- Molten Chloride Salt Test Stand Launched by TerraPower, Southern Company
- Global Nuclear Fuel and TerraPower Announce Natrium Fuel Facility
- NuScale’s EPC Validated Validated by NRC
- Holtec & Hyundai Accelerate Work on SMR-160 Design
- General Atomics Announces Plans for Fusion Pilot Plant
- DOE Awards $38 Million For Spent Nuclear Fuel Recycling
Molten Chloride Salt Test Stand Launched by TerraPower, Southern Company
Southern Company Services (SCS) and TerraPower recently built and installed a new test facility at TerraPower’s laboratory in Everett, Washington.
The Integrated Effects Test, or IET, is the largest chloride salt system in the world and will be instrumental in helping to develop the team’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR) technology.
The installation of the IET is part of a seven-year, $76 million cost-shared project with the U.S. Department of Energy to support development of the MCFR system. The initial agreement between Southern and TerraPower for the MCFR was signed in November 2021. TerraPower and SCS, a subsidiary of Southern Company, plan to demonstrate the reactor in the early 2030s.
The Integrated Effects Test is a multi-loop test facility that base on a series of smaller testing campaigns to inform its design. The non-nuclear system is heated by an external power source and will be used to validate the thermal hydraulics and safety analysis codes needed to demonstrate molten salt reactor systems.
The IET also supports the development of the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment at Idaho National Laboratory, which will be the world’s first fast spectrum salt reactor.
The MCFR design specifically requires molten chloride salt, which allows for fast spectrum operation.
In the fast neutron spectrum, neutrons are not slowed down (e.g. by colliding with water or graphite) and move very quickly making the fission reaction more efficient.
In MCFR cores, nuclear fission occurs and heats the fuel salts directly. The MCFR then distributes heat from the molten fuel salt through a heat exchanger to an inert salt in a second loop. Heat from the non-nuclear secondary loop is then safely used to make steam for electricity generation, process heat or thermal storage.
The MCRE is being funded through DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program and will help inform the design, licensing and operation of the MCFR demonstration.
Jennifer M. Granholm, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, visited the TerraPower Research Facility in Everett, WA, for an in-person update on research being conducted here to develop a sodium-cooled fast nuclear reactor
“We are in a worldwide nuclear competition and thanks to public partnerships like this we are no longer on the sidelines but leading the way,” Secretary Granholm said in a brief Q&A with reporters after touring the 65,000 square foot research facility.
“The completion and installation of the Integrated Effects Test is an important step to advancing TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor technology,” said Jeff Latkowski, TerraPower’s senior vice president of innovation programs.
“The MCFR will play a pivotal role in decarbonizing heavy industries, and we are proud to work with Southern Company, CORE POWER, and other partners to develop the systems necessary to bring new reactors to market.”
“Southern Company’s research and development program is committed to advancing next-generation nuclear as part of a diverse technology portfolio supporting our goal of a net-zero future for customers,” said Dr. Mark S. Berry, Southern Company Services senior vice president of R&D.
CORE POWER, EPRI, Idaho National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and Vanderbilt University all contributed to the IET project.
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Global Nuclear Fuel and TerraPower Announce Natrium Fuel Facility
- The new facility will bolster U.S. supply chain for advanced nuclear energy and create hundreds of new jobs
Global Nuclear Fuel–Americas (GNF-A), a GE-led joint venture, and TerraPower announced an agreement to build the Natrium Fuel Facility at the site of GNF-A’s existing plant site near Wilmington, NC. The Natrium Fuel Facility will be jointly funded by TerraPower and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, which aims to speed the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with U.S. industry.
The facility represents an investment of more than $200 million. Construction on the Natrium Fuel Facility is anticipated to begin in 2023. Recently, DOE was funded by Congress for $700 million to acquire HALEUY fuel. Contact awards are expected in mid-2023.
The Natrium Fuel Facility and other commercial nuclear power initiatives are projected to grow the GNF-A and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) workforce by approximately 500 new employees over five years. Many of these new employees will support the Natrium reactor technology that is being jointly developed by GEH and TerraPower as well as other commercial nuclear power initiatives.
General Electric Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) also announced plans to grow their workforce to support advanced nuclear growth and commercial deployment of BWRX-300 small modular reactors.
In 2021, TerraPower announced its intention to build the first Natrium reactor at a retiring coal facility in Kemmerer, Wyoming. The Natrium technology is a 345 MWe sodium fast reactor coupled with a molten salt-based integrated energy storage system. (Fact Sheet – PDF file)
Natrium Reactor Power Plant – Image: TerraPower
“Reinvigorating the domestic nuclear supply chain is a critical step in building the next generation of reactors,” said Tara Neider, TerraPower senior vice president and Natrium project director.
“This facility will create a reliable source of fuel for our first demonstration plant and additional Natrium plants in the future.”
“The Natrium Fuel Facility will help establish the fuel supply chain that will be required for the U.S. to deploy advanced reactors domestically and globally,” said Tammy Orr, senior vice president, fuel products, GNF-A.
The Natrium Fuel Facility would utilize high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU). The Energy Act of 2020 authorized DOE to support availability of HALEU for domestic commercial use. This provision aligns with the modern fuel needs of the Natrium demonstration plant and other advanced reactors and is another important step in building out the supply chain for the next generation of commercial nuclear power plants.
About Global Nuclear Fuel
Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) is a world-leading supplier of boiling water reactor fuel and fuel-related engineering services. GNF is a GE-led joint venture with Hitachi, Ltd. and operates primarily through Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas, LLC in Wilmington, N.C., and Global Nuclear Fuel-Japan Co., Ltd. in Kurihama, Japan.
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NuScale’s EPC Validated Validated by NRC
NuScale Power LLC (NuScale) announced that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) issued letter ML22287A155 concurring with NRC staff, stating that the NuScale methodology for determining the appropriate size of the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) is acceptable for use by NuScale small modular reactor (SMR) power plants.
This methodology will determine an EPZ that provides the same level of protection to the public as the 10 mile radius EPZs used for existing U.S. nuclear power plants and is approved only for the NuScale SMR design, further demonstrating NuScale’s unparalleled safety.
The EPZ is the area surrounding a U.S. nuclear power plant, where special considerations and management practices are pre-planned and exercised in case of an emergency. Using this approved method, an EPZ that is limited to the site boundary of the power plant is achievable for a wide range of potential plant sites where a NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant could be located.
The significance of a NuScale plant with an EPZ limited to the site boundary is the NuScale plant can better accommodate siting of process heat off-takers, businesses, and housing in close proximity, and significantly reduces ownership costs to facilitate a plant’s emergency plan.
“Safety is NuScale’s priority, and on top of our design approval in 2020, this endorsement from a world-class regulator – the U.S. NRC – and the ACRS shows the global community our unmatched, innovative technology is first and foremost safe,” said John Hopkins, NuScale President and Chief Executive Officer.
“This also means NuScale’s game-changing technology can be sited where its needed most – powering our economy, communities, and lives.”
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Holtec & Hyundai Accelerate Work on SMR-160 Design
(NucNet) US small modular reactor (SMR) developer Holtec International and Hyundai Engineering and Construction (Hyundai E&C) of South Korea have launched an accelerated program to complete the balance of plant design of the remaining systems and structures for the SMR-160 advanced small modular reactor.
The two companies made the announcement and signed an agreement at a Holtec’s technology campus in Camden, New Jersey, marking one year of collaboration on the SMR-160 reactor program.
The Hyundai E&C and Holtec team, supported by US construction company Kiewit and Japanese multinational Mitsubishi Electric, have been collaborating to develop a standard design, which will be deployable in most regions of the globe without any significant modification, reducing the time from the customer’s authorization to proceed to the commissioning of the plant.
The latest agreement builds on a teaming agreement signed a year ago that envisaged the two companies jointly completing the SMR-160 detailed plant design, promoting SMR-160 business and marketing, and jointly participating in project tenders.
Holtec said the SMR-160 team recognizes the urgent need to provide a clean energy eco-system that integrates the SMR-160 nuclear power plant with a competitive solar energy facility, and the clean energy storage and delivery system, called “Green Boiler”, being developed by Holtec to meet the needs of post-fossil fuel economies.
The Green Boiler system is essentially a large thermal reservoir filled with engineered salts spiked with infrared emitter particles or a highly conductive elemental metal. The Green Boiler stores the surplus (inexpensive) power from the grid and uses the stored thermal energy to run the existing plant’s turbogenerator to produce electricity on demand.
In 2020, Holtec completed Phase 1 of a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission pre-licensing review for the SMR-160. As of 10/05/22 the company is also in pre-licensing process with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
In July 2022, Holtec submitted a loan application to US Department of Energy for a $7.4 billion program to help build four SMR-160s, to expand the output capacity of its existing advanced manufacturing plant in Camden, and to establish a new factory to manufacture SMR-160s.
Holtec has also entered into a memorandum of agreement with New Orleans-based utility Entergy Corporation, which will evaluate the feasibility of deploying one or more SMR-160s at one or more of Entergy’s sites within the Entergy service area.
Holtec said efforts are being made to install SMR-160-centered ecosystems in over 15 countries inclined to deploy SMR-160 and Green Boiler to meet their electricity and district heating needs.
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General Atomics Announces Plans for Fusion Pilot Plant
General Atomics (GA) announced a new concept for a fusion pilot plant (FPP) to deliver clean, safe, and economically viable fusion energy.
GA’s FPP concept utilizes a steady-state, compact advanced tokamak design approach, where the fusion plasma is maintained for long periods of time to maximize efficiency, reduce maintenance costs, and increase the lifetime of the facility.
The GA Fusion Pilot Plant takes the approach of a compact steady-state system – a concept that has been well established and refined over decades of research and development.
Using powerful magnets and microwave heating, the GA fusion system creates a plasma – a hot gas in which electrons separate from atoms.
In steady-state operation, the fusion plasma is maintained for long periods of time to maximize efficiency, reduce maintenance costs, and increase the lifetime of the facility.
The GA FPP concept capitalizes on GA innovations and advancements in fusion technology. The facility would utilize GA’s proprietary Fusion Synthesis Engine (FUSE) to enable engineers, physicists, and operators to rapidly perform a broad range of studies and continuously optimize the power plant for maximum efficiency.
GA has also developed an advanced modular concept (GAMBL) for the breeding blanket which is a critical component (of the fusion power facility) that breeds tritium, a fusion energy fuel source, to make the fusion fuel cycle self-sufficient.
General Atomics recently announced a joint research partnership with Savannah River National Laboratory to address challenges of tritium handling as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Innovation Network for Fusion Energy (INFUSE) grant program.
GA’s proprietary Fusion Synthesis Engine (FUSE) integrates proven physics, engineering, and costing models into self-consistent simulations and designs. A product of GA’s expertise in fusion theory, FUSE can rapidly optimize the complex requirements of a fusion power facility.
FUSE is a highly flexible and modular modeling tool that will allow engineers, physicists, and operators to easily perform a broad range of studies spanning the design of specific components to the optimization of a power-plant concept. With FUSE, GA’s Fusion Pilot Plant can rapidly take advantage of new breakthroughs that improve efficiency and capacity, shaping the next generation of clean, safe, and sustainable energy.
“Excitement for fusion energy is at an all-time high, with historic interest from private industry and government,” said Dr. Anantha Krishnan, Senior Vice President of the General Atomics Energy Group.
Fusion is the process that powers the stars and offers the potential for nearly limitless clean energy. It occurs when two light nuclei combine to form a new one, releasing vast amounts of energy. Researchers can achieve fusion using a “tokamak,” which uses heat and electromagnets to create the necessary heat and pressure to force the nuclei to fuse.
Fueled primarily by isotopes of hydrogen found in seawater and capable of generating its own fuel during operation, the GA FPP would provide baseload energy without any harmful emissions or long-lived waste. Capable of operating around the clock, commercialized fusion power plants would provide sustainable, carbon-free firm energy for generations.
“The General Atomics Fusion Pilot Plant is a revolutionary step forward for commercializing fusion energy,” said Dr. Wayne Solomon, Vice President of Magnetic Fusion Energy at General Atomics.
“Our practical approach to a FPP is the culmination of more than six decades of investments in fusion research and development, the experience we have gained from operating the DIII-D National Fusion Facility on behalf of the U.S. Department of Energy, and the hard work of countless dedicated individuals. This is a truly exciting step towards realizing fusion energy.”
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DOE Awards $38 Million For Spent Nuclear Fuel Recycling
- The Goal is to Advance Technologies to Recycle Used Nuclear Fuel Generated from Commercial Nuclear Power Reactors
The projects, led by universities, private companies, and national laboratories, were selected to develop technologies to advance UNF recycling, reduce the volume of high-level waste requiring permanent disposal, and provide safe domestic advanced reactor fuel stocks.
Nuclear energy generates nearly a fifth of America’s electricity and accounts for half of all domestic clean energy generation. While used nuclear fuel (UNF), also referred to as spent nuclear fuel, is created during the process of generating nuclear energy, clean energy generated from this fuel would be enough to power more than 70 million homes.
Further, UNF can be recycled to make new fuel and byproducts that support the deployment of nuclear energy and advance President Biden’s goals to offset climate change and domestic reliance on fossil energy through widespread clean energy use. For a briefing on processing of used nuclear fuel globally see this fact sheet published by the World Nuclear Association.
“For America to further harness the safe, reliable clean energy produced at nuclear facilities across the country, the Biden-Harris Administration and DOE recognize the importance of developing practical uses for America’s used nuclear fuel,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm.
“Recycling nuclear waste for clean energy generation can significantly reduce the amount of spent fuel at nuclear sites, and increase economic stability for the communities leading this important work.”
Upon discharge from a nuclear reactor, the UNF is initially stored in steel-lined concrete pools surrounded by water. It is later removed from the pools and placed into dry storage casks with protective shielding. Most of the nation’s used fuel is safely and securely stored at more than 70 reactor sites across the country.
Projects funded through the Converting UNF Radioisotopes Into Energy (CURIE) program will enable secure, economical recycling of the nation’s UNF and substantially reduce the volume, heat load, and radiotoxicity of waste requiring permanent disposal. These efforts will also provide a valuable and sustainable fuel feedstock for advanced reactors.
Led by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the following teams have been selected to develop separation technologies with improved proliferation resistance and safeguards technologies for fuel recycling facilities, and perform system design studies to support fuel recycling:
Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont, IL) will develop a highly efficient process that converts 97% of UNF oxide fuel to metal using stable next-generation anode materials. (Award amount: $4,900,000)
Argonne National Laboratory (Lemont, IL) will develop, produce, and test a suite of compact rotating packed bed contactors for used nuclear fuel reprocessing. (Award amount: $1,520,000)
Curio (Washington, DC) will develop and demonstrate steps of the team’s UNF recycling process—known as NuCycle—at the laboratory scale. (Award amount: $5,000,000)
EPRI (Charlotte, NC) will develop a recycling tool intended to address the coupled challenges of nuclear fuel life-cycle management and advanced reactor fuel supply. (Award amount: $2,796,545)
GE Research (Niskayuna, NY) will develop a revolutionary safeguards solution for aqueous reprocessing facilities. (Award amount: $6,449,997)
Idaho National Laboratory (Idaho Falls, ID) will design, fabricate, and test anode materials for electrochemically reducing actinide and fission product oxides in UNF. (Award amount: $2,659,677)
Mainstream Engineering (Rockledge, FL) will develop a vacuum swing separation technology to separate and capture volatile radionuclides, which should lower life cycle capital and operating costs, and minimize waste that must be stored. (Award amount: $1,580,774)
NuVision Engineering (Mooresville, NC) will design, build, and commission an integrated material accountancy test platform that will predict post-process nuclear material accountancy to within 1% uncertainty in an aqueous reprocessing facility. (Award amount: $4,715,163)
University of Alabama at Birmingham (Birmingham, AL) will develop a single-step process that recycles UNF by recovering the bulk of uranium and other transuranics from UNF after dissolution in nitric acid. (Award amount: $1,844,998)
University of Colorado, Boulder (Boulder, CO) will advance technology capable of high-accuracy, substantially faster measurements of complex UNF mixtures. (Award amount: $1,994,663)
University of North Texas (Denton, TX) will develop a self-powered, wireless sensor for long-term, real-time monitoring of high-temperature molten salt density and level to enable accurate safeguarding and monitoring of electrochemical processing of UNF. (Award amount: $2,711,342)
University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT) will develop a pyrochemical process for efficiently converting UNF into a fuel feedstock suitable for sodium-cooled fast reactors or molten-salt-fueled reactors. (Award amount: $1,454,074)
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