U.S. DoE opens National Reactor Innovation Centre; China plans five nuclear fuel processing plants

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

U.S. DoE opens National Reactor Innovation Centre

The U.S. Department of Energy (U.S. DoE) has opened the National Reactor Innovation Centre (NRIC) to support the development of advanced nuclear energy technology.

A result of the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA), the new centre is located at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in Idaho Falls.

The act was signed into law in 2018 to accelerate the development of advanced reactors in the country by eliminating financial and technical barriers.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry said: “NRIC will enable the demonstration and deployment of advanced reactors that will define the future of nuclear energy.

“By bringing the industry together with our national labs and university partners, we can enhance our energy independence and position the US as a global leader in advanced nuclear innovation.”

Technology developers will receive support from NRIC required to test, demonstrate and evaluate the performance of their reactor concepts. It will also help technology developers in speeding-up the licensing and commercialization of their new nuclear energy systems.

U.S.-based NuScale is the only SMR developer to seek approval from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The first plant using NuScale technology is a 12-module plant in Idaho that is due to begin operations by the mid-2020s.

Idaho Senator Mike Crapo said: “This is the ultimate public-private sector partnership that will take the next step to grow clean nuclear power across the nation.

“It makes sense that the INL is the place where private developers will now work with the Department of Defense and Nasa to come and demonstrate new nuclear technologies. I look forward to seeing micro-reactors and small modular reactors being built here. The best is yet to come!”

China plans five nuclear fuel processing plants

The head of the Chinese national Nuclear Safety Administration says five nuclear processing plants are planned for the disposal of low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste, as it continues to work alongside French firm Areva.

Liu Ha said commercial negotiations were nearing their end, and plans for both Chinese facilities and the French cooperation project were all making progress.

“The commercial negotiations are almost near the end. I believe in the near future, the two countries will have even further progress on the nuclear fuel reprocessing project,” Liu said.

Liu said the plants would be located in provinces which already had nuclear facilities. The US$12 billion Areva project has been subject to delays, due to resident protests.

“The process of choosing sites might need more active communication with the local government and local residents,” said Liu.

The five new plants will be part of the next phase of China’s nuclear power programme, which will also includes R&D on the deep disposal of high-level waste.

As of June 2019, China had 47 nuclear power units in operation with a capacity of about 48.73 GW and 11 nuclear power units under construction, with a capacity of 10.8 GW.

In its 13th Five-Year Plan, published in 2016, China planned to raise its installed nuclear capacity to 58 GW by 2020, with another 30 GW under construction.

Operating license still under review for UAE’s Barakah plant

The operating license for the United Arab Emirates’ Barakah nuclear power plant is still under review, according to a senior official at the industry regulator.

Speaking at a panel discussion in Abu Dhabi, Christer Viktorsson, director-general of UAE’s Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), said he could not give an exact date for the approval of the license. 

“In nuclear projects you never know. As soon as we get declaration from ENEC (Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation) and Nawah [Energy Company] they are ready to operate, we are ready to do final inspections and draw final conclusions,” said Viktorsson.

Barakah is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and is the world’s largest nuclear plant under construction. It is due to begin operations before early 2020.

Nuclear Energy Insider