US furthers overseas support for coal-to-SMR projects

08 September 2023

Proposals from the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia have been selected to receive US support for coal-to-small modular reactor (SMR) feasibility studies under Project Phoenix. The USA is also to set up a 'one-stop shop' to support countries in Europe and Eurasia that are approaching SMR deployment decisions.

Kerry made the announcements at the summit in Bucharest (Image: @ClimateEnvoy)

Project Phoenix, announced by US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry at the COP27 climate conference last year, aims to support energy security and climate goals by creating pathways for coal-to-SMR power plant conversions while retaining local jobs through workforce retraining. The successful proposals receiving a share of USD8 million of US government support were selected through a competitive process open to 17 central and eastern European countries. Kerry announced the recipients of the awards in a side event to the Three Seas Initiative Summit in Bucharest on 6 September.

The successful grant application lodged by a partnership including Slovak utility Slovenské elektrárne proposed five Slovak sites for consideration SMR feasibility studies: the Jaslovské Bohunice and Mochovce nuclear power plant sites; the Nováky and Vojany thermal power plant sites; and the site of the US Steel steel plant in eastern Slovakia. The feasibility study will assess several aspects and select the most suitable sites for the possible future construction of small modular reactors, Slovenské elektrárne said.

Slovak Minister of Economy Peter Dovhun said the success of Slovakia's Phoenix application was "excellent news" for the country. "It confirms that we have a lot to offer our partners thanks to our long experience in the nuclear power industry, and it also gives us the opportunity to accelerate the preparation of new projects that are important for the success of our energy transformation," he said.

Slovenské elektrárne Chairman and CEO Branislav Strýček said the support from the Phoenix project means Slovakia is "one step closer" to building an SMR. "We believe that the implementation of new technologies, including small modular reactors, is part of the solution to our energy needs. Small modular reactors are not intended to replace existing nuclear or renewable sources. Instead they complement our energy mix to ensure sufficient energy and protect the environment," he said.

Polish company Orlen Synthos Green Energy (OSGE) said it will use the funds it has been awarded under the Phoenix project to study a site at Ostrołęka. Ostrołęka is one of seven locations shortlisted earlier this year by OSGE for further geological surveys to host SMR plants based on GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's BWRX-300, for which it holds the exclusive right in Poland.

Czech coal mining company Sokolovská uhelná, part of the SUAS Group, said it had been selected to receive a grant of USD1.5 million, which alongside an applicant's co-payment of USD0.5 million means its study will be worth up to USD2 million. Pavel Tomek, chairman of the supervisory bBoard of Sokolovská uhelná and SUAS Group, said the company is considering the site of the Tisová Power Plant and an industrial complex in Vřesová as possible locations for SMRs. The company said its application stated a preference for a pressurised water reactor of 400-500 MWe capacity.

Kerry also launched the Nuclear Expediting the Energy Transition (NEXT) One Stop Shop for SMR Support, to provide countries in Europe and Eurasia that are approaching SMR deployment decisions a virtual centre access to a suite of project preparation tools and services. These may include in-person technical, financial, and regulatory consultancies and advisory services; study tours US nuclear facilities, national laboratories, and universities; competitively selected provision of an SMR simulator to support workforce development as a regional training hub; and university-to-university partnerships for curricula development and educational exchanges.

Project Phoenix and the NEXT One Stop Shop are subprogrammes of the US Department of State’s Foundational Infrastructure for the Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) Program.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News