Empresarios Agrupados Tapped as A/E for Thorcon TMSR-500

  • Empresarios Agrupados named Architect Engineer for Thorcon TMSR-500
  • BWXT Begins $4.9 Million TRISO Nuclear Fuel Production
  • US To Assist Estonia In Nuclear Capacity Building
  • Sendai-1 Completes Periodic Inspection and Returns to Commercial Operation
  • Digital Platform Will Aid Replacing Coal Plans with Nuclear

Empresarios Agrupados Named Architect Engineer for Thorcon TMSR-500

Spain’s Empresarios Agrupados (EAI) has signed an architect engineering contract for ThorCon’s 500 MWe TMSR advanced nuclear power plant for Indonesia. The TMSR-500 will demonstrate a way to solve Indonesia’s energy needs with a non-intermittent source of power that is carbon-free, low cost and safe. ThorCon Power TMSRIAEA Aris Data (PDF file 34 pages)

thorcon conceptual image

The contract marks a commitment to long-term collaboration between Empresarios Agrupados and ThorCon. While ThorCon will be providing its molten salt reactor (MSR) technology, EAI will provide both its pool of 1,250 engineers as well as its 50 years of experience with nuclear projects.

As Architect Engineer, EAI will support ThorCon across a broad range of activities, including project management, document control, code compliance, site preparation, pre-construction activities and licensing agreements.

Additionally, the company will also provide engineering services to ThorCon throughout the lifecycle of the project from design engineering to construction, operation and eventual decommissioning. EAI will work in collaboration with other partners already selected by ThorCon.

The TMSR-500 will be built at the Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering at its yard in Okpo, South Korea. The use of a modern shipyard will achieve huge savings in time and cost while also improving quality of construction.

Only 24 months will be required from the start of construction before each plant will be capable of sending electricity to the grid. This approach also allows for scalability of the ThorCon plants.

The TMSR-500 will have complete passive safety, meaning that no electricity, no valves or pumps and no operator action will be required to shut down and cool down the reactor in the event of abnormal behavior. The plant will passively manage shut down and the extraction of decay heat.

The first successful molten salt reactor was built by the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Oak Ridge built and then ran a series of successful tests of its 8 MWe reactor back in the 60s. China’s Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics has just this year started to test its 2 MWe molten salt reactor. ThorCon’s TMSR-500 is scheduled to be the first MSR at commercial scale.

María Teresa Domínguez, who will be leading the project in the Advanced Projects Division of Empresarios Agrupados, commented that “it will be an excellent opportunity to work with ThorCon in a technology on which we have extensive experience through our involvement in the last 50 years in nuclear projects, including GEN IV reactors, as well as, in the last years, in renewables, where molten salt systems are also being implemented.”

Speaking on behalf of PT ThorCon Power Indonesia, CEO David Devanney said “we are delighted to join forces with Empresarios Agrupados. They are a world leader in nuclear engineering and have extensive experience in plant design, procurement, construction and operation that will be invaluable to the TMSR-500 program. This is a defining moment for the project and bodes well for its successful completion.”

Recent History of the ThorCon TMSR

World Nuclear News notes the following milestones that led to the current announcement.

In October 2015 Martingale of the USA – developer of the ThorCon thorium molten salt reactor – signed an agreement with the Indonesia Thorium Consortium (comprising state-owned companies PT Industry Nuklir Indonesia (INUKI), PT PLN and PT Pertamina) to build a ThorCon reactor to generate electricity.

In March 2017 Pertamina, INUKI and PLN completed a preliminary feasibility study on the ThorCon proposal which was positive, and the consortium then sought approval from Indonesia’s National Atomic Energy Agency (Batan). The company says that after testing in a full-scale pre-fission test facility, the phase 1 plan is to build a 500 MWe ThorConIsle unit (two modules) to prove the design, and then proceed to shipyard construction of further units to provide 3 GWe in the country.

In July 2019 the state shipbuilding company, PT PAL Indonesia, signed an agreement with ThorCon to conduct a development study and build a 500 MWe plant. PAL would build the reactor as EPC contractor and put it on a 185-meter-long barge built by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering in Okpo, South Korea. The completed plant will then be towed to a site in Indonesia, ballasted to the seabed and connected to the grid.

About the ThorCon Reactor

ThorCon is a molten salt fission reactor. Unlike all current nuclear reactors, the fuel is in liquid form, which can be moved around with a pump and passively drained.

ThorCon is a straightforward scale-up of the successful Molten Salt Reactor Experiment (MSRE) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. A full-scale 500 MWe ThorCon prototype can be tested within four years, that is, by 2025. After proving the plant safely handles multiple potential failures and hazards, commercial production can begin.

A ThorCon plant requires less of the planet’s resources than a coal plant. Assuming efficient, evidence-based regulation, ThorCon can produce clean, reliable, CO2-free electricity at US$0.03/kWh — cheaper than coal.

A complete ThorCon plant is manufactured in 150 to 500 ton blocks in a shipyard, assembled, then towed to the deployment site. This produces order of magnitude improvements in productivity, quality control, and build time.

Prior Coverage on this Blog

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BWXT Begins $4.9 Million TRISO Nuclear Fuel Production

BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) announced it has been awarded a $4.9 million contract amendment by Battelle Energy Alliance LLC to manufacture TRISO nuclear fuel. BEA manages Idaho National Laboratory on behalf of the Department of Energy.

bwxt triso fuelThe award amends a competitively bid base award announced in July 2020 and brings the overall contract value to $31.2 million.

The initial award funded expansion of BWXT’s TRISO manufacturing capacity and upgrades to the existing systems in support of anticipated fuel needs for both the Department of Defense (DoD) and NASA.

The project is jointly funded by the DoD Operational Energy Capabilities Improvement Fund Office and NASA, with overall program management provided by the DoD Strategic Capabilities Office.

Under the terms of the amendment, BWXT subsidiary Nuclear Operations Group, Inc. will manufacture a quantity of natural uranium TRISO particles and demonstrate those operations on a production schedule.

“We are excited and confident about the growing market for TRISO and specialty fuels, and with our third TRISO fuel production contract since the spring of 2020, we believe that confidence is being validated,” said Joel Duling, BWXT Nuclear Operations Group president.

TRISO refers to a specific design of uranium nuclear reactor fuel. TRISO is a shortened form of the term TRIstructural-ISOtropic. TRIstructural refers to the layers of coatings surrounding the uranium fuel, and ISOtropic refers to the coatings having uniform materials characteristics in all directions so that fission products are retained.

BWXT is the only U.S. company to manufacture irradiation-tested uranium oxycarbide TRISO fuel using production-scale equipment. Its TRISO production facility is currently licensed to produce this type of High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel, which is undergoing validation in a series of experiments at Idaho National Laboratory at their Advanced Test Reactor under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor program. BWXT is also designing TRISO-fueled microreactors using previously announced funding from the Department of Energy and DoD.

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US To Assist Estonia In Nuclear Capacity Building

(WNN) The USA and Estonia have agreed to cooperate under the US Department of State’s Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) capacity-building program.

Launched last year, the FIRST program is designed to deepen strategic ties, support energy innovation and advance technical collaboration with partner countries on secure and safe nuclear energy infrastructure. To date, the US Department of State has announced $6.3 million to support FIRST projects worldwide.

The initial training in Estonia will take place virtually between February and September this year and will focus on nuclear security, safety and non-proliferation. The training sessions will be attended by representatives of government ministries, their subdivisions, universities and stakeholders.

Future capacity-building will address the establishment of national nuclear safety regulations, workforce development, stakeholder engagement and site assessments of a nuclear power plant.

According to Estonia’s Minister of Environment Erki Savisaar, collaborating with the USA through FIRST program training will enhance the knowledge of Estonia’s specialists considering the deployment of small modular reactors and help the country to make an informed decision on the feasibility of including nuclear energy in Estonia’s energy mix.

“We must first find out what opportunities nuclear technology offers and be aware of the responsibilities and obligations involved,” Savisaar said.

“As Estonia has no previous experience in the use of nuclear technology and the country lacks expertise in the respective field, the support and assistance of the US government in this process is very necessary and welcome. At the same time, organizing the training is in no way a sign that Estonia has already made its decision regarding nuclear energy or some specific reactor technology.”

“We welcome Estonia’s ambitious efforts to transition from carbon-intensive sources for power generation and to ensure the country’s energy independence,” said US Embassy Tallinn Chargé d’Affaires Brian Roraff.

“The FIRST program brings extensive expertise from the US government, academia, national laboratories and industry to Estonian officials as they explore the feasibility of nuclear technology in a manner consistent with the highest international standards of nuclear security, safety and non-proliferation. This is a big decision, and we support Estonia’s careful consideration of all viable energy alternatives.”

In April 2021, the Estonian government formally approved the formation of a nuclear energy working group (NEPIO) tasked with analyzing the possibility of introducing nuclear energy in Estonia.

The group will analyze technologies and actual projects under development in other countries, and assess whether the development of a nuclear power plant should be carried out by the state or the private sector and what the possibilities for private-public cooperation could be. The NEPIO will present its conclusions and proposals to the government by September 2022 at the latest.

Estonia Could Get A Nuclear Power Plant Says Prime Minister

Estonia could get a nuclear power plant in the future to help safeguard the economy from the price of the energy crisis, daily newspaper Postimees reported recently.

The paper wrote that Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) and Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Center) agree but remain cautious when talking about nuclear power.

“I take a positive attitude toward nuclear energy;” Kallas told Postimees. “If we want to talk about energy independence, we should bet on nuclear,” Aas said.

Preparations for a nuclear plant in Estonia have been ongoing since the summer of 2020 when then Environment Minister Rene Kokk put together a nuclear energy working group.

One member of the latter is Fermi Energia that represents a group of entrepreneurs interested in constructing a small nuclear reactor in Estonia

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Sendai-1 Completes Inspection and Returns to Commercial Operation

On 01/17/2022 the Sendai-1 Nuclear Power Plant (PWR, 890 MWe), owned and operated by the Kyushu Electric Power Co. in Satsumasendai City, Kagoshima Prefecture, resumed commercial service after its periodic inspection was completed.

(JAIF) The periodic inspection of Sendai-1 had begun on October 17, 2021. After the loading of fuel assemblies, generation restarted two months later, on 12/20/2021. Thereafter, the power utility gradually increased reactor output and carried out final adjustments of facilities and equipment. In the afternoon of 01/17/2022 a final inspection prior to operation was completed, after which the reactor returned to commercial service.

Kyushu Electric released a comment saying that it would make every possible effort to continue safe, steady operation, earning the confidence and trust of the people of the region.

Following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi in 2011, the maximum operating lifetime for NPPs in Japan was set at 40years, in principle, from the start of commercial operation. The Sendai-1 NPP is to reach its 40year mark in 2024. With, however, the approval of the government, it is possible to extend the operating lifetime by up to 20 years.

The company is currently carrying out a “special inspection” required for such an extension, expecting it to continue until April or later.

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Digital Platform Will Aid Replacing Coal Plans with Nuclear

Bryden Wood, a consultancy, has created a new digital platform for designing the replacement of coal-fired boilers at existing power plants with advanced modular nuclear reactors (AMRs) possible at scale and speed. (Full text of BW press statement)

brydon wood digital screen shotThe design company, with offices in London and Barcelona, is working on its ‘Repowering Coal initiative,’ which aims to design a process to replace coal generating capacity via a fast, repeatable digital system resulting in deployment of small, modular advanced nuclear power plants.

Such reactors will be ready for deployment by 2027, by which time the digital platform will be sufficiently developed to realize carbon savings at a massive scale by the end of this decade.

Bryden Wood is working with TerraPraxis, and other partners include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, State University of New York at Buffalo, Microsoft, and KPMG to create a new building system to standardize and optimize all processes, including procurement, investment and approval; building and engineering systems; design, manufacture, assembly and operation; and interactions between different supply chain organizations to enable greater collaboration.

According to Bryden Wood, a standardized but customizable heat transfer and storage system allows the new, small nuclear systems to “plug in” to existing coal plant infrastructure. Existing plants have enormous value in terms of established markets for their power, grid connections, access to cooling water, and experienced personnel necessary for the generation and distribution of power.

Initially, the project will launch in the USA, but is designed to be rolled out globally and to attract customers and supply chain partners to re-engineer coal plants in all locations.

“The digital tools we’re creating will enable us to have a huge number of projects, across multiple sites, ready to go as soon as the reactors are approved. Speed and agility have never been so important,” said Bryden Wood co-founder Martin Wood.

TerraPraxis co-founder Eric Ingersoll added: “This ambitious project will design a process to repower the world’s coal fleets via a fast, repeatable system resulting in carbon negative power plants that are cheaper to operate than before and ensure continuity for communities reliant on these plants for energy and jobs.”

“Replacing coal boilers with advanced modular reactors (AMRs) allows the use of existing infrastructure for clean electricity generation and a fast, low-risk path to decarbonizing global power generation.”

“Unlike other proposed solutions, repowering coal plants offers robust political viability because it preserves jobs, local economies and existing, high-value infrastructure investments.”

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