- NRC Certifies NuScale 50 MWe SMR
- Michael Goff, Ph.D., Named Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy
- DOE Increases Consent-Based Siting Funding Opportunity to $26 Million
- NIA Report Offers Vision of a ‘Whole Government Effort’ for Nuclear Reactor Deployment
NRC Certifies NuScale 50 MW SMR
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) this past week certified the design of the first small modular reactor in the US. The 50 MW design is an advanced light water reactor developed by NuScale Power which is based in Oregon. The decision takes effect on 02/21/23.
The importance of the certification means the reactor can be built for customers in the US. NuScale’s first customer is UAMPS, which is a consortium of utilities in rocky mountain states. The site of the first six units is located on the grounds of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID. The first module is expected to be operational by 2029 with full plant operation the following year.
NRC spokesperson Scott Burnell told the Associated Press that another reason the certification is important is that it’s the final determination that the design is acceptable for use, so it can’t be legally challenged during the licensing process when someone applies to build and operate a nuclear power plant.
Diane Hughes, NuScale’s vice president of marketing and communications, said in a press statement that the design certification is a historic step forward toward a clean energy future and makes the company’s VOYGR power plant a near-term deployable solution for customers.
She added the NRC’s approval of the NuScale design’s safety aspect has led to customers like mining company KGHM Polska Miedz S.A.in Poland and state nuclear power corporation S.N. Nuclearelectrica S.A. in Romania to take steps over the last two years toward deploying rthe firm’s SMR power plants to meet their clean energy needs.
NuScale is also working on a 77 MW design. The NRC is currently engaged in pre-application activities for NuScale’s SMR standard design approval application for a unit that can generate 77MW per module (gross), resulting in about 924 MW for the flagship 12-module power plant, with options for smaller power plant solutions in four-module (about 308 MWe) and six-module (about 462 MWe) sizes.
In a statement to the Associated Press Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff said that small modular reactors are no longer an abstract concept.
“They are real and they are ready for deployment thanks to the hard work of NuScale, the university community, our national labs, industry partners, and the NRC. This is innovation at its finest and we are just getting started here in the U.S.”
In a press statement the Department of Energy said it provided more than $600 million since 2014 to support the design, licensing and siting of NuScale’s VOYGR small modular reactor power plant and other domestic SMR concepts.
NuScale’s design and licensing effort were funded in part by a cost-shared program with DOE. In 2013 DOE awarded NuScale $217 million in matching funds over a five year period. The company used the funds to perform the engineering and testing needed to support the NRC Design Certification Process.
Subsequently, in 2020 DOE awarded $1.36 billion, which will be allocated over the course of a decade, to UAMPS to build the UAMPS Carbon Free Power Project at the INL Site. The award will pay for the plant’s one-time costs, as funds are appropriated by Congress, reflecting “what second and subsequent NuScale plants would cost,” according to a press release from UAMPS. The funding serves to manage risk to the UAMPS, which is a wholesale power provider and a political subdivision of the state of Utah.
The final cost of electricity from the plant is targeted to make the plant competitive with other dispatchable energy sources, including combined cycle gas plants, according to the release. The project will generate power to replace aging coal plants.
Competition Coming from Other Reactor Developers
In the near term NuScale has a clear field to book new customers. However, two other US firms, which have light water SMR designs in prelicensing design dialogs with the NRC, are targeting US and international markets.
GE Hitachi’s (GEH) BWRX300 SMR and Holtec’s SMR-160 are pursuing licensing in the UK via the Office of Nuclear Regulation generic design review. In the US GEH has inked MOUs with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to build its SMR for them. Significantly, the two utilities have inked an MOU to collaborate on a joint effort to deploy the BWRX300 at their respective sites – Darlington for OPG and Clinch River for TVA.
All three SMR developers are promoting their designs as being candidates to replace coal fired power plants taking advantage of existing switchyards and other non-nuclear infrastructure. Additionally, these firms are touting their potential to keep the grid stable for solar and wind projects and to even co-locate renewable power plants at reactor sites.
Behind the cadre of light water designs, the Department of Energy is engaged in a multi billion dollar cost sharing Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) to field two first of a kind advanced reactors.
The first is TerraPower, which has selected a current coal fired power plant in the remote southwestern corner of Wyoming for its first of a kind sodium cooled 345MW reactor which also features an energy storage system to synchronize power production with renewables.
The other plant is X-Energy’s XE-100 which is an 80MW helium cooled HTGR that is expected to be deployed in “packs” of four units each. The first of a kind installation is destined for a site near Richland, WA. X-Energy has also filed for licensing in the UK.
These two advanced reactors are slated for operation towards the end of this decade and much depends on them getting specialized high assay low enriched uranium fuel (HALEU) for their first loads. Both firms are investing in fuel fabrication plants to insure reliable deliveries. Unlike the conventional light water fuel that will be used by NuScale, GEH, and Holtec, the Terrapower design will use unique uranium metal fuel and X-Energy’s design will use TRISO fuel.
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Michael Goff, Ph.D., Named Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced Dr. Michael Goff as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy (NE). Dr. Goff previously served as senior advisor to the office and held several management and research positions across DOE, the national laboratories, and the White House.
He was selected through a competitive, nationwide search and will help manage NE’s $1.8 billion research and development portfolio,
“Dr. Goff is a seasoned professional who has distinguished himself as a leader in nuclear science and energy both domestically and abroad,” said Dr. Kathryn Huff, DOE Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy. “It’s been a joy to work with Mike as a senior advisor. I have come to trust his knowledge and judgement immensely and I feel fortunate that we’ll be able to lead this office together.”
Dr. Goff has more than 30 years of professional experience working in the national laboratories and across the federal government. He served three separate terms as senior advisor to NE and previously worked as assistant director for nuclear energy and senior policy advisor in the Office of Science and Technology Policy for the President of the United States.
Dr. Goff held several research and management positions over his career at Idaho and Argonne national laboratories and has authored more than 70 publications related to the nuclear fuel cycle, including separations technology, high-level waste development, and safeguards.
“I am honored to be chosen for this position,” said Dr. Goff. “Because of strong support for nuclear energy and the vibrant leadership of Dr. Huff, now is an exciting time to be joining the outstanding NE team as we expand this clean energy source.”
Dr. Goff has a bachelor’s degree, Master of Science, and Ph.D in nuclear engineering from Georgia Tech.
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DOE Increases Consent-Based Siting Funding Opportunity to $26 Million
- Additional award winners possible for communities interested in learning about federal interim storage.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has increased the funding level for its Community Engagement on Consent-Based Siting Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) from $16 million to $26 million. The additional funding was included in the FY23 Appropriations Bill and raises the number of awards that can be competitively selected to communities interested in learning more about consent-based siting for spent nuclear fuel. The previously extended FOA application period closes January 31, 2023.
The additional funding allows up to 16 awardees to support tasks in the following areas:
- Organization, leadership, and maintenance of meaningful, inclusive community engagement processes related to the management of spent nuclear fuel.
- Identifying public values, interests, and goals to promote and enable effective collaboration and community-driven feedback on the consent-based siting process for a potential consolidated interim storage facility.
- Developing, implementing, and reporting outcomes and strategies that support mutual learning among stakeholders, communities, and experts on spent nuclear fuel-related topics.
While DOE is not soliciting volunteer sites to host consolidated interim storage facilities as part of this funding opportunity, the Department hopes to encourage engagement, open dialogue, and build capacity among interested stakeholders and communities about the consent-based siting process.
Two interim storage sites for spent nuclear fuel are under development, one in Hobbs, NM, and another just across the NM/TX border in Andrews, TX.
Prospective partners may apply for funding HERE. Learn more about DOE’s Consent-Based Siting program.
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NIA Report Offers Vision of a ‘Whole Government Effort’ for Nuclear Reactor Deployment
The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) released a new report, “Transforming the U.S. Department of Energy: Paving the Way to Commercialize Advanced Nuclear Energy.”
According to NIA this new publication provides recommendations on how DOE can be significantly more effective in helping to commercialize advanced nuclear energy technologies.
NIA’s goal is to better position DOE to help deploy advanced nuclear energy in the effort to fight climate change and increase energy security. The report’s recommendations include developing an advanced nuclear energy ‘earthshot,’ adopting a more businesslike approach, and improving DOE’s program integration efforts.
NIA Executive Director Judi Greenwald said in a press statement the relevance of this work is specifically related to ongoing efforts to help DOE deploy advanced nuclear energy:
“The commercialization of advanced nuclear energy is essential for meeting our climate and energy security goals. DOE must now broaden its current focus on research and development to incorporate full-scale commercial deployment of technologies such as advanced nuclear reactors.”
“This transition will require a concerted effort and coordination across DOE, including the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, Office of Nuclear Energy, Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, Loan Programs Office, and DOE’s National Labs. NIA’s report provides an outline of a potential path forward to achieve this goal, with multiple recommendations to better position DOE to work with private industry to reach full-scale commercialization of advanced nuclear energy.”
The report emphasized, “the entrepreneurial culture of the emerging advanced nuclear energy industry is an American strength. But as has been the case for all successful US energy technologies, it needs a well-suited federal partner. The government should provide public support because the entrepreneur’s final product will meet needs for the whole country, or even the whole world.”
In a webinar held on 01/20/23 to discuss the release of the report, Kathryn Huff, DOE Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, said: “The Office of Nuclear Energy recognizes that this is a historic moment in the transition to a clean energy future. We’re grateful for the insights in this report and will seriously consider these recommendations as we aim to meet the moment for the nation and the world.”
Historically, the Department of Energy (DOE) has primarily been a research and development agency. More recently, emphasis is shifting toward technology deployment to meet climate and energy security challenges. In particular, NIA wrote in its report that DOE now has an additional task: to incubate and position innovative advanced nuclear technologies for commercialization.
“Catalyzing advanced nuclear energy deployment will require a dramatic transition at optimum speed. DOE will need to coordinate across many segments of the industry as they co-evolve (as with new fuels for new reactors, for example) to allow deployment at an immense scale, and to at least double the domestic nuclear energy capacity that is online today.”
“This will be a whole-of-government and whole-of-society effort dependent on successful
public-private partnerships. The recommendations in this report provide a path for DOE to play a key role in creating the conditions necessary for success in commercializing advanced nuclear energy. “
Key recommendations for the DOE include:
- Establish an Advanced Nuclear Energy Earthshot to support integrated fuel cycle, advanced reactor and supply chain innovation, and to establish the United States as a global leader in advanced nuclear energy.
- Play a leading role in inter-agency coordination to devise and implement a comprehensive national strategy for exporting advanced nuclear energy.
- Hire more staff, including individuals with business expertise and align with the operations of entrepreneurial businesses, and streamline, standardize, and optimize its contracting, communication, and staffing, to promptly deploy the products that are the most viable.
- Ensure companies have the resources to bridge the gap for demonstration projects “between initial deployment and full commercialization.
- Fund the licensing fees for start-ups seeking Nuclear Regulatory Commission licenses.
Establish a fast neutron testing capability to support future reactor technology.
- Launch an integrated effort to support common supply-chain needs for advanced reactors and determine what incentives the private sector would need to certify and produce the components.
- The NIA report also calls for the appointment of a Senior Director for Civil Nuclear Energy at the White House “to coordinate among all the government entities needed for the successful deployment of a new generation of nuclear reactors.
To read the report, visit the NIA website here: Transforming the U.S. Department of Energy: Paving the Way to Commercialize Advanced Nuclear Energy (link provided here).
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