Study completed on BWRX-300 deployment in Poland

The completion of a study assessing the feasibility of deploying a fleet of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s (GEH) BWRX-300 small modular reactors in Poland was announced recently by the Polish firm Synthos Green Energy (SGE).

The feasibility study, which was prepared by Exelon Generation, was not made publicly available by SGE. The study covers the analysis of key aspects of SMR technology implementation, including cost issues, personnel policy, regulatory and security issues, construction models, and operational issues, according to SGE.

SGE is a subsidiary of Synthos S.A., a manufacturer of synthetic rubber and one of the biggest producers of chemical raw materials in Poland. According to SGE, it views SMR technology as an opportunity for the deep decarbonization of Polish industry and the country's heating sector.

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.

Ex-Im Bank, Poland sign MOU on U.S. energy investment

Polish Minister of Climate and Environment Michał Kurtyka (left) and Ex-Im Chairman Kimberly Reed sign an MOU on U.S. energy investment in Poland on December 11. Photo: EXIM

In another sign of U.S. interest in helping Poland develop a civil nuclear power program, the Export-Import Bank of the United States announced last week that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Polish government to promote U.S. energy investment in the Central European nation. (For an earlier agreement, see here.)

The MOU was signed in Warsaw on December 11 by Ex-Im president and chairman, Kimberly A. Reed, and Poland’s minister of climate and environment, Michał Kurtyka, during Reed’s three-day visit to Poland.

The Ex-Im: As the official export credit agency of the United States, Ex-Im provides loans, loan guarantees, and insurance to foreign customers purchasing U.S. exports.

The MOU particulars: The MOU calls for Ex-Im and Poland to “explore and identify potential opportunities for Ex-Im financing and to work together to promote business development opportunities related to strategic energy projects and programs,” according to Ex-Im’s announcement. The agreement includes, but is not limited to, support for projects in nuclear energy, in particular in support of strategic projects under Poland’s nuclear power program, low- and zero-emission technologies, clean energy innovation, and critical energy infrastructure, including cybersecurity solutions.

Report: Nuclear and other low-carbon generation becoming cost-competitive

The levelized costs of electricity generation from low-carbon technologies, including nuclear, are dropping and are increasingly below that of conventional fossil fuel generation, concludes a new report from the International Energy Agency and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).

The 223-page report, Projected Costs of Generating Electricity—2020 Edition, the ninth such jointly produced analysis, includes plant-level cost data on power generation from nuclear, natural gas, coal, and a variety of renewable sources, including wind, solar, hydro, and biofuels. The report provides data from 243 plants in 24 countries.

Russia seeking customers for floating nuclear plants, report says

Technicians loading the first reactor aboard the Akademik Lomonosov, Russia's floating nuclear power plant. Credit: Rosatom.

The Bellona news site is reporting that Rosatom is marketing its floating nuclear power plants to foreign countries. The news item noted on December 14 that Russia’s Tass newswire had published the information, citing government statements. Rosatom is Russia’s state nuclear corporation.

“Rosatom has made proposals for the installation of floating units to a number of foreign countries,” Yury Trutnev, a deputy prime minister and presidential representative to Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District, said earlier this month, according to Tass. “It’s clear that one unit is not enough for us to sell such modules. Their future replication would open a possibility for Russia to open a market niche where there currently is no one.”

U.K. sets plans for clean energy and green jobs by 2050

A 170-page energy white paper, Powering Our Net Zero Future, issued by the United Kingdom government on December 14 sets big goals for cleaning up the U.K.’s energy system. According to the U.K. government, the plan would create and support green energy jobs across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and would keep electricity bills affordable as the U.K. transitions to net zero emissions by 2050.

The white paper notes that the U.K. will generate emission-free electricity by 2050 with a trajectory that will see "overwhelmingly decarbonized power in the 2030s. Low carbon electricity will be a key enabler of our transition to a net zero economy with demand expected to double due to transport and low carbon heat."

The white paper builds upon the U.K. prime minister’s 38-page Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which was issued on November 18.

Local leader speaks out to keep Byron nuclear plant open

Chesney

An Illinois lawmaker is hopeful that legislation is coming in the state that would benefit nuclear power plants. “I believe we’re going to have an incentive program that will be in partisan legislation,” said Andrew Chesney, Illinois state representative for the 89th District.

Chesney’s comment was included in a video story that aired on a TV news channel in Rockford, Ill. The news story focused on the negative financial impact that would result if the Byron nuclear power plant were to close in 2021.

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).

U.S., Slovenia ink nuclear cooperation MOU

Anže Logar, Slovenia’s foreign minister (left), talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on December 7 in Washington, D.C. Photo: State Department

In the latest example of the Trump administration’s recent efforts to forge nuclear agreements with Central and Eastern European nations (for other examples, see here, here, and here), the United States earlier this week signed a memorandum of understanding concerning strategic civil nuclear cooperation (NCMOU) with Slovenia.

The NCMOU was signed on December 8 during a visit to Washington, D.C., by a Slovenian delegation headed by Foreign Minister Anže Logar. Signing it were Christopher Ford, the administration’s assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation, and Jernej Vrtovec, Slovenia’s minister of infrastructure.

The previous day, Logar met with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to discuss, among other topics, “the importance of energy security and how civil nuclear cooperation can strengthen the strategic bilateral relationship,” according to a State Department readout.

IAEA, IEA partner to enhance nuclear’s role in clean energy transition

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi signs a memorandum of understanding with the International Energy Agency during an online event. Photo: IAEA

To help speed the transition to clean energy that many experts say will be required to achieve global climate goals by mid-century, the International Atomic Energy Agency and International Energy Agency (IEA) have agreed to strengthen cooperation on activities involving nuclear power.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol on November 30 signed a memorandum of understanding, under which the two organizations will share data, statistics, energy modeling tools, policy analysis, and research, according to the IAEA on December 3. The agencies will also collaborate on publications, seminars, workshops, and webinars and increase participation in each other’s conferences and meetings of mutual interest.

Bill would delay subsidies for Ohio nuclear plants

New legislation to address Ohio’s scandal-ridden nuclear subsidy bill, H.B. 6, was introduced in the state’s House of Representatives on December 1. Unlike the measures introduced earlier this year that sought to either fully or partially repeal the bill, H.B. 798 calls for delaying subsidies for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants by one year. (Currently, charges on ratepayers’ monthly electric bills are set to begin in January.) Cleveland.com has more on the story.

New Brunswick debates investing in SMRs

In an article published by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on December 7, politicians representing New Brunswick, Canada, debate the benefits and potential risks of investing in small modular reactor development. Two major parties in the province support SMR development, while the Green Party sees “danger signs.”

Dominion to pay $25-million civil penalty in SEC case

Dominion Energy has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $25 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission against SCANA Corporation and subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) regarding SCANA’s involvement in the failed Summer nuclear expansion project. Virginia-based Dominion acquired SCANA in January 2019.

Dominion disclosed in May that it had reached an “agreement in principle” with the staff of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement to settle the case for the above-stated amount.

The final agreement, which at this writing is still subject to approval by the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, also calls for the payment of $112.5 million in “disgorgement plus prejudgment interest.” This penalty, however, will be deemed satisfied by SCANA and SCE&G’s settlement payments in related rate payer and shareholder litigation.

Bloomberg: How nuclear power could help industry decarbonize

Half of the world’s energy goes into producing heat for industries that make steel, cement, glass, and chemicals, according to the Bloomberg article, Atomic Heat in Small Packages Gives Big Industry a Climate Option. That heat, sometimes reaching temperatures above 1,000 oC, accounts for two-fifths of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions.

Japan should revive its nuclear industry, says new report

The Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center has issued a report, Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Fleet: The Geopolitical and Climate Implications of Accelerated Decommissioning, contending that Japan’s reaction to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident has led to an increased dependence on carbon-emitting energy sources that ultimately undermine the country’s recently announced climate goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Recommendations: Released just a few months prior to the 10-year anniversary of the accident on March 11, 2011, the report recommends that Japan:

  • Use its existing nuclear fleet in the near and long term to 2050,
  • remain involved in global civil nuclear trade,
  • develop a role for advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, which it should deploy as soon as feasible,
  • rebuild its nuclear energy workforce and public trust in nuclear power, and
  • regain its leadership position in the climate battle.

Nuclear infrastructure bill moves forward in Senate

The American Nuclear Infrastructure Act (ANIA)—a bipartisan bill introduced just over two weeks ago in the Senate, with the goal of reestablishing U.S. leadership in nuclear energy—is now headed for the Senate floor. The legislation was advanced at a December 2 business meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee by a vote of 16 to 5.

U.K. seeks site for STEP fusion reactor

The United Kingdom’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has asked local governments to submit bids to host the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production project, or STEP, according to an article published by Bloomberg on December 1.

The STEP plant will be developed by the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, which says that construction could begin as soon as 2032, with operations by 2040, and “will prove that fusion is not a far-off dream.”

Senate approves Trump’s FERC nominees

Christie

Clements

The Senate has confirmed the nominations of Republican Mark Christie and Democrat Allison Clements to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission by voice vote, bringing the agency to its full, five-member complement for the first time since before Cheryl LaFleur departed in August of last year.

The chamber’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted on November 18 to advance the pair to the full Senate for confirmation, following their testimony before the committee in September. President Trump announced his intention to nominate Christie and Clements in July.

DOE moves to strengthen domestic supply chain of critical minerals

The Department of Energy has issued new guidance for applicants to its Loan Programs Office (LPO), stating a preference for projects related to critical minerals.

The guidance, a notice for which was published in the December 1 Federal Register, aims to boost the domestic supply chain of critical minerals in support of two of President Trump’s executive orders: the September 2020 order regarding the nation’s reliance on foreign sources for critical minerals, and the December 2017 order regarding the implementation of a federal strategy to ensure a domestic supply of those minerals.

First Hualong One reactor connected to grid

China’s Fuqing nuclear plant. Photo: CNNC

Unit 5 at China National Nuclear Corporation’s (CNNC) Fuqing nuclear plant in southeastern China’s Fujian Province has become the world’s first Hualong One reactor to be connected to the power grid, the company announced on November 27. “It was confirmed on-site that all technical indicators of the unit met the design requirements and that the unit was in good condition,” CNNC said.

Fuel loading at Fuqing-5 began on September 4, following the issuance of the reactor’s operating license by China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment. The loading of 177 sets of fuel assemblies was completed on September 10, and initial criticality was achieved on October 21. The unit is scheduled to enter commercial operation before the end of the year.

Also known as the HPR1000, the Hualong One is a Chinese-designed and -developed 1,000-MWe Generation III pressurized water reactor, incorporating design elements of CNNC’s ACP1000 and China General Nuclear’s ACPR1000+ reactors. Fuqing-5’s twin HPR1000, Fuqing-6, is scheduled to start contributing power to the grid next year.