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Small modular reactor company Gen4 Energy will not pursue DOE SMR Licensing funding

Gen4 Energy, developers of a 25MW small modular nuclear reactor, announced it has decided not to pursue the recently released DOE Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) for Small Modular Reactor Licensing Support Program. (Earlier post.)

Gen4 Energy, based in Denver, Colorado, was founded in 2007, and is working in collaboration with Los Alamos National Laboratory, under the DOE Technology Transfer program, to develop an advanced design nuclear reactor referred to as the Gen4 Module (G4M). The G4M produces 25 MW of electricity to power remote mining or oil and gas operations, large government complexes, and isolated and island communities.

The design intent for the G4M is to provide safe and reliable power that is available 24/7, the generation of which emits no greenhouse gasses, and to operate for 10 years without refueling. It is planned to be manufactured in a factory, transported to the installation site completely sealed, and after its useful life replaced with an entirely new power module.

The purpose of the FOA was to enter into cost sharing arrangements with companies that have designs that can be “expeditiously licensed and achieve a USCommercial Operation Date (COD) on a domestic site by 2022.” While the FOA was open to any SMR technology, Gen4 Energy concluded that use of well-known Light Water Reactor (LWR) technology of 45 to 300 MW intended for deployment in the USA had a much higher probability of success given the FOA’s stated maximum of two awards.

We have a unique, next-generation product for a very specific market. We have targeted and will continue to target small, remote or off-the-grid markets that tend to rely on diesel power. Gen4 Energy applauds the efforts of the DOE to move domestic SMR technology forward, but our focus will remain on regions and applications most in need of next generation technology.

The DOE FOA will help move the current LWR SMR market forward which can provide an economic energy alternative for the United States. We also look forward to DOE’s efforts on additional domestic support for Generation IV nuclear power technologies.

—Bob Prince, CEO of Gen4 Energy

While not pursuing the Licensing FOA, the company is continuing its work under our Memorandum of Agreement with DOE to deploy its advanced reactor at Savannah River, said David Carlson, COO and Chief Nuclear Officer at Gen4 Energy.

Comments

Reel$$

This is an indication that the <50MW SMR market is being repositioned to new (non-LWR) technology. Gen4 Energy has wisely elected to leave small reactor development to others, and stay focused on the >50MW - 300MW category better suited to LWR.

While mainstream media has been instructed to minimize the disaster at Fukishima - the world is slowly getting wise:

Release of radioactive gas “133Xe, which would effectively increase the estimated inventory to 14.4 EBq 133Xe. This release is more than a factor of two higher than the Chernobyl 133Xe source term and most likely the largest radioactive noble gas release in history. There is also strong evidence that the start of the release occurred early, before the first active venting was made.”
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 2313–2343, 2012 A. Stohl et al Norwegian Institute for Air Research, Kjeller, Norway et al

http://inhabitat.com/reactor-at-fukushima-confirmed-to-have-fatally-high-levels-of-radiation/

http://bit.ly/IefZEg

This is reason Senator Wyden (OR) has offered the Japanese Ambassador full resources of US nuclear industry. Fuel rods in Fukishima Pool #4 threaten the planet’s entire population.

Fission poses a continuing threat – the US public should start petitioning for MORE alternatives financing. There are now significant, well credentialed scientists in government and private sector supporting development of new forms of low temp fusion. The <50MW sector is ideal for distributed CHP and district microgrids using non-radiative, low temp equivalents.

HarveyD

Transportable factory mounted 25MW to 50MW units could become an acceptable solution for many niche markets. If they could be made to last 20 years or so, the whole unit could be replaced with a new one and the old one buried as is.

Nick Lyons

@Reel$$: You write: Gen4 Energy has wisely elected to leave small reactor development to others, and stay focused on the >50MW - 300MW category better suited to LWR.

I don't believe you read the article correctly. Gen4 is not going to focus on LWR reactors >50MW; rather, they say they are going to continue to focus on their liquid-metal cooled <50MW power module. Check out their website.

Reel$$

Thank you Nick - I DID miss that.

kelly

When I read "..will not pursue DOE .. funding.." I think about how bureaucratically screwed up the federal government must really be.

That a high risk new technology (any?) business would refuse a source of money today - esp. government money - says something.

Despite all good intentions, if the government can't be trusted for it's purpose, in this case to aid key industry in a timely manner, why are taxpayers still covering Congress or that agencies paychecks, medical benefits, and handsome pensions?

Frankly, it should be law, that before decades of any paid-in social security, VA, etc. benefits are reduced or 'delayed', public 'servant' benefits should be adjusted to meet those 'shortfalls'.

The Feds might suddenly become more efficient and less a world cop, fiscal sinkhole, and domestic spy apparatus.

Engineer-Poet

Again, Reel$$ is fear-mongering about nuclear power.  Xe-133 has a half-life of 5.2 DAYS.  It decays to stable Cesium, and as a noble gas, it's essentially impossible to get much of it unless you're right up close breathing it.

Reel's consistent fear-mongering over fission while promoting the still-unverified "low-energy" stuff (not unlike "cow magnets" a couple decades ago) shows that he's just a promoter of the fossil-fuel industry.  No honest critic could be that reliably disingenuous.

Nick Lyons

The more educated I become about the available options for green energy and the need for increasing amounts of cheap, low-carbon energy to pull the less-developed world out of poverty, the more convinced I am that fission has the most potential. Thorium is abundant, and even uranium is not that rare compared to its energy potential. Mass-produced, small-scale, walk-away safe molten salt reactors are what we need and what we can build. After the first one goes into production, light bulbs are going to go on over decision makers heads all over the world.

Reel$$

EP - you sound more and more like a defend-nukes-at-all-cost crackpot with each fission-enamored post.

The 2010 report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Ionising Radiation (UNSCEAR) concluded that:

“the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response for the mutational component of radiation associated cancer induction at low doses and low dose rates.”

The [Fukishima] disaster has created 150,000 radiation refugees and made 3% of Japan uninhabitable… It is rated Level 7 (‘Major Accident’) on the 7-point International Nuclear Events Scale. Only Chernobyl and Fukushima have been rated Level 7.

"Last April levels of radioactive iodine-131 were found to be 5 million times the legal limit in seawater near the plant, while levels of cesium-137 were detected 1.1 million times the legal level, in a report by Yale’s e360, which noted that both these elements “can be absorbed by phytoplankton, zooplankton, kelp, and other marine life and then be transmitted up the food chain, to fish, marine mammals, and humans.” Inhabitat.com

http://scott-ludlam.greensmps.org.au/sites/default/files/let-the-facts-speak.pdf

"After every disaster, the nuclear industry and its allies in government rally their forces to defend the indefensible. Shallow excuses are offered up to deny the undeniable: nuclear power is not clean, it is not cheap and it is not safe."

We have viable alternative sources of energy. Status quo nuke and fossil fuel bureaucrats don't want us to utilize them.

kelly

"The [Fukishima] disaster has created 150,000 radiation refugees and made 3% of Japan uninhabitable…"

".. radioactive iodine-131 were found to be 5 million times the legal limit in seawater near the plant, while levels of cesium-137 were detected 1.1 million times the legal level.."

sorta trumps the arguments.

Engineer-Poet

Sure, kelly.  What's it now?  Hailstorms are dangerous too, but they are here and gone.

Again, Reel$$ defends fossil (effectively, coal) energy by attacking its only proven and economical competitor.  He quotes people from some of the organizations financed by the fossil industry, laundered through "environmental" funds.

the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response
We know the linear no-threshold hypothesis is bogus, because a 3x dose increase from a move from an area of sedimentary rock to granite does nothing.
The [Fukishima] disaster has created 150,000 radiation refugees and made 3% of Japan uninhabitable…
Yes, many Japanese were made to flee the zombie hordes to safety.  There's only one problem:  zombies don't exist.  Most of the "refugees" are victims of bad government policy, not any actual danger.  The "remediators" are worrying about exposure rates of 0.24 μSv/hr, roughly 2 milliSieverts per year.  This is less than 1/10 of the overly-cautious exposure allowed by standards and roughly 1/130 of the annual dose the people of Ramsar in Iran have dealt with for generations.

Engineer-Poet

Experiments with phytoremediation have found that mere application of ammonium nitrate fertilizer causes Cs-137 to be lost from the root zone, washing lower into the soil column.  Adding potassium reduces Cs uptake, and soil is a very good attenuator of radiation.  Areas with borderline contamination (most of them) will be below levels of concern in a few years, either with a bit of cheap fertilizer treatment or even all by themselves.  Using red-root pigweed as a bioenergy crop can catch more, and allow the land to produce e.g. biofuels during the decontamination process.

We have viable alternative sources of energy. Status quo nuke and fossil fuel bureaucrats don't want us to utilize them.
And what would those be?  Are you talking about wind and solar (the very things you've pooh-poohed since you first posted here under this screen name), or your latest panacea which is nevertheless not putting a watt of power onto the grid anywhere in the world?

The same panacea which will leave the world right where it was before when it fails like all the rest... burning coal, oil and gas?

You're so transparent.

ai_vin

Are the Fukushima reactors still leaking?

Reel$$

"Shallow excuses are offered up to deny the undeniable: nuclear power is not clean, it is not cheap and it is not safe."

Engineer-Poet
Are the Fukushima reactors still leaking?
Answered here.  The answer appears to be, not since a valve problem on April 5.
"Shallow excuses are offered up to deny the undeniable: nuclear power is not clean, it is not cheap and it is not safe."
Tell it to the Chinese choking on coal smoke in Shanghai.  150,000 dead from it every year.  2011 tsunami:  ~30,000 dead.  Fukushima Dai'ichi meltdown:  0.
danm

Interesting dialogue here between Reel and EP.
Both sincerely want clean energy, soon.
As one who was formerly opposed to nuclear power for the reasons Reel mentions (not cheap, no clean, not safe), i understand those concerns.
But as one who has come to accept the cold, hard fact that nukes don't release CO2, and they can be designed to be failsafe, i am more in EP's ballpark.
But this demonstrates Nuclear's problem...there's no middle ground: those opposed won't consider the possibility that nukes can become cheap,safe and cleaner than most other power sources. (yeah, i know there's all that old waste hanging around...gotta solve that)

Engineer-Poet

There are several technical solutions to "all that old waste hanging around" (I'm particularly enamored of S-PRISM or using the transuranics as LFTR starting charges).  The problem is getting the politicians to allow one or more of them to happen.

Nick Lyons

The question is: how do we expand affordable energy supplies (and thus, prosperity) around the world without huge environmental impacts? The answer is: nuclear fission. As a long-time supporter of green energy solutions, and as someone who has read a lot about the alternatives, this is the place I've come to.

Nuclear power development blossomed during the 1950s and 1960s. Many different types of reactors were discussed by the early pioneers, but the overshadowing influence of the Cold War caused the pressurized water reactor (PWR) using solid oxide 235U fuel to become the de-facto standard, cutting off development of other promising alternatives. Development of these alternatives, including molten salt reactors, was abandoned for mostly political reasons. It is time to revisit those decisions and rethink what a fission reactor can be.

Molten salt reactors can be literally walk-away safe. There is no need for a huge containment structure, because there is no hot pressurized water which will flash into stem upon a piping break. There is no need for a pressure vessel, since the fuel/coolant mixture is at atmospheric pressure. The worst case accident would involve an in-building spill of the molten salt, which would cool and harden to a local radioactive mess, but would not extend beyond the premises.

Molten salt reactors can be almost 100% fuel-efficient, compared to <1% for solid fuel reactors. Thus they require less mining and generate much less waste than solid-fuel designs. They can burn up long-lived transuranics created in existing PWR reactors, meaning that facilites such as Yucca Mountain would not be required.

Molten salt reactors can burn uranium, throium, plutonium and other transuranics. Thorium is 3-4 times as abundant as uranium, and is currently treated as an unwanted by product of rare earth mining.

Energy is cheap and abundant here on earth, if only we will step back and imagine a different way of using the fertile/fissile resources the universe has bequeathed to us.

Henry Gibson

Everybody who can post to this site is likely to use 10 time more energy in that persons life of a hundred years than the average person in the world.

If all of worlds yearly fossil fuel use were divided by the population then multiplied by ten and then multiplied by a hundred to give the lifetime use of energy by a UK person, the amount of thorium or uranium needed to produce this amount of energy would fit into a standard COKE can with space left. Each person could easily find a place to bury the radioactive fission products over 12 feet deep where they would be less dangerous to that person than getting out of bed and walking a mile down a city street. Natural radioactivity in every person and in the soil and from the air would prevent the easy detection of the deposit and if it were mixed uniformly with one cubic meter of earth buried 12 feet deep, it could not be easily concentrated enough to be dangerous to an unsuspecting person.

You don't have to protect a person from all food because it is radioactive. Yes all food is radioactive, and the "Healthy" foods are most radioactive. Every person plant and animal and any live thing have built in radioactivity. People and plants might live without radioactive potassium but it cannot be bought easily because all natural potassium is radioactive (wikipedia).

Since life has existed for thousands of millions of years in a radioactive environment, it would be not very imaginative to assume that life forms that were very susceptible to radioactivity died out years ago. There are organisms that get energy from gamma rays to live very near nuclear fission reactions in reactor installations.

Anyone who believes that any radiation is highly dangerous should live in a submarine in the deep ocean and stop eating. Every action of any person or live thing is dangerous and deadly. Solar light and heat or the lack of them terminates the life of hundreds of thousands of people every year. The repair mechanisms of human cells must repair much damage by oxygen in the cells every second, and they have learned to cope with not so rare gamma rays too. A Gamma ray exposure in an amount that is not deadly in the first month after exposure is not likely to kill a person later on similar to a sunburn.

Using nuclear fission power for all of the production of electricity in the US and diverting the use of coal and natural gas to the production of liquid fuels could free up thousands of millions of dollars some of which which could be used to prevent a million malaria deaths a year. Bananas and Apples are radioactive. ..HG..

Engineer-Poet
Molten salt reactors ... can burn up long-lived transuranics created in existing PWR reactors, meaning that facilites such as Yucca Mountain would not be required.
Bears repeating.
Engineer-Poet

Though I'd add that the claim really belongs to fast-spectrum MSRs, which have not been run even at demonstration scale yet.  The MSRE was a thermal-spectrum reactor and would have done a relatively poor job of destroying transuranics, taking a lot longer and requiring a lot more neutron captures than a fast-spectrum reactor like the S-PRISM.

Reel$$

While the technology tries to handle the long lived waste issue (the greatest threat from Fukushima) the world is abandoning nuclear power stations. Siemens has entirely quit the business. Germany will close it's last nuke in ten years.

While it may seem a good source of CO2-less energy - with its growing waste issues nuclear is not clean or cheap.

"The implication is clear: if the credibility damaged by Fukushima is not recovered, neither will the nuclear industry.

Some of the key things likely to determine whether credibility is restored include building new reactors on time and to budget, effectively cleaning up the Fukushima site and ideally allowing many of the displaced to return home, and developing robust long-term storage for waste."

http://m.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17287740

Engineer-Poet

Germany's and Siemens' loss is China's and Westinghouse-Hitachi's gain.

Kit P

Most people do no have any idea of how much radiation it takes to actually hurt humans or other life forms.

“Molten salt reactors can be literally walk-away safe.”

LWR have again demonstrated they are walk-away safe. Evacuation was a precaution! There are no dying animals around the damaged nuke plants in Japan.

Power plants of all kinds are housed in sturdy industrial buildings to protect the valuable assets such things as wind and cold.

“there's all that old waste hanging around...gotta solve that)”

Have you ever seen dry cask storage danm? The engineering problem to isolate spent fuel for 300 year. I figure those dry cask storage units will last about 40,000 years after I am dead even if you crash an airplane on them. We could build some tunnels and put them inside a mountain. That is good for a few ice ages.

The point here is that even with all the over engineering going on, nukes still provide the cheapest baseload power. LWR are very close to perfect when it comes to reliable affordable power.

Engineer-Poet

I've seen diagrams of dry-cask storage.  It's certainly proof against most threats for decades at least.  However, freeze-thaw for a couple of centuries is more than most concrete can be expected to withstand.

After 300 years, essentially all of the Cs-137 and Sr-90 have decayed.  This makes the fuel relatively safe to handle by hand, and it becomes a reasonably rich (0.8% or so) plutonium ore.  Not very safe to have around, someone's bound to make trouble with it.

Besides, leaving a valuable asset sitting for centuries is wasteful.  We should be using the fissionables to start the next generation of reactors, and the remnant U-236 and U-238 as fertile material.  Let the LWRs run to end of life, and let the next generation literally grow from their (fuel's) ashes.

Kit P

@E-P
The point I was trying to make is that spent fuel is not just laying around. As far as making trouble, there is an endless list of ways to make trouble. Anyone who is smart enough to make trouble with plutonium is smart enough to know you can make trouble with commercial spent fuel.

Just for the record, the not smart enough category includes those who write scripts for TV.

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