US and Canadian Nuclear Utilities Partner on SMRs

  • US and Canadian Nuclear Utilities TVA & OPG Partner on SMRs
  • Kairos Power Forms Advanced Nuclear Development Consortium
  • Rolls-Royce Sets 2029 for FOAK of its 470 MWe PWR in Revenue Service
  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Plans 1 MWt Transportable Reactor
  • DOE Seeks Applications, Bids for $6 Billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program
  • US Think-Tank Calls For Widespread’ Deployment Of Advanced Reactors

US and Canadian Nuclear Utilities – TVA & OPG – Partner on SMRs

Two of North America’s leading nuclear utilities will jointly work to develop and deploy advanced nuclear technology as part of the broader efforts to achieve a carbon-free energy future.

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)  are both exploring the deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs)  at their Darlington and Clinch River sites, respectively.

what are smrs

The agreement allows the companies to coordinate their explorations into the design, licensing, construction and operation of small modular reactors. No exchange of funding is involved. However, the collaboration agreement will help OPG and TVA reduce the financial risk that comes from development of innovative technology, as well as future deployment costs.

Jeff Lyash, TVA President and CEO. “Advanced nuclear technology will not only help us meet our net-zero carbon targets but will also advance North American energy security.”

“Nuclear energy has long been key to Ontario’s clean electricity grid, and is a crucial part of our net-zero future,” said Ken Hartwick, OPG President and CEO.

“Working together, OPG and TVA will find efficiencies and share best practices for the long-term supply of the economical, carbon-free, reliable electricity our jurisdictions need.”

“TVA has the most recent experience completing a new nuclear plant in North America at Watts Bar and that knowledge is invaluable to us as we work toward the new facility at Darlington,” said Hartwick.

“Likewise, because we are a little further along in our construction timing, TVA will gain the advantage of our experience before they start work at Clinch River.”

OPG and TVA have similar histories and missions. Both are based on public power models that developed from renewable hydroelectric generation before adding nuclear to their generation mixes. Today, nuclear generation accounts for significant portions of their carbon-free energy portfolios.

Both Utilities Actively Exploring SMRs

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) announced in December 2021 it will work with GE Hitachi (GEH) Nuclear Energy to deploy a Small Modular Reactor (SMR), the BWRX-300, at the Darlington new nuclear site, the only site in Canada currently licensed for a new nuclear build.

OPG and GE Hitachi will collaborate on the SMR engineering, design, planning, preparing the licensing and permitting materials, and performing site preparation activities, with the mutual goal of constructing Canada’s first commercial, grid-scale SMR, projected to be completed as early as 2028.

GEH plans to construct up to four 300 MWe small module reactors and aims to complete one of them by 2028 at the earliest. If built out to this level, the project at $4,000/Kw, would have an estimated cost at completion of all four units of $4.8 billion.

In December 2019 TVA became the first utility in the nation to successfully obtain approval for an early site permit (ESO) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to potentially construct and operate small modular reactors. The ESP approach was developed after a business arrangement with BWXT to support design and licensing of a 180 MWe SMR using LWR technologies did not go forward.

The 20-year Early Site Permit (ESP) is for a site at the 935-acre Clinch River plant near Oak Ridge, TN, for a nuclear facility that can produce up to 800 MWe total. TVA cited four SMR designs in its ESP application without stating a preference for any of them. An 800 MWe power station would likely require multiple units from any of the current SMR designs using LWR technologies. So far TVA has not stated a preference for any of them.

Kairos Power Forms Advanced Nuclear Development Consortium

Kairos Power has assembled four leading North American utilities and generating companies to launch an advanced nuclear development consortium named Kairos Power Operations, Manufacturing and Development Alliance (Kairos Power-OMADA) to advance the development of the company’s advanced fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR) technology.

Current member corporations include:

  • Bruce Power, Canada’s only private sector nuclear generator, producing 30% of Ontario’s power and employing more than 4,000 people.
  • Constellation, the nation’s leading provider of carbon-free energy. Headquartered in Baltimore, Md., its generation fleet powers more than 20 million homes and businesses.
  • Southern Company, a leading U.S. energy company serving 9 million customers through its subsidiaries with headquarters in Atlanta, Ga.
  • Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the largest federally owned utility corporation in the U.S., providing electricity for 153 local power companies serving 10 million people in Tennessee and six surrounding states.

The purpose of KP-OMADA is to bring together best-in-class nuclear owners and operators to advise on the development of KP-FHR technology, licensing, manufacturing, construction, and commercialization. By collaborating, the alliance will pool knowledge regarding the siting and development of Kairos Power’s User Facility (U-Facility) – a full-scale, non-nuclear demonstration reactor and operations /maintenance training facility – and the siting and development of Kairos Power’s KP-X – a first-of-its-kind, 140 MWe/unit commercial reactor operating at grid scale.

Kairos Power Hermes SMR at Oak Ridge, TN

In May 2021 Kairos Power and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) announced plans to collaborate on deploying a low-power demonstration small modular reactor (SMR) at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP)(map) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The project is a paradigm change for TVA which in its early site permit for the Clinch River site for an SMR only referenced light water reactor designs and did not indicate a preference for any of them.

The joint TVA/Kairos project involves design and development of an advanced small modular reactor (SMR). Nicknamed ‘Hermes’ it is a demonstration version of Alameda, California-based Kairos Power’s KP-FHR, a 140 MWe fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactor using TRISO (TRI-structural ISOtropic) fuel pebbles with a low-pressure fluoride salt coolant.

The Kairos SMR has been selected by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to receive $629 million in cost-shared risk reduction funding over seven years (DOE share $303 million), under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

Kairos Power’s construction permit application for the Hermes low-power demonstration reactor is currently under formal review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The firm says the plant will be operational in 2026.

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Rolls-Royce Sets 2029 for FOAK of its 470 MWe PWR in Revenue Service

(WNN)(Reuters) The chairman of Rolls-Royce SMR, Paul Stein, has told the Reuters news agency he hopes to get regulatory approval for its small modular reactor (SMR) design by mid-2024, with grid power from the first of a kind (FOAK) unit  able to be produced by 2029. The Rolls-Royce SMR is a 470 MWe design based on a small pressurized water reactor (PWR). The firm is currently scouting potential locations for the planned fleet of 16 units and is considering several sites abandoned by previous developers including Wylfa and Oldbury.

Reuters quoted Stein as saying that the regulatory part of the process had begun and “will likely complete in the middle of 2024. We are trying to work with the UK Government, and others to get going now placing orders, so we can get power on grid by 2029″.

The Rolls-Royce SMR design was accepted for Generic Design Assessment (GDA) review last month with the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy asking the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) along with the environment regulators for England and Wales to begin the process.

GDA is a process carried out by the ONR, the Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Resources Wales to assess the safety, security, and environmental protection aspects of a nuclear power plant design that is intended to be deployed in Great Britain. Successful completion of the GDA culminates in the issue of a Design Acceptance Confirmation from the ONR and a Statement of Design Acceptability from the EA.

For most applicants the costly and complex regulatory review takes about four years. The timeline cited by Rolls-Royce CEO Stein raises a question about how Rolls-Royce will do it in half that time. There has been no indication from the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation that it will give the firm any special treatment such as an accelerated review.

If Rolls-Royce is overly optimistic about the timeline to complete the GDA, and it takes the usual full four years, then the timeline to break ground with the FOAK unit and the schedule for the other 15 units will be delayed accordingly as a result. Confidence in the Rolls-Royce estimate of a two-year schedule to complete its GDA would be enhanced by a joint statement from the firm and the ONR has to how they plan to do it.  If there is an accelerated method for LWRs at ORN, it could apply to other applications for these types of reactors that follow Rolls-Royce. If not, then there’s egg on somebody’s face for setting up CEO Stein to make this claim.

A Rolls-Royce-led UK SMR consortium aims to build 16 SMRs. The consortium includes Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and TWI. It plans to build up to 10 by 2035 and the remaining six by the early 2040s.

Earlier this month the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a new Energy Security Strategy setting out plans for rapid expansion of nuclear power capacity, with eight new large reactors and SMRs helping to produce 24 GWe capacity by 2050, representing about 25% of the UK’s projected electricity demand by that date.

& & &

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Plans 1 MWt Transportable Reactor

The Nikkei Asia wire service reports that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI)is moving ahead with its plans to develop and commercialize nuclear microreactors,reactors small enough to be delivered on trucks. At 3 meters tall and 4 meters wide, the microreactors will weigh less than 40 tons. The reactor and power generating equipment will fit inside a standard 40′ cargo container. The reactor is rated at 1 MWt thermal and 0.5MWe electrical.

From an MHI presentation at a 2021 IAEA technical meeting.

mhi tractor smr

Based on an all-solid-state core concept, the microreactor uses a highly thermal conductive graphite-based material that removes heat from core without liquid coolant. The nuclear reactor core and all other equipment will be contained in tightly sealed capsule containers.

MHI is planning mock-up tests from 2023 to 2025 to verify the cooling function—i.e., the passive core cooling by natural heat transfer without power source, water source, and operator action. The tests will not use nuclear fuels.

After those tests, prototype testing is planned to be performed from 2026 to 2030 to verify various features of the microreactor such as long-term operation, start-up/shutdown, and safety system functions, including passive shutdown and containment. Deployment of commercial units is planned for the 2030s timeframe.

Fuel Choices

It is not clear what fuel type the reactor will use other than it will be HALEU, e.g., enriched to between 5-19% U235. Mitsubishi fabricates fuel for light water reactors (LWRs) and also mixed oxide fuels for LWRs and advanced fuel designs. According to MHI the fuel for this mini reactor will not require replacement during its entire duration of operations of approximately 25 years. Once the fuel is spent, the entire microreactor can be recovered.

In related actions, MHI is working on the construction of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, the key facility for Japan’s nuclear fuel cycle, and the Rokkasho MOX Fuel Fabrication Plant.

Heat Transfer System

The reactor design uses a solid state (graphene) core and uses CO2, in heat pipes, to drive the turbine. According to the US Department of Energy, supercritical carbon dioxide is a fluid state of carbon dioxide where it is held at or above its critical temperature and critical pressure.

Carbon dioxide usually behaves as a gas in air at standard temperature and pressure (STP) (STP), or as a solid called dry ice when frozen. If the temperature and pressure are both increased from STP to be at or above the critical point for carbon dioxide, it can adopt properties midway between a gas and a liquid.

At this state, sCO2 can be used efficiently throughout the entire Brayton cycle. (88F, 1000 PSI)  The use of CO2 to drive the turbine will provide greater efficiency in heat transfer from the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) than the conventional use of dry steam in LWRs.


Estimated Costs

Since the mini reactors will require minimal maintenance, they can be installed underground to reduce risk from natural disasters and terrorism. At a projected cost of $6000/Kw, a 0.5 MWe reactor would cost just $3M. While the cost of electricity generated by the reactor will likely be higher than for a conventional light water reactor, it is estimated that it will be less than the cost of diesel fuel powered generators now used in remote areas

& & &

DOE Seeks Applications, Bids for $6 Billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program

Funding Will Prevent At-Risk Nuclear Facilities from Premature Closure and Support President Biden’s Clean Energy Goals

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced plans to seek applications and sealed bid submissions under the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit Program (CNC) to support the continued operation of U.S. nuclear reactors. The guidance directs owners or operators of nuclear power reactors that are expected to shut down due to economic circumstances on how to apply for funding to avoid premature closure. This includes instructions on formulating and submitting sealed bids for allocation of credits.

This critical investment, made possible by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will help avoid premature retirements of reactors across the country due to financial hardship, preserve thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs to sustain local economies and protect our supply of carbon-free electricity generation.

“U.S. nuclear power plants contribute more than half of our carbon-free electricity, and President Biden is committed to keeping these plants active to reach our clean energy goals,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.

“We’re using every tool available to get this country powered by clean energy by 2035, and that includes prioritizing our existing nuclear fleet to allow for continued emissions-free electricity generation and economic stability for the communities leading this important work.”

The Biden-Harris Administration has identified the nation’s current fleet of reactors as a vital resource to achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050 which is a key deadline for reducing the harmful impacts of climate change. Shifting energy markets and other economic factors have resulted in the early closure of 12 commercial reactors across the United States since 2013.

This has led to a rise in emissions in those regions, poorer air quality, the loss of thousands of high-paying jobs, essential employers and financial contributors to local communities. The CNC program will equitably address these challenges while supporting the President’s clean energy goals to ensure that communities across the country continue to see the benefits of sustainable energy infrastructure.

The Diablo Canyon plant in California and the Palisades Plant in Michigan are two high profile cases of pending premature closure due to changing economic conditions. Green groups like the Sierra Club, which has a long history of anti-nuclear activism, complained to the Associated Press that spending $6 billion to prop up nuclear plants that are not economically viable will take away investment dollars from renewable energy projects.

Aerial view of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear

Aerial view of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant.

Maria Korsnick, president and chief executive officer of NEI, said she thinks the federal program will level the playing field for nuclear energy and help clear a path to pass even more intensive energy/climate policies.

As urged by many public commenters during the Request for Information (RFI) period earlier this year, the first CNC award cycle will assign priority to  reactors that have already announced their intention to cease operations. Future CNC award cycles — including for the second to be launched in the first quarter in FY2023 — will not be limited to nuclear reactors that have publicly announced their intentions to retire.

Information for Applicants

For the first CNC award period, DOE is accepting certification applications and bid as a single submission to implement the program on a more rapid timeline.

Think-Tank Calls For Widespread’ Deployment Of Advanced Reactors

(NucNet) The US should aim to double domestic nuclear energy production by 2050 to help achieve 100% clean energy with the widespread deployment of advanced reactors a crucial part of policy, the Nuclear Innovation Alliance think-tank says. Download the Report

fv niaThe Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) released its Fission Vision which is a blueprint for doubling U.S. nuclear energy production by 2050 to achieve 100% clean energy. The US-based NIA says advanced nuclear energy has the potential to greatly reduce carbon emissions by mid-century and help achieve 100% clean energy in the US.

Fission Vision calls for a focused national effort to develop, demonstrate and deploy the advanced nuclear technologies necessary to meet mid-century climate goals, support domestic energy production, create new jobs and tax revenue, and protect the nation’s global competitiveness. NIA said this promise can only be achieved with “the timely, efficient and widespread deployment of advanced reactors.”

NIA Executive Director Judi Greenwald provided the following statement on the release of NIA’s of Fission Vision:

“Significant development of advanced nuclear technologies is needed for the United States to reach mid-century climate goals. Fission Vision answers the question: What is the role advanced nuclear energy could play at a scale and at a pace to help provide safe, reliable and affordable clean energy? Fission Vision has three objectives

(1) Catalyzing a robust U.S. innovation and commercialization ecosystem;

(2) Ensuring “social license” to operate advanced nuclear energy, and

(3) Re-imagining and integrating advanced nuclear energy with other clean energy sources. If we can achieve these objectives – and we think we can – advanced reactors will play a major role in meeting our climate and energy goals by at least doubling U.S. nuclear energy production by 2050.”

The report warns that the US will need to rebuild the supply chain, complete nuclear projects on time and on budget, create incentives for deployment and enact policies that enable private investment.

According to the report, doubling domestic nuclear energy production from 800 TWh to at least 1,600 TWh by 2050 requires rapid and sustained deployment of advanced nuclear energy. Doubling domestic nuclear energy by 2050 requires constructing at least 100 GWe of new nuclear energy production in the next 30 years.

This deployment rate may seem daunting, the report notes, but nuclear energy has been constructed this quickly in the US before. Over 100 GW of light-water reactors were constructed between 1960 and 1990.

“The application of modern manufacturing and construction practices can help us meet or exceed historic nuclear energy deployment rates and enable the doubling of domestic nuclear energy production by 2050 using advanced nuclear energy,” Greenwald said

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