NRC Accepts Oklo Mini Reactor License Application for Review
- Jun 29, 2020 10:15 pm GMT
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Micro and Small Modular Reactor News
- NRC Accepts Oklo Mini Reactor License Application for Review
- Canadian Companies Form JV To Build And Own Chalk River Plant
- Fermi Energia / US Venture Capital Fund Invests In Estonia SMR Company
- NuGen Receives Two Patents for its “Spiral Fuel Core” HTGR SMR
Other Nuclear News
- South Africa / Energy Ministry Starts Consultations on Nuclear New Build
- Romania / Shareholders Approve Strategy To Complete Units 3 And 4 At Cernavodă
- Russia / Beloyarsk-4 Fast Reactor Set To Fully Run On MOX Fuel In 2022
NRC Accepts Oklo Mini Reactor License Application for Review
In a first, the regulatory agency, which will issue either a pass or a fail grade, has agreed to review the application for a combined license for a 1.5 MW mini reactor, developed by Oklo, a Sunnyvale, California, based nuclear entrepreneur.
The firm is the leader in what is expected to be a veritable conga line of applicants for all types of advanced reactors with each of them hoping that their particular technology will be the right combination of competitive performance and costs to woe customers to build them.
For them, the NRC’s acceptance of a novel application and application structure by Oklo is a breakthrough for advanced fission technologies. In a press statement the firm takes credit for setting, “a solid example for future advanced fission applications.”
Olko’s Director of NRC Licensing, Alex Renner, also that the stakes are high not only for the firm, but also that “the company’s accepted application will serve as a critical precedent for future advanced fission license submissions.”
That’s certainly a consideration for other developers of advanced reactors like X-Energy, Terrestrial Energy, Kairos, Elysium Industries, NuGen, ThorCon, and many others. All of them will be watching Olko’s progress like hawks to see what happens, what work , and what needs more work.
Oklo’s CEO and co-founder, Jacob DeWitte, said the acceptance “is a great indicator that the NRC is prepared to license advanced fission technologies” like its Aurora design. The NRC and Oklo have engaged in “pre-application” discussions since 2016.
“Advanced reactors are an important tool for climate change, and we are proud to be the first to submit a full license application and the first to have it accepted,” said Oklo’s CEO and co-founder, Jacob DeWitte.
What Does the NRC Mean by “Acceptance” of Oklo’s Application?
The NRC’s decision to accept the application for review, or “docketing,” does not indicate whether the Commission will ultimately approve or reject the request for a license. The NRC said it is focusing on “aligning on key design and safety aspects early in the process to provide a predictable and efficient licensing schedule.” Information regarding the Combined License process is available on the NRC website.
The NRC’s acceptance letter of 6/5/20 lists four topics to be addressed in the first step of the licensing review.
- Maximum credible accident
- Classification of Structures, Systems and Components
- Applicability of Regulations
- Quality Assurance Program
Step 3 will include detailed reviews of structure, schedule, and an updated estimate of how much effort will be needed to complete the process.
Seveal key topics are called out in the NRC letter including (1) emergency planning, security, and site characterization, (2) adequacy and completeness of technical specifications and pre-operational and start-up testing.
Key success factors are completion of the review by the Advisory Committee on Reactor Safety and a staff written Final Safety Evalution Report.
According to the NRC’s June 5th letter, the agency has a peliminary estimate that the level of effort by its engineers to review the Oklo application is about 4,000 hours. At just under $300/hr, that comes to about $1.2 million.
About the Oklo Reactor
The nuclear news wire service NucNet reports that the Aurora is an advanced fission power system that consists of a small reactor with integrated solar panels. It uses liquid metal to move fission heat out of the reactor core and into a secondary power generation system and generates approximately 1.5 MW of power.
The proposed Aurora design uses heat pipes to transport heat from the reactor core to a supercritical carbon-dioxide power conversion system to generate electricity.
Oklo has said it has budgeted “in the order of” $10M for construction and $3M a year for operations of the Aurora plant.
On fuel cycle costs Oklo said that because of the type of reactor and fuel cycle, only a single core load is required for the license lifetime of 20 years. The Aurora will generate both usable heat and electricity.
The firm has not yet publicly named its first commercial customers, but there have been public statements by potential interested parties in Alaska who want to replace expensive and dirty diesel fueled electrical generators with the Oklo reactor.
Oklo, which is solely venture-funded and backed primarily by US-based investors, announced last year that it had successfully demonstrated prototypes of a metallic fuel at INL for the Aurora reactor. It said it had fabricated prototypes with multiple fuel elements reaching production specification.
Separately, Oklo has received a Site Use Permit from the U.S Department of Energy to build a first of a kind unit at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). Also working at the INL the firm has demonstrated fabrication of its fuel and gained access to recovered HALEU type used fuel which can be burned in its reactor.
Oklo would use high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel. However, in common with many other advanced reactor developers, the lack of reliable access to HALEU remains a challenge.
The sooner Oklo can “have access to be able to work with that, the faster we’re going to be able to actually get something built,” company co-founder Jacob DeWitte said.
Microreactors / Canadian Companies Form JV To Build And Own Chalk River Plant
(NucNet) Three Canadian companies have formed a joint venture – the Global First Power Limited Partnership – which will build, own, and operate the proposed micro modular reactor (MMR) project at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Ontario.
The three companies are Global First Power (GFP), Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) and Ontario Power Generation (OPG). The joint venture is owned equally by OPG and USNC-Power, the Canadian subsidiary of USNC.
GFP, based in Ottawa, will oversee the proposed MMR project and provide project development, licensing, construction and operation of a planned commercial demonstration reactor at Chalk River.
The project will serve as a model for potential future microreactor projects across Canada. The aim is to build reactors that can provide sustainable low-carbon power and heat to industries such as mining and remote communities.
The MMR project is in the third stage of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ four-stage process to site a demonstration small modular reactor at Chalk River Laboratories, a site owned by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited and operated by CNL. The 15 MWt, or about 5 MW electrical, MMR project is currently undergoing an environmental assessment.
The MMR consists of two plants: the nuclear plant that generates heat, and the adjacent power plant that converts heat into electricity or provides process heat for industrial applications. The system is designed to be uniquely simple, with minimal operations and maintenance requirements, and no o-site fuel storage, handling, or processing.
Fermi Energia / US Venture Capital Fund Invests In Estonia SMR Company
Neither company said how much is being invested. but an outside source said it is believed to be about $100,000. Fermi Energia said in a statement the funds, together with contributions from Estonian investors made during 2020, will help it conduct studies to find the best location for the plant and on licensing and construction processes.
Fermi Energia founder and chief executive officer Kalev Kallemets said the studies will be carried out by Fermi Energia’s partners Fortum, Vattenfall and Tractebel in cooperation with Estonian experts. The results will be ready by January 2021.
In January 2020 Mr Kallemets said Fermi Energia was set to begin the process of site selection for a first unit. He said Estonia needs to consider new generation SMR technology to maintain energy independence and achieve climate neutrality. He said an “optimistic scenario” provides for the first plant to begin operation in the early 2030s.
Fermi Energia is “technology neutral” and is following the licensing process for SMR designs in the US and Canada to see which technologies are suitable.
Last Energy’s Investment Strategy
Last Energy is a venture capital fund set up in early 2020 by the Energy Impact Center, a research institute in Washington that studies the possibilities of reversing climate change.
Bret Kugelmass, the head of the company, is a technology and robotics expert working in the fields of climate and energy. Kugelmas recently launched a program called Open100 which is an effort to build a conventional 100MW PWR type reactor using existing supply chain components and open source funding.
Kugelmass told the Baltic Times that his firm Last Energy serves as a broker between private capital markets and SMR development opportunities around the world and it invests in companies deploying SMR technologies.
NuGen Receives Two Patents
for its “Spiral Fuel Core” HTGR SMR
NuGen, the U.S.-based developer of a 20 MW HTGR, announced that this week it has achieved an important step in its commercialization plan. The US Patent Office issued NuGen the following two new patents: Integrated System for Converting Nuclear Energy into Electrical, Rotational, and Thermal Energy, US Patent Nos. 10,685,755, (6/17/2020) and 10,685,756 (6/17/2020).
Conceptual Image of NuGen Reactor as of 2016: Image: NuGen
Steve Rhyne, CEO of the firm, told this blog in an email that after exploring various market opportunities in 2018 and 2019, “we now are focused on a transportable microreactor to be used for providing power (electricity and heat) to remote locations, military installations (including secure off-grid electricity), and mining sites.
NuGen’s self-funded startup is developing the NuGen Engine [tm] which is a high temperature gas cooled reactor (HTGR) in a small package. Previously, Mr. Rhyne told this blog in an email last year that the design will have power ratings of up to 20 MWe for remote site terrestrial applications. Some details of the reactor core and fuel remain proprietary information at this time.
Rhyne added that he sees a competitive advantage in the ability of supply chain vendors to provide components to build the reactor. Rhyne said it will be relatively easy to manufacture the HTGR, “due to its simple compact integrated configuration.”
Looking ahead, Rhyne said the firm is working in collaboration with Texas A&M and other partners, and plans to submit an application later this summer under DOE’s current Advanced Reactor Demonstration FOA. If funded it will allow the firm to accelerate its work towards completion of the design.
Other Nuclear News
South Africa Starts Consultations on Nuclear New Build
(WNN) South Africa’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to enable it to assess nuclear technologies that could be considered for a national program to build 2,500 MWe of new nuclear capacity. The programme could include conventional pressurized water reactors (PWRs), small modular reactors (SMRs) or a blend of technologies.
Publication of the RFI is the start of preparatory work to develop plans for a future nuclear program, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe, who has been on the job since February 2018, said on Twitter @GwedeMantashe1, “Given the long lead-time of building additional new nuclear capacity, upfront planning is necessary for security of energy supply to society.”
Mantashe said in May the DMRE would start work on a roadmap for nuclear procurement, which is in line with South Africa’s 2019 Integrated Resource Plan.
“It is envisaged that the South African Nuclear Power Program may comprise a blend of baseload power combining both conventional PWR and SMR technologies to a total of 2500 MW at a pace and scale the country can afford,” the RFI notes.
PWR technologies submitted to the RFI should be currently commercially available. SMR technologies are expected to be under development for commercialization by 2030. Submissions must address the these items;
- costing and financing;
- plant design features;
- licensing of the plant design in South Africa;
- feasibility of construction at South African sites;
- detailed project management plan; and
- options for using the reactor for the desalination of sea water.
Participants in the RFI – which DMRE describes as a stand-alone information-gathering and market-testing exercise only – have until July 15th to register their interest in the RFI.
Romania / Shareholders Approve Strategy To Complete Units 3 And 4 At Cernavodă
(NucNet) Shareholders in Romania’s state-controlled nuclear energy producer Nuclearelectrica have approved a new investment strategy for 2020-2025 that includes proposals to go ahead with the completion of two new units at the Cernavoda nuclear station at an estimated cost of €6.45 billion.
The strategy says fiscal mechanisms and commercial instruments adapted to the energy field would give potential investors predictability of their return on investment in energy production through low-carbon technologies like nuclear.
It says the Romanian authorities have, in different stages of analysis, a series of measures intended to stimulate investment interest in such projects.
The strategy raises the possibility of some form of state loan and rate guarantees as necessary tools to secure funding for large energy infrastructure investments “which bring economic and social added value.”
The Cernavoda-3 and 4 project consists of completing and commissioning two CANDU 6 type units with a minimum installed capacity of 720 MW each.
Last month Nuclearelectrica said it would begin talks to terminate an agreement signed with China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) for the construction of Units 3 and 4.
Russia / Beloyarsk-4 Fast Reactor Set To Fully Run On MOX Fuel In 2022
(NucNet) Russia’s BN-800 fast neutron reactor at Beloyarsk-4 is expected to fully switch to commercial uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel use in 2022, according to a statement by state nuclear operator Rosenergoatom.
The development, a first for Russia, will be an “important step” towards closing the fuel cycle, the statement said.
Rosenergoatom said transition to MOX fuel is scheduled to begin in the first half of 2021, with loading of one-third of the reactor’s core with the new fuel. Rosenergoatom said full transition to MOX fuel operation is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022.
In January 2020, operators loaded the first batch of commercial MOX fuel, consisting of 18 assemblies, at Beloyarsk-4. The plant haD been operating on a mix of conventional uranium-based fuel and MOX assemblies.
The MOX fuel project has been led by state nuclear fuel company Tvel. Production began in late 2018 at the Mining and Chemical Combine in Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk region.
According to Tvel, the BN-800 reactor unit had already used a mix of experimental MOX assemblies and uranium fuel during its initial physical startup testing phase.
Beloyarsk-4, near Yekaterinburg in central Russia, is an 820-MW fast neutron reactor unit of the BN-800 design. It began commercial operation in 2016.