UK Govt Invests £700M in Sizewell C Nuclear Reactors

  • UK Govt Invests £700M in Sizewell C Nuclear Reactors
  • CEZ Gets Three Bidders for New Dukovany Nuclear Reactor
  • ARC SMR Proposed for Green Energy Hub at Canadian Port
  • Centrus Energy Inks HALEU Contract with DOE
  • First Light Fusion Targets 60 MW Pilot Plant for Tritium Production

UK Govt Invests £700M in Sizewell C Nuclear Reactors

investment(NucNet) Fulfilling a pledge made by former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the UK government this week confirmed it will make a £700M ($839 million) equity investment in the Sizewell C twin 1600 MW nuclear reactors. EDF will also hold a 20% stake. Private investors are being sought to cover the remaining project equity.

The two reactors will cost an estimated £20 billion and will be supplied by French state-owned enterprise EDF which will also serve as the engineering procurement and construction (EPC) lead for the project. It is expected to take up to a decade to complete both plants.

Funding for the project was signed off by Boris Johnson at the start of September in one of his last acts as prime minister and confirmed by the current Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt.

Simone Rossi, CEO of EDF Energy said the go-ahead is “a big vote of confidence in Sizewell C and we are very excited the government is partnering with us to prepare the project for further investment.”

RAB Method for Funding

After several years of bureaucratic dithering, and wishful thinking about how much risk the private sector would accept for investing in a new nuclear power plant, the UK government has finally recognized reality.

UK Business Minister Grant Shapps is reported to have agreed to use the regulated asset base (RAB) model to fund the project which will be part of the process of attracting private investors for the project. Under the RAB model developers will be able to recover costs from rate payers as the projects meets development milestones and, presumably, recover any cost overruns as well.

Controlling Costs and Keeping Schedules

Sizewell C will replicate the design of the Hinkley Point C twin-EPR project with “more certainty over schedule and costs” according to EDF. Hinkley Point C has been under construction since 2018, but has experienced delays and higher costs since it broke ground. Some of the costs and delays are attributable to the impact of the COVID pandemic on the workforce.

On that issue, Franck Gbaguidi, a senior analyst at Eurasia Group, a political risk firm, told the New York Times, “Expect severe delays, significant cost overruns and a serious lack of skilled workers.”

The Times also reported that EDF said it would leverage that experience and the trained work force at Hinkley Point to reduce costs at Sizewell C. However, Mr. Gbaguidi, told the Times he was not impressed. He said EDF might struggle to achieve that result because it was “currently overwhelmed with existing and planned projects in France.”

He’s got a point. EDF is currently very busy and the firm’s new CEO Luc Remont has a lot on his plate. A few of the hot potatoes Remont must deal with include;

  • The firm is completing a 1600 MW EPR at the Flamanville site. The project has experienced significant schedule delays and cost overruns. It is expected to be completed in 2023.
  • An EPR in Finalnd has two busted feed water pumps. EDF is still trying to figure out why they broke down. The plant will be out of service until the problem is fixed.
  • EDF is also struggling to bring back multiple operating nuclear reactors in the French fleet that are offline due to maintenance issues. Some won’t make it back online as winter sets in. Power shortages are forecast as a result.
  • Separately, French President Macron has tasked EDF to build eight new EPRs in France and to break ground for the first unit by 2027. Mobilizing components, materials and a workforce along with everything else that is going on will make EDF one of the biggest construction related employers in France for the next two decades. Tens of thousands of jobs will ride on its success or failure.

China Out, Bradwell Cut Adrift

At the same time it is investing in Sizewell C, the UK government is removing China General Nuclear (CGN), a Chinese state-owned enterprise, from having a 20% equity stake in the project and is also cancelling its plans to build one and perhaps three 1000 MW PWR type Chinese Hualong One nuclear reactors at the Bradwell site. According to UK news media reports, the UK government paid China’s CGN £10 million to exit the project. CGN retains its equity position in the Hinkley Point C project which is under construction.

The Bloomberg wire service reported Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman Max Blain was asked by reporters if the decision to remove Chinese involvement in Sizewell would mean no future involvement in the UK’s energy supply.

“We would need to make a judgment on what’s right for the UK I think we wouldn’t do anything to put UK security at risk and indeed our focus is on enhancing our energy independence,” Blain said.

No replacement developer has been named for Bradwell but former PM Johnson called for eight new full size reactors. With two new units at Sizewell, it is possible one of the remaining six could wind up at Bradwell. The UK also has to find and fund developers for the Wylfa, Oldbury, and Moorside reactor projects which represent the equivalent of seven full size reactors.

British Energy for British Homes

The London-based Nuclear Industry Association said the decision to invest in Sizewell C is “a defining moment” for Britain’s energy security and marks a big step forward for one of the UK’s most important green infrastructure projects.

Business and energy secretary Grant Shapps said global gas prices are at record highs, caused by “Putin’s illegal march on Ukraine.” He said, “We need more clean, affordable power generated within our borders – British energy for British homes.”

In recent years the UK has generated about 15% of its power from its fleet of commercial nuclear power plants, but most are being retired this decade, with the last one – Sizewell B – due to close in 2035.

& & &

CEZ Gets Three Bidders for New Dukovany Nuclear Reactor

  • Final bids are due next year and contract with winning technology provider could be awarded by 2024

(NucNet) France’s EDF, South Korea’s Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) and US-based group Westinghouse Electric have made initial bids to build a new reactor unit at the Czech Republic’s Dukovany nuclear power station.

CEZ said Elektrárna Dukovany II, the wholly owned subsidiary set up to implement the new-build project, will now analyze the bids and negotiate with the three bidders. The bidders will then submit final bids in September 2023. Majority state-owned CEZ, which launched the Dukovany expansion tender in March, said it expects the contracts to be awarded in 2024.

The initial bids are the basis for clarifying technical and commercial parameters, but not for the actual selection or exclusion of contractors,

EDF’s reactor technology is the EPR, KHNP’s the APR-1400 and Westinghouse’s the AP1000. All three reactor types have seen commercial operation or are under construction in different countries.

Two EPRs and four AP1000s are commercially operational in China, while the APR-1400 is operated commercially in South Korea and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Additionally, a EPR new build project is near completion at Flamanville in France, while construction is under way of two EPR units at Hinkley Point C in England. Two APR-1400s are in the commissioning stage and two are operating commercially at Barakah in the UAE.

China And Russia Excluded From Bidding

State-owned companies from China and Russia were excluded from bidding on security grounds, in contrast to Hungary which has chosen Russia’s Rosatom for its nuclear project. Poland recently chose Westinghouse for the construction of the country’s first nuclear power station near its Baltic Sea coastline. Poland also chose KHNP for a nuclear power station at a separate site.

CEZ plans to build three more nuclear units – on top of the one now planned – at its Dukovany and Temelín nuclear sites, as the country diversifies away from coal. Financing for these ambitious plans is still to be determined.

The company said recently that preparations were underway for the construction of two large-scale nuclear units at Temelín in addition to one or two new units at Dukovany.

CEZ is also planning to build small modular reactor plants. It signed MOUs to explore various SMR technology options with reactor developers NuScale, GE Hitachi, Rolls-Royce and Holtec.

The Czech Republic has six commercially operational reactor units: four Russian supplied VVER units at Dukovany and two larger Russian VVER-1000 units at Temelín. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, in 2019 the six units provided about 35% of the country’s electricity production.

& & &

ARC SMR Proposed for Green Energy Hub at Canadian Port

(WNN) The Belledune Port Authority (BPA) wants to use advanced small modular reactor (SMR) technology as part of a future expansion at the port in northern New Brunswick province. It says an ARC-100 SMR providing energy for hydrogen production and other industries could be in operation by 2030-2035.

arc-100_thumbThe BPA has announced it is working with project development company Cross River Infrastructure Partners on the proposal to use ARC Clean Technology Canada’s (ARC) reactor design to generate zero-emission firm heat and power for industrial users at the port’s recently announced Green Energy Hub.

Cross River has agreed to develop a hydrogen facility powered by green-certified energy, e.g., nuclear reactors, that would produce ammonia fuel for export, which is to be located at the Green Energy Hub.

The SMR project for an ARC-100 unit to serve as an energy source for expanded other industries based at the port, such as metal fabrication and advanced manufacturing.

The ACR is an 100 MW advanced sodium-cooled fast neutron SMR, which is based on the EBR-II / Integral Fast Reactor. The sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype operated at the USA’s Argonne National Laboratory site in Idaho from 1961 until 1994.

“One of the key advantages of the ARC reactors is their ability to provide a tremendous amount of high temperature steam and power in a small space,” Cross River CEO Andrew Wilder said.

“As they are utilizing proven technology, we believe the ARC-100 is the best advanced nuclear reactor to provide as an energy solution for heavy industry.”

The ARC-100 has also been selected for a demonstration project at New Brunswick Power’s  Point Lepreau nuclear power plant site as part of a joint strategic plan for SMR deployment set out earlier this year by the provincial governments of Ontario, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta Canada’s SMR Roadmap. The demonstration unit is slated for commissioning by 2029, subject to approvals and licensing.

& & &

Centrus Energy Inks HALEU Contract with DOE

  • The Firm will Complete HALEU Cascade Construction and Produce HALEU for Up to 10 Years

Uranium symbolCentrus Energy Corp. (NYSE:LEU) announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary, American Centrifuge Operating LLC (ACO), has signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to pioneer production of High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) at its facility leased from DOE in Piketon, Ohio.

ACO was selected for the competitively-awarded contract by the Department of Energy on November 10, 2022.  As part of a previous, cost-shared contract awarded in 2019, Centrus has been deploying its AC100M advanced uranium enrichment centrifuges in Piketon and has secured a license amendment from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, making it the only NRC-licensed HALEU production site.

“Centrus is strongly committed to pioneering production of HALEU to support the deployment of the next generation of reactors and help meet the surging global demand for carbon-free energy,” said Daniel B. Poneman, Centrus President and CEO.

HALEU is an advanced nuclear fuel required for most of the next-generation reactor designs currently under development. Nine of the ten advanced reactor designs selected for funding under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, including the two demonstration reactors, will rely on HALEU, as will the first non-light water reactor to enter licensing review by the NRC.

The output of the Piketon, OH, plant will be HALEU uranium in UF6 form enriched to 19.5% U235. From there it will go to a conversion plant in Illinois which will then ship the uranium in various solid forms to fuel fabrication plants to make the final fuel types needed for each specific type of advanced reactor. One of them is the TerraPower Natirum reactor which will use a uranium metal fuel. The other is X-Energy’s X-100 HTGR which will use TRISO fuel. Both firms are building their own fuel fabrication plants funded in part by DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

The base contract value is approximately $150 million in two phases through 2024. Phase One includes an approximately $30 million cost share contribution from Centrus matched by approximately $30 million from the Department to finish construction, bring the cascade online, and demonstrate production of 20 kilograms of 19.75% enriched HALEU by December 31, 2023.

In Phase Two of the contract, ACO will continue production for a full year at an annual production rate of 900 kilograms of HALEU. DOE will own the HALEU produced from the demonstration cascade, and Centrus will be compensated on a cost-plus-incentive-fee basis, with an expected Phase Two contract value of approximately $90 million, subject to appropriations.

The contract also gives the Department options to pay for up to nine additional years of production from the cascade beyond the base contract; those options are at the Department’s sole discretion and subject to the availability of Congressional appropriations.

Expanding to Commercial Scale Production

Separate from the operations contract, Centrus could scale up the Piketon facility with additional centrifuge cascades for expanded HALEU production – given sufficient additional funding or offtake contracts.

A full-scale HALEU cascade with a capacity of approximately 6,000 kilograms of HALEU per year (6 MTU/year) could be brought on line within about 42 months of securing the funding to do so; an additional cascade could be added every six months after that.

Such an expansion would mobilize hundreds of union workers in Ohio to build and operate the plant and support thousands of direct and indirect jobs across a manufacturing supply chain that is 100 percent domestic.

& & &

First Light Fusion Targets 60 MW Pilot Plant for Tritium Production

firstlightlogoOxford, UK:  First Light Fusion announced a new technical partnership with the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory in Chalk River, Ontario, aimed at building a pilot fusion energy plant which addressed the need for tritium fuel. The proposed 60 MW pilot plant, which is expected to cost $570 million to develop, will produce two kilograms of tritium a year.

First Light has partnered with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) for the preliminary design of a system capable of extracting tritium from the First Light reactor, as well as the development of tritium processing and storage options.

The proposed 60 MWe pilot plant is being designed to resolve the risks of building a first-of-a-kind fusion plant, especially engineering and cost issues. The plant will be designed to produce tritium which will generate revenue for the firm.

Addressing the Need for Tritium

Central to the design of the pilot plant is the recognition of the need to address the requirement for new tritium production. The need for tritium and deuterium for the fusion reaction is universal across all fusion technologies.

Deuterium is both cheap and abundant, extracted from seawater. However, tritium exists naturally only in trace amounts in the upper atmosphere, the product of cosmic ray bombardment. Though nuclear reactors also produce tiny amounts, it is not generally “harvested”.

Tritium is far more valuable than electricity, priced at $30,000 per gram currently, making it a very valuable substance.

A number of fusion pioneers, including First Light’s projectile approach, include tritium breeding into their models. However, the challenge of tritium production has forced some fusion concepts to consider much more challenging fuels that avoid the use of tritium, significantly increasing the physics risk.

Dr. Nick Hawker, Co-founder and CEO of First Light Fusion, said: “Our pilot plant is designed to prove the integrated engineering for electricity generation and manufacture of tritium. We recognize the need to address the shortage of tritium. By accelerating our plan for a pilot plant, we are directly addressing this key barrier to the more widespread take up of fusion power, while also building an immediate and sizeable revenue stream into our business model.”

How the Plant will Make Tritium

One of the key features of deuterium-tritium fueled fusion power plant designs is the ability to purposely produce tritium in the reactor, which is then used as reactor fuel. First Light Fusion said the proposed pilot plant is expected to cost about $570 million to develop and will produce about 2 kilograms of tritium per year.

First Light’s inertial confinement approach aims to create the extreme temperatures and pressures required for fusion by compressing a target using a hypervelocity projectile. Its plant design avoids the three biggest engineering challenges of fusion: preventing neutron damage, producing tritium, and managing extreme heat flux.

First Light’s “liquid lithium wall” approach, inside the reactor chamber where the fusion reaction will take place, gives it an advantage in tritium production. The fusion reaction is surrounded by liquid lithium, allowing tritium self-sufficiency to be easily reached, and making it possible to design for excess tritium production.

First Light believes that by accelerating the development of a smaller pilot plant that also provides a steady tritium supply, this will stimulate the faster roll out of fusion power, and provide a shorter time frame between pilot plant and commercial fusion.

Why CNL is Involved in Fusion

CNL said in a press statement the tritium extraction system represents an essential part of tritium control in a fusion fuel cycle, and is a key factor in harvesting the tritium and limiting tritium permeation into the coolant.

“This is of fundamental significance for reactor licensing and safety, and demonstrates the fusion reactor self-sufficiency in terms of tritium production and consumption.”

CNL will also prepare recommendations for future laboratory work that could lead to the production of testing equipment used to validate the systems in a laboratory environment.

Second Fusion Project for CNL

In November, Canadian National Laboratories (CNL) and General Fusion signed an MOU to pursue a series of joint projects to accelerate the deployment of commercial fusion power in Canada. Funding was not indicated as being included in the initial agreement.

CNL and General Fusion will collaborate on projects in key areas, including feasibility studies, regulatory framework, power plant siting and deployment, infrastructure design, and testing and operations support. Overall, the aim is to develop fusion energy research capabilities within CNL, to support the goal of constructing a potential General Fusion commercial power plant in Canada before 2030.

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