- VP Harris Opens Talks in Philippines, Thailand on Nuclear Energy
- Danish Company to Begin Testing Thorium Prototype
- Finland to Buy Fuel from Westinghouse for its Russian Built VVER Reactors
- Rolls-Royce in Talks to Supply Nuclear Reactor to UK Chemicals Giant INEOS
- UK BEIS Commits £120 million to Nuclear Fusion
- France Names New CEO For Troubled EDF
VP Harris Opens Talks in Philippines and Thailand on Nuclear Energy
US Vice President Kamala Harris opened talks this month with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vice President Sara Duterte Carpio in Manila to promote security and economic ties between the two nations. During her visit Harris offered a “clean energy partnership” to help build small modular reactors (SMRs) which are less than 300 MWe. She also had similar meetings in Thailand (see report below). Fact Sheet
In order to enable US firms to export nuclear technologies to the Philippines, that nation must have an agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act. The Vice President announced that the United States and the Philippines are initiating negotiations on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement (“123 agreement”) to support expanded cooperation on zero-emission energy and nonproliferation priorities.
Once in force, this agreement will provide the legal basis for U.S. exports of nuclear equipment and material to the Philippines. A spokesperson for Harris said the United States is committed to working with the Philippines to increase energy security and deploying advanced nuclear reactor technology as quickly as safety and security conditions permit to meet the Philippines’ dire baseload power needs. Such a deployment would support both energy security and climate goals, as well as support workers and businesses in both countries.
SMRs for Thailand?
The US will help Thailand develop nuclear power US Vice President Kamala Harris announced on a visit to Bangkok this month.
The White House said the assistance was part of its Net Zero World Initiative, a project launched at last year’s Glasgow climate summit in which the US partners with the private sector and philanthropists to promote clean energy.
Thailand does not have nuclear power. Public sentiment is reportedly not favorable due to the media frenzy resulting from the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.
The White House said it would offer technical assistance to the country to deploy SMRs.
“We really look forward to working with Thailand to take advantage of the benefits of small modular reactors and reliable clean energy sources,” said a senior US official traveling with Harris.
A White House statement said that US experts would work with Thailand on deploying the reactors, which will have the “highest standards of safety, security and nonproliferation” and boast a smaller land footprint than alternatives.
The White House did not give a timeline for the program. Like the Philippines, Thailand does not have a 123 Agreement with the US. The two countries will need to work together to sign off on one.
Harris, who is visiting the US ally for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, reportedly discussed the nuclear power initiative in a meeting with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
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Danish Company to Begin Testing Thorium Prototype
The company said the technology brings “a major paradigm shift” for nuclear energy. The prototype will be tested this winter in Copenhagen.
The reactor is fueled by thorium, which is much more abundant than uranium. The amount of thorium needed to cover the energy consumption of a person’s lifetime is comparable to the size of a golf ball.
“This technology is sustainable also due to the fact that it can use waste from traditional nuclear power plants,” the company said.
“At the same time, the amount of final waste will only be a fraction of that of conventional reactors and its storage time will be reduced from 100,000 years to 300 years.”
Copenhagen Atomics said its reactors will be built on an assembly line with an expected production output of one unit per day. Thanks to the economies of scale and low cost of thorium, the energy produced will be radically cheaper than any previous nuclear technologies, the company claims.
It said the 100 MWth reactor can provide energy at an anticipated price of $20/MWh. The developers of small modular reactors, using conventional light water design principles, are targeting a price in the region of $50/MWh – comparable to offshore wind – although some analysts believe this is optimistic.
The plant will have an output temperature of 560C which makes it ideal for industrial plants requiring process heat.
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Finland to Buy Fuel from Westinghouse for its Russian Built VVER Reactors
- Westinghouse and Fortum Sign Long-Term Partnership for VVER-440 Nuclear Fuel
Westinghouse Electric Company and Fortum recently signed a long-term partnership to develop, license and deliver VVER-440 fuel to the Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant in Finland to guarantee a dependable Western alternative to Russian-supplied fuel.
The Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant has two VVER pressurized water reactors (PWR) that cover about 13% of Finland’s electricity production. The amount of electricity generated at the Loviisa power plant is nearly equivalent to the total combined electricity consumption of the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, and Vantaa.
“The new and parallel fuel supplier will diversify our fuel strategy, improve security of supply and ensure reliable electricity production at the Loviisa power plant also in the future,” says Sasu Valkamo, Vice President, Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant.
“Westinghouse offers the only alternative fuel for this type of reactors that is both designed and manufactured outside of Russia, so this partnership will provide increased energy security for Finland and fuel diversification for Fortum,” said Tarik Choho, Westinghouse President of Nuclear Fuel.
“We are proud to support Fortum’s operating fleet with fuel reload quantities, building on our successful collaboration delivering VVER-440 fuel for Loviisa from 2001 to 2007.”
NucNett reported that Fortum said it has applied for extending the operating lifetimes of both Loviisa units until 2050, which means that a fuel supply tendering process will be organized for the new operating license period.
Westinghouse manufactures VVER-1000 fuel at its facility in Västerås, Sweden, but in recent years has been looking to restart its production capabilities for the smaller VVER-440 units. It also supplies fuel for VVER nuclear plants in Ukraine.
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Rolls-Royce in Talks to Supply Nuclear Reactor to UK Chemicals Giant INEOS
- Rolls-Royce is in talks to build a 470 MWe nuclear reactor to power a chemicals plant in Scotland.
Rolls is at the head of a consortium which has plans to build 16 470MWe across the UK with each reactor estimated to cost around £1.8 billion
INEOS runs the Grangemouth chemical plant in conjunction with China’s state-run Petro-China. The firm wants Grangemouth to be carbon neutral by 2045. The Grangemouth site is Scotland’s only crude oil refinery. It has the capacity to produce around 7 million tonnes of fuels and 1.4 million tonnes of petrochemicals per year.
Last month, Rolls said it had identified the first locations for its reactors, with other sites Wales, Sellafield in Cumbria and Oldbury, near Bristol, pinpointed.
A spokesman for Rolls-Royce told The Telegraph: “Rolls-Royce SMR is talking to a number of industrial customers who see huge potential in using our UK developed technology to provide affordable, long-term, low carbon electricity, generated from a sustainable source.”
“In addition to generating low-carbon electricity for the grid, its small footprint and factory-built approach means the Rolls-Royce SMR can be deployed to power, energy intensive industrial processes, including the production of hydrogen and synthetic fuels.”
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UK BEIS Commits £120 million to Nuclear Fusion
Nuclear fusion forms part of the government’s long-term plans to harness new technologies to build what it described as a “strong, home-grown energy sector” that reduces reliance on fossil fuels and exposure to volatile global gas prices.
The funding will accelerate the rollout of nuclear power with the British Energy Security Strategy having set a new target of up to 24GW by 2050.
The money is divided into two pots.
£42.1 million has been allocated to the Fusion Industry Program. This program creates a challenge fund, designed to engage and support UK businesses in important technical challenges of fusion. This would help build capabilities and spur commercial innovation.
£84 million has been allocated for Joint European Torus (JET) Operations. This will support JET, the “world’s largest and most powerful fusion experimentation”, BEIS said, in a bid to continue operations which will provide new insights and support for other UK fusion programs such as Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP).
Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP)
This funding adds to the previously announced £220 million which was to be used for the first phase of STEP in October. In doing so, this will see the UK Atomic Energy Authority produce a concept design by 2024. This is built on an initial £200 million investment to support the first five years of development in 2019.
STEP is a UKAEA program that will demonstrate the ability to generate net electricity from fusion. It will also determine how the plant will be maintained through its operational life and prove the potential for the plant to produce its own fuel.
The first phase of the program is to produce a concept design by 2024. It will be a spherical tokamak, connected to the National Grid and producing net energy, although it is not expected to be a commercially operating plant at this stage.
The Government has pledged the investment as part of a £484M package to support the UK R&D sector while agreement is sought with the EU on participation in European research programs.
Professor Ian Chapman, CEO of UKAEA, said:
“Today’s announcement will support and secure the UK’s status as a scientific, international and commercial leader in fusion science. It gives welcome assurance that JET can complete its mission with a series of internationally important experiments throughout 2023. It also allows UKAEA to expand the Fusion Industry Program, working with companies to deliver a thriving UK fusion ecosystem.”
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France Names New CEO For Troubled EDF
The French government officially appointed Luc Remont as chief CEO for EDF, the state-controlled national electricity utility that must get nuclear reactors back online before winter closes in. It is not certain that all of the reactors will be back online this month or next.
Remont, a top civil servant with private banking experience, replaces Jean-Bernard Levy, whose departure set when the government announced in July that it would take full ownership of the debt-laden firm to ensure the country’s energy security.
EDF operates the 56 nuclear reactors that generate around 70% of France’s electricity needs. However, an unacceptably high number of them have been offline for months due to issues with their emergency cooling systems.
Officials worry that without sufficient generating capacity as temperatures drop, EDF will have to buy increasing quantities of electricity on the European power market, where prices have spiked as Russia’s war against Ukraine continues into 2023.
French grid operator RTE warned of a “high risk” of network strain due to the power plant outages, which could see businesses and households forced to curb usage to avoid outright power cuts.
President Emmanuel Macron has also called for the construction of at least six next-generation nuclear power plants to make France less reliant on energy imports. The new plants could support export of electicity to other countries that want to reduce their reliance on coal and natural gas. However, EDF is saddled with legacy debt of 60 billion euros ($62.2 billion). A major financial bailout will be needed to build the new reactors.
Remont, a graduate of France’s elite Polytechnique engineering school, has worked in government ministries, the industrial giant Schneider Electric, and as a mergers and acquisitions advisor at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Is he up to the challenges facing EDF?
“In this context of energy crisis, EDF itself is in a serious crisis, both technical and industrial, that is accentuating the strains on energy supply,” Remont told a parliamentary committee in October.
“This could be the mission of a lifetime,” he said.
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