Monthly Archives: November 2012

New Members to the NGNP Alliance!

South Carolina & Georgia Development Groups Join Next Generation Nuclear Plant Industry Alliance

Ridgeland Mississippi – Today the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization (SRSCRO) and the Advanced Research Center (ARC) announced their membership in the Next Generation Nuclear Plant Industry Alliance. Leaders from both organizations expressed their enthusiasm for moving forward High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) technology and for the potential of hosting these next generation reactors in the surrounding area or, if property becomes available at the Savannah River Site.

Fred Moore, the Executive Director Emeritus of the NGNP Industry Alliance said “We are very excited about the SRSCRO and ARC joining our other companies in this great cause. The surrounding area is, in fact, a great future location of HTGRs or even the possible location for the first of a kind construction.”

Rick McLeod, Executive Director of the SRSCRO said “These high temperature reactors present a very real and very exciting possibility for our region of the country. We have several local industrial heat users in South Carolina and Georgia that would greatly benefit from the price stability and environmental benefits of heat produced by this type of small modular reactor. Our community is a pro-nuclear community and we have an existing skilled nuclear work force associated with the Savannah River Site and surrounding nuclear industry. We also have established training programs to train future workers for jobs in the nuclear industry. Plus, there are a number of well-characterized and appropriate sites for these next generation modular reactors.”

Fred Humes, Director of the Advanced Research Center added “The market for HTGRs is substantial. The NGNP Industry Alliance and the Idaho National Laboratory have conservatively estimated that in North America alone, there is a market for over 700 of these advanced high temperature SMRs. The Aiken area can be in on the ground floor in terms of fuel manufacturing, components, materials, etc. The need to build out this capability definitely plays to our strengths. In addition, there are several potential uses of the technology that are particularly intriguing to me, including high temperature steam for our industries along with an added advantage of a supply of electrical power. There’s also the very exciting potential for using HTGR heat and electric power for the production of large quantities of hydrogen without fossil fuel use – this could be revolutionary for petrochemical and carbon conversion industries around the world.”

On the subject of timing, Moore stated that “The impression some people may have that HTGRs are decades away is simply false. There is a good historic legacy, including in the U.S., for this technology. Two test reactors are currently operational globally and a commercial sized unit is being built in China. Although a technology development effort is needed in parallel with a modern, U.S.-based licensing process, the technology development risk is very low. With a focused, aggressive effort, the first-of-a-kind modern HTGR module could be up and operating in the U.S. by about 2026 as part of a multi-module deployment.”

Moore added that the Alliance has completed its business plan and is currently speaking with potential investors.

BACKGROUND

The Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization is a non-profit regional group focused on supporting job creation in a five-county region of Georgia and South Carolina, including Aiken, Allendale and Barnwell counties in South Carolina and Richmond (Augusta) and Columbia counties in Georgia. The group’s mission is to facilitate economic development opportunities associated with Savannah River Site technology, capabilities and missions and to serve as an informed, unified community voice for the two-state region.
For more information, go to: www.srscro.org

The Advanced Research Center is a division of the Economic Development Partnership. The Economic Development Partnership represents Aiken and Edgefield Counties in all aspects of economic development from recruitment of manufacturing companies to the advancement of technology from SRS and SRNL. The ARC mission is to bring technology into the private sector through initiatives such as the Center for Hydrogen Research, the Savannah River Research Campus, innovation centers and active support of the advancement of SRNL technologies.
For more information, go to: www.discoverARC.com

The mission of the NGNP Industry Alliance is to commercialize High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) technology and expand the use of clean nuclear energy within industrial applications. The Alliance is comprised of potential end users, owner operators and technology companies including: AREVA, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, Entergy, GrafTech International Ltd., Mersen, Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada, SGL Group, Technology Insights, Toyo Tanso Co. Ltd., Ultra Safe Nuclear and Westinghouse. HTGRs are distinct from conventional light water reactors in that their high outlet temperatures enable a large increase in electric power production efficiency and also enable them to substitute for fossil fuel use in many energy-intensive industrial processes. Further, their inherently safety features enable their placement near those facilities.

Nuclear Technology That Even the Nuclear Skeptics Should Like – Or At Least Seriously Consider

In the Wall Street Journal’s October 8th article entitled “Should the World Increase Its Reliance on Nuclear Energy?”, climate science author and nuclear energy proponent Mark Lynas and former NRC Commissioner and long-standing critic of nuclear energy, Peter Bradford, provide a point – counter-point exchange that touches on many of the pro and anti-nuclear arguments made over the years revolving around the need to reduce carbon emissions, safety and the high up-front cost of nuclear facilities.  The exchange missed an opportunity to discuss uses of nuclear power extend well beyond electric power production, and what technologies already exist to make it safer and better.

Mr. Lynas is correct that more nuclear power should be used to reduce carbon emissions in the electric power sector.  However, electric power is only about 38% of U.S. energy usage.  Of the three main energy consuming sectors in our economy, electric power production is the least carbon intensive – just about 70% dependent on fossil fuels.  But transportation at 40% and industry at about 20% of our energy usage both exceed 90% dependence on fossil fuels.  Producing a higher percentage of electric power with nuclear energy will reduce carbon emissions; we must address the remaining 62% of energy usage to achieve total greenhouse gas reduction.

Mr. Bradford is also correct when he points out that there have been a handful of very serious accidents at nuclear facilities in the last 60 years.  Nonetheless, today’s water based reactors – 100% of the US fleet and well over 90% of the world’s fleet of reactors – are extremely safe (and safer still post Fukushima).  However, their safety is not inherent to the reactor’s core design – safety has been engineered as robust layers of active and passive additional systems.

As for cost, nuclear facilities do indeed have a high up front cost.  A large 1500 Megawatt light water reactor costs on the order of $7 Billion and takes several years to license and build.  While the up-front cost of nuclear is high, its operating costs are  low.  This is mostly because only small amounts of nuclear fuel are consumed to produce large amounts of energy.  So once the upfront capital investment is made, the cost of energy is low and stable.

But there’s another way -

A group of far-sighted companies, including AREVA, ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical, Entergy, Graftech International Ltd., Mersen, Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada, SGL Group, Technology Insights, Toyo Tanso Co. Ltd., and Westinghouse are pursuing the development of a true next-generation nuclear technology referred to as the High Temperature Gas Cooled Reactor (HTGR) for the past few years.  Without too much technical detail, HTGRs are helium-cooled, graphite-moderated reactors with robust ceramic-coated fuel that operate at temperatures at or above 750 Degrees Celsius (1400 Fahrenheit) where conventional light water reactors operate at temperatures less than half that.  In short:

  1. The design is intrinsically safe.  It requires neither active or passive systems nor operator interventions to remain safe, thereby allowing co-location near major industrial facilities.
  2. High temperature output that allow direct substitution for fossil fuel use in industrial process heat applications.
  3. Much higher efficiency leading to lower energy cost, making it competitive with natural gas in many places of the world today without any price for carbon.

Because HTGRs have been built and safely operated in the past and because there are current operational demonstrations in Japan and China, we can say with certainty that the HTGR is the only technology on the relatively near-term horizon capable of displacing the use of fossil fuel for electricity AND high temperature process heat while emitting zero carbon.  They are not a long term science project.

The market for HTGRs?  Capturing merely 25% of the key markets would require over 700 reactor modules in North America alone.  Potential uses include:

  • Petrochemical, refinery, fertilizer/ammonia plants and others (125 HTGRs);
  • Oil Sands/Oil Shale (30 HTGRs);
  • Hydrogen merchant market (60 HTGRs);
  • Synthetic fuels and feedstocks (415 HTGRs); and
  • Electric power (180 HTGRs).

Because much of the heavy industrial usage is concentrated, hundreds of separate reactor sites are not required; a few dozen will be enough.

Mr. Bradford argues that relying on nuclear energy for electric power is like relying on caviar to fight world hunger.  Heavy industry and other energy intensive energy users need an “energy caviar.” Energy that is high temperature, concentrated, highly reliable and price stable.  Today natural gas, coal, and oil have been the source of that caviar.  Wind and solar energy cannot supply such energy – they are diffuse, intermittent, unpredictable, and simply can’t effectively provide the high temperature process heat that is key to many industrial processes, including the production of synthetic liquid transportation fuels out of coal.

At what price? Detailed studies by industry and the Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory show that energy from HTGRs will be equivalent to $6 – $8 per thousand cubic feet – equal or less than the price of natural gas in parts of the US and in much of the rest of the world.  And, unlike the future price of natural gas, the price of energy from HTGRs will be stable and predictable.

Our companies have begun seeking the investors (private or governmental) necessary to bring HTGR technology to the North American market.  We are convinced that for many industrial power users, there is no other way to substantially reduce carbon emissions and to lock in energy price stability for the long term.  Although the 10-year time frame to license and complete construction of a first of a kind modern HTGR in the U.S. is beyond typical investment horizons, we believe that the size of the payoff added to the social purpose of reducing carbon emissions should attract healthy worldwide attention.