France postpones reactor closures; Jordan signs SMR accord with Rolls-Royce

Our pick of the latest nuclear power news you need to know.

French government postpones target for nuclear plant closures

The French government has decided to postpone its target to reduce the share of nuclear power to 50% of generation to around 2030-2035, five years later than planned, Energy and Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot told French media November 7.

In 2015, France's previous Socialist government set a target of reducing nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025.

Centrist President Emmanuel Macron, elected in May 2017, had promised to maintain the 2025 goal, but his government has now admitted this will not be possible given grid and carbon reduction restraints.

Hulot told French media November 7 it was not realistic to cut the share of nuclear power to 50% by 2025 as it would endanger the security of France's power supply, put jobs at risk, and increase France's CO2 emissions.

In July, Hulot reportedly said as many as 17 France's 58 reactors may need to close to meet the target.

Hulot confirmed by late 2018 the government will have a clear strategy on which reactors to close.

        France's nuclear power plant sites

Source: World Nuclear Association (WNA).

Market analysts have highlighted the challenge of shutting an estimated 25 GW of nuclear power over such a short timeframe while maintaining grid stability.

Macron's pledge to reduce the share of nuclear power is based on a rapid expansion of wind and solar power. The President has pledged to close all of France's coal-fired power stations and double wind and solar capacity by the end of his five-year term in 2022.

Macron’s renewables plan will require an acceleration of the approval process for renewable energy projects. France's solar and wind development has been hampered by regulatory and administrative hurdles and the President has pledged to simplify the authorization process.

French nuclear regulator to rule on lifespan extensions in 2020-21

France’s nuclear safety authority, ASN, will decide on the potential lifespan extension of EDF's nuclear reactors in 2020-21, ASN chief Pierre-Franck Chevet told a parliamentary committee November 8.

Some 34 of EDF's 58 reactors will soon reach 40 years of operations and ASN must rule on whether the reactors are safe to operate for a further 10 years.

"We estimate that we will issue a first recommendation in 2020, which will be followed by a legally binding ruling in 2021," Chevet told the committee, Reuters reported.

Connecticut passes nuclear support law but calls for more plant data

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, has signed a bill which paves the way for nuclear power plants to bid for zero carbon energy contracts, providing operators respond to information requests on power plant costs.

Senate Bill 1501, "An Act concerning Zero Carbon Procurement," was approved by the Connecticut General assembly late last month.

Governor Malloy signed the bill on October 31, but said Dominion Energy must provide more information on its 2 GW Millstone plant to state authorities.

“I sign this legislation with the hope that Dominion will work in partnership with Department of Energy and Environmental Protection [DEEP] and the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority [PURA] to provide the necessary information to complete an accurate assessment of Millstone,” Malloy said.

In a letter to the governor, DEEP and PURA said that absent Dominion’s cooperation in providing full disclosure of requested financial information, an analysis by Levitan & and Associates Inc (LAI) shows that the Millstone plant is expected to be “highly profitable” through 2035, the expiration of the license of Unit 2.

"As such, there is unlikely to be a basis upon which to conclude at this time that Dominion requires electric ratepayers to provide financial support outside the regional market in order for Millstone to continue operating profitably," LAI told the Governor.

"The importance of this asset to both the state and the region cannot be overstated. If we are to realize the goals set out by this legislation, there is more work to be done," Malloy said.

Dominion Energy currently operate three nuclear power stations– the Millstone Power station in Connecticut and the 1.8 GW North Anna and 1.6 GW Surry power stations in Virginia.

Jordan, Rolls-Royce sign SMR development MoU

UK-based engineering group Rolls-Royce has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with state-owned Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) for the construction of Small Modular Reactors in Jordan, Rolls-Royce said in a statement November 9.

Rolls-Royce is currently among a number of companies bidding to develop their SMR designs in the UK. The company estimates its proposed design could generate power at around 60 pounds/MWh ($78.8/MWh).

Rolls-Royce and JAEC will now work together on a feasibility study for the construction of a Rolls-Royce SMR plant in Jordan for electricity generation and water desalination, Rolls-Royce said.

The study will define the technical, safety, economic and financial requirements for SMR plant build. JAEC will use the study to inform an investment decision on plant delivery.

"SMRs offer unique opportunities to address many of the challenges confronting Jordan, in particular water scarcity and small grid size," Khaled Toukan, Chairman JAEC, said in a statement.

“With demand for global energy set to rise due to new technologies such as electric cars and increasing requirements for water desalination and district cooling, international interest in Rolls-Royce small modular reactor technology is growing. It represents an important British export opportunity," Harry Holt, President – Nuclear, Rolls-Royce, said.

The UK government is expected to soon provide more details on its preferred bidders for SMR development in the UK. The UK government launched its competition to find the best value SMR design back in March 2016, pledging to invest at least 250 million pounds in nuclear R&D over five years.

Terrestrial completes phase 1 of Canada pre-licensing review

SMR developer Terrestrial Energy has become the first advanced reactor developer to complete phase 1 of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's (CNSC) pre-licensing vendor design review, the company said November 8.

Terrestrial Energy began the pre-licensing vendor design review for its Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) small modular reactor (SMR) design in April 2016.

Pre-licensing phase 1 consists of assessment of compliance with regulatory requirements. Phase 2 of the process assesses new technologies for any potential fundamental barriers to licensing and is expected to take around two years, according to CNSC. In phase 3, the vendor is able to follow up on certain aspects of phase 2 and work with the regulator to assess design readiness.

                     Current pre-licensing vendor design reviews

                                                                   (Click image to enlarge)

Source: Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC)

Terrestrial Energy is studying the feasibility of a number of sites in North America, including Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) at Chalk River, Ontario for building its first commercial power plant.

Canada's SMR development program is advancing at a rapid rate, as developers respond to ambitious research initiatives, supportive regulatory regimes and a wide variety of deployment opportunities.

CNL has designated SMR technology as a research priority and aims to build a demonstration SMR plant on site by 2026. A recent Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) by CNL yielded responses from 80 SMR vendors, suppliers, academics and potential end-users.

By the end of October, CNL had signed MOU's with seven companies to develop and site an SMR at a CNL facility and projects were underway to support four different reactor types, CNL sources told Nuclear Energy Insider.

In parallel, Terrestrial Energy is also moving ahead with U.S. development plans. In January, Terrestrial Energy subsidiary TEUSA announced it has started pre-license application dialogue with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a 400 MWth Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR400) design and plans to submit a Design Application Certificate (DCA) or Construction Permit (CP) to the NRC no later than October 2019.

Terrestrial Energy has entered the IMSR design into the invitation-only stage of the U.S. Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program for construction financing support.

TEUSA is assessing four potential U.S. sites for its first SMR, all of which host existing nuclear power facilities. The sites include Idaho National Laboratories (INL) land and three other sites east of the Mississippi River, the company said earlier this year.

NuScale signs first contract for US advanced manufacturing center

SMR developer NuScale has signed the first contract for the newly-opened Center for Advanced Nuclear Manufacturing (CANM), NuScale said in a statement November 8.

The contract will facilitate prototype work for the manufacturing of NuScale’s helical coil steam generators, a major component in NuScale's IPWR light water reactor (LWR) design, currently under review by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

In January, NuScale became the first SMR developer to file a complete Design Certification Application (DCA) to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NRC began the full licence review for NuScale's design in March.

Opened in August, the CANM is operated by Concurrent Technologies Corporation (CTC), a non-profit applied scientific research group. The facility was developed by the U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council’s (NIC) Manufacturing and Supply Chain Working Group to fill the current gap of proven advanced manufacturing technologies required to support the wider deployment of new reactor designs.

The NIC selected CTC to lead the project based on its long track record in advanced manufacturing, its significant testing resources and its "experience in key technologies including additive manufacturing, casting [and] cybersecurity for manufacturing," Vince Gilbert, Senior Fellow, NIC, said in a statement in July.

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