Rita Baranwal Confirmed to AS/Nuclear

nuclearartRita Baranwal was confirmed to be the Assistant Secretary, Nuclear Energy, at DOE, by the Senate on Thursday 6/20/19 by a vote of 86-5 with the Nevada and Massachusetts delegations being the primary negative votes.

Update July 11, 2019: Rita Baranwal Sworn in as U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy

Since August 2016 Baranwal has been the Director of the Department of Energy’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation (GAIN).

The program develops public/private partnerships and provides financial assistance through several mechanisms to developers of new nuclear technologies. The program is operated at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Previously, Baranwal worked for Westinghouse and the Betis Atomic Power Laboratory. She holds a Ph.D. in materials science and engineering from the University of Michigan.

According to a report in the Morning Consult, Baranwal said “the Energy Department can play a key R&D role in helping non-light water advanced demonstration reactors.”

She reportedly cited the implementation of the versatile test reactor program, which could support for domestic testing of nuclear fuels, sensors and other materials.

Baranwal’s confirmation was delayed by disputes between the Nevada congressional delegation and the Department of Energy over disposition of spent fuel, weapons grade plutonium, and especially the Yucca Mountain site all in Nevada.

Previous coverage on this blog:  INL’s Rita Baranwal nominated to be Assistant Secretary, Nuclear Energy, at the U.S. Department of Energy.

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Japan’s Energy Goals Set Nuclear at 20%

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(Japan English language wire services / NucNet) Japan is calling for further efforts to cut its carbon emissions by promoting renewable energy. Signifiantly, it is also pushing nuclear power despite its experience with the 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

To reach its expected goals related to climate change it will have to restart reactors not slated to be decommisioned, complete units that were under construction in 2011, and complete plans for new units to replace current plants.

Chief among the restarts which need to take place are the seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. Five of the units are rated at 1100 MW and two at just under 1400 MW. All of the reactors are BWRs.

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The nuclear reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant

The new policy of boosting reliance on nuclear power to 20% or more faces continued anti-nuclear sentiment which has been used successfully as a wedge issue by some political candidates seeking to unseat incumbents.

This practice has been particularly visible in Niigata Prefecture which is home to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors. In fairness, some of the home grown angst has been earned by TEPCO which owns and operates the seven reactors due to a series of fires and also problems with handling low level radioactive waste and disputes about leaks of radioactive water into the nearby ocean.

Separately, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has been imposing new safety requirements across the board for all plants. It recently mandated design upgrades for protective measures against terrorist attacks and preparations for dealing with the effects of volcanic eruptions. Both measures have been criticized as “excessive” in that the costs are seen by Japanese utilities as over reach relative to the potential for terrorism and unrealistic as the potentially impacted reactors are 200 miles from the nearest volcano.

Nuclear reactor restarts in Japan overall are proceeding slowly and utility companies have opted to scrap older and smaller reactors instead of spending capital on additional safety measures required by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Nearly half of the reactors in Japan are now slated for decommissioning. Only nine units have resumed operation since the 2011 accident. The operating units are Ohi-3 and -4, Genkai-3 and -4, Sendai-1 and -2, Takahama-3 and -4, and Ikata-3. (map)

Policy Paper Sets 20% Goal for Nuclear Energy

An energy policy paper, adopted by the Japanese government cabinet last week said the nation faces the urgent task of reducing carbon emissions by utilities that rely heavily on fossil fuel plants. Japan shut down all of its nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster in 2011, and has slowly restarted a handful of them.

The paper addresses major issues including global warming countermeasures and energy problems in line with the Paris Agreement.

Concerning Japan’s long-term target of an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050, as directed by the Paris Agreement, the White Paper states that “it would be difficult to meet the target by merely extending conventional efforts.”

The White Paper also compares the CO2 emission targets, efforts and progress being made in several major countries. It analyzes the various factors underlying them. Continued use of fossil fuels is one of the major impediments to meeting climate goals. Currently, Japan ranks 27th among the 35 OECD nations in per-capita CO2 emissions.

Japanese utilities rely heavily on fossil fuel plants. Coal and natural gas now account for 74% of Japan’s energy supply. Nuclear energy made up about one-third of Japan’s energy supply before 2011.

Given that Japan is highly efficient in terms of energy consumption, but weak in terms of energy supply — eighty percent of its of electricity generation depends on fossil fueled thermal power — the White Paper stressed the importance of accelerating the reduction of CO2 emissions. Toward the realization of non-fossil power sources, it said that Japan would “continue promoting the restart of nuclear reactors, putting priority on safety.”

According to the white paper, Japan wants renewable energy’s share in 2030 to grow to 22-24% of the country’s power supply from 16%, while pushing nuclear energy to 20-22% from just 3% in 2017. The report said the cost of renewables also needs to be reduced but didn’t specify how that goal would be met.

Managing Spent Nuclear Fuel in Japan

Due to plans to shut down a number of reactors, Japan’s stockpile of spent nuclear fuel, which contains plutonium, is growing. This has worried nonproliferation experts who question Japan’s transparency about how it plans to handle the material.

About 37 tonnes of spent Japanese fuel is being stored in France and Britain where it has been slated for reprocessing since Japan lacks the capability to do it at home.

Japan’s main reprocessing plant at Rokkasho, where plutonium and spent fuel are stored but reprocessing has not started, says the 10 tonnes stored in Japan is under close monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency and there is no risk of proliferation.

Prior coverage on this blog: New York Times Gets Half the Story on Japan’s MOX fuel Plan

Shellenberger in Japan Talks About Managing Spent Nuclear Fuel

Shellenberger Japan

Michael Shellenberger speaks to JAIF about Managing Spent Nuclear Fuel

Environmental Activist Michael Shellenberger of Environmental Progress, famous as an environmental activist who supports nuclear power, visited Japan to make a special presentation at the 52nd Japan Industrial Forum (JAIF) Annual Conference.

At a press conference after the presentation, he explained why he changed his view of nuclear power, something he once opposed.

He emphasized his views on disposal of radioactive waste and the nuclear industry’s adherence to underground burial of it. Here are some highlights.
“The extent of people’s fears of radioactive waste and nuclear power can be attributed to traumatic feelings about the power of the then-innovative technology seen in the atomic bombings nearly seventy-five years ago.”
“Those experiences reverberate today. Since then, no one has been harmed by radioactive waste, and the volumes of it are relatively small. In contrast, according to WHO, air pollution as a result of burning fossil fuels or biofuels kills seven million people annually. When today’s solar panels reach the ends of their lives twenty or twenty-five years from now, the volume of that waste will be 200 to 300 times the volume of nuclear waste.”

Shellenberger offered some psychological insights as to why people react so strongly to the issue of where to store and dispose of spent nucleaar fuel. He said the public’s thinking “has been formed in the anthropological and psychological sphere” and does not have a technical understanding of the risk issues.

He explained that above ground interim storage of spent fuel is safe, but the public has other ideas. It’s almost a case of superstition and an escape from reality he said.
“Above ground, it would be possible to monitor the waste continually and confirm that it remains stable. Anthropologically, however, burying it is a ceremony, interring something no longer needed, beneath the ground.”

According to Shellenberger there are deeply rooted reasons why people become so emotional over the issue.
“When I listen to people talk about radiation, it sounds like they are talking about an evil spirit rather than a physical phenomenon. There is an impulse common to every culture to rid ourselves of the unwanted and to bury it forever.”
“I want people to realize why they think like that. I want them to see that they are unconsciously seeking to eradicate a powerful technology.”

Shellenberger’s remarks were reported by the JAIF.

Finland Details Roadmap to Carbon Neutrality

(S&P Global Platts) Finland’s new center-left coalition government plans to “move towards carbon neutrality by 2035,” it said in a detailed policy document.

Production of electricity and heat must be “almost emission-free” by the end of the 2030s, driven by the removal of energy tax relief for heavy industry and introduction of tax benefits on heat pumps, offshore wind turbines and electricity storage.

Highights of the plan according to Platts include;

  • Use of coal in generation is supposed to be phased out by 2029.
  • The use of peat in generation is forecast to end in the 2030s.
  • The use of heating oil is to be phased out entirely in the early 2030s, with use in state and municipal buildings abandoned by 2024.

To achieve these ends the Finnish government said the electrification and the connection of energy systems (electricity, heat and transport) will require a significant increase in renewable electricity production.

In terms of nuclear energy, the extension of existing nuclear power plant licenses would be accepted on condition the country’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority supported these applications.

Finland’s Nuclear Energy Profile

Finland has four nuclear reactors providing about 30% of its electricity. A fifth reactor is under construction and another is planned, to take the nuclear energy to about 60% and replace coal. Provisions for radioactive waste disposal are well underway.

Olikiluoto 3, a 1600 MW EPR, is now slated to enter revenue service in January 2020. The plant has experienced numerous and costly delays during construction. Startup woes with the steam system have also set back a commissioning date.

The new Fennovoima Hanhikivi 1 has seen delays due to safety assessments of plans for the unit which is a 1200 MW VVER to be built by Rosatom with a consortium of Finnish firms. The utility Fennovoima has said its goal is to get the construction licence by the end of 2019. In December 2018 Rosatom told the company that first power would be in 2028 due to delays in documentation with STUK, and construction start was likely in 2021.

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Holtec Inks Ukraine Deal to Build SMRs

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Conceptual Design Image of SMR-160

(WNN) Holtec International, Ukraine’s Energoatom and the country’s State Scientific and Technology Centre (SSTC) have formally entered into a partnership to develop the US company’s SMR-160 small modular reactor for deployment in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s national nuclear operator Energoatom, the SSTC and Holtec International have ratified the creation of a consortium partnership that binds the three companies into a cooperative undertaking to deploy the SMR-160 small modular reactor in the country.

The consortium document was signed by Holtec CEO Kris Singh, Energoatom President Yury Nedashkovsky and SSTC President Igor Shevchenko. The signing ceremony – held at Holtec’s headquarters in Camden, New Jersey – was attended by senior Holtec officials and delegations from Mitsubishi Electric, the US Department of Energy and Energoatom. Its technology operation centre will be based in Kiev, Ukraine.

Holtec’s SMR technology deal with Ukraine is that it will become a manufacturing hub for SMR-160 reactor components. The MoU includes the licensing and construction of SMR-160 reactors in Ukraine, as well as an unspecified level of localisation of SMR-160 components.

The Ukrainian manufacturing hub is to mirror the capabilities of Holtec’s Advanced Manufacturing Plant in Camden, NJ, and will be one of four manufacturing plants Holtec plans to build at distributed sites around the world by the mid-2020s.  Holtec’s web site does not indicate where the other two plants will be built.

Holtec has not named a customer for its first unit. The SMR-160 is currently in the first phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s three-phase pre-licensing vendor design review process.

WNN reports that the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine, the nuclear regulatory authority in Ukraine, is expected to coordinate its regulatory assessment of SMR-160 under a collaborative arrangement with its Canadian counterpart.

See prior coverage on this blogSMR Supply Chains, Costs Are Key Focus

Holtec’s Tax Break Application Had a False Answer.
Now the State Has Put the Break on Hold.

(Pro Publica) After WNYC and ProPublica identified a false answer on nuclear company Holtec International’s New Jersey tax break application, state officials have frozen the tax break pending further investigation. Reporting by by Nancy Solomon, WNYC, and Jeff Pillets June 4, 1:08 p.m. EDT Link

New Jersey state officials have placed a hold on a $260 million tax break for Holtec International, a nuclear energy company that built its new headquarters on the Camden waterfront. The plant is intended to manufacture components for small modular reactors.

NJ Officials took the action after a report last month from WNYC and ProPublica about an inaccuracy in a sworn certification submitted by Holtec CEO Kris Singh as part of the company’s application. In 2014, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) granted Holtec the second-largest tax break in state history to help the company bring new jobs to the city.

The company collected its first installment, a $26 million tax credit, after moving into its new headquarters in 2017. It would have been eligible for a $26 million credit every year thereafter for nine years.

Holtec did not respond to a request for comment from Pro Publica and WNYC. After WNYC and ProPublica contacted Holtec about the incorrect information on the application, a lawyer representing Holtec wrote to the EDA, calling the misstatement an “inadvertent mistake” that the company would like to correct.

In the sworn statement required for the tax break application, Holtec CEO Kris Singh said the company had never been barred from doing business with a state or federal agency. According to the news report, in 2010, the Tennessee Valley Authority suspended the company for two months and fined it $2 million after a federal investigation found the company had paid a TVA employee $54,212.

The employee pleaded guilty to a federal charge of failing to report the payment on a financial disclosure form. Holtec restored its relationship with the TVA. Holtec continues to hold contracts with the agency to this day some nine years after the case was closed.

These kinds of contract disputes in the world of federal procurement take place all the time, and are considered to be “one offs” by acquisition officials. The fact that TVA still does business with Holtec is an indication of this fact and that the firm was not barred from doing business with the utility as a result of the incident.

NJ wanted the 1,000 jobs Holtec promised for Camden which is one of the state’s most economically depressed cities. The size of the tax break in NJ, $260M, has attracted its share of critics some of whom are from firms that undoubtedly are annoyed they didn’t also get big tax breaks.

Holtec Allies Reach Out to NM Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Resistance to an Interim Storage Site for Spent Nuclear Fuel Near Carlsbad

(Carlsbad Current-Argus) Local officials said they were “disappointed” in New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy in opposition of a project to build a nuclear waste facility in southeast New Mexico, near Carlsbad and Hobbs.

The proposal by Holtec International would create a consolidated interim storage (CIS) facility to hold spent nuclear fuel rods temporarily while a permanent repository is developed.

Supporters intend to meet with the governor and New Mexico Environment Department Cabinet Secretary James Kenney to explain why the project is viable and safe. The site would be built on about 1,000 acres near the border of Eddy and Lea counties. New Mexico is also home to the nearby Waste Isolation Pilot Project (WIPP).

Opponents challenged plans for the site as dangerous to the environment and worried the facility could become permanent as no other such repository exists or is in development. As a practical matter, the site is bone dry and geologically stable making it an ideal site for interim storage of spent fuel.

Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway said the project would diversify the region’s economy, bringing jobs and revenue and economic stability amid the volatile oil and gas industry the area depends on. Advocates for the Holtec project added that, like WIPP, the project would pose no threat to the oil and gas industry in the region.

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Interview with NuScale’s Jose Reyes

Jose Reyes photo 2018

Jose Reyes

Jose N. Reyes, Ph.D., (right) is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of NuScale Power, and the co-designer of the NuScale passively-cooled small nuclear reactor. He agreed to do an interview by email with this blog.

This is one of the more lengthy interviews that Reyes has done recently with the nuclear trade press. The complete set of questions and his answers are found below.

Here are a few take-aways to get you started.

Romania – NuScale signed an MOU with Romania to address development, licensing and construction of a NuScale SMR for a potential long-term energy solution in Romania.

UK – The focus is on development of the supply chain and high value manufacturing. The UK represents a valuable opportunity for NuScale to transform the the country into an export hub, capturing significant share of a lucrative future global SMR market.

Jordan – NuScale could be a game-changer with this technology for Jordan. It’s small footprint, low cost, minimal needs for cooling water compared to a 1000 MW Russian VVER, all work to its advantage there.

NRC design review, operational date – The NRC review is expected to be completed in September 2020.

NuScale’s first customer, UAMPS, plans to commence site preparation in 2021.  Nuclear construction (i.e., first safety related concrete) will commence in 2023 with the first module operational by late 2026. The full 12-module plant will be operational by 2027.

Supply Chain in the US  – Multiple vendors are onboard.

The supply chain for NuScale’s technology largely resides in the United States and could potentially support 13,500 jobs across the country (based on manufacturing three, 12-module plants per year).

Nuclear Fuel – The fuel bundle materials and low enriched fuel are identical to those currently used in full size PWRs.

Spent Fuel – All of the spent fuel generated by all 12 modules over the 60-year life of the plant can be safely stored in dry casks onsite within a relatively small footprint.

Nuclear energy R&D using NuScale’s reactors – INL-DOE to explore the potential for secure, hardened microgrids and the use of nuclear energy beyond the electricity sector, including applications that could contribute to economic growth and national security.

NuScale in Canada – NuScale has signed a service agreement with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to submit an application under the CNSC’s Vendor Design Review process in 2019. NuScale expects to make its first submittal by the end of 2019.

Full Text of the Complete Interview

What work is expected to take place under new agreement with Romania? The country has been in negotiations for several years with China for two new CANDU type reactors, PHWR, at Ceranvoda, but no deal yet. Is Romania considering SMRs as an alternative?   

Nuclear power currently provides 20 percent of domestic energy in Romania. Since its founding in 1998, Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica SA (SNN SA) has operated the only nuclear power plants in Romania. While we cannot speak to Romania’s energy plans, NuScale did sign a memorandum of understanding with SNN SA in March 2019 to evaluate the development, licensing and construction of a NuScale SMR for a potential long-term energy solution in Romania. We look forward to working with SNN SA to explore options for deploying our technology in Romania to serve as a carbon-free, renewable energy source for a variety of applications.

NuScale opened an office in UK. Any prospects elsewhere in Europe or UK you can discuss? UK has been slow to implement an SMR policy prompting Rolls Royce to go public with plans to possibly spin off its relevant business unit.  How do you see the SMR business climate there? Will Brexit be a problem?

Over the past five years NuScale has developed partnerships with leading UK companies such as Ultra Electronics and Sheffield Forgemasters, alongside running suppliers and partners event. We are committed to developing our UK partnership program further. Plans are underway for NuScale SMRs to be deployed in the UK within the next decade.

In keeping with the UK government’s strategy, NuScale SMRs could make a very significant contribution to providing a low carbon form of energy, alongside the fact that British companies could potentially provide more than 85% of the content required for those deployments. We aim to continue to support the development of UK skills and capabilities, particularly in the area of high value manufacturing.

There is a valuable opportunity for NuScale to transform the UK into an export hub, capturing significant share of a lucrative future global SMR market.

In terms of Brexit, we will make any necessary updates to our business strategy once there is greater clarity over the process.

What’s happening in Jordan? That country has entertained options with Rolls Royce for a LWR, X Entergy for an HTGR, South Korea for its SMART reactor, and NuScale. It ditched a deal with Rosatom for two 1000 MW VVER based on cost and inability to attract investors for its 50% share.  Which way will Jordan go? What’s the best case for NuScale in Jordan?

As Jordan considers its energy future, NuScale is confident that the unmatched resiliency and safety features of its SMR technology make the company the ideal partner on the country’s civil nuclear power goals. NuScale’s scalable multi-module plant design permits a high degree of flexibility for deployment in a wide range of conventional and unique electrical and thermal applications, including economic energy production.

This makes it a particularly attractive energy source for desalination processes at various scales. We look forward to using the agreement to showcase our SMR’s unique capabilities, cost benefits, and flexibility, all which demonstrate what a game-changer this technology will be for Jordan.

Expected date for NRC to complete design review?  Expected date for 1st unit to be ready to be complete and ready to load fuel?  What does the updated roadmap (graphic) look like today?  What are some of the highlights of the review so far, e.g., emergency planning zone, staffing, and backup electrical power?

NuScale’s technology is the first and only SMR design to undergo design certification review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In April 2018, the NRC completed the first and most intensive phase of review for NuScale’s DCA. NRC review progresses on schedule and is expected to be completed in September 2020.

NuScale’s first customer, UAMPS, plans to commence site preparation in 2021.  Nuclear construction (i.e., first safety related concrete) will commence in 2023 with the first module operational by late 2026. The full 12-module plant will be operational by 2027.

During the rigorous NRC’s phase 1 review, which included 115,000 hours spent reviewing the DCA, the NRC issued one-third the requests for additional information compared to other recent design certification applications. This demonstrates the simplicity of NuScale’s design and quality of its application.

In January 2018, NuScale announced the NRC concluded that application of NuScale Power’s novel safety design approach eliminates the need for class 1E power for its small modular reactor. Class 1E is the regulatory standard set for the design of safety-related nuclear power plant electrical systems.

The NRC approved NuScale Power’s “Safety Classification of Passive Nuclear Power Plant Electrical Systems” Licensing Topical Report, where the company established the bases of how a design can be safe without reliance on any safety-related electrical power. It’s a ground-breaking development because no operating nuclear plant in the country can make that claim.

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Diagram of NuScale’s 50 MW LWR Small Modular Reactor

How is development of supply chain coming along? NuScale has emphasized “factory” production of reactors. What will be mix of current production capacity at BWXT v. component suppliers.  e.g. steam system, turbine, etc.

NuScale is making progress on supply chain development through agreements with manufacturers and technology companies.

In September 2018, NuScale selected Virginia-based BWX Technologies, Inc. BWXT to start the engineering work to manufacture NuScale’s SMR. The decision, which follows a rigorous 18-month selection process, with expressed interest from 83 companies based in 10 countries, marks the first phase in bringing NuScale’s pioneering design to life.

In November 2018, NuScale announced that it has selected Minnesota-based PaR Systems, LLC to begin engineering work for the manufacturing of its Reactor Building Crane, an important element of NuScale’s innovative nuclear plant design.

In January 2019, NuScale and Ultra Electronics Energy unveiled a new safety display and indication system using field programmable gate array (FPGA) technology that represents the first application of FPGA technology for real time display and monitoring in the U.S. commercial nuclear industry. The innovative displays will enhance the already unparalleled safety of a NuScale Power Plant.

Additionally, Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Co., Ltd. (DHIC) is expected to bring its expertise in nuclear pressure vessel manufacturing and will join the larger U.S.-led manufacturing team to build.

The supply chain for NuScale’s technology largely resides in the United States and could potentially support 13,500 jobs across the country (based on manufacturing three, 12-module plants per year).

Hundreds of jobs would be created in the U.S. to support the design, construction, commissioning, and ongoing service support for NuScale plants deployed in the U.S. and abroad. NuScale itself does not have current plans to build a factory to fabricate NuScale Power Modules™ (NPMs). NuScale has selected Virginia-based BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT) to start the engineering work to manufacture the NPMs.

Any investment in additional factory capacity will be undertaken by the NPM manufacturers. By utilizing a diverse supply chain, there is a substantial U.S. fabrication capacity available today for the first several U.S. NuScale plants.

Is there anything unique about the nuclear fuel for NuScale compared to full size PWRs?

NuScale has worked with Framatome to develop its NuFuel-HTP2TM fuel bundles. The only unique feature of the design is that it is essentially one-half the height of those used in full size PWRs.  The fuel bundle materials and low enriched fuel are identical to those currently used in full size PWRs.

Will creation of spent fuel at Idaho site by UAMPS as utility operator create a new issue in Idaho? Reactor will be a tenant on INL based on DOE site permit. State of Idaho has taken hard line on no new spent fuel at Idaho until more progress is made with cleanup of nuclear waste.

For questions relating to the implications of fuel disposal at the UAMPS site, we’ll refer you to INL.

More generally, it’s important to keep in mind that used nuclear fuel still has considerable energy available and could be recovered. There are existing and new technologies on the drawing boards today that can utilize used nuclear fuel. We have demonstrated that used fuel can be safely transported and stored, as needed.

The NuScale design will also be able to take advantage of advanced fuel designs in development, when they are ready, which hold real promise to reduce the inventory of used fuel. The NuScale plant design incorporates proven safe, secure, and effective used fuel management systems.

Used fuel is stored underwater in a stainless steel lined concrete pool for at least 5 years; after which NuScale will use industry best-practice to move spent fuel from the pool to air-cooled dry cask storage. All of the spent fuel generated by all 12 modules over the 60-year life of the plant can be safely stored in dry casks onsite within a relatively small footprint.

In February 2016 Wisconsin removed a three decades old ban on new nuclear power plants. Does NuScale see an opportunity there as a result?  Any prospects you can talk about in other states?

Nuclear energy already provides 60% of our carbon free energy in the United States, and it is set to play an even larger role as we look to diminish our carbon footprint while meeting a growing energy demand. Civilization requires on-demand electricity resources, which can be met by NGCC, renewables plus storage or a NuScale plant.

We believe that all of these technologies are needed, and the need is growing. In the end, people want clean and affordable energy that is available on-demand. NuScale can meet that demand, and that value is recognized by the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), our first customer.

Small modular reactor (SMR) technology, and our NuScale Power Module™ (NPM) in particular, are uniquely positioned to lead the transition away from fossil fuels and traditional, large-scale nuclear facilities that come with burdensome costs and inefficiencies.

The applications for this technology – in Wisconsin, across the United States and around the world – are vast, ranging from industrial applications using process heat, to powering residential communities, critical installations and even meeting first-responder energy needs.

Moreover, the U.S. Department of Energy has already recognized the enormous potential of NuScale’s SMR technology and the needs in can address, having already awarded around $300 million in cost-shared financial assistance to advance its technology to date. It is difficult to overstate the potential SMRs have to address our green energy needs in the 21st century, and we look forward to bringing our first plant online at the Idaho National Laboratory in 2026.

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has a plan to conduct nuclear energy R&D using NuScale’s light water reactor technology. In doing so it will create a test bed on an international scale for advanced reactor designs. How are these plans coming along? What kind of R&D will take place?

DOE seeks long-term, reliable, resilient, and on-site electricity in support of INL operations including its important national security operations: through the recently-announced Joint Use Modular Plant (JUMP) program, DOE and UAMPS have signed an MOU agreeing that at least one module of the SMR project will be used power production to support INL’s energy needs.

Through JUMP program, INL-DOE will also have an unprecedented opportunity to conduct research within an operating commercial reactor environment. In addition to RD&D opportunities, the JUMP Program will allow INL-DOE to explore the potential for secure, hardened microgrids and the use of nuclear energy beyond the electricity sector, including applications that could contribute to economic growth and national security.

Canada is pushing hard to develop its SMR strategy?  What’s your view of their progress?

Canada is a very attractive market to NuScale, with a long history of world-leading nuclear operations, a strong supply chain for nuclear power, and a world class regulator. The Canadian Small Modular Reactor Roadmap estimates the global export market at $115 billion annually from 2030 through 2040.

NuScale is actively undertaking efforts to introduce our scalable, economic, carbon-free, and safe reactor to Canadian customers. By adding the reliable, flexible carbon-free energy we can provide to complement solar and wind, NuScale can make a real difference as Canada works to reduce its carbon emissions in the coming years.

NuScale has signed a service agreement with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) to submit an application under the CNSC’s Vendor Design Review process in 2019. NuScale expects to make its first submittal by the end of 2019.

NuScale’s MOUs with leading private and public sector nuclear entities in Canada – including Ontario Power Generation Inc. (OPG) and Bruce Power – provides great momentum for our efforts to introduce our scalable, economic, carbon-free, and safe reactor to Canadian customers.

NuScale supports SMR Start’s recommendations regarding U.S.-Canadian governmental collaboration to ensure that clean energy policies recognize and value the contributions made by nuclear energy to achieve environmental, as well as the recommendation that the U.S. and Canadian regulatory agencies cooperate to streamline regulatory reviews of SMR designs across the two countries.

About Jose N. Reyes, Ph.D.

nuscale logoJose N. Reyes, Ph.D., is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of NuScale Power, and the co-designer of the NuScale passively-cooled small nuclear reactor. An internationally recognized expert on passive safety system design, testing and operations for nuclear power plants, Dr. Reyes has served as a technical expert at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and as an engineer with the Reactor Safety Division of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). He is Professor Emeritus in the School of Nuclear Science and Engineering at Oregon State University, where he taught for more than 30 years and served as head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics.

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Global Leaders at Vancouver Energy Conference Sound an Alarm; Issue Calls for Action on Nuclear Energy to Address Climate Change

The International Energy Agency (IAE) has raised the alarm on a global scale about the decline of nuclear power for the first time in nearly two decades. IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol says that “without an important contribution from nuclear power, the global energy transition will be that much harder.”

Steep Decline in Nuclear Power
will Threaten Energy Security and Climate Goals

With nuclear power facing an uncertain future in many countries, the world risks a steep decline in its use in advanced economies that could result in billions of tonnes of additional carbon emissions, according to a new report by the International Energy Agency.

Nuclear energy is the second-largest low-carbon power source in the world today, accounting for 10% of global electricity generation. It is second only to hydropower at 16%.

For advanced economies – including the United States, Canada, the European Union and Japan – nuclear has been the biggest low-carbon source of electricity for more than 30 years and remains so today. It plays an important role in electricity security in several countries.

However, the future of nuclear power is uncertain as ageing plants are beginning to close in advanced economies, partly because of policies to phase them out but also as a result of economic and regulatory factors. Without policy changes, advanced economies could lose 25% of their nuclear capacity by 2025 and as much as two-thirds of it by 2040, according to the new report, Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System.  (download link)

The lack of further lifetime extensions of existing nuclear plants and new projects could result in an additional 4 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Some countries have opted out of nuclear power in light of concerns about safety and other issues. Many others still see a role for nuclear in their energy transitions but are not doing enough to meet their goals, according to the report.

“Without an important contribution from nuclear power, the global energy transition will be that much harder,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director.

“Alongside renewables, energy efficiency and other innovative technologies, nuclear can make a significant contribution to achieving sustainable energy goals and enhancing energy security. But unless the barriers it faces are overcome, its role will soon be on a steep decline worldwide, particularly in the United States, Europe and Japan.”

The new report finds that extending the operational life of existing nuclear plants requires substantial capital investment. But its cost is competitive with other electricity generation technologies, including new solar and wind projects, and can lead to a more secure, less disruptive energy transition.

With its mission to cover all fuels and technologies, the IEA hopes that the publication of its first report addressing nuclear power in nearly two decades will help bring the topic back into the global energy debate. The report was released during the 10th Clean Energy Ministerial in Vancouver, Canada.

The Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM) is a high-level global forum to promote policies and programs that advance clean energy technology. contributing to sustainable development.

Action Needed for Expansion of Nuclear Energy

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(WNN) Steps must be taken to increase nuclear energy’s share of the energy mix, said Agneta Rising, Director General of World Nuclear Association. Speaking at the 10th Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM10) in Vancouver, Canada, she said more nuclear energy is needed to meet environmental, economic and sustainable development objectives.

“Action is needed to expand the share of nuclear generation in the clean energy future. We will need much more nuclear energy if we are to deliver on environmental, economic and sustainable development objectives.”

Rising noted that the most efficient use of a nuclear reactor is for it to supply electricity constantly at full output. However, to allow variable renewables to complement nuclear generation in the electricity mix, nuclear reactors are already being operated flexibly where required.

“New designs and technologies will further enhance the ability of nuclear power to facilitate the integration of more intermittent sources into a low-carbon generation mix,” Rising said.

The World Nuclear Association said 50 new reactors are due to start operating in a total of 12 countries between 2016 and 2020. Two of those countries – Belarus and UAE – are hosting their first nuclear power plants. This new build, it said, is equivalent to adding nearly 15% to global nuclear capacity.

Innovation is key to this growth in the use of nuclear energy.  Those 50 new units are based on 17 different reactor designs, and 10 of those designs are being built for the first time, with capacities ranging from 27 MWe to 1750 MWe.

However, World Nuclear Association notes that studies by both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency have concluded that high levels of intermittent renewable generation, in particular in the absence of nuclear generation, leads to much higher system costs and higher emissions.

The nuclear industry has set the Harmony goal for nuclear energy to provide 25% of global electricity by 2050. This will require three times the global nuclear generation capacity from its present level. Some 1000 GWe of new nuclear generating capacity will need to be constructed by then to achieve that goal. World Nuclear Association has identified three areas for action to achieve this: (1) establishing a level playing field in electricity markets, (2) building harmonized regulatory processes among nations, and (3) an effective safety paradigm.

Atlantic Council Launches a Coalition on Nuclear Energy

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The Atlantic Council Global Energy Center has launched its Nuclear Energy and National Security Coalition (NENSC), led by co-chairs Ambassador Thomas Graham and Admiral Richard Mies (Ret.), leaders in nuclear energy policy.

The Coalition, which includes former military leaders, senior diplomats, and national security experts, views nuclear energy as a pillar within the energy security, foreign policy, and economic priorities of the United States.

“U.S. global leadership helps to ensure that nuclear technology is developed and operated safely, securely and exclusively for peaceful purposes,” said Ambassador Graham.

“Because U.S. standards for nuclear security and nonproliferation are unmatched, the decline in U.S. market share effectively lowers global nonproliferation standards.”

In 2018, the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center convened a “Task Force on US Nuclear Energy Leadership,” which comprised civilian and military experts in foreign policy, defense, and nuclear energy.

Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) served as honorary co-chairs of the Task Force. See their recent joint OP ED on CNBCUS must ‘reassert global leadership’ in nuclear energy or lose out to Russia and China.

Key Recommendations of the Atlantic Council Report

A summary of the task force recommendations was distributed to the media by Randolph Bell, Director, Jennifer T. Gordon, Deputy Director, and Robert F. Ichord, Jr. Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council Global Energy Center.

Specifically, the task force recommends that the executive branch moves to implement NEIMA, which “directs the improvement in the NRC’s capacities and licensing framework for advanced nuclear reactors.”

In conjunction with improving the regulatory atmosphere for advanced reactors, the NRC should work with counterparts in Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, and South Korea to increase cooperation.

The task force also recommends partnership between the US Departments of Defense and Energy in order to fund investment in micro reactors, which have clear use cases for civilian and military purposes. Finally, the task force recognizes the importance of public-private partnerships in financing for advanced nuclear technologies, as well as the necessity of developing a US origin enrichment capacity to produce HAELEU fuels.

In order to make US nuclear energy exports competitive to international markets, the task force recommends federal support for nuclear energy exports, the maintenance of strong Section 123 agreements, and a streamlined process for the export control process under 10 CFR part 810.

The US can increase its lending authority through Congressional reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank by September 2019 and through the new US International Development Finance Corporation.

Additionally, G7 and G20 countries can work to improve lending policies of international financial institutions, in order to facilitate loans for nuclear project construction. Section 123 agreements are the cornerstone of US nonproliferation policy. A streamlined process for nuclear agreements, through “fast-track general authorization[s],” and nuclear cooperation MOUs should bolster US nuclear diplomacy.

The Atlantic Council report, entitled “US Nuclear Energy Leadership: Innovation and the Strategic Global Challenge,” is the result of these efforts.

U.S. & Canada Energy Leaders Announce
a New Book on Nuclear Innovation in Clean Energy

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Leaders from the United States and Canada are unveiling a new book, Breakthroughs: Nuclear Innovation in A Clean Energy System, at the Tenth Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM10). (links below)

The U.S. delegation was active at this international conference on behalf of nuclear energy in ways that have not been seen in decades.

“The combination of vision and innovation is having a profound impact on our energy landscape, and nowhere is that more true than nuclear energy,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes.

“Nuclear energy is one of our most reliable and cleanest sources of energy. We are determined to revive and revitalize the nuclear energy industry with advanced and smart designs. This book highlights some of the incredible transformative opportunities nuclear innovation can bring to society and the clean energy future of our planet.”

This book describes new technologies and approaches, such as advanced Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), Generation IV technologies, and use of nuclear energy for multiple applications, in coordination with renewables. Nuclear, working with renewables, can support the energy needs for desalination to produce clean drinking water, process heat to industry, flexible electricity for the grid, hydrogen production, energy storage, and nuclear waste reduction.

The Breakthroughs book is a product of the CEM Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future (NICE Future) initiative that was launched at the May 2018 Ninth CEM in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The NICE Future initiative envisions the many uses of nuclear energy in contributing to clean, reliable energy systems of the future. Since its inception in 2018 by the U.S., Japan, and Canada, the NICE Future Initiative has engaged representatives from more than 80 organizations from more than 35 countries and has attracted six new member countries.

Why Advanced Nuclear Reactors
May Be Here Sooner Than Many Imagine

Authors Ted Nordhaus and Jessica Lovering write in a new article that many advanced reactors are already moving toward commercialization, and on much faster timelines and with much less government support than many thought possible.

“Advanced nuclear reactors are moving toward commercialization faster and with less government support than many realize. Their smaller size and advances in computing are helping.”

They note that NuScale submitted its design certification application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2016 and expects to receive its license by early 2021. The company plans to build its first commercial power plant in eastern Idaho, providing electricity to Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, with construction starting in 2023.

They also point out that beyond light-water small modular reactors (SMRs), five companies developing non-LWRs have begun prelicensing activities with the NRC, including three molten salt designs, one gas-cooled, and one sodium-cooled fast reactor. Canada’s nuclear regulator also just received its first SMR license application, and surprisingly it wasn’t an LWR but a tiny high-temperature gas-cooled reactor.

The utility Southern Company has agreements with several advanced nuclear developers for possible demonstrations at its site in Georgia. In 2016, the DOE invited Terrestrial Energy to apply for a $1.2 billion loan guarantee to construct its first plant in the U.S.

Read the full article (URL above) to learn more.

Enabling Nuclear Innovation:
In Search of a SpaceX for Nuclear Energy

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) released a report, titled Enabling Nuclear Innovation: In Search of a SpaceX for Nuclear Energy. It’s noted that Russia currently dominates the export market for new reactor builds, just as it did for commercial global launch services in 2010. To return the United States to a leadership role, the U.S. Department of Energy should learn from the legacy of the NASA commercial orbital transportation services (COTS) program.

UK Nuclear Industry Calls On Government
To ‘Urgently Commit’ To New Reactors

(NucNet): The UK’s nuclear energy industry has backed recommendations to authorize lifetime extensions of existing nuclear plants, but urged the government to urgently commit to building new reactors or risk putting a halt to the progress the country has made on decarburization.

The London-based Nuclear Industry Association said the International Energy Agency confirmed in a report published today what many have been warning for years – that nuclear is the backbone of low-carbon electricity generation.

“Without it, we are likely to see a huge increase in CO2 emissions, and an increase in electricity bills for consumers,” the NIA said.

“While we back the IEA’s recommendation to authorize lifetime extensions of existing nuclear plants for as long as safely possible, the majority of the UK’s nuclear power plants have already undergone life extensions.

The NIA said nuclear provides around a fifth of electricity in the UK, and around half of the low-carbon electricity. “However, with all but one of our nuclear power plants due to come offline in the next decade, we are at a critical point for nuclear,” it said.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

US SMR Firms Mark Progress Milestones in US and Canada

  • GE-Hitachi Starts Pre-licensing Review for BWRX-300 with CNSC
  • Westinghouse Sets Course for Accelerated Safety Reviews in U.S. and Canada of eVinci Heat Pipe Reactor Design
  • Westinghouse Names a New CEO Following Equity Fund Purchase of the Firm, but  Sustained Work on SMR and Reactor R&D Efforts are Needed .
  • NuScale and Sargent & Lundy Announce Investor and and Engineering Agreements

GE-Hitachi Starts Pre-licensing Review for BWRX-300
with Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission

geh-hqGE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has initiated a vendor design review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) for its BWRX-300 small modular reactor.

GEH submitted its application to CNSC in March this year for a service agreement with the CNSC to conduct a vendor design review (VDR) of the BWRX-300. A service agreement is a legal document that establishes the terms and conditions between the CNSC and a reactor vendor.

Also, in March 2019, GEH sent a letter of intent to begin pre-licensing work to the U.S. Nuclear Safety Commission (NRC).

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe small modular reactor (SMR) derived from GEH’s 1520 MWe Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design. According to GEH, the BWRX-300 leverages the design and licensing basis of the ESBWR, which received design certification from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2014.

DOE Money Fuels Team Effort

In parallel with the prelicensing review, the GEH design team is looking at ways to simplify the reactor design, reduce plant construction costs, and lower operations and maintenance costs for the BWRX-300. The research aims to identify ways to reduce plant completion costs by 40-60% compared with other SMR designs in development.

Scaled down ESBWR

The firm received $1.9M in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to pursue these engineering objectives. The project will bring together a team consisting of Exelon Generation, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy (HGNE), Bechtel and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to examine ways to simplify the reactor design, reduce plant construction costs, and lower operations and maintenance costs for the GEH BWRX-300, a 300 MWe small modular reactor.

“We are designing the BWRX-300 small modular reactor to be cost competitive with gas and renewables,” said Jon Ball, executive vice president of nuclear plant projects for GEH. “This review is an important step in the commercialization of this breakthrough technology.”

Dominion Adds Seed Money to Effort

Work on the BWRX-300 is also supported by funding from Dominion Energy of Virginia. That utility has a COL from the NRC for a full size ESBWR for the North Anna III project, but has not announced plans to move forward with construction.

Dominion Energy’s funding of the BWRX-300 provides seed money to further work that could lead to commercializing this technology. The company has no plan at this time to build one at any of its commercial nuclear stations.

“We believe that nuclear power has a vital role in ensuring a clean, reliable, and cost-effective supply of electricity to meet the needs of a growing economy,” said Dan Stoddard, Chief Nuclear Officer-Dominion Energy.

“We also believe the innovations GE Hitachi is pursuing with the BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor have the potential to make it a strong competitor in the marketplace. Our view is that a modest investment now to support further development of this technology is in the interest of both companies.”

Established in 2007, GEH is a global nuclear alliance created by GE and Hitachi to serve the global nuclear industry.

Previous coverage on this blogGE-Hitachi to Offer 300 MW SMR

About the CNSC Prelicensing Review

cnsc logoThe CNSC’s pre-licensing vendor design review is an optional service to provide an assessment of a nuclear power plant design based on a vendor’s reactor technology. It is not a required part of the licensing process for a new nuclear power plant, but aims to verify the acceptability of a design with respect to Canadian nuclear regulatory requirements and expectations.

The review involves three phases:

  • a pre-licensing assessment of compliance with regulatory requirements;
  • an assessment of any potential fundamental barriers to licensing; and
  • a follow-up phase allowing the vendor to respond to findings from the second phase.

CNSC says on its website that these findings will be taken into account in any subsequent construction license application, increasing the efficiency of technical reviews.

The combined Phase 1 and 2 review, according to CNSC, ” will focus on identifying any issues that could become fundamental barriers in a licensing process for a new build project in Canada while assuring that a resolution path exists for any issues that may be identified.”

The duration of each review is estimated based on the vendor’s proposed schedule. A Phase 1 review typically takes 12–18 months and a Phase 2 review takes 24 months.

CNSC told World Nuclear News it had received applications from NuScale Power and Westinghouse. Given that both designs have progressed beyond the basic engineering phase, the CNSC said the first two stages of the VDR can be combined.

The CNSC is now involved with ten pre-licensing VDRs, all for small reactors with capacities in the range of 3-300 MWe.   CNSC updates the status of licensing views on its website. Scroll down from the top of the web page to find two tables – one for current reviews and another for review efforts that are under development.

Canada aims to build at least one demonstration advanced reactor plant by 2026, at a Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) site. In April high-temperature gas reactor developer Global First Power became the first developer to advance to the third stage of CNL’s design selection process which involves non-exclusive negotiations on land arrangements, project risk management, and contractual terms.

Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor was the first advanced reactor to complete the first phase of the CNSC’s regulatory pre-licensing review in November 2017.

Westinghouse Sets Course for Accelerated Safety Reviews
in U.S. and Canada of eVinci Heat Pipe Reactor Design

Westinghouse told a nuclear energy trade newsletter last week that it aims to design, test, manufacture and site a demonstration unit of its eVinci heat pipe reactor design by 2022 and will fund the effort with $15.7 million. The company is currently developing an electrical demonstration unit and plans to demonstrate manufacturing capability by 2020.

Westinghouse’s eVinci heat pipe reactor design (technical profile – PDF file) will provide cost and siting advantages and high technology readiness should accelerate design licensing approval, project directors told Nuclear Energy Insider.

The advanced heat pipe design will simplify the plant structure and reduce the number of moving parts, creating significant cost and safety benefits, Yasir Arafat, Principal Engineer, Advanced Reactor Development at Westinghouse, told Nuclear Energy Insider.

The compact design will also have a small boundary footprint, opening up new siting opportunities to be closer to industrial facilities and population centers.

Westinghouse is communicating with U.S. and Canadian nuclear regulators and aims to license the design for commercial deployment by 2025, pending a successful testing phase. The firm has not said yet where the testing will take place or whether it will involve one or more DOE national labs or the Canadian National Lab in the efforts

eVinci SMR Profile

World Nuclear News reported in 2018 that Westinghouse is developing the eVinci micro reactor as a small nuclear energy generator for decentralized generation markets, such as remote communities, or arctic mines. The company told WNN that the reactor design is a combination of nuclear fission, space reactor technologies, and over 50 years of commercial nuclear systems design, engineering and innovation.

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eVinci Cutaway Diagram.  Image- Westinghouse

The reactor has a solid core, built around a solid steel monolith with channels for fuel pellets and heat pipes that remove heat from the core, and has minimal moving parts. Fuel is encapsulated in the core. The company says the design significantly reduces proliferation risk and enhances overall safety. The heat pipes enable passive core heat extraction and inherent power regulation, allowing autonomous operation and inherent load following capabilities.

The reactor is designed to run for more than ten years without refuelling. It can provide combined heat and power from 200 kWe to 25 MWe, and process heat up to 600 degrees Celsius.

Outlook for eVinci Development Efforts

Westinghouse said in October last year it aims to develop and demonstrate the eVinci reactor in less than six years, a timescale it says is possible primarily due to the small size and high technology readiness level of the individual components.

The company plans to develop a full-scale electrical demonstration unit to reduce technology gaps and demonstrate ability to manufacture it by the end of 2019, and aims to qualify the eVinci micro reactor for commercial deployment by 2024.

Westinghouse was buoyed in March 2019 with a $12.9 million grant from the Department of Energy. The firm said it will spend $28.9 million to demonstrate the readiness of the technology of its 25-MWe eVinci micro-reactorby 2022.

The government money, which is covering about half of the costs, will cover some of the design, analysis, licensing to manufacture, siting, and testing work.

Previous coverage on this blogWestinghouse Launches New SMR Effort

Westinghouse Names New CEO

Patrick Fragman, group senior vice-president at ABB Limited (profile), has been appointed president and chief executive officer.

He will take over the job on August 19th. In the interim, an executive committee comprised of members of Westinghouse’s senior leadership team will manage the company’s day-to-day affairs.

José Emeterio Gutiérrez will step down as president and chief executive officer of Westinghouse Electric Company on 31 July following more than a decade with the company.  He will continue to have a role with Westinghouse as a member of a global advisory board, which is being established to provide guidance on international strategy.

Future of SMR and Reactor R&D Efforts?

It’s not clear how the firm’s SMR initiatives will move forward under a new CEO. In 2014 Westinghouse walked away from its investment in an LWR type SMR, being developed with funding support from Amerem, a Missouri based nuclear utility. The lack of a customer and partner in design and licensing doomed the project.

Unlike GE-Hitachi and NuScale, Westinghouse has not announced funding nor investor support from any partners for its latest SMR effort. Westinghouse is also investing R&D money in a 450MW lead-cooled fast reactor. (Fact sheet).  This is also a stand alone project which has no outside partners or funding. It may be for competitive reasons the firm has not made any announcements about funding or technical expertise from partners.

cash on the barrelheadSooner or later it it may find it prudent to disclose interest by potential customers via cooperative agreements in design and licensing work that also put cash on the barrel head to help pay for these activities. Also, in terms of risk, the expertise of outside firms can value to a project with capabilities the lead firm can’t deploy on its own.

The lack of this kind of support is exactly what sank B&W’s mPower joint effort with TVA which walked away from the deal opting instead for an application for an Early Site Permit at the Clinch River site that did not reference a specific SMR design.

Maybe there is something in the Westinghouse culture that leans toward a “go it alone” approach to developing new technologies.  That might have worked in the second half of the 20th century. Now two decades into the 21st century, collaboration is the name of the name facilitated by incredible computer capabilities that the designers of the first and second generation of nuclear reactors could only dream about. Westinghouse will have a better chance of making it to the finish line with one or more advanced designs if it realizes that the complexity of the technologies its working takes place in an era where no one has all the answers.

Investor Expectations for Returns

Westinghouse, formerly a wholly owned subsidiary of Toshiba, filed for bankruptcy in March 2017 after significant delays and rising costs at the Vogtle and V C Summer AP1000 nuclear projects in the US, for which it was supplying its AP1000 reactor technology. The V C Summer project was cancelled, but the Vogtle project continues to make progress.

Westinghouse emerged from bankruptcy in 2018 as a reorganized company after the completion of its sale to Brookfield WEC Holdings for $4.6B. The private equity firm is expected to be aggressive in seeking a high corporate hurdle rate for returns on its investment.  The equity firm’s largest investor is the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar which has a 7 percent stake in the Canadian equity firm.

Westinghouse has also been lobbying in DC for a 123 Agreement between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia so it can respond to that country’s expected RFP later this year for two full size reactors. So far the 123 negotiations between the two countries have been stalled since September 2018 over the issue of uranium enrichment.

NuScale and Sargent & Lundy Announce Strategic Relationships
for Engineering and Investor Roles

nuscale reactor cutawayNuScale Power LLC and Sargent & Lundy announced this week a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for a strategic engineering and investor relationship to support deployment of NuScale Plants worldwide.

Sargent & Lundy, a global leader in power engineering with more than 60 years of experience in nuclear unit design, will bring its expertise to the larger U.S.-led team working to build NuScale’s small modular reactor.

Under the terms of the MOU, Sargent & Lundy will become a NuScale investor, proceed with development of the standard plant design based on the U.S. Design Certification Application.

Fluor Corporation will continue to be the EPC for plant construction as planned and will work with NuScale and Sargent & Lundy on aspects of the NuScale standard plant design. Fluor is also a key investor in NuScale.

NuScale’s technology is the world’s first and only SMR to undergo design certification review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC is scheduled to complete its review of NuScale’s design in September 2020.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Argentina Reports $10B Nuclear Deal with China

  • China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) is reported to be willing to finance $8.5 billion of the reported $10 billion cost for one 1000 MW PWR Type Hualong One.  The total cost of the deal most likely involves not only the reactor, but also financing for fuel services, and various “Belt & Road” infrastructure projects unrelated to the power station project.
  • The project originally also involved a 700 MW CANDU type PHWR but there is no mention of it in the latest news reports about the deal. Reuters confirmed in April the deal is for just a single Hualong One reactor.
  • CNNC will be paying much higher labor rates for construction than at home, and the supply chain would stretch halfway around the globe. CNNC will have to import a lot of its own people to support the project competing for them against demands at home for the same engineering and skilled trades talent needed by other Chinese state owned nuclear firms.

Special to Neutron Bytes by Diálogo Chino with reporting from Buenos Aires
by Fermín Koop, Lili Pike. Additional reporting from Cleveland by Neutron Bytes and from London by World Nuclear News.

In the midst of economic and political uncertainty, Argentina has doubled down on a major Chinese nuclear power deal. The new plant in Buenos Aires province will help meet Argentina’s energy needs with the support of Chinese technology and financial support.

With China looking to ramp up its nuclear power exports and countries seeking low-carbon electricity, the project in Argentina could represent the first concrete success of China’s efforts to export its nuclear technology to a South American country. However, concerns over nuclear power’s cost, and localization issues for construction, remain as barriers to starting work on the project.

See prior reporting on this blogArgentina Shifts its Focus to Nuclear May 2015.

Striking a Deal After Long Negotiations

Four years after formally agreeing to its construction, Argentina is moving forward with the Atucha III plant that could become operational and enter revenue service around 2024 at the earliest.

In April, Argentine president Mauricio Macri’s administration signed a letter of intent with China’s National Energy Administration. The contract, which is expected to be signed in the coming weeks, will include a US$10 billion loan from the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), which will cover 85% of the project’s costs. The contract will almost certainly include long term fuel contracts for of new fuel from CNNC and return of the spent fuel to China.

The deal would impose on Argentina a requirement to put up $1.2 billion for a 1000 MW plant.  At this price the project probably includes upgrades to Argentina’s electrical grid and other non-nuclear infrastructure improvements. Given the amount of the loan program. it may include other elements of China’s Belt & Road infrastructure program even if they are not promoted that way by the two countries. The reactor itself would probably come in for not more than half of the total value of the financial package at a rough order of magnitude estimate of $5000/Kw or $5 billion.

CNNC would be paying much higher labor rates for construction than at home, the supply chain would stretch halfway around the globe, and CNNC would have to import a lot of their own people to support the project competing for them against demands at home for the same engineering talent.

A Reuters report from April of this year confirmed that the deal between China and Argentina was for a Hualong One. Reuters reported that sources previously told the wire service that the protracted negotiations over the Argentina project were partly due to due concerns over what proportion of components would be sourced from domestic suppliers.

CNNC has been demanding in return for favorable financial terms that Chinese companies be given priority for all aspects of the project including design, construction, and the fuel cycle.

The original deal with China would have added Argentina’s fourth (Atucha III) and fifth (Atucha IV) nuclear plants, adding 1,700MW to the grid. It was to have been composed of a 700 MW PHWR CANDU reactor and a 1000 MW PWR Hualong One. Given the limits of Argentina’s finances, the deal was reduced to just the single 1000 MW unit.

By agreeing to acquire the PWR type reactor from CNNC, Argentina gives up the ability to leverage its experience with CANDU type PHWRs with a new power station. It also gives up the right to provide its own fuel for the new power station. Argentina does provide its own fuel for its PHWR reactors.

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By acquiring a Hualong One, Argentina has committed itself to buying fuel for the reactor from CNNC for the next 60 years.  CNNC recently announced that it had established the capability to produce fuel for the reactor in commercial quantities. A PHWR, which uses natural uranium, which Argentina has in abundance, would not have generated these costs.

These terms have not set well with Argentina’s nuclear regulatory agency nor the government for both cost and safety reasons.  Key among them are doubts about being a first of a kind test case for an export deal for the Hualong One.  They claim that  experience building and completing one isn’t available.

Chinese officials who are part of the trade delegation negotiating the deal with Argentina likely cited the facts that construction of CNNC’s GEN III ACP1000 reactor is well underway at the Fuqing nuclear power plant in Fujian province.

World Nuclear News reported in January that all the main equipment has now been installed at the first of two demonstration Hualong One units under construction at the Fuqing site in China’s Fujian province. Installation of the steam generators has begun at the second unit.

Construction of two Hualong One (HPR1000) units is also under way at China General Nuclear’s Fangchenggang plant in the Guangxi Autonomous Region. Those units are also expected to start up in 2019 and 2020.

Two HPR1000 units are under construction at Pakistan’s Karachi nuclear power plant. Construction began on Karachi unit 2 in 2015 and unit 3 in 2016; the units are planned to enter commercial operation in 2021 and 2022. The HPR1000 has also been proposed for construction at Bradwell in the UK, where it is undergoing Generic Design Assessment.

Hualong One Cooling Systems Schemata

Active and passive cooling systems of HPR1000 (aka Hualong One) nuclear reactor. Red line; active systems; Green line; passive systems; IRWST – in-containment refueling water storage tank. Source: Science Direct http://bit.ly/2EzKjus Author: Ji Xing, Daiyong Song, Yuxiang Wu

CNNC did offer some concessions on the localization issue. Li Xiaoming, assistant general manager of CNNC, is reported to have said last week regarding the Argentina deal that the localization rate for the new Hualong One in Argentina would be 40 percent but he did not specify which nuclear or non-nuclear parts of the project would be local.

History of the Deal

The Atucha III project is part of an agreement signed in 2015 by former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, which approved two nuclear plants: one using the PHWR Canadian technology in Argentina’s existing plants, and one using Chinese technology.

President Macri eventually approved construction, but Argentina’s economic crisis led to pursuing just one plant to reduce the size of the loan.

“Argentina is going through an economic crisis and money is tight. Investing in nuclear requires a long-term commitment, but China can offer subsidized capital to its foreign customers,” said Mark Hibbs, senior fellow at Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program.

Macri and Chinese president Xi Jinping also signed a joint five-year action plan (2019-2023) at last year’s G20 Summit in Buenos Aires, but Xi did not secure Argentina’s formal endorsement of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative. The nuclear project was also expected to get the green light at that time, but negotiations remained stalled over how much work would go to Argentina’s industry and workforce.

The current government has now justified the project as a way of reducing the country’s energy deficit and fostering closer ties with China.

State-owned China National Nuclear Corporation was originally slated to build the plant with Argentina’s state-owned Nucleoelectrica. The former’s presence at the letter signing last month signals that it will remain involved and that the localization issue may have been settled.

A separate offering by Russia’s Rosatom for a 1000 MW VVER has not materialized in any substantive way since it was first announced four years ago. Reuters reported in December 2018 that Rosatom attempted to move the deal forward towards a contract, but instead the outcome was a high level MOU without concrete commitments to build a reactor. Argentina may have used the high level hand waving with Rosatom to put pressure on CNNC to come to the table with more favorable financial and localization terms.

Backlash from Green Groups Favoring Renewable Energy

The nuclear deal with China attracted criticism from a group of former energy secretaries, who claimed in a November 2018 press release that it would be cheaper to develop solar and wind projects.

“Any future energy projects have to be part of a national and long-term energy plan, which now doesn’t exist. All new projects should be economically competitive and should be in line with the country’s mitigation commitments,” said Jorge Lapeña, a former energy secretary.

Environmental organizations that favor wind and solar proliferation agree.

“We don’t consider nuclear as renewable energy, it has many risks regarding the functioning of the reactors and waste. It’s not suitable for Argentina,” said Andrés Nápoli, head of Fundación Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (FARN).

“A new nuclear plant would require risk and impact studies and we haven’t seen any.”

Positioning the Deal by China

The Argentina deal is one of the first success stories for Chinese nuclear overseas. Since 2000, Russia has dominated overseas nuclear power, supplying 45% of total capacity. China is the fifth largest exporter, supplying just 9%. So far, the only Chinese reactors constructed overseas are in Pakistan.

Beyond the Argentina and Pakistan deals, it is unclear whether China’s nuclear power reactors will find other markets. An effort to sell several Hualong One reactors to the UK depends, in part, on the design completing the UK generic design review which is ongoing.

In 2014, China’s Hualong One reactor passed the International Atomic Energy Agency’s safety review and is now undergoing assessments in Europe.

Is there a Future for Small Modular Reactors in Argentina?

CAREM (Spanish: Central Argentina de Elementos Modulares) is an Argentine nuclear reactor designed by CNEA (National Atomic Energy Commission). A 25 MWe, pressurized water reactor version of CAREM is currently being built near Atucha I Nuclear Power Plant as the first prototype.

The-CAREM-25-reactor-schematic-view-of-the-flow-circulation-and-basic-data

CAREM SMR elements. Source: Christian Marcel; A small innovative modular nuclear reactor: the carem-25 reactor, Research Gate, May 2013 http://bit.ly/2wmuwL2

A second one of 100-200 MWe is planned to be installed in Formosa Province. The first prototype was planned to receive its first fuel load in 2017. The date for deployment of the second larger unit would be set thereafter.

A presentation to the IAEA in October 2017 Calzetta Larrieu Osvaldo of the National Atomic Energy Commission of Argentina (CNEA)  indicated ongoing progress, but not a completion date.  (English PDF file)

Nuclear Engineering Intentional reported in May 2018 that as CAREM is positioned as a first of a kind project which the government in 2009 licensed it as a prototype and not as a conventional commercial power reactor. Initially, it was planned for start-up in 2017, but this has now been put back to 2020.

As of January 2019 there is no report of fuel loading for the reactor. In June 2016 World Nuclear News reported Brazil’s INB contracted with Argentina to provide four tonnes of enriched uranium oxide for the CAREM25 reactor. It is to be shipped in three batches with enrichment levels of 1.9%, 2.6% and 3.1% U-235.

CAREM is being positioned in a commercial version to be used to supply energy for areas with small populations/small electricity demands. Another possible use is to power seawater desalination plants to supply water and energy to coastal sites.

Like other SMRs, the plan is to build multiple units at the same location to scale up generation of electricity to follow economic development.  There are plans for 100 MW and 300 MW designs. CNEA has its eye on export markets for the various SMR designs.

How Nuclear Energy Fits in Argentina’s Energy Mix

Argentina has three nuclear reactors generating about 10% of its electricity. Its first commercial nuclear power reactor began operating in 1974.   According to WNN, the profile of installed units includes three PWHR Candu type reactors the oldest of which was built in 1974 (Atucha 1). Atucha 2, a 700 MW PHWR, entered revenue service in 2014, and a third unit Embalse, a 600 MW Candu 6, was completed in 1983. The majority of the country’s electrical power generation comes from a combination of natural gas and coal (68%) and hydro (28%).

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Nuclear Energy in Argentina. Table courtesy World Nuclear News

According the US Energy Information Administration, natural gas, which is used widely in the electricity, industrial, and residential sectors, represented just over half of of total primary energy consumption. Oil is the primary fuel used in the transportation sector and represented 33% of total primary energy consumption. Argentina produces almost all of its domestic fuels for the transportation sector.

Despite the commitments to new nuclear plants, Argentina is continuing to exploit its coal deposits with construction of a 240 MW mine mouth power plant near one of the major mining sites.

Update May 29, 2019

Update: The $10 billion loan now appears to have two main parts to it. The first part for approximately $7.5 billion is for a single 1000 MW nuclear power plant, a Chinese Hualong One, regional grid upgrades, and long-term fuel services from China. The second part is an unrestricted loan of approximately $2.5 billion for general purpose infrastructure. The reactor project is said to have a start date of 2021.

Source: NBN Media

 

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