ThorCon Inks MOU to Develop a 50MW Thorium Reactor for Indonesia

  • ThorCon to Develop 50MW Thorium Fueled Reactor in Indonesia Leading to 500MW Units Built in Shipyards.
  • Rosatom Pitches Indonesia for Conventional Light Water Reactors
  • USNC Collaborates with South Korean Industry Leaders to Develop Advanced Nuclear Reactor Power Systems
  • CEZ Signs Framework Deal with Czech Govt for New Nuclear Unit

ThorCon to Develop 50MW Thorium Fueled Reactor
for Indonesia

thorium periodic table symbol

According to ThorCon, the firm and Indonesia’s Defence Ministry have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to study developing a 50 MW thorium molten salt reactor (TMSR) for either power generation or marine vehicle propulsion. In an email to this blog, Robert Hargraves, a spokesman for ThorCon, said several developments are taking place in Indonesia for the company.

  • The ongoing work to develop shipyard-produced thorium/uranium fueled power plants generating electricity cheaper than coal, and  the MOU establishes the basis for providing technical advice for building 50 MW thorium fueled plants. ThorCon is a graphite-moderated thermal spectrum molten salt reactor.
  • In 2019 the Ministry of Energy successfully completed a study of the safety, economics, and grid impact of the 500 MW prototype ThorConIsle (Fact Sheet – PDF file).
  • Phase 1 is to build and test it with step by step commissioning, ending in a licence for future power plants. Phase 2 is shipyard production of multiple 500MW ThorCon plants to provide an additional 3000MW of cheap, reliable electric power.
thorcon timeline
ThorCon Timeline: Image: company website

The MOU was signed by the head of ministry’s Defense Research and Development Agency, Dr Anne Kusmayati, and ThorCon International Chief Representative Bob S. Effendi. According to the ThorCon statement, the project expects to make significant progress by 2025.

The proposed reactor is, however, much smaller than a fully commercial 500 MW nuclear power plant that Thorcon has been designing over the past five years and which is the ultimate design objective.

MOU Details

ThorCon provided the following details of the agreement. According to Mr. Effendi at ThorCon, Indonesia’s Dr Kusmayati said;

“The thorium-based power development research and development in the Defence Research and Development Agency is in line with the policy of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources which mandates the need for concrete steps to prepare nuclear power development projects, bearing in mind dwindling fossil energy sources and the length of time needed to construct a nuclear power plant.”

“The thorium-based power development research program represents the Ministry of Defence’s efforts to be the initiator or lever in mastering 4th generation nuclear technology that utilises thorium, which is available in abundance in Indonesia.”

ThorCon said it would provide technical support to the ministry’s research and development (R&D) body to develop “a small-scale TMSR reactor under 50 megawatts (MW).”

The Jakarta Post ran a more conservative report which quoted Indonesia’s National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) director Dandang Purwadi. He reportedly told the newspaper that thorium nuclear technology is not yet ready for commercial application.

“We have to wait around 10 years for the technology to mature, then it takes 10 years to build the facility.”

Progress Reported on Design of 500 MW Thorium Fueled Reactor

Thorcon said a fair amount of the design phase for the 500 MW design has been completed, which is documented in 2D drawings and 3D CAD models, and which has been shared with potential suppliers. The firm did not provide additional details on its potential supply chain for a thorium-fueled nuclear reactor.

20180912_Thorcon_isles_power_from_shore-copy
Conceptual Image of ThorCon 500 MW Design

The World Nuclear Association has a review of the technology related to the thorium fuel cycle and describes historical and current efforts by multiple countries to develop thorium fueled reactors. At this time no other thorium fueled reactors are in commercial revenue service though there are multiple prototype efforts ongoing globally.

Plans for a Prototype

The company said it will build a pre-fission test facility (PTF) at full scale, including the components of the fission island and the thermal power conversion chain. The fuel salt will not contain enriched uranium and will not sustain a chain reaction to generate power.

The components will be brought up to operating temperatures using electric heating. The absence of radioactivity allows intrusive instrumentation, direct observation, and internal access to components.

EPC Role for First of a Kind Unit

The plan is to build a 500 MW power plant at a world-class shipyard. The shipyard will be ThorCon’s EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) contractor. The expensive, massive, precision supercritical steam turbine-generator must be pre-ordered to achieve the one-year shipyard build time. ThorCon’s ship with the thorium reactor will be towed to the Indonesia near-shore site prepared with breakwaters and seawater cooling piping and a connection to the PLN electric power grid.

The firm has outlined plans for testing and commissioning of the first of a kind unit supervised by Indonesia’s Bapeten nuclear safety regulator. Once the first unit is in revenue service, it hopes to book orders for at least six more 500 MW units in global markets. The firm did not name potential customers.

India and China have been adapting CANDU type reactors to use thorium fuel. In 2018 English language media reports indicate that the Chinese Academy of Sciences has announced plans to invest $3 billion (USD) over the next two decades in development of molten salt reactors of various designs. A first order objective is reported to be the  development of a first of a kind 100MW thorium molten salt reactor in 2020 in the city of Wuwei in Gansu province. Commercial development is targeted for the early 2030s.

The program is called the Thorium-Breeding Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR). According to the media reports, the R&D program has two major components and both are tied to fuel types (solid and liquid) for various kinds of molten salt designs.

Indonesia / Officials Studying Russian Plans For New Nuclear,
Says Its Ambassador

(NucNet) Indonesian officials are studying a proposal by Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom to build the Southeast Asian country’s first nuclear power plant, the country’s ambassador to Russia Mohamad Wahid Supriyadi told state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti.

“Rosatom has prepared a detailed proposal for the first nuclear power plant in Indonesia. And we have already sent it… because various ministries in Indonesia will deal with this,” the ambassador said.

According to the ambassador, the Indonesian province of West Kalimantan on the island of Borneo has been proposed as a potential site for the plant.

USNC Collaborates with South Korean Industry Leaders
to Develop Advanced Nuclear Reactor Power Systems

Hyundai Engineering, Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute to Cooperate with USNC on Incorporating Best-in-Breed Technologies into Micro Modular Reactor

U.S.-based Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) announces the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Hyundai Engineering (HEC) and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI). The five-year agreement outlines goals for development of technologies that enhance the USNC Micro Modular Reactor’s (MMR) ability to produce and deliver carbon-free power, heat, and hydrogen. The value of the agreement in terms of cash, or engineering design and support services in return to equity, was not disclosed.

ulta safe process heat as a product
Potential end uses of heat from the MMR. Image: Ultra Safe Nuclear Corp.

There are two primary areas of exploration outlined in the MOU: Multiple MMR reactors can be linked together to provide between 5 and 10 MW of electricity per unit, up to 150 MW of heat, or a combination of the two.

High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactor (HTGR) plant – development and deployment of HTGR technology for supplying power as well as process-heat production, critical to the operations of industrial processing plants.

Very High Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (VHTR) plant – development and deployment of a VHTR system for production of hydrogen for use in fuel cells.

“We are committed to combining the simple, elegant design of our MMR with state-of-the-art energy-production technologies from around the world,” stated Francesco Venneri, CEO, USNC.

“Working with leaders like Hyundai Engineering and KAERI on advanced nuclear reactor technologies will improve the overall performance and value of our MMR, and accelerate our path to wide-scale deployment.”

USNC plans to incorporate technologies resulting from this collaboration into the MMR Project at the Chalk River Laboratories site in Ontario. The Chalk River MMR is currently in Stage 3 of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories’ thorough process to select proponents to construct and operate a small modular reactor (SMR) at that location. The firm is also involved in an R&D collaboration with CNL on fuel for the reactors.

According to the website of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, UNSC initiated Phase 1 of the vendor design review process in December 2016.

The USNC MMR Reactor consists of two plants: the nuclear plant that generates heat, and the adjacent power plant that converts heat into electricity or provides process heat for industrial applications.

The USNC system is designed to be uniquely simple, with minimal operations and maintenance requirements, and no on-site fuel storage, handling, or processing. Key to the overall design is USNC’s Fully Ceramic Microencapsulated (FCM) fuel, providing a new approach to reactor safety at the fuel level.

About The Ultra Safe MMR Reactor

Reactor Core – The reactor core consists of hexagonal graphite blocks containing stacks of FCM fuel pellets. The MMR reactor core has a low power density and a high heat capacity resulting in very slow and predictable temperature changes. The MMR reactor is fueled once for its lifetime.

Helium Coolant – Helium gas is the MMR™ reactor’s primary coolant. The helium passes through the nuclear core and is heated by the controlled nuclear fission process. The helium then transports the heat away from the core to the Molten Salt System.

The MMR reactor uses helium as it is an inert gas; a radiologically transparent, single-phase gas with no flashing or boiling possible. Helium does not react chemically with the fuel or reactor core components. It is easy to accurately measure and control the helium pressure in the reactor. The FCM fuel ensures the helium is clean and free of fission products.

Molten Salt Loop – Intermediate Heat Transfer Loop; The MMR plant is simple to operate, and flexible in its outputs. The use of molten salt thermal storage allows for significant flexibility in the supply of both electricity and process heat.

CEZ Signs Framework Deal with Czech Govt for New Nuclear Unit

(Reuters) – The Czech government this wek signed agreements with CEZ for a planned multi-billion dollar expansion of the majority state-owned utility’s Dukovany nuclear power plant.

The agreements cover the general framework of the project and its initial phase, including a competitive tender in which CEZ will seek to have a preferred list of suppliers by 2022 and sign a contract with one by 2024. Construction should start in 2029, when the bulk of costs will start, and the new unit is expected to be operational in 2036.

The Czech government is seeking to expand the use of nuclear energy to reduce its use of lignite coal for power generation.

The state, which holds a 70% stake in CEZ, last week approved plans to give an interest-free loan for the roughly 1,200 megawatt unit. Recently, it approved a model to buy electricity from the new unit at a determined price, with consumers making up the difference if that price is higher than wholesale market prices.

Officials have estimated a cost of approximately $7 billion. Critics, including some CEZ minority shareholders, argue costs could be much higher. CEZ may have to buy out the minority shareholders to stem the threat of lawsuits.

Russia’s Rosatom, China’s China General Nuclear Power, France’s Electricite de France, South Korea’s KHNP, U.S group Westinghouse, and a joint venture between France’s Orano – formerly known as Areva – and Japan’s Mitsubishi are expected to participate in a tender to build the plant.

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