Big News for Nuclear Energy in Small Packages

  • Netherlands Looks to SMRs for Green Energy Policy
  • Finland SMR Project Aims to Build Them for District Heating and Export
  • Micro-Reactor Startup Radiant Raises $1.2M in Angel Funding
  • X-energy Signs Agreement with Hatch to Promote Canadian SMR Development

Other Nuclear News

  • Japan / Regulator Says Tepco is Ready To Operate Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station
  • Energy Department Green Lights Critical Decision 1 for Versatile Test Reactor Project
  • NJ PSEG to Close Fossil Plants, Keep Nuclear Reactors
  • Brazil’s Eletronuclear Sets Plans for Restart of Construction on Angra 3 Nuclear Plant in 2022

Netherlands Looks to SMRs for Green Energy Policy

runaway-costs.jpgDutch minister for economic affairs and climate Eric Wiebes said this week in a report to the nation’s parliament that small modular reactors “are expected to resolve the biggest obstacle for large nuclear power plants: long construction periods causing high prices for the installed capacity.”

The Netherlands is launching a public consultation whether to build up to 10 nuclear power plants after a study commissioned by the Ministry of Economics found that nuclear energy would be as cheap as wind or solar power. The report by nuclear consultancy Enco backs the addition of nuclear capacity.   (PDF file)

The firm ENCO is a Vienna-based engineering and management consultancy, established in 1994 by former officers of the International Atomic Energy Agency and other nuclear specialists.

The report did not reference a specific vendor’s SMR noting that according to the IAEA there are more than 50 SMRs design under development. To that point the government included this finding in report on the role of nuclear energy in its future energy policy.

According to English language European Union trade press reports, Wiebes said that the report considers the cost of nuclear to be comparable to wind and solar when including all system costs.

“A levelized cost of electricity for a new nuclear plant in the Netherlands (in 2040) might be expected to be €72/MWh [$84/MWh]. This cost is 40% higher than the equivalent cost, for example, with offshore wind.”

“An important qualification is that in this figure the system costs are not taken into consideration. Because nuclear power is a dispatchable electricity source and wind and solar are not, the system costs for nuclear power are lower than for the other two.

With this system cost correction, the levelized cost for new nuclear is €74/MWh [$86/MWh], compared to offshore wind 85€/MWh [$99/MWh].”


Mark Harbers, a VVD MP, told the Dutch news site AD: “We will not be able to achieve the climate goals by 2050 with only solar and wind energy. I don’t want a messy landscape, filled with windmills and solar meadows.”

He added, “And I don’t want to become dependent on gas from Russia. You have to take steps now to be able to open a nuclear power plant after 2030. Nuclear energy is simply desperately needed.”

Harbers said in his statement to parliament that between three and 10 reactors are needed.

“It would be nice if the first shovel would go into the ground around 2025, so that the first power plant could be opened in the 2030s.”

Currently, the Netherlands has one nuclear power station, a 485MW facility in Borssele.

Finland SMR Project Aims to Build Them
for District Heating and Export

A two-year EcoSMR (Finnish Ecosystem for Small Modular Reactors) project, which began in August 2020 and is funded by Business Finland, brings together Finnish actors to develop business around the possibilities of small reactors.”  (Press Release)

“The project supports Finnish industry to create an international innovation and business ecosystem that understands customer needs and the potential of Finnish technological know-how in the global energy market,” said Ville Tulkki, VTT’s responsible director for the project.


Conceptual drawing of a Finnish SMR to be used for district heating. Image: WNA

The project analyses the requirements, licensing and business of nuclear energy technology and supports their development to meet market needs. Networks of actors, activating joint innovation activities and getting to know customers and their real needs are the key ways of working on the project. The project will also investigate the piloting of technology in Finland, as the domestic reference is an important accelerator of knowledge exports.

VTT and LUT University are responsible for the research of the EcoSMR project. There are currently nine business partners in the project.

Fortum, Teollisuuden Voima Oyj and Refinec have launched their own product development projects, which package know-how into products and services for sale.

In its business project financed by Business Finland, Fortum Power and Heat Oy are developing the export operations and production of nuclear district heating. Other business partners include: Helen Oy, Vantaan Energia Oy, Clenercon Oy, Environmental research and assessment EnviroCase Oy, and Rock Design Ltd Rockplan Ltd.

“We see small nuclear power as a significant part of the future of nuclear power. We consider it important that small nuclear power technology and export opportunities for high-quality Finnish nuclear power expertise are developed in Finland. We want to be involved in a national project to develop our expertise and business,” said Eero Vesaoja, Fortum’s head of Nuclear Research and Development

The EcoSMR project will also investigate boundary conditions for the use of a nuclear power plant for district heating. In Central and Eastern Europe, for example, district heating is also widely used, which requires a low-emission energy source.

Research Professor for Reactor Safety Jaakko Leppänen from VTT describes the advantages of a dedicated district heating reactor as follows:

“The safety design of traditional second-generation pressurized and boiling water reactors is based on active systems with high level of redundancy. The complex technology is inevitably reflected in the construction costs. Innovative new reactor concepts rely on passive safety, such as heat removal by natural circulation. The low operating temperature and pressure in district heating reactors enables implementing these passive safety features using very simple technology.”

See also World Nuclear News Finnish regulator prepares for SMR licensing

Micro-Reactor Startup Radiant Raises $1.2M in Angel Funding

radiant logoRadiant, a nuclear energy startup, said it has raised $1.2 million from angel investors including Charlie Songhurst, Hank Vigil, Josh Manchester and Tom McInerney.

The firm says it is working on a 1 MW reactor design what the company calls a “clean energy alternative to fossil fuels for military and commercial applications.”

“The innovative and ambitious team at Radiant has expertise from SpaceX as well as impressive nuclear industry credentials,” said investor Tom McInerney.

Radiant will use the funds – a combination of cash and cost-share commitments – to continue development of its low-cost, portable nuclear microreactors that provide an alternative to fossil fuels for both military and commercial applications.

The company also announced that it has just received two provisional patents for its portable nuclear reactors. One of these technological advances decreases the cost and time needed for refueling the reactor, and the other enables greater efficiency in heat transport from the reactor core.

Radiant and Battelle Energy Alliance, the contractor that manages operations at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), recently signed a MOU seeking collaboration for development and testing of this technology.

“The National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) looks forward to working with Radiant to test its portable nuclear microreactor at Idaho National Laboratory. It’s part of our mission to empower innovators, and deliver successful outcomes. This is an opportunity to innovate in ways that bring a cleaner energy future,” said Dr. Ashley Finan, Director of NRIC at INL.

Rationale for the Design

Radiant founder Doug Bernauer is a former SpaceX engineer, who while at SpaceX researched energy sources for an eventual Mars colony. Bernauer felt nuclear microreactors held the most promise but realized there was an immediate opportunity for microreactors on Earth, and left SpaceX to found Radiant.

According to Bernauer, there are many remote locations around the world that require portable power such as arctic villages and remote military bases. These locations currently rely on fossil fuel-powered generators, which is not only bad for the environment, but also challenging logistically, because generators require constant shipments of fuel over rural roads.

In the military, transporting fuel can be dangerous: according to an October 2018 U.S. Army report titled, “Mobile Nuclear Power Plants For Ground Operations,” (PDF file) about half of the 36,000 casualties in the nine-year period during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom2 occurred from hostile attacks during land transport missions.

Design Elements

Radiant’s microreactor outputs over 1MW, enough to power about 1,000 homes continuously for up to eight years, while several microreactors could be used together to power an entire town or military base. The microreactor is designed to fit in a shipping container and can be easily transported by air, ship, and road.

Radiant’s microreactor design leverages TRISO type fuel that does not melt down and withstands higher temperatures when compared to traditional nuclear fuels. The use of helium coolant greatly reduces corrosion, boiling, and contamination risks associated with more traditional water coolant.

X-energy Signs Agreement with Hatch
to Promote Canadian SMR Development

X-energy, the US developer of its HTGR type Xe-100 small modular reactor (SMR) design for deployment in Canada has signed a collaboration agreement for engineering and project management with Hatch Ltd for projects in Canada and globally. (Press Release)

“With this agreement, X-energy and Hatch will work together to create a clean energy future here in Canada and worldwide,” said Katherine Moshonas Cole, X-energy’s Canada country manager.

“The Xe-100 design can be a catalyst for building a Canadian SMR industry that will provide global leadership in achieving this goal,” says Moshonas Cole.


X-Energy conceptual image of its HTGR design. Image: X-Energy file

Hatch is a global engineering and project management firm founded in Ontario (Canada) 65 years ago. As part of the agreement, Hatch will provide technical services to assist X-energy in advancing the design for the Xe-100 SMR, as well as associated engineering required for site-specific infrastructure planning for potential projects in Canada, the United States and for global export.

X-energy entered the Canadian market in 2019. In 2020 X-energy initiated a combined Phase 1 and 2 Vendor Design Review (VDR) of the Xe-100 with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The Xe-100 is an 80MWe (scalable to a 320 MWe four-pack) SMR design that can serve several purposes for both electric and non-electric power:

It can be integrated into large, regional electricity systems as a base and load-following source of low-carbon power that will optimize use of low-emission, intermittent renewables and other clean power.

It can provide an all-in-one solution for self-sufficiency in remote communities, providing electricity as well as other power applications including district heating and water desalination. The Xe-100 is also intended for infrastructure development including hydrogen production, mining and other remote-site projects

Japan / Regulator Says Tepco is Ready To Operate
Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station

(NucNet)  Japan’s nuclear regulator announced on September 23 that Tokyo Electric Power Company is ready to operate the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station, based on new legally binding safety rules the company drafted and pledged to follow. It is the world’s largest nuclear power station.

Local governments must agree in the coming months to restart the seven-unit station in Niigata Prefecture, northwestern Japan. Local opposition to restart of any of the reactors runs high due to mishandled public information by TEPCO about fires and radioactive waste management at the site.  Bashing TEPCO is a long standing plank in the platform of local elected officials seeking approval from voters.

Kashiwazaki Kariwa was not affected by the earthquake and tsunami which damaged Fukushima-Daiichi in 2011. The station’s reactors were all offline at the time following a 2007 earthquake.

Tepco said in June it was concentrating its resources on restarting the newer Units 6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki Kariwa while it also dealt with the cleanup at Fukushima-Daiichi. Units 6 and 7 originally began commercial operation in 1996 and 1997 respectively.

tt seven

The seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant

In 2017, the regulator cleared Units 6 and 7 for restart under new regulations established in 2013 in response to Fukushima-Daiichi. It also scrutinized Tepco’s ability to run the station safely.

Tepco has not announced specific plans on what it intends to do with the older five reactors at the facility.

Energy Department Green Lights Critical Decision 1
for Versatile Test Reactor Project

greenlight_thumb.jpgThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week it has approved Critical Decision 1 for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project, a one-of-a-kind scientific user facility that would support research and development of innovative nuclear energy and other technologies.

Critical Decision 1, known as “Approve Alternative Selection and Cost Range,” is the second step in the formal process DOE uses to review and manage research infrastructure projects. As part of Critical Decision 1, federal committees reviewed the conceptual design, schedule, and cost range, and analyzed potential alternatives.

The VTR project now moves to the engineering design phase as soon as Congress appropriates funding. DOE has requested $295 million for FY 2021 for the project. Congress is likely to pass a continuing resolution for FY2021 by September 30, and an omnibus appropriation bill during a so-called “lame duck” session in December. The final funding level for the VTR in the coming fiscal year will be set in the Omnibus Bill.

Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said the approval of Critical Decision 1 represents a significant step toward re-establishing the United States as a global leader in nuclear energy research, safety and security, and developing new technologies that will help supply the world with low-carbon energy.

“The Versatile Test Reactor addresses a long-standing gap in research infrastructure in the United States,” Brouillette said.

“We have not had a fast neutron spectrum test facility for decades. Many of the new reactor designs under development by in the United States require this sort of long-term testing capability. Not only will VTR support the research and development of much-needed clean energy technologies, but it is key to revitalizing our nuclear industry, which has long been the model for safe operations and security for the world.”

DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy established the VTR program in 2018 in response to reports outlining the need for a fast spectrum test reactor and requests from U.S. companies developing advanced reactors.

Many of the new designs require different testing capabilities than the existing testing infrastructure that supports today’s nuclear energy technologies. Since then, a team of experts from six national laboratories, 19 universities and nine industry partners have been developing a design, cost estimate, and schedule for VTR.

VTR will generate neutrons at higher speeds and higher concentrations than existing test infrastructure. It will provide leading edge capability for accelerated testing of advanced nuclear fuels, materials, instrumentation, and sensors.

“The approval of Critical Decision 1 establishes a solid foundation upon which the design phase can begin,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, Assistant Secretary for DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

“We have repeatedly heard from industry and other stakeholders that the United States needs a fast neutron scientific user facility to maintain our global leadership in nuclear energy. This decision puts us firmly on the path toward achieving that goal.”

The Department will make a final decision on the design, technology selection and location for VTR following the completion of the EIS and Record of Decision, which is expected in late 2021. The cost of the reactor is estimated to be in the range of $3-6 billion.

See also prior coverage on this blogVersatile Test Reactor

NJ PSEG to Close Fossil Plants, Keep Nuclear Reactors

(Reuters) PSEG New Jersey wants all of its electricity to come from non carbon emitting sources, like renewables and nuclear, by 2050. PSEG said that it expects to sell its non-nuclear generating plants in 2021 including 6,700 megawatts (MW) of fossil-fired generation in New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and Maryland, and over 400 MW of solar power in various states.  (List of power plants in NJ)

PSEG CEO Ralph Izzo said the investment will also drive “significant progress” toward achieving New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy’s clean energy agenda by avoiding 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) through 2050.

“Our CO2 emissions (from power plants) are going to drop to zero by the end of 2021 as we exit the fossil generation business,” Izzo said.

He told the wire service that the only big power plants the company plans to keep are the nuclear reactors, which produce about 90% of the New Jersey’s carbon-free energy.

New Jersey regulators also approved Public Service Electric and Gas Co’s (PSE&G) plan to invest $1 billion on energy efficiency programs over the next three years.

Izzo told Reuters its near term energy investments would cut customer bills by about $1 billion and stimulate economic growth by creating up to 4,300 jobs that will help the state recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brazil’s Eletronuclear Sets Plans for Restart
of Construction on Angra 3 Nuclear Plant in 2022

Brazil’s state-owned Eletronuclear and development bank BNDES are working on the complete restructuring of the Angra 3 1405 MW nuclear power project. The goal is to update financing and hire an EPC to resume construction as of the second half of 2022, the mines and energy ministry (MME) told BNamericas.

The resources are being assembled under Electrobras’ investment plan, while financing for the construction is being arranged with BNDES through a restructuring of the current debt and a new loan.

After construction was halted in the 1980s, the Angra 3 project resumed in 2008 but was interrupted again in 2015 when corruption scandals brought work to a halt.

According to the national energy plan which runs out to 2050, Brazil has the potential to add up to 10GW of new nuclear power capacity, besides Angra 1 (640MW), 2 (1,350MW) and 3 (1,405MW). Angra 1 and 2 are already operating. (Profile: Angra Power Plant)


Angra III Construction Site as of 2015. Image: Wikipedia Commons

The government defends growth of nuclear power on the grounds that it provides continuous, dispatchable energy that does not produce greenhouse gases.

“This base generation will bring the necessary stability to enable the electric power system to receive growing volumes of energy from intermittent renewable sources, like solar and wind,” according to the government.

Earlier in the week, mines and energy minister Bento Albuquerque highlighted the role of nuclear power in the energy transition process during a speech at the IAEA Scientific Forum 2020 in Vienna.

“The future is clear: hybrid energy systems that combine nuclear technologies with intermittent renewable sources, both for electric power generation and industrial heating,” he said.

See also coverage on this blogBrazil Seeks Private Investment from US for SMRs

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