ROK / KSA deal for 100 MW SMART Reactor could be a model for U.S.

A deal inked in 2011 between ROK and KSA could be seen as a model to form the basis for an agreement for U.S. firms to export nuclear technology to KSA. Is anyone looking into this?

In November 2011 The Republic of Korea (ROK) signed an agreement (PDF file) for peaceful uses of nuclear technology with the King of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The 16 part document is crystal clear on what can and cannot be accomplished by the two nations. The agreement could be used as a model for a U.S. 123 Agreement with KSA.

smart logoThe result of the agreement is that ROK and KSA have teamed up for a $1 billion project to build a 100 MW (electrical) SMART small modular reactor in KSA using ROK technology and expertise.

Nonproliferation experts have expressed concern that giving KSA the right to enrich uranium would lead to development of nuclear weapons. The ROK agreement with KSA does allow enrichment, but stops it at 20% U235 and any further work would require agreement by both countries. These concerns mirror the two schools of thought – one that the agreement is useful and the other is that it is not.

Given the current effort to “denuclearize” the Korean peninsula taking place in Seoul, the likelihood that ROK would agree to such a move is remote. It would not look good to on one hand be working to reduce nuclear threats in Southeast Asia while creating new instability in the Middle East. Experts in foreign relations call this “linkage” and the concept probably applies here. Additionally, the terms of the U.S. 123 Agreement with ROK would likely come into force causing a new round of diplomatic efforts to address the issue should it come up.

However, ROK might well make the argument that none of the components in the SMART reactor are subject to its 123 Agreement with the U.S.  That agreement brings into play the NRC rules on export licensing of Fuel Element Fabrication Plant Equipment and also the jurisdiction of the Departments of Energy and Commerce.  The information in 10 CFR 110 is the basis for a list of controlled items.

For this reason the interpretation of the ROK 123 Agreement with the U.S. might be open to debate concerning possible conflicts between U.S. policy and ROK’s agreement with KSA for the SMART reactor. As noted this is a job for diplomats and nonproliferation experts in the area of export control to clear up any items that might be at cross purposes.

According to a comparative review of export controls by various nations other than the U.S., ROK has a mature export control licensing policy framework and control mechanisms.  (Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, prepared for the Nuclear Energy Institute) It follows that ROK will have strong views on the subject of what it is allowed to export on its own authority. The U.S. desire for a gold standard, which is a prohibition on enrichment, accepted by the UAE, may or may not be accepted by ROK and KSA.

What If KSA Changes Its Mind?

A key issue regarding enrichment beyond 20% U235 and/or reprocessing is the concept of “timely warning.” Given the combination of IAEA inspections and the large number of ROK people on the ground, would KSA still have the ability to conceal such activities if it decided to start down the path towards nuclear weapons?

In terms of enrichment the mere act of pulling back in canisters of UF6 at 20% to push the enrichment level beyond 80% would not go unnoticed / undetected or at least for very long.  In the case of reprocessing, the construction of the necessary heavily shielded buildings would show up on satellite coverage plus the procurement of supply chain items would also be warning signs.

Even so a door remains open for KSA to pursue nuclear weapons should it choose to disregard its agreements with ROK and the US, assuming there is one.  That would make KSA a rogue state with all kinds of consequences.

In the meantime, the KSA leadership is most certainly watching to see if President Trump tears up the Iran nuclear deal, and if that country restarts its nuclear program.  Similarly, North Korea will also be watching that development since an action by Trump against U.S. interests would send a message to DRNK and KSA that this country is not a reliable partner in nonproliferation agreements. Given the erratic nature of decision making by Trump, predicting where things will go is a crap shoot.

Selected Terms and Conditions of the ROK / KSA Nuclear Agreement

Here’s what’s in the agreement and also what the SMART reactor is all about. This is a full a range of work scope for doing business.

The agreement lists a full suite of forms of cooperation.

(a) Exchange of visits and training of scientists and technicians;
(b) Exchange of scientific and technical information and data;
(c) Organization of joint symposia, seminars and working groups;
(d) Transfer of nuclear material, material, equipment and technology;
(e) Provision of relevant technological consultancy and services;
(f) Execution of joint research or projects on subjects of mutual interest; and
(g) Other forms of cooperation as may be agreed upon by the Parties.

In terms of safeguards the agreement in Article 8 bans reprocessing and limits enrichment of uranium to 20% U235 which is the boundary between low enriched and highly enriched product.  There is a loophole which says that the parties could agree to enrich to higher levels, but both nations would have to sign off, which is unlikely from the the South Korean perspective.

Article 9 prohibits military applications. Article 10 implements IAEA safeguards including inspections. Article 11 covers physical security for all fissile material, nuclear facilities, and equipment. Article 13 covers environmental protection and responses to nuclear accidents.

History of the SMART Reactors Project

The 300 MWt / 100 MWe small modular reactor (KEPCO technical briefing PDF file) is the product a consortium of 12 ROK companies which initially put up $83 million starting in June 2010 to design the reactor.

The 12 firms making the investment have a 51% equity stake in the project. Additional partners are the Posco Group with a 28% equity share and other companies having smaller equity positions include Daewoo, STX Heavy Industry, and Iljin Energy. Since 2010 over $300 million has been invested in development of the SMART reactor.

The consortium is led by the Korea Electric Power Co. (Kepco) and the design work was done at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI).  SMART is an acronym for “System Integrated Modular Advanced Reactor.” (Project home page)

SMART is PWR type design with an internal steam generator. It has a 50 year design life and a projected three year refueling cycle. In addition to generating electricity, it can also be used for thermal applications including district heating and desalinization of water which is where KSA’s interests come in.

smart reactor image

Image source: KEPCO Briefing to IAEA 2013

The SMART reactor received design approval from ROK’s nuclear safety regulatory agency in 2012. A FOAK demonstration unit will be built in South Korea.

In March 2015 ROK signed a deal with KSA to provide two SMART reactors in that country and to position the design for export sales. The 2015 agreement was signed by KAERI  and KSA’s King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE).

A three year $130 million feasibility study could be followed by a KSA commitment to build the first two units for an preliminary estimated cost of $1 billion. Assuming the cost of the 100 MWe units comes in at $4000/Kw, each reactor will cost $400 million with the remaining $200 million for balance of plant such as turbines, switch yard, and grid improvements. Training of KSA experts to build and operate SMART reactors is part of the package.

IAEA_smart

IAEA profile of the SMART Reactor

The agreement places South Korea nuclear firms as having the most experience in dealing with KSA and having the most significant agreements to sell nuclear technology to KSA compared to all other nations or firms.  Add to this the fact that South Korea is building four 1400 MW PWRs for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and has an experienced workforce in the Middle East.

In September 2015 ROK and KSA signed an update to their agreement which called not only for two SMART reactors to be build in KSA, but also that the work will take place jointly in terms of construction of the first units.

KA-CARE has stated it will take an equity stake in development and construction of the domestic and marketing and sale of export units.

Last February the SMART project consortium kicked off work on the development of the supply chain citing ASME standards as the basis for contractors with vendors.

NEI Leads US Industry Delegation
to KSA Over Its Nuclear Energy RFP

(NucNet) The US Nuclear Energy Institute led an industry delegation to Saudi Arabia last week aimed at clarifying Saudi nuclear energy development plans and identifying potential Saudi partners.

NEI said the visit, in partnership with the US-Saudi Arabian Business Council and the US Departments of Commerce, Energy and State, provided an opportunity to deepen US industry relationships with officials in the kingdom and share US commercial opportunities.

To meet soaring electricity demand and diversify its electricity-generating mix away from fossil fuels, Saudi Arabia plans to develop two large nuclear power plants. Plans for units beyond the first two have note been speified in procurement actions.

Saudi Arabia is in the process of selecting finalists from five nations – the US, China, Russia, France and South Korea – that it invited to bid on a project to build the two plants. The selection of a winning bid and the signing of contracts are scheduled to take place by the end of 2018.

Nonproliferation Letter to Congress

atoms-for-peace-stamp_thumb.jpgIn a related development, a group of 24 nuclear nonproliferation experts has sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging nuclear energy cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

The letter, organized by the Nuclear Innovation Alliance, a trade group that promotes commercial development of advanced reactors, recommends that Congress support a commercial nuclear trade agreement, known as a Section 123 agreement, with the kingdom that prevents the misuse of sensitive commercial nuclear energy technologies. It said in part,

“The successful negotiation of a 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia is one part of a larger strategy, and this letter from eminent nonproliferation experts reinforces the national and global security importance of reaching a pragmatic agreement.”

Significantly, NEI highlighted the letter on its website. The letter urges the US not to seek conditions that would ultimately cause the Saudis to reject such a cooperation agreement.

The Trump administration has been negotiating a Section 123 agreement with Saudi Arabia that would allow the kingdom to buy nuclear reactors from US companies.

Saudi Arabia has indicated it wants a deal without the usual “gold standard” of prohibitions on enrichment and reprocessing that are essential steps in producing nuclear weapons.

The Partnership for Global Security, a policy and research organization, also issued a press release endorsing the letter signed by the nonproliferation experts.

Ken Luongo, President of PGS, said: “This letter underscores the vital importance of preventing nuclear proliferation and an arms race in the Middle East.

“The most pragmatic way to prevent weapons potential in Saudi Arabia is to deeply engage that nation in the web of U.S. non-proliferation conditions and controls through a nuclear cooperation agreement.”

He emphasized, “Failure to conclude an agreement will allow another nation to be the primary nuclear partner with Saudi Arabia for the remainder of this century – and it may be one that does not demand the same rigorous non-proliferation controls as the U.S.”

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

Benefits of Flexible Nuclear Energy Operations for Renewables

  • Nuclear PowerKeeping the balance: How flexible nuclear operation can help add more wind and solar to the grid
  • A new model finds operating nuclear plants flexibly can reduce electricity costs, increase revenue for nuclear plants, and cut carbon emissions in electric power systems.
  • Power plants that balance nuclear and renewable energy could increase revenues from electricity markets and reduce variable operating and maintenance costs, according to a collaboration involving Argonne scientists and MIT.

Nuclear power plants typically run either at full capacity or not at all. Yet the plants have the technical ability to adjust to the changing demand for power and thus better accommodate sources of renewable energy such as wind or solar power.

Researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently explored the benefits of doing just that.

If nuclear plants generated power in a more flexible manner, the researchers say, the plants could lower electricity costs for consumers, enable the use of more renewable energy, improve the economics of nuclear energy and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The new study “gives us tools to further explore potential benefits of flexible nuclear operations to work in tandem with greater shares of variable sources of renewable power generation …” — Jesse Jenkins, graduate researcher at the MIT Energy Initiative

mitlogo“What this study shows is that rather than shut down nuclear plants, you can operate them in a way that makes room for renewables,” says MIT Energy Initiative researcher Jesse Jenkins.

“It shows that flexible nuclear plants can play much better with variable

renewables than many people think, which might lead to reevaluations of the role of these two resources together.”

The team explored technical constraints on flexible operations at nuclear power plants and introduced a new way to model how those challenges affect how power systems operate.

“Flexible nuclear power operations are a ‘win-win-win,’ lowering power system operating costs, increasing revenues for nuclear plant owners and significantly reducing curtailment of renewable energy,” wrote the team in an Applied Energy article published online on April 24. (Citation and link at end of this blog post)

anllogo

Audun Botterud, a principal energy systems engineer in Argonne’s Energy Systems division, is encouraged by how, for the first time, “this research evaluates and demonstrates the potential value of flexible nuclear operations in a realistic power system in the United States challenged by high variability in renewable-energy generation.”

The study helps to dispel long-held views that nuclear power plants must operate in “baseload” mode, producing power at maximum rated capacity whenever they are online.

Nuclear plants can even respond dynamically to hourly electricity market prices and second-to-second frequency regulation needs, the team found. Power systems that include renewable energy must be more flexible to balance supply and demand at all times. Nuclear operators in France, Germany and other countries are familiar with this approach, but less so in the United States.

The researchers developed a mathematical representation of the physics-induced operational constraints arising from nuclear reactor dynamics and the fuel irradiation cycle in the Applied Energy article and a companion paper, published in Nuclear Technology.

The interdisciplinary team then combined the new approach with power system simulation models to evaluate the overall cost of electricity generation, market prices and resulting revenues for power plants, assuming different levels of nuclear flexibility.

“Nuclear power plants are governed by a different set of principles compared to other generators, and our approach enables the representation of these relationships in the analysis of power systems and electricity markets,” said Francesco Ganda, the principal investigator of the project and a principal nuclear engineer in Argonne’s Nuclear Science and Engineering division.

By being flexible, plant operators can lower overall operating costs in the power system. For example, operators could generate less nuclear power whenever renewable energy is widely available. Nuclear plants could then exploit their spare capacity to sell valuable “operating reserves,” or the ability to quickly change power output to help grid operators rebalance supply and demand when unexpected events occur, such as power plant failures or errors in demand forecasts.

This flexibility could increase the profitability of nuclear plants by increasing revenues from electricity markets and reducing variable operating and maintenance costs. Overall, nuclear plant flexibility can also help integrate more wind and solar resources and reduce production of fossil fuel-fired energy and related carbon dioxide emissions.

Jesse Jenkins, graduate researcher at the MIT Energy Initiative, notes how the researchers’ modeling approach and study “gives us tools to further explore potential benefits of flexible nuclear operations to work in tandem with greater shares of variable sources of renewable power generation on the pathway towards low-carbon electricity supply.”

Other Argonne study authors include Richard Vilim, Zhi Zhou and Roberto Ponciroli. The research was funded, in part, by Argonne’s Laboratory Directed Research and Development program.

Summary

  • Nuclear power plants are subject to different operational constraints than other power plants.
  • The authors provide a mathematical representation of these distinct constraints on nuclear flexibility.
  • Benefits of nuclear flexibility are significant in a power system with high shares of renewables.
  • Benefits include lower power system operating costs and increased revenue for nuclear plants.

Abstract

Nuclear power plants are commonly operated in a “baseload” mode at maximum rated capacity whenever online. However, nuclear power plants are technically capable of flexible operation, including changing power output over time (ramping or load following) and providing frequency regulation and operating reserves.

At the same time, flexibility is becoming more valuable as many regions transition to low-carbon power systems with higher shares of variable renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power.

We present a novel mixed integer linear programming formulation to more accurately represent the distinct technical operating constraints of nuclear power stations, including impacts of xenon transients in the reactor core and changing core reactivity over the fuel irradiation cycle.

This novel representation of nuclear flexibility is integrated into a unit commitment and economic dispatch model for the power system. In a case study using representative utility data from the Southwest United States, we investigate the potential impacts of flexible nuclear operations in a power system with significant solar and wind energy penetration.

We find that flexible nuclear operation lowers power system operating costs, increases reactor owner revenues, and substantially reduces curtailment of renewables.

Keywords Nuclear energy; Flexible operations; Renewable energy integration; Unit commitment; Economic dispatch; Mixed integer linear programming

Full text of the paper is available for purchase online
Applied Energy, Volume 222, 15 July 2018, Pages 872–884
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306261918303180

About Argonne National Laboratory
and the U.S. Department of Energy

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

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DOE Awards $60M for Advanced Nuclear Energy R&D

  • The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected 13 projects to receive approximately $60 million in federal funding for cost-shared research and development for advanced nuclear technologies.
  • These awards are the first under DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy’s U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity announcement (FOA)
  • Subsequent quarterly application review and selection processes will be conducted over the next five years.
  • DOE intends to apply up to $40 million of additional FY 2018 funding to the next two quarterly award cycles for innovative proposals under this FOA.

The selected awards underscore the importance of the private-public partnerships engaged in by U.S. companies in order to share expertise needed to successfully develop innovative nuclear technologies.

Accelerating Advanced Reactors infographic-1200x900-01

The projects will allow industry-led teams, which include participants from federal agencies, public and private laboratories, institutions of higher education, and other domestic entities, to advance the state of U.S. commercial nuclear capability.

This FOA covers three innovative funding pathways:

  • First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) Nuclear Demonstration Readiness Project pathway, intended to address major advanced reactor design development projects or complex technology advancements for existing plants which have significant technical and licensing risk and have the potential to be deployed by the mid-to-late 2020s.
  • Advanced Reactor Development Projects pathway, which allows a broad scope of proposed concepts and ideas that are best suited to improving the capabilities and commercialization potential of advanced reactor designs and technologies.
  • Regulatory Assistance Grants, which provide direct support for resolving design regulatory issues, regulatory review of licensing topical reports or papers, and other efforts focused on obtaining certification and licensing approvals for advanced reactor designs and capabilities.

Technical Voucher Awards through INL/GAIN

As part of DOE’s commitment to supporting U.S. industry through private-public technical partnerships for nuclear energy innovation, the Department is also announcing technical voucher awards to U.S. companies selected under the Department’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative.

The following two projects were selected under the FOAK Nuclear Demonstration Readiness Project Pathway:

  • Design and License Application Development for TRISO-X: A Cross-Cutting, High Assay Low Enriched Uranium Fuel Fabrication Facility – X Energy, LLC (Greenbelt, MD). This project will develop the design and license application development for a fuel fabrication facility capable of handling high-assay, low-enriched uranium and production of U.S.-developed uranium oxycarbide (UCO) TRistructural ISOtropic (TRISO) particle based fuel elements required for the future fleet of advanced reactors.
    DOE Funding: $4,494,444; Non-DOE: $4,494,444; Total Value: $8,988,888
  • Phase 1 NuScale Small Modular Reactor FOAK Nuclear Demonstration Readiness Project – NuScale Power (Corvallis, OR). This project will conduct design finalization activities and ensure supply chain readiness to meet a commercial operation date of 2026 for the first NuScale plant.
    DOE Funding: $40,000,000; Non-DOE: $40,000,000; Total Value: $80,000,000

DOE Advanced Reactor Pathway

The following four projects were selected under the Advanced Reactor Development Projects pathway:

  • Combining Multi-Scale Modeling with Microcapsule Irradiation to Expedite Advanced Fuels Deployment – General Atomics (San Diego, CA). This work proposed by General Atomics aims to combine advances made in microstructurally-informed fuel performance modeling and simulation tools with a new microcapsule irradiation capability that can substantially reduce the schedule and cost burden associated with qualifying new fuel systems for commercial deployment.
    DOE Funding: $2,210,995; Non-DOE: $552,749; Total: $2,763,744
  • Modeling and Optimization of Flow and Heat Transfer in Reactor Components for Molten Chloride Salt Fast Reactor Application – Elysium Industries USA (Clifton Park, NY). This project will develop the computational fluid dynamics models needed to simulate and optimize the flows of chloride molten salt fuel in a reactor vessel and heat exchangers for their Molten Chloride Salt Fast Reactor design.
    DOE Funding: $2,560,000; Non-DOE: $640,000; Total Value: $3,200,000
  • Establishment of an integrated advanced manufacturing and data science driven paradigm for advanced reactor systems – BWXT Nuclear Energy, Inc. (Lynchburg, VA). This project will develop the ability to implement Additive Materials Manufacturing to the fabrication process for nuclear components and sub-components that will yield acceptable material structure and strength that can be accepted by the national code organizations and the regulator.
    DOE Funding: $5,400,000; Non-DOE: $4,415,000; Total Value: $9,815,000
  • Dynamic Natural Convection – Passive Cooling for the LWR Fleet – NuVision Engineering Inc. (Pittsburgh, PA). This project proposes an engineered solution to mitigate the effects of loss of power to light water-based nuclear reactors and to remove decay heat from the reactor core, mitigating losses due to random equipment failures and severe accidents.
    DOE Funding: $ 2,999,657; Non-DOE: $749,914; Total Value: $3,749,571

Regulatory Assistance Grant Pathway

  • Resolving the Regulatory Issues with Implementation of Online Monitoring Technologies to Extend the Calibration Intervals of Process Instruments in Nuclear Power Plants – Analysis and Measurement Services (AMS) Corporation (Knoxville, TN). This project will work with nuclear industry stakeholders and the regulator to develop guidelines for extending calibration intervals of transmitters using online monitoring technology.
    DOE Funding: $499,906; Non-DOE: $125,000; Total Value: $624,906
  • Pre-Application License Review of Silicon Carbide Composite Clad Uranium Carbide Fuel for Long-Life Gas-Cooled Fast Reactor Cores – General Atomics (San Diego, CA). This project will engage the regulator to execute a pre-licensing review of a silicon carbide composite-clad uranium carbide fuel system for use in a gas-cooled fast reactor long-life core.
    DOE Funding: $380,655; Non-DOE: $95,164; Total Value: $475,819

GAIN Technology Development Vouchers

DOE has selected five U.S. companies to receive GAIN technology development vouchers in this first review cycle. The companies selected and the DOE contribution to the cost-shared vouchers are:

  • Terrestrial Energy, USA in New York, NY ($500,000);
  • Vega Wave Systems, Inc. in West Chicago, IL ($130,000);
  • Oklo, Inc. in Sunnyvale, CA ($417,000); Urbix Resources, LLC in Mesa, AZ ($320,000); and
  • ThorCon US, Inc. in Stevenson, WA ($400,000).

“Promoting early-stage investment in advanced nuclear power technology will support a strong, domestic, nuclear energy industry now and into the future,” said DOE Secretary Perry.

“Making these new investments is an important step to reviving and revitalizing nuclear energy, and ensuring that our nation continues to benefit from this clean, reliable, resilient source of electricity. Supporting existing as well as advanced reactor development will pave the way to a safer, more efficient, and clean baseload energy that supports the U.S. economy and energy independence.”

More information on the GAIN initiative awards can be found at GAIN Vouchers

More information on the Office of Nuclear Energy and its programs can be found the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy home page.

U.S. and France ink plan for work
on advanced fast neutron sodium-cooled reactors
and artificial intelligence

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry and François Jacq, Chairman of France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), this week signed two Statements of Intent (SOIs). The signing ushers in a new era of DOE-CEA research and development (R&D) cooperation with enhanced collaboration in the area of advanced fast neutron sodium-cooled nuclear reactor technologies and new collaboration in the area of artificial intelligence.

The new cooperation on the development of advanced fast neutron sodium-cooled reactors will explore areas of collaboration ranging from modeling, simulation, and validation to technology testing, access to supply chain, experimental facilities, and advanced materials.

Technology Notes

Fast reactor concepts are typically classified by their coolant—i.e., sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR); lead- or lead-bismuth eutectic (LBE)-cooled fast reactor (LFT); and gas-cooled fast reactor (GFR). All fast reactor concepts are based on the same basic principles:

  • No (intentional) neutron moderators (water or graphite), resulting in a “fast”(or “hard”) neutron energy spectrum compared to thermal reactors (LWRs and HTGRs).
  • Improved neutron economy due to larger fission-to-capture cross section ratio and greater number of neutrons per fission at high-energies.
  • Fast neutron spectrum can also be used for breeding or transmutation of transuranic waste products.
  • Higher enrichment is required to achieve criticality (in comparison to thermal reactors).

High core outlet temperatures allow greater thermal efficiency (-40%) for energy conversion; the fast reactors also have a high core power density (~5x compared to a LWR) and the potential for a long core life.

The SFR uses liquid sodium as the reactor coolant, allowing high power density with low coolant volume fraction and operation at low pressure. While the oxygen-free environment prevents corrosion, sodium reacts chemically with air and water and requires a sealed coolant system.

Scope of Cooperation

DOE and CEA cooperate on a wide range of technology areas, including the fields of civil-nuclear energy, basic science, environmental management, renewable energy, and energy management systems. Such cooperation plays a key role in maintaining cost-competitiveness and reliability across the energy mix, benefiting both countries in the enhancement of transatlantic energy security.

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Posted in Nuclear | 3 Comments

Egypt’s $60 Billion Bet on Nuclear Energy

czech-power_thumb.jpgIt is one of the largest nuclear energy deals (4800 MW) inked so far this century and is similar in scale as a project in terms of electricity generation capacity to the four 1400 MW units being built by South Korea in the UAE

Assuming these two projects, and a 4800 MW project in Turkey, are finished by the end of the decade, new nuclear capacity in the Middle East will total 11,000 MW of electrical generation capacity.

Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation “Rosatom” is reported to have signed contracts with Egypt for construction of four 1200 MW VVER type nuclear reactors, the company’s chief announced this month.

Alexey Likhachev said that Rosatom signed commercial deals with Egypt worth $60 billion contract to construct the Dabaa nuclear power plant as well for its maintenance and supplies of nuclear fuel.  The $60 billion figure is apparently a life cycle cost with the reactors themselves costing about $29 billion.

The nuclear plant will be built with a Russian loan of up to $25 billion at an annual interest rate of three per cent. The payment schedule will be 35 years. Egypt will provide the remaining 15 percent of the costs in cash.

“These contracts are the first-ever in the nuclear industry and are Russia’s largest non-crude products export agreement,” Russia Today (RT) quoted Likhachev as saying. “This is certainly a very big contribution to the development of Russian-Egyptian relations.”

Russia will also build factories in Egypt for the domestic manufacture of nuclear plant components, bringing in the required expertise; and Rosatom will service the plant for 60 years.

According to the Egyptian energy minister, Mohamed Shaker, the plant is due to be completed by 2026-2027. The Dabaa coastal site is located about 200 miles west of Cairo.

According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), these are the first commercial nuclear reactors to be built in Egypt and only the second such facilities to be built on the African continent. In addition to the construction of the reactors, infrastructure investments will be needed in regional transmission grids and local power lines.

The new plant will require 1500 km of 500 kV transmission line. The government owned utility NPPA expects to have four nuclear desalination plants operating by 2025.

Roastom plans to move spent fuel from the reactors wet to dry storage as quickly as possible and then to return the spent fuel to Russia for reprocessing. Nonproliferation experts are concerned about the project. WNA reports that Egypt signed the Nonproliferation Treaty in 1968, but until 1981 refused to ratify it unless Israel did. It has not signed the Additional Protocol.

WNA points out that the nuclear power will be needed as Egypt has been running short of natural gas to generate electrical power.

WNA reports that Egypt has long been reliant on natural gas for power generation. Annual domestic production of gas peaked in 2009 at 62.7 billion cubic meters (bcm), and had declined to 41.8 bcm by 2016. Over the same period, the country’s gas consumption rose from 42.5 to 51.3 bcm. Supply constraints have arisen after the government halted new exploration contracts in 2013. As a result, there are now significant gas supply constraints, particularly for heavy industry, as the government has shifted supplies to domestic consumers.

The units to be built in Egypt are similar to the four 1200 MW VVER nuclear reactors Rosatom is building in Turkey at the Akkuyu site on the country’s Mediterranean coast. That plant is being financed 50/50 between Rosatom and Turkey.

Problems have arisen there over local financing which remain unresolved, but the project has broken ground. Issues are over guarantees for rates and are a key item. Roastom’s financial deal there is to build and operate the plant for 15 years and then sell it to equity investors.  The cost of the project in Turkey is estimated to be about $30 billion.

New Report Details
Opportunities and Challenges
for Nuclear Energy in Africa

Last week the Center for Global Development published a new report, Atoms for Africa, which was co-authored by Breakthrough Institute Director of Energy Jessica Lovering and three colleagues at the think tank. (The other authors are: Abigail Sah, Omaro Maseli and Aishwarya Saxena.)

As Todd Moss, of the Center for Global Development, explains in his post on the report, there’s a lot more interest in nuclear energy among African countries than most people realize, new technologies may accelerate deployment, but the lack of international financial support for these nuclear projects is driving African governments to partner with Russia and China.

The authors hope this report jump starts a meaningful dialogue among US and international development organizations around the future of nuclear power in emerging economies.

As Suzy Baker from Third Way points out, the US nuclear industry should be concerned by the absence of the US firms in these nuclear projects. The lack of early engagement from the US nuclear industry in Africa means that we are missing out on strategic partnerships in these countries that could last decades.

Lovering notes that “it will take a whole suite of innovation policies that we’ve seen work in other sectors.”

As previous noted in a post by Lovering on Saudi Arabia’s nuclear ambitions, “the US will need a lot more than a bi-lateral agreement to compete with Russia, South Korea, and China on international nuclear bids. They will need support with export control and financing, yes, but also a commercial advanced nuclear product that meets the changing needs of new markets.”

Fuel Loading Has Started
at China’s Taishan-1 EPR

(NucNet) Fuel loading has begun at Taishan-1, China’s first Generation III EPR unit which is under construction in the southeastern province of Guangdong, developer China General Nuclear Power (CGN) said in a statement on April, 11, 2018.

CGN, which owns 70% of the project, said it was given formal approval to begin fuel loading at Taishan-1 by the National Nuclear Safety Commission on Tuesday.

The fuel loading procedure for the 1660 MW unit takes several months, meaning the unit could be connected to the grid and begin commercial operation by the end of the year, CGN said.

The nuclear safety commission confirmed in a notice on its website that it had given the go-ahead for fuel loading, saying Taishan-1 is likely to become the world’s first EPR to go into operation.

Recent press reports said Taishan-1 and its sister unit Taishan-2 will begin commercial operation “months later than planned”. Construction of the two units began in 2009 and 2010.

CGN, which runs the Taishan project together with France’s EDF, said in a statement to the Hong Kong stock exchange that a comprehensive evaluation had been carried out and it has been decided to “adjust the construction plan”.

The company said in December 2017 that Taishan-1 had been delayed to the second half of 2018 and Taishan-2 to 2019, from the second half of 2017 and the first half of 2018 respectively.

Status of Other EPRs

Fuel loading at the EPR under construction at the Okliuoto site in Finland is expected to take place by the end of 2018 with revenue service to begin in May 2019.  Fuel loading at the EPR under construction in Flamanville, France, is still expected to also take place by the end of 2018. However, issues raised by the French nuclear safety agency about welds in the secondary coolant loop at the plant may result in further delays.

Two EPRs are under construction at the Hinkley Point site in the UK. No firm date has been released for fuel loading at that project.

Westinghouse Status in China

By comparison four Westinghouse AP1000s also being built in China has not yet reached the point where they are ready to load fuel.  Reuters reported last February fuel loading at the first Westinghouse-designed AP1000 nuclear reactor on China’s east coast has been delayed due to unspecified “safety concerns.” The problem could be with the fuel assemblies themselves or with safety reviews similar to the US NRC’s ITAAC process.

Officials with the U.S.-based Westinghouse expected fuel loading to start last year, and it would have been followed by around six months of performance tests before the reactor could go into full operation in 2018.

Update April 24,. 2018 – Westinghouse Electric Company, China State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and CNNC Sanmen Nuclear Power Company Limited (SMNPC) announced that the world’s first unit of AP1000 nuclear power plant located in Sanmen, Zhejiang Province, China, has received the fuel load permit from China’s National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) and has commenced initial fuel loading.

Sanmen Unit 1 has successfully completed all the necessary functional tests as well as technical, safety and Chinese regulatory reviews. The fuel load process will be followed by initial criticality, initial synchronization to the electrical grid, and conservative, step by step, power ascension testing, until all testing is safely and successfully completed at 100% power.

Czech New Build Financing Decision by Mid-year

(WNN) The Czech government is expected to reach a decision on the best way to finance new nuclear projects by mid-2018 according to  a statement by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

The Standing Committee on Nuclear Energy met to consider investor models and financing for the construction of new nuclear reactors. Minister Tomáš Hüner said the country, which currently generates about a third of its electricity from six nuclear reactors, “definitely” needs a new reactor to replace at least some of the capacity at the older of its two nuclear plants, Dukovany. He said the committee had looked at three detailed possible investor models and also at how to finance such a project.

The committee considered options including

  • Creating a new subsidiary of CEZ to build the units with state backing;
  • The purchase by the state of an existing part of CEZ to build the plants, and
  • Splitting CEZ to transfer its nuclear plants to a state-owned company.

According to Reuters, Hüner told reporters that the state was not opposing to buying some CEZ assets, but should decide on the investment model for building a new nuclear plant before making any decisions on how the utility, which is majority owned by the state, should be split.

Reuters also reported that Czech Republic special envoy for nuclear energy, Jan Stuller, said experts advising the committee were “leaning toward having the state invest in the new plant.”

CEZ last year held talks with six companies and consortia which had expressed interest in building reactors at Temelín and Dukovany, including Westinghouse, Rosatom Overseas, EDF, Areva-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries joint venture Atmea; China General Nuclear Power Corp; and Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power.

The Czech Republic’s state energy policy, approved by the country’s cabinet in June 2015, foresees one new unit at Dukovany, and possibly three more at the Dukovany and Temelín sites.

NRG Begins Collaboration With Sweden’s LeadCold
for an Advanced Small Modular Reactor

(NucNet) Netherlands-based NRG and LeadCold of Sweden have begun a multi-year collaboration on safety analysis of the “Sealer” (Swedish Advanced Lead Reactor) small modular lead-cooled reactor under design by LeadCold for deployment in remote arctic regions such as northern Canada.

NRG, the nuclear services company which operates the High-Flux Reactor at Petten in the Netherlands, said the two companies will compare their independent analysis. NRG also intends to use advanced 3D simulation techniques to confirm the feasibility of certain design safety features which cannot be evaluated using conventional simulation techniques.

In the long-term, LeadCold intends to construct an electrically heated model of its reactor. This should allow additional experimental verification of both the advanced design safety features and the simulation techniques applied by NRG.

The collaboration will put advanced simulation techniques developed at NRG as part of the Dutch national R&D program to the test, NRG project manager Ferry Roelofs said.

Janne Wallenius, LeadCold’s chief executive officer, said NRG’s advanced simulation techniques should confirm proper functioning of the reactor’s safety features and help convince safety authorities of LeadCold’s approach.

LeadCold was founded in 2013 with its head office in Stockholm and a Canadian subsidiary. The company is a spin-off from the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

U.S. and Canadian Nuclear Labs Announce Programs to Support Developers and Supply Chains for Small Modular and Advanced Reactors

  • small reactorsAdvanced Nuclear Supply Chain Meeting to be held at Idaho National Laboratory 5/16-16
  • NuScale, which will build its first SMR unit for its customer UAMPS at the site, is a key sponsor and participant in the INL advanced nuclear suppliers workshop

  • Canadian National Laboratory invites developers of small modular reactor (SMR) to develop demonstration FOAK units at the site
  • The CNL invitation to SMR developers follows a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) on SMRs, released late last year, which yielded responses from 80 organizations around the world, including 19 expressions of interest in siting a prototype or demonstration reactor at a CNL-managed site.

Advanced Nuclear Supplier Meeting at Idaho Lab

inl logoProfessionals interested in learning about – and participating in – the advanced nuclear reactor supply chain, which includes small modular reactors (SMRs) based on light water type designs, as well as advanced fast reactors, are encouraged to attend the Ready4Nuclear Western U.S. and Canada Nuclear Suppliers Workshop, being held at Idaho National Laboratory May 15-16 in Idaho Falls.  The workshop will address:

  • The nuclear energy generation landscape
  • What nuclear reactor companies need
  • Becoming an approved vendor
  • he advanced nuclear reactor supply chain
  • Building a regional supply chain cluster
  • Global export markets
  • Workforce development
  • NRC and Export Control Regulations
  • Export Markets
  • Speed Matching (Conference attendees give three-minute elevator speeches on company capabilities, components/services provided, including advanced manufacturing interests.)

nic logoDetailed Agenda:
https://www.ready4nuclear.org/advance-agenda

The target audience for this workshop includes manufacturers, suppliers, construction and engineering firms, business leaders and economic development professionals.

Optional INL Tours

On Wednesday afternoon, May 16, participants in the USNIC Ready4Nuclear Western Nuclear Suppliers Workshop will have the option to tour Idaho National Laboratory’s Human System Simulation Laboratory or High Temperature Test Laboratory

Register for the meeting here:
https://www.ready4nuclear.org/

List of Sponsors

  • United States Nuclear Infrastructure Council
  • NuScale Power
  • Regional Economic Development Eastern Idaho
  • Consulate General of Canada/Seattle
  • Canadian Nuclear Laboratory
  • Idaho Commerce Dept.

Firms seeking sponsorship opportunities to showcase their capabilities should download this PDF file or contact Caleb Ward at caleb.ward@usnic.org or (202) 332-8845

& & &

Canadian Nuclear Laboratory Invites SMR Developers
to Build Demonstration Units on Site

cnl logoCanadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization, announces that it has issued an invitation to small modular reactor (SMR) project proponents who wish to participate in the evaluation process for the construction and operation of an SMR demonstration project at a CNL-managed site.

The invitation represents the launch of CNL’s SMR review process, including the Pre-Qualification stage, which allows CNL to evaluate technical and business merits of proposed designs, assess the financial viability of the projects, and review the necessary national security and integrity requirements.

The invitation will remain open, with rounds of intake periods expected to occur semi-annually. Applications received by May 28, 2018 will be assessed in the first round. All projects would be subject to regulatory processes and requirements.

“CNL is proud to extend this invitation to SMR project proponents from around the world, and to take one of the most important steps towards the successful deployment of a small modular reactor in Canada,” commented Mark Lesinski, CNL President and CEO.

CNL has identified SMRs as one of seven strategic initiatives the company intends to pursue as part of its Long-Term Strategy, with the goal of siting an SMR on a CNL-managed nuclear campus by 2026.

cnl smr logoThe company is working to demonstrate the commercial viability of SMRs and hopes to position itself as a global leader in SMR prototype testing and technology development support.

This invitation follows CNL’s Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) on SMRs, released late last year, which yielded responses from 80 organizations around the world, including 19 expressions of interest in siting a prototype or demonstration reactor at a CNL-managed site.

Prospect Evaluation Process

Applicants pursuing an SMR demonstration project will need to proceed through four individual stages.

Following the Pre-Qualification stage, which will assess proponents against preliminary criteria, applicants must complete the Due Diligence stage, which will require more stringent financial requirements and a full assessment of funding and project costs.

The third phase, Negotiation of Land Arrangement and Other Contracts, would culminate in the signing of a site disposition agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL), owner of the CNL-managed sites. Finally, the Project Execution stage would include licensing and construction, testing and commissioning, and operation and decommissioning of the SMR unit.

“This invitation process was specifically designed by CNL to challenge SMR project proponents to address various issues in their planning, and to provide CNL and AECL with the necessary information to make informed decisions,” commented Richard Sexton, President and CEO of AECL.

Value of SMRs

CNL believes that the world needs improved access to dependable energy, this includes nuclear.  Over the past decade, SMRs have increasingly been recognized for their potential as an appealing source of clean and safe energy. They are thought to offer several advantages over traditional technologies, including a reduced size, reliable power output; the ability to purchase and construct in a modular way, decreasing up-front capital costs; simpler, less complex plants; and a reduced staff complement.

SMRs also retain the positive attributes of traditional nuclear reactors, including the safe and reliable production of energy with limited emission of greenhouse gasses. Notably, given the flexibility in operation, SMR technology is considered an enabler to the growth of other renewable energy sources, such as wind or solar.

In addition to electricity generation, SMRs could be part of a broader energy system that could include applications such as district heating, co-generation, energy storage, desalination, or hydrogen production. Taken together, all of these advantages make SMR deployment in Canada very appealing, offering a number of positive economic benefits to communities, alignment with national commitments to fight climate change, important applications for remote communities, and the potential to enhance nuclear safety through next-generation nuclear technology.

For more information on CNL’s SMR program, and to review CNL’s invitation to SMR project proponents, visit http://www.cnl.ca/smr or call Patrick Quinn, CNL Director, Corporate Communications, at 1-866-886-2325

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

Closing Nuclear Reactors in OH & PA will Thwart Climate Goals

  • Nuclear plant closures in Ohio and Pennsylvania will have significant negative impacts on the environment and the regional economy
  • Closure of the plants would reverse emissions benefits gained over the last 25 years from all renewable generation in the region; total zero-emission generation in region might not return to current levels until 2032.
  • A new report highlights potential for higher electricity costs for local residents, lower GDP, and fewer jobs in the region.
  • Some advocates for closing nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania claim that renewables can make up the difference.  This is incorrect as both solar and wind power are highly variable. The majority of lost power generation capability would be made up, if needed, by natural gas plants.

The announced closure of four nuclear power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania will have severe environmental and economic impacts, according to a new report released on 4/16/18 by The Brattle Group.

Specifically, these closures would likely result in an increase of over twenty million metric tons of CO2 emissions, tens of thousands of tons of incremental air pollutants, and significantly higher electricity costs to consumers. It would also put hundreds of millions in GDP and thousands of jobs at risk for residents across Ohio, Pennsylvania and the broader region.

Nuclear Plants in OH and PA Identified for Closure

The report, based on prior studies of the impacts of nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania, estimates that the combined impact of closing the Beaver Valley Power Station (PA), Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station (OH), Perry Nuclear Generating Station (OH) and Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (PA) will:

  • Increase annual CO2 emissions by over 20 million metric tons, equivalent to 4.5 million cars on the roads and potential social costs of over $900 million per year;
  • Increase annual emissions of harmful air pollutants such as SO2, NOX and particulate matter by tens of thousands of tons, with potential social costs of $170 million per year;
    Increase annual electricity costs by as much as $400 million annually for Ohio residents and $285 million for Pennsylvanians;
  • Put more than 3,000 direct jobs at risk, as well as thousands of additional secondary jobs;
  • Eliminate tens of millions of dollars in local tax revenues.

The increase in CO2 and several harmful air pollutants due to these closures will be a major setback to the region’s efforts to reduce emissions. In 2017, these four nuclear plants provided one and a half times as much zero-emission energy as the wind and solar resources across the entire PJM region. (see chart below)

natural gas plant

Photo of the Lakeside Power Plant natural gas plant in Lindon, Utah:  Photo Credit: Mike Scalora / Wikimedia Commons

Some advocates for closing nuclear plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania claim that renewables can make up the difference.  This is incorrect as both solar and wind power are highly variable. The majority of lost power generation capability would be made up, if needed, by natural gas plants.

renewables PJM

As western Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio are centers of natural gas production, due to the use of fracking drilling methods, the construction of these plants near these resources would inevitably be attractive to investors.

Potential use of load following to support renewables

There is an element of the nuclear industry, especially among developers of small modular reactors and advanced designs, that are building in “load following” for the plants. Most large nuclear plants, especially those built in the 70s 80s, run at 100% capacity all the time.

Full size nuclear power plants can do load-following over a 24 hour period. Nuclear power plants operating in the load-following mode follow a variable load program with one or two power changes every 24 hours. The load pattern is determined by the grid operator and the utilities, depending on the power demand and the maneuvering capabilities of the plant.

Load following would allow these reactors to generate electricity at lower levels of utilization during the day, if wind and solar are putting electricity into the grid, and at higher rates at night, or when weather is a factor, etc.  In either case, the nuclear plants can have the key role of keeping the grid stable to address the variable nature of renewables.

Role of the PJM Interconnect

The PJM is the largest electricity market in North America, covering all or part of 13 states including Ohio and Pennsylvania, and spanning from Illinois to New Jersey and Virginia.

externalities1

The loss of these plants would quickly reverse the environmental benefits of all the PJM wind and solar resources developed in the region over the past 25 years – benefits which were supported with billions of dollars of customer and taxpayer investment through renewable energy credits and federal tax credits.

“As this report makes clear, policymakers should take note of the critical environmental and economic contributions of our nation’s nuclear plants, especially where their continued operation is threatened,” noted Brattle Principals and study authors Drs. Dean Murphy and Mark Berkman.

“Any discussion of Pennsylvania’s and Ohio’s energy futures must recognize the significant environmental and economic risks associated with allowing these four plants to close. The impending closures indicate a significant concession in their clean energy commitments.”

Additional findings regarding the impact of these closures from the Brattle report include:

  • An electricity price increase of up to $2.43/MWh and $1.77/MWh for Ohio and Pennsylvania residents, respectively (not accounting for any financial support the plants might need to continue operating);
  • Another 15 years, at the current renewable growth rate, for the region to return to the level of zero-emissions generation in 2017.

“Thousands of lost jobs, major hits to local tax revenues, higher electricity costs for consumers, and more harmful pollutants – any lawmaker should take steps to avoid such a situation,” said Nuclear Matters Advocacy Council Member and former Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH).

“It is imperative that we act to prevent the closures of these four nuclear plants which contribute needed diversity to Ohio and Pennsylvania’s overall energy supply and provide residents a dependable power source in extreme weather situations.

Following Vermont Yankee’s shuttering in New England, we saw devastating effects. The loss of tax revenues forced local officials to make major budget concessions to the detriment of their residents, including cutting their municipal budget by 20 percent, drastically reducing police services and raising their property taxes by 20 percent.

Furthermore, in the year following the closure, carbon emissions increased by 2.5 percent due to nuclear energy being replaced by emission producing sources. It would be nothing short of irresponsible to allow the people of Ohio and Pennsylvania to share a similar fate.”

“If these plants close, the livelihoods of thousands of Ohio and Pennsylvania residents will disappear. The over 3,000 highly skilled individuals directly employed by these sites will leave to seek employment at other facilities still operating around the country,” said Lonnie Stephenson, President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

“In total, thousands of jobs that directly or indirectly rely on the nuclear industry in this region will be lost. Positions at nuclear plants are good, well-paying jobs for hardworking residents, and without them the fabric of these communities will be torn apart.”

About the Report

“Impact of Announced Nuclear Closures in Ohio and Pennsylvania” was prepared for Nuclear Matters by Dr. Dean Murphy and Dr. Mark Berkman of The Brattle Group.

This report follows the recently announced planned closures of Exelon’s Three Mile Island and FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse, Perry and Beaver Valley plants, a decision the companies attribute to low power prices in wholesale markets and the lack of state and federal relief.

To develop the collective estimates outlined in the report, The Brattle Group drew from previous work estimating the impacts that the loss of the Ohio and Pennsylvania nuclear plants would have on electricity prices and emissions:

“Ohio Nuclear Power Plants’ Contribution to the State Economy” (April 2017) and “Pennsylvania Nuclear Power Plants’ Contribution to the State Economy” (December 2016).

This latest report compares the results of these most recent previous studies with sensitivity cases in order to outline various approximations.

About Nuclear Matters

The group Nuclear Matters® is a national coalition that works to inform the public and policymakers about the clear benefits of nuclear energy. The coalition supports solutions that properly value nuclear energy as a reliable, affordable, safe and carbon-free electricity resource that is essential to America’s energy future.

Nuclear Matters engages stakeholders and energy consumers around the country to educate and activate them in support of current and future nuclear energy use and to promote solutions that will help to preserve this essential energy resource.

About The Brattle Group

The Brattle Group analyzes complex economic, finance, and regulatory questions for corporations, law firms, and governments around the world. We are distinguished by the clarity of our insights and the credibility of our experts, which include leading international academics and industry specialists.

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Posted in Nuclear | 2 Comments

WCS Spent Fuel Facility Restarts Effort for NRC License

  • spent fuel storageAfter putting its proposal on hold in April 2017 due to financial concerns, Waste Control Specialists (WCS) announced in late March 2018 that it will resume licensing work at the NRC for a consolidated interim storage facility (CSF) for spent fuel at a site near Andrews, TX.
  • The firm also announced that it has formed a joint venture with Orano USA (a rebranded Areva Nuclear Materials). That company will bring to the project “decades of expertise in used fuel packaging, storage, and transportation” according to Scott State, CEO of WCS.
  • The objective of the CSF is to take spent fuel stored at nuclear reactors across the U.S. and hold it at the Andrews site until one or more permanent disposition strategies are developed by the nuclear industry and the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • The proposal for the CSF is to obtain an initial 40 year storage license for 40,000 metric ton of commercial spent nuclear fuel that is ready for, or already in, storage in dry casks. The project will be built in eight phases of 5,000 metric ton each. The facility will seek license extensions in 20-year increments.

Jeff Isakson, the president of the joint venture, said in an email statement, “As the proposed new license owner, the joint venture is responsible for application expenses. The strength of the joint venture’s partners ensures the commitment necessary to support the license and serve an expanding market. At this early point in the process, we don’t want to speculate about the licensing timeline or process.”

In a press statement Sam Shakir, CEO of Orano USA stated, “The joint venture will provide safety, flexibility and value for used nuclear fuel titleholders and reduce U.S. taxpayer liabilities for ongoing storage, while plans for a permanent federal repository continue. Currently, used nuclear fuel is stored at more than 70 active and decommissioned nuclear reactor facilities in 34 states across the country, awaiting the development of a permanent geologic repository.” (map of spent fuel storage sites in US (large PNG graphics file).

The firm announced the name of the Orano/WCS joint venture at 2018 Waste Management Symposia: Interim Storage Partners (ISP) on March 20th.

Restart of licensing will overcome cost issues

An earlier effort by Waste Control Specialists (WCS)  to obtain an NRC license for the project at a site in Andrews, TX, was reported in April 2017 as being on hold due to the unexpectedly high costs. Media reports pegged the costs to be $7.5M, for preparing the NRC application and meeting the requirements of the agency’s review process.

At the time Rod Baltzer, the company’s president and CEO, said in a letter to the NRC, “Waste Control Specialists is faced with a magnitude of financial burdens that currently make pursuit of licensing unsupportable.”

In January 2018 Waste Control Specialists was acquired by J.F. Lehman & Company (JFLCO) as its fourth major acquisition in the environmental and technical services sector. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Debt financing for the transaction was provided by The Carlyle Group’s Credit Opportunities Fund.

Financial support for WCS in the joint venture with Orano will be now be provided by its new owner. Glenn Shor, Managing Director at JFLCO, stated in a press statement, “Our partnership with WCS will ensure the business has the resources required to support its long-term growth strategy across the government and commercial marketplace.”

A spokesman for the firm added in an email, “As the proposed new license owner, the joint venture is responsible for application expenses. The strength of the joint venture’s partners ensures the commitment necessary to support the license and serve an expanding market.”

In terms of how WCS makes money on the project, WCS has previously stated it sees the DOE as its sole customer. DOE would pay for and arrange to transport spent fuel from reactor sites to the  WCS CSF. DOE would pay WCS to store the spent fuel at the WCS site until it is shipped offsite to a national geological repository for final disposal or for any other form of final disposition.

The NRC accepted the WCS application (Docket No. 72-1050) as being technically complete in January 2017.

Status of the Holtec Project

In March 2017 Holtec International, a nuclear fuel manufacturing company based in Florida, filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to create a temporary storage facility that would consolidate spent fuel from across the U.S. at a single site near Carlsbad, NM, about 15 miles north of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant.

Holtec International wants a 40-year license to store up to 500 dry casks holding 8,680 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel. Eventually, the firm plans to store up to 10,000 casks. The NRC accepted the application for docketing and technical review on February 28, 2018. The agency has announced a series of public meetings to take place in New Mexico to get public input on the project.

Holtec is privately held and has not released any information on the cost of the licensing process nor whether it has any partnerships or outside investors in the project.

 

Spent Fuel in the U.S.

According to the U.S. General Accounting Office the U.S. commercial power industry alone has generated more spent nuclear fuel than any other country—nearly 80,000 metric tons. This spent nuclear fuel is enough to fill a football field about 20 meters deep.

NRC schematic of spent fuel casks

Conceptual image of dry cask spent fuel storage. Image: NRC

According to GAO delays by DOE in taking custody of commercial spent nuclear fuel for interim storage or disposal add to federal government liabilities. Specifically, the federal government bears part of the storage costs as a result of industry lawsuits over DOE’s failure to take custody of commercial spent nuclear fuel in 1998, as required by contracts entered into under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982.

DOE reported at the end of fiscal year 2016 that the federal government has paid industry about 6.1 billion in damages and has projected future liabilities at about $24.7 billion. Each year of delay adds about $500 million to federal liabilities.

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Posted in Nuclear | 4 Comments