September 27, 2023
Rwanda signs deal with Canadian startup to build nuclear reactor

Dual Fluid Energy Inc., a Vancouver-based nuclear energy The startup has signed a deal with the Rwandan government to build a prototype reactor In that country.

The Rwandan government announced on Tuesday that the new one-megawatt reactor will be operational by 2026 and testing will be completed by 2028. Rwanda will supply the site, located at a new nuclear research complex in the town of Nyamata, south of the capital Kigali, with the necessary infrastructure. Will build dual fluid reactors and train Rwandan scientists in nuclear technology.

Dual Fluid, which originated in Germany and was incorporated in Canada in 2021, said in a report last year that it had developed a “more effective method” of nuclear fission. But it has not yet built a reactor to test its design. The company is paying for the project in Rwanda, and will have the opportunity to put its principles into practice.

For reactor startups, finding a demonstration site is an important milestone. With that in mind, Björn Peters, Dual Fluid’s chief financial officer, said his company is now trying to raise €70 million. He said the company feels the Canadian regulatory timelines for nuclear experiments are unacceptably long.

This reactor, a demonstration unit, will not supply electricity to Rwanda’s power grid. Dual Fluid said last year that it aimed, by 2033, to begin serial production of a 300-MW reactor model called the DF300, which the company is marketing as a small modular reactor, or SMR.

The name Dual Fluid refers to the proposal to use two fluids inside its reactors: metallic nuclear fuel heated to 1,000 degrees, and liquid lead to act as coolant. These materials would replace the fuel rods used in many conventional reactors.

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Mr Peters, who is also the company’s co-founder, said the demonstration reactor would be a “key experiment” that would prove the company’s theoretical physics work could be implemented. He said the test will assess the performance of the advanced ceramics used to withstand extreme heat and other stresses.

“This is the first completely new reactor technology that has been developed in the last 50 to 60 years,” he said. “We need this experiment to plan a power reactor,” he said, referring to the DF300.

At just over 300 MW in total, Rwanda’s current capacity to generate electricity is very low. The country’s grid is growing rapidly, but at a slower pace than envisioned in national energy plans published by the Rwandan government over the past decade. The country has long been dependent on hydroelectric dams. Its other major energy sources include natural gas, peat and solar.

In 2018, Rwanda published a plan for its energy sector, which aims to increase electricity production to meet all demand while maintaining a 15 percent surplus. It also sought to provide universal access to homes.

The government of the country also wants to include nuclear energy in its options. In 2019, it signed an agreement with Rosatom, a Russian government-controlled corporation that specializes in nuclear energy, to establish a research center where Dual Fluid will conduct its experiments. The following year, the country established the Rwanda Atomic Energy Board (RAEB) with the express goal of building a nuclear power plant.

Rwandan officials have particularly high expectations for small modular reactors. In an interview with the English-language national newspaper New Times, RAEB’s chief executive officer, Fidel Ndahayo, said nuclear power could provide a stable source of low-carbon energy. at a significantly lower rate of $60 per megawatt hour. “It has the lowest energy costs,” he said.

Mr Peters said the electricity produced by Dual Fluid’s DF300 would cost half that produced by today’s nuclear or coal-fired plants.

Small modular reactors have still not proven to be more cost-effective than their larger predecessors. In its latest estimate of the levelized cost of energy published in April, Lazard, a financial advisory firm, said the cost of electricity from new nuclear plants in the United States is between $141 and $221 per megawatt hour. This made nuclear one of the most expensive options studied by Lazard.

In an assessment of the SMR published in July, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development described all aspects of the dual fluid reactor as being in the early stages of development.

RAEB ignored safety concerns about the dual-fluid experiment, saying in a statement on Tuesday that the prototype has “nuclear safety design features that make it accident-free.”

South Africa is the only African country with an operating nuclear power plant. That facility produced 10.1 million megawatt hours last year, just less than 5 percent of the country’s total output. Construction of Egypt’s first nuclear power plant began last year on the country’s northwest coast.


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