- France’s EDF Makes Best office to India for Six EPR
- Could Small-Scale Nuclear Power Be a Part of Alaska’s Future Energy Mix?
- Russia / Construction Start of Brest-OD-300 Pilot Plant
- NRC Wants to Know if Computers Can Think About Nuclear Safety Like People
Will France Cross the Finish Line with NPCIL for Its Long Sought Deal to Build Six 1650 MWe EPRs?
French energy group EDF this week said in a press statement that it took a key step towards helping to build the world’s biggest nuclear power plant at Jaitapur, Ratnagiri, Maharashtra , in the west coast of India about 250 mile south of Mumbai. The project involves building six huge, 1650 MWe EPR nuclear reactors for a whooping total of 9.9 GWE.
The project will likely involve very significant elements of local fabrication of the non-nuclear long lead time components such as the turbines. Although labor costs in India will be lower than in Finland and France, the total expenditures for all six units could come in at $4,000/Kw or just under $40 billion.
What is the EDF Deal?
EDF said in its statement that it has filed “a binding offer” to supply engineering studies and equipment to build six, third-generation EPR reactors in Jaitapur. . Construction is expected to take 15 years, but the site should be able to start generating electricity as the first unit comes online probably in less than six years. The contract is not a done deal EDF said, but it expressed confidence that it would be signed off NPCIL in later this year.
EDF would not be the EPC to build the power plant itself. NPCIL will have that role. EDF would provide the nuclear reactors in a deal that includes US partner GE Steam Power. NPCIL will be responsible for both the construction and commissioning of the units, as well as obtaining all necessary permits and consents in India as the owner and future operator of the plant. This includes certification of the EPR technology by the Indian regulator. EDF will not be an investor in the project.
EDF has proposed to provide the EPR technology, which includes getting expertise from its subsidiary Framatome for engineering studies and supply for six nuclear steam systems. It will partner with GE Steam Power for the supply of the engineering studies and equipment of the six conventional islands.
The French company has also guaranteed the performance of each of the six EPR units under specific conditions and for a predefined period of time and will also offer training services for NPCIL’s future operating teams.
EDF estimates the project will create around 25,000 local jobs during the construction phase, and around 2,700 permanent jobs. This number is expected to be widely publicized in an effort to overcome local opposition to the project. Environmental groups have campaigned against the project and have raised all kinds of alarms, some real, some imagined, in an effort to block it.
Xavier Ursat, head of EDF’s nuclear division, told AFP that the company estimates that the site’s “geological conditions are excellent and fully comparable to what we find in a country such as France.”
EPR v. PHWR?
As the units will likely be built in a serial manner, with some overlap in terms of major project phases, completing all six units could extend over a period of a decade or more. Given EDF’s track record of delays with the EPRs it is building in Finland and France, that timeline is likely an optimistic estimate.
All this assumes the Indian government signs off on the deal, which is not a sure thing. The project has been under negotiation will India for more than a decade. The project has been blocked due to its high cost, and India’s desire to build a fleet of 700 MWe PHWRs using all Indian firms for each plant. The units don’t require reactor pressure vessels which means every component in them can be manufactured and installed by Indian firms.
The PHWR units come in at under $3,000/Kw or about $2.1 billion each. In other words, the $40 billion cost of the six EPRs could alternatively finance 19 of the PHWRs for a total of 13 GWE or 4 more GWe than the six EPRs. Further, the PHWRs could be spread around India in terms of location reducing the costs of new transmission lines. The geographic distribution of the 700 MWe units would add resiliency to the Indian electrical grid. These kinds of calculations are part of the reason NPCIL has dug in its heels for years regarding EDF’s offering.
Update: 04/27/21: According to a report in Nuclear Engineering Intl, There are new details on EDF’s offer to build 6 EPR nuclear reactors at Jaitapur. The cost could be as high as $4600/Kw or $45.5 billion due to upgrades needed to deal with India’s tropical climate.
India’s Competitive Landscape
India has also blocked western reactor firms from entering the market with its “supplier liability law” which, although it has promoted as a safety measure, has been an effective trade barrier to market entry to all vendors except Rosatom.
For their part the Russians have commissioned two 1,000 MWe units at Kudankulam, are building two more 1000 MWe units, and have plans in place for a 5th and 6th unit. Additionally, Rosatom is working with NPCIL in a plan to build four 1200 MWe units at Andhra Pradesh. Significantly, at one time this site was planned to be the home for six Westinghouse AP1000 units.
Despite the competitive environment, EDF remains confident the time has now come for NPCIL to sign on the dotted line.
“This key milestone has been achieved thanks to the trust-based relationship built over time with our Indian partner, and the excellent collaboration and continuous efforts of the EDF and NPCIL teams,” EDF Group’s chairman and chief executive Jean Bernard Levy said.
“The submission of EDF’s binding technocommercial offer for the Jaitapur project is a major step forward for the Group and the French nuclear industry,” he said.
Could Small-Scale Nuclear Power Be a Part of Alaska’s Future Energy Mix?
(Alaska Journal of Commerce) An emerging technology, micro-nuclear reactors, is being considered as an option for powering Alaska’s remote microgrids. Micro-nuclear reactors, with power ratings of 1-5 MWe, and approximately the size of a shipping container or small house, could offer Alaskan communities consistent, nearly maintenance-free power for 10 to 20 years before requiring refueling.
At the University of Alaska Fairbanks Center for Energy and Power, Gwen Holdmann, Director of ACEP, and her team says they are dedicated to applied energy research and technology testing focused on lowering the cost of energy in Alaska. Holdmann thinks nuclear energy has the potential to replace diesel fuel in rural communities.
“The nuclear energy industry has really evolved over time. The last 10 years have seen a new, much more flexible approach to how nuclear energy can be deployed. Systems are smaller, modular, and with more inherent built-in safety features.”
Richelle Johnson, lead analyst at the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development, or CED, recently completed a project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and Idaho National Labs researching potential use cases for small scale nuclear power.
“Alaska’s future energy landscape is going to look a lot different than it does today,” says Johnson. “It’ll be a mix of renewables and fossil fuels, but realistically it could also include nuclear.”
Johnson and CED researchers interviewed a number of potential energy users, ranging from small villages and hub communities to remote mining projects and military installments.
“The people we interviewed for the report were experts in their field, and were very aware of the limitations of renewables in Alaska — you can only gather wind resources when the wind is blowing, you can only collect solar power when the sun is up — you still need a consistent baseload, and right now that comes from diesel,” Johnson said.
Despite interest in the benefits of nuclear power, researchers found skepticism about operating a new nuclear technology in remote areas and a preference to see it proven out elsewhere first.
“When it’s -20 degrees outside, you have to know how to fix something, and right now it is still unclear what that looks like for micro-reactors,” says Johnson.
Oklo May Have a Shot at Business in Alaska
Silicon Valley-based Oklo, a venture-funded company founded in 2013, is the sole company with an NRC license application to build and operate a micro reactor that could meet Alaska’s needs.
CEO Jacob DeWitte is looking for an Alaska site for his second deployment project, and has spent time in the state as a portfolio company for Launch Alaska, an Anchorage-based nonprofit dedicated to energy innovation. The firm is also working on a plan to build one of its first of a kind units at the Idaho National Laboratory. The deployment at INL is planned for the early 2020s. An Alaska project would follow.
“Right now we’re in the process of finding partners and end users for our system. Alaska offers so much diversity in culture, climate, and geographic regions,” DeWitte said.
“From a technical perspective, making something work in Alaska would help us evaluate our capacity to deliver in the most demanding environments in the world, to really prove out what we can do. If we can do it there, we can do it anywhere.”
In terms of addressing concerns that have been voiced in Alaska about micro reactors, DeWitte says, “Our microreactors are inherently safe, self stabilize, are able to shut themselves down, and stay cool without a lot of operational involvement. These are simple, safe systems.”
Russia / Construction Start of Brest-OD-300 Pilot Plant
The Brest unit, a Generation IV lead-cooled fast reactor, is being built at the Siberian Chemical Combine, near the city of Seversk in central Russia, and was scheduled for completion at the end of 2026.
In January, the nuclear regulator Rostechnadzor issued a license to SCC for construction of the Brest-OD-300 reactor.
The plant is part of a pilot demonstration energy complex which comes under Russia’s Breakthrough project for the development of closed fuel cycle technology.
A closed nuclear fuel cycle means spent fuel is reprocessed, and partly reused. Closing the nuclear fuel cycle would ease concerns over limited uranium resources and contribute towards making nuclear energy sustainable over the long term.
The complex will include a fuel fabrication module for the production of dense uranium-plutonium (nitride) fuel and a fuel recycling unit.
The start date for the construction of the plant has been postponed several times because of the need for additional testing of key reactor structural elements. RUB1.1 bn ($15m) was allocated for additional R&D in 2017.
In February Rosatom said it had signed key contracts related to the project. One contract, signed between SCC and CKBM, both Rosatom subsidiaries, was for manufacturing and supply of equipment for the refueling complex. Rosatom also signed a contract with subsidiary Zio-Podolsk Machine-Building for the production, supply and installation of steam generators.
NRC Wants to Know if Computers Can Think About Nuclear Safety Like People
(NextGov) The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has published a Federal Register notice asking for feedback on using artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the safety and reliability of the grid.
The agency wants to to know how artificial intelligence and machine learning tools can improve the reliability and safety of nuclear energy production. The agency says it wants public input on how AI and machine learning technologies are currently being used in nuclear power operations, as well as “future trends” on the horizon.
Specifically, the commission wants feedback on “the state of practice, benefits and future trends related to the advanced computational tools and techniques in predictive reliability and predictive safety assessments in the commercial nuclear power industry.”
The request for comment includes a series of questions (below) designed to help the commission understand where and how these tools are being used and the benefits—including potential cost savings and risks.
Here are the NRC’s questions. Buckle up!
- What is status of the commercial nuclear power industry development or use of AI/ML tools to improve aspects of nuclear plant design, operations or maintenance or decommissioning?
- What tools are being used or developed? When are the tools currently under development expected to be put into use?
- What areas of commercial nuclear reactor operation and management will benefit the most, and the least, from the implementation of AI/ML? Possible examples include, but are not limited to, inspection support, incident response, power generation, cybersecurity, predictive maintenance, safety/risk assessment, system and component performance monitoring, operational/maintenance efficiency and shutdown management.
- What are the potential benefits to commercial nuclear power operations of incorporating AI/ML in terms of (a) design or operational automation, (b) preventive maintenance trending, and (c) improved reactor operations staff productivity?
- What AI/ML methods are either currently being used or will be in the near future in commercial nuclear plant management and operations? Example of possible AI/ML methods include, but are not limited to, artificial neural networks, decision trees, random forests, support vector machines, clustering algorithms, dimensionality reduction algorithms, data mining and content analytics tools, gaussian processes, Bayesian methods, natural language processing, and image digitization.
- What are the advantages or disadvantages of a high-level, top-down strategic goal for developing and implementing AI/ML across a wide spectrum of general applications versus an ad-hoc, case-by-case targeted approach?
- With respect to AI/ML, what phase of technology adoption is the commercial nuclear power industry currently experiencing and why? The current technology adoption model characterizes phases into categories such as: the innovator phase, the early adopter phase, the early majority phase, the late majority phase, and the laggard phase.
- What challenges are involved in balancing the costs associated with the development and application of AI/ML tools, against plant operational and engineering benefits when integrating AI/ML into operational decision-making and workflow management?
What is the general level of AI/ML expertise in the commercial nuclear power industry, e.g. expert, well-versed/skilled, or beginner?
- How will AI/ML effect the commercial nuclear power industry in terms of efficiency, costs, and competitive positioning in comparison to other power generation sources?
- Does AI/ML have the potential to improve the efficiency and/or effectiveness of nuclear regulatory oversight or otherwise affect regulatory costs associated with safety oversight? If so, in what ways?
- AI/ML typically necessitates the creation, transfer and evaluation of very large amounts of data. What concerns, if any, exist regarding data security in relation to proprietary nuclear plant operating experience and design information that may be stored in remote, offsite networks?
How to Comment
The NRC is looking for responses within 30 days of the post going live in the Federal Register, or by May 21, 2021.
You may submit comments by any of the following methods; however, the NRC encourages electronic comment submission through the Federal Rulemaking website: Go to https://www.regulations.gov and search for Docket ID NRC-2021-0048.
- Address questions about Docket IDs in Regulations.gov to Stacy Schumann; telephone: 301-415-0624; email: Stacy.Schumann@nrc.gov.
- Mail comments to: Office of Administration, Mail Stop: TWFN-7-A60M, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, ATTN: Program Management, Announcements and Editing Staff.
- For Further Information Contact:
John C. Lane, Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Washington, DC 20555-0001, telephone: 301-415-2476, email: John.Lane@nrc.gov.
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