Holtec, Ukraine plan to build SMRs in 2020s; Canada to publish SMR roadmap in the fall

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Ukraine's Energoatom wants to build the first SMR plants at its Rivne nuclear plant site. (Image credit: Energoatom)

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Holtec, Ukraine sign MOU to build SMRs by late 2020s

Holtec has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with NAEK Energoatom, Ukraine’s national nuclear operator, to build SMR plants and a manufacturing hub in the eastern European country.

Holtec's SMR-160 design is a pressurized water reactor (PWR) with passive cooling features.

Under the agreement, Ukraine would look to deploy Holtec's SMR-160 design by 2026-2030, Holtec said in a statement March 1. As a pilot project, Energoatom wants to replace two VVER-440 units at the Rivne nuclear power complex with SMR-160 reactors.

The MOU also sets out plans for a Ukrainian manufacturing hub for SMR-160 components and systems, equivalent to Holtec's facility in Camden, New Jersey. Holtec plans to build four manufacturing plants globally by the mid-2020s.

"Holtec is also in talks with leading Ukrainian suppliers of specialty machinery such as turbo-generators to integrate their products in SMR-160," the company said.

Energoatom President Yuriy Nedashkovsky is an active member of the Holtec Advisory Council, which meets twice a year to review the SMR-160 reactor program. Kris Singh, Holtec’s President & CEO, serves on Ukraine's National Investment Council.

Holtec launched its SMR-160 development program in 2010 and is one of only a handful of small modular reactor developers which have submitted designs to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The design is currently in the pre-application phase, according to the NRC's website.

In parallel, the SMR-160 design is set to enter Canada's Pre-Licensing Vendor Design Review process. Canada offers numerous deployment opportunities and the regulatory scheme is considered less prescriptive than in the U.S.

Last month, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Global Nuclear Fuel (GNF) agreed to help accelerate the development of Holtec's SMR‐160 design.

Other partners in the SMR-160 project include Canadian engineering and construction company SNC-Lavalin, Japan's Mitsubishi Electric Co. (MELCO) and New Jersey energy company PSEG Power. In July 2017, Holtec and SNC-Lavalin agreed to accelerate the development of the SMR-160.

Canada launches SMR roadmap consultation

The Canadian government launched February 22 an assessment into the potential for on- and off-grid applications for small modular reactor (SMR) technology in Canada. Stakeholder engagement will inform a roadmap for SMR development which is expected to be completed in the fall of 2018, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) said in a statement.

"Driven by interested provincial and territorial governments and energy utilities, the exercise will be delivered by the Canadian Nuclear Association and engage stakeholders to better understand their views on priorities and challenges related to the possible development and deployment of SMRs in Canada," NRCan said.

Participation in the roadmap will later be expanded to include manufacturers, research groups, waste management organizations and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

"The roadmap will establish a long-term vision for the industry, as well as to assess the characteristics of different SMR technologies and how they align with user-requirements and Canadian priorities," NRCan said.

Canada's SMR development program is advancing fast as developers respond to ambitious research initiatives and supportive regulatory regimes. A number of developers are targeting Canada's industrial facilities and remote communities, proposing an alternative to high-cost diesel fired generators.

A recent Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) yielded responses from 80 SMR vendors, suppliers, academics and potential end-users.

                            Proposed SMR technologies in Canada
                                                            (Click image to enlarge)

Source: Canadian Nuclear Laboratories' Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEOI) report (October 2017) .

CNL has designated SMR technology as a research priority and aims to build a demonstration SMR plant at its facilities by 2026. CNL has started research work to support a range of different design technologies and is working with public and industry partners to support deployment in remote locations and mining applications.

To date, 10 developers have applied to use the CNSC's pre-licensing vendor design review process.

UK MPs demand reforms to decommissioning oversight

The UK Public Accounts Committee has slammed the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and central government for its handling of the Magnox decommissioning contract.

The contract covered 12 UK nuclear sites and was allocated to Cavendish Fluor Partnership (CFP) in a 6.1 billion-pound tender launched in 2012. The contract was effective from 2014 and expected to run until 2028 but was cancelled in March 2017 following increasing cost estimates. Failures in the procurement and management of the contract has cost UK taxpayers over 122 million pounds.

The NDA designed an overly complex and opaque procurement process for the contract, which was approved by HM Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Parliamentary committee said in a report published February 28.

The tender process included over 700 evaluation criteria against which bids were scored, far complex than necessary, the committee said.

The UK’s High Court found that evaluation scores had been manipulated, which resulted in the contract being awarded to CFP.

"Worryingly, the NDA could not confirm to us whether it had complied fully with the advice provided by its legal team on the evaluation process, but said that its evaluators believed they had the leeway to change bidders’ scores against the evaluation criteria," the accounts committee said.

The committee called on the UK Cabinet Office, NDA and BEIS to "set out how they have changed advice and guidance, as a result of the lessons from the Magnox procurement, on how best to evaluate bids to ensure that future procurements are fair, transparent and open to effective scrutiny."

The NDA may have wasted tax payers’ money by paying the previous contractor for uncompleted work and "dramatically under-estimated the scale and cost of decommissioning the Magnox sites, which ultimately led to the early termination of the contract," the committee said.

"We are concerned about the NDA’s lack of due diligence and apparent disregard for the need to independently assure itself of the state of the sites before committing taxpayer’s money to a contract. CFP ultimately submitted nearly 100 requests to change the contract, resulting in the costs of decommissioning increasing from 3.8 billion pounds in September 2014 to 6.0 billion pounds in March 2017. This cost increase was beyond the limit that was legally defensible in court, leaving the NDA with no choice but to terminate the contract with CFP 9 years early," it said.

Within six months, the NDA should show clearly how it will "develop and maintain the right information on the state of its sites," the committee said.

The committee also warned the NDA did also not have sufficient resources to manage the ongoing decommissioning contract.

"CFP had over 300 people in place to manage changes to the contract after it was let, vastly outweighing the resources and expertise of the NDA, which did not have the ability to review and agree CFP’s requested changes to the contract. The process to agree changes suffered continuous delays and remained unresolved by the time the NDA terminated the contract in March 2017," it said.

Within 12 months, the NDA should report on progress made to improve the skills and expertise of its executive team and operational staff, the committee said.

The committee also said BEIS did not provide sufficient oversight of NDA's management of the decommissioning contract, given the size of cost increases.

"[BEIS] should report back to us by July 2018 on its work to review and strengthen its oversight of the NDA, ensuring it addresses the issue of having appropriate procurement and contracting expertise," it said.

The committee noted that the NDA and BEIS accept responsibility for the failure of the Magnox contract and have begun to implement the recommendations of the Independent Inquiry’s interim report that was published in October 2017.

Holtec consolidated storage facility could be licensed by 2020

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has accepted Holtec's license application for the U.S.'s first consolidated interim storage facility, Holtec announced March 2.

"The NRC provided a preliminary schedule that envisages the issuance of license by July 2020; however, the date will be sooner if Holtec’s responses to the regulatory queries are timely and of high quality," the company said in a statement.

Holtec's proposed underground Hi-Store CIS facility would be located between the cities of Carlsbad and Hobbs in New Mexico.

The initial license application is for 500 storage cavities with a cumulative spent fuel capacity of 8,680 metric tons. The facility could eventually store 10,000 canisters of spent fuel.

The facility will use Holtec's Hi-Storm Umax stainless steel storage canisters, which have already been deployed at multiple U.S. nuclear power plant sites.

In a second phase, the company will file a series of license amendment requests to include all canisters currently in use at U.S. plants-- supplied by Areva, Pacific Nuclear, Vectra, NAC, Sierra Nuclear and BNFL Solutions & Westinghouse.

Holtec plans to store vertically and horizontally stored canisters in one standardized cavity system, simplifying operations and management activities.

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