Watchdog says nuclear must play part of hydrogen strategy; Belarus plant starts pilot stage

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

New hydrogen fuel cell trucks made by Hyundai (Source: Reuters/Denis Balibouse)

The European Hydrogen Strategy must include nuclear in its long-term plans for the region’s hydrogen economy and the current focus on renewable power only greatly weakens the commercial incentive for nuclear to invest, the New Nuclear Watch Institute (NNWI) said in a study at the end of last year.

The strategy acknowledges that other forms of low-carbon hydrogen production will be required in the short- and medium-term to facilitate early-stage market development, but fails to provide long-term certainty to potential producers and excludes the other forms of generation from its major targets, it says.

“This technological prejudice is to the detriment of the Strategy on a number of fronts,” the study 'On the Role of Nuclear Power in the Development of a European Hydrogen Economy' says.

“The production of hydrogen using nuclear power rather than intermittent renewable energy has a number of general advantages, not in the least that the former is able to supply electrolysers at a far higher capacity factor, allowing greater operational efficiency, and to facilitate continuous production of hydrogen that is essential for its industrial applications.”

The report shows that for every unit of installed capacity of electrolyzer, nuclear power produces over five times as much low-carbon hydrogen as solar and twice as much as wind power.

The land area required to produce hydrogen using nuclear power is considerably less than that need by renewable energy sources, it added.

Pilot operation stage started at Belarus plant

The pilot operation stage at reactor 1 of Belarus’ first nuclear power plant, a Gen III+ plant with a VVER-1200 reactor, has started, Russia’s Rosatom said in December.

The operation is the final check of a power unit before commissioning.

The reactor was gradually brought up to the rated power after a permit was granted by the Belarus’ Board of Ministry for Emergency Situations, ROSATOM said.

“Specialists are to gradually perform a wide range of equipment tests and inspections at the reactor plant power ranging from 75% up to 100%, including dynamic tests with forced shutdown of various main equipment,” According to Vitaliy Polyanin, the Vice-President and Belarus NPP Construction Director of ASE EC JSC.

“Only upon verification of actual parameters and characteristics of the systems and equipment operation for conformity with the design values, the power unit will be put into commercial operation.”

Commercial operation is expected to begin in the first quarter of this year, he added.

The two-reactor plant will have a total capacity of 2,400 MW and is being constructed in Ostovets. The reactor is the first Gen III+ unit in operation to be built outside of Russia.

NuScale, UAMPS agree to develop CFPP

U.S.-based NuScale Power and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) have executed agreements to facilitate the development of the Carbon Free Power Project (CFPP), which will deploy the company’s small modular reactor technology at the Idaho National Laboratory, NuScale said in January.

“The orders between NuScale and UAMPS mark the next major step in moving forward with the commercialization of NuScale’s groundbreaking small modular reactor (SMR) technology,” said John Hopkins, NuScale Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

“This is the first step in a prudent deployment plan that could result in the order of NuScale Power Modules in 2022. We are appreciative of UAMPS’ strong partnership and collaboration as we forge a new energy frontier together.”

The orders follow agreements to manage and de-risk the development of the CFPP, including the Development Cost Reimbursement Agreement (DCRA) between UAMPS and NuScale and a $1.355 billion, multi-year Financial Assistance Award from the U.S. Department of Energy to CFPP LLC, a subsidiary of UAMPS established to develop, own and operate the CFPP.

The project has enlisted NuScale to install one of its 12-module, 720 MW SMRs though the project has been hit by delays as UAMPS stakeholders consider their options after price increases lifted LCOE for customers above a natural gas combined cycle plant of the same size.

Exelon head calls for urgent measures before plant closures

Illinois lawmakers face challenges that require boldness and a sense of urgency when making critical decisions about the future of energy in the U.S. state, the President and CEO of Exelon Christopher Crane said in an editorial in the Chicago Sun Times mid-January.

Exelon Generation will retire two of its twin-unit nuclear power stations, Dresden Generating Station and Byron Generating Station, in the autumn of 2021, between 10 and 20 years ahead of schedule, the company said in a statement at the end of August.

“The failure of national energy markets to support clean energy will soon force the premature retirement of two of the state’s six zero-carbon nuclear plants, putting thousands of people out of work, raising energy costs and taking us decades backward in the fight against climate change,” he wrote.

“With these plants gone, Northern Illinois will lose 30 percent of its carbon-free energy, and it will cost billions of dollars and multiple decades just to build enough new sources of clean energy to get us back to where we are today.”

Without reforms, he wrote, the same market forces could soon threaten two other nuclear plants in the state.

“We can start by addressing the broken market policies that are forcing carbon-free nuclear plants to retire and expanding programs that promote the growth of renewable energy and energy efficiency. Experience has shown that we can accomplish these goals while protecting consumers and businesses,” he wrote.

He also called for comprehensive energy reform which, he said, would prevent thousands of job losses, increased pollution and high energy costs.

By Reuters Events Nuclear