(compiled from WNA Weekly Digests)
Paradigm shift in US reactor technology?
Babcock & Wilcox's announcement of a new modular reactor design for the US market has crystallised some of the concerns regarding large new reactors, and may result in a rather different approach to building nuclear capacity there and more widely. Indeed, arguably the modular concept resulting in a full-sized plant of 500-750 MWe is more appropriate elsewhere than in today's main nuclear power territories.
The B&W mPower reactor is a 125 MWe integral PWR designed to be factory-made and railed to site. The reactor pressure vessel containing core and steam generator is thus only five metres diameter. It would be installed below ground, have an air-cooled condenser, and passive safety systems. It has a "conventional core and standard fuel" enriched to 5%, with burnable poisons, to give a five-year operating cycle between refuelling. (B&W draws upon over 50 years experience as the main manufacturer of nuclear propulsion systems for the US Navy, involving compact reactors with very long-life cores.)
It is modular in the sense that several units would be combined into a power station of any size, but most likely 500-750 MWe and using 250 MWe turbine generators, constructed in three years. B&W's present manufacturing capability in North America can produce these reactor units, and it has set up B&W Modular Nuclear Energy LLC to market the mPower concept. This is not the first modular design - both the pebble bed and General Atomics high temperature reactor (HTR) designs are similarly modular, but they represent a more radical departure from today's industry norms. Novelty will not appeal to risk-averse utility customers and are likely to be slower in US design certification, as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has intimated.
The advantages of modular design and build are that a utility only needs to complete the first module before getting a cash flow, and can progressively add the rest, leading to a vast reduction in the challenge of financing a plant. Then when operational, refuelling or maintenance only takes one module at a time off line. Also, much of the plant can be built in an established factory - B&W's manufacturing capability for these is in place and well used. This sidesteps any concerns about bottlenecks in the world's (and especially US) heavy engineering capacity for fabricating large reactors.
"B&W believes that this optimised advanced light water reactor Generation III ++ nuclear technology can be certified, manufactured and operated within today's existing regulatory, industrial supply chain and utility operational infrastructure." This is the key statement. Though modular may be novel to US utilities, being substantially within the conventional envelope of known PWR technology with 5% fuel enrichment, "conventional core and standard fuel" will give reassurance.
Then, getting right around the discussion about strength of concrete containment structures and aircraft crash resistance, the whole thing is underground. Furthermore, the integral design (steam generator within reactor pressure vessel), which is realistic for smaller reactors, adds to safety. And if US environmental constraints are tightening for using either fresh water or sea water for cooling, then it is air-cooled.
The Tennessee Valley Authority is investigating a site for the first plant, at Clinch River - originally proposed for another new-paradigm plant, the first commercial US fast breeder reactor of 375 MWe. B&W expects to lodge an application for design certification in 2011, with a view to construction and operating licence application in 2012, construction start in 2015, and operation of the first unit in 2018.
But this is not the only modular proposal for the USA. A smaller unit is the NuScale multi-application small PWR, a 150 MWt or 45 MWe integral PWR. It will be factory-built with 3 metre diameter pressure vessel and convection cooling. The whole unit is installed below ground, and a standard power plant would have 12 modules together, giving 540 MWe. According to Platts, an application for US design certification is expected in 2011 and considerable interest is being shown by Energy Northwest, in Washington state.
So a coincidence of design features makes these designs, led by the industrial muscle and considerable nuclear engineering experience of B&W, a possible paradigm breaker for the USA, and more widely. The economics of factory build and replication will tend to balance the diseconomies of small scale, and perhaps most importantly, the financing challenge shrinks greatly.
US rethink on nuclear waste disposal
Work on disposing of US high-level radioactive waste at Yucca Mountain will come to halt under the President’s February budget, “while the administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal."
This decision has both positive and negative aspects. Negatively, it is the most extravagant NIMBY victory in history and also one of the least justified. Positively it forces a rethink on US policy in relation to used fuel from its 104 (as well as retired and future) nuclear power reactors.
Legislation in 1982 stipulated that the USA should have a permanent repository for radioactive waste from its military, research, power and medical activities, and that used power reactor fuel would be moved from reactor site storage to it from 1998. Following many years of careful evaluation, the recommendation that Yucca Mountain would be an ideal single site for the nation’s high-level waste repository was strongly supported by Congress and signed into law in July 2002. Further evaluation proceeded. An application to start building it was lodged with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in June 2008. This was in the teeth of strenuous taxpayer-funded opposition from the state of Nevada, whose Democrat leadership, notably Senator Reid, persuaded Mr Obama last year to declare in his election campaign that Yucca Mountain was "not an option."
The selection process was scientifically rigorous and impeccably logical, but it did not rely on the explicit consent of the local inhabitants, in this case particularly the inhabitants of Las Vegas 130 km away. Nevada has a history of major military projects and it is against this that the inhabitants feel that the repository project has been foisted on them. Yucca Mountain itself has a USAF bombing range on one side and the national atomic bomb testing site on the other, where over a thousand nuclear devices have been exploded. While Las Vegas today is widely seen as an incomparable US city, it is not as clear that Yucca Mountain is a pristine natural environment. However, compared with past actions around Yucca Mountain, any repository project will have rigorous environmental standards and controls, so arguably could be put almost anywhere.
Modern long-term repository strategies usually involve a step-wise reversible process that starts with an invitation to communities nationwide to express interest. The authority responsible for the project would then engage with each community and conduct preliminary geological assessments of the surrounding area. A shortlist of possible hosts would be drawn up, giving a range of project options with tailored benefits developed for each community. Moving along a clearly defined path, the list is reduced until a single site, plan and timetable can be announced. A key aspect of the process is that communities have the absolute right to withdraw at any stage. The process to manage Sweden's waste is currently nearing the step of picking from two sites with local communities eager to host the underground repository, Oskarshamn and Forsmark/ Oesthammer. Finland has already made he choice in line with this process.
As a counterpoint to the rigorous and careful selection of the site originally, Senator Reid recently came out with the fatuous comment that "President Obama recognizes that the proposed dump threatens the health and safety of Nevadans and millions of Americans,” which it demonstrably will not.
Yucca Mountain was designed principally to take the nation’s used nuclear fuel, as discharged from the 104 power reactors, after a period of cooling off so that its radioactivity decays substantially. However, in the last few years there has been a marked change of opinion towards possibly reprocessing it, to recycle most of it and reduce the high-level waste volume to about one sixth.
The delay thus has a positive aspect in that it will enable this recycle option to be more formally and fully considered, not only in a national but an international perspective, in line with US involvement in the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) and its leadership of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). GIF is substantially focused on development of new fast neutron reactors and fuel cycles which both recycle used fuel and utilize the vast amounts of depleted uranium in storage. GNEP would see countries share nuclear power technology, with leading nations storing all the high-level waste after reprocessing, and burning long-lived actinides separated from it in advanced fast reactors. Domestically, GNEP was based on the US Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative (AFCI), which is being funded at higher levels than before for R&D "on proliferation-resistant fuel cycles and waste reduction strategies". Two significant new elements in the strategy are new reprocessing technologies which separate all actinide elements together (and not plutonium on its own), and Advanced Burner (fast) Reactors to consume the result of this while generating power.
The US Nuclear Energy Institute said that the industry supported continued development of a repository as part of an integrated used fuel management policy, implying that it might be for a much lower amount separated high-level wastes after reprocessing to enable recycle of uranium and plutonium. Meanwhile, “centralized storage of spent fuel at one or two locations could met the government’s commitment under law to manage the fuel and provide a strategic policy bridge to research and development of proliferation-resistant recycling technology and development of a repository.” In the light of this further delay in implementing the US waste management program, the NEI also suggested a reduction in the fee paid by electricity consumers, since the whole waste program is funded by them.
Part of the background and a driver to get Yucca Mountain pushed through is that many utilities are suing the federal government for billions of dollars in damages after the federal Department of Energy failed to begin removing used nuclear fuel from reactor sites by the legislated 1998 date. According to Platts (23/3), utilities are expected to return to court seeking additional damages under total-breach-of-contract claims if the federal government finally kills the Yucca Mountain project with no alternative path forward for that used fuel. The Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee are reported as saying that the federal government could be liable for some $30 billion in damages if Yucca Mountain plans are actually abandoned. After already paying out hundreds of millions in damages due to failure to take used fuel from 1998, “The government could be held liable for much larger sums, including the repayment of over $16 billion in fees collected from the utilities and nearly $14 billion in interest, if the court finds the government to have totally breached the contacts as a result of abandoning work on the Yucca Mountain repository," they said.
The government expects used reactor fuel to be stored at reactor sites for the foreseeable future, and the NRC has previously said that such on site storage in dry casks is safe for at least 100 years. It has also said that a sustainable policy for managing used nuclear fuel needed strong bipartisan support and should be de-politicised.
Meanwhile the federal government is expected to set up a high-level commission to examine the best long-term approaches for used nuclear fuel storage, disposal and reprocessing, though its membership and terms of reference have yet to be announced. No other sites have been suggested, and it may be that Yucca Mountain will remain under consideration at least until a firm strategy is announced. Meanwhile, its Nevada opponents are jubilant and when the euphoria subsides they may count the cost of losing such an opportunity.
East European gas wars stoke nuclear politics
Once again the New Year has seen disagreements surface regarding the supply of Russian gas to and through countries such as Ukraine.
From Russia's perspective these gas exports are a major source of hard currency, and the prospect of increasing them is a major driver for nuclear power expansion in Russia. Gazprom at one stage was making five times as much money from selling gas to the west as it was getting for that gas if used for electricity generation in Russia. About 60% of Gazprom's gas is used for electricity in Russia, and it wants to halve this by 2020. Two thirds of Russia's electricity is generated from gas. There is great scope for increasing domestic nuclear capacity and exporting more gas.
Russia's gas exports have been subject to a range of prices, from low "mates rates" for countries such as Belarus, to full international prices west of Poland. Ukraine has been a low-price customer, but with increasing westward leaning the price has escalated over several years for $50 in 2005 to $179 per 1000 cubic metres in 2008. A negotiating impasse came with a proposed price of $201 per 1000 cubic metres for 2009 and a debt that had built up to $2 billion by the end of 2008. When the 2008 contract period ended on 1 January, Gazprom cut off its supplies for use in Ukraine. The situation is complicated by the fact that Ukraine is also a corridor for supplies heading further west, with contracts for transit being quite distinct from those for supply. But when Ukraine's own supplies have been interrupted in the depth of winter, Russia alleged that it was pilfering from the transit volumes. Gazprom maintains that Ukraine was siphoning a secret supply from gas meant for other countries, and Ukraine claimed that Russia was cutting supply in order to discredit it. Technical experts from the European Union were dispatched as umpires to ensure transit supplies were being passed on.
Russia's ongoing dispute with Ukraine about gas supplies and prices revived calls from Bulgaria and Slovakia for restarting early-model Soviet-design reactors which were shut down as a condition of joining the EU.* Early in January Bulgaria proposed immediately to prepare Kozluduy-3 for restart, and Slovakia is in a position to restart Bohunice-2 anytime, since it was only withdrawn from service on 31 December. Article 36 of the Bulgaria's EU accession agreement says that in a national crisis the country has the right to resume power generation at Kozloduy 3 and 4, and Bulgaria's president made it clear that in his view the early January situation verged on being a national crisis.
Thousands of Bulgarians assembled in their capital on 18 January to demand the restart of the Kozloduy 3 and 4 nuclear reactors. They carried placards reading "Restart" and "Speed up Bulgarian energy." The group, led by the Napred (Forward) coalition, demanded that the two reactors at Kozloduy shut down as part of Bulgaria's accession to the EU be restarted for two reasons: the effects of this month's Gas War between Russia and Ukraine; and the loss of revenue from energy exports formerly supported by the reactors.
Bulgaria lost its entire gas supply because of the row between state-owned firms in Ukraine and Russia - and this while suffering freezing conditions. Ukraine delivered gas from its own supplies on 10 January to alleviate the situation in Bulgaria, and emergency measures a week later secured a secondary supply of gas from Greece, which itself has had an 85% cut in supply.
The Bulgarian prime minister and senior ministers met with the protest leaders, reiterating that their priority was to "objectively assess the situation and weigh in advance the benefits and the disadvantages of a reopening of Kozloduy units." A government declaration calling for the restarts was to be presented to European Commission representatives in Sofia today. Technical steps to bring the two reactors back into service began on 16 January on the prime minister's orders. It is expected to take about 45 days to ready the reactors, closed down at the end of 2006, for use again. "My position is that the decision to close Kozloduy units 3 and 4 was not based on an objective and effective expert examination," he said, adding: "This decision was imposed conditionally in the period of negotiations, before the formation of this government." This was confirmed by the Bulgarian EC Commissioner for consumer protection, in an interview with Nova TV: "When I started negotiations, Bulgaria had already undertaken the engagement to decommission units 1, 2, 3 and 4 of Kozloduy nuclear power plant." He concluded: "I have always fought for these units and I did my best many times. The whole state apparatus joined the fight."
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) have both independently confirmed that Kozloduy 4 & 4 reactors meet international safety standards after extensive refits including new control systems.
In Slovakia the prime minister said that "If Slovakia should be held hostage to the Russian-Ukrainian dispute, …. I can imagine … re-launching the operation of Jaslovské Bohunice nuclear power plant V1." Another parallel with Bulgaria and the Kozloduy plant is the upgraded status of the shut-down Bohunice units, which have had new emergency core cooling and control systems. The IAEA said that "all safety issues identified earlier... have been appropriately addressed." In the bleak first week of January, Slovakia was receiving none of the gas it usually sourced from Gazprom and described the situation as an energy emergency.
In the Czech Republic, President Václav Klaus used his position as the current President of the European Commission to issue a joint statement. The shortage of gas supplies has come in "clear contradiction to the reassurances given by the highest Russian and Ukrainian authorities to the European Union." He called the situation completely unacceptable and demanded that gas flows through Ukraine be restored immediately.
Eleven European countries besides Ukraine reported varying difficulties with Russian gas supplies early in January: Austria, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Poland, Romania and Turkey. The rate of supply was reported as low in France, Germany and Italy.
* Continued operation of two early Soviet-designed reactors was unacceptable in countries joining the EU. Despite extensive modifications in the last 25 years, the safety features of these two designs do not conform to Western standards. This does not in itself mean that they are unsafe, simply that their safety features differ from those mandated by western licensing requirements. Hence in EU accession countries, the EU requires that they be shut down at some agreed date before the end of their design life. Part of the background to all this relates to the Chernobyl disaster and decisions taken following the reunification of Germany. The two types are the RBMK of Chernobyl notoriety (in Lithuania), and the VVER-440 V-230 type from the early 1970s (two in Slovakia and four in Bulgaria). The Bulgarian ones closed at the end of 2002 and 2006.
Further US licence renewals
Following a $500 million investment by Exelon over the last five years, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licence of Three Mile Island-1 to 2034. New steam generators will now be installed as TMI's "largest capital project to date".
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has also renewed the operating licences of Beaver Valley 1 & 2 for a further 20 years, to 2036 and 2047 respectively. It then renewed the operating licences of the 1140 MWe Susquehanna 1 & 2 for a further 20 years, to 2042 and 2044 respectively.
This brings the total of US operating licence renewals to 59, out of 104 power reactors.
Oyster Creek nuclear power plant has the 52nd licence renewal (20 year extension) to be granted by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, taking it to 2029. The reactor is the oldest operating in the USA, and the NRC said that it was "the most extensive licence renewal review to date".
Then the operating licences of Southern Company's Vogtle units 1 and 2 were extended for 20 years, taking them to 2047 and 2049. This made 54 out 104 operating US nuclear reactors to have had licence renewals.
WNN 9/4 & 4/6/09.
Site permit for Vogtle in Georgia
Southern Nuclear Co has been granted an Early Site Permit (ESP) for its Vogtle site in Georgia (already with two 1215 MWe reactors). The ESP process resolves many site-related safety and environmental issues and determines that the site is suitable for future construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant. However, construction cannot begin until the company receives a combined construction and operating licence (COL) which it applied for in May last year, for two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors of 1105 MWe each. In March this year, the Georgia Public Service Commission voted to approve the new Vogtle units 3 and 4, which are slated to enter service in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
USA advances Next-Generation Nuclear plan
The US Department of Energy has announced that it will offer up to $40 million for an initial planning phase for the Next-Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project. This will include a business plan for integrating detailed design, licensing and construction activities, applied to two different reactor designs. The DoE noted that "NGNP will extend the application of nuclear energy into the broader industrial and transportation sectors, reducing fuel use and pollution."
The NGNP licensing plan was submitted to Congress by the DOE and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in August 2008. It features a high temperature gas-cooled reactor configured to provide heat at 750°C and up to 950°C for a range of industrial uses particularly hydrogen production, or electricity generation. Construction would commence from 2017 and it could start up in 2021.
Four reactor designs fit the NGNP specification: General Atomics' GT-MHR; Areva's similar Antares design; the pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR), backed by Westinghouse and South Africa's PBMR (Pty) Limited; and the HTR-PM from China, which has not so far been considered, though it is the only design so far verging on construction. It is backed by Chinergy Co Ltd and Tsinghua University's Institute of Nuclear Energy Technology (INET) and is being built at Shidaowan, Shandong province, by a joint venture led by China Huaneng Group.
New nuclear plant proposal
In addition to the 17 applications for construction and operating licences and the five more proposals pending, there is now a proposal involving a major utility, the main US uranium enrichment company, and a French reactor vendor. Duke Energy has teamed up with Areva to utilise part of the 15 square kilometre site at Piketon, Ohio, which has been occupied by a large uranium enrichment plant built by the Atomic Energy Commission and operated from 1954 to 2001 - initially for weapons production. The site is owned by the Department of Energy and leased to USEC, which is building a new centrifuge enrichment plant there.
Duke Energy and Areva will investigate the feasibility of building a 1600 MWe US-EPR nuclear power plant there, as a "clean energy park demonstration project" which replaces a lot of Duke's coal-fired plant in the state. It would be a regulated generator, not a merchant plant, enabling it to be funded from rates before it is finished, thus diminishing the overall cost. For licensing support the new plant would come under the UniStar arrangement - a collaborative venture between Constellation Energy and Electricite de France to build and operate Areva's EPR units in the USA. Unistar lodged the design certification application for the US-EPR in 2007. USEC would handle site issues and would be involved in any Early Site Permit application. Duke Energy operates two nuclear plants in the north of the state and has applied to build a new nuclear power plant at Lee in South Carolina.
Application for new Florida reactors
Florida Power & Light (FPL) has applied for a construction and operating licence (COL) to build two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Turkey Point. These sixth and seventh power units at the site could operate from the ends of 2017 and 2019. The total overnight capital costs of the power plants including first fuel load is put at between $6.8 billion and $9.9 billion, depending on what assumptions are made, giving a price per installed kilowatt of generating capacity of $3108 to $4540. This is the 16th COL under consideration by the US regulator (two more have been withdrawn).
Utility suspends plan for new reactor
US generator AmerenUE has announced it is suspending plans to build a new nuclear power plant at Callaway in Missouri, saying that state policies are making it too difficult to finance the project. New legislation, the Missouri Clean Air and Renewable Energy Construction Bill, no longer allows regulators to authorize funding mechanisms for construction of clean energy plants in the state including nuclear. This means that utilities cannot recover financing costs from customers while in the process of building a new plant, adding substantially to the plant's final cost.
Utilities swing to conservative reactor option
In the past couple of months three of the proponents of new nuclear plants have indicated that they would not proceed with their initial choice of reactor design. In 2007 Dominion proposed using the new GE-Hitachi ESBWR unit for its North Anna, VA plant, then Entergy proposed it for the Grand Gulf, MS and the River Bend, LA plants, and Exelon proposed two for its Victoria County, TX plant. All have since resiled on the ESBWR, apparently because its design certification is proceeding more slowly than expected with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, thus putting it out of contention for federal loan guarantees.
Exelon has now confirmed that it has opted for the slightly older but proven (and still Generation III) Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR), also from GE-Hitachi, which already has US design certification and is in operation in Japan. Two of these, from rival supplier Toshiba, are in line to be built by NRG Energy at its South Texas plant. GE Hitachi has signed an agreement to build up to six ABWRs in India.
Exelon program for reactor uprating
The largest US nuclear operator Exelon has announced plans to uprate much of its reactor fleet to provide the equivalent of one new power plant by 2017 - more than 1300 MWe. A 38 MWe increase at its Quad Cities plant has launched the program. Uprate projects are underway at Exelon’s Limerick and Peach Bottom nuclear stations in Pennsylvania and the Dresden, LaSalle and Quad-Cities plants in Illinois. Those are expected to produce nearly a quarter of the total new megawatts. In addition to increasing power, many of the uprates involve component upgrades, and these improve the reliability of the units and support operating licence extensions, which require extensive review of plant equipment condition. Exelon has already added 1100 MWe in uprates over the last decade.
US uprates continue
Dominion has announced a 77 MWe uprate of its Millstone-3 unit, taking it to 1227 MWe, and First Energy Corp has confirmed that its uprate of Beaver Creek-2 by 36 MWe to 904 MWe took effect in January. During an outage last year the final phase of an extended power uprate project was completed, with replacement of the high pressure turbine rotor. PPL is in the process of adding some 200 MWe to its two Susquehanna units, and about 50 MWe of this on unit 1 is now effected. In Texas, Luminant uprated its Comanche Peak 1 reactor by 53 MWe late in 2008.
Dominion 22/1/09, FirstEnergy Feb09, PPL March 09, EFH 23/3/09.
Loan guarantee refused for US enrichment plant
The US Department of Energy has refused a request from USEC for a $2 billion loan guarantee to construct its $3.5 billion commercial enrichment plant with its own centrifuge technology. DOE said the that "the project is neither technically nor financially ready to move forward to commercial construction." It asked USEC to withdraw its application and "work over the next 12-18 months to continue research, development, and testing to resolve the technology issues facing American Centrifuge Project without hurting the chances of USEC to secure approval for a loan guarantee in the future." DOE offered $45 million towards this. USEC said it would "demobilise the project" and abort construction, after having invested $1.5 billion in the plant, which was to have capacity of 3.8 million separative work units (SWU) per year. "USEC disagrees with DOE's characterization that the American Centrifuge technology is not technologically ready to move to commercial operations." USEC shares dropped 35% upon the announcement.
Urenco is well advanced in building an enrichment plant in New Mexico and Areva is planning one in Idaho, and has applied for a DOE loan guarantee for this. Both use well-proven Urenco centrifuge technology, and are to be 5.9 and 6.6 million SWU/yr respectively. USA's 104 operating reactors require 12.7 million SWU per year.
WNN 28/7/09, USEC 28-29/7/09.
US laser enrichment test loop starts up
Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), the three-way joint venture among GE, Hitachi and Cameco, has announced a major milestone with the start-up of its engineering-scale test loop. This substantially advances the R&D which has been under way for a decade, but especially since GE acquired the rights to the Australian technology from Silex in 2006. GLE anticipates gleaning sufficient data from the test loop by the end of 2009 to decide whether to proceed with a full-scale commercial enrichment facility, and if so, its projected schedule and size. In June GLE submitted the last part of its licence application for this plant, which will take the Nuclear Regulatory Commission 30 months to process. If construction proceeds, the GLE commercial facility at Wilmington, North Carolina would have a target capacity of 3.5 to 6 million SWU/yr.
WNN 30/7/09, Silex 31/7/09.
Areva doubles enrichment plant plans
Areva Enrichment Services has notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it wants scope and flexibility to double the size of its new Eagle Rock Enrichment Plant at Idaho Falls, to 6.6 million SWU per year, after the first two modules totalling half this size are commissioned. Construction is due to begin in 2011. The expanded plant would contain a total of 96 cascades and be capable of producing eight different tails assay streams. If translated to firm plans, the expansion would bring to 22 million SWU the annual new capacity under construction or planned in the USA, nearly double the present domestic demand.
US nuclear utilities challenge waste fees
US nuclear utilities have written to Energy Secretary Steven Chu asking him why they should continue paying some $770 million annually towards the Yucca Mountain waste repository, since the project has now been put on hold and no alternative has yet been proposed. Utilities pay 0.1 cents/kWh into the national nuclear waste fund, which also gets over $1 billion per year in interest. The Nuclear Energy Institute has written to Chu on behalf of its members to "express its deep concern about the federal government's failure to fully carry out the statutory obligation to implement the nuclear waste policy established almost three decades ago in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982." This required the Department of Energy to take over all used fuel and dispose of it from 1998, funded by the levy on electricity production.
US move to cap CO2 emissions
The USA has moved to cap emissions and trade them down to 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. The Clean Energy and Security Act was narrowly passed by the House of Representatives and now goes to the Senate. It contains a slew of incentives and targets concerning carbon capture and storage, electric cars and the smart grid. The most significant however is the specification of a series of milestone emission caps. By 2012, greenhouse gas emissions are to be reduced 3% below 2005 levels; followed by 17% below 2005 by 2020; 42% below by 2030 and 83% down by 2050. Complementing these overall reduction targets, an increasing proportion of electricity demand must be met by a combination of energy efficiency and renewables - rising to 20% in 2020.
The US Environment Protection Authority has classified carbon dioxide as a pollutant. As a result of a scientific review conducted at the behest of the US Supreme Court, it has declared that six greenhouse gases contribute to air pollution and may affect public health and welfare. As well as CO2, it listed methane, nitrous oxide, HFCs, PFCs and sulfur hexafluoride. The finding is reported to be already impacting coal-fired generation plans.
US energy budget
The US Department of Energy has released its FY2010 budget request, totalling $26.4 billion. This would boost spending on nuclear fuel cycle R&D to $192 million, and also increase funds for Generation IV reactor development to $191 million. The MOX fuel fabrication plant would get $494 million, much the same as this year. Some other nuclear power-related spending is being wound down, though $333 million for low-emission vehicles will have ramifications for base-load power demand. FY2010 starts in October, and Congress must yet debate the appropriations.
First production from new US uranium mine
White Canyon Uranium based in Perth, Australia, has commenced production from its Daneros mine in southeastern Utah. Ore (at less than 1% grade) is trucked 100 km to Denison's White Mesa mill for treatment and recovery of U3O8 product. All ore produced during the development phase is being sold to Denison, and from there a long-term toll treatment agreement is being negotiated. No resource figures are quoted, but production is planned to be 227 tU pr year for at least ten years. Daneros is the first new uranium mine in Utah for 30 years.
Generic EIS for in situ mining
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a generic environmental impact statement (EIS) on in situ leach (or in situ recovery - ISR) mining in the western USA. This will streamline but not eliminate the requirement for a Supplementary EIS for each new mine. The NRC expects 17 applications for ISL facilities in the next couple of years, with each taking two years to process, including public participation.
NRC 4/6/09, WNN 5/6/09.
US nuclear industry cranks up
A new report from the US industry body, the Nuclear Energy Institute, says that "over the last several years, the nuclear industry has invested over $4 billion in new nuclear plant development, and plans to invest approximately $8 billion in the next several years to be in a position to start construction in 2011-2012." In the course of this "NEI estimates that private investment in new nuclear power plants has created an estimated 14,000-15,000 jobs."
In February the Public Service Commission of South Carolina (PSC) unanimously approved South Carolina Electric & Gas Company's (SCE&G) plans to build two new Westinghouse AP1000s at its existing VC Summer site in the state. After a three week public hearing the PSC determined that the proposal to build the plant is "prudent and timely. It also allowed the company to recover some of the financing costs while the plant is under construction, rather than having to wait until it is in operation. SCE&G noted that this should lower the overall cost of building the new units by about $1 billion, saving customers an estimated $4 billion in electricity rates over the plant's lifetime.
NEI Nuclear Energy, Job Creation and Economic Growth, WNN 12/2/09.
Regulators rule on aircraft impacts
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has ruled on the question of designing nuclear power reactors to withstand large aircraft impacts. While designers must address this, resistance to such an attack remains 'beyond-design-basis' under regulations. In future, when a utility applies to the NRC to build a new power reactor, it must assess the ability of the proposed design to "avoid or mitigate the effects of a large commercial aircraft impact."
The conservative design criteria which caused most power reactors to be shrouded by massive containment structures with biological shield has made them highly resistant to catastrophic damage from possible heavy aircraft impact. (Ironically, with better understanding of what happens in a core melt accident inside, they are now seen to be not nearly as necessary in that original scenario.) The NRC said that reactor core cooling for decay heat, containment, and cooling of used nuclear fuel should be maintained after a large aircraft impact. However, any design feature or functional capability of proposed new nuclear power plants solely meant to help in the event of a large aircraft impact should "meet high quality standards but is exempt from NRC design-basis regulations, such as regulations for redundancy."
US public opinion remains firm
A new Bisconti-GfK Roper survey shows that strong US public support for nuclear energy is being sustained, and 62% say that USA should definitely build more plants in the future. In particular, 84% think nuclear will be important in meeting electricity needs in the years ahead, 76% believe utilities should prepare to build more nuclear plants, 87% and 81% respectively approve of tax credits and federal loan guarantees to encourage new build. Overall 84% support licence renewal for nuclear plants and 70% would support adding a new reactor at the nearest nuclear plant. Only 12% of people said they strongly opposed the use of nuclear energy. A new question was focused on recycling used nuclear fuel, and 83% supported this (contra past US policy) while 13% opposed.
NEI 25/3/09, WNN 26/3/09.
New Energy Secretary confirmed
The Senate has confirmed Steven Chu as the new US Energy Secretary, heading up the Department of Energy (DoE) in the new Administration. He expresses unambiguous support for nuclear energy having a major role, due to its base-load application and being carbon-free. He said that President Obama's "aggressive" plan to "push towards energy independence" was achievable and would involve "a continued commitment to nuclear power and a long-term plan for waste management and disposal." He said his top priorities in that sector are accelerating the loan guarantee program for new reactors and developing a long-range plan for used fuel management, including research into recycling. Chu is a physicist, Nobel laureate, and was formerly director of DoE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He takes over from Sam Bodman, who served in the role since 2004.
WNN 21/1/09, NEI Overview 19/1/09.
UK to boost nuclear power target?
A report on UK energy security prepared at the request of the UK government has recommended that the country should aim for nuclear to supply some 35-40% of its electricity beyond 2030. The report was written by former energy minister Malcolm Wicks and calls for the government to do more to develop indigenous and alternative energy resources, ranging from new nuclear to renewables. It calls for a proactive approach on multiple fronts to maximise future energy security while tackling climate change. Plans for the transition to a lower carbon economy with widespread electrification of transport and heating mean that UK electricity demand is likely to be 50% higher than current levels by 2050. The report said that beyond 2030, a 35-40% nuclear share of UK electricity would enhance energy security and reduce reliance on imports. This implies the need for a UK nuclear power sector about three times bigger than it has ever been in the past.
UK regulator reports on progress with design certification
At about the mid-point in the UK Generic Design Acceptance (GDA) process, before the start of very detailed analysis, the national nuclear safety regulator has outlined the areas it still has questions for Areva and Westinghouse in relation to their EPR and AP1000 designs. The GDA approach means ironing out all the regulatory uncertainties in advance of construction, and this combines with the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) policy of providing regular public feedback for reactor vendors. Areva still needs to make changes to its instrumentation and control (I&C) systems; Westinghouse has to speed up its responses to questions about novel construction techniques. The HSE said it believes that both designs could be suitable for use in the UK, but it will only sign off GDA certificates if all its queries are satisfied. Meanwhile, having suspended its involvement in GDA to concentrate on the US licensing process, GE-Hitachi has confirmed its intention to return to the UK market in 2011 with its ESBWR design. The UK is on a tight schedule to bring in new reactors to replace old ones and avoid using fossil fuels. This has resulted in a strong determination to complete the GDA process by June 2011.
UK government tables energy policies
The UK government has released six draft National Policy Statements (NPS) on energy policy to 2025. Nuclear power is central to these, and from about 2017 ageing plant, nuclear and other, will be replaced by private investors as part of a "trinity" of low-carbon technologies: renewables, nuclear, and carbon capture & storage (CCS). No new coal-fired plants maybe built without CCS, and existing plants will need to be retrofitted. A new planning regime will mean that that local hearings will debate only local issues and not question the national infrastructure needs or the virtues of the technology proposed. Those issues are to be handled by an independent Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). Some 18 GWe of UK generation capacity is to be retired in the next decade, and these policies are designed to see 20 GWe constructed to replace it, 16 GWe of which would be nuclear.
The draft Nuclear NPS contained a list of sites for nuclear development: Hinkley Point, Oldbury, Sellafield, Sizewell and Wylfa being the subject of existing proposals, as well as Bradwell, Braystones, Hartlepool, Heysham, and Kirksanton. Braystones and Kirksanton are greenfield sites near Sellafield. Only one existing site suggested through the strategic siting assessment process was rejected: Dungeness. The draft Nuclear NPS will undergo parliamentary scrutiny and public consultation through to February, but once made final, licensees can reference it to file construction license applications for the sites. Planning applications for the first EdF units at Hinkley Point and Sizewell are expected in mid-2011 when the regulatory process on reactor designs will finish.
UK government to sell its Urenco share
The British government is preparing to sell its one-third stake in uranium enrichment company Urenco as part of a plan to reduce national debt. Selecting a buyer could prove difficult given joint ownership with German and Netherlands governments, and the sensitive nature of the technology. Analysts have suggested a value of about £4 billion (US$ 6.4 billion). Urenco has about a quarter of the world enrichment market and is is building a new plant in the USA.
UK new nuclear plans expand
Having missed out on earlier land auctions for nuclear power plant sites, the Iberdrola-GdF Suez-Scottish & Southern consortium has bought a 190 ha site at Sellafield from NDA for £70 million, and announced its intention to build up to 3.6 GWe of nuclear plant there, from 2015. This and the RWE-Eon partnership bid for NDA land alongside old Magnox plants at Oldbury, Wylfa and Bradwell early in the year. Other bidders included EdF Energy. The winning bids for Oldbury and Wylfa were from the RWE-E.On team, that for Bradwell was from EdF Energy. That auction raised £387 million for NDA. These four sites are among eleven being considered for new nuclear plants in the UK government's Strategic Site Assessment program.
As well as EdF Energy advancing its plans for 6.6 GWe at Sizewell and Hinkley Point, RWE and E.On are taking forward plans for 6 GWe of new nuclear capacity in UK by 2020, at Oldbury and Wylfa. They have appointed senior executives for their UK joint venture company, but not yet named it. The combined planned and proposed new nuclear capacity now totals some 16 GWe, which the government hailed as a major step forward.
UK potential nuclear plant sites listed
The UK government has published a list of eleven potential sites for new nuclear power plants, which have been nominated through the Strategic Siting Assessment (SSA) process. The sites have been nominated by Electricite de France (EdF), EOn and RWE, and by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), which owns some of the land. Nine of them are existing nuclear power plant sites, with operating or decommissioned reactors. The sites will be assessed against criteria announced in January.
Following a one-month public comment period, feedback from the public will be used alongside the advice of regulators and other specialists. Potentially acceptable sites will be included in the draft National Policy Statement (NPS) on nuclear power to be published later this year for public consultation. This is part of the planning system under the new Planning Act 2008. The NPS will set frame the new independent Infrastructure Planning Commission's decisions on new nuclear power.
UK utility to take 20% of British Energy
When Electricité de France (EdF) bought British Energy last year, it was envisaged that Centrica would take 25% of it. Negotiations were inconclusive for some time, but now Centrica has agreed to take 20% of the company for £2.3 billion, along with the rights to that portion of production. It will pay £1.1 billion and asset swap with EdF its 51% stake in the major Belgian utility SPE, giving EdF a significant stake in that country. Centrica also has an option to take 20% of each of EdF's four new nuclear power plants in the UK. A major reason for the purchase has been to reduce Centrica's exposure to fluctuating gas prices. The company currently supplies about 43% of the UK's gas as well as 22% of electricity, which it generates by burning further gas. With an agreement to buy 18 billion kWh per year from BE's present nuclear generation, Centrica will be able to meet about 85% of its customers' peak needs.
RWE and E.On advance in UK
Major European utilities RWE and E.On have jointly secured two brownfield UK sites for new nuclear power plants - Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Wylfa in Wales - and have announced plans to build 6000 MWe of nuclear capacity in UK. Their choice of technology remains open, with Westinghouse AP1000 a strong contender. EdF plans four large new EPR nuclear reactors totaling 6400 MWe at Sizewell in Suffolk and Hinkley Point in Somerset, the first one starting up in 2017. Altogether this will mean a 27% nuclear contribution in UK in the early 2020s, including the existing Sizewell plant.
E.On has also set out its plan for EUR 30 billion investment in the next two years. This includes renewables, gas and clean coal-fired plants. To frame the investment, the company has called for a universal, market-based carbon regime. "Prerequisites would be clear emission caps, a common carbon trading system and a phased scheme for auctioning carbon allowances that is equally applicable to all industrialised countries and emerging economies as well as all major greenhouse gas emitting sectors of industry." It concluded that "without nuclear energy - in particular without German nuclear energy - Europe won't reach its ambitious climate protection targets."
WNN 30/4 & 6/5/09.
Two major European utilities, EOn and RWE, will team up to build at least 6000 MWe of nuclear capacity in the UK. RWE Npower and EOn UK will form a 50:50 joint venture to secure sites being sold by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and take them through the consents process to build and operate two or three new nuclear power stations. The move creates a strong partnership with access to substantial financial resources. As well as having stakes in 20 nuclear power stations, the two already jointly own three nuclear reactors in Germany. While there is no commitment as yet to sites or technology, EOn last year signed a letter of intent to cooperate with Siemens and Areva to build the latter's 1600 MWe EPR design, and it has gone on to secure a grid connection agreement for exactly 1600 MWe at Oldbury B. Meanwhile, RWE has secured agreements for three 1200 MWe connections at Wylfa C, matching the output of Westinghouse's AP1000 reactor.
Separately, British Energy and its new owner Electricité de France plan four EPRs: two at Sizewell C and two at Hinkley Point C. If all these projects go ahead, nuclear energy would generate about 35% of UK electricity in the 2020s, compared with about 15% last year and an all-time high of around 30% in the 1980s.
RWE Npower has secured grid connection capacity of 3600 MWe at Wylfa, in Wales, to accommodate three new nuclear power reactors. Britain's two newest Magnox gas-cooled reactors have been generating 980 MWe at Wylfa since the early 1970s, but these are currently set to close in 2010, although operation could be extended to 2012. British Energy, now under EdF, also has grid connection agreements for Wylfa as well as for its two major announced projects at Sizewell and Hinkley Point, and German utility EOn has 1600 MWe grid connection agreed for Oldbury. Total grid connection capacity for new UK nuclear plants is now 18.4 GWe.
WNN 30/12/08, 14/1/09, EOn, RWE.
New French enrichment plant cranks up
Testing of the first centrifuge cascade has begun at the Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant in southern France. The cascade is scheduled to start operating by the end of this year, while further cascades are progressively brought on line. The plant is set to reach full capacity of 8.2 million SWU per year in 2016, two years earlier than initially scheduled. The EUR 3 billion plant is based on 'ultra centrifuge technology' and will replace Areva's existing Georges Besse plant at Tricastin, which uses energy-intensive diffusion technology. Areva said that the new project "represents one of the biggest industrial investments for the past decade in France." The plant will be owned and operated by Areva subsidiary Société d'Enrichissement du Tricastin (SET). The centrifuge machines are being manufactured and supplied by the Enrichment Technology Company (ETC), a 50-50 joint venture between Areva and Urenco.
Ownership spread in new French reactor
France's second new-generation Areva EPR is to have substantial equity from GdF-Suez, whose nuclear base is in Belgium. With oil giant Total it will take a one third share in the 1650 MWe EPR to be built at Penly from 2012. Italy's Enel is expected to take up its right to 12.5%, so the split is likely to be Electricite de France 54.2%, GdF-Suez 25%, Enel 12.5% and Total 8.3%, making it an unusually international project for France. EdF may sell down its share to 50%, and discussions are underway with E.On in this regard. GdF-Suez said it was "a major step forward in the implementation of [its] nuclear strategy", though through Electrabel it already operates all seven Belgian nuclear power reactors, and has shares of two Chooz units in France. It also bought a 5% share in Areva's new enrichment plant in France. Areva, GdF-Suez and Total are together bidding to build a pair of EPRs in Abu Dhabi. Total is the first major oil company to invest in nuclear power in recent years.
President Sarkozy has confirmed that EdF will build a second 1650 MWe EPR unit in France, at Penley, near Dieppe. Like Flamanville, it has two 1300 MWe units now operating, and room for two more. GdF Suez will hold a minority stake in it and others such as ENEL (which has an option to invest 12.5%) will be invited to take equity. The French government owns 85% of EdF, 35.7% of GdF Suez and 88% of Areva, who will build the unit. A public debate on the project will occur, with construction start in 2012. The reactor is expected on line in 2017. A third new reactor, with majority GdF Suez ownership and operated by it, is likely to follow. A GdF Suez subsidiary, Electrabel, operates several reactors in Belgium and has equity in two French nuclear plants.
Sweden ticks major reactor uprate
The Oskarshamn-3 reactor operated by OKG has been cleared for test operation by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) following a 250 MWe uprate to 1450 MWe net. Initial approval was given in 2005 and OKG has since spent EUR 313 million on the reactor upgrade and turbine upgrade (by Alstom). This is expected to extend the plant life to 60 years, to 2045.
Sweden confirms waste repository site
After seven years of geological investigation and consultation with local communities, a site near the Forsmark nuclear reactors at Östhammar has been selected as Sweden's permanent high-level waste repository. It was preferred to Oskarshamn due to better granite, though both communities were keen to host the facility. Sweden's waste management company SKB, owned by the four nuclear power utilities, plans to begin site works in 2013, with full construction starting in 2015 and operation in 2023. This single facility, using only 15 hectares above ground, will hold all of the high-level radioactive waste from the nuclear power reactors which provide nearly half of Sweden's electricity.
A few weeks earlier SKB has signed an investment agreement with both towns which had volunteered as host. Both already host nuclear power plants - Forsmark and Oskarshamn. The agreement specified investment of US$ 245 million in the two municipalities, with the majority going to the unsuccessful bidder, now Oskarshamn, which will thereby be disadvantaged.
Scandinavian power price surprises
Finland has announced its intention to put a tax on nuclear and hydro power sources built before 1997 because in the operation of a carbon trading market they will make good profits. The tax will apply to 2182 MWe of nuclear capacity and about 3000 MWe of hydro at a rate of up to EUR one cent per kWh. It will thus counter the incentive to maximise the utilisation of non carbon-emitting base-load plant.
Denmark trades power in the same Nord Pool, which has announced that from October the spot floor price for surplus power will drop from zero to minus EUR 20 cents/kWh. In other words, wind generators producing power in periods of low demand will have to pay the network to take it. Nord Pool said that "A negative price floor has been in demand for some time - especially from participants trading Elspot in the Danish bidding areas. … Curtailment of sales may give an imbalance cost for the affected seller and thus creates a willingness to pay in order to deliver power in the market." This is likely to have a negative effect on the economics of wind power in the region, since a significant amount of Denmark's wind power production is affected.
WNN 1/4/09, Nord Pool 4/2/09.
Sweden formally abandons nuclear negativity
A new long-term sustainable energy and climate policy from the Swedish coalition government affirms role of nuclear power 'for the foreseeable future' and the need for new nuclear power plants on existing sites. This is the latest in a series of steps away from 1980's hastily-conceived phase-out policy. The law which banned construction of new nuclear reactors is to be officially abolished so that the ten existing reactors can progressively be replaced as they reach the end of their economic life.
Sweden's strong nuclear sector responded to the ban on new reactors by upgrading most of the existing ones. When complete, the resulting national nuclear capacity boost will reach over 1150 MWe - about the same as a new reactor could have provided. This figure compares with the 1200 MWe in nuclear generation lost by the early closure of the two Barsebäck reactors in 2004 and 2005, which was forced by Social Democrats. Nuclear power provides about half of the country's electricity from ten reactors and uniquely is taxed at about EUR 0.67 cents/kWh to subsidise other forms of generation.
New Finnish reactor proposal proceeding
Fennovoima has submitted its application to the Finnish government for a decision-in-principle on the construction of a new nuclear power plant in the country. This is expected to lead to a government decision on the proposal next year. The company is presenting three site alternatives, all cleared in the environmental assessment already concluded, and all in government-defined development areas. The proposed plant will be 1500 – 2500 MWe and utilize one of three designs: Areva's EPR or SWR-1000 (a boiling water reactor), or Toshiba's version of the ABWR. District heating is a to be a by-product. Construction start in 2012 is envisaged, with operation by 2020.
Fennovoima is a new consortium established in mid 2007. It is 66% owned by Power Company SF and 34% by EOn Nordic, a subsidiary of Germany's EOn. Power Company SF itself is 55% owned by Finnish industrial, retail and services enterprises and 45% owned by local and regional energy companies. In total, there are 64 shareholders in Fennovoima, each of which will be entitled to take delivery of electricity generated by the plant at cost price in proportion to their ownership. This is in line with TVO's reactor ownership and power sales arrangements in Finland, where the owners take their shares of electricity at cost and sell any unwanted portion into the Nordic market. This means that output is effectively contracted to each owner over the life of the plant.
Germany targets electric car infrastructure
The German government has pledged to spend EUR 500 million by 2011 developing an efficient infrastructure to support electric cars which will be marketed about then. It forecasts one million electric cars by 2020, with a goal of 5 million by 2030. RWE is already collaborating with Daimler to provide 500 charging points in Berlin, serving 100 Smart electric cars by the end of this year.
Spanish licence renewal compromise
Spain's Garona nuclear power plant has been granted a four-year licence extension, despite the safety regulator recommending ten years. It began commercial operation in 1971 and its owner, Nuclenor, had a licence to operate until the end of this month. Permission to keep operating beyond that depended on a decision by the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Trade, after a report by the Nuclear Safety Council. Nuclenor called the decision an 'arbitrary act without justification in law', since it had complied with all requirements for a ten-year extension. However, government policy has been to close down nuclear plants, so the decision is a compromise which puts the longer term future of the plant in the hands of the next government.
Spain secures major supply agreement
GE Hitachi has signed a strategic agreement for Equipos Nucleares SA (ENSA) to manufacture and supply reactor pressure vessels for new GE Hitachi-designed ESBWR and ABWR units. In February, Japan Steel Works supplied the first of six forgings required to fabricate one ESBWR reactor pressure vessel, and ENSA anticipates completing the manufacturing process by mid-2012. It produces reactor pressure vessels, steam generators and other components at its factory on the north coast of Spain for nuclear power plants in several countries. ENSA provides a lot of heavy equipment for Westinghouse plants, and exports 85% of its production.
French step up to develop Italian nuclear plants
Fleshing out an earlier agreement, a new joint venture company has been formed by Italy's ENEL and France's Electricite de France (EdF) to prepare for building substantial new nuclear capacity in Italy. Sviluppo Nucleare Italia (Developing Italian Nuclear) has been set up with 50:50 ownership and initially will conduct feasibility studies on building at least four 1650 MWe Areva EPR units. If new build proves feasible, separate project companies will be set up to build, own and operate the new power plants. ENEL has a 12.5% share in the new Flamanville-3 nuclear plant being built in France. A 2007 agreement allows it to take the same share of another five French plants, and reciprocally gives EdF an option to participate in construction and operation of future ENEL nuclear power plants in Italy or elsewhere in Europe and the Mediterranean. Both utilities are issuing bonds to fund developments, EUR 10 billion by the end of 2010 in the case of ENEL. Italy is aiming to generate a quarter of its electricity from nuclear power by 2030, and substantially reduce energy imports.
France to revive Italian nuclear industry
Electricite de France (EdF) has agreed with Enel to “set the basis for the joint development of nuclear energy in Italy by the two companies.” They are forming a 50:50 joint venture to conduct feasibility studies towards "at least four” EPR nuclear reactors in Italy. These would be built, owned and operated by new companies set up for the purpose, though Enel would take the lead in operations and hold a majority stake. While “retaining majority control of the entities” the two companies will invite other investors to participate. The agreement follows one in 2007 which gave EdF an option to participate in construction and operation of future Enel nuclear power plants in Italy or elsewhere in Europe and the Mediterranean. The new step is among the biggest that Italy has so far taken towards a reviving nuclear energy, which was phased out following a referendum called as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. This situation was reversed by the May 2008 general election, when the revival of Italy’s nuclear energy featured.
Enel 24/2/09, WNN 24/2/08.
Italian Senate approves nuclear bill
The bill which provides for re-establishing nuclear power in Italy has passed in the Senate after passage in the lower house in November. Some revisions mean that it will not become law until about mid June. The government, which is making nuclear power a key component of energy policy, will then have up to six months to define sites, technology, etc. Despite an earlier agreement between ENEL and France's EdF to build up to four large EPR reactors, starting by 2013, the technology choice remains open. The Finnish model of funding, from major electricity users who take long-term supply contracts, is said to be favoured.
Italy buys into Spanish and French nuclear plants
Italy’s main power utility Enel has agreed to pay EUR 11 billion for 25% of Spain’s Endesa power producer, taking its ownership to 92%. Endesa has equity in three Spanish nuclear reactors: 100% of Ascó 1; 85% of Ascó 2 and 78% of Vandellós 2, totalling about 3000 MWe. Enel then confirmed that it would take a 12.5% stake in EdF’s second new EPR nuclear power reactor to be built at Penly, France. It has a similar stake in the first, being built at Flamanville, and rights for further four units. Enel also owns 66% of Slovakia's Slovenske Electrarne, which operates four nuclear reactors at Bohunice and Mochovce totaling 1690 MWe. SE recently embarked upon completing the Mochovce 3 and 4 nuclear power reactors to add a further 840 MWe.
Enel 20/2/09, WNN 24/2/09.
Dutch takeover to exclude nuclear plant
Germany's RWE looks set to acquire Dutch utility Essent, but the takeover will now not include the company's 50% stake in the 485 MWe Borssele nuclear power plant. The transaction price was dropped by EUR 950 million to EUR 8350 million to reflect this. The veto on including the 50% stake in Borssele is due to a statute regarding the plant’s ownership. The Essent share of the 36-year-old reactor will now be placed into a new company owned by the provincial and municipal authorities comprising Essent's original shareholders. The other 50% is held by Delta Energie, which opposed RWE's plans. Earlier, RWE announced that it was prepared to build new nuclear capacity in Netherlands.
New nuclear plant proposed in Netherlands
Delta, the half owner of Borssele nuclear plant, has applied to the government for environmental clearance to build a second unit there to be in operation by 2018. Delta hopes to start construction in 2013, and expects the plant to cost EUR 5 to 7 billion, shared with a partner. The decision is driven by economic considerations, including the fact that "nuclear power is not dependent on government grants", unlike wind and solar. The economics will be further improved by CO2 costs on alternatives. Delta aims to be carbon neutral by 2050. It is owned by Dutch provinces and local authorities.
Delta 25/6/09, WNN 26/6/09.
Belgium defers phase-out
The Belgian government has postponed a nuclear phase-out by ten years, so that it does not begin before 2025. This will allow the licensing of reactor life extensions, and GdF-Suez expects to invest about EUR 800 million towards this. The operating lives of Belgium's nuclear power plants was limited to 40 years under a 2003 government act, which would have seen three reactors at the Doel and Tihange plants close in 2014-15. However, in recognition of the economic benefit resulting from the reprieve, the operators will have to contribute a special tax of EUR 215 to 245 million per year over 2010-14 (EUR 0.5 cents/kWh), and more thereafter to 2025. GdF-Suez was also persuaded to subsidise renewables and demand-side management by paying at least EUR 500 million for both, and it must maintain 13,000 jobs in energy efficiency and recycling. The Energy & Climate Change minister affirmed the vital importance of nuclear power in the country and said that the delay in closure "would guarantee security of supply, limit the production of carbon dioxide and allow us to maintain prices that protect consumer purchasing power and the competitiveness of our companies". However, new nuclear build remains prohibited.
Tenders called for two new Czech reactors
CEZ has opened a public tender for contractors to build two new nuclear reactors at Temelin. Beyond saying that they need to be third-generation pressurised water reactors, the exact size and type is not specified. An environmental impact assessment was kicked off a year ago. The two units now at Temelin are Russian V-320 reactors of 1000 MWe each, which started operating in 2000 and 2003. Temelin infrastructure was built for four units at the site. The tender also seeks to give CEZ the option of ordering up to three more reactors for other locations in Europe. CEZ quotes a March public opinion poll showing 77% of citizens (and 56% of Green party voters) supporting the new Temelin units.
WNN 3/8/09, CEZ 3/8/09.
Doosan to buy Skoda Power
South Korea's Doosan Heavy Industries has bought Czech turbine maker Skoda Power for EUR 495 million, giving it the ability to supply full nuclear power plants. Skoda's proprietary steam turbine technology completes the suite from reactor steam supply to generators, and positions it for engineering-procurement-construction (EPC) contracts for new nuclear power plants. Doosan says it now plans to compete with global leaders such as GE, Siemens and Alstom. It already has a European engineering presence through Doosan Babcock Energy, based in UK, and it now plans to set up Doosan Power Systems (DPS) to join Skoda Power and Doosan Babcock as its business front in Europe and the Americas.
Poland presses ahead with nuclear power
The Polish government has specified a four-stage plan to launch nuclear power in the country, nearly 20 years after aborting construction of four 440 MWe Russian VVER-440 units at Zarnowiec in the north of the country. State-owned Polska Grupa Energetyczna SA (PGE), Poland's largest power group by generating capacity, in January announced that it wanted to build two nuclear power plants, each with a capacity of 3,000 MWe, one in the north and one in the east of the country. PGE estimated that the cost would be EUR 2500-3000/kW. The energy security strategy approved by the Polish government then confirmed PGE's plans to build one or two nuclear power plants, the first by 2020. PGE would hold 51% of the projects as part of a consortium with foreign partners. A four-stage plan now envisages legislation by 2010, site, technology and construction arrangements 2011-13, technical plans and site works 2014-15, and construction 2016-20.
Slovakia uprates Bohunice reactors
An upgrade program on Bohunice VVER-440 units 3 & 4 is under way with a view to improving safety and extending operational life to 40 years (2025). SE aims to increase the power of both units by 60 MWe above original capacity. Unit 4 has now reached 452 MWe net, while unit 3 is at 436 MWe net, a gain of 72 MWe so far.
Slovakia shuts down old reactor
Slovakia has closed its Bohunice 2 nuclear power reactor at the end of 2008 as earlier agreed under the terms of its accession to the EU. The 408 MWe unit was the last of an early Soviet design (V-230) still operating in Eastern Europe, though five other such units remain operating in Russia and Armenia. It had started up in 1980 and its twin was closed two years ago. This leaves only the large Ignalina-2 reactor in Lithuania which is condemned to early closure at the end of 2009 by EU edict, unless the government succeeds in delaying it.
RWE withdraws from Bulgarian project
After a long period of uncertainty, German utility RWE has finally abandoned a potential 49% investment in the Belene project to build two new Russian nuclear reactors in Bulgaria. RWE's involvement began in October 2007 when it successfully bid (with nine other European utilities) to be a strategic partner in the project, with Bulgaria's National Electricity Company (NEK). It was hoped that two VVER-1000 reactors would begin operation as early as 2015. Last December the Belene Power Company was set up as a joint venture between NEK (51%) and RWE Power (49%) to manage the project. RWE has now withdrawn from this.
AtomStroyExport of Russia had already been contracted to provide the new plant, in cooperation with Areva providing instrumentation and control systems. NEK was to take the controlling 51% stake, but the company and government have been unable to keep to the terms of a pre-construction finance deal with BNP Paribas, leading to penalties. The new national government then decided to take only some 20% equity, and RWE has been unable to find a junior partner to share its stake.
The withdrawal leaves a situation where private finance has turned its back on a large investment that has full government support and great electricity export potential. Furthermore, there is total support from Russia for its reactor exports, and loans to Bulgaria have been authorised. Contracts for major components for the reactors were signed last December and in June, then another was announced this week, indicating very strong Russian confidence that Belene will proceed. The first pressure vessel is to be shipped in December 2011 and the second in September 2012
Bulgaria has two Russian VVER-1000 reactors operating, but has had to shut down four smaller units on the same Kozloduy site as a condition of EU entry, curtailing its former considerable electricity exports to Greece, Turkey, Serbia and Macedonia.
Hungary votes for new nuclear plant
Hungary's parliament has voted 330 to 6 to proceed with plans for two new nuclear power reactors at its Paks plant, 100 km south of the capital. Paks has four small Russian reactors from the 1980s operating now, and supplying 40% of the country's electricity. Plans are for two new larger ones, to star up about 2020. The parliament's economic and environmental committees have also strongly supported the proposal.
Romania sets up company for new power plants
EnergoNuclear SA has been formally established to undertake the construction, commissioning and operation of two new Candu 6 720 MWe reactors in Romania. In November 2008 an investment agreement was signed between state nuclear power corporation Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica (SNN), with 51% of the project, and Enel, CEZ, GDF Suez, RWE Power (each 9.15%), Iberdrola (6.2%) and ArcelorMittal Galati (6.2%). The new company will now embark upon an 18 month pre-project phase for Cernavoda units 3 & 4. Construction cost is expected to be about EUR 4 billion. The first unit is expected on line in 2016.
Nuclearelectrica 3/4/09, WNN 3/4/09.
Russia raises funds for nuclear development
Rosatom has announced plans for a major bond offering worth up to RUR 195 billion (US$6.3 billion) through its subsidiary AtomEnergoProm "to strengthen the Russian nuclear industry". The five-year 1000-rouble bonds will be sold through the MICEX stock exchange, with Rosatom acting as guarantor. AtomEnergoProm hopes to attract new investment and use the funds to refinance existing short-term loans and to help support the investment programs for Rosatom affiliates over 2009-2010.
Recipients of the money have been named as Energoatom (for nuclear power plant construction), TVEL (modernization of nuclear fuel production), ARMZ Uranium Holding (development of mining assets in Russia and abroad within joint ventures), TENEX and newly-formed JSC Enrichment & Conversion Company (modernisation of production facilities including a shift to a new generation of gas centrifuges), and Atomenergomash (investments in heavy nuclear engineering). Atomenergomash has been concerned to diversify its source of supply from Russia's main component supplier, and has been talking with Energomash-Atommash which was set up in the 1970s at Volgodonsk as (then) principal nuclear equipment supplier. WNN 9/9/09.
New Russian construction licence.
A construction licence has been issued for the second unit at phase two of the Leningrad nuclear power plant (Leningrad II) by Russian nuclear safety regulator Rostekhnadzor. The site is already cleared for work to start quickly and first concrete is expected in a few months. Construction of unit 1 commenced in October 2008.
Russia pushes into world enrichment market
Russia's Tenex has signed long-term enrichment services contacts with three US utilities - AmerenUE, Luminant and Pacific Gas & Electric - and one in Japan - Chubu. The following week it signed a contract to supply enriched uranium product with Exelon, the largest US nuclear utility. The contracts cover supply from 2014 to 2020, starting after the current "megatonnes to megawatts" program finishes. This has supplied blended-down ex-weapons uranium from Russia's military stockpiles to the USA, effectively filling almost half its enrichment demand. The Tenex contracts, using Russian plants, are in direct competition with three new enrichments plants being built in the USA and coming on line in the next three years.
Russian progress on fast reactor
ZiO-Podolsk, a 51% subsidiary of Atomenergomash, is expecting to complete the reactor pressure vessel and other main equipment for the BN-800 fast reactor at Beloyarsk on schedule early next year. The unit, Beloyarsk-4, is due to start commercial operation in 2012. The company is increasing capacity to four nuclear equipment sets per year, investing RUR 2.9 billion by 2015, one third of this by the end of 2009. It is also making steam generators for new plants at Novovoronezh, Kalinin and Leningrad.
Nuclear Ru 4/3/09, WNN 9/3/09.
Siemens teams up with Russia’s Rosatom
Fresh from divorce proceedings with Areva, Germany’s Siemens has signed an agreement with Rosatom. The memorandum of understanding is for a 50-50 joint venture to develop projects incorporating Russian VVER technology, to build new power plants and upgrade old ones. The JV could also pursue other fuel cycle opportunities “from fuel fabrication through nuclear power plant decommissioning”. Rosatom said that it would use the partnership with Siemens AG “to become leaders in the world nuclear power market” and capture one third of it. Siemens said that it saw “a great opportunity …. to enlarge our footprint in nuclear business with a very strong and experienced partner.” Areva responded by pointing out that the Rosatom JV announcement puts it in breach of the non-competition clause in Siemens’ 2001 JV agreement and threatening “all the ensuing consequences”. Siemens evidently expects to meet this threat through negotiation of the buyout price. Areva is largely owned by the French government, Rosatom is owned by the Russian government.
Siemens merged its nuclear reactor business with France's Framatome in 2001, to hold 34% of the new JV enterprise, now Areva NP. It then decided in January to quit this stake in Areva NP, forcing Areva to buy it out by the end of January 2012 for about EUR 2 billion, which has implications for its credit rating. However, if Siemens is shown to have breached its agreement with Areva, the sum may be 60% of this.
Siemens is providing the steam turbines, generators and main systems (apart from the actual reactors and steam generators) for the Areva EPR project in Finland - Olkiluoto-3, which is years behind schedule and evidently a “loss leader” in selling the EPR. French rival Alstom is providing this turbine and generator equipment for seven further Areva EPR units planned, despite Siemens holding major equity in Areva NP, and compatriot Alstom being at arm’s length.
Nuclear.Ru 4/3/09, Areva 4/3/09, Siemens 3/3/08, WNN 4/3/09, Nucleonics Week 12/3/09.
High death toll from Siberian hydro disaster
The August 17 accident at Sayano-Shushenskaya hydro-electric power plant was apparently due to explosive disintegration of No.2 turbine as it was run at full power despite serious vibrations. This caused flooding of the turbine hall, giving a death toll now confirmed as 75 staff.
The 31 year-old power plant is RusHydro's largest, with an installed capacity of 6,400 MWe. Some of the ten 640 MWe turbine units are expected back on line next month, but total cost of repair work is expected to reach at least RUR 40 billion ($1.3 billion), with full capacity being restored in 2014. Meanwhile some 500,000 t/yr of aluminium smelter production is expected to be lost.
New European safety law
A new Europe-wide nuclear safety directive has been adopted which sets up a legal framework based on already-acknowledged safety principles. The Nuclear Safety Directive brings into law the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) Fundamental Safety Principles and the obligations from the Convention on Nuclear Safety. In practice, EU states already observe these and in most areas far exceed them, but some small changes may occur in each country as the directive is applied in their own legislature. The directive establishes the principle of operator responsibility for safety, similarly to that applying for nuclear liability.
One particular benefit from the legislation is that EU member states that have decided not to use nuclear energy will now have a legal basis for assurance of nuclear safety in neighbouring countries. This is likely to improve public confidence in nuclear energy across the continent. Nuclear power already provides 30% of the EU's electricity.
Europe steps towards shared repository concept
Following several years of preliminary work, 14 European countries have resolved to move towards setting up a European Repository Development Organisation (ERDO) to collaborate on nuclear waste disposal. The proposal results from the EC-sponsored studies on the viability of shared, regional European geological repositories which were presented in Brussels to participants from 21 countries. The aspects considered included organisational and legal issues, economic impacts, safety and security considerations, and public and political attitudes to multinational repositories. The 14 countries backing the proposal are: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Siemens to cash in Areva stake
Siemens has decided to sell its 34% stake in the joint venture Areva NP in order to improve its business options within the nuclear energy industry. The Areva group is to buy the shares to hold the entire subsidiary, which is focused on supplying new-generation 1600-1700 MWe EPR reactors to world markets. Siemens has provided the steam turbines, generators and main systems apart from the actual reactors and steam generators for the Areva EPR in Finland - Olkiluoto-3, but French rival Alstom is doing so for France's Flamanville-3 EPR, two EPRs at Taishan in China, and the three proposed Unistar Nuclear Energy projects in the USA. However, Siemens will continue to offer its products for nuclear plants, and hopes to confirm a role for EPR units constructed in UK.
Siemens merged its nuclear reactor business with France's Framatome in 2001, to hold 34% of the new enterprise, Framatome ANP, which was later renamed as Areva NP in line with its membership of the overall Areva group. Areva, largely owned by the French government, will now buy back the 34% share by the end of January 2012. A price will be set in line with terms in the 2001 agreement, which mentioned EUR 2 billion following three years notice. One possibility for the future of Areva is a merger with compatriot company Alstom.
Kazakhstan increases uranium production and revives nuclear power plans
Kazatomprom has reported a significant increase in uranium production during the first half of 2009, to more than 6000 tonnes U, representing a 57% increase compared with the first half of 2008. It plans to produce some 8000 tonnes of uranium during the second half of 2009.
It also reported good progress in implementing a joint venture with Russia's Atomstroyexport to develop and market OKBM's VBER-300 small nuclear reactor. The first two are due to start construction in 2011 at Aktau, near the Caspian Sea.
Kazakhstan has reported a 28% increase in uranium production during 2008 to 8521 tonnes U – still less than planned. KazAtomProm, aims to increase output to some 18,000 tU/yr by 2010, which would make the country the world's largest producer of uranium, and it has a further target of 30,000 tU/yr by 2018.
Fanfare for Chinese equity in Kazakh mine
The formal opening of the Irkol ISL uranium mine in southern Kazakhstan was attended by high-level Chinese and Kazakh officials. This is the first uranium mine to be put into commercial operation within the framework of the October 2008 Kazakhstan-China nuclear power agreement. It is 49% owned by a subsidiary of China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC) and managed by the Semizbai-U joint venture. All the 750 tU/yr production will be claimed by or sold to CGNPC. The Semizbai mine (500 tU/yr) in the northern province is due to start production under the same ownership later this year. Not to be outdone, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) is investing in the Zhalpak mine, due to start production in 2012 at 1000 tU/yr, albeit with less uranium resources.
A further announcement was of an agreement with CGNPC for establishment of a specialized company for the construction of nuclear power plants in China, since Kazakh plans to work with Russia's Atomstroyexport developing and marketing innovative small and medium-sized reactors has been put on hold.
WNN 28 & 29/4/09.
KazAtomProm affirms foreign partnerships after leadership change, arrests made
After the former head of KazAtomProm was replaced, he and three senior colleagues were arrested and accused of selling certain uranium deposits very cheaply to shadowy offshore companies. Equity in one deposit was then sold on to a western uranium company in 2005 at full commercial price - about 700 times the alleged initial cost. In recent years KazAtomProm has set up about ten joint venture projects for 14 new uranium mines, involving Canadian, French, Japanese, Russian and Chinese partners who have invested a total of over $1.5 billion in the mines.
As investigations proceeded regarding these matters, the World Nuclear Association issued a "statement of interest and concern." It called for a "just resolution" that "upholds the sanctity of contracts fairly and properly made" and facilitates continued cooperation between Kazakhstan and the global nuclear industry "of which it can be an increasingly important part". It urged the President to avoid any disruption to plans for uranium supply or mine development, and the US nuclear industry association echoed this.
Early in June the top management of Kazatomprom held meetings with the company’s foreign joint venture and equity partners in uranium mining, from Japan, Russia, Canada, France and China. These apparently "stressed … their intention to continue cooperation in the nuclear fuel sector," and Kazatomprom announced that despite ongoing investigation regarding how certain Kazakh entities came to hold title to minerals, no existing arrangements with foreign partners would be changed.
Kazatomprom 12/6/09, WNN 26/5, 3 & 12/6/09, Globe & Mail 29/5/09.
Russia's ARMZ swaps Kazakh U for stake in Uranium One
Canadian-based Uranium One has announced a shares plus cash deal with Russia's ARMZ to acquire a half share of the Karatau Uranium project in Kazakhstan. ARMZ Uranium Holding Co. thereby enters a strategic relationship with Uranium One, obtaining a 16.6% share of the company plus some US$ 90 million in cash and a further $60 million depending on performance over the next three years. The Karatau mine is on the southern part of the Budenovskoye orebody in southern Kazakhstan. The mine has been known as Budenovskoye-2, and started production last year. Karatau since mid 2006 has been a 50-50 joint venture between Kazatomprom and Russia's Tenex, with that share being taken over by ARMZ, and now sold on to Uranium One.
This year Karatau is expected to produce about 1300 tU, ramping up to 2000 tU per year by 2011. The Budenovskoye deposit is in the palaeochannel extending south from the South Inkai deposit which is one of two orebodies mined by the Betpak Dala joint venture. Betpak Dala is 70% owned by Uranium One already, and commercial production started in January. Between Karatau and South Inkai, the Akbastau JV is mining the Budenovskoye 1, 3 & 4 deposits. This is also a 50-50 joint venture between Kazatomprom and ARMZ, and Uranium One has an exclusive right to negotiate the acquisition of ARMZ's share of Akbastau. Pilot production from this operation is under way.
Mongolia reconstructs its uranium sector.
Since the mid 1990s Mongolia's uranium mining has lapsed, and uranium exploration by international companies has not been related to any clear national policy or close regulation. In the last few years the government has sought to exercise more control over the whole mining sector. Earlier this year it set up MonAtom LLC to undertake uranium exploration and mining on behalf of the state, as well as pursuing nuclear energy proposals. It will hold the state's equity in uranium and nuclear ventures, under the Mongolian Nuclear Energy Agency.
In mid July, after consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, parliament passed a Nuclear Energy Law to regulate the exploration and mining of uranium and give the state a greater degree of ownership and control of those resources. Along with this the government created a joint venture company between MonAtom and Russia's ARMZ - Dornod Uran LLC - to develop two uranium mines in Mongolia: Dornod, and Mardai nearby. A Japanese partner - evidently Marubini - is also envisaged in this joint venture later. The development is of particular interest to Russia due to its proximity (350 km direct) to its Priargunsky operations, allowing creation of a "single infrastructure".
But at least until mid August, the Canada-based Khan Resources Inc. owned a 69% share in the Dornod project, mostly through its 58% subsidiary Central Asian Uranium Co. Ltd (CAUC). The balance of CAUC, which holds the only uranium mining licence in the country, comprised MonAtom and ARMZ - 21% each. A definitive feasibility study released in March 2009 showed that the US$ 333 million project was sound, on the basis of 24,780 tU indicated resources, including 20,340 tU probable reserves. Annual production of 1150 tU over 15 years from 2012 was envisaged. But this week the Nuclear Energy Agency announced that the joint venture of MonAtom with ARMZ would develop the project to produce about 2000 t/yr. Khan Resources is uncertain where it stands, having apparently been dispossessed as it sought to negotiate an investment agreement with the government - engineering was then likely to take three years to start up.
Gurvanbulag is another deposit, about 30 km away, which has been held by the Canadian Western Prospector Group. In March the company agreed to a US$ 25 million takeover by China's CNNC International, a 74% subsidiary of CNNC Overseas Uranium Holding Ltd and through it, of SinoU. MonAtom appears to be positive about this development.
Mongolian mine machinations
Canada's Khan Resources Inc in December rejected a takeover offer from Russia's state-backed ARMZ. At least until mid August, Khan claimed a 69% share in the Dornod uranium project, previously mined over 1988-95 by ARMZ's predecessor. Khan's holding is mostly through a 58% subsidiary Central Asian Uranium Co. Ltd (CAUC), a Mongolian stock company set up by World Wide Minerals at the behest of the government in late 1990s. A subsidiary of ARMZ, and Mongolia's state corporation MonAtom, each own 21% of CAUC, which holds the only uranium mining licence in the country. A bankable feasibility study and definitive feasibility study undertaken for Khan have confirmed the viability of the Dornod project, and annual production of 1150 tU over 15 years was envisaged. In July 2009 the government had suspended the CAUC mining licence due to alleged violations of new Mongolian laws, and then announced that a joint venture of MonAtom with ARMZ would develop the project to produce about 2000 t/yr.
In November 2009 ARMZ announced a cash offer to buy all Khan's shares, at a substantial premium on the market. ARMZ said that it believed the offer represented "value certainty today, relative to the significant political and licensing risks associated with the development of the Dornod property in Mongolia." Khan's directors unanimously rejected the offer as inadequate and containing "objectionable" terms and conditions, as well as being "highly prejudicial and opportunistic" and exposing Khan to serious risks.
Sovereign risk in Mongolia.
The two Canadian-based uranium companies at the forefront of uranium developments in Mongolia, Western Prospector and Khan Resources, have said that their uranium exploration licenses have been "suspended for three months due to purported violations of various laws." Khan Resources says it also believes a Nuclear Energy Law has been passed by parliament, "in a surprise move last Friday 17th July ... without any warning or opportunity to review, comment on or make constructive submissions". Apparently some clauses grant the government rights to take greater ownership and control of uranium mines and assets. In March, Western Prospector agreed to a $25 million takeover by China's CNNC International, a 74% subsidiary of CNNC Overseas Uranium Holding Ltd and through it, of SinoU.
China buys into Mongolian uranium
Canadian company Western Prospector Group has agreed to accept a US$25 million takeover bid from China's CNNC International, a 74% subsidiary of Hong Kong-based CNNC Overseas Uranium Holding Ltd and through it, of CNNC's SinoU. Western Prospector's main interest is the Saddle Hills uranium project near Dornod in eastern Mongolia, and in particular in the Gurvanbulag deposit. A definitive feasibility study released in January showed that Gurvanbulag was barely economic, on the basis of producing 700 tU per year from 6900 tU reserves, but it is only 100 km from China. Mine development cost would be about US$ 280 million.
New reactor construction starts in China
First concrete has been poured for Yangjiang unit 2 in Guangdong province in China. This is a 1080 MWe largely indigenous design, the second of four being built as phase 1 on the site by China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co. Yangjiang will be under the same management as Daya Bay and Ling Ao nuclear plants, serving the southern area around Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Guangzhou. This brings to 16 the number of reactors under construction in China, with 35 more planned to start building in the next three years. Most (13) of the 16 are the same local CPR-1000 type. One under construction and one third of the planned units are Westinghouse AP1000 types.
As construction start approaches for phase 2 of the Tianwan nuclear power station using Russian VVER-1000 technology, the Assets Supervision & Administration Commission announced that phase 3 (units 5 & 6) would start construction in October 2010.
Three more nuclear plants start construction in China.
First concrete has been poured at Fuqing unit 2 in Fujian province, and earlier at Hongyanhe unit 3 in Liaoning. Both are 1080 MWe CPR-1000 units, a largely indigenous Chinese design. About ten more large reactors are due to start construction by the end of the year.
First concrete has been poured for unit 2 of the Fangjiashan nuclear power plant, near Shanghai in China. Fangjiashan is effectively a fifth stage of the Qinshan nuclear plant, and its completion in 2014 will give China National Nuclear Corporation nine reactors totalling 6300 MWe there. Total cost of the two largely indigenous CPR-1000 units is 26 billion yuan ($3.8 billion).
Areva EPR reactor starts construction in China
First concrete was poured for the first unit of Taishan nuclear power plant in Guangdong province at the end of October. This makes the third such reactor under construction, after those in Finland and France. This first 1750 MWe Taishan reactor is expected to start up about the end of 2013, and its twin a year later. The Guangdong Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co Ltd (30% EdF, 70% China Guangdong Nuclear Power Company) is building the plant. The Guangdong Development Commission quotes the total investment in both units as CNY 49.85 billion ($7.3 billion). The JV partners will put up CNY 16.45 billion and the balance will be borrowed with guarantee from the Central Bank of France.
Nucleonics Week 26/11/09.
Chinese AP1000 reactors start construction
Construction of the third Westinghouse AP1000 reactor has commenced in China, at Sanmen in Zhejiang province in December. The State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation - in charge of transferring knowledge of the AP1000 design from Westinghouse to Chinese firms - said that the project was six weeks ahead of schedule. It is expected to begin operation in June 2014. Sanmen unit 1 started construction in April and another AP1000 is being built at Haiyang.
First concrete has been poured for the first unit of the Haiyang nuclear power plant in Shandong province, being built by Shangdong Nuclear Power Company (a subsidiary of China Power Investment Corp.). This is the second plant using Westinghouse AP1000 new-generation reactors. The first two Haiyang units are expected to commence operation in 2014 and 2015. The site will eventually have six units, and in March the National Development & Reform Commission approved preliminary works for units 3 and 4.
First concrete has been poured for the construction of the first AP1000 nuclear reactor in China, at Sanmen. Though the inauguration ceremony was delayed, work went ahead at the end of March, so the reactor is now properly under construction. Site works commenced in February 2008 and an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract was signed in March 2009 between the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation and China National Nuclear Corporation on behalf of Sanmen Nuclear Power Co., and China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group for two units. The work will be overseen by Westinghouse and Shaw. First power is expected late in August 2013 for unit 1 and 2014 for unit 2.
China green light for more Westinghouse reactors
China's Power Investment Corporation (CPI) has received government approval to prepare to build the second pair of Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Haiyang, in Shandong province. Construction of the first one at the site is due to start in September, and units 3 and 4 will be about a year behind that. As well as these, CPI plans to start building four more AP1000 units at Xiaomoshan in Hunan and Pengze in Jiangxi next year, and has listed proposals for 28 more after them.
China sets up plans for more inland nuclear plants.
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has signed an agreement with Hengyang city in Hunan province to build a nuclear power plant there or nearby. This is about 200km south of its Taohuajiang project at Yiyang city in Hunan, and will apparently comprise four 1000 MWe CPR reactors. China Guodian Corporation, one of the country's largest power producers, is involved in the project. It operates 62 GWe of plant, though it has no nuclear involvement so far beyond a minor stake in the Shandong Haiyang project. However, the National Development and Reform Commission has announced that China Guodian will invest RMB 20 billion (US$ 2.9 billion) on power projects in Hunan province within three to five years, possibly including a stake in CNNC's Taohuajiang nuclear plant, which is due to start construction in 2011.
Some 250 km east, in Jiangxi province, CNNC has also signed a joint venture agreement with Jiangxi Ganneng Co. Ltd and Jiangxi Ganyue Expressway Co Ltd (holding 49% between them) to build the Wanan Yianjiashan nuclear power project at Ji'an. No further details are available.
New Chinese company for demonstration power plant
A new company has been set up to build the first demonstration unit of the Chinese AP1400, an indigenously-enlarged version of the Westinghouse AP1000, three of which are now under construction there. The new joint venture company is 55% State Nuclear Power Technology Corp and 45% Huaneng Group, and the demo plant will be build at Shidaowan in Rongcheng city, Shandong, at or near the site where Huaneng is building four AP1000 reactors from April 2013. About 30 more are proposed to follow, though some of these may now be CAP1400s, which is being called the "National Nuclear Design". Its development from the AP1000 is one of 16 flagship technology projects, and China claims intellectual property rights for it.
China signs up Russian fast reactors
In the context of China's expectation that fast neutron reactors will be predominant by mid century, a high-level agreement has been signed with Russia to start pre-project and design works for two commercial 880 MWe fast neutron reactors at coastal sites in China. This follows a call twelve months ago by a bilateral Nuclear Cooperation Commission for construction of a demonstration fast reactor similar to the BN-800 unit being built at Beloyarsk in Russia and due to start up in 2012. Earlier this year, St Petersburg Atomenergopoekt said it was starting design work on a BN-800 reactor for China.
The project is expected to lead to bilateral cooperation on fuel cycles for fast reactors, and earlier this year China signed on to pursue R&D on this technology under a Generation IV (GIF) Framework Agreement, joining four other countries and EU (Euratom).
A 65 MWth fast neutron reactor - the Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) - is nearing completion at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) near Beijing, being built by OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with other Russian interests. It is expected to achieve criticality later this year. Commercial-scale fast reactors based on it were envisaged, but these may now give way to the Russian BN-800 line of development, which extends to 1200 and 1800 MWe designs.
China likely to build on Russian fast reactor expertise
China's 65 MW experimental fast reactor, is near completion at China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) near Beijing, built by Russia's OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with OKB Gidropress, NIKIET and Kurchatov Institute. A 600 MWe prototype was to follow this, but in line with a recommendation from the Russian-Chinese Nuclear Cooperation Commission last year, St Petersburg Atomenergopoekt has announced that it is starting design work on a BN-800 fast reactor for China. This is the design being built at Beloyarsk in Russia, and due to start up in 2012. In China, two are proposed at coastal sites and a decision is expected about the end of 2009 on whether to proceed with these, using Russian BN-800 technology. At the very least, increased bilateral cooperation of fuel cycles for fast reactors is likely.
Five of the seven Generation IV reactor designs being developed internationally are fast reactors, and both Russia and China (along with Japan and France) have made clear that they see fast reactors becoming the predominant technology from mid century.
China revives Candu prospects
An expert panel appointed by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has unanimously recommended that China consider building two new Candu units to take advantage of the design's unique capabilities in utilizing alternative fuels. The expert panel comprised representatives from China’s leading nuclear academic, government, industry and R&D organizations. In particular it confirmed that thorium use in the Enhanced Candu 6 reactor design is “technically practical and feasible”, and cited the design’s “enhanced safety and good economics” as reasons it could be deployed in China in the near term. The panel also noted the ability of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) Candu reactors to re-use uranium recycled from light water reactor fuel.
In 2008 a strategic agreement was made among AECL, the Third Qinshan Nuclear Power Company, China North Nuclear Fuel Corporation and CNNC subsidiary Nuclear Power Institute of China. The four would jointly develop technology for recycling used nuclear fuel from other Chinese PWR reactors for use in the Qinshan Candu units, though phase one of the agreement was a joint feasibility study to examine the economic feasibility of thorium fuel in them. In July 2009 a second phase agreement was signed among these four parties to jointly develop and demonstrate the use of thorium fuel and to study the commercial and technical feasibility of its full-scale use in Candu units such as at Qinshan.
AECL 14/7/09, 18/12/09, WNN 21/12/09.
Hong Kong extends nuclear electricity contract by 20 years.
The Hong Kong government has approved China Light & Power's contract with Daya Bay nuclear power plant and China Guangdong Nuclear Power for continuing to buy 70% of Daya Bay's electricity until 2034. This amounts to about 1320 MWe net capacity and will supply a quarter of Hong Kong's needs. CLP said that "Over the past 15 years, nuclear power has contributed greatly to Hong Kong's environmental performance both in terms of improving air quality and addressing climate change." Now it would continue to enjoy "a reliable, secure, clean fuel source of electricity at a competitive and stable price." The deal reinforces CLP's commitment to use 20% non-carbon emitting supply by 2020.
China branches into isotope production in power reactors
China has started production of the medical and industrial radioisotope cobalt-60 using its Candu 6 power reactors at Qinshan. China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said the move would bring substantial economic and social benefits, in part because this will be China's first domestic production of the isotope. Cobalt-60 is a powerful gamma emitter and is used for gamma sterilisation, food preservation, industrial radiography, density and fill height switches, medical disinfection, manufacturing quality control and external beam radiotherapy.
Candu reactors are also used to produce cobalt-60 at Wolsong in South Korea, Bruce in Canada and Embalse in Argentina. An RBMK reactor at Leningrad in Russia also produces cobalt-60, as does a Siemens PHWR at Atucha in Argentina. The core of a Candu 6 has stainless steel adjusters that help to shape neutron flux to optimise power output and ensure efficient burn up of uranium fuel. The normal cobalt in these can be replaced with cobalt-59, which absorbs neutrons to become Co-60. After about 15 months the stainless steel 'targets' with Co-59 are withdrawn for processing. The development is part of China’s 11th five-year plan, and should lead to the production of 220 petabecquerels (PBq) of Co-60 per year - enough to satisfy 80% of Chinese needs. The addition will boost global production by around 10%.
New Japanese reactor in operation
Hokkaido's Tomari-3 nuclear power reactor has commenced commercial operation on schedule, in December. The unit (912 MWe gross, c 868 MWe net) started up in March and apparently went on line in October. This leaves only one reactor under construction in Japan - Shimane-3 ABWR - but with four or five more due to start construction in the next 18 months. Hokkaido Electric Power started construction in 2003. This is the last second-generation reactor under construction in Japan. It is one of eleven Japanese reactors approved for using mixed oxide fuel.
New Japanese reactor planned
Kyushu Electric Power has announced its plan to build a third nuclear reactor at its Sendai plant in SW Japan, to be on line in 2019. This will be a 1590 MWe Mitsubishi APWR, and construction is expected to begin in 2013. Cost is put at JPY 540 billion (US$ 5.8 billion). The company was petitioned several years ago by the local community to build a further reactor here.
Japan commences MOX use
Kyushu Electric Power's Genkai-3 nuclear reactor has started using mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel containing recycled plutonium. This is the first use of MOX fuel in Japan, though it is well established in Europe. During a scheduled refuelling outage the company replaced about one-third of the 193 PWR fuel assemblies, 16 of them comprising MOX fuel.
Since 1956 Japan has had a policy of recycling the uranium and plutonium from its used fuel, and in 2004 this was confirmed with a landmark decision to build a $20 billion reprocessing plant at Rokkasho. The alternative of moving to direct disposal of used fuel, as in the USA, was strongly rejected. This was seen as a major confirmation of the joint industry-government formulation of nuclear policy for the next several decades. Until recently used fuel was reprocessed in France and UK, with the 40 tonnes of separated reactor-grade plutonium mostly being fabricated into MOX fuel in France. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd is now commissioning its own reprocessing and MOX plants. Nine utilities plan to use MOX in 16-18 reactors by 2015.
New MOX shipment to Japan
A consignment of fabricated mixed oxide (MOX) fuel has left Areva’s Melox plant in France for Japan on two armed ships, both designed for nuclear shipments. It is destined for three Japanese utilities – Chubu, Kyushu and Shikoku - which have had their used fuel reprocessed by Areva. This is the third such shipment of fuel made in Europe from Japan’s recycled plutonium and depleted uranium. The plutonium is reactor-grade and unsuitable for weapons, hence not an acute proliferation risk. A total of ten Japanese electric utilities had contracts with Areva NC to reprocess their used fuel, which was shipped from Japan over 1969-90. The separated wastes have already been returned to Japan in 12 shipments, and a previous MOX shipment from France was in 2001, with a shipment of separated plutonium in 1993. Japan’s commercial reprocessing plant at Rokkasho is currently being commissioned.
Japanese utilities outline plutonium plans
Japan’s eleven electric power utilities expect to use mixed oxide (MOX) fuel containing about 6 tonnes of fissile plutonium (in about 9 tonnes of reactor grade Pu) each year, once they are in full operation with this from about 2012. This corresponds to about 120 tonnes of MOX fuel. The utilites hold 13.8 tonnes of fissile plutonium stored in France and 11.4 t in UK, to which will be added about 3.2 t produced through the new Rokkasho reprocessing plant which is due to enter commercial operation later in the year. The associated 130 t/yr J-MOX fuel fabrication plant is due on line in 2012. Meanwhile, MOX fuel for Japan is being fabricated at Areva’s Melox plant in France.
Quaked Japanese reactor resumes operation
Unit 7 of Tepco's Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power station is now supplying electricity after a 22-month shutdown for detailed checks and subsequent upgrading. The checks showed up no problems with the main plant, despite the earthquake forces being much more severe than the design basis had been required to cater for. The 1315 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactor started up in 1997, one of the first Generation III units on line.
Japan approves restart of quaked plant
The Japanese government has officially approved the recommendation of its Nuclear & Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) to restart unit 7 of the idled Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant on a trial basis. The Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), a senior policy body which is part of the Cabinet Office, endorsed the NISA recommendation.
Third IAEA report confirms safety of quaked reactors
The third report prepared by international experts under the International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed that the whole 7-unit Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant remained safe during and after the major earthquake in July 2007. This included those four reactors operating at the time. Levels of seismic ground motion greatly exceeded those estimated in the design process, but adequate margins were built in. There is now scientific consensus about why a magnitude 6.8 earthquake produced such unexpectedly large ground motions, and consequently new standards are set much higher than before, at 1000 Gal for peak ground acceleration (approximately the force of gravity, compared with 450 Gal previously and 270-650 Gal actually experienced). The necessary upgrades and actions were consequently defined and are being implemented by Tepco for both safety and non-safety related components at the plant.
Japan to support nuclear exports.
Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade & Industry has selected five companies in high-tech heavy nuclear manufacturing to support financially, in order to boost Japan's world leadership in this area. The companies and their project areas are:
• Japan Steel Works: for ultra-large forging manufacturing
• Okano Valve Co: for development of main steam safety valves
• Ebara Corporation: for development of emergency core cooling system pumps
• Ishikawajima Heavy Industries: for the development of ultra-large steam generators
• Kobe Steel: for 3-D technology for forging atypical large steel ingots
Japan Steel Works is already in the process of tripling its capacity for supplying reactor main components to 12 sets per year by 2012.
Japan doubles nuclear liability limit
Japan's Diet has revised the two laws governing nuclear liability provisions - the Law on Compensation for Nuclear Damage and Law on Contract for Liability Insurance for Nuclear Damage. In Japan, plant operator liability is exclusive and absolute, and power plant operators must provide a financial security amount of 60 billion yen (US$ 600 million) through the insurance market. From 2010 this now doubles to 120 billion yen (US$ 1.2 billion). Beyond that, the government provides coverage, and liability is unlimited.
Atoms in Japan 21/4/09, WNN 23/4/09.
Japan Inc buys into Uranium One
Three Japanese companies are to buy nearly 20% of Canada-based uranium producer Uranium One. Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), Toshiba and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) have agreed to buy shares in Uranium One through a private placement, an investment of about US$ 220 million. This will give the consortium a 19.95% stake in Uranium One, while an offtake agreement gives it an option to purchase up to 20% of Uranium One's available production. The companies have also signed a strategic relationship agreement.
The investment will be made through Japan Uranium Management Inc (JUMI), a special purpose entity set up in Canada. Tepco and Toshiba will each hold 40% of JUMI, with JBIC holding 20%. Uranium One owns or has interests in uranium projects in Kazakhstan, South Africa, Australia and the USA, some of which are operating, with others under development. The equity injection into Uranium One will give a 59% Japanese ownership of the Honeymoon project in South Australia.
Further Korean plant starts construction.
Construction of the second new-generation APR-1400 nuclear reactor, Shin Kori unit 4, has commenced. A consortium led by Hyundai is building the 1350 MWe plant, using heavy components manufactured by Doosan. Korea Electric Power Co is also aiming to export the design to the Middle East and India.
India 18th nuclear power reactor in operation
The new 5th unit of the Rajasthan nuclear power plant at Rawatbhata has started up and was grid connected on 22 December. Its twin is expected to start up shortly, and both units should be generating power early in the new year. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) has been building the two 220 MWe indigenously-designed PHWR reactors, but their completion was delayed about 18 months due to shortage of fuel. These two new units use imported fuel, as they were placed under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards in October through a new agreement between India and the IAEA. Another 220 MWe unit, Kaiga-4, is also due for 2009 start-up, but will not be covered by safeguards. These are the last three 220 MWe Indian reactors, future indigenous PHWR ones will be 700 MWe.
India confirms sites for US reactor parks.
India's cabinet has confirmed two coastal sites being reserved for nuclear power parks of up to eight US-origin reactors each: Mithi Virdi in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat state, and Kovada in Andhra Pradesh. These complement Jaitapur in Maharashtra state reserved for six French EPR units and Haripur in West Bengal, for up to eight Russian VVER units. Earlier in the week the Indian PM had said that the country could have 470 GWe of nuclear capacity by 2050 if it thinks big and manages its three-stage thorium cycle program correctly. "This will sharply reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and will be a major contribution to global efforts to combat climate change."
India unveils export version of advanced reactor.
Addressing the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting, the head of India's Atomic Energy Commission has announced a new development of India's planned 300 MWe Advanced Heavy Water Reactor (AHWR). The base model of this is integral to India's 3-stage thorium cycle, and depends on plutonium and U-233 from fast breeder reactors. But the AHWR-LEU replaces these inputs with uranium enriched to 19.75% U-235, using sophisticated fuel elements that enable it also to use thorium. Some 39% of its energy will come from thorium, it has good safety and non-proliferation attributes, and requires "modest industrial infrastructure within the reach of developing countries." The AEC Chairman reiterated "India’s commitment to make a significant contribution to the growth of nuclear energy globally within the framework of IAEA."
Indian company consolidates internationally
India's Larsen & Toubro Ltd (L&T), the country's biggest engineering and construction company, which has American N-stamp accreditation, has signed an agreement with Russia's Atomstroyexport. This is primarily focused on components for the next four Russian VVER reactors at Kudankulam, but extends beyond that to other Russian VVER plants in India and abroad. The first two 1000 MWe Russian reactors are nearing completion at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu state, with some equipment supplied by L&T, but the new agreement will greatly increase L&T's role. Earlier this year L&T signed similar agreements with Westinghouse, which sets it up to produce component modules for the AP1000 reactor, and with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) "to develop a competitive cost/scope model for the ACR-1000."
Areva and GEH sign to build reactors in India
Areva has signed an agreement with Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) to build two, and possibly four more, EPR reactors at Jaitapur on India's west coast. The memorandum of understanding also covers lifetime fuel supply for the six 1600 MWe units in Maharastra state.
Six weeks later GE Hitachi signed an agreement with NPCIL and Bharat Heavy Electricals to plan for building up to six of is 1350 MWe ABWR units at a new site in India.
WNN 4/2/09, 23/3/09.
India safeguards: Additional Protocol drafted
The Additional Protocol to India’s safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency has been approved by the IAEA, and now needs to be ratified by India. As with NPT Nuclear Weapons States, its main purpose is to provide the IAEA with information on nuclear supply to, and cooperation with, non-weapons states, as well as allowing inspections without notice.
Canada and India agree to restore nuclear links
A civil nuclear cooperation agreement has been agreed between India and Canada, after long negotiation. It has not yet been signed or made public, but is designed to open up trade in both technology and fuel. During India's 34 years of trade isolation it has undertaken considerable development of the original Canadian reactor designs and associated equipment, and it is likely that Canada will now benefit from this, as well as being able to export uranium.
Kazakh uranium for India
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Kazatomprom for supply of uranium to India and for a feasibility study on building Indian PHWR reactors in Kazakhstan. NPCIL said that it represented "a mutual commitment to begin thorough discussions on long-term strategic relationship."
UAE selects South Korean consortium bid to build four reactors
The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has selected the bid from a South Korean consortium for four APR-1400 reactors to supply the United Arab Emirates. The value of the contract for the construction, commissioning and fuel loads for four units is about US$20 billion, with a high percentage of the contract being offered under a fixed-price arrangement. The consortium also expects to earn another $20 billion by jointly operating the reactors for 60 years.
The consortium is led by Korea Electric Power Co. (KEPCO), and involves Samsung, Hyundai and Doosan, as well as Westinghouse, whose System 80+ design (certified in the USA) has been developed into the APR-1400. The first of the 1350 MWe (net) units, Shin Kori 3 & 4, are under construction in South Korea. The UAE has expressed an intention to standardize on one technology for all its 20 GWe of planned nuclear capacity. Earlier, ENEC appointed the global full-service program management, engineering, construction and operations firm C2HM Hill to manage plans for bringing nuclear power to the country.
A construction start on the first unit is planned for 2012, with it coming on line in 2017, though no site has yet been selected. The plants will largely be financed by the state, without the need for loans, but with some Korean equity partners. By 2020 ENEC hopes to have the four reactors running, and producing electricity at a quarter the cost of that from gas.
Korea wins contract for Jordan research reactor
The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission has selected a consortium of the Korea Atomic Energy Institute (KAERI) and Daewoo Engineering to build a 5 MWt research reactor at the Jordan University for Science & Technology. The $173 million project is seen as a precursor for Jordan's plans to build a nuclear power reactor, providing training opportunities for nuclear scientists and engineers as well as producing radioisotopes for industry, agriculture and medicine. The Korean-design Hanaro research reactor is based on the aborted Canadian Maple reactor, and a 30 MWt version has been running successfully in South Korea since 1995. Construction is to begin in 2010, with completion planned for 2014. The Korean consortium was chosen over bids from Invap of Argentina, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and AtomStroyExport of Russia. The Jordanian contract will be the first time a Korean reactor has been exported.
US President approves UAE nuclear cooperation
President Obama has approved an agreement on civil nuclear cooperation with the United Arab Emirates. It was originally signed in the closing days of the Bush presidency, and now needs to be approved by Congress in 90 days. The agreement is important because the UAE is seen as a leader in Middle East nuclear power development and expects to have three large power rectors operating by 2020, while the USA has a key role in world nuclear trade. Under special terms in this Agreement, the UAE has renounced plans to enrich and reprocess uranium or other fuel, instead pledging to obtain nuclear fuel from reliable international suppliers. The USA will have the right to cancel the agreement if the UAE reneges on its commitment not to engage in enrichment or reprocessing activities. The UAE already has several other high-level nuclear cooperation agreements in place.
US-UAE nuclear cooperation agreement
The USA has signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates, which has already set up organisational infrastructure to support a civil nuclear power program. Guided by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UAE has set up the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) as a public entity to evaluate and implement nuclear power plans. By 2020 it hopes to have three 1500 MWe nuclear plants running and producing electricity at a quarter the cost of that from gas. ENEC has appointed C2HM Hill to manage the UAE's nuclear energy plans.
South Africa changes course on PBMR
South Africa's PBMR company has had to make some significant changes to its plans in deploying the pebble bed modular reactor (PBMR). This high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTR) design has been under development in South Africa since 1993, based on earlier German technology. First, its main customer Eskom has delayed all nuclear power investments by at least two years due to financial problems. The PBMR company has responded to this by dropping its plans to use the innovative but challenging direct Brayton cycle to drive the generator via a gas turbine, opting for conventional steam cycle instead, with less power output. This is aligned with a new emphasis on industrial process heat applications of the reactor - for synfuels production with SASOL, for the US thermochemical hydrogen production plant, for Canadian tar sands, and for desalination. These were flagged last year, but are now foremost due to Eskom's problems.
At the end of March the PBMR company renewed its 2005 link with its Chinese counterpart, with which it now has even more in common - China is also deferring use of the gas turbine Brayton cycle, and early units will be steam cycle. A new agreement was signed with the Institute of Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) of Tsinghua University and Chinergy Ltd at a ceremony in Beijing. Chinergy is the project company about to start building China's first full-scale HTR units which are very similar to the PBMR, but smaller and simpler. The HTR-PM of 200 MWe (with twin reactor modules) is being built in Shandong province with the backing of China Huaneng Group, one of the country's major generators. Both Chinergy and PBMR believe that the inherently safe pebble bed technology built in relatively small units will eventually displace the more complex light water reactors.
WNN 31/3/08, PBMR 5/2/09.
Plans for new Namibian uranium mine.
Following from the spectacular discovery adjacent to Rio Tinto's Rossing mine, Extract Resources has announced preliminary costs to bring Rossing South into production. It has 103,000 tU averaging 0.041%U proven so far, and plans to produce at a rate of 5700 tU/yr from an open pit. Capital costs are estimated at US$ 700 million, and operating cost $61 /kgU - less than half the current spot price.
Extract Res 3/8/09.
Extract Resources, based in Perth, has announced for its Rossing South deposit in Namibia an inferred resource of 41,600 tU averaging 0.0365%U (JORC and NI 43-101- compliant) about 7 km south of the Rossing mine and contiguous with it. It is still open along strike and dip. The company called it the highest grade granite-hosted uranium deposit in Namibia, and it is an extension of the Rossing stratigraphy. It lies under a shallow (50m) alluvial sand cover. Having gone from discovery to project in 12 months, the company is moving straight into a feasibility study for mining it. The resource figures so far rank it fourth in Namibia, after Rossing, Langer Heinrich and Trekkopje. The last two are palaeochannel deposits amenable to relatively shallow open pit mining.
New Paladin mine opened
Perth-based Paladin Energy has opened its new Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi. Paladin acquired the deposit in 1997. A Development Agreement with the Government of Malawi ceded them 15% of the project. Following environmental approval, Paladin undertook a US$ 220 million mine development. Production is with a conventional acid leach treatment process, and will ramp up to 1400 tU/yr.
Korean equity in new Niger uranium mine
Korea Electric Power Co (KEPCO) has agreed to take a 10% interest in the operating company of the new Imouraren uranium mine, and 10% of the product, for a single payment of EUR 170 million to Areva. Production is expected to be 5000 tU/yr for 35 years from 2013. Development of the large Imouraren deposit about 80 km south of Arlit was confirmed in January 2008, after Areva agreed to increase royalty payments to the government by 50%, following a 2006 agreement. In January 2009 Areva announced that it had been awarded a mining licence and that it would hold 66.65% of the project, with the Niger government holding the balance in a joint venture: Imouraren SA. The Areva share will now apparently be 56.65%. Imouraren will be the largest mining project ever undertaken in Niger. The deposit covers 8 km by 2.5 km and contains 146,000 tonnes of measured and indicated uranium resources at 0.11% U. Average depth is 110 m and maximum thickness 60 m. KEPCO subsidiary Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power operates 20 nuclear reactors which require about 3100 tU per year.
Ontario stalls nuclear renewal plans.
After calling for bids from three suppliers for building some 4000 MWe of new nuclear capacity at Darlington nuclear power plant, the Ontario government has put the process on hold. It says that only the bid from Atomic Energy of Canada (AECL) fully met its criteria, including assuming all the risk of cost overruns, but the price was too high. Also AECL is in the process of restructuring, with probable privatisation of the reactor division. The three bids were from Areva (for US EPR), Westinghouse (AP1000) and AECL (ACR-1000). The Energy minister said that "Emission-free nuclear power remains a crucial aspect of Ontario's supply mix, but unfortunately, the competitive bidding process has not provided Ontario with a suitable option at this time." All three bidders have been invited to hang around, pending clarification of AECL reactor division's future. But AECL is over a barrel, and Ontario is playing hard ball with the federal government which owns it.
Bruce Power shelves plans for new Ontario reactors.
Canada's Bruce Power has announced its decision to withdraw its applications to construct two new nuclear power plants in Ontario. It no longer plans to build a third plant at the existing Bruce site and has scrapped plans for a plant at Nanticoke. The company said that it will now concentrate on the refurbishment of its existing Bruce A and B plants, rather than build the new Bruce C plant.
Saskatchewan report affirms nuclear power
A major report from a widely representative government-appointed panel has recommended that Saskatchewan moves towards building nuclear power capacity. The panel was commissioned "to identify, evaluate and make recommendations on Saskatchewan-based, value added opportunities in the uranium industry," in the context of growing electricity demand. It included representatives from universities, urban and rural municipalities, business, labour, First Nations, the environmental community and Canada's nuclear industry. Its 136-page report included 20 recommendations, starting with maintaining a focus on uranium mining and exploration. It specifically discourages value adding in conversion and fuel fabrication, but says that up to 3000 MWe of nuclear power capacity would be appropriate for the province, with major net economic benefit. Overall the panel's recommendations could increase the province's GDP by an estimated $50-billion and create 6,500 construction jobs and 5,500 long-term jobs. It also suggests that Saskatchewan teams up with neighbouring Alberta to consider "a common power-generation solution for the two provinces by pooling their power needs."
Subsidiary recommendations include building a research reactor and pursuing medical isotope production in partnership with the federal government; getting involved with laser enrichment technology (Saskatoon-based Cameco has 24% of the main developer already); and avoiding involvement in recycling used nuclear fuel (beyond general support for Canada's Nuclear Waste Management Organisation). A public consultation on the report begins now.
Last year Ontario's Bruce Power undertook a joint feasibility study with SaskPower to build a nuclear power plant in Saskatechewan. It showed that 1000 MWe of nuclear capacity by 2020 would be appropriate, situated in a region east of Lloydminster on the Alberta border, and north of Saskatoon. SaskPower currently operates 3065 MWe of plant, more than half of it coal-fired, and part of any nuclear increment might be exported to southern Alberta.
Canada approves new reactor design
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has given initial design approval to Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd's ACR-1000, saying that it meets the overall regulatory requirements and the expectations for new nuclear power plants in Canada. Phase 2 of the review, which will identify in greater detail any potential barriers to licensing, is due to be completed in August. The ACR retains the low-pressure heavy water moderator which characterises its predecessors, but incorporates some features of the pressurised water reactor, notably light water cooling and a more compact core, which reduces the capital cost considerably. It will run on low-enriched uranium (about 1.5% U-235) with high burn-up, extending the fuel life by about three times and reducing high-level waste volumes accordingly. Units will be assembled from prefabricated modules, eventually cutting construction time to three years. The CNSC is expected to complete preliminary design reviews of the Westinghouse AP1000 by November and the Areva EPR by February 2010.
CNSC 20/2/09, WNN 23/2/09.
Restructure for Canada's nuclear flagship
An 18-month review of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) has resulted in recommendation for its restructure, separating its two divisions. In particular, the "Reactor division is too small to establish a strong presence in the high growth markets that are a key to its success." Its future success "depends on partnering with corporations that have global scale to leverage AECL’s technology, skills, experience and capabilities." This might involve its sale. The Research and Technology division, notably the Chalk River Laboratories which produce a lot of the world's medical radioisotopes, "would benefit from a strong partner to drive innovation and renewal, while ensuring safe and reliable operations," while CRL should remain government-owned. "An operating and management partner with the capacity to contribute risk capital, build new alliances with the private sector and academia, and develop new commercial opportunities in the domestic and export markets" is envisaged.
AECL is a crown corporation, created in 1952. It has fostered the successful development of the Candu reactor design, which has been sold internationally as well as providing for all of Canada's nuclear power. A new development of this, the ACR-1000, is ready to market. The Review found that AECL’s current mandate and structure hampers its success and development and does not maximize benefits for Canada. "In trying to fulfil both its commercial and public policy mandates, AECL has not been able to bring the necessary focus each Division requires."
Areva to shut Canadian plant
The McClean Lake mill is to be closed in mid 2010 until it is needed to treat ore from new mines such as Cigar Lake and Midwest. Mining at McClean Lake from open pits finished last year and the mill has been treating stockpiled ore since then. An underground mine is planned there. Reserves are 2500 tU, plus measured & indicated resources of 5900 tU. Production in 2008 was 1252 tU, and forecast for 2009 is 720 tU. Recently the mill was expanded to 4600 tU per year capacity in anticipation of treating all the ore (at 17.5% U grade) from Cigar Lake, 70 km away, but this is greatly delayed. The mill will be put on care and maintenance, though some 115,000 tonnes of low-grade ore will remain to be treated when markets improve. Development of the nearby small Caribou deposit similarly awaits improved economic conditions. Denison Mines holds 22.5% of McClean Lake and Japanese interests 7.5%.
Canadian uranium production down in 2008
While production from Areva’s McClean Lake recovered strongly after the lows of 2006-07, Cameco reported reduced production from both McArthur River and Rabbit Lake mines, reducing the country’s total to the lowest level since 1999. This was due to various equipment and process problems at the Key Lake mill, which Cameco said have now been addressed. Its financial results however did not reflect the problems, due to increased sales volumes and prices. Total Canadian production was 9000 tonnes of uranium: 6383 tU at McArthur River, 1368 tU at Rabbit Lake, and 1249 tU at McClean Lake.
Australian uranium production 2008-09 edges up.
Uranium production for 2008-09 was the highest since 2005, totaling 10277.8 tonnes U3O8 (8715 tU). This comprised 5678 t U3O8 at Ranger, 3974 t at Olympic Dam, and 625.8 t at Beverley.
Australian uranium production down 2% in 2008.
Production from all three Australian uranium mines was 9941 tonnes U3O8 (8430 tU) in 2008, 2% lower than 2007. ERA's Ranger mine produced 5339 tonnes (4527 tU), BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam 3943.4 tonnes (3978 t UOC, 3344 tU) and Heathgate's Beverley 658.8 tonnes (558.6 tU).
BHP Billiton increases Olympic Dam reserves.
BHP Billiton has this week announced significantly increased ore reserves for its Olympic Dam mine. Within the overall mineral resource containing 2.45 million tonnes of uranium oxide, it now has economic reserves of 347,500 tonnes (295,000 tU) at 0.059% average grade, compared with 284,000 tonnes in mid 2008. The 22% increase (63,500 tonnes) is due to additional mineralisation being reclassified as a result of ongoing drilling. Metallurgical recovery is only 73%, due to much of the uranium mineralisation being brannerite. Uranium is a co-product with copper (at 1.81% Cu).
Olympic Dam production hitch confirmed
BHP Billiton has announced that the haulage system in the Clark Shaft at its Olympic Dam copper-uranium mine will not be back in action for 4 to 6 months. An investigation to determine the extent of the damage is under way. Hoisting from 500 metres underground is continuing at a secondary shaft, giving about 25% of capacity, until full production resumes by the end of March 2010. This means the loss of 900 to 1400 t U3O8 production. The company declared force majeure on some near-term copper and uranium contracts.
Olympic Dam environment statement published
BHP Billiton has released the 4600-page environmental impact statement for its proposed expansion of the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia. The plan is to develop a large open pit with associated infrastructure over 11 years and lift uranium production to 19,000 tonnes U3O8 per year. The 1000m-deep open pit will mean that up to 98% of the ore is mined rather than 25% of it. Most of the uranium will be separated at the mine, but about 2000 t/yr will be exported in copper concentrates, requiring a new smelter for these in China or Japan which is subject to safeguards. New infrastructure in South Australia will include a 280 ML/day desalination plant on Spencer Gulf, supplying 200 ML/day to the operation, and 650 MWe increase in power supply. The present underground mining will continue in the narrow northern part of the orebody.
Environmental approval sought for Yeelirrie mine
After announcing in November that was reactivating the Yeelirrie uranium project in Western Australia, BHP Billiton has applied to the federal government to commence the process of environmental approval. Yeelirrie is about 420 km north of Kalgoorlie and close to the Goldfields gas pipeline. It was discovered in 1972 and extends over 9 km x 1.5 km, is up to 7 metres thick and has an average depth of about 7 metres of overburden. Old published figures show some 52,000 tonnes of uranium oxide at 0.15% average grade, and considerable metallurgical work was done before a new federal Labor government killed the project in 1983. The mine could possibly open in 2014, and production of 2000 t/yr U3O8 over 30 years is suggested, which would likely have 800 t/yr vanadium oxide as by-product.
Australian 22/5/09, NMR 5/6/09.
Japan Inc buys into Lake Maitland
Mega Uranium Ltd of Toronto has agreed to sell for US$ 49 million a 35% share of its Lake Maitland project in Western Australia to the Itochu Corporation (10% of Japanese share) and Japan Australia Uranium Resources Development Co. Ltd. (JAURD), acting on behalf of Kansai Electric Power Company (50%), Kyushu Electric Power Company (25%) and Shikoku Electric Power Company (15%). Lake Maitland is a very shallow calcrete deposit with 9000 tonnes of uranium proven.
Mega 27/2/09, WNN 2/3/09.
New project to treat low-grade ore at Ranger
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has applied to the Australian and Northern Territory governments for approval to establish a heap leach operation at its Ranger uranium mine. A feasibility study into the viability of the project, to treat 10 Mt per year of low-grade ore, will be complete by mid year. The project gives the prospect of recovering up to 20,000 t U3O8 in total. Column leach trials have been encouraging, yielding extractions of greater than 70% at low rates of acid consumption, hence using less energy and producing less waste compared with conventional processing.
New IAEA Director-General.
Yukiya Amano from Japan looks set to be the next director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after a marathon voting session of the board of governors. The 35-member board eventually achieved the necessary two-thirds majority to select him. His name will now go forward for a final vote at the IAEA General Conference in September. Mohamed Elbaradei steps down on 30 November.
Areva EPR design headache
The design of instrument and control (I&C) systems for Areva's large EPR nuclear reactor has been criticised by three national nuclear safety regulators - British, Finnish and French. They said that "The EPR design, as originally proposed by the licensees and the manufacturer, Areva, doesn't comply with the independence principle, as there is a high degree of complex interconnectivity between the control and safety systems." Full independence is needed between normal reactor control systems and the safety systems that are activated in accident or abnormal conditions, and it must be demonstrated, because some of the safety systems protect against the failure of control systems.
The regulators' statement means that Areva must reconfigure the systems to establish sufficient independence. This is not expected to be a major task, though it will be more difficult with the EPRs in advanced stages of construction in Finland and France. The UK and US regulatory systems require all studies be complete before construction begins. The EPR under construction at Olkiluoto is already planned to include a separate hard-wired analogue back-up system in addition to the main digital I&C set-up. This could be an option for the specific model under construction at Flamanville in France and planned for the UK - British regulators have previously suggested this to Areva and EdF Energy. However, national requirements are not identical. Construction of two EPRs at Taishan in China is in the early stages, with Chinese authorities likely to follow the French regulator. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has the EPR under consideration for design certification there, and has asked Areva to address similar concerns. Areva said that it is currently working with the regulators in each country to make the necessary changes and it did not expect the matter to cause any further construction delays. It welcomed the approach made by the safety authorities "to introduce a global standardization for its I&C model". The EPR's dual I&C systems were designed by Siemens.
Areva 2/11/09, WNN 3/11/09.
Cameco buys into phosphate technology
In its second major leading-edge R&D investment (after Global Laser Enrichment), Cameco has taken a significant stake in a new process to recover uranium from phosphates. It will invest up to $16.5 million to earn a 63% interest in the PhosEnergy technology being developed by Australia's Uranium Equities Ltd. (UEL). This is a more efficient means of recovering uranium as a minor by-product in the production of soluble phosphate fertilizers from rock phosphate deposits. Worldwide some 150 million tonnes of phosphate rock is processed annually. It is estimated that over 7500 tU, potentially worth some $1 billion, is contained in the phosphoric acid processing streams and is currently not recovered, amounting to a significant potential resource (equivalent to 17% of world production in 2008). The major phosphate rock fertiliser producers are in North Africa (Morocco) and North America (Florida) and China. Mexico and Jordan have huge potential.
UEL says the PhosEnergy process has "progressed through pilot plant scale at a significant rate at a US-based phosphoric acid facility." It added, "estimates based on the pilot plant operation results indicate that, with contingency, the PhosEnergy process is capable of producing uranium at operating costs in the order of $25 to $30 per pound with over 90% uranium recovery." This is about half the cost of previous processes which were abandoned in the early 1990s due to their complexity, plus low uranium prices. World production up until then was some 20-30,000 tU, mostly from Florida 1980-92. Agreements have already been reached with two phosphate fertiliser producers to carry out laboratory test work to establish the commercial applicability of the PhosEnergy process at their operations, while negotiations with a further two producers for preliminary screening tests are well advanced. WNN 10/11/09.
IEA sets out climate challenge.
Ahead of the main release of its annual World Energy Outlook anlaysis, the OECD's International Energy Agency has released a section focused on climate change. This considers the policy options in a scenario which achieves stabilisation at 450 parts per million CO2 equivalent in the atmosphere by 2030, after an emissions peak around 2020. Beyond energy efficiency and modernizing transport, construction of low-carbon power generation is expected to require $735 billion to 2020 and a further $3780 billion to 2030, offset by major savings in pollution control. The report suggests a cap-and-trade agreement for all OECD countries from 2010 with a carbon price of $50 per tonne CO2 being expected by 2020. In addition to planned nuclear power growth, some $125 billion nuclear investment by 2020 and then $491 billion to 2030 is suggested.
US study on external costs of energy.
A US National Research Council study commissioned by Congress has quantified and analysed a total of $120 billion in "hidden" external costs of energy production in the USA in 2005. External costs are those quantifiable and attributable but not passed on to customers in the energy prices. The figures reflect mainly health damage and exclude the effects of climate change. Electricity generation accounted for more than half, practically all being from coal.
The external cost of damages, primarily caused from sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions from burning coal, were $62 billion, or 3.2 cents per kWh of electricity produced from it. The report expects damages from coal to fall to 1.7 c/kWh by 2030. Electricity produced from natural gas produced $0.74 billion in damages (0.16 c/kWh) in 2005, primarily from air pollution. For nuclear the figure was about 0.02 c/kWh. Motor vehicles produced $56 billion in health and other non-climate damages, considering the full life cycle of vehicles - only one third was from their operation. Electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles resulted in higher non-climate damages than other technologies, due to reliance on fossil fuels for the electricity. Energy used to create the batteries and electric motors adds 20% of the manufacturing portion of life-cycle damages.
National Academies 19/10/09, WNN 23/10/09.
Positive signs in isotope production.
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) now knows the full extent of repairs required to the NRU reactor tank and has the tool to carry out the job. The National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River has been producing a significant share of the world's medical isotopes for over 50 years - some 40% of Mo-99 (for Tc-99m) comes from it, through MDS Nordion. Repairing a leak of heavy water, due to corrosion, has so far required the draining of the tank, removing all fuel and a lengthy remote inspection. AECL expects repairs to take less than six months and cost $70 million.
Meanwhile, following problems with NRG's aged Petten HFR reactor in Netherlands, which supplies about 60% of the European radioisotopes, cabinet has recommended that a replacement reactor be built there. NRG anticipates starting licensing for the new PALLAS reactor within weeks, and then choosing a contractor for a two-year project to produce a detailed design. Licensing should be under way in 2012 and the reactor on line about 2015. The site would either be at Petten or near Borssele, the country's nuclear power plant, where there is strong local government support.
IAEA approves Russian fuel bank
The Board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has approved a Russian proposal to create an international fuel bank of low-enriched uranium under IAEA control at Angarsk in Siberia - the site of its International Uranium Enrichment Centre. The bank will comprise 120 tonnes of low-enriched uranium (as UF6), available to any IAEA member state in good standing which is unable to procure fuel for political reasons. It will be fully funded by Russia, and the fuel will be made available at market rates, using a formula based on preceding spot prices. This initiative will complement a proposed IAEA fuel bank by making more material available to the IAEA for assurance of fuel supply to countries without their own fuel cycle facilities. The 120 tonnes is sufficient for two full fuel loads for a typical 1000 MWe reactor.
International fuel bank gets to first base
Enough cash has now been pledged to launch the concept of an international bank of low-enriched uranium under IAEA control to assure fuel supply to any country, regardless of political considerations. Five international contributors have now committed a total of $107 million: the EU ($32 million), Norway ($5 million), the United Arab Emirates ($10 million), the USA ($50 million) and now Kuwait ($10 million). A 2006 pledge by the US organization, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, now comes into effect, taking the overall sum to initiate the project to $157 million.
Russia has separately proposed that a quantity of low-enriched uranium equivalent to two full reactor cores be held at the International Uranium Enrichment Centre at Angarsk, paid for by international donors and under IAEA control. The next step is for IAEA member countries to flesh out a proposal for implementing the fuel bank scheme, drawing on both these initiatives. The IAEA Board will then need to approve it. The rationale is that guarantees of supply would dissuade individual countries from pursuing their own sensitive nuclear capabilities, some elements of which (enrichment, reprocessing) could be employed to create nuclear weapons.
Reviving nuclear powered ships
The head of the large Chinese shipping company Cosco has suggested that container ships should be powered by nuclear reactors in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. He said that Cosco is in talks with China's nuclear authority to develop nuclear powered freight vessels.
Copenhagen climate conference inconclusive
Despite hope of agreement on emission reduction targets and timelines for greenhouse gases, the Copenhagen conference ended without anything more than a vague objective of limiting global temperature increase to 2°C. China led India and others to reject firm targets and timetables, though there is a February date for registration of voluntary national emission reduction national targets. Delegates from 193 nations agreed to “take note of" a last-minute deal brokered by the USA, China, India, Brazil and South Africa on a non-binding political agreement to counter global warming and to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in assistance to developing countries. The next such meeting of parties to the climate change convention is in Mexico at the end of 2010.
G8 leaders tighten carbon targets.
Leaders of the G8 have agreed to a goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with developed countries achieving an 80% reduction by then. On nuclear energy, the G8 'witnessed' that a growing number of countries see nuclear power as a means to address climate change and energy security, with an essential role in meeting the dual challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering fossil fuel consumption. The decision is expected to strengthen the resolve to build nuclear capacity, especially in developed countries with infrastructure already in place.
Nuclear power back on UN climate change agenda
The first drafts of texts to be the basis of negotiations on a future United Nations climate change agreement in Copenhagen in December have brought back the issue of nuclear energy into the discussions. A key element for the new agreement to supercede the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol will be the future of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI), which both give emissions credits to projects which help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under rules agreed in 2001, nuclear projects cannot be counted towards credits. The draft text suggests that nuclear projects being granted full eligibility as CDM and JI projects is the best of four possibilities.
IAEA promotes firm foundations.
The UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found an increasing role in helping potential nuclear power countries to prepare policy, legal and regulatory infrastructure for nuclear power programs. The IAEA said that 20 of the states it is helping could have nuclear power programs in place by 2030, and the IAEA is active on behalf of all UN members in ensuring that these have safety and security as high priorities. IAEA is also helping a number of regional programs. Some 60 countries are considering using nuclear power, in addition to the 30 that already do so.
One key element in the IAEA's current toolkit for countries interested in nuclear energy is a book which details essential steps on the path to deploying nuclear power. Among them are the establishment of an independent expert safety regulator, an appropriate legislative framework and the development of a public debate on nuclear in relation to alternatives.
OECD boosts support for nuclear power.
OECD countries have agreed to boost official backing for exports of renewable energy and nuclear power equipment, by offering more generous terms on government-backed credits in support of export deals. Under the new arrangement, countries that participate in the OECD’s Arrangement on Officially Supported Export Credits have agreed to provide official export credit support for projects in the renewable and nuclear power sectors. This will be in the form of loans with longer repayment terms (up to 18 years) and more flexible repayment schedules, plus a revised fixed interest rate regime for longer loan durations. The agreements are designed to support renewable energy sources and nuclear power in preference to traditional energy projects using fossil fuels, where existing, stricter financial terms and conditions continue to apply.
Major boost for electric vehicles.
The USA is providing finance for investments of over $2 billion in electric car manufacturing, and the UK has announced £25 million in support for electric cars. Much of the power for these vehicles will be off-peak, from nuclear reactors.
The US Department of Energy (DoE) has a loan program of $25 billion to enable the US car industry to begin making fuel-efficient models. Among the first beneficiaries is Tesla Motors with $465 million to begin producing its fully electric Model S and establish a battery and drivetrain factory to supply itself as well as other manufacturers. The first of the saloon cars is expected in 2011, and by 2013 Tesla expects to produce 20,000 electric vehicles per year. Nissan is to get a loan of some $1.6 billion to develop and bring to market a its own cost-competitive fully electric vehicle and build a factory for advanced lithium-ion batteries. Fleet and retail customers should eventually be able to buy a total of 150,000 cars per year. The third US loan recipient is Ford, which gets a $5.9 billion (sic) loan to upgrade 11 production centres in five states. Most of this relates to petrol and diesel cars and trucks, but part of the finance will go towards hybrid technology.
In the UK, the government has launched a major trial of electric vehicles. A total of £25 million ($41 million) will go to support eight schemes across the country which will put a mix of 340 hybrid and fully-electric vehicles on the road in 12-18 months, including ten London taxis. It comes as part of a £400 million national program of 'support and encouragement'.
US economic report updated
An update of the 2003 MIT study on the economics of nuclear power has been published, with a primary focus on the USA. The report said that "since 2003 construction costs for all types of large-scale engineered projects have escalated dramatically. The estimated cost of constructing a nuclear power plant has increased at a rate of 15% per year heading into the current economic downturn. This is based both on the cost of actual builds in Japan and Korea and on the projected cost of new plants planned for in the United States. Capital costs for both coal and natural gas have increased as well, although not by as much. The cost of natural gas and coal that peaked sharply is now receding. Taken together, these escalating costs leave the situation [of relative costs] close to where it was in 2003." The overnight capital cost was given as $4000/kW, in 2007 dollars. Applying the same cost of capital to nuclear as to coal and gas, nuclear came out at 6.6 c/kWh, coal at 8.3 cents and gas at 7.4 cents, assuming a charge of $25/tonne CO2 on the latter.
Russia-Japan cooperation focused on fuel
Japan and Russia have signed a high-level nuclear cooperation agreement, under which Toshiba and Tenex are advancing their intentions to cooperate in nuclear fuel supply. This is to "contribute to stable and secure supply of services for the front-end civilian nuclear fuel cycle in Japan, the United States and elsewhere," including possibly centrifuge enrichment plants using Russian technology.
Toshiba, the 77% owner of Westinghouse with its major fuel fabrication division, has formed an alliance with Atomenergoprom to supply nuclear fuel products and services in Japan and other Asian countries. They are also looking at the feasibility of jointly setting up a uranium enrichment plant in Japan, using Russian centrifuge technology. A further joint project based on Toshiba’s experience in building nuclear power plants, is to improve reactor design process and construction technology in Russia. The new alliance is based on heads of agreement signed a year ago jointly to explore "front-end civilian nuclear fuel cycle business". It is not clear whether it may relate to Atomenergoprom’s 2007 contract to enrich 6400 tonnes of uranium recovered from reprocessing used Japanese fuel. Apart from this, and some tentative Japanese investigation of uranium mining in eastern Siberia, there has been no fuel cycle interaction between Russia and Japan.
Wind gains strongly in 2008
Global wind generation capacity grew 27 GWe (28.8%) in 2008 to reach 120.8 GWe, which the Global Wind Energy Council claims will produce 260 TWh per year (ie 24.6% capacity factor) - about one tenth of nuclear power's total output from what has grown to one third of nuclear's capacity. The global wind market for turbine installations in 2008 was reported as about EUR 36.5 billion or US$ 47.5 billion. In the USA 8358 MWe was installed, taking the total to 25,170 MWe, thus overtaking Germany. US wind generation attracts an unlimited production tax credit of 2.1 cents/kWh, which the new US President has pledged to extend for five years and which the American Wind Energy Association says is "essential to the industry's growth". (New technology US nuclear projects are offered the same production tax credit limited to the first 6000 MWe of new nuclear plants in their first 8 years of operation.) China doubled its capacity to 12,210 MWe on the way to a targeted 30,000 MWe. In Europe almost 8900 MWe was added to bring the total to nearly 66,000 MWe - 23,903 MWe of this in Germany where 43 TWh is quoted as the annual potential output (ie 20.5% capacity factor). Australia added 482 MWe to reach 1306 MWe total.
AWEA 27/1/09, GWEC 2/2/09, DEWI.
2008 a year of nuclear construction starts
During 2008 no new reactors were connected to grids, and three old ones were taken out of service: Hamaoka 1 & 2 in Japan, and Bohunice 3 in Slovakia – the latter as a condition of EU entry. But more positively there were ten construction starts: China: Hongyanhe 1, Fuqing 1, Ningde 1 & 2, Yangjiang 1, Fangjiashan 1; South Korea: Shin Wolsong 2 & Shin Kori 1; and Russia: Leningrad II-1, Novovoronezh II-1, boosting the construction total to 43 (37.6 GWe), up from 33 (26.6 GWe) a year earlier. There were about a dozen power uprates in five countries. Two small Indian reactors had been due to start up in 2008 but were delayed by fuel shortages.
World reactor changes to 31 Dec 2009
France: Phenix closed 343 MWe
France: adjust Belleville up 53 MWe x 2
Hungary: Paks 44 MWe uprate, then Paks 3 extra 10 MWe to 470 in Nov.
China: Taishan 1 start construction
China start construct Yangjiang-2 1080 MWe in August
China start construct Haiyang-1 AP1000 1100 MWe in Sept
S Korea start construct Shin Kori 4, 1350 MWe in July
Slovakia Bohunice up 72 MWe Aug-Sep
Sweden Oskarshamn-3 up 95 MWe Aug-Sep
Lithuania: Ignalina 2 closed end of Dec.
Japan: Tomari 3 start comm. op'n, 912 MWe gross, 868 net, Dec 09
India: Rajasthan-5 grid connected in Dec
China start construct Fuqing-2 1080 MWe in June
China start construct Hongyanhe-3 1080 MWe in march
China start construct Fangjiashan-2 1080 MWe in July
Russia start construct 1150 MWe Novovoronezh II -2 jun-july
Sweden up 200 MWe jun-july
Switz: Muehleberg uprate 17 MWe net January
Czech: Dukovany 3 uprate 38 MWe May
USA: Beaver valley-2 uprate 36 MWe Jan 09
Millstone-3 uprate 77 MWe Jan 09
Susquehanna-1 uprate 50 MWe to 1210. Feb-Mar
Comanche Peak-1 uprate 53 MWe in ‘08. Feb-mar