Congress Relocations Ahead with Legislation to Promote Development of Advanced Nuclear Reactors

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  • Bipartisan legislative efforts in the Senate and the House show that Congress is major about promoting the development of innovative nuclear reactors.
  • In the Senate, Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), both members of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committte, reintroduced the Nuclear Energy Management Act (S.903).  Murkowski chairs the committee and Manchin is the ranking member.
  • In the Home Elaine Luria (D-VA) and Denver Riggleman (R-VA) introduced a buddy bill (H. R. 3306). Significantly, Luria served 20 years in the U.S. Navy reaching the rank of Leader and ran nuclear reactors on-board ships.

The legislation has four significant elements all created to open up courses forward to develop innovative nuclear reactors. Here’s a brief summary.

  • DOE would be required to total at least two advanced reactor demonstration tasks by the end of 2025 and two to five more additional projects by 2035. The Versatile Test Reactor, for which work is underway now, falls in the latter timeline with an operational target of 2026. As part of this effort DOE should come up with  10-year tactical strategy to guide its work in this location.
  • DOE would be required to boost production of high-assay low-enriched fuel (HALEU). It contains U-235 higher than 5% and less than 20%. Lots of brand-new sophisticated reactor designs include the use of this type of fuel, such as TRISO pebbles at 9 -10% U-235, in their styles.  See previous protection on this blog site Advanced Nuclear Fuels Open the Door to New Applications.
  • Development of a workforce capable of structure and operating these advanced designs is the goal of the legal section devoted to boosting DOE’s University Nuclear Program.  (See note at end about DOE’s current $49M financing decision to support this program.)
  • Purchase power arrangements with DOD facilities are included in the expenses which need one new agreement for an advanced reactor by 2023 and unique factor to consider to be given to other innovative designs afterwards with terms of the deals to run for up to 40 years.

Idaho Lab Director Testament in Support of NELA

At a hearing on the legislation held this past April , Idaho National Laboratory Director Mark Peters talked about to the significance of the targets NELA would set for completing demonstration jobs. (Full Text)

“We praise those objectives, acknowledging they are aggressive since they will drive the essential prioritization and strong sense of urgency that we need to have.”

Peters added that more than 50 advanced nuclear companies across North America are taking a look at a number of innovative reactor concepts, typically in collaboration with INL and other DOE national laboratories. Among the things they are looking at:

  • How to make reactors smaller sized and modular – little sufficient even to be mass-produced in factories.
  • How to use coolants other than light water.
  • How to operate at normal climatic pressure.
  • How to use physics in addition to engineering to keep reactors safe.
  • Some styles can even use recycled nuclear waste as fuel.

Peters said some energies, and the U.S. Department of Defense, are believing smaller sized. Westinghouse, NuScale, General Atomics, Oklo, X-energy, and others are working on micro reactor styles.

He stated these 2- to-20-MW reactors could provide electrical power for military bases and remote communities that currently run their electrical grids on expensive and highly polluting imported diesel fuel.  He included that micro reactors also are a good alternative for off-grid commercial and mining operations, and large energy consumers in developing nations.  See prior protection on this blogDOD looks for SMRs for tactical readiness at military bases

Prior Legislation to Assistance Advanced Nuclear Energy Efforts

Last December Congress passed an ambitious strategy for nuclear energy R&D.

The new law establishes a broad and sweeping required for civilian nuclear energy R&D and innovation advancement towards industrial implementation. Its arrangements consist of;

  • Provide research study facilities to promote clinical development and enable users from academia, the National Laboratories, and the private sector to make clinical discoveries pertinent for nuclear, chemical, and materials science engineering; and
  • Enable the private sector to partner with the National Laboratories to show unique reactor principles for the function of dealing with technical uncertainty associated with the previously mentioned objectives.

DOE’s Work on the Versatile Test Reactor

vtr-logo_thumb. pngU. S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry announced (02/28/19) the launch of the Department of Energy’s Versatile Test Reactor (VTR), one of the top concern jobs specified in the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act of 2017.

The focus of the Versatile Test Reactor will be to conduct quick turnaround screening and credentials of sophisticated fuels and materials to support advancement of innovative nuclear reactor designs. Fuels and products testing will include sodium-cooled, lead/LBE, HTGR, and molten salt styles.

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VTR Core Style Conceptual Diagram  Image: INL VTR P rogram

The reactor itself will be a sodium-cooled reactor using HALEU fuel with a start date targeting 2026. GE-Hitachi and Bechtel are adapting the design of the PRISM idea for the VTR objective.  Separately, GE-Hitachi is seeking an NRC license for the PRISM reactor style.

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Verstile Test Reactor (VTR) Program Timeline. Image:  Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, INL E xecutive Director, presentation at Advanced Reactors Summit VI, San Diego, CA, January 29 -31, 2019.

According to the presentation by INL, 12 universities are teaming up with the VTR task in 9 key areas. Industry partnership with the university groups includes Framatome, Westinghouse, TerraPower, General Atomics, and GE-HItachi.

DOE financial investments in Advanced Reactors

In current months DOE has actually granted federal funds for advancement of innovative reactors to Westinghouse and Moltex. Like other DOE moneying, these are cost-share grants which require the moneyed firm to also invest its funds in the job.

Westinghouse – Last March DOE awarded Westinghouse $13 million for the eVinci (TM) Micro Reactor Nuclear Presentation System Preparedness Task is for Westinghouse and its group to prepare for the Nuclear Demonstration Unit (NDU) of the eVinci micro reactor through design, analysis, testing and licensing to manufacture, website and test the NDU by 2022.

Westinghouse has not made public info on significant collboration efforts with other firms or universities for the job. Also, it has not revealed a prospective consumer for the design.

Westinghouse told Power Magazine that it deals with numerous crucial obstacles. First among them is getting enough HALEU fuel. The Department of Energy is supporting multiple efforts to address that problem including a agreement to produce it by Centrus Corp by 2020 and deployment of a HALEU-based TRISO-X fuel fabrication pilot line at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Other issues which are dealt with by all SMR developers include the concern of how lots of deals are needed to be tattooed in their order books to get investors to supply the funds for factory production facilities.

Because the design is distinct, Power Publication kept in mind that Westinghouse will have to go through the long and expensive safety assessment procedure at the NRC. The company informed Power Publication it deals with “first of a kind” difficulties in licensing, instrumentation, remote reactor monitoring, and logistics.  See previous coverage on this blogWestinghous Launches New SMR E ffort

Moltex – In July DOE awarded Moltex Energy USA LLC $2.55 million to develop technologies that will be capable of reducing Stable Salt Reactor (SSR) building timelines to under three years. The funding, from the US D epartment of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), will be used to establish composite structural innovations (COST) for the reactor.

Moltex will work in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Study Institute, Purdue University and Vanderbilt University on the SSR, exploiting innovative innovations such as advanced structural composites and finishings to enable rapid building and construction.

Moltex Energy has secured a considerable financial investment from IDOM Consulting, Engineering, Architecture SAU, a prestigious and innovative global consulting & engineering company with a big, skilled and effective nuclear engineering practice worldwide. The multi-million dollar (USD) investment allows Moltex to broaden its New Brunswick office and speed up its pre-licensing development through CNSC’s Vendor Design Evaluation (VDR).

World Nuclear News reports that Moltex last year signed an contract with the New Brunswick Energy Solutions Corporation and NB P ower to construct a presentation SSR-W at the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant site in Canada. The second-generation SSR imagined by the business, which will usage uranium fuel, is intended at those countries which do not have existing nuclear reactors and for that reason have no waste to burn. The business likewise imagines a thorium breeder version of the reactor.

Also, at that website ARC N uclear and New Brunswick Power (NB Power)  have concurred to work together to take the essential steps to establish, license, and develop an advanced little modular reactor (SMR) based on ARC Nuclear’s Gen IV sodium-cooled fast reactor technology.  See previous coverage on ths blog siteArgonne’s IFR to Live Again at Point Lepreau, New Brunswick

University Programs – On June 28, 2019, in its latest round of financing, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $49.3 million in nuclear energy research, center gain access to, crosscutting innovation advancement, and infrastructure awards for 58 advanced nuclear technology jobs in 25 states.

The awards are part of DOE’s nuclear energy programs called the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP), the Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF) program, and crosscutting research projects. DOE kept in mind that considering that 2009 it has actually granted $678 million in funding through its university programs.

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