- GE-Hitachi to Collaborate with Estonia Firm on BWRX-300 SMR Development
- ARC-100 Passes Canadian Pre-licensing Milestone
- BWXT to Restart TRISO Fuel Development at Lynchburg, VA, Plant
- Puerto Rico to Begin Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Feasibility Study
- ARPA-E Announces New Funding Opportunity to Develop Tools to Improve Advanced Reactor Designs
- INL’s National Reactor Innovation Center Announces New Managers
GEH To Collaborate With Estonia Firm
on BWRX-300 Deployment
US-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Estonia’s Fermi Energia have signed an agreement to collaborate on the potential deployment of GEH’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) in the Baltic country. [press statement]
GEH said in a statement that under the agreement, the two companies will examine the economic feasibility of building a BWRX-300 in Estonia. The agreement covers a review of site requirements and an assessment of local nuclear regulatory requirements.
Kalev Kallemets, chief executive officer of Fermi Energia, is quoted as saying that Estonia needs to consider new generation SMR technology to maintain energy independence and achieve climate neutrality.
“Boiling water reactors have been proven in the Nordics to be safe, economic and reliable providers of carbon-free energy for decades and the design of the BWRX-300 makes it investible and highly competitive technology.”
The BWRX-300 is a 300-MW SMR derived from GEH’s 1,520 MW Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design.
According to GEH, the BWRX-300 leverages the design and licensing basis of the ESBWR, which received design certification in the US in 2014. Essentially, it is an SMR that is a BWR.
The BWRX-300, a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems, leverages the design and licensing basis of the U.S. NRC-certified ESBWR. Through design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require up to 60 percent less capital cost per MW when compared to other water-cooled SMRs or existing large nuclear reactor designs.
GEH said in its press statement that it believes that the BWRX-300 can become cost-competitive with power generation from combined cycle gas and renewables.
Note to readers – extraordinary claims, e.g., capital costs of $2,250/kW, require extraordinary evidence. The last time a nuclear energy vendor published cost estimates in this range was when NRG said in 2007 it would build two 1350 MW ABWRs at the South Texas Project (STP 3 & 4). The quoted cost estimate was $2,700/kW. NRG was unable to attract investors for the project and neither reactor ever broke ground.
GEH said Fermi Energia plans to make public the results of its feasibility study on the suitability of SMRs for Estonia in January 2020.
In an earlier action GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy initiated a Vendor Design Review of its BWRX-300 small modular reactor in May 2019 with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).
Previous coverage on this blog – GE-Hitachi to Offer 300 MW SMR
In May 2018 GE Hitachi announced that design work was underway to downsize the 1500 MW ESBWR to a 300 MW model to be called the BWRX-300. At the same time GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) also announced that Dominion Energy will provide funding for the project to develop and commercialize the BWRX-300.
GEH said Dominion Energy’s funding provides seed money for work that could lead to commercialising the BWRX-300. GEH did not say how much funding Dominion had agreed to provide. In a statement to Power Magazine in May 2018 Dominion’s Chief Nuclear Officer Dan Stoddard, said the investment in the SMR technology reflects the company’s view that the design GE Hitachi is pursuing with the BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor “has the potential to make it a strong competitor in the marketplace. ”
“Our view is that a modest investment now to support further development of this technology is in the interest of both companies.”
GEH MOU in Estonia is 3rd Move to Europe for US SMR Developers
The announcement by GEH for exploratory work for its 300 MW SMR in Estonia follows by about a month for a similar deal by US-based NuSclae in the Czech Republic and by two months for one by Holtec in Ukraine.
NuScale – In August 2019 World Nuclear News reported that NuScale Power announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with CEZ Group, a state owned Czech utility, to explore applications for NuScale’s 50 MWe small modular reactor (SMR) as a long-term energy solution in the Czech Republic. The agreement marks the latest indication of of international interest in NuScale’s technology.
The agreement calls for a sharing of nuclear and technical expertise between the two companies. Specifically, NuScale and ČEZ will exchange information relating to nuclear supply chain development, construction and operation and maintenance.
Holtec – World Nuclear News reported in June 2019 that Holtec International, Ukraine’s Energoatom and the country’s State Scientific and Technology Centre (SSTC) have formally entered into a partnership to advance the US company’s SMR-160 small modular reactor for deployment in Ukraine.
Moltex in MOU in Estonia for MSR SMR Design
In a separate development, Estonian Fermi Energia and British-Canadian Moltex Energy signed a memorandum of understanding in March 2019 that expresses the companies’ intent to work together on a feasibility study for the siting and potential later licensing of a molten salt nuclear reactor in Estonia.
Fermi Energia CEO, Kalev Kallemets said of the proejct that their ambition is to bring a first fourth-generation small modular reactor online by the early 2030s.
According to a report in World Nuclear News, Moltex Energy’s SSR is a conceptual UK reactor design with no pumps (only small impellers in the secondary salt bath) and relies on convection from static vertical fuel tubes in the core to convey heat to the steam generators.
The fuel assemblies are arranged at the centre of a tank half filled with the coolant salt which transfers heat away from the fuel assemblies to the peripheral steam generators, essentially by convection. Core temperature is 500-600°C, at atmospheric pressure.
ARC-100 Passes Canadian Pre-licensing Milestone
(WNN) The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has completed the first phase of a vendor design review of ARC Nuclear Canada’s ARC-100 small modular reactor. The design is the third advanced reactor to complete the first phase of the CNSC’s regulatory pre-licensing review.
CNSC’s review of the ARC-100 small modular reactor design began in September 2017. CNSC said, “ARC understands and has interpreted correctly the high-level intent of the CNSC’s regulatory requirements for the design of nuclear power plants in Canada.,”
“In some cases, due to the unique characteristics of the design, ARC is proposing alternative approaches and methodologies to address the underlying intent of CNSC regulatory requirements.”
The vendor design review, the CNSC said, showed that ARC needs to provide additional information on its management system processes and research and development program if it decides to proceed to a Phase 2 review.
“Notwithstanding the above, these issues are foreseen to be resolvable and will be followed up in future phases of vendor design reviews,” CNSC said.
History of the ARC-100
ARC is developing the ARC-100, a 100 MWe integrated sodium-cooled fast reactor with a metallic uranium alloy core. In March 2017 the firm signed an agreement with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) to collaborate on development and licensing, and uses proprietary technology from GEH’s PRISM reactor.
Both the PRISM and ARC-100 designs are based on the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) integral sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype which operated at the USA’s Argonne National Laboratory from 1961, finally shutting down in 1994.
This is the third advanced reactor design review conducted by the CNSC, the other two being Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation’s MMR-5 and MMR-10 high-temperature gas reactor.
About CNSC Pre-Licensing Reviews
The CNSC’s pre-licensing vendor design review is an optional service to provide an assessment of a nuclear power plant design based on a vendor’s reactor technology. It is not a required part of the licensing process for a new nuclear power plant, but aims to verify the acceptability of a design with respect to Canadian nuclear regulatory requirements and expectations.
The review involves three phases:
- a pre-licensing assessment of compliance with regulatory requirements;
- an assessment of any potential fundamental barriers to licensing; and
- a follow-up phase allowing the vendor to respond to findings from the second phase.
These findings will be taken into account in any subsequent construction licence application, increasing the efficiency of technical reviews. The duration of each review is estimated based on the vendor’s proposed schedule. A Phase 1 review typically takes 12–18 months and a Phase 2 review takes 24 months.
See prior coverage on this blog – Argonne’s IFR to Live Again at Point LePreau
In July 2018 ARC Nuclear and New Brunswick Power (NB Power) agreed to work together to take the necessary steps to develop, license, and build an advanced small modular reactor (SMR) based on ARC Nuclear’s Gen IV sodium-cooled fast reactor technology.
ARC was formed to bring back and commercialize a technically mature, advanced reactor technology that was created and proven by a U.S. prototype reactor that ran successfully in the United States for 30 years which is the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) developed at the Argonne West field station on the Arco Desert 27 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID. ARC has made significant proprietary advances to the original EBR-II design in order to create the ARC-100.
BWXT to Restart TRISO Fuel Development
at Lynchburg, VA, Plant
BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) announced thi week that it is in the process of restarting its existing TRISO nuclear fuel production line and is planning to expand its existing capacity within approximately 12 months. It wil hire 60 new workers to run the production process.
The expansion to BWXT’s existing TRISO fuel production capability will position the company to meet emergent client interests in Department of Defense microreactors, space reactors, and civil advanced reactors.
TRISO refers to a specific design of uranium nuclear reactor fuel. (TRISO is a shortened form of the term TRIstructural-ISOtropic. TRIstructural refers to the layers of coatings surrounding the uranium fuel, and ISOtropic refers to the kernel being the same size in each direction since it takes the shape of a sphere.) TRISO fuel can withstand extreme heat and has very low proliferation concerns and environmental risks.
BWXT is the only U.S. company to manufacture irradiation-tested uranium oxycarbide TRISO fuel using production-scale equipment. Its TRISO production facility is currently licensed to produce this type of High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel, which is undergoing validation in a series of experiments at Idaho National Laboratory at their Advanced Test Reactor under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor program.
BWXT and the DOE have cooperated in the development and qualification of TRISO-based fuel for more than 15 years, demonstrating and establishing the company’s commercial capability for TRISO fuel manufacturing.
Schedule for Initiating Production
BWXT’s expansion is scheduled to be handled in two steps. Over the next few months, BWXT will add additional equipment and staff to its existing facility to restart production. Within 24-32 months, the company will complete capacity upgrades to begin increased TRISO production to meet emerging customer needs.
In conjunction with its capacity upgrades, BWXT has plans to hire up to 60 additional workers to augment its existing experienced and trained TRISO fuel manufacturing team. Positions such as engineers, technicians, quality analysis specialists and others will need to be filled at its Lynchburg, Virginia facility, where the activity will be located.
See additional coverage on this blog – TRISO Fuel Drives Global Development of Advanced Reactors
Puerto Rico to Begin Small Modular Reactor (SMR)
(WNN) The Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP), founded in 2016 by Puerto Rican engineers in the US nuclear industry to inform and advocate for SMRs and microreactors in Puerto Rico, will receive $820,000 from the U.S Department of Energy to evaluate the economic, safety and social impact of deploying microreactors and SMRs for the island.
It has announced it will officially begin the study having now receved receipt of a “notice to proceed” from the US DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
NAP’s feasibility study will evaluate the economic, safety and social impact of deploying microreactors and SMRs for Puerto Rico. It will also look at Puerto Rico’s energy and resilience need. The project will study potential local applications of small modular reactors and microreactors, the island’s legal and regulatory background and how such a project would be financed.
The study leaders said that island territories around the world are the most vulnerable to climate change and typically rely heavily on fossil fuels for baseload generation. Advanced nuclear reactors can offer not only a route to decarbonization for such territories but also economic and land-use benefits, alongside resilience against extreme natural events.
Paul Murphy, managing director of Murphy Energy & Infrastructure Consulting LLC and a member of NAP’s advisory board, said advanced nuclear reactors could be a viable long-term solution to meet Puerto Rico’s needs in an island environment, which poses unique issues of suitability, durability and grid size.
“Blanketing” the island, which depends on tourism, with wind and solar energy would be untenable, he added. “Windmills and solar panels don’t do well in hurricanes,” Murphy said. “Nuclear plants actually do.”
See prior coverage on this blog – Puerto Rico Group Seeks SMRs for Island Electric Power
ARPA-E Announces New Funding Opportunity to Develop Tools to Improve Advanced Reactor Designs
ARPA-E this week issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) of up to $35 million in funding for a new program, Generating Electricity Managed by Intelligent Nuclear Assets (GEMINA).
GEMINA projects will develop tools and systems to enable more flexible, less costly nuclear power plants.
The GEMINA program will develop digital twin technology for advanced nuclear reactors, using artificial intelligence and advanced modeling controls to create tools that introduce greater flexibility in nuclear reactor systems, increased autonomy in operations, and faster design iteration.
The development of these digital twins will work towards a goal to contribute to a 10x reduction in operating and management (O&M) costs at advanced reactor power plants.
For more information on ARPA-E’s GEMINA program, click here.
The deadline to submit a concept paper for GEMINI is 9:30 a.m. ET on November 13, 2019. Additional information, including the full FOA and how to find project teaming partners, is available on ARPA-E’s online application portal, ARPA-E eXCHANGE.
See also the Department of Energy release on advancing artificial intelligence at Innovation XLab
INL’s National Reactor Innovation Center
Announces New Managers
Ashley Finan named director and Nicholas Smith, deputy director, of National Reactor Innovation Center NRIC will enable testing and demonstration of advanced reactor concepts
Dr. John Wagner, associate laboratory director of Idaho National Laboratory’s Nuclear Science & Technology Directorate, announced this week the selection of Dr. Ashley Finan to serve as director, and Nicholas Smith to serve as deputy director of the INL-based National Reactor Innovation Center (fact sheet).
As NRIC directors, Finan and Smith will lead efforts to accelerate the testing, demonstration and commercialization of innovative reactor technologies in the United States.
“Building and operating advanced reactors is essential to U.S. leadership in nuclear energy, and these roles are essential to achieving that goal,” said Wagner.
“Ashley has played a key role in the formation of the policy that made NRIC possible. She and Nicholas are ideally suited to develop and implement the NRIC vision.”
Authorized by the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), NRIC will provide resources to test, demonstrate, and assess performance of new nuclear technologies, critical steps that must be completed before they are available commercially. Through NRIC, developers will gain access to the strategic infrastructure and assets of the national laboratories. These capabilities will support a timely and cost-effective path to licensing and commercializing new nuclear systems.
Finan served most recently as executive director of the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, a nonprofit think tank working to enable nuclear power as a global solution to mitigate climate change. Prior to her work with NIA, Finan led nuclear innovation programs at Clean Air Task Force. She holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in nuclear science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Smith has worked with the research and development organization of Atlanta-based Southern Company since 2010, most recently as principal engineer. In this role, he oversaw a Generation IV nuclear reactor R&D program and was responsible for collaboration with reactor designers, national labs and policymakers, and early engagement with regulators.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from San Diego State University, a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from North Carolina State University.
See prior coverage on this blog – Idaho National Lab Gets DOE Charter for Test and Demonstration of Advanced Reactors
INL is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.
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