SMR Gold Rush: Smart Money Backing Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

SMR Gold Rush: Smart Money Backing Small Modular Nuclear Reactors

February 1, 2023 by stopthesethings 2 Comments

Europe’s energy crisis is all down to its delusional reliance upon intermittent wind and solar, which is why the smart money is backing nuclear power, at any scale, including Small Modular Reactors.

The list of operators investing in SMR technology is growing at such a rate that could be described as an investor gold rush.

In the US, NuScale, based in Oregon, has cleared all of the regulatory hurdles and is ready to deliver 924MW reactors to those with the wit and temerity to acquire them (more on NuScale below).

Britain’s Rolls-Royce is well ahead of the curve, with a 470MW unit almost ready to roll.

Hot on the heels of NuScale and Rolls-Royce, UK Atomics – a subsidiary of Denmark’s Copenhagen Atomics, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, Holtec International, BWX Technologies are on the process of designing, developing and improving on SMR technology.

There is little new about SMRs – in principle, it’s the same technology that’s safely powering 160 ships and submarines all around the world right now, and has been for decades; the USS Nautilus set sail and submerged in 1955, forever changing the model for naval propulsion.

Where building SMRs has the serious money salivating at the prospect of the profits to be made from powering an energy Hungary world, wind turbine outfits like Denmark’s Vestas and Germany’s Siemens, Enercon and Nordex are turning in staggering losses and laying off workers in droves, as orders for wind turbines evaporate.

With the list of notables referred to above seeking or obtaining licences to build Small Modular Reactors, and numerous countries signing up to have them, SMRs are here to stay.

Here’s an update on the serious progress towards a truly serious energy source.

Copenhagen Atomics puts forward SMR design for UK appraisal
World Nuclear News
5 January 2023

UK Atomics – a subsidiary of Denmark’s Copenhagen Atomics – has submitted a Generic Design Assessment (GDA) entry application for its small and modular thorium molten salt reactor to the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

GDA is a process carried out by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency (EA) to assess the safety, security, and environmental protection aspects of a nuclear power plant design that is intended to be deployed in Great Britain. Successful completion of the GDA culminates in the issue of a Design Acceptance Confirmation from the ONR and a Statement of Design Acceptability from the EA. In May 2021, BEIS opened the GDA process to advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors (SMRs).

UK Atomics has now applied for its containerised molten salt reactor to be put through the GDA process. Moderated with unpressurised heavy water, the reactor consumes nuclear waste while breeding new fuel from thorium. Small enough to allow for mass manufacturing and assembly line production, the reactor has an output of 100 MWt.

“The reactor design utilises innovative technologies to generate energy through a thorium molten salt reactor, enabling clean, reliable and cheap energy for the world,” the company said. “This technology has the added benefit of producing no greenhouse gas emissions and it does consume long-term nuclear waste from the classic nuclear industry to produce energy.”

A prototype reactor has already been constructed at a new facility in Copenhagen which “will be tested to support the goal-oriented approval process”.

“We are thrilled to be taking this important step towards bringing our groundbreaking technology to market,” said UK Atomics CEO and cofounder Thomas Steenberg. “We believe this reactor has the potential to greatly reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and make a significant impact on the green transition, and for the UK to provide jobs and prosperity.”

According to Copenhagen Atomics, the reactors will be deployed by UK Atomics, who will build, own and operate a fleet of autonomous reactors, “eventually numbering in thousands”. This business model, selling energy-as-a-service, will enable a cost-effective and low-risk deployment.

The first commercial reactor is scheduled to begin operating in 2028.

The company said that with low operating costs and no capital expenditure to the customer, it projects an electricity price point below GBP40 (USD48) per MWh. “This price is very competitive and will create a new affordable energy source that can drive the energy transition for the world,” it said.

“We are removing the complexity for decision makers,” said Copenhagen Atomics cofounder Thomas Jam Pedersen. “Companies fear the responsibility of operating a nuclear plant, decommissioning, and handling nuclear waste. We take care of all of that and just deliver reliable and green energy to the customer.”

“UK Atomics’ application for its ‘waste burner’ design is an exciting step forward for next generation nuclear in the UK,” said Nuclear Industry Association Chief Executive Tom Greatrex. “It offers another innovative way of producing abundant clean energy to ensure energy security and hit our net-zero goals. The UK can and should be leading the deployment of these types of technologies, and we look forward to seeing progress in the days ahead.”

Rolls-Royce SMR was the first vendor to submit an application for a GDA of an SMR design. The 470 MWe pressurised water reactor design was accepted for review in March 2022 with BEIS asking the ONR and EA to begin the process.

In December, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy submitted a GDA entry application for its BWRX-300 SMR, while Holtec International said it intends to soon submit an application for its SMR-160 design.
World Nuclear News

NRC Certifies First U.S. Small Modular Reactor Design
Office of Nuclear Energy
Press Release
20 January 2023

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued its final rule in the Federal Register to certify NuScale Power’s small modular reactor.

The company’s power module becomes the first SMR design certified by the NRC and just the seventh reactor design cleared for use in the United States.

The rule takes effects February 21, 2023 and equips the nation with a new clean power source to help drive down emissions across the country.

Historic Rule Making
The published final rule making allows utilities to reference NuScale’s SMR design when applying for a combined license to build and operate a reactor.

The design is an advanced light-water SMR with each power module capable of generating 50 megawatts of emissions-free electricity.

NuScale’s VOYGR™ SMR power plant can house up to 12 factory-built power modules that are about a third of the size of a large-scale reactor. Each power module leverages natural processes, such as convection and gravity, to passively cool the reactor without additional water, power, or even operator action.

The NRC accepted NuScale’s SMR design certification application back in March 2018 and issued its final technical review in August 2020. The NRC Commission later voted to certify the design on July 29, 2022—making it the first SMR approved by the NRC for use in the United States.

“We are thrilled to announce the historic rulemaking from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for NuScale’s small modular reactor design, and we thank the Department of Energy (DOE) for their support throughout this process,” said NuScale Power President and Chief Executive Officer John Hopkins. “The DOE has been an invaluable partner with a shared common goal – to establish an innovative and reliable carbon-free source of energy here in the U.S. We look forward to continuing our partnership and working with the DOE to bring the UAMPS Carbon Free Power Project to completion.”

“SMRs are no longer an abstract concept,” said Assistant Secretary for Nuclear Energy Dr. Kathryn Huff. “They are real and they are ready for deployment thanks to the hard work of NuScale, the university community, our national labs, industry partners, and the NRC. This is innovation at its finest and we are just getting started here in the U.S.!”

NuScale is currently seeking an uprate to enable each module to generate up to 77 megawatts. The NRC is expected to review their application this year.

Supporting SMR Development
The U.S. Department Energy provided more than $600 million since 2014 to support the design, licensing, and siting of NuScale’s VOYGR SMR power plant and other domestic SMR concepts.

DOE is currently working with Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) through the Carbon Free Power Project to demonstrate a six-module NuScale VOYGR plant at Idaho National Laboratory.

The first module is expected to be operational by 2029 with full plant operation the following year.

UAMPS finished subsurface field investigation activities at the proposed INL site and expects to submit a combined license application to the NRC in the first quarter of 2024.

NuScale Power has 19 signed and active domestic and international agreements to deploy SMR plants in 12 different countries, including Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Jordan in addition to the Carbon Free Power Project.

Learn more about NuScale Power design certification process with the NRC.
Office of Nuclear Energy

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