Ukraine Opens for New Nuclear Business with America

  • Ukraine Opens for New Nuclear Business with America
  • Nuclear Energy is an ESG Investable Asset Class: GEN IV Forum Report

Ukraine Opens for New Nuclear Business with America

ukraine map(WNN contributed to this report) Ukraine and the USA have agreed to “deepen and intensify” their strategic cooperation in energy. Nuclear power leads a suite of agreements with a project to complete Khmelnitsky unit 4, followed up with four new Westinghouse AP1000 units at an estimated cost of $30 billion.  (Full text of joint statement)

There are two agreements here. The first agreement is at the ministerial level between the respective energy ministers of Ukraine and the U.S. This is a bilateral agreement to seek joint opportunities between the two countries in energy-related matters including nuclear, renewables, etc. It does not contain funding commitments for any of these actions.

The $30 billion figure is actually related to a second agreement between the nuclear utility in Ukraine and Westinghouse. Like the first document, the memorandum of understanding (MOU) is an agreement in principle and not a contractual mechanism to start work.

However, energy minister of Ukraine Herman Halushchenko is also the former CEO of the Energoatom utility which creates a common link for both the ministerial agreement and the MOU between Westinghouse and Energoatom.

Westinghouse Signs MOU with Ukraine’s Energoatom for Five Nuclear Reactors

A separate memorandum, e.g., agreement in principle, was signed by by Patrick Fragman, Westinghouse president and CEO, and Petro Kotin, acting president of Energoatom.

westinghouse logoEnergoatom and Westinghouse envisage jointly completing the fourth reactor at the Khmelnitsky nuclear power plant. The sites for four of the reactors have not been identified by the parties to the agreement.

The completion of the 4th reactor at Khmelnitsky would precede start of work on four new reactors. It’s kind a a “try before you buy” plan.

4 tiresEnergoatom’s Petro Kotin visited a Westinghouse AP1000 manufacturing center in South Carolina last April that looks a lot like it was part of an effort to kick the tires.  According to World Nuclear News Kotin also did some shopping for left over parts intended for the now cancelled V C Summer project which can be used on the Khmelnitsky #4 nuclear power plant.

Perception is 9/10s of Reality

The geopolitical effects of the two agreements are probably felt most strongly by Russia which until 2017 regarded Ukraine as a captive market when it came to exporting nuclear reactors. The fact that the two MOUs are just agreements in principle is overshadowed by the perception that Russia has been sidelined by the US.

During the past two decades, Russia has used nuclear reactor exports as a form of political influence. The use of this tactic by the US in Ukraine, which draws that nation closer to the West, probably raised the blood pressure of more than a few key people in the Kremlin.

Background to the Westinghouse / Energoatom MOU

Two Russia-supplied VVER-1000 PWRs units have been under construction in Ukraine at Khmelnitski-3 and -4 since the late 1980s. These reactors started out as a VVER design reactor in 1987, but construction stalled in 2017 at 28% completion. Progress has stalled for years because of financing and political issues. Also, Russian annexed the Crimea peninsula and occupied several eastern areas in two provinces of the country with its military forces. It is not likely that Rosatom will be sending a delegation to Kyiv anytime soon to negotiate further work on these plants.

The agreement between Westinghouse and Energoatom includes a plan to complete Khmelnitski Unit 4 “using AP1000 technology.” It isn’t clear how the two very different designs of pressurized water reactors could be combined to produce a working power plant. Westinghouse would be faced with the job of trying the complete a Russian VVER design without Russian components.

PWR v VVER

The more significant section of the MOU envisions a deal, at a future unspecified date, in which Westinghouse would supply four 1150 MWe AP1000 PWR type nuclear reactors as completely new construction in Ukraine. Fuel for the plants would also be part of the contract since no one else makes fuel for the AP1000.

The MOU is Long on Vision, Short on Money

The lack of financing for the big iron is a crucial missing piece. The total value of these 4 units and Khmelnitsky 4 is stated to be $30 billion. That figure is probably short of what will be needed to complete the work scope in the MOU. At $6500/Kw, the four AP1000s  (4600 MWe) will likely cost $30 billion alone. Khmelnitski-3 and -4, both at 1035 MWe, would easily cost another $4 billion each to complete. Only Unit #4 is in the mix for the time being.

This is the third nuclear energy agreement the U.S. has inked with an eastern European country for full size reactors. During the Trump administration, Sec. of State Pompeo made promises to Romania and Poland that potentially involved billions of dollars.

He offered Romania $8 billion to boot China out of a deal to complete Cernavoda Units 3 & 4 which are CANDU type PHWRs. Romania did just that. As a practical matter a big chunk of the work, if ever funded, could go to SNC Lavalin, which owns the intellectual property / rights to all of Atomic Energy Canada’s (AECL) know how and expertise to build CANDU type PHWR reactors.

Candu schematic

Also, Pompeo offered Poland $18 billion towards building as many as six PWR type reactors in order to close some of its coal fired power plants. This promised level of funding briefly set off an international feeding frenzy of nuclear reactor vendors which faded away once the Trump administration lost the 2020 election.

The Biden administration, which is seeking to spend over three trillion dollars to U.S. infrastructure at home, is unlikely to fulfill either of Pompeo’s grandiose promises. It follows that coming up with $30 billion for Ukraine’s nuclear reactor plans is not in the cards either. Also, unlike the Romanian situation, Biden’s team will want a any US funding or other export financing for reactors in eastern Europe to include a strong element of “buy American” provisions.

What About Small Modular Reactors for Ukraine?

What are the prospects for smaller, cheaper reactors? Separately, Ukraine, like other eastern European countries, has signed multiple MOU’s with SMR developers including Holtec and NuScale. These MOUs related to SMRs do not contain funding commitments nor schedules to secure the funds nor start any projects.

smr cartoon

Westinghouse is working on an advanced micro reactor design, the eVinci, but the 5  MWe “transportable” plant is intended to support defense installations and not baseload power for cities.

Separately, GE-Hitachi is working on its BWRX-300, and has inked MOUs with Estonia, Poland, and the Czech Republic, but not Ukraine.

Holtec

Holtec has a business unit in Ukraine which supplies spent fuel dry casks for nuclear power plants. Its main business in the US is decommissioning closed nuclear power plants.

The firm has not yet sold any of its 160 MWe SMRs, the design for which is still under development. Holtec has plans to build an SMR original equipment manufacturing (OEM) center in Ukraine  which is expected to be a mirror for a similar Holtec OEM SMR manufacturing plant in Camden, NJ.

The firm has proposed to build its first of a kind SMR at the former Oyster Creek reactor in New Jersey which it is also decommissioning. Holtec has not yet submitted an application to the NRC for safety design review of its SMR. The firm is still in the pre-application engagement stage with the NRC.  As many of the documents that are part of the process at contain proprietary information, it isn’t clear how far along things are at this stage.

Like NuScale, Holtec has an MOU with Energoatom (2018) to build SMRs there. Under the agreement with Holtec, Ukraine will become a manufacturing hub for SMR-160 components and systems mirroring the capabilities of Holtec’s Camden plant. Holtec is also in talks with Ukrainian suppliers of specialty machinery such as turbines and generators to integrate their products in SMR-160.

NuScale

NuScale, which is much further along than Holtec in developing its SMR, this week also signed a new “meet and greet” MOU with Ukraine’s Energoatom to explore opportunities to build its SMRs there.

Previously, in February 2020 Nu Scale signed an agreement to work on the evaluation of national regulatory and design processes related to the implementation of NuScale small modular reactor (SMR) technology in Ukraine.

NuScale is on track to break ground later this decade for its first of a kind 50 MWe SMR at a site in Idaho for UAMPS, a consortium of western states utilities. The firm has plans to uprate the power for design in future sales.

Under the new MOU, NuScale will support Energoatom’s examination of NuScale’s SMR technology, including a feasibility study for proposed project sites, the development of a project timeline and deliverables, cost studies, technical reviews, licensing and permitting activities, and project specific engineering studies and design work. This kind of preparatory work isn’t that big a deal in terms of costs which could lead to Energoatom actually paying NuScale for it.

In August 2020, NuScale made history as the first and only SMR to receive design approval from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in August 2020 and in July of 2021, the Commission published the proposed rule that would certify the NuScale design – a crucial step towards the construction and deployment of this SMR technology.

The company maintains strong program momentum toward commercialization of its SMR technology, including supply chain development, standard plant design, planning of plant delivery activities, and startup and commissioning plans.

In summary, if Ukraine winds up licensing American SMR technology, it might take longer building SMRs  to attain the same amount of electrical generation at four large reactors. However, in terms of cash flow over time to cover the costs, the country might be able to self-finance.

The US still wins in terms of “buy American” and might even be favorably inclined to help with some of the financing at a smaller scale.

What’s Actually in the Ukraine / U.S. Ministerial Agreement?

The bilateral agreement signed in Washington DC signaled “a new chapter of climate and energy cooperation with Ukraine,” US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said.

Her counterpart, the energy minister of Ukraine Herman Halushchenko, who is brand new in the job,, said, “We have common goals, among which the key is the decarbonization of the energy sector and the achievement of a high level of energy security and stability in Eastern Europe.”

The countries signed a joint statement on enhancing bilateral energy and climate cooperation during a visit to the USA by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky.

It states: “The participants intend to work to decarbonize Ukraine’s economy and ensure its energy security and export potential by developing and implementing a comprehensive energy sector plan, one that provides for mutually beneficial cooperation in nuclear energy, solar and wind energy, hydrogen, energy storage, carbon capture utilization and storage, cyber and physical security, and other supply and demand-side technologies.”

In the separate commercial agreement Westinghouse said the projects would “provide Energoatom and Ukraine with procurement, construction, licensing, operation, maintenance and localization benefits.”

Halushchenko said, “Deepening Energoatom’s partnership with Westinghouse will help strengthen our country’s energy security. We will expand cooperation with the American company with a focus on energy security and independence of our state.”

AP1000 units have a capacity of 1150 MWe and five of them would take Ukraine’s nuclear generation capacity from today’s 13,100 MWe to 17,700 MWe. International Energy Agency figures for 2018 indicate that expansion on this scale could see nuclear providing as much as 72% of Ukraine’s electricity and giving it the option to reduce the 31% it currently gets from coal or the 7% it gets from natural gas most of which comes from Russia.

& & &

Nuclear Energy is an ESG Investable Asset Class: GEN IV Forum Report

gen iv logoThe GEN IV Nuclear Forum has published a comprehensive report on the nuclear industry’s ability to report against Environmental, Social and Governance data collection and accounting metrics (ESG).  Full Report (large PDF file)

This report has been produced by a finance industry taskforce, the Economic Modelling Work Group (EMWG),  set up in 2020 by the Economic Modelling Work Group (EMWG) of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF).

Written by the finance community for the finance community, this report demonstrates nuclear energy’s ability to report well against a full range of ESG and why it stands as is an investable asset class, if projects and companies are established and managed well.

It is a bellwhether report which is expected to have far reaching influence in the nuclear energy industry and among investors who may now look at the firms working in the industry in a new light. The scope is not just for nuclear utilities which are often conflicted due to also owning and operating coal fired power plants. It also encompasses suppliers, service providers, and developers of new advanced reactors that have fundamentally different methods of producing heat and power than the current fleet of light water reactors.

As part of this analysis, the report considers the international policy framework and background around climate finance including the UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment, (PRI),  the rise of ESG reporting and its role in accessing climate finance and the role of taxonomies and how they fit (or rather do not fit) with ESG reporting. It also provides an very high-level overview of how other low-carbon energy companies and/or projects could report against ESG.  The PRI is an investor initiative in partnership with UNEP Finance Initiative and UN Global Compact.

Reporting well against ESG criteria allows nuclear energy to be considered as an investable asset class; thereby allowing nuclear companies and projects to access climate finance. The report has been produced by the finance community for the finance community.

The report establishes how nuclear energy, as an asset class, has the potential to report well against a wide range of ESG. It highlights the importance of wide ranging, consistent and standardized ESG reporting to determine the credentials of all energy companies across their lifecycles and throughout their supply chains.

The report discusses how ESG fit within international frameworks, including the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992), the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and the Paris Agreement (2015).

It also documents how ESG are linked to the Green Bond Principles, while examining the relationship between ESG and the various taxonomies and other policy documents being developed around the world.

What’s in the GEN IV ESG Report on Nuclear Energy?

Climate Financing and Responsible Investment: Sets out the international policy framework and background around climate finance including the UN’s Principles of Responsible Investment, the rise of ESG reporting and its role in accessing climate finance and the role of taxonomies and how they fit, or rather do not fit, with ESG reporting;

Low Carbon ESG Reporting: Provides a very high-level overview of how low carbon energy companies and/or projects could report against ESG;

Nuclear Disclosures Against ESG: Demonstrates the nuclear industry’s ability to report against ESG and why it is an investable asset class, if projects and companies are established and managed well;

Appendix I Standard Metrics: The Taskforce mapped the WEF ESG against relevant SASB and TCFD ESG to create a consolidated list of ESG, which are used in this report; and

• Appendix II Consistent and Transparent Reporting: Provides significantly more details and cross references for the finance community and wider stakeholders to use when considering nuclear companies and projects reporting together with some analysis where other energy companies could follow the nuclear industry’s lead in their ability to report against ESG.

It is hoped, and intended, that this report develops into a living document that is used by the finance industry as a reference and guide to use when considering nuclear companies and their assets.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Newcleo Powers Up a Combination of Reactor Technologies

  • Newcleo Powers Up a Combination of Reactor Technologies
  • Russia / Rosatom Announces Two Key Agreements In Drive To Deploy SMRs in Siberia
  • X-Energy Brings South Korea’s Doosan Onboard for Engineering Services
  • Signs of Progress with Saudi Arabia’s Plans for Commercial Nuclear Reactors

Newcleo Powers Up a Combination of Reactor Technologies

  • The firm recently closed on a $118M placement by investors
  • An existing patent portfolio supports newcleo’s technical vision

lft-tx-2Newcleo, which bills itself as a clean and safe nuclear technology company, announced this week its incorporation with the closing of a $118 million initial capital raising and the acquisition of Hydromine Nuclear Energy S.à r.l. (HNE).

newcleo’s disruptive approach is based on the innovative application of several current technologies, including,

  • Lead Fast Reactors (LFRs), which utilize lead as a coolant rather than water or sodium,
  • Accelerator Driven Systems (ADSs), based on coupling a sub-critical reactor with a particle accelerator and
  • The use of natural thorium fuel.

newcleo’s first project (Re-Act) is a small Lead Fast Reactor to satisfy commercial demand for small electric generating units on islands, in remote communities and for naval propulsion. The application of these technologies has the potential to:

  • dramatically decrease the volume of radioactive waste produced, while eliminating the need of a geological repository for transuranic elements;
  • much more effective use of existing uranium fuel, while moving toward the use of natural thorium;
  • avoid nuclear accidents as the reactor core remains, at all times sub-critical, and the nuclear cascade can be instantly interrupted by switching off the accelerator.

newcleo’s core leadership team brings a decades-long track record in both scientific and entrepreneurial achievements:

  • Stefano Buono as CEO, the former founder of the NASDAQ-listed Advanced Accelerator Applications (sold to Novartis in 2018);
  • Luciano Cinotti as Chief Scientific Officer (CSO)
  • Elisabeth Rizzotti as Chief Operating Officer and CEO of the Italian research operations.
  • Laura Vergani – newcleo Chief Communications Officer

With corporate and financial headquarters in London, newcleo will initially base its technical team in Turin, Italy. There, over 100 ‘energy innovators’ will work under the oversight of a scientific committee with extensive nuclear energy experience.

newcleo’s first key development will be the LFR ‘Re-Act’ project; a liquid lead modular micro-reactor with significant commercial applications with a special focus on shipping. This prototype will be the realization of a concept known at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the LFR-TL-X project1 (5-20 MWe) LFT-TX technical presentation (PDF file)

lft-tx-3

Within the next five years, the company intends to complete the design and realize a full-scale non-nuclear industrial prototype in collaboration with ENEA (Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development), that also shares one of newcleo’s patents.

As demonstrated by the successful acquisition of HNE (more on this below), newcleo’s strategy is to rapidly bring to market its projects and create a new industrial standard.

The first round of capital has stimulated international interest led by several visionary individuals and by some institutional investors, including New York-based Exor Seeds, and Turin-based LIFTT (a venture capital firm), and Club degli Investitori.

Two challenges facing newcleo are getting commercial quantities of HALEU fuel and access to a fast flux irradiation facility to qualify various materials especially steel alloys.

Remarking on launch day, Stefano Buono, newcleo CEO, commented: “In 1994, I started to work with Carlo Rubbia at CERN on approaches to producing safe, renewable and clean energy. I realized then that it would be possible to disrupt the energy sector with a scalable industrial application of our scientific findings.”

“Having created Advanced Accelerator Applications as a ground-breaking company in theragnostic nuclear medicine, I have founded newcleo with the same vision: to bring existing nuclear innovative technologies to market for the benefit of the whole world.”

Luciano Cinotti, CSO, commented: “I am grateful to Carlo Rubbia for having introduced to me the idea of using lead as a reactor coolant. It realizes the dream working on Fast Breeder Reactors. These allow a 100 times better utilization of fuel, and the elimination of the need of a geological repository for the transuranic elements.”

“The LFR does not come with the risks associated with the use of sodium, which instead is highly reactive in contact with air and water, thus allowing a more immediate and inexpensive approach to truly passive safety. In the Nineties, along with Stefano Buono’s CRS4 research group, I had the opportunity to investigate the potential of a nuclear sub-critical core controlled by a particle accelerator and later during the IP-Eurotrans project I also realized how safely it incinerates even minor actinides.”

The firm cites Nobel laureate Carlo Rubbia, who invented ADSs while he was Director General at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), and who shares newcleo’s vision for clean nuclear energy and is personally supportive of newcleo’s mission.

About the Acquisition of HNE

HNE has been sold to newcleo by Hydromine Global Holdings S.à r.l., a company fully controlled by Hydromine Inc., a US-based sustainable energy company dedicated to developing and investing in power production through patient capital and innovation.

With offices in New York and Yaoundé, Hydromine’s multinational team has extensive experience in the international power sector, including Africa, for the origination, financing, construction, or operation of utility-scale power projects.

HNE team comprises several of the world’s leading fast reactor engineers who have originated a lead-cooled design (the LFR-AS-200 and LFR-TL-5) that after decades of simplification can offer safer and competitive new nuclear energy.

& & &

Russia / Rosatom Announces Two Key Agreements In Drive To Deploy SMRs in Siberia

(NucNet) Moscow is backing ambitious plans to use new SMR technology in country’s far east. Russia has announced two significant agreements in its drive to use small modular reactor technology (SMRs) to bring reliable power to isolated areas in the country’s far east.

The first agreement is between Atomflot, a subsidiary of state nuclear corporation, and GDK Baimskaya, controlled by Kazakhstan’s Kaz Minerals Group, for the supply of electricity to the Baimskaya mining and processing plant in Chukotka, in the country’s far northeast.

For the Baimskaya reactors, Rosatom said it plans to use three floating nuclear plants, each employing a pair of the new 55-MWe RITM-200M reactors, a version of which is in service powering Russia’s icebreakers. A fourth unit would be held in reserve for use during repair or refuelling. (Rosatom briefing on RITM-200 reactors) According to Rosatom, the first reactors are already under construction by Atomenergomash.

ritm smrs rosatom

Development Technology Roadmap for RITM-200 SMR.  Table: Rosatom

Commissioning of the first two units is scheduled for the beginning of 2027 with a third unit following by the beginning of 2028 and a fourth by the beginning of 2031. Rosatom said the total investment in the energy supply project will be more than 150 billion rubles ($2bn, €1.7bn).

The mine is expected in operation about 2027, contingent on the regional government agreeing to share infrastructure development costs, in particular to finance and construct the power lines which is not a trivial effort as it will cover hundred of miles of frozen tundra.

The first two nuclear vessels are expected to be delivered to their working location at the project’s port, Cape Nagloynyn, Chaunskaya Bay and connected to 110 kV power lines leading via Bilibino to the Baimskaya mine over 400 km away by the end of 2026. The third unit is due to be connected at the end of 2027, increasing power supply to about 330 MWe.

Rosatom also signed an agreement with the Ministry for the Development of the Russian Far East and the Republic of Sakha that could lead to the construction at a site in Yakutia of a land-based small modular reactor using Russia’s RITM-200N reactor technology.

Rosatom confirmed reports late last year that Russia was planning to build a land-based SMR in Sakha, also known as Yakutia, an autonomous Russian republic 4,000 km to the east of Moscow, between Siberia and Russia’s far east. Rosatom is aiming to begin construction in 2024 and commission the unit by 2028. A field survey has been completed at a potential site in Ust-Kuyga, a settlement on the Yana River, with a population of less than 1,000.

Kaz Minerals Group acquired the Baimskaya project for $900 million in cash and shares in January 2019. It is one of the world’s most significant undeveloped copper assets with the potential to become a large scale, low cost, open pit copper mine.

A spokesman for the firm told Russian news media the project is in a region identified by the Russian government as strategically important for economic development and is expected to benefit from the construction of “some state-funded power and transport infrastructure and the provision of tax incentives.”

Copper concentrate will be shipped to customers from the port of Pevek, 700 km to the north of the Baimskaya project. Pevek is where Russia’s first commercial floating nuclear plant, the Akademik Lomonosov, is docked and supplying energy for the remote port town.

The 21,000-tonne vessel has two KLT-40S reactor units with an electrical power generating capacity of 35 MW each, sufficient for a city with a population of around 200,000 people.

& & &

X-Energy Brings South Korea’s Doosan Onboard for Engineering Services

(WNN) X-Energy released a press statemen that it has signed South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction to an engineering service contract for studies into the manufacture of major components for the Xe-100 small modular reactor (SMR). The South Korean company said participating in the project will help it to diversify its own SMR business.

Under the contract Doosan will support the development of the reactor by performing a study for its optimum design in terms of manufacturing major components. It will also conduct mock-up tests for critical manufacturing processes.

The Xe-100 is an 80 MWe (scalable to a 320 MWe four-pack) high-temperature gas-cooled (HTGR) reactor which uses TRISO (tristructural isotropic) particle fuel.

“SMRs are rapidly emerging in the world energy market because they contribute to carbon neutrality for confronting the climate change crisis,” said Na Ki-yong, head of Doosan Heavy Industries & Construction’s Nuclear Business Group division.

“Through participating in the design stage of X-energy’s HTGR, Doosan plans to participate in manufacturing of major equipment. In addition to our pressurized water reactor SMR business already in progress, this HTGR SMR enables us to diversify our SMR business.”

Doosan is also an equity investor in NuScale which is developing an LWR type SMR. Doosan will manufacture major components of the SMR for the firm.

& & &

Signs of Progress with Saudi Arabia’s Plans for Commercial Nuclear Reactors

After a long period of relative quiet, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) announced this week that The King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KACARE) plans to hire the services of a global management service company to advise on Saudi Arabia’s first nuclear project in the next two months. The report was monitored on a CNBC Arabia TV channel.

According to the report, the global bidders for the project include Deloitte, Ernst & Young, HSBC and PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The Kingdom has said it wants to tap nuclear technology for peaceful purposes and use nuclear power to diversify its energy mix. The firm in the past few years has downsized its ambitious plans to build 16 1000 MWe nuclear reactors to plans to build just two full size reactors. So far, the Kingdom has identified two possible sites for the full size power stations, on the Gulf coast at Umm Huwayd and Khor Duweihin.

A steep decline in the price of oil, which has sharply reduced income from fossil fuels, is the primary reason for this change.  Unless the price of oil rises above $100/bbl and stays there for a decade or more, it is unlikely that KSA will expand its plan for full size reactors.

It isn’t known what, if any effect, the global COVID19 pandemic has had on plans for the tender.  CDC recommends against travel to KSA. The agency says on its website,  “because of the current situation in Saudi Arabia, even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants.”

With curtailed ambitions for full size reactors, its is still likely that KSA could turn to South Korea’s SMART small modular reactor, an LWR design, for desalination and power at multiple sites. The two nations have been working on it since 2011. The scope of the agreement was updated in 2020 with plans for setting up a manufacturing center in KSA and with additional plans to eventually offer the design for export.

Plans for release of a tender for the two reactors have been on hiatus for over a year with no real significant news about the tender until now. The release of a tender for management services suggests that KSA is looking for help in managing the massive procurement and possibly also in releasing a tender for an EPC to manage the construction of the reactors.

KACARE was established by the late King Abdullah in 2010 to build a sustainable future for the Kingdom through an alternative energy strategy supported by local industries.

Prior coverage on this blog

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Advanced Nuclear Reactor Technology: A Primer

adv reac coverThe Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) has published a primer on advanced nuclear reactor technologies. The 48-page PDF file is available for free by downloading it from the organization’s website.

This primer provides basic information on advanced reactors to help the public and stakeholders the promise of innovative nuclear technologies. Dozens are under development around the world; this primer focuses on those in the United States and Canada.

This is an excellent resource written in an accessible plain English style. Anyone who wants to know what the excitement is about with advanced nuclear reactors will find a wealth of information here. 

From the Introduction to the Primer

NIA logoThe term “advanced reactors” encompasses many different designs, features and sizes. The commercial industry has used light, or ordinary, water reactors since the technology’s inception in the 1950s, mostly following the lead of the U.S. Navy which pioneered the technology for marine propulsion.

Today’s commercial reactors were built to run around the clock to make electricity, but with countries building out a large amount of intermittent renewable energy infrastructure, a totally zero-carbon electricity grid will require nuclear reactors that can operate flexibly, complement variable generation, and provide firm, reliable energy. A carbon-free economy needs energy sources to make more than just electricity. Thus, advanced reactors are being designed with capabilities that include:

• Producing electricity in alignment with power system needs

• Splitting water molecules to make hydrogen, as an energy storage medium or fuel, or a feedstock to be combined with captured carbon dioxide, and to make synthetic liquid fuels for planes, trucks and other vehicles

• Providing process heat for manufacturing and industry, replacing fossil fuels

• Desalinating water, as climate change affects water availability

Some of the new advanced reactor designs use fuel in a molten form, or use molten salt or metal to transfer heat from the reactor core to where it can be converted into useful energy.

New fuel forms and inherent safety designs make advanced reactors extremely tolerant of high heat, ensuring that they do not overheat while operating at higher temperatures. These characteristics allow advanced non-light water reactors to produce more electricity per unit of heat than a conventional nuclear reactor can.

3.31_HALEU Overview_742x960

Many advanced reactor designs are much smaller than existing plants, which may eliminate some supply chain bottlenecks as their components can be built in a much wider variety of factories.

Factory production of multiple reactors can lead to economies of scale and proceed in parallel with plant construction, instead of having to wait for certain plant components to be partially constructed before assembling the reactor. That will reduce construction times and cost.

microreactors2021-full

Smaller reactors are more compatible with more use cases: they can be located at industrial facilities to meet industrial needs; added to small electric grids around the world; meet smaller increments of demand growth; and financed more easily.

Many of the advanced reactor designs noted in this Primer obtain more energy value from the fuel by minimizing the amount of waste produced or by recycling used nuclear fuel in future iterations of their designs.

Media Contact

Ben Finzel, President, RENEWPR
Restoring common sense to communications
Office: 202-625-4885 — Cell: 202-277-6286
Ben Finzel <ben@renewpr.com>

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Argentina Goes for Round Two of Negotiations for a Hualong One

  • Argentina Goes for Round Two of Negotiations for a Hualong One
  • X-energy Provides Fuel Fabrication Services as part of DARPA’s DRACO Program
  • United Arab Emirates / ENEC Announces Startup Of Unit 2 At Barakah
  • First Fuel Loaded into China’s HTR-PM
  • UK / Wales Pushes Ahead With Plans To Site Rolls-Royce 470 MWe PWR at  Trawsfynydd Nuclear Site
  • Czech Nuclear Tender Could be Launched in Late 2021

Argentina Goes for Round Two of Negotiations for a Hualong One

word cloud negotiateChina has finally gotten something it dearly wants, which is a contract to build a 1000 MWe Hualong One for export in the West. Previously, it heavily subsidized an export deal to build two of them for Pakistan.

José Luis Antúnez, the head of national utility Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA, said in an interview with Perfil newspaper last week that construction of a Hualong One unit could begin at Atucha as soon as next year.

Construction of the new nuclear plant would start next year, be ready by 2028 at a cost of US$8 billion, 85% of which would be financed by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). ICBC acquired 80% of the shares of Standard Bank Argentina in November 2012. However, there is no press statement about the Argentina nuclear deal on the bank’s English language website.

Several English language news media in Argentina published detailed reports about these projects. None of the reports cited any Chinese sources to confirm the claims made by the Argentine utility and the government. However, given the statement of support for it by president Alberto Fernández, it seems reasonable to assume the press reports are reliable.

Separately,  Antúnez said that Canada would participate, technically speaking, in a “national project’ with Argentina to build a CANDU – a new pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) – at the Atucha site. Argentina will largely self-finance most of this project. Given the country’s perilous finances, getting outside international investors will come at a steep premium for the capital. Antúnez said Argentina owns the intellectual property for the two PHWRs it operates which will allow it to fabricate and install most of the major components and systems of a new one.

Rebooting the Chinese Partnership

Antúnez said that plans for a new Hualong One reactor at Atucha would be the result of the “rebooting of a partnership” with China that was discussed between 2014 and 2017. That deal did not go through due to economic austerity measures by the previous administration. He said that a new financial package was being negotiated for the reactor, and added that the deal should “be final by the middle of next year.”

According to Antúnez, it will take eight years to complete the Hualong One which will be Argentina’s fourth power plant. The negotiations with China will have two stages – the first for Nucleoeléctrica and the CNEA (Comisión Nacional de Energía Atómica), to agree with the China on a contract, which will include technology transfer for the local manufacture of the fuel for that power plant.

That’s going to be a stretch since China undoubtedly sees the fuel design for the Hualong One to be one of its technical IP crown jewels. Also, China will likely insist on taking back the spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing. China is building several plants to reprocess spent nuclear fuel in part of fabricate MOX.

The second stage seeks to negotiate a financial package. Since China will have to import all of the major system components, such as the RPV and steam system, the costs will be higher for this Hualong One than for its domestic versions. The overall price for the plant likely includes the fuel, maintenance, and operations of the reactor and its related infrastructure.

Assuming a cost of $5,000/Kw, the 1000 MWe PWR will cost $5 billion. The cited cost of the deal is $8 billion. It’s likely that China has added in other major infrastructure projects under its Belt & Road program which may include new transmission lines to deliver electricity to different parts of the country.

Other costs may be different depending on the degree of localization of non-nuclear components, such as turbines and switchyard gear, that Argentina negotiates for the project. A bilateral agreement for these and related items inked in 2014 is regarded as having expired so the two parties are starting over.

Meanwhile, Argentina isn’t wasting any time getting the project underway again. “We’ll be moving ahead with preparing the terrain with soil studies and paving the access routes”, as well as assembling the structures to store the energy and water and supplies “for the 5,000-plus workers who will come to Atucha where the power plant will be sited,” Antúnez said.

Can Argentina Make another CANDU?

Nucleoeléctrica is reported to be planning a fifth nuclear power plant which will be a CANDU type PHWR. Argentina claims that some of the design intellectual property needed to build one was transferred from AECL at the time the prior PHWRs were built. Fuel for the PHWR will come from the heavy water plant at Arroyito in Neuquén. It will have to be restarted and a new workforce hired and trained to run it.

candui-schematric

The site for the new CANDU unit is not yet determined but it could be on or near the Atucha site. However, the bulk of engineering work will be carried out near the Embalse power plant by Argentine firms and workers drawing on their successful refurbishment and uprate of the CANDU reactor there, which was completed in 2019. The refurbishment will enable the unit to operate for the next 30 years.

“We are going to have technicians and professionals from the Embalse area to produce the components, which will be from the national industry, that is, we are going to concentrate the resources that we have from the manufacturing and metalworking industry there,” Antúnez said. In other words, while China will supply the bulk of the components for the Hualong One, the new CANDU will largely be built based on domestic production of major components and systems.

“We’ll do the engineering at Embalse where we have concentrated our experience in the construction, design and operation of such power plants. We will thus count on the technicians and professionals of the zone to produce the components, which will be a great deal and locally manufactured, concentrating the resources of our engineering and metal industries,” Antúnez said.

Argentina’s nuclear sector has three PHWRs with a total generating capacity of 1641 MWe across the Atucha I, Atucha II and Embalse power plants. In total the plans revealed by Antúnez represent a doubling of that power generating capacity.

argentinanukes

“With the three power plants now running we have approximately 1,700 megawatts combined. When the Hualong and Candu reactors come on stream, we’ll be adding a similar quantity to the installed capacity of Nucleoeléctrica,” maintained Antúnez.

Atucha is also the site of Argentina’s prototype 25 MWe CAREM power plant, which is owned by CNEA and being constructed by NA-SA. The status of the SMR is unclear although work continues on it.

& & &

X-energy Provides Fuel Fabrication Services as part of DARPA’s DRACO Program

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) recently awarded a Track A contract to General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) for the first phase of the Demonstration Rocket for Agile Cislunar Operations  (DRACO) program. The DRACO program will develop an agile nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system for cislunar operations, targeting a full-scale, on-orbit demonstration in 2025.

As part of the GA-EMS led team, X-energy will develop key fuel fabrication processes in support of a first-of-a-kind rocket powered by nuclear thermal propulsion. The work performed by X-energy is critical to mission success and will provide data on the specialized fuel not previously available, thus enabling the design of this unique, first of a kind propulsion system.  (see conceptual image below.)

nas-ntp-propulsion

The DARPA DRACO program marries these two technologies. X-energy has operated a pilot fuel facility since 2017, has active contracts with the DOE and DoD to develop terrestrial-based nuclear power systems and has supported NASA in their refinement of NTP reactor concepts.

X-energy regularly partners with “sister” companies Axiom Space and Intuitive Machines. Axiom is building the first commercial space station thus creating a low earth orbit economy while Intuitive Machines is developing the first commercial moon lander, scheduled to launch early next year.

X-energy Founder and Executive Chairman Kam Ghaffarian stated, “X-energy’s delivery of nuclear know-how to the DRACO program fulfills a goal I have had for many years – to apply safe, secure, and affordable nuclear solutions to the benefit of space-based systems. The U.S. Government recognizes innovative, mission-enabling value of nuclear to achieve our cislunar and planetary exploration goals and we are thrilled to be part of it.”

& & &

United Arab Emirates / ENEC Announces Startup Of Unit 2 At Barakah Nuclear Station

(NucNet) Unit 2 of the four-unit Barakah nuclear power station in the United Arab Emirates has started up less than five months after the identical Unit 1 became the first commercial reactor in the Arab world to begin full operation.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) said the startup of Barakah-2 highlights the significant progress being made in bringing the four South Korean 1,345 MWe APR-1400 units at Barakah online.

Startup is defined as the first time the unit has produced heat through nuclear fission. The heat is used to create steam, turning a turbine to generate electricity.

Before startup, Enec’s operating and maintenance subsidiary, Nawah Energy Company, and Korea Electric Power Corporation, carried out a comprehensive testing program. Enec said the UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) had both confirmed Nawah’s operational maturity to run multiple units at Barakah. Before the operating licence was granted for Unit 2, WANO carried out a pre startup review, which Enec said ensured the plant was aligned with international best practice in the nuclear energy industry.

In the coming months, Unit 2 will be connected to the national electricity grid and operators will continue with a process of gradually raising the power levels, known as power ascension testing.

In March, Nawah said it had completed fuel loading at Unit 2. Construction of the plant began in April 2013 and was completed in July 2020.

Once the four reactors are online, Barakah will providing around 25% of the country’s electricity. The UAE’s energy strategy calls for 6% nuclear as part of 50% clean energy in 2050.

& & &

First Fuel Loaded into China’s HTR-PM

China Huaneng said the first batch of nuclear fuel was successfully loaded into unit 1 the demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor plant (HTR-PM) at Shidaowan, in China’s Shandong province on 21 August. This followed the issue the day before of an operating licence for the two-unit plant by the National Nuclear Safety Administration. The two small reactors will drive a single 210 MWe turbine. Helium gas is used as the primary circuit coolant. (Technical Briefing – PDF file)

China Huaneng is the lead organization in the consortium building the units (with a 47.5% stake), together with China National Nuclear Corporation subsidiary China Nuclear Engineering Corporation (CNEC) (32.5%) and Tsinghua University’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (20%), which is the research and development leader. Chinergy, a joint venture of Tsinghua and CNEC, is the main contractor for the nuclear

China Huaneng said the plant uses a fully ceramic coated particle spherical fuel element indigenously developed called TRISO fuel. Each sphere contains 7 gram of uranium enriched to 8.5% with graphite as the matrix material. The core height is 11 meters and a diameter of 3 meters.  (IAEA ARIS DBMS entry below)

htr-pmThe initial fuel loading of plant is divided into two stages, China Huaneng noted. The fuel elements are first loaded into a temporary fuel storage tank, and then transferred to the core through the fuel loading and unloading system. Over a period of some 30 days, it is estimated that about 104,000 fuel elements will be installed after which the unit will achieve criticality. A full load for a single reactor requires approximately 420,000 fuel elements.

China is also planning a larger HTGR. The HTR-PM600 will have a 650 MWe turbine driven by some six HTR-PM reactor units. HTR-PM600 is a high temperature gas-cooled reactor plant based on the multi-modular scheme, i.e. six modular high temperature gas-cooled reactor (MHTGR) driving a common secondary loop system. Six MHTGR-based nuclear steam supplying system (NSSS) modules are tightly coupled by the secondary fluid flow network (FFN) which contains the secondary side of steam generators, feedwater system, main steam system, turbine generator system.

Feasibility studies on HTR-PM600 deployment are under way for Sanmen, Zhejiang province; Ruijin, Jiangxi province; Xiapu and Wan’an, in Fujian province; and Bai’an, Guangdong province.

& & &

UK / Wales Pushes Ahead With Plans To Site Rolls-Royce 470 MWe PWR at  Trawsfynydd Nuclear Site

(NucNet  contributed to this report) The Welsh government has chosen a former Westinghouse nuclear executive to resurrect Trawsfynydd, the site of one of Britain’s first nuclear power stations and possible location for a new generation of smaller reactors.

rolls royve logoAccording to the Financial Times, the government has recruited Mike Tynan, a former head of UK operations at US nuclear engineering group Westinghouse, to a new publicly-owned development company called Cwmni Egino charged with exploiting the “economic benefits” of small modular reactors at Trawsfynydd in north Wales.

Mr Tynan, who is also the former chair of the Nuclear Innovation and Research Advisory Board, which provides independent advice to UK ministers, has been appointed as interim chief executive of Cwmni Egino to place the newly-incorporated company on a “firm footing”, the Financial Times said.

As chief executive for Westinghouse UK Ltd, Tynan led the integration of Westinghouse business interests for new nuclear plant, fuel and services in the UK. He also led the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) effort for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, and has been part of the Westinghouse European, Middle East and Africa regional executive for the past three years.

Westinghouse at one time was slated to build three 1150 MWe AP1000 nuclear reactors at the Moorside site. However, when Toshiba, the firm’s Japanese parent firm, left the nuclear energy industry, prospects for that project left with it. In 2018 efforts by the UK government to transfer the project to a South Korean consortium were thwarted as Toshiba declined to come to terms with the new team over finances.

Tynan joined Westinghouse in 2005, having previously held senior positions at a number of UK nuclear sites, including Sellafield.

Rolls-Royce says it can build is reactors in factories and assembled on site, thereby reducing the costs and complexities associated with the construction of large-scale nuclear energy plants such as Hinkley Pont C in England, where two 1650 MWe EPR plants are being built.

According to the Financial Times, Rolls-Royce said last year there was a “pretty high probability” Trawsfynydd could house the first plant in Britain. Other communities have made or are likely to make similar claims. Competition for siting the new mid-range reactors is fierce due to the combination of construction and permanent jobs that come with each reactor.

Rolls-Royce believes at least 16 of its mid-range reactors could be installed at existing and former nuclear sites in the UK. It is aiming to complete its first plant by the early 2030s. At 470 MWe the Rolls-Royce design is larger than the upper boundary set by the IAEA which is 300 MWe.

If all 16 reactors are built by the end of the 2030s, they will cover and exceed the electrical generating capacity that would have been provided by the combined capacity of the Wylfa and Oldbury projects. These two efforts, both twin 1350 MWe Hitachi ABWRs, did not move forward as a result of the UK government’s failed negotiations with Hitachi over financing and the cost of the project.

Rolls-Royce had been aiming to have the first design to be assessed by regulators in the second half of 2021, which would keep it on track to complete its first unit in the early 2030s and build up to 10 by 2035.

The cost of each plant will initially be about £2.2bn per unit dropping to £1.8bn by the time five have been completed. At $5,000/Kw, each unit would initially cost $2.35 billion. At $4,000/Kw the plant would come in at $1.88 billion. Because construction costs that will actually be incurred are so far in the future, currency differences at this time are meaningless.

The Welsh government announced last year it would support Cwmni Egino to re-establish Trawsfynydd as an important location for nuclear energy, as well as to explore installing a medical research reactor to provide medical radioisotopes for Wales, the UK and Europe.

Trawsfynydd, which had two 195-MW gas-cooled Magnox reactors, is on a 15-hectare site, on an inland lake in Snowdonia National Park. Both reactors began commercial operation in 1965 and were permanently shut down in 1991.

& & &

Czech Nuclear Tender Could be Launched in Late 2021

czech power(Reuters) The tender for a new PWR type nuclear reactor at CEZ’s Dukovany nuclear power plant could be launched by the end of this year, Industry Minister Karel Havlicek said in a media statement. State-controlled CEZ said the tender is worth $6-7 billion.

“I can imagine (the tender being launched in December), maybe already in November.

Westinghouse of the United States, France’s EDF (EDF.PA) and South Korea’s KHNP are seen as potential bidders to expand the nuclear plant after companies from China and Russia were excluded.

Czech authorities excluded China from the tender in January due to a combination of U.S. lobbying and distrust of handing over energy security to China. It and dropped Russia in April amid a security row with Moscow over a deadly blast at an arms depot. the Czech Republic blamed Russia for the explosion which was said to involve arms being shipped to Ukraine.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Plans to Complete Bellefonte Go Bust Again

bellefonte scottsboro alThe long running saga of an effort by Tennessee real estate mogul Franklin Haney to buy the partially completed twin 1200 MWe nuclear reactors at TVA’s Bellefonte site in Scottsboro, AL, may have come to an end.

A federal district court judge ruled that TVA was within it rights and did not breach its obligations under the (purchase and sale agreement)” by not going through with it.

With no breach, Haney’s firm Nuclear Development is not entitled to specific performances (of the contract to sell the plant) nor to damages. Therefore, because Nuclear Development’s claims fail, its request for a preliminary injunction were also denied by the court.

U.S. District Judge Liles Burke did order TVA to refund Haney’s down payment of $22 million on the $111 million sale price plus other “uncompensated costs of $750,000” with 7.5% interest calculated from December 2018..

In November 2018 it became apparent that the sale was not going to be a done deal. TVA argued that Nuclear Development had not secured construction permits from the NRC for the two reactors at Bellefonte and because of that, it could not legally go through with the sale.  Nuclear Development, Inc., filed the breach of contract lawsuit in an effort to finish the deal..

During closing arguments in the trial last month, Nuclear Development asked for $38 million in damages.. TVA, objected to reimbursing Nuclear Development for any money paid as part of the purchase agreement.

Haney May Have Dodged a Disaster of His Own Making

This outcome actually looks to be pretty good for Franklin Haney because in his effort to buy the two plants he boxed himself into a tight corner by betting the ranch that he could complete the reactors and sign the city of Memphis, among others, as a customer for the power. This plan had a lot of factors working against it. In fact, these barriers to success made some wonder why Haney took on the effort in the first place.

First, Haney failed, despite lavish contributions to the political campaign funds of then President Trump, to win federal tax production credits for two reactors that he didn’t own. If granted, once the reactors were completed, could have boosted his early profits from them. Haney’s problem was that the legislation authorizing the credits required the reactors getting them to be “innovative.” The two partially built units, designed in 1975, are not even in the neighborhood of being “innovative” in 2018 as intended by the program. They are garden variety PWRs, and not either advanced reactors or SMRs.

poke bearSecond, trying to peal off The City of Memphis, which was a major customer for TVA, guaranteed the utility would throw its full weight behind the effort to prevent that outcome.

If you wanted to see a working metaphor of poking a sleeping bear with a sharp stick, and its reaction, this was it.

Third, TVA was correct that Haney did not have the Part 50 construction licenses from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) which made it impossible for him to raise funds from investors. Haney failed to apply for them prior to the sale. When Nuclear Development submitted an application, the NRC kicked it back requesting supplemental information. Haney’s firm never got the permits transferred, but the TVA kept them in play as recently as June of this year.

In summary, not only did Haany not have title to the property, he didn’t have the regulatory OK to complete the reactors. No investor was going to touch the project until both conditions were met. Haney at one time tried to convince the sovereign wealth fund of a Middle East country to invest in the plant, but that deal was never closed.

Also, as potential investors likely saws things, because Haney’s plan involved using the NRC Part 50 process, he still had the future expense, and time and effort, to get a Part 50 operating license assuming he got the plants built. When you add the timelines of the two parts together it works out to at least 3-4 years or longer.

Estimating the cost to complete the plants was a crap shoot. One plant was, generously speaking, about 55% complete, having been stripped of almost everything useful. The other was in better shape at an estimated 80-88% +/- complete.

What made the plants attractive is that both had completed reactor pressure vessels and containment structures. However, TVA’s experience with Watts Bar II did not bode well for completing Bellefonte on time and within budget. (more on this below) Also, getting a workforce to show up on a project of this scale could also be a problem.

Fourth, the plants also have connections to the regional electrical grid, but TVA had no obvious interest in letting Haney use it to compete for the multi-state utility’s customers. Sure, there would be litigation, or a regulatory battle at FERC, but with the interest clock ticking on the billions that would be needed to complete the plants, how much time did Haney really have to fight that battle in court before his investors lost patience?

Fifth, TVA never said as much in public, but it is a good bet it that one of its deeper fears is that Haney could run out of money before completing one or both reactors and try to unload the entire mess on TVA. With a debt ceiling that doesn’t allow room for a new multi-billion dollar twin reactor rescue plan, TVA was highly motivated to block Haney’s efforts for this reason alone.

Haney might have had visions, as a contingency, of leveraging his significant campaign contributions to republican party coffers for that purpose. TVA would have had an implicit understanding of the throw weight of all those greenbacks the moment they crossed the palms of party fund raisers at Mar A Lago.

From TVA’s point of view such a “rescue” plan was a non-starter. The costs to complete Watts Bar II went nearly 100% over budget at a cost of $4.7 billion which was 55% complete when work resumed on the reactor in 2007. That was just one plant.

In 2011 TVA said the cost to complete one unit of Bellefonte would be $4 billion and that plant is much further along than the other. Before Haney appeared on the scene, TVA spent a boatload of money in 2011 with Areva to carry out engineering studies of what would be needed to complete it..

Also in 2011 TVA’s board of directors voted to complete the two Bellefonte reactors at an estimated cost of $11 billion. Later it hedged its bets saying it would only move forward with the twin reactors after fuel was loaded at Watts Bar II. Once the cost overruns for Watts Bar came due, the Board got cold feet on doing anything about Bellefonte except to unload it from the utility’s books.

Haney Needed a Bigger Boat Plus More Tackle and Line

Haney wanted to complete two unfinished reactors which could easily have a combined cost of more than $13 billion which is a number Haney cited in November 2016 when he first announced his plan to buy the Bellefonte site.

Haney never formally identified who his potential or real investors were or where the money would come from. While he’s a wealthy man, he didn’t have that kind of cash burning a hole in his pocket.

bigger boatIf he understood all of the financial, regulatory, and engineering challenges he was facing, and given his success in business over time, that’s probably true. But why then did he proceed with the effort in the first place?

To use a famous fishing metaphor, Haney needed a bigger boat to succeed and it appears that he didn’t have one.

As a result of the court decision, Haney gets his down payment back plus some other expenses.  That $23M plus that includes interest on some of the expenses.

Also, TVA executives might get to sleep better at night at least for now unless Haney appeals.

If Haney is smart, he’ll spend his refund money enjoying time on a nice beach.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

Mixed Messages from Congress on Funding Nuclear Energy

  • Mixed Messages from Congress on Funding Nuclear Energy
  • NuScale Power Signs MOU With Xcel Energy to Explore Potential Plant Operations
  • UK Partnership Formed for Molten Salt Reactor Fuel
  • UK Rolls Out as Role for Nuclear Energy to Produce Hydrogen for its Economy
  • South Korea Sets Plan to Build a Floating Nuclear Reactor to Produce Green Hydrogen

Mixed Messages from Congress on Funding Nuclear Energy

us capitolDespite the dog days of summer, tagged in the early half of the 20th century as “swamp cooler season,” because summer can be sizzling in DC in July and August, Congress took two important steps towards funding new and current nuclear energy programs in July and August.

First, the Senate passed a huge bipartisan infrastructure bill that includes plans for new nuclear reactors and provides production credits for existing plants. Significantly, 19 republicans voted for the bill. Cooler heads did prevail in what to date has been an atmosphere of heated partisan rancor. It seems that when the federal government is going to spend this much money, differences get set aside.

Second, the House Appropriations Committee reported out a bill for 2022 with $1.7 billion in funding for DOE programs but it zero’d out any funding for the versatile test reactor. The committee report did not provide an explanation for this action. Supporters of the project hope to restore the line item later this year in an omnibus bill that will be used to fund the entire federal government.

The Committee’s report noted, “The bill provides $1.68 billion, an increase of $167 million above the fiscal year 2021 level. The funding invests in research, development, and demonstration activities that develop the next generation of clean and safe reactors, further improve the safety and economic viability of our current reactor fleet, and contribute to the nation’s long-term leadership in the global nuclear power industry. “

Senate Infrastructure Bill

Quick Summary of Senate Infrastructure Bill ~ Nuclear Energy Items

(NucNet Contributed to this report) The Senate infrastructure legislative package, which is not an appropriations bill, targets aging nuclear power plants as well small modular reactors. It sets aside $6 billion for the Department of Energy to spend on nuclear facilities that are under threat of being shut down due to economic factors like cheap natural gas. It also sets aside $6 billion in funding for microreactors, small modular reactors and advanced nuclear reactors.

The bill, which still needs approval from the House of Representatives, instructs energy secretary Jennifer Granholm to submit a report describing how the Department of Energy could improve energy resilience and reduce carbon emissions with the use of small modular reactors (SMRs) (less than 300 MWe) and microreactors (less than 25 MWe).

The Senate bill says the DOE will offer financial and technical assistance to entities to conduct feasibility studies to identify suitable locations for the deployment of SMRs, microreactors and advanced reactors in isolated communities.

The influence of these kinds of reports on future appropriations depend in large part on what the members of congress plan to do with the findings. Some of these reports wind up being doorstops because Congress has no intention of doing anything, but members want the appearance of addressing an issue. Other times the reports are springboards of new funding or expansion of existing funding for specific projects.

Other Items in the Infrastructure Bill

The bill includes a proposal to develop at least one regional clean hydrogen hub to demonstrate the production of clean hydrogen from nuclear energy. DOE has funded two “demonstration projects” so far and plans to fund two more. Whether any of these short-term efforts will mature into a “hydrogen hub” will depend on the outcome of the four projects and the commercial interests of the utilities involved in them. Demand for hydrogen at a price one or more these hubs will be able to produce it will also be a key success factor.

Another key element of the infrastructure bill for the nuclear industry is its call for a credit program for commercial nuclear reactors. It directs Sec. Granholm to evaluate nuclear reactors that are projected to be permanently shut down because of economic factors and to allocate production tax credits to those that qualify. That’s actually a big deal even though natural gas prices are going up after a long period of being at record lows. Some nuclear utilities are betting on these credits by submitting applications to the NRC to extend the lives of their operating reactors to 80 years.

The bill says the application for a credit will need to incorporate information including “the average projected annual operating loss in dollars per megawatt-hour, inclusive of the cost of operational and market risks, expected to be incurred by the nuclear reactor over the four-year period for which credits would be allocated”. The application should also include an estimate of the potential incremental air pollutants that would result if the nuclear reactor were to cease operations. This requirement is a big deal because it is a de facto price on carbon emissions.

Press reports indicate that the legislation will come too late to prevent the Byron and Dresden nuclear power plants in Illinois from being shut down this year. Exelon said proposed Illinois legislation, separate from the federal infrastructure bill, that would provide state subsidies is “the only solution that can pass in time to provide the certainty we need.”

Exelon, the nation’s largest operator of nuclear plants, has filed plans to decommission its Byron and Dresden units, citing a lack of action from state lawmakers on clean energy legislation that would help save the facilities. The company said that without a legislative solution, these same market inequities will also force it to close its Braidwood and LaSalle nuclear facilities sometime in the next few years.

Even if the infrastructure bill passes with this provision intact, implementation will likely begin in mid-2022 or later. The government’s speed in getting things done simply does not operate on the principle of “add water and microwave” to deliver results.

Make No Little Plans, but Not Yet

It is premature for nuclear utilities to start making plans related to the Senate infrastructure bill. The reason, besides how long it will take to implement some of its provisions, is that it faces a tough slog getting passed in the House. So-called ‘progressive democrats’ have an entirely different set of priorities, including favoring renewables and hostility to nuclear energy.

That’s where the rubber meets the road and so far funding initiatives in the House have met with a huge spike strip. For instance, the House Appropriations Committee zero’d out funding for the Versatile Test Reactor, a $3-6B+ effort by the administration to build a new test reactor for evaluation of fuels and materials for advanced reactors.

The equation is if there is no test reactor, then there will be no next generation of advanced reactors because testing capabilities for fuels and materials won’t exist.. It’s a strategy to smash the eggs and to then kill the chickens that would come from them and so far it is working. Meanwhile, Russia is building a very similar capability and will continue to eat our lunch when it comes to global market share for nuclear power to address climate change.

The Democrats in the House have a slim majority as it is so a split between moderates and progressives is a problem. Getting bipartisan support there is going to be tougher than in the Senate because around a third of the House members are in republicans in safe seats. They are beholden to the Trump cult of wing nuts in the House (147 members voted against certifying the results of the electoral college) who are bent on stopping any initiative by President Biden that makes him more popular with voters. Recall that then President Trump repeatedly promised Americans an infrastructure program but never delivered one so go figure.

Some kind of infrastructure bill is still likely to emerge from Congress later this year. The House is in its August recess for now and there won’t be any real movement on the bill until after Labor Day. Stay tuned.

House Appropriations Committee Report
– Nuclear Energy Funding

Overall, the House appropriated $1.675 billion for nuclear energy programs. The House committee’s FY 2022 funding recommendations include the following line items; These numbers are based on a review of the legislation by the American Nuclear Society.  House Appropriations (full text) Report

It provides $395 million for the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), a $145 million increase  from 2021. In its report on the bill, the committee directs the DOE to continue to focus ARDP resources on partners capable of project delivery within the next five to seven years and “encourages the department to consider including the Milestone-Based Demonstration Projects approach as authorized in section 9005 of the Energy Act of 2020 for existing ARDP awards.”

TerraPower and X-Energy are the two firms awarded cost-sharing funding under the program. Terrapower plans to build its plant at a site in Wyoming to replace an existing coal power station.  X-Energy has selected a site near the Columbia Generating Station in Washington.

The bill also provides $55 million for the Idaho National Laboratory’s National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) which is $25 million above the 2021 total. The NRIC’s mission is tied to the future construction of the Versatile Test Reactor which makes for a bit of a disconnect in the committee’s thinking.

Another $253 million is provided for reactor concepts R&D, a $45 million increase from 2021. This includes;

  • $145 million for advanced small modular reactor RD&D;
  • $50 million for light water reactor sustainability, with at least $10 million of that going to support new or previously awarded hydrogen demonstration projects; and
  • $58 million for advanced reactor technologies, including $25 million for megawatt-scale reactor R&D—$9 million of which is earmarked for INL’s MARVEL microreactor project.

The legislation also provides up to $5 million for the research and development of an advanced isotope separation process for molten salt reactors (MSRs) “to ensure the ongoing development of the isotope separation process needed to provide required materials for inherently safe Generation IV MSRs, as well as a domestic source of lithium isotopes for nuclear reactors.”

There is a line item for $110 million for accident tolerant fuels, which is a small upward bump of $4.2 million from 2021. The bill recommends at least $10 million for further development of silicon carbide ceramic matrix composite fuel cladding for light water reactors. Also, it includes $50 million to support availability of high-assay low-enriched uranium and other advanced nuclear fuels.

Steady funding of $62.5 million is provided for used nuclear fuel disposition R&D, the same amount as in 2021. This recommendation provides $5 million for advanced reactor used fuel disposition to address used fuel from TRISO-fueled and metal-fueled advanced reactors, with specific focus on near-term implementation challenges, such as used fuel packaging at potential advanced reactor sites.

There is also $600 million for ARPA-E, a $173 million increase from 2021. President Biden  proposed $200 million for the creation of the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Climate (ARPA-C), but the House committee rejected the request and told DOE to user the AERPA-E program for the spending the money.

The bill adds $27.5 million for interim storage of nuclear waste and oversight of the Nuclear Waste Fund, matching the 2021 funding. In the bill’s report, the committee instructs the DOE to move forward with identification of an interim storage facility using a “consent-based approach.”

However, there is $0 for the Versatile Test Reactor project, the 2021 enacted amount for  was $45 million and the 2022 request $145 million.

& & &

NuScale Power Signs MOU With Xcel Energy to Explore Potential Plant Operations

NuScale Power, LLC announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Xcel Energy Inc., an energy utility provider in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and six other states, to explore the feasibility of Xcel Energy serving as an operator of NuScale Plants. Energy Northwest is the designated operator for the NuScale SMR to be built in Idaho for UAMPS, which is a consortium of western states utilities. This designation for Xcel is the second plant operations arrangement announced by NuScale.

nuscale-river-barge-transport-tugboat-smr_thumb_thumb.jpg

NuScale is developing small modular reactors (SMRs) that are considered the next generation of carbon-free nuclear plants. NuScale is seeking an experienced nuclear plant operator to provide potential customers in one or more of the seven states in Xcel’s service area with the operational support needed to generate carbon-free energy using advanced reactor technology.

Under the MOU, the two parties will examine the potential for Xcel Energy to become NuScale’s preferred partner to provide operational power plant services. The MOU does not include a formal operating agreement, but it creates a framework for negotiating definitive agreements for Xcel Energy and NuScale to work together.

NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins said. “This agreement underscores NuScale’s ability to provide our customers not just with technology but also with the world-class operational support needed to ensure that countries, governments, utilities, and customers can provide the clean energy solution our communities need to thrive.”

Pete Gardner, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer, Xcel Energy said, “We’re excited to explore a potential partnership with NuScale that advances the next generation of nuclear energy, a technology that has the potential to provide the reliable, carbon-free electricity needed for a clean energy future.”

For Xcel, any partnership would be unique, putting it on the front lines of a new nuclear technology that could eventually help the company meet its goal of producing carbon-free power by mid-century.

So far NuScale has not announced any formal plans to sell its SMR to a customer in Xcel’s service area or even to Xcel itself. According to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Pete Gardner, Xcel’s chief nuclear officer said this about the agreement.

“It’s early on, but we are going to talk to NuScale about what potential help we could give them. Xcel and NuScale likely will decide by year’s end whether they will go ahead with a partnership,” Gardner said.

Any alliance with NuScale would be run through a separate, market based Xcel company, not through Xcel’s rate-regulated utilities, Gardner said. The company’s service area spans seven states (map below).

xcel energy service areasThe partnership could entail Xcel operating plants that use NuScale’s technology. Alternatively,  Xcel could copyright and sell its (intellectual property) nuclear management model for use at NuScale plants. The latter strategy is more likely unless Xcel decides it wants to expand its nuclear generating capacity with SMRs.

Unlike some other utilities, Xcel has not announced plans to close any of its nuclear reactors. The company has made clear that nuclear power is critical to its goal of having 100 % carbon-free energy by 2050.

“We absolutely think nuclear is going to be a big part of our future going forward,” Gardner said. “Nuclear needs to be in the portfolio. You can’t just have wind and solar.”

& & &

UK Partnership Formed for Molten Salt Reactor Fuel

(WNN contributed to this report) Westinghouse, the UK National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and Terrestrial Energy have announced a partnership in the UK to advance the industrial scale up and commercial supply of enriched uranium fuel (<5% U235) for use in Terrestrial’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR). An agreement between the three entities defines the process for delivering IMSR fuel for commercial use, concurrent with schedules for commercial deployment and operation of IMSR power plants.

TEI-ISMR-HowItWorks-Diagram

Conceptual image of Terrestrial Energy Molten Salt Nuclear Reactor Design and Applications

The agreement is to advance the industrial scale up and commercial supply of enriched uranium fuel for use in Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), a Generation IV advanced nuclear power plant, which is under development.

Westinghouse’s UK facility is a global leader in the supply of uranium fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors. The NNL is the UK’s national laboratory for nuclear fission research and provides critical technical support services to Westinghouse from its research facility.

The IMSR fuel utilizes Standard Assay Low Enriched Uranium (LEU), which over many decades has become the commercial fuel standard. Standard Assay LEU is enriched to up to 5 percent uranium-235, at plants in Germany, the Netherlands, United Kingdom, and United States. Terrestrial Energy’s use of Standard Assay LEU fuel in IMSR operation, the only Generation IV reactor design to do so today, supports its early deployment.

Simon Irish, Chief Executive Officer, Terrestrial Energy, said: “We have designed IMSR to use Standard Assay LEU fuel as it is today’s nuclear fuel standard and is readily available for civilian use. This is a major advantage for early deployment.”

“Terrestrial Energy is working on a multiple sourcing strategy for IMSR fuel supply, and we recognize the world-class fuel expertise and production capabilities at the National Nuclear Laboratory and Westinghouse Springfields. Our agreement is an important step to demonstrate reliable, secure and long-term commercial supply of reactor fuel to utilities operating IMSR power plants.”

“Generation IV technologies represent a broad range of fission technologies, but they share one feature in common: They all operate at high temperature. With that “high-quality” heat, they are capable of step-change improvements in thermal efficiency and economics – something plain enough to see in high school physics. Without that step-change, nuclear power generation will remain in slow decline unless governments can be persuaded to buy new plants.”

“Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR), a Generation IV SMR, operates at 700 degrees C, 375 degrees C hotter than conventional Nuclear technologies. The IMSR delivers high quality heat that drives net thermal efficiency to 44 percent. This is a level of efficiency nearly 50 percent higher than Conventional Nuclear power plants.”

Separately, Irish has published an essay online at his company website about the heat efficiency of IMSR reactors and how it leads to a competitive advantage as well as new revenue sources for customers to acquire them.

Earlier this year, the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opened the country’s Generic Design Assessment (GDA) to advanced nuclear technologies, and also published a policy paper stating that the advanced nuclear sector has the potential to play an important part in the country’s Industrial Strategy. It’s clear that Terrestrial Energy plans to be an applicant for the GDA in the not too distant future. Once approved it opens the door to enter the UK market.

& & &

UK Rolls Out as Role for Nuclear Energy to Produce Hydrogen for its Economy

(WNN) The UK government says nuclear energy will play a significant role in developing a  hydrogen sector to meet the country’s ambition for 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy released its long awaited Hydrogen Strategy this week.

uk h2 strategy

“We have developed the first ever UK Hydrogen Strategy to set out clearly the key steps we need to take in the coming months and years to deliver against the promise that hydrogen presents – an exciting moment for technology providers, energy companies large and small, investors, innovators, and government at all levels,” said Business & Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng in a foreword to the document.

While the document lays out a significant vision for the production of hydrogen with new nuclear reactors, and offshore wind farms, it also contains numerous unverified estimates of new jobs and economic impacts of the plan by 2050. It is not credible to assert these types of claims over a period of several decades for an energy production capacity that hasn’t been built yet. Also, it is one thing to push the technology forward, and hope a market emerges for its output, and entirely another as to whether the market will respond favorably to the product at the price offered by suppliers.

The Hydrogen Strategy outlines how the UK will scale up production and lay the foundations for a low-carbon hydrogen economy by 2030, as well as how government will support innovation and stimulate investment in the 2020s to achieve that end. Overall, the time scale is ambitious and probably will lengthen based on the likely schedule delays that are expected in completing the Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C nuclear plants. Both nuclear power stations include plans for the production of hydrogen via electrolysis once they are in operation.

By 2030, the government says, hydrogen could play a growing role in decarbonizing polluting, energy-intensive industries like chemicals, oil refineries, power and heavy transport like shipping, trucks and trains, by helping these sectors move away from fossil fuels. The use of fuel cells and hybrid vehicles are key elements.

The government says it will work with industry to assess the safety, technical feasibility and cost effectiveness of mixing 20% hydrogen into the existing gas supply for residential and industrial use. This, it says, could deliver a 7% emissions reduction on natural gas. The government will also launch a hydrogen sector development action plan in early-2022 setting out how it will support companies to secure supply chain opportunities, skills and jobs in hydrogen.

A Role for Nuclear Energy

The Energy White Paper, published in December 2020, sets out how the UK will pursue new large-scale nuclear while investing in small-scale nuclear technologies.

This low-carbon electricity will be the primary route to decarbonization for many parts the energy system, and will also support electrolytic production of hydrogen.

“From the 2030s onwards, we may see a wider range of production technologies coming to the market including more hydrogen from nuclear, using heat and power from small modular and advanced modular reactors,” the report says.

Tom Greatrex, Chief Executive of the Nuclear Industry Association, welcomed the recognition by government of the important role nuclear will play.

“The Strategy confirms that nuclear reactors, large, small, current and advanced, have a critical role in producing low-carbon hydrogen,” he said.

“Nuclear is the only source of energy that can produce clean power and clean heat, making it a vital component as we decarbonize sectors beyond electricity.

“The government must now swiftly implement a new financing model for nuclear to cut costs, move forward with Sizewell C, and continue to support the development of modular reactors, to ensure nuclear is part of a strong low-carbon hydrogen mix.”

South Korea Sets Plan to Build a Floating Nuclear Reactor to Produce Green Hydrogen

sk h2According to English language trade press reports in South Korea, a consortium of academic and commercial entities are working on a plan to develop an offshore green hydrogen plant based on a floating production, storage and offloading vessel that houses a nuclear reactor. The plan will combine its output with power from an offshore wind power to produce the hydrogen.

The consortium led by Korea Maritime & Ocean University (KMOU) which also reportedly includes shipbuilder Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME), aims to produce a 1-megawatt pilot plant in 2022 before developing and demonstrating a gigawatt-class plant by 2030.

KMOU will carry out the research, development and demonstration of the project using the university’s patented floating nuclear power system, according to KMOU president Doh Deog-hee.

In partnership with power utility engineering Kepco E&C, DSME, and  KMOU, the consortium developed a floating offshore nuclear power plant based on a small modular reactor named BANDI-60S, which is a block-type pressurized water reactor (200 MWt).

No contracts have yet been signed to begin work. Financing has yet to be arranged and a schedule for implementation is not yet in place. The project is still more or less in the R&D phase. Also, uncertainties need to be resolved as to what the demand will be for the hydrogen produced by the system and the price it will charge to bring it to market.

What the sponsors are betting on are a statement by the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy which said that five Korean conglomerates will invest 43.4 trillion won (US$38 billion) in hydrogen technology by 2030.

The country has released a Green New Deal that aims to triple renewable electricity generation by 2025.

In January 2019, South Korea released its Hydrogen Economy Roadmap that aims to increase the number of fuel cell cars to 79,000 by 2022 and to 5.9 million units by 2040. South Korea is set to invest heavily in hydrogen projects in order to boost the use of the clean fuel in its energy consumption mix.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Two US Nuclear Utilities Order Hydrogen Production Gear

  • Two US Nuclear Utilities Order Hydrogen Production Equipment
  • UK Sizewell C Plant to Produce Hydrogen Synchronized with Renewables
  • Sizewell C / Timeline For Final Decision to Build is Delayed
  • CNSC and NRC Complete First Joint Regulatory Review of X-Energy’s Advanced Reactor Manufacturing Codes
  • X-Energy Expands TRISO-X as a Subsidiary to Commercialize its Advanced Nuclear Fuel
  • Russia’s Arctic SMR Plans Make Progress
  • Moltex, ARC Canada and NB Power Announce New Brunswick SMR Supply Chain Event

Two US Nuclear Utilities Order Hydrogen Production Equipment

hydrogen bubbles

Exelon and First Energy have placed orders having a combined value of $2,6M with Nel Hydrogen, which is HQ’d in Norway, for equipment to make hydrogen for use on site at each plant and to sell surplus hydrogen offsite.

Nel Hydrogen US has a plant in Wallingford, CT, that manufactures the equipment. The hardware is expected to be installed and in operation at both US nuclear reactors in 2022.

Exelon has ordered a 1 MW unit and Energy Harbor (formerly First Energy) has ordered a 2 MW unit. Exelon did not name the reactor, which will be a BWR, where it will install the hydrogen production equipment.

Update 08/19/21: Exelon Generation’s Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant in Oswego, N.Y., will be the site of a Department of Energy-funded hydrogen production demonstration project using a Proton Exchange Membrane electrolyzer in partnership with Nel Hydrogen, the Argonne and Idaho National laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 

Energy Harbor is reported to be planning to install its hydrogen production unit at the Davis-Besse plant, which is a PWR, located near Toledo, OH.

Exelon Generation received a DOE cost-share grant in October 2019 to install a 1-MW scale polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) electrolyzer and supporting infrastructure at one of its nuclear plants. The three-year project’s budget is $7.2 million, with the utility and DOE splitting the cost.

Energy Harbor was selected by DOE in September 2019 for a two-year project. The project is expected to cost $10 million with the utility and DOE splitting the cost. At the ANS 2020 Spring meeting the project manager disclosed the plant, when fully operational, will produce 800-to-1000 kilograms (1 tonne) of hydrogen per day. Assuming 220 days of production this schedule would result in 176-220 tonnes of hydrogen in a production year.

A primary project outcome for both utilities includes the successful operation and control of what will be the first electrolyzer at a nuclear generating plant in the US configured for dynamic dispatch. In addition, the project will demonstrate the economic feasibility of hydrogen production at nuclear sites and provide a blueprint for large scale carbon-free hydrogen export in support of DOE’s H2@Scale program objectives.

The purchase of the equipment is paid for in part from a $9.2M program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) which will split the costs with the utilities. Other US nuclear utilities which are expected to also participate in the program are Xcel Energy and Arizona Public Service.

DOE funding is intended to demonstrate that the hydrogen production process will work with these reactors. The agency said ten nuclear reactors could produce about one-fifth of the current hydrogen used in the United States.  As uses of hydrogen as a fuel increase the growing demand for it could be met by using nuclear reactors to produce it.

Energy Harbor said via a corporate spokesperson that it will operate its electrolyser for six to eight months to determine whether there is a business case to scale up production. “We definitely see hydrogen as an emerging technology and a growing market.”

According to DOE nuclear power plants can produce hydrogen in a variety of methods that would greatly reduce air emissions while taking advantage of the constant thermal energy and electricity it reliably provides.

The production of hydrogen could add a revenue stream for plants that produce it. For instance, reactors in Ohio could sell hydrogen to iron and steel manufacturing plants. The Midwest could target fertilizer producers and California could market hydrogen stations for fuel cells and hybrid vehicles. The development and build out of fueling stations that can be used safely by consumers is a critical success factor.

This new revenue stream could also help build an economic case to keep the nation’s at-risk reactors up and running. If the reactors can produce the hydrogen at a cheaper rate than current methods that use natural gas, then there will be a bonus in terms of less CO2 emissions.

markets for hydrogen

The program, H2@Scale, is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) initiative that brings together stakeholders to advance affordable hydrogen production, transport, storage, and utilization to enable decarbonization and revenue opportunities across multiple sectors.

& & &

UK Sizewell C Plant to Produce Hydrogen Synchronized with Renewables

sizewell c logo

The planned twin 1650 MW EPRs to be built at the Sizewell C site at an estimated cost of $20 billion will be used to produce electricity as baseload power. The reactors will also be used to produce hydrogen when renewable energy sources, especially wind, are adding power to the grid.

According to a report by the Bloomberg wire service, the plan to use the Sizewell C plant to make hydrogen is a first of a kind application at a commercial scale in Europe. The potential market for hydrogen in the EU is huge but there is a wide range of estimates and forecasts some extended to 2050. Overall, the scale of the challenge of decarbonizing multiple industrial sectors of the European economy is still being scoped by experts.

“The amount of clean hydrogen that we’re going to need to really decarbonize our economic sectors is just immense,” said Elina Teplinsky, a Washington-based partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP who focuses on nuclear projects and deals. She told Bloomberg “We need all of the hydrogen production sources that are available — we’re going to need nuclear.”

By using excess electrical generation capacity from the nuclear reactors to make hydrogen during times when the sun shines and the wind blows, nuclear utilities won’t lose revenue to renewable technologies.  This is also important due to the fact that nuclear reactors run at or near 100% of capacity and load following on the grid isn’t an option. By diverting the power generation to making hydrogen the utility can realize the full value of the heat coming from the reactor.

EDF said that it could have the hydrogen production capability in place soon after completing the first of two plants by 2030 if the UK government approves it and if investors can be found to pay for the hydrogen gas production equipment.

Some expert analysts question rosy scenarios for making hydrogen at nuclear plants. Hydrogen production and nuclear energy are capital-intensive industries. Combining the two will only increase project costs, said Rob Gross, professor at Imperial College London and director of researcher UKERC.

He told Bloomberg, “The proposition would take a very expensive thing, a nuclear power station, and add on another expensive thing – hydrogen production.”

“It’s not nuclear versus wind versus solar. We need to use everything and cooperate to make the most of the technologies,” Julia Pyke, Sizewell C’s financing director, said in an interview with Bloomberg. “Ideally, you’d have the electrolyzer supplied both by nuclear and by wind.”

The UK government is reported to be working on a hydrogen strategy but has not yet released details of it. The UK’s National Grid PLC told Bloomberg that on a national basis, assuming other nuclear plants are also built and add hydrogen production to their operations, these plants could supply about 14% of the nation’s need for the gas.

That’s a big assumption since three of the sites planned under the UK new nuclear build have lost their financing and vendors. They are Moorside (3 Westinghouse 1150 MWe AP1000s), and Wylfa & Oldbury ( 2 each Hitachi 1350 MWe ABWRs). The Bradwell site (1000 MWe PWR) is up in the air due to the UK government’s abrupt consideration of a decision to cut China out of the Sizewell C project.

The good news about hydrogen is that when it is burned, the result is water vapor (H2O) and not CO2. So any addition of hydrogen to the energy mix as a replacement for fossil fuels is a plus.

The U.K. has reportedly set a target for ramping up hydrogen production by 2030, and plans to use it in road transportation, home heating, and ship propulsion. Some railroads are also considering replacing their diesel locomotives with units powered by fuel cells.

“The nuclear industry does need to broaden its ambition and recognize the value of these opportunities,” said Kirsty Gogan, managing director of consultant Lucid Catalyst in London and member of a government nuclear advisory board. “We have started to see this happening.”

Update 08/17/21 UK Gov’t Releases Hydrogen Strategy: (WNN) The UK government says nuclear will play a significant role in developing a thriving low-carbon hydrogen sector to meet the country’s ambition for 5GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030. The finding is in the government’s Hydrogen Strategy released today. The report is chock full of unverifiable estimates of the number of jobs that would be created by the strategy.

By 2030, the government says, hydrogen could play an important role in decarbonizing polluting, energy-intensive industries like chemicals, oil refineries, power and heavy transport like shipping, trucks and trains, by helping these sectors move away from fossil fuels.

Hydrogen Cost Scenarios

EDFsays  is optimistic about its plans. The French company intends to install an experimental 2 MW electrolyzer that will produce 800 kg of hydrogen per day. It could increase to 550 MW by 2035 with a daily production of 220,000 kg. EDF expects LCOH of around €2.44/kg (or £1.89/kg) over a 20-year project cycle depending on power price and falling technology costs. A calendar year has 8,960 hours.

Assuming the production of hydrogen runs 50% of the time on average, e.g., night when the sun doesn’t shine thereby eliminating solar produced electricity from the grid, then (800 kg/day x 182 days = 146,000 Kg +/-). The problem with this simple arithmetic is that it doesn’t change downtime for unplanned maintenance and other types of outages that cut into total production.

However, suppose we assume that only a portion of the reactor’s electricity generation is used to produce hydrogen, which is the most likely case? Then all 8,960 hours are available. If total production time, less maintenance and other forms of downtime, is 75%, then that comes to 6,720 hours or 280 days. Thus production would be (280 days x 800 kg/day = 224,000 Kg of hydrogen per year).

The IEA’s ‘the future of hydrogen’ report in 2019 shows that the levelized cost of hydrogen (LCOH) is strongly dependent on the number of hours it runs. Hydrogen could be produced with LCOH of more than $4 per kg if the electrolyzer would be running for 500 hours/year. That would drop to $0.50/kg if it was used for 8,000 hours/year. Assuming price moves in a linear manner with number of hours of operation, then 75% of production days yields of $1/kg. This figure only tells us the cost of production and not the price charged to customers which includes the cost of distribution such as fueling stations, marketing, overhead, etc.

In terms of applying this to the transport sector, the question is for a fuel cell powered train, what is the price differential per mile between diesel fuel and hydrogen (fuel) cell for the same locomotive and number of cars (freight or passenger)? These kinds of analyses might be more useful than just throwing out undifferentiated price figures.

& & &

Sizewell C / Timeline For Final Decision to Build is Delayed

delay

(NucNet contributed to this report) The timeline for EDF to decide whether to go ahead with the £20bn Sizewell C nuclear power station has been delayed because of a lengthy planning approval process and continuing negotiations over funding it.

The UK government has not committed to a funding plan for the project and the overall approval for the plant is mired in the maddening minutiae of the multiple agencies having jurisdiction over the the project. A key dispute that arose this week is that EDF wants to process sea water into fresh water for making concrete at the plant which has created issues for the local water authority.

As a result of a virtual maelstrom of bureaucratic conflicts, including changes to the project requested by EDF, the firm now says that breaking ground for the plant could take place as late as 2023 with completion of the first plant as late as the end of this decade. The twin 1650 MWe EPRs will be built in a serial manner as one module is completed on the first unit, crews will then move to the second plant.

EDF’s track record in building EPRs with plants in Finland and France is not a confidence builder these dates can be met. For its part, EDF says it will apply lessons learned from these sites, and from building the Hinkley C plants (twin EPRs) to keep costs under control and schedules on time.

To RAB It or not That is the Question?

Earlier this month the Financial Times reported that UK ministers were in the process of drawing up legislation that will allow the construction of the two Sizewell C units through a regulated asset base (RAB) financing method. The government has dithered for several years over a policy decision to process with the RAB method. If the UK parliament can move the bill forward, it will be a big milestone for the Sizewell C project.

The RAB model encourages investment in major infrastructure projects by delivering reliable returns, at a reduced rate, before a plant is operational. This reduces the need for large-scale, long-term borrowing at high interest rates, which significantly increases the cost of power.

The RAB approach is widely used internationally and has attracted investors for the construction of UK infrastructure projects including the Thames Tideway Tunnel and the Heathrow Terminal 5.

The financial plan for the project is in flux as the UK government is considering ejecting China General Nuclear (CGN), which has offered a 20% equity investment to help pay for it. The UK government recently got what it says is a case of national security jitters over China. It has since also filed objections to China’s internal handling of dissent in Hong Kong and its harsh dealings with a Muslim minority population.

Excluding China from Sizewell?

The move to exclude CGN from the consortium planning to build Sizewell C, as well as from the planned Bradwell project in Essex will seriously annoy China which had hopes of building the first instance of its Hualong One 1000MWe PWR at the UK Bradwell site. The UK government has already booted a Chinese telecommunications firms from bidding on 5G wireless services for the UK. The result is that diplomatic relations between the two countries are in a downturn.

For its part China’s foreign ministry issued a somewhat oblique statement that the decision to remove CGN from the Sizewell C project is not in the interests of both nations. CGN has been banking on building at Bradwell as it would be the first export of the Hualong One to a western industrialized nation.

China has built two of the reactors for Pakistan. According to the World Nuclear Association, on the domestic side China as extensive commitments to the design. The Hualong first units are Fangchenggang 3&4 (CGN) and Fuqing 5&6 (CNNC). CGN will also build two units as Ningde 5&6.

What is this all means is that the UK objection to the Hualong One has nothing to do with China’s ability to build one and everything to do with EDF’s financial challenges made complicated by the UK government’s notorious procrastination over the policy it will have to finance Sizewell C and the rest of its nuclear new build.

Also, Rolls-Royce, which is planning to build, with UK government financial help, a fleet of 16 470 MWe PWRs, has no interest in seeing China take some of that market share at Bradwell with one and possibly three Hulaong One plants. It’s quite likely the UK government is hearing from the defense contractor on this issue.

EDF’s Financial Stake in Sizewell C

Underneath it all is a statement by EDF that the French state-owned nuclear firm wants out of being the majority equity holder for Sizewell. It currently is on the hook for 80% of the cost estimated to be in the area of $20 billion.

If China is removed as a 20% equity investor, then other western investors, including some from the US, might come to the table. There is a second big “if” here, and that is whether the UK government will implement the RAB method of financing the project. It is somewhat of a concept twin to the CWIP method here in the US.

If EDF can succeed in kicking out out China, and welcoming western institutional investors, it will need to secure $10 billion in new money to reduce its equity stake to 50% of the estimated costs of completing the two reactors.

& & &

CNSC and NRC Complete First Joint Regulatory Review of X-Energy’s Advanced Reactor Manufacturing Codes

(WNN) Nuclear safety regulators in Canada and the US have completed their first collaborative project on licensing of SMRs. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have issued a joint report to provide feedback to X-energy on the manufacturing codes it proposes to use in both countries for the reactor pressure vessel of its Xe-100 design. The report marks the first tangible result of a program of cooperation the CNSC and NRC entered into in August 2019. ~ 14 page report (PDF file)

In this first project, the regulators worked together to assess a white paper submitted to them by X-energy in July 2020. It concerned the construction codes the company would like to use for the reactor pressure vessel of its Xe-100 high temperature reactor design.

The CNSC and NRC jointly concluded this approach is “viable” provided X-energy includes certain “additional technical justification” as requested in the report and “addresses both regulators’ observations” in the document. The CNSC emphasized that this is “informal” feedback which “does not result in any regulatory decision making.”

About the Xe-100

The Xe-100 is an 80 MWe high temperature gas-cooled reactor to be built in packs of up to four. It is undergoing vendor design review with the CNSC, and is participating in the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP).

Xe-100 is proposed for construction at both Energy Northwest’s Columbia power plant in Washington state via the DOE ARDP and at Ontario Power Generation’s Darlington power plant based on funding from the utility and the Canadian government.

xe-100

In general, the cooperation agreement between the two agencies has allowed the CNSC and the NRC to take into account the results and insights produced by each others’ technical reviews of reactor designs, without prejudicing any decisions they might make as independent licensing authorities in their respective countries.

CNSC president Rumina Velshi said: “Globally, interest and advances in small modular and advanced reactors are growing rapidly. The CNSC and the US NRC are working together as regulatory leaders to ensure the development and deployment of these innovative technologies are done safely and efficiently.”

& & &

X-Energy Expands TRISO-X as a Subsidiary to Commercialize its Advanced Nuclear Fuel

X-energy announced it will expand its fuel division as a wholly owned subsidiary called TRISO-X to commercially develop its proprietary tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel for the burgeoning advanced nuclear energy sector. Dr. Pete Pappano, X-energy’s Vice President of fuel production, will lead the new company as its President.

The new company takes its name from the TRISO nuclear fuel developed by X-energy for its flagship Xe-100 reactor, but the fuel is compatible with a variety of other advanced reactor designs under development.

Since joining X-energy in 2015, Dr. Pappano has been instrumental in standing up the company’s ability to produce advanced nuclear fuel at a commercial scale. As the leader of X-energy’s ARC15 project, a five-year program funded by the Department of Energy, Dr. Pappano established a commercial-scale fuel line at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which has demonstrated the company’s patented TRISO fabrication process leading to higher yields and higher quality fuel.

“After years of seeing the incredible results from our partnership with Oak Ridge, I’m thrilled to embark on this next chapter in the development of X-energy’s advanced fuel program,” said Dr. Pappano.

TRISO-X is also advancing its plans for a second fuel fabrication facility in Canada to serve the Canadian market. The Xe-100 design is under consideration by Ontario Power Generation for the Darlington New Nuclear Projec. X-energy is currently engaged in design and engineering work with the utility. At the same time, X-energy is engaged with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s optional Pre-Licensing Vendor Design Review.

About the Fuel

X-energy’s TRISO-X fuel consists of kernels of high-assay low-enriched uranium the size of a poppy seed wrapped in three alternating layers of pyrolytic carbon and silicon carbide. More than 18,000 of TRISO-X particles are embedded in a graphite fuel pebble, making the fuel “meltdown proof.” These fuel pebbles are loaded into Xe-100 reactor modules and together are capable of producing 320 MWe in the standard four-pack Xe-100 plant configuration.

x-energy triso fuel

“TRISO-X is key to the safety of advanced nuclear reactors,” says Dr. Brandon Blamer, Pebble Lead & Process Engineering Manager.

“Each TRISO-X particle carries its own containment vessel and is made from materials that will never melt. This fuel is unlike anything used in American reactors today and is going to revolutionize the nuclear industry.”

“TRISO-X fuel is small, but mighty,” said Dr. Dan Brown, TRISO Fuel Fabrication Manager. “We’ve built on decades of research to create a safe, clean, and efficient fuel that is ready to power the next generation of nuclear reactors.”

TRISO fuel has undergone extensive testing as part of the DOE Advanced Gas Reactor (AGR) fuel qualification program. Thousands of TRISO particles were exposed to temperatures approaching 1800C and held there for ~12 days, well above what would ever be seen in an advanced nuclear reactor, and no failed particles were observed.

& & &

Russia’s Arctic SMR Plans Make Progress

(WNN) Rusatom Overseas has been licensed to construct Russia’s first SMR power plant on land. The plant, based on the RITM-200 reactor design, is scheduled to operate in the Russian Arctic town of Usk-Kuyga by 2028.

“We have reached another milestone in the project for the construction of a nuclear power plant in Yakutia region” said Oleg Sirazetdinov, vice president of Rusatom Overseas.

Usk-Kuyga is a town of around 1000 inhabitants on the Arctic coast of Russia’s far east in the Republic of Yakutia. The regional government has agreed to take up to 50 MWe of the plant’s production.

RITM reactors are family of pressurized water reactors designed by OKBM Afrikantov which are usually used in pairs.

Versions of the design are already used in three of the latest icebreakers – Arktika, Sibir and Ural – and are proposed for floating nuclear power plants. Construction in Usk-Kuyga will be the first deployment of the version adapted for use on land.

& & &

Moltex, ARC Canada and NB Power Announce New Brunswick SMR Supply Chain Event

moltex logo

A New Brunswick Small Modular Reactor (SMR) supply chain event will be held in Uptown Saint John on Wednesday October 28 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. Check COVID health advisories ahead of time.

The event will focus on how suppliers from Atlantic Canada can participate in the advanced SMR opportunity. Representatives from Moltex, ARC Canada, NB Power, the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, First Nations Power Authority, and the Canadian and New Brunswick governments will provide updates on the projects and supplier opportunities.

Specific attention will be given to how participants can be involved in the supply chain, through facilitated breakout sessions and opportunities to engage with the vendors.

Contact: Moltex 75 Prince William Street, Unit 102, Saint John, New Brunswick, E2L 2B2
Erin Polka, Director of Communications, 506-721-9551 erinpolka@moltexenergy.com

Background on the Supply Chain Event

Earlier this year, several funding announcements were made in support of this development. In February, the Government of New Brunswick announced $20 million in funding for ARC Canada towards the advancement of their design of the ARC-100, a 100-megawatt sodium-cooled fast reactor.

Further, in March, the Government of Canada announced $50.5 million in funding for Moltex through the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) towards the advancement of their design of a 300 MWe Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W) and WAste To Stable Salt (WATSS) facility.

The Government of Canada also announced funding for New Brunswick Power (NB Power) to prepare the site at the Point Lepreau location for SMR deployment and demonstration, and to the University of

NB Power selected the Moltex Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W) as one of two reactors it intends to build at the Point Lepreau site.

Having completed the submission to Vendor Design Review phase 1 (VDR1) with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, Moltex will soon move on to VDR2 and then to the application for the necessary licences.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

Rolls-Royce 1st Round of Financing to Develop 470 MWe PWR

  • UK / Rolls-Royce ‘Has Secured Investment’ For World’s First SMR Production Line
  • House Appropriations Sets Zero Funding for Versatile Test Reactor
  • Idaho Lab Study of Microreactors Sees a Future for Them
  • New Report Finds Nuclear Energy Could Play A Key Role Decarbonizing the Global Marine Shipping Sector
  • Bipartisan Effort Tries Again for American Nuclear Infrastructure Act
  • Bipartisan Bill to Bolster Nuclear Science and Engineering Programs at American Universities

UK / Rolls-Royce Secures Investment For Its Reactor Production Line

(NucNet contributed to this report) UK nuclear engineering company Rolls-Royce has secured investment to build the world’s first production line for its mid-range reactor with a consortium it leads securing £210M for the project.

rollsroycesmrgraphic_thumb

The company also said planning to submit of its 470 MWe PWR design to the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) later this year. The arduous and expensive process can take up to four years depending on the quality of the submission and the questions asked by ONR. Regardless, it will be the first reactor design submitted to the agency in recent years that isn’t a full size, e.g., greater than 1000 MWe, reactor. Because of its size, the Rolls-Royve unit is larger than the IAEA threshold for small modular reactors (SMRs) which is 300 MWe.

reactor sizes

The Rolls-Royce consortium has been working with its partners and the UK government to secure a funding commitment for a fleet of 16 factory-built SMRs, each providing at least 470 MW of electricity, to be operational by the end of the 2030s for all 16.

Rolls-Royce is reported to be seeking to have the mid-range PWR design to be assessed by regulators in the second half of 2021, which would keep it on track to complete its first unit in the early 2030s and progress towards completing 10 units by 2035. The firm has not yet firmed up its site selection process and some communities, including Wylfa and Oldbury, are already pitching their communities as sites for the one or more of the reactors.

If the entire fleet is built, the combined electricity generated by all of the units would be equivalent to the now moribund Wylfa and Oldbury projects whos prospects for construction were ended by the inability of the UK government to come to terms with Japan’s Hitachi over the financing of the projects.

According to several media report  said the consortium led by Rolls-Royce has secured at least £210m needed to unlock a matching amount of taxpayer funding. The firm said that it is in talks with other investors who specialize in energy project for possible additional infusions of capital.

The firm is expected to seek additional cost shared funding from the UK government to cover the costs of the ONR review and to lessen the impact on investors of the regulatory process.

State support for SMRs was revealed in prime minister’s Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution released in the autumn.The plans included investing £525m to help develop large and smaller-scale nuclear plants, and research and develop new advanced modular reactors.

According to earlier reports, in May, Rolls-Royce said it had increased the SMR plant’s power from 440 MW to 470 MW. The cost of each plant will initially be about £2.2bn per unit dropping to £1.8bn by the time five have been completed.

The cost to build a single 470 MWe plan, at an estimated price for a FOAK unit of $4,000/Kw is about $1.9 billion. A customer commitment to pay for it is a key success factor in making the decision to break ground.

Rolls-Royce is leading a consortium for its project, which comprises Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear AMRC, Rolls-Royce, Wood and The Welding Institute.

& & &

House Appropriations Sets Zero Funding for Versatile Test Reactor

vtrlogoWithout any comment or relevant text, the House Appropriations Committee provided no funding in FY2022 for the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR).

However, there were significant increases for other DOE advanced nuclear reactor programs. The ANS Wire has a good summary.  The vote to zero out funding follows an earlier and preliminary mark-up that provided less than 25% of the requested funding for 2022 or about $65M. American Nuclear Society Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer Craig Piercy offered the following statement on the bill:

“While we are disappointed no funding was included for the Versatile Test Reactor, we recognize the overall funding challenges the committee faces. We urge congressional leaders to take a closer look at the VTR as the process moves forward. Domestic fast-spectrum research irradiation capacity is critical to maintaining the U.S. nuclear infrastructure and enabling innovation and global leadership on safety and nonproliferation norms.”

See also ANS Newswire: Setting the Record Straight on the Versatile Test Reactor

It isn’t clear yet what happened in the two week between the first mark and the final report, but the effect, if carried through to final legislation, is a crisis for the program that could end it.

Omnibus Bills May Be a Path to Restore Funding

DOE’s efforts to try to restore the funding on the floor via an amendment will have to wait as the House is now in its August recess. Given the partisan divides in the House and the Senate, it is likely that the government will yet again be put on a continuing resolution in September with an omnibus funding bill for the government crossing the finish line sometime in late December.

That actually might be an advantage for the VTR program as these omnibus bills have a way of being like a train leaving the station with most of the passengers being in coach without personalized tickets.

Omnibus bills often have thousands of pages and the only people familiar with the details are analysts at OMB and CBO.  The result is that  feeding frenzies erupts on the floors of the House and Senate that produces all kinds of last minute “make goods” and other special pleadings by members of congress that put money back in the bill that was taken out by committee appropriations actions.

So What Happened?

The Union of Concerned Scientists ran a victory lap celebrating the zero funding via an article published in the conservative daily The Hill.  The guest article by the Union of Concerned Scientists’ (UCS) arch druid of anti-nuclear advocacy Ed Lyman spared nothing in its rhetorical dismemberment of the VTR program. He claimed the project “would be obsolete” before it was completed and that it would be subject to cost increases beyond its estimated $6B cost.

The article is wrong on both counts as the VTR is based on the PRISM reactor design which has a technical legacy built on decades of engineering effort including the Integral Fast Reactor. Also, the estimated cost is in the range of $3-6 billion. Lyman cherry picked the high end of the estimated cost range for his article.

Defenders of the VTR Present their Case

In the National Interest web site two long-time nuclear energy experts mounted a defense of the VTR.  Thomas Graham Jr. and Richard W. Mies wrote that the Versatile Test Reactor is crucial for U.S. global leadership in nuclear energy. They said the
US has an opportunity by completing the VTR to regain its leadership role in nuclear reactor designs and fuel.

They also pointed out that the Russians are building their own version of an advanced test reactor which if completed will put them ahead of the the US. It would help Russia commercialize its next-generation nuclear technologies faster and provide the capability for long term innovation.

Ambassador (ret.) Thomas Graham, Jr. (@tgrahamjr) is former General Counsel and Acting Director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. Admiral (ret.) Richard W. Mies served as the fourth Commander-In-Chief of US Strategic Command.

See prior coverage on this blog:  Update on Russian Fast Reactor Projects

In the meantime Kathryn Huff, the Department of Energy’s acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy, asserted in an article published online by the Office of Nuclear Energy (DOE-NE) on July 30 that demonstration reactors, such as the Natrium and XE-100 reactors being built as full-size power producers with cost-shared funding from the DOE, and test reactors, such as the Versatile Test Reactor, are both necessary for nuclear innovation.

Both are also line items in the DOE budget request, and Huff’s article sends a clear message to congress about the need to fund both the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) and the VTR.

The VTR is proposed to be an anchor facility for the Idaho National Laboratory which is intended to support its nuclear energy R&D mission for decades into the future. It is paired with the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) to guide R&D work there with the VTR as a platform for this work.

A Few FAQ on the VTR

What is a test reactor? What will VTR do?

Test reactors are scientific research tools. They provide intense neutron fluxes that are used to simulate prototypical conditions or conduct accelerated neutron damage irradiation studies. Real-time measurements and subsequent post-irradiation examination techniques provide valuable information on how fuels, materials, components and instrumentation withstand the extreme conditions inside nuclear power plants and even future fusion reactors. This enables scientists and engineers to design safer, longer-lasting and more efficient fuels, materials and components for nuclear energy systems.  (DOE Fact Sheet)

vtr timeline

Why would/should the government invest in research infrastructure?

The federal government has long invested in large-scale scientific research infrastructure that universities could not afford to support innovation and technology development and help ensure U.S. leadership in science and engineering. Researchers from universities, industry and government agencies can access these capabilities, which support scientific discovery and the development of revolutionary new technologies.

nrts-evolution

Why is U.S. leadership in nuclear energy important?

The U.S. has long been a leader in not only the research and development of nuclear energy technologies but also in the licensing, safety procedures, operations and security of nuclear power plants.

vtr and ardp

Because of that, many other countries have based their nuclear operations and regulations on what we do in the U.S. This has led to safer, more efficient operations of commercial nuclear power reactors around the world. Also, when other countries import and deploy U.S. nuclear energy technologies, a long-term strategic partnership is established with those countries for many decades to come.

New scientific facilities such as VTR will enable the U.S. to modernize its nuclear energy research and development  infrastructure and retain its leadership role.

& & &

Idaho Lab Study of Microreactors Sees a Future for Them

(WNN contributed to this report) The deployment of microreactors in the short-to-medium term could support energy markets not available to large nuclear plants, but some significant challenges must be overcome for them to capture new market shares. In the longer term, they will be able to contribute to decarbonization efforts. A new report by a team of nuclear reactor experts at the Idaho National Laboratory says that island nations are especially in need of mini-reactors with electrical generating capacity of 1-20 MWe.

Microreactors are a subset of small modular reactors (SMRs) of 1-20 MWe capacity – sometimes referred to as “nuclear batteries” – and include light-water reactors, molten salt reactors, gas-cooled reactors, metal-cooled fast reactors and heat pipe reactors.

The report, “Global Market Analysis of Microreactors,” focuses on future global microreactor markets and the potential for microreactors, assessing their unique capabilities and potential deployment in specific global markets in the 2030-2050 timeframe,

micro reactore

The 147-page study is a summary of work on the economics and market opportunities for microreactors conducted under the DOE’s Microreactor Program. It uses “top-down” and “bottom-up” analysis techniques to evaluate emerging market trends, derive a range of possible demands and rank potential markets in 63 countries including current nuclear energy users and so-called newcomer countries.

The report references studies of potential applications for microreactors in Alaska, Puerto Rico and US federal facilities carried out under the program during 2019-2021.

Predictions

In the short to medium term, or by 2030, initial deployments of micro-reactors have the potential to gain market share in North American and Western Europe. In a longer time frame, 2035-2050, nuclear reactors in this size range could gain market share in Eastern Europe and Asia as well as other developing nations. A lot depends on vendors being able to produce these reactors, regardless of design, in large numbers at a cost competitive price.

Another application area is for micro-grids that are not connected to regional electricity networks such as remove areas or for urban communities that want the resilience of their own power. Additional applications include replacing diesel generators in remote areas, especially island nations, and in large bulk carrying ships.

Challenges

Despite a robust portfolio of opportunities, the future is also fraught with challenges according the report.

“Results indicate significant challenges in achieving the technical capacities, meeting regulatory requirements and international accords, achieving competitive costs and for gaining public acceptance.”

The use of micro-reactors in off-the-grid applications for remote or semi-autonomous applications will require additional safety reviews for cybersecurity and physical security risks.  Before any of these risks are assess, the most fundamental challenge will be whether production beyond the first few FOAK will produce economies of scale.

“Consideration of costs beyond the demonstration units is necessary to insure producibility and scalability for factory deployment.”

Because of their small size, the report emphasizes that volume overall in terms of manufactured units is a key to gaining market share. Whether this is a realistic expectation is a big unknown, but the report lays out the startling numbers that are going to be needed to make a difference.

Build rates in the hundreds of units by 2040 and in the thousands by 2050 would be needed to attain market penetration at scale and to fill “gaps” in the replacement of fossil sources. The range of applications runs the gamut from generation of electricity to process heat for desalination, and for district heating. The units can also be used to provide baseload power for micro grids that use renewable power from solar and wind systems.

Key questions that remain to be answered include the transport of microreactors to the sites and their fuel types. Disposition of spent nuclear fuel will also be an issue for customers.

The one thing micro-reactors won’t do is to compete with large central systems powered by full size reactors in the power range of 1000 MWe or greater.

“In basic market terms, for microreactors to achieve deep penetration in markets will require achieving specific aggressive cost targets; however, they will not compete with centralized energy sources,” the report says.

& & &

New Report Finds Nuclear Energy Could Play A Key Role Decarbonizing the Global Marine Shipping Sector

A new report from Clean Air Task Force (CATF) finds that nuclear-derived zero-carbon fuels could play a key role in decarbonizing the global marine shipping sector, and offers clear policy recommendations for how the U.S. could lead the global transition away from high-polluting shipping fuels.

ship docked“The global marine shipping emissions are dangerously high and getting higher, and we absolutely must decarbonize the sector in order to combat climate change,” said CATF Transportation Director Jonathan Lewis.

“That will require a sector-wide transition from conventional fuels to zero-carbon fuels like hydrogen and ammonia. To do so, we need to use all the tools at our disposal for making zero-carbon fuel, including one technology that has an unmatched track record of rapid scale-up when policy and private sector incentives are aligned: nuclear energy.“

The report, ‘Bridging the Gap: How Nuclear-Derived Zero-Carbon Fuels Can Help Decarbonize Marine Shipping,’ evaluated the technical implications of using nuclear energy to produce zero-carbon fuels to power the shipping sector, and found that nuclear energy has certain distinct strengths in this space, including:

Nuclear power plants already use hydrogen in their daily operations, and are well positioned  to explore hydrogen production for on-site demand in the shipping sector.

  • Nuclear energy is historically fast-scaling, positioning it to quickly produce the energy needed  to produce zero-carbon fuels.
  • Nuclear energy is dense, meaning it can generate large amounts of energy without consuming  as many resources or taking up as much space as other energy generating sources, which pairs  well with the global shipping sector’s reliance on a small number of concentrated fueling hubs.
  • Nuclear energy is a firm power source that is always available, allowing high utilization rates  for electrolysis and other fuel synthesis equipment, and can provide high temperature steam to support efficient fuels production.

Much of the existing nuclear energy fleet in the U.S. is accessible by coastal and navigable waterways.

The report also evaluates the U.S.’s positioning to potentially lead the transition to a decarbonized global shipping sector powered by nuclear-derived zero-carbon-fuels. It found that the U.S. had a major opportunity to drive innovation and seize the opportunity embedded in this transition, in part, by:

  • Increasing funding and tax credits to promote zero-carbon fuel production and nuclear  derived zero-carbon fuel production
  • Directing relevant agencies to explore and support the use of zero carbon fuels
    – Extending zero-carbon or low-carbon fuel standards
    – Promoting technology inclusivity in policies supporting hydrogen-based zero-carbon fuels.

“Nuclear energy is the largest source of carbon-free generation in the U.S., and this new report finds it could unlock the vast potential for zero-carbon fuels in order to decarbonize the global shipping sector,” said Brett Rampal, Director of Nuclear Innovation at Clean Air Task Force.

“That won’t happen on its own, however. Federal support for both nuclear energy and zero-carbon fuels is crucial to seizing this opportunity – and it’s one that could pay dividends for the U.S. economy as the world commits to net-zero emissions shipping.”

In 2018, the international shipping industry accounted for 2.6% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions which is higher than the international aviation sector. The sector is projected to grow significantly, and if it continues to rely primarily on fossil fuels, its sector-wide emissions are on pace to triple by 2050.

& & &

Bipartisan Effort Tries Again for American Nuclear Infrastructure Act

A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators has re-introduced the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA). it’s purpose is to , improve the nation’s nuclear infrastructure and supply chain, growing the economy, creating jobs, reducing carbon emissions, and strengthening U.S. energy and national security.

The bill was re-introduced by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ranking Member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, along with Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), John Barrasso (R-WY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Mike Crapo (R-ID).

This is the second try to gain passage of the bill which was introduced late in November 2020 but no action was taken that moved it significantly towards passage. A senate hearing on the general objectives of the bill was held in August 2020.

The bill has five main sections.

  • International provisions to support U.S. competitiveness and global leadership,
    support for US advanced reactor efforts,
  • Supporting for the existing fleet,
  • Spinning up the the nuclear supply chain infrastructure and workforce, and
  • Nuclear cleanup and waste management.

Section-by-section plain English summary

Key provisions include;

  • Reestablish American international competitiveness and global leadership;

ANIA empowers the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to lead a consensus-building process in international forums to establish regulations for advanced nuclear reactor designs.

ANIA provides the NRC authority to deny imports of Russian nuclear fuel on national security grounds.

  • Expand nuclear energy through advanced nuclear technologies;

ANIA creates a prize to incentivize the successful licensing process of next generation nuclear technologies and fuels.

ANIA requires the NRC to identify and resolve regulatory barriers to enable advanced nuclear technologies to reduce industrial emissions.

  • Preserve existing nuclear energy; and

ANIA authorizes a targeted credit program to preserve nuclear plants at risk of prematurely shutting down.

  • ANIA modernizes outdated rules that restrict investment in nuclear energy.
  • Revitalize America’s nuclear supply chain infrastructure.

ANIA identifies modern manufacturing techniques to build nuclear reactors better, faster, cheaper, and smarter.

US infrastructure bill sends a positive signal for nuclear, says NIA

Nuclear Innovation Alliance Executive Director Judi Greenwald issued the following statement on the introduction of the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA) yesterday by Senators Capito, Whitehouse, Barasso, Booker, and Crapo:

“Introduction of the American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA) sends a strong signal about continuing bipartisan support for advanced nuclear energy innovation. ANIA provides a licensing prize to reimburse licensing fees for new reactors, consistent with the Nuclear Innovation Alliance’s (NIA’s) recent report on how to reform fees to catalyze nuclear innovation.

The bill also modifies restrictions in the Atomic Energy Act on foreign investment in the United States, enabling U.S. allies to fully invest in American innovation, consistent with past NIA recommendations.

We are encouraged to see continued support for this next step in enabling the development, demonstration and deployment of advanced reactors in the coming decades. When enacted, this clear direction from Congress will ensure the U.S. energy industry can develop the technologies necessary to mid-century climate goals while also creating new jobs and boosting economic development in communities across the country. We look forward to working with the congressional sponsors to help marshal the support needed to enact this vital legislation.”

& & &

Bipartisan Bill to Bolster Nuclear Science and Engineering Programs at American Universities

U.S. Representatives Anthony Gonzalez (OH-16), Sean Casten (IL-06), Peter Meijer (MI-03), and Bill Foster (IL-11) introduced the National Nuclear University Research Infrastructure Reinvestment Act of 2021, a bill designed to enhance the educational and research capabilities of nuclear science and engineering programs, meet the workforce needs of the U.S. nuclear industry, and accelerate the development of advanced nuclear technologies in the U.S.

“As our country shifts towards a 21st Century grid, nuclear science and engineering programs will play a key role in advancing the next generation of reactors and developing a diverse workforce to operate them,” said Rep. Gonzalez.

“I am excited to introduce this bipartisan bill that will support our young scientists and engineers, advance the research and development of advanced nuclear technologies, and restore U.S. leadership in nuclear energy.”

The bill would revitalize America’s nuclear science and engineering programs by providing universities the resources to upgrade their existing infrastructure and establish regional or sub regional consortia that promote collaboration with industry and Department of Energy (DOE) national labs.

It would also require DOE to stand up a program that establishes no more than four new major nuclear science and engineering facilities at U.S. universities. These facilities would focus their efforts on demonstrating various advanced and micronuclear reactor concepts, medical isotope production reactors, and other critical research infrastructure.

To attract and educate a more diverse workforce, the facilities would be set up in a partnership framework between the host university and collaborating universities – including historically black colleges and universities, minority serving institutions, and community colleges.

Statements of Support for the Bill

Bill Sponsors

“Nuclear science and engineering is vital to our country, and is important for both energy and medical needs,” Rep. Casten said. “I am proud to support a bipartisan bill that will create opportunities for a new generation of nuclear engineers and scientists while diversifying our nuclear workforce.”

“Nuclear energy plays a critical role in our energy future and must be a component of any discussion surrounding how we respond to climate change,” said Rep. Meijer.

“It is imperative that we invest in and empower the best and brightest of the next generation to ensure we have a workforce that is equipped to lead the world in the nuclear industry. I am proud to join this bipartisan effort.”

“Scientific research and development offers one of the highest return-on-investments our nation can get,” said Rep. Foster.

“Advanced nuclear energy has the potential to be a key tool in meeting the country’s decarbonization and net-zero clean energy goals, and it is critical to ensure that our universities have the research infrastructure support to be able to investigate these technologies fully.”

University Support

* Raymond Cao Director of the Nuclear Engineering Program and Nuclear Reactor Laboratory The Ohio State University

“Upgrading research reactors, enhancing engineering facilities, and establishing university consortiums will greatly enhance our nation’s nuclear science and engineering capabilities. The Ohio State University operates the only research reactor in the state of Ohio, and this bill will help us expand our research capabilities to meet the demands of advanced nuclear energy systems and support the workforce needs critical to maintaining U.S. leadership in nuclear science and engineering. I thank the Congressman for his leadership on this critically important issue.”

* Todd Allen, Glenn F. and Gladys H. Knoll Department Chair of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, University of Michigan

“The Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO) and The National Organization of Test, Research, and Training Reactors (TRTR) strongly support the introduction of H.R. 4819 – the National Nuclear University Research Infrastructure Reinvestment Act of 2021. At a time when a next generation of nuclear energy is needed to meet the nation’s clean energy and jobs goals, revitalizing the nation’s university-based research and educational infrastructure is critical to deploying advanced nuclear technology, advancing the probability of deployment, and attracting the nation’s best minds.”

Nuclear Innovation Alliance

“The Nuclear Innovation Alliance is excited to support the proposed National Nuclear University Research Reinvestment Act. Our universities are the foundation of American leadership in technology and innovation, and the proposed legislation would build on that legacy. This bill would not only strengthen institutional capabilities.  It would also invest in a new generation of nuclear energy researchers from diverse backgrounds, unleashing a new wave of nuclear innovation.”- Judi Greenwald Executive Director Nuclear Innovation Alliance

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

New Book on Fusion – Startups are Closing in on Star Power

  • Build a Star, Save a Planet; New Book on Fusion – The Star Builders by Arthur Turrell
  • Interview Q&A with the Author: What will it take for these startups to achieve commercial success?

The most important energy-making process in the universe takes place inside stars. The ability to duplicate that process in a lab, and to translate that bench scale result into a commercial success, once thought to be 50 years in the future, more or less out of reach, may now be much closer due to the efforts of a cadre of competitive nuclear fusion startups in the U.S,, the U.K. and elsewhere including China.

fusion i,age

According to a new book about nuclear fusion, the possibility of a scientific breakthrough for it, with the prospect of commercialization, is coming faster than we think. There’s a big “but” in that forecast because, according to the author, the U.S. for already falling behind China in the development of this technology. Net energy gain is the objective which is that the fusion reactor puts out more energy than is put into it and can be sustained over long periods of time. Who gets there first is what the race for mastery is all about.

starbuilders book coverArthur Turrell, who has a PhD in plasma physics from Imperial College London, has published a new book released August 3rd, titled, THE STAR BUILDERS: Nuclear Fusion and the Race to Power the PlanetSimon & Shuster  ISBN13: 9781982130664

Turrell’s book introduces readers to the teams of scientists and engineers working to cross the commercial finish line and, as far as they are concerned, the sooner the better.  The book isn’t a cheerleading puff piece. It includes interviews with some of the leading subject matter experts in the field.

For decades the line about fusion has been that it is still “50 years in the future.” Not any more writes Turell who equates the pace of progress for some of the fusion technologies coming off the drawing boards to the startling and very rapid progress made in the past year in creating and deploying COVID vaccines. Progress comes at you fast either way.

According to Turrell, artificial intelligence and breakthroughs in machine learning are key enabling methods that are bringing nuclear fusion closer to achieving net energy gain. This kind of computing power is important for managing the processes to be controlled in the complex machines being built.

And those who are already positioning themselves to capitalize on these new developments aren’t small-time either: Jeff Bezos, Peter Thiel, Lockheed Martin, Goldman Sachs, and Chevron have been linked to fusion schemes. (See “5 Big Ideas for Making Fusion a Reality,” Spectrum IEEE, 01/28/20)

Power plants for generation of electricity that do not produce CO2 is one of the key objectives of these startups. The use of fusion energy system for space travel is also on the horizon. Here are some examples of the startups.

Jeff Bezo’s firm General Fusion, which is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, made an announcement last month in London saying that a $400M demonstration plant to prove the operational features of the firm’s fusion design would break ground in 2022 at a site in Oxfordshire near the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy. Operations are expected to being within three years of breaking ground. See prior coverage on this blog:, Fusion Emerges as a Key Factor in UK’s Energy Future

On July 27th Helion Energy announced July 27th it will build a facility in Everett, WA, to test the latest version of its “fusion energy” generator.  The company last month said it made history when it became the first private company to create conditions exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius, the temperature necessary for fusion to occur. Helion intends to use the new facility to house the seventh prototype of its fusion reactor, and also to commercially produce helium 3 as a separate line of business.

Other developments include Commonwealth Fusion Systems, which has its origins in MIT research, has begun building a reactor in Massachusetts. TAE Technologies raised $280 million to build its next device.

According to Turrell between public and private efforts there are over 100 experimental fusion reactors built or under construction. (short list of industry leaders)

China Leads U.S. in Fusion Effort

The US fusion industry, however, is at risk of losing ground to a key competitor. China is investing enormous sums in fusion, and its advanced fusion reactor just set a world record.

According to Nuclear Engineering International, China’s Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) fusion reactor on May 28th achieved another world record by maintaining a plasma temperature at 120 million decrees Celsius for 101 seconds and at 160 million Celsius for 20 seconds, a major step toward the test run of the fusion reactor.

EAST is located at the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science of the Chinese Academy of Science (ASIPP) in Hefei. It is one of three major domestic tokamaks now in operation in China. China’s HL-2M tokamak fusion reactor at CNNC’s Southwestern Institute of Physics (SWIP) in Chengdu. Sichuan was commissioned in December 2020 – an upgrade the previous model, the HL-2A. The third is J-TEXT at the Huazhong University of Science and Technology (HUST).

China is reportedly making investments in the advanced space fusion propulsion sector including in fission and fusion contexts that surpass U.S. efforts.  In response, a recent proposal by the Fusion Industry Association (FIA) provides further details this new space race and advocates for a $40 million Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA)-style program to accelerate the use of fusion for space travel.

U.S. Focus on Renewables Won’t Scale When it Comes to Combatting Climate Change

While China is in a headlong in pursuit of fusion energy here on earth and in outer space, Turrell says that bey comparison, in terms of addressing climate change, the emphasis in the US on renewable energy technologies isn’t going to work in terms of decarbonizing the electric generation sector. “It won’t scale,” he says. Plus, battery storage isn’t able to store enough power when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

Turrell says progress in nuclear energy to deal with climate change will be hampered by cost overruns and schedule delays of plants currently being built as well as the overhang of public perceptions based on the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters.

While there is some validity to these views, they ignore the progress being made with small modular reactors and advanced reactor designs using TRISO and molten salt fuels. In this regard Turrell’s quick dismissal of nuclear energy may be driven a bit too much by his genuine excitement about fusion.

Praise for the Book

“A gobsmackingly good read…. Turrell’s portraits of the undaunted star-building scientists who are trying to make fusion a reality are not just compelling but, dare I say it, fun. I learned a lot by reading this book. You will, too.”  — Robert Bryce, author of A Question of Power: Electricity and the Wealth of Nations

“Visionary thinkers have sketched a future of sustainable abundance based on skillful use of nuclear fusion, the process that powers the stars.  Can we get there?  How?  When?  The Star Builders surveys this vibrant frontier of science and technology clearly and realistically.  It brings a timely, hopeful message.” 
— Frank Wilczek, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics and author of Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality

About the Author

Arthur Turrell has a PhD in plasma physics from Imperial College London and is the recipient of the Rutherford Prize for the Public Understanding of Plasma Physics. His research and writing has been featured in The Daily Mail, The Guardian, the International Business Times, Gizmodo, and other publications. He also works as a Senior Research Economist for the Bank of England where he is applying his scientific training to questions about the macroeconomy. He is the author of The Star Builders.

Neutron Bytes Interviews the Author of ‘The Star Builders’

Arthur Turrell -  Photograph by Karen HatchNeutron Bytes exchanged emails with Arthur Turrell (right: Photo by Karen Hatch) asking him some questions that go beyond cheerleading and advocacy which delve into the practical issues of how to bring fusion power to market. Following is a slightly edited version of the Q&A email exchange.

Q: Why did General Fusion, which has offices in the US and Canada, decide to build in the UK?

A: First, the site that General Fusion picked, at Culham in Oxfordshire, is where the world’s most successful fusion reactor, the Joint European Torus (JET), is based. As well as JET, the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy hosts another reactor, MAST Upgrade, and various other facilities relevant to the fusion industry. Nearby, there are two private sector fusion firms: Tokamak Energy and First Light Fusion. So General Fusion will be joining a cluster, with all the benefits that brings.

Q: Given that General Fusion has chosen to build in the UK, what must happen in the US for other fusion start ups to consider building here as compared to the UK. What are the financial, regulatory, or other barriers that need to be addressed?

A: Although the UK is clearly an attractive place for fusion start-ups, there are a good number of firms in the US too: Commonwealth Fusion Systems, TAE Technologies, and Helion Energy to name but a few; the US is a major player. With regards to regulation, the single most important principle to recognize is that fusion is not fission.

In terms of other barriers, there is an amazing pool of fusion-savvy labor to draw on in Northern Europe thanks to several universities and laboratories in the UK, France, and Germany that are centers of excellence in the topic. If you visit Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, where the world’s leading laser-based fusion device is, you will find a lot of staff from these program.

Q: The fusion startup field is pretty crowded right now with at least of these dozen firms or more that have gotten their Series A funding and also follow on investments. What are the key success factors (technical, financial, operational) that have to be addressed by any of these firms to get to the finish line which is a commercially viable prototype?

A: In the short-run, I personally see the first goal as demonstrating that more energy can be released from fusion reactions than it takes to get the reactions going in the first place (known as ‘net energy gain’). This is a prerequisite for commercial viability and, as this feat has never been achieved by a public laboratory, it would bring widespread acclaim to any private sector fusion venture that did it first.

For both net energy gain and commercial viability, the metrics of technical success to watch are the temperature and the so-called ‘fusion triple product’ because achieving a high combination of these two values is key to releasing enough energy for commercial viability.

So far, government funded laboratories are ahead on these metrics. In terms of the financial metric of success, ultimately—for operating reactors—that will be the levelized cost of electricity: the average net present cost of electricity generation for a generating plant over its lifetime.

Q: Given the different technical approaches to the objective of sustaining a fusion reaction, are any of them more likely to succeed than others? If so why?

A: The two approaches that have so far had the most success are inertial confinement fusion using lasers and magnetic confinement fusion using a doughnut-shaped device called a ‘tokamak’. But those approaches have also had most of the attention and investment to date.

We don’t know if they are likely to be more successful than other approaches in the long run. The recent successes of the Wendelstein-7X (a type of device known as a stellarator) and the promising properties of ‘spherical’ tokamaks suggest the world should be pursuing many different avenues simultaneously if we want to find the optimal design for a fusion reactor.

Q: How will any of these firms staff their startups? Are there are universities that actually offer a 4-year technical degree in fusion energy? If none exist now, do you know of any that plan to start offering such a degree in the future?

A: As with any large-scale endeavor, lots of skills are needed to keep the ship afloat so not all staff will need experience in fusion energy. And, like many specialized industries, some people will come in with more general skills, say in physics or engineering or computing, and will learn the fusion-specific skills on the job.

Alongside these, there is a need for very deep knowledge of fusion too and indeed there are dedicated PhDs in fusion sciences around: I did a PhD in plasma physics and fusion at Imperial College London.

Also in the UK, the universities of Durham, Liverpool, Manchester, Oxford and York have teamed up to create a fusion ‘center for doctoral training’ that offers cohorts of students a four-year PhD program with plasma physics or materials science options and acts as a preparation for a career in fusion energy sciences.

Note: Turrell skipped answering a question about supply chains especially how these startups will move from custom built prototypes to factory production of long lead time components. Eventually, the startup that succeeds must not only prove that their technology works, the firm must also be able to specify and deliver a design that can be built on a commercial scale.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

UK Picks HTGR Technology for Pilot SMR Program

  • UK Picks HTGR for Pilot SMR Program
  • Japan’s HTTR Restarts And Could Be Used To Demonstrate Green Hydrogen Production
  • Russia Plans More Floating Nuclear Power Plants
  • NRC Recommends License Approval For ISP Spent Fuel Storage Facility In Texas
  • New Video “The Green Atom: Our Most Misunderstood Power Source”

UK Picks HTGR Design for Pilot SMR Program

The U.K. government has picked its preferred type of small nuclear reactor (SMR) for a 170 million-pound ($236 million) demonstration program. The government will likely have to expand the funding level from millions to billions to achieve its objectives which is to build a fleet of dozen of these types of reactors.

Another challenge is that the government is going to have to move a lot faster than planning to build a demonstration prototype by the mid-2030s. The UK generates about 20% of its electricity from nuclear, but almost half of current capacity is to be retired well before the end of this decade and one reactor was already prematurely shut down for good.

Also, while the UK has lots experience with full size gas reactors, none are SMRs which typically have ratings of less than 300 MWe.  Any HTGR SMR design that comes across the energy minister’s desk in the next few years will likely be imported from the U.S. or Canada. Several firms from both countries have opened offices in the UK to enter the market for this purpose.

Despite these issues, UK government ministers said that they consider high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGR) as the “most promising model” for the pilot program. The plans will now be consulted on with industry and the public with a demonstration unit slated to be built and operated in the early 2030s. HTGR reactors can produce electricity, hydrogen, and process heat.

pebble bedA typical design of an HTGR (right) is that it uses TRISO type fuel with helium as the primary method for getting heat out of the pressure vessel and into the steam generator.

In some designs, molten salt is used as an intermediate loop between the helium and the steam generator. The molten salt can also be stored for off-grid process heat applications.

A Baseload Role for HTGRs

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the Minister of State (Minister for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change) at the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said, “While renewables like wind and solar will become an integral part of where our electricity will come from by 2050, they will always require a stable low-carbon baseload from nuclear.”

“Advanced modular reactors are the next level of modern nuclear technology and have the potential to play a crucial role in tackling carbon emissions and in powering industry.”

She added that small modular reactors and advanced designs in their size range are expected to be cheaper and quicker to build than larger (1000 MWE) conventional light water reactors such as the Hinkley Point C which is composed of two 1650 MWe pressurized water reactors (PWR).

The UK government has dithered up to now over how to proceed with SMRs first delaying a competition for funding and then handing out crumbs in terms of funding. In the meantime, Rolls-Royce has proposed building a fleet of 16 470 MWe PWRs based on current supply chains and LWR design principles. If completed by the mid-to-late 2030s, the entire fleet would equal the electrical generating capacity of the now moribund Wylfa and Oldbury projects.

The government said this new step builds on the commitment made in a recent energy white paper and prime minister Boris Johnson’s 10-point plan for £170m of investment in an R&D program for advanced SMRs, as part of a £385m package to accelerate the development of more flexible nuclear technologies.

Ministers are now inviting views from industry and the public on the government’s preference to explore the potential of HTGRs for its demonstration project. The call for evidence seeks to strengthen the government’s evidence base around the potential of advanced modular reactors and HTGRs in particular.

A research paper from the Nuclear Innovation & Research Office (NIRO) presents an assessment of the most promising reactor technologies to identify the preferred choice of technology that could support UK objectives of meeting net zero climate change targets by 2050.

The analysis indicates that high temperature gas reactors (HTGRs) are the preferred technology, with respect to the key objective of demonstrating the ability to generate high-temperature heat which could be used for:

Advanced Modular Reactors (AMRs): Technical Assessment

This analysis indicates that High Temperature Gas Reactors (HTGRs) are the preferred
technology of choice Report Executive Summary

  • HTGRs have a high Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 7, and with further
    development and demonstration could potentially make a significant contribution to
    achieving Net Zero by 2050.
  • With output temperatures of 700°C – 950°C, HTGRs provide for greater versatility in the
    applications that they could potentially support to supply heat and hydrogen to the
    economy, and thus provide the greatest opportunity for achieving Net Zero by 2050.
  • HTGRs can be considered as evolutions of Advanced Gas Reactor (AGRs), a
    technology which the UK has significant experience in and many of the safety
    characteristics of the HTGR design concepts, including passive safety are broadly
    proven, however these will need to be substantiated for a particular SMR design.
  • HTGRs operate with an open fuel cycle, as with existing nuclear plants in the UK,
    therefore present no significant issues for security and safeguards, or additional costs
    associated with closed fuel cycle infrastructure. (TRISO and HALEU fuels typically run between 5% and 15% U-235 in terms of enrichment levels.)
  • The UK’s historical experience with Magnox reactors and AGRs could provide an
    advantage for the development and fleet roll-out for HTGRs in terms of transferable
    skills and supply chain capability, the potential for the development of UK intellectual
    property, and the potential for international partnership which could further reduce cost
    and risk to an advanced reactor R&D Demonstration Program.

UK Green Taxonomy Will Include Nuclear

The green taxonomy will be a common framework setting rules for investments that can be defined as environmentally sustainable. This would help deal with a rising problem of “greenwashing” which is the practice of making unsubstantiated or exaggerated claims that an investment is environmentally friendly.

The energy ministry said it is preparing to submit a summary of evidence on nuclear energy to a working group, which will report to the government on how to address nuclear energy in the UK’s green taxonomy. The report noted, “It will make it easier for investors and consumers to understand how a firm is impacting the environment to encourage greater investments in funds that will help the UK achieve net zero.”

The London-based Nuclear Industry Association said the announcement was “an exciting and important” step towards the delivery of an advanced reactor demonstrator, a key part of a nuclear future in the clean energy mix.

“We hope the government will move swiftly forward to agree a funding settlement and delivery timeline for a demonstrator this year,” a statement said.

NIA chief executive Tom Greatrex also called for urgent action on a new financing model that ensures the UK can deliver nuclear, large and small, to secure its net zero future.

& & &

Japan / HTTR Restarts And Could Be Used To Demonstrate Green Hydrogen Production

(NucNet)  The High-Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) in Ibaraki prefecture north of Tokyo has been restarted with plans to use to demonstrate the production of green hydrogen already under discussion, owner and operator the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said.

The restart comes after the Nuclear Regulatory Authority said in a draft report in 2020 that the HTTR was compatible with new regulatory standards introduced after the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident. The HTTR was shut down following the accident along with other Japanese reactors.

The NRA examined the HTTR’s resilience against various hypothetical accidents, including tsunami and seismic risks. JAEA said it had been given permission to restart the plant “without significant reinforcement”.

The 30 MWe HTTR is a graphite-moderated gas-cooled research reactor. JAEA said the heat produced by the HTTR has applications for a range of purposes, including power generation, fuel performance and the desalination of seawater. “Furthermore, the demonstration plan of hydrogen production by the HTTR is under discussion,” it said.

Japan has signed an MOU with Poland for a joint R&D/Demonstration program of the reactor. So far work on it is still in the paperwork stage. It is a first of a kind effort by a Japanese organization to seek to deploy an advanced reactor design that could form the basis, long term, of an export opportunity.

& & &

Russia Plans More Floating Nuclear Power Plants

(WNN) Rosatom and a subsidiary of Kaz Minerals have signed for power supply to the new Baimskaya copper mining project in the Chukotka region of eastern Siberia. Rosatom proposes to use three SMR type floating nuclear power plants each employing a pair of the new 55 MWe RITM-200M reactors, a version of which is in service powering icebreakers.

A fourth unit would be held in reserve for use during repair or refueling. The first three reactors are already under construction by Atomenergomash.

The mine is expected in operation about 2027, contingent on the regional government agreeing to share infrastructure development costs, in particular to finance and construct the power lines which is not a trivial effort.

siberian power lineThe first two nuclear vessels are expected to be delivered to their working location at the project’s port, Cape Nagloynyn, Chaunskaya Bay and connected to 110 kV power lines leading via Bilibino to the Baimskaya mine over 400 km away by the end of 2026. The third unit is due to be connected at the end of 2027, increasing power supply to about 330 MWe.

The overall project is expected to cost $8 billion. In the first few years it is expected to produce 320,000 t/yr copper as well as gold and other minerals providing one-third of revenue that will help pay for the SMR project.

& & &

NRC Recommends License Approval For ISP Spent Fuel Storage Facility In Texas

isp logoThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued its final environmental impact statement on an application by Interim Storage Partners, LLC, to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Andrews County, Texas.

The site is located on the Texas / New Mexico border about 100 miles due east of Carlsbad, NM. The new Texas facility would be built next to the Waste Control Specialists low-level radioactive waste disposal site.

After considering the environmental impacts of the proposed action, the NRC staff recommended granting the proposed license. If granted, the license issued by the Commission, it would authorize ISP to build a facility to store the first of eight modules of 5,000 tons each of spent commercial nuclear fuel. ISP plans to expand the facility to a total capacity of 40,000 tons of spent fuel over its life cycle.

The spent fuel will be stored in dry casks and could be retrieved at a future date for reprocessing into new fuel. It is not a permanent facility in terms of final disposition of the spent fuel.

The NRC published a draft environmental impact statement on the project in May 2020. Agency staff held four public meetings by webinar to present the draft findings and receive public comments. To complete the final document, the staff received and evaluated approximately 2,500 unique comments submitted by nearly 10,600 members of the public.

ISP is a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists and Orano CIS, a subsidiary of Orano USA.

& & &

New Video “The Green Atom: Our Most Misunderstood Power Source”

 Kite & Key Media, a public policy-focused media outlet based out of New York City, has produced a nuclear video: “The Green Atom: Our Most Misunderstood Power Source.” 

The seven minute video is available for free on YouTube. According to a spokesperson for the agency, the firm’s principals have been producing a series of short, factual videos like this one to address misinformation in social media and the mainstream media. Their basic approach is “just the facts please.”

No Punches Pulled Narration

The video starts out with this right to the point bit of narration – “You know what power source is more dangerous than nuclear? Literally, all of them. When you add up industrial accidents and the effects of pollution, nuclear is safer than coal or petroleum or natural gas.”

The video doesn’t pull any punches elsewhere either. It rolls out a trenchant comparison between France and Germany. It reports that French electricity costs are about half of costs in Germany, while Germany, which relies on solar and wind for its carbon-free generation, produces 10 times the emissions of France.

The narrator does a slam dunk on Germany’s energy folly with a quote by French President Emmanuel Macron who said, “They worsened their CO2 footprint. It wasn’t good for the planet. So I won’t do that.”

Macron has been outspoken on the subject despite an objective, in diplomatic terms, to retain good relations with Germany which is his next door neighbor in Europe.

Turning its attention to the US, the video highlights the hypocrisy of the State of California. It cites the work of Environmental Progress which found that if California had dedicated the amount of money it has spent on wind and solar since 2001 on nuclear instead, it could be generating 100 percent of the state’s electricity without carbon emissions.

The website lists the sources used to produce the video, a list of readings on nuclear energy, and a complete text / transcript of the video as a downloadable PDF.

Background on Kite & Key Media

The firm says it takes its name from Benjamin Franklin’s experiment with a key attached by a string to a kite in a thunderstorm near Philadelphia in June 1752.  Of course, as we all know, what Franklin learned from the experience is that thunder is only noise, lightning does the work.

kite and keyThe Kite & Key staff previously worked for several conservative think tanks in NYC and the DC area, and they launched the nonprofit media company about 18 months ago.

The firm said its purpose is to take important data and research and translate them into smart, well-produced, witty, baloney-free visual fare that will pass any sniff test for accuracy.

Funding for the video project came from several sources which the firm did not disclose. The project lead  for the video is Troy Senik, who is a co-founder with CEO  Vanessa Mendoza, at Kite & Key Media. Mr. Senik has been a White House speechwriter, a think tank executive, a newspaper columnist, and a podcaster. Ms. Mendoza was previously an executive at several nonprofits in New York.

# # #

Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment