Vendors team up on SMR commercialisation

13 March 2017

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC Nuclear) have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on the development and licensing of a small modular reactor (SMR). Each company has so far been developing its own sodium-cooled fast reactor models.

They have agreed to enter into a "pro-competitive collaboration" to jointly develop an SMR design, with initial deployment in Canada. They will seek a preliminary regulatory review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) through its Vendor Design Review process. This, they said, will build on earlier technology licensing success in the USA.

The collaboration will also include the near-term objectives of confirming projected construction and operating costs, as well as the identification of a lead plant owner/operator for the reactor.

Both GEH and ARC have developed reactor designs based on the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II (EBR-II) integral sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype at the Argonne National Laboratory. EBR-II began operations in 1961 at Idaho Falls and had a thermal power output of 62.5 MW and an electrical output of 20 MW. The reactor was later used to generate electricity for other site facilities. EBR-II was used for testing materials and design concepts to improve reactor safety, culminating in testing of the inherently safe Integral Fast Reactor concept in 1986. The reactor was shut down in 1994.

GEH's Prism reactor has a rated thermal power of 840 MWt and an output of 311 MWe. Two Prism reactors make up a power block, producing a combined total of 622 MWe of electrical output. Using passive safety, digital instrumentation and control, and modular fabrication techniques to expedite plant construction, the design uses metallic fuel, such as an alloy of zirconium, uranium, and plutonium. It can therefore be used to close the nuclear fuel cycle, recycling used nuclear fuel to generate energy. It is designed to be refuelled every 12-24 months. GEH has previously proposed the Prism reactor as a possible option for managing the UK's plutonium stockpile.

ARC's ARC-100 modular 100 MWe model would use a 'novel' metal alloy fuel, with the uranium-fuelled reactor core submerged in a tank of liquid sodium at ambient pressure. It would have a refuelling interval of 20 years.

"GEH has broad engineering experience, deep technical capability and significant investment in its sodium fast reactor technology program that builds on a 60-year history as an original equipment manufacturer of more than 60 boiling water reactors worldwide," said the company's president and CEO Jay Wileman. "The ARC Nuclear team brings decades of sodium fast reactor experience to this collaboration and, by working together, we can accelerate commercialisation of this technology."

ARC Nuclear chairman and CEO Don Wolf said, "ARC Nuclear has a heritage of sodium fast reactor experience that includes key senior scientists and engineers from the EBR-II prototype program - technical leaders involved in developing and demonstrating the fast reactor foundational technology with the US Department of Energy." He added, "We are confident that this collaboration with GEH will more rapidly bring affordable carbon free, utility-scale nuclear power to the evolving energy market landscape."

Last October, GEH and Southern Nuclear signed an MoU to collaborate on the development and licensing of fast reactors including GEH's Prism. The companies also agreed to work together in future US Department of Energy advanced reactor licensing programs.

Earlier this month, the U-Battery consortium - led by Urenco - registered its micro-modular reactor technology for pre-licensing Vendor Design Review with the CNSC. The U-Battery is a 'micro' nuclear reactor which will be able to produce local power and heat for a range of energy needs, mainly targeting the markets for industrial power units and off-grid locations. Powered by Triso fuel, each helium gas-cooled unit produces 10 MWt, can deliver up to 4 MWe as electricity and can provide 750°C of process heat.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News