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It has updates on the status of nuclear facilities impacted by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Also, the International Atomic Energy Agency at iaea.org is publishing periodic bulletins. The latest as of March 18th is #25.
- Czech Launches Tender for New Reactor at Dukovany
- Sweden / Cleantech Startup Signs Agreement for GEH BWRX-300
- Newcleo, ENEA to Cooperate on Advanced Reactors
- Finland / PM Says Hanhikivi Nuclear Project is ‘Not Moving Forward’
- Finland’s Olkiluoto 3 EPR Delivers Power to the Grid
- Nuclear Restarts in Japan Seen as Best Option for Dealing with Energy Shortages
- Japan Moves to Reduce Plutonium Stockpiles
- Orano Lays Out Success Factors for HALEU Production
- German Fusion Start-up Raises $66 million So Far
Czech Launches Tender for New Reactor at Dukovany
(WNN) The Czech Republic’s Ministry of Industry and Trade has released a request for a proposal for what is expected to be a new nuclear reactors to be built at the site of the existing Dukovany nuclear power plant.
Based on past statements by CEZ, the state-owned nuclear electric utility, the plant is likely to be a PWR with a target power rating of 1200 MWe. CEZ approved three bidders after blacklisting Russia and China on security grounds. The approved list includes EDF from France, Westinghouse from the USA and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP).
Westinghouse is expected to offer its 1150 MWe AP1000. EDF is expected to offer a new design of its 1600 MWe EPR which may have a different power rating, and South Korea is expected to offer the same 1400 MWe PWR design that it has used to build four of them in the United Arab Emirates.
The bidders have until November to submit their initial bids. CEZ said it will complete its evaluation of them and seek approval from the government for a final contract award to the winning bidder in 2024.
The plan to release the tender was approved by a large majority in the Chamber of Deputies in September 2021. It authorizes CEZ to purchase electricity from new nuclear plants at a fixed rate for at least 30 years, with the possibility of extensions. The power will be resold on the wholesale market and any profit or loss translated into an adjustment to power bills, although the government said it will set an upper limit on any extra cost.
Daniel Beneš, Chairman of the Board of Directors and Chief Executive Officer of CEZ, said, “The main objective is a safe and economical project completed within the stipulated budget and time. For the tender itself, the goal is of course to select the best contractor and to have a quality and beneficial contract.”
Benes said that he expects a new reactor to enter the commissioning process by 2036 which he said “is achievable.”
The new plant at Dukovany is due to be built next to the existing power plant, whose first unit was commissioned in 1985. The Czech Republic already uses nuclear power for 34% of its electricity, generating this from four reactors at Dukovany and two at Temelin. It is also looking at building new units at Temelin. However, CEZ has not announced a timeline for tender for the Temelin units.
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Sweden / Cleantech Startup Signs Agreement For Potential Deployment Of GEH’s BWRX-300
(NucNet) A nuclear project development company established in Sweden has signed an agreement to work with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) on the deployment of its BWRX-300 small modular reactor technology in Scandinavia.
The cleantech startup company Kärnfull Next said it has secured initial funding from Corespring Invest, an investment portfolio with a long track record of successful investments in cleantech and fossil-free energy sources.
Kärnfull Next is a fully owned subsidiary of Kärnfull Future AB, a cleantech startup based in Goteborg, Sweden, majority owned by its founders Christian Sjölander and John Ahlberg.
According to Kärnfull Next, SMRs can provide utility and industrial customers greater flexibility than traditional reactor designs and can deliver clean, carbon-emission free energy that can be used to supply electricity, hydrogen, ammonia, synthetic fuels and industrial heat. The firm said it will manage the various sub-contractors and development phases such as licensing, environmental issues, permits, financing and local government relations.
It said the BWRX-300’s smaller size creates greater flexibility and emissions-free and reliable production of electricity, heat, or hydrogen where it is needed.
“Sweden has significant experience with nuclear energy, and especially boiling water reactor technology,” said Jon Ball, executive vice-president for GEH.
“As industry and investors join forces to accelerate the energy transition, global interest in the BWRX-300 is rapidly growing and we are excited to be working with Kärnfull to bring this technology to Sweden.”
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Newcleo, ENEA to Cooperate on Advanced Reactors
(WNN) UK-based innovative reactor developer Newcleo has signed a framework agreement with ENEA – the Italian national agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development – to cooperate on the development of small, lead-cooled fast reactors.
“The goal of the framework agreement is to produce energy in a safe, reliable, sustainable way through innovative small-scale nuclear systems to be deployed outside of Italy (where no civil nuclear activity is permitted),” Newcleo said.
“Specifically, it foresees the development of advanced nuclear systems of small dimensions (Advanced Modular Reactors), cooled with lead instead of water, making them much simpler and more reliable.”
In collaboration with ENEA, Newcleo will build an electrical prototype of the lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR) system, which will not use radioactive materials or nuclear fuel, to allow the study of thermo-dynamic, mechanical and functional performances.
Newcleo said it intends to construct the first nuclear prototype in a “nuclear-friendly” country within seven years, and subsequently market them internationally to gradually replace the current Generation II and III reactors.
Currently, Italy is not a “nuclear friendly” country having dispensed with any effort to develop nuclear reactors in a national referendum. Newcleo is based in the UK which is “nuclear friendly.”
Under the cooperation agreement, ENEA will make available to Newcleo its Brasimone Research Centre for safety analysis, training and testing activities. In addition, new research infrastructures will be implemented, favoring wherever possible the use and refurbishment of the existing experimental halls and laboratories.
Investments by Newcleo towards all these could exceed EUR50 million (USD55 million) over a 10-year period. The company plans to employ a team of 25-30 engineers, who will work permanently for about 10 years at the Brasimone Centre.
Newcleo in August last year announced its incorporation with the closing of a USD118 million initial capital raising and the acquisition of Hydromine Nuclear Energy.
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Finland / PM Says Hanhikivi Nuclear Project is ‘Not Moving Forward’
(NucNet) Finland’s prime minister Sanna Marin confirmed the government is “not moving forward” with the Hanhikivi-1 nuclear power project for which Russian state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom is supplying the plant technology, the Helsinki Times reported.
Finland’s president president Sauli Niinisto told reporters recently that Russia’s actions in Ukraine will have an impact on the security assessment for the joint Hanhikivi-1.
The newspaper also said minister of economic affairs Mika Lintilä said last week that he cannot see a scenario where the project could be presented to the government for approval.
Fennovoima said in a statement last month that sanctions imposed against Russia because of its invasion of Ukraine were expected to impact the project.
Hanhikivi-1 is a joint project between the Fennovoima consortium of Finnish utilities and a subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, which holds a 34% stake. The technology for the project is Russia’s AES-2006 pressurized water reactor. Fennovoima said total investment costs for the project are expected to be €7-€7.5 billion.
In October 2021, preparatory excavation work resumed at the Hanhikivi-1 site after a break of several years following revisions to the site boundaries. In April 2021, Fennovoima said commercial operation of Hanhikvi-1 was likely to begin a year later than planned or by 2029. Efforts to license the project have been set back repeatedly due to the Finnish nuclear regulatory authority telling Rosatom the paperwork was not in order.
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Finland’s Olkiluoto 3 EPR Delivers Power to the Grid
Finland’s delayed Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor started test production this month delivering power to the national grid which over time is expected to reduce the need for electricity imports and lead to lower prices.
The project has had technological problems that became the subject of lawsuits as well as schedule delays and significant cost overruns. The 1600 MWe reactor had originally been due to open in 2009. It is Finland’s first new nuclear plant in over four decades and Europe’s first in almost 15 years.
Once fully operational, it is expected to meet 14% of Finland’s electricity demand, reducing the need for imports from Russia, Sweden and Norway.
“Olkiluoto 3 will decrease Finland’s import dependency and it will become a cheaper price zone,” Aurora Energy Research economist Alexander Esser told Reuters.
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Nuclear Restarts in Japan Seen as Best Option for Dealing with Energy Shortages
An embargo on Russian oil and gas due to sanctions imposed on the country due to its invasion of Ukraine, if it takes effect, will hit Japan hard according to a Reuters report.
Such an embargo would hit Japan hard as well, said Itsunori Onodera, a former Defence Minister and senior lawmaker in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).
“It’s a question of whether we could endure this,” he told Reuters in an interview.
Other natural gas and oil producers would have to step up to cover what Russia currently supplies to make this a viable option, he said.
Japan relies on Russia for 5% of its oil and about 8% of its LNG. Russia is Japan’s fifth-biggest supplier of crude oil and liquified natural gas (LNG). An even better option would be hastening the restart of Japanese nuclear reactors, he added.
Many Japanese reactors are still going through a relicensing process under safety standards imposed after an earthquake and tsunami touched off meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
“If we could have the nuclear reactors working, if we could speed that up, if you could obtain the understanding of the people after having verified safety – speeding up inspections and then speeding up the restarts, that’s definitely a choice,” he told Reuters in an interview. Asked if this would be the best option in the event it faced fossil fuel shortages, he said “Yes.”
Japan currently has six operating nuclear reactors with a total capacity of 6,190 MW as opposed to 54 before Fukushima.
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Japan Moves to Reduce Plutonium Stockpiles
A plan was unveiled Feb. 18 by the Tokyo-based Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) will allow operators of pluthermal generation facilities to use plutonium produced by other utilities.
Japan has nearly 40 tonnes of plutonium in storage, which has raised international concerns over its potential for use in nuclear weapons. Most of it is held by the UK and France. Only about 10 tonnes are in Japan.
Major utilities in Japan commission facilities in Britain and France to extract plutonium from spent nuclear fuel produced at atomic power plants in this country. It is processed into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for reuse at domestic Japanese nuclear power plants.
Japan’s plutonium stockpiles in Britain and France totaled 21.8 tonness and 15.4 tonness, respectively, as of December 2020. Britain shut down its only MOX plant in 2011, which means it can no longer reprocess plutonium.
As a result, and for accounting purposes, nuclear utilities in Japan, such as Kyushu Electric Power Co. will exchange their plutonium reserves in Britain for the stockpile in France for use by Tokyo Electric Power Co. and other utilities. The plutonium will then be reprocessed to produce MOX fuel and imported back to Japan.
Only four reactors currently use MOX which are the No. 3 reactor of the Genkai plant; the No. 3 reactor of Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture; and the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture. The FEPC estimates another eight reactors could be licensed to burn MOX fuel.
A reprocessing facility operated by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, to recover plutonium from spent nuclear fuel is scheduled for completion in the first half of fiscal 2022. It’s not clear if it will meet that milestone or that it will have the capacity to make enough MOX fuel from the plutonium stockpile to significantly reduce its size.
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Orano Lays Out Success Factors for HALEU Production
Orano USA recently submitted a detailed response to the 21 questions in the Department of Energy’s “Request for Information (RFI) Regarding Planning for Establishment of a Program to Support the Availability of High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) for Civilian Domestic Research, Development, Demonstration, and Commercial Use.”
The RFI response highlights two primary challenges:
- Development of flexible enrichment and deconversion technology, and
- HALEU demand certainty
A successful DOE approach will ensure that future HALEU fuel production is available when needed, provided in the variety of physical forms required by different reactor designs, and will be commercially cost-competitive.
The challenges to achieving this sustainable HALEU production are primarily centered on two concerns:
1) The development of conversion and enrichment technology that is both reliable and proven in operation, and
2) Addressing commercial investment risk by ensuring steady demand for a sufficient amount of HALEU production.
Driving these concerns is the potential situation where investors are reluctant to put money into advanced reactor construction without an established fuel supply, and fuel suppliers are equally unwilling to license and construct the necessary enrichment and deconversion capabilities until they have received commercial commitments that guarantee a certain volume of demand.
Orano’s assessment shows that the single most important factor enabling success is a firm and meaningful HALEU quantity commitment by DOE.
In the design of the public-private partnerships for HALEU production, Orano’s RFI response showed how technology risk should be borne primarily by industry in alignment with existing commercial expertise in enrichment, deconversion, packaging, and logistics.
Orano’s provided content and recommendations are based on the company’s six decades of experience operating its uranium conversion and enrichment facilities in France and providing nuclear material transportation packaging and services for international customers.
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German Fusion Start-up Raises $66 million So Far
(CNBC) A start-up in Germany Marvel Fusion has raised $65.9 million (60 million euros) since its founding in 2019, and is pursuing an innovative approach to fusion power that uses lasers.
The current funding round will support testing of Marvel Fusion’s theoretical model. The firm said that while it was raising money in the millions, it will need billions to build a prototype. The company is testing the idea using computer models and believes its approach will be more efficient than competing efforts.
Marvel Fusion, founded in 2019, is one of the many start-ups taking a bet on commercializing fusion. The German company is pursuing an innovative approach using lasers instead of magnets, and has so far raised raised €60 million ($65.9 million), including a €35 million ($38.5 million) round in February led by Earlybird Venture Capital.
Marvel Fusion is not the only start-up in the field working with lasers: HB11, EX-Fusion, and Focused Energy are among the others, according to Andrew Holland, CEO of the Fusion Industry Association.
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