Alleged nuclear scam CEO scrams – Updated

** Updated 03/26/17 (scroll to bottom)

** Updated 12/30/15 (scroll to bottom) **

Boise Federal Court issues a bench warrant for AEHI CEO Don Gillispie

Readers of this blog with long memories may recall the comical and criminal efforts of penny stock CEO Don Gillispie to develop a nuclear power plant in Idaho. The end of the road, which began in 2007, came for him in May 2015. He didn’t show up for an arraignment hearing in Boise to face federal charges of fraud and tax evasion. His lawyer has no idea where to find him. The U.S. Attorney’s office now considers Gillisipie a fugitive from justice.

Idaho’s invisible wandering nuclear power plant

owyhee cty

Owyhee County, ID, near Mountain Home AFB

At one time Gillispie established a site for a 1600 MW reactor in Owyhee County, Idaho, southeast of Mountain Home AFB, only to discover it was on the wrong side of the Snake River which would require a massive and expensive bridge across it to transport reactor components from the railroad and Interstate highway located on the other (north) side.

Later he moved the proposed reactor site to Payette County near a site briefly considered in 2007 by Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican utility which even more bizarrely had at one time floated the idea of building a 1700 MW Mitsubishi supplied PWR in the middle of a rural area 60 miles northwest of Boise, ID. Buffet wisely pulled the plug on his project long before any serious money was ever spent on it.

AEHI’s PR firm, based on Boise, had an unusual ability to cite the potential involvement of large nuclear firms in his project without there ever being a similar press statement from those cited in AEHI’s releases. At least one reactor vendor and several EPC firms found themselves denying any involvement in the project.

In a September 2007 visit to Boise then NRC Chairman Dale Klein, when asked about the AEHI project, commented that the agency had not received an application for a license from the firm.  Klein had previously coined in a speech in June 2007 what become known as the “no bozos” rule for new nuclear plants saying that the industry has no room for amateurs.

“My subject is something that each of the five Commissioners believe in, and have said before—which is this: owning a commercial nuclear reactor is not a business for amateurs. If the nuclear power business is treated with less than the seriousness it deserves—and people begin to think that anyone can just jump on the nuclear bandwagon—it opens up the very real danger of making the “wave” of the nuclear resurgence look more like a “bubble.” And bubbles have a tendency to pop.”

AEHI’s Gillispie seemed to be at wits end in terms of getting financing for his project. He would eventually run through at least three separate firms pledged to raise money for him one of which took him for a $25,000 fee. It raised no money instead its team spent the fee on ski parties in Utah. None of the firms every produced the promised investment commitments.  Litigation over one of these engagements was still unsettled as of August 2016.

The Feds weigh in

The SEC has filed a civil action against AEHI and the IRS sued for back taxes. Gillispie is accused of misleading investors to buy stock in Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI) at an artificially inflated price and then funneling the money to himself and his company’s former vice president, Jennifer Ransom.

According to court documents, Gillispie and Ransom recruited family members and others to purchase AEHI stock, provided them with company funds and instructed them on the timing, quantity and price in an attempt to artificially inflate the price. This is sometimes called a “pump & dump” scheme.

Gillispie and Ransom were first indicted in November 2014 on federal charges including wire fraud, securities fraud, conspiracy and filing false tax returns. Ransom pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud in April. The May 2015 hearing, at which he did not appear, was to arraign Gillispie on revised charges from a new indictment that reflects Ransom’s plea.

Gillispie and Ransom were more or less a couple as well as business partners despite a nearly 30 year age difference.

Gillispie didn’t show up for his court date and a bench warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Prosecutors could now charge him with failure to appear in the case. With regard to the wire fraud charge, it could mean up to 10 additional years in prison if he is convicted.

Dust ups with anti-nuclear groups

On a previous blog I chronicled Gillispie’s efforts starting with a post in 2007 calling the effort an “invisible” power plant.  Gillispie sued the Snake River Alliance (SRA) who’s 20-s0mething leader brazenly called him a scam without any paperwork to prove it.

In 2008, AEHI filed a lawsuit claiming that the executive director of the Snake River Alliance, Andrea Shipley, made libelous comments in a TV interview. Shipley commented, “regardless of how you feel about nuclear energy, these guys (AEHI) are scamming Idahoans.”

The Idaho courts threw out the lawsuit on the grounds Shipley’s statements were protected free speech.

However, that wasn’t Gillispie’s last run-in with activists. He filed assault charges in 2008 against another anti-nuclear activist, Peter Rickards, a podiatrist, who soaking wet couldn’t have weighed more than 150 pounds. Rickards was handing out anti-nuclear leaflets at an AEHI public meeting.  Someone in the AEHI delegation tried to eject Rickards from the site producing what may have been a one-sided shoving match.

In the end it was AEHI’s financial tactics that brought it to the attention of the SEC and the IRS and which resulted in the current charges. Even so despite considerable coverage in the news media questioning the truthfulness of AEHI’s claims, it too the SEC nearly seven years to bring their prosecution to bear on the firm for its practices.

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Full details on Gillispie’s case including his alleged disappearing act at the Idaho Statesman 

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Update 12/30/15

Don Gillispie, AEHI penny stock CEO and sometime grifter who claimed he would build a nuclear power plant somewhere in Idaho, is still on the lam as of 12/30/15 having skipped an appearance in court last spring. The Boise, ID, Federal District Court issued an arrest warrant for his capture. So far he’s eluded arrest.

Gillispie’s partner in crime, Jennifer Ransom, pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud in a deal with the feds (SEC, IRS) which requires her to pay back the money from her ill gotten gains.

Her sentencing, which is expected to involve jail time, has been postponed several times most recently from November to next month.  This leads to speculation that part of the plea deal is that she will testify against Gillispie at his trial if and when he is found.

Gillispie burst upon the nuclear scene in Idaho in 2007 and was promptly called out as a fraud by anyone who knows anything about the challenges of building a nuclear power plant.  That didn’t stop him from running a pump and dump scheme for nearly five years that defrauded a lot of people who should have known better.

Update 03/26/17

The US Attorney’s Office in Boise, ID, posted this update in January 2016 on the sentencing of Jennifer Ransom, the AEHI VP who entered a plea in return for leniency and a promise to testify against her former boss AEHI CEO Don Gillispie.

Jennifer R. Ransom, 41, of Meridian, Idaho, was sentenced in United States District Court to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release, the first six months of which is home confinement, for the crime of securities fraud, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced.

Senior United States District Judge Edward J. Lodge also ordered Ransom to forfeit $580,780 and pay $116,138 in restitution to victim-investors. Ransom pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud on April 21, 2015. The SEC complaint was first filed against Gillispie and Ransom in December 2010.

In May of 2015 Gillispie, failed to appear for two scheduled arraignment hearings. He remains a fugitive and is being pursued by the United States Marshals Service.

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Banner Week for Progress on U.S. Advanced Reactors

Four major announcements were made this week by developers of advanced nuclear reactors in the U.S. All of them indicate progress towards completing designs and engagement with nuclear safety agencies.

There are significant distinctions between them in terms of technical details of the designs and there are also a range of commitments in terms of the key success factor – paying customers.

  • GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Advanced Reactor Concepts LLC (ARC) Nuclear signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to jointly develop a reactor design intended for global markets. Initial deployment will be in Canada.
  • Southern Nuclear and X-Energy announced it has started the conceptual design phase of its high-temperature-gas cooled reactor (HTGR). Southern Nuclear named Clint Medlock, a 27 year nuclear veteran, as program manager.
  • NuScale Power LLC announced that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has accepted the firm’s Design Certification Application (DCA). The NRC said the DCA addresses all of the agency’s requirements and contains sufficient technical information to conduct the review.
  • Thorcon / Martindale reports it is in discussions with the Indonesia National Nuclear Energy Agency about its molten salt reactor design. The firm said its has completed a technical assessment of the cost competitiveness of its reactor compared to coal power plants.


GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Advanced Reactor Concepts LLC (ARC Nuclear) have agreed to collaborate in the development and licensing of an advanced small modular reactor (aSMR) based on mature Generation IV sodium-cooled reactor technology.

In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the two companies have agreed to enter into a collaboration to progress a joint aSMR design for global power generation with initial deployment in Canada.

The companies will pursue a preliminary regulatory review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) through its Vendor Design Review process. The joint effort has the near-term goals of confirming projected construction and operating costs, as well as the identification of a lead-plant owner/operator for the joint aSMR.

GEH and ARC Nuclear have each developed advanced reactor designs based on the EBR-II, an integral sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype which was developed by Argonne National Laboratory and operated successfully for more than 30 years at a site located about 25 miles west of Idaho Falls, Idaho. No U.S. fast spectrum reactor technology has more test data, design maturity, programmatic information, or operational experience.

These two reactor designs — GEH’s PRISM and ARC Nuclear’s ARC-100 — have been focused on different objectives. The ARC-100 is a 100 MWe aSMR designed to operated for up to 20 years without the need for refueling. In comparison, PRISM, which is designed to refuel every 12 to 24 months, has primarily been focused on closing the fuel cycle by, among other things, consuming transuranics, including surplus plutonium from decommissioned nuclear weapons and from spent nuclear fuel. Both these aSMR designs nevertheless share fundamental features, such as high energy neutrons, liquid sodium cooling and metallic fuel.

World Nuclear News, in its report on the collaboration, reported that GEH’s Prism reactor has a rated thermal power of 840 MWt and an output of 311 MWe. Two Prism reactors make up a power block, producing a combined total of 622 MWe of electrical output.

Using passive safety, digital instrumentation and control, and modular fabrication techniques to expedite plant construction, the design uses metallic fuel, such as an alloy of zirconium, uranium, and plutonium.

It can therefore be used to close the nuclear fuel cycle, recycling used nuclear fuel to generate energy. It is designed to be refueled every 12-24 months. GEH has previously proposed the Prism reactor as a possible option for managing the UK’s plutonium stockpile.

ARC’s ARC-100 modular 100 MWe model would use a ‘novel’ metal alloy fuel, with the uranium-fuelled reactor core submerged in a tank of liquid sodium at ambient pressure. It would have a refueling interval of 20 years.

Last October, GEH and Southern Nuclear signed an MOU to collaborate on the development and licensing of fast reactors including GEH’s Prism. The companies also agreed to work together in future US Department of Energy advanced reactor licensing programs.

X-Energy Reactor Moves to Conceptual Design

X Energy, LLC (X-energy) announced that it has commenced the conceptual design phase for its Xe-100 high temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) pebble bed modular reactor.

X-energy held a Conceptual Design Readiness Review on March 8th to validate the baseline design parameters, preparatory documentation, analysis tools, scope of the proposed conceptual design phase (including all planned deliverables), management processes and overall team readiness to proceed on to the next phase of Xe-100 reactor development.

An external panel comprised of industry experts from Southern Nuclear, Burns & McDonnell, and Technology Insights was engaged to evaluate X-energy’s preparedness to enter the conceptual design phase.

As part of the conceptual design, X-energy and Southern Nuclear deepened their relationship by engaging Clint Medlock on X-energy’s Xe-100 development team as Program Management Consultant. Medlock, a 12-year Southern Nuclear veteran, has 27 years’ nuclear industry experience and has managed several large nuclear design and construction projects.

In its report on the milestone, World Nuclear News added details about the reactor. The Xe-100 is a 200 MWt (75 MWe) reactor, which X-energy envisages being built as a standard “four-pack” plant generating about 300 MWe. The plant will use ‘pebbles’ of fuel containing Triso (tristructural-isotropic) fuel particles.

Each Triso particle has a kernel of uranium oxycarbide (uranium dioxide) enriched to 10% uranium-235, encased in carbon and ceramic layers. About 25,000 Triso particles, each about 0.4 millimeters in diameter, are embedded in graphite to produce spherical fuel pebbles. About 17,000 pebbles will be used in each reactor. X-energy is working to master the pebble pressing process.

Triso fuel’s carbon and ceramic layers prevent the release of radioactivity, providing each particle with its own independent containment system, while the graphite surrounding the particles moderates the nuclear reaction. Such fuel cannot melt down and X-energy describes the reactor as “walk-away” safe in the event of a loss of coolant.

All of the plant’s components will be road-transportable, streamlining construction by enabling the plant to be installed, rather than constructed, at the project site.

NuScale Power, LLC Design Accepted for Review by U.S. NRC

NuScale Power, LLC announced this week they received notification that NuScale’s first-ever Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Design Certification Application (DCA) was accepted for review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). By accepting the DCA for review, the NRC staff is confirming that NuScale’s submission addresses all NRC requirements and contains sufficient technical information to conduct the review. NuScale marked a major milestone on December 31, 2016 when the company asked the NRC to approve the SMR design, the first submitted in the United States.

When NuScale announced the application submittal in January, the NRC had targeted completing the certification process for the NuScale SMR power plant design in 40 months from acceptance. NuScale’s application consisted of nearly 12,000 pages of technical information, representing the work of more than 800 NuScale staff and some 40,000 NRC staff-hours in pre-application discussions and interactions.

The first commercial NuScale power plant is planned for construction on the site of the Idaho National Laboratory for the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and operated by experienced operator Energy Northwest.

Conservative estimates predict approximately 55-75 GW of electricity will come from operating SMRs around the world by 2035, the equivalent of more than 1,000 NuScale Power Modules.

NuScale is the first company to submit a small modular reactor design for certification. SMR designs seek to meet NRC safety requirements through smaller reactor cores and passive safety features. The NRC, after completing its acceptance review, has concluded NuScale’s application is complete enough for a full design certification review. The staff soon will provide a review schedule.

The NRC’s certification process determines whether a reactor design meets U.S. safety requirements. Companies can then reference a certified design when applying for a Combined License to build and operate a reactor in the United States. The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards provides input on design certification reviews. If issued, certifications are valid for 15 years.

ThorCon Molten Salt Reactor Study Results Released

(NucNet) Three state-owned Indonesian companies – Pertamina, PLN and Inuki – have completed a technology pre-feasibility study which has concluded that a molten salt reactor design proposed by US-based Martingale could deliver safe, cheap, clean energy. The report claims the reactor could be built now, would be economically viable, and would have the potential to replace coal power plants.

Martingale signed an agreement in 2015 with the Indonesia Thorium Consortium to develop the ThorCon reactor with Indonesia. The ThorCon team has now begun discussions with Indonesia’s National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) to review the ThorCon design. If Batan approves the design it will recommend to the government that ThorCon be Indonesia’s first nuclear power plant.

The Indonesia Nuclear Professional Association has agreed to be project manager for a technical assessment of the technology. ThorCon representative Bob Effendi  said the technical assessment will enable the Indonesian government to “open the door” for nuclear power, as called for in a national plan which says nuclear power plant construction should start in 2019 and be operating by 2025.

ThorCon is a liquid-fuel nuclear reactor design, which uses uranium and thorium fuel dissolved in molten salt. ThorCon requires no new technology because it is a straightforward scale-up of the successful molten salt reactor experiment (MSRE) at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US and is using the MSRE as its pilot plant. There is no technical reason why a full-scale 250-MW prototype cannot be operating “within four years,” Martingale said.

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China Expands Uses & Markets for Its HTGRs

Feasibility study for Saudi Arabian HTGR project

(World Nuclear News) (Wire Services) China and Saudi Arabia have signed a cooperation agreement for a joint study on the feasibility of constructing high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs).

The agreement was signed this week in Beijing by China Nuclear Energy Engineering Group (CNEC) president Jun Gu and King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE) president Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani. The signing was witnessed by Chinese President Xi Jinping and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman.

In a statement, CNEC said that under the agreement the two companies will  develop system solutions for the investment and construction of HTGRs. They will also examine cooperation in intellectual property and the development of a domestic industrial supply chain for HTGRs built in Saudi Arabia. The feasibility study, it said, will also support the Saudi government in its decisions related to an HTGR project.

The latest agreement follows the signing in January of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between China and Saudi Arabia on the construction of HTGRs.

CNEC said that since the signing of that MOU, the two countries have been looking at site selection for the project, building a regulatory system, training personnel and other aspects of the project.

Although Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program is in its infancy, the Kingdom had at one time plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years. The plan identified nuclear power as essential to help meet growing energy demand for both electricity generation and water desalination, while reducing reliance on depleting hydrocarbon resources.

However, the plan was shelved due to several factors including its ambitious nature relative to the ability of Saudi Arabia to manage it. Also, the precipitous drop in oil prices made the huge program unaffordable. At even the bargain price of $4,000/Kw, 16 Gb of nuclear power came with a stratospheric price tag. Instead, Saudi Arabia has committed to a program of deploying solar energy power stations, but it has not given up on nuclear energy.

Back in September 2015, contracts were signed between the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and KA-CARE to support their cooperation in developing KAERI’s SMART (System-integrated Modular Advanced Reactor). This is a 330 MWt (100 MWe) pressurized water reactor with integral steam generators and advanced safety features.

CNEC said its credibility to present the HTGR for export is based on a demonstration HTR-PM unit under construction at Shidaowan near Weihai city in China’s Shandong province. That plant will initially comprise twin HTR-PM reactor modules driving a single 210 MWe steam turbine. Construction started in late 2012 and it is scheduled to start commercial operation in late 2017.

A proposal to construct two 600 MWe HTRs at Ruijin city in China’s Jiangxi province passed a preliminary feasibility review in early 2015. The design of the Ruijin HTRs is based on the smaller Shidaowan demonstration HTR-PM. Construction of the Ruijin reactors is expected to start next year, with grid connection in 2021.

CNEC has been actively promoting its HTR technology overseas and has already signed agreements with other countries – including the UAE and South Africa to consider the construction of HTGR plants. Last August CNEC signed an agreement with Indonesia’s National Atomic Energy Agency (Batan) to jointly develop an HTGR in Indonesia.

China’s 4th generation nuclear power plant to go online in 2018

(CCTV) China has unveiled its 13th five-year plan on its nuclear power industry. A number of projects will be up and running in the coming few years. One of them is a high temperature gas-cooled reactor, or HTGR, that is under construction in east China’s Shandong Province. This 4th generation nuclear power plant is expected to generate power in 2018. (English language video)

“The HTGR is expected to be connected to the grid and generate power in 2018. China’s HTGR is now at the forefront of the world,” Wang Yiren, vice chairman of China Atomic Energy Authority, said in the video interview.

He claims that the HTGR’s power-generating efficiency is 25 percent higher than that of the nuclear power units that are currently in operation in China.  And he also claims it will greatly cut costs as modular construction is expected to shorten the construction period once the volume of orders justifies building a factory to produce them.

China Plans Deployment of HTGRs for Central Heating

(China Daily) As China aims to reduce coal consumption to curb pollution, leaders in the nuclear industry have called for construction of low-temperature mini reactors to provide cleaner heating for residential use in North China.

Citing safety, flexibility and efficiency, executives in China’s nuclear power sector have pitched the use of small-scale reactors as an alternative heat source in winter to reduce dependence on plants powered by coal which creates air pollution.

Qian Tianlin, general manager of China Nuclear New Energy Investment, said that the technology of small-scale nuclear reactors, which feature low and controllable core temperatures, is mature enough for trial use.

“Generating heating for a residential district is just one function of the mini nuclear reactors that has bright prospects,” Qian said.

“Compared to traditional thermal sources, nuclear reactors could generate heat without carbon emissions and thus should be seriously considered as a replacement for coal-burning heat,” said Qian.

There is a lot of activity in China with HTGRs

Wang Shoujun, chairman of China National Nuclear Corp, said that China’s first small reactor developed by CNNC for practical use, the ACP100, is expected to be built in Changjiang Li autonomous county, Hainan province, at the end of 2017 with a unit capacity of 125MW.

The operation of such mini reactors is secure because of the much lower core temperature and internal pressure than a typical reactor, said Wan Gang, head of the China Institute of Atomic Energy.

“Technically, it is safe for civilian use in urban areas at the moment,” Wan said.

CNEC has been working with Tsinghua University since 2003 on the design, construction and commercialization of HTR technology. A demonstration HTR-PM unit is under construction at Shidaowan near Weihai city in China’s Shandong province.

That plant will initially comprise twin HTR-PM reactor modules driving a single 210 MWe steam turbine. Construction started in late 2012 and commercial operation is scheduled to start in late 2017.

A proposal to construct two 600 MWe HTRs at Ruijin city in China’s Jiangxi province passed a preliminary feasibility review in early 2015. The design of the Ruijin HTRs is based on the smaller Shidaowan demonstration HTR-PM. Construction of the Ruijin reactors is expected to start next year, with grid connection in 2021.

China Enters Nuclear Energy Market in Indonesia

(WNN) China Nuclear Engineering Corporation (CNEC) has signed an agreement with Indonesia’s National Atomic Energy Agency (Batan) to jointly develop a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTGR) in Indonesia.

In August 2016 a joint project development plan was signed by CNEC chairman Wang Shoujun and Batan chairman Djarot Sulistio Wisnubroto. Under the agreement, CNEC and Batan intend to cooperate on an Indonesian HTGR project and to train workers.

Batan is promoting the introduction of nuclear power plants in Indonesia. It is planning for small HTGRs (up to 100 MWe) for deployment on Kalimantan, Sulawesi and other islands to supply power and heat for industrial use. It is considering building a test and demonstration HTGR with an electrical output of 3-10 MWe and a thermal output of 10-30 MWt.

In August 2014, Batan signed a cooperation agreement with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) on research and development of HTGRs. JAEA has developed a small prototype gas-cooled reactor, the High-Temperature Test Reactor. This is a 30 MWt graphite-moderated helium gas-cooled reactor which achieved first criticality in November 1998.

In April 2015, Rosatom announced that a consortium of Russian and Indonesian companies led by NUKEM Technologies had won a contract for the preliminary design of a multi-purpose 10 MWe HTGR at Serpong in Indonesia.

China’s CNEC said the signing of the agreement with Indonesia “marks further substantial progress in the overseas promotion of HTR technology”.

Construction Of Turkey’s Akkuyu To Start By Year’s End

(NucNet) Construction of Turkey’s first nuclear power station at Akkuyu will begin by the end of 2017, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was quoted as saying by wire services.

President Erdogan, who made his remarks after meeting Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week, said the “final decisions” on the Akkuyu project will be taken in May 2017.

Akkuyu, near Mersin on the Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast, is to be built in cooperation with Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom under a contract signed in 2010. The station will have four 1,200-MW VVER units. This month Akkuyu Nuclear, the joint stock company in charge of the project, applied for a construction licence to the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority.

Turkey has plans for two other nuclear power stations, but has not broken ground on any of them so far.

System Testing Begins At Flamanville-3 EPR With Startup Scheduled For 2018

(NucNet) System performance testing has begun at EDF’s 1,600-MW Flamanville-3 EPR under construction in northern France with reactor startup scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2018.

The first phase of the testing is system flushing, EDF said. Water will be circulated at very high flow rates in all pipes connecting safety systems in the primary reactor coolant system, including the reactor vessel.

Cold hydrostatic testing will follow, ensuring all equipment “fulfils the function assigned to it in the design”. EDF said.

The final stage of the system performance testing is hot functional testing, which operates reactor systems at operating temperatures but without fuel in the core.

After the testing phase is completed, the next milestone is the loading of fuel and start-up which is scheduled to take place at the end of the fourth quarter of 2018. Project costs had been revised to €10.5bn ($11.3bn). An estimate released in July 2011 was €8bn. When construction began the plant was scheduled to enter service in late 2012 at a cost of €3.3bn.

Applications For 26 Nuclear Plants Being Considered Related To Japan Restarts

(NucNet) Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has accepted applications for 26 nuclear power plants at 16 sites in relation to the restart of reactors following the introduction of new safety and security standards after the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) said in a statement.

Key among the restarts planned is TEPCO’s seven boiling water reactor units at its Kashiwazaki Kariwa station in Niigita Prefecture in western Japan.

JAIF said examinations at the facility are “generally in their final stages.” There remain, however, a number of points of contention that need to be resolved including issues related to an emergency response area in the main anti-earthquake building and an emergency response area within the Unit-5 reactor building.  Local opposition to restart of the reactors remains a key sticking point.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency said recently that Tepco, has been trying to reactivate the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant, the world’s largest by generation capacity, to generate “much-needed revenue” to offset rising costs and redress claims stemming from the 2011 accident.

Toshiba To Speed Up Consideration Of Westinghouse Nuclear Business Sale

(NucNet) Japan’s Toshiba Corp said on March 14th it will speed up looking at whether it should sell a majority of its US-based Westinghouse nuclear power business. Toshiba plans to review the positioning of Westinghouse and “aggressively consider strategic options for it”, the company said in a regulatory filing.

Reuters has reported that the firm is considering a bankruptcy filing for its U.S. business unit, which could throw the construction of four AP1000s in the U.S. into a period of uncertainty.

Toshiba said last month it expects to book a loss of $6.2bn from Westinghouse in the third quarter of fiscal year 2016. The cost overruns are caused by multiple factors, but all of them are tied to mis-management of the acquisition of CB&I by Westinghouse and disputes related to the pricing of of elements of the deal.

CB&I has been a key supplier for the construction of the V.C. Summer nuclear power station in South Carolina and the Vogtle station in Georgia in the US. There are two AP1000 units under construction at both sites.

Toshiba said it will consider participating in the Moorside new-build project in Cumbria, northwest England, but “without taking on any risk from carrying out actual construction work.”

Toshiba has said it plans to focus on its nuclear fuel and equipment supply businesses and will not provide engineering, procurement and construction contractor services for future overseas projects. Toshiba said it intends to reduce risk at nuclear projects in progress by implementing comprehensive cost reduction measures.

GAIN Releases News on Small Business Vouchers for Development of Nuclear Technologies

The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) announced that it has funds available for small business vouchers to assist applicants developing nuclear energy technologies. GAIN is located at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in Idaho Falls, ID, and the vouchers come with opportunities for collaboration with lab scientists and engineers

The small business vouchers are provided by the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy to support nuclear energy innovation in the small business sector.

“The objective of GAIN is to accelerate cost-effective commercialization of innovative nuclear energy technologies,” said Rita Baranwal, GAIN director.

“This cost-sharing initiative enables partnerships with small businesses and provides them with access to the technical, regulatory and financial support necessary to bridge the gap to delivering new technologies to market.”

More information on the vouchers and eligibility requirements are available at

The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear is a U.S. Department of Energy initiative to provide the nuclear industrial community with access to the technical, regulatory, and financial support necessary to move new or advanced nuclear technologies toward commercialization while ensuring the continued safe, reliable, and economic operation of the existing nuclear fleet.

Day-to-day management of GAIN is the responsibility of Idaho National Laboratory. See more GAIN news at Follow @GAINnuclear on Twitter or visit the Facebook page at

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China to Start Work on Six Inland Nuclear Reactors

All six units are slated to be Westinghouse AP1000s similar to reactors already under construction at the Haiyang coastal site and at Sanmen, which is an inland site.


China To Restart Inland Nuclear Power Program

(NucNet): China is expected restart its nuclear power program in inland areas within the next four years. The statement came from Wang Yiren, vice-director of the state administration of science, technology and industry for national defense, and vice-chairman of the China Atomic Energy Authority. He said in an interview with China National Radio that China has already decided where its inland nuclear reactors will be built.

Three inland units have already been given approval. They are;

  • the Taohuajiang nuclear station in Hunan province, southeast China;
  • the Dafan nuclear station in Hubei province, eastern China; and
  • the Pengze nuclear station in Jiangxi province, southeast China.

All three sites reference the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor. Given the financial problems of Toshiba, its Japanese parent, the future of these projects may depend on whether Westinghouse declares bankruptcy which may be pending according to the Reuters wire service. Westinghouse may retreat to being a provider of manufactured components for nuclear reactors, but will step away from its EPC role for future projects.

China halted all its nuclear power construction projects after the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident in March 2011, but began construction work on several projects in eastern coastal areas in 2015.

Although the resumption of inland projects has yet to be officially announced, at least 10 provinces have proposed sites, Mr Wang said.

Though not included in his statements, China also faces significant logistical challenges to transport very large components like reactor pressure vessels, steam generators, and turbines to inland plants. Coastal plants take delivery via barges.

WNA reports that the 13th Five-Year Plan formalized in March 2016 included the following nuclear projects and aims:

  • Complete four AP1000 units at Sanmen and Haiyang.
  • Build demonstration Hualong One reactors at Fuqing and Fangchenggang
  • Start building the demonstration CAP1400 reactor at Rongcheng (Shidaowan).
  • Accelerate building Tianwan Phase III (units 5&6).
  • Reach target of 58 GWe nuclear operational by end of 2020, plus 30 GWe under construction then.
  • Accelerate and push for building demonstration and large commercial spent reprocessing plants. (Areva)

Hualong One Reactors to Be Built

Separately, the China Daily reported (long file) that China General Nuclear chairman He Yu said China is expecting to construct four to six Hualong One reactors annually from 2020 to achieve an installed nuclear generating capacity of at least 150 GWe by 2030.

He said the country needs to add at least 10 GWe of nuclear capacity annually to reach CO2 emissions reduction targets.

“Nuclear energy plays an irreplaceable role in China’s energy security, helping to reduce air pollution caused by coal-fired power generation,” he said.

“China’s energy sector has been dominated by coal, accounting for 64 percent of primary energy use, far above the global average of around 30 percent,”

Wang Binghua, chairman of State Power Investment Corp, and Wang Shoujun, president of the State-owned China Nuclear Engineering Group Co, who are also attending the annual session of the CPPCC National Committee, also called for nuclear power plants to be a primary source of energy supply. He is a strong advocate of the Hualong One reactor.

HTGR Will Connect to Grid in 2018 ~ Slated for Export Markets

(WNN) China’s demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor is expected to start supplying electricity to the grid in 2018.  Wang Yiren, deputy director general of the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense said in a statement to Chinese state owned television that the reactor in Shandong province will be the world’s first 200 MW nuclear plant to generate electricity.

Profile of China’s Current Work on HTGR Designs

(WNA) According to the World Nuclear Association, China is investing in multiple high temperature gas-cooled reactors.  The reference design is for twin units, each with a single steam generator, will drive a single steam turbine. The engineering of the key structures, systems, and components, while derived in part from the South African PBMR, is, according to WNA, based on Chinese capabilities and includes completely new technical features.

China Huaneng Group (CHNG) is the lead organization in the consortium to build the demonstration Shidaowan HTR-PM with China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group (CNEC) and Tsinghua University’s INET, which is the R&D leader. Chinergy Co., a joint venture of Tsinghua and CNEC, is the main contractor for the nuclear island.

CNEC is responsible for the HTR technical implementation, and becomes the main investor of HTR commercial promotion at home and abroad.  In July 2016 CNEC signed an agreement with CGN to set up a joint venture led by CNEC to develop HTRs domestically and overseas.  As a result CNEC has signed agreements to develop HTRs in Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

The initial demonstration HTR-PM at Shidaowan, near Weihai city, will pave the way for commercial versions with multiple modules each 2×105 MWe with its own turbine. The main HTR promotion is of the 600 MWe version. WNA notes that that is possible that these commercial HTR plants will have larger turbines.

WNA also reports that in April 2015 CNEC announced that its proposal for two commercial 600 MWe HTRs at Ruijin city in Jiangxi province had passed an initial feasibility review. This HTR-600 is based on HTR-200 by adding modules.

UK considers state backing for nuclear, says report

(WNN) UK government ministers are “wrangling over how to support” new nuclear power plant projects, with some senior members of the Treasury “hostile” to direct state subsidy, according to the Financial Times. Philip Hammond, chancellor of the exchequer, and Greg Clark, business secretary, have both taken part in talks over support for new plants in Anglesey and in Cumbria, the British newspaper reports, citing unnamed sources.

Horizon, a 100% subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd, plans to deploy the UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor at two sites – Wylfa Newydd, which is on the Isle of Anglesey, and Oldbury-on-Severn, in South Gloucestershire. EDF Energy and its partner China General Nuclear (CGN) plan to build two European Pressurised Water reactors at Hinkley Point in Somerset.

NuGen, the UK joint venture between Japan’s Toshiba and France’s Engie, plans to build a nuclear power plant of up to 3.8 GWe gross capacity at Moorside, in West Cumbria using AP1000 nuclear reactor technology provided by Westinghouse Electric Company, a group company of Toshiba. That project is at risk due to the financial collapse of Toshiba which has a planned 60% equity stake in the Moorside project.

The question of how to support UK nuclear power “has been given new urgency by the financial crisis at Toshiba,” the Financial Times said.

Another person involved in the process told the newspaper state support would have to be “financially engineered” in a way that avoided adding to public debt. This could still allow the government to buy minority stakes in the projects, or to provide credit guarantees, the newspaper said.

Westinghouse CEO Works to Keep India Nuclear Project Alive

(Reuters) A deal to build six Westinghouse nuclear reactors in India is still alive, but to be viable must be protected from a financial crisis at the U.S. reactor maker and its Japanese parent Toshiba Corp.

Westinghouse would only provide reactors for the six AP1000 units to be built in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. It would not carry out civil engineering work to build the entire project – an approach that led to cost overruns at its projects in the United States.

Despite the financial crisis, RTeuters reports Westinghouse CEO Jose Gutierrez flew in to India last week for talks with state-run National Power Corp of India Ltd (NPCIL) and the Department of Atomic Energy that reports to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Indian engineering group Larsen & Toubro, a potential partner that has signed a memorandum of understanding with Westinghouse to supply nuclear plant elements and do civil works, still views the India project as viable.

“As long as the guarantees are in place, I see no reason why this won’t go ahead,” Shailendra Roy, head of L&T’s power business, told Reuters, without elaborating on the nature of any such guarantees.

Reuters reports there are grounds for skepticism according to some nuclear industry experts and sources in India.

“I doubt that NPCIL will finalize a deal until there is clarity about Toshiba’s exit, and who the new project manager would be,” said Rakesh Sood, a former disarmament negotiator and now a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

Czechs look to start building new nuclear reactor in 2025

(Associated Press) Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says the country could start building a new nuclear reactor as soon as 2025.

Unlike some other European countries, the Czech Republic relies heavily on nuclear energy and Sobotka’s government in 2015 approved a long-term plan to increase nuclear power production.

As part of the plan, the government wants to build at least one more reactor at the Dukovany plant, and later possibly another at the Temelin plant.

Financing of the project is yet to be decided. Major players from the United States, Russia, Japan, France, China and South Korea are expected to bid for the lucrative Dukovany nuclear contract, worth over $4 billion.  The government has retreated from past efforts to pursue nuclear energy over disputes concerning government rate guarantees for the units.

Sobotka said Monday that a deal to build it could be signed in 2022. The reactor could become operational around 2035.

Eskom Says RFP For New Nuclear To Be Posted By Mid-2017

(NucNet): State-owned utility Eskom’s target is to publish the request for proposals, or RFP, for new nuclear power reactors in South Africa by mid-2017, with evaluation of proposals by the end of 2017, the company’s chief nuclear officer David Nicholls said in an interview published on the Eskom website.

Eskom will then negotiate with the vendors, one at a time, to choose a preferred vendor, and then move into discussions about localization, Mr Nicholls said.  Development of local manufacturing of components for the reactors is considered a mainstay of any successful bid.

According to Eskom, nuclear is the only credible energy option for new baseload generation. There are four options: coal, gas, hydro and nuclear, Mr Nicholls said.

South Africa has no gas and any gas it imports is going to be at a cost so the economic issues are problematic. There are no significant new hydro opportunities, which leaves coal and nuclear.

“Our view is that coal is going to be increasingly challenged by environmental requirements, while nuclear has an exceptionally good track record locally and internationally on both safety and economic grounds,” Mr Nicholls said.

In December 2016 Eskom issued an initial request for information (RFI) for new reactors. The companies that responded included “major nuclear vendors” from China (SNPTC), France (EDF), Russia (Rusatom Overseas) and South Korea (Kepco).

The project became embroiled in controversy in 2015 when President Zuma announced the entire project would be financed and built by Rosatom. Since then the government has struggled to convince other vendors the procurement process is open to competition.

The government has said it wants to generate 9,600 MW of energy from as many as eight reactors that should begin operating from 2023 and be completed by 2029, with total price estimates ranging from $37bn (€34.8bn) to $100bn (€94bn).

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Nuclear Energy Weekly News Digest 350

reporter2This is an occasional summary of the best posts from the pro-nuclear blogging community in North America. This week’s collection comes from items submitted for the two week period ending March 11, 2016.

ANS Nuclear Cafe – Will Davis
Six Years Later, Many to Go

It’s been six years since an earthquake and tsunami destroyed six nuclear reactors at Fukushima, Japan. Will Davis reports that the last quarter of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 have seen rapid progress made in answering the most burning question about the present condition of the nuclear plants, which is this:

What are the condition and location of the damaged and melted fuel in the three units which suffered accidents? This determination is absolutely essential in order for TEPCO to plan out how to remove these materials and ultimately dismantle and remove the highly contaminated reactor buildings. Progress has been steady, sometimes not as planned, and at times, confusing.

Atomic Insights – Rod Adams
Rally to proclaim support for Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant

Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) is hosting its 3rd annual rally in support of the continued safe operation of PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant (DCPP) a week from today on Friday, March 17, 2017 (St. Patrick’s Day).

The event starts at 11:00 AM and is schedule to conclude at 1:00 PM. Participants are asked to gather at the plaza in front of the San Luis Obispo County Building at 1055  Monterey. Please come to support GREEN nuclear power wearing your green!

Atomic Insights Blog
How to Campaign for Clean Air While Eating Plenty of Brownies

In this post, Rod Adams reviews Meredith Angwin’s recent book, Campaigning for Clean Air: Strategies for Pro-Nuclear Advocacy.  He describes the book as

Meredith’s little instruction book for budding nuclear advocates is punchy, filled with practical exercises, gives step by step instruction with options…. there are times when you want to simply put down the book and take one of her recommended actions to see how it works and feels.

Nuke Power Talk – Gail Marcus
The Dilemma of Regulation

At Nuke Power Talk, Gail Marcus explores some of the pros and cons of regulation.  She looks beyond the nuclear field at some of the most famous examples from the annals of history where regulations have made a key difference to health and safety.  In view of the current focus on what is wrong with regulation, this analysis points out that there are two sides to the story.

Next Big Future – Brian Wang
U-Battery in Pre-Licensing Design Review with CNSC

The U-Battery consortium, led by Urenco, has registered its micro-modular reactor technology for pre-licensing vendor design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

The consortium aims to have a demonstration reactor operating by 2025, and estimates that by the 4th-of-a-kind unit, U-Battery’s capital costs will be between £40 and £70 million ($49 and $86 million).

Russian Starts Commercial Operation of its 1st VVER-1200 MW Reactor

Known as Novovoronezh 6, the unit was connected to the network in early August last year, but Rosatom said this week that it had officially started commercial operation on 27 February. This followed approval to include power generated by the unit in the country’s wholesale electricity market, the state nuclear corporation said.

China to Complete 5 Nuclear Reactors in 2017

China will complete construction of five nuclear power reactors and start construction of eight more in 2017, according to plans released by the country’s National Energy Administration (NEA). Planning for a further eight reactors will also be progressed this year.

In its Energy Work Guidance Opinion for 2017, published on 10 February, the NEA said construction will be completed of the Sanmen 1 and Haiyang 1 AP1000 units, the Taishan 1 EPR and the Fuqing 4 and Yangjiang 4 CPR-1000 units. These, together with “other projects”, will add some 6.41 GWe of nuclear generating capacity, it said.

Neutron Bytes – Dan Yurman
An Up & Down Week for Developers of Advanced Reactors

In Washington, DC, the Third Way, a think tank, hosted a meeting of some of the country’s best thinkers, leaders, funders, and doers in the field of development advanced reactors. Cheerleading is helpful, but the proof will be in federal funding for reactor R&D and regulatory reform at the NRC.

In Cambridge, MA, Transatomic, a startup, is now making a list of lessons learned following publication of a critical review of the firm’s reactor design. One of the lessons is that other start-ups with audacious claims are likely to receive similar levels of scrutiny.

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NASA Re-starts PU-238 Production at Two Sites

Darlington power plant helps fuel NASA’s space exploration

Plutonium_pelletA Canadian nuclear plant is stepping up to ensure NASA’s ongoing exploration of deep space continues for years to come.

The Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Clarington, Ontario will produce and harvest Plutonium-238, a spacecraft fueling agent, for NASA. (Fact Sheet) Production could be underway by 2020 according to the utility. (Press Release)

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and its venture arm, Canadian Nuclear Partners, have teamed up to fill the gap left after the United States stopped producing the glowing oxide pellet back in 1988.

NASA is teaming up with OPG’s nuclear facilities to replenish their inventory and fuel their existing (and future) fleet of space probes.

Plutonium-238 acts like a battery to space craft. By emitting steady heat through natural radioactive decay, and using a solid state thermo-couple, it produces electricity aboard the craft to fuel it and keep scientific equipment warm enough to function in space.

“Spacecraft’s usually use the sun to provide electricity to solar panels but that only works in the inner solar system,” Randy Attwood, of the Royal Astronomical Society, told CTV News Toronto.

“Once we send space crafts out beyond Jupiter, there’s not enough sunlight out there to provide enough electricity to allow the spacecraft to work.”

The proposed plan would have rods produced by Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) in Washington State and shipped to Darlington where they would be inserted into the “reactor core” to produce the Plutonium-238.

Unlike Plutonium-239, the 238 isotope is not weapons grade, thus impossible to use for a nuclear bomb and safe to move when handled properly.

On the Web

NASA Radioisotope Power Systems – home page

Advanced Stirling Radioisotope Generator – design overview and future plans

DOE Re-Starts PU-238 Production at National Labs

In a press statement released 2/17/17 the Department of Energy (DOE), in collaboration with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), has reached an important milestone towards reestablishing the ability to fuel future space exploration missions. Now, a small quantity of newly produced heat source plutonium oxide (PU-238) is destined for use on the Mars 2020 rover.

Like the Curiosity rover that has been exploring Mars since August 2012, the Mars 2020 mission will obtain its electrical power from a radioisotope power system called a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (MMRTG). A MMRTG converts the heat created by naturally decaying plutonium-238 into electricity that can be used to run a spacecraft and its science instruments.

Radioisotope power systems enable or enhance missions where sunlight is infrequent, obscured by dust, or dimmed by distance, making other sources of power impractical or insufficient.

DOE made plutonium-238 at its Savannah River Site from the 1960’s until the 1980’s but that capability was terminated as the site’s reactor operations ended. Since then, the Department and NASA have utilized existing inventories of plutonium-238 and supplemental purchases from Russia to support NASA exploration missions through the mid-2020s.


In 2012, DOE and NASA initiated efforts to reestablish the capability to produce plutonium-238 utilizing existing DOE research reactors at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory. Late in 2015, DOE produced the first new plutonium-238 in the country in nearly 30 years at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The plutonium was converted into heat source plutonium oxide this past fall and a portion was shipped to Los Alamos National Laboratory for analysis to verify its acceptance for use in space missions. The plutonium oxide was judged to be acceptable, and the agencies have agreed to a pilot demonstration that will include use of a small portion of the new heat-source plutonium oxide in the MMRTG under construction for Mars 2020 mission. Los Alamos National Laboratory will blend the new heat source material with its existing inventory to make the fueled clads for the radioisotope power system.

Design work begins for 2020s Europa probe

(Space Reporter) The Europa project achieved an important milestone with the successful completion of a planning stage in which a list of science instruments to be carried on the probe was compiled. The mission will be powered by a radioisotope thermo-nuclear-power generator (RTG). (JPL web page on Europa mission)  Europa, a moon of Jupiter, is too far from the sun for solar panels to be useful.

Yet, Europa is one of the prime locations for possible extraterrestrial microbial life because it has a subsurface ocean, heat produced in its core by geological processes, and the chemical building blocks of life. If microbes are present on Europa, they likely live in hydrothermal vents in the underground ocean, much like those discovered in similar environments on Earth.

While the $2 billion probe will orbit Europa, it will not land on the moon’s surface or confirm whether life is present. Its goal is limited to studying the subsurface environment and determining whether it is capable of hosting life.

Ten instruments have been selected for placement on the spacecraft. High-resolution cameras will map the moon’s surface, and heat detectors will search for temperature variations and sites where plumes are erupting through surface cracks. Other instruments will penetrate surface ice with radar, measure the ice’s thickness, study the underground ocean, and analyze Europa’s plumes.

Nuclear Energy Bill Passes In Kentucky Senate

(Wire Services) Proponents of nuclear power are hoping the seventh time is a charm at Kentucky’s capitol. The state Senate voted Wednesday to lift a moratorium preventing the storage of nuclear waste in the commonwealth.

That action is viewed as opening the door to future nuclear reactor construction. Bill sponsor Danny Carrol admits, even with passage of this bill, such a project could be a decade away.

Carrol, who is from Paducah, is optimistic the nuclear power bill will be considered by the House. Kentucky has considered nuclear energy as way to exploit its coal deposits through development of coal gasification and for other alternative fossil fuels. Carol has promoted Paducah as a site for development of an SMR.

Boulder, Colorado Man Seeks Molten Salt Reactor to Power City

Do not discount the vision and nerve of William DeOreo, a civil engineer doing business in the city by the Flatirons. In an OP ED published in the Daily Camera on 2/26/17, DeOreo writes that Boulder could give up relying on coal-fired electrical power and instead build a molten salt nuclear reactor.

DeOreo argues that Molten Salt Reactors are practical designs that are currently under active development by several U.S. and Canadian companies. The first working MSR was located at the Oak Ridge National Labs. It ran for approximately five years between ~1965 and 1970.  (Schematic below for prototype MSR design courtesy Terrestrial Energy)


DedOreo says that if Boulder owned and operated its own MSR, the unit would generate its annual energy contribution with approximately 66 pounds of fissionable material. At the same time, because of the nature of the reactor design it would generate less than 10 pounds of high level waste, all safely contained in the liquid salt.

To this end he has contacted John Kutsch of Terrestrial Energy to speak at a public meeting on April 20, at 3:30 PM at the Boulder Public Library.  More information:

Beloyarsk BN-1200 Decision ‘Could Be Taken By End Of Year

(NucNet) Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom will make a final decision on whether or not to go ahead with construction of a Generation IV BN-1200 sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor at the Beloyarsk nuclear power station in central Russia by the end of the year. This report in Tass contradicts earlier reports that a decision might not be taken until 2019.

The report said pre-project work had begun on the BN-1200. A a final decision on whether to proceed will depend largely on the results of operating Beloyarsk-4, the pilot BN-800 plant, which began commercial operation in November 2016. Russia is planning to build two BN-1200 units at Beloyarsk with commercial operation originally scheduled by 2025.

U-Battery begins Canadian pre-licensing process

(WNN) The U-Battery consortium, led by Urenco, has registered its micro-modular reactor technology for pre-licensing vendor design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

U-Battery is a ‘micro’ nuclear reactor which will be able to produce local power and heat for a range of energy needs, mainly targeting the markets for industrial power units and off-grid locations. Powered by Triso fuel, each helium gas-cooled unit produces 10 MWt, can deliver up to 4MWe as electricity and can provide 750 degrees Celsius of process heat.

Triso fuel comprises spherical particles of uranium fuel with a triple carbon-coating which effectively gives each tiny particle its own primary containment system.

The concept design of U-Battery was developed by the Universities of Manchester, the Dalton Institute (UK) and the Technology University of Delft (Netherlands) after the project was initiated in 2008 by Urenco. It is being developed by a consortium of Amec Foster Wheeler, Cammell-Laird, Laing O’Rourke and Urenco.

The consortium aims to have a demonstration reactor operating by 2025, and estimates that by the 4th-of-a-kind unit, U-Battery’s capital costs will be between £40 and £70 million ($49 and $86 million).

China sets out nuclear plans for 2017

(WNN) China will complete construction of five nuclear power reactors and start construction of eight more in 2017, according to plans released by the country’s National Energy Administration (NEA). Planning for a further eight reactors will also be progressed this year.

In its Energy Work Guidance Opinion for 2017, published on 2/10/17, the NEA said construction will be completed of the Sanmen 1 and Haiyang 1 AP1000 units, the Taishan 1 EPR and the Fuqing 4 and Yangjiang 4 CPR-1000 units. These, together with “other projects”, will add some 6.41 GWe of nuclear generating capacity.

Also, the plans calls for construction of the high-temperature gas-cooled demonstration project in Shidaowan in Shandong province. It also said it would “prudently” promote the preliminary work of small reactor demonstration projects.

Preparatory work is also to be carried out this year on another eight units. These include units 3 and 4 of Sanmen, Ningde units 5 and 6, and two units each at new plants at Zhangzhou in Fujian province and Huizhou in Guangdong province. Together with other projects, these will add 9.86 GWe of nuclear generating capacity.

The NEA also said China will promote the export of its nuclear power technology by promoting the implementation of the Hualong One reactor design in the UK. The country will also strengthen its nuclear cooperation with other countries, including Russia and the USA. It will also seek “steady progress” on nuclear power project cooperation with Argentina, Romania and Turkey.

Over the next five years China aims to have all four Sanmen and Haiyang AP1000 units in operation. It also aims to develop Hualong One demonstration projects at Fuqing and Fangchenggang and begin construction on the CAP1400 demonstration project at Shidaowan.

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An Up & Down Week for Developers of Advanced Reactors

twsumlogoIn Washington, DC, the Third Way, a think tank, hosted a meeting of some of the country’s best thinkers, leaders, funders, and doers in the field of development advanced reactors. Cheerleading is helpful, but the proof will be in federal funding for reactor R&D and regulatory reform at the NRC.

transatomic logoIn Cambridge, MA, Transatomic, a startup, is now making a list of lessons learned following publication of a critical review of the firm’s reactor design. One of the lessons is that other start-ups with audacious claims are likely to receive similar levels of scrutiny.

Third Way Showcases Year of Progress on Advanced Reactors

Every year the Third Way, a multi-faceted think tank in Washington, DC, holds an annual showcase on advanced nuclear reactors. It draws a national who’s who of people working in this area including technology leaders, national lab scientists, elected officials, and investors. The entire event is live streamed end-to-end and the individuals sessions are also archived, along with a complete video of the proceedings, on YouTube.

While a lot of cheerleading goes on at the meeting, it is also a serious conference with a lot of different points of view that range from how to innovate to why the nuclear industry is doing it wrong in promoting its value to the American people.  One of the best sessions is about what’s next in terms of collaboration between developers, investors, and the government. One session was ominously titled “Innovate or Die.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), an inside the beltway trade association for the commercial nuclear industry, is a participant in the meeting and its public affairs team posted some highlights of the discussions on their website. Here are a few of them.

>> Third Way board member Rachel Pritzker identified three main strands in favor of moving the nuclear industry into a technological future: global competitiveness and jobs; regaining the United States’ global leadership for security; and the need to meet the planet’s burgeoning future energy demand.

>> The U.S. Department of Energy’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative gives private entrepreneurs access to the expertise in DOE’s system of national laboratories.

“GAIN’s mission is to make sure innovative nuclear technologies get to market faster,” GAIN Director Rita Baranwal said. “GAIN is already making a difference in bringing the national labs’ capabilities to innovators. We have awarded $2 million in vouchers to small companies, and have just announced the availability of a second round of awards, opening March 13.”

>> NuScale Power LLC, the furthest ahead of several companies working in advanced reactor innovation, on Dec. 31 last year submitted its application asking the NRC to certify its small modular reactor (SMR) design.

>> Caroline Cochran, founder and chief operating officer of advanced reactor startup Oklo Inc., said her company has had a good experience working with GAIN, having been one of the first recipients of the initiative’s small business vouchers.

Oklo is a Silicon Valley-based company that is developing a two-megawatt “micro-reactor” that could bring electricity to remote, rural native communities or military bases. The company is now working with Argonne and Idaho national laboratories on different aspects of their development process.

>> Micah Hackett, manager of materials development at TerraPower LLC, noted that even a much larger company like his, with wealthy investors and 150 full-time employees, does not have the full set of skills needed in-house. TerraPower has leveraged the knowledge base of a group of vendors and suppliers with which it has partnered—including the federal government.

>> INL Director Mark Peters said that GAIN was established not only for early-stage R&D and as a demonstration platform for first-of-a-kind innovators like NuScale, but also to push for progressive deployment.

“Right now we’re at a tipping point. Advanced reactors have an opportunity to leapfrog our overseas competitors, using the advantage of our national labs and universities, which are still the best in the world,” Peters said.

What is unclear is whether the new Trump Administration, and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, will support advanced nuclear energy R&D.  Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, the nominee to head the Department of Energy, once called for it to be abolished.

It also became painfully clear, at least initially, that he had no idea what the agency does. It is going to take more than a few 3-ring binders of briefing books to close that gap.

In a riveting and frightening appraisal of his shortcomings for doing the job, a piece by Huffington Post writer Dominique Mosbergen lists eight compelling reasons to worry about his abilities to meet the challenges of the position.

Meanwhile, the priorities of the Trump White House appears to be to conduct a running war with the national news media over issues large and small, but which have nothing to do with energy policy and climate change.  It is not a hopeful outlook, at least for now.

Transatomic Revises Technology Statements About Its Advanced Reactor Design

mit tech rev logoMIT Technology Review has published an article which calls into question the technology claims of Transatomic, an advanced reactor startup based in Cambridge, MA

In a February 24 article by energy editor James Temple, the publication said, “Nuclear energy startup Transatomic Power has backed away from bold claims for its advanced reactor technology after an informal review by MIT professors highlighted serious errors in the company’s calculations”

The firm, which has been widely cited as being part of the bow wave of nuclear energy entrepreneurs, got its start in 2011 when two MIT PhDs said they could design a nuclear reactor, based on a molten salt fuel, that could run on spent nuclear fuel from conventional reactors.

The firm also said in white papers and other technical publications that its reactor “can generate up to 75 times more electricity per ton of mined uranium than a light-water reactor.”

These audacious claims helped the firm raise millions in venture capital and gain top drawer technical advisers as well as glowing media profiles. However, audacious claims require similar levels of proof.

In November 2016 the firm posted a new white paper that company downgraded performance levels from “75 times” to “more than twice.”

It says that the design “does not reduce existing stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel,” nor use them as its fuel source. MIT Technology Review’s article makes the point that the promise of recycling nuclear waste “was a key initial promise of the company that captured considerable attention.”

It is a major retreat from the firm’s initial published findings. The MIT Technology Review article will also have industry-wide impacts. It may have the the effect of putting other nuclear energy entrepreneurs on notice that they too may get the same enhanced levels of analysis of their claims.

For its part Transatomic said it realized there was a problem in 2016, which is five years after its work got underway.

According to MIT Technology Review, the changes in 2016 by Transatomics to its claims about performance of its reactor design followed an analysis in late 2015 by Kord Smith, a nuclear science and engineering professor at MIT and an expert in the physics of nuclear reactors.

His review was prompted by concerns about the validity and credibility of Transatomic’s claims since the firm had an R&D relationship with the university.

His starting point uses an analogy which says that promising to increase the reactor’s fuel efficiency by 75 times is the rough equivalent of saying that a firm had developed a car that could get 2,500 miles per gallon.

“I said this is obviously incorrect based on basic physics,” Smith told MIT Technology Review. He asked the company to run a test, which ended up confirming that “their claims were completely untrue,” Smith said.

One positive note is that the new white paper claims the reactor could reduce waste by 53 percent compared to light-water reactors. The viability of the latter finding was recently verified by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

But the analysis found the reactor couldn’t sustain a fission chain reaction long enough using spent fuel for it to be a feasible option, as previously hoped, Dewan said in a subsequent phone interview with the magazine.

This is a very tough experience for Transatomic’s young, idealistic, and ambitious principals. Transatomic has now pushed back its plans to build a prototype reactor by at least a year.

“We certainly have a long road ahead of us,” she said, noting technical, engineering, supply chain, and regulatory challenges. “But I think that momentum is on our side.”

Lessons Learned

Transatomic’s mistake is not that it sought to deceive its backers with false claims, but that it got ahead of its own headlights in terms of validating the technical results of its research.

With a “rock star” technical advisory committee, as it is described by the magazine, maybe Transatomic’s principals should have gotten them more engaged much earlier in looking at the products of their R&D work.

Inexperience and overconfidence are common faults of many startups, and being called out for these missteps is not necessarily fatal to the enterprise.

MIT Technology Review points out in its article that the company has raised at least $4.5 million from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Acadia Woods Partners, and Daniel Aegerter of Armada Investment AG. Venture capital veteran Ray Rothrock serves as chairman of the company. For now they are sticking with Transatomic.

“We invested in Transatomic because of their reactor’s passively safe design and dramatically reduced costs and waste,” Scott Nolan, partner at Founders Fund, said in a statement.

Rothrock said in an e-mail response to the magazine: “I remain committed to Transatomic’s mission and plan. The world needs more nuclear power. And while we are still early days for [Transatomic Power], I’m encouraged [by the] results so far.”

Dewan acknowledged in an email to the magazine it should have sought peer review or other forms of hard feedback earlier.

“In retrospect, that was a mistake of mine,” she said during the phone interview. “We should have open-published more of our information at a far earlier stage.”

Thorcon White Paper Posted at IAEA

ThorCon announces that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has published details of the ThorCon liquid fission power plant on IAEA’s go-to web site for advanced power reactors, ARIS. ThorCon claims that its 250 MW MSR power plants when built will deliver energy cheaper than coal and will be be mass produced by shipyards after demonstration in Indonesia.  See also this briefing from Thorcon on the reactor.

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Posted in Nuclear | 7 Comments