Polish chemicals group looks to USNC micro modular reactor

04 November 2020

Synthos Green Energy (SGE) has signed a cooperation agreement with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) to assess the feasibility of the micro modular reactor (MMR) plant design to generate carbon-free hydrogen, heat, and power for use in SGE’s chemical plants. SGE is part of Synthos SA Capital Group, which includes Synthos SA, a chemical manufacturer based in Poland, with operations in the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and France. The aim is for the MMR Energy System to replace existing plants that use coal or natural gas.

(Image: Synthos Group)

USNC and SGE have already jointly applied to the Polish Ministry of Development for project financing from the IPCEI mechanism (Important Projects of Common European Interest) for projects within the scope of the value chain of hydrogen technologies and systems. The goal of the joint project is the development of an economically efficient, zero-emission, high-temperature heat and power source for the production of hydrogen on an industrial scale. The efficiency of the cogeneration system in this process is expected to be about 80-85%, which exceeds the efficiency of renewable energy sources in the electrolysis process by several factors (25-30%).

"We're committed to identifying leading technologies capable of being deployed in the near term that will enable us to lower and eventually eliminate the carbon footprint of our manufacturing facilities and increase competitiveness of our companies," said Michal Solowow, owner of Synthos SA Capital Group. "The Ultra Safe Nuclear approach is uniquely suited to our needs as its MMR is exceptionally elegant and safe, enabling us to implement our decarbonisation strategy and ultimately make Synthos more competitive. I also firmly believe that MMR technology can be part of broader solution for the decarbonisation of the Polish industry."

The Ultra Safe Nuclear MMR is planned for full demonstration at the Chalk River site of the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, with the support of Canada's largest nuclear operator, Ontario Power Generation. In Canada, the MMR is intended for off-grid and industrial applications, supplying heat and power for clean and reliable energy at a lower cost.

The MMR design features the industry’s "most mature" high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear reactor technology, SGE said, "providing a clear path to outcompete fossil fuels for process heat utilisation and hydrogen production". It allows for nuclear CHP cogeneration plant location directly at customer sites and can be operated in power and heat island modes.

In addition to the built-in safety of Ultra Safe Nuclear’s Fully Ceramic Micro-encapsulated fuel and inherently safe design of the MMR, the cost of bringing an Ultra Safe Nuclear MMR online is projected to be significantly lower than that of other small modular reactor concepts by virtue of its smaller size and simpler design, SGE said. Through the use of a molten salt heat storage unit, operation of the MMR is "simple", it said, requiring minimal support and maintenance, with no on-site fuel storage, handling, or processing.

Francesco Venneri, CEO of USNC, said the company's MMR and power plant can be operational "in a matter of months" after the start of construction.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News