Advanced Nuclear Fuel Developers Cite Progress

  • CNL & Moltex Energy Partner on SMR Fuel Research
  • Lightbridge Signs Cooperative R&D Agreement with DOE / GAIN at INL
  • BWXT Meets Technical Milestones Towards Production of TRISO Fuel Elements

Canadian National Laboratory Partners with Molten Salt Reactor Firm

Cnl magesA new research project will explore innovative fuel processing and development. It is funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative.  The Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), announced last week that it has entered into a collaboration agreement with Moltex Energy.

Funded through CNL’s Canadian Nuclear Research Initiative (CNRI), the agreement will support Moltex Energy’s nuclear fuel development program for its Stable Salt Reactor, a 300 MW small modular reactor (SMR) design.

The program will support the second and third phases of the Oxide Nuclear WAste Reduction Demonstration (ONWARD) project to explore the commercial viability of the WAste To Stable Salts (WATSS) technology to convert spent CANDU fuel into new fuel that can produce more clean energy from a Stable Salt Reactor. The first phase is already in progress.

Under the proposed CNRI project, Moltex Energy, the University of New Brunswick and CNL will design, build and optimize the test apparatus used to process the used fuel. In parallel, complementary activities will be carried out at the University of Manchester in the UK.

The data collected will support the design and licensing of a WATSS facility at Point Lepreau in New Brunswick for NB Power. As managers of spent fuel in Canada, New Brunswick Power and Ontario Power Generation will be involved in the project to provide advice and guidance.

More specifically, the CNRI project will see CNL supporting Moltex Energy on specialized equipment preparation, installation and commissioning. While the initial testing is conducted using surrogate inactive materials, CNL’s expertise is also supporting the planning, design, costing and safety analysis required to move the apparatus into a shielded facility, or “hot cell”, where the testing could be completed using actual fuels and active materials.

Ultimately, the data collected will support the design and licensing of a full-scale facility in New Brunswick being developed jointly by Moltex Energy, the Government of New Brunswick and NB Power.

“The financial support and technical expertise from CNL is important for the success of our project and will help us advance research and development,” said Rory O’Sullivan, CEO for North America at Moltex Energy.

Focus of CNRI Program

Launched in 2019, the CNRI program was established by CNL to accelerate the deployment of SMRs in Canada by enabling research and development, and connecting the SMR industry with the facilities and expertise within Canada’s national nuclear laboratories. Participants are able to optimize resources, share technical knowledge, and gain access to CNL’s expertise to help advance the commercialization of SMR technologies.

“CNL has built considerable expertise in nuclear fuel handling and processing over the past decades,” explains Jeff Griffin, CNL Vice-President of Science and Technology.

“Advanced fuel research is recognized as one of our key strategic areas of strength. We have made significant investments into our fuel program and will continue to do so over the coming years. The CNRI program helps reactor developers – such as Moltex Energy – tap into these key capabilities in a cost-effective way.”

Many of the modular reactor designs under development or consideration in Canada utilize evolutionary – or even revolutionary – fuels and manufacturing processes. These advances in fuels promise greater levels of efficiency, safety and in the case of Moltex Energy, a reduction in fuel waste inventories. However, before these benefits are realized, research and development must be undertaken to prove out the concepts, and readiness of the technology for the nuclear licencing process.

CNRI is an annual program that invites organizations to submit proposals for cost-sharing R&D projects in support of SMR development. CNL received a strong response to the initial intake, including four applications from key vendors in the SMR industry in Canada and abroad. The agreement with Moltex Energy is the second project to reach this stage in the program.

Lightbridge Signs CRADA with DOE/GAIN/INL

Lightbridge Corporation (NASDAQ: LTBR), an advanced nuclear fuel technology company, has entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Battelle Energy Alliance, LLC, the operating contractor of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The principal goal of this agreement is to design an experiment for irradiation of Lightbridge metallic fuel material samples in the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) at INL. The experiment will allow Lightbridge to measure the thermo-physical properties of Lightbridge Fuel [tm] material samples. The total project value of the CRADA is approximately $845,000, with three-quarters of this amount funded by DOE for the scope performed by INL.

lightbridge fuel

Lightbridge Fuel Profile & Uses

Lightbridge and INL will establish the test plan for measuring key thermo-physical properties of Lightbridge Fuel material both before and after irradiation in the ATR.

INL will then perform the detailed design and establish the safety case for the experiment in the ATR.

This will include the control of parameters such as thermal hydraulic capacity, maximum sample temperature, neutron fluence, and the physical location of the test capsules within the ATR. The output of this project will be the complete design and safety case needed for insertion of the experiment into the ATR. The timeline for the CRADA is 12 months from project initiation.

Seth Grae, President & CEO of Lightbridge Corporation, commented, “Through the GAIN program, Lightbridge will have the opportunity to collaborate with and access the world-class nuclear research capabilities at INL. We believe the work we accomplish with INL under this CRADA will further validate our Lightbridge Fuel technology, positioning the Company to advance in our development and commercialization efforts.”

According to a presentation to investors on the firm’s website,  the firm will initiate Lead Test Rod operation in a commercial reactor in a 2025-2027 timeframe.

BWXT Marks Progress Towards Production of TRISO Fuel

Triso-fuel_thumb.png

Cutaway Diagram of TRISO Fuel

(WNN) Restart activities at BWX Technologies Inc’s (BWXT) TRISO fuel manufacturing facility in Lynchburg, Virginia are progressing ahead of schedule, the company said last week.

It has completed the demonstration of the fuel kernel sintering process and plans to bring two additional furnaces online to meet projected production demand before restart activities are complete.

BWXT says it is the only US manufacturer of irradiation-tested uranium oxycarbide tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel using production-scale equipment. The company in October 2019 announced plans to restart and expand its existing TRISO production line to meet client interests in Department of Defense microreactors, space reactors and civil advanced reactors.

TRISO particles contain a spherical kernel of enriched uranium oxycarbide surrounded by layers of carbon and silicon carbide, which contains fission products. Such fuel can withstand extreme heat and has very low proliferation concerns and environmental risks. BWXT has cooperated with the US Department of Energy on the development and qualification of TRISO-based fuel for over he past 15 years.

In 2019 BWXT announced it had started the production of the uranium solutions which are a starting material for kernel formation. It has now also demonstrated the capability to form and sinter the uranium oxycarbide fuel kernels that serve as a precursor to the TRISO coating process, the company said. Sintering is the process of applying heat and pressure to form the solid kernel.

With the completion of these activities, BWXT is now focusing on bringing two additional furnaces online (an additional sintering furnace and a coating furnace) to meet projected production demand before restart activities are complete.

BWXT Nuclear Operations Group, Inc (NOG) was last month awarded a contract from the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to manufacture TRISO nuclear fuel to support the continued development of the Transformational Challenge Reactor, which will use a core of uranium nitride coated fuel particles within an advanced manufactured silicon carbide structure.

By co-locating the TRISO production line with other existing uranium processing capabilities, BWXT plans to have a vertically integrated facility capable of handling all TRISO-related needs from feedstock preparation through uranium recovery and purification.

According to an October 2019 press release, the firm the process of ramping up to production would take 12 months,

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Argentina Plans To Revive CAREM-25 SMR

argentina_nuclear_thumb.jpg(NucNet) State owned Nucleoeléctrica Argentina is reported to be planning to resume work on the prototype Carem-25 small modular reactor project. In related actions for the country’s nuclear energy industry, it was also reported that there are plans for the refurbishment of the Atucha-1 nuclear power plant, and a used fuel dry storage facility at Atucha.

CAREM – the Central Argentina de Elementos Modulares – is a domestically designed and developed 25MW small modular pressurized water reactor.  So far Argentina was investing about $63m (€46m) in the project.

The CAREM-25 prototype is being built at a site next to the Atucha nuclear power station in Lima, about 100 km northwest of the capital, Buenos Aires. Construction of CAREM-25 began with the completion of the pouring of first concrete in February 2014.

argentinanukes

Press reports in Argentina said contractor Techint Engineering & Construction halted work on Carem-25 in November 2019, citing late payment from the government, unanticipated design changes and late delivery of technical documentation. Approximately 70% of the SMR’s components are from domestic suppliers.

Energy minister Sergio Lanziani defending the government’s position saying the project, on which work was suspended last year, were caused by “breaches from contractor companies.”  He did not elaborate nor mention that the government has stopped paying its bills.

No completion date was set as a result of the decision to restart work. Long-term plans include development of a design and construction of a 100 MW unit for domestic electricity production and a 300 MW design intended for export.

Separately, the used fuel storage facility is essential for the continued operation of the Atucha-1 and Atucha-2 nuclear power plants.

The Atucha-1 life extension project will allow the 340-MW pressurised heavy water reactor unit, which began commercial operation in 1974, to continue operating, although Nucleoeléctrica did not say how long the planned extension will be for or when that work would get underway.

Argentina has three PHWRs – two at Atucha and one at Embalse – providing about 6% of its electricity generation.

Brazil Seeks Foreign Direct Investment for Angra-3

brazil nuclearOver the past year Brazil has reached out to China, Russia, France, and the U.S. for investment in Angra-3. The plant has been under construction, with no completion date in sight, since 1984.

The development of Angra III began in 1984 as a Siemens/KWU pressurized water reactor but was halted in 1986 due to economic difficulties. About 70% of the plant’s equipment was purchased in 1985 but has been in storage ever since. Contrary to press reports, the plant is not “70% complete,” and a lot of work remains to be done.

Between 2007 and 2015 work started and stopped several times with different EPCs taking on the job. A corruption scandal in 2015 involving kickbacks from contractors to utility executives caused the latest interruption. There was so much paper currency involved in the kickbacks that the people taking the bribes ran out of room to store it and some of it was stashed in a car wash.

After stopping construction in 2015, the Brazilian government decided to auction off the incomplete power station to private investors in 2018. In Otober 2019 the Brazilian utility Eletronuclear short listed epressions of interest from the China Nationl Nuclear Corp, Fances EDF, and Russia’s Rosatom. South Korea’s KEPCO also indicated an interest, but not as an investor and EPC. However, no decision to award the work has taken place since then due in part to Brazils chaotic politics at the national level.

Westinghouse submitted an expression of interest in 2019 as a supplier but not as an EPC. In early 2020 the firm signed a letter of intent to be a supplier of components and to provide technical services but there were few details about the dollar value of the agreement. One item that was noted is that Westinghouse and Eletronuclear will work on meeting the requirements of Brazil’s nuclear regulator CNEN for approval to extend the operating licence of the 35-year-old Westinghouse-designed Angra-1 unit by 20 years to 60 years.

Whichever firm gets the nod to finish Angra-3, and so far none have, will need to provide financial support in return for a significant equity position for the life of the plant. The projected cost to complete the plant is estimated by the utility to be $3.7 billion. So far about $2.2 billion has been spent since the project began 46 years ago.

Bazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office in Janaury 2020, committed to completing the plant. He also revived plans for two additional nuclear power stations, one in Pernambuco and the other in Minas Gerais.

In the short time he has been in office his adminitration has been in turmoil over the effects of the corona virus in Brazil and allegations of corruption that have resulted in the resignation of key government ministers. The health minister quit due to Bolsonaro’s reluctance to take proactive steps to stem the spread of the virus.

U.S. Firms Seek Nuclear Business in Brazil

(WNN) Brazil and the USA have signed agreements on extending the operation and generating capacity of Angra unit 1 and on cooperation in new nuclear technologies.

The agreements, between Westinghouse and Eletronuclear, and between the US Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) and the Brazilian Association for the Development of Nuclear Activities (Abdan), were signed in  February at the Brazil-US Energy Forum in Rio de Janeiro in the presence of Brazilian Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque and US Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

The U.S. delegation also included representatives of Framatome, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, and Holtec International, among others. An agreement for bilateral cooperation on development of nuclear energy was the key outcome of the meeting.

Eletronuclear President Leonam dos Santos Guimarães said the Angra 1 extension project was essential for the company’s future: “We hope that this cooperation program will be the first in a series of successful initiatives,” but he did not specify what they would be nor when they would kick off.

Brouillette added that, “Most of Brazil’s major hydro resources are tapped already” and nuclear power “could be a better way to provide grid security than wind or solar.”

Brouillette also said that the US delegation was promoting the benefits of small modular reactors from companies such as NuScale Power, which has an SMR design under review by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

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How the Oil War between Saudi Arabia and Russia Affects their Plans for Nuclear Energy

pump jackIn the past few weeks while much of the world struggled with the deadly corona virus crisis, Saudi Arabia and Russia briefly engaged in a ruinous price and production war over oil.

The root cause of the dispute is control of market share for global oil sales for two major authoritarian nations who have bet their command and control national economies on fossil fuel revenues. The growth of U.S. oil exports from fracking in North Dakota and elsewhere has confounded the traditional controls sought by OPEC nations.

In the process of attacking their perceived market competitors, both countries realized that they had over reached and this past week came to an accommodation.  The agreement was explicitly rejected by Mexico.

The consequences of the oil price and production war is that world is awash in surplus oil being sold at a bargain basement price of $20-30/bbl. Compare this to prices in 2014 when the spot price for Saudi oil was $100/bbl.

What this means for the nuclear ambitions for Saudi Arabia domestically and Russia in terms of its export plans are that both countries will have to hit the brakes until the disease driven economic crisis turns around. That might not happen until well into 2021 or later.

With European economies crashing due to the effects of the virus crisis, it is difficult to see how countries like the Czech Republic, Romania, Poland, Estonia, and Bulgaria will move forward with their tenders for new nuclear energy capacity which would be attractive targets for Rosatom exports. The Russian practice of offering favorable financial terms, and even major elements of the financing of these export deals, may have to be put aside.

For Saudi Arabia, with plans for a tender for two full size, e.g., 1000-1400 MW, PWR type nuclear power stations, that project is simply not affordable at this time. For Russia, which is committed to building two huge power stations comprised of four 1200 MW VVER, one in Turkey and the other in Egypt, all other provisional projects now in the planning stage will likely stall out until oil prices improve over time.

Saudi Arabia’s plans for two full size units, at $4500/Kw, would come to a minimum of $9 billion and could be as high as $12.6 billion. These numbers don’t include grid and other infrastructure improvements. Headwinds facing Saudi Arabia include the stark fact that low oil prices have forced the Kingdom to run a deficit and to start using cash reserves.

Also, it has raised money with debt financing and cut subsidies to its underemployed population. The crash of oil pries could even be politically destabilizing for the Saudi government. Jamming a $9-13 billion energy project into that mix just doesn’t look like something that would get a green light from the finance ministry.

Russia is somewhat better positioned than Saudi Arabia. It has a thin candy shell of a government covering its real global role as a gas station for its customers. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Russia doesn’t provide social welfare subsidies to its population resulting in a lower deficit relative to the size of its economy.

Saudi Arabia may still dip its toes in the nuclear energy field by moving forward with its agreement to build the 100 MW SMART SMR at various locations for the purposes of providing power for water desalinization. One of long term goals of the Saudi nuclear program has been to stop burning fossil fuels, oil and gas, for domestic use so that they can be made available for export. Getting water desalinization plants off gas fired power plants would be a key step in that direction for the desert kingdom.

Russia is just getting started with its SMR program. It has focused on providing its first effort, which include re-purposing reactor designs from nuclear powered icebreakers, to Siberian outpost cities which also happen to be in the same region as some of its major oil fields. This suggests the Russians have a similar motive for building SMRs as Saudi Arabia, but in this case, its for electrical power and district heating rather than desalinization.

What About the U.S.?

U.S. energy officials and various energy-related think tanks, have raised the alarm that Russia’s aggressive nuclear energy export policies will be a long-term competitive threat to the U.S. regaining market share. That assessment is likely to remain valid, but the practical effect of the current oil glut may buy time for the U.S. to redevelop it nuclear industry.

Where problems will likely occur in the short term is with the supply chains. With many manufacturing businesses shut down by state ordered stay at home efforts, these businesses are closed and their workers are now unemployed. No one is sure what reopening the U.S. economy looks like. Medical experts say that extensive testing and having an effective anti-viral medicine and a vaccine are all key elements. None of these objectives appear, at this time, be to within the country’s grasp.

For developers of new advanced reactor designs, who need to be in their design and test facilities to create the unique and first of a kind components to build their plants, working at home only goes so far. Yes, a mechanical engineer can haul the CAD workstation home and do design work, but fabrication of prototype parts for a nuclear reactor is a hands-on process requiring many people on-site.

Firms that want to move forward may have to put in place strict controls such as taking temperatures of arriving staff each day and requiring that all staff wear masks. Even so, once an employee reports being in medical distress with the virus, the manufacturing plant or development facility has to shut down, the other staff who are potentially exposed have to go into a 14-day quarantine, and the whole place has to be deep cleaned with anti-microbiological chemicals.

There is a real risk as some individuals will be asymptomatic and yet also be carriers potentially infecting others. Their status would not be detected by temperature tests. Finally, firms may be overly cautious about letting people come back to work for hands on fabrication of parts design or to run production processes for the simple reason that reopening for business ahead of medical advice puts all the risk of doing so in their corner.

Any Light at the End of the Tunnel?

At this time there are no lights at the end of the tunnel. The major news media in the U.S. have extensively reported the confused and inadequate response of the federal government and the varieties of state-by-state efforts. Highly urbanized states like California, Illinois, and New York has taken extraordinary measures to push stay at home policies and social distancing.  States with rural populations like North Dakota and Wyoming have not done either.

The extent of U.S. unemployment remains unknown as millions of people cannot get through to state agencies to file their claims. By some estimates by the Federal Reserve Bank, the unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2020 could reach over 30% of the workforce. These numbers have not been seen since the depression era of the 1930s.

When and How Will the Economy Restart?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and White House coronavirus task force member, said during an interview on CNN Sunday 4/12/20 that he doesn’t expect the economy to reopen like a “light switch.”

He did express “cautious optimism” that the curve of COVID-19 cases may have begun to flatten, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Fauci about when he thinks the country will be ready to take steps to reopen based on the availability of testing.

Fauci responded that he views the reopening of the country as a “rolling reentry” that is “not going to be a light switch.”

“It’s going to be depending where you are in the country, the nature of the outbreak that you have already experienced, and the threat of an outbreak that you may not have experienced,”

Fauci said, before adding that it won’t be a “one size fits all” scenario due to how the severity of the outbreak differs throughout parts of the country,  and, “it could probably start, at least in some ways, maybe next month.”

Fauci hopes there are signs by the end of April that show there are elements that can be “safely and cautiously” pulled back on.

Ohio State University Video on Social Distancing

The Ohio Department of Health has a powerful message for the public: Social distancing works.

The agency posted a video illustrating a demonstration of chain reactions using ping pong balls and mouse traps to get its point across as people nationwide are urged to practice social distancing in an effort to battle the spread of COVID-19.

Readers of this list are, of course, familiar with the ping pong ball videos demonstrating a nuclear chain reaction.  In a way this is a similar physical process.

Mouse traps and ping pong balls to show powerful message: ‘Social distancing works’

In the meantime, stay home if you can.

The lives you save may be your own and those of your loved ones.

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Poland Counts Costs for New Nuclear Reactors

  • Poland / New Nuclear Could Cost €14Bn Over a Decade
  • Poland / Utility PGE ‘Could Not Bear’ Investment in First Nuclear Plant
  • Micro Reactors / Oklo’s Aurora Will Cost $10m to Build And $3m A Year To Operate
  • Advanced Reactors / BN-600 Licensed to Operate Until 2025
  • Small Modular Reactors / Finland’s VTT Develops an SMR for District Heating

Poland / New Nuclear Could Cost €14Bn Over A Decade

(NucNet) The country’s ambitions include building a minimum of six reactor units over 20 years with the equivalent of 9000 MW by the 2040s. Paying for them remains a supremely vexing problem for the Polish government which is conflicted about these plans and how to fund them.

Poland will have to spend €14 billion in the first 10 years of its planned nuclear power program, the Polish government secretary responsible for energy infrastructure Piotr Naimski said in media interviews

Mr Naimski said the country’s plans include building six nuclear reactor units over 20 years with a combined output of between 6 and 9 GW.

At $4,500/Kw, 6000 MW will cost $27 billion. The €14 billion will buy the country only half of its planned new electrical generation capacity of just 3000 MW. A new build of 9000 MW will come in at about $42 billion depending on what a Euro is worth a decade or two from now.

As of today this cost is the same for full size nuclear reactors, e.g., 1000 MW or small modular units. Marketing claims by two vendors of SMRs (GE-Hitachi 300 MW) and mid-size units, Rolls Royce 440MW) that they can cut this cost in half will need to be proven by building one.

(Note to readers: The exchange rate of dollars to euros as of April 1 is 1.00 USD equal 0.93 euro. For the purposes of this article, I am treating dollars and euros on a one -for-one basis.)

Poland is the only EU state that has not pledged to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The coal plants are significant sources of pollution and CO2 emissions.  About 80% of Poland’s electricity comes from ageing coal plants, many of which will have to close in the coming decade. Poland wants to reduce that to 60% in the 2030s.

coal in europe

Coal-fired power plants in Europe with a focus on Poland. https://www.powerplantmaps.com/Poland.html

Facing pressure from the European Union to reduce emissions, it has issued plans to build significant nuclear capacity by 2040. Poland wants to invest in a new low-carbon energy source like nuclear to help it reduce its CO2 emissions in line with EU targets.

However, the country’s political leadership has repeatedly walked up to the line of committing to new nuclear energy projects, and then stepped back when it saw the price tag.

Poland launched a national nuclear power program in 2014 which included the construction of up to 6 GW of capacity by 2035, but the government delay a final decision on the program because it had doubts about its ability to finance the project and attract investors to it.

By November 2019, Mr. Naimski told reporters that officials were once again in the process of conducting a “very detailed review” of all available reactor technology options.

Mr Naimski said in a news media interview in March 2020 that the most difficult task will be to build a nuclear power station on schedule because it is a long-term undertaking which needs 10 to 12 years.

“The point is to stick to a perfect schedule all the time, without any delays, because delays are most expensive.”

He’s got that right, and with Poland having no experience building nuclear power plants, nor a work force or supply chain to support such projects, it will have to import all of these capabilities and resources which will add to the cost of the units.

Mr Naimski nevertheless remains confident about the future. He said the money to be spent on new nuclear is “a lot”, but “economically developing” Poland could afford it. The state owned utility isn’t so sure. More on this in the next story.

On the current status of Poland’s nuclear program, Mr Naimski said decisions to be taken over the course of 2020 will relate to the choice of a technology vendor and financing the news build.

He said the government has been discussing its nuclear plans with the US Department of Energy and is expecting an offer from the US side which will be reviewed. Such offers would likely come from Westinghouse and GE Hitachi. Last fall then Secretary of Energy Rick Perry made a trade mission trip to Poland to promote the possibility of U.S. firms getting the business.

Perry’s visit prompted a competitive response from Russia’s nuclear export agency Rosatom which regards eastern Europe as a captive market though so far it has not booked any new business in elsewhere including Romania, Czech Republic, and Estonia. Russia’s Gazprom, which derives significant revenues by supplying natural gas to Poland saw the trip as “bad news” for its long term prospects there.

Asked about potential partners from France or South Korea, Mr Naimski said he wants, “suppliers who have proven technology and are able to build on budget and schedule, and with whom we also want to have a strategic partnership for decades.”

With regard to France, EDF’s dismal record with building new 1600 MW EPRs in Finland and France take it out of the running for the competition based on cost effective delivery of new reactors. However, Poland might want to take a second look at South Korea which is well on its way towards completion of four 1400 MW reactors in the UAE.

Government sources have said Poland will be aiming at a possible 6% nuclear share for electricity generation in the early to mid-2030s and a 15-20% nuclear share by 2050, although this would depend on a final decision about the nuclear program and its financing.

Poland / Utility PGE ‘Could Not Bear’ Investment In First Nuclear Plant

(NucNet)  The estimated amount would exceed the firm’s capabilities, says company’s president

While Poland’s energy ministry is confident about forging ahead with a nuclear energy new build, Poland’s state-controlled power company PGE (Polska Grupa Energetyczna) says not so fast.

The utility said this week it will most likely not be able to bear the burden of building the country’s first nuclear power station. Significantly, this assessment comes from the company’s recently appointed president Wojciech Dabrowski who gave a statement to the national press agency PAP.

“The size of this investment would exceed our capabilities,” Mr Dabrowski said during a press conference on PGE’s 2019 performance. However, he declined to be pinned down as to the actual numbers involved in this assessment.

The government secretary responsible for energy infrastructure, Piotr Naimski, has said Poland will have to spend €14bn in the first 10 years of its planned nuclear program.

In 2019 then energy minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski was quoted in media reports as saying Poland will probably need around €27 billion by 2040 from foreign investors to build its first nuclear power station, but this would be provided over 20 years.

He estimated the total investment at around €54 billion, but he did not specify how many units this would buy.

At $4500/Kw €27 billion buys 6000 MW of nuclear powered electrical generation capacity. Doubling the amount to €54 billion  could buy 9000 MW of power plus grid upgrades to deliver the power to all parts of the country.

According to PAP, Mr Dabrowski said a political decision about nuclear power in Poland has not happened yet. However, the utility is reported to be working on site selection and environmental characterization of several sites.

Earlier reports in the Polish media had suggested PGE is probably not willing to fund the nuclear project on its own and would like to receive financial support from the state. It would also need outside investors, loan and rate guarantees, and much less to launch its nuclear program.

cost of reactor by type

Costs of Nuclear Reactors by Technology Type. Image: Environmental Progress

A number of vendors of small modular reactors, both those based on LWR technology and advanced designs, have proposed swapping out coal fired boilers in Poland for their units to take advantage of the existing local infrastructure and grid connections. So far Poland hasn’t ruled them in or out relative to building multiple SMRs at a lower cost per unit v. a few large LWR reactors in the range of 1000 MW.

Oklo’s Aurora Will Cost $10m To Build And $3m A Year To Operate

(NucNet) The company behind plans to build a compact fast reactor known as Aurora in the U.S. has budgeted “in the order of” $10 million for construction and $3m a year for operations.

oklo logoIn its combined operating licence application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build an Aurora plant at the federal Idaho National Laboratory (INL), California-based Oklo Power said the construction cost includes the small building required, including the power conversion system and a solar power facility.

The company said the application, which has now been made available online, was “a landmark milestone” in the development of advanced fission technologies. (Summary here:  PDF file)

On fuel cycle costs Oklo said that because of the type of reactor and fuel cycle, only a single core load is required for the licence lifetime of 20 years.

Last month Oklo said it had reached an agreement with the INL to use recovered material from used nuclear fuel to develop and demonstrate the Aurora.

“Because the material is waste material which must otherwise be stored, there is not a price associated for use of the material,” Oklo said in its application.

“At the conclusion of the use of the fuel in the plant, it will be returned to the Department of Energy.”

The Aurora is an advanced fission power system that generates approximately 1.5 MW of power. It consists of a small reactor with integrated solar panels. The Aurora will generate both usable heat and electricity, run for at least 20 years on one load of fuel and operate without the need for water.

Oklo, which is funded by venture capital firms and backed primarily by US-based investors, announced last year that it had successfully demonstrated prototypes of a metallic fuel at INL for the Aurora reactor. It said it had fabricated prototypes with multiple fuel elements reaching production specification.

BN-600 licensed to operate until 2025

(WNN) Russian nuclear regulator Rostekhnadzor has extended the operating licence for unit 3 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in the Sverdlovsk district by a further five years. The license for the BN-600 fast reactor, which began operating in 1981, was due to expire this year.

A large-scale modernization program has been under way at the unit since 2009, which has affected all areas operations. A large amount of work has been carried out on the inspection and replacement of equipment, including the replacement of the unit’s steam generators.

Investigations conducted since then by Russian nuclear engineering company OKBM Afrikantov, part of Atomenergomash, together with the Kurchatov Institute and FSUE CRI KM “Prometey” concluded that it is technically possible to continue operation of the reactor. Based on this, Rostekhnadzor has now extended the operating licence of the 560 MWe Beloyarsk 3 until 2025.

“We have completed work to extend the life of unit 3 until 2025,” said Ivan Sidorov, director of the Beloyarsk plant. “In the course of our research, we proved that the technical parameters of the BN-600 allow us to operate it until 2040.”

Briefing: GEN-IV Forum Briefing on Operating Performance of BN-600 and BN-800 (PDF file)

The sodium-cooled BN-series fast reactor plans are part of Rosatom’s Proryv, or ‘Breakthrough’, project to develop fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle whose mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. In addition to the BN-600 reactor, the 789 MWe BN-800 fast neutron reactor – constructed as Beloyarsk unit 4 – entered commercial operation in October 2016.

This is essentially a demonstration unit for fuel and design features for the larger BN-1200 being developed by OKBM Afrikantov. However, work on the BN-1200 has been pushed back to the 2030s with no specific time frame in place to start work on construction of the design.

Finland’s VTT Develops a Small Modular Reactor for District Heating

(English language wire services) VTT has launched the Finnish development of a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) intended for district heat production. The first phase of the project will involve the conceptual design of a nuclear power plant suited for the heating networks of Finnish cities.

The objective of the project is to create a new Finnish industrial sector around the technology that would be capable of manufacturing most of the components needed for the plant. Designing the district heating reactor will require expertise from a wide range of Finnish organizations.

In 2019, the emissions from district heat production using fossil fuels were more than four million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Decarbonizing the heat production system is one of the most significant climate challenges faced by many cities. Finland has decided to phase out of coal in energy production by 2029.

“The schedule is challenging, and the low-cost alternatives are few. To reach the target, new innovations and introduction of new technologies are required. Nuclear district heating could provide major emission reductions,” says Ville Tulkki, Research Team Leader at VTT.

Economic solution for heating Finnish homes

Internationally, many SMR projects have advanced to the licencing phase, but most of them are intended for power production or as energy sources for high-temperature industrial processes. This design is intended to provide as being the primary output of the reactor to be used to make steam for district heating to deal with Finland’s long cold winters.

VTT aims to develop a plant tailored for producing district heat. It would be a cost-effective solution for heating Finnish homes in cities and densely populated areas. District heating is also widely used in for example Central and Eastern Europe, which requires a low-emission energy source.

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Options for Nuclear Co-Generation Using Process Heat. Image: IAEA Industrial applications and nuclear cogeneration

Many of the plans for replacing fossil fuels used for district heat production are largely based on bioenergy. However, in the future biomass may become a valuable raw material replacing oil in, for example, industry and production of transport fuels. Nuclear energy offers an alternative that liberates biomass from heat production to other uses.

Software tools aid the design effort

In the development of the SMR, VTT will rely on in-house calculation tools and use its strong multidisciplinary competence.

“For example, in the modelling of the reactor core, we are able to apply high-fidelity numerical simulation methods that have become feasible by the advances in high-performance parallel computing,” says Jaakko Leppanen, Research Professor for Reactor safety at VTT.

The Serpent software developed by Leppanen is being applied for reactor modelling and applications related to radiation transport in 250 universities and research organization in 44 countries.

VTT has about 200 research scientists working with nuclear energy and related applications. For the last five years, VTT has been continuously involved in projects examining the opportunities and introduction of SMRs.

At the European level, VTT is coordinating the ELSMOR (towards European Licencing of Small MOdular Reactors) project, launched last year. In addition, VTT is leading one of the work packages of the new McSAFER project, which is developing next generation calculation tools for the modelling of SMR physics.

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A Short Stack of New Reactor Developments

  • pancakesCzech Republic Files to Build Two 1200 MW PWRs at Dukovany
  • Rosatom Pursues Development of SMRs
  • Key Components of Second HTR-PM Reactor in China are Connected
  • Japan / Regulator Says HTTR Is Compatible With Post-Fukushima Standards
  • New Report on Chinese and Russian Nuclear Energy Exports

Czech Republic / State Utility Files Application
To Build Two New Reactors At Dukovany

(NucNet) Bidders are lining up to offer technology for new units of up to 1,200 MW each.

The Czech Republic’s state-owned utility CEZ filed for permission with the State Office for Nuclear Safety last week to build two new nuclear power plants at the existing Dukovany site in the southeast area of the country.

The announcement follows approval by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in September 2019 of an environmental impact assessment for the construction of the two plants. The ministry said the approval was for up to 2,400 MW of new capacity.

CEZ said the filing concludes a five-year preparation process. The company gave no details of possible reactor technology, but said each plant would have a single pressurized water (PWR) reactor of electrical power up to 1,200 MW.

Prime minister Andrej Babiš was quoted in local press reports last year as saying a technology supplier should be chosen by the end of 2022.

CEZ chief executive Daniel Benes said last year the company should have a tender ready by June 2020 and expects offers in 2021 from up to five bidders. CEZ gave no details of how financing would be arranged, but press reports have said the state has set aside $6-7 billion for the project.

According to media reports, six firms have shown interest in building the new nuclear unit or units. They are China’s CGN, Russia’s Rosatom, South Korea’s KHNP, France’s EDF, Westinghouse, and the Atmea consortium of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and EDF.

The Czech government, which owns 70% of CEZ, had been in discussions with the utility about how to expand nuclear power and to replace aging commercial reactors that are scheduled to be permanently shut down in the decades ahead.

There are four Russia-designed VVER-440 reactor units at the Dukovany site and the government has said they should be replaced by new ones in about 20 to 30 years.

The Czech Republic has six commercially operational reactor units. In addition to the four units at Dukovany, there are two Russian VVER-1000 units at Temelín. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, in 2019 the six units provided about 35% of the country’s electricity production.

In 2014, CEZ cancelled the tender for construction of two new Temelín units after it failed to get state guarantees for the project. It isn’t clear what the Czech government will do this time that is different, but getting the financing in order is a top priority.  The firm may have to buy out its minority of private equity investors to avoid lawsuits seeking to spike the project based on the risk of cost overruns.

Rosatom Pursues Development of Small Modular Reactors

Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom says it has plans start construction of a small-scale land-based nuclear power plant in 2024 with commissioning in 2027.

According to a report in Nuclear Engineering International, Ryan Collyer, acting CEO of Rosatom Central and Southern Africa presented details of the RITM-200 reactor at Energy Indaba earlier in March.

Collyer told delegates that Rosatom SMRs could be a good alternative to diesel generators, providing reliable power supply and preventing harmful emissions at a competitive price. They could also be used for desalination, heat production and supply of electricity.

He pointed out that Rosatom has already constructed six RITM-200 reactors and that two onboard the Arktika icebreaker have already attained criticality.

Rosatom had identified two sites in Russia for the potential construction of small reactors – the Chelyabinsk region and Yakutia. The project plans for the sites reportedly include a procedure for construction of a land-based power plant based on the RITM-200 reactor, including site selection and a feasibility study.

Specialists from the Melentiev Energy Systems Institute of Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences are also studying the feasibility of constructing a land-based plant with a RITM-200 reactor in Chukotka.

Profile of the RITM-200

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RITM-200 crross section. Image: Rosatom

The RITM-200 is a light water nuclear reactor developed by OKBM Afrikantov and manufactured by ZiO-Podolsk.  (Technical briefing – PDF file)

It has a dual circuit with four steam generators integrated into the body of the reactor. Traditionally, steam generators are housed separately and connected to the reactor by primary coolant pipelines. The integrated layout reduces the material consumption and dimensions of the installation, reduces the risk of leaks from the primary reactor loop, and facilitates installation and dismantling of the installation. Four main circulation pumps are located around the reactor vessel.

The reactor will have a thermal capacity of 175MW, providing power on the shaft of the propulsion system of 30MWe (in the transport version) or 55MWe (in the energy version).

It uses uranium fuel enriched to 20% with a new fuel load every seven years. Because of its integrated design, the RITM-200 is two times lighter, more compact and 25 MWe more powerful than the KLT-type reactors used on the Akademik Lomonosov floating NPP.

See also: NEI Report on Six Russian SMR Designs

Key Components of Second HTR-PM Reactor in China are Connected

(WNN) The reactor pressure vessel, steam generator and hot gas duct of the second reactor at China’s demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor plant (HTR-PM) have been successfully paired and connected, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced this week.

Work began on the demonstration HTR-PM unit – which features two small reactors and a turbine – at China Huaneng’s Shidaowan site in Weihai city, in East China’s Shandong province, in December 2012.  (Technical Briefing – PDF file)

htr image

DESIGN, SAFETY FEATURES &PROGRESS OF HTR-PM, Yujie Dong, INET, Tsinghua University, China; January 24, 2018

China Huaneng is the lead organisation in the consortium to build the demonstration units together with CNNC subsidiary China Nuclear Engineering Corporation (CNEC) and Tsinghua University’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology, which is the research and development leader. Chinergy, a joint venture of Tsinghua and CNEC, is the main contractor for the nuclear island.

The pressure vessel of the first reactor was installed within the unit’s containment building in March 2016. The vessel – about 25 meters in height and weighing about 700 tonnes – was manufactured by Shanghai Electric Nuclear Power Equipment. The second reactor pressure vessel was installed later that year.

CNNC said the “pairing of the key nodes” of the second reactor was completed on March 18. The pressure vessel, steam generator and hot gas duct, it said, have been “rigidly connected in the form of a flange to form a primary circuit system for the thermal energy transmission of the reactor, which constitutes a second barrier to prevent the leakage of radioactive materials.”

The demonstration plant’s twin HTR-PM reactors will drive a single 210 MWe turbine. Helium gas will be used as the primary circuit coolant. The steam generator transfers heat from helium coolant to a water/steam loop. The design temperature of the HTR-PM reaches 750 degrees Celsius. A further 18 such HTR-PM units are proposed at Shidaowan.

Beyond HTR-PM, China proposes a scaled-up version called HTR-PM600, which sees one large turbine rated at 650 MWe driven by some six HTR-PM reactor units. Feasibility studies on HTR-PM600 deployment are under way for multiple sites including Sanmen, Zhejiang province; Ruijin, Jiangxi province; Xiapu and Wan’an, in Fujian province; and Bai’an, Guangdong province.

Japan Regulator Says HTTR Is Compatible
With Post-Fukushima Standards

(NucNet) The Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Japan (NRA) has said in a draft report that the country’s High-Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) is compatible with new regulatory standards, according to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (Jaif).

The high-temperature test reactor (HTTR) is a graphite-moderated gas-cooled research reactor in Oarai, Ibaraki, Japan operated by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. It is reported to use long hexagonal fuel assemblies, unlike competing pebble bed reactor designs for high temperature ga cooled reactors.

The 30-MW HTTR is a graphite-moderated gas-cooled research reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture, north of Tokyo. It is owned and operated by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA).

In November 2016, the JAEA submitted an application to the NRA for a safety examination under new regulatory standards in place since the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident. The HTTR was shut down following the accident along with other Japanese reactors.

Jaif said the NRA examined the HTTR’s resilience against various hypothetical accidents, including tsunami and seismic risks.

The reactor achieved first criticality in 1998, but reached its design thermal output of 950℃ in 2004.

Jaif said the heat produced by the HTTR has applications for a broad range of purposes, including hydrogen production, power generation, and the desalination of seawater.

New Report on Chinese and Russian Nuclear Energy Exports

The CSIS Energy Security and Climate Change Program has released a report, The Changing Geopolitics of Nuclear Energy, analyzing how the changing market competition among the United States, Russia, and China will impact future geopolitical relations with nuclear recipient nations, and offering recommendations to continue U.S. commercial competitiveness in the global nuclear energy market. (See video report below)

The nuclear industry of advanced industrialized countries is under significant pressure to remain competitive as the market landscape for new nuclear power opportunities changes. The relative decline of U.S. nuclear export competitiveness comes at a time when Russia is boosting its dominance in new nuclear sales, and China is doubling down on its effort to become a leader in global nuclear commerce.

This report illuminates how the changing market competition among the United States, Russia, and China will affect their future relations with nuclear commerce recipient countries, and discusses why Russia and China promote nuclear commerce, as well as which factors may alter their market competitiveness. The report further provides recommendations regarding the U.S. approach to continued commercial competitiveness in nuclear energy.

Nuclear power generation projects have never been a purely commercial endeavor in the United States, and civilian nuclear export is difficult to be viable as a purely commercial undertaking.

Global nuclear market dominance by state-led capitalist economies with limited accountability and governance capacities would endanger the future of global nuclear safety and nonproliferation.

The U.S. retreat could bifurcate the use of nuclear power generation along with similar political or economic systems.

Nuclear commerce is geopolitical in nature and creates multi-decadal ties between supplier and recipient countries, but nuclear commerce may not be an effective tool of foreign policy leverage.

VIDEO Jane Nakano with the CSIS Energy Security and Climate Change Program introduces her new report, The Changing Geopolitics of Nuclear Energy, that illuminates why and how Russia and China are promoting nuclear power technology exports, and what the United States should do to address the foreign policy and commercial implications.

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AI Software Speeds Up Reactor Designs

  • Advanced Reactor Simulation Software Gains Commercial License
  • Argonne Uses AI to Improve Reactor Simulations
  • IAEA Launches Economic Feasibility Study of SMRs

VERA Nuclear Reactor Simulation Software Licensed

OAK RIDGE, TN – A software package, 10 years in the making, that can predict the behavior of nuclear reactors’ cores with stunning accuracy has been licensed commercially for the first time.

The nonprofit Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is the first organization to hold a commercial license for the Virtual Environment for Reactor Applications, or VERA, a set of tools developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Consortium for the Advanced Simulation of Light Water Reactors (CASL).

“EPRI, one of our core CASL industry partners, now has the right to use VERA to perform services for its member utilities,” said Dave Kropaczek, CASL director.

vera image

CASL is a partnership of the DOE national laboratories, universities and nuclear industry companies working together to find solutions to specific challenges of efficiently operating nuclear reactors. Based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and established in 2010, CASL was the first DOE Energy Innovation Hub.

The VERA software suite is a collection of interfacing codes that can simulate reactor core behavior from the large-scale down to the molecular scale.

“By licensing VERA to EPRI, CASL is delivering a first step in handing its work off to industry,” Kropaczek said.

“EPRI’s mission is to advance safe, reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electricity,” said Erik Mader, Technical Executive with EPRI Nuclear Fuels and Executive Director of the CASL Industry Council.

“VERA’s coupled multiphysics modeling and simulation tools can be used to better inform operating performance, safety margins and transient behavior in nuclear power plants. This could improve plant operator decision-making, reduce uncertainty and accelerate innovation in nuclear energy.”

vera2

As the 10-year CASL project winds down this spring, the program has established the VERA Users Group, which provides training, ongoing support and access to DOE’s high-performance computing resources to perform large-scale simulations.

VERA provides advanced modeling and simulation capabilities to help address several challenges, leading to improved performance and longer lifetimes for the current reactor fleet. These include predictions of departure from nucleate boiling; growth of corrosion deposits on fuel rods; stress caused by pellet expansion; and performance of reactor parts when exposed to high temperatures and radiation.

Last year, CASL brought the VERA software suite up to Nuclear Quality Assurance-1 level in preparation for widespread industry use. The NQA-1 rating, the gold standard for the nuclear industry, signifies extensive efforts in the areas of procedures, training and software control.

Argonne Uses Artificial Intelligence to Improve
the Safety and Design of Advanced Nuclear Reactors

ArgonneArgonne National Laboratory is integrating decades of knowledge with the latest artificial intelligence (AI) methods and tools. Doing so can help researchers better understand the mechanics that govern nuclear reactors, which reactor designers and analysts can use to improve their design, operation and safety.

Machine learning helps systems to learn automatically based on patterns in data, and make better searches, decisions, or predictions. Nuclear engineer Acacia Brunett and other researchers in Argonne’s Nuclear Science and Engineering division are using machine learning methods to generate fast-running models of various nuclear thermal-hydraulic processes.

They are exploring behavior that includes the mixing and flow of coolants as well as thermal stratification, which describes the changes in temperature that emerge within liquids held in large vessels generally under low-flow conditions.

These processes can be difficult to accurately predict without significant computational burden. But they can heavily affect reactor safety and performance.

For example, when temperatures vary across layers of liquid within a pool, that condition can lead to thermal fatigue, a process that can degrade components in a reactor. This shortens the overall lifetime of the component or reactor as a whole. It could also weaken the safety features of certain kinds of advanced reactors. With methods to explore these phenomena, researchers can create a framework for more rapid and comprehensive design and analysis of these issues.

Quantifying Uncertainty

Argonne researchers are investigating ways of using machine learning to more quickly measure uncertainty, which reveals how confident they can be in their predictions.

“Predictive simulations all have some amount of uncertainty, which are features, or characteristics that we don’t know exactly,” Brunett said.

“Examples could include the material properties of manufactured components, such as thickness, emissivity (how much heat surfaces emit), or some other physical phenomena. It’s our responsibility to understand what those uncertainties are, which is typically a very arduous process.”

The process takes time because it typically requires hundreds to thousands of repeated analyses, and in some cases, several high-fidelity simulations, which carry a high computational burden. Brunett and others are exploring ways to create and use machine learning models to make this analysis more efficient and reduce the total time required to quantify uncertainty and optimize design.

With machine learning, scientists are analyzing large volumes of computational data and identifying the key components which describe the fundamental behavior of a system.

machine learnng

For example, the behavior of an advanced reactor was characterized using millions of data points. But with this new method, the system can instead be represented by a few thousand data points. Characterizing the system’s response with these methods can reduce the total analysis time while still directly quantifying uncertainties.

Traditional vs. AI-integrated Approach

Nuclear experts have traditionally used theory and observation to create models of nuclear processes and run high fidelity simulations with them. They would then compare simulation results against real-world observations, adapt their model accordingly and run simulations all over again, until their model could accurately predict real-world behavior.

Using machine learning instead, researchers can create relatively accurate models much faster. Unlike the traditional approach, machine learning tools can, with relatively high accuracy, predict behavior of safety-critical features, phenomena, or trends that may have otherwise been omitted by the analyst.

“High fidelity simulations help us to calculate the micro-details of different nuclear phenomena and then generate the training data to develop machine learning models,” Brunett said.

“Those models can then accurately estimate parameters that define these micro-details, such as mass and energy transport.”

Integrating with System Level Codes

After developing these models, Brunett and others will integrate them directly into Argonne-developed advanced reactor safety analysis tools for further testing. Machine learning models may replace existing models built within system code today, which would improve the predictive capabilities of the software and/or address known limitations within the software. With these tools, researchers can continue to improve the design and safety of next-generation technologies, advancing nuclear energy in the U.S.

IAEA Launches Project to Examine Economics of SMRs

(WNN) The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is launching a three-year Coordinated Research Project focused on the economics of small modular reactors (SMRs). The project will provide Member States with an economic appraisal framework for the development and deployment of such reactors.

small-reactors.jpgThe IAEA said it had launched the project in response to increased interest in SMRs, noting that multiple SMR projects are currently under development (involving about 50 designs and concepts) and at varying technology readiness levels.

Their costs and delivery times need to be adequately estimated, analysed and optimized if these designs are to be successful in the global marketplace.

Specific business models have to be developed to address the market’s needs and expectations. The market itself should be large enough to sustain demand for components and industrial support services.

Participants in the research project will cover:

  • market research; analysis of the competitive landscape (SMR vs non-nuclear alternatives);
  • value proposition and
  • strategic positioning; project planning cost forecasting and analysis;
  • project structuring,
  • risk allocation and financial valuation;
  • business planning and business case demonstration; and
  • economic cost-benefit analysis.

The framework they establish will be applied, in particular, to assess the economics of multiples (serial production of reactors in a factory setting), factory fabrication (conditions to be met for a factory to exist), and supply chain localisation (opportunities and impacts).

The deadline for proposals to participate in the research project is April 30, 2020.

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COVID-19 News: Nuclear Industry in EU Begins To Isolate Key Operational Staff

1800x1200_coronavirus_1(NucNet) The operators of nuclear power plants in Europe are taking steps to minimize the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Actions include isolating key staff and stockpiling items workers might need if they are unable to leave a site.

In Europe, Nuclearelectrica, which operates the Cernavodă nuclear power station in Romania, has already isolated about 400 essential operating and production staff at Cernavodă. A spokeswoman told wire services that the measure, based on established emergency plans, will remain in place as long as necessary. The staff are isolated in a specially designated area within the Cernavoda plant site.

France, the world’s most nuclear energy dependent nation, announced staff reductions at its Flamanville nuclear station. EDF said that due to high regional infection rates it was reducing the staff at the plant from 800 to 100.

A spokesman for the Flamanville plant told Reuters that “we have decided to only keep those in charge of safety and security” working while the coronavirus crisis runs its course.

Vattenfall, which owns 10 nuclear reactors in Sweden and Germany, said measures are in place to deal with the outbreak.

”We are well equipped to carry out our yearly outage season and plan to continue to supply fossil-free electricity to our customers, both in the short and long term,” the company said in an email statement.

CEZ, state-owned operator of the Czech Republic’s nuclear fleet, said it has been applying preventive measures since the end of February. Business trips have been suspended and all information centers including those at nuclear plants, have been closed and all excursions and visits to the plants suspended. Bus services used by employees and suppliers to and from nuclear plants are being frequently disinfected.

Last week further preventive measures were applied by CEZ at Temelin, Dukovany and other facilities that are considered critical state infrastructure. The measures include taking the temperature of everyone entering a facility and social distancing in canteens.

Personal meetings have been suspended in favour of electronic means of communication and “several hundred” employees are working from home.

“All these measures are purely preventive [and] we have not registered any case of coronavirus at the nuclear plants so far,” a spokeswoman said.

Madrid-based industry group Foro Nuclear said Spain’s seven commercial nuclear units remain in operation and operators are focused on the security of workers. They have implemented, in conjunction with the regulatory body, measures to protect workers including flexible working hours and remote working in positions that allow it.

New-build projects, including those at Hinkley Point C in England, Hanhkivi-1 in Finland have not been delayed by the outbreak.

Construction at Hinkley Point C in the UK has not been affected by the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus, but EDF Energy said it will be working with contractors and trades unions to review the developing situation in the coming days and weeks.

Also in the UK, authorities announced they are shutting down a nuclear fuel reprocessing site at Sellafield after 8% of its 11,500-strong staff were forced to self-isolate. The move came after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus and will lead to a gradual shutdown of the site’s Magnox facility, which is scheduled to close permanently later this year.

The UK’s nuclear regulator said it is “actively engaged” with all its nuclear sites to ensure that appropriate contingency plans are in place, given the developing national and international situation.

The Canadian Nuclear Association reported that Canada’s nuclear stations are helping keep hospitals clean and safe during these critical times through the production of cobalt-60. It is a medical isotope used to sterilize medical equipment such as gowns, gloves, masks, implantable devices and syringes in hospitals. It is also used to preserve foods so that they have a long shelf life.

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