Power & Operations

Overview of Holtec's SMR-160

April 5, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear CafeJodine Jansen Vehec
Fig. 1: The layout of a typical SMR-160 site.

Holtec International’s SMR-160 is a pressurized light-water thermal spectrum reactor that relies on natural circulation, thereby eliminating the need for reactor coolant pumps during normal operation. The reference design incorporates a lower pressure conventional steam turbine and wet cooling via a tube-and-shell condenser coupled with forced-draft cooling towers. Optionally, the plant can use dry cooling via Holtec’s HI-KOOL air-cooled condenser.

Partnership supports siting Xe-100 demo in Washington state

April 1, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News
U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R., Wash.) observes as (from left) Energy Northwest CEO Brad Sawatzke, X-energy CEO Clay Sell, and Grant PUD CEO Kevin Nordt sign the TRi Energy Partnership MOU on April 1 at the Port of Benton in Richland, Wash. Photo: Energy Northwest

Building the nation’s first advanced reactor is the goal of a partnership formed between X-energy, Energy Northwest, and the Grant County (Washington) Public Utility District (PUD).

The TRi Energy Partnership will support the development and demonstration of X-energy’s Xe-100 high-temperature gas reactor, which was selected by the Department of Energy for a cost-shared commercial demonstration by 2027 through the DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). The new partnership was announced on April 1, when Clay Sell, X-energy’s chief executive officer; Brad Sawatzke, Energy Northwest’s CEO; and Kevin Nordt, the Grant County PUD’s CEO, met in Richland, Wash., to sign a memorandum of understanding.

OPG and Moltex join forces on recycled fuel project

April 1, 2021, 6:58AMNuclear News

Ontario Power Generation’s Centre for Canadian Nuclear Sustainability (CCNS) will collaborate with nuclear technology firm Moltex Energy on a project aimed at recycling used fuel from CANDU reactors, the electricity generator announced March 30.

The CCNS will provide C$1 million (about $800,000) in funding to assist Moltex in demonstrating the technical viability of its process to recycle used CANDU fuel. That process, known as WAste to Stable Salt (WATSS), has the potential to reduce storage needs for used fuel, according to Moltex.

Safe operation of Catawba, McGuire, and Oconee plants subject of NRC virtual meeting

March 29, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will discuss the 2020 safety performance of Duke Energy’s Catawba, McGuire, and Oconee nuclear power plants during a virtual meeting to be held on April 1.

The meeting will begin at 5 p.m., eastern time, with a presentation by the NRC staff responsible for plant inspections. Following the discussion with Duke Energy, questions will be answered by the NRC, including by the resident inspectors.

The public and media can access the meeting via Teams. For those without access to Teams, the telephone conference number is 301-576-2978, passcode 71391471#.

The annual assessment letters for the Catawba plant, the McGuire plant, and the Oconee plant, which include upcoming inspection plans for the plants, are available on the NRC website.

Current performance information for Catawba-1, Catawba-2, McGuire-1, McGuire-2, Oconee-1, Oconee-2, and Oconee-3 is available and updated quarterly.

Nuclear generation in U.S. tops coal power for first time in 2020

March 25, 2021, 3:08PMNuclear News
Source: EIA

A recent U.S. Energy Information Administration report, Short-Term Energy Outlook, notes that in 2020, nuclear power plants generated more electricity in the United States than coal-fired plants for the first time ever. Last year also marked the first time that coal generation was not the first or second largest U.S. electricity producer in more than 70 years.

Two factors led to the decrease in coal-fired generation, according to the EIA: one is the drop in the number of operating coal-fired plants, and the other is the lower utilization of those remaining coal-fired plants as the nation moves toward cleaner energy production. Coal, however, is not to be abandoned yet, according to the EIA.

The next couple of years will see changes in energy production, according to the EIA report. The EIA believes that "increases in natural gas prices will make coal more competitive in the electric power sector. This expected increase in coal's utilization more than offsets the upcoming retirement of 2.8 GW of coal capacity in 2021 and another 8.5 GW in 2022," based on information reported to the EIA by coal-fired plant owners and developers.

Canada invests $40M in Moltex SMR technology

March 25, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

Artist’s rendering of the Stable Salt Reactor–Wasteburner (SSR–W) and WAste to Stable Salt (WATSS) facility. Image: Moltex

The Canadian government has awarded C$50.5 million (about $40.2 million) to Moltex Energy Canada to support small modular reactor research and technology development in New Brunswick. The investment, announced March 18, was provided by the government’s Strategic Innovation Fund and its Regional Economic Growth Through Innovation program, part of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

In a press release on the funding, Moltex said it plans to build the world’s first 300-MW Stable Salt Reactor–Wasteburner (SSR–W) and WAste to Stable Salt (WATSS) facility at the Point Lepreau Generating Station site in Saint John, New Brunswick, and provide electricity to the grid by the early 2030s. According to the company, its WATSS process, which recycles existing used nuclear fuel, has the potential to reduce storage needs for that fuel.

Moltex also noted its expectation that jobs created through the project will, over the next 15 years, contribute approximately C$1 billion (about $800 million) to Canada’s gross domestic product and result in some C$100 million (about $79.7 million) in federal government revenue.

Senate hearing to focus on nuclear energy

March 24, 2021, 3:00PMANS Nuclear Cafe

The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee (ENR) will hold a hearing on Thursday, March 25, to examine the latest developments in the nuclear energy sector, with a focus on ways to maintain and expand the use of nuclear energy in the United States and abroad.

The hearing can be viewed live at 9:45 a.m. EST. More information about the hearing is available online.

Russian unit begins commercial operation

March 24, 2021, 6:59AMNuclear News

Unit II-2 at Russia’s Leningrad plant has entered commercial operation. Photo: Rosenergoatom

Unit II-2 at the Leningrad nuclear power plant entered commercial operation on March 22, bringing the total number of operating power reactors in the Russian fleet to 38, state-owned nuclear power corporation Rosatom has announced.

The 1,066-MWe unit is one of two Russian-designed Generation III+ VVER-1200 pressurized water reactors now in service at the plant, the other, Unit II-1, having begun commercial operation in October 2018. There are also two VVER-1200 units up and running at Russia’s Novovoronezh facility, and two additional VVER-1200s are scheduled for Leningrad later this decade. Further, VVER-1200 projects are afoot at the Belarusian plant in Belarus (two units), El Dabaa in Egypt (four units), Hanhikivi in Finland (one unit), and Paks in Hungary (two units).

Leningrad II-2 replaces Leningrad I-2, a 925-MWe RBMK-1000 light water–cooled graphite-moderated reactor that permanently ceased operation in November 2020 after 45 years of service.

Vogtle-3 “likely” to miss scheduled start date, says Georgia Power

March 22, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

Vogtle-3's containment and turbine building. Photo: Georgia Power

Vogtle-3, the first of two 1,100-MWe AP1000 pressurized water reactors under construction at the Vogtle plant near Waynesboro, Ga., may not go into service in November as planned, Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power has announced.

According to a March 19 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the date for starting commercial operation at Unit 3 could be delayed by a month or more at a cost to Georgia Power of approximately $25 million per month. “While [Vogtle plant operator] Southern Nuclear continues to target a November 2021 in-service date for Unit 3, the schedule is challenged and … a delay is likely,” Georgia Power stated. The filing made no mention of changes to Unit 4’s scheduled start date of November 2022.

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.

FERC dismisses CGNP filing to keep Diablo Canyon open

March 19, 2021, 11:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. Photo: PG&E

According to ETO Insider, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week dismissed a complaint filed in October 2020 from Californians for Green Nuclear Power (CGNP) against multiple agencies regarding the closing of Pacific Gas and Electric’s Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.

In denying the complaint on technical grounds against the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), FERC said that CGNP had “not met its burden under Section 206 of the Federal Power Act.” The remaining complaints against North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the California State Water Resources Control Board (CSWRCB), and California State Lands Commission (CSLC) were dismissed on the grounds that they “are not proper respondents.”

House GOP energy agenda features nuclear-related legislation

March 18, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

In response to House Democrats’ introduction on March 2 of a massive energy bill, the CLEAN Future Act, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have unveiled their own, more modest energy agenda—a package of existing legislation that they say would “secure America’s energy future and global competitive edge against China.”

McMorris Rodgers

According to a March 15 press release from the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), along with Reps. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) and David McKinley (R., W.Va.), the GOP plan will address climate change risks and spur the development and deployment of clean energy infrastructure without the “pie-in-the-sky” mandates, regulations, and federal government spending advocated by the Democrats.

What they’re saying: “This package will modernize and improve our energy infrastructure and promote an all-of-the-above energy strategy across the board, including solutions to unleash innovation in hydropower, nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas,” the Republican lawmakers state. “These are real, workable solutions to make energy cleaner, reduce emissions, prioritize energy security, and keep energy costs low.”

Shellenberger to Senate: Keep nuclear

March 18, 2021, 7:19AMANS Nuclear Cafe


In testimony last Thursday before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Michael Shellenberger, founder and president of Environmental Progress, called for maintaining the current U.S. fleet of nuclear power reactors. He argued that the premature closure of nuclear plants threatens the reliability, resiliency, and affordability of the nation’s electricity supply, as well as its ability to reduce carbon emissions.

Without state or federal action, 12 reactors will close by 2025, resulting in the loss of 10.5 GW of “highly reliable, low-cost, and low-carbon power,” Shellenberger noted in his written statement. He added, “If those nuclear plants are lost, grids may suffer from energy shortages during future heat waves or cold snaps.”

Westinghouse to invest in Poland’s nuclear future

March 17, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

Patrick Fragman (left), president and CEO of Westinghouse, and Piotr Naimski, Poland’s secretary of state for strategic energy infrastructure, met on March 15, 2021, in Warsaw. Photo: Westinghouse

The signing last October of a bilateral agreement between the United States and Poland to cooperate on the latter’s civil nuclear power program appears to be bearing fruit. On March 15, following a meeting in Warsaw between Patrick Fragman, president and chief executive officer of Westinghouse Electric Company, and Piotr Naimski, Poland’s secretary of state for strategic energy infrastructure, Westinghouse announced its intention to invest in nuclear technologies in Poland.

The agreement, which entered into force earlier this month, calls for the United States and Poland to cooperate over the next 18 months on a report laying out a plan for implementing Poland’s nuclear power program, as well as potential financing arrangements. It also defines areas of U.S.-Polish cooperation for decades to come, including support for relevant business entities and government-led efforts ranging from regulation to research and training to supply chain development.

Ohio House passes bill to remove state aid to nuclear plants

March 16, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News

The Ohio House of Representatives has voted to rescind the nuclear subsidy provisions of H.B. 6, the controversial 2019 piece of legislation that has been marinating in scandal since last July. Just one week earlier, a similar measure was passed unanimously in the Ohio Senate.

Approved by a tally of 86-7 on March 10, H.B. 128 strips H.B. 6 of subsidies for Energy Harbor’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants, as well as a “decoupling” provision that would have been of substantial financial benefit to FirstEnergy Corporation, the former parent company of Energy Harbor. The new bill retains H.B. 6’s subsidies for utility-scale solar projects, however, and for two coal plants (one in Ohio, one in Indiana).

H.B. 128 was sponsored by Reps. James Hoops (R., Dist. 81) and Dick Stein (R., Dist. 57).

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.

Germany settles with utilities over nuclear phaseout

March 15, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

RWE’s Gundremmingen nuclear plant, located in Bavaria, is slated to close at the end of the year. Photo: Wikipedia/Felix König

After years of litigation, Germany has reached an agreement with four utility companies on compensation for losses incurred as a result of the government’s stunning decision in 2011 to abandon nuclear power. In March of that year, only days after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a 180-degree reversal in the country’s energy policy, which had been one of support for nuclear power. Eight units were shut down immediately, and by May 2011 the government had announced a plan to close all nuclear power plants by 2022.

The companies will receive a total of €2.4 billion (about $2.85 billion), with €1.4 billion going to Sweden-based Vattenfall and the remaining €1 billion split between German utilities RWE (€880 million), EnBW (€80 million), and E.ON (€42.5 million). In return, the companies have agreed to terminate all phaseout-related legal disputes with the government.

NRC's RIC: A clear line of sight for accident tolerant fuel deployment

March 12, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

To nuclear fuel suppliers, today’s operating reactors represent a defined customer base with predictable demands. Utilities must order their next fuel reload far in advance of an outage; enrichers and fabricators work to fill those orders. Adapting such a highly optimized supply chain to accommodate new products—fuels with new materials, claddings, and higher enrichments and burnups—will require alignment between all parties involved to meet the associated research, enrichment, manufacturing, regulatory, transportation, and operating experience needs.

That was the consensus during “Current Accident Tolerant Fuel Environment,” a technical session held on March 9 during the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's four-day Regulatory Information Conference (RIC, March 8-11). The session was chaired by NRC Chairman Christopher Hanson, who was taking part in his first RIC as a member of the commission.

States sue Biden over social cost of carbon order

March 12, 2021, 9:30AMNuclear News


Twelve states are suing the Biden administration over the president’s January 20 executive order on climate change. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court on March 8 by Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt, who was joined in the action by his counterparts in Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.

The reason: The suit objects to a provision in the order that revitalizes the social cost of carbon (SCC) metric—a tool used by regulators to weigh the cost to society, in dollars, of emitting one ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The SCC—which takes into account such things as human health, agricultural productivity, property damage from increasingly severe storms, and the value of ecosystem services—had faded into insignificance under President Trump.

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.