- Indonesia Gets US Grant, and Help from NuScale, for SMRs on Borneo
- Thorcon to Support Pre-Licensing Consultation for 500 MW Advanced Reactor with Indonesia Nuclear Safety Ministry
- Thorium Energy Alliance Inks MOU with El Salvador
- Thorium’s Long-Term Potential in Nuclear Energy: IAEA Analysis
- EDF Sets Up Subsidiary to Focus On Nuward SMR
- Type One Fusion Energy Group Raises $29 Million in First Round of Financing
- British-Korean Partnership Set for Fusion Robotics
Indonesia Gets US Grant, and Help from NuScale, for SMRs on Borneo
(NucNet contributed to this report) The US Trade & Development Agency (USTDA) has awarded a grant to Indonesia for technical assistance towards the deployment of the Asian nation’s first small modular reactor with a potential site already chosen in West Kalimantan, a province on the island of Borneo. The grant will be administered by the government-owned electricity distributor PLN Indonesia Power for technical assistance to help develop the SMR. US SMR developer NuScale Power has been selected to conduct the scope of work associated with the grant.
“This project will advance climate action and clean energy access throughout a critical part of the world and has the potential – as part of follow-on projects – to create thousands of jobs, pave the way for additional SMR projects in Indonesia and the Indo-Pacific region, and uphold the highest standards for nuclear safety, security, and non-proliferation,” according to a US Embassy press release
NuScale President and CEO John Hopkins said: “NuScale is providing our innovative small modular reactor technology to countries like Indonesia that are seeking reliable, zero-carbon baseload power.”
Several South Korean heavy industry firms have inked equity investments in NuScale and will also serve as key suppliers of long lead time systems and components with an eye towards sales of NuScale’s SMRs in Southeast Asia.
First of a Kind Funded Effort by US and NuScale for Indonesia
Indonesia Power has chosen Oregon-based NuScale Power to carry out the assistance in partnership with a subsidiary of Texas-based Fluor Corporation (NYSE:FLR) and Japan’s JGC Corporation. The proposed 462-MW facility (six 77 MW SMRs) would use NuScale’s SMR technology and advance Indonesia’s clean energy transition. Fluor is already doing business in Indonesia in its cooper and gold mining sector.
Indonesia has been considering various proposals for full scale nuclear power plants since 2006 according to the country profile published by the World Nuclear Association. Several sites, located away from the tectonic subduction zones, have been evaluated for these plants, but none of the proposals by various vendors and state owned enterprises have moved beyond the unfunded MOU stage.
The latest initiative by the USTDA is the first time any government has put money on the table to evaluate the potential for SMRs and put a US SMR developer in place funded to do the assessment.
The USTDA did not say how much the grant was for, but noted that cooperation includes $1 million in new funding for nuclear energy capacity-building for Indonesia under the US Department of State’s Foundational Infrastructure for the Responsible Use of SMR Technology (First) Program. This program includes support in areas such as workforce development, stakeholder engagement, regulations, and licensing.
USTDA’s assistance will assess the technical and economic viability of the proposed nuclear power plant in West Kalimantan province. It will include a site selection plan, power plant and interconnection system design, preliminary environmental and social impact assessment, risk assessment, cost estimate and regulatory review.
“Indonesia has demonstrated a strong interest in partnering with the United States on its energy transition and identifying innovative and groundbreaking US technology to advance its goals,” said Enoh Ebong, USTDA’s director.
“USTDA has a unique, catalytic role in advancing the development of some of the most ambitious and noteworthy infrastructure projects in Indonesia and emerging economies around the globe.”
In making the announcement USTDA’s Ebong was accompanied by Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Minister Airlangga Hartarto, U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Sung Y. Kim, and U.S. Department of State Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Ann Ganzer.
“After 78 years of waiting, now is the time to achieve self-sufficiency in emission-free green energy,” said Edwin Nugraha Putra, Indonesia Power’s president director. He said the project has “opened the gates to a new era of nuclear energy for electricity to light up Indonesia.”
Indonesia’s energy minister Arifin Tasrif told the G20 ministerial meeting on energy transition in Bali in September 2022 that the country is planning to have nuclear as part of its energy mix in 2049. To support the introduction of nuclear power to Indonesia, the necessary regulatory structure would have to be developed, with independent safety checks being a core element of the government’s capacity building effort.
Indonesia’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA under the NPT entered force in 1980 and the Additional Protocol entered force in 1999. In 1997 it signed the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and Radioactive Waste Management. Indonesia signed a 123 Agreement with the US in 1981.
Coastal Site for an SMR
The location of a future SMR, as noted in the grant announcement, is on Borneo’s western coast which is about 1,000 miles east of Singapore and 500 miles east of Jakarta. Unlike other parts of the island masses in the South Pacific “ring of fire,” region, Borneo is seismically stable with no active volcanos.
Energy Supply & Use in Indonesia
Indonesia, an archipelago nation of more than 18,000 islands, has the world’s fourth largest population which, combined with forecasted economic growth, is expected to increase the country’s energy use three times by 2050.
The region’s mega cities will need enormous amounts of carbon emission free electrical power to grow, prosper, and meet their climate change commitments. Currently, 86% of primary energy consumption is based on fossil fuels (petroleum 32%, coal 37%, and gas 17%). At the same time, Indonesia has a net-zero emission goal of 2050, meaning its energy transition is key to achieving its emission objectives.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), at the US Department of Energy, as of September 2021, the following is a summary of energy use and supply in Indonesia.
- Indonesia’s 2020 petroleum and other liquids production totaled 887,000 barrels per day (b/d), accounting for approximately 1% of world production.
- In 2020, Indonesia was the world’s largest exporter of coal by weight and the seventh-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
- Indonesia’s total primary energy consumption grew by 16% between 2010 and 20203. The country’s petroleum share, although decreasing since 2018, accounted for the second-highest portion of Indonesia’s energy mix at 32% in 2020.
- Between 2010 and 2019, use of coal more than doubled. Surpassing natural gas as the less expensive fuel during that time, domestically produced coal became more economically attractive.
- Indonesia’s National Energy Policy calls for a reduction of petroleum use to 25% of its primary energy supply while raising the renewable energy mix to 23% by 20255. This energy mix would be a significant change from its current energy mix.
- In 2019, Indonesia became the largest producer of biodiesel in the world.
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Thorcon to Support Pre-Licensing Consultation for 500 MW Advanced Reactor with Indonesia
ThorCon has signed an agreement with BAPETEN, Indonesia’s nuclear safety ministry, to carry out a pre-licensing consultation to create a roadmap for licensing the ThorCon 500 MW demonstration power plant in Indonesia.
Thorcon announced that it signed an agreement with the Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency of Indonesia (BAPETEN) to officially start a safety, security, and safeguards consultation in preparation for licensing the 500 MW demonstration nuclear power plant to be located at Kelasa Island in the Province of Bangka-Belitung. (about 300 miles north of Jakarta). ThorCon intends to license, build and operate the 500 MWe demonstration power plant by 2029. According to a report in the Jakarta Post newspaper, the facility will cost $1.1 billion.
The goal of the consultation is to prepare the regulator, the applicant, and the stakeholders for the formal licensing process. The effort will also create a roadmap that contains the following;
- roles and responsibilities,
- applicable laws and regulations,
- scope and format of the technical
- administrative documents in the license applications, and
- evaluations of the design readiness.
The consultation is expected to take 12 months. The firm said it plans to submit license applications following the conclusion of the consultation in 2024.
Thorcon said in a press statement, “This consultation agreement is a major milestone that indicates that the Indonesian Government is serious about providing the efficient regulation required to allow for the licensing of nuclear power in a timely and economic manner. We look forward to working with Bapeten in this exciting program which will help Indonesia carry out the transition to clean, reliable energy put forward by President Joko Widodo in the 2022 G20 meeting.”
The ThorCon design, known as the TMSR-500, will provide the low-cost dispatchable electricity to support the that the Indonesian economy. (Technical briefing slides – PDF file) It is composed of two 250 MW molten salt reactors. The plants will be located on docked floating barges fabricated by a South Korean shipyard.
Initially, the reactors will use conventional uranium fuels including high assay low enriched uranium fuel (HALEU) at 5-15% U235. Subsequent implementation of the design may change over to thorium molten salt fuel configurations, but only if there is a commercial supplier for it.
The electricity from the plant will help Indonesia to develop its own natural resources. The plant will be used to make the Indonesian grid more robust and attract foreign companies to set up operations in Indonesia.
Thorcon said it is the firm’s intention to establish an assembly line in Indonesia which will manufacture its reactor nuclear power plants in Indonesia. The firm is also working with several universities to create programs regarding molten salt reactor technology.
The firm claims these activities will not only create a new industry in the national economy, but they will also help transform Indonesian power generation into one of the cleanest on the planet.
Previous Coverage on this Blog
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Thorium Energy Alliance Inks MOU with El Salvador
(NucNet) El Salvador and the US-based Thorium Energy Alliance have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop a “comprehensive and strategic plan” to deploy thorium-powered reactors in the Central American country.
The document was signed on 03/14/23 between Daniel Álvarez, general director of Energy, Hydrocarbons and Mines, and John Kutsch, executive director of Thorium Energy Alliance (TEA), at the facilities of the Embassy of El Salvador in the United States, in Washington D.C.
Photo Caption: Daniel Alvarez (left), El Salvador’s director general of Energy, Hydrocarbons, and Mines, and John Kutsch (right), executive director of the Thorium Energy Alliance. Image: TEA.
The purpose of the agreement is to formally establish the framework for action for cooperation between Thorium Energy Alliance and the Directorate General of Energy, Hydrocarbons and Mines (DGEHM) to develop a comprehensive and strategic plan to deploy, in an advanced and safe way, power generation.
“I am pleased to announce the launch of this innovative project that will revolutionize the energy landscape of El Salvador. I want to thank Thorium Energy Alliance for their dedicated work in implementing a safe nuclear future for El Salvador. Their experience and commitment have been invaluable in making this initiative a reality,” said Daniel Alvarez, Director General of Energy, Hydrocarbons and Mines, during the signing.
“The leadership of El Salvador is rising and taking the bold steps necessary to ensure access to abundant and reliable energy, with the goal of ensuring a future of prosperity for all,” said John Kutsch, Executive Director of Thorium Energy Alliance.
The government of El Salvador said it is taking steps to add nuclear power to the country’s energy mix, as the nation of about 6.5 million people looks to diversify its electric power generation fleet.
The Thorium Energy Alliance, a Harvard, Illinois, based non-profit advocacy group that endorses thorium-fueled nuclear reactors, said the MOU means El Salvador is taking “another step towards diversifying its energy matrix.”
The Thorium Energy Alliance is a 501(c)3 Educational advocacy organization. It is particularly interested in thorium fueled molten salt reactors.
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Thorium’s Long-Term Potential in Nuclear Energy: IAEA Analysis
(Press Release) Using thorium for energy production is not without challenges, and these are discussed in a new IAEA technical publication Near-Term and Promising Long-Term Options for the Deployment of Thorium-Based Nuclear Energy (large PDF file).
Comprehensively summarizing the results of a four-year IAEA coordinated research project focused on the possibilities of developing thorium-based nuclear energy, the report examines the benefits and the challenges of using thorium as a fuel and analyses its application in different types of reactors — from the most commonly deployed water-cooled reactors to molten-salt reactors.
“Many countries consider thorium as both a viable and very attractive option for generating power and meeting their growing energy needs,” said Kailash Agarwal, a Nuclear Fuel Cycle Facilities Specialist at the IAEA and one of the authors of the report.
“Our research project helped share valuable knowledge and experience among national laboratories and research institutions in the use of thorium, culminating in this publication.”
According to the IAEA report, thorium boasts several advantages over the conventional nuclear fuel, uranium-235. Thorium can generate more fissile material (uranium-233) than it consumes while fueling a water-cooled or molten-salt reactor. According to estimates, the Earth’s upper crust contains an average of 10.5 parts per million (ppm) of thorium, compared with about 3 ppm of uranium.
“Because of its abundance and its fissile material breeding capability, thorium could potentially offer a long-term solution to humanity’s energy needs,” Agarwal said.
Not Without Challenges
However, there are several economic and technical obstacles making the deployment of thorium challenging. Despite its abundance, the metal is currently expensive to extract.
“The mineral monazite, which is a major source of rare earth elements, is also a primary source of thorium,” said Mark Mihalasky, a Uranium Resources Specialist at the IAEA.
“Without the current demand for rare earth elements, monazite would not be mined for its thorium content alone. Thorium is a by-product, and extraction of thorium requires methods that are costlier than for uranium. So, as it stands, the amount of thorium that can be pulled out of the ground in a cost-effective manner is not as great as for uranium. This, however, could change if there was a higher demand for thorium and its application in nuclear power.”
Equally expensive are research, development and testing of thorium-powered nuclear installations due to a lack of significant experience with thorium and uranium’s historical pre-eminence in nuclear power.
“Another hurdle for thorium is that it can be difficult to handle,” said Anzhelika Khaperskaia, Technical Lead on Fuel Engineering and Fuel Cycle Facilities at the IAEA.
“Being a fertile and not fissile material, it needs a driver, such as uranium or plutonium, to trigger and maintain a chain reaction.”
Safety and Regulatory Issues of the Thorium Fuel Cycle
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission ML14050A083
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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EDF Sets Up Subsidiary To Focus On Nuward SMR
(NucNet) France’s state energy company EDF has created a subsidiary to strengthen the development of its Nuward small modular reactor, which now in the detailed preliminary project phase.
EDF said it completed the preliminary design of the Nuward plant. The new Nuward subsidiary is now committed to the detailed preliminary design, in line with an objective of beginning construction of a reference unit in 2030.
Nuward Technical Profile:. Table and Data IAEA
EDF said Nuward aims to become the European leader in SMR, offering reliable and carbon-free energy at a competitive cost for the global market. It faces still competition from American SMR developers NuScale and GE Hitachi and from the UK’s Rolls-Royce.
EDF said that in line with the licensing process a safety options file will be submitted to the French nuclear regulator ASN in July. Nuward work with French authorities to assess and select sites that could potentially accommodate the first plant.
EDF and Nuward will continue to seek alliances with international prospects considering deploying Nuward SMR technology.
The Nuward project is being led by EDF with contributions from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), French industrial group Naval Group, reactor design and maintenance company TechnicAtome, nuclear company Framatome and engineering company Tractebel.
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Type One Energy Group Raises $29 Million in First Financing
- Bill Gates and other investors pump $29 million into a ‘twisty’ nuclear reactor
- Firm appoints Christofer Mowry, formerly CEO at General Fusion, to lead development
Type One Energy announced announced is has closed an over-subscribed $29 million financing round. This effort launches the company’s FusionDirect program by emerging from a kind of “stealth mode” to promote the commercialization of its stellarator fusion technology. Type One Energy is one of only two stellarator-centric companies seeking to commercialize the technology. The other is Renaissance Fusion which is based in Grenoble, France. (Image below: Type One)
Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the $2 billion clean-energy fund created by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, partnered to raise the $29 million in Series A funding with TDK Ventures and Doral Energy Tech Ventures was co-lead on the investment round. Other backers include Darco, the Grantham Foundation, MILFAM, Orbia Ventures, Shorewind Capital, TRIREC and Vahoca.
Carmichael Roberts, who co-leads BEV’s investment committee, said that Type One’s advances in stellarator science included an evaluation of Type One Energy’s ability to execute a stellarator development project; “It provides the basis for a very exciting and promising path to practical fusion on the grid in the coming decades.”
The Series A money will be used to build a “Risk Reduction Platform” (RRP) for the stellarator over the next few years. The firm said the ‘risk reduction platform” will be used to test several engineering design choices made by FFP and confirm the accuracy of its stellarator plasma physics models and simulations.
This statement suggests that the priority for now is to get to a stage of controlling the plasma. So far the company has not released design information on the electrical generation capacity of the fusion design nor specifications of the heat transfer mechanism to drive a steam system and connected turbine.
Three Areas of Technical Innovation by Type One Energy
Type One Energy’s ‘FusionDirect’ commercialization program is designed to take advantage of improvements in stellarator fusion performance and plasma science work together with technical innovations in high-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnet technology and advanced manufacturing.
These innovations are similar to parallel efforts, in a crowded field, by other fusion developers. For details see the Fusion Industry Association 2022 Annual report and its review of the commercial profiles and technical concepts being pursued by 31 fusion energy startups. Here are the three areas where Type One Energy says it is pursuing a technological competitive advantage.
- Advancements in analytical theory, supercomputing and sophisticated codes uncover previously hidden magnetic field configurations that provide optimal confinement of the plasma for the greatest and most efficient power generation.
- New high-temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets can carry over 200 times the current carrying capacity of copper wires for a more compact stellarator. It also requires less cooling power than conventional low temperature magnets.(HTS) magnets can carry over 200 times the current carrying capacity of copper wires for a more compact stellarator. It also requires less cooling power than conventional low temperature magnets.
- Digital design optimization with hybrid in-situ additive-subtractive manufacturing can enable the rapid, large scale build of complex-shaped, dimensionally-accurate stellarator components with fewer parts that perform better and at lower cost.
The RRP testbed will support the ongoing primary mission to design and develop the fusion machine. The firm said its initial steps will be focused on “the RRP testbed” which will be used to “validate several engineering design choices and confirm the fidelity of its stellarator plasma physics models and simulations.”
Type One hasn’t set a target date for commercialization. It said its FusionDirect timeline for developing a viable Fusion Power Plant, or FPP, will unfold over the coming decade which probably puts the first commercial unit in line with other fusion start up target dates of mid-to-late 2030s. UKAEA targets 2040 as a likely date for deployment of one or more commercial fusion energy plants.
While the company’s Series A funding of $29 million is a terrific start, the firm will need very significant funding in the range of $100s of millions from investors and private/public partnerships to cross the finish line to be able to offer a commercial product to customers. Major milestones will include producing a scale prototype, a final design, regulatory approvals, and development of a supply chain to manufacture components on an ongoing basis.
Collaborators and Partners
Type One’s commercialization program is being executed through a set of global partnerships with leading fusion science and technology research institutions, universities and industrial companies.
Type One Energy said in a press statement it brings concentrated experience from renowned fusion science institutions, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the U.S., the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Germany and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for its work on advanced magnet technology.
Christofer Mowry is the New CEO
With this announcement, the company will onboard former Breakthrough Energy Ventures’ (BEV) Senior Advisor on Fusion, Christofer Mowry, to serve as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). In a statement about his new role at a new company, he said, Type One Energy represents a special opportunity. This team’s knowledge and credibility gives Type One the unique ability to effectively integrate recent global advances in stellarator-relevant technology and to deliver a fusion power plant without another costly, large-scale, science validation machine.”
Previously, Mowry held the CEO position at General Fusion, where he scaled up the company and raised over $200M in private investment and government support from three countries.
The technical leadership team includes a quartet of fusion energy experts.
- Chief Technology Officer Dr. Thomas Sunn Pedersen,
- Chief Science Officer Dr. John Canik,
- Chief Engineer Dr. David Anderson, and,
- Head of Stellarator Plasma Science Dr. Chris Hegna.
About Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV)
Founded by Bill Gates and backed by many of the world’s top business leaders, BEV has raised more than $2 billion in committed capital to support cutting-edge companies that are leading the world to net-zero emissions. BEV is a purpose-built investment firm that is seeking to invest, launch and scale global companies that will eliminate GHG emissions throughout the economy as soon as possible. BEV seeks true breakthroughs and is committed to supporting these entrepreneurs and companies by bringing to bear a unique combination of technical, operational, market and policy expertise.
About the Stellarator Fusion Concept
The twisted structure of a stellarator device is meant to create a stable magnetic field for plasma containment without having to use massive circulating electric currents. Plasma physics labs have been building stellarators since the 1950s. The billion-dollar Wendelstein 7-X reactor — which began operation in Germany in 2015 at the Max Plank Institute for Plasma Physics — is currently the world’s largest experimental fusion device of the stellarator type.
The firm describes its stellarator as a fusion technology characterized by inherently stable and steady-state operations. Related to tokamaks, stellarators do not require massive circulating electric currents to assist in creating the magnetic fields used to confine their fusion plasma. According to Type One this makes stellarator technology less physically complex and easier to translate into a practical fusion power plant.
However, in a review of fusion technology types, the IEEE Spectum wrote, “The stellarator’s spiraling ribbon shape produces high-density plasma that’s symmetrical and more stable than a tokamak’s, allowing the reactor to run for long periods of time. Reality Check: The stellarator’s challenging geometry makes it complicated to build and extremely sensitive to imperfect conditions.”
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British-Korean Partnership for Fusion Robotics
(WNN) The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the Korea Institute of Fusion Energy (KFE) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to cooperate in research and development for remote handling and the maintenance of future fusion power plants.
UKAEA’s Joint European Torus (JET) has been configured to replicate the anticipated International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) set-up and is maintained using robotics and remote handling. KFE operates the Korean Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR), the only tokamak machine using superconducting technology like ITER.
The MOU signed by UKAEA and KFE – both government-funded organizations – will see risk-driven research and development prioritization, knowledge-sharing involving welding, large-scale tendon driven arm operations, the development of robust electronic components, and skills transfer. The technical and knowledge exchange will happen via lectures, seminars and workshops in both countries.
UKAEA conducts fusion energy research on behalf of the UK government. Since opening at Culham, Oxfordshire, in 2014, UKAEA’s fusion robotics center, Remote Applications in Challenging Environments, has conducted research and development into the use of robotics in extreme industrial environments where it is difficult to send people to work.
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