Iberdrola joins GE-Hitachi for Prism

23 July 2014

Spanish utility Iberdrola will work with GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) to develop a proposal to build a Prism integral fast reactor in the UK, but is yet to decide the scope of its involvement either as an engineer or operator of the potential plant.

Prism (GE Hitachi)
Layout of a Prism unit (Image: GEH)

A memorandum of understanding between the two companies was announced on 21 July. It said they would "analyse the options for GEH's Prism technology" in collaboration with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which owns the civil plutonium on which Prism's fuel would be based.

Iberdrola cited its ownership and operating experience with seven nuclear power plants in Spain in which it has interests, as well as the work of its engineering subsidiary Iberdrola Ingeniería. But Iberdrola has not yet decided on the scope of its involvement in Prism in terms of building or operating the plant, "It's the beginning of a nuclear project which will see different development phases," spokesperson Elena Gonzalez Gallego told World Nuclear News, "Involvement in each phase will depend on the company's strategy at each given time." GEH's announcement said the MoU enables it to discuss with Iberdrola "the potential roles and business arrangements... in developing the Prism proposal."

Gonzalez Gallego told WNN Iberdrola's move to get involved in Prism was "unrelated" to the "strategic decision" to sell its 50% stake in the NuGen project but did not elaborate further. Toshiba bought Iberdrola's stake for £85 million ($139 million) in January and now leads a 60-40 partnership with GDF Suez to build AP1000 units at Moorside, adjacent to Sellafield.

Plutonium options

Wanting to dispose of over 112 tonnes of civil plutonium that belongs to the British state, the NDA's officially preferred option is to combine it with uranium in mixed-oxide fuel to be sold to companies running existing reactors. However, it could also be burned as fuel in a Prism reactor, or in an Enhanced Candu-6 reactor as has been separtely proposed by Candu Energy.

In January this year the NDA rated all these options as 'credible' but concluded: "Currently, we believe there is insufficient understanding of the options to confidently move into implementation." It said it would undertake technical studies over the following 1-2 years "to establish a consistent level of understanding of risks and uncertainties for each option." The NDA noted that no "perfect" solution exists and that a "multi-track approach" may offer the best value for money.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News