* Holtec in Pursuit of Re-Starting Palisades Nuclear Plant
* Westinghouse Submits Bid to Poland to Build Three AP1000s
* Ghana Takes Next Steps Toward Nuclear Energy
* MOUs are Hot for Nuclear Deals Across Europe
** GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Sheffield Forgemasters in MOU for BWRX-300
** Rolls-Royce and Škoda JS to collaborate on SMR deployment on 470 MWe PWR
** Nuclearelectrica And Polish Copper Giant KGHM To Collaborate On NuScale SMR
** NuScale Power, Habboush Group and ENTRA1 form Strategic Alliance
Holtec in Pursuit of Re-Starting Palisades Nuclear Plant
- Federal funding is a key success factor
Recently consigned to the fate of decommissioning, there is new hope for the restoration of the Palisades Nuclear Plant to revenue service. It is located on the Lake Michigan shoreline in southwest Michigan. Holtec, which bought the plant to be paid to decommission it has applied for a federal grant under the $6 billion Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) program. (June 2022 Amended Guidance)
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is supporting the effort and wrote a Sept. 9 letter to the U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. “Keeping Palisades open is a top priority for the State of Michigan,” Whitmer wrote in a letter.
“I will do everything I can to keep this plant open, protect jobs, increase Michigan’s competitiveness, lower costs, and expand clean energy production. We know the path ahead is not easy, but we are not going to let that stop us from fighting for economic opportunity for Southwest Michigan and reliable, clean energy for the state. Just because something’s never been done before does not mean it cannot be done in Michigan,” she wrote.
Whitmer noted that Palisades had 600 workers making an average of $117,845. It also supported over 1,100 additional local jobs and generated $363 million in regional economic development annually, she said.
“We applaud Governor Whitmer for her leadership in recognizing the vital importance of Palisades to Michigan’s clean energy future as a source of safe and reliable carbon-free electricity,” said Dr. Kris Singh, President and CEO of Holtec International.
“The Governor and her team have been instrumental in supporting this historic opportunity for Southwest Michigan and the country. We look forward to continuing to work with the administration as well as our federal, state, and community partners to make this hope a reality.”
The CNC program was established to 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. Palisades is a textbook example.
Holtec International applied for a Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) on July 5th to help them keep Palisades open. If Holtec is approved for a CNC, the State of Michigan is reported to be ready to support the firm by identifying state funding and facilitating a power purchase agreement.
Separately, on March 9, 2022, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) approved Part I of Holtec International’s loan application for building small modular reactors (SMRs) and invited the company to apply for a federal loan to help build four SMR-160s and to expand the company’s manufacturing capacity to build the first wave of nuclear reactors in large numbers.
What About the NRC License?
There is a huge elephant in the room that needs attention. The current license status of the plant is that it is permanently closed and headed for decommissioning.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission said in an email statement to this blog that it has never dealt with a plant that involves re-licensing a closed nuclear reactor.
The agency has to tell Holtec what it needs to do and what information it must submit to get an operating license. So far it appears it is looking toward the company for ideas on how things would work. This is backwards. The NRC should be providing the brain power to figure it out and create a path forward to provide for a speedy relicensing effort.
The agency focuses on safety and will undoubtedly look at the deferred maintenance as a checklist for consideration among other things.
This does not mean the NRC is a deal breaker, but it could delay reopening and certainly will cost a lot of money not only in terms of the cost of relicensing (NRC is reimbursed for costs at a rate of about $300/hr) but also improvements and completion of maintenance items that the agency says are safety related.
Getting the license will be the #1 make or break issue for reopening the plant.
- This is not a new problem for the agency
In 2016 the NRC asked the industry for input on the agency’s development of a “draft regulatory basis” to support modifications to existing regulations affecting nuclear power plant shutdown and decommissioning activities. Robert Sweeney wrote in his response that the agency has an opportunity to think “out of the box” about the issue. Here’s the nut of what he wrote.
“The NRC should take a serious “out-of-the-box” review of its regulations and give due consideration to construct a regulatory framework that would allow licensees to temporarily reduce or suspend certain activities and place their plant in a protected shutdown or “laid up” state.
A new framework could establish and implement a new operating license “mode”. Such a mode would allow a safe “pause” in plant operations but not necessarily suggest or require a plant begin taking steps towards decommissioning or being placed in SAFSTOR.
Rather, this new mode would cover an extended or term-limited shutdown case within a particular set of requirements, including newly established standardized technical specifications with limits and conditions for the particular mode, as well as accompanying programmatic and maintenance requirements, commensurate with safety-risk in a “pause” mode condition (i.e. a Mode 6/7 depending on reactor type).
Adopting conforming requirements should be risk-informed and assure continued operations and maintenance of designated or essential systems at levels commensurate with the planned shutdown activities and term. Such a construct could afford plant owners with economic options and generating flexibility without baring prospects for a plant restart later when system demands and/or economics may be more favorable, allowing it to continue through some remaining portion of its licensed term.”
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Westinghouse Submits a Bid to Poland to Build Three AP1000s
- Warsaw has yet to take decision on a technology vendor with France and South Korea also in running
(NucNet) Westinghouse has submitted a bid to the Polish government the firm say is “a comprehensive offer” for the country’s nuclear new-build program including proposals on financing by US institutions to build three 1150 MWe AP1000 PWR tyype nuclear reactors.
At a benchmark cost of $6500/kw, the reactors would cost about $7.5 billion each and $22.4 billion for all three. These cost do not include improvements to the regional grid to deliver electricity to customers. Localization agreements will relate to the non-nuclear elements of the projects. Westinghouse has a plant in Sweden that can provide fuel for the reactors.
Miroslaw Kowalik, president of Westinghouse Poland, said in a press statement that the offer was submitted by the firm and comes on top of a front-end engineering and design (Feed) study by US-based companies Westinghouse Electric and Bechtel which was completed in June. It addressed building three AP1000 reactor units at a site in northern Poland.
The Feed study provides layout plans for the location of the first nuclear power station at Lubiatowo-Kopalino,on Poland’s Baltic Sea coast about 60 miles northwest of Gdansk, a strategic licensing plan, a project schedule, and a cost estimate for delivery, construction and startup of the first power plant. The Feed study by Westinghouse and Bechtel was funded by a grant released by the US Trade and Development Agency in mid-2021.
Mr Kowalik added that the Feed study was the technical part to the project offer while the government has now been presented with a “concept execution report”, which includes details of financing for the project by US institutions. The Polish government will have at its disposal “a solid study” to use for its decision on the choice of a technology provider for its nuclear power program. However, the study does not guarantee Westinghouse will seal the deal.
Poland wants to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MWe of installed nuclear capacity based on Generation III and III+ large-scale, pressurized water reactor designs. Commercial operation of a first nuclear unit in a proposed set of six is planned for 2033.
Warsaw has not decided yet on who will be building the plants or providing the nuclear technology. It has already received offers from France’s EDF for its EPR reactor design and South Korea’s KHNP for its APR-1400 technology.
Study Puts Cost For Six Units At €39 Billion
The cost of building two new nuclear power stations in Poland with up to three reactors each is likely to be about €39bn ($38.6 billion), a recent study by the Polish Economic Institute found, or around $6.4 billion each. The actual delivered price will likely be higher and the cost per Kw per unit will vary depending on the size of the reactors offered by vendors.
So far no outside institutional investors have publicly expressed an interest in the project. However, in its bid to build six 1400 MWe PWR type reactors, South Korea offered to take a minority equity stake in the project as a contribution to financing it.
Mr Kowalik did not specify any of the US institutions to be potentially involved in financially supporting Poland’s nuclear program, but Warsaw signed in 2020 an agreement with the US Export-Import (ExIm) Bank to finance projects supporting climate change in Poland, including potential new reactors.
Poland’s representation that it has funding from the US is probably premature. The ExIm bank is usually tight lipped about any potential funding deals until all technical, financial, and political approvals are nailed down. Earlier this year Ukraine’s EnergoAtom made a similar claim that it had a funding commitment from the ExIm bank for five Westinghouse reactors. The bank declined to comment and so did the Department of Energy.
Nothing is Certain About Who Will Win the Business
The Bloomberg Wire service reported that Poland is keeping its options open in deciding who will build six full size nuclear reactors in that country. According to the Bloomberg report, Poland may work with more than one partner on its first nuclear power plant as it’s considering technology provided by companies from France, South Korea and the US.
Politics are playing a role in selecting prospects for a decision to proceed with one or more vendors. The chances of other partners joining the $39 billion program have grown after Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in July dismissed Piotr Naimski, the official in charge of energy security and a staunch supporter of cooperation with the US. This change could affect advocacy for the Westinghouse bid within the government.
Naimski’s area of responsibility included the nuclear power program, diversification of gas sources, and coordination of energy transmission networks. He had served in the present government since it came into office in 2015. English language press reports indicate his dismissal was based on differences over energy policy.
Naimski was seen too committed to the option of building nuclear power stations with American support over French or Korean offers. Advocates of solar and wind power are reported to have influenced PM Morawiecki’s decision.
In particular Naimski strongly supported the EU’s decision to include nuclear energy as a “green” technology in its energy taxonomy policy and thus became eligible for funding under this category. Renewable energy investors saw that move as possibly carving out chunks of investor capital being sought for their projects. Given the high cost of nuclear reactors, these were seen as possibly very large shifts in investor interest.
However, despite these reports and perhaps as an effort at damage control, PM Morawiecki recently traveled to Paris to discuss nuclear energy with President Emmanuel Macron, and spoke with South Korea President Yoon Suk Yeol over the phone soon after. He also talked to US Vice President Kamala Harris about US support for Poland’s nuclear program.
Bloomberg quoted Morawiecki as saying, “The cooperation with the US on the nuclear project has been most advanced among other bidders and this is what I discussed with Kamala Harris in particular,” Morawiecki said at a press conference. “I spoke about it with President Macron in Paris, too, and I hope these cooperations will be compatible. It’s all a unified concept and negotiations aren’t contradictory.”
This statement could be a signal that Poland will split the six reactor project into two three-reactors installations. Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski told Bloomberg that the government may also decide on the technology by early 2023, while Morawiecki also said that the government may want to build more than the nine gigawatts it has originally planned.
“We’re are a big enough country so that we don’t need to pick one technology to be applied across the board,” Jablonski said in a Radio Zet interview. “We can’t rule out cooperating with more than one partner or all three at once.”
The European Union’s largest eastern economy is the only country in the region without a nuclear plant as it has historically relied on coal for most of its electricity generation. Replacing the coal fired power plants is a key element of the country’s climate change program.
In addition to the government’s efforts to secure bids for and fund construction of six full size nuclear power plants, private sector industrial firms in Poland are exploring deals with SMR developers GE Hitacti for its BWRX300, with NuScale for its 77 MWe SMR, and with Rolls-Royce for its 470 MWe PWR.
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Ghana Takes Next Steps Toward Nuclear Energy
Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has approved a policy to include nuclear energy in the country’s power generation mix. He said the announcement satisfied one of the key 19 infrastructure issues specified in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) Milestones Approach, which help member states understand the commitments and obligations associated with developing a nuclear power program. Ghana in 2013 submitted a letter to IAEA declaring the country’s intention to pursue a nuclear power program for peaceful purposes.
“This development informs the international community that the country has done what is necessary under phase one, which includes making a knowledgeable commitment and making a formal declaration,” Akufo-Addo noted in a briefing to news media.
“It gives the country the leverage over other countries within the [African] sub-region, especially as there is a vision to make Ghana a power generation hub and provide stable electricity to propel development on the continent.”
The Director of the Nuclear Power Institute of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, Professor Seth Kofi Debrah commended the government’s move.
He said in a press statement that the GNPPO would be dealing with trade, human resource development, energy generation and regulations that would need a higher body to ensure effective and efficient coordination and implementation.
Two other key institutions – the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) Ghana, an independent nuclear regulatory body, and project company Nuclear Power Ghana (NPG) as potential NPP owner-operator – are key to success for the program.
In 2017 and 2019, Ghana hosted IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) teams to assess its progress. The 2017 review provided 12 recommendations and eight suggestions to assist Ghana in making further progress in its infrastructure development. The follow-up INIR team in 2019 concluded that Ghana has completed eight of the recommendations and six of the suggestions.
“It is evident that Ghana has made a concerted effort to address the recommendations and suggestions our team made two and half years ago,” said Anthony Stott, leader of the 2019 mission.
“The main preparatory work needed for the government to be able to commit to go forward with the nuclear power program has been done. What remains is further consideration of certain options to ensure Ghana is well prepared for discussions with vendors and other potential partners.”
The IAEA noted that Ghana has safely operated a nuclear research facility for 24 years and has significant experience with the non-power application of nuclear technology, including in the medical and industrial fields.
MOUs are Hot for Nuclear Deals Across Europe
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Sheffield Forgemasters in MOU for BWRX-300
GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Sheffield Forgemasters have agreed to cooperate in support of the potential deployment of the BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) in the U.K.
Through a memorandum of understanding (MOU) GEH and Sheffield Forgemasters agree to discuss how the Sheffield-based company’s existing and future capabilities could help meet the potential demands of BWRX-300 deployment.
“As the U.K. government aims to expand nuclear power capacity to 25% of the nation’s electricity needs, we are pleased to be working with an industry leader like Sheffield Forgemasters to discuss a potential supply agreement for forgings in support of the deployment of BWRX-300 SMRs,” said Sean Sexstone, Executive Vice President, Advanced Nuclear, GEH.
“We will also look at how Sheffield Forgemasters’ unique capabilities can help meet the growing global interest in the BWRX-300.”
“SMRs have the potential to become a standard for civil nuclear power generation and as an emerging technology, our long track record of supplying nuclear grade components brings a wealth of technical forging experience to the market,” said David Bond, CEO, Sheffield Forgemasters.
GEH said in its press statement that the BWRX-300 has been designed to achieve construction and operating costs that are substantially lower than traditional nuclear power generation technologies. Specifically, the BWRX-300 leverages a unique combination of a new, patented safety breakthrough, proven components, the licensing basis of the U.S. NRC-certified ESBWR and an existing, licensed fuel design.
About Sheffield Forgemasters
Sheffield Forgemasters specializes in the design and manufacture of high integrity forgings and castings offering end-to-end manufacture for steel production from a single site in the UK. Global markets served include Defence, Marine, Civil Nuclear, Steel Processing, The company also offers design, project management, steel melting, forging, casting, machining, testing and delivery.
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Rolls-Royce and Škoda JS to collaborate on SMR deployment
(WNN) Rolls-Royce SMR of the UK has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Škoda JS to explore areas of collaboration for the Rolls-Royce small modular reactor (SMR) plant, for deployment both in the Czech Republic and broader central European regions.
Under the MoU, both companies will work together to understand how the capabilities Škoda JS possess, in the areas of nuclear engineering and manufacturing, can support the efficient deployment of Rolls-Royce SMR power plants across Europe.
“As a factory-manufactured product – with 90% of the entire Rolls-Royce SMR power plant built in factory conditions – having the right partners in key locations around the world is an important aspect of our international delivery model,” said Rolls-Royce SMR Business Development and Strategy Director Alan Woods.
Škoda JS specializes in the production of pressurized water reactors (PWRs) and critical components including reactor pressure vessels (RPVs), RPV internals, control rod drive mechanisms and safety control systems – supported by broader engineering design, calculation and analytical support services.
“SMR is a logical route the nuclear industry is taking to make nuclear energy more accessible and affordable in the immediate future,” said Škoda JS Commercial Director Milos Mostecky.
“Our shops in Pilsen were originally designed to produce the components for 440MW VVER reactors. The potential for utilization of our engineering, manufacturing and maintenance capabilities and know-how for SMR projects in Europe is, therefore, significant.”
The Rolls-Royce SMR is a 470 MWe PWR design. About 90% of the SMR, about 16 meters by 4 meters (52ft x 13ft), will be built in factory conditions, limiting on-site activity primarily to assembly of pre-fabricated, pre-tested, modules which significantly reduces project risk and has the potential to drastically shorten build schedules.
The design was accepted for Generic Design Assessment (GDA) review in March. Rolls-Royce SMR Chairman Paul Stein told the Reuters news agency in April that he hopes to get regulatory approval for the design by mid-2024, with the first unit producing power by 2029. This is an ambitious expectation as the GDA typically takes four to five years to complete which would put it at 2026/2027 to pass regulatory review.
In November 2020, Rolls-Royce and Czech utility CEZ signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the potential for small modular reactors in the Czech Republic. In June this year CEZ bought Škoda JS which is how it comes under CEZ’s control.
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Romania / Nuclearelectrica And Polish Copper Giant KGHM To Collaborate On NuScale SMR Development
(NucNet contributed to this report) Romanian state-owned nuclear operator Nuclearelectrica and Polish copper producer and industrial group KGHM have signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in the development of small modular reactor (SMR) technology for potential deployment in both countries.
The 36-month agreement, signed during an economic forum in Karpacz, southwest Poland, will include the exchange of technical, economic, legal, financial and organizational experience and know-how.
It includes “a comprehensive approach to all SMR project development activities, from site selection to decommissioning, in order to develop robust, safe and cost-effective SMR projects in Romania and Poland,” Nuclearelectrica said.
SMR control room simulators will be built in Poland and Romania to train operators and nuclear specialists.
The planned SMR plant, which both Romania and Poland will develop in collaboration with US reactor developer NuScale, will have six modules, each with an installed capacity of 77 MWe, for a total of 462 MWe.
The project will will help Romania avoid releasing four million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere annually, Nuclearelectrica said.
KGHM, a leader in copper and silver production and large industrial energy user, said SMRs can help it assure its energy independence and lower operating costs.
Reactor Could ‘Repurpose’ Coal Plants, Says KGHM
KGHM is evaluating NuScale Voygr plants as a way of “repurposing” existing coal plants. The company is also looking at opportunities to deploy Voygr plants to provide energy for its industrial operations such as mining and smelting and to support other Polish industrial energy users.
KGHM has already applied to Poland’s nuclear regulator for a safety assessment of the Voygr nuclear technology.
Nuclearelectrica, which operates Romania’s two existing large-scale CANDU type reactors at the Cernavoda nuclear power station, has also signed an agreement with NuScale for engineering studies, technical reviews, and licensing and permitting activities at a site in Doicesti, south-central Romania that is the preferred location for the deployment of a Voygr SMR that could be the first in Europe.
NuScale Power, Habboush Group and ENTRA1 form Strategic Alliance
- Alliance establishes a “one-stop-shop” for nuclear power asset development, management, financing, investment, and execution
NuScale Power Corporation (NuScale) and Habboush Group (HG) have entered into an agreement forming a strategic alliance that establishes a “one-stop-shop” for the financing, investment, development, execution, and management of NuScale-powered projects and opportunities.
This new globally-oriented, strategic alliance between NuScale and HG, long with energy transition platform ENTRA1, aims to provide integrated capabilities for financing, investment, development, management and execution of large-scale assets and projects in connection with the rapidly growing global demand for NuScale’s premier clean energy solutions.
- About Habboush Group
HG is an international private asset management firm focused on developing, managing, operating and financing proprietary opportunities predominantly in energy and infrastructure sectors drawing on more than 40 years of experience and capabilities in executing projects. The company HQ is in New York. Recent media reports indicate it has made significant investments in Turkey and Iraq.
- About ENTRA1
ENTRA1 is a private investment platform supporting investments and developments that bring positive impacts to communities around the world with a focus on global energy, infrastructure and related technology sectors.
The firm is based in London. It has a minimalist footprint in public information sources including social media. There is no “pull quote” from the firm in NuScale’s press release.
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