UK Gives Go-Ahead for Sizewell C Nuclear Power Plant

  • UK Gives Go-Ahead for Sizewell C Nuclear Power Plant
  • EDF to Address Taishan Fuel Rod Issues for Hinkley Point and Sizewell EPR Reactors
  • Holtec Submits Federal Loan Application For $7.4 Billion SMR Plan
  • Kairos Power and Materion Commission Molten Salt Purification Plant to Produce Coolant for High-Temperature Reactors
  • Curio and Lightbridge Corporation Sign MOU on Nuclear Fuels
  • Terrestrial Energy and South Korea’s Dl E&C Sign MOU To Drive IMSR Cogeneration Plant
  • X-Energy Selects Firms for Design and Deployment of Xe-100 Advanced Reactor Fleet
  • Ghana To Announce Decision On Nuclear Plant Vendor Country, Technology

UK Gives Go-Ahead for Sizewell C Nuclear Power Plant

(WNN contributed to this report)

EPR image

The UK government committed this week to build EDF’s twin 1600 MWe EPR type nuclear reactors at the Sizewell C nuclear site at an estimated cost of GBP100 million (USD120 million).

The two huge reactors will be built next to the existing Sizewell B plant. The new plant would generate about 7% of the UK’s electricity needs and operate for at least 60 years.

It will be a mirror of of the Hinkley Point C plant, which is under construction in Somerset. All four plants are expected to be completed in the late 2020s. EDF is running behind schedule for the Hinkley Point C plant due in part to the fact that the labor force, and the firms in the supply chain, have been ravaged by successive spikes of the COVID 19 virus.

The formal decision is that the application for the construction of Sizewell C power plant has been granted development ‘consent’ by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng. The decision to move forward with the project is a key step in addressing the UK’s energy security needs and was widely welcomed by the industry.

Tom Greatrex, CEO of the UK’s Nuclear Industry Association said, “This is a huge step forward for Britain’s energy security and net zero ambitions. Sizewell C will provide reliable low-carbon power for more than 80 years, cutting gas use, creating thousands of high-quality, skilled jobs, and long-term investment and opportunity up and down the country.”

“When operational, Sizewell C will produce enough electricity to supply six million homes with affordable 24/7 clean electricity,” said Sama Bilbao y León, Director General of World Nuclear Association.

“Today’s decision is the next important step, not only for Sizewell C, but also for the UK as a whole, as it looks to make much greater use of new nuclear capacity to meet its net-zero targets. Sizewell C will be one of the UK’s largest ever green energy projects, and this decision significantly strengthens the pipeline of new nuclear capacity in Britain.”

UK Investment Decisions

Earlier this year, the UK government provided GBP100 million (USD120 million) in funding to develop the project, and also took legislation through parliament allowing a new way of funding new large infrastructure projects. The Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding model – gave the government the option to take a 20% stake in the project which would when executed be worth at least USD20 billion.

Under the RAB model a company receives a license from an economic regulator to charge a regulated price to consumers in exchange for providing the infrastructure in question. It is a pay-as-you-go system with the utility allowed to recover construction costs by charging rate payers over time as it completes progress milestones. It is similar to the US system of “construction while in progress” (CWIP) which is being used to finance the construction of twin Westinghouse 1150 MWe AP000s at the Vogtle site in Georgia.

The action by the government to take a 20% equity stake in Sizewell C is intended to accomplish two objectives. First, it will replace a planned 20% equity investment by Chinese state owned enterprises which was cancelled by UK PM Boris Johnson on security grounds. Second, by having a significant equity stake in the project, the government has the expectation that this will be a confidence building measure to bring private (institutional) investors to also take a significant equity position in the plant.

EDF is expected to take an 20% equity stake (USD5 billion) in the project. As the French government is in the process of 100% nationalizing EDF, that funding will in effect be a government to government investment.

The Sizewell C decision is part of a UK government plan to completely decarbonize the country’s electricity by 2035. This means that all our electricity will be produced from renewable or low-carbon sources like solar, wind and nuclear.

Not everyone was thrilled with the decision. Greenpeace called the project an “expensive white elephant” that was “trashing an important nature reserve.” Local environmental groups echoed the comments from Greenpeace and expressed concerns about the impact of the plant on local water supplies. This is patent nonsense since the plant is located on the shores of the Bristol Channel that leads into the Atlantic ocean.

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EDF to Address Taishan Fuel Rod Issues for Hinkley Point and Sizewell EPR Reactors

In July 2021 China General Nuclear (CGN) shut down one of two operating EDF’s 1750 MWe EPR reactors at the Taishan power station due to problems with the fuel rods and assemblies. Despite some sensational media reports by CNN and others, the problem was not seen as a big deal at the time by either the CGN, which is the Chinese plant operator, or EDF, which has a 30% equity stake in the plant.

reactor containment epr

CGN noted in July 2021 that the situation was “not urgent.” CGN blamed minor fuel rod damage for a build-up of radioactive gases at the Taishan plant describing it as a “common phenomenon” with no need for concern.”

“There are more than 60,000 fuel rods in the reactor and the proportion of damaged rods is “less than 0.01 percent.”

CGN called the damage “inevitable” due to factors including factors associated with fuel manufacturing. EDF said it was advised of operating problems with the fuel rods in the Taishan reactors in October 2020 but didn’t learn about a build up of unwanted gases until June 2021.

epr fuel assembly

The EPR fuel system consists of a reactor core containing 241 fuel assemblies and 89 control rods, or rod cluster control assemblies. Each fuel assembly is made up of 265 fuel rods and 24 guide tubes arranged in a 17×17 array.

The life of a fuel assembly in a reactor core is regulated to a burn-up level at which the risk of its failure remains low. Fuel “failure” in this context means a situation when the [zirconium] cladding has been breached, and radioactive material leaks from the fuel ceramic (pellet) into the reactor coolant water. The radioactive materials most likely leak through a cladding breach into the reactor coolant are fission-product gases and volatile elements, notably krypton, xenon, iodine and cesium. Xenon is of particular interest to reactor operators.

Such fuel leaks do not present a significant risk to plant safety. They can have an impact on reactor operations and hence plant economics.

In December 2021 an anonymous whistleblower told the French nuclear safety regulator that the scope of damage to the reactor involved a larger number of fuel rods. According to media reports, the problem with the fuel assemblies was caused by vibration resulting from uneven flows of cooling water in the reactor pressure vessel.  However, the number of fuel rods cited in the whisteblower report is consistent with the estimate by CGN of 1% of all fuel rods in the reactor being affected by the problem.

However, according to several UK news media reports this week, almost a year to the day since the noble gas problems were identified, EDF says it now plans to prevent future problems with the fuel rods by changing the way they are held in place. The firm is also looking into potential changes in the way cooling water is managed in the reactor pressure vessel. As of July 2022 the IAEA reports that both Taishan 1 & Taishan 2 are operational.

What is at stake for EDF and the UK is the fact that EDF is now building two EPRs in the UK, one at the Hinkley Point site and another at the Sizewell site. The latter was just approved for construction a few days ago.

EDF said it is focused on a redesign of the EPR reactor to avoid a repeat of the fuel rod failures that led to the plant shutdown in China. A spokesman for Hinkley Point C told the UK Telegraph newspaper that the Taishan fuel assembly issue was “investigated and understood.”

“Framatome has identified a detailed solution to be implemented for Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C. We are confident that this will be effective as it is based on a detailed understanding of the issue and experience from operating existing power plants, including Sizewell B in the UK. As a prudent operator, we will explore all potential alternative mitigation measures and share this information with the nuclear regulator.”

A spokesman for the UK’s Office of Nuclear Regulatory (ONR) told the Telegraph newspaper it is in regular contact with counterparts in France, Finland and China on the Taishan issue.

He added: “The knowledge gained in relation to this matter will be used to inform the ONR about the regulation of nuclear plants in the UK, such as Hinkley Point C, where an EPR reactor will be installed.”

The ONR stated that the EDF had “more than enough time” to make any changes to Hinkley based on Taishan’s lessons.

Taishan 1 and 2 are the first two reactors based on the EPR design to begin operating anywhere in the world so far. The 1750-megawatt reactors entered commercial operation in December 2018 and September 2019, respectively. The Taishan project – 140 kilometres west of Hong Kong – is owned by TNPJVC, a joint venture between CGN (51%), EDF (30%) and the Chinese utility Guangdong Energy Group (19%).

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Holtec Submits Federal Loan Application For $7.4 Billion SMR Plan

(NucNet contributed to this report) US small modular reactor developer Holtec has submitted a loan application to the Department of Energy (DOE) on 7/19/22 for $7.4 billion (€7.2bn)> The funds, if granted as a loan, would be used to build the first SMR-160 SMRs as a four-unit power station, to expand the output capacity of its existing heavy manufacturing plant in Camden, New Jersey, and to establish a new “supersize” factory to manufacture SMR-160s. The loan would help fund the company’s plan to build up to four of its SMR-160 reactors and to expand its manufacturing capacity to build the first wave of SMRs in large numbers.

Holtec is well versed in seeking government support for its SMR design and related manufacturing plants. In 2014 the firm won a $260 million tax credit from the State of New Jersey to build an OEM manufacturing plant to make components for SMRs at a site in Camden, NJ. The firm promised the plant would create or save over 400 high paying jobs. The firm later revealed plans, since set aside, to build a similar plant in Ukraine to serve European markets.

holtec SMR

Unlike the loan guarantees issued by the Obama administration, this application to DOE is for cash to build the first four SMRs and new manufacturing plants. At a hypothetical benchmark cost of $4,500/Kw, the four 160 MWe PWR type SMRs would cost about $2.9 billion in today’s dollars. This would leave over $4 billion for the expansion of the Camden heavy manufacturing plant and construction of a “supersize factory” to build future SMRs.

Holtec’s SMR is still in the pre-licensing stage at the NRC. Once a an application for a combined construction and operating license (COL) is submitted, the NRC estimates the process for the safety design review can take up to four years. Assuming Holtec submits a application to the NRC before 2025, the first 160 MWe SMR could break ground before the end of this decade. Long before that happens the firm needs to select a site for the four unit power station and an adjacent manufacturing plant.

A Holtec spokesman confirmed to Neutron Bytes that the former Oyster Creek nuclear power station in southern New Jersey is a potential site for the SMR and the manufacturing plant. Holtec is currently decommissioning the boiling water reactor that operated at the site. The firm is also decommissioning three other nuclear reactors but they are not considered to be candidates for co-location of an SMR according to a Holtec spokesman.

A spokesman for Holtec told Neutron Bytes, “Oyster Creek is the only Holtec decommissioning site under consideration at this time. Its close proximity to the Camden manufacturing facility make it an ideal location. I would also like to note that under an agreement we signed with New York, SMRs will not be considered for the Indian Point site.”

The other two sites where Holtec is decommissioning closed nuclear power plants are Pilgrim in Massachusetts and Palisades in Michigan. Neither site as this time is slated for SMR development though their proximity to transportation and grid connections make then plausible choices for an SMR developer.

If the New Jersey site doesn’t turn out to be suitable for the SMR, there are other options Holtec said. “Inevitably, the first mover state will become the leader in the emerging industry of small modular reactors with tens of thousands of new high-paying jobs in manufacturing, reactor support services, nuclear plant operations and related areas,” Holtec said. The spokesman add that the expanded factory to build SMRs would likely be located near the site for the first four-unit power station.

Holtec Plans for SMR Manufacturing Plants

Holtec’s Camden and Pittsburgh plants, both equipped to manufacture heavy capital equipment of the kind needed in SMRs, produce nearly 1,000 pieces of heavy equipment and weldments each year.

Under the Holtec plan, Camden will be enlarged with additional machining, robotic welding, and material handling equipment to increase the throughput of SMR-160 components to help meet the projected rise in demand for the SMR-160s expected in the next decade.

Holtec said in a statement on its website the advanced manufacturing capabilities located in Camden will be enlarged with additional machining, robotic welding, and material handling equipment to increase the throughput of SMR-160 components to help meet the projected rise in demand for the SMR-160s expected in the next decade.

Holtec said it plans to build the new facility to materially improve America’s nuclear manufacturing capacity, and to make it available to other nuclear plant suppliers with capital hardware needs.

Entergy MOU for Holtec SMRs at Existing Sites

Separately, nuclear operator Entergy Corporation has signed a memorandum of agreement with Holtec for Entergy will evaluate the feasibility of deploying one or more SMR-160s on one or more of its existing sites. Entergy has four remaining nuclear reactors that it owns and operates.

A spokesman for Holtec said Entergy would not be involved in the Oyster Creek location at this time. He said future sites for Holtec’s SMRs at the site of one or more of its operating reactors are still to be determined. The MOU with the utility Entergy, which operates nuclear power plants at five sites, is to evaluate the feasibility of deploying a Holtec SMR in Entergy’s service area.

Entergy’s chief nuclear officer Chris Bakken said in a press statement the company will be evaluating Holtec’s SMR-160 system as a means to potentially help it meet net-zero goals. Entergy operates six nuclear units at five stations: Arkansas in Arkansas state, Cooper in Nebraska, Grand Gulf in Mississippi, and River Bend and Waterford in Louisiana. The Cooper nuclear power plant is owned by the Nebraska Public Power District and operated on its behalf by Entergy.

Holtec’s coordination with the DOE Loan Programs Office is being led by its wholly owned subsidiary, Holtec Government Services (HGS). As the executive sponsor of the loan application, HGS President Vice Admiral Fritz Roegge, USN (retired) credited the federal loan as the essential vehicle to help build and deploy SMRs to meet the demand for reliable clean energy. He acknowledged the consistent support of Loan Programs Office personnel to the HGS proposal team throughout the complex loan application process

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Kairos Power and Materion Commission Molten Salt Purification Plant to Produce Coolant for High-Temperature Reactors

kairos power logo

As part of a Cooperative Development Agreement with Materion Corporation, Kairos Power has commissioned a Molten Salt Purification Plant (MSPP) at the Materion campus in Elmore, Ohio, which is 30 miles southeast of Toledo, OH. The plant, designed by Kairos Power, will produce large quantities of fluoride salt coolant to be used in high-temperature molten salt reactors.

Kairos Power’s fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR) technology is cooled by a mixture of lithium fluoride and beryllium fluoride salts known as “Flibe” which is chemically stable and operates at low pressure. This molten salt coolant will be used in Kairos Power’s Engineering Test Unit (ETU), and the Hermes demonstration reactor, as well as future commercial KP-FHR reactors. (image below courtesy of Kairos)

kairos molten

As an industry leader in the production and manufacturing of beryllium-based materials, Materion supplies beryllium fluoride for the MSPP plant and contributes the expertise, staffing and will operate the plant. The decision to locate MSPP at Materion’s Elmore facility reinforces a long-term, strategic commitment by both companies to demonstrate leadership in molten salt production.

By confirming the chemical process to produce Flibe at industrial scale, MSPP will help ensure the success of Kairos Power’s iterative hardware demonstrations, reducing risk in a critical path workstream for the commercialization of KP-FHR technology while delivering cost certainty.

Keith Smith, Materion vice president of Nuclear, Science, and Government Affairs, said in a press statement, “This is the largest Flibe production facility ever built and has the capacity to generate commercial quantities of the material,”

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Curio and Lightbridge Corporation Sign MOU to
Explore Collaboration in the Nuclear Fuel Supply Chain

  • Curio’s TRUfuel Technology, Coupled with Lightbridge-Designed Metallic Fuel Rods, Can Power the Existing Fleet and the Next Generation of Nuclear Reactors

Curio announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Lightbridge Corporation (Nasdaq: LTBR) as an industry partner and potential off-taker of products produced through Curio’s TRUfuel technology.

“Our collaboration with Lightbridge is an important step to ensuring there is an adequate fuel supply chain to maintain our current fleet of nuclear reactors and deploy the next generation of reactors,” said Edward McGinnis, Chief Executive Officer of Curio. “Curio’s TRUfuel is the fuel of the future, and we stand ready to help the U.S. reclaim global nuclear energy leadership.”

McGinnis said the Curio process will have the strongest proliferation barriers possible. Plutonium that could be used for weapons would remain commingled with highly radioactive materials as a self-protective measure, he said. He added that the firm is focused on recovery of uranium for use in making new fuel and specific isotopes for medical purposes.

Curio, which has yet to pick a site for its fuel recycling plant, estimates that its plant could be operating in possibly 12 years. The costs of such a plant are enormous and face significant risks.

The Department of Energy shut down construction of a plant in South Carolina to reprocess weapons grade plutonium into MOX fuel assemblies for PWR reactors after spending $4.5 billion with off the charts estimates of costs to complete it. It didn’t help that Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), in who’s district the plant was being built, was a vocal opponent of the Obama administration.

Seth Grae, CEO at Lightbridge, told Neutron Bytes in a video conference call that his firm is very interested to see what Curio is able to deliver with its TRUfuel technology. “We are excited to enter into this agreement with Curio as we explore future government funding opportunities.”

He emphasized that technical details of Curio’s process are still under wraps and declined to provide any details of how the firm’s plans to reprocess spent nuclear fuel would provide a feedstock to Lightbridge to manufacture nuclear fuel.

Grae did say the MOU is based on the plausible path forward of Curio’s business plan.

“There is a potential use of transuranic material as feedstock material in Lightbridge-designed metallic fuel rods to power existing large reactors and coming small modular reactors.”

Grae said his firm could potentially use output from Curio’s process to manufacture both conventional light water reactor fuel at enrichment levels up to 5% U235 and HALEU fuel with enrichment levels up to 19% U235. Grae did not have a timeline for when Lightbridge might receive usable output from Curio’s planned reprocessing plant.

Grae said that the fuel that Lightbridge would manufacture from Curio’s reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel would not be mixed oxide fuel (MOX) which is a powdered mix of plutonium and uranium in standard fuel pellets and assemblies.

Lightbridge is working on developing a Zirconium clad metallic fuel at HALEU levels of enrichment. The advantages, Grae said, “are much more surface area where the water touches the fuel rod, a shorter path to heat conductivity, and no gaps between fuel pellets and the fuel assembly tube.”

lb fuel slide

Overall, Grae said the MOU with Curio “is a big deal because we do not do many MOUs unless something really looks interesting.”

Looking to the future, Grae sees in the coming decades more small modular reactors being built.

SMRs will be especially attractive to countries that can’t afford full size reactors, and some won’t have the capabilities to manage the spent after it is ready to come out of the spent fuel pool. That’s where reprocessing could come in.

Earlier this month Energy Northwest of Richland became the first commercial nuclear power producer to sign up to potentially buy recycled nuclear fuel from Curio.

About Curio’s Reprocessing Plans

Melanie White, Director of Communications at Curio, said in an emailed statement to Neutron Bytes that Curio’s plans to deploy the nation’s first state-of-the-art commercial nuclear fuel recycling facility will provide a variety of in-demand commodities and products.

White wrote that these products will include domestically produced low-enriched uranium (LEU) nuclear fuel for the current U.S. fleet of nuclear reactors as well as HALEU (high-assay low-enriched uranium) and transuranic based TRUfuel [tm] for advanced reactors.

“Our technology combines well-understood processes utilizing molten salts and high-temperature chemistry. Little attention is given to the fact that only 4% of the energy value has been consumed from our so-called used nuclear fuel, which is actually a national treasure. Curio will solve the waste issue by recycling and developing these isotopes for a wide variety of industries: advanced nuclear, medicine, space, and advanced batteries.”

White addressed a key question which is how much fuel would the plant produce once in operation.

“Our technology is compact, modular, scalable integrated, proliferation-hardened, and substantially autonomous. A NuCycle facility will have a throughput of 4000 MT/yr, recovering enough uranium to produce 40% of America’s existing uranium demand.”

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Terrestrial Energy and South Korea’s DL E&C Sign MOU To Drive IMSR Cogeneration Plant

  • The agreement aims to accelerate deployment of IMSR Generation IV nuclear plants for industrial, chemical and petrochemical applications

Terrestrial Energy and DL E&C have signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOU) to cooperate in the development and accelerated deployment of the IMSR cogeneration plant in the industrial sector.

Terrestrial Energy’s MOU with DL E&C is the latest entry into the North American nuclear market by a South Korean firm driven by firms there which have experience with nuclear exports including the construction of four 1400 MWe PWRs in the United Arab Emirates.

pathways to uses of IMSR

According to the agreement, Terrestrial Energy and DL E&C intend to partner and accelerate the development and deployment of IMSR plants that produce cost-competitive, carbon-free thermal energy for specific industrial applications, notably in the chemical and petrochemical sectors, where DL E&C excels in design and construction.

DL E&C is a recognized leading global engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor. DL E&C provides a comprehensive array of services including feasibility studies, project management, engineering, procurement, construction, commissioning and start-up, operation and maintenance, investment, and project financing across a broad field, which includes petroleum refining, chemical, petrochemical, power, and energy plants, building and housing, and civil works.

Jae-Ho Yoo, Chief Executive of DL E&C Plant Business Division, said: “Our interest in SMR technology as a next-generation energy source has grown considerably in the last couple of years. We saw the potential of Terrestrial Energy as our business partner with its safer and more energy efficient IMSR technology.

Simon Irish, Chief Executive of Terrestrial Energy, said: “DL E&C’s deep industrial reach across global markets will aid Terrestrial Energy as we advance commercial IMSR plant deployment.”

In Canada Terrestrial Energy is competing with US based X-Energy which recently signed on with Ontario Power Generation to build an advanced SMR to provide process heat for industrial uses.

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X-Energy Selects Firms for Design and Deployment of Xe-100 Advanced Reactor Fleet

X-energy announced a significant step toward the creation of a unique energy delivery model with the selection of Zachry Group and the combined team of Burns & McDonnell and Day & Zimmermann as constructors to collaborate and work with the company on the next phases of design and deployment of its Xe-100 advanced reactor fleet.

X-Energy-Reactor-Steam-Generator.png

X-Energy is currently in a cost-sharing contract under the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) to build a first of a kind unit at a site near Richland, WA, adjacent to the Energy Northwest’s Columbia Generating Station. Also, X-Energy recently signed on with Ontario Power Generation to build an advanced SMR to provide process heat for industrial uses.

To deliver on the anticipated demand for its advanced reactor technology, X-energy selected two world-class constructors able to deliver an optimized construction schedule, standardized advanced work packages, and the latest construction techniques and digital technology. The selection culminates a detailed, year-long process with a host of qualified construction firms having global and scalable experience.

Previous new nuclear projects have utilized standard methods of contracting for construction services, with owners often engaging constructors after or in the late stages of project development.

Under the X-energy Project Delivery Model (X-PDM), constructors and suppliers work alongside X-energy in all phases of design, equipment supply, fabrication, and construction to develop detailed project costs, project schedules, advanced work plans and four-dimensional modeling prior to the start of safety-related construction. This collaborative approach aims to greatly reduce risk and uncertainty as early as possible.

X-energy selected the two constructors because of their demonstrated commitment to the X-PDM, their use of advanced construction technology, their deep experience in delivering large, complex projects, and willingness to work together and combine their expertise with X-energy to create a fleet of Xe-100 advanced reactors.

“Selecting and partnering with our constructors this early in the development process is a paradigm shift for the entire nuclear energy industry,” said Clay Sell, CEO of X-energy.

“X-energy’s Xe-100 is a next generation high-temperature gas reactor built on decades of research, development, and operating experience. Each reactor is engineered to operate as a single 80 MW electric unit and is optimized as a four-unit plant delivering 320 MW electric.”

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Ghana To Announce Decision On Nuclear Plant Vendor Country, Technology

np-ghana_thumb.png

(Wire services) Deputy Minister of Energy, William Owuraku Aidoo said this week Ghana’s government will soon announce its decision on the vendor country to build Ghana’s first one-gigawatt nuclear plant by 2030. The plant will serve as a sources of baseload electricity for the country.

The announcement will announced the type of nuclear power technology it will seek and the vendor to supply it. Aidoo said government and technical experts were finalizing the selection of a preferred site for the nuclear power plant.

The Ministry of Energy had issued Requests for Information to six vendor countries to seek technical, financial and contractual information from the vendor countries regarding the technology to deploy for the building of nuclear power plant. A total of 15 responses were received from vendor countries, including China, Russia, United States of America, South Korea, Canada and France.

Six of the responses received proposed large nuclear reactor technology while nine made offers for small nuclear reactors. The decision will focus on the both large Reactor (1000+ MWe) and Small Modular Reactor (< 300 MWe, in modules).

Dr Stephen Yamoah, Executive Director of Nuclear Power Ghana, said the country was in its second phase and that key expected deliverables at the end included a site approval report for site permit, and site evaluation report for construction permit. Previously, he said Ghana is seeking to have the reactor operating by 2030. He did not disclose how the project would be financed to build it.

Dr Yamoah said four candidate sites had been identified which met requirements such as closeness to a water body, security, safety, and population density.

Experts say Ghana has exhausted its hydro base as an energy source and looking to explore other clean options such as nuclear power that has a long-term energy security.

The nuclear projects will help the country achieve its updated ten-year, Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, which aims at reducing 64 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO).

US Involvement for SMRs in Ghana

World Nuclear News reported in March 2022 that he US and Ghana have announced their partnership to support Ghana’s adoption of small modular reactor (SMR) technology under the US Department of State’s Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) program.

It will support Ghana’s adoption of SMR technology, including support for stakeholder engagement, advanced technical collaboration, and project evaluation and planning. Japan, which has partnered the USA on the FIRST program, will also build on its existing partnership with Ghana to advance Ghana’s civil nuclear power aspirations, the Department of State said.

Minister of Energy Matthew Opoku Prempeh said the FIRST program will further develop Nuclear Power Ghana’s competencies towards delivering on its mission to build and safely operate Ghana’s first nuclear power plant.

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What’s the Holdup with the HALEU Fuel Supply Chain?

  • Developers of advanced nuclear reactors in the US are wound up like tops over the issue of whether DOE will be able to provide HALEU fuels for their designs in time.
  • The agency seems to be bogged down in its internal decision making process with no timetable for issuing an RFP to make the government the 1st supplier of the fuel.
  • The consequences of delay are readily apparent given the enormous commitment of funds DOE has already made in advanced reactors along with matching private equity investments as part of the cost shared program. 
  • This report includes a comprehensive Q&A with DOE about its progress towards providing HALEU fuel at commercial scale.

The Department of Energy raised expectations last December about quick action to develop new supplies of high assay low-enriched uranium fuel (HALEU) which is needed in the next few years by developers of advanced nuclear reactors. The nuclear energy industry assumed that the agency’s request for information (RFI)  would be followed in short order by a request for proposal (RFP) to make the agency the “1st supplier” of HALEU which would create a functioning market for the fuel.

DOE said last December it projects that more than 40 metric tons of HALEU will be needed by 2030 with additional amounts required each year to deploy a new fleet of advanced reactors in a timeframe that supports the Administration’s net-zero emissions targets by 2050. At that time DOE recognized the need for speed in getting the HALEU supply chain in place, but progress since then has not matched early expectations by the firms that need the fuel.

“Advanced reactors are an incredible asset to have in our collective fight against climate change,” said Dr. Kathryn Huff, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy.

“If we don’t proactively take the steps now to ensure a sufficient and diverse supply of HALEU, then reactor demonstration and deployment projects, like those funded in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, won’t be fueled in time to help us slow the impacts of climate change.”

3.31_HALEU-Overview_742x960.jpg

Just about everyone who has looked at this issue agrees that time is running short. Everett Redmond, a Senior Technical Advisor at NEI, told Neutron Bytes earlier this month that 20 metric tonnes of uranium (MTU) are needed by 2025 when the two reactors funded under the DOE Advanced Reactor Development Program (ARDP) are scheduled to need to load fuel and start up. Thereafter, 6 MTU a year are need for fuel reloads.

However, Redmond estimates that as things stand now the HALEU fuel that the reactors need won’t become available until mid-2028. According to a compendium of advanced reactors in the US published by the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, there are at least half a dozens reactor projects that will need HALEU fuels, including the two ARDP projects, before the end of the decade. For these firms the need for on time delivery of HALEU is the one of their top ‘keep awake at night issue.’

advanced reactors by type

In the eight months that have passed since the RFI was released, the agency appears to be tied up in knots of its own making with uncertain indications of visible progress. DOE is still working on a strategic plan, which it would seem, is a precursor to a RFP for fuel. (See Q&A with DOE below).

The delay in getting an adequate and reliable supply of HALEU fuel is enormously frustrating to US developers of advanced reactors including two funded by the agency under its ARDP. TerraPower and X-Energy are enrolled in the cost-shared program which includes ambitious schedule milestones for deployment of their new designs.

Yet, according to a white paper prepared by the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), in a best case scenario DOE won’t be able to supply HALEU in the quantities needed until a year after the reactors are supposed to start up based on ARDP milestones. (See NEI bar chart below). The ARDP milestones are scheduled by DOE for completion in 2027 but the HALEU fuel doesn’t become available until mid-to-late 2028.

nei haleu schedule

For its part DOE says it is working on what it calls the agency’s Advanced Nuclear Fuel Availability Program.  The program as authorized bv the eanabling legislation has three main objectives.

  • Directs the Department of Energy to establish a program that supports development of a domestic source of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HA-LEU) for commercial use
  • Directs DOE to assess the quantity of HA-LEU needed for domestic commercial users biennially and report on the amount of its current uranium inventory that can be converted to HA-LEU
  • Instructs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to assess regulatory policies changes that are necessary to enable the commercial use of HA-LEU

DOE said it is up to Congress to appropriate the funds needed to make it work. As these things go, the agency doesn’t need a lot of money, considering the size of its overall 2022 budget of $46 billion. The cost of a an HALEU program to meet the estimated needs of the industry, according to Redmond, is $300 million for HALEU fuel enrichment and manufacturing and another $60 million for down blending HALEU from the agency’s stocks of highly enriched uranium (HEU).

Given that it is now 2022, Redmond said that if DOE started today to work on getting the RFP out the door to make it the 1st supplier of HALEU by buying it from enrichment firms and then selling it to developers of advanced reactors, the government’s ponderous procurement process to make multiple awards to firms like Centrus, Orano, and Urenco could take an astonishing 12 months.

What these firms said in their comments on the DOE FFI is that building new enrichment capabilities for HALEU fuel isn’t quick or simple, and they includes new licensing actions with the NRC. Redmond estimates from the time DOE cuts purchase orders until the first deliveries of 10 MTU/year arrive could be as long as four years.

chicken and eggJust about everyone who has looked at the issue of HALEU suppliers, now that the US can’t buy it from Russia, has said the same thing. There is a classic “chicken and egg” issue. Fuel firms don’t want to commit resources to build fuel enrichment and deconversion capacity ahead of the uncertainties of demand. In other words, it is up to DOE to establish a stable market.

Both enrichment and deconversion facilities to fabricate the fuel types (uranium metal, TRISO, and molten salt) won’t get built by the private sector unless DOE primes the pump to develop a market by being the 1st supplier.

ANS HALEU Webinar

This is not news to DOE. Last March via an online webinar the American Nuclear Society (ANS) assembled a panel of experts on the subject. ANS addressed the issue of HALEU supplies for the ARDP reactors and for other developers of advanced reactors. (Video link and text summary of the session)

The developer community is anxious about DOE’s slow pace towards making HALEU fuel available. Ben Reinke, a senior executive with X-Energy, which is one of the two ARDP funded firms, said, “We must have HALEU two years before we go on the grid. DOE must get a 1st supplier RFP out ASAP.”

Brad Williams, an INL engineer assigned to the staff of the Senate Energy & Water Committee, said the anxiety of advanced reactor developers is based on the fact that “DOE is not moving nearly fast enough to establish the fuel supply.”

Scott Kopple, Senior Director for Government Relations at BWXT, sees down blending of HEU as a near term option but notes that there are NRC licensing issues for fuels at greater than 5% and less than 20% U235 that sit on the critical path for fuel firms. He added that a DOE program which fulfills the role of being the first buyer of HALEU would could also be used to replace the HEU down blended to meet near term needs for ARDP projects.

Redmond added a key observation that no new R&D is needed to make HALEU. “We know how to manufacture the fuel,” he said.

Third Way Report on Down Blending

fuel assemblyAlan Ahn, a resident fellow at the Third Way, a DC-based think tank, in an interview with Neutron Bytes cited a recent report published by Third Way on down blending options.

“One metric ton of HEU will produce approximately 4-5 metric tons of HALEU through down blending. Given that the first cores of the ARDP Pathway 1 demonstrations will require an estimated 25 metric tons of HALEU, roughly 6-7 metric tons of HEU would be needed for down blending.”

Ahn added that in declassified reports, NNSA said that 42 metric tonnes of HEU  are available for down blending and would not impact national security needs. This inventory of HEU could yield between 168 and 210 metric tonnes of HALEU assuming the funds, facilities, and licensing issues can be resolved in a timely manner. The rate at which the down blending could produce HALEU is a key question.

NIA HALEU Webinar

More recently, during a webinar held last week by the Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) Patrick White, an NIA project manager, said that down blending should be a near term priority for DOE. However, NEI’s Redmond pointed out that NNSA’s reluctance to support it is based the need for a facility to do it, and there are questions of whether the HEU is in a form that readily supports the process.

In the NIA webinar Art Hyde, Portfolio Manager at Segra Capital  Management, agreed with Redmond that enrichment and manufacturing of HALEU fuel “are not technical issues.”

Hyde also pointed to another factor that is holding back fuel firms from taking early action to address the potential for an HALEU market.

“There is a lack of expertise in the investment world about nuclear energy. DOE and the advanced reactor firms must talk to investors to educate them. Addressing the issues of pricing, raising capital for equipment, and addressing the commercial issues are solvable.”

He added that early action by DOE “is incredibly important” as part of an overall public private partnership between the government, the nuclear fuel industry, and the developers of advanced reactors.

According to NIA’s White, if DOE becomes the 1st supplier of HALEU fuel, the agency will be able to sell it to reactor developers. The agency’s program will be paid for, in effect, by the reactor firms buying the fuel from the agency. The promised purchase orders from DOE to the fuel firms will justify their seeking investors to fund building the facilities needed to enrich and manufacture it. In other words, the cash flow goes through DOE.

“In this way there is no net outlay by DOE, and it creates a functioning market,” White said.

Q&A with the Department of Energy

DOE Nuke Ofc logoWith all the loud knocking on DOE’s door following the release of the RFI, Neutron Bytes asked the agency to provide an update on its current efforts to address the HALEU supply issues. Because of the number of different parts of the agency that are involved, all of the comments below are attributable to an “agency spokesman” which represents a consolidated response.

Q – STRATEGY — Regarding the HALEU RFI and work on a “more comprehensive uranium strategy,” does DOE have a timeline and/or target date for completion and release of a strategy?  What is the list of issues that it will address?

A – The Department of Energy team focused on the comprehensive uranium strategy is working with a clear sense of urgency to identify options that will meet commercial and DOE uranium needs in the near-term, mid-term and long-term. This strategy has the mutual objectives of expanding our domestic fuel cycle supply capacity and limiting our dependence on Russian-supplied uranium. An initiative of this magnitude requires extensive input, coordination, and endorsement, so a precise timetable cannot be provided.

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Q – One of the issues is whether HALEU fuel will be available in a timely manner for the two advanced reactors funded under DOE’s ARDP program. That program has ambitious milestones set by the agency that the two firms must meet. The availability of HALEU fuel is a key item on their respective critical paths. DOE’s role in making the fuel available is a key factor in achieving success. How is DOE planning to address this?

A – As previously noted, the Department is considering all near-term and mid-term HALEU supply options until a commercial supply of HALEU enrichment is established. We consider HALEU supply for the two ARDP demonstration reactor projects as one of our highest priorities.

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Q– DOWNBLENDING HEU  — With regard to down blending of HEU, it is my understanding that the down blending of the EBR-II fuel in Idaho is specific for the Oklo advanced reactor effort and not generally applicable to other developers.

Is that assumption correct?  The EBR-II fuel is not technically HEU, e.g., 20%+ U235, so what will be the final enrichment level of the down blended HALEU and what form will it be in?

A – The EBR-II spent nuclear driver fuel currently being down blended at the Idaho National Laboratory is HEU. The batch process being used doesn’t result in a precise, uniform enrichment level, but is targeting a level just under 20%. The material produced is a uranium metal.

Nearly 10 metric tons of HALEU should be produced from the finite supply of EBR-II driver fuel. Five metric tons were set aside for Oklo’s use based on a prior solicitation of interest in the material issued by the INL.

Additional developers have expressed some interest in the material as well, but it is not suitable for all applications due to the impurities remaining from being previously irradiated. The two ARDP demonstration projects are not interested in using the EBR-II material.

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Q – Also, With regard to the FY 2023 budget request, how much HEU would be down blended, based on this funding if approved by Congress, and in what form will it be in based on the funding request?

A – The FY23 budget request within the Office of Nuclear Energy includes the initial year of funding for a 3-year project at the Savanah River Site which will ultimately produce about 2 MT of HALEU. The NNSA/DNN FY23 request contains a similar multi-year funding request for material at Y-12 that will produce just over 2 MT of HALEU. Both of these projects would produce HALEU in oxide form.

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Q – Also, a recent report by Third Way, a DC based energy related think tank, has some estimates about down blending needs for HALEU and available supplies of HEU. How does DOE’s program in the FY2023 budget request compare to the report. See URL and snip below.  I assume that DOE is aware of the report.

“HALEU needs require just a modest amount of HEU based on the latest assessments, down blending HEU would also entail a modest investment—between $150 to $200 million over the next few years to expand down blending capacity—compared to the massive political and financial commitments the federal government has made toadvanced nuclear development in the last several years. A temporary down blending program is a necessary complement to the investments we’ve already made in advanced reactors, while accompanying efforts to develop domestic enrichment capabilities will likely enable options to replace the HEU used for down blending, if necessary. Of the nearly 42 metric tons of HEU that was previously available for down blending, it is likely that adequate stockpiles remain to produce the 25 metric tons of HALEU that is immediately needed to support our energy security and climate priorities.”

Also, it has been noted that it is not clear that all of the HEU that could be down blended for HEU is in a form that allows for early action on it. Is this an issue?

A – We are aware of and have read the June 17 Third Way report. The report generally describes quantities of HEU within DOE’s inventory and notes that specific quantities of HEU can be down blended into larger quantities of HALEU. The report also notes the importance of finding a fuel source for the ARDP demos and accelerating U.S. innovative reactor concepts to the marketplace. The vast majority of DOE’s HEU inventory is allocated to national security missions, so it would be a misconception to assume that the various materials in inventory are readily available and can simply or quickly be processed into HALEU. The Department is thoroughly evaluating what is feasible to achieve without adverse programmatic, cost or schedule impacts.

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Q – PROPOSED LEGISLATION — The International Nuclear Energy Act of 2022, introduced by Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and James Risch (R-ID), authorizes $3.5B towards the build-out of domestic low-enriched uranium (LEU) and HALEU production infrastructure.  If this bill is added as an amendment to the FY2023 Energy & Water Appropriation, which looks like a plausible scenario, how would DOE proceed to spend the money in FY 2023 to produce HALEU fuel?

Separately, The Fueling Our Nuclear Future Act, introduced by Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), specifically focuses on HALEU supply challenges and provides funding for down blending to assure timely supply for our vanguard advanced reactor deployments.

What is the administration’s position, if any, on these bills?

A – The Administration has not taken a formal position on these two Bills. The Department is closely monitoring proposed legislation which addresses the nuclear fuel cycle and has provided technical assistance as requested by Congress. The Department has interacted with relevant House and Senate Committee staff on these topics. It would be premature to comment on how the Department would implement the specific provisions of the various Bills, noting that some of them take different approaches. It should also be recognized that authorizing legislation ultimately requires appropriations for the Department to implement actions.

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Posted in Nuclear | 3 Comments

OPG and X-energy Team Up for Industrial Process Heat

  • OPG and X-energy Team Up for Industrial Process Heat
  • OPG Updates Green Bond Framework to Include Nuclear Energy
  • TerraPower Seeks NRC Construction Approval By 2025
  • NRC Issues Final EIS for Holtec’s Spent Fuel Interim Storage Facility
  • Two Applications for SMRs Submitted to Polish Nuclear Safety Regulator
  • Poland’s KGHM – Nu Scale SMRs May Cost $2 Billion to Build
  • Westinghouse and Energoatom Sign Agreement For New AP1000s
  • Japan / Prime Minister Calls For Restart Of Nine More Reactors
  • Curio and Energy Northwest Sign MOU for Nuclear Fuel Recycling
  • NIA Publishes Two New Reports on Advanced Reactors

OPG and X-energy Team Up for Industrial Process Heat

  • Deployment of the Firm’s Xe-100 HTGR Can Reduce Industrial Carbon Emissions

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and X-energy have signed a framework agreement to pursue opportunities to deploy Xe-100 small modular reactors (SMRs) for industrial applications in Canada. The Xe-100 is a Gen-IV High-Temperature Gas-cooled Reactors (HTGR). As a pebble bed HTGR, the Xe-100 would use TRISO fuel particles encased in graphite pebbles as the fuel and helium as the coolant.

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OPG and X-energy will pursue opportunities to deploy Xe-100 advanced reactors in Ontario at industrial sites and identify further potential end users and sites throughout Canada. OPG owns and operates four commercial nuclear power plants at the Darlington nuclear station and six at the Pickering station.

The Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled reactor optimizes proven technology to enable decarbonization of industrial end use applications. Efficiently combining high-temperature steam and power production, the Xe-100 can directly support heavy industry including oil sands operations, mining applications, and other industrial processes. Temperatures in the chart below are in Celsius.

Process Heat Temps and Uses1

X-energy developed and designed its Xe-100 reactor by building and improving on decades of high-temperature gas reactor research, development, and operating experience. This Generation IV reactor is scalable to meet demand.

One unit can generate up to 80 MWe of electricity from 200 MWt of thermal power. It efficiently produces steam at 565C and offers highly flexible co-generation options, making it the ideal candidate for decarbonizing multiple industrial processes and supporting end-user power needs.

process heat rs

Image: Royal Society, UKX-Energy’s Xe-10 is currently in the 2nd Phase of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) Vendor Design Review process. No date has been identified on the CNSC website for a license application.

This is the second SMR effort inked by OPG. In November 2021, OPG announced it would work with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to deploy a BWRX-300 SMR at the Darlington new nuclear site. It is the only site in Canada currently licensed for a new nuclear construction, which is expected to be completed by the end of this decade.

The BWRX-300 is in Phase 2 of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Vendor Design Review process. No date has been identified on the CNSC website for a license application.

OPG Collaboration with TVA

OPG also has a collaboration agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on SMRs that also involves the BWRX-300. TVA announced in May that it will leverage its current early site permit (ESP) for a small modular reactor (SMR) to submit an application for an NRC Part 50 construction license for a GE-Hitachi 300 MWe BWRX-300 SMR by 2024..

Last year, TVA’s board approved investment of up to $200 million in a new nuclear program centered on Clinch River, and the authority is now in the process of supporting the detailed design development of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s BWRX300 and developing the licensing application package.

According to the NRC the BWRX-300 is in Pre-Application review of Licensing Topical Reports. A date has not been announced for submission of an application for a design certification review. Applications must closely analyze the design’s appropriate response to accidents or natural events. Applications must also lay out the inspections, tests, analyses and acceptance criteria that will verify the construction of key design features.

OPG Support for NRCan SMR Action Plan

Natural Resources Canada’s SMR Action Plan shows an estimated global value of $150B per year by 2040 in the following areas. It calls for which called for the development, demonstration and deployment of SMRs with the first units potentially operating in the late 2020s. The SMR Action plan says development and deployment of SMRs in Canada could yield up to $19B in total annual economic impact between 2030-2040, creating more than 6,000 new jobs annually across the country.

  • To replace coal-fired generation;
  • To provide heat and power for mines;
  • To provide steam for heavy industry; and
  • For remote island nations and off-grid communities.

Four Canadian provincial governments are pushing ahead with a plan to develop nuclear power in Canada with calls for the federal government to back ambitious plans for SMRs and a new class of Generation IV micro-SMR for remote communities and mines. The provinces are calling for a grid-scale SMR project of 300 MWe constructed at the Darlington nuclear site in Ontario by 2028 with subsequent units to follow in Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan Follows OPG’s Lead

SaskPower has selected the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 for potential deployment in Saskatchewan in the mid-2030s. The decision follows an  assessment of several SMR technologies. The utility has plenty of choices as there are 13 reactor designs involved in Vendor Design Review (VDR) at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Three are light water designs and the other 10 are a variety of advanced designs.

SaskPower’s assessment focused on several key factors including safety, technology readiness, generation size, fuel type and expected cost of electricity.

The selection follows an independent and comprehensive assessment process that also included close collaboration with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and a review by Calian, an independent engineering firm with extensive experience in Canada’s nuclear industry.

The likely clinchers for the BWRX-300 at SaskPower is that it has been selected by Ontario Power Group (OPG) as its first SMR design and that its design can be supported by supply chains familiar with BWR type reactors.

OPG Updates Green Bond Framework to Include Nuclear Energy

green-bonds.pngOntario Power Generation (OPG) released an update to its green bond framework that now includes eligible nuclear projects. Net proceeds from CAD300M ($232M) in green bonds will be used to finance Darlington Refurbishment, one of Canada’s largest clean energy projects.

Once complete, this $12.8 billion project will enable production of clean, safe, low cost and emission free electricity from Darlington for an additional 30-plus years.  Execution of Darlington Refurbishment recently passed the half-way point, on time and on budget.

In addition, CICERO Shades of Green, a leading provider of independent, research-based evaluations of green bond and sustainability financing frameworks, completed a second-party opinion on OPG’s green bond framework with a CICERO Medium Green shading and a governance score of Good.

According to OPG in a statement to investors, this issuance brings OPG’s green bond program to a total of $2.8 billion. The bonds were offered as part of OPG’s medium term notes series in each of the provinces of Canada, through a syndicate of agents co-led by BMO Capital Markets and CIBC World Markets as Lead Agents and Joint Bookrunners. It was well received by the market despite recent historical Bank of Canada rate hike of 100 basis points and was oversubscribed 5.8 times.

Ontario continues to invest in nuclear power as a key component of the province’s climate goals. More than 60% of the province’s power is generated by nuclear energy and the two largest stations – Darlington and Bruce – are scheduled to operate for decades to come. The continued operation of Darlington Nuclear to 2055 will create the same emissions reduction as taking 2 million Ontario cars of the road per year.

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TerraPower Seeks Construction License By 2025

  • First reactor planned for a retiring coal plant site in Wyoming

terrapower_logo_black_hi_res (2)(NucNet) US-based TerraPower, the nuclear technology company founded by Bill Gates and who continues as one of its major investors, is aiming to get construction approval from the NRC under the Part 50 process by 2025 for its first Natrium nuclear power plant in Wyoming, according to Chris Levesque, the company’s CEO. The Natirum reactor is a 345 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system.

Mr Levesque said about 800 people are working on the Natrium nuclear power reactor project across a partnership with GE Hitachi and Bechtel.

TerraPower and its partners are developing the Natrium reactor demonstration project, which is one of two projects supported through dollar-for-dollar cost sharing by the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (DOE Infographic – large file)

Levesque said half of the cost of the first Natrium plant in Wyoming will be financed by the US government, whose support is “crucial” in assisting US companies in competing with state-owned champions from Russia and China.

TerraPower has said the plant’s simplified design and use of advanced construction methods will make it faster and more affordable to build than conventional plants, and its constant high operating temperature can be used to generate carbon-free heat or electricity to drive other energy-intensive manufacturing processes.

According to Levesque, TerraPower’s approach to the Natrium plant is to “decouple” its nuclear island construction from conventional construction, which will help deliver the project on schedule and within cost estimates.

He said since many of the plant systems will not be nuclear-related, a major part of construction could begin even before the NRC issues the construction permit. Under the Part 50 licensing process the firm will have to submit a separate application for an operating license which includes a safety evaluation report.

In November 2021, TerraPower announced it has chosen the site of the Naughton coal-fired power plant near Kemmerer, Wyoming, as the preferred location for the first Natrium nuclear plant.

The Naughton coal plant, operated by utility PacifiCorp, is scheduled for retirement in 2025. TerraPower has said it is aiming for its first Natrium plant at the site to begin operation in 2028.

By locating the Natrium reactor near the retiring coal plant, TerraPower has said it could take advantage of the existing energy infrastructure that is in place including cooling water and grid transmission and also the workforce.

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NRC Issues Final EIS for Holtec’s Spent Fuel Interim Storage Facility

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has published its final environmental impact statement (FEIS) for Holtec International’s application for a license to construct and operate a consolidated interim spent nuclear fuel storage facility near Hobbs, NM. Based on its environmental review, the NRC staff recommends issuing the license, subject to the determinations in the staff’s safety review of the application.

Holtec proposes initially to store 500 canisters holding approximately 8,680 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel in a first phase and eventually to store up to 10,000 canisters in an additional 19 phases. The canisters would be transported by rail from operating, decommissioning,  and decommissioned commercial nuclear power plants around the country.

According to Holtec, the Hi-Store consolidated interim storage facility, will provide a significant step on the path to the federal government’s longstanding obligation for disposition of used nuclear fuel. The company said the facility will bring to one location used nuclear fuel canisters presently scattered across the country at dozens of independent used fuel storage sites.

“Every nuclear plant stores used fuel on site as the industry awaits the completion of either a consolidated interim storage site or permanent disposal repository by the federal government,” Holtec said.

“Taxpayers are assessed $800 million annually because of the federal government’s failure to meet its obligation to dispose of used fuel that currently resides at nuclear plants across the country, creating a liability that has cost American taxpayers $6.9 billion through 2017.”

Onsite storage of used nuclear fuel at nuclear power plants was never intended to be permanent. Spent nuclear fuel is being stored at 121 different facilities in 39 states. Each facility has its own security, operations, and maintenance requirements. A single facility would be beneficial because it would consolidate security, operations, and maintenance resources.

The NRC’s EIS assesses the environmental impacts of the entire project, or all 20 possible phases, from construction through decommissioning. It looked at the impacts to land use, transportation, geology and soils, surface waters and wetlands, groundwater, ecological resources, historic and cultural resources, environmental justice and several other areas.

The agency published a draft EIS for public comment in March 2020. Due to the Covid-19 public health emergency, the public comment period was extended to six months. During that time, the NRC staff held six online public meetings to present the draft EIS and receive public comments. More than 4,800 comment submissions with 3,718 individual comments were received and addressed in the final EIS.

Publication of the final EIS completes the environmental portion of the NRC’s licensing review. The staff will make a licensing decision following completion of its safety evaluation report, expected in January 2023. New Mexico state officials and the oil and gas industry in New Mexico have opposed the NRC license and have disregarded the safety track record of dry casks for storage of spent fuel. Holtec is a global expert on manufacturing of the casks.

Interim Storage Partners Licensed in Texas

The Holtec proposed facility is the second effort underway to establish an interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel. Interestingly, it is less than an hour’s drive from Andrews, TX, which is the site of another planned interim storage facility.

In September 2021 the NRC issued a license to Interim Storage Partners LLC to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel in Andrews, Texas. Interim Storage Partners is a joint venture of Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS) and Orano USA.

The license authorizes the company to receive, possess, transfer and store up to 5000 tonnes of used fuel and 231.3 tonnes of Greater-Than-Class C (GTCC) low-level radioactive waste for 40 years. GTCC is defined by the NRC as low-level radioactive waste with concentrations of radionuclides that exceed certain limits.

Interim Storage Partners intends to construct the storage facility on property adjacent to WCS’s existing low-level radioactive waste disposal site, which is already operating under a Texas license. The company has said it plans to expand the new facility in seven additional phases, of 5,000 tonnes each up to a total capacity of 40,000 ton of fuel. Each expansion would require a license amendment with additional NRC safety and environmental reviews.

Texas state officials and the oil and gas industry have opposed plans for the facility and have disregarded the safety track record of dry casks for storage of spent fuel. Orano, one of the partners in the project, has decades of experience safely managing spent nuclear fuel at US reactors.

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Applications for SMRs Submitted to Polish Nuclear Safety Regulator

(WNN contributed to this report) Two applications have been submitted to Poland’s National Atomic Energy Agency (Panstwowa Agencja Atomistyki, PAA) for the assessment of small modular reactor (SMR) technology. Copper and silver producer KGHM Polska Miedz SA‘s application is based on NuScale’s VOYGR SMR power plant, while Orlen Synthos Green Energy’s application concerns GE Hitachi (GEH) Nuclear Energy’s BWRX-300.

The applications are for a ‘general opinion’ on the planned organizational and technical solutions used in the respective reactors. PAA said a general opinion, “as a prelicensing instrument, may apply to any solutions planned by the investor, including design, technological and organizational solutions, which will have a direct impact on the issues of nuclear safety and radiological protection.”  It could take six-to-nine months to complete the review process.

The resulting opinion will determine whether the planned organizational and technical solutions comply with the requirements of nuclear safety and radiological protection resulting from the provisions of the country’s Atomic Law Act, or whether the investor will need to make changes to its proposal.

In February this year, KGHM,  which submitted its application on July 8th, signed a definitive agreement with NuScale to initiate work towards deploying a first NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant in Poland as early as 2029. The first task under that agreement will identify and assess potential project sites and develop project planning milestones and cost estimates.

Orlen Synthos Green Energy, a joint venture between chemical producers Synthos Green Energy (SGE) and PKN Orlen, also submitted its application on July 8th. SGE, together with its partners, aim to deploy the first BWRX-300 in 2029 and to have at least 10 of the reactors in operation by the early 2030s. In terms of its supply chain the firm has signed on BWXT Canada to provide components for the reactors.

Orlen Synthos Green Energy said that the technical documentation submitted with its application is based on the documentation prepared by GEH for the Canadian nuclear regulator as part of the Vendor Design Review (VDR) process. The BWRX-300 is in Phase 2 of the VDR process. No date has been identified on the CNSC website for a license application.

Ontario Power Generation last year selected the BWRX-300 for deployment at its Darlington site, where it says Canada’s first commercial, grid-scale SMR could be completed as soon as 2028.

“Thanks to this, it will be possible to use the Canadian experience in the field of development, preparation of the investment process, licensing, construction and operation of a nuclear power plant of the same type in Poland,” Orlen said.

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Poland’s KGHM – SMRs May Cost $2 Billion to Build

Six small modular nuclear reactors which Polish miner KGHM (KGH.WA) aims to build with technology firm NuScale Power could cost up to $2 billion, Chief Financial Officer Andrzej Kensbok told the Reuters news service at a press event. KGHM and NuScale Power signed a deal in February to start deploying small modular reactors in Poland, aiming to have the first one operational by 2029.

“The cost of six units may be around $1.5 billion to $2 billion,” Kensbok told a news conference. At 77 MWe per unit, for a total of 462 MWe, the cost of $2B would indicate a unit cost of just over $4,300/Kw.

Synthos Green has not released information on a cost estimate for its plans to deploy up to 10 GE Hitachi (GEH) BWRX300 SMRs. GEH has previously claimed it can deliver the SMRs, using factory based production and assembly methods, for about $3,000/Kw.

Based on the firm’s estimate, each 300 MWe unit would cost approximately $900M. A 10-unit fleet would cost about $10 billion. Synthos Green has not released a schedule for production and deployment of the fleet. Assuming it can pay for and take delivery of one unit every two years, the $10 billion cost, spread over two decades, would require the firm to raise $500M/year in capital.

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Westinghouse and Energoatom New Sign Agreement For New AP1000s

  • Kyiv Is Updating a Feasibility Study For Two New Reactors at the Khmelnitski Site

(NucNet) Westinghouse Electric Company has signed a contract with Energoatom, Ukraine’s national nuclear power company, to provide technical information about the AP1000 nuclear plant in support of Energoatom’s feasibility study update for the construction of two reactors at the Khmelnitski nuclear power station site in southwestern Ukraine.

The contract builds on an earlier agreement between Westinghouse and Energoatom to construct AP1000s for Khmelnitski units 5 and 6 and begin the licensing process for the two plants.

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Energoatom has said that the two new planned Westinghouse units at Khmelnitski will be separate from the unfinished Khmelnitski unit 3 and  unit4 plants and will be built on a new site at the existing station. An earlier agreement called for Westinghouse to consider completing one of the two partially built Russian VVERs. This effort would have required cooperation from Rosatom which is now impossible given Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

The companies have also announced plans to set up a Westinghouse engineering center in Ukraine to support the new-build program, the present operating fleet of 15 commercial nuclear units, and future decommissioning.

In June 2022, Westinghouse and Energoatom expanded agreements for Westinghouse to supply all nuclear fuel for the Energoatom operating fleet in Ukraine.

Financing for the deal for new reactors has not been announced though EnergoAtom has previously claimed that the US government would provide some of the funds needed for the project. However, both the US Export/Import Bank and the US Department of Energy have declined to comment.

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Japan / Prime Minister Calls For Restart Of Nine More Reactors

(NucNet) Japan’s prime minister Fumio Kishida said he will aim to restart up to nine commercial nuclear power plants to address a looming winter electricity shortage. The move will allow the country to secure about 10% of its electricity needs from nuclear energy  Kishida said.

“Safety will be a prerequisite for taking this forward,” Kishida said. He added: “We need to have a balanced mix of various energy sources.”

Before the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011, Japan’s fleet of 54 nuclear power plants generated about 30% of the country’s electricity. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency that figure was 5.1% in 2020.

Mr Kishida, whose LDP won recent upper house elections that confirmed his position as prime minister, is facing rising energy prices that are squeezing voters’ budgets. He said nuclear reactors would be part of the country’s future energy security policy.

Nine regional power utilities and a wholesaler, Japan Atomic Power Company (Japco), now have 33 reactors available for commercial use, but they need to meet post-Fukushima safety standards before they can operate and safety upgrades and regulatory approvals have been slow to be completed due to security concerns.

Japan has nine commercial nuclear reactors in operation. They are Genkai-3, Genkai-4, Ikata-3, Ohi-3, Ohi-4, Sendai-1, Sendai-2, Takahama-3 and Takahama-4.

While the public remains cautious about nuclear energy because of safety concerns, their attitude has shifted somewhat in light of the shifting geopolitical developments. According to a poll by Nikkei in March, 53% of respondents said they would support restarting nuclear reactors if their safety could be assured, the highest proportion since the 2011 disaster.

More than Two Dozen Restarts are Pending

While traveling in Japan recently, Jessica R. Lovering, Ph.D., @J_Lovering, of the DC based Good Energy Collective, Tweeted that 27 reactors in Japan have applied for license to restart, and 10 have already restarted. She said, “The country is trying to accelerate process in light of capacity shortfall during this summer (and winters),and it looks like 2023 could see 5 more restarts.”

“They are very focused on restarts right now. But they currently have a limit on relicensing, it can only happen once extending lifetimes to 60 years. And they can’t build nuclear on *new* sites, so there’s lots of interest in future SMRs at existing nuclear sites”

She added that construction on Rokkasho Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Facility will finish this year and they will start reprocessing soon. Fuel fabrication will start in first half of 2024 according to plan. Japan has long sought to convert its surplus stocks of plutonium into MOX fuel and to reprocess spent fuel from its fleet of light water reactors into future MOX fuel assemblies for domestic use.

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Curio and Energy Northwest Sign MOU for Nuclear Fuel Recycling

Curio announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Energy Northwest as an industry partner and potential off-taker of products produced through Curio’s NuCycle nuclear waste recycling process.

curio logoThis MOU is part of Curio’s plans to deploy the Nation’s first state-of-the-art commercial nuclear fuel recycling facility that will provide a variety of in-demand commodities and products including domestically produced low-enriched uranium (LEU) nuclear fuel for the current U.S. fleet of nuclear reactors as well as HALEU (high-assay low-enriched uranium) and transuranic based TRUfuel for advanced reactors under development.

Curio developed NuCycle to recycle used nuclear fuel and develop off-take isotopes for a wide variety of industries to include space, advanced batteries, and nuclear medicine. NuCycle leverages decades of American R&D to create a compact, clean, economical, scalable and proliferation resistant nuclear waste recycling process.

With NuCycle, Curio said it will be able to dramatically reduce the quantity of radioactive nuclear waste and create a new and unprecedented standard for nuclear used fuel recycling across the globe.

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NIA Publishes Two New Reports on Advanced Reactors

  • New Company Compendium Highlights Advanced Nuclear Industry Leaders and Updates its First-Ever Primer on Advanced Reactor Technology Basics

nia-logo_thumb.pngThe Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) released a new report, Advanced Nuclear Reactor Technology: A Company Compendium and an update for their report Advanced Nuclear Reactor Technology: A Primer

The NIA’s new and updated reports provide information, resources and insights into advanced nuclear technology innovation and commercialization. They are resources for investors, reporters, policymakers, regulators and others who want to learn more about advanced nuclear technologies and the key players building this industry.

With increasing attention being paid to supporting the technologies required to meet mid-century climate goals, these documents should serve as helpful guides to understanding the basics of advanced nuclear energy technology and what companies are involved in the design, licensing, construction, and operation of advanced nuclear reactors.

“We created this Company Compendium and updated our Primer to provide investors, media, congressional and administration staff and others the key information they need to understand the rapidly evolving advanced nuclear energy space”, explained NIA Executive Director Judi Greenwald.

“The Company Compendium serves as an introduction to the advanced reactor business ecosystem for potential investors and other key stakeholders while the Primer is intended as a “101” document that explains the characteristics of the most common advanced nuclear reactors and leading designs. Considering how both the business side and the technology side of the advanced nuclear energy community are evolving, both documents are intended to be “online” documents and they will be updated over time.”

The company held a webinar on  July 13th to present the two reports. A video recording of the one-hour long program is available. The briefing featured NIA Executive Director Judi Greenwald, NIA Project Manager Patrick White, NIA Nuclear Innovation Analyst Victor Ibarra, Jr and two special guests: Art Hyde, Portfolio Manager at Segra Capital Management and James Wolf, Vice President, Finance, ARC Clean Energy.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on OPG and X-energy Team Up for Industrial Process Heat

South Korea Removes Shackles of Nuclear Phase Out Policy

  • South Korea Removes Shackles of Nuclear Phase Out Policy
  • A Record Heat Wave in Japan May Speed Up Nuclear Reactor Restarts
  • UK Delays Sizewell C Decision; Political Turmoil Causes Caution Flags
  • PG&E to Submit Request to DOE for Funding to Keep Diablo Canyon Open
  • France to Complete Nationalization of EDF
  • Fermi-Energia Says SMR in Estonia Could be Online by 2032

South Korea Removes Shackles of Nuclear Phase Out Policy

  • The New Government Reverses Phaseout Plans. Targets 30% Nuclear Share In 2030
  • Seoul to Resume Construction of Two Units. President Says Building Reactors is a ‘Global Trend’

start(NucNet contributed to this report)  South Korea announced a new energy policy that calls for a “feasible and reasonable energy mix” with restarts for construction of the Shin-Hanul Unit-3 and Unit-4 nuclear power plants. The new policy is to increase the share of nuclear power to a minimum of 30%  of electrical generation by 2030. The policy effectively reverses the previous administration’s plans to phase out commercial nuclear energy.

Former president Moon Jae-in’s policy had been to retire the country’s 24 commercial reactors by 2050 and to stop building new ones. Moon’s aggressive efforts to strangle the country’s nuclear utilities was a ‘populist’ and political strategy relative to their combined corporate economic power.

By contrast, new president Yoon Suk-yeol, who recently took office, is bullish on the need for South Korea to embrace nuclear energy. He has said  earlier this week that building nuclear power plants is a global trend and that it is essential to the reduction of carbon and energy security. He specifically took note of the fact that the European Union parliament has now classified nuclear power as ‘green energy’ in its sustainable finance taxonomy.

The plan to boost the country’s electrical generation to 30% provided by nuclear energy means existing reactors will be kept in operation as long as regulations allow. Their contribution to the nation’s energy security currently stands at 27% of electrical generation.

According to a statement from the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy, “The 30% goal for nuclear (electric generation) makes official the policy of increasing nuclear power utilization in view of [the need for] carbon neutrality and energy security.”

The ministry added that the new energy policy is intended to replace the previous government’s nuclear phaseout plan. The government said the new policy takes into account changing factors including South Korea’s desire for climate neutrality, the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine war, uncertainty in the global supply chain and energy security. A July 5th cabinet meeting chairs by President Yoon ratified the new policy.

South Korea Energy Use by the Numbers

According to International Atomic Energy Agency data South Korea’s fleet of 25 commercial nuclear plants generated about 27% of the country’s electricity in 2021. According to the World Nuclear Association, in South Korea the 25 reactors provide South Korea’s electricity from 23 GWe of plant generation capacity. Coal remains the leading fuel source for electricity generation.

Total electric generation in 2020 is composed of: coal 227 TWh (39%); nuclear 160 TWh (27%); natural gas 151 TWh (26%); solar 19 TWh (3%); biofuels & waste 10 TWh; hydro 8 TWh; oil 7 TWh; wind 4 TWh.

s korea energy fuelsAccording to the US Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration, South Korea’s energy-intensive heavy industrial sector, mostly manufacturing of machinery, shipbuilding cars & trucks, textiles, steel, and petrochemical production, drives the country’s electricity consumption.

In 2019, about 54% of electricity consumption came from industries, 26% from commercial and service sector enterprises, 14% from the residential sector, and 7% from other sectors such as transportation and agriculture.

With a focus on exports, South Korea was the world’s ninth-largest energy consumer in 2020.

Restarts of Reactor Construction

Work on Shin-Hanul-3 and Shin-Hanul-4 was halted in 2017 under the nuclear phaseout policy of the previous administration. According to press reports in South Korea, the government has said approvals would be completed and contracts concluded by 2024 so construction of both Shin-Hanul plants can resume in the first half of 2025.

South Korea has two APR-1400 units in operation at Shin-Kori-3 and Shin-Kori-4 and four units nearing completion or under construction at Shin-Hanul-1, Shin-Hanul-2, Shin-Kori-5 and Shin-Kori-6.

Planned Expansion of Exports of Nuclear Reactors

Business Korea reported that the government is going to set up task forces in 10 to 15 embassies globally this year to help South Korean nuclear power plant builders win contracts abroad. The locations of the task forces are predicted to include the Czech Republic, Poland, Saudi Arabia, the UK, the Netherlands, South Africa and Slovenia among other locations.

The government has also said it plans to spend $320 million over the next six years to develop next-generation small modular reactors with an eye towards exports.. The SMR will be designed to have power generation capacity of 300 MW or less. Several South Korean heavy industry firms have business commitments with U.S. developers of SMRs which may lead to collaboration in this area.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement on July 7th that South Korea’s nuclear power plant exports are expected to increase based on the inclusion of nuclear power in the EU taxonomy.

“The European Parliament’s decision means that financing will be facilitated on the part of EU member states planning to build nuclear power plants such as the Czech Republic and Poland. “

South Korea’s state-owned Korea Hydro Nuclear Power (KHNP) said it is ready to take up to a 49% equity stake in Poland’s nuclear power program. Last May KHNP presented an offer to build six of its APR-1400 pressurized water reactors (PWRs) for Poland with a combined capacity of 8.4 GW, with the first reactor to be operational in 2033.

UK Interest in South Korea’s 1400 MWe PWR

The South Korean Trade Ministry also revealed that the head of the U.K. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is about to visit South Korea for cooperation in the nuclear power industry.

One possible agenda item for the visit is to restart negotiations for South Korea to take on a new build at the Wylfa and Oldbury sites in the UK. Japan’s Hitachi, which was to develop four 1350 MWe ABWRs, two at each location, backed out of these projects citing the uncertainties of the UK’s commitment under BREXIT and the lack of a viable financing plan. Since then the UK has committed to the RAB financing plan which is a ‘pay-as-you-go’ method similar to the US CWIP financing method in regulated markets.

Another possibility is the Bradwell site which is now in play since UK PM Boris Johnson ejected Chinese state owned enterprises from an agreement that they could build a 1000 MWe Hualong One at that site in return for a 20% equity stake in the Sizewell C site. China took the Hualong One through the UK ONR GDA  process as part of the deal which Johnson cancelled on security grounds.

Prospects in the US

In the U.S. South Korea has completed the safety design review process for its 1400 MWe PWR at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Ltd. (KHNP) jointly submitted the application in 2013.

In August 2019 the NRC certified the Korean-designed Advanced Power Reactor 1400 (APR-1400). The certificate states that the NRC finds the design fully meets US safety requirements. So far there are no near-term market prospects for the South Korean PWR in the US.

South Korea is nearing completion of four of its APR 1400s in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The design of the APR1400 includes some intellectual property from Westinghouse. An agreement between the UAE and the US based on section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act allowed the $20 billion deal to go forward.

Prospects for a South Korean bid on a tender from Saudi Arabia, which does not have a 123 agreement, will depend in part on how the US State Department handles the issue.

In June Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO) says that it discussed with Westinghouse ways to cooperate on international nuclear power generation markets. South Korea has a goal of exporting 10 nuclear power plants by 2030.

The aim is to deepen cooperation in international nuclear power generation markets, KEPCO said, and follows the meeting between US President Joe Biden and President Yoon Suk-yeol in May which included an agreement to deepen ties in nuclear energy, with the discussions “expected to be the beginning of practical cooperation in the nuclear power sector between the companies of the two countries”.

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A Record Heat Wave in Japan May Speed Up Nuclear Plant Restarts

The combination of a record heat wave in Japan and a favorable political climate for nuclear energy, after years of caution caused by the Fukushima disaster, may result in speeding up reactor restarts.

heat waveAccording to the World Nuclear Association, until 2011, Japan was generating 30% of electricity from its reactors and this was expected to increase to at least 40% by 2017.

The plan is now for at least 20% of electricity to be generated by nuclear energy by 2030, from a down sized fleet. The first two reactors restarted in August and October 2015, with a further eight having restarted since. Another 16 reactors are currently in the process of restart approval. A total of 10 reactors, six at Fukushima Daiichi and four at Fukushima Daini are permanently offline and in the process of being decommissioned.

Of particular interest are planned restarted of the seven BWRs at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa site which is one of the largest nuclear power stations in the world. It consists of five 1,000 MWe BWRs and two 1300 MWe BWRs.

Progress towards restart there has been repeatedly delayed by management issues, including security gaffs, as well as deep distrust by provincial elected officials. In 2021 TEPCO, which is the owner and operator of the reactors, said in a business plan that it assumed unit 7 of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant would be restarted in October 2022 at the earliest, and unit 6 would restart in April 2024. It also said that one of units 1-5 would be restarted in 2028. The Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Authority has the final say on restarts.

Heat Waves and Public Support for Nuclear Reactor Restarts

According to a Reuters wire service report, Japan’s push to restart nuclear reactors, shut down after the Fukushima disaster a decade ago, could get a tailwind as the governing coalition looks set for gains in a national election on Sunday.

Reuters reported that Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s coalition is on track to expand its majority in the upper house of parliament, polls show, in an election where nuclear restarts have been an issue, along with inflation and defense.

Record heatwaves and authorities’ daily pleas to save energy have helped push Japanese voters toward the idea of more restarts. Local communities have substantial influence in the politics of restarting reactors after they receive regulatory approvals. Kishida’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) wants to boost nuclear back to 20%-22% of Japan’s energy mix by 2030 from less than 5% now.

The public mood related to energy security got a severe jolt last week after the government warned of shortages in electricity during the hottest June on record which prompted a surge in electricity demand. The prospect of brownouts or outright blackouts has resulted in a shift in public approval for nuclear energy. Reuters reported that a Mainichi newspaper poll in May found 47% favored restarts vs 30% opposed. This is a turnaround from 2018 when opponents outnumbered supporters 48% to 32%.

nuclear reactors in Japan
Voters have a grudging sense that restarts cannot be helped, said Daiwa Securities senior economist Toru Suehiro.

“The aversion towards nuclear power is waning a bit now since people have high utility bills and the power shortage on their mind,” Suehiro told Reuters.

“What’s clear from this situation is that we need to make more progress to restart nuclear reactors that are deemed safe.”

His brokerage estimates as of right now only four more reactors will come online by March 2024, bringing the total to 14 of the 33 available nationwide for commercial use, and increasing nuclear to 9% of Japan’s energy mix.

“There’s got to be some soul-searching over why action couldn’t be taken earlier,” Kengo Sakurada, head of the Keizai Doyukai business lobby, said last week. The government’s warnings to conserve energy caused some of Japan’s heavy industries to suspended production at their plants drawing comparisons to South Africa’s troubles with electricity supply which has limited economic growth in that country.

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UK Delays Sizewell C Decision; Political Turmoil Causes Caution Flags

A decision on whether to approve a £20 billion nuclear power plant has been delayed. The government was expected to make an announcement about the application for Sizewell C in Suffolk by July 8th. Business Minister Paul Scully said he had “set a new deadline of no later than July 20th for deciding this application.”

In a written statement to the House of Commons, Scully said that Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s decision would now be set for July 20th.

Political turmoil caused by the resignation of UK PM Boris Johnson, and the resignation of more than 50 his key ministers, has thrown off the timeline for the huge energy investment. One of the issues is whether a new PM might stop the project. On the other hand, now former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, who is one of a half dozen politicians vying for the PM’s job, is in favor of building the plant.

World Nuclear News, which is based on London, observed that although any change of leadership produces uncertainty around government direction and policy, it is thought likely that the energy strategy – which did not face any big challenge from Conservative MPs – will survive the forthcoming change of prime minister.

Mr. Scully said, without providing details, that the delay in the decision about Sizewell C is “to ensure there is sufficient time to allow the secretary of state to consider the proposal.”

He added, “The decision to set the new deadline for this application is without prejudice to the decision on whether to grant or refuse development consent.”

The government has already committed £100 million to Sizewell C and plans to take a 20% stake which would be worth £4 billion. In June the project was approved for public funding under the regulated asset base model (RAB).

French developer EDF will also take a 20% stake in the Suffolk power station. Taken together, the combined 40% stake is worth £8 billion. Outside investors are being sought to complete financing for the twin 1700 MWe reactors. Sizewell C is expected to cost a minimum of £20 billion.

Earlier this year, Kwarteng unveiled the UK’s supply security strategy, which included a pledge to boost nuclear energy generation from 7GWe to 24GWe over the next three decades. This is an increase from an earlier objective of 19 GWe.

UK-nuclear-projects_thumb.jpg

According to the City AM news service, Sizewell C head of financing Julia Pyke argued the long-term dividends such as supply security are key objectives.

“To me this is a bit like: Was the 1858 sewerage system late and over budget? Yes, it was. Do you wish London didn’t have a sewage system? No, you don’t. Was the London Underground in Victorian era built late and over budget? Yes, it was. Do you wish you didn’t have the Circle Line? No, you don’t. So, there’s a lack of proportionality in the way that people look at the cost of these mega projects.”

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PG&E to Submit Request to DOE for Funding to Keep Diablo Canyon Open

Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), the owner and operator of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant, said this week it will submit a bid to obtain funding under the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) $6 billion program to keep nuclear plants open. The government’s funding is intended to sustain CO2 emission free electric generation and to stabilize the grid. The utility has until September 6th to apply for funding from the Civil Nuclear Credit program.

diablo canyon

The action has the support of California Governor Gavin Newsome, and Sen. Diane Feinstein who very recently reversed a decades old policy of opposition to nuclear power.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, wrote an opinion piece June 15 in the Sacramento Bee, saying, “Drought could force California to significantly increase natural gas generation and power purchases from neighboring states. If California is to lead the clean energy transition, as state law mandates, Diablo must keep operating, at least for the time being.”

Diablo Canyon is the only nuclear power plant in the state. The 2,240 megawatts of production from the plant is scheduled to shut down Unit 1 November 2024 and Unit 2 in August 2025. The plant produces 9 percent of the state’s electricity.

A prolonged record heat wave has put a huge strain on the state’s electrical grid. The loss of the plant would very likely create rolling brownouts especially in highly urbanized areas like Los Angeles and throughout southern California.

Saying “we would be remiss not to put that on the table as an option,” Governor Newsom has spoken favorably of PG&E applying for funding from the Civil Nuclear Credit, or CNC, which is part of the recently passed infrastructure law. In a May 23rd letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Newsom’s Cabinet Secretary, Ana Matosantos, urged a change in the program’s eligibility requirements so that Diablo Canyon would be included. DOE granted PG&E a 60-day extension to submit its application.

Neither PG&E nor the governor’s office have said how much money the utility will ask for from DOE. A PG&E spokesperson said the utility “does not have a cost estimate to share with you now,” and added that extending Diablo Canyon operations beyond 2024 would require additional funding as well as approvals from federal (NRC), state (California PUC), and local regulatory authorities.

In the meantime, the California legislature passed a bill last week that allocates a reserve fund of up to $75 million to the Department of Water Resources and gives the agency authority to buy power from Diablo Canyon — as well as from fossil fuel power plants — when state power supplies run low.

PG&E in 2016 agreed to shutter Diablo Canyon after coming to an agreement with a combination of environmental and labor groups. The utility justified its action by saying that a combination of new natural gas plants and renewable energy (solar, wind) facilities would make for the loss of over 2 GWe of CO2 emission free power. Critics shredded the company’s claims and subsequent grid issues in California have borne them out.

The California Public Utilities Commission approved the deal in 2018. It is likely the groups involved in the 2016 decision will go to court to enforce the originally scheduled closure.

On June 27th, a group of 37 scientists, academics and entrepreneurs sent a letter to DOE Secretary Granholm in support of funding for Diablo Canyon.

“While California boasts a very high portion of electricity from renewable sources, California will have to boost its total renewable energy production by an enormous 20 percent in just two years to replace the clean energy being produced at Diablo Canyon,” the letter said.

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France to Complete Nationalization of EDF

(WNN contributed to this report) The French prime minister says the government will increase its shareholding in EDF from 84% to 100%, while the search for a successor to Chairman and CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy, who is approaching the mandatory retirement age, is under way. Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told France’s lower house of Parliament: “I confirm to you today that the state intends to control 100% of EDF’s capital.”

Re-elected President Emmanuel Macron earlier this year proposed the re-nationalization of EDF as well as a big expansion of nuclear energy in the coming decades, with six new reactors planned, eight more considered as well as the development of small modular reactors.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said the French government has set aside €12.7 billion for the full nationalization of state-controlled electricity provider EDF as well as other investments in the energy sector. Minority shareholders will need to be bought out by a mechanism that is still to be determined.

“It’s an investment, not spending,” Le Maire said which is necessary to secure full state control over the country’s strategic nuclear industry.

The French government is working with Goldman Sachs and Société Générale on how to take full management of utility EDF. The state owned enterprise is also gearing up for extra investments in nuclear reactors. As the same time it is facing significant financial challenges.

Corrosion issues at several reactors have reportedly sliced EDF’s electrical energy output, and the group has warned its core revenue can be hit by €18.5 billion this fiscal year. Also, EDF is very significantly over budget and behind schedule at two EPR projects, one in Finland and the other in France. It is building two more EPRs at the Hinkley Point C site in the UK and is poised to begin a similar project at the Sizewell C site in the UK. In summary, the firm is over-extended and needs a huge infusion of new capital to meet its current and future obligations.

“In the short term, you have a situation in which the financial results are going to be catastrophic,” Nicolas Goldberg, a senior power analyst at Columbus Consulting told wire services. “There was going to be a need for another recapitalization and the status quo was no longer possible.”

Two options are being considered to finance the nationalization scheme. The first is a protracted legislative process which French President Macron probably won’t favor because his party doesn’t hold a majority in the French parliament. The other is to issue financial bonds at market rates which would be much faster and politically cleaner to execute the buyout of minority investors and to finance Macron’s ambitious plans for new reactors.

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Fermi-Energia Says SMR in Estonia Could be Online by 2032

A nuclear power plant could be on-line and functioning in Estonia buy 2032 according to Fermi-Energia, a private sector nuclear energy firm. The plant would likely be a small nuclear reactors with a power rating of less than 300 MWe. A 300 MWe plant would provide about 20 percent of Estonia’s daytime electricity needs.

map estonia
The company said it was encouraged to proceed with its plans by the recent decision by the EU parliament to designate nuclear energy as “sustainable.” The action opens nuclear power projects in EU nations to new investment.

Kalev Kallemets, head of Fermi Energia, said that the plant would not require state support for its construction. He said there was a better than 50% chance the plant could be built and be in revenue service by 2032.

“We need four 300 MWe units in total,” he said. At $4,000/Kw, the four unit installation would cost about $4.8 billion.

The firm sees a bigger opportunity for additional revenue streams in addition to generation of electricity.

“We are seriously looking at producing on a large scale in order to produce large amounts of hydrogen. In addition to electricity, fertilizer production also needs to be decarbonized on a large scale in Europe, and this is a very large market.”

Fermi has so far involved €3.9 million towards the development of the project, but investor interest is growing, Kallemets said.

The small and compact nature of Estonia and rapid decision making processes lend themselves to the project’s realization as well, he said.

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Posted in Nuclear | Comments Off on South Korea Removes Shackles of Nuclear Phase Out Policy

EU Parliament Goes Green for Nuclear Energy

  • European Parliament Votes To Include Nuclear in Its Green Taxonomy

EU Taxonomy_Blog

(NucNet) Members of the European parliament have decided to “follow the science” and support legislation which includes nuclear in the bloc’s sustainable finance taxonomy for green investment. ( Full text ).

The vote to include nuclear energy in the “green taxonomy from a total of 639, was 328 for, and 278 against, with 33 abstentions.

A nuclear industry source told NucNet: “This result is actually even better than our most positive expectations based on calculations prior to the vote. Especially given the very aggressive misinformation campaign which the opponents have been running over the last 10 days (and right up until the last minute).”

The Washington Post reported there was significant opposition within the EU Parliament to the proposal. The plan was opposed not just by environmentalists but also by some E.U. advisers and even the CEO of a group representing large investors which opposed the inclusion of gas in the policy. Critics said a positive vote for gas would open up investors to the risks of “green washing.”

Those who oppose the inclusion of gas in the green taxonomy have expressed concern that it will incentivize investment in fossil fuels and delay the E.U.’s transition to renewable energy. Supporters of the plan argued for realism in energy policy.

“The ‘Immaculate Energy Transition’ does not exist,” Luis Garicano, a Spanish member of the European Parliament said. “A sensible transition requires more than just renewables.”

Stringent Conditions For Nuclear

The legislation means that under certain conditions nuclear will be labelled as a “green” energy source that could contribute to Europe’s transition to climate neutrality. According to the taxonomy, nuclear can now be considered as taxonomy compliant as long as it meets several conditions, including:

  • The member state in which the project is located must have operational final disposal facilities for very low, low and intermediate radioactive waste;
  • The member state must have plans in place for an operational disposal facility for high level radioactive waste;
  • As of 2025, existing and new build projects must use accident-tolerant fuel, which has been certified and approved by the national regulator.

What is the EU Taxonomy?

The EU taxonomy is a classification system, establishing a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities. It could play an important role helping the EU scale up sustainable investment and implement the European green deal.

The EU taxonomy would provide companies, investors and policymakers with appropriate definitions for which economic activities can be considered environmentally sustainable. In this way, it should create security for investors, protect private investors from greenwashing, help companies to become more climate-friendly, mitigate market fragmentation and help shift investments where they are most needed.

The taxonomy became law in July 2020, but legislators left important details to be resolved through complementary delegated acts – secondary legislation meant for technical issues that is not subject to the same degree of ministerial and parliamentary oversight.

Support for the EU Green Taxonomy

Nucleareurope, a Brussels-based nuclear industry group said in a statement after the result was announced that the science “clearly states that nuclear is sustainable and essential in the fight against climate change”.

“It is fantastic to see that a majority in the European parliament has decided to listen to the experts and take the right decision” said Yves Desbazeille, nucleareurope’s director-general.

“We have less than 30 years left to decarbonize our economy in a sustainable way. By listening to the science, the EU has strengthened the EU’s chances of achieving this ambitious goal.”

nucler in eu

The World Nuclear Association said that the European Parliament has chosen to listen to the science.

“Today’s decision by the European Parliament to include nuclear energy in the EU taxonomy will help the fight against climate change and accelerate progress towards a sustainable low-carbon energy system by stimulating investment in new nuclear projects, not just in Europe, but worldwide.

Reacting to the vote, Sama Bilbao y León, Director General, World Nuclear Association said,

“The European Parliament’s positive vote sends a clear endorsement of nuclear energy to the financial community. It has listened to the science and recognized that sustainable investment in nuclear energy will help the EU reach net-zero by 2050. Now governments, investors, and industry must act urgently and accelerate the deployment of new nuclear capacity to achieve this goal.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute, a Washington, DC, based trade group, issued the following statement.

“Today the European Parliament took an important step forward as Europe seeks a pathway to meet its sustainability and climate goals. It illustrates the consensus opinion that existing and new nuclear generation are critical to global decarbonization efforts. The decision also demonstrates the critical role that nuclear carbon-free generation can play as countries seek greater energy security as the Russian Federation weaponizes energy production to influence the geopolitical landscape.”

“By including nuclear energy in the taxonomy, the European Union has signaled the importance of advancing nuclear projects. Many Europeans nations including France, Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and The Netherlands have made the commitment to expand nuclear generation in order to achieve climate and energy security.”

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OPINION – Neutron Bytes

nuclearcogeneration-653x523-5_thumb.jpg

Opponents of including nuclear energy in the EU’s green taxonomy, who lobbied against it right up to the last moment with a toxic mix of disinformation, are living in a fantasy world where renewables can provide baseload power and people in a highly industrialized society are expected to suddenly and inexplicably like living off the grid with their evenings illuminated with beeswax candlelight. There is no free lunch.

Some of the more obsessed proponents of renewables see the green taxonomy as a zero sum competitor for private equity investment funds relative to nuclear. Here’s a reality check. Funding for nuclear power in the EU will come from public/private partnerships with governments leading the way not only with equity but also with rate guarantees to bring investors to the table.

In order to decarbonize major sectors of Europe’s highly industrialized society, nuclear energy will be needed to provide CO2 emission free baseload power for factories, homes, electric vehicles, mass transit, hydrogen production, and desalination along with many other uses. Renewables will benefit from nuclear energy by keeping the grid stable in order to handle their intermittent contributions to it.

Thankfully, science based decision making prevailed today in Brussels. It paves the way for investments in an energy technology that will substantially contribute to preserving a livable planet for future generations. They’re depending on us today for their tomorrow.

eu green

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

US Pledges $14M to Support NuScale in Romania

  • US Pledges $14 Million For Romania’s SMR Project with NuScale
  • SaskPower Selects the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 SMR
  • Sweden’s Vattenfall to Study SMRs for Ringhals
  • EDF Ramps Up  to Win Dukovany New Reactor Contract
  • CEZ Signs Nuclear Fuel Contracts With Westinghouse And Framatome
  • Rosatom Gets Green Light From Egypt To Build Dabaa Nuclear Plant
  • NNSA Issues RFP to Purchase Strategic Uranium Supplies

US Pledges $14 Million For Romania’s SMR Project with NuScale

(Nuscale-Logo(Horizontal_BlueTM)wTagWNN)  The US government, working with NuScale Power, is to provide $14 million in support for the Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) study for Romania’s deployment of a first-of-its-kind small modular reactor (SMR) plant as part of a flagship project launched at the Group of Seven (G7) leaders’ summit in Germany. The financial commitment is a follow-up to an MOU announced last November at COP26 by Department of Energy Secretary Granholm.

President Biden made the financial commitment as part of the launch of the G7’s Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) (Fact Sheet). The FEED study is one of the partnership’s flagship projects.

Biden said the US would mobilize $200 billion in public and private capital over the next five years for the partnership which collectively aims to raise nearly $600 billion from G7 nations by 2027.

One of the key elements of the program is the expectation by G7 governments that private sector foreign direct investment in climate change mitigation and prevention efforts would outpace donor nation funding by several multiples.

The scope of work for the $14 million in US funding is that Romanian company Nuclearelectrica and NuScale will cooperate with the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) on a series of engineering and design activities and studies, as well further technical analyses of a former thermal power plant site which has been identified as a potential location for the SMR plant.

The study is expected to take eight months and cost $28 million in total with matching contributions from Nuclearelectrica and NuScale. It will provide Romania with site-specific data such as cost, construction, schedule, and licensing details, necessary for the deployment of a NuScale SMR nuclear power plant. It will also identify potential Romanian services, manufacturing and assembly suppliers to support localization of the supply chain thus creating new jobs associated with fabrication and manufacturing of components for the plant.

According to Nuclearelectrica, the SMR plant will generate 193 permanent jobs, plus many more in construction and production, and will help Romania to avoid the generation of four million tons of CO2 per year.

“Like in the case of the Cernavoda Nuclear [power plant], the first small modular reactors power plant will generate, in the area where it will be built, clean energy and strong economic growth for the local community by creating thousands of jobs, investments in infrastructure, growth of the chain of local suppliers, tax funds to the local budget and it will contribute to forming a new generation of technical specialists through investment in high-quality education,” Nuclearelectrica CEO Cosmin Ghita said.

The commitment to the FEED study follows a pledge made by US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at the 2021 UN Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow (COP26), where they announced their intent to deploy an SMR in Romania in partnership with NuScale.

“Nuclear energy, including small modular reactors, represents a critical tool in the fight against climate change, and can also enhance energy security and boost economic prosperity,” Kerry said regarding the G7 announcement;

“This is a strong step forward in support of Romania’s desire to deploy innovative, safe, and zero-emissions nuclear energy in partnership with the United States.”

Enoh Ebong, director of the US TDA, said the FEED study would build on the agency’s existing commitments to deploy SMR solutions to the region, including grant funding for a study that helped Romania identify and assess several locations where existing coal-fired power plants could be replaced with SMR plants.

“Our engagement is having the intended result of creating new business opportunities for US industry in an important market and advancing energy security across the region.”

The NuScale nuclear power plant is a pressurized water reactor with all the components for steam generation and heat exchange incorporated into a single unit generating 77 MWe. A 50 MWe SMR design received approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. NuScale offers its SMR power stations in 12, four and six-module configurations. The firm is building a first-of-a-kind power station for its customer UAMPS at a site in Idaho.

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SaskPower Selects the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 SMR

SaskPower has selected the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 for potential deployment in Saskatchewan in the mid-2030s. The decision follows an  assessment of several SMR technologies. The utility has plenty of choices as there are 13 reactor designs involved in Vendor Design Review (VDR) at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Three are light water designs and the other 10 are a variety of advanced designs.

The GEH SMR is based on the full size 1,500 MWe ESBWR, which is a light water design also developed by GEH. Although one has never been built, it completed a safety evaluation at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in 2014. The GEH SMR is the largest SMR involved in VDR, and is currently involved in a combined Phase 1 & 2 process having kicked it off in January 2020.

ge_hitachiSaskPower’s assessment focused on several key factors including safety, technology readiness, generation size, fuel type and expected cost of electricity.

The selection follows an independent and comprehensive assessment process that also included close collaboration with Ontario Power Generation (OPG) and a review by Calian, an independent engineering firm with extensive experience in Canada’s nuclear industry.

The likely clinchers for the BWRX-300 at SaskPower is that it has been selected by Ontario Power Group (OPG) as its first SMR design and that its design can be supported by supply chains familiar with BWR type reactors. In December 2021, OPG selected the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 for their Darlington New Nuclear Project in Ontario.

SaskPower has assessed the potential for a fleet-based deployment of nuclear power, across multiple Canadian provinces. A fleet-based approach offers many advantages for Saskatchewan, including lower regulatory, construction and operating costs while also eliminating first-of-a-kind risk.

The two provinces will likely collaborate in their development of SMRs. Also, OPG has a collaboration effort with TVA in the US for the BWRX-300.TVA expects to license the BWRX-300 at the NRC by the end of 2024. GE-Hitachi GEH is working with OPG to deploy a BWRX-300 at the Darlington site as early as 2028.

Despite all this activity, SaskPower said it will not make a decision whether to build an SMR until 2029. Several years of complex project development, licensing and regulatory work are required ahead of the decision.

SaskPower is currently conducting a detailed technical evaluation of potential regions that could host an SMR, and is expected to identify these suitable regions this year. The utility has a goal of having an SMR in revenue service by 2034.

“This is an important milestone as Saskatchewan works towards a cleaner, more sustainable future,” said Don Morgan, Minister responsible for SaskPower. “Today’s announcement further acts on the Saskatchewan Growth Plan goal of advancing potential development of zero-emission small modular reactor technology.”

“We are excited that SaskPower has chosen our technology as it looks to SMRs for the generation of carbon-free electricity,” said Jay Wileman, President & CEO, GEH.

“ Decades of design and licensing experience coupled with our proven and existing fuel supply chain position the BWRX-300 as the leading SMR solution.”

“Today marks the beginning of an exciting relationship between SaskPower and GE-Hitachi, a leader in the nuclear energy field that has the potential to benefit SaskPower and Saskatchewan for many decades to come,” said Interim President and CEO at SaskPower, Troy King.

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Sweden’s Vattenfall to Study SMRs for Ringhals

With electricity consumption in Sweden expected to increase rapidly in the coming decades, power company Vattenfall said on June 28th that it is working to find how different fossil-free energy sources can satisfy the increased demand. As part of this, Vattenfall is initiating a pilot study looking at the conditions for building at least two small modular reactors (SMRs) adjacent to the NPP.

The pilot study will look at the central issues in order to assess the conditions for proceeding with a decision to build at least two SMR reactors adjacent to Ringhals NPP. Work on the pilot study will start immediately and it is expected to be completed by around the end of 2023 or early 2024. If all goes well the utility thinks it could have the two SMRs in revenue service by the early 2030s.

Torbjörn Wahlborg, head of Business Area Generation at Vattenfall, said in a press statement, “Ringhals is a suitable location for new nuclear power for several reasons. On the one hand, we are allowed to replace the two shutdown reactors Ringhals 1 and Ringhals 2 within the existing legislation, and on the other hand, there is already grid infrastructure in place that makes connecting new electricity generation simpler.

There’s also a lot of acceptance for both existing and new nuclear power at Ringhals and Forsmark. One major advantage is also the comprehensive skill level available at Ringhals.”

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EDF Ramps Up  to Win Dukovany New Reactor Contract

(NucNet) French energy group EDF announced it has established a new branch in the Czech capital Prague to support the company’s nuclear activities on the local market including procuring a new reactor unit for the Dukovany nuclear power station.

edfThe company said the new unit, EDF Nuclear Czechia, will focus primarily on consolidating EDF’s EPR-1200 technology offer for a proposed Dukovany tendering process. In December 2021, EDF signed 10 agreements with key Czech companies active in the nuclear field.

“The establishment of the EDF branch in the Czech Republic comes at a crucial time and is further proof of EDF’s commitment to anchor its partnership with the Czech nuclear industry,” said Roman Zdebor, the newly appointed director of EDF Nuclear Czechia.

In March 2022, Czech utility CEZ launched a tender process to choose a supplier for a new nuclear power unit at the existing Dukovany nuclear site in the southeast of the country.

Construction of the new unit should begin in 2029 and be completed by 2036, with the project cost estimated around €6 billion.

Three companies are in the running for the contract having passed a security appraisal: France’s EDF, South Korea’s Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and the US company Westinghouse. Chinese and Russian state companies were excluded from entering the tender process due to security concerns.

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Czech Republic / CEZ Signs Nuclear Fuel Contracts With Westinghouse And Framatome for Temelín VVER Plant

(NucNet) Czech state-controlled utility CEZ has signed agreements with US-based Westinghouse Electric and France’s Framatome to supply fuel assemblies for the Temelín nuclear power station.

VVER fuel assemblyAccording to CEZ, the new fuel deliveries will begin in 2024 to fully replace the current fuel supplier, which is Russia’s Tvel.

There are two Russia-designed VVER-1000 pressurized water reactor units in commercial operation at the Temelín site. Since 2019 Westinghouse-made fuel assemblies have been in operation in the reactor core of Unit 1.

Westinghouse said the term of fuel deliveries under the new contract is “anticipated” to be 15 years. No value for the contract has been disclosed, but CEZ said it will be worth “billions of crowns” (meaning tens of millions of euros).

Westinghouse said it will supply modified Robust Westinghouse Fuel Assemblies (RWFA), a new design that is compatible with non-Westinghouse fuel during the plant’s supplier transition. It added that the RWFA is designed to increase fuel economy and has demonstrated its performance and reliability when used in Ukraine’s fleet of VVER-1000 reactor units.

Bohdan Zronek, director of the nuclear energy division at CEZ, said the Czech company’s goal is to minimize fuel supply risks, while Westinghouse’s president for fuel Tarik Choho said his company is also looking forward to providing fuel for the Dukovany VVER-440 PWR units in the near future.

Westinghouse had already supplied fuel for VVER-1000 pressurized water reactor (PWR) designs for six of Ukraine’s 15 commercial nuclear units.

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Rosatom Gets Green Light From Egypt To Build Dabaa Nuclear Plant

(Reuters) Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom, said it had received permission from an Egyptian regulator to start building the country’s first nuclear plant. Rosatom said in a statement the permission from the Egyptian regulator allows it to start construction on the first power unit out of the planned four with a capacity of 1,200 MWe each.

Egypt and Russia signed an agreement to start work on Egypt’s Dabaa nuclear power plant during a meeting in Cairo between President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and President Vladimir Putin in 2017. Russia is paying 85% of the costs.

While it is unclear how Rosatom’s accounting system tracks costs, assuming the reactors are budgeted for bench marking purposes at the globally significant figure of $5,000/KW, each 1,200 MWe VVER would cost $6 billion and all four would cost $24 billion. Other costs will include fuel for the 60 year service life of the reactors and grid improvements to bring electricity to customers.

Typically, Russia retrogrades the spent fuel from export reactor sites to a reprocessing center once it has cooled off enough in wet storage. According to the IAEA,  one-stop-shop for spent fuel management is located at Russia’s Mining and Chemical Complex (MCC) near Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.

World Nuclear News reported that Alexander Korchagin, Senior Vice President for NPP Construction Project Management at Rosatom Engineering Division, added: “Pouring the ‘first concrete’ at unit 1 is up next, signifying the beginning of the active stage of the project’s construction works.”

Located on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, the El Dabaa site is 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Cairo. Rosatom is also building four 1200 MWe VVER at Akkuyu on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast. It has built similar units in Belarus and at domestic Russian sites.

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NNSA Issues RFP to Purchase Strategic Uranium Supplies

Uranium symbol(WNN) The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has begun the process to initiate the USA’s strategic uranium reserve, issuing a solicitation to purchase up to an estimated one million pounds of domestically-produced U3O8.

The solicitation issued as a Request for Proposal (RFP) is for purchase of uranium “provided by a vendor that has produced uranium at a domestic uranium recovery facility at any time since 1 January 2009,” where a uranium recovery facility is defined as a licensed uranium mining, in-situ leach or milling facility. The vendor is not required to be currently producing uranium at a uranium recovery facility.

The uranium must be from inventory already in storage at the Honeywell Metropolis Works uranium conversion facility in Metropolis, Illinois, and must not have been “exchanged, swapped, or augmented with uranium imported from foreign countries, e.g., Russia, and shall not have any peaceful-use or end-use restrictions.” The Honeywell plant has been closed to low demand, but it is scheduled to reopen in 2023.

The government anticipates making up to four individual awards of 100,000 to 500,000 pounds U3O8 for the total of 1 million pounds U3O8 (385 tU).

The US Congress allocated funding for the establishment of the reserve, to address challenges to the production of domestic uranium and ensure a backup supply in the event of a significant market disruption, in its 2020 budget.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm in May confirmed to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that the Department of Energy (DOE) would make purchases for the reserve during the present calendar year. The deadline for proposals is August 1st.

Separately, according to the Exchange Monitor, a trade publication, DOE this week solicited bids for a potentially 10-year contract to produce high assay low-enriched uranium fuel using a centrifuge cascade Centrus Energy Corp. built at the Portsmouth Site in Piketon, Ohio. (RFP document)

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DOE Makes Key Policy Change to Save Diablo Canyon

  • DOE Makes Key Policy Change to Save Diablo Canyon
  • PG&E Asks for More Time To Apply For Nuclear Funds

DOE Makes Key Policy Change to Save Diablo Canyon

A change in eligibility criteria by DOE  to fund nuclear power plants slated to close opens the door to life extension for 2,256 MWe of CO2 emission free electrical generating capacity at the Diablo Canyon power plant in California and would save 1,500 jobs.

diablocanyon aerialThe Department of Energy (DOE) is changing its policy for nuclear utilities that want to access the Biden Administration’s $6 billion program to keep nuclear power plants like Diablo Canyon open as a means to deal with climate change.

According to DOE the program is intended to support carbon-free nuclear plants and preserve clean energy jobs.

The twin reactors at the Diablo Canyon plant are on a course to close in 2025 as a result of an anti-nuclear campaign in 2016, led by NRDC, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, and other interests, that convinced PG&E not to apply for 20-year license extensions from the NRC for the plants. The utility justified its action by saying that a combination of new natural gas plants and renewable energy (solar, wind) facilities would make for the loss of over 2 GWe of CO2 emission free power. Critics shredded the company’s claims and subsequent grid issues in California have borne them out.

The announcement by DOE on June 30th came just two days after PG&E asked for a 75-day extension of the application deadline to request the funds. DOE said in its statement that it is offering a 60-day extension.

DOE’s announcement is an amendment to the Civil Nuclear Credit (CNC) Program Guidance for the currently open award cycle. To incorporate these changes and give potential applicants the time they need to respond, DOE also extended the application period another 60 days to September 6, 2022.

The Amended Guidance revises the eligibility criteria by replacing the requirement that a nuclear reactor applying for credits under the CNC Program not recover more than 50 percent of its costs from cost-of-service regulation or regulated contracts. This change affects the eligibility of reactors who may apply in the first round of awards. The change opens the door for Diablo Canyon to apply for the funds.

Earth_seen_from_Apollo_17DOE said its justification for the change in the program is that the agency views the nation’s current fleet of reactors as a vital resource to achieve the Administration’s goal of net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050, which is key to reducing the harmful impacts of climate change.

“U.S. nuclear power plants are important clean energy assets and preserving our existing fleet will maintain nearly half a million good-paying jobs in the nuclear industry,” said Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy, Dr. Kathryn Huff.

Shifting energy markets and other factors have resulted in the early closures of 13 commercial reactors across the United States since 2013.  These closures have resulted in rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere, the loss of thousands of high-paying jobs, and a ruinous end to the financial contributions from their payroll and tax revenues for local communities.

The CNC Program will equitably address these challenges while supporting the President’s clean energy goals to ensure that communities across the country continue to benefit from sustainable energy infrastructure.

EconomicImpact-3 (1)

“The amended CNC Guidance supports the intent of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to keep the reactors online that sustain local economies and today provide our nation’s single largest source of carbon-free electricity.”

This change made in the Amended Guidance was one of three requests by the Office of the Governor of California in a letter dated May 23, 2022. Considering this request’s potential applicability to reactors nationwide, DOE issued a proposed Guidance Amendment for public comment on June 17, 2022. After assessing programmatic goals and public comments, DOE believes this change better supports the intent of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the goals of the CNC Program to keep clean, reliable electricity on the grid.

As many commenters to the initial program announcement urged, DOE is also announcing the extension of the due date for submission of applications and bids for the first CNC award cycle. Applications and bids are now due September 6, 2022, to provide potential applicants sufficient time to prepare submissions in accordance with the Amended Guidance.

DOE logoDOE said it is committed to integrity and transparency throughout the implementation of the CNC Program. A record of public comments may be found here.

The first CNC award cycle sets a priority for reactors that have already announced their intention to cease operations. Future CNC award cycles, including the second award cycle, to be launched in the first quarter of FY2023, will not be limited to nuclear reactors that have publicly announced their intentions to retire.

Learn more about the CNC Program, the CNC April 2022 Guidance, and the CNC June 2022 Amended Guidance. Applications for certification and sealed bids for credits for the first CNC award cycle must be submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. Mountain Time, September 6, 2022.

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PG&E Asks for More Time To Apply For Nuclear Funds

PG&E asked the U.S. Department of Energy on June 28th for a 75-day extension to the deadline to apply for federal funds that could keep its California nuclear plant open. In a letter to the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, the utility said “an extension is needed to provide PG&E the time to collect and analyze the information and prepare an application.”

The first phase of the $6 billion in funding, the Civil Nuclear Credit program, is intended to save nuclear power plants that are scheduled to close before the end of their licensed operations. In asking for the extension to apply for the funding, the nuclear utility has finally sensed that there are significant winds in its sails to save the reactors.

hot gridThe two reactors at PG&E’s Diablo Canyon plant are scheduled to shut down in 2024 and 2025. A 20 year license extension from the NRC would keep them open. California Governor Gavin Newsom in April said the state was open to keep the plants operating to address the risk of not having enough electricity to deal with record summer heat and the overall reliability of the electrical grid.

In the letter, PG&E said it supported DOE’s proposal to remove the requirement that facilities that receive funding derive more than half of their revenue in the competitive electricity market, a qualification that may have blocked Diablo’s eligibility. With DOE’s decision this week to change the eligibility criteria, that barrier to funding is now history.

Feinstein Reverses Anti-Nuclear Stance

Earlier this month California Senator Diane Feinstein reversed her long standing anti-nuclear policy and issued a statement of support for funding to extend the lives of the twin reactors. In doing so she rejected the demands of anti-nuclear groups which have long dominated the tilt of California’s energy policies.

Back in 2012 California Senator Diane Feinstein was a critic of the SONGS nuclear energy plant in her state and nuclear energy in general. A decade later she has become a supporter of keeping the twin reactors at Diablo Canyon open past their planned shutdown date of 2025 .Relicensing the plant would add 20 years to its operational life to the mid-2040s

In an OP ED in the Sacramento Bee she referenced projected electricity shortfalls in California due to the effects of climate change, Feinstein writes that “Pacific Gas and Electric Company should reconsider its decision to close Diablo Canyon by 2025. The utility should get the plant relicensed instead, retiring it once the state can replace its production with clean sources.”

She also references a joint Stanford University–Massachusetts Institute of Technology study which found that delaying Diablo Canyon’s retirement to 2035 would lower California power sector carbon emissions by more than 10% from 2017 levels and reduce reliance on gas, save $2.6 billion in power system costs, and bolster system reliability to mitigate brownouts.

MIT Stanford Study

A MIT/Stanford University study released late last year  made the case for keeping the plant open until 2035. A report from researchers at MIT and Stanford states that keeping Diablo Canyon running until 2035 would reduce the state’s carbon emissions from electricity generation by 11% every year, save the state a cumulative $2.6 billion, and improve the reliability of the grid.

The study said delaying the shutdown could provide multiple benefits by simultaneously helping to stabilize the state’s electric grid, provide desalinated water to supplement the area’s chronic water shortages, and provide carbon-free hydrogen fuel for transportation.

Steven Chu, energy secretary in the Obama administration, endorsed the study and said: “We are not in a position in the near-term future to go to 100% renewable energy, and there will be times when the wind doesn’t blow, the sun doesn’t shine and we will need some power that we can turn on and dispatch at will, and that leaves two choices: fossil fuel or nuclear”

He noted that countries that have shut down their nuclear plants have ended up using more fossil fuels. He also called the decision to shutdown the plant “distressing” and said “Nuclear power is something we should reconsider, and we should ask PG&E to reconsider.”

Earlier this year nearly 80 scientists, academics and entrepreneurs from a range of disciplines, including former US energy secretary Steven Chu, sent a letter to Governor  Newsom asking him to delay the closure of Diablo Canyon.

“The threat of climate change is too real and too pressing to leap before we look. Considering our climate crisis, closing the plant is not only irresponsible, the consequences could be catastrophic. We are in a rush to decarbonize and hopefully save our planet from the worsening effects of climate change. We categorically believe that shutting down Diablo Canyon in 2025 is at odds with this goal. It will increase greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution, and make reaching the goal of 100 percent clean electricity by 2045 much harder and more expensive.”

Earlier this month a group of 37 scientists, entrepreneurs and academics wrote a letter asking Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm to make the change saying it would allow Diablo Canyon, the source of about 10% of California’s power, to stay open and help fight climate change.

“This is the largest source of clean energy in the most populous state in the nation, we must keep it online,” said Isabelle Boemeke, the founder and head of the Save Clean Energy nonprofit group who brought the letter signers together.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

NASA Plans to Deploy Nuclear Power on Lunar Surface

  • NASA Plans to Deploy Nuclear Power on Lunar Surface
  • Tractebel Leads EU Project on Nuclear Space Power Technologies
  • Repowering Coal Plants with SMRs is the Largest Carbon Abatement Opportunity on The Planet’ – TerraPraxis
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  • Orano and TerraPower Awarded GAIN Vouchers to Help Advance Nuclear Technologies
  • Lightbridge Fuel in MIT Study of Accident Tolerant Fuels
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  • SMRs Could Massively Expand US Nuclear Fleet By 2050 – NEI

NASA Plans to Deploy Nuclear Power on Lunar Surface

  • NASA Announces Artemis Concept Awards for Nuclear Power on Moon

NASA’s plan is that fission surface power systems could provide reliable power for human exploration of the Moon.  Three contracts, to be awarded through the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, valued at approximately $5 million, will fund the development of initial design concepts for a 40-kilowatt class fission power system planned to last at least 10 years in the lunar environment.

Relatively small and lightweight compared to other power systems, fission systems are reliable and could enable continuous power regardless of location, available sunlight, and other natural environmental conditions. A demonstration of such systems on the Moon would pave the way for long-duration missions on the Moon and Mars.

nasa stirling engine for lunar missions

The Phase 1 awards will provide NASA critical information from industry that can lead to a joint development of a full flight-certified fission power system. Fission surface power technologies also will help NASA mature nuclear propulsion systems that rely on reactors to generate power. These systems could be used for deep space exploration missions.

Battelle Energy Alliance, the managing and operating contractor for Idaho National Laboratory, led the Request for Proposal development, evaluation, and procurement sponsored by NASA. Idaho National Laboratory will award 12-month contracts to the following companies to each develop preliminary designs.

  • Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Maryland – The company will partner with BWXT and Creare.
  • Westinghouse of Cranberry Township, Pennsylvania – The company will partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne.
  • IX of Houston, Texas, a joint venture of Intuitive Machines and X-Energy – The company will partner with Maxar and Boeing.

“New technology drives our exploration of the Moon, Mars, and beyond,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “Developing these early designs will help us lay the groundwork for powering our long-term human presence on other worlds.”

“The Fission Surface Power project is a very achievable first step toward the United States establishing nuclear power on the Moon,” said Idaho National Laboratory Director John Wagner.

Partners

NASA’s fission surface power project is managed by NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The technology development and demonstration are funded by the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Technology Demonstration Missions program, which is located at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. For more information, visit the fission surface power project website.

Returning to the Moon’s surface for human and robotic missions is within reach with the assistance of the Fission Surface Power (FSP) project. This project works toward providing a power-rich environment supporting lunar exploration.

The FSP project seeks to bring about new capabilities supporting a lunar sustainable presence and crewed Mars exploration while providing near-term opportunities for fabrication, testing and flight of a space fission system.

NASA’s fission surface power project builds on heritage projects spanning 50 years, including SNAP-10A, NASA’s Kilopower project, and recent developments in commercial nuclear power and fuel technology.

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Tractebel Leads EU Project on Nuclear Space Power Technologies

Tractebel has been selected to head the consortium of PULSAR. It is a research and innovation project funded by the European Commission to develop nuclear technology to power space missions. The project will be funded by the Euratom Research and Training Program (2021-2025), a complementary funding program to Horizon Europe covering nuclear research and innovation.

The technology could be used to explore the moon and Mars. It could also help establish a permanent base on the moon, the so-called “Moon Village” promoted by ESA. Moreover, the technology has applications beyond space exploration. The RPS could be easily adapted to provide power in challenging environments on earth such as in deep geological repositories for storing nuclear waste, the deep sea or in isolated areas where a deployable long-lived power system is required such as remote mines

Tractebel will conduct research on dynamic radioisotope power systems (RPS) fueled by plutonium 238 (Pu-238) for space applications. The project will complement the study that Tractebel has already been carrying out on behalf of the European Space Agency (ESA) to evaluate the possibility of producing Pu-238 in Europe. RPS are vital to providing spacecrafts and astronauts with electricity and heat where the sun does not provide sufficient power usually set as being beyond the orbit of Mars.

ASRG RPS

A typical configuration of an ASRG. Image: NASA Glenn.

An RPS uses the heat from the natural radioactive decay of PU-238 to produce electric power. An RPS provides power for spacecraft by converting heat generated by the natural radioactive decay of its fuel source, plutonium dioxide, into electricity using devices called thermocouples.

European Consortium Stakeholders

The PULSAR project brings together leading stakeholders in the fields of aerospace and nuclear within a consortium led by Tractebel. The consortium includes the Joint Research Centre (JRC) of the European Commission, the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK CEN, the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission CEA, INCOTEC, ArianeGroup, Airbus Defense and Space, the University of Bourgogne Franche Comté and Arttic. Each partner will bring state-of-the-art expertise in its respective field, to contribute to the success of this Europe-wide project.

Weight to Power / Efficiency Ratiospu238 pellet

The project aims to address the issue in two ways. It aims to further develop technology and capabilities in Europe to produce Pu-238 to fuel radioisotope power systems (RPS). Its second objective is to significantly increase the efficiency and weight to power performance ratios of the RPS thanks to an advanced Stirling engine which has moving parts.

Current nuclear batteries, the so-called radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs), have low conversion efficiencies. This means that substantial amounts of fuel and large RTGs are needed to power missions, which increases the weight to be launched by the space rocket, adversely affecting rocket payload capability. The project aims to address the issue in two ways. It aims to further develop technology and capabilities in Europe to produce Pu-238 to fuel radioisotope power systems (RPS). Its second objective is to significantly increase the efficiency of the RPS thanks to an advanced Stirling engine.

Every measure of weight for the power system is a claim on the payload weight of scientific instruments hence the drive for higher efficiencies and lower weights for the power systems. Higher levels of power increases the options for the instruments to be part of the payload and the bandwidth of data transmission to get the information from the spacecraft back to earth.

HEU v. LEU in Power and Propulsion Systems

A problem for all space faring missions that will use nuclear energy, is that if the power source is uranium fuel, highly enriched uranium (HEU) provides more electrical power per pound than fuel with enrichment levels below 20% U2325.  The trade off is that the lower enriched fuel is required in greater quantity, e.g., weight, than the HEU which means less weight available for science instruments. An early version of the Kilopower design concept called for the use of HEU to power the system. The LEU version was assessed to be three times as heavy as the HEU design.

In 2020 NASA banned the use of HEU in space power and propulsion systems. Opponents of civilian use of HEU welcomed the policy directive. Alan Kuperman, director of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin, told Physics Today, “It is essentially what we requested when we met with NASA and the National Security Council over the last few years.”

Anthony Calomino, nuclear systems portfolio manager in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, told the news wire, HEU’s weight, cost, and performance advantages over LEU reactors won’t be sufficient to justify its use as fuel. Under the new directive, “it would really have to be that we can’t close a mission with LEU” for NASA to allow HEU in space.

Neither Pu-238 nor RPS are currently manufactured on European soil. As space has become a strategic and economic priority for Europe, Europe’s dependence on other countries in the fields of energy and aerospace is a major concern. PULSAR is a step forward for Europe to become an autonomous global leader in space exploration.

pu-238-production-process

See also U.S. Department of Energy – What is a radioisotope system?

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Repowering Coal Plants with SMRs is the Largest Carbon Abatement Opportunity on The Planet – TerraPraxis

(NucNet) Repowering existing coal plant infrastructure, including with small modular reactors (SMRs), is the largest single carbon abatement opportunity on the planet and could greatly accelerate the clean energy transition while using existing infrastructure and maintaining vital jobs, according to a report.

The report by TerraPraxis, a non-profit organization focused on action for climate and prosperity, says replacing coal-fired boilers at existing coal plants with carbon-free SMRs, also known as advanced heat sources, would transform coal-fired power plants from polluting liabilities facing an uncertain future, into a central component of a clean energy system transition – an important part of the massive and pressing infrastructure buildout needed to address climate change.

TerraPraxis has assembled a consortium of partners including Bryden Wood, Microsoft, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and University at Buffalo, along with a consortium of global utilities, to launch the ‘Repowering Coal’ initiative. The aim is to provide standardized, pre-licensed designs supported by automated project development and design tools to enable customers to be ready to start construction on their SMR projects in the late 2020s.

Bryden Wood, a UK-based design and engineering firm, has created a new design and construction solution that the group says would make such a program possible at scale and speed, in part by deploying a new digital platform.

Converting 5,000 – 7,000 coal plant units globally between 2030 and 2050 (250 – 350 per year) will require a “redesigned delivery model” that has to de-risk the construction process. This means providing coal plant owners and investors with high-certainty schedules and budgets. Purpose-built automated tools can achieve rapid, repeatable, and confident project and planning assessments.

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Kirsty Gogan, co-founder and managing partner of TerraPraxis, said: “The challenge is not only to build enough clean electricity generation to power the world, but to do so quickly while building the infrastructure required to decarbonize end-use sectors such as heat, industry, and transport,” she said at the Nuclear Innovation Conference in Amsterdam.

Grogan told the conference that there will be regulatory challenges to repurposing coal plants. They vary widely and developing a new SMR design for each plant would be complex, costly, and slow. Rather than thousands of individual projects, TerraPraxis’ aim is to develop a unified approach where the design is simplified and standardized to make this plan a reality as quickly as possible.

According to TerraPraxis, some policymakers, climate modelers and activists assume that countries will simply shut down their coal plants to reduce carbon emissions. However, because more than half of coal plants worldwide are less than 14 years old, it is unrealistic to expect such young assets to simply retire, especially considering growing energy demand and supply shortages.

“Even in countries with relatively old coal plants, such as the US, Canada and Europe, closing coal plants is difficult and controversial because the loss of jobs and revenues can be devastating for communities, and utilities continue to value the reliable electricity generated,” TerraPraxis says.

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Nuclear Start-Up Raises €300 million; Wants To Turn UK Waste Plutonium Into Clean Energy

lead cooledA nuclear power start-up is seeking to create clean energy from 140 tonnes of waste plutonium stored in Cumbria. Nucleo hopes to use spent fuel in a new reactor design. The firm’s lead-cooled reactor models use a mixture of uranium and plutonium, which is a waste product from existing plants in the UK.

While the company’s designs are still in the early stages, it raised €300 million (£257 million) this week to help fund its first reactors after raising €100 million last year from investors including ex-Goldman Sachs banker Claudio Costamagna and asset manager Azimut.

According to Italian physicist Stefano Buono, chief executive officer, London-based Nucleo will likely place its first reactor on British soil, setting a precedent for private operators of nuclear plants in Britain. At specific site has not yet been selected.

There firm says there is no problem with fuel supply as the UK has the largest civilian plutonium stockpile in the world, which includes material from nuclear programs of other countries such as Japan.

Nucleo also intends to build 30MWe of sealed reactor units, which can be used to power ships at a cost of €150 million each. The proposed sealed units would last for 15 years and would be filled with all the fuel needed to operate during their time at sea.

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Orano and TerraPower Awarded GAIN Vouchers to Help Advance Nuclear Technologies

gain logoThe Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative awarded vouchers today to Orano Federal Services (Charlotte, NC) and TerraPower (Bellevue, WA) to help advance their nuclear technologies. Both voucher recipients will gain access to the U.S. Department of Energy’s national lab complex.

Orano is partnering with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to develop a new technical study that updates the physical chemistry limits of uranium hexafluoride gas enriched up to 10 percent that can be safely transported in existing shipping containers. The new study will be used for review and approval by radioactive material transport regulators.  Abstract

TerraPower will leverage the neutron testing capabilities at Los Alamos National Laboratory to measure the properties of chlorine isotopes to determine how they will behave in the company’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor Experiment. The data generated will help reduce regulatory uncertainty of chloride salt reactors. Abstract

GAIN voucher recipients do not receive direct financial awards but are provided access to the national labs at no cost. All awardees are responsible for a minimum 20 percent cost share, which could be an in-kind contribution.

GAIN was established by the Department’s Office of Nuclear Energy and provides the nuclear community with the technical, regulatory, and financial support necessary to move innovative nuclear technologies toward commercialization while ensuring the continued, safe, and economic operation of the existing fleet.

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Lightbridge Fuel in MIT Study of Accident Tolerant Fuels

  • Lightbridge Announces U.S. Department of Energy Award to MIT to Study the Deployment of Accident Tolerant Fuels in Small Modular Reactors

Lightbridge Corporation (Nasdaq: LTBR), an advanced nuclear fuel technology company, announced that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been awarded approximately $800,000 by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Nuclear Energy University Program R&D Awards to study the deployment of Accident Tolerant Fuels in Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).

The project will be funded in its entirety by the DOE, with the goal of bringing collaborative teams together to solve complex problems to advance nuclear technology and understanding. Among other objectives, the project will simulate the fuel and safety performance of Lightbridge Fuel inside a small modular reactor (SMR) designed by industry leader NuScale Power (NYSE: SMR). An abstract of the study can be found here

Seth Grae, President and CEO of Lightbridge commented, “We are honored to have the opportunity to collaborate with MIT’s prestigous Department of Nuclear Science & Engineering (NSE) in this important study, where MIT will simulate the usage and safety performance of Lightbridge fuel inside of a NuScale Power small modular reactor. Importantly, this research dovetails with our strategic focus on fueling SMRs of the future and the potential additional benefits Lightbridge fuel rods will bring to SMRs.”

José N. Reyes, Ph.D., Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of NuScale Power commented, ”NuScale is proud to have our groundbreaking SMR technology as a part of this important study. We share the goals of the DOE and the Nuclear Energy University Program in expanding access to nuclear energy, the nation’s largest source of clean power, while collaborating with the next generation of nuclear industry leaders at MIT.”

“SMR’s enhanced safety features provide flexibility in adoption of future advanced fuel technologies for improved performance,” commented Koroush Shirvan, Principal Investigator of the study and assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.

“We also appreciate the lasting commitment demonstrated by the DOE to support the development of advanced nuclear technologies like Lightbridge Fuel. Previously, Lightbridge had been awarded two GAIN vouchers by the DOE, relating to our fuel and our proprietary manufacturing process, respectively. This announcement provides Lightbridge another non-dilutive opportunity to advance our fuel development, while further strengthening our association with the DOE,” concluded Mr. Grae.

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BN-800 Fast Reactor Fully Loaded With MOX Fuel

(Nuclear Engineering International) The BN-800 fast reactor at unit 4 of Russia’s Beloyarsk NPP will be fully loaded for the first time with innovative uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX)) fuel.

“Prior to this, for half a year, the BN-800 operated at a 60% load of the core with mox fuel,” explained Ivan Sidorov, director of the Beloyarsk NPP. “After the current refueling, for the first time in the history of global nuclear energy, a fast reactor will be fully operated on fuel from a mixture of depleted uranium and plutonium.”bn-800-large-image_thumb.png

According to World Nuclear News, in 2021 the BN-600 was loaded with 60% MOX fuel.  The unit is a sodium-cooled fast reactor which produces about 820 MWe. It started operation in 2016 and in 2020 achieved a capacity factor of 82% despite having an experimental role in proving reactor technologies and fuels.

WNN also reported that the uranium came from depleted uranium tails left over from the enrichment process that creates fuel for light-water reactors. In this way MOX uses depleted uranium that had no other immediate use and was held in storage with plutonium recycled from previously used fuel.

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SMRs Could Massively Expand US Nuclear Fleet By 2050 – NEI

(NucNet) The Washington, DC,-based Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is expecting that about 300 new small modular reactors (SMRs), at 300 MWe each, could be deployed in the US by 2050, adding roughly 90 GWe of new nuclear capacity to the national grid, according to the institute’s CEO Maria Korsnick.  (speech)

what-are-SMRs_thumb.pngMs Korsnick, who spoke at the NEI’s Nuclear Energy Assembly conference, said the industry’s challenge is not the lack of demand for nuclear but being able to build fast enough to meet those needs.

She said the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) will face “a rapidly growing volume of applications for new reactors” and they must have the capacity to efficiently go through the review and licensing processes. The NRC funds much of its work by recovering its costs from fees charged to applicants for licenses.

“There is a “growing list” of utilities who are new to nuclear and are demonstrating interest in advanced technologies, Ms Korsnick said.

According to Ms Korsnick, the US Department of Energy (DOE) loan program office is working on several applications for nuclear projects in the US while the US Export-Import Bank is working to mobilize funding for overseas customers.

Asked about the cost of nuclear new-build, Ms Korsnick said the US nuclear industry “had not built in a while”, which led to supply chain effectiveness and efficiency losses.

“We need to get on with it, and a natural process of improvement will bring costs down,” she said while also noting that SMRs could have their costs controlled by being manufactured in a factory setting.

Separately, Korsnick called for the government’s support to re-establish a “US leadership” in fuel conversion and enrichment capabilities in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

She said: “We are working with the administration, with congress, and with our allies to establish a secure and reliable uranium fuel supply that will eliminate the need for Russian imports.”

“I won’t sugarcoat the current difficulties. While the decision is simple from a diplomatic and moral standpoint, it won’t be easy to execute — and it can’t be done overnight,” Ms Korsnick warned.

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INL to Test Thorium Fuels in ATR

  • Clean Core Thorium Energy Partners with DOE for Thorium Fuel Testing
  • Senator Tuberville (R-Ala) Introduces the Thorium Energy Security Act
  • Denmark’s Seaborg Wins EU Grant for Floating Nuclear Plants
  • Seaborg and South Korea’s BEES Sign MOU for a Floating Molten Salt Reactor
  • Keeping Diablo Canyon Power Plant Online Would Help California Decarbonize
  • DOE Proposes Changes to Help Rescue California’s Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant
  • UAE Regulator Issues Operating License For Barakah  3
  • Sizewell C Twin EPRs Eligible for RAB Method Funding

Clean Core Thorium Energy Partners with DOE for Thorium Fuel Testing

A schedule is set for qualification tests for advanced thorium fuel at the Idaho National Laboratory

11-INL_Logo-2Clean Core Thorium Energy (CCTE) (Clean Core), based in Chicago, announced a new strategic partnership agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy for the testing of Clean Core’s innovative thorium fuel for nuclear power plants. The agreement is the next step for irradiation testing and qualification in Idaho National Laboratory’s Advanced Test Reactor of Clean Core’s advanced nuclear fuel. The firm said the agreement is a “major milestone in the commercialization of thorium-based energy.”

Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life (ANEEL) is a proprietary fuel technology using a combination of thorium and high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) to enhance the performance of CANDU reactors and other pressurized heavy-water reactor designs. Proliferation-resistant ANEEL fuel will decrease the operating costs of CANDU and pressurized heavy-water reactors (PHWRs) while significantly reducing the volume of high-level waste generated.  (large image: comparison of uranium v. thorium fuel cycles)

INL expects to begin testing of the ANEEL fuel in their Advanced Test Reactor by the end of 2022 or early 2023. Clean Core, in partnership with Texas A&M University and INL, completed the fabrication of the ANEEL fuel pellets under INL’s quality assurance requirements. The pellets are ready to be inserted into a testing assembly.

The ATR recently successfully completed a once a decade core internal changeout to upgrade its functions. The reactor is used to perform irradiation testing of many nuclear materials and fuels that support a wide range of goals, including the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered fleet, the development of accident tolerant fuels, advanced fuels for small modular reactors and microreactors, and production of Plutonium-238 for future NASA deep-space missions.

Concurrently with fuel testing at INL, Clean Core will complete performance and safety assessments and a demonstration irradiation of full-size fuel assemblies in a CANDU reactor with partners in Canada. Clean Core expects to have ANEEL fuel assemblies producing carbon-free power in commercial CANDU reactors by the end of 2025.

  • Background on the Development of the ANEEL Fuel

In October 2020 Researchers in the Nuclear Engineering and Science Center (NESC) at Texas A&M and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory (INL) partnered with Clean Core Thorium Energy (CCTE) to fabricate a proprietary thorium-based nuclear fuel called Advanced Nuclear Energy for Enriched Life (ANEEL). This fuel is a combination of thorium and high-assay low-enriched uranium and addresses issues including cost, safety, proliferation and waste management.

Use of ANEEL Fuel in PHWRs

When used in small heavy water reactors, ANEEL fuel is ideal for deployment to emerging countries where the need for additional clean energy is most urgent in developing nations and for prevention of proliferation of weapons grade nuclear materials.

Two such existing heavy water reactors designs are the Canada Deuterium Uranium (CANDU) and the Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor (PHWR). These reactors are heavy water-cooled and moderated pressurized water reactors where the nuclear core is contained in hundreds of pressurized tubes.

candu reactor

Conceptual drawing of a CANDU type nuclear reactor

They usually employ natural uranium oxide as fuel, with heavy water as the moderator (a material used in a nuclear reactor to slow down the neutrons produced from fission).

There are currently 49 operating PHWR/CANDU reactors in seven countries including Canada, Argentina, India, Romania, and China. Because of the global nuclear industry’s experience with this  fleet of reactors, the Clean Core team feels it can benefit by use existing reactor technology to minimize the cost and avoid decades-long regulatory hurdles for deployment. In 2018 India committed to building a fleet of ten 700 MWe PHWRs using a completely domestic supply chain.

  • MOU with Centrus for Commercial Scale Production

In a separate MOU with Centrus, Clean Core is collaborating to promote the use of ANEEL advanced nuclear fuel in CANDU reactors around the world, together with other PHWRs. While the initial test pellets being fabricated by Texas A&M are using a small quantity of HALEU supplied by INL, Clean Core Thorium Energy plans to use HALEU from Centrus for commercial-scale production of ANEEL fuel.

Centrus CCTE grabUnder a three-year contract signed with the U.S. Department of Energy in 2019, Centrus is constructing the first NRC-licensed HALEU production line in Piketon, Ohio.

Using thorium as the main ingredient also has many advantages in CANDU/PHWR existing reactors. With its higher melting point, and lower internal operating temperature, thorium is inherently safer than uranium, making a core meltdown less likely.

Due to the higher fuel burn-up possible with ANEEL fuel, radioactive waste is decreased substantially. Higher fuel burn-up also means more uranium and plutonium are burned to make energy while the end product is significantly denatured, reducing the possible proliferation risk of the used fuel. Thorium is also found more abundantly than uranium on Earth.

According to the US Geological Survey, Thorium resources are found throughout the world, most notably in Australia, Brazil, India, and the United States. India has the largest resources (850,000 tons), followed by Brazil (630,000 tons) and Australia and the United States (600,000 tons each).

“With this collaboration, ANEEL-fueled PHWRs/CANDUs could provide abundant, safe and clean energy in order to build a path to development and dignity for emerging nations,” said Mehul Shah, founder and CEO of CCTE.

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Senator Tuberville (R-Ala) Introduces the Thorium Energy Security Act

The Department of Energy has so far spent $657 millions to destroy the supply of U-233 under the Defense Environmental Cleanup Program. Senator  Tommy Tuberville is convinced this a waste of a key nuclear fuel. (press release)

He introduced legislation – S.4242. Under his new bill, known as the Thorium Energy Security Act, Tuberville hopes to see the U.S. save its U-233 and put it toward the development of new nuclear reactors. The bill would preserve the remaining inventory of U-233 for use in making medical isotopes and for development of fuels for thorium-powered nuclear reactors.

Tuberville notes that China has been hard at work refining its thorium technology. Beijing has produced its first reactor powered by U-233, and began testing it last September.

“Uranium-233 is too valuable and too useful to just be thrown in the trash, a fact that China understands but our Department of Energy clearly does not. While we are spending millions of dollars to destroy U-233, China is investing in it by preparing to build a new generation nuclear reactors powered by U-233.The United States needs to lead on advanced nuclear reactors and not leave the future of innovative clean energy technologies in the hands of China. Preserving this valuable national resource is the first step on that path.”

He claims that the country could soon introduce additional U-233-powered reactors as a part of its Belt and Road Initiative. So far, China has promoted for export its light water design, an 1100 MWe PWR called the Hualong One that burns conventional uranium fuel, building one in Pakistan. China is in talks with Argentina to build another one there. So far there have not been any reports of China having a thorium-fueled nuclear reactor available for export nor is one under development other than at the R&D stage.   (Neutron Bytes report on China’s thorium reactor R&D program)

Tuberville said he is worried that China will be able to gain a significant advantage in its development of U-233 technology based on a program, long since canceled, in which the U.S. shared technical data about thorium reactors designs with Beijing.

Initiated in 2011 under the Obama administration, DOE entered a cooperative agreement with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The program, which took place over several years, shared information on U-233 processing in an effort to promote China’s movement away from coal and toward clean energy solutions.

“China’s ahead of us because they got the technology, and they’re running with it, and we’re not running with it,” Tuberville told Newsweek. “There’s a will and a way here for us to make progress with energy.”

  • Why U-233 is Important to Thorium Reactors

Thorium cannot in itself power a reactor, Unlike natural uranium, it does not contain enough fissile material to initiate a nuclear chain reaction. As a result it must first be bombarded with neutrons to produce the highly radioactive isotope U-233 which makes thorium reactors very dependent on U-233 to operate.

Critics of the fuel have raised questions about nonproliferation risks in the thorium fuel cycle and overall whether it is safer than uranium fueled reactors in terms of the inputs needed to fabricate U-233, which is a man-made metal.

Also they note there are issues with the use of plutonium to make the fuel and the resulting waste form that contains PU-239, which can be used to make bombs. Various approaches to making U-233 have involved reprocessing spent nuclear fuel from light water reactors to harvest the plutonium needed to make U-233.

Jim Conca, a Ph.D., nuclear scientist, addressed these concerns in comments to Popular Mechanics Magazine in September 2020.

“The ANEEL fuel has a very high fuel burn-up rate[, which] means the fuel stays in the reactor longer and gets more energy out of the same amount of fuel. [It’s] prohibitively difficult to make into a weapon. [And] ANEEL fuel will reduce the waste by over 80% and end up with much less plutonium. Less spent fuel means less refueling, less cost, less fuel handling and less volume to dispose.”

A 2005 IAEA report “Thorium fuel cycle — Potential benefits and challenges” explains the thorium fuel cycle in great detail.   See Table 1 in this report for a list of thorium fueled reactors by nation.

India, China, and other countries have been experimenting with thorium reactors and fuels for decades, but without translating the R&D efforts into successful commercial designs. India’s interest in a thorium-fueled reactor was based on the fact that for decades it was locked out of accessing global uranium markets to get fuel for its civilian and military reactors due to its refusal to sign the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

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Denmark’s Seaborg Wins EU Grant for Floating Nuclear Plants

(NucNet) Danish nuclear technology company Seaborg Technologies has won a European Innovation Council grant for the continued development of floating nuclear power plants based on its compact molten salt reactor (CMSR).

seaborg logoThe company said it is one of only 74 European companies selected from over 1,000 proposals to be awarded an EIC Accelerator Grant so far in 2022.

The EIC is Europe’s flagship innovation program, with a budget of €10 billion, to identify, develop and scale up breakthrough technologies and innovations across all EU member states.

The EIC Accelerator provides financial support and business acceleration services to companies, which will each receive grants and/or equity investments, depending on their needs, of up to €17.5 million.

Mastering molten salt technology is a key element of Seaborg’s Generation IV CMSR strategy in which the company aims to deploy on “power barges.” providing clean and affordable electricity worldwide.

The first power barges will have two reactors installed delivering 200 MWe. The modular design allows for up to 800 MWe over a 24-year lifetime. Seaborg is aiming to produce commercial prototypes of its reactor by 2024 with serial production in 2026.

In a CMSR reactor, the fuel is mixed with molten fluoride salt, which also acts as a coolant. According to Seaborg, this provides significant safety benefits. At the end of the 12-year fuel cycle, the fuel is returned to the supplier, where the short-lived fission products are separated and transferred to secure storage.

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Seaborg and South Korea’s BEES Sign MOU for a Floating  Molten Salt Reactor

South Korean firm Best Engineering in Energy Solutions (BEES) and Seaborg have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate with South Korean regulators to identify and meet requirements for the construction and export of the Danish company’s floating nuclear power plants.

seaborg floating

Seaborg’s Compact Molten Salt Reactor (CMSR) power barge is designed to be a turn-key product which can be moored in a harbor, and be of a modular design and able to deliver between 200 MWe and 800 MWe for its 24-year lifetime.

In April 2022, Seaborg and South Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries signed a partnership agreement to develop floating nuclear power plants based on Seaborg’s CMSR.

The floating nuclear power plant comes as a turn-key product, ready to be moored at an industrial harbor. In the harbor, a transmission cable will be connected from the barge to the electric grid on shore. An optional solution is to place a hydrogen or ammonia production plant next to the nuclear power barge utilizing the CO2-free fission energy from the barge to produce hydrogen and ammonia.

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Keeping Diablo Canyon Power Plant Online Would Help California Decarbonize

Extending operations at the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, California’s largest single source of carbon-free electricity production, would significantly reduce emissions and natural gas use, and accelerate progress toward the state’s ambitious clean energy goals, according to a new study released by Carbon Free California.  The Brattle Group’s full analysis is available here.

diablo canyonRetaining Diablo Canyon could help avoid blackouts, significantly reduce electric power costs and provide the best opportunity for California to meet its climate goals, even with the widespread deployment of renewables and energy storage.

The analysis, conducted by the Brattle Group, found that keeping Diablo Canyon online could also help enable California to achieve a carbon-free grid by 2035, a decade earlier than the state’s current goal, at a cost $5 billion lower than if the plant were retired. These early reductions could help jumpstart economy-wide decarbonization and reduce California’s dependence on gas-fired power generation, lowering cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by 40 million metric tons of CO2.

“Diablo Canyon is already the largest clean energy resource in California, a state that has set the ambitious goal of a carbon-free electric grid,” said Brattle Group Principal Sam Newell.

“In combination with a dramatic expansion of solar, wind, storage and dispatchable clean technologies, the study shows that keeping Diablo Canyon online will help California achieve its goals faster, at less cost and with greater grid reliability.”

The study found that keeping Diablo Canyon in California’s energy portfolio could reduce costs for ratepayers by a net present value (NPV) of approximately $4 billion, even with an assumed capital investment of $2 billion to meet the state’s ocean water intake standards. These system-wide savings result from displacing gas-fired generation and fossil fuel imports and reducing other costs for resources needed to meet clean energy and reliability goals.

This report comes at a time when the Newsom Administration has indicated its interest in exploring the option of retaining Diablo Canyon and the state faces significant electricity reliability challenges. Recently released polling found that 58% of state residents believe Diablo Canyon should continue to operate, with even greater support in the local community surrounding the plant. Power industry analysts are predicting that the current record high temperatures in the state this summer, due to climate change, could lead to brown outs if Diablo Canyon is shut down.

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DOE Proposes Changes to Help Rescue California’s Diablo Canyon Plant

The Bloomberg wire service reports that the US Department of Energy (DOE) is proposing changes requested by California Governor Gavin Newsom that will allow the state’s only remaining nuclear power plant to qualify for federal financial assistance.

The Energy Department has proposed removing a requirement, related to financial losses, that would have prevented PG&E Corp.’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant from getting a portion of $6 billion in funds the Biden Administration is making available to rescue reactors at risk of closing early because they are losing money.

Newsom is reconsidering a state plan, approved in 2016 with support of NRDC and other anti-nuclear groups, to retire Diablo Canyon in 2025 because of projected electricity shortages that could lead to brownouts and  blackouts in the state.

The effort to keep Diablo Canyon open would gain momentum if the plant can qualify for federal financial aid. California’s potential reversal of its anti-nuclear power stance underscores the crisis the state is facing as it seeks to decarbonize its grid.

  • California Senator Feinstein Does a 180 on Diablo Canyon

Back in 2012 California Senator Diane Feinstein was a critic of the SONGS nuclear energy plant in her state and nuclear energy in general. A decade later she has become a supporter of keeping the twin reactors at Diablo Canyon open past their planned shutdown date of 2025 .Relicensing the plant would add 20 years to its operational life to the mid-2040s

In an OP ED in the Sacramento Bee she referenced projected electricity shortfalls in California due to the effects of climate change, Feinstein writes that “Pacific Gas and Electric Company should reconsider its decision to close Diablo Canyon by 2025. The utility should get the plant relicensed instead, retiring it once the state can replace its production with clean sources.”

She also references a joint Stanford University–Massachusetts Institute of Technology study which found that delaying Diablo Canyon’s retirement to 2035 would lower California power sector carbon emissions by more than 10% from 2017 levels and reduce reliance on gas, save $2.6 billion in power system costs, and bolster system reliability to mitigate brownouts.

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UAE Regulator Issues Operating License For Barakah  3

(NucNet) The United Arab Emirates’ nuclear regulator has issued the operating license for the third unit of the four-unit Barakah nuclear power station.

The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) said that under the license, Nawah Energy Company, the subsidiary of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) responsible for operating the plant, is authorized to operate it for 60 years

The assessment process included reviewing the plant’s layout design and analysis of the site’s location in terms of geography and demography. The assessment also included the reactor design, cooling systems, security arrangements, emergency preparedness, radioactive waste management and other technical aspects. FANR assessed Nawah’s organizational and manpower readiness.

The Barakah power station is located on UAE’s coast of the Persian Gulf about 280 km (155 miles) northwest of Abu Dhabi. It is one of the largest nuclear energy new-build projects in the world, with four APR-1400 units supplied by South Korea. Construction began in 2012 and the project as a whole is now more than 96% complete.

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Sizewell C Twin EPRs Eligible for RAB Method Funding

(WNN) The British government has published documents which show “significant progress” towards implementing a Regulated Asset Base (RAB) funding model for new nuclear power projects. It has set out its case for the Sizewell C project to receive funding under the model and launched a consultation on how projects would receive RAB financing.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced in June 2018 that the government would review the viability of a RAB model for new nuclear projects and committed in January 2019 to publishing an assessment of this model.

BEIS has now published draft policy for designating the company operating Sizewell C, NNB Generation Company (SZC) Limited, to receive money through the RAB model. It said the reasons set out the case for the Sizewell C project meeting the criteria of the Nuclear Energy (Financing) Act, introduced earlier this year

BEIS said in a statement,. “Their publication brings the government a step closer to deciding on its commercial negotiations with the project developer.”

The plan is for Sizewell C to feature two EPRs producing 3200 MWe of electricity. It would be the same design as the Hinkley Point C plant, under construction in Somerset. In January, Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng announced GBP100 million to advance the Sizewell C project to the next stage of negotiations, and help it attract further private investment.

Sizewell C is also subject to an ongoing application for development consent, which is entirely separate to commercial negotiations on the project. The deadline for a decision on Sizewell C’s application for a development consent order has been also been set for a  July date.

Separately, the UK government is seeking new investors to take equity stakes in the Sizewell C project to replace a commitment by China General Nuclear Power. The Guardian newspaper reported that the government has bought an option to take a 20% stake in Sizewell C in a move that could ease China’s state nuclear company China General Nuclear (CGN) out of the project.

Ministers took a £100m option to invest in Sizewell C’s holding company in January and said this week it would convert that into equity if the project reaches a final investment decision.

  • What is the RAB Method?

(WNN) Under this model a company receives a license from an economic regulator to charge a regulated price to consumers in exchange for providing the infrastructure in question. Most recently, the RAB model was used to successfully finance the construction and operation of the Thames Tideway Tunnel and Heathrow’s Terminal 5. In December 2020, the UK government announced it would begin talks with EDF to enable investment in the planned Sizewell C nuclear power plant project.

The government published a statement on the procedure and criteria for designating projects to benefit from the RAB model in April this year, setting out some of the factors the Secretary of State is likely to take into account when assessing the maturity of the projects of prospective nuclear companies, and whether designating a company for the purposes of the RAB model is likely to result in value for money for consumers and taxpayers.

As required by the Act, the document is currently being consulted on with the Environment Agency, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, electricity markets regulator Ofgem and NNB Generation Company (SZC) Limited. The consultation will close in July and is the first step in potentially allowing the company to receive funding under the RAB model.

The RAB model of funding nuclear projects is expected to help the government realize its ambitions to approve up to eight new nuclear reactors by 2030, boosting UK nuclear power capacity up to 24 GW by 2050.

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An Early Bird Strategy Aims to Hire Future STEM Graduates

Recruitment of STEM Graduates Now Begins in High School

ThinkTinkering-Light-Bulb-tinypng

Any firm that is planning to hire from the pool of future STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) graduates knows it is not getting bigger. This is an issue for the advanced industrial society we live in which depends in STEM technologies in key industries, including nuclear energy and oil and gas.

These, and other high tech industries, will need many more STEM graduates over the coming decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the strongest growth in STEM jobs will concentrate in Computers & Mathematics, Architecture and Engineering, Robotics and Manufacturing, and Life, Physical & Social Science.

Where will the workers come from to fill these jobs? Absent significant changes in the U.S. government’s immigration policies, from a demographic perspective growth in the U.S. population pyramid for new workers in the their late teens and early 20s does not look promising in terms of increasing numbers coming up in future generations compared to those already in early and mid-careers.

US Pop pyr by age

The percentage of men and women age 14-18, who will soon enter the workforce, has declined every year since 2016. In a country with a population of 330 million people, about two-thirds of them were in the workforce prior to the onset of the COVID pandemic or 218 million.

A decline of even 1% in this number equals over 2 million workers. To put that number in context, this same as losing the equivalent of the entire population of Houston, TX. It means that recruitment of STEM workers from a shrinking labor pool will be more competitive than ever.

The options are that the U.S. as a nation works harder to produce graduates in STEM fields, outsources some of the work to other countries with higher birth rates, or opens its doors to immigration of talent and with less restrictive conditions than are currently on the books.

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In the near term, high tech firms are focusing on getting the attention of the next generation of potential STEM professionals any way they can. For one firm that makes measurement devices for nuclear reactors, a maxim from 17th century old English texts may turn out to be a key strategy.

Reuter-Stokes is Pursuing an Early Bird Strategy

What this means for high technology firms like Reuter-Stokes, a Baker-Hughes Company, which makes instruments for the nuclear energy industry, is that competition for future STEM graduates will get more challenging over time. For this reason, the firm, with its global HQ and major manufacturing center located in Twinsburg, OH, about 30 miles south of downtown Cleveland, is that it is starting its recruitment process with high school students. It is doing this by making them aware of STEM related opportunities in its industry.

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Reuter-Stokes designs and manufactures sensors that operate in some of the most critical applications across the globe, including sensors for nuclear reactors, oil & gas, radiation detection and other markets.

The company is looking ahead, and is casting its recruitment net more widely to attract high school students who are trying to figure out what to study in college and how that degree will result in landing a high paying job.

On May 6th Reuter-Stokes hosted a successful STEM awareness event for about 100 Twinsburg-Area High School students. Reuter-Stokes hailed the event in a press statement as a ‘resounding success’ and promises to repeat it in 2023. It is the kind of event any supplier to the nuclear energy industry needs to think about hosting to get a handle on its STEM staffing needs over the next decade.

Spanning the science, technology, engineering, and math disciplines, a series of interactive activities and demonstrations across the Reuter-Stokes instrument product line at the event made a lasting impression on students. Activities included a panel discussion that addressed topics such as women in STEM and career paths for young engineers in various disciplines. The overall focus of the panel was to give the students an idea of what the future could hold for them if they choose to pursue STEM careers.

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“Our objective today was to open minds,” said Rod Martinez, vice president of Reuter-Stokes (right) told this blog in an interview at the STEM event.

“I hope that we’ve inspired a few students to consider a career in the STEM fields.”

Martinez emphasized the firm is hiring electrical and mechanical engineers and technical staff for its product lines in the nuclear energy and oil and gas industries.

In terms of the nuclear industry, Martinez said the firm is producing sensors and other technologically complex products “for the first wave of small modular reactors (SMRs). The BWRX-300 is one of our focus areas.”

“Reuter-Stokes is excited to see a revived interest in nuclear energy and to be able to bring our solutions to the industry.”

In terms of job prospects for the students who attended the STEM event, Martinez said, “We are always looking to recruit talented people; I’d love to think that in a few years some of today’s students will be back at Reuter-Stokes and developing the cool, tough, ground-breaking sensor technology that we deploy in some of the world’s most challenging applications.”

Enthusiasm for STEM careers was not lacking among the students who attended the day long event. Asia Howard, a student from Twinsburg High School said: “I’ve always been interested in how things work. Learning how sensors are used around the world was really cool – nuclear power plants could literally not produce power without Reuter-Stokes sensors! Thank you to everyone involved.”

Race Car Driving Requires STEM Skills – A highlight of the day long event was a VIP appearance from Cruz Pedregon, two-time winner of the National Hot Rod Association Drag Racing Series Funny Car competition, who championed the theme of the event, “driving technology innovation.”

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Pedregon (right) is sponsored by Reuter-Stokes, At the Twinsburg STEM event he showcased his $325,000 ‘Nitro Funny Car’ to deliver a series of presentations that demonstrated the cutting-edge technology used in Funny Car drag racing vehicles – technology that allows the cars to reach speeds of more than 330 mph.

“I’m passionate about STEM Programs, so it was a privilege to meet the students today and explain a little more about the boundary-busting technology that we use to get our car to hit zero to 100 in under 0.8 seconds,” said Pedregon.

Q&A with Twinsburg High School Students

During the morning program, a panel of Reuter-Stokes management and technical staff, and a representative from human resources, explained what it is like to have STEM careers at the company. Here’s summary of some of the questions the students asked and the answers to them as provided by the panel.

Q: For students seeking STEM carriers, what opportunities are available at Reuter-Stokes in the area of instrumentation for the nuclear energy industry? Can the firm provide some example profiles of roles / responsibilities, etc. What is a day at work like for them?

A: For instance, as an electrical engineer you will be responsible for working as an integral member of the multidisciplinary engineering team.

  • Developing analog and digital signal processing electronics, either as improvements to existing designs or from scratch.
  • Ensuring electrical component and system designs have appropriate analytical verification, production level validation, and field-testing.
  • Working with other engineers, technicians, and designers in a team environment to foster a creative workplace, allowing for new ideas while embracing speed and excellence.
  • Documenting work products in written form, e.g., technical notes, design specifications, journal publications

Q: What types of engineering studies, such as a degree program, should a student seeking these opportunities pursue to earn the necessary qualifications to work in the field?

A: Really any of the STEM fields would be applicable, however, the most prevalent roles at our site are in the areas of electrical and mechanical engineering but we do have opportunities for every functional field.

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Q: Which are the university programs which are producing graduates with the kinds of knowledge and skills that Reuter-Stokes seeks? Where has Reuter-Stokes recently held recruiting events for recent graduates in STEM programs?

A: We work closely with most of the local universities in northeast Ohio focused on the sciences – Akron University, Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University, etc. We have done recruiting events at these universities. We are always looking to build relationships with universities across Ohio and in the neighboring states.

Q: Is a four-year college degree the only path forward to employment with Reuter-Stokes? Are there two-year and technical trade schooling paths that would also lead to careers in this field?

A: We have opportunities for all levels of education starting from high school graduates to Ph.D. level positions. A four-year degree is not requirement for all positions that we have opportunities for. We also offer tuition reimbursement for anyone looking to further their education and to then use that applied knowledge for opportunities within Reuter-Stokes.

Q: Does Baker Hughes offer internships during the college years so that a student can try out the job to see if they are a good fit for it?

A: We offer internships in all functional areas. The majority are in the field of engineering or other sciences.

Q: Who should students contact at Reuter-Stokes to learn more about the company? Please visit our careers web page to see what positions we recruit for to support our business.

About Reuter-Stokes

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Reuter-Stokes, a Baker Hughes business, designs and manufactures mission-critical measuring devices for precise radiation measurement, pressurized and boiling water reactor monitoring, UV flame detection, and downhole sensors for directional drilling.

Based in Twinsburg, Ohio, Reuter-Stokes offers more than six decades of on-going expertise in the design, manufacturing and installation of its extensive portfolio of gamma and neutron detection technologies. As an industry leader, the company provides innovative technologies and services including extensive research, development, and production of high-quality detectors for a broad range of radiation monitoring applications.

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