Saturday, May 18, 2024

US Project Phoenix Advances: An In-depth Look at Small Modular Reactors in Slovakia’s Energy Sector


US Project Phoenix gets underway in Slovakia

In a significant development for Slovakia’s energy sector, staff from the US State Department’s Project Phoenix, implemented by Sargent & Lundy, have embarked on a field mission to evaluate potential sites for small modular reactors (SMRs) as part of a comprehensive feasibility study initiated in 2023. This marks a pivotal step in the nation’s journey towards embracing advanced nuclear technology to meet its clean energy objectives.

The initiative is a component of the broader Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) programme, crafted in 2021 to bolster countries developing nuclear energy programs in alignment with their clean energy aspirations. As of August 2023, FIRST proudly collaborates with 20 partner nations, benefiting from an investment of approximately $21 million.

Project Phoenix was unveiled by US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, at the COP27 climate conference held in 2022. The project’s primary goal is to facilitate energy security and climate objectives by promoting the conversion of coal-fired power plants to SMR-based facilities. The initial beneficiaries, identified in September 2023, included the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia, which joined the ranks earlier in February.

In Slovakia, representatives from Sargent & Lundy conducted the first phase of a field survey assessing the feasibility of deploying SMRs. Their exploration covered the Bohunice and Mochovce Nuclear Power Plants (NPPs), along with the Nováky and Vojany coal-fired plants, signaling a strategic shift towards nuclear energy as these coal plants approach decommissioning.

The feasibility study encompasses several critical phases, beginning with site decommissioning criteria, considering factors such as seismic activity, unsuitability of geological substrates, and the availability of cooling water. Following the site evaluation, the study will identify suitable locations for SMR deployment and assess the most compatible SMR technologies for each. The concluding phases will include meticulous planning for licensing and a thorough analysis of the capital costs associated with the various alternatives.

Key considerations of the analysis extend beyond technical aspects to encompass socio-economic and environmental influences, aiming to secure a site selection that aligns with broader societal benefits. The comprehensive study, scheduled between 2023 and 2025, sets the stage for an initial SMR project, licensing, and environmental impact assessment processes, planning for procurement of major components from 2030 to 2033, and aiming for commissioning by 2035.

Partnerships forming the backbone of the Project Phoenix application in Slovakia span government, regulatory, academic, industry, and energy sectors, united in their ambition to transition from coal to nuclear energy in a safe, secure, and financially sound manner.

Already, Slovakia boasts five operating nuclear reactors that generate roughly half of its electricity, with an additional reactor under construction. The nation’s proactive consideration of SMRs is driven by an anticipated increase in electricity demand and the necessity for more flexible generation capabilities. Despite the potential of renewables, accompanied by storage solutions or hydrogen production, their contributions alone may not suffice to meet future demands, thereby highlighting the pivotal role of non-emission energy sources like SMRs. Moreover, the country aims to diminish its reliance on specific fuel and technology suppliers through strategic diversification efforts.

This ambitious venture into SMR technology not only positions Slovakia at the forefront of the global shift towards clean and resilient energy systems but also underscores its commitment to environmental sustainability and energy independence. Project Phoenix serves as a beacon of progress, exemplifying the potential of international collaboration in fostering innovative solutions to today’s most pressing energy challenges.

Alexandra Bennett
Alexandra Bennett
Alexandra Bennett is a seasoned business journalist with over a decade of experience covering the global economy, finance, and corporate strategies. With a Bachelor's degree in Economics and a Master's in Business Journalism from Columbia University, Alexandra has built a reputation for her insightful analysis and ability to break down complex economic trends into understandable narratives. Prior to joining our team, she worked for major financial publications in New York and London. Alexandra specializes in mergers and acquisitions, market trends, and economic

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