Argentina Goes for Round Two of Negotiations for a Hualong One

  • Argentina Goes for Round Two of Negotiations for a Hualong One
  • X-energy Provides Fuel Fabrication Services as part of DARPA’s DRACO Program
  • United Arab Emirates / ENEC Announces Startup Of Unit 2 At Barakah
  • First Fuel Loaded into China’s HTR-PM
  • UK / Wales Pushes Ahead With Plans To Site Rolls-Royce 470 MWe PWR at  Trawsfynydd Nuclear Site
  • Czech Nuclear Tender Could be Launched in Late 2021

Argentina Goes for Round Two of Negotiations for a Hualong One

word cloud negotiateChina has finally gotten something it dearly wants, which is a contract to build a 1000 MWe Hualong One for export in the West. Previously, it heavily subsidized an export deal to build two of them for Pakistan.

José Luis Antúnez, the head of national utility Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA, said in an interview with Perfil newspaper last week that construction of a Hualong One unit could begin at Atucha as soon as next year.

Construction of the new nuclear plant would start next year, be ready by 2028 at a cost of US$8 billion, 85% of which would be financed by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). ICBC acquired 80% of the shares of Standard Bank Argentina in November 2012. However, there is no press statement about the Argentina nuclear deal on the bank’s English language website.

Several English language news media in Argentina published detailed reports about these projects. None of the reports cited any Chinese sources to confirm the claims made by the Argentine utility and the government. However, given the statement of support for it by president Alberto Fernández, it seems reasonable to assume the press reports are reliable.

Separately,  Antúnez said that Canada would participate, technically speaking, in a “national project’ with Argentina to build a CANDU – a new pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) – at the Atucha site. Argentina will largely self-finance most of this project. Given the country’s perilous finances, getting outside international investors will come at a steep premium for the capital. Antúnez said Argentina owns the intellectual property for the two PHWRs it operates which will allow it to fabricate and install most of the major components and systems of a new one.

Rebooting the Chinese Partnership

Antúnez said that plans for a new Hualong One reactor at Atucha would be the result of the “rebooting of a partnership” with China that was discussed between 2014 and 2017. That deal did not go through due to economic austerity measures by the previous administration. He said that a new financial package was being negotiated for the reactor, and added that the deal should “be final by the middle of next year.”

According to Antúnez, it will take eight years to complete the Hualong One which will be Argentina’s fourth power plant. The negotiations with China will have two stages – the first for Nucleoeléctrica and the CNEA (Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica), to agree with the China on a contract, which will include technology transfer for the local manufacture of the fuel for that power plant.

That’s going to be a stretch since China undoubtedly sees the fuel design for the Hualong One to be one of its technical IP crown jewels. Also, China will likely insist on taking back the spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing. China is building several plants to reprocess spent nuclear fuel in part of fabricate MOX.

The second stage seeks to negotiate a financial package. Since China will have to import all of the major system components, such as the RPV and steam system, the costs will be higher for this Hualong One than for its domestic versions. The overall price for the plant likely includes the fuel, maintenance, and operations of the reactor and its related infrastructure.

Assuming a cost of $5,000/Kw, the 1000 MWe PWR will cost $5 billion. The cited cost of the deal is $8 billion. It’s likely that China has added in other major infrastructure projects under its Belt & Road program which may include new transmission lines to deliver electricity to different parts of the country.

Other costs may be different depending on the degree of localization of non-nuclear components, such as turbines and switchyard gear, that Argentina negotiates for the project. A bilateral agreement for these and related items inked in 2014 is regarded as having expired so the two parties are starting over.

Meanwhile, Argentina isn’t wasting any time getting the project underway again. “We’ll be moving ahead with preparing the terrain with soil studies and paving the access routes”, as well as assembling the structures to store the energy and water and supplies “for the 5,000-plus workers who will come to Atucha where the power plant will be sited,” Antúnez said.

Can Argentina Make another CANDU?

Nucleoeléctrica is reported to be planning a fifth nuclear power plant which will be a CANDU type PHWR. Argentina claims that some of the design intellectual property needed to build one was transferred from AECL at the time the prior PHWRs were built. Fuel for the PHWR will come from the heavy water plant at Arroyito in Neuquén. It will have to be restarted and a new workforce hired and trained to run it.

candui-schematric

The site for the new CANDU unit is not yet determined but it could be on or near the Atucha site. However, the bulk of engineering work will be carried out near the Embalse power plant by Argentine firms and workers drawing on their successful refurbishment and uprate of the CANDU reactor there, which was completed in 2019. The refurbishment will enable the unit to operate for the next 30 years.

“We are going to have technicians and professionals from the Embalse area to produce the components, which will be from the national industry, that is, we are going to concentrate the resources that we have from the manufacturing and metalworking industry there,” Antúnez said. In other words, while China will supply the bulk of the components for the Hualong One, the new CANDU will largely be built based on domestic production of major components and systems.

“We’ll do the engineering at Embalse where we have concentrated our experience in the construction, design and operation of such power plants. We will thus count on the technicians and professionals of the zone to produce the components, which will be a great deal and locally manufactured, concentrating the resources of our engineering and metal industries,” Antúnez said.

Argentina’s nuclear sector has three PHWRs with a total generating capacity of 1641 MWe across the Atucha I, Atucha II and Embalse power plants. In total the plans revealed by Antúnez represent a doubling of that power generating capacity.

argentinanukes

“With the three power plants now running we have approximately 1,700 megawatts combined. When the Hualong and Candu reactors come on stream, we’ll be adding a similar quantity to the installed capacity of Nucleoeléctrica,” maintained Antúnez.

Atucha is also the site of Argentina’s prototype 25 MWe CAREM power plant, which is owned by CNEA and being constructed by NA-SA. The status of the SMR is unclear although work continues on it.

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X-energy Provides Fuel Fabrication Services as part of DARPA’s DRACO Program

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently awarded a Track A contract to General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) for the first phase of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations  (DRACO) program. The DRACO program will develop an agile nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system for cislunar operations, targeting a full-scale, on-orbit demonstration in 2025.

As part of the GA-EMS led team, X-energy will develop key fuel fabrication processes in support of a first-of-a-kind rocket powered by nuclear thermal propulsion. The work performed by X-energy is critical to mission success and will provide data on the specialized fuel not previously available, thus enabling the design of this unique, first of a kind propulsion system.  (see conceptual image below.)

nas-ntp-propulsion

The DARPA DRACO program marries these two technologies. X-energy has operated a pilot fuel facility since 2017, has active contracts with the DOE and DoD to develop terrestrial-based nuclear power systems and has supported NASA in their refinement of NTP reactor concepts.

X-energy regularly partners with “sister” companies Axiom Space and Intuitive Machines. Axiom is building the first commercial space station thus creating a low earth orbit economy while Intuitive Machines is developing the first commercial moon lander, scheduled to launch early next year.

X-energy Founder and Executive Chairman Kam Ghaffarian stated, “X-energy’s delivery of nuclear know-how to the DRACO program fulfills a goal I have had for many years – to apply safe, secure, and affordable nuclear solutions to the benefit of space-based systems. The U.S. Government recognizes innovative, mission-enabling value of nuclear to achieve our cislunar and planetary exploration goals and we are thrilled to be part of it.”

& & &

United Arab Emirates / ENEC Announces Startup Of Unit 2 At Barakah Nuclear Station

(NucNet) Unit 2 of the four-unit Barakah nuclear power station in the United Arab Emirates has started up less than five months after the identical Unit 1 became the first commercial reactor in the Arab world to begin full operation.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) said the startup of Barakah-2 highlights the significant progress being made in bringing the four South Korean 1,345 MWe APR-1400 units at Barakah online.

Startup is defined as the first time the unit has produced heat through nuclear fission. The heat is used to create steam, turning a turbine to generate electricity.

Before startup, Enec’s operating and maintenance subsidiary, Nawah Energy Company, and Korea Electric Power Corporation, carried out a comprehensive testing program. Enec said the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) had both confirmed Nawah’s operational maturity to run multiple units at Barakah. Before the operating licence was granted for Unit 2, WANO carried out a pre startup review, which Enec said ensured the plant was aligned with international best practice in the nuclear energy industry.

In the coming months, Unit 2 will be connected to the national electricity grid and operators will continue with a process of gradually raising the power levels, known as power ascension testing.

In March, Nawah said it had completed fuel loading at Unit 2. Construction of the plant began in April 2013 and was completed in July 2020.

Once the four reactors are online, Barakah will providing around 25% of the country’s electricity. The UAE’s energy strategy calls for 6% nuclear as part of 50% clean energy in 2050.

& & &

First Fuel Loaded into China’s HTR-PM

China Huaneng said the first batch of nuclear fuel was successfully loaded into unit 1 the demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor plant (HTR-PM) at Shidaowan, in China’s Shandong province on 21 August. This followed the issue the day before of an operating licence for the two-unit plant by the National Nuclear Safety Administration. The two small reactors will drive a single 210 MWe turbine. Helium gas is used as the primary circuit coolant. (Technical Briefing – PDF file)

China Huaneng is the lead organization in the consortium building the units (with a 47.5% stake), together with China National Nuclear Corporation subsidiary China Nuclear Engineering Corporation (CNEC) (32.5%) and Tsinghua University’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (20%), which is the research and development leader. Chinergy, a joint venture of Tsinghua and CNEC, is the main contractor for the nuclear

China Huaneng said the plant uses a fully ceramic coated particle spherical fuel element indigenously developed called TRISO fuel. Each sphere contains 7 gram of uranium enriched to 8.5% with graphite as the matrix material. The core height is 11 meters and a diameter of 3 meters.  (IAEA ARIS DBMS entry below)

htr-pmThe initial fuel loading of plant is divided into two stages, China Huaneng noted. The fuel elements are first loaded into a temporary fuel storage tank, and then transferred to the core through the fuel loading and unloading system. Over a period of some 30 days, it is estimated that about 104,000 fuel elements will be installed after which the unit will achieve criticality. A full load for a single reactor requires approximately 420,000 fuel elements.

China is also planning a larger HTGR. The HTR-PM600 will have a 650 MWe turbine driven by some six HTR-PM reactor units. HTR-PM600 is a high temperature gas-cooled reactor plant based on the multi-modular scheme, i.e. six modular high temperature gas-cooled reactor (MHTGR) driving a common secondary loop system. Six MHTGR-based nuclear steam supplying system (NSSS) modules are tightly coupled by the secondary fluid flow network (FFN) which contains the secondary side of steam generators, feedwater system, main steam system, turbine generator system.

Feasibility studies on HTR-PM600 deployment are under way for Sanmen, Zhejiang province; Ruijin, Jiangxi province; Xiapu and Wan’an, in Fujian province; and Bai’an, Guangdong province.

& & &

UK / Wales Pushes Ahead With Plans To Site Rolls-Royce 470 MWe PWR at  Trawsfynydd Nuclear Site

(NucNet  contributed to this report) The Welsh government has chosen a former Westinghouse nuclear executive to resurrect Trawsfynydd, the site of one of Britain’s first nuclear power stations and possible location for a new generation of smaller reactors.

rolls royve logoAccording to the Financial Times, the government has recruited Mike Tynan, a former head of UK operations at US nuclear engineering group Westinghouse, to a new publicly-owned development company called Cwmni Egino charged with exploiting the “economic benefits” of small modular reactors at Trawsfynydd in north Wales.

Mr Tynan, who is also the former chair of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board, which provides independent advice to UK ministers, has been appointed as interim chief executive of Cwmni Egino to place the newly-incorporated company on a “firm footing”, the Financial Times said.

As chief executive for Westinghouse UK Ltd, Tynan led the integration of Westinghouse business interests for new nuclear plant, fuel and services in the UK. He also led the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) effort for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, and has been part of the Westinghouse European, Middle East and Africa regional executive for the past three years.

Westinghouse at one time was slated to build three 1150 MWe AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Moorside site. However, when Toshiba, the firm’s Japanese parent firm, left the nuclear energy industry, prospects for that project left with it. In 2018 efforts by the UK government to transfer the project to a South Korean consortium were thwarted as Toshiba declined to come to terms with the new team over finances.

Tynan joined Westinghouse in 2005, having previously held senior positions at a number of UK nuclear sites, including Sellafield.

Rolls-Royce says it can build is reactors in factories and assembled on site, thereby reducing the costs and complexities associated with the construction of large-scale nuclear energy plants such as Hinkley Pont C in England, where two 1650 MWe EPR plants are being built.

According to the Financial Times, Rolls-Royce said last year there was a “pretty high probability” Trawsfynydd could house the first plant in Britain. Other communities have made or are likely to make similar claims. Competition for siting the new mid-range reactors is fierce due to the combination of construction and permanent jobs that come with each reactor.

Rolls-Royce believes at least 16 of its mid-range reactors could be installed at existing and former nuclear sites in the UK. It is aiming to complete its first plant by the early 2030s. At 470 MWe the Rolls-Royce design is larger than the upper boundary set by the IAEA which is 300 MWe.

If all 16 reactors are built by the end of the 2030s, they will cover and exceed the electrical generating capacity that would have been provided by the combined capacity of the Wylfa and Oldbury projects. These two efforts, both twin 1350 MWe Hitachi ABWRs, did not move forward as a result of the UK government’s failed negotiations with Hitachi over financing and the cost of the project.

Rolls-Royce had been aiming to have the first design to be assessed by regulators in the second half of 2021, which would keep it on track to complete its first unit in the early 2030s and build up to 10 by 2035.

The cost of each plant will initially be about £2.2bn per unit dropping to £1.8bn by the time five have been completed. At $5,000/Kw, each unit would initially cost $2.35 billion. At $4,000/Kw the plant would come in at $1.88 billion. Because construction costs that will actually be incurred are so far in the future, currency differences at this time are meaningless.

The Welsh government announced last year it would support Cwmni Egino to re-establish Trawsfynydd as an important location for nuclear energy, as well as to explore installing a medical research reactor to provide medical radioisotopes for Wales, the UK and Europe.

Trawsfynydd, which had two 195-MW gas-cooled Magnox reactors, is on a 15-hectare site, on an inland lake in Snowdonia National Park. Both reactors began commercial operation in 1965 and were permanently shut down in 1991.

& & &

Czech Nuclear Tender Could be Launched in Late 2021

czech power(Reuters) The tender for a new PWR type nuclear reactor at CEZ’s Dukovany nuclear power plant could be launched by the end of this year, Industry Minister Karel Havlicek said in a media statement. State-controlled CEZ said the tender is worth $6-7 billion.

“I can imagine (the tender being launched in December), maybe already in November.

Westinghouse of the United States, France’s EDF (EDF.PA) and South Korea’s KHNP are seen as potential bidders to expand the nuclear plant after companies from China and Russia were excluded.

Czech authorities excluded China from the tender in January due to a combination of U.S. lobbying and distrust of handing over energy security to China. It and dropped Russia in April amid a security row with Moscow over a deadly blast at an arms depot. the Czech Republic blamed Russia for the explosion which was said to involve arms being shipped to Ukraine.

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