The Anonymous Widower

Rolls-Royce signs MoU With Exelon For Compact Nuclear Power Stations

The title of this post, is the same as that of this press release on the Rolls-Royce web site.

These are the first two paragraphs.

Rolls-Royce and Exelon Generation have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to pursue the potential for Exelon Generation to operate compact nuclear power stations both in the UK and internationally. Exelon Generation will be using their operational experience to assist Rolls Royce in the development and deployment of the UKSMR.

Rolls-Royce is leading a consortium that is designing a low-cost factory built nuclear power station, known as a small modular reactor (SMR). Its standardised, factory-made components and advanced manufacturing processes push costs down, while the rapid assembly of the modules and components inside a weatherproof canopy on the power station site itself avoid costly schedule disruptions.

This is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry of Exelon.

Exelon Corporation is an American Fortune 100 energy company headquartered in Chicago, Illinois and incorporated in Pennsylvania. It generates revenues of approximately $33.5 billion and employs approximately 33,400 people. Exelon is the largest electric parent company in the United States by revenue, the largest regulated electric utility in the United States with approximately 10 million customers, and also the largest operator of nuclear power plants in the United States and the largest non-governmental operator of nuclear power plants in the world.

These two paragraphs from the press release flesh out more details.

The consortium is working with its partners and UK Government to secure a commitment for a fleet of factory built nuclear power stations, each providing 440MW of electricity, to be operational within a decade, helping the UK meet its net zero obligations. A fleet deployment in the UK will lead to the creation of new factories that will make the components and modules which will help the economy recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and pave the way for significant export opportunities as well.

The consortium members feature the best of nuclear engineering, construction and infrastructure expertise in Assystem, Atkins, BAM Nuttall, Jacobs, Laing O’Rourke, National Nuclear Laboratory, Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Rolls-Royce and TWI. Exelon will add valuable operational experience to the team.

This is not what you call a small deal.

This is the last section of the press release.

By 2050 a full UK programme of a fleet of factory built nuclear power stations in the UK could create:

  • Up to 40,000 jobs
  • £52BN of value to the UK economy
  • £250BN of exports

The current phase of the programme has been jointly funded by all consortium members and UK Research and Innovation.

But that is not all, as there is also a second press release, which is entitled Rolls-Royce Signs MoU With CEZ For Compact Nuclear Power Stations.

These are the first two paragraphs.

Rolls-Royce and CEZ have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the potential for compact nuclear power stations, known as small modular reactors (SMR), to be built in the Czech Republic.

Rolls-Royce is leading the UK SMR Consortium that is designing this type of low-cost nuclear power station. Its standardised, factory-made components and advanced manufacturing processes push down costs; and the rapid assembly of the modules inside a weatherproof canopy at the power station site itself speeds up schedules.

These are my thoughts.

What Is A Small Modular Reactor or SMR?

This is the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry for Small Nuclear Reactor.

Small modular reactors (SMRs) are a type of nuclear fission reactor which are smaller than conventional reactors. This allows them to be manufactured at a plant and brought to a site to be assembled. Modular reactors allow for less on-site construction, increased containment efficiency, and enhanced safety due to passive nuclear safety features. SMRs have been proposed as a way to bypass financial and safety barriers that have plagued conventional nuclear reactors.

This section on Wikipedia gives more details of the Rolls-Royce SMR.

Rolls-Royce is preparing a close-coupled three-loop PWR design, sometimes called the UK SMR.] The power output is planned to be 440 MWe, which is above the usual range considered to be a SMR. The design targets a 500 day construction time, on a 10 acres (4 ha) site. The target cost is £1.8 billion for the fifth unit built.

The consortium developing the design is seeking UK government finance to support further development. In 2017 the UK government provided funding of up to £56 million over three years to support SMR research and development. In 2019 the government committed a further £18 million to the development from its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The construction time, site size and cost make for one of the big advantages of SMRs.

Say you need to create a 3260 MW nuclear power station like Hinckley Point C.

  • This would need a fleet of eight 440 MW SMRs.
  • These would cost £14.4 billion
  • Wikipedia lists Hinkley Point C as costing between £21.5 billion and £ 22.5 billion.
  • I suspect there will be an adjustment for the connection to the National Grid, which is probably included in the Hinckley Point C figures.
  • Eight SMRs will occupy 80 acres.
  • Hinckley Point C will occupy 430 acres.
  • Hinckley Point C was planned to be built in seven years.
  • Eight SMRs built one after the other would take 11 years. But, they would probably be planned to be built in an optimal way, where reactors came on-line, when their power was needed.

The biggest advantage though, is that as each of the eight SMRs is commissioned, they can start supplying power to the grid and earning money. This means that financing is much easier and the first reactor helps to pay for its siblings.

Could An SMR Replace A Fossil Fuel Power Station?

Suppose you have a coal-fired power station of perhaps 800 MW.

The power station will have a connection to the grid, which will be able to handle 800 MW.

If the power station is closed, there is no reason, why it can’t be replaced by an appropriately-sized fleet of SMRs, provided the site is suitable.

Who Are TWI?

I would assume that TWI is The Welding Institute, who are described like this in their Wikipedia entry.

The Welding Institute (TWI) is a research and technology organisation, with a specialty in welding. With headquarters six miles south of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England, since 1946, and with facilities across the UK and around the world. TWI works across all industry sectors and in all aspects of manufacturing, fabrication and whole-life integrity management technologies.

It strikes me, this organisation could be a very important part of the consortium.

 

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Energy | , , , , | 3 Comments

The Met Line’s Croxley Rail Link May Be Resurrected

tThe title of this post,  is the same as that of this article on Ian Visits.

 

I wrote Is The Croxley Rail Link To Be Given Lower Priority? in December 2016, where I said this.

I think that it is time to take a short time of reflection to look at this project and see, if other developments in the future, can improve rail links to Watford sufficiently.

After reviewing projects that will happen in the area, I asked set out two sections with my ideas for improvement, which I will now repeat.

Could A Lower-Cost Link Be Built?

I ask this question, specifically because of the report that TfL had said no, because the project is over-budget.

Ideally, the link would be built as a double track line from Watford High Street station, to where it joins the double-track branch to the current Watford station.

I have flown my helicopter over the route and there would appear to be a fair bit of space for a double -track line.

But there might be a couple of problems.

This picture, which I took going South, shows the bridge, where the Croxley Rail Link will join the Watford DC Line.

It looks fairly sound, but is it large enough for two tracks? I could see the next bridge and that was a modern structure with a lot more space.

Note too, the evidence of clearing up decades of tree growth.

But look at this Google Map of where the Croxley Rail Link will connect to the branch to Watford station.

Note the branch to Watford station at the top left of the map and the remains of the old railway in the bottom-right, which can also be seen in the map of Cassiobridge station.

It could be difficult to thread a double-track viaduct through the area.

This visualisation from the Watford Observer shows current thinking.

So would money be saved and perhaps a better design be possible?

  • Could the viaduct be built with only a single-track between its junction with the branch to Watford station and the proposed Cassiobridge station? The route could revert to double track just to the East of Cassiobridge station.
  • A single-track design of Cassiobridge station could also save money, but it would probably rule out too many future options.

As most of the route will be double-track, I doubt that a few hundred metres of single-track would have much impact on the operation of the link. It’s not as if, the Croxley Rail Link will be handling 24 tph.

I suspect that engineers and architects are working hard both to cut costs and make the link better.

A Watford Junction To Amersham Service

I think that if there is a good service between Watford Junction and Amersham, this might  offer an alternative solution.

It would connect to London trains as follows.

  • Watford Junction – Bakerloo, London Midland, Southern, Watford DC and possible West Coast Main Line services.
  • Watford High Street – Cross-platform connection to Watford DC services.
  • Croxley – Same platform connection to Metropolitan services to the existing Watford station.
  • Rickmanswoth – Chiltern for both London and all stations to Milton Keynes.

I believe that a train like London Overground’s new Class 710 train, which will be running on the Watford DC Line might be able to run the service without any new electrification, it it were to use onboard energy storage between say Watford High Street and Croxley stations.

Conclusion

I believe that Watford will get a better train service, whether the Croxley Rail Link is built or not.

Politics will decide the priority of the Croxley Rail Link, with the left-leaning South Londoner Sadiq Khan on one side and right-leaning Bucks-raised Chris Grayling on the other. In some ways, Watford is a piggy-in-the-middle.

My feeling is that on a Londonwide  basis, that the Bakerloo Line Extension to Watford, solves or enables the solution of a lot of wider problems and the Croxley Rail Link is much more a local solution.

I think it could turn out to be.

  • A mainly double-track route from Watford Junction to Amersham, but with portions of single track.
  • No new electrification.
  • Stations at Watford High Street, Watford Vicarage Road, Cassiobridge, Croxley and then all stations to Amersham.
  • Four Class 710 trains per hour (tph), running on existing electrification and batteries between Watford Junction and Amersham.
  • A redeveloped Watford station keeps its four tph to London.

It might even be simpler.

Conclusion – 10th November 2020

This is a new conclusion.

I feel something is possible, but it probably needs some of difficult negotiation, with some of the politicians excluded.

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , | 6 Comments

Tram-Train Operation To Continue In Sheffield As New Systems Proposed

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Rail Magazine.

This is the introductory paragraph.

Tram-trains will continue running in South Yorkshire beyond the end of the two-year trial period, with the Government believing it could act as an inspiration for similar schemes elsewhere.

The article also suggests that more than ten transport authorities want their own tram-train systems in cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow.

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Hydroflex Takes To The Main Line

The title of this post is the same as that of an article in the November 2020 Edition of Modern Railways.

This is the opening paragraph.

Hydroflex, the UK;s first full-size hydrogen train, made its debut on the main line on 21 September, travelling from Long Marston to Evesham and back.

This looks like a good start.

I am not surprised that the conversion was designed and built by Birmingham University.

Look at this picture of myself in front of a detector in the Large Haldron Collidor at CERN in Geneva.

Much of the detector was built in the workshops at Liverpool University.

The quality of engineering in most universities is very high, which is surely a good omen for the future.

Work in Birmingham on Hydroflex seems to be proceeding apace, with the following objectives.

  • More automation.
  • Moving the hydrogen drive train components to rafts under the driving cars.
  • Improving operating speed from the current 50 mph.

There is also this significant paragraph that quotes Helen Simpson of Porterbrook.

‘At Porterbrook we want to present a fleet of hydrogen trains as a commercial offering to operators’ Ms. Simpson adds, noting that moving equipment out of passenger saloons is an important element of this. Porterbrook will apply learning from its Class 769 electric/diesel bi-mode units, which have placed diesel engines beneath the driving vehicles. Ms. Simpson does not rule out retro-fitment on other classes of train, but notes a lot of work has been undertaken on converting 319s’.

The big difference between the Hydroflex and the Alstom Coradia iLint, is that the Hydroflex retains the capability to use overhead electrification, so the hydrogen power can be used as a range extender.

 

 

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Hydrogen, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Good Omens For Mr. Biden

This extract is from today’s diary in The Times.

The election of Joe Biden, despite the twitterhoea tantrums of the toddler in the Oval Office, continues a correlation noted four years ago by the writer Brydon Coverdale between American presidents and the sequence of Mr Men books. Donald Trump is the 45th president and the 45th Mr Man is Mr Rude, an easy fit. No 44 was Mr Cool (Barack Obama) and No 43 Mr Cheerful (George W Bush). Going back further, the all-action Teddy Roosevelt has the same number as Mr Strong and Ronald Reagan shares his with Mr Brave. Grover Cleveland, the only president to return to office after being voted out, has Mr Bounce. Now at No 46 comes Mr Good — and the correlation may continue. Coverdale writes: “I wonder if the 47th being Mr Nobody means the next president won’t be a Mr.”

I like the correlation and also the new word; twitterhoea.

It will be interesting to return to this post for the US Presidential Election in 2024.

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Computing, World | , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Bell Tolls For Covid-19

I have just watched Sir John Bell; the Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford talking about the Pfizer vaccine and his emotional response to it, where he shouted “Yes, yes yes!” and threw his arms in the air on BBC Radio 4. Sir John and another Oxford academic; Melinda Mills are talking about multiple vaccines.

They certainly felt that we’re on our way back to normality.

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Health | , | 3 Comments

The End Of The Beginning

At 16:08 on the 9th of November 2020, I sent this text message to the BBC.

Churchill would have dubbed Pfizer’s news the End of the Beginning in the War against the Covids!

Then at 17:00 Boris used the same phrase in his Press Conference.

Wikipedia says this about Churchill’s use of the phrase.

A quotation from a 1942 speech by Winston Churchill concerning the Second Battle of El Alamein.

The Second Battle of El Alamein was fought between the 23rd of October and the 11th of November 1942. So exactly, seventy-eight years ago, the battle was coming to a close.

As a biographer of Churchill, did Boris spot the historical link?

Let’s hope Boris, Macron, Biden, Merkel, Trudeau et al, get the chance to paraphrase another of Churchill’s quotes about the very different battle.

It may almost be said, “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat”

Let’s hope Pfizer’s vaccine is our generation’s Alamein and marks the turning point in the War against the Covids.

Certainly, the news has been well-received by experts, including Jeremy Farrar of the Welcome Trust, who was being interviewed by the BBC, when the news broke.

I am 73 and my parents told me how Alamein and other news like it, stiffened the sinews and summoned up the blood in the dark days of World War II!

November 10, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment