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New Lamps for Old: Australia, Puerto Rico Open to Efforts for Small Modular Reactors

  • Australia / Government To Examine SMRs As Part Of Energy Planning
  • Puerto Rico / New Report Finds Small Modular Reactors are Feasible
  • U.S. / New TVA Board Members Support Development Work for SMRs
  • France / Nuclear Society Urges Government To Commit To New-Build
  • South Africa / Nuclear Industry Association Supports Government Proposals for Nuclear Power
  • Brazil / COVID-19 to Delay New Nuclear Plant

Australia / Government To Examine SMRs As Part Of Energy Planning

new lamp(NucNet) The Australian federal government has taken a major step forward in addressing the need for CO2 emission free electrical generation power sources.

In a major new report it says it wants to look at the possibility of deploying small modular reactors (SMRs) as part of its policy to achieve its medium-and long-term greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction target which is a strategy that is  part of its obligation under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

The discussion paper said emerging nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, have potential but require R&D and identified deployment pathways.

“Engineering, cost and environmental challenges, alongside social acceptability of nuclear power in Australia, will be key determinants of any future deployment,” the paper said.

The paper examined more than 140 energy technologies including nuclear, hydrogen, renewables, biofuels and carbon capture and storage.

It said while solar and wind were the cheapest forms of generation, reliability was still an issue and gas would play an important part in “balancing” renewable energy sources. The natural gas industry has lobbied for investments in gas-fueled electrical generation projects and also development of carbon capture technologies.

Over time Labor and coalition governments have maintained a bipartisan moratorium on the construction and operation of nuclear power plants in Australia. That changed in December 2019 as a parliamentary committee said the Australian government should consider a partial lifting of an existing moratorium on nuclear energy to allow the deployment of new and emerging technologies including Generation III+ and Generation IV reactors.

The back story on this development is the request of energy minister Angus Taylor to the parliament’s House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy which began in August 2019 as an inquiry into the nuclear fuel cycle and Australia’s potential future use of nuclear energy.

In its final report the committee said the government should consider the prospect of nuclear technology as part of Australia’s future energy mix.

Companies including Russia’s Rosatom and U.S. based NuScale told the inquiry that small modular reactor technology could be a perfect fit for Australia because they provide the reliable, load-following power needed to address the intermittency of renewables.

“Nuclear energy should be on the table for consideration as part of our future energy mix,” committee chairman Ted O’Brien said.

“Australia should say a definite ‘No’ to old nuclear technologies but a conditional ‘Yes’ to new and emerging technologies such as small modular reactors. And most importantly, the Australian people should be at the center of any approval process.”

“If we’re serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions, we can’t simply ignore this zero-emissions baseload technology. But we also need to be humble enough to learn lessons from other countries who have gone down this path. It’s as much about getting the technology right as it is about maintaining a social licence based on trust and transparency.”

New Report Finds Small Modular Reactors are Feasible in Puerto Rico

naplogo(WNN)  Advanced nuclear reactors can meet Puerto Rico’s unique energy needs by complementing renewable sources with zero-emission electricity resilient to extreme natural events, including hurricanes, a preliminary feasibility study has concluded.

The study conducted by Puerto Rican-led not-for-profit organization the Nuclear Alternative Project (NAP) was funded by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

NAP has completed the first comprehensive Preliminary Feasibility Study for Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and Microreactors for Puerto Rico. The study was led by Puerto Rican engineers who work in the U.S. nuclear industry, with the support of industry partners, U.S. national laboratories and local contributors.

pr report participants

Scope of the Report

This Preliminary Feasibility Study aims to address critical questions specific to Puerto Rico. Economic and safety assessments will follow eventually. Our Study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy. The topics covered in this Preliminary Feasibility Study include:

  • ​Market conditions in Puerto Rico
  • Technology assessment
  • Public perception
  • Grid assessment
  • Legal and regulatory framework
  • Financing, ownership and operation mechanisms
  • Weighing the benefits and challenges for Puerto Rico

Background for the Report

Puerto Rico currently generates 98% of its electricity from imported fossil fuels, and its power plants, built in the late 1960s, experience outage rates 12 times higher than the US average. Within the next decade, Puerto Rico proposes a transition from a centralized system dependent on fossil fuels to a distributed system centred on clean energy. Its legislature in 2018 passed a bill calling for an investigation into the possibility of building nuclear power plants on the island, which suffered widespread outages following Hurricane Maria in 2017.

NAP, founded in 2016 by Puerto Rican engineers in the US nuclear industry to inform and advocate for small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors in Puerto Rico, proposed a feasibility study to the DOE Office of Nuclear Energy, to evaluate the economic, safety and social impact of deploying microreactors and SMRs on the island.

The study began last October, having received receipt of a “notice to proceed” from the US DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory. The findings of that feasibility study were released by NAP this week.

Looking Ahead for Nuclear Energy Development in Puerto Rico

The Integrated Resource Plan proposed by the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) calls for Puerto Rico to have new solar, storage and natural gas capacity in the order of 3000 MWe by 2025. The Puerto Rico Renewable Portfolio Standard mandates 40% renewable energy generation by 2025, 60% renewables by 2040 and 100% renewables by 2050.

smrs for pr

“Only nuclear reactors can complement the intermittency of renewable power sources with zero-emission baseload power generation,” the feasibility study said. It found small nuclear reactors can integrate with renewable energy and the existing transmission and distribution grid as well as with a decentralized system envisioned for the island.

According to the study, the delivery of electricity from SMRs and microreactors can be cost competitive when compared with natural gas generation from mobile gas units and combined cycle gas turbine units proposed by PREPA as part of the island’s fleet replacement.

“Advanced nuclear reactors provide a combination of reduced electricity costs, zero-emission baseload electricity and minimal dependency on fuel imports that can lead to a strong degree of energy security and reliability much needed for a robust manufacturing and industrial sector in Puerto Rico,” the report says.

prtimeline

“A strong local industry translates into job creation, economic growth, additional exports, and global competition and innovation expansion among many others.”

NAP said it is now preparing for phase two studies which will focus on the viability of constructing small reactors at specific locations on the island and an education campaign for the people of Puerto Rico. The suitability of sites for advanced nuclear reactors in Puerto Rico will be performed in accordance with US Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations.

New TVA Board Members Support Development Work for SMRs

tva-logo_thumb.jpgTwo new incoming members of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) are reported to support building small modular reactors at the Clinch River site according to the Times Free Press.

East Tennessee State President Brian Noland and former Tennessee Speaker of the House Beth Harwell are slated for confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Both nominees told the newspaper they support TVA’s work to add SMRs to the utility’s energy generation portfolio. Their statements came during their confirmation hearings chaired by Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind) who chairs the Senate panel that oversees TVA.

Noland said in his confirmation statement, “I feel it is important that TVA continue to work to diversify its portfolio and central to that is working in the nuclear space.”

In the hearing by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Harwell also voiced support for “innovation” in development of new nuclear reactor technologies

The newspaper also reported that while backing the potential of more nuclear power from small modular reactors, Noland and Harwell also voiced support for more renewable power such as solar and wind where it makes economic sense.

At the urging of U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Del., the TVA board nominees pledged to work to go beyond even TVA’s state goal of generating 70% of its power from carbon-free sources by 2030.

TVA received an early site permit from the NRC in December 2019 for an SMR at the Clinch River site, but has not made a decision to build one or more units. Despite citing a target of 800 MW for the plant, the utility has not indicated a preference for any current or future design or technology.

France / Nuclear Society Urges Government To Commit To New-Build

(NucNet)  Six new EPR 2 plants would ‘stimulate economy and help recovery from pandemic according to a communication from the French nuclear energy society SFEN

A commitment by the government to build a series of new EPR nuclear power reactors in France 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, the French nuclear energy society SFEN said in a position paper.

areva-epr_thumb


SFEN said a new-build program would have a strong ripple effect on the rest of the economy. In France, each euro invested in nuclear generates €2.5 in the rest of the economy and particularly in areas where nuclear facilities are built.

Press reports in France in October 2019 said the government had asked state-controlled power utility EDF to prepare for a new start for nuclear energy with plans to construct six Generation III EPR type units over the next 15 years.

Quoting a letter sent by environment minister Elisabeth Borne and finance minister Bruno Le Maire to EDF’s chairman Jean-Bernard Lévy, Le Monde said the company would be required to build three pairs of EPR reactors on three sites.

In a separate report days later Le Monde quoted Mr Lévy as saying “it is clear” that France is preparing to build new nuclear power plants and the best way to deliver them while bringing down costs is to build them in pairs.

Le Monde also reported that EDF had estimated it would cost at least €46bn to build six EPR nuclear power reactors. Each 1,600-MW reactor would cost €7.5bn to €7.8bn, (€4600-4800/Kw) based on building the units in pairs with financing over about 20 years, Le Monde reported. This would include “dismantling provisions” of €400m and provisions for “uncertainties” of €500m for each reactor.

Ms Borne said last year that the decision whether or not to build new EPR plants would not be taken before the end of 2022, pushing it beyond the date of the country’s next general election.

During a hearing of the commission for sustainable development Ms Borne said there would be no decision on new units before the commissioning of the Flamanville-3 EPR plant under construction in northern France, where she said fuel loading is planned for the end of 2022.

South African Nuclear Industry Association Supports Government Proposals for Nuclear Power

(Engineering News)  The Nuclear Industry Association of South Africa (Niasa) on May 8th welcomed a commitment by the South African Energy Ministry to develop a road map for a program to build new nuclear power plants (NPPs) with a total capacity of 2500 MW.

niasa.logoThe Society’s news release followed the recent announcement to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe that his department would soon start a process to develop 2 500 MW of new nuclear power.

“This gives the requisite policy certainty which enables industry to respond accordingly,” affirmed the association. Niasa is particularly happy to see the commitment by government to entertain innovative funding models.”

The Energy Ministry has indicated that new nuclear power plants would likely be small modular reactors and could be built by the private sector, requiring no State funding. Or they could be built in partnership with the State, on a build, operate, transfer basis, not requiring any upfront or early State funding. In South Africa, renewable energy projects had been funded and built by the private sector.)

South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which outlined the country’s future energy needs., It also referred to the need for South Africa to monitor international developments regarding small modular NPPs.

“Niasa has forged solid relationship[s] with sister organizations around the world to capitalize on information sharing and benchmarking.”

“The extension of the life of Koeberg Nuclear Power Plant beyond 2024 is another exciting opportunity for the industry as it will provide opportunities to embark on real tangible projects, which will in turn lay the foundation for skills development, ensuring readiness for the NNB program,” pointed out Niasa.

COVID-19 to Delay Brazil Nuclear Plant

(Wire services) Lower demand for electricity and a steep currency slide during the coronavirus crisis will push completion of Brazil’s third nuclear reactor into 2027, the head of state-run nuclear power company Eletronuclear told Reuters.

eletronuclearAs economic activity slacks off due to unemployment caused by closed businesses, electricity demand in Brazil has taken a nose dive. Reuters reported that Brazil began to process the accelerating horrors of the spread of the new coronavirus, slashing economic growth outlooks, warning of a healthcare collapse, and failure by the government to take measures to control the virus have contributed to the drop in use of electricity.

Eletronuclear president Leonam Guimaraes said Brazil still plans to find a partner by 2023 to help finish and operate the long-delayed 1,400 megawatt Angra 3 nuclear reactor. China, Russia, France and South Korea are among the possible candidates.

Construction, which began in 2010, is set to restart this year after a long delay caused by financial difficulties and corruption investigations. Financial issues will affect future work. Volatility of the real, which has weakened by 28% against the dollar this year, is a key uncertainty.

According to Reuters, the Economy Ministry lowered its growth forecast from 2.1% to zero – a number many economists believe remains highly ambitious – with a “significant” contraction coming in the second quarter.

A paper published by the Brazilian Center for Applied Macroeconomics and Getulio Vargas Foundation (FGV) showed that the worst-case combination of simultaneous international and domestic shocks could see Brazil’s gross domestic product shrink by 4.4% this year.

These grim numbers make the prospects for progress for new electrical generation capacity, including nuclear, highly diminished at least for the next year.

Impact of the Corona Virus Crisis in Brazil

corona cases May 24 2020
Corona Virus Cases by Country May 24, 2020.
Source: Johns Hopkins COVID-Map.

Guimaraes said the “brutal” 15-20% drop in power consumption caused by the coronavirus pandemic means future demand is very uncertain.

Brazil has surpassed Russia as the country with the second-highest reported coronavirus cases in the world according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.

Brazil as of mid-May has recorded 347,398 cases of the virus and 22,013 deaths from the disease, trailing only the U.S., which has recorded 1.6 million confirmed cases of the virus and 96,983 deaths from the disease.

Russia, which is now has the third most confirmed coronavirus cases, has reported 335,882 infections and 3,388 deaths.

Utility Remains Committed to the Project

Eletronuclear’s owner, Eletricas Brasileiras SA , has agreed to maintain its investment for this year of 1 billion reais to get the project restarted and make it more attractive for a partner. Under the current business model, the private partner would be expected to come in with 20% of the investment.

The utility hopes to restart work soon as that will be a confidence builder to bring foreign direct investment to the project.

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