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SMR Supply Chains, Costs, are Focus of Key Developments

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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...

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  • Oct 6, 2017 10:00 am GMT

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Small modular reactors won’t be able to compete with natural gas plants combined with renewables unless and until they get enough orders to justify building factories to manufacture them in a mass production environment.

Holtec Opens SMR Manufacturing Center in New Jersey

In September Holtec announced the grand opening of a $360M, 50 acre SMR manufacturing center in Camden, N.J. The firm was incentivized by the State of New Jersey to locate there with $260M in tax breaks.  According to Holtec the Camden plant will eventually employ up to 1,000 people.

The center’s opening is consistent with the company’s plans, for now, as portrayed in this video on its website, that all of the components of the SMR-160 will be manufactured in the U.S.

The plant is focused on two spheres: production of container fleet for spent nuclear fuel, as well as reactor pressure vessels for small modular reactors of the SMR-160 project.


Conceptual Drawing of SMR-160 – image source via Holtec International

The Camden plant features a large manufacturing plant, a light manufacturing plant, and a 7-story engineering office building.  Holtec said in a statement that its fabrication capabilities can be deployed to extrude, roll, form, weld, machine and finish precision custom parts for multiple industries.

Dr. Singh, Holtec’s President and CEO, declared the factory to be “Ground Zero” for the renaissance of nuclear energy and heavy manufacturing in America.

“It will serve as the launching pad for the regeneration of manufacturing in the United States.”

He added, “We will build nuclear reactors here, and they will sail from the port of Camden to hundreds of places around the world.”

Is Holtec Headed for Ukraine to Manufacture SMRs for Europe & Asia?

The maturing of an American supply chain to support mass production of components for SMRs might develop, but not all of it may be in the U.S. Holtec International, is reported to be in talks about planning to arrange the production of small modular reactors (SMRs) for nuclear power plants in Ukraine, and for export to Europe and Asia.

The Interfax wire service report, which was not confirmed by Holtec, comes on the heels of the firm’s grand opening of a $360M nuclear energy component manufacturing center in Camden, NJ. It is the second report in three months providing details of Holtec International’s discussions with Energoatom. However, a spokesperson for Holtec declined to comment on these discussions as reported by Interfax.


Yuriy Nedashkovsky

The Intefax report quotes Energoatom National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine President Yuriy Nedashkovsky who said,

“There is a very interesting offer made by Holtec International CEO Kris Singh to President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko  – to create a hub in Ukraine, distributing small modular reactors to Europe, Asia and Africa, with the localization of production and a large number of equipment at Ukrainian enterprises.”

According to Nedashkovsky, Ukraine’s Turboatom has already been involved in the project, as it has the required turbines in its production line.

“This project has already been developed conceptually. The launch of licensing procedures (in the U.S.) is expected next year, and an active phase of construction – approximately in 2023.”  Nedashkovsky added.

Talking of the long-term prospects, Nedashkovsky noted that the demand for small modular reactors after 2025 was estimated to grow over time.

Is the Ukraine SMR Story Ahead of Holtec’s Headlights?

headlightWhat’s unclear is whether Nedashkovsky was speaking off-the-top-of-his-head, commenting officially on behalf of Holtec International, or did he let a proverbial cat out of the bag?

A spokesperson for the firm said in an email to this blog on 10/4 that the firm, “cannot confirm this article (the September Interfax wire service report) , as the quote is not ours.” The firm declined further comment.

What is clear is that Holtec knows about the quote because it posted the Intefax September report in the press section of its website. The company also posted a previous Interfax article, published last July, which noted that National Nuclear Generating Company Energoatom and Holtec International have discussed the prospects of licensing and building small module reactors, the SMR-160, in the United States, Ukraine and other countries.

“Holtec International specialists pointed out the possibility of localization of equipment production for SMR-160 at Ukrainian enterprises and the possibility of making fuel for these reactors in the country.”

What’s confusing about the disconnects here is that Nedashkovsky is a member of Holtec’s advisory council.  According to the company’s website, “The Holtec Advisory Council consists of recognized industry leaders with a corporate nexus to Holtec International. The Council’s principal role is to provide input to the Company’s executive leadership with respect to both the technical and commercial merits and weaknesses of the SMR-160 program.”

Holtec has an existing relationship with Ukraine’s nuclear energy sector manufacturing spent fuel casks for an interim storage facility there. It is also working on a proposal for a commercial interim storage facility for spent nuclear fuel to be located near Hobbs, N.M.

According to the S&P Global Market Intelligence, Holtec International Inc. with HQ in Jupiter, FL, is privately held and does not report earnings on any public stock exchange.

Other Agreements

According to World Nuclear News last July Holtec International announced a teaming arrangement with SNC Lavalin to collaborate in the development of Holtec’s SMR-160 small modular reactor (SMR).

Under the agreement, SNC-Lavalin – parent company of Candu Energy – will provide Holtec with nuclear engineering services, including supporting the licensing of the SMR-160 reactor. Holtec said it expects to submit its design to the NRC for review by the end of 2018.

Holtec said, “The partnership aims to vigorously accelerate the reactor system’s ongoing development and international licensing efforts by linking SNC-Lavalin’s world-class nuclear team with Holtec’s SMR team.”

Holtec has previously secured engineering, design and qualification support for its work on the SMR-160 from the Shaw Group and URS Corporation, and has a strategic alliance with utility PSEG Power, operator of three nuclear units at Salem and Hope Creek in southern New Jersey.

In August 2015, Mitsubishi Electric Power Products Inc signed a long-term partnership agreement with Holtec to develop the instrumentation and control systems for the SMR-160.

US Organizes to Ramp up SMR Supply Chain

While Holtec is working in Urkaine, a conference being held this week in Idaho Falls, ID, is looking for ways to spin up a supply chain for SMR manufacturing in the U.S.

The two-day Advanced Manufacturing & Supply Chain innovation Leadership Summit & Showcase (press statement) is sponsored by the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council in conjunction with the Idaho National Laboratory. It will be followed by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Nuclear Energy’s annual review of the current projects that are part of its Advanced Methods for Manufacturing program.

The Advanced Manufacturing & Supply Chain Summit & Showcase is an inaugural meeting (agenda) of leading U.S. nuclear energy suppliers and manufacturers including the new Center for Advanced Nuclear Manufacturing (CANM).

During the DOE AMM workshop, more than a dozen principal investigators will review the status of their research and discuss the relevance of their findings to advanced manufacturing.

The Workshop presentations will cover advancements in: Welding and Joining Technologies; Additive Manufacturing; Modular Fabrication; Concrete Materials and Rebar Innovations; Data Configuration Management; Surface Modifications and Cladding Processes.

How Rolls-Royce Aims for SMRs To Compete With Wind And Solar

(NucNet) The UK nuclear industry is hoping that claims by Rolls-Royce that small modular reactor (SMR) projects could deliver electricity for a similar cost to offshore wind will provide much-needed impetus to government plans for the country to develop a “best value” SMR and put it into commercial operation by the end of the next decade.

Rolls-Royce and its consortium partners, including Amec Foster Wheeler, Arup, Laing O’Rourke and Nuvia, say the UK SMR they are developing could produce energy for as low as £60 (€66, $79) per MWh, which is competitive against wind and solar. It is significantly lower than the £92.50 per MWh agreed by the government and project developer EDF for the new Hinkley Point C nuclear station.

However, Rolls-Royce also warned in its report that the government needs to “move forward with pace” towards establishing the conditions required for a UK SMR to flourish. The Rolls-Royce report is online  Press Statement here

SMRs Can Rival Gas If Risks Facing New Technologies Are Addressed

(NucNet) Small modular reactors (SMRs) could rival the costs of natural gas plants if the risks typically facing new technologies are properly addressed, says a study by US-based SMR Start, the consortium of SMR developers and potential customers formed in January 2016 to help commercialize small reactor technologies.

“There are many conditions and scenarios that could occur that would result in SMRs being comparable with the costs of a natural gas combined cycle plant,” the study, ‘Economics of Small Modular Reactors,’ says.

“The first SMRs are expected to be within the range of natural gas plants costs assuming appropriate private-public partnerships to help reduce technology risks and keep first-of-a-kind costs low.”

The study evaluates market opportunities, commercialization time frames and cost competitiveness for SMRs. It also assesses various policy tools to help “first movers” overcome the costs of first-of-a-kind technology, including production tax credits, investment tax credits, loan guarantees, power purchase agreements and other policy tools.

The study says SMRs will be needed as large retirements of baseload generation and an increase in intermittent renewables have negative impacts on the grid. Private companies continue to invest in SMRs – more than $1bn (€840m) so far.

The first SMR applications to the NRC – by NuScale Power (deisgn review) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (ESP) – have been submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with the first approval expected in the early-2020s. Holtec International is reported to be planning to submit their SMR-160 to the NRC for design review in 2018.

Westinghouse Says It Remains Committed To UK SMR Development

(NucNet) Westinghouse Electric Company said last week it remains committed to developing a 225-MW small modular reactor (SMR) that the company believes will allow the UK to move from buyer to global provider of SMR technology.

The company said in a statement that more than 85% of its SMR’s design, license and procurement scope can be delivered by the UK. The fuel would be manufactured at its Springfields facility in northern England.

“This is a special offering that only Westinghouse, with UK partners, can deliver,” the statement said.

Media reports in the UK have suggested that ministers are ready to approve the development of a fleet of SMRs to help guard against electricity shortages as older nuclear power stations are decommissioned.

Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection in the US March 2017, citing costs from the Summer and Vogtle nuclear projects in the US. Company president and chief executive officer José Gutiérrez said the problems that led to the Chapter 11 filing have nothing to do with the AP1000 technology and that AP1000 reactors being built in China are proceeding well. Westinghouse said it filed for bankruptcy protection in the US to protect its core businesses and give the company time to restructure for continuing operation.

It remains unclear where the company will get the capital to pay for development of the SMR, complete a Generic Design Review in the UK, and build a manufacturing center there to produce the reactors.

China National Nuclear to Develop Traveling Wave Reactor

(Reuters) The China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) has signed an agreement with the Shenhua Group, China’s biggest coal producer, to promote the development of advanced “travelling wave” reactor technology, the state nuclear giant said.

In late September two sides signed an investment agreement to promote fourth-generation travelling wave reactors (TWR), CNNC said in a notice posted on its website. The deal also involved the Zhejiang Energy Group and the Hebei Construction and Investment Group.

TWR, one of several new “fourth-generation” reactor designs, uses depleted uranium and is more fuel-efficient and cheaper to run than conventional nuclear reactors.

Leading developers of TWR include the Bill Gates-backed Terrapower, which is working on large scale projects aimed at providing base-load electricity. CNNC has an agreement with Terrapower to jointly develop the advanced reactor.

The Shenhua Group said it entered the agreement to diversity away from coal production and related power plant infrastructure.

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Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Oct 6, 2017

This sounds a lot like the story of the hare and the tortoise to me.
Rolls royce hopes , if everything wors poerfectly well, and when no obstacles show up on the way to a prototype and further to production, to reach 60 pounds / MWH sometimes in the future, nobody knwos exactly when, if enough support will be provided.
And while SMR are stuggeling to get anywhere at some time in the future, solar power in a tender in saudi arabia was offered for 13,5Pounds /MWh, so less than a quater of what rolls royce hopes to achieve. With products available here and now. Off the shelve.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Oct 9, 2017

One needn’t go too far back too recall a time when the same sort of dismissive skepticism was raised against the prospects that wind and solar would ever be even halfway economical. Solar cells — never mind panels — were more than $10 a watt. Large wind turbines were 100 kW nameplate and similarly costly. And many took those prices to be THE cost, for then and ever more. Only computing power somehow managed to sustain a prolonged exponential reduction in cost.

It’s valid to point out that “progress” is not inevitable, and that most things don’t automatically get cheaper over time. Something has to drive it. In some cases, new technology comes along and enables many things to be done more cheaply. Cheap micro-controllers and additive manufacturing methods are examples. But in many cases, it’s simpler: market demand.

There’s a surprisingly robust rule of thumb for scaling of production costs. It says that with every doubling of production volume, the cost per unit will fall by ~20%. When the market for a product is growing, it incentivizes investment in new and better production setups and innovation specifically targeted at lowering costs.

That’s what happened to the cost of wind and solar capacity. In that case, however, it took truly massive subsidies to drive demand up enough to bring costs down. Plus a strategic decision by the Chinese government that domination of the solar panel industry would be a long term good for their economy.

The factors that determine what new products and technologies will achieve “takeoff” — or in Silicon Valley startup parlance, successfully cross the “valley of death” — are complex and fickle. Luck and coincidence can play big roles, as can the personalities of founders and the faith of investors with deep pockets. Those factors are often at least as important as the merits of the product or technology being promoted. All of which makes life “interesting” for technology forecasters.

To improve one’s forecast batting average, it helps to be able to consider the long term fundamentals. And frankly, as one-time physicist and long time denizen of Silicon Valley, with experience in several startups, I have to say that the long term fundamentals for small modular reactors look very, very strong.

If it were just one particular startup going for it, I’d say the odds were strongly against them. But there are a dozen or more different technologies being investigated or actively developed. Some of them have the potential to reduce the already low uranium fuel costs for current light water reactors by a factor of 50, and even to consume nuclear waste stockpiles. I don’t know which ones will succeed or fail, but I’d say the odds against all of them failing are long indeed.

Especially given that a few have acquired support from the same Chinese government that leveraged mostly foreign technology into world-leading capacity for cheap solar panels.

Helmut Frik's picture
Helmut Frik on Oct 10, 2017

The “problem” for nuclear is that the parts of which nuclear plants consist are not new. Not was whole nuclear plants, as they are being built for 60 years at least, nor in the way of boilers (250 years) huge steel parts (100-150 years) or electronic control systems (50 years).
Solar panels – iron free glass was pruduced only in tiny amounts before, back foils as well, and solar cells are completely new as far as economy of scale is concerned. The aluminium frames are not new, that’s why they do not come down in cost and are slowly becoming a relevant cost factor. But modules can be made without them.
Same for wind power – most cost reductions are in the area of towers (no serial production of big towers before that) rotor blades (different from airplanes, so unique in their kinds) and partly the huge gears come down in costs, but generators and control equipment not so much – but the share of control equipment falls with the rising size of wind turbines.
There might be some economy of scale in some nuclear components in SMR, but on the other hand, the invers economy of scale works on the components shared with coal power plants, like boilers, turbines, condensors etc. Which have the tendency to rise in price due to the sining production numbers for coal power plants.

You may also think it like this: if You compare a conventinal pwoer station, all the many complex functional elemants wich come beforte turbine to produce steam (and condense it again) are skipped, only turbine, generator and their control remains of the power plant – just lifted on a high tower as “disadvantage”. A lot of costs skipped with this as well.
With solar power even the turbine and the rotating parts of generator is skipped, it starts with a DC-non moving-generator. Disadvantage is the inverter to produce AC. Sizes increase, but size alone is often not that expensive. Especially since mass does not increase (or not that much when looking at the non skipped parts only)

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