Power & Operations


The Atlantic: Build what we’ve already invented

May 16, 2022, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

“What if I told you that scientists had figured out a way to produce affordable electricity that was 99 percent safer and cleaner than coal or oil, and that this breakthrough produced even fewer emissions per gigawatt-hour than solar or wind?” That’s the question that Derek Thompson, a staff writer at The Atlantic, asks in his article, "The Forgotten Stage of Human Progress," before revealing, “The breakthrough I’m talking about is 70 years old: It’s nuclear power.”

U.S. nuclear capacity factors: A smaller fleet invested in the future

May 13, 2022, 2:59PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier

The United States has just 93 operating power reactors at this writing. The fleet last numbered 93 in 1985, when nuclear generation topped out at 383.69 TWh, less than half of the 778.2 TWh produced in 2021.

While the 93 reactors operating today have more capacity, on average, than in 1985, most of that increased productivity is down to operational improvements that pushed the fleet’s average capacity factor from just 57.5 percent in the three-year period 1984–1986 to near 90 percent by the early 2000s.

Cavendish Nuclear, X-energy to collaborate on HTGR deployment in U.K.

May 13, 2022, 9:34AMNuclear News

A cross-section view of X-energy’s Xe-100 reactor. (Image: X-energy)

U.K. nuclear services company Cavendish Nuclear has signed a memorandum of understanding with U.S. reactor and fuel-design engineering firm X-energy to act as its deployment partner for high-temperature, gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs) in the United Kingdom.

Headquartered in Rockville, Md., X-energy is the developer of the Xe-100, an 80-MWe reactor with a modular design permitting it to be scaled into a “four-pack” 320-MWe power plant. As a pebble bed HTGR, the Xe-100 would use TRISO particles encased in graphite pebbles as the fuel and helium as the coolant.

According to a May 11 joint statement from the companies, development and deployment of HTGRs in the United Kingdom would support an increase in the nation’s energy security, contribute toward the government’s net-zero-by-2050 commitment, and create considerable opportunities for the U.K. nuclear supply chain.

Focusing on nuclear plant life-cycle O&M from the beginning

May 12, 2022, 3:12PMNuclear NewsChuck Goodnight

Chuck Goodnight

Nuclear plant designers focus on safety and efficiency, and rightly so. But the next steps for new nuclear power technologies and new-build programs are typically focused on “overnight costs,” or the costs to develop the site and construct the nuclear power plant. The problem is that the overnight costs are only the “table stakes” in a much longer game. Investors and stakeholders must have the staying power to play until the end, which now looks to be close to 100 years after the start of a new-build program.

Assuming that the initial estimates of overnight costs are surmountable, total life-cycle costs (TLCs) should be next on the agenda, as they will significantly drive the final levelized cost of energy. TLCs include overnight costs, the operating company’s startup and development (or expansion) costs, life-cycle O&M costs, life-cycle capital reinvestment, shutdown/SAFSTOR, decommissioning and dismantling, and site remediation. The largest element of TLCs will be the non-fuel portion of life-cycle O&M costs, and the largest portion of those costs will be for labor.

Energy Harbor joins with blockchain firm for data center project

May 12, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
Energy Harbor’s Beaver Valley plant houses two reactors: Unit 1, a 939-MWe pressurized water reactor, and Unit 2, a 933-MWe PWR. (Photo: Energy Harbor)

Energy Harbor has signed a memorandum of understanding with blockchain company Standard Power to develop a large-scale carbon-free data infrastructure operation adjacent to the Beaver Valley nuclear plant, located in Shippingport, Pa.

In its May 9 announcement, Energy Harbor described Standard Power as “a leading infrastructure service provider for advanced data processing companies and a leading hosting provider for blockchain mining companies.”

Energy Harbor is based in Akron, Ohio.

“Being real means that the renewable revolution requires nuclear power”: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists op-ed

May 11, 2022, 3:14PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Edesess

In a recent opinion piece in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, mathematician and economist Michael Edesess writes that “The goal of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 [appears] unrealistic.” Edesess, a research associate of the EDHEC-Risk Institute, adds, “We must, in the final analysis, be realistic. Being real means that the renewable revolution requires nuclear power.”

Then: Edesess traces the history of interest in renewable energy sources to the 1970s when, he notes, climate change was not even part of the calculations. Back then, the thought was, “We only needed to reduce the oil we imported from the Middle East. Solar and wind could do that if only we could drive the cost down.” However, “For nuclear, driving the cost down was not the objective. The objective was to make nuclear power ever safer and safer. This drove nuclear power’s cost up.”

Vogtle project update: Cost likely to top $30 billion

May 9, 2022, 3:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The Vogtle-4 diesel generator building in March. (Photo: Georgia Power)

The total bill for the reactor expansion project at the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia is now expected to exceed $30 billion, according to the Associated Press. The original price tag for the two Westinghouse AP1000 units was $14 billion.

Latest training center for Hinkley Point C opens

May 9, 2022, 9:31AMNuclear News
U.K. energy minister Greg Hands cuts the ribbon on the Welding Centre of Excellence at Bridgwater & Taunton College’s campus. (Photo: EDF Energy)

The United Kingdom’s energy minister, Greg Hands, recently presided over the opening of one of three new training centers in England aimed at supporting EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C nuclear build project in Somerset. The centers, according to EDF, will provide locals with the skills necessary to join the ranks of about 4,000 additional workers expected to be needed for the next phase of the power station’s construction. Hands unveiled the Welding Centre of Excellence, located on the Bridgwater & Taunton College campus in Bridgwater.

Insights from the Three Mile Island accident—Part 2: Improvements

May 6, 2022, 3:06PMNuclear NewsWilliam E. Burchill

Part one of this article, published in the May 2019 issue of Nuclear News[1] and last Friday on Nuclear Newswire, presented insights from the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island-­2 and addressed several issues raised by a previous Nuclear News piece on the accident[2]. Part two discusses safety improvements that have been made by both the industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the past 40 years.

U.S., Armenia ink civil nuclear pact

May 6, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News

U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken and Armenian minister of foreign affairs Ararat Mirzoyan signed a memorandum of understanding last week concerning strategic civil nuclear cooperation (NCMOU).

According to the State Department, NCMOUs are used to develop stronger ties between the United States and partner countries’ nuclear experts, industry, and researchers, as well as to provide support for the U.S. civil nuclear industry and nuclear nonproliferation goals.

France’s energy woes worsened by inspection-related nuclear power plant shutdowns

May 6, 2022, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe
The nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France. (Photo: Stefan Kühn)

Bloomberg recently reported that nuclear power production in France declined to its lowest level in almost two years in April, with power output during that month falling to 21.7 TWh. The decline occurred as Électricité de France (EDF), one of the country’s major energy suppliers, dealt with long-term inspection-and maintenance-related halts to the operation of many of its 56 domestic nuclear reactors.

NRC critiques OIG report on Diablo Canyon feedwater system oversight

May 5, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission turned the tables a bit on its inspector general’s office this week, releasing its response to a March 25 OIG event inquiry that criticized an NRC inspection at California’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, performed after a July 2020 auxiliary feedwater (AFW) system failure at Unit 2.

The response highlights a number of what the agency terms “factual errors” and takes issue with several portions of the OIG report.

Contract with Rosatom for Finnish reactor scrapped

May 5, 2022, 6:59AMNuclear News
An artist’s rendering of the Hanhikivi plant. (Image: Rosatom)

Finnish energy company Fennovoima has terminated, effective immediately, its engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract with RAOS Project Oy, a subsidiary of Russia’s Rosatom, for the delivery of a 1,200-MWe VVER-1200 pressurized water reactor at the Hanhikivi site in Finland’s Pyhäjoki municipality.

China greenlights four additional AP1000 reactors

May 4, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News
A pair of Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at China's Haiyang nuclear power plant.

China’s State Council recently approved the construction of four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors—two at China’s Sanmen plant in Zhejiang Province and two at the Haiyang plant in Shandong Province.

The plants currently house two AP1000 units each. Sanmen’s reactors are rated at 1,157 MWe and Haiyang’s at 1,170 MWe. Sanmen-1 and -2 began commercial operation in 2018. Haiyang-1 started commercial operation in 2018, and Haiyang-2 in 2019.

Newsom mulls a Diablo Canyon rescue

May 2, 2022, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant

California Gov. Gavin Newsom told the Los Angeles Times editorial board last week that his administration would look into using the federal government’s Civil Nuclear Credit Program to keep Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s Diablo Canyon nuclear plant in operation beyond its scheduled 2025 closure date.

“The requirement is by May 19 to submit an application, or you miss the opportunity to draw down any federal funds if you want to extend the life of that plant,” Newsom told the board, according to an April 29 LA Times piece. “We would be remiss not to put that on the table as an option.”

WM Symposia 2022:
COVID, the workforce, and supply chains

May 2, 2022, 2:46PMNuclear NewsTim Gregoire

The Waste Management Symposia, the premier forum on the management and disposition of radioactive waste, took place in person this year March 6–10 in Phoenix, Ariz., after being held virtually in 2021 due to the COVID-­19 pandemic. With more than 2,100 paid participants, the prevailing feeling at the conference was one of getting back to normal after two long years without face-­to-­face contact.

Cost drivers of nuclear steam cycle construction

May 2, 2022, 2:46PMNuclear NewsDaniel Moneghan

Interest in reducing carbon emissions around the world continues to climb. As a complement to the increasing deployment of variably generating renewables, advanced nuclear is commonly shown in net-zero grid modeling for 2050 because it represents firm electricity production that can flex in output with load demands.1 However, these projections are challenged by the high levelized cost of electricity associated with legacy nuclear construction, which is often more than double that of modern combined-cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants.

GOP lawmakers call on Secretary Granholm to secure U.S. nuclear energy sector

May 2, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News

Upton

McMorris Rodgers

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Fred Upton (R., Mich.), ranking member of the Subcommittee on Energy, sent a letter to energy secretary Jennifer Granholm on April 27 urging that more be done to secure America’s nuclear energy sector.

Excerpt: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exposes the risks of weakening American energy security,” McMorris Rodgers and Upton write. “These risks extend beyond our oil and gas assets to include supply vulnerabilities in our civilian nuclear sector. This sector is essential for national and energy security and for strengthening the geostrategic relationships necessary to compete with Russia, China, and other adversaries.