DOD to Build & Test Project Pele Mini Reactor at INL

  • DOD to Build & Test Project Pele Mini Reactor at INL
  • Updates on BWXT Microreactor Design Project & TRISO Fuels
  • Moltex and SNC-Lavalin Announce Strategic Partnership
  • Canada’s Laurentis Signs Agreement with Fermi Energia on SMRs
  • South Korea is Making a U-Turn on Nuclear Energy
  • South Korea / SK Conglomerate ‘Considering Investment’ in TerraPower
  • Turkey / Ambitious Nuclear Energy Plans ‘May Not Be Enough’, Says Minister

DOD to Build & Test Project Pele Mini Reactor at INL

The Department of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) released a Record of Decision (ROD) for Project Pele, a program intended to design, build, and demonstrate a mobile microreactor.

SCO will construct an inherently safe by design nuclear microreactor capable of being transported by the DOD and able to deliver 1-5 MWe of electrical power for a minimum of three years and for as long as five years of full power operation.

GAO DOD Mini Reactor

This reactor will be assembled and initially operated at Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and will be the first electricity-generating Generation IV nuclear reactor built in the United States.

“Thanks to the tireless work of the contract teams, the valuable input from local stakeholders, and the talented and experienced NEPA technical support teams at the Department of Energy and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, we are confident that an inherently safe by design mobile microreactor can be constructed and demonstrated safely at Idaho National Laboratory,” said Dr. Jeff Waksman, Project Pele program manager.

“Advanced nuclear power has the potential to be a strategic game-changer for the United States, both for the DoD and for the commercial sector. For it to be adopted, it must first be successfully demonstrated under real world operating conditions.”

In March 2020, Project Pele announced a Notice of Intent (NOI) to conduct an environmental analysis in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). At the same time, SCO kicked off a two-year microreactor design competition. The NEPA process was conducted such that it would cover all possible reactor designs allowed under Pele’s technical requirements.

SCO Director Jay Dryer has released a ROD on construction and testing drawn from the analysis performed within a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), published in the Federal Register. The Record of Decision and the Environmental Impact Statement, as well as supporting documentation, are available online

SCO is considering engineering designs developed by two competing teams: BWXT Advanced Technologies, LLC, Lynchburg, Virginia; and X-energy, LLC, Greenbelt, Maryland. SCO said it has full confidence that both teams have developed reactor designs which can be constructed to meet SCO’s minimum technical requirements. However, only one design will be selected by DOD. An announcement on the award is expected later this spring.

The DOD uses approximately 30 terawatt-hours of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel per day — levels that are only expected to increase due to anticipated electrification of the non-tactical vehicle fleet and maturation of future energy-intensive capabilities. A safe, small, transportable nuclear reactor would address this growing demand with a resilient, carbon-free energy source that would not add to the DoD’s fuel needs, while supporting mission-critical operations in remote and austere environments.

As a High-Temperature Gas Reactor (HTGR) using High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) Tristructural Isotropic (TRISO) fuel, Project Pele is a fourth-generation nuclear reactor, which can serve as a pathfinder for commercial adoption of such technologies, thereby reducing the nation’s carbon emissions and providing new tools for critical infrastructure support in military and civilian settings.

Project Pele is a whole-of-government effort, with critical expertise provided by the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Pele reactor is to be a single prototype, which will be demonstrated only within the United States, under the safety oversight of the Department of Energy. A decision by the DOD on whether or not to transition the technology and to use it operationally will be made at a future date.

“The DoD has a long history of driving American innovation, with nuclear power being one of many prominent examples,” said Mr. Jay Dryer, SCO Director. “Project Pele is an exciting opportunity to advance energy resilience and reduce carbon emissions while also helping to shape safety and nonproliferation standards for advanced reactors around the world.”

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Update on BWXT Microreactor Design Project

BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) is proceeding to deliver microreactors to commercial power and industrial customers in cooperation with Idaho National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The company’s BANR (BWXT Advanced Nuclear Reactor) is a transportable microreactor using TRISO fuel and was selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). DOE is contributing $85.3 million to the cost-share project over seven years, with BWXT funding the remaining amount.

BWXT is focusing on aggressive cost reductions for deploying this transportable microreactor through performance improvements and lower delivery costs.  (NAS Briefing) (BWXT Fact Sheet)

Triso Fuel Update

Subsidiary BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC (BWXT AT) has finished its formal cost-sharing contracting negotiations with the DOE and is on track to deliver the first round of BANR’s TRISO fuel for testing at Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor in 2024 as scheduled.

Fuel testing at Idaho National Laboratory will provide important operational data on the performance of TRISO fuel particles. When complete, the project will have matured technologies related to key reactor safety systems in order to improve the overall economics for deployment.

This data is critical for approval by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and transition to deployment. BWXT AT is also partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory for the development of advanced modeling and simulation tools and manufacturing processes.

“We’re making a lot of progress in this program, and I’m very proud of the engineers and technicians who are keeping our reactor design and fuel development processes focused on deployment and stimulating demand in the advanced reactor market,” said Joe Miller, BWXT AT president. “Our collaboration with the national laboratories represents a longstanding commitment to delivering cutting-edge technologies that improve reactor performance and operation.”

About TRISO Fuel

TRISO refers to a specific design of uranium nuclear reactor fuel that can withstand extreme heat and has very low environmental risks. A single TRISO particle is tiny – about the size of the tip of a ball-point pen. Every TRISO particle carries its own layered containment system to protect the environment and the public. Thousands of these particles are pressed into ‘compacts’ similar in size to a tube of lip balm. BWXT is the only U.S. company to manufacture irradiation-tested uranium oxycarbide TRISO fuel using production-scale equipment.

& & &

Moltex and SNC-Lavalin Announce Strategic Partnership

Moltex Energy Canada Inc. (Moltex) and SNC-Lavalin Group (TSX: SNC) announced a strategic partnership to advance clean nuclear energy. SNC-Lavalin, a fully integrated professional services and project management company with offices around the world, will support the development and deployment of Moltex’s innovative nuclear technologies.

moltex cutaway

Moltex will draw on SNC-Lavalin’s world-class network of experts in engineering, licensing and regulatory affairs, cost estimating, supplier qualification and management, quality assurance, and construction and operation planning. SNC-Lavalin will collaborate with Moltex to attract new customers and promote Moltex’s business goals.

“Canada and the world will need to explore all nuclear technology options to meet net zero commitments. Given the scale of the challenge, it is important that we work on the deployment of Gen III SMRs and grid-scale reactors and look to the future and support the development of Gen IV reactors. Moltex’s unique Gen IV molten salt design can not only help achieve net zero carbon, but it can also help to reduce nuclear waste,” said Joe St. Julian, President, Nuclear, SNC-Lavalin.

In addition, Mr. St. Julian has accepted a seat on the Moltex board of directors, where his experience and leadership will be greatly valued.

In March 2021 Moltex received $50.5M CDN funding from Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to fund further development and commercialization of the company’s molten salt reactor and spent fuel recycling technology at a site in St. John, New Brunswick province.

About the Moltex Reactor

Moltex is a private company developing breakthrough nuclear technologies, including a Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W), which uses recycled nuclear waste as fuel; a Waste To Stable Salt (WATSS) process for recycling nuclear waste; and GridReserve thermal energy storage tanks that allow the reactor to complement intermittent renewables. Moltex is developing first-of-a-kind units for NB Power in New Brunswick, Canada, and intends to build further units across the country and abroad.

& & &

Canada’s Laurentis Signs Agreement To Work With Fermi Energia on SMRs

Laurentis Energy Partners of Canada and Estonian energy company Fermi Energia have signed an agreement to work together to support the development of small modular reactors in Estonia. The two firms announced they will work to support their development of small modular reactors (SMRs) in Estonia. Femi Energia has signed MOUs with several other developers of SMRs but has not yet attracted sufficient investor interest to fund moving forward with any of them.

Laurentis, a subsidiary of Ontario Power Generation (OPG), offers SMR services throughout the development lifecycle from feasibility and planning through construction, commissioning, operations, and sustainability solutions.

The aim is to develop an efficient and reliable SMR deployment program that will lead to successful licensing and financing of multiple SMR units in Estonia.

Estonia produces most of its energy from oil shale or imported power from neighboring countries. Since 2019, Fermi Energia has been exploring the possibility of developing and deploying a small modular reactor in Estonia to ensure a stable, clean, and reliable domestic electricity supply.

“OPG’s excellence as a nuclear energy utility and their selection of GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 to be deployed at Darlington is a world-leading SMR project,” said Kalev Kallemets, CEO of Fermi.

& & &

South Korea Making a U-Turn on Nuclear Energy

(Wire Services) The transition committee working for President Yoon Suk-yeol said this week that the incoming government will embrace nuclear power in its decarbonization efforts, signaling a major shift in energy policy the outgoing Moon Jae-in government had said has no place for nuclear power.

Won Hee-ryong, chief policymaker setting out Yoon’s agenda, said Korea had seen more emissions and would see soaring electricity costs because of Moon’s push to phase out nuclear power, which makes up roughly a third of the country’s power.

“We need to put in a right, realistic and prudent plan to achieve carbon neutrality,” he said, suggesting that Moon’s strategy  had essentially backfired.

“So nuclear is back on the table along with every other technological tools that could help us cut carbon emissions,” said Kim Sang-hyup Kim, a committee member supporting Won.

Kim, the founder of the Coalition for Our Common Future, a foundation working on climate change, said Moon’s over reaching plan to have renewables account for 70%  of Korea’s power by 2050 poses a risk, as solar and wind power are not as reliable as nuclear power.

The transition committee said that the Yoon government, which begins work on May 10, will label nuclear energy “green” in its taxonomy, a list of climate-friendly activities the government approves, as early as August this year. The label change sets the direction of Korea’s energy policy.

The interest of South Korea’s heavy industries to participate in nuclear reactor export deals has been hampered by the anti-nuclear stance of the now outgoing government. Potential customers questioned the commitment of the country to potential deals if it wouldn’t support the technology at home.

South Korea is expected to bid on several opportunities including a new PWR in the Czech Republic at CEZ’s Dukovany site, and an upcoming  tender for two full size PWRs in Saudi Arabia. Currently, South Korea is completing the construction of four 1440 MWe PWRs in the United Arab Emirates. Two of the four units have been commissioned so far.

& & &

South Korea / SK Conglomerate ‘Considering Investment’ in TerraPower

(NucNet) South Korean conglomerate SK Group said it is looking at an investment of up to 10% in the company that is developing a new generation nuclear power reactor.

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported that SK, which has interests in chemical and energy, had been in talks with TerraPower, which has chosen a site in Wyoming as the preferred location for its first Natrium small modular rector.

SK did not formally confirm it was in discussions with TerraPower, but said it had been reviewing a potential investment in next-generation nuclear technology in a bid to decarbonize its operations. If the investment occurs it would be SK Group’s first entry in the nuclear energy industry. In 2021 the firm made investments in hydrogen production in Asia.

TerraPower and GE-Hitachi technology are developing the Natrium reactor demonstration project in Wyoming. They are working to develop plans for a first unit with Rocky Mountain Power, a division of Wyoming’s largest utility PacifiCorp, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. It was not reported whether TerraPower or its partners were aware of or had entered into preliminary discussions with SK Group.

& & &

Turkey / Ambitious Nuclear Energy Plans ‘May Not Be Enough’, Says Deputy Minister

(NucNet) Turkey’s ambitious plans to build 12 large nuclear reactors at three sites might still not be enough as the country seeks to increase energy security and further reduce its imports of natural gas from Russia.

So far the country has only succeeded with development of one of the three sites where it plans to build the reactors. Japanese investors abandoned the Sinop project the Black Sea coast due to fears of cost overruns with an unproven reactor design  and efforts to come to terms with China at the Igneada in far northeast Turkey have been intermittent since 2016.

turkey nuclear

Turkey’s deputy energy and natural resources minister Alparslan Bayraktar told Nikkei Asia that the country needs more reactors because the 12 already under construction or planned “will not be enough if we consider the 2050-70s”.

He said Turkey is also considering the deployment of small modular reactors. He told Nikkei that Marisa Lago, the US Commerce Department’s undersecretary for international trade, and the new US ambassador to Turkey Jeffry Flake, visited him to discuss the potential introduction of SMR technology to Turkey. No specific commitments resulted from the meeting.

Turkey is building its first commercial nuclear station at Akkuyu, on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, under a contract signed with Russia in 2010. Akkuyu will have four Generation III+ VVER-1200 units, with the first one expected to come online in 2023 and a further unit starting every year afterwards.

The total estimated cost of the project stands at $25 billion. Efforts by Roastom to acquire equity investments in the project by Turkish or other institutional investors have not panned out. The ownership of the project remains 100% in Russian hands.

In 2013, Turkey signed an intergovernmental agreement with Japan to develop a second nuclear power station project at Sinop on the Black Sea. The status of the Sinop project remains unclear. In January 2020, Turkey was reported to have cancelled the agreement because feasibility studies did not meet the energy ministry’s expectations with regard to schedule and pricing. Also, previously Japanese investors pulled out of the project in 2018 because of fears of cost overruns that could occur building the unproven 1150 MWe Atmea PWR, which was a joint design of France’s Areva and Japan’s Mitsubishi.

third site turkeyThe International Energy Agency said in 2020 the Turkish government had started talks with other partners to develop the project. Neither the IEA nor the World Nuclear Association named the potential partners.

Between 2013 and 2020 several other nuclear reactor vendors held preliminary discussions with Turkey about the project, but none proceeded beyond the point of initial consideration.

Mr Bayraktar said Ankara is also negotiating with China to build two or four CAP1400 nuclear reactors at Igneada in the Thrace region of northwestern Turkey, close to the border with Bulgaria. Talks first began in 2016 but remain at the policy level and have not resulted in a more detailed development agreement.

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