TVA Targets 2024 for BWRX300 SMR License Application

  • TVA Targets 2024 for BWRX300 SMR License Application
  • Nuward / Tractebel To Work With EDF On Pilot SMR
  • Brookfield Set to Sell Westinghouse
  • UK Cavendish Nuclear and X-energy collaborate on HTGRs
  • S. Korea to Re-start Construction of two 1400 MWe PWRs
  • DOE/ARPA-E Seeks Proposals to Recycling Spent Fuel for Use in Advanced Reactors
  • MIT Signs on for New Five-Year Collaboration with Commonwealth Fusion Systems

TVA Targets 2024 for BWRX300 SMR License Application

(WNN contributed to this reportcopyTVA announced that it will leverage its current early site permit (ESP) for a small modular reactor (SMR) to submit an application for a construction license for a GE-Hitachi 300 MWe BWRX-300 SMR.

As one of the largest nuclear utilities in the US, its plan to move forward with an effort to eventually build one or more SMRs is a game changer for the nuclear industry and its supply chains.

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) CEO Jeff Lyash said licensing work would be the next milestone for project to build a BWRX-300 small modular reactor at Clinch River near Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Lyash’s comments were made in a conference call to discuss the authority’s financial results for the second quarter of fiscal 2022.

Last year, TVA’s board approved investment of up to $200 million in a new nuclear program centered on Clinch River, and the authority is now in the process of supporting the detailed design development of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s BWRX300 and developing the licensing application package.

According to the NRC the BWRX-300 is in Pre-Application review of Licensing Topical Reports. A date has not been announced for submission of an application for a design certification review. Applications must closely analyze the design’s appropriate response to accidents or natural events. Applications must also lay out the inspections, tests, analyses and acceptance criteria that will verify the construction of key design features.

It takes a minimum of 42 months for the NRC to complete a review of an accepted application. Getting it accepted is the first milestone and sometimes the NRC kicks the application back for not being complete enough for the agency to conduct its review.

TVA’s New SMR Program

In February, TVA announced a new program to explore advanced nuclear technology as part of its decarbonization goals, with the pursuit of a construction license application for an SMR at the Clinch River site one of its first tasks.

It already has an early site permit (ESP)- issued by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2019 which certifies that a site is suitable for the construction of a nuclear power plant from the point of view of site safety, environmental impact and emergency planning, but does not specify the choice of technology. The ESP does not certify the safety of an specific SMR design.

“The milestone for that license application, while we haven’t said it yet, is most likely fourth quarter of 2023 or first quarter of 2024,” TVA’s CEO Jeff Lyash said.” That’s really the next decision point.”

Design, cost estimates, schedules, and risk assessments are being developed in parallel with the license application, and this will “put us at the next major gate” when TVA will be able to make a decision whether to go ahead with the next phases of design and procurement, Lyash  said.

TVA went down this road once before with BWXT for its 180 MWe MPower SMR. Despite a lot of work on the joint design and licensing program, the two nuclear organizations did not continue it leading TVA to pursue an ESP instead that didn’t specify a vendor design.

In April, TVA announced a partnership with Ontario Power Generation which has also selected BWRX-300 for deployment at its Darlington site. This partnership will allow the companies to find efficiencies and share best practices through coordinating their SMR design and licensing efforts and also, potentially, construction and operation.

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Nuward / Tractebel To Work With EDF On Pilot SMR

(NucNet)  The engineering company Tractebel, part of the French Engie group, has signed an agreement to provide engineering services to France’s EDF for the development of its Nuward small modular reactor design.

NUWARD is a 340 MWe European Pressurized Water SMR plant composed of 2 reactors of 170 MWe each, designed to address the world energy mix decarbonization challenge with a complementary solution to large size reactors and renewables. This technology is billed to replace old high-emitting coal, fuel, oil and gas plants around the world.

Nuward SMR

The company, head-quartered in Belgium, said in a statement that it will help during the conceptual design phase of the SMR plant. Engineers have already conducted technical and economic studies to confirm several design options.

The statement said the contract with EDF will include conceptual design studies for parts of the plant’s conventional island, water intake and servicing system, and the 3D modelling of buildings for these systems.

Tractebel will also be responsible for civil engineering preliminary studies, the evaluation of costs, and will draw up a Nuward site layout.

In 2019, EDF, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), reactor design and maintenance company TechnicAtome and the Naval Group announced plans to develop an SMR that could be on the market by the end of the next decade.

France wants to market NUWARD to expand the the French nuclear sector, which has depended largely on sales of its EPR, a large, 1,600-MW pressurized water reactor that has been sold to China, the UK, Finland and domestically is also under construction at Flamanville.

The NUWARD will be a multi-purpose plant, with a design that can be adapted for several uses including green hydrogen production, desalinization and heat cogeneration. This is another key attraction of SMRs – their potential uses beyond the production of electricity for established grids.

Tractebel said the basic design completion stage for the SMR plant is expected to start in 2023. The company said it is planning to work with EDF during this new phase on systems studies, civil and layout engineering, and electrical and safety licensing studies.

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Brookfield Set to Sell Westinghouse

(Pittsburgh Post Gazette) Brookfield Business Partners is seeking to sell all of its interest Westinghouse Electric Company just four years after buying it out of bankruptcy according to a May 10th report published in the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette. (Brookfield profile) (institutional shareholders)

The newspaper cited a statement from Brookfield that Westinghouse has been profitable and that the firm now wants to cash out and use the proceeds for newer, even more profitable investments. As noted in the paper’s report, the question is why sell if the firm is doing so well?

This is the second time Brookfield has put Westinghouse on the market. Brookfield told the newspaper they didn’t get enough investor interest to sell last year. Brookfield says now that the now there is an energy crisis in Europe, due to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, there is revived interest in nuclear energy.

What’s interesting about this statement is that when Brookfield bought Westinghouse from Toshiba, the firm was emerging from bankruptcy caused in part by its mis-management of the now cancelled V C Summer nuclear plant that would have built twin AP1000 nuclear reactors in South Carolina.

Brookfield’s primary interest in buying the firm from Toshiba was its nuclear fuel and reactor services lines of business both of which are reliable cash cows. It had no interest in building new reactors.

Brookfield Business Partners, a business unit of the Canadian firm Brookfield Asset Management, owns a 44% interest in Westinghouse. The remaining 56% is owned by private equity funds that are managed by Brookfield. In the end it is all one pile of money. According to public filings, Brookfield Business Partners lists its investment in Westinghouse at $405 million.

Brookfield Business Partners CEO Cyrus Madon told the newspaper, “Look, we’ve made many times our investment in Westinghouse. We’ve already pulled out more than our invested capital just through regular dividends. And I would say our job is sort of done here.”

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UK Cavendish Nuclear and X-energy collaborate on HTGRs

Cavendish Nuclear, part of Babcock International Group, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with US nuclear reactor and fuel design engineering company X-energy to act as its deployment partner for High Temperature Gas Reactors in the UK.

X-energy’s High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR) can support the decarbonization of industrial heat and hydrogen at scale, as well as electricity, helping to meet the growing demand for low-carbon energy.  It offers rapid deployment, with the first units set to be deployed in the US from 2027 with the UK planning to follow.

The MoU complements Cavendish Nuclear’s support to all three nuclear streams in the UK Government’s Energy Security Strategy: Large Gigawatt Reactors, Small Modular Reactors, and Advanced Modular Reactors such as HTGRs with the capability to focus on industrial heat and hydrogen.

Together the companies would combine world-leading US technology with the project integration, manufacturing, modularization and O&M capability of Cavendish Nuclear.

Mick Gornall, Cavendish Nuclear, Managing Director said, “This is an exciting opportunity for Cavendish Nuclear and X-energy to bring together the collective breadth and depth of our expertise and experience to forge opportunities to develop and deploy HTGRs in the UK.

“The UK Government’s choice of HTGRs as its preferred technology for the Advanced Modular Reactor Research Development & Demonstration Program, gives us the opportunity to explore the significant contribution X-energy’s technology can make to decarbonizing the wider energy sector.”

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South Korea to Re-start Construction of two 1400 MWe PWRs

Business Standard) South Korea seeks to resume construction of 2 nuclear reactors in 2025.
The project to build the two 1,400-megawatt reactors has been on hold since 2017; they had been scheduled to be completed by 2023

South Korea’s new administration will seek to resume currently suspended construction of two nuclear reactors in the coastal county of Uljin in 2025, government and industry sources said.

In its key policy implementation plan  President Yoon Suk-yeol’s transition team proposed restarting the construction of Shin-Hanul reactors No. 3 and No. 4 in the first half of 2025.

Yoon said multiple times during his election campaign that he would scrap the Moon Jae-in administration’s nuclear phase-out drive, Yonhap news agency reported.

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DOE/ARPA-E Seeks Proposals to Recycling Spent Fuel for Use in Advanced Reactors

(WNN) The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced funding of up to $48 million for a new program to recycle used nuclear fuel to produce feedstocks for advanced reactor fuel. The program named “Converting UNF Radioisotopes Into Energy (CURIE)” will be operated under the auspices of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

The acronym for the program is a respectful reference to Marie Curie, a physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1903 for defining what we now call “radioactivity,” and in 1911 for chemistry her discovery of the elements polonium and radium using techniques she invented for isolating radioactive isotopes.

“CURIE will fuel advanced reactors and provide important clean energy elements, all while drastically reducing waste,” Acting Director of ARPA-E Jennifer Gerbi said.

According to ARPA-E’s funding opportunity announcement, CURIE’s goal is to enable commercially viable reprocessing of used nuclear fuel – or UNF – from the current light water reactor fleet by resolving key gaps/barriers in reprocessing technologies, process monitoring, and facility design.

nuclear fuel cycle

Image: Nuclear Regulatory Commission from US – The Nuclear Fuel Cycle

The used fuel would be reprocessed into feedstock that would be used to fuel advanced nuclear reactors, while other commercially valuable materials from it would be harvested for industrial and medical uses.

Program Description

The U.S. has accumulated approximately 86,000 metric tons of used nuclear fuel (UNF) from light-water reactors (LWRs), a value that increases by approximately 2,000 tons per year. This UNF is destined for permanent disposal even though more than 90% of its energy remains.

Reprocessing UNF to recover reusable actinides and recycling them into new fuel for advanced reactors (ARs) would improve fuel utilization and drastically reduce the volume of waste requiring permanent disposal.

The CURIE program seeks to develop innovative separations technologies, material accountancy, and online monitoring technologies, as well as designs for a reprocessing facility that will enable group recovery of actinides for AR feedstocks, incorporate in situ process monitoring, and minimize waste volumes. A key cost metric is to enable a 1¢/kilowatt-hour (kWh) fuel cost for AR fuels, and maintain disposal costs in the range of 0.1¢/kWh.

By enabling the secure and economical recycling of the nation’s inventory of LWR UNF, CURIE will improve U.S. energy security, help protect the environment, and contribute to the economy in the following ways:

Individual awards will be for amounts ranging from $250K to $10M. At this level of funding it appears that most of the responses will be for paper feasibility studies. Building a spent fuel reprocessing facility would require funding in the range of billions of dollars.

Recent DOE experience in this area is problematic. DOE cancelled construction of a partially built plant in South Carolina to reprocess surplus weapons grade plutonium into MOX fuel do to a combination of cost overruns and a loss of political will by the then Obama administration.

The US Navy reprocessed spent nuclear fuel at a chemical processing plant in Idaho for decades, but the facility was shut down in 1991 and is now part of the Idaho Cleanup Project. A federal consent decree requires that all of the remaining spent nuclear fuel at the site, now in dry storage, must be removed from the site by 2025.

It is not clear whether ARPA-E would accept any proposals for reprocessing the Navy spent fuel which was fabricated using highly enriched uranium. Russia has been downblending its HEU to fabricate high assay low enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel for advanced reactors. However, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, access to the Russian fuel has been off limits to western nations.

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MIT Signs on for New Five-Year Collaboration with Commonwealth Fusion Systems

MIT’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center (PSFC) will substantially expand its fusion energy research and education activities under a new five-year agreement with Institute spinout Commonwealth Fusion Systems (CFS). The key objective of its research collaboration with Commonwealth Fusion Systems is to build net energy fusion machine, SPARC.

types of fusion techA new five-year agreement will support SPARC science, increase graduate students and postdocs, and support interdisciplinary work toward fusion power plants.

This new agreement doubles CFS’ financial commitment to PSFC, enabling greater recruitment and support of students, staff, and faculty.

“We’ll significantly increase the number of graduate students and postdocs, and just as important they will be working on a more diverse set of fusion science and technology topics,” notes Whyte. It extends the collaboration between PSFC and CFS that resulted in numerous advances toward fusion power plants, including last fall’s demonstration of a high-temperature superconducting (HTS) fusion electromagnet with record-setting field strength of 20 tesla.

The combined magnetic fusion efforts at PSFC will surpass those in place during the operations of the pioneering Alcator C-Mod tokamak device that operated from 1993 to 2016. This increase in activity reflects a moment when multiple fusion energy technologies are seeing rapidly accelerating development worldwide, and the emergence of a new fusion energy industry that would require thousands of trained people.

The new agreement, administered by the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), where CFS is a startup member, will help PSFC expand its fusion technology efforts with a wider variety of sponsors. The collaboration enables rapid execution at scale and technology transfer into the commercial sector as soon as possible.

“This expanded relationship puts MIT and PSFC in a prime position to be an even stronger academic leader that can help deliver the research and education needs of the burgeoning fusion energy industry, in part by utilizing the world’s first burning plasma and net energy fusion machine, SPARC,” says PSFC director Dennis Whyte.

“CFS will build SPARC and develop a commercial fusion product, while MIT PSFC will focus on its core mission of cutting-edge research and education.”

MITEI director Robert Armstrong adds, “Our goal from the beginning was to create a membership model that would allow startups who have specific research challenges to leverage the MITEI ecosystem, including MIT faculty, students, and other MITEI members. The team at the PSFC and MITEI have worked seamlessly to support CFS, and we are excited for this next phase of the relationship.”

In the push for commercial fusion energy, the next five years are critical, requiring intensive work on materials longevity, heat transfer, fuel recycling, maintenance, and other crucial aspects of power plant development. It will need innovation from almost every engineering discipline.

On a strategic level, climate change and the imperative need for widely implementable carbon-free energy have helped orient the PSFC team toward scalability.

“Building one or 10 fusion plants doesn’t make a difference — we have to build thousands,” says Whyte.

“The design decisions we make will impact the ability to do that down the road. The real enemy here is time, and we want to remove as many impediments as possible and commit to funding a new generation of scientific leaders. Those are critically important in a field with as much interdisciplinary integration as fusion.”

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