- X-Energy Signs MOU to Build Advanced Reactor at Richland, WA, Site
- China Begins New Builds of Two New 1000 MWe Hualong One Reactors At Changjiang
- OPG Collaborating with Moltex to Study Clean Energy Solutions
- BWXT Awarded Additional Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Work for NASA
- New Mexico Sues NRC Over Review of Holtec Interim Storage Spent Fuel Facility Plan
- NRC Tells Holtec More Work is Needed on License Application
X-Energy Signs MOU to Build Advanced Reactor at Richland, WA, Site
As part of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) funding to X-Energy, the firm announced this week it is evaluating a site in Richland, WA, to build a first of a kind advanced nuclear reactor. The proposed site is not far from other nuclear facilities in Washington including the Columbia Generating Station and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Separately, Bellevue, WA, is the home to TerraPower which also is a grantee for $80M under the ARDP program. With GE-Hitachi and Bechtel, TerraPower says it will deploy its cost-competitive, sodium fast reactor with a molten salt energy storage system.
In December 2020 the Tri-City Business Journal reported that TerraPower was also considering a site in the Richland, WA, region. However, the firm declined to comment on that report to this blog when asked about it. The editor of the paper told this blog the published report relied on a statement from the Department of Energy.
In October 2020 then DOE Secretary Dan Brouillette said the locations of the two ARDP demonstration plants have still to be finalized, but added that “a place like Washington state” was likely. Energy Northwest, which operates the Columbia nuclear power plant in Washington, is a utility partner on both TerraPower and X-energy’s ARDP applications.
About the Xe-100
X-energy’s Xe-100 is an 80 MWe reactor with a modular design permitting it to be scaled into a “four-pack” 320-MWe power plant. The design is based around the concept of a pebble bed high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). The Xe-100 will use TRISO particles encased in graphite pebbles as the fuel and helium as the coolant.
It is designed for a 60-year operational life. The reactor could be used to produce process heat as well as electricity and could be operated as a baseload or load-following plant, according to X-energy. The heat output helium temperature is 750°C which X-Energy says means the plant would have a thermal output of 200 MW. The Xe-100 reactor is planned to use off-the-shelf components that can be manufactured and shipped by road and rail to sites where they are needed.
X-Energy signed the MOU as part of a partnership formed between X-energy, Energy Northwest, and the Grant County (Washington) Public Utility District (PUD).
The TRi Energy Partnership will support the development and demonstration of X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor, which was selected by the Department of Energy for a cost-shared commercial demonstration by 2027 through the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).
The new partnership was announced on April 1, when Clay Sell, X-energy’s chief executive officer; Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest’s CEO; and Kevin Nordt, the Grant County PUD’s CEO, met in Richland, Wash., to sign a memorandum of understanding.
According to the MOU the TRi Energy partners will collaborate to evaluate siting, building, and operating a Xe-100 advanced nuclear power plant. The team plans to identify the best approach to licensing, permitting, construction, operation, and ownership.
Several ownership arrangements are being considered, including joint or sole ownership by a utility. Financial arrangements and commitments from investors are still in the future. On March 1, 2021, X-Energy signed a formal agreement with DOE as part of its participation in the ARDP program which includes $80M in federal funding.
The project is estimated to cost about $2.4 billion. Half of the funds will be provided through ARDP and half must be raised through private investment, equity capital, and financing.
Progress towards designing, licensing, building, and profitably operating an advanced reactor, especially a first-of-a-kind (FOAK) unit, will be closely watched on a global basis. Success for X-Energy will be to prove that advanced and small modular reactors can be cheaper and easier to deploy than large light water reactors.
In the press statement, the partners in the MOU said they are not ready to break ground, but they have a preferred location lined up: Known as Site 1, the previously licensed site is located near Energy Northwest’s Columbia plant, a 1,174-MWe boiling water reactor plant located near Richland, Wash.
TRi Energy Partnership takes its name from its location in Washington’s Tri-Cities area and from the three parties that have signed on to the agreement, but also from the Xe-100 design, which utilizes TRISO (TRi-structural ISOtropic) fuel that X-energy plans to manufacture. X-energy plans to use part of its ARDP funds to build the first commercial TRISO fuel fabrication facility in the United States.
According to the Tri Energy Partnership, “While a final decision will be made in the future, following extensive site, environmental, and financial analysis, this is our preferred site and offers many benefits: access to available infrastructure and the transmission grid, existing water intake, a local workforce with strong nuclear energy expertise, and considerable transportation resources vital to a large energy project: road, rail, and river access.”
China Begins New Builds of Two New 1000 MWe Hualong One Reactors At Changjiang
(NucNet) Construction has begun in China of two indigenous Hualong One nuclear power plants at the Changjiang nuclear station in the island province of Hainan off the country’s southeast coast, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said in a statement on its website. The reactors could be in operation by end of 2026.
Construction of the new units, Changjiang-3 and Chiangjang-4, was approved by China’s state council in September 2020.
The total investment for the two new units is estimated to be more than 39 billion yuan (€5bn).
The Hualong One, or HPR1000, is a three-loop pressurized water reactor. It incorporates elements of China National Nuclear Corporation’s ACP1000 and China General Nuclear’s ACPR1000+ reactor designs. There are eight Hualong One units at various stages of construction or operation in China.
There are six other Hualong One Units under construction: two at Taipingling in Guangdong province, southern China; two at Zhangzhou in Fujian province, eastern China; and two at Fangchenggang in Guangxi province in the south of the country. Fuqing-5 in Fujian province, southeastern China, recently became the first Hualong One to begin commercial operation. Fuqing-6, also a Hualong One, is under construction.
Image: By Ji Xing, Daiyong Song, Yuxiang Wu – http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2095809916301515 (from PDF version of paper)Journal: Engineering. 2 (1). doi:10.1016/J.ENG.2016.01.017, CC BY 4.0,
There is a Hualong One unit, Kanupp-2, nearing commercial operation in Pakistan and another, Kanupp-3, under construction. These are the first of their type outside China.
There are already two units in commercial operation at Changjiang. Changjiang-1 and -2 are both CNP600 units developed by China National Nuclear Corporation and have a net capacity of 601 MW. They began commercial operation in 2015 and 2016.
OPG Collaborating with Moltex to Study Clean Energy Solutions
OPG’s CCNS will provide $1 million CDN in funding to assist Moltex in demonstrating the technical viability of a new process to recycle used CANDU fuel.
When removed from an operating reactor, used CANDU fuel still contains energy. Moltex’ process would extract the remaining energy source and prepare it for use as new fuel in other advanced reactor designs, potentially reducing the volume of the material requiring long-term storage in a Deep Geological Repository.
The project would contribute to the development of Moltex’ WAste To Stable Salt (WATSS) technology, which could lead to a more sustainable form of nuclear power.
- OPG’s Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability launched in 2020 with a focus on advancing nuclear innovation, collaboration and research to seek solutions for minimizing nuclear materials and recycle clean materials.
- Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), through its Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative is supporting the design, construction and optimization of the testing apparatus.
- The University of New Brunswick is involved in the project in a research and testing capacity.
- NB Power is committed to building the first WATSS facility in Saint John, New Brunswick. The used fuel from the CANDU reactor at the utility’s Point Lepreau Nuclear Generating Station would power a 300 MW Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W), also under development by Moltex.
“Our goal is to advance solutions for nuclear materials, with a continued emphasis on minimizing our environmental footprint,” says Carla Carmichael, Vice President, Nuclear Decommissioning Strategy and Lead for OPG’s Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability.
Moltex is a privately held company striving that is developing a small modular reactor. Moltex was selected by NB Power and the Government of New Brunswick to progress development of its reactor technology in New Brunswick, Canada, with the aim of deploying its first reactor at the Point Lepreau site by the early 2030s.
BWXT Awarded Additional Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Work for NASA
BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) announced that it is continuing its Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) design, manufacturing development, and test support work for NASA. NTP is one of the technologies that is capable of propelling a spacecraft to Mars, and this contract continues BWXT’s work that began in 2017.
Specifically, BWXT will produce fuel kernels, coat the fuel kernels, design materials and manufacturing processes for fuel assemblies, and further develop conceptual reactor designs, among other activities.
The work will be conducted primarily at BWXT’s Advanced Technology Laboratory, Specialty Fuel Facility, and Lynchburg Technology Center, and it will involve more than 50 employees.
BWXT said in its press statement that it has been making significant progress on NASA’s NTP initiative, which has progressed from the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development program to its Technology Demonstration Mission program.
BWXT’s progress to date includes evaluating various fission fuel and reactor options, developing a conceptual reactor design, tailoring the fuel design to use High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU), and delivering specialty fuel particles for testing.
In 2020, as part of NASA’s in-space demonstration mission, BWXT delivered a study exploring several reactor configurations and fuel forms capable of delivering space nuclear propulsion. Two of the designs focused on power levels suitable for space demonstration in the near term. A third design was developed that leverages more advanced technology and higher power levels that could be ready in time for a Mars mission.
Rocket engines based on NTP technology are designed to propel a spacecraft from Earth orbit to Mars and back. Nuclear Thermal Propulsion for spaceflight has a number of advantages over chemical-based designs. In particular, NTP provides a low mass capability that allows astronauts to travel through space faster, thereby reducing supply needs and lowering their exposures to cosmic radiation.
New Mexico Sues NRC Over Review of Holtec Interim Storage Spent Fuel Facility Plan
(wire services) New Mexico attorney general Hector Balderas has filed suit against the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the United States, seeking to stop Holtec International’s application to build and operate its HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in the state. The complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court of New Mexico on March 29, seeks a declaratory judgment that the NRC is acting beyond the scope of its authority and an injunction preventing the licensing from moving forward.
“I am taking legal action because I want to mitigate dangers to our environment and to other energy sectors,” Balderas said. “It is fundamentally unfair for our residents to bear the risks of open-ended uncertainty.”
A letter sent from the NRC to Holtec earlier this month said more information is needed to complete the safety evaluation report. Also, the agency delayed completion of the report until the firm submits the requested data and the agency can evaluate it.
Holtec International wants to build an interim storage (dry cask) facility for spent nuclear fuel near Hobbs, NM in the southeast corner of the state. Holtec is seeking a 40-year license to build it.
State officials claim that New Mexico could become a permanent dumping ground for the radioactive material. Note that the state has multiple nuclear facilities in it already including the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, Urenco’s uranium enrichment facility, two defense related DOE nuclear weapons labs as well as the White Sands proving ground.
NM cited the potential for disruption of oil and gas development which is a major industry in the region. The state also raised concerns about a similar project planned just across the state line in Andrews, TX, and for the same reasons.
New Mexico’s oil and gas industry, which is a driver for the state’s lawsuit, worries that a release of radioactive materials from the site could contaminate their wells. On a technical basis that fear is pretty much unfounded as the spent fuel would be stored in dry casks.
The bone dry region has little surface or ground water to act as a transport mechanism. Holtec has said the site in New Mexico, about 35 miles from Carlsbad, is remote, bone dry, and geologically stable. The same conditions exist just across the Texas border where another firm., Interim Storage Partners, is proposing to develop a similar facility (FAQ).
The Associated Press reported that the NRC did not respond to questions about New Mexico’s complaint. However, the NRC issued an order last year that denied appeals from several groups with arguments similar to the state’s. The commission has held public hearings during the licensing process and an environmental review was done. From a process standpoint, the agency appears to be on firm ground.
Separately from the state’s complaint, the NRC informed Holtec last week that the final safety evaluation report (SER) would be delayed because the company provided inadequate answers in several technical areas, including soil settlement and an analysis of flooding and aircraft crash hazards.
NRC Tells Holtec More Work is Needed on License Application
The NRC has delayed the release of a safety evaluation report for Holtec International’s HI-STORE consolidated interim storage facility proposed for New Mexico. The agency said it needs additional information to complete its review of the license application. The request will delay the release of the final report which had been scheduled for next month. Holtect submitted an application to build and operate the HI-STORE facility in March 2017.
The NRC said in its letter dated March 25, 2021, ML21083A302 :
“The staff has identified multiple RAIs that remain unanswered or incomplete in several different technical review areas and disciplines. The staff has identified that the following areas will require the most substantive supplementation:
1) analyses and calculations of soil bearing capacity and soil settlement;
2) site flooding hazards analyses;
3) analysis of aircraft crash hazards;
building design specifications and hazards analyses for the proposed Canister Transfer Building (CTB) structure and foundation; and
5) clarifications to the site’s shielding, thermal, and aging management analyses.”
Without the information, the NRC said, its staff is unable to complete a full safety and security review. The NRC said that it will send Holtec another set of questions regarding the facility within the month and will issue a revised schedule for its safety review after it receives and processes the company’s responses.
Background on the Holtec Plan
Holtec executives told the wire service the storage project is needed because the U.S. has yet to find a permanent solution for dealing with the tons of spent fuel building up at commercial nuclear power plants.
According to the U.S. Energy Department, nuclear reactors across the country produce more than 2,000 metric tons of spent fuel a year. Almost all of it is stored at the reactors that produced it. There is roughly 83,000 metric tons of spent fuel sitting at temporary storage sites in nearly three dozen states. T
The first phase of the proposed New Mexico project calls for storing up to 8,680 metric tons of uranium, which would be packed into 500 canisters. Future expansion could make room for as many as 10,000 canisters of spent nuclear fuel over six decades.
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