Prof. ST Hsieh
Director, US-China Energy Industry Forum
December 7, 2023
US-China relation is tense, but Biden and Xi are working on lowering the temperature. Of course, the US and China as the two largest economies (or the two largest greenhouse gas emitters) must cooperate in combating the threatening climate change disaster.
We understand the US and China have to deal with the contentious trade imbalances, often leads to serious competitions in market shares, even trade wars. Now, the hot rhetoric of “decoupling” has softened to “de-risking,” means that some global trade must be allowed. Of course, any protection measure is anti-free-trade and most likely the consumers will have to shoulder a higher cost and/or time delay.
The US plan to restrict the import of advanced Chinese based EV products is an interesting case. The net results would be higher cost for US consumers as well as a slowdown of greenhouse reduction, both are very negative.
Now the case of deployment of small nuclear reactor (SMR) is even more challenging for the US in competition with China. Following the attached news report, China’s modular 4th-generation of HTGR-PM reactor has already reached commercial operation. China has also started the construction of the world first multi-purpose SMR which could be ready for testing soon. Thus, China is very competitive in global SMR market now!
It appears that the SMR progresses in the US is way behind China: the first potential SMR in the US is expected to finalize the design by 2026 or 2027. The most promising date for commercial operation is in the 2030’s with an unknown cost base. Judging from the experience of the US nuclear power industry, these timelines would be very optimistic. It is very doubtful that “the U.S. is in a position to export ‘that technology’ stamped with a “Made in America” label by 2030.
Impressive Milestones Achieved on Chinese Advanced Nuclear Power Projects
Thu, December 7, 2023 at 8:17 AM PST
China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) announced on Dec. 6 that China’s independently developed high-temperature gas-cooled modular pebble bed (HTR-PM) reactor demonstrator had commenced commercial operation. The HTR-PM project was constructed at a site in Rongcheng, Shandong Province, roughly midway between Beijing and Shanghai in eastern China. Touted as “the world’s first commercially operational modular nuclear power plant with fourth-generation nuclear technology,” the achievement marks an important milestone, transitioning the technology from experiments to the commercial market.
1. Construction of the pioneering project began in December 2012, led by China Huaneng (which holds a 47.5% stake in the demonstration), along with CNNC subsidiary China Nuclear Engineering Corp. (CNEC, 32.5%), and Tsinghua University’s Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET, 20%). Chinergy, a joint venture between Tsinghua and CNEC, served as the engineering, procurement, and construction contractor for the nuclear island. The HTR-PM features two small reactors, each with a capacity of 250 MWth. The reactors use helium as the coolant and graphite as the moderator. Each reactor is loaded.
2. Heat from the reactor produces steam in a steam generator. Tsinghua has reported helium temperatures at the reactor core inlet run about 250C, while outlet temperatures reach about 750C. Steam at 13.25 Megapascal (MPa) and 567C is produced at the steam generator outlet. The steam is used to drive a single steam turbine connected to a 210-MWe generator. The demonstration project was first connected to the grid on Dec. 20, 2021. Significant testing has been done since that time to validate operation and demonstrate acceptability. CNNC said the HTR-PM design has broad applications in various fields including power generation and combined heat and power. It noted advantages include high safety, power generation efficiency, and environmental adaptability. Tsinghua has said more than 30 years of continuous research, conducted by hundreds of Tsinghua scientists, has gone into the project. Developers stepped from the basic research of key technologies, to a 10-MW experimental reactor (HTR-10) built at an INET site, and finally to the demonstration project that is now in commercial operation at Shidaowan. Notably, Tsinghua said 93.4% of the equipment used in the final HTR-PM project was manufactured domestically.
Linglong One SMR Milestone
Meanwhile, China also is leading the nuclear industry forward with construction of the world’s first multipurpose small modular reactor (SMR) demonstration project, known as Linglong One. The unit is sited in southern China on the island of Hainan. In November, CNNC announced the top head of the steel containment vessel for the unit was hoisted into place, signaling commencement of the peak phase of internal installation. The Linglong One project began construction at the Changjiang Nuclear Power Plant on July 13, 2021. Linglong One, also known as the ACP100 design, is a multipurpose pressurized water reactor design developed by CNNC following more than 10 years of independent research and development. CNNC has called it “another significant achievement of independent innovation after Hualong One, CNNC’s third-generation nuclear power technology.” In 2016, the Linglong One design became the first SMR to pass a safety review by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Each Linglong One unit has a generating capacity of 125 MW. CNNC has said the design and construction of Linglong One are revolutionary and groundbreaking. Modular construction is its most prominent feature. On Aug. 10 this year, the core module of the Linglong One reactor was lifted and placed in the nuclear island. The pressure vessel, evaporator, and other key equipment were installed in one step. Through standardized design, single module production, and mass production, the construction period is shortened and costs reduced, while improving safety, the company said. The small size and simplified system make the SMR convenient for transportation and operation.
Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor (@POWERmagazine). POWER Senior Associate Editor Sonal Patel contributed to this article.
US Energy Secretary’s visit marks global significance of TVA’s small modular reactors
Daniel Dassow, Knoxville News Sentinel
Updated Wed, December 6, 2023 at 10:54 AM PST·
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and Tennessee Valley Authority CEO Jeff Lyash joined forces Dec. 5 at the Clinch River Nuclear Site to praise the site’s potential to answer a fundamental question of energy in the 21st century: how to make nuclear power plants smaller and more affordable.
Her visit marked the potential construction of small modular reactors at TVA’s Clinch River Nuclear Site as a project of national and global significance.
No small modular reactors have been built in the U.S., though several are under development. In 2019, the Clinch River Nuclear Site was the first small modular reactor project to get an early site permit from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, giving TVA the all-clear to move towards design and budgeting.
When will TVA small modular reactors be built?
The biggest question for the agency now is how to pay for the small modular reactors. Being the first to deploy the technology is always costlier, said Lyash, the TVA CEO. He expects the money to come in part from electricity sales and from outside investment, though a detailed budget is years away.
By 2026 or 2027, the agency will make a final decision on whether to build a small modular reactor at the Clinch River site, pending final design and budget models. TVA would then apply for a construction permit and operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
If the first unit successfully comes online in the early 2030s, TVA plans to build several others at the site to demonstrate the technology can be deployed throughout the country.
In March, TVA announced it would join partners to invest $400 million to develop GE Hitachi’s 300 megawatt small modular reactor technology, which the agency plans to license and build at the Clinch River Nuclear Site.
“We used to stand by the side of the road and watch all these jobs leave and I was governor when I saw these factories close,” Granholm told Knox News. “We allowed China to take us to the cleaners. And we’re not doing that anymore. We’re standing up and we’re saying, no, we’re going to get those jobs and those businesses in the United States.”
Palisades SMR programme is under way: Holtec
05 December 2023
Holtec International says it will commission its first two SMR-300 small modular reactor units at the Michigan site by 2030, while it expects to restart the existing shut-down pressurised water reactor unit at the site by the end of 2025.