IAEA – Key to the Future of Nuclear Energy is Cogeneration

  • IAEA – Key to the Future of Nuclear Energy is Cogeneration and Renewables
  • Royal Society / UK Report Highlights the Potential Of Nuclear Cogeneration
  • DOE Inks New Deal with NASA for Nuclear Energy in Space
  • Ultra Safe N Delivers Advanced Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Design To NASA
  • Synthos Green Energy in Talks with Polish Nuclear Regulator for BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor
  • US / Poland Ink Agreement on Nuclear Energy
  • Bulgaria Signs Nuclear Co-operation MOU with US
  • Kenya’s Nuclear Energy Plan Delayed Past 2030

IAEA – Key to the Future of Nuclear Energy is Cogeneration and Renewables

(NucNet) Cogeneration and flexibility are key to energy systems of future.  The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)  is looking at hybrid energy systems combining nuclear cogeneration and renewables and working on the idea of “nuclear beyond electricity,” IAEA director-general Rafael Grossi said this week.

Mr Grossi told a webinar organized in conjunction with the Nuclear Energy Agency that using nuclear reactors to do more than generate baseload electricity will be key to decarbonizing industries that rely heavily on fossil fuels.

Nuclear “cogeneration” is an operation where the heat generated by a nuclear power plant is used not only to generate electricity, but also to address some of the difficult to decarbonize energy demands such as domestic heating and hydrogen production. It enables a nuclear plant to be used more flexibly, by switching between electricity generation and cogeneration applications.

A recent Royal Society report (report below) in the UK explores the additional uses of nuclear energy beyond electricity, including high temperature heat to fuel processes directly, such as chemical synthesis, or low temperature heat for district heating.

It considers how a nuclear plant can be used flexibly, switching from the production of electricity when needed to another application when electricity demand is low or when renewables are putting power into the regional grid. Cogeneration capabilities would allow nuclear energy to collaborate on the grid with intermittent renewable generation.

Nuclear Energy is “On the Table” to Deal with Climate Change

Mr Grossi said climate change is making it “more and more difficult” to take a technology like nuclear off the table when it comes to the debate about future energy systems and the transition towards zero-carbon economies.

Mr Grossi said making a serious economic case for a decarbonized economy while at the same time excluding nuclear energy is “not an honest debate, it is ideological.”

“All rational solutions to the climate change issue include nuclear. It has a place at the table so let’s hear what we have to say.”

Nuclear Energy and Climate Change

Mr Grossi said that at the December 2019 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, “some people wondered why we [nuclear energy] were there”.

In Madrid Mr Grossi said nuclear power provides around one-third of the world’s low-carbon electricity and already plays a significant role in mitigating climate change.

“Many of our 171 member states believe that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve sustainable development and meet global climate goals without significant use of nuclear energy.”

He said variable renewables, such as solar and wind, are vital to the clean energy transition, but they alone cannot meet countries’ growing energy needs.

“Nuclear power can provide the continuous, low-carbon power to back up increasing use of renewables. It can be the key that unlocks their full potential by providing flexible support – day or night, rain or shine.”

Looking forward to COP26 in Glasgow, scheduled for November 2021, Mr Grossi said for the IAEA, “we expect to have an opportunity to present nuclear as part of a solution that can stand alongside renewables and integrate into any realistic model.”

What is Cogeneration?

(IAEA) (Royal Society) Cogeneration is the integration of nuclear power plants with other systems and applications. The heat generated by the nuclear power plants can be used to produce a vast range of products such as cooling, heating, process heat, desalination and hydrogen. The use of nuclear energy for cogeneration provides many economic, environmental and efficiency-related benefits. Cogeneration options may be different; depending on the technology, reactor type, fuel type and temperature level.

The use of nuclear energy for cogeneration also provides the benefit of using nuclear fuel in more efficient and eco-friendly manner. Energy analyses show that the performance of a nuclear power plant, and revenue for the utility that owns it, may be increased if it is used in a cogeneration mode.

process heat rs

Process heat options. Image: Royal Society, “Nuclear Cogeneration: civil nuclear in a low-carbon future” October 2020

Temperature Matters

There are major types of nuclear power reactors such as: the light water reactor (LWR), heavy water reactor (HWR), small modular reactor (SMR), liquid metal fast reactor (LMFR), high temperature gas reactor (HTGR), supercritical water reactor (SCWR), gas fast reactor (GFR), molten salt reactor (MSR) and modular helium reactor (MHR). LWR, HWR and SMR are suitable for use in district heating and desalination systems due to their working temperature range of 280-325°C.

low temp cogen

Image: Royal Society

Process Heat Temps and Uses1

Image: Royal Society

The working temperature range of other types including LMFR, HTGR, SCWR, GFR and MHR are from 500-800°C makes them suitable for various cogeneration options. The high working temperature range of 750-950°C of HTGR using helium as a coolant makes them suitable for generation of process heat and hydrogen in cogeneration mode.

The working temperature ranges of SCWR (430-625°C), GFR (~850°C) and MSR (750-1000°C) make them suitable for production of hydrogen, process heat and desalination of sea water when they are used as cogeneration systems.

Royal Society / UK Report Highlights the Potential Of Nuclear Cogeneration

(NucNet) Heat from reactors, much of which is wasted, could be used for domestic heating and hydrogen production.

Nuclear energy has the potential to help the UK to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, not only through the generation of low-carbon electricity but by more fully using the heat generated by a reactor, the Royal Society has said in a policy briefing.

The briefing considers how the use of nuclear energy could be expanded to make the most of the energy produced by nuclear plants and also to have the flexibility to complement an energy system with a growing input of intermittent renewable energy.

high heat cogen

Image:Royal Society

The society warns it would be economically challenging to convert current LWR nuclear plants to support cogeneration. Planned new-build nuclear plants are designed primarily for the generation of electricity. However, the designs could be modified to make use of the various benefits of cogeneration. In the case of Sizewell C, the potential for cogeneration is already under consideration.

The briefing explores the additional uses of nuclear energy beyond electricity, such as using high temperature heat to fuel processes directly, such as chemical synthesis, or low temperature heat for district heating.

It considers how a nuclear plant can be used flexibly, switching from the production of electricity when needed to another application when electricity demand is low. This would allow nuclear energy to coexist on a grid with energy supply that also has intermittent renewable generation.

The principle focus of the briefing is heat. Nuclear reactors produce heat on a vast scale. A typical nuclear power station produces around 3.4 GW of heat – equivalent to about 100,000 domestic gas boilers – which is used to generate around 1.2 GW of electricity. Currently, around 65% of the energy is lost in the conversion as waste heat.

DOE Inks New Deal with NASA for Nuclear Energy in Space

(Space news) WASHINGTON — NASA and the Department of Energy announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) Oct. 20 that is the latest in a series of measures by the two agencies to expand cooperation.

The MOU, signed by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette and announced at a meeting of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, is intended to expand the existing cooperation between the two agencies in space nuclear power to other topics in science and engineering.

The work between the two agencies has largely revolved around RTGs and other nuclear power sources, including ongoing work on new nuclear power systems and nuclear propulsion for future Mars exploration.

The MOU calls for creating three joint working groups on lunar surface infrastructure, space nuclear power and propulsion, and space science and innovation.

The working groups will prepare reports outlining potential activities on developing infrastructure for a future lunar base, power systems for that lunar base, nuclear propulsion systems for Mars, and support for space situational awareness, space weather and planetary defense.

The agreement also creates an executive committee, jointly chaired by NASA’s deputy administrator and the deputy secretary of energy, that will meet “on a regular basis” to implement the agreement. The intent is to create a more formal method of cooperation between the agencies.

“There’s a long history of cooperation between NASA and the Department of Energy,” said Norm Augustine, the retired Lockheed Martin chief executive who is co-chair of a space science working group for the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, later at the Oct. 20 board meeting.

“The thing that’s characterized it, though, is that it’s been largely ad hoc, where somebody at NASA knew about work at DOE, or vice versa,” he added. “That’s led to a number of successes, but probably a number of missed opportunities.”

The Department of Energy has, over the last year, worked to increase its profile in the space field. The department formally joined the National Space Council in February, and in September met with Bridenstine to discuss cooperation in nuclear power and other technologies. The department has also increased its outreach to companies in the space industry on potential collaboration in technology development.

Ultra Safe Delivers Advanced Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Design To NASA

ulta safe logo(WNN) (wire servicesUltra Safe Nuclear Technologies (USNC-Tech) has delivered a design concept to NASA as part of a study on nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) flight demonstration.

NTP technology provides high-impulse thrust performance beyonbd eath orbit for deep space missions such as crewed missions to the moon and Mars. The NASA-sponsored study, managed by Analytical Mechanics Associates (AMA), explored NTP concepts and designs enabling deep space travel.

Nuclear thermal power for spaceflight has a number of advantages over chemical-based designs, primarily providing higher efficiency and greater power density resulting in lower propulsion system weight. This would contribute to shorter travel times and lower exposure to cosmic radiation for astronauts, enabling deep space missions such as crewed missions to the Moon and Mars.

USNC describes its FCM fuel as a next-generation uranium oxycarbide tristructural isotropic (TRISO) particle fuel design, replacing the graphite matrix of traditional TRISO fuel with silicon carbide (SiC).

It says the result is a safer nuclear fuel that can withstand higher temperatures and more radiation. The SiC matrix in FCM fuel provides a dense, gas-tight barrier preventing the escape of fission products, even if a TRISO particle should rupture during operation.

The new matrix improves the structural and containment characteristics of TRISO particles, trapping and sealing radioactive fission products permanently, preventing contamination of the environment. The higher-thermal conductivity of FCM fuel allows the fuel pellet to have a flatter temperature profile, lowering peak temperatures in nuclear reactors.

“Our engine maximizes the use of proven technology, eliminates failure modes of previous NTP concepts, and has a specific impulse more than twice that of chemical systems,” said Dr. Michael Eades, principal engineer at USNC-Tech.

“Key to USNC-Tech’s design is a conscious overlap between terrestrial and space reactor technologies,” explained Dr. Paolo Venneri, CEO of USNC-Tech.

“This allows us to leverage the advancements in nuclear technology and infrastructure from terrestrial systems and apply them to our space reactors.”

FCM fuel is part of a new family of inherently safe space-optimized reactor designs that ensure astronaut safety and environmental protection. Using low quantities of HALEU, this unique NTP concept delivers high thrust and specific impulse previously only achievable through high-enriched uranium.

Furthermore, the firm claims that FCM fuel leverages pre-existing supply chains and manufacturing facilities used by terrestrial nuclear reactor developers, reducing production risks and enabling sustainable industry involvement.

Synthos Green Energy In Talks with Polish Nuclear Regulator for BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) announced this week that Synthos Green Energy (SGE), a member of the Synthos Group S.A., has initiated discussions with Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency (PAA) about a potential BWRX-300 small modular reactor project.

bwrx300 GEH

SGE and GEH recently signed a strategic cooperation agreement that is focused on development and deployment of the BWRX-300. In addition to GEH, Exelon Generation, Fortum and CMS Legal in Warsaw are supporting SGE in this process.

“With our design-to-cost approach, we believe the BWRX-300 is ideally positioned to help SGE and Poland meet the demand for clean, stable and affordable energy,” said Jon Ball, Executive Vice President of Nuclear Products for GEH.

“Our request to the PAA will allow determining the scope of the full application for a general opinion about the organizational and technical solutions to be applied in the construction and operation of a plant with BWRX-300 technology,” said Rafael Kasprów, President of the Board of SGE.

GEH and Synthos SA announced in October 2019 an agreement to collaborate on potential deployment applications for the BWRX-300 in Poland. Synthos, a manufacturer of synthetic rubber and one of the biggest producers of chemical raw materials in Poland, is interested in obtaining affordable, on-demand, carbon-free electricity from a dependable, dedicated source.

SGE was established to develop and implement zero-emission technologies and electricity production from renewable energy sources for the Synthos Group, which is the largest private industrial group in Poland.

About the BWRX-300

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s U.S. NRC-certified ESBWR. Through design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW(e) when compared to other water-cooled SMR designs or existing large nuclear reactor designs.

By leveraging the existing ESBWR design certification, utilizing licensed and proven nuclear fuel designs, incorporating proven components and supply chains and implementing simplification innovations the BWRX-300 can, GEH believes, become cost-competitive with other forms of generation.

US / Poland Agreement on Nuclear Energy

U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette and Poland’s Secretary of State for Strategic Energy Infrastructure Piotr Naimski discussed the signing of the first Intergovernmental Agreement to cooperate on the development of Poland’s civil nuclear power program.

This 30-year Agreement, the first of its kind, represents an enduring energy bond between the United States and Poland. This Agreement will expand Poland’s energy mix, and reduce Poland’s energy reliance on coercive suppliers.

The Agreement provides that over the next 18 months, the United States and Poland will work together on a report delivering a design for implementing Poland’s nuclear power program, as well as exploring potential financing arrangements. This will be the basis for U.S. long-term involvement and for the Polish government to take final decisions on accelerating the construction of nuclear power plants in the country.

Investment Finance Partners for Poland?

Brouillette told journalists that Poland had agreed to spend USD18 billion on US nuclear technology and services from companies such as Westinghouse, Bechtel and Southern Company. Poland plans to spend USD40 billion on six nuclear reactors.

The Polish government said it would create a special purpose vehicle for the investment. Energy company PGE recently signed a letter of intent to sell its subsidiary PGE EJ1 to the state Treasury. That special purpose vehicle would sign an agreement in 2022 with a future partner that would take up to a 49% stake in the project and supply the reactor technology for all the reactors.

It is not immediately apparent where the money will come from as neither the US Export Import Bank nor the Development Finance Corporation are prepared to offer financing at that scale.

World Nuclear News reported the plan includes reducing the share of coal in electricity production to between 37% and 56% in 2030, and to between 11% and 28% in 2040, depending on CO2 prices. Coal last year accounted for 74% of Polish electricity generation.

The first 1-1.6 GWe nuclear unit is to be commissioned in 2033, with five more units, or 6-9 GWe, to follow by 2040. They are expected to be built at Lubiatow-Kopalino and Zarnowiec, near the country’s Baltic Sea coast.

Bulgaria Signs Nuclear Co-operation MOU with US

(Wire services) Bulgaria and the USA have signed key documents on civil nuclear power.

Bulgarian Minister of Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova and US Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Christopher A Ford signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on strategic cooperation in civil nuclear power.

The signing took place in the presence of Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo joined via video conference.

Borissov said that the US is an important strategic partner of Bulgaria in the energy sector, and promoting this partnership is a key element in the switch to a low-carbon economy.

Petkova said the MOU will give a new impetus and a good basis for future energy cooperation between the two countries.

“The document will also contribute to the implementation of our main priority for achieving diversification of energy sources. Nuclear energy is of strategic importance to us, as it guarantees energy security and will contribute to achieving the goals of reducing carbon emissions.”.

Bulgaria’s two operating Russian-designed VVER reactors at Kozloduy generate about one-third of the country’s electricity. Last month Bulgaria’s government gave state-owned energy company Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) a mandate to start talks with US companies that develop nuclear technologies to study the options for the building of a new reactor on site.

Simultaneously, the government is seeking investment in a 2000MWe nuclear plant at Belene involving the construction of two Russian designed VVER-1000 units.

Kenya’s Nuclear Energy Plan Delayed Past 2030

(The Energy Industry Times) Kenya’s plan for a nuclear power plant has been delayed beyond the initial estimate of 2030.

The east African country has been grappling with the high cost of electricity that directly affects production of goods and other services. It views nuclear power both as a long-term solution to high fuel costs and an effective way to cut carbon emissions from the power generating sector.

Kenya Power has been struggling with depressed demand for electricity generated by its suppliers who have contracts compelling it to buy energy even when it is unable to sell it. The downturn in demand has been instrumental in the postponement of future electrical generation plans such as nuclear energy.

Another issue is that the country’s Nuclear Power and Energy Agency (NuPEA) said that getting a regulatory framework in place, and building a case for compliance for a new reactor project, are beyond its means at the present time.

Collins Juma, Chief Executive of NuPEA, said that the country will prioritize the use of small modular reactors as opposed to a planned 1000 MW single reactor as Kenya’s electricity demand increases over time.

He said SMRs are cheaper and faster to implement, but he said it will be the mid-2030s before Kenya is ready to develop a nuclear power station that uses SMRs.

Reports in Kenya in August claimed NuPEA had submitted impact studies for the country’s first 1000 MW commercial nuclear power station, at a cost of $5 billion, and said construction of the first reactor would take about seven years. These estimates have turned out to be overly ambitious.

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