Thoughts on Labor Day 2020

Neutron Bytes is taking a week off for the Labor Day holiday.

finish the jobIn the last decade of the 19th century, Americans toiled 12 hours a day, seven days a week, often in physically demanding, low-paying jobs. Child labor at a scale which is unfathomable today took place on farms and in factories and mines. Conditions were often harsh and unsafe resulting in uncompensated injuries and deaths.

Labor Day was created as an official U.S. holiday in 1894 by then President Grover Cleveland. The strike at the Pullman Railroad Car company was the impetus for the change. The labor unrest was sparked when firm lowered wages without changing the rents in company owned housing.

The New York Times reports;

“When angry workers complained, the owner, George Pullman, had them fired. They decided to strike, and other workers for the American Railway Union, led by the firebrand activist Eugene V. Debs, joined the action. They refused to handle Pullman cars, bringing freight and passenger traffic to a halt around Chicago. Tens of thousands of workers walked off the job, wildcat strikes broke out, and angry crowds were met with gun fire from the authorities.”

By the 1930s, the U.S. had the largest and strongest labor movement in the world. It led to an eight hour day, paid vacation and sick leave, and other employer paid benefits we take for granted today. Labor union power continued to grow and led to the prosperity of the American middle class that characterized the 1950s and 60s.

However, as American manufacturing firms outsourced their production to Asian countries, and globalization, with its race to the bottom for cheap labor, became a dominant economic force, the result in the U.S. was that the labor movement suffered a steep decline in membership and bargaining power.

U.S. Labor Movement Has Faded but the Holiday Lives On

Labor Day in the second decade of the 21st century is a fading echo of the era that created the holiday. It is now seen as a cultural milestone for the end of summer, the start of school, and the initiation of seemingly endless rounds of baseballs’s division and league playoffs. The National Football League’s season kicks off around Labor Day  as does Big 10 college Football.

Across America millions of us will fire up the BBQ for one last cookout and a chance to kick back with some grilled food and a cold brew. Beaches will fold up their umbrellas and the college kids who staffed the fast food industries’ resort based franchises will head back to school.

flying ravenWay out west the crowds will thin out in places like Yellowstone National Park. Where once the cries of children in RVs and campers filled the air, but now it is so quiet that you can hear the sound of the wind as it passes through the feathers of a raven as it flies through an empty parking lot looking for the tidbits left behind by the now departed tourists.

COVID19 has Changed Labor Day

That’s what used to happen. Not any more, and perhaps it won’t happen again for a while. In the COVID19 era, according to several estimates, at least 40 million people, and perhaps more than 50 million, have filed for unemployment insurance. That’s about one-third of the total U.S. labor force which is estimated to be about 160 million people. Many of these people have also lost their health insurance and other elements of the so-called “safety net.”

collection of election campaign vote pins on whiteCongress has stalled out in a partisan standoff on doing anything to stem the oncoming tidal wave of destitution and all of its hardships that will afflict tens of millions of Americans in the coming months. Our elected leaders are wrapped around their fantasies of self interest and they are tragically disconnected from the realities of daily life for people who have lost their livelihoods.

There is an election coming up in November. You might want to let your elected representatives know that your vote matters.

By registering to vote, and by showing up in person at the polls or voting by mail, you will send a message that you will support the candidates who will take concrete positive steps to turn the situation around.

Don’t sit this one out.

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

NuScale Completes Key Milestone with NRC

  • NRC Issues Final Safety Evaluation Report for NuScale Small Modular Reactor
  • Holtec Successfully Completes Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Phase 1 Vendor Design Review
  • NRC releases Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Interim Storage Partners’ Consolidated Interim Storage Facility

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued a final safety evaluation report for NuScale’s small modular reactor design. This meets the agency’s original 42-month technical review schedule and demonstrates the NRC’s commitment to timely licensing of safe technologies for new, advanced reactors. The NRC is preparing a rulemaking to certify the design.

The NRC completed Phase 6 review — the last and final phase—of the Design Certification Application (DCA) for the company’s small modular reactor (SMR) with the issuance of the Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER).

The FSER represents completion of the technical review and approval of the NuScale SMR design.

With this final phase of NuScale’s DCA now complete, customers can proceed with plans to develop NuScale power plants with the understanding that the NRC has approved the safety aspects of the NuScale design.

NuScale applied on Dec. 31, 2016, for certification of the company’s SMR design for use in the United States; the NRC accepted the design for review in March 2017.

The review process demonstrated the simplicity of NuScale’s SMR design and the thoroughness of the company’s application. As an example, during the rigorous Phase 1 review process, which included 115,000 hours spent reviewing the DCA, the NRC issued far fewer requests for additional information compared to other design certification applications.

NuScale spent over $500 million, with the backing of Fluor, and over 2 million labor hours to develop the information needed to prepare its DCA application. The company also submitted 14 separate Topical Reports in addition to the over 12,000 pages for its DCA application and provided more than 2 million pages of supporting information for NRC audits.

Neither a standard design approval nor a design certification grant permission to build or operate a reactor. Full certification, if granted by the Commission following the staff’s recommendation, allows a utility to reference the design when applying for a combined license to build and operate a nuclear power plant.

The design uses natural “passive” processes such as convection and gravity in its operating systems and safety features to produce approximately 50MW of electricity for each module. The SMR’s 12 modulesare all submerged in a safety-related pool built below ground level. The NRC concludes the design’s passive features will ensure the nuclear power plant would shut down safely and remain safe under emergency conditions, if necessary.

NuScale has indicated it will apply in 2022 for a standard design approval of a 60-megawatt-per-module version of the design. That version will require additional NRC review.

NuScale Takes a Victory Lap
NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins said, “This is a significant milestone not only for NuScale, but also for the entire U.S. nuclear sector and the other advanced nuclear technologies that will follow. This clearly establishes the leadership of NuScale and the U.S. in the race to bring SMRs to market.”

“The approval of NuScale’s design is an incredible accomplishment and we would like to extend our deepest thanks to the NRC for their comprehensive review, to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for its continued commitment to our successful private-public partnership to bring the country’s first SMR to market, and to the many other individuals who have dedicated countless hours to make this extraordinary moment a reality.”

“Additionally, the cost-shared funding provided by Congress over the past several years has accelerated NuScale’s advancement through the NRC Design Certification process. This is what DOE’s SMR Program was created to do, and our success is credited to strong bipartisan support from Congress.”

NuScale Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Tom Bergman said, “The NRC embraced the challenge of reviewing the first-ever small modular reactor DCA, which at the time not only marked an important milestone for NuScale, but also for the nuclear industry as a whole.”

NuScale appreciates the dedication, time, and effort of the NRC throughout this multi-year process, often with reviews completing ahead of schedule. As a long-time former NRC employee, including as an executive in the Office of New Reactors, I can say that this early issuance of the FSER is truly a credit to everyone at the NRC—including technical review and project staff, management, and the Commission.”
What’s Next for NuScale? 

NuScale said it continues to maintain strong program momentum toward commercialization of its SMR technology, including supply chain development, standard plant design, planning of plant delivery activities, and startup and commissioning plans.

The company fields growing domestic and international customer interest from those who see the NuScale power plant as a long-term solution for providing reliable, safe, affordable, and operationally flexible carbon-free energy for diverse applications.

NuScale has signed agreements with entities in the U.S., Canada, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Jordan. Similar agreements with other entities are being negotiated.

NuScale’s first customer. UAMPS, is working with the vendor to develop the first of a kind installation at a site at the Idaho National Laboratory. However, UAMPS also recently said its member cities and utilities might not need the reactor until 2030, a 2-year setback from the original delivery target date.

Nuclear Energy Institute Statement on NuScale FSER

Marc Nichol, senior director of new reactors at the Nuclear Energy Institute said, “The approval of NuScale’s small modular reactor design is not only a monumental milestone for NuScale but is a crucial step for the future of the industry. As the first U.S. small modular reactor design to be issued a FSER, NuScale is pioneering the way for additional innovative advanced nuclear technologies under development.

“NuScale’s design approval, the first of its kind, brings the country closer to meeting its clean energy goals and making electricity more accessible for all. This milestone demonstrates the nuclear industry can meet the demands for reliable, safe and affordable carbon-free energy here in the U.S. but also meet the demands of customers across the world.”

Holtec Successfully Completes Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission Phase 1 Vendor Design Review

Holtec International’s SMR, LLC has successfully completed Phase 1 of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) “Pre-Licensing Review of a Vendor’s Reactor Design” for its small modular reactor design, the SMR-160.

A Vendor Design Review (VDR) is an assessment service CNSC provides to nuclear power plant designers. The benefits of this direct engagement are early feedback on the SMR-160 design as it addresses CNSC regulatory requirements and early identification and resolution of potential regulatory or technical issues on the design process.

The CNSC staff concluded that “overall, SMR, LLC understands and has correctly interpreted the high-level intent of CNSC’s regulatory requirements for the design of nuclear power plants in Canada pertaining to the scope of the Phase 1 VDR.”

“This milestone reinforces our expectation that the SMR-160 will meet Canada’s regulatory requirements while also providing valuable feedback that will allow us to further improve the design throughout the ongoing regulatory process,” said Dr. Kris Singh, President and Chief Executive Officer of Holtec International.

SMR, LLC started Phase 1 of the VDR in mid-2018, addressing the associated 19 focus areas and submitting hundreds of documents over the course of 18 months to support the review.

Successfully concluding Phase 1 demonstrates the significant progression of the design and associated engineering processes. As expected, the CNSC identified some areas that require follow-up in Phase 2 of the VDR as the review moves further into the details of the design.

Based on feedback received from the Phase 1 VDR, SMR, Holtec LLC plans to pursue a Phase 2 VDR in the near future, to continue this process for its walk-away safe reactor in order to gain assurance of a path to licensing certainty in Canada.

NRC releases Draft Environmental Impact Statement for
Interim Storage Partners’ Consolidated Interim Storage Facility
for Used Nuclear Fuel

Interim Storage Partners received notification on 08/27/20 from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission of a favorable finding included in a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for ISP’s consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) application.

The DEIS concludes that the application submitted by ISP, a joint venture of Orano USA and Waste Control Specialists, to construct and operate a consolidated interim storage facility for used nuclear fuel at the existing WCS storage site in Andrews County, Texas, will have no discernable negative effects on the environment or natural resources.

Following a public comment period, the current NRC schedule calls for the development of a final EIS during the second quarter of 2021.

In addition to the EIS, the NRC staff is concurrently conducting an analysis and review of the technical safety aspects of the ISP application. This effort, also scheduled to conclude during the second quarter of 2021, will result in a staff Safety Evaluation Report (SER). The completed EIS and SER would form the basis for the issuance of a license by the NRC.

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Posted in Nuclear | 1 Comment

TerraPower Partners with GE Hitachi to Develop a Commercial Sodium Cooled Faster Reactor that Leverages a Molten Salt Thermal System

nuclear imageTerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Introduce Commercial Natrium [tm] Power Production and Storage System

TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) announced on 08/27/20 the launch of the Natrium[tm] reactor and energy system architecture. This advanced nuclear technology features a sodium fast reactor combined with a molten salt energy storage system.

Building on the technology used in solar thermal generation, Natrium energy storage and flexible power production is intended to offer abundant clean energy in time to help meet climate goals.

The Natrium system features a 345MWe reactor and can be optimized for specific markets. For instance, its innovative thermal storage has the potential to boost the system’s output to 500MWe of power for more than five and a half hours when needed. This allows for a nuclear design that follows daily electric load changes and helps customers capitalize on peaking opportunities driven by renewable energy fluctuations.

Investors Are Coming Onboard

TerraPower’s President and Chief Executive Chris Levesque told Reuters TerraPower LLC, and its partner GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, the companies are seeking additional funding from private partners and the U.S. Energy Department, and that the project has the support of PacifiCorp, owned by billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, along with Energy Northwest and Duke Energy.

If successful, the plan is to build the plants in the United States and abroad, Levesque said. The 345MW plants would be cooled by liquid sodium is estimated to cost about $1 billion each. Levesque told the Bloomberg wire service [firewall] that the two firms plan to build the first-of-a-kind unit by 2028.

By 2050 “we would see hundreds of these reactors around the world, solving multiple different energy needs,” Levesque said.

What the Two Firms Bring to the Table

In terms of what the two firms bring to the table, TerraPower is working on a molten chloride salt reactor with a consortium of firms. GE-Hitachi has designed the PRISM sodium cooled fast reactor based on the legacy work done with EBR-II and the Integral Fast Reactor. It has applied for a license for the reactor with the NRC.

The joint effort claims that Natrium technology’s novel architecture simplifies previous reactor types especially for the non-nuclear mechanical, electrical and other equipment. This infrastructure will be housed separately reducing complexity and cost.

The design is intended to permit significant cost savings by allowing major portions of the plant to be built to industrial standards. Improvements use fewer equipment interfaces and reduce the amount of nuclear-grade concrete by 80% compared to large reactors.

As a nuclear innovation company, TerraPower values collaboration with GE Hitachi to make nuclear generation as affordable as possible,” said Chris Levesque, TerraPower President and CEO.

The breadth and depth of the team’s expertise and resources reflect years of work on multiple reactor designs and efforts across the nuclear lifecycle. The Natrium system demonstrates the benefits of modern virtual design and construction tools and has attracted the attention of numerous utilities through the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program.

The effort is part of the work by Bill Gates as an investor to help fight climate change, and is targeted at helping utilities slash their emissions of planet-warming gases without undermining grid reliability. Natrium reactors are designed to provide firm, flexible power that seamlessly integrates into power grids with high penetrations of renewables.

Bill Gates, chairman of TerraPower’s board, said in a statement to Reuters that Natrium innovation was “extremely difficult” but its team had “the expertise, commercial experience, and the resources necessary” to develop viable reactors.

TerraPower started out working on its Traveling Wave fast reactor, in partnership with a Chinese state owned nuclear firm. TerraPower was forced to abandon the Chinese partnership when the Trump administration restricted nuclear deals with China.

Both firms are also currently in a partnership to negotiate a contract with the Idaho National Laboratory to design and build the Versatile Test Reactor and to have it operational by the end of this decade. It would also be based on the GE-Hitachi PRISM design.

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Posted in Nuclear

Bechtel, GE-Hitachi, TerraPower Tapped for Design and Build the Versatile Test Reactor

bid-cover-sheet_thumb.jpgBattelle Energy Alliance (BEA) has initiated contract negotiations with a team led by Bechtel National Inc. to support the design and build phase of the Versatile Test Reactor, a one-of-a-kind facility that would support research and development of innovative, clean nuclear energy technologies.

The BNI team also includes TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy. The decision reflects the early stage of engagement these firms have had with the project.

  • In January 2020 GE-Hitachi and TerraPower agreed to collaborate to seek the business.
  • In November 2018 GE-Hitachi was awarded a subcontract to support the conceptual design, cost/schedule estimate and safety framework activities.
  • Within the INL-led VTR team, engineers from GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy will adapt the company’s 300 MW PRISM sodium-cooled nuclear reactor design to the needs of a test reactor for state-of-the art research and development purposes. The acronym PRISM stands for Power Reactor Innovative Small Module.
  • Separately, GE-Hitachi is seeking an NRC license for the PRISM reactor design.
  • Bechtel will support the project using its expertise in construction and project management for cost, schedule, and related management systems.

vtr timeline

The announcement comes after BEA, the contractor that operates Idaho National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, and members of the VTR technical team reviewed submissions by industry teams in response to a Request for Proposal issued earlier this year.

After careful review of multiple high-quality proposals, BEA selected the BNI-led team to start contract negotiations. INL manages the VTR project on behalf of DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy.  The negotiations will cover technical scope, schedule, cost, and the other normal elements of a major engineering procurement construction (EPC) effort.

While no cost estimate has been made public, the Department of Energy will need major funding in the order of at least several billion to build the reactor.  Once operational, it will become the kind of anchor facility that the INL has sought for decades since the Integral Fast Reactor  was shut down in the 1990s.

INL Excited About the Future

“We received excellent proposals from industry, which is indicative of the support to build a fast-spectrum neutron testing facility in the United States,” said Mark Peters, Idaho National Laboratory director.

“We are excited about the potential for working with the BNI-led team. They will bring a lot of design and construction expertise to the VTR project. This is essential since it has been several years since we built a test reactor in the United States.”

Background to the Decision

DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy established the VTR program in 2018 in response to several reports outlining the need for a fast spectrum test reactor and requests from U.S. companies developing advanced reactors. Currently, there are very few capabilities available for testing fast neutron reactor technology in the world and none in the United States.

vtr core conceptual diagram

Conceptual design for VTR core. Image: INL

In 2018, Congress passed the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), which highlighted the need for a reactor-based fast neutron source and authorized DOE to proceed.

Since then, a team of experts from INL and five additional national laboratories Argonne National LaboratoryLos Alamos National LaboratoryOak Ridge National LaboratoryPacific Northwest National Laboratory and Savannah River National Laboratory), 19 universities, and nine industry partners have been developing a conceptual design, cost estimate and schedule for VTR.

nrts evolution

DOE Confident the VTR Can Be Built

Dr. Rita Baranwal, assistant secretary for DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, said it is important for the VTR project to move forward.

“The VTR team led by INL has established a solid foundation upon which the design phase can begin,” Baranwal said.

“We have repeatedly heard from industry and other stakeholders that the United States needs a fast neutron scientific user facility to maintain our global leadership in nuclear energy. The selection of the BNI team with its TerraPower and GE Hitachi partners, puts us firmly on the path toward building this important infrastructure capability.”

“We are looking forward to successful negotiations with the BNI team and want to make sure the project is ready to go in Fiscal Year 2021,” said Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, executive director of the VTR project.

Instead of producing electricity, the Versatile Test Reactor would conduct irradiation testing for fuels, materials, and equipment to be used in rapidly evolving designs for advanced reactors brought forward by U.S. companies, as well as public and private research institutions.

“Advanced reactors hold great promise, but their fuels and materials need proper testing before they can be licensed and used in energy-producing reactors,” said Barbara Rusinko, president of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security & Environmental global business unit.

The INL-led team is also supporting the development of an Environmental Impact Statement that will be used to assist the Department in making the final decision on the design, technology selection and location for VTR. The final decision is expected in late 2021.

History of the VTR

In August 2019 the INL received a charter from DOE to establish the National Reactor Innovation Center. It is a test and demonstration center for new nuclear technologies and it will involve public / private partnerships with firms that want to bring these technologies to a mature enough level to attract investors and customers.

 About INL

INL is a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory that performs work in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and environment.


INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development. Day-to-day management and operation of the laboratory is the responsibility of Battelle Energy Alliance.

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

Kenya Unveils Plans for a $5B 1000MW Nuclear Power Plant

  • Kenya has a $5B plan to Build a 1000MW Nuclear Power Station
  • South Korea Eyes Czech Plans for New Nuclear at Dukovany
  • CEZ Says It Will Start Vendor Selection for Dukovany Later this Year
  • Poland Updates Plans for New Nuclear Power Plants to 9000MW
  • SMRs get R&D Focus by Cameco and Bruce Power
  • American Nuclear Society Launches R&D Funding Study

Kenya Unveils $5 Billion Nuclear Power Plant

nupea(The Citizen, Nairobi) The Kenya Nuclear Electricity Board (KNEB) in a regulatory filing with the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) said last week that a nuclear power plant with an initial capacity of 1,000MW would be built in the country by an contractor.

KNEB said the estimated cost is $5 billion. The project is expected to rely on a conventional off-the-shelf light water reactor ‘third-generation’ PWR design plant. The project carries an immense in terms of its financial risk. The estimated cost of the nuclear plant is nearly half the government’s annual tax collections.

KNEB also said it has selected a site near Kipini, Kenya, in Tana River County. The agency said Tana River, which meets the Indian Ocean on Kenya’s east coast, is the most preferred location since it is not prone to earthquakes.

IKE-mapt’s location would facilitate delivery of large long lead time components by sea going barge including the RPV,  steam generator, turbines, transformers / switch gear and related equipment. Other sites under consideration were in the Lake Victoria and Lake Turkana basins.

The project could be completed in seven years with funding primarily from private investors. The government looks to expand the plant’s capacity fourfold to 4,000 MW by 2035 under a build, operate and transfer (BOT) model. The government’s Nuclear Power and Energy Agency would handle all aspects of the project.

“The financing aspect of the Nuclear Power Plant is among the plans underway with a Build Operate Transfer (BOT) being the most preferred financing agreement with the concessionaire that shall come on board,” NuPEA says in plans submitted to the environmental agency. The  plan will be subjected to public scrutiny before the agency can approve it.

Kenya views nuclear power both as a long-term solution to high fuel costs — incurred during times of drought when diesel generators are used — and an effective way to cut carbon emissions from the power generating sector.

Kenya’s energy mix currently consists of geothermal (45%), hydropower (28%), wind (13%) and expensive diesel-run generators (11%) according to the government.

The KNEB has multiple memoranda of understanding with China, Russia, South Korea and Slovakia for capacity building for the nuclear plant. None of them have moved to the stage of committing investors, selecting a vendors, and inking a contract with an EPC to build the first of four units.

A major risk for Kenya is the need to rapidly organize an government agency to provide the full spectrum of regulatory safety reviews and oversight of the project.

A second risk is that Kenya’s government is rife with graft. In recent months government officials are alleged to have diverted over $400M in aid intended to help the country deal with the COVID19 crisis.

According to the New York Times 08/21/20, frustration among health workers peaked after a recent television exposé accused dozens of business leaders and government officials of corruption, alleging that they stole about $400 million in funds allocated to fight the pandemic. The money came from Chinese sources.

The nuclear agency wants the State to fend off risks of graft given the size of the proposed nuclear project.

“Kenya is at a risk due to the expected investment of $5 billion into the Nuclear Power Plant if the current issues of run-away corruption are not curtailed, which may lead to massive public economic loss due to possible implementation delays and overruns as experienced in other mega projects in the country.”

The nuclear plant would be Kenya’s biggest and most expensive project since the completion of a Chinese-built standard gauge railway in 2017.

Localization of materials and components for a nuclear power plant may be limited to non-nuclear grade steel and cement. However, foreign direct investment in the country’s steel sector increased in 2019.

According to the CIA World Fact Book section on Kenya, agriculture remains the backbone of the Kenyan economy, contributing one-third of GDP. About 75% of Kenya’s population of roughly 48.5 million work at least part-time in the agricultural sector, including livestock and pastoral activities. Over 75% of agricultural output is from small-scale, rain-fed farming or livestock production.

Inadequate infrastructure continues to hamper Kenya’s efforts to improve its annual growth so that it can meaningfully address poverty and unemployment.

Now In his second term, President KENYATTA has pledged to make economic growth and development a centerpiece of his second administration, focusing on his “Big Four” initiatives of universal healthcare, food security, affordable housing, and expansion of manufacturing.

South Korea Eyes Czech Nuclear Project

(Yonhap News Agency) – South Korea said this week its participation in the US$6.74 billion construction project of a new nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic will pave the way for the two countries to join deeper forces in the energy segment.

Industry Minister Sung Yun-mo held two-day virtual meetings with his Czech counterpart, Karel Havlicek, and Jaroslav Mil, the European country’s special envoy for nuclear energy according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

During the meetings, Sung highlighted that South Korea wishes to participate in the planned nuclear energy plant, which will be launched by the Czech Republic.

The Czech Republic plans to build a new nuclear plant in the southern region of Dukovany. The construction is expected to begin in 2029.

“The upcoming project will become an opportunity for the two countries to open a new phase of cooperation,” Sung said.

The South Korean minister also told his counterparts that South Korea already has successfully carried out a nuclear project in the Middle East. Earlier this month, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has started the operations at the first unit of the South Korean-built Barakah nuclear power plant, the first operation of a peaceful nuclear reactor in the Arab world.

In 2009, a South Korea-led consortium won a US$20 billion contract to build four nuclear reactors in Barakah, 270 km west of Abu Dhabi, the country’s first export of its homegrown commercial atomic power technology. The first reactor was completed in 2018, and the three others are under construction.

Dukovany / CEZ Says It Is Aiming
To Begin Selection Procedure By End Of Year

(NucNet) The Czech Republic’s state utility CEZ is to prepare the procedure for choosing a general contractor for the planned expansion of the Dukovany nuclear power station, aiming to begin the selection process before the end of the year.

Press reports said earlier this year that the selection process could begin in 2022 and the Czech government wanted to conclude a contract with a supplier by 2024.

The state, which holds a 70% stake in CEZ, recently approved plans to give an interest-free loan for the new plant.

It has also approved a model to buy electricity from the new unit at a determined price, with consumers making up the difference if that price is higher than wholesale market prices.

The plans need approval from the European Commission to ensure they meet EU state aid rules.

A CEZ spokesperson told NucNet recently that one Generation III+ reactor is planned for the site, with a maximum installed capacity of 1,200 MW. In March, CEZ filed for permission with the State Office for Nuclear Safety to build up to two new nuclear power plants at Dukovany.

Poland / Latest Update of Program Confirms Plans
for Up to 9,000 MW Of New Nuclear

(NucNet) Poland’s climate ministry has published for public consultation a draft resolution by the Council of Ministers on approving an updated version of the country’s nuclear power program, the first version of which was published in 2014.

The country is one of Europe’s biggest users of coal fired power plants. The move towards nuclear energy was welcomed by climate activists. Anti-nuclear nations like Austria are likely to make trouble for Poland when it seeks investors for the project.

The ministry said the aim of the program is to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MW of installed nuclear capacity based on proven, large-scale, pressurized water reactors (PWR) of Generation III and III+ design.

The ministry noted that PWRs have a smaller restricted zone for safety than boiling water reactors (BWRs), which means more choices of location. The program says there will be more bidders for PWRs than BWRs or pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) such as Canada’s Candu plants, which will bring competitiveness and lower costs.

The timetable says Poland could sign a general contract for its first unit in 2022 and issue a construction permit in 2025. Construction of Unit 1 would begin in 2026. The first of six plants would begin commercial operation in 2033 with the second inn 2035, the third in 2037, the fourth in 2039, the fifth in 2041 and the sixth in 2043.

The program says the Polish state will initially have 100% of shares in a special company set up to invest in nuclear energy, but once a co-investor is chosen the state will maintain 51% of shares in the company and the co-investor will take 49%. The co-investor must be “related to the technology provider.”

“Since the adoption of the first version of the program in 2014, the rationale for implementing nuclear power has not changed,” the ministry said. “It is based on three pillars: energy security, climate and environment, and economy.”

According to the updated program the startup of the first new unit is scheduled for 2032 with commissioning in 2033. In the 2014 program commissioning of the first unit was scheduled for 2024.

Potential sites for new nuclear have not changed since 2014. The program shows four “recommended” sites and 21 “potential” sites throughout the country, but says any chosen site is likely to be coastal, not inland.

It says environmental studies are most advanced at two sites: Lubiatowo-Kopalino and Zarnowiec, both in the north of the country near the Baltic coast. Both sites are about 80Km northwest of Gdnask.

In June, Poland’s president Andrzej Duda said an agreement would be signed between the governments of the US and Poland “in the near future” which will allow Poland to move forward with a civilian nuclear power program.

Small Modular Reactors Get R&D Focus
by Cameco and Bruce Power

According to news media reports, Cameco and Bruce Power announced this week they will create the Center for Next Generation Nuclear Technologies, a research hub that will explore, among other innovations, small modular reactors (SMR). Smaller than standard-sized ones, SMRs produce between 50 and 300 MW of electricity.

Speaking at a virtual news conference, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said nuclear power will be essential to a green future.

“We are not going to be able to deal with things like climate change or very broad issues if we are not going to commit to integrating nuclear power into our systems. It has to be part of the solutions. We simply are unable to get the job done without it.”

In addition to providing baseload power for an electrical grid, Moe said nuclear power would benefit rural and remote communities.

The announcement came two months after the province unveiled the Nuclear Secretariat, which has a core mandate to come up with a plan to develop and deploy SMRs.

In December, Moe signed a memorandum of understanding with the premiers of Ontario and New Brunswick to collaborate to that end.  However, that is a reality that remains in the future with SaskPower looking to add nuclear to its supply mix in the early 2030s.

Until then, the province’s plan to reduce emissions from power generation is to use natural gas with renewables.

Isotope Work to Expand

Cameco and Bruce Power will also be expanding their role in support of the production of life-saving medical isotopes. With its facility in Cobourg, ON, Cameco will contribute its expertise to the development of Bruce Power’s new Isotope Production System being developed by its partner IsoGen that will help produce Lutetium-177, an isotope used to treat prostate cancer and neuroendocrine tumors.

Bruce Power aims to begin harvesting Lutetium-177 in 2022. Cameco is a key supplier of materials in the production of Cobalt-60, which is produced in partnership with Ottawa-based Nordion, used to sterilize medical equipment and treat breast cancer and brain tumours.

“Medical isotopes and leveraging our existing infrastructure in a post-COVID world are an important part of the future of nuclear, and Bruce Power is a leader and innovator in this sector,” said Tim Gitzel, president and CEO of Cameco.

“I am proud that Cameco is able to contribute to this important work, especially now when the need for sterilized medical supplies is so high.

Cameco is Bruce Power’s fuel supplier until 2030, and provides parts for the company’s reactor replacement projects. The companies also announced Cameco will supply specialized fuel bundles for Bruce Power’s Unit 6 reactor once it restarts in 2024.

ANS Convenes New Task Force
on Federal Nuclear R&D Funding

ans logoThe American Nuclear Society has formed a Task Force on Public Investment in Nuclear Research and Development to assess the R&D needs of the U.S. nuclear technology enterprise and the federal investment required to meet those needs.

The task force will identify the overarching objectives of U.S. nuclear R&D and identify specific metrics that can be used to evaluate progress toward those objectives.

“Our expert team representing every aspect of cutting-edge nuclear ­technology—national laboratories, universities, reactor developers, utilities, and suppliers—is getting to work on the considerable task of capturing the entire scope of U.S. nuclear R&D needs in the 2020s and presenting it in a clear, actionable form to policymakers,” said ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy.

Mark Peters, director of Idaho National Laboratory, and Christina Back, vice president of technologies and materials at General Atomics, have been appointed cochairs of the task force.

Under their leadership, the task force will prepare a written report to be released in January 2021 that will identify funding levels needed for “core investments” in nuclear R&D during the 2020s and will evaluate the impacts of various federal appropriations funding scenarios.

Task force members will review policy documents and reports from governmental and nongovernmental sources, including current and recent authorizing and appropriations legislation, and will collect views from individuals and organizations in the United States and in global nuclear communities.

“This is an important exercise. Our leaders need an honest assessment of the level of investment needed to successfully commercialize a new generation of advanced reactors and allow nuclear technology to make a meaningful contribution to long-term decarbonization,” Piercy said.

The report will include an analysis of three funding scenarios—moderate growth, flat funding, and reduced funding—and the potential impact of each on achieving the identified nuclear R&D objectives.

Peters Leaving INL

Idaho National Laboratory Director Mark Peters is leaving his spot as lab director for a new job with Battelle Energy Alliance. Peters is moving into a new job as executive vice president for laboratory operations at Battelle in Columbus, OH. Peters, who has been INL director since 2015, made the announcement on 8/20 according to the Idaho Falls Post Register.

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Hitachi Returns to Wylfa UK Nuclear Project

  • UK / Hitachi Reopens Talks with UK Government to Finance the Wylfa UK Nuclear Project
  • X-energy / Submits Its SMR for CNSC Vendor Design Review
  • SMRs / Alberta Becomes Fourth Canadian Province To Join Partnership
  • Brazil / Eletrobras Releases Schedule for Angra 3 Nuclear Unit
  • China / SMR Project Passes Safety Analysis
  • US / DOE Awards $5.1M to EPRI for Advanced Welding Project

Hitachi Reopens Talks with UK Government to Finance the Wylfa UK Nuclear Project

A deadline looms later this year for the UK government to make a funding decision

The Financial Times of London reported on 8/15/20 (firewall) that Japan’s Hitachi is in serious talks with the UK government to restart work on the Wylfa nuclear plant to be located in north Wales. The project, if built, would consist of two 1350 MW ABWRs. Horizon Nuclear Power, the UK based subsidiary of Hitachi, is also the potential developer and EPC for two similar units at the Oldbury site in Gloucestershire.

UK new nuclear

The UK Nuclear New Build: Image:  BBC & BEIS, House of Commons Library

According to the Financial Times, Hitachi has been holding “detailed conversations” with the government. The firm has reportedly promised to “quickly mobilize” the effort at Wylfa if the government will approve a new financing method for the project which has a projected cost in the range of $18-20 billion or about $6,700-7,400/Kw. The ABWR design completed the UK generic design review (GDR) in December 2017.

Hitachi walked away from the project in early 2019 due to skyrocketing costs and a lack of a firm government commitment to reduce the company’s financial risks. At the time the UK government offered a one-third equity stake, or about $6 billion, but told Horizon that it would have to finance the rest with debt and would be responsible for any cost overruns.

Hitachi’s apparent renewed interest in the project is a response to the government’s efforts to apply a financing method to nuclear energy projects called “regulated asset base (RAB).” The funding model allows the utility building the reactors to bill customers up front via their ongoing energy bills. Additional measures sought by Hitachi under the RAB include rate guarantees once the plant is in revenue service.

According to the Financial Times, an alternative to the RAB would have the government take the majority stake in this site, and other nuclear energy projects, with Hitachi serving as the vendor of the reactors and EPC at Wylfa and Oldbury.

Josh Buckland, a former aide to the UK energy ministry, told the newspaper, “the government will want to create a viable [financial] model. That that means developers will put up some money and take some risk.”

According to the Financial Times the deadline for a financial decision is December 2020. Horizon says it is out of money by then if no deal emerged from the current round of government talks.

X-energy / Submits Its SMR for CNSC Vendor Design Review

In a press statement X-energy said it has initiated a Vendor Design Review (VDR) for its Xe-100 small modular reactor design with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). The consultancy Kinetrics will lead X-energy’s Canadian regulatory affairs and licensing efforts.


Key features of the Xe-100. Image: X-Energy courtesy of San Diego, CA, chapter of American Nuclear Society, July 2017

The regulatory review will demonstrate X-energy’s understanding of Canadian requirements and confirm there are no fundamental licensing barriers for the Xe-100 in Canada. The process will also provide the company early feedback to further strengthen its design. The VDR is a combined Phase 1 and Phase 2 review.

In preparing to site the advanced nuclear technology reactors in Canada, with partners across the Canadian supply chain, X-energy says it has found the “ideal environment” to develop and deploy the 75 MWe reactor, scalable to a 300 MWe in a four-unit plant. (technical briefing – PDF file)

X-Energy said in its press statement that the reactor design builds on decades of high-temperature gas reactor operation and R&D.

“The combination of Canada’s progressive, risk-informed regulatory framework and its well-established supply chain make Canada an ideal place to site X-energy’s first reactor and to create partnerships for a world-class SMR export program.”

The VDR is not the full safety review for a license, but it is an important and useful precursor to it which when successful leaders to a more efficient licensing process.

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

The three phases of the VDR process involve:

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

NRC Pre-Licensing Activity

According to the website of the NRC, X-Energy began pre-licensing discussions NRC Docket # 99902017 in July 2019 with the submission of a regulatory engagement plan ML19177A399. The firm’s engagement with the agency is ongoing, but many documents submitted, including some as recently as this past July, are tagged as containing proprietary information and are not available for public review. This is a common practice at this stage of engagement with the agency.

X-Energy’s TRISO Fuel

In November 2019 Global Nuclear Fuel and X-energy announced that they had signed a teaming agreement for the purpose of developing High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) TRISO fuel to potentially supply the U.S. Department of Defense for micro-reactors and NASA for its nuclear thermal propulsion requirements.


Configuration of a TRISO fuel pellet. Image: X-Energy

“TRISO is a robust fuel form well suited for military and space applications,” said Clay Sell, X-energy CEO.

“The extremely high and unnecessary cost of working with HALEU in a Category I NRC facility has, in the past, limited TRISO’s economic viability in the marketplace. Utilizing X-energy’s already operational state-of-the-art equipment in GNF’s licensed facility changes the dynamic for TRISO-fueled reactor deployment.”

“GNF is excited to team with X-energy to bring the revolutionary TRISO fuel form to market,” said Jay Wileman, President & CEO, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy.

“Combining X-energy’s technical knowledge and experience as the only current producer of TRISO fuel and GNF’s licensed operating facility and half century of commercial fuel experience and leadership make this a formidable team.”

The Xe-100 is a 200 MWt (75 MWe) reactor, which X-energy envisages being built as a standard “four-pack” plant generating about 300 MWe. The plant will use TRISO fuel ‘pebbles’ as fuel. Each Triso particle has a kernel of uranium oxycarbide (also known as UCO) enriched to 10% uranium-235, encased in carbon and ceramic layers which prevent the release of radioactivity. The layers provide each particle with its own independent containment system, while the graphite surrounding the particles moderates the nuclear reaction. Such fuel cannot melt down.

About X-energy

X-energy is an advanced nuclear reactor design and TRISO-based fuel fabrication company headquartered in Rockville, Maryland. X-energy is currently manufacturing uranium oxide/carbide (UCO) based kernels, TRISO particles, compacts and fuel pebbles at an ~5,000-sq. ft. fuel facility located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as part of the DOE Advanced Reactor Concept 2015 Cooperative Agreement.

SMRs / Alberta Becomes Fourth Canadian Province To Join Partnership

(NucNet) The Canadian province of Alberta is joining three other provinces to support the advancement and deployment of nuclear energy through small modular reactors (SMRs).

The province’s premier Jason Kenney announced that his United Conservative government will sign on to a December 2019 memorandum of understanding with Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.

In a statement with energy minister Sonya Savage, Mr Kenney said the province hopes the nuclear technology will allow the government to provide power to remote communities, diversify the economy, create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This will help Alberta stay at the forefront of the latest development in SMR technology, and ensures that we have the appropriate regulatory framework in place, should private industry decide to pursue it in the future.”

After signing the original MoU the three provinces said they wanted to work together on the development and deployment of “innovative, versatile and scalable” SMRs that will “unlock economic potential across Canada, including rural and remote regions”.

The Canadian Nuclear Association issued a statement saying Alberta’s involvement in developing nuclear energy means “another key window of emission-reducing technology comes into play.”

The association’s president, John Gorman, said, “The potential to harness clean electricity and heat to further accelerate emission reductions could be highly impactful to the Albertan and Canadian economies – and to our ability to achieve net zero by 2050,” said .

In November 2019 Saskatchewan announced it had included the development of SMR technology in its 2030 growth strategy. It said SMRs could provide utility SaskPower with the ability to generate up to 80% of the province’s electricity through zero-emission sources when combined with renewable power sources.

Eletrobras Releases Schedule for Angra 3 Nuclear Unit

(Bnamericas) Brazilian state-run power firm Eletrobras intends to sign contracts for civil construction and metal-mechanic works for the Angra 3 nuclear power plant (1400 MW PWR) by June 2021. Construction should start in October next year, CEO Wilson Ferreira Júnior said during a conference call last week.

brazil nuclearA financing deal to finish works is expected for mid-2021, while contract signing for engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) is scheduled for December 2021, with construction due to start by March 2022. The plant would be complete and ready to enter revenue service in Fall 2026.

The plant is owned by subsidiary Eletronuclear. The government is also structuring an operation to maintain control of the firm after Eletrobras’ privatization. This arrangement could include partnerships with private firms to conclude the nuclear unit.

Work on the 1400MW plant has been going on for 35 years but it is just 62% complete. Activities were interrupted in 2015 when corruption allegations emerged amid the massive Lava Jato corruption investigation. Eletrobras expects to invest (US$2.5 billion) to complete the plant.

“We are establishing an independent compliance program to monitor contracts. We have the utmost care to resume works with safety,” CEO Ferreira Júnior said.

Separately, the government is pursuing the privatization of Electrobras which will put it on a commercial footing.

China’s SMR Project Passes Safety Analysis

(NBN) On June 23, the preliminary safety analysis report of Hainan Changjiang Multipurpose Small Modular Reactor (ACP100) Science and Technology Demonstration Project was reviewed and approved at the National Nuclear Safety Administration meeting in Beijing, which created the necessary conditions for issuing the Hainan Small Reactor Demonstration Project construction license.

Hainan Small Reactor Demonstration Project adopts the ACP100 (Linglong No. 1) (IAEA technical briefing – PDF file) modular small reactor technology led by the Nuclear Power Institute of China.

The upcoming Linglong No. 1 demonstration project is a commercial demonstration project aimed at verifying the design, manufacturing, construction and operation technology, as well as accumulating valuable experience in small nuclear power plants.

About the ACP100

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced the demonstration project in July 2019. According to World Nuclear News, The ACP100 integrated pressurized water reactor (PWR) design has been under development since 2010. Its preliminary design was completed in 2014.

It is a multi-purpose reactor designed for electricity production, heating, steam production or seawater desalination. In 2016, the design became the first SMR to pass a safety review by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The ACP100 is developed from the larger ACP1000 PWR. The design, which has 57 fuel assemblies and integral steam generators, incorporates passive safety features. The major components of its primary coolant circuit are installed within the reactor pressure vessel. It features a modular high-efficiency DC steam generator, a control rod drive mechanism, a high-temperature coil, and a static rod power supply.

The demonstration ACP100 plant will be located on the north-west side of the existing Changjiang nuclear power plant, according to a March 2019 announcement from China’s Ministry of Environment. The site is already home to two operating CNP600 PWRs, with two Hualong One units also planned for construction.

China announced plans to build a demonstration floating nuclear power plant based on the ACP100S variant of the CNNC design.

DOE Awards $5.1 Million for Advanced Nuclear Welding Technology

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced an award of $5.1 million to the Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI) to develop modular-in-chamber electron beam welding capability for a future domestic advanced reactor demonstration project. This project has a total value of approximately $6.5 million of which DOE will provide approximately $5.1 million. (EPRI Project Summary Technical Abstract – PDF file)

The award is through the Office of Nuclear Energy’s (NE) funding opportunity announcement (FOA) U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development.

“Nuclear energy plays a key role in our nation’s energy security and carbon-reduction goals, so it is vital that DOE continues to fund advanced reactor projects,” said Dr. Rita Baranwal, Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy.

“This award is a cost-shared cooperative agreement, which allows us to work hand-in-hand with nuclear industry.”

This is the ninth round of funding provided through this innovative FOA. DOE announced previous funding awards in 2018, 2019, and 2020. Subsequent application reviews and selection processes will be conducted through December 2022, as supported by Congressional appropriations.

Technical Details

Establishing Modular In-Chamber Electron Beam Welding (MIC-EBW) Phase II – Under this proposal, DOE will award $5.1 million to the Electric Power Research Institute, Inc. (EPRI) of Palo Alto, California and Charlotte, North Carolina. ( Technical Project Details – briefing – PDF file)

  • Develop and establish MIC-EBW capability at a major U.S. fabricator.
  • Reduce overall welding arc time by up to 90 percent compared to conventional welding technologies.
  • Successfully demonstrate a 10-foot (3.05-meter) diameter, 4.375-inch (110-millimeter) thick vessel EB weld in less than 90 minutes of welding time (current state of the art is several weeks).
  • Establish MIC-EBW capability to perform major reactor pressure vessel (RPV) girth welds for a NuScale Power design RPV.
  • Develop manufacturing process plans based on technology and required post weld inspection/heat treatment.

electron beam welding setup

Cut Away Diagram of EBW. Image: EPRI/DOE

Video – Electron Beam Welding

DOE NE funds research, development, and demonstration projects to reduce the risk and cost of advanced nuclear technologies, and to improve nuclear energy’s contribution to meeting the nation’s economic, energy security, and environmental challenges.

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New Group Calls for Nuclear Energy Policy Focus in the White House

New Group Calls for Parity in Policy Focus & Incentives Offered to Renewables and Nuclear Energy

Other Nuclear News

  • Invest in Nuclear to Galvanize Growth, says OECD-NEA

  • Jacobs Selected by Moltex Energy to Help Develop a New Type of Nuclear Power Reactor

  • Hydrogen / US DOE Providing $84 Million For Project That Includes Installing Electrolysers At Nuclear Plants

  • Feasibility Study to Complete Cernavoda 3 & 4

Good Energy Collective Launches
New Nuclear Policy Project

(NucNet) Advanced reactors ‘should get similar incentives to renewables’
A new policy research organization has called on the next administration in the White House to establish a climate office and include a nuclear-specific staff position.

gec2The US-based Good Energy Collective said the moves would be in line with recommendations in a plan put forward by Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, and the Evergreen Action group, established by staff of the Democratic governor of Washington, Jay Inslee.

The Good Energy Collective is asking the new administration to include advanced nuclear energy as a part of the climate response and set a clear mandate for adoption of the technology.

  • It said advanced nuclear energy should be integrated into climate legislation and incentives should be similar to those for renewables, including loan guarantees, production and investment tax credits, access to public land, and federal power purchase agreements.
  • The nuclear industry should create new business and finance models for new nuclear technologies and ensure a “robust commercialization pathway” to bring advanced reactor designs to market.

Nuclear energy will be needed to reach ambitious climate goals, but we must first reconstruct the technology for a new era complete with modern, socially-grounded approaches,” the Good Energy Collective said.

“Smart policies and better nuclear governance can help quickly shift the sector to a new, more sustainable pathway. Better governance will require a step-change by the administration, congress, and the nuclear industry.”

On its web page the organization described itself as a policy research organization and listed four areas where it is focusing its attention

gec imageGood Energy Collective is a policy research organization. We’re building the progressive case for nuclear energy as an essential part of the broader climate change agenda.

We develop smart policies at every scale to accelerate the just and equitable deployment of advanced nuclear technologies.

Our research is rooted in social science and champions a whole-of-government approach, so that communities can go from ideas, to development, to thoughtful and effective deployment faster and more efficiently.

Energy for equity – All communities should have equitable access to clean energy that will meet their needs and create high-quality jobs.

Voices for the future – We foster diverse leaders in nuclear energy to reshape the industry at every level and every scale.

A new social science agenda – We are developing a social science research and environmental justice agenda to work hand in hand with recent engineering innovations.

Jobs for a green recovery – Communities should have equitable access to high-quality jobs; we are mapping out the best ways nuclear jobs can help.

Webinar August 11 at 5 PM Eastern Time

The group is holding an online webinar on August 11th at 5:00 PM Eastern time. Registration is free. Anyone with an interest in the group’s agenda can sign up using a link on the home page

Media Coverage

Two of the founding team members held an indepth interview with David Roberts on the Vox Media website on Juky 21st. Four of the five board members are women, as are the co-founders: Suzy Hobbs Baker (currently creative director at University of Michigan’s Fastest Path to Zero initiative) and Jessica Lovering (currently a doctoral student in engineering and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University).

Other Nuclear News

Invest in Nuclear to Galvanize Growth, says OECD-NEA

(WNN) The sheer size of nuclear projects might be a barrier in some markets where private investors are looking for short-term paybacks. However, during a period of economic recovery, large-scale and long-term energy infrastructure projects, such as nuclear power plants, can galvanize the social cohesion and economic spill-overs required to re-launch general economic activity.

This is the message of the last in a package of four Policy Briefs on the role of nuclear energy in the post-COVID economic recovery produced by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency in collaboration with World Nuclear Association. They study cost-effectiveness, jobs, resilience and financing.

The NEA hosted a webinar to discuss the latest report, ‘Unlocking financing for nuclear energy infrastructure,’ noting that OECD governments aim at an economic recovery that preserves the ambition for affordable energy transition plans and aligns with long-term economic, social and environmental objectives – the Paris Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Opening the webinar, NEA Director General William Magwood said: “The expectation that we are facing an economic crisis that can be ‘quickly’ dealt with over the next three years is unfortunately rather optimistic. The development of modern and resilient zero-carbon infrastructure may take a little longer. It’s important to develop plans to incentivise investment in a lot of new low-carbon generation capacity, balancing it out with a realistic forecast in the growth in energy demand. It is important to use macroeconomic models with the right granularity to properly model the energy sector.”

Beyond First of a Kind – FOAK

Sama Bilbao y Leon, head of the NEA’s Nuclear Technology Development and Economics division said that nuclear energy projects have been “misaligned” with traditional sources of capital.

“Nuclear power plant construction is a complex infrastructure undertaking that can present significant financial risks since they are capital-intensive and have multi-decadal project lifetimes,” she said, adding that there has been a “loss of confidence” due to delays and cost overruns in some recent Western first-of-a-kind (FOAK) projects.

“We have evidence from recent nuclear projects in China, Korea, Russia and the UAE that they can be completed on time and on budget. This means that the projects that we have experienced in Western FOAK projects are really not intrinsic to a nuclear power plant but are intrinsic to the project arrangement itself.”

  • Governments can support financing through a range of mechanisms. She added that direct financial support includes equity, debt, export credit agencies, and loan guarantees.
  • Indirect financial support includes power purchasing agreements (PPAs), such as the Contract-for-Difference in the UK and the Mankala model in Finland, and regulated assets, such as the rate-of-return in the USA and the regulated asset base in the UK.
  • Government ownership of infrastructure projects will have an “enormous impact” because it would “inspire confidence among private investors and would also send a very important signal to society as a whole.”

The other three Policy Briefs are: Building low-carbon resilient electricity infrastructures with nuclear power; The role of nuclear energy in the cost-effective decarbonization of electricity systems; and Creating high-value jobs in the post-COVID-19 recovery with nuclear energy projects.

Jacobs Selected by Moltex Energy to Help Develop
a New Type of Nuclear Power Reactor

moltexJacobs (NYSE:J) was selected by Moltex Energy to support their development of a new type of nuclear power plant – the Stable Salt Reactor. Jacobs will build an experimental facility for thermal transfer testing at its Birchwood Park research and development facility in the U.K.

Based on breakthrough science, Moltex Energy’s Stable Salt Reactor is designed to generate low cost electricity by burning processed spent fuel pellets which would otherwise have to be stored as radioactive waste.

Jacobs’ chemistry, materials, engineering, instrumentation and modeling teams will collaborate with Moltex engineers to create a technically complex simulation to replicate the heat output of a fuel channel and to validate computational fluid dynamics modelling of the thermal transfer across the fuel assemblies into the coolant.

Moltex already uses Jacobs’ ANSWERS® software for radiation transport modeling and simulation of reactor performance.

“We’re looking forward to continuing our support for Moltex into this new phase of development as part of our strategy to be a solutions provider at the cutting edge of research into advanced reactors,” said Jacobs Critical Mission Solutions International Senior Vice President Clive White.

“The Stable Salt Reactor design is significant because of its potential to recycle waste in a clean, safe and economical way, generating electricity which will power communities while reducing carbon emissions.”

Moltex has been awarded more than $6 million in funding from Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, a United States Department of Energy agency, to help develop the reactor, which is cooled using molten salt.

Hydrogen / US DOE Providing $84 Million For Project that Includes Installing Electrolysers at Nuclear Plants

(NucNet) Demonstrations are planned at two commercial reactor sites

The US Department of Energy is encouraging the production of hydrogen from commercial nuclear power plants by providing more than $84M to improve electrolysers that split water into oxygen and hydrogen gas and for installation demonstrations at two commercial nuclear power plants. DOE said a single 1,000-MW nuclear reactor could produce more than 200,000 tonnes of hydrogen each year.

In one DOE-backed project valued at $7.2M, Exelon, the country’s largest nuclear plant operator, will install a 1 MW electrolyser at one of its 21 reactors. The DOE will split the cost with the utility giant. Exelon plans to complete the demonstration in April 2023 and will use the hydrogen it produces onsite.

Separately, Energy Harbor, an Ohio utility company, is set to install a 2 MW electrolyser at its Davis-Besse nuclear station in Ohio. Project manager Alan Scheanwald said the equipment will be installed during the plant’s next refuelling outage in March 2022.

Partners in the demonstration are Xcel Energy, which owns three reactors at two sites, and Arizona Public Service, which operates three reactors at the Palo Verde nuclear station. The DOE is providing $9.2M of the project’s $11.5M cost. The hydrogen generated will be sold for offsite use.

Feasibility Study to Complete Cernavoda 3 & 4

(WNN) Romania has launched a tender for a new feasibility study to complete units 3 and 4 of the Cernavoda nuclear power plant for which it is prepared to pay up to RON1 million (USD$245,000). There is also the option of a single unit being put up for auction, according to a report by Economica.Net.  The tender was issued with a very short timeframe for responses as bids are due August 11th.

The announcement follows an action by the Romanian government to cancel an agreement with a Chinese state owned nuclear firm to finish construction on the two partially built reactors  which are PHWRs based on the CANDU design, according to a notice in the government’s official gazette. Most of the work on units 3 and 4 was done in the 1980s prior to the fall of the government of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989.

The tender for a feasibility study, which was published in mid July, lists includes the following requirements:

  • An updated electricity price and demand forecast; project cost estimate together with a calculation methodology;
  • An updated financial model for the project that takes into account the current situation in both the energy and construction services markets;
  • New relevant technical information obtained from other studies developed by SN Nuclearelectrica SA or EnergoNuclear SA, since 2012;
  • Updated information regarding the infrastructure of the Romanian electric transmission network and new interconnection lines;
  • Identification of the support mechanisms necessary for the implementation of the project (for example Contracts-for-Difference, Capital Work in Progress, State Guarantees, etc.).

Cernavoda NPP is the only nuclear power plant in Romania and consists of two 650 MWe pressurized heavy-water reactors. Unit 1 went into commercial operation in 1996 and unit 2 in 2007. Operator Nuclearelectrica plans to extend the operating life of unit 1 to 60 years.

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Saudi Arabia Reported to Acquire Uranium Mill Technology from China to Make Yellowcake

yellowcake_uranium_090418The New York Times reported on August 6, 2020, that a U.S. government classified intelligence analysis includes an assessment that Saudi Arabia, working with China, was building a facility to convert uranium ore into yellowcake.

This is an intermediate step for producing either commercial nuclear fuel (3-5% U235) or weapons grade highly enriched uranium (80% or more U235).

The newspaper article includes photos of what it says are several undeclared nuclear sites. The Times article follows by two days a report in the Wall Street Journal that said the facilities are part of a joint Saudi Chinese program to support various stages of the nuclear fuel cycle. However, at this time there is no evidence that Saudi Arabia has a gas centrifuge plant nor a conversion facility to turn the yellowcake into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) for use in a future enrichment plant.

nuclear fuel cycle

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle: Image: DOE/EIA

The efforts of the New York Times to get a government official to comment on the record either about the classified analysis or the WSJ article were met with silence. However, the State Department told the newspaper on 8/5/20 that the U.S. attaches “great importance” to continued compliance by the Saudis to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Negotiations by the U.S. have been at a standstill for the past year and a half to get an agreement with the Saudis under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act with the U.S. similar to the one signed by the United Arab Emirates. That agreement bans uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

The newspaper had better luck getting a statement from Thomas A. Countryman, a former state department official who worked on nonproliferation issues from 2011-2017. He told the newspaper, “They see a value in having a latent capability to produce their own fuel and perhaps their own weapons.”

In other words, the commitment to build a uranium mill to turn uranium ore into yellowcake is part of a program of deterrence pointed at Iran.

Robert Kelly, who conducted inspections for the IAEA, told the newspaper, “I am completely convinced that Saudi Arabia and China are activity cooperating on plans for uranium mining and yellowcake production.”

The fact that Saudi Arabia took this step is not a surprise. The country’s leaders signaled they would do so back in 2017. Reuters reported that  Saudi Arabia plans to extract uranium domestically as part of its nuclear power program and sees this as a step towards “self-sufficiency” in producing atomic fuel,

Reuters reported that preliminary studies have estimated Saudi Arabia has around 60,000 tonnes of uranium ore, Maher al Odan, the chief atomic energy officer of KACARE said at an electricity forum in Riyadh on Oct 11, 2017.  At a yield of four pounds of uranium per tonne of ore, that’s a lot of uranium depending on how rich the deposits are and how much can be recovered over time.

process layout of a uranium mill

Layout of a Typical Uranium Mill. Image DOE/EIA

The Role for Pakistan in the Saudi Nuclear Program

In February 2019 this blog predicted that Saudi Arabia would turn to China for its nuclear reactor technology.  If it plans to go beyond making yellowcake to fuel new reactors, it can get enrichment technology from Pakistan which has a tight relationship with Saudi Arabia that is long standing in regard to these matters.

This act of acquiring the uranium mill  from China also may position China to be the supplier of commercial nuclear reactors to Saudi Arabia which has a tender out for two 1000 MW -1400 MW commercial nuclear reactors.

However, given the low price of oil, which is likely to remain low for some period of time, perhaps several years, building nuclear fuel enrichment plants, fuel fabrication facilities, and bomb making plants are beyond the financial reach of Saudi Arabia at this time.

A trade route of oil for nuclear technology from Pakistan with Saudi Arabia is a real possibility. To get around the financial bind it is in, Saudi Arabia could ship its yellowcake to Pakistan for enrichment which reopens the problem of having access to highly enriched (20% U235 or greater) to make bombs. Even more to the point, the yellowcake announcement could be a dodge.

Saudi Arabia may have a protocol with Pakistan that if it wants nuclear weapons, that country has set aside some from its arsenal to provide them. While everyone is watching the yellowcake drama, behind the green curtain, so to speak, it is plausible that the real bomb making program could be underway in collaboration with Pakistan.

U.S. has Lost its Leverage

In acquiring the technology to make yellowcake, Saudi Arabia has de facto sent a message to the U.S. that it will not sign an agreement under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act with the U.S. similar to the one signed by the United Arab Emirates. That agreement banned uranium enrichment and reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel.

Further, in taking a significant step on the road to become a nuclear power, it has slammed the door shut on U.S. vendors of nuclear technologies, hardware, and related software and services.

GIven the Trump administration’s friendly tilt towards Saudi Arabia, it is unlikely the President may do anything about this news, but there certainly will be a bipartisan uproar in Congress about it. Whether that leads to anything concrete in terms of legislation is problematic given the dysfunction that we are seeing in the current session.

If the Democrats win the White house and sweep both the house and senate, then you might see a strong response.

Regardless, Saudi Arabia has upped the stakes in its contentions with Iran which is not good for the region as a whole. Metaphorically speaking, the the quantum question of whether the cat is alive or dead is answered. The cat is alive.

What About the Saudi Research Reactor?

Both newspapers have made a big deal out of a research reactor that Saudi Arabia is having built for it by Argentina. This is not a big deal as a proliferation threat. The fuel is only enriched to 2.3% U235 and the total power of the reactor is 10KW of power.

The research reactor, being built by Argentina’s state-backed nuclear company INVAP, is a low power research reactor (LPRR) that is generally used to irradiate materials, make medical isotopes, and train nuclear engineers and operators on the fundamentals of atomic energy.

The IAEA has asked Saudi Arabia to allow inspections once it seeks to fuel the reactor. No nation that is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will provide any nuclear fuel to Saudi Arabia for any reason if it does not sign on to the IAEA’s requirements for inspections.

Saudi Arabia still has to get the fuel to run it, and a possible source is Pakistan if the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) declines to provide the fuel.

What Will the Research Reactor Do?

According to its website King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), which is where the research reactor is located, is a scientific government institution that supports and enhances scientific applied research. Research activities focus on projects in agriculture, industry, and medicine through specialized personnel in diverse engineering fields, nuclear sciences, and physics.

Another field in this sector is irradiation technology which involves research in improving the properties of materials and products through irradiation, for the benefits of industry, medicine, and food sectors.

This sector also supports the national fundamental requirements of radiation monitoring and measurements; e.g., radiological baseline studies of the environment in areas involved with industrial and mining activities. This work may support site characterization of potential sites for commercial nuclear reactors.

In building the research reactor, Saudi Arabia crossed a threshold of a previous “small quantities” exemption for IAEA inspections. The country has not as yet agreed to have the inspections or to sign the additional protocols required under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty which Saudi Arabia has signed. That’s a potential sign of bad faith and is not helpful in terms of thinking Saudi Arabia will stop its nuclear energy program just with yellowcake.

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USNC Collaborates with South Korean Firms to Develop Advanced Nuclear Reactor Power Systems

Hyundai Engineering, Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute to Cooperate with USNC on Incorporating Key Technologies into Micro Modular Reactor

U.S.-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) announces the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hyundai Engineering (HEC) and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI). The five-year agreement outlines goals for development of technologies that enhance the USNC Micro Modular Reactor’s (MMR) ability to produce and deliver carbon-free power, heat, and hydrogen. The value of the agreement in terms of cash, or engineering design and support services in return to equity, was not disclosed.

ulta safe process heat as a product

Potential end uses of heat from the MMR. Image: Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp.

There are two primary areas of exploration outlined in the MOU: Multiple MMR reactors can be linked together to provide between 5 and 10 MW of electricity per unit, up to 150 MW of heat, or a combination of the two.

High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR) plant – development and deployment of HTGR technology for supplying power as well as process-heat production, critical to the operations of industrial processing plants.

Very High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (VHTR) plant – development and deployment of a VHTR system for production of hydrogen for use in fuel cells.

“We are committed to combining the simple, elegant design of our MMR with state-of-the-art energy-production technologies from around the world,” stated Francesco Venneri, CEO, USNC.

“Working with leaders like Hyundai Engineering and KAERI on advanced nuclear reactor technologies will improve the overall performance and value of our MMR, and accelerate our path to wide-scale deployment.”

USNC plans to incorporate technologies resulting from this collaboration into the MMR Project at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Ontario. The Chalk River MMR is currently in Stage 3 of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ thorough process to select proponents to construct and operate a small modular reactor (SMR) at that location. The firm is also involved in an R&D collaboration with CNL on fuel for the reactors.

According to the website of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, UNSC initiated Phase 1 of the vendor design review process in December 2016.

The USNC MMR Reactor consists of two plants: the nuclear plant that generates heat, and the adjacent power plant that converts heat into electricity or provides process heat for industrial applications.

The USNC system is designed to be uniquely simple, with minimal operations and maintenance requirements, and no on-site fuel storage, handling, or processing. Key to the overall design is USNC’s Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel, providing a new approach to reactor safety at the fuel level.

About The Ultra Safe MMR Reactor

Reactor Core – The reactor core consists of hexagonal graphite blocks containing stacks of FCM fuel pellets. The MMR reactor core has a low power density and a high heat capacity resulting in very slow and predictable temperature changes. The MMR reactor is fueled once for its lifetime.

Helium Coolant – Helium gas is the MMR™ reactor’s primary coolant. The helium passes through the nuclear core and is heated by the controlled nuclear fission process. The helium then transports the heat away from the core to the Molten Salt System.

The MMR reactor uses helium as it is an inert gas; a radiologically transparent, single-phase gas with no flashing or boiling possible. Helium does not react chemically with the fuel or reactor core components. It is easy to accurately measure and control the helium pressure in the reactor. The FCM fuel ensures the helium is clean and free of fission products.

Molten Salt Loop – Intermediate Heat Transfer Loop; The MMR plant is simple to operate, and flexible in its outputs. The use of molten salt thermal storage allows for significant flexibility in the supply of both electricity and process heat.

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Letter to Editor at NYT about UAE Nuclear Energy Program

Letter to the Editor, New York Times

Reference  NYT 08/01/20 – U.A.E. Becomes First Arab Nation to Open a Nuclear Power Plant. The launch is raising concerns about the growing number of nuclear programs in the volatile Middle East.

LETTER-TO-THE-EDITORThis article skates past important facts to present a point of view that equates commercial nuclear reactors with nuclear weapons. It fails to put the UAE nuclear program in context and neglects to report on the actions of other nuclear states, like Russia, in the region.

The UAE has signed an agreement with the U.S. under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act which removes the possibility the country will enrich uranium or reprocess spent nuclear fuel.

The article fails to mention the UAE’s rigorous nuclear safety program to license its reactors implemented by an independent regulatory agency.

The reactors at the Barakah site in the UAE are shielded by four foot thick containment structures which are impervious to the kind of attack launched by the Houthi rebel group.


UAE Barakah Units 1 & 2: Image: World Nuclear News

Saudi Arabia’s ambitions to build nuclear power plants have been downsized from a plan to construct 16 1000 MW units to just two 1400 MW units. The reason is the original plan became unaffordable due to the low price of oil.

It is true the Saudi government has stated it will not sign a ‘123″ agreement similar to the one for the UAE leaving the U.S. with little influence over its plans. That country could easily get all the nuclear reactor technology it needs from Pakistan or China.

The article neglects to point out the Russians have plans to build four 1200 MW commercial nuclear reactors for Egypt. The article neglects to report that the Russians are also building four similar commercial nuclear power plants in Turkey and two of them are already under construction.

The New York Times would do a service for its readers by updating the current news report to present a more complete picture of the outlook for nuclear energy in the region.

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