EDF moves Dungeness B into defueling stage; DOE requests record funding for nuclear

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A house is seen in front of Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent, southern England (Source: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)

French utility EDF has moved its Dungeness B nuclear power station into the defueling phase after taking the decision not to restart the plant, the company said in a statement in June.

The defueling phase for the Kent plant is in place with immediate effect, EDF said.

Dungeness B has been in an extended outage since September 2018 as the French group faced a range of ongoing technical challenges not found at its other six advanced gas-cooled reactor power stations, it said.

“Although many have been overcome, new detailed analysis has further highlighted additional station-specific risks within some key components, including parts within the fuel assemblies,” EDF said.  

Until its outage, the plant ran for 10 years longer than its original design life, in line with expectations when EDF bought it in 2009.

Dungeness B was to be part of the first wave of nuclear power plants in Britain after construction began in 1967 and it was connected to the power grid in 1983. Originally designed to come offline in 2008, its life was extended after a series of investments.

“EDF has had to make a hard decision – but it is the right one. It gives our teams, our community and our business a clear understanding of the future,” John Benn, Station Director at Dungeness B said.

DOE raises budget request for nuclear

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking a record $1.8 billion for the Office of Nuclear Energy in its Congressional Budget request for its fiscal year 2022, the DOE said.

“This is a historic level of commitment by the Biden-Harris Administration and it clearly recognizes the important role our current nuclear fleet and future reactors will play in combating the climate crisis, creating clean energy jobs with the free and fair choice to join a union, and growing America’s economy through innovative science and technology,” the DOE said in a statement on its website.

The budget request is 57% higher than that sought for the full year 2021 and is the largest ever ask by the office, the DOE said.

The request included almost $700 million to help U.S. advanced reactor technologies reach market within the next decade. This includes $245 million to support the demonstration of two reactors in the near future and $305 million to support the maturation of additional reactor designs.

The office is also seeking $33 million to initiate a new program to provide high-assay, low enriched uranium (HALEU) for advanced reactor demonstration project, it said.

NRC approves Centrus Energy for HALEU production

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved Centrus Energy Corp’s license amendment request to produce high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) at its Piketon, Ohio, enrichment facility, the company said mid-June.

Centrus expects to begin demonstrating HALEU production early next year at the Piketon plant, which is the only U.S. facility licensed to enrich uranium up to 20% Uranium-235.

Most nuclear-powered reactors operate on low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel, with a concentration of the U-235 isotope of just less than 5%, though HALEU is U-235 enriched to between 5% and 20%, less than levels used to produce nuclear weapons but increasingly slated as an advanced fuel for both existing and next generation reactors.

Of the 10 advanced nuclear reactor designs, including two demonstration reactors, under development as part of the Department of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP), nine have said they will rely on HALEU-based fuels.

More than 40 metric tons of HALEU will be needed by 2030, with more needed each year, according to the DOE.

Centrus is building a cascade of 16 AC100M centrifuges to demonstrate production of HALEU under a 2019 contract with the DOE’s office of Nuclear Energy, as part of a three-year, $115 million, cost-shared contract that runs through mid-2022, it said.

With sufficient funding to continue operations, the license can be amended to extend this term, Centrus said.

Rosatom begins construction on fast neutron reactor

Russian nuclear power company Rosatom has begun the construction of a 300 MW nuclear power unit BREST-OD-300 fast reactor at the site of the Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk, the group said in June.

The lead-cooled reactor will run on mixed uranium-plutonium nitride fuel (MNUP fuel), especially developed for the facility and will be an integral part of the Pilot Demonstration Energy Complex (PDEC), made up for three interconnected unique facilities, including the nuclear fuel production plant, the BREST-OD-300 unit, and the facility for irradiated fuel reprocessing, it said.

“For the first time in history, a nuclear power plant powered by a fast reactor will be built alongside closed nuclear fuel cycle servicing enterprises on one site,” Rosatom said.

“After reprocessing, the irradiated fuel from the reactor will be sent for refabrication (i.e. reproduction into fresh fuel), thereby giving this system the means to gradually become practically autonomous and independent of external resources supplies,” the company said.

Russia’s nuclear power strategy entails the creation of a two-component nuclear power industry with thermal and fast neutron reactors and a closed nuclear fuel cycle, with the widespread introduction of technologies for recycling nuclear materials, it said.

“The implementation of the ‘Breakthrough’ project embraces not just development of innovative reactors, but also introduction of the new generation technologies of nuclear fuel cycle,” said Natalia Nikipelova, President of Rosatom’s TVEL Fuel Company.

By Reuters Events Nuclear