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10 & 17 March 2017
Weekly Digest
New Chinese reactor in commercial operation
China General Nuclear Power’s (CGN) Yangjiang 4 CPR-1000 in Guangdong province has entered commercial operation, after grid connection in January. The plant is operated by Yangjiang Nuclear Power Co Ltd, in which Hong Kong-based China Light and Power has a 17% stake.
WNN 16/3/17.     China NP
 
Bipartisan US moves to unclog the nuclear regulatory system
A significant bipartisan bill, first floated last year, has been introduced to congress. The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernisation Act (S 512) aims to modernise the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) “and bring increased efficiency and fiscal accountability” at a time when a new generation of advanced reactor designs have begun to need the NRC’s regulatory attention. It directs the NRC to develop the regulatory framework necessary to enable the licensing of advanced nuclear reactors and to review its fee structure. “The bill ... affirms Congress’ view that this country can and should be a leader in advanced reactor technology. [It] effectively directs the NRC to think differently about reactor licensing” and accommodate new designs, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. The NRC needs to change its “untimely, somewhat outdated, and unnecessarily costly regulatory processes."  While Russia and China are proceeding expeditiously, the USA “cannot forgo advancements in reactor technology or we forgo our economic competitiveness and worldwide influence on nuclear non-proliferation,” Senator Inhofe said in promoting the bill.
 
The last three decades have seen little US nuclear innovation, and the one project set up by a 2005 Act – the Next Generation Nuclear Plant, a prototype high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTR) – was denied funding by the Obama administration and is dormant. China now leads the field with HTRs. The NRC has one design certification application under review for a small modular reactor – the Nuscale 50 MWe design. Its application comprised 12,000 pages.
 
Meanwhile several developers of small modular power plants are turning to Canada for design certification. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is conducting a pre-licensing Vendor Design Review for Ontario-based Terrestrial Energy Inc’s molten salt reactor and for Sweden-based LeadCold Reactors for its micro-fast reactor.  StarCore Nuclear from Quebec and the Urenco-led European U-Battery consortium have applied for the same for their small HTRs. GE Hitachi and Advanced Reactor Concepts who are collaborating on fast reactor designs in the USA are preparing to seek a pre-licensing Vendor Design Review from CNSC.  See below.
US NP, Small Reactors
 
US fast reactor designers get together
In 1994, US Congress under the Clinton administration shut down EBR-II, a sodium-cooled fast-neutron demonstration reactor with 30 years valuable operating experience. This delivered a major setback to US advanced fuel cycle developments and opened the way for Russia’s ascendancy in fast reactors today.  The EBR-II was the basis of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) program, considered by the US National Academy of Sciences to be the nation's highest priority research for future reactor types.  The IFR was also aborted in 1994, three years before its commissioning.  IFR program goals were demonstrating inherent safety apart from engineered controls, improved management of high-level nuclear wastes by recycling all actinides (so that only fission products remain as high-level wastes). 
 
Two US developers have picked up the pieces from 1994 and are well ahead with reactors based on those designs, also using some of the EBR-II staff.  Well-established GE-Hitachi (GEH) has the PRISM design, a compact pool-type fast reactor of 311 MWe with metal fuel, and integrated with sophisticated reprocessing to close the fuel cycle.  Advanced Reactor Concepts LLC (ARC), set up in 2006, is developing a much smaller 100 MWe pool-type fast reactor which will be factory-produced. The ARC-100 has a uranium alloy metal core as a cartridge which is changed after 20 years. Both operate at over 500°C, can load-follow, and have passive cooling for decay heat removal. 
 
GEH and ARC have now signed an agreement to collaborate on licensing a small modular reactor design based on the ARC-100, but drawing on the extensive intellectual property and licensing experience of the GEH PRISM program. Initial deployment is envisaged in Canada, where they will seek a preliminary regulatory review through CNSC.
WNN 13/3/17.     US NP, http://www.arcnuclear.com/   http://gehitachiprism.com/
 
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Belarus, Namibia, Climate change policy
 


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