- Tennessee Site Near ORNL Chosen for HALEU Fuel Facility
- Third Way – Developing Domestic HALEU Supply
- Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) Publishes A New Report on HALEU
- Sen Manchin (D-Wv) Sen Risch (R-Id) The International Nuclear Energy Act Of 2022
- Samsung and Seaborg Plan Molten Salt Floating Nuclear Power Barges
- Space Allocated at Temelín for Future SMRs
- Polish Miner KGHM Seeks Partnership with Romania’s Nuclearelectrica
- UK’s First Light Fusion Announces Fusion Breakthrough
Tennessee Site Near ORNL Chosen for HALEU Fuel Facility
(WNN) (NucNet) A site in Oak Ridge, TN, has been selected as the site for the first commercial high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU)-based fuel fabrication facility to be built in the US. Construction of the TRISO-X Fuel Fabrication Facility (TF3), is to begin this year, with commissioning and start-up expected as soon as 2025. The company has submitted a license application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).
The industrial park is not far from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory site where Triso-X parent company X-energy has already produced kilogram quantities of fuel through a public-private partnership.
The license application took about three years to develop, at a cost of almost $20 million.
The NRC’s review process is expected to take 24-36 months. TF3 would become the first 10 CFR 70 Category II licensed fuel facility in the USA.
The NRC review, and TRISO-X’s interactions with the regulator over this period, are part of X-energy’s cooperative agreement with the Department of Energy under its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). Andrew Griffith, US acting assistant secretary for Nuclear Energy, said the licensing milestone is “a critical step” towards achieving the program’s goals.
X-energy, which is developing the advanced Xe-100 reactor, announced it will initially produce 8 tonnes of fuel per year – enough to support about twelve Xe-100 small modular reactors. TRISO-X aims to expand the facility’s capacity from its initial 8 tonnes per year to 16 tonnes year by the early 2030s.
TF3 will use uranium enriched to less than 20% U235 to manufacture nuclear fuel products for a variety of advanced and small modular reactors, plus speciality fuels for space nuclear projects. The commercial facility’s cross-cutting design will enable manufacturing of fuel for other types of advanced or small nuclear reactors the need to use TRISO fuel.
TF3 will also be used to continue to support government funded projects, such as mobile reactors for the military or space nuclear projects. TRISO-X is already operating two facilities at Oak Ridge: the TRISO-X Pilot Facility, located inside Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the TRISO-X Research and Development Center in the Centrus Technology Manufacturing Center. TF3 is projected to generate more than 400 jobs in the Oak Ridge area and attract some USD300 million of investment.
TRISO – tristructural isotropic – fuel particles consist of a “kernel” of uranium oxycarbide (or uranium dioxide), surrounded by layers of carbon and silicon carbide, giving a containment for fission products which is stable up to very high temperatures. Fuel for
X-energy’s Xe-100 high temperature gas-cooled modular reactor consists of spherical “pebbles” each embedded with 18,000 TRISO particles. Each fuel pebble is about the size of a billiard ball – around 6cm in diameter.
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Third Way – Developing Domestic HALEU Supply Spells Freedom from Russian Dependency
Russia is currently the world’s only viable commercial supplier of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), the necessary fuel for many advanced nuclear power reactors rapidly emerging in the United States and the rest of the world.
Russia’s global monopoly on HALEU has been a serious concern for years, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the acute political risks and moral objections of relying on Russian HALEU supply. Third Way Report PDF file
Background to the Report
The US faces a major problem to achieve success with its efforts to design and commercialize advanced nuclear reactors. They will need high assay low enriched fuel (HALEU) , which is in the range of 5%-to-19% U235. Until recently, US firms got their from Russia which fabricated HALEU fuel elements and assemblies by downblending highly enriched uranium retrieved from decommissioned nuclear weapons.
That relationship is gone as a result of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions that have been placed on that country by the US and its NATO allies. The war in Ukraine has highlighted the “acute political risks and moral objections of relying on Russian HALEU supply,” as Third Way experts Alan Ahn and Ryan Norman write in a memo that demonstrates how developing HALEU in the US is critical to America’s leadership in nuclear energy.
“Developing a domestic capacity to manufacture HALEU fuel would make the U.S. more competitive in a fast-emerging area of the energy economy. It would also help re-establish American global leadership in nuclear energy, helping us meet our climate, clean energy, national security, and economic goals.”
Last month, the DOE’s HALEU program received $45 million from Congress in the FY2022 omnibus, an increase from the amount included in the Energy Act of 2020, but much more will be needed to fully fund the program’s activities.
Currently, the only federally funded supplier in the US, Centrus, based in Piketon, Ohio, employs 200 people. A commercial-scale-plant could provide good-paying jobs in local communities in the coming years. The memo lays out the case for US leadership and policy recommendations to help achieve those goals.
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Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) Publishes A New Report on HALEU
The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) has released a new report, “Catalyzing a Domestic Commercial Market for High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU).” (PDF file) This new publication describes the challenges and opportunities associated with development of a domestic commercial HALEU market and identifies potential policy options that can be used to catalyze market development.
It presents the changing near-term, mid-term, and long- term supply and demand conditions that must be included when developing federal programs to accelerate commercial market development.
NIA Executive Director Judi Greenwald highlighted the relevance of this work to ongoing efforts to create a reliable and robust fuel cycle for advanced reactors:
“A robust commercial market for High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) is critical to the successful deployment of advanced nuclear energy. A domestic supply of HALEU would help ensure fuel availability for advanced reactors and facilitate long-term investments in advanced nuclear energy. This report outlines the challenges and opportunities inherent in jumpstarting a domestic supply of fuel critical to the future of advanced reactors in the U.S.”
“Federal investment in HALEU fuel availability can kickstart market development and incentivize companies to make fuel cycle infrastructure investments to support the more rapid deployment of advanced nuclear energy. This work outlines the different policy options that can be used to meet the needs of HALEU fuel cycle stakeholders while providing the assurances needed to support the successful deployment of advanced reactors as a climate solution. We believe that these options can inform policymakers and the Department of Energy as they work to develop HALEU fuel availability programs.”
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Sen Manchin (D-Wv) Sen Risch (R-Id) Introduce The International Nuclear Energy Act Of 2022
Bipartisan legislation will promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of civil nuclear energy by reducing China and Russia’s influence on other nations’ civil nuclear energy programs. It is the The International Nuclear Energy Act Of 2022
Short List of Intended Outcomes:
- Establish an Office to coordinate civil nuclear exports strategy; establish financing relationships; promote regulatory harmonization; enhance safeguards and security;
- Promote standardization of licensing framework; and create an exports working group.
- Create programs to facilitate international nuclear energy cooperation to develop financing relationships, training, education, market analysis, safety, security, safeguards and nuclear governance required for a civil nuclear program.
- Require two biennial summits, one focused on nuclear safety, security and safeguards, and another for civil nuclear vendors to enhance cooperative relationships between private industry and government.
- Establish a Strategic Infrastructure Fund Working Group to determine how to best structure a Fund to finance projects critical to national security.
- Create fast-track procedures for deemed civil nuclear exports for countries defined by the Secretary of Energy.
- Expand the Export-Import Bank program on Transformational Exports to include civil nuclear facilities and related goods.
- Create the U.S. Nuclear Fuels Security Initiative to reduce and eventually eliminate reliance on Chinese and Russian nuclear fuels.
To view the full text of the International Nuclear Energy Act, please click here.
Statement from Sen Manchin: “Our bipartisan bill establishes an Office for Nuclear Energy Policy to engage with our allies and industry partners to offset Chinese and Russian influence and reduce our reliance on nuclear fuels from these and other adversarial nations. I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this critical legislation to help strengthen our energy security and further deny any nation the ability to weaponize energy against us and our allies.”
Statement from Sen Risch: “Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine has only highlighted the importance of energy security. This bill takes significant steps to re-establish American leadership in nuclear energy, both at home and abroad, which is critical to ensuring the security of energy supplies for ourselves and our allies, global standards for nonproliferation and other national security interests, and economic growth.”
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Samsung and Seaborg Plan Molten Salt Floating Nuclear Power Barges
(WNN contributed to this report) South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries is forming a partnership with Seaborg, a Danish start-up pursuing next-generation nuclear technologies, Together they plan to develop floating nuclear power plant barges using a compact Molten Salt Reactor (CMSR) technology developed by Seaborg.
They believe the CMSR barges can be commercialized as an efficient power source in response to climate change and also can be harnessed to power the green production of hydrogen and ammonia.
Seaborg’s design is for modular CMSR power barges that can produce between 200 MWe and 800 MWe of electricity. The CMSR’s fuel is mixed in a liquid salt that acts as a coolant, which means that it will simply shut down and solidify in case of emergency.
The strategic partnership envisions a floating nuclear power plant that will be produced for customers as a turn-key product ready to be moored in an industrial harbor. Once floated to its mooring position in the harbor, a transmission cable will be connected to the electric grid onshore. The reactor and the barge will have a 24-year lifetime and be cost-competitive with other power solutions. When its service life is over, it will be towed away for decommissioning and replaced with a new plant.
Samsung said that it plans to develop an 800 MWe model of the floating reactor power plant within the next year by working with Seaborg. The firm will also conduct classification certification and develop commercial marketing plans. The timeline for Seaborg, which was founded in 2014, has been for commercial prototypes to be built in 2024 with commercial production of Power Barges beginning from 2026.
In the second phase of the partnership, Samsung plans to expand the development and marketing to link the floating power plants with the development of hydrogen and ammonia production facilities. The stable production of energy also offers a fundamental basis for the production of all Power-2-X fuels, where especially hydrogen and ammonia are considered a future energy source to replace traditional fossil fuels, said Seaborg.
The concept is to place a hydrogen or ammonia production plant next to the floating nuclear power plant, utilizing the CO2-free fission energy to produce hydrogen and ammonia. The design of the hydrogen, ammonia, and power units will be optimized for efficient serial construction at Samsung’s shipyards.
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Space Allocated at Temelín for Future SMRs
(WNN) CEZ has set aside an area at the Temelín Nuclear Power Plant as a potential location for the Czech Republic’s first small modular reactor (SMR). It says the site will not impact on plans to build two more large-scale units.
ČEZ signed a Memorandum of Understanding on SMRs with NuScale in 2019. It also has cooperation agreements with GE Hitachi, Rolls-Royce, EDF, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and Holtec. Clearly, CEZ has not made up its mind which vendor has the best technology or the best deal.
The Czech Republic has six nuclear reactors – including two at Temelin – generating about one-third of the country’s electricity. With three new reactors planned, including two at Temelin, the aim is for nearly 60% of the country’s electricity to be from nuclear. A tender for a new 1200 MWe PWR at Dukovany was released last month.
Small modular reactors are defined by World Nuclear Assocation as generally 300 MWe equivalent or less, designed with modular technology using mobile factory fabrication, pursuing economies of series production and short construction time.
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Polish Mining Company KGHM Seeks Partnership with Romania’s Nuclearelectrica
Polish metal mining company KGHM is preparing to enter into a partnership with Romania’s nuclear company Nuclearelectrica focused on development of small modular nuclear reactors (SMR).
“Small nuclear reactors are one of KGHM’s priorities. Romania is a country that has been developing SMR projects and has been using nuclear energy for 30 years. We are initiating cooperation with Nuclearelectrica, a meeting with the Secretary of State for Energy, and a visit to the Cernavoda,” said the president of the Polish company, Marcin Chludzinski.
KGHM is a copper and silver producer with about EUR 5 billion in annual revenues.
In November, the US company NuScale, majority controlled by the Texan industrial conglomerate Fluor Corp., signed an agreement with Nuclearelectrica, the state operator of the Cernavoda nuclear power plant, under which Romania could develop the first plant based on small modular nuclear reactors in Europe.
Separately, several other Polish firms in the chemicals and also the mining sectors are pursuing deals to develop SMRs.
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UK’s First Light Fusion Announces Fusion Breakthrough
First Light Fusion (First Light), the UK based University of Oxford fusion spin-out, announced that it had achieved fusion and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) independently validated the result. This is the first time fusion has been achieved using the unique targets developed by First Light, and the corresponding projectile technology.
To deliver this fusion result, First Light used its large two-stage hyper-velocity gas gun to launch a projectile at a target, containing the fusion fuel.
“The projectile reached a speed of 6.5 km/sec (23,400 km/hr) before impact. First Light’s highly sophisticated target focuses this impact, with the fuel accelerated to over 70 km/sec as it implodes, an increase in velocity achieved through the firm’s proprietary advanced target design, making it the fastest moving object on earth at that point.”
First Light’s power plant design involves the target being dropped into the reaction chamber and the projectile launched downwards through the same entrance, so it catches up with and impacts the target at the right moment.
The impact is focused and amplified by First Light’s advanced target technology, and a pulse of fusion energy is released. That energy is absorbed by the lithium flowing inside the chamber, heating it up. The flowing liquid protects the chamber from the huge energy release, sidestepping some of the most difficult engineering issues in other approaches to fusion. Finally, a heat exchanger transfers the heat of the lithium to water, generating steam that turns a turbine and produces electricity.
First Light’s equipment is relatively simple, built in large part from readily available components. First Light believes this approach accelerates the journey towards commercial fusion power as there is a large amount of existing engineering that can be reused to realize its proposed plant design.
A peer reviewed analysis conducted by First Light shows that projectile fusion offers a pathway to a very competitive Levelized Cost Of Energy (LCOE) of under $50/MWh, directly competing on cost with renewables. First Light said it has achieved fusion having spent less than £45 million ($58.5m).
UK Business & Energy Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “First Light Fusion’s British-born technology could potentially revolutionize power production in the coming decades. That is why this government is investing in UK science and innovation, ensuring that we remain at the forefront of the global scientific endeavor to make safe, clean, limitless fusion energy a reality.”
First Light is working towards a pilot plant producing around 150MWe and costing less than $1 billion in the 2030s. First Light is working with UBS Investment Bank to explore strategic options for the next phase of its scientific and commercial development.
First Light Chairman Bart Markus said: “Fusion must show it is more than an expensive science experiment, but that it can be a commercial solution to the challenge of producing baseload clean energy.”
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Regarding First Light Fusion, I’d be as delighted as the next person if they succeed. However, in their press release (https://firstlightfusion.com/media/fusion), in the section “FUSION FACTS” I note it states “the number of neutrons produced is low, around 50, however, this matches the predicted yield exactly”. 50(!) neutrons adds useful perspective and is, of course, many orders of magnitude away from anything useful.