Nuclear Industry Giants Collaborate on European Projects While Japan Expands Partnership with U.S. Reactor Designer

Westinghouse Electric Company and Bechtel have together proposed a deal to supply the Czech Republic with as many as four AP1000 nuclear reactors. The proposal aims to construct one or two units at the Dukovany nuclear site and two additional units at the Temelin site. The Dukovany site currently has four Russian-designed VVER-440 nuclear units, which began operation between 1985 and 1987, with a total installed electrical capacity of 2,040 MW. Temelin, meanwhile, has two VVER-1000 units with a combined capacity of 2,180 MW.

Westinghouse says it has deep ties to the Czech nuclear industry beginning in 1993 with the supply of advanced instrumentation and control systems to the Temelin plant. “Westinghouse first partnered with the Czech Republic on nuclear energy three decades ago and we are proud and excited to be able to further honor that commitment by providing safe, reliable nuclear energy from our proven AP1000 technology,” David Durham, president of Energy Systems for Westinghouse, said in a statement. “Together we can lay the foundation for a clean, secure energy future that extends for the next 80 years of operation, and beyond.”

Starting in 2024, Westinghouse will supply nuclear fuel to both the Dukovany (Figure 1) and Temelin nuclear sites. The company claims to be the only viable alternative Western nuclear fuel supplier for countries operating legacy Russian nuclear units.

1. The Dukovany nuclear power plant has four production units with VVER-440 Model V 213 pressurized water reactors. The individual units were put into operation between 1985 and 1987. The original total installed electrical capacity was 1,760 MW, which has been uprated to 2,040 MW today. Courtesy: ČEZ Group

“For over 70 years, Bechtel has been at the forefront of innovation within the nuclear industry,” said John Howanitz, president of Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security, and Environmental business unit. “We look forward to sharing our expertise in the Czech Republic to provide not only clean, reliable, nuclear energy, but to strengthen the local nuclear workforce and suppliers throughout the region for generations to come.”

U.S. Ambassador to the Czech Republic Bijan Sabet confirmed the U.S. government’s support of the Westinghouse-Bechtel bid to build a new reactor at Dukovany. “We see mutual benefits to both the United States and the Czech Republic. From a strategic energy security perspective, selecting a U.S. technology would provide the Czech Republic with a reliable source of clean energy that not only will combat climate change and reduce emissions, but will be an investment in the Czech people, creating thousands of green jobs across the nuclear supply chain,” Amb. Sabet said. “We hope the Czech Republic partners with Westinghouse/Bechtel for their proven and advanced AP1000 technology, which has been designed, licensed, built, and is operating in other parts of the world.”

Plant Vogtle Unit 3, the first AP1000 unit built in the U.S., entered commercial operation on July 31 this year. A second AP1000 unit is expected to begin operation at Plant Vogtle early next year. Bechtel’s involvement in that project has been instrumental to success. In 2017, it took over day-to-day construction of the project under the direction of Southern Nuclear, a Southern Company subsidiary, after previous contractors, including Fluor, CB&I, and The Shaw Group, struggled to achieve project milestones.

In China, four AP1000 reactors are in operation—two at Sanmen Nuclear Power Plant in Zhejiang and two at Haiyang Nuclear Power Plant in Shandong. Two AP1000 units were ordered by SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper to expand the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina, but construction on those units ceased in July 2017 after lengthy delays and cost overruns. At the time, South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., a SCANA subsidiary, concluded “that it would not be in the best interest of its customers and other stakeholders to continue construction of the project.”

Yet, around the world, new AP1000 units are finding a bevy of suitors. In October 2022, Poland announced it had selected Westinghouse to build its first nuclear reactors. Polish authorities said three AP1000 reactors would be built initially, with the expectation for at least three more in the future. Also in October 2022, China’s State Council approved two AP1000 units for State Power Investment Corp.’s Lianjiang Nuclear Power Plant in Zhanjiang, Guangdong province. Nine AP1000 units are planned at multiple sites in the Ukraine including at state-owned Energoatom’s 2-GW Khmelnytskyi nuclear power plant, while Bulgaria has also selected AP1000 technology for additional units at the Kozloduy site.

Japan and TerraPower Expand Partnership

Meanwhile, on Nov. 1, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Mitsubishi FBR Systems (MFBR), and TerraPower announced the expansion of their memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the development of sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR) technologies.

“We are thrilled to expand our collaboration with JAEA as Japan works to bring advanced nuclear reactors to market,” TerraPower President and CEO Chris Levesque said in a statement. “In order to achieve our climate goals, countries across the world are going to need to deploy advanced reactors starting in the 2030s, and this agreement will help us evaluate the design opportunities for large-scale Natrium plants that can support Japan’s carbon targets.”

In January 2022, TerraPower, JAEA, and MHI signed an MOU to collaborate on SFR technology development. In December 2022, the Japanese government revised their Strategic Roadmap for fast reactor development, clarifying that Japan will begin fast reactor concept design in 2024. The government in July 2023 selected a 650-MW pool-type SFR concept proposed by MFBR as the design to be developed, and MHI as the main manufacturer and constructor.

This expanded MOU will allow TerraPower and Japan to explore the opportunity to collaborate on a common reactor design concept, based on Japan’s fast reactor demonstration program and TerraPower’s existing technologies. TerraPower is currently developing the 345-MW Natrium reactor in the U.S., with the support of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) through the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP). The first Natrium plant is expected to begin commercial operation in 2030. The Japanese MOU has been revised to include an increase in size of the Natrium design for enhanced cost competitiveness and metal fuel safety.

Aaron Larson is POWER’s executive editor.

SHARE this article