Christopher Hanson Named 18th NRC Chairman

  • Christopher Hanson Named NRC Chairman by President Biden
  • — NEI Statement on Appointment of NRC Chair
  • — NEI – Russia and China Are Dominating Nuclear Energy Exports. Can the U.S. Catch Up?
  • Indian 700 MWe PHWR Reactor Connected to the Grid
  • — Western Vendors are Frozen Out of India’s Commercial Nuclear Market
  • China / First Concrete Poured For New Hualong One at Zhejiang
  • — Tables: China’s Nuclear Power Plans by the Numbers
  • Russia Organizes a Consortium of R&D Centers to Design and Test Advanced Nuclear Reactor Designs

Christopher Hanson Named 18th NRC Chairman
by President Biden

nrc logoNRC Commissioner Christopher T. Hanson has been designated by U.S. President Joe Biden as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 18th Chairman, effective immediately. Hanson replaces Kristine L. Svinicki, who departed the agency on Jan. 20, 2021, after serving as Chairman since 2017

“I am honored to have been selected by President Biden to serve as the next NRC Chairman and to lead the talented women and men who oversee the licensing and regulation of our nation’s civilian use of radioactive materials,” said Hanson.

Hanson extended his gratitude to Svinicki for her service as an NRC Commissioner and Chairman, a career that began at the NRC in 2007. She is the longest serving member of the Commission in the agency’s history.

“I look forward to building on Chairman Svinicki’s many accomplishments as the Commission takes on new challenges and faces new opportunities as nuclear energy technologies continue to evolve and uses of nuclear materials expand in the future,” said Hanson.

The NRC is comprised of five Commissioners, one of whom is designated by the President as Chairman. The Commission was established to be a collegial body that formulates policies, develops regulations, issues orders to licensees and adjudicates legal matters. The Commissioners serve five-year terms, with one term expiring every year on June 30. No more than three Commissioners may be of the same political party. Hanson is a registered Democrat.

NRC License Renewal Process

The complex NRC license renewal process. Image: NRC

Hanson was sworn in as a Commissioner of the NRC on June 8, 2020. He has more than two decades of government and private-sector experience in the field of nuclear energy. Prior to joining the NRC, he served as a staff member on the Senate Appropriations Committee, where he oversaw civilian and national security nuclear programs.

Before working in the Senate, Hanson served as a senior advisor in the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. He also served in the Office of the Chief Financial Officer, where he oversaw nuclear and environmental cleanup programs, and managed the department’s relationship with Congressional Appropriations committees.

Prior to joining DOE, he served as a consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton, where he led multiple engagements for government and industry in the energy sector.

Hanson earned master’s degrees from Yale Divinity School and Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where he focused on ethics and natural resource economics.  He earned both degrees at the same time (1993-1996) He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies from Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind. He is a native of South Haven, Indiana.

S&P Global/Platts reported that the the White House has not announced who will be appointed to fill the vacant fifth seat on the commission. The commission can continue to conduct business with a quorum of at least three commissioners.

Under the Atomic Energy Act, there can be no more than three NRC commissioners from any single political party and they serve staggered five-year terms. Commissioner Jeff Baran is a Democrat. Commissioners Annie Caputo and David Wright are Republicans.

Caputo’s term expires June 30. Baran’s and Wright’s terms expire in 2023 and 2025, respectively.

The Platts report noted that NRC commissioners must be confirmed by the US Senate, but the president has discretion to appoint any currently serving commissioner chairman without further congressional approval.

NEI Statement on Appointment of NRC Chair

Maria Korsnick, President and Chief Executive Officer at the Nuclear Energy Institute issued a statement in support of Hanson’s appointment.

“We congratulate the Honorable Christopher T. Hanson to serve as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. We look forward to continuing to work with him and his Commission colleagues as they make important decisions critical to ensuring the continued safe operation of the nuclear industry. These decisions enable our nation’s largest source of carbon-free energy to play a key role in achieving our nation’s carbon reduction goals.”

“With the administration and Congress prioritizing climate policy, it is essential that the NRC, led by Chairman Hanson, recognize the important role the agency plays within broader U.S. climate and energy policy.”

“Nuclear energy is essential to meeting the ambitious climate goals that President Biden has set and we are proud to be part of that solution. With that in mind, the NRC’s continued progress to become a transformed, modern regulator is essential as we move toward a decarbonized economy.”

“Recognized globally as the premier nuclear regulatory body in the world, the NRC should continue efforts that make possible the innovation we see across the nuclear industry.”

Statement by American Nuclear Society

The American Nuclear Society also released a statement in support of Hanson’s appointment.  The group urged President Biden and Congress to quickly nominate and confirm a qualified candidate to fill the vacant seat of former Chair Kristine Svinicki. A fully functioning, five-member commission is important to the mission success of the NRC as an agency.

NEI – Russia and China Are Dominating Nuclear Energy Exports.
Can the U.S. Catch Up?

The nuclear industry trade group also issued a statement about the geopolitical competition the U.S. is facing from Russian and Chinese investments in exports of commercial nuclear power plants.

NEI said in a a fact sheet, “As it stands now, the dominant global supplier is Russia and the fast-rising rival is China”

NEI Russia China Market Share

Russia is building seven new reactors domestically and claims to have $133 billion in foreign orders. In just the past
five years, China has brought 21 reactors on line and today has 19 additional plants under construction.

NEI went one to write, “There’s more than just overseas business at stake;it’s our national security that could be at risk. The trade group pointed our that reactor exports allow countries to form 100-year strategic relationships that span the construction, operation and decommissioning of a nuclear plant.

NEI said, thirty-eight national security experts wrote to Congress about the importance of nuclear exports last year, championing how these supplier relationships bring “long-term influence on nuclear safety, security and nonproliferation, as well as the ability to advance energy security and broader foreign policy interests.”  (Press release) (Full text – PDF file)

Compared the the private sector approach taken by the U.S., Russia and China have state-owned and sponsored nuclear suppliers, meaning they can provide competitive financing and other support that U.S. nuclear suppliers have not been able to match.

NEI said that the roles of the the Export-Import Bank  and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation will be important in supporting the growth of U.S. firms seeking global customers for commercial nuclear energy exports.

Indian 700 MWe PHWR Reactor Connected to the Grid

(WNN)  Unit 3 of the Kakrapar nuclear power plant in India’s Gujarat state has been connected to the electricity grid. The reactor – the country’s first indigenously-designed 700 MWe pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) – achieved criticality in July last year.

Kakrapar 3 was synchronized with the grid at 11.37am on 10 January, the Press Trust of India reported.

“A true example of indigenous technology developed and built in India with 15 more such units to follow in fleet mode,” Anil Kakodkar, former secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy, was quoted as saying.

In April 2007, the Indian government approved plans for the first four of eight planned 700 MWe PHWR units: Kakrapar units 3 and 4 and Rajasthan units 7 and 8, to be built by Hindustan Construction using indigenous technology.

India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) told Parliament August 2018 that it will complete nine 700 MW PHWR commercial nuclear reactors which are under construction by 2025 for a cumulative total of 6700 MW. That numbers has since been increased to 16 units.

The PHWR is a domestic design based on the CANDU type reactor which uses heavy water and U238 to provide a critical reaction.


The design does not require a reactor pressure vessel (RPV) like a PWR or BWR. This is important because India does not have the manufacturing capability to produce the large forgings needs to make RPVs. It also means that all of the long lead time large components for the reactors can be built by Indian firms and their workers.

Additionally, NPCIL reported that two 1000 MW VVER reactors being built by Rosatom at Kudankulam are also expected to be completed in this timeframe by mid0-decade.

Western Vendors are Frozen Out of India’s Commercial Nuclear Market

India has kept western vendors at arms length for over a decade due in part to a strict supplier liability law and also strong political pressure to use the domestic 700 MW PHWR design which can be built entirely by Indian companies. A second political influence comes from India’s coal interests who have no desire to see fossil fuel electric power plants shut down and replaced by nuclear reactors.

Where things become interesting is that the government has no plans to also complete any reactors provided by western vendors. In August 2018 a DAE official told Parliament, “This planned expansion till 2031 will involve only home-grown reactors and not imported ones.”

The policy decision could be a major blow to plans by France’s state-owned EDF/Areva to build six 1650 MW European Pressurized Reactors (EPRs) at Jaitapur on India’s west coast. It could also put on ice, perhaps indefinitely, plans by Westinghouse to restart a project to build six 1150 MW AP1000s in Andhra Pradesh on India’s east coast.

China / First Concrete Poured For New Hualong One
at Zhejiang

(NucNet) First concrete has been poured for the first of six planned indigenous Hualong One HPR1000 nuclear power plants at the Zhejiang site, south of Shanghai in eastern China, China General Nuclear (CGN) announced. The indigenous unit will be first of six at site in east of country.

The Hualong One, or HPR1000, is a three-loop pressurized water reactor. It incorporates elements of CNNC’s ACP1000 and China General Nuclear’s ACPR1000+ reactor designs. Both designs are based on the same French M310 design.

hualong one

Image: Wikipedia

In 2014 it was announced that the merged design was moving from preliminary design to detailed design. Power output was set at 1090 MWe net, with a 60-year design life. The reactor uses a combination of passive and active safety systems with a double containment.

Hualong One Construction Schedules

The government of China approved the construction of two reactor units in phase one of the project in September 2020. State media also reported at the time that Changjiang phase 2 in Hainan, southern China, had been approved.

The reports said the Hainan facility is expected to be finished by 2026 and Zhejiang by 2025. The South China Morning Post reported that the total expected cost of both projects was 70 billion yuan ($10.24bn), but did not specify how many plants this was for. China’s methods for accounting for the costs of the reactors produces significantly lower numbers in terms of the global benchmarks of between $5,000-$6,500/Kw.

The Zhejiang Sanao project is being developed by Cangman Nuclear Power Company, a subsidiary of CGN. CGN holds a 46% stake in the project, while the other development partners include Zhejiang Energy Power (34%), Cangnan Haixi Construction Development Company (9%), Wenzhou Nuclear Energy Development Company (9%) and Geely Maijie Investment Group (2%).

According to International Atomic Energy Agency statistics there are seven Hualong One units under construction in China, not including the Zhejiang Sanao project. China National Nuclear Corporation is building two at Fuqing, one at Taipingling and two at Zhangzhou, while CGN is building two at Fangchenggang.

There are two Hualong One units under construction at Kanupp in Pakistan. These are the first of their type being built outside China.  CGN is proposing to use a UK version of its Hualong One design at Bradwell, England.

China has 50 nuclear power plants in commercial operation, providing around 4.9% of its electricity production share. It has 11 units under construction.  See also “Nuclear Power in China,” published by the World Nuclear Association

Tables – China’s Nuclear Power Plans by the Numbers

These tables list China’s operating reactors and the plants which are under construction or approved for construction. China has not yet announced which of its future planned reactors will be approved for construction under the new push for starting 6-8 units a year. Also, some of the reactors approved for construction have not yet broken ground.

Note: These tables rely on data from the World Nuclear Association and the IAEA.  Readers who want to do their own analysis can download the NeutronBytes spreadsheet

Russia Organizes a Consortium of R&D Centers to Design and Test Advanced Nuclear Reactor Designs

mephi logoNine Russian scientific institutes, centers and universities have united into a consortium for the development of new generation nuclear energy technologies the National Research University – Moscow Power Engineering Institute (NRUN-MEPhI) announced., including;

  • closed nuclear fuel cycle technologies,
  • fast neutron reactors (FBR),
  • new materials for advanced energy technologies and innovative projects of nuclear power plants,

In a press statement, translated from the Russian, the NRNU-MEPhI press service said;

Consortium members will train personnel for scientific organizations involved in the creation of two-component nuclear power based on thermal and fast reactors with a closed nuclear fuel cycle, study the experience of international organizations, including the IAEA, and will develop new network educational programs.

The consortium includes:

  • NNRU-MEPhI, Nuclear Safety Institute of Russian Academy of Sciences (IBRAE RAS), Joint Stock Company Proryv (responsible for the Breakthrough Project),
  • the AI Leipunsky Institute of Physics & Power Engineering (IPPE),
  • the AA Bochvar Research Institute of Inorganic Materials (VNIINM),
  • Research Institute Scientific and Production Association LUCH,
  • the State Research Institute of Constructional Materials Graphite (NIIgrafit),
  • the Federal State Research & Design Institute of Rare-Metal Industry (Giredmet), and
  • the RE Alekseev Nizhny Novgorod State Technical University (NNSTU).

The consortium members will focus on the following main areas:

  • Achieve Lean Life Cycle and Energy Production Costs through Innovative Approaches to Nuclear Power Plant and Fuel Cycle
  • Development of methods for safety justification of projects of closed nuclear fuel cycle and fast reactors
  • Development of new materials for advanced nuclear and thermonuclear reactors
  • Development of a database of experimental data for verification of safety justification programs for nuclear facilities
  • Study of international experience in using codes of full-scale computer engineering modeling for the development and engineering design of various products and objects
    Expansion of experimental data bases used in modeling physical processes in nuclear power plants
  • Methodological approaches to the development, verification and validation of computer programs (codes) and databases for full-scale computer engineering modeling of physical processes in nuclear facilities
  • Development of test problems for verification and validation of codes for modeling physical processes

This is the latest collaborative effort in Russia to invest in advanced nuclear energy technologies.  Last June Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation, said it is promoting the use of its multi-purpose fast neutron research reactor (MBIR) which is under construction at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR) in Dimitrovgrad in the Ulyanovsk region of Russia, located about 1,600 miles east of Moscow. The state owned enterprise is hawking its capabilities and soliciting partnerships on an international scale.

Russian nuclear fuel cycle  image WNA

The Russian nuclear fuel cycle. Image courtesy of World Nuclear Association

It is creating an International Research Center (IRC) to be a home for cooperative R&D and test projects. According to the June 2020 briefing, four nations have signed up so far –  the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia  The briefing says these arrangements, and others like it, will support the IRC’s ambitions to become a world class center of excellence for testing materials to be used in fast neutron reactors.

The purpose of the MBIR construction effort  is to have a high-flux fast test reactor with unique capabilities to implement the following tasks:

  • in-pile tests and post-irradiation examination,
  • production of heat and electricity,
  • testing of new technologies for the radioisotopes, an;
  • modified materials production.

MBIR will be used for materials testing for Generation IV fast neutron reactors including high temperature gas-cooled, molten salt, and lead-bismuth designs. Experiments that are proposed to be undertaken include measuring the performance of core components under normal and emergency conditions.

Russia’s announcements of investing in nuclear energy R&D  may be a competitive response to the May 2020 U.S announced $230M in funding as the first step in a multi-year commitment through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program to upgrade the nation’s capabilities to support development of advanced reactors. A key facility will be the versatile test reactor.

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