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Holtec Plans 160 MWe SMR at Oyster Creek NJ Nuclear Site

Dan Yurman's picture
Editor & Publisher NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy

Publisher of NeutronBytes, a blog about nuclear energy online since 2007.  Consultant and project manager for technology innovation processes and new product / program development for commercial...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Jan 10, 2021 10:42 pm GMT
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  • Holtec Airs Plans for 160 MWe SMR at Oyster Creek, NJ, Site
  • Holtec Submits a Key Topical Report on SMR-160 to the NRC
  • China Starts Building a Second CFR-600 Fast Reactor
  • Call For Nuclear Coalition To Challenge Rising Influence Of Russia And China
  • DOE Announces Strategy To Develop Nuclear Power For Space Exploration

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Holtec Airs Plans for 160 MWe SMR at Oyster Creek

(NucNet)  Holtec International announced this week it is considering building a next-generation small modular reactor (SMR) at the site of the former Oyster Creek nuclear power station in New Jersey. Holtec is currently carrying out the D&D work at the closed nuclear reactor.

It owns the site which was a 619-MW GE BWR unit that began commercial operation in 1969 and was shut down in September 2018. The plant was hounded into early retirement 10 years earlier than as provided for in its NRC license by then NJ Governor Chris Christie.

map oyster creek nj
Oyster Creek, NJ

Ownership of the facility was transferred from Exelon Generation to Oyster Creek Environmental Protection and Holtec Decommissioning International in July 2019. Holtec is also decommissioning the Pilgrim nuclear power station in Massachusetts.

A Holtec spokesman told the Associated Press that part of its application to the Department of Energy for its advanced reactor demonstration program, Holtec expressed interest in locating one of its SMR-160 SMRs at the Oyster Creek site.

“This concept is only preliminary and something we would likely discuss with Lacey Township and the community if plans to locate [the reactor] at Oyster Creek evolve.”

The spokesman added Holtec is “actively engaged with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission” about the project, but has not yet formally applied to build the reactor.

The advantage of locating the SMR at the site is that is has a switchyard and ready made connection to the grid. Also, there are roads and local utilities already in place.

In December Holtec was awarded $116 million from the US Department of energy to complete research and development work on its SMR-160 SMR design.

In November 2020, Holtec said it was preparing to submit to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission a topical report covering the essential safety features of the SMR-160 SMR.  (more on this below)

The SMR-160 is a light-water based pressurized SMR, which generates 160 MWe (525 MWth). The cooling system relies on gravity as to operate the reactor and it has a completely passive safety systems.

Earlier this year, the SMR-160 completed Phase 1 of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) “Pre-Licensing Review of a Vendor’s Reactor Design.”

Holtec is building a factory in Camden, NJ, to be an OEM manufacturer of parts, components, and systems for SMRs. The firm is also committed to build similar factories in Ukraine and India.

Holtec Submits a Key Topical Report on SMR-160 to the NRC

In a key milestone for the advancement of the SMR-160 Small Modular Reactor, Holtec International submitted the first of five planned Topical Reports on December 21, 2020 to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (USNRC). The firm said the report  demonstrates the  safety of the reactor under any credible loss-of-coolant-accident (LOCA).

In particular, the firm said, the  case of a “large break LOCA,” which theoretically requires evaluation in standard designs of light water nuclear reactors, is shown to be physically impossible for our reactor’s pressure retention boundary.

The SMR-160 is designed such that all the cooling water needed for safe shutdown of the plant, under even the most severe accident scenarios, is housed within  the plant to protect the reactor from overheating. The plant safety systems that access the plant’s cooling water reserve are passive, meaning they operate under the force of gravity to enable cooling of the heat generated from reactor operations.

As the illustration below show, the reactor pressure vessel, the steam generator and the pressurizer form a single reactor pressure vessel assembly without any intervening piping.

holtec design

Holtec’s SMR-160 Reactor Coolant System Has No Pumps or Valves

In addition to presenting the basis for the elimination of the large break LOCA from safety considerations, this Topical Report unveils the gravity-actuated operation of the Reactor Coolant System (RCS) and the other safety systems of the SMR-160, which are engineered to nullify the impact of a breakage of any piping in the containment building without the recourse to any pumps and motors.

“This submittal is a key step in demonstrating to the regulator, our stakeholders and the public of the robust innovative design and safety systems that make Holtec’s SMR-160 the future of safe, clean and efficient energy for our nation and the world,” said Holtec’s President and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Kris Singh.

This submission also evaluates the current regulations, General Design Criteria and guidance applicable to LOCAs, and establishes plant specific acceptance criteria for the LOCA events.

China Starts Building a Second CFR-600 Fast Reactor

(WNN) Construction work has started on the second CFR-600 sodium-cooled pool-type fast-neutron nuclear reactor in Xiapu County, in China’s Fujian province.  CNNC has announced that construction of unit 2 started on December 27, 2020. Also known as the Xiapu fast reactor demonstration project, the CFR-600 is part of China’s plan to achieve a closed nuclear fuel cycle. IAEA ARIS DBMS Link

The CFR-600 demonstration fast reactors (CDFR) are the next step in China Institute of Atomic Energy’s (CIAE) program. Xiapu 1 is expected to be grid connected in 2023. The reactors will be 1500 MWt, 600 MWe, with 41% thermal efficiency, using MOX fuel with 100 GWd/t burn-up, and with two sodium coolant loops producing steam at 480°C.

The design has an operational life of 40 years. Also, it has active and passive shutdown systems and passive decay heat removal.

Construction of CFR-600 unit 1 started in late 2017. The fuel will be supplied by TVEL, a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom.

Call For Nuclear Coalition To Challenge Rising Influence Of Russia And China

Study says 71% of reactor deployment since 2000 is associated with two countries

The rising influence of Russia and China in the development, construction and deployment of civilian nuclear reactors around the world raises significant geopolitical challenges for the US, according to a study by two University of Georgia professors.

The study’s authors are David Gattie, an associate professor in the UGA College of Engineering, and Joshua Massey, director of the Master of International Policy program in UGA’s School of Public and International Affairs.

They write that if the US retreats from the civilian nuclear field, China and Russia will become the global leaders in nuclear science, nuclear engineering and nuclear technology with adverse implications for US national security.

To address China’s and Russia’s growing influence in the nuclear power sphere, Mr Gattie and Mr Massey said the US should unite its allies in a new coalition of civilian nuclear power partners.

The coalition must be capable of competing with China and Russia in the deployment of nuclear technology, fuel and services in emerging economies where energy demand is increasing rapidly and countries are seeking partnerships for expertise, technology, supply chains, and financing.

“While international control of atomic energy in the 20th century was accomplished by a US-led coalition designed to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons, the retreat of the US and its allies from nuclear research and development has allowed authoritarian powers to leverage nuclear technology to project soft power and advance their geopolitical interests, according to the researchers.”

The analysis stems from an ongoing interdisciplinary collaboration between the College of Engineering and UGA’s Center for International Trade and Security, an effort to fuse energy systems engineering with international policy in response to emerging national security issues.

“Energy animates a country’s economy and underpins the technological capacity to protect itself and defend its interests. It has a value proposition beyond that of a market commodity as it defines and shapes geopolitical relationships and international stature,” Gattie and Massey said in their analysis.

The researchers acknowledge nuclear power is a complex and controversial energy source, particularly when climate change is factored into the equation. But they said it may be impossible for the U.S. to sustain its global leadership role in nuclear science and technology, uphold its commitment to international control of nuclear energy, maintain a reliable electric grid, and meet the additional challenge of climate change while unilaterally disengaging from civilian nuclear power.

Their study, ‘Twenty-First Century US Nuclear Power: A National Security Imperative,’ was published in Strategic Studies Quarterly, a peer-reviewed academic journal sponsored by the US Air Force covering issues related to national and international security.

DOE Announces Strategy To Develop Nuclear Power For Space Exploration

(NucNet) The US Department of Energy says it is working with NASA, other federal agencies, and commercial entities to develop and design nuclear power systems for both near-term and future space missions.  DOE said it will develop space-capable energy technologies, both nuclear and non-nuclear, for US space customers.

kilopowerDOE’s announcement follows the release of a national strategy that define key goals such as nuclear fuels, fission reactors for surface power, thermal propulsion technology, and radioisotope power systems for space exploration.

The main goals of the DOE plan are to power space exploration, increase space science research, support the defense of space-related US national security interests and help the development of the US commercial space industry.

The increased power demands of long-duration surface crewed missions and crewed flights beyond the Moon have led to serious consideration in the US of surface nuclear fission power and nuclear propulsion technologies.

Surface nuclear fission power reactors could provide stable, baseload power to meet anticipated habitat and exploration missions on other worlds, while space nuclear propulsion systems offer advantages for exploration missions to Mars and beyond, including increased flexibility and reduced cost. Solar energy panels are not viable power options beyond the orbit of Mars. 

Does space nuclear power have a future?

A key element of the DOE strategy is that it appears to ban the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in space power and propulsion systems. The problem with the policy, from a technical perspective, that the use of uranium at enrichment levels below 20% U235 will add significant weight to power and propulsion systems and reduce the amount of electrical power for instruments or for life systems for crewed missions.

It seems like DOE is on one hand promoting the use of nuclear power in space and on the other, more or less tying itself in politically correct knots at the expense of its own objectives. The American Institute of Physics has a summary of the HEU debate that was aired by a panel at the June meeting of the American Nuclear Society

Scientific American reports that nuclear power will be a big part of the United States’ space exploration efforts going forward, a new policy document affirms.

“Space nuclear power and propulsion is a fundamentally enabling technology for American deep-space missions to Mars and beyond,” Scott Pace, deputy assistant to the president and executive secretary of the National Space Council, said in an emailed statement.

Mr. Pace resigned his position shortly after issuing this statement as it ends on January 20th. As of the date of this report, the incoming Biden administration has not named a Science Adviser as part of the White House staff.

NASA’s budget request for fiscal year 2021 includes $100 million for the space nuclear technology portfolio, of which $62 million is for surface power and the remainder is for propulsion. The agency projects its request for the portfolio will grow to $250 million in fiscal year 2025.

NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy are working together on a fission-reactor project called Kilopower, which could provide electrical power for crewed outposts on the moon and Mars.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has talked about nuclear thermal propulsion as a potential game-changer for the agency’s deep-space exploration efforts.

The document states that the U.S. should develop, by the mid-2020s, fuel production and processing capabilities sufficient to support a variety of nuclear space systems, from RTGs to nuclear thermal and nuclear electric propulsion.

Another goal is the demonstration of a “fission power system on the surface of the moon that is scalable to a power range of 40 kilowatt-electric (kWe) and higher to support a sustained lunar presence and exploration of Mars.” This should happen by the mid- to late 2020s if possible, the document states.

Biden Transition Team Focused on Space Policy and China

A key focus of the Biden transition team has been how to deal with China’s aggressive space program.

Politico reports top advisers to Joe Biden have argued that it’s important to cooperate with China on space exploration, even as the incoming administration treats Beijing as its top economic and military competitor in virtually every other realm.

They assert that despite China’s pattern of stealing American technology and diverting it for military purposes, a limited space partnership between Washington and Beijing could reduce tensions and the likelihood of a destabilizing space race. The move would be akin to the cooperation between the U.S. and Russia’s civilian space programs during the height of the Cold War.

“Trying to exclude them I think is a failing strategy,” Pam Melroy, a former astronaut who is serving on Biden’s NASA transition team and is among those being considered to lead the space agency, told POLITICO before the election. “It’s very important that we engage.”

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jan 11, 2021

Always encouraging to see nuclear buildout in China, though it still appears it's not at a rate that keeps pace with the growing power demand, allowing coal to continue to build its foothold in the Chinese energy mix

Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on Jan 11, 2021

It is unlikely that China will build a fleet of the 600 MWe fast reactors in the near term. These are first of a kind units.  China's main commitment to new nuclear builds is the conventional PWR type reactor with uranium enriched to less than 5% U235.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Jan 11, 2021

Holtec's thermally-driven passive cooling system looks very similar to NuScale's, although it looks like they've made it more complicated than it needs to be.
Dan, do you know why Holtec is using two separate vessels for its SMR?

Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on Jan 11, 2021

See image in blog post. One is the reactor containing fuel, controls rods, etc., and the other is the steam system connected directly to the RPV. It's kind of a mini BWR  <metaphor - not intended to be technical precise>  The idea is, as described in the blog post, is to have a completely passive system with no pipes or pumps.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Jan 12, 2021

There are also interesting differences between Holtec's and NuScale's idea for the right size for the plant.

Holtec has continued to render their plant with a single module (160 MWe), on a 4.5 acre lot.

As of their 11/10/2020 uprate press release, NuScale is offering 12 modules (924 MWe), 6 modules (462 MWe), and 4 modules (308 MWe).

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