- Six SMR Firms File for UK Generic Design Assessment
- NuScale Submits Design Approval Application to NRC For Updated Voygr Reactor
- Japan’s Push to Restart Nuclear Reactors Delayed
- Rokkasho Spent Fuel Reprocessing Plant Delayed Again
- UK £75 Million Nuclear Fuel Fund Will Reduce Reliance On Russia
- Bulgaria’s Kozloduy Nuclear Station Signs Nuclear Fuel Agreement With Framatome
- Sweden Turns to France as it Looks to Buy Two New Nuclear Reactors
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Six SMR Firms File for UK Generic Design Assessment
The hottest near term market for small modular reactors appears to be in the UK. In December six developers of SMRs, which have power ratings of 50-300 MWe, submitted applications to the UK Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to enter the generic design assessment (GDA) process that leads to licensing a reactor to be built there.
The UK Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) issued a report on the virtual avalanche of paper, in digital form, that descended on the ONR. The GDA is a complicated and expensive regulatory process that assesses new nuclear reactor designs for safety, security and environmental impacts.
Here’s a Lineup of the Action
GE Hitachi submitted an application for its BWRX-300 boiling water reactor in December. The BWRX-300 is a 300MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR, with passive safety systems adapted from the US-licensed ESBWR. GE Hitachi says it has been designed to achieve construction and operating costs which are substantially lower than traditional nuclear plants, and could be deployed as early as 2028. Like all developer claims of this nature, they will be tested by Rickover’s paradigm which is designing paper reactors is easy, building them is hard.
“We believe the BWRX-300 is the ideal technology to help the UK meet its decarbonization and energy security goals,” said Sean Sexstone, executive vice president for advanced nuclear at GE Hitachi. “Regulatory agencies in Canada and the US are collaborating on their licensing review of the BWRX-300. Through the GDA process we look forward to engaging UK regulators and enabling collaboration with their global counterparts.”
The US-Japanese company’s submission was supported by Jacobs UK. GE Hitachi has also signed an initial agreement with Sheffield Forgemasters to discuss how the manufacturer could help meet the demands of deploying the BWRX-300 in the UK. The firm is an obvious choice to fabricate the reactor pressure vessels and other large, long lead time components for the SMR.
Holtec submitted its SMR-160 design which is a 160MWe pressurized water reactor developed in collaboration with Mitsubishi Electric of Japan and Hyundai Engineering and Construction of Korea. The US firm proposed to deploy 32 SMR-160s (5.1 GWe total) at various customer sites in the UK, Poland, and Ukraine, among other places, in serial production by 2050.
Holtec Britain announced a joint memorandum of understanding with Balfour Beatty and Korea’s Hyundai on construction planning for the UK, with potential sites identified at Trawsfynydd in Wales, and Heysham and Oldbury in England.
Applications from Other Companies include:
US firm X-Energy, which is working with Cavendish Nuclear to deploy its high-temperature gas reactor in the UK. The reactor is aimed at industrial decarbonization as well as electricity generation. X-Energy said its first units will be deployed in the US from 2027, with the UK to follow. The X-Energy SMR is being developed under the US Department of Energy Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program for deployment of a first-of-a-kind unit at a site in Richland, WA.
UK-Italian start-up Newcleo is focused on lead-cooled fast reactors. The company is aiming to develop a 30MWe micro-reactor by 2030, followed by a 200MWe reactor fueled by waste from existing nuclear plants.
UK Atomics, a subsidiary of Danish-based start-up Copenhagen Atomics, is developing a containerized thorium molten salt reactor. The firm said it has already constructed a prototype reactor, and is aiming for first deployment in 2028.
GMET, a Cumbrian engineering group which last year acquired established nuclear supplier TSP Engineering, said it is developing a small reactor called NuCell for production at TSP’s Workington facility.
Rolls-Royce SMR is the only SMR developer to formally begin GDA. The firm submitted its 470MWe design in November 2021, with the regulators starting the first stage of assessment in April 2022. The firm has received significant funding from the UK government in support of its plan to deploy a fleet of 16 of the mid-range reactors at UK sites and to also produce the design for export.
Significantly, none of the applicants for the UK GDA certification have formally submitted license applications to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). However, GE-Hitachi, Holtec, and X-Energy are in preliminary design review dialogs with the agency having submitted topical reports on various aspects of their reactor designs.
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NuScale Submits Design Approval Application to NRC For Updated Voygr Reactor
(NucNet) SMR developer NuScale has completed submission of a standard design approval application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its updated SMR design. NuScale said the design is based on a six-module Voygr-6 configuration powered by an uprated 77 MW module.
The updated design features the same fundamental safety case and totally passive safety features approved by the NRC in 2020, with a power uprate and select design changes to “support customers’ capacity needs and further improve economics,” NuScale said.
In November 2020, NuScale concluded that its technology could generate 25% more power per module for a total of 77 MWe per module. Because of the higher power output, NuScale decided to seek approval of a six module, Voygr-6 design, instead of the 12-module configuration that was in the previously approved design.
The NRC approved NuScale’s SMR design in 2020. The design remains the only SMR design application to be submitted to and approved by the NRC.
The NRC’s approval of the NuScale design’s safety aspect has led customers like mining company KGHM Polska Miedz in Poland and state nuclear power corporation Nuclearelectrica in Romania to take steps over the last two years toward deploying Voygr SMR power plants to meet their clean energy needs.
In the US, public power consortium Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is planning to deploy a six-module Voygr plant in Idaho for baseload supply to utilities in the area.
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Japan’s Push to Restart Nuclear Reactors Delayed
Worker shortages and supply chain woes due to an 11 year hiatus for investments and support of nuclear reactors have tossed twin spanners into the gears of Japan’s plan to ramp up its fleet of nuclear reactors.
Japan’s new policy to restart its nuclear power industry is facing serious setbacks. Eleven years of vigorous anti-nuclear politics have resulted in a severe shortage of engineers, a lack of students seeking nuclear engineering degrees, and the near collapse of domestic nuclear manufacturing capacity.
According to Japanese English language wire service reports, the Japan Electrical Manufacturers’ Association (JEMA) claims the number of “skilled engineers responsible for manufacturing nuclear equipment” has declined by 45 percent since the government banned nuclear power projects and shut existing reactors in response to the Fukushima meltdown in 2011.
In addition, the JEMA said there are 14 percent fewer students in nuclear engineering programs at Japan’s universities and graduate schools, the Financial Times reports.
In 2022 Japan restarted several nuclear plants to stave off energy uncertainty due to interrupted gas flows from Russia, which the country has relied on since decommissioning its nuclear facilities.
Several Japanese companies have restarted investments in nuclear research & development since the moratorium has lifted.. Mitsubishi has partnered with several power utilities to develop a new form of light-water reactor that’s more stable, safer and easier to control, and is also working on smaller nuclear reactors as well as gas-cooled reactors that produce hydrogen. However, the design is unlikely to be ready for customers in the near term.
Japanese officials previously planned to phase out nuclear power entirely by 2030, but now hopes nearly a quarter of the country’s power will come from nuclear sources by the end of the 2020s. This ambitious and unrealistic goal will require construction of an additional 17 new full size reactors by 2030. More likely, the build out will take an additional decade to complete.
Japan is now facing the consequences of its decade long panic attack about nuclear energy. Sooner or later Germany, despite the anti-nuclear enthusiasm of its Green Party, may face the same grim outlook for energy security.
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Rokkasho Spent Fuel Reprocessing Plant Delayed Again
(WNN) Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited (JNFL) has announced that it now expects the reprocessing plant under construction at Rokkasho in Japan’s Aomori Prefecture to begin commercial operation in 2024 instead of 2022.
JNFL said it decided to revise the completion date of plant due to enhance safety by complying with new regulatory requirements. It said the new schedule is “based on a comprehensive judgement, considering the three elements – construction works, conformity review for Design and Construction Plans and inspections”.
JNFL noted that the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s (NRA’s) approval of the first part of the Design and Construction Plans on 12/21/22 “was a big step toward the completion”. The company applied for the approval of the second part of Design and Construction Plans on 12/26/22.
So what happened? The official story is that delays in the approval of the first part of the Design and Construction Plans had been caused by “insufficient communication with the NRA as well as insufficient information sharing and collaboration “among sections involved.”
The company said its expects the conformity review for Design and Construction Plans to take about one year, and the inspection period after the approval to be four-to-seven months.
Construction of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant began in 1993 and was originally expected to be completed by 1997. However, its construction and commissioning have faced several delays. The facility is based on the same technology as Orano’s La Hague plant in France. Once operational, the maximum reprocessing capacity of the Rokkasho plant will be 800 tonnes per year, according to JNFL.
Following the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, new safety standards for nuclear fuel cycle facilities came into force in December 2013. The requirements vary from facility to facility, but generally include reinforcement measures against natural threats such as earthquakes and tsunamis, and in some cases tornadoes, volcanoes and forest fires.
Reprocessing plants need to demonstrate these as well as countermeasures specifically against terrorist attacks, hydrogen explosions, fires resulting from solvent leaks and vaporization of liquid waste.
On 07/29/20 JNFL received permission from the NRA for the modification of safety measures at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. Additional equipment and systems are being installed for the recovery of radioactivity in the event of a severe accident. Additional safety-related countermeasures are also being put in place, such as internal flood protection, strengthening of the seismic resistance of pipework and improving measures against internal fires.
However, it appears that all of the work the firm has done to date is not sufficient in the eyes of the NRA resulting in a major effort to insure the work done is a match with regulatory requirements.
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UK £75 Million Nuclear Fuel Fund Will Reduce Reliance On Russia
(NucNet) The UK government said on 01/02/23 its £75m ($89M) fund aimed at helping boost domestic production of nuclear fuel for power plants and cutting reliance on Russian uranium supplies is open for applications.
The Nuclear Fuel Fund will award grants to businesses involved in uranium conversion, a key stage in the process of creating nuclear fuel from the metal. It will remain open for applications until mid-February.
It will support projects such as fuel supply options for light-water reactors, including future small modular reactors. It will also look to support projects producing new fuel types that will be needed to supply advanced modular reactors, likely to be in operation from the 2030s, such as high-assay low-enriched uranium, or HALEU.
The government said the fund would “encourage investment in new and robust fuel production capabilities in the UK, to reduce reliance on civil nuclear and related goods from Russia” and back its ambition to secure up to 24GW of nuclear power by 2050.
“Record high global gas prices, caused by Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, have highlighted the need for more home-grown renewable energy, but also UK generated nuclear power – building more plants, and developing domestic fuel capability,” minister for energy and climate Graham Stuart said.
Springfields Site ‘Of Strategic Importance’
Up to £13M of the fund has already been awarded to Westinghouse’s Springfields nuclear fuel manufacturing site in northwest England.
The government said Springfields – which has provided nuclear fuel fabrication services since the mid-1940s – has strategic importance to producing fuel for the current UK advanced gas-cooled reactor fleet.
The funding will mean the UK has the option of being less reliant on imports from abroad and will help Westinghouse develop the capability convert both reprocessed uranium and freshly mined uranium to make new fuel.
Energy supply has become a key focus since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove costs sharply higher. Planned additions to nuclear electricity generation capacity will reduce Britain’s reliance on natural gas, which fuelled around 45% of generation in 2021.
G7 leaders agreed in June to take collective action to reduce reliance on civil nuclear and related goods from Russia, including diversifying their supplies of uranium and nuclear fuel production capability. Russia owns about 20% of global uranium conversion capacity and 40% of enrichment capacity.
Tom Greatrex, the chief executive of the London-based Nuclear Industry Association, said: “Having the sovereign capability to manufacture next-generation nuclear fuels for advanced reactors of the future is vital for energy security and net zero.”
The news comes just over a month after ministers confirmed the first state backing of a nuclear project in over 30 years, with a £700M stake in plans for two EPR nuclear plants at Sizewell C in Suffolk, eastern England.
The government said its “nuclear acceleration” requires pushing ahead to deliver new reactors, including advanced modular reactors, which will need new fuel streams.
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Bulgaria’s Kozloduy Nuclear Station Signs Nuclear Fuel Agreement With Framatome
(NucNet) Bulgaria’s Kozloduy nuclear power station has signed an agreement for the delivery of nuclear fuel for the second of its two commercial VVER-1000 reactor units with the Germany-based wing of France’s Framatome.
Kozloduy said in a statement that the agreement with Framatome is related to a contract to be signed for 12 fuel loads at the Kozloduy-6 pressurized water reactor (PWR) unit between 2025 and 2034.
Bulgaria has two Russia-designed VVER-1000 PWR units in commercial operation at Kozloduy on the Danube River in the north of the country. The two plants, inherited from the socialist era, provide about one third of the country’s electricity.
The Framatome agreement comes following the signing on 12/22/22 of a 10-year fuel supply deal between the Bulgarian plant and US-based Westinghouse for twin unit Kozloduy-5.
Bulgarian energy minister Rosen Hristov said the new fuel agreement with Framatome “completes” the process of diversification of fuel supplies for Kozloduy.
He said some of the details to be agreed upon on at a later stage with Framatome will include pricing for the new fuel and the logistic arrangements around its delivery.
Bulgaria currently receives nuclear fuel from Russia’s state-owned Tvel under a 2019 contract which is set to expire in 2025. Hristov told journalists at a press conference earlier this month that receiving supplies from Tvel in 2024 would not be possible because the Russian side had asked for changes to the contract which had been “unacceptable”.
Hristov had earlier said that the diversification of fuel supplies for the Kozloduy units had been coordinated with the European Union’s Euratom Supply Agency, which oversees Europe’s supply of nuclear materials.
According to earlier statements by Hristov, Framatome’s proposed fuel will not need a new permit from the Bulgarian nuclear regulatory agency because it will be of the Russian design currently in use, but produced in Europe by Framatome under a licence.
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Sweden Turns to France as it Looks to Buy Two New Nuclear Reactors
(Euronews) Sweden and France could be set to join forces to build new nuclear power stations to boost domestic power production and guarantee security of the nation’s energy supply.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson outlined the possible partnership in Paris on his first trip to an EU capital since Sweden took over the six-month rotating EU Council Presidency on 01/01/23.
“The Swedish-French partnership has good potential in nuclear energy,” Kristersson said in the courtyard of the Elysée Palace, standing next to French President Emmanuel Macron.
“The new Swedish government is determined to build new nuclear power plants and we are very impressed by the French experience in this area.”
Sweden “needs to buy two nuclear reactors”, Ulf Kristersson told Swedish journalists during his visit to Paris.
“And I am entirely open to France being one of the countries that will make sure that Sweden has more nuclear power.”
Sweden currently has six reactors in operation at three different plants, commissioned between 1975 and 1985. Several other reactors have been shut down since 1999.
The Swedish Prime Minister also expressed his desire to strengthen cooperation with France in the defense and space sectors.
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