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Saudi Arabia Launches a Nuclear Energy Company
- Saudi Arabia Launches a Nuclear Energy Company
- Philippines Signs MOU with US with a Focus on Nonproliferation Objectives
- US Partners with Ghana on SMRs
- US Firm Announces Plans to Build a 20 MWe SMR in Romania
- Rolls Royce Kicks Off UK Generic Design Process
- Idaho National Laboratory Builds Full-Scale Prototype Microreactor
- US / White House To Convene Summit On Nuclear Fusion
- Congress Provides Record Funding for Fusion Energy
Saudi Arabia Launches a Nuclear Energy Company
VIENNA — Prince Abdullah Bin Khalid Bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), revealed this week that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has established the Saudi Nuclear Energy Holding Company (SNEHC).
He said that the company will be able to participate in nuclear economic projects locally and internationally, in addition to operating and developing nuclear facilities for the production of energy and desalinated water.
Additionally, it will be setting a strategy for developing human capital in the field of atomic energy. He added another endeavor will be to create a national digital platform to build and attract human capabilities in the field of atomic energy.
In his speech at the session of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Board of Governors, Prince Abdullah affirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to nuclear safety. He expressed its appreciation for the agency’s efforts to enhance nuclear and radiological safety, transport and waste safety, especially in light of the challenges arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new KSA nuclear firm appears to combine the functions of a conventional nuclear electric utility, its financing arm, and possible export functions. It is another signal that the government is moving ahead with its plans to build at least two and possibly a total fleet of 16 full size light water reactors.
The timeframe for release a tender for two full size PWR type nuclear reactors remains uncertain. However, recent developments in the contractor world suggest they believe that could happen this year. Several state-owned enterprises has made public statements about their “readiness” to submit bids.
It is unclear whether KSA would welcome a bid from Rosatom given the global scope of sanctions being imposed on Russia due to its invasion of Ukraine. Separately, US-based Westinghouse cannot bid, nor partner with other bidders, due to the fact that KSA does not have an agreement with the US under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act for the peaceful use of nuclear energy. KSA had said repeatedly that it reserves the right to enrich uranium from its significant domestic deposits.
With energy analysts now pricing in the risk of loss of oil supplies from Russia (Brent crude at $112.70/bbl)(03/12/22) the Saudi may have assessed that it will have the revenue to proceed with the first two full size nuclear reactor units, and possibly more, depending on the outcome of the war in Ukraine.
It isn’t clear how long the price of oil will remain at its current inflated level. While no one can predict the future, if the price of oil drops drastically later this year, e.g., back to $60-70/bbl, it could slow down the Saudi plans once again for a fleet of 16 nuclear reactors.
Depending on the resilience of the Saudi planning processes, KSA could then opt for far less costly small modular reactors (SMRs), e.g., with power ratings of 50-300 MWe compared their full size cousins, e.g., 1,000-1,600 MWe. South Korea has an ongoing effort with KSA to deliver a 100 MWe “Smart” SMR primarily to power desalination plants to free up natural gas for export. The plan is to also manufacture the SMRs in KSA for export.
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Philippines Signs MOU with US with a Focus on Nonproliferation Objectives
(Philippine Star) Manila — The United States and the Philippines have agreed to strengthen partnership and cooperation on nuclear energy, science and technology.
“The United States and the Philippines have an enduring alliance and maintain long-standing cooperation in the fields of security, energy, commerce, and nonproliferation,” the US State Department said adding, “Our nuclear cooperation rests on a strong nonproliferation regime and the Philippines’ steadfast commitment to nonproliferation”
Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Bonnie Jenkins welcomed the signing of the order.
“This is great news for those of us working together to deepen collaboration between the US companies and Philippine partners in making sure that nuclear energy contributes to Philippine growth. We are delighted to partner with the Philippines to advance our shared non-proliferation energy and related climate vision,” Jenkins said.
“Deepening our cooperation in nuclear energy, science and technology has the potential to make a significant contribution to our shared clean energy goals, agricultural development, availability of clean water, medical treatments and more,” it said.
Significantly, the MOU was not signed off with US Department of Energy Secretary Granholm, which had been expected by the Philippines Energy Ministry. Two weeks ago an official from the Energy Ministry said in Manila he was planning to travel to Washington, DC, to meet with Granholm to sign an MOU for small modular reactors.
According to the US State Department, the new MOU will enable the US to help “its partners build their own infrastructure for the responsible use of nuclear energy and technology, and adopt high standards of nuclear safety, security and nonproliferation, including independent regulatory oversight.”
The US will also help the Philippines prepare to take advantage of the advanced nuclear technologies and innovations in reactor design and other areas that are being pioneered in the US.
The memorandum was signed days after President Duterte signed an executive order allowing the use of nuclear energy in the country. There are now plans to revive work to complete the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.
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US Partners with Ghana on SMRs
(Wire Services) The US Embassy in Ghana announced that the USA and Ghana have jointly launched a partnership under the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program.
“The FIRST program, led by the US Department of State, will support Ghana’s adoption of small modular reactor (SMR) technology, including support for stakeholder engagement, advanced technical collaboration, and project evaluation and planning,” the Embassy said.
The initial training for Ghanaian partners will take place throughout 2022, focusing on stakeholder engagement, licensing and regulatory development, financing, workforce development, and nuclear security, safety, and non-proliferation.
“As the US government works with the Government of Ghana to lay a strong foundation for a thriving civil nuclear energy sector, US companies are eager to support that ambition every step of the way,” said US Deputy Assistant Secretary Camille Richardson representing the International Trade Administration in the Department of Commerce.
“They bring decades of experience leading innovations in civil nuclear energy, pioneering the development of small modular reactors and working with partners around the world to deploy this safe, clean, and affordable energy technology.”
According to Ghana’s Minister of Energy, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, the Ghana’s decision to include nuclear power in the nation’s energy mix has led the country to establish Nuclear Power Ghana Limited as an owner operator and the project developer.
Ghana has a long history of interest in nuclear power. The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission was set up in 1963 to introduce nuclear science and technology into the country.
Ghana currently operates a Chinese-designed Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR), which it uses as a source of neutrons for neutron activation analysis at research institutions, universities and hospitals. The Ghana Research Reactor-1, a 30kW Chinese designed, which was commissioned in March 1995 and converted to run on low-enriched uranium fuel in 2017.
To date, the US State Department has announced $7.3 million to support FIRST projects worldwide.
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US Firm Sets Plans to Build a 20 MWe SMR in Romania
(Wire Services) Bucharest – A US firm is reported by English language wire services in Romania to have announced a plan to develop one or more small scale nuclear reactors to consolidate Romania’s power generation capacity and replace the coal-fired thermal plants.
Last Energy is developing solutions for small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). The firm claims it can deliver the 20 MWe SMR in 24 months at a cost of $3,000/ KW or for $60 million. The reactor will be a conventional LWR with enrichment of U235 at less than 5% U235.
No details were announced regarding financing commitments or licensing timeframes leading to a start of construction. There was no confirmation of the announcement from the Romanian government nor its state-owned nuclear electric utility.
Last Energy has been involved in designing a “crowd sourced” design of a 100 MWe PWR that could be rapidly built with commercial off-the-shelf components. The company is a spin off of the Energy Impact Center, a DC-based think tank which mostly known for its pro-nuclear podcasts.
Last November the US and Romania announced an MOU at COP26 plan to build a “first-of-a-kind” small modular reactor (SMR) plant in Romania in partnership with NuScale Power. That project has not yet progressed to a term sheet nor an announcement of how it will be funded.
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Rolls Royce Kicks Off UK Generic Design Process
(NucNet) Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd, which last year announced it had raised £450m in funding from investors and the government, has submitted its 470 MWe small modular reactor design for entry to the UK’s generic design assessment (GDA) regulatory process.
The move follows an announcement in November 2021 that the design had been submitted for initial screening. This was designed to confirm that the Rolls-Royce SMR business is qualified to enter the GDA process, which is run jointly by the Office for Nuclear Regulation, Natural Resources Wales and the Environment Agency. The three regulators can now begin their formal review process.
The GDA process is expected to take four to five years, during which time, Rolls-Royce SMR will engage in a range of parallel activities, including factory development, siting and commercial discussions.
The Rolls-Royce SMR draws on well-established pressurized water reactor technology. The the company said its unique approach will see the reactors built in a factory and assembled onsite. Rolls-Royce said the “repeatable” nature of factory construction lowers cost, reduces uncertainty and risk for developers and crucially, allows countries to address their urgent need for low carbon energy.
Rolls-Royce said its SMR can support both on-grid electricity and off-grid clean energy solutions, enabling the decarbonization of industrial processes and the production of clean fuels, such as sustainable aviation fuels and green hydrogen.
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Idaho National Laboratory Builds Full-Scale Prototype Microreactor
Idaho National Laboratory (INL) recently built a full-scale, electrically heated prototype microreactor. The prototype is one of the largest components ever fabricated at the lab.
It will be used to help validate the project’s final microreactor design that could be operational within the next two years.
The prototype system will be powered by an external electrical power supply, instead of fission, and will be used to ensure the MARVEL design and dynamics performs as expected.
“We use modeling tools to help regulators have confidence in the reactor design, but we can’t model all aspects of the flow and heat dynamics,” said Yasir Arafat, the MARVEL technical and project lead.
“A demonstration is necessary for us to be certain that the final reactor will perform to a high degree of reliability and confidence level.”
Once hardware tests and simulation results are confirmed, the MARVEL team will use modeling and simulation tools to verify and support the reactor’s safety case.
The MARVEL Project
MARVEL is a sodium-potassium cooled microreactor that will generate 100-kilowatts of power. The project is on track to be the world’s first contemporary microreactor to be built and demonstrated at INL’s Transient Reactor Test Facility. (Fact Sheet)
MARVEL will be used to test microreactor applications, develop regulatory approval processes, evaluate systems for remote monitoring, and develop autonomous control technologies.
It will also be used to explore and test microreactors capabilities for a wide variety of electrical applications, nonelectric applications such as water purification and low-grade heat production for district heating and greenhouse climate control.
MARVEL is expected to be connected to the world’s first nuclear microgrid at INL by 2024 and available for external researchers soon after. The MARVEL project is funded through the DOE Microreactor Program.
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US / White House To Convene Summit On Nuclear Fusion
(NucNet) The White House will convene a summit of government leaders, policymakers, scientists, investors, stakeholders, and private industry on 17 March plan for US leadership in commercial fusion energy.
In a statement the White House said fusion, which is the same reaction that powers the sun, has the potential to be a game-changing technology to help the US achieve net-zero by 2050, protect national security, and enhance the country’s technology leadership.
“Decades of public investment, rapid growth in private investment, and major recent scientific advances suggest that now is the time to quickly move toward demonstrating commercial fusion energy,” the statement said.
Details of the Online Event
White House Summit – Developing a Bold Decadal Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy
Thursday, March 17, 2022 at 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM ET
The event will be livestreamed at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUknjLH4HEo
Watch live as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) host a summit on Developing a Bold Decadal Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy. This summit will convene fusion energy leaders from government, industry, academia, and other stakeholder groups to showcase progress made and have inclusive conversations about an updated fusion strategy.
- Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy
- Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor
- Dr. Alondra Nelson, Head of OSTP and Deputy Assistant to the President
- Brenda Mallory, Chair of Council on Environmental Quality
- Dr. Geraldine Richmond, DOE Under Secretary for Science and Innovation
- Shalanda Baker, DOE Secretarial Advisor on Equity and Deputy Director for Energy
- Justice in the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity
- Dr. Sally Benson, OSTP Deputy Director for Energy and Chief Strategist for the Energy Transition
US Fusion Energy Association Thrilled by the Event
The US-based Fusion Industry Association, an international coalition of companies in the fusion industry, said it is now critical that the US Congress provides ample funding to fusion energy research, development, and deployment.
The association added: “Fusion will be a key solution to the climate crisis, and it will finally break the tie between geopolitics and natural resources.”
Congress Provides Record Funding for Fusion Energy and Initiates New Public Private Partnership
In the 2022 Consolidated Appropriations Act, the $1.5 trillion spending bill which funds the government for the 2022 Fiscal Year, the U.S. Congress provided record new funding for fusion energy research in the Department of Energy’s Office of Fusion Energy Sciences and provides enough resources to initiate a new milestone-based public-private partnership program.
Long a priority for the Fusion Industry Association, this new milestone-based public private partnership program would allow the Department of Energy to partner with private companies to build new fusion energy devices, focused towards defined milestones, as agreed by a competitive application process.
The program was created by Congress in the Energy Act of 2020. The $45 million directed to this program is the first funding that was directly appropriated for it. Although the funding will be enough to initiate the program and define the parameters of application, it will not be enough – on its own – to meet ambitious goals for fusion energy development.
The milestone program was authorized at $325 million in funding over 5 years, a number that the House of Representatives has proposed to raise to $800 million in the Science for the Future Act, as pending before the Senate. Based on an informal poll of FIA members, the private sector is ready to support up to $1 billion in funding.
Beyond the new milestone program, Congress provides $713 million, a record high, for the Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, which supports the bulk of the U.S. Government’s fusion research and construction. Specific funding specified by Congress includes $242 million for ITER construction and financial support, and $460 million for fusion research.
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