NuScale, Lightbridge to develop advanced SMR fuel; UK launches 'virtual engineering' for new reactors

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

NuScale plans to build the U.S.' first commercial SMR plant by the 2026-27 on a site owned by Idaho National Laboratories (INL). (Image: INL Materials and Fuels Complex.)

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NuScale, Lightbridge to develop advanced fuel for SMRs

Small modular reactor (SMR) developer NuScale and Enfission, a joint venture of U.S. fuel developer Lightbridge and France's Framatome, have agreed to co-develop Lightbridge's metallic fuel rod technology for use in NuScale's IPWR SMR design, the companies announced May 15.

In 2015, NuScale signed an agreement with Framatome for the supply of conventional ceramic uranium dioxide fuel and testing and analyses towards NuScale's U.S. design certification application (DCA).

NuScale is the first SMR developer to file a DCA with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and is on schedule to receive design licence approval for its light water reactor (LWR) design by September 2020. NuScale plans to deliver a 720 MW plant to Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) by 2026-27.

By also developing Lightbridge fuel, NuScale aims to offer flexibility on fuel types depending on the reactor demands, the company said in a statement.

"Lightbridge Fuel could spur improvements in core design, performance, and levelized costs of electricity [LCOE]," NuScale said.

NuScale is also now developing two separate micro reactor designs, targeting industry and remote customers with faster deployment and longer fuel cycles, Tom Mundy, Chief Commercial Officer of NuScale Power, told the International SMR and Advanced Reactor Summit on April 2.

NuScale is developing a conceptual design for a 10 to 50 MW micro NuScale power module and a smaller 1 to 10 MW heat pipe reactor, Mundy said.

Wood Group to launch virtual engineering of advanced reactor designs

The UK government has awarded Wood Group a $4.6 million contract to lead the second phase of the UK's Digital Reactor Design program which aims to reduce the total cost of new nuclear power plants, the energy services group announced May 15.

The digital design program is part of a UK strategy to use advanced technology and manufacturing capabilities to become a global leader in small modular reactor (SMR) development.

In the first phase of the program, researchers developed a computer-simulated design and management platform covering the whole nuclear life cycle, including design, construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

In the second phase, experts from industry and academia will use "collaborative virtual engineering" and high-performance computing to find cost savings, Wood said in a statement.

Partners in the project include UK nuclear operator EDF Energy, technology group and SMR developer Rolls-Royce, the U.K.'s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), University of Liverpool's Virtual Engineering Centre and the University of Sheffield’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (Nuclear AMRC).

"Making simulations in a virtual world allows designers to take virtual risks, reducing design times and demonstrating cost savings across the nuclear life cycle, from design through to decommissioning," Andrew Stephenson, the UK government’s Minister for Nuclear, said.

"This is key to achieving the cost reduction targets in the [UK] Nuclear Sector Deal and part of our modern Industrial Strategy,” Stevenson said.

Westinghouse appoints ABB chief as new CEO

Jose Emeterio Gutierrez will step down as President and CEO of U.S. nuclear group Westinghouse on July 31 and will be replaced by Patrick Fragman, currently Group Senior Vice President at power transmission group ABB, Westinghouse announced May 16.

Fragman is currently the head of ABB Limited’s Grid Integration business which supplies power transmission systems, services and software solutions. Before joining ABB, Fragman held senior international roles at French engineering group Alstom, including head of its nuclear business. Earlier in his career, he held energy-focused roles within the French government.

Gutierrez joined Westinghouse in 2008 and was appointed interim President and CEO in 2016 and President and CEO in 2017.

Soaring costs at U.S. AP1000 projects prompted Westinghouse to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March 2017. In January 2018, Westinghouse owner Toshiba agreed to sell Westinghouse to investment group Brookfield Business Partners at a price of $4.6 billion.

Gutierrez led the group through the Chapter 11 proceedings.

"Under his leadership, Westinghouse successfully emerged from Chapter 11 as a leaner, stronger organization focused on its core business," the company said in a statement.

Gutierrez will remain a member of Westinghouse's global advisory board.

Nuclear Energy Insider