IAEA’s 28th fusion energy meet deliberates on the way forward

India's first indigenously built 700 MW reactor connected to grid
India's own 700 MW reactor goes critical at Kakrapar. Photo: Wikipedia

Nuclear fusion can become a promising option to replace fossil fuels as the world’s primary energy source and could have an important role to play in addressing climate change was the overwhelming consensus among participants at the recently concluded International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference on fusion energy research.

However, given that the potential of nuclear fusion to generate electricity at a commercial scale is still some distance away, participants at this virtually organised IAEA event on the status of fusion energy research deliberated on the complexity and challenges of controlling thermonuclear fusion for energy production.

At a conference session, Indian nuclear scientist Meera Venkatesh, who is currently Director of the IAEA’s Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences, noted the challenges in making commercially viable fusion power a reality. She pointed out that finding the right materials to construct the fusion reactor, and developing the mechanism that will be used to extract the massive energy and heat emitted, are among the major tasks ahead. “The realization of fusion power reactors would be a landmark achievement, taking nuclear science and technology to a higher level”, she said.

The most ambitious experiment in this area kicked off last year with the machine assembly of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), or the world’s largest nuclear fusion project, starting in Cadarache, France, on July 28. The ITER machine is being assembled to replicate the fusion power of the sun, to enable generation of clean unlimited energy, and the first ultra-hot plasma is expected to be generated in late 2025. The world’s largest science project is intended to demonstrate that fusion power can be generated on a commercial scale.

ITER’s realising of a self-heating plasma is expected to generate 10 times more heat than is put in. Fusion provides clean, reliable energy without carbon emissions, with minute amounts of fuel and no physical possibility of an accident with meltdown. The fuel for fusion is found in seawater and lithium, while it is abundant enough to supply the world for millions of years. A football-sized amount of this fuel is equivalent to around 10,000 tons of coal.

Millions of components from all over the world will be used to assemble the giant reactor, which will weigh 23,000 tonnes. It is a concrete demonstration of the willingness of ITER’s 35 partner countries to join together in an enduring way in their common fight against climate change and for access to limitless clean energy.

ITER Director General, Bernard Bigot highlighted the extensive progress in manufacturing and construction, which is now more than 50 percent completed, with the first experiments scheduled by 2025. ITER is expected to produce 500 MW of fusion power by the late 2030s.

“When we prove that fusion is a viable energy source, it will eventually replace burning fossil fuels, which are non-renewable and non-sustainable. Our mission is to provide a new option which is safe, sustainable and economically competitive. Fusion will be complementary with wind, solar and other renewable energies”, Bigot said.

Another notable fusion experiment in progress at the Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics in Germany is the world’s largest stellarator — Wendelstein 7-X (W7-X) — a magnetic confinement fusion device that relies primarily on external magnets to confine a plasma, and is designed to serve as an alternative to the “tokamak” (derived from the Russian words for “toroidal magnetic confinement”) reactor like ITER. The stellarator is an inherently stable reactor able to operate the plasma in a steady state for greater lengths of time than the tokamak. Although the W7-X will not produce energy, its potential to operate in a continuous mode will be essential for the commercial operation of a fusion reactor.

Besides the major experiments such as ITER and W7-X, the IAEA conference also discussed the progress made by dozens of start-ups worldwide backed by venture capital funding, which are working on a variety of devices, fuels, and approaches using new technologies in the area of nuclear fusion. “These companies are trying to develop alternative options to ITER. Their investors want to make fusion a reality, and this demonstrates trust in fusion as a promising energy supply for the world in the middle and long term”, Bigot said.

Earlier, at the opening of IAEA’s 28th International Fusion Energy Conference, the agency’s Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi told a virtual audience that global collaboration is vital in developing and deploying fusion technology and that the IAEA would continue to work together with countries, industry and private partners in advancing fusion energy progress.

“After decades of intensive research, scientists and engineers have contributed and witnessed significant steps towards making fusion energy a reality”, Grossi said, describing how since its first edition in 1961, the IAEA’s Fusion Energy Conference had become the foremost global platform for discussing advances in fusion energy research. The previous edition – the 27th _ was held in India at Ahmedabad during 2018 and was hosted by India’s Department of Atomic Energy.

In his address, the IAEA Director General invited countries sponsoring fusion programmes, the fusion industry and private partners to support and jointly participate in an IAEA coordinated feasibility study. The study will encompass the full scope of fusion pilot plant criteria and produce a set of technology-neutral requirements for the safe, secure and commercially viable deployment of future fusion reactors.

A highlight of this year’s conference was the release of IAEA’s upgraded Fusion Device Information System, which, according to the agency, “is an invaluable tool for fusion researchers, compiling information from experimental fusion facilities around the world.”

Russia starts construction of BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor

Russia starts construction of BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor

Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom subsidiary, the TVEL Fuel Company, has started construction of a 300 MW nuclear power unit equipped with the BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor being constructed at the Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk, Russia, TVEL has announced.

“The reactor will run on mixed uranium-plutonium nitride fuel (MNUP fuel), specially developed for this facility (it is considered to be the optimal solution for fast reactors)”, a statement said earlier this week. In March this year, TVEL said it had developed a fuel rod design based on nitride uranium-plutonium (MNUP) fuel that will power the BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor.

In February 2021, TVEL signed the contracts for the manufacture and supply of the main equipment of the power unit with the BREST-OD-300 reactor. Rosatom’s fuel arm said that, “for the first time in history, a nuclear power plant (NPP) powered by a fast reactor will be built alongside closed nuclear fuel cycle servicing enterprises on one site” at the Siberian Chemical Combine.

Both the fuel fabrication and the reactor units form part of the Pilot Demonstration Energy Complex being built at the Siberian Chemical Plant by TVEL. The installation of equipment at this fuel fabrication-cum-refabrication unit called the Pilot Demonstration Energy Complex (PDEC), which is a major landmark in the development of nuclear technology, started in June last year.

The PDEC is underway as part of the strategic “Proryv” (‘Breakthrough’ in Russian) project. It will include three linked facilities, making up a closed nuclear fuel cycle at one site — the fuel fabrication/re-fabrication unit (FRU), the 300 MW nuclear power plant with the fast neutron BREST-OD-300 reactor, and the unit for spent fuel reprocessing.

According to Rosatom, the “Breakthrough” project targets creation of a new technology platform for the industry with the closed nuclear fuel cycle, as well as tackling the issues of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. One of the project components is the construction of a lead-cooled BREST-OD-300 fast neutron reactor facility with an on-site closed nuclear fuel cycle.

Rosatom says its “Nuclear Fuel Division continues development of the second-generation fuel rods for the BREST-OD-300 with a higher burnout level, which will be used when the MNUP fabrication will shift to the re-fabrication stage (meaning that irradiated fuel of the first load after irradiation and reprocessing will be used for fresh fuel fabrication)”.

According to TVEL, “after reprocessing, the irradiated fuel from the reactor will be sent for refabrication (i.e. reproduction into fresh fuel), thereby giving this system the means to gradually become practically autonomous and independent of external resources supplies”.

“The nuclear power industry’s resource base will practically become inexhaustible thanks to the infinite reprocessing of nuclear fuel. At the same time, future generations will be spared the problem of accumulating spent nuclear fuel,” Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachov said in a statement.

TVEL President Natalia Nikipelova said the Breakthrough project concerns not only the development of innovative reactors, but also the introduction of a new generation of nuclear fuel cycle technologies. Production of dense nitride MNUP fuel will ensure the efficient operation of a lead-cooled fast reactor and consist entirely of recycled nuclear materials such as plutonium and depleted uranium. “Taken together, they will make the nuclear power of the future in fact renewable with a practically waste-free production chain,” she added.

TVEL says “most of the technical solutions for the BREST-OD-300 reactor installation itself and its main equipment are innovative and have never been applied at any nuclear facility so far. The equipment of the reactor must ensure operations during the entire service life at high temperatures, high fluxes of ionizing radiation, in the flows of heavy liquid-metal coolant. The structural materials must have high corrosion and radiation resistance, as well as high temperature resistance to ensure reliability”.

Rosatom has said that unlike NPPs with light-water VVER reactors, where refueling is performed at the ‘cooled’ reactor, the BREST-OD-300 project provides that these operations will be carried out at the temperature of the liquid-lead coolant of the primary circuit over 400° C. Before loading into the core, the fuel assemblies will be heated up in a special chamber and then placed into the core filled with a melt of lead coolant.

As per the planned timeline, the BREST-OD-300 reactor should start operating in 2026. A fuel production facility will be built by 2023 and the construction of an irradiated fuel reprocessing module is scheduled to start by 2024.

The “Breakthrough” project is aimed at development of the new technological platform of the nuclear power industry capable of solving the current issues of handling and storage of spent nuclear fuel and waste. The advantage of fast reactors is their ability to efficiently use the fuel cycle’s secondary byproducts, (plutonium, in particular) for energy production, TVEL said. The BREST-OD-300 reactor will provide itself with its main energy component – plutonium-239 – reproducing it from the isotope uranium-238, which has a relative abundance of more than 99 percent, it added.

Rosatom announced last year that the 789 MW BN-800 fast neutron reactor powering the fourth unit of the Beloyarsk NPP in Russia will be completely switched to uranium-plutonium MOX fuel in 2022. This BN-800 reactor of 789 MW capacity is currently fuelled by a “hybrid core” consisting of a mix of uranium and plutonium oxides arranged to produce new fuel material as it burns. The BN-800 fast neutron reactor is designed to use the MOX fuel as one of the stages on to the development of a closed nuclear fuel cycle. The capacity of the Beloyarsk Unit 4 exceeds that of the world’s second most powerful fast reactor – the 560 MW BN-600 Beloyarsk Unit 3.

Construction starts of the biggest China-Russia nuclear power project

Construction starts of the biggest China-Russia nuclear power project

The ground-breaking ceremony for the largest China-Russia nuclear energy cooperation project to date was held last month. The ceremony, in respect of the Tianwan and Xudapu nuclear power plants (NPPs) in China, was attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin via videoconference, according to news agencies. 

China’s state-run CGTN-TV said the project, signed in June 2018, has a total contract value of over 20 billion yuan ($3 billion), making it the biggest nuclear energy project between the two countries so far. 

The May 19 ceremony marked the start of construction for power units 7 and 8 of the Tianwan NPP located in the city of Lianyungang in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, and units 3 and 4 of the Xudapu NPP located in Xingcheng in the Liaoning province. According to Xinhua news agency, when completed and put in operation, the annual power generation by these NPP units will reach 37.6 billion kilowatt-hours, which is equivalent to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 30.68 million tonnes per year. 

All four units will be equipped with the state-of-the-art Generation III+ VVER-1200 reactors developed by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom. The proposed units 7 and 8 at Tianwan are more advanced as compared to the four commercially operating VVER-1000 reactors previously supplied by Russia for units 1 to 4 at the Tianwan site. In March 2019, a general contract for Tianwan Phase IV – units 7 and 8 – was signed between Rosatom subsidiary AtomStroyExport and the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). 

This groundbreaking ceremony took the number of China’s nuclear power reactors approved, or under construction, to become the world’s largest, increasing to 23 from 19. There are currently 49 nuclear power reactors in operation in China. 

Speaking on the occasion, President Xi said nuclear energy is the strategic priority for China-Russia bilateral cooperation and a series of major projects have been completed and put into operation, Xinhua reported. Noting that the four nuclear units that have started construction mark another major landmark in bilateral nuclear energy cooperation, Xi said it is necessary to construct and operate the four units with high quality and standards, create a global benchmark in nuclear safety, give full play to complementary advantages, expand bilateral and multilateral cooperation in nuclear energy, and contribute more to the development of the global nuclear energy industry. 

In his address, President Putin said that this year, which marks the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Good-neighbourliness and Friendly Cooperation between the two countries, bilateral relations had reached their best level in history. 

According to Russian news agency Tass, Putin said at the ceremony that all agreements between Russia and China reached the top level are being implemented, while many other large initiatives had already been implemented. The Russian President also said he considers cooperation in peaceful nuclear development an important element of the whole complex of the China-Russia strategic partnership. 

Earlier, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told the media in Beijing that this project “represents the highest level of practical cooperation between the two sides”. The successful beginning of the construction of the four units demonstrates the major cooperation outcomes in high-end equipment manufacturing as well as science and technology innovation and will boost the upgrading of practical cooperation between the two countries, he added. 

Radioisotope-based conservation project launched to check rhino poaching

In yet another demonstration of the benefits of nuclear technology, an international project was launched in South Africa earlier this month that aims to drastically reduce the scourge of rhinoceros poaching by introducing radioisotopes into the horn of rhinos. The purpose of the Rhisotope project, formally launched on May 13, is to create an effective means to significantly reduce the number of rhinos being poached and killed for their horns.

According to a statement by the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, the Rhisotope project will investigate introducing harmless quantities of radioactive isotopes into the horn of a rhino with the aim of decreasing the demand for rhino horn on the international market, as well as making it more detectable when crossing international borders. It is an initiative involving South Africa’s Witwatersrand University, Rosatom, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto), the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) and Colorado State University in the US, together with global scientists, researchers, rhino owners and the renowned veterinary surgeon and rhino expert William Fowlds.

The project website says that it aims to provide science-based solutions in the toolkit for rhino protection, and that innovation and the ability to evolve is key to this conservation effort in the rapidly changing landscape. “Traditional anti-poaching methods are still not enough and even though trade in rhino horn is illegal and banned internationally, there are many countries that drive the illicit sale of horn, countries like Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Croatia and North Korea to name a few”, it said.

Rosatom is a key supporter and partner in the project that was launched at South Africa’s magnificent Buffalo Kloof Private Game Reserve, which is an important collaborator in the project. Under the project’s first phase, a trace amount of completely harmless, stable isotopes will be carefully introduced into the horns of two rhinos. Thereafter, for the next three months, scientists will monitor the rhinos and analyse various samples to understand how the isotope interacts within the horn and the animal, Rosatom said.

“The key aspect of this research will be to confirm that by introducing radioactive isotopes into the horns of these rare and beautiful animals it will cause them no harm. Computer and phantom modelling will also be used to confirm this, as well as identify the appropriate radioactive isotope and quantity to be used,” the Rosatom statement said.

“With over 10,000 radiation detection devices installed at various ports of entry across the globe, experts are confident that this project will make the transportation of horn incredibly difficult and will substantially increase the likelihood of identifying and arresting smugglers,” it added.

Igor and Denver are the rhino pioneers and the main heroes of this project. Igor is named after Igor Kurchatov, a pioneering Soviet nuclear physicist who contributed greatly to the development of civil nuclear technology, while Denver is named after the US state capital of Colorado, in honour of the efforts provided in the project by Colorado State University.

According to the South African Department for Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, 394 rhinos were poached for their horn in South Africa during 2020. With illicit sales valued at around $50,000 per kilogram, rhino horn is one of the most valuable substances on earth, while its trade is linked with major black market crimes, including weapons, drugs and human trafficking, according to the Rhisotope Project. South Africa is home to 90 percent of the world’s rhino population, and from 2010 to 2019, over 9,600 rhinos were killed in poaching attacks. It is estimated that at the current rate of loss, the wild rhino will become extinct in less than 8-10 years.

“One of the very few countries in the world, where you can come and see the big five. We’ve got to work hard to maintain that for the two reasons in the industry: for the people’s employment, for the benefit of everyone who lives and works around the game farm. You have to realize that you can shoot a rhino once, but if you shoot it with a camera, you can do it a hundred times, a thousand times and people will keep coming back to see these beautiful animals, that’s jobs for a lot of people, that’s growth of the economy”, said Professor James Larkin, Director at the Radiation and Health Physics Unit at project partner University of Witwatersrand.

Rosatom said that the Rhisotope Project is multifaceted and relies on the key principles of demand reduction and horn devaluation, community upliftment and investment, as well as education, rhino research and data collection.

“We are incredibly proud to play a fundamental role in this amazing initiative, which has the potential to save this incredible species from certain extinction. We are also humbled by the fact that science is able to transcend boundaries, borders and politics as shown by this global initiative in a race against the plight of the African rhino. We believe that science, and particularly nuclear science, will play a fundamental role in not only protecting the rhino, but our planet in general”, said Rosatom Central and Southern Africa CEO Ryan Collyer.

Once the research work has been completed and a proof of concept has been demonstrated, this technique will then be offered to both state and private rhino owners on the African continent and globally. The intellectual property as well as training and assistance will be made freely available to conservation organisations who may wish to utilise this process to further protect their animals from poaching, the statement added.

Unit 1 reactor pressure vessel installed at Turkey’s first nuclear power plant

The reactor pressure vessel (RPV) at unit 1 of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) at Akkuyu has been installed, according to the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom, which is collaborating in the construction of the NPP.

Rosatom, which is building four state-of-the-art VVER-1200 reactors at Akkuyu, said that before the installation of the RPV, the core catcher safety feature was mounted at unit 1, concreting of the support and thrust trusses was carried out, as well as the dry shielding and thermal insulation of the reactor vessel cylindrical part were installed.

According to Rosatom, the reactor vessel, weighing 330 tons, 4.5 meter in diameter and 12 meter in height, was installed within the reactor building of unit 1 using a Liebherr LR 13000 self-propelled crawler crane with a lifting capacity of up to 3,000 tons.

Rosatom said the installation of the RPV was carried out under the “Open Top” construction method, through the uncovered top of the cylindrical part of the reactor building, which enables construction and installation operations to be carried out simultaneously, allowing the start of equipment installation and pipeline assembly before the completion of concreting of the floors.

The company also said the Open Top technology has successfully proven itself in NPP construction projects in China, Japan, Bulgaria and Russia. The Open Top technology will be used for installation of steam generators, pressure compensators, main circulation pumps and other main technological equipment in the reactor buildings of the Akkuyu plant, it added.

“The installation of the reactor pressure vessel of Unit 1 is one of the main events within this year. On April 21, we mounted a support ring on which the reactor vessel is installed. It is a structural element of the reactor plant, designed to secure the vessel, keep it from horizontal and vertical displacements when exposed to loads. And now the reactor vessel has been installed in the design position,” the Akkuyu plant Director Sergei Butckikh said.

According to Rosatom, following the installation of the unit 1 RPV, construction workers will now proceed with concreting the reactor shaft, installing bearings for the main circulation pipeline components and steam generators. After the installation of the steam generators and casings of the reactor coolant pump set, it will be possible to start welding the main circulation pipeline.

In March 2021, Rosatom announced the start of construction on the third unit of the Akkuyu NPP. A Rosatom statement said that a ceremony to mark the launch of construction of Unit 3 was held at the site. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined the ceremony via videoconference, while Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez, Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev and Akkuyu Nuclear JSC CEO Anastasia Zoteeva were present at the site.

The statement said that with the start of construction of Unit 3, building and installation works are now being carried out simultaneously at the construction sites of all four Akkuyu NPP power units. “The concreting of the foundation slab of Akkuyu NPP Unit 1 was completed in March 2019. Up to this date, the core catcher, dry protection, the cantilever truss, and support and thrust trusses have been installed in the unit’s reactor building. The work continues on concreting the walls of the internal structures of the containment, construction of structural contour walls and internal walls, pre-assembly and preparation for installation of the third tier of the inner containment shell”, Rosatom said.

“The concreting of the foundation slab of Akkuyu NPP Unit 2 began on April 8, 2020, and was completed in early June 2020. Construction of the circular reactor building walls followed at the unit. Concrete pouring of the annular floor was carried out, the core catcher was installed in the design position, and the first tier of the internal containment shell was erected. Installation of the support truss in the design position is the next milestone planned for this year within the framework of the power unit construction”, it added.

According to Rosatom, the construction license application for the Akkuyu NPP Unit 4 was submitted to the Turkish nuclear regulator NDK on May 12, 2020.

According to Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Dönmez, “construction and commissioning of the plant will provide 10 percent of Turkey’s electricity needs. It is also an important contribution to the preservation of our ecology: nuclear power plants are a source of environmentally friendly and uninterrupted electricity. The project is a driver for the development of industry, economy, employment, and also contributes to the development of many related industries”.

Turkey plans to bring the 1,200 MW unit 1 online in 2023. With three more similar units, the Akkuyu NPP will have a total capacity of 4,800 MW.

Rosatom launches nuclear awareness initiative “Atoms for Humanity”

Narora joins select club of Indian nuclear power plants

Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom has launched a new nuclear awareness initiative called “Atoms for Humanity” about how this clean energy technology transforms peoples’ lives. The initiative was launched with an online event last week titled “Why Humanity Needs Nuclear” that was watched by over 3,200 people from 40 countries.

Moderating the launch event, Kirsty Gogan, the Managing Director of Lucid Catalyst and co-founder of the NGO TerraPraxis, which works on issues of climate change and prosperity, said the Atoms for Humanity project is aimed at demonstrating through human-centered stories the importance of nuclear technologies in achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) .

“The energy sector is undergoing a profound transition driven by the need to expand access to clean energy and boost socio-economic development, especially in emerging economies, limiting, at the same time, the impact of climate change, pollution and other unfolding environmental crises”, Gogan said.

“This transition requires a shift from polluting energy sources to sustainable, clean alternatives. The UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals are indispensable to navigating this shift from polluting energy sources. Nuclear saves lives by preventing air pollution, transforms lives by lifting people out of energy poverty and provides lifelong opportunities for young engineers and scientists”, she added.

The website dedicated to the initiative said that in order to power a better future, the world needs a clean and reliable source of energy, like nuclear. “However, modern nuclear technology is much more than green electricity. It is a versatile tool needed to solve the most urgent challenges of today and tomorrow. An end to poverty and hunger, rise of vibrant economies, and sustainable environment – this is better living through nuclear. Unfortunately, many people around the world see nuclear as yet another source of electricity. They never realize that it is indispensable to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which is the global blueprint for building a sustainable future”, Rosatom said.

The project launch event brought together Rosatom’s Chief Sustainability Officer Polina Lion, World Nuclear Association (WNA) Director General Sama Bilbao y León, the World Energy Council member Maher Aziz, Bright New World founder Ben Heard, as well as the Head of Central Engineering and Plant Directorate at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Sergio Orlandi. The heroes of the Atoms for Humanity project joined the event to share their stories and experiences of participating in the campaign.

“Achieving sustainable development goals is impossible without a sustainable energy source. Nuclear is the only energy source, which is both reliable and low-carbon. It works 24/7, it produces no direct CO2 emissions and leaves almost zero waste behind,” said Polina Lion.

The WNA’s Bilbao y León noted that nuclear energy contributes to having reliable, resilient and uninterrupted energy supply. “We are in the middle of this terrible COVID-19 pandemic and we are seeing everyday how essential having access to 24/7 electricity is to cope with this crisis. And of course, the fact that nuclear energy is very low-emission technology is going to ensure that we have clean air, clean water and plenty of open space to have health communities”, she said.

Noting that nuclear energy projects are an enormous catalyst for socio-economic development with their “trickle down benefits for society” through job creation and generating prosperity, León also pointed to the very important role played by nuclear technology in the health of communities globally and in public health. She listed the various applications of nuclear technology in dignostics such as x-rays, in radio pharmaceuticals, drug discovery, as well as in treatment of serious ailments like cancers.

Heard described nuclear energy as a “holistic package” of benefits that includes not just energy, but health and the environment as well. “Wind and solar energy do not give us this freedom. If we can take up the energy challenge with something that we can scale up (like nuclear), then we can make a difference in terms of sustainability and the environment”, Heard said. “For instance, with clean energy we can extract more resources from the mines. We can produce more in agriculture from less land, and so return the land, restore it to nature”, he added.

Orlandi explained why the success of international cooperation at ITER was important for the future of humanity. “ITER is something very delicate and very challenging but I really believe that the magnitude of the project motivates us and gives us the capacity to move forward. We know very well that we are at the frontier of new technology, on the frontier of a scientific breakthrough. We know that we are making something historical and beneficial for humanity. We need clean energy for the entire world,” he said.

The machine assembly of the ITER “tokamak” nuclear fusion reactor, which began in July last year at Cadarache in France, is designed to replicate the fusion power of the sun in order to enable generation of clean unlimited energy, and the first ultra-hot plasma is expected to be generated in late 2025. The world’s largest science project involving ITER’s 35 partner countries is intended to demonstrate that fusion power can be generated on a commercial scale. ITER’s realising of a self-heating plasma is expected to generate 10 times more heat than is put in. Fusion provides clean, reliable energy without carbon emissions, with minute amounts of fuel and no physical possibility of an accident with meltdown.The fuel for fusion is found in seawater and lithium, while it is abundant enough to supply the world for millions of years. A football-sized amount of this fuel is equivalent to around 10,000 tons of coal.

Bends for reactor coolant pipeline of Kudankulam units 5, 6 being made in Russia

Bends for reactor coolant pipeline of Kudankulam units 5, 6 being made in Russia

The Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom’s machine building division Atomenergomash has started manufacturing the set of bends for the main circulation pump being fabricated for units 5 and 6 of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) in India. Rosatom is the equipment supplier and technical consultant for the KNPP operated by the state-run Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

According to a Rosatom release, Atomenergomash subsidiary Atommash, located in Volgodonsk, has begun stamping the pipe blanks – “the bends of the main circulation pump” to be installed in Units 5 and 6 being constructed in India’s Tamil Nadu state. The KNPP units 1 and 2, equipped with the Russian-made VVER-1000 type reactors of 1,000 MW capacity each, have been connected to the grid in 2013 and 2016, respectively, while construction is fast underway for the four additional units of similar capacity.

“The work was carried out in two stages at the thermal press site of Atommash. At first, the specialists performed ovalization – the blanks by means of a press were given the necessary oval shape. At the second stage, the bending of items was performed. After a two-stage holding in a furnace at a temperature of 870 to 1080 degrees, the Bend was placed in a specialized stamp. Under the pressure of the press with a force of 6,000 ton-forces, the blank was bent at 29 degrees”, the release said.

“After stamping, the items are subjected to machining. In total, Atommash will manufacture eight bends of the main circulation pump for two units of the plant”, it added.

The VVER-1000 reactors are equipped with state-of-the-art safety features, and the release said the main circulation pump “is a first class safety item”. It circulates the coolant at a nuclear power plant from the reactor to the steam generator, and vice versa, through the pipes of the main circulation pipeline.

Arab world’s first nuclear plant located in the UAE starts commercial operation

Westinghouse Electric in talks to build 6 nuclear reactors in India

The Arab world’s first nuclear power plant (NPP) located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has started commercial operations. Unit 1 of the Barakah NPP in Abu Dhabi has entered commercial service, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced last month. The Barakah unit 1 started up in August last year, with the UAE, thus, becoming only the second country in the world to start nuclear operations amidst the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Earlier, India launched its first indigenously built 700 MW reactor at Kakrapar in July 2020.

The start of commercial operations at Barakah follows a period of extensive testing overseen by the national regulator – the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). The FANR has conducted 312 independent inspections since the start of the NPP’s development. These reviews have been conducted alongside more than 42 assessments and reviews conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), the ENEC said.

The company also said that the 1,400 MW unit, which reached 100 percent reactor power capacity in December during testing, is currently providing “constant, reliable and sustainable electricity around the clock”, adding that the unit “is now leading the largest decarbonisation effort of any industry in the UAE to date”.

“Our investment in pioneering technologies and the decarbonisation of our electricity production not only advances the UAE’s clean energy leadership, but also produces tangible socio-economic and environmental benefits,” ENEC Chairperson Khaldoon Khalifa Al Mubarak said in a statement.

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan described it as a “historic milestone” for the country. “The start of commercial operations at the Barakah nuclear energy plant is a historic milestone for the UAE that significantly enhances the sustainability of our entire power sector”, he tweeted.

The ENEC is building and operating the plant, located in the Al Dhafrah region of Abu Dhabi on the Persian Gulf coast, jointly the with the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO). The Barakah NPP will be powered by 1,400 MW pressurised water reactors (PWRs) called APR-1400 designed in South Korea. Four reactors are planned to be installed at the plant, while the ENEC said it was committed to the “highest standards of safety and security”.

According to the ENEC “the Barakah plant will supply clean baseload electricity to the grid – complementing intermittent renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind, which are not able to generate electricity on a continuous basis. It will provide up to 25 percent of the UAE’s electricity needs once fully operational and will help prevent the release of 21 million tons of carbon emissions, equivalent to removing 3.2 million cars off the road annually.”

At the time the Barakah Unit 1 achieved its first criticality last year, the IAEA said: “This is an important milestone towards commercial operations and generating clean energy. IAEA has been supporting (the UAE) from the beginning of its nuclear power programme”.

The UAE has among the world’s largest oil and gas reserves, while also being richly endowed with renewable energy sources – sunlight and wind – and has launched a major programme of developing alternative energy sources, including nuclear and solar.

The Barakah plant was originally scheduled to start operations in 2017, but its opening was delayed for ensuring compliance with safety requirements, according to ENEC officials. Besides, the UAE has signed up to adhere to the IAEA’s Additional Protocol that allows for significant enhancement of inspection capabilities. It has also signed the 123 Agreement with the US that allows bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation. Moreover, in a move to further reassure about safety concerns, the UAE has agreed not to enrich its own uranium or reprocess spent fuel.

The ENEC subsidiary in charge of the financial and commercial activities of the project, Barakah One Company, has signed a power purchase agreement with the Emirates Water and Electricity Company (EWEC) in 2016 to purchase all electricity generated at the plant for the next 60 years.

The NPP’s second unit has been issued an operating licence in March this year by the UAE nuclear regulator FANR. The FANR Deputy Chairman and the UAE’s representative to the IAEA, Hamad Al Kaabi, also said that the construction of Barakah units 3 and 4 are 94 percent and 87 percent complete, respectively.

EDF submits binding offer to set up 6 EPR reactors at Jaitapur in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Emmanuel Macron
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi and the President of France, Mr. Emmanuel Macron at the Joint Press Statement, at Chateau de Chantilly, in France on August 22, 2019.

French state-run power utility Électricité de France (EDF) has submitted a binding techno-commercial offer to the government-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) for the construction of six EPR reactors for the proposed Jaitapur nuclear power plant (NPP) in India’s Maharashtra state.

An EDF statement said the company’s binding offer, submitted at the end of last month, includes the detailed technical configuration of the reactors and comprehensive commercial terms and conditions for the supply of technical studies and equipment for the six EPR reactors. The EPR (Evolutionary Pressurised Reactor) is a Generation III pressurised water reactor that has been designed and developed mainly by Framatome and EDF in France, and Siemens in Germany.

“The offer from EDF and its partners includes: the detailed technical configuration of the reactors taking into account the information provided by NPCIL on the Jaitapur site conditions and the joint comprehensive work performed by EDF and NPCIL; the associated comprehensive commercial terms and conditions for the supply of engineering studies and equipment for 6 EPR reactors”, the statement said.

Describing the proposed 9,900 MW nuclear plant with six reactors of 1,650 MW each, that will come up in Jaitapur located on the western coast of the country, the French ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain, said it would be the “world’s most powerful plant”. The Jaitapur NPP will be completed over a period of 15 years. It would meet the annual electricity needs of 70 million Indian households and prevent emission of an estimated 80 million tonnes of CO2 per year, EDF said.

EDF Chairman Jean-Bernard Lévy described the submission of the offer as a “major step forward” for the EDF group, as well as the French nuclear industry. “This key milestone has been achieved thanks to the trust-based relationship built over time with our Indian partner, and the excellent collaboration and continuous efforts of the EDF and NPCIL teams. This is yet another significant step towards the materialisation of this flagship project for our great nations, and the establishment of a long-term partnership in the civil nuclear field between both our leading nuclear industries,” he said.

Under the offer, EDF will provide the EPR technology, including engineering studies and equipment for the construction of the reactors, with Framatome providing engineering studies and equipment for the nuclear steam supply systems, while GE Steam Power would provide the studies and equipment for the conventional islands, which are to be equipped with Arabelle steam turbines. EDF will also offer training for NPCIL’s future operating teams. Instead, NPCIL, as the owner and future operator of the plant, will be responsible for the construction and commissioning of the units, as well as obtaining all necessary permits and consents in India, including certification of the EPR technology by India’s nuclear safety regulator – the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB).

EDF will not be an investor in the project, nor will it be in charge of construction, the company said. “In line with the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ national initiatives, EDF and its partners also aim to encourage the involvement of India’s industrial sector”, the statement said. “In this spirit, the EDF Group is deploying a strategy based on in-depth work to identify Indian companies that could be selected as suppliers of the project: to date, some 200 have already been pre-qualified”, it added.

Other aspects of this strategy include setting up an engineering platform in India to carry out part of the detailed engineering studies and all execution plans, and “launch of a pre-feasibility study, conducted by EDF, I2EN (International Institute of Nuclear Energy) and VJTI (Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute), for the establishment of a centre in India aiming to train engineers and technicians, and to support the development of the necessary set of skills for the project.”

The potential socio-economic benefits to India from the project will include around 25,000 direct local jobs during the construction phase for a pair of EPR units, and around 2,700 permanent jobs would be created during the operation of the six units, EDF said. The project will also bring “significant economic benefits” for the French nuclear industry “with tens of thousands of jobs in the hundred or so involved French companies”, it added.

The statement also said that the EDF offer is the culmination of the work carried out jointly with NPCIL further to the signature of the Industrial Way Forward Agreement on March 10, 2018, which was followed by a non-binding offer submitted later in the same year. The agreement signed by the CEOs of EDF and NPCIL set out the industrial framework and planned timetable for the implementation of the Jaitapur EPRs, as well as the roles and responsibilities of the partners.

The Jaitapur NPP has been running into hurdles ranging from financial to land acquisition since its inception in September 2008 through an Indo-French agreement. After hanging fire for years, the project picked up pace in early 2018 following the signature of the Industrial Way Forward Agreement.

India currently has 22 nuclear reactors in operation with a total capacity of 6,780 MW, and one more unit – Kakrapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP)-III of 700 MW capacity located in Gujarat state – was synchronised with the grid on January 10, 2021. The government has granted administrative approval and financial sanction for the construction of 12 more reactors, of which 10 are for indigenously built 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs), as well as for 2 Light Water Reactors (LWRs) to be set up in cooperation with the Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom. The 10 planned PHWRs are units 5 and 6 at Kaiga in Karnataka state, units 1 and 2 at Chutka in Madhya Pradesh, 4 units at Mahi Banswara in Rajasthan and units 1 and 2 at Gorakhpur in Haryana.

Currently, 8 reactors are under construction in the country with a combined capacity of 6,200 MW. On completion of these, NPCIL’s capacity will reach 12,980 MW by 2025. India’s nuclear power capacity is expected to increase to 22,480 MW by 2031 on the completion of the proposed projects. Two Russian-made VVER units of 1,000 MW capacity each are currently operating at the Kudankulam NPP, where 4 more VVER-1000 units are under construction. As per an intergovernmental agreement, Rosatom will also help construct 6 more units in India at another location.

India’s National Hydrogen Mission to develop a green hydrogen ecosystem

India's first indigenously built 700 MW reactor connected to grid
India's own 700 MW reactor goes critical at Kakrapar. Photo: Wikipedia

India is taking various initiatives towards greater use of hydrogen in its energy mix and for the development of the country’s green hydrogen ecosystem. Addressing a roundtable titled “Hydrogen Economy: New Delhi Dialogue—2021” in the national capital earlier this month, the Indian Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan noted that the government had recently announced the National Hydrogen Mission earlier this year in the Union Budget.

“We are working on a pilot project on blue hydrogen, hydrogen-compressed natural gas (H-CNG) and green hydrogen. Through technological advancements, we are blending hydrogen with compressed natural gas for use as transportation fuel, as well as an industrial input to refineries. Fifty buses in Delhi are plying on hydrogen blended in CNG on a pilot basis. We plan to scale it up in the coming months across the major cities of India”, Pradhan said. The roundtable was also attended by UAE’s industry and advanced technology minister Sultan bin Ahmad Sultan Al Jaber, the Australian minister for energy and emissions reduction Angus Taylor, Denmark’s climate, energy and utilities minister Dan Jørgensen and US deputy energy secretary David M. Turk.

Currently, most of the hydrogen globally is generated from fossil fuels, resulting in an adverse impact on the environment. The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated that hydrogen production is responsible for the emission of around 830 million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Instead, “blue hydrogen” refers to hydrogen produced using fossil fuels — usually natural gas — with the associated emissions captured and stored. “Green hydrogen”, which is expensive to produce, accounted for just 0.1 percent of worldwide hydrogen production in 2020. If the electricity used in the process comes from a renewable source such as wind or solar then it’s termed “green” or “renewable” hydrogen.

The Minister also said that the government is making efforts to leverage the country’s vast CNG pipeline infrastructure to reduce the transportation cost of hydrogen, which has a diverse range of applications, including in sectors such as industry and transport. It can be used to power trains, airplanes, cars and buses using hydrogen fuel-cells. Hydrogen can be produced in a number of ways. One method includes using electrolysis, with an electric current splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen.

The Minister noted that the utility of hydrogen is not going to be limited only to the transport sector. The maturity of the ecosystem can be accelerated through its usage as a decarbonizing agent for a range of sectors, including industry covering chemicals, iron, steel, fertilizer and refining, transport, heat and power. “The enthusiasm about hydrogen has a simple reason: whether it is used in a fuel cell or burned to create heat, wherever hydrogen replaces fossil fuels, it slows global warming. Inclusion of hydrogen as an energy carrier in the future energy portfolio presents a unique opportunity to address emerging energy vectors, including power to gas, power to power, and power to mobility and even vehicle to grid applications”, he said.

While, hydrogen is the fuel of the future, it is not the production of hydrogen per se which is the challenge, but the production of green hydrogen. The usage of hydrogen will not only help India in achieving its emissions goals under the Paris Agreement, but will also reduce the country’s import dependency on fossil fuels.

Hydrogen in India is primarily used in the petrochemicals and fertiliser industry and is produced largely from natural gas, thereby emitting huge amounts of carbon dioxide. There is growing focus on increasing production of green and blue hydrogen on account of their zero carbon emission and use of carbon offset technology, respectively. Moreover, several organisations in the country are exploring technologies which can convert bio and plastic waste into hydrogen, providing a huge scope for investment in a technology that can combat India’s twin problems of waste management and energy security.

Taking a wider perspective, several countries in the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan and South Korea, have been proactive in the area of hydrogen policy making. In 2017, Japan formulated its Basic Hydrogen Strategy which sets out the country’s action plan till 2030, including the establishment of an international supply chain. It has also entered into cooperation agreements with countries such as New Zealand on exchange of information and personnel and developing hydrogen technology. South Korea is operating hydrogen projects and hydrogen fuel cell production units under its Hydrogen Economy Development and Safe Management of Hydrogen Act, 2020.

According to a report titled “The Potential Role of Hydrogen in India,” by the New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) “as of today, essentially all of the hydrogen consumed in India comes from fossil fuels. However, by 2050, nearly 80 percent of India’s hydrogen is projected to be ‘green’ – produced by renewable electricity and electrolysis.” The report also said that in the mid-term, the cost of hydrogen from renewables would drop by over 50 percent by 2030, enabling it to “start to compete with hydrogen produced from fossil fuels.”

Indian industry has already kick-started its hydrogen project with state-run Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) announcing that it is setting up pilot hydrogen production units. Besides, the government-owned NTPC is also considering setting up a green hydrogen production facility in the state of Andhra Pradesh, while private sector major Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) has said that it intends to gradually replace conventional transportation fuels with hydrogen and clean electricity.

Earlier this month, a coalition of energy and industrial firms named India H2 Alliance (IH2A) joined together for commercialising hydrogen technologies and creating a hydrogen economy. “The India H2 Alliance will work together to build the hydrogen economy and supply chain in India and help develop blue and green hydrogen production and storage as well as build hydrogen-use industrial clusters and transport use-cases with hydrogen-powered fuel cells”, an IH2A statement said.

“The India H2 Alliance will focus on industrial clusters, specifically steel, refineries, fertilizer, cement, ports and logistics; as well as heavy-duty transport use cases and the establishment of standards for storage and transport hydrogen in pressurized and liquefied form”, it said.

“IH2A intends to collaborate with private sector partners, the government and the public to ensure that costs of hydrogen production are brought down, a local supply chain for hydrogen and related applications grows and India is able to achieve its net-zero carbon ambitions by developing a hydrogen economy that complements its national renewable energy and EV (electric vehicle)/battery-technology plans”, the statement added.

Indian private companies such as Adani Group, Acme Solar, Greenko and state-run firms such as Indian Oil and NTPC have been tying up with technology providers. While state-owned Solar Energy Corporation of India is considering floating bids to build green hydrogen plants, multinationals like Toyota, Hyundai, Tata Motors, Ashok Leyland and KPIT Technologies have expressed interest in the initiative to run hydrogen-powered fuel cell-based electric cars and buses.

Popular posts