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Significant nuclear-related news items in perspective. For previous items, see the Archive.

8, 15, 22 & 29 May 2020

Russia’s floating nuclear power plant in commercial operation
Rosenergoatom’s 70 MWe Akademic Lomonosov at Pevek on the Siberian coast is now in full commercial operation.  The two 32 MWe (net) KLT-40S reactors were grid connected in December, and have since supplied over 47 GWh of electricity to the Chaun-Bilibino area. The plant also supplies 210 GJ/h of heat. It is set to become the main supply source for Chukotka region. The nearby small Bilibino nuclear power plant is being progressively decommissioned.

The new floating plant was built at the Baltic shipyard in St Petersburg, then towed to Murmansk where it was crewed and fuelled, then towed to Pevek and installed last year. It is the lead project in Russia’s plans for several floating nuclear power plants in remote locations, though future ones will use twin RITM-200M reactors and require a much smaller barge.
WNN 22/5/20.  Russia NP

US launches advanced reactor demonstration program

The US Department of Energy has offered funds, initially $160 million, on a cost-share basis for the construction of two advanced reactors that can be operational within seven years. The Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program will concentrate resources on designs that are "affordable" to build and operate. The Program will extend also to risk reduction for future demonstrations, and Advanced Reactor Concepts 2020 to support innovative and diverse designs with the potential to be commercial in the mid-2030s.  It articulates with the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) to test and assess advanced technologies. NRIC, at the Idaho National Laboratory, was launched last year to develop the DOE's Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative, connecting industry with the US national laboratories to accelerate the development and commercialisation of advanced nuclear technologies.

The USA is notable for the number and diversity of small reactor designs being brought forward in the last 15 years, mostly by private enterprise. There are about 30 different US designs, with the NuScale 60 MWe reactor and GE-Hitachi BWRX 300 MWe reactors apparently in the lead.
WNN 14/5/20.  US nuclear power policy, Small Reactors

Proposal for small reactors to power Puerto Rico

Phase 1 of a feasibility study funded by the US Department of Energy has concluded that small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors could be cost competitive with natural gas to complement intermittent renewable sources in Puerto Rico (population 3.2 million). The report proposes a set of legislative amendments to maximise the competitiveness of electricity production by SMRs and microreactors which can withstand severe natural events such as hurricanes and earthquakes.  “Advanced nuclear reactors provide a combination of reduced electricity costs, zero-emission baseload electricity and minimal dependency on fuel imports that can lead to a strong degree of energy security and reliability [which is] much needed.”

Puerto Rico’s legislature in 2018 passed a bill calling for an investigation into the prospect of building nuclear power plants on the island, which suffered widespread and prolonged outages following Hurricane Maria in 2017. There was severe damage to the grid, along with destruction of some wind and solar PV capacity. The new study found high public interest in the deployment of nuclear reactors. Over 3000 residents were surveyed, with 94% saying they favoured exploring the option of nuclear energy for the island.  Phase two of the study will focus on the viability of constructing small reactors at particular locations and an education campaign for the people of Puerto Rico. The suitability of sites for advanced nuclear reactors will be assessed in accordance with US Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations.
WNN 21/5/20.   Small Reactors

24 April & 1 May 2020

International Energy Agency highlights Covid-19 impact
The OECD’s International Energy Agency (IEA) has published its Global Energy Review 2020 which describes the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on energy consumption. It reports that electricity consumption in particular has fallen by more than 25% in those countries most impacted. It goes on to highlight the greenhouse gas implications of the anticipated rebound, and raise the question of how to mitigate these.

However, the report says that “demand” for power from intermittent renewables has increased while acknowledging that this actually means that because those sources often have priority dispatch, the reliable other sources are curtailed. World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising said, “Current market structures are unfair and unsustainable. Other forms of generation, including nuclear, are having to bear the burden of the system costs created by renewable intermittency. And ultimately it is the end consumer who pays for all the additional system costs and subsidies, directly through their bills or indirectly through taxes.”

Agneta Rising went on to point out that, “The IEA report is right to conclude that a coordinated policy effort will be needed to harvest opportunities including moving towards a more modern, cleaner and resilient energy sector for all. Nuclear is cost-effective and will help deliver a faster and better clean energy transition that will provide high-value jobs now and for a sustainable future. Governments need to take urgent action to invest in nuclear energy as a major part of a global low-carbon energy mix. This will protect the planet by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, make our energy systems more resilient, generate thousands of high-skill jobs and save lives by reducing air pollution.”
WNN 30/4/20.  World energy needs

Regulators from nine countries address SMRs

Some specific safety recommendations for small modular reactors (SMRs) are now available, following a meeting in Vienna in March of the SMR Regulators' Forum, a group of experts working on the development of national standards specific to SMRs. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) hosts the forum and has long set safety standards which serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from possible harmful effects of ionising radiation. These standards can generally be applied to SMRs, but the Forum is addressing particular questions that national authorities will need to take into account, especially where the whole reactor is made in a factory and shipped largely complete.

The small size of SMRs makes them suitable for small electric grids and locations that cannot support large reactors, while offering the flexibility to install units individually or as modules in a larger plant, with more modules being added incrementally as required. As well as using a simpler reactor design, SMRs can incorporate a high level of passive or inherent safety in the event of malfunction.
WNN 23/4/20.  Small reactors

Large US reactor retired

Unit 2 of Entergy's Indian Point nuclear power plant has been finally shut down after more than 45 years of operation, taking 998 MWe of emission-free and reliable capacity offline close to New York city. Unit 3 of the plant in New York state is scheduled to be permanently shut down by this time next year, pursuant to a settlement agreement with the State government. Entergy last year announced the proposed post-shutdown sale of the subsidiaries that own the three Indian Point units - including Indian Point 1, which operated from 1962 until 1974 - to a subsidiary of Holtec International for accelerated decommissioning.
WNN 30/4/20.  USA NP

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