- Effort to Save Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Hits Headwinds
- TerraPower Raises $750 Million in Equity Funding
- Ultra Safe Nuclear Opens Pilot Nuclear Fuel Plant
- HALEU Fuel Funding in Biden Energy Climate Legislation
- Survey – Utilities Could Add 90 GWe of Nuclear, Including 300 SMRs
- Taishan-1 EPR Reconnected To Grid After Extended Fuel Outage
- UKAEA Appoints Consortium to Help Deliver STEP Fusion Project
Effort to Save Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant Hits Headwinds
(NucNet contributed to this report) While there have been a number of positive developments in the effort to keep the twin 1100 MWe PWRs at Diablo Canyon open, opposition groups are mounting a significant effort to defeat this outcome and retain the closing dates of the reactors in 2024/2025 as spelled out in a 2016 agreement with PG&E.
Two of the leading pro-nuclear groups that have been working to keep the plant open this past week set off alarm bells about growing opposition to achieving that outcome.
- Carl Wurtz, President of Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP), said in a press statement that opposition by green groups was unexpected in its ferocity, and he called it “a last-ditch attempt to counter widespread support for the re-licensing of California’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant.”
- Heather Hoff, co-founder of Mothers For Nuclear, noted the contrast between the professed aims of “green” groups and their actions. “I find it baffling that environmental groups are protesting this effort,” she said. “California still relies on natural gas for 50% of our electricity, and closing Diablo Canyon would create a bigger hole in our clean energy supply. With the impacts of climate change growing by the day, it should be obvious we need more clean energy, not less.”
Taken together it appears the opposition efforts by “green groups” and fossil fuel industries, if successful in blocking efforts to save the plant, would increase CO2 emissions due to the need to build new gas fired power plants to keep the California electrical grid stable. Both sets of interests have aggressively mobilized to prevent the unraveling of the 2016 agreement to prematurely shut down the twin reactors.
Overall, if anyone thinks the reactors are “saved,” they need to think again. As it is said in the world of opera, “it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”
For those of you puzzled by this idiomatic phase, ‘It ain’t over till the fat lady sings’ is a phrase that means a person should not assume the outcome of a situation until it reaches its end, because the circumstances can change.
Given the amount of flux in California’s politics over the reactors, getting a decision to save the plant could be a long wait or it could turn into a Marx Brothers farce.
However, there are several positive developments which have occurred offering hope for keeping the reactors opens.
- DOE Funding for Reactors at Risk of Closure
Last June a change in eligibility criteria by DOE to fund nuclear power plants slated to close opened the door to life extension for the 2,256 MWe of CO2 emission free electrical generating capacity at the Diablo Canyon power plant in California and if awarded would save the plant in the near term as well as 1,500 jobs. PG&E is expected to apply for the funds in September.
- A $1.4 Billion Lifeline
A bill proposed by California governor Gavin Newsom, if passed, would give Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) a $1.4 billion government loan from the State of California to keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power station running up to 10 years beyond its current 2025 closure date.
The proposal would exempt the extension of the reactor’s operating life from some of the state’s environmental rules and would compel some state regulatory agencies to act quickly to clear the way for the facility’s two reactors to continue operating.
How this would work remains to be seen. The complex regulatory environment spanning multiple state agencies is rife with opportunities for interventions by green groups and fossil interests any one of which could throw a monied money wrench into the effort to keep the reactors from being shut down.
Newsom’s proposal, which will have to be introduced as a bill in the state legislature, is the latest in a series of steps California has made this year to reconsider its 2016 decision to retire the Diablo Canyon power plant by 2025. The proposal says continued operation beyond 2025 is “critical to ensure statewide energy system reliability” as climate change stresses the energy system.
Newsom also said he would seek federal funding to support nuclear power plants under president Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The US Department of Energy has $6 billion available to save multiple nuclear power plants that are at risk of shutting down before the end of their service life.
Newsom’s office said the loan proposals and DOE money are part of a plan to increase its energy security while moving away from fossil fuels. California wants to produce all of its electricity from clean sources by 2045, but has faced challenges with that transition, such as rolling blackouts during a heatwave in 2020.
“The governor supports keeping all options on the table as we build out our plan to ensure reliable energy this summer and beyond,” a spokesperson in his office said.
“This includes considering a limited term extension of the Diablo Canyon power station, which continues to be an important resource as we transition away from fossil fuel generation to greater amounts of clean energy.”
It is no secret that from a political perspective, Newsom’s new found enthusiasm for the Diablo Canyon reactors is based on the fact that blackouts and brownouts come with huge political costs. Diablo Canyon, located midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, produces 9% of California’s electricity. That number alone should tell you that Newsom doesn’t trust the “fairy dust” promises of the renewables crowd.
The AP reported that Newsom spokesperson Anthony York said the governor “wants California to go faster to meet our climate goals, while ensuring we can keep the lights on and safely transition to clean power.”
York said the proposal came out of the state Assembly and “feels like fantasy and fairy dust, and reflects a lack of vision and a lack of understanding about the scope of the climate problem.”
Call to Action – Bottom line if you live in California, now, not tomorrow, it the time to call your state legislator and make the case for keeping Diablo Canyon Open. There are powerful interests among green groups and fossil fuel industries who don’t want this to happen.
NRDC’s Efforts to Thwart Life Extension for Diablo Canyon
The inks was hardly dry on Newsom’s press release to ask the legislature to approve a $1.4 billion load to PG&E to keep Diablo Canyon open before the Natural Resources Defense Council fired off a broadside of its own statements of outrage in opposition to the plan.
Opposition to Newsom’s plans to keep the reactors operating flared quickly with a series of fiery press releases and social media posts published by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Ralph Cavanagh, Energy Co-Director, NRDC Climate & Clean Energy Program in an online post dripping with contempt criticized the loan proposal and plans for keeping the plant open arguing that legislators should reject it out of hand. His harshly worded post left no doubt NRDC would yield no quarter in its fight to close the plant.
Amory Lovins, who has peddled “soft paths to energy” for most of his career, wrote in a guest NRDC blog that he has strongly held concerns about the issue of costs to rate payers but he does not mention that nuclear energy is CO2 emission free compared to the CO2 emissions that will be released by construction of new gas burning plants that are needed for grid reliability relative to the intermittent nature of solar and wind power. In short, Lovins seems to know the cost of everything related to rates but fails to grasp the price of losing the planet.
- Money Talks Nobody Walks
According to Influence Watch, NRDC itself may benefit from the success of companies that deal in fossil fuels, fueling charges of hypocrisy. The Nation found in an investigation in 2017 that the group holds stocks in mutual funds and other assets that do not screen for fossil fuels. These are not pint size buckets of investments. Influence Watch reported in 2015 that NRDC reports $155,192,637 in revenue and $126,749,686 in expenses on its IRS 990 form.
Fast forward to 2021 the organization’s consolidated financial statement lists revenue of $217M ($92M in memberships) and expenses of $161M (energy programs $51M). Total assets are listed as $693M and of that amount $349M or 50% has no donor restrictions on it. These numbers are the answer to the proverbial question of where does a 500 lb canary sit which is anywhere it wants.
Influence Watch also reports that the Energy Foundation is a major funder of NRDC, having given nearly $3 million in 2011, for example. That organization opposes fossil fuels and is heavily backed by environmental activist and billionaire Tom Steyer. He made substantial profits from investments in oil and gas, particularly with Farallon Capital, which Steyer founded in 1986.
What’s painfully ironic here is that the rear guard action of fossil fuel interests to preserve their place in the economy is being spearheaded by green groups like NRDC.
How Will One NRC Vote be Cast?
Another somewhat imponderable issue is how the appointment of Bradley Crowell, who is scheduled to be sworn in as a commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, may eventually vote on a 20 year license renewal for the twin reactors.
Crowell was previously a legislative advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) 2004-2007 which has a significant anti-nuclear policy position. The group has a long history of litigation filing lawsuits against the NRC over a wide range of issues related to the agency’s oversight role of the nation’s nuclear energy industry.
Some pro-nuclear advocates worry that Crowell might be influenced by his experience at NRDC, and might therefore follow in the footsteps of former NRC Commissioner Allison MacFarlane who continued her anti-nuclear efforts long after leaving office.
Despite who he worked for in the past, Crowell’s appointment received a positive response from the American Nuclear Society. It said in a press statement, “the American Nuclear Society applauds the Senate for restoring the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to five commissioners with the confirmations of Annie Caputo and Bradley Crowell.”
Crowell is a veteran of DC politics. He served at DOE as assistant secretary for the Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Affairs from 2010 to 2016. In December 2016, Crowell was appointed to serve as director of the Nevada Department of Conservation and Natural Resources by Governor Brian Sandoval.
Green Wing of the California Democratic Party is Not Onboard
NRDC, the Sierra Club , and other like Friends of the Earth aren’t the only groups that have their backs up over plans to undo the 2016 agreement. The Associated Press reported this week a proposal circulated by California Democratic legislators would reject Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to extend the lifespan of the state’s last operating nuclear power plant and instead spend over $1 billion to speed up the development of renewable energy, new transmission lines and storage to maintain reliable power in the climate change era.
According to the AP report, the legislative plan drops the idea of keeping the decades-old reactors running. Instead, it would funnel the $1.4 billion Newsom proposed for PG&E into speeding up other zero-carbon power and new transmission lines to get the electricity to customers.
AP noted that the conflict over Diablo Canyon reveals deep anxiety among some legislators that Newsom wants an abrupt, complex turnaround in state energy policy with less than two weeks left in the legislative session, which ends for the year at the end of August.
The Power of Fossil Fuel Lobbyists
In addition to opposition from green groups, oil and especially gas interests would like nothing better than for the two reactors to shut down and for the replacement power to come from fossil fuels. The influence of these industries with the state legislature should not be underestimated. While their influence often takes place out of view of the news media, their presence in Sacramento is an undeniable factor in determining the fate of Newsom’s load proposal.
Oil and gas interests spent four times as much as environmental advocacy groups and almost six times as much as clean energy firms on lobbying efforts in California between 2018 and 2021, according to a Capital & Main analysis. The numbers reflect the intensity of the industry’s efforts to influence policy in a state whose leaders have vowed to build an energy future free of fossil fuels.
The analysis shows that between 2018 and 2021, lobbying organizations representing oil and gas companies spent almost $77.5 million advocating for the industry’s interests in Sacramento. That’s approximately 400% more than environmental advocacy groups, which spent roughly $15 million over that same period. And it’s 560% more than the renewable energy sector, which spent $11.6 million.
Craig Holman, an expert on lobbying, campaign finance reform and governmental ethics who works as a lobbyist for Public Citizen, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization and think tank in Washington, D.C., told a trade press wire service, “The oil and gas industry has a very disproportionate influence here on Capitol Hill as well as within the states and state governments.”
A Deluge of Anti-nuclear Propaganda
Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP), a pro-nuclear group, which has been influential in the movement to save Diablo Canyon, called out the “deluge of fearmongering, anti-nuclear propaganda” that has filed the airwaves in the state.
Carl Wurtz, President of Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP), said opposition by green groups was unexpected in its ferocity, and he called it “a last-ditch attempt to counter widespread support for the re-licensing of California’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant.”
He added that the ‘green’ that’s really talking to the legislature, which must approve the loan in the closing weeks of the current session, is the money to be made by parties which stand to benefit financially from the plant’s closure. By comparison, “Gov. Newsom’s leadership on this issue has been exemplary,” Wurtz said.
“We expected opposition to his initiative from the Western States Petroleum Association, They have billions of dollars to gain from closing the plant, and they’re grasping at straws.”
- It’s More than a Ratings Game
CGNP Legal Assistant Gene Nelson explained why concerns about higher rates, as called out by Amory Lovins, are unjustified.
A major California newspaper reported that rates could go up by 3%. But when construction costs are paid off in 2025, Diablo Canyon will be generating clean electricity at a marginal cost of 2.56¢/kWh – 23% lower than in 2020. That’s cheaper than solar+gas, wind+gas, every other source except hydropower. If rates reflect the true costs of Diablo’s operation, PG&E rates should go down.”
“First, we need to lay blame where it’s due,” cautioned Nelson.
“It wasn’t Diablo Canyon that caused reliability problems on our grid – it was unpredictable output from California solar panels and wind turbines. The Sun doesn’t always shine. The wind does not always blow hard enough. Additional investment will not correct this physical problem. Whether the situation improves when Diablo is relicensed depends on other factors, but if it’s closed, I can assure you the situation will get a whole lot worse.”
- Baffling that Green Groups Oppose This
Heather Hoff, co-founder of Mothers For Nuclear, noted the contrast between the professed aims of “green” groups and their actions. “I find it baffling that environmental groups are protesting this effort,” she said.
“California still relies on natural gas for 50% of our electricity, and closing Diablo Canyon would create a bigger hole in our clean energy supply. With the impacts of climate change growing by the day, it should be obvious we need more clean energy, not less.”
Anyone who wants to dive into the cost, rate, and reliability issues about the plant can check a briefing provided by the California state government at a Joint-Agency Workshop – Diablo Canyon Power Plant on August 12th. (PDF file August 12th Power Point Presentation)
Bottom line if you live in California, now, not tomorrow, it the time to call your state legislator and make the case for keeping Diablo Canyon Open.
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TerraPower Raises $750 Million in Equity Funding
TerraPower has scored a large private capital fundraise in support of advanced nuclear deployment. The firm announced the close of an equity raise that yields a minimum of $750 million. This is one of the largest advanced nuclear fundraises to-date.
The fundraise was co-led by SK Inc. and SK Innovation (collectively, “SK”) and TerraPower’s founder Bill Gates. SK invested $250 million. SK Group is among South Korea’s largest energy providers and the second-largest conglomerate. Additional funding worth $500 million will come from other investors. Their details were not disclosed
TerraPower’s growth is partially driven by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) (infographic) and the construction of the cost shared Natrium demonstration plant at a retiring coal facility in Wyoming. Part of the ARDP award requires a match of 50% of project costs, up to $2 billion. This new fundraise further builds on the support of existing investors and will support TerraPower’s current implementation efforts. TerraPower must meet the terms of an ambitious DOE schedule to complete the first-of-a-kind reactor well before the end of this decade.
The collaboration agreement with SK was originally announced in May of this year. At that time SK announced a wide-ranging partnership with TerraPower with a focus on small reactors, spanning technology development and commercialization. With energy company SK Innovation taking on a central role, SK seeks to harness the group’s expertise in each step, from development to installation to operation.
SK will use the partnership to gain know-how and train specialized staff, hoping to take on small-reactor projects at home.
Credit Suisse acted as the exclusive placement agent to TerraPower. Perkins Coie LLP acted as outside corporate counsel to TerraPower. The firm will continue to be a privately held company.
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Ultra Safe Nuclear Opens Pilot Nuclear Fuel Plant
- New pilot manufacturing facility to produce TRISO and FCM fuel for qualification for U.S. advanced microreactors
- Production-scale radiological manufacturing line includes advanced manufacturing process licensed from ORNL
Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (Ultra Safe Nuclear), a Seattle, WA,-based developer of micro reactors, announced the opening of its Pilot Fuel Manufacturing (PFM) facility in Oak Ridge, TN. Located in the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP), the facility will produce the first fuel for testing and qualification for use in Ultra Safe Nuclear’s advanced Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) Energy System.
The PFM facility uses the same production-scale modules for manufacturing TRISO coated fuel particles and the company’s patented Fully Ceramic-Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel that will go into Ultra Safe Nuclear’s future commercial fuel manufacturing facility. PFM is a radiological facility capable of producing FCM for testing and qualification in multiple-kilogram quantities. In the process, PFM will also codify and demonstrate the manufacturing modules that will be used in the company’s future commercial fuel manufacturing factory.
Ultra Safe Nuclear said earlier this year it would invest $13M over five years to open the pilot fuel manufacturing operation to meet demand for fueling its own micro modular reactor and other advanced terrestrial and space energy systems.
The fuel manufacturing processes and modules are based on nuclear fuels research and development efforts of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). The 3D printing process for manufacturing refractory ceramic carbides was developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and licensed by Ultra Safe Nuclear for use in the PFM production line.
Ultra Safe Nuclear was able to design and construct this privately funded facility in less than twelve months. The PFM facility will produce the first private sector TRISO and FCM fuel in the nation. This groundbreaking presence in Oak Ridge has already created more than 40 highly skilled jobs.
“It’s great to see technology developed at ORNL being used by industry – tech transfer is an important role that the national labs play.” Said Associate Laboratory Director for Fusion and Fission Energy and Science Dr. Kathryn A. McCarthy, ORNL.
Dr. Kathryn Huff, the Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy at the Department of Energy remarked “The group of people here is truly star-studded. I’m incredibly impressed at the folks who have joined us here, and I think it’s an indication of how clearly important this mission is going to be and what part this facility will play in the future of our nuclear energy as we transform this nation into a factory fighting the calamity of climate change.”
“With this facility, Ultra Safe Nuclear moves one step closer to the commercialization if its fuel production,” stated USNC’s CEO, Dr. Francesco Venneri. “The market is ready. The nation is ready. The world is ready. Ultra Safe Nuclear is proud to be leading the way with the Department of Energy, with Oak Ridge, and with all our partners every step of the way.”
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HALEU Fuel Funding in Biden Energy Climate Legislation
The Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress and signed by President Biden this month appropriates a $700M to support production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) nuclear fuel for research, development and demonstration.
HALEU is currently the fuel required to operate advanced reactors like those being built by TerraPower and X-Energy under DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).
A breakdown of the total funding includes;
- $100M to support production of HALEU for civilian domestic research, development, demonstration, and commercial use;
- $500M to ensure HALEU is available from a stockpile of uranium to produce HALEU for the first advanced reactors, estimate HALEU quantities necessary to support the development of a commercial, domestic HALEU market, and develop a consortium to support the availability of HALEU for civilian use; and
- $100M to provide financial assistance to commercial entities, design and license transportation packages, and to develop benchmark data to assist licensing and regulation of special nuclear material fuel fabrication, enrichment facilities, and transportation packages. This funding will also support the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in identifying updates to its regulations and certifications for HALEU to be commercially available.
Statement by Centrus Energy
Centrus Energy Corp. (NYSE American: LEU) President and Chief Executive Officer Daniel Poneman made the following statement about the nuclear energy related investments in the Inflation Reduction Act signed into law by president Biden. The firm is expected to be one of DOE’s key contractors to manufacture HALEU fuels.
“The Inflation Reduction Act makes a historic commitment to combating climate change while restoring America’s nuclear leadership on the world stage. In addition to providing critical support to our existing fleet of reactors, the new law includes a $700 million appropriation to help jump-start domestic production of High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) – an advanced fuel that’s needed to power the next generation of nuclear reactors.
“Establishing the necessary infrastructure to produce and transport HALEU will take sustained public and private investment over several years. The $700 million in the new law represents a critical down payment on this effort.
“In the meantime, with the only U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission license for HALEU production, Centrus is strongly committed to serving this market and helping to fuel the future of nuclear energy around the world so that we can achieve our net-zero climate goals.”
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Survey – Utilities Could Add 90 GWe of Nuclear, Including 300 SMRs
A Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) survey of 19 utility members, that already have nuclear as part of their energy generation mix on the role new nuclear could play to reach decarbonization goals, reports that they expect to add up to 90 GWe of new nuclear generation by the 2050s, including more than 300 new small modular reactors (SMRs) in the US over the next 25 years.
According to NEI the results indicate significant demand for new nuclear power construction in the US.
- NEI said in a press statement that while that figure would effectively double US nuclear energy capacity from around 954 GW today, it may even be a “conservative estimate.”
- NEI’s statement said, “The electricity generated by these SMRs is more than the total 2020 generation in any one country except for China, the US, India, Russia, and Japan.”
- NEI said the survey suggests that utilities are evaluating sites that currently host operating or retired coal plants for new SMRs.
An INL analysis utilizing a Global Change Analysis Model predicted an even higher increase of nuclear generating capacity—more than 150%—in order to achieve economy-wide net-zero emissions by mid-century.
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Taishan-1 EPR Reconnected To Grid After Extended Fuel Outage
(NucNet) The Taishan-1 EPR nuclear plant in Guangdong province, southern China, has been reconnected to the grid after being taken offline a year ago for maintenance and to replace damaged fuel.
The 1,750 MW PWR, supplied by France, was taken out of service this time last year following a minor fuel rod cladding failure which resulted in increased radioactivity in the unit’s primary reactor coolant.
Operators reconnected the damaged plant after months of “inspection and maintenance”, China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) said in a stock exchange filing on the Hong Kong Exchange.
In July 2021, French nuclear company Framatome, which helps operate the plant, reported a “performance issue” which caused the US government to look into the possibility of a leak at Taishan-1.
“After lengthy conversations between French and Chinese technical personnel, Taishan Nuclear Power Plant decided to shut down Unit 1 for maintenance,” CGN said in a statement at the time, adding that “a small amount of fuel damage” occurred during the operation of the reactor.
Regulator Details Damage To Fuel Rod Cladding
China’s nuclear safety regulator said that of the more than 60,000 fuel rods in the Unit 1 core, the number of damaged fuel rod claddings was about five, less than 0.01% of the total. This was significantly lower than the maximum level of 0.25% allowed in the plant’s design parameters. The core of Taishan 1 contains 241 fuel assemblies, each of them made from 265 fuel rods.
Plant supplier EDF said a build-up of noble, or inert, gases at the plant seemed to have occurred because of issues with the casing around some fuel rods.
Further details about the cause and extent of the fuel damage have not been disclosed.
Taishan-1 was the first EPR unit to begin commercial operation, in December 2018. A second EPR at Taishan began commercial operation in September 2019.
According to the World Nuclear Association, the Taishan project, locateed 140 kmwest of Hong Kong, is owned by TNPJVC, a joint venture between CGN (51%), EDF (30%) and the Chinese utility Guangdong Energy Group (19%).
In Finland the Olkiluoto-3 EPR has been connected to the grid while in France the Flamanville-3 EPR is nearing completion. In the UK there are two EPRs under construction at Hinkley Point C wich are scheduled to enter revenue service in 2026. An additional two units have been approved for construction at the Sizewell C site.
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UKAEA Appoints Consortium to Help Deliver STEP Fusion Project
(WNN) A consortium led by Atkins as prime contractor, alongside Assystem, has been appointed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) as Engineering Delivery Partner (EDP) to its Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) program.
The aim for the first phase of work on STEP is to produce a ‘concept design’ by 2024. The UK government is providing GBP220 million of funding for the first phase of STEP.
The next phase of work will include detailed engineering design. In parallel all relevant permissions and consents to build the prototype are sought. The final phase is construction, with operations targeted to begin around 2040. The aim is to have a fully evolved design and approval to build by 2032 to enable construction to begin.
Atkins, which is a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, and Assystem have a long history of collaboration across nuclear and fusion energy projects, including their work as architect-engineer for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER).
The STEP EDP consortium includes:
- Fusion in-vessel component materials technology and safety specialist Oxford Sigma;
- In-vessel components and tritium specialists Kyoto Fusioneering; and Ansaldo Nuclear.
Combined, the consortium will bring more than 30 years’ experience in fusion delivery from across JET (Joint European Torus), ITER, STEP and the Demonstration Fusion Power Reactor (DEMO).
Assystem is currently delivering the STEP shielding design project, and has a wide range of in-vessel experience including pioneering the safe lithium breeder concept, and robotics and remote handling expertise under the LongOps program.
- Finding a Site for STEP
In December 2020, the government called on local communities across the country to put forward proposals to host the STEP plant. Communities had until the end of March 2021 to submit their nominations and were required to demonstrate that their local area has the right mix of social, commercial and technical conditions to host the new plant – such as adequate land conditions, grid connection and water supply. A total of 15 potential sites were subsequently long-listed.
The UKAEA, which carries out fusion energy research on behalf of the government, announced in October 2021 that, following an initial phase of assessment, five bids to host STEP had now been shortlisted. These are: Ardeer in North Ayrshire; Goole in East Riding of Yorkshire; Moorside in Cumbria; Ratcliffe-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire; and the so-called ‘Severn Edge’ bid from South Gloucestershire and Gloucestershire.
The site of the demonstration plant is expected to be announced at the end of this year.
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