One Hit, One Strike Out, and a Base on Balls


  • Argentina Positions a 25 MW SMR for Export
  • No Deal for Westinghouse with India
  • GEH Sets Progress on BWRX-300 Vendor Design Review with CNSC
  • First Open-Source Blueprint for Nuclear Plant Design

Argentina Positions a 25 MW SMR for Export

Argentina says it has plans to sell its 25 MW small modular reactor to Indonesia. In an unexpected development the country’s National Atomic Energy Commission announced this month that work on the first of a kind unit would be finished by the end of next year and offered for export to Indonesia. In addition to the 25 MW design, Argentina is said to have ambitions for 100 MW and 300 MW versions for export.

The local report, cited by long time nuclear industry analyst Arnaud Lefevre at NBN Media, does not include an expression of interest from Indonesia which has had serious talks, but no deals,  with several options for nuclear power including a a molten salt reactor from U.S. based Thorcon and a conventional 1000 MW VVER from Rosatom.

Barriers to making a commitment by the Indonesian government include hesitations about having the capacity to regulate the safety of the plans, financing and costs, and the risks of damage to reactors from earthquakes which are common among the many islands that make up the south pacific nation.

Progress on the CAREM reactor has been an on again/off again affair based on the available funding.   Work began in 2013, but the project’s private sector developer went bankrupt in 2014 and it wasn’t until 2019 that restructuring of the project was done. The restart of funded work, and an official objective of a completion date within the next 12 months, could put Argentina in the market with a viable product.

Profile of the CAREM SMR

CAREM (Spanish: Central Argentina de Elementos Modulares) is a small modular reactor for electrical power generation currently under construction near the city of Zárate, in the northern part of Buenos Aires province next to the Atucha I Nuclear Power Plant.

The reactor was designed by CNEA (National Atomic Energy Commission). It is a simplified pressurized water reactor (PWR) designed to have an electrical output of 25MW for the first prototype,

It is an integral reactor – the coolant system is inside the reactor vessel – so that the entire plant operates at the same pressure. This design minimizes the risk of loss-of-coolant accidents (LOCA).

Its fuel is uranium oxide with an enrichment  level of of 3.4% U235 with a 12 month refueling cycle. The primary coolant system uses natural circulation, so there are no pumps required, which provides inherent safety against core meltdown, even in accident situations.

No Deal for Westinghouse with India

After a monumental public relations campaign centered on President Trump’s visit to India on late February that touted the possibility of finally inking a deal for six 1150 MW AP1000s to be built there, the company came away empty handed one again.

The outcome was utterly predictable despite the fact that the U.S. sent a high powered team of officials from the Departments of Energy, Commerce, as well as representatives from Westinghouse and an industry trade group to push for closure on the deal which has been pending for at least a decade.

The primary reason there was no deal, and slim likelihood of getting one, is that India has continued to dig in its heels on its supplier liability law which sets open ended liability for reactor vendors in the case of an accident rather than laying the blame on the operator once a plant has entered revenue service.

After international protests over the policy by the U.S. and France, India offered a modest insurance pool to cover the costs of an accident, but no one, including NPCIL, thinks it is enough. France also has a nuclear reactor deal stuck in the same policy pothole for six 1600 MW reactors.

India’s Supplier liability law serves two useful purposes for country.  First, preserves the Indian nuclear market for Indian firms. The country has seven 700 MW PHWRs under construction with plans for 10 more.  All of them are being built by Indian heavy industry firms. The CANDU type designs do not require the large forgings of PWRs which means that the entire supply chain for all components can be supported by Indian firms and their workers.

Second, India has limited resources to build the nuclear generation capacity it wants to replace coal burning power plants.  Russia has offered favorable terms for the two 1000 MW reactors its built at Kudankulam, the two similar units that that are under construction there, and the two more than are planned for that site.

NPCIL has balked at the cost, and presumably the financial terms, associated with EDF’s offer for the six 1600 MW units slated for Jaitapur. At an estimated $6,500/Kw, the units would be competing for funds slated for the PHWRs NPCIL is building at less than half that cost per KW. In other words, NPCIL can build two 700 MW PHWRs, or 1400 MW of electrical power, for less than the price of one EDF EPR. Plus, all of the value of the supply chain to build the reactors, all 17 of them, will be captured by Indian firms.

While it isn’t known what financial terms Westinghouse is offering for its six 1150 MW AP1000s, the firm emerged from bankruptcy caused by the failed V C Summer project in South Carolina and was purchased from Toshiba by a private equity firm. These types of firms, who’s investors include the world’s major sovereign wealth funds,  are not interested in bargain basement pricing for major energy deals.

Lastly, the Economics Times in India reports that negotiations also got hung up on India’s demand that the AP1000s offered by Westinghouse be based on the four units the firm completed in China rather than the U.S. version. The reason is the aforementioned V C Summer project which tied itself up in knots over supply chain issues before going down the tubes due to general mismanagement.  Since then the SEC has filed a civil lawsuit against SCANA and several of its top executives alleging they lied to the public about problems associated with the construction of the twin Westinghouse reactors.

There has been some chatter in the Indian press that maybe India could generate export sales of SMRs to Africa. but where the reactors might come from is a mystery.

Rosatom said it might be interested in that business, but its SMR work is mostly back in the R&D section of the technology “S” curve except for a giant floating barge with two prototypes on it. So it’s not clear what the state owned enterprise has to offer. According to a January 2019 report in Nuclear Engineering Magazine, Roastom has six designs in various stages of development, but none are near term prospects for off-the-shelf installations in Africa by India, Rosatom, or anyone else.

Neither India, France, nor Westinghouse have a viable ready for export small modular reactor that would less costly on a per KW basis than a full size plant even if it is based on conventional light water reactor design principles and relatively easy to build.

GEH Sets Progress On BWRX-300 Vendor Design Review with CNSC

(NucNet) A bright spot in the nuclear world is that US-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has submitted the first documents for its BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) design to the vendor design review (VDR) process of the Canadian nuclear regulator.

The statement said the documentation to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is for the combined phase 1 and 2 of the review and addresses eight of the 19 VDR focus areas, including general plant description, control system and facilities, research and development, and design process. By combining the first two stages, the overall process gets to to the finish line faster.

In May 2019, GEH initiated the VDR in Canada for the BWRX-300. The review will focus on identifying issues that could become fundamental barriers in a licensing process for a possible new-build project in Canada.

GEH said the VDR is an optional service by the CNSC to provide early feedback during the design process. The objective is to verify whether a plant design meets Canadian nuclear regulatory requirements at a pre-licensing stage.

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.

The company said it believes that the BWRX-300 can become cost-competitive with power generation from combined cycle gas and renewables.

GEE has also begun preliminary work on the regulatory licensing process for the SMR with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The firm says it plans to be able to offer the reactor for sale by 2028.

First Open-Source Blueprint for Nuclear Plant Design

(NucNet) A US-based organization has unveiled the world’s first open-source blueprint for the design, construction and financing of a nuclear power plant. The online platform serves as a repository for engineering schematics, construction schedules and financial models.

OPEN100 is intended to serve as a foundation for new power plant construction, offering developers a web interface to visualize plant and component design, costs studies, and construction plans.

The open-source format will allow startups, engineering firms, global utilities, and capital markets to align around a common framework.

The Energy Impact Center (EIC), founded in 2017 by robotics expert and podcast emcee Bret Kugelmass, said his organization has determined that the most viable option for tackling climate change was “an extraordinary expansion of nuclear energy.”

Its open source reactor design is based on a standard 100 MW pressurized water reactor. Kugelmass told this blog via email that the design is not based on the South Korean SMART reactor, which is a 100 MW design offered for export by that country.

Despite publishing pages of computer aided design images and engineering models on its website, it isn’t clear how many advanced safety features and other unified elements like steam generators are incorporated in it  Kugelmass said in his email that the design is more closely aligned with GEN II type PWRs to keep things simple and costs under control.

Kugelmass claims that the 100-MW unit, which needs a very small site and could be built in urban areas, would have a construction time of 1.5 to 2 years and an overnight cost of $300M or $3,000/Kw.  That’s an extraordinary claim as most other SMRs, e.g, designs being developed with electrical power ratings of 100-300MW, have estimates of costs in the range of $4,000/Kw +/- $500/Kw.

Mr Kugelmass asserted that the OPEN100 open source project will “radically change the way we deploy nuclear power plants, offering a substantially less expensive and less complicated solution.”

Mr Kugelmass said that for the past 50 years, rising costs and delays associated with overly complicated and proprietary designs have severely limited the deployment of nuclear power around the world. He says his approach will fix this problem.

Kugelmass told Venturebeat Magazine on 2/25/20 that he had raised $3 million so far to spin-out, Last Energy, a for-profit entity to connect private capital with international energy development opportunities.

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3 Responses to One Hit, One Strike Out, and a Base on Balls

  1. Pingback: One Hit, One Strike Out, and a Base on Balls - Neutron Bytes - Pro-Nuclear Power Blogs - Nuclear Street - Nuclear Power Plant News, Jobs, and Careers

  2. jimgreen3 says:

    Dan – you’re usually a voice of reason and moderation amongst nuclear advocates – could you please get back to that? CAREM is years/decades behind schedule, The early estimate of US$1M/MW has jumped to a wildly uneconomic US$23M/MW. So Argentina COULD establish an export market … but we both know it won’t.


    • djysrv says:

      We’ll know soon enough whether Argentina is up to the task of building a economically competitive SMR. The developer has set an objective of completing the 1st of a kind unit by the end of 2021. And the article contains a number of caveats not the least of which is where is the expression of interesting from Indonesia which Argentina says is a potential customer.


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