US Committee prioritizes advanced reactors; Southern, X-energy win DoE funds

Nuclear power news you need to know

US House Committee approves advanced reactor support

The House of Representatives' Committee on Science, Space, and Technology has approved a bipartisan bill to support federal research and development (R&D) and stimulate private investment in advanced nuclear reactor technologies in the U.S.

The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (H.R. 4084) directs the Department of Energy (DOE) to prioritize federal R&D infrastructure that will enable the private sector to invest in advanced reactor technologies, the committee said in a statement January 12. The bill aims to encourage prototype development at DoE labs.

"The legislation enables the private sector to partner with national labs for the purpose of developing novel reactor concepts, leverages DoE’s supercomputing infrastructure to accelerate nuclear energy R&D, and provides statutory direction for a DOE reactor-based fast neutron source that will operate as an open-access user facility," the Committee said.

"In addition, this bill requires DoE to put forth a transparent, strategic, ten year plan for prioritizing nuclear R&D programs," it said.

Southern, X-energy win DoE funding for advanced technology

Southern Company Services and X-energy have each won $40 million in DoE funding towards development of their advanced nuclear technologies.

Some $6 million will be awarded to each company this year and the grants will be provided on a cost share basis.

Southern Company Services is developing a Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MFCR) and has formed a new public-private partnership with TerraPower, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Electric Power Research Institute and Vanderbilt University.

X-energy is developing the Xe-100 pebble bed High Temperature Gas-Cooled reactor (HTGR) and has partnered with BWXT, Teledyne Brown Engineering, SGL Group, Oregon State University, Idaho National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

"These awards provide an example of the public-private partnerships envisioned under the recently launched Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative," the DoE said.

UK study supports MOX as fuel in NuScale SMR

NuScale's SMR power module can use MOX as fuel, in addition to conventional light water reactor fuel, according to a study commissioned by the U.K.'s National Nuclear Laboratory.

"The study evaluated scenarios with partial and full-core loading of mixed uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel and confirmed that MOX could be used in the NuScale core with minimal effect on the reactor’s design and operation," NuScale said in a statement January 20.

The study also demonstrated that it would take around 40 years for a 12-module NuScale plant with 100% MOX cores to consume a 100 metric-ton stockpile of discharged plutonium.

"The National Nuclear Laboratory has been pleased to work with NuScale on a commercial basis to help demonstrate the capability of their SMR in relation to MOX fuel," Dan Mathers, NNL Business Leader for Fuel and Reactors, said.

"Reuse of the plutonium for low carbon power generation could be a valuable way forward for dealing with the UK's nuclear legacy," he said.

The UK holds the world's largest stockpile of civil plutonium, with over 100 metric tons managed at Sellafield in North West England.

France's Areva has proposed to reprocess the plutonium into MOX fuel and NuScale signed a contract with Areva in December 2015 to manufacture conventional fuel assemblies for the NuScale Power Module. Areva is to also provide a variety of engineering and testing services associated with the NuScale design.

China to build floating power plant by 2019

China is to build a demonstration floating nuclear power plant by 2019, World Nuclear News reported January 15.

The power plant will be installed on a vessel and based on China National Nuclear Corporation's (CNNC's) ACP100S small reactor which has been approved by China's National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) as part of the 13th Five Year Plan, the report said.

The floating plant could provide electrical power to offshore oil and gas drilling platforms, provide power to islands and remote areas, and also be used for water desalination, it said.

UK develops remote machines to aid nuclear plant clean up

U.K's Lancaster University is to lead an international project to develop submersible remotely operated machines to accelerate the cleanup at nuclear sites such as Fukushima, Japan.

"When built, the technology will, for the first time, be able to assess radiation – particularly neutron and gamma-ray fields – under water to check the safety and stability of material within submerged areas of nuclear sites," Lancaster University said in a statement.

Partners in the two and a half-year project include the U.K.'s University of Manchester, Hybrid Instruments Ltd. as well as Japanese groups.

The technology could also be used to speed up the removal of nuclear waste from decaying storage ponds at the U.K.'s Sellafield Reprocessing facility, Lancaster University said.

The technology could potentially shorten and reduce the costs of decommissioning programs, it said.

New York includes nuclear in green power support

The New York Public Service Commission has approved the inclusion of a separate support mechanism for upstate nuclear power plants in a new clean energy fund.

Governor Andrew Cuomo launched the new 10-year, $5 billion Clean Energy Fund January 21, the Governor's office said in a statement.

"The Commission today approved a public process to adopt a Clean Energy Standard that will also include a separate support mechanism for upstate nuclear power plants. Since nuclear facilities do not produce greenhouse gas emissions, they will help the State transition to a future under the Clean Energy Standard without losing ground on emission reductions statewide," the statement said.

New York State is home to a total of six operational nuclear reactors at four sites: Nine Mile Point, Ginna, James A Fitzpatrick and Indian Point.

Source: Nuclear Energy Institute