GE-Hitachi Kicks Off BWRX-300 SMR for Estonia

  • GE-Hitachi to Collaborate with Estonia Firm on BWRX-300 SMR Development
  • ARC-100 Passes Canadian Pre-licensing Milestone
  • BWXT to Restart TRISO Fuel Development at Lynchburg, VA, Plant
  • Puerto Rico to Begin Small Modular Reactor (SMR) Feasibility Study
  • ARPA-E Announces New Funding Opportunity to Develop Tools to Improve Advanced Reactor Designs
  • INL’s National Reactor Innovation Center Announces New Managers

GEH To Collaborate With Estonia Firm
on BWRX-300 Deployment

geh-hq_thumb.jpgUS-based GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Estonia’s Fermi Energia have signed an agreement to collaborate on the potential deployment of GEH’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor (SMR) in the Baltic country. [press statement]

GEH said in a statement that under the agreement, the two companies will examine the economic feasibility of building a BWRX-300 in Estonia. The agreement covers a review of site requirements and an assessment of local nuclear regulatory requirements.

Kalev Kallemets, chief executive officer of Fermi Energia, is quoted as saying that Estonia needs to consider new generation SMR technology to maintain energy independence and achieve climate neutrality.

“Boiling water reactors have been proven in the Nordics to be safe, economic and reliable providers of carbon-free energy for decades and the design of the BWRX-300 makes it investible and highly competitive technology.”

The BWRX-300 is a 300-MW SMR derived from GEH’s 1,520 MW Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) design.

According to GEH, the BWRX-300 leverages the design and licensing basis of the ESBWR, which received design certification in the US in 2014. Essentially, it is an SMR that is a BWR.

The BWRX-300, a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems, leverages the design and licensing basis of the U.S. NRC-certified ESBWR. Through design simplification, GEH projects the BWRX-300 will require up to 60 percent less capital cost per MW when compared to other water-cooled SMRs or existing large nuclear reactor designs.

bwrx-300
GEH said in its press statement that it believes that the BWRX-300 can become cost-competitive with power generation from combined cycle gas and renewables.

Note to readersextraordinary claims, e.g., capital costs of $2,250/kW, require extraordinary evidence. The last time a nuclear energy vendor published cost estimates in this range was when NRG said in 2007 it would build two 1350 MW ABWRs at the South Texas Project (STP 3 & 4). The quoted cost estimate was $2,700/kW.  NRG was unable to attract investors for the project and neither reactor ever broke ground.

GEH said Fermi Energia plans to make public the results of its feasibility study on the suitability of SMRs for Estonia in January 2020.

In an earlier action GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy  initiated a Vendor Design Review of its BWRX-300 small modular reactor in May 2019 with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC).

Previous coverage on this blog – GE-Hitachi to Offer 300 MW SMR

In May 2018 GE Hitachi announced that design work was underway to downsize the 1500 MW ESBWR to a 300 MW model to be called the BWRX-300. At the same time GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) also announced that Dominion Energy will provide funding for the project to develop and commercialize the BWRX-300.

GEH said Dominion Energy’s funding provides seed money for work that could lead to commercialising the BWRX-300. GEH did not say how much funding Dominion had agreed to provide. In a statement to Power Magazine in May 2018 Dominion’s Chief Nuclear Officer Dan Stoddard, said the investment in the SMR technology reflects the company’s view that the design GE Hitachi is pursuing with the BWRX-300 Small Modular Reactor “has the potential to make it a strong competitor in the marketplace. ”

“Our view is that a modest investment now to support further development of this technology is in the interest of both companies.”

Update 10/23/19 – GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Announces Small Modular Reactor Technology Collaboration in Poland

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Synthos SA have agreed to collaborate on potential deployment applications for GEH’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor in Poland.

Synthos, a manufacturer of synthetic rubber and one of the biggest producers of chemical raw materials in Poland, is interested in obtaining affordable, on-demand, carbon-free electricity from a dependable, dedicated source. In a Memorandum of Understanding signed by GEH and Synthos, the companies have agreed to investigate the potential to construct GEH’s BWRX-300 small modular reactor in Poland.

GEH MOU in Estonia is 3rd Move to Europe for US SMR Developers

The announcement by GEH for exploratory work for its 300 MW SMR in Estonia follows by about a month for a similar deal by US-based NuSclae in the Czech Republic and by two months for one by Holtec in Ukraine.

NuScale – In August 2019 World Nuclear News reported that NuScale Power announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with CEZ Group, a state owned Czech utility, to explore applications for NuScale’s 50 MWe small modular reactor (SMR) as a long-term energy solution in the Czech Republic. The agreement marks the latest indication of of international interest in NuScale’s technology.

The agreement calls for a sharing of nuclear and technical expertise between the two companies. Specifically, NuScale and ČEZ will exchange information relating to nuclear supply chain development, construction and operation and maintenance.

Holtec – World Nuclear News reported in June 2019 that Holtec International, Ukraine’s Energoatom and the country’s State Scientific and Technology Centre (SSTC) have formally entered into a partnership to advance the US company’s SMR-160 small modular reactor for deployment in Ukraine.

Moltex in MOU in Estonia for MSR SMR Design

moltex-logo_thumb.pngIn a separate development, Estonian Fermi Energia and British-Canadian Moltex Energy signed a memorandum of understanding in March 2019 that expresses the companies’ intent to work together on a feasibility study for the siting and potential later licensing of a molten salt nuclear reactor in Estonia.

Fermi Energia CEO, Kalev Kallemets said of the proejct that their ambition is to bring a first fourth-generation small modular reactor online by the early 2030s.

According to a report in World Nuclear News, Moltex Energy’s SSR is a conceptual UK reactor design with no pumps (only small impellers in the secondary salt bath) and relies on convection from static vertical fuel tubes in the core to convey heat to the steam generators.

The fuel assemblies are arranged at the centre of a tank half filled with the coolant salt which transfers heat away from the fuel assemblies to the peripheral steam generators, essentially by convection. Core temperature is 500-600°C, at atmospheric pressure.

ARC-100 Passes Canadian Pre-licensing Milestone

arc nuclear logo(WNN) The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has completed the first phase of a vendor design review of ARC Nuclear Canada’s ARC-100 small modular reactor. The design is the third advanced reactor to complete the first phase of the CNSC’s regulatory pre-licensing review.

CNSC’s review of the ARC-100 small modular reactor design began in September 2017. CNSC said, “ARC understands and has interpreted correctly the high-level intent of the CNSC’s regulatory requirements for the design of nuclear power plants in Canada.,”

“In some cases, due to the unique characteristics of the design, ARC is proposing alternative approaches and methodologies to address the underlying intent of CNSC regulatory requirements.”

The vendor design review, the CNSC said, showed that ARC needs to provide additional information on its management system processes and research and development program if it decides to proceed to a Phase 2 review.

“Notwithstanding the above, these issues are foreseen to be resolvable and will be followed up in future phases of vendor design reviews,” CNSC said.

History of the ARC-100

ARC is developing the ARC-100, a 100 MWe integrated sodium-cooled fast reactor with a metallic uranium alloy core. In March 2017 the firm signed an agreement with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) to collaborate on development and licensing, and uses proprietary technology from GEH’s PRISM reactor.

arc-100 concept

Both the PRISM and ARC-100 designs are based on the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) integral sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype which operated at the USA’s Argonne National Laboratory from 1961, finally shutting down in 1994.

This is the third advanced reactor design review conducted by the CNSC, the other two being Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor and Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation’s MMR-5 and MMR-10 high-temperature gas reactor.

About CNSC Pre-Licensing Reviews

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

The review involves three phases:

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

These findings will be taken into account in any subsequent construction licence application, increasing the efficiency of technical reviews. The duration of each review is estimated based on the vendor’s proposed schedule. A Phase 1 review typically takes 12–18 months and a Phase 2 review takes 24 months.

See prior coverage on this blogArgonne’s IFR to Live Again at Point LePreau

In July 2018 ARC Nuclear and New Brunswick Power (NB Power) agreed to work together to take the necessary steps to develop, license, and build an advanced small modular reactor (SMR) based on ARC Nuclear’s Gen IV sodium-cooled fast reactor technology.

ARC was formed to bring back and commercialize a technically mature, advanced reactor technology that was created and proven by a U.S. prototype reactor that ran successfully in the United States for 30 years which is the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) developed at the Argonne West field station on the Arco Desert 27 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID. ARC has made significant proprietary advances to the original EBR-II design in order to create the ARC-100.

BWXT to Restart TRISO Fuel Development
at Lynchburg, VA, Plant

rriso fuel 2BWX Technologies, Inc. (NYSE: BWXT) announced thi week that it is in the process of restarting its existing TRISO nuclear fuel production line and is planning to expand its existing capacity within approximately 12 months. It wil hire 60 new workers to run the production process.

The expansion to BWXT’s existing TRISO fuel production capability will position the company to meet emergent client interests in Department of Defense microreactors, space reactors, and civil advanced reactors.

TRISO refers to a specific design of uranium nuclear reactor fuel. (TRISO is a shortened form of the term TRIstructural-ISOtropic. TRIstructural refers to the layers of coatings surrounding the uranium fuel, and ISOtropic refers to the kernel being the same size in each direction since it takes the shape of a sphere.) TRISO fuel can withstand extreme heat and has very low proliferation concerns and environmental risks.

BWXT is the only U.S. company to manufacture irradiation-tested uranium oxycarbide TRISO fuel using production-scale equipment. Its TRISO production facility is currently licensed to produce this type of High Assay Low Enriched Uranium (HALEU) fuel, which is undergoing validation in a series of experiments at Idaho National Laboratory at their Advanced Test Reactor under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor program.

BWXT and the DOE have cooperated in the development and qualification of TRISO-based fuel for more than 15 years, demonstrating and establishing the company’s commercial capability for TRISO fuel manufacturing.

Schedule for Initiating Production

BWXT’s expansion is scheduled to be handled in two steps. Over the next few months, BWXT will add additional equipment and staff to its existing facility to restart production. Within 24-32 months, the company will complete capacity upgrades to begin increased TRISO production to meet emerging customer needs.

In conjunction with its capacity upgrades, BWXT has plans to hire up to 60 additional workers to augment its existing experienced and trained TRISO fuel manufacturing team. Positions such as engineers, technicians, quality analysis specialists and others will need to be filled at its Lynchburg, Virginia facility, where the activity will be located.

See additional coverage on this blogTRISO Fuel Drives Global Development of Advanced Reactors

Puerto Rico to Begin Small Modular Reactor (SMR)
Feasibility Study

nap-logo_thumb.png(WNN) The Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP), founded in 2016 by Puerto Rican engineers in the US nuclear industry to inform and advocate for SMRs and microreactors in Puerto Rico, will receive $820,000 from the U.S Department of Energy to evaluate the economic, safety and social impact of deploying microreactors and SMRs for the island.

It has announced it will officially begin the study having now receved receipt of a “notice to proceed” from the US DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.

NAP’s feasibility study will evaluate the economic, safety and social impact of deploying microreactors and SMRs for Puerto Rico. It will also look at Puerto Rico’s energy and resilience need. The project will study potential local applications of small modular reactors and microreactors, the island’s legal and regulatory background and how such a project would be financed.

The study leaders said that island territories around the world are the most vulnerable to climate change and typically rely heavily on fossil fuels for baseload generation. Advanced nuclear reactors can offer not only a route to decarbonization for such territories but also economic and land-use benefits, alongside resilience against extreme natural events.

Paul Murphy, managing director of Murphy Energy & Infrastructure Consulting LLC and a member of NAP’s advisory board, said advanced nuclear reactors could be a viable long-term solution to meet Puerto Rico’s needs in an island environment, which poses unique issues of suitability, durability and grid size.

“Blanketing” the island, which depends on tourism, with wind and solar energy would be untenable, he added. “Windmills and solar panels don’t do well in hurricanes,” Murphy said. “Nuclear plants actually do.”

See prior coverage on this blog – Puerto Rico Group Seeks SMRs for Island Electric Power

ARPA-E Announces New Funding Opportunity to Develop Tools to Improve Advanced Reactor Designs

arpa e logoARPA-E this week issued a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) of up to $35 million in funding for a new program, Generating Electricity Managed by Intelligent Nuclear Assets (GEMINA).

GEMINA projects will develop tools and systems to enable more flexible, less costly nuclear power plants.

The GEMINA program will develop digital twin technology for advanced nuclear reactors, using artificial intelligence and advanced modeling controls to create tools that introduce greater flexibility in nuclear reactor systems, increased autonomy in operations, and faster design iteration.

The development of these digital twins will work towards a goal to contribute to a 10x reduction in operating and management (O&M) costs at advanced reactor power plants.

For more information on ARPA-E’s GEMINA program, click here.

The deadline to submit a concept paper for GEMINI is 9:30 a.m. ET on November 13, 2019. Additional information, including the full FOA and how to find project teaming partners, is available on ARPA-E’s online application portal, ARPA-E eXCHANGE.

See also the Department of Energy release on advancing artificial intelligence at Innovation XLab

INL’s National Reactor Innovation Center
Announces New Managers

Ashley Finan named director and Nicholas Smith, deputy director, of National Reactor Innovation Center NRIC will enable testing and demonstration of advanced reactor concepts

inl-logo_thumb.pngDr. John Wagner, associate laboratory director of Idaho National Laboratory’s Nuclear Science & Technology Directorate, announced this week the selection of Dr. Ashley Finan to serve as director, and Nicholas Smith to serve as deputy director of the INL-based National Reactor Innovation Center  (fact sheet).

As NRIC directors, Finan and Smith will lead efforts to accelerate the testing, demonstration and commercialization of innovative reactor technologies in the United States.

“Building and operating advanced reactors is essential to U.S. leadership in nuclear energy, and these roles are essential to achieving that goal,” said Wagner.

“Ashley has played a key role in the formation of the policy that made NRIC possible. She and Nicholas are ideally suited to develop and implement the NRIC vision.”

Authorized by the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), NRIC will provide resources to test, demonstrate, and assess performance of new nuclear technologies, critical steps that must be completed before they are available commercially. Through NRIC, developers will gain access to the strategic infrastructure and assets of the national laboratories. These capabilities will support a timely and cost-effective path to licensing and commercializing new nuclear systems.

nuclear TRLs

Finan served most recently as executive director of the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, a nonprofit think tank working to enable nuclear power as a global solution to mitigate climate change. Prior to her work with NIA, Finan led nuclear innovation programs at Clean Air Task Force. She holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in nuclear science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Smith has worked with the research and development organization of Atlanta-based Southern Company since 2010, most recently as principal engineer. In this role, he oversaw a Generation IV nuclear reactor R&D program and was responsible for collaboration with reactor designers, national labs and policymakers, and early engagement with regulators.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from San Diego State University, a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from North Carolina State University.

See prior coverage on this blogIdaho National Lab Gets DOE Charter for Test and Demonstration of Advanced Reactors

INL is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

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South Korea Revamps Its Nuclear Energy Export Strategy

  • South Korea to Boost Nuclear Energy Exports
  • EDF to Release Tender for Two-to-Six 1600 MWe EPRs to Be Built in France
  • NuScale Inks MOU with CEZ for SMRs in Czech Republic
  • Westinghouse to Acquire Rolls Royce Civil Nuclear Business Unit

South Korea to Boost Nuclear Energy Exports

nuclear-power-plants-in-south-korea

(Business Korea) The South Korean government has decided to promote nuclear technology exports to revive the domestic nuclear power industry, which is having difficulty due to the domestic nuclear phase-out policy.

The export strategy represents a shift by the current administration which so far has taken an anti-nuclear stance.

It has tried and failed to stop the completion of plants that were already under construction and has targeted complete phase out of all commercial nuclear reactors by 2050.

Up tp now South Korean nuclear power companies have pitched their tent in the realm of building commercial nuclear power plants. Four South Korean designed PWR type 1400 MWe nuclear reactors are under construction in the United Arab Emirates with the first unit expected to be commissioned in 2020.

A key change in the country’s export strategy is to shift from construction of nuclear power plants overseas to the selling value-added support for the full cycle of nuclear power generation ranging from plant operation to maintenance and decommissioning.

The government will actively help small and medium-sized companies move into the global nuclear power market and export their technologies as part of the global nuclear component supply chain.

This effort wil be in addition to ongoing support for state-run nuclear power companies, such as Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., and conglomerates, including Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction Co., which are the main players in the nuclear export industry.

These same South Korean firms are also planning to enter the reactor decommissioning business and are actively exploring opportunities in the U.S. Reactors in the U.S. have been closing, some well before their time, due to the low cost of natural gas. More closures are expected as long the the price of gas stays low.

These firms have not won after market business deals for nuclear fuel supply, operation and maintenance of nuclear power plants, and replacement of components and systems such as generators and steam systems. So far, South Korea has not booked any other new nuclear export deals for either new full size reactors or services since the UAE project.

South Korea has been involved in a joint development project with Saudi Arabia since 2011 to deploy a 100 MW SMR. Last week World Nuclear News reported that South Korea and Saudi Arabia have agreed to collaborate on the commercialization of the Korean-designed SMART small modular reactor. Under the agreement, they will work together to license and construct the first such unit in Saudi Arabia. The agreement also calls for manufacturing the SMRs for export.

Rationale for the Shift in Strategy

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced its new export strategy during a meeting held at the head office of Korea Trade Insurance Corp. in Gwanghwamun, Seoul, on 09/19/19.

According to Platts, smaller companies and medium-sized companies account for a large number of the nuclear power companies in South Korea, in terms providing compoents to supply chains, but big corporations have dominated the earnings from exports. Among the 92 major nuclear power equipment producers in the country, only 14 have the experience of exporting their products to global markets. Clearly, the government has it in mind to significantly grow these numbers.

The government has increased next year’s research and development (R&D) budget for smaller nuclear power companies by 33 percent to US$118.59 million and will expand loans with favorable terms to smaller firms.

Despite these increases in funding, the South Korean government faces a fundamental challenge for its new export strategy. Countries that might consider the new 1400 MW PWR design will ask why South Korea’s exports are not supported by continuing investments in the same design at home.

The credibility of the design for export will hinge on whether the current administration’s ill-advised energy policy will yet again try to throttle the commercial domestic market. If it does, it might just as well roll up the sidewalks for the export strategy.

Prospects for Export to the U.S.

To say that KHNP faces an uphill climb to sell their newly certified reactor in the U.S. is probably akin to a diplomatic communique at its finest. More likely, KHNP wanted the NRC design certification because on an international basis it is considered to be the “gold standard” for safety reviews and therefore it is a confidence builder in any potential export deals.

A report in Business Korea earlier this year noted that since the NRC’s design approval is recognized as an indicator of technological reliability by the global nuclear power industry, it will strengthen the overall export base for Korean nuclear power plants.

KHNP is also reported to be on track to obtaining a European design approval on the reactor as a standard design for the EU-APR. A version of the APR1400 tailored to Europe passed the screening of the European certification body in October last year.

France’s EDF Wants to Build Up to Six EPRs
in France Starting in 2020

(French English language wire services) EDF has called for civil engineering bids for a two and as many as six EPR type1600 MW nuclear units in France, according to a note published in the EU’s Official Journal.

The EPR 2 is the successor unit to the 1,650 MW EPR currently being built in Finland, France and now the UK at Hinkley Point C. The contract will be based on yet to be published specifications and digital plans to be provided by the French utility for the new EPR 2. EDF is reported to be developing the EPR 2 pressurized water reactor with Framatome.

The “nuclear plant of tomorrow” is a simplification of the current EPR design which has been criticized as being too complex. Evidence of this is seen in the many costly delays of construction of the first two units – one in Finland and the other in France at at Olikiluoto-3 and Flamanville-3.

“The goal of the EPR 2 project is to have a competitive model on the new production means market by 2030,” EDF has said.

Without naming any of them at this time the most likely locations will be adjacent to existing reactors. The units are to be built “on one of the nuclear sites in operation in France,” EDF said.

The French regional broadcaster France 3 reported EDF has made land purchases next to existing reactor sites at Belleville and Chinon, with an EDF spokesperson quoted as saying the sites could be used for unspecified future low-carbon power generation projects.

EDF tenders will enable it to “make qualified decision”

(Montel) EDF’s “exploratory tenders” to build two new 1.6 GW European pressurized reactors (EPR) will enable it to “make a qualified decision about the feasibility of building new reactors”, the utility told Montel.

“In order to do so, we are looking for partners who will help us do the costing,” the spokesman from the French utility added late on Wednesday, in line with reports in the press earlier this morning.

“Today, no decisions have been made and calls for tenders are only issued to prepare a decision.”

In 2018, a classified report, ordered by former French energy minister Nicolas Hulot, and revealed by French daily Les Echos, suggested the country should build six new EPR reactors from 2025 on to maintain the share of nuclear energy at 50% after 2035.

The call for tenders comes as a surprise as the French government has said that, as part of its energy policy, it would not decide whether to build new EPRs before EDF’s new generation EPR unit, until construction in Flamanville, is operational.

NuScale Partners with CEZ to Explore
SMR Deployment in the Czech Republic

The companies will share technical expertise and explore potential of NuScale’s SMR as a long-term clean energy option for CEZ

nuscale logo

NuScale Power announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with CEZ Group, a state owned Czech utility, to explore applications for NuScale’s small modular reactor (SMR) as a long-term energy solution in the Czech Republic. The agreement marks the latest indication of of international interest in NuScale’s technology.

The agreement calls for a sharing of nuclear and technical expertise between the two companies. Specifically, NuScale and ČEZ will exchange information relating to nuclear supply chain development, construction and operation and maintenance.

The agreement comes as CEZ continues a broad-based evaluation of potential nuclear energy solutions, including the construction of SMRs and refurbishments to existing nuclear facilities. Nuclear power currently generates roughly one-third of all electricity in the Czech Republic. CEZ currently operates two nuclear power plants in the country.

The utility has struggled in recent years to organize new builds of full size reactors at Temelin and Dokavany where is operated Russian built units. Efforts to develop the financing for a new build at either site have hinged on the government’s willingness to offer rate guarantees to CEZ for the electricity that would be generated by the new plants.

NuScale Key Investor Fluor Hits Financial Headwinds

NuScale_Power investor Fluor highlights in a press statement the need for “additional investor interest” in 2020 in NuScale to maintain progress.

The company told Engineering News Record a strategic review evaluated the contractor’s “entire portfolio of businesses,” including its Stork industrial unit acquired in 2015, its COOEC-Fluor Heavy Industries business, and the investment it has made in small nuclear reactor technology firm NuScale.

Fluor said in its news release that commitments from new investors Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction and Sargent & Lundy, subject to regulatory approval, are expected to allow the funding of NuScale activities for the remainder of this year. That’s not much time since it is now October.

Recent milestones achieved by NuScale have generated additional investor interest that is expected to offset 2020 funding requirements. The company told the Dallas Monring News the intent of attracting new investors is to reduce expenses. NuScae noted on its website that as of the end of 2017, Fluor had invested $475 million in NuScale. The initial agreement to position Fluor as a key equity investor in the SMR startup was inked in 2011.

Fluor’s Strategic Review

As a result of the strategic review, Fluor concluded that the divestitures of select businesses will simultaneously improve the financial stability of the company and allow the remaining businesses to refocus on engineering, construction and maintenance services in core markets.

The company is initiating plans to sell its construction equipment rental company (AMECO) and its government business, and to monetize surplus real estate and non-core investments. Fluor anticipates these actions to generate in excess of $1 billion in aggregate proceeds.b

Fluor’s stock fell on 9/24/19 from $20.70 to $18.68 mostly on news of a significantly decreased dividend, by -52%, to stockholders. The 52-week high was $60.60 and the 52-week low was $16.25 which means the stock is now trading close to the lower number. Revenue in 2018 was $19.7 billion.

NuScale Has Benefited from Federal Government Funding

In 2013, NuScale Power was selected as the sole winner of the second round of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) competitively-bid, $226 million, five-year, financial assistance award to develop nuclear SMR technology, and subsequently in 2015, the DOE awarded a $16.6 million award to NuScale Power for the preparation of a combined Construction and Operating License Application (COLA) for NuScale’s first customer, the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems’ (UAMPS) Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP). Work under this award continues.

In 2018, in a sign of continued support, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy awarded NuScale $40 million in cost-sharing financial assistance under its “U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development” funding opportunity. The federal award supports early-stage research and development and the industry’s acceleration of these technologies to promote U.S. energy independence, energy dominance, electricity grid resiliency, national security, and clean baseload power.

UAMPS is planning to develop a NuScale 12-module reference plant in Idaho with commercial operation of the first module in 2026. UAMPS has selected a preferred site at the Idaho National Laboratory through a site-use agreement with the DOE.

NuScale NRC Review Status

NuScale’s technology is the world’s first and only SMR to undergo design certification review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Last month, the NRC completed phases 2 and 3 of its review and is scheduled to complete its review of NuScale’s design in September 2020.

Westinghouse Announces Acquisition
of Rolls Royce Civil Nuclear Business Unit

(NucNet) US-based Westinghouse Electric Company has announced it will take over UK-based Rolls-Royce’s Civil Nuclear Systems and Services business in North America with the aim of expanding its global capabilities in digital, engineering services, plant automation and monitoring systems, field services and manufacturing.

In a separate statement, Rolls-Royce said the sale comprises civil nuclear services businesses in the US and Canada along with sites at Mondragon, France, and Gateshead, UK, which are currently part of our Power Systems business unit.

Rolls-Royce said the deal does not include the instrumentation and controls business based in Grenoble, France, and the UK nuclear new build operations or small modular reactor activities.

Patrick Fragman, president and chief executive officer of Westinghouse, said the acquisition is an important step in the company’s growth strategy.
According to Westinghouse, the acquisition of Rolls-Royce’s businesses is expected to expand Westinghouse’s operating plant services capabilities and boost the company’s digital innovation, among others.

No financial details about the deal have been disclosed by either firm. Civil nuclear formed 5% of Rolls-Royce’s power systems business in 2018 according to the company’s annual report, accounting for just over £174m of power systems’ nearly £3.5bn underlying revenue, helping the sector have an operating profit of £317m.

Westinghouse is owned by a Brookfield, Canadian private equity fund which acquired the firm from Toshiba for $4.6 billion. A key investor in the fund is the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar.

Westinghouse announced in July the acquisition of NA Engineering Associates Inc., a Canadian-based provider of comprehensive engineering solutions including significant nuclear expertise. This acquisition supports Westinghouse’s strategic growth initiatives by expanding the company’s footprint in Canada.

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France Launches First SMR Development Effort

  • small-reactors_thumb.jpgFrance will leverage its experience building small nuclear reactors for submarines and the expertise of state-owned EDF to create commercial small modular reactors (SMRs).
  • South Korea and Saudi Arabia signed a new round of agreements to build a reference unit of the 100 MW SMART PWR type SMR. The design is intended for the domestic market and export.
  • ThorCon and Indonesia’s P3Tek published the results of a feasibility study to build two 500 MW thorium fueled nuclear reactors within a seven year window that includes licensing and construction.
  • NuScale told the IAEA General Conference in Vienna that SMRs ‘Can Play Key Role’ In future hybrid energy systems.

French Military Designs for Small Reactors Used in Submarines
to Be Adapted for Commercial Markets

(NucNet) France’s nuclear agency has announced a project to develop a small modular reactor that could be on the market before 2030. CEA said the planned SMR plant will be a PWR-based solution in the 300-400 MW range. A spokesman said the SMRs would typically consist of 170 MW reactors sold in sets of two or more.

The Atomic and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA) said the Nuward SMR project is a joint venture with state-controlled utility EDF, the Paris-based Naval group, and reactor design and maintenance company TechnicAtome, which is based at the CEA nuclear site in Cadarache, southern France.

The Nuward partners are soliciting international partners. CEA and EDF have begun discussions with Westinghouse Electric Company to explore potential cooperation.

CEA will offer its research and qualification knowledge, EDF its expertise on systems integration and operation, Naval will offer its knowledge of compact reactors, and TechnicAtome its design, assembly and commissioning expertise. The Naval Group has been building nuclear submarine and aircraft carriers whose propulsion energy is supplied by small nuclear power units.

Most likely the new commercial offerings will use fuel enriched to less than 20% U235. Nuclear submarine reactors typically used fuel enriched to much higher levels.

In this regard the French effort is following the example st by Rolls-Royce in the UK. That firm has been the prime contractor for small nuclear power plants for the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarines. It is now seeking to leverage that experience by offering SMRs for commercial electricity generation.

Westinghouse is First International Partner

In a press statement Westinghouse said that during the IAEA General Conference in Vienna, CEA, EDF and Westinghouse Electric Company signed a framework agreement to explore potential cooperation on small modular reactor (SMR) development.

As part of this international cooperation framework, the parties will also pursue regulatory and design standardization, which are key for the implementation of a successful SMR design. The detailed project roadmap will be confirmed in early 2020.

This move may represent a revival of an effort that Westinghouse abandoned in 2014 which was to adapt its full size PWR technology to a compact SMR. Since then the firm has begun several initiatives in the area of advanced reactors.

In its coverage of the announcement, Reuters reported that, “EDF and Westinghouse are looking at SMRs as a way of standardizing reactor construction after struggling with years of delay and billions of dollars of cost overruns on their big nuclear reactors, which have capacities upwards of 1,000 MW.”

The holy grail for all SMR developers is to get enough ink in their order books to justify a shift to factory based manufacturing of SMRs, which could eliminate some of the cost and schedule problems that afflicted full size plants.  Getting the supply chain in place is one of the early milestones that needs to be completed to make this move.

Export Market Opportunities Look Beyond Electricity Generation

Reuters also reported tha an EDF spokesman said the SMRs would be primarily aimed at export markets, including countries where the grid is not robust enough to take up the output of a large nuclear plant, especially in markets such as Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

In addition to generating electricity, the SMRs could also be used for desalination and for producing hydrogen through electrolysis, and could typically replace a coal-fired power plant or even a gas-fired plant. Load following is a key attribute which would be implemented not by changing the reactor’s output from 100%, but by shifting the electricity generated from the grid to these types of applications.

South Korea and Saudi Arabia
to Cooperate
for Nuclear Power R&D

The Ministry of Science and ICT of South Korea and the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (K.A.CARE) of Saudi Arabia signed a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) in Vienna, Austria at the IAEA General Conference.

The purposes of the MOU include assistance for regulatory and construction approvals in Saudi Arabia related to South Korea’s system-integrated modular advanced reactor (SMART), refinement of the reactor, technological cooperation for SMART construction and commercialization, and the establishment of a joint nuclear power research center. This is the latest in a series of agreements which began in 2011.

SMART is a 330 MWt pressurized water reactor (PWR) with integral steam generators and advanced safety features. The unit is designed for electricity generation (up to 100 MWe) as well as thermal applications, such as seawater desalination, with a 60-year design life and three-year refueling cycle.

smart

Comparison of full size PWR to SMART. Image: Smart Power Co. Ltd

World Nuclear News reported that the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute design has been completed, with Saudi support, and that an objective of the new agreement is to build an initial reference unit. The two countries have invested US$130 million from 2015 to November last year to successfully complete their pre-SMART construction engineering project.

Under the agreement, they will work together to license and build a first of a kind unit in Saudi Arabia, using the services of South Korean companies Kepco Engineering & Construction and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power.

In addition to building the 100 MWe (electrical) PWR type SMRs for Saudi Arabia’s domestic market, the two countries are also planning to offer the design for export. The two countries are going to work closely with each other so that the SMART can be built in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries planning to build small modular reactors.

The joint nuclear engineering research center, which is scheduled to open late this year, is expected to be engaged in technological development for SMART innovation, research on safety analysis codes, and assistance for nuclear power research institute establishment in Saudi Arabia.

Indonesia Ministry of Energy P3Tek Agency
Recommends ThorCon MSR Technology 

Indonesia’s P3Tek last week presented the results of a 10-month study of the ThorCon thorium/uranium-fueled molten salt reactor (MSR) power plant. The study reviewed regulation, safety, economics, and the grid load and concluded the ThorCon TMSR500 liquid fission power plant can supply Indonesia electricity needs in 2026-2027.

The study concluded that if the licensing process is carried out effectively and efficiently by the relevant government institutions, the power plant construction project could be completed within seven years. Assuming a 2020 start, Phase I with a capacity of 500 MW can be operating commercially in 2027. Phase II with a capacity of 3 GW could being two years later.

To reduce risks and increase the certainty of the safety system, ThorCon International will carry out implementation in two stages, development and construction. In the two-year development stage ThorCon International will build a Test Bed Platform facility at a cost of US $70 million to validate the design, test the thermal hydraulic system and safety system of the TMSR500, and demonstrate ThorCon safety technology functions.  The construction stage would begin in 2023 with commercial operation in 2027.

In the electrical grid and load study, three potential power plant locations were identified because of regional electric power needs to increase economic development and industry. The provinces of West Kalimantan, Bangka Belitung, and Riau may become the location of the first TMSR500.

ThorCon International is a nuclear engineering company that has expressed interest in developing and building its TMSR500 in Indonesia with an investment of approximately US$1.2 billion.

P3Tek, an agency of the Indonesia Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, is the R&D center for electricity technology, new and renewable energy, and energy conservation.

SMRs ‘Can Play Key Role’
in Future Hybrid Energy Systems

(NucNet) Small modular rectors can play an important role in hybrid energy systems with the potential to meet the needs of a wide range of users and to be a low-carbon replacement option for ageing fossil fuel fired power plants.

Participants at an event on the sidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s general conference heard that there are some 50 small, medium-sized or modular reactor concepts at various stages of development around the world.

These plants – which range in size from a couple of megawatts up to hundreds of megawatts, – are suitable for non-electric applications such as heating and water desalination, the agency said. They are designed to be built in factories and shipped to utilities for installation, deployed as a single or multi-module plant.

Lenka Kollar, director of strategy and external relations at NuScale, one of the companies developing SMR technology, told the event that SMRs are “well-poised to complete an energy system, since they add flexibility and can be easily integrated into a renewables-heavy system”.

She said NuScale plants are ideally suited to provide carbon-free heat and energy for a variety of industrial applications such as hydrogen production for clean fuels and desalination to produce clean water.

“SMRs can play a stabilizing role in grids with large shares of renewables and contribute to reducing the overall cost of a low-carbon energy system.”

She added this combination of renewables and SMRs will reduce rate volatility and system costs for grid management and development.

The event heard that a hybrid energy system combining both nuclear power and renewables can help significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Hybrid systems could also foster cogeneration for seawater desalination, hydrogen production, district heating, cooling and other industrial applications. Research and innovation, the introduction of appropriate policies and market incentives are an important next step.

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Idaho National Lab Steps on the Gas with Projects for Hydrogen Production at Three U.S. Nuclear Utilities.

Three nuclear utilities have been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to partner with the Idaho National Laboratory to begin making hydrogen for commercial use. If successful, the project will have a positive impact on the utilities’ financial health.

The utility participants are;

  • Akron, Ohio-based FirstEnergy Solutions, the industry leader for the effort, which owns and oerates the Davis-Besse nuclear plant.
  • Xcel Energy, a Minneapolis-based energy company that owns and operates two nuclear plants in Minnesota; and
  • Arizona Public Service (APS), a Phoenix, Arizona-based utility that operates Palo Verde Generating Station.

The two-year project led by FirstEnergy Solutions will deploy a 1- to 3-MWe low-temperature electrolysis unit to produce commercial quantities of hydrogen. The first site, planned for 2020, is FirstEnergy Solution’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station near Toledo, Ohio.

Hydrogen from Davis-Besse may initially be used to supply public transportation fleets in Ohio, in new direct iron reduction plants being constructed to produce steel products, or for other commercial products. (See this DOE briefing on the use of hydrogen in the iron and steel industry.)

The project will demonstrate how hydrogen from commercial nuclear operations can be used to produce “green” products and commodities in significant quantities for domestic use and for export to international markets. For instance, Germany is now running commuter passenger trains powered by hydrogen.

Video: Animation: the Coradia iLint by Alstom – the worlds’ first fuel cell passenger train

The second site, planned for 2021, will occur at an Xcel Energy nuclear site and employ technologies for hydrogen production, which could be used to reduce the environmental impact of a number of industrial processes and possibly also in the transportation sector.

The demonstration project  at Xcel Energy will help determine if hydrogen production can enhance the company’s growing carbon-free footprint. Redirecting nuclear energy from electricity to hydrogen production could help balance the electrical grid with the increasing amount of wind and solar energy on the system.

The company has also been testing flexible operations at its nuclear plants, but hydrogen could create an entirely new value stream. Xcel Energy plans to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent in the Upper Midwest by 2030 (from 2005 levels) and is pursuing a vision to provide electricity from 100 percent carbon-free sources by 2050.

The third site, planned for 2020-2022, will occur at APS’ Palo Verde Generating Station near Phoenix, Arizona. This will employ similar or more advanced hydrogen production technologies. Hydrogen from Palo Verde may be used as energy storage for use in reverse-operable electrolysis or peaking gas turbines during times of the day when photovoltaic solar energy sources are unavailable and energy reserves in the U.S. Southwest are low.

It could also be used to support a hydrogen transportation fuel market. Experience from this pilot project will offer valuable insights into methods for flexible transitions between electricity and hydrogen generation missions in solar-dominated electricity markets Also, it could demonstrate how hydrogen may be used as energy storage to provide electricity during operating periods when solar is not available.

While some industry analysts asked why DOE would call this project a “demonstration,” others pointed to view that this may be a strategy to eliminate the need and challenge of a nuclear power plant to do load following with the cheaper but intermittent renewable generation.

Rather than reducing load when renewables are at rated capacity, the analyst said, the load would be shifted to hydrogen generation and the reactor would be maintained at full power thus eliminating the well known operational concerns of load following. In other words, it is a form of “load replacement” to ease the work of making nuclear power plants compatible on the grid with the intermittent nature of renewables.

Davis-Besse May Get a New Lease on Life from Hydrogen

First Energy has scheduled Davis-Besse to be closed, along with Ohio’s Perry plant, due to an inability to compete with the low price of natural gas. The new project may boost the bottom line of the utility and keep the plant open. The DOE project is worth $11.5M of which $9M will be allocated to the Davis-Besse effort.

Wire service reports in Ohio quoted Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur, who announced the grant in her district. She said hydrogen production could be a new energy alternative that would keep nuclear power plants competitive for years.

She said costs of the project will shared between federal agencies, industry-led teams and public and private laboratories. The U.S. Department of Energy will invest $9,184,229 while non-DOE partners will invest $2,299,391, for a total $11,483,620. Under this proposal, FirstEnergy Solutions will develop a light water reactor (LWR) hybrid energy system for installation at Davis-Besse. She added that the project was competitively awarded.

“This funding will play an important role in improving Davis-Besse’s capacity to produce useable energy in a way that is more economically sustainable, has more industrial uses, and makes Davis-Besse economically competitive for the long-term,” Kaptur aid in a press statement.

According to Kaptur, the United States produces over 10 million tons of hydrogen, nearly one-seventh of the global supply, primarily for oil refining and fertilizer production.

Background on the Project

inl-logo-2018_thumb.pngThe three commercial electric utilities and Idaho National Laboratory have been chosen by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy for three first-of-a-kind projects to improve the long-term economic competitiveness of the nuclear power industry.

Through these competitive awards, DOE encourages partnerships between federal agencies, public and private laboratories, institutions of higher education, and the business community, including electric utilities, to share expertise needed to successfully develop innovative nuclear technologies.

electrolysis

Image: Department of Energy – How Electrolysis Works

In a press statement,  Bruce Hallbert, director of DOE’s Light Water Reactor Sustainability Program, based at INL, said, “These first-of-a-kind projects represent significant advances for improving the long-term economic competitiveness of the light water reactor industry,”

“They will enable the production of commodities such as hydrogen in addition to electricity from commercial nuclear power plants. These projects also accelerate the transition to a national hydrogen economy by contributing to the use of hydrogen as a storage medium for production of electricity, as a zero-emitting transportation fuel, or as a replacement for industrial processes that currently use carbon-emitting sources in hydrogen production.”

INL is one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s national laboratories. The laboratory performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment. INL is the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

Exelon Exploring Hydrogen Production

Last month Power Magazine reported that Exelon, the nation’s largest nuclear power generator, and Norwegian firm Nel Hydrogen, could demonstrate an integrated hydrogen production, storage, and utilization facility at an existing nuclear plant site. The $3.6 million project is one of 29 projects the Department of Energy (DOE) selected in August to receive up to $40 million in fiscal year 2019 federal funding to advance the H2@Scale concept (DOE List of funded projects.)

The plan is enable “reliable” large-scale hydrogen generation, transport, storage, and utilization in the U.S. across multiple sectors. Exelon work with DOE to plan for up to $3.6 million in federal funding, which it will cost-share, for the three-year-long demonstration.

Exelon plans to select a site on which to install a proton exchange membrane (PEM) electrolyzer and an associated hydrogen storage system, along with supporting infrastructure, and a control system. Exelon said it took on the project because nuclear economics have lately been challenged by the widespread use of cheap renewable and natural gas to produce electrical power.

Energy For Humanity / Evidence ‘Shows Clearly’
That Nuclear Is Needed For Sustainability

efh(NucNet) Evidence “shows clearly” that under current legislation the nuclear energy lifecycle does not cause significant harm to Europe’s sustainability objectives, according to a report by Energy for Humanity. Nuclear energy is needed to play a part in the global climate change mitigation challenge the report said.

The report, funded by EDF Energy and prepared for the European commission technical expert group on sustainable finance, was published in response to the group’s report that proposed leaving nuclear energy out of the first version of the bloc’s sustainable finance taxonomy.

In 2018 the commission created a technical expert group on sustainable finance to define which activities should be included within the taxonomy – essentially a determination of whether an economic activity is environmentally sustainable.

Energy for Humanity said the climate change mitigation potential of nuclear energy was found to have strong base, However, despite strong agreement that nuclear has low lifecycle emissions and can help mitigate climate change, the report cites “confusing and mixed evidence” regarding the so-called ‘Do No Significant Harm’ criteria on some of the sustainability objectives.

“As a result, the EU Commission’s technical report, published in June 2019, proposed to leave nuclear energy out from the first version of the taxonomy,” the report said.

The Energy for Humanity report said scientific consensus concludes that maintaining and expanding nuclear energy is necessary to achieve sustainability objectives such as climate change mitigation. This fact is reflected in the significant number of European Union member states whose climate and sustainability policies include a future role for nuclear energy.

Earlier this week the Brussels-based nuclear industry trade association Foratom called on the commission to acknowledge the critical role nuclear energy has to play under the EU’s sustainable finance initiative.

“FORATOM calls on the European Commission to acknowledge the critical role which nuclear energy has to play under the sustainable finance initiative. We strongly believe the decision to not include nuclear at this stage in the taxonomy should be reviewed as it is in total contradiction with EU climate policy. Also, much still needs to be done in order to ensure that the principle of technological neutrality is maintained.”

Foratom said that in the case of nuclear, the group’s report focused on the issue of waste and used it as an excuse to exclude nuclear from the taxonomy. For other technologies, however, the waste criteria do not appear to have been applied in the same way creating a false picture of the true situation.

Dukovany / Czech Ministry Approves EIA
For Up To 2,400 MW Of New Nuclear

(NucNet) The Czech Ministry of Environmental Protection has approved the environmental impact assessment for the construction of up to two new nuclear power plants at the existing Dukovany nuclear station in the south of the country.

“Our examination confirmed that the new source of nuclear energy will not have a negative impact on the environment and public health. It [the first unit] should replace one of the four operating units of the Dukovany NPP,” the ministry’s press service said in a statement.

The ministry said the approval was for up to 2,400 MW of new capacity at the site. It said approval of the EIA is not a construction permit, but “a professional basis for further proceedings.”

Countries neighboring the Czech Republic all took part in the EIA process. Austria and Germany took part in meetings, with Hungary and Poland submitting their contributions in writing. Slovakia considered the information contained in the EIA documentation to be sufficient and did not request consultations, the ministry said. Significantly, the anti-nuclear Austrian government did not use the environmental process to try to stop the project.

In July the Czech government approved a preliminary plan for a CEZ subsidiary to build a new nuclear power station at Dukovany. According to the government, Elektrárna Dukovany II, a company to be wholly owned by state-controlled power group ČEZ, will be responsible for the expansion of Dukovany.

A tender for the project is expected to be organized at the end of 2020 with construction beginning before 2030 and completed between 2035 and 2040. The contract will be worth about CZK100 billion ($4.8bn). These dates may change and some milestones may occur sooner rather than later.

In a major shift in policy the Czech government said it will provide financing and political guarantees for the project. Previous government policy ruled that thee measures were “subsidies” for nuclear energy.  Also, the government may have to buy out CEZ’s private institutional investors to avoid lawsuits over perceived financial risk of the project. CEZ is a mostly state-owned utility.

There are four Russia-designed VVER-440 reactor units at the Dukovany site, and the ministry said they should be replaced by new ones in about 20 to 30 years or sooner. The Czech Republic has six commercially operational reactor units. In addition to the four units at Dukovany, there are two Russian VVER-1000 units at Temelín.

NEI Magazine in the UK reported that interest has been expressed by Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, US-based Westinghouse, China General Nuclear Power Corporation, France’s EDF, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power, and the joint French-Japanese venture Mitsubishi Atmea.

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Bulgaria Weighs Offers to Begin Belene Again

  • Bulgaria to give Belene another go and multiple bidders show up
  • Rosatom postpones work on BN-1200 Fast Reactor
  • Russia plans for SMRs in far northeast based on ice breaker reactor designs
  • Controlling costs, meeting schedules, and complying with regulations involving export deals in multiple countries has vexed Rosatom according to a speech one of its executives gave this week to the World Nuclear Association.

Bidders Off and Running for Belene $11 Billion Contract

(WNN) Bulgaria has received 13 applications for participation in the Belene nuclear power project the country’s energy minister announced last week. The applicants included seven to be a strategic investor, four to be an electricity customer and/or minority shareholder, and two to be an equipment supplier.

According to Reuters, Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova told reporters in Sofia:
“There has been a lot of skepticism whether there will be interest at all for the project. With the applications we got this is no more, because these include some of the global leaders in nuclear energy.”

Bulgaria’s energy minister is right about the skepticism because the question is this – who wants to work on, and is capable of finishing, a partially built pair of Russian 1000 MW VVER with Rosatom as the EPC? The Belene NPP construction project in northern Bulgaria includes construction of two 1000 MWe units, each using the Russian VVER-1000/V-466 design. For western nuclear reactor firms, this is terra incognita. Financing the project is a separate matter for some and seven firms say they are interested.

The Belene Nuclear Power Plant is a planned nuclear power plant 3 km from Belene and 11 km from Svishtov in Pleven Province, northern Bulgaria, near the Danube River just south of Bulgaria’s border with Romania.. It was intended to substitute four VVER-440 V230 reactors of the Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant that were decommissioned as a prerequisite for Bulgaria to join the European Union.

Bulgaria ordered the two Russian reactors for Belene in 2008, but the project was cancelled in 2012 because of financial and political considerations. In June 2018, the government formally revived the project following a vote in parliament.

A 2016 arbitration settlement awarded Bulgaria most of the nuclear equipment, worth about $600M, which had already been produced by Russia for Belene under the 2008 agreement. Bulgarian officials said that if the Belene project goes forward Russia’s Atomstroyexport will be the main contractor.

The seven firms who have expressed an interest in being a strategic investor are:

  • China National Nuclear Corporation;
  • Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co;
  • Rosatom through Atomenergoprom;
  • a consortium including Czech firm Vitkovice Heavy Machinery;
  • two Bulgaria-registered bidders, Belene NPP and Belene Nuclear Power Plant 2019;
  • a Germany-registered company ‘Bektron-Liaz-Engineering’.

One Bulgarian company, Grand Energy Distribution, is reported to be interested in having a minority stake and also a power purchase agreement, a second, Atomenergoremont, in a minority stake only and a third, European Trade of Energy, in a power purchase agreement only. In addition, North Macedonia has expressed an interest in a minority stake and long-term contracts to buy electricity from the Belene plant.

Separately, General Electric said it is interested in providing equipment, including steam generators, for the project. Early media reports incorrectly listed GE as a potential bidder on the project as a whole. Framatome has previously indicated interest in being an investor, but not as a main contractor.

After an evaluation of proposals, shortlisted candidates will then be asked to file binding bids for the project which Bulgaria estimates will cost about $11 billion. The energy ministry said it hopes to complete the selection process to select the winner of the bid process by May 2020.

In a move that will surely make the project more financially challenging, the government said it will not provide state or corporate guarantees nor offer to buy electricity from the plant under long-term contracts with preferential rates. The government has said it will have a majority stake in the project, which it expects to be complete by 2030.

History of Western Firms in Bulgaria’s Nuclear Program

Burlgaria was behind Russia’s iron curtain until 1991 when the then Communist government collapsed in response to a general strike. Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007. Historically, Russia has regarded Bulgaria’s nuclear energy plants as a captive market and has thwarted efforts by western firms to bid on projects there.

In 2012 Westinghouse signed a contract to prepare a proposal for a third reactor at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy site. Efforts by the firm to take over construction of the plant came to an end when Russia said has no intention of sharing information with Westinghouse regarding a feasibility study. That project is designed to scope out the potential for a seventh unit at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant.

In 2010 Westinghouse reportedly told the US Embassy in Sofia that the 1st unit was “a lemon” according to a US State Department Cable as reported by the UK Guardian newspaper. The embassy cable, dated February 17, 2009, also complained about endemic corruption in Bulgaria associated with the project.

In 2016 the former Bulgarian energy minister and two executives of the state owned national electric utility were indicted over alleged illegal activities involving the disputed sale of equipment ordered for the original construction of the plant. The defendants denied the charges and said they were brought by state prosecutors for “political reasons.”

Rosatom Postpones BN-1200 Fast Reactor Project

(WNN) Rosenergoatom is expected to receive about RUB280 billion (USD$4 billion) less in state funding for the construction of new nuclear reactors in Russia owing to the postponement of its fast neutron reactor program according to Russian newspaper Kommersant.

Russia has pushed back the construction and startup date of the biggest of its planned fast reactors which is the BN-1200. (Technical briefing – PDF file) The plant is now expected to be commissioned at the Beloyarsk plant between 2031 and 2035 which is a significant delay from previously announced project milestones. The original commissioning date was 2017. The Russian nuclear engineering company OKBM Afrikantov, a subsidiary of Rosatom, is developing the BN-1200 as a next step towards future reactor designs, commonly known as Generation IV.

bn-1200 conceptual image

Conceptual design image of the BN-1200 and one of its fuel elements. Image Source: Russian Construction Feb 2017.

Earlier and Smaller Fast Reactors Are Completed and Now Online

The BN-800 fast neutron reactor – constructed as unit 4 of the Beloyarsk plant in the Sverdlovsk district – entered commercial operation in October 2016. The 789 MWe unit’s capacity exceeds that of the world’s second most powerful fast reactor – the 560 MWe BN-600 Beloyarsk 3. According to the Kommersant article, the capital expenditure of the BN-800 amounted to RUB140.6 billion (USD $2.1 billion).

Russia Plans Small Modular Reactors for Far Northeast Region

(WNN) Rosatom has signed an agreement with the Yakutia regional government to investigate building a number of small reactors in Yakutia’s remote areas. The small modular reactors would be 50 MWe RITM-200M units, similar to those now being commissioned in the latest LK-60 Russian icebreakers.

The reactor is intended for land based applications installed two at a time per site. The refueling cycle is reported to be 5-7 years using enrichment levels of less than 20% U235. See this briefing in English by OKBM on all three of its SMR designs and its plans for commercialization of them.

These units are significantly smaller but more powerful than earlier icebreaker and floating NPP reactors. Rosatom said that serial production of these reactors could start within six years. Previous versions of the reactors in Russian ice breakers used highly enriched uranium at 35% U235.

Separately, the Akademik Lomonosov, a floating nuclear power plant, was late last month towed out of Murmansk to begin a 4,700 km voyage to its base in Pevek, an Arctic port town in the country’s far northeastern autonomous district of Chukotka. The region juts out into the Bering Sea and is the Russian land mass that is visible from Alaska. Rosatom says the ship is ready to provide power to its customer on arrival.

Russian floating nuclear power plant

Cutaway digram of the Akademik Lomonosov. Imge: IAEA

The 21,000-tonne vessel has two Russian-designed KLT-40S reactor units (IAEA ARIS DBMS entry) with an electrical power generating capacity of 35 MW each. Both reactors achieved their first criticality in November 2018. The reactor also is fueled by uranium fuel at less than 20% U235 to met international standards and to fit with plans for export of the design as a free standing SMR.

Rosatom VP Complains About Cost, Schedules,
and Regulation at WNA Meeting

(NucNet) The nuclear industry in Russia is working on finding solutions to the nuclear firm’s three major challenges of controlling costs, meeting schedule milestones, and responding to regulatory induced delays along with head spinning demands from clients and safety regulators at projects involving export deals. Sound familiar?

Vadim Titov, senior vice-president of Rosatom International Network, told the World Nuclear Association Symposium in London last week that “we often struggle as an industry with costs and timelines.”

For the Russians, who are infamous for their lack of transparency in civilian nuclear energy projects, especially in terms of communications with the West, the speech was an astonishing turn about in the face of a long history of clamming up when asked about progress at their export projects.

But at WNA the Russians have plenty of history to talk about. Titov told the conference, as reported by NucNet, that Rosatom has now commissioned 15 new nuclear power units in 14 years – including plants at Tianwan in China, Kudankulam in India and Bushehr in Iran – and has 41 nuclear plant projects in various stages of developmnt.

Another surprising element of his remarks including one in which he complained about the nuclear industry being, “in many ways over burdened by over regulation.”

Titov, who is a lawyer by profession, is especially focused on regulations and the variety of them in terms of rigor, topics covered, and enforcement in countries where Rosatom has export deals underway.

“And the regulations are different in every country. We need to work together to find the right balance, he said.

Finland as a Case in Point

The Fennovoima consortium and Russia’s state-run nuclear company Rosatom said last December that the Hanhikivi 1 power plant’s projected start-up date has been pushed to 2028, four years behind the original schedule and eight years later than the proposed start when Finland’s government supported the project in 2010.

The delays are due in part due to Rosatom’s problems with securing approval to begin construction from Finland’s nuclear regulatory group.  Clearly, in his speech, Rosatom’s Titov must be in boil over mode about the firm’s experience in Finland.

With a global audience available at the WNA conference, it probably looked like an opportunity to do some good old fashioned push back at the European Union’s anti-nuclear policies wrapped up in a regulatory package.

Power Magazine reported that the project, which will build a VVER-1200 PWR, has been delayed by Rosatom’s struggle to meet the strict standards of STUK. The Finnish nuclear regulator that is considered among the world’s most rigorous in compliance inspections of new reactor builds.

Areva’s effort to build a first of a kind 1600 MW PWR in Finland has also suffered regulatory induced schedule delays. Some of the problems have come from skilled trades not having experience with nuclear quality standards and language barriers have also played a role in work stoppages. The plant is now scheduled to open in July 2020. The project was authorized to start construction in 2005 and begin operation in 2010.

The Fennovoima consortium said its plan now is to receive its construction license and begin the Hanhikivi 1 project in 2021. Fennovoima said if it comes online, the plant would be Finland’s sixth nuclear power facility.

The Hanhikivi 1 project is owned by Fennovoima, in which a 34% stake is held by RAOS Voima Oy, the Finnish subsidiary set up in 2014 by Rosatom for the purpose of buying a share in the company. Russia’s Titan-2 is the main contractor for the Hanhikivi project.

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France Calls It Quits on Sodium Cooled Fast Reactor

  • Astrid Project / France drops plans to build Generation IV prototype
  • Of the 10 sodium cooled reactors in the IAEA ARIS DBMS, three of them are in the U.S. and all are under development
  • TerraPower and ARC Nuclear are briefly profiled here
  • Links to coverage on this blog of other sodium cooled reactor efforts are included below.

(NucNet) France’s nuclear agency has dropped plans to build a prototype Generation IV sodium-cooled fast breeder nuclear reactor known as Astrid (project home page) Le Monde newspaper reported last week. (GEN IV Sodium Cooled Reactor technology description)

GEN IV SFR

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

The newspaper said the Atomic and Alternative Energies Commission (CEA) would suspend the 600-MW Astrid FBR project, which was planned for CEA’s Marcoule nuclear site in southern France.

“In the current energy market situation, the industrial development of fourth-generation reactors is not planned before the second half of this century,” the CEA said, according to Le Monde.

Le Monde quoted a CEA source as saying that “the project is dead and that the agency is spending no more time or money on it.”

By the end of 2017 investment in the project had reached €738M (USD$812M), according to public auditor data in Le Monde’s report. However, the newspaper also said the project could be revived “in the second half of the century.’

The French may be right about time frame for commercial prospects of some types of advanced reactors given low price of natural gas and development of hybrid systems of gas plants and renewables being far less capital & time intensive than advanced nuclear tech. Whether these constraints will apply to sodium cooled reactors remains a question.

The challenges facing developers of advanced reactors involve;

  • Reactor design issues and challenges to work with new materials for high heat applications and all for first of a kind systems (FOAK),
  • Fuel development, testing and fabrication,
  • NRC safety review and licensing,
  • Raising money to build a prototype unit, and
  • Developing a supply chain for the fuel and the reactor components
  • Convincing a risk adverse publically traded electric utility that the vendor can deliver one on time, within budget, and,
  • That it will work as specified and can be operated at a profit within the realities of a regulated market.

Achieving all of these milestones take years to complete along with major financial commitments. Sometimes cutting one’s losses may be the best strategy as evidenced by the decision by Transatomic to fold its tent and archive its technical results at the Idaho National Laboratory as open source research.

Joint Development with Japan Now at an End

Le Monde said the announcement confirms reports in the Japanese press dating back to November 2018 when the French government told Japan it intended to halt their joint development of the Astrid FBR.

Japan cancelled its own Monju prototype fast-breeder project in 2016 due to rising costs. The plant experinenced a number of industrial incidents including a leak in 1995 of 700kg of liquid sodium leaked from the secondary cooling loop.

Japan had viewed Astrid as central to its plans to recycle its growing inventory of spent nuclear fuel. An FBR generates more fissile material than it consumes and allows for a significant increase in the amount of energy obtained from natural, depleted and recycled uranium. The technology also enables plutonium and other actinides to be used and recycled.

The plant was seen as an alternative to reprocessing spent nuclear fuel into mixed oxide fuel (MOX) qnd burning MOX in conventionl light water reactors. Most of Japan’s inventory of spent nuclear fuel is also in France and the UK.
See prior coverage on this blogJapan Says Burning MOX is Key to Reduce Plutonium Stocks

One of the key objectives of Astrid was to use depleted uranium and plutonium from France’s existing nuclear fleet as fuel. Le Monde said this material is largely stored at Orano’s La Hague site in northern France.

The idea behind the design is to turn depleted uranium (U238) into fuel and make France self-sufficient in energy for decades. However, globally uranium prices have been on a downward spiral since 2011 which took away the economic rationale for fast-breeder technology.

Update on Other Sodium Cool Fast Reactors

A review of the IAEA advanced reactor information system (ARIS) for listings of sodium cooled fast reactor designs under development reveals 10 separate development efforts, but only four of the appear to be making publicly reported progress and three are in the U.S. Here are some links to prior coverage on this blog of these projects.

GE-Hitachi PRISM reactor

TerraPower Traveling Wave Reactor

China Institute of Atomic Energy CFR 600

ARC-100 small modular reactor

How a Sodium Cooled Reactor Works – TerraPower as an Example

terrapower_thumb.jpg

According to the TerraPower website the reactor core and its components are immersed in liquid sodium. The pool type configuration has no piping which eliminates the risk of a “loss of coolant accident.”

The Traveling Wave Reactor (TWR) uses a Rankine steam cycle to convert heat into electricity. Intermediate heat exchangers securely transfer heat from the primary sodium pool to a secondary sodium loop, which in turn transfers heat to the steam generators.

Status of TerraPower Traveling Wave Reactor

TerraPower had developed a joint venture with China’s CNNC in 2017 to co-develop the traveling wave reactor. However, in October 2018, the Trump administration, as part of its ill-advised trade war with China, shut down all previously authorized partnerships involving U.S. commercial nuclear energy technology development efforts with China.

TerraPower is restarting U.S.-based development of fast reactor fuel in preparation for the TWR prototype. Working with Idaho National Laboratory, TerraPower commissioned a lab-scale fuel fabrication facility, which is on track to produce the first extrusions of metallic nuclear fuel in the U.S. since the 1980s. Currently, fuels are also being tested in the Advanced Test Reactor at Idaho National Laboratory.

TWR Achievements to Date

  • Determined a path forward for preliminary and final design, licensing and supply chain in order to minimize delays in bringing the initial plant to completion;
  • Established working relationships with a range of private companies and national labs to support design activities; and
  • Began to conduct ongoing experiments to test innovative material and fuel designs.

TerraPower has made progress by leveraging public-private partnerships, seeking excellence in commercial partners, and forging a new supply chain for fuels and materials. The company aims to achieve startup of a first traveling wave reactor (TWR) prototype in the mid-2020s.

ARC Canada Bets its Future on the Legacy of the Integral Fast Reactor

arc nuclear logo

ARC-100-Reactor

Conceptual image of ARC100 SMR. Image: ARC Nuclear

The firm is developing a 100 MW small modular reactor which is based on the design of the sodium-cooled Integral Fast Reactor operated at Argonne West in Idaho.

In July 2015 ARC Nuclear and New Brunswick Power (NB Power) agreed to work together to take the necessary steps to develop, license, and build an advanced small modular reactor (SMR) based on ARC Nuclear’s Gen IV sodium-cooled fast reactor technology.

ARC has made significant proprietary advances to the original design in order to create the ARC-100. The ARC-100 is a 100 MWe sodium-cooled, fast flux, pool type reactor with metallic fuel.

The ARC-100 design creates a “walk away” passive safety system that insures the reactor will never melt down even in a disaster that causes a complete loss of power to the plant site. In addition, it can be fueled with the nuclear waste produced by traditional reactors, and its 20 year refueling cycle offers new levels of proliferation resistance. The firm applied for a Phase 1 Review with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in Fall 2017.

First of a Kind Supply Chain Meeting for a Sodium Cooled Reactor in Canada

On September 12th, ARC Nuclear Canada, Inc. (ARC Canada), will welcome New Brunswick companies from across the province to participate in the New Brunswick First Supply Chain Roundtable. ARC Canada is a technology company with its Canadian headquarters in Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada.

In 2018, the government of New Brunswick made an investment in a nuclear research cluster to advance small modular reactor technology. From both government and private investments, ARC Canada has now developed plans for its supporting manufacturing and supply chain.

The Supply Chain Roundtable event has been specifically designed to give New Brunswick companies an opportunity to get firsthand information on ARC Canada’s supply chain. Representatives from industry partners and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will hold sessions to provide participants with the most up-to-date information.

Registration is now open and there is no fee to attend. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. For further information please email clandry@arcnuclear.com. To register for this event, visit ARCcanadaevents.com

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South Korea Earns NRC Design Certification for 1400MW PWR

A South Korean light water reactor (LWR) has earned a design certification from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) which is a state-run nuclear power operator, said the certification is a first for a non-U.S.-made reactor type. The U.S. design certification for the APR1400 is valid for 15 years and can be extended for another 15 years.

The design certification process determines whether a reactor design meets US safety requirements, independent of any specific site or plan to build. It is a required step before a reactor design can be built in the US, as it can be referenced in combined construction and operation licence (COL) applications for specific reactor projects.

pressurized-water-reactor-pwr-hi-res

Image courtesy of World Nuclear Association

KHNP said the APR1400 pressurized water reactor (PWR) is now positioned to be built in the U.S. assuming there is a customer for a full size nuclear reactor among the nation’s utilities.  One prospect in the U.S. for KEPCO would not involve the APR1400, but could revive construction of two Westinghouse AP1000s at the V C Summer project. (More on this below)

None of the U.S. utilities which already hold COLs from the NRC referencing other reactor designs have any plans to build new plants.  Following the brief burst of enthusiasm for new full size plants in the 2007-2012 period, 17 utilities cancelled their NRC applications for design certification representing 28 nuclear reactors which in turn potentially represented, if they had been built, approximately 34 GWe of carbon emission free electrical power.

The main reasons for these decisions by utilities were the low price of natural gas, the public fears generated by the Fukushima crisis in Japan, and flat electricity demand following the 2008 recession. Even today 10 years later TVA says it has no plans to build any new nuclear generating capacity despite banking on the NRC approving an Early Site Permit at Clinch River for an SMR to keep its options open. The application does not reference a preferred design, but all of the designs cited are LWRs.

According to the Associated Press for 08/26/19, the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors has approved a 20-year Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that includes no new major generating plants. The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports the plan approved last week envisions getting more power out of existing nuclear, gas and hydroelectric units. TVA completed a $450M upgrade of the Browns Ferry plant this month. TVA’s plan also includes more solar energy projects.

KHNP’s Export Plans

To say that KHNP faces an uphill climb to sell their newly certified reactor in the U.S. is probably akin to a diplomatic communique at its finest.  More likely, KHNP wanted the NRC design certification because on an international basis it is considered to be the “gold standard” for safety reviews and therefore it is a confidence builder in any potential export deals.

A report in Business Korea earlier this year noted that since the NRC’s design approval is recognized as an indicator of technological reliability by the global nuclear power industry, it will strengthen the overall export base for Korean nuclear power plants.

KHNP is also reported to be on track to obtaining a European design approval on the reactor as a standard design for the EU-APR. A version of the APR1400 tailored to Europe passed the screening of the European certification body in October last year.

Saudi Arabia – South Korea is one of five possible bidders for a planned nuclear energy tender by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for two full size reactors which is expected in late 2019 or early 2020.  South Korea has been working on a 100 MW SMR in KSA since 2011 and has a long standing working relationship with the energy ministry.

However, KEPCO is seen by the U.S. as walking on thin ice claiming that a modified version of the APR1400 is unencumbered by U.S. intellectual property (CE System 80+), and that it can be sold to Saudi Arabia even if there is no 123 Agreement in place. KSA has steadfastly maintained that it wants the right to enrich uranium as part of any 123 Agreement. The U.S opposes this position by KSA in the ongoing negotiations.

UK Moorside – KEPCO was at one time in negotiations with Toshiba to take over the UK’s Moorside nuclear project which was slated to be the home for three Westinghouse 1100 MW AP1000s.  Toshiba cancelled the negotiations in what may have been a political move by Japan’s government rather than as a result of differences between Toshiba and KEPCO over financial terms of a deal.

Since then the UK government has also begun considering small modular reactors (SMRs) of less than 300 MWe for some of the sites included in its new build. KEPCO’s 1400 MW PWR type design would have to complete the UK generic design review process to be built at Moorside and it’s at least a four year process.

United Arab Emirates – South Korea’s nuclear industry includes the entire supply chain of domestic heavy industries which are involved in building four APR1400 nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates. The first unit is expected to be commissioned in early 2020.

Startup of the first unit has been twice delayed due to problems in getting access to the reference reactor of the same design in South Korea to train plant operators and  the need for numerous corrective actions as a result of an operational readiness review which took place in April 2018. The UAE utility that is building the plants, and will own and operate them, recently successfully completed the training of several groups of plant operators and is now on track for the 2020 startup date.

Other Prospects – South Korea has also submitted expressions of interest in bidding on new reactors in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. Financial issues in these nations, in terms of how to pay for new reactors, will have to be resolved in both countries before credible tenders can be released to bidders. Prospects have dimmed for the APR1400 in Romania as that nation has resisted China’s push to supply a Hualong One in favor of completing two partialy built Candu type reactors.

KEPCO in Talks with South Carolina Utilities
about Finishing the V C Summer Project

The State newspaper in South Carolina has learned at least one of the companies proposing the finish V C Summer, which is only about one third-built, is South Korea’s state-run power company, Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

In an interview with The State this week, new Santee Cooper CEO Mark Bonsall confirmed the state-owned utility is in discussions with “a party from the outside” that wants to finish the twin reactor (2 AP1000s) V.C. Summer project. State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, told The State he met with KEPCO representatives in April about their interest in reviving V.C. Summer.

A key issue that would need to be resolved is a dispute with Westinghouse involving hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment ordered for the plant. The parts can’t be used in any reactors except an AP1000 which takes the project off the table if South Korea wants to offer its own design of the APR1400.  Then again South Korea may just flat out be interested in finishing the AP1000s because they think they can make money doing it.

The State newspaper listed four key challenges to the project moving forward with a South Korean firm partnered perhaps with Westinghouse and a U.S EPC firm that wasn’t complicit in the failure of the project the first time around when Westinghouse was leading it as well as being its key supplier.  Here’s their list with a few additional comments.

  • A key item is a long process of obtaining necessary regulatory approvals, including a combined operating license for each of the two reactors. Santee Cooper surrendered the licenses to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in January 2019. Opponents of restarting the project are likely to throw as many contentions as they can think of against the wall to see if any of them will stick. The NRC will dutifully consider each and every one of them which could drag out a date for a decision on whether to issue a new license for each reactor.
  • Second, a new developer will have to find a way to pay for the construction effort. The price of Georgia’s Vogtle nuclear power plant expansion has more than doubled to $27 billion. If a revival of V C Summer is going to be possible, cost control is a paramount success factor.
  • Third, a developer will have to find buyers for the electricity produced by the completed plants. Given the long lead time to revenue service, the utilities that might buy the power could opt for a faster path to new generation by investing in natural gas plants which are also far cheaper than a nuclear new build and which have far less regulatory overhead.
  • Finally, there is a really complex issue of working out a creative ownership arrangement for the project, since foreign companies legally cannot be majority owners of a nuclear power plant in the United States. KEPCO would have to agree to a minority equity stake which suggests that a new U.S. firm might have to be created to attract investors and address licensing issues.

CEO Bonsall of Santee Cooper told The State newspaper his firm won’t invest any more money or take on any more risk for this project. Santee Cooper would rather sell those left over parts to a new consortium in exchange for cash or electricity generated by the reactors if they are finished. However, he didn’t confirm whether the utility would buy electricity from a completed V C Summer power station. The price of power a half a decade from now isn’t something that anyone can predict.

Bonsall also made clear the utility is not betting on V.C. Summer’s revival. Asked about the likelihood the plant is completed, he told the newspaper, “We are not basing (Santee Cooper’s) new business plan on the assumption that it (a deal with KEPCO) goes forward.”

That statement is consistent with the “prudent investor” paradigm that any CEO in his shoes would have to make to insure that investors don’t react in a negative fashion. A lot of confidence building measures would be needed to restart the effort. A key action would be demonstrated commitment to rigorous project management, the failure of which is one of the main reasons the project went under in the first place.

History of the APR1400

The APR1400 is a next-generation nuclear power reactor that is also an upgrade model of the OPR1000. It was developed through a government-led project from 1992 to 2001 after investing US$189 million.  Principally designed by Korea Engineering Company, it produces 1400 MWe and has a 60-year design life.(IAEA ARIS database entry for APR1400 technical specifications – PDF file)

WNN reports that Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and its subsidiary Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) originally submitted the design to the NRC in September 2013. They then submitted a revised version of their application in December 2014. The NRC completed an acceptance check in March 2015 and ruled that the revised application was sufficiently complete for it to undertake a full design certification review.

The APR-1400 is an evolutionary pressurized water reactor (PWR) with its origins in the U.S. CE System 80+ model. System 80 is a pressurized water reactor (PWR) design by Combustion Engineering (which was subsequently bought by Asea Brown Boveri and eventually merged into the Westinghouse Electric Company). Three System 80 reactors were built at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.

This U.S. legacy of the APR1400 design is one of the reasons the U.S. says South Korea’s 123 Agreement with the U.S. prohibits selling the APR1400 to any country that does not also have a 123 Agreement with the U.S.

APR1400 schematic

The APR1400 supersedes the standardized 995 MWe OPR-1400 design, of which South Korea built 12 units. The APR-1400 reportedly features improvements in operation, safety, maintenance and affordability based on accumulated experience as well as technological development. Design certification by the Korean Institute of Nuclear Safety was awarded in 2003.

Construction of the first two APR-1400s, as units 3 and 4 of South Korea’s Shin Kori plant – began in October 2008 and August 2009, respectively. Unit 3, which was originally scheduled to enter commercial operation at the end of 2013, eventually reached first criticality in December 2015, and was connected to the grid in January 2016. It entered commercial operation in December that year. Unit 4 achieved first criticality in April 2019 with grid connection that same month.

Unit 4 of the Shin Kori nuclear power plant entered commercial operation on August 29th according to a press statement by Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP). Unit 3 of the South Korean plant became the first APR-1400 to begin supplying electricity to the grid in January 2016.

Startup of Unit 3 at Shin Kori was delayed after the EPC building the plant discovered that South Korean suppliers had delivered counterfeit parts that had been installed in the plants.

The New York Times first reported the problems in 2013 with construction of three nuclear plants in South Korea in 2013. At the core of the issue are fabricated safety certificates for parts shipped to nuclear reactors under construction in South Korea and bribes paid by supplier chain firms to nuclear construction managers to accept the substandard components.

The components includes electrical cables and transformers. All of this equipment, which was delivered with falsified certificates of quality, had to be ripped out of the plants and replaced to insure compliance with nuclear reactor component quality standards.

Construction of two further APR-1400 reactors at Shin Kori – units 5 and 6 – began in April 2017 and September 2018, respectively. Unit 5 is scheduled to begin commercial operation in March 2022, with unit 6 following one year later. Two further APR-1400 units are under construction in South Korea as units 1 and 2 of the Shin Hanul site.

The current South Korean government has tried several times to stop the construction of these plants as part of a broader policy of eliminating all nuclear plants by 2050.  Future administrations in that country may sing a different tune as many nations, especially in Southeast Asia, begin to invest in nuclear energy as a way to slow the global warming of the planet from CO2 emissions of fossil fuel plants.  If South Korea wants a robust export business for the APR1400, the best way to get it is to support it at home.

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