Centrus wins DOE grant for HALEU; Sizewell C given the go ahead

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Britain's Sizewell B nuclear power plant in Southwold, Suffolk (Source: Reuters/Russell Boyce)

Centrus Energy Corp., through its subsidiary American Centrifuge Operating, has won an $150 million cost-shared award by the Department of Energy (DOE) to demonstrate the production of high assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU), Centrus and the DOE said in a joint statement.

HALEU is required by most advanced reactors and helps developers achieve smaller designs, longer operating cycles, and increased efficiencies over current technologies, the statement said.

However, HALEU is not currently available at commercial scale from U.S. suppliers, an impending problem for advanced reactors developers who aim to begin demonstrations of their technology before the end of the decade.  

The U.S. market alone may need almost 600 metric tons of HALEU a year by 2030 to deploy the new reactors planned over the next ten years, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI).

Today, HALEU can only be purchased in international markets from the subsidiary of Russia’s state-owned Rosatom, Tenex.  

“Reducing our reliance on adversarial nations for HALEU fuel and building up our domestic supply chain will allow the U.S. to grow our advanced reactor fleet and provide Americans with more clean, affordable power,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm in the statement.

“This demonstration shows DOE’s commitment to working with industry partners to kickstart HALEU production at commercial scale to create more clean energy jobs and ensure the benefits of nuclear energy are accessible to all Americans.”

Sizewell C nuclear plant given go ahead

The planned nuclear power plant on the British southern coast, Sizewell C, has been given the go ahead with state backing of 700 million pounds ($826 million), British Finance Minister Jeremy Hunt told parliament.

“The government will proceed with the new plant at Sizewell C. Subject to final government approvals, the contracts for the initial investment will be signed with relevant parties, including EDF, in the coming weeks,” Hunt told parliament according to Reuters.

“Our 700-million-pound investment is the first state backing for a nuclear project in over 30 years and represents the biggest step in our journey to energy independence.”

Sizewell C aims to be an almost carbon copy of EDF's and China's CGN’s Hinkley Point C in Somerset and, while Hinkley Point C has gone over budget and well past schedule, France’s EDF argues that learnings from that plant can be leveraged to keep costs down and to meet deadlines.

Canada bank invests in SMR

The state-owned Canada Infrastructure Bank (CIB) has agreed to commit CA$970 million ($724 million) toward Canada’s first small modular reactor (SMR), the bank said in a statement.

The investment is the largest CIB has made in clean power to date, the bank said.

The 300 MW SMR will be constructed by public utility Ontario Power Generation (OPG) next to its existing 3.5 GW Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Ontario.

The CIB-financed Phase 1 work covers all preparation required prior to nuclear construction, including project design, site preparation, procurement of long lead-time equipment, utility connections, implementation of a digital strategy, and related project management costs, it said.

OPG aims to become a net-zero carbon company by 2040 as part of its Climate Change Plan.

The Darlington SMR will pave the way for similar projects in Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and Alberta and also plans to export to the United States and Europe.

“We know nuclear energy, including from SMRs, is an essential part of the electricity mix to help meet our climate change goals,” said OPG President and CEO Ken Hartwick in the statement.

“This low-interest financing helps us advance the Darlington New Nuclear Project, paving the way for development and deployment of the next generation of nuclear power in Canada.”

NuScale EPZ validated by NRC

The size of the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) determined by NuScale methodology for its SMR power plants is acceptable, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards (ACRS) has said.

The EPZ is an area surrounding functioning nuclear power plants where special considerations and management practices are pre-planned and exercised in case of an emergency and, for existing U.S. nuclear power plants, currently stands at a 10-mile (16-km) radius around the plant.

The NuScale EPZ, meanwhile, will be limited to the site boundary of the SMR plant.

“The (NRC) staff determined that the NuScale EPZ sizing methodology is generally consistent with the technical basis of the current 10-mile EPZ prescribed in 10 CFR 50.47 (i.e., NUREG-0396), and there is reasonable assurance the methodology is adequate for sizing of the EPZ,” the NRC said in the ruling.

Using this approved method, an EPZ that is limited to the site boundary of the power plant is achievable for a wide range of potential plant sites where a NuScale VOYGR SMR power plant could be located, NuScale said.

By Reuters Events Nuclear