- France will leverage its experience building small nuclear reactors for submarines and the expertise of state-owned EDF to create commercial small modular reactors (SMRs).
- South Korea and Saudi Arabia signed a new round of agreements to build a reference unit of the 100 MW SMART PWR type SMR. The design is intended for the domestic market and export.
- ThorCon and Indonesia’s P3Tek published the results of a feasibility study to build two 500 MW thorium fueled nuclear reactors within a seven year window that includes licensing and construction.
- NuScale told the IAEA General Conference in Vienna that SMRs ‘Can Play Key Role’ In future hybrid energy systems.
French Military Designs for Small Reactors Used in Submarines
to Be Adapted for Commercial Markets
(NucNet) France’s nuclear agency has announced a project to develop a small modular reactor that could be on the market before 2030. CEA said the planned SMR plant will be a PWR-based solution in the 300-400 MW range. A spokesman said the SMRs would typically consist of 170 MW reactors sold in sets of two or more.
The Atomic and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA) said the Nuward SMR project is a joint venture with state-controlled utility EDF, the Paris-based Naval group, and reactor design and maintenance company TechnicAtome, which is based at the CEA nuclear site in Cadarache, southern France.
The Nuward partners are soliciting international partners. CEA and EDF have begun discussions with Westinghouse Electric Company to explore potential cooperation.
CEA will offer its research and qualification knowledge, EDF its expertise on systems integration and operation, Naval will offer its knowledge of compact reactors, and TechnicAtome its design, assembly and commissioning expertise. The Naval Group has been building nuclear submarine and aircraft carriers whose propulsion energy is supplied by small nuclear power units.
Most likely the new commercial offerings will use fuel enriched to less than 20% U235. Nuclear submarine reactors typically used fuel enriched to much higher levels.
In this regard the French effort is following the example st by Rolls-Royce in the UK. That firm has been the prime contractor for small nuclear power plants for the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines. It is now seeking to leverage that experience by offering SMRs for commercial electricity generation.
Westinghouse is First International Partner
In a press statement Westinghouse said that during the IAEA General Conference in Vienna, CEA, EDF and Westinghouse Electric Company signed a framework agreement to explore potential cooperation on small modular reactor (SMR) development.
As part of this international cooperation framework, the parties will also pursue regulatory and design standardization, which are key for the implementation of a successful SMR design. The detailed project roadmap will be confirmed in early 2020.
This move may represent a revival of an effort that Westinghouse abandoned in 2014 which was to adapt its full size PWR technology to a compact SMR. Since then the firm has begun several initiatives in the area of advanced reactors.
In its coverage of the announcement, Reuters reported that, “EDF and Westinghouse are looking at SMRs as a way of standardizing reactor construction after struggling with years of delay and billions of dollars of cost overruns on their big nuclear reactors, which have capacities upwards of 1,000 MW.”
The holy grail for all SMR developers is to get enough ink in their order books to justify a shift to factory based manufacturing of SMRs, which could eliminate some of the cost and schedule problems that afflicted full size plants. Getting the supply chain in place is one of the early milestones that needs to be completed to make this move.
Export Market Opportunities Look Beyond Electricity Generation
Reuters also reported tha an EDF spokesman said the SMRs would be primarily aimed at export markets, including countries where the grid is not robust enough to take up the output of a large nuclear plant, especially in markets such as Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
In addition to generating electricity, the SMRs could also be used for desalination and for producing hydrogen through electrolysis, and could typically replace a coal-fired power plant or even a gas-fired plant. Load following is a key attribute which would be implemented not by changing the reactor’s output from 100%, but by shifting the electricity generated from the grid to these types of applications.
South Korea and Saudi Arabia
to Cooperate for Nuclear Power R&D
The Ministry of Science and ICT of South Korea and the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE) of Saudi Arabia signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) in Vienna, Austria at the IAEA General Conference.
The purposes of the MOU include assistance for regulatory and construction approvals in Saudi Arabia related to South Korea’s system-integrated modular advanced reactor (SMART), refinement of the reactor, technological cooperation for SMART construction and commercialization, and the establishment of a joint nuclear power research center. This is the latest in a series of agreements which began in 2011.
SMART is a 330 MWt pressurized water reactor (PWR) with integral steam generators and advanced safety features. The unit is designed for electricity generation (up to 100 MWe) as well as thermal applications, such as seawater desalination, with a 60-year design life and three-year refueling cycle.
World Nuclear News reported that the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute design has been completed, with Saudi support, and that an objective of the new agreement is to build an initial reference unit. The two countries have invested US$130 million from 2015 to November last year to successfully complete their pre-SMART construction engineering project.
Under the agreement, they will work together to license and build a first of a kind unit in Saudi Arabia, using the services of South Korean companies Kepco Engineering & Construction and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power.
In addition to building the 100 MWe (electrical) PWR type SMRs for Saudi Arabia’s domestic market, the two countries are also planning to offer the design for export. The two countries are going to work closely with each other so that the SMART can be built in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries planning to build small modular reactors.
The joint nuclear engineering research center, which is scheduled to open late this year, is expected to be engaged in technological development for SMART innovation, research on safety analysis codes, and assistance for nuclear power research institute establishment in Saudi Arabia.
Indonesia Ministry of Energy P3Tek Agency
Recommends ThorCon MSR Technology
Indonesia’s P3Tek last week presented the results of a 10-month study of the ThorCon thorium/uranium-fueled molten salt reactor (MSR) power plant. The study reviewed regulation, safety, economics, and the grid load and concluded the ThorCon TMSR500 liquid fission power plant can supply Indonesia electricity needs in 2026-2027.
The study concluded that if the licensing process is carried out effectively and efficiently by the relevant government institutions, the power plant construction project could be completed within seven years. Assuming a 2020 start, Phase I with a capacity of 500 MW can be operating commercially in 2027. Phase II with a capacity of 3 GW could being two years later.
To reduce risks and increase the certainty of the safety system, ThorCon International will carry out implementation in two stages, development and construction. In the two-year development stage ThorCon International will build a Test Bed Platform facility at a cost of US $70 million to validate the design, test the thermal hydraulic system and safety system of the TMSR500, and demonstrate ThorCon safety technology functions. The construction stage would begin in 2023 with commercial operation in 2027.
In the electrical grid and load study, three potential power plant locations were identified because of regional electric power needs to increase economic development and industry. The provinces of West Kalimantan, Bangka Belitung, and Riau may become the location of the first TMSR500.
ThorCon International is a nuclear engineering company that has expressed interest in developing and building its TMSR500 in Indonesia with an investment of approximately US$1.2 billion.
P3Tek, an agency of the Indonesia Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, is the R&D center for electricity technology, new and renewable energy, and energy conservation.
SMRs ‘Can Play Key Role’
in Future Hybrid Energy Systems
(NucNet) Small modular rectors can play an important role in hybrid energy systems with the potential to meet the needs of a wide range of users and to be a low-carbon replacement option for ageing fossil fuel fired power plants.
Participants at an event on the sidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference heard that there are some 50 small, medium-sized or modular reactor concepts at various stages of development around the world.
These plants – which range in size from a couple of megawatts up to hundreds of megawatts, – are suitable for non-electric applications such as heating and water desalination, the agency said. They are designed to be built in factories and shipped to utilities for installation, deployed as a single or multi-module plant.
Lenka Kollar, director of strategy and external relations at NuScale, one of the companies developing SMR technology, told the event that SMRs are “well-poised to complete an energy system, since they add flexibility and can be easily integrated into a renewables-heavy system”.
She said NuScale plants are ideally suited to provide carbon-free heat and energy for a variety of industrial applications such as hydrogen production for clean fuels and desalination to produce clean water.
“SMRs can play a stabilizing role in grids with large shares of renewables and contribute to reducing the overall cost of a low-carbon energy system.”
She added this combination of renewables and SMRs will reduce rate volatility and system costs for grid management and development.
The event heard that a hybrid energy system combining both nuclear power and renewables can help significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Hybrid systems could also foster cogeneration for seawater desalination, hydrogen production, district heating, cooling and other industrial applications. Research and innovation, the introduction of appropriate policies and market incentives are an important next step.
# # #