From WNA Digest: December 2006
Moves to open nuclear trade with India
The US Congress has passed legislation enabling trade with India of nuclear fuel and technology, after reconciling earlier House and Senate versions of it. The final wording is under consideration by India's parliament, which will need to put most of the country's nuclear power reactors under international safeguards. A safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency must now be negotiated, and agreement of the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group will be required before a bilateral trade agreement in line with the new Act can be sent to Congress. The ultimate objective is to put India on the same footing as China in respect to responsibilities and trade opportunities.
Nucleonics Week 14/12/06, NuclearFuel 18/12/06.
Further nuclear plant licence renewal and sales
The operating licence for the Palisades nuclear power plant in Michigan, USA, has been renewed for an additional 20 years by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). It is now licensed to operate until 2031 and is the 48th US reactor to be granted a life extension. The 798 MWe pressurised water reactor is operated by Nuclear Management Co on behalf of Consumers Energy, which recently agreed to sell the plant to Entergy Corp for $242 million plus $138 million for fuel and other assets.
FPL Energy has agreed to buy the Point Beach nuclear power plant (1012 MWe net) for $998 million, its third such purchase. The actual plant accounts for $783 million - $773 per kilowatt. The two units were commissioned in 1970 and 1973 and last year had their licences extended to 2030 and 2033. Power uprates are planned. FPL will assume responsibility for decommissioning and at least $360 million in trust funds will transfer to FPL for this. All power will be sold back to the vendor, Wisconsin's We Energies.
Duke Energy Carolinas and North Carolina Electric Membership Corp. have agreed to buy 19% of the 1205 MWe Catawba-1 nuclear plant for $200 million - $874/kW, taking their ownership of the plant to 38% and 62% respectively.
Nucleonics Week 21/12/06, Platts 27/12/06, NRC 17/1/07.
Progress Energy selects greenfield site
Progress Energy is to buy 1200 ha of undeveloped land in Levy County, Florida to build one or two new reactors, either Unistar's US EPR, General Electric's ABWR or Westinghouse's AP1000 – as already selected for construction in North Carolina. The first unit would be expected to cost US$ 2.5-3.5 billion - the second somewhat less - following a licence application in 2008. The coastal site is near the company's Crystal River plant and is the first US greenfield site to be considered in the push to build new reactors.
Progress Energy 12/12/06, Nucleonics Week 14/12/06.
New Baltic states plant, Poland offers to share
The Baltic states - Latvia, Estonia & Lithuania - have decided to proceed jointly with building a new nuclear plant at the Ignalina site in Lithuania, replacing the remaining Soviet-era plant there. Following an earlier invitation from Lithuania, the Polish state grid company PSE offered to take a 25% share of it and signing of an agreement was expected in January.
This would bring forward Poland's nuclear energy plans and provide valuable experience as well as electricity. A feasibility study, undertaken on behalf of the three Baltic states, showed that a new plant costing EUR 2.5 to 4.0 billion would be economically attractive and could be on line in 2015. Meanwhile, an EUR 304 million high-voltage "energy bridge" to improve transmission capacity between Lithuania and Poland is to be built by 2011, partially financed by the EU.
The Polish government had been considering options for introducing nuclear power between 2020 and 2030 or possibly earlier. A recent feasibility study suggested that 11.5 GWe of nuclear capacity would be optimum for Poland but possibly unaffordable in that time frame, so 4.5 GWe by 2030 is now targeted.
Nucleonics Week 7 & 14 & 21/12/06, Platts 11/12/06.
UK closes four old reactors
The UK's four oldest reactors, Sizewell A 1&2 and Dungeness A 1&2 were closed down on 31 December after 40-41 years operation, removing 870 MWe net from the grid. They bring the total of retired UK Magnox reactors to 22. The next units to close will be Oldbury 1&2 at the end of 2008. All these are first-generation Magnox units operated by BNFL's British Nuclear Group under contract to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Bulgaria closes two reactors prematurely
In line with its commitment in joining the EU, Bulgaria has closed its Soviet-era Kozloduy units 3 & 4, each 440 MWe. This is despite major upgrading of these two units through to 2002, including replacement of control systems. In 2003, after a two-week scrutiny by 18 international inspectors, the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) reported that the units met all necessary international standards for safe operation. This confirmed an earlier IAEA report. They would have reached their 30-year mark in 2008 and 2010 and were reported to be producing electricity at EUR 2 cents/kWh. Removing this 816 MWe (net) will curtail the country's electricity exports - 7.8 billion kWh per year. Kozloduy 5 & 6 are more modern 1000 MWe Russian plants. (Kozloduy units 1 & 2 were shut down at the end of 2002.)
Following the closure of Kozloduy units 3 & 4 on 31 December, the government is seeking higher compensation from the European Commission. The EC had promised EUR 550 million to cover the premature shutdown of units 1 & 2 in 2002 and units 3 & 4 recently. The government now says that if agreement cannot be reached on restarting units 3 & 4 to address electricity shortages in the Balkan region, a sum of EUR 1 billion would be reasonable to compensate for the lost electricity exports.
AFP 21/12/06 & 5/1/07, Nucleonics Week 21/12/06.
Slovakia closes reactor prematurely
As earlier agreed as a condition of joining the EU, Slovakia shut down one unit of its Bohunice V1 nuclear power plant at the end of December. It was an older Soviet era VVER-440 type. Closure of the 28 year old unit eliminated 408 MWe net, supplying about 9% of Slovakia's electricity. The twin second unit of the V1 plant is to be closed at the end of 2008. Both units have had major upgrades and international expert reviews have confirmed their safety. The Prime Minister said that he respected the decision to shut down the plant, but considered it as "energy treason" by the previous government, with Slovakia now becoming an electricity importer.
AFP 31/12/06, VUJE 2/1/07.
France to build new fast reactor by 2020
The French government's Atomic Energy Committee has decided to proceed with a 4th generation sodium-cooled fast reactor prototype from 2012. A gas-cooled fast reactor design will be developed in parallel. These are planned for commercial deployment in France and for export after 2035-2040. The design will be developed from France's earlier fast reactors, Phenix and Superphenix. The prototype, possibly built at Marcoule, will be about 800 MWe and is expected to cost about EUR 1.5 billion. The project will be led by the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA).
Russia to build new fast reactor for research
The BOR-60 research reactor which started up in 1969 is to be replaced about 2015 with a new large (100 MW) sodium-cooled research reactor capable of testing lead, lead-bismuth and gas coolants as well as sodium, and running on mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. The Russian Institute of Atomic Reactors (RIAR) at Dimitrovgrad, 1300 km SE of Moscow, operates the BOR-60 fast reactor along with six other research reactors. RIAR intends to set up an on-site closed fuel cycle, using pyrochemical reprocessing it has developed at pilot scale.
NucNet news #265/06.
Italian reprocessing agreement
A bilateral French - Italian agreement has cleared the way for SOGIN - Italy's nuclear waste management body - to sign a contract with Areva NC for reprocessing 235 tonnes of used nuclear fuel now in storage. It is to be shipped to the La Hague plant through to 2015 and the wastes are to be returned after 2020.
Spain reduces wind subsidy
While increasing subsidies for biomass and doubling them for solar, the Spanish government is reducing subsidies for wind power from about EUR 9.7c/kWh this year to between 6.7 and 8.4 cents/kWh. The total subsidy to wind power is expected to be EUR 1.8 billion per year to 2010 to help boost wind from the current 0.75% of production. Nuclear power, providing 20% of Spain's electricity, receives no subsidies, although former phase-out policies have been put on hold.
IHT 4/12/06, Environmental Finance 7/12/06.
ASIA, AFRICA, S. AMERICA
Westinghouse wins China bid
After 22 months deliberation extending to high political levels, Westinghouse has been selected by the State Nuclear Power Technology Company to build four of its AP1000 nuclear power reactors in China. These are the pioneer 3rd generation plants for China, and major technology transfer is involved. Two of the 1100 MWe units will be built at Sanmen in Zhejiang province for China National Nuclear Corporation and two are designated for Yangjiang in Guangdong province for China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co. Areva was the losing bidder with its EPR, though it still expects to sell two of these for another site in China. Atomstroyexport (ASE) also bid but was eliminated earlier.
The deal is estimated to be worth some US$ 5 billion for the nuclear portion of the plants only (the turbines are subject to separate tender). They will have about 50% local content and the first are expected to be operating in 2013. The US Energy Secretary signed an agreement with the National Development and Reform Commission regarding transfer of nuclear technology to China. Contracts are expected to be signed early in 2007.
Meanwhile Tianwan unit 1 built by ASE is reported to have entered commercial production and unit 2 is preparing to load fuel.
Westinghouse 16/12/06, Nucleonics Week 21/12/06, Nuclear.Ru 17/1/07.
Japan's MOX policy moves forward
In further progress towards use of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel in Japan's nuclear power plants, Shikoku Electric Power has contracted with Mitsubishi to manufacture 21 MOX fuel assemblies for its Ikata nuclear plant using 600 kg of reactor-grade plutonium. The plutonium has been recovered by Areva at La Hague from Shikoku's used fuel and the MOX will be fabricated at Areva's Melox plant, also in France.
Atoms in Japan 22/11/06, Areva 29/11/06.
Canadian agreement aids Argentina
Three months after announcing a US$ 3.5 billion strategic plan for its nuclear power sector, Nucleoelectrica Argentina SA has signed up Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) to refurbish its first CANDU 6 power station - Embalse, and undertake a feasibility study for a new 700 MWe CANDU 6 unit to be built 2010-15. It also covers assistance with the part-built Atucha-2 unit, to be completed in 2010. The Embalse work involves extending its life by 25 years and will cost about US$ 400 million, while the new reactor would cost about $2 billion. Argentina can join AECL in providing heavy water.
AECL 27/11/06, CP Wire 28/11/06.
New Kazakh mine in production
Production has commenced at the Zarechnoye mine, a joint venture between Russia and Kazakhstan. Further phases are planned to come into production from 2008 and 2010 to exploit total reserves of 19,048 tU. Techsnabexport (Tenex) and KazAtomProm each hold 49.33% in the project, while Atomredmetzoloto of Russia and the Kara Balta Mining Combine of Kyrgyzstan each hold 0.67%. Industry officials attending an inauguration ceremony signed an agreement for an "integrated program" of nuclear energy between Russia and Kazakhstan which would "lead the world" in uranium mining and enrichment.
Delays at Iran's Bushehr reactor
Russia's Atomstroyexport (ASE) is completing the 1000 MWe Bushehr pressurized water reactor, started by Siemens in 1975, quite separately from Iran's indigenous uranium enrichment program. Bushehr is scheduled to start up in November 2007, but reports say Iranian officials insist on letter-perfect execution of the contract, yet are consistently short of funding: US$ 37 million short in October-November. Meanwhile, ASE has increased the project workforce by 500. Fuel is expected to be shipped from Russia before mid year.
Regnum.Ru 12/12/06; Nuclear.Ru 13/12/06.
New Namibian uranium mine starts
Paladin Resources' Langer Heinrich uranium mine in Namibia has produced its first concentrate, and will ramp up to 1000 tU/yr in 2007.
Australian parliamentary report published
After 20 months work the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry & Resources has published a 732-page report Australia's Uranium: Greenhouse Friendly Fuel for an Energy Hungry World. Its Chairman said that the Committee had "reached a unanimous and bipartisan position on the need to remove all impediments to the further development of Australia's uranium resources. All members are agreed that present restrictions on uranium exploration and mining are illogical, inconsistent and anti-competitive". "Australia is uniquely placed to make a significant contribution to emissions reductions though increased production and supply of uranium." He said that "Australia should throw the world a climate lifeline through the expanded production and export of this greenhouse-friendly fuel" since renewables and energy efficiency "alone have no prospect whatsoever of meeting rapidly-growing demands for energy and abating greenhouse gas emissions to the degree required."
In respect to uranium exports to developing countries such as China: "As a matter of energy justice, Australia should not deny countries who wish to use nuclear power in a responsible manner the benefits from doing so." Parliament has now approved the bilateral treaty with China.
Australian nuclear power report released
After six months work the report from the Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review was released by the Prime Minister in December. He said that in the context of meeting increased energy needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions "if we are to have a sensible response we have to include nuclear power". "The report provides a thorough examination of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and the possible role of nuclear power in generating electricity in Australia in the longer term. It provides a clear and comprehensive analysis of the facts surrounding the nuclear industry and debunks a number of myths. I am certain that the report will make a significant contribution to informing public debate on these issues.
"The report demonstrates clearly that there are no sound reasons to prevent uranium mining in Australia and that the global growth in uranium demand provides a timely opportunity for Australia. I call upon state governments to end their bans on uranium mining and exploration, which stand in the way of investment, jobs and exports. The report’s analysis of the relative greenhouse gas emissions and costs associated with different forms of electricity generation will be available for consideration by the Emissions Trading Taskforce, which is to report by the end of May 2007."
PM media release 29/12/06, http://www.dpmc.gov.au/umpner/
ERA to build new plant
ERA has announced that it will build a $28 million processing plant at Ranger to treat 1.6 million tonnes of stockpiled lateritic ore over seven years from 2008. This is part of 42 Mt of stockpiled low-grade material. Following initial treatment it will be fed into the main plant, contributing 400 t/yr U3O8 to production.
World reactor changes in last two months
UK: Dungeness A 1&2 reactors shut down 31/12 450 MWe
Sizewell A 1&2 reactors shut down 31/12, 420 MWe
Bulgaria: Kozloduy 3 & 4 shut down 31/12, 816 MWe
Slovakia: Bohunice-1 shut down 31/12, 408 MWe
From WNA Digest: October - November 2006
North Korea highlights proliferation issues
The small underground nuclear explosion in North Korea early in October and the ongoing concern regarding Iran's uranium enrichment have highlighted both the success and the vulnerabilities of non-proliferation measures in place since 1970.
The success is that no uranium traded for civil use has ever been diverted to military purposes. But the potential to challenge the non-proliferation regime has always been inherent in the circumstances. No country is without ample uranium (say ten tonnes) for a modest weapons programme. And if, like North Korea, it is already cut off from most world trade, there is little leverage that can be brought to bear in dissuading it from nuclear adventurism.
The situation of Iran is different. It has two quite discrete nuclear programmes: one is the Russian construction of a nuclear power plant at Bushehr, which will replace enough oil and gas for electricity generation to pay for itself in a very few years. The fuel for Bushehr will be supplied from Russia and the used fuel will be promptly returned there.
The other Iranian programme is a project to develop uranium enrichment capability. This was undertaken in secret for almost twenty 20 years, in violation of Iran's safeguards agreement with IAEA. Iran’s assertions of peaceful intent have met near-universal scepticism internationally.
The North Korean and Iranian challenges have generated widespread discussion of what could now be done to strengthen the non-proliferation regime. The global resurgence underway in the use of civil nuclear power gives this question added weight.
In the 1960s, before the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) came into effect, it was widely considered that there would be over thirty nuclear weapons states by the turn of the century. In fact, by 2000 there were eight - the five "weapons states" under the NPT plus Israel, India and Pakistan. Several other countries had embarked upon weapons programmes, but for various reasons they had not persisted. Now North Korea joins the eight, and in the future Iran may do so.
It is worth looking at how these countries have approached the challenge of making nuclear weapons, given that 60 years after Alamagordo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki the basic technology is now widely known.
India, Israel and North Korea used large "research reactors" to breed plutonium from the non-fissile U-238 isotope which comprised most of the fuel, North Korea's is a Russian 25 MW model at Yongbyon. Running these reactors so that after a month or two the fuel was removed and reprocessed to recover the plutonium, they laboriously built up a stock of weapons-grade plutonium. They were then faced with the challenge of making a fairly sophisticated bomb from this.
Pakistan, Iraq (to 19921) and South Africa all acquired or developed uranium enrichment capability and used this to enrich uranium not simply to the 3-5% U-235 for power reactors but to weapons grade (90% U-235) or near weapons grade. Iran appears to be heading in the same direction. This high-enriched uranium could then be used in a simple weapon - so simple that in 1945 the Manhattan Project scientists saw no need to test it before using it (the more complex plutonium bomb was tested at Alamagordo in New Mexico).
Part of the purpose of safeguards inspections under the NPT is to ensure that no country operating under those safeguards is either running its reactors with frequent fuel changes or enriching uranium to levels useable for weapons. There is clear self-interest in most cases for this innocence to be transparently established, so that neighbours are not feeling threatened militarily and so that civil nuclear power and research activities can be pursued without ambiguity. The IAEA role is essentially whistle blower rather than policeman. If enforcement is required, that can only be by international diplomatic action.
North Korea removed itself from the IAEA inspection regime, and proceeded without obstacles to develop weapons capability (though the first test evidently failed, being much less powerful than expected). Iran has also curtailed the inconvenience of safeguards inspections, while proclaiming innocence of intent.
When the NPT was inaugurated, its aim to track all traded uranium under safeguards provisions (accounting and auditing), and to maintain inspections of declared facilitiesit was considered very ambitious enough to track all traded uranium under safeguards provisions (accounting and auditing), and to maintain inspections of declared facilities. To have insisted on greater powers at that time would perhaps have aborted the exercise; and the exercise of such powers would have lacked the sensitive sensing detection technologies now available.
After the first Gulf War and the detection of Iraq’s secret nuclear programme, there was widespread recognition that previous provisions were inadequate to prevent nuclear proliferation in undeclared facilities and using small amounts of indigenous uranium. Hence, after several years of study and negotiation, in 1997 an Additional Protocol was agreed upon, to be added to each country's safeguards agreement with IAEA.
The Additional Protocol is much more intrusive than traditional safeguards, giving IAEA inspectors greater rights of access. This includes any suspect location. Inspections can be at short notice (eg 24 hours, two hours at a nuclear site), and the IAEA can deploy environmental sampling and other techniques to detect illicit activities. In addition, states must streamline administrative procedures so that IAEA inspectors get automatic visa renewal and can communicate more readily with IAEA headquarters.
Where states have a safeguards agreement with the IAEA and an Additional Protocol in force, the IAEA is able to say each year not only that declared nuclear material remains in peaceful activities, but also that there are no indications of undeclared nuclear materials or activities.
Unfortunately, take-up has been disappointing among the NPT's 185 parties. So far only 77 have ratified the Additional Protocols and a further 38 have signed but not yet ratified. Of the 71 countries with significant nuclear activities, seven NPT parties have not yet signed Additional Protocols and another ten have not yet ratified them (another four of the 71 are outside the NPT).
The search for other means – beyond the Additional Protocol – to strengthen the non-proliferation regime has led to proposals for such mechanisms as an international nuclear fuel bank, and or at least arrangements by which the IAEA could guarantee fuel supply. The paradox of these proposals, however, is that they are not wanted or needed by the vast majority of countries with peaceful intent and they are unlikely to change the behaviour of countries with weapons aspirations.
Even if all international trade in uranium - amounting to many tens of thousands of tonnes per year - were to cease tomorrow, it would have no effect (or at least no helpful effect) on rogue states developing nuclear weapons. The amount of uranium required for a few weapons is small, and easily supplied indigenously.
Two important conclusions can be drawn: (1) There is little relation between the dangers of proliferation and the global renaissance in the peaceful use of nuclear power; and (2) while the safeguards system needs continual improvement in line with evolving expectations of it, where proliferation threats arise the international community must deal with them as specific cases, and cannot simply rely on generic or "systemic" fixes.
Major US power uprates
In July the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved major uprates at two US nuclear power plants: 16.8% for Constellation's RE Ginna plant in New York state (from 470 MWe net) and 8% for FirstEnergy's two Beaver Valley units in Pennsylvania (from 821 MWe). The Beaver Valley uprates have now been partly implemented, with unit 2 increasing power to 864 MWe net after modifications and unit 1 to 868 MWe - the remaining 2-3% for each (53 MWe net) will be achieved 2007-08. The RE Ginna uprate involved a new high pressure turbine and other secondary circuit refurbishment (steam generators were replaced in 1996) and brought the 37 year-old unit to 580 MWe net this week. The total net increase in capacity now is some 200 MWe.
NRC, FirstEnergy 30/8, 29/9, 13 & 16/11/06, RE Ginna 14/11/06.
Utilities compensated for used fuel delay
The US Federal Court has awarded $143 million in damages to three related New England utilities on account of the Department of Energy's failure to remove their used fuel from closed down reactor sites, as was required by 1998. As a result they had to build dry storage facilities. Two years ago Exelon reached agreement with the Department of Justice to recover an unspecified sum, but likely to be up to $600 million by 2015, for delays in removing used fuel from its 17 nuclear reactors following the appointed 1998 date.
Platts 4/10/06, Nucleonics Week 12/8/04.
47th US reactor licence extension
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the licence of Constellation's two Nine Mile Point reactors by 20 years, to 2029 and 2046, and of Xcel Energy's Monticello plant, operated by Nuclear Management Co, to 2030.
Platts 25/10/06, NRC 8/11/06.
Silex development with GE approved
Silex Systems and General Electric Energy have received US government approval for development in the USA of the SILEX uranium enrichment process using laser technology. This approval clears the way for construction of a test loop (full-scale demonstration) leading to commercial production beginning with the lead cascade to operate about 2 two to 3 three years later, and eventual full commercial production under the licence agreement signed in May. GE will fund these and also has already paid US$ 20 million as the first of a series of payments. It will then pay a royalty on revenues from commercial production.
GE said that "commercialisation of the SILEX enrichment technology is a crucial part of GE's long-term growth strategy for the nuclear business."
Silex 4/10/06, GE 4/10/06.
US presses aheadProgress with university reactor conversions
After a hiatus of six years the US government has finished converting two university research reactors from using high- to low-enriched uranium fuel. Both Texas A&M and University of Florida reactors can now operate on fuel of less than 20% enrichment, and four more US university reactors will be converted in the next three years. Worldwide, 40 (out of some 260) remain to be converted under the US-led Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR) scheme using currently-available fuels, and 19 more await development of high-density fuel. This will remove from the scene fuels which have potential for weapons or terrorist use.
British MPs swing to nuclear
Over the last year there has been a substantial increase in support for building replacement nuclear capacity in UK among ruling Labour members of parliament. Opposition has declined accordingly. Overall 61% of MPs support new nuclear build and 22% oppose, while 66% say nuclear should be a major contributor to UK's energy future and 81% think it will be. Of Labour MPs, 60% support new nuclear build (up from 35% last year) and 80% of Conservative MPs do so.
The reasons for MP support are energy security (37%), realisation that renewables won't fill the gap (18%), reduce dependence on fossil fuels (15%), a good safety record (15%) and the need for balanced energy policy (12%) with very little difference between the parties except on the last, where Conservatives were stronger. Implementing effective policies on nuclear wastes before proceeding with new build was seen as necessary by 78% of MPs, but only 28% believed that there is already "a clear way forward" on this. Regarding MPs' trusted sources of information on nuclear energy, academics rated 83%, nuclear industry leaders 51%, environmentalists 44% and media 24%.
In November the UK Prime Minister told parliament that "in common with countries around the world, we need to put nuclear back on the agenda and at least replace the nuclear energy we will lose [from closing old power plants]. Without it we will not be able to meet any of our objectives on climate change, or our objectives on energy security." Nuclear provides 20% of Britain's power, 75 billion kWh in 2005.
Ipsos MORI 26/9/06, Times 16/11/06.
Russian plant selected for Bulgaria
Bulgaria's National Electricity Company, NEK, has chosen Atomstroyexport (ASE) over a Skoda-led consortium to build the Belene nuclear power plant comprising two 1000-MWe AES-92 VVER units with third-generation reactors. Russia's ASE leads a consortium including Areva NP and Bulgarian enterprises in the EUR 4.0 billion project on the Danube River. The new units will be similar to those being built by ASE in China and India and the first is expected on line in 2013. Instrumentation and control will be supplied by Areva NP. Projected power cost is EUR 3.7 c/kWh.
Skoda Alliance proposed an upgraded V-320 model reactor based on the Temelin units in the Czech Republic, for EUR 5 billion. One such unit was already partly built at the site when work stopped due to lack of funds in 1991, and the ASE bid involves buying back the equipment supplied then for use in Russia. NEK said that the AES-92 with a third-generation reactor satisfied stringent western European safety standards and so would be more acceptable in the EU, which Bulgaria joins in January. NEK will carry 51% of the project and will seek partners such as Enel, CEZ or Gazprom from Italy, Czech Republic and Russia respectively.
Nucleonics Week 2/11/06, NuclearRu 1/11/06.
Russia confirms funding for nuclear expansion
Russia has formally adopted a US$ 54 billion nuclear energy development program, with $25 billion of this to 2015 coming from the federal budget. The balance is from industry (Rosatom) funds and no private investment is involved. The Minister of Finance strongly supported the program to increase nuclear share from 15.6% to 18.6% of total, hence improving energy security as well as promoting exports of nuclear power technology. After 2015 all funding will be from Rosatom revenues.
Apart from completing two VVER-1000 units - Rostov/Volgodonsk-2 and Kalinin-4 and the BN-800 fast reactor at Beloyarsk, there will be three standard VVER reactors built at Leningrad (two units as stage 2) and Novovoronezh (unit 6) and a program of building at least 2000 MWe per year in Russia from 2009 (apart from exports). Thus by 2015 ten new reactors totalling at least 9.8 GWe should be operating. This appears to be above the low growth scenario outlined in September, which added a further 2400 MWe per year to 2020, giving 37,000 MWe nuclear (19.3% of total) by then.
NucNet news #226/06, NuclearRu 17/10/06.
Dutch outline nuclear future
The Dutch government has set conditions for new nuclear plants, confirming the abandonment of its earlier phase-out policy. On behalf of the economics minister, the formerly anti-nuclear minister for environment said nuclear power could reduce carbon emissions. Any new reactor must be a Generation- III model with levels of safety being equal to those of Areva's EPR, at a coastal site. Before its operation, and no later than 2016, the government must decide on a disposal strategy for existing high-level waste. Used fuel should be stored until 2025, when a choice would be made between direct disposal, reprocessing, or partitioning and transmutation. Plants should be dismantled promptly after closure, and decommissioning funds clearly earmarked. Uranium should be sourced from certified, environmentally responsible mining operations, with in-situ leaching (ISL) preferred due to their low environmental impact. The conditions must be voted on by the country's new parliament, elected on 22 November.
Platts 29/8/06, EPZ 29/9/06.
Belgium to review energy policy
A draft energy policy study commissioned by the Energy Ministry says that a fundamental review of energy policy is required and in particular that nuclear power should be utilised long-term in order to meet CO2 reduction commitments, enhance energy security and maintain economic stability. At present, Belgium's seven nuclear power reactors are likely to close by 2025.
Plans for EU nuclear power reactors
A second unit at Slovenia's Krsko nuclear power plant is planned for operation in 2017. A 1000 MWe PWR is expected to cost EUR 2 billion.
A feasibility study undertaken on behalf of the three Baltic states, showed that a new plant of 800 to 1600 MWe and costing EUR 2.5 to 4.0 billion at the Ignalina site in Lithuania would be economically attractive and could be on line in 2015. E.On and Iberdrola have expressed interest in investing in this. Projected electricity cost is about EUR 4.3 c/kWh, the least of 12 options considered, though the capital cost component of this is the greatest of all but wind.
Energy in E.Europe 27/10/06.
Finland opinion leans to 6th reactor
A Suomen Gallup poll shows that 91% of Finns believe that their country should not increase its electricity imports from Russia, and 59% support construction of a sixth nuclear reactor (the fifth is under construction). Half of the Left Alliance voters support more nuclear power as do a higher proportion of others.
Helsigen Sanomat 19/10/06.
UK plans break-up of BNFL
The UK government has approved plans for disposal of British Nuclear Group - the major part of BNFL. It is open to bids for all but BNFL's Nexia Solutions, which will be the basis of a new national nuclear laboratory. The prime part of the disposal will be the contract with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to run and clean up Sellafield, the site of all UK's back end of fuel cycle activities. This will be awarded in 2008. BNG's Reactor Sites business will be sold as a whole, but separately from the rest. Earlier, US-based Fluor offered up to £400 million for the whole BNG enterprise.
BNFL & BNG 24/10/06, Telegraph 25/10/06.
Fine for Sellafield leak
British Nuclear Group has been fined £0.5 million plus costs for the feed pipe leak of 83 cubic metres of radioactive solution into a hot cell at the Thorp reprocessing plant, discovered in April 2005. The Chief Inspector of Nnuclear iInstallations acknowledged that while there had been no harm to workers or the public, it nevertheless represented a major operational lapse which would not be tolerated. The plant is expected to reopen in a few months after completion of modifications and regulatory approval of them.
Nucleonics Week 19/10/06.
British Energy closes reactors for boiler repair
BE has closed four reactors on account of boiler degradation in the non-nuclear part of the plants. Hinkley Point B-1 had more extensive boiler tube cracking than previously experienced, indicating that early inspections of the same components were required at Hunterston B-2 and Hinkley Point B-2. The problem originally became evident at Hunterston B-1 in August and required £10 million and some months to fix. Two units are likely to be restarted at the end of December and two at the end of January, then all four will operate at 70% capacity until about March 2008. BE may need to buy back some power it has sold forward over winter months. The four very similar Advanced Gas-Ccooled Reactor units of about 600 MWe are 28 - 30 years old, and unique to UK.
Nucleonics Week 19/10/06, BE 17/11/06.
Russia to build two more Chinese reactors
A preliminary agreement has been signed for Russia's Atomstroyexport to build units 3 & 4 of Tianwan nuclear power plant once the first two units have been successfully commissioned. The first is now at 40% power and the second is due for grid connection in a few months. The agreement also covered building phase 4 of the Shaanxi centrifuge enrichment plant.
Japan produces first MOXmixed oxide
The new Rokkasho reprocessing plant being commissioned by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd has yielded its first mixed oxide from treatment of used fuel. The plant uses a modified PUREX process to give a main product of 50:50 mixed uranium and plutonium oxides, which removes any ambiguity regarding possible uses of the plutonium. This will then become the main ingredient of MOX fuel.
Mitsui and Tenex to develop Russian mine
Japan's Mitsui & Co with Russia's Technsabexport are undertaking a feasibility study for a uranium mine in eastern Russia to supply Japan. First production from the Yuzhnaya mine in Sakha (Yakutia) Republic is envisaged for 2009. Resources in the Elkon uranium province are quoted as more than 250,000 tonnes U. Mitsui has an option to take 25% of the project, and is funding $6 million of the feasibility study. Construction of the Yuzhnaya mine is likely to cost US$ 245 million, with production reaching 1000 tU/yr by 2015. This would represent the first foreign ownership of a Russian uranium mine.
Ux Weekly 9/10/06, TradeTech NMR 6/10/06, Atoms in Japan 5/10/06.
Kazakh uranium for US power
Canadian-based UrAsia has announced contracts totalling 2600 t U3O8 to supply US utilities from its Akdala uranium mine in the Stepnoye mining group, in the Chu-Sarysu basin, Kazakhstan. In 2005 the company paid US$ 350 million for 70% of the South Inkai project including Akdala, which produces 1180 t/yr U3O8. South Inkai mine is due to start production late in 2007. Urasia also paid US$ 75 million for 30% of the Kharassan mine in the Western mining group, in the Syrdarya basin, which is also expected to begin production late in 2007. The Kharassan-1 mine is expected to ramp up production to 3500 t/yr by 2010.
UrAsia 9 & 14/11/06.
Japan secures Uzbek uranium
As the Japanese Prime Minister visited the country, the Uzbek economic and trade ministry signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan Bank for International Cooperation to finance uranium development in Uzbekistan, which has 2% of the world's known uranium resources. A similar agreement was signed with Kazatomprom of Kazakhstan. Subsequently it was announced that uranium exports to Japan through Itochu Corporation would commence in 2007.
Atoms in Japan 29/8/06, Ux Weekly 6/11/06.
Dominion mine approved in South Africa
SXR Uranium One has obtained its mining right for the Dominion project in South Africa. With construction now 80% complete Dominion is expected to start production in 2007 and ramp up increase to 1730 t/yr by 2011. Production cost is expected to be US$ 14.50/lb U3O8. The first sales contract for 680 tonnes was announced in November. The new order mining right incorporates black empowerment targets for employment.
SxXRr UraniumOne 11/10 & 17/11/06.
US-India civil nuclear agreement progresses
The bill on nuclear cooperation between India and the USA was passed in the US Senate by a majority of 85 to 12 in November, following passage of the House of Representatives version by 359 to 68 in July. Differences between the two versions need to be resolved by Congress in December. India, which remains outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, welcomed the broad bipartisan support for the bill, but said it would not accept any watering down of what was agreed by the heads of state in July. The US President welcomed the prospect of India coming into the non-proliferation mainstream. Other issues remaining to be tackled include the safeguards agreements between India and the IAEA and gaining the support of the 47-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group.
Meanwhile India and China are pursuing nuclear energy cooperation, though China has supplied some uranium and heavy water in the past.
Times 18/11/06, Nucleonics Week 23/11/06, Asia Times 23/11/06.
North Korean weapons test
North Korea appears to have set off a nuclear explosion. While it has no nuclear power program, it has used a 25 MW (thermal) Russian "research" reactor at Yongbyon to make weapons plutonium. It was then in breach of its safeguards agreement with IAEA before withdrawing from the NPT in April 2003.
Canadian Cigar Lake mine flood setback
A flood in the underground Cigar Lake mine which is under development has set the project back at least a year. This is Cameco's second major high grade deposit, with reserves of 176,700 t U3O8 at over 24% grade. It is 450 m deep and in poor ground conditions, designed to use freezing to keep out groundwater and high-pressure water jets for excavation of ore. Production was to have started early in 2008, ramping up reaching to 8200 t/yr by 2011. An earlier flood in one shaft had set back the project six months. It has always been recognised that mining Cigar Lake would be extremely difficult and the new water inflow was major. Equity is 50% Cameco, 37% Areva, 8% Idemitsu and 5% Tepco.
The spot price of uranium jumped 7% in the week following news of the Cigar Lake mine flood, in the light of the production setback. Ux Consulting said that the flood was likely to have severe repercussions because of the potential disruption to supply and timing of it over 2008-10. It was to have supplied 8200 t/yr U3O8 (7000 tU/yr) ramping up over three years from a production start in 2008. Shares in potential alternative suppliers rose strongly. Cameco has commenced remedial work, aiming to plug and grout the area concerned.
Cameco 23/10 & 20/11/06, Ux Weekly 30/10/06.
Ontario application for further site permit
Following Bruce Power's application in August, Ontario Power Generation has applied for a licence to prepare its Darlington site for construction of new nuclear power units. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will review the application and decide what level of environmental assessment is required. Darlington currently has four large CANDU units which started up 1990-93.
Ministerial report outlines uranium future
The report of a widely-representative steering group set up by the Australian Resources Minister has identified salient issues relating to the future of uranium mining in Australia. The Uranium Industry Framework (UIF) is focused on both opportunities and impediments in the context of Australia having about one third of the world's known resources. The first recommendation is that the industry "establish a uranium stewardship platform as the basis for its engagement with the global uranium stewardship programs currently being developed by the World Nuclear Association." A further 19 address competitiveness, regulation and land access. Steering group members were drawn from state, territory and federal governments, industry, public service and an aboriginal land council. The Australian Uranium Association looks forward to playing a significant role in implementing the UIF action plan over 2007-08.
Nuclear energy review reports
The draft report of the Prime Minister's expert taskforce considering nuclear power and related matters for Australia has presented a number of findings, including support for increased uranium mining and export. However, although conversion and enrichment of that uranium would add significantly to its export value and impediments to that should be removed, the commercial prospect is not attractive.
Regarding nuclear power, this would be 20-50% more expensive than coal-fired power and (with renewables) it would only be competitive if "low to moderate" costs of about A$ 15-40 (US$ 12-30) per tonne CO2 are imposed on carbon emissions (A$ 15-40 - US$ 12-30 - per tonne CO2). "Nuclear power is the least-cost low-emission technology that can provide base-load power" and has low life cycle impacts environmentally. The first nuclear plants could be running in 15 years, and looking beyond that, 25 reactors at coastal sites might be supplying one third of Australia's (doubled) electricity demand by 2050. Certainly "the challenge to contain and reduce greenhouse gas emissions would be considerably eased by investment in nuclear plants." "Emission reductions from nuclear power could reach 8 to 18% of national emissions in 2050". Waste issues are manageable and weapons proliferation would not be exacerbated. "Nuclear power today is a mature, safe and clean means of generating base-load electricity."
UMPNER draft report 21/11/06.
ERA encouraged by Ranger drilling
Energy Resources of Australia has encountered some encouraging uranium intersections in seeking to extend its Ranger 3 orebody and hopes to have some resource figures from this by end of the year. Meanwhile reserves have been increased by 11,100 tonnes, which will extend mill production to 2020. Production for the quarter recovered to 1103 t U3O8 (935 tU) though ore grade was down to 0.2%.
BHP Billiton reported quarter production of 793.9 tonnes U3O8 (673 tU) from Olympic Dam, and at end of June its known resources were increased to 1.6 million tonnes U3O8.
ERA 18 & 25/10/06, BHPB 24/10/06.
Honeymoon licensed environmentally
South Australia's Environment Protection Authority has issued the licence required under the Radiation Protection and Control Act (1982) for commercial uranium mining operations at sxr SXR Uranium One's Honeymoon project. It already has an approved Environmental Impact Statement, mining lease and uranium export licence for a 400 t/yr in situ leach (ISL) mine.
SXRxr Uranium One 29/9/06.
Australian New research reactor at full power
ANSTO's new OPAL research reactor at Lucas Heights near Sydney has reached full power during commissioning. The 20 MW reactor was built by INVAP from Argentina and is running well. ANSTO claims it will be one of the two or three best research reactor and neutron scattering facilities in the world, being robustly constructed and capable of both neutron beam and isotope production tasks.
Major OECD report highlights nuclear role
The World Energy Outlook 2006 from the OECD's International Energy Agency (IEA) highlights the increasing importance of nuclear power in meeting energy needs while achieving security of supply and minimising carbon dioxide emissions. If policies remain unchanged, world energy demand to 2030 is forecast to increase by 53% accompanied by supply crises, giving a "dirty, insecure and expensive" energy future which is unsustainable. Over 70% of the increased energy demand is from developing countries, led by China and India - China will overtake the USA as top CO2 emitter by 2010.
The report demonstrates that nuclear power could make a major contribution to reducing dependence on imported gas and curbing CO2 emissions in a cost-effective way, since its uranium fuel is abundant. However governments must play a stronger role in facilitating private investment, especially in liberalized electricity markets where the trade-off between security and low price has been a disincentive to investment in new plant and grid infrastructure. Investment of US$ 20.2 trillion is required by 2030 under the IEA alternative energy scenario, increasing nuclear capacity by 41% to 519 GWe and reducing energy demand by 10% and CO2 emissions by 16% compared with projections on present basis. Of this amount, $11.3 trillion is for electricity: $5.2 trillion for generation and the rest for transmission and distribution.
Toshiba retains most of Westinghouse
Since agreeing to buy the nuclear reactor vendor and nuclear fuel services company Westinghouse from BNFL in February for US$ 5.4 billion, Toshiba has been in discussion with potential equity partners. It has now announced that Shaw Group Inc and Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries Co Ltd as strategic investment partners will respectively take 20% and 3% of the company, but Marubeni Corp. has dropped out. This leaves Toshiba with 77% (US$ 4,158 million) rather than an intended lower share, but it is continuing discussions with other potential partners. All relevant government approvals have now been obtained, and the acquisition will close in October, using new Toshiba holding companies in USA and UK.
Hitachi and General Electric strengthen ties
GE Energy and Hitachi Power Systems are to merge their nuclear operations. A global alliance through cross-shareholdings in the nuclear divisions (excluding nuclear fuel) will strengthen the long association between the two in building boiling water reactors (BWRs). The arrangement will result in a Japanese joint venture which is 80% owned by Hitachi and a worldwide joint venture 60% owned by GE, and involving laser enrichment technology. Toshiba, which now owns Westinghouse and hence has a new focus on pressurized water reactor technology, will remain part of two Generation-III BWR design projects. As announced in June, NRG Energy plans to build two GE-Hitachi 1358 MWe ABWRs at its South Texas site. GE's ESBWR design is a lead contender for at least four of the other 16 Construction & Operating Licence (COL) proposals for new US plants, totalling up to 30 units.
GE 13/11/06, Atoms in Japan 13/11/06, Nucleonics Week 16/11/06.
Mitsubishi forges Areva link
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has negotiated a strategic alliance with Europe's Areva NP, and a memorandum of understanding was signed in Tokyo. MHI has been prominent in design and construction of Japanese pressuriszed water reactors, originally under licence from Westinghouse, and supplies major parts for US and European plants. Recently it has supplied the reactor pressure vessel for the new EPR unit at Olkiluoto in Finland, being built by Areva. It also is preparing to market a 1700 MWe version of its Advanced PWR in the USA, though Areva's US EPR of 1600 MWe is ahead of it in the licensing queue there. An initial goal of the collaboration is developing a new 3rd gGeneration-III 1000 MWe reactor for the USA and east Asia.
The new alliance will mean that Areva-MHI competes against Toshiba-Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi in east Asia and beyond and is positioned for development of Generation- IV fast reactors and high-temperature reactors.
Areva 19/10/06, Nucleonics Week 19/10/06, Platts 19/10/06.
Hitachi and General Electric strengthen ties
GE Energy and Hitachi Power Systems are to merge their nuclear operations. A global alliance through cross-shareholdings in the nuclear divisions (excluding nuclear fuel) will strengthen the long association between the two in building boiling water reactors (BWRs). The arrangement will result in a Japanese joint venture which is 80% owned by Hitachi and a worldwide joint venture 60% owned by GE, and involving laser enrichment technology. Toshiba, which now owns Westinghouse and hence has a new focus on pressurised water reactor technology, will remain part of two 3rd generation BWR design projects. As announced in June, NRG Energy plans to build two GE-Hitachi 1358 MWe ABWR reactors at its South Texas site. GE's ESBWR reactor design is a lead contender for at least four of the other 16 Construction & Operating Licence (COL) proposals for new US plants, totalling up to 30 units.
GE 13/11/06, Atoms in Japan 13/11/06, Nucleonics Week 16/11/06.
Nuclear fusion project launched
Countries representing half the world's population - China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the USA and the European Union - have signed a US$ 12.8-billion implementing agreement for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) to be built at Cadarache in France, the EU bearing half the cost. The French President praised the attempt to "tame solar fire to meet the challenge of ecological energy."
ITER 21/11/06, Globe & Mail 21/11/06.
Climate change negotiations
Talks in Nairobi made some progress towards a possible new agreement in 2010 to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the period after 2012 when the first Kyoto Protocol commitment period ends. The next year or two will be spent agreeing an agenda and the new agreement will be negotiated in the following two years. The US Presidential elections at the end of 2008 influence timing, since without US participation countries such as China and India will be unwilling to consider any commitment to emission limitations. The meeting failed to resolve whether Carbon Capture & Storage (CCS) projects should be accepted in the Clean Development Mechanism - a policy instrument giving carbon credits to projects that reduce emissions in developing countries. A restriction on the use of credits from nuclear projects is already part of the Protocol.
Carbon emission stocktake
The first complete set of data for the 41 industrialised parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) was released at the Nairobi meeting and shows that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise despite measures under the Kyoto Protocol. Figures for 1990 to 2004 show that apart from the temporary effect of restructuring in eastern Europe, emissions from industrialised countries rose 11% over the period. For all those countries emissions were down by 3% and for the 36 parties to the Protocol, emissions declined by 15%. Emissions from the USA were 16% up, those from Australia 25% up, and energy-related CO2 emissions for China rose 110% and for India 89% over the period - those from China exceeding Europe's. Most developed countries are targeting an 8% reduction to 2008-12.
UK report urges action on carbon emissions
An economic report by Sir Nicholas Stern, commissioned by the UK government, has highlighted the urgent need to curb carbon dioxide emissions globally and the positive prospects of doing so. The present Kyoto Protocol to 2012 is inadequate and needs to be replaced by an arrangement which takes in all countries, including India and China, to cut back on emissions globally through market-based mechanisms. Already these are leading to replacement of high-emitting technologies and economic measures can do so even further without penalizing developing countries. The report says that the power sector worldwide needs to be 60% decarbonised by 2050, and deep emission cuts are also needed in transport.
"Climate change is the greatest market failure the world has ever seen, and it interacts with other market imperfections. Three elements of policy are required for an effective global response:
1. Pricing of carbon, implemented through tax, trading or regulation.
2. Policy to support innovation and deployment of low-carbon technologies.
3. Action to remove barriers to energy efficiency."
The report suggests that economic costs are likely to be about 1% of global production, very much less than doing nothing more than under present Kyoto constraints which are restricted to consumption-based economies.
Responsible Dominion - a Christian approach to sustainable development, by Ian Hore-Lacy, Regent College Publishing 2006, 170pp, £10 US$20, ISBN 1-57383-342-8.
This book views the challenge of sustainable global development through the prism of Christian faith and outlines how God has provided abundantly for the human species on this planet. Going forward, it is increasingly evident that God will place a much greater burden on the judgment of man, and the cooperation of men, to use the resources he has provided wisely and to protect the environment in the process. Responsible Dominion successfully combines religious and environmentalist perspectives. For example, the complex and controversial issues surrounding energy supplies, population growth, environmental protection are all treated in a sensible, balanced manner with frequent, appropriate references to scripture as well as a wide range of other sources. The book stresses "Christian Stewardship" of God's creation and gives the reader a sense of reality about what this means and the obligations it carries. It offers thought-provoking guidance for those who would apply their religious faith to the resource and environment challenges of today. I recommend this as important reading to the widest possible audience.
Zack Pate, Chairman, World Nuclear University
World reactor changes in last two months
USA: Ginna & Beaver Valley uprates 200 MWe
From WNA Digest: August - September 2006
Internationalisation under discussion
At the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 50th anniversary General Conference in September, ideas to harmonise and globalise the nuclear fuel cycle were a focus of attention but with little being resolved.
In his opening address to the conference, the Agency's Director General, Mohamed ElBaradei, reminded delegates that of the 28 new reactors under construction, 16 are in developing countries. Furthermore, many more countries led by Indonesia, Turkey and Vietnam are seriously planning for the introduction of nuclear power.
To facilitate this development, the IAEA leader has proposed the creation of regional centres for resources, expertise, goods and services: "The increase in global energy demand is driving a potential expansion of nuclear energy. And concern is mounting regarding the proliferation risks created by the further spread of sensitive nuclear technology, such as uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing. The convergence of the above realities points to the need for the development of a new framework for the nuclear fuel cycle."
This "complex endeavour" to ease the transfer of nuclear power technology to an increasing number of nations would be accomplished through progressive phases:
• First, to assure supply of nuclear fuel for power plants;
• Second, to ensure ability to purchase nuclear power reactors;
• Third, to convert most existing uranium enrichment and reprocessing facilities from national to multinational operations, and limit future ones to multilateral endeavours.
WNA Director General John Ritch supported the IAEA's purposes but cautioned that any new arrangements would face enormous challenges in achieving the necessary consensus for collective implementation. He said that WNA aimed "to contribute constructively to this conversation in the conviction that the work of diplomacy is essential in sustaining a sound framework for the worldwide use of nuclear power.
"With so much at stake, the work of perfecting the framework for the peaceful use of nuclear power must hold high priority on the international agenda.
"Although it does not address the tough questions now at issue, the preliminary report of the WNA Working Group on the Security of the International Fuel Cycle finds first that the market for enrichment services has functioned extremely well in delivering those services where and when needed. It also affirms that the industry would welcome any arrangements made by governments through which the IAEA could provide supply guarantees of such services to countries that lack enrichment facilities – on condition of their clear commitment to NPT obligations. As might be expected, the report recommends that those arrangements be devised so as not to interfere with a well-functioning market.
"The report notes also that a backup to such IAEA guarantees could be a commitment by certain governments to release government-held stocks of enriched uranium.
“What the report does not address is the fundamental question of how additional inter-governmental arrangements might be devised that would serve to ensure that any new enrichment and similarly sensitive facilities are created either under international auspices or are limited to countries with a recognized, highly reliable long-term commitment to NPT compliance. This, of course, is the unanswered question that holds immense complexity and importance.
"The challenge is to reconcile basic principles of national sovereignty with a larger common benefit, and this reconciliation will require a great deal of creative thought and much bilateral and multilateral exchange."
Dr ElBaradei told the special conference session on this topic: "The aim of the assurance of supply concept is to establish a mutually supportive international project, in which everyone should work together to ensure that whichever country needs nuclear fuel or reactor technology will get it, provided that certain non-proliferation criteria have been met."
The session was convened to begin addressing the many practical and diplomatic questions still surrounding the idea and its implementation. The private US organisation Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) pledged to contribute $50 million seed funding for a fuel bank to be administered by the IAEA. NTI said that the offer was conditional on the fuel bank plan moving forward within two years and other donors putting in $100 million or an equivalent value of uranium.
This follows the announcement a year ago that the US Department of Energy would provide 17.4 tonnes of highly enriched uranium to a domestically-held bank, to be blended down into reactor fuel. That quantity and grade of uranium is estimated to be worth around $500 million. In addition, the USA has proposed its own vision of a future nuclear fuel cycle, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), which would see nuclear fuel manufacture and reprocessing limited to about ten 'fuel-cycle nations' which would guarantee to serve the rest.
The other key country pressing for international fuel cycle centres is Russia, which has surplus enrichment capacity and has even made an offer to Iran to cooperate on an enrichment program within Russian borders. President Putin sent a message to the IAEA conference reminding delegates of Russia's proposals for fully international uranium processing and enrichment centres, which had been outlined at the WNA Annual Symposium in London on 7 September. The head of Russia's Rosatom, Sergey Kirienko, said Russia was proposing to establish a system where interested countries would become stockholders in an international nuclear fuel centre with access to all business information and an income stream from the "very profitable" uranium enrichment business. He said that the only limitation to participation in this market-oriented and liberal business would be on access to the sensitive enrichment technology. Furthermore, Russia would be able to provide the facilities to launch such a project by the end of this year (see story).
A number of other countries have expressed support for the general concept of international fuel supply. In particular, French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy suggested the world should "act strongly on the world nuclear market" and create an international nuclear fuel bank under the control of the IAEA. The German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier supports the idea and will apparently push it when it takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union in January 2007.
However, Argentine and Brazilian officials are cautious about it as they are developing their own plans to manufacture nuclear fuel, and the South African minister of minerals and energy warned that an international regime obliging nations to give up certain technologies "would undermine the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty" and that her country would not support it. Consolidating sensitive technology in the hands of a small number of nations would compound a perception by some states without nuclear weapons that the Treaty is unfair.
Proposals put forward at the IAEA special meeting included the NTI pledge of $50 million in seed money, as well as ideas from the nuclear industry conveyed in the WNA Report, from a six-country group of enrichment suppliers, and subsequently from Japan, Germany and the UK. In summing up the special session it was stressed that participation by potential recipient countries in a future nuclear fuel assurance regime would be based on voluntary agreement not to deploy sensitive fuel cycle technologies. However, NTI President Charles Curtis acknowledged that currently there is no consensus on the "need or the means" for providing fuel assurances. The IAEA will begin consultations in order to be able to bring proposals to the Agency's governing board in a year's time.
IAEA, RIA Novosti, WNA Symposium, Platts 15, 18, 21/9/06.
US pushing ahead with GNEP plans
The US Department of Energy is offering $20 million for siting studies for used fuel reprocessing facilities which will be built under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). Encouraged by the response to GNEP, DOE is now proposing a two-phase development for fuel recycling. In the near term it will deploy Areva's Coex process on a commercial scale, and after further R&D, the Urex+ process which will collect all transuranic elements (including plutonium) together for burning in an advanced burner (fast neutron) reactor. Wastes from the latter process would comprise only fission products, and thus be shorter-lived and easier to accommodate in a repository.
More broadly, the countries identified by DOE as likely participants in GNEP at both enrichment and recycling ends are the USA, UK, France, Russia and Japan.
NEI Nuclear Energy Overview 7/8/06.
Reactor vendors order major components
Both GE Energy and Areva (for Unistar Nuclear joint venture) have ordered heavy forgings from suppliers in Japan and France respectively in anticipation of US orders for new reactors - GE's ESBWR and ABWR and Areva's US EPR. Areva has also arranged with BWX Technologies in Virginia to supply major EPR components such as steam generators and pressure vessels. These moves will put them in front of any supply bottlenecks when orders are confirmed.
Nucleonics Week 3 & 10/8/06.
Local government lures nuclear plant
The elected board of Calvert County, Maryland has offered several million dollars in tax cuts to Constellation Energy if it builds a third nuclear reactor at Calvert Cliffs power plant. It offered a 50% tax cut for 15 years on the $15.5 million Constellation now pays. The site is being considered for an Areva US EPR reactor under the UniStar Nuclear joint venture. This would bring 400 permanent jobs and 3200 construction jobs over five years.
Nucleonics Week 10/8/06.
Major utility to complete reactor?
With power demand growing 2% pa, the Tennessee Valley Authority has authorized a comprehensive evaluation of the cost and schedule for completing the 1167 MWe half-built second unit at Watts Bar nuclear plant. TVA is also considering building a new ABWR or AP1000 nuclear plant at its Bellefonte site in North Alabama, though the earliest this could be on line is 2016. Watts Bar-2 could be completed about 2013 - construction halted in 1985. Unit 1 started up in 1996.
TVA 28/7/06, Nucleonics Week 3/8/06.
Texas utility flags new plants
TXU Corporation has announced that following 9100 MWe of new coal-fired capacity, it will build two and up to six new nuclear power reactors to meet growing demand in Texas and diminish the utility's vulnerability to increased gas prices. Two units will be added to the Comanche Peak plant, others at one or two other sites in the region, totaling 2000 - 6000 MWe by 2020. TXU expects to drive down capital costs of the new plants from currently-estimated $2100/kW to $1300-1500/kW. It plans to lodge Construction & Operating Licence applications with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission late in 2008.
PRNewswire 31/8/06, Nucleonics Week 7/9/06.
US regulators address new applications
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing three applications for Early Site Permits for new nuclear reactor construction, and has started assessing a fourth. Applications for Exelon's Clinton, Entergy's Grand Gulf and Dominion's North Anna are in train and NRC is now looking at Southern Nuclear's Vogtle application to build two Westinghouse AP1000 units there. While no plant type is specified with an ESP application, Grand Gulf and North Anna are proposing GE's ESBWR units.
Nucleonics Week 17/8/06.
Report on recycling used fuel
A report by the Boston Consulting Group for Areva Inc and based on proprietary Areva information shows that recycling used fuel in the USA using the COEX aqueous process would be economically competitive with direct disposal of used fuel. The cost increment relative to direct disposal is offset by the value of recycled fuel. The COEX process has been developed by Areva from that used today in the operating reprocessing plants in France, UK and Russia and is being applied in Japan's new plant. A $12 billion, 2500 t/yr US plant was considered, with total capital expenditure of $16 billion for all related aspects. This would comfortably be covered by accumulated funds from electricity users, and would also have the benefit of greatly reducing demand on space at the proposed Yucca Mountain repository, extending its life considerably.
BCG July 2006.
US used fuel arguments continue
Proposals to store used nuclear fuel at up to 30 interim storage sites while the Yucca Mountain final repository is prepared have been called “unrealistic” by the chair of the House of Representatives. In addition, the attorneys general of ten states that host nuclear power plants urged Congress to reject the proposals, submitted by Senators Domenici and Reid, key figures in the pro- and anti-Yucca camps respectively. Under the plans the Department of Energy could place a storage facility on federally owned land in those states. However, critics say the scheme is a back-up in case Yucca Mountain is never completed, or an early move to enable easier siting of used nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities that could be required under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership.
Nucleonics Week 11/9/06, NucNet #198/06.
Former reactor site now unrestricted
The site that hosted the USA’s fifth and the state of Michigan’s first nuclear power plant has been restored to a greenfield state. Consumers Energy celebrated the end of the decommissioning work with 700 current and former employees on 29 August. The 72 MWe Big Rock Point plant generated electricity for Consumers Energy between 1965 and 1997. It took nine years to completely dismantle.
Consumers Energy 29/8/06.
Study on hydrogen production
Under its Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative the US Department of Energy has selected two teams to investigate the economic feasibility of producing hydrogen using power from existing reactors. A following phase will involve demonstration. One team led by GE Global Research will look at GE's alkaline electrolysis and another team led by Electric Transport Applications will pursue electrolysis using proton exchange membranes, based on a pilot plant in Arizona which produces 212 m3/day.
Nucleonics Week 17/8/06.
US public opinion firms
A Bloomberg-LA Times survey of 1478 people conducted at the end of July showed 61% of Americans favouring increased use of nuclear power as a source of energy to help prevent global warming.
NEI Nuclear Energy Overview 21/8/06.
Russia ready to provide international centre
The head of Rosatom, Sergei Kirienko, has said that Russia will be ready to set up a pilot international enrichment centre by the end of 2006. This would provide new nuclear power states with assured supplies of low-enriched uranium for power reactors, giving them equity in the project, but without allowing them access to the enrichment technology. The existing plant at Angarsk - the smallest of three Siberian plants - will feed the international centre which will be under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) supervision, and the material will be under safeguards. Legislation is needed to separate the facility from the defence sector and open it to international inspection, as well as providing for a shareholding structure for other countries involved with the centre.
The enrichment centre will be the first expression of President Putin's Global Nuclear Infrastructure Initiative which is in line with IAEA's 2003 proposal for Multilateral Approaches to the Nuclear Fuel Cycle (MNA). Mr Kirienko said that he saw the US GNEP proposals involving such centres as very similar.
WNA symposium 7/9/06, RIA Novosti 19/9/06.
Russia defines scope of new reactors
Rosatom's initial focus on new technology will be on the third-generation standardised evolutionary VVER-1200 reactor (AES-2006 power plant) of 1150-1200 MWe, and these are to supersede or supplement the well-proven VVER-1000 model. As well as this, the BN-800 fast breeder reactor will pioneer that technology. Also, small and medium reactors - the KLT-40 derived from icebreaker power plants and the VBER-300 (100-300 MWe) - will be developed. Beyond all these, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors are envisaged to burn actinides from used fuel, and to make hydrogen.
WNA symposium 7/9/06.
Fluor bids for British Nuclear Group
A week after the board of British Nuclear Fuels plc (BNFL) decided to sell off two of the subsidiaries of its British Nuclear Group (BNG), Fluor Corporation made a cash offer to buy BNG whole for up to £400 million. However BNFL declined the offer and will proceed with a sale of the parts by tender, as approved by the government in March. BNG was formed in 2004 as the part of BNFL taking in nuclear decommissioning and cleanup, spent fuel & engineering and Magnox generation. The new owner of the main part of the business will inherit a five-year, £5 billion contract from the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) to manage the Sellafield site, as well as taking over the Magnox reactors, so the NDA will be involved in selecting any buyer(s).
BNG 22/8/06, Fluor 31/8/06, Times 31/8/06, Platts 12/9/06.
Slovenia uprates nuclear plant
Following replacement of the low pressure turbine, Krsko nuclear power plant has been uprated by 3% to 696 MWe. This is the only Westinghouse unit in Eastern Europe and is part owned by Croatia. It started up in 1981.
New Swedish coalition more positive
The Conservative-led coalition which has come to power in Sweden is much more in tune with popular sentiment and positive about nuclear power than its predecessor. The Centre party involved has recently changed its view in favour of nuclear power, aligning with the Christian Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives. While no reactors will be closed, planning of new units is not on the agenda during the coalition's first term. However, several major reactor upgrades will be undertaken.
Nucleonics Week 21/9/06.
UK waste report confirms recommendations
The UK's advisory Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) has confirmed its interim report in April, with the focus now on achieving community participation and acceptance. It recommends deep geological disposal of high and intermediate-level wastes long-term with early closure of the repository, but meanwhile "robust interim storage" is needed. In relation to siting, communities should be provided with incentives to volunteer, as in other countries. CoRWM was set up 2003 to "inspire public confidence" and to cover continuing government procrastination. It now encourages the government to build on the momentum it has created and act soon on its recommendations.
CORWM 31/7/06, cf Newsletter 3/06.
Areva purchases major equipment supplier
In a strategic move, Areva NP has completed the purchase of forged parts manufacturer Sfarsteel. The acquisition follows announcements of orders for heavy forgings for new US nuclear plants and for the major components of the new 1600 MWe nuclear power reactor at Flamanville, where Areva NP is supplying the reactor itself. Large high-quality forgings are required for nuclear power plant components such as the reactor pressure vessel, and worldwide capacity to produce these components must be expanded to meet the predicted increase in demand for nuclear power. Sfarsteel had revenues of €69 million in 2005, which are expected to double in 2006. The purchase price was not disclosed.
Electricité de France has placed orders for much of the equipment and civil engineering works for its new Flamanville-3 EPR reactor, including the 1750 MWe turbine from Alstom - the largest steam turbine ever built.
Nucleonics Week 7/9/06, Areva 8/9/06, Nucleonics Week 3 & 10/8/06.
ASIA, AFRICA & S. AMERICA
South Korea orders new plant
Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power has placed a US$ 1.2 billion order with Doosan Heavy Industries for the first pair of its third-generation APR-1400 pressurised water reactors - units 3 & 4 to be built at Shin Kori. Westinghouse has a $300 million contract with Doosan for part of this order. The APR-1400 will be the new standard power reactor for South Korea, and has 60-year design life. Meanwhile construction of Shin Kori 1 commenced in June, and site preparation at Shin Wolsong is well advanced. The first four units at those sites will be 950 MWe OPR-1000 units, previously known as KSNP+ types, and will come on line in 2011-12.
Yonhap 28/8/06, Westinghouse 29/8/06, NucNet news # 183/06.
Tokyo Electric plans more nuclear
Tepco has announced plans to increase its nuclear power generation by 61% over the next decade, due to lower running costs for nuclear. It will reduce its use of oil by more than half, and reduce gas use by 14% in the same period.
Bloomberg in Asian Power 21/9/06,
Indian utility plans new nuclear plant
Apparently in anticipation of easing nuclear trade restriction, Indian utility National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has brought forward consideration of a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant to be in operation by 2014. It will be the utility's first nuclear plant and also the first conventional nuclear plant not built by NPCIL. Both organizations are government-owned and NTPC is planning to increase its total installed capacity from 26 to 51 GWe by 2012 (72% of it coal).
Ux Weekly 7/8/06, NTPC 1 & 22/8/06.
New Indian reactor in full operation
India's 16th nuclear power reactor - the 540 MWe Tarapur-3 PHWR has entered commercial operation five months ahead of schedule, after starting up in May and grid connection in June. This is the second large indigenously designed unit.
Turkey firms nuclear plans
With electricity demand climbing 8% pa, the Turkish government said it plans to have three nuclear power plants - total 4500 MWe - operating by 2015. The US$ 10.5 billion investment would make up about 10% of Turkey's capacity.
Gulf Times 7/8/06.
Japan revising national energy plan
Work has started on the three-yearly revision of the Japanese government's Basic Energy Plan, defining nuclear power as a key source and strengthening nuclear fuel cycle policy. It will take into account a new national energy strategy issued in May and the need to achieve Kyoto Protocol targets. Nuclear capacity is expected to be 62.86 GWe in 2030 (cf 47.7 GWe now) in order to reach the targeted 41% share of electricity. Reactor lives are expected to be 60 years, with only one small plant retired by 2030 and ten more built. Early commercialising of the fast breeder reactor cycle is a high priority, and is the subject of special attention by a broadly-constituted group involving the Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry (METI) and Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA). The final plan, looking ten years ahead, will be approved by Cabinet in December.
Atoms in Japan 26/4, 13/5, 15/5 & 26/7/06.
Argentina to boost nuclear power
The Argentine government has announced a US$ 3.5 billion strategic plan for the country's nuclear power sector. This will involve completing the country's long-delayed third reactor and extending the life of the first two, which have been operating since 1974 (Atucha-1) and 1983 (Embalse). The goal is for nuclear power to be part of an expansion in generating capacity to meet rising demand. A resumption of uranium mining and enrichment is part of the plan.
In 2003 plans for completing the Atucha-2 reactor of 692 MWe were presented to the government, and some $600 million of the announced package will be for this project, to bring the unit on line in mid 2010. Construction had started in 1981 then halted in 1994 when it was 80% complete. Both Atucha units are a unique German design of pressurized heavy water reactor. Meanwhile a feasibility study on a fourth reactor will be undertaken, to start construction after 2010, and $2 billion has been projected for this.
Extending the life of the Embalse CANDU-6 type plant by 25 years in partnership with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd is expected to cost $400 million, and producing the heavy water for Atucha-2 $200 million. No figure was quoted for enrichment but the country's small plant at Pilcaniyeu is an old and inefficient type which has not operated since the 1980s.
Another aspect of the plan is to move towards building a prototype of the small modular CAREM pressurised water reactor with integral steam generators designed to be used for electricity generation (27 MWe or up to 100 MWe) or as a research reactor or for water desalination. Recent studies have explored scaling it up to 300 MWe. It has the entire primary coolant system within the reactor pressure vessel, and relies entirely on convection. It was developed by the National Atomic Energy Commission and INVAP, which has built the new OPAL research reactor in Australia, now in process of commissioning. CAREM is seen as a mature design which could be deployed within a decade.
NucNet news #181/06, AP 23/8/06, AFP 24/8/06.
Kyrgyzstan to sell uranium mill
The Kyrgyz government has called for offers to buy a 72% share in its Kara-Baltinsk uranium enterprise, principally the mill which needs substantial upgrading. It treats material from the Zarechnoye Russian-Kazakh joint venture in Kazakhstan. UrAsia of Canada has previously been reported as a bidder. Capacity is about 2000 t/yr.
TradeTech NMR 18/8/06.
Canadian uranium merger
After discussions with another possible partner, Denison Mines has agreed to merge with International Uranium Corporation (IUC), creating a major new uranium mining and exploration company. Denison has a 22.5% stake in the McClean Lake mine and a 25.2% share in the Midwest project, while IUC brings to the merger its White Mesa mill in Utah along with several uranium properties in Utah and Arizona. Prospective production is 2500 tU/yr by 2010, about half from Canada and half from southwest USA.
Denison Mines 19/9/06.
Ontario application for site permit
Bruce Power in Ontario has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for a licence to prepare its site for construction of two new reactors. It has been studying the feasibility of this for more than two years, and with the government's June announcement that new nuclear plants would be needed, has moved forward. Ontario Power Generation is also considering new build. At present Bruce Power has six CANDU units (4678 MWe) operating at the 9.3 sq km Bruce site, and two units (1538 MWe) being refurbished. If the licence is granted, an environmental study taking up to three years will follow, along with assessment of possible reactor designs other than CANDU.
Platts 17/8/06, Ux Weekly 21/8/06.
Australian Uranium Association formed
As uranium mining and exploration is set to expand in Australia, a new representative trade body has been formed to articulate the national interest associated with uranium mining and export, as well as advocate the industry's positions to government and the community. The Australian Uranium Association (AUA) is built upon a base provided by the Uranium Information Centre, whose functions continue. The AUA's main objective is to enable the uranium mining and export industry to develop and operate in an environment of policy certainty and regulatory stability. Michael Angwin who has held senior positions at the Business Council of Australia and Rio Tinto has been appointed Executive Director.
Honeymoon mine to proceed
Following a new feasibility study, sxr Uranium One has announced that development of the Honeymoon deposit in South Australia will proceed as a 400 t/yr in situ leach (ISL) mine. It quoted indicated resources of 2900 tonnes U3O8 at 0.24% excluding some thin low-grade material included in earlier estimates and also excluding the adjacent East Kalkaroo deposit. The mine will be commissioned early in 2008 at a cost of US$ 36 million (A$ 48 million), and production cost envisaged is US$ 14.13 /lb ($36.70/kgU), less than one third of the current spot price. A 20-year mining licence was issued in 2001. Apart from uranium prices, the delay in development has been due to the need to confirm resources using prompt fission neutron borehole logging which identifies the actual uranium, rather than gamma logging equipment which (less reliably) indicates surrogate radionuclides.
Uranium One 29/8/06.
China buys into Australian uranium
Sinosteel Corporation has agreed to buy a 60% stake in the Crocker Well and Mount Victoria uranium field in South Australia for A$ 30.5 million (US$ 23 million). The deposit, which contains up to 6750t of U3O8 resources at 0.05% would be developed and operated by the Chinese state-owned company and Australian explorer PepinNini Minerals Ltd. The deal requires approval from the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board. Corporations owned by Japanese and French governments hold or have held interests in other Australian uranium deposits.
PepinNini Minerals 13/9/06.
New EU project on regional waste repositories
A new EC-funded project to assess the feasibility of European regional waste repositories is about to start, indicating a recognition in the EU that implementing 25 national repositories is not optimal economically or for safety and security. Following an EC-funded pilot study to 2005, the SAPIERR-2 project will propose a practical implementation strategy and the organizational structures required for concrete plans to proceed from 2008. The project is in line with proposals from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Russia and the USA (with GNEP) for multilateral cooperation in the fuel cycle in order to enhance global security. Shared repositories for high-level nuclear wastes are an important element of this. Initially seven national organizations and Swiss-based Arius are involved, but others are expected to join.
Nuclear Energy in the 21st Century (The World Nuclear University Primer) by Ian Hore-Lacy, Elsevier and WNU, 167pp, £15, ISBN 0-12-373622-6.
This sets out to be a comprehensive but readable account of everything from energy demand through front and back ends of the nuclear fuel cycle, to safety and non-proliferation. It is effectively the 8th edition of the well-known Nuclear Electricity, somewhat expanded in scope and with some more technical descriptions such as of nuclear fission itself. New sections include Other Nuclear Energy Applications and History. There is a substantial Foreword by Dr Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace.
Zack Pate, Chairman of WNU, writes: this book "strikes me as an exceptional publication, worthy of wide review/readership … It is, in effect, a 'Nuclear 101' text for the industry, It covers all parts of the fuel cycle in easily readable form, with numerous handy tables and diagrams."
Reactor Accidents - Institutional failure in the nuclear industry, (2nd edition, 2006) by David Mosey, Nuclear Engineering International, 120pp, £45, ISBN 1-903-07745-1.
This book describes seven significant reactor accidents, two of them to commercial power reactors (Three Mile Island and Chernobyl), the latest 20 years ago. It is designed to draw out the lessons of each accident for regulators, designers, managers and operators. In all of the accidents human actions were the main or sole contributor. This has also been true of criticality accidents, the fatal ones of which feature in a comprehensive appendix covering a range of nuclear facilites. Hence a focus on safety culture. A final chapter sums up the Aspects of Institutional Failure arising from the seven case studies. A fascinating book.
World reactor changes in last two months
Kazakhstan: 300 MWe proposed
Hungary: Paks 4 uprate 18 MWe to 462.
Canada: 2 Bruce A units 1540 MWe to Construction
2 x 1000 MWe units planned
Turkey: 3 units, 4500 MWe planned.
USA: 2x1358 MWe South Texas planned
Delete N.Korea construction
S.Korea: Shin Kori 1 950 MWe to construction
S.Korea: uprates end of 2005 to 17,533 MWe
Japan: Shimane-3 1375 MWe to construction (FEPC definition)
Slovenia: Krsko 20 MWe uprate to 696
From WNA Digest: June - July 2006
G8 affirms major role of nuclear power
The G8 leaders meeting in St Petersburg singled out nuclear energy as an important component of Global Energy Security, with the acquiescence of Germany, which has continuing policy paralysis on the question: "Those of us who have or are considering plans relating to the use and/or development of safe and secure nuclear energy believe that its development will contribute to global energy security, while simultaneously reducing harmful air pollution and addressing the climate change challenge. The development of innovative nuclear power systems is considered an important element for efficient and safe nuclear energy development. In this respect, we acknowledge the efforts made in the complementary frameworks of the INPRO project and the Generation IV International Forum.
"We reaffirm the objective set out in the 2004 G8 Action Plan on Non-Proliferation to allow reliable access of all countries to nuclear energy on a competitive basis, consistent with non-proliferation commitment and standards. Building on that plan, we intend to make additional joint efforts to ensure reliable access to low enriched uranium for power reactor fuel and spent fuel recycling, including, as appropriate, through multilateral mechanisms provided that the countries adhere to all relevant international non-proliferation commitments and comply with their obligations.
"In this respect, we take note of recent potentially complementary initiatives put forward in the IAEA framework regarding multilateral fuel supply assurances, as well as the proposals made by Russia and the USA, aimed at further development of peaceful nuclear energy, in a manner that promotes proliferation resistance of the nuclear fuel cycle, including preventing the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies."
Immediately afterwards, presidents Bush and Putin elaborated:
"The United States and the Russian Federation are convinced that reliable and sufficient energy supplies are the cornerstone of sustainable economic development and prosperity for all nations, and a necessary condition for maintaining international stability. Today nuclear energy is a proven technology for providing reliable electric power without emissions of greenhouse gases, and is an essential part of any solution to meet growing energy demand.
"We share the view that nuclear energy has an essential role in the promotion of energy security, which is an issue of special concern for the leaders of the G-8. Advancing nuclear energy will require further development of innovative technologies that reduce the risk of proliferation, provide for safe management of waste, are economically viable, and are environmentally safe.
"Being consistent in our approach to assure access to the benefits of nuclear energy for all nations complying with their non-proliferation obligations, we have each proposed initiatives on the development of a global nuclear energy infrastructure, specifically the Russian proposal to establish a system of international centers to provide nuclear fuel services, including uranium enrichment, under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, and the US proposal for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership to develop innovative nuclear reactor and fuel cycle technologies.
"Following up on these initiatives, the United States and the Russian Federation intend to work together, actively involving the IAEA, to allow all nations to enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy without pursuing uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing capabilities. The United States and the Russian Federation together with four other nuclear fuel supplier states have also proposed a concept for reliable access to nuclear fuel for consideration and development at the IAEA.
"We call upon other countries to join us to facilitate the safe and secure expansion of nuclear energy worldwide. Proceeding from our national interests and common goals, and recognizing the benefits of civil commercial nuclear trade, we express our intent to develop bilateral cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. We have directed our Governments to begin negotiations with the purpose of concluding an agreement between the United States and the Russian Federation on cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy."
Australian PM echoes international sentiment
In a major speech on energy and water issue, the Australian Prime Minister John Howard was outspoken on the need to have nuclear power as alive option in energy policy.
"Australia cannot absent itself from global developments surrounding nuclear energy. We are part of the nuclear fuel cycle, whether we like it or not. With close to 40 per cent of the world’s known low-cost uranium deposits, for Australia to bury its head in the sand on nuclear energy is akin to Saudi Arabia turning its back on global oil developments.
"Uranium is already Australia’s second largest energy export in terms of energy content and it plays a major role in decreasing the greenhouse intensity of other nations. Japan’s 54 nuclear power stations alone save the equivalent of Australia’s total greenhouse emissions, facilitated by our exports of uranium.
"The Taskforce I announced last month …. will test the capacity of this country to maturely examine issues related to our long-term energy future and how this intersects with the need to control greenhouse gas emissions. If Australia does not engage, if we sacrifice rational discussion on the altar of anti-nuclear theology (sic) and political opportunism, we will pay a price. Maybe not today or tomorrow. But in 10, 15, 20 years time, Australia will assuredly pay a price."
G8 Global Energy Security 16/7/06, Bush-Putin statement 17/7/06, Howard CEDA transcript 17/7/06,
US utility plans large new reactors
NRG Energy has announced plans to build 8 GWe of base-load capacity across the USA in the next decade, notably two 1358 MWe ABWR nuclear units costing $5.2 billion at its South Texas NPP site, coming on line 2014-15. The company aims to reduce dependence on natural gas and reduce the carbon intensity of it base-load fleet by 20-25%. This is the most conservative equipment choice among potential new nuclear build in USA, reflecting the fact that such GE-Hitachi units are well proven, four of them having been operating in Japan for up to ten years, and they are fully certified in USA. The "investments will be underpinned by long-term offtake contracts and hedges" as well as equity partners, which will be innovative in the US context. Most of the rest of the base-load capacity is to be coal-fired. The company plans to apply for a combined construction and operating licence (COL) late in 2007.
NRG 21/6/06, Nucleonics Week 29/6/06.
Licence for new US enrichment plant
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has licensed construction of the National Enrichment Facility in New Mexico, the first major nuclear facility licensed in the USA for over thirty years. The initiative for the new plant came from Urenco, the European company operating the world's most efficient centrifuge technology which it has developed over several decades. The technology has recently been sold to Areva for replacing France's capacity, and was earlier stolen and copied by others. The new plant will be a major step forward in underwriting new US nuclear generating capacity and in ensuring security of fuel supply, with flexibility of operation enabling more energy input to produce more fuel from the same natural uranium feed if required.
The path to US licensing has been difficult since the formation of the Louisiana Enrichment Services (LES) in 1989, anticipating operation of a plant in 1995. In 2002 LES (now wholly owned by Urenco) formed an association with Cameco, Westinghouse, Fluor Daniel and three US utilities. In 2003 it applied for a licence for building a plant in New Mexico and after 30 months that has now been granted. Utility support for the venture - now amounting to $3.15 billion in orders - has been crucial in persuading NRC that further US enrichment capacity is required beyond that provided and envisaged by USEC. First production from the $1.5 billion plant is expected in 2008, with full capacity of 3 million SWU/yr being reached in 2013.
Urenco 26/6/06, Ux Weekly 26/6/06.
Further reactor licence extension
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licences for both of Progress Energy's nuclear reactors at Brunswick for 20 years, taking them to 2034 and 2036. They were uprated 15% in 2002. US licence renewals now total 44.
Nuclear performs in heatwave
All but one of the 103 US nuclear power reactors were on line coping with record demand across much of the country during a heatwave on July 17. The nuclear units contributed about 98,000 MWe net. Real-time power prices across the country topped $300/MWh (30c/kWh) and hit $399 in California.
Sale of US reactor
Entergy has agreed to buy the 805 MWe Palisades nuclear power plant from CMS subsidiary Consumers Energy for US$ 242 million ($301/kW) plus $83 million for the fuel and $55 million for other assets. It started up in 1971 and a 20-year licence extension is expected early next year. Entergy, which will then own 11 nuclear power reactors and manage a 12th, will sell all the power back to Consumers Energy for 15 years. Entergy will assume responsibility for eventual decommissioning of the plant, though the vendor will retain $200 million of the current $566 million decommissioning funds, with the later return of $116 million more pending a favorable federal tax ruling.
Reactor cost projections creep upwards
With inflation and the prospect of competition for engineering services and labour, US reactor vendors are revising upwards their projected plant costs (overnight capital cost). Areva is now estimating US$ 1800-2000/kW capacity for US EPR, Westinghouse $1500-1800/kW for AP1000, and GE $1850/kW for ABWR and $1600/kW for ESBWR. At $2000/kW the cost of nuclear power would be likely to work out at 6 cents/kWh, higher than current short-term projections for coal or gas. Government incentives on offer for the first few GWe of new-generation plant could halve this however, and series construction would also reduce the cost.
Nucleonics Week 6/7/06.
US uranium mining hots up
Conventional (non-ISL) uranium mining in the USA is set to resume after some years. International Uranium Corp (IUC) expects to produce about 1550 tonnes U3O8 (1300 tU) in 2008 through its White Mesa mill in southeastern Utah, from its own and purchased ore, as well as doing some toll milling. IUC will open its Colorado Plateau /Uravan Mineral Belt mines immediately, containing 2500 t U3O8 (2100 tU) in placer deposits plus vanadium co-product. It will then begin production from its Henry Mountains mines in Utah including Bullfrog, which have 10,900 t U3O8 (9250 tU). It will spend $13 million on mill refurbishment, $10 million on mines and then $35 million on the Bullfrog mine for mid 2008 start. It may also reopen its mines in the Arizona Strip in 2007.
Toronto-based SXR Uranium One has secured the right to buy Rio Tinto's Sweetwater uranium mill and associated uranium properties in south-central Wyoming for $110 million and also US Energy's Shootaring Canyon mill in Utah and associated properties in four contiguous states for $50 million, in each case plus royalties. US Energy had been planning to bring its Shootaring Canyon mill back into production at a cost of $31 million.
IUC 14/6/06, NuclearFuel 19/6/06, Sxr Uranium One 10 & 11/7/06.
US approves India agreement
The US House of Representatives has approved by a large majority an agreement with India to allow the supply of nuclear materials and technology under international safeguards. However, Congress retains some oversight of the deal, and details remain to be worked out. The Senate is expected to vote on it in the next few weeks.
UK energy review confirms nuclear role
Driven by carbon emission and energy security concerns, the UK government has confirmed that replacement of 25 GWe of old coal and nuclear capacity over the next two decades should be substantially with nuclear plant, as long as private enterprise builds it - with internalised waste and decommissioning costs. To achieve this "the Government proposes to address potential barriers to new nuclear build" including design certification (by Health & Safety Executive, to have new procedures by early 2007) and streamlining planning permission for all large-scale energy infrastructure (a white paper about end of 2006). On electricity markets and their effect on major capital investment the report simply waffles about better information, analysis and monitoring.
The target for renewables' contribution to electricity is raised to 20% through lifting the Renewables Obligation ceiling and favouring offshore wind projects. Energy conservation is emphasised, and some attention will be given to encouraging distributed generation with use of by-product heat. The government is "committed to carbon pricing in the UK through the operation of the Emissions Trading Scheme", extending its scope and time frame. "We need a strengthened ETS" as a "credible long-term international framework for pricing carbon", and clearly much of the direction of new investment depends on this. Failing that, a UK substitute is hinted at.
In June, the UK's Health & Safety Executive, which licenses nuclear reactors through its Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, had suggested a two-stage licensing process similar to that in the USA. Considering 3rd generation reactors, a generic design authorisation for each type would be followed by site-specific licences. Stage 1 would focus on safety and take some three years, stage 2 would focus on the site and operator and take less than a year apart from planning permission. The UK Environment Agency reported similarly on the same day.
In June the French President and the UK Prime Minister set up a bilateral nuclear forum to enhance technical collaboration on nuclear power issues. The British PM acknowledged France's leading role in nuclear energy and France played down possible commercial aspects of the agreement, emphasising simply its available experience.
UK public opinion on the question of maintaining the share of electricity provided by nuclear power by building new reactors has reversed from 20% support and 60% oppose in July 2001, to 41% for and 28% against in November 2005.
Nucleonics Week 15/6/06, HSE 28/6/06, Env Agency 28/6/06, The Energy Challenge 11/7/06.
European enrichment agreement signed
The final agreement between Urenco and Areva to establish a new centrifuge enrichment plant in France has been signed. Areva acquires half the shares in Urenco's Enrichment Technology Company (ETC), which comprises all its centrifuge R&D, design and manufacturing activities for EUR 500 million. This becomes the joint venture building the EUR 3 billion Georges Besse II plant at Pierrelatte, to replace Eurodif's 10.8 million SWU/yr gaseous diffusion plant at Tricastin nearby which has operated since 1978. The initial agreement to set up ETC was signed in 2002, but the three governments owning Urenco (UK, Germany & Netherlands) and the French government needed to approve the deal. Construction will start soon and first production will be in 2009, ramping up to full capacity of 7.5 million SWU/yr in 2018. This will free up over 3000 MWe of the Tricastin nuclear power plant's capacity for the French grid, since the new enrichment plant is some 50 times more energy efficient than the old.
Areva 29/6/06, NucNet news # 146/06, Platts 5/7/06.
Russia to accelerate nuclear power funding
The federal government has approved US$ 25 billion by 2015 to boost construction of ten 1000 MWe units by then and start building a further ten under a special program. Rosatom says that the balance of total $52 billion required for the program by 2015 will come from revenue, with tariffs for nuclear electricity rising to parity with those for power from fossil fuels. By 2012 the nuclear plants now under construction - particularly Volgodonsk-2, Kalinin-4 and Beloyarsk-4 - will be commissioned and life extensions enabled on others. In 2007 a new VVER type is to begin construction and from 2008 two new ones would be commenced each year. At least some of these will be third-generation VVER types of 1200 MWe. President Putin has taken the Beloyarsk-4 BN-800 fast neutron reactor under his personal control, to ensure its timely completion by 2012. The program includes three new uranium mines and fuel cycle facilities, including a pilot MOX plant and reprocessing plant.
Nucleonics Week 27/7/06, Nuclear.Ru 26/7/06.
New Russia-Kazakh agreements
Russia and Kazakhstan have signed three nuclear joint venture agreements totalling US$ 10 billion for new nuclear reactors, uranium production and enrichment. The first JV is for development and marketing of innovative small and medium-sized reactors, starting with OKBM's VBER-300 as baseline for Kazakh units. Russia's Atomstroyexport expects to build the initial one. The second is a uranium enrichment JV at Angarsk in southern Siberia where Russia has its main conversion plant and a small enrichment plant; this will be the first international enrichment centre. The uranium exploration and mining JV will start with Budenovskoye in the Stepnoye area of south Kazakhstan, which is due to start production in 2008 and ramp up to 1000 tU/yr by 2012. This will evidently complement the Zarechnoye JV 250 km to the south which was set up in June.
In this, Russia's Tenex signed a US$ 1 billion uranium supply contract with the Zarechnoye joint venture in Kazakhstan for up to 6000 tU per year from 2007 to 2022. Initially this will come from Zarechnoye mine in the Syrdarya basin but other production centres with Russian equity were envisaged. The US$ 60 million Zarechnoye JV involves Kazatomprom (49%), Tenex (49% - to provide finance) and Kyrgyzstan's Kara Baltinski Mining Combine, which will process the ore there. This is Russia's first contract for import of uranium, and will apparently be the main future source of supply.
Ux Weekly 26/6/06, Nuclear.Ru 26/7/06, MosNews 26 & 27/7/06.
Russian uranium mine expansion
TVEL Corporation, Russia's nuclear fuel manufacturer, has been seeking US$ 318 million from the Economic & Trade Development Ministry to invest in uranium mining, along with $104 million of its own funds. This is to develop the Khiagda mine Buryatia and the Priargun mine complex in the Chita region. In the late July program Khiagdinsk, Dolmatovsk and Khokhlovsk were identified as three new mines to be developed.
Tenex, Russia's nuclear fuel exporter, has confirmed that there will be no follow-on program of selling Russian high-enriched uranium from military stockpiles to overseas customers once the present US$ 12 billion program concludes in 2013. The 20-year program is equivalent to about 153,000 tonnes of natural uranium, and meets nearly half of US demand.
TradeTech NMR 31/5/06, Platts 6/6/06.
Finland reactor slippage now one year
The delay in construction of the EUR 3 billion Olkiluoto EPR being built by Areva for TVO has now stretched to one year due to problems with sub-contractors and ensuring full quality control. Commissioning of the 1600 MWe reactor is now expected mid 2010, with first power late 2009. Areva is liable for the cost of delay.
NucNet news #153 & 154/06.
French R&D focus on fast reactors
The French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) has signed a four-year EUR 3.8 billion R&D contract with the government, including development of two types of fast neutron reactors: an improved version of the sodium-cooled type which already has 45 reactor-years operational experience in France, and an innovative gas-cooled type. Both would have fuel recycling, and by 2009 a decision will be taken on whether this should be of uranium and plutonium only, or also minor actinides as envisaged in the USA. CEA will also support industry in developing a very high temperature reactor for hydrogen production.
French waste bill approved
After the National Assembly rapidly approved with a large majority the same bill as the Senate, the Nuclear Materials and Waste Sustainable Management Program Act is set to become law and apply for 15 years. It endorses deep geological disposal for nuclear wastes for which no further use is envisaged.
Areva develops new reprocessing technology
Areva is developing two types on next-generation reprocessing plants: one for France and the other for export, with USA particularly in mind. The export plant would be ready by 2020, using the aqueous COEX process, similar to today's PUREX but co-precipitating some uranium with the plutonium ready for use in a mixed-oxide fuel plant. The domestic design would use CEA's Ganex process which goes further than COEX in separating actinides and some lanthanides from short-lived fission products. It is chiefly designed to reduce the radiotoxicity and heat output of final wastes, and is envisaged as replacing the present La Hague plant about 2040.
Final agreement on Dutch reactor
After unsuccessful attempts in parliament to overturn it, a covenant has been signed by the Dutch government and the owners of the 450 MWe Borssele nuclear power plant to allow its continued operation for a full 60 years - to 2033, as long as safety is assured. The two owners are required to "donate" EUR 250 million to "sustainable energy" projects, subsidising projects which would not otherwise be viable, and matching the same from government.
The chairman and CEO of Delta, one of the owners, said that it is considering construction of a new reactor at Borssele, to be operating by 2016 and is seeking partners for the new EUR 2 billion project. A major bank - ABN AMRO - has said it would be willing to make the investment, and the environment minister said that with licence conditions being published later this year there was a realistic chance of a new plant operating by 2016.
EPZ 16/6/06, Platts 19/6/06, NucNet news # 156/06.
Swedish communities compete for repository
Two municipalities earlier voted to be candidate locations for a deep geological repository for Sweden's high-level nuclear wastes - Oskarshamn (hosting 3 nuclear reactors and the interim spent fuel storage facility) and Östhammar (with 3 Forsmark reactors). After feasibility studies in eight municipalities, both of these had been selected as having potentially suitable bedrock characteristics and site testing by the Swedish Nuclear Fuel & Waste Management Co. (SKB) is proceeding at both. A recent independent poll in both communities (N=900 in each) showed that 79% of Oskarshamn residents and 73% of those in Östhammar support having the future repository in their own backyard.
SKB plans to apply for a permit to build an encapsulation plant at Oskarshamn later in 2006, and then apply for a permit to build the final repository about 2008.
Platts 31/5/06, SKB 15/6/06.
Russia signs for floating nuclear plant
Twelve years after launching the proposal and almost a year after Rosatom confirmed that it was proceeding with the plan, Rosenergoatom has signed a contract with the Sevmash shipyard to build the first floating nuclear power plant. The cost is put at US$ 337 million - 80% financed by Rosenergoatom and 20% by Sevmash - and delivery will be late in 2010. It will have two KLT-40S reactors derived from icebreakers but using low-enriched fuel, and be mounted on a 144m x 30m barge displacing 21,500 tonnes. It will supply electricity and heat to Severodvinsk facilities in Archangelsk region, including Sevmash itself. Eleven further sites in Russia are being considered for such units, and electricity cost is expected to be much lower than from present alternatives.
Nucleonics Week 22/6/06.
ASIA, AFRICA & S. AMERICA
New Indian reactor on line
The 490 MWe Tarapur-3 nuclear reactor has been connected to the grid four weeks after starting up. This is the second large PHWR unit to be completed.
Mitsubishi to market new reactor in US
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is planning to market its Advanced PWR in the USA. The APWR was developed with Westinghouse and four Japanese utilities, and is in the process of being licensed in Japan with a view to the first 1538 MWe units being constructed at Tsuruga from 2007. MHI envisages a 1700 MWe version for the USA and intends to lodge an application for US design certification in 2008. MHI also participated in developing the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, but now that Westinghouse has been sold to Toshiba, MHI will develop PWR technology independently.
Nucleonics Week 8/6/06, Platts 6/7/06.
Japan urged to speed up fast reactors
The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has urged the government to accelerate development of fast breeder reactors (FBRs), calling this "a basic national technology". It proposed increased budget, better coordination in moving from R&D to verification and implementation, plus international cooperation. Japan is already playing a leading role in the Generation IV initiative, with focus on sodium-cooled FBRs. Its own 280 MWe Monju prototype FBR remains shut down. The party's policy report emphasised the need to make radical improvements in the utilisation of nuclear energy, among other energy initiatives.
Atoms in Japan 23/5/06.
New Chinese reactor construction
Site works at Hongyanhe, near Dalian in Liaoning province, have started with first concrete scheduled September 2007. This is the first work on a plant in the Eleventh 5-year Plan. The cost of two indigenous 1080 MWe units is put at US$ 2.88 billion, with start-up due 2012. Main investors are Guangdong Nuclear Power and China Power Investment Corp.
An agreement for the first 2000 MWe stage of the Bailong nuclear power plant in Guangxi autonomous region of southern China has been signed. China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, China Power Investment Corporation and Guangxi Investment Group will invest US$ 3.1 billion in the first two units of a 6000 MWe plant and expect construction to start before 2010.
Power in Asia 6/7/06, Dow Jones 25/7/06.
North Korean power project aborted
The project to build two nuclear power reactors at Kumho in North Korea as a trade-off brokered in 1994 for that country abandoning its nuclear weapons program has been formally terminated. The Korean peninsula Energy Development Organisation (KEDO) suspended construction late in 2003 and last year it projected the likely termination of the project. Its members are Japan, South Korea, USA and EU. One reactor is part-built and most of the fabrication of steam generators, pressure vessels and other equipment for both reactors is complete. South Korea claims that $1.56 billion has been spent on the project so far and the KEDO consortium is expected to seek compensation from North Korea for financial losses. The equipment could be sold off to other nuclear projects, including South Korean export ones, though due to the delays, it is an earlier type of South Korean plant than is now being constructed elsewhere.
Platts 31/5/06, Nuclear Eng International 6/6/06.
Ontario confirms new nuclear plans
The Ontario government has confirmed that new nuclear capacity will be an important part of its plan to tackle looming electricity shortages. It has directed the Ontario Power Authority to proceed with its December 2005 plan to overhaul the province's generating capacity, enuring reliability of supply with stable prices. This requires maintaining nuclear capacity of 14,000 MWe. Some C$ 40 billion is expected to be spent on nuclear plant, including probably two new reactors, among 24,000 MWe of new and replacement capacity overall. It has told Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to begin feasibility studies on refurbishing its Pickering and Darlington nuclear plants (3094 & 3524 MWe respectively) and to commence environmental studies on refurbishing Pickering units 5-8 and constructing new nuclear units which need not be Canadian designs. However, they would need to be supplied on fixed-price, turn-key contracts. Bruce Power is also interested in constructing new units on its site (now 4678 MWe but with two further units - each 769 MWe - being refurbished). Major investment in renewables and energy conservations is part of the plan.
The government is fast-tracking the C$ 83 billion plan, and has exempted it from the need for full deliberation under the province's Environmental Assessment Act, which would be likely to take five years. However, individual proposals will be subject to federal environmental review, a 2-year process. (The Darlington plant had a massive cost overrun due to politically-imposed construction delays, and electricity consumers are still paying that off.)
Meanwhile, due to revised forecasts of energy demand, with summer peak loads now 3000 MWe higher, the government has delayed indefinitely the shutdown of two coal-fired power plants at Lambton and Nanticoke. These were originally - in 2003 - pledged to close in 2007, but this was extended to 2009, and now is uncertain. The plants, of 1975 and 3920 MWe respectively, comprise one fifth of the province's 30 GWe capacity, much of which is old.
National Post 10/6/06, Globe & Mail 15/6/06, Minister of Energy 13/6/06 + backgrounders.
Canadian uranium production drops
Production from Canada's three mines in the first six months of 2006 dropped 33% compared with 2005 rate. Cameco reported production of 3864 t U3O8 (3276.5 tU) from McArthur River and 1178 t (999 tU) from Rabbit Lake. Production from Areva's McClean Lake was 302 t U3O8 (256 tU) due to much lower grade ores. This gives Canadian total of 5344 t U3O8 (4531.5 tU) for the six months.
Cameco 28/7/06, Areva RC.
Canada funds wastes
The Canadian government has announced a 5-year, C$ 520 million program to clean up legacy wastes from R&D on nuclear power and medical isotopes and early military activities to 1950s. It covers clean-up of AECL contaminated lands, radioactive wastes and decommissioning old infrastructure which the government is responsible for. All waste and decommissioning liabilities for nuclear power utilities remain the responsibility of those bodies and are not included.
Natural Resources Canada 2/6/06, AECL 2/6/06.
Australian nuclear energy inquiry
The Australian Prime Minister has launched a 6-month Review of "uranium mining, processing and the contribution of nuclear energy in Australia in the long term" and related matters. It includes value-adding to uranium exports by enrichment, or fuel leasing involving this and reprocessing, as well as waste disposal. The six-person task force undertaking it will be supported by the Chief Scientist and is to report in December.
PM media release 6 & 7/6/06.
Australian report on nuclear economics
A report commissioned by the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO) presents some economic data on the prospect of Introducing Nuclear Power to Australia. It suggests that nuclear power could be competitive at about AUD 4 cents/kWh (including waste and decommissioning costs) for the 5th copy of a Westinghouse AP1000 reactor. Considering the later settled down costs of the same plant, it would be cheaper than coal or gas-fired plant, but if first-off it would be distinctly more expensive. Any cost imposed on carbon emissions from fossil fuel plants would improve the economics. Financing models including one with government subsidy are presented.
Summary report, ANSTO web site, May 06.
New Australian research reactor licensed
The Australian Radiation Protection & Nuclear Safety Agency has granted an operating licence to the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO) for its new 20 MWt Opal research reactor. ANSTO hailed the occasion as "taking us one step closer to a new era in Australian science", having persevered with its 1956-vintage HIFAR unit longer than comparable organizations overseas.
ANSTO 14/7/06, ARPANSA 14/7/06, http://www.uic.com.au/nip31.htm
Australian uranium production lags
Uranium production from Australia's three mines was down during the first six months of 2006. ERA announced production from Ranger of 1988 tonnes U3O8 (1686 tU), reduced due to acid plant problems and a cyclone. BHP Billiton reported Olympic Dam production of 1768.6 t U3O8 (1777.7 t UOC, 1500 tU), and Heathgate production from Beverley of 362.5 t U3O8 (307.4 tU). This gives total Australian production of 9951 t U3O8 (8438 tU) for the 2005-06 year.
ERA 26/7/06, BHPB 25/7/06, Heathgate 2/8/06.
Russia and China join advanced reactor project
The 11-member Generation IV International Forum (GIF) has unanimously voted to admit Russia and China to the group, which is developing 4th generation reactor technology for deployment after 2020. Russia has more experience than any other country with one of the six designs already shortlisted - the lead-cooled fast reactor, and is well experienced with another - the sodium-cooled fast reactor. China is a leader in high-temperature gas-cooled reactors, another of the six GIF designs. Formal membership will be confirmed later this year, opening the way for significant international collaboration.
Platts 13/7/06, Nucleonics Week 13/7/06.
New 'Red Book' shows growth in resources
The latest edition of the OECD/NEA-IAEA 'Red Book' Uranium 2005: Resources, Production & Demand shows increased known resources of uranium. The focus is now on the cost category to US$ 130/kgU - slightly above present spot price of $122/kgU, and 4.7 million tonnes of conventional resources are tabulated. Previous discussion was on the $80/kgU category. The higher cost category brings the USA and Kazakhstan into higher profile. Australia has 24% of world total resources, Kazakhstan 17% and then Canada 9%.
Red Book June 2006.
Weapons material to power: progress
USEC has announced that it has arranged the downblending of some US high-enriched uranium for use in power generation, making a total of 50 tonnes of this US material producing almost 660 tonnes of low-enriched fuel. This is in addition to the Russian high-enriched uranium downblended in Russia and sold by USEC to provide 44% of US needs. So far 275 tonnes has produced 8090 tonnes of low-enriched fuel, for which Tenex in Russia has received US$ 4.1 billion.
USEC 28/6 & 13/7/06.
World reactor changes in last two months
India: Tarapur-3 490 MWe grid connected
Finland Olkiluoto-1: 20 MWe uprate to 860 MWe
Sweden Ringhals-3, 37 MWe uprate to 957 MWe.
From WNA Digest: April - May 2006
Widening acceptance of nuclear power
In Europe, North America, Japan and Australia, nuclear power is achieving widespread popular approval, much faster than its proponents had expected.
Broadly, renewed attention to nuclear power is driven by three factors: improved economics which insure against escalating electricity prices, the prospect of carbon emission constraints on fossil-fuelled alternatives, and energy security - people are more conscious of geopolitical factors than at any time since the 1970s. All these factors are in play in Europe and North America, though in Australia only the carbon emission consideration gives appeal to the nuclear option.
The public role of high-profile environmentalists has helped. Led by James Lovelock, originator of the Gaia hypothesis, others have joined in, saying that nuclear power is essential if not ideal. Lovelock has always been pro-nuclear but in recent years has become more vocal about it. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace, changed his views as he took a longer look at how the threat of global warming might best be countered, and whether the anti-nuclear folklore had any real substance. But these are individuals who are unconnected to environmental groups which depend for their funding on nurturing the fears of a significant section of the populace.
So when Greg Bourne, head of WWF Australia, came out with positive comments accepting uranium mining for nuclear power, it marked a significant shift. No sooner had he done so than he headed off to a WWF international energy taskforce meeting focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The significance of the shift was not lost on his green co-activists: Alec Marr of the Wilderness Society derided Bourne and reasserted the dogma that "uranium mining, anywhere, anytime, is an immoral act and the job of all environment groups should be to stop every aspect of the nuclear fuel cycle!" Marr called for Bourne to return to the BP corporate fold from which he came a couple of years ago - his rational approach being unacceptable. A later media release said that "total opposition to [all aspects of the nuclear industry] lies at the heart of the Australian environment movement". However, Paul Gilding, former head of Greenpeace International, defended Bourne and observed that he was at risk because "it's such a highly ideological, almost religious, debate." WWF then reiterated that "nuclear power is not the solution to global warming."
In the USA a new coalition for Clean and Safe Energy is being headed by Patrick Moore and former Administrator of the US Environmental Protection Agency Christine Todd Whitman. The CASEnergy Coalition has more than 50 charter members including industry associations, electric utilities, unions and universities, and will champion the cause of nuclear energy as a safe, reliable and cost-effective way to meet US energy demands while protecting the environment and achieving prudent diversification of supply. Its principal role will be educational at the state and local level, with funding from the Nuclear Energy Institute, since recent polling has showed that misinformation is prevalent. For instance, many Americans do not realize that nuclear power emits negligible amounts of greenhouse gases (and 60% of Europeans think nuclear emits significant quantities of them).
Another aspect of public awareness is safety, and the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster has served to highlight that, and remind people why such a reactor design has never been licensed outside the Soviet Union. At the same time it has become clear that for the main Western reactor designs, even a major accident or terrorist assault would not cause any radiation release catastrophe. There is now enough experience of core melting - most famously at Three Mile Island in 1979 - that we can be confident of the safety of neighbours even with a severe accident. This is more than can be said for some other major industrial infrastructure.
In Japan, 75% of people are either happy with status quo on nuclear power or want to see it promoted further, though only 36% know that it was a means of countering global warming, and only 31% perceived uranium supply as more stable than petroleum.
In Australia, where there is no industry lobby group to promote its local implementation, a series of media stories and features have reversed the previously negative portrayal, and the Prime Minister and other senior ministers have been very positively vocal. Journalists have looked more closely into it and refused to be put off by superficial invocations of supposedly intractable waste, radiation and safety problems. For the first time the negatives of nuclear power have been put into perspective alongside other aspects and hazards of the industrial society which delivers high standards of living. Bob Carr, former Labor Premier of New South Wales, reiterated that "you can't reduce carbon emissions without nuclear power", and it must be a significant part of the solution to climate change.
Atoms in Japan 11/3/06, Australian 4 & 9/5/06, Daily Telegraph 5/5/06, WWF 4/5/06, Wilderness Soc 8/5/06, NEI Overview 24/4/06, www.cleansafeenergy.org
Further US licence renewals
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the licences of all three of TVA's Browns Ferry reactors, to 2033-36. Unit 1 has not operated since 1985 and is being refurbished, with restart expected in 2007. This brings the total of nuclear power reactors receiving 20-year extensions to 42.
Domenici brings fresh realism to US nuclear energy outlook
Senator Domenici is taking the lead in rolling back President Carter's legacy of once-through use of nuclear fuel in the USA, opening the way to greater utilisation of the uranium, with reduced volumes and radioactivity of wastes. Most immediately it means that the proposed Yucca Mountain repository for used fuel should be thought of instead as being for the much lower volumes of shorter-lived wastes from reprocessing used fuel. Pending availability of reprocessing as conceived under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership program, used fuel will need to be stored at reactor sites or elsewhere for much longer.
Nucleonics Week 18/5/06.
US hydrogen study
The Department of Energy is seeking bids from US nuclear utilities to undertake small-scale studies at existing power reactors on producing hydrogen as a fuel. The studies to examine the economic, environmental, and regulatory implications of producing hydrogen at existing nuclear power plants will be done under DOE's Nuclear Hydrogen Initiative within the Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology. DOE will allocate up to $1.6 million this fiscal year for the work and will cover 80% of the costs overall. The work will presumably be confined to electrolysis and high-temperature electrolysis.
France to construct new reactor
The Board of Electricité de France has approved construction of a new 1630 MWe European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) unit at Flamanville, Normandy, alongside two 1300 MWe units. The overnight capital cost is expected to be EUR 3.3 billion, and power from it EUR 4.6 c/kWh - about the same as from new combined cycle gas turbine at current gas prices and with no carbon emission charge. Series production costs are projected at about 20% less. EDF has submitted a construction licence application. Site works should be complete and the first concrete poured about the end of next year, with completion expected in 2012. The decision follows a public debate, and is seen as "an essential step in renewing EDF's nuclear generation mix". Italian utility ENEL will have a 12.5% share in the new plant, taking rights to 200 MWe of its capacity and being involved in design, construction and operation of it.
EdF 4/5/06, Nucleonics Week 11/5/06.
UK flags new nuclear capacity
The British Prime Minister has said that replacement of the country's nuclear power stations is definitely back on the national agenda, due both to energy security concerns and the need to limit carbon emissions. Any new plants would be financed and built by the private sector, and Areva has said that it could build them by 2017 without subsidy if planning procedures were improved and government decisions were made on wastes. A review of the licensing process for new designs is already under way. Most of the nuclear plants now producing 22% of UK electricity will close by 2020. "A big push on renewables and a step change on energy efficiency" are also envisaged.
In April, the Confederation of British Industry issued a strong call for the UK government to clarify its longer-term carbon emission policy so that low-emission sources such as nuclear power could play a proper role. The CBI said that companies will seriously consider investing in capital-intensive new nuclear build without the need for government subsidy if the right long-term non-discriminatory policy framework is in place. Some £50 billion is required to refurbish UK's generating infrastructure by 2020 with low-carbon sources, but at present the policy context beyond 2012 is unclear.
The CBI pointed out that nuclear "is the only low-carbon technology proven to deliver a consistent supply of electricity on a large scale. And it can contribute strongly to more secure UK energy supplies, given the substantial uranium reserves available in politically stable countries and the ability to store significant uranium stocks. The operating costs of nuclear power are far more stable than for fossil fuels, because fuel only accounts for 5-10 per cent of generating costs." Nuclear wastes are no reason to avoid new investment in nuclear.
The CBI also addressed the UK's planning paralysis: "A planning process designed in the middle of the last century is hampering the ability of business to deliver the energy projects needed today and in the future. From renewable energy schemes to desperately-needed gas storage facilities, the system is failing to give proper priority to energy projects. Government must not take its eye off the ball. We got away with it this winter but may not be so lucky next time. An energy policy based on crossing fingers and the use of the prayer mat is not acceptable for the fifth biggest economy on Earth."
CBI 24/4/06, Times 17 & 18/5/06, Guardian 17/5/06, Nucleonics Week 18/5/06.
UK waste committee reports
The non-expert but widely-representative committee appointed by the UK government has reported after three years' deliberation on what to do with UK high-level nuclear wastes. The Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) recommends deep geological disposal long-term, but meanwhile "robust interim storage" is needed. The scope of investigation covered an eventual 470,000 cubic metres of mostly high and intermediate-level wastes and also the implications of possibly treating plutonium and depleted uranium as wastes, and of abandoning any reprocessing of spent fuel. Repository location would be on basis of community agreement, and about one third of the UK appears to be geologically suitable. A final report will be submitted in July and will address questions such as retrievability, but only in principle. CoRWM says that the government should move swiftly to implement its recommendations, though it acknowledges that actually commissioning a repository could take decades.
CoRWM 27/4/06, Nucleonics Week 4/5/06, SpentFuel 1/5/06.
UK government to sell more nuclear assets
BNFL has gained government approval to sell the British Nuclear Group, its management and clean-up business, by competitive tender in 2007. The new owner will inherit a 5-year contract from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to manage the Sellafield site, as well as taking over the Magnox reactors, so the NDA will be involved in selecting the buyer. The government said it is also ready to sell its 33% stake in Urenco, the uranium enrichment business jointly owned by the Dutch and German governments. The share is valued at some £2.5 billion.
Nuclear Engineering Int'l 30/3/06, Fuel Cycle Week 28/3/06.
Russia announces new larger reactors
The head of Rosatom has announced plans to build six 1500 MWe VVER reactors to replace the Leningrad nuclear power station. The first two units are to be constructed within 8 years at a cost of US$ 2.9 billion, starting late 2007 or early 2008. The next four will be spread to 2021. Rosenergoatom will finance and build the new reactors. The new V-448 reactor design is from Gidropress, and total construction cost is expected to be much the same as for present 1000 MWe units. Leningrad power plant has four RBMK units, due to be decommissioned 2019-26.
Nucleonics Week 11/5/06.
Czech utility upbeat on nuclear prospects
CEZ is "seriously investigating" expanding its nuclear portfolio both in the Czech Republic and in neighboring European countries, according to its Vice President. "Coal and gas will be marginal plant, they won't make any money," he said. "We need large base-load plant - over 40 years nuclear can be cheaper than gas at current prices." CEZ would invest in nuclear projects, but only under market and policy conditions that include a truly integrated European market, continuing regulation of carbon emissions, a forward oil price of more than $60/barrel, and assurance that national governments will not "damage investments." He expressed confidence in a nuclear renaissance in Europe. "Politics will not stand in the way of a nuclear revival," though "we might need a small blackout somewhere or a price spike, but it will come." In 2004 some 10,900 MWe of combined cycle gas plant came on line in western Europe, 5800 MWe of wind and no nuclear.
Platts 29 & 30/3/06.
Russian threat to Europe's gas
After a meeting with EU ambassadors, the head of Russia's Gazprom has warned that if its expansion into the EU is blocked it will redirect its gas supplies away from Europe to North America and China. Any "attempts to limit Gazprom's activities in the European market … will not lead to good results." Gazprom is state-owned and supplies a quarter of Europe's gas. The UK government has expressed concern about Gazprom's reported intention to take over Centrica, UK's largest gas company. The UK is increasingly reliant on imported gas supplies for electricity generation.
Chernobyl 20th anniversary prompts media flurry
A series of articles on the Chernobyl disaster and the situation there now has appeared throughout the world print media. Readers Digest and National Geographic have stories, www.greenfacts.org has a major web site feature based on the Chernobyl Forum report (now updated), and New Scientist and Greenpeace have challenged the projected cancer death toll from the accident, saying it is really much higher. Russian scientists downplayed the radiation impact and the World Health Organization stood by its figures published last year. All agreed that the sociological and psychological trauma was major, and continuing. Mikhail Gorbachev, president of the Soviet Union at the time of the accident, writes that Chernobyl "was perhaps the real cause of the collapse of Soviet Union five years later. Indeed the Chernobyl catastrophe was a historic turning point … the system as we knew it could no longer continue".
Meanwhile plans are well advanced for construction of a new permanent shelter over both the destroyed reactor and the existing shelter structure which was hastily erected in 1986 and is now in disrepair. The international Chernobyl Shelter Fund for this has more than EUR 800 million so far in hand or pledged. Awarding of the contract for construction of the new shelter is expected soon, for completion in 2008. The arched structure will be built nearby and slid into position, then enabling dismantling of the 1986 shelter under it and some or all of the destroyed reactor.
National Geographic & Readers Digest April 2006, New Scientist 8/4/06, AFP 18/4/06, Australian 19/4/06, NucNet news #66/06.
Russia reassesses RBMK reactors
Despite the bad reputation due to the Chernobyl disaster and the fact that many Western safety authorities want to see them all shut down, Russia is considering lifetime extensions and uprating of its eleven operating RBMK reactors. A 12th unit, in Lithuania, is due to close in 2009. Following significant design modifications made after the Chernobyl accident, as well as extensive refurbishment including replacement of fuel channels, a 45-year lifetime is seen as realistic for the 1000 MWe units. Last year they provided 48% of Russia's nuclear-generated electricity.
The R&D Institute of Power Engineering is preparing plans for 5% uprating of the units - at Leningrad, Kursk and Smolensk. No RBMK has been shut prematurely in Russia - only those in Ukraine and Lithuania. Rosenergoatom acknowledges that no more will be built - the fate of almost complete Kursk-5 being still uncertain.
Energy in E.Europe 28/4/06.
Spain closes oldest nuclear plant
Spain closed its 142 MWe Jose Cabrera (Zorita) nuclear power plant at the end of April, two years earlier than the operator desired. Zorita was connected to the grid in 1968. Its 2002 licence renewal was for only four years. Dismantling the plant will be undertaken from 2009 by Enresa - total decommissioning cost is estimated at EUR 135 million. This will leave Spain with eight operational reactors producing about a quarter of the country's power. The governing Socialist Party has expressed a desire to shut them all down, but a review of the nuclear role is due to be reported in June.
Nucleonics Week 27/4/06, NucNet news #84/06.
ASIA, AFRICA & S. AMERICA
Construction of Qinshan phase 4 (or second stage of phase II) was formally inaugurated at the end of April, though first concrete had been poured for unit 6 in March. China National Nuclear Corporation said that local content of the two 650 MWe reactors will be more than 70% and construction time scheduled as 60 months.
This project joins Lingao units 3 & 4 (935 MWe each) whose first concrete was poured in December (but not here noted then). The Lingao reactors will be at least 70% localised, under the project management of China Nuclear Power Engineering Corp. These are the first in the current tranche of eight reactors. Announcement of 6 to 10 new reactors for the eleventh five-year plan is expected soon.
Grid connection of the first Russian-built Tianwan reactor occurred in mid May, almost three years behind schedule. The two 1000 MWe Tianwan VVER reactors have been under construction by Atomstroyexport in Jiangsu province since 1999, and the estimated cost of the pair is US$ 3.2 billion, with China contributing $1.8 billion. They incorporate Finnish safety features and Siemens instrumentation and control systems. It is expected that another pair of VVERs will be built at the Jiangsu site under the new five-year plan, and site works have begun. This would be part of a wide-ranging Sino-Russian energy deal involving supply of oil and gas to China.
Meanwhile it appears that the question of whether Westinghouse or Areva is selected to build the new Sanmen and Yangjiang nuclear plants (part of the tenth five-year plan) is in the hands of China's political leadership.
Nucleonics Week 6 & 13/4/06, Power in Asia 11/5/06, NucNet WNR 12/5/06, Platts 12/5/06.
Large new Indian reactor starts up
The second of a pair of large new Indian reactors started up. Tarapur-3 is a 490 MWe (net) unit and is expected to be connected to the grid in June. It was built by Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), a public sector undertaking under the Department of Atomic Energy, ahead of schedule and under budget.
Japan's reprocessing plant active
The final 17-month test phase at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant has begun, after 13 years construction and the conclusion of safety agreements with the local prefecture, supported by the national government. Some 430 tonnes of used fuel will be put through the Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd plant in the course of testing all aspects of its performance. At the same time, the last batch of used fuel is being treated at Japan Atomic Energy Agency's Tokai pilot reprocessing plant, making 1116 tonnes treated since 1977.
Atoms in Japan 31/3/06.
South Africa considers nuclear boost
As a new 200-tonne turbine rotor borrowed from EdF in France was fitted to one of the two 900 MWe Koeberg reactors near Cape Town, the government announced in March that it was considering building a further conventional reactor, possibly at Koeberg, to boost supplies in the Cape province. A demonstration pebble-bed reactor is expected to start operation there in 2011, but this will be only 165 MWe. The restored Koeberg unit 1 has now restarted.
Nuclear Engineering Int'l 30/3/06, Fuel Cycle Week 28/3/06, Ux Weekly 22/5/06.
Site for first Turkish nuclear plant
The province of the port city of Sinop on the Black Sea has been chosen to host Turkey's first commercial nuclear power plant. A 100 MWe demonstration plant is to be built first, then 5000 MWe of further plants to come into service from 2012. Some kind of public-private partnership is envisaged for construction and operation.
TradeTech NMR 14/4/06.
Brazil starts enrichment plant
The first two cascades of Brazil's Resende centrifuge enrichment plant have been officially opened by Industrias Nucleares de Brasil (INB). In the first phase of operations the US$ 172 million plant is expected to produce 60% of the enriched uranium needed by the country's two reactors - Angra 1 & 2 (1896 MWe total). Imports now cost some $16 million per year.
PM flags nuclear debate
Australia's Prime Minister has said that his government's 2004 White Paper on Energy needs to be revisited to take account of nuclear power, since its "assumptions are certainly very different now". "Clearly the environmental advantages of nuclear power are there for all to see: it's cleaner and greener and therefore some of the people in the past who have opposed it should support it," he said. He looked forward to "an intense debate on the subject". Australia's role in the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6) is the most immediate context for this debate, but its possible involvement in the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) appears to have been the trigger for pushing the question into higher profile.
Other ministers said that an initial Australian nuclear power plant could be operating by 2020, and an enrichment plant within ten years, to add value to uranium exports. The Labor Party said that it opposes the use of nuclear power in Australia. Meanwhile the report of the House of Representatives year-long inquiry into uranium is due to report in mid year, and the steering group of the Uranium Industry Framework will complete its task in July, identifying impediments and opportunities that need further attention in relation to Australian uranium mining and export. An action plan will result.
Canberra Times 20/5/06, Australian 22/5/06.
China - Australia bilateral safeguards agreement
After a year of negotiations, a bilateral safeguards agreement (Nuclear Transfer Agreement) has been signed with China enabling the export of Australian uranium to that country. China is a nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has ratified the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with IAEA, and has a number of its reactors and an enrichment plant already under IAEA safeguards. A nuclear technology agreement was signed at the same time. China has expressed interest in investing in Australian uranium mining - it already has major investment in other mineral production in Australia.
Silex partners with GE
Silex Systems has announced a partnership agreement with GE Energy for the commercialisation of its SILEX laser enrichment technology. It provides for GE to construct in the USA an engineering-scale test loop (3 years) then a pilot plant or lead cascade. A full commercial plant would then follow. Apart from US$ 20 million upfront and subsequent payments the license agreement will yield 7-12% royalties, the precise amount depending on how low the cost of deploying the commercial technology. GE referred to SILEX as "game-changing technology" with a "very high likelihood" of success.
Silex 22/5/06, Nucleonics Week 25/5/06.
Students return to nuclear courses
In the USA there is a strong resurgence of interest in nuclear engineering courses. Most such departments have seen a doubling or tripling of undergraduate enrolments in the last five years, and a recent Department of Energy survey showed 1759 nuclear engineering students compared with only 450 in 1999. In the last year, graduate students have increased from about 600 to 1008.
ASEE Prism, Jan 2006.
Euro carbon trading falters
The early weeks of May saw the price of emission permits under the European Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) plunge to less than half their previous value, causing intense discussion on the efficacy of the whole scheme and questions as to whether the caps in some states were low enough to promote investment in emission reduction. The ETS was seen as providing the core of a wider scheme to limit carbon emissions worldwide. But most EU countries had issued so many allowances on the basis of padded applications that they did not reach their quotas in the first year of phase one (2005-07) of the ETS, which undercut the value of traded permits. Permits in late May were trading at EUR 18/tonne CO2, representing over 1.5 cents/kWh on coal-fired generation and providing a weak disincentive to using coal, especially in Germany where output constraints apply on nuclear power. For most of 2005 and until May, permits were trading at over EUR 25.
Overall in the EU 1785 million tonnes of CO2 were emitted in 2005 against quotas of 1829 Mt, though this does not represent any decrease in emissions. The UK was 33 Mt (16%) over its quota, reflecting the low target set by its government, and a swing back to coal from gas. This means that generators (particularly) will need to purchase permits and pass the cost on to consumers. Germany responded to the ETS debacle by saying it would cancel 10 million excess credits issued last year for 2005-07. For 2006 and 2007, firms exceeding their quota will have to pay EUR 40/tonne for the excess. EU governments are due to submit their proposed emission allocations for 2008-12 in June, against a collective EU target of 8% cut in emissions from 1990 levels.
Meanwhile delegates from 189 countries, including the 35 pledged to emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol, are meeting in Bonn to discuss what will follow the 2008-12 compliance period. A key question is how to bring in major developing country emitters, not to mention the USA. Another is how to provide a clear policy context for investment at least 15 years beyond 2012. With emissions rising significantly in most countries, rigorous targets post 2012 seem unlikely, though without such targets the incentive to invest in nuclear power will be diminished. The World Bank has estimated the 2005 market in CO2 emissions trading as about US$ 10 billion, with 75% of it the ETS.
AFP 10 & 15/5/06, Times 16/5/06, FT 17/5/06 Nucleonics Week 18/5/06, New Scientist 20/5/06.
Power utilities urge emission limits
Two major US utilities have urged Congress to impose mandatory restrictions on CO2 emissions. Exelon and Duke Energy, the two largest utilities, said that both customers and shareholders need greater certainty about future costs, as utilities prepare to spend many billions of dollars on new plant. In Australia a similar call was made by a group of businesses including Origin Energy, calling for a carbon pricing policy which curbed CO2 emissions.
Bloomberg 5/4/06, Australian 10/4/06.
World reactor changes in last two months
China: Lingao 3&4 start const. 1000 MWe ea (late 2005)
China: Qinshan 6&7 start const. 1220 MWe (March-Ap)
China: Tianwan-1 grid connect May 06
Spain: Zorita closed 30/4, 142 MWe
USA: Seabrook 20 MWe uprate to 1193 MWe
From WNA Digest: February - March 2006
A new era for nuclear fuel cycle?
The bold US Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) initiative promises to build on international concerns to limit access to sensitive technologies and further tighten up the international safeguards regime. In January a similar proposal was made by Russia, for a global network of facilities under UN oversight, and in March the USA asked Russia to join the GNEP. Russia has suggested that one of its four major enrichment plants could become part of an international fuel service centre run in conjunction with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). But beyond the USA and Russia, what other countries are likely to come into line with it?
The US announcement was made after a year's preparation and discussions with the UK, France, Russia, Japan and China. In fact all would appear to be prime contenders as "partner nations [which] will develop a fuel services program to provide nuclear fuel to developing nations allowing them to enjoy the benefits of abundant sources of clean, safe nuclear energy in a cost-effective manner in exchange for their commitment to forgo enrichment and reprocessing activities, also alleviating proliferation concerns." The fuel leasing plan envisages supplying enriched fuel for initial use in customer countries before its return, followed by separation and burning of recycled components in the "fuel supplier nations" or "fuel cycle nations".
Those six countries include all five nuclear weapons states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and all are substantially into developing the full fuel cycle. There is thus a significant resonance with Article 4 of the NPT, where "Parties to the Treaty in position to do so shall (contribute) to the further development of the applications of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, especially in the territories of non-nuclear-weapons States." The Japanese response to GNEP has listed all six countries as full "nuclear fuel cycle countries", with all others being no more than nuclear power countries, renouncing acquisition of enrichment and reprocessing technologies.
Regarding technology development to implement GNEP, there is no problem with the front end of the fuel cycle, primarily enriching uranium to prepare the fuel for power reactors - that technology is well known and proven, and most of it is already in those six countries or allied (Germany & Netherlands). The trick will be confining it there. Also the USA has put 17 tonnes of high-enriched uranium into a fuel-assurance bank. While this is equivalent to only about 3500 tonnes of mined uranium or 9% of annual mine production today, it is understood that further releases will follow.
Even at the front end, international safeguards become an issue. For instance, while many nuclear power plants in the five nuclear weapons states are under safeguards, fuel cycle facilities in these countries are sometimes considered dual-status (civil and military - eg for naval use) so would take some sorting out to be safeguarded. The UK, France and USA have all civil nuclear facilities voluntarily under safeguards, Russia has almost nothing thus.
At the back end, considering used fuel and its recycling, the picture is more complex. All of the six countries have experience using the established Purex reprocessing technology (albeit only at pilot scale in China and Japan). All could move to something like the proposed Urex+ process without undue trouble if they decided it was worth it. But the Purex process delivers the plutonium in a form ready to be recycled in normal reactors, and using this is firm policy in some places (eg Europe and Japan), under rigorous safeguards. Particularly in France, established plant is producing valuable fuel from it, and is likely to continue doing so under GNEP.
The Urex+ process is undeveloped, and while its advantages have been strongly put forward by the USA, it is not clear that the five other countries are sufficiently persuaded to make a change. Areva NC has pointed to its 30 years experience with reprocessing, giving it "unique qualifications to bring as a supplier of technology and expertise. We are at the disposal of our American friends to put that competence to work for them." The French Atomic Energy Commission is well advanced in research relevant to Urex+. Following separation of mixed transuranic elements from wastes, new fuel fabrication techniques for these need to be demonstrated.
A corollary of switching to the new reprocessing technology, so that plutonium ends up as part of a mix of heavy elements formed by neutron capture, is that fast neutron reactors will be needed to burn this mix. (Dropping them into a conventional reactor would result in more neutron capture and relatively little fission.) The only commercial scale fast reactors likely to be operating in the next five years are in Russia, Japan and India, though France might extend the life of its old Phenix, and China will have a small fast reactor operating about 2008. GNEP envisages development being under the Generation IV International Forum (GIF). Most of the designs short-listed by GIF for development are fast reactors, and the US focus is on sodium-cooled fast reactors under a collaborative deal with France and Japan under GIF. (see further: US story below)
A significant difference between the US and Russian visions of GNEP relates to reactor technology. The USA sees the normal plant in both fuel cycle supplier and user nations as being the conventional light water type, whereas Russia has suggested a wide move to fast neutron reactors with used fuel being recycled at the reactor site. Any plutonium breeding would be in the core (not a surrounding blanket assembly) so that there was no scope for producing weapons material.
In the USA the Department of Energy is formulating plans for advancing GNEP there, and is seeking expressions of interest regarding sites "suitable for demonstrating advanced recycling technologies". It hopes to start building a Urex+ demonstration reprocessing plant in 2008. There is a suggestion that some of the current partners in the GIF advanced reactor program might be natural partners, along with Russia and China.
NuclearFuel 27/2 & 13/3/06, Platts 22/2/06, 2/3/06, JAIF 24/2/06, DOE GNEP 17/3/06.
US widens nuclear energy strategy
After discussion with the UK, France, Russia, Japan and China, the US government has announced a Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) through which it "will work with other nations possessing advanced nuclear technologies to develop new proliferation-resistant recycling technologies in order to produce more energy, reduce waste and minimize proliferation concerns."
Domestic GNEP goals include reducing US dependence on imported fossil fuels, and expanding the US domestic use of nuclear power by building a new generation of nuclear power plants - incentives for which are already in place. GNEP includes co-operative development of small reactors for developing countries. Two significant new elements in the strategy are new reprocessing technologies which separate all transuranic elements together (and not reactor-grade plutonium on its own) - starting with the laboratory-proven UREX+ process - and Advanced Burner (fast) Reactors (ABR) to consume the result of this while generating power.
Apart from military experience with metal fuel, the USA has some experience with reprocessing oxide fuels - the small West Valley NY plant operated 1966-72, and a 1500 t/yr plant at Barnwell SC was built but not commissioned due to changed government policy. It is now demolished. The French, UK and Japanese oxide fuel reprocessing plants use a process which would need to be adapted for the GNEP strategy. However, it could give these plants a new lease of life. As well as the UREX+ process, GNEP is focused on pyroprocessing which is likely to be more suitable for fast neutron reactor fuels but is much less developed.
An engineering-scale demonstration (ESD) plant for reprocessing is planned for operation from 2011. The 10-25 t/yr ESD is designed to prepare the way for a 2000 t/yr full scale plant. "The US will explore collaboration with fuel supplier nations on the development of these technologies." An important implication of reprocessing, which leaves only fission products as high-level waste, is that the Yucca Mountain repository will be adequate for all wastes from all US (and many other?) reactors for a very long time. The ABR program will build on previous fast neutron reactor experience. ABRs are envisaged as modular units forming gigawatt-sized plants, and design certification of ABR units will be sought. An initial Advanced Burner Test Reactor will be 100-150 MWe to prove the concept and is to be operational about 2014. The second phase by 2023 would be an ABR standard plant consisting of several modules, followed by commercial deployment of such a plant.
Shortly before the GNEP announcement, the US President pointed out the need to replace more than three quarters of US oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. He announced an Advanced Energy Initiative to boost research in clean energy technologies, notably "zero-emission coal-fired power plants", renewables and "clean, safe nuclear energy". He also announced increased research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in hydrogen-powered vehicles - both with implications for nuclear capacity.
White House 31/1/06, US DOE 6/2/06 see also www.gnep.energy.gov.
Major US reactor uprate approved
After the most extensive review it has ever undertaken - over 29 months, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a 20% power uprate for the Vermont Yankee reactor, taking it to 640 MWe capacity. The reactor started up in 1972 and an application for life extension to 2032 is being considered by NRC.
Ux Weekly 6/3/06.
National Academies report on transport
The National Academies have reported on transport of high-level wastes, finding that there are "no fundamental technical barriers to the safe transport of spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive wastes in the US". It said transport by road or rail was low-risk radiologically due to "rigorous international standards and US regulations" on packaging it.
National Academies, 9/2/06 - www.nationalacademies.org
US Academies' report on low-level wastes
The National Research Council of the US National Academies has issued a report on low-activity radioactive wastes. Current US regulation of these is based on the industry which produces them, creating expensive anomalies without any benefit. Such wastes from nuclear facilities are subject to onerous restrictions on handling and disposal, while higher-activity wastes from other sources can go to local landfill. The report called for regulation to be risk-based, consistent and related to international standards which focus on the radiological properties of wastes.
Nucleonics Week 16/3/06.
NRC licenses private central fuel storage
After a 9-year process, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a 20-year licence to Private Fuel Storage (PFS) - a utility consortium - for a 40,000 tonne storage facility in Utah for used nuclear fuel in robust dry casks. The land is owned by the Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians, who have sought the development. Access and logistic issues remain to be resolved before construction of the $168 million facility begins. PFS is now offering the facility to the Department of Energy for use from 2008 pending Yucca Mountain repository opening, suggesting that it would be very much cheaper for DOE than leaving the used fuel at reactor sites. While fuel ownership was to remain with utility customers, the proposal to DOE is that it would take ownership at the reactor site (as was legally required by 1998) and be responsible for moving it to PFS, and ultimately to Yucca Mountain.
Nuclear Fuel 27/2 & 27/3/06.
US industry priorities for used fuel
The Nuclear Energy Institute has outlined US industry priorities in relation to used fuel and the Yucca Mountain repository. NEI has stressed the importance of expediting removal of used fuel from reactor storage to a federal facility, as well as the need to remove the 70,000 tonne political limit on the size of the Yucca Mountain repository. It also pointed out that the 0.1 cent/kWh levy to pay for all waste disposal should be quite adequate, especially as nuclear power output increases in the USA.
NEI Nuclear Energy Overview 27/2/06.
US uranium producers urge hoarding
The Uranium Producers of America has urged the US Department of Energy to retain its current inventories of some 17,700 tU "to ensure national energy security". Most of it is natural uranium (as UF6) supplied to USEC by utilities for toll enrichment and where diluted Russian military uranium has replaced it.
FreshFuel 13/2/06, TradeTech NMR 10/2/06 (cf our paper on Military Warheads as Source of Fuel)
European energy policy proposal takes shape
Against the background of sharply increased energy prices and major interruptions in gas supplies from the east, a discussion paper on achieving Secure, Competitive and Sustainable Energy for Europe has been released in Brussels, with efficiency and diversity as sub themes. While individual states will continue to make their own choices, the scope for cooperation is great. Attention is given to an EU energy grid, maintaining reliable supply of oil and gas, conservation and renewables, strategy to maintain European leadership in energy technology, and a common external policy for energy. In the next 20 years the EU's dependency on imported energy will rise to about 70%, and energy infrastructure will require investment of some EUR 1000 billion.
A major objective of the plan is to achieve 50% of EU energy from secure, low-carbon energy sources within 20 years. However, it was left to industry group Foratom to point out that this meant a major role for nuclear power in the overall mix. The green paper does acknowledge that nuclear energy currently represents "the EU's main source of largely carbon-free energy", as well as being increasingly competitive and enabling security of energy supply.
When the European Parliament voted on economic strategy on 15 March several anti-nuclear amendments were thrown out and a very positive nuclear energy statement adopted. It "Recalls that the EU possesses globally acknowledged expertise in the area of nuclear energy, which is one possible response to energy dependence and climate change" and "Recognises the role that nuclear energy currently plays in maintaining security of electricity supply, constituting a significant part of the energy mix and avoiding an estimated 312 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year."
A week later an overwhelming majority of EU leaders at an EU summit gave strong backing to a revival of nuclear power as means to combat climte change and to reduce a growing dependence on imported energy supplies. A resolution on security of energy supply in the EU "recognises the role that nuclear energy currently plays in some member states maintaining the security of electricity supply as part of energy mix and for avoiding CO2 emissions". An amendment which was negative about nuclear power was rejected. The preamble says that "energy security should be considered as an essential component of the global security concept and has an increasing impact on the overall security of the European Union".
Foratom 8, 17, 21 & 23/3/06, NucNet news #51/06, Guardian 28/3/06.
Russia reiterates fuel cycle plans
As flagged earlier, and in line with the US Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, the head of Rosatom has reiterated that it is prepared to host four types of international nuclear fuel cycle service centers. First, a uranium enrichment centre (which incidentally would provide for Iran's professed concerns) - one of four or five worldwide. The second would be for reprocessing and storage of used nuclear fuel. The third would deal with training and certification of personnel, especially for emerging nuclear states. In this context we would need harmonized international standards, uniform safeguards and joint international centers. The fourth would be for R&D and to integrate new scientific achievements.
Russia sets up floating power plant directorate
Russia's nuclear utility Rosenergoatom has set up a subsidiary to supply floating nuclear power plants (BNPPs) ranging in size from 70 to 600 MWe. The plants are designed by OKBM in collaboration with others. The pilot plant, approved in 2002, is 70 MWe plus heat output and incorporates two KLT-40S reactors based on those in icebreakers. It will be on a 20,000 tonne, 140 x 30 m barge hull, probably built in China. Refuelling interval is 3-4 years on site, and at the end of a 12-year operating cycle the whole plant is returned to a shipyard for overhaul and storage of used fuel, before being returned to service. Cost including coastal facilities and training is US$ 200 million, and Chinese equity will be involved if Russian funding is constrained. The larger end of the BNPP range uses a pair of 325 MWe VBER-300 reactors on a 49,000 tonne barge. Export sales are envisaged.
Nucleonics Week 16/2/06, OKBM.
Slovakia commits to nuclear increase
The Slovak government has approved a long-term energy strategy incorporating ENEL’s 2005 EUR 1.88 billion investment plan after the Italian group acquired 66% of utility Slovenske Electrarne (SE). The strategy includes completion of Mochovce units 3 & 4 (942 MWe gross) by 2011-12 as well as uprates of Mochovce 1 & 2 (62 MWe gross) and uprates of Bohunice 3 & 4 (120 MWe gross).
Energy in East Europe, 3/2/06.
Bids to build Bulgaria's Belene
Two consortia have submitted bids to build the Belene nuclear power plant on the Danube River near Romania. Both have two variants: using the old VVER-1000/320 equipment already on site, and building afresh two AES-92 units as now being built in India, with V-392 reactors. The two reactors would be completed on turnkey basis by 2011 and 2013. One consortium is Atomstroyexport plus Framatome ANP, the other led by Skoda Nuclear Engineering. Earlier, a total cost of EUR 2.7 billion was suggested.
Baltic agreement on new reactor
Following an announcement by the three prime ministers in February, an agreement has been signed by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to conduct a feasibility study for a new nuclear reactor to be built at the Ignalina site in Lithuania and jointly owned. The results are expected in November. Meanwhile the Lithuanian parliament is considering whether to extend the life of Ignalina-2 to about 2016, when the new plant would be operating.
Nucleonics Week 30/3/06
Russia considers power supply to China
Rosenergoatom is reportedly considering building two power plants each with two large reactors in Russia's far east to supply some 30 billion kWh/yr of electricity to China.
Ux Weekly 20/3/06.
French move on high-level waste disposal
France's National Assembly is expected to vote on the Nuclear Materials and Waste Management Program bill in April and the Senate to follow in May or June. This formally declares deep geological disposal as the reference solution for high-level and long-lived radioactive wastes, and sets 2015 as the target date for licensing a repository and 2025 for opening it. The bill also affirms the principle of reprocessing used fuel and using recycled plutonium in mixed oxide (MOX) fuel "in order to reduce the quantity and toxicity" of final wastes, and calls for construction of a prototype fourth-generation reactor by 2020 to test transmutation of long-lived actinides. The cost of the repository is expected to be around EUR 15 billion: 40% construction, 40% operation for 100 years, and 20% ancillary (taxes and insurance). The bill will leave funds for waste management and decommissioning segregated but with the producers rather than in an external fund.
The bill is largely in line with recommendations to government from the National Scientific Assessment Committee following 15 years of research. Their report identified the clay formation at Bure as the best site, but was sceptical of partitioning and transmutation for high-level wastes, and said that used MOX fuel should be stored indefinitely as a plutonium resource for future fast neutron reactors, rather than being recycled now or treated as waste.
Earlier, an international review team reported very positively on the plan by Andra, the French radioactive waste agency, for a deep geological repository complex in clay at Bure.
NuclearFuel 13/2 & 27/3/06, Nucleonics Week 16/3/06.
France flush for decommissioning
Electricité de France will by 2010 have fully funded the eventual decommissioning of its nuclear power plants (from 2035). At present it holds EUR 25 billion segregated for this purpose, and is on track for EUR 35 billion in 2010. Areva has dedicated assets already provided at the level of its future liabilities.
Areva sets sights, renames subsidiaries
Areva has announced that it is aiming for one third of the world nuclear fuel cycle market by 2010. As part of its integration plan its worldwide Cogema subsidiaries became Areva NC, and Framatome ANP became Areva NP from 1 March.
Areva 1 & 8/3/06.
French-Libyan nuclear agreement
The French Atomic Energy Commission has signed a nuclear technology agreement with Libya related to its research reactor and proposed nuclear desalination plants. Libya signed the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency in 2004.
NucNet news #58/06.
ASIA & AFRICA
Next Chinese nuclear plant signed up
China National Nuclear Corporation has signed an agreement with one of the larger utilities, China Huadian Corporation, to build the first two units of the Hui'an nuclear power plant in Fujian province. This has been approved as part of the 11th five-year plan. CNNC will build and operate the plant, and hold the major share of the joint venture. Six units are planned for the geologically-stable coastal site.
Meanwhile the State Council has confirmed that the large advanced PWR and the high temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTR) are two high priority projects for the next 15 years. The former will depend on "Sino-foreign cooperation, in order to master international advanced technology on nuclear power and develop a Chinese third-generation large PWR". This will presumably flow from the (delayed) contracts for Sanmen and Yangjiang plants. The HTR project starts with the 200 MWe demonstration HTR-PM project at Weihei to pave the way for "a complete set" of 18 of them.
CNNC 15 & 22/2/06, cf Newsletter #1/06.
New Japanese reactor starts commercial operation
The second unit at Hokuriku Electric's Shika nuclear power plant has started commercial operation, having being connected to the grid in July. It is a 1358 MWe advanced boiling water reactor - Japan's 4th third-generation unit.
UN Security Council challenges Iran
The 15-member UN Security Council on 29 March unanimously approved a resolution demanding of Iran "full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA" within 30 days. "The Security Council noted with serious concern that the IAEA Director General’s report of 27 February listed a number of outstanding issues, including topics which could have a military nuclear dimension, and that the Agency was unable to conclude that there were no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran." Iran has threatened that any UN sanctions would cause it to withhold oil supplies - about 5% of world total. The issue has come to a head after nearly 20 years of Iran flouting safeguards obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, independently of Russia building and fuelling Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr.
UNSC 29/3/06, Australian 31/3/06.
Ontario power dilemma
Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) has warned that Toronto power supplies will be threatened if the government proceeds with an election promise to close down coal-fired generating capacity by 2009. Its report said that "prudence" requires that coal stations totalling 6500 MWe - almost one fifth of the province's capacity - be kept in operation. The IESO says that maintaining reliable supply is a "challenging and complex task" requiring not only new sources of energy but a major restructuring of the entire power system. Meanwhile the 1975 MWe Lambton plant should be kept open or on standby after its planned shutdown by the end of 2007 and the dirtier 3920 MWe Nanticoke plant should be kept in operation, the report said.
A C$ 757 million contract to build a new 880 MWe gas combined cycle plant at Brampton in greater Toronto has been let to SNC-Lavalin by Sithe Global Power LLC which has a 20-year sales agreement with Ontario Power Authority. Its gas turbine part will bring 600 MWe of peaking capacity on line in mid 2007, with the steam turbine adding the balance a year later. (SNC-Lavalin is also replacing the steam generators at Bruce A nuclear plant, with units 1&2 there due on line 2009-10.) More recently a C$ 700 million 550 MWe gas-fired plant was approved for Portlands, on the Toronto waterfront.
Public hearings focused on a report by the Ontario Power Authority recommending spending up to $40-billion on nuclear power development took place in February.
Globe & Mail 3 & 14/2/06, Toronto Star 3/2/06.
Canadian team to offer new plants
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) has teamed up with four other nuclear technology and engineering companies to offer new nuclear power plants in Ontario. With Babcock & Wilcox Canada, General Electric Canada, Hitachi Canada and SNC-Lavalin Nuclear it will offer fixed-price nuclear power plants on a turnkey basis. Initially these will be the well-proven 700 MWe Candu 6 units, but later the new third-generation 1200 MWe ACR-1000 will be an option. The provincial government is to release a new energy plan in April.
Canadian uranium production
Canada's 2005 uranium production totalled 13,713 t U3O8 (11,628 tU). McArthur River had to constrain output to its licensed level of 8491 t U3O8 (7200 tU), and has applied for an increase in that to 10,000 t/yr. Rabbit Lake provided 2732 t U3O8 (2316 tU) and McClean Lake 2490 t U3O8 (2112 tU). Its 2006 production is expected to be lower due to lower grades and expansion of the mill to prepare for Cigar Lake ore in 2007. The C$ 520 million Cigar Lake project is on schedule to start production in 2007.
Cameco 31/1/06, NuclearFuel 30/1/06.
Movement at Midwest mine
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has begun environmental assessment of the Midwest project, including new mine, 15 km haul road to McClean Lake mill, and expansion of the mill. Cogema Resources Inc (now Areva NC) plans to produce 2600 t/yr U3O8 from Midwest. The planned open pit mine was originally to be underground, utilising ground freezing and water jet boring. Reserves are 16,000 t U3O8 at average grade 4.4%. Areva NC holds 69% of the project with Denison 25% and OURD Canada 6%.
Record Australian uranium production
Reflecting 15% higher output from Ranger, Australia's 2005 production of 11,222 tonnes U3O8 (9516 tU) was a record. Ranger produced 5910 t U3O8 (5012 tU), Olympic Dam 4335 t U3O8 (4359 t UOC, 3676 tU) and Beverley 977 t U3O8 (828 tU). Exports of 12,360 t U3O8 yielded A$ 573 million.
ERA 1/2/06, BHPB, Heathgate, DITR.
Australian uranium merger
Oxiana Ltd and Minotaur Exploration Ltd have merged their uranium exploration interests in the Gawler and Cunamona cratons of South Australia in a new company: Toro Energy Ltd. Toro has raised A$ 18 million (US$ 13.4 M) through a fully-underwritten and vastly oversubscribed IPO, with parent companies each retaining about 25%.
Oxiana + Minotaur 2/2/06.
India-US agreement parallels NPT
India and the USA have signed an agreement which is designed to put India on the same basis as China in relation to international trade in nuclear technology and materials. For trade with the USA, Congress needs to ratify it, and for wider trade, the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) must agree. Legislation authorizing the US nuclear agreement with India is under consideration in the US Senate and House of Representatives. Both the House and Senate bills will be debated by the House International Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before being voted on in May or June. The issue will then be taken to the NSG.
The IAEA Director General welcomed the agreement as "an important step towards satisfying India's growing need for energy, including nuclear technology and fuel, as an engine for development." At the same time "It would bring India closer as an important partner in the non-proliferation regime," he said. "It would also be a step towards the universalization of the international safeguards regime" and "timely for ongoing efforts to consolidate the non-proliferation regime, combat nuclear terrorism and strengthen nuclear safety."
The agreement relates to implementation of an earlier in-principle one reached mid 2005, and involves some separation of military and civil nuclear facilities, with the latter being placed under international safeguards. India has 15 operating nuclear power reactors plus 8 more under construction, one of them a fast-breeder. It also has 5 operating research reactors - two very large ones - apparently run as military plutonium producers, and one a 40 MWt fast-breeder. These two fast-breeder units would be excluded from safeguards, but future "civil" fast breeders would be included. Of the current reactors and those under construction, 14 would be covered by safeguards. At present only four units are under safeguards, plus two of those under construction - all foreign-supplied under arrangements predating the NPT. The further eight to go under safeguards had not been identified as of 30 March.
While neither Australia nor Canada will relax embargoes to sell uranium, Russia, France, Japan and UK support the US diplomatic moves. China's position is not clear - it is reported as opposing it. In February a nuclear energy cooperation agreement was signed by France and India, though it depends on the US initiative to proceed. Russia then expanded its nuclear cooperation agreement with India and will resume supplying enriched fuel for the two small Tarapur reactors - initially 60 tonnes. These were built by GE in the 1960s and are operated under IAEA safeguards. In 2004 Russia deferred to the NSG and declined to supply further fuel for them. They have been undergoing six months refurbishment over 2005-06.
Pakistan has indicated a desire for a similar agreement, with China if not the USA, but both the NSG and the USA have indicated that they would not relax trade rules for Pakistan in the light of its track record. India's record of avoiding any export of nuclear material or technology is consistent with Article 1 of the NPT and stands in sharp contrast to Pakistan's role as a wholesale proliferator contributing to the failure of Iran and North Korea to abide by their NPT commitments.
India's different status to China arises from the fact that its first nuclear explosion was in 1974, just after the NPT came into operation, whereas China got in as a weapons state, hence without any stigma on account of its military nuclear program. By virtue of missing the boat India has been faced with the prospect of either staying outside the NPT (as it has done) or abandoning its weapons program. Its assessment of regional security needs means it has maintained the weapons program as a high priority.
NucNet news #48/06, Nucleonics Week 2, 16, 23 & 30/3/06, AP & Reuters 2/3/06.
Toshiba to share Westinghouse
Toshiba's winning $5.4 billion bid to buy Westinghouse from BNFL envisages only 51% ownership, the balance being shared with other companies. Marubini is reported to be likely to take 20% and the US Shaw Group 5%. The Toshiba share will be funded from cash flow.
Nucleonics Week 2/2 & 30/3/06.
Mexico plans new power reactors
The Federal Electricity Commission plans to construct a new US$4 billion nuclear power plant by 2020 at the latest to help meet Mexico’s rising electricity demand, now growing 4% annually. The Commission is also spending US$150 million on uprating both 675 MWe reactors at its Laguna Verde plant, currently generating about 5% of the country’s electricity.
TradeTech NMR 17/3/06.
2005 Reactor changes:
In 2005, there was a net increase in world nuclear power capacity on line of 2926 MWe. Changes to reactor status included the grid connection of Japan's Higashidori-1 (1067 MWe) and Shika-2 (1358 MWe), India's Tarapur-4 (490 MWe) and also Canada's Pickering-1 (515 MWe) after refurbishment; the start of commercial operation for Higashidori-1 and Hamaoka-5 (1380 MWe) in Japan and South Korea's Ulchin-6 (960 MWe); the closure of Obrigheim (340 MWe) and Barseback-2 (602 MWe); construction start (first concrete) of Olkiluoto-3 (1600 MWe) and Chashma-2 (300 MWe) and uprates totalling 337 MWe in USA, 81 MWe in Sweden and 20 MWe in Finland.
Wind goes forward in 2005
World wind generating capacity surged 25% in 2005, to 59 GWe. Much of this is in Europe (41 GWe), but the most rapid growth was in Asia, Australia, Canada and Egypt.
World reactor changes in last two months
USA: Vermont Yankee uprate by 110 MWe
From WNA Digest: January 2006
Energy policy captive to wishful thinking
The last few years have seen several national energy policy documents attempt to grapple with the need to diminish carbon dioxide emissions, cater for future growth and replace geriatric electricity generation plant. But most have been populist rather than pragmatic or even principled in any intelligent sense, and so we have extravagant projections of what renewables are supposed to contribute, regardless of their intrinsic limitations. Wishful thinking has prevailed over workable solutions.
For instance the UK's 2003 energy White Paper was designed to set policy for decades ahead, and was launched with much fanfare about the target of achieving 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. The priority was to strengthen the contribution of energy efficiency and renewables, with £1 billion per year being poured into the latter to attempt to reach the target of 10% of power by 2012, despite acknowledged uncertain outcome. This was widely seen as a populist policy which ignores a number of practicalities, notably the need for base-load power - continuous, reliable supply on a large scale. The importance of energy security was ignored in complacent reliance on gas.
Recent public opinion polls in UK and elsewhere have shown that most people believe that the way forward is primarily with energy efficiency and renewables. It matters not whether these hopes and wishes are realistic, or even achievable at any price. That has not stopped weak governments from echoing them in policy however.
Environmental groups have been foremost in asserting that the use of renewables, particularly sun and wind, is morally superior to using what is in the Earth's crust, and is also practical on the scale required. Those who wished that to be true have lent their weight to public opinion.
In a recent Eurobarometer survey Attitudes towards Energy, 48% said that they would prefer to meet their needs from solar energy and 31% from wind power, while only12% preferred nuclear power. The issue of practicality was not canvassed, though other surveys show a steadily increasing European public acceptance on nuclear over the last decade, driven by consideration of energy security and greenhouse gas emissions in the context of pragmatic realism. Another Eurobarometer survey shows a marked difference between the small countries with no direct experience of nuclear power and those with a well established nuclear capacity, which generally have a majority in favour of it. A significant finding from this mid 2005 survey was that three times as many EU citizens now agree that a major virtue of nuclear power is its low greenhouse gas emissions (62%, up from 21% in 2002).
Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, recently spoke out on environmentalist influence on energy policies at a Canadian conference. "It's the environmental movement that is actually a major obstacle to the realistic achievement of carbon dioxide reductions around the world because they oppose all reasonable alternatives (to fossil fuels) including nuclear energy. We need not 440 nuclear reactors, but maybe 5000 … to really make a dent in (consumption of) fossil fuels." "Greenpeace says we can phase out fossil fuels and nuclear energy and not build any more hydro dams, and do the whole thing with windmills and solar panels. Not possible."
With reference to consultation on the latest version of UK energy policy, the Chemical Industries Association said that the UK needed "a clear and concise energy policy" which "gave nuclear energy full consideration" and "demonstrated realism about the potential offered by renewable energy". It called for "a sensible mix of energy sources, minimizing dependence on imports." On both the potential for renewables and on energy security, the industry is concerned to see UK policy get past the wishful thinking of recent years which has resulted in soaring energy prices and increasingly insecure supplies.
The issue is thus the extent to which individuals in many countries balance their wishful thinking with a sense of what is needed to provide reliably for their energy needs. The recent gas supply situation in Europe has focused attention on the need for realism concerning sources of gas and electricity, and at a geopolitical level, on energy security more broadly.
Regina Leader-Post 19/1/06, Foratom 25/1/06.
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.
Ukraine gas dispute chills Europe
Russian gas supplier Gazprom briefly cut off Ukraine's supply of natural gas in a dispute over pricing, when it sought to raise prices fourfold. Europe imports about a quarter of its gas from Russia, and 80% of this transits Ukraine en route from Siberia. EU dependence on Russian gas is expected to increase substantially to three quarters of its needs by 2020, and Gazprom's action has focused attention on the corresponding vulnerability involved for most of Europe - notably Germany, France, Italy and in future, UK - as North Sea reserves decline. Russia has become increasingly explicit about using its energy resources as a foreign policy tool.
Gazprom increased the price to Ukraine - the world's sixth largest consumer of natural gas - from US$ 50 to $230 per 1000m3. This is in line with average prices charged to European customers, and in accord with EU insistence that CIS subsidies be phased out. A condition of Russia's World Trade Organisation accession is that Russian domestic gas prices double by 2010, and other CIS prices from Gazprom are already $110-125, with only Belarus boasting of $47 as a "reward for loyalty". A compromise deal means that Ukraine for the time being pays only half the increase due to trade-off with cheaper Turkmenistan gas. Low gas prices have allowed and entrenched great inefficiencies in use.
When OPEC quadrupled the price of oil in the early 1970s it had a major impact on energy policies in the developed world, including substantial development of nuclear power. Some commentators are suggesting that a similar effect is likely now, making energy security a prime consideration. Following the Russian-Ukrainian gas dispute the EU's Energy Commissioner vowed to make securing energy supplies his priority and said that the EU should consider greater power diversity and ensure a strong internal energy market.
FT 2 & 5/1/05, Australian 3 & 5/1/06, Spectator 4/1/06.
UK energy debate kicks off
The UK government has launched a public consultation, soliciting views on medium and long-term energy policy issues to be considered by its 2006 Energy Review, commissioned in the light of concern about impending energy shortages with corresponding high prices, longer-term security of supply, and the need to tackle climate change more effectively. The 2003 White Paper on energy is looking increasingly inadequate for UK's electricity future, with its reliance on gas and renewables. Gas is becoming unaffordable and imports of it are insecure and uncertain, while renewables deliver little, at high cost.
The review is expected to confirm the need for urgent investment in new base-load capacity, which in the context of UK's Kyoto commitments will inevitably be nuclear. The need for "further options" such as nuclear power to deliver non-carbon base-load power is increasingly obvious. Carbon sequestration in relation to a return to using coal is another option, albeit further out. However, to finance new base-load plant, some form of long-term power purchase agreements will be needed at around 3p/kWh (US 5.3c/kWh), which looks increasingly attractive in the light of present high prices.
Industry sources have pointed out that the UK has the highest gas prices in Europe and the second highest electricity prices after Italy, so manufacturing is increasingly uncompetitive. The Chemical Industries Association, representing UK's most energy-intensive sector, said the country needed "a clear and concise energy policy" which "gave nuclear energy full consideration" and which "does not unilaterally put UK manufacturing out of business."
Meanwhile the Health & Safety Executive has been asked to report to the Energy Review on potential risks associated with new energy developments, and its Nuclear Installations Inspectorate will advise on "the potential for pre-licensing assessments of candidate designs" of new reactors, similar to the rigorous US design certification procedure. This then means that only site considerations need to be assessed in any proposal for a new plant.
A November MORI public opinion poll (N=2035) shows that the main environmental issue of concern to Britons is global warming. While renewables are still seen as the most important sources for the future, 59% of Britons expect nuclear energy to be part of their future supply, though only 41% support construction of new nuclear power plants to maintain this (with 28% opposed to new construction). On energy security, 76% are concerned about increased reliance on imported gas for electricity generation.
A November survey YouGov (N=2041) for Deloitte showed that 62% of Britons would support replacing UK's nuclear capacity along with increased emphasis on renewables, though only 36% (55% male, 19% female) support nuclear on its own. The survey showed a low level of awareness regarding sources of future generation, with 35% expecting the majority of UK power to be from renewables in 15 years time. Only 11% said they would be prepared to pay significantly (15%) more for power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, though 92% thought the government should do more to find ways to reduce those emissions form power generation. The main public concern with nuclear (52%) related to wastes.
A poll on the UK Institution of Electrical Engineers web site (N=1010) showed 52% support for nuclear power to "plug the energy gap to 2020" plus 26% opting for a balanced mix including nuclear. A corresponding 74% said "nuclear generation is necessary to cut carbon emissions".
FT 30/11/05 & 27/1/06, MORI 1/12/05, Deloitte 2/12/05, Utility Week 16/12/05, IEE, DTI 23/1/06, Platts 23/1/06.
French eagerness for next generation reactors
The French President has announced that the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) is to embark upon designing a prototype Generation IV reactor to be operating in 2020, bringing forward the timeline for this by some five years. France has been pursuing three Gen IV technologies: gas-cooled fast reactor, sodium-cooled fast reactor, and very high temperature reactor (gas-cooled). While Areva has been working on the last, the main interest in it has been in the USA, as well as South Africa and China. CEA is likely to focus on the fast reactors on the basis that they will produce less waste and will better exploit uranium resources, including the 220,000 tonnes of depleted uranium and some reprocessed uranium stockpiled in France.
If the CEA embarks on the sodium-cooled design, there is plenty of experience to draw on and they would go straight to a demonstration plant - the main innovation would be substituting gas for water as the intermediate coolant. If the gas-cooled fast reactor is selected, that is entirely new and would require a small prototype as first step - the form of its fuel would need to be unique. Neither would operate at a high enough temperature for hydrogen production, so pursuing either of them would leave the very high temperature R&D to the USA and east Asia. The CEA's current plan is to spend about EUR 40 million per year on Gen IV R&D, about half of this on the gas-cooled design, but the new emphasis will require a considerable increase in budget, even with some foreign involvement.
Nucleonics Week 12/1/06
Dutch confirm life extension for nuclear plant
The Dutch government has confirmed that EPZ's Borssele nuclear power reactor will be allowed to run until 2033, giving it a 20-year life extension to 60 years. However, under a proposed covenant yet to be approved by parliament, the operator must contribute EUR 250 million to sustainable energy projects - conservation, clean fossil energy and renewables - matched by the same sum from government over the next eight years. The objective is to double the CO2 saving from operation of Borssele. In addition, the atomic energy act will be amended to simplify licensing procedures and issue new plant licences for 40 years, setting the stage for revival of nuclear power in Netherlands.
Nucleonics Week 12/1/06.
Common EU energy policy proposed
As the EC prepares to outline a common energy strategy to member states, France has put forward a proposal for a common EU energy policy which would integrate nuclear power into a coordinated response to supply and environmental threats. This coincides with energy policy discussions in several EU countries. The French proposal highlights the strategically important role of nuclear energy.
Nucleonics Week 26/1/06.
ASIA & AFRICA
Toshiba to buy Westinghouse
Toshiba has bid almost US$ 5 billion to buy Westinghouse from BNFL, more than doubling the price predicted earlier due to what Toshiba called "the tremendous growth potential" of the business. The US-based nuclear reactor and fuel fabrication company was bought by BNFL in 1998 for $1.2 billion. Its reactor designs derive from early nuclear submarines and equip more than half the world's nuclear power plants. Toshiba's bid won over those from GE and Mitsubishi, though the former is a partner with Toshiba in new Japanese BWR plants, and the latter a partner with Westinghouse in developing new PWR plants and in its bid for new units in China. The sale places Toshiba in a strong position for the future in China. The US Shaw Group is reported to be a partner in the deal, which will reassure US government interests.
FT 24/1/06, Nucleonics Week 26/1/06.
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.
South Korea flags power uprates
Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co Ltd (KHNP) has applied for power uprates on Yonggwang units 1 & 2 and Kori units 3 & 4 of 5.0% and 3.5% respectively. The regulatory decision will depend a safety evaluation of design margins in the steam supply system. Periodic safety reviews have been carried out on both plants, and the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety is still reviewing one of them - a 12-month process. A 15 year licence extension for Kori-1, KHNP's oldest unit, is also envisaged.
Nucleonics Week 5/1/06.
Asia-Pacific Climate Partnership kicks off
The inaugural meeting of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate (AP6) was held in Sydney during January. It draws together Japan, China, India, South Korea, USA and Australia, together accounting for about half the world's CO2 emissions, energy consumption, GDP and population. The group set up eight taskforces to pursue technological means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions in areas such as power generation, aluminium, steel and cleaner use of fossil fuels including geosequestration of carbon dioxide.
The final communiqué indirectly acknowledged the growing role of renewables and nuclear power but said that "It is critical that we work together to develop, demonstrate and implement cleaner and lower emissions technologies that allow for the continued economic use of fossil fuels while addressing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions." The USA and Australia have committed some US$ 350 million to AP6 projects over several years.
The AP6 is not promulgating or working within any overall mandatory emission targets. However, for the deployment of any technology to avoid emissions from fossil fuels an economic incentive will be required, which in many cases may mean an international emissions trading scheme or carbon taxes.
Environmental awareness high
The latest data - mostly 2005 - from Roy Morgan International shows that Australia and UK lead the USA in environmental consciousness. Australians (89%) and Britons (85%) agree that 'If we don't act now we'll never control our environmental problems' while they disagree that 'Threats to the environment are exaggerated' (73% of Australians, 71% of Britons). These responses were higher than those of Americans (75% & 65% respectively). N=23,500 in Australia, 5300 in UK, 4000 in USA.
Roy Morgan 20/1/06.
World reactor changes
USA Palo Verde 1 & 3: uprate each 43 MWe net to 1313 Nov