Fusion Emerges as a Key Factor in UK’s Energy Future

  • General Fusion to Break Ground for a Pilot Plant in the UK in Three Years
  • UKAEA Posts List of 15 Candidate Sites for Fusion Reactors
  • IAEA’s Grossi Calls For International Cooperation On Pilot Plant Criteria
  • TerraPower Targets 2023 for Natrium NRC Construction Permit
  • Centrus Gets NRC License for HALEU Production

The energy landscape in the UK changed this week for the better as a fusion energy startup funded in part by billionaire Jeff Bezos launched an effort to build a pilot fusion reactor capable of generating electricity by the mid-2020s.

Bezo’s firm General Fusion, which is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, made the announcement in London saying that a $400M demonstration plant to prove the operational features of the design would break ground in 2022 at a site in Oxfordshire near the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. Operations are expected to being within three years of breaking ground.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and General Fusion announced the agreement under which General Fusion will build and operate its Fusion Demonstration Plant (FDP).  Backed by Jeff Bezos for over a decade, the company raised $100m in its last round of funding and is preparing to go back to investors for more cash to show that the firm’s technology can be successfully scaled up.

The FDP will demonstrate General Fusion’s proprietary Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) technology, paving the way for the company’s subsequent commercial pilot plant. The MTF approach is different to the tokamak approach used, for example, in JET, MAST Upgrade and ITER, but UKAEA and General Fusion expect to collaborate on a range of technologies of mutual interest.

General Fusion will benefit from the cluster of fusion supply chain activities in the UK, centered on UKAEA’s globally recognized expertise and presence in the field. This is also an exciting and very positive development for UKAEA and the Culham site; strongly aligned with UKAEA’s mission and the development of the Culham site as a leading location for developing fusion energy and a key location for the nascent ‘UK fusion cluster’.

The announcement was made by Amanda Solloway MP, Science Minister for the UK Government, who said: “This new plant by General Fusion is a huge boost for our plans to develop a fusion industry in the UK, and I’m thrilled that Culham will be home to such a cutting-edge and potentially transformative project.”

The Fusion Demonstration Plant at Culham is the culmination of almost two decades of advances in General Fusion’s technology. The firm said the announcement represents a major milestone on the company’s path to commercialization.


Conceptual Image of Fusion Demonstration Plant. Image: GF

“Coming to Culham gives us the opportunity to benefit from UKAEA’s expertise,” stated Christofer Mowry, CEO, General Fusion.

“By locating at this campus, General Fusion expands our market presence beyond North America into Europe, broadening our global network of government, institutional, and industrial partners. This is incredibly exciting news for not only General Fusion, but also the global effort to develop practical fusion energy.”

About General Fusion’s Technology

The company uses an approach called magnetized target fusion. In this process, a super-heated gas called a plasma, consisting of a particular form of hydrogen, is injected into a cylinder which is surrounded by a wall of liquid lithium metal. (YouTube video)

A bank of 500 pneumatic pistons are then used to compress the plasma until the atoms fuse, generating massive amounts of heat. This heat is transferred by the liquid metal, and used in a steam generator to make steam to drive a turbine which in turn will produce electricity.

general fusion

Conceptual Image for General Fusion Design. Image: GF

General Fusion says its approach of leveraging the use of existing industrial technologies such as pneumatic pistons, and not relying on large, superconducting magnets or expensive lasers, means the firm has a quicker path to developing a reliable supply chain. In turn the firm says it will make its fusion reactor easier to manufacture and scale from demonstration to pilot to commercial form than other fusion technologies.

The pilot plant will produce 115 MWe of electricity, which is comparable to a small modular (fission) reactor.  One of the intended uses of a plant of this size is to stabilize the electric grid which is also carrying intermittent sources of renewable power like wind and solar energy.

Synergy for General Fusion with the Culham Site

The Culham campus is owned and managed by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and is also the location of major fusion research efforts: the Joint European Torus (Jet) and Mast Upgrade.

“Coming to Culham gives us the opportunity to benefit from UKAEA’s expertise,” said Christofer Mowry, the CEO of General Fusion. Mowry, who previously led the SMR effort at BWXT in a joint effort with TVA in the U.S..

He added, “By locating at this campus, General Fusion expands our market presence beyond North America into Europe, broadening our global network of government, institutional, and industrial partners.”

The decision to locate the demonstration plant in Oxfordshire was made possible by funding from the UK government, with the monetary amount described by Christofer Mowry in wire agency reports as “very meaningful”.

Although a government spokesperson from UKAEA declined to provide a figure, the agency has published data showing the government’s current commitment of £222m for the UKAEA’s Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (Step) program, which aims to design and build the world’s first prototype fusion power plant by 2040.

Last November, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered $17 billion in support for green industries including nuclear power. His government wants an operating fusion plant based on the ITER design by 2040.

Other Fusion Startups are in the Mix

The Bloomberg wire service reported that globally, more than $1.5 billion has poured into private fusion startups such as TAE Technologies Inc. and Commonwealth Fusion Systems in the U.S.

According to the wire service, public funding from 35 countries has gone toward the $22 billion International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) being built in southern France. The project was supposed to begin testing in four years, though that date is now in doubt after pandemic lockdowns snarled supply chains.

“There are a lot of people preparing to take shots on goal right now,” Fusion CEO Mowry said in an interview with the BBC. “We now have the first best but there are lots of others lining up.”

U.S. Government Calls for a National Fusion Effort

General Fusion’s announcement follows a call in April by the U.S. National Academies of Science (NAS) for the country to accelerate plans to build a pilot fusion reactor capable of generating electricity as soon as 2035.

In February 2021 the NAS said the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and private industry should invest now in order to have an operational fusion pilot plant in the 2035-2040 time frame, says Bringing Fusion to the U.S. Grid, a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. These investments are urgently needed to resolve open technical and scientific issues as well as to design, construct, and commission a pilot plant.

The new report identifies key goals and innovations needed to support the development of a U.S. fusion pilot plant. Many of these innovations, including advancements in confinement of the plasma, extraction of heat, ensuring sustained structural integrity of the power plant components, and closing the fuel cycle, should be developed in parallel in order to meet the challenge of operating a pilot plant between 2035 and 2040.

The plant will be “a huge boost for our plans to develop a fusion industry,” U.K. Science Minister Amanda Solloway said in a statement on Thursday. “Fusion energy has great potential as a source of limitless, low-carbon energy.”

UKAEA Posts List of 15 Candidate Sites for Fusion Reactor

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) announced last week that 15 sites are in consideration to become the future home of Step – the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production – the UK’s prototype fusion plant.

The UKAEA said in a statement that acceptance of the sites, spread across the UK, into the agency’s assessment process does not mean they are preferred or desired, or that their development is possible in all cases.

The agency said the next stage of the process will include a technical assessment of the comparative suitability of the sites, with a shortlist expected to be drawn in the autumn of this year. A final decision on the site is scheduled to be made by the end of 2022.

Step is an ambitious program to design and construct a fusion energy prototype plant. It is a UKAEA program with an initial £222m funding from the UK government to produce a concept design by 2024. Step will be used to research and develop the technology and enable a fleet of commercial plants to follow in the years after 2040.

IAEA’s Grossi Calls For International Cooperation On Pilot Plant Criteria

(NucNet) The International Atomic Energy Agency is working on the establishment of a technology-neutral framework for fusion reactor safety and “stands ready” to offer a feasibility study that encompasses the full scope of fusion pilot plant criteria for future fusion reactors, director-general Rafael Grossi told the 28th IAEA Fusion Energy Conference.

In his opening remarks to the virtual event, Mr Grossi called on agency member states sponsoring fusion programs, the emerging fusion industry and the increasing number of private partners to support and jointly participate in the feasibility study, calling it an “international endeavor”.

He said the IAEA is working on the establishment of a technology-neutral framework for safety to help harmonize international approaches to fusion reactors on the basis of existing agency safety standards.

“Although fusion reactors are inherently safe, the ultimate goal when it comes to regulation remains the same: ensuring the protection of people and the environment by minimizing the risks of radioactive releases under normal operation and accident conditions,” he said.

Increased publicly and privately funded research and development, including emerging examples of public-private partnerships, demonstrate growing trust in fusion as a promising option to provide a sustainable, worldwide supply of energy for centuries to come, Mr Grossi said.

Mr Grossi told a press conference  that 94 fusion devices are being developed, with 85 of them public-funded projects and nine private.

He said $1bn has been invested in the projects and increasing amounts of capital are being raised. “What is clear is that the capital investment is the result of market forces and not public policy,” he said. “Some actors do not want to be left out of what is coming.”

“It is time to dispel the idea that fusion is an academic endeavor in pursuit of an energy unicorn,” said International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. “We can see this is around the corner. We are approaching this moment fast.”

TerraPower Targets 2023 for Natrium NRC Construction Permit

In a press statement TerraPower said it hopes to apply for a Part 50 construction permit in August 2023 and an operating license in March 2026 for its Natrium fast reactor, according to a regulatory engagement plan (REP) it has sent on June 8, 2021, to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

The company said it has chosen to submit separate applications rather than a combined license for “the ability to start construction earlier.”

The firm said in its submission to the NRC that the purpose of the REP is “to reduce regulatory uncertainty,”  and, “to facilitate the NRC’s understanding of Natrium technology and its safety case as early in the regulatory process as possible.”

TerraPower and GE-Hitachi joined forces in 2019 to develop the Natrium technology, which is a sodium-cooled fast reactor combined with a molten salt energy storage system. The ratings for the Natrium reactor will be 840 MWt and the energy island will have the capability to produce up to 500 MWe.

Earlier this month, TerraPower and PacifiCorp announced plans to construct a Natrium reactor demonstration project at a coal plant in the state of Wyoming. The firms expect to announce the specific site by the end of this year. The project is partially funded under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program via a cost sharing method. So far the government has provided the project with $80M.

TerraPower and GEH are backed by Bechtel Power Corporation and utility partners Energy Northwest, Duke Energy, and PacifiCorp. Private sector investors other than billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have not been disclosed by the firm.

The demonstration project in Wyoming is intended to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology. TerraPower said the next steps include further project evaluation, education and outreach, and state and federal regulatory approvals prior to acquisition of a Natrium facility.

Centrus Gets NRC License to Produce HALEU Fuel

Centrus Energy Corp. (NYSE American: LEU) announced that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the Company’s license amendment request to produce High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) at the Piketon, Ohio, enrichment facility.

The Piketon plant is now the only U.S. facility licensed to enrich uranium up to 20 percent Uranium-235 (U-235) and expects to begin demonstrating HALEU production early next year.

“This approval is a major milestone in our contract with the Department of Energy,” said Daniel B. Poneman, Centrus President and CEO.

HALEU-based fuels will be required for most of the advanced reactor designs currently under development and may also be utilized in next-generation fuels for the existing fleet of reactors in the United States and around the world.

Developers of nine of the ten advanced reactor designs selected for funding under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, including the two demonstration reactors, TerraPower and X-Energy, have said they will rely on HALEU-based fuels.

Under a 2019 contract with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, Centrus is constructing a cascade of sixteen AC100M centrifuges – a U.S.-origin technology – to demonstrate production of HALEU.

The three year, $115 million, cost-shared contract runs through mid-2022. The NRC license was granted for the period of the DOE contract. Centrus recently released an update on progress of construction for the demonstration cascade and anticipates completing performance under the contract in early 2022. If sufficient funding is provided to continue operation, the license can be amended to extend the term.

What is HALEU?

When uranium ore is extracted from the earth, the concentration of the fissile isotope uranium-235 is less than one percent. Most existing reactors in the United States and worldwide operate on Low-Enriched Uranium (LEU) fuel that has been enriched to a concentration of the U-235 isotope of slightly less than 5 percent.

High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium is further enriched so that the U-235 concentration is between 5 percent and 20 percent. This level of enrichment is still far below the levels used to produce weapons or power U.S. Navy vessels.

HALEU offers unique advantages as an advanced nuclear fuel for both existing and next generation reactors, including greater power density, improved reactor performance, fewer refueling outages, improved proliferation resistance, and smaller volumes of waste.

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One More Time – Tar Sands Firms Pitched for SMRs

  • Latest Efforts to Bring SMRs to Alberta’s Tar Sands Hits Investor Headwinds
  • South Korea Seeks Global Role in Launch of Nuclear Powered Cargo Ships
  • Russia Starts Building a Lead-cooled Fast Reactor
  • China Approves Construction of Its First SMR
  • China Remains Committed to Building a Hualong One at UK Bradwell Site
  • Third Try May Be the Charm for UK Moorside Project
  • Vatanfall Takes Equity Stake in Fermi Energia

Once More Time – Tar Sands Firms Pitched for SMRs

Since the late 1980s reactor developers in Canada and elsewhere have been pitching the idea of building nuclear reactors to provide steam and process heat to the tar sands operations in Alberta. All of these proposals have eventually been set aside because the developers could not deliver their reactors within five years of breaking ground which is the capital spending time horizon of the tar sands companies.

What’s apparently different this time is that Canada’s largest oil sands producers have formed an alliance that plans to work with federal and provincial government to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions from their operations by 2050.

The Oil Sands Pathways to Net Zero initiative will evaluate and accelerate the application of emerging emissions-reducing technologies including small modular nuclear reactors. The firms in the alliance account for 90% of tar sands oil production.

tar sands processing plant

The province of Alberta last year joined New Brunswick, Ontario and Saskatchewan in a Memorandum of Understanding to work together to support the development and deployment of SMRs.

Alberta Minister of Energy Sonya Savage said the new initiative would “strengthen our position” as global ESG (environment, social and governance) leaders. “This initiative will also pave the way for continued technological advancements, ultimately leading to the production of net zero barrels of oil.”

Will SMRs be Ready for the Tar Sands?

None of the 13 SMRs currently in CNSC’s vendor design review (VDR) process are even close to getting a license much less being able to deliver an SMR in five years or less to a tar sands oil company. Only three are LWR type designs which have the fastest path to market. The other ten are advanced designs which will take longer to be ready for commercial sale. If any of these SMRs are candidates for the tar sands by the end of this decade it will be the designs based on conventional light water reactor technologies.

process heat CNSC VDR firms

  • Seven of 14 designs have reactor outlet heat values greater than 500 C. These designs, although they are advanced reactors with longer times to market, will be of significant interest to the tar sands operations.
  • Only five of 13 designs have completed Phase 1 of the VDR process
  • Five other designs have started Phase 1; One is on hold , and Two have not yet applied but intend to apply but have not set a date to do so.
  • Four of seven are HTGR; Three are molten salt
  • Seven of 13 designs are using either TRISO or HALEU fuel with U235 > 5%. Testing and qualifying fuels, and buying fuel in commercial quantities are key challenges for these developers.

Note to readers: The chart above shows Elysium Industries as participating in CNSC;s VDR process. However, a June update to the agency’s website clarifies that that while the firm has requested regulatory information from the agency, it has not submitted a Phase 1 application.

Canada’s Drive for Decarbonization as a Demand Factor

A key driver of demand for SMRs by the tar sands industry is that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau plans to raise Canada’s carbon price steeply over time to position the country for carbon-neutral status by 2050. The oil and gas sector accounted for 26% of Canada’s carbon emissions in 2018 according to a Reuters report. SMRs could provide a zero-carbon source of process heat and power for such operations, which are typically in off-grid locations.

It is important to keep in mind that having zero CO2 emissions from the process heat operations of tar sands does nothing to mitigate the CO2 emissions from burning the oil extracted from the Alberta sites. As a practical matter all the “talk” about decarbonization isn’t going to change the fact that the global market for fossil fuels, including oil, will decline only slowly over the balance of this century and the use of oil as a feedstock for other industrial chemicals will continue long after all of us are driving electric cars.

Investors Wary of Tars Sands Firms Spending Plans

According to Reuters, some investors and lenders warn they could walk away if more cash is not spent on projects that transition the tar sands companies for a low-carbon future. Other investors have criticized the proposed initiative.

“They have these ambitious transition targets and a relatively short window to make people believe that their transition plans are real,” said Jamie Bonham, director of corporate engagement at NEI Investments, which owns shares in all three oil sands producers worth a combined C$71 million. He said NEI could divest or vote against directors if progress does not come soon.

“We will take into account whether they’re moving in the right direction,” said Steve Peacher, president of SLC Management, an investment subsidiary of Sun Life Financial. “We won’t lend to energy firms that we don’t think are doing that.”

For their part the oil sands firms said that pressure from shareholders is high to pay dividends, repurchase outstanding shares, and reduce debt.

“If you’re structurally cutting shareholder returns to take their cash and invest it in the transition, that’s going to be tough, because we need the support of the shareholders and the capital markets,” Suncor Chief Executive Mark Little said.

Reuters also reported last April that New York’s state pension fund is restricting investment in six Canadian oil sands companies because they have not shown they are prepared for a transition to a low-carbon future, the fund’s Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said.

The New York State Common Retirement Fund will divest more than $7 million in securities already held in the companies, and not make any further investments in them. This amount by itself isn’t a lot in the world of oil investment pools. The significance of the action is the the fund is responding to stakeholder pressures related to global warming and it is an indication that other large institutional investors may follow New York’s lead.

Tar sands hold the world’s third-largest crude reserves, according to Natural Resources Canada and have some of the highest emissions per barrel of oil produced due to the carbon-intensive production process of extracting tar-like bitumen from the ground..

Oil sands are a mixture of bitumen, a thick, sticky form of crude oil, sand, water and clay. Canada’s oil sands. The bitumen in oil sands does not flow like conventional crude oil, so it must be mined or heated underground using steam – produced using natural gas – and further processed with steam heat, provided by burning oil and natural gas to recover bitumen from the sand.

Tar Sands Firms Ask for Government Financial Assistance

The alliance of tar sands firms, which includes Canadian Natural Resources (CNQ.TO), Cenovus Energy (CVE.TO), Imperial Oil (IMO.TO), MEG Energy (MEG.TO) and Suncor Energy (SU.TO), said it will work with federal and Alberta governments to help Canada meet its climate goals.

In addition to looking at SMRs to make steam, instead of burning the very oil they extract for this purpose, oil sands producers said they would use hydrogen instead of natural gas for oil sands facilities. In the future, the firms plan to look into CO2 sequestration technologies as a mitigation measure.

Alberta has asked Ottawa to fund a C$30-billion, 10-year program to develop carbon capture. The federal government will require the companies to share the costs of any carbon-capture initiatives. It isn’t clear whether the Canadian government is planning to spend that kind on money on what is essentially a private sector initiative.

South Korea Seeks Global Role in Launch of Nuclear Powered Cargo Ships

(The Maritime Executive) South Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries will undertake a joint research and development project with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), to develop nuclear-powered ships.


A Samsung Heavy Industries Shipyard in South Korea

Based on a strategic cooperative agreement, they plan to explore the opportunities to use nuclear power as a solution for carbon-neutral shipping. The plan is to harness Samsung’s expertise in ship building with KAERI’s expertise in nuclear reactor technologies.

Samsung said in its press statement that it will be working with a small modular reactors based on molten salt reactor (MSR) design principles. The firm said it chose this design because it is seen as a safer, lightweight solution that would require less capital investment for the shipping industry than other alternative fuels and propulsion systems. It can use commercial grade nuclear fuel and does not require the high-pressure water-cooling systems used in large land based reactors.

Of great importance to Samsung is that it wants to decarbonize the future ships it builds for customers who are asking for it.

“MSR is a carbon-free energy source that can efficiently respond to climate change issues and is a next-generation technology that meets the vision of Samsung Heavy Industries,” said Jin-Taek Jung, president of Samsung Heavy Industries. “We plan to focus our R&D efforts to create a new future growth engine.”

One aspect of the design noted is that in it the uranium fuel is to be mixed with a chloride salt. The hot salt coming out of the reactor’s primary loop would then interact with a secondary steam system to produce high pressure steam to drive the ship.

Through the agreement, Samsung plans to pioneer the MSR-based floating nuclear power plant and a nuclear-powered ship market as part of its future new business expansion. The research will include MSR technology and related equipment development, such as heat exchangers, offshore nuclear product design and business model development, performance verification, and economic evaluation.

Among the advantages Samsung sees for the technology is that the life of the reactor is projected at 20 years, the same as the life of the vessel, meaning the ship would not need to refuel. The partners in this deal highlight that the size of the reactor is relatively small, so it has the advantage of easy application to ships. In addition, the MSR design provides a higher level of safety and would prevent serious accidents.

While Samsung Heaving Industries has extensive experience and history building ships, KAERI does not list expertise with molten salt reactors (MSR) on its website. The IAEA ARIS database does not list any MSR based advanced reactor work ongoing in South Korea.

Assuming the MSR technology is the chosen path forward, the partners are either planning to develop an MSR-based small modular reactor from scratch or acquire the intellectual property for one that is already designed by another organization outside of South Korea..

Russia Starts Building a Lead-cooled Fast Reactor

(WNN) Russian nuclear fuel manufacturer TVEL has announced the start of construction of a 300 MWe nuclear power unit whichis the BREST-OD-300 lead-cooled fast reactor at the site of the Siberian Chemical Combine, in Seversk. The reactor will run on mixed uranium-plutonium nitride (MNUP) fuel. The construction license was issued in February 2021.

brest image

TVEL said that its plans call for a nuclear power plant powered by a fast reactor to be built alongside closed nuclear fuel cycle servicing enterprises on one site. It will be an integral part of the Pilot Demonstration Energy Complex (PDEC) – a cluster of three interconnected facilities, including the nuclear fuel production plant (for fabrication and re-fabrication), the BREST-OD-300 power unit, and the facility for irradiated fuel reprocessing to make new fuel.

brest tech specs

Technical Specifications of the BREST OD-300

After reprocessing, the irradiated fuel from the reactor will be sent for re-fabrication, thereby giving this system the means to become “practically autonomous and independent of external resources supplies”, said TVEL.

TVEL President Natalia Nikipelova told World Nuclear News that the Breakthrough project concerns not merely the development of innovative reactors, but also the introduction of a new generation of nuclear fuel cycle technologies. Production of dense nitride MNUP fuel will ensure the efficient operation of a lead-cooled fast reactor and consist entirely of recycled nuclear materials such as plutonium and depleted uranium,

A fuel production facility and an irradiated fuel reprocessing module are scheduled to be built by 2023 and 2024, respectively. The BREST-OD-300 reactor is expected to start operation in 2026.

China Approves Construction of Its First SMR

(WNN) The construction of a demonstration ACP100 small modular reactor (SMR) at Changjiang in Hainan province (an island in the Gulf of Tonkin) has been approved by China’s National Development and Reform Commission. The multi-purpose 125MWe pressurized water reactor (PWR) – also referred to as the Linglong One – is designed for electricity production, heating, steam production or seawater desalination. According to CNNC the reactor is expected to be installed in a configuration of two units per site.

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said in a statement to investors, “The small reactor demonstration project is of great significance to promote the safe development and independent innovation of nuclear power.”

However, the firm did not commit to a start date for construction of the demonstration ACP100 nor when it is due to be commissioned. The design has been under development since 2010. In 2016, the design became the first SMR to pass a safety review by the International Atomic Energy Agency. (Technical briefing to IAEA – PDF file)

The ACP100 was identified as a ‘key project’ in China’s 12th Five-Year Plan, and is developed from the larger ACP1000 PWR. The design, which has 57 fuel assemblies and integral steam generators, incorporates passive safety features and will be installed underground.

In 2016, China announced plans to build a demonstration floating nuclear power plant based on the ACP100S variant of the CNNC design. The initial “customer” for the plants is the Chinese military which plans to use the SMRs to provide power to artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea.

The demonstration of the first ACP100 plant would be located on the north-west side of the existing Changjiang nuclear power plant. The site is already home to two operating CNP600 PWRs, while the construction of the first of two Hualong One units began in March this year. Both those units are due to enter commercial operation by the end of 2026.

China Remains Committed to Building a Hualong One
at the UK Bradwell Site

The Bloomberg wire service reported earlier this year that despite occasional diplomatic spats between China and the UK, both countries remain committed to a deal that would bring Chinese commercial nuclear reactors to the UK.

China General Nuclear’s Chief Executive Officer Rob Davies told the Bloomberg wire service CGN is committed to nuclear development in the U.K. regardless of the political winds.

He said the company is willing to self-finance the Bradwell B project in southeast England. He added that the company would take a market power price for electricity sold from the plant which is a break from EDF’s move at Hinkley Point to secure a long-term contract for rates.

The project would be a Chinese-designed reactor, called HPR1000 also known as the Hualong One. It would showcase China’s technical skill in Europe. The plan could involve up to three the reactors at the site.

Davis added that, “We plan to maintain our support for Hinkley Point C, to help Sizewell C to reach a Final Investment Decision, to complete the general design assessment for the HPR1000 and to continue with Bradwell. “

The political viability of the project has been questioned due to pressure from the US and the UK government clamped down on the sale 5G mobile technology from Huawei Technologies Ltd. Some members of the UK Parliament have raised security concerns about allowing China to build its reactors in the UK.

As a practical matter, China is deeply committed to nuclear power in the UK having taken a one-third equity stake in the Hinkley Point C project and has planned to take a similar stake in the Sizewell C project.

In return, the UK has promised China the right to build the Hualong One at Bradwell. The reactor design is in the fourth and final stage of the UK generic design assessment which is the safety and environmental review conducted by the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation.

The trade press site Nuclear Engineering International reported in April of this year that the progress of the Hualong One through the UK Generic Design Assessment Process has documented the remaining issues to completing it.

Third Try May Be the Charm for Moorside

(BBC) Plans for two nuclear power plants on the site of the previously abandoned Moorside project in Cumbria have been submitted to the UK government. The EDF-led Moorside consortium wants to build two 1650 MWE EPR pressurized water reactors similar to the units being built at the Hinkley Point C site and which are also proposed for the Sizewell C site.

Previously, Japan’s Toshia Corp. had planned to build three Westinghouse 1150 MWe AP1000 PWRs at the site, but abandoned it due to self-inflicted financial difficulties. Toshiba was revealed to have cooked its books by reporting huge amounts of revenue that never occured and Westinghouse went bankrupt due to mismanagement by the firm and fraud by the utility at the V C Sumnmer project in South Carolina.

The latest plan to revive the Moorside project includes an effort to attract developers of the Rolls-Royce-led UK SMR consortium. That firm is developing plans to deploy 16 of its 440 MWE PWR at various sites in the UK.

Copeland MP Trudy Harrison is keen for the plans to go ahead as she sees the industry being fundamental for the area.

She told the BBC, “Nuclear technologies have a key role to play in our clean energy future and the vision for a Clean Energy Hub around Moorside shows how the whole industry including our local communities and supply chains to ready to deliver a Green Industrial Revolution for the UK.”

“Nuclear is what Copeland does best and I am continuing to work closely with the Moorside Consortium as well as the Nuclear Delivery Group and Government on projects across robotics, fusion, decommissioning, hydrogen, and next generation reactors.”

Vatanfall Takes Equity Stake in Fermi Energia

Vattenfall has signed an agreement with the Estonian nuclear energy start-up company Fermi Energia in order to become a minority shareholder of the company with a seed investment of Euro 1 million. Vattenfall has become a minority shareholder of approximately six percent ownership.

The extended collaboration will further explore the maturity of SMR technology and the prospects for deployment of one or several such reactors in Estonia.

Under the agreement of the Letter-of-Intent dating from November 2020, Vattenfall is studying the potential for the deployment of small modular reactors in Estonia, especially addressing costing and constructability aspects, supply chain, operations/personnel/maintenance, and newbuild financing structure.

“With this minority investment, Vattenfall can contribute our know-how and work jointly on feasibility studies about costing, supply chain and capabilities to construct and operate Small Modular Reactor technology. Innovative and fossil free future nuclear generation such as SMR seems very promising for Estonia that has the highest average CO2 emissions per generated kWh of electricity among all EU member states,” says Torbjörn Wahlborg, Senior Vice President Generation at Vattenfall.

He said that with this investment Vattenfall sees potential in Fermi Energia’s business model and the company’s prospects to submit an application of Decision in Principle for the deployment of SMR technology in Estonia. Work could start on an SMR as early as 2026.

Kalev Kallemets, CEO of Fermi Energia, said “Fermi Energia considers true decarbonization of Estonian economy impossible without reliable, affordable low carbon power supply from nuclear energy. For Estonia, only Small Modular Reactors (SMR) as currently developed in the US, Canada and UK are suitable.”


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New Lamps for Old: TerraPower Plans an Advanced Reactor to Replace a Wyoming Coal Plant


On June 2, 2021, TerraPower, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and PacifiCorp announced efforts to build and operate a Natrium reactor demonstration project at a former coal plant in Wyoming.

The companies are evaluating several potential locations in the state. A decision on a location is expected by the end of this year.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, who spoke via video feed at the event, said, “We are ready to make investments in advanced nuclear technology so that communities all over the country can enjoy the benefits of safe and reliable and clean power that will leave them with lower energy bills and greater opportunities.”

The project at its core is a 345 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system (fact sheet). The storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 MWe of power for more than five and a half hours when needed for times when electricity from renewables is not available.


Conceptual Image of Natrium Reactor / Molten Salt Storage System

This innovative addition allows a Natrium plant to integrate seamlessly with renewable resources and could lead to faster, more cost-effective decarbonization of electricity generation.

Chris Levesque, TerraPower president and CEO, said in the statement that Natrium “was designed to solve a challenge utilities face as they work to enhance grid reliability and stability while meeting decarbonization and emissions-reduction goals.”

Gary Hoogeveen, president and CEO of Rocky Mountain Power, a division of PacifiCorp., an electricity provider in six states in the western US, said in the statement the companies “are currently conducting joint due diligence to ensure this opportunity is cost-effective for our customers and a great fit for Wyoming.” PacifiCorp is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy.

Wyoming Governor Gordon said in the statement he was “thrilled to see Wyoming selected for this demonstration pilot project … and our experienced workforce is looking forward to the jobs this project will provide.”

Maria Korsnick, NEI president and CEO, said in the trade group’s statement that “TerraPower is leading the way by expanding the potential for advanced nuclear technologies in our energy transition.”

Location to Be Determined

The location of the Natrium demonstration plant is expected to be announced by the end of 2021. TerraPower and PacifiCorp said they are “conducting due diligence” in evaluating potential sites. The plant will replace a current coal-fired plant operated by PacifiCorp.

Gary Hoogeveen, of PacifiCorp, said in a media statement that the goal is to decide which of the utility’s four coal fired power plants will house the nuclear power plant: Jim Bridger near Rock Springs, Naughton in Kemmerer, Dave Johnston in Glenrock or Wyodak near Gillette.

coal power plants wyo

Map of location of coal-fired power plants in Wyoming. Map: Google Maps

Prior to the current announcement, TerraPower had said it was considering several locations including the Columbia Generating Station in Richland, WA, and at the Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls, ID. The other ARDP demonstration reactor, X-Energy’s HTGR, is slated to be located at the Richland, WA, site.

Separately, TerraPower and GE-Hitachi are engaged by DOE in the development of the Versatile Test Reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory which is also based in part on the PRISM design. Bechtel will be the EPC for the project.

The Wyoming demonstration project will be a fully functioning power plant and is intended to validate the design, construction and operational features of the Natrium technology. Bechtel will be the Natrium plant’s design, licensing, engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) partner.

According to Chris Levesque, president and CEO of TerraPower, siting a Natrium pilot at a former PacifiCorp coal plant in Wyoming is the right move because it would demonstrate that an advanced nuclear reactor can solve challenges “utilities face as they work to enhance grid reliability and stability while meeting decarbonization and emissions-reduction goals.”

Getting an NRC License is the First Key Step

The cost of the plant and the schedule to license and build it are still to be determined. As the reactor design, which is based on the GE Hitachi PRISM reactor, has not yet been submitted to the NRC for its safety design review, actual operation of the reactor is still years in the future although the DOE ARDP program calls for it to be operational by 2028. Other state and federal regulatory reviews are also in the pipeline.

Chris Levesque, of TerraPower, said the demonstration plant would take about seven years to build once its gets a license from the NRC. According to the NRC website, the license application has not yet been submitted and the Natrium design is still in what is called “pre-licensing review” as of 05/21/21. Given that the NRC safety review takes about 3 1/2 years in a best case experience, the 2028 date looks to be a tough goal to meet.


TerraPower ARDP Schedule with Level 1 Milestones/ Image: TerraPower

The NRC website notes the agency is currently engaged in pre-application activities interactions for the Natrium reactor. (Index of publicly accessible documents in NRC ADAMS)

The Natrium designs combines features from the previous GEH PRISM and TerraPower Traveling Wave designs. The proposed Natrium reactor is a 345 MWe pool type sodium fast reactor using HALEU metal fuel. In June 2017 a four company team organized an effort to license the PRISM reactor, but did not take the process to completion.

As far back as 2011 a collaboration of DOE national labs and university researchers determined that there were no technical show stoppers to licensing the Integral Fast Reactor which is the design legacy for the PRISM reactor and thus the current Natrium effort.

However, John Sackett, who was a manager for the IFR at the Idaho National Laboratory, said at the time, “”What we know now is that there are no technical gaps that would preclude a licensing application if using known technology. Gaps might arise if a developer chooses to use a new fuel which would need testing. That process could be completed faster if simulation and modeling tools could be brought to bear on the problem.” In this regard, Sackett’s comment turns out to be predictive with regard to the HALEU fuel that the Natrium reactor will use.

Fuel for Natrium?

While there is plenty of uranium in the ground in Wyoming to be mined to produce fuel for nuclear reactors, what Naturium needs is high assay low enriched fuel (HALEU) for which a reliable source of this product is not yet in place. In 2020 TerraPower established a partnership with Centrus to develop a commercial production plant to fabricate the HALEU fuel.

Currently, CNETRUS is working on a $115M contract with DOE to demonstrate that it can make the fuel. The project is expected to be complete next year. However, Centrus has told the nuclear industry trade press multiple times that it has doubts that demand for the HALEU will emerge as sufficient for it to make a profit.

The firm pointed out that after the completion of the DOE demonstration effort, there are no commitments from the government to purchase the fuel. Additionally. each reactor vendor will have to submit to the NRC to make the case for the safety of this type of fuel in their design as part of the NRC licensing process. It could turn out there will be more demand globally for HALEU fuel from Centrus than domestically until the Natrium reactor comes online by the end of this decade or in the early 2030s which is a more likely date.

Investors Face Uncertainties About Costs

TerraPower’s work on the Natrium design is funded in a cost sharing agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy to build it as a demonstration project. In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), through its Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), awarded TerraPower $80 million in initial funding to demonstrate the Natrium technology. TerraPower signed the cooperative agreement with DOE in May 2021. To date, Congress has appropriated $160 million for the ARDP and DOE has committed additional funding in the coming years, subject to appropriations.

During its media event on June 2nd TerraPower did comment on whether outside investors would take equity stakes in the new reactor, to help cover the private sector cost share with DOE. The first of a kind unit could cost between $1-2 billion. If the conventional formula of taking an estimated “overnight cost” for a reactor is used, and assuming the cost is $5,000/Kw, then the 345 MWe plant could cost $1.73 billion. A plus for the project is that the switchyard and regional grid infrastructure for the current coal fired power plant that is to be replaced is available. The actual real cost of the reactor is yet to be determined.

The Natrium system is a combination of TerraPower and GE Hitachi technologies. Along with PacifiCorp and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, members of the demonstration project team include engineering and construction partner Bechtel, Energy Northwest, Duke Energy and nearly a dozen additional companies, universities and national laboratory partners.

While the there are over a dozen “partners” on the project, it isn’t clear what portions of the “cost sharing” required by DOE under the ARDP umbrella would be allocated to each of them.

Economic Drivers Touted by Wyoming Supporters

According to media reports in Wyoming, the announcement comes as state leaders are trying to figure out how to deal with Wyoming’s bleak future for fossil fuels. Coal production has been on a steep slide as coal-burning power plants across the country close amid amid increased competition from natural gas and renewable energy.

The downturn in Wyoming’s energy sector, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, has prompted multiple rounds of cuts to the state’s budget and government services amid declines in revenues.

According to a news release from Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, “The development of a nuclear energy facility will bring welcome tax revenue to Wyoming’s state budget, which has seen a significant decline in recent years.”

Governor Gordon stressed that the state’s pursuit of nuclear power does not mean that he was turning aside from fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

“I am not going to abandon any of our fossil fuel industry,” he said. “It is absolutely essential to our state.”

The Wyoming Mining Association also took a positive view on Wednesday’s announcement. Executive director, Travis Deti, said in a statement, “This is an exciting opportunity for Wyoming to open a new chapter in the nuclear power industry. Advanced nuclear generation clearly fits the bill for zero-emission, reliable and dispatchable electricity necessary to power our country into the future,”

“Wyoming is the nation’s leader in the production of domestic uranium. Our producers stand ready, willing and able to safely and responsibly provide the vital fuel for America’s next generation of nuclear power.”

Scott Melbye, president of Uranium Producers of America (UPA) and executive vice president of Uranium Energy Corp, also welcomed the announcement.

“The UPA’s member companies have the production capability to support the fuel needs of this program and hopefully many new advanced and small modular reactors to follow. Wyoming uranium providing energy jobs and clean, reliable nuclear electricity here in Wyoming has a wonderful ring to it.”

Maria Korsnick, CEO at NEI, said in a press release that considerable overlap exists between job functions at a coal power plant to a nuclear power plant. She emphasized that nuclear is uniquely positioned to redirect skilled workers from the coal power industry to new nuclear plants, while historically offering the highest median wage across the entire energy sector. Retaining these jobs support local communities that may otherwise be devastated by the shutdown of coal power stations.
Note to readers: Once TerraPower has a construction license from the NRC under Part 50, which will come in about four years, labor hiring especially for skilled trades, will take off resulting in several thousand people being on site for a three-to-six year period. The operations staff will be about 200-300 people once construction is complete and the reactor is commissioned to enter revenue service.

Interest for new nuclear plants is growing beyond Wyoming as states in the western region like Montana, Nebraska, Utah, Idaho and North Dakota reevaluate the role of nuclear energy – particularly applications for advanced nuclear reactors that pair well with wind and solar. It also mirrors recent interest by utilities and technology developers like Tennessee Valley Authority and NuScale to explore the possibilities of a coal to nuclear transition.

U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-WY, who appeared with Gordon at the podium, has been a proponent of expanding the U.S. nuclear sector. Wyoming is the nation’s top producer of uranium, Barrasso said, and some of that material will now be used here.

“This is the future of nuclear energy in America compared to what we’ve been doing over the last 65 years, with the energy being clean, affordable, reliable, safe,” he said.

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NuScale Scores $20M Investment from Japan’s IHI Corp

  • NuScale Gets New Equity Investment of $20M from Japanese Firm
  • UK Nuclear Firm Announces HTGR Collaboration With Japan
  • Moltex SMR Clears First Phase of CNSC VDR Regulatory Review

Fluor Announces $20 Million Investment in NuScale Power from Japanese Firm

Fluor Corporation (NYSE: FLR) announced that IHI Corporation (IHI) of Japan is investing $20 million into NuScale Power LLC, a leading small modular nuclear reactor (SMR) technology company in which Fluor is the majority investor. IHI’s immediate investment of $20 million may be followed by another $20 million at a later date.

The announcement is the second commercial investment in NuScale Power from a Japanese-based company. It is a signal not only of Japanese interest in NuScale, but also it is an indication in terms the firm’s intent in seeking business in possible target markets of Asian mega cities as customers for its SMRs.

In addition to IHI’s ownership interest, IHI will also become a global manufacturing partner and have the opportunity to provide design services and heavy manufacturing of the steel plate reinforced concrete wall structures for NuScale SMR projects in which Fluor has the lead role.

IHI will develop containment structures to enclose reactor cores, as well as other components. IHI has been producing nuclear reactor components for about six decades including reactor pressure vessels.

“IHI’s decision to invest in NuScale’s leading-edge SMR technology is another concrete example of the growing interest in this industry-leading, carbon-free energy solution,” said David Constable, chief executive officer, Fluor Corporation.

“This significant investment by IHI also aligns with Fluor’s strategy to bring aboard new strategic investors to NuScale.”

Investment Earlier this Year from an Japanese EPC

The investment from IHI comes on the heels of a previously announced $40M investment in NuScale and new strategic partnership by JGC Holdings Corporation.

The JGC injection of equity positions a key supply chain partner close to potential future customers in Asia seeking smaller, cheaper nuclear energy solutions compared to 1000MWE units being exported by Russia and China.

The Asia Nikki wire service reported that the deal involves a 3% equity stake in NuScale. However, a spokesman for NuScale declined to confirm that amount. In an email the firm said;

“We confirm the $40 million. The JGC investment results in JGC having a small minority interest in NuScale. We will not be disclosing the exact percentage at this time and cannot confirm the percentage identified in the Nikkei article.”

When asked if the deal involve any licensing of NuScale intellectual property to JGC Holdings, the spokesman said that no transfer of IP is included in the JGC deal.

In response to a question about how the deal will work with Fluor being the majority investor and which also plans to do the engineering procurement and construction (EPC) work for NuScale in the US, NuScale’s spokesman would only say that JGC is an “EPC partner with Fluor.”

Fluor shed some light on the partnership with a statement that indicated the two firms have collaborated on major projects over the past decade.

“This new ownership stake and partnership with JGC is aligned with Fluor’s long-term strategy to bring aboard new strategic investors to NuScale as the U.S. and international demand for new carbon-free base-load energy grows,” said Alan Boeckmann, executive chairman, Fluor Corporation.

“Fluor has been collaboratively executing projects with JGC for more than 10 years and we believe JGC is an ideal partner for effectively bringing this innovative carbon-free energy transition solution to realization.”

UK Nuclear Firm Announces HTGR Collaboration With Japan

(NucNet contributed to this report) A small UK nuclear technology company Penultimate Power says it has has teamed up with the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency to develop plans for advanced nuclear technology that could be operational in a first of a kind unit in Britain by 2029 with 20 units following every year from early 2030s.

The partners want to build a 100 MWe high-temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) nuclear reactor in the North East of England, replicating a design that has been running as a 10 MWe R&D project in Japan since 1998. Plans include scaling up the technology to 100 MWe, and building a factory, preferably in Teesside, UK, to construct the modular plants for use across the UK. Penultimate Power claims the first unit will cost in the region of £100m, with further cost reductions as factory produced units come off the line.

Candida Whitmill, managing director Newcastle-based Penultimate Power said the Generation IV high temperature gas-cooled reactor (EH HGTR) it is developing with the JAEA is aimed at industrial clusters.

The JAEA’s design is helium-cooled and produces heat at up to 950°C, far higher than usual for HTGRs. On one hand the high heat produces serious challenges in terms of acquiring and fabricating components from materials that can stand up to it. On the other hand, the heat is suitable for use by heavy industry, including for chemicals manufacture, desalination and direct hydrogen production through electrolysis. This in turn could be used to produce fertilizers and as a reducing agent in steel manufacture, replacing coke.

The reactor core design is a graphite prismatic block with “coated fuel particles.” Technical information on the JAEA web site does not indicated the level of enrichment for the fuel. Typical levels for enrichment of HTGRs are more than 9% U235 and less than 20%.

Ian Fells, technical director at Penultimate Power and former consultant to the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said it is unlikely that the UK will build out its complete plan of 19 GWe for full size nuclear reactors. His statement is based on the cancellation of plans for three Westinghouse 1150 MWe reactors at Moorside, two Hitachi 1350 MW ABWRs at Wylfa, and two more similar ABWRs at Oldbury.

Fells told the UK-based trade press news service Chemical Engineer in February 2019, “One great advantage is the intrinsic safety [of the design].” He calls it inherently safe because unlike traditional nuclear plants, which require controlled shutdown, Fells said a key advantage among HTGR SMR designs is that they will automatically shut down safely without power or human intervention, avoiding the out-of-control meltdown that occurred at Fukushima in 2011. This intrinsic safety feature means the SMR design is more likely to be authorized for use on or near heavy industrial sites.”

Penultimate Power says it is a privately funded company working with the UK supply chain and public nuclear organizations to deliver affordable carbon-free heat and power. On funding, Fells told Chemical Engineer that the project has international investors, and would need support from the UK government, he says, adding that the intention is that technology will be exported for use in Europe and the Middle East. Fells did not name any of the firm’s investors. Details about the firm are sparse on the usual rating agencies.

First Firm to Tackle the GDA with an Advanced Reactor Design

The UK recently opened up its nuclear generic design assessment (GDA) to advanced nuclear technologies. At the time there were no advanced nuclear reactors vendors with applications pending for the GDA. According to media reports, Penultimate Power is aiming to be the first to register with the new licensing regime with its HTGR.

The firm, which was organized in 2012, has a history of work on commercializing the production and use of hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuels. In 2016, Ms Whitmill said that Penultimate Power has the expertise in its advisory board to work effectively with an overseas partner in navigating the rigorous UK GDA licensing regime. That partner has since been named as the Japan Atomic Energy Agency.

In a 2019 presentation on HTGR cooperation between the UK and Japan, she said a large percentage of the plant and components could be built with the UK supply chain, taking advantage of advanced manufacturing and engineering facilities across the “Northern Powerhouse” region, from Newcastle to North Wales.

In Japan, JAEA began research and development of HTGRs in 1969. The high-temperature test reactor (HTTR) to the north of Tokyo in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, is a small prototype HTGR. The plant achieved first criticality in November 1998. In June 2020, after being offline for several years, the project received a green light to restart work after implementing a series of safety-related upgrades.

JAEA’s Work in Poland

In May 2017 Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA, President: Toshio Kodama) and National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) in the Republic of Poland concluded a memorandum of cooperation in the field of HTGR technologies. In Poland, construction of a practical HTGR (200-350 MW thermal) with heat supply to a variety of industries and a research HTGR (10 MW thermal) are the expected outcomes of the agreement.

Work scope includes efforts to design and build the prototype units and eventually to assess irradiation effects on fuel and material. The use of heat from the reactor at the commercial stage, estimated to be in 2028 at the earliest, is expected to be focused on its use by various industries as well as for the production of hydrogen.

In May of this year Poland signed an updated contract worth $16.2M. Work scope in Poland over the next three years includes efforts to design and build the prototype units and eventually to assess irradiation effects on fuel and material. The use of heat from the reactor at the commercial stage is expected to be focused on its utilization by various industries as well as for the production of hydrogen.

Moltex SMR Clears First Phase of CNSC VDR Regulatory Review

(WNN) The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has completed the first phase of the pre-licensing vendor design review (VDR) for Moltex Energy’s 300 MWe Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W 300) small modular reactor. Moltex’s design is the fifth small modular reactor for which the CNSC has completed the Phase 1 VDR.

“Overall, Moltex Energy demonstrated an understanding of our regulatory requirements and expectations,” the regulator said.

“Additional work will be required in areas such as management systems, safety classification and design aspects of containment structures should Moltex Energy decide to proceed with a Phase 2 review.”

The CNSC said there are no apparent show stoppers or other issues that can’t be resolved in Phase 2.  The full text of CNSC’s Phase 1 report shows there is a lot of work yet to be done.

Moltex Energy CEO for North America Rory O’Sullivan said completing the first phase of the VDR was a major achievement. “This demonstrates that our technology is progressing in the right direction, and gives current and future customers confidence in our design of advanced nuclear reactors,” he said.

The SSR-W is a molten salt reactor that uses nuclear waste as fuel. The company aims to deploy its first reactor at the Point Lepreau site in New Brunswick by the early 2030s.

Moltex is one of 13 firms involved in CNSC’s VDR process.

Status of CNSC VDR May 2021

Status of Firms in CNSC VDR Process: Data: CNSC. Table: NeutronBytes 05/28/21

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China’s CFR-600 Draws Concerns as a Breeder Reactor

Updated 05/31/21 – See Addendum below. 
A 600 MWe fast reactor, the CFR600, is expected to be complete by 2023. The CFR-600 is a sodium-cooled pool-type fast-neutron nuclear reactor under construction in Xiapu County, Fujian province, China, on Changbiao Island. Work began on building it in 2017. On the same site, the building of a second 600 MWe fast reactor CFR-600 was started in December 2020. (IAEA technical profile)

It is positioned as a civilian / commercial effort and is a GEN IV demonstration project operated by the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) which is a commercial state owned enterprise. The project is also known as Xiapu fast reactor pilot project. The reactor will have an output of 1,500 MWth thermal power and 600 MWe electric power. A larger commercial-scale reactor, the CFR-1000, is also planned.


GEN IV Conceptual Design of a Sodium Cooled Fast Reactor: Image: Gen IV Forum

The CFR600 reactor will use mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel. It will feature two coolant loops producing steam at 480°C. The reactor will have active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal. Fuel for the reactor comes from Russia’s TVEL which also provides the fuel for Russia’s BN-600 which is the design basis for the CFR600.

In recent months western nonproliferation experts have raised concerns that these plants will have more fuel generation than their actual usage. In other words, the question has been raised whether the plants will be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

A recent paper (PDF) that includes contributions by Frank von Hippel, Thomas Cochran, Hui Zhang, and several other nuclear non-proliferation experts, and published by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Washington, DC, drew attention to this issue.

The findings in the paper stated that China could “conservatively produce 1,270 nuclear weapons by 2030 simply by exploiting the weapons-grade plutonium this program will produce or even increase that by a factor of two or more if China used highly enriched uranium or composite uranium-plutonium cores from the reactors in bombs and missiles.”

One of the concerns that has also been highlighted is that China has stopped reporting to the IAEA on the quantities of plutonium produced by its civilian reactors. In a statement on May 19th to the Al Jazeera news service, Nickolas Roth, senior fellow and director of the Nuclear Security program at the think-tank the Stimson Center in Washington, DC, said, “Confidence-building measures like plutonium declarations to the IAEA are really important.”

“When countries don’t submit those declarations, particularly as they’re going down the path of producing more materials, that is a legitimate reason for concern.”

The China Atomic Energy Authority, the agency responsible for reporting to the IAEA, did not respond to Al Jazeera’s questions about why China stopped reporting on its civilian plutonium program. Similar requests from Al Jazeera made through China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Energy Administration and the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology were not acknowledged.

The way forward, Roth says, is for the US to engage with China to find out why it stopped the declarations to the IAEA and pursue a path to set disincentives to others in the region from pursuing plutonium reprocessing.

U.S. Military Concerns

The US military appears to be concerned about these developments. According to a news media report, the commander of Stratcom, Admiral Charles A. Richard, testified on April 20th about the connection between China’s civil fast reactor program and its weapons efforts.

“I can’t get through a week without finding out something I didn’t know about China,” Adm. Charles Richard, the head of U.S. Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 20th.

Richard said China’s “very opaque” nuclear policy makes it “difficult to determine their intentions.”

Henry Sokolski, Executive Director, The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, who is one of the authors of the paper on China’s nuclear ambitions, told this blog in an email that China’s fast breeder effort creates “uncertainties” about what other nuclear states might do in light of China’s actions.

“Without ever saying it, most Hill experts understand that if China gets as many or more nuclear weapons than we have deployed its not only going to throw a wrench into diplomatic efforts to reduce our arsenal, but also prompt a nuclear buildup and arms race the likes of which we haven’t seen since the l950s. That it might finally push Japan, South Korea, and Australia to go nuclear also threatens to blow up the NPT and, our super high-trust security ties with these states.”

Sokolski wrote in the policy paper, “It is widely known that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is expanding its arsenal of nuclear weapons, which at this point even its own diplomats do not much trouble themselves to deny. What is less clear, however, is how fast this build-up is occurring and – most critically – how long and to what level Beijing intends to continue this expansion.”

Diplomats Weigh in on China’s Reluctance to Hold Talks

On April 14th, the US went public with its concerns about China’s intentions. Reuters reported that China is resisting bilateral talks with the United States on nuclear weapons.

The U.S. disarmament ambassador Richard Wood told a U.N. conference, “Despite the PRC’s dramatic build-up of its nuclear arsenal, unfortunately it continues to resist discussing nuclear risk reduction bilaterally with the United States.”

“To date Beijing has not been willing to engage meaningfully or establish expert discussions similar to those we have with Russia. We sincerely hope that will change,” he added.

Reuters also reported that there is no evidence that China intends to divert its potential plutonium stockpile to weapons use, but concern has grown as Beijing is expected to boost its number of nuclear warheads over the next decade.

Hui Zhang, a senior research associate at Harvard University’s Project on Managing the Atom, said in an email to Reuters,

“To reduce international concerns about the potential plutonium diversion issues, China needs to keep its plutonium recycling programs more transparent including timely reporting of its stockpile of civilian plutonium like they did before 2016,”

He added that China should also offer to have its plutonium recycling facilities monitored by the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency.

As a practical matter many nations are developing advanced reactors, including the U.S., which are also seen as fast breeders even if they are slated for strictly civilian uses. Getting all the world’s nuclear powers on the same page to prevent letting the proverbial genies out of the bottle, by committing to IAEA declarations, would seem to be a useful idea.

Addendum 05/31/21: How Much MOX Does China Need?

mox-fuel-word-cloud_thumbChina is building two spent fuel reprocessing plants with a capacity each of 200 tonnes of heavy metal per year each. The first plant is expected to come on line in 2025, the second one sometime before 2030.

These plants could be fully utilized in separating plutonium from spent fuel to make mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for the two CFR600 fast breeder reactors under construction. There is a question of whether or how soon the CFR600 units will need this fuel.

If the CFR600 don’t need it, what does China plan to do with the approximately 15 tonnes of plutonium that will be recovered from spent fuel by each of these plans each year?

Russia’s TVEL had signed a contract to fabricate the fuel for China’s CFR-600 reactors and for the next seven years of operation. In other words, reliable fuel services for the first CFR600, and most likely, for the second unit, are assured at least until 2028. So for the better part of this decade, the fuel needs of one and likely both CFR600s are taken care of. Also, Once Russia has a fuel service contract, it will aggressively pursue renewing the contract long before it expires.

If that is the case, then why is China building the two reprocessing plants as cited? In terms of “make v. buy,” China gets the benefit of the economies of scale Russia is reaping by making fuel for both of the Chinese reactors and the BN-600. It will be far more costly for China to make its own fuel.

It’s possible that China eventually wants to be self-sufficient in making MOX fuel, but another question is how much MOX does it need? According to trade press reports, the 200 tonnes/yr reprocessing plant will extract 15 tonnes of plutonium from the spent fuel each year.

Using a rough order of magnitude calculation, that inventory could be turned into about 500-800 PWR type MOX fuel assemblies at the equivalent of less than 5% U235 enrichment. Typically, a PWR can be converted to have about one-third of its core (137 assemblies) filled with MOX fuel.

Depending on how many of its PWRs China would then convert to burning MOX, that would set the demand for this type of fuel. The majority of China’s nuclear fleet are PWR type designs followed by Russian VVER type. There are other designs, but they are not relevant for using MOX fuel. (50 operating reactors, 19 under construction)  It would seem that there could be plenty of potential demand for MOX fuel if China decided it wanted to go in that direction.

However, China has not qualified any of its fleet of LWR type commercial reactors to burn MOX and has shown little interest in doing so despite a growing inventory of spent nuclear fuel.

There is a proposed project between China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and France’s EDF/AREVA to develop an 800 t/yr reprocessing plant costing $15.7 billion that includes an SNF storage facility. Despite a decade of talks China and EDF have not come to terms about building the plant. The main issues are cost and that China would be dependent on France for the technology and operation of the plant.

According to Mark Hibbs, an expert on China’s nuclear program, during the 2000s China aimed to set up a MOX fabrication plant based on Belgian technology on the Plant 404 site at Jiuquan in Gansu Province.

Hibbs writes, “Belgium, according to European officials, would not agree to terms set by China and the project was scuttled. Instead China designed and built an indigenous pilot installation to make 500 kilograms of MOX per year and began operating it in 2013.”

Based on his book on China’s nuclear energy program, Hibbs added that for China, “MOX is a long term proposition,” but he predicts the country will make progress this decade with the fabrication and use of the fuel.

What all this looks like is that aside from the CFR600s, which will use MOX fuel from TVEL for the next seven years, there does not appear to be a lot of demand for MOX fuel in China leaving open the question of what is China planning to do with the plutonium from its twin reprocessing plants? The plants are too small to make as significant dent in China’s inventory of spent fuel. So what is China’s plan for the plutonium recovered by these facilities?


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Global First Submits 15 MWt SMR for License from CNSC

  • Global  First Small Modular Reactor Project Achieves Licensing Milestone
  • Rolls-Royce Consortium Increases Plant’s Power,  Plans To Build Up To 10 By 2035
  • Idaho Lab Slated to be Pilot Site for Use of Nuclear Energy to Produce Hydrogen
  • Doosan and KNHP to Collaborate on Hydrogen Production
  • Poland Funds R&D Collaboration with Japan on HTGRs
  • Licensing Fee Reform Can Catalyze Advanced Nuclear Innovation for Rapid Decarbonization

Global  First Small Modular Reactor Project Achieves Licensing Milestone

GFP logoGlobal First Power Ltd. (GFP) announced May 20, 2021, that its Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) Project is moving to the next phase of licensing with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

On their website, the CNSC provided details on GFP’s License to Prepare Site, indicating that the Project has fulfilled requirements to move to the formal phase in this process, which will involve a detailed technical review.

In March and April 2021, GFP submitted management system documentation in support of its application for a license to prepare a site for a small modular reactor on Atomic Energy of Canada Limited property at the Chalk River Laboratories site.

On May 6, 2021, the CNSC determined that this documentation and GFP’s plan for additional submissions were sufficient to begin the technical review as part of the licensing application process.

GFP is seeking CNSC approval for a license to prepare the site for a MMR at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Renfrew County, Ontario, approximately 200 km northwest of Ottawa.

global First MMR Timeline

The announcement moves GFP closer to owning, constructing, and operating Canada’s first small modular reactor (SMR) with first power slated for 2026. The 15 megawatt (MW) thermal (approximately 5 MW electrical) MMR plant will be developed at Chalk River Laboratories, a site owned by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) and managed by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL).

About the MMR Project

The proposed project includes a nuclear plant that contains an MMR high-temperature gas-cooled reactor to provide process heat to an adjacent plant via molten salt. This MMR would produce approximately 15 megawatts (thermal) of process heat to generate electrical power and/or heat over an operating life span of 20 years.

The MMR plant is based on USNC’s proprietary Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated (FCM™) fuel technology which will bring an unprecedented level of safety as well as improved economics and reduced environmental impact for remote power applications.

USNC has been progressing the design of the MMR over the last several years.  This includes completing the Phase 1 Vendor Design review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

See also theUSNC’s website to learn more about USNC’s MMR™ energy system. To learn more about the technology download USNC’s tabletop MMR.

mmr tech specs

MMR Technical Specifications.  Chart: Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp

About Canada’s SMR Program

Both AECL and CNL have identified SMRs as one of several strategic initiatives the company is pursuing, with the goal of siting a demonstration project on one of AECL’s sites, which are managed by CNL. Together, both organizations are working to demonstrate the commercial viability of SMRs and have positioned Canada as a global leader in SMR prototype testing and technology development support.

As part of the program, CNL issued an invitation in 2018 to SMR developers to apply to site an SMR demonstration reactor at a CNL-managed site. GFP is in stage three of CNL’s four-stage process, and with this recent CNSC announcement, GFP is the most advanced concept towards demonstration.

This demonstration Project is intended to serve as a model for future SMR deployments as called for in Canada’s SMR Roadmap and Action Plan, by producing competitively-priced clean energy for remote communities and heavy industry such as mining and resource projects.

Rolls-Royce Consortium Increases Plant’s Power,
Plans To Build Ten Reactors By 2035

rr logo(NucNet contributed to this report) A Rolls-Royce-led consortium which is creating a mid-range nuclear reactor has increased the plant’s power from 440 MWe to 470 MWe and is aiming to complete its first unit in the early 2030s and build up to 10 by 2035. These milestones suggest that the firm would initiate simultaneous starts at multiple locations.

Backing Rolls-Royce’s plan to build 16 plants by mid-century would allow the government would also support U.K. manufacturing and prop up a company that has been hard hit by the pandemic.

The plant’s design has been adjusted and improved, with more than 200 major engineering decisions made. The cost of each plant will initially be about £2.2bn per unit dropping to £1.8bn by the time five have been completed.

Rolls-Royce said the UK SMR consortium had completed the first phase of development work “on time and under budget.” It said it is aiming to be the first SMR design to be assessed by regulators in the second half of 2021, which will keep it on track to complete its first unit in the early 2030s and build up to 10 units by 2035 with a plan to build six more after completing that milestone..

The announcement follows the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opening last week of the Generic Design Assessment to advanced nuclear technologies. Technically speaking, the Rolls Royce design is neither an “advanced” reactor nor is it a SMR.

The design is based on well understood principles for building pressurized water reactors (PWR) that use water as a moderator and nuclear fuel enriched to less than 5% U235. The size of he reactor at 470 MWe, is well beyond the IAEA definition of an SMR which as an upper limit of 300 MWe.

Rolls-Royce said the consortium will target an additional £250bn of potential exports with memoranda of understanding (MOU) already in place with Estonia, Turkey and the Czech Republic. These agreements in principle are not contracts and actual deals to build the Rolls Royce PWR will have to wait for it to complete the lengthy and costly UK Generic Design Analysis (GDA) which is an assessment by the government of the safety of the design and its environmental impact.

“Nuclear power is central to tackling climate change, securing economic recovery and strengthening energy security,” affirmed UK SMR CEO Tom Samson.

“To do this it must be affordable, reliable and investable and the way we manufacture and assemble our power station brings down the cost to be comparable to offshore wind at around £50 per megawatt-hour.”

Media reports said the consortium is seeking a further £300m of private capital to develop the reactors. The initial “two to three” units are likely to require government support. However, UK SMR chief executive officer Tom Samson said he hopes to move to “traditional debt and equity” to fund following orders. He said negotiations had begun with potential investors to fund the plants.

Rolls-Royce said the UK SMR team is likely to become a standalone business which will deliver a UK fleet of 16 power stations and secure exports to make the plant “a key part of the world’s decarbonization toolkit.”

The plants will be built by the new UK SMR business, before being handed over to be operated by power generation companies. In November 2020 the consortium signed an MoU with US utility Exelon Generation to pursue the potential for Exelon Generation to operate compact nuclear power stations both in the UK and internationally.

Press reports last year said three sites in the UK were being considered for the first UK SMR plant: Moorside in Cumbria, Wylfa in North Wales and Trawsfynydd also in North Wales.

Of the three sites, two of them – Moorside and Wylfa – were once targeted as sites for multiple units of much larger reactors.

  • Moorside was to have been the site of three Westinghouse 1150 MWe AP1000 PWRs.
  • Wylfa was at one time slated to be the site of twin Hitachi 1350 MWe ABWRs.

Neither project ever got off the ground due difficulties in securing financing. If Rolls Royce were to build 16 of its PWRs it would nearly equal the electrical generation capacity of the two earlier planned projects.

According to Rolls-Royce, the relatively compact size makes it suitable for a variety of applications, helping decarbonize entire energy systems. Each power station can supply enough reliable low carbon power for around one million homes, or be used to power net-zero hydrogen and synthetic aviation fuel manufacturing facilities, desalination plants or energy intensive industrial sites.

The plant will operate for at least 60 years and the design, which will be finalized at the end of the regulatory assessment process, proposes that all used fuel will be stored on each site for the lifetime of the plant.

The power station’s design cuts costs by using standard nuclear energy technology used in 400 reactors around the world. The components for the power station are manufactured in modules in factories, before being transported to existing nuclear sites for rapid assembly inside a weatherproof canopy.

Rolls Royce Asks UK Gov’t to Fund First Three Reactors of 16 Planned Units

According to the Bloomberg wire service, a Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc-led group renewed calls for around 2 billion pounds ($2.8 billion) of U.K. government funding to move forward with plans for a raft of new mini nuclear reactors.  Separately, the firm told the Financial Times that it is seeking 300 million pounds from private and institutional investors to kick start commercialization of the revised reactor design. The firm also said that it will begin the UK Generic Design Review with the Office of Nuclear Regulation in the second half of 2021.

Britain was said to considered a similar request in October 2020 but it never stepped up to the plate to make a decision. Now Rolls-Royce and partners including Laing O’Rourke Plc are asking again for government support to build the first two or three plants out of a planned 16 470 MWe units.

Britain will need nuclear energy to meet its 2050 emission targets. However, it is in a bind. All of its remaining atomic plants will close by 2035, and only one is currently under construction which is the Hinkley Point C project composed of two EDF/Areva 1650 MWe EPRs. Similar power station is planned for the Sizewell C site. Both projects include significant equity financing from Chinese state owned nuclear energy enterprises. In return, China is expected to build one and perhaps three 1000 MWe Hualong One PWR type reactors at the Bradwell site.

Separately, the UK lost partners to build three Westinghouse 1150 MWe AP1000s at the Moorside site and also two 1350 MWe Hitachi ABWRs at the Wylfa site and two more ABWRs at the Oldburgy site. If Rolls Royce builds all 16 of its mid-range plants, at 470 MWe each it will equal 7520 MWe or all of the capacity that was lost at these three locations.

The government’s U.K. Research & Innovation agency is “in discussion with the Rolls Royce-led U.K. small modular reactors consortium on how work may proceed,” the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy said Friday, declining to elaborate. The money, if it comes, will be authorized by the UK government as a ministerial measure and approval by Parliament may also be required for funding at this level.

The UK SMR consortium members are Rolls-Royce, Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and TWI.

Idaho Lab Slated to be Pilot Site for Use of Nuclear Energy to Produce Hydrogen

Bloom Energy of San Jose, CA, and Idaho National Laboratory, located at Idaho Falls, ID, have agreed to proceed with a  new pilot to show how nuclear energy can be an efficient input into solid oxide electrolyzer system for carbon-free hydrogen production

Bloom Energy (NYSE: BE) announced an agreement with Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to independently test the use of nuclear energy to create clean hydrogen through Bloom Energy’s solid oxide, high-temperature electrolyzer.

This carbon-free hydrogen is obtained through electrolysis that is powered by nuclear generation. When the electric grid has ample power, rather than ramping down power generation, the electricity generated by nuclear plants can be used to produce cost-effective hydrogen in support of the burgeoning hydrogen economy.

First announced in July 2020, Bloom Energy’s electrolyzer converts water (or steam) into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen can then be injected into the natural gas pipeline, stored and used for power generation with a fuel cell at a later time, dispensed to fuel cell vehicles, or used by industrial processes that consume large amounts of hydrogen.

Bloom Energy’s electrolyzer has a higher efficiency than low-temperature electrolyzer technologies, thereby reducing the amount of electricity needed to produce hydrogen. The steam supplied to the electrolyzers can also be generated by the thermal energy produced by the nuclear power plant, bolstering the overall efficiency of hydrogen production further.

Each 360-kW hydrogen production module, or electrolyzer, would produce a nominal hydrogen flow of 7.8 kg per hour and would be “remotely managed and monitored by Bloom,” the company said on its website. The company did not disclose the production capacity of the test system or its estimated cost.

INL will test Bloom Energy’s electrolyzers at the Dynamic Energy Testing and Integration Laboratory in Idaho where researchers can simulate steam and load following conditions as if it were already integrated with a nuclear power station. These simulations will provide the opportunity to model operations in a controlled environment.

“The high-temperature electrolyzers take advantage of both the thermal and the electrical power that are available at nuclear power plants,” said Tyler Westover, the Hydrogen and Thermal Systems Group lead at INL.

“This expands the markets for nuclear power plants by allowing them to switch between sending power to the electrical grid and producing clean hydrogen for transportation and industry energy sectors.”

“We must think creatively and seek all possible low, zero, and negative carbon solutions to benefit our planet.  Harnessing excess energy to produce hydrogen is a solution with a positive impact on global decarbonization efforts and we look forward to working with the team at Idaho National Laboratory to make this a reality,” said Venkat Venkataraman, EVP and chief technology officer, Bloom Energy.

“As a result of this pilot, we expect to establish carbon-free hydrogen generation with the highest efficiency of any electrolyzer in the market today.”

The Bloom Energy Server, which will not be part of the INL test, uses the hydrogen produced by an electrolyzer to generate electricity. Each module of that system has a nameplate output of 300 kW and consumes 18.81 kg of hydrogen per hour of operation, the company said.

Doosan and KNHP to Collaborate on Hydrogen Production

South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction (DHIC) announced that it has signed a business agreement with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) to enhance cooperation in clean hydrogen production and energy convergence businesses.

Under the agreement, the two companies will establish hydrogen production and storage facilities using clean energy sources, promote joint research and development on hydrogen production using small modular reactors (SMRs), and develop clean hydrogen production projects overseas.

“We have the experience of having expanded our cooperation in the nuclear power business to the hydroelectric field,” said DHIC president Jung Yeon-in.

“Now with the signing of this MOU, we expect this will help us secure the technology for hydrogen production based on clean energy sources like SMRs and hydroelectric power, and facilitate the development of new cooperation projects, such as those related to exporting.”

Doosan’s Link to NuScale

The tie-in to small modular reactors comes, in part, through Doosan’s equity investment in NuScale, an American developers of SMRs. On April 29, 2019, NuScale Power and Doosan Heavy Industries and Construction Co., Ltd. (Doosan) announced a $44M strategic cooperation to support deployment of the NuScale Power Module (NPM) worldwide. Doosan and its financial partners provided a cash investment in NuScale as part of this strategic relationship.

Doosan will supply long lead time components and other equipment. DHIC is expected to bring its expertise in nuclear pressure vessel manufacturing. Doosan also signed the ‘unit purchase agreement’ through which it will make a cash equity investment in NuScale with Korean financial investors. The terms of the equity deal were not disclosed but it will involve transfer of NuScale stock to Doosan.

Doosan History Working with Hydrogen

DHIC has been preparing for the hydrogen business since 2018. The company is promoting projects in all stages of the hydrogen value chain such as hydrogen production, storage, transportation, and utilization. Doosan Fuel Cell, another Doosan subsidiary that has technical expertise in the field of hydrogen fuel cells, also has plans to embark on a partnership with KHNP in the field of hydrogen utilization.

In November 2020, Doosan was awarded the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for a hydrogen liquefaction plant in Gyeongnam. Under the contract, the company will perform the EPC work for a hydrogen liquefaction plant and will also provide operation and maintenance (O&M) services for twenty years. Once complete and in commercial operation in 2023, the plant will have a daily production capacity.

Poland Funds R&D Collaboration with Japan on HTGRs

Poland’s National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) and the Ministry of Education and Science (MEiN) have signed a contract for design work on a high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR).

Under the agreement, conditions for the construction of the HTGR will be prepared within three years at NCBJ, which will develop the basic design. For this purpose, MEiN will allocate PLN60.5 million ($16.2M).

A government spokesman said the decision to allocate the funds over the next three years will support cooperation with Japanese partners. It provided an opportunity for an HTGR protoype reactor to be built at NCBJ, which will allow Poland to produce hydrogen.

Climate and Environment Minister Kurtyka said the HTGR reactor is the first step towards the wide use of high-temperature reactors in the economy.

“The Ministry of Climate and Environment supports all initiatives that may contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Nuclear energy is a tool that will meet the needs of a modern economy and industry without harming the environment.

The first focus of the primarily R&D project will be for testing materials used in HTGRs. The government spokesman said, “Materials for this type of device need to work in extreme conditions, high temperatures, exposed to neutron radiation and high pressure. As part of the contract, we will also perform the necessary technical analyses, simulations and safety analyses required before applying for a licence to build a nuclear facility.”

He added: “This type of a reactor is currently operating for research purposes in Japan. In cooperation with the Japanese side, we want to adapt this kind of reactor for the needs of Swierk.”

Over time the R&D project is expected to evolve to a demonstration of a prototype unit. Japan has an HTGR as an R&D project for some time, and work on it was restarted in June 2020 after a series of safety upgrades.

In May 2017 Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA, President: Toshio Kodama) and National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) in the Republic of Poland concluded a memorandum of cooperation in the field of HTGR technologies. In Poland, construction of a practical HTGR (200-350 MW thermal) with heat supply to a variety of industries and a research HTGR (10 MW thermal) are the expected outcomes of the agreement.

tem range htgr apps

Chart: Japan Atomic Energy Agency

Work scope in Poland over the next three years includes efforts to design and build the prototype units and eventually to assess irradiation effects on fuel and material. The use of heat from the reactor at the commercial stage is expected to be focused on its use by various industries as well as for the production of hydrogen.

The government website noted that construction of a HTGR “is a great opportunity for Polish science and economy, which can bring additional benefits: development of competences and international competitiveness of Polish research teams, development of Polish research specialties or contribution to Polish energy mix significantly contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Licensing Fee Reform Can Catalyze Advanced Nuclear Innovation for Rapid Decarbonization – Study

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) released a new report, “Unlocking Advanced Nuclear Innovation: The Role of Fee Reform and Public Investment.” Timely development of advanced nuclear energy is essential for meeting mid-century climate targets. The new NIA report concludes that more public investment combined with reform of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) user fee model for new license applicants will unlock nuclear innovation and support U.S. leadership in advanced nuclear energy.

NIA_Unlock Nuclear Innovation_Report Cover_0Currently, NRC charges high hourly fees to license applicants with innovative technologies and its resources are tied to how these fees are levied.

The report analyzes this model and finds that reforming it while increasing public investment is necessary to catalyze private-sector innovation by reducing regulatory costs while also promoting the efficiency of NRC reviews.

About NIA

The Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) is a non-profit think-and-do-tank working to enable nuclear power as a global solution to mitigate climate change.

Through policy analysis, research, and education, we are catalyzing the next era of nuclear energy. Our organization is funded primarily through charitable grants and philanthropic donations from climate-concerned individuals and organizations.

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NuScale Launches Effort to Deploy Floating SMRs

  • NuScale Teams with Canadian Firm to Deploy its SMRs via Floating Platforms
  • Danish Firm Plans Floating SMR for Asian Customers
  • South Korea Firms to Manufacture Floating Nuclear Power Plants
  • South Korea / KHNP To Invest $350 Million In SMR Design and Licensing
  • Saskatchewan Indigenous Companies to Explore SMRs
  • UK Launches Regulatory Assessment of Advanced Nuclear Reactors

NuScale Teams with Canadian Firm to Deploy its SMRs via Floating Platforms

nuscale logoSMR developer NuScale Power and Prodigy Clean Energy have agreed to work together to advance their technologies as a baseload clean energy solution for coastal locations and island nations.

This week NuScale and Prodigy sign memorandum of understanding (MOU) to support business development for a marine-deployed nuclear generating station powered by the NuScale small modular reactor (SMR). This is the second MOU between the two firms.

Prodigy Clean Energy is a Canadian company that designs and develops marine nuclear plants for safe, affordable and sustainable energy generation. It specializes in integrating commercial SMRs into marine power plant systems for coastal power generation.

Prodigy’s SMR Marine Power Station would be shipyard-fabricated, and marine-transported to its deployment location, where it would be moored in place in sheltered and protected waters at the shoreline. Once berthed, the plant would be connected to the existing shore-side transmission system thus avoiding some of the significant capital costs associated with terrestrial nuclear power plant deployments.

“We look forward to our continued work with NuScale Power to integrate their flexible, proven and advanced SMR technology into Prodigy’s marine plant system,” said Mathias Trojer, Prodigy Clean Energy Chief Executive Officer.

“Our combined technologies can generate scalable clean energy at any coastal location. Together, we will rapidly expand the accessibility of safe, zero-emissions, and reliable energy globally, as well as to locations right here in Canada.”

NuScale Power and Prodigy Clean Energy have been collaborating since 2018, investigating the feasibility of integrating NuScale Power Modules (NPMs) into Prodigy’s Marine Power Station. Under the first MOU the two firms completed the conceptual design and economic assessment phases for the project.

Details about what has been accomplished so far remain under proprietary wraps. According to Diane Hughes, Vice President, Marketing & Communications for NuScale Power, no sites have been selected so far for the floating power stations nor did she name any potential customers.

“Deployment sites are currently under exploration,” Hughes said. “The NuScale and Prodigy MOU will support customer engagement efforts to develop demonstration and commercial opportunities.”

Hughes added, “Customers for marine-deployed generating stations powered by NuScale Power Modules would include utilities and private companies needing anywhere from 100 MWe to approximately 900 MWe of power. The plants are suitable for deployment at any coastal location worldwide.”

In terms of time to market, Hughes said, “Prodigy’s marine-deployed generating station technology powered by NuScale Power Modules will be ready for power generation before 2030.”

So far neither firm has released information on the specifications for the barge. Prodigy did not respond an email media inquiry about the new MOU.

Cost of a Floating SMR is the Reactor, a Barge, and Towing to the Customer

A 12-pack or set of NuScale 77 MWe SMRs would provide a customer with 924 MWe of electrical power.  According to a briefing on NuScale’s website, the capitalized construction cost per kW for the NuScale plant is $3,600/Kw for the “nth of a kind” factory manufactured unit.  NuScale also offers smaller power plant solutions in 4-module (308 MWe) and 6-module (462 MWe) sizes.

Put another way, a 77 MWe SMR would cost about $277M not including differences such as site conditions, regional construction labor costs, and module transportation. The cost of a barge to permanently hold the reactor and the cost of towing it a customer site would be extra.

nuscale river  barge transport tugboat-smr_thumbConceptual image of a NuScale SMR/Barge Being Shipped by River

A 12 pack of NuScale SMRs (nth of a kind) would come in at about $3.3 billion for 924 MWe.  By comparison,  in today’s global market, a 1,000 MW PWR would cost on average about $5,600/Kw or $5.6 billion. The twin 1150 MW AP1000s being built in Georgia are coming in at $9,000/Kw or about $10.4 billion each. These numbers maker SMRs, even with the additional cost of a barge, shoreline infrastructure on both ends, and towing it to a customer, look good by comparison.

The plan is to deploy NuScale’s small modular reactors (SMR) at 250 MWt / 77 MWe by ocean going barge. These oversized open ocean barges are built to the requirements set by the U.S. Coast Guard and the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS). Ocean barges are designed for the transportation of cargo in open seas. The types of barges Prodigy is likely to need provide advantages with open deck space for over-sized cargo as well as shallow port access.

Ocean tug and barge engineering

Example of an ocean going barge and ship to deliver it.
Image: Ocean Tug & Barge Engineering

The NuScale/Prodigy barge must be able to handle approximately 700 tons that the SMR weighs plus support equipment including the control room, fuel handling mechanisms, and a connection between the reactor and  a shore based switchyard. Keep in mind that the reactor is designed to be installed and operated at a customer site in an upright or vertical position.


Other than a control room for the reactor, and other facilities to support the operators, it is not likely the plant would have living quarters.  Each reactor measures 65 feet tall x 9 feet in diameter. It sits within a containment vessel measuring 76 feet tall x 15 feet in diameter.

Once the reactor, arriving in three modules, reaches its shoreline destination to be set up, it will need a heavy crane to lift the modules into an assembly in an upright position. The reactor once assembled will need a structure to protect it from the elements and to be the transfer point for all shoreline connections and access points.

The joint effort by NuScale and Prodigy Energy joins a growing field of competitors that include Russia, China, South Korea, and Denmark.

Danish Firm Plans Floating SMR for Asian Customers

Floating ‘mini-nukes’ could power countries by 2025, says startup

Seaborg, a Danish company,  plans to fit ships with small nuclear reactors to send energy to developing countries. Floating barges carrying advanced nuclear reactors could begin powering developing nations by the mid-2020s, according to the Danish startup company.

Seaborg Technologies believes it can make cheap nuclear electricity a viable alternative to fossil fuels across the developing world as soon as 2025.

Seaboarg PowerBarge_OneModule_WhiteBG

Conceptual Image of the Seaborg Floating SMR

Its proprietary compact molten salt reactor is designed for countries that lack the energy grid infrastructure to develop utility-scale renewable energy projects, many of which go on to use gas, diesel and coal plants instead. The ships are fitted with one or more small nuclear reactors, which can generate electricity and transmit the power to the mainland.

Troels Schönfeldt, the chief executive of Seaborg, said the company’s 100 MWe  compact molten salt reactor would take two years to build and would generate electricity that would be cheaper than coal-fired power.

Seaborg has raised about €20m (£18.3m) from private investors, including the Danish retail billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen, and received the first of the necessary regulatory approvals within a four-phase process from the American Bureau of Shipping this week.

Seaborg hopes to begin taking orders by the end of 2022 for the nuclear barges, which would be built in South Korean shipyards and towed to coastlines where they could be anchored for up to 24 years.

The “turn-key solution” is important to fast-growing developing economies to power their nascent industries, purify drinking water, and produce clean-burning hydrogen as demand for energy access rockets in the years ahead.

“The scale of the developing world’s energy demand growth is mind-boggling,” Schönfeldt said. “If we can’t find an energy solution for these countries, they will turn to fossil fuels and we surely won’t meet our climate targets.”

The first power barges will have two reactors installed delivering 200MWe and over the 24-year lifetime will offset 33,600,000 tons of CO2 compared with an equivalent coal power plant. Seaborg said it is  developing an inherently safe 4th generation nuclear Compact Molten Salt Reactor (CMSR) with an essential proprietary moderator.

With its uranium-based fluoride fuel salt, the CMSR has a number of prominent features: It cannot meltdown or explode, it cannot release radioactive gasses to air or water, and it cannot be used for nuclear weapons. The CMSR will be installed on modular power barges. The barge design enables configurations with two, four, six or eight CMSRs delivering up to 800MWe or 2000MWt.

The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) said on 17 December that it had issued a Feasibility Statement for the Compact Molten Salt Reactor (CMSR) developed by Danish nuclear company Seaborg Technologies. The Feasibility Statement is the first milestone in the ABS New Technology Qualification (NTQ) process, a five-phase process that aligns with product development phases.

Seaborg Technologies was founded in 2014 by scientists with experience from the Niels Bohr Institute, Technical University of Denmark, CERN, UC Berkeley, European Spallation Source, and Paul Scherrer Institute. The first external funding was secured in early 2018. The team today encompasses 30+ experts in a variety of disciplines (inc. 12 PhDs), attracted to Copenhagen from all around the world.

Molten Salt Reactors for Marine Power

Core-Power-Reactor_M08.e7c1d3Seaborg is not the only firm working on molten salt reactors for ship power and propulsion. A company named Core Power has an effort to create a marine-MSR that is an iteration of the Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR.) (Image right. Core Power file)

The MCFR is being developed by a Team consisting of TerraPower together with Southern Company, ORANO,3M and CORE POWER.

For a review of maritime interest in molten salt reactors for ship power and propulsion see the analysis published in the trade press – Maritime Executive for 05/14/21.

“A module measuring 13 feet by 23 feet using a briefcase-sized load of solid fuel weighing 440 pounds could deliver 100 MW of thermal energy for up to 25 years. This potentially cost-competitive technology has potential for future commercial ship propulsion, along with multiple stationary floating power generation applications.”

“The modular molten salt reactor could deliver up to 100 MW of thermal energy at sufficient temperature to generate steam to activate turbines, which drive electrical generators and which power the ship and its propulsion system.”

The article also points out the MSR could move large bulk carriers at faster speeds than fossil fueled ships and without CO2 emissions.

South Korea Firms to Manufacture Floating Nuclear Power Plants

(Global Construction Review) Kepco Engineering and Construction, a subsidiary of state-owned Korea Electric Power Corporation, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering that sets out plans to develop ships fitted with small modular reactors.

kepco floating nuclear barge

Conceptual Image of Kepco’s Floating SMR

Kepco is planning to use the power barges to supply electricity to island nations in the Pacific ocean where power grids are hard to install, or areas whose power demand is surging dramatically.

Korea’s move follows Russia’s successful completion of the Akademic Lomonosov, the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, which began supplying heat and power to the Russian port of Pevek on the East Siberian Sea earlier this year.

It also follows plans by China, first announced in 2016, to build a fleet of floating reactors to supply power to islands in the South China Sea which will be used mostly to supply power to military bases there that are  part of its geopolitical ambitions.

The South Korean project will combine Kepco’s “world-class nuclear power plant design and construction technology” and Daewoo’s diverse experience and shipbuilding know-how.

Kepco added the agreement was expected to lead to the development of floating offshore nuclear power plants equipped with BANDI-60 reactors, a small modular reactor design it has been developing since 2016.

South Korea / KHNP To Invest $350 Million in SMR Design and Licensing

(NucNet)  Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) is speeding up the development of a small modular reactor and plans to invest around $350M to design a plant over five years and obtain licenses over three years according to a report by Business Korea.

Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute has been developing the “system-integrated modular advanced reactor” (Smart), a medium-sized unit designed for generating electricity and for thermal applications such as seawater desalination. The project has a long standing working relationship with Saudi Arabia for this purpose.


Earlier this year KHNP said it was carrying out a project to improve the Smart plant, development of which began in 1997. The reactor received the first standard design approval from the South Korean regulator in 2012.

Reports in South Korea in April said KHNP was working with Korea Atomic Research Institute to obtain a license for the improved Smart by 2028.

Saskatchewan Indigenous Companies to Explore SMRs

Three Saskatchewan Indigenous-owned companies have signed an agreement to pursue small modular reactor (SMR) investments.

Kitsaki Management, Athabasca Basin Development and Des Nedhe Group say they are in a position to support this emerging technology from construction to operation and maintenance.

Sean Willy, CEO of Des Nedhe Group, said their companies have supported uranium mining in northern Saskatchewan since the 1980s and they want to make sure their voices are heard in this “new and exciting technology.”

“We think if you’re serious about climate change and you want to make a difference on the decarbonizing the power-producing aspects, small nuclear reactors is the way to go,” he told Global News.

“We look at this as a made-in-Canada approach because all the uranium that’s coming out of Canada is coming from northern Saskatchewan.”

Willy feels they will be able to bring an Indigenous business focus to the development and construction of SMRs, one he believes no one else can bring to the table.

“We support this industry. We want to make sure that these things get to the finish line and are effectively and safely put in place across the country and make sure that Indigenous participation is maximized.”

The Saskatchewan government is exploring the viability of SMRs. It has signed MOUs with the governments of Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick to collaborate on advancing SMRs as an option to provide clean energy to address climate change.

The Saskatchewan government is exploring the viability of SMRs. It has signed MOUs with the governments of Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick to collaborate on advancing SMRs as an option to provide clean energy to address climate change.

Under the proposal signed by the provinces, Saskatchewan could have the first of four grid-scale SMRs in service by 2032.

UK Launches Regulatory Assessment of Advanced Nuclear Reactors

(WNN) The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has opened the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) to advanced nuclear technologies. BEIS has also published a policy paper stating that the advanced nuclear sector has the potential to play an important part in the UK’s Industrial Strategy.

GDA is a process carried out by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA) to assess the safety, security, and environmental protection aspects of a nuclear power plant design that is intended to be deployed in Great Britain. Successful completion of the GDA culminates in the issue of a Design Acceptance Confirmation (DAC) from the ONR and a Statement of Design Acceptability (SoDA) from the EA.

In the foreword to the report – Entry to Generic Design Assessment for Advanced Nuclear Technologies Instructions and Guidance for Requesting Parties – Minister of State for Business, Energy and Clean Growth Anne-Marie Trevelyan noted that nuclear power, whether large-scale, small-scale, or advanced, will have a key role to play in meeting the country’s net-zero by 2050 goal.

The plan also set target milestones for the first nuclear power plants using small modular reactors (SMRs) to be built in the UK by the early 2030s, alongside an advanced modular reactor (AMR) demonstration plant.

With the publication of the GDA guidance for advanced nuclear technologies, BEIS is “unlocking a key step on the path to their deployment” in the UK, Trevelyan said.

“Opening GDA to advanced nuclear technologies this year, as the UK prepares to host COP26, showcases continued UK leadership in tackling climate change and the important role that nuclear has in our future net-zero energy mix,” she added.

The IAEA ARIS database lists only one new nuclear reactor design unique to the UK. It is the Rolls Royce 440 MWe LWR. A number of firms from other countries have opened marketing offices in the UK to seek opportunities there. Most of the designs are also LWRs such as the NuScale 77 MWe SMR and the GE Hitachi BWRX 300MWe SMR.

Several years ago GE Hitachi pitched its sodium cooled 331 MWe PRISM advanced reactor to the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to burn spent nuclear fuel. PRISM fuel and core can be tailored to specific missions ranging from plutonium disposition to the maximization of fuel efficiency. The reactor fuel element design is a metal alloy comprised of uranium, plutonium and zirconium. Negotiations with the NDA did not proceed to a contract. Since then GE Hitachi has partnered with TerraPower as part of project funding under the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

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TVA to Collaborate with Kairos Power on 140 MWe SMR

  • TVA to Collaborate with Kairos Power on Development of a 140 MWe Advanced SMR
  • Russia Approvs’ $2.4 Billion Project To Use Five Floating Reactors For Remote Minerals Deposit
  • UK ‘Remains Committed’ To Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Project
  • NuScale Engages Guggenheim Securities to Explore Financing Options

TVA to Collaborate with Kairos Power on Development of a 140 MWe Advanced SMR

Kairos Power and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have announced plans to collaborate on deploying a low-power demonstration small modular reactor (SMR) at the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP)(map) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.  The project is a paradigm change for TVA which in its early site permit for the Clinch River site for an SMR only referenced light water reactor designs and did not indicate a preference for any of them.

The joint TVA/Kairos project involves design and development of an advanced small modular reactor (SMR). Nicknamed ‘Hermes’ it is a demonstration version of Alameda, California-based Kairos Power’s KP-FHR, a 140 MWe fluoride salt-cooled high temperature reactor using TRISO (TRI-structural ISOtropic) fuel pebbles with a low-pressure fluoride salt coolant. (interactive design image)

Kairos tech specs

Table: KP-FHR Key Characteristics.  Data/Table:IAEA

The Alameda, California-based company plans to design, construct, and operate its Hermes reduced-scale test reactor. Kairos Power will fund most of the project. The company plans to assemble the reactor in Oak Ridge using specialized parts and components manufactured in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Named Hermes, the Kairos’ reactor could be built by 2026 and will be used to help test  the new technology, which is designed to be simpler and more efficient than the previous generation of nuclear plants and potentially less costly to build and maintain.

Cindy Chen, a spokeswoman for Kairos Power, said the company is planning a $100 million investment in the test facility in the East Tennessee Technology Park, making it one of the biggest projects among the 20 or so companies now operating in the technology campus.

The Kairos SMR has been selected by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to receive $629 million in cost-shared risk reduction funding over seven years (DOE share $303 million), under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

“Additional expansion at the Oak Ridge site is under consideration for future manufacturing and engineering capabilities,” Chen said. “We anticipate at least 55 employees for the Hermes operations.”

“Teamwork is the hallmark of the nuclear industry, and through this partnership with Kairos Power we can share TVA’s safety and innovation insights to advance nuclear technology while gaining experience with licensing for advanced reactors,” said TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash.

“Nuclear power is the key to fueling our economy with reliable, affordable, and clean electricity, and it is critical to our national security.”

“We look forward to collaborating with TVA, and drawing upon the well-versed knowledge and expertise of their team,” said Mike Laufer, Co-Founder and CEO of Kairos Power. Kairos senior leadership team

TVA has reportedly indicated it may also aid in the preliminary licensing the Hermes reactor from the NRC. TVA holds the nation’s first Early Site Permit (ESP) for a small modular reactor from the NRC.

The utility is evaluating the potential environmental impacts associated with deployment of more than one reactor and more than one design at the Clinch River Nuclear Site. What is interesting about the Kairos project is that TVA’s ESP references four SMRs all of which are based on light water reactor (LWR) designs.

In terms of location,  this joint announcement with TVA follows one made last year by Kairos Power that it planned to deploy a test reactor at ETTP, at the former K-33 gaseous diffusion plant site which has now been cleaned up by DOE.

Kairos is partnering with TVA  to deploy the demonstration reactor on 185 acres the company is buying on the ETTP campus, which was developed on a brownfield site reclaimed from the U.S. Department of Energy.

In Greek mythology Hermes functioned as the emissary and messenger of the gods. As adopted by the Romans, Hermes is also known today as Mercury and also in Roman context, was considered to be a messenger. Kairos is an ancient Greek word that relates the importance of timeliness and a call to action.

Kairos Power CEO Mike Laufer said his objective is for the Hermes project to demonstrate the capability to deliver an advanced reactor at the costs necessary to make nuclear power the most affordable source of dispatchable energy in the USA.

Russia / Putin ‘Has Approved’ $2.4 Billion Project To Use Floating Reactors For Remote Minerals Deposit

(NucNet contributed to this report)  Russia’s president Vladimir Putin has reportedly approved a proposal by state nuclear corporation Rosatom to power a far eastern copper mining venture by building as many as five floating nuclear power plants, according to a report in the RBC business newswire.

RBC said the plan is to supply power for the Baim (also known as Baimskaya) minerals deposit in Chukotka, in the country’s far east.

The exact timeline for the $2.3 billion plan is still a work in progress, but according to RBC, Mr Putin signaled his approval to build the plants in response to a letter sent by Sergei Kiriyenko, who heads Rosatom’s supervisory board and is the president’s first deputy chief of staff.

RBC said that, according to Kiriyenko, Rosatom will order the construction of five FNPPs with a capacity of 500 MWe  at the Baltic Shipyard (Baltzavod), which is part of the United Shipbuilding Corporation (USC). The reference design for the project is the RITM 200 SMR which has an output of 165 MWt and 54 MWe.   These numbers suggest that while five units are being authorized, it will take another five of them to hit the goal of 500 MWe.

The main equipment for the Rosatom power units (RITM 200 reactor plants) is manufactured in Russia. However, the turbines are expected to be built in South Korean or Chinese shipyards which adds some risk to the project.

RITM-200 is the latest development in III+ generation SMR line designed by the JSC ‘Afrikantov OKBM’. It has incorporated all the proven features from its predecessors. It is  based on PWR technology and 400 reactor-years of Rosatom experience in operation of small reactors in icebreakers.

nuclear powered ice breaker Arktika Six RITM-200 reactors are successfully installed on icebreakers Arktika (right), Sibir and Ural. The two reactors of Arktika icebreaker successfully passed all power up tests during dock-side trials.

RITM reactor core accommodates low enriched fuel assemblies similar to KLT-40S that ensures long time operation without refueling and meets international non-proliferation requirements.

RITM 200

Key Characteristics of the RITM SMR.  Tab;e/Image: IAEA

Incorporation of the steam generators into the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) has made the reactor system and containment very compact as compared to the larger KLT-40S at 300 MWt / 70 MWe in a configuration of two units.

Advantage of SMR over Natural Gas

In the letter, Mr Kiriyenko, the former chief executive officer of Rostom, was said to have explained the advantages of Rosatom’s proposal over an alternative proposal from Novatek, Russia’s second largest natural gas corporation, which had proposed building floating natural gas plants to electrify the mining venture.

Vyachesla Ruksha, Rosatom’s deputy director general and head of the Northern Sea Route Directorate said in a statement to RBC, “We won the competition because, as a vertically integrated corporation, we fully control the entire energy production cycle and are less dependent on market volatility than Novatek.”

Russia already has one floating nuclear power plant in operation which is the Akademik-Lomonosov. The 21,000-tonne vessel has two KLT-40S reactor units with an electrical power generating capacity of 35MWe each, sufficient for a city with a population of around 200,000 people.

Construction of the two units began in April 2007 and first criticality was November 2018. In September 2019 the Akademik Lomonosov arrived at a specially constructed wharf at Pevek after an 18-day, 9,000 km journey from its original base in Murmansk, where fuel was loaded into the reactors.

UK ‘Remains Committed’ To Wylfa Newydd Nuclear Project

(NucNet) The UK government remains committed to new nuclear investment at the Wylfa Newydd site in north Wales and is continuing to talk to potential developers, energy minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said last week according to UK news media reports.

The minister said: “We all appreciate that Wylfa Newydd is a great site and we have the commitment within our energy white paper and the 10-point government plan that new nuclear investment is a critical part of our energy mix going forwards.”

“We have regular discussions with a number of potential developers and investors and that will continue because we are absolutely committed to having at least one more large-scale nuclear plant.”

In January, developers behind Wylfa Newydd officially cancelled the project, despite saying they had held “positive and encouraging” talks with multiple parties that had expressed an interest in moving ahead with new reactors at the site.

Japan’s Hitachi has told staff it was shutting its Horizon subsidiary, which was to build two 1350 MWe UK advanced boiling water reactor (UK ABWR) units at Wylfa. The cost of the project had been put at about £20 billion.

A companion project with the same configuration was to have been built at the Oldbury site. The loss of both projects would represent a setback of 2.7 Gwe in the UK nuclear new build.

So far the project continues to unwind to the detriment of energy security for the UK. Horizon announced it had officially withdrawn its application for planning permission for the construction and operation of the station and associated infrastructure.

In a letter to the planning inspectorate, Horizon chief executive officer Duncan Hawthorne said discussions with multiple parties “have not, unfortunately, led to any definitive proposal that would have allowed the transfer of the sites to some new development entity willing to replace Hitachi Ltd”.

Hitachi announced the suspension of the project in January 2019 and its intent to withdraw entirely in September 2020.

The UK has two EPR units under construction at Hinkley Point C – the only commercial nuclear plants being built in the country. Sizewell C is the only new-build project in the UK for which planning permission is being sought.

The Moorside project, which was to have been built with three Westinghouse 1150 MWe AP1000 nuclear reactors, is moribund due to the bankruptcy of Westinghouse and withdrawal from the global nuclear market of Toshiba, its then parent firm. While Westinghouse was subsequently acquired by a Canadian private equity firm, that company has no apparent interest in building new nuclear reactors. Its focus for the acquisition was the profitable nuclear reactor fuel and maintenance contracts held by Westinghouse.

Only the Bradwell remains in the early technical stages. The plan involves at least one and as many as three reactors to be built by Chinese state owned enterprises. The project, if it gets the go ahead, would be the first major export deal for the Hualong One, a 1000MWe LWR.

The future of that project has within the past year encountered some diplomatic headwinds due to UK PM Boris Johnson booting a Chinese telecommunications firm from bidding on a massive 5G wireless network contract.

NuScale Engages Guggenheim Securities to Explore Financing Options

Money futuresNuScale Power, LLC (“NuScale”) announced that it has retained Guggenheim Securities, LLC, a leading financial advisory and capital markets firm, to explore financing options to accelerate the commercialization of the Company’s groundbreaking small modular reactor (SMR) technology.

NuScale is majority owned by Fluor Corporation (“Fluor”) (NYSE: FLR), a global engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) company.

John Hopkins, NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer said, “Given the level of interest from potential customers, investors and partners and growing global demand for clean energy alternatives, we have engaged Guggenheim Securities to evaluate the right options to raise additional capital and accelerate the development of our carbon-free power solution.”

According to a report in the Portland Business Journal, Fluor’s chief executive, David Constable, said the company is looking to “unlock more value from NuScale for Fluor’s shareholders.”

He suggested interest was high.

“It’s very exciting times and not just in the U.S., but internationally,” he told analysts. “Canada, obviously, is a nuclear country as is Japan and many others that we’re getting a lot of incoming interest. So we’ve got renewed interest from existing investors that we’ve got and new investors post the JGC announcement.”

It is expected that any proceeds raised through this process would be used by NuScale to accelerate and expand its SMR development program, including those elements currently supported by a DOE cost-share award. Fluor and its partners will continue to provide engineering services, project management and supply chain support to NuScale as part of any contemplated future agreement.

Separately, UAMPS, NuScale’s customer, received a $1.355 billion, ten-year award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), subject to annual appropriations, for the project in October 2020.

The $1.355 billion award, allocated over 10 years, will fund the one-time costs for the first-of-a-kind project, as funds are appropriated by Congress, to reflect what second and subsequent NuScale plants would cost. This will help ensure that the levelized cost of energy target price of $55 MWh can be achieved at a level of risk UAMPS can manage.

That price makes the CFPP competitive with other non- intermittent dispatchable energy sources like combined cycle natural gas plants, but without greenhouse gas emissions. It will ensure long-term affordable energy to UAMPS member participants while avoiding exposure to greenhouse regulation and compliance costs.

The 12 small modular reactors in the project will provide the flexibility to ramp up and down as needed to follow load and complement intermittent renewable supply. The plan calls for construction of the 60 MW design which has not yet been approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  Earlier this year the 50 MW design completed its safety design review with the regulatory agency.

Energy from the project will replace electric generation from coal plants that are nearing the end of their life cycles. The CFPP, combined with UAMPS renewable projects, will enable many members to completely decarbonize their energy portfolios.

NuScale’s SMR design can generate 77 MWe of zero carbon electricity using a safer, smaller and scalable version of traditional pressurized light water reactor technology.

Modules safely shut down and self-cool, indefinitely, with no need for AC or DC power, operator or computer action, or additional water. This provides what is called an unlimited coping period – a first for light water reactor technology.

The fully factory-made NuScale module offers scalable power based on demand and can meet grid capacity needs by providing both high capacity factor base load power and flexible load following power to support intermittent wind, solar and hydropower resources.

NuScale and Fluor – NuScale’s EPC partner – have an agreement with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) to build the first NuScale power plant, which will bring the United States’ first clean energy, carbon-free SMR project to commercialization.

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Katy Huff to DOE as Acting @DOE_NE1 and permanent NE2

Kathryn Huff, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy

Dr. Kathryn D. Huff was most recently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she led the Advanced Reactors and Fuel Cycles Research Group and was a Blue Waters Assistant Professor with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

Dr. Huff received her Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2013, and a B.A. in Physics from the University of Chicago.

Her research includes modeling and simulation of advanced nuclear reactors and fuel cycles.

She has been an active member of the American Nuclear Society, Chair of the Nuclear Nonproliferation and Policy Division, a past chair of the Fuel Cycle and Waste Management Division, and a recipient of both the Young Member Excellence and Mary Jane Oestmann Professional Women’s Achievement awards.

Through leadership within Software Carpentry, SciPy, the Hacker Within, and the Journal of Open Source Software, she has also advocated for best practices in open, reproducible scientific computing.

Before her faculty appointment, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow in both the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium and the Berkeley Institute for Data Science at the University of California-Berkeley.

From Twitter . . .

05/10/21 at 10:30 AM Eastern – via: https://twitter.com/katyhuff

<begin full text of Twitter thread>

“I’m thrilled to finally share that today is my 1st day in the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (@Energy @GovNuclear)

I’m joining as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (NE2). I will also serve as its Acting Assistant Secretary (Acting @DOE_NE1).

I expect DOE will be sharing a press release shortly, but I’ve just been sworn in officially and I know many of you have now heard the good news, so it’s time for twitter to hear it from me!

I’m honored that the Biden-Harris administration has called me to serve as part of @GovNuclear during a crucial time in humanity’s endeavors toward sustainability, re-imagination of our energy infrastructure, and centering of environmental & energy justice in technology policy.

Taking an extended, unpaid leave of absence from my beloved faculty job (@illinoisNPRE @uofigrainger) was a big decision, but I had lots of support! I’m particularly grateful to @gonuke, @munkium, @deniadjokic, my husband, family (@Harold_Huff), colleagues, friends, and students.

In this position, I hope to work across institutional and other barriers, listen to many voices, strive boldly, and serve responsibly.

To kick it all off, I hope to learn more of what you can teach me! So, #nuclear and #energytwitter, I have three questions for you:

(1) Lots of great organizations & people have recently published recommendations for nuclear & energy policy. Is there anything in particular you think I should read, hear, or watch?

(2) What, specifically, would YOU like to see (or not see!) from @GovNuclear this year?

(3) In these next years, you can rely on me to listen to your voices while I try to do the best job I possibly can. Can I rely on you to keep openly sharing your ideas, expertise, wisdom, questions, challenges, hopes, and especially your constructive criticisms with me?

Original Tweet: https://twitter.com/katyhuff/status/1391773175772585984

<end Twitter thread>

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced additional Biden-Harris Administration appointees that have joined the team to help build a more prosperous and equitable clean energy future for the American people.

“During the first 100 days of this Administration, the DOE team has been working quickly and urgently to deliver on President Biden’s bold climate and clean energy goals—and these latest additions bring even more muscle to our efforts,” said Chief of Staff Tarak Shah.

“We’re thrilled to have their talent and expertise in our ranks as we continue to advance innovative, equitable clean energy solutions that will create millions of good-paying jobs and launch every American worker and community into a greener future.”

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SMRs Get Wind in their Sails from 3 Seas Initiative

  • U.S. State Dept. Commits $5.3M to Promote SMRs
  • Nuclear Energy Developments in 3 Seas Countries – State by State
  • US State Department Offers Support for SMRs and 3 Seas but Not in the Same Breath
  • Rosatom’s Fennovoima Project Revises Construction License Application for Hanhikivi-1
  • TVA CEO: Utility Will Invest in SMRs

U.S. State Dept. Commits $5.3M to Promote SMRs in the Region

A key geopolitical area of competition. between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas, for new nuclear reactors deals is heating up. Russia and China see opportunities to deploy financially attractive package deals for their LWR type full size nuclear reactors via state owned enterprises. In contrast, firms from the U.S. are seeking market share in the same region with proposals for small modular reactors (SMRs).

Recently, these efforts got a small boost from an unlikely agency – the US State Department – which rolled out a video by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and a $5.3M grant program to promote development of SMRs in a 12 nation region in Europe. The double shot of support is intended to blunt Russian, and to some extent, Chinese efforts to dominate the energy supply chain for these countries.

Russia has been seeking to dominate the energy security realm for Europe via provision of natural gas. The big energy bullseye regarding Russian gas projects is the highly controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

If completed it will run from Russian territory under the Baltic Sea and connect to Europe via Germany. Oil and gas interests in the US are pushing Biden to sanction the project mostly as a self dealing move for them. Frankly, few see this administration taking foreign policy advice from Sen. Ted Cruz. US allies in Europe are also weighing in.

gazprom pipeline

The threat of having Russia control the energy security of Baltic and European states has produced a response to pursue initiatives to deter it. Since 2020 an initiative for economic development, including energy security, has been organized as the 3 Seas Initiative.

The countries involved in Three Seas share the same objectives: economic growth, security and a stronger and more cohesive Europe. To achieve these goals, cooperation is promoted for the development of infrastructure in the energy, transport, and digital sectors.

What is the 3 Seas Initiative?

Three Seas is an initiative that brings together 12 EU Member States between the Baltic, Black and Adriatic seas: Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. CRS report – PD file.

3 seas map

The Atlantic Council, which hosted an early meeting of the group of nations in 2015 that are part of it, wrote on its website;

“As the United States looks to confront Russian and Chinese economic and geopolitical competition in Europe and across the world, the Three Seas Initiative offers an opportunity to strengthen the economies of US allies in Central and Eastern Europe and reduce their dependence on Moscow and Beijing’s economic overtures.”

While the nations of Western Europe are linked by roads and railways, power lines, and oil and gas pipelines, countries in Central and Eastern Europe remain comparatively disconnected from one another in terms of modern infrastructure. The deficit is particularly acute along the region’s north-south axis.

Attention was drawn to Europe’s disparity in development in 2014 by the Atlantric Council, a US based think tank, in a report entitled ‘Completing Europe.’ This inspired the then heads of state of two countries – President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia and President Andrzej Duda of Poland – to launch the initiative.

To date, Three Seas Initiative summits have been held four times at the presidential level. What started out as a platform for the exchange of thoughts among the presidents of the countries involved, has expanded to include an annual business forum and the launch of an investment fund operating on a commercial basis.

Seeking a Way to Boost Economies on a Regional Basis

According to economic statistics released by the group in 2019, the member states comprise 28% of the EU’s territory and 22% of the population, yet only contribute 10% of the bloc’s GDP.

3 seas economics

In Tallinn, Estonia, nine member states and fund manager Amber Infrastructure Group pledged a total investment via the 3 Seas Investment Fund of €923 million, while Poland announced a €250 million increase in its investment into the fund.

US Focus on International Collaboration

In April the US State Department announced an initial $5.3 million investment. This amount of funding won’t building anything, but it will help support the kind of international collaboration that IAEA Director Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi talked about this past week in a teleconference with former US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

The state department program will strengthen international collaboration between the U.S. and partner countries seeking to deploy nuclear energy in their clear energy initiatives. This cooperation includes supporting the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors (SMRs. (More on this below).

Separately, the US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has committed $300M to the Three Seas Fund. The funds will advance investment in sectors such as energy, transportation and digital infrastructure in Eastern Europe. The DFC said its aims are to overcome existing market challenges to raise capital for critical infrastructure projects.

Not Everyone is Onboard

Despite these high sounding objectives, some of the member states have widely differing positions on some issues. Hungary remains closely aligned with Russia and has accepted telecommunications infrastructure from a Chinese firm that has been rejected by other nations due to security concerns.

Also, Poland and Hungary has authoritarian regimes that have attempted to squash political unrest in these nations as result of disenfranchisement of some groups. Austria has a an anti-nuclear policy stance and has repeatedly tried to interfere in the plans for it within the European Union.

Interestingly, as a counterpoint to right wing thinking in Europe, the DC-based conservative Heritage Foundation think tank said in a statement of support for the 3 Seas program in February of this year;

“The Three Seas Initiative (3SI) helps the U.S. to build strengthened transatlantic business, energy, and geopolitical ties to Central and Eastern Europe, while also counterbalancing Chinese and Russian efforts to forge inroads to the region. In 2021, the Biden Administration and Congress should continue to feature the 3SI as a central component of U.S. policy in Europe. Bipartisan U.S. support for the 3SI, which encompasses a strategic, long-term outlook and brings along Western European nations as strategic partners, is smart policy that will pay dividends for decades to come.”

Nuclear Energy Developments in 3 Seas Countries

Of the 12 nations involved in the 3 Seas effort, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Poland, and Romania have been pitched by U.S. firms to build SMRs in competition with Russian and Chinese offers for full size plants. The competitive environment varies significantly from country to country, and a key factor for all of them is how to pay for new nuclear reactors to meet climate goals.

Bulgaria – Efforts to build one or two full size nuclear reactors are complicated by the legacy of an incomplete project to build two 1000 VVER type reactors for the Belene project. Additionally, Bulgaria has indicated to potential bidders that it has no plans to provide government funding for the project nor rate guarantees / subsidies. In October 2020, Bulgaria and the USA signed a memorandum of understanding concerning strategic civil nuclear cooperation.

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has proposed that the equipment purchased from Russia for the planned Belene nuclear power plant (NPP) be used instead to expand the existing Kozloduy NPP.

Borissov added that two new units could be built at the Kozloduv power station, rather than the single unit previously discussed, using a combination of €600M worth of equipment previously purchased to build two 1000 MW VVERs and new components from other reactor vendors.

Czech Republic – After a false start in 2014 the government is moving towards release of a tender later this year for a 1200 MWE PWR type reactor at Dukovany. The government has blocked China from bidding on the project, by offering its 1000MWe Hualong One, on security grounds.

More recently, it also ejected Rosatom, Russia’s state owned enterprise for nuclear reactor exports, from the bidding, over the recent news that a group of Russian operatives was responsible for blowing up a munitions shipment in 2014 in that country meant for shipment to Ukraine.

This leaves EDF, Westinghouse, and a South Korean consortium, as the remaining possible bidders on the project. The timing of the tender, expected later this year, could be upended by elections scheduled for October.

Estonia – Fermi Energia, a startup firm, has entertained proposals from several developers of small modular reactors and highlighted each proposal with all the allure, glitz, and energy of a major beauty pageant. Kalev Kallemets, chief executive officer of Fermi Energia, said that Estonia needs to consider new generation SMR technology to maintain energy independence and achieve climate neutrality.

The effort has not gone unnoticed among the other members of the 3 Seas effort which see it, in part, as a public relations effort to create a seawall against encroachment by Russia and China energy proposals in the region.

CEO Kavel Kallemets said in a Tweet this week he plans to fire off a request to the US State Dept for a piece of the $5.3M in cash it just announced to support SMRs in Baltic states among other places..

Poland – As one of Europe’s biggest coal users, the country has been trying for the better part of a decade to put together a financial package that would build nuclear reactors to replace its dirty coal plans. Poland wants to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MWe of nuclear capacity based on proven, large-scale, PWR nuclear reactors of Generation III+ designs. Commercial operation of a first nuclear reactor unit in a proposed set of six is earmarked for 2033. Poland has repeatedly made policy level commitments to pursue nuclear projects and then shelved them due to a lack of financing.

Michał Sołowow, billionaire owner of chemical company Synthos SA, is planning to build a 300 MW small modular reactor (SMR) in Poland in the next decade in cooperation with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH).

Romania – Completion of Cernavoda Units #3 & #4, which are CANDU type PHWRs, has long been the goal of the Romanian government. In 2020 state-controlled nuclear energy producer Nuclearelectrica terminated an agreement signed with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) for the construction of Units 3 and 4.

In October 2020 the Trump administration offered Romania $8 billion for US contractors to do the job but progress on the deal had not reached a final signoff before Trump left office. The status of the agreement is unclear.

In February 2021 Nuclearelectrica, said, without mentioning US cash, that a final investment decision for the Cernavoda nuclear power plant expansion project is expected in 2024, with commissioning of unit 3 planned within the next 10 years. An earlier feasibility study put the cost of completing the two units at $8.56 billion.

In March 2019, Romania signed a memorandum of understanding with NuScale power to evaluate the development, licensing and construction of a small modular reactor (SMR).

Hungary – According to World Nuclear News, Russia and Hungary signed an inter-governmental agreement in early 2014 for Russian enterprises and their international sub-contractors to supply two VVER-1200 reactors at Paks, including a Russian state loan of up to EUR10 billion to finance 80% of the project, which is known as Paks II. The high cost has resulting in Hungary recently renegotiating the start date for payments on the loans.

US State Department Offers Support for SMRs and 3 Seas but Not in the Same Breath

Last February U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed the Biden administration’s support for the Three Seas Initiative, telling Three Seas foreign ministers in a video address;
“Bringing the private sector to the table alongside governments is a smart way to make big infrastructure projects happen. This support is representative of the type of essential U.S. (and EU) support that will bolster investment, security, and rule of law for Three Seas nations and their partners.” Video https://youtu.be/ZZsNd40DYdE

Support for SMRs

More recently, the State Department announced on April 27, 2021, a ‘Program To Create Pathways to Safe and Secure Nuclear Energy Included in Biden-Harris Administration’s Bold Plans To Address the Climate Crisis’ Press Statement

“Through an initial $5.3 million investment, this program will strengthen international collaboration between the U.S. and partner countries seeking to deploy nuclear energy in their clear energy initiatives. This cooperation includes supporting the deployment of advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors (SMRs), in a manner consistent with the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Milestones Approach for implementing a responsible nuclear power program.”

Here is a summary of the activities the funds will support;

  • Provide capacity building support to partner countries consistent with the IAEA Milestones Approach
  • Supports building engagements on variety of topics, including SMR technology selection, safety and licensing, financing, workforce development, nuclear security, nonproliferation, project localization, stakeholder outreach, spent fuel management, etc.
  • US Govt experts from appropriate agencies will work closely with partner governments to identify gaps which US can help fill
  • Experts from both countries work together to assess necessary training, workshops, study tours, table-top exercises, etc.
  • Projects to be funded for a one-year period of performance, with possible extensions

While the Department of State did not identify any potential partner countries or funding criteria, it stated the program would engage government, industry, national laboratories and academic institutions. Also, the statement didn’t explicitly mention the 3 Seas program. It may support similar activities outside of Europe.

The State Department does not mention the 3 Seas Initiative in its press statement. The Public Affairs Office did not respond to two inquiries as to whether the effort is in direct support of it. It’s possible this deliberate omission is related to the US not wanting to make too much of a point relative to its relations with Russia.

Clearly, from a geopolitical view, the 3 Seas initiative may be the first of many efforts to prevent Russia from expanding its influence in the region by gaining control of the energy security needs of these nations. It also can be seen as a blockade to China’s Belt & Road initiative which offers infrastructure projects at favorable financial terms.

The Three Seas Initiative can be seen as a counter weight to Russian and Chinese influence by creating economic growth and regional prosperity that doesn’t depend on Russian natural gas. The effort also has another effect and that is to promote democraties against foreign and domestic forces that spread distrust of democratic institutions.

The State Department said in its press release that the effort “strengthens the USA’s relationships with international partners, including through government, industry, national laboratory, and academic institution engagements.”

Fennovoima Revises Construction License Application for Hanhikivi-1

(NucNet) A flagship effort by Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear energy export state owned enterprise, to build a state of the art 1200 MWe PWR type nuclear reactor in Finland has hit another delay.

Finnish company Fennovoima said on April 28, 2021, that it “updated” the application for a construction license for the Hanhikivi-1 NPP. The Hanhikivi-1 project provides for the construction in Pyhajoki of a single-unit nuclear power plant based on a Russian-design VVER-1200 generation 3+ reactor. A construction license had been expected in 2021.

The Finnish utility was quick to act to address the announcement about the delay. Joachim Specht, CEO of Fennovoima, said, “The rationale for the project is unchanged, and the scope of it will not be affected by the update.”

Fennovoima said changes are related to design solutions, supply chain, environmental issues and site security and preparedness arrangements. The key operating principles of the power plant have not changed.

He said that Fennovoima now estimates that it could obtain the construction license by summer 2022 and that construction of the power plant would begin in the summer 2023. Commercial operation of the plant would begin in 2029 instead of 2028.

Fennovoima also revised the total investment costs of the project. Instead of the previously announced €6.5-7 billion ($7.7-8.5bn), the estimated total cost is currently €7-7.5 billion.

In terms of global exports, Rosatom is building four of the 1200 MWe VVER at two sites in China. It has two of four planned units under construction in Turkey, and another four units are in the planning stages in Egypt.

TVA CEO: Utility Will Invest in SMRs


According to wire service reports, TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash said last week during an online energy conference hosted by the Atlantic Council that to reach the 100% reduction goal, the utility will need technological advances in energy storage, carbon capture and small modular nuclear reactors. (YouTube video) Lyash said TVA is on track to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by the year 2035.

Lyash said TVA can reach an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over 2005 levels “with existing technology and without raising price or adversely impacting reliability.”

But to do that, it will need to extend the life of the utility’s existing nuclear fleet. The final 20% will be harder, especially considering the new energy demands that are expected from electrification of transportation, Lyash said.

Lyash said the utility will position small modular nuclear reactors as integral to that goal. He added that government support is needed to push forward new technologies that are currently under development.

“TVA is ready to lead in this area if the nation needs it to lead and with the right level of support, we can build small modular reactors as a lead plant at the Clinch River site.”

“First-of-a-kind risk and cost are substantial,” Lyash said. He added that the investment would help the U.S. achieve a low-carbon future and create a valuable export.

In 2019 TVA received a preliminary site permit from the NRC for a small modular reactor at the Clinch River site. The utility has not selected set a date for a license application nor indicated a preference for a specific design or vendor.

Coal Plants Converted to SMRs?

Lyash said that the hundreds of shuttered US coal power plants could be repurposed as small nuclear reactor sites citing easy access to water resources and existing power grid connections. “I see those sites as very viable small modular reactor (SMR) sites.”

Lyash does not see coal as part of the utility’s future, saying TVA will continue to phase it out over the next 15 years because its coal plants are reaching the end of their lives.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who also attended the virtual meeting, agreed, “You could come online much quicker and we could accomplish this at a much faster rate than anything else we could do.”

“Some of our better manufacturing sites are the coal-fired power plants,” said Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia. “You could come online much quicker and we could accomplish this at a much faster rate than anything else we could do,” he said about the SMR potential.

In fiscal year 2020, the portion of TVA’s power that came from nuclear was 42%. Gas accounted for 28%, coal for 15% with hydro generation just behind at 12%. Only 3% of TVA’s power came from wind and solar.

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