DOE Awards UAMPS $1.355 Billion for NuScale SMR in Idaho

  • DOE Cost-share Award of $1.355 billion Approved for UAMPS NuScale SMR in Idaho
  • Framatome and General Atomics In Joint Effort to Build Fast SMR
  • Canadian Government Invests in SMR Commercialization Plan
  • Terrestrial Energy USA and Centrus Energy Partner on Fuel Supply for IMSR Generation IV Nuclear Plants
  • TerraPower To Work with Bechtel On Natrium Reactor Project
  • Bulgaria to Consider U.S. Technology for New Kozloduy Nuclear Reactor

DOE Cost-share Award of $1.355 billion
Approved for UAMPS NuScale SMR in Idaho

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has approved a multi-year cost-share award to a new special purpose entity named the Carbon Free Power Project, LLC (CFPP, LLC) for the development and construction of the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP)

nuscale SMR

Conceptual image of NuScale 50 MW SMR. Image: NuScale

It will built a 720 MWe NuScale small modular reactor power plant to be located at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory site. This award will serve as a funding vehicle to advance the CFPP as funds are appropriated by Congress.

The award demonstrates the importance of the CFPP, which will be the first NuScale small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) project in the United States.

CFPP LLC is wholly owned by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS).

The $1.355 billion award, allocated over 10 years, will fund the one-time costs for the first-of-a-kind project, as funds are appropriated by Congress, to reflect what second and subsequent NuScale plants would cost. This will help ensure that the levelized cost of energy target price of $55 MWh can be achieved at a level of risk UAMPS can manage.

That price makes the CFPP competitive with other non- intermittent dispatchable energy sources like combined cycle natural gas plants, but without greenhouse gas emissions. It will ensure long-term affordable energy to UAMPS member participants while avoiding exposure to greenhouse regulation and compliance costs.

The 12 small modular reactors in the project will provide the flexibility to ramp up and down as needed to follow load and complement intermittent renewable supply. The plan calls for construction of the 60 MW design which has not yet been approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  Earlier this year the 50 MW design completed its safety design review with the regulatory agency.

Energy from the project will replace electric generation from coal plants that are nearing the end of their life cycles. The CFPP, combined with UAMPS renewable projects, will enable many members to completely decarbonize their energy portfolios.

CFPP is a 720 MWe nuclear plant to be located at the Idaho National Laboratory near Idaho Falls, Idaho. It will be composed of 12 60 MWe nuclear power modules to be provided by NuScale Power based in Portland, Oregon. Electricity from the plant will be distributed to customers of 33 UAMPS member utilities in five states. Other western utilities are expected to join the project in the future.

“We appreciate this tremendous vote of confidence in CFPP by the Department of Energy,” said Douglas Hunter, UAMPS CEO & General Manager.

“It is entirely appropriate for DOE to help de-risk this first-of-a- kind, next-generation nuclear project. This is a great example of a partnership with DOE to lower the cost of introduction of transformative advanced nuclear technology that will provide affordable, carbon- free electricity all over the country and the world. This project is much bigger than UAMPS itself.”

Hunter said UAMPS members are especially supportive of the project because it will complement and enable additional intermittent renewable energy, especially wind and solar, that are being added to member energy portfolios.

“The ideal world for utility companies and their customers, and the most cost-effective,” said Hunter, “are portfolios containing a high percentage of low-cost renewables, backed up by stable, carbon-free nuclear energy that is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

The CFPP has received strong bipartisan support across several administrations and has broad support in the U.S. Congress. The SMR technology will help UAMPS’ participating member communities, states, and regions to meet their goals to de-carbonize the electrical grid.

About the Carbon Free Power Project

About UAMPS. Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems is an energy services interlocal agency of the State of Utah, established in 1980. As a project-based consortium, UAMPS provides a variety of power supply, transmission, and other services to its 47 members, which include public power utilities in six western states: Utah, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

Framatome and General Atomics
in Joint Effort to Build Fast SMR

framatome3-e1582621045657Framatome and General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) announced plans to collaborate on the development of GA-EMS helium-cooled 50-MWe fast modular reactor (FMR).

The joint effort will develop a reactor design that can be built in a factory and assembled on-site, which helps to reduce capital costs and enables incremental capacity additions.

Framatome’s U.S. engineering team will be responsible for designing several critical structures, systems and components for the FMR.  The firm is also a major supplier of nuclear fuels. It has teamed with General Atomics to produce accident tolerant fuels.

Only a few technical details or images of conceptual design features are available. The company issued a statement to the media this week regarding the technical innovations in the new project. So far no customer has been named by the collaboration for the first of a kind unit nor has it indicated yet how its supply chain will be set up.

A demonstration of the FMR, which will verify the design, manufacturing, construction and operation of the technology, is targeted for completion in the early 2030s. Commercial deployment is anticipated in the mid-2030s.

Key Design Elements

Load following – The FMR is being designed for enhanced safety and ease of operation with fast-response load following and overall high efficiency. It will offer stability for the electricity grid and reportedly be able respond to meet demand based on the wide variation in generation of electricity from renewable energy sources. The gas-cooled FMR uses inert helium gas as a coolant while eliminating the need for the graphite common in other helium-cooled designs.

No water required – Because the reactor is dry-cooled and uses virtually no water to operate, it can be sited at locations that can’t support light water reactors that require an external source of a significant supply of water for the steam and cooling system. The power conversion does not use complex steam generators and pressurizers, and the fuel will operate for approximately 9 years before requiring replacement.

This fact suggests the design will use HALEU type fuel with an enrichment level higher than 5% U235 but not higher than 19% U235. Other high temperature helium cooled reactor designs have favored using TRISO “pebbles” as fuel elements.  Some HTGR designs have used a molten salt loop to step down the heat to conventional levels and then to run a water based steam generator. This design appears to take the heat directly from the reactor.  See this briefing (PDF file) by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency on an HTGR that uses the Brayton cycle with a gas turbine.

Automatic controls – The direct helium Brayton cycle using a gas turbine will enable fast grid response, with up to a 20% per minute power ramping rate for load following, and high overall efficiency of 45% during normal operation. The automatic control of the reactor power and turbomachinery will keep the reactor at a constant temperature that mitigates thermal cycle fatigue associated with most load-following reactors.  Direct use of the helium coming out of the reactor vessel implies advanced materials to deal with the extreme heat at the outlet that could exceed 700 C.

“This collaboration builds on our long relationship with General Atomics with a shared interest in advancing nuclear energy technologies to create a cleaner world for generations to come,” said Bernard Fontana, CEO of Framatome.

“Designing and deploying a safe, cost-effective, modular reactor is critical in helping the world move closer towards a clean energy future,” stated Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS. “We look forward to leveraging our two companies’ decades of experience in advancing nuclear technology and demonstrating the next generation of commercially viable nuclear reactors.”

“We are pleased to work with GA-EMS to advance this innovative and promising reactor,” said Gary Mignogna, president and CEO of Framatome in North America. “The synergies between our teams make this an ideal project for demonstration and subsequent commercialization.”

This is a new effort by GA. The firm has been and may still be working on a GA’s Energy Multiplier Module (EM2).  The company’s statement about new effort makes no mention of it.

Prior work by GA on an Advanced SMR

The EM2 is a helium-cooled gas turbine fast reactor with a core outlet temperature of 850°C. It is designed as a modular, grid-capable power source with a net unit output of 265 MWe. The reactor employs a “convert and burn” core design which converts fertile isotopes to fissile and burns them in situ over a 30-year core life.  (IAEA ARIS status report)

The reactor is sited in a below-grade sealed containment and uses passive safety methods for heat removal and reactivity control to protect the integrity of the fuel, reactor vessel and containment. EM2 also employs a direct closed-cycle gas turbine power conversion unit for added efficiency.

Canadian Government Invests in SMR Commercialization Plan

(NucNet) The Canadian government took a step forward on its national small modular reactor (SMR) plan with an investment to help Terrestrial Energy, an Ontario company, move closer to commercializing its Generation IV reactor technology. A $15M investment will help with pre-licensing of SMR.

Canada’s innovation ministry said the CAD20M ($15.1M) investment will help Terrestrial Energy complete a pre-licensing milestone at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for its technology, which is part of an effort to bring next-generation nuclear energy to industry. The firm entered Phase II of the CNSC Vendor Design Review (VDR) process in December 2018. Completion of a VDR does not license a reactor . A VDR is a feedback mechanism that enables CNSC staff to provide feedback early in the design process based on a vendor’s reactor technology.

As part of the investment, the company has committed to creating and maintaining 186 jobs and creating 52 co-op positions nationally. In addition, Terrestrial Energy is spending at least another $91.5 million in research and development.

Throughout the two and a half year project, Terrestrial will engage with its Canadian nuclear supply chain, potentially creating over a thousand jobs nationally. It will also undertake gender equity and diversity initiatives, including increasing female representation in STEM fields.

This is the first investment from the government’s strategic innovation fund for an SMR. Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plant, according to the company, to be 50% more efficient than traditional reactors and suited for deployment in remote communities and industrial operations, including on-grid and off-grid power provision.


Conceptual image of Terrestrial Energy Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Design and Applications

The announcement comes just one week after Ontario Power Generation announced it will advance work with Terrestrial Energy and two other grid-scale SMR developers as part of the utility’s goal to deploy SMR technology.

Ontario-based Terrestrial Energy, established in 2013, is proposing to build a 195-MW IMSR at Chalk River in Canada. It wants to commission the first IMSR power plants in the late 2020s.

The company said IMSR plants can be built in four years and produce electricity or industrial heat at prices competitive with fossil fuels while emitting no greenhouse gases. They can provide energy for generating on-grid electric power and heat for industrial processes, such as hydrogen production, synthetic fuel production, natural resource extraction, and desalination.

“The Government of Canada supports the use of this innovative technology to help deliver cleaner energy sources and build on Canada’s global leadership in SMRs,” said Minister Bains.

“By helping to bring these small reactors to market, we are supporting significant environmental and economic benefits, including generating energy with reduced emissions, highly skilled-job creation and Canadian intellectual property development.”

“SMRs are a game-changing technology with the potential to play a critical role in fighting climate change, and rebuilding our post COVID-19 economy,” said Hon. Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Natural Resources.

Terrestrial Energy USA and Centrus Energy Partner
on Fuel Supply for IMSR Generation IV Nuclear Plants

centrrus logoTerrestrial Energy USA and Centrus Energy Corp. have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to secure fuel supply for a future fleet of Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plants.

The two companies will evaluate the logistical, regulatory, and transportation requirements to establish fuel supply for Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plants, which use standard-assay low-enriched uranium (LEU).

Standard-assay LEU has an enrichment level less than 5% U-235 and is the current industry standard for today’s commercial nuclear plants in the United States and worldwide. While employing Generation IV technology, IMSR power plants are designed to use standard-assay LEU fuel, and this provides important advantages for rapid commercial deployment.

Centrus Energy is a supplier of nuclear fuel and services to the nuclear power industry. In addition to uranium enrichment and standard-assay LEU supply, Centrus Energy has expertise in the design and licensing of packaging for nuclear fuel transportation. As part of a program to establish a supply chain for IMSR fuel, the companies will study the regulatory requirements for transportation from the fuel fabrication facility to the plant. They will also evaluate packaging options for fuel shipment.

“Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor technology can play a critical role in bringing affordable, reliable, carbon-free next-generation nuclear power to market, and we look forward to helping make that happen,” said Daniel B. Poneman, President and CEO of Centrus.

“Centrus Energy has global experience in fuel supply and transportation, and provides these important services for the safe and reliable operation of today’s nuclear power plants,” said Terrestrial Energy’s CEO, Simon Irish.

TerraPower To Work with Bechtel On Natrium Reactor Project

TerraPower, the US-based innovation company founded by Bill Gates, has selected US-based Bechtel as the design, licensing, procurement, and construction partner for building a demonstration plant for the Natrium reactor technology.

projmgt file imageThe move is part of the TerraPower-led proposal for the US Department of Energy’s advanced reactor demonstration program, which is intended to support the deployment of two first-of-a-kind advanced reactor designs in the next five to seven years.

Bechtel joins a team that also includes GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, PacifiCorp, Energy Northwest, and Duke Energy. Bechtel has designed, built, or provided services to 80 nuclear reactors in the United States and 150 worldwide, across all major reactor designs.

The Natrium system, unveiled in August, features an advanced, sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system based on those used in solar thermal generation.

The Natrium system features an advanced, sodium fast reactor along with an  molten salt energy storage system based on those used in solar thermal generation. The Natrium technology also separates nuclear and non-nuclear facilities and systems within the plant footprint, with the objective of simplifying the licensing process and lowering construction costs.

TerraPower said that breakthroughs in sodium fast reactor technology allow the Natrium reactor to operate at much higher temperatures and lower pressures than conventional nuclear reactors, with heat being also used for industrial processes or stored in molten salt.

Bulgaria to Consider U.S. Technology
for New Kozloduy Nuclear Reactor

(wire services) Bulgaria will consider using U.S. technology (Westinghouse?) for a new nuclear reactor it wants to build at the country’s 2,000 megawatt Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said this week. 

Borissov said the Balkan country was looking to diversify its nuclear energy assets and cut greenhouse emissions by building a new reactor based on modern technology that will work with U.S. commercial nuclear energy fuel for LWRs.

Bulgaria operates two Soviet-made nuclear reactors, Unit 5 and Unit 6, at its Kozloduy plant. For quite some time it has been seeking investors for its Belene project to build two 1,000 megawatt Russian nuclear reactors. (See WNA profile of Bulgaria’s nuclear energy program)

“We want to make Unit 7 with a completely different technology, with different nuclear fuel,” Borissov said in a post and video on his official Facebook account during a visit to the plant on the Danube River in northwestern Bulgaria.

Borissov’s statement comes days after a visit of U.S. top energy diplomat Frank Fannon to Sofia, who slammed the 10 billion euros ($11.8 billion) Belene project as being based on an outdated Russian technology that fails to advance Bulgaria’s energy security and locks its energy dependency to Russia.

NucNet reported that according to the BTA news agency, energy minister Temenuzhka Petkova told the Bulgarian parliament’s energy committee of the decision and said the rationale behind the move is the European Union’s policy of decarbonization and net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

She told Bulgarian television that the project for a new reactor at Kozloduy would not necessarily prevent the development of an existing project to build two Russian reactor units at a new site. Belene, about 160 km east of Kozloduy.

In the past several western nuclear reactor vendors have passed on taking on the role of EPC for a new build in Bulgaria due to problems with the stability of the government’s commitment and allegations of corruption in and outside of the government. For its part, Russia has regarded Bulgaria as a captive market and has sought to defend its place as a preferred developer of new nuclear plants in that country

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