WNA Digest: Archive 2005
Major utility merger
FPL Group and Constellation Energy have agreed to merge, retaining the Constellation name and bringing together 11 reactors at seven sites. This involves over 8200 MWe of nuclear capacity in 45,000 MWe total. The two companies have been purchasers of 3474 MWe of nuclear capacity at four plants since 2001, and continue to look for opportunities. Both are involved with proposals for new nuclear build, through the NuStart consortium. Also Constellation has formed Unistar Nuclear, a joint venture with Areva, to promote the US EPR advanced reactor in USA.
Nucleonics Week 22/12/05.
New Westinghouse reactor gets tick
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted design certification for the Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power reactor, a late 3rd generation 1100 MWe design. It joins its smaller predecessor and two other types certified in 1999 and 1997 respectively as the only reactors with this formal approval, though it is significantly more advanced than them - designated Generation 3+. It means that they can be built in the USA subject only to site considerations. Several applications for combined construction-operating licences (COL) are expected to incorporate the design, notably NuStart for Bellefonte in Alabama, Progress Energy for Harris NC and Duke Power.
It represents the culmination of a 1300 man-year and $440 million design and testing program. Overnight capital costs are projected at $1200 per kilowatt and modular design will reduce construction time to 36 months. Its generating costs are expected to be below US$ 3.5 cents/kWh and its has a 60 year operating life.
NRC 30/12/05, Nucleonics Week 5/1/06.
Further US licence extensions
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the licences for Dominion's Millstone 2 & 3 nuclear power reactors in Connecticut, taking their operation to 2035 and 2045 respectively. It also renewed those for Point Beach 1 & 2 reactors for 20 years, to 2030 and 2033. The Nuclear Management Company operates the small Wisconsin plant on behalf of WE Energies. This brings to 39 the total number of US licence renewals so far.
NRC 28/11/05, NucNet news # 201/05.
US reprocessing plans outlined and commended
Under the US Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative the Argonne National Laboratory is planning an engineering-scale demonstration of the Urex1a process for reprocessing used fuel. This will separate out uranium, transuranic elements (plutonium, neptunium, americium & curium together), and fission products. From the last, technetium, cesium and strontium may be further separated for transmutation. The transuranics will be burned in fast neutron reactors. It is estimated that using this process, the effective capacity of the Yucca Mountain repository could be increased fivefold and much better utilisation of uranium achieved.
Congruent with this the US Nuclear Energy Institute has said that the US nuclear industry needs to change course and plan for recycling used fuel. The objective must be to reduce the long-lived radioactivity arising from used fuel so that in a relatively short time high-level wastes become no more toxic than the original uranium ore. This means recycling and burning all the long-lived actinides, which is most efficiently done in fast neutron reactors such as four of the six generation-IV designs. However, such change of policy must not detract from the need to commission the Yucca Mountain repository, and there is more R&D to do to identify new reprocessing technologies.
The American Nuclear Society has also released a position statement saying that it "believes that the development and deployment of advanced nuclear reactors based on fast-neutron fission technology is important to the sustainability, reliability and security of the world's long-term energy supply." This will enable "extending by a hundred-fold the amount of energy extracted from the same amount of mined uranium". The statement envisages utilising used fuel from conventional reactors and the 1.2 billion tonnes of depleted uranium from enrichment, as well as on-site reprocessing of used fuel from fast reactors. It points out that "virtually all long-lived heavy elements are eliminated during fast reactor operation, leaving a small amount of fission product waste which requires assured isolation from the environment for less than 500 years." The time frame for implementation is about two decades.
NuclearFuel 16/1/06, Platts 12/12/05, ANS Nov 2005: http://www.ans.org/pi/ps/docs/ps74.pdf
EdF eyes UK and USA for expansion
Electricité de France, the 85% state-owned utility which is the world's largest nuclear operator, has indicated its interest in investing in new nuclear plants in UK and the USA. EdF is already part of the NuStart consortium in USA, which is focused on Westinghouse and GE plants. It is there essentially as observer, and in Europe has a stake in Framatome's EPR, which that company hopes to sell in UK. Framatome ANP sees a market for about 100 of its 1600 MWe EPRs over the next 20 years.
Nucleonics Week 15/12/05.
New reactor for Lithuania
With involvement of Estonia and Poland, a new nuclear power reactor is to be built at Lithuania's Ignalina plant, site of two large Soviet-era units - one now closed and the other to do so in 2009 at the insistence of the EU.
Nucleonics Week 8/12/05.
Sweden doubles nuclear tax
The Swedish government has almost doubled its special tax on nuclear power from SKR 5514 (EUR 584) to 10,200 per MW thermal per month. It formerly amounted to about EUR 0.3 cents/kWh, this is now apparently over 0.55 cents/kWh, relying on the lower operating costs of Sweden's nuclear power plants in the European environment where carbon costs are starting to affect power prices from fossil fuel plants.
NucNet WNR 23/12/05.
Russian-Framatome fuel contract
In November, TVEL subsidiary Mashinostroitelny Zavod (machine engineering works - MSZ) and Framatome ANP extended the umbrella fuel supply contract for west European nuclear plants. In particular MSZ was selected as fuel supplier for Swiss plants Gosgen and Beznau to 2016 and 2020 respectively. MSZ has been cooperating with Framatome ANP for more than 10 years and currently supplies fuel to nine nuclear plants in Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands.
ASIA & AFRICA
China starts up new Russian reactor, and works at Lingao
The first Russian-built AES-91 power plant at Jiangsu Tianwan in Liangyungang province has started up. Two units with 1060 MWe VVER reactors are being built under a cooperation agreement between China and Russia's Atomstroyexport at a reported cost of US$ 3.2 billion, China contributing $1.8 billion of this. They incorporate Finnish safety features and Siemens instrumentation and control systems. This unit is expected to be grid connected in January.
Near Shenzhen in Guangdong province work has started on sites of two indigenous (but French-based) CNP-1000 nuclear reactors as phase 2 of the Lingao nuclear power plant. Cost is reported as US$ 1500/kW. The units are expected on line in 2010-11.
AFP 19/12/05, NucNet news # 198/05.
New Japanese reactors
Tohoku's Higashidori-1 nuclear reactor is in commercial operation, the 1067 MWe BWR having been grid connected in March.
Chugoku Electric Power has announced the official start of construction for Shimane unit 3, a 1373 MWe advanced boiling water reactor, though main site works will not start until next December. Commercial operation is scheduled for December 2011.
Ux Weekly 5/12/05, JAIF 22/12/05.
Japan plans reprocessing and MOX use
Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd plans trial operation of its Rokkasho reprocessing plant through to March 2007, using 430 tonnes of actual used fuel and producing some 2.3 tonnes of reactor-grade plutonium (1.6t fissile Pu). The Federation of Electric Power Companies has announced that nine member companies will use this plutonium as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel from 2012, as soon as JNFL's new MOX plant is able to make it into fuel. The 130 t/yr plant is expected to be completed in 2011. Meanwhile MOX fuel fabricated in Europe from some 40t separated reactor-grade plutonium (25.6t Puf) from Japanese used fuel can be used.
Atoms in Japan 22/12/05 & 10/1/06, Nucleonics Week 19/1/06.
Japanese reactor restarts after 'quake
Tohoku's Onagawa-2 nuclear power reactor has restarted after comprehensive checks following an earthquake on 16 August. All three Onagawa reactors shut down automatically in the Richter 7.2 event. Geotechnical analysis and safety evaluation have proceeded under Japan's Nuclear & Industrial Safety Agency, which approved a report from the company. Tohoku is expected to report on units 1 & 3 soon.
Atoms in Japan 26/12/05 & 10/1/06.
New Pakistan reactor starts construction
First concrete has been poured at the second 300 MWe Chinese-supplied Chashma nuclear reactor in Pakistan. The plant is reported to cost PKR 51.46 billion (US$ 860 million, $350 million of this financed by China) and grid connection is expected in 2011. Like its predecessors, it will be under international safeguards. The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission has been charged under the country's Energy Security Plan 2005 with bringing 8800 MWe of nuclear capacity on line by 2030, and is planning to construct up to eight further Chinese reactors of 600 MWe each.
APPakistan 28/12/05, Daily Times 29/12/05.
South Korean power reactor for Indonesia
Korea Electric Power Corp. has signed an agreement with Indonesia's PLN power utility to conduct a feasibility study - with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. - for Indonesia's first nuclear power plant. This will probably be one or more OPR-1000 units, built in South Korea as the Korea Standard Nuclear Plant or KSNP+. The Indonesian government earlier confirmed in principle approval of four 1000 MWe units on the Muria peninsula, 450 km east of Jakarta in central Java, with a view to commissioning in 2016. There is also proposed a small power and desalination plant for Madura, using the S. Korean SMART reactor.
Korea Times 13/12/05.
India joins ITER
India has joined the USA, EU, Russia, Japan, South Korea and China as a full partner in ITER - the EUR 10 billion International Thermonuclear (fusion) Experimental Reactor project being built in France.
NucNet news # 186/05.
New power reactor for Iran
Iran has announced that a new indigenous 360 MWe nuclear power plant is to be built in Khuzistan province, where two Framatome 900 MWe plants were about to be constructed in 1970s. It has also said that bids for two further 1000 MWe units would be invited soon. The long-awaited 950 MWe Bushehr plant, being constructed by Atomstroyexport, is expected to start up this year, with fuel supplied by Russia.
Turkey revives nuclear power plans
The Turkish government is reported to be set to announce plans to build 5000 MWe of nuclear power capacity to come on line in 2012. It will be largely private-financed. Earlier plans were abandoned in 1997.
Rössing mine to continue
After three years study and deliberation Rio Tinto (owning 68.6%) has decided that US$ 112 million will be invested in extending the life of the Rössing uranium mine in Namibia to 2016 and returning its annual output to 4000 t U3O8. Half the expenditure will be on new mine equipment and half on the mill refurbishment.
Ontario review affirms nuclear power
A major energy review by the Ontario Power Authority has said that the province needs to spend C$ 83 billion on refurbishing its electricity supply over the next twenty years, and expand the contribution of nuclear power so that its share remains 50%. While renewables and energy efficiency need to play a much increased role also, the emphasis is on reliability. Some C$ 40 billion spent on nuclear plant is envisaged among 24,000 MWe of new and replacement capacity overall, though this is within context of less than 1% annual demand growth. Nuclear is acknowledged as having less environmental impact than gas and operates at lower cost. Investment in new base-load capacity is urgent. The report assumes nuclear construction cost of C$ 2600/kWe giving a levelised cost of 5.2 cents/kWh at 5% discount rate. Public opinion polls show significant support for nuclear power, with 72% in favour of refurbishing old plants and 52% supporting new build.
OPA 9/12/05, Toronto Star 10/12/05, Nucleonics Week 15/12/05.
Australian cash for energy projects
The Australian government has offered A$23 million to ten projects under the Renewable Energy Development Initiative. The largest sum, $5 million, is towards a small demonstration power plant at Geodynamics' Cooper Basin Hot Fractured Rock (HFR) project in South Australia. This Innaminka Power Plant is stage 2 of the HFR project, using hot brine from the granites (at 250ºC) 4-5 km beneath the surface.
Macfarlane media release 5/12/05, Geodynamics 5/12/05.
ERA shareholding changes
Following the equity rearrangement announced earlier, almost one third of Energy Resources of Australia shares are now publicly held.
Progress slow at UN Climate Change Conference
The latest UN climate change conference took place in December in Montreal, and highlighted the question of future agreements, both under the Kyoto Protocol (to which the USA and Australia are not signatories), and under the longer-term UN Climate Change Convention.
The Kyoto Parties agreed to start discussions on emissions targets to follow the first compliance period, which ends in 2012. However, no deadline was set for reaching agreement on these future targets. Parties to the Convention also agreed to meetings to discuss future actions, but only after strong caveats were inserted to address US objections. These caveats clarify that it isn't the purpose of these meetings to discuss future emissions targets.
A resolution reaffirmed the Clean Development Mechanism whereby developing countries assist carbon-reducing projects in developing countries, and another resolution moved towards a global emissions trading scheme. It was also resolved to promote carbon capture and sequestration technologies - the focus of AP6 in January.
Overall there was very little progress towards any type of future agreement to address climate change after 2012.
Uranium production to increase
Areva plans to invest up to EUR 600 million to double its uranium production by 2010, probably extending operations to further countries. In 2004 its Cogema subsidiary produced 5317 tU in Canada, Niger & Kazakhstan.
Ux Weekly 5/12/05.
Progress with first pebble bed demo reactors
The Chinese government has approved the primary feasibility study for construction of a 200 MWe high-temperature pebble bed reactor, the HTR-PM. This demonstration unit at Weihei in Shandong province is to pave the way for an 18-module full-scale power plant on the same site, using the steam cycle. China Huaneng Corp., one of China's major generators, is the lead organization involved with 50% share, China Nuclear Engineering & Construction will have a 35% stake and Tsinghua University INET 5%. Projected cost is US$ 375 million and start-up is scheduled for 2010. The HTR-PM rationale is both eventually to replace conventional reactor technology for power, and also to provide for future hydrogen production. It will use 9% enriched fuel (520,000 elements) in an annular core with low power density but high temperature (up to 900ºC). Plant life is envisaged as 60 years with 85% load factor. It will have a high level of inherent safety, proved last year in a small experimental version. The licensing process is under way with the National Nuclear Safety Administration.
Meanwhile PBMR Ltd in South Africa has awarded the first contracts for major components of its demonstration power plant - a 165 MWe pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR) at Koeberg. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will undertake some work in Japan, but is negotiating with a local manufacturer for future units. Then a EUR 39 million contract for the 2000 tonne pressure boundary containing 12 subsystems in the reactor unit, including the reactor vessel itself, was awarded to Equipos Nucleares SA (ENSA) in Spain for completion in 2009. Much of this fabrication is likely to be in South Africa.
CNNC 2/12/05, Zang Zouyi INET 15/2/05, PBMR 6/12/05, Nucleonics Week 26/1/06.
WNA New Economics of Nuclear Power report
The World Nuclear Association has had an international expert industry group analysing seven significant economic studies published since 2003, together with recent construction experience, mainly in Asia. A new WNA report from this group - The New Economics of Nuclear Power - describes the studies' premises and parameters, summarises their findings, and assesses their conclusions against the economics of alternatives. Despite variations in the published studies, the new report shows that the economic case for building new nuclear power capacity is now almost universal, without beginning to consider or quantify energy security, price stability or carbon emissions. In passing, the report identifies the need for governments to combine their regulatory and safety oversight with efficient licensing procedures for advanced designs of new plants. It shows that nuclear power does not, over the long term, requires subsidy, and that incentives for transition to clean-energy technologies of any kind should be without discrimination.
The report finds that the increased competitiveness of nuclear power is the result of cost reductions in all aspects of nuclear economics: construction, financing, operations, and waste management and decommissioning. Among the cost-lowering factors are the evolution to standardized reactor designs, shorter construction periods, new financing techniques, more efficient generating technologies, increased capacity factors, and longer plant lifetimes.
World reactor changes
USA Palo Verde 1 & 3: uprate each 43 MWe net to 1313 Nov
Pakistan: Chasma 2 construction start Dec 2005
Sweden uprates: adjust up 34 MWe Dec
From WNA Digest: October - November 2005
Rethinking the nuclear fuel cycle
Today the practices and presuppositions of half a century of nuclear power are being reconsidered, as nuclear energy moves to centre stage in provision of abundant clean electricity. A major driver in all cases is proliferation resistance. While there is much to be thankful for in the non-proliferation record so far under the 1970 NPT, new challenges and an ebbing of political will when confronted by situations such as Iran suggest that moving to some kinds of intrinsic proliferation resistance in the fuel cycle is timely.
A July conference in Moscow under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) auspices focused on Multilateral Technical and Organisational Approaches to strengthening non-proliferation. The conference canvassed a number of ideas which were floated many years ago and seen then as too difficult and not really necessary, but which have been dug out and revamped. A key principle agreed upon was that assurance of non-proliferation must be linked with assurance of supply and services. This raises the question of whether multilateral initiatives should be under IAEA control or co-ordination so that the IAEA might guarantee the supply of nuclear fuel and services for bona fide uses, thereby removing the incentive for countries to develop indigenous fuel cycle capabilities.
Impetus has been given to this wide review by the leadership of Mohammed ElBaradei, Director General of IAEA, who has pointed to the need for better control of both uranium enrichment and plutonium separation. "We should be clear", he said, "there is no incompatibility between tightening controls over the nuclear fuel cycle and expanding the use of peaceful nuclear technology. In fact, by reducing the risks of proliferation, we could pave the way for more widespread use of peaceful nuclear applications." This echoes the rationale of the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty itself, and he brought these matters to the attention of the UN General Assembly at the end of October. As well as constraining the 'do-it-yourself' inclinations of individual countries, "multilateral approaches could offer additional advantages in terms of safety, security and economics", he said .
Several approaches are proposed by an expert group convened by the IAEA:
• Reinforce existing commercial market mechanisms through long-term contracts, eg fuel leasing and take-back, storage and disposal of spent fuel;
• Develop and implement international supply guarantees with IAEA participation, eg with IAEA as administrator of a fuel bank;
• Promote voluntary conversion of existing facilities to multilateral control, involving also non-NPT countries;
• Create new multinational, and especially regional, facilities based on joint ownership, for enrichment, reprocessing and spent fuel.
The fuel leasing could be either from major supplier countries such as Canada and Australia, or from reactor vendors as an extension of the hardware package, as Russia is doing with Iran for Bushehr, obviating the need for fuel cycle facilities in Iran. Both IAEA and government support will be required for fuel leasing to become more widely accepted.
A significant part of the Moscow meeting was devoted to discussing Generation IV reactor systems with full actinide recycling as part of a closed fuel cycle. Such systems will produce very small volumes of fission product wastes without the long-life characteristics of today's used fuel, and will have high proliferation resistance. The 'classic' fuel cycle with aqueous (Purex) reprocessing and recycle of plutonium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel is not intrinsically proliferation resistant. IAEA safeguards have successfully prevented any diversion, and commercial (reactor-grade) plutonium is thankfully most unattractive for weapons, but deep burning all actinides including plutonium has several advantages.
In the USA, reprocessing was banned by President Carter due to concerns about plutonium. But for several years there has been interest in new forms of reprocessing which do not separate plutonium from uranium (recovering both together), and which segregate other actinides from fission products, enabling the actinides to be burned. The current US budget process for 2006 includes $50 million to develop a plan for "integrated spent fuel recycling facilities", and a program to achieve this with fast reactors will apparently be a major US budget request next year. As with reprocessing elsewhere, a large part of the incentive is to reduce volumes of high-level wastes and simplify their disposal, though removing the potential for a waste repository (such as Yucca Mountain) being seen as a future plutonium mine is also relevant.
In the short term, high-temperature helium-cooled reactors can deep burn actinides (including plutonium) once they are separated from uranium (recycled separately) and fission products. General Atomics claims both threefold increase in energy yield from original uranium in this way, along with tenfold reduction in actinides.
Moves towards advanced fuel cycles in conjunction with new-generation reactors are likely to lead to significant re-evaluation of the fate of used fuel from present light water reactors and those about to be built. Some countries might find that moving to new fuel cycles, initially storing their light-water reactor fuel and later re-using it, could be attractive. There seems to be a shift in attitudes about the value of used fuel that could eventually have repercussions for many national waste management programs and also lend impetus to fuel leasing. Some facilities currently envisaged as final disposal repositories may only be used for interim storage of spent fuel that will eventually be reprocessed and recycled, hence the trend to retrievability. Provision of a long-term storage service, possibly linked to fuel reprocessing and regeneration services, could be of great interest to some, while others may continue to prefer simply to dispose of used fuel.
Meanwhile, to ensure full and effective verification of the NPT safeguards regime, universal implementation is needed of the Additional Protocol to each country's safeguards agreement with the IAEA . This gives the IAEA broader rights of inspection and is now firmly established as the contemporary standard for NPT safeguards. Moreover, in those instances where a confidence and credibility deficit has arisen, additional ad hoc measures may also be required.
IAEA 13/7/05 (including MNA report), 7/11/05, Arius Newsletter #11 October 2005, NuclearFuel 21/11/05.
More US utilities flag new plants
Duke Power, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, has said that it will invest in a combined Construction & Operating Licence (COL) application to build two Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors, the site to be decided. Duke Energy is part of the NuStart consortium, which is sharing $520 million development costs with the Department of Energy preparatory to a COL application involving both the AP1000 and GE's ESBWR.
Constellation Energy has said that it will apply for an Early Site Permit late in 2007 and then a combined Construction & Operating Licence (COL) in mid 2008 to build a US EPR nuclear plant, probably at Calvert Cliffs or Nine Mile Point. Constellation has recently joined with Areva to form UniStar Nuclear which will promote the US version of the European EPR. Both the design certification application for the US EPR and the COL application will be filed through UniStar.
Progress Energy is also planning to apply for two COLs in late 2007 for two twin-unit plants, one in the Carolinas and one in Florida. The sites and technology will be decided in 2006.
NucNet BN 27/10/05, Nucleonics Week 27/10 & 3/11/05.
TVA feasibility study for new reactors
Under a DOE program for promoting building of new-generation nuclear plants, a $4 million feasibility study on building two ABWRs at Bellefonte in Alabama was undertaken by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) plus vendors GE and Toshiba as well as Bechtel and others. The 1350 MWe ABWR was the first Generation 3 reactor design to enter service, a number of units are operating and under construction in Japan and it already has design certification in the USA. The study showed that twin 1371 MWe ABWRs would cost $1611 per kilowatt, or if they were uprated to 1465 MWe each, $1535 /kW, and be built in 40 months. However TVA has apparently decided not to proceed, as they would be the only ABWR units in USA.
Nucleonics Week 29/9/05.
Reactor developments approved
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved 2.9% uprates at two units of Arizona's Palo Verde nuclear power plant through replacing the steam generators. One will occur in December - from 1270 to 1313 MWe, the other in 2007 - to 1317 MWe.
The California Public Utilities Commission has approved replacement of steam generators at the two 1100 MWe units of the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant. The $815 million project will be implemented in 2007 and 2008, with eight Spanish replacements. Without it both reactors would close about 2014, though the licences run to 2021 & 2025. A licence extension application is now envisaged. The Commission is considering a similar steam generator request for San Onofre 2 & 3.
NRC 18/11/05, Ux Weekly 21/11/05, Nucleonics Week 24/11/05.
Congress increases nuclear R&D
US Congress has approved an 15% increase in funding for nuclear energy programs in its 2006 appropriations. A total of $226 million was provided for nuclear R&D, including $66 million for an industry-government partnership to improve licensing processes. Other components are: $55 million for Generation IV systems (including $40 million for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant program), $25 million for nuclear hydrogen research and $80 million for advanced fuel cycle initiatives. The last is focused on proliferation-resistant reprocessing and transmutation of wastes, and calls for embarking upon pre-engineering design in 2007.
NEI Overview 14/1//05.
Strong public support for new US reactors
A survey of 1100 people living within 16 km of a nuclear power plant shows that 83% are in favour of nuclear energy, 76% are happy to see a further reactor built on their local site, and 88% are confident of that plant's safety. Employees of electric companies were excluded from the survey. Overall 81% said they felt well informed about their local plant, correlating with an absence of NIMBYism. The findings are particularly relevant as several companies and consortia prepare to build new nuclear power plants in the USA.
US weapons uranium released
The USA is releasing up to 200 tonnes of high-enriched uranium (HEU) - almost half of the total - from its weapons stockpiles for other uses "in the next decades". This is 40% of the amount from Russian weapons stockpiles liberated under the 1994 agreement to supply US civil power programs, and the largest US reduction so far. The HEU will be distributed: 160t to naval fuel, to give some 50 years' reserves there, 20t reserved for space or research reactors requiring HEU pending development of high-density cores using low-enriched uranium, and 20t to be downblended for use in civil nuclear power reactors or research reactors. For civil use the 20t HEU would make about 600 tonnes of power reactor fuel.
In September, the US Department of Energy said it would contribute 17.4 tonnes of high-enriched uranium (HEU) to an international fuel reserve to be available in the event of supply disruptions. The military surplus HEU would be blended down to low-enriched U for fuel under IAEA verification and "could be released at market rates to US fuel suppliers" if the IAEA requested it for supply to an "eligible country" suffering supply disruption. The reserve will be equivalent to about 5000 tonnes of mined uranium - about 12% of annual world production. The scheme is consistent with international concerns to limit the spread of enrichment technology to countries without well established nuclear fuel cycles. Russia has agreed to join the initiative.
Platts 26/9/05, AFP 27/9/05, DOE 7/11/05.
Major defence clean up proceeds
Several major US projects cleaning up the legacy of six decades of military activities put the civil nuclear wastes challenge into perspective. At Hanford, Washington the world's largest radioactive waste treatment plant is under construction to treat some 200 million litres of radioactive and chemical wastes from military plutonium production. Most of this - both high-level and low-level - will be vitrified in stainless steel canisters for disposal. Hot commissioning is expected in 2011. At Savannah River, South Carolina, a four-year decommissioning project is removing all the contaminated material from F Area reprocessing plant, which over 1951-92 separated one third of US military plutonium, from five production reactors on site.
At Rocky Flats in Colorado a huge ten year demolition and clean-up has just been completed, returning the 1952-92 weapons component site to unrestricted status, from an environmental disaster area. The cost was $3.5 billion, compared with early estimates of $36 billion. Finally, the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico has over six years operation received hundreds of shipments of plutonium-contaminated defence wastes for deep geological disposal without incident, a helpful pointer to the safety of waste or civil used fuel shipments to Yucca Mountain, Nevada in future.
Radwaste Solutions Sept-Oct 2005.
Positive nuclear power policy emerging in UK
The UK government has given the clearest indication yet that it will change policy settings to encourage new nuclear power plants. A review has been commissioned to supersede the 2003 government white paper which staked everything on wind power, subsidies for which are expected to reach £1 billion per year by 2010. Framing the issue is a commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% (from 1990 levels) by 2010. Yet the principal means of reducing those emissions - nuclear power - is subject to the same tax on energy use as fossil fuels, and CO2 emissions are barely diminished. Major industry associations have been vocal in supporting the need for new base-load capacity providing carbon-free energy security, and are stressing the urgency of action. Policy initiatives might include pre-certification of reactor technology, planning procedures without scope for indefinite delay, rational economic constraint on carbon emissions, and clarity on nuclear wastes - with defined costs. Any investment in new UK nuclear plants would be private, and they would not come on line for some ten years.
Economist 19/11/05, Times 21 & 23/11/05.
UK public opinion on energy issues
A MORI public opinion poll (N=1931) showed that Britons expressed substantial interest in climate change and where UK electricity will come from, but the spread of opinion on coal, gas and nuclear power plants was wide. Gas gave rise to price and supply concerns, nuclear to safety and waste concerns, coal topped the greenhouse concern (but 24% thought nuclear contributed too), and both coal and nuclear were thought to "cause dangerous pollution". Wind's intermittency was recognised by 60%. Finally, 83% thought the UK should be self-sufficient in energy, 54% thought new nuclear plants were needed (but 30% wanted no more nuclear plants), 70% thought it most important to produce less CO2 but only 41% realised nuclear produced very little of it.
MORI via EdF Energy 8/11/05.
Russia promotes home growth and exports
The new head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) has announced that he intends to push nuclear power engineering exports to Southeast Asia. Exploratory discussions have been under way for some years in several countries, and the first Russian nuclear power plant in China is expected to start up soon and be connected to the grid early in January. He also says that Russia itself needs to accelerate nuclear power development and replace older plants with new. Rosatom includes Rosenergoatom which generates nuclear power, TVEL and Tenex which produce and sell nuclear fuel, and Atomstroyexport which sells nuclear plants abroad.
Rosenergoatom is formulating plans to increase its nuclear capacity by 40% by 2020, which will involve prioritising and moving forward a number of hitherto uncertain projects. Plants will initially be VVER-1000 PWRs, moving to the larger and more economical VVER-1500 types as soon as possible, and also finishing the Beloyarsk-4 BN-800 fast reactor. The first floating nuclear power plant using two KLT-40 reactors from icebreakers is due to be completed in 2009. A near-term goal is to convert Rosenergoatom from a state enterprise to a joint stock company, which will enable it to raise equity capital for new plants.
Nucleonics Week 20/10/05, Novosti & MosNews 22/11/05.
New Russian reactor in commercial operation
The Kalinin-3 V-320 nuclear reactor, which started up late in 2004, has commenced commercial operation. With modern Russian process control technology the 950 MWe unit has an expected life of 50 years, compared with 30 years as standard for Russian plants. Rosenergoatom is planning to start construction of unit 4 in 2006, with a view to operation in 2010.
Nucleonics Week 17/11/05.
Part privatisation of EdF proceeds
Shares in Electricité de France, which generates most of France's electricity - most of it from nuclear power - have been offered publicly and enthusiastically taken up. Though the 2004 law converting EdF to a joint stock company allows up to 30% to be sold, the sale of 15% raised EUR 7 billion, making it the biggest IPO since 2001. The proceeds will be put back into the business, towards some EUR 40 billion required over the next five years. The government also announced that it will not sell its share of Areva before 2007 because aspects of the corporation's activities are too sensitive to be privatized.
Nucleonics Week 27/10/05, 3, 17 & 24/11/05, Economist 26/11/05.
France to uprate older plants
Electricité de France has announced that it will increase the capacity of five of its 900 MWe nuclear units at three sites over 2008-10 by replacing turbine rotors, thereby adding about 30 MWe to each.
Nucleonics Week 27/10/05.
Finland reactor uprated
TVO has reported that in an extensive outage in mid year involving turbine replacement, Olkiluoto unit 2 was uprated by 20 MWe, to 860 MWe. The boiling water reactor was started in 1982 and had already been uprated by 26% and its lifetime extended to 60 years. The same 20 MWe uprate will be done next year on unit 1.
TVO 20/5/05, 9/11/05.
Swedish government affirms nuclear role
After a court referred the issue to it, the Swedish government has affirmed that in the short to medium term "it is not possible … to shut down the nuclear plant without serious disruption to the electricity system" in Sweden and the Nordic region. It addressed particularly the Ringhals plant which provides 20% of Sweden's electricity. Furthermore it said some 290 MWe of uprates to this plant "are vital", and do not violate environmental laws. This approval for uprating units 1 & 3 at Ringhals and relicensing unit 2 clears the way for further uprates of other plants and gives a stamp of approval to Sweden's nuclear power, notwithstanding an official but increasingly irrelevant phase-out policy dating from 1980. New licences will have no time limits.
The government has agreed to pay the owners of Barsebäck-2 - Vattenfall and E.On - SEK 5.6 billion (EUR 583 million) in compensation for the unit's premature closure in May. Compensation for the politically-ordered closure of unit 1 in 1999 cost the Swedish taxpayers SEK 5.7 billion (EUR 593 million) plus a payment for operating unit 2 on its own.
Nucleonics Week 27/10/05 & 17/11/05.
EU parliamentarians call for nuclear recognition
In the strongest public statement so far from Euro politicians, a cross-party group of 25 EU members of parliament has endorsed "the vital contribution" of nuclear energy in countering climate change and called for more investment in all low- or zero-carbon power generation technologies. They said nuclear power will remain central in the EU's energy and environmental policy planning. They also called for a global strategy to address climate change, including "an effective international emissions trading scheme" and post-Kyoto arrangements for recognising the international offsetting of carbon dioxide emissions.
This was followed in mid November by a 453 to 204 vote which signalled an endorsement of the nuclear role in combating climate change, and opposition to measures which would hinder it in that role.
Foratom 19/10/05, 17/11/05.
German phase-out policy remains
Negotiations between the two major political parties in Germany which are forming a coalition government have left the previous 'red-green' nuclear phase-out policy in place. The parties agreed on the high priority of nuclear safety and on making progress with waste disposal, after the previous government set back that program. Elimination of the Greens from the coalition has meant a significant change for Germany's nuclear generators which provide 30% of the country's electricity. Most importantly, the erosion of trust and its effect on undermining the nuclear safety culture under the previous regulatory regime is expected to be remedied, as Green appointees are replaced. The four major utilities, all of which have some nuclear capacity, will not accept the closure of any significant capacity however, and will rearrange production rights accordingly so that none expire before 2009. In the meantime they are reported to be close to taking equity in the new French 1600 MWe reactor at Flamanville, having contributed to the design stages of the EPR type.
W.Breyer, Kerntext 26/9/05, Nucleonics Week 17/11/05.
Major contracts for China's new Qinshan plant
Qinshan Nuclear Power JV in Zhejiang province has signed major contracts for engineering and construction of the first two indigenous reactors to start building in 2006 - units 3 & 4 of phase 2 of Qinshan, duplicating the 650 MWe CNP-600 units there. The three contracts totalling over US$ 300 million are with China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group and two companies in Shanghai and Zhejiang. The whole project will cost some US$ 1.8 billion, with 70% local content, much of it from Shanghai Electric Group and Harbin Power Equipment Co. Qinshan is a subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), which expects to spend almost US$ 50 billion on 30 new nuclear plants by 2020.
China Daily 10/11/05.
South Korea decides waste site
After votes in four provincial cities competing to host South Korea's central repository for low- and intermediate-level radioactive wastes, Gyeongju 270 km SE of Seoul on the east coast has been designated as the site. An impressive 90% of its voters approved, compared with 68 to 83% in the other contender locations. The repository, involving shallow geological disposal of conditioned wastes eventually totaling 800,000 drums, is expected to be in operation by 2009. The Ministry of Commerce, Industry & Energy (MOCIE) is responsible for radioactive wastes, most of which arise from nuclear power generation at the country's 20 reactors, supplying 38% of the total electricity.
MOCIE in 2003 selected the four locations for detailed consideration and preliminary environmental review, and then offered US$ 290 million in benefits as compensation, following aborted attempts to impose earlier decisions (which also involved interim storage of spent fuel). A further 8.5 billion won will be paid in annual fees, and the headquarters of the state Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. will move there.
After Gyeongju was selected as the site, ending 19 years of government efforts to find a host region, residents expressed their joy at the decision. In the three regions that lost the bid, severe and sometimes physical criticism was targeted at environmental and anti-nuclear energy activist groups that encouraged residents to vote against the project. Residents said the activists had hindered the development of regional economies and asked them to leave the areas.
Korea Times 3/11/05, Chungang Daily 4/11/05, Nucleonics Week 10/11/05.
Japan consolidates nuclear R&D
As foreshadowed two years ago, the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute (JNC) and the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) have been merged to form the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). JAEA combines the results and experience of JAERI’s basic research with JNC’s nuclear fuel cycle efforts, aiming to create a major integrated nuclear R&D organization, with 4400 employees at ten facilities and annual budget of 161 billion yen (US$ 1.7 billion). Merging JNC and JAERI was a major part of the government’s administrative and financial reform program, and the new JAEA now ranges from basic research to project-based applications, and from fission and fusion to waste disposal.
Atoms in Japan, 3/10/05.
Japan's waste research goes underground
Construction of the underground shafts and galleries at the Horonobe Underground Research Centre has been launched by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). The facility, researching disposal of high-level radioactive wastes, has been under development since 2000 on Hokkaido, investigating sedimentary rocks. JAEA is also building a similar facility, the Mizunami Underground Research Laboratory, Gifu Prefecture, in igneous rock.
Atoms in Japan 9 &14/11/05.
Kazakhstan pursues uranium joint ventures
Kazatomprom, the state-owned uranium producer, is setting up joint ventures with Japanese companies Sumitomo Corp. and Kansai Electric Power Co. to expand its uranium mining towards a 2010 target output of 15,000 tonnes per year. It is also understood to be negotiating with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corp. (KHNP) on the same basis. Russia's Rosatom already owns 45% of the Zarechnoye joint venture, and UrAsia Energy Ltd owns a significant share of three other mines and is bidding for 72% control of the Kara Balta uranium mill in Krygyzstan which it intends to refurbish and use to refine its Kazakh output. Japan's Itochu Corp is buying 3000t uranium over ten years, to be marketed in USA and Japan.
Ux Weekly 21/11/05, Kazatomprom 2005 brochure.
Following the September agreement between US and Indian heads of state on nuclear energy cooperation, the UK has indicated its strong support for greater cooperation. France then Canada have followed suit, and Russia has long expressed interest in increasing nuclear exports to India. The US Department of Commerce, the UK and Canada have relaxed controls on export of technology to India, though staying within the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines. The French government says it will seek a nuclear cooperation agreement, and Canada has agreed to "pursue further opportunities for the development of the peaceful uses of atomic energy" with India. Canada supplied much of India's initial nuclear technology, including that which was improperly used for weapons.
Nucleonics Week 15/9/05, Toronto Star 22 & 27/9/05.
India plans new nuclear plants
India's cabinet has approved four sites for eight new nuclear power reactors. Two of the sites - Kakrapar and Rawatbhata, are to have 700 MWe indigenous PHWR units, another is to have imported 1000 MWe light water reactors alongside two being constructed by Russia at Kudankulam, and the fourth site is greenfield for 1000 MWe LWR units - Jaitapur in the Konkan region. The 700 MWe PHWRs are stepped up from the 540 MWe reactors, the first of which has just gone into commercial operation. Acquisition of any light water reactors depends upon international political approvals.
Calcutta Telegraph 23/9/05.
Bruce Power to rebuild old Ontario reactors
Facing an impending power shortage, the Ontario government has agreed with Bruce Power to support the refurbishment of its four oldest reactors - collectively known as Bruce A, each 769 MWe - rather than embarking on the longer process of building new ones to replace them. The first task will be for Bruce Power to rebuild its shut-down units 1 & 2 so that they are back in service in 2009-10 with 25 years prospective operation. Then units 3 & 4, restarted in 2003 after five years laid-up, would be refurbished - these would otherwise close down about 2009. The whole project will cost C$ 4.25 billion (US$ 3.6 billion) - C$ 2.75 billion for units 1 & 2, $1.15 billion for unit 3 refurbishment and $350 million for unit 4. The cost for units 1 & 2 (US$ 1500/kW) approaches the cost of new plant.
Bruce Power will be paid for all electricity from Bruce A on the basis of a 6.3 cents/kWh current reference price capped for 25 years (cf 6.765 c/kWh average Ontario spot price this year, and 4.5 c/kWh floor price for Bruce B - units 5-8). If the capital expenditure is over or under the $4.25 billion, the difference will be shared between the government and the investors. The recent Pickering 1 refurbishment cost Ontario Power Generation over US$ 1600/kW, and the government then decided against reviving units 2 & 3 there because it would be uneconomic. In 2006 it will consider building new nuclear capacity for the province.
Bruce 1 & 2 started commercial operation in 1977. Unit 2 was shut down in 1995 due to a maintenance accident in which lead contaminated the core. Unit 1 was laid up with another six units at the end of 1997 to allow operational focus on newer plants. Both will now have their fuel channels and 16 steam generators replaced and ancillary systems upgraded to current standards, giving them a further 25-year life. "When needed", unit 3 will then have its fuel channels and steam generators replaced, and unit 4 will have steam generators replaced "as required". UK-based AMEC will manage the rebuilding & restart of units 1 & 2.
One of the partners in Bruce Power - Cameco, holding 31.6% - said that while it strongly applauded the project it did not meet Cameco's investment criteria, so it received a $200 million payout of its interest in Bruce A. The other partners set up Bruce A Limited Partnership (BALP) to sublease Bruce A from Bruce Power and to pay for the project.
Bruce Power 17/10/05, Nucleonics Week 20/10/05.
Pickering reactor rejoins grid
After nearly eight years being laid-up, Ontario Power Generation's Pickering 1 nuclear reactor has been reconnected to the grid after a 14-month, C$ 1 billion refurbishment.
Canadian spent fuel plans open ended
Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO) has recommended to the government that used fuel be stored - possibly centrally, with a view to deep geological disposal later as high-level waste. The Adaptive Phased Management approach arises from a 3-year study and consultation process and will be implemented over more than 60 years. The NWMO was asked to consider three approaches to manage nuclear fuel waste: storage at reactor sites, centralised surface storage, and deep geologic storage. Its recommendation combines all three. An initial task for NWMO is to find "an informed, willing community to host the central facilities". Temporary storage may be utilised there en route to a deep geological repository, which will make provision for long term monitoring in the event of final closure.
Ontario plans deep repository for wastes
Following a strong positive response to polling of local residents, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) is proceeding with plans to construct a deep geological repository for its low- and intermediate-level wastes near the Bruce nuclear power plant. The repository will be 660 metres beneath its Western Waste Management Facility, which it has operated since 1974. Environmental assessment and licensing is expected to take 6-8 years, while the surface facility itself is developed to accommodate materials arising from refurbishment of OPG and Bruce reactors.
ERA revises Ranger resources
Energy Resources of Australia has announced a revision of its uranium resources at the Ranger mine. It has increased reserves by 6285 tonnes U3O8 and overall resources by 14,923 t U3O8 due to lowering cut-off grade by one third to reflect current prices, to 0.08% U3O8. This will extend the life of the Ranger operation by three years, albeit at lower levels of output.
Cameco and Cogema divest ERA shares
Energy Resources of Australia has announced a rearrangement of its shares which will mean that Cameco, Cogema and a holding company (JAURD) representing Japanese power utilities will lose their special unlisted status and their shares will become tradable. The structure originated in 1980 when the Australian government sold its share in Ranger and ERA was set up with three overseas customers holding this 25% equity. Cameco later took over Uranerz, giving it 6.69%, and Cogema took over other customer shares, giving it 7.76%. The three companies have advised ERA that they intend to sell their newly-tradable shares, "through a single offer to professional investors". Cameco said it preferred investment which yielded production rather than dividends.
Rio Tinto 10/10/05.
Australian uranium production up
With September quarter production of 1590 tonnes U3O8 (1348 tU) from Ranger and 1081 t (1088 t UOC, 916 tU) from Olympic Dam, the Australian production rate is now over 11,500 t U3O8 per year (9750 tU/yr).
ERA 24/10/05, BHPB 27/10/05.
Dr ElBaradei & IAEA share Nobel peace prize
IAEA and its Director General Mohamed ElBaradei have jointly won the 2005 Nobel peace prize, to be presented in Oslo in December. The Norwegian committee cited both "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way". "His ceaseless efforts against nuclear proliferation have been crucial in securing the peaceful use of a technology on which the world's future depends. Non-proliferation and the widespread use of clean nuclear power go hand in hand," said John Ritch, Director General of World Nuclear Association. ElBaradei's conviction that US intelligence on Iraq was wrong earned him the enmity of the USA in recent years, though he was proven correct.
BBC 7/10/05, NucNet news #159/05.
PBMR contracts for new reactor
South Africa's PBMR company has awarded a contract for engineering, procurement and construction management to SLMR - a Canadian-South African joint venture - for its demonstration Pebble Bed Modular Reactor at Koeberg. A second and larger contract, for core structure graphite, was let to Germany's SGL Carbon. Construction is envisaged from 2007, and a second round of environmental hearings is under way at present.
Meanwhile the BNFL share in PBMR has been passed to Westinghouse and negotiations are under way with other possible investors to enable Eskom to reduce its stake from 30% to 5%.
Nucleonics Week 17/11/05, UX Weekly 14/11/05, Platts 23/11/05.
Green light for Silex partnership
Following a six month delay, the US government has approved potential commercial partners of Silex accessing classified information controlled by the USA and relating to non-proliferation objectives. This will enable prospective partners to assess the potential of the Australian company and its SILEX process with due diligence. Silex is the only company developing third-generation laser enrichment technology, and the decision means that a commercial partner could be in place early in 2006, enabling construction of a full-scale uranium pilot plant, probably in North America.
Rio Tinto rationalises U marketing
Rio Tinto Uranium has been set up to market the output of both ERA's Ranger mine in Australia and the Rossing mine in Namibia. The two companies, majority-owned by Rio Tinto, have contracted with RTU.
Rio Tinto 5/10/05.
Low dose radiation reports leave understanding open
During 2005 three important studies have been reported. They confirm that the risks of low-level radiation are very small.
The International Agency on Cancer Research (IARC) studied over 400,000 nuclear industry workers (other than uranium mining) in 15 countries with records dating from 1944 - the largest study of nuclear industry workers conducted so far. IARC concluded that "the results suggest that there is a small excess risk of cancer, even at the low doses and low dose rates typically received by nuclear workers in this study." In particular, "1-2% of deaths from cancer among workers in this cohort may be attributable to radiation." However, the risk estimate for Canada is much larger than others and no explanation is proffered. Without Canada the results show no excess risk. The overall average accumulated recorded dose was 19.4 mSv, with 90% receiving less than 50 mSv and less than 0.1% doses of over 500 mSv. Less than 5% received cumulative doses of the order of 100 mSv over their entire career, and most of these doses were many years ago. The study broadly supports the liner no-threshold (LNT) model of assessing radiation risk.
The US National Academies' National Research Council has also published a report on Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionising Radiation, following four years work by the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation (BEIR) committee - the BEIR VII report. This supports previous estimates of there being some small risk, but strengthens the confidence in them and supports the application of the liner no-threshold model for assessing risk.
A study of 7076 workers at Lucas Heights in Australia over 1957-1998 has shown that mortality rates are 31% lower than the general population, and those for cancers in particular are 19% lower. This appears to be more than the 'healthy worker effect', given the long study period.
British Medical Journal 29/6/05, Nucleonics Week 7/7/05, ARPS newsletter July 2005.
World reactor changes
Canada: Pickering 1: 515 grid connect
Finland: Olkiluoto-2 uprate 20 MWe
From WNA Digest: August - September 2005
New nuclear reactor designs to equip nuclear revival
Electric utilities looking around for up to date nuclear power plants have quite a lot to choose from. Designs have become more international than last time most of them went shopping for nuclear plants, and there are some innovations as well as the designs which have vigorously evolved from the workhorses of today.
Several generations of reactors are commonly distinguished. Generation I reactors were developed in 1950-60s, and outside the UK none are still running today. Generation II reactors are typified by the present US fleet and most in operation elsewhere. Generation III are the Advanced Reactors discussed here. The first of these are in operation in Japan and others are under construction or ready to be ordered. Generation IV designs are still on the drawing board and will not be operational before 2020 at the earliest.
About 85% of the world's nuclear electricity is generated by reactors derived from designs originally developed for naval use. These and other second-generation nuclear power units have been found to be safe and reliable, and capacity factors have risen remarkably in the last decade. In addition, many have had operating licences extended to 60 years. However, they are being superseded by better designs.
Reactor suppliers in North America, Japan, Europe, Russia and elsewhere have a dozen new nuclear reactor designs at advanced stages of planning, while others are at a research and development stage. Fourth-generation reactors are at concept stage.
Third-generation reactors have:
• a standardised design for each type to expedite licensing, reduce capital cost and reduce construction time,
• a simpler and more rugged design, making them easier to operate and less vulnerable to operational upsets,
• higher availability and longer operating life - typically 60 years,
• reduced possibility of core melt accidents,
• minimal effect on the environment,
• higher burn-up to reduce fuel use and the amount of waste,
• burnable absorbers ("poisons") to extend fuel life.
The greatest departure from second-generation designs is that many incorporate passive or inherent safety features which require no active controls or operational intervention to avoid accidents in the event of malfunction, and may rely on gravity, natural convection or resistance to high temperatures.
In Europe, designs have been developed to meet the European Utility Requirements (EUR) of French and German utilities, which have stringent safety criteria.
Framatome ANP has developed a large (1600 and up to 1750 MWe) European Pressurised water Reactor (EPR), which was confirmed in mid 1995 as the new standard design for France and received French design approval in 2004. It is derived from the French N4 and German Konvoi types and is expected to provide power about 10% cheaper than the N4. It will operate flexibly to follow loads and has the highest thermal efficiency of any light water reactor, at 36%. The first unit is being built at Olkiluoto in Finland, the second is planned at Flamanville in France. The US EPR (as US Evolutionary Power Reactor) is also undergoing review in USA with intention of a design certification application in 2007.
Together with German utilities and safety authorities, Framatome ANP also developed another evolutionary design, the SWR 1000, a 1000-1290 MWe BWR which was bid for Finland in 2003. The design was completed in 1999 and development continues, with US design certification being sought. It is ready for commercial deployment.
In Russia, Gidropress 1000 MWe V-392 (advanced VVER-1000) units with enhanced safety are planned for Novovoronezh and are being built in India. A transitional VVER-91 (1000 MWe) was developed with western control systems - two are being built in China at Jiangsu Tianwan, and it was bid for Finland.
The VVER-1500 V-448 model is being developed by OKBM, and two units each are planned as replacement plants for Leningrad and Kursk. Design is expected to be complete in 2007 and the first units commissioned in 2012-13.
In Canada, the Advanced Candu Reactor (ACR), a 3rd generation reactor, is an innovative concept based on AECL's reliable CANDU-6 reactors, the most recent of which are operating in China. While retaining the low-pressure heavy water moderator, it incorporates some features of the pressurised water reactor. Adopting light water cooling and a more compact core reduces capital cost, and because the reactor is run at higher temperature and coolant pressure, it has higher thermal efficiency.
The ACR-700 is 750 MWe but is physically much smaller, simpler and more efficient as well as 40% cheaper than the Candu-6, giving low capital and operating costs. It will run on low-enriched uranium (about 1.5-2.0% U-235) with high burn-up, extending the fuel life by about three times and reducing high-level waste volumes accordingly. Regulatory confidence in safety is enhanced by negative void reactivity for the first time in Candu, and it utilises other passive safety features. Units will be assembled from prefabricated modules, eventually cutting construction time to three years.
Development is under way and the project is expected to be ready to build soon. Meanwhile it is moving towards design certification in Canada, with a view to following in China, USA and UK. Focus has now shifted to developing the ACR-1000 of 1100-1200 MWe, very similar to the ACR-700 but with more fuel channels (each of which can be regarded as a module of about 2.5 MWe). The first ACR-1000 unit is expected to be operating in 2014 in Ontario.
In the USA, the federal Department of Energy (DOE) and the commercial nuclear industry in the 1990s developed four advanced reactor types. Two of them fall into the category of large "evolutionary" designs which build directly on the experience of operating light water reactors in the USA, Japan and Western Europe.
One is an advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR), four 1300-1380 MWe examples of which are in commercial operation in Japan, with another under construction there and two in Taiwan. Four more are planned in Japan and another in the USA. It was bid for the 5th Finnish reactor in 2003.
The other type, System 80+, is an advanced pressurised water reactor (PWR), which was ready for commercialisation but is not now being promoted for sale. Eight System 80 reactors in South Korea incorporate many design features of the System 80+, which is the basis of the Korean Next Generation Reactor program, specifically the larger APR-1400 which is expected to be in operation soon after 2010 and marketed worldwide.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) gave final design certification for both in 1997, noting that they exceeded NRC "safety goals by several orders of magnitude". The ABWR has also been certified as meeting European requirements for advanced reactors.
Another, more innovative US advanced reactor is smaller - 600 MWe - and has passive safety features (its projected core damage frequency is nearly 1000 times less than today's NRC requirements). The Westinghouse AP-600 gained NRC final design certification in 1999 (AP = Advanced Passive).
These NRC approvals were the first such generic certifications to be issued and are valid for 15 years. As a result of an exhaustive public process, safety issues within the scope of the certified designs have been fully resolved and hence will not be open to legal challenge during licensing for particular plants. US utilities will be able to obtain a single NRC licence to both construct and operate a reactor before construction begins.
Separate from the NRC process and beyond its immediate requirements, the US nuclear industry selected one standardised design in each category - the large ABWR and the medium-sized AP-600, for detailed first-of-a-kind engineering (FOAKE) work. The US$ 200 million program, was half funded by DOE. It means that prospective buyers now have firm information on construction costs and schedules.
The Westinghouse AP-1000, scaled-up to 1100 MWe from the AP-600, has now received final design approval from the NRC and is expected to gain full design certification later in 2005. It represents the culmination of a 1300 man-year and $440 million design and testing program. Capital and operating costs are expected to be low, and modular design will reduce construction time to 36 months. It is under active consideration for building in China, Europe and USA, and is capable of running on a full MOX core if required.
General Electric has developed the ESBWR of 1390 MWe with passive safety systems, from its ABWR design. This then grew to 1550 MWe and has been submitted for NRC design certification in the USA. Design approval is expected by 2007. It is favoured for early US construction as the Economic & Simplified BWR.
All of the above are moderated and cooled by water, but an entirely different approach is based on pioneering work in the USA and Germany. This involves using helium cooling and much higher temperatures, hence greater thermodynamic efficiency.
South Africa's Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) is being developed by a consortium led by the utility Eskom, and drawing on German expertise. It aims for a step change in safety, economics and proliferation resistance. Production units will be 165 MWe. They will have a direct-cycle gas turbine generator and thermal efficiency about 42%. Further details were in Newsletter 3/05. Construction cost (especially when in clusters of eight units) and operating costs are expected to be low. A demonstration plant is due to be built in 2006 for commercial operation in 2010.
Looking further ahead, two major international initiatives have been launched to define future reactor and fuel cycle technology, mostly looking further ahead than what has been discussed so far.
Generation IV International Forum (GIF) is a US-led grouping set up in 2001 which has identified six reactor concepts for further investigation with a view to commercial deployment by 2030. See Generation IV paper.
The IAEA's International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) is focused more on developing country needs, involves Russia rather than the USA. It is now funded through the IAEA budget.
So, there is a variety of reactor technology available or soon to be available, and more still after 2020. These will take the world nuclear power industry in to an era of upgraded equipment which is safer, simpler, more economic and more durable, while playing a major role in limiting world carbon dioxide emissions. A doubling of nuclear capacity will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by almost one third of present levels from power generation.
European bridgehead into US reactor market
Areva and Constellation Energy have formed a joint venture - UniStar Nuclear - providing a business framework to build at least four of Areva's advanced EPR nuclear units in the USA. The 1600 MWe Generation-3+ EPR from Framatome ANP is being built in Finland, is planned for France and has been bid for China. Constellation is part of the NuStart consortium considering combined construction and operating licences (COL) for new US plants, and to accommodate the new EPRs it has withdrawn two sites from consideration for NuStart COL. The UniStar COL timetable would be much the same as NuStart's, with application in 2008, construction start in 2010 and operation 2015. Overnight capital cost is put at up to $2000 per kilowatt, depending on site.
NuStart is considering two US reactor designs (see below), Constellation has now opted for the European model, though it would be fully built in the USA as the US EPR - 'Evolutionary' replacing 'European' in the name. It has in fact evolved from German Konvoi and French N4 designs, and Areva is already involved with discussions aimed at a NRC design certification application in 2007. Bechtel Power Corporation will support the joint venture with engineering and construction expertise. Constellation, which now operates some 12,000 MWe of US generating capacity, envisages being licensee and operator of the first four EPR plants. Further ones may involve other US energy companies. The EPR exceeds US safety requirements and is now being adapted to US voltage and frequency, as well as US codes.
Areva 15/9/05, NEI Overview 19/9/05, Nucleonics Week 22/9/05.
US utilities flag interest in new plants
Several US power utilities have now notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of interest in proceeding either with Early Site Permits for new reactors or combined Construction & Operating Licences. Three applications are under consideration for ESPs and at least four are pending, as are several COLs from individual utilities and consortia. The latter will involve nominating a site and an approved reactor type. So far the NuStart consortium has identified Entergy's Grand Gulf site for GE's ESBWR reactor and TVA's Bellefonte site with Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor for COL applications in 2007 and 2008. Entergy also plans a COL on its own for an ESBWR unit at River Bend, and TVA has completed a feasibility study (part funded by DOE) for two ABWR units at Bellefonte.
Nucleonics Week 1/9/05, Platts 22/9/05.
New reactor design for approval
GE Energy has submitted its ESBWR reactor to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for design certification. The size has been increased to 1550 MWe and passive safety systems are used, but overall it is a development of the early 3rd generation ABWR which gained design certification in 1997 and is operating in Japan. GE said its 7500-page application represents a decade of work. Design approval is expected by 2007, with certification following. The ESBWR has been selected by the two main consortia formed to apply for COLs (see above). The NRC issued the approval for Westinghouse's AP1000 in 2004 and expects its design certification finalised this year.
Nucleonics Week 1/9/05.
US licence extensions
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licences for American Electric Power's two-unit Cook nuclear plant for 20 years, to 2034 & 2037. This brings to 35 the number of US licence extensions.
Nucleonics Week 1/9/05.
Proposal for change in US used fuel policy
At an industry fuel supply forum a bipartisan proposal for changing US policy on used nuclear fuel to incorporate a viable reprocessing and recycling strategy was presented by two senior House members. They suggest above-ground storage at Department of Energy sites for up to 50 years while additional R&D is undertaken - DOE is already storing the damaged Three Mile Island core as well as foreign research reactor fuel. Recycling would substantially reduce the amount needing to be stored in the federal repository at Yucca Mountain, but the USA was well behind Europe and Japan on this.
France plans full nuclear replacement
Electricité de France has announced that it plans to replace its 58 nuclear reactors with EPR nuclear reactors from 2020, at the rate of about one 1600 MWe unit per year. It would require 40 of these to reach present capacity. EdF's development strategy selects this option on the basis of nuclear's "economic performance, for the stability of its costs and out of respect for environmental constraints." A demonstration EPR is to be built at Flamanville, starting 2007.
NucNet news # 125/05.
Prospect for new Slovak reactors
Italian utility ENEL plans to invest EUR 1.55 billion to complete the Mochovce 3 & 4 nuclear reactors in Slovakia. Work is expected to commence next year and be complete about 2010. ENEL is buying a major share of the Slovak Electric (SE) utility, which owns and operates six nuclear reactors at Bohunice and Mochovce, and it has agreed on a strategic investment plan for SE. The two part-completed reactors are Russian VVER-440 type, similar to units 1 & 2 there, commenced in 1985 by Skoda.
Swedish uprates on track
Swedish regulators have approved a 250 MWe uprate of the 1200 MWe Oskarshamn-3 reactor, and government approval of other, lesser uprates is pending at Forsmark and Ringhals. Forsmark-1 has been uprated 47 MWe to 1015 MWe.
Nucleonics Week 8/9/05.
Dutch reactor extension
Following a change of policy, the Dutch Prime Minister has proposed to abandon the government's original plan to shut down the 481 MWe Borssele nuclear plant in 2013, and to allow its operation to 2033, giving it a 60-year life. The environment minister has confirmed to parliament that he is negotiating an agreement with the plant's owners. Unconfirmed reports say that both government and the Borssele owners should contribute EUR 500 million for investment in "sustainable energy" out of the extra revenue and the avoided compensation for premature closure, and that the government is considering a new Nuclear Energy Law specifying 40-year licences for new nuclear plants.
Dutch Parliament & newspapers 7/9/05.
UK reactor life extension
The first of British Energy's Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors - two 571 MWe units at Dungeness B in Kent - have been granted a ten-year life extension, to 2018. The plant has been operating since 1983. BE is investigating other life extension possibilities for its AGRs.
UK publishes nuclear clean-up plan
The UK's new Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has published a draft plan for cleaning up the country's 20 civil nuclear sites which it is responsible for. Three months is allowed for public comment. The focus of the strategy is the higher-hazard legacy facilities at Sellafield and Dounreay, and a plan to accelerate the decommissioning of Magnox reactors - the only first-generation nuclear power plants in the world still operating. The draft also canvasses the need for new solutions to low-level waste disposal and evaluation of options for intermediate-level waste disposal.
NDA 11/8/05 - www.nda.gov.uk.
Canada intrudes on Chinese uncertainty
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) has signed a technology development agreement with the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) which opens the possibility of it supplying further Candu-6 reactors as part of China's accelerating nuclear construction program. At present CNNC is involved with plans to start construction of eight new PWRs next year. It has worked with overseas companies to develop the indigenous CNP-1000 PWR based on existing Framatome plants at Daya Bay and Ling Ao, and is a champion of this local technology which is intended for four of the new units. On the other hand the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) is in charge of technology selection for the other four new plants being bid from overseas and has favoured Framatome's EPR or Westinghouse's AP1000 plants on a turnkey basis, but with some technology transfer. However, negotiation on these bids has seriously faltered (though Areva is expecting a decision in October).
The AECL agreement with CNNC introduces a new element into the discussion. AECL built the Qinshan phase III 2-unit plant on schedule and under budget and estimates that it could be replicated for 25% less cost. Any replication would be on the basis of involving local engineering teams, not on a turnkey basis, but the technology is now well understood and the decades-old Candu-6 design is likely to pose less problems for technology transfer than state of the art 3rd-generation designs from Westinghouse and Framatome ANP. The later Korean Candu-6 plants at Wolsong had 75% local content. However, the agreement with CNNC does look further forward to collaboration on AECL's new ACR design later on.
Nucleonics Week 15/9/05, CNA.
Japan progress with MOX use
Japan's Nuclear & Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) on behalf of the Ministry (METI) has now approved the use of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in several reactors including Takahama 3 & 4, Fukishima I-3, Kashiwazaki Kariwa 3 and Genkai 3. This is expected to occur about 2010, after modifications to the reactors. Applications for Shimane 2 and Hamaoka 4 are pending. The Federation of Electric Power Companies has a goal of using MOX in 16 reactors by 2010.
Atoms in Japan 7, 12, 13/9/05.
Japan reaffirms nuclear policy
The Japanese Atomic Energy Commission has reaffirmed policy directions for nuclear power in Japan. The main elements are that a "30-40% share or more" shall be the target for nuclear power in total generation after 2030, including replacement of current plants with advanced light water reactors. Fast breeder reactors will be introduced commercially, but not until about 2050. Used fuel will be reprocessed domestically to recover fissile material for use in mixed-oxide fuel (MOX). Disposal of high-level wastes will be addressed after 2010.
Atoms in Japan 28/7/05.
South Korea's 20th reactor fully operational
Ulchin-6, South Korea's newest reactor, is now in commercial operation. This is the last of six Korean Standard Nuclear Power Plants (KSNP) incorporating many of the US advanced reactor features. The next four plants ready to start construction - Shin Kori 1 & 2 and Shin Wolsong 1 & 2 - are 950 MWe KNSP+ units with further substantial improvements. Ux Weekly 15/8/05.
Japanese reactors shake out
Tohuku's three Onagawa nuclear power reactors shut down automatically when a magnitude 7.2 earthquake hit NE Japan on 16 August. They will be restarted after detailed checks over several weeks confirm no damage.
China lays out fast reactor plans
Due to competing demands for heavy industry capacity, China's first fast neutron reactor is not now scheduled to start up until 2008. The 25 MWe China Experimental Fast Reactor is being built 50 km south of Beijing. Meanwhile, design engineering for the 600 MWe China Prototype Fast Reactor has got under way and it is scheduled to come on line in 2020. A third phase calls for development of larger fast neutron reactors of 1000 to 1500 MWe capacity, but this has not yet received government approval. The main rationale for the fast reactor program is to more fully utilise uranium supplies, a secondary justification longer term is to incinerate minor actinides in used fuel from light water reactors. Despite some international interest in other coolants such as lead-bismuth, China intends to stay with sodium as coolant, since its safety is well established.
Nucleonics Week 18/8/05.
India's first large reactor in operation
Nuclear Power Corporation of India has put Tarapur-4 into commercial operation - the first of its large indigenous PHWR units. Construction of the 540 MWe unit began in March 2000, and it started up this year. Its twin - unit 3 - is expected to start up early 2006.
Meanwhile the Kalpakkam fast breeder reactor appears likely to be finished ahead of its 2010 schedule, despite a setback from December's tsunami. The 500 MWe unit is a key part of India's civil nuclear energy strategy involving use of thorium fuel.
Nucleonics Week 15/9/05.
India bids for international projects
The Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission has confirmed that his country wants to become a full partner in international fusion energy research. In a letter to the European Commission Research Directorate he referred to India's credentials in plasma research, said that India's contribution could be comparable with that of other ITER partners, and asked for the existing partners to specify terms for India to join the project.
In relation to the international development of 4th generation nuclear reactors, the Indian Prime Minister has flagged the desire to join. The Generation IV International Forum comprises ten countries led by the USA and collaborating on development of six new nuclear reactor designs. He also raised the prospect of India reaching 40,000 MWe of nuclear capacity rather sooner than earlier estimates of 20-30 years.
Iran weapons concerns continue
Iran has announced that it will continue its endeavours towards enriching uranium, despite international attempts to dissuade it. Concern arises from 22 years of undeclared work to 2003 in breach of IAEA safeguards commitments, and despite assurances of civil purposes. The 200 t/yr Chinese-designed conversion plant at Isfahan was started early in August, but uranium feed from Iran's own mines reportedly has significant levels of molybdenum and other contaminants which frustrate plans for any enrichment, and particularly so for high enrichment. Estimates vary widely regarding what is required to overcome these problems. With Iran's refusal to suspend work associated with uranium enrichment, the IAEA Board is considering referring the matter to the UN Security Council. The large Russian power reactor nearing completion at Bushehr will be supplied with fuel by Russia, obviating any need for other sources for many years.
IAEA 11/8/05, NuclearFuel 29/8/05.
North Korean accord
After several years of fraught negotiations, 6-party talks have achieved agreement that North Korea will abandon "all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs" and re-join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), accepting IAEA safeguards "at an early date". In exchange, the parties undertake to negotiate a permanent peace regime for the Korean Peninsula, promote economic cooperation, and provide energy assistance to North Korea. In addition, the parties agreed "to discuss at an appropriate time" the provision of light water power reactors to North Korea. A subsequent North Korean announcement appeared to resile from this, saying that the reactors are a prerequisite for aborting its nuclear weapons program. The agreement echoes elements of the 1994 Agreed Framework which resulted in the partial construction of two South Korean reactors at Kumho, under the auspices of the Korean Energy Development Organization (KEDO). KEDO is a 1995 US, South Korean, Japanese and EU initiative, with 70% of the finance from South Korea. Work was suspended late in 2003 with the first of the 1000 MWe KSNP reactors about half complete, when North Korea withdrew from the NPT after being found acting illegally under it. The USA now wants to terminate KEDO by the end of the year.
FT 20 & 21/9/05, Nucleonics Week 22/9/05.
Ontario scraps two laid-up reactors
Ontario Power Generation has announced that it will not recommission Pickering 2 & 3 reactors which were closed in 1997. While refurbishing would be technically feasible, it would be uneconomic compared with building anew. OPG will now focus on improving the performance of its other ten reactors and seeking life extension for them, while defuelling and mothballing these two. Of the four 25-26 year old units laid-up in December 1997, unit 4 returned to service in 2003 and unit 1 has just restarted after a C$ 1 billion refurbishment. Each is 515 MWe net. The OPG decision increases the probability that the government will work out a deal with Bruce Power to refurbish one or two of the laid-up 769 MWe Bruce units.
OPG 12/8/05, Toronto Star 13/8/05.
Australian uranium policy addressed
Development of a national uranium policy for Australia has been initiated by the Industry Minister: "Australia is currently the world’s second largest producer of uranium, but there are significant challenges facing the industry in this country while, globally, there are concerns about future supply," he said. "The Uranium Industry Framework will examine all sides of the issue through a science-based approach developed in partnership with relevant State and Territory governments, industry, indigenous and community stakeholders." Principal aims are to reduce impediments to exploration and mining and ensure a consistent and efficient regulatory regime.
Early in August the federal government had used a provision in the Northern Territory mining act to take control of uranium mining in NT, particularly the approval of new mining ventures.
I. Macfarlane 11/8/05.
Peak industry body calls for nuclear consideration
The Australian Chamber of Commerce & Industry has called for the government to conduct a feasibility study on establishment of nuclear power facilities in Australia and to review its energy policy to allow for nuclear power. "Relying on renewables such as solar and wind power is currently not a viable solution for base-load energy requirements and their premature mandatory introduction would have a negative impact on jobs and economic prosperity. An energy source which provides base-load power while neither threatening economic growth nor contributing to greenhouse gas emissions should not be arbitrarily ruled out of consideration" as in the 2004 Energy White Paper.
Olympic Dam assessment under way
BHP Billiton has commenced the environmental assessment of the proposed A$5 billion expansion at its Olympic Dam operation in South Australia with the lodgment of the project proposal to the Federal and State Governments. While there is no formal commitment to undertake the expansion, this does mark the beginning of a two-year process of scientific analysis and extensive public consultation and will help the company incorporate necessary modifications into the final design.
New Australian Health & Waste Code
After seven years gestation, the new Code of Practice and Safety Guide: Radiation Protection and Radioactive Waste Management in Mining and Mineral Processing (2005) has been published. It is simpler than its two predecessors and moves away from undue prescription to performance-based and audited regulatory approach.
Ethical investment fund ticks uranium
In Australia, the Anglican Church's ethical investment fund, Australia's second largest, has scrapped its ban on buying uranium stocks, after a three-month review. As with BT Funds Management earlier, Glebe Asset Management cited global warming concern as the reason for the change. One third of the A$21.5 billion "socially responsible" investment in Australia is apparently from religious sources.
Chernobyl report confirms extent of disaster
A multi-agency study under UN auspices has quantified the health effects of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Some 56 people were killed or have subsequently died, including 9 children from thyroid cancer - which could have been avoided. Among some 200,000 workers exposed in the first year, 2200 radiation-related deaths can be expected. Among residents, apart from 4000 thyroid cancers, no evidence of increased leukaemia or other cancer was found. On the basis of statistical dose-effect models, a total of the order of 4000 eventual deaths from the accident are possible, though most scientists involved were reported to oppose publication of such a specific estimate.
A UNDP director said that "the impact was much smaller than anyone could have predicted" and now "the danger of radiation has largely passed". The 600-page report says that people in the area have suffered a paralysing fatalism due to myths and misperceptions about the threat of radiation, which has contributed to a culture of chronic dependency. Mental health coupled with smoking and alcohol abuse is a very much greater problem than radiation, but worst of all at the time was the underlying level of health and nutrition. There is no evidence or likelihood of congenital problems attributable to radiation. Apart from the initial 116,000, relocations of people were very traumatic and did little to reduce radiation exposure, which was low anyway. Some seven million people are now receiving or eligible for benefits as "Chernobyl victims", which means that resources are not targeting the needy few percent of them. Remedying this presents daunting political problems however. The Chernobyl Forum study involved over 100 scientists from eight specialist UN agencies and the governments of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Its conclusions are in line with earlier expert studies.
IAEA 5/9/05, Times 7/9/05, Nucleonics Week 8/9/05.
Depleted uranium study
The US Sandia National Laboratories has conclude a 2-year study of the health effects of depleted uranium during the 1991 Gulf war, where it was used in anti-tank munitions. Consistent with earlier studies, this concludes that reports of serious health risks from exposure to depleted uranium are not supported by medical statistics nor by analysis of other data. Civilian exposure was included.
DOE Sandia 24/7/05.
World Nuclear University concludes Summer Institute
The first intensive 6-week Summer Institute of the World Nuclear University at Idaho Falls, USA concluded successfully. Seventy-seven young professionals and postgraduate students (average 30 yo) from 34 countries were in the program, which was hosted by the Idaho National Laboratory. A quarter were women, and almost half were from less-developed countries, supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Sweden will host the 2006 SI course in Stockholm, and France will organise technical visits to French nuclear installations during its last week.
WNA Market Report updates outlook
The nuclear industry's 2-yearly report: The Global Nuclear Fuel Market - supply & demand 2005-2030 has been published by WNA. It shows that the key feature of this market "is likely to be the need for primary production to expand rapidly", despite the continuing importance of secondary supplies - mostly US and Russian demilitarised materials. However, recent reliance on these has led to neglect of the rest of the supply infrastructure, which needs to be remedied. The reference scenario suggests a doubling of world mine production by 2030. Copies available from WNA @ £200.
World reactor changes
Canada: remove 2x515 MWe from planned
Finland: Olkiluoto 3 under const 1600 MWe
Sweden: Forsmark-1 uprated 47 MWe to 1015 MWe
Iran: 2 x 950 MWe planned
From WNA Digest: June - July 2005
Australian debate on nuclear power
For the first time in more than 30 years on Australian shores there has been the beginnings of a public debate on greater Australian involvement in nuclear power. Politicians from the Prime Minister down have had something to say on a range of issues from increasing uranium mining to the use of nuclear power for electricity here, and while many have been nervous about expressing their own positive views, the general tenor has been quite positive.
The main driver has been a growing awareness of Australia's isolated position on climate change policy and consideration of what might be done if there was greater political resolve to limit greenhouse gas emissions. A secondary factor has been the realisation that with Australia having one third of the world's known economic resources of uranium, and countries such as China rapidly expanding their use of it, the economic opportunity is great - especially with the recent price recovery.
Behind what has been in the media, there have been over 50 submissions to the House of Representatives Inquiry on Australia's uranium resources, with hearings on the issue commencing in mid August. At the same time the Minister for Industry Tourism & Resources has initiated development of a Uranium Industry Framework, which is to look at opportunities and impediments for the industry "in partnership with relevant State and Territory Governments, industry and other stakeholders". While industry does not expect identification of impediments to take long, "development of the Framework is expected to take three years and will involve the identification and prioritisation of issues and development of an Action Plan …. followed by a two year implementation phase."
Education, Science & Training Minister Brendan Nelson was the first to fly an overtly pro-nuclear energy kite, but when this attracted virtually no flak, others joined him and newspaper editorials supported the need for a proper debate on the question. In a drought-conscious Canberra, Nelson included the nuclear desalination possibility to augment water supplies.
The next development was the Minister for Industry Tourism & Resources berating states which did not allow mining of uranium due to Labor party policy or their own ideological leanings. He called for a more coherent national approach to uranium exploration and mining. South Australia's Labor Premier said the Labor uranium policy should be changed, and federal Labor figures publicly backed the government's moves to negotiate a bilateral safeguards treaty with China which would allow uranium exports there. The Minerals Council pointed to absurdities in the Labor policy, limiting the number of mines but allowing unlimited production from those existing.
In June, the former NSW Labor Premier called for consideration of nuclear power locally in the light of the country's large uranium resources and the need to reduce CO2 emissions. While Labor Premiers of Queensland, WA and SA quickly distanced themselves from the suggestion, support for airing the matter came from both sides of politics, including Peter Garrett, former president of the Australian Conservation Foundation and now federal Labor MP, though he flagged his scepticism. The Foreign Minister and Treasurer also supported calls to examine the potential for nuclear power generation. Finally the Prime Minister weighed in with support for a national debate.
However, a counterattack came at the NSW Labor Party conference, where the federal Labor environment spokesman and Peter Garrett put a successful motion reaffirming Labor's opposition to nuclear power in Australia, supported by the Queensland Premier who said that it "would jeopardise the Queensland coal industry."
Further developments in the discussion are likely in the context of the House of Representatives Inquiry hearings. The UIC has made a submission to the Inquiry on behalf of its members.
Australian 27/5 & 2-4, 10, 13/6/05, AFR 19/4/05, Age 20/4/05,
India-USA accord on nuclear power
The US President has announced that he will ask Congress to end sanctions against India which have arisen from its inability to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on the same basis as China (ie without abandoning nuclear weapons). This is a major step to accommodate the reality that India has developed nuclear weapons – albeit seven years or so behind China, thus leaving it outside the 'nuclear weapons states' status of NPT, while acknowledging that its commitment to non-proliferation ranks with the best of those five states.
The US President also pledged to "work with friends and allies to adjust international regimes to enable full civil nuclear energy cooperation and trade with India". Both USA and India agreed that India should "acquire the same benefits and advantages" and assume the same responsibilities as other states "with advanced nuclear technology". India has agreed to separate civil and military nuclear facilities, and to place all of the former under IAEA safeguards as well as "signing and adhering to an Additional Protocol" to its existing limited safeguards agreement with IAEA which puts those safeguards on a tighter and intrusive basis. India will also continue its strong support for international efforts to limit the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technologies, claiming that its "track record in nuclear non-proliferation is impeccable" - in contrast to Pakistan.
The agreement aims to put India on the same footing as China, but with much closer international scrutiny of its nuclear facilities (only China's imported power plants are under safeguards). The IAEA has welcomed the agreement as it will effectively bring India into the international non-proliferation regime, also enhancing safety if technical cooperation with Canada is opened. It will also mean that India can buy uranium and reactors on world markets, and sell its own smaller reactors to developing countries.
White House 18/7/05, FT 19 & 20/7/05, NY Times 19/7/05, IAEA 20/7/05.
Congress passes Energy Policy Act
After a joint conference worked through House and Senate versions and considered further amendments, the Energy Policy Act 2005 comfortably passed both houses - 74-26 in the Senate and 275-156 in the House. It includes incentives for the nuclear power industry including production tax credit of 1.8 c/kWh from the first 6000 MWe of new nuclear plants in their first 8 years of operation (same as for wind power on unlimited basis), federal risk insurance of $2 billion to cover regulatory delays in full-power operation of the first six advanced new plants, rationalised tax on decommissioning funds (some reduced), federal loan guarantees for advanced nuclear reactors or other emission-free technologies up to 80% of the project cost, and support for advanced nuclear technology. Also $1.25 billion is authorised for an advanced high-temperature reactor (Next Generation Nuclear Plant) at the Idaho National Laboratory, capable of cogenerating hydrogen. Overall more than $2 billion is provided for hydrogen demonstration projects, and the Price Anderson Act for nuclear liability protection is extended for 20 years.
TradeTech NMR 31/7/05, Nucleonics Week 30/6 & 28/7/05, NuclearFuel 1/8/05.
Nuclear generation costs fall
The average cost of power generation from US nuclear reactors in 2004 fell 7% to 1.7 cents/kWh. This is operating (including fuel) and maintenance costs only and excludes any capital cost, since that is relatively meaningless in the US context prevailing when plants were built. The data covers 61% of US nuclear generation.
Nucleonics Week 7/7/05.
US reactor sale and licence extension
FPL Energy has agreed to pay $300 million for 70% of the newly-uprated 599 MWe Duane Arnold BWR from an Alliant Energy subsidiary, which will continue to buy the power - at about 4.6 c/kWh in 2006 rising to 6.1 cents in 2013. An additional $87 million is for fuel and inventory, while $188 million in decommissioning funds will be transferred to FPL. At $716/kW the price is one of the highest of US sales so far, and the new owners will seek a licence extension to 2034. The plant is run by Nuclear Management Co.
The 33rd US reactor to be granted a 20-year licence extension is Entergy's Arkansas ANO-2, a 1013 MWe PWR, which can now run to 2038.
Platts 1/7/05, Nucleonics Week 7/7/05, Nuclear Energy Overview 11/7/05.
Nuclear task force reports
A DOE Nuclear Energy Task Force, charged with assessing issues related to US nuclear energy, has supported nuclear energy expansion and identified issues the federal government needs to address to pave the way for added nuclear capacity. The task force noted that improvements in efficiency over the past decade to a current 90% average have produced the equivalent power of 18 new nuclear plants. Over the same period, nuclear safety improved significantly, while operating costs declined. It noted that once the extra expense of a first-of-a-kind plant are overcome, then the costs of nuclear power are competitive with coal.
The task force concluded "it is imperative that the US government act decisively to create the environment and incentives to ensure that the construction of new, safe, and reliable nuclear generation capacity occurs expeditiously." It also suggested ways for the government to clear up residual uncertainty in the licensing of nuclear plants and to minimise the threat of the abuse of litigation to delay the operation of new plants.
Earlier, the US Energy Secretary said he hopes to see new nuclear plants completed by 2014, though this will require some licensing reform, including raising the criteria for evidence late in the process. The Department of Energy will also ask Congress to establish a $3 billion insurance fund to provide protection to investors in new nuclear plants against regulatory delays. The first two reactors of each of the new GE and Westinghouse designs would be insured for up to $500 million and the premiums for such insurance would be waived for utilities placing firm orders by 2009. He said that no further incentives should be needed since the economic case for new plants was already evident and the technology could stand on its own without any government subsidy.
TradeTech NMR 3/6/05, Ux Weekly 23/5/05, Nuclear Energy Overview 23/5/05.
Energy bills incorporate reprocessing provision
Although the USA turned firmly away from reprocessing used nuclear fuel in the Carter era, new energy bills explicitly revive the prospect. In particular the report accompanying the $31 billion energy and water funding bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee on 16 June emphasises the need for new nuclear energy technologies. DOE's Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI) would receive $85 million to develop fuel cycle technologies for Generation IV reactors. Part of this would be for a demonstration project to provide "the capability to conduct R&D into advanced spent fuel separations and transmutation from laboratory scale through engineering scale prior to commercial deployment." DOE is also expected to evaluate using fast neutron reactors to destroy long-lived components of wastes.
The House of Representatives Subcommittee on Energy, considering its version of the energy and water funding bill, also looked closely at reprocessing options, with the emphasis on proliferation resistance. A major driver however is reduction in the volume of high-level wastes, possibly obviating the need for a stage 2 of the Yucca Mountain repository. The report here requires the DOE to develop an integrated used fuel recycling plan by 2007 and select a reprocessing technology soon after.
Part of the Senate's AFCI allocation was earmarked to study "deep burn-up of nuclear fuel" and related research. This is a General Atomics concept which involves incorporating separated actinides from reprocessing into refractory fuel particles which can be used in high-temperature reactors. (Fuel for these reactors is in the form of TRISO particles less than a millimetre in diameter. Each has a kernel of uranium oxycarbide, with the uranium enriched up to 14% U-235. This is surrounded by layers of carbon and silicon carbide, giving a containment for fission products which is stable to 1600°C or more.) The long-lived actinides incorporated into such fuel would be turned into short-lived fission products. It is claimed that 95% of the plutonium-239 and 60% of the other actinides would be destroyed.
Nucleonics Week 23/6/05, NEI Nuclear Energy Overview 20/6/05.
First US weapons plutonium makes electricity
The first four fuel assemblies with mixed oxide fuel made from US military plutonium (plus depleted uranium) are generating electricity in Duke Power's Catawba-1 nuclear power plant in South Carolina, on a trial basis. They incorporate 140 kg of weapons-grade plutonium.
Nuclear Eng. International 15/6/05.
Public support for nuclear grows
A May poll shows continuing increase in public opinion favourable to nuclear power in the USA. Some 70% favour continued use of nuclear energy, 58% say that new nuclear plants should definitely be built and 74% want the option to build new plants to be kept open. More than three times as many strongly support nuclear energy than strongly oppose it.
NucNet News # 100/05.
France to host ITER fusion reactor
After deadlocked discussion, the partners in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor have agreed to site ITER at Cadarache, in southern France. The deal involved major concessions to Japan, which had put forward Rokkasho as a preferred site. The EU and France will contribute half of the EUR 10 billion cost, with the other partners - Japan, China, South Korea, USA and Russia - putting in 10% each. Japan will provide a lot of the high-tech components, will host an EUR 1 billion materials testing facility and will have the right to host a subsequent demonstration fusion reactor. The total cost of the 500 MWt ITER comprises about half for the ten-year construction and half for 20 years of operation. (ITER is both an acronym, and means 'a path' or 'journey' in Latin.) ITER is a tokamak design which confines a deuterium-tritium plasma magnetically in a torus shape. Currently the largest fusion reactor is the 16 MW Joint European Torus (JET) which can sustain plasmas of a few megawatts for a few seconds.
NucNet news # 107/05, Nuclear Engineering International 28/6/05.
Dutch reversal on nuclear policy
The ruling coalition in the Netherlands has reversed its previous policy of closing down the country's only remaining nuclear power reactor by 2013, and is looking at increasing the nuclear contribution - for energy security reasons and to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The change is based on a Christian Democratic Alliance report on sustainable energy, supported by the VVD. The left-liberal and previously anti-nuclear D66 party then conceded.
Nucleonics Week 30/6/05.
German conservative parties set out nuclear policy
In a pre-election manifesto, the German CDU and CSU parties have promised longer operating lives for the country's nuclear power plants, abandoning the intended phase-out presently in prospect. "The exit from nuclear energy is disastrous from a technological and environmental policy viewpoint," they say. "A global solution to the carbon dioxide problem that does not contain nuclear power is unthinkable." However, the policy also promises a cap on power prices, and will be subject to any coalition compromises.
Nuclear Engineering International 13/7/05.
Swedish reactor shuts down
Barseback-2 has finally been shut down as a result of political edict, related to Danish pressure over many years. Unit 1 was closed in 1999, with compensation of some EUR 900 million. The 602 MWe reactor had operated since 1977. The Swedish government has indicated its support for uprating a number of the country's ten remaining nuclear power reactors, including 410 MWe at three Forsmark units. The closure will also enhance the prospects for TVO building a sixth reactor - probably a 1600 MWe EPR - in Finland to follow Olkiluoto-3 which is now commencing construction.
Nucleonics Week 2/6/05.
French deal gives Italy nuclear power
In line with an earlier announcement Electricite de France and Italy's ENEL have signed a co-operation agreement which gives ENEL some 200 MWe from the new Flamanville-3 EPR nuclear reactor (1700 MWe), and potentially another 1000 MWe or so from the next five such units built. As well as the 12.5% share, ENEL will also be involved in design, construction and operation of the plants, which will enhance Italy's power security and improve its economics - Italy's electricity prices are 45% above EU average. A major benefit however will be in rebuilding Italy's nuclear skills and competence. EdF sees the agreement as a prototype of other "fruitful partnerships with European industrial leaders" - Suez-Electrabel and Endesa have also expressed interest in joining the Flamanville-3 consortium. ENEL is expected to pay about EUR 350 million for its share in the project.
Nucleonics Week 2/6/05.
UK radioactive committee decays
Britain's Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has now lost its two main scientific members in frustration, the latest having accused the UK government of endangering public safety by ignoring scientific expertise. He charges that CoRWM has open antagonism to the views of nuclear specialists and has become obsessed with public consultation at the expense of expert advice, tediously revisiting ideas which have been rejected worldwide on scientific grounds, and which are therefore not real options.
Cogema begins reprocessing research reactor fuel
At its La Hague plant in Normandy, Cogema has started reprocessing Australian HIFAR research reactor fuel. This aluminium-based fuel with highly-enriched uranium is the first research reactor fuel to be reprocessed there. It is mixed with power reactor fuel to meet technical requirements.
Russia confirms floating nuclear plant
After many years of promoting the idea, Rosatom has approved construction of a 70 MWe nuclear power plant on a barge to supply power and heat to Severodvinsk. Two KLT-40S reactors derived from those in Russia's icebreakers, but with low-enriched fuel, will be mounted on a 20,000 tonne, 175 m long barge to be built in China at a cost of $87 million. The whole project is expected to cost $200 million, including $30 M already spent in design.
Times 30/7/05, Nucleonics Week 28/7/05.
New Japanese reactor in operation
Hokuriku Electric's Shika-2 nuclear power reactor has been connected to the grid. The 1358 MWe advanced boiling water reactor - Japan's fourth 3rd generation unit, started up in May and commercial operation is expected in March 2006.
Atoms in Japan 4/7/05.
Mitsubishi to bid for Westinghouse
BNFL has flagged its intention to sell its US subsidiary Westinghouse Electric Co, whose technology is the basis for nearly half of the world's operating nuclear power plants (and naval propulsion plants). Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is a major licensee of Westinghouse technology, built 11 of Japan's nuclear plants, and is involved with Westinghouse's bid to build new AP1000 plants in China. It has declared a strong interest in buying Westinghouse, which will give it access to the US market for new nuclear plant orders over the next decade, using late 3rd generation technology. MHI is in direct competition with other reactor vendors and associated companies which have expressed interest in buying Westinghouse, whose annual revenue is US$ 2.1 billion - currently from nuclear fuel and services. MHI would probably team with a US company such as Shaw Group (involved with both companies in the China bid) and possibly Mitsubishi Corporation in a bid.
AFR 12/7/05, Nucleonics Week 14/7/05.
Japan's Supreme Court affirms Monju
The Japanese Supreme Court has overturned a lower court decision to veto the restart of the Monju fast neutron reactor. This clears the way, nearly ten years after a sodium leak, to restart it as an international R&D facility. JNC has been working on engineering modifications and upgrading since earlier this year and plans to restart the 246 MWe unit in 2008, subject to approval by Tsuruga city and Fukui Prefecture.
Atoms in Japan 31/5/05.
Japan to push LWR development
Japan is switching its immediate focus in new reactor development from the fast breeder reactor to advanced light water reactors, though fast reactors remain a clear policy objective by 2050. The Nuclear Energy Policy Planning Division of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy has instigated a 2-year feasibility study on development of next-generation LWRs. The new designs, based on ABWR and APWR, are to lead to a 20% reduction in construction and generation costs and a 20% reduction in spent fuel quantity, with improved safety, 3-year construction and 60-year life. Projected sizes range from 800 to 1700 MWe. The Agency will seek funds for this development in 2006 budget. Hitachi is already well advanced with variants of the ABWR, and Mitsubishi with Westinghouse and four utilities is developing a 1500 MWe APWR design – seen as the basis of the next generation of Japanese PWRs.
Ux Weekly 13/6/05, Atoms in Japan 15/6/05 & 19/7/05.
New Indian reactor on line
India's new Tarapur-4 reactor, which started up in March, has been connected to the grid. The 490 MWe unit is the first of a series of large heavy water reactors developed indigenously from the 220 MWe (gross) units, ten of which provide most of India's nuclear power. Commercial operation is expected in August.
Nucleonics Week 9/6/05.
South Africa to protect uranium
South Africa's Minerals & Energy Department is planning to declare uranium a "protected mineral resource" to secure supplies for an expanding local industry.
Ux Weekly, 13/6/05.
China safety authority to boost capacity
China's National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA) anticipates working closely with the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) to enhance its capacity for safety assessment and inspections. NEA proposes to integrate Chinese members into its committees on a continuing basis in the same way as Russian involvement over the last decade. NNSA is facing a sharply increased workload both in relation to new licensing and also ageing-related safety issues.
Nucleonics Week 16/6/05.
South Korean nuclear resolve
The Ministry of Science & Technology's third comprehensive nuclear energy development plan, for 2007-11, has projected that South Korea should develop its nuclear industry into one of the top five in the world. About 60% of electricity is projected to come from nuclear by 2035, up from 38% now. As well as emphasis on production of nuclear fuel, the report envisages construction of the Korean Advanced Power Reactor, APR-1400. The first of these units - evolved from the present Korean Standard Nuclear Plant - are expected to be built as units 3 & 4 at Shin Kori, to come on line about 2012.
Asia Pulse 27/6/05, Power in Asia 21/7/05.
New Brunswick to refurbish power plant
The New Brunswick government has announced that it will proceed with the refurbishment of its Point Lepreau reactor as the most cost-effective option to secure power supplies, with Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) as the contractor. The 635 MWe unit was commissioned in 1983, and the refurbishment outage will be over 18 months from April 2008. The C$1.4 billion cost includes purchase of replacement power.
NB govt 29/7/05.
Canadian uranium production up slightly
Production from Canada's mines slightly increased in the half year to 30 June. Cameco Corporation and Cogema Resources have reported 1327 t U3O8 (1125 tU) from McClean Lake, 4218 t U3O8 (3577 tU) from McArthur River/Key Lake and 1387 t U3O8 (1176 tU) from Rabbit Lake, giving 6932 t U3O8 (5878 tU) total.
Spent fuel plans recycled
Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO) has published recommendations that the country's spent fuel be placed in a deep geological repository, retrievably, but not until there has been a further 18 years of public discussion to identify a site. The deep repository is in line with all other national plans and is essentially where an eight-year federal review had got to early in 1998, but the government was forced into a legislative process which then put the question back into play without any decision.
AUSTRALIA & NZ
BHP Billiton wins control of Olympic Dam
After outbidding a rival offer, BHP Billiton has secured control of WMC Resources, and hence the Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine, which holds about one third of the world's known economic resources of uranium. The strength of the A$ 9.2 billion (US$ 6.9 billion) bid was due to the prospect of tripling production from the mine. Having secured more than 90% of WMCR shares, BHPB will take full ownership.
BHPB 3 & 17/6/05, WMCR 6/6/05.
Australian uranium production edges up
Production from Australia's three mines totaled 10,964 tonnes U3O8 (9297 tU) in 2004-05, up 15% on the previous year. (The 6-month to 30 June total was 5390 t U3O8, 4571 tU.) ERA reported 5544 tonnes U3O8 (4701 tU) from Ranger, WMC Resources 4356 tonnes U3O8 (3694 tU, 4382 t UOC) from Olympic Dam and Heathgate 1064 tonnes U3O8 (902 tU) from Beverley.
ERA announced a half-year net profit of A$17.0 million, and that it was focusing on plans for closure of the Ranger mine in 2008, with processing to finish in 2011. Net present cost of closure and rehabilitation to a standard allowing transfer of the mine lease to the Kakadu National Park is expected to be A$176 million, which is provided for.
ERA 22/7/05, WMCR, Heathgate.
Southern Cross to merge with Aflease
Southern Cross Resources, owner of the Honeymoon and associated uranium deposits in South Australia, has announced a merger with Aflease Gold & Uranium Resources to form SXR Uranium One Inc, with uranium projects in Australia, Canada and South Africa. Aflease has just approved development of the Dominion uranium mine in South Africa, which is expected to start production in 2007, the output increasing to 1800 t/yr in 2011.
Sites announced for radioactive wastes
The Commonwealth government has announced that its radioactive wastes will be disposed of at one of three named sites in the Northern Territory, selection to be based on "field assessment". Environmental assessment and licensing will follow. Two sites are near Alice Springs, one near Katherine. The Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Facility will take low and intermediate-level wastes from Commonwealth sources. About 3500 cubic metres of existing low-level wastes (plus 45 more per year) and 50 cubic metres of intermediate-level wastes are involved. In the light of "the failure of the states and territories to cooperate with the Australian government in finding a national solution for the safe and secure disposal of low-level radioactive waste" and their making a political football out of it last year, they will need to make their own arrangements elsewhere.
DEST media release 15/7/05.
World nuclear output up in 2004
The world's 439 nuclear reactors generated 3.7% more power last year than in 2003, with a steady 16% share of world output, according to IAEA figures. The 2618.6 billion kWh took world civil operating experience to 11,588 reactor-years at end of December.
Ethical funds remove uranium screen
From August, BT Financial Group's six Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds will remove the negative screen on uranium mining for power generation. This follows a 7-month review by Monash Sustainability Enterprises (MSE), which advises BT on its sustainability and ethical funds. BT cites "compelling" greenhouse gas emission reasons for the change, coupled with the fact that excluding BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto from the funds would lead to "sub optimal" investment decisions, including an increase in risk and volatility of returns. Uranium mining companies will now be assessed on performance by MSE.
Westinghouse coopts Chinese expertise
To bolster its bid for the US Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP), Westinghouse has teamed up with Tsinghua University's Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET). INET will cooperate with Westinghouse in bidding for design, supply and construction of the NGNP demonstration plant. The NGNP is to be a technical and economic demonstration of an advanced fission reactor to produce both electricity and hydrogen, built at the Idaho National Laboratory and running by 2017.
As reported in the lead story of our last Newsletter, INET is a world leader in high-temperature reactor technology, using pebble bed fuel. South Africa's PBMR, working on the same technology, is already involved with the Westinghouse bid (along with Shaw Group and others), and it also has a relationship with INET through Chinergy, a joint venture between INET and the China Nuclear Engineering & Construction group, which is building a 195 MWe Chinese demonstration reactor of that design for operation about 2010. PBMR also plans to have a demonstration pebble bed modular reactor built at Koeberg in South Africa soon after then, and with Westinghouse help is preparing to file a design certification application with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2007.
Ux Weekly 11/7/05, Nucleonics Week 14/7/05.
Hopes for multilateral design approval
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has outlined to OECD Nuclear Energy Agency a proposal for a three-phase program culminating in a fully international design certification process for new reactor designs. Phase 1 would be international participation in the NRC design approval process such as for Framatome ANP's EPR and Canada's ACR-700/1200, and regulators from seven countries are to finalise this part of the proposal by September.
Silex uranium enrichment success
Silex Systems' second stage of development - the direct measurement program - has confirmed the economic prospects for the SILEX laser enrichment technology for uranium. Stage one had showed that it worked, and was therefore further ahead than where any other laser enrichment program had reached. The Australian company is now concentrating on finding a major commercial partner for construction and operation of the full pilot plant stage of development, probably in North America. Its silicon and other enrichment research continues separately.
European CO2 emission price heads north
As gas and electricity prices reached seasonal and oil-related highs, the price of an allowance to emit a tonne of carbon dioxide under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme reached over EUR 28 (EUR 103/t carbon), equivalent to almost 3 cents/kWh on coal-fired electricity price. It declined to EUR 22 at end of July.
Oil majors differ on renewables
Pushed to be seen taking global warming seriously, the three largest oil companies are developing different approaches. Shell has said that it expects renewables to supply one third of the world's energy by 2050 and has invested $1.5 billion accordingly. However, it concedes that these will be uncompetitive for some time. ExxonMobil is sceptical of the Kyoto Protocol and has been politically active against it, has dismissed wind and solar power as uneconomic and inconsequential – able to supply less than 1% of world energy by 2030, and calls for focus on low-emission energy sources which will deliver. BP says renewables will be important and has invested $500 million in them, but cautions against high expectations.
FT 7/7/05, Guardian 7/7/05, D Telegraph 23/6/05.
Asia-Pacific climate initiative
A new agreement announced by the USA and including Australia, Japan, South Korea, China and India will aim to counter escalating emissions of greenhouse gases by technology development and transfer. The USA and Australia have rejected the UN Kyoto Treaty, Japan and South Korea have ratified it, while China and India are outside its requirements as developing countries. The six countries account for almost half the world's population, economic output, and greenhouse gas emissions. Economic growth in India and China, and rapidly-increasing greenhouse gas emissions from them, expose a glaring deficiency in the Kyoto Treaty. No emission caps or targets are proposed at this stage. The focus will be on "clean coal" technologies, LNG and nuclear energy.
The Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate is designed to complement the Kyoto Treaty rather than supplant it, and will come into effect in November when a charter is agreed. It is open for further countries to join.
FT 29/7/05, Economist 30/7/05, Australian 30/7/05.
Radiation and Modern Life, by Alan Waltar, Prometheus Books, New York, 2004, 336 pp including index, glossary and endnote references. ISBN 1 59102 250 9
This is a very wide-ranging introduction to many aspects of radiation and its uses. An historical Introduction by Marie Curie's granddaughter sets the scene for a helpful brief overview of what radiation is and where it comes from, followed by chapters on every application of it. Much of the narrative is fascinating, and detailed appendices make it a reference book as well as a good read. One irritation is typical US failure to use SI units.
World reactor changes
Sweden: Barseback-2 closed - 602 MWe
India: Tarapur-4 grid conn 490 MWe
USA: Duane Arnold uprate to 598 MWe (from 538?)
USA: Waterford-3 uprate 86 MWe
USA: Indian Point 3 uprate 47 MWe
USA: Seabrook uprate 58 MWe
Japan: Shika 2 1358 MWe operational
From WNA Digest: April - May 2005
International collaboration boosts pebble bed prospect
While the second generation of the well-proven and widely-accepted light water reactors quietly gives way to early and then later third generation designs in the same technological tradition, a different kind of development is occurring with high temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTRs). Its advocates expect these designs eventually to replace the familiar and almost ubiquitous - but inherently more complex - water-cooled and -moderated types.
When the world's two leading developers of the pebble bed variety of HTR signed an agreement in March, it brought together two strongly innovative streams of development from a common German stock, which after 22 years of operational experience had been aborted on its home ground. However, it offers the prospect of a simple and inherently safe reactor which does not require emergency cooling provisions or large exclusion zone, and in fact aims for a step change in safety, economics and proliferation resistance.
Two German pebble bed reactors were built and operated before the program was shut down in 1989. In 1991 China picked up the German HTR trail and with input from Siemens designed its HTR-10, a small high-temperature pebble-bed gas-cooled experimental reactor at the Institute of Nuclear & New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University north of Beijing. This started up in 2000.
In 1996 South Africa's Eskom bought the German technology. As well as changing some aspects of the design, it drew on the expertise of Russia's Kurchatov Institute in Moscow to test design concepts.
The fuel is a distinguishing feature of these plants. Kernels of enriched uranium are surrounded by four layers of carbon and silicon carbide giving a containment for fission products which is stable to 1600°C or more. These particles - approximately 1 mm diameter - are then embedded in 50 mm graphite balls which are coated with graphite, giving a hard 60 mm billiard ball sized 'pebble'. Hundreds of thousands of these fuel elements cycle continuously through the reactor, so that each makes six to ten trips in its 3-year life before depletion. This fuel has a high level of inherent safety, including strong negative temperature coefficient whereby fission slows as temperature rises. The 'pebble' fuel elements are packed in the annular space of the core, and the reactor itself is lined with graphite which functions as the moderator.
Last year the small Chinese HTR-10 reactor was subject to an extreme test of its safety when the helium circulator was deliberately shut off without the reactor being shut down. The temperature increased steadily, but the physics of the fuel meant that the reaction progressively diminished and eventually died away over three hours. At this stage a balance between decay heat in the core and heat dissipation through the steel reactor wall was achieved and the temperature never exceeded a safe 1600°C. This was one of six safety demonstration tests conducted then. The high surface area relative to volume, and the low power density in the core, will also be features of the full-scale units (which are nevertheless much smaller than most light-water types).
China's INET is now preparing to build the HTR-PM, a 195 MWe demonstration unit scaled up from the HTR-10. Its rationale is both eventually to replace conventional reactor technology for power and also to provide for future hydrogen production. INET is doing the design, Chinergy (a joint venture of INET with China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Co) will build it and Huaneng Co - China's largest electric utility, hitherto without any nuclear involvement, will lead the owner-operator consortium (Huaneng 50%, CNEC 35%, INET 5%, others 10%). Projected cost is US$ 1500/kW, and generating cost about 5c/kWh. Start-up is scheduled for 2010. Two sites are under consideration: one at Weihei in Shandong province being preferred. Each is capable of hosting the lead unit and then 18 more modules.
South Africa's PBMR Pty company is seeking US$2.3 billion for its demonstration phase including the plant at Koeberg, which is due to be built in 2007 for operation in 2010. A contract for the pebble fuel plant at Pelindaba has been let. The first commercial units are expected on line in 2013. Eventual construction cost (when in clusters of eight units) is expected to be very competitive and generating cost below 3 c/kWh. Investors in the PBMR project are Eskom, the South African Industrial Development Corporation and British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL). The South African government envisages building 25 to 30 of the 170 MWe units there.
The PBMR-Chinergy collaboration will evidently focus on the nuclear reactor itself. For the time being, the two diverge on generation, with the Chinese driving a conventional steam turbine for the initial HTR-PM and the next 18 units, while the South Africans go straight to a more efficient direct cycle gas turbine. China's conservative approach will not leave it standing though - the HTR-10 is now being converted to drive a gas turbine to provide small-scale experience from 2006.
PBMR Pty has joined a consortium led by Westinghouse to bid for the US Department of Energy's Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project at the Idaho National Laboratory. This envisages both power and hydrogen production. It has also commenced discussions towards the design certification process with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
By about 2012 we should start to get an idea of whether the rest of the world will be buying Chinese or South African reactor technology for inherently-safe nuclear power plants. By then too, the application of HTRs directly for high temperature process heat will be exciting more interest.
In more detail:
Between 1967 and 1988, the AVR experimental pebble bed reactor at Jülich, Germany, operated for over 750 weeks at 15 MWe, most of the time with thorium-based fuel. The fuel consisted of about 100,000 billiard ball-sized fuel elements. The thorium was mixed with high-enriched uranium (HEU). Maximum burnups of 150 GWd/t were achieved.
The 300 MWe THTR reactor in Germany was developed from the AVR and operated between 1983 and 1989 with 674,000 pebbles, over half containing Th/HEU fuel (the rest graphite moderator and some neutron absorbers). These were continuously recycled and on average the fuel passed six times through the core. Fuel fabrication was on an industrial scale. Several design features made the AVR unsuccessful, though the basic concept was again proven. It drove a steam turbine.
An 80 MWe HTR-modul was then designed by Siemens and licensed in 1989, but was not constructed. This design was part of the technology bought by Eskom in 1996
The fuel is in the form of TRISO particles less than a millimetre in diameter. Each has a 0.5 mm kernel of uranium oxycarbide or oxide, with the uranium enriched in U-235 more than in a light water reactor. This is surrounded by four layers of carbon and silicon carbide. The TRISO microspheres are then embedded in 60 mm pebbles of graphite encased in silicon carbide, each with up to 15,000 fuel particles and up to 9g uranium.
China's HTR-10, a small high-temperature pebble-bed gas-cooled experimental reactor at the Institute of Nuclear & New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University started up in 2000 and reached full power in 2003. It has its fuel as a 'pebble bed' (27,000 elements) of oxide fuel with average burnup of 80 GWday/t U. Each pebble fuel element has 5g of uranium enriched to 17% in around 8300 particles. The reactor operates at 700°C (potentially 900°C) and has broad research purposes. Eventually it will be coupled to a gas turbine, but meanwhile it has been driving a steam turbine.
INET plans to start construction of a larger version, the 195 MWe HTR-PM, in 2007 at a coastal site. This will use 9% enriched oxide fuel (520,000 elements) in an annular core giving 80 GWd/t discharge burnup. It will drive a steam turbine. This demonstration reactor is to pave the way for an 18-module full-scale power plant on the same site, also using the steam cycle. Plant life is envisaged as 60 years with 85% load factor.
South Africa's Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) is being developed by a consortium led by the utility Eskom. Production units will be 170 MWe. The PBMR will have a direct-cycle gas turbine generator and thermal efficiency about 42%, the helium coolant leaving the bottom of the core at about 900°C. Up to 450,000 fuel pebbles 60 mm diameter and containing 9g uranium enriched to 8% U-235 recycle through the reactor continuously (about six times each) until they are expended. This gives an average enrichment in the fuel load of 4-5% and average burn-up of 80 GWday/t U (eventual target burn-ups are 200 GWd/t). The reactor core is lined with graphite and there is a central column of graphite as reflector. Control rods are in the side reflectors and cold shutdown units in the centre column. Performance includes great flexibility in loads (40-100%), with relatively rapid change in power settings. Each unit will finally discharge about 19 tonnes/yr of spent pebbles to ventilated on-site storage bins.
Nuclear Engineering International March 2005, INET Feb 2005.
Agreements on new reactor development
NuStart Energy Development LLC has signed a cost-sharing agreement with the US Department of Energy to split the estimated $520 million expenses for completing detailed engineering work on one of two reactor designs. Both are expected to be part of combined construction permit and operating licence (COL) applications, a major step toward building a new nuclear plant. NuStart is made up of nine energy companies - Constellation Energy, Duke Energy, EdF International, Entergy Nuclear, Exelon Generation, Florida Power & Light, Progress Energy, Southern Co., and Tennessee Valley Authority, as well as reactor vendors GE Energy and Westinghouse. NuStart has separate agreements with GE and Westinghouse for the detailed engineering and licensing work on their ESBWR (Economic Simplified BWR) and AP1000 designs, respectively. NuStart anticipates selecting by October two plant sites, one for each design, and is targeting 2008 for filing COL applications with a view to having them granted in 2010.
In April the consortium led by Dominion signed a similar $440 million agreement with DOE for its COL program focused on its North Anna site. The consortium includes Bechtel and GE. The technology is GE's ESBWR, and development costs will be shared with NuStart.
Duke Power and Constellation have also called upon the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to expedite approval of Framatome ANP's EPR, to provide an extra option in the US market.
Nucleonics Week 12/5/05, Nuclear Energy Overview 9/5/05.
US House passes energy bill
The US House of Representatives has passed comprehensive energy legislation by a vote of 249-183. Included in the bill (HR 6) are provisions that renew the Price-Anderson Act for 20 years covering industry funding of nuclear liability insurance, funding of $3.1 billion for the Department of Energy to establish an advanced reactor for hydrogen production at Idaho National Laboratory, and some $3 billion for nuclear energy research programs over the next five years. In addition the bill updates tax treatment of utility nuclear decommissioning funds. It also encourages construction of LNG import terminals and allows oil drilling in the Alaska Arctic Wildlife Reserve. The bill was strongly supported by President Bush but faces some hostility in the Senate due to provisions related to oil.
Platts 21/4/05, AP 21/4/05, NEI 21/4/05.
US boost for nuclear investment?
Addressing a business conference, the US President has called for measures to reduce US dependence on foreign energy sources, starting with more nuclear power. He has asked the department of Energy to draft changes in the law to reduce uncertainty in nuclear plant licensing and to provide federal risk insurance for the first four new plants built. "A secure energy future for America must include more nuclear power." He also called for increased effort to develop fuel cells for vehicles, referred to the nuclear hydrogen initiative, and supported $1.9 billion tax incentives for wind energy. Finally, he promised international collaboration "to develop advanced nuclear technologies that are safe, clean, and protect against proliferation. With these technologies, with the expansion of nuclear power, we can relieve stress on the environment and reduce global demand for fossil fuels."
White House 27/4/05.
Two more reactor licence extensions
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted 20-year life extensions to Southern Nuclear Operating Co's two Farley reactors, taking their operating lives to 2037 and 2041. These bring total US licence extensions to 32.
Ux Weekly 16/5/05.
Fine for reactor operator
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has proposed fining FirstEnergy $5.45 million for restarting the Davis-Besse nuclear power reactor in 2002 without finding and fixing corrosion damage to the reactor vessel head. This is the largest fine ever proposed by the NRC. After inspections revealed the problem, the reactor remained offline for two years.
Framatome ANP aims at US market
Areva's US subsidiary, Framatome ANP Inc., has commenced formal discussions with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) aimed at submitting a design certification application for the 1600 MWe EPR reactor design late in 2007. It already has a pre-application review under way for the SWR-1000 design, but has decided that the EPR - now being built in Finland - has better prospects in North America because of its evolutionary technology. The company is seeking a US utility partner in order to secure higher priority attention with NRC, and envisages that the EPR could enter the combined construction and operating licence (COL) process. The main adaptation required is conversion from 50 to 60 Hz (cycle) frequency.
Nucleonics Week 31/3/05, Nuclear Eng Int'l March 2005.
MOX on course for US reactors
After environmental and safety reviews, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has authorised construction of a mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant at the DOE Savannah River site in South Carolina by Duke, Cogema, Stone & Webster (DCS). It will make civil MOX from depleted uranium and weapons-grade plutonium, unlike other MOX plants which use reactor-grade plutonium having around one third non-fissile Pu isotopes. US reactors using the fuel will need to licensed for it. DCS is under contract to the National Nuclear Security Administration, which will own the plant. The USA is committed to dispose of 34 tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium as MOX fuel, matching the same in Russia.
Meanwhile the first four MOX fuel assemblies fabricated from US military plutonium have been shipped back to the USA. The plutonium was made into 2 tonnes of pellets at the Cadrache plant and then fabricated into fuel assemblies at the Melox plant in France. They will be used in the Catawba nuclear power plant in South Carolina on a trial basis, and incorporate 140 kg of weapons-grade plutonium.
Platts 23/3/05, NRC 30/3/05, SpentFuel 4/4/05.
US report on used fuel storage
After some months of discussion on what would be in the public version of a National Academies' report on security of interim storage of used fuel at US reactors, it has now been released. It says that some pool storages may pose a risk due to possible high temperature combustion of fuel cladding in the event that water is drained, but that the likelihood of terrorists using spent fuel for a 'dirty bomb' is very low. The report strongly favoured dry cask storage on security grounds. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the industry say that the report exaggerates the risks and does not take full account of safety measures implemented since 2001.
In fact, about 25 of 64 US nuclear power plants have been moving used fuel out of ponds and into dry cask storage on site. This is largely due to shortage of space which in turn is due to the government's failure to start taking used fuel in 1998.
NucNet news # 66/05, NEI Overview 4/4/05, Dow Jones 29/3/05, NY Times 30/3/05.
Bulgaria commits to new nuclear plant
The Bulgarian government has approved the construction of the country's second nuclear power plant, of 2000 MWe, at Belene on the Danube River near the Romanian border, where development earlier came to a halt. Construction of the first VVER-1000/320 unit started in 1987 but was aborted in 1991 due to lack of funds. Then in 2003 five reactor vendors expressed interest to the Energy Ministry in completing Belene or building new units there. In February 2005 Parsons E&C Europe was appointed architect-engineer for the project to oversee redesigning and installing one incomplete V-320 reactor unit and building a new second one - a V-466 type. This option is expected to cost EUR 2.68 billion. Building two new ones would be EUR 2.73 billion. Tenders have been invited.
For supply of the reactors two consortia are interested: Framatome ANP with Atomstroyexport, and another led by Skoda Praha and Westinghouse. Final bids are expected in August, with commissioning of the first unit about 2011. A new company will be set up to own and operate the plant, with the government holding a majority stake.
Nucleonics Week 7/4/05, Energy in E.Europe 18/2/05, Reuters 8/4/05.
Italian-French accord on EPR investment
Electricité de France and Italy's ENEL have agreed that ENEL will take a share in a series of advanced reactors to be built in France, and 12.5% of the first EPR at Flamanville. It would also be able to draw on up to 1500 MWe of peak capacity from EdF at market prices. ENEL imports some 18% of Italy's power from France.
EdF is seeking German or other investment in a further 37% of the EUR 3 billion Flamanville-3 1700 MWe unit. The cost is high because it is effectively first-of-a-kind, though German utilities have already contributed to development costs and are therefore seeking a better deal then ENEL.
Platts 14/4/05, FT 15/4/05, Nucleonics Week 12/5/05.
German reactor closure
EnBW's 37-year old Obrigheim nuclear reactor has shut down as a result of the government policy to start phasing out nuclear power. The 340 MWe unit is Germany's demonstration PWR, the oldest and smallest in operation, and as announced in 2002, the first to be closed as a result of the policy (Stade's closure in 2003 was on economic grounds). Decommissioning through to 2020 is expected to cost about EUR 500 million. If the present policy continues beyond the next federal election, several large plants will be forced to close, creating a significant supply problem and raising concern from industrial consumers. Wholesale electricity prices have increased by more than a third in the last twelve months (due to rising fossil fuel prices) and closures of large plants will exacerbate this trend. Utilities are preparing for a change in policy after the election however, extending all 17 reactor lifetimes initially to 40 years (now 32 years) and then individually seeking extensions to 60 years as in the USA.
Nucleonics Week 5 & 12/5/05, Ux Weekly 16/5/05.
Ukraine plans 11 new reactors
A nuclear power strategy involving building and commissioning 11 new reactors by 2030 is under consideration in Ukraine to enhance its energy independence. The first pair would be built at Khmelnitski, which already has two units, and an international tender would open up the choice of technology, though earlier plans had VVER-1000 reactors there. The operating lives of existing plants would also be extended subject to safety and economic considerations.
Also proposed are a fuel fabrication plant and a centralised dry storage facility for spent fuel. Financing is likely to be a problem. State utility Energoatom has sought to raise wholesale electricity prices to US 1.8 c/kWh, but the regulator has only allowed 1.3 c/kWh.
Meanwhile the EU has announced that it wants to strengthen its strategic partnership with Ukraine, including funding the new Chernobyl shelter and also upgrading the two new nuclear power reactors which started up last year. The EU aims to support the new government's reforms and assist its greater identification with Europe by increasing its financial assistance through the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) for infrastructure and energy.
NucNet news # 70/05, Nuclear Ru 17/5/05, Nucleonics Week 19/5/05.
UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority launched
From 1 April, the British Nuclear Group (part of BNFL) made the transition from owner-operator of most of the UK's nuclear sites to being manager and contractor to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), their new owner. The NDA was set up by the government under the 2004 Energy Act and is focused on the management and clean-up of UK public sector nuclear plants built in the 1940s-60s, on 20 sites. These include 39 reactors, 5 fuel reprocessing plants as well as other fuel cycle and research facilities. It has an annual budget of £2.2 billion, half of this from operational revenue. BNG was hived off by BNFL at the same time, as a decommissioning and clean-up business operating in Europe and the USA, but primarily in UK. It now operates under contracts with NDA of two to four years.
BNG 31/3/05, NDA 31/3/05, Nucleonics Week 31/3/05.
UK leak closes Thorp
An April pipe failure inside a hot cell at Thorp - the large Sellafield reprocessing plant managed by British Nuclear Group - has raised questions about the future of the plant, now owned by UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. The pipe was carrying dissolved spent fuel in nitric acid. The spill was contained in the cell but the incident was provisionally rated 3 on the International Nuclear Event Scale - a serious incident without off-site radiological consequences. The front end of the plant remains closed. Recovery of the spilled liquid and clean-up is expected to take several weeks.
NDA 5/05, Platts 17/5/05.
UK plods ahead on wastes
The UK government-appointed Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has released its short list of options for long-term management of UK nuclear wastes. These state the obvious, focus on deep geological disposal, and continue the elaborate procrastination of recent years.
General Electric heads for China
Having so far left the Chinese reactor market to others, GE is commending its new reactor designs for the next tranche of orders there. China has had a de facto policy of favouring pressurised water designs, but GE will offer its two boiling water types - the ABWR which is operating in Japan and under construction there and in Taiwan, and the newer ESBWR which features strongly in US plans for new capacity. GE Nuclear and its Japanese partners are in discussion with the China National Nuclear Corporation and provincial governments, who are likely to be influential in technology choice for the next batch of projects.
Meanwhile China Power Investment Corporation has identified a number of inland as well as coastal sites for nuclear plants, and more than 16 provinces, regions and municipalities have announced intentions to build new nuclear plants.
Nucleonics Week 14/4/05, China Daily 7/4/05.
Major contracts for new Chinese plants
For two of the eight new reactors in China, Lingao phase 2, contracts have been let to Alstom for generators (EUR 80 million) and to Areva for coolant and instrument & control systems (EUR 400 million). These will be essentially Chinese-built units. Another pair at Qinshan will be more fully indigenous, and four 3rd-generation types are being bid from overseas. Meanwhile China National Nuclear Corporation says that as many as 30 new reactors may be built at six sites on the eastern seaboard under the forthcoming eleventh five-year plan.
Nucleonics Week 19/5/05.
Green light for Japanese reactor
A permit for construction of unit 3 of the Shimane nuclear power plant has been issued to Chugoku Electric Power by the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry. Construction of the 1375 MWe advanced boiling water reactor is due to begin in September, so that it comes on line in 2011.
NucNet news in brief #48/05.
South Korea buys into Kazakh uranium
South Korea's Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy has agreed with Kazakhstan to set up a joint company to develop uranium there. Production of about 1000 t/yr is envisaged from 2010.
Yonhap News 22/4/05.
China accord with Bangladesh
China and Bangladesh have signed an energy co-operation agreement covering coal and nuclear energy. China already has close collaboration on nuclear power with Pakistan.
Pakistan to triple nuclear capacity by 2015
As part of the government's 25 year energy security plan, 900 MWe of new nuclear capacity is planned by 2015 and a further 7500 MWe capacity by 2030. Present capacity is 425 MWe, from two reactors, and work has begun on the site of a third - a 300 MWe Chinese unit.
TradeTech NMR 25/3/05, Platts.
India edges in from the cold
Both Russia and the USA are looking at ways to increase nuclear co-operation with India, following its passing of strong anti-proliferation law which emphasises the stark difference between it and its other non-NPT neighbour. Russia has raised the question of building further large reactors at Kudankulam, and resuming supply of fuel for the old Tarapur plant.
Earlier, after the US Secretary of State announced increased co-operation with India on energy matters, including nuclear power, India ratified the international Convention on Nuclear Safety, which requires its civil plants to be open to international peer reviews. Ratification had been withheld in protest at trade embargoes on nuclear technology. The Indian government then said that "India shares the objective of the Convention on Nuclear Safety of maintaining a high level of nuclear safety worldwide through …. international co-operation, including safety-related technical co-operation." Furthermore, India considers nuclear power "an indispensable component for meeting the development needs of a large and growing economy".
Nucleonics Week 7/4 &12/5/05, Ux Weekly 16/5/05.
Indonesia revives nuclear plans
The Indonesian government has confirmed in principle approval of the country’s first nuclear power plant, consisting of four 1000 MWe units, on the Muria peninsula on Central Java. The site had been selected for its tectonic stability. It appears that the project may be tendered in 2008, with construction starting in 2010 and commercial production beginning in 2016. About 45% of Indonesia's electricity is generated by oil and gas, so as well as catering for growth in demand in its most populous region, the move to nuclear power will free up oil for export. A Korean-sourced nuclear desalination plant is also under consideration.
Agence France Presse 19/4/05.
Local government approval for Japanese MOX plant
The Aomori prefecture has approved construction of Japan Nuclear Fuel's Rokkasho plant to produce mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. An agreement has been signed by the Governor of the prefecture, the mayor of Rokkasho-mura and the head of JNFL. The Governor urged the Federation of Electric Power Companies "to step up their efforts towards realisation of the MOX-use program." The approval is seen as a significant step forward in closing the fuel cycle in Japan, enabling use of plutonium created during reactor operation. It is strongly supported by the federal government, Atomic Energy Commission and utilities. JNFL has now applied for a licence to build and operate the 130 t/yr MOX plant. Construction is expected to begin in 2007 and operation about 2012.
Atoms in Japan 20/4/05.
South Africa contract for fuel plant
The PBMR company has awarded a US$ 20 million contract to Uhde, a local subsidiary of Germany's Thyssenkrupp Engineering, to build a plant at Pelindaba near Pretoria to manufacture the fuel pebbles for the planned demonstration pebble bed modular reactor. The fuel plant is expected to be completed by 2010.
Ontario study costs electricity options
A major study commissioned by the Ontario Ministry of Energy has costed four options for electricity in the province, the two main ones being status quo with coal, and replacing the coal with refurbished nuclear and some gas. The figures include external health and environmental costs, and show that overall the status quo is more than twice as expensive as the nuclear/gas replacement. Levelised costs are 16.4 c/kWh for status quo and 7.2 c/kWh for nuclear/gas with the health & environment proportion 77% and 21% respectively. The net benefit of replacing coal with nuclear/gas is C$ 2.44 billion per year. The report is designed to guide energy policy.
DSS cost benefit analysis April 05: www.energy.gov.on.ca
AUSTRALIA & NZ
New Zealand announces carbon tax
The NZ government is to introduce a carbon tax from April 2007, provisionally set at the "modest level" of NZ$15 (USD 11) per tonne CO2. About one third of NZ electricity comes from fossil fuels, mostly gas. The government has retained the option of introducing emissions trading as an alternative to the carbon tax if the international carbon market is functional and the price is reliably below its own NZ$25 cap.
NZ Climate Change Office 4/5/05.
Hot dry rocks show promise
In NE South Australia hot granite 4.4 km deep has successfully produced 10 MW of steam. Geodynamics Ltd has two wells 500m apart and has hydraulically fractured the rock between them in a successful start to its reservoir testing program. If the geothermal reserve is proven at Habanero as expected in August, a demonstration generation plant will be built, giving zero-emission electricity. Then a 275 MWe power station is envisaged with 37 wells drawing energy from 7 km2 of hot rock. Water is recycled.
There is increasing interest in other dry rock geothermal prospects in South Australia, with many granites ranging 15-40 ppm uranium and 15-40 ppm thorium, but some are ten times this. Typical granite is about 4 ppm U. The geothermal heat is mostly from radiogenic decay in the uranium and thorium series.
Geodynamics 26/4 & 10/5/05, AFR 7/5/05.
Environmentalist attitudes to change?
Stewart Brand, founder of The Whole Earth Catalogue, has written about Environmental Heresies in the May issue of MIT's Technology Review. "Over the next ten years, I predict, the mainstream of the environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbanisation, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power.
"The success of the environmental movement is driven by two powerful forces - romanticism and science - that are often in opposition. The romantics identify with natural systems; the scientists study natural systems. The romantics are moralistic, rebellious against the perceived dominant power, and combative against any who appear to stray from the true path. They hate to admit mistakes or change direction. The scientists are ethicalistic, rebellious against any perceived dominant paradigm, and combative against each other. For them, admitting mistakes is what science is.
"There are a great many more environmental romantics than there are scientists. That’s fortunate, since their inspiration means that most people in developed societies see themselves as environmentalists. But it also means that scientific perceptions are always a minority view, easily ignored, suppressed, or demonized if they don’t fit the consensus story line.
"There has yet to be a public debate among environmentalists about genetic engineering. Most of the scare stories that go around have as much substance as urban legends about toxic rat urine on Coke can lids."
But "the most profound environmental problem of all [is] global climate change. … So everything must be done to increase energy efficiency and decarbonize energy production. ... The only technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon dioxide loading of the atmosphere is nuclear power.
"Nuclear certainly has problems - accidents, waste storage, high construction costs, and the possible use of its fuel in weapons. It also has advantages besides the overwhelming one of being atmospherically clean. The industry is mature, with a half-century of experience and ever improved engineering behind it. Problematic early reactors like the ones at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl can be supplanted by new, smaller-scale, meltdown-proof reactors like the ones that use the pebble-bed design. Nuclear power plants are very high yield, with low-cost fuel. Finally, they offer the best avenue to a "hydrogen economy", combining high energy and high heat in one place for optimal hydrogen generation.
"The environmental movement has a quasi-religious aversion to nuclear energy. The few prominent environmentalists who have spoken out in its favour - Gaia theorist James Lovelock, Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore, Friend of the Earth Hugh Montefiore - have been privately anathematized by other environmentalists. Public excoriation, however, would invite public debate, which so far has not been welcome."
NPT conference in May
State parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which entered force in 1970 are convening in New York to review the NPT's operation over the last five years and the challenges that have arisen both under it and around it. Exposure of North Korean and Iranian breaches of the NPT have given rise to calls for stricter interpretation of Article IV concerning "the inalienable right of all the Parties … to develop … nuclear energy for peaceful purposes". It is suggested that countries must first demonstrate full compliance with Articles I, II & III of the treaty regarding avoiding proliferation and demonstrating that, and also that the right to develop proliferation-sensitive technologies is not inherent in the right to develop and enjoy the benefits of nuclear power.
Developing countries however are suspicious of moves to limit them, especially to preclude uranium enrichment, and some assert that the NPT's five nuclear weapons states have made too little progress in disarming. Meanwhile two of the three nuclear-capable states outside the NPT - India and Pakistan - loom large on the world stage for different reasons. India for having an ambitious nuclear power program advanced with careful regard for non-proliferation, and Pakistan which seems to have supplied sensitive technologies far and wide, contributing substantially to present concerns. Finding a way to bring both these countries under the NPT would be a major step forward, but is likely beyond the hopes of this conference.
Much attention is likely to be on improved verification within member countries, and in particular on confirming the role of the IAEA's model Additional Protocol as the NPT verification standard. This is supplementary to each state's safeguards agreement with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency and is so far in force in less than half the NPT parties, though two thirds of the states with significant nuclear activities have signed an Additional Protocol. Australia is to make the Additional Protocol a pre-condition for the supply of uranium to non nuclear weapons states.
Trust & Verify March-April 2005, IAEA Bulletin March 2005, Minister Foreign Affairs 4/5/05.
French report of low dose radiation
The French Academies of Medicine and Science have issued a report on the carcinogenic effect of low-dose radiation. On the basis of emerging radiobiological knowledge it questions the validity of current means of assessing the risks of low doses (<100 mSv) of radiation and even more for very low doses (<10 mSv). These means involve extrapolating to zero from known effects of high doses. It notes that epidemiological studies have not been able to confirm significant risks to populations from doses below 100 mSv.
Academy of Medicine, April 2005.
Uranium price booms
In the last eight weeks the spot price of uranium has increased more than one third to the highest level in 25 years - US$ 29/lb U3O8. The latest sharp rise coincides with the listing of a Canadian company, UPC, which is set up to buy and hold uranium in anticipation of further price increases.
Ux Weekly 9/5/05, Platts 10/5/05.
Regulatory collaboration helps design licensing
French nuclear safety authorities (DGSNR) have been working closely with their Finnish counterparts (STUK) on licensing the EPR advanced reactor design, now being built in Finland and in 2007 to get under way in France. The French authorities consider this to be an excellent model of international collaboration and have now offered to assist the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in respect to the Framatome ANP application for EPR design certification in USA. They also said that they would welcome NRC input in the event of a US vendor seeking design approval in France, eg Westinghouse for AP1000, or GE for ESBWR designs. While this is not contemplated, those designs are likely to be considered elsewhere in Europe.
DGSNR has a senior STUK official in an advisory role, and DGSNR inspectors are monitoring fabrication of large components of Finland's new reactor for STUK.
In the USA, the NRC has made it plain that it doesn’t have the resources for considering licence applications for unfamiliar designs, such as the small sodium-cooled 4S 'nuclear battery' proposed for remote towns in Alaska, or any high-temperature gas-cooled reactor.
Nucleonics Week 7/4/05, Platts 6/4/05.
Correction: The report referred to in the Nuclear Competitiveness item in the last newsletter was by NEA and IEA, not IAEA.
World reactor changes
US: Indian Point 3 uprate by 45 MWe
Argentina: 1 @ 692 MWe to construction
Germany Obrigheim 340 MWe closed
From WNA Digest: February - March 2005
Environmental movement vs sustainable development
Two issues ago we reported on the views of two leading environmental spokesmen in UK. Here we reproduce a thoughtful article by Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace in 1971. He was President of Greenpeace in the late 1970s and a member of the international Board to 1986. His PhD in science made him a natural spokesman for the movement at that stage. But since then he perceives that the environmental movement has shifted away from its early scientific base and has embraced a religious technophobia. The only position he has significantly changed in 35 years is on nuclear power, which he now favours. So while he is now focused on the implications of sustainable development for the world's 6 billion inhabitants, the movement he founded has dug in to oppose the very policies and technologies which would make the planet inhabitable long-term. The article is wider in scope than energy, highlighting several contentious issues affected by green ideology.
I am often asked why I broke ranks with Greenpeace after fifteen years as a founder and full-time environmental activist. While I had my personal reasons—spending more time with a growing family rather than living out of a suitcase most of the year—it was on issues of policy that I found it necessary to move on.
Beginning in the mid-1980s, Greenpeace, and much of the environmental movement, made a sharp turn to the political left and began adopting extreme agendas that abandoned science and logic in favour of emotion and sensationalism. I became aware of the emerging concept of sustainable development—the idea that environmental, social, and economic priorities could be balanced. I became a convert to the idea that win-win solutions could be found by bringing all interests together around the same table. I made the move from confrontation to consensus.
Since then, I have worked under the banner of Greenspirit to develop an environmental policy platform based on science, logic, and the recognition that more than six billion people need to survive and prosper, every day of the year. The environmental movement has lost its way, favouring political correctness over factual accuracy, stooping to scare tactics to garner support. Many campaigns now waged in the name of the environment would result in increased harm to both the environment and human welfare if they were to succeed.
So we're faced with environmental policies that ignore science and result in increased risk to human health and ecology. To borrow from the vernacular, how sick is that?
Activists persist in their zero-tolerance campaign against genetically enhanced varieties of food crops when there is zero evidence of harm to human health or the environment, and the benefits are measurable and significant. Genetically enhanced (GE) food crops result in reduced chemical pesticides, higher yield, and reduced soil erosion. Golden Rice, for example, could prevent blindness in 500,000 children per year in Asia and Africa if activists would stop blocking its introduction. Other varieties of food crops will contain iron, Vitamin E, enhanced protein and better oils. No other technology can match the potential of GE to address the nutritional deficiencies of billions of people. The anti-GE campaign seeks to deny these environmental and nutritional advances by using "Frankenfood" scare tactics and misinformation campaigns.
Greenpeace wants to ban the use of chlorine in all industrial processes, yet the addition of chlorine to drinking water has been the single greatest public health advance in history, and 75% of our medicines are based on chlorine chemistry. My old Greenpeace colleagues also call for a ban on polyvinyl chloride (PVC or vinyl), claiming it is the "poison plastic". There is not a shred of evidence that vinyl damages human health or the environment. Apart from its cost-effectiveness in construction, and ability to deliver safe drinking water, vinyl's ability to incorporate anti-microbial properties is critical to fighting germs in hospitals. Banning vinyl would further raise the cost of an already struggling health care system, ultimately denying health care to those who can least afford it.
International activists boast they have blocked more than 200 hydroelectric dams in the developing world and are campaigning to tear down existing dams. Hydro is the largest source of renewable electricity, providing about 12% of global supply. Do activists prefer coal plants? Would they rather ignore the needs of billions of people?
Wind power is commercially feasible, yet activists argue the turbines kill birds and ruin landscapes. A million times more birds are killed by cats, windows and cars than by all the windmills in the world. As for aesthetics, wind turbines are works of art compared to some of our urban environments.
A significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions seems unlikely given our continued heavy reliance on fossil fuel consumption. Even UK environmentalist James Lovelock, who posited the Gaia theory that the Earth operates as a giant, self-regulating super-organism, now sees nuclear energy as key to our planet's future health. Lovelock says the first world behaves like an addicted smoker, distracted by short-term benefits and ignorant of long-term risk. "Civilization is in imminent danger," he warns, "and has to use nuclear—the one safe, available energy source—or suffer the pain soon to be inflicted by our outraged planet."
Yet environmental activists, notably Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, continue to lobby against clean nuclear energy, and in favour of the band-aid Kyoto Treaty. We can agree renewable energies, such as wind, geothermal and hydro are part of the solution. But nuclear energy is the only non-greenhouse gas-emitting power source that can effectively replace fossil fuels and satisfy global demand.
Anti-forestry activists are telling us to stop cutting trees and to reduce our use of wood. Forest loss, or deforestation, is nearly all caused by clearing forests for farms and cities. Forestry operations, on the other hand, are geared towards reforestation and the maintenance of forest cover. Forests are stable and growing where people use the most wood, and are diminishing where they use less. When we use wood, we send a signal to the marketplace to plant more trees and produce more wood. North Americans use more wood per capita than any other continent, yet there is about the same forest area in North America today as there was 100 years ago.
Trees, and the materials they produce, are by far the most abundant, renewable and biodegradable resource in the world. If we want to retain healthy forests, we should be growing more trees and using more wood, not less. This seems lost on activists who use chilling rhetoric and apocalyptic images to drive us in the wrong direction.
Environmentalism has turned into anti-globalisation and anti-industry. Activists have abandoned science in favour of sensationalism. Their zero-tolerance, fear-mongering campaigns would ultimately prevent a cure for Vitamin A deficiency blindness, increase pesticide use, increase heart disease, deplete wild salmon stocks, raise the cost and reduce the safety of health care, raise construction costs, deprive developing nations of clean electricity, stop renewable wind energy, block a solution to global warming, and contribute to deforestation. How sick is that?
Co-founder of Greenpeace, Dr. Patrick Moore is Chairman and Chief Scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. in Vancouver, Canada. www.greenspiritstrategies.com.
Related to this, in an article Death of the Movement, Lawrence Solomon, Executive Director of Urban Renaissance Institute and Consumer Policy Institute - divisions of Toronto-based Energy Probe Research Foundation, refers to a 12,000 word critique of the environmental movement by Shellenberger & Nordhaus. He wrote:
The authors correctly identify one great cause of environmentalists' failure - "as a community, environmentalists suffer from a bad case of groupthink." Speaking from my own experiences, where once environmentalists challenged orthodoxy and accepted free markets, privatization, property rights and other approaches that would accomplish their goals, today's environmentalists are no longer free-thinking - they have become ideologues who care more about socialism and political correctness than getting to the nub of problems, and who dismiss contrary opinions out of hand. As Shellenberger told Grist, an activist magazine, "There is no place for public debate in the environmental movement. Even librarians have much fiercer public debates and dialogues than the environmental community."
National Post 12/3/05.
First fuel from US weapons uranium delivered
The first shipments of fuel fabricated from US military uranium stocks have been delivered to TVA's Browns Ferry nuclear power plant. The high-enriched uranium (HEU) was blended down by Nuclear Fuel Services at Erwin, Tennessee under the Blended Low-Enriched Uranium (BLEU) program. The Department of Energy originally designated 33 tonnes of off-specification HEU (with significant concentrations of U-236) to the program, but has since added another six tonnes. So far 46 tonnes of BLEU have been produced at Erwin, but at DOE's Savannah River site 7.1 tonnes of HEU averaging 64% U-235 has been blended down with depleted uranium to produce 105 tonnes of BLEU of 4.95% U-235. (The U-236 impurity is a neutron absorber, formed in a nuclear reactor and hence present in recycled uranium.)
US approval for interim storage facility
The licensing board of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has dismissed the remaining challenges to licensing a 40,000 tonne centralised surface dry storage facility on land owned by the Skull Valley band of the Goshute Indians, in Utah. Proceedings so far have dragged on eight years due mainly to state government opposition, and Private Fuel Storage LLC (PFS) hopes for an early licence. PFS is a consortium of eight utilities which plan to store used fuel on the site for up to 40 years pending disposal.
NuclearFuel 28/2/05, Nucleonics Week 3/3/05.
Cameco reprieve for UK conversion plant
Canada's Cameco Corporation has bought ten years of toll conversion services from BNFL's UK Springfields conversion plant, which had been due to close next year. From mid 2006 BNFL will convert 5000 tonnes of uranium per year to UF6 for Cameco. The feed will be UO3 from Cameco's Blind River refinery in Ontario, which also supplies its Port Hope conversion plant. Port Hope's capacity is 12,500 tU/yr for UF6 and it processed 9500 tU in 2004. Cameco has secured long-term commitments from utility customers to match much of its increased capacity, and says that Blind River's output has hitherto been limited by Port Hope's capacity. Cameco's increase in market share will come with minimal capital investment. Springfields has operated conversion since 1951, the current plant having been commissioned in 1993. From 1 April, it will be managed by Westinghouse under contract to the new UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Conversion services are currently quoted at US$ 11-12/kgU, valuing the contract in the region of US$ 50 million per year.
Cameco 16/3/05, BNFL 16/3/05.
EdF seeks investment in new reactor
Electricité de France is seeking direct investment by energy-intensive European industry in its new 1600 MWe EPR to be built at Flamanville, as a means for those industry consumers to secure favourable long-term power prices. Meanwhile discussions continue with other European utilities, and Italy's Enel is reported to be interested in taking 25% equity in the project for about EUR 750 million. The deal is likely to involve technology transfer to rehabilitate Italy's nuclear capacity and skills base. Italy imports some 20 billion kWh per year from EdF, almost twice what the new EPR plant will produce. Enel has recently purchased 66% of Slovenske Elektrarne (SE), Slovakia's nuclear generator, for EUR 840 million plus EUR 1.1 billion debt.
Nucleonics Week 17/3/05, Nuclear Eng Int'l 23/2 & 16/3/05.
French reprocessed uranium for long-term storage
Government auditors have pointed out that Electricité de France's (EdF) reprocessed uranium arising from used fuel "appears not to be destined for re-use in the near future," since EdF has made provision to store it for up to 250 years as a strategic reserve. Currently, reprocessing of 1150 tonnes of EdF used fuel per year produces 8.5 tonnes of plutonium (immediately recycled as mixed oxide - MOX - fuel) and 815 tonnes of reprocessed uranium (RepU). Of this about 650 tonnes is converted into stable oxide form for storage. EdF has demonstrated the use of RepU in its 900 MWe power plants, but it is currently uneconomic due to conversion costing three times as much as that for fresh uranium, and enrichment needing to be separate because of U-232 and U-236 impurities (the former gives rise to gamma radiation, the latter means higher enrichment is required). Reprocessing of used nuclear fuel is central to French nuclear energy policy.
Finland construction licence
The Finnish government has issued a construction licence for the new 3rd reactor at Olkiluoto. The Framatome ANP 1600 MWe EPR unit is expected to start commercial operation in 2009, and will play a significant role in reducing Finland's greenhouse gas emissions in the Kyoto Protocol commitment period to 2012.
Swedish political change of view
In the 1970s the Centre Party in Sweden started the anti-nuclear debate which culminated in the 1980 referendum canvassing three options for phasing out nuclear energy. Since then the Centre Party has lined up with the three socialist parties on nuclear power, but the three non-socialist parties on other issues. Recently the leadership of the Centre Party has indicated a substantial reversal of this earlier anti-nuclear position, saying that climate change must be put ahead of nuclear decommissioning. The Chairman of its Youth League in particular has said that Sweden needs to keep its nuclear reactors operating and avoid closing any. This view is in line with the overwhelming majority of public opinion - a March poll (N=1027) showed 83% support for maintaining or increasing nuclear power in Sweden, and a similar proportion saying that limiting greenhouse gas emissions should be the top environmental priority.
Nucleonics Week 3/2/05, Energiforum 4/2/05, NucNet news #57/05.
UK turnaround in nuclear sentiment
A MORI poll (N=2000) has found that 35% of Britons support the construction of more nuclear power plants, compared with 30% against and wanting to phase out nuclear power. In 2001 it was 19% for more nuclear and 60% against. The change reflects public concern and media coverage related to energy security and climate change issues.
Belarus looks to nuclear power
The President of Belarus says that embarking upon a nuclear power program is only a matter of time. The country imports 90% of its gas from Russia - much of it for electricity, and overall aims for 25-30% energy independence, compared with half that now. A single nuclear plant would be expected to reduce gas imports by US$ 200-400 million per year and lower the cost of electricity by 20%. Studies are proceeding on both a domestic plant using Russian technology, or Belarus participation in a new nuclear unit at Smolensk or Kursk in Russia.
Nucleonics Week 17/2/05.
Gas pipes highlight energy security issues
Unresolved discussion over renewal of a gas supply contract led to Turkmenistan cutting off supply to Ukraine for three days on 31 December, until Ukraine agreed to pay 32% more, at $58 per 1000 cubic metres for 36 billion m3, in 2005. Nearly half of Ukraine's gas comes from Turkmenistan, and it is also heavily dependent on Russia for gas. Russian gas supplies to Turkey, Latvia and Belorussia have been similarly interrupted over the last couple of years due to commercial or political disputes.
More than 85% of Russian Gazprom gas exported to the EU - 110 billion m3 per year - transits Ukraine, and the country gains $1.5 billion per year from this as owner of the pipelines. A $2.8 billion project will increase this flow by 29 billion m3/yr. Some 44 billion m3/yr of Turkmen gas also transits Ukraine to Europe. Germany depends on Russian gas for 40% of its supply, and the proportion is growing.
In December the OECD's International Energy Agency warned that Europe will rely mainly on Gazprom for 80% of its gas needs over the next 30 years, most of it via Ukraine, so EU countries should take urgent steps to diversify their energy sources.
The UK imports an increasing proportion of its gas. "High and volatile gas prices reached new levels" at the end of February, leading the UK chemical industry to warn that it "can no longer absorb these … prices, which have a knock-on impact to electricity costs. Current gas prices are seriously damaging UK industry competitiveness and [if they] remain at this level the economic impact could be severe".
FT 8/12/04, 12/1/05, Energy in E Europe 7/1, 21/1 & 4/2/05, UK Chemical Industries Association 28/2/05.
German wind report reconfigured
A report for the German government's Energy Agency (dena) supported by the supply companies and the wind industry was withdrawn for re-editing due to its adverse findings. Mr Trittin, the Green Party environment minister, said that "we do not want the findings of this report to be misinterpreted". The 500-page EUR 900,000 grid study report was then released at the end of February. It showed that for the increased renewables scenario beyond 2015, "no system solution for the integration of wind power could be found." The scope was therefore limited to a 2015 time frame.
More specifically the report says that if Germany presses ahead to double the capacity of wind turbines to 36 GWe as intended by 2015, conventional capacity can be reduced by 2.2 GWe with replacement of base-load plant by gas turbines. However, the additional annual costs for consumers (who actually subsidise wind energy) will rise to EUR 1.6 - 2.3 billion in 2015. In addition the government will need to invest EUR 1.1 billion in grid infrastructure by then to cope with the fluctuation in wind-derived supply. (A further EUR 5 billion for connecting new wind farms to grid nodes is borne by the developers from tariffs.) The report also says that the cost of avoiding the emission of a tonne of carbon dioxide by using wind energy ranges from EUR 41 to EUR 77 in 2015 - well down on the 2007 figures, but it raises questions about the greenhouse gas emission savings from increased wind power.
News Telegraph 2/2/05, Nucleonics Week 3/3/05, dena press release 24/2/05, Dena Grid study summary 15/3/05.
ASIA, AFRICA S. America
China power plant bids submitted
At the end of February three bids were submitted to build four large new nuclear reactors in China. The competing vendors were Westinghouse-Mitsubishi, Framatome ANP and Atomstroyexport (ASE) - for AP1000, EPR and V-392 reactor types respectively. The US, French and Russian governments were reported to be giving firm support as finance and support arrangements were put in place. The US Export-Import bank approved $5 billion in loan guarantees for the Westinghouse bid, and the French Coface company was expected similarly to finance Areva for Framatome ANP's bid. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave approval for Westinghouse to export equipment and engineering services as well as the initial fuel load and one replacement for the four units. Bids for both 2-unit plants were received in Beijing on behalf of the two customers: China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co for Yangjiang, and China National Nuclear Corp. for Sanmen (in Zhejiang province). Bids are for the nuclear portion of each plant only, the turbine tenders will be called for subsequently - Alstom and Siemens being mentioned as likely suppliers.
Meanwhile the Guangdong Nuclear Power Group has signed contracts with Chinese designers and manufacturers for two 1000 MWe reactors as phase 2 of the Lingao power station. Construction will start in December and the units are due on line in 2010 and 2011. The Group currently operates the Daya Bay and Lingao phase 1 plants totalling 4000 MWe gross, largely supplied and built by Framatome ANP. Lingao phase 2 will virtually replicate phase 1 but be fully indigenous.
Also Rosatom, the Russian atomic energy agency, has said that the first of two 1000 MWe AES-91 units it has been building at Tianwan in Jiangsu province is ready to start up once permission is received from regulators. It has been delayed by equipment problems.
Nucleonics Week 24/2/05, 3/3/05, People's Daily 17/3/05.
China to build pebble bed power reactor
The Huaneng Group Co. - China's largest generating utility but hitherto without nuclear capacity - has announced that it will lead a consortium to build a 450 MW thermal/ 195 MWe pebble bed demonstration reactor at Weihai in Shandong Province. This HTR-PM is expected to come on line in five years. China Nuclear Engineering & Construction (CNEC) will have a 35% stake and Tsinghua University's Institute of Nuclear Energy Technology (INET) - which operates a small demonstration pebble bed reactor - 5%. Cost is expected to be US$ 1500/kWe, slightly more than the Eskom-BNFL PBMR which has a similar schedule. The HTR-PM is to be the first of an anticipated 18-module full-scale power plant based on it.
FT 8/2/05 INET 15/2/05.
….. and South Africa gets into (pebble) bed with China
An agreement between PBMR of South Africa and Chinergy of Beijing brings together the two developers of High Temperature Reactors using inherently safe pebble bed fuel. PBMR Pty Ltd is has been taking forward the concept (based on earlier German work) since 1993 and is ready to build a 125 MWe demonstration plant. Chinergy Co. is drawing on the small operating HTR-10 research reactor at Tsinghua University which has achieved an operating temperature of 950ºC and is the basis of the 195 MWe HTR-PM demonstration unit - see above, though it too derives from the earlier German development. Both PBMR and HTR-PM are planned for operation about 2010. The new agreement is for cooperation on the demonstration projects and subsequent commercialisation, since both parties believe that the inherently safe pebble bed technology built in relatively small units will eventually displace the more complex light water reactors. Chinergy is a 50-50 joint venture of Tsinghua University's INET and CNEC.
The PBMR unit is to have the helium coolant directly driving the gas turbine, but the HTR-PM takes a more conservative approach and will produce steam for conventional cycle, though a later move to direct Brayton cycle is envisaged for commercial units after the initial 18 modules.
New Japanese reactor on line
The first unit of Tohoku's Higashidori nuclear power plant has been connected to the grid after starting up in January. Commercial operation of the 1067 MWe BWR is expected in October. A second Tohoku unit is planned there , and before that two Tepco Higashidori units are to be built nearby - all 1385 MWe Advanced BWRs.
JAIF Atoms in Japan 9/3/05.
Large new Indian reactor starts up
The first of a new series of 540 MWe (gross, 490 MWe net) nuclear reactors has started up at Tarapur in India. The Tarapur 3&4 units are developed indigenously from the 220 MWe (gross) model of Pressurised Heavy Water Reactor, ten of which have been operating for up to 21 years. These in turn are based on Canadian technology as in the two small units operating at Rawatbhata since 1973. The first two units at Tarapur are small BWRs built by GE and commissioned in 1969. The Tarapur 3&4 units were built by National Power Corp of India Ltd, a public entity under the Department of Atomic Energy. Tarapur-4 criticality comes five years from pouring first concrete and seven months ahead of schedule. Connection to the western grid is expected in August. Its twin - unit 3 - is about nine months behind. Seven other reactor units are under construction in India, six by NPCIL and one by BHAVINI, which is focused on fast neutron reactors.
Russian-Iranian fuel deal signed
After two years delay due to Iran's reluctance to return spent fuel to Russia without being paid for it, two agreements have been signed at Bushehr in Iran covering both supply of fresh fuel for the new Bushehr nuclear reactor and its return to Russia after use. The 950 MWe VVER unit is due to start up next year and a second reactor is planned at the site. Supply of the fuel was originally contingent upon Iran's signing the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the IAEA. It has done this but not ratified it. The Russian agreement means that Iran's nuclear fuel supply is secured for the foreseeable future, removing any justification for enrichment locally. It also means that the anticipated 6-7 TWh/yr from the new reactor will free up about 1.6 million tonnes of oil per year which can be exported for hard currency.
NucNet news in brief # 25/05, various.
South Korean plans for hydrogen
The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) has embarked upon a US$ 1 billion R&D and demonstration program aiming to produce commercial hydrogen using nuclear heat around 2020. KAERI has close links on hydrogen with the Institute of Nuclear & New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University in China, and is forming other links with its counterpart in Japan. It plans to develop the sulfur-iodine (SI) process for hydrogen production while also developing high-temperature reactors and the alloys enabling them to be used with heat exchangers for chemical plants. Prototype SI hydrogen production is expected about 2011, followed by a pilot plant in 2016, which will then be connected to a high-temperature reactor. Which type of reactor will be decided in 2006.
Nucleonics Week 3/2/05.
Tenth Japanese waste shipment
Cogema is despatching a tenth shipment of vitrified high-level wastes back to Japan. Five casks with 124 canisters are involved, and will be on a dedicated vessel as usual. A further 13 casks remain to be returned, but all the Japanese spent fuel sent to Cogema has now been reprocessed.
Kazakhstan to boost uranium production
The state corporation Kazatomprom has announced plans to increase uranium production substantially by 2010, possibly to 15,000 t/yr U3O8 (12,700 tU). It controls three operating ISL mines in the south of the country producing nearly 4000 t/yr U3O8 and is involved with development of a further 1500 t/yr mine, and has plans for a fifth.
Ux Weekly 14/3/05, NucNet news in brief # 30/05.
Chinese coal mine disaster
A methane explosion at the Sunjiawan mine in north-eastern China has killed at least 203 miners. Last year's official death toll in China's coal mines was 6027, 6% down on 2003.
Areva offers help to complete Brazilian reactor
Areva is reported to have offered financing and technical assistance to complete Brazil's 1224 MWe Angra 3 nuclear power plant. While 70% of the equipment is on site, construction has not started and Areva is being paid some US$ 20 million per year to maintain the equipment. Eletrobras has been seeking a private partner with US$ 1.8 billion to complete the plant.
Decision to refurbish two Ontario reactors
After six months negotiation, Bruce Power has reached tentative agreement with the provincial government on refurbishing Bruce 1 & 2 nuclear reactors which have been shut down for some years. Both entered commercial operation in 1977, then unit 2 was closed down in 1995 and unit 1 at the end of 1997. Returning the two 769 MWe units to service will involve replacement of pressure tubes and steam generators, and will cost some C$ 2 billion (US$ 1.6 billion). Bruce power leases the eight Bruce reactors from Ontario Power Generation, and in 2003-04 returned units 3 & 4 to service after a more modest refit. Cabinet needs to approve the agreement.
Toronto Star 22/3/05, Nucleonics Week 24/3/05.
BHP Billiton bids for WMC Resources
After anxiety regarding a hostile bid from Swiss-based Xstrata, BHP Billiton has offered A$ 9.2 billion (USD 7.3 billion) for WMC Resources, including the Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine, valued recently at up to A$5.4 billion (USD 4.3 billion) by Grant Samuel.. WMCR directors have unanimously recommended acceptance and have agreed to a A$92 million break fee in the event that the bid is derailed or fails. BHPB said that the bid was based on a positive view of the prospects for a A$5 billion expansion of Olympic Dam to triple production. Commentators have pointed to the significance of the world's largest mining company taking control of one third of the world's uranium resources - from a position of no involvement with uranium, and underlining the key significance of it in the world's sustainable energy future.
WMC Resources has committed A$ 90 million (US$ 70 million) to further drilling at Olympic Dam, designed to take the resource categorization of the southern orebody through to proven reserves, and thus demonstrate the viability of a much expanded operation - up to 15,000 t/yr U3O8.
Areva, whose subsidiary Cogema accounted for 13% of world uranium production in 2003, had earlier expressed some interest in Olympic Dam, which supplied 7.5 % of world mine production. Areva subsidiaries have a substantial role in China, seen as a significant future market for Australian uranium - talks with a view to establishing a bilateral safeguards agreement have begun.
Age 25/2, 9 & 14/3/05, WMCR 1 & 11/3/05.
Record nuclear output in 2004
Preliminary figures suggest that world nuclear output rose nearly 4% in 2004 to 2696 billion kWh, due to increased capacity and good performance especially in Sweden and the USA.
Nucleonics Week 10/2/05.
Nuclear competitiveness improved since 1998
A joint report by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency shows that nuclear power has increased its competitiveness over the last seven years. The principal changes since 1998 are increased nuclear plant capacity factors and rising gas prices. The study does not factor in any costs for carbon emissions from fossil fuel generators, and focuses on over one hundred plants able to come on line 2010-15, including 13 nuclear plants. Nuclear overnight construction costs range from US$ 1000/kW in Czech Republic to $2500/kW in Japan, and average $1500/kW. Coal plants are costed at $1000-1500/kW, gas plants $500-1000/kW and wind capacity $1000-1500/kW.
At 5% discount rate nuclear generating costs come out at EUR 2-4 cents/kWh depending on country, coal 3-5 c/kWh, gas 4-6 c/kWh and wind around 8 cents. Nuclear costs were lowest in Korea, Czech Rep, Canada and France, and highest by far in Japan. Nuclear is comfortably cheaper than coal in seven of ten countries, and cheaper than gas in all but one. At 10% discount rate nuclear ranges 3-5 cents/kWh (except Japan: near 7 cents, and Netherlands), and capital becomes 70% of power cost, instead of the 50% with 5% discount rate. Here, nuclear is again cheaper than coal in seven of ten countries, and cheaper than gas in all but two. Among the technologies analysed for the report, the new EPR if built in Germany would deliver power at about 2.38 c/kWh - the lowest cost of any plant in the study.
Nucleonics Week 17/3/05.
IAEA raises capacity projection
The International Atomic Energy Agency has significantly increased its projection of world nuclear generating capacity 15 years hence. It now anticipates at least 60 new plants in the next 15 years, making 430 GWe in place in 2020 - 130 GWe more than projected in 2000 and 17% more than now. The change is based on specific plans and actions in a number of countries, including China, India, Russia, Finland and France, coupled with the changed outlook due to the Kyoto Protocol. This would give nuclear power a 17% share in electricity production in 2020. The fastest growth is in Asia.
Call for acceleration of nuclear renaissance
Ministers, senior officials and experts from 74 countries attended a 2-day conference in Paris organised by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in cooperation with the OECD and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and hosted by the French Government. They affirmed the important role of nuclear power as a proven and economically competitive technology in meeting world energy needs in the light of environmental, energy security and price stability considerations. However, non-proliferation and waste management questions must be addressed more strongly.
WNA Director General John Ritch called for the UN and other international bodies to be proactive in pushing nuclear power developments. "As a step toward energy independence and as an urgent environmental imperative, it is essential that national governments take the steps necessary to incentivise immediate nuclear investments. This pump-priming can be achieved by a temporary production subsidy, by absorbing some first-of-a-kind-engineering costs, or just by redistributing these costs from pioneers to those who follow. The goal is not to subsidise long-term nuclear operations but simply to accelerate the nuclear renaissance for reasons of national interest and the global environment." Furthermore, the UN development system needs to be reoriented to support the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, rather than fiddling "in a safe cocoon of political correctness. Governments must now direct the World Bank and the UN Development and Environment Programmes to act in pursuit of a clean-energy vision in which nuclear power holds a central role."
Final statement 23/3/05, WNA.
UN expert report urges multilateral control of facilities
An expert group commissioned by the International Atomic Energy Agency has suggested ways to strengthen controls over sensitive nuclear materials and technologies of proliferation concern. The focus is on multinational approaches to enrichment, reprocessing, and spent fuel repositories and storage. The report notes that multilateral approaches are already established in Europe and merit emulation elsewhere. Proposals include: reinforcing commercial market mechanisms including fuel leasing & take-back, international supply guarantees involving IAEA, transferring control of existing facilities to multinational arrangements, and setting up new facilities with multinational ownership and management. Representatives from 26 countries were involved in the study.
Kyoto Protocol in force
Now ratified by 141 nations accounting for 62% of developed countries' greenhouse gas emissions, the Kyoto Protocol has now entered into force. It requires the 34 industrialised countries to reduce emissions by an average of 5.2% by 2012.
World reactor changes
Japan: Higashidori-1 1067 MWe grid connected
From WNA Digest: January 2005
Bipartisan US approach to energy policy
A high-powered commission of 16 members with diverse expertise and affiliations has spent two years developing an energy policy for the USA, something which has been repeatedly attempted in Congress but always frustrated by obtrusive minor interests. The resulting report from National Commission on Energy Policy makes a lot of sense, even if it is blinkered in a couple of places.
The commissioners report that they "found common ground in rejecting certain persistent myths - on the left and on the right - that have often served to polarise and paralyse the national energy debate. These include, for example, the notion that energy independence can be readily achieved through conservation measures and renewable energy sources alone, or that limiting greenhouse gas emissions is either costless or so costly that as to wreck the economy if it were tried at all. Most of all, commissioners rejected the proposition that uncertainty justifies inaction in the face of significant risks. …. It is time for the stalemate to end."
There are several recommendations which are particularly relevant to the electricity sector. These relate to reducing risks of climate change, expanding energy supplies, strengthening infrastructure, and developing new energy technologies. The recommendations together are revenue-neutral, with the income flowing from sales of greenhouse gas permits being allocated to incentives for early deployment of advanced coal (IGCC) and advanced nuclear technologies as well as doubling RD&D.
On climate change the USA is urged to "adopt a mandatory, economy-wide, tradable-permits system for limiting greenhouse gas emissions, with a safety valve designed to cap costs." The costs would initially be capped at $7 per tonne of CO2-equivalent reduction ($25.67/tC). Further US action should be linked to developed and developing country commitments.
For advanced coal technologies up to $4 billion is recommended over ten years for deployment of 10 GWe of integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) coal technology with carbon capture, plus a further $3 billion for commercial-scale geological carbon sequestration. These are designed to maintain the role of low-grade coals.
"Government policies to improve the prospects for expansion of nuclear energy are warranted by the interests of society as a whole …. in abating the climate change risks by expanding the share of no-carbon and low-carbon energy options in the electricity generating mix", for a variety of reasons including "alleviating pressure on natural gas supplies". In particular $2 billion should be provided to demonstrate advanced nuclear energy technologies including one or two power plants. Also the government should get on with developing the Yucca Mountain high-level waste repository in Nevada.
In addition, "the federal government should also recognise and reward the non-carbon nature of nuclear energy by treating new nuclear generation on a par with renewable energy sources" by extending the Production Tax Credit now available to renewables (currently 1.8 cents/kWh, indexed to inflation). It also recommends "fulfilling existing federal commitments on nuclear waste management, and significantly strengthening the international non-proliferation regime." As well as continuing the moratorium on reprocessing of spent fuel and construction of breeder reactors, the government is urged to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency.
For renewables in power generation, better and financially fair integration of their supply into grid systems is required. Hydrogen is seen as 50-year prospect before full development, and only electrolysis and coal sources are considered.
Ending the Energy Stalemate - A bipartisan strategy to meet America's energy challenges, National Commission on Energy Policy, Dec 2004.
German wind report highlights need for base-load plant
In 2003 Germany led the world in wind energy, thanks to provisions made by law. Of the national wind power total of 14,350 MWe, nearly half was connected in E.ON's part of the country, stretching from Denmark to Austria. A report from E.ON has outlined the operational challenges associated with this.
In 2003 some 18.6 billion kWh of electricity was fed in from wind turbines, about 4% of Germany's total (compared with 157.4 billion kWh, 28% from nuclear). For this, grid operators paid out an average of EUR 9 cents/kWh, more than double the normal cost.
In the E.ON area during 2003, maximum wind power infeed was 80% of installed wind capacity, average infeed was 16.4% of average capacity, and for more than half the year it was less than 11% of capacity. Whenever demand was very high because of winter cold or summer heat, wind was unable to provide much help. Also supply from wind turbines can change rapidly, meaning that back up sources - which must amount to over 80% of wind capacity - must be brought on line equally rapidly.
Matching patterns of demand to conventional controllable generating capacity is readily achieved. But with wind, forecasting is unreliable and with the almost random level of input from that quarter, uncontrollable fluctuations occurred on the generating side up to almost half the total wind capacity. This means that reserves of up to 60% of wind capacity must be kept for this load balancing, to be brought on or taken off line quickly, and in 2003 E.ON alone incurred costs of some EUR 100 million for this as fees paid to operators of conventional plants. Guaranteeing the stability of electrical supply (voltage and frequency) for these and other more technical reasons associated with wind infeed has become a major challenge for E.ON.
A further problem not unique to E.ON's part of Germany is grid infrastructure. Most power plants are built near where the power is needed. But wind turbines need to take advantage of the most windy sites, and these are often poorly served by grids. E.ON is facing the need to build 290 km of high-voltage lines at a cost of EUR 190 million. If offshore wind development proceeds as envisaged, costs will be much higher. There is also the question of transmission losses from conveying power long distances.
E.ON Wind Report 2004.
New reactor project changes horses
The Dominion Resources consortium which is pursuing a Combined Construction-Operating Licence (COL) with financial support from the Department of Energy has dropped AECL and its ACR-700 reactor from its team and has switched to General Electric and its ESBWR design. The 1500 MWe ESBWR is also one of two options being pursued by the NuStart Consortium. Of the two other participants in the Dominion group, Bechtel continues and Hitachi drops out. The reason for Dominion's loss of confidence was that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) had indicated that approval of the technology would be much slower than that for types more familiar to them. An original estimate of 30-36 months had grown to 60+ months. The 750 MWe ACR-700 was at pre-application stage of NRC design certification, and it appears that while continuing the licensing process in Canada, AECL will now abandon that with the NRC. In future it will focus on its larger but less-developed 1200 MWe ACR design, in order to market that in the USA, China and UK. GE hopes to get design certification for the ESBWR in 2007.
Canada News Wire 14/1/05, Nucleonics Week 20/1/05.
Alaska to pioneer small reactor
The town council of Galena in Alaska has asked Toshiba to license and install a 10 MWe integral sodium-cooled nuclear reactor there. The unit will require no refueling over its 30 year life. Galena is a very isolated settlement with high cost power and the proposal has been under intensive review for some time. The 4S (Super-Safe, Small & Simple) 'nuclear battery' system has been developed by Toshiba in cooperation with Japan's Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI). It uses sodium as coolant and has passive safety features. The whole unit - some 18 metres tall and 2.5 m diameter - would be factory-built, transported to site by barge and installed below ground level. Fuel is uranium-zirconium alloy enriched to less than 20%, and steady power output over the core lifetime is achieved by progressively withdrawing a graphite reflector around the slender core. Plant cost is about US$ 2500/kW and power cost 6-8 cents/kWh - about one quarter that of Galena's present diesel power. After 30 years the unit is replaced, and the spent one returned to the factory for refueling.
Nucleonics Week 6/1/05, Nuclear Energy Overview 10/1/05.
Depleted uranium classified as waste
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ruled that depleted uranium arising from enrichment by Urenco-led Louisiana Energy Services (LES) can be classified as low-level waste, and hence would have to be taken over for disposal by the Department of Energy if LES requested that. The decision has implications for whether the 1.2 million tonnes of depleted uranium stored around the world should be seen as waste or a potentially valuable energy resource for fast neutron reactors in the future.
Lithuanian reactor shut down for EU
Unit 1 of the Ignalina nuclear power plant was shut down permanently on 31 December. The RBMK-1500 unit had started up in 1983, followed by unit 2 in 1987. These were the largest of their type in the world, even after de-rating from 1380 to 1185 MWe, and they supplied 80% of Lithuania's electricity. The closure was agreed several years ago as a condition of entry to the EU, and unit 2 is to close in 2009. The EU has provided EUR 315 million toward decommissioning and as compensation, and is scheduled to deliver a further EUR 1052 million by 2013. The government is keen to build replacement nuclear capacity but is presently unable to finance it, and a decision is slated for 2007.
Ignalina NPP 31/12/04, Nucleonics Week 6 & 20/1/05.
Poland revives nuclear plans
The Polish cabinet has decided that for energy diversification and to reduce CO2 and sulfur emissions the country should move immediately to introduce nuclear power, so that an initial plant might be operating soon after 2020. Poland had four 440 MWe Russian units under construction in the 1980s, but these were cancelled in 1990 and the components have been sold. Some 95% of Poland's electricity is from burning coal, and the new energy policy signals a shift in this, with all four scenarios involving nuclear power.
NucNet news #3/05, Nucleonics Week 13/1/05.
EU launches CO2 emissions trading
The EU Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) was launched on January 1 in 21 of 25 EU countries. Each major industrial site in member countries will be allocated an annual quota of emission allowances and can buy and sell allowances as required - EU allowances (EUAs) for 2005 are trading at around EUR 7 per tonne of CO2. Any company exceeding its quota will be fined EUR 40 per tonne. The scheme covers about half of the carbon emitted in the EU, and is focused on 12,000 sites in five sectors: cement, glass, iron & steel, paper & pulp, and electricity generation - the last accounting for 55% of the ETS total. It is intended to reduce the cap on emissions over time.
During 2004 forward trade in carbon emission permits was around EUR 70 million in the ETS, involving more than 8 million EUAs. A spot market will be inaugurated in March. The scheme will be reviewed by the EC in 2006.
FT 31/12/04, Platts 4/1/05, New Scientist 8/1/05, AETF Review Dec-Jan 2004-05.
ASIA & AFRICA
New South Korean reactor on line
Ulchin unit 6, a pressurised water reactor, was connected to the South Korean grid in December, adding 960 MWe to meet rising demand. This is the last of six Korean Standard Nuclear Power Plants (KSNP) incorporating many of the US advanced reactor features. The next four plants ready to start construction - Shin Kori 1 & 2 and Shin Wolsong 1 & 2 - are 950 MWe KNSP+ units incorporating substantial improvements and originally due to come on line 2008-11, but delayed two years. Shin Kori 1 & 2 have now been approved by government. Beyond these, construction start is awaited for the first APR-1400 units - Shin Kori 3 & 4, which represent a further evolution to late Generation III units in world terms.
NucNet news # 7/05, Nucleonics Week 4/11/04 & 13/1/05.
New Japanese reactor starts up
The first unit of Tohoku's Higashidori nuclear power plant has started up. Grid connection of the 1067 MWe BWR is expected in March, commercial operation in October. A second Tohoku unit is planned, and before that two Tepco Higashidori units will be built nearby - all 1385 MWe Advanced BWRs.
Japan's Hamaoka-5 begins commercial operation
Japan's newest and largest Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) has commenced commercial operation, after its grid connection last April. The 1380 MWe ABWR unit is the same thermal power as its two predecessors, but has a more efficient turbine. It brings the country's number of reactors in commercial operation to 53, with total 45,275 MWe.
NucNet News #12/05.
South Korea offers waste incentive
The South Korean government has decided to legislate to pay local governments hosting an intermediate- or high-level waste facility US$ 290 million from the start of its construction, and also allow them to collect fees from users.
Nigeria proposes nuclear power
To address rapidly increasing base-load electricity demand, Nigeria is seeking the support of the International Atomic Energy Agency to develop plans for two 1000 MWe reactors. Nigeria is Africa's most populous country and last year commissioned its first university research reactor. Power demand is expected to reach 10,000 MWe by 2007 - current grid-supplied capacity is 2600 MWe.
Reuters 24/1/05, TradeTech NMR 21/1/05.
Indian fuel shortages constrain power
From April to November 2004 India's Central Electricity Authority reported a 10% shortfall between peak demand and available capacity of 77 GWe, and that the supply of 362 TWh was insufficient. Shortages of coal, gas, and nuclear fuel gave rise to the problem in the face of rising demand. Coal plants comprise two thirds of India's 144 GWe grid-connected capacity.
Power in Asia 20/1/05, FreshFuel 24/1/05
Canadian 2004 uranium production
Total Canadian uranium production in 2004 was 13,676 tonnes U3O8 (11,596 tU), 11% up on 12,329 tonnes (10,455 tU) in 2003. Areva's subsidiary, Cogema Resources Inc and Cameco Corporation reported uranium production of 4665 tonnes U3O8 (3956 tU) from the McArthur River - Key Lake operation for the half year to end of December, 1357 t U3O8 (1150 tU) production from McClean Lake, and 1261 tonnes (1069 tU) from Rabbit Lake. For the full year, McArthur River thus produced 8490 t U3O8 (7200 tU), Rabbit Lake 2462 t (2086 tU), and McClean Lake 2724 t (2310 tU).
Cameco has budgeted C$ 20 million for uranium exploration worldwide in 2005, to address new market opportunities.
Cameco 25 & 27/1/05, Areva 7/1/05.
Australian 2004 uranium production record
Total uranium production of 10,591 tonnes U3O8 (8981 tU) in 2004 - up 18.6% on 2003 - has set a new record for Australia. ERA has announced production of 5137 tonnes (4356 tU) from Ranger mine, WMC Resources produced 4370 tonnes (4406.5 t UOC, 3706 tU) from Olympic Dam, and Heathgate Resources 1084 tonnes (919 tU) from Beverley - now running at full capacity.
ERA has announced that it had now passed all three audits of its compliance with government requirements following incidents at the Ranger mine last year. Its net profit after tax of A$ 38.6 million is almost double that in 2003.
WMC 13/1/05, Heathgate, ERA 31/1/05.
2004 a bumper year for new nuclear capacity
During 2004 seven large new reactors were connected to electricity grids and another was restarted after major refurbishment. This added 7529 MWe to world nuclear capacity, and was offset by five reactors closing down - total 1381 MWe, so net 6148 MWe increase. In S. Korea Ulchin 5 & 6 (960 MWe each), in China Qinshan 3 (610 MWe), in Japan Hamaoka 5 (1380 MWe), in Ukraine Khmelnitsky 2 & Rovno 4 (950 MWe each), in Russia Kalinin 3 (950 MWe) were new connections and in Canada Bruce 3 (769 MWe) returned. In UK Chaplecross 1-4 (49 MWe each) closed, as did Lithuania's Ignalina 1 (1185 MWe). In addition, uprates of older plants totalled 153 MWe.
Climate change action falters
With the Kyoto Protocol stage 1 (to 2012) now coming into effect in mid February, some of those attending the COP-10 negotiations in Buenos Aires in December were expecting to move ahead in deciding on action post-2012 and involving developing countries. However, little progress was made on this and some observers felt that a realignment occurred, from USA versus the world to the world versus EU.
First, developing countries led by China, India and Brazil - together responsible for a quarter of world emissions, more than the USA - made it clear that they would not entertain any discussion on their reducing emissions. Then Italy broke ranks with the EU, saying it would not accept binding commitments beyond 2012, since if the USA and Asian economies would not do so it would be pointless. While the USA (20+% of world emissions) agreed to take part in a meeting in May 2005 to discuss post-2012 possibilities, it was negative about the idea of any binding agreement going forward. Australia however, was positive about a post-2012 agreement.
The EU emissions trading scheme for carbon credits applicable to heavy industry started in January (see European news item), and the EC says that the EU is on track to achieve its pledged Kyoto emission reductions by 2010. At the same time carbon emission trade in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) market under the Kyoto Protocol has been strong and amounted to nearly EUR 200 million in 2004 at an average price of nearly EUR 5 per tonne CO2.
New Scientist 20/12/04, AFR 20/12/04, Reuters 21/12/04, AETF Review Dec-Jan 2004-05, FT 26/1/05.
World reactor changes
Lithuania: Ignalina-1 1185 MWe shut down permanently 31/12/04