Regulator grants site license for Sizewell C; SMR-SOEC hydrogen cheapest, study

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Sizewell nuclear power station is seen as the sun sets on Sizewell. (Source: Reuters/Dylan Martinez)

The British nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), has granted Sizewell C a nuclear site license to install and operate a nuclear power station at Sizewell in the south of England, the ONR said in a statement.

The planned nuclear power plant in the British county of Suffolk was given the go ahead with state backing of 700 million pounds ($894 million) in November 2022.

In the initial assessment of the application in 2022, the ONR identified two outstanding matters which required resolution before it could go ahead and grant a license.

Those topics related to the shareholders’ agreement and ownership of the land at the site, the ONR said, adding that those concerns had been resolved to the regulator’s satisfaction.

Sizewell C Ltd may now use the powers within the license to request the regulator’s permission to start nuclear-related construction, the ONR said.

“The licensing process is fundamental in confirming that operators of a nuclear site are ready and able to meet their obligations under the nuclear site license, to protect their workforce and the public,” ONR’s Chief Nuclear Inspector and Chief Executive Mark Foy said.

“The granting of this license is one step in the ONR process, allowing us to provide greater regulatory oversight, advice, and challenge to the licensee as they progress their plans.”

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Nuclear hydrogen cheapest with SOEC, study

The combination of a small modular reactor (SMR) with high temperature Solid Oxide Electrolyzer Cell (SOEC) technology has significant advantages over other low-emission hydrogen production methods, including a lower price, nuclear development and consulting company ULC Energy said in a study.

The study found that a Rolls Royce SMR power plant coupled with a Topsoe SOEC can produce low-emission hydrogen for less than 3.5 euros/kilo ($3.8/kilo), less than other methods currently available.

This could be brought down to below 2 euros/kilo by 2050 by taking into account the value of the flexibility to curtail hydrogen production and deliver electricity to the grid, the study showed.

Nuclear plants can operate at relatively constant capacity of 95% for 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making them ideal for SOEC electrolyzers which lose efficiency when the flow of power is intermittent, such as that from renewable sources.

The Amsterdam-based consultancy said the results of the study were supported by 12 external organizations and also showed that the SMR-SOEC combination produces the highest annual quantity of hydrogen due to high process efficiency and high availability.

“At ULC-Energy we believe strongly that nuclear can and will play a major role to produce clean hydrogen and derivative clean fuels. The study that is now completed clearly demonstrates the capability of nuclear to deliver low cost, clean hydrogen at an industrial scale,” said Dirk Rabelink from ULC-Energy.

Britain funds advanced fuels facility

The British government has announced £196 million ($250 million) in funding to Urenco to support the building of an advanced nuclear fuels facility in northwest of England, Urenco said.

The Capenhurst enrichment site will help facilitate the government’s high assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) program announced in January, the company said.

“We welcome this government investment, which will help accelerate the development of a civil HALEU commercial market and, in turn, the development of the next generation of nuclear power plants. These plants will have even higher safety standards and lend themselves to quicker licensing and construction processes,” CEO of Urenco Boris Schucht said in the statement.

The facility will be the first high-tech nuclear fuel facility in Europe and its approval comes after Russia’s attack on Ukraine prompted import bans, including restrictions on the export of enriched uranium from Russia.

“This is part of the government plan to push (Russian President Vladimir) Putin out of the global energy market and drive down energy bills,” the government said in a statement announcing the funding.

Russia to build plant in Uzbekistan

Russia has agreed to build a small nuclear plant in Uzbekistan after a visit to the Central Asian country by the President of Russia Vladimir Putin late May.

Putin was in Uzbekistan to hold talks with Uzbek leader Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

The project involves the construction of a 330 MW capacity plant in the Jizzakh region of Uzbekistan based on a Russian reactor design. The plant will consist of six 55 MW reactors and construction will begin this summer, Russian nuclear company Rosatom said.

Forecasts show demand for energy resources will double in the country by 2050, Director of the Agency for Atomic Energy Uzatom Azim Akhmedkhadjaev said.

“It is evident that for the stable operation of the energy system and economic development, our country must ensure a base-load power source in addition to renewable energy sources,” Akhmedkhadjaev said.

By Reuters Events Nuclear