From the pages of Nuclear News : Industry update

January 10, 2023, 9:31AMNuclear News

Here is a recap of industry happenings over the past month:


X-energy enters into agreement to become publicly traded company

X-energy, a developer of small modular reactors and nuclear fuel technology, has entered into a definitive business combination agreement with Ares Acquisition Corporation, a publicly traded special-purpose acquisition company. As a result of the agreement, X-energy will become a publicly traded company, a status that is expected to give a boost to its growth strategy, investment opportunities, and financial flexibility. In addition, X-energy will receive differentiated sponsorship by Ares Management Corporation, which describes itself as a “leading global alternative investment manager.” The existing equity holders of X-energy are expected to hold more than 60 percent of the issued and outstanding shares of the common stock of the combined company. The transaction is expected to be finalized in the second quarter of 2023.

NuScale Power, Shell Global Solutions, and several other industry participants have signed a research collaboration agreement to develop a concept for an economically optimized integrated energy system (IES) to produce hydrogen with the electricity and process heat from a NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant. The other participants include Idaho National Laboratory, Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems, Fuel Cell Energy, FPoliSolutions, and GSE Solutions. A modified NuScale control room simulator, which will include models for a solid oxide electrolysis cell (SOEC) system for hydrogen production and a reversible solid oxide fuel cell for electricity production, will be used to evaluate the dynamics of the IES. The evaluation will consider the number of power modules needed for SOEC hydrogen production and the quantity of hydrogen stored for electricity production. Local economic factors, such as impacts on the western Energy Imbalance Market, will also be considered.

Also, NuScale Power has awarded two contracts to Framatome for the design of the fuel handling equipment and fuel storage racks of NuScale’s VOYGR SMRs. The contracts strengthen the existing relationship between NuScale and Framatome, which began in 2014 with cooperation on fuel design and other engineering and licensing projects. Framatome is also partnering with American Crane and Orano to adapt its fuel handling equipment and high-density spent fuel storage rack designs to meet the needs of the VOYGR units. These companies are developing optimal design and fabrication processes in line with the VOYGR plant deployment schedule.

■ The U.K. Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) has awarded a contract to Jacobs as part of the authority’s new Plant Maintenance and Operational Support Services (PMOSS) framework. Jacobs will support the UKAEA’s fusion energy research, including research into machine design, robotics, materials science, and fusion fuel. The PMOSS framework includes the Tritium Advanced Technology facility, which, when it opens later this year, will focus on fuel storage and breeding and recovery techniques for fusion power plants. Other UKAEA facilities that Jacobs will support are the Remote Applications in Challenging Environments site, the Materials Research Facility, and the Fusion Technology Facility.

Thales, an electrical systems company headquartered in France, has partnered with the German firm Marvel Fusion and the Romanian project Extreme Light Infrastructure–Nuclear Physics (ELI-NP) to upgrade ELI-NP’s high-power laser system for performing research in nuclear fusion. The collaborative work of the three organizations this year will focus on enhancing the parameters of the laser system, such as its temporal pulse contrast. The improvements are meant to advance the project’s research into laser-based fusion processes. ELI-NP’s laser technology is complementary with Marvel Fusion's technology, and Marvel Fusion is the first private company to establish a scientific collaboration with the Romanian project.

■ Romanian company RoPower Nuclear, a joint venture between Nuclearelectrica and Nova Power and Gas, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Donalam, part of the Italian steel maker AFV Beltrame Group, to examine cooperation and investment possibilities associated with the planned development of SMRs in Romania. Romania is planning a green steel facility that will have its energy needs met by SMRs and photovoltaic panels. Representatives of RoPower and Donalam signed the MOU last November at COP27 in Egypt, where they also joined the United Nations’ 24/7 Carbon-Free Energy Compact.

■ Finnish companies Fortum and Helen are forming a joint study group to explore possible collaboration in new nuclear energy projects, primarily SMRs. Fortum had previously announced its intentions to examine prerequisites for new nuclear projects in Finland and Sweden, including the use of SMRs in heat and hydrogen production. Helen is a provider of heat, electricity, and cooling in power and heating plants. A major impetus behind the joint study group is the ongoing uncertainty in the energy markets, which is making cooperation arrangements more attractive and increasing the desirability of energy self-sufficiency for Finland.

■ The Polish National Centre for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) have expanded their ongoing research-and-development collaboration on next-generation high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors to include the design of a research reactor. Poland and Japan have been cooperating for several years on the potential application of HTGR technology in Poland. The JAEA has years of experience with the Japanese High-Temperature Test Reactor; the NCBJ began designing a concept for an HTGR research reactor in 2021. As part of the collaboration, the JAEA will provide the NCBJ with technical information regarding Japanese HTGRs R&D by 2024. The JAEA is also part of a Japanese-British collaboration that is developing an HTGR demonstration reactor for operation in the United Kingdom by the early 2030s. That project includes Britain’s National Nuclear Laboratory and Dallas, Texas–based Jacobs.


SI Solutions formed by partnership

California-based Structural Integrity Associates (SI), an engineering consultancy firm for the energy and utility industry, and C2C Technical Services, an electrical engineering and field service company headquartered in Texas, have formed SI Solutions in partnership with the investment firm Jumana Capital. The role of SI Solutions will be to provide “mission-critical power and infrastructure engineering, testing, and maintenance services focused on existing assets.” The company is slated to have more than 500 employees and nine offices that serve customers in the United States and globally. The management team will be derived from both SI and C2C.

■ The board of directors of Australia-based Peninsula Energy has decided to make the financial investment to resume uranium production activities at the Lance project site in Wyoming during the first quarter of 2023. Delivery will be made for existing offtake contracts during the last quarter of that year. The Lance project contains 53.7 million pounds of uranium-308 that is compliant with the Australasian Code for Reporting of Exploration Results, Mineral Resources, and Ore Reserves, making it one of the largest uranium production projects in the United States. Production was suspended at the project site in July 2019, because the high-pH in situ leach (ISL) method being used was delivering lower recoveries of uranium than expected. Going forward, a low-pH ISL recovery method will be used.

■ , Toronto-based Consolidated Uranium has announced that it will acquire all of the issued and outstanding common shares of Virginia Energy Resources. In the process, Consolidated Uranium will acquire the Coles Hill Uranium Project in south-central Virginia, which contains the largest undeveloped uranium deposit in the United States—and one of the largest in the world. The acquisition is expected to close during the first quarter of 2023.

Anfield Energy announced that it is selling its uranium royalty portfolio to fellow Vancouver-based company Uranium Royalty Corporation in a $1.5 million cash deal. The portfolio includes four royalties associated with EnergyFuels’ Energy Queen and Whirlwind projects, enCore Energy’s Dewey Burdock project, and Western Uranium and Vanadium’s San Rafael project.

American Lithium Corp. has announced the “spin out” of its large-scale, advanced-stage Macusani Uranium Project into an independent public company, with the goal of generating value for American Lithium’s shareholders from the project’s continued development. The terms of the transaction are expected to be finalized in early 2023.


NNSA extends contract terms for LANL into 2028

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration has extended the terms of the management and operating contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory. With this action, the NNSA exercised Option Periods 1 through 5 of the Triad National Security contract, which includes Battelle Memorial Institute, the Texas A&M University System, and the University of California. The extension runs from November 1, 2023, through October 30, 2028, ensuring continuity of performance through that period.

■ The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has awarded a Cybersecurity Program Support Services contract to Oasis Technology and Engineering. The contract is a blanket purchase agreement with a total ceiling of $91.5 million and a five-year period of performance. Oasis is to provide services related to program management, cybersecurity special projects, Federal Information Security Modernization Act compliance and supply chain, cybersecurity situational awareness, and role-based training and training-awareness program support. The Burlington, Mass.–based Oasis has provided similar services to the NRC since 2005 under several competitively bid contracts.

Westinghouse Electric has signed a long-term partnership agreement with Fortum to develop, license, and deliver fuel for the latter’s Loviisa Nuclear Power Plant on the southern coast of Finland, home to twin VVER-440/V213 pressurized water reactors. Westinghouse’s VVER-440 fuel is the only fuel for the Russian-developed reactors that is designed and manufactured outside of Russia.

In another transaction, Westinghouse has signed a technology license agreement with Swedish company Studsvik for the development of a metallic waste recycling and treatment facility at Westinghouse’s Springfields nuclear fuel production site in Lancashire, England. The planned Springfields Melter for Advanced Recycling and Treatment (SMART) facility will use a metal melter to clean, treat, and recycle contaminated metals and large components. The agreement gives Westinghouse access to Studsvik’s substantial expertise with metallic treatment and radioactive waste, enhancing the design and operation of the SMART facility, which has the goal of recycling 90 percent of the processed metals for the open market.

■ A memorandum of understanding has been signed by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, and the University of Ottawa to pursue opportunities for collaborative research. These organizations have a long history of cooperation, but the new agreement formalizes the relationship in line with CNL’s Vision 2030 corporate strategy, which aims to increase CNL’s role as an applied science and engineering lab and its partnerships with industry, universities, and government agencies for the benefit of Canadians.

Candu Energy, a subsidiary of Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin, has signed an MOU with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) to cooperate in various areas, including decommissioning waste, digital twins, and information and technology exchange. The cooperation will help KHNP increase its decommissioning capacity, such as in regard to the planned “immediate dismantling” of the Wolsong 1, which was declared closed in December 2019. South Korea’s oldest nuclear reactor, Kori 1, which closed in June 2017, is another unit that must be dismantled. Besides carrying out the dismantling of Korean nuclear reactors, KHNP also plans to enter into the overseas decommissioning market.

■ The U.K. Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has awarded a four-year contract to Jacobs to supply specialist engineering and technical support services for the regulator. Work under the contract covers the areas of reactor core physics and fault studies; civil engineering and external hazards; and other engineering and technical services, such as chemistry, control and instrumentation, criticality, electrical engineering, radiological protection, radioactive waste management and decommissioning, and cybersecurity. The contract builds on the more than 20 years of technical safety advice and assessment work that Jacobs has provided for the ONR.

■ French banking group Crédit Agricole and Élecricité de France have signed a loan financing agreement for maintenance of French nuclear power plants. The €1 billion loan is to be used by EDF for investment in the Grand Carénage (Major Refit) project, which seeks to improve security at French nuclear plants and to extend the life of the nuclear reactors beyond 40 years. According to Crédit Agricole, this transaction complies with EDF’s Green Financing Framework, which was established in July 2022.

■ France-based Orano Mining has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the State Committee for Geology and Mineral Resources of the Republic of Uzbekistan (GosComGeology) and the Uzbek government–owned company Navoiyuran aimed at developing new uranium mines in the central Asian nation. Orano began working with GosComGeology in 2019 with the joint venture Nurlikum Mining, which has been engaged in uranium mining activities in the Djengeldi area. The new agreement expands the collaboration beyond that foundation to include further development of the Djengeldi project, new joint geological exploration projects, modernization of Navoiyuran, and an exchange framework for Uzbeks to benchmark from the French model of the nuclear fuel value chain.

Orano Mining has also signed an MOU with the Kazakhstan uranium producer Kazatomprom to maintain and strengthen the companies’ cooperation in uranium mining and develop an action plan for further developing the relationship between the two countries. Collaboration between Orano and Kazatomprom includes their KATCO joint venture, established in 1996, which developed a highly efficient in situ recovery process for use at the Muyunkum and Tortkuduk uranium deposits in southern Kazakhstan.

In addition, Kazatomprom has signed a separate MOU with the International Institute of Nuclear Energy, a French education and training organization, for cooperation in training and research programs regarding nuclear energy.

Framatome has signed an early framework agreement with Nuclear New Build Generation for the construction of the Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk, England. Framatome has been conducting work for this power plant since 2021 and plans to sign the main contracts for its construction after the final investment decision is made. The early framework agreement covers such activities as manufacturing of the nuclear steam supply systems, management of instrumentation and control systems obsolescence, and early engineering and procurement work. Sizewell C, which will have two EPR reactors that generate 3.2 GW of electricity, has financial backing from EDF and the U.K. government, which together own Nuclear New Build Generation.

Framatome has also signed two contracts with the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) to supply enriched uranium targets and fuel elements for the High Flux Reactor, the research reactor in the Netherlands that produces more than 60 percent of the medical radioisotopes in Europe. The fuel elements and uranium targets supplied by Framatome will be used to produce molybdenum-99 and other radioisotopes. Framatome will make the nuclear fuel at its CERCA fuel manufacturing facility in Romans, France.

■ Belgian construction company Besix has won the contract to build the pit and foundation for the Pallas nuclear research reactor in Petten, the Netherlands, which will produce medical isotopes for diagnosis and therapy, for use in medical nuclear research. Pallas will replace the current High Flux Reactor, also located in Petten. Besix will begin mobilization of the worksite during the first quarter of 2023. The work is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2024.

■ The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) has signed an MOU with Poland’s National Centre for Nuclear Research to supply two bundles of fuel for the MARIA research reactor, southeast of Warsaw, on a trial basis in 2024. The trial, which will include safety screening, may lead to KAERI qualifying to supply fuel for the MAIRA reactor in 2026.KAERI will produce the nuclear fuel with its high-density low-enriched uranium silicide plate-shaped fuel manufacturing technology, in which a fine and uniform spherical powder of fuel is mass produced by melting uranium silicide at 2000 °C and then spraying it on a disk rotating at high speed.

■ The Czech nuclear engineering, production, and service company Škoda JS has signed an agreement with Bulgaria’s Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant for future cooperation. The agreement will help the Kozloduy nuclear facility, which is a subsidiary of Bulgaria Energy Holding, to diversify its supplies and engineering solutions for plant operations. The two companies also envision the implementation of additional joint projects in the future.

■ The Egyptian Atomic Energy Agency has reached an agreement with the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant, owned by the Russian nuclear fuel company TVEL, for the supply of low-enriched fuel components for the ETRR-2 research reactor located in Inshas, Egypt. Novosibirsk is to supply uranium fuel components and products made of aluminum alloy and aluminum powder during 2023. The new agreement stems from a 10-year contract that the Egyptian and Russian organizations signed in 2020. The ETRR-2 reactor, which was built by the Argentinian firm INVAP, has fuel consisting of 19.75 percent enriched uranium alloy and is used for both research and radioisotope production. Russia is also currently cooperating with Egypt in the building of the El Dabaa nuclear power plant on Egypt’s Mediterranean coast, where construction began on Unit 1 in July 2022.

Internexco GmbH, a subsidiary of Rosatom, has signed a contract with Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil to supply enriched uranium products for the Angra nuclear power plant, Brazil’s only nuclear energy facility. Internexco will supply 330,000 kg of uranium hexafluoride to Angra from 2023 to 2027. The contract builds on an existing relationship between Brazil and Russia, including previous agreements on nuclear cooperation between Rosatom and the Brazilian companies Participações em Energia Nuclear e Binacional and Eletrobras Eletronuclear. Brazilian officials hope to have additional nuclear power plants in operation by 2050.

■ The China Institute of Atomic Energy has signed a cooperation agreement on nuclear data science and its practical applications with the International Atomic Energy Agency. The agreement is designed to promote international cooperation in research related to nuclear energy data. This is reportedly the first such international agreement for China.

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