Tuesday, June 14, 2016

2 new nuclear studies: on remote SMRs, and options for fuel recycling

Yesterday Ontario switched it's Energy Minister, along with the rest of the cabinet. The new Energy Minister, Glenn Thibeault, comes from being the Parliamentary Assistant to Glen Murray - and therefore from the culture my previous post covered.

Minister Thibeault arrives without any apparent background in science, engineering or technology, but he has some hefty reports he could deal with - maybe even read - as indicated in this Canadian Nuclear Association press release:
The Canadian Nuclear Association is pleased with the release of two new independent studies commissioned by the Ontario government on the benefits of advanced nuclear technologies.
The first study, "Feasibility of the Potential Deployment of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) inOntario", assesses SMR siting requirements, technological maturity, and economics. The second study, "A Feasibility Study on the Recycling of Used CANDU Fuel", explores the prospects to reuse and recycle used CANDU fuel - determining their feasibility, and potential implications for policies.
"The government of Ontario's initiation of these studies is a further sign that it sees the potential of nuclear to help meet environmental and economic goals," said CNA President John Barrett.
...Natural Resources Canada co-funded the two independent studies, initiated by the Ontario Ministry of Energy (MOE).
Here are links:

From the Conclusion section of the Hatch study:
In order to assist the Ontario Ministry of Energy in properly assessing the benefits and risks associated with deployment of SMRs to replace the incumbent diesel power generation technology and remote mines in Ontario, a multi-dimensional deployment feasibility study of SMRs is conducted by Hatch. More specifically, the technology compatibility with the site requirements, lifetime economic performances, technology maturity, and vendor readiness levels are examined.
After initially examining ninety SMR technologies currently in development, initial screening filters are applied to shortlist nine technologies for detailed assessment in remote mine deployment scenarios.
Most SMRs are in medium levels of technology readiness based on the technology maturity evaluation results.
The vendor readiness evaluation shows that there are two different groups in the micro-SMR development industry; a group of established nuclear technology companies with technical and financial resources but with a fragmented interest in the micro-SMR market, and a group of venture companies that lack resources but have a focused interest in the market. Both groups scored poorly in terms of regulatory approval, client engagement, and stakeholder engagement, indicating that the SMR industry in Canada is still in a very early development stage.

Finally, the economic competitiveness analysis shows that all SMRs are competitive against diesel power generation technology. In remote mine scenarios at a 6% discount rate, potential savings of up to $152/MWh are estimated. While the SMR economic competitiveness is only indicative because of many uncertainties in SMR input costs, the gap between diesel and SMR LCOE in combination with conservative cost values used in this study indicates that there is a healthy margin of error in the economic competitiveness result.
 From the CNL report's Executive Summary:
...the [Ministry of Energy] defined the scope of the study to include a timeframe needed to recycle all CANDU UNF [used nuclear fuel] bundles, taking into account the following:
  • Electrical power generated by recycling these nuclear used fuel bundles;
  • Overnight Capital Cost and life cycle cost for the whole recycle system;
  •  Volume of high level waste removed by the recycle system, and volume of low and intermediate level waste produced and stored in a deep geologic repository (DGR);
  •  Other parameters in the Request for Bids (RFB) – e.g., environmental impact; degree of proliferation resistance etc.; and
  •  Other social economic benefits – jobs, supply chain, innovation for advanced technologies to retain critical skills in Canada, potential exportable technologies for Canada and Ontario.
 As a result, the feasibility study is a 150 year study period from 2015 to 2165, based on a Canadian inventory of 103,000 metric tonnes of CANDU UNF, and three reprocessing and recycling scenarios for consideration. On the proposed recycling system options, MoE and NRCan [Natural Resources Canada] requested that the study adopt CNL’s bid proposal to analyze both reprocessing and recycling of Canada’s UNF inventory through CANDU reactors and sodium-cooled fast reactors (SFRs) summarized in Table 1-1.

Skipping directly to the conclusions...
The lower bound on the disposal costs for every option for recycling CANDU UNF is greater than the reference case of placing all CANDU UNF in the DGR [Deep Geological Repository]. While all of the SFR [Sodium-cooled Fast Reactor] options may reduce the cost of the HLW [High Level Waste] DGR relative to reference system, this reduction in cost is less than the increase in costs due to the disposal of ILW [Intermediate Level Waste] and RU [Reprocessed Uranium].
The findings of this report demonstrate that there are sizable challenges to recycling Canada’s CANDU used fuel. At current uranium prices, the costs and risks associated with recycling CANDU UNF make recycling unattractive due to its low fissile content. However, reprocessing and reactor technologies are still under development. Therefore, as technologies mature and uranium becomes more expensive, Canada’s used fuel inventory could become a valuable source of carbon-free electricity.
Could not.


I was curious about the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) position on fuels as I was compiling this article.

I posted the link to this article on my Facebook page where it received this comment:
Similar conclusions in NWMO's recent analysis -- Candu SNF recycling too pricey relative to its value, and that of alternatives such as DU from enrichment plants, fresh NU, or even recycled LWR SNF.
https://www.nwmo.ca/.../2763_watching_brief_on...(2015 Update)
Watching Brief on Advanced Fuel Cycles 

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