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Southern Launches Molten Chloride Reactor Effort

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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  • Nov 20, 2021
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  • Southern Nuclear Team To Build, Operate a Molten Chloride Reactor at INL
  • Oklo Teams Up with Centrus to Produce U.S.-based HALEU Fuel Supply
  • Kazakhstan / Nuclear Fuel Assembly Manufacturing Plant Opens In Joint Venture With China
  • NuScale, Prodigy and Kinectrics Collaborate to Propose Regulatory Framework for SMR Marine-Deployed Nuclear Generating Station
  • NuScale Power’s SMR Technology Undergoing Independent Safety Review to Help Expand SMR Deployment in Ukraine
  • General Fusion Sets Up First US Headquarters in Oak Ridge, TN
  • Slovenia Energy Ministry Says Country is Unable to Reach Climate Goals Without Nuclear Energy

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Southern Nuclear Teams Up for Molten Chloride Reactor

Southern Company has signed an agreement with U.S. Department of Energy to demonstrate world’s first fast-spectrum salt reactor in collaboration with TerraPower, Idaho National Laboratory, and several other organizations. The Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment will provide crucial operational data for fast-spectrum salt reactors and unlock this uniquely flexible advanced reactor technology for use in a net-zero future. The objectives of the project are to construct and operate the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment (MCRE) – the world’s first critical fast-spectrum salt reactor – at the Idaho National Laboratory.

TPMCSRThe project was selected for funding under DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). It will advance TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR).

Southern Company research and development (R&D) will lead the effort in a collaboration that includes TerraPower, Idaho National Laboratory (INL), CORE POWER, Orano Federal Services, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and 3M Company.

The team’s ongoing alliance with DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy through the ARDP is essential for delivering this key technology and will be supported by a five-year, $170 million cost-shared funding agreement.

“Southern Company is committed to advancing next-generation nuclear as part of a comprehensive strategy to deliver clean, safe, reliable, affordable energy to the customers we’re privileged to serve,” said Dr. Mark S. Berry, Southern Company vice president of R&D.

“The Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment will support the commercialization of a revolutionary technology on a timescale that addresses climate change benchmarks and delivers on Southern Company’s goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.”

The Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment will be the world’s first fast-spectrum, salt-fueled nuclear fission reactor to go critical, meaning that it is operating on a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. The MCRE project represents a significant inflection point in the technology demonstration road map for TerraPower’s MCFR, as the project will inform the design, licensing and operation of an MCFR demonstration reactor.

The MCFR is one of the most advanced Generation IV nuclear technologies under development. It offers many performance and economic benefits including flexible, highly efficient clean electric power generation as a complement to the increased use of intermittent renewable resources on the grid. The technology also has the potential to provide carbon-free high-grade process heat and thermal storage for difficult-to-decarbonize industrial markets and ocean transportation sectors.

“Our past work with Southern Company has led to important experimental milestones and to the establishment of unique test facilities necessary to validate molten salt reactor technology,” said Chris Levesque, TerraPower’s president and CEO.

“Southern Company’s leadership and experience in reactor licensing and operation has been essential. The Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment will continue this important work in a critical reactor experiment, leading to the successful development of low-cost, clean energy for the future.”

Southern is the first US utility to sign on for an advanced, non-light water design effort. Through a public-private partnership created in 2015, Southern Company and TerraPower were awarded approximately $40 million from DOE to build integrated infrastructure necessary to support early development of MCFR technology. The newly selected Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment will continue this momentum toward commercialization of the MCFR.

The MCRE is targeted for operation at the Idaho National Laboratory, the nation’s premier nuclear laboratory. INL has a rich history of demonstrating nuclear technology, as the home of the first reactor to generate usable electricity from fission and the first to power a city. Over the past 71 years INL has been the home of 52 reactor demonstration projects, and the lab is currently working with private industry, universities and other federal stakeholders to demonstrate and deploy advanced commercial reactors.

A project initiation ceremony was held Oct. 20 in Idaho Falls, attended by representatives from Southern Company, TerraPower, INL and DOE. During this event, INL Director John Wagner said, “The core of INL’s heritage is demonstrating nuclear reactors and this opportunity to bring the first-ever fast-spectrum molten salt reactor critical is remarkable and significant. INL is honored to be part of this historic public-private collaboration.”

An environmental review will be completed for the Molten Chloride Reactor Experiment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act before final design and construction begin.

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Oklo Teams Up with Centrus to Produce U.S.-based HALEU Fuel Supply

Oklo Inc. (Oklo) and Centrus Energy Corp. (NYSE American: LEU) have signed a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) to cooperate in the deployment of a High-Assay, Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) production facility. HALEU is an advanced fuel material that can be used to fuel both existing and advanced fission power plants. Both companies are committed to working toward establishing domestic HALEU production capabilities to support the commercialization of Oklo’s power plants.

Together, the two companies are helping lead the commercialization of advanced fission and the HALEU supply needed to fuel them. Oklo’s Aurora powerhouse is the first advanced fission plant design under active licensing review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Oklo’s license application is also the only reactor application being reviewed by the NRC currently. Centrus is constructing the country’s first NRC-licensed HALEU production facility in Piketon, Ohio, and the facility is expected to begin demonstrating first-of-a-kind HALEU production in 2022.

“The commercialization of advanced fission is happening now. We need to build out the U.S. commercial supply chain capabilities to fuel the advanced fission power plants we are deploying,” said Jacob DeWitte, co-founder and CEO of Oklo.

“Without an existing commercial supply of HALEU, we are lacking a critical infrastructure capability that needs to be kickstarted domestically.” Starting in the early 2020s, Oklo will begin to deploy and commercialize a suite of advanced fission power plants. Fuel material awarded by Idaho National Laboratory is anticipated to fuel Oklo’s first power plant, and Oklo’s near-term power plant deployment is anticipated to be fueled by Centrus.

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Kazakhstan / Nuclear Fuel Assembly Manufacturing Plant Opens In Joint Venture With China

(NucNet) A joint venture between Kazakhstan and China has announced the official opening of a manufacturing plant for nuclear fuel assemblies at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk, eastern Kazakhstan.

The joint venture partners in the Ulba fuel assembly plant are Kazatomprom subsidiary UMP JSC, with 51%, and China’s CGNPC-URC, a subsidiary of China General Nuclear Power Group, with 49%.

The plant uses fuel assembly manufacturing technology and equipment manufactured in China, France and the US by France-based nuclear company Framatome. It is certified by Framatome to manufacture AFA 3G assemblies with a capacity of 200 tonnes of uranium per year. According to the US Department of Energy, more than 9,500 earlier-generation AFA 2G fuel assemblies have been loaded in reactors worldwide.

The plant is a certified supplier for the Chinese nuclear industry with CGNPC-URC as the guaranteed purchaser of the fuel assemblies.

CGNPC has been cooperating with Kazatomprom in uranium mining, uranium sales and pellet fabrication since 2006.

& & &

NuScale, Prodigy and Kinectrics Collaborate to Propose Regulatory Framework for SMR Marine-Deployed Nuclear Generating Station

NuScale Power (NuScale) announced this week that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Prodigy Clean Energy Ltd. (Prodigy) and Kinectrics Incorporated (Kinectrics) to explore and inform the development of a regulatory framework to address licensing and deployment of a Prodigy Marine Power Station (MPS).

The MPS, which would integrate from one to twelve of the NuScale Power Modules (NPMs) into a marine-based (floating)(powered) nuclear power plant system. The MPS presents a rapidly-deployed, carbon-free baseload energy generation solution to replace fossil fuel power plants in ships on a global scale. This MOU builds upon the existing partnership between NuScale and Prodigy, representing a critical step towards the commercialization of this technology.

Through this agreement, the three companies will produce technical specifications and a regulatory considerations document on the MPS that will be used to engage regulators and potential customers. The benefits of using Prodigy’s marine power plant system to deploy the NuScale Small Modular Reactor (SMR) include significantly reduced capital costs, reduced environmental impact, and expedited project delivery schedule when compared to traditional land-based nuclear projects.

The MPS would generate scalable and reliable electricity and heat with zero greenhouse gas emissions for on-grid and off-grid locations, at dramatically reduced cost and schedule risk. NuScale, Prodigy and Kinectrics will work together to evaluate commercial deployment opportunities where the MPS could be deployed either as the sole power source, coupled with renewables, or used to generate clean fuels, such as hydrogen and ammonia, economically and at commercial scale.

Prodigy is Canada’s first commercial marine nuclear power developer, specializing in integrating existing power reactors into stationary-deployed marine power plant structures. The MPS would be shipyard-fabricated, and marine-transported to its deployment location, where it would be moored in place in sheltered and protected waters at the shoreline. Powered by the NuScale SMR, Prodigy’s MPS is a highly-optimized and affordable solution to supply coastal cities, communities and industrial zones, as well as island nations, with clean, reliable and sustainable energy.

Kinectrics is a leader in providing life cycle management services for the electricity industry. To support the collaboration, Kinectrics will bring expertise in nuclear licensing and regulatory affairs, nuclear equipment qualification, environmental analysis, safety analysis, materials evaluation, structural analysis, and shoreside transmission and distribution infrastructure design and construction, to the Prodigy and NuScale team.

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NuScale Power’s SMR Technology Undergoing Independent Safety Review to Help Expand SMR Deployment in Ukraine

The U.S. Department of Energy is funding an independent review by SSTC of the NuScale Safety Analysis Report to be available to any utility in Ukraine pursuing U.S. SMR technology

NuScale Power announced the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is funding an independent review of NuScale’s Safety Analysis Report (SAR) to be conducted by Ukraine’s State Scientific and Technical Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety (SSTC NRS). Any party interested in deploying a SMR in Ukraine will benefit from this independent review. This review will demonstrate the viability, value, and international interest in utilizing NuScale’s SMR technology to produce clean, reliable, and affordable energy.

The scope of the independent review will be developed by NuScale and SSTC NRS, and is expected to begin in 2022. Argonne National Laboratory will administer the contract for the effort and review deliverables. The review report will be made available to any utility in Ukraine willing to pursue an approved U.S. SMR technology.

“NuScale is thrilled to see this important regulatory collaboration taking place between the United States and Ukraine to provide utilities with the utmost confidence in the safety of NuScale’s small modular reactor,” said John Hopkins, Chairman and CEO of NuScale Power.

This announcement is further evidence of international interest in NuScale’s SMR technology and follows a series of Memoranda of Understanding to explore NuScale SMR deployment in Ukraine, including with Energoatom, the Ukrainian state operator for the country’s four nuclear power stations and Ukraine’s State Scientific and Technical Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety (SSTC NRS).

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General Fusion Sets Up First US Headquarters in Oak Ridge, TN

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, state Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and General Fusion Corp. officials announced Wednesday that General Fusion, based in Vancouver, Canada, has selected Oak Ridge for its U.S. headquarters. The establishment of the Oak Ridge headquarters marks the company’s first operations in the United States.

General Fusion, the U.S.-based subsidiary of General Fusion Inc., will initially invest $539,000 and create 20 new jobs in Anderson County, TN, over the next five years, according to a state Economic and Community Development news release.

In their own news release, General Fusion officials said the company is advancing plans for what it described as a “first-of-a-kind commercial pilot plant” for fusion energy, a carbon-free power source.

“General Fusion will benefit from increased opportunities for scientific collaboration” with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the company release stated. “The two organizations recently partnered to study plasma diagnostics to improve the quality of the plasma used to create fusion, work that will advance the design and operation of General Fusion’s commercial machine.”

“General Fusion is developing a practical and economical approach to Magnetized Target Fusion (MTF) to produce fusion energy. The company’s MTF technology puts it on the fastest path to commercialization, and on course to power homes, businesses and industry with clean fusion energy by the early 2030s,” the company release stated.

“Founded in 2002, General Fusion is working to transform the world’s energy supply with practical fusion energy. The company’s new U.S. headquarters will enhance its Technology Commercialization Program, managing collaborations with national laboratories such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory, universities and the U.S. government,” according to the state release.

The company also cited Oak Ridge as being home to the U.S. ITER program and added in its press statement, “Here, General Fusion will collaborate with world-leading fusion scientists and tap into key engineering talent. The Oak Ridge office will also provide a robust ecosystem of suppliers and services essential to making commercial fusion energy a reality.”

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Slovenia Energy Ministry Says Country is Unable to Reach Climate Goals Without Nuclear Energy

Slovenia’s most senior energy official has acknowledged that the country will not be able to meet its climate targets without nuclear energy, making a new reactor at its sole nuclear power station a necessity.

“There is potential for more photovoltaic plants and four hydropower plants. We also have some wind potential that we have to harness…But renewables will not be enough,” Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec said.

“The only way to prevent further price growth is by reducing the import of fossil fuels and opening the path to nuclear energy,” he said.

The Infrastructure Ministry issued an energy permit for a new unit at the existing nuclear power station in Krško this summer, while a 20-year extension of the current unit is in the process of being approved before its existing permit expires in 2023.

Vrtovec said the goal was to complete the second unit in 2033 or 2034, which he said was “ambitious but feasible” and dovetailed with the planned coal exit in 2033.

“This is why we’re in a hurry with unit two and nuclear technologies, we don’t want to rely on energy imports to an even greater extent after 2033.”

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