GE Hitachi, ARC to license joint reactor in Canada; Siemens installs first live 3D-printed part

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

GE Hitachi, ARC Nuclear to jointly develop sodium-cooled reactor

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Delaware-based Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC Nuclear) are to jointly develop and license an advanced small modular reactor (aSMR) based on their sodium-cooled reactor technologies, the companies announced March 13.

GEH and ARC Nuclear plan to enter the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission's Vendor Design Review process, the companies said in a joint statement. A number of advanced nuclear reactor developers are targeting the Canadian market, where the risk-informed regulatory framework is considered more supportive for licensing new designs than in the U.S.

"This collaborative commercialization program also includes the near-term goals of confirming projected construction and operating costs, as well as the identification of a lead-plant owner/operator for the joint aSMR," the companies said.

GEH and ARC Nuclear have until now developed separate advanced reactor designs based on the EBR-II, an integral sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype which was developed by Argonne National Laboratory and operated for over 30 years at Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The ARC-100 is a 100 MWe aSMR designed for efficient and flexible electricity generation and can operate for up to 20 years without refuelling. GEH's PRISM reactor is designed to refuel every 12 to 24 months and has primarily been focused on closing the fuel cycle by, among other things, consuming transuranics.

Both these technologies are capable of ‘load following’ to complement renewable energy, the companies noted in their statement.

In October 2016, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Southern Nuclear announced a joint project to develop and license advanced reactors, including GEH's PRISM design.

NRC starts review of NuScale SMR design

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is to begin the full certification review of NuScale's SMR design after judging the Design Certification Application (DCA) submitted January 12 as sufficiently complete, the NRC said March 15.

Oregon-based NuScale is the first company to submit the full design license application for an SMR in the U.S.

New safety features on SMR designs include passive safety systems, innovations in spent fuel pool design and smaller emergency planning zones than for larger reactors.

NuScale’s Integral Pressurized Water Reactor (IPWR) is based on light water reactor technology and the first plant of 600 MW will be delivered to Power cooperative Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) on a site within the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The plant is expected to be fully operational by 2026.

The developer has identified around six more potential plants in Western U.S. following its first plant in Idaho, Mike McGough, Chief Commercial Officer at NuScale, told Nuclear Energy Insider in December.

The progress of NuScale’s DCA will be closely watched by other global SMR developers with other license applications expected in Canada and UK in the coming years.

The NRC will provide a DCA review schedule "soon," it said.

Siemens installs world's first 3D-printed commercial nuclear part

Siemens has installed and tested the first commercial nuclear power plant component manufactured through 3D printing (a.k.a. additive manufacturing), the German technology group announced March 9.

The component, a 108-mm diameter impeller for a fire protection pump that is in constant rotating operation, was installed at the operational Krsko nuclear power plant in Slovenia, Siemens said. The Krsko plant operations team tested the installed component over several months, it said.

The preceding impeller type had become obsolete as the original manufacturing company no longer exists.

Siemens reverse-engineered and built a "digital twin" of the part and used the company's additive manufacturing facility in Finspang, Sweden to produce the replacement.

The successful project is an example of how data-driven capabilities are impacting the energy sector, Tim Holt, CEO of Siemens Power Generation Services division, said.

"Additive manufacturing's reduced lead times and faster production optimizes parts replacement and creates real value for our customers," he said.

Other nuclear companies active in additive manufacturing include Westinghouse and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH).

New research has shown that additive manufacturing can halve manufacturing costs for replacement nuclear parts and complex design prototypes will demonstrate efficiency gains for advanced reactors, Clint Armstrong, Advanced Manufacturing Expert at Westinghouse, told Nuclear Energy Insider in January.

Going forward, Siemens and the Krsko plant operating company will look to advance the design of parts that are most difficult to produce using classical manufacturing techniques, such as lightweight structures with improved cooling patterns, Siemens said.

China, Saudi Arabia to conduct feasibility study for HTGR plants

China and Saudi Arabia have agreed to jointly study the feasibility of constructing high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTGRs) in the Middle Eastern kingdom, World Nuclear News (WNN) reported.

The agreement, signed March 16 by Jun Gu, president of China Nuclear Energy Engineering Group (CNEC) and Hashim bin Abdullah Yamani, president of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA-CARE), follows a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two countries in January.

Since this MoU, China and Saudi Arabia have been working on the site selection process for new reactors as well as a new regulatory system and personal training programs, the report said.

The new agreement will see the countries cooperate on intellectual property issues and the development of a Saudi Arabian supply chain, it said.

Saudi Arabia is also looking to build large-scale nuclear power plants and plans to announce concrete plans for large-scale deployment in 2017, Khalid Al-Falih, the country’s energy minister, said in October.

Nuclear Energy Insider