New Fire Nuclear Movie Set for General Release in October

TheNewFire_VODArt_03WebAfter 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 slated for general release online next month.  ( Trailer )

Online venues will include iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon Prime. Details to be released Oct 18th.

Nuclear power has been vilified in popular culture and among much of the environmental community. Yet the next-generation reactors currently in development may actually be key to avoiding global catastrophe.

The young entrepreneurs heading this energy revolution realize they’re up against more than the climate clock. They need to find funding and customers for their technologies.

In THE NEW FIRE, Emmy-winning director David Schumacher takes us inside two nuclear startup companies: Transatomic and Oklo.

For Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie of Transatomic their goal is to design an advanced reactor that is safer, cleaner and cheaper than today’s reactors.  They explain in the film they are developing an advanced molten salt reactor that generates clean, safe, proliferation-resistant, low-cost nuclear power.  On their website the developers explain the science behind the design.

transatomic developers

Mark Massie (left)  and Leslie Dewan (right) founded Transatomic while students at MITE

In Silicon Valley, Caroline Cochran and Jacob DeWitte, founders of Oklo, are developing a micro reactor.  They refer to it as a micro-reactor that is designed to bring distributed, clean, affordable, and reliable nuclear power in small packages to the market. These reactors fit into a containerized system that can power a wide variety of markets both domestically and internationally, which do not have access to affordable and reliable power, and in some cases, do not have access to power at all.

oklo developers

Oklo founders Caroline Cochran (left) and Jacob DeWitte (right) are developing a micro reactor for off-grid and other special applications where, today, diesel is the only option.E

These teams are being supported by nuclear advocates all over the globe. THE NEW FIRE movie follows activist Eric Meyer, Generation Atomic, at the COP 21 Paris Climate Conference as he uses his own special talents to educate Parisians.

Also in Paris, renowned climate scientist James Hansen makes the case for nuclear with a team of his colleagues. Hansen travels on to China, where he’s organized an unprecedented and controversial meeting between U.S. and Chinese climate and nuclear experts.

Back in the US, Bill Gates is putting his entrepreneurial and philanthropic muscle behind TerraPower, a company he helped create to bring affordable clean energy to developing countries. A key aspect of the development effort is its partnership with China.

Filmed across four continents over the course of twenty two months, Schumacher’s film focuses on how the generation facing the most severe impact of climate change is fighting back with ingenuity and hope. THE NEW FIRE tells a positive story about a planet in crisis and the young developers of new nuclear reactor designs who are trying to save it.

Why the Film was Made

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David Schumacher

In a statement about why he made the movie, Director David Schumacher said the next-generation reactors currently in development may actually be key to avoiding global catastrophe.

“The young entrepreneurs heading this energy revolution realize they’re up against more than the climate clock – they need to convince all of us that the new nuclear is safe and achievable.”

He emphasizes that this isn’t a film about politics This is a film about a path forward, to show audiences that there is a technological solution [to climate change] – one that may surprise them.

“I understand that nuclear has had its problems over the years and that there are risks. But I’m more afraid of the risks of unchecked climate change than I am of a hypothetical nuclear accident.”

“The United States was on a path to developing ground breaking nuclear technology in the ‘60s but then it stalled. Why haven’t we gone back to these promising discoveries to address the most pressing problem that humanity has ever faced?”

Schumacher says he is really impressed by idealistic young people who are determined to prove that nuclear energy’s best days lie ahead.

“This was the beginning of my obsession with the subject of nuclear power. But it wasn’t until I met the people at Transatomic Power and Oklo that I knew I had to make this movie. These brilliant young people – some of the most gifted engineers of their generation, who in all likelihood could have cashed in for a fortune by doing something else – believe deeply that nuclear power could play a key role in saving the planet.”

He added, “They are the new face of nuclear power, and to me, the newest and most unlikely climate heroes.”

He closed by saying he wants audiences to come away from THE NEW FIRE with a new perspective about a technology they may have dismissed until now. And new sense of mission to try and save the planet before it’s too late.

A Who’s Who List for the film

Of course lots of other people are also engaged in this type of work. Here’s a list of people, some of whom you may already know about through their work, who appear in the film.

Tom Blees, Ken Caldeira, Caroline Cochran, Armond Cohen, Rob Corbin, Leslie Dewan, Jacob DeWitte, Kerry Emanuel, Ousmane Faye, Ashley Finan, Bill Gates, James Hansen, Janne Korhonen, Jessica Lovering, Bill Magwood, Mark Massie, Lee McIntire, Eric Meyer, Vijay Modi, Scott Nolan, Ted Nordhaus, Rauli Partanen, Mark Peters, Per Peterson, Peter Planchon, Jeffrey Sachs, John Sackett, Gordon Shaw, Michael Short, Nick Touran, Tom Wigley.

Check the New Fire website for details on release dates and how to see the firm including a schedule for screenings at various locations around the country

Other Nuclear News

Congress Passes Legislation to Accelerate
Advanced Nuclear Reactor Innovation

The US House of Representatives has passed legislation aimed at accelerating the development of advanced nuclear reactors. It follows passage of similar legislation in the Senate.

Bipartisan legislation led by Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), James Risch (R-Idaho) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) cleared the House of Representatives and will now go to President Trump for his signature.

The measure, S.97, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), would authorize partnerships between private-sector innovators in nuclear energy and government researchers to create the next generation of clean, advanced nuclear power.  The measure led by Crapo, Risch and Whitehouse has been the result of years of bipartisan collaboration and work to develop technologies that allow for the greater, more efficient use of nuclear energy.

The legislation will establish a grant program between industry and the federal government to share the cost of licensing of advanced nuclear technology and accelerate the deployment of small modular reactors and advanced reactor designs.

Another provision requires the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to award grants to cover a portion of the fees the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) charges for pre-application and application review activities for advanced nuclear reactor designs.

Actual funding will be set by the usual congressional appropriations process. DOE’s budget request for FY 2019 has already been submitted to OMB. Real money to get these programs moving might not show up until 2020.

The legislation also directs DOE’s Office of Science to establish a high-performance computer modeling and simulation program to advance the development of new reactor technologies. The Office of Science would partner with national laboratories, universities and the private sector to create software and other tools to accelerate research into advanced fission reactors, fusion systems and reactors used for space exploration.

This is a boundary spanning provision which would link the science labs like Argonne and Oak Ridge with the Idaho Lab. Oak Ridge has enormous super computing capabilities that could be put to good use.

Other key elements of the bill include;

  • Direct the U.S. government (DOD facilities) to enter into long-term power purchase agreements (PPAs) with nuclear reactors.
  • Promote the development of advanced reactors and fuel by strategically aligning U.S. government and industry interests, which is intended to enable U.S. developers to compete with their state-sponsored competitors from Russia and China.
  • Develop a source of high-assay low-enriched uranium, which is the intended fuel for many advanced reactor designs, from U.S. government stockpiles. Again, both China and Russia have these capabilities domestically, but the U.S. does not.
  • To help accelerate the development of advanced technology reactors, the legislation directs DOE to develop a reactor-based fast neutron source to test advanced reactor fuels and materials. With the only commercially-available fast neutron testing facility currently located in Russia, a U.S.-based facility would help restore this important capability.

The bill also provides for the sharing of technical information and expertise between DOE and the NRC, which could accelerate NRC licensing of advanced reactor designs. Developers of advanced reactors have gone overseas (Terrapower) to avoid getting bogged down in NRC’s learning curve and having to pay for it on top of everything else.

The measure would direct the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to to give priority to partnerships with private innovators to test and demonstrate advanced reactor concepts.  NEICA authorizes the creation of a National Reactor Innovation Center that brings together the technical expertise of the National Labs and DOE to enable the construction of experimental reactors.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) would partner with DOE in this effort, which would enable the NRC to contribute its expertise on safety issues while also learning about the new technologies developed through the Center.  This measure strengthens the ability of national laboratories to partner with private industry to prove the principles behind their ideas.

Under the law, the US Department of Energy will award grants to cover a portion of the fees the Nuclear Regulatory Commission charges for pre-application and application review activities for advanced nuclear reactor designs. Relieving entrepreneurial startups of the expense of paying for the NRC’s reviews would go a long way towards getting the designs through the licensing process.

EDF Must Prove Nuclear Reactors Viable, French minister says

(Reuters) France’s state-controlled EDF power utility needs to show a new generation nuclear reactors work well and can be built in a cost effective manner, France’s new environment minister Francois de Rugy said in pointed remarks last week.  It’s unclear what his position is on nuclear energy coming from the Green Party but it may be borderline anti-nuclear based on his comments.

He does have a point about costs. Construction of the first EPR plant in France in Flamanville has run billions of euros over budget and is years behind schedule. It follows in the footsteps of a similar project, a first-of-a-kind EPR, in Finland, which has also seen significant schedule delays and cost increases. The EPR is a very large reactor which when operating will be able to produce 1650 MW of electrical power.

The French government is expected to outline in late October a plan to cut the share of nuclear energy in its electricity production to 50 percent from the current 75 percent, the highest level in the world.

Last month the previous environment minister Nicolas Hulot, who was widely viewed as an impediment to the nuclear industry’s drive to remain as France’s main power supplier, resigned abruptly citing a lack of progress in dealing with climate change.

De Rugy, a former Green lawmaker, told Le Monde in the interview his “gut feeling” was that nuclear power was not an energy source for the future, but added that there should be no “war of religions” on the issue. He added that economic issues would be his primary focus.

“The important thing is to know the economic data for both nuclear and renewable energies,” he said.

Nota bene: It will be interesting to see what he says once he realizes the stability of the grid, and the future of intermittent power sources like wind and solar, depends on the current fleet of reactors.

UK Announces Feasibility Studies
For Small Modular Reactor Development

(NucNet) The UK government has announced that eight organizations have been awarded contracts to produce feasibility studies as part of the first phase of an advanced small modular reactor feasibility and development project for which £44m of funding is available.

The eight organizations are Advanced Reactor Concepts, DBD Ltd, Blykalla Reaktorer Stockholm AB (LeadCold), Moltex Energy Ltd, Tokamak Energy Ltd, U-Battery Developments Ltd, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation and Westinghouse Electric Company UK.

The government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is to invest the £44m in advanced reactor units that can generate low-cost electricity, increase flexibility in delivering electricity to the grid and offer increased functionality such as providing process heat for domestic or industrial purposes and the production of hydrogen.

The project has two phases. Phase 1 offers funding of up to £4m per organization for a series of feasibility studies for reactor designs.

Phase 2 would see successful companies from Phase 1 offered a share of up to £40 million for further development.

Proponents of LWR type designs for SMRs criticized the plan as ignoring their closer time to market and the need for a funding a transition from stick built units to factory production of SMRs.

NRC Continues Reviews of Plans
for Interim Storage Site for Spent Nuclear Fuel

(wire services) A decision regarding Holtec’s plan for an interim storage site for spent nuclear fuel in Hobbs, NM, could occur by July 2020, according news media interviews given by Neil Sheehan, public information officer for the NRC’s Region 1 Office. Holtec, which is based in Camden, NJ, is seeking to build and operate Phase 1 of the interim repository on approximately 1,040-acres of land, according to its application.

Holtec is currently requesting authorization to possess and store 500 canisters of spent nuclear fuel containing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium, which includes spent uranium-based fuel from commercial nuclear reactors, as well as a small quantity of spent mixed-oxide fuel.

If the NRC issues the requested license, Holtec expects to subsequently ask for additional amendments to the initial license to expand the storage capacity of the facility, according to Sheehan.

Under its proposal, the company proposes expanding the facility in 19 subsequent phases, each for an additional 500 canisters, to be completed over the course of 20 years, Sheehan said.

“Ultimately, Holtec anticipates that approximately 10,000 canisters would be stored at the facility upon completion of 20 phases,” he said, noting that each phase would require NRC review and approval.

  • Waste Control Specialists restarts NRC Review

With regard to the Andrews, TX facility, proposed by Waste Control Specialists, the NRC has resumed reviewing the application after it received a request to do so from the firm which is a joint venture between Waste Control Specialists (WCS) and Orano CIS LLC. The application review was temporarily suspended in April 2017 while the firm sought additional funding.

In April 2016, the NRC received a letter from WCS proposing to build a consolidated interim storage facility on approximately 14,900 acres on a site in western Andrews County, TX. The company operates facilities on the site that process and store low-level waste and mixed water. The facility also disposes of both hazardous waste and toxic waste, according to the federal registry notice published by the NRC.

Nuclear Industry Faces Wake-up Call, says IAEA’s Chudakov

(WNN) The future of nuclear energy depends on the industry’s readiness to address the seven factors influencing its prospects, the deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told delegates at the World Nuclear Association Symposium 2018 held in London last week. (Full text)

Mikhail Chudakov, who is also head of the Vienna-based organization’s nuclear energy department, said the industry needs to change public acceptance of nuclear power to public demand for this safe, reliable, sustainable and low-carbon source of electricity.

In his presentation titled Nuclear Energy: Where are we headed? Chudakov summarized the need for action.

“We know the challenges: World energy consumption is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of about 1%, but electricity consumption will grow at a higher rate of about 2.5% per year up to 2030 and around 2% thereafter,” he said. “With virtually no greenhouse gas emissions during operation, nuclear power can have an important role to play in achieving [the United Nation’s] Sustainable Development Goals, meeting the targets set out in the Paris Agreement.”

But limiting temperature increases to the 2 Degree Scenario is not easy, he said, because today 70% of the world’s electricity comes from burning fossil fuels. But by 2050, around 80% of electricity will need to be low carbon, he added. This scenario already includes “significant scaling” of all clean, low-carbon technologies.

“If nuclear power deployment doesn’t grow in line with this scenario, the other technologies will not make up the gap. And we will not meet our climate targets that are critical to life on this planet,” he said.

Chudakov outlined the seven influences he sees on the future of nuclear power: safety; funding and financing; electricity markets and nuclear policies; innovation (advanced reactors and fuel cycles); waste management; capacity building; and public acceptance.

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Project to Demonstrate Hydrogen Production Using IMSR

Terrestrial Energy USA is partnering with utility Southern Company and several US Department of Energy national laboratories to develop innovative methods of the producing hydrogen using its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR).

The two-year research and development project will examine the efficiency, design and economics of using the IMSR to produce hydrogen ijn commercial quantities using the hybrid sulfur process.

terrestrial_energy_system_layout_0

Conceptual Diagram of a Molten Salt Reactor

Terrestrial is interested in investigating the feasibility and cost effectiveness of this method of generating hydrogen from water which may be more efficient than high-temperature steam electrolysis. The project aims to demonstrate the commercial and industrial-scale viability of pairing the hybrid sulfur process with an ISMR plant for large-scale production of hydrogen which will have zero greenhouse gas emissions.

Terrestrial said the project will build on two decades of research at Savannah River National Laboratory, which will lead the technology development along with Sandia National Laboratories and Idaho National Laboratory.

“By combining forces with an energy leader such as Southern Company, we can bring this revolutionary technology to industrial markets,” said Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy USA.

“Using an IMSR power plant to produce hydrogen more efficiently and economically is just one of many industrial applications of IMSR power plants beyond electricity generation.”

He added, “Removing carbon from the production of hydrogen helps bring deep decarbonisation into reach. It points the way to the production of carbon-neutral transport fuels and zero-emissions fertilizers.”

pathways to uses of IMSR

According to Terrestrial, besides current uses of hydrogen in ammonia production, petroleum refining, chemicals production and other industrial applications, hydrogen is expected to grow significantly as a storable energy carrier.

Future applications include all forms of transportation, thermal energy and energy storage. For instance, US firms like BNSF have been testing the use of hydrogen powered fuel cells to power train locomotives.

BNSF fuel cell powered locomotive

BNSF Fuel; Cell Powered Locomotive

Noah Meeks, research engineer and project manager at Southern Company, said: “This is a potentially high-impact project that couples the benefits of molten salt reactors with the development of an advanced water-splitting process for hydrogen generation.”

In June 2017, Terrestrial began a feasibility study for the siting of the first commercial IMSR at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ Chalk River site. In March this year, Terrestrial and US utility Energy Northwest agreed a memorandum of understanding on the terms of the possible siting, construction and operation of an IMSR at a site at the Idaho National Laboratory in southeastern Idaho.

Molten salt reactors use fuel dissolved in a molten fluoride or chloride salt which functions as both the reactor’s fuel and its coolant. This means that such a reactor could not suffer from a loss of coolant leading to a meltdown. Terrestrial’s IMSR integrates the primary reactor components, including primary heat exchangers, to a secondary clean salt circuit, in a sealed and replaceable core vessel. It is designed as a modular reactor for factory fabrication, and could be used for electricity production and industrial process heat generation. Terrestrial aims to commercialise the modular reactor design – which can produce 400 MWt (190 MWe) of energy – in the 2020s.

Other Nuclear Energy News

Legislation To Help US Regain Lead In Nuclear Technology

(NucNet) A bipartisan group of senators has introduced legislation designed to help the US regain its lead in nuclear energy technology in the face of increasing global competition, the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute said.

The Nuclear Energy Leadership Act includes a comprehensive proposal to fund research, development and accelerated deployment of advanced nuclear energy technologies.

Senator Cory Booker, a Democrat, said the bill will help accelerate energy innovation and support startup companies in the US that are investing billions of dollars into these next generation reactor designs.

Among other objectives, the legislation would create a pilot program to enter into long-term power purchase agreements between the federal government and a utility to buy electricity produced by early deployment of nuclear technologies.

“The [energy] secretary shall give special consideration to power purchase agreements for first-of-a-kind or early deployment nuclear technologies that can provide reliable and resilient power to high-value assets for national security purposes,” the bill says.

NEI president and chief executive officer Maria Korsnick praised the legislation, saying that a comprehensive plan to boost the country’s technological leadership in nuclear is exactly what is needed to help the US compete in today’s increasingly competitive global marketplace.

The bill is the latest in a series of important initiatives addressing near-term and future prospects for nuclear, the NEI said. Numerous states in the last couple of years have acted to preserve at-risk nuclear plants. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, PJM and ISO-New England are re-examining how they compensate and set prices for different generating technologies in light of recent premature nuclear plant retirements.

Report – Nuclear Industry Must Defend Against Cyberattacks

(NucNet) The nuclear industry must defend itself against the growing risk of cyberattack by investing in the continuous improvement of cybersecurity measures at all nuclear facilities and building “mutual assistance mechanisms and shared resources” for responding to cyberattacks, a report by the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative says.

The NTI’s Nuclear Security Index report for 2018 also says the industry needs to improve the quality and quantity of cyber-nuclear experts.

The report says cyberattacks could lead to the theft of nuclear materials or an act of sabotage, potentially resulting in catastrophic public health and economic consequences.

“Government and facilities’ responses to the risk of cyberattacks too often are inadequate,” the report says.

It calls for effective cybersecurity measures – from incorporating cyber threats into threat assessments to mandating that nuclear facility licensees have cyber-incident response plans – must be incorporated into government regulations and facility operations.

But it says the challenge is not just for governments and regulators. Leaders, technical specialists, and operators at nuclear facilities must develop and implement plans that keep pace with the threat.

“Governments should require – and facility operators should implement – information and operational technology systems that are resilient in the face of the cyber threat,” the report says.

The reports warns that the cyber threat continues to evolve, outpacing defenses and regulations in many countries.

“Dedicated efforts are needed to embed cybersecurity best practices into the culture of nuclear facilities,” the report says.

Efforts to Use MOX Fuel at New Reactor Delayed 2 Years

NIKKEI – A nuclear power plant in northern Japan designed to use recycled fuel has been pushed back by two years and will not start operation until at least 2026, marking a major setback for the country’s commitment to drawing down its plutonium stockpile.

The announcement by Electric Power Development constitutes the third construction delay for the Oma plant. It comes amid heightened international scrutiny of Japan’s plutonium holdings, a product of the resource-poor country’s effort to create a self-sustaining energy supply.

The utility, also known as J-Power, cited a time-consuming screening process based on safety standards revised after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. J-Power had hoped to resume work late this year.

Plant construction began in 2008, but was paused after the Fukushima meltdowns. The work is less than 40% complete.

France To Announce Nucler Energy Mix Targets In October

(NucNet) France will announce target dates for adjustments to the national energy mix in late October, the newly appointed environment minister said today.

Francois de Rugy assumed the ministerial role on Tuesday after the departure of Nicolas Hulot, who quit in part over what he saw as the government’s slow progress in moving away from its dependence on nuclear power.

Mr De Rugy gave no signal of what changes to the mix he would want to see, saying only that the end of next month was the deadline for unveiling a multi-year energy production program. A first draft of that program was originally expected during the summer.

France derives about 75% – the highest percentage in the world – of its electricity from nuclear energy, with 58 commercial reactors operated by state-controlled EDF.

In 2015, the government of former president François Hollande established an energy transition law which set a target of reducing the nuclear share to 50% by 2025, a policy supported during his election campaign by president Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Hulot said in November 2017 this would not be realistic and suggested the deadline to be pushed back to 2035.

Poland Plans Nuclear Reactors to Address Climate Change

(Reuters) Poland will not meet European Union carbon emissions targets unless it builds a nuclear power station, Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski said last week.

Poland produces most of its electricity from coal and has to look at cleaner technologies to comply with EU requirements on emissions reduction requirements.

Warsaw has planned to build its first nuclear power station for years but the project has faced a number of delays. The energy minister is a strong advocate of the nuclear, but faces difficulties in attracting the whole government’s approval. The big problem is money.

“The decision is that we are getting prepared until the moment when the financing is put together. This is a big problem,” Tchorzewski said in a public television interview.

Moorside Nuclear Project Faces New Challenges

(Times UK) Plans for a new nuclear power station in Cumbria are set to move closer to collapse next week, with the company developing the Moorside project expected to confirm that it is laying off the majority of its staff.

Nugen, owned by Toshiba, the troubled Japanese conglomerate, has been consulting throughout August on job cuts among its 100 employees after failing to secure a buyer. It is understood that it is preparing to sign off on cuts on Monday and to brief staff on Tuesday, with the most likely option resulting in the loss of at least 50 jobs.

If no buyer for Nugen is found before the end this year then the venture is likely to be abandoned altogether.

Toshiba has been involved in a three way dialog with the UK government and KEPCO which wants to buy the project from Toshiba. Sticking points have been the overall cost of the project and the level of government support, in the form of equity funding, for the project.

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MIT: Major New Report on the Future of Nuclear Energy

The findings are that new policy models and cost-cutting technologies would help nuclear play vital role in climate solutions. Progress in reducing carbon emissions requires a broad range of actions to effectively leverage nuclear energy.

  • MIT LogoAchieving deep reductions in carbon emissions reductions that are necessary to slow or reverse the impacts of climate change requires investing in nuclear energy as a key strategy.
  • The authors of a new MIT study say that unless nuclear energy is fully incorporated into the global mix of low-carbon energy technologies, the challenge of climate change will be much more difficult and costly to solve.
  • Key issues of cost and policy need to be addressed by the industry, its supply chain, and regulators, among others, must be addressed for nuclear energy to take its place as a major low-carbon energy source.

In the The Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World, released by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI) on September 3, the authors analyze the reasons for the current global stall of nuclear energy capacity — which currently accounts for only 5 percent of global primary energy production — and discuss measures that could be taken to arrest and reverse that trend.

The study group, led by MIT researchers in collaboration with colleagues from Idaho National Laboratory and University of Madison-Wisconsin, is presenting its findings and recommendations at events in London, Paris, and Brussels this week, followed by events on September 25 in Washington, D.C., and on October 9 in Tokyo.

MIT graduate and undergraduate students and postdocs, as well as faculty from Harvard University and members of various think tanks also contributed to the study as members of the research team.

Nuclear Energy “Essential” for Decarbonization

Key take-away findings . . .

“Our analysis demonstrates that realizing nuclear energy’s potential is essential to achieving a deeply decarbonized energy future in many regions of the world,” says study co-chair Jacopo Buongiorno, the TEPCO Professor and Associate Department Head of the Nuclear Science and Engineering Department at MIT.

“Incorporating new policy and business models, as well as innovations in construction that may make deployment of cost-effective nuclear power plants more affordable, could enable nuclear energy to help meet the growing global demand for energy generation while decreasing emissions to address climate change.”

The study team says that the electricity sector in particular is a prime candidate for deep decarbonization. Global electricity consumption is on track to grow 45 percent by 2040, and the team’s analysis shows that the exclusion of nuclear from low-carbon scenarios could cause the average cost of electricity to escalate dramatically.

Guidance for Policy Makers and Industry Leaders

“Understanding the opportunities and challenges facing the nuclear energy industry requires a comprehensive analysis of technical, commercial, and policy dimensions,” says Robert Armstrong, director of MITEI and the Chevron Professor of Chemical Engineering.

“Over the past two years, this team has examined each issue, and the resulting report contains guidance policymakers and industry leaders may find valuable as they evaluate options for the future.”

Improving Nuclear Plant Construction

The report discusses recommendations for nuclear plant construction, current and future reactor technologies, business models and policies, and reactor safety regulation and licensing.

The researchers find that changes in reactor construction are needed to usher in an era of safer, more cost-effective reactors, including proven construction management practices that can keep nuclear projects on time and on budget.

“A shift towards serial manufacturing of standardized plants, including more aggressive use of fabrication in factories and shipyards, can be a viable cost-reduction strategy in countries where the productivity of the traditional construction sector is low,” says MIT visiting research scientist David Petti, study executive director and Laboratory Fellow at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Safety Features Come First

“Future projects should also incorporate reactor designs with inherent and passive safety features.”

These safety features could include core materials with high chemical and physical stability and engineered safety systems that require limited or no emergency AC power and minimal external intervention. Features like these can reduce the probability of severe accidents occurring and mitigate offsite consequences in the event of an incident. Such designs can also ease the licensing of new plants and accelerate their global deployment.

Government Must Provide Policy Leadership & Funding

“The role of government will be critical if we are to take advantage of the economic opportunity and low-carbon potential that nuclear has to offer,” says John Parsons, study co-chair and senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

“If this future is to be realized, government officials must create new decarbonization policies that put all low-carbon energy technologies (i.e. renewables, nuclear, fossil fuels with carbon capture) on an equal footing, while also exploring options that spur private investment in nuclear advancement.”

The study lays out detailed options for government support of nuclear. For example, the authors recommend that policymakers should avoid premature closures of existing plants, which undermine efforts to reduce emissions and increase the cost of achieving emission reduction targets.

One way to avoid these closures is the implementation of zero-emissions credits — payments made to electricity producers where electricity is generated without greenhouse gas emissions — which the researchers note are currently in place in New York, Illinois, and New Jersey.

Technology Innovation Can Be Promoted with Incentives

Another suggestion from the study is that the government support development and demonstration of new nuclear technologies through the use of four “levers”

  • (i) funding to share regulatory licensing costs,
  • (ii) funding to share research and development costs,
  • (iii) funding for the achievement of specific technical milestones, and
  • (iv) funding for production credits to reward successful demonstration of new designs.

International Alignment of Nuclear Regulatory Paradigms Will Help

The study includes an examination of the current nuclear regulatory climate, both in the United States and internationally. While the authors note that significant social, political, and cultural differences may exist among many of the countries in the nuclear energy community, they say that the fundamental basis for assessing the safety of nuclear reactor programs is fairly uniform, and should be reflected in a series of basic aligned regulatory principles.

They recommend regulatory requirements for advanced reactors be coordinated and aligned internationally to enable international deployment of commercial reactor designs, and to standardize and ensure a high level of safety worldwide.

History of Prior Studies

The study concludes with an emphasis on the urgent need for both cost-cutting advancements and forward-thinking policymaking to make the future of nuclear energy a reality.

The Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World is the eighth in the Future of… series of studies that are intended to serve as guides to researchers, policymakers, and industry.

Each report explores the role of technologies that might contribute at scale in meeting rapidly growing global energy demand in a carbon-constrained world. Nuclear power was the subject of the first of these interdisciplinary studies, with the 2003 Future of Nuclear Power report (an update was published in 2009).

The series has also included a study on the future of the nuclear fuel cycle. Other reports in the series have focused on carbon dioxide sequestration, natural gas, the electric grid, and solar power. These comprehensive reports are written by multidisciplinary teams of researchers. The research is informed by a distinguished external advisory committee.

For more information visit the online version of The Future of Nuclear Energy in a Carbon-Constrained World.

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Plan for New Czech Nuclear Reactors Seen by the End of 2018

enginestartThe Czech Republic plans to make several important decisions by the end of the year. The first is to figure out a method for paying for the new reactors.

  • New units are needed at Dukovany for it aging Russian VVER units that will reach their 50tgh anniversaries in 2035. (Units 5 & 6)
  • Expanded capacity is needed at Temelin to support the country’s economy and to support climate change goals. (Units 3 & 4)

The main stumbling block is that Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis opposed guarantees for a rate base when he was finance minister in 2014. Since then it isn’t clear that he’s changed his mind. A billionaire in his own right, he’s been embroiled in a series of political and financial scandals.

CEZ, the state-owned electric utility which also owns and operates the Czech Republic’s current fleet of nuclear plants, has refused to commit to building new ones without some form of state support most likely in the form of a guaranteed rate of return. The utility says that guarantee is essential to attract outside investors.

One of the options CEZ has proposed, to contain financial risk, is to split the firm into nuclear and non-nuclear components, a move that Babis opposes saying the firm is big enough to handle the projects. It doesn’t appear there is much enthusiasm for the “split the difference” option as CEZ CEO Daniel Benes told Reuters on 8/1/18 that a single firm would be strong enough to build all four new reactors.

Czech Industry Minister Marta Novakova told wire services this week (8/30/18) that the government needs to get moving with a decision by the end of the year. The reason, she says, is that it could take as long as a decade from a decision to proceed to bring the new reactors online.

History of Czech Efforts to Expand its Nuclear Energy Fleet

According to the World Nuclear Associations (WNA) profile of expansion plans for new nuclear reactors, in July 2008, CEZ announced a plan to build two more reactors at Temelin totalling up to 3400 MWe, with construction start in 2013 and commissioning of the first unit in 2020. A public tender process for contractors to build the two new reactors at Temelin was released in  August 2009.

Operating Czech Reactors

Operating Nuclear Reactors in Czech Republic: Table courtesy of World Nuclear Association

Note: As a practical matter, while the licenses for the Russian VVER units are listed as “indefinite,” they most likely will have a service life of 40-50 years which would lead to scheduled decommissioning no later than 2035.

At the time, CEZ quoted a March public opinion poll showing 77% of citizens (and 56% of Green party voters) supporting the new Temelin units3. (In 2014, 68% positive opinion was reported.)

The three vendor groups were;

  • a consortium led by Westinghouse – 1150 MW AP1000;
  • a consortium led by Russian firms – 1200 MW VVER
  • Areva  – 1650 MW EPR.

Bids were formally invited by CEZ in October 2011 for supply of two complete nuclear power plant units on a “full turnkey basis, including nuclear fuel supply for nine years of operation.”

Bids were submitted in July 2012.  Rosatom offered full vendor financing, though it said it would prefer 49%.

Areva and Westinghouse originally said that they were not interested in any financing or operational aspects. In mid-2013 the US Export-Import Bank offered to lend CEZ half the cost of the plant if it used Westinghouse technology. The loan would be for 25 years at one percentage point above US 10-year treasury bonds.

In October 2012 CEZ said that the Areva bid was disqualified because it did not meet all the  requirements for the tender.  Areva contested the decision but its appeal was rejected by the government.

In April 2014 CEZ informed all bidders that it had cancelled the procurement process primarily because of a disputes between CEZ and the Finance Ministry over rate guarantees.

In 2017 CEZ held new talks with six companies and consortia which had expressed interest in building reactors at Temelin and Dukovany: Westinghouse, Rusatom, EDF, Areva-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries joint venture Atmea; China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN); and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP).

Current Likely Bidders for Temelin and Dokovany

Russia considers the Czech Republic to be a “captive market” and since PM Babis owes his coalition government to support from the Communist Party, a Russian deal financing new VVER units (49%) appears to be the leading contender.

This hasn’t stopped South Korea from making a full court press for the business.  According to an English language business wire service in South Korea, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corp. (KHNP) has set out to get orders for new nuclear power plants in the Czech Republic.

Chung Jae-hoon, president of KHNP, visited Prague, Czech Republic on August 15th and meet Jan Stuller, the special envoy for nuclear energy of the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade, and top officials of the CEZ.

“The Czech Republic is the market that KHNP considers to be a bridgehead for the advancement to Eastern Europe,” said Chung.

“It will not be an easy challenge, but we will mobilize all our capabilities, including our experience of building nuclear power plants over the past 40 years, to win the project.”

With Westinghouse just emerging from bankruptcy, and still carrying the skids marks left by the failure of the V C Summer project, it is unclear whether its private equity owner wants to risk placing a bid without firm guarantees for funding.

Other Nuclear News

French Environment Minister Quits

(Reuters / French wires) French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot resigned last week 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 resigned 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. More on this below.

Report Calls For Five New Reactors In France

(NucNet): A “secret” report commissioned last spring by France’s government proposed building five new nuclear reactors, Les Echos reported on August 30, 2018, two days after anti-nuclear environment minister Nicolas Hulot resigned and said that progress on a shift to renewable energy was too slow.

The report, prepared for Mr Hulot and finance minister Bruno Le Maire, examines how to maintain the industrial capacity of a French nuclear sector.  Among its proposals is the building of five new EPR reactors starting in 2025.

“Government policy isn’t decided by a report,” Mr Le Maire told Radio Classique when questioned about the Les Echos report.

“Nuclear power is an asset for France,” he added, mentioning its low greenhouse emissions and costs he described as “competitive”.

France derives about 75% – the highest percentage in the world – of its electricity from nuclear energy, with 58 commercial reactors operated by state-controlled EDF. Of this number, 34 smaller units, 900 MW, will turn 40 in the next five years.

In 2015, the government of former president François Hollande established an energy transition law which set a target of reducing the nuclear share to 50% by 2025.

In a a surprise move Mr Hulot said in November 2017 this would not be realistic and suggested the deadline to be pushed back to 2035.  At that point all of the 900 MW units would be 50 years old.

Bulgaria Expects To Choose Investor For Belene In Early 2019

(NucNet) The Bulgarian government is expecting to choose a potential investor for the Belene nuclear power station project in early 2019 according to media reports.

The energy minister Temenuzhka Petkova told a visiting delegation of Chinese officials that early 2019 is a “realistic” deadline for choosing an investor for the project.

On June 29, 2018, the Bulgarian government decided to formally revive the Belene project. The government intends to attract private investment for the project, subject to the absence of state guarantees and long-term electricity purchase contracts.

Bulgaria has not announced a tender yet, but earlier reports said four companies are interested in the project. Russia has hopes of capturing the business due to Bulgaria’s status as a former Iron Curtain country.

China National Nuclear Corporation expressed its formal interest in March 2018. A delegation of Chinese officials has visited the site of Bulgaria’s Belene nuclear power station project, the Bulgarian energy ministry said in a statement.

The delegation included representatives of the Chinese National Energy Administration, the state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation, China General Nuclear Power Corporation, and China State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation, the statement said.

Two 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.

Westinghouse declined to bid on Belene due to uncertainties over the government’s long-term commitment to the project.

CGN UK Says Bradwell B Costs Will Not Be Known ‘For A Few Years’

(NucNet): The company behind the project to build a UK version of China’s HPR1000 (Hualong One) nuclear plant at Bradwell B in Essex, England, will not know the cost of the project until site suitability and feasibility studies are complete.

A spokesperson for China General Nuclear (CGN) UK told NucNet that the site studies will last for a few years and “until we can have a detailed plan of the site we do not know the cost”. He said the project is still in its “very early stage”.

CGN UK’s state-run parent company CGN is a majority shareholder in Bradwell Power Generation Company, a joint venture with EDF, which is planning to build a single HPR1000 plant, also known as the Hualong One, at Bradwell B.

CGN UK chief operating officer Robert Davies told NucNet that the company is not relying on government subsidy for the Bradwell B project. He said that CGN is able to bring debt and equity to the UK “so there will be no demands for investment funding placed on the UK government”.

China Likely To Miss Ambitious Nuclear Target ‘By A Few Years’

(NucNet) China is officially still targeting 58 GW of installed nuclear capacity by 2020 – up from almost 36 GW today – although this “ambitious” target is likely to be missed by a few years, Shanghai-based energy research company Nicobar told NucNet.

Nicobar said the 58 GW will probably be reached in 2021 or 2022. On a longer timeframe, China’s goal is to have 110 nuclear units in commercial operation by 2030, but this target is likely to be adjusted in the next Five-Year Plan, the first draft of which will appear in 2019.

“Based on the current roster of planned builds, 110 reactors by 2030 is technically possible but difficult from a logistical point of view,” Nicobar said. “At the moment there simply aren’t enough potential reactor sites to double the fleet in the next 12 years.”

Hanhikivi-1 Construction Start Scheduled For 2020

(NucNet) The company building the Hanhikivi-1 nuclear unit in northwest Finland says its target is to get the construction license in 2019 and to begin construction in 2020, a spokeswoman told NucNet.

Fennovoima, which is building a Russia-supplied 1,200-MW VVER pressurized water reactor at Hanhikivi, was responding to unconfirmed reports in Russian media that the project is behind schedule.

The latest schedule on Rosatom’s website says construction was scheduled to start in 2018 with commercial operation in 2024. Fennovoima submitted the construction license application in the summer of 2015.

In March 2018 Fennovoima said it faced challenges in 2017 delivering design documentation to the regulator, but remained on track to receive the construction permit in 2019.

According to Fennovoima’s website, the total investment cost for Hanhikivi-1 will be between €6.5 and €7bn, which includes initial plant costs, financing and waste management. These are numbers from a 2014 estimate which have not been updated to take the current schedule into account.

Fennovoima says that when Hanhikivi-1 is complete it will provide approximately 10% of Finland’s electricity needs.

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The Fatal Attraction of Nuclear Weapons Lures Another Victim

shellenberger

Michael Shellenberger, MD

Michael Shellenberger, a high profile and effective advocate for use of commercial nuclear energy, has written two controversial essays online calling for small nations to acquire nuclear weapons.

His premise in the first essay is that even the appearance of having a nuclear program, while refusing to confirm or deny its existence, is a deterrent to being pushed around by a small nation’s bigger neighbors.

  • In making his contrarian case, Shellenberger has crossed a red line for the global commercial nuclear industry, which has done everything in its power to avoid having the public conflate nuclear weapons with commercial nuclear energy.
  • Worse, he’s given opponents of nuclear energy, like Greenpeace, a ready-made tool to attack the industry. They will say, ” see, we knew it all along. These people want more nuclear weapons!”
  • In his second essay, he gets his facts wrong about the realities of the nuclear fuel cycle in some countries that have made significant commitments to using nuclear energy.
  • In the end he may have painted himself into a corner. Not only has he alienated some of his supporters on the commercial nuclear side of the house, but he has also energized the nonproliferation establishment, within government agencies and among NGOs, offering them a rich opportunity promote critical reviews of the risks of expanding nuclear energy as a solution to the challenge of climate change.

Robert Oppenheimer, working at Los Alamos, was the lead developer of nuclear weapons in the U.S. As he witnessed the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945, Hindu scripture rose up in his mind. “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

First Essay and the Basis for Deterrence

cuban missile crisisEver since we’ve known, and especially after the hair raising events of the Cuban missile crisis, that a nuclear exchange between two nations would create a devastating outcome with global repercussions  See for instance Carl Sagan’s work in 1983 on “nuclear winter” as one of them. For this reason, nuclear weapons have come to be seen, in part, as means of deterrence rather than as first strike or tactical weapons in a regional conflict.

This is the heart of Shellenberger’s thesis. He writes that if the French had nuclear weapons, Nazi Germany never would have invaded it. The hypothetical argument continues in that he believes that if small nations have nukes, big nations won’t push them around, hence all small nations should get them.

While perhaps intending to make a separate point, Shellenberger actually puts his finger on the heart of the deterrence principle.

“Nuclear weapons are revolutionary in that they require the ruling class to have skin in the game. When facing off against nuclear-armed nations, elites can no longer sacrifice the poor and weak in their own country without risking their lives.”

Here’s the problem. The more nations have nuclear weapons, the more dangerous the world will be. Sooner or later some tin pot dictator or religious zealot, is likely to push a button and send us all to eternity.

The idea is to have fewer nuclear weapons. That’s why the U.S. and Russia engaged in the Megatons to Megawatts program that blended down highly enriched uranium (HEU) turning it into commercial nuclear fuel that was used by U.S. utilities to generate electricity.

Arguments about the balance of power and nuclear v. non-nuclear states are endemic and the logic of which perspective ought to drive U.S. policies is argued endlessly. So let’s cut to the chase. It’s about survival of the human species, and no technocratic debate can ignore that point.

While it is true that none of the current nuclear powers are committed to zeroing out their arsenals, even North Korea’s ambitions seem to be deterrence rather than aggression.

What does North Korea really want? It wants trade with South Korea to achieve some measure of prosperity. If it blows up the South with its nuclear weapons, all it gets for its trouble are radioactive ashes.

So now we have two fundamental reasons why giving more nations nuclear weapons is illogical. First, the people who have the most skin in the game have the most to lose. Second, whatever the objectives of contention are between nation states, the use of nuclear weapons will produce the same result every time – “in war there are no winners, only widows.” [source]

Second Essay on Nations that Are Seeking Nuclear Weapons

atoms for peace stampIn his second essay on small nations that he says are contemplating or planning to acquire nuclear weapon, Shellenberger gets some key facts wrong. Here’s a country-by-country rebuttal to his case.

Despite a lot of media ink spilled on the subject, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) neither wants nor can afford the cost of the nuclear fuel cycle including uranium enrichment,. conversion of yellowcake to UF6, an enrichment facility, fuel fabrication, and a reactor to make weapons grade materials.

I’ve been following KSA’s efforts since 2011. I have a seven part “reader” on my blog which provides an analysis of the country’s efforts over time. It explains that the likely continued low price of oil will prevent KSA from investing in full size commercial nuclear reactors much less pursue a nuclear weapons program.

With regard to the countries list in the essay, only Brazil is a likely “breakout” nation with regard to the capability to enrich uranium to 80%+ U235. Having the expertise to build bombs is an entirely different matter and may be out of reach even for that country.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has signed off on a “gold standard” 123 agreement with the U.S. which eliminates uranium enrichment and also reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

Turkey’s first commercial nuclear power station is being built at Akkuyu by Rosatom (4 1200 MW VVER units). (WNA) The Russians will completely control the delivery of new fuel for the reactors (3-5% U235) and retrograde of spent nuclear fuel back to Russia. The Russians are not going to allow their nuclear materials to be diverted for bomb making.

Turkey’s second commercial plant at Sinop has not yet broken ground, and, is delayed due to problems lining up commercial investors. If it is built, it will rely on a Japanese / French design which also uses low enriched fuel. Areva, which will supply the fuel to run the 4 1100 MW units, will also take back spent nuclear fuel.

Turkey’s third commercial nuclear plant, to be located north of Istanbul on the western Black Sea coast, also is just in the planning stage. It will likely be built by a consortium of Chinese state owned firms which will also follow Russia’s example.

Egypt has signed a deal with Rosatom to build 4 1200 MW VVER. Like the example in Turkey, Rosatom will control all aspects of the nuclear fueling of the units and retrograde of spent fuel to Russia. The same model holds true for Bangladesh.

Based on these facts, it is a stretch to claim that diversion of nuclear materials is a threat in any of these countries, except Brazil, due to the sponsorship and control of nuclear materials by the suppliers in the other countries. Neither Russia nor China will want to upset the balance of power among nuclear states by creating new ones.

For this reason,. claims that all these countries have plans to become nuclear powers, or to threaten to do so, are not supported by the facts. None of them have the capability to go it alone and all of them have sponsors who will exercise strict controls on nuclear materials.

Shellenberger has gone down a rabbit hole with his two essays promoting the proliferation of nuclear weapons.  Given all the great things he has done to promote commercial nuclear energy, it is a perplexing and disturbing development.

It’s ok to be contrarian, but I fear he will pay a price for it with dismay by some of his current supporters and he will face critical reviews from detractors of his pro-nuclear message as a result of these essays.

In the end public support and perception of the safety of nuclear energy may be diminished by these essays since they will lead to increased conflating of commercial nuclear energy with nuclear weapons. The fatal attraction of the power of nuclear weapons has lured another victim. It’s an ill-fated step backwards.

Sidebar – Who is Michael Shellenberger

As Founder and President of Environmental Progress, Michael led the grassroots environmental effort to save nuclear power plants in Illinois and New York, which prevented an increase in emissions equivalent to adding 5.7 million cars to the road.

Michael is a leading pro-nuclear environmentalist. He was featured in “Pandora’s Promise,” an award-winning film about environmentalists who changed their minds about nuclear energy His 2016 TED talk on “How Fear of Nuclear Hurts the Environment” has been viewed by over one million people

His writings have appeared in The New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, Nature Energy, and PLOS Biology.

He is coauthor of visionary books and essays including “An Ecomodernist Manifesto,” “The Death of Environmentalism,” and Break Through, which was called “prescient” by Time and “the best thing to happen to environmentalism since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring” by Wired Magazine.

Significantly, he is co-founder and Senior Fellow at Breakthrough Institute where he was president from 2003 – 2015 and advisor to MIT’s “Future of Nuclear Energy” task force. He has been an environmental and social justice advocate for over 25 years.

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South Korea Boosts Efforts for Nuclear Reactor Exports

  • exportsSeveral South Korean firms are pursuing opportunities in the UK, Saudi Arabia, the Czech Republic, and Romania.
  • The export push builds on progress building four 1400 MW PWR type reactors in the United Arab Emirates  (UAE)
  • Meanwhile the South Korean government is not backing down from its plans to phase out nuclear energy at home which could hobble the supply chains and decimate the work force needed to support the exports.

In a classic case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing, South Korea appears to have developed a split personality when it comes to nuclear energy.  On one hand the ongoing effort to build four new reactors in the UAE has given South Korean firms new ambitions to export commercial nuclear reactor technologies.  On the other hand, the stewardship of President Chung Jae-hoon, who took office in April, seems obsessed with his plan to cut the use of nuclear energy while boosting imports of LNG and coal.

It is a no brainer that potential customers of South Korean nuclear firms will want to know that they will be able to support their products for the expected 60 year operating lives of the plants. That confidence is being eroded by the South Korean government which doesn’t seem to want to recognize the conflict it is creating with its policies.  Here are some recent developments.

South Korea Holds Meeting
To Prepare Saudi Arabia Nuclear Project Bid

(NucNet): The South Korean ministry of trade, industry and energy has held a meeting with two state utility firms – Korea Electric Power Corporation and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power – and other nuclear trade organizations to establish a strategy to secure a deal for Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear power project, according to reports by the Yonhap news agency.

The RFP by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) calls for two PWR type reactors with power range of at least 1000 MW.  KSA is in the process of selecting finalists from five nations – the US, China, Russia, France and South Korea.

In May 2018, Saudi Arabian energy minister Khalid al-Falih told journalists at an industry event in Seoul that South Korea could expect a “good result” when asked about the outcome of bidding on the project. Here are some reasons why his statement holds water.

Westinghouse is unlikely to win KSA’s business supplying nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia even if the Trump administration relaxes the terms of a 123 Agreement. The reasons are that South Korea has the pole position due to several factors including; success with building four 1400 MW reactors for the UAE at a fixed price, an experienced workforce with a management team that speaks Arabic, and the fact that the 1400 MW design has already been built and operated in South Korea.

The ROK / KSA deal for 100 MW SMART Reactor could be a model for U.S. A deal inked in 2011 between ROK and KSA could be seen as a model to form the basis for an agreement for U.S. firms to export nuclear technology to KSA.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has signed an $1 billion agreement with South Korea to build a 300 MWt PWR reactor. The SMART reactor has a design that uses integral steam generators and advanced safety features. The reactor will have a 60 year design life and a three-year refueling cycle It will be used to generate electricity and to power reverse osmosis desalinization plants at coastal sites. The reactor will generate 100 MW of electrical power for these applications. Bottom line South Korea is already doing nuclear business with KSA.

Korea Hydro Nuclear Power Accelerates Bid
to Export Nuclear Power Abroad On Its Own

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) is accelerating efforts to export nuclear power plants abroad on its own. In early July KHNP met with President Cosmin Ghita of the state-owned energy producer Nuclearelectrica of Romania in Gyeongju to discuss KHNP’s participation in a plan to build a nuclear power plant in Cernavoda, Romania.

KHNP has already joined on bid to construct one or two 1GW nuclear power units in the Czech Republic. There it is facing stiff competition from Rosatom, which considers the Czech Republic to be a captive market.

But there is also competition in Romania. China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) has already inked an agreement with Romania to build two CANDU type reactors at the site. Romania has built two of a planned cluster of five reactors. The first two units are also CANDU types. Hypothetically, KHNP would be a bidder for the 5th unit.

President Ghita came to South Korea to participate in a university program tailored towards “world nuclear power next-generation manpower development,” which was jointly hosted by KHNP and World Nuclear University.

Separately, KEPCO is in protracted negotiations with Japan’s Toshiba to take over a major nuclear new build in the UK. The UK government’s dithering over whether to take an equity stake in a turnkey effort at for the Moorside nuclear project has generated a raft of problems for it.

The government, which knows it must build the new new reactors, seems to be at sea over coming to terms about how to finance the effort. The biggest issue is that Toshiba has yanked KEPCO’s preferred status as a bidder for the project. Meanwhile, KEPCO’s 1400 MW PWR type reference design is making its way through the UK generic design review process.

Second Meeting for US-Korea High Level Commission

(WNN) Senior delegates from South Korea and the US met on August 16th in Washington DC, in the second plenary meeting of the High Level Bilateral Commission (HLBC) of the two countries.

The HLBC was launched in 2016 to facilitate strategic dialogue and technical exchanges on peaceful nuclear cooperation, as required under their 2015 bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement. The August meeting, which was co-chaired by US Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun, was also the first following the inauguration of the countries’ respective administrations.

Brouillette and Cho discussed the management of used nuclear fuel, reliability in the nuclear fuel market, exports and export control cooperation, and nuclear security and non-proliferation.

They also agreed on future joint technical activities in each of these areas, including a decision to hold follow-up consultations on ways to cooperate in exporting nuclear power plants to third countries. South Korea updated its 123 Agreement with the US in January 2017.

Other Nuclear News of Note

Horizon Appoints Bechtel
As Project Management Contractor
For Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Station

(NucNet): Horizon Nuclear Power announced last week it has appointed US-based engineering and construction company Bechtel as project management contractor for its proposed Wylfa Newydd nuclear power station on the Isle of Anglesey, north Wales. The company said that media reports earlier this month it had withdrawn from the project were incorrect.

Horizon has also signed further contracts with Hitachi Nuclear Energy Europe and JGC New Energy UK Limited to continue to provide support during the project’s development stage.

Hitachi subsidiary Hitachi Nuclear Energy Europe will supply two 1350 MW UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactors, or UK ABWRs, for the new Wylfa Newydd units, to be built next to the existing Wylfa A nuclear station. UK-based JGC will continue to provide specialist engineering contractor services.

The company is developing plans to build at least 5,800 MW of new nuclear power generation plant at Wylfa (2700 MW) and at Oldbury-on-Severn (3100 MW) in Gloucestershire, England.

Horizon Calls Media’s £20bn Cost Estimate
For Wylfa Newydd Units Is ‘Just Guesswork’

(NucNet): Horizon Nuclear Power said it has not released an official estimate for the cost of two planned UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactors for the Wylfa Newydd nuclear station in north Wales and that a figure of £20bn quoted by many media outlets is “just guesswork”.

A spokesman for Horizon told NucNet in an email that the company is still in the process of building up a cost estimate through supply chain engagement, analysis of site development costs, and analysis of the project’s financing and funding structure and its impact on the cost of capital.

“There have been various figures touted in the media but they are, essentially, just guesswork,” the email said. It added that the £20bn figure quoted for the two Wylfa Newydd units will be “too high.”

NRC Adjusts Safety and Siting Rules for Small Modular Reactors

(WNN) The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has agreed that small reactors do not require the same extensive emergency planning zones (EPZs) around them as large units, and that today’s 16-km zones for large units could safely be scaled down.

The safety features and small amount of fuel in small reactors mean they can occupy a small footprint, with the EPZ effectively the site boundary. This is consistent with the basis used to determine the EPZ for large reactors and has the potential to greatly simplify the licensing of these technologies and decrease their costs.

“This rulemaking is consistent with direction from Congress, which has been encouraging the agency to modernize its regulatory framework to facilitate the licensing of these new technologies, particularly through recognition of their enhanced safety features,“ said Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) Technical Advisor David Young in a press statement.

The preliminary finding was made public in the NRC staff evaluation of an early site permit application for a potential nuclear plant at TVA’s Clinch River site in Tennessee. The plant would comprise multiple small modular reactors (SMRs) such as BWXT’s mPower, Holtec SMR-160, NuScale’s SMR and Westinghouse SMR, ranging in size from 50 to 225 MWe. TVA has not expressed a preference for any of the designs in its ESP application to the NRC.

Detailed information was provided on the NuScale SMR, for which a 12,000-page design certification application has been under review by NRC for 18 months.

NRC Holds First Public Meeting for X-energy’s
Proposed TRISO Fuel Facility

X-energy held its first public meeting with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff on August 24, 2018, to discuss its proposed TRISO-X fuel fabrication facility. The purpose of the meeting was to familiarize the NRC staff and the public with the TRISO-X fuel fabrication process and discuss plans to prepare a fuel fabrication facility license application for NRC review and approval.

X-energy submitted a Regulatory Engagement Plan to the NRC’s Nuclear Materials and Safety Safeguards Office on August 8, 2018, defining the pre-application engagement topics relevant to TRISO-X.

This public meeting is the first in a series of meetings planned with the NRC. Dr. Pete Pappano, X-energy’s Vice President of Fuel Production, stated:

“Advanced nuclear reactors are the future of nuclear power. The availability of high assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel and a U.S.-based production line are critical elements for advanced reactor deployment. Our TRISO-X facility will produce fuel for these advanced reactors and potentially accident tolerant fuel (ATF) for the fleet of existing light water reactors (LWRs).”

Dr. Pappano serves as Principal Investigator of X-energy’s two U.S. Department of Energy Cooperative Agreements; one that includes TRISO fuel manufacturing research and another for the design and license application development of the TRISO-X fuel fabrication facility.

Tristructural Isotropic (TRISO) coated fuels start with a uranium kernel, which is coated with layers of pyrolytic carbon and silicon carbide.

X-Energy is working with Southern Nuclear to develop a high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR). The project involves significant financial support from the U.S. Department of Energy to both firms.

Terra Power Project with Southern Company

Separately, TerraPower and Southern Company are in the early stages of the design phase of a molten salt reactor. They are working with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Vanderbilt University and the Electric Power Research Institute to assess the viability of a MCFR as a commercial reactor.

They expect to begin testing in a $20 million test loop facility starting in 2019. The team is also scaling up their salt manufacturing process for testing in the loop. Data generated from the test loop will be used to validate thermal hydraulics and safety analysis codes for licensing of the reactor.

After testing, Southern Company and TerraPower plan to develop and license a test reactor before developing a 1,100-megawatt prototype reactor by 2030.

NRC Accepts License Application
from Interim Storage Partners for West Texas Site

  • NRC accepts license application for used nuclear fuel consolidated interim storage facility in West Texas
  • Safety, security and environmental reviews of Interim Storage Partners’ application expected to be completed in August 2020

Interim Storage Partners received confirmation from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that ISP’s revised license application for a consolidated interim storage facility provides sufficient information for the NRC to resume its detailed review for approval.

ISP, a joint venture of Orano USA and Waste Control Specialists, submitted a revised application on June 8, 2018, to construct and operate a CISF for used nuclear fuel at the existing WCS storage site in Andrews County, Texas. The original CISF license application was submitted April 2016 and docketed by the NRC for review in January 2017 (Docket No. 72-1050).

“As noted in the NRC’s letter, we are pleased that the quality of our submission met the NRC’s review requirements, including our initial safety analysis and environmental reports,” said Jeff Isakson, ISP president.

The revised application reflects the organization of the joint venture along with new leadership, but remains unchanged in its original proposal to securely receive, store and safely manage used nuclear fuel from shutdown U.S. nuclear reactors at a planned facility built on the existing 14,900-acre WCS low-level waste storage site.

In its application, ISP proposes an initial 40-year license to consolidate and store an eventual total of 40,000 metric tons of used nuclear fuel, developed over eight flexible phases. The CISF will securely store the used nuclear fuel with the same proven storage technology and commitment to safety demonstrated by Orano and NAC International at storage installations currently in place and reliably operating at reactor sites across the United States.

South Africa Puts Plans For New Nuclear Reactors On Ice

(Reuters) South Africa has cancelled plans to add 9,600 megawatts (MW) of nuclear power by 2030 and will instead aim to add more capacity in natural gas, wind and other energy sources, the energy minister announced this week.

There are now “no plans to increase nuclear until 2030,” Energy Minister Jeff Radebe said while releasing the government’s new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The plan also showed that electricity demand on the grid has been declining.

“There will be a study to determine if more nuclear is needed after 2030,” Energy Minister Jeff Radebe told the Bloomberg Wire Service. “But until then, there is no increase in nuclear generation envisaged.”

Russian state-owned firm Rosatom was seen as a frontrunner to build the additional nuclear capacity. Several meetings in 2014 and 2015 between Zuma and Russian President Vladimir Putin led to a media firestorm over reports that Rosatom had inked the deal before the launch of the public tender.

However, after taking over from Zuma in February, President Cyril Ramaphosa put the nuclear expansion on the back burner saying the plan was too expensive.

The Bloomberg Wire Service also reported that one of the key reasons is the South Africa’s power demand has declined and is currently at levels last seen more than a decade ago, according to the energy department. Electricity being consumed is about 30 percent less than projections used in the 2010 plan.

Nuclear Energy Expert Critical of Nation’s Retreat

(South Africa Business Report) South African Nuclear Energy Corporation chairperson Dr Kelvin Kemm said nuclear energy was the solution to the country’s energy crisis. He said current demand for electricity was not rising, because the government prevented an expansion of the sector when the country ran out of electricity in 2007.

Kemm, who is also chief executive of Nuclear Africa, said the rolling blackouts, also known as load shedding, were bad for business. Load shedding reportedly cost the economy about R80bn a month in 2015.

Kemm poked holes in the IRP, saying that the projected 41 percent contribution to the grid by solar, wind and gas was laughable.

“The country doesn’t have gas, and wind and solar are unreliable. Look, solar is only available at lunchtime. At night you have nothing,” he said. “By contrast a nuclear power station is always sitting at 100 percent”.

He said if the country pursued nuclear energy, lots of job opportunities could be created.

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India Doubles Down on Domestic 700 MW PHWR Design

India Doubles Down on 700 MW PHWR Design

  • India’s installed nuclear power capacity is expected to rise with the addition of 12 new nuclear reactors.
  • Nine of the new reactors to be built and completed by 2032 will be the 700 MW PHWR design

India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) told Parliament on August 14th that it will complete nine 700 MW PHWR commercial nuclear reactors which are under construction by 2025 for a cumulative total of 6700 MW. The PHWR is a domestic design based on the CANDU type reactor which uses heavy water and U238 to provide a critical reaction.

Indian-PHWR-Schematic-Layout-Diagram

The design does not require a reactor pressure vessel (RPV) like a PWR or BWR.  This is important because India does not have the manufacturing capability to produce the large forgings needs to make RPVs.

Additionally, the agency reported that a 500MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor — a next-generation reactor — being built in Kalpakkam near Chennai. Finally, the agency noted that two 1000 MW VVER reactors being built by Rosatom at Kudankulam are also expected to be completed in this timeframe.

The 12 additional nuclear reactors, in addition to the 9 under construction, were “accorded administrative approval and financial sanction by the government in June 2017”, the DAE said in its statement. They are all likely to be PHWRs unless NPCIL comes to terms with EDF/Areva and Westinghouse.  Separately, Rosatom has agreements in principle with India for six more nuclear reactors.  Units 3 & 4 at Kudankulam are under construction with plans for units 5 & 6 at that site.

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

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

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

In a parallel statement the Nuclear Power Corporation India Ltd (NPCIL) said that despite the country’s climate action pledges to the United Nations in 2015, the country has reduced its target of achieving 63,000 MW of nuclear power by the mid-2030s.

[See on this blog for an April 2018 report:  India plans to slash its targets for new nuclear reactor construction by two-thirds.]

NPCIL now says there is no firm target had been fixed for the period beyond 2024 and that the pace of expansion would depend on both domestic reactors, and at some point in the future also on imported reactors.

In June EDF/Areva announced the latest “strategic cooperation agreement” for the planned construction of six 1,650MW reactors at Jaitapur, Maharashtra. However, DAE later said the plan, under discussion for over a decade, has been held up by unspecified technical and commercial issues.

Both the EPR and the AP1000 will need reactor pressure vessels. In the case of the EPRs, France has the manufacturing capability to make them.  However, the AP1000s will need to place their orders for RPVs with South Korea or Japan and get in line for delivery.

Nuclear Talks with Western Vendors “Ongoing”

(WNN) According to a July 23rd report by World Nuclear News, India is in active talks with French and US companies on projects to build new nuclear power plants at Jaitapur and Kovvada, the country’s minister of state, Jitendra Singh, confirmed in a statement to Parliament.

The minister was responding to questions in both houses of India’s parliament. Singh told the Rajya Sabha – India’s upper house – that discussions between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and EDF on a project to build six 1650 MWe EPRs at Jaitapur in Maharashtra were “advancing” towards a project proposal. In point of fact there has been no substantive change in the status of either project.

Singh told the Lok Sabha – the lower house – that final discussions of project proposals for a six-unit plant at Kovvada were under way. Kovvada, in Andhra Pradesh, has been earmarked for the construction of six 1250 MWe Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.

Cost Factors Continue to Drive the Discussions

The cost of reactors for these sites will continue to be a key factor in the technical and commercial discussions and formulation of the project proposals. India has objected to the high costs of the western reactors and also demanded more “localization” of the supply chain.

With global “overnight costs” averaging at $5,000/Kw, each EPR will cost $8.3 billion and each AP1000 will cost $5.8 billion. By comparison, India’s PHWR is reported to cost about $2,000/Kw, more or less, which makes the cost of a 700 MW PHWR come in at $1.4 billion/unit.

It follows that for the cost of six EPRs, or $49.8 billion, India could build 35 PHWRs. Similarly, for the cost of six AP1000s, or $34.8 billion, India could build 24 PHWRs.

The comparisons change if  EDF/Areva and Westinghouse can find ways to reduce their costs. Also, these comparisons don’t take into account financing from either France or the US for a portion of these projects.  Even so, the PHWR still comes out ahead and for these differences, it has a significant cost advantage especially in a developing nation.

Overall, when you consider the value added nature of using the domestic supply chain, and all the jobs and payroll created by it, the advantages of building PHWRs multiplies considerably.

UK And India Announce £4.8M For Nuclear R&D Projects

(NucNet) The UK and India have jointly announced four awards worth £4.8m for nuclear research, the national funding agency UK Research and Innovation announced.

The awards are for projects that will look into the next generation of more efficient and safer reactors, better predictive tools and the effects that cyberattacks can have on a nuclear plant.

Organizations that will work on the research programmes include the UK’s Sheffield University, the University of Manchester and Imperial College London and India’s Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

Safety Review Sought for New Japanese Reactor

(Wire services) Chugoku Electric Power Company has begun the regulatory process for starting up unit 3 at its Shimane nuclear power plant. It has applied to the Japanese nuclear safety regulator for a review to assess its compliance with revised safety standards.

Construction of the 1373 MW advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR), started in 2005, but suspendedin 2011, is nearly complete.

Following the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s (NRA’s) approval of the basic design earthquake ground motion for unit 2 at the Shimane site, Chugoku announced in February this year that it would seek to start up unit 3.

In May, Chugoku requested and received permission from the Shimane prefectural government and the Matsue city government to apply to the NRA for safety conformity inspections of Shimane 3.

Chugoku becomes the second Japanese utility to apply to the NRA for pre-operation safety inspections for a new nuclear power reactor since the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

The first was Japan Electric Power Development Corp (J-Power), which applied in December 2014 for inspections of unit 1 at its Ohma nuclear power plant, also an ABWR, being built in Aomori prefecture. However, with construction of Shimane 3 more advanced than Ohma 1, Shimane 3 is likely to be the first new reactor to begin operating in Japan.

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