NuScale Scores $20M Investment from Japan’s IHI Corp

  • NuScale Gets New Equity Investment of $20M from Japanese Firm
  • UK Nuclear Firm Announces HTGR Collaboration With Japan
  • Moltex SMR Clears First Phase of CNSC VDR Regulatory Review

Fluor Announces $20 Million Investment in NuScale Power from Japanese Firm

Fluor Corporation (NYSE: FLR) announced that IHI Corporation (IHI) of Japan is investing $20 million into NuScale Power LLC, a leading small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) technology company in which Fluor is the majority investor. IHI’s immediate investment of $20 million may be followed by another $20 million at a later date.

The announcement is the second commercial investment in NuScale Power from a Japanese-based company. It is a signal not only of Japanese interest in NuScale, but also it is an indication in terms the firm’s intent in seeking business in possible target markets of Asian mega cities as customers for its SMRs.

In addition to IHI’s ownership interest, IHI will also become a global manufacturing partner and have the opportunity to provide design services and heavy manufacturing of the steel plate reinforced concrete wall structures for NuScale SMR projects in which Fluor has the lead role.

IHI will develop containment structures to enclose reactor cores, as well as other components. IHI has been producing nuclear reactor components for about six decades including reactor pressure vessels.

“IHI’s decision to invest in NuScale’s leading-edge SMR technology is another concrete example of the growing interest in this industry-leading, carbon-free energy solution,” said David Constable, chief executive officer, Fluor Corporation.

“This significant investment by IHI also aligns with Fluor’s strategy to bring aboard new strategic investors to NuScale.”

Investment Earlier this Year from an Japanese EPC

The investment from IHI comes on the heels of a previously announced $40M investment in NuScale and new strategic partnership by JGC Holdings Corporation.

The JGC injection of equity positions a key supply chain partner close to potential future customers in Asia seeking smaller, cheaper nuclear energy solutions compared to 1000MWE units being exported by Russia and China.

The Asia Nikki wire service reported that the deal involves a 3% equity stake in NuScale. However, a spokesman for NuScale declined to confirm that amount. In an email the firm said;

“We confirm the $40 million. The JGC investment results in JGC having a small minority interest in NuScale. We will not be disclosing the exact percentage at this time and cannot confirm the percentage identified in the Nikkei article.”

When asked if the deal involve any licensing of NuScale intellectual property to JGC Holdings, the spokesman said that no transfer of IP is included in the JGC deal.

In response to a question about how the deal will work with Fluor being the majority investor and which also plans to do the engineering procurement and construction (EPC) work for NuScale in the US, NuScale’s spokesman would only say that JGC is an “EPC partner with Fluor.”

Fluor shed some light on the partnership with a statement that indicated the two firms have collaborated on major projects over the past decade.

“This new ownership stake and partnership with JGC is aligned with Fluor’s long-term strategy to bring aboard new strategic investors to NuScale as the U.S. and international demand for new carbon-free base-load energy grows,” said Alan Boeckmann, executive chairman, Fluor Corporation.

“Fluor has been collaboratively executing projects with JGC for more than 10 years and we believe JGC is an ideal partner for effectively bringing this innovative carbon-free energy transition solution to realization.”

UK Nuclear Firm Announces HTGR Collaboration With Japan

(NucNet contributed to this report) A small UK nuclear technology company Penultimate Power says it has has teamed up with the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency to develop plans for advanced nuclear technology that could be operational in a first of a kind unit in Britain by 2029 with 20 units following every year from early 2030s.

The partners want to build a 100 MWe high-temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) nuclear reactor in the North East of England, replicating a design that has been running as a 10 MWe R&D project in Japan since 1998. Plans include scaling up the technology to 100 MWe, and building a factory, preferably in Teesside, UK, to construct the modular plants for use across the UK. Penultimate Power claims the first unit will cost in the region of £100m, with further cost reductions as factory produced units come off the line.

Candida Whitmill, managing director Newcastle-based Penultimate Power said the Generation IV high temperature gas-cooled reactor (EH HGTR) it is developing with the JAEA is aimed at industrial clusters.

The JAEA’s design is helium-cooled and produces heat at up to 950°C, far higher than usual for HTGRs. On one hand the high heat produces serious challenges in terms of acquiring and fabricating components from materials that can stand up to it. On the other hand, the heat is suitable for use by heavy industry, including for chemicals manufacture, desalination and direct hydrogen production through electrolysis. This in turn could be used to produce fertilizers and as a reducing agent in steel manufacture, replacing coke.

The reactor core design is a graphite prismatic block with “coated fuel particles.” Technical information on the JAEA web site does not indicated the level of enrichment for the fuel. Typical levels for enrichment of HTGRs are more than 9% U235 and less than 20%.

Ian Fells, technical director at Penultimate Power and former consultant to the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said it is unlikely that the UK will build out its complete plan of 19 GWe for full size nuclear reactors. His statement is based on the cancellation of plans for three Westinghouse 1150 MWe reactors at Moorside, two Hitachi 1350 MW ABWRs at Wylfa, and two more similar ABWRs at Oldbury.

Fells told the UK-based trade press news service Chemical Engineer in February 2019, “One great advantage is the intrinsic safety [of the design].” He calls it inherently safe because unlike traditional nuclear plants, which require controlled shutdown, Fells said a key advantage among HTGR SMR designs is that they will automatically shut down safely without power or human intervention, avoiding the out-of-control meltdown that occurred at Fukushima in 2011. This intrinsic safety feature means the SMR design is more likely to be authorized for use on or near heavy industrial sites.”

Penultimate Power says it is a privately funded company working with the UK supply chain and public nuclear organizations to deliver affordable carbon-free heat and power. On funding, Fells told Chemical Engineer that the project has international investors, and would need support from the UK government, he says, adding that the intention is that technology will be exported for use in Europe and the Middle East. Fells did not name any of the firm’s investors. Details about the firm are sparse on the usual rating agencies.

First Firm to Tackle the GDA with an Advanced Reactor Design

The UK recently opened up its nuclear generic design assessment (GDA) to advanced nuclear technologies. At the time there were no advanced nuclear reactors vendors with applications pending for the GDA. According to media reports, Penultimate Power is aiming to be the first to register with the new licensing regime with its HTGR.

The firm, which was organized in 2012, has a history of work on commercializing the production and use of hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels. In 2016, Ms Whitmill said that Penultimate Power has the expertise in its advisory board to work effectively with an overseas partner in navigating the rigorous UK GDA licensing regime. That partner has since been named as the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

In a 2019 presentation on HTGR cooperation between the UK and Japan, she said a large percentage of the plant and components could be built with the UK supply chain, taking advantage of advanced manufacturing and engineering facilities across the “Northern Powerhouse” region, from Newcastle to North Wales.

In Japan, JAEA began research and development of HTGRs in 1969. The high-temperature test reactor (HTTR) to the north of Tokyo in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, is a small prototype HTGR. The plant achieved first criticality in November 1998. In June 2020, after being offline for several years, the project received a green light to restart work after implementing a series of safety-related upgrades.

JAEA’s Work in Poland

In May 2017 Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA, President: Toshio Kodama) and National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) in the Republic of Poland concluded a memorandum of cooperation in the field of HTGR technologies. In Poland, construction of a practical HTGR (200-350 MW thermal) with heat supply to a variety of industries and a research HTGR (10 MW thermal) are the expected outcomes of the agreement.

Work scope includes efforts to design and build the prototype units and eventually to assess irradiation effects on fuel and material. The use of heat from the reactor at the commercial stage, estimated to be in 2028 at the earliest, is expected to be focused on its use by various industries as well as for the production of hydrogen.

In May of this year Poland signed an updated contract worth $16.2M. Work scope in Poland over the next three years includes efforts to design and build the prototype units and eventually to assess irradiation effects on fuel and material. The use of heat from the reactor at the commercial stage is expected to be focused on its utilization by various industries as well as for the production of hydrogen.

Moltex SMR Clears First Phase of CNSC VDR Regulatory Review

(WNN) The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has completed the first phase of the pre-licensing vendor design review (VDR) for Moltex Energy’s 300 MWe Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W 300) small modular reactor. Moltex’s design is the fifth small modular reactor for which the CNSC has completed the Phase 1 VDR.

“Overall, Moltex Energy demonstrated an understanding of our regulatory requirements and expectations,” the regulator said.

“Additional work will be required in areas such as management systems, safety classification and design aspects of containment structures should Moltex Energy decide to proceed with a Phase 2 review.”

The CNSC said there are no apparent show stoppers or other issues that can’t be resolved in Phase 2.  The full text of CNSC’s Phase 1 report shows there is a lot of work yet to be done.

Moltex Energy CEO for North America Rory O’Sullivan said completing the first phase of the VDR was a major achievement. “This demonstrates that our technology is progressing in the right direction, and gives current and future customers confidence in our design of advanced nuclear reactors,” he said.

The SSR-W is a molten salt reactor that uses nuclear waste as fuel. The company aims to deploy its first reactor at the Point Lepreau site in New Brunswick by the early 2030s.

Moltex is one of 13 firms involved in CNSC’s VDR process.

Status of CNSC VDR May 2021

Status of Firms in CNSC VDR Process: Data: CNSC. Table: NeutronBytes 05/28/21

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