Forum on Energy
Forum on Energy
March 16, 2015
Smaller-scale nuclear reactors are increasingly popular for a variety of reasons — from cost to flexibility.
March 17, 2015
Three categories of SMR designs are currently receiving the most attention: light water, high-temperature gas-cooled and fast neutron reactors.
One example of an SMR: Babcock & Wilcox's mPower 180 MW small modular reactor.
March 25, 2015
The new "Amazing Atoms" app supports the IAEA's mission to share the peaceful benefits of nuclear science around the world.
March 26, 2015
The Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.
March 13, 2015
With changing market conditions, SMRs are gaining interest due to their lower upfront capital investments and ability to power remote areas.
The Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBRII)
March 3, 2015
Canada has been a global leader in nuclear energy research and development for more than 50 years.
March 26, 2015

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Turkey Nuclear Plant Delayed
Turkey’s first nuclear power plant is unlikely to be ready before 2022, energy officials said on Monday. The $20-billion project has been beset by regulatory hurdles and complicated by Russia’s financial woes.
Sources: Reuters, Today’s Zaman, Moscow Times

Germany Can’t Afford Nuclear Shutdown
A new German government report is stoking fears that the country’s energy companies can’t shoulder the cost of a government plan to close the country’s nuclear-power plants. Berlin promises utilities will foot the bill, but the new report, released Friday, raises the prospect of German taxpayers ending up on the hook.
Source: Wall Street Journal

France Weighs In On Iran Nuclear Deal
Any nuclear deal with Iran should be robust enough to guarantee that Tehran could not acquire an atomic bomb, France’s foreign minister said Saturday. “France wants an agreement, but a robust one that really guarantees that Iran can have access to civilian nuclear power, but not the atomic bomb,” Laurent Fabius told Europe 1 radio. A senior Israeli delegation traveled to Paris Sunday afternoon to discuss the nuclear deal coming together between Iran and world powers. The trip is a last-ditch effort to influence the understandings taking shape between Iran and the P5+1: the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. They are meeting with French officials because they hold the toughest stance vis-a-vis Iran. The Israelis believe they can improve the developing agreement by persuading the French to improve it.
Sources: NBC, Huffington Post, Haaretz

IAEA to Assess African Countries’ Capacity for Nuclear Energy
This year the IAEA will conduct a nuclear infrastructure review, the first such mission of its kind. The assessments — which will take place in Nigeria, Kenya and Morocco — are part of an assistance package that the IAEA provides to help emerging nuclear countries overcome initial challenges.
Source: NEI Nuclear Notes

Beijing to Close its Coal Plants
The city of Beijing will close all of its power plants due to increasing domestic and international pressures to reduce pollution and carbon emissions. The facilities will be replaced by gas-fired stations. The move to shut down Beijing’s coal plants is part of a greater trend across China to shutter coal plants. The city will also close down other polluting companies and cement factories.
Source: Washington Post

March 25, 2015

screen568x568 (1)The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), with support from the U.S. State Department, recently released the “Amazing Atoms” app for smartphones and tablets. The app supports the IAEA’s mission to share the peaceful benefits of nuclear science around the world, and provides information on the full spectrum of projects underway to improve people’s lives by harnessing the power of atomic technology.

The app features various clickable tiles that reveal the on-the-ground benefits of nuclear energy work around the world in the realms of food security, clean water resources and healthcare. 

For more information on the peaceful application of nuclear technology in development projects around the world download the “Amazing Atoms” app from iTunes or Google Play.

March 19, 2015

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Japan to Decommission Five Nuclear Reactors
Local governments announced this week that five aging reactors will be voluntarily decommissioned. The utilities which operate these reactors, including Mihama 1 and2 in Kansai and Tsuruga 1 in Fukui, concluded that the costs of implementing NRA recommendations exceed the costs of shutting down the power plant. The closure announcements come as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has revised regulations to ease the financial burden on utilities that opt to close down their plants.
Source: Reuters

China Restarts Nuclear Reactor Approvals
After a four-year hiatus, China is approving construction for new reactors, starting with Hongyanhe units 5 and 6. China’s State Council decided to halt approvals and licensing for new reactors until a safety plan was in place and there was assurance that existing plants were adequately designed, sited, protected and managed. China has also recently announced that two new reactors have been grid connected and will be commissioned once they pass final safety checks.
Sources: World Nuclear News (1,2)

PG&E Demonstrates that Diablo Canyon Can Withstand Earthquakes
Diablo Canyon power plant has concerned policymakers for its position near three earthquake faults. After several years of testing, Pacific Gas and Electric has concluded that the power plant can withstand an earthquake even in the event that all three nearby faults were affected.
Source: Los Angeles Times

In Case You Missed It: New Research on SMRs Asks Not When, But Who’s First
Comprehensive research by Nuclear Energy Insider concludes that SMRs are back. The report draws on 50 interviews with leading specialists. It describes the challenges companies faced in 2014 as a “teething season.” Lead author Kerr Jeferies comments that energetic discussion lately have focused on a few themes, specifically, licensing and design certification, funding streams, and assembling the required supply chains. With competition in Russia, China and Argentina receiving strong state backing, the report urges the US federal government to commit federal resources to building a demonstration reactor.
Source: Steamfeed

March 17, 2015
One example of an SMR: Babcock & Wilcox's mPower 180 MW small modular reactor.

One example of an SMR: Babcock & Wilcox’s mPower 180 MW small modular reactor.

The International Atomic Energy Agency defines small reactors as those with an electricity output of less than 300 MWe. There are more than 45 SMR concepts under development for various applications. Many American SMR models are among the latest technology innovations being supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Several of these concepts have advanced to the licensing stages and, according to the IAEA, the projected timelines of readiness for deployment of SMRs generally range from the present to 2025-2030. As of 2014, four SMR reactors were under construction: CAREM-25 in Argentina; the floating KLT-40S and RITM-200 in Russia; and the HTR-PM in China.

Three categories of SMR designs are currently receiving the most attention: light water, high-temperature gas-cooled and fast neutron reactors. Each design has its own benefits and the designs are developing with varying degrees of success.

Light Water Reactors (LWR)

Small LWRs are based on the technology employed by all existing U.S. power reactors and therefore offer the lowest technological risk and are the most compatible with the existing federal regulatory framework. Small LWRs are moderated and cooled by ordinary water, typically use fuel enriched to below 5% U-235, and have refueling cycles of up to 6 years. Small LWRs could be used to replace aging fossil-fired power plants because they are compatible with the infrastructure, cooling water, rail and transmission facilities that already exist at such facilities.

Babcock & Wilcox’s 180-MW Generation mPower SMR

The mPower advanced light water reactor is designed for below-ground containment and incorporates passive safety features from gravity, convection and conduction to cool the reactor in an emergency. The reactor uses fuel enriched to almost 5% with a 4-year refueling cycle. mPower was the first SMR to win funding from the DOE. Despite recent scale backs in development, B&W has not abandoned SMR development and the project is scheduled for completion in 2021.

Westinghouse’s 200-MW reactor

The Westinghouse SMR is a pressurized water reactor based on their AP1000 reactor design. It houses all primary components in a below-ground containment vessel and uses fuel enriched to below 5% with a 2-year refueling cycle. Westinghouse has recently scaled back development of the SMR, but maintains a working business and engineering staff on the project for when market conditions improve.

NuScale Power 45-MW reactor

The NuScale SMR is a smaller version of PWR technology. This reactor offers the passive safety features of natural circulation, convection, conduction and gravity to control the movement of coolant through the core and eliminate the need for coolant pumps. The reactor will shut down and self-cool without power, external water, or human action. The NuScale reactor is installed in a below-ground, water-filled pool and uses standard PWR fuel enriched 4.95% with a 2-year refueling cycle.

Holtec’s 160-MW Inherently Safe Modular Underground Reactor (HI-SMUR)

The HI-SMUR reactor is also installed underground, uses fuel similar to that of larger PWRs and has a 42-month refueling cycle.

High-Temperature Gas-Cooled Reactors (HTR)

High-temperature gas-cooled reactors can be used for electricity generation, but may be best suited for providing process heat for industrial and transport applications and hydrogen production. These reactors use helium, carbon dioxide or nitrogen as a coolant and graphite as a moderator. HTRs use tristructural-isotropic (TRISO) particles with uranium enriched up to 20% U-235 for fuel.

General Atomics Gas Turbine Modular Helium Reactor (GT-MHR)

The GT-MHR is a high-temperature reactor with advanced gas turbine technology. The GT-MHR uses TRISO fuel enriched up to 15.5% with half the core replaced every 18 months. The GT-MHR is being developed in partnership with Russia’s OKBM Afrikantov and Fuji Industries of Japan. The main goal of the project is hydrogen generation.

Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Ltd. (PBMR)

Development of the 165 MWe PBMR in South Africa was shut down in 2010 due to lack of funding. This reactor would have used helium as a coolant and repurposed its waste heat for industrial processes.

Fast Neutron Reactors (FNR)

FNRs are smaller and simpler than light-water reactors, with better fuel efficiency and longer refueling cycles (up to 30 years). FNRs have the potential for diverse applications including electricity, desalinization and heating in remote locations. FNRs can also breed their own fuel and can operate on the recycled waste from LWRs or the material from old nuclear weapons, thus limiting threats of proliferation. FNRs have no moderator, operate at near atmospheric pressure and have passive safety features such as automatic power regulation due to reactivity-feedback (higher core temperature naturally slows the reaction).

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Power Reactor Innovative Small Module (PRISM)

The PRISM is installed underground with seismic isolators to mitigate the effects of an earthquake. The PRISM uses a liquid sodium coolant and can be configured to use a variety of fuels such as plutonium stockpiles, used nuclear fuel and depleted uranium. The initial concept for the reactor was developed by GE in 1981 and, according to GE, this reactor has been fully tested by the NRC and is ready to go to market.

Integral Fast Reactor: ARC-100

This 100 MWe reactor is a fast-breeder reactor operating at atmospheric pressure, designed to be installed in a 20-foot-diameter silo underground. It is sodium-cooled, with uranium metal-alloy fuel rods, and operates on a closed 20 year refueling cycle. The ARC-100′s containment vessel uses a double walled, stainless steel tank that can factory-fabricated, transported to a site and operational within 18-24 months. The ARC-100 recycles its own and LWR waste for fuel, and offers passive safety features that make its operation so effectively failsafe as to be described as “walk-away safe.”

General Atomics Energy Multiplier Module (EM2)

The 240 MWe EM2 design is a helium-cooled fast neutron reactor based on the GT-MHR. The EM2 can convert nuclear waste into electricity and industrial process heat and has a 30 year refueling cycle.

Gen4 Energy: The Gen4 Module (G4M)

The G4M is designed to be a safe, clean, sustainable and cost-efficient transportable power source. The reactor is designed to deliver 70 MW of heat (25 MW of electricity) for a 10-year lifetime, without refueling.

Toshiba 4S (Super-Safe, Small and Simple)

This 10 MW reactor uses a liquid sodium coolant and is designed for use in remote areas.


TerraPower is a Bill Gates-funded start-up that is developing a larger, 500-megawatt, “traveling wave” reactor. Company CEO John Gilleland says it’s on track to deploy its first reactor in the 2020s.

Obstacles to SMR Commercialization

While SMR technology is diverse and full of potential, there are many obstacles in its path to commercialization. As the potential financial benefits of SMRs come from economies of scales, so do the current obstacles to commercialization. Without government subsidies, it is not economical to produce just one SMR. According to Westinghouse (which in January 2014 suspended all work on SMRs due to inadequate demand), in order for SMRs to be cost-competitive, they must be built in quantities of 30-50 reactors.

Another problem in the debate over the future of SMRs is a lack of consensus over the future costs of SMR deployment. Capital cost estimates remain very preliminary, making it difficult to perform a comparative assessment of cost competitiveness. In addition, public opinion, the lack of a carbon tax in the United States and low natural gas prices offer little encouragement to the nuclear power movement.

March 16, 2015

As we wrote recently, smaller-scale nuclear reactors are increasingly popular for a variety of reasons — from cost to flexibility. The following is an assessment or why more and more companies and regions are expressing interest in Small Modular Reactors (SMRs).

Modularity: Lower Upfront Capital Costs

The price to construct a conventional nuclear power plant has risen so high that private investors are no longer interested in funding new nuclear projects. SMRs offer a cheaper alternative; they are characterized by compact designs that can be factory-fabricated, module by module, and then transported to a nuclear plant site for final assembly. By exploiting economies of scale, factory-fabrication reduces construction costs and is more efficient than on-site construction by as much as 8:1 in terms of building time.

The modularity of SMRs also allows for incremental capacity expansion of power plants, limiting the risk of overstepping demand. Once the first module comes online it can begin generating positive cash flows to fund the construction of subsequent modules. This flexible funding profile creates options to match demand growth while lowering upfront capital costs and reducing the investment risks compared to conventional nuclear plants.

Remote-Siting Flexibility

SMRs provide an emission-free opportunity to address the challenges of energy security and rising demand for electricity in developing countries. SMRs offer an attractive power option to energy-starved countries and small, remote, growing communities that cannot afford and don’t require a full-scale plant. While conventional light water reactors typically require a great deal of water for cooling and must be located near a substantial water source such as a coastline or river, SMRs boast flexible designs that can be cooled by air, gas, metals or salt. SMRs can thus be placed in remote, inland locations where a conventional reactor would be impossible to sustain.

Read More »

March 13, 2015
The Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBRII)

The Experimental Breeder Reactor II (EBRII)

Economics has been a main driver of nuclear power, not just financially, but also literally. Since nuclear power generation was born in the 1950s, reactor size has grown from 60MWe to more than 1600MWe.

But with changing market conditions, smaller-scale reactors are gaining interest due to their lower upfront capital investments and ability to provide power to remote areas off the main grid system. In addition to being reliable, affordable, low cost power, small modular reactors (SMRs) offer enhanced safety, nonproliferation and water purification features, and high flexibility as their key selling points. SMRs are anticipated to come online as early as 2024.

SMRs are not a new concept. Rather, these reactors have been in use for more than 60 years. Hundreds of SMRs have been successfully operating around the world in nuclear submarines, warships, merchant ships, icebreakers and as research and medical isotope reactors at universities.

SMRs were first designed and tested in the 1950s by the United States Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), and the Army and Navy research programs. The Army Nuclear Power Program (ANPP) focused on developing a reactor to provide power for remote areas, which could be transported entirely by truck. The Navy’s nuclear program focused on creating a reactor that could operate on a ship. Admiral Hyman Rickover led the development of the first Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) for use in submarines. The PWR used enriched uranium fuel and was moderated and cooled by light water because sodium coolants have adverse reactions with sea water. The first nuclear-powered submarine — the USS Nautilus — was launched in 1954.

Read More »

March 13, 2015

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Abe Promises Next 5 Year Recovery Plan Will Soon Be Developed
On the fourth anniversary of the tsunami, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged that there was much that needed to be done. The government is creating a new five-year recovery plan which will come into force in one year, when the first plan expires. The budget for the next plan is being negotiated with local governments. Details of the plan will be released in June, with the release of the draft.
Source: Reuters

Abe and Merkel Discuss Differing Perspectives on Nuclear, But Not with Each Other
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s visit to Japan showcased starkly different views on nuclear perspective to the public. Prior to her arrival, Merkel released a video message in which she discussed that she once supported nuclear energy, but the Fukushima accident revealed to her that even highly advanced nations cannot account for the risk of nuclear accidents. She encouraged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to move away from nuclear energy. Abe commented that Japan, as a resource-poor island, has very few options to nuclear energy and therefore must continue to pursue it.
Source: Asahi Shimbun

Rusatom Sells Combined Nuclear Energy and Desalinization Plant Design to Egypt
In another coup for the Russian nuclear industry, Russia has committed to collaborating with Egypt to design a desalinization and nuclear power plant in Egypt. Egypt is considering two locations for a vendor financed plant. Russia has offered two 1200 MWe pressurized reactors as part of a combined electricity and desalinization plant. The plant removes salt by evaporation and condensation and the plant can produce 170,000 cubic meters of potable water per day, given an input of 850 MWh per day of electricity.
Source: World Nuclear News

Former DOE Deputy Secretary to Head Uranium Enrichment Company
Dan Poneman is set to head Centrus, a uranium enrichment company formerly known as U.S. Enrichment Corp (USEC). The company has rebranded itself after filing for bankruptcy last year. It blames falling uranium demand in Japan and Germany for its financial woes. Once it has managed to transition out of bankruptcy, the company intends to apply for a $2 billion loan guarantee to support its $5 billion uranium-enriching American Centrifuge Project in Piketon, Ohio, where it would enrich uranium that would later be used to make tritium at a civilian reactor in Tennessee.
Source: E&E News

March 6, 2015

foe_newsroundup_blueThe Forum on Energy weekly news roundup brings together a mix of global energy stories from around the web. It is published every Thursday morning on Forum on Energy and is available on Twitter via @forumonenergy.

Approval of Storage Facility and Upcoming Takahama Votes Signal Major Milestones in Japan’s Reactor Restart Process
Fukushima Prefecture agreed this week to host an interim storage facility for radioactive soil storage. The approvals will ensure that the waste will be stored in the towns of Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture for the next thirty years. Meanwhile, in Takahama Fukui Prefecture, local governments have set a date to vote on the opening of two nearby reactors. The votes will take place on March 20. The local governments have requested, as a condition, that the federal government explain the importance of the plants, their safety and whether lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster have been applied. Furthermore, local government officials will go door to door seeking resident commentary.
Sources: Asahi Shimbun, Japan Times

Areva’s Financial Woes Reveal France’s Nuclear Decline
After major financial losses at Areva this year, France’s nuclear industry is hoping for a government bailout. The company shocked investors by saying losses for 2014 would be about 4.9 billion euros ($5.5 billion) — more than its market capitalization. Its difficulties include mismanagement, technical problems and general changes to the market after the Fukushima disaster. Areva has hired Credit Suisse Group AG, JPMorgan Chase Co., Citigroup Inc. and Rothschild & Cie. to help with its restructuring.
Source: Washington Post

South Korea and Saudi Arabia Sign MOU on Nuclear Power
South Korea and Saudi Arabia have agreed to cooperate on nuclear energy construction. Specifically, South Korea will assist Saudi Arabia in building at least two small-to-medium-sized reactors.
Source: Reuters

South Korea Restarts its Second-Oldest Nuclear Plant
South Korea’s nuclear regulator has reached a controversial decision  to renew the license of its second-oldest plant until 2022. Despite concerns over safe operations after the Fukushima plant meltdown, the regulator stated that it had looked into safety precautions in the case of natural disasters. The plant, which began operations in 1982, uses Canada’s heavy water technology.
Source: FOX News

Explore an interactive map on nuclear energy opportunities and challenges across the globe.