Power & Operations


TerraPower’s Natrium demo is headed to Wyoming

June 3, 2021, 12:03PMNuclear News
A future TerraPower plant visualization. (Graphic: TerraPower)

TerraPower has a design for a sodium-cooled fast reactor and federal cost-shared demonstration funding from the Department of Energy. Its partner, PacifiCorp, has four operating coal-fired power plants in the state of Wyoming. On June 2, together with Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and others, the companies announced plans to site a Natrium reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming, with a specific site to be announced by the end of 2021.

Illinois deal likely for Exelon nuclear plants

June 3, 2021, 9:31AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Harmon

An energy proposal in Illinois that would keep the state’s nuclear power plants on line while providing incentives for wind and solar generation is likely to be approved by Illinois lawmakers and signed into law by the governor, according to a news report yesterday from Capitol News Illinois.

Senate president Don Harmon (D., Oak Park) noted on June 1 that a deal had been reached between Gov. J. B. Pritzker and Exelon, the parent company of Commonwealth Edison and the owner of six nuclear power plants in Illinois.

Job saver: Approving the energy deal “would save jobs, which has been our goal all along,” Harmon said. “That’s why we support the governor in these talks. We also stand with the governor on decarbonization targets that need to be in a final deal.”

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First Hualong One unit outside China enters commercial operation

June 1, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

Unit 2 at Pakistan’s Karachi nuclear power plant officially began commercial operation in late May, gaining the distinction of being the first Hualong One reactor outside of China to do so, China National Nuclear Corporation announced last week. Construction of Karachi-2 began in August 2015, and connection to the grid was accomplished in March of this year.

WNA calls for all-hazards approach to nuclear power

June 1, 2021, 9:29AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The World Nuclear Association has issued a white paper advising the world’s policymakers and regulators to adopt a science-based, all-hazards risk assessment and management system that holistically evaluates the contributions of different energy sources and sets a level playing field.

The paper, Recalibrating Risk: Putting Nuclear Risk in Context and Perspective, states that disproportionately focusing on the risks posed by radiation can result in the acceptance of other, more significant risks. For example, the WNA says, while air pollution from heavy fossil fuel use worldwide has caused the early demise of millions, severely damaged the environment, and exacerbated climate change, nuclear power is routinely ostracized and its substantial contributions to global decarbonization disregarded.

U.K. nuclear joins renewables to press for grid decarbonization

June 1, 2021, 6:59AMNuclear News

Three United Kingdom organizations—the Nuclear Industry Association, RenewableUK (formerly the British Wind Energy Association), and Solar Energy UK—are calling for urgent action to build new nuclear, wind, and solar capacity and for a binding target of 100 percent grid decarbonization by 2035.

The United Kingdom was the first of the world’s major economies to embrace a legal obligation to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

U.S. nuclear capacity factors: Reliable and looking for respect

May 28, 2021, 2:58PMNuclear NewsSusan Gallier
Fig. 1. All reactors. The median DER net capacity factor of the 96 reactors included in this survey for the three-year period 2018–2020 is 91.33 percent. For the five three-year periods between 1997 and 2011 shown above, 104 reactors were in operation. The 2012–2014 capacity factor includes 100 reactors, and 2015–2017 includes 99 reactors.

Capacity factor is a measure of reliability, and reliability delivers results. The U.S. nuclear power fleet produced about 789.9 TWh of clean electricity in 2020 and ended the year with 94 operating reactors. According to Energy Information Administration data, that’s about 37 percent more electricity than the 576.9 TWh produced in 1990 by a much larger fleet of 112 reactors.

Nuclear News has tracked and analyzed the capacity factors of the U.S. fleet since the early 1980s, before concerted industry efforts yielded unforeseen performance improvements. High nuclear capacity factors are now less an achievement than an expectation. So much so, in fact, that advanced reactors in development today are assumed to be capable of achieving capacity factors above 90 or even 95 percent.

The U.S. fleet has maintained a median capacity factor near 90 percent for 20 years (see Fig. 1), and the median design electrical rating (DER) net capacity factor for 2018–2020, at 91.33, does not disappoint—unless by showing virtually no change relative to the median of 91.34 recorded in 2015–2017. However, this lack of meaningful difference only underscores the consistent reliability of the U.S. fleet.

Moltex clears first phase of CNSC vendor design review

May 28, 2021, 9:28AMNuclear News

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has completed phase one of its pre-licensing vendor design review (VDR) for Moltex Energy’s 300-MW Stable Salt Reactor–Wasteburner (SSR-W)—a molten salt reactor that uses nuclear waste as fuel. CNSC entered into an agreement with Moltex in November 2017 to conduct the initial phase of the review.

The amazing capacity of nuclear

May 28, 2021, 7:00AMANS NewsCraig Piercy

Craig Piercy

Historically, we have used the May issue of Nuclear News to analyze capacity factor data for U.S. nuclear plants. Once again, the topline story is the continuation of a 20-year period of outstanding operational performance. In 2020, the U.S. nuclear fleet generated about 789.9 TWh of electricity, surpassing coal to become the second-largest source of electricity in the nation. Overall, the fleet recorded a median three-year capacity factor of 91.33, besting the three-year median of 91.20 published just last year. With some of our most venerable plants among the top performers, it’s no wonder that several utilities are investing now to ensure their plants can generate clean energy into their eighth decade or beyond.

NuScale to explore SMR deployment in central Washington

May 27, 2021, 9:31AMNuclear News
An artist's rendering of the NuScale plant. Image: NuScale

Portland, Ore.–based NuScale Power has announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Grant County Public Utility District (Grant PUD) to evaluate the deployment of NuScale’s advanced nuclear technology in central Washington state.

Consortium debuts new design for U.K. SMR

May 26, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News
Artist’s conception of the UK SMR consortium’s small modular reactor. (Image: Rolls-Royce)

The UK SMR consortium last week revealed the latest design and power upgrade—from 440 MW to 470 MW—for its proposed small modular reactor. According to the consortium’s lead company, Rolls-Royce, the “refreshed” design features a faceted roof, an earth embankment surrounding the reactor to integrate with the landscape, and a more compact building footprint.

ANS, others throw weight behind bill to aid troubled Illinois nuclear plants

May 26, 2021, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A large group of nuclear and nuclear-friendly organizations, including the American Nuclear Society, sent a letter on May 24 to Illinois lawmakers urging them to pass the Climate Union Jobs Act (CUJA) before the legislature adjourns at the end of this month.

Among its provisions, the bill would create 74 million megawatt-hours of carbon mitigation credits for Exelon’s Braidwood, Byron, Dresden, and LaSalle nuclear plants. The Clinton and Quad Cities plants, which participate in Illinois’s zero-emission credit program, would not be eligible. (In August of last year, Exelon Generation, owner and operator of all six nuclear plants in Illinois, announced that it would close Byron and Dresden without state support of some kind, adding that Braidwood and LaSalle were also imperiled.)

Washington and Seoul to cooperate on overseas projects, nonproliferation

May 25, 2021, 3:02PMNuclear News

Biden

Moon

The United States and South Korea have agreed to “develop cooperation in overseas nuclear markets, including joint participation in nuclear power plant projects, while ensuring the highest standards of international nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation are maintained,” according to a statement from the White House on last week’s Washington meeting between President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

As part of that agreement, South Korea will adopt a common policy with the United States requiring recipient countries to have a safeguards agreement “Additional Protocol” in place as a condition of doing nuclear-related business. (The Additional Protocol is an expanded set of requirements for information and access to assist the International Atomic Energy Agency in its work to confirm that states are using nuclear material solely for peaceful purposes.)

The negative impact of premature shutdowns

May 25, 2021, 7:00AMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

I recently participated in a webinar focused on the impact of premature shutdown of nuclear power plants, specifically, the announced closure of the Byron and Dresden NPPs in Illinois. The impacts will permeate at local, national, and international levels. In their communities, the Byron and Dresden NPPs are embraced as good neighbors, providing quality jobs and a strong tax base while efficiently feeding competitively priced power to the grid. Yet, with the significant subsidies and portfolio standards that benefit renewables, it’s still difficult for nuclear plants to compete.

More encouraging words on nuclear from Biden climate advisor

May 24, 2021, 3:14PMANS Nuclear Cafe

McCarthy

Despite the discordant, antinuclear note struck by President Biden’s environmental justice panel in a recent report, other administration officials continue to signal support for nuclear energy.

In an interview with the Washington Post last week touting the president’s American Jobs Plan, White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy reiterated her belief that nuclear energy is key to the administration’s stated goal of 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

Micro Modular Reactor reaches Canadian licensing milestone

May 24, 2021, 9:27AMNuclear News
Artist’s rendering of the MMR project. (Image: USNC)

Global First Power’s (GFP) Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) project has moved to the formal license review phase with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC), becoming the first small modular reactor to do so.

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?

Biden environmental justice panel says no to nuclear

May 21, 2021, 11:59AMNuclear News

The White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) would appear to be not a fan of nuclear energy. In a May 13 report issued to the White House Council on Environmental Quality, WHEJAC lists “The procurement of nuclear power” under the heading “Examples of the Types of Projects That Will Not Benefit a Community.” (Other projects listed include fossil fuel procurement, carbon capture and storage, and cap and trade.) The 90-page report does not provide an explanation for the opposition.

Time for Illinois’s nuclear advocates to turn up the volume

May 21, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. Photo: Teemu008/Wikipedia

As Illinois lawmakers race to hammer out a compromise clean energy bill before the current legislative session adjourns on May 31, advocacy group Nuclear Matters is asking members of the state’s nuclear community to speak up in support of state aid for the struggling Byron and Dresden nuclear plants, both of which are scheduled to be prematurely retired later this year by Exelon.

Nuclear Matters has launched a letter-writing campaign to encourage individuals to contact their representatives via a pre-drafted letter to urge passage of legislation that will provide that aid. The letter is one of general support for Illinois’s nuclear plants and not an endorsement of any specific measure.

Vogtle-3 startup delayed until January as costs increase

May 20, 2021, 7:15AMNuclear News

The commercial start date for Unit 3 at the Vogtle construction site near Waynesboro, Ga., has been pushed back to January of next year, adding some $48 million to the cost of the nuclear new-build project, according to Georgia Power and Southern Nuclear officials who were testifying at a May 18 hearing before the Georgia Public Service Commission.