- X-Energy Signs on for ARDP and $80M in Initial Funding
- China Five-Year-Plan Includes Proposals For Up to 20 New Reactors
- China Commits to the ACP100 Small Modular Reactor
- Tvel / Russian Company Starts Fuel Facility For China’s CFR-600 Fast Neutron Reactor
- Dutch Consortium Plans Work on Molten Salt Reactors
- Swedish Companies Seek Financial Support for Lead Cooled SMR Development
X-Energy Signs on for ARDP and $80M in Initial Funding
The advanced nuclear energy reactor developer X-Energy announced this week that it has signed the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) Cooperative Agreement, officially marking the beginning of the company’s participation in ARDP’s ~$2.5 billion program.
DOE is providing $80M in the first phase of the cost shared funding plan. DOE will invest approximately $1.23 billion in X-energy’s project over the seven-year period for this demonstration project.
This project will enable X-energy to build the world’s first commercial scale advanced nuclear reactor with Energy Northwest at a site in Washington state.
ARDP is designed to spur domestic private industry to demonstrate advanced reactors in the United States and the global export market. DOE selected X-energy as one of two firms for ARDP in October 2020. The other firm is TerraPower.
The Xe-100 is an 80 MWe (scalable to a 320 MWe four-pack) high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). (Image right is a conceptual view of the design. Image: X-Energy)
It uses TRi-structural ISOtropic particle fuel (TRISO), manufactured by X-energy, that can integrate into large, regional electricity systems as a base and load-following source of carbon-free power.
According to X-Energy the reactor as designed is expected to optimize grid use of low-emission, intermittent renewables and other clean energy resources.
The reactor is also ideal for project sites and other power applications, including as a source for industrial process heat.
As part of the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, X-energy and its supply chain partners will deliver a commercial four-unit nuclear power plant of its Xe-100 reactor design and a commercial scale TRISO fuel fabrication facility.
About the ARDP Program
ARDP is designed to help domestic private industry demonstrate advanced nuclear reactors in the United States. DOE expects to invest approximately $600 million over seven years with industry partners providing at least 20% in matching funds.
The Department of Energy ARDP program has three elements.
- Advanced reactor demonstrations, which are expected to result in a fully functional advanced nuclear reactor within 7 years of the award.
- Risk reduction for future demonstrations, which will support up to five additional teams resolving technical, operational, and regulatory challenges to prepare for future demonstration opportunities.
- Advanced reactor concepts 2020 (ARC 20), which will support innovative and diverse designs with potential to commercialize in the mid-2030s.
ARDP will leverage the National Reactor Innovation Center to efficiently test and assess ARD technologies by engaging the world-renowned capabilities of the national laboratory system to move these reactors from blueprints to reality. (Briefing slides – PDF file)
The National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) accelerates the demonstration and deployment of advanced nuclear energy. NRIC is is a national Department of Energy program led by Idaho National Laboratory, working with collaborators to demonstrate advanced reactors by the end of 2025.
Risk Reduction for Future Demonstration Projects
Last October DOE awarded TerraPower LLC (Bellevue, WA) and X-energy (Rockville, MD) $80 million each in initial funding to build two advanced nuclear reactors that can be operational within seven years.
See prior coverage on this blog – DOE Awards $80M each to TerraPower, X-Energy for ARDP
The awards are cost-shared partnerships with industry that will deliver two first-of-a-kind advanced reactors to be licensed for commercial operations. The Department will invest a total of $3.2 billion over seven years, subject to the availability of future appropriations. The firms participating in the project will be providing matching funds.
TerraPower Role in ARDP
TerraPower, which is the other firm receiving the DOE funding, will demonstrate the Natrium reactor, a sodium cooled fast reactor that leverages of decades of development and design undertaken by TerraPower and its partner, GE Hitachi.
The high-operating temperature of the Natrium reactor, coupled with thermal energy storage, will allow the plant to provide flexible electricity output that complements variable renewable generation such as wind a solar. In addition, this project will establish a new metal fuel fabrication facility that is scaled to meet the needs of this demonstration program.
DOE said that both projects incorporate a range of design features that will not only enhance safety, but make them affordable to construct and operate, paving the way for the United States to deploy highly competitive advanced reactors domestically and globally.
China / Five-Year-Plan Includes Proposals
For Up to 20 New Reactors
(Nucnet) China is backing the further development of commercial nuclear power as a key tool in its drive to cut carbon emissions, according to the 2021-2025 five-year plan presented on Friday to China’s annual National People’s Congress.
Beijing said it aims to have 70 GW of installed nuclear capacity by 2025 from about 50 GW at the end of 2019. That would equate to about 20 new reactors, 2021-2025, although China already has 12 under construction.
China originally aimed to bring its nuclear installed capacity to 58 GW by 2020, but didn’t meet the target following a moratorium on new projects following the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident and delays at a number of Generation III plants that were under construction.
According to the World Nuclear Association January 2021 assessment of China’s nuclear energy program, these are the project (Table) which are getting underway in the near term.
China Commits to the ACP100 Small Modular Reactor
According to several reports by World Nuclear New, two demonstration multi-purpose modular ACP100 ‘Linglong One’ units will be built at Changjiang. This will be China Guodian’s first mainland domestic nuclear power venture, with CNNC holding 51% of CNNC New Energy Corporation (CNNC-CNEC).
The ACP100 units are integral PWRs, 125 MWe, with passive cooling for decay heat removal. CNNC said that the units could provide electricity, heat and desalination. Construction time is expected to be 65 months.
The ACP100 was identified as a ‘key project’ in China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, and is developed from the larger ACP1000 PWR. The design, which has 57 fuel assemblies and integral steam generators, incorporates passive safety features and will be installed underground.
ACP100 Technical Profile – Chart: IAEA
In 2016, China announced plans to build a demonstration floating nuclear power plant based on the ACP100S variant of the CNNC design. The use of the floating SMRs is targeted at providing power to artificial islands in the South China Sea for military bases there intended to project geopolitical influence in the region.
See prior coverage on this blog — China to deploy floating nuclear power plants to support geopolitical goals in S. E. Asia
The new mainland project involves a joint venture of three companies for the demonstration plant: CNNC as owner and operator, the Nuclear Power Institute of China as the reactor designer and China Nuclear Engineering Group being responsible for plan. Construction is expected to take 65 months, with the 125 MWe unit to start up by May 2025, subject to relevant governmental approvals.
China Slated to Become World Leader in Commercial Nuclear Power
China will have the world’s largest nuclear power fleet within a decade, an International Energy Agency official said during a session at the High-Level Workshop on Nuclear Power in Clean Energy Transitions according to World Nuclear News . The workshop was held jointly by the IEA and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The IEA official, Brent Wanner, head of Power Sector Modelling & Analysis for the agency’s World Energy Outlook publication, said that as nuclear fleets in the United States, Canada, and Japan reach their original design lifetimes, the contribution of nuclear power could decline substantially in those countries while China’s reactor building program will boost it into first place.
Map of Current and Planned Nuclear Power Plants in China. Ma: World Nuclear Assoc
China already has 50 nuclear reactors in commercial operation, the third highest number behind the US (94) and France (56). In 2019, nuclear energy accounted for 4.9% of the country’s electricity production share, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Tvel / Russian Company Starts Fuel Facility For China’s CFR-600 Fast Neutron Reactor
(Nucnet) Russian nuclear fuel manufacturer Tvel has started a production facility which will fabricate fuel for China’s CFR-600 fast neutron reactor under construction under construction in Xiapu County, Fujian province, China, on Changbiao Island, a coastal site 650 km south of Shanghai.. It is a generation IV demonstration project by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). The project is also known as Xiapu fast reactor pilot project.
Tvel said in a statement that the facility is part of the Elemash Machine-Building Plant, a Tvel plant in Elektrostal, near Moscow.
The CFR-600 is a 600-MW sodium-cooled pool-type fast reactor and is expected to begin commercial operation by 2023. The plant will be able to operate on both mixed oxide (MOX) and uranium dioxide (UO2) fuel types. It is expected to have a design life of 60 years.
Tvel said the new production facility in Elektrostal is a result of a contract signed as a part of a 2018 nuclear cooperation deal between Russia and China, which included the joint construction and operation of the CFR-600 plant.
According to Tvel, the fuel contract covers initial loading of nuclear fuel into the CFR-600 and a number of subsequent refuels covering the first seven years of the unit’s operation. It isn’t clear what the duration is for each fuel cycle.
Tvel said the new fuel fabrication facility will be used to produce fuel not only for the Chinese CFR-600 and CEFR fast reactors, but also for the Russian BN-600 fast reactor at the Beloyarsk nuclear power station.
See prior coverage on this blog — Russia’s BN-800 Reactor Enters Commercial Operation
Profile of the CFR600
The CFR600 (China Fast Reactor-600) nuclear reactor pilot project represents the second step in fast reactor development in China following the success of the China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR), which was connected to the grid in July 2010.
Designed by China Institute of Atomic Energy, the CFR600 is a prototype sodium-cooled pool-type fast reactor capable of generating 1,500MW of thermal power and 600MW of electric power. The reactor design aims at achieving a thermal efficiency of 40%. The medium-sized fourth-generation advanced nuclear reactor will feature two coolant loops and is designed to operate at 380°C and 550°C of inlet and outlet core temperatures, respectively.
Scheduled for commissioning in 2023, the CFR-600 pilot project is expected to pave the way for the development and commercialization of much larger CFR-1000 reactors in China by 2030.
The CFR-600 nuclear reactor will also feature design flexibility to use two fuel types. The reactor will be first loaded with uranium oxide (UO2) and then converted to run on mixed oxide (MOX) fuel.
Dutch Consortium Plans Work on Molten Salt Reactors
The Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) in the Netherlands said this month that it had set up a consortium to work on development of Molten Salt Reactors. The focus of the joint effort will be design and testing of important processes and materials needed to build them. A key emphasis is expected to be on the use of thorium as a fuel type.
Conceptual image of a molten salt reactor: Image: Wikipedia
Members of the consortium include TU Delft, DIFFER, and reactor developer Thorizon. According to press releases, TU Delft has been involved in research into the thorium MSR for a number of years, and NRG in Petten has research facilities including the High Flux (research) Reactor.
The consortium members said they are making plans to have a first of a kind reactor built by 2035. This will be fueled with thorium with the objective of demonstrating the use of this fuel in MSRs.
NRG said said that it will carry out irradiations of materials intended to be used in MSRs. It will also work on testing and qualification of fuels for MSRs.
Swedish Companies Seek Financial Support for
Lead Cooled SMR Development
German utility Uniper Sweden, Swedish reactor company Blykalla and Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) said in February that they submitted an application to the Swedish Energy Agency for co-financing of a prototype to develop the reactor technology of the future.
This is the second step of three in the development and commercialization of a new type of reactor in Sweden during the 2030s.
The application is based on the project “Sunrise” which the Foundation for Strategic Research supported with SEK50 million ($6M) to develop design, material technology and safety analysis for an advanced lead-cooled research and demonstration reactor. Sunrise includes KTH, Luleå University and Uppsala University. An detailed workplan, in English, is posted at the project website.
Conceptual image of a lead cooled reactor; Image: Gen IV
If funding is available, the next step will be to build an electrically powered non-nuclear prototype for testing and verifying materials and technology in an environment of molten lead at high temperatures. The prototype, which will be operated for five years starting in 2024, is planned to be built on OKG’s area at Simpevarp outside Oskarshamn.
Johan Svenningsson, CEO Uniper Sweden, said in a press statement, “We see a clear role for nuclear power in the energy system of the future, and we therefore invest in developing the nuclear power of the future in collaboration with the company Blykalla, which has patents on design and materials for a small modular reactor with lead cooling and passive safety.”
Nuclear Energy’s Role in Sweden
The path for advanced nuclear reactor technology in Sweden may face some stiff headwinds. In recent years Sweden has shut down four older nuclear reactors which led to the restart of fossil fuel power plants. The country’s political leadership has been ambivalent about challenging the influence of green parties who want to do away with all nuclear energy use in the country.
According to the World Nuclear Association, Sweden’s nuclear power reactors provide about 40% of its electricity.
The country’s 1997 energy policy allowed 10 reactors to operate longer than envisaged by the 1980 phase-out policy, but also resulted in the premature closure of a two-unit plant (1200 MWe).
Some 1600 MWe was subsequently added in uprates to the remaining ten reactors. In 2015 decisions were made to close four older reactors by 2020, removing 2.7 GWe. Nuclear power plants are heavily taxed by the government despite their role in abating further releases of greenhouse gases.
# # #