- Westinghouse to Develop a 300 MW Light Water SMR
- NuScale in Talks with the Philippines on SMRs
- USNC to Offer Advanced HTGR Reactor to Philippines
- NPCIL Signs Agreement For Six New 700 MW PHWR Nuclear Reactors
- Dutch Government Allocates Significant New Funding for Its Nuclear Program
- Norway Startup Signs Agreements With Three Municipalities for SMRs
- Jamaica Intends to Go Nuclear
- France, Japan Sign Nuclear Partnership
Westinghouse to Develop a 300 MW Light Water SMR
Westinghouse Electric Company(WEC) has launched its newest nuclear technology, the AP300 small modular reactor (SMR), a 300-MW single-loop pressurized water reactor (PWR). The AP300 SMR design is scaled down from the 1,150 MW AP1000 reactor and is the only SMR based on an operating plant with, and this is significant, having multiple units in revenue service. The AP300 SMR will utilize identical systems to the larger AP1000 reactor albeit at a scaled down size.
The Westinghouse strategy follows a path blazed by GE-Hitachi (GEH) with its 300MW BWRX-300 which is based on the 1,500 MW ESBWR that received NRC certification in 2014. In terms of strategic differences, while several US utilities received COLs from the NRC to proceed with new nuclear projects using the ESBWR, none ever actually built them. On the other hand, GEH has inked deals for the BWRX-300 with the Tennessee Valley Authority in the US and Ontario Power Generation in Canada. It has market prospects in Poland with private firms.
Competitive Space for SMRS
Both GEH and Westinghouse are competing head-to-head in Europe, and especially the UK with the Rolls-Royce 470 MW PWR that this year began the complex and expensive generic design assessment with the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation.
The front runner in terms of SMRs continues to be NuScale which plans to build six 77 MW LWR type (462 MW) type SMRS for UAMPS, a consortium of electric utilities, at a site in eastern Idaho. The 77 MW design is based on a 50 MW plant design certified by the NRC and will need regulatory approval to proceed.
Lagging behind these efforts is Holtec, a privately held firm based in Jupiter, FL, which has a 160 MW LWR type design that is currently in pre-licensing work with the NRC. The firm recently signed an MOU with EnergoAtom in Ukraine for multiple units, but with the uncertainty of the war effort, and a long regulatory road ahead in the US with the NRC, the firm has limited prospects for catching up with its competition.
About the AP300
The AP300 SMR features an compact footprint. Westinghouse released a conceptual drawing of a typical single unit plant. While architectural renditions like the one below, released by Westinghouse, make for pretty pictures, the more likely scenario is a multi-plant facility. For instance, GEH plans to build two or three of its BWRX-300 SMRs at TVA’s Clinch River site. OPG has similar plans for multiple units at the Darlington site.
WEC is on the money that shrinking the size of the safety-related footprint leads directly to cost savings and reduced construction time. WEC adds that once its order book has enough ink on it, the SMRs will be built in a “modularized” construction process.
The firm notes that the effort to downsize the design from the AP1000 scale of 1150 MW will rely on re-engineering major equipment, structural components, passive safety, proven fuel, and I&C systems. Another advantage, once the firm clears regulatory review and sales come in, is that the AP300 will bring be able to draw on a mature supply chain, lessons learned, fast load-follow capabilities and proven O&M procedures and best practices from 18 reactor years of safe AP1000 operations.
Another feature of the AP300 is the safety feature that Westinghouse pioneered which is an advanced passive safety system that automatically achieves safe shutdown without operator action and eliminates the need for backup power and cooling supply. This also directly translates into a simplified design, lower CAPEX and smaller footprint. Like the AP1000, the AP300 is designed to operate for an 80+ year life cycle.
Westinghouse will fabricate the LWR type fuel for the SMR at its US plant in South Carolina. If it succeeds in booking export sales to Europe, the firm’s nuclear fuel plant in Sweden will be part of the supply chain there.
Regulatory Heritage Will Help
In its press statement the firm notes that the AP300 SMR design utilizes Westinghouse’s Gen III+ advanced technology, which has regulatory approval in the U.S., Great Britain and China, as well as compliance with European Utility Requirements (EUR) standards for nuclear power plants.
This brings licensing advantages and substantially reduces delivery risk for customers in the utility, oil & gas and industrial space. The firm estimates that NRC design certification is anticipated by 2027, followed by site specific licensing, and start of construction on the first unit toward the end of the decade. Given the 42 month long approval process for the NRC, and working backwards, this suggests the design for the AP300 may be nearly done as the firm would have to submit its application by the end of this year or early 2024 to meet these milestones.
It is in any case an ambitious program driven by the competition and the likelihood of customers drawn to the Westinghouse nameplate. David Durham, Westinghouse’s president of energy systems, told a press conference the company is in discussions with customers and has been for a while, but “I won’t name them. We also envision there will be non-utility customers who want to get off the grid and decarbonize.”
Baranwal to Spearhead AP300 Effort
Westinghouse has named Dr. Rita Baranwal, currently WEC’s Chief Technology Officer, to Senior Vice President in the Energy Systems business unit, to lead the team developing the AP300 SMR.
Baranwal is the former Assistant Secretary of Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, with decades of experience in the nuclear energy field including as director of the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative at Idaho National Lab.
Baranwal said the reactor will not use special fuels or liquid metal coolants unlike some other next-generation reactors. For this reason it will not depend on HALEU fuel being available which is enriched to between 5-19% U235. The WEC AP300 will use low enriched fuel at less than 5% U235. In an interview with the Reuters wire service, Barawall said she is confident about the SMRs prospects.
“We’ve kept it simple, designed it on demonstrated and licensed technology, and I think that’s one of the advantages that we have with this concept. Our plans are to start constructing the reactor by 2030 and have it running by 2033.”
Baranwal did not reveal how much the first reactor would cost, but said later units would cost about $1 billion. This is about on par with cost estimates released by GEH for its BWRX300.
The company, located near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, said it has had informal talks with parties in neighboring states Ohio and West Virginia about the potential building of AP300s at the sites of former coal plants.
In terms of global market prospects, Baranwal mentioned marketing efforts in Europe. She told Reuters the company is not sure yet whether the technology can be exported to China. Baranwal said if the U.S. government designates AP300 to be a subset of the earlier reactor technology “then we can start entertaining the possibilities” of exporting it to China.”
Patrick Fragman, President and CEO of Westinghouse added, “The launch of the AP300 SMR rounds out the Westinghouse portfolio of reactor technology, allowing us to deliver on the full needs of our customers globally, with a clear line of sight on schedule of delivery, and economics.”
According to press materials released by Westinghouse, the AP300 SMR offers reliable, safe and clean electricity, as well as additional applications for district heating and water desalination. Its fast load-follow capabilities make it ideally suited for integration with renewable resources. It will also pave the way toward the hydrogen economy by enabling cost-effective, clean production of hydrogen integrated with the plant. The firm also noted its small size makes it an ideal choice to replace coal-fired power plants while taking advantage of the other infrastructure already in place at these sites.
History of the AP1000
WEC has made a rather big deal, perhaps justified, out of the technical basis for the AP300. There are four Westinghouse AP1000 units in commercial operation, two at Sanmen in China and two at Haiyang in China, with six more under construction in China. Two AP1000s are nearing completion at Vogtle in the US in Georgia.
In terms of the Georgia plants, when they were approved, the two 1,117-megawatt Westinghouse AP1000 reactors were expected to cost about $14 billion and enter service in 2016 and 2017. The current estimated total costs, including financing, have more than doubled to exceed $30 billion. The causes include delays related to the coronavirus pandemic, difficult problems with supply chains, and many first of a kind issues with building the two plants. Both units are now expected to enter revenue service this year.
Two AP1000 units that started construction in South Carolina were terminated prior to completion due in part to mismanagement and also criminal wrong doing by project managers.
Two SCANA utility executives and one from WEC have pleaded guilty to felony charges related to covering up project delays and cost over runs. Westinghouse fired all of the executives charged with criminal wrong doing and cooperated with federal prosecutors plus it paid a $21M fine for its role in the collapse of the project which left rate payers with a $9B debt.
Westinghouse declared bankruptcy and was subsequently purchased by a Canadian private equity firm which still owns a stake it, via a subsidiary, in along with Cameco, a Canadian uranium mining firm.
Taken together, the experiences in Georgia and South Carolina have likely convinced electric utilities in the US that building a full size reactor is simply too much of a “bet the company” risk. This is why interest in the less costly, less complicated, small modular reactors (SMRs) is such a red hot prospect not only in the US but also on a global basis.
Asked about the Vogtle project, Westinghouse CEO Patrick Fragman told the news media that when the project began the AP1000 design was not stable, the supply chain was not there and Westinghouse EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) role was “not really in our comfort zone because we are more a technology provider.”
The US had not built a new nuclear plant in decades and then COVID came, Fragman said. “We have taken hard lessons from this and we now have a very good line of sight on new AP1000s and new AP300s.”
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NuScale in Talks with the Philippines on SMRs
(WNN) US SMR developer NuScale Power is interested in investing in the Philippines, the country’s President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos said during a five-day visit to the USA. He said NuScale plans to conduct a siting study in the Philippines. A spokesman for the government said it is targeting completion of construction by 2031.
A meeting with NuScale was held in Washington, DC, on May 1st attended on the Philippine side by President Marcos, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, Special Assistant to the President Secretary Antonio Lagdameo, Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil and Philippine Ambassador to the USA Jose Manuel Romualdez. (Photo: Philippine Gov’t)
Among the NuScale officials present were Clayton Scott, executive vice president for business, and Cheryl Collins, director for sales. NuScale was accompanied by Filipino partner Enrique Razon, representing Prime Infrastructure Capital Inc (Prime Infra).
The meeting followed initial discussions held in September last year in New York on the sidelines of Marcos’s participation at the United Nations General Assembly.
NuScale is partnering with Razon-led Prime Infrastructure Capital Inc. for the effort. Prime Infra has estimated that the future investment value of the project would be in the range of $6.5-to-$7.5 billion to provide 462MW to the country by the early 2030’s.
In response to the 1973 oil crisis, the Philippines decided to build the two-unit Bataan plant. Construction of Bataan 1 – a 621 MWe Westinghouse PWR – began in 1976 and it was completed in 1984 at a cost of $460 million. However, due to financial issues and safety concerns related to earthquakes, the plant was never loaded with fuel or operated. The plant has since been maintained and there have been multiple proposals over the years to complete it and put it in revenue service.
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USNC to Offer Advanced HTGR Reactor to Philippines
According to English language press reports in Manila, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is considering using a “cutting-edge” micro nuclear fuel technology to address the country’s power woes. Marcos met with officials of US-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC), an integrator of nuclear technologies and services in Seattle, Washington.
USNC is developing a high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR) which is positioned as a “nuclear battery” designed to produce 5-10 MWe and 15-30 MWt using specially designed TRISO type fuel.
Francesco Venneri, CEO of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, expressed interest to bringing clean and reliable nuclear energy to the Philippines, which the firm is seriously considering for its first nuclear energy facility in Southeast Asia.
“We also note that there’s a great deal of discussion about Mindoro having blackouts and that might be an excellent….a good science [solution],” said Venneri.
The MMR is being licensed in Canada and the US and considered the first “fission battery” in commercialization. The company said it envisions the Philippines as its nuclear hub in the SE Asia region.
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NPCIL Signs Agreement For Six New 700 MW PHWR Nuclear Reactors
- New Delhi pushing ahead with ambitious plans for 10 plants
(NucNet) State-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and Indian utility company the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) have signed a supplementary joint venture agreement to develop six nuclear power plants in the country.
They will build two plants at the Chutka nuclear power station in Madhya Pradesh state, central India and four plants at the Mahi Banswara nuclear station in the northern state of Rajasthan.
Press reports said the plants will be domestically developed Generation III 700-MW pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) known as the IPHWR-700. The IPHWR-700 was designed by the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre near Mumbai from earlier Candu 220 MW and 540 MW designs from Canada. In December 2022 India confirmed ambitious plans to build at least 10 more nuclear power plants to increase the production of clean energy.
Union minister of state for science and technology Jitendra Singh said the government had, in principle, given approval for five new locations for building nuclear power plants.
First Concrete At Kaiga Planned This Year
In March 2022, media reports in India said the first pour of concrete for two 700 MW IPHWRs at Kaiga in western India was scheduled in 2023, marking the start of a major project to build a fleet of 10 units over the next three years.
Officials of the Department of Atomic Energy earlier told a parliamentary panel on science and technology that after first concrete for Kaiga-5 and Kaiga-6, first concrete will follow for Mahi Banswara 1-4, Gorakhpur-3 and -4 in Haryana state and Chutka-1 and -2.
India, which relies on coal for about 48% of its energy generation, has 22 nuclear power plants in commercial operation and eight under construction – one 700 MW IPHWR at Kakrapar, four Russia-supplied VVERs at Kudankulam, two 700 MW IPHWRs at Rajasthan and the 47-MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR) at Madras.
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Dutch Government Allocates Significant New Funding for Its Nuclear Program
(WNN) In its draft Climate Fund for 2024, the Dutch government has budgeted funds totalling EUR320 million (USD352 million) for the development of nuclear energy. The funds will be used for the preparation of the operational extension of the existing Borssele nuclear power plant, the construction of two new large reactors, the development of small modular reactors (SMRs) and for nuclear skills development in the Netherlands.
Based on preliminary plans, two new reactors will be completed around 2035 and each will have a capacity of 1000-1650 MWe. The two reactors would provide 9-13% of the Netherlands’ electricity production in 2035. The cabinet announced in December 2022 that it currently sees Borssele as the most suitable location for the construction of the new reactors.
The draft climate budget includes EUR10 million over the period 2023-2025 for extending the operation of the Borssele plant. The funds – which are subject to the approval of the European Commission – are intended for additional studies regarding aging, shareholder structure and business economic feasibility of the extension. The 485 MWe (net) pressurised water reactor currently provides about 3% of the Netherlands’ electricity. The plant has been in operation since 1973 and is scheduled to close in 2033.
A further EUR117 million has been budgeted for additional studies on the construction of two new nuclear power plants. In addition, EUR65 million has been budgeted for building the country’s “knowledge infrastructure”. The resources are for education and research, “so that the Dutch nuclear knowledge and research infrastructure can be strengthened.”
Funding for Rolls-Royce PWRs
Support for the development of SMRs also receives funds of EUR65 million in the draft budget. In August 2022, the UK’s Rolls-Royce SMR signed an exclusive agreement with ULC-Energy to collaborate on the deployment of Rolls-Royce SMR power plants in the Netherlands.
The formal planning phase is to start this year, and ULC’s timeline sees site selection and contract negotiations taking place in 2024, with a formal licensing application the following year and construction of a first SMR unit beginning in 2027 with a start-up date in the 2030s.
The Dutch regulator must make a final decision on a licence within six months of receiving an application, and ULC is already undertaking pre-licensing work as well as starting EPC negotiations with Rolls-Royce.
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Norway Startup Signs Agreements With Three Municipalities for SMRs
(NucNet) In the category of “will wonders never cease,” a company operating in Norway, one of the more nuclear phobic nations in Europe said it believes “the time is right” for Norway to return to nuclear power. it said it has signed agreements with three municipalities to investigate the construction of small modular reactors (SMRs).
Bergen-based Norsk Kjernekraft, part of the M Vestt energy gas and oil group, said the agreements were with the municipalities of Aure, northern Norway, Heim in central-west Norway and Narvik, also in northern Norway.
Norsk Kjernekraft, founded in 2022 with the aim of building and operating SMRs, said it will work with the three municipalities to investigate the technical, financial and safety aspects of building one or more small modular reactors in their area.
“This is the first time such an agreement has been entered into in Norway,” said Norsk Kjernekraft chairman Jonny Hesthammer.
Last March Rolls-Royce signed a letter of intent with Norsk Kjernekraft, which billionaire Trond Mohn is behind, together with Paul Christian Rieber and Autostore founder Jakob Hatteland to work together to increase acceptance of nuclear power in Norway, and to potentially establish future projects that “could lead to the deployment of Rolls-Royce’s small, modular nuclear power plants in Norway.”
Norsk Kjernekraft said it had seen “a rapid and positive turn” in favor of considering nuclear power in Norway. The company said it was “already in dialogue” with politicians from a number of parties and perceives them to be interested in learning more. “That includes the governing parties,” the company said.
Norway has never had commercial nuclear power plants, but has operated two research reactors for the production of medical radioisotopes and research purposes.
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Jamaica Intends to Go Nuclear
Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness said in a statement to local news media last week the government intends integrate nuclear energy in the country’s energy mix.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of Expo Jamaica 2023 on April 28th he said he’d been in contact with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about using nuclear energy to generate electricity.
He said, “Jamaica has to explore new technology in [the form of] nuclear energy — small nuclear plants to generate in Jamaica — which is cheaper, more stable and more affordable. So the Jamaica Government is serious about insulating our economy [against] energy shocks and high energy prices.”
The move to pursue SMRs has been in motion for some time. Last October, Jamaican billionaire and chairman of Portland Holdings Michael Lee-Chin signed a memorandum of understanding with the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory (CNL) under which he will be promoting nuclear technology — through small modular reactors (SMRs) — as the means to decarbonize electricity production.
According to the recent energy reports, 89% of Jamaica’s energy use is derived from fossil fuels, 7% from wind, and 4% from hydro. Residential electricity is expensive at an average cost of $0.28/KwH. Image and data: DOE/EIA
A spokesman for the Jamaican Renewable Energy Association immediately issued a statement to the news media opposing the government’s plans. Vice-president of JREA Jason Robinson said that Jamaica is not ready “or will ever be ready” for such energy source. In addition to raising issues regarding weather and geophysical concerns, he also loading in lifestyle values as part of the organization’s issues.
“Jamaica is located in a hurricane and earthquake zone which puts us in extreme danger with out having to worry about a nuclear meltdown. Also Jamaica’s brand is a natural vibe not a one that fits well with nuclear energy. I think it would take a lot away from Brand Jamaica in terms of tourism as well.”
Meanwhile, PM Holness pointed out that in his budget presentation in March that the Government of Jamaica of creating “a new Integrated Resource Plan [IRP]” that will facilitate the introduction of new energy sources to the energy mix and ensure that the grid is stable and has the capacity to respond to the growing demand for electricity.”
“The introduction of new energy sources, the prime minister argued, will create a new paradigm in energy and “change the parameters that can reduce the cost of production, increase [businesses’] capacity, and ensure [businesses] can innovate integrate technology and compete effectively with the rest of the world”.
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France, Japan Sign Nuclear Partnership
Reuters reports that France and Japan have signed a nuclear cooperation agreement in Paris. The joint declaration pledges to deepen and accelerate ties in the research and development of next-generation nuclear reactors. Additional work scope is slated to include safe life extension of existing reactors, decommissioning of nuclear plants including Japan’s Fukushima Dai’ichi reactor, developing civil nuclear capacity in interested countries, and promoting the recycling of used nuclear fuel to minimize the need for uranium by turning the spent fuel into mixed oxide fuel (MOX)..
French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher met Yasutoshi Nishimura, Japan’s minister of trade, economy and industry (METI) to discuss accelerating technical cooperation on the nuclear fuel cycle.
Japan has an estimated 47 tonnes of plutonium, but according to the IAEA most of the inventory is held in the UK and France for eventual reprocessing into MOX fuel. Only about 10 tonnes are in Japan. In 2018 the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, which coordinates the operations of Japan’s 10 electric power companies, reportedly told JAEC that it will aim to eventually introduce the MOX fuel in 16 to 18 reactors. Currently, only four of Japan’s operating reactors are licensed to burn MOX fuel.
Image: Japan Nuclear Fuels Limited
New Effort to Develop Sodium Cooled Advanced Reactors
Japan’s Sankei newspaper reported that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has earmarked some 46 billion yen ($337 million) over three years beginning in April 2024 to help develop sodium-cooled fast reactors.
In February 2022 US based TerraPower signed an MOU with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and two Mitsubishi business units to collaborate on sodium fast reactor technology. [press release]
It isn’t clear what the scope of the expertise Japan’s team is bringing to the agreement. Mitsubishi’s development of the the Japan Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor (JSFR) was linked in a partnership with the French ASTRID project.
The JSFR was a 750 MWe fast reactor design which would burn MOX fuel. Japan had visions of turning its spent nuclear fuel from its fleet of commercial reactors and having it reprocessed into MOX fuel and burned in fast reactors like the JSFR.
In September 2019 France pulled the plug on the effort saying it was not commercially viable as a design. Further, Japan’s plans to have a commercial fast reactor by 2050 were probably impacted by the French decision to kill the ASTRID effort.
Japan’s Monju nuclear power plant, a sodium cooled design, was close in 2010 after years of disappointing results.
Obviously, the Japanese nuclear industry, and hence the government, still see a future in advanced sodium-cooled reactors that burn MOX.
The joint declaration came a day after a Paris appeals court allowed the French government to proceed with a buyout of nuclear giant EDF as part of its long-term plan to reinvigorate the nuclear sector and build up to 14 new full size light water reactors by 2050.
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