Nuclear Energy Projects Move Ahead Despite Global Virus Threat

  • Canadian Partnership Announces SMR Fuel Research
  • Rolls-Royce and Turkey’s EUAS  Plan Joint SMR Construction Effort
  • NRC Issues Draft EIA For Holtec Spent Fuel Facility In New Mexico
  • Indonesia Dusts Off Plans for Nuclear Energy
  • IAEA Addresses Safety of Smart Devices in Nuclear Power Plants

Canadian Partnership Announces SMR Fuel Research

cnl2.logo(WNN) Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) has agreed to collaborate with USNC-Power, a subsidiary of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), on research in support of USNC’s Micro Modular Reactor(MMR). The project will include exploring the feasibility of siting a reactor component manufacturing facility for USNC’s fuel at CNL’s Chalk River campus.

The project, which is funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), will include research related to the manufacturing of USNC’s proprietary Fully Ceramic Microencapsulate (FCM) fuel, the design of an irradiation program for the reactor’s graphite core, and the establishment of a laboratory for fuel analysis at Chalk River.

It will also include the development of a multi-year testing program to support the validation of USNC’s fuel and core as they progress through the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s vendor design review process.

CNL President and CEO Mark Lesinski said the agreement with USNC-Power represented a step forward in pursuit of the organization’s goal of making the “next generation” of nuclear reactors a reality. ”

“Based on our ongoing dialogue with SMR vendors, it’s clear that there is a need for increased access to our expertise and facilities to support SMR research and development. The CNRI program is intended to fill this void.”

The MMR features a core of hexagonal graphite blocks containing stacks of FCM fuel TRISO type pellets, which USNC says has a low power density and a high heat capacity resulting in very slow and predictable temperature changes. The helium-cooled reactor is fueled once for its 20-year lifetime.

USNC CEO Francesco Venneri said the joint research will be “an important next step in validating our approach to SMR reactor and fuel design”.

The agreement with USNC is the first under the annual CNRI program, launched by CNL in 2019 to accelerate the deployment of SMRs in Canada by enabling R&D and connecting the SMR industry with the facilities and expertise within Canada’s national nuclear laboratories. The agreement includes CAD1.5 million (USD$1.1 million) of in-kind contributions from CNL for the project and will be completed by the spring of 2021.

CNL has identified SMRs as one of eight strategic initiatives it is pursuing as part of its long-term strategy, with the goal of siting an SMR by 2026. At present four proponents are engaged in a four-stage invitation process launched in in 2018 to evaluate the construction and operation of a demonstration SMR at a CNL site.

  • U-Battery Canada Ltd, with a design for a 4 MW high-temperature gas reactor;
  • StarCore Nuclear, with a proposed 14 MW high-temperature gas reactor; and
  • Terrestrial Energy, with a 190 MW integral molten salt reactor, have all completed the first stage of the process.
  • Global First Power, with a proposal for a 5 MW MMR supported by USNC and Ontario Power Generation, has completed the first two stages and begun the third stage.

Rolls-Royce and Turkey’s EUAS  Plan Joint SMR Construction Effort

rolls royve logo(NucNet) The companies plan to look at market potential for small modular nuclear plant.

Rolls-Royce and Turkey’s state-owned electricity generation company EUAS have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to carry out a study to evaluate the possibility of building small modular reactors in Turkey.

Rolls-Royce said the two companies would evaluate the technical, economical and legal aspects of SMR construction. They will also look into the joint production of SMRs. Rolls Royce has recently rolled out plans for a 440 MW PWR, but SMRs are usually considered to have power ratings of 300MW or less.

The agreement, which Rolls-Royce has signed in its role as a member of a consortium designing an SMR, said the agreement commits to a study that will look at market potential for the plant in Turkey and for global markets.

EUAS chief executive officer Yahya Yılmaz Bayraktarlı said Turkey wants to diversify electricity resources with nuclear power. His cautious statement may indicate that the MOU is the first step in a long journey to a deal.

“The feasibility of small modular reactors is a research and development issue we continuously monitor.”

The consortium which is designing the power station comprises Rolls-Royce, Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Jacobs, The Welding Institute and Nuclear AMRC.

Components for the Rolls-Royce SMR would be manufactured in standardized sections in factories, before being transported to sites for rapid assembly inside a weatherproof canopy. The result is lower upfront costs, and a faster, predictable construction and commissioning periods

Status of Turkey’s Commercial Nuclear Program

Turkey has begun construction of its first commercial nuclear station at Akkuyu. It will have four Russian Generation III+ 1,200-MW VVER units, with the first expected to come online in 2023 and a further unit starting every year afterwards.

Rosatom, the Russian export agency funding the project, has been seeking investors for Turkey’s 50% share of the project. So far several potential deals have fallen through.

A second site proposed for the Sinop site on Turkey’s Black Sea Coast was abandoned by its Japanese investors in December 2018.  According to a Reuters report, escalating costs, and the unproven nature of the 1100 MW ATMEA PWR, were the reasons for the decision.

Plans for a third site remain in the talking stage although a general location has been selected by Turkey’s energy ministry.  The Igneada site is located on Turkey’s Kirklareli Peninsula about 12 miles from the border with Bulgaria. China is reported to be proposing to build two CAP1400 PWRs there, but little progress has been made on the project since it was announced four years ago.

NRC Issues Draft EIA For Holtec Spent Fuel Facility

(NucNet) Holtec International is planning to build an underground fuel storage facility called Hi-Store in southeastern New Mexico. Holtec International and its partner, the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance (ELEA), decided to establish the facility on land owned by ELEA in 2015.

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a draft environmental impact statement for a proposed consolidated interim storage facility in New Mexico.

The draft statement includes the NRC staff’s preliminary recommendation that there are no environmental impacts that would preclude the NRC from issuing a license for environmental reasons.

Holtec said the Hi-Store project will provide a significant step on the path to the federal government’s long-standing obligation for disposition of used nuclear fuel by providing a centralised facility for storage of used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste until such time that a permanent solution is available.

The initial application for the Hi-Store facility includes storage of up to 8,680 tonnes of uranium in commercial used fuel (500 canisters) with future amendments for up to 10,000 storage canisters total.

Holtec said the US has more than 80,000 tonnes of used nuclear fuel in storage and more is being generated at a rate of 2,000 tonnes a year.

In a separate effort, Interim Storage Partners, which is developing a similar site in Andrews, TX, says on its website it expects an NRC license for it in 2021.

Indonesia Dusts Off Plans for Nuclear Energy

(Wire Service Reports) According to trade press and English language media in Indonesia, the country is said to be considering updating its plans to building one or more nuclear energy power plants.  Over the years several vendors have approached the government with proposals, but so far no commitments have been made.

State utility Perusahaan Listrik Negara and US nuclear energy startup ThorCon International reportedly planned a preliminary study for the $1.2 billion development of a 500 MW reactor that uses thorium rather than uranium.  Russia has also proposed to build 1000 MW VVER type reactors and China has proposed a high temperature gas cooled reactor with a power rating of approximately 250 MW.

Recently, Indonesia’s parliament has begun consideration of a bill has omnibus bill to encourage private sector investment in nuclear energy. According to media reports the legislation has the support of Indonesia President Joko Widodo.

The legislation loosens requirements for the private sector to pursue nuclear power projects especially in the area of getting permits from the government.

IAEA Addresses Safety of Smart Devices in Nuclear Power Plants

(WNN) The safety of smart digital devices used in nuclear power plants – some of which were not initially designed for nuclear-related purposes – was discussed last month at a meeting in Vienna organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The objective of the meeting was to establish guidance on the selection and evaluation of smart devices to be used in systems important to the safety of power plants.

Smart digital devices such as smart sensor transmitters, electrical protective devices, and variable speed drives, are increasingly used at many nuclear power plants. Old and obsolete equipment in power plants is often replaced with smart devices

These devices are connected to other devices or networks via different communication protocols and are able to operate to some extent interactively and autonomously. This can include devices with artificial intelligence software.

However, the nuclear market is too small for the development of customized smart devices specifically for power plants. Adaptation is key. Operators are turning to devices initially developed for other market segments and certified by non-nuclear authorities. The result is that they may require extra reviews to be used for nuclear power plants.

“Smart devices can be used in equipment or systems to increase nuclear power plant safety and reliability, enhance safe operation or improve various functions,” said Alexander Duchac, nuclear safety officer at the IAEA.

“However, if not properly selected and qualified, they may potentially introduce new hazards, vulnerabilities, and failure modes. It’s a potential issue for both operating and new nuclear power reactors.”

However, regulators do not normally have access to the design information of equipment to make an informed decision on the devices’ safety.

The equipment qualification is very often almost impossible without cooperation from the vendor, who tends to protect the intellectual property of commercial development processes. Moreover, operators often lack guidance on how to provide sufficient information to the regulator under such circumstances

The IAEA plans to produce its first safety report on the use of smart devices, which will be published later this year. The report intends to provide a common technical basis for all countries. It will contain a model of how to design, select and evaluate candidate smart devices for their safe use in nuclear safety systems, including instrumentation and control, electrical, mechanical and other areas.

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