South Korean Team to Develop SMR-powered Ships

  • South Korean Team to Develop SMRs to Power Ships
  • Poland / France’s EDF Signs MOU for SMRs
  • NANO Nuclear Closes $4.14M Funding Round for Micro Reactor
  • NANO Nuclear Energy Inc Creates HALEU Fuel Spinoff
  • Clean Core Thorium Energy Begins VDR Process at CNSC for ANEEL Fuel
  • Argonne National Lab Kicks off Three GAIN Funded Advanced Nuclear Projects

South Korean Team to Develop SMRs to Power Ships

(WNN) Nine South Korean organizations have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate on the development and demonstration of ships and offshore systems powered with small modular reactors (SMRs). The partners will also develop marine systems and the production of hydrogen using molten salt reactors (MSRs).

According to the World Nuclear Association nuclear power is particularly suitable for vessels which need to be at sea for long periods without refueling, or for powerful submarine propulsion.

  • Over 160 ships are powered by more than 200 small nuclear reactors.
  • Most are submarines, but they range from icebreakers to aircraft carriers.
  • In future, constraints on fossil fuel use in transport may bring marine nuclear propulsion into more widespread use.
  • So far, exaggerated fears about safety have caused political restrictions on port access.

nuclear ship engine

Image: World Nuclear Association

The South Korean consortium MoU was signed by representatives from Gyeongju City and North Gyeongsang Province, as well as shipping companies H-Line Shipping, Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM), Janggeum Merchant Marine (Sinokor) and Wooyang Merchant Marine, plus the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), Korea Register of Shipping and the Korea Ship & Offshore Plant Research Institute (KRISO).

A joint statement released by the consortium stated, “This agreement establishes a cooperative basis for commercialization in the future through the development and demonstration of SMR technology for propulsion of large ships.”

Under the MoU, the nine organizations agree to cooperate in the development and demonstration of SMRs for marine use; the development of SMR-propelled vessel/marine system interface technology and seek licenses and permits; and to pursue nuclear-powered ship operations and establishment of related industrial infrastructure.

The partners will jointly develop a molten salt reactor suitable for use in marine vessels. They noted that with MSRs, there would be no need to replace nuclear fuel during operation of the ship. Its compact design also makes it easy to load large quantities of cargo. Unlike diesel engines, it is also an eco-friendly energy source that does not emit CO2.

Samsung Heavy Industries / Seaborg CMSR Power Barge

Last month, South Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) announced it had completed the conceptual design for the CMSR Power Barge. It is a floating nuclear power plant based on compact molten salt reactors.

Seaborg CMSR Barge

Image: Seaborg CMSR Barge

World Nuclear News (WNN) reported in January 2023 that the American Bureau of Shipping said it had completed a new technology qualification of a compact molten salt reactor (CMSR) developed by Danish company Seaborg Technologies. The concept was found to satisfy the Feasibility Stage, the first milestone in the ABS New Technology Qualification process. The company plans to commercialize the CMSR Power Barge by 2028 once the detailed design of all of the plant’s power generation facilities has been completed and regulatory reviews are done.

In April last year, Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) and Seaborg signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to manufacture and sell turnkey power plants combining SHI’s ship-building expertise and Seaborg’s CMSR. It also covered the development of hydrogen production plants and ammonia plants.

Seaborg’s design is for modular CMSR power barges that can produce between 200 MW and 800 MW of electricity, with an operational life of 24 years. Instead of having solid fuel rods that need constant cooling, the CMSR’s fuel is mixed in a liquid salt that acts as a coolant.

SHI said the CMSR Power Barge can be equipped with two to eight 100 MW CMSRs depending on demand for power production. It describes the CMSR Power Barge as “a fusion of nuclear power and shipbuilding technology.”,

SHI told WNN it is “a ‘nuclear power plant on the sea’ with steam turbine generators and transmission/distribution facilities in the floating body”.

The company says that compared with conventional land-based nuclear power plants, “the site selection and facility constraints are relatively less demanding, the construction period is as short as about two years, and the cost is low.”

SHI told WNN it expects the CMSR Power Barge to “expand demand not only as an alternative demand for existing fossil fuel power generation facilities, but also as an electricity and thermal energy source for industrial heating systems, hydrogen production, and seawater desalination facilities.”

& & &

Poland / France’s EDF Signs MOU for SMRs

(NucNet) France’s state-controlled energy company EDF and Polish operator and trader of renewable energy Respect Energy have signed an MOU to jointly develop nuclear power projects in Poland based on Nuward small modular reactor (SMR) technology. The MOU represents a major development for the Polish firm which until now has focused on “renewable” energy technologies. The French SMR is still in the design stage and commercialization is likely to be targeted for the early 2030s.

EDF said the agreement marks the companies’ “firm intention” to proceed with the development of SMR projects in Poland and confirms the “strong interest” towards Nuward technology, which has been chosen by Respect Energy to expand its footprint in the nuclear energy field. This is a major diversification for the firm which historically has focused managing investments in solar and wind projects.

EDF and Respect Energy will now start the evaluation process of specific new greenfield sites and continue to work on detailed business and financing plans for the Nuward venture.

EDF, the largest nuclear operator worldwide and developer of Nuward SMR technology, said the agreement is testimony to its commitment to deploying a European nuclear strategy for new nuclear, with its SMR Nuward technology supplementing its large-scale EPR nuclear plant portfolio. France is playing catch up to enter the global SMR market compared the the development of LWR type SMRs in other countries notably the US, Canada, and the UK. China has made significant progress to deploy a 100 MWe SMR to power its military bases on artificial islands in the Pacific rim.

Respect Energy Holding is a European trader of renewable energy that serves as a one-stop shop for green energy investors in Europe. Respect Energy Holding brings together independent power producers, accredited and institutional investors holding assets in renewables, or undertaking investments in new green energy production such as wind and solar photovoltaic power plants.

More than 600 institutional and accredited investors are identified by the firm as having commercial relationships with Respect Energy Holding for the sale of their electricity production, portfolio management, O&M services, EPC and project development.

Nuward is a Generation III pressurized water reactor design combining two 170 MWe reactors for a total output of 340 MWe. One of the main characteristics of the plant will be the integration of proven PWR technology into a compact modular configuration.

The French effort is following the example set by Rolls-Royce in the UK. That firm has been the prime contractor for small nuclear power plants for the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines. It is now seeking to leverage that experience by offering SMRs for commercial electricity generation. France is following in these footsteps.

The Nuward project, which is in the conceptual design phase, is being led by EDF with contributions from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), French industrial group Naval Group, reactor design and maintenance company TechnicAtome, nuclear company Framatome and engineering company Tractebel.

CEA will offer its research and qualification knowledge, EDF its expertise on systems integration and operation, Naval will offer its knowledge of compact reactors, and TechnicAtome its design, assembly and commissioning expertise. The Naval Group has been building nuclear submarine and aircraft carriers whose propulsion energy is supplied by small nuclear power units.

Nuward SMR


IAEA Profile of Nuward SMR Conceptual Design

Target Markets

An EDF spokesman said the Polish MOU is in line with the strategy that the Nuward SMRs is primarily aimed at export markets, including countries where the grid is not robust enough to take up the output of a large nuclear plant. Potential markets could include eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

In addition to generating electricity, the SMRs could also be used for desalination and for producing hydrogen through electrolysis, and could typically replace a coal-fired power plant or even a gas-fired plant. Load following is a key attribute which would be implemented not by changing the reactor’s output from 100%, but by shifting the electricity generated from the grid to these types of applications.

EDF has not been able to gain a foothold in tenders for large, full size reactors in several recent tenders including Poland which recently selected reactors, for separate power stations, from Westinghouse and KHNP in South Korea. However, market opportunities for SMRs globally are still emerging which may create openings for EDF’s business.

& & &

NANO Nuclear Closes $4.14M Funding Round for Micro Reactor

NANO Nuclear Energy Inc announced in New York it has closed its oversubscribed $4.14M funding round in New York. The firm is developing  its transportable “Zeus” micro reactor which has an as yet unspecified power rating but which is expected to be in the range of 1-20 MW.

Jay Jiang Yu, NANO Nuclear Energy’s Founder, Chairman and President, said that key investors are in the transportation and logistics industries.

NANO TeamNANO Management Team –
Left to Right

  • Dr. Jeffrey L. Binder (Head of Nuclear Laboratories & Technologies),
  • David Huckeba (Chairman of the Executive Advisory Board for USA),
  • Dr. Ian Farnan (Lead of Nuclear Fuel Cycle, Radiation and Materials),
  • Jaisun Garcha (CFO & Board Member),
  • Jiang Yu (Founder, Chairman & President),
  • James Walker (CEO, Head of Reactor Development & Board Member

Mr. Yu Mr. Yu has the lead role in corporate structuring, capital financings, executive level recruitment, governmental relationships, and international brand growth of NANO Nuclear Energy Inc.

The current conceptual design features a solid core, removing heat through thermal conduction, eliminating the need for coolant and pumps. The firm notes that its design has few moving components. The fuel in the reactor could have a 20-year cycle.

The compact design will fit within an ISO container, taking advantage of the existing transportation infrastructure to allow for easier shipping and delivery to customers. The reactor will be modular and able to connect with local power grids or power systems, so multiple reactors can be deployed to an area.

NANO ZEUS concept design

NANO noted in its press statement that micro SMRs produce between 1 and 20 MW of thermal energy that could be used directly as heat or converted to electric power. Generating clean and reliable electricity for commercial use or for non-electric applications such as district heating, water desalination and hydrogen fuel production,  Micro SMRs are a highly adaptable and portable alternative to traditional nuclear reactors.

Additional proposed uses include the modular design being able to connect with local power grids or power systems, support recovery from natural disasters and remote communities, mining project, and military bases, among others, to obtain consistent electricity.

& & &

NANO Nuclear Energy Inc Creates HALEU Fuel Spinoff

The startup firm announced in New York this week that it has formed a subsidiary, HALEU Energy Fuel Inc., to develop, improve, and accelerate the domestic production of High-Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) and meet the growing demand for the fuel required to power advanced nuclear reactors and reinforce the United States of America’s energy security.

HALEU is uranium that has been enriched so that the concentration of the fissile isotope U-235 is between 5 and 19.9 percent of the mass of the fuel (uranium-235 is the main fissile isotope that produces energy during a chain reaction.)

HALEU fuel has many advantages that improve reactor performance and is required for most U.S. advanced reactors to achieve smaller designs that get more power per unit of volume. HALEU will also allow developers to optimize their systems for longer life cores, increased efficiencies and better fuel utilization.

The firm said in a press statement the subsidiary will focus on the future development of a domestic HALEU fuel fabrication pipeline for the broader advanced nuclear reactor industry, a national laboratory fuel supply, and providing fabricated fuels for research purposes. Furthermore, it will play a crucial role in powering NANO Nuclear’s own proprietary portable advanced nuclear reactor, “ZEUS.”

The new company said in its press statement that HALEU Energy Fuel Inc. is focused on the development and manufacture of High Assayed Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU). Given the current civilian nuclear fuel landscape, HALEU Energy Fuel has identified major challenges for fueling its anticipated portable micro reactors and is looking to invest its resources into developing enrichment facilities and securing enriched fuel.

The firm said on its website the company has identified an opportunity to work in combination with the U.S. national nuclear labs to provide the country with additional sources of enriched nuclear fuel for its domestic and commercial nuclear industry development. It did not provide details of these relationships. (management team)

The Company said it is seeking collaboration with international industry and government involved in the enrichment of nuclear fuel, for the purposes of understanding the development challenges and resource requirements to realize a successful enrichment program. The company intends to assist in the financing, staffing, and support of these projects to develop and deliver long-term and consistent sources of enriched uranium.

HALEU Efforts Abound

The firm joints a busy emerging market of fuel fabrication efforts. The two DOE ARDP reactor developers are spending some of their cost shared government funding on HALEU fuel fabrication plants. Ultra Safe Nuclear is also investing in HALEU fuel fabrication.

What all of these firms are waiting for is CENTRUS to start producing HALEU levels of enrichment in UF6 form from its new centrifuges. Last November the Department of Energy (DOE), with a $700M bankroll to help the US advanced reactor industry by being the first buyer of high assay low enriched uranium fuel (HALEU), spent some of its cash. DOE announced it inked a $150M deal with American Centrifuge Operating, LLC of Bethesda, Maryland, a subsidiary of Centrus Energy Corp to ramp up production to be able to produce a ton of the fuel (900Kg) every year starting in 2024.

But there is still a long way to go. The Centrus centrifuges will only produce enriched uranium in a gas form, which is uranium hexafluoride (UF6). The nation’s sole uranium conversion plant in Illinois has to be restarted and there are three fuel fabrication plants being built by advanced reactor developers to meet their specific needs and to sell HALEU fuels in other forms to other customers in the US and for export. NANO is now the fourth to seek to enter the market. The firm did not provide details on funding for the new subsidiary nor major milestones for building a fuel fabrication plant.

& & &

Clean Core Thorium Energy Begins VDR Process at CNSC for ANEEL Fuel

aneel fuelClean Core Thorium Energy announced in Chicago that it has begun its engagement with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s vendor design review (VDR) process for its advanced nuclear fuel. The VDR process is an pre-licensing process that allows a firm to learn how to best meet the agency’s regulatory requirements. It is the first thorium fuel to enter the VDR process.

The VDR review will be of the company’s advanced nuclear fuel (called “ANEEL Fuel”) that utilizes thorium and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU). The firm describes ANEEL fuel on its website.

ANEEL is a proprietary fuel technology using a combination of thorium and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to enhance the performance of CANDU reactors and other pressurized heavy-water reactor designs. The firm said in its press statement the fuel can reduce the amount of waste produced in such reactors by over 80%, offering waste management and safety benefits, as well as non-proliferation benefits.

The firm enters a crowded field as 12 other advanced reactor firms are also involved in the CNSC VDR process. Three of them are LWRs (NuScale, GEH, and Holtec) and the rest are a variety of advanced reactor design types. Completion of the VDR stages is a predecessor step to entering the formal licensing process.CNSC VDR SMRs

Expected Results of VDR Effort

The CNSC’s pre-licensing review process will provide Clean Core with clear and early feedback on use of the ANEEL fuel design in a CANDU reactor. During this process, CNSC staff will conduct an assessment of the proposed fuel design and qualification program.

It will seek to confirm that Clean Core will be capable of demonstrating it can meet CNSC expectations, applicable regulatory documents and applicable Canadian codes and standards in the Clean Core programs pertaining to nuclear fuel design and qualification.

Clean Core said in a press statement it is confident that the safety case it is putting together in support of the use of the ANEEL fuel in CANDUs is solid, and will be shown to meet CNSC’s requirements and expectations.

DOE/INL Partnership

The Department of Energy (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the Nuclear Engineering & Science Center at Texas A&M have partnered with Clean Core Thorium Energy (CCTE) to fabricate a new type of nuclear fuel, called “Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life”, or ANEEL.

World Nuclear News reported in June 2022 Nuclear fuel innovation company Clean Core Thorium Energy has signed a new strategic partnership agreement with the US Department of Energy (DOE) which details next steps for irradiation testing and qualification of its Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life (ANEEL) fuel in Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL’s) Advanced Test Reactor.

The Advanced Test Reactor at the U.S. DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory is currently conducting high-burnup irradiation testing and qualification of the ANEEL Fuel for commercialization.  Next, Clean Core aims to carry out a demonstration irradiation of ANEEL fuel in a commercial CANDU/PHWR upon regulatory approval.

CANDU Reactors are Target Customers

The ANEEL fuel is designed to improve the accident tolerance characteristics and economics of heavy water reactors globally while achieving proliferation resistance and a dramatic reduction in nuclear waste. Once approved for use, this fuel will be poised to replace the existing fuel utilized in heavy water reactors and immediately enable these next-generation benefits.

“The initiation of the CNSC pre-licensing process marks a significant leap towards unlocking ground-breaking performance with heavy-water reactors by utilizing thorium and HALEU,” said Mehul Shah, CEO of Clean Core.

“Once approved for use in Canada, ANEEL Fuel will make CANDU reactors safer, cleaner, and cost effective, while supporting Canada’s long-term clean energy goals. Future use by a Canadian licensee also sends a clear signal to current and potential users of heavy water reactors who could benefit from cheaper carbon-free nuclear power that mitigates the concerns of weapons proliferation and waste disposal.”

Clean Core said it expects to have ANEEL fuel assemblies in use at commercial CANDU reactors by the end of 2025.

& & &

Argonne National Lab Kicks off Three GAIN Funded Advanced Nuclear Projects

fuel assemblyThe U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory will be partnering with three companies as part of a voucher program provided by the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) program of DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

As part of the projects, Argonne will help industry develop a range of new reactor and fuel cycle concepts that go beyond today’s traditional large, water-cooled reactors. Argonne is pairing with industry to improve three different types of nuclear reactors,

Radiant Industries

Argonne will work with Radiant Industries, a start-up based in California, to perform numerical modeling of heat production and removal in Radiant’s 1.2 Me, 1.9MWt,  advanced high-temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) microreactor concept. Helium gas transfers heat from the core. An air jacket cools the core passively through fans that drive natural convection.  The reactor is designed to run on TRISO fuel.

According to the company’s website the reactor will be capable of being delivered by truck to a site and placed on a concrete pad. No excavation will be required for the plant. The advantage of this microreactor, called Kaleidos, is that it is portable and designed to replace diesel generators.

Argonne nuclear engineer April Novak, one of the laboratory’s Maria Goeppert Mayer fellows, said, “This type of reactor is quite different from conventional reactors because of its small size; it is targeting diverse applications for nuclear energy, such as remote communities and electric vehicle charging.”

Novak will help create high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics models of the microreactor in shutdown conditions, including its passive heat removal systems. One of these heat removal systems is called an air jacket, which consists of a thin layer of ambient air in between the reactor and the shielding.

“The air jacket is designed to passively remove decay heat, improving the safety of nuclear power production,” Novak said.

“The air jacket modeling work with Argonne will be truly novel and a critical requirement with unique benefit to passive cooling,” says Radiant CEO Doug Bernauer

“We plan to be the first new commercial reactor design to achieve a fueled test in more than 50 years. Full commercialization for advanced reactors will require partnerships across DOE and several national labs like Argonne and the Idaho National Lab.”

The award will also help researchers identify the heat sources in the reactor, based on how fuel is burned, Novak said.

Argonne’s work on Kaleidos through the GAIN voucher is an extension of earlier work performed through the Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation program.  The Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation (NEAMS) program is a U.S. Department of Energy-Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) program developing advanced modeling and simulation tools and capabilities to accelerate the deployment of advanced nuclear energy technologies, including light-water reactors (LWRs), non-light-water reactors (non-LWRs), and advanced fuels.

The program leverages the nation’s scientific talent focused on nuclear energy objectives across six technical areas: fuel performance, reactor physics, structural materials and chemistry, thermal fluids, multiphysics, and application drivers.

Oklo Aurora Micro Reactor

In another GAIN award project, Argonne nuclear engineer Darius Lisowski will lead a team of researchers working with Oklo, a nuclear company also based in California working on small fast reactors as part of the Aurora product line. The project will measure heat transfer for some of the reactor’s components.

This is the latest collaboration between Oklo and a DOE national laboratory. In November 2022 Oklo, Argonne National Laboratory, Deep Isolation, and Case Western Reserve University were awarded $6.1 million in funding to enable the recycling of used nuclear fuel from the current light water reactor fleet into advanced reactor fuel.

oklo DOE work

Over the last year, Oklo has been selected by the U.S. DOE for four cost-share projects, totaling over $15 million to commercialize advanced reactor fuel from nuclear waste. Oklo’s CURIE project will focus on one of the critical steps for recycling waste from the current fleet, converting used oxide fuel into metal so it can be recycled using the process that Oklo is commercializing.

“Fuel recycling can impact how quickly we decarbonize. Since used fuel is about 95% recyclable, you can transform waste into a viable resource,” said Jacob DeWitte, Co-founder and CEO of Oklo.

“There is enough energy content in today’s used fuel to power the entire country’s power needs for over 100 years without carbon emissions. Additionally, certain long-lived radioactive isotopes get consumed in the power generation process, which reduces and transforms the disposal burden of used fuel.”

Flibe Energy

A third project to receive GAIN funding will involve a team led by Argonne nuclear engineer Melissa Rose to look at reactors powered and cooled by a molten salt mixture. Although no molten salt reactors are currently commercially in use, Rose said that a molten salt reactor is conducive to nuclear fuel recycling via pyroprocessing, a technology Argonne also developed.

“About 97% of nuclear fuel can theoretically be used; it’s just contaminated by fission products that have to be separated out,” she said.

“A molten salt reactor could get us closer to a closed fuel cycle in which much of the nuclear fuel is used over and over again.”

In a molten salt reactor, the fuel is dissolved in the molten salt and the liquid moves through the reactor. In her GAIN-funded program, Rose is working with Flibe Energy, based in Alabama. Flibe is pursuing a molten fluoride reactor that could be used for both energy generation and to provide medical isotopes for life-saving cancer treatments.

The Lithium Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) is a thermal-spectrum molten-salt reactor operating on the thorium fuel cycle.

Argonne developed and maintains specialized facilities that Rose and her colleagues will use to measure the properties of these molten salts. From melting point to phase behavior to heat capacity and thermal diffusivity, Argonne’s analysis of these properties will help Flibe bring their reactor closer to construction. This is Argonne’s seventh GAIN voucher measuring properties in support of molten salt reactors.

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