China Breaks Ground for 1st Small Modular Reactor

  • China Breaks Ground for its 1st break ground Small Modular Reactor
  • NuScale Downsizes Idaho Plant from 12 to 6 Units
  • Kairos $100 Million Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Project to be Tested in East Tennessee
  • UK / Government ‘Close To Finalizing Legislation’ For New Nuclear Financing Model
  • NASA Announces Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Reactor Concept Awards

China Breaks Ground for First Small Modular Reactor

(South China Morning Post)  The South China Morning Post reports that using a home-grown design, Linglong One will be the world’s first onshore commercial project of its kind. It is expected to take almost five years to build on the southern island of Hainan the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said.

The small modular reactor (SMR) will be built at the Changjiang nuclear power plant in the southern province of Hainan, Linglong One will have a power generation capacity of 125 MWe. The site is already home to two operating CNP600 PWRs, while the construction of the first of two Hualong One units began at this site in March this year. Both those units are due to enter commercial operation by the end of 2026.

According to World Nuclear News, The SMR, which is based on light water design principles, has been under development since 2010. The ACP100 integrated PWR’s preliminary design was completed in 2014.

he major components of its primary coolant circuit are installed within the reactor pressure vessel. In 2016, the design became the first SMR to pass a safety review by the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Briefing – PDF file)

Power plants comprising two to six ACP100 reactors are envisaged, with 60-year design operating lifetime and 24-month refueling. Thus, electrical power output would range from 250 MWe for 2 units to 750 MWe for six of them.  By comparison, a newly revised six-pack of NuScale’s 77 MWe SMR would deliver 462 MWe,

The project at Changjiang involves a joint venture of three main companies: CNNC subsidiary China National Nuclear Power as owner and operator; the Nuclear Power Institute of China (NPIC) as the reactor designer; and China Nuclear Power Engineering Group being responsible for plant construction.  Construction time is expected to be 58 months.

For the demonstration plant, the reactor vessel is being supplied by Shanghai Boiler Works Limited, the steam generators by a CNNC subsidiary and other reactor internals by Dongfang Electric Corporation.

CNNC signed a second ACP100 agreement with Hengfeng county, Shangrao city in Jiangxi province, and a third with Ningdu county, Ganzhou city in Jiangxi province in July 2013 for another ACP100 project. Further inland units are planned in Hunan and possibly Jilin provinces.

The preliminary safety analysis report for a single unit Changjiang demonstration plant was approved in April 2020. Final approval for the construction of the plant was given by China’s National Development and Reform Commission in early June this year.

CNNC said Linglong One would have many uses besides electricity production, including heating, steam production and seawater desalination. The Chinese state owned enterprise has long term plans to build a large number of the SMRs to power many smaller grids.

Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based nuclear energy consultant, told the SCMP newspaper, “The average unit size of electricity generating plants in modern grid systems has been shrinking dramatically with the massive development of renewable energy technologies.  Smaller units have the advantage to adapt much better to smaller grids.”

“The SMRs are losing the economy-of-scale effect,” Schneider said.

“The only way to make up for that economic effect is to sell large numbers of SMRs. There is no company in the world that has a commercial product on the shelf.”

& & &

NuScale Downsizes Idaho Plant from 12 to 6 Units

(Idaho Falls Post Register)
A project to build a first-of-its-kind nuclear reactor in eastern Idaho has been significantly downsized cutting in half the number of small modular reactors (SMR) from 12 to 6, but boosting the amount of power produced by the installation of six SMRs from 300 MWe to 462 MWe.

The change in the power output results from a change to the design of the NuScale SMR from 50 MWe to 77 MWe. NuScale submitted the 50 MWe design to the NRC for licensing and the revised power rating will likely be a follow on action.

Downsizing the project in terms of the number of SMRs built for the first of a kind installation reduces the project’s overall costs (12 units to 6) and the amount of power it can produce (600 MWe to 472 MWe). The Post Register reported that the energy cost that project partners will pay rose from $55 per megawatt-hour to $58 per megawatt-hour.

NuScale told the newspaper the slightly higher cost “is still an exceptional price for carbon-free, dispatchable (always available) electric power.”

“The (cost rate) of other advanced reactor projects, green hydrogen, storage, batteries, etc., are all projected to far exceed $58MWh. The CFPP would still be the most competitive non-carbon, dispatchable resource,” NuScale said in a statement to the Post Register.

The reactor is planned to be built on a site at the DOE’s 890-square mile desert site west of Idaho Falls at Idaho National Laboratory. The plant is expected to be in revenue service by 2029.

While the company declined to tell the newspaper the exact cost of the revised design and power rating, in the past NuScale has cited several cost estimates that range between $4,000/Kw and $4,400/Kw. A plant with 462 MWe would cost between $1.85 billion and $2.03 billion.

In October 2020, DOE approved a $1.36 billion multi-year cost-share award to UAMPS to fund the development and construction which covers between 66% and 74% of the estimated cost if the cost ranges previously cited by NuScale are used. Since the cost of power from the facility is going up, it is reasonable to assume that the higher cost range is a more plausible estimate.

UAMPS Continues to be Committed to the Project

UAMPS, the first customer for a NuScale SMR, told the Post Register  it was satisfied with the change in the number of units and the revised power rating.

“After a lot of due diligence and discussions with members, it was decided a 6-module plant producing 462 MW would be just the right size for (Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems) members and outside utilities that want to join,” said LaVarr Webb, UAMPS spokesman.

“A 6-module plant allows us to get to full subscription faster, but we would have reached full subscription regardless,” Webb said of the project’s ability to achieve full financial commitment from partners.

Webb said 28 participants have committed to a total of 103 MW. But, he said, “all are currently evaluating whether to increase or decrease” their commitments. He also said “a number of utilities outside of UAMPS are considering” making a commitment.

“We’re confident the project’s entire 462 MW will be fully subscribed,” Webb said.

& & &

Kairos $100 Million Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Project to be Tested in East Tennessee

California-based Kairos Power and Tennessee state government officials have announced plans for a low-power demonstration reactor in Oak Ridge.

The privately funded, advanced nuclear engineering company will invest $100 million and create 55 jobs to deploy the reactor at the East Tennessee Technology Park.

Called Hermes, Kairos Power’s low-power demonstration reactor will show the company’s capability to deliver low-cost nuclear heat and is scheduled to be operational in 2026

Kairos Power’s low-power demonstration reactor, called Hermes, will demonstrate the company’s capability to deliver low-cost nuclear heat. The Hermes reactor is a scaled version of Kairos Power’s Fluoride Salt-Cooled High Temperature Reactor (KP-FHR).

It is  an advanced reactor technology that aims to be cost competitive with natural gas in the U.S. electricity market in order to provide carbon-free, affordable and safe energy. The project will be a redevelopment of a site at the Heritage Center, a former U.S. Department of Energy site complex.

Scheduled to be operational in 2026, the Hermes reactor will move forward Kairos Power’s iterative development process from prototype toward commercial scale by demonstrating complete nuclear systems, advancing Kairos Power’s manufacturing capabilities for critical components, testing the supply chain and facilitating licensing certainty for the KP-FHR.

Kairos Power received $303 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and Office of Nuclear Energy’s program for Risk Reduction projects to support the design, licensing and construction of the Hermes low-power demonstration reactor. Hermes is intended to lead to the development of the Kairos Power KP-X, a commercial-scale KP-FHR.

& & &

UK / Government ‘Close To Finalizing Legislation’ For New Nuclear Financing Model

(NucNet) Regulated asset base scheme could be used for construction of two reactors at Sizewell C. The Financial Times reported that UK government ministers are in the process of drawing up legislation that will allow the construction of two EPR units at Sizewell C nuclear power station in Suffolk, southeast England through the use of a regulated asset base (RAB) financing scheme (UK government white paper – PDF file)

A spokesperson said: “As stated in our recent consultation, the government is continuing to explore a regulated asset base funding model with nuclear project developers, and believe that it remains a credible option with the potential to help secure private investment, and cost consumers less in energy bills long term.

The RAB model encourages investment in major infrastructure projects by delivering reliable returns, at a reduced rate, before a plant is operational. This reduces the need for large-scale, long-term borrowing at high interest rates, which significantly increases the cost of power.

The RAB approach is widely used internationally and has attracted investors for the construction of UK infrastructure projects including the Thames Tideway Tunnel and the Heathrow Terminal 5.

Sizewell C is the only nuclear new-build project in the UK for which planning permission is being sought. Three projects – Wylfa, Moorside and Oldbury – have either been cancelled or shelved, largely because of financing problems, while Bradwell remains in the early technical stages. Two EPR units under construction at Hinkley Point C are the only commercial nuclear plants being built in the UK.

The government climate change committee’s latest progress report to parliament, called for two new nuclear power stations to be in operation by 2035, in addition to Hinkley Point C for a total of 10 GW of capacity. It said the additional nuclear capacity is needed if the UK is to meet the committee’s proposed pathway for achieving the “sixth carbon budget” for 2033-37, a “stepping stone” of emissions cuts on the way to net-zero.

In December 2020 the government said it would begin formal negotiations with French state-owned energy group EDF about the construction of new nuclear at Sizewell C. The government said it was considering a new deal to help EDF finance Sizewell, which might include taking a direct stake in the project.

EDF and China General Nuclear Power Corporation are 80% and 20% shareholders in the project to build two Generation III EPR units at Sizewell C. The cost of the project has been estimated at £18bn.

RAB Model Isn’t a Complete Answer to Financing New Nuclear in the UK

Vince Zabielski, who specializes in nuclear energy at London-based Pillsbury law, said implementation of the RAB model is an important piece of the puzzle for the decarbonization of the UK, as it lowers the cost of financing dramatically. However, the RAB model alone will not crack the problem of affordable nuclear power.

He said the major underlying problem is that the West seems to have forgotten how to build nuclear plants on-time and on-schedule.

“Now is the time to address the key issue of project risk management,” he said.

“As part of its implementation of the RAB model, the government should implement a system of high prudency standards that requires a potential developer to prove that it has a robust plan to manage project risks before it can recover costs from the consumer.”

& & &

NASA Announces Nuclear Thermal Propulsion Reactor Concept Awards

NASA is leading an effort, working with the Department of Energy (DOE), to develop new space propulsion systems based on nuclear technologies. The government team has selected three reactor design concept proposals for a nuclear thermal propulsion system. The reactor is a critical component of a nuclear thermal engine, which would utilize high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel (HALEU).

Nuclear propulsion provides greater propellant efficiency as compared with chemical rockets. It’s a potential technology for crew and cargo missions to Mars and science missions to the outer solar system, enabling faster and more robust missions in many cases.

The contracts, to be awarded through the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL), are each valued at approximately $5 million. They fund the development of various design strategies for the specified performance requirements that could aid in deep space exploration.

“By working together, across government and with industry, the United States is advancing space nuclear propulsion,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate.

“These design contracts are an important step towards tangible reactor hardware that could one day propel new missions and exciting discoveries.”

At the end of the contracts’ performance periods, INL will conduct design reviews of the reactor concepts and provide recommendations to NASA. NASA will utilize the information to establish the basis for future technology design and development efforts.

Battelle Energy Alliance, the managing and operating contractor for INL, led the request for proposals, evaluation, and procurement sponsored by NASA using fiscal year 2021 appropriations. INL will award 12-month contracts to the following companies to each produce a conceptual reactor design that could support future mission needs:

  • BWX Technologies, Inc. of Lynchburg, Virginia – The company will partner with Lockheed Martin.
  • General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems of San Diego – The company will partner with X-energy LLC and Aerojet Rocketdyne.
  • Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies of Seattle – The company will partner with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, Blue Origin, General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy, General Electric Research, Framatome, and Materion.

“INL is excited to enable the development of nuclear propulsion technology for potential use by NASA in future space exploration,” said Dr. Stephen Johnson, national technical director for space nuclear power and director of the Space Nuclear Power and Isotope Technologies Division at INL.

Fission Power Systems for Moon and Mars

NASA is working on a fission surface power system for use on the Moon and Mars. NASA intends to partner with the DOE and INL to release a request for proposals that asks industry for preliminary designs of a 10-kilowatt class system that NASA could demonstrate on the lunar surface. Maturing fission surface power can also help inform nuclear electric propulsion systems, another candidate propulsion technology for distant destinations.

NASA’s space nuclear technologies portfolio is led and funded by its Space Technology Mission Directorate. The agency’s Technology Demonstration Missions program manages the projects to mature affordable, reliable technologies and demonstrate system capabilities to meet power and propulsion needs for future deep space exploration. The program is based at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

For more information about NASA’s investments in space technology, visit: https://www.nasa.gov/spacetech

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