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Tax-payer funding for yet another nuclear folly? Rolls Royce’s Small Modular Reactors

Rolls-Royce seeks government funds for nuclear power project  Group wants £200m to develop small-scale plants after failure of big schemes   and – 27 Jan 19

 A consortium led by Rolls-Royce has asked for more than £200m in government funding to help develop its project for small nuclear reactors, as ministers scramble to recast Britain’s energy policy after the collapse of plans to build several large reactors. The engineering group and its partners, which include Laing O’Rourke and Arup, want to secure a sum “in the low hundreds of millions”, confirmed one person with knowledge of the request. Any amount would be match-funded by the consortium and be used to develop Rolls-Royce’s technology through to the later stages of the licensing process in order to be able to attract private investment.

 Supporters of small modular reactors — most of which will not be commercial until the 2030s — argue that they can deliver nuclear power at lower cost and reduced risk. They will draw on modular manufacturing techniques that will reduce construction risk, which has plagued larger-scale projects.

The consortium has applied for funding from the government’s industrial strategy challenge fund under UK Research and Innovation. The money would enable the group to develop its design through to the later stages of the “generic design assessment” by the industry regulator. Industry sources with knowledge of the bid said the consortium “entered detailed negotiations” with UKRI before Christmas. Rolls-Royce has previously said it believes its reactor would cost about £2.5bn to build.

 The push comes as the UK’s long-term energy policy has been thrown into chaos by the collapse of three new nuclear projects, after Hitachi’s decision earlier this month to freeze its involvement in the Wylfa plant in north Wales.
More than 40 per cent of the UK’s planned new nuclear capacity has in effect been cancelled, with Toshiba pulling out of developing a plant in Cumbria last year, while Hitachi has scrapped plans for another plant in Oldbury-on-Severn in Gloucestershire. The UK government said it remained committed to developing nuclear plants with the private sector but has baulked at the cost and level of support investors have demanded. It is due to publish a white paper this summer that will overhaul its energy strategy. While nuclear is expected to remain part of the mix, the government is keen to examine new funding models and approaches.
Business secretary Greg Clark said in a letter to the Financial Times last week that “small modular reactors can have a role to play” but again cautioned these plans could not be “at any price”. Rolls-Royce and its team is one of several consortiums that bid in a government-sponsored competition launched in 2015 to find the most viable technology for a new generation of small nuclear power plants. However, when a nuclear sector deal was finally unveiled last June, the government allocated funding only for more advanced modular reactors.
 SMR’s, which typically use water-cooled reactors similar to existing nuclear power stations, were omitted from funding even though they were closer to becoming commercial.
 Rolls-Royce threatened last summer that it would shut down the project if there was no meaningful support from the government. It has already significantly reduced the number of staff working on the project. The business department said the government was “considering” a funding bid from a UK consortium to support research and development of a low-cost SMR”. A decision was expected “in spring 2019”. Rolls-Royce said: “Our consortium is in discussions with UK government officials that we hope could result in a significant joint investment in our power plant design.”

January 28, 2019 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | 1 Comment

UK: Rolls Royce has mothballed its plans for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Evening Standard 22nd Jan 2019 The British nuclear industry is a mess. Successive governments spent 13 years devising a nuclear policy, and after years of debate, six nuclear power stations were eventually selected. The idea was that private contractors, not government, should take the risk and build the plants. But the contractors were wary, and with the collapse of renewable energy prices they have become warier still.
Of the six sites, three have been abandoned, two — Sizewell and Bradwell in Suffolk and Essex — are still to be finalised. Only one, Hinkley Point C in Somerset is proceeding and it is controversial to say the least. Chances are that Hinkley will be abandoned
and we won’t build any more giant plants, but Government is still wedded to its policy so it may take a few years, or a general election.
The cost of renewable energy is, however, coming down fast and environmentalists say new electricity storage systems still to be developed will eventually bridge the gap for when the wind does not blow enough. We are not there yet though. But there is another option, though not one which environmentalists favour, and that is small modular reactors. Rolls-Royce has been making and
maintaining the power plants which drive the nuclear-powered submarines
carrying Britain’s nuclear deterrent since at least the Sixties.
 SMRs required Government to make available resources so the licensing and safety-assessment programme could
run smoothly and remove the risk of the whole thing being endlessly delayed. It required further long-term thinking in the form of a promise to buy at least seven of the plants so that Rolls-Royce could capture the economies of scale in manufacturing which are essential to bringing the costs down. It required Government to be willing to provide matched funding in the development phase of the project. And finally it required Government support to assist the company in fully developing its export markets.
Needless to say the Government has declined to do this and Rolls-Royce as a result is no longer speculatively prepared to pour in its own funds and has mothballed the project. So the chances are that we will not have small nuclear reactors either, other than in our submarines.

January 24, 2019 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Molten salt nuclear reactors not commercially viable, but useful for military

the decision to pursue Molten Salt Nuclear Reactors (MSRs )may not be based on market laws. For MSRs to succeed, they will likely be developed with appropriate political support and military funding.

If a nation wants an unlimited power supply for cutting-edge military technologies, then the MSR is indeed a very good candidate.

small modular reactors fitted with MSR technology could effectively supply electricity at remote military bases.

When a technology has some potential, the military sector can provide appropriate funding to quickly prototype products, which won’t necessarily have commercially viable features

Molten Salt Reactors: Military Applications Behind the Energy Promises, POWER,12/02/2018 | Jean-Baptiste Peu-Duvallon The commercial nuclear power sector has evolved with great help from the military-industrial complex. Research and development funded for the purpose of national defense has resulted in advances directly applicable to the power industry. For molten salt reactor designs to succeed, political support and military dollars may again be necessary.

Observers of the energy sector have likely noticed a growing interest worldwide in small modular molten salt reactor (MSR) concepts. North American companies such as Terrestrial Energy, Southern Company, and TerraPower are working to industrialize designs (Figure 1), while the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics recently received $3.3 billion from the Chinese central government to build an MSR complex in the Gobi Desert.

……… under the leadership of its director Alvin M. Weinberg, the Oak Ridge Laboratory pursued the concept for civilian applications with the construction of a 7.4-MWth MSR, which operated for five years before being permanently shutdown in 1969.  The reason testing was stopped was mainly political, as the MSR experiment in Oak Ridge wasn’t providing enough workload to other laboratories, while at the same time research on fast-breeding reactors was ramping up, requiring the engagement of more and more resources .

It was not only political, however. While the MSR concept is quite simple on paper, its industrialization is quite complex. Because the coolant is a mixture of chemicals rather than water, it provokes the release of significant quantities of tritium, which must be removed continuously. It generates other issues too, such as speedy corrosion of standard alloys, and also core lifetime issues when the coolant is moderated with graphite.

Because no MSRs have operated after the early 1970s, none of the technical solutions currently proposed to solve the outstanding issues have actually been tested. Still, new MSR projects are suddenly popping up for two main reasons: the Fukushima events and re-emerging military needs. …….

Nuclear Power in the New Weapons Race. MSRs have also gotten renewed interest following significant evolutions in military affairs. Indeed, since 2010, the U.S. military has started to deploy effective defense systems against ballistic missiles. In turn, it encourages rival powers to develop alternatives for their deterrence such as extreme-range hypersonic vehicles and low-altitude supersonic missiles.

During a speech to the nation on March 1, 2018, President Vladimir Putin revealed to the world the Russian ambition of extreme endurance. “We’ve started the development of new types of strategic weapons that do not use ballistic flight paths on the way to the target,” he said. “One of them is creation of a small-size highly powerful nuclear power plant that can be planted inside the hull of a cruise missile identical to our air-launched X-101 or the United States’ Tomahawk, but at the same time is capable of guaranteeing a flight range that is dozens of times greater, which is practically unlimited,” Putin added.

Beyond postures and statements, however, it seems there is still some work to be done. It has been reported that all flight tests of this new cruise missile resulted in short-term crashes.

Also, since the emergence of China as a military power, the probability of a high-intensity conflict in the Asia-Pacific region is growing. In such a case, the control over the vastness of the Pacific Ocean will be the aim of each party. Extreme ranges and endurance would be a key advantage for a potential winner.

If a nation wants an unlimited power supply for cutting-edge military technologies, then the MSR is indeed a very good candidate. As previously explained, the high temperature generated by an MSR makes it well-suited for airborne operations, while much more compact than a PWR for other applications. The advent of unmanned vehicles also makes the use of MSR technology easier, because radiation shielding requirements become far less stringent with no crew.

To counter the threat of new hypersonic vehicles currently under development, armies are again launching research for directed-energy weapons, such as high-energy lasers, which require huge power supplies to run efficiently. Finally, small modular reactors fitted with MSR technology could effectively supply electricity at remote military bases.

Although these military applications may sound like science fiction, one past example demonstrates the definitive military advantage procured by a high-temperature reactor over a PWR: the development of Alfa class submarines (Figure 4) in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. The Alfa-class submarine is still today considered the fastest, deepest, and most-agile nuclear submarine ever built. Its deployment resulted in the urgent design and manufacture of faster NATO torpedoes, like the U.S. Mark 48 Advanced Capability (ADCAP) or British Spearfish, to counter something that was virtually invulnerable when first put in service.

What made the Alfa possible? A lead-bismuth-cooled fast reactor, which shares the same main feature of the MSR: high temperature delivery, resulting in a high-power-density design, enabling a small, light, and powerful reactor for the submarine. However, as at ambient temperature the high-density lead-bismuth would freeze, the quayside maintenance operations aimed at preventing any irremediable core damage due to coolant freezing were very complicated and costly. While lead-bismuth and molten-salt reactors share many common points, MSRs are less costly and more easily maintainable.

Developing Viable MSR Designs

In France, the energy sector has not shown interest in MSR technology, as its current PWR fleet delivers competitive energy while achieving a very high level of safety. Furthermore, new PWR designs (EPRs) are intrinsically much safer than the Fukushima GE Mark I, which was designed in the 1960s.

MSRs are not just a different design, however; they are a different sector. MSR developers must essentially start from scratch with dedicated codes and regulations, dedicated licensing processes, dedicated fuel production facilities, dedicated reactors with dedicated highly trained operators, and dedicated waste reprocessing plants. Nonetheless, the decision to pursue MSRs may not be based on market laws. For MSRs to succeed, they will likely be developed with appropriate political support and military funding.

When a technology has some potential, the military sector can provide appropriate funding to quickly prototype products, which won’t necessarily have commercially viable features but will provide the groundwork for further refinement. Then, step by step, the remaining short-comings will be overcome to make a practical product for commercial operation. ■

Jean-Baptiste Peu-Duvallon is a French nuclear energy professional with nearly 15 years of experience on several major construction projects. correct

December 4, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, weapons and war | 1 Comment

Small Modular Reactors not commercially viable, but nuclear companies want the government handouts

there is no market for the expensive electricity that SMRs will generate. Many companies presumably enter this business because of the promise of government funding. No company has invested large sums of its own money to commercialize SMRs.
NRCan and other such institutions are regurgitating industry propaganda and wasting money on technologies that will never be economical or contribute to any meaningful mitigation of climate change. There is no justification for such expensive distractions, especially as the climate problem becomes more urgent. 

Are Thousands of New Nuclear Generators in Canada’s Future? is pushing a new smaller, modular nuclear plant that could only pay off if mass produced. By M.V. RamanaToday |, 7 Nov 18  M. V. Ramana is the Simons Chair in Disarmament, Global and Human Security at the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at UBC, and the author of The Power of Promise: Examining Nuclear Energy in India, Penguin Books, New Delhi (2012)

Canada’s government is about to embrace a new generation of small nuclear reactors that do not make economic sense.

Amidst real fears that climate change will wreak devastating effects if we don’t shift away from fossil fuels, the idea that Canada should get deeper into nuclear energy might seem freshly attractive to former skeptics.

For a number of reasons, however, skepticism is still very much warranted.

On Nov. 7, Natural Resources Canada will officially launch something called the Small Modular Reactor Roadmap. The roadmap was previewed in February of this year and is the next step in the process set off by the June 2017 “call for a discussion around Small Modular Reactors in Canada” issued by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, which is interested in figuring out the role the organization “can play in bringing this technology to market.”

Environmental groups and some politicians have spoken out against this process. A petition signed by nearly two dozen civil society groups has opposed the “development and deployment of SMRs when renewable, safer and less financially, socially and environmentally costly alternatives exist.”

SMRs, as the name suggests, produce relatively small amounts of electricity in comparison with currently common nuclear power reactors. The last set of reactors commissioned in Canada is the four at Darlington. These started operating between 1990 and 1993 and can generate 878 megawatts of electricity (although, on average, they only generate around 75 to 85 per cent of that). In comparison, SMRs are defined as reactors that generate 300 MW or less — as low as 5 MW even. For further comparison, the Site C dam being built in northeastern B.C. is expected to provide 1,100 MW and BC Hydro’s full production capacity is about 11,000 MW.

Various nuclear institutions, such as Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, Canadian Nuclear Association and the CANDU Owners Group are strongly supportive of SMRs. Last October, Mark Lesinski, president and CEO of CNL announced: “Small modular reactors, or SMRs, represent a key area of interest to CNL. As part of our long-term strategy, announced earlier this year, CNL established the ambitious goal of siting a new SMR on a CNL site by 2026.”

Likewise, the CANDU Owners Group announced that it was going to use “their existing nuclear expertise to lead the next wave of nuclear generation — small modular reactors, that offer the potential for new uses of nuclear energy while at the same time offering the benefits of existing nuclear in combating climate change while providing reliable, low-cost electricity.”

A fix for climate change, says Ottawa

Such claims about the benefits of SMRs seems to have influenced the government too. Although NRCan claims to be just “engaging partners and stakeholders, as well as Indigenous representatives, to understand priorities and challenges related to the development and deployment of SMRs in Canada,” its personnel seem to have already decided that SMRs should be developed in Canada.

“The Government of Canada recognizes the potential of SMRs to help us deliver on a number of priorities, including innovation and climate change,” declared Parliamentary Secretary Kim Rudd. Diane Cameron, director of the Nuclear Energy Division at Natural Resources Canada, is confident: “I think we will see the deployment of SMRs in Canada for sure.” Such talk is premature, and unwise.

Canada is a late entrant to this game of talking up SMRs. For the most part it has only been talk, with nothing much to show for all that talk. Except, of course, for millions of dollars in government funding that has flown to private corporations. This has been especially on display in the United States, where the primary agency that has been pumping money into SMRs is the Department of Energy.

In 2001, based on an overview of around 10 SMR designs, DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy concluded that “the most technically mature small modular reactor designs and concepts have the potential to be economical and could be made available for deployment before the end of the decade, provided that certain technical and licensing issues are addressed.” Nothing of that sort happened by the end of that decade, i.e., 2010. But in 2012 the U.S. government offered money: up to $452 million to cover “the engineering, design, certification and licensing costs for up to two U.S. SMR designs.” The two SMR designs that were selected by the DOE for funding were called mPower and NuScale.

The first pick was mPower and, a few months later, the DOE projected that a major electricity generation utility called the Tennessee Valley Authority “plans to deploy two 180 megawatt small modular reactor units for commercial operation in Roane County, Tennessee, by 2021, with as many as six mPower units at that site.”

The company developing mPower was described by the New York Times as being in the lead in the race to develop SMRs, in part because it had “the Energy Department and the T.V.A. in its camp.”

But by 2017, the project was essentially dead.

Few if any buyers

Why this collapse? 

In a nutshell, because there is no market for the expensive electricity that SMRs will generate. Many companies presumably enter this business because of the promise of government funding. No company has invested large sums of its own money to commercialize SMRs.

An example is the Westinghouse Electric Co., which worked on two SMR designs and tried to get funding from the DOE. When it failed in that effort, Westinghouse stopped working on SMRs and shifted its focus to decommissioning reactors that are being shut down at an increasing rate, which is seen as a growing business opportunity. Explaining this decision in 2014, Danny Roderick, then president and CEO of Westinghouse, said: “The problem I have with SMRs is not the technology, it’s not the deployment — it’s that there’s no customers…. The worst thing to do is get ahead of the market.”

Many developing countries claim to be interested in SMRs but few seem to be willing to invest in the construction of one. Although many agreements and memoranda of understanding have been signed, there are still no plans for actual construction. Examples are the cases of JordanGhana and Indonesia, all of which have been touted as promising markets for SMRs, but none of which are buying one because there are significant problems with deploying these.

A key problem is poor economics. Nuclear power is already known to be very expensive. But SMRs start with a disadvantage: they are too small. One of the few ways that nuclear power plant operators could reduce the cost of nuclear electricity was to utilize what are called economies of scale, i.e., taking advantage of the fact that many of the expenses associated with constructing and operating a reactor do not change in linear proportion to the power generated. This is lost in SMRs. Most of the early small reactors built in the U.S. shut down early because they couldn’t compete economically.

Reactors by the thousands?

SMR proponents argue that they can make up for the lost economies of scale  in two ways: by savings through mass manufacture in factories, and by moving from a steep learning curve early on to gaining rich knowledge about how to achieve efficiencies as more and more reactors are designed and built. But, to achieve such savings, these reactors have to be manufactured by the thousands, even under very optimistic assumptions about rates of learning. Rates of learning in nuclear power plant manufacturing have been extremely low. Indeed, in both the United States and France, the two countries with the highest number of nuclear plants, costs went up, not down, with construction experience.

In the case of Canada, the potential markets that are most often proffered as a reason for developing SMRs are small and remote communities and mines that are not connected to the electric grid. That is not a viable business proposition. There are simply not enough remote communities, with adequate purchasing capacity, to be able to drive the manufacture of the thousands of SMRs needed to make them competitive with large reactors, let alone other sources of power.

There are thus good reasons to expect that small modular reactors, like large nuclear power plants, are just not commercially viable. They will also impose the other well-known problems associated with nuclear energy — the risk of severe accidents, the production of radioactive waste, and the linkage with nuclear weapons — on society. Rather than seeing the writing on the wall, unfortunately, NRCan and other such institutions are regurgitating industry propaganda and wasting money on technologies that will never be economical or contribute to any meaningful mitigation of climate change. There is no justification for such expensive distractions, especially as the climate problem becomes more urgent. [Tyee]

November 8, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Not much of a future for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs), despite the hype

New Renew Extra 1st Nov 2018 Dave Elliott: Small Modular Reactors are being promoted as the next big things in energy- being allegedly cheaper than conventional large plants since they can be mass-produced.

None yet exist, apart from the small units used for nuclear submarines, but the proponents envisage all manner of new variants emerging in the years ahead, with some prototypes already being planned in the US, and Canada, and China also pushing ahead in this area.

Some are conventional Pressurised Water Reactors simply scaled down, others, less developed so far, are planning to test out other routes, including molten salt flouride reactors using thorium, possibly operating in fast breeder mode. In theory some could also be run in Combined Heat and Power mode, with the heat delivered to nearby urban areas- if anyone will allow SMRs to be built near or in cities. That would improve their economics.

SMR enthusiasts have be trying to promote their new as yet untested technologies, but not that many seem to want to pay for them. Some look to the military link to rescue SMRs- they have the same technical and expertise base as is used for the nuclear propulsion units of the UK’s nuclear submarines. But so far that doesn’t seem to paid off.

Certainly there have been complaints from SMR enthusiasts about the low level of government support in the UK: Meanwhile, in the USA, one key project has gone bust, having apparently overreached itself:
failing-to-deliver-reactor-that-ran-on-spent-fuel. It doesn’t sound like a booming area of development.

November 3, 2018 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Global nuclear lobby desperate to market an array of non existent Small and Medium Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

IAEA Showcases Global Coordination on Small, Medium Sized or Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) IAEA, October 2018   Vienna, Austria The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) expanding international coordination on the safe and secure development and deployment of small, medium sized or modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) has come into focus with new publications and expert meetings on these emerging technologies.

Significant advances have been made in recent years on SMRs, some of which will use pre-fabricated systems and components to shorten construction schedules and offer greater flexibility and affordability than traditional nuclear power plants. Some 50 SMR concepts are at various stages of development around the world, with commercial operations expected to begin in the coming years.

Following an IAEA meeting in September on SMR design and technology, energy experts from around Europe gathered at the Agency’s Vienna headquarters for a workshop earlier this month to discuss infrastructure, economic and finance aspects of SMRs. The meetings are part of an ongoing SMR project involving the IAEA Departments of Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Safety and Security and Technical Cooperation. In addition, representatives of regulatory authorities and other stakeholders also met this month at the IAEA’s SMR Regulators’ Forum, which exchanges experiences on SMR regulatory reviews.

Many IAEA Member States are interested in the development and deployment of SMRs as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels and for reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said IAEA Deputy Director General Mikhail Chudakov, Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy. “The IAEA’s flurry of recent activities on SMRs is part of our efforts to respond to Member State requests for assistance on this exciting emerging technology.”

The IAEA recently released two new publications on SMRs: Deployment Indicators for Small Modular Reactors, which provides Member States with a methodology for evaluating the potential deployment of SMRs in their national energy systems; and an updated edition of Advances in Small Modular Reactor Technology Developments, which provides a concise overview of the latest status of SMR designs around the world and is intended as a supplement to the IAEA’s Advanced Reactor Information System (ARIS)…….

October 16, 2018 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Hitachi and General Electric headed for another nuclear financial fiasco- small modular reactors?

October 16, 2018 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Nuclear lobby spreads confusion as it touts “SMRs” – nuclear fantasy research

Steve Dale Nuclear Fuel Cycle Watch South Australia, October 10

Small Modular Reactors don’t exist yet, and the picture below shows that the size of these speculative reactors are far from “small” (red arrow points to tiny human figure). Yet Barry Brook continues to receive funding from the “Australian Research Council” to investigate all things nuclear, including putting these reactors on small islands. How much money has gone to funding pro-nuclear fantasy research?

Noel Wauchope they are now referred to by IAEA as small and medium reactors (SMRs)…..A subcategory of very small reactors – vSMRs – is proposed for units under about 15 MWe, especially for remote communities……..Note that many of the designs described are not yet actually taking shape. ……. There’s a bewildering array of reactor designs, listed in MWe (MegaWatts electic) -not in physical size.

October 13, 2018 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Small Modular Nuclear Reactors – their developers demand $billions from UK tax-payers

Energy firms demand billions from UK taxpayer for mini reactors Ministers under pressure to fund new generation of small-scale nuclear power stations,Guardian, Adam Vaughan Energy correspondent @adamvaughan_uk, 1 Oct 2018 Backers of mini nuclear power stations have asked for billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money to build their first UK projects, according to an official document.

Advocates for small modular reactors (SMRs) argue they are more affordable and less risky than conventional large-scale nuclear plants, and therefore able to compete with the falling costs of windfarms and solar power.

But the nuclear industry’s claims that the mini plants would be a cheap option for producing low-carbon power appear to be undermined by the significant sums it has been asking of ministers.

Some firms have been calling for as much as £3.6bn to fund construction costs, according to a government-commissioned report, released under freedom of information rules. Companies also wanted up to £480m of public money to help steer their reactor designs through the regulatory approval process, which is a cost usually paid by nuclear companies.

Ten companies hoping to build the plants requested direct government funding, according to the briefing paper by the Expert Finance Working Group on Small Reactors. While the report named the companies involved in the mini nuclear projects, it did not specify who was asking for

David Lowry, a nuclear policy consultant who obtained the document, said: “SMRs are either old, discredited designs repackaged when companies see governments prepared to throw taxpayers’ subsidies to support them, or are exotic new technologies, with decades of research needed before they reach commercial maturity.”

The working group that drafted the report, and was appointed by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), urged the government in August to put in place a framework to help bring the smaller plants to market.

The government has already offered £44m of funding for research and development of one group of SMRs, which typically have a capacity of less than a tenth of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant being built in Somerset, or enough power for 600,000 homes.

Mini nuclear power stations are unlikely to supply clean energy to Britain’s homes and businesses any time soon. Of more than 30 British, US and Chinese companies that have expressed an interest in building one in the UK, the majority told the working group that their power stations would be ready to deployed in the 2030s.

The companies include UK firms such as Rolls-Royce, Sheffield Forgemasters and Atkins, along with China’s CNNC, US companies NuScale and Westinghouse, and France’s EDF Energy.

The working group found the firms’ cost estimates “varied significantly”, to the degree that some of the companies clearly had a “lack of understanding” of how British nuclear regulation works.

It also noted that some of the companies proposed using “non-standard fuels” rather than the conventional uranium used by today’s nuclear plants, which “may add cost to business models” because of new facilities to produce and later manage the spent fuel.

The firms told the group that the four main barriers they faced were finding and confirming sites, the cost of regulatory approval for their designs, a lack of state funding and unclear policy.

The government is expected to make announcements soon regarding the siting regime and regulatory approvals for SMRs, sources told the Guardian……..

October 1, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

Following Transatomic’s failure, small modular nuclear reactors face uncertain future

Is it worth spending $millions on a nuclear technology whose only real purpose is to train nuclear technologists?

A good announcement and a bad announcement for two nuclear-energy startups,NuScale Power takes a step toward engineering; Transatomic power shuts down. Ars Technica, MEGAN GEUSS – 9/26/2018  “…………….The old light-water reactors that serve America’s grid today create nuclear waste that’s politically impossible to dispose of. Nuclear plants with traditional reactors are also extremely expensive to build and difficult to permit.

For these reasons, many nuclear hopefuls have looked to advanced nuclear technology. Several startups have popped up, promising to make either the waste problem or the expense problem go away.

This week, two advanced nuclear-technology startups have announced major news, both good and bad for the future of advanced nuclear technology………..

 Transatomic is going to close down, according to MIT Technology Review. Several years ago, the startup raised millions on promises to use spent nuclear waste as reactor fuel, as well as to “generate electricity 75 times more efficiently than conventional light-water reactors,” according to MIT Technology Review. The company later retracted that “75 times” claim after a review from MIT’s Nuclear Engineering Department found issue with it.

Instead, Transatomic revised its estimates in 2016 to say that its reactor would be able to generate more than two times as much energy per ton of mined uranium than a standard reactor.

The company’s design to use spent nuclear-reactor fuel in a molten salt reactor was also called into question, causing Transatomic to state in its 2016 revision that its design “does not reduce existing stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel.”

The lost confidence made it harder for Transatomic to find funding to complete the $15 million it needed to build a prototype reactor, although it had raised about $4 million already……..

Onward to manufacturing

NuScale Power, based out of Portland, Oregon issued a press release today saying that, after 18 months of searching, it has selected manufacturing company BWX Technologies to begin engineering work that will lead to manufacturing the company’s Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design.

Phase 1 engineering and manufacturing begins today and will last until 2020, NuScale wrote, and then Phases 2 and 3—”preparing for fabrication” and “fabrication,” respectively—will continue from there……..

Small Modular Reactors don’t solve the nuclear-waste problem mentioned at the top of this article, but in theory, they might solve nuclear energy’s expense problem. Building smaller reactors that can be modularly expanded if necessary could not only keep siting, construction, and regulatory costs proportionally lower, but using the same manufacturing and construction crews to build more, smaller reactors would theoretically develop a workforce with expertise in building and installing reactors.

September 28, 2018 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

The next big thing: unfeasible small modular nuclear reactors

A conversation with Dr. Gordon Edwards: contemporary issues in the Canadian nuclear industry, and a look back at the achievements of the Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Responsibility (CCNR), Montreal, August 25, 2018,   Nuclear waste management: an exercise in cynical thinking., 24 Sept 18, “…….. 8. The next big thing: unfeasible small modular reactors

They want to basically clear the decks by shoving this waste off to the side so that they can use this territory, which is crown land owned by the Government of Canada, in order to develop a whole new generation of small modular reactors which are also pie-in-the-sky. They don’t have any customers at the present time. They say there’s a great deal of interest in small modular reactors. However, the interest is almost totally confined to the nuclear establishment. It’s the nuclear people who are interested in these small modular reactors, nobody else.

In fact, we’ve had bad experience with small modular reactors Canada. We had two ten-megawatt nuclear reactors designed and built. They were built around the year 2000, and each one of these reactors was supposed to be able to replace the very old NRU reactor at Chalk River, which is the largest isotope production reactor in the world. And each one of these reactors—they’re called maples, the maple reactors—each one of them would be able to take over the workload of the already-existing NRU reactor which is now shut down. They couldn’t get either one of them to work properly. They were so unsafe, and so unstable in their operation that without operating them and after having spent hundreds of millions of dollars in building them, they now are dismantling them without ever having produced any useful results.

They also had here in Canada a design called a “slowpoke district heating reactor,” and this reactor was ranging from ten megawatts to a hundred megawatts, thermal power only, no electricity, and the idea of this was it could be a reactor which could supply district heating for buildings and so on. That was also a complete failure. That was back in the last century in the 80s and 90s in Canada. They tried to give these things away for free, and they couldn’t even give them away for free. Nobody wanted them.

So the whole business of nuclear waste has really been obfuscated by the industry who are perpetually trying to convince people that they have the solution, that they know what to do, and that when they do it, it’ll be perfectly safe. All of our experience points in the opposite direction…………

September 26, 2018 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

The second nuclear industry stillbirth – Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

 SMR – The Second Make-Believe Renaissance – Gordon Edwards, 18 Sept 18 SMR stands for “Small Modular Reactor(s)”. It is the latest effort by an increasingly desperate nuclear industry to create a “Nuclear Renaissance”. Nuclear Renaissance I
……. The originally planned renaissance depended on plants that were larger-than-ever and safer-than-ever. The French company Areva proudly announced the EDF reactor. “The first two EPR projects, in Olkiluoto, Finland, and Flammanville, France, were meant to lead a nuclear renaissance but both projects ran into costly construction delays” and so many billions of euros over budget that Areva was virtually bankrupted, but was bailed out by the French government. “Construction commenced on two Chinese EPR units in 2009 and 2010. The Chinese units were to start operation in 2014 and 2015,[11] but the Chinese government halted construction because of safety concerns.”…….
  The Canadian “Advanced CANDU Reactor” (ACR) never saw the light of day either, and led to the sale of the AECL CANDU division to SNL-Lavalin for a paltry $15 million in 2011. ACR was supposed to be another cornerstone of the Nuclear Renaissance, originally planned for either 1000 MW or 700 MW. It did not make it out of the womb.
  Nuclear Renaissance II So now the nuclear industry, imagining itself rising from the ashes of its own calamitous failure, is launching a NEW nuclear renaissance based on “Small Modular Reactors” (SMRs). There is no precise definition of an SMR except that it should be no more than 300 MW in power output, and could be as little as 10 MW or less.
…… There is a bewildering variety of SMR designs, using uranium, plutonium, or thorium in the fuel, using molten salt, liquid metal, or ordinary water as coolant, but all intended to run for a long time with a replaceable core.
The Catch-22 in all of this is that Small Reactors are NOT cheaper than large reactors, quite the contrary! Because of the safety features that must be included in order to be licensed needed to contain the enormous inventory of intensely radioactive fission products and extremely radiotoxic actinides and prevent them from escaping, these SMR’s can only begin to break even if they are purchased in the THOUSANDS of units. The economies of scale only kick in when they are mass-produced. So mass-marketing is absolutely essential
  Already the Canadian government (which has, at least tentatively, bought into this SMR scheme through its adherence to “NICE: Nuclear Innovation = Clean Energy”) is scouring the country for possibilities. In Alberta dozens of SMRs might be employed to “cook” the oil sands in order to extract the bitumen. In the northern regions SMRs might be used to replace diesel generators, especially in arctic and subarctic conditions. In New Brunswick SMRs could be sold to appease those who have over the years clamoured for a second Lepreau.
 But it is pretty certain that none of these plans could be realized without very hefty federal subsidies, because these SMRs will be initially sold at a loss just to “prime the pump” in hopes that a profitable market will eventually materialize. And of course the SMRs themselves are purely conjectural at this point, none have them have been built or licensed or operated. It will take at least a decade or two to get them up and running, if ever that happens. Meanwhile the economic prospects for nuclear, especially in the west, are dismal. As the senior vice-president of Exelon said recently:
Due to their high cost relative to other generating options, no new nuclear power units will be built in the US, an Exelon official said Thursday.
“The fact is — and I don’t want my message to be misconstrued in this part — I don’t think we’re building any more nuclear plants in the United States. I don’t think it’s ever going to happen,” William Von Hoene, senior vice president and chief strategy officer at Exelon, told the US Energy Association’s annual meeting in Washington. With 23 operational reactors, Exelon is the US’ largest nuclear operator.
 “I’m not arguing for the construction of new nuclear plants,” Von Hoene said. “They are too expensive to construct, relative to the world in which we now live.”
Von Hoene’s stance includes so-called small modular reactors, or SMRs, and advanced designs, he said.
 “Right now, the costs on the SMRs, in part because of the size and in part because of the security that’s associated with any nuclear plant, are prohibitive,” Von Hoene said.
“It’s possible that that would evolve over time, and we’re involved in looking at that technology,” Von Hoene said. “Right now they’re prohibitively expensive.”
 In a later article I will address the particular kind of SMR intended for NB. It is a kind of mini-breeder in the sense that it uses plutonium in the fuel and liquid sodium as coolant. Bad news! …. 

September 18, 2018 Posted by | business and costs, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster | Leave a comment

UK’s Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is NOT backing Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

Global Warming Policy Foundation 10th Sept 2018 An important new briefing paper published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation reveals that the government has kicked a key nuclear programme into the long grass.

This follows an announcement last week by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on its small modular nuclear (SMR) competition, which outlined new funding for feasibility studies into a range of new nuclear technologies.

The report, by nuclear industry expert Andrew Dawson, shows that while this might appear to represent progress, in reality it is likely to be the end of the SMRs in the UK: “When George Osborne announced the SMR competition in 2015, it  was about identifying SMR technologies that could be deployed in the near-term. But in its announcement last week, BEIS made it clear that it would only back “blue-skies” projects, some of which are not SMRs, and
none of which have any hope of breaking ground in the next few decades……

September 12, 2018 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, UK | Leave a comment

Irrational optimism about Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs)

“Panglossian puffery”, says David Lowry. The report ignores the security and nuclear waste problems of small modular reactors.

The Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) says this is yet another attempt to promote the benefits of SMRs despite large and quite possibly insurmountable hurdles to cross. The Government suggests the report was produced by an ‘independent’ group, yet at least half of the group have strong links to the nuclear industry, including the Nuclear Industry Association. The UK appear to be one of the few governments pursuing a strategy of promoting SMRs. Even France and Finland, the only other countries in Europe currently developing large nuclear projects, have no plans to develop such technology. Indeed France has just commissioned a whole raft of new smaller-scale solar energy projects.

the finance sector is accurate in being sceptical of new nuclear developments given the rapidly decreasing costs of renewable energy.

Rolls-Royce warned last month that it was preparing to shut down the [Small Modular Nuclear Reactor] project if the government did not make a long-term commitment to its technology.

Panglossian SMRs , NuClear News Sept 18, The government should subsidise the deployment of small modular nuclear reactors in order to speed the transition to a low carbon energy system, according to an independent review into the technology commissioned by Ministers. The Expert Finance Working Group on Small Reactors (EFWG) said in a report that government should offer subsidies for small nuclear reactors to help de-risk the technology and kickstart cost reductions. (1)

Small modular reactors (SMRs) generally have a capacity less than 600MW, with the costs ranging from £100 million to £2.3 billion, which the experts suggest could be delivered by 2030. The EFWG has recommended the government to help de-risk the small nuclear market to enable the private sector to develop and finance projects – it believes SMRs could be commercially viable propositions both in the UK and for an export market.

The report says the “Government should establish an advanced manufacturing supply chain initiative, as it did with offshore wind, to bring forward existing and new manufacturing capability in the UK and to challenge the market on the requirement for nuclear specific items, particularly Balance of Plant (BOP), thereby reducing the costs of nuclear and the perceived risks associated with it.”

Nuclear Energy Minister Richard Harrington said: “Today’s independent expert report recognises the opportunity presented by small nuclear reactors and shows the potential for how investors, industry and government can work together to make small nuclear reactors a reality. Advanced nuclear technologies provide a major opportunity to drive clean growth and could create high-skilled, well-paid jobs around the country as part of our modern Industrial Strategy.” (2) Continue reading

September 10, 2018 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster, UK | Leave a comment

USA scales back emergency zones for Small Modular Nuclear Reactors (SMRs) to make them more affodable

US regulators agree smaller SMR emergency zones, 28 August 2018

The NRC’s preliminary finding is part of a safety evaluation of a 2016 Early Site Permit application from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) for the potential use of a site at Clinch River for two or more SMR modules of up to 800 MWe. This is the first SMR-related application of any type to be received by the NRC.

The US Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) described the decision as a “potential regulatory breakthrough” that could accelerate future deployment of SMRs and advanced reactors. “The industry believes that this recognition of the enhanced safety features of small and advanced reactors could greatly simplify the licensing of these technologies and increase their cost competitiveness,” it said.

TVA’s application uses information from four SMR designs – BWXT’s mPower, Holtec International’s SMR-160, NuScale Power’s SMR, and Westinghouse’s SMR – to provide the technical basis for a requested exemption to the ten-mile EPZ requirement currently in use. The most detailed information was provided on the NuScale SMR, for which a design certification application was submitted to the NRC in January 2017. According to the application, the enhanced safety characteristics of those designs, such as smaller reactor cores, simpler systems, and built-in passive safety features, mean that off-site emergency planning requirements and plans can be scaled down to be proportionate with those reduced risks.

NRC staff found TVA’s proposed dose-based, consequence-oriented methodology to be a “reasonable technical basis” for determining EPZ size, consistent with the basis used to determine that for large light water reactors, NEI said.

The NRC also granted TVA its exemption from a ten-mile EPZ for future combined construction and operating licence applications for which the radioactive source term is bounded by the conditions established by the NRC. An SMR plant at the Clinch River site based on the NuScale SMR design would meet the conditions for a so-called site boundary-sized EPZ.

NEI Technical Advisor for Nuclear Generation David Young said current emergency planning requirements would impose an unnecessary regulatory burden on applicants and licensees, which would diminish the cost competitiveness of advanced reactors and hinder their development.

NEI Technical Advisor for Nuclear Generation David Young said current emergency planning requirements would impose an unnecessary regulatory burden on applicants and licensees, which would diminish the cost competitiveness of advanced reactors and hinder their development.

August 29, 2018 Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment