- Westinghouse Launches Joint Regulatory Reviews at CNSC and NRC for eVinci Advanced Micro Reactor
- NRC’s Draft Part 53 Regulation for Advanced Reactors Faces Strong Industry Headwinds
- Canada Launches New Small Modular Reactor Funding Program
- Third UAE Reactor Starts Revenue Service
- UAE’s ENEC Visits DOE’s Idaho Lab
- UK Launches Effort for New Build of 1st Prototype Fusion Plant by 2032
- Tokamak Energy to Build Fusion Prototype at UKAEA’s Campus
Westinghouse Launches Joint Regulatory Reviews at CNSC and NRC for eVinci Advanced Micro Reactor
(NucNet contributed to this report) Westinghouse, fueled by a $27M grant from the Canadian government, has begun a joint licensing process for the eVinci microreactor in Canada and the US.
The company said in a press statement that it has filed a notice of intent to submit key licensing reports for the eVinci design to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a joint review. The two nuclear regulatory agencies previously signed an MOU in 2019 to facilitate technical reviews of advanced nuclear technologies.
In March 2022 The Canadian Ministry of Innovation, Science and Industry granted Westinghouse Electric Canada CAD27.2 million (USD21.5 million) to support further development and progress towards licensing of its eVinci micro reactor. As a result of a recent sale, the firm is for all intents and purposes a Canadian firm despite having significant assets in the US and overseas.
In an email statement, a ministry spokesperson said that the investment will support funding for the development and eventual licensing of the eVinci micro-reactor. The spokesman said the grant was made because smaller size of the reactor design will result in a more accessible, widespread, and transportable nuclear source of energy with additional security and regulations to ensure its safety.
In October 2022 Westinghouse gave a green light for participation in the CNSC Vendor Design Review (Phases 1 & 2 combined). The firm actually filed three years earlier in 2018 but took no action until September 2022.
Relative to progress in the US at the NRC, the firm filed a “regulatory engagement plan” in December 2021. A review of documents in NRC’s ADAMS public online library on 10/01/22 indicates that Westinghouse has submitted to the NRC 24 pre-licensing work products.
Examples include Fuel Qualification and Testing, Emergency Planning Zone Sizing Methodology and Heat Pipe Design, Qualification and Testing. However, as is the usual case for new reactor technologies, the substance of these white papers and technical documents is restricted from public access due to the proprietary nature of the information.
Topics for the newly announced joint review include a common set of key requirements for the classification of systems, structures and components for the eVinci microreactor. This approach will enable deployment of a standard design in both the US and Canada. Other topics for review are defining the necessary transportation requirements for shipment of the eVinci microreactor across the border and factory safety testing and inspection programs.
According to Westinghouse, eVinci is a next-generation, very small modular reactor for decentralized heat and power generation including off-grid sites, remote communities, disaster recovery, industrial sites, defense facilities, marine propulsion, hydrogen generation, and water purification among other uses. The small size of the eVinci reactor, between 5-10 MW, will allow for easier transportation and rapid onsite installation.
David Durham, president for energy systems at Westinghouse, said, “The eVinci will “unlock additional potential in remote communities and decentralized industrial sites” and can operate without refueling for up to eight years.”
About the eVinci Micro Reactor
In March 2019. after several earlier false starts, including a complete withdrawal in 2014 from efforts to enter the SMR market with an LWR design, Westinghouse buoyed with a $12.9 million grant from the US Department of Energy, decided to make another go of it. The firm said it will spend $28.9 million to demonstrate the readiness of the technology of its 25 MWe eVinci micro-reactor. The government money, which is covering about half of the costs, will cover design, analysis, licensing to manufacture, siting, and testing work.
Conceptual Image eVinci Micro Reactor: Image: Westinghouse
Key Technical Attributes
On its website Westinghouse said the reactor’s small size and innovative design set it apart. (Fact Sheet and Technical Profile – PDF file) Here’s a short list of key technical details.
- Transportable as a reliable energy generator
- Fully factory built, fueled and assembled
- Output of up to 25 MWe electrical
- Up to 600ºC process heat for petr chemical and other industrial uses
- Five to ten year life with walkaway inherent safety
- Target less than 30 days for onsite installation
- Autonomous load management capability
- Proliferation resistance through encapsulation of fuel
- Minimal moving parts
Westinghouse said in a statement to the nuclear trade press that it faces several key challenges. First among them is getting enough HALEU fuel for a fleet of the reactors to be shipped to various customers. In its fact sheet the firm says the rector’s fuel load could be viable for eight to ten years without refueling depending on use and power rating.
According to the fact sheet, the core design is built around a solid monolith with channels for both heat pipes and fuel pellets. Each fuel pin in the core is adjacent to three heat pipes for efficiency and redundancy. Overall, there is a 1-to-2, heat-pipe-to-fuel ratio throughout the core. The large number of in-core heat pipes is intended to increase system reliability and safety. Decay heat also can be removed by the heat pipes with the decay heat exchanger.
The firm said in 2019 it planned to deploy a licensed commercial version by 2025. Given the three year delay in kicking off the CNSC VDR process, it is plausible to assume that date will be pushed back, but it could still be achieved prior to the end of the 2020s.
Westinghouse is an all Canadian Company in Terms of Ownership
In October 2022, just months after giant Canadian private equity firm Brookfield put Westinghouse up for sale in May 2022, a deal appeared. In an all Canadian line up, uranium miner Cameco has teamed with Brookfield Renewable Partners to acquire the company. Brookfield Renewable, with its institutional partners, will own a 51% interest in Westinghouse and Cameco will own 49%.
The total enterprise value for Westinghouse is $7.875 billion. Westinghouse’s existing debt structure will remain in place, leaving an estimated $4.5 billion equity cost to the consortium. This equity cost will be shared proportionately between Brookfield and its institutional partners (approximately $2.3 billion) and Cameco (approximately $2.2 billion).
Brookfield Renewable Power Fund originated as the Great Lakes Hydro Income Fund before changing its name in 2009. Brookfield Renewable Power Inc. was a wholly owned subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management.
The deal appears to be, on the Brookfield side, a shift of the Westinghouse assets from one part of the overall fund balance sheet to a subsidiary.
A key benefit for Cameco, according to an analysis by the Seeking Alpha website, is that it expands the firm’s market for its uranium. Defending the $7.9B deal, Cameco CEO Tim Gitzel said acquiring Westinghouse allows Cameco (CCJ) to capitalize on the full nuclear supply chain, rather than only being a source of the base fuel, and he sees a “wave” of demand coming for nuclear power as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a “game changer” for countries seeking energy security.
Other Joint CNSC / NRC Regulatory Reviews
This is not the first time the two nuclear safety agencies have agreed to jointly review the design of an advanced small modular or micro reactor. In December 2019 CNSC and the NRC selected Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR for the first joint technical review of an advanced, non-light water nuclear reactor technology.
The selection of Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR for joint technical review follows the August 2019 Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) between the CNSC and the NRC that further expands the agencies’ cooperation on activities associated with advanced reactor and SMR technologies. The MOC’s collaborative technical reviews are intended to increase regulatory effectiveness as well as reaffirm the agencies’ commitment to safety and security.
The CNSC-NRC Memorandum of Cooperation is intended to expand the cooperation provisions of the 2017 MOU between the two agencies to include activities associated with advanced reactor and SMR technologies, and to further strengthen the agencies’ commitment to share best practices and experience through joint reviews of advanced reactor and SMR technology designs. (CNSC statement) (NRC statement)
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NRC’s Draft Part 53 Regulation for Advanced Reactors Faces Strong Industry Headwinds
Two nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), funded in part by the nuclear energy industry, have issued reports sharply critical of the upcoming release draft. Most recently, the Nuclear Innovation Alliance (NIA) said in a press statement on 02/24/23 and accompanying report that NIA understands that the industry is likely to see the draft rule package published in the coming weeks.
The NGO called the effort “flawed but fixable.” NIA Project Manager Patrick White, Ph.D., writes in the Executive Summary of the Report
“The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is about to make a decision with important implications for the future of advanced nuclear energy and for the United States’ ability to address its climate and energy security challenges.”
“A flawed but fixable draft rule for licensing advanced reactors is coming before the NRC’s five Commissioners this month. This moment requires the Commission to exercise its leadership role and provide clear and specific direction to NRC staff and management. With the right Commission direction, the capable NRC staff can modify the rule so that it will enable the safe and rapid deployment of gigawatts of new clean energy in the United States in the next two decades.” (Full Text NI Briefing PDF file)
Separately, the Breakthrough Institute (BI) issued a similarly sharply worded and detailed critique of the 1,200 page regulatory effort saying the NRC “proposed rule is more complex and burdensome than existing regulations.” (Full Text BI White Paper – PDF file)
“The draft framework is twice as long as either of the legacy, prescriptive licensing frameworks, Part 50 and 52, that it is intended to supplant. That is because the staff largely cut and pasted the old rules into the new framework, then added further burdensome regulations, including qualitative health objectives that cannot be complied with and expanded requirements for the notorious “As Low As Reasonably Achievable” radiation standard, a further invitation to endlessly ratchet regulatory requirements. These latter two standards have been added by NRC staff despite longstanding and clear direction from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission not to use either standard in the way that staff proposes to use them.”
Given these early warnings of trouble ahead for the draft package, BI noted that few developers of advanced nuclear reactors would likely use the draft rules, if they go final as is, preferring the older Part 50 and Part 52 rules with specific references removed for light water reactors.
BI also said that additional action is needed by Congress to reform the NRC as it has not, in BI’s view, lived up to the mandates of prior legislation that clearly called on the agency to streamline its regulation of new reactors. BI said on conclusion that with regard to the draft, “ the NRC staff should go back to the drawing board, start with a clean sheet of paper, engage stakeholders seriously, and draft a truly modernized and risk-informed licensing framework.”
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Canada Launches New Small Modular Reactor Funding Program
As Canada advances toward a low-carbon economy, many forms of clean energy are needed to power the growing demand for clean, affordable, and reliable electricity. These include nuclear energy, which is non-emitting, consistent and safe. The next generation of nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, will play an important role as Canada faces growing energy demands and is called upon to export our critical minerals and clean technologies to partners around the world.
This past week at the Canadian Nuclear Association’s annual conference, Canadian government officials announced the “Enabling Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) Program.” This program will promote the safe, commercial development of SMRs to contribute to our low-carbon economy and help fight climate change.
The new program will provide CAD29.6 million over four years, to:
- Develop supply chains for SMR manufacturing and fuel supply and security to support the crucial elements necessary for Canada’s SMR industry to thrive;
- Fund research on safe SMR waste management solutions to ensure that SMRs, and the waste they generate, will be safe now and into the future.
- Eligible applicants could include private companies, utilities, provinces and territories, universities and Indigenous groups.
The Program is open to R&D projects that request up to $5,000,000 (where the Program can provide up to 75% of the total project costs). It is anticipated that the Program’s average funding for a project will be between $500,000 and $2,500,000 with variation based on the size, scope, timeline and leveraged funding. Program funding is available for projects until March 31, 2027.
The officials noted that SMRs “offer a promising approach to support Canada’s low-carbon energy transition. They are less complex, easier to operate and more affordable than new, large-scale nuclear technology. For example, a 300MW SMR could supply enough clean power for an estimated 300,000 homes. SMRs could support the decarbonization of provincial electricity grids and heavy-emitting industries and could help remote communities transition away from diesel power.”
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Third UAE Reactor Starts Revenue Service
(World Nuclear News contributed to this report) Unit 3 of Abu Dhabi’s Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant has begun commercial operations. Each of the reactors supplies 1,400 MWe of power. This action boosts total production to 4,200MW of CO2 emission free electricity. It is the third unit to be delivered by South Korea to the UAE in three consecutive years.
Barakah’s operations teams were able to shorten the time taken to reach commercial operations after fuel loading by using their experiences from the first two units. ENEC said this took four months less for Barakah 3 than it did for unit 2, and more than five months less compared with unit 1. Construction of Barakah 3 was completed in November 2021. The Barakah site is located 175 miles west of Abu Dhaibi on the coast of the Persian Gulf.
Work to construct four South Korean-designed APR-1400 units at Barakah began in 2012. The first unit started up and was connected to the grid in August 2020 and began commercial operation in April 2021. Only one of the four planned units has yet to start operations. Unit 2 was grid-connected in September 2021 and began commercial operation in March 2022.
The three units at the plant already provided more than 80% of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi’s clean electricity consumption in December 2022, ENEC said. When complete, the four-unit plant is expected to meet up to 25% of the UAE’s electricity demand.
The UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) confirmed that Nawah has met all regulatory requirements for commercial operation to begin.
“The commercial operation of Unit 3 of Barakah Nuclear Power Plant is another major achievement which is the result of significant efforts made over the past years since the establishment of the UAE Nuclear Energy Program,” FANR Director General Christer Viktorsson said.
“During that period, FANR reviewed the nuclear power plant in terms of site selection, construction, testing and finally operation to ensure the operator complies with all regulatory requirements to ensure the safety of the public and the environment. FANR will continue to inspect the oversight activities for the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant during the operation phase to ensure all requirements are met.”
“Barakah is a successful global benchmark for other nations looking to diversify their energy portfolio during a time of international energy crises,” said Mohamed Al Hammadi, managing director and chief executive of ENEC.
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UAE’s ENEC Visits DOE’s Idaho Lab
A delegation from the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) met last week with experts from Idaho National Laboratory (INL), one of the world’s largest and most advanced scientific research institutions, to evaluate the latest developments in clean energy technologies, as part of its mission to rapidly decarbonize the UAE’s electricity grid.
The senior delegation, led by Mohamed Ibrahim Al Hammadi, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of ENEC, received a comprehensive briefing during the two-day tour from officials of INL and the US Department of Energy on the latest developments in the relevant sectors.
They discussed plans for advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, clean hydrogen generation, advanced nuclear fuels and materials, as well as the latest technologies in integrated grid management and cybersecurity.
As ENEC now focuses on realizing the full value of the UAE Program, developing partnerships with institutions including INL is key to driving decarbonization, as well as developing clean energy molecules, in a manner that is realistic, data driven, and supports energy security in addition to energy sustainability.
“INL is excited to partner with ENEC,” said INL Director John Wagner. “This is a key step forward to bring about a global clean energy future.”
About the INL
Idaho National Laboratory was founded as the National Reactor Testing Station in 1949 and encompasses about 900 square miles, or more or less the size of Rhode Island and is home to about 6,000 researchers and support staff members innovating nuclear energy research, renewable energy systems and security solutions.
The desert research site, euphemistically known during the Cold War era as the mythical railroad terminal of “Scoville, ID,” is located about 50 miles west of Idaho Falls,, ID on the Arco desert. INL also has a large multi-building research center and its administrative offices in Idaho Falls.
Several small modular reactor developers have agreements with the Department of Energy to deploy their first of a kind installations at the remote site in Idaho. They include;
- NuScale which is planning to build its 77 MWe light water design SMR for UAMPS, which is a commercial utility with customers in several rocky mountain states.
- Oklo is planning to build its micro reactor at the Idaho site. The advanced design uses liquid sodium metal to deliver hear to a steam generator.
- Project Pele is a US Department of Defense effort to build a first of a kind unit at INL that wlll be a transportable micro reactor to provide reliable power to support tactical readiness at US and foreign military bases. It is expected that lessons learned from the project will benefit the US commercial SMR industry.
The INL hosts the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) for assessing fuels and materials to be used in nuclear reactors. The INL has also done advanced work on simulation of nuclear reactors with its Digital Twins program.
TerraPower is planning to build a molten salt chloride advanced reactor at the site. A unique aspect of the project is that the firm is collaborating with Southern Nuclear, a commercial utility, in the effort.
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UK Launches New Build Effort for 1st Prototype Fusion Plant at Culham with a Plan to Break Ground by 2032
In addition to commitments by several commercial developers of fusion power plants, the UK Atomic Energy Authority has launched a new organization at the UKAEA site in Culham near Oxford University. Organization of the government owned enterprise will take about 18 months.
UK Science Minister George Freeman announced the UK Industrial Fusion Solutions Ltd (UKIFS) will deliver the prototype STEP fusion energy plant, called STEP (Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production), which is planned to be built by 2040. The UK government is providing £220m ($249M) to fund the first phase of STEP. A concept design could be released by the end of 2024. He added that the long term objective is to have a completed design and regulatory approval to build by 2032.
What is a Tokamak Fusion Reactor? Image: US Department of Energy
The STEP program is intended to pave the way to the commercialization of fusion and the potential development of a fleet of future plants around the world. Freeman said: “The UK is the world-leader in fusion science and technology, and now we are moving to turn fusion from cutting edge science into a billion-pound clean energy industry.”
The project has a three-phase timeline.
- The aim for this first phase of work is to produce a ‘concept design’ by 2024. This means an outline of the power plant, with a clear view on how we will design each of the major systems.
- Through phase 2 the design will be developed through detailed engineering design, while all consents and permissions to build the plant completed by 2032.
- Construction of the prototype power plant will begin in phase 3, targeting completion around 2040.
UKAEA CEO Professor Sir Ian Chapman said the establishment of UKIFS “will enable STEP to accelerate its journey towards delivery of electricity from fusion energy to the grid.”
That’s not an idle boast. Three commercial developers of fusion plants are already working to deploy fusion demonstration plants at the Culham site. They include General Fusion, First Light, and Tokamak Energy. The UKAEA site is now literally a global hot spot for fusion R&D and commercial development activities.
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Tokamak Energy to Build Fusion Prototype at UKAEA’s Campus
In the latest in a series of like announcements, a new fusion energy advanced prototype with power plant-relevant magnet technology will be built by Tokamak Energy at UKAEA’s Culham Campus, near Oxford.
Tokamak Energy’s compact spherical tokamak, ST80-HTS, will demonstrate multiple technologies required for the delivery of fusion energy. This includes a complete set of high temperature superconducting (HTS) magnets to confine and control the hydrogen fuel, which becomes plasma many times hotter than the sun.
Tokamak Energy’s ST80-HTS will target the significantly longer pulse durations needed for sustained high power output in commercially competitive fusion power plants. It will also inform the design of its ST-E1 fusion pilot plant, which will demonstrate the capability to deliver electricity into the grid in the early 2030s – demonstrating up to 200 MW of net electrical power.
Constructing the new purpose-built facility at United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Culham Campus will provide the company with access to leading science and engineering capabilities, including knowledge and experience in designing, constructing and operating the record-breaking Joint European Torus.
It further builds on the framework agreement signed by Tokamak Energy and UKAEA in October 2022 to enable closer collaboration to develop spherical tokamaks as a route to commercial fusion energy. Designs for the new facility are underway in partnership with construction consultants McBains, with build completion planned for 2026.
Chris Kelsall, Tokamak Energy CEO, said: “Today’s exciting announcement is a major step forward on our mission to demonstrate grid-ready fusion energy by the early 2030s. Our next device, ST80-HTS, aims to validate key engineering solutions needed to make commercial fusion a reality and will showcase our world-class magnet technology at scale. It’s clear public and private partnerships of this nature will be a crucial catalyst for fusion to deliver global energy security and mitigate climate change.”
Professor Sir Ian Chapman, CEO, UKAEA, said: “Our ability to host major facilities extends right across the supply chain from design to decommissioning. The announcement is testament to Culham’s attractiveness for fusion development as we welcome Tokamak Energy to the cluster on the Campus.”
Tokamak Energy’s current ST40 fusion device in nearby Milton Park, Oxfordshire, has recently been upgraded to enable experiments relating to future features that will be incorporated in both ST80-HTS and ST-E1. Last year it achieved a 100 million degrees Celsius fusion plasma – the highest temperature ever recorded in a compact spherical tokamak.
Rolls-Royce Executive Joins Tokamak
UK fusion company Tokamak Energy has appointed Warrick Matthews as managing director and chief commercial officer.
Matthews joins the company from Rolls-Royce where he worked for over two decades most recently as as chief procurement officer for the Civil Aerospace division. At Rolls-Royce, Matthews led a team of more than 2,000 people in the engine control systems business unit and oversaw the engine production and test facilities.
He will now steer Tokamak Energy’s business towards its goal of demonstrating grid-ready fusion power by the early 2030s. The company believes his experience in global industrial partnerships and supply chain development will be invaluable in executing its growth strategy.
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