Advanced reactor economics and markets

May 21, 2021, 2:41PMNuclear NewsCharles Forsberg and Eric Ingersoll
TerraPower and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy jointly developed the sodium-cooled Natrium reactor with the turbine hall, nitrate heat storage tanks, and cooling towers separated from the reactor at the back of the site.

The viability of nuclear power ultimately depends on economics. Safety is a requirement, but it does not determine whether a reactor will be deployed. The most economical reactor maximizes revenue while minimizing costs. The lowest-cost reactor is not necessarily the most economical reactor. Different markets impose different requirements on reactors. If the capital cost of Reactor A is 50 percent more than Reactor B but has characteristics that double the revenue, the most economical reactor is Reactor A.

The most important factor is an efficient supply chain, including on-site construction practices. This is the basis for the low capital cost of light water reactors from China and South Korea. The design of the reactor can significantly affect capital cost through its impact on the supply chain. The question is, how can advanced reactors boost revenue and reduce costs?

Granholm speaks at Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 21 conference

March 22, 2021, 9:29AMANS Nuclear Cafe


U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm gave her first international address as part of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2021 conference, held on March 16 and 17. Granholm started her speech by stating that “America is back,” putting climate change policies front and center as part of the Biden administration’s agenda. She said that President Biden has set ambitious goals for climate policies that will set the United States on “an irreversible path toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Granholm’s message: Granholm focused her talk on renewable energy investment and she discussed how the United States is dedicated to working with the rest of the world to cut emissions to get to net-zero. She touched on assorted topics, including investing in renewables, creating a resilient grid, installing hundreds of miles of new transmission lines to reach new renewable energy sources, improving carbon removal from current fossil fuels, promoting hydrogen production, researching next-generation battery storage, and realizing the potential massive economic boom that could come with all this investment by the U.S. Department of Energy.

There was one glaring omission from that list: Nuclear.

Canada’s net-zero pledge needs all-in commitment, says SNC-Lavalin

March 15, 2021, 12:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

A new technical report from Montreal-based SNC-Lavalin finds Canada’s stated goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 to be achievable but stresses the importance of immediate action and investment in all forms of low-carbon energy production, including nuclear, hydro, renewables, carbon capture and storage, and hydrogen.

According to the 100-page document, Engineering Net Zero, Canada needs to triple its power production levels over the next 30 years, as forecasts show demand growing from 500 TWh to 1,500 TWh.

A 28-page executive summary of the report is available online.

Axios reviews “green” fuel options for commercial shipping

March 10, 2021, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

In an article published on March 5, Axios reviews the ways the world’s maritime companies are trying to decarbonize. The maritime industry, “from ferries to freighters—is trying to navigate a once-in-a-century transition away from fossil fuels to new, cleaner means of propulsion,” the article explains.

Emissions from shipping: The article notes that the world’s economy relies on international shipping, with more than 90 percent of global trade traveling via maritime vessels. The issue, though, is that “the vessels burn about 4 million barrels of oil a day, accounting for almost 3 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.” The article then cites a United Nations report from 2018 that sets greenhouse gas reduction targets of 50 percent by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.

Fukushima Daiichi: 10 years on

March 1, 2021, 2:12PMNuclear NewsLake Barrett

The Fukushima Daiichi site before the accident. All images are provided courtesy of TEPCO unless noted otherwise.

It was a rather normal day back on March 11, 2011, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant before 2:45 p.m. That was the time when the Great Tohoku Earthquake struck, followed by a massive tsunami that caused three reactor meltdowns and forever changed the nuclear power industry in Japan and worldwide. Now, 10 years later, much has been learned and done to improve nuclear safety, and despite many challenges, significant progress is being made to decontaminate and defuel the extensively damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactor site. This is a summary of what happened, progress to date, current situation, and the outlook for the future there.

DOE’s Hydrogen Program Plan sees potential for nuclear-powered electrolysis

November 17, 2020, 3:00PMNuclear News

Many regions with peak potential hydrogen demand, as shown in this image created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and reproduced in the Hydrogen Program Plan, are also home to operating nuclear power plants. Image: NREL, The Technical and Economic Potential of the H2@Scale Concept within the United States

The Department of Energy released a Hydrogen Program Plan on November 12 that provides a strategic framework for the agency’s hydrogen research, development, and demonstration activities.

The DOE’s Offices of Nuclear Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Fossil Energy, Electricity, and Science, and the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy are all working on the production, transport, storage, and use of hydrogen in several sectors of the economy and have developed technical and programmatic multi-year plans. The Hydrogen Program Plan coordinates and complements those efforts by presenting a strategic direction that highlights the importance of collaboration both within DOE and with stakeholders in industry, academia, and the states.

Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island likely hydrogen demo site

November 11, 2020, 9:33AMNuclear News

Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island plant. Photo: Xcel Energy

Xcel Energy’s Prairie Island is the probable location for the nation’s first demonstration of high-temperature steam electrolysis at a nuclear power plant. Idaho National Laboratory, which plays a key role in a hydrogen demonstration project launched last year with Xcel Energy, Energy Harbor, and Arizona Public Service (APS), announced on November 9 that Prairie Island, which houses two 550-MWe pressurized water reactors, would likely be chosen over the one-unit boiling water reactor plant at Monticello.

Minneapolis-based Xcel Energy will work with INL to demonstrate a system that uses the plant’s steam and electricity to split water. The resulting hydrogen will be used at the power plant, but excess hydrogen could be sold to other industries. Hydrogen has applications in transportation and in industrial sectors, including steel and ammonia production.

More than $10 million in federal funding for the Xcel Energy demo was announced by the Department of Energy on October 8. It is just one phase of a project that showcases collaboration between the DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Commercial hydrogen production via low-temperature electrolysis is being demonstrated at Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse plant. APS, which operates the Palo Verde generating station, will build on the Xcel Energy demo to develop an initial design and feasibility assessment for plant modifications to integrate a reversible hydrogen electrolysis system with the plant’s secondary system and will include hydrogen storage infrastructure.

DOE to fund integrated hydrogen production at LWRs

October 13, 2020, 7:00AMNuclear News

Two projects intended to accelerate the deployment of hydrogen production technology at existing U.S. light-water reactors received the bulk of the funding announced by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) on October 8 under the ongoing U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity announcement (FOA). Out of three projects with a total value of $26.9 million, the two involving hydrogen production have a total value of $26.2 million.

Nuclear is up to the challenge of energy storage

August 20, 2020, 11:54AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy is asking for input on an Energy Storage Grand Challenge (ESGC) Draft Roadmap and Request for Information (RFI) and recently extended the response deadline to August 31. While there is no “N” for nuclear in “ESGC,” nuclear is definitely part of the DOE’s plan for future energy storage technologies and integrated energy systems designed to improve the efficiency and reliability of U.S. energy markets. In fact, the House Energy and Water Appropriations Committee has called for $4 million in the Office of Nuclear Energy’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget to support energy storage.

ANS Annual Meeting: Hydrogen is on the table

June 9, 2020, 10:24AMNuclear News

Producing hydrogen as well as electricity from the current fleet of nuclear reactors is garnering a lot of interest from stakeholders, according to representatives of four nuclear operating utilities that together operate about one-third of the U.S. nuclear fleet. That interest drew viewers to a Utility Roundtable on U.S. Leadership in Sustaining Clean, Competitive Power and Hydrogen during the June 8 opening plenary of the American Nuclear Society's 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting.