- TVA, OPG & Synthos Green Team Up for BWRX300 SMR
- BWXT Inks Engineering Contract for BWRX-300 SMR
- Fast Reactors / China And Russia Sign Fuel & Technology Agreements for CFR-600
- Ultra Safe Nuclear Hires U-Battery Talent for Its UK Reactor Team
- Urenco Exits U-Battery Micro-reactor Project
- Japan Partners with US and UK on Fusion Materials R&D (Two reports)
TVA, OPG & Synthos Green Team Up for BWRX300 SMR
Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Ontario Power Generation (OPG) , and Synthos Green Energy (SGE) agreed this week to invest in the development of the GE-Hitachi BWRX300 small modular reactor (SMR).
The new team is a major international collaboration involving three key customers for multiple units of the 300 MW SMR in the US, Canada, and Poland.
Through a technical collaboration agreement that was announced in Washington, D.C., TVA, OPG and SGE will invest in the development of the BWRX-300 standard design and detailed design for key components, including reactor pressure vessel and internals.
GEH is committed to standard design development and anticipates a total investment of around $400 million associated with the development. Each contributor has agreed to fund a portion of GEH’s overall cost and collectively will form a ‘Design Center Working Group’ with the purpose of ensuring the standard design is deployable in multiple international jurisdictions. The long-term goal is for the BWRX-300 design to be licensed and deployed in Canada, the U.S., Poland and beyond.
The collaboration could have significant impacts in terms of increasing competitive advantage for the BWRX300. By aligning three major customers to commit to building multiple units of the 300 MW SMR, GEH will be able to reap significant benefits. Here are a few examples.
- Provide supply chain partners with a robust order book that will impel them to invest in production capacity to supply key long lead time systems and components for the SMR.
- Achieve economies of scale for production of systems and components due to the fact that of the partners in the team are likely to commit to building multiple units of the reactor.
- Speed up licensing in the US Canada. TVA and OPG will be able to take advantage of the collaboration between CNSC and NRC on licensing of the BWRX300. Synthos Green will be able to reference the licenses issued in the US and Canada with Poland’s nuclear safety ministry.
- Advanced licensing in Poland. Recently, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency signed an agreement to collaborate on SMR technology reviews which will also speed up regulatory approval in Poland.
- Train all reactor operators for all three customers in a single program and at a single digital twin simulator site.
US DOE Response to the Announcement
Addressing the event in Washington, US Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Kathryn Huff said the partnership was a model for “precisely the kind of first-mover visionary private investment-driven effort” needed to drive deployment at scale.
“It takes a lot of dollars to make real change happen, and the federal government can’t provide all of those dollars.”
This comment may be a reference to the fact DOE has not made major development investments in the BWRX300 SMR similar to the scope of its support for the NuScale SMR which is also a light water reactor design.
In terms of “not providing all of these dollars,” as Sec. Huff noted, the agency’s FY2024 budget request has a number of big holes in it. How Congress will react to these numbers, given the administration’s commitment to deal with climate change, remains to be seen. Here are a few highlights.
-$160M / -62% Reactor concepts R&D
-$ 82M / -29% ARDP
-$ 36M / -52% National Reactor Information Center
-$ 60M / -100% Demonstration Reactor Programs (zero funding for the Versatile Test Reactor)
GEH Progress in Canada Earlier this month GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) announced that its BWRX-300 small modular reactor has achieved a significant pre-licensing milestone in Canada with the completion of phases one and two of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) vendor design review process. It is part of a field of a dozen or so SMR developers involved in the VDR process. The other two light water designs in the VDR process are by NuScale and Holtec.
Site preparation is now underway for a BWRX-300 at OPG’s Darlington New Nuclear Project site in Clarington, Ontario, with construction expected to be complete by the end of 2028. This will be the first grid-scale SMR in North America.
“Nuclear power will play a key role in meeting increasing clean electricity needs in Ontario and beyond, which is why OPG is constructing North America’s first grid-scale SMR at the Darlington New Nuclear Project site,” said OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick. The collaboration agreement “will help advance necessary work to develop this next generation of nuclear power efficiently, benefiting electricity-users in all our jurisdictions.”
TVA is preparing a construction permit application for a BWRX-300 at the Clinch River Site near Oak Ridge, Tennessee and exploring additional sites in the TVA service area for potential SMR deployments. It’s objective to deploy 800 MW of nuclear generation indicates a need for multiple units of SMRs at the Clinch River Site. It is unlikely that TVA will invest in any full size nuclear power plants at other locations.
“Working together, we are taking intentional steps to advance new nuclear in the US and around the world,” TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash said.
“Getting this right is critical,” GEH President and CEO Jay Wileman said. “We all know nuclear has to be part of the equation, if you want to achieve net-zero by 2050,” but to “earn” its seat at that table “we’ve got to be on schedule, on budget, and it’s got to be at competitive cost. That is one of the foremost purposes of our design-to-cost [approach], in our common design, where you design it once, and you build it multiple times.”
Each of the companies will benefit from the “unprecedented” collaboration, which will further strengthen the cost competitiveness of the BWRX-300, he added.
ORLEN Synthos Green Energy (OSGE), a joint venture between SGE and PKN Orlen, and its partners have started the pre-licensing process in Poland by submitting an application to the National Atomic Energy Agency for assessment of the BWRX-300. OSGE has initiated a site selection process for its proposed first BWRX-300, and intends to deploy this first unit by the end of this decade with the future potential for a fleet of BWRX-300s. OSGE has initiated a site selection process for this first unit.
The SMRs will provide electricity, removing the need for coal fired power plants, and process heat for industrial production. The firm’s ambition to build a “fleet of SMRs” could transform it into a major energy utility in Poland and nearby nations in Central Europe.
“For the first time ever, a private Polish company is investing in a design for nuclear power plants,” Rafał Kasprów, CEO of SGE, said, adding that GEH’s modular technology is “simply ideal” for decarbonizing energy and heat production in Poland, and also for the company’s other zero-emission projects in the UK and throughout Central Europe.
In the UK GEH has submitted the BWRX-300 for review under the Office of Nuclear Regulation Generic Design Assessment (GDA).
“We believe the BWRX-300 is the ideal technology to help the UK meet its decarbonization and energy security goals,” said Sean Sexstone, executive vice president for advanced nuclear at GE Hitachi.
“Regulatory agencies in Canada and the US are collaborating on their licensing review of the BWRX-300. Through the GDA process we look forward to engaging UK regulators and enabling collaboration with their global counterparts.”
About the BWRX-300
The BWRX-300 is being designed to reduce construction and operating costs below other nuclear power generation technologies. Specifically, the BWRX-300 is being developed to leverage a unique combination of existing fuel, (commercial enrichment at less than 5% U235 which avoids HALEU supply challenges), plant simplifications, proven components and a design based on an already licensed reactor (ESBWR 1500 MW).
Global Interest in SMRs
An increasing number of countries are looking to SMRs to provide energy for everything from heavy industry to rural communities. SMRs, deployable either as single or multi-module plant, offer the possibility to combine nuclear with alternative energy sources, including renewables.
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, global interest in SMRs has been increasing due to their ability to meet the need for flexible power generation for a wider range of users and applications and replace ageing fossil fuel-fired power plants.
There are about 50 SMR designs and concepts globally. Most of them are in various developmental stages and some are claimed as being near-term deployable. There are currently four SMRs in advanced stages of construction in Argentina, China and Russia, and several existing and newcomer nuclear energy countries are conducting SMR research and development.
The IAEA defines SMRs as advanced reactors that produce electricity of up to 300 MW per module. They are designed to be built in factories and shipped to utilities for installation as demand arises.
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BWXT Inks Engineering Contract for BWRX-300 SMR
BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) announced an engineering contract awarded by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) for its BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) reactor pressure vessel (RPV).
The RPV, which contains the reactor core and associated internals, comprises the largest component within the BWRX-300. Work associated with the contract includes engineering analysis, design support, manufacturing and procurement preparations.
This announcement supports recent commitments for SMR development by utilities and project developers across North America and Europe.
“Intricate design projects like the RPV for GEH’s BWRX-300 are well-suited for BWXT’s engineering capabilities, as BWXT excels in supplying design solutions for complex nuclear components that BWXT can efficiently manufacture,” said John MacQuarrie, president of BWXT Commercial Operations.
“We are grateful to GEH for their confidence in our experience and are thrilled to be one of the first to execute an SMR design contract for a North American deployment.”
About the BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor
The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of GEH’s U.S. NRC-certified ESBWR. Through dramatic and innovative design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared to other SMR designs.
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Fast Reactors / China And Russia Sign Fuel Agreement
(NucNet) China and Russia have announced a long-term deal to continue developing fast-neutron nuclear power reactors and closing the nuclear fuel cycle.
Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom said the agreement was signed on March 21st on the sidelines of the state visit to Russia of China’s president Xi Jinping. The document was signed by Rosatom director-general Alexey Likhachev and Zhang Kejian, chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority. (Time Mag profile 2019)
Russia and China are cooperating on several reactor projects, including construction of Russian VVER plants at Tianwan and Xudabao in China and the supply of fuel for China’s experimental fast neutron reactor, the CFR-600 in the southeastern province of Fujian. (Prior coverage of the CFR-600 on this blog)
Russia’s MBIR multipurpose fast neutron research reactor is under construction at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors site at Dimitrovgrad in the Ulyanovsk region of western Russia and is scheduled for completion in 2028. The US, having killed off funding for a similar advanced test reactor, will be at a competitive disadvantage once the MBIR is operational. In short, the Russians are coming for lunch – ours.
In 2021, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin said Moscow was considering the possibility of China joining a consortium for construction of the CFR-600 plant.
In October, Russia’s state nuclear fuel company Tvel said it had begun deliveries of nuclear fuel for China’s CFR-600. In 2021, Tvel started up a production facility to fabricate fuel for the CFR-600. The facility is part of the Elemash Machine-Building Plant, a Tvel plant in Elektrostal, near Moscow.
Construction of unit 1 of what is also known as the Xiapu fast reactor demonstration project began in 2017. It is part of China’s plan to achieve a closed nuclear fuel cycle. China National Nuclear Corporation announced in December 2020 that construction work had begun on a second unit at the plant.
The aim has been for the first unit to be grid connected around 2023. The reactors will be 1500 MWt, 600 MWe, with 41% thermal efficiency, using mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel with 100 GWd/t burn-up, and with two sodium coolant loops producing steam at 480C. Later fuel will be uranium metal with burn-up 100-120 GWd/t. Breeding ratio is about 1.1, design operational lifetime 40 years. The design has active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.
After the launch of the first CFR-600 power unit, Xiapu NPP in China’s Fujian province will become the first nuclear power plant with a high-capacity fast reactor outside of Russia. The other two functioning installations are the BN-600 and BN-800 sodium-cooled reactors at Beloyarsk NPP in the Urals region of Russia.
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Ultra Safe Nuclear Hires U-Battery Talent for its UK Reactor Team
Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) announced this week the addition of key UK personnel to its team supporting the Advanced Modular Reactor (AMR) Research, Development and Demonstration (RD&D) program funded by the UK Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
The move by USNC takes advantage of the recent release of personnel from the U-Battery Team and effectively doubles the size of its UK Team (USNC-UK, Ltd) underscoring the global importance of the AMR program and supporting and augmenting the UK expertise needed to realize the program’s benefits as intended by the UK Government.
This is a clear case of the early bird getting the worm. It is similar to the tactic executed by X-Energy to hire key personnel from South Africa’s PBMR advanced reactor R&D effort to build a commercially viable HTGR.
USNC-UK is building on USNC’s product, the Micro-Modular Reactor (MMR), to develop an advanced Micro-Modular Reactor design that will be best suited to the UK’s industrial process heat and power needs. The MMR-III will be a high power version of USNC’s flagship MMR, capable of producing 750C heat and specifically designed to be utilized in multi-unit “nuclear battery packs” at industrial sites.
“This is a great opportunity to move forward for the talented experts on the team in the face of an otherwise challenging situation,” said Prof. Tim Abram, former Head of Engineering and Design Authority for the U-Battery project, who joins the USNC-UK team together with other key former members of the U-Battery team.
“We are proud of the contributions made to HTGR technology in the UK by the U-Battery project, and the team are looking forward to carrying on their mission with Ultra Safe Nuclear, the world’s leading microreactor team.”
“The UK is a must-have market, the ideal launch pad for the global deployment of our industrial-grade high-temperature nuclear batteries” said Francesco Venneri, CEO of Ultra Safe Nuclear.
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Urenco Exits U-Battery Micro-reactor Project
(WNN) Urenco has announced that it is withdrawing its support for the U-Battery advanced modular reactor (AMR) project “having exhausted its attempts to secure the commitment of new commercial investors.”
“The U-Battery team has completed its current program of work under the UK’s AMR RD&D program, and after dialogue and consultation with the UK Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, and with other stakeholders, Urenco’s intention is to preserve the public investment in U-Battery by transferring its intellectual property to the National Nuclear Laboratory, subject to necessary due diligence and governance approvals.”
In addition to Urenco, U-Battery’s supporting organizations included BWXT Technologies Inc, Cavendish Nuclear, Costain, Kinectrics, Jacobs, the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear AMRC, Rolls-Royce and the University of Manchester.
In January, U-Battery was granted its first legal patent for the design of its high temperature gas-cooled reactor fuel element and core from the UK Intellectual Property Office. It means the fuel element and reactor core design are protected in law for five years and up to a maximum of 20 years. At that time, U-Battery said it was pursuing similar patents in the USA and Canada.
It is unclear how granting the publicly funded National Nuclear Laboratory with custody of U-Battery’s intellectual property will affect the ability of U-Battery’s former employees to transfer their knowledge and expertise to Ultra Safe without some kind of non-exclusive licensing arrangement.
U-Battery Chief Technology Officer Chris Chater said, “While Urenco has refocused its priorities, we continue to believe in the U-Battery design which could provide an innovative decarbonization solution for hard-to-abate sectors.”
U-Battery is a 4 MWe high-temperature gas-cooled micro-reactor, using TRISO fuel, which will be able to produce local power and heat for a range of energy needs. The project was initiated by Urenco in 2008 and the concept design was developed by the Universities of Manchester and Dalton Institute in the UK and Technology University of Delft in the Netherlands.
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Japan Partners with US and UK on Fusion Materials R&D (two reports)
(WNN) The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have entered a strategic research partnership to better understand the performance and behavior of materials required for use in future commercial fusion power plants.
Examination of irradiated composites, such as silicon carbide, can only be carried out in a suitable active testing facility and KF has looked to UKAEA’s Materials Research Facility (MRF) for support.
“One of the major challenges in harnessing fusion energy is developing materials to cope in extreme environments,” UKAEA said.
“This is because high energy neutrons and extreme temperatures can weaken or change the desirable mechanical, thermal, optical or electronic properties of materials, which can reduce the lifetime of fusion machines.”
Under the GBP3 million (USD3.6 million), five-year partnership, materials will be irradiated using neutrons at the ORNL High Flux Isotope Reactor, a DOE Office of Science user facility, located in the USA. These materials will then be tested at ORNL and at UKAEA’s Materials Research Facility at the Culham Campus in Oxfordshire, England.
Post irradiation testing will include tensile and hardness property measurements, to understand both the effect and extent of radiation-induced hardening and concurrent loss of ductility in these materials.
UKAEA said these assessments are critical to provide assurance that these alloys will be sufficiently durable and reliable to support a fusion power plant throughout the expected lifetime of each component.
The partnership will also see staff from the USA and UK visit their counterpart facilities to share industry skills.
The project is part of the UK Fusion Materials Roadmap, which was launched by UKAEA in 2021 with the aim of delivering new neutron-resilient materials as well as irradiation and post-irradiation testing to provide design engineers with data to build future fusion power plants.
“The partnership will allow UKAEA access to ORNL’s archive of existing irradiated materials, which include binary iron-chromium alloys, advanced steels, silicon carbide composites and copper alloys,” said Amanda Quadling, UKAEA’s Director of Materials Research.
“Alongside this, UKAEA will also be placing entirely new materials into the ORNL High Flux Isotope Reactor, including new high-temperature steels developed by both UKAEA and wider UK industry, permeation barrier coatings and welded materials.”
(WNN) A collaboration agreement has been signed between Japan’s Kyoto Fusioneering (KF) and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to develop fusion related technologies. The first project under the collaboration will be the development of a ‘fusion-grade’ silicon carbide composite system.
The use of SiC/SiC composites within the breeder blanket of a fusion machine will increase the efficiency and commercial viability of fusion power stations by providing a material that operates at high temperatures and is resistant to neutron damage, they noted.
The Self-Cooled Yuryo Lithium Lead Advanced (SCYLLA) blanket developed by KF is compatible with the lithium-lead based coolant and fuel breeding fluids.
“The several contracts we have with UKAEA have demonstrated the win-win relationship that can create new value for the society and fusion research and fusion industry,” said Kyoto Fusioneering CEO Taka Nagao. “Kyoto Fusioneering will continue to build on our successful technology collaboration to help achieve industrialization of fusion energy.
“The development of a ‘fusion-grade’ silicon carbide composite system is not only a huge advancement to the realization of commercial fusion, but also yet another advantage of the blanket system, which is so important in our collective battle against climate change.”
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