Big Sky Country mulls small modular reactors

A Montana Senate committee last week passed a joint resolution calling for the creation of a legislative panel to study the feasibility of replacing the coal-fired units at the state’s Colstrip power plant with advanced small modular reactors.

Two of Colstrip’s four coal boilers were permanently closed in January 2020, and most energy-sector observers expect the remaining two units to be retired within the next few years, given coal’s declining prospects in states such as Washington, which has passed legislation banning utilities from using coal power after 2025.

The resolution, known as SJ3, also calls on the panel to evaluate current Montana regulations that need revision in order to enable the construction and operation of advanced nuclear reactors. The study would need to be concluded before September 15, 2022.

NuScale SMR chosen for U.K. wind-nuclear hybrid

British hybrid clean energy company Shearwater Energy announced on January 15 that it is joining with U.S.-based NuScale Power to develop a hybrid project using wind energy and small modular reactor technology to produce power and green hydrogen.

According to news reports, the two companies signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on an initial project, which could be sited at the now-decommissioned Wylfa nuclear power station on the island of Anglesey, off the northwestern coast of Wales. No land agreements have been reached, however.

Canada unveils ambitious plan for SMRs

Declaring small modular reactors to be “the next innovation that will help us reach net-zero emissions by 2050,” Canadian Minister of Natural Resources Seamus O’Regan last week introduced his government’s SMR Action Plan at a virtual event live-streamed on YouTube.

Advanced reactors take center stage in Popular Mechanics

The January/February 2021 issue of Popular Mechanics hit subscriber mailboxes this week with a stark cover image of a single small reactor under the headline, “Tiny nuclear reactors are about to revolutionize American energy.” The story looks at advanced reactors as a pivotal step to “redeem nuclear’s stature in American energy.”

A good primer: The article does a good job introducing the casual reader to the idea that “bigger is no longer better” and that the future of nuclear power in the United States will most likely be “a combination of traditional large plants and smaller, safer megawatt reactors.”

Advanced reactors, including small modular reactors, show that nuclear is no longer a one-size-fits-all operation, the article notes. The industry now “is all about personalization,” says Ken Canavan, Westinghouse’s chief technical officer, who is quoted in the article. The capacity and scalability of SMRs “is just irreplaceable,” he adds.

The article explains that SMRs, microreactors, and other advanced reactor designs will be able to bring reliable, carbon-free power to small or remote locations, replacing fossil fuel power plants and supplementing the “resource-sucking downtimes left by renewables.”

NuScale module’s hydrogen production numbers updated

As a result of last month’s power uprate announcement from NuScale Power regarding its small modular reactor—a 25 percent increase to 77 MWe—the company has now announced updated evaluations for the technical feasibility and economics of producing hydrogen using heat and electricity from its SMR, the NuScale Power Module (NPM).

NuScale unveils Energy Exploration Center at Oregon State

NuScale Energy Exploration Center at Oregon State University. Photo: Business Wire

Small modular reactor developer NuScale Power has announced the opening of the NuScale Energy Exploration (E2) Center at Oregon State University (OSU).

The E2 Center is designed to offer users a hands-on learning opportunity to apply nuclear science and engineering principles through simulated, real-world nuclear power plant operation scenarios, according to NuScale on November 17. The center employs state-of-the-art computer modeling within a simulator of the NuScale SMR power plant control room, allowing users to take on the role of control room operator at a 12-unit NuScale SMR plant to learn about the features and functionality unique to the company’s SMR technology.

More to come: The E2 Center at OSU is the first of three planned installations of a NuScale power plant control room simulator at U.S. universities. Support for the centers was provided by a grant in 2019 from the Department of Energy. Additional information on the E2 Center is available here.

2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting: Advanced nuclear reactors and power systems

“Advanced Nuclear Reactors and Power Systems-I” on November 18 during the 2020 ANS Virtual Winter Meeting was the first of a three-session set examining the status of various advanced reactors. The sessions were sponsored by the Operations and Power Division and chaired by Piyush Sabharwall of Idaho National Laboratory.

Presentation topics in the first session included the core design and helium Brayton cycle design of the Holos-Quad microreactor, a microreactor design for a truck charging station, and a levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) estimation on HALEU (high-assay low-enriched uranium) fuels for small modular reactors.

Here are some highlights:

With DOE funds in hand, UAMPS preps for NuScale SMR licensing phase

An artist’s rendering of NuScale Power’s small modular nuclear reactor plant. Image: NuScale

Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) announced on October 16 that the Department of Energy has approved a $1.4-billion, multiyear cost-share award to Carbon Free Power Project LLC, a new business entity wholly owned by UAMPS that was created for the development and construction of a 720-MWe NuScale power plant—the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP)—to be sited at Idaho National Laboratory. The funding comes as UAMPS prepares to develop the first combined license application (COLA) for a small modular reactor.

Statement from the CEO

Statement from ANS Executive Director/CEO Craig Piercy on DOE award for UAMPS' Carbon Free Power Project

As the voice of American nuclear professionals, ANS applauds the Department of Energy's decision to award UAMPS' Carbon Free Power Project $1.355 billion in cost-sharing funding. The award will accelerate the deployment of NuScale's small modular reactors in supplying carbon-free power and ensuring the reliability of power grids with growing amounts of intermittent renewable electricity.

Letter from the CEO

Calling balls and strikes

Craig Piercy

As a not-for-profit scientific and professional organization, the American Nuclear Society’s raison d’être has always been the advancement of nuclear science and technology. While many among our diverse ranks may see themselves as advocates, it is important to recognize that ANS the organization will never take the place of industry trade associations like the Nuclear Energy Institute or the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council. No, we will always be dedicated first to serving the men and women of the nuclear community, both here in the United States and around the world, as a source of news, technical knowledge, professional development opportunities, and scientific fellowship.

This should not in any way dissuade us, however—either individually or as a community—from engaging in the public discussion about nuclear technology, especially when debates become tainted by outright falsehoods or “fake news.” As we have seen in stark relief over the past eight months of pandemic-dominated life, the scientific community has a societal obligation to stand up and set the record straight when misinformation crops up. Simply put, we have to be prepared to call balls and strikes.

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Op-ed: UAMPS project needed for abundant, carbon-free energy

Hunter

An op-ed piece in the September 17 Salt Lake City Tribune touts nuclear energy as needed for a carbon-free future. The piece was written by Doug Hunter, chief executive officer and general manager of Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS).

UAMPS clarifies next steps for planned NuScale SMR deployment

Full-scale mockup of the upper third of the NuScale Power Module. Photo: NuScale

With a design that has just emerged from a rigorous safety evaluation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and a customer—Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS)—getting ready to prepare a combined license (COL) application, what is next for Oregon-based NuScale Power and for near-term small modular reactor prospects in the United States? As milestones are reached, many want to know.

NuScale plans to supply twelve 60-MWe modules for a 720-MWe plant—called the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP) by UAMPS—to be sited at Idaho National Laboratory. A smaller, 50-MWe module version of NuScale’s design recently became the first SMR to receive a final safety evaluation report (FSER) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

“The NRC design approval represents a significant de-risking factor for the CFPP,” said UAMPS spokesperson LaVarr Webb. The project is “making steady progress,” Webb said, adding that “UAMPS General Manager and CEO Doug Hunter has said it is much more important to do the project right than to do it fast.”

STATEMENT FROM THE CEO

Statement from ANS Executive Director / CEO Craig Piercy on UAMPS’ Carbon Free Power Project

As the voice of American nuclear engineers and scientists, ANS congratulates NuScale Power for receiving the first-ever final safety evaluation report for a small modular reactor issued by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

NuScale SMR receives NRC design approval

An artist’s rendering of NuScale Power’s SMR plant. Image: NuScale

The final safety evaluation report for NuScale Power’s small modular reactor design has been issued, completing the design’s technical review and approval, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced on August 28.

The NRC will now prepare a rulemaking to certify the NuScale design. Full certification, if granted by the commissioners following the staff’s recommendation, will allow a utility to reference the design when applying for a combined license to build and operate a nuclear power plant.

The NuScale design is the first SMR to receive NRC design approval.

RadioNuclear 22: HBO’s Chernobyl: A Setback or Opportunity?

Episode 22 of RadioNuclear is now available. In this episode, we discuss the recent miniseries "Chernobyl", which recently concluded on HBO. We debunk some of the more egregious articles written in the wake of the show (see links to these articles below). We also discuss good ways to engage with individuals who are captivated with the show, and not necessarily familiar with nuclear technology.

2019 - A Wish List in Nuclear Energy

Welcome to 2019!  I hope everyone who took a break enjoyed it. For those who didn't, why didn't you?  Initially, I had thoughts of trying to separate from social media and news to a significant extent during the holidays but, after conversations with Linda Zec (our wonderful ANS staff liaison for the Social Media Team, among many other things) decided that it was impractical to do so for a variety of reasons.  So, as the holiday furor ebbed and flowed and I continued, still connected, to read news and year-end summations, I found myself wishing that there wouldn't be so much frustrating news in 2019.  That's why I decided to open my eighth calendar year writing for the ANS Nuclear Cafe with a wish list, or "listicle" in the inside jargon, if you prefer.  Here, in ascending order of importance (or, I suppose, increasing order of unlikelihood) are my five wishes for this new year in nuclear energy.  (All on one screen; no annoying "next" buttons.  You're welcome.)

Nuclear Video Matinee: NuScale and TerraPower at CERAWeek

ICOSA Media caught up with NuScale chief executive officer Chris Colbert and TerraPower CEO John Gilleland at the recent CERAWeek energy conference in Houston, Tex. The two leaders of these innovative nuclear energy companies discuss the how's and why's of their small and beautiful reactor designs-the NuScale Small Modular reactor and the TerraPower Traveling Wave reactor.