Battelle Energy Alliance / INL Seeks Partners for Versatile Test Reactor

inl-logo.jpgBattelle Energy Alliance, LLC announced this week a a request for expressions of interest in a partnership opportunity for the development and deployment at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) of a new U.S. Department of Energy facility for fast neutron testing: the Versatile Test Reactor.

The announcement is the first step in the government procurement process to identify potential partners, assess the capabilities of offers, and select one or more partners to participate in the program.

DOE’s Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy, Rita Baranwal, made the announcement on 11/18/19 at an American Nuclear Society winter meeting  in Washington, D.C.

“This morning, I have the pleasure to announce that Battelle Energy Alliance, the day-to-day contractor for Idaho National Laboratory, is seeking industry partnerships to develop and deploy the Versatile Test Reactor,” Baranwal said.  [See links below]

BEA is seeking an Expression of Interest (EOI) from industry stakeholders interested in forming a partnership for a cost sharing arrangement to design and construct the VTR.

The scope could include development and deployment of the VTR, other uses of VTR capabilities beyond just advanced reactor design and licensing, reducing the cost and schedule risk of new nuclear plant design and construction, and other compatible uses of VTR capabilities.

A key element of the value proposition to be brought to the table by a potential partner is to spell out the benefits of the partnership to the interested party and benefits of the partnership to the Department of Energy.

What is the Versatile Test Reactor?

The VTR is a state-of-the-art research and development facility that creates the conditions necessary to test how well fuels, materials and sensors endure when subjected to radiation in the form of fast neutrons.

The Versatile Test Reactor will have dedicated “fast-neutron-spectrum” testing capability, creating the conditions necessary to see how fuels, materials and sensors endure when subjected to radiation in the form of fast neutrons. 

VTR would perform radiation tests in a controlled environment that could be representative of any number of current or future reactor designs. Just a few months of high intensity neutron bombardment in a test reactor can mimic years in a power reactor core.

vtr core conceptual diagram

Conceptual desing for VTR core. Image: INL

In addition to helping with development of next-generation fast neutron reactors, the accelerated experimental results achieved with a fast neutron test reactor can benefit materials development for today’s water reactors, as well as other advanced thermal reactors that operate with slow neutrons at higher temperatures.

Time Frame for Deployment

DOE will decide, perhaps as soon as 2021, whether to proceed with building the VTR, at which point Congress would need to appropriate funding for the project to proceed, Battelle said.

While DOE has not decided where to located the physical facility, with choices among Argonne, Oak Ridge, and Idaho, the partnerhip program, if successful, is expected to enhance the Idaho site’s chances of landing the plant.

vtr timeline
Congress has already budgeted $100 million over the past couple of years to fund the project’s development. Construction could begin as soon as 2022 with operations commencing in 2026. The test reactor would be authorized by the DOE.  

Construction cost estimates vary from a low of $3 billion to $3.5 billion to a higher estimate of $3.9 billion to $6 billion. However, until a detailed design is completed, a verification of the real cost is still in the future.

 If interested in exploring a partnership relationship with the VTR effort, click here for more information regarding the Expression of Interest.   See also this PDF fileExpressions of Interest – Preliminary Design Information

Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA) is the managing and operating contractor for the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

International Nuclear Energy Organization
Names DOE Official to Key Role in Setting Strategy

The International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation (IFNEC) named U.S. Department of Energy official Suzanne Jaworowski on 11/16/19 as its new Steering Group chairperson. IFNEC made the announcement during its global conference in Washington, D.C. Jaworowski is a  a senior adviser with the Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy,

Jaworowski has served as vice chair of the Steering Group since December 2018, where she provided strategic counsel and communications support to IFNEC in addition to spearheading this week’s ministerial meetings and global conference on small modular reactors and advanced nuclear technologies.

The IFNEC forum brings together key stakeholders from 65 countries to explore different ways countries can work together to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy. The IFNEC Steering Group is the permanent body that oversees this work. The IFNEC consists of 34 Participant countries, 31 Observer countries and 4 international observers organizations.

Argentina’s Facundo Deluchi and Japan’s Kenji Totoki were also newly appointed as vice chairs.

The World Nuclear Association has an indepth summary of the topics covering in this important meeting.

Canadian National Laboratory to Fund Three SMRs 

  • CNL to Fund Collaborations With SMR Vendors to Accelerate Clean Energy Deployment
  • Negotiations underway with Terrestrial, USNC, Kairos and Moltex

cnl logoCanadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL announced this week that it has selected the first recipients of the Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI). This initiative seeks to accelerate the deployment of small modular reactors (SMR) in Canada by enabling research and development and connecting global vendors of SMR technology with the facilities and expertise within Canada’s national nuclear laboratories. 

CNRI recipients will be able to share technical expertise to advance the commercialization and deployment of SMR technologies.

“CNL has made significant progress over the past three years to position Canada as the hub for small modular reactor research, we have built up considerable expertise and knowledge in key technical areas that are common across SMR technologies,” commented Dr. Kathryn McCarthy, Vice-President of Science and Technology at CNL.

“CNRI allows CNL to respond directly and efficiently to the needs of industry by co-funding important R&D that accelerates deployment in an increasingly competitive commercial marketplace,” added Dr. Corey McDaniel, Chief Commercial Officer.

CNL received a strong response to the announcement of the initial intake, receiving applications from key players in the SMR industry in Canada and abroad. Submissions were accepted based on a list of designated focus areas, including market analysis, fuel development, reactor physics modelling, transportation, and others.

These CNRI projects, and others, were highlighted during the 7th SMR Vendor Roundtable held on November 19, 2019, at the ANS Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. It featured interactions from more than 30 reactor vendors included policymakers, regulators, customers, and national laboratories from around the world.

CNRI Applicants are required to match funds and in-kind contributions that will be made by CNL. The following projects have been selected for negotiations on the terms of cost sharing arrangements:

MOLTEX CANADA – Reactor developer Moltex Canada, along with the University of New Brunswick, seek to build and optimize a test apparatus to explore the potential of converting used CANDU power reactor fuel into a fuel form capable of powering their Stable Salt Reactor design. 

KAIROS-POWER – KAIROS-Power is proposing the development of a Tritium Management Strategy for its high-temperature fluoride salt-cooled reactor (KP-FHR) design. This CNRI project also includes early work to identify technologies to implement this strategy.   

ULTRASAFE NUCLEAR (USNC) – UltraSafe Nuclear Corporation is proposing work that seeks to resolve a broad array of technical questions in support of its Micro Modular Reactor (MMR). These include fuel processing, reactor safety, and fuel and graphite irradiation, among others.

TERRESTRIAL ENERGY – Terrestrial Energy Inc. will be evaluating the applicability of nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation technologies to the IMSR400 reactor and other SMR designs.  This work will look at opportunities to utilize CNL’s existing facilities, most notably the ZED-2 reactor, as well as develop new experimental capabilities related to molten salt reactors.

CNL clarified in a statement on its website, “CNL is not building, designing or selling an SMR. Yes, we would love to host such a project but we are not in the business of designing and building reactors.”

CNL said its goal is to  “enable an SMR vendor or developer to use a CNL-managed site. We would work closely with them, with a high likelihood of providing support on a commercial basis every step of the way.”

The next call for CNRI proposals is expected in early 2020.  For submission details, or to learn more about CNRI, please visit the CRNI home page . For more information on CNL’s small modular reactor program, please visit CNL’s home page for all of its SMR efforts.

A video accompanying this announcement is available: CNL’s 6th SMR Vendor Roundtable was held concurrent with Canada’s hosting of the Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) in Vancouver in May 2019. The video highlights the first time that small and advanced carbon-free nuclear energy was included in the CEM program.

France / Six New EPR Reactors Will Cost €46 Billion

NucNet   French state-controlled utility and nuclear operator EDF estimates it would cost at least €46bn to build six of its Generation III 1650 MWe EPR nuclear power reactors if the government decides to build them, French newspaper Le Monde reported last week.

Le Monde said the estimate was in a confidential document presented to the board of state-controlled EDF at the end of July.

Each 1,600-MW reactor would cost €7.5bn to €7.8bn, (€4700/Kw) ($5,170/kw) based on building the units in pairs with financing over about 20 years, Le Monde reported.

This would include additional line items such as “dismantling provisions” of €400m and provisions for “uncertainties” of €500m for each reactor, Le Monde said.  These numbers are unusually low. Either the newspaper got them wrong or someone at EDF is dreaming. 

The cost estimate is highly competitive relative to global trends and given EDF’s track record in Finland and France for the first two EPRs, would need significant verification to be credible.

At €7.5bn to €7.8bn the new units would still  cost more than four South Korean APR1400 units under construction at Barakah in the United Arab Emirates.  Estimates of the four units, of which three are still under construction, range from $20-24 billion or $5,000-$6,000/Kw or €4,550-€5460.

A May 2018 report by the UK-based Energy Technology Institute put the total capital cost of each Barakah unit at an average of $5bn, but noted that this was due partly to “a highly focused, deliberate and intentional program to drive down costs and drive up performance.”

This is  still much smaller amount than the estimated €12.4bn cost of the Flamanville-3 EPR under construction in northern France

The same report suggested that the total capital cost of Flamanville-3 will be €13.6bn. Flamanville-3 has been plagued by cost overruns and a series of technical problems resulting in years of delays.

Last month EDF chairman Jean-Bernard Lévy said it is clear that France is preparing to build new nuclear power plants and the best way to deliver them while bringing down costs is to build them in pairs.

France is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050 and “nobody thinks we can ensure this with an energy system only with renewables and storage. ”

According to Le Monde, Mr Lévy said plans to build new nuclear plants were “part of the mission” he was given when he was appointed five years ago.

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2 Responses to Battelle Energy Alliance / INL Seeks Partners for Versatile Test Reactor

  1. Pingback: Battelle Energy Alliance at INL Seeks Partners for Versatile Test Reactor - Neutron Bytes - Pro-Nuclear Power Blogs - Nuclear Street - Nuclear Power Plant News, Jobs, and Careers

  2. djysrv says:

    GE was tapped to do design work, based on PRISM for INL, in Nov 2018. Recall that PRISM is an update of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) which was built and operated at the Idaho site in the 1990s. So this is somewhat circular as the design is coming home so to speak. See my reports: here. *** https://neutronbytes.com/2018/11/13/ge-hitachi-tapped-for-design-work-on-advanced-test-reactor/ *** Also, GE has been working on design safety review with the NRC for PRISM since June 2017. https://neutronbytes.com/2017/06/06/nrc-license-to-be-sought-for-geh-prism-advanced-reactor/ *** In November 2011 from the ANS Winter Meting I reported that a technical analysis showed there were no show stoppers to pursuing a safety design review for the IFR. http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2011/11/02/hall-talk-licensing-the-integral-fast-reactor-design/#sthash.gblL4IMq.dpbs

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