from WNA Digests: December 2008
Progress Energy signs up new reactorsAt the end of December Westinghouse and Shaw signed an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract with Progress Energy Florida to build two 1105 MWe (net) AP1000 units on a greenfield site in Levy county, Florida. The contract is for $7.65 billion ($3462/kW), of an overall project cost of about $14 billion, including land, inflation, site preparation, mechanical draft cooling towers, licensing, financing costs and fuel. A further $3 billion will be required for transmission infrastructure. Cooling make-up water would be drawn from the Cross Florida Barge Canal. The reactors would go on line over 2016-18. A final decision to build will be made when NRC issues a construction and operating licence for the project, about 2012. When the new nuclear units are operational, the company will retire the two oldest coal-fired units at its Crystal River site nearby. This will reduce the company's CO2 emissions by more than 5 million tonnes per year.
Progress Energy 5/1/09.
Constellation accepts EdF bid for nuclear wingMajor US utility Constellation Energy has accepted the Electricité de France (EdF) $4.5 billion bid for half of its nuclear power business – more than 60% of its production. This considerably raised its earlier offer when it outbid by 30% the $4.7 billion offered by MidAmerican Energy Holdings for the whole company. The new bid almost doubles the MidAmerican offer which is thus terminated. As an advance payment to buying the 49.99% share in Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, EdF Development (a subsidiary of EdF) will provide a $1 billion cash injection. The deal will give EdF a major foothold in the USA, with the share of 3994 MWe net at Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, and Nine Mile Point and Ginna in New York. All the five reactors have been granted 20-year licence extensions, and the deal values them at about $2250/kWe net, but including fuel. (The NY plants were bought by Constellation for $533/kW without fuel in that price earlier in the decade.)
EdF already owns 9.5% of Constellation itself, and has committed $975 million to the UniStar Nuclear Energy joint venture which it set up with Constellation to build, own and operate a fleet of US-EPR units in North America "with the … objective of leading the nuclear renaissance in the USA". Three new build licence applications so far involve it. EdF and Constellation are now reported to be inviting Exelon to join that Unistar endeavour, since Exelon is having second thoughts about the ESBWR technology it was intending to use for its new twin-unit plant in Texas. WNN 3 & 17/12/08.
Further US licence extensionThe Nuclear Regulatory Commission has granted Progress Energy a 20-year extension to the operating licence of the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in North Carolina, taking it to 2046. This brings the US total for renewals to 51. Progress Energy has applied to build and operate two new AP1000 reactors at the same site.
Government to dispose of excess uranium stocksThe US Department of Energy has announced plans to put a large part of its uranium holdings on the market. The excess totals some 59,000 tonnes of natural uranium equivalent, plus 4461 tonnes of off-spec material of dubious value and not included in disposal figures. Disposal would take place over the next decade in a range of forms: low-enriched uranium blended down from weapons material and suitable for use as reactor fuel; historic depleted uranium (over 0.35% U-235) as uranium hexafluoride ready for enrichment in modern plants; and natural uranium as hexafluoride or oxide. The last is from a stockpile of uranium originally purchased by US utilities and exchanged under the 1993 agreement whereby Russian blended-down weapons uranium is supplied to them instead of actual enrichment services, so it is effectively Russian-origin. The surplus in this category is 12,440 tU.
The DOE plan shows a total of 22,700 tonnes of uranium entering global markets before the end of FY2017. This means up to 1920 tU/yr to a total of 15,000 tU, plus 7700 tU from Russian-origin stocks which will be supplied for the first cores of newly-built reactors in the USA over 2010-15. The DOE will maintain a uranium reserve of 670 tonnes of low-enriched uranium - equivalent to about 20 power reactor reloads - for energy security reasons.
WNN 17/12/08, Ux Weekly 22/12/08.
Review of high-level waste optionsWith development of the Yucca Mountain high-level waste repository in Nevada many years behind schedule and facing further political hurdles, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has recommended that the repository be much expanded. The report is a scheduled one under the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, and addresses the 70,000 tonne limit on repository size under that Act. There is already more waste than that ready to go into it, and the amount is increasing at 2000 t per year. It outlines three options: find a second repository site, aim to store wastes indefinitely at reactor sites, or increase the size at Yucca Mt, there being scope for up to nine times the amount.
The further uncertainty in the US scene is that policy is changing towards reprocessing used fuel, so that about 97% of its content is recycled. This would mean that the Yucca Mountain repository as presently designed would easily accommodate all US high-level wastes through most of this century. But there is no agreement yet on how reprocessing will proceed. Under new standard contracts with DOE, proponents of new reactor construction must undertake to store used fuel on site indefinitely, so that DOE does not become liable for delays.
Areva sets up UK partnershipsWith two utilities committed to building its large EPR nuclear reactors in the UK, Areva has set up a dual partnership with two "flagship" UK engineering companies: Balfour Beatty and Rolls Royce. The three will work together to rejuvenate the UK supply chain, ultimately qualifying a pool of UK suppliers, and establish the most cost-effective way of delivering new nuclear capacity in UK. They will also address skills development. In all this they will work with EdF-British Energy and E.On, which on the same day announced that it had committed with Areva and Siemens to build two EPRs in UK, with the possibility of more. EdF-BE has plans to build four 1600 MWe EPRs at Sizewell C and Hinkley Point C, to contribute 13% of UK electricity in the early 2020s. Areva expects 20-25 GWe of new nuclear plant to be built in UK. The UK Energy and Climate Change minister welcomed the developments, saying that the UK "needs to introduce massive changes in the way it produces energy", and that it could learn a lot from France's situation.
Prospect of Spanish uranium mining revivalAustralian-based Berkeley Resources has acquired the rights to a major share of mine production from Spain's main uranium province. State-owned ENUSA mined the Salamanca area for three decades and closed the mill in 2003. Berkeley already holds JORC-compliant resources of 6500 tU in the area and is aiming to prove up at least 25,000 tU more under the agreement with ENUSA. An 18-month feasibility study will determine whether the EUR 20 million option for 90% of the assets and uranium production is exercised. The deal also takes in the Quercus mill.
New Chinese nuclear plants start buildingConstruction of the six-unit Yangjiang nuclear power plant has started. It is being built by Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, using the 1080 MWe CPR-1000 units of largely Chinese design. Commercial operation of the first unit is expected in 2013, with the last of six coming on line in 2017. Total cost is put at CNY 70 billion ($10.1 billion, $1560 per kilowatt). Yangjiang was to have been a site for imported nuclear power reactors, but these were assigned elsewhere so that an early start could be made in meeting power needs here.
Construction of China National Nuclear Corporation's Fangjiashan plant near Qinshan also started in December, with the same CPR-1000 reactors to be used. This means that a total of six CPR-1000 reactors started construction in China last year, making eleven units actually under construction at year end, total about 11,000 MWe. At least ten more units, and maybe up to 15, are due to start construction in 2009, including the first western AP1000 and EPRs.
WNN 17 & 29/12/08.
South Korean nuclear export pitchSouth Korea has concluded two agreements which position the country's nuclear industry for significant exports. One is with the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission for Korea Electric Power Corp (KEPCO, parent company of KHNP) to carry out site selection and a feasibility study on nuclear power and desalination projects. KEPCO and Doosan are reported to be ready to offer Jordan their OPR-1000 nuclear reactor.
The other agreement is with the Philippines, where the National Power Corporation announced that it would commission Korea Electric Power Corp to conduct an 18-month feasibility study on commissioning the 620 MWe Bataan nuclear power plant, which has never run. This year an IAEA mission advised the government that Bataan-1 could be refurbished then economically and safely operated for 30 years. Refurbishment is estimated to cost $800 million.
Chubu to write off two old reactors and build new
Japan's Chubu Electric Power Company has decided to write off its two oldest reactors at Hamaoka and build a new one there. Modifying the two 1970s units to new seismic standards would be uneconomic, and it has opted for a US$ 1.7 billion write-down instead. The 540 and 840 MWe units, which have been shut down for several years, are to replaced by a single new one to start operating in 2018. The other three Hamaoka reactors have been upgraded to new seismic standards. The newest unit is an ABWR which started up four years ago. Hamaoka is Chubu's only nuclear site, though the company said that it recognizes that nuclear needs to be a priority for both "stable power supply" and environment.
WNN 22/12/08. (NB this came into formal effect in 2009, which is reflected in IAEA stats)
India-Russia nuclear agreementA civil nuclear cooperation agreement has been signed between Indian and Russian heads of state and also between India's Department of Atomic Energy and Russia's Rosatom Corp. This allows implementation of a January 2007 agreement for Atomstroyexport to supply four more nuclear reactors for the Kudankulam site, where two Russian 1000 MWe reactors are near completion. The new units will be the larger 1200 MWe AES-2006 versions of the same, and will be built by Indian contractors under Russian supervision. Also the supply of fuel for the small Tarapur power plant built by GE in the 1960s will now be assured, under a $700 million contract.
Trade missions descend on IndiaFollowing the opening of trade possibilities with India, both US and Japanese nuclear industry trade missions are visiting. A delegation of over 50 senior executives representing more than 30 commercial nuclear companies was to visit New Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai early December, as a similar Japanese delegation departed. However, this has been deferred to January due to the Mumbai attack. The head of Russia's Rosatom has also visited very recently, and a long-anticipated agreement to supply four more Russian 1000 MWe reactors is due to be signed on 5 December. While the focus of the US and Japanese visits is on major sales of western reactors, trade in nuclear hardware is potentially two-way, and India's heavy manufacturing sector is gearing up accordingly. India has firm plans for 20 GWe nuclear by 2020 – a sixfold increase, and ambitions of up to 500 GWe nuclear by 2050.
WNN 25/11 & 5/12/08.
Areva to supply uranium for IndiaFollowing a deal with Russia's Rosatom early in December for continued fuel supply for the two small Tarapur reactors, Areva has agreed to supply 300 tonnes of uranium to the National Power Corporation (NPCIL) for its other plants. This represents about 30% of the country's annual requirements, which are expected to double in the next five years. For some time India's 17 nuclear plants have been running at about half capacity due to shortage of fuel, and the new agreements will allow full capacity operation from mid 2009. Longer-term uranium supply contracts with Areva and Rosatom are envisaged. Areva is also aiming to sell up to six large EPR reactors for Jaitapur, a new site on the west coast.
South Africa cancels nuclear plansA new nuclear power program was to start with up to 4 GWe of PWR capacity to be built from about 2010, with the first unit commissioned in 2016. The Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) expected nuclear capacity to increase to about 27 GWe, supplying 30% of electricity, by 2030, including 12 new large PWR units and an initial set of 24 PBMRs. However, in December Eskom announced that it would not proceed with either of the bids from Areva and Westinghouse, for two EPR or three AP1000 reactors respectively, due to lack of finance. The government confirmed a delay of several years. The revised projection for nuclear increase is that the next plants will come on line in 2019, and 6000 MWe might be operating by 2025.
Feasibility study ticks Saskatechewan nuclear plantBruce Power has completed its feasibility study into the use of nuclear energy in Saskatchewan and has concluded that nuclear energy could contribute 1000 MWe to the Canadian province's generation mix by 2020. The company will now consider possible sites and negotiate with Saskpower regarding distribution, and how a new plant will fit with its plans for another nuclear plant in neighbouring Alberta.
Bruce Power 27/11/08.
EdF outlines grand plansElectricité de France (EdF) plans to invest up to EUR 50 billion in new nuclear power plants worldwide by 2020. The company's net financing requirements over that period will be between €12 and €20 billion, given the involvement of partners in projects in France, China, the USA and possibly the UK. Italy is also in view.
Areva-Mitsubishi fuel partnershipMitsubishi has set up a new nuclear fuel fabrication company with Areva, which will hold a 30% share. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) holds 35% and two other Mitsubishi entities the balance. The existing Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Co. plant will be restructured as the core of the new enterprise. The company expects some $5500 million annual sales in Japan by 2020, supplying both uranium and mixed oxide fuel. It plans to build a new uranium fuel fabrication plant in the USA. The new venture is based on an agreement signed in April and is congruent with the Atmea joint venture where Areva and MHI are collaborating on the design of a new 1100 MWe PWR reactor.
World reactor changes in December 2008 or priorJapan: Hamaoka 1 & 2 closed, 1321 MWe Dec
Slovakia: Bohunice 3 closed, 408 MWe Dec
China: Yangjiang 1 construction start 1080 MWe
China: Fangjiashan 1 construction start 1080 MWe
Russia: Novovoronezh II-1 construction start 1170 MWe 6/08
S.Korea: Shin Wolsong 2 construction start 1000 MWe 9/08
S.Korea: Shin Kori 3 construction start 1350 MWe 10/08
From WNA Digests October - November 2008
OECD's global nuclear Outlooks
Five recent authoritative outlook reports all project greatly increased nuclear energy contribution to meeting world needs.
The 2008 edition of the OECD International Energy Agency's (IEA) World Energy Outlook projects an 85% increase in nuclear power capacity to 680 GWe by 2030, supplying double today's nuclear output, if climate change concerns are addressed with determination. In launching the report in November, the IEA Executive Director said that "current trends in energy supply and consumption are unsustainable - environmentally, economically and socially," and called for major change.
The IEA Outlook report in its low-carbon scenario also projects an enormous growth in non-hydro renewables for power generation – by 1469 GWe above the present low levels. It is obvious that should this increase in capacity not be feasible, or should it not be cost-effective nor deliver the reliable supply to meet demand, then the nuclear outlook may be much larger than the 391 GWe of capacity additions tabulated.
Most growth in electricity demand to 2030 occurs outside the OECD.
In the policy scenario which holds atmospheric CO2 levels to 450 ppm, OECD and other EU counties reduce CO2 emissions by almost 40% relative to 2006 levels, other major economies reduce them by about 20%, and the carbon emission price rises to $180/tonne CO2. CO2 emissions from power generation rise from 11.4 Gt in 2006 but after peaking about 2020, fall to 8.3 Gt in 2030 (cf 18 Gt in reference scenario) due to increased use of nuclear power, renewables and coal with carbon capture and storage (CCS).
For the 450 ppm scenario, significant change occurs in the transport sector. Electricity use for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles increases to save over 370 Mt of oil in 2030 – more than the EU currently uses for transport, but this is not quantified in electric terms. There is a major benefit in energy security. Oil and gas imports to OECD+ in 2030 are 18% lower than for the reference scenario.
Investment in power plants rises from $6.1 trillion in the reference scenario to $9.7 trillion by 2030 in the low carbon (450 ppm) one, including $670 billion on CCS. Capacity additions in the decade to 2030 are 50% higher than in the reference scenario. Also investment in demand-side efficiency is $8.7 trillion more than the reference case. Together these amount to 0.55% of world GDP over the period 2010 to 2030. However, the report warns that many of the additional power sector investments are in technologies such as CCS which are not yet commercially available. "There is a real chance that some of these technological breakthroughs will not materialize, which would lead to much higher marginal abatement costs." And presumably put more reliance on proven large-scale carbon-free technologies.
The World Energy Outlook follows IEA's Energy Technology Perspectives 2008, launched in June, which outlined the scale of the "global energy technology revolution" required to meet today's challenges. In the BLUE scenario of this, CO2 levels are reduced to 50% of current levels by 2050, instead of 130% higher on current trends. It suggests that all technology options up to US$ 200/tonne CO2 are deployed, involving 32 new nuclear plants per year being built. Power generation is fully decarbonised by 2050 so that nuclear provides 23% of electricity, non-hydro renewables an ambitious 33%, and fossil fuels 30%, mostly with carbon capture and storage (CCS).
In Perspectives BLUE scenario, the carbon intensity of transport is reduced eightfold and world oil use is about one quarter below present levels. In OECD countries, 50% of vehicles sold in 2030 are electric or plug-in hybrids, and in 2050 this rises to 90%. In rest of world the figures are 30% and 75% respectively. Capital costs of vehicles are higher due to the batteries, but running costs are much lower than using fossil fuels.
Another OECD report outlooking to 2050 is from its Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), which in October published its first Nuclear Energy Outlook. Apart from nuclear being virtually carbon-free, it points out that energy security is enhanced due to nuclear fuel's high energy density, which means that transport is less vulnerable and storage of large reserves is easy.
In the NEA report's high scenario, life extensions and plant upratings continue and present plans for new capacity are largely implemented to 2030. After that new build accelerates to bring over 50 GWe (Australia's present total capacity) on line each year, giving about 650 GWe in 2030 and 1400 GWe nuclear capacity in 2050. It identifies factors which would result in that outcome. In the low scenario, new plants simply replace retirements to 2030 with some uprating and life extension, and expansion is then modest, resulting in only 600 GWe operating in 2050, compared with today's 373 GWe. Despite rapid growth in both India and China, by 2050 nuclear electricity generation continues to be dominated by OECD countries.
The NEA says that "To achieve this increase, between 2030 and 2050 an average of between 23 (low scenario) and 54 (high scenario) reactors per year would need to be built both to replace plants to be decommissioned and to increase nuclear generation. Historic evidence suggests that the world could construct nuclear power plants at a rate more than sufficient to meet the NEA high scenario projections during the period up to 2050. History also suggests a global capability to construct nuclear plants at a rate that would allow 30% or more of global generating capacity to be nuclear by 2030, should that be what countries around the world were to require."
As reported in the previous WNN Newsletter, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also revised upwards its projections for 2030 in its annual Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period to 2030. Its low projection shows an increase from 372 GWe today to 473 GWe in 2030, the high one gives 748 GWe then, in line with forecast growth in power generation to 38,626 TWh, 5551 TWh of which is nuclear. The rising costs of natural gas and coal, together with energy supply security and environmental constraints, are among the factors contributing to anticipated nuclear growth.
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has also revised upwards its normally low projections in its annual International Energy Outlook 2008: to 498 GWe in 2030. This is 34% higher than its 2030 projection published five years ago.
||2030 high est
||2050 high est
||World Energy Outlook
||680 GWe, 5200 TWh
||Energy Technology Perspectives
||Nuclear Energy Outlook
||650 GWe, 5551 TWh
||Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates
||International Energy Outlook
All these projections tabulated and discussed above are made in the light of assumed policy in developed countries determined to enhance energy security and limit carbon emissions. Taken together, they make it clear that much expanded use of nuclear power is an essential ingredient of electricity supply in future decades, and this will show up markedly after 2020. The only real question is how much of the very high projections for unprecedented contribution by renewables will come to pass. A further question is whether carbon capture and storage will be commercialised in time and at low enough cost to enable new coal-fired plants to be built in the next two decades.
WEO 2008, ETP 2008 and WNN 16/10 & 12/11/08.
17th reactor licence application lodged
PPL Generation has lodged an application for a combined construction and operation licence for the new Bell Bend nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania, adjacent to its Susquehanna plant. It proposes a single Areva EPR unit of 1600 MWe. This brings the total reactors involved in US new build applications to 26.
Platts 10/10/08, WNN 13/10/08.
Further reactor licence renewal
The operating licence for the Wolf Creek nuclear power plant in Kansas has been renewed for a further 20 years by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It is a single 1135 MWe PWR which began operating in 1985. The licence is now extended until 2045 and brings to 49 the number of such US renewals.
USA to rely heavily on nuclear power
President-elect Obama has set a target of reducing US greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 and then reducing them by a further 80% by 2050, with nuclear energy playing a major role alongside other clean energy sources. As well as the urgency of addressing climate change, energy security was perceived as a major threat. Annually $15 billion will be invested to catalyse private sector efforts to build a 'clean energy future'.
EdF drops plan to buy Constellation. Though it had outbid the $4.7 billion offered by MidAmerican Energy Holdings, Electricite de France (EdF) has decided not pursue its offer to buy Constellation Energy, beyond the 9.5% it now owns. EdF has committed $975 million to the UniStar Nuclear Energy joint venture with Constellation, set up to build, own and operate a fleet of US-EPR units in North America. Three new build licence applications so far involve it.
Contract to manage Yucca Mountain project
The US Department of Energy (DoE) has awarded a $2.5 billion contract to USA Repository Services (USA-RS) consortium to manage and operate the used nuclear fuel repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. USA-RS is subsidiary of URS Corp that includes its Washington Division, Areva and the Shaw Group. It replaces Bechtel-SAIC and will support the DOE's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM) for the Yucca Mountain project, assuming full responsibility for it in April 2009. It will help complete the detailed design of the repository, address questions on the licence application submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission this year, operate the existing Yucca mountain facilities before construction authorization, and support construction and operation activities at the repository. The performance-based, cost-plus contract covers a five-year period, with a potential five-year extension until March 2019.
DOE 30/10/08, WNN 3/11/08.
Thorium accession to US energy policy
Thorium is set to feature in the US Atomic Energy Act with an amending bill before Congress. The Thorium Energy Independence and Security Act of 2008 proposes establishing "an office for the regulation of thorium fuel cycle nuclear power generation" in both the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The bill also envisages a demonstration project in cooperation with the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and would provide $250 million over five years to fund developments. Energy security and nonproliferation objectives are the main rationale.
Thorium (with high-enriched uranium) has been used as fuel in US power reactors – notably the 330 MWe Fort St Vrain reactor in Colorado 1976-89. Trials at the small Shippingport PWR in Pennsylvania were successful. Also a US company, Thorium Power, has been working with Russia's Kurchatov Institute on using thorium with weapons-grade plutonium in VVER-1000 fuel assemblies. The US legislation is significant however, mainly because it would maintain thorium cycle R&D, even if India largely puts it on the back burner now that it has access to imported uranium fuel. For some twenty years India has undertaken the main R&D effort on thorium.
NEI Overview 13/10/08.
Bulgaria chooses West European utility partners
Bulgaria's state-owned NEK utility has chosen Germany's RWE Power as the "strategic investor" for a 49% share of the new EUR 4 billion Belene nuclear power plant. RWE is likely to split its interest in a joint venture with Franco-Belgian Electrabel (a GdF-Suez subsidiary). The two are required to invest EUR 1.275 billion as equity in the project, and provide a EUR 300 million corporate loan in advance. A contract for the twin 1000 MWe AES-92 VVER reactors was signed with Russia's Atomstroyexport in January. Areva and Siemens will also be involved in building the plant. Technical design approval by the country's Nuclear Regulatory Agency is needed before full construction begins. Total cost of the new plant including infrastructure, site works and finance is likely to be about EUR 6 billion. This will be the first substantial western investment in Russian nuclear technology since Finland's in the early 1970s.
Leningrad II plant starts construction
First concrete has been poured for the first unit of Leningrad II nuclear power station, seven months after the engineering, procurement and construction contract was signed with St Petersburg AtomEnergoProekt. The 1170 MWe (net) AES-2006 plant is expected to be commissioned in October 2013, with its twin a year later. Two further units are planned there. Leningrad I has four old 925 MWe RBMK units, two of them near the end of their operating lives.
Agreement for new Romanian reactors
After four years of exploratory discussions about building Cernavoda units 3 & 4, an investment agreement has been signed between SNN, with 51% of the project, and Enel, CEZ, GDF Suez, RWE Power (each 9.15%), Iberdrola (6.2%) and steelmaker ArcelorMittal (6.2%). Each will provide that proportion of finance and take that proportion of power from the two 700 MWe Candu-6 units being built by a new company EnergoNuclear SA. Construction cost is expected to be about EUR 4 billion.
German utility offers clean nuclear energy
RWE has introduced a new zero-carbon energy purchasing scheme which will allow its customers to specify that they wish to buy electricity from renewable sources and nuclear power plants. Most will come from the latter, enabling the scheme also to guarantee no price escalation before December 2011. German nuclear plants provide over 130 billion kWh per year, avoiding some 150 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually relative to coal.
France refurbishes old generators
Electricité de France has concluded two major agreements for refurbishing the generators in its older 900 and 1300 MWe nuclear power plants. The first is a framework agreement with Alstom, which provided the original equipment, for generator renovations starting 2010. Over ten years the orders arising from this will total more than EUR 140 million. Then EdF awarded a similar ten-year contract worth more than EUR 100 million to Toshiba and Westinghouse for renewing the stator coils in "more than ten" power plants. Toshiba expects three or four rewinding operations to be undertaken per year from 2010. EdF operates 34 of the 900 MWe units and 20 of 1300 MWe, all of which are eligible for both life extension and uprating. Between 2008 and 2010, EdF plans to uprate five of its 900 MWe reactors by 3%. In 2007, the company announced that the twenty 1300 MWe reactors would be uprated some 7% from 2015.
Alstom 20/10/08, Toshiba 23/10/08, WNN 20 & 23/10/08.
Italy costs nuclear hiatus
Italy's phase out of nuclear energy following a 1987 referendum was a "terrible mistake" and has had major costs to the whole economy. The Minister of Economic Development has put the figure at over EUR 50 billion, some EUR 850 for each person in its population of 59 million. He said the government was re-launching nuclear energy to reduce the county's great dependence on oil, gas and imported power, beginning with legislation to set up legal, regulatory and technical infrastructure. A new national security agency for nuclear safety and security will define criteria for site and technology selection, simplify licensing, and define compensation for affected communities. It will also develop strategies for decommissioning and waste.
The government will aim to start construction of new plants by 2013 and work towards having 25% of its electricity from nuclear power by 2030, which will require up to ten large new reactors by then. Italy will expedite this renaissance by adopting an already-licensed reactor design, and will involve Italian industry as much as possible. The minister pointed out that electricity prices in Italy are one third higher than most of Europe and 60% higher than in France.
Russian nuclear aluminium plans progress
Two projects involving Rosatom and Russian Aluminium (RUSAL) are moving towards decision. One is phase 2 of Balakovo nuclear power plant (2 x 1000 MWe reactors) with a 1.05 million tonne/year aluminium smelter on the Volga River in the Saratov region (taking one third of the expanded output), the other a new 4000 MWe power plant at Primorye in Russia's Far East with a 600,000 t/yr aluminium smelter taking one third of the output. The projects are estimated to cost $7 billion and $10 billion respectively. A third RUSAL-Rosatom project for Kola north of St Petersburg appears to have been dropped. Oligarch Oleg Deripaska holds 66% of RUSAL and is behind the ventures, for which feasibility studies will be completed in December.
Nuclear.Ru 26/9/08, WNN 3/10/08.
Green light for new Finnish reactor
The environmental impact assessment (EIA) report for Fennovoima Oy's project to build a new nuclear power plant has found no environmental problems at any of the three sites under consideration. The report is the last of three to be submitted for the three different new build projects proposed in Finland. Fortum's EIA for a third plant at the existing Loviisa site was submitted in June 2007, while TVO's EIA for a fourth Olkiluoto reactor alongside that now under construction was submitted in February 2008. Unlike the other two proposals, the Fennovoima plant would be at a new site. Preparation work is under way at all of the sites while government deliberations and public comment continue. Three possible reactor types are considered: the Areva EPR (as at Olkiluoto), the Areva SWR-1000 (a 1250 MWe BWR) and the Toshiba version of ABWR. Fennovoima intends to submit an application for a government decision-in-principle in January 2009. This would be followed by construction and operating licence applications.
EU Energy Review focus on security
The European Commission's second Strategic Energy Review puts forward a new strategy to build both solidarity and infrastructure networks among member states and reduce carbon emissions. Foreign policy needs to emphasis "energy interdependence". Part of the Review is the Nuclear Illustrative Program which is very positive in pointing out that low-carbon nuclear power is economic, protects against future fuel price volatility, and increases energy security, thereby playing an important role in the EU. If investment decisions in nuclear and renewables "are taken rapidly, nearly two thirds of EU's electricity could well be low-carbon in the early 2020s."
UK report warns on energy policy
The UK's renewable energy targets are likely to prove both costly and risky, while nuclear energy is the most reliable low-carbon alternative, according to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee. Its report - The Economics of Renewable Energy - acknowledges government commitments to increase renewable energy use, but questions whether the EU target of 15% renewables by 2020 can be met without compromising reliable supply as well as greatly increasing costs to consumers – by £6.8 billion per year. The focus on renewables - basically wind in the UK - risked drawing investment away from more reliable and lower cost options such as nuclear power. Wind generation should be seen as supplementary, not a substitute for coal or nuclear, it said.
Chinese equity in Kazakh uranium mines confirmed
New agreements between Kazatomprom and both major Chinese nuclear companies establish cooperation in uranium mining, fabrication of nuclear fuel for power reactors, long-term trade of natural uranium, generation of nuclear electricity and construction of nuclear power facilities. In uranium mining, CGNPC through its subsidiary, Sino-Kazakhstan Uranium Resources Investment Co, is to become a 49% joint venture partner in two mines: Irkol and Semizbay, while CNNC becomes a 49% joint venture partner in Zhalpak, following approval from China's high-level National Development and Reform Commission. Eventually the uranium from Kazakhstan will be supplied to China as fabricated fuel. Areva, Cameco, Uranium One, Russia's ARMZ and Japanese companies all have some equity in Kazakh uranium mines.
Kazatomprom 6/11/08, WNN 18/11/08.
Uzbek boost to uranium supplies
Uzbekistan's Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combine (NMMC) has commenced uranium mining at its Northern Kanimekh deposit. This is expected to give a significant increase in national production compared with 2270 tU in 2007, and further investment is planned. NMMC has also started building a pilot plant for in-situ leach mining at the Alendy deposit. Next year it will commence work on further ISL mines, and by the end of 2012 it plans to invest US$ 165 million to boost Uzbek capacity substantially.
Two Chinese reactors start construction
Concrete has been poured for the second reactor at Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation's Ningde site in northern Fujian. Phase 1 comprises four CPR-1000 units costing $7.2 billion, with local content over 70% and construction time of 58 months each. Ten days later first concrete was poured for the first of two units of the Fuqing nuclear power plant 170 km south of Ningde. China National Nuclear Corp is responsible for this project, and commercial operation of phase 1 is expected in 2013 and 2014. Each plant is expected finally to have six 1000 MWe reactors. Total cost of Fuqing is put at $14.6 billion.
China to chase fast reactors
The Russian-Chinese Nuclear Cooperation Commission has called for construction of an 800 MWe demonstration fast reactor in China, similar to Russia's Beloyarsk-4. A 65 MWt fast neutron reactor - the Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) - is already under construction at the China Institute of Atomic Energy near Beijing with some Russian assistance, and it is due to achieve criticality next year. A 600 MWe prototype fast reactor was envisaged by 2020 and there has been talk of a 1500 MWe one by 2030. China's R&D on fast neutron reactors started in 1964.
China agrees to Canadian fuel recycle strategy
As the two Candu 6 reactor units at the Qinshan site reached their fifth anniversary of reliable operation, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) has entered a strategic agreement with the Third Qinshan Nuclear Power Company, China North Nuclear Fuel Corporation and the Nuclear Power Institute of China (NPIC). The four partners will jointly develop technology for recycling used nuclear fuel from other Chinese reactors (PWRs) for use in the Qinshan 3 and 4 Candu units. This follows a deal earlier this year between AECL and NPIC to conduct research in this area.
The Candu reactors run on natural uranium, not enriched, and in theory could possibly run on used fuel from conventional reactors, where the enrichment level has burned down to little more than 1% U-235 (leaving a lot of problematical fission products and actinides). This concept at a basic level is DUPIC – direct use of PWR used fuel in Candu, though the new program apparently aims at a development of this. DUPIC has been researched for some years in Canada and South Korea. If some PWR-Candu synergy can be achieved it will reduce a country's fresh fuel requirements. The R&D program will also examine the use of thorium in Candu units.
New Chinese nuclear R&D initiative
China's State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and Tsinghua University have set up the State Research Centre for Nuclear Power Technology, focused on large-scale advanced PWR technology and aiming to accelerate China's independent development of third-generation nuclear power. SNPTC itself was set up directly under the State Council in 2004 to direct technology selection for new plants utilising western technology. It selected the Westinghouse AP1000, and initial efforts of the new research centre will be on the adaptation and assimilation of this technology. An important factor for SNPTC in the contract was technology transfer. Westinghouse agreed to allow Chinese engineers to master the AP1000 technology, adapt it to a standardised design for use in China and then build the units unaided. Tsinghua is also host to the Institute of Nuclear Energy Technology (INET), which is a world leader in high temperature gas-graphite reactors using pebble bed fuel. Construction of the first demonstration plant of this kind is expected to start in 2009 at Shidaowan in Shandong province.
Xinhua 28/10/08, WNN 30/10/08.
India-US agreement signed into law
The US President has signed into law the congressional approval for nuclear cooperation with India. This establishes the legal framework for a bilateral agreement to allow US nuclear suppliers to resume trade with India for the first time in 34 years. The trade agreement has also now been signed by US and Indian officials.
India sets sights on nuclear expansion
The chairman of Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) has said that the new agreement with USA will help India meet its ambitious target of constructing some 28 large new nuclear power reactors to add about 40,000 MWe of nuclear generating capacity by 2020. Corresponding agreements with France and Russia will assist. He referred to detailed discussions with four reactor vendors – GE-Hitachi, Westinghouse, Areva and Atomstroyexport, and said that NPCIL was planning to negotiate with each for one pair of reactors (not less than 1000 MW) with the prospect of extending to six to eight reactors. Plans are already well advanced for two further Russian 1000 MWe units at Kudankulam, and Jaitapur on the west coast site identified for the first two Areva EPR units. In respect to fuel supplies, NPCIL plans to place orders for up to 2000 tU this year, was pursuing long-term contracts, and is also willing to invest $1 billion to buy stakes in up to four uranium mines overseas.
India's largest power company, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) has proposed building a 2000 MWe nuclear power plant to be in operation by 2017. It would be the utility's first nuclear plant and also the first conventional nuclear plant not built by the government-owned NPCIL. This proposal has now become one for joint venture companies utilising imported technology with NPCIL holding 51%, and possibly extending to multiple projects.
NTPC says it aims by 2014 to have demonstrated progress in "setting up nuclear power generation capacity", and that the initial "planned nuclear portfolio of 2000 MWe by 2017" may be greater. NTPC is also reported to be establishing a joint venture with NPCIL and Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) to sell India's largely indigenous 220 MWe heavy water power reactor units abroad. NTPC, now only 89.5% government-owned, is planning to increase its total installed capacity from 30 to 50 GWe by 2012 (72% of it coal) and 75 GWe by 2017. It is also forming joint ventures in heavy engineering.
Following the opening of trade possibilities with India, both US and Japanese nuclear industry trade missions are visiting. A delegation of over 50 senior executives representing more than 30 commercial nuclear companies will visit New Delhi, Hyderabad and Mumbai early December, as a similar Japanese delegation departs. The head of Russia's Rosatom has also visited very recently. While the focus of the visits is on major sales of western reactors, trade in nuclear hardware is potentially two-way, with major manufacturing investments being made by BHEL and Bharat Forge Ltd.
NTPC 13/9/08, WNN 14 & 30/10/08, 25/11/08.
Bruce Power plans more new reactors in Ontario
Following strong expressions of interest from citizens and local government, Bruce Power has announced that it planned to build two new nuclear reactors at Nanticoke, 130 km southwest of Toronto on Lake Erie. This is best known as the site of a 3920 MWe coal-fired plant which the provincial government planned to close in 2007 on environmental grounds, but which has a reprieve to 2014 due to power shortages. The new project would total 2200 to 3300 MWe, using Canadian, Westinghouse or Areva reactors. The announcement met with a cool reception from the provincial government on the grounds that its policy for expanded nuclear power did not include new sites. However, Nanticoke has the advantage of established transmission infrastructure. An environmental assessment is expected to take three years, and the plant could come on line in 2018-20. Bruce Power is also considering four new reactors at its Bruce site, as an alternative to refurbishing four of the eight there.
Cameco suspends conversion at Port Hope
After months of dispute with its sole contracted supplier of hydrofluoric acid, Cameco has suspended uranium conversion at its Port Hope, Ontario plant until after June 2009. This plant represents about one quarter of the Western world’s uranium hexafluoride (UF6) conversion capacity - 12,500 tU per year. The plant, on a site with 150 years' industrial legacy, had earlier been shut down to rectify underground leaks. The main plant dates from 1984.
ERA outlines Ranger developments
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) is commissioning its laterite treatment plant, built to treat 1.6 million tonnes of stockpiled ore with too high a clay content to be used without this pre-treatment. The A$ 44 million plant is expected to add 340 tU/yr to production for seven years. ERA is also commissioning a new A$ 19 million radiometric ore sorter, which will increase the head grade treated by the main plant. A feasibility study into a major heap leach operation for low-grade ore is under way, with prospect of recovering up to 17,000 tU. Column leach trials have been encouraging.
For two years ERA has been drilling to identify a possible extension of its #3 orebody. Now it has defined the Ranger 3 Deeps exploration mineralisation target in the range of 15 to 20 million tonnes, potentially containing up to 34,000 tU. The mineralised zone has a strike length so far identified of about 1.2 km, between 250 and 550 metres deep, immediately east of the pit. ERA 25/7 & 17 & 18/11/08.
BHP Billiton delays Olympic Dam expansion
While confirming that most future copper smelting will be in China, BHP Billiton will undertake the massive expansion of Olympic Dam in five stages over at least ten years. Stage 1 involves optimising the present plant to 2013 and will take uranium production to 4500 t/yr U3O8 (3820 tU/yr), compared with around 4100 t/yr now and 19,000 tonnes in stage 5, with perhaps 3000 t/yr of this recovered from exported copper concentrates at the new smelter in China.
Yeelirrie project reactivated
BHP Billiton has announced that it is commencing a new drilling program to better define the ore resource at Yeelirrie in Western Australia, as well as starting community consultation on its development. A new environment impact study will be prepared. Yeelirrie was discovered in 1972 and is the world's largest shallow calcrete uranium deposit, with an indicated resource of 44,000 tU.
Mitsui buys half of Honeymoon
Japanese trading company Mitsui is taking a 49% joint venture share of Uranium One's South Australian exploration interests, including the Honeymoon uranium mine which is under development, and associated Gould's Dam and Billeroo projects. Honeymoon is expected to be operational in 2010 and produce 340 tU/yr over six years. The cash commitment from Mitsui is about A$ 104 million, most of which will be applied to Honeymoon. Mitsui announced this as its first uranium project, though it has an option to take 25% of the Yuzhnaya uranium mine in Siberia and has agreed to set up an exploration joint venture in Uzbekistan focused on the black shale uranium resources.
Uranium One & Mitsui 15/10/08, WNN 16/10/08.
World reactor changes in last two months or prior
China: Ninggde 2 & Fuqing 1, each 1000 MWe construction start
Russia: Leningrad II-1 construction start 1170 MWe
S.Korea: update total operating figure to 17,716 MWe
USA Salem 2 uprate 45 MWe to 1175 MWe net
USA Hope Creek uprate further 27 MWe to 1220 net
From WNA Digests August - September 2008
Financing new nuclear plants.
Recent years have seen a transformation both in the actual economics of nuclear power and also in the widening recognition that it occupies an increasingly important position in the energy marketplace. A growing community of investors now understands that existing nuclear power plants are highly economic. Power prices have risen sharply with the escalation of oil and gas prices, while well-run nuclear plants have stable and predictable operating costs that ensure excellent profitability for their owners in any type of electricity market.
In most countries, the industry has succeeded in gradually building public support for nuclear power by demonstrating strong operating performance coupled with an excellent safety record. This is the basis on which policymakers have been able to point to nuclear energy as an important response to the imperatives of energy security and environmental protection without the prospect of higher electricity prices.
While the cost of electricity from new nuclear plants will be competitive, the challenge of financing them is significant. The recent financial perturbations make it even more challenging. A new WNA report Structuring Nuclear Projects for Success examines the somewhat unique characteristics of new nuclear power projects. They are capital intensive, with very long project schedules and have significant fixed operating and maintenance costs but relatively low fuel costs. They exist in a rigorous regulatory environment where the regulator actively scrutinizes the plant's operations and has considerable authority that can impact on both unit construction and operations.
Although new nuclear power plants require large capital investment, they are hardly unique by the standards of the overall energy industry, where oil platforms and LNG liquefaction facilities cost many billions of dollars. Projects of similar magnitude can be found in the building of new roads, bridges and other elements of infrastructure. New-build risks in all these areas include costly delays due to problems with designs, equipment supply, project management, construction and commissioning. Many of the risk-control and project management techniques developed for other projects are equally applicable to building nuclear power stations. Risks can be allocated among the plant owner-operator, the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor, the plant vendor and financiers, according to who can best control them.
Many utilities are extremely risk averse, some of them having suffered through projects that did not meet expectations in the past. Given the long period without any substantive new build projects, they are looking for ways to boost confidence that plants will be built to budget and on schedule, so that the promise of good economic performance will be realized. The new report describes the key risks involved with building new nuclear plants, shows how a good structure is essential for project success, and outlines how risks can be mitigated and allocated.
Structuring a nuclear new build project successfully requires a good understanding of the various risks associated with a project of this complexity and magnitude, then finding a contractual structure that allocates those risks amongst key stakeholders. Some are not so different to those pertaining to any power investment project. Others are clearly unique to nuclear, including those surrounding the management of radioactive waste and used fuel, and the liability for significant nuclear accidents. Although the list of risks is substantial - including regulatory, project delivery, operational and the electricity market - they can be mitigated through good management and planning. The remaining risks must be allocated to the appropriate stakeholder in the best position to manage them.
Construction schedules for nuclear projects are notably long. This can influence the allocation of cost- inflation risk in relevant construction contracts. It can also impact on the negotiation of power purchase agreements if these are a requirement before construction commences.
In risk mitigation, government also has a very significant role in establishing and maintaining a sound framework for industry operation. Where regulatory and utility requirements can be harmonized worldwide the cost of meeting them is reduced.
The new regulatory approach exemplified in the USA and emerging in the UK moves all design, technical, regulatory and licensing issues to the front of the licensing process. Before construction begins and any significant capital spending occurs, safety and environmental issues can be fully addressed. The new licensing framework aims to assure potential investors that their investment in a new nuclear plant will not be jeopardized as long as construction adheres to the approved design and standards. Delays caused by public intervention in the past are now prevented by strictly defined timeframes for public hearings and consultations.
Those who build the first reactors of a new design (first of a kind, or FOAK) bear the burden of one-time risks and provide those who follower with valuable information and experience. To reward this benefit, the US government has introduced FOAK incentives that include loan guarantees, investment tax credits and insurance against regulatory delays. These may be deemed appropriate in other parts of the world.
During the construction phase, the various risks can be covered by contractual arrangements among the utility, EPC contractor and vendors, and there is a range of possibilities. For example, in a turnkey project the EPC contractor can assume almost all risks of cost overruns and expect a higher price accordingly. Financial penalties and rewards are common, for parts of the construction contract relating to timing and quality. Alternatively, utilities can assume greater risk of escalating costs in exchange for the prospect of a lower overall cost. Because nuclear plants are very expensive, risking company balance sheets, forming consortia to share risks may often be a good solution.
Once a plant is running, the utility will control most of the risks - specifically, for safe operation, for achieving high capacity factors and for maintaining control of operation and maintenance costs. In controlling fuel and operational costs the utility can use long-term deals with suppliers and contract out key services such as plant refuelling.
The project structure must be appropriate to the relevant electricity market. For capital-intensive nuclear plants, spot and short-term electricity prices that reflect business cycles must be complemented by guaranteed long-term prices both on the wholesale and retail markets. A sole nuclear generator with no retail customers is particularly vulnerable to the risk of low prices. Hence long term base-load sales contracts are needed or the nuclear plant must be managed within a vertically integrated utility that has a diversified portfolio of generating sources and its own customer base.
In regulated electricity markets plant investment costs can be recaptured with greater assurance as they are simply passed on to retail customers. They are essentially monopolistic and cost of service determines the rates. Lenders are secured by access to the assets and revenues of generating companies as well as by a strong degree of market assurance. Several new US plants are in this category.
With an unregulated merchant generating plant there is open competition and no direct outlet for selling electricity. This liberalized market entails a significantly greater exposure to price risk, which must be mitigated by long-term power purchase agreements or support from a parent company. Projects here will require a less leveraged balance sheet - more equity and less debt - and also greater security for debt. The new South Texas plant in USA is in this category and has project financing.
World experience with electricity market liberalization has generally tended to produce the kind of evolution that has occurred in Europe towards a small number of vertically integrated large utility groups, with a spread of generation facilities and regional supply outlets and some merchant plants. Such large groups use their large balance sheets to invest in generation projects with some security on the selling side. EdF's new Flamanville reactor in France is in this category.
Another possibility is public-private partnership, such as with Cernavoda 3 & 4 in Romania.
In the Finnish model, the equity is largely contributed by a consortium of local energy-intensive industries and local utilities which take the output of the plant at cost, amortizing the debt portion from the market. If the plant operates well, owners will receive relatively cheap electricity over a long period, avoiding the risks of having to buy or sell power on the open market at uncertain prices. Olkiluoto-3 is an example.
Emission-reduction policy frameworks will increase the cost of electricity from fossil fuels and thus should benefit nuclear investments and reduce market risks, but at this point the risk is that government policies related to carbon emissions are not assured long-term.
The full report is available from WNA.
US loan guarantee applications flood in
The Department of Energy has received 19 initial applications from 17 utilities for federal loan guarantees to support the construction of 14 nuclear power plants involving 21 new reactors of five different designs. Total capacity is 28,800 MWe. The total requested comes to $122 billion, significantly more than the $18.5 billion offered. The aggregate estimated construction cost involved the 14 projects is $188 billion. DOE also received two applications for enrichment plants, total $4 billion, against $2 billion on offer. DOE will review the submissions and then rank them in order to guide applicants regarding whether to complete part 2 of their application by mid December. Substantial loan guarantees are also on offer for renewable and other energy sources which will enhance US energy security, increase efficiency and reduce emissions.
Constellation Energy's Calvert Cliffs 3 nuclear plant and USEC's American Centrifuge Plant made up the first announced applications to the US Department of Energy for loan guarantees under the 2005 Energy Policy Act. UniStar Nuclear Energy, Constellations' joint venture with EdF, was responsible for the Calvert Cliffs-3 application, as also for the earlier construction and operation licence (COL) application for the plant. Calvert Cliffs will be the reference COL for the 1600 MWe US-EPR. Constellation expects the overnight capital cost of the new plant to be in the mid to upper end of the $4500 to $6000 per kilowatt range, hence about $9 billion. This would include owner's costs but not finance. The main forgings for the large reactor have been ordered on behalf of Unistar from Japan Steel Works, but there is no commitment by Unistar or Constellation to actually build the plant.
USEC Inc has submitted the first part of its loan guarantee application for its American Centrifuge Plant. The company expects its AC100 Lead Cascade of large centrifuge machines at Piketon, Ohio to be operational in the first quarter of 2009. This machine design will be superseded by the "value-engineered AC100 machine" which will be deployed in the commercial plant. A prototype lead cascade has been operating for nearly a year already. The main plant is expected to commence commercial operation by the end of first quarter 2010, reach 1 million SWU capacity a year later and achieve full 3.8 million SWU annual capacity at the end of 2012. It is now expected to cost around $3.5 billion excluding finance, and it will utilise existing infrastructure inherited from the Department of Energy.
USEC 5/8/08, Constellation 7/8/08, DOE 2/10/08.
Five new reactor licence applications
Exelon has filed an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a Combined Construction and Operating Licence (COL) for a new twin unit nuclear power plant in Victoria County, SE Texas. Exelon is the largest nuclear operator in the USA and is tentatively planning to build two GE-Hitachi ESBWR units of 1550 MWe each. Some heavy components - ultra-large forgings, reactor pressure vessels and steam generators - were ordered last year. A decision on the licence is not expected before 2012. A large part of the site would be taken up with a 20 square kilometre cooling pond.
Detroit Edison has lodged an application with the NRC for a COL for a single GE-Hitachi ESBWR at its Fermi, Michigan site, alongside its 1130 MWe reactor. Another single-unit ESBWR COL application was lodged by Entergy for River Bend, Louisiana alongside its 967 MWe unit there.
Luminant has lodged an COL application for two US Advanced Pressurised Water Reactors (APWR) from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) at its Comanche Peak, Texas site. Luminant and MHI also announced a joint venture to build and own the twin-unit plant – 88% Luminant, 12% MHI.
Then UniStar Nuclear lodged a COL application for unit 3 of Constellation's Nine Mile Point power station in New York state, specifying an Areva US-EPR. This is the 15th COL application and brings the total reactors involved so far to 25.
Exelon 3/9/08, WNN 19 & 26/9/08, 2/10/08.
EdF bids for Constellation Energy
Electricite de France (EdF) is exploring the possibility of countering the $26.50 bid by Berkshire Hathaway's MidAmerican Energy Holdings, which Constellation management accepted on September 19. EdF already owns 9.5% of the company, is now offering $35 per share, and "will act with determination and speed" to preserve its ambition to own and operate four EPR reactor units in the USA beginning in 2015. EdF has already committed $975 million to the UniStar Nuclear Energy joint venture with Constellation, set up to build, own and operate a fleet of US-EPR units in North America. Two new build licence applications so far involve it and two more are expected to.
Several reactor uprates boost capacity
Following approvals by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, seven uprates to US nuclear power plants have boosted the country's nuclear output. Some are small, from improvements in flow control, some are large, from replacement of high pressure turbines. Crystal River increased 14.6 MWe to 838 in November, Beaver Valley-1 went up 43 last year to 911 MWe, while unit 2 in May increased a similar amount. Hope Creek in June increased 122 MWe net to 1185 MWe, Davis Besse and Cooper each uprated 12 MWe July-August, and Vogtle-1 was uprated by 45 MWe to 1172 MWe net in April (and is expecting about 47 MWe for unit 2 in September). The total quantified increase not previously reported is 249 MWe, taking US net capacity to 100,599 MWe, based on NEI figures of April 2008. Beaver Valley-2 and Vogtle-2 will increase this by about 90 MWe. In 2009 Progress Energy plans the first stage of a further 180 MWe uprate of Crystal River.
PSEG, Progress, Southern, NPPD & FENOC 14-28/8/08.
Further US licence extension
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the operating licence of Entergy's Fitzpatrick nuclear power plant in New York state by 20 years to 2034. This brings the total of such US licence extensions to 49.
Next-generation plan goes to Congress
The US Next-Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) licensing plan has been submitted to Congress by the Department of Energy (DoE) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The NGNP features a high temperature gas-cooled reactor configured to provide heat up to 950°C for a range of industrial uses particularly hydrogen production, or electricity generation. It would be built at Idaho National Laboratory from 2017 and could operate in 2021. Some regulatory changes would be needed to cope with the innovative design, along with different procedures for used fuel. NRC expects to take five years to organize for the NGNP, allowing licence application in 2013.
Three reactor designs fit the NGNP specification: General Atomics' GT-MHR, Areva's similar Antares design, and the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR), backed by Westinghouse and South Africa's PBMR company. China's Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University has a HTR-PM design similar to the PBMR, and the first of these is due to start construction next year and operate from 2013.
US utility revives old plans
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has asked the US Nuclear Regulator Commission (NRC) to reinstate the construction permits for the unfinished Bellefonte 1 & 2 nuclear reactors in Alabama. The NRC granted construction permits for the twin-unit PWR plant in 1974. By 1988, when TVA deferred completion of it, unit 1 was some 88% complete, and unit 2 was about 58% complete. In 2006, the NRC approved a request from TVA to cancel the construction permits for the reactors. TVA now plans to re-evaluate the prospects for the reactors.
Meanwhile, the company is supporting the NuStart consortium in pursuing a combined construction and operating licence (COL) for two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Bellefonte as its "primary option" for providing needed generating capacity for the future, though a decision actually to construct the units has yet to be made. Bellefonte 3 & 4 is the reference COL application for Westinghouse AP1000.
US withdraws Russian bilateral agreement
The US President has withdrawn the US-Russia bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement from Congress, citing Russian actions in Georgia as the reason. The agreement was signed in May, but the US Secretary of State said "the time is not right for this agreement" to proceed although "The US non-proliferation goals contained in the proposed agreement remain valid: to provide a sound basis for US-Russian civil nuclear cooperation, create commercial opportunities and enhance cooperation with Russia on important global non-proliferation issues."
US uranium production down
US uranium production in the first half of 2008 was 726 tonnes uranium, down 17% on the same period last year. Total 2007 production was 1748 tU. Cameco's two US mines produced 371 tU, compared with 1044 tU for 2007 full year.
EdF buys British Energy
British Energy (BE) has agreed to a £12.5 billion ($23.1 billion) takeover bid from Electricité de France (EdF), leading the way to a revitalization of the UK nuclear industry. Four large new EPR nuclear reactors totaling 6.4 GWe will be built at Sizewell in Suffolk and Hinkley Point in Somerset to contribute 13% of UK electricity in the early 2020s, the first one starting up in 2017. EdF offered 774 pence for each BE share, topping its offer two months ago of 765 pence, which two major shareholders would not accept. With 26.5% of BE bought on the open market and 45.2% irrevocably committed to EdF, it was close to the 75% required to take the company private. The major UK energy retailer Centrica will buy 25% of BE from EdF at the same price, and take 25% of its output. The UK government's 36% stake in BE, arising from a £275 million ($510 million) investment during restructuring in 2005, returned £4.4 billion ($8.1 billion) in cash for the Nuclear Liabilities Fund which actually held the stake. The government said that this, together with other funds which add up to about £8 billion ($15 billion) "should, at today's prices, more than cover the current estimated costs of decommissioning liabilities of British Energy's existing nuclear power stations."
The UK government wants at least two nuclear operators in the country, and would prefer more than one reactor design to be in use. Now that EdF has succeeded in its bid for BE, it will sell land it has bought adjacent to other UK nuclear sites so that it can be used by EOn and others which plan to build either further EPR units or the Westinghouse AP1000, which has the support of Electrabel-Suez, Endesa, Iberdrola, RWE and Vattenfall.
New Dutch reactor proposed
Dutch utility Delta (50% owner of the 485 MWe Borssele nuclear plant) has announced that it will build a second unit at Borssele, of 1000-1600 MWe by the end of 2016. Cost would be EUR 3 to 5 billion. Further expansion to about 5000 MWe is envisaged there later. Public opinion in the Netherlands has swung very positively in recent years, and in 2006 the government said it wanted to move to a sustainable energy supply and that the abandonment of its earlier nuclear phase-out policy was part of this, with reducing carbon emissions a bonus. It said that any new reactor must be a Generation III model with levels of safety being equivalent to those of Areva's EPR, at a coastal site.
Italy and UK agree on nuclear cooperation
Despite considerable political differences, a meeting of Italian and UK Prime Ministers has agreed on the need "to work together in the field of nuclear power, seen by both countries as a strategic energy issue." For the general election in May, Berlusconi's Forza Italia party's manifesto contained a pledge to bring nuclear energy back in order to reduce the cost of imported power and curb greenhouse gas emissions. In UK, Brown's Labour party has evolved its stance on nuclear from seeing it as a 'last resort' in 2003 to promoting it as the backbone of a low-carbon energy policy.
Russia reconstitutes civil nuclear power
Russia has announced that its nuclear power generation organisation has been reconstituted and renamed. Rosenergoatom becomes simply Energoatom as part of the "privatisation" of nuclear industry entities involving change from Federal State Unitary Enterprises (FSUE) to Joint Stock Companies (JSC), with most or all of the shares held by AtomEnergoProm, the civil nuclear sector holding company. Both remain under State Corporation Rosatom, which took over all Russia's nuclear assets last year. The Energoatom shares are to be transferred to Atomenergoprom by the end of the year. So far, 38 of 55 civil nuclear FSUEs have been reformed, with some renaming due to new restrictions on the use of "Russia" or derivatives (eg "Ros") in JSC names. Public investment in the bottom-level companies is envisaged at some stage.
The Russian Ministry for Economic Development, has produced a policy paper envisaging increased nuclear capacity from 22 GWe now to 50-53 GWe by 2020, much the same as previous targets. But it spells out a staged transition commencing 2020 to a new technological platform based on fast neutron reactors and closed nuclear fuel cycle; a broader range of nuclear power plant capacities, including small and medium power reactors to generate electricity for isolated areas in Russia and world developing economies; and export of equipment and technologies totaling not less than $8-14 billion per year (in 2006 prices) by 2020.
NuclearRu 6 & 12/8/08.
Baltic nuclear plant brought forward
Russia's Rosatom has given approval for construction of the 2400 MWe Baltic nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad, Russia's outpost west of the Baltic states. Whereas it was previously slated as a twin AES-92 plant (using 1000 MWe VVERs) similar to those planned for Belene in Bulgaria, it is now to be the more modern and larger VVER-1200, also known as AES-2006. Commissioning of the first unit is now planned for 2015, not the following year. St Petersburg Atomenergopoekt has been named as the project designer, and the site was earlier identified as Neman, close to the Lithuanian border.
While Russia's electric utility Energoatom will run the plant, a large part of the rationale appears to be for electricity exports to neighbouring countries, Poland being the most obvious, though exports to Germany and St Petersburg are proposed. There appears to be a political agenda involved as it would directly compete with the Baltic states' plus Poland plan for a new unit at Visaginas in Lithuania, replacing the Soviet-era Ignalina plant there.
Furthermore, in an innovation for Russia, up to 49% of the equity is being offered to European utilities. Czech power utility CEZ has expressed interest. The first unit is expected to cost about USD 4 billion and the second one half that, giving a project cost of USD 6 billion.
Westinghouse gets set for UK reactor construction
Westinghouse has signed three agreements with major suppliers of equipment and services for building new nuclear power plants in the UK. Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) were signed with BAE Systems, Rolls Royce and Doosan Babcock to collaborate on building AP1000 nuclear plants. The agreements express the Westinghouse policy of "buy where we build" and may result in up to 80% of the work and services required for AP1000 construction being provided by the UK supply chain. Collectively the agreements cover: design, fabrication and integration of modules, erection and assembly of components, nuclear component manufacturing, safety and technical support and support for commissioning. This approach is similar to that being taken in China, where work is already under way on the first two of four AP1000 units. Sheffield Forgemasters also has a major contract for AP1000 components – for nuclear-grade 16-tonne pump casings, which will be used on the first Chinese units. The AP1000 is one of three reactor designs being considered for the UK.
WNN 3/9/08, Westinghouse 4/9/08.
GE-Hitachi pulls out of UK race
GE-Hitachi has suspended involvement in the UK's reactor acceptance process, leaving just Areva and Westinghouse models as contenders for the first round of new build. The Generic Design Acceptance process began in March with four designs on the table. The plan is to approve some reactors as suitable for building, while separate assessments of potential sites are made. Combining the two will give a coherent planning application which should proceed fairly rapidly.
However, AECL withdrew its ACR-1000 design in order to concentrate on the Canadian market and now GE-Hitachi has asked the UK to defer consideration of the ESBWR in order for it to focus on finalizing ESBWR progress through the US licencing system. Incorporating minor changes arising from this will by about 2010 give it a standard certified design to offer in UK and elsewhere.
Record fine for Spanish operator
Spain's Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) has recommended to the government that Endesa, the owner and main operator of the Asco-1 nuclear power plant, be sanctioned over an incident last year during a refuelling outage. Fines of some EUR 90 million are likely. Radioactive material was released from the plant site, though with no apparent harm to anyone. The incident rated level 2 on the International Nuclear Event Scale and CSN found four serious violations of licence and operating procedures.
Hungary to revive U mining
Australia's Wildhorse Energy Ltd has joined with state-owned Mecsekerc to assess the feasibility of restarting uranium mining at Mecsek Hills in southern Hungary. The Mecsek underground mine operated from 1956 to 1997, producing a total of about 21,000 tU which was shipped to the Soviet Union. The joint venture holds the mine lease and prospective ground adjacent, with 11,600 tU inferred resources. Since 1997 the mine has been decommissioned and remediated at considerable expense (about EUR 110 million).
Wildhorse 6/8/08, WNN 6/8/08.
Medical isotope crisis in Europe
Europe's three main research reactors producing medical isotopes were all shut down for various reasons in August, precipitating a supply crisis. Netherlands' Petten HFR reactor had an unresolved technical problem, Belgium's BR2 at Mol and France's Osiris were shut down for scheduled maintenance, and all were out of action for at least three weeks. South Africa's Safari and Canada's NRU at Chalk River helped overcome the shortfall. Australia's Opal is now running well but is not set up to supply and retrieve technetium generators for Europe.
Meanwhile at the Belgian Institute of Radioelements (IRE) laboratory at Fleurus some 40 GBq of iodine-131 was released through a ventilation stack. IRE claims to be the world's second largest medical radioisotope producer and to supply about 20% of world technetium and 75% of the iodine-131 from material irradiated using nearby research reactors in four countries. The Fleurus plant was shut down, though no harmful exposure was involved.
WNN 28 & 29/8/08.
Turkey spurned by reactor vendors
Turkey has received only one bid to build some 3000 MWe of new nuclear power capacity at Akkuyu. While six potential vendors purchased tender documents and responded, a consortium led by Atomstroyexport was the only one which returned a bid. This was for two 1200 MWe AES-2006 reactors, the same as being built in Russia. Turkey's track record at a time of great opportunity elsewhere may have deterred bidders. In 1993 a nuclear plant was included in the country's investment program and final tender specifications were released in 1996. Bids for a 2000 MWe plant at Akkuyu came from Westinghouse + Mitsubishi, AECL, and Framatome (now Areva) + Siemens. Following the final bid deadline in 1997, the government delayed its decision repeatedly to April 2000, when plans were abandoned due to economic circumstances.
India joins civil nuclear mainstream
US Congress has approved the bill allowing civil nuclear trade with India. It was passed by 298 to 117 in the House, and 86 to 13 in the Senate. This is the last step in freeing up trade not only between the USA and India, but also involving uranium over which the USA has some control. It follows a 2005 agreement between US and Indian heads of state, a July 2007 nuclear cooperation agreement with USA, IAEA approval of a safeguards agreement for India in July 2008, and Nuclear Suppliers' Group agreement in September to lift the trade embargo.
India and France have also signed a nuclear trade agreement which will open the way for Areva to supply the first two of six EPR reactors plus fuel for a new power station on India's west coast. A similar trade deal with Russia is imminent. The new agreements end 34 years of trade isolation on nuclear materials and technology.
India is barred from joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) on the same basis as China and other weapons states, and its exclusion resulted in the trade ban. It is very short of uranium to support its ambitious nuclear power program, and it also hopes to make greater use of western and Russian reactor technology.
India has long had a limited safeguards agreement with the IAEA prior to the start of the US initiative to bring it into international trade, but this has now been superseded by a far wider version, which is very much more restrictive than for nuclear weapons states under the NPT.
WNN 8 & 30/9/08, 2/10/08.
Kazakhstan builds on raw materials base
Last year Kazatomprom bought a 10% share in Westinghouse from Toshiba, its new owner. This has led to a decision to set up with Toshiba a nuclear energy institute in the northeastern town of Kurchatov, near Semipalatinsk, which is already a centre of R&D activity. The institute will focus on skills development in all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle as well as reactor technology. Kazatomprom is pushing forward on several fronts beyond its aspiration to be the world's largest uranium miner - uranium conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication are all being developed. Other Japanese companies such as Toyota and Marubeni are expected to support the new institute, especially in its rare earth metals department, which aims to utilise present waste materials as the basis of a billion dollar high-tech export industry. Three research reactors are operated by the Institute of Atomic Energy at Kurchatov.
Kazakh acid crisis abates
Uranium One reported that the recent Kazakh sulfuric acid crisis has abated without impact on the company's uranium operations, though Cameco says it still has supply problems there. Kazakh uranium mining is very acid-intensive. At the end of June, a large new acid plant started up at the Kazakhmys copper smelter at Balkhash, using its sulfur dioxide. Uranium One itself is participating in a joint venture to build another acid plant in the Syrdarya uranium province, at Zhanakorgan, close to the Kharasan mines. The new plant will burn solid sulfur railed from oil and gas production in western Kazakhstan. It is expected to cost $200 million, with 19% Uranium One interest, and will be about 200 km from Uranium One's main ISL mines at Akdala and South Inkai.
South Africa contracts for new reactor
South Africa's Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Pty Ltd has awarded a contract for managing the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) of the first PBMR, to be at Koeberg, near the present two French reactors. The US$ 242 million contract was awarded to a joint venture of Canada's SNC-Lavalin and leading local engineering firm Murray & Roberts. Subject to regulatory approvals next year, the demonstration (commercial-scale) 165 MWe PBMR unit is now expected to start construction in 2010 and be completed in 2014. It is a high-temperature helium-cooled plant for process heat as well as electricity production, and is a candidate for the US NGNP (see US section).
SNC Lavalin, PBMR 22/8/08.
New enrichment process announced
Klydon Pty Ltd from South Africa has announced a new isotope enrichment process with eventual application to uranium. The Aerodynamic Separation Process (ASP) employs so-called stationary-wall centrifuges with UF6 injected tangentially. It is based on the Helikon process used in the 1980s to supply South Africa's nuclear power plants during trade sanctions. It is awaiting regulatory authorization from Necsa to use on UF6 – so far it has enriched only light isotopes such as silicon.
New Namibian mine prospect
Bannerman Resources, based in Perth, WA, has announced a major boost in uranium resources at its Goanikontes deposit in Namibia. This is 30 km southwest of Rossing and with very similar geology. The new resource figures (NI 43-101 compliant) are 26,000 tU in 0.021% ore for indicated resources, and 15,000 tU in 0.0197% ore for inferred resources. Further prospects on the exploration lease are being drilled. The company is proceeding to a definitive feasibility study for mining, with the intention of moving to mine production in 2011. A preliminary study on mining was undertaken last year, and showed good prospects for an open pit mine producing 2500 to 3500 tU per year. This could be a fifth uranium mine for Namibia – two are operating and two being developed.
Quebec decides to refurbish Gentilly reactor
Hydro Quebec has decided to refurbish the 638 MWe Gentilly-2 reactor rather than retire it about 2011. Most Quebec electricity is hydro, from the north of the province. Gentilly, close to the load centre, has particular importance for grid stability and it also provides energy security regardless of seasonal rainfall. The $1.9 billion investment includes both nuclear and turbine-generator work as well as construction of a radioactive waste management facility. The work will be undertaken 2011-12.
Hydro Quebec 19/8/08.
Canadian uranium production below capacity
In Canada, total production for the six months to 30 June was 4772 tU, compared with full 2007 total of 9477 tU which was well below the norm to 2005. Cameco's (69.8%) McArthur River mine produced 3518 tU, almost on target, while its Rabbit Lake operation produced 582 tU in the last quarter, having been shut down for repairs until April. Areva RC's McClean Lake mine improved its recent output to 672 tU, reflecting much higher ore grade treated.
Cameco's (50%) Cigar Lake mine development has suffered a further setback with major water inflow, nearly two years after a flood halted work.
Cameco & Areva RC 14/8/08.
Canada restarts uranium conversion
Cameco is resuming operations at its uranium conversion plant at Port Hope, Ontario, which has been idle for over a year since it was discovered that production chemicals had escaped into groundwater (though confined to the plant site). The plant produces uranium hexafluoride (UF6) preparatory to enrichment. Remediation costs were some C$50-55 million. A more extensive clean-up of the site is envisaged by 2010, addressing contamination that long precedes present operations.
West Australia opens to uranium mining
A change in government in Western Australia has opened the state to uranium mining. The previous Labor premier had resorted to fearmongering based on fantasy and lies about the implications of uranium mining in order to attract green preference votes (the Greens polled 12%). The Australian Uranium Association had pointed to the considerable sovereign risk introduced for a resource-based economy by his announced intention to legislate against uranium mining if he was returned. This would wipe hundreds of million of dollars off the value of corporate assets, without any offer of compensation. The 6% swing against the Labor government exceeded all predictions.
Uranium exploration companies have taken the long view however, and over 2007-08 spent A$ 27 million in the state, compared with A$ 11 million the previous year.
Australian uranium production recovers
Australian uranium production for 2007-08 to end of June was 10,094.5 tonnes U3O8 (8560 tU), the highest for this period for three years, though still below potential capacity. ERA's Ranger mine produced 5273 t U3O8 (4471 tU), BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam 4115 t (3489 tU) and Heathgate's Beverley 706.5 t (599 tU).
Major climate change report
The final report from Professor Ross Garnaut to the Australian government makes a strong case for addressing the "diabolical policy problem" of climate change, but says that Australia's main effort needs to be directed at achieving international agreement. Garnaut recommends that Australia should aim for emission cuts of between 5 and 25 percent from 2000 levels by 2020, depending on the scope of the international agreement and whether 450 or 550 ppm CO2 becomes the target. An emissions trading system should be established at the earliest possible date, in 2010 and the specified target for sourcing power from renewable sources should be phased out.
To reduce emissions from power generation, the report leans towards commercialising clean coal technologies, notably carbon capture and sequestration, "within the range of current cost expectations", since almost 80% of Australia's electricity is from coal and lignite. However, nuclear power needs to be seen as a fallback option if clean coal fails to live up to promise or if "nuclear costs come in at the low end of current estimates". "Australia would be best served by continuing to export its uranium and focusing on low-emissions coal, gas and renewable options for domestic energy supply." However, the report's modeling shows that electricity prices would be lower with nuclear power supplying 27% of electricity by 2050 than without it.
Revised nuclear capacity projections
The International Atomic Energy Agency has revised upwards its projections for 2030 in its annual Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period to 2030. Its low projection shows an increase from 372 GWe today to 473 GWe in 2030, the high one gives 748 GWe then, in line with forecast growth in power generation. The rising costs of natural gas and coal, together with energy supply security and environmental constraints, are among the factors contributing to anticipated nuclear growth.
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has also revised upwards its normally low projections in its annual International Energy Outlook 2008: to 498 GWe in 2030. This is 34% higher than its 2030 projection published five years ago.
The World Nuclear Association has also introduced Nuclear Century Outlook projections for nuclear growth based on country by country assessments extending to 2100. These projections, which will be regularly updated, appear on the WNA website. For each country, two projections are made, using optimistic and pessimistic assumptions. When added, the projections provide high and low "boundaries" for likely future global nuclear capacity. For 2030 the boundaries are 550 GWe and 1200 GWe. The Outlook also aims to identify what would be required to achieve a worldwide change to clean energy and to assess how much nuclear power could contribute to this. It envisages the capacity needed for full transformation of electricity to be emissions-free plus much greater use of electricity in transport. It also envisages greater use of electricity or clean heat for industrial processes including desalination, synthetic oil and hydrogen production, though most of this beyond the 2030 time frame.
IAEA 11/9/08, EIA 12/9/08, WNA web site.
World reactor changes in last two months or prior
Sweden: Ringhals 3: 6.6% uprate 985 to 1050 MWe
Slovakia: Mochovce 1 & 2 uprate 15 MWe net June
USA Hope Creek uprate 122 MWe to 1185 net June
USA: Crystal River uprate 14.6 MWe to 838 Nov 07
USA: Beaver Valley-1 uprate 43 MWe to 911 in 2007
USA: Beaver valley-2 uprate 22 MWe in 2007
USA: Davis Besse uprate 12 MWe to 905 Aug
USA: Cooper uprate 12 MWe to 830 July
USA: Vogtle 1 uprate 45 MWe April '08
Taiwan: Kuosheng 1 & 2 uprate 16 MWe ea in 2007
Mexico: Laguna Verde 1 & 2 uprate 11.6 MWe ea in 2007
From WNA Digests June - July 2008
Heavy engineering challenge addressed.
A critical issue and possible constraint on accelerating nuclear power plant construction is the availability of heavy engineering plants to make the reactor components, especially for those units of more than 1000 MWe. This has not escaped the attention of either reactor vendors or potential customers, though new investment in major forges and steelmaking lines is dependent on actual orders rather than simply uncommitted plans or vague proposals.
The supply challenge is not confined to the heavy forgings for reactor pressure vessels, steam turbines and generators. It extends to most engineered components (as well as to those for other generation technologies), and with escalating steel and energy prices there is a flow-on to plant costs.
For very large Generation 3+ reactors, production of the pressure vessel requires, or is best undertaken by, forging presses of about 14-15,000 tonnes capacity which accept steel ingots of 500-600 tonnes. These are not common, and individual large presses do not have high throughput – about four pressure vessels per year appears to be common at present, fitted in with other work, though the potential is greater than this.
The very heavy forging capacity in operation today is in Japan (Japan Steel Works), China (China First Heavy Industries) and Russia (OMX Izhora). New capacity is being built by JSW and in South Korea (Doosan), France (Le Creusot) and is planned in UK (Sheffield Forgemesters) and possibly India (Larsen & Toubro). In China the Harbin Boiler Works and Shanghai Electric Group are bidding for AP1000 work which will require very heavy forging, so they can be expected to install that capacity rapidly if required. Nothing in North America approaches these enterprises.
The detail of this will be in a forthcoming WNA information paper, but a brief overview is:
In east Asia the largest and best-known supplier of heavy forgings is Japan Steel Works (JSW), which produces large forgings for reactor pressure vessels and has the distinction of supplying those for the first two 1650 MWe Areva EPR plants in Finland and France. The capacity of its Muroran plant on Hokkaido is set to double.
JSW has been manufacturing forgings for nuclear plant components to US Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards since 1974, and around 130 JSW reactor pressure vessels are in service around the world. The company has said that one of its main targets is to supply nuclear reactor pressure vessels to the Chinese and American markets, and it has many advance orders for components for very large new plants.
South Korea's Doosan Heavy Industries is currently undertaking a major investment in casting and forging capacity. It has contracts to supply reactor pressure vessels and steam generators for four new AP1000 reactors in USA, as well as two of the four being built in China at Sanmen and Haiyang.
China First Heavy Industries (CFHI) produces pressure vessels and pressurizers for nuclear power plants up to 1080 MWe and is bidding to supply pressure vessels and steam generators for China's second two AP1000 reactors. It commissioned a new forging press at the end of 2006 which it claims is the world's largest and has since gained approval from the National Development and Reform Commission to invest CNY 2.3 billion (US$ 337 million) in expanding its production capacity.
China's Harbin Boiler Works is the largest utility boiler manufacturer in the country and is also bidding to supply pressure vessels and steam generators for China's second two AP1000 reactors. Parent company Harbin Power Equipment Co. Ltd (HPEC) is supplying 1200 MWe steam turbines and generators for the four Sanmen and Haiyang AP1000 units under licence from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI).
China's Shanghai Electric Group includes heavy engineering and it manufactures pressure vessels, steam generators and pressurizers through its subsidiary Shanghai Boiler Works Ltd. It is the third bidder to supply pressure vessels and steam generators for China's second two AP1000 reactors.
The Donfang Boiler Group Co Ltd manufactures large capacity power plant boilers including components of PWRs and is working with Areva to manufacture all heavy nuclear components for Ling Ao phase 2 and other China Guangdong projects.
In Europe, Areva's Creusot Forge subsidiary in Burgundy announced recently that it was investing to increase production of heavy nuclear components, including large reactor pressure vessels, to give it a second source of supply for EPR components, additional to Japan Steel Works.
The UK's Sheffield Forgemasters is close to a decision on installing a very large forging press which would be commissioned at the start of 2012 and enable it to manufacture all heavy components for EPR and AP1000 reactors.
Russia's main reactor component supplier is OMZ's Izhora facility which is doubling the production of large forgings. OMZ is expected to produce the forgings for all new domestic AES-2006 model VVER-1200 nuclear reactors (four per year from 2016), plus exports. In 2008 the company is rebuilding its largest hydraulic press, claimed to be the biggest in Europe, and a second stage of work will increase that capacity further.
In the USA, Lehigh Heavy Forge claims to be the only heavy forge facility in North America and to manufacture the largest and most complex open-die forgings there. It claims the largest forging press in North America, but this is smaller than international competitors. Similarly, Babcock & Wilcox Company in the USA can produce pressure vessels and steam generators for fairly large reactors, and its boilers equip more than 270,000 MW of installed capacity in over 90 countries around the world.
In India, Larsen & Toubro Ltd., the country's biggest engineering company, plans to form a 20 billion rupee ($463 million) venture with Nuclear Power Corp. of India for domestic and export nuclear forgings. According to government officials, discussions have been initiated with French firms for industrial cooperation in the manufacture of PWR equipment in India. This would be to enhance the competitiveness of French reactors worldwide.
Two more US applications for new reactor licence
AmerenUE has lodged an application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a construction and operating licence (COL) for a new nuclear unit at its Callaway nuclear plant in Missouri. The application is based on using a 1600 MWe Areva US-EPR, and the COL application has been developed in collaboration with Unistar Nuclear, set up by Areva and Constellation Energy to promote the design. Last year AmerenUE contracted with Areva Inc for heavy forgings from Japan Steel Works for this plant, to be delivered in 2010-11.
The eleventh COL application was submitted to NRC by Progress Energy for twin Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at a new site near its Crystal River plant in Florida. In April the company signed a letter of intent to finalise an Engineering Procurement and Construction contract with Shaw Group and Westinghouse. This authorised Westinghouse to make commitments for procuring long lead-time componentss for the proposed AP1000 units.
The COLs will enable each company to seek federal loan guarantees and production tax credits under the 2005 Energy Policy Act, should construction proceed. Both companies are expecting a major increase in local electricity demand in the next decade. Seven more COL applications are expected this year.
WNN 8/4/08, 29/7/08, Platts 1/8/08.
US solicits bids for loan guarantees on nuclear construction
The US Department of Energy has invited applications for loan guarantees to support the construction of advanced nuclear power plants (up to $18.5 billion) and uranium enrichment plants (up to $2 billion). Loan guarantees are to encourage the commercial use of new or significantly improved energy technologies and "will enable project developers to bridge the financing gap between pilot and demonstration projects to full commercially viable projects that employ new or significantly improved energy technologies."
On the basis of the 2005 Energy Policy Act, DOE announced that it would guarantee the full amount of loans covering up to 80% of the cost of new clean energy projects including advanced nuclear power plants. The loan guarantees are expected to act as a catalyst and reduce financing cost by demonstrating government support, without cost to the taxpayer. Any preliminary approvals issued next year will be conditional upon the applicant receiving a combined construction and operating licence (COL) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and these are not expected before 2010.
Application to licence national waste repository
The Department of Energy has submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission its formal application for a licence to build and operate the long-planned US high-level waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The site is in desert country 150 km northwest of Las Vegas. Though totaling 8600 pages, the application needs supplementing with the EPA's public radiation exposure standard later in the year. The NRC is expected to take three years to review the application, and DOE hopes to open the facility in 2020, despite ongoing opposition from Nevada.
After some 24 years study of it, Yucca Mountain was approved as the site for the permanent repository for used nuclear fuel in 2002, though it was twenty years earlier that legislation was passed to the effect that the DOE should start taking used fuel from utilities from 1998 and disposing of it in a central repository as waste. This has not happened, and a number of large compensation payouts have resulted already, totaling $290 million so far. Used fuel is currently stored at 121 sites in 39 states. Utilities pay 0.1¢ per kWh of electricity they generate from nuclear into the Nuclear Waste Fund to pay for the federal government to arrange final disposal, yet they have had to take on the financial and engineering burden of ongoing storage at their reactor sites. At 40 of the 65 nuclear sites, pool storage is being supplemented with dry cask storage. The Waste Fund has accumulated about $31 billion so far, with $6 billion spent to date on Yucca Mountain. The national repository is designed to hold 70,000 tonnes of high-level radioactive waste, including 7000 tonnes of military waste, but there is geological (if not legal) scope for much more.
WNN 3/6/08, NEI 9/6/08.
US energy outlook shows nuclear increase
The US Energy Information Administration has released its 2008 Annual Energy Outlook. In the reference scenario nuclear capacity grows from 100.2 gigawatts (GWe) in 2006 to 114.9 GWe in 2030, the net 14.7 GWe increase including 2.7 GWe of uprates at existing plants, 17 GWe of new capacity, and less 4.5 GWe of retirements. Some 8 GWe of the new capacity is expected to be built by 2020 and receive tax credits under the 2005 Energy Policy Act. While this new plant figure is one third higher than last year's, in two other scenarios EIA projects 28.3 and 31.6 GWe of additional nuclear capacity by 2030.
EIA AEO 26/6/08.
Swiss application to build new nuclear power plant
Swiss energy company Atel has submitted an application to build a new nuclear power plant in Niederamt, near the Goesgen plant in which it has a 40% stake. An advanced 1100 to 1600 MWe reactor is envisaged, with hybrid (dry-wet) cooling system which will minimize water use. Estimated cost is EUR 3.7 to 4.5 billion to be shared by partners, and start-up is expected after 2020. There is strong local support for the project, and last year the canton parliament called for "rapid construction of a nuclear power station in Niederamt".
France announces new reactor plan
In a major speech on energy policy, President Sarkozy announced that France will build a second 1650 MWe EPR nuclear unit, to follow that at Flamanville which is due to enter service in 2012. The site is to be decided next year and construction started in 2011. He said that as well as the EPR providing electricity 30% to 50% cheaper than that from gas or coal, "nuclear power is more than ever an industry of the future and a vital energy. Each EPR saves 2 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year when it replaces gas-fired power, and [avoids emission of] 11 million tonnes of CO2 per year when it replaces a coal power plant." However, energy security remains the most basic part of French energy policy as it has for 35 years, resulting in a 78% share of electricity from nuclear power. Coincident with this announcement, Areva's Creusot Forge subsidiary in Burgundy announced that it was investing to increase production of heavy nuclear components, including large reactor pressure vessels for EPR reactors.
WNN 3/7/08, 9/6/08.
Baltic states and Poland agree on new plant
After months of disagreement, energy companies from Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Poland have established a joint project development company for a new 3200-3400 MWe nuclear power plant in Lithuania. The host country will hold 51% of this and the others 16% each, but the JV will be reconstituted later as a project implementation company with different share split related to long-term equity. Though located close to the Soviet-era Ignalina plant, the new one will be called Visaginas after the nearby town of that name. Lithuania wants at least 34% of the new plant (1090-1160 MWe), Poland wants 1000 MWe, while Latvia and Estonia want 400-600 MWe each.
Reuters 25/7/08, WNN 30/7/08.
British Energy rejects £12 billion EdF bid
After months of anticipation and majority agreement by the board, British Energy has rejected a bid by Electricité de France to buy the company. Though the UK government, with a 35.2% stake in BE, was keen on the sale, two major shareholders controlling 22% of the stock considered the 765 pence per share bid too low. EdF, which had made an earlier bid at 680p, announced that "After in-depth discussions, EdF considers that the conditions for a major development in Great Britain are not met to date." Negotiations continue, and EdF may seek other ways of proceeding with its plans to build several large new nuclear plants in the UK.
WNN 1/8/08, Times 2/8/08.
UK sets out plans for wastes
Forging ahead with new-found resolve, the UK government has published its policy for dealing with nuclear wastes, including the process to find a site for a deep geological repository. The June white paper, Managing Radioactive Waste Safely, A Framework for Implementing Geological Disposal, said that principles of "voluntarism and partnership" are to be used in the selection process. Accordingly, communities across the UK have now been invited to express an interest in hosting the facility, but without commitment at this stage. If proceeding they would benefit from the jobs and infrastructure a repository would bring, as well as from a tailored benefits package. Most of the UK is understood to be geologically suitable for the facility, though further checks would be needed on candidate sites. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which has the responsibility to dismantle facilities from the national nuclear power and research programs, is to take the lead on the forthcoming process. It will continue to conduct research on waste management, while its Radioactive Waste Management Directorate will actually deliver the disposal project.
UK contracts Sellafield management and defines clean-up costs
The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has announced the choice of Nuclear Management Partners Ltd to manage the large Sellafield complex and associated facilities for minimum five years (and up to 17 years) at £1.3 billion per year. Nuclear Management Partners is a consortium of URS Corporation's Washington Division, AMEC and Areva NC. The shares in Sellafield Ltd, the site licence company, will be transferred from BNFL to Nuclear Management Partners as parent body for the duration of the contract.
In addition the NDA has said that, after three years of work, it had now been able to produce an "underpinned baseline" for the cost of the total UK decommissioning and clean-up program. The project involves decommissioning 26 first-generation Magnox power reactors, the Dounreay, Windscale, Harwell and Winfrith research sites, as well as the huge Sellafield complex. The discounted nuclear liability is now estimated at £40.7 billion with a further £3.4 billion for the construction and lifetime costs of a deep geological repository, total £44.1 billion. The undiscounted costs for the whole 130-year program of decommissioning and clean-up are £63.5 billion, and the NDA's share of the undiscounted cost for construction and operation of the geological repository is £10.1 billion.
WNN 11 & 18/7/08.
EU electricity industry views on nuclear and CCS
European electric industry executives and EU policymakers expressed their views on technologies to "de-carbonize" Europe's power industry in a poll taken at a Eurelectric industry conference in Barcelona. Nuclear power was seen as the key technology to lower carbon emissions by 49%, while 24% said carbon capture and storage (CCS) was the key, and 6% chose wind power. Eurelectric wrote to EU policymakers earlier in June supporting CCS but "given that carbon capture technologies do not yet exist for power generation - they are currently available only on scales several orders of magnitude smaller - Eurelectric strongly opposes any move to mandate the use of CCS on new or existing plants." It also urged that CCS not be subject to free allowances under the EU Emissions Trading Scheme. The EU has set itself a binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 20% below 1990 levels by 2020.
Platts 16/6/08, Eurelectric 3/6/08.
Europe rebuilds uranium inventories
In response to energy security concerns, EU-27 utilities in 2006 and 2007 started rebuilding inventories of uranium, almost entirely under long-term contractual arrangements with suppliers. The average price of deliveries under these contracts in 2007 was EUR 41/kgU (USD 21.60/lb U3O8), up 6.7% from 2006. Russia overtook Canada as the largest uranium supplier, with 25% of total, followed by Canada 18% then Niger 17% and Australia 15%. However some of the Russian supply of fabricated fuel may have come from Kazakhstan or elsewhere. Some 31% of enrichment services came from Russia. Plutonium use in MOX fuel was 8.6 tonnes, displacing 1035 tonnes of natural uranium in 2007 and bringing the cumulative total used in the EU since 1996 to 104 tonnes.
Euratom Annual Report 2/7/08.
Russian contra proliferation landmark
Russia has shut down the second of its two large metal-graphite reactors at Seversk in Siberia. This ends 43 years of military plutonium production at the site, formerly known as Tomsk-7. The US National Nuclear Safety Administration had worked with Rosatom to provide alternative sources of electricity and heat which had also been supplied by the reactors. The third and last plutonium production reactor at Zheleznogorsk is due to be shut down in 2010. Both sites have civil fuel cycle facilities, with more planned.
NNSA 5/6/08, Nuclear.Ru 5/6/08.
Swedish public opinion firms
Public opinion supporting nuclear power is now 82% positive in Sweden, with only 15% wanting to proceed with the 1980 phase-out decision. The majority opinion comprises 40% who favour expanding nuclear capacity and 42% who simply prefer continuing to operate present plants but not yet building more.
KSU, Synovate 24/6/08.
Communication glitch raises false alarm
A primary coolant leak due to a faulty valve at Slovenia’s Krsko nuclear power plant (Westinghouse PWR) was erroneously notified to the EU’s computerized Ecurie system in such a way as to signify a potential radiological problem. The EU’s radiological incident warning system was then activated, suggesting a possible threat. The incident rated zero on International Nuclear Event Scale and the reactor was restarted four days later after repairs.
WNN 5 & 6/6/08.
South Korea to fore in heavy engineering
South Korea’s Doosan Heavy Industries has contracted with Westinghouse and Shaw to supply reactor pressure vessels and steam generators for all four new AP1000 reactors in USA, as well as two of the four being built in China at Sanmen and Haiyang. Doosan also has an agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) for supply of heavy forgings and equipment for further projects in China. It is undertaking a major investment in casting and forging capacity and expects to win a record $9.4 billion of orders this year, with about 60% coming from overseas.
UAE launches nuclear policy
Independently of its Gulf Cooperation Council partners, the United Arab Emirates has published a comprehensive national policy on nuclear energy. This projects escalating electricity demand from 15.5 GWe in 2008 to over 40 GWe in 2020, with natural gas supplies sufficient for only half of this. Nuclear power emerged as a proven, competitive option to meet this demand and provide future energy security. Accordingly, "the UAE is establishing a Nuclear Energy Program Implementation Organization as recommended by the IAEA." This implementation organization will be known as the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC). Its establishment is well under way as a public entity, initially funded with $100 million, to evaluate and implement UAE plans.
Secondly, the UAE "will also draft a comprehensive national nuclear law" which establishes a fully independent nuclear regulatory authority. Thirdly, it will "offer joint-venture arrangements to foreign investors for the construction and operation of future nuclear power plants" similar to its existing Independent Water and Power Producer structures which are majority government-owned, with foreign JV partner(s). Finally, "In lieu of domestic enrichment and reprocessing, the UAE would seek to conclude long-term arrangements …. for the secure supply of nuclear fuel, as well as …. if available, the disposal of spent fuel via fuel leasing or other emerging fuel supply arrangements."
The UAE's implementation organization met at Abu Dhabi in late June with a number of nuclear industry companies which are prospective participants in its plans, notably building and operating the first of 14 nuclear power plants, installing capacity of 20 GWe by 2020. This total nuclear capacity would free up 35 million tonnes (24 million barrels) of oil or 40 billion cubic metres of gas per year for export. The UAE has nuclear cooperation agreements in place with USA, UK and France. In January three French companies Areva, Suez and Total signed a partnership agreement to propose to UAE the construction of two 1600 MWe EPR units at Abu Dhabi, with majority local equity. More such proposals are set to follow as trade-off for access to oil and gas, according to Total.
The six Gulf states have been cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency on a feasibility study for a regional nuclear power and desalination program. Together they generate 273 billion kWh per year, all from fossil fuels and have a 5-7% annual demand growth, epitomised by Dubai. Total installed capacity is about 80 GWe, with a common grid. There is also a large demand for desalination, currently fuelled by oil and gas.
UAE white paper April 08, EAA June 08.
Jordan firms up nuclear plans
Jordan has signed agreements with both Canada and UK to advance its nuclear power and desalination plans. It imports about 95% of its energy and expects to need an additional 1200 MWe of generating capacity by 2015, which is the target date for operation of its first nuclear power plant. Also it has a "water deficit" of about 500 million cubic metres per year. The government has set out a program for nuclear power to provide 30% of domestic electricity by 2030, and to provide for exports. The country has significant uranium resources and a feasibility study on recovering uranium as a by-product of phosphate production is under way. A nuclear cooperation agreement with France relates to this. The new agreement with the UK is wide-ranging, and that with Canada is specifically focused on utilizing the 750 MWe Enhanced Candu-6 reactor for power and desalination, using indigenous unenriched uranium as fuel.
Kazatomprom determined to add value to Uranium
Kazakhstan's state-owned uranium and nuclear energy company Kazatomprom has reiterated its goal of overtaking Canada and Australia to become the world's leading uranium supplier from 2009, with 15,000 tU production (17,700 t U3O8) targeted for 2010.
The company has forged several strategic alliances which it says have transformed it into transnational vertically-integrated company covering the full fuel cycle. In one of these, Areva has signed a strategic agreement with Kazatomprom to increase its role in Kazakhstan. In mining, this will expand the existing Katco joint venture (Areva 51% and which has been funded by Areva) from mining 1500 tU/yr to 4000 tU/yr, and sets up Areva to handle all sales from it.
In addition Kazatomprom has joined with Canada's Cameco Corporation in announcing the formation of a new company – Ulba Conversion LLP – to build a 12,000 t/yr uranium hexafluoride conversion plant in Kazakhstan. Cameco, with 49% share, will provide the technology for the project, to be built at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Ust-Kamenogorsk. A feasibility study is due to be completed mid 2009.
Also it has agreed with Russia's Tenex to build a 5 million SWU/yr addition to the Angarsk centrifuge enrichment plant in Siberia, more than doubling its capacity. Each party will contribute about US$ 1.6 billion and Kazatomprom will hold 50% equity. Construction is expected to start in 2009 and the first capacity is due on line by 2011. This is separate from the International Uranium Enrichment Centre (IUEC) there, in which Kazatomprom holds 10%.
Finally, in a new joint venture Kazatomprom will draw on Areva’s engineering expertise to install 1200 tonnes per year fuel fabrication capacity at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant. This will have two production lines: one of 400 t/yr will be 49% owned by Areva, the other 800 t/yr one will be 100% Kazatomprom. In a third JV (Areva 51%) will market the fabricated fuel. The agreement is to be concluded in September, and will be a significant step in its aim to supply up to one third of the world fuel fabrication market by 2030, with China to be an early major customer.
Areva 11/6/08, Nuclear.Ru 11/6/08, Kazatomprom 29/7/08, WNN 4/6 & 23/7/08, NuclearFuel 28/7/08.
India moves toward nuclear commerce
The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency has approved the India-specific safeguards agreement which had earlier threatened to bring down the Indian government but was passed in a vote of confidence for the government. It will be implemented next year. A draft copy of the agreement with the IAEA was released early in July. It is similar to those between IAEA and non nuclear weapons states, hence much more restrictive than many in India's parliament wanted.
The next step in bringing India into the fold will be consideration by the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group of exempting India from its rule of prohibiting trade with non members of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Following this, US Congress must approve a law to the same effect.
The changes will see many of India's nuclear facilities brought more fully under international nuclear safeguards arrangements while opening up India's participation in international trade in uranium and nuclear hardware. This arrangement will be outside of, but in line with, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and will substantially rectify the anomaly of having China in it and India excluded. India has six nuclear reactors under IAEA safeguards now, the new agreement will take in 14 initially.
WNN 24/7/08, 1/8/08.
Indian nuclear power choked by fuel shortage
Indian nuclear power plants are running at about half of capacity due to a chronic shortage of fuel. The situation is expected to persist for several years unless the civil nuclear agreement with USA proceeds, though some easing this year is likely due to the new Turamdih mill in Jharkhand state coming on line soon (the mine there is already operating). Several new reactors have had start-up dates postponed due to the fuel shortage. Political opposition has delayed new mines in Jharkhand, Meghalaya and Andhra Pradesh. Fuel for the large Russian reactors being constructed at Kudankulam is arriving from Russia, but these are not expected to start up until late next year. In addition, India's plan to add 25,000 MWe nuclear capacity before 2020 by importing reactors and fuel will be delayed by two decades if the nation has to rely on indigenous designs.
Bloomberg 4/6/08, Hindu 8/6/08.
India to export nuclear heavy engineering
India's largest engineering group, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) is preparing to venture into international markets for supply of heavy engineering components for nuclear reactors. It plans to form a 20 billion rupee (US$ 463 million) venture with Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd (NPCIL) for domestic and export nuclear forgings as the nation pursues talks with the USA for civil nuclear technology.
In the context of India's trade isolation over three decades L&T has produced heavy components for 17 of India's pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs). It has also secured contracts for 80% of the components for the fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam, now under construction. It is qualified by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers to fabricate nuclear-grade pressure vessels and core support structures, achieving this internationally recognised quality standard last year. It is one of about ten major nuclear-qualified heavy engineering enterprises worldwide.
WNN 16/7/08, Bloomberg.
Ontario selects Darlington for new plants
The Ontario government has selected Darlington, 75 km east of Toronto, as the site for two large new nuclear reactors to come on line in 2018. The state-owned Ontario Power Generation will operate them. Three reactor vendors have been invited to tender and a decision will be made by the end of the year among Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, Westinghouse and Areva on the basis of lifetime cost of power, credible schedule, and investment in Ontario. The government also affirmed the importance of privately-run Bruce Power on Lake Huron, 250 km NW of Toronto, and the need for it to contribute 6300 MWe of nuclear capacity either through refurbishment or new build. A decision on refurbishing Bruce B (4 units, 3260 MWe) is pending, along with an alternative proposal to build four new reactors there as Bruce C.
OPG 16/6/08, WNN 16/6/08.
Nuclear proposal for Saskatchewan
Bruce Power has announced a joint feasibility study with SaskPower to build two nuclear power reactors in Saskatchewan, the source of most of Canada's uranium. A report on the proposal and wider energy options for the province is due by the end of the year. SaskPower currently operates 3065 MWe of plant, more than half of it coal-fired. Part of any 2000 MWe nuclear increment might be exported to southern Alberta. Bruce Power Alberta has lodged an application related to building two to four reactors at Peace River in the far north, producing up to 4000 MWe.
Bruce Power 18/6/08, Globe & Mail 18/6/08.
Cameco and Mitsubishi buy major uranium deposit
Following a bidding process, a major uranium deposit potentially ready for development has been bought from Rio Tinto by a Cameco (70%) and Mitsubishi (30%) joint venture for US$ 495 million. Rio Tinto came close to opening an 1800-2000 t U3O8 per year mine in the mid 1990s but due to low uranium prices put the site on care and maintenance in 1998 and then decommissioned it in 2002. It was put on the market last year. The deal is conditional upon state government approval for the sale, and agreement with the Martu traditional owners, who declared that they "are pleased with the process undertaken by Rio Tinto in the sale" and thanked them for their support to Martu. The tenements include four granted mining leases and four mining lease applications. Kintyre is 1250 km NE of Perth.
Cameco will operate the project. Uranium reserves of 24,000 tonnes U3O8 and inferred resources of 12,000 tonnes at relatively high grades were identified by Rio Tinto in 1988, though these are not claimed as JORC-compliant. The vein-type nature of the orebody makes it possible to use radiometric ore sorting so that the mill feed is effectively very high grade, resulting in low processing costs and a compact treatment plant. However, beyond paying $346.5 million, Cameco is cautious about the resource prospects. It would need to obtain approval from the state's Labor government, which is currently opposed to uranium mines.
Cameco 9/7/08, Rio Tinto & Martu 10/7/08.
Australian uranium production recovers
Australian uranium production for 2007-08 to end of June was 10,094.5 tonnes U3O8 (8560 tU), the highest for this period for three years, though still below potential capacity. ERA's Ranger mine produced 5273 t U3O8 (4471 tU), BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam 4115 t (3489 tU) and Heathgate's Beverley 706.5 t (599 tU).
New Red Book published
The OECD/NEA and IAEA Uranium 2007: Resources, Production and Demand, better known as the Red Book, has been published. It shows a 15% increase in known recoverable uranium resources from 4.74 to 5.47 million tonnes over the two years 2005-06, due mainly to mineral exploration activity. These figures are for resources to US$ 130/kgU - the increase in the under $80/kgU category is 17%. World uranium exploration expenditure rose from $364 million in 2005 to $774 million in 2006, and the 2007 level was similar.
Cameco buys into laser enrichment
Cameco has made a major strategic investment in Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), the GE-Hitachi subsidiary which is developing the Australian SILEX laser enrichment technology. Cameco will take 24% of GLE for $124 million, coming in alongside GE (51%) and Hitachi (25%) to finalise development of the new technology and set up the possibility of any of the parties marketing uranium supply and enrichment services together. Cameco is the world's largest uranium producer and also a major converter, so it would be in a position to sell enriched uranium product. GLE would be able to sell a product, not simply a service, especially in connection with reactor sales. The deal values GLE at $517 million, the same as USEC's market valuation at that time.
GLE is preparing to start up a test loop using SILEX technology at the end of 2008 and on the basis of this will decide in 2009 whether to build a full-scale plant with a capacity of up to 6 million SWU per year. If such a decision is made, a new GLE facility at Wilmington, North Carolina could start up in 2012 and achieve commercial operation in 2013. The two largest US nuclear utilities, Exelon and Entergy, have signed letters of intent to contract for uranium enrichment services from GLE.
GE 20/6/08, Cameco 20/6/08.
Hitachi and GE to market mid-size reactors
Hitachi-GE is reported to have started marketing midsize nuclear reactors and hope to land the first orders soon after 2010. It plans to supply 400 to 600 MWe boiling water reactors and 600 to 900 MWe advanced boiling water reactors (ABWRs) which are expected to be priced at $1.9-$2.8 billion. These will be marketed to countries such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand with relatively small grid systems. Hitachi-GE in Japan has completed systems design for 600 and 900 MWe versions of the 1350 MWe ABWR design. The smaller versions will have standardised features which reduce costs. Construction of the ABWR-600 is expected to take 34 months - significantly less than the full-sized units.
GE-Hitachi, based in the USA, has confirmed that in the large reactor field it is committed to both the ABWR (several of which have been built) and the later model ESBWR, for which it expects up to six US orders.
IEA spells out carbon reduction challenge
The OECD International Energy Agency’s biennial publication Energy Technology Perspective has outlined what it says is necessary to halve today’s CO2 emissions by 2050 in order to keep global temperature increase below 2.4C. This would require the virtual decarbonising of the power generation sector and entail investment in new technology of over $45 trillion by 2050 plus carbon emission costs of $200 to $500 /t CO2. Apart from conservation, nuclear power and carbon capture and storage are the main technologies to achieve this, and it suggests that some 1400 new nuclear plants are likely to be required by 2050.
Innovative Russian reactor prototype
Rosatom and the privately-owned Russian Machines Co have put together a joint venture to build a novel prototype 100 MWe power reactor at Obinsk by 2015. The SVBR is modular lead-bismuth cooled fast neutron reactor from Gidropress, derived from a design used in submarines with 70 reactor-years operational experience. It is an integral reactor, with the steam generators sitting in the same molten metal pool as the reactor core. It is designed to be able to use a wide variety of fuels, though the reference model uses uranium enriched to 16%. Uranium-plutonium fuel is also envisaged. The unit will be factory-built and shipped as a 4.5m diameter, 7.5m high module, then installed in a tank of water which gives passive heat removal and shielding.
A power station with 10 to 16 such modules is claimed to supply electricity at lower cost than any other new Russian technology as well as achieving inherent safety and high proliferation resistance. If the Obinsk pilot plant is successful, Russian Machines intends to invest in commercialising the design.
There are several Japanese, US and S.Korean small fast reactor design concepts with similarities to the SVBR, but none has been commercialised yet.
Nuclear.Ru 10/7/08, Nucleonics Week 24/7/08.
World reactor changes in last two months
From WNA Digests April - May 2008
New Report Projects Nuclear Futures
A major new economic report analyses the potential for uranium to meet world needs to 2030. It focuses on the potential for Australia, but the projected demand is global. Two world scenarios are considered beyond the base case: moderate action to address climate change so as to stabilise atmospheric CO2 concentration at 550 ppm by 2050, and aggressive action to cut CO2 emissions by 60% as recommended by international scientific authorities.
The first scenario, Climate Action, involves projecting 960 GWe of nuclear capacity operating by 2030, compared with 372 GWe today. This is in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report projection based on US$ 50 per tonne CO2 price and limiting temperature rise to 3°C. It is considered the most likely outcome, with CO2 emission reductions significantly less than those under discussion now for developed countries. Global nuclear capacity is a little above other recent studies.
The second scenario, Climate Crisis, projects 1634 GWe nuclear capacity operating in 2030 - significantly more than other studies foresee. This level is consistent with limiting the average rise in global temperatures to about 2°C by stabilising CO2 levels at 450 ppm by 2050. It is based on a 60% reduction in CO2 emissions requiring at least US$ 100 per tonne cost on CO2 emissions.
Global CO2 reduction to 2030 is 15 or 23 billion tonnes respectively for the two scenarios.
The report compares published projections for nuclear capacity to 2030, to which WNA Market Report projections and newer IAEA figures can be added:
||GWe installed in 2030
The latter Deloitte figure is not a prediction but indicates what the modeling says is needed to get on track to achieve the limitation in global warming. It does however have something in common with a country-by-country exercise being undertaken by the World Nuclear Association to try and envisage what might be possible in this century if there were a serious swing to deploying nuclear capacity.
With Australia supplying a modest proportion of world uranium demand in the two Deloitte scenarios, Australian exports total 31,400 tonnes uranium and 64,500 tU respectively in 2030, assuming present domestic political constraints disappear. Should they not disappear, exports are 75-80% of this level.
The considerable economic benefits to Australia are quantified, as are the world benefits in reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Assuming relaxation of political constraints in two Australian states, under the moderate Climate Action scenario, national GDP would be $17.4 billion higher to 2030, under the more radical Climate Crisis scenario, that jumps to $32.3 billion.
The report was commissioned last year by the Australian Uranium Association, since no such study had been done there for 15 years. It was undertaken by Deloitte - Insight Economics.
AUA 16/5/08, Outlook for the Uranium Industry (report is available on AUA web site > publications)
Contracts to build four new reactors
The AP1000 consortium of Westinghouse and the Shaw Group has signed an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract with Georgia Power for two new 1100 MWe AP1000 nuclear units at the existing Vogtle site in Georgia. Parent company Southern Co earlier lodged a combined construction and operating licence (COL) application for the project. It already has two 1215 MWe reactors on the site and the new ones are planned to come into operation in 2016 and 2017.
Six weeks later Westinghouse and Shaw signed a second EPC contract with South Carolina Electricity & Gas and Santee Cooper to build two new 1117 MWe AP1000 reactors at their VC Summer, SC site, which already has one 966 MWe unit. They have also lodged a COL application for this project. Total cost including owners costs and finance is expected to be $9.8 billion, about half of which would be for the actual plants. The new units are planned to come into operation in 2016 and 2019.
Early in March Unistar lodged the second part of its COL application for an Areva US-EPR at Calvert Cliffs. This makes nine full COL application, now for total of 15 reactors - ten of them Westinghouse AP1000.
Southern 31/3/08, Georgia Power 8/4/08, SCEG 31/3 & 27/5/08.
Toshiba in new US partnership
Nuclear Innovation North America (NINA) has been formed by NRG Energy and Toshiba to promote the 1350 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) in North America. This is the fourth such utility - reactor vendor partnership set up in the USA to promote new reactor deployment. NINA will be a developer, not owner or operator. Toshiba will contribute $300 million to NINA, giving it 12% equity. The initial focus will be South Texas units 3 & 4 and Toshiba is extending the pre-negotiated engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract terms for those units to NINA for two additional twin ABWR projects.
Several ABWRs are operating and under construction in Japan and Taiwan and the design was certified by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1997. These were originally a GE-Hitachi-Toshiba design, but with GE and Hitachi joining up, Toshiba has modified it slightly and is promoting it under its own name as a well-proven option for new-generation plants. Toshiba's Westinghouse subsidiary is marketing the more innovative AP1000 design.
NRG 25/3 & 1/5/08.
Further major power uprate
After an 18 month review, PSEG Nuclear has been allowed a 25% uprate of its Hope Creek nuclear power reactor in southern New Jersey, taking it to 1225 MWe. Most of this, from 1061 to 1185 MWe, will take place around mid year. The BWR plant began operating in 1986 and is managed by PSEG together with the twin unit Salem plant on the same site.
Since 1977, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved 119 applications to uprate generating capacity of nuclear power reactors in the USA. In total, these uprates have added 5347 MWe of capacity.
Sites selected for two new enrichment plants
Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), a subsidiary of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH), has announced selection of Wilmington, North Carolina for a potential commercial uranium enrichment facility based on Australian SILEX technology. GLE is preparing a licence application to build and operate the plant, with a projected start-up date of 2012. The commercial facility would have a target capacity of 3.5 million separative work units (SWU) initially - this being about one quarter of expected US demand in 2015. GEH intends to make a final decision on construction early in 2009 subject to the results of a demonstration test loop, construction of which is almost complete.
A week later Areva Inc confirmed Idaho Falls, near DOE's Idaho National Laboratory, as the site for its new 3 million SWU/yr, $2 billion centrifuge enrichment plant. It expects to submit a licence application during 2008 with a view to operation in 2014, ramping up to full capacity in 2019. It will be a smaller version of Areva's new French plant.
Silex, GE 1 & 14/5/08, Areva 6/5/08.
US quantifies energy subsidies and support
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has published an analysis of US government energy subsidies and R&D support in 2007, totaling $16.6 billion - double the 1999 level. Of this, $6.75 billion is related to electricity production, and $6.0 billion of this is split between R&D and subsidies. Apart from transmission and distribution ($875 million), the balance is $1.55 billion for R&D in anticipation of future benefits and $3.55 billion in subsidies for present production.
The $1.55 billion for R&D comprises $922 million for nuclear, $522 million for coal and $108 million for renewables - which currently supply 19.4%, 49% and 2.5% (apart from hydro) of US power respectively. Nuclear R&D comprises $319 million for new nuclear plant design and proliferation-resistant fuel cycle, $350 million for clean-up of nuclear energy and research sites and $253 million for Idaho facilities and related management. Two thirds of coal R&D was for "clean coal" programs.
The $3.55 billion for subsidies is by way of tax credits, with the lion's share going to coal-based synthetic fuel which achieves some emission reduction. Nuclear got $199 million and renewables $724 million (0.025 cents/kWh and 0.71 c/kWh respectively). The nuclear subsidy is entirely due to a change in tax rules related to decommissioning, under the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The renewables subsidy is mainly for wind, at 2.3 cents/kWh.
EIA summary April 2008: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/servicerpt/subsidy2/index.html
Government study on nuclear economics
The Congressional Budget Office has undertaken a study quantifying the effects of likely carbon emission costs and limited federal subsidies on the commercial viability of new advanced nuclear technology in the USA. With carbon emission costs of about $45 per tonne CO2, nuclear would be competitive with coal and natural gas even without other incentives. Conversely, the subsidies offered for the first 6000 MWe of advanced nuclear capacity would make it an attractive investment even without carbon emission costs. However, uncertainties regarding nuclear plant construction costs and future gas prices could deter investment in nuclear projects.
WNN 6/5/08, CBO May 2008 Nuclear Power's Role in Generating Electricity.
Uranium production increases
In 2007 production from US uranium operations (one mill and five ISL mines) increased ten percent over the previous year' s level, to 1748 tonnes of uranium (2061 t U3O8). Uranium exploration expenditure more than doubled to $50.3 million. This year several more operations are expected to start up and production is likely to increase substantially.
EIA 13/5/08, Denison.
Further US resolve to limit CO2 emissions
A series of statements suggest that the US resolve to take action in limiting CO2 emissions is increasing steadily. The President said that said a new national goal to stop the growth of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 was building on his 2002 commitment to reduce the country's greenhouse gas intensity by 18% by 2012. This in turn relates to a new "economy-wide strategy" to encourage the development and deployment of new clean and efficient technologies through a blend of market incentives and emission reduction regulations. A focus of this is the power generation sector, where a major need "is to promote more emission-free nuclear power." While "clean coal" developments should be encouraged and renewables had their place, the existing complicated mix of incentives to develop and commercialise new lower-emission technologies should be consolidated into a single, expanded incentive program which would make lower emission power sources less expensive than higher emissions ones, while remaining technology-neutral. He reiterated that the USA would be willing to include its national plan in a binding international agreement post-Kyoto, as long as other major economies did the same with their plans.
US public opinion strengthens pro nuclear
An April survey of US citizens (N=1000) found that overall 82% said nuclear power will be important in meeting the nation’s electricity needs in the years ahead. In a change since last October, most now put economic growth ahead of climate change and energy security as a prime concern, with air pollution trailing in a list of four. Public support for building new nuclear power plants strengthened three points to 78% since October, and 55% of respondents self-identified as environmentalists.
The survey also showed clear public support for government incentives to reduce CO2 emissions - 79% approve of providing tax credits "as an incentive to companies to build solar, wind and advanced-design nuclear power plants," and 37% strongly approve. Only 20% do not approve. When asked about providing federal loan guarantees to companies that build solar, wind, advanced-design nuclear power plants "or other energy technology that reduces greenhouse gases, to jump-start investment in these critical energy facilities" 77% approved.
Finland application for new reactor
Major Finnish utility TVO has applied to the Council of State for approval in principle to build a new 1000-1800 MWe plant - Olkiluoto 4. It also submitted feasibility studies on five alternative designs for it to the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority. TVO is already building Olkiluoto 3, a 1600 MWe Areva EPR unit, due to come on line in 2011.
Italy to build new nuclear plants
The new Italian government has confirmed that it will commence building new nuclear power plants within five years, to reduce the county's great dependence on oil, gas and imported power. Italy today is the only G8 country without its own nuclear power, and is the world's largest net importer of electricity. It spends EUR 60 billion per year on all energy imports.
The government has introduced a package of nuclear legislation, including measures to set up a national nuclear research and development entity, to expedite licensing of new reactors at existing nuclear power plant sites, and to facilitate licensing of new reactor sites. Enel, the main electric utility, plans to build new reactors at one of three licensed sites: Garigliano, Latina, or Montalto di Castro. The first two had small early-model reactors operating to 1982 and 1987. At Montalto di Castro two larger reactors were almost complete when the country's November 1987 referendum halted construction. WNN 23/5/08.
UK bullish on nuclear prospects
The UK business secretary said in March "I believe that the revival of nuclear power in Britain today [with renewables] has the potential to be the most significant opportunity for our energy economy since the exploitation of North Sea oil and gas. " He said nuclear power "could be contributing a significantly higher proportion of the UK's energy in the decades ahead", not merely replacing old plant now providing 19% of the country's electricity, though even that would provide "breathtaking" opportunities for UK companies. "The public recognise the need to take action against the dangers to our planet from global warming and the dangers here at home from insecure energy supplies. The debate about going nuclear 'in principle' is over." Subsequently he said that increasing UK use of nuclear power was a "no-brainer".
Hutton speech 26/3/08.
Russian proposal for nuclear plant at Kaliningrad
Rosatom Corporation and the government of Kaliningrad, the Russian outpost on the Baltic Sea between Poland and Lithuania, have agreed to plan construction of a nuclear power plant with up to 49% European equity. This would be primarily for export, but also to replace the power currently bought from Lithuania's Ignalina plant, and to enhance energy security in the region. The plant would comprise two AES-92 units with VVER pressurized water reactors - the same as those being built at Belene in Bulgaria. The cost is expected to be "almost EUR 5 billion." The site chosen is in Neman District, some 120 km east of Kaliningrad next to the Lithuanian border, and therefore will compete with the scheme led by Lithuania and involving Poland, Estonia and Latvia to replace nuclear capacity lost with the shutdown of the Soviet-era Ignalina plant. It was agreed under duress that this plant should finally be closed in 2009, so that Lithuania could join the European Union.
Russian plans for power plus aluminium progress
Last year Rosatom and RUSAL announced a feasibility study on a power generation and metallurgical complex with a nuclear power plant and an aluminium plant in Russia's far east. This proposal is taking shape as a US$ 10 billion project involving four 1000 MWe reactors with Atomstroyexport having a controlling share in the nuclear side. The preliminary feasibility study and site review will be completed by the end of 2009. Unlike the similar proposal for the Saratov region involving the Balakovo nuclear power plant, it appears that the aluminium smelter may not be the sole or even the major user of the new power capacity.
UK-French regulatory link
In connection with a high-level UK-French government meeting the chief nuclear safety regulators of both countries announced that the UK Generic Design Assessment for Areva's EPR design would proceed in close collaboration with ASN, the French regulator, in order to avoid unnecessary duplication of assessment work already done. The prospect of working similarly with US and other regulators, and extending the collaboration "to other interested European partners" was mentioned.
Japan push to Russia and EU
Toshiba has signed a technical cooperation agreement on civil nuclear power with Russia's Atomenergoprom - the large vertically-integrated state holding company for Russia's nuclear power sector created in 2007. This could lead to a "strategic partnership" and include designing and engineering of commercial nuclear power plants, as well as manufacturing and maintenance of large equipment.
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has submitted its 1700 MWe APWR design for certification under European Utilities Requirements, the first time a Japanese large reactor vendor has ventured into the EU market.
Nuclear.Ru, WNN 20/3/08, JAIF 26/3/08.
Korean construction permits for new reactors
South Korea has licensed construction of the first pair of APR-1400 reactors at Shin Kori. First concrete for the first unit is scheduled in October, for plant operation in 2013 after 51 months construction. In anticipation of it Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) placed a US$ 1.2 billion order with Doosan Heavy Industries for major components of both units in August 2006. These will be the first of a new series of reactors developed by KHNP and Korea Power Engineering Company from US designs licensed by Westinghouse, and with the hope of exporting them. Current export prospects to Indonesia centre on the OPR-1000 reactor design, formerly known as the Korean Standard Nuclear Plant. Ten of these are under construction and in operation in South Korea.
Nucleonics Week 24/4/08.
Tepco delays new reactors
Tepco has been struggling with the loss of its Kashiwazaki Kariwa capacity - nearly half of its nuclear total - following the mid 2007 earthquake. It is not certain that they will re-start before March 2009 (see Newsletter #2/08). Review of seismic design criteria has meant that construction of its Higashidori 1 & 2 and Fukushima Daiichi 7 & 8 reactors have been delayed, requiring revival of old oil-burning plants and accelerated investment in new coal-fired (1.6 GWe) and gas plant (4.5 GWe of LNG) to fill the gap. Forward prospects are better, and Tepco forecasts its overall nuclear output increasing from 23% to 48% of total supply over 2007 to 2017.
Central & South Asia, Africa, S. America
Turkey invites bids for plant
The Turkish government has invited bids by October for building its first nuclear power plant of about 4000 MWe at Akkuyu. It has had strong expressions of interest from several quarters.
US-Alberta study on nuclear power for oil
The US Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and the Alberta Research Council will jointly study the potential applications of nuclear power for extracting and treating Alberta's tar sands which seem set to become an increasingly important source of oil for the USA. The study will also look at conventional electricity generation. INL is focused on advanced, next-generation nuclear power systems for both electricity and hydrogen production - since 1949 some 52 different reactors have been designed and tested there.
In relation to the tar sands, a high input of energy is required for them to yield oil. At present gas is used, but this is unsustainable. The specific needs are for steam, electricity and hydrogen. The steam supply needs to be semi portable as tar sand extraction proceeds, so relatively small reactors which could be moved every decade or so may be on the research agenda, and INL is well qualified in that regard. INL is also to be the site of the US Next Generation Nuclear Plant, a $2 billion pilot plant to demonstrate the technical feasibility of hydrogen production on a large scale by 2021.
ARC 25/3/08, WNN 31/3/08.
Canada aborts MAPLE reactors
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) has aborted the commissioning of the two 10 MW MAPLE research reactors at Chalk River after spending some C$ 680 million on them. They will be written off. One unit went critical in 2000, the second in 2003, but commissioning encountered major technical problems. They would have been the world’s first reactors dedicated exclusively to medical isotope production, though MDS Nordion, which originally ordered them, had opted out of the contract due to excessive delays in commissioning. South Korea built a 30 MW version of the design which started up in 1995 and is operating successfully. MAPLE was short-listed for Australia's 20 MW replacement research reactor in 1999.
New South Australian mine for fast track
In the light of recent "outstanding exploration success" and encouraging metallurgical test work, Quasar Resources, an affiliate of Heathgate Resources which operates the nearby Beverley ISL mine, has applied for a mining licence for its Four Mile East deposit in South Australia. The first stage of in situ leach (ISL) mining will commence as soon as a lease is granted, probably late 2009. Alliance Resources Ltd is a 25% free-carried joint venture partner.
The drilling results on the eastern deposit, which are not yet fully quantified, will provide a JORC resource estimate in a few months. Quasar has decided to proceed with mining the east deposit as soon as possible. A feasibility study for the mine was brought forward, making the planned field leach trial on the west deposit redundant. Initial production is envisaged as 680 t/yr U3O8, rising to 2000 t/yr by stage 3.
Ore grades are being measured with a prompt fission neutron (PFN) tool, giving much more confidence than normal gamma logging. There are three mineralised layers between 190 and 210 metres deep, ranging up to 7.3 metres thick and with grades up to 1.74% U3O8. Two possibilities for uranium recovery are piping the loaded solution six kilometres to the Beverley plant for recovery, or having an ion exchange plant at Four Mile and trucking the loaded resin to Beverley for stripping (elution) and precipitation, as is done at two US mines.
Alliance to ASX 28/4/08.
Honeymoon development suspended
Uranium One has announced that development of its small Honeymoon mine in South Australia has been suspended to allow evaluation of joint venture opportunities for the project. It was expected to come on line early in 2009 and produce 400 tonnes of U3O8 per year, but the company's resources are being focused on new mines in South Africa, USA and Kazakhstan.
Uranium One 14/5/08.
ANSTO research reactor restarts
After ten months shutdown due to a fuel problem, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) 20 MW OPAL research reactor at Lucas Heights is now back in full operation again. The initial uranium silicide fuel load was provided with the reactor itself by INVAP, from Argentina, made by the Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) there which has expertise in developing high-density research reactor fuels. The contract for further supplies was won by Areva's CERCA subsidiary in France, which supplies 60% of the world market and will provide some 600 uranium silicide fuel elements per year. That contract also involves return of the spent silicide fuel for reprocessing. However, defects with the CNEA fuel led to the reactor being shut down in July 2007, and ANSTO decided to replace it with new fuel from CERCA. The redesigned fuel - as start-up core rather than simply replacement fuel - had to be approved by the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA), which took some time.
ANSTO 5 & 23/5/08.
Nissan sees electric vehicle future
Nissan has announced that it (with Renault) will downplay hybrid electric vehicles and will produce full electric vehicles from 2010 for Japan and US markets. These will then be mass marketed from 2012, which will start to have a marked effect on the demand for off-peak and hence emission-free base-load power. The cars will have advanced lithium ion batteries in the floorpan with an effective life of five years and will recharge in 6 hours to give 160 km range. A higher voltage rapid charge will enable recharge in 30 minutes. The initial concept car has two 50 kW motors, front and rear, but later developments have a motor at each wheel.
Nissan envisages that over half of the vehicles it sells in 2050 will be electrically-powered, including nearly one third of the total being electric vehicles and fuel cell vehicles (in addition to hybrids and plug-in hybrids). If Nissan's plans become representative of the world scene at that time, electricity generation would have to expand by around 45% just to accommodate the fuel-switch. This itself comes in the context of expected global doubling of electricity demand by 2030.
Nissan 19/5/08, WNN 29/5/08.
London to get nuclear-powered taxis
The company which makes London's black cabs is to develop an electric-powered version, which it is promoting as a "zero-emission urban taxi" designed for congested urban areas, with running costs well under half those of the present diesel version. Manganese Bronze has signed an agreement with Tanfield to develop a battery-powered version of its TX4 London cab. Tanfield subsidiary Smith Electric Vehicles is the world’s largest manufacturer of on-road commercial electric vehicles.
The new cab will be available from mid 2009 and could replace many of the city's 20,000 licensed cabs. It will be powered by an advanced electric drive train and a lithium iron phosphate battery pack and have a range of over 160 km on one battery charge. The technology will be Tanfield/ Smith's well-proven all-electric system, recharged off-peak in 6 to 8 hours, and capable of rapid top-up in an hour. About one third of London's base-load electricity supply is nuclear.
New world security body set up
The World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) is being set up as an independent not-for-profit foundation headquartered in Vienna. It will facilitate cooperation between organisations responsible for security at nuclear facilities worldwide, both private and government-owned. WINS aims to maintain the level of security awareness and preparedness which developed after the World Trade Centre attacks in 2001, and has been fostered by the head of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI). There has been strong support from the US Department of Energy and close consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Security operators have a great deal in common at different plants and will benefit from enhanced communication in the same way as very many staff did as a result of the establishment of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) two decades ago. WANO encourages experts from different organsiations to meet and visit each other's facilities in a spirit of open dialogue on best practice. These strictly confidential interactions can be uncomfortable, but the results have been simultaneous increases in safety and productivity.
Canadian technology agreement with Ukraine
Ukraine's Ministry of Fuels and Energy has signed an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) to develop CANDU technology there. This could provide synergies with the existing Ukrainian VVER reactors by burning uranium recovered from the VVERs' used fuel. Such recycled uranium has fissile content similar to natural uranium and can be directly used in CANDU reactors. The technology development possibly being picked up in Ukraine is known as DUPIC - Direct Use of spent PWR fuel In Candu reactors. This has long been mooted by AECL, but is further ahead in South Korea than elsewhere due to their mix of PWR and CANDU reactor technologies.
About half of Ukraine's electricity is generated by its 15 VVER (PWR) reactors, and these would provide a substantial flow of used fuel, sufficient for perhaps two CANDU units. The agreement serves as a framework for collaboration on the technical and economic feasibility of a CANDU nuclear power program in Ukraine, and to set out the process for commercial implementation. The feasibility study will be conducted jointly by AECL and the Ukrainian government and is to be completed within four months.
French nuclear aid
The French cabinet has approved creation of Agency France Nuclear International (AFNI) under the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) to provide a vehicle for international assistance. It will provide expertise on a paid consultancy basis to countries in setting up structures and technical systems to enable the establishment of civil nuclear programs. Its Director will be appointed jointly by Ministers of Energy and Foreign Affairs. The announcement follows the creation of a top-level council on nuclear energy chaired by the President.
Toshiba new reactor prospects to 2015
Toshiba expects orders for 33 of its large new nuclear power reactors by 2015. Its nuclear division says it already has orders for four Westinghouse AP-1000 units in China and altogether eight units in USA, six of these being AP-1000 and two ABWR. It is aiming for further AP-1000 sales in both countries plus UK and South Africa. Annual sales target for the nuclear division is JPY 1 trillion (US$ 9.6 billion) in 2020.
USA - Russia nuclear cooperation
The USA and Russia have signed a nuclear cooperation agreement to facilitate trade and allow corporate joint ventures. Each country will be open to sales of the other's nuclear plant and equipment, and cooperation in technology development under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) will be helped. It will also mean that US-obligated nuclear materials in Europe and Japan can be sent to Russia for treatment such as enrichment. The agreement is part of a wider Strategic Framework announced in April, covering not only energy security but also military, terrorism and economic matters. It relates to section 123 of the US Atomic Energy Act and corresponds to agreements between the USA and many other countries.
World reactor changes in last two months
China Hongyanhe-2 start construction
From WNA Digests February - March 2008
Shaping the nuclear future
Government resolve on several fronts over recent months has shown how nuclear power will be a major part of the way forward in several countries.
Framing these policy decisions are the twin constraints of energy security and avoiding carbon emissions. However, the economics of power generation options remains basic.
In the UK the Labour government has swung from barely wanting to mention the "N" word in 2003 and dismissing energy security concerns then to being strongly committed to nuclear power today. The idea is to at least replace present nuclear power capacity as soon as possible. And after years of indecision and political evasion by both major parties, there are now strong signals that nuclear wastes will be responsibly handled at government policy level, with full funding from electricity users - as is normal elsewhere in the world. This will be a significant factor in public acceptance.
The Russian government has confirmed its ambitious expansion plan for doubling nuclear power capacity by 2020, and in the last six months added some slightly speculative upside to this for good measure. Along with announcing the staged list of new plants and their locations however, the government has called for private investment in power generation so that it is competitive, while the state winds back its involvement to natural monopoly functions such as grid management.
As Romania settles in to enjoy the benefits of a second western nuclear power reactor, with now almost a fifth of its electricity from this source, it has been overwhelmed with interest from energy utilities and others for building two more of those reactors. The upshot is an agreement that the state utility will partner with six others in building and operating the next two reactors. The partners will take a share of the output in proportion to their investment, apparently at cost. Given that one of the partners is a major steel company, this resembles the cooperative model which has successfully brought together resources for greatly expanding nuclear power in Finland.
In Canada, two provinces have strong government support for nuclear power expansion and plans are being advanced in a third. In Ontario exhaustive reviews of energy needs have resulted in the government inviting four companies to submit proposals to build the province's new nuclear reactors. This is the next step in the government's 20-year energy plan, first announced in June 2006. That plan focuses on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and Ontario's overall carbon footprint while ensuring a "reliable, affordable and environmentally responsible electricity supply." In New Brunswick the government has given strong support for building a new large reactor to supply local needs and export power to northeastern USA.
In China the government has announced the formation of a new National Energy Commission which is to draft an energy development strategy complete with various programs and then monitor and implement its execution. It will promote favoured forms of energy and encourage conservation, though it is not yet clear how it will relate to other national nuclear energy entities which are in the process of at least quadrupling the country's nuclear power capacity by 2020.
In the USA there are now six construction and operation licence applications lodged, for ten new power reactors, and another two are expected any day. Meanwhile after careful scrutiny the government has extended the operating licences of 47 of the country's 104 nuclear power reactors, and granted uprating of others to the extent of 4900 MWe. Both initiatives give a major boost to capacity now and in decades ahead. Several large new reactors are expected to come on line by 2020 and though the capital costs are high, the ongoing economic benefit in affordable power and clean air are widely attractive.
In many other countries also, governments for similar reasons are leading the move to adopt or expand nuclear power with firmer resolve than in the past. This may be because even in politics, the facts of electricity demand and supply plus public concern about climate change are starting to weigh more than the well-worn rhetoric of fear and NIMBYism.
Good year for US nuclear power
In 2007 the 104 US nuclear power reactors recorded a record high 91.8% average capacity factor, and produced a record 807 billion kilowatt-hours at a record low cost of 1.68 cents/kWh for fuel, operation and maintenance, according to preliminary figures.
US uranium production recovers further
After some years in the doldrums, US uranium production in 2007 continued its steady recovery, with a 14% increase on 2006. This made it the highest production for eight years. A total of 1800 tonnes of uranium (2123 t U3O8) was produced from five ISL mines and one mill which was treating secondary material. Cameco’s two mines produced 1044 tonnes of the ISL total. At least one further ISL mine is expected to come into production this year – Areva’s Christensen Ranch.
Fifth and sixth applications for reactor licences
Progress Energy has lodged a combined construction and operating licence (COL) application for two new 1100 MWe reactors at its Harris site in North Carolina. If it decides to build, the first AP1000 unit would be on line about 2018.
Entergy has lodged a COL application prepared by industry consortium NuStart Energy Development for a new GE-Hitachi 1550 MWe ESBWR reactor at its Grand Gulf site in Mississippi. It already has an early site permit for putting a new reactor at Grand Gulf.
Progress Energy 19/2/08, Entergy 27/2/08.
UK details waste management future
The UK government has published the arrangements for management and disposal of future nuclear wastes. After demonstrating detailed and costed plans for decommissioning, waste management and disposal before they begin construction, operators will need to set aside funds progressively into a secure and independent fund in much the same way as most other countries. The government will set a "fixed unit price for disposal of intermediate-level wastes and spent fuel," which "will include a significant risk premium" and escalate with inflation. The government will then take title to the wastes and accept liability for disposing of them. A new Nuclear Liabilities Financing Assurance Board is to be set up in 2008 to advise the government in relation to each proposal and setting the fees. It will have a strong actuarial function.
Operators will need to make their own arrangements regarding disposal of low-level operational wastes, and fund that as they go along. All other waste and decommissioning costs will be met from the Independent Fund set up by each operator for each plant. The fixed unit price will be paid into each fund and form part of its corpus alongside other provisions. Mid-2009 is given as the earliest date that generic fixed unit price figures for intermediate- and high-level wastes will be available to aspiring operators. Final figures will then be negotiated in the light of specific proposals.
BERR Consultation document Feb 2008.
UK government opens sites for new plants
The UK government's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has opened its sites to proposals for building new nuclear power plants. The sites include two old operating nuclear power plants which will close in the next three years and 17 others - mostly decommissioning sites. It points out however that this call for proposals does not replace the government's Strategic Siting Assessment process getting under way later in the year. The NDA is also soliciting proposals for taking over its fuel manufacturing business at Springfields.
The main nuclear utility British Energy (BE) controls all of the other likely sites for new nuclear power plants in UK and has said that all of them would be suitable for new build. It has made transmission connection agreements with National Grid for several of them, allowing for a range of possible reactor types to be in place from 2016 onwards. In March it was reported that BE was in discussion regarding its future options for equity and capital. In particular, RWE said it was ready to pay EUR 2.5 billion for the government's 32.5% share of BE.
The Business Secretary said that the government's priority is to maintain the necessary momentum to ensure that the country's first new nuclear power station since 1994 could be up and running within a decade. He highlighted logistical concerns as a factor in timing, with a resurgence of nuclear projects around the world encountering a limited number of companies with the expertise to build them: "I want the UK to be at the top of the queue, not bottom in the list, for potential investment in nuclear," he said. He expects the UK's reliance on nuclear power to increase significantly over the next two decades, well beyond the present 19% of electricity.
NDA 6/3/08, BERR 6/3/08, WNN 6 & 18/3/08.
Four reactor designs get to first base in UK
Assessments by the UK nuclear regulators - the Health and Safety Executive and the Environment Agency - have resulted in all four designs submitted passing preliminary review for Generic Design Assessment (GDA). Each full GDA will cost up to £10 million and take some 3.5 years in total. The four designs are the Areva EPR, Westinghouse AP1000, GE-Hitachi ESBWR and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd ACR-1000. The next stage of the GDA will require prioritising on the basis of which designs "are most likely to be to be progressed for licensing and construction".
HSE 18/3/08, WNN 19/3/08.
UK becomes 21st member of GNEP
The UK has become the 21st member of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), indicating a fresh approach to its whole nuclear power sector and a willingness to play a significant role globally in fuel cycle technology and non-proliferation. The UK had been a notable absentee from GNEP and the country's inclusion means the partnership now includes all the countries that pioneered nuclear power in the 1950s, all the permanent members of the UN Security Council, all the major uranium exporters and apart from India, all the countries with reprocessing facilities.
Finnish model for Romania financing
After "complex discussions" a draft investment agreement for the project to complete and operate two new Romanian nuclear power reactors has been sent to the joint venture partners for approval. The seven parties will spread the risk and ease the challenge of project financing. It is expected that the project company will be registered in May and the first reactor will be operating in 2013. State utility SN Nuclearelectrica, with about a 20% share, will team up with six joint venture partners to build the EUR 2.5 billion project - units 3 & 4 of Cernavoda, with 720 MWe CANDU units. SNN's partners comprise five utilities and a steelmaker, who will share the output in proportion to their investment.
Russia confirms nuclear expansion plans
The Russian government has confirmed plans which were first announced last September for at least a doubling of nuclear generation capacity by 2020. As well as the 4800 MWe capacity now under construction, a further 12,000 MWe is planned for completion mostly by 2016, and then another 16,000 to 22,000 MWe proposed by 2020. For this last period five reactors have been added to last year's ambitious plan as "maximum scenario". Several new sites are involved. Some US$ 282 billion is to be invested by 2015, and a further $204 billion to 2020 on the projects listed. Also Rosatom has been charged with promptly developing an action plan to attract investment into power generation. It is envisaged that by 2020 much generation will be privatized and competitive, while the state will control natural monopoly functions such as the grid.
Most of the new capacity will be the new 1200 MWe VVER reactors driving AES-2006 power plants, but six 300 MWe units are included, and also a second floating power plant with twin 40 MWe reactors. The only fast reactor on the list is the BN-800 unit now under construction at Beloyarsk. The technology for the 300 MWe types is yet to be confirmed - it will be either OKBM's VBER-300 pressurised water reactor or the slightly smaller VK-300 boiling water reactor. The former is being developed in collaboration with Kazakhstan and the first ones are likely to be built there in the same time frame as Russian plans.
Uncertainty regarding the future of long-delayed Kursk-5 continues, as it is listed for completion by 2010 "if financing is secured" - from where is not clear. It is an upgraded RBMK type, now 70% complete after 22 years. All other RBMK reactors - long condemned by the EU - are due to close by 2024, leaving it technologically isolated. After 2016 about 7 small units and two large ones - total 3500 MWe - will be decommissioned.
Rosatom 12/3/08, RIA Novosti 12/3/08.
Russian export rationalisation
Russia's organization responsible for bidding on and building nuclear plants abroad, Atomstroyexport (ASE) has formed an alliance with TechnoPromExport (TPE), an exporter of all other large-scale power generation types. This will rationalize their international marketing. TPE boasts of having completed 400 power projects in 50 countries around the world totaling some 87 GWe. ASE has been focused on building five VVER-1000 units in China, India and Iran, and has signed agreements for more.
Norway looks at thorium
A government-appointed committee has reported that building thorium-fuelled power reactors was a possibility which could not yet be properly assessed, but testing of thorium fuel in the country's Halden research reactor should be encouraged. The country should also strengthen its international collaboration in nuclear energy and develop its human resources in nuclear science and engineering so as to keep the thorium option open as complementary to the uranium option. "The potential contribution of nuclear energy to a sustainable energy future should be recognised." Norway has major thorium resources.
Thorium Committee, Feb 2008..
IAEA confirms no damage to quaked reactors, but Tepco bleeds
The second inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed after inspecting key internal components that there is apparently "no significant damage to the integrity of the plant" at Kashiwazaki Kariwa in Japan. It was shut down after an earthquake in July which was more severe than the plant was required to be designed for. Ground subsidence damaged much equipment around the reactors, but the main part of the plants are built on bedrock, which entailed excavation in some places to 45 metres.
Losses of some JPY 155 billion (US$ 1.44 billion) are projected by Tepco for FY2007 (to 31/3/08) due to the prolonged closure of the plant. While the actual reactors are undamaged, major civil engineering works are required before they resume operation, which is not expected for some time. Overall, the FY2007 impact of the earthquake is now projected to be JPY 603.5 billion ($5.62 billion), three quarters of that being increased fuel costs to replace the 8000 MWe of lost capacity.
WNN 30/1/08, 27/2/08.
China starts building new reactor
Construction has started on the first unit of six for Ningde nuclear power plant at Qinyu on the northeast coast of Fujian province. Phase 1, comprising four 1000 MWe units costing US$ 7.145 billion, will have over 70% local content, and the first of the CPR-1000 reactors is expected on line at the end of 2012.
China buys Mitsubishi generators
Shandong Nuclear Power Co. has ordered two steam turbine generator sets of 1200 MWe for its new $3.25 billion Haiyang nuclear power plant from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and its local partner Harbin Power Equipment Co. Ltd. Last year Sanmen Nuclear Power Co signed a $521 million contact with the same partners for its generators. All four are to complement the four Westinghouse AP1000 units contracted for the two new sites last year. Doosan Heavy Industries in Korea is supplying the pressure vessels and steam generators for Sanmen and it is expected that those for Haiyang may be sourced in China.
Philippines nuclear investigation
An IAEA mission commissioned by the government was asked to advise on whether Bataan-1 could economically and safely be operated, and to recommend a policy framework for nuclear power development in the country. The 621 MWe Bataan reactor was built in response to the 1973 oil crisis. It was completed in 1984 but has never operated, though it has been maintained. Nuclear power is now back on the agenda due to the increasing dependency on imported oil and coal.
Central & South Asia, Africa, S. America
Areva targets fleet sale to South Africa
Eskom in South Africa has short-listed Areva's EPR and Westinghouse's AP1000 reactors for supplying 3.0 to 3.5 GWe of new nuclear capacity urgently needed there. This is to be the first tranche of total 20 GWe of new nuclear capacity decided upon early last year. Areva is heading a consortium of South African engineering group Aveng, the French construction group Bouygues and Electricité de France. It has submitted a bid to supply two 1650 MWe EPR units, and Westinghouse is matching this with a bid with three 1134 MWe AP1000 units. The Westinghouse-led consortium includes the Shaw Group and the South African engineering firm Murray & Roberts. Construction start would be 2009-10 and the first unit on line in 2016.
Areva and Westinghouse have also offered to build the full 20 GWe - with a further ten large EPR units or 17 AP1000 units by 2025. This would be coupled with wider assistance for the local nuclear industry, in the Westinghouse case including development of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (it owned 15% of PBMR Ltd and retains an interest in the technology).
The country's two operating reactors are 900 MWe standard French units supplied by Areva's predecessor. There is currently a dire shortage of generating capacity and industrial users have been subject to severe cutbacks.
Russia firms up plans for more Indian reactors
A further agreement in principle has been signed for Russia to supply four more large reactors for the Kudankulam site, on the southern tip of India, where two AES-92 1000 MWe units are already nearing completion. Proceeding with the agreement must await conclusion of moves to bring India substantially into the world nuclear non-proliferation regime.
Turkey decides on nuclear power site
The Turkish government has decided to build its first nuclear power plant at Akkuyu, on the eastern Mediterranean coast. This puts aside a decision two years ago to locate the initial plant at Sinop, on the Black Sea. Akkuyu was under consideration from the 1970s to 2000 for a nuclear plant, and has the advantage of already being licensed.
The Turkish Electricity Trade & Contract Corporation (TETAS) is calling for bids for the first plant, which will probably be built by the private sector with all its electricity sold to the state utility for 15 years. A government decision on plant type and construction arrangements is expected by the end of 2008, and first power is expected in 2014. Some 5000 MWe of nuclear capacity is envisaged in the next decade.
Sinop would have had the advantage of cooling water temperatures about 5 degrees below those at Akkuyu, allowing about 1% greater power output. However, preparatory work is under way there for the country's second nuclear power plant some time in the future, and more immediately a EUR 1.7 billion nuclear technology centre.
AFP 12/2/08, WNN 13/2/08.
Further nuclear plant for New Brunswick?
A consultant study commissioned by the provincial government shows that a second nuclear power reactor at Point Lepreau would be viable under likely conditions, including major power export to northeastern USA. A parallel study by Team Candu, led by AECL, delivered a feasibility study on the proposed plant. If approved, it would be the first Canadian ACR-1000 plant (1100 MWe) built. Team Candu was set up in 2006 to offer fixed-price plants on a turnkey basis. While government-owned NB Power would be licensee and operator, the plant could be either privately-owned and financed or publicly financed from government debt. The present 630 MWe Point Lepreau reactor is currently being refurbished at a cost of $1.4 billion (including replacement power). There is also a proposal for a third reactor at the site, but this would require new transmission infrastructure.
NB govt 4/2/08.
Ontario communities urge nuclear plant siting
Communities surrounding the massive 3920 MWe Nanticoke coal-fired power station, which is set to shut down in 2014, are strongly urging the provincial government to consider the area for a new nuclear power plant. It has the advantage of established transmission infrastructure, compared with constraints in that regard at Bruce, one of the two sites already under consideration. However, at this stage environmental assessments are proceeding only for Bruce and Darlington.
AREVA, Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., GE Hitachi and Westinghouse have been invited by the Ontario government to submit proposals to build the new nuclear reactors at Darlington or Bruce or both. A total of 2000 to 3500 MWe is envisaged. The bids will be assessed by Infrastructure Ontario and include representatives from the Energy and Finance ministries, Bruce Power and Ontario Power Generation. Ontario's ambitious 20-year energy plan seeks to achieve energy efficiency gains of 6,300 MWe and double renewable capacity to 15,700 MWe by 2025, eliminate coal-fired generation by the end of 2014, add additional gas-fired generation for use in peak periods and maintain nuclear generation capacity for baseload operation up to the current installed level of 14,000 MWe.
Star 19/3/08, WNN 10/3/08
Canadian uranium production down in 2007
Production from Canada's three uranium mines declined 5% in 2007 to 11,046 tonnes U3O8 (9367 tU), apparently due to water ingress problems at one mine. McArthur River mine (70% Cameco) produced its full licensed 8492 tonnes (7201 tU), Rabbit Lake 1821 tonnes (1544 tU) and Areva's McClean Lake 734 tonnes U3O8 (622 tU). (Cameco also reported 1044 tU from its US operations.)
Cameco 6/2/08, Areva RC 6/2/08 (figures rounded)
Paladin-Cameco JV gets Angela deposit
The Northern Territory government has accepted a bid by 50-50 joint venturers Paladin Energy Ltd and Cameco Australia to explore the Angela uranium deposit with the adjacent Pamela deposit, 25 km south of Alice Springs. A resource of over 10,000 tonnes of U3O8 at 0.10 to 0.13% grade was identified in the 1980s, but the lease was relinquished. The new Angela Project JV has committed to spend $5 million on confirming the resources once a licence is issued, with a view to then undertaking a bankable feasibility study.
World's known uranium resources increase 17%
In the two years since the last edition of the International Atomic Energy Agency's "Red Book", known resources of uranium worldwide have increased by 17%, according to the head of the IAEA. Higher uranium prices have spurred exploration efforts and also led to reassessment of previously sub-economic uranium resources.
Japan sees huge scope for nuclear expansion
Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has published its "Cool Earth 50" program for energy-related technologies that will halve the level of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. METI prioritised 21 technologies, presenting a road map for their development. It says that advanced nuclear power is expected to make a substantial contribution - almost 10 billion tonnes of CO2 reduction per year. Achieving this would involve deploying an extra 1500 GWe of nuclear capacity worldwide - in total about five times the present level.
New financial index for uranium and nuclear sector
A new index of over 60 leading global nuclear companies has been created by a partnership of the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and S-Network LLC to provide a benchmark for the financial success of the nuclear industry. Financial products based on the WNA Nuclear Energy Index (WNAI) are expected to be available about the end of March. It is rule-driven and comprises 64 traded companies with market capitalization of over $1200 billion, including:
• Reactor vendors: 15%; four companies
• Construction: 15%; eight companies
• Nuclear fuels: 20%; nine companies
• Power generation: 25%; 15 companies
• Technology, equipment and services: 25%; 28 companies
A complete list of constituents and weights is on the WNAI web site,
Areva reports strong results and upbeat future
Areva has reported improvement in sales and profit, with an 85% increase in nuclear orders. Looking further ahead to 2030, it expects to build one third of the world's new nuclear generating capacity (in "accessible markets") by then. The 2030 scenario has 267 GWe of nuclear capacity reaching its nominal end of life by then but 186 GWe of this being granted life extension. Added to this will be 344 GWe of new build, making 635 GWe total nuclear capacity then - half way between the 2030 WNA Reference and Upper scenarios of 2007 and 21% above the IEA World Energy Outlook alternative scenario of 2007.
At the end of 2007 Areva had orders worth some EUR 39.8 billion, up 55% from the level of orders at the end of 2006. This included an EUR 8 billion contract with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co for two EPR units at Taishan, plus associated services. For 2007, Areva reported total sales revenue of EUR 11.9 billion, an increase of 9.8% compared with 2006.
Areva 4 & 26/2/08.
Rio Tinto aims to double uranium production
Rio Tinto has announced that feasibility studies are under way with the aim of doubling the company's uranium production by 2015, mainly by boosting output of its present mines. Production in 2007 was 4589 tU from Ranger in north Australia and 2582 tU from Rossing in Namibia, total 7171 tU. At least two prospective new uranium mines in Australia are stalled due to political veto or traditional owner veto, but Ranger and Rossing extension projects based on exploration success and each costing under $500 million are scheduled for 2010.
Uranium One setback
Toronto-based Uranium One has announced a substantial (73%) increase in Indicated Resources at its Dominion mine in South Africa, to 51,000 tonnes U3O8 (43,000 tU). About two thirds of this represents reclassification of Inferred Resources. Production from Dominion in 2007 - its first year - was 78 tonnes U3O8, and that expected in 2008 is 270 tonnes, reflecting slower underground development than anticipated. Full production of 1730 tonnes U3O8 was earlier anticipated by 2011.
The company announced a 32% drop in its overall production forecast for 2008 (and 15% for 2009), on top of a 38% drop forecast in October. While the main problem is evidently Dominion, two of its three Kazakhstan mines also contribute. Akadala appears to be on target, but South Inkai has had 2008 forecast reduced due to acid shortage. Kharasan is due to start up in 2008, with 330 tonnes U3O8 (Uranium One share: 100t) production against eventual 5900 t/yr target in 2014. The share price dropped to 29% of last year's high.
Uranium One 22/2/08.
World Energy Council emphasises nuclear for EU
Arising from a two-year study of potential energy crises, the World Energy Council has said that Europe needs a common energy policy with the emphasis on security of supply. It also needs more openness towards technologies such as nuclear power "for both reducing dependency on imports and fulfilling the commitment of all European countries to the Kyoto Protocol". Nuclear power should feature in national energy policies of both EU and neighbouring countries. Furthermore, investment in new generating capacity is becoming urgent - the region is vulnerable now.
WEC, WNN 7/2/08.
Russia - US high-enriched uranium program on track
A total of 325 tonnes of Russia's military high-enriched uranium (HEU) has now produced almost 10,000 tonnes of low-enriched fuel for US electricity generation and represents 60 million SWU of enrichment. This supply is today responsible for nearly half of US electricity from nuclear power, and Russia has received over US$ 5.1 billion for it under a market-based pricing formula. This is about the two thirds mark of a 20-year program under which the HEU is blended down in Russia and shipped to USEC which manages the scheme for the US government. USEC claims the elimination of 13,000 nuclear warheads so far.
World reactor changes in last two months
US: Crystal River 3 uprate 14 MWe Jan 08
China: Ningde-1 1000 MWe under const.
Sweden: reduce total by 70 MWe - Ringhals
From WNA Digests January 2008
It's not quite the same as nuclear-powered ships, but the use of nuclear power for motor vehicles has been highlighted in a number of recent developments:
• GM has said that the motoring future is electric, and is pulling out all the stops to have its Volt car on the market by 2010,
• Hydrogen-powered buses are in trial use in several cities and BMW has a fleet of 7-series cars powered by hydrogen, and
• A major developmental thrust for South Africa's small new reactor is for industrial application of its heat, primarily for automotive fuels (both synthetic oil and hydrogen).
Electric vehicles including plug-in hybrids
These are here now and seem set for expansion, driven by higher oil prices and populist sentiment.
Hybrid electric vehicles have been on the market for several years and are now fairly sophisticated and reliable, and are consequently in high demand. Full hybrids have a battery which is charged by an internal combustion (IC) motor (as well as regenerative braking), and drive may be from both or either. The Toyota Prius is the best-known hybrid car. While it has sophisticated power electronics and controls, the range on battery (1.3 kWh) only is very small. The GM Volt is essentially an electric vehicle with on-board IC engine to charge the battery.
A further stage of this technology still under development and likely to have a significant effect on electricity demand by 2020 is plug-in hybrid-electric vehicles (PHEVs), with a much larger battery than the hybrids. The PHEV Prius conversion has about 9.0 kWh in battery capacity and the PHEV version of the Volt about 16 kWh, giving 65 km all-electric range. The luxury Fisker, due to be marketed in 2009, has 80 km range on battery before the IC motor kicks in. (Tesla and others are preparing to market electric cars with over 35 kWh on board.)
With PHEVs a lot of driving, particularly short trips, can be in battery-only mode, hence zero on-road emissions. Most of their electrical power can come from the grid. Power consumption is around 0.3 kWh per kilometre per tonne mass. The problem is that the much larger PHEV battery pack is heavy. The advantage is that off-peak charging can utilize base-load capacity on the grid - such as nuclear (eliminating all emissions) - and can be very cheap. PHEVs can thus contribute to oil independence, as well as cleaner air. Ford estimates that the payback period for the price premium on a PHEV is seven years.
Battery technology is the key for both PHEV and full electric vehicles: achieving low cost with high capacity and low mass, coupled with a long life. While nickel metal hydride batteries (as in Prius) are well-proven, research continues on lithium ion batteries, which deliver more power from less mass (about three times as much per unit mass) and are specified for the GM Volt and the Fisker, and intended for Ford's forthcoming PHEVs. (Petrol/gasoline stores about 400 times as much energy as the NiMH battery.)
Production of fuels for motor vehicles
Hydrogen has been the focus of attention here, but a number of practical limitations need to be overcome before this is widely used as a motoring fuel. In the shorter term nuclear heat can be used in making synthetic oil from coal.
The Fischer-Tropsch process was originally developed in Germany in the 1920s, and provided much of the fuel for Germany during the Second World War. It then became the basis for much oil production in South Africa by Sasol, which now supplies about 30% of that country's gasoline and diesel fuel. However, it is a significant user of hydrogen which is now produced by coal gasification with the water shift reaction. A nuclear source of hydrogen coupled with nuclear process heat would double the amount of liquid hydrocarbons from the coal and eliminate most CO2 emissions from the process.
There are several ways nuclear energy can produce hydrogen, the most obvious being by electrolysis of water or steam. But longer-term, the aim is to use nuclear heat at about 950°C to make hydrogen thermochemically from water.
Regarding hydrogen, in the immediate future the internal combustion engine is the only affordable technology available for using it. One hundred BMW Hydrogen 7s have been built, and 25 are used in test programs in the USA. The cars have already covered more than 2 million kilometres in test programs around the globe. BMW is currently the only car manufacturer using hydrogen stored in its liquid state.
Eventually the main transport use of hydrogen is likely to be in fuel cells. A fuel cell is conceptually a refuelable battery, making electricity as a direct product of a chemical reaction. But where the normal battery has all the active ingredients built in at the factory, fuel cells are supplied with fuel from an external source. They catalyse the oxidation of hydrogen directly to electricity at relatively low temperatures and the claimed theoretical efficiency of converting chemical to electrical energy to drive the wheels is about 60% (or more). However, in practice about half that has been achieved, except for the higher-temperature solid oxide fuel cells - 46%.
On-board storage is the principal problem for hydrogen as an automotive fuel - it is impossible to store it as simply and compactly as gasoline or LNG fuel. The options are to store it at very low temperature (cryogenically), at high pressure, or chemically as hydrides. The last is seen to have most potential, though refuelling a vehicle is less straightforward. Pressurised storage is the main technology available now and this means that at 345 times atmospheric pressure (34.5 MPa, 5000 psi), ten times the volume is required than for an equivalent amount of petrol/gasoline. This disadvantage is coupled with a weight penalty due to the storage system, which is about 50 times heavier than the hydrogen it holds - the target is to get it down to 20 times as heavy by 2010, and perhaps ten times as heavy one day.
The initial use of hydrogen for transport is likely to be municipal bus and truck fleets, and prototypes are already on the road in many parts of the world. These are centrally-fuelled, so avoid the need for a retail network, and onboard storage of hydrogen in large vehicles is less of a problem than in cars.
With the prospect of widespread use of PHEVs in the next 15 years there will be a much increased demand for base-load power with no carbon emissions. This was emphasised by Britain's Chief Scientist as he looked ahead to the situation in 2025 with substantial new nuclear capacity likely and needed by then.
See also papers on Nuclear Process Heat for Industry and Transport and the Hydrogen Economy.
US design approval sought for new Japanese reactor
Mitsubishi's large US-APWR (1700 MWe) - Advanced PWR - has been submitted to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for design certification. The APWR was developed in collaboration with four Japanese utilities, and earlier with Westinghouse. The first two APWRs are planned for Tsuruga in Japan and will be the basis for the next generation of Japanese PWRs. The US-APWR is scaled up about 10% on the Japanese version, due to higher thermal efficiency (39%) and has a 24-month refuelling cycle. US design certification is expected in mid 2011, according to NRC web site.
The US-APWR was selected by TXU (now Luminant) for Comanche Peak, Texas and a combined construction and operating licence application based on the US-APWR technology for that site is expected in mid 2008. The Washington Group International will be involved in US developments with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
NRC is already processing two design certification applications: for GE-Hitachi's ESBWR (1550 MWe) and for Areva's US-EPR (1600 MWe). Two other designs likely to be built soon already have US design certification: Westinghouse AP1000 (1100 MWe) and GE-Hitachi ABWR (1350 MWe).
US outlook for nuclear strengthens
The US Energy Information Administration's 2008 Outlook reference case expects 20 GWe of newly-built US nuclear capacity on line in 2030, almost half of it supported by production tax credits at the same level as for wind generation. This is 63% above previous estimates. In addition, there is 2700 MWe in nuclear plant uprates, offset by 4300 MWe retirements. Coal-fired capacity increases markedly, by 130 GWe.
AEO2008 Early Release Dec 07.
UK centres energy policy on nuclear power
The new White Paper on Nuclear Power puts nuclear energy at the heart of the UK government's response to the need for secure, safe, affordable, low-carbon energy supplies. The Prime Minister framed the new policy in terms of taking "determined long-term action to reduce carbon emissions," using "nuclear power [as] a tried and tested technology [which] has provided the UK with secure supplies of safe, low-carbon electricity for half a century." Nuclear currently supplies 19% of UK electricity.
"Set against the challenges of climate change and security of supply, the evidence in support of new nuclear power stations is compelling," according to the minister introducing the white paper. The government invited energy companies to bring forward plans to build and operate new nuclear power plants alongside other low-carbon technologies including renewables, as well as possibly carbon capture and storage from fossil fuelled generation. Some 30-35 GWe of new generating capacity will be required in the next two decades, most of it base-load.
The government itself will take active steps to open up the way for construction of new nuclear power stations by addressing siting assessment criteria and progressing the Generic Design Assessment of new reactors over three years to 2011. However, it was careful to stress that "it will be for energy companies to fund, develop and build new nuclear power stations in the UK, including meeting the full costs of decommissioning and … waste management." These measures are being addressed in a new Energy Bill before parliament which requires every operator to have a fully-costed and fully-funded plan for wastes and decommissioning. For its part, the government will set a price for disposing of new nuclear wastes.
After many years of incoherence, radioactive waste management policy is developing on a separate track, with wastes from new plants likely to end up in a single national repository. A further white paper is to set out a framework for implementing deep underground storage and disposal.
In March the government will call for justification applications required under EU law to establish that any nuclear facility would bring benefits that outweigh any possible health detriment. Meanwhile it has published an analysis of options by way of an Impact Assessment of the Government's White Paper on Nuclear Power and the 192-page white paper itself deals thoroughly with a wide range of inputs to the long consultation process. The UK will work to strengthen the EU Emissions Trading Scheme to provide continuing incentive for investment in all low-carbon technologies, and if necessary it will introduce further measures to reinforce it. However, the government is confident that the basic economics of nuclear power are attractive both for investors and the wider economy. Furthermore the carbon abatement cost with nuclear is only £0.3/tCO2 compared with onshore wind (the next cheapest) at £50/tCO2.
The government's cost-benefit analysis used a figure of £1250/kW for overnight capital cost and estimated that a first of a kind 1600 MWe plant would cost £2.8 billion.
With the measures announced, a pre-development and planning period of 5.5 years is envisaged, so that construction of new nuclear plants could commence in mid 2013. Several could be in operation by 2020. The levelised cost of generation is then 3.64 pence/kWh. Following the announcement, Areva said that with 11 top European utilities (notably EdF) supporting pre-licensing of its 1600 MWe EPR units in UK, it hoped to build at least four and possibly six of them there.
British Energy controls many of the likely sites for new UK nuclear plants and has said that all of its sites would be suitable, even considering possible sea level rise due to climate change. It has made transmission connection agreements with National Grid for possible new plants at Sizewell, Dungeness, Bradwell and Hinkley. The first three are in the southeast of England, with Hinkley in the southwest. The agreements will facilitate appropriate grid connections for a range of possible reactor types to be in place from 2016 onwards.
BE 27/11/07, DERR 10/1/08, Areva 10/1/08, WNN 10 & 24/1/08.
Contract for two new Bulgarian reactors
A EUR 4 billion contract to build two new nuclear power reactors at Belene has been signed by Bulgaria's NEK electric utility and Russia's Atomstroyexport, which will build the two 1000-MWe reactors in association with Areva-Siemens and local companies. These are third-generation AES-92 VVER units which satisfy stringent western European safety standards, and which were chosen on that basis. Five major EU utilities are bidding for a 49% share in the project, which will restore Bulgaria's capacity to export power from about 2014. Russia has offered financing.
Belarus decides on nuclear project
The Security Council of Belarus has confirmed that the country is to embark upon building a nuclear power plant, to provide some 30% of the electricity by 2020 and reduce dependence on Russian gas. The cost is expected to be about EUR 4 billion. An international tender is planned for the end of 2008, though Russia is the most likely supplier for the 2 x 1000 MWe plant. However, Areva and Westinghouse will also be considered. Site selection is to be finalised this year.
Europe sets climate targets
The European Commission has announced draft legislation in line with earlier proposals to counter climate change. Overall it seeks a 20% cut in CO2 emissions and 20% of energy from renewables by 2020. There are three main strands: the imposition of "specific, binding national targets" for each of the 27 EU member countries for greenhouse emissions; mandatory targets for the percentage of renewables in each country's total energy consumption; and an overhaul of the existing emissions trading scheme for CO2. In addition there is a proposed law on carbon capture and storage (CCS). A system of auctioning CO2 emission allowances, so that all emissions have to be paid for, would come into force from 2013. Nuclear power will benefit from the legislation, as the auctioning of allowances will add probably 2 to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour to the cost of generating electricity from fossil fuels, with the potential for higher prices as the caps on emissions are reduced further. (For the 2008-12 period a quota of allowances is distributed to industry free of charge, with any balance being bought on the market, currently at just under EUR 20/tonne CO2.)
China's first new-generation reactor to start construction
China's first AP1000 reactor is to start construction at Sanmen in March, according to the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC). This will be the first of four of the 3rd-generation units, at two sites, in Zhejiang and Shandong provinces. Construction at Haiyang is due to start later in the year. The Sanmen-1 unit is expected on line in August 2013 and will be the world's first Westinghouse AP1000 in service. SNPTC said that site works were on schedule and it had received 2.2 tonnes of technical documentation from Westinghouse.
SNPTC was set up in 2004 to take charge of technology selection for new plants being bid from overseas. It is directly under China's State Council and closely connected with it. The two plants will be built and run by subsidiaries of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) for Sanmen and of China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) for Haiyang.
In April 2007 Westinghouse signed a US$ 350 million contract with Doosan Heavy Industries in Korea for two pressure vessels and four steam generators for two of the AP1000 units. Those for the other two are likely to be made in China: the reactor vessels and steam generators by Harbin Boiler Works, First Heavy Machinery Works, or Shanghai Electric Co (SEC). Korea Power Engineering Co. (KOPEC) and Shanghai Nuclear Energy Research & Design Institute (SNERDI) will have major engineering roles
China continues huge electricity growth
In 2007 China increased its generating capacity by 91 GWe to 713 GWe, a little short of 2006 growth, when 102 GWe was added. Generation was up 14.4% to 3300 billion kWh, mostly from coal. New capacity was sufficient to enable closure of some small and inefficient coal-fired plants.
Xinhua 14/1/08, WNN 17/1/08.
China keeps Candu interest alive
The Nuclear Power Institute of China (NPIC) has signed an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) to undertake R&D on advanced fuel cycles involving Candu heavy water reactor technology. In particular it is focusing on developing DUPIC, the Direct Use of spent PWR fuel In Candu reactors as fresh fuel. China has two Candu units operating at Qinshan, run by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), the parent of NPIC. The R&D will be undertaken at Chengdu. Most work so far on DUPIC has been in South Korea, where it is the subject of the country's case study for IAEA's international project evaluating new fuel cycle technologies.
Central & South Asia, Africa, S. America
Kazakhstan raises uranium production target
Kazatomprom has extended its uranium production target to 30,000 tU/yr by 2018. The increase is due to a perceived shortfall being likely about 2014. Production is currently constrained by a shortage of acid. This is being offset by purchase arrangements from Russia and Uzbekistan, and by greater use of oxidants.
2007 production from Kazakhstan's uranium mines increased 26% to 7827 tonnes U3O8 (6637 tU). It fell well short of target due to problems with acid supply, which cost an estimated 1000 tU production. Expected 2008 production is 11,320 t U3O8 (9600 tU), and 2010 target remains 17,700 t U3O8 (15,000 tU).
WNN 10/1/08, Kazatomprom 23/1/08.
Gulf states nuclear power plant proposed
For two years there has been discussion on building one or more nuclear power plants in the Gulf States. Early in 2007 the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council - Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Oman - commissioned a feasibility study with IAEA for a regional nuclear power and desalination program. Together they produce 273 billion kWh of electricity per year from fossil fuels and have 5-7% annual demand growth. This is supplied from total installed capacity of about 80 GWe, with a common grid. There is also a large demand for desalination, currently fuelled by oil and gas.
Areva, Suez and Total have now formed a partnership to propose to UAE the construction of two 1600 MWe EPR nuclear units there. Suez - which operates seven nuclear power reactors in Belgium - and Total would each invest up to 25% of the project with Abu Dhabi entities providing at least 50%. Suez would be operator, Areva would supply the plant and manage the fuel. Total and Suez are well established in the region and together operate a power and desalination plant for Abu Dhabi, 100 km west of Dubai. The consortium's first EPR would not be operating before 2017. France has signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with UAE.
Political showdown over old research reactor
In December the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) declined to allow a restart of Canada's 50-year old NRU research reactor, operated by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), which supplies much of the world's medical radioisotopes. A five-year licence renewal in mid 2006 had specified certain back-up modifications, which AECL had not fully implemented. Parliament then intervened and passed a bill authorizing the restart. Nevertheless, the government later made it clear that it was dissatisfied with both parties to the dispute, and the Chairman of AECL then resigned. The head of CNSC was relieved of her role soon afterwards, creating widespread concern about political interference in regulatory function.
In addressing the bill to overrule the CNSC for 16 weeks, the Prime Minister said that its inflexibility "will jeopardise the health and safety and lives of tens of thousands of Canadians. It is in the public interest to get this reactor back online and get these medical radioisotopes produced. There is no threat to nuclear safety at all. There is a threat to human life." AECL as owner and operator had told parliament that following substantial work in recent weeks, "NRU is safe to start up and operate in this mode." The remaining upgrade is to be undertaken by March.
WNN 12/12/07, 16/1/08.
Australian uranium production recovers
2007 production from Australia's three uranium mines was 10,145 tonnes U3O8 (8603 tU), 13% higher than 2006 and slightly below 2004 and 2005. ERA's Ranger mine produced 5412 tonnes U3O8 (4589 tU), BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam 3985 tonnes (3379 tU) and Heathgate's Beverley ISL mine 748 tonnes (634 tU).
Positive year for nuclear capacity in 2007
In 2007 four new reactors were connected to grids and none retired, giving a net 2922 MWe addition to world capacity, apart from 250 MWe in a number of uprates. India commissioned Kaiga-3, China Tianwan-2, Romania Cernavoda-2 and in the USA Browns Ferry restarted after a complete rebuild. Ten construction starts were made to give 34 under construction at year end including the two small units comprising the Russian floating nuclear power plant. Also there were 29 more units planned and 64 more proposed than twelve months earlier.
Reactor and service providers prepare for demand
With demand for new nuclear capacity projected to almost double by 2030, reactor vendors and others are preparing to meet specific orders. Areva has said that it hoping to build one third of the new reactors required by then and has already taken on thousands of new employees to prepare for an enlarged role worldwide. Atomstroyexport has said that it is targeting a quarter of the world market for new reactors, while GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse are equally ambitious. GE-Hitachi and Areva have been active in placing orders for large reactor components over the last two years.
World reactor changes in last month
Canada: uprate 3 Bruce B units: 111 MWe net