Hyundai Inks $30M Equity Investment in USNC

  • South Korea / Hyundai Engineering Inks $30M Deal to Build USNC Reactors
  • Japan /Mutsubishi Plans Load Following Reactor to Work with Renewables
  • Japan / Clean Energy Strategy to Push Nuclear Technologies
  • Brazil / Signs Agreement To Study Sites For New Nuclear
  • Romania / Nuclearelectrica Targets 2030 for First New Cernavoda Unit
  • UKAEA / SNC-Lavalin Awarded New contracts for STEP Fusion Project
  • Slovenia / Deep Isolation Study Released on Disposal of Spent Fuel

Hyundai Engineering Inks U.S. Deal to Build  Nuclear Reactors

USNC logoHyundai Engineering Co. in a statement carried by South Korean English language news wires, said that it has secured a deal to construct micro modular nuclear reactors (MMR) for a U.S. developer of a next-generation nuclear reactor design.

Hyundai Engineering said it has agreed to make an equity investment of US$30 million in Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation for an undisclosed stake. Additional financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. The wire service report includes a photo of the CEOs of the two firms signing the agreement.

The partnership  is sweeping in terms of the scope of the partnership. It grants the Korean firm global exclusive rights to be the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC)  for USNC’s micro modular nuclear reactor (MMR) projects.

Hyundai Engineering will be responsible for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) for the project, and USNC for nuclear fuel supply, reactor design, and manufacturing and supply, and KAERI for nuclear fuel layout design and safety analysis.

Hyundai Engineering and USNC started collaboration for technology development of a high temperature gas-cooled reactor in March 2012. In cooperation with Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), they have been conducting conceptual and basic designs of the reactor. The agreement between the two firms was first announced in August 2020.

Chalk River OPG Partnership

The MMR energy system for Chalk River, announced in June 2020, is being promoted by Hyundai Engineering, USNC and KAERI. The joint venture was formed between USNC and Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to build, own and operate the proposed MMR project at the Chalk River Laboratories site.

The joint venture – the Global First Power Limited Partnership – is owned equally by OPG and USNC-Power, the Canadian subsidiary of USNC. The project envisions the power reactor going into operation in 2026.

Green Hydrogen Effort

Separately, Hyundai Engineering is developing green hydrogen production technology using the USNC MMR in Korea. Based on the Canada’s MMR demonstration plant, the company aims to introduce a high-temperature gas reactor into Korea and build a 100MWe-class large-capacity electrolysis hydrogen production plant that uses MMR.

The 4th-generation MMR developed by USNC uses patented technology for micro-encapsulated ceramic triple-coated nuclear fuel applied to the reactor design to eliminate the possibility of radioactive material leakage even at 1,800 degrees Celsius. In September 2020 the firm opened a fuel fabrication plant in Salt Lake City, UT.


About the MMR Reactor

According to World Nuclear News, the MMR is a 15 MWt thermal, 5 MWe electrical high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR). It consists of two plants: the nuclear plant that generates heat, and the adjacent power plant that converts heat into electricity or provides process heat for industrial applications.  (Technical briefing PDF file)

The USNC system is designed to be simple, with minimal operations and maintenance requirements, and no on-site fuel storage, handling, or processing. The MMR uses fuel in prismatic graphite blocks and has a sealed transportable core.

Other South Korean SMR Deals

Separately, Holtec International has an agreement with Hyundai Engineering & Construction of South Korea for the turnkey supply of Holtec’s SMR-160 small modular reactor (SMR) plant worldwide. Holtec is considering deploying the first SMR-160 at Oyster Creek in New Jersey, where it is currently in the process of decommissioning a former boiling water reactor.

South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries has made two equity investments worth a total of $104 million in NuScale’s SMR effort. From a strategic perspective, it puts a key supplier of large, long lead time components close to potential Asian customers for NuScale.

Doosan is also providing design services to X-Energy for its advanced nuclear reactor, the XE-100, which is funded by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program. X-Energy plans to build a first of a kind unit near the Columbia Generating Station in Richland, WA.

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Mutsubishi Plans Load Following Reactor to Work with Renewables

(Nikkei Asia Wire Service) Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will develop a new PWR type nuclear reactor in the mid-2030s that will be able to fine-tune its power output enabling it to respond to fluctuations in power generation from renewable energy sources.

nuclear and renewables

Image: US Department of Energy

The new reactor will be large enough to replace existing reactors. The reactor Mitsubishi is developing will be mid-size with output ranging from 600 MWe to 1,000 MWe

The firm said the technology “will make nuclear as nimble as thermal power as a supply source, and is expected to facilitate greater use of renewable energy in the power system.”

Fossil-fueled power is being used to plug gaps in the power supply from renewable sources. The response time is usually around 10 minutes. At present, nuclear power requires about an hour to adjust, which limits its use to providing a constant base load supply.

The new reactor will have a much faster response time. It will employ a new drive system for its control rods, enabling the reactor to cut output by half in just 17 minutes. Smaller adjustments can be made in less time.

The firm said the reactor construction cost will be about the same as the existing 1.2 GW nuclear plant, which which the firm estimates is around $5.3 billion or about $4,400/Kw comparable to some SMRs now approaching commercialization.. The new reactor’s containment vessel will feature double walls and other protective systems, reducing the risk of breach to one tenth of that in existing models.

To meet customer needs, Mitsubishi is also developing an SMR at 300 MWe that it hopes to make available in the 2040s.The company has had preliminary discussions with utility operators in Japan about replacement possibilities for existing power plants.

Both the mid-size, full size, and SMR are expected to be offered for export. Plans for adoption of these reactors in Japan to replace aging units will likely support the export program as well.

The firm said the problem the reactor is designed to address is that while renewable energy is environmentally friendly, it has the drawback of being unstable due to its reliance on natural elements such as sunlight, wind and water that are inherently variable. If power supply does not match demand, power outages can be triggered. Grid stability can be achieved through reliable baseload power from a PWR type nuclear reactor.

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Japan’s PM Airs Clean Energy Strategy to Push Nuclear Technologies

(Asahi Shimbun) A a meeting held on January 18th in the office of Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida, he instructed his cabinet to draw up a new clean energy strategy for the country that will lay out the government’s vision to achieve a carbon-neutral society.

Kishida intends to promote the development of nuclear technology, not just renewable energy through the strategy, which he hopes to make a key element of his flagship policy platform, which he is calling “new capitalism.” Kishida added that he intends to at least double investment in this area.

Kishida presented plans for an increase in capital gains taxes, which he later withdrew, and also said he would work to raise wages for workers which have not kept pace with corporate profits.

Ministry officials said the government intends to promote research on next-generation nuclear technology, including small modular reactors (SMR), which is technology that has been readily developed in the United States with contributions from Japanese makers, as well as nuclear fusion. Japan has lagged in this area having no viable path at this time for domestic use or export of an commercial SMR by 2030.

Competition from Europe and US is a Motivating Factor

The development of the new strategy comes as plans for new nuclear power plants, especially SMRs, are being developed in Europe and the US as governments  look for ways to decarbonize their economies.

The French government announced in November last year that it would resume building nuclear power plants, and the European Commission, which is the administrative body of the European Union, announced this month it will set a policy to designate both nuclear power and natural gas as energy sources that can help decarbonization efforts. In the US NuScale has passed a key milestone with a safety design review at the NRC.

Kazuhiro Ikebe, chairman of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, appeared optimistic about the trend at a news conference on 01/14/22. He said Europeans are making a very practical move in returning to nuclear power. “(The development in Europe) will impact non-EU countries, too. That includes Japan,” he said.

Not everyone in the new cabinet is onboard with the plans to re-invest in nuclear energy.

“We are still not at a stage where we can discuss building new nuclear power plants,” Environment Minister Tsuyoshi Yamaguchi told a news conference on Jan. 18. He called for a carbon tax on CO2 emissions and a “green fund” for renewables.

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Brazil Signs Agreement To Study Sites For New Nuclear

brazil nuclear(NucNet)  Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) and the Centre for Electric Energy Research (Cepel) have signed a cooperation agreement to study sites for new nuclear power plants. This is the latest in a series of efforts to identify sites for new nuclear power stations. The country’s national energy plan until 2050 estimates an expansion of 8 to 10 GWe of nuclear power.

MME said the increased use of nuclear in the Brazilian energy matrix is crucial and the cooperation with Cepel should lead to “the more efficient choice of new nuclear sites in the country,” taking into account energy demand projections, socio-environmental needs and the attraction of new investment to enable construction of the plants.

The news report did not specify whether Brazil would continue to invest in light water reactor designs. In a June 2020 paper published in Nuclear Engineering Intl,. Leonam dos Santos Guimaraes, President Eletronuclear, discussed plans for Brazil to produce HALEU nuclear fuel presumably for advanced reactors that would in the future use it in that country and likely for export.

Brazil has two operational nuclear plants, Angra-1 and Angra-2, which provide 2.7% of its electricity production. It is also planning to complete Unit 3 of the Angra nuclear power station in Rio de Janeiro state.

Construction of Angra-3, a 1,245-MW Siemens/KWU pressurized water reactor unit, began in 1984 but was halted in 1986 because of a lack of financing. In 2010, a construction permit was reissued, but the project was suspended again in 2015 because of financing concerns and because of a massive bribery scandal that claimed top executives from nuclear energy and construction organizations.

Restart of work on Angra 3 is stalled for now although in June 2021 BNDES hired Angra Eurobras NES – a consortium including the Belgian engineering firm Tractebel – to complete the project. (WNA Profile for Brazil’s nuclear energy industry) According to state power company Eletronuclear, almost 47% of civil work at the site had been completed in 2014. So far, estimates are that $1.6 billion has been spent on the project.

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Romania / Nuclearelectrica Targets 2030 for New Cernavoda Unit

(cernavodaNucNet) Romania’s state-owned nuclear company Nuclearelectrica says it has plans to complete two new reactor units at the Cernavoda nuclear power station in the southeast of the country connected to the grid by 2031.

CEO Cosmin Ghita added that SMRs will be another ‘key element’ in decarbonization strategy. Romania is aiming to generate 55% of its energy from low-carbon sources by 2030 with nuclear energy being an essential part of this objective.

Completion of Cernavoda Units 3 and 4

Mr. Ghita told The Diplomat Bucharest that an investment decision on the new units is expected in 2024 with Unit 3 expected to be connected to the grid in 2030 and Unit 4 in 2031. Both reactors are partially complete CANDU type reactors. In November 2021, Romania’s nuclear project company Energonuclear signed a contract with Candu Energy for work needed to restart the completion of Units 3 and 4.

China Leaves Field

In May 2020, Nuclearelectrica ended talks with China General Nuclear about the Cernavoda project.  Significantly, the action by Romania to give China the boot took place only after than US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in 2020 promised Romania $8 billion for new nuclear capacity. Despite ending talks with China for new reactors, Romania never received any of the promised funds from the Trump administration.

In 2015 China General Nuclear estimated the cost to complete the two CANDU units at $7.7 billion. An earlier estimate by a US management consulting firm pegged the cost at half that amount. These differences may have been one of the reasons for the protracted talks over finances between Romania and CGN.  If the two plants were to be finished at the same time, each being 700 MWe, at $4,400 KW, the cost comes in somewhere in the middle but closer to $5-6 billion.

Scope of the New Effort

According to World Nuclear News actual construction and completion of the units will be preceded by regulatory and engineering updates. Candu Energy will update the licensing basis documents and safety design codes for Cernavoda 3 and 4 to bring them in line with the latest Canadian codes and standards as well as European Union safety directives. It will also define the engineering work needed in ‘phases 2 and 3’ sufficient for their real work content and complexity to be estimated.

Candu Energy will also produce a document that outlines the ‘architecture options’ for completing the reactor units’ steam supply system, as well as the design changes needed to meet today’s standards.

Lastly, Candu Energy will re-evaluate the existing buildings at the site to confirm they are fit for a proposed 60-year operational life, assuming a retubing overhaul and refurbishment that is routine for Candu units after about 30 years of service.

SMRs are Next

Mr. Ghita said small modular reactors (SMRs) will be another key element in Romania meeting its decarbonization targets. Nuclearelectrica recently announced an agreement with US SMR developer NuScale Power to build a first-of-a-kind SMR in Romania.

According to Mr Ghita, construction of a NuScale SMR could start by 2028 and would provide “a stable and clean energy alternative,”once completed,  to areas where coal will no longer be an option.

He said Romania is looking at a six-module NuScale SMR with an installed capacity of 462 MW. The 77 MWe SMR design is the latest iteration of NuScale’s reactor. However, so far only a 50 MWe version has cleared the US NRC for design and safety reviews. By 2028 Romania would likely be able to reference the NRCs review of the 77 MWe version.

The MOU with NuScale, announced with great fanfare by US Secretary of Energy Granholm at COP26, did not come with any immediate financial commitments from the US government.

& & &

UKAEA Awards SNC-Lavalin New contracts for STEP Fusion Project

types-of-fusion-tech_thumbCanada-based SNC-Lavalin said on January 18th it had been awarded three new contracts by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to continue work on the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) program to design and build a commercial-scale fusion energy plant.

SNC-Lavalin has been appointed Commercial Pathways Partner, to help pave the commercial route to realizing fusion energy through a combination of engineering and techno-economic studies.

A second contract for the STEP Integrated Plant Solution will see SNC-Lavalin develop the mechanical handling and maintenance strategy for this first-of-a-kind plant. The firm has also been appointed onto a new STEP Tritium Framework, drawing on SNC-Lavalin’s specialist tritium knowledge, acquired largely through the development of Candu  technology, and supported by its international academic partners.

“Fusion energy has the potential to produce a stable, reliable and low-carbon power source that could be critical in a decarbonized energy future. Our involvement will bring together the best of UK and international expertise to solve the challenges associated with fusion energy,” said SNC-Lavalin President and CEO Ian L Edwards.

STEP is attempting to be the world’s first commercial fusion power station, aiming to produce a concept design by 2024, leading to a prototype plant in the UK, targeting completion by 2040. In early 2021, SNC-Lavalin was awarded the STEP Cost Modelling and Siting and Development contracts. The Group already supports UKAEA across its major programs through its position as an Engineering Design Services (EDS) framework supplier, as well as delivering the design of its H3AT Tritium recycling loop.

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Deep Isolation Study Released on Disposal of Spent Fuel in Slovenia

A preliminary study released by Deep Isolation finds that deep borehole disposal offers a safe, cost-effective solution for disposing of spent fuel from the Slovenia TRIGA II research reactor, set for decommissioning in 2043. A deep borehole repository could be cost-effective waste disposal option for Slovenia’s research reactor and nuclear power plant

Of the options studied, the most cost-effective approach would be to build one deep borehole repository for fuel from both the TRIGA II reactor and Slovenia’s Krško nuclear power plant.

The TRIGA II study follows a 12/14/21 Deep Isolation study, published by Norwegian Nuclear Decommissioning, of Krško fuel disposal options and fuel inventories from four other European countries. It concluded that deep borehole disposal is a viable, cost-effective solution for all of the five participating countries’ high-level and intermediate-level long-lived nuclear waste.

If Slovenia decided to implement a deep borehole disposal repository for Krško fuel, then the simplest and most inexpensive way to dispose of the TRIGA II waste would be within that same repository, with the TRIGA II waste requiring just one additional disposal canister.

Deep borehole disposal is becoming increasingly attractive to many countries, including NND study participants — Slovenia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Croatia — because they have small waste inventories, making a mined repository a more cumbersome, less affordable option.

Deep borehole disposal benefits include: safety-at-depth (shown in evidence-based modeling that exceeds expected regulatory requirements when modeled for 1 million years at peak dose); greater flexibility in repository locations; implementation in shorter timeframes; and reduced financial risk due to the maturity of drilling industry costs.

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1 Response to Hyundai Inks $30M Equity Investment in USNC

  1. Brian Nichols says:

    Thanks for all the updated news Dan. Lots and lots of info to digest!!


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