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Moltex Gets $50.5M CDN in Gov’t Grants for its Advanced SMR

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
  • 1,599 items added with 1,248,421 views
  • Mar 22, 2021
  • Moltex Receives $50.5M in Canadian Government  Grants for its Advanced SMR
  • DOD Eyes 2023 for Decision to Build Micro Reactors
  • CEZ Can’t Make Up Its Mind About Who Can Bid on 1200 MWe Nuclear New Build at Dukovany
  • France / Finance Minister Tells US That Nuclear Should Continue To Play Role

Moltex Receives $50.5M in Canadian Government
Grants for its Advanced SMR

moltex logoAdvanced nuclear energy developer Moltex received $50.5M CDN funding from Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund and Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to fund further development and commercialization of the company’s molten salt reactor and spent fuel recycling technology at a site in St. John, New Brunswick province.

Moltex plans to build the world’s first 300MWe Stable Salt Reactor – Wasteburner (SSR-W) and WAste To Stable Salt (WATSS) facility at the Point Lepreau Generating Station site in Saint John, New Brunswick, and provide carbon-free electricity to the grid by the early 2030s.

In addition to Moltex, ACOA provided $4,999,568 to NB Power and $561,750 to the University of New Brunswick to strengthen the small modular reactor (SMR) cluster in New Brunswick.

The SIF funds represent $47.5 million CDN of the total federal government investment, and Moltex will match these funds dollar-for-dollar. The full amount will be used to progress the SSR-W and WATSS designs and validate key assumptions to support the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s Pre-Licensing Vendor Design Review Phase 2. The ACOA funds represent $3 million of the total, and will be used to further WATSS research.

Moltex said it will rely on a Canadian centric nuclear supply chain, and in the process create hundreds of high-value jobs. In the next 15 years, Moltex said, “these jobs will contribute approximately $1 billion to Gross Domestic Product and result in about $100 million in federal government revenue.”

The SMR technology being developed by New Brunswick-based Moltex Energy Canada Inc. is to be grid-connected and will produce 300 MW of electricity. It seeks to generate emissions-free energy through a process that recycles existing used nuclear fuel, potentially offsetting up to 2.1 million tonnes of greenhouse gases.

About Moltex Technology

According the World Nuclear News, Moltex Energy’s SSR is a conceptual UK reactor design with no pumps and relies on convection from static vertical fuel tubes in the core to convey heat to the steam generators. A key element of the design is that fuel assemblies are arranged at the center of a tank half-filled with the coolant salt which transfers heat away from the fuel assemblies to the peripheral steam generators, essentially by convection.

Core temperature is 500-600°C, at atmospheric pressure. Moltex has also developed its GridReserve molten salt heat storage concept to enable the reactor to supplement intermittent renewables.  See conceptual image below.


The SMR design actually is expected to come in three versions.

  • SSR-W: Wasteburner (SSR-W) is a fast reactor that uses recycled nuclear waste as fuel.
  • SR-U: Uranium (SSR-U) is a uranium-fueled, thermal spectrum reactor which generates heat at higher temperatures.
  • SSR-Th: Thorium (SSR-Th) will use thorium.

The firm has not released a timeframe for each of these designs other than saying they will be available in the early 2030s.

DOD Eyes 2023 for Decision to Build Micro Reactors

(WNN) The US Department of Defense’s (DOD) project to develop a mobile reactor, Project Pele, is on track for full power testing of a mobile reactor in 2023, with outdoor mobile testing at a Department of Energy (DOE) installation in 2024, DOD’s Jeff Waksman told the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s 33rd Regulatory Information Conference.

The DOD needs a mobile, reliable, sustainable, and resilient power source which does not require a long logistics tail, said Waksman, who is program manager for the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Desired features for the new reactors include quick set-up, shut-down, and the ability to facilitate rapid movement by road, sea, air, or train.  This prototyping project will ensure that critical functions remain operational regardless of the status of the local power grid and allow users to combat physical or cyber espionage from weak grids.

Advances in nuclear technology have made possible a largely autonomous, fully inherently safe reactor which can be safely moved. He added that TRISO – TRIstructural-ISOtropic – fuel is the “game-changing” element that DOD believes will make this feasible.

See prior coverage on this blog — DOD Seeks SMRs for Tactical Readiness at Military Bases

TRISO fuel has already been developed by the DOE, and this has eliminated the need for the DOD to develop or qualify a new fuel, Waksman said. The nature of the fuel, with layers of silicon carbide surrounding the enriched uranium oxycarbide fuel kernel, which keep fission products sealed inside the TRISO particle, makes it resilient to proliferation

According to Waksman, DOE and the NRC are providing technical support, design/safety advice, and guidance on reducing current and future licensing risk. DOE is providing reactor safety oversight and authorization; the Army Corps of Engineers is the technical lead on preparing an environmental impact statement; the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration is providing Pele with enriched uranium from its stockpile; and NASA and the DOE are, jointly with SCO, developing a commercial-scale TRISO facility.

Design development is proceeding rapidly, Waksman said. A Preliminary Engineering Design has been completed and reviewed earlier this year, and an announcement narrowing down the three companies selected in 2020 to develop preliminary designs – BWX Technologies, X-energy and Westinghouse – is expected soon, he said. A draft Environmental Impact Statement is targeted for release later this year.

While the three vendors have not disclosed their design details, their selection for Project Pele indicates they have met the minimum technical requirements in the RFS. These include a weight of less than 40 tons, a core designed to use high-­assay low-­enriched uranium (HALEU) advanced gas reactor (AGR) tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel, and passive cooling capabilities.

Final engineering designs are expected to be complete no later than March 2022, allowing construction to begin in the middle of that year. The Army Mobile Reactor Advisory Council (AMRAC) is assisting the technical requirement development.

“We’re on pace on the regulatory front, on nuclear fuel, on NEPA [US environmental law], and everything else,” Waksman  said. A government decision on whether or not to go ahead with building the reactor will be made in 2022.

Project Pele involves the development of a safe, mobile and advanced nuclear microreactor to support a variety of Department of Defense missions, such as generating power for remote operating bases. After a two-year design-maturation period, one of the three companies may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype.

CEZ Can’t Make Up Its Mind About Who Can Bid on 1200 MWe Nuclear New Build at Dukovany

Reuters and English language wire services in the Czech Republic report that state owned nuclear utility CEZ is looking for a political agreement in order to launch a tender to build a new 1200 MWe PWR unit at the Dukovany nuclear plant.

The tender has been delayed, Chief Executive Daniel Benes said, because of tensions rising over whether to invite Russia to submit a bid.. China has already been booted from the procurement process. The French state owned nuclear firm EDF is expected to offer itself as an alternative to Russia with a scaled down version of its 1600 MW EPR.

CEZ, which is 70% state owned, wants to launch the tender, estimated to be worth at least 6 billion euros ($7.17 billion) in current prices, as soon as possible.

The EU and NATO country’s security services have advised not to invite China and Russia into the tender,which is contrary to the perspective of  pro-Russian President Milos Zeman as well as Benes who have spoken in favor of keeping in Russia, seen as a strong contender.

The nuclear project has become a political football as opposition parties, seeking to take power as a result of the scheduled election next October, oppose allowing Russia to bid on the project.

Last January, all political parties agreed Chinese companies should not take part but disagreed on Russia.

Besides China’s CGNP and Russia’s Rosatom, France’s EdF , Korea’s KHNP and U.S. Westinghouse expressed their interest in building the around 1,200 megawatt plant.

Benes said consensus was not contractually necessary and stopped short of saying whether the tender — which would take about 18 months, into the next election period — would be launched amid political rows.

CEZ needs an official instruction from the Industry Ministry before it can go ahead. The ministry has been in favor of keeping the tender open to Russia, but the cabinet has not taken a final stance.

The government’s envoy for nuclear energy, Jaroslav Mil, told Hospodarske Noviny newspaper  that the tender should not be launched without a consensus. In 2003 Mil was removed from his position as the head of CEZ due in part at the time to disputes over plans to spin off government owned coal assets to the private sector. It’s not clear whether he is aligned with the current CEZ chief Daniel Benes on how to proceed with the bid process.

France / Finance Minister Tells US That Nuclear Should Continue To Play Role

(NucNet) French finance minister Bruno Le Maire said during a meeting with US climate change envoy John Kerry that nuclear energy should continue to plan a key role in low-carbon power generation.

Mr Le Maire also said he had proposed that the US and Europe work on a common taxonomy for green finance.

He said it was important to open discussions with the US on carbon border tax adjustments, and to avoid importing CO2 emissions from countries that do not respect climate issues in their production processes.

The EU’s sustainable finance taxonomy aims at creating a common language that investors can refer to when investing in projects and economic activities that have a substantial positive impact on the climate and the environment. Energy generation technologies under the taxonomy have been assessed on whether they do not cause significant harm to other EU environmental objectives.

A March 2020 report by a commission technical expert group omitted nuclear energy from its recommendations on the taxonomy rules, saying it was unable to conclude that the industry’s value chain meets these criteria. The nuclear industry and scientific organizations worked to overturn the policy. In September 2020 the commission reversed itself a move which was welcomed by nuclear energy utilities and organizations.

The French nuclear society SFEN called last year for a commitment by the government to build a series of new EPR nuclear power reactors. SFEN said this would stimulate the country’s economy as it recovers from the shock of the coronavirus pandemic with domestic companies likely to take an 80% share of the project.

In December, France’s president Emmanuel Macron said he saw nuclear energy as a solution for an eco-friendly future , calling for “key” preparatory studies around the construction of new reactors to be wrapped up in the coming months.

France derives around 75% of its energy from nuclear sources and has planned to reduce this to 50% by 2035. The country has a fleet of 56 commercial reactors, second only to the US, which has 94. EDF has proposed replace the units as they age out with a scaled down and cost competitive version of the 1600 MW EPR.

The only EPR unit under construction i France, the Flamanville-3 EPR in Normandy, has been hit by delays and cost overruns. The Generation III unit is 12 years behind schedule and €4m over budget. It has been hobbled by recurring delays regarding the quality of construction and the French nuclear regulator has halted work several times until the issues are corrected to its satisfaction.

The root cause of these problems is that the supply chain vendors are dealing with custom designs rather than mass producing components and the workforce is inexperienced in terms of building a project of this complexity.

# # #

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 22, 2021

Dan, I and other pro-nuclear activists often cite France as proof that rapid decarbonization of an entire electrical grid is possible.

Strong leadership and vision were necessary to make it happen. A parliamentary decree (akin to an executive order in the U.S.) was required for Prime Minister Pierre Messmer, in 1974, to free France from dependence on Arab oil with his Messmer Plan - the most rapid buildout of nuclear energy in history.

Should Joe Biden sign an executive order today and launch a similar "Biden Plan", its potential can't be overestimated. By example - not meaningless climate accords - the U.S. could begin to flatten the upward curve of atmospheric CO2 concentration before 2050, offering hope Earth's sixth mass extinction, and the first of humanity's own making, might be avoided.

Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on Mar 22, 2021

France has been going in the wrong direction for decarbonization for a least a decade with its slow moving withdrawal from nuclear power.  US President Biden has some heavy lifting to do for international cooperation which is why he appointed former SoS John Kerry to hit the road to get it.

We need a global commitment to build nuclear plants that we understand today, not one's that we hope might work tomorrow.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 22, 2021

"We need a global commitment to build nuclear plants that we understand today, not one's that we hope might work tomorrow."

There's no evidence a single climate accord has helped to lower carbon emissions (some believe the Kyoto Protocol increased them). Thus, it's unlikely that a global commitment would bear fruit. Moreover, the world's 1st and 3rd most productive carbon-emitters - China and India - have consistently vowed that they would never abide by any agreement which would hurt their economies. Their argument, that the bulk of fossil CO2 in the atmosphere today was emitted to improve the American standard of living (true), is one with which it's hard to argue.

Because climate change is mostly a problem of our own making, the U.S. will have to lead the way in remediation efforts, and I agree that we should start by building the safe, pressurized-water reactors we know. The hardest part would be minimizing cost and errors, while maximizing productivity. With our knowledge base, assets, and technology, we're best-equipped to take on that job.

We're lacking, however, in leadership - the ability of our leaders to stand up to special interests. Whether any leader is strong enough to take them on may determine our fate as a species.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Mar 22, 2021

Moltex said it will rely on a Canadian centric nuclear supply chain, and in the process create hundreds of high-value jobs. In the next 15 years, Moltex said, “these jobs will contribute approximately $1 billion to Gross Domestic Product and result in about $100 million in federal government revenue.”

For a ~$50M investment, that's a nice little payoff. Are there any stakeholders who are arguing that that number isn't true, or will this be solidified as a motivating factor to get moving? 

Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on Mar 22, 2021

Moltex is probably counting what economists call the "multiplier effect."  For high tech  manufacturing, for every $1 spent on components delivered to the customer, the combined effect on orders to its suppliers, and the combined effect on payrolls (spending by employees of all firms involved) for the customer(s) and supplier(s) can be as high as $1.50 to $2.00.  For this reason, while a multiplier effect of 1:2 for $50M is on the high side of the equation, it isn't outside the range of possibilities.

Mitchell Beer's picture
Mitchell Beer on Mar 22, 2021

Behind the PR, there are serious concerns about fuel reprocessing at the proposed Moltex facility in New Brunswick. And, by the company CEO's account, it looks like Mycle Schneider's argument that these are really just "PowerPoint reactors" with no detailed engineering behind them is on the mark.

Could we please start from the assumption that a decarbonized electricity system will be based on technologies that are actually,  y'know, ready to deliver by 2035?

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 22, 2021

Mitchell, Mycle Schneider has no formal training in physics, nuclear engineering, climate science, and (to my knowledge) any post-secondary training in...anything.. He is an anti-nuclear activist who, like several others on the circuit, has made a cottage industry out of fearmongering - out of scaring people wherever there's a buck to be made.

Could we please start from the assumption a decarbonized electricity system will be based on technologies that have worked for half a century (from 1975-1987 France decarbonized its economy faster than any in history), and not, y'know, ones that will be "15 years away" for the next 50?

Dan Yurman's picture
Dan Yurman on Mar 22, 2021

My personal opinion is that we should standardize on light water SMRs which have a lot more certainty of success than the advanced varieties. The complete fuel cycle is well understood and the supply chain can be brought up to support factory production of multiple units a lot faster.  

I wrote about the importance of standardization and reference designs here.


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