Pallas design and construction contract awarded

25 January 2018

The Ichos consortium has been selected to design and construct the Pallas research reactor, which is to be built at Petten in the Netherlands to replace the existing High Flux Reactor (HFR). The consortium comprises Argentinean nuclear technology firm Invap, together with Croonwolter&dros and Mobilis, both part of TBI Holdings of the Netherlands.

Pallas agreement - January 2018 - 460 (Pallas)
The signing of the Pallas design and construction contract (Image: Pallas)

The contract agreement was signed yesterday in The Hague by Pallas Foundation CEO Hermen van der Lugt, Invap CEO Vicente Campenni, Croonwolter&dros director Lennart Koek and Mobilis director Robert jan Feijen. It was signed in the presence of Alberto Weretilneck, governor of the province of Río Negro; Héctor Horacio Salvador, the ambassador of Argentina; Bas van den Dungen, director general of Curative Care at the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport; representatives of the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate; and Jaap Bond, vice-governor of the province of Noord-Holland.

The project's contract value is up to €40 million ($50 million) for the current preparation phase and up to "several hundred million" euros for the consecutive phases.

The Netherlands launched a tender for the Pallas reactor in December 2007, in which three companies participated: Areva TA of France, the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and Invap. The Argentinean company's offer was selected as the best in June 2009. However, Dutch authorities decided to discontinue the project due to the global economic crisis.

The project was relaunched in 2015 and the Pallas Foundation launched a new tender, dividing the project into two phases. The first phases consists of engineering, obtaining the construction licence, perfecting the business plan and obtaining finance. The second phase involves construction of the reactor.

The same three companies participated in the new tender, with Invap partnering with TBI Holdings. The bids were presented in March 2017. Following two rounds of negotiations, a request for final offers was issued in November.

The Pallas reactor is to be of the "tank-in-pool" type, with a thermal power of around 55 MW, and able to deploy its neutron flux more efficiently and effectively than the HFR.

Pallas said, "In the next two years the design of the reactor will be further developed and optimised, resulting in a design that can be submitted for approval by the regulator."

The design, construction and commissioning of the Pallas reactor combined will take about ten years and the lifetime of the new reactor is expected to be at least 40 years.

Since it started in September 1960, the 45 MW HFR has been largely shifted from nuclear materials testing to fundamental research and the production of medical radioisotopes. The reactor - operated by the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) on behalf of the European Union's Joint Research Centre (JRC) - has for a long time supplied about 60% of Europe's and 30% of the world's supply of medical radioactive sources.

The Pallas project organisation was part of NRG until the end of 2013, and has since been part of the Foundation Preparation Pallas reactor. The foundation is responsible for the successful completion of the first phase of the project - the design, tendering and licensing procedure. It is also responsible for attracting funding for the second phase - construction and commissioning.

The financing of Pallas consists of two phases. For the publicly-funded phase, the Department of Economic Affairs and Climate, together with the province of Noord-Holland, provided a loan of €80 million. The selection of the design and construction belongs to this first phase.

The second phase - the construction and commissioning of the Pallas reactor - is planned to be financed privately. Pallas said the business case for the new reactor "has been further elaborated and a start has been made on approaching future customers". It said it is also in discussions with potential investors and "is attracting the interest of serious international private investors".

Van de Dungen said: "Almost 30,000 patients a day worldwide undergo research or treatment using medical isotopes produced in the HFR at Petten. The continual availability of these isotopes, and the guarantee that they can be supplied at any given moment, is crucial for many people, sometimes even a matter of life and death. Besides the guarantee of medical isotopes, the Netherlands can also continue to play a key role in nuclear medicine research development and Pallas is of great importance for employment for the province of Noord-Holland."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News