Words from Westinghouse: The nuclear supply chain impacts and challenges

June 7, 2024, 3:04PMNuclear NewsGuest Contributor
A cut-away view of Westinghouse’s AP300 reactor. (Image: Westinghouse)

Power generation from nuclear fission as a clean and stable source of electricity has secured the interest of policymakers and industry leaders around the globe. Last fall, the United States spearheaded a pledge at COP28 to get countries to agree to triple nuclear capacity worldwide, and recently the members of the Group of 7 (G7) nations that currently use nuclear power have reaffirmed their pledges to invest in that power source to cut carbon emissions.

As of this writing, U.S. policymakers are trying to make good on that promise by passing legislation to support nuclear power, funding the domestic fuel supply chain, and working to pass the ADVANCE Act. On top of the support from Washington, D.C., power-hungry industries like data centers and chemical engineering are looking to secure stable, carbon-free power directly from power plants.

General Atomics, UAE sign memorandum of understanding

March 25, 2024, 3:09PMNuclear News
Scott Forney (left), president of General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems and Mohamed Al Hammadi, managing director and CEO of ENEC. (Photo: General Atomics)

General Atomics announced last week that it will work with the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation to help find opportunities to support the United Arab Emirates.

Representatives from both companies signed a memorandum of understanding at the CERAWeek conference in Houston, Texas. The ENEC will work closest with General Atomics’ GA-EMS team, which develops new technologies and aims to deliver breakthrough solutions supporting environments from undersea to space.

From the pages of Nuclear News: Industry Update March 2024

March 20, 2024, 9:30AMNuclear News

Here is a recap of industry happenings from the recent past:

ADVANCED REACTOR MARKETPLACE

PPPL awards contract for fusion development

The Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory has awarded an engineering support services contract for the development of fusion energy to a consortium of business partners led by AtkinsRéalis that includes Jacobs Technology and Longenecker and Associates. The contract has a base period of three years with two optional years and a ceiling value of $50 million. Services to be provided under the agreement include design of future upgrades for the National Spherical Torus Experiment–Upgrade (NSTX-U, the main fusion experiment at PPPL); design and fabrication of plasma diagnostic and heating subsystems for ITER (the international fusion facility being constructed in France); conceptual design of electricity-generating fusion plants; and development of physics and technology advances for improving the economics of fusion plants. Another partner that will support this contract is the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, for which AtkinsRéalis has been working on stage 1 of the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) program.

“Buy the best and only cry once”

March 14, 2024, 9:30AMNuclear NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy
cpiercy@ans.org

Spoiler alert: America has one more nuclear reactor on line.

It’s been a long, hard slog for the Vogtle reactor expansion project, and the news coverage has been tough. I would describe it as the “standard media fare” of late—a steady flow of click-inducing “breaking news” alerts on cost overruns and schedule delays. Sure, it’s all fair game in a world with press freedom, but I had hoped for more substance along with the “horse race” reporting from our Fourth Estate.

Nuclear is hard—but it’s not just nuclear. In the United States, big groundbreaking projects of all sorts veer over budget and behind schedule frequently these days, resulting in unpleasant headlines along the way. Then, when they are up and running, these facilities tend to fall out of the public spotlight, and we all start taking them for granted. But this narrative arc hides a larger truth. When Vogtle Unit 4 joins Unit 3 in commercial operation later this year, the two units together are tipped to churn out over 17 million megawatt-hours of steady 24/7 power on an annual basis. That’s more energy per year than all the windmills in California—enough to feed one million homes and businesses. It will do this for the next 60, 80, maybe even 100 years. Talk about a buried lede!

Scratching the surface of SMR history: What’s in a name?

January 12, 2024, 3:22PMNuclear NewsJohn Fabian

This article is the first in a series that will examine the history of small modular reactors.

Small and medium reactors have been an integral part of the U.S. nuclear power enterprise since the early days of the industry. Many of the designs for the next generation of reactors are rooted in the designs of the 1950s and ’60s, but the development and push for deployment have gained momentum only within the last decade.

This recent momentum led a reader of Nuclear News to suggest an article reviewing the history of small modular reactors. NN staff jumped on this idea, deciding a series of articles would do better justice to such a complex and interesting topic.

From the pages of Nuclear News: Industry update December 2023

December 19, 2023, 12:12PMNuclear News

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

ADVANCED REACTOR MARKETPLACE

SMR power barge designs approved

The American Bureau of Shipping has approved in principle the designs for an offshore small modular reactor power barge from Korea Shipbuilding and Offshore Engineering and Kepco Engineering and Construction. Another collaborator on the project is the Liberian International Ship and Corporate Registry, which assisted ABS in design reviews. The SMR barges are designed to provide electricity for islands and other remote communities.

Illinois lifts ban on some new nuclear construction

December 11, 2023, 12:13PMNuclear News

Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker returned to the good graces of the nuclear community last Friday, signing H.B. 2473, a bill that partially lifts the state’s decades-long moratorium on new nuclear power builds by permitting the construction of small modular reactors.

Pritzker had vetoed similar legislation, S.B. 76, in August, saying in a veto message that the bill included an overly broad definition of “advanced reactors,” which would “open the door to the proliferation of large-scale nuclear reactors that are so costly to build that they will cause exorbitant ratepayer-funded bailouts.” Pritzker had also asserted that S.B. 76 lacked “regulatory protections or updates to address the health and safety of Illinois residents who would live and work around these new reactors.”

ENEC inks deal with Kazatomprom, MOUs with TerraPower, GEH

December 5, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, president of Kazakhstan (standing), looks on as the commercial uranium fuel supply contract between ENEC and Kazatomprom is signed. (Photo: Kazatomprom)

On the margins of the COP28 climate conference in Dubai, UAE, this week, Barakah nuclear plant owner Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) signed its first commercial uranium fuel supply contract with Kazatomprom, in addition to memorandums of understanding with two U.S.-based advanced reactor developers—TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH).

Westinghouse, OPG to explore reactor deployment opportunities

November 30, 2023, 12:01PMNuclear News
Westinghouse’s Fragman (left) and OPG’s Ken Hartwick at the World Nuclear Exhibition in Paris. (Photo: Westinghouse)

Westinghouse Electric Company and Ontario Power Generation have signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a framework to identify potential areas of cooperation for the deployment of nuclear technologies in Canada, the companies jointly announced this morning. (While based in Cranberry Township, Pa., Westinghouse is owned by Canadian firms Brookfield Asset Management and Cameco.)

U.K., South Korea form new clean energy partnership

November 28, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
U.K. energy security secretary Claire Coutinho and South Korean minister for trade, industry, and energy Moon Kyu Bang, following the signing of the U.K.-ROK Clean Energy Partnership. (Photo: @ClaireCoutinho/X)

The United Kingdom has announced a new partnership with South Korea to accelerate the clean energy transition by strengthening cooperation on low-carbon technologies, domestic climate policies, and civil nuclear energy.

Signed November 22 in London by British energy security and net zero secretary Claire Coutinho and South Korean minister for trade, industry, and energy Moon Kyu Bang, the partnership promotes U.K.-South Korean business collaboration, addressing barriers to trade and encouraging mutual development of the two nations’ energy sectors.

The design and legacy of Experimental Breeder Reactor-II

November 22, 2023, 4:16PMNuclear NewsJeremy Hampshire
Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (Photo: ANL)

If you head west out of Idaho Falls on U.S. Highway 20 and make your way across the Snake River Plain, it won’t be long before you’ll notice a silver dome in the distance to the north. One of the most recognizable structures in the history of nuclear energy, Experimental Breeder Reactor-II stands out from the desert landscape. The 890-square-mile site on which EBR-II is located is the former National Reactor Testing Station, now known as Idaho National Laboratory.

Illinois lawmakers pass new bill to lift state’s nuclear ban

November 9, 2023, 3:01PMNuclear News
Sen. Sue Rezin (at lectern), speaking on H.B. 2473 on Tuesday. (Photo: Sue Rezin)

While an initial bill aimed at lifting the decades-old ban on new nuclear construction in Illinois was vetoed in August by Gov. J. B. Pritzker, the state’s nuclear-friendly legislature is giving the effort another shot, opting to pursue new legislation rather than a veto override.

House approves FY 2024 energy funding bill

November 1, 2023, 7:01AMNuclear News

With a new speaker finally seated, the GOP-led House of Representatives recently passed the fiscal year 2024 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act (H.R. 4394) in a near–party line vote of 210–199. A lone Republican—Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado—opposed the measure, as did all voting Democrats.

House panel advances raft of pro-nuclear bills

October 31, 2023, 7:19AMNuclear News
Rep. Jeff Duncan (Image: House.gov)

At a legislative markup session last week, a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee approved 17 energy bills for consideration by the full E&C committee, including 12 measures to boost and streamline the deployment of nuclear power. The nuclear-related bills cleared the subcommittee by voice vote with bipartisan support.

“Our shared goal in this committee is to advance bipartisan, durable policy that will expand nuclear energy and its benefits for the nation,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.), chair of the E&C’s Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee, in his opening remarks on October 24. “Chair Rodgers, ranking members Pallone and DeGette, and I sent a bipartisan request for information to a variety of stakeholders this past April. Based on feedback from this request and the hearings we’ve had since, it’s clear that more can be done to modernize the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Department of Energy to advance nuclear energy in this country.”

Westinghouse launches microreactor “accelerator hub”

October 27, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
Concept art of the eVinci accelerator hub, soon to be home to engineering and licensing operations, testing, prototype trials, business development, and sales. (Image: Westinghouse)

To help speed up commercialization of its eVinci microreactor, Westinghouse Electric Company this week launched a new design and manufacturing facility for the project near downtown Pittsburgh, Pa. Located in the borough of Etna, the 87,000-square-foot eVinci “accelerator hub” will be home to engineering and licensing operations, testing, prototype trials, business development, and sales, Westinghouse said in an October 24 announcement, adding that the facility will include manufacturing space for producing the “innovative heat pipes that are central to the eVinci technology.”

Nuclear’s fortunes looking up, says IAEA

October 11, 2023, 3:01PMNuclear News
IAEA director general Grossi delivers the opening plenary at the Second International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power. (Photo: IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency has released the 2023 edition of its annual look at nuclear’s prospects in the coming decades—Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050—revising its global growth projections upward for a third consecutive year.

U.S. supports Ghanaian nuclear program with $1.75 million

September 25, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News
U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation Ann Ganzer (right) with Nii Kwashie Allotey of the Ghanaian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (center). (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Ghana )

The U.S. Embassy in Ghana last week announced $1.75 million to support establishing the West African nation as a small modular reactor regional training hub and center of excellence for the sub-Saharan African region.

The project is backed by the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) capacity-building program, in which Ghana has participated since 2022.

Oklo unit tentatively picked to power Air Force base in Alaska

August 31, 2023, 3:11PMNuclear News
Concept art of Oklo's Aurora Powerhouse plant. (Image: Gensler)

The Defense Logistics Agency Energy (DLA Energy) has selected Oklo Inc. as the pending contractor awardee to site a microreactor at Alaska’s Eielson Air Force Base, the advanced reactor firm announced this morning. Eielson is located on 63,195 acres in central Alaska, 26 miles southeast of Fairbanks.

Pritzker defends nuclear bill veto, but leaves an opening

August 30, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear News

Speaking at an event last week at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign, Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker defended his recent veto of S.B. 76—the bipartisan bill that would have lifted the state’s decades-old moratorium on nuclear plant construction. At the same time, he extolled the promise of small modular reactors and said he would sign an amended version of the legislation.

GAO: NRC needs to do more to prepare for advanced reactor licensing

August 28, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

A Government Accountability Office report released last week on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s preparedness to review and approve advanced reactor applications finds—to scant surprise from nuclear advocates—room for improvement.

The 48-page report, Nuclear Power: NRC Needs to Take Additional Actions to Prepare to License Advanced Reactors, had been requested in February 2022 by two prominent Capitol Hill supporters of the technology—Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R., W.Va.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.