- Estonia’s Fermi-Energia Releases Tender for SMRs
- China Approves Four New Nuclear Reactors for $$11.5B
- Japan to Draft Nuclear Fusion Strategy to Keep Pace with Global Developments
- Japan Joins with UK Partners to Develop HTGR Design
- Japan’s Nuclear Regulator Throws Cold Water on Reactor Restarts
- DOE Report Finds Hundreds of Retiring Coal Plant Sites Could Convert to Nuclear Power Stations
- TerraPraxis Enters Strategic Collaboration with Microsoft to Repurpose Coal Fired Power Plants
- Beloyarsk BN-800 Fast Reactor Running 100% on MOX
Estonia’s Fermi-Energia Releases Tender for SMRs
After signing MOUs over the past couple of years with multiple firms, Estonia’s Fermi-Energia this week released a tender to three leading developers for SMRs. Bids with comprehensive technical documentation needed to estimate the construction cost are expected by the end of the year. The firm will quickly evaluate offers with technology selection expected to made by Fermi Energia in February 2023. The three firms are NuScale, GE-Hitachi, and Rolls-Royce.
The procurement selection criteria are technological maturity, the establishment of a reference power station, economic competitiveness and the participation of Estonian companies in the supply chain. A project development and preliminary works contract will be signed with the selected bidder.
Kalev Kallemets, CEO of Fermi Energia, said in a press statement, “We started selecting the technology already in 2019, at that moment mapping all the companies developing new nuclear technologies, of which there were several dozen in the world at that time. We will choose the most suitable [bidder] for Estonian conditions and the electricity system, taking into account the final price of the produced electricity for the consumer.”
“All three small reactor manufacturers participating in the bid have initiated formal construction permit procedures with the regulator in major countries, and it is believed that the first reactors of their kind to be built will produce electricity at the end of the decade. It is justified to choose the best reactor technology of the new generation, which has already proven itself, to be built in Estonia.”
“Compared to the long-term fixed-price contracts offered to private and industrial consumers on the Baltic market, the electricity produced by a small reactor is many times more affordable, and we want to offer it to consumers with whom we have signed fixed-price electricity supply cooperation contracts,” Kallemets said.
Target Rate for Electricity
Fermi Energia is planning to seek long-term fixed price starting at 55€/MWh for its customers. The costs of building a small reactor with standardized, factory-produced components are significantly lower than in the case of large nuclear plants built so far, and the short construction time also helps to reduce the risk of delays and related costs. The company wants to harvest these cost savings for Estonia’s rate payers.
Henri Ormus, co-founder and member of the management board at Fermi Energia, said the company’s main targets markets are industry and large consumers who need “stable and predictable electricity prices.”
Fermi Energia told NucNet it is aiming to supply electricity to large customers in the Baltic region at €55/MWh over a 15-year period – a significant decrease from the €100/MWh that is common today, the company said.
By comparison the levelized capital costs of advanced nuclear energy generation in the United States are expected to be $50.51 per megawatt hour in 2026 and fall to $48.93 per megawatt hour in 2040. Total system levelized cost are forecast to amount to $67.87 by 2040.
In Europe the report, ‘Projected Costs of Generating Electricity’, says the LCOE of nuclear in 2025 will range from about $55-$95 per MWh. This compares to a maximum of almost $100/MWh for coal and about $80/MWh for gas. In the UK the Hingly Point C project is at the high end of the rate estimates. However, the UK government is expecting that promised cost savings for Sizewell C, as detailed by France’s EDF which will build the plant, will result in a significantly lower rate.
Marti Jeltsov, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Fermi Energia, said in a press statement, “Both NuScale and GE Hitachi are companies with financial support from the United States government, the British government has invested 210 million pounds in the development of Rolls-Royce’s small modular reactor.”
“All three companies have achieved design maturity over the past few years, which provides significant certainty to the feasibility of the projects. The arrival of the new generation of small reactors on the market also gives Fermi Energia the opportunity to move ahead with the technology selection at a faster pace than planned.”
GE Hitachi’s BWRX-300 small reactor has so far been Fermi Energia’s reference technology in nearly ten studies, and work on this reactor project is already underway for Ontario Power Generation (OPG) near Toronto, Canada.
Regulatory Status of SMR Bidders
NuScale is expected to break ground at a site in Idaho by 2028. It completed all the necessary safety reviews at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build the reactors for US customers. A COLA application is expected to be submitted in 2023.
Rolls-Royce submitted its 470 MWe PWR design to the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation to engage in the Generic Design Assessment (GDA). It was accepted for review last May. The process takes four-to-five years depending on the complexity of the design and the responsiveness of the vendor to ONR requests for additional information. The earliest Rolls-Royce could break ground under a best case scenario would be late 2026 or early 2027.
GE-Hitachi has not yet submitted its design to the NRC although it is in pre-licensing discussions with the agency. The BWRX-300 is based on the 1,500 MWe ESBWR which was approved by the NRC. However, so far no ESBWR has been built in the US although the NRC issued COLAs to publicly traded utilities for one in Michigan and another in Virginia.
Fermi Energia’s international partners and shareholders helped prepare the detailed call for tenders. NucNet reported Fermi Energia said it had raised more than the €2.5M it needed to start the official planning process for the deployment of an SMR. The investment was to kickstart a planning process with the Estonian government to analyze the building of a SMR and determine potential locations for a first plant.
FE’s Ormus said the call for funding resulted in almost 1,200 small investors offering commitments of approximately €4m. Another private financing round is planned by the end of 2022. Fermi Energia’s financing is “secured for the coming years” and collaboration with the Estonian government is progressing, Mr Ormus said.
Since its founding, Fermi Energia has developed an international network to attract investors and cooperate with companies developing SMR technologies. It’s not clear whether the firm is looking for equity investments from vendors. In any case, it will need at least $2.5 billion to complete the first nuclear power station. Currently, the the firm is working off of the equivalent of Series A seed investments.
One of the main partners is the Swedish utility Vattenfall, with which Fermi Energia has signed several cooperation agreements and begun an SMR feasibility study. In May 2021, Vattenfall became a minority shareholder in the Estonian company with a seed investment of €1M.
Cost for First- of-a-Kind Units
All three vendors solicited by FE have made claims for cost control efficiencies to be obtained through factory fabrication of major components. So far with no first of a kind (FOAK) units yet built to serve as a benchmark, a hypothetical benchmark of $4,000/Kw would yield per [equivalent power] reactors costs of nearly identical cost estimates for the NuScale (6 77MWe SMRs for 462MWe at $1.84B) and the Rolls-Royce at $1.88B for a single 470 MWe PWR.
These numbers put the NuScale and Rools-Royce choices in a more or less head-to-head bake off. By comparison, the BWRX-300 per unit would come in at $1.2B. Buying a pair of them yielding 600 MWe would nearly double the cost assuming production efficiencies in the supply chain.
The competitive advance for NuScale is that it offers its SMR in configurations of 1, 4 and 6 units which would stretch out the upfront capital costs over time and allow revenue from operating the initial 77 MWe unit(s) to fund future construction. The benefit to Fermi-Energia would be less pressure on the firm raise the the entire capital for a full six pack of SRMs to start its nuclear energy program.
While all three vendors are likely to break ground for their first-of-a-kind units before the end of this decade, it could be well into the 2030s before real differences emerge in terms of costs and overall value to the customer. Here are some of the cost factors that Fermi-Energia will consider when it received proposals from bidders.
Capital Cost for a New Nuclear Reactor – World Nuclear Association
Equipment Costs for a New Nuclear Reactor – – World Nuclear Association
An uncertainty for vendors is that Fermi-Energia has not stated precisely how big a nuclear power station it wants in terms of electrical generation capacity, where the project will be located,, or the scale of substation, grid, and local infrastructure improvements that will be needed to deliver electrical power to customers. As far as locations are concerned, Estonia has a a long coastline with the best transportation networks parallel to its north coast and networked to the capitol city of Tallinn.
Also, the press statement does not indicate whether Fermi-Energi has plan for non-electrical use of reactor heat such as process steam for industry and district heating, hydrogen production, and desalination. However, localization of the supply chain is a key success factor and potential uses of process heat applications will shape the supply chains.
As far as workforce to operate the plants, Fermi Energia is taking steps to train the nuclear specialists the country will need. It has put in place scholarships for students to study nuclear engineering overseas and is supporting nuclear-related education program in local universities and schools. Since no nuclear reactors have been built previously in Estonia, the construction workforce will have to be imported and trained to meet nuclear safety standards for concrete and installation of systems.
Energy Use in Estonia
According to the US Department of Commerce, International Trade Commission, Estonia is one of the most energy independent countries in the EU. Estonia’s need for low-carbon, reliable energy generation is clear. It produces most of its electricity from oil shale or imports it from neighboring countries.
According to the International Energy Agency, in 2018 oil shale accounted for 72% of country’s total domestic energy production, 73% of total primary energy supply and 76% of electricity generation. These figures make Estonia the country with the highest carbon intensity among all IEA members.
Biofuels, mainly woodchips, account for 26 percent of energy, gas is 7 percent, other renewables are 6 percent, and other fossil fuels are 5 percent.
Estonia has a country-wide smart metering network using Ericsson equipment that came online in 2017. In April 2020, together with other European grid operators, TSO Elering organized a Europe-wide competition to select pilots of innovative energy products and services leveraging smart meter data.
The largest ongoing energy project in Estonia is the desynchronization of the Baltic States from the BRELL grid shared with Belarus and Russia and synchronizing with continental Europe through Poland. The synchronization of the Baltic States’ power system with the Continental European Network is expected to be completed by 2025.
In the wake of Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, Estonians are moving to stop buying Russian oil and gas. The private companies Alexela and Infortar are building an LNG terminal in Paldiski, situated on the Pakri Peninsula of northwestern Estonia, which is scheduled to receive first shipments by late autumn 2022. The LNG is expected to be mostly of U.S. origin.
To achieve renewable energy goals, Estonia is planning two large-scale (1,000 MWe each) offshore wind projects in Liivi Bay between Estonia and Latvia by 2030. Estonia is also exploring hydrogen and nuclear solutions to meet long term clean energy commitments.
Developer of modular reactor technology designed to meet and fulfill the security of energy supply and climate goals. The company has developed a modern small nuclear power plant to curb dependence on oil shale as a resource for electricity production, enabling clients to access electricity at economical rates. Web site: https://fermi.ee/en/
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China Approves Four New Nuclear Reactors for $$11.5B
(NucNet) The units will be built at Lianjiang and Zhangzhou, state media reports.
China has approved four new reactors at two new nuclear power stations in the south of the country earlier this week, taking the total number of newly sanctioned nuclear power units to 10 in 2022, the highest yearly number in more than a decade, according top the state news agency Xinhua and the China Nuclear Energy Association. The two projects that have been approved will cost about $11.5B (€11.5B), business news portal Yicai.com said.
Map courtesy of World Nuclear Association – Nuclear Power in China
The projects are the construction of two CAP1000 units as Phase I of the Lianjiang nuclear power station in Guangdong province, southern China, and two Hualong One, or HPR1000 units, as Phase II of the Zhangzhou nuclear station in Fujian province, southeastern China.
The CAP1000 is China’s indigenous version of the Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactor (PWR) nuclear plant. Four more CAP1000 plants are planned for the second phase of the Lianjiang project.
The Hualong One is China’s own Generation III PWR jointly developed by China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). There are already two Hualong One plants under construction for Phase I at Zhangzhou. Construction of Zhangzhou-1 began in 2019 and of Zhangzhou-2 in 2020.
In April, China approved the construction of six new commercial nuclear power plants as it seeks to increase its installed reactor capacity to 70 GW by 2025, state media outlets reported.
The China Daily newspaper said two new units will be built at each of three sites: Sanmen, in Zhejiang province, eastern China; Haiyang, in Shandong province, eastern China; and Lufeng in the southern province of Guangdong. The approvals were for Sanmen-3 and -4, Haiyang-3 and -4 and Lufeng-5 and -6.
Approvals Follow Crippling Power Shortages
China’s fast approval of new nuclear units comes in the backdrop of crippling power shortages experienced both last and this year across provinces, which shut down industries and led to the rationing of electricity. A record drought has dried up dozens of rivers limiting hydroelectric power generation.
China still relies on coal for more than half of its power. According to the US Energy Information Administration, coal supplied about 55% of China’s total energy consumption in 2021, down from 56% in 2020 and 70% in 2001.
Nuclear power accounts for about 5% of the country’s total electricity generation, up from 2% a decade ago, CNEA secretary-general Zhang Tingke told China Media Group.
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Japan to Draft Nuclear Fusion Strategy to Keep Pace with Global Developments
(Asahi Newspaper) The government plans to compile a strategy by next spring on researching and developing nuclear fusion power generation, which could help it achieve its decarbonization goals.
Japan’s interest in fusion is sparked by the record amounts of investment that have been made globally in a variety of fusion energy startups
“We are no longer in the era of cooperation but the era of competition,” Sanae Takaichi, minister in charge of science and technology, said at a news conference on Sept. 13.
“We will further discuss the matter to draft a strategy while following the moves by other countries, including overseas private-sector firms.”
- The U.S. government announced in March that it would draft a strategy to develop a fusion reactor over the next decade. It is also expanding investment in new private-sector venture businesses. (White House Fact Sheet – Developing a Bold Vision for Commercial Fusion Energy March 2022)
- Britain has already compiled its own strategy on nuclear fusion, published last year, and the UKAEA is aiming to build a fusion energy plant in the early 2040s.
- China has has a fusion strategy and intends to construct a test reactor on a similar scale as the one being built under the ITER project with the goal of turning the test reactor into an operational one by the 2030s with commercial plants in the 2040s.
At a meeting of the Japanese government’s expert panel on clean energy last month, Kishida instructed the participants to start discussions on the development of next-generation reactors, including fusion reactors.
The government aims to put a fusion reactor into revenue service around the middle of this century. To achieve that, the government’s new strategy would include support measures for small and mid-size companies and venture firms, as well as ways to attract private-sector investment.
In Japan, some firms are supplying key parts for the ITER project, while Kyoto Fusioneering Ltd., a Kyoto University startup, joined the British program to develop a fusion energy plant as a member in charge of its conceptual design.
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Japan Joins with UK Partners to Develop HTGR Design
(Japan Times) The British government has selected a Japanese-British team including the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) to develop high-temperature gas reactors (HTGR), which are next-generation nuclear reactors.
This project is one of the six cutting-edge nuclear technology projects across Britain receiving British government funding as part of its £385 million $440 million) Advanced Nuclear Fund. About £500,000 will go to the Japan-Britain project, according to an announcement by the British government.
The JAEA will leverage its technology acquired through the operations of its High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) in the design, construction and operations of high-temperature gas reactors in Britain. The HTTR is an experimental high-temperature gas reactor in the town of Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture.
Japan is moving toward developing next-generation nuclear reactors, and the project is expected to become an opportunity for the country to obtain related practical experiences overseas.
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Japan’s Nuclear Regulator Throws Cold Water on PM Kishida’s Ambitions for Reactor Restarts
(Bloomberg) Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) threw a bucket of cold water on Japan PM Kishida’s plan to rapidly restart to 10 nuclear reactors and return them to revenue service. Last month the government announced plans to speed up nuclear reactor restarts to cope with the looming energy crunch.
The regulatory agency said in a press statement it would not shorten or otherwise modify its procedures for restarting nuclear reactors. The statement is a major blow to the PM Kishida’s to enhance energy security and to stop buying Russian natural gas and other fossil fuels.
In an uncharacteristic blast of impatience, Toyoshi Fuketa, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, told the wire service, that determining natural-disaster risk at nuclear power plants “intrinsically takes a long time.” The delays in approvals are making it difficult for operators to make management decisions on how much time and money they are willing to invest in restarts.
“Utilities are being asked to prove something extremely difficult, which is that their facilities are able to bear forces of nature,” Fuketa said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “The process isn’t something that can’t be dramatically sped up.”
The NRA chairman made the statements as he prepared to end his five year term at the agency. It’s possible that his statements are either a swan song in light of impending changes to agency policies expected from the government or he was firing a shot across the bow of his successor to tow the line. Either way the comments by Fuketa are a stark a reality check on plans for reactor restarts.
The comments did not sit well with other Japanese elected officials. Bloomberg reported that several lawmakers in Kishida’s ruling party have proposed allowing nuclear reactors that have passed safety measures to be turned online, even if they haven’t implemented other requirements such as adding facilities to take over operations at the plant in the event of a terrorist attack. The NRA revoked the restart of one reactor due to its finding of noncompliance with mandated security upgrades which sent shock waves through the industry and which generated the political backlash.
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DOE Report Finds Hundreds of Retiring Coal Plant Sites Could Convert to Nuclear Power Stations
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) this week released a report showing that hundreds of U.S. coal power plant sites could convert to nuclear power plant sites, adding new jobs, increasing economic benefit, and significantly improving environmental conditions.
This coal-to-nuclear transition could add a substantial amount of clean electricity to the grid, helping the U.S. reach its net-zero emissions goals by 2050. (Full report PDF file)
The study investigated the benefits and challenges of converting retiring coal plant sites into nuclear plant sites. After screening recently retired and active coal plant sites, the study team identified nationwide 157 retired coal plant sites and 237 operating coal plant sites as potential candidates for a coal-to-nuclear transition. Of these sites, the team found that 80%, or about 300 sites, are good candidates to host advanced reactors smaller than the gigawatt scale.
A coal to nuclear transition could significantly improve air quality in communities around the country. The case study found that greenhouse gas emissions in a region could fall by 86% when nuclear power plants replace large coal plants, which is equivalent to taking more than 500,000 gasoline-powered passenger vehicles off the roads.
It could also increase employment and economic activity within those communities. When a large coal plant is replaced by a nuclear power plant of equivalent size, the study found that jobs in the region could increase by more than 650 permanent positions. Based the case study in the report, long-term job impacts could lead to additional annual economic activity of $275 million, implying an increase of 92% tax revenue for the local county when compared to the operating coal power.
“This is an important opportunity to help communities around the country preserve jobs, increase tax revenue, and improve air quality,” said Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dr. Kathryn Huff.
“As we move to a clean energy future, we need to deliver place-based solutions and ensure an equitable energy transition that does not leave communities behind.”
The reuse of coal infrastructure for advanced nuclear reactors could also reduce costs for developing new nuclear technology, saving from 15% to 35% in construction costs. Coal-to-nuclear transitions could save millions of dollars by reusing the coal plant’s electrical equipment (e.g., transmission lines, switchyards), cooling ponds or towers, and civil infrastructure such as roads and office buildings.
Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory conducted the study, sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.
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TerraPraxis Enters Strategic Collaboration with Microsoft to Repurpose Coal Fired Power Plants
TerraPraxis, a non-profit focused on actionable solutions for climate and prosperity, is collaborating with Microsoft to deliver a digital solution to tackle a significant decarbonization challenge – repurposing over 2,400 coal-fired power plants worldwide to run on carbon-free energy. (White paper – Climate Solution Profile /Repowering The Global Coal Fleet By 2050 )
TerraPraxis is looking to combine its deep expertise in energy with Microsoft to build and deploy a set of tools to automate the design and regulatory approval needed to decarbonize coal facilities with nuclear power, helping transition one of the world’s largest sources of carbon to zero emissions.
TerraPraxis intends to develop a software application with Microsoft designed to analyze the existing coal fleet to determine the best avenue to retrofit the plants, saving coal plant owners time and money while giving their assets and the communities around them a new lease on life for decades to come.
“We are thrilled to see Microsoft enable the Repowering Coal Initiative and help deliver a fast, low-cost, and repeatable strategy to repower hundreds of coal plants that would otherwise continue to produce large quantities of emissions,” remarked Kirsty Gogan, Director at TerraPraxis.
Eric Ingersoll, another TerraPraxis Director, said, “Our work with Microsoft will accelerate the clean energy benefits that Repowering Coal will bring to each community while simultaneously initiating hundreds of projects by leveraging Microsoft’s unparalleled digital capability and global market scale.”
The relationship began during last year’s Microsoft Global Hackathon, where the team working with TerraPraxis won the Hack for Sustainability challenge sponsored by Microsoft President Brad Smith.
“The global energy transition requires partnerships and technology innovation like this one led by TerraPraxis to repurpose coal-based power plants with carbon-free energy generation,” said Darryl Willis, corporate vice president of Energy & Resources, Microsoft.
The burning of coal causes more than 40% of global carbon emissions and more than 75% of emissions from electricity generation. As global carbon emissions rebounded in 2021 to their highest level in history, increased use of coal was the main driving factor, reaching an all-time high of 15.3 billion tonnes. According to the International Energy Agency, the world’s consumption of coal is set to rise yet again in 2022.
Powered 100% by philanthropy, TerraPraxis is a non-profit organization that innovates and incubates scalable solutions for a livable planet and human prosperity.
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Beloyarsk BN-800 Fast Reactor Running 100% on MOX
(WNN) Unit 4 of Beloyarsk nuclear power plant with a BN-800 fast reactor has been connected to the grid and resumed operations after being fully loaded with uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel.
The unit is a sodium-cooled fast reactor which produces about 820 MWe. It started operation in 2016 and in 2020 achieved a capacity factor of 82% despite having an experimental role in proving reactor technologies and fuels.
The plutonium for the MOX fuel was produced from spent fuel assemblies returned from other nuclear power plants. MOX fuel is manufactured from plutonium recovered from used reactor fuel, mixed with depleted uranium which is a by-product from uranium enrichment. The depleted uranium has negligible amounts of the U235 isotope.
Mixed Oxide Fuel Production Process – World Nuclear Assoc
“Full conversion of the BN-800 to MOX fuel is a long-anticipated milestone for the nuclear industry. For the first time in the history of Russian nuclear power, we proceed to operation of a fast neutron reactor with a full load of uranium-plutonium fuel and closed nuclear fuel cycle,” said Alexander Ugryumov, Senior Vice President for Research and Development at TVEL JSC.
“This is the original reason and target why the BN-800 was developed, and why Rosatom built the unique automated fuel fabrication facility at the Mining and Chemical Combine. Advanced technologies of fissile materials recycling and re-fabrication of nuclear fuel will make it possible to expand the resource feed-stock of the nuclear power, reprocess irradiated fuel instead of storing it, and to reduce the volumes of waste.”
Ugrymov added that the reactor was refueled with MOX fuel assemblies produced at the Mining and Chemical Combine (MCC) in Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk Territory). Unlike the enriched uranium fuel assemblies traditionally used in nuclear power plants, the raw materials for the production of MOX fuel pellets includes plutonium oxide obtained during the processing of used fuel from conventional VVER reactors along with depleted uranium oxide, obtained by deconversion of [gaseous] depleted uranium hexafluoride (DUHF – “tails” from enrichment production).
The first serial MOX fuel assemblies were loaded into the BN-800 core in January 2020. The first complete refueling of the BN-800 with MOX fuel took place in January 2021, and then, over the next two refueling events, all fuel assemblies were gradually replaced with innovative MOX assemblies.
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