Southern Nuclear Eyes Tests of its Advanced Reactors by 2025
Southern Nuclear believes the nuclear industry could bring online demonstration advanced reactors by 2025 followed by commercial units shipped to customers in 2030-2035, Jessica Nissenbaum, company spokeswoman, told Nuclear Energy Insider this week.
Southern Nuclear is developing a multi-technology advanced reactor research and development (R&D) program, forging separate partnerships with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), X-energy and TerraPower.
Southern Nuclear’s advanced reactor funding spans several technology types and U.S. public-private partnerships are supporting the development of new testing facilities and conceptual design phases.
In October, Southern Nuclear and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) announced a joint project to develop and license advanced reactors, including GEH’s PRISM sodium-cooled fast reactor design.
Southern Nuclear had already agreed in August to jointly commercialize and deploy X-energy’s Xe-100 High Temperature Gas-cooled Reactor (HTGR) and the operator is also jointly-developing TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MFCR). Both reactors will use TRISO fuel which is a key area of expertise for X-Energy which hired several key personnel from South Africa’s PBMR program.
The X-energy and TerraPower projects are both being funded through public-private partnership arrangements which include $40M cost sharing grants from DOE over a five year period.
“This mission will require public-private collaboration, resulting in innovation policies, licensing frameworks and regulatory structure that facilitate efficient and predictable deployment of these new technologies and encourage private investment,” Nissenbaum said.
Despite its claim that it could ship units for commercial use by 2030, so far the firm has not named any potential customers for any of its advanced designs.
Bill to Boost Advanced Nuclear Gets Senate Committee Approval
(Bloomberg) A bill that would develop a regulatory framework for advanced nuclear reactors, and make changes to a DOE grant program to help develop them, moves to the full Senate after the Environment and Public Works Committee approved it March 22nd.
The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act, S.512, introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), aims to assist the development of advanced reactors—which are cooled by substances other than water, such as liquid metals and sodium. The reactors would still burn uranium based fuel.
The bill is backed by groups representing companies such as NuScale Power and Westinghouse Electric Co. The bill has bipartisan support with 11 cosponsors, including the committee’s ranking member, Sen. Thomas Carper (D-Del.). The committee approved an amendment serving as a new version of the bill 18-3, sending it to the full Senate.
The bill includes a modification to the Department of Energy’s cost-share grant program for advanced reactors to establish parity with a similar program for small modular reactors, which are eventually to be manufactured at a plant and brought to a site for full construction. The first of a kind units (FOAK) are expected to be custom built.
It will take an order book with at least 10 and perhaps as many as 40 entries to provide investors and suppliers with the confidence to invest in support of a factory based manufacturing process.
“Specifically, the changes are meant to ensure that all advanced nuclear technologies are treated the same when it comes to federal funding,” Carper said.
“They incentivize private investments in research and development of nuclear technology, which is critical for advanced nuclear.”
The committee approved a similar version of the bill in 2016, but it didn’t get a vote in the Senate.
Where Senator Barrasso comes in is that his state is full of uranium miners who are faced with record low prices for yellowcake, the first step in the nuclear fuel cycle after the raw uranium is separated from the ore.
According to uranium trade press site Ux, the spot price for uranium oxide U3O8 as of the end of March 2017 is just under $26/lb. Profitability begins at about $45/lb depending on the type of mine.
Uranium prices are down because of a steep decline in demand for it since Japan closed all of its nuclear reactors following the Fukushima crisis, and has since reopened only a few of them.
The world’s largest nuclear power station, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa at 8.2 GW, remains offline due to intense local opposition and the inability of TEPCO, the plant’s owner, to convince the provincial government it can be operated safely. Also, Germany closed half of its nuclear fleet.
In the U.S. reactors have closed in California, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Florida, and Vermont. Both Exelon and Entergy, the nation’s largest fleet operators, have tagged more than half a dozen reactors for possible closure due to record low natural gas prices. First Energy has threatened to sell or close three more reactors for the same reason.
While the current bill if passed won’t provide price supports for uranium, it is intended to change the way the NRC regulated the uranium mining industry potentially reducing its costs to comply with the regulations.
KEPCO eyes Toshiba-led nuclear project in Britain
(Yonhap) The CEO of South Korea’s top power utility firm Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) said this week the firm is interested in participating in a British nuclear plant project.
KEPCO is rumored to have been in talks with Japan’s Toshiba and French utility company Engie on buying a stake in their multi-billion dollar British nuclear joint venture NuGen. Toshina and Engie have been on the lookout for partners in the nuclear venture to reduce their respective burdens.
NuGen is planning to build three nuclear reactors at the Moorside site on the coast of Cumbria.
“Regarding (participation in) NuGen, we will jump into the race after its sales plan is determined,” KEPCO president Cho Hwan-eik said in a meida event in Seoul, South Korea.
Should KEPCO buy into the NuGen project, it would mark its second overseas nuclear plant project since its 2009 deal to build nuclear plants in the United Arab Emirates.
Turkey’s Sinop nuke project’s site review to be ready by end of 2017
(English language wire services in Turkey) Mitsubishi Heavy Industry’s Sinop Nuclear Energy President Makoto Kanda said the target date is to finish all technical and commercial feasibility studies for Sinop NPP is March 2018.
Technical feasibility studies that determine the site suitability of Turkey’s Sinop Nuclear Plant will be completed by the end of this year, Mitsubishi Heavy Industry’s Sinop Nuclear Energy President said in a recent interview.
The construction of Turkey’s second nuclear plant, after the first in Akkuyu in Turkey’s southern province of Mersin, plans to be located in the country’s northern region.
In May 2013, the Turkish government accepted the Japanese government’s proposal to install four ATMEA1 reactors with a total capacity of about 4,800 MW for the Sinop project.
The project sponsors of the consortium include; Japan’s MHI, Itochu, and France’s Engie with a planned share of 51 percent, and Turkey’s Electricity Generation Company (EUAS) with a share of 49 percent upon incorporation of the Sinop project company.
Kanda added that “We are organizing meetings with the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority (TAEK) on the codes and standards that will be used for this project,” he said and explained that firstly Turkish regulations will be considered and then IAEA guidelines will be taken into account.
“We will first apply for the site license and then the construction license, but not during the feasibility studies,” Kanda said. They are cooperating with TAEK to clarify the needs of the licensing process and details on the documentation, he added.
During the commercial feasibility studies, the business plan will be developed, Kanda said. “We need to agree on major conditions of the Power Purchase Agreement. To speed up the Sinop NPP project, the project sponsors are expecting support from the Turkish government,” Kanda said.
The ATMEA1 reactors, developed by joint venture company comprising Japan’s MHI and French Areva are third plus generation pressurized water reactors developed using verified French and Japanese nuclear technology.
India’s Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project Back at the Negotiation Table
(The Hindu) The Jaitapur nuclear power project is back on the negotiation table over a year after French utility EDF signed a preliminary agreement to build six reactors.
The renegotiation is because the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and EDF are unable to reach a consensus on the project cost. The EDF proposal is higher than expected by NPCIL.
NPCIL is contesting this cost and officials privy to negotiations with EDF said, “There are contentions regarding the design of the plant which will have to be made.”
The key issue is the effects of the tropical climate in Maharashtra on plant equipment and operations. These variations have escalated the cost of the project with an operational life of 60 years.
While the two agencies are trying to work out the costs, what worries EDF is the regulatory regime in India that will have to approve the higher tariffs resulting from cost escalation.
Also, NPCIL is expected to present demands for having a local EPC contractor to fast-track the implementation of project. EDF reportedly is uncomfortable with this demand from NPCIL.
India Plans To Triple Nuclear Generation Capacity By 2024
(NucNet): Nuclear generation capacity in India is expected to reach nearly 15 GW by 2024 because the government has expedited the process of constructing new power reactors, the lower house of parliament, or Lok Sabha, was told on 22 March 2017.
Minister of state for the prime minister’s office, Jitendra Singh, said a number of steps have been taken by the government to fast-track nuclear projects and the construction of new plants in different parts of the country.
“When we came to power in 2014, we set a target of increasing nuclear generation capacity threefold in 10 years and we hope to reach that target.
Former US president Barack Obama and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi announced last year that engineering and design work would begin for Westinghouse to build six AP1000s in India in a deal that was expected to be signed by June 2017. The contract would be the first under a US-India civil nuclear accord reached in 2008.
However, it is unclear whether that deal will go through if Toshiba, the parent firm of Westinghouse, forces the business unit into bankruptcy due to cost overruns from a botched acquisition of its key supplier CB&I in the U.S. and massive cost overruns at four AP1000 reactors under construction in the U.S.
According to International Energy Agency figures, India’s nuclear capacity was 5.8 GW in 2014.
Hitachi-GE and Westinghouse set for GDA completion
(WNN) UK regulators expect to complete the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of the AP1000 and the UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR) in March and December this year, respectively. They have also reported the start of the GDA of the UK HPR1000, which they expect to complete in 2021.
In their latest periodic report assessing new nuclear reactor designs, covering the period November 2016 to January 2017, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) provided an update on work they have been carrying out on their GDA of the Westinghouse and Hitachi-GE reactor designs, as well as the start of a GDA for General Nuclear System’s UK HPR1000.
Horizon Nuclear Power – established in 2009 and acquired by Hitachi in November 2012 – plans to deploy the UK ABWR at two sites – Wylfa Newydd, which is on the Isle of Anglesey, and Oldbury-on-Severn, in South Gloucestershire.
NuGeneration (NuGen), the UK joint venture between Japan’s Toshiba and France’s Engie, plans to build a nuclear power plant of up to 3.8 GWe gross capacity at Moorside, in West Cumbria using AP1000 nuclear reactor technology provided by Westinghouse.
Under a deal agreed in October 2015, China General Nuclear (CGN) will take a 33.5% stake in EDF Energy’s £18 billion ($28 billion) project to construct Hinkley Point C, in Somerset, which will comprise two Areva EPR units.
In addition, the two companies will develop projects to build new plants at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex, the latter using Chinese reactor technology – the HPR1000 also known as the Hualong One. General Nuclear Systems is a joint venture between CGN and EDF, developed to deliver the Bradwell project in Essex.
Saskatchewan Looking into SMRs
(CBC) Researchers from the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan are looking into what it would take to build a small modular nuclear reactor in Saskatchewan.
The $1.1 million multidisciplinary project is led by Esam Hussein, dean of engineering and applied science at the University of Regina. It brings together researchers from five faculties and departments at the universities.
The project is meant to provide the researchers with a better understanding of nuclear energy and to help Saskatchewan graduate students develop expertise around building a small nuclear reactor somewhere that has not previously used nuclear power. Saskatchewan will be used as the case study.
“Small modular nuclear reactors will inevitably play a role in the clean energy mix, and it is important to explore their technical licensing processes,” said Hussein in a press release.
“This project will build the capacity of Saskatchewan researchers and students to address technical, engineering and regulatory questions related to introducing this new technology.”
Saskatchewan is Canada’s leading center for uranium mining, but the country has no uranium enrichment plants. The sparsely populated province of Saskatchewan has repeatedly flirted with ideas to move up the value chain from simply being an exporter of raw uranium. While it has eschewed development of enrichment plants, it has taken several looks at SMRs this one being the most serious in recent years.
The government sold off the state-owned reactor division of AECL a few years ago which has mostly since then subsisted on maintenance contracts for existing CANDU reactors. AECL is based in Ontario.
NRC accepts TVA’s ESP for SMRs
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) submitted an application last May for an early site permit for small modular nuclear reactors, or SMRs, at the Clinch River Site in west Oak Ridge. The early site permit application is for two or more SMRs.
The NRC has reportedly accepted the application for “docketing and detailed technical review” in December. A specific reactor design has not been selected by the utility. The NRC has an April 5 target date to establish a review schedule and send a schedule letter to TVA.
“If NRC determines that the site is suitable for the building and operation of a new nuclear plant, prior to building and operation of a plant at the site, NRC would need to review and approve an additional application from TVA (either a combined license (COL) or a construction permit (CP)) that includes a specific reactor design,” the NRC said on its website.
The project’s timeline, which includes a detailed technical review, is now in the hands of the NRC, and it will likely take several years, TVA spokesperson Scott Brooks told the newspaper Oak Ridge Today.
TVA is evaluating the possibility of building the small modular reactors, or SMRs, at the 1,200-acre Clinch River Site.
The NRC will use the application to review site safety, environmental, and emergency preparedness requirements for potential construction of the next-generation nuclear technology.
“This is the next big step in evaluating the suitability of the Clinch River site for potential future construction and operation of SMRs. “We’re still several years away from any potential construction decision.” said Dan Stout, TVA senior manager for small modular reactors.
It’s not clear yet how many SMRs could be built in Oak Ridge, but officials have previously said it could range between two and six. TVA said last year that SMRs are designed to be used in groups, but no decision has been made about the number that could be built here.
TVA cancelled a previous agreement with BWXT to share design and licensing costs with the firm to develop its 180 MW mPower SMR. Since then BWXT has not been able to find another partner willing to develop the reactor and has shelved efforts to bring the reactor design to a point where it could be submitted for a safety evaluation by the NRC.
If the NRC issues an ESP to TVA it it good for up to 20 years. In its most recent Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the utility has said it has no plans to build new nuclear reactors in the near term.