- Poland Signs MOU to Build Six Westinghouse AP1000s
- South Korea Signs MOU to Build Four APR1400s in Poland
- OPG Applies For License To Build First SMR At Darlington Site
- U.S. and Japan in Bilateral Agreement Will Support Export of SMRs to Ghana
- TVA Plans New Sites for Up to 50 SMRs
- Mexico 123 Agreement is Confirmed
Poland Commits to a Nuclear Fleet of Big Iron
After years of small steps towards a decision to build new full size nuclear reactors, in the past two weeks the government inked an MOU with Westinghouse for two power stations composed of three reactors each. Just days later Poland signed an MOU with South Korea to build four nuclear reactors. The country’s Deputy Prime Minister Jacek Sasin made the announcements last week.
If financing is secured for all 10 nuclear reactors, and the project is completed, probably by the mid 2030s, it would become one of the biggest commitments to nuclear power in Europe.
As delegates gather in Egypt for the COP27 climate conference, the Poland’s plan to replace its coal fired power plants will be an example of what can be done when a country puts its mind to it.
Poland Commits to Westinghouse with a Promise of US Financial Help
(NucNet) Poland has announced that US-based Westinghouse Electric Company has been selected to build the country’s first nuclear power station, a decision that has been pending since 2020 when Warsaw last updated its nuclear energy program. A promise of significant financial support from the US played a major role in the decision.
A schedule released by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki targets commercial operation of a first nuclear unit in a proposed set of six 1150 MW AP1000 PWRs as being planned for 2033, with the rest to follow throughout the 2030s and into the early 2040s.
Mr Morawiecki said, “After talks with vice-president [Kamala] Harris and US DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm we confirm our nuclear energy project will use the reliable, safe technology of Westinghouse Electric.”
DOE’s Granholm said Warsaw’s decision is a “huge step” towards strengthening the relationship between the US and Poland and creating energy security for future generations.
Poland has ambitious plans to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MW of installed nuclear capacity based on Generation III and III+ large-scale, pressurized water reactor designs. Poland’s MOU with Westinghouse calls for the construction of two nuclear power stations with three reactors each.
At the end of 2021, the Lubiatowo-Kopalino site in the northern province of Pomerania near the Baltic coast was selected as the preferred location for Poland’s first commercial nuclear power station. Other proposed locations have included the central Belchatow and Patnow, both currently homes to coal-fired power generation.
In July 2021, Westinghouse and US partner Bechtel provided Poland’s state-owned Polskie Elektrownie Jadrowe (PEJ) with a front-end engineering and design study for the deployment of two nuclear power stations, each consisting of three 1150 MW AP-1000 pressurized water reactor (PWR) units.
Last month, the US ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski presented the Polish government with a final conceptual offer on the proposed construction of six Westinghouse-made PWRs, including financing commitments.
It is unclear what the price tag will be for the six reactors and how much US financial support will be provided in a final deal. Even with lower labor costs, and significant localization of materials and components, the plants will still be on the high end of costs for equivalent nuclear generating capacity.
Several unconfirmed media reports put the bid price from Westinghouse in the range of $4500/KW. At that benchmark, each reactor would cost about $5.2 billion and all six would cost well over $30 billion taking inflation into account over the five-to-ten years it will take the complete them
Reuters reported this week that the recent announcement by Polish prime-minister Morawiecki concerns the first three nuclear units to be built. A spokesman for the US embassy said, ““It is our expectation that Poland intends to eventually construct six AP1000 reactors from Westinghouse and will make a formal decision about the second set of three at a later date.”
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South Korea Signs MOU to Build Four APR1400s in Poland
(NucNet) South Korea’s KHNP, with a promise of an equity investment in the project, has signed MOU to build four APR1400s at a site in Poland.
Just days after Westinghouse signed an MOU with the Polish government to build six AP1000s, three each at two sites to replace coal fired power plants, South Korea’s KHNP landed a similar MOU to build four of its 1400 MW APR1400s at one site.
Polish energy companies ZE PAK and PGE (Polska Grupa Energetyczna) and the Polish ministry of state assets signed a letter of intent with South Korea’s Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) on the proposed construction of a nuclear power station at the central Patnow site.
The aim of the agreement is to assess the available options and to develop by 2022 preliminary plans for the deployment of KHNP’s APR-1400 pressurized water reactor (PWR) technology at Patnow, which currently houses a 1,674-MW coal-fired plant owned by private firm ZE PAK.
Jacek Sasin, Poland’s deputy prime-minister for state assets, said the construction of a nuclear power station at Patnow “is “crucial” for the country.”
In September 2021, ZE PAK, which is the largest private energy firm in Poland, signed an agreement with Synthos Green Energy to explore the deployment of a GE Hitachi BWRX-300 small modular reactor at Patnow. The company said at the time it wanted to invest in four to six SMRs with a capacity of 300 MW each. It isn’t clear whether ZE PAK will continue the SMR project or switch its focus to the APR1400s.
Financing Remains a Question
It is unclear what the delivered cost of the reactors will be. Unconfirmed media reports put the bid price in the range of $4200/KW taking into account lower labor costs and localization of materials and components. It is also unclear how KHNP will structure the minority equity investment over time. Polish government officials have not yet provided specifics of how it plans to play for the KHNP and Westinghouse reactors
Poland’s largest energy group issued a note of caution about the Westinghouse and KHNP MOUs especially as completion of financing is still to be arranged for both projects.
In March 2021, Poland’s largest energy group PGE sold to the Polish state treasury its 70% stake in PGE EJ1 (later renamed to PEJ), the company charged at the time with managing the first nuclear project.
PGE, which itself is nearly 60% owned by the Polish state treasury, had been wary of the financial burden of a nuclear new-build project. Its chief executive Wojciech Dabrowski had said on several occasions that a large investment in nuclear would exceed the financial capabilities of the company.
“Poland needs to invest in large-scale nuclear power in order to replace coal-based conventional energy in the future. Together with investments in renewables, this will be the basis of our energy security.”
“This is particularly important given the global energy crisis and fossil fuel market constraints caused by Russian invasion in Ukraine,” he said.
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OPG Applies For License To Build First SMR At Darlington Site
Canadian utility Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has submitted a construction license application to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) which could pave the way to the deployment of a small modular reactor (SMR) at the site of the Darlington nuclear power station.
OPG said in a statement the application consists of several document packages which will be consecutively provided to CNSC over the next six months.
OPG is collaborating with TVA sharing lessons learned about design and licensing the BWRX300. In Canada the GEH reactor is still in Phase 2 of the CNSC Vendor Design Review (VDR) process. Similarly, in the US GE Hitachi continues to work with the NRC submitting topical reports as part of a pre-licensing dialog. OPG will proceed with non-nuclear work at the Darlington site for now.
The company said the CNSC application has been jointly prepared in partnership with GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), which has proposed its BWRX-300 SMR for deployment at Darlington.
OPG said in an email statement to this blog the Vendor Design Review (VDR) process and the License to Construct application process are separate and distinct.
“The VDR is an optional service provided by CNSC when requested by a vendor and is not required in order to submit a License to Construct application.”
“A VDR is a feedback mechanism that enables CNSC staff to provide feedback early in the design process based on a vendor’s reactor technology. The conclusions of any design review do not bind or otherwise influence decisions made by the Commission. The GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 VDR is in progress and phase 2 is expected to be complete by the end of 2022.”
“In parallel, OPG’s License to Construct application includes a detailed review of technology and associated safety systems. Key licensing documents will be available on OPG’s website over the next few weeks.”
In December 2021, OPG selected GEH as its technology partner for its Darlington SMR project. The first grid-scale plant is scheduled to be completed by 2028.
This new license submission comes after site preparation activities began in early October. Site preparation works are expected to continue into 2025 and consist of non-nuclear infrastructure activities, such as clearing and grading a portion of the new nuclear site to build roads, utilities and support buildings.
The Darlington SMR will be one of the first ever developed and is expected to spearhead similar projects in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Alberta, with interest also growing in the US and Europe.
GEH’s BWRX-300 is a 300-MW water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems and based on an existing boiling water reactor design – the ESBWR – that is licensed in the US. It also uses an existing, licensed fuel design.
GEH has said the reactor will require significantly less capital cost per MW when compared to other water-cooled SMR designs or existing large nuclear reactor designs.
Darlington, north of Toronto on the shore of Lake Ontario, is the only site in Canada with an approved environmental assessment and regulatory license for new nuclear. The station has four CANDU PHWRs in commercial operation.
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U.S. and Japan Bilateral Agreement to Support Export of SMRs to Ghana
The US said it will work with Japan toward exporting small nuclear reactor technology to Ghana, with the two allies promoting the advanced power generation method to help other countries meet their clean energy goals.
In an initial step to support the deployment of a so-called small modular reactor in the African country, a feasibility study is planned to be conducted by companies including Japanese heavy machinery manufacturer IHI, plant builder JGC as well as NuScale Power, a small modular reactor developer based in the United States.
Through the project, Ghana will have the opportunity “not only to demonstrate leadership in advancing energy security and climate action globally, but also establish itself as a regional center of excellence in Africa for the deployment of innovative nuclear technologies,” the U.S. State Department said.
The department also said the United States, Japan and Ghana are committed to “upholding the highest standards of nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation.”
In 2021, the United States launched an initiative to support the use of small modular reactor technology. Countries such as Japan, Britain, Estonia, Ghana, the Philippines, Romania, South Korea and Ukraine are also engaged in the initiative, according to a joint statement issued in August this year.
More than 80 small modular reactor designs are under development in 19 countries and the first such units are already in operation in China and Russia, the IAEA said.
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TVA Plans New Sites for Up to 50 SMRs
TVA has told the US Department of Energy that it is now planning to build new small modular reactors (SMRs) within its multi-state service area to replace coal fired power plants.
“This project will screen the TVA service area to help determine suitable sites for future ANR (advanced nuclear reactor) deployment,” TVA said.
“TVA will work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) subject matter experts and the Oak Ridge Siting Analysis for power Generation Expansion (OR-SAGE) tool to assist in defining suitable candidate sites for ANR development.”
The TVA board in February authorized spending up to $200 million to pursue plans for several small modular reactors on the site of the former Clinch River Breeder Reactor in Oak Ridge. The utility’s early site permit for the project calls for up to 800 MW of generating capacity which implies multiple SMRs each with less than 300 MW of power.
In August, TVA announced an agreement with the manufacturer of the GE-Hitachi BWRX-300 to pursue their small reactor design for the Oak Ridge site.
TVA President Jeff Lyash said he hopes to put these SMRs into revenue service within the next decade and, if successful, to pursue similar small modular reactors at other sites in the Tennessee Valley. He told news media in TVA’s home town of Chattanogga, TN, that the utility might be looking long term at up to 50 SMRs at various sites in its multi-state service area.
The TVA board and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) must still sign off of the new reactors. Also, to finance them it may be necessary for TVA to ask Congress to raise its debt ceiling to pay for them.
“We are taking a disciplined, phased approach,” Lyash told TVA directors in August.
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Mexico 123 Agreement is Confirmed
(Wire Services) A bilateral agreement on nuclear energy between the United States and Mexico entered into force, the U.S. State Department adding that it will enhance cooperation on energy security.
The agreement is the “first bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation” between the two countries, the department said.
Known as 123 agreements, such accords pave the way the peaceful transfer of nuclear material, equipment and information from the United States in adherence with nonproliferation requirements.
The US Department of State said in a press announcement, “The United States and Mexico’s Agreement for Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy entered into force. The agreement will enhance our cooperation on energy security and strengthen our diplomatic and economic relationship.”
“This is the first bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation between the United States and Mexico. The Agreement builds on the nearly 80 years of peaceful nuclear cooperation between our two countries and establishes the conditions for continued U.S. civil nuclear trade with Mexico.”
“Civil nuclear cooperation agreements, also known as 123 agreements, provide a legal framework for exports of nuclear material, equipment, and components from the United States to another country. This agreement provides a comprehensive framework for peaceful nuclear cooperation with Mexico based on a mutual commitment to nuclear nonproliferation. It will permit the transfer of nuclear material, equipment (including reactors), components, and information for nuclear research and nuclear power production.”
Mexico and the United States signed the agreement in 2018, but Mexico’s Senate did not give its approval until March of this year.
The Mexican state power utility, Comision Federal de Electricidad, has one nuclear plant operating two reactors. Energy Minister Rocio Nahle has described nuclear energy as “clean, safe, constant and profitable.”
While Mexico has not announced plans for new nuclear reactors, the use of SMRs at coastal sites could support desalination of seawater for the country’s desert regions.
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