president, at TerraPower, said in an email statement.

“The United States’ action potentially eliminates the predictability needed for private investors to participate in market-based solutions to meeting the world’s clean energy needs. We developed our program in close collaboration with the U.S. government. Today, we are working closely with the NNSA and DOE and will remain compliant with any new U.S. government application of the export control rules.”

TerraPower has a long record of dotting all the “i’s & t’s” needed to pursue joint technology development with Chinese firms. No doubt it expected some form of reciprocity from DOE in terms of letting the firm know in a timely manner of any changes to the agency’s export policies.

Other Firms Also See Missed Opportunities

This leads to a question of whether the policy was developed in haste without adequate consultation with stakeholders including firms already doing business in China.

NuScale, a developer of a 50MW SMR based on light water technologies. told the Morning Consult that it was not made aware in advance of the policy. NuScale has received financial assistance from DOE for design and licensing costs and is planning to build its first unit for a customer, UAMPS, at a site on the Idaho National Laboratory. One would think that the government would give stakeholders like NuScale a “heads up” and not let them be startled by news headlines.

Tom Munday, an executive with the firm, told the Morning Consult that despite being taken by surprise, the firm does not see any immediate impact of the policy though eventually it would like to sell its reactors to China.

At the Third Way, a DC think tank that has spent considerable time working on issues related to development of advanced nuclear technologies, Joshua Freed, VP of Energy Programs, told the Morning Consult that he laments the fact that the new restrictive policy on exports isn’t counter balanced by new initiatives to promote advanced nuclear technologies in domestic markets.

He makes a good point. Why would the government on one hand slam the door on exports without some moves to mitigate the impacts on US firms? The substance and roll out of the nuclear export restrictions are similar to the way the US has handled other aspects of its trade war with China. It tars with a wide brush and doesn’t appear to care who gets hurt along the way.

For instance, Trump’s trade policies killed off $36 billion in US soybean exports to China while offering US farmers just one-third of that amount in compensation.

Like the soybeans now rotting in US fields, China can get civilian nuclear technologies from a number of other countries and does not need US suppliers. So what did the US government hope to achieve? How will it slow down China’s economic espionage of US firms, which seems to be going full throttle?

For instance, on October 4th the Bloomberg wire service published an incredible story of how Chinese firms, with apparent help from their government, hacked the supply chain of a US firm that assemble high end computers for firms that do business with US defense and intelligence agencies and which also supplies these same advanced high performance servers to technology giants like Apple and Amazon.

Apple and Amazon quickly and vehamently denied that their computers were affected by the hack, but the Bloomberg wire service said its stands by its reporting.

Does the Policy Matter to China?

The answer to the question of whether the policy matters to China is that substantively it’s not very much. China has minimal reciprocal trade with the U.S. in this industry. Despite a ham-handed effort by Assistant Secretary Ford to jaw bone the U.K. over its plans to buy full size light water reactors from CGN, these deals are going forward.

CGN has a one third equity stake in the massive Hinkley Point C reactor project and is slated to build its new Hualong One PWRs at a future site in the UK.

According to an Oct 24th report by the Financial Times, the UK government defended its position as what it described as “one of the most open economies in the world” saying that foreign investment had created 76,000 new jobs in the past year.

“We welcome Chinese investment but like all inward investment it needs to satisfy our robust legal, regulatory and national security requirements. Decisions on US investment and export policy are a matter for the US government.”

In short, the UK government told Ford to take a hike. Other countries that have similar deals with China are likely to give the State Department similar answers.

China’s Hualong One is well on its way toward completing its Generic Design Review (GDR) with the UK which once achieved would establish a the basis for a license for the Bradwewll project in Essex. The 1000 MW design is slated as a replacement for two Westinghouse AP1000s originally planned for the project. As the UK sees it, that deal hinges on the huge equity stake CGN has in Hinkley Point staying put and not being disrupted by trade disputes between China and the US.

The export effort by China General Nuclear to build two of its Hualong One (HPR1000) PWR type reactors at the Bradwell site in Essex, UK met a major milestone on November 16, 2017. Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation said in a press statement that the reactor had completed stage one of the Generic Design Assessment which is a check of the readiness of the application to undergo a detailed safety review.

Britain’s Office for Nuclear Regulation said the Chinese HPR1000 reactor will now move to stage two of its generic design assessment – the formal process for approving a new reactor. The four-stage assessment process is expected to take around four years.

No Impact on Floating Power Plants

China’s plans for deploying floating nuclear power plants at islands in the South China Sea are firmly in the hands of its military. U.S. bans on exports of civilian technologies will not have any impact on those deployments.

According to the World Nuclear Association China is far ahead of the US in development of small modular reactors (SMRs) with multiple efforts to bring to commercial operation both light water and advanced reactors such as pebble bed fueled HTGRs.

In the end the US has made clear its displeasure with China’s practices of stealing intellectual property, but in terms of geopolitical impact on developments in the South China sea, it doesn’t look like anything will change for all the disruption the uncertainties of the DOE policy will cause to US firms.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

DOE Releases EIS for Advanced Nuclear Fuels Work at INL

The Department of Energy (DOE) has taken the next step in a daisy chain of policy and administrative actions needed to support efforts by U.S. companies to develop and deploy new reactor technologies and to have access to advanced uranium-based fuels to run them.

DOE has opened the public comment period on the draft environmental assessment for a proposal to fabricate High Assay Low Enriched Fuel (HALEU) at Idaho National Laboratory’s Materials and Fuels Complex (MFC) and/or the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center (INTEC) both located on the Arco desert about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID.

inl map

The Idaho lab’s MFC and INTEC Facilities. Note the Craters of the Moon ancient lava flows located due west of the site. The greenery to the east comprises towns and farms along the Snake River. The American Falls Reservoir is at the bottom center of the top photo.

The high-assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel would be fabricated from blended-down used fuel from the now-decommissioned Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II), which operated at the site from 1964 to 1994.

DOE has been using an electrorefiner at MFC to down-blend spent fuel that contains highly-enriched uranium material generated by EBR-II. This process produces high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) that is currently stored at INL.

DOE proposes to expand the capabilities at MFC and INTEC to convert this metallic HALEU into fuel for research and development purposes.  HALEU contains a higher enrichment (by percentage) of uranium-235 — a fissile isotope in nuclear fuel that produces energy — than fuel used in the current fleet of U.S. power reactors.  Conventional light water reactors (LWRs) use low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel, (three-to-five percent uranium-235) while HALEU contains between five and 20 percent.

materials-and-fuels-complex-n

The federal government proposes fabricating approximately 10 metrics tons of HALEU nuclear reactor fuel to support near-term research, development and demonstration needs of private-sector developers and government agencies, including advanced reactor developers.

Currently, there are no commercial facilities in the U.S. immediately capable of producing HALEU, and several advanced reactor designers have expressed interest in using HALEU fuel with their designs to achieve higher efficiencies and longer core lifetimes.

“There are several U.S. companies pursuing advanced reactor designs that would use fuel enriched with higher levels of uranium-235, and need a source so they can conduct the research and development needed to bring these new technologies to market,” DOE Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Technology Research and Development John Herczeg said in a media statement.

“Being able to provide a source of this fuel would support this research and development and aligns with the Office of Nuclear Energy’s mission to advance nuclear power as a resource capable of meeting the nation’s energy, environmental and national security needs.”

Earlier this year the US Senate approved a proposal for a $15M pilot program to demonstrate to the blending down of used HEU fuel from the USA’s naval programme to produce useable HALEU.  The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) supported the measure as well.

The draft environmental assessment (DEA) prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act is posted for public review online.

The report found that “the potential for a nuclear criticality exists due to the quantity and form of material being processed. However, engineered and administrative controls would be incorporated into the facility and process operations to prevent and mitigate worker risk associated with this hazard.”

The draft review also asserts that radiological releases during normal operations would not result in adverse health impacts.  The report added that additional waste volumes would be small compared to current disposal volumes at INL. The major portion of cleanup work at the INL is taking place at other facilities at the desert site and not at MFC.

The preferred action identified in the Environmental Assessment calls for establishing the capability at INL to fabricate HALEU ceramic and metallic fuels from the HALEU produced through the electrometallurgical treatment system currently operating at INL, and by using other small quantities of HALEU stored at INL.

World Nuclear News notes that EBR-II was a 62.5 MWt demonstration reactor, typically operating at 19 MWe, and was used to demonstrate a complete sodium-cooled breeder reactor power plant with onsite reprocessing of metallic fuel, as well as providing heat and over 2 TWh of power to the Idaho facility during its operating life.

WNN also notes EBR-II was used for testing materials and fuels for larger fast reactors and became the basis of the US Integral Fast Reactor, proving the concept of fuel recycling and passive plant safety characteristics.

Several small modular reactor designs currently under development reference EBR-II, including Advanced Reactor Concepts’s ARC-100 integral fast reactor and GE-Hitachi’s PRISM sodium-cooled fast reactor which is now working with Southern Nuclear.

The final assessment is expected to be issued as early as December, according to a handout DOE gave to Butte County commissioners earlier this month.

The Idaho Falls Post Register reported that Karin Brown, management/program analyst for DOE-Idaho, told the Butte County Commissioners, “Money has come through Congress on this to help with this. It’s a pretty exciting piece of work that we’ll be able to move forward with.”

The public comment period will last through 11/30/18. Comments can be emailed to haleu@id.doe.gov, or mailed to David Herrin, 1955 Fremont Ave., Idaho Falls ID 83415-1222. Paper copies of the proposal are also available on request.

Did you Know How MFC Got Its Name?

The name of the Materials Fuels Complex (MFC) used to be Argonne West (ANL-W) when the facility was operated by Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and the University of Chicago. In 2005 DOE consolidated contractor accounts for the lab and merged ANL-West with the rest of the INL’s R&D operations.

coc chip cookies

But how did the name MFC come about? Legend has it that when the site was ANL-W the cafeteria there used to bake excellent chocolate chip cookies, and also other flavors,  every day at about 2 PM.

Workers at the site, wanting to have a living memory of the site’s tradition, voted for MFC, not because it stands for Materials Fuels Complex, but because it really means “mighty fine cookies.”

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Puerto Rico Group Seeks SMRs for Island Electric Power

Puerto Rican Engineers and US Executives Explore Opportunities for Small Modular Reactors to Reinvent Puerto Rico’s Energy Infrastructure

nap logoThe Nuclear Alternative Project, a volunteer-based organization composed of University of Puerto Rico alumni, in partnership with the United Nuclear Industry Alliance (UNIA), based in Mayaguex, PR, is bringing together a high powered panel of nuclear vendors for a first-ever meeting on October 30 with local leadership and discuss the economic feasibility of small modular reactors (SMRs) and their potential to address Puerto Rico’s energy needs.

The United Industry Alliance is an alliance of supply chain vendors providing systems, components, and services to the nuclear industry.  The Nuclear Alternatives Project seeks to bring the advances in nuclear technology to communities via community engagement strategies.

In September 2017 a major hurricane devastated Puerto Rico and its electrical grid. Rebuilding it to provide reliable power is a major challenge to the island which is part of the U.S.  Advocates for SMRs believe that this technology can and should be a part of the rebuilding program.

Advocates for SMRs Think They Would Work in Puerto Rico

Small modular nuclear reactor technologies are smaller-scale—between 50 MW and 300 MW—and described by their proponents as safer than conventional reactors. However, they currently aren’t expected to be on the U.S. market until at least the mid-2020s, with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviewing NuScale Power LLC’s application for its technology.

In addition to NuScale’s light water technology design there are dozens of nuclear energy startups seeking success with advanced designs.

For many years, the option of nuclear power has been proposed for Puerto Rico to diversify the Island’s energy sources and reduce costs of electricity, says Eddie M. Guerra, Senior Engineer with Arup.

“However, this time is different: Advances in SMRs make it ideal for island-type territories and there are hundreds of Puerto Rican engineers with nuclear expertise who can’t wait to contribute to their hometown’s revitalization”

“There are so many University of Puerto Rico graduates working in nuclear energy, and I’m one of them, responsible for nuclear safety at our plant.” says Angel Reyes, Senior Program Manager for Exelon Nuclear Generation at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.

“This initiative is so exciting for many like me with a nuclear background who are looking to contribute to Puerto Rico’s future!”

“In my more than 45 years in the nuclear industry I haven’t seen such excitement from a group of young engineers passionate to transform their communities” Says Donald Hoffman, President and CEO of United Nuclear Industry Alliance and Excel Services.

He added, “This is why the U.S. nuclear industry is supporting this group of engineers 100 percent to go to Puerto Rico and meet with local leadership to discuss the potential of small modular reactors for the Island.”

Background on Ideas for SMRs for Puerto Rico

DOE Secretary Discusses SMRs for the Island’s Grid

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry discussed the idea of SMRs as an alternative to reinvent Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure.

In September 2017 DOE Secretary Rick Perry spoke about the potential of deploying national lab innovations in Puerto Rico during a panel discussion at a Sept. 26 National Clean Energy Week event in Washington, D.C.

“Wouldn’t it make abundant good sense if we had small modular reactors that literally you could put in the back of C-17 [military cargo] aircraft, transport it to an area like Puerto Rico, and push it out the back end, crank it up and plug it in?” he asked.

“That’s the type of innovation that’s going on at our national labs. Hopefully, we can expedite that,” he said.

Commerce Dept Outlines Proposal for SMRs
in Puerto Rico in Position Paper

In March 2018 the U.S. Department of Commerce Civil Nuclear Trade Advisory Committee (CINTAC) published a position paper outlining the economic and export potential of SMRs for Puerto Rico. Many leading voices sees nuclear energy as a promising way to provide Puerto Rico with clean, reliable power.

In its cover letter the group wrote,

“The aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria has launched a movement to transform the island’s energy infrastructure into a more reliable, environmentally friendly and sustainable one.”

“Today’s SMR designs present the technological advances specially tailored for energy challenges of island-type territories like Puerto Rico. For instance, some SMR designs are built underground which could also potentially increase the island’s energy security in future hurricane situations.”

“For decades Puerto Rico’s stakeholders have looked for options to reduce the island’s high cost of electricity. SMRs could provide an initial Levelized Cost of Electricity (LCOE) which could compete with the island’s high cost of electricity generated by imported diesel fuels.”

Conference Speakers and Registration Details

A short list of participants in the October 30th meeting include key U.S. nuclear industry leaders,

  • Jeffrey Harper, VP, X-Energy
  • Jose Reyes, CTO, NuScale
  • Abdul Dullo, Director, Plant Technology, Westinghouse,
  • David Sledzik, SVP, Nuclear, Hitachi

Event Date: 10/30/18
To attend go to the Registration Link

Location:
Universidad de Puerto Rico –
Mayagüez PR-108, Mayagüez, 00682, Puerto Rico  (map)

Live Stream:
The panel discussion can be accessed through a live stream at: https://www.uprm.edu/inci/

The link will be up starting at 10:30 AM on Oct 30th. (Atlantic Standard Time)

Also, in the event the university home page loads first in Spanish, at the bottom of the page is an option to reload the page in English. The panel discussions will be conducted in English.

More Information

Jesabel Rivera, MPH, CHES
Community Impact & Engagement
Phone: 412-961-2001
Email: jesabel@nuclearalternativeproject.org
For more information visit www.nuclearalternativeproject.org

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

New Fire Movie about Nuclear Entrepreneurs Released

After playing at a series of prestigious film festivals, the movie New Fire about the development of innovative nuclear reactor technologies by multiple independent teams is now in general release online.  ( Trailer )

Online venues now include iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Prime. Details were released Oct 18th. Links to all three sites for rent or purchase of the movie are found here on the New Fire home page.

What people are saying about the movie.

“This smart, compelling documentary is filled with idealistic young engineers convinced that nuclear power is the right energy to match with renewables to fight global warming. I think they’re right—and I think you will too after you meet them, breathe their enthusiasm, and see and hear their bold new ideas.”
– Richard Rhodes, Author of Energy: A Human History

“With the urgency of transitioning to a low-carbon energy system, the debate over next-generation nuclear power takes on a special significance. The New Fire is the most important and captivating documentary film treatment of this issue. The film follows several young entrepreneurs on their quest for safe, flexible, and low-cost advanced nuclear technologies. Of great interest for all who are searching for solutions to the world’s climate-and-energy crisis.”
– Jeffrey Sachs, University Professor and Director of the Center for Sustainable Development, The Earth Institute at Columbia University.

See prior coverage of the movie on this blog here.  See also this excellent article by GRIST Magazine that includes in interview with the movie’s director David Schumacher

Contest and Poster Giveaway

TheNewFire_Poster ImageTo celebrate the release of the movie for purchase and viewing, this blog is holding a contest the prize for which is a free original poster for the movie. Two posters will be given away.

To enter the contest you must answer three questions about nuclear energy. The winners of the posters will be picked randomly from all entries that submit the correct answers.

Question 1: Who discovered the Neutron and as a result served in the Manhattan Project during WWII?

Question 2:  Who was the scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory who did pioneering work on the design of molten salt reactors?

Question 3: What is the name of the annual event at a U.S. university that provides training for undergraduates and advanced studies students who want to start nuclear energy technology companies?

Please send all entries by email with your complete surface mail contact information to: djysrv [at] gmail [dot] com.  Important – put the words NEW FIRE CONTEST ENTRY in the subject line or your entry will not be opened. The deadline for entries is 6 PM Friday 10/26/18.

Winners will be notified by mail directly by the New Fire movie publicity dept which will also mail the posters to the winners.

Other Nuclear News

Terrestrial Energy Moves Ahead in Design Work of its IMSR

Terrestrial Energy announced the achievement of a significant milestone in the development of its advanced reactor design, the Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), which is progressing to commercial deployment in the early 2020s.

The IMSR has now entered the final stage of the Canadian regulator’s (CNSC) Vendor Design Review process. When the IMSR completed Phase 1 of the CNSC design review in November 2017, it was the first Generation IV design to do so, and as such the IMSR is the first advanced reactor design that successfully obtained a Western regulatory opinion.

Advanced commercial designs like Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR are positioning to respond to the increasing demand for clean energy solutions. Most recently, the United Nations IPCC report on global warming and the Third Way/AFL-CIO Smarter Energy Use study identify the urgency for large-scale decarbonization, including for energy-intensive industrial processes.

The firm also notes on its website that the IMSR power plants are modular, dispatchable and can easily load-follow, features that are increasingly prized by electric power utilities as they work to balance the variability of wind and solar power with demand loads.

This feature increases grid stability and makes grid-level energy storage unnecessary. It improves the operating and capital efficiency of the grid and supports the commercial value of wind and solar.

Hitachi, GE to Jointly Develop Next-generation Nuclear Reactors

(Kyodo) Hitachi Ltd. and General Electric Co. will jointly develop a new type of nuclear power plant with small modular reactors. The two companies plan to commercialize the reactors and have the first units sold to customers by the 2030s. This is the first indication of the design’s time to market.

A small modular reactor can be mostly assembled at a factory and brought to a power plant site, cutting time and costs needed for the plant’s construction work.  At overnight costs of $5,000/ Kw, a 300 MW unit would cost $1.5 billion compared to a cost of $5 billion for a 1000 MW BWR. This lower price may open up opportunities in markets that would be closed to purchasing full size reactors.

The plans of the joint effort are to export the SMRs to global markets. The firms told the wire service new starts in Japan are unlikely given the legacy of the 2011 Fukushima crisis.

The firms say the 300 MW BWR type design will be cheaper to produce and safer to run A key safety design feature is that the SMR is designed to be set up underground to better contain radioactive materials in the event of an accident.

See prior coverage on this blog from May 2018: GE-HItachi to Offer 300 MR SMR

EDF Planning To Begin Sizewell C Construction In 2021

(NucNet): EDF plans to begin construction of two 1600 MW EPR units at the Sizewell C nuclear power station on the east coast of England by the end of 2021.

Simone Rossi, EDF Energy chief executive, told delegates at the Energy UK annual conference the French state-controlled utility will submit planning applications in early 2020, paving the way for a 2021 construction start date.

The company said that replicating what it has learned with the design and permitting process for two EPR units under construction at Hinkley Point C in southwest England, could reduce the construction costs of Sizewell C by 20%.

However, Mr Rossi said this would need to be accompanied by a reduction in the cost of capital. The government is considering implementing a new funding model for nuclear power stations called the “regulated asset base” model, or RAB.

RAB is essentially a type of contract drawn up with the backing of government which calculates the costs and profits of a project before it is started, and allocates an investor’s profits from day one.

A government regulator sets a fixed number, the RAB, which attempts to account for all the future costs involved in the completion of a project. The regulator then also sets a fixed rate of return for the investors based on those costs.

Sizewell C would be north of its sister plant Sizewell B on the Suffolk coast. EDF estimates the two Sizewell C units would take 10 to 12 years to build once it has planning permission.

Mr Rossi told the conference that to achieve the biggest savings in construction costs, Sizewell C needed to be built soon after Hinkley Point C.

“There is an optimal distance between the two projects which is about five years. Hinkley Point construction started at the end of 2016 and so the best moment to start construction at Sizewell C is at the end of 2021.

“The further we wait, the lower the construction benefits will be because the supply chain may not be the same and skills could be forgotten.”

Construction Starts on New South Korean Reactor

(WNN) Last month construction started on Shin Kori 6 in South Korea. This is an APR1400 reactor (1400 MWe) and will be the sixth such plant in the country. Four others are near completion or commissioning in United Arab Emirates, also built by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power.

Construction of Shin Kori 6 had been deferred due to the election of a new government in mid 2017, but in October a government-organized committee voted 59.5% in favour of resuming construction of unit 5 and commencing unit 6.

The committee said that stability of power supply was a primary reason for the choice.  The two reactors were expected to cost $7.6 billion ($2700/kW). Nuclear power provides about one third of South Korea’s electricity.

Australia’s PM Says He Is Open To Idea Of Nuclear Energy

(NucNet) Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison said he is open to the idea of commercial nuclear energy.

Nuclear energy has been banned in Australia since 1998. Morrison said in a television interview that he would consider lifting the ban if research proved it could be done on a commercial basis and bring power prices down.

Mr Morrison told Sky News, “What matters is that it’s reliable, it can be contracted, it can be priced at lower than what we’re getting currently, because that’s what brings people’s power prices down.”

Australia has never had a commercial nuclear power station, but has about 33% of the world’s uranium deposits and is the world’s third largest producer of uranium after Kazakhstan and Canada.

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INL’s Rita Baranwal Nominated to be DOE A/Sec of Nuclear Energy

The post, which has been vacant for almost two years,
will be filled by a superbly qualified nuclear technology manager

RG_Head

Rita Baranwal

The Idaho Falls Post Register reported this week that Rita Barta the head of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has been nominated to serve as the U.S. Department of Energy’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy.

The White House announced the nomination of Rita Baranwal, who heads GAIN, which DOE created in 2015 to support nuclear startups and help universities, industries and other private groups get nuclear technology to the market more quickly. GAIN is managed by Idaho National Laboratory.

Previously, Baranwal was director of technology development and application at Westinghouse. She was a manager in materials technology at Bechtel Bettis. She led research and development in nuclear fuels materials for U.S. naval reactors.

Baranwal has a bachelor’s degree in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a doctorate from the University of Michigan. She also is on advisory boards for MIT’s materials research laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley’s nuclear engineering department.

Baranwal was recommended for the high-level position by several nuclear energy groups, including the Washington, D.C.-based Nuclear Energy Institute.

“We are pleased with the president’s nomination of Dr. Rita Baranwal to head the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy,” Nuclear Energy Institute President and CEO Maria Korsnick said in a prepared statement.

“She brings with her a wealth of knowledge and experience that will help advance nuclear energy and Secretary Perry’s policy agenda. This nomination further affirms the administration’s strong support and confidence in the nuclear industry to help meet the nation’s energy, environmental and national security goals.”

What is GAIN and What does it do?

In support of nuclear energy innovation, DOE-NE vouchers managed by GAIN provide funds to assist applicants seeking access to the world class expertise and capabilities available across the U.S. DOE Complex.

gain-logo_thumb.pngGAIN seeks to provide the nuclear industrial community with access to the technical, regulatory , and financial support necessary to move new or advanced nuclear technologies toward commercialization.

The goal of the NE Voucher program is to accelerate commercialization of innovative nuclear energy technologies.

For a list of previous awards (two rounds), and how to apply for one, go to this page at the GAIN web site.

Idaho National Laboratory Awards
Funding to Support Proposed Fast Spectrum Reactor

The Idaho National Laboratory announced this week nearly $3.9 million in funding for 13 university-led projects to develop instrumentation and tools needed to monitor and conduct experiments in a proposed fast spectrum test reactor. (list of awards)

inl logo 2018The projects were awarded through the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s Versatile Test Reactor program.

They are part of an effort to develop a conceptual design and cost estimate for a new, one-of-a-kind test reactor that would support advanced reactor research and development.

“Developing these instruments, tools and other experimental mechanisms are a necessary part of understanding what sorts of test capabilities are needed to advance the next generation of nuclear technology,” said Dr. Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, executive director of the Versatile Test Reactor program.

DOE’s Nuclear Energy Advisory Committee (NEAC) examined this issue and recommended in a 2017 report “that DOE-NE proceed immediately with pre-conceptual design planning activities to support a new test reactor (including cost and schedule estimates).”

The recommendation was based, partially, on responses from U.S. companies developing advanced reactors, many of which require different testing facilities than the commercial nuclear power technology in use today. Currently, there are only a few capabilities available for testing fast neutron reactor technology in the world and none in the United States.

In response to the NEAC recommendation, the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy established the Versatile Test Reactor program. DOE-NE is working with national laboratories, universities, and industry partners to develop cost estimates, a conceptual design, and potential schedule.

DOE is expected to decide whether to proceed with a fast spectrum irradiation test reactor in 2020. If approved, the intent is for the test reactor to be designed and built by domestic research entities and industry partners, continuing to establish U.S. leadership in nuclear energy innovation.

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