2012 brings slightly increased nuclear capacity
With three large reactors coming on line and three smaller ones being retired, plus three refurbished Canadian reactors coming back into service and four US uprates, 2012 showed a world increase from 370.4 to 374.1 GWe nuclear capacity, and 435 power reactors operable. There were new grid connections for Shin Kori 1 and Shin Wolsong 1 in South Korea, and Ningde 1 in China, each over 1000 MWe. Also, Bruce A1 & A2 and Point Lepreau in Canada came back on line after major refurbishment, total 2135 MWe. In the UK, Oldbury 1 and Wylfa 2 were decommissioned, as were Gentilly 2 in Canada and Garona in Spain, removing 1811 MWe from service. Most of Japan's reactors remain shut down, but operable and with renewed prospect of restarting. In the USA, four uprates added about 300 MWe.
There were seven construction starts: Baltic 1 in Russia (Kaliningrad), Barakah 1 in UAE, Shin Ulchin 1 in South Korea, Tianwan 3, Yangjiang 4, Fuqing 4, and Shandong Shidaowan 1 all in China. The last is a demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled design with fuel as 'pebbles', actually twin small reactors driving a single 210 MWe turbine.
Nuclear power output down in 2012
While the year saw a 3.7 GWe increase in nuclear capacity, nuclear power generation suffered its biggest ever one-year fall in 2012 as the bulk of the Japanese fleet remained offline for a full calendar year. A total of 2346 billion kWh was generated by nuclear plants in 2012 - some 7% less than in 2011. The figures illustrate the effects of a full year of mostly-suspended operation in Japan, the loss of eight units in Germany as well as other operational issues around the world, notably USA and Belgium. With a total of 48 operable Japanese reactors producing no power during the year, 2012's nuclear generation was the lowest since 1999.
Latest WNA market report scales back projections from 2011
In WNA’s new report, The Global Nuclear Fuel Market: Supply and Demand 2013-2030, world nuclear generating capacity is projected to increase 72%, from 334 GWe today to 574 GWe by 2030 in its reference scenario. The calculation includes an assumed reopening schedule for Japanese reactors not included in the 2013 capacity total. The upper scenario envisages total nuclear capacity reaching 700 GWe in 2030, whereas the lower scenario assumes no net growth. The report projects uranium demand increasing about 56% by 2030 in its reference scenario, and nearly doubling in its upper scenario.
Formal construction start on two new US nuclear plants
The concrete basemat for South Carolina’s Electric & Gas’ (SCE&G) Summer-2 reactor has been poured in a 51-hour operation. Three days later that for Vogtle-3 was undertaken in 41 hours. The pours had been delayed for months because of discrepancies between construction plans and the original design documents. The NRC approved license amendments earlier this month that allowed the concrete pour of the 1.8m thick foundations to proceed. These are the first such construction starts in the USA in three decades. SCE&G is building two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Summer site, each 1117 MWe net. Southern Nuclear is building another two AP1000 units at its Vogtle site. Reactor pressure vessels and steam generators for all units will come from Doosan in South Korea. The four units are expected to enter commercial operation in 2017 and 2018 in each case.
There are also four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors under construction in China, at Sanmen and Haiyang, the first two of which are expected on line next year.
WNN 12 & 15/3/13. US Nuclear Power
Construction start on two more new US reactors
The second of two new nuclear reactors at the VC Summer plant in South Carolina has commenced construction, seven months after the first one. The two new 1117 MWe Westinghouse AP1000s will share a site with an existing pressurised water reactor, operated by South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), a subsidiary of Scana Corporation, and co-owned with Santee Cooper. Another AP1000 unit is under construction at Vogtle in Georgia, and its twin is expected to get under way very soon.
Construction has started on Vogtle unit 4 in Georgia, the second of two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors on the site. Construction of Southern Nuclear’s first unit started in March. This makes five new nuclear plants under construction in the USA, total over 6 GWe gross. A federal loan guarantee for the two Vogtle units is expected to be finalized in December.
Four AP1000 reactors are being built in China, at Sanmen and Haiyang for China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and China Power Investment Corp (CPI) respectively. Sanmen unit 1 is expected to be the first AP1000 to begin operating, next year.
WNN 6/11/13, 22/11/13.. US nuclear power
Major US reactor uprates
Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point-4 reactor has returned to service after a substantial uprate in its capacity – about 15%, or up to 125 MWe on top of its previous 693 MWe net. Its twin, unit 3, completed a similar uprate last year to 802 MWe net. The company has now completed a five-year, $2.5 billion investment to upgrade its Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear power plants, adding more than 500 MWe of clean energy capacity. The project - the largest US nuclear uprate project in recent history – is expected to deliver nearly 30% more capacity for the company than the 399 MWe originally projected. The four PWR reactors came into operation over 1972-83, and all have had licences extended to 60 years.
WNN 19/4/13 (anticipated). US nuclear power
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has licensed an 11.6% extended power uprate for Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear plant in Minnesota, taking the BWR unit from 613 MWe to 684 MWe gross and about 625 MWe net. The upgrading work replacing major components was completed over four years to August, and the increased power will be attained steadily into 2014. The plant’s operating licence extends to 2030. Xcel estimated the cost of the project to be $320 million when it began in 2008, but the actual cost came to $655 million including modifications to meet new requirements following the Fukushima accident.
WNN 11/12/13. US nuclear power
US nuclear plant uprate achieved with cost blowout
Xcel Energy’s Monticello nuclear power plant has resumed operation after a 12.9% uprate, adding about 71 MWe to its 600 MWe gross capacity (572 MWe net), though the increment is not yet licensed. Due partly to unforeseen requirements, the cost doubled from the original $320 million estimate. The 1971 BWR plant is licensed to 2030.
US utility gives up on nuclear plant
In February 2013 Duke Energy's 860 MWe Crystal River PWR in Florida was decommissioned due to damage to the containment structure sustained when new steam generators were fitted in 2009-10, a self-managed project under Progress Energy. Its 40-year operating licence was due to expire in 2016. Some $835 million in insurance is to be paid.
WNN 5/2/13. US Nuclear power
US reactor decommissioned
Dominion Energy’s Kewaunee nuclear power plant, comprising a single PWR unit delivering 566 MWe, has been shut down for decommissioning. It had operated from 1974 and was now considered uneconomic in the company’s Midwest generation portfolio. The plant’s 121 fuel assemblies are being removed and it will then by placed in SAFSTOR pending full demolition in about 40 year time. The decommissioning is fully funded from progressive payments over 39 years. The plant closure reduces US reactor numbers to 102, delivering 101 GWe net.
WNN 7/5/13. US NP
Two US reactors permanently retired due to regulatory delay
The two 30-year old PWR reactors at San Onofre nuclear plant in California have been permanently shut down due to regulatory delay and uncertainty following damage in the steam generators of unit 3. With diminishing assurance that it would be allowed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate the reactors even at 70% power by year-end, Southern California Edison decided to move towards decommissioning them. The utility has already paid over $500 million on repairs and replacement power, and faced continuing outlays on both while maintaining the plant in readiness to operate. The utility said it cannot afford to wait for permission to restart unit 3 without income from the operation of unit 2, which the NRC has kept from restarting despite three independent engineering reviews confirming its safety. The company also said that renewal of operating licences from 2022 might be costly and uncertain.
The reactors produced 1080 MWe and 1070 MWe respectively and provided 9% of California’s power. The problems are in the steam generators - two per reactor – from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries that were installed during a $600 million overhaul over 2009-11. Each has 9727 alloy tubes and they are designed to cope with the loss of some of these throughout a 30-40 year service life, however the speed of degradation in unit 3 steam generators since 2010 was unprecedented. Several hundred tubes had thinned to the extent that they required plugging, while hundreds more were plugged as a precaution. SC Edison and Mitsubishi remain at odds over terms of the steam generator warranty. Edison has filed warranty claims of $139 million, while asserting that liability limitations in the contract do not apply.
The Californian grid operator is expecting a 1700 MWe shortfall in power supply over summer, exacerbated by the important role in grid stability played by the base-load San Onofre plant, as intermittent renewables become a significant supply input - 5% of total in 2012.
WNN 7/6/13, Platts 7/6/13. US nuclear power, California
Babcock & Wilcox gets set for deploying first US small modular reactor
B&W has announced that it will seek to bring in further equity partners by mid 2014 to take forward the licensing and construction of an initial 180 MWe mPower nuclear plant. B&W said it had invested $360 million in Generation mPower (GmP) with Bechtel, and would sell up to 70% of its stake in the joint venture, leaving it with about 20% and Bechtel 10%. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has agreed to support accelerated development of the mPower design for early deployment, with up to $226 million. B&W plans to retain the rights to manufacture the reactor module and nuclear fuel for the mPower plant, which it is equipped to do in North America.
In July 2012 GmP signed a memorandum of understanding to study the potential deployment of B&W mPower reactors in FirstEnergy's service territory stretching from Ohio through West Virginia and Pennsylvania to New Jersey. In February 2013 B&W signed a contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to build up to four units at Clinch River, with design certification and construction permit application to be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2014 or 2015.
The mPower is one of four leading US small modular reactor designs, all pressurized water reactors, intended to be factory-made and railed to site, then installed below ground level. The mPower has integral steam generators, and the 180 MWe version is conventionally water-cooled, a 155 MWe version is air-cooled. It will have a four-year operating cycle between refuelling, which will involve replacing the entire core as a single cartridge. Overnight cost for a twin-unit plant is put by B&W at about $5000/kW.
WNN 14/11/13. Small nuclear power reactors
US government funding for second small reactor design
The US Department of Energy has announced a second-round grant to NuScale Power for its 45 MWe modular reactor, being developed with Fluor. A year ago it agreed to fund B&W for its 180 MWe mPower design, being developed with Bechtel. Both are pressurised water reactors, so DOE is being very conservative among competing designs, though some novelty is involved in them having integral steam generators (inside the pressure vessel). The B&W module is 23 m high and 4.5 m diameter, the NuScale one 20 m high and 4.3 m diameter, so both are readily transportable. Up to $226 million will be available for each design over five years, on a 50-50 cost-share basis.
WNN 13/12/13. Small nuclear reactors
EdF gets set to pull the plug on US ambitions
Electricite de France, the world’s largest operator of nuclear power plants, is preparing to quit its US nuclear power investments and plans, after six years involvement there. EdF owns 49.99% of Constellation Energy Nuclear Group (CENG), with Exelon owning the balance, and has agreed to have the five CENG units (3.99 GWe) consolidated in Exelon’s large fleet for a $400 million exceptional dividend from CENG (funded by a loan from Exelon) and a put option to sell the CENG stake to Exelon at fair market value between 2016 and 2022. It paid $4.5 billion for the CENG share in 2009 and attributes the withdrawal to present economic factors. Also, since Constellation pulled out of the joint venture in 2010, EdF now owns Unistar Nuclear, which was set up to build a fleet of Areva-designed nuclear plants in North America with the "objective of leading the nuclear renaissance in the USA" with French technology. The first plants were to be at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, and Nine Mile Point, New York. These Unistar plans are shelved primarily due to US law requiring majority domestic ownership of nuclear power plants.
WNN 30/7/13. US Nuclear power
US Appeals Court overturns presidential veto on Yucca Mountain
A federal Appeals Court has ordered the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to resume its review of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) application for a licence to construct and operate the used fuel repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, saying it was “flouting the law” in abandoning the review. The appeal was brought by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, two states, and others who argued that the NRC under its previous chairman ignored its statutory responsibility when it terminated its review of DOE's 2008 application in 2011. The DOE had sought to abort the project on the orders of President Obama. The court said the case "raises significant questions about the scope of the Executive's authority to disregard federal statutes. The case arises out of a longstanding dispute about nuclear waste storage at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. The underlying policy debate is not our concern. The policy is for Congress and the President to establish as they see fit in enacting statues," and for the president and executive agencies to implement, it said. The court said that its task is to ensure that agencies such as NRC comply with the law rather than conforming to political expediency. The NRC is reviewing the decision.
The Nuclear Energy Institute and the Nuclear Waste Strategy Coalition said that this ruling is a clear signal that the NRC is obligated to complete its evaluation of the DOE application and issue a final decision granting or denying the Yucca Mountain repository license. “The nuclear energy industry fully expects the NRC to take all necessary steps to immediately resume its independent scientific evaluation of the Yucca Mountain license application, as directed by the court. Similarly, the DOE must renew its efforts on this project and fully support the licensing process.” They added that Congress needs to provide appropriate funding to complete the review.
WNN 14/8/13. US Nuclear fuel cycle
US court suspends waste management levy
The latest development in the sparring between the nuclear industry and President Obama’s Administration is that a federal appeals court has ruled that the Department of Energy should cease collecting the $750 million per year in fees from utilities (at one tenth of a cent per kWh) for the nuclear waste disposal program, since there is no such program. "The Secretary [of Energy] is ordered to submit to Congress a proposal to change the fee to zero until such a time as either the Secretary chooses to comply with the [1982 Nuclear Waste Policy] Act as it is currently written, or until Congress enacts an alternative waste management plan." The President‘s 2010 action in attempting to abort progress on the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada to appease a local political constituency has been ruled as illegal, and in August the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was ordered to resume its assessment of the project. Some $7 billion had already been spent on it.
The Nuclear Energy Institute said that the new “decision confirms that the federal government cannot continue to defy Congress’ explicit direction to implement a viable program to manage reactor fuel from America’s nuclear power plants. The court’s ruling reinforces the fundamental principle that the federal government’s obligation is to carry out the law, whether or not the responsible agency or even the president agrees with the underlying policy. … The court's decision should prompt Congress to reform the government's nuclear waste disposal program. We strongly encourage Congress to establish a new waste management entity, and endow it with the powers and funding necessary to achieve the goals originally established in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.”
WNN 20/11/13. US fuel cycle
US moves to decouple nuclear waste management from White House
Early in 2009 President Obama ordered the Department of Energy (DOE) to abort the well-developed project to establish a major geological repository for nuclear wastes at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, due to it being opposed by a major Democrat supporter in that state. He then set up a ‘Blue Ribbon Commission’ on nuclear wastes to come up with alternatives. Two major recommendations of this in January last year were that responsibility for the USA's radioactive waste management program should be transferred to a new organisation, independent of the DOE, and that the way in which the funds already paid into the Nuclear Waste Fund are treated in the federal budget should be changed to ensure they are used for their intended purpose. In January this year the DOE announced a new waste strategy based on the Blue Ribbon report, including setting up a new organisation to manage the siting, development and operation of the future waste stores, to be established with "an appropriate balance between independence... and the need for oversight by Congress and the executive branch".
This week a bipartisan bill was introduced into Congress to establish a new Nuclear Waste Administration, overseen by a five-member board, which would take over responsibility from DOE for waste management. The bill also establishes a new Working Capital Fund in the Treasury, into which the fees collected from nuclear utility ratepayers (currently about $765 million per year at 0.1 cents/kWh) would be deposited. These funds will be available to the new Waste Administration without further appropriation. Fees already collected (about $28.2 billion as of January 2013) remain in the Nuclear Waste Fund, where they will continue to be subject to appropriation in the federal budget process.
Platts 27/6/13. US nuclear policy
US addresses political shambles on nuclear waste
The US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee is bringing forward recommendations to revive measures to establish a deep geological repository for high-level wastes, notably used fuel (which in the USA is not reprocessed). It recommended providing $25 million towards this used fuel repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, which has already cost some $6 billion. This would take the nation’s used fuel, as mandated in 1982 legislation. The Committee noted the harm caused by not proceeding with Yucca Mountain, including the continuing liabilities incurred by the government for not taking possession of the used nuclear fuel from 1998 as required by law. The damage payments to date total about $2 billion, awarded by courts to aggrieved utilities which have had to vastly expand storage at their nuclear power plants. At practically all of the 65 sites, pool storage has had to be supplemented by dry cask storage.
NEI Overview 27/6/13. US nuclear policy
US president avoids mention of nuclear power in major address
US President Barack Obama clearly acknowledged the threat of climate change and the pressing need to do something about it in his annual state of the union address. He highlighted the potential for solar, wind and even natural gas - but not nuclear. However, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has welcomed the first benefits flowing to the industry from the creation last February of a senior administration role to expedite nuclear exports: Director of Nuclear Energy Policy at the National Security Council. The industry had pressed the federal government to improve the coordination among multiple agencies which have a role in permits for such exports, and approvals still take much longer in the USA than in other countries, according to NEI. The NEI also urged the government to complete nuclear cooperation agreements with countries such as Saudi Arabia.
WNN 13/2/13. USA Nuclear power
Silex process selected for US application
The US Department of Energy has announced that it has selected the Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) process to enrich over 100,000 tonnes of high-assay depleted uranium stockpiled at its Paducah plant in Kentucky. It is commencing contract negotiations for construction of a $1 billion plant there, utilizing some existing infrastructure from the previous USEC operations. GLE comprises GE (51%), Hitachi (25%) and Cameco (24%), and will apply laser technology licensed by Australia’s Silex Systems. GLE already has a licence to build a laser enrichment plant at Wilmington, North Carolina, but has not yet decided to proceed with this commercially. The only other uranium enrichment plant operating in the USA is Urenco’s, in New Mexico, which is being rapidly expanded.
WNN 28/11/13. US fuel cycle
Laser enrichment proposal for historic site
As uranium enrichment using the old energy-intensive diffusion process winds down at Paducah in Kentucky, GE-led Global Laser Enrichment has tentatively proposed establishing a laser enrichment plant there. This would take advantage of the general infrastructure and workforce, as the old plant is decommissioned. Paducah is the last such plant operating anywhere, and started up in 1952 for military use. The US Department of Energy is soliciting ideas for using the site. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a licence for GLE to build a 6 million SWU/yr plant at Wilmington, North Carolina, using technology licensed from Silex Systems in Australia.
WNN 26/2/13. US Fuel cycle
Last WW2 enrichment plant closed down
USEC has closed its Paducah uranium enrichment plant in Kentucky, USA at the end of May after more than 60 years operation. It consumed about 50 times as much electricity per unit of output as modern centrifuge plants, and its final role over the past year has been to enrich about 9000 tonnes of high-assay government depleted uranium tails for two utilities. USEC has issued lay-off notices to over 1000 employees there. It said that “We will continue to meet our customers’ orders from our existing inventory, purchases from Russia under the historic Megatons to Megawatts program and our transitional supply contract with Russia that runs through 2022.”
WNN 28/5/13. US fuel cycle
New US energy secretary nominated
MIT's Ernest Moniz has been announced as the new Energy Secretary to replace Nobel laureate Stephen Chu. Moniz has been closely involved with the Department of Energy since the 1990s, and has spoken and written significantly on nuclear power. A major article in 2011 affirmed the benefits of nuclear power in terms of reliable, low-carbon generation, and listed some of the problems that should be overcome in the USA to allow nuclear to fulfil its potential. He said that in America, "the government and industry need to advance new designs that lower the financial risk of constructing nuclear power plants." Also stronger action was needed to fix the "dysfunctional" waste management system, exacerbated by President Obama's political decision to abandon the Yucca Mountain repository project. He contributed to the high-level inquiry on wastes, and has also called for government support for small modular reactors. He said that "The government's role should be to help provide the private sector with a well-understood set of options, including nuclear power - not to prescribe a desired market share for any specific technology." The US Nuclear Energy Institute welcomed the nomination.
WNN 5/3/13. US nuclear policy
Last Russian ex-weapons uranium shipped to USA
The last of 500 tonnes of Russian high-enriched uranium from its surplus nuclear weapons was downblended in August 2013 by Russia’s ElectroChemical Plant (ECP) at Zelenogorsk and has been shipped to the USA. This completes a major project under a 1994 contract on behalf of the Russian and US governments. The whole deal is equivalent to 20,000 nuclear warheads and 89 million SWU of enrichment energy worth US$13 billion. The downblended (4.4% U-235) uranium has supplied about half US nuclear power needs over two decades, and hence provided about 10% of US electricity. According to Tenex, total revenue was US$17 billion, including hard currency gains and the cost of natural uranium component. Completion of the so-called ‘Megatons to Megawatts’ program will raise demand for uranium from mines.
WNN 29/8/13. Military warheads as fuel
Industry urges US government to expedite nuclear trade
As a major agreement to be renewed with South Korea remains bogged down, the National Association of Manufacturers, and the US Chamber of Commerce and the Nuclear Energy Institute are urging the US Administration to adopt a more determined and pragmatic approach to increasing international trade in nuclear goods and technologies. “We strongly encourage the administration to promote such engagement aggressively by, among other things, rapidly concluding cooperative agreements with countries that have decided to pursue nuclear energy and promptly renewing expiring agreements with existing US trading partners.” In today’s highly competitive and global market “Unyielding and inflexible insistence on [unilateral enrichment and reprocessing restrictions] ... threatens the ability of the United States to engage in nuclear cooperation with countries embarking on civil nuclear programs, thereby jeopardizing the safety, security, nonproliferation and economic benefits of such cooperation.”
“Nuclear suppliers from such countries as France, Japan, Russia and Korea offer inter- national customers a competitive range of products and services, and a growing number of nations are considering developing civil nuclear energy programs in partnership with these countries rather than the United States,” the organisations said. In contrast to 1954 when the current legislation was drawn up, the USA is “no longer …. the dominant supplier to a global market that will grow to nearly $750 billion over the next decade.” Several countries such as Vietnam and Saudi Arabia are seeking other suppliers, while renewal of seven bilateral agreements with the USA are pending. "Given the nuclear energy industry’s requirements for long-lead items and use of long-term contracts for nuclear fuel and services, timely renewal of these agreements is critical to maintaining the credibility of the United States as a reliable supplier and partner.”
WNN 23/7/13. US nuclear policy
Ted Rockwell dies
Over Easter, nuclear energy pioneer and tireless advocate Theodore Rockwell died. He started his professional career on the Manhattan project about 1944, and became Admiral Rickover’s technical director on the USS Nautilus project and the building of the first US nuclear power reactor at Shippingport. He played an active part in many aspects of the emerging nuclear power industry through an illustrious career, and never really retired, dying just short of his 91st birthday.
Quebec's Gentilly nuclear plant shuts down
At the end of December Hydro-Quebec shut down the 638 MWe (net) Gentilly-2 nuclear power reactor rather than embark upon an expensive refurbishment of it. The unit is a Candu-6 type and had been running since 1982. It is being defueled and the heavy water will be treated over 18 months to mid 2014. The main part of the reactor will then be closed up in safe storage configuration and left for 40 years to allow radioactivity to decay before demolition. The total cost of decommissioning over 50 years is put at C$ 1.8 billion.
WNN 2/1/13. Canada NP
Canadian reactor design clears pre-licensing scrutiny
Candu Energy’s Enhanced Candu-6 (EC6) advanced reactor design has completed its pre-licensing review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, indicating that there are no fundamental barriers to licensing it. The EC6 is a candidate for new capacity at Darlington in Ontario, and for the fourth and fifth units in Argentina, as well as prospective for Romania. In the UK it is being promoted as a means of burning surplus plutonium.
WNN 27/6/13 Canada NP
Cigar Lake mine start-up delayed six months
Cameco has announced that the commissioning of the Cigar lake mine will be delayed until early 2014 to allow for additional work on the high-pressure water jet boring equipment for mining of the soft ore. Also Areva Resources requires further time for modification of the McClean Like mill which will treat Cigar Lake ore. The 480 metre deep mine development has been set back by two major floods in 2006 and 2008. Known resources are over 150,000 tonnes U3O8 at about 17% average grade, which justifies the C$1.9 billion development cost. Cameco, which has 50% ownership, is managing the mine joint venture, with Areva holding 37%, Idemitsu 8% and TEPCO 5%.
WNN 9/9/13. Canada uranium
European energy companies and others blow whistle on EU energy policy
The heads of ten leading European energy companies representing half of Europe’s capacity and with 213 million customers have made an unprecedented call for major changes to EU energy policy, which has markedly failed in its goals of lowered prices, reduced carbon emissions and securing energy supply. They point to major risks inherent in the present policy which has led to 51 GWe of low-cost and flexible gas-fired capacity being now mothballed. Solar and wind power enjoy priority grid access at fixed, above-market prices and make existing thermal capacity uneconomical to run.
Wholesale power prices have dropped by about half since 2008, but retail prices for consumers are rising sharply to near record levels. Energy security of supply is no longer guaranteed, CO2 emissions are increasing, and investment is stalled. "In sectors like steel, cars and refining, when there was overcapacity, capacity was closed. But in the energy sector, we have massively subsidised additional capacity in solar and wind, which has led us to the absurd situation in which we find ourselves today," according to GdF CEO Gerard Mestrallet. The problem is most acute in Germany, which is central to an Economist article on the EU situation. http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21587782-europes-electricity-providers-face-existential-threat-how-lose-half-trillion-euros
The group proposes:
- Energy prices should reflect the market-based cost of producing it, and not cross-subsidies for wind and solar,
- Integrate the most mature renewable technologies into the market process without subsidies, to enhance competition,
- Adjust public support for new renewable capacity in light of actual market needs rather than open-ended targets,
- Utilise all existing power capacity that contributes to security of supply rather than subsidising the construction of new intermittent capacity which undermines it and prevents fair competition,
- Establish EU guidelines for nondiscriminatory capacity payments that would keep reliable sources such as gas on standby,
- Sort out the European carbon market with ambitious emission reductions long-term so as to support low-carbon sources such as nuclear power.
In late September, a smaller German utility (not part of the group) said that “massive malfunctioning of the energy markets” in southern Germany which had led to its losses of EUR 30 million per year and rising had forced it to decide to close all its coal- and gas-fired power stations, which will have dire implications for regional security of supply.
Meanwhile the World Energy Council, on the eve of its triennial Congress, has called on policymakers to “get real” in defining pathways to deliver on global energy aspirations of energy access, security and environmental sustainability. It dismissed the hope that energy demand might be fully met by renewables as one of seven prevalent ‘energy myths’.
And this week the Visegrad group of countries – Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia – called for the EU to support their nuclear power plans rather than impeding them by deterring state funding of investment.
WNN 14 & 15/10/13, Reuters 11/10/13.
EU countries assert importance of nuclear power
A forthright statement by the governments of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the UK has called for 'neutrality of technology' in meeting future European Union (EU) decarbonisation targets. The one-page joint statement from the twelve countries affirms their belief that nuclear power can and should “play a part in the EU's future low carbon energy mix". It also noted the security of supply and economic benefits that the technology brings and called for an investment environment to be created within Europe that specifically takes into account "the long term nature of nuclear infrastructure projects." The Czech Republic will coordinate of this group, which asserts a much stronger line in support of nuclear power than anything from the European Commission.
WNN 13/3/13. Cooperation
EU Emissions Trading Scheme in doldrums
After the European parliament narrowly defeated a proposal to remove 900 million CO2 emission allowances from the market, the price of ETS allowances subsided to less than EUR 3/tonne. This means there is virtually no economic incentive to move to low-carbon sources of energy, and that was even the case last year with an average ETS price of EUR 7.10/t. In 2008 the price was near EUR 30/tonne. Coal consumption in the EU is reported to be rising. EU targets for 2020 are to have renewables as 20% of the energy mix and to cut carbon emissions by 20%.
WNN 17/4/13. Climate change policies
OECD energy agency contrasts Finland and Germany
The OECD’s International Energy Agency in two separate studies published has reviewed the energy policies of Germany and Finland. The IEA concludes that thanks to its decision to opt for an electricity mix that includes two clean energy sources - renewable energy and nuclear energy, Finland is on track to meet its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) target while ensuring security of energy supply and economic growth. With four operating nuclear reactors and one under construction, Finland has approved construction of two more, which will bring nuclear share of electricity to about 60%. A study carried out by Eurostat also found that in 2012, when purchasing power standards are taken into account, Finnish electricity prices were the lowest in the EU, though this is threatened by the government’s prospective new taxes on nuclear power. The IEA attributed the success of Finland's progress with energy policy to “the government's effective and inclusive planning and consenting regime, and to the high level of trust that the population has in its government." The IEA recommended that Finland continues to address energy security concerns in a "comprehensive and sustainable manner."
On the other hand, the IEA raised serious concerns regarding the energy policy of Germany, involving phasing out nuclear and increasing sharply the share of renewables – supposedly to 80% by 2050. This policy has already led to electricity prices that are now among the highest in Europe, with a disproportionate share borne by household consumers. The IEA recommended that "further policy measures are necessary if the country's ambitious energy transformation, or Energiewende, is to maintain a balance between sustainability, affordability and competitiveness." Furthermore, the IEA stressed the fact that the German energy policy inevitably has an impact on neighbouring countries.
EU heads of state, meeting on 22 May, discussed how to supply "affordable and sustainable energy to (our) economies" "to foster competitiveness, and respond to the challenge of high prices and cost." They agreed on guidelines relating to the completion of the EU energy market, facilitation of energy investment, diversification of energy supply, and energy efficiency. A week later, European Commissioner for Energy, Gunther Oettinger, said that the EU’s goals to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and combat climate change required nuclear power. "Without a doubt nuclear energy belongs to the [mix]," he said. "In coming years reaching [climate] goals can't be done without nuclear power." Nuclear power now provides two thirds of Europe's low-carbon electricity and is a key component of the EU's sustainable energy mix.
WNN 23/5/13, Foratom 30/5/13, DowJones 30/5/13. Finland, Germany
ALFRED conceived in Romania
A consortium has been set up for the construction of a demonstration lead-cooled fast reactor - the Advanced Lead Fast Reactor European Demonstrator (ALFRED) is being developed under an EU initiative. The project involves Italy's National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and the Environment (ENEA) with Ansaldo Nucleare, and Romania's Nuclear Research Institute (Institutul de Cercetari Nucleare, ICN), to build ALFRED at ICN's facility near Pitesti in southern Romania at a total cost of some €1.0 billion. Construction could begin in 2017 and the unit could start operating in 2025. It will supply 120 MWe to Romania's electrical grid and is intended to lead to a commercial demonstration unit of about 600 MWe. The lead-cooled reactor will employ mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel with about 17% plutonium, and will be able to recycle actinides. It will operate at temperatures of around 550°C and features passive safety systems.
The reactor is being developed through the European Sustainable Nuclear Industrial Initiative (ESNII), which brings together industry and research partners in the development of Generation IV Fast Neutron Reactor technology, as part of the EU's Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan). ESNII was set up under the umbrella of the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNETP), formed in 2007 and bringing together more than 90 stakeholders involved in nuclear fission.
WNN 20/12/13. Fast neutron reactors
Greenland opens way for uranium mining
Greenland's parliament has voted in favour of lifting the country's long-standing ban on the extraction of radioactive materials, including uranium. In 2010 it took over from Demark the responsibility for mineral resources and allowed feasibility studies on mineral deposits with uranium. After a series of studies on the implications, mining is now permitted. Denmark, which retains responsibility for Greenland’s foreign policy and international agreements, said that the two countries will now “establish a framework for further cooperation” in relation to international obligations. Australia's Greenland Minerals and Energy (GME) - owner of the Kvanefjeld uranium and rare earths project in southern Greenland - welcomed the move. It said the "landmark decision" places Greenland "on the path to uranium-producer status, and thereby opens up coincident resources of rare earth elements to exploitation." The GME project has a very large uranium resource - over 221,600 tU (46% ‘indicated’) in 10.3 million tonnes of rare earth oxides (REO), with 2.25 Mt zinc as potential by-product.
WNN 25/10/13. Uranium from Rare Earths Deposits
UK commits to long-term power prices to underwrite new nuclear plants
The UK government has announced that initial agreement has been reached with France’s EDF Group on the key terms of a proposed £16 billion investment contract for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. The key terms include 35-year price for power of £89.50 /MWh from about 2023, fully indexed to the Consumer Price Index and conditional upon Sizewell C project proceeding. (If it does not for any reason, and the developer cannot share first-of-a-kind costs across both, the price is to be £92.50 /MWh.) This is about twice the present wholesale price but significantly less than long-term prices announced for wind power. EDF said that the agreement is dependent on a positive decision from the European Commission, following which it will make a final decision on the project. EDF announced that two Chinese companies, China General Nuclear Group (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), would take 30-40% of the project between them, Areva would take 10%, and other interested parties, later reported to be prospectively Gulf investment funds, might take up to 15%. All construction risks will remain with EDF and its partners
WNN 21/10/13. UK
Planning permission for new UK nuclear plant
Planning consent to build a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset has been granted. This is the last major consent EdF Energy needs to build Britain's first new nuclear power plant in 25 years, it having already secured Generic Design Approval for the Areva EPR reactor design, three permits from the Environment Agency, and a nuclear site licence. It concludes a year-long consideration by the new Planning Inspectorate - the first major infrastructure project it has approved since being set up in 2008. The Secretary of State’s decision follows a three-year consultation by EdF Energy with local communities, involving 100 public meetings and 33,000 comments, in addition to a six-month examination by the Independent Planning Inspectorate. Pre-development expenditure at the site already totals more than £1 billion. Hinkley Point C will be the first new nuclear station to have a Funded Decommissioning Program, requiring the operator of a new nuclear plant to meet the full costs of decommissioning and its share of waste disposal.
Two Areva EPR units at Hinkley Point C would represent the biggest infrastructure project in the UK since the 1950s. At 1630 MWe each they would jointly meet 7% of UK current electricity demand and have a design life of 60 years. The Secretary of State said this contribution would be of "crucial national importance" to the UK's energy and climate change policy goals. However, intensive discussions between EdF Energy and the government are ongoing to set a long-term electricity price, and EdF will not proceed with the project unless this question is resolved favourably to justify investment. Newspapers have reported that EdF Energy is seeking a price of £96-97/MWh over 35-40 years from 2018. Horizon Nuclear Power, now owned by Hitachi, is in similar discussions regarding its plans to build two or three 1380 MWe ABWR units each at Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Wylfa in Wales.
WNN 19/3/13. UK
UK commences design assessment for new reactor
The UK energy minister has asked nuclear regulators to start Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for Hitachi-GE's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). The design has been proposed for new units for Horizon Nuclear Power at Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire. It has already been built in Japan with the first units coming into service in 1996-97, the next in 2005-06. Others are under construction. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) gave final certification for the design in May 1997, noting that it exceeded NRC "safety goals by several orders of magnitude". The ABWR also meets European utility requirements for advanced reactors. Both GE Hitachi and Toshiba in 2010 submitted separate applications to renew the US design certification for their respective versions of ABWR.
WNN 15/1/13. UK
Toshiba joins UK reactor-build joint venture
After lengthy discussions, Toshiba has agreed to buy the 50% share of NuGeneration joint venture owned by Iberdrola for £85 million. This will evidently mean that Westinghouse AP1000 reactors become the technology of choice for the project. The other partner is GDF Suez. NuGen proposes to build up to three large reactors on its Moorside site close to Sellafield for operation from about 2023. The AP1000 design has interim design acceptance confirmation (iDAC) and interim statement on design acceptability (iSODA) from the Office of Nuclear Regulation as the major part of the UK Generic Design Assessment process.
Both the other UK nuclear new build projects have reactor vendors involved: Areva 10% in Hinkley Point C, and Hitachi owning Horizon, with plans to build at Wylfa and Oldbury.
WNN 23/12/13. UK
Russian ambitions to build nuclear plants in UK advance
Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom has signed up Rolls Royce to prepare for submitting an application for UK generic design assessment of its flagship nuclear reactor. Rolls-Royce will undertake engineering and safety assessment work on the VVER technology, and the initiative also brings in Fortum, which operates two early but westernised Russian VVER units in Finland. The new agreement follows a government-level nuclear cooperation agreement and earlier announcements that Rosatom aspired to enter the UK nuclear power market with its advanced 1200 MWe VVER-TOI design.
WNN 5/9/13. UK
Chinese interest in UK new nuclear plants
French-based EdF Energy, which runs most UK nuclear power plants, is proposing to build four large reactors at Sizewell in Suffolk and Hinkley Point. Its partner is Centrica, with a 20% stake but diminishing enthusiasm. EdF has now acknowledged it has proposed offering a stake in its Hinkley Point EPR project to China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holdings (CGNPC), apparently either buying out Centrica or as separate equity. The two companies are partners in the Taishan nuclear plant being built in China, using the same EPR technology.
UK progress towards waste repository stalls
After a 7-3 vote by Cumbria County Council to halt investigations into locating the UK's high-level waste repository there, the UK has no live options for it. Two Local Boroughs in Cumbria are strongly in favour of locating the repository there, but agreement at both regional and local government level is necessary. Four years progress has been stalled. The site selection process is based on a principle of voluntarism under which communities explore their options with the right to withdraw at any time. The same policy has been applied with success in Finland and Sweden to find suitable and welcoming places for radioactive waste disposal. The vast majority of UK high-level wastes are already in Cumbria, in interim storage. Despite the vote, the County Council hoped that "The nuclear industry is, and will continue to be, a key part of the Cumbrian economy."
WNN 30/1/13. UK
EdF upgrades oldest reactor
Following the EU ‘stress tests’ on nuclear power reactors after the Fukushima accident and the regulator’s conditional approval of operation for the next ten years, Electricité de France has completed modification of the concrete basemat of its Fessenheim 1 reactor. Two years ago the French regulator ASN said that the basemat had to be made half a metre thicker to survive a possible core melt which might come through the bottom of the pressure vessel, and also a larger surface area was needed for such molten core material to spread. EdF has undertaken the work despite a government decision to close both Fessenheim reactors by 2017 (when unit 1 is only 40 years old), for political reasons and regardless of safety evaluations. The decision may be appealed, and EdF has committed to much the same work on unit 2.
WNN 9/7/13. France
German nuclear fuel tax ruled unconstitutional
The Hamburg Tax Court has ruled that the German tax on nuclear fuel is simply "to siphon off the profits of the nuclear plant operators" and therefore unconstitutional. It has referred the question to the Constitutional Court. Since January 2011, each gram of fissile nuclear fuel loaded into a reactor has carried a levy of €145, which means that nuclear power plants have so far paid around €1.5 billion through the tax as well as bearing much greater costs with reduced revenue from the government's policy U-turn in March 2011.
WNN 30/1/13. Germany
Vattenfall announces major upgrading investment in Sweden
Vattenfall has announced plans to invest SEK16 billion (EUR 1.87 billion) from now to 2017 in modernizing and upgrading the Forsmark and Ringhals nuclear power plants in Sweden. It is majority owner of both – 66% and 70% respectively. With the two operating companies it will examine the additional investments needed to operate the three Forsmark units and Ringhals 3 & 4 for up to 60 years. The other two Ringhals reactors are expected to run for 50 years. OKG, which owns Oskarshamn, expects units 2 & 3 there to run for 60 years, following recent and ongoing upgrades. This means that most of the country’s present nuclear capacity will run until the mid 2020s, and half until 2040 or later.
WNN 23/5/13. Sweden
Further delay expected in Finnish reactor construction
Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) said that it is "preparing for the possibility" that the third unit at Olkiluoto may not start operating until 2016. Last year it said that the reactor completion had been delayed beyond 2014. Construction of Olkiluoto 3 - the first-of-a-kind Areva EPR reactor - started in May 2005, with completion originally scheduled for 2009. Areva and Siemens are building the plant under a fixed-price turnkey contract.
WNN 11/2/13. Finland
Finland homes in on Russian technology and capital for new plant
For the country’s sixth nuclear power reactor, Hanhikivi at Pyhajoki on the west coast, Fennovoima has narrowed its consideration to a Russian 1200 MWe VVER design and signed a project development agreement with Rusatom Overseas. Given that the company has a decision in principle from the government to proceed with the project, it could get under way relatively soon and take the nuclear share in Finland to 50% soon after 2020. Fennovoima is a consortium of 60 regional power users and distributors, and these would all have to decide on continued participation. Separately, Rusatom Overseas is negotiating to take a 34% stake in Fennovoima, filling a gap left by the German utility EOn which pulled out last year due to financial pressures resulting from German government decisions cutting back nuclear – effectively confiscation of its assets.
WNN 3/7/13. Finland
Contract for new Russian reactor in Finland
Fennovoima, a consortium of over 60 Finnish industrial and energy companies, has signed a plant supply agreement with Rusatom Overseas for a 1200 MWe AES-2006 nuclear power plant at Hanhkivi, on the west coast. A second agreement established that the vendor will take a 34% share of the project, and a third is for supply of fuel. A final investment decision will be made at the end of February when the indigenous owners have individually committed to their share of finance and eventual power offtake. Fennovoima says that when the plant starts operating in 2024, the price of electricity for shareholders will be less than EUR 5 cents /kWh, including all production costs, depreciation, finance costs and waste management. This would be in marked contrast to the situation at Olkiluoto in the southwest, where construction of a French EPR unit has suffered major cost and schedule blowouts. Four AES-2006 units are under construction in Russia, at Leningrad and Novovoronezh plants, the first due to start up in 2014.
WNN 23/12/13. Finland
Spain's Garona shutdown confirmed final
As reported three weeks ago, Nuclenor shut down Spain's oldest nuclear power plant, the 466 MWe Garona, in order to avoid paying substantial new taxes from 1 January. The government did not relent on those taxes in its energy reform bill, and the reactor was defueled by the end of December to avoid retrospective aspects. As well as the 7% tax on electricity generation, amounting to some EUR 1 c/kWh for nuclear power, a tax of EUR 2190 per kilogram on used nuclear fuel discharged came in - about EUR 315 million per year across the industry. In addition, utilities must make provision in their accounts for partially used fuel still in the reactor - this is expected to amount to over EUR 500 million per year.
WNN 2/1/13. Spain
Bulgarian energy crisis hits government
High electricity prices arising from a long-running failure to maintain generating capacity has led to resignation of the government in Bulgaria. The main low-cost electricity supply (33% of total) is from the two remaining units of Kozloduy nuclear power plant - four others having been shut down as a condition of EU accession, demolishing Bulgaria's status as a major electricity exporter. Plans since 2006 to build new nuclear capacity by the end of this year have been thwarted by lack of capital, as potential investors have turned away. As a result, Russia's Rosatom is suing the Bulgarian government for EUR 1 billion on account of the aborted Belene project. Public opinion remains in favour of new nuclear plants.
The State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (SEWRC) has oversight of Bulgaria's wholesale power market, including authority to set prices. It raised them by 13% in July 2012, putting many people in distress with winter heating bills. The government then threatened to nationalise the distribution firms, including Czech-controlled CEZ Bulgaria. CEZ said that such a move would be a "gross violation of laws of Bulgaria as a member state of the European Union." It claimed to have fulfilled all its obligations, and had received no notice from SEWRC to the contrary. A general election is due by July.
WNN 20/2/13. Bulgaria
Last Russian military uranium processed for USA
The last of 500 tonnes of Russian high-enriched uranium destined for electricity generation in the USA has been downblended in Siberia. Since 1993 this material, from military stockpiles, has progressively been diluted by enriched tails (1.5% U-235) to produce 15,259 tonnes of low-enriched (4.4% U-235) uranium for shipment to the USA. Much of this has been done at the ElectroChemical Plant (ECP) at Zelenogorsk in Siberia, one of Russia’s four enrichment plants. ECP has also undertaken the re-enrichment of tails for the downblending, using about half of its capacity. The overall ‘Megatons to Megawatts’ program has recycled some 20,000 military warheads to electricity generation, providing about 10% of US electricity over the two decades. A total of some $13 billion has been paid to Russia. Since 2000 the program has been under the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
Rosatom plans to invest RUR 70 billion ($2.3 billion) by 2020 in developing the Zelenogorsk plant to a capacity of 12 million SWU/yr, to make it the country’s main enrichment site, with export orientation. Up to 90% of Russia’s new centrifuges are being installed there. It is also the site of a large deconversion plant which uses French technology.
WNN 29/8/13. Military warheads as source of fuel
New Russian nuclear plant stranded
Russia has suspended work on its new Baltic nuclear power plant in its exclave of Kaliningrad. It is designed for the EU grid and now about 20% built. Despite endeavours to bring in west European equity and secure sales of power to the EU through new transmission links, the 1200 MWe plant is isolated, with no immediate prospect of it fulfilling its intended purpose. Kaliningrad has a limited transmission link to Lithuania, and none to Poland, its other neighbour. Both those countries plan to build new western nuclear plants, and in any case have declined to buy output from the new Baltic plant. With Estonia and Latvia, Lithuania is integrating its electricity system with the EU, and is about to start on a 1000 MWe link southwest to Poland. It does not wish to upgrade its Kaliningrad grid connection to allow Baltic NPP power to be sent through its territory and Belarus to Russia.
The Kaliningrad power demand is now wholly met by an 800 MWe gas turbine plant - the old East Prussian hydro plants are in disrepair and some postwar thermal plants are offline. About 300 MWe from or through Lithuania is the only back-up. As well as upgrading the Lithuania link, Russian grid operator InterRAO had plans to build a 600-1000 MWe link across the Kaliningrad border to Poland and a 1000 MWe HVDC undersea link to Germany, but with no customers these plans are moot. In March Rosatom said that Russia had applied for Kaliningrad to join the EU grid system (ENTSO-E), evidently without response. Both Poland and Germany have historical issues regarding Russia and/or Kaliningrad.
WNN 12/6/13. Russia NP, Lithuania, Poland
Russia powers ahead commercially
Since the Fukushima accident, Russia’s nuclear state corporation Rosatom has increased its foreign contracts by 60% to $66.5 billion. This is against negative sentiment in some places, and is attributed to the long-term price stability of nuclear power, regardless of fuel prices. Rosatom has contracts for nuclear power plants in Turkey, Belarus, Bangladesh, China and Vietnam.
Olympic torch reaches North Pole with nuclear icebreaker
The world’s largest nuclear-powered icebreaker has carried the Winter Olympic torch to the North Pole in less than four days from Murmansk. The 25,800 dwt ship, 50 Years of Victory, is operated by RosAtomflot and can break through ice 2.8 m thick. Atomflot and its Arctic fleet is progressively being put on to a commercial basis, with state subsidies due to cut out next year.
WNN 25/10/13. Nuclear-powered ships
Construction start on first Belarus reactor
The foundation slab of the first of two Russian reactors at Ostrovets in Belarus has been poured. The site is in the Grodno region close to the Lithuanian border. The units are 1200 MWe AES-2006 types, developed by St Petersburg Atomenergoproekt (now VNIPIET), the same as nearing completion at the Leningrad II plant.
The main construction contract was awarded to AtomStroyExport (ASE) in October 2011, and manufacturing will be at the Atomenergomash plant at Volgodonsk. A turnkey contract was finalised between Belarus and Rosatom in July 2012 for the supply of the two reactors. This includes supply of all fuel and repatriation of used fuel for the life of the plant. The fuel is to be reprocessed in Russia and the separated wastes returned to Belarus eventually. Construction of each unit is expected to take 5 years. The Russian state-owned Vnesheconombank (VEB) is lending up to $10 billion for 25 years to finance 90% of the contract under a Russian export credit facility.
WNN 7/11/13. Belarus
Turkey & Middle East
Turkey homes in on Franco-Japanese bid for second nuclear plant
A $22 billion bid by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Areva to build the Sinop nuclear power plant on the Black Sea coast has been broadly accepted and an agreement signed for “exclusive negotiating rights to build a nuclear power plant”. The plant would comprise four Atmea1 reactors of 1150 MWe, a model developed by the two companies since 2007. These would probably be the first Atmea ones built, with construction starting in 2017, and operation from 2023. The Atmea1 is designed for load-following and uses the same steam generators as Areva’s large EPR (but 3 instead of 4). GdF Suez, which operates seven nuclear reactors in Belgium, is to be the operator. State generation company Elektrik Uretim AS is expected to take a 25% share in the project company. However, sovereign guarantees regarding power offtake are not on offer, though these were a feature of the agreement with Rosatom to build the 4800 MWe Akkuyu nuclear plant on the Mediterranean coast.
WNN 3/5/13. Turkey
Construction start at second UAE nuclear plant
First concrete has been poured at unit 2 of the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabai. This is a twin of the South Korean APR-1400 unit 1, whose construction started mid 2012. The two are due on line in 2017 and 2018. Power demand in the UAE is growing at 9% per year - some three times the global average. By 2020 the country expects to need 40,000 MWe of installed generating capacity and wants four nuclear units at Barakah to make up 5600 MWe of this. Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp submitted a 10,000-page construction license application for Barakah units 3&4 to the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation in March.
WNN 28/5/13. UAE
Jordan selects nuclear power plant supplier
Jordan has opted for Russian technology with supporting finance for its first nuclear power plant. The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) has announced that Rosatom's reactor export subsidiary AtomStroyExport will be the supplier of well-proven AES-92 nuclear technology while Rusatom Overseas will be strategic partner and operator of the plant. Russia will contribute at least 49% of the project's $10 billion cost, with the Jordanian government possibly putting up the remaining 51%, though the plant could be provided on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis. The first reactor of the two-unit plant is expected to start operating in 2020. The field of bidders was narrowed to two in April, and WorleyParsons has been helping to evaluate the proposals, with financing a major consideration. Separately from this project, Rosatom has offered to supply four reactors on a build, own and operate (BOO) basis similar to its project in Turkey, at Akkuyu.
WNN 29/10/13. Jordan
China-Japan-South Korea nuclear safety network
Japan, South Korea and China have agreed to form a network to cooperate on nuclear safety and quickly exchange information in nuclear emergencies, especially those rating at level 2 or above on the International Nuclear Event Scale. At a meeting in Guangdong this week of nuclear regulators and other experts a framework was agreed, despite present regional tensions. In addition to exchanging information on civil nuclear accidents, the three countries will share standard information such as safety plans. The agreement was signed by officials from Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), South Korea's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) and China's National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA).
WSJ 4/12/13. Cooperation in nuclear power
China sets power price for new nuclear plants
China’s National Development & Reform Commission has set a wholesale power price of CNY 0.43 per kilowatt hour (7 US cents/kWh) for all new nuclear power projects, to promote the healthy development of nuclear power and attract investment into the sector. The price is to be ‘kept relatively stable’, but will be adjusted with technology advances and market factors. There are 28 reactors currently under construction at 13 plants, and 57 units (66 GWe) planned. Previously individual nuclear power projects have negotiated a price with their grid operator. The price is less than half that being sought in the UK by EdF Energy as a condition of it proceeding with new nuclear investment there, but this includes finance costs.
WNN IT 5/7/13. China NP
Hongyanhe reactor starts up, grid-connected, commercial operation
Unit 1 of the Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in Liaoning has started up. Construction of the CPR-1000 reactor began in August 2007 but was delayed following the Fukushima accident. This is the first nuclear power station receiving central government approval to build four units at the same time, and the first in northeast China. The operating company is a joint venture of two major nuclear utilities, China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGNPC) and China Power Investment Corp (CPI). Alstom is providing the four low-speed Arabelle turbine-generator sets, but localization is over 70%. When grid connected in a month or so it will be China's 17th power reactor. The project incorporates a modest (10,080 m3/day) desalination plant.
Unit 1 of the Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in Liaoning in now in operation. It is the first nuclear plant in northeast China. Construction of the CPR-1000 reactor began in August 2007 but was delayed following the Fukushima accident. This is the first nuclear power station receiving central government approval to build four units at the same time. Phase 2 of Hongyanhe has been approved and comprises two further reactors. The operating company is a joint venture of two major nuclear utilities, China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGNPC) and China Power Investment Corp (CPI). Alstom is providing the four low-speed Arabelle turbine-generator sets, but localization is over 70%. It is China's 17th power reactor. The project incorporates a seawater desalination plant to provide cooling water.
The first unit at the Hongyanhe nuclear power plant, of four reactors which have been under construction, has entered commercial operation. Hongyanhe is the first nuclear plant in northeast China, in Liaoning province. Construction of the 1080 MWe CPR-1000 reactor commenced in August 2007, it started up in January this year and was grid connected in February. The next three units are expected on line over the next two years, and construction start on phase 2, units 5 & 6, is expected this year. It is a joint venture of China General Nuclear Power (CGN) and China Power Investment Corp. (CPI), with minor local equity. Hongyanhe 1 has about 75% local equipment content, in units 3 and 4 the proportion is expected to reach 80%.
WNN 7/6/13. China Nuclear Power
New reactor on line in China
The second unit of Hongyanhe nuclear power plant has been connected to the grid, a month after starting up. Two further CPR-1000 units are under construction there, at Dalian in Liaoning province in northeastern China, about the same latitude as Beijing. A second phase of construction, for units 5 & 6, is expected to start soon. The project incorporates a 10,080 m3/day seawater desalination plant using waste heat to provide cooling water. This is the 18th power reactor operating in China, and 29 more are under construction.
WNN 26/11/13. China Nuclear power
New Ningde reactor in commercial operation
After completing all tests, the first Ningde nuclear reactor in northeast Fujian province has been handed over to the owners. The CPR-1000 unit was connected to the grid in December after 58 months construction. Units 2-4 are under construction and due to be completed by 2015. Total cost for four units (4.1 GWe) was put at CNY 51 billion ($7.2 billion). They are a joint investment of China Guangdong Nuclear Power - CGNPC (46%), China Datang Corporation (44%) and Fujian Provincial Energy Group. Datang is one of the four major non-nuclear Chinese generators, and Ningde is its first nuclear investment.
WNN 24/4/13. China NP
Two New Chinese reactor construction start
First concrete has been poured for Yangjiang unit 5 in western Guangdong province at the mouth of the Yang River, making it the fifth reactor currently under construction there. Unit 1 is due for completion soon. Like units 3 & 4, this is an improved CPR-1000 design sometimes referred to as CPR-1000+, transitional to what the Chinese government recognizes as full Generation III designs. The power station is the second regional base of China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), based in Guangdong, whose subsidiary is overseeing construction.
WNN 19/9/13. China NP
Construction has started of Tianwan unit 4 in Jiangsu province of China. Two Russian AES-91 VVER-1000 reactors are operating there, and construction of a third started in December. The nuclear heart of the plant is being built in Russia, while Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation is responsible for sourcing locally about 70% of the unit 3 & 4 project, including turbine islands with equipment. Units 3 & 4 are due to begin power generation in February and December 2018, respectively. Jiangsu NPC was established in 1997 to build and operate the plant, with 50% China National Nuclear Corp, 30% China Power Investment Corp, and 20% local equity.
WNN 27/9/13. China NP
Two Chinese reactors start up, one comes on line, another starts construction
Unit 1 at Yangjiang nuclear power plant achieved criticality in December, and was grid connected at the end of the month, bringing China’s total to 19 reactors operating and providing 16 GWe of capacity. Ningde unit 2 has achieved criticality and grid connection is expected in January.
Also, unit 6 at Yangjiang started full construction, with first structural concrete being poured for the reactor. This means that Yangjiang had six reactors under construction simultaneously – some 6480 MWe gross, near the end of 2013. It includes (units 5 & 6) the first two ACPR1000 reactors developed from French origins by China General Nuclear Power (CGN) with a view to export, and having full Chinese intellectual property rights.
WNN 31/12/13. China NP (NB this was published in 3/1/14 Digest)
Major Chinese nuclear companies collaborate on new nuclear facilities
China General Nuclear Group (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) have announced that a CNY 45 billion ($7.33 billion) Heshan Nuclear Power Industry Park is to be set up by China Nuclear Fuel Element Co (CNFEC) at Daying Industrial Park in Heshan and Jiangmen city, in coastal Guangdong province. It is a joint venture of CGN and CNNC. It will be established during the current 12th 5-year plan and be fully operational by 2020. It involves 1000 tU/yr fuel fabrication as well as a conversion plant (14,000 t/yr) and an enrichment plant, close to CGN’s Taishan power plant.
Currently all these fuel cycle functions are in the centre of China and run by CNNC, while all the nuclear power plants are on the coast. Fuel fabrication is at two plants in Sichuan province and Inner Mongolia, enrichment is in Shaanxi and Gansu provinces, and conversion in Gansu province.
WNN 5/6/13. China fuel cycle
China rules out fuel plant site while transferring control to Beijing
Two months ago China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and China General Nuclear Power (CGN) announced that their new China Nuclear Fuel Element Co (CNFEC) joint venture planned to build a new plant at Daying Industrial Park in Jiangmen city, Guangdong province. It would have 1000 tU/yr fuel fabrication capacity by 2020. Construction was due to start this year, but the plan for that Guangdong site has been abruptly cancelled. The CNY 45 billion ($7.3 billion) project also involves a conversion plant and a uranium enrichment plant.
At present all fuel fabrication takes place inland, in Sichuan province and Inner Mongolia. Conversion and enrichment are also inland. The country will need further conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication capacity in the timeframe envisaged for this project, and national policy is to import only one third of nuclear fuel requirements in the future. Since all nuclear power plants so far are on the coast, that is likely to be a factor in finding a new location for this project among the sites already short-listed. Beijing is in the process of taking control of CGN – a major Guangdong-based nuclear enterprise - and making it 82% owned by the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission (SASAC), so this may affect plans and lead to the project being located further north.
WNN 18/7/13. China fuel cycle
China moves forward with fuel recycling plans
A new high-level agreement between China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Areva sets out the technical specifications of a planned 800 t/yr reprocessing plant for used fuel, together with the project’s organization between the partners. The new agreement follows on from a November 2007 one. The reprocessing plant will feed a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant, and will be located north of Jiayuguan in Gansu province, to operate from 2025.
Also, on the back of 2007 and 2008 agreements among Areva, EdF and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC) for two Areva EPR reactors, which are nearing completion at Taishan, the three have signed a tripartite agreement for “deeper industrial and commercial cooperation” in building new nuclear power plants and improving all CGNPC units. The statement of cooperation cements relationships among two of the world's biggest generators of nuclear power and the provider of the technology on which their power plants are based. With 73 units in France, EdF remains the world's largest nuclear utility, while CGNPC has seven reactors in operation now, 17 under construction and more planned for the future. Most of these are pressurized water reactors with Areva origins.
WNN 26/4/13. China fuel cycle, China NP
China starts building plant for high-temperature gas-cooled reactor fuel
With its first high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear power plant, the HTR-PM, under construction at Shidaowan in Shandong province, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) with the other backers of that project have started construction of a fuel plant to make the 9% enriched fuel spheres for it. The new plant at Baotou, part of the North Branch of Nuclear Fuel Element Co Ltd., will have an output of 300,000 fuel pebbles per year.
The Shidaowan HTR-PM plant comprises twin pebble-bed reactors cooled by helium driving a single 210 MWe steam turbine, with the fuel as 520,000 spheres each 60 mm diameter – about the size of a billiard ball. It is a demonstration plant to pave the way for an 18-unit, 3780 MWe full-scale HTR plant at the same location. The HTR-PM is the only commercial-scale high-temperature reactor project in the world. It follows ten years of successful operation of a 10 MWe HTR unit at Tsinghua University near Beijing.
WNN 21/3/13. China fuel cycle
Westinghouse forges further China alliances
In the context of its first new-generation reactors being built in China, and hot on the heels of establishing a major Chinese joint venture to develop an international supply chain for those reactors, Westinghouse is embracing its Chinese partner in developing its small modular reactor. That partner is the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC), which has been responsible for the selection of Westinghouse technology as the mainstay of China’s nuclear future.
SNPTC-WEC Nuclear Power Technical Services (Beijing) Co Ltd was set up this month as a joint venture of SNPTC and Westinghouse to develop the global AP1000 supply chain. It will initially assist Chinese manufacturing companies in meeting quality and safety standards for supplying equipment and components for AP1000 plants in the country's build program, but in the longer term it aims to help qualified Chinese suppliers export their products around the world, as well as assist global suppliers in importing their parts to China.
Now, Westinghouse has announced that it will work with SNPTC to accelerate design development and licensing in the USA and China of its 225 MWe small modular reactor (SMR). SNPTC will ensure that the Westinghouse SMR design meets standards for licensing in China and will lead the licensing effort in that country. At home in USA, Westinghouse is working with Ameren Missouri to obtain a combined construction and operating license for up to five Westinghouse SMRs at the utility's Callaway site, and is seeking government funding to expedite development of the design.
WNN 14/5/13, Platts 16/5/13. China NP, China organisations
Japan signals intent to join international liability convention
Hitherto, Japan has stood apart from international conventions addressing third party liability for nuclear accidents, and has relied on its own two laws covering the area. Most countries with nuclear power however have been party to either the IAEA’s Vienna Convention or the OECD’s Paris Convention dating from the 1960s and developments of these, as well as their own national laws. Nevertheless over half the world’s reactors are outside of the Paris and Vienna conventions (notably those in USA, Canada, Japan, S.Korea and China).
Then in 1997 IAEA parties adopted a Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) which will set up arrangements based on each party’s installed nuclear capacity and a UN rate of assessment. This is championed by the USA and has gathered 17 signatories but insufficient ratifications to bring it into effect. However, in the light of the Fukushima experience Japan’s Foreign Minister said in November that his government intends to introduce legislation to ratify the CSC. Canada is moving similarly. With the USA and two others already on board, this would bring it into force. The Minister said that in the short term his move was to facilitate the involvement of foreign companies with expertise in decommissioning and managing contaminated water at Fukushima.
Nucleonics Week 12/12/13, Liability for nuclear damage
Voters in Japan’s election affirm nuclear revival
The recent elections for the Diet’s upper house gave the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) 115 seats out of 242. Its coalition partner and another pro-nuclear party won 29 seats. This consolidated the LDP position and role in reviving the economy, including restoring power supplies by restarting idled nuclear power plants as soon as possible. The DPJ with its policy of abandoning nuclear power by 2040 won only 59 seats. The LDP won a seat in every constituency with a nuclear power plant. In Fukushima prefecture the LDP candidate polled more than twice as many votes as the DPJ candidate. In Fukui prefecture, where Kansai has 11 units, Japan Atomic Power Co. has two units, and the government has the Monju prototype breeder reactor, the LDP candidate beat the DPJ contender, 237,000 votes to 56,000.
WNN 22/7/13, Platts 22/7/13. Japan
Tepco applies for clearance to restart its main nuclear plant
Having finally received conditional approval from local government in Niigata prefecture, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has applied to Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority to restart its two newest and largest reactors, Kashiwazaki Kariwa units 6 & 7. In 1996-97 these were the first Generation III reactors to come into service, both Advanced Boiling Water Reactors. (Tepco is also aiming to return units 1-5 to service subsequently - are all boiling water reactors of 1067 MWe net.)
These are the first boiling water reactors to be put forward for restart. Unlike the 12 pressurized water reactors (PWRs) that have entered the NRA review process since July, boiling water reactors require a filtered containment venting system. Under the general terms of a nuclear operator's agreement with local government, prefectural approval is required for these because any use during an emergency would mean releasing radioactivity in the course of avoiding the kind of hydrogen build-up which caused the explosions at Fukushima, destroying the superstructure of three units there.
In operation, Kashiwazaki Kariwa 6 & 7 would generate a total of 2630 MWe net and reduce the need for Tepco to rely on expensive oil and LNG-fired power generation that has substituted for nuclear power. The Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (MITI) said in April that Japanese power companies had spent an additional ¥9.2 trillion ($93 billion) to then on imported fossil fuels since the Fukushima accident.
WNN 27/9/13. Japan
New reactor safety regulations published in Japan
Power companies in Japan now know the regulations they are required to meet in order to restart nuclear reactors idled as a result of the 2011 Fukushima accident. Three utilities - Kansai Electric Power Co, Shikoku Electric Power Co, and Kyushu Electric Power Co - are planning to apply for the restart of seven PWR reactors totaling 6452 MWe in July. The new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said that it could take around six months to process an application, meaning that the first units could potentially come back online about the end of this year. In order to operate, nuclear utilities will have to show that their power plants are prepared for extraordinary external events comparable to the natural disaster in March 2011. They need stronger and higher tsunami walls with waterproofing of key buildings, as well as enhanced engineering and back-up services and equipment. BWR operators are planning containment filtered venting systems which will take more than a year to be operational.
The NRA Chairman said the endorsement marks a turning point for Japan’s nuclear regulation and safety culture. “I think we now have a framework that is up to international standards. What is more important is whether we can put the spirit in it during the inspection process,” he said. The Prime Minister said that his government’s nuclear policy will “give top priority to plant safety,” adding that “We will promote restarts while paying respect to the NRA’s safety requirements.”
WNN 19/6/13. Japan
Japan receives new shipment of mixed oxide fuel from France
The first shipment of MOX fuel incorporating Japanese plutonium since the Fukushima accident has arrived from France. It comprised 20 fuel assemblies for Kansai Electric’s Takahama nuclear power plant, though along with most others in Japan this is still shut down awaiting safety clearance.
This week (April) a fifth shipment of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel incorporating recycled reactor-grade plutonium is scheduled to leave France. It is destined for Kansai Electric’s Takahama-3 reactor in Japan. Areva has produced 36 MOX fuel assemblies for Kansai, and these are likely to comprise the shipment. Two purpose-built ships are involved and will sail around Africa and Australia, arriving in mid June. The last MOX shipment was in 2010, with fuel for Takahama-4 and Genkai-3. The Takahama reactors are currently shut down along with most of Japan’s nuclear capacity, pending implementation of new safety rules.
Last year the shipper, UK-based International Nuclear Services obtained an injunction against Greenpeace for interfering with one of its ships transporting MOX to Germany. INS claimed that Greenpeace activists "jeopardised the safe operations of the Atlantic Osprey, put their own lives at risk and, we believe, acted in defiance of international maritime law and German law."
Platts 18/4/13, WNN 19/11/12, 27/6/13. Japan, Japanese waste & MOX shipments
Fossil fuel imports scorch Japan trade balance
Increased volumes of LNG imports and increased prices for those have impacted Japan's trade balance for a second year. Total spending on LNG in 2012 increased by 25% to ¥6.0 trillion ($66 billion). This is about ¥2.5 trillion ($27 billion) more than levels before the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi, which preceded the progressive shutdown of nuclear generation. LNG now represents over 8% of all Japanese imports by value (compared with petroleum - 17%). Overall in 2012 Japan recorded a trade deficit of ¥6.9 trillion ($75 billion) after exports of ¥63.7 trillion ($699 billion). The country's emission targets are moot.
WNN 25/1/13. Japan
Japan’s utilities post losses due to continuing nuclear shutdown
Seven of Japan's regional utilities have posted combined losses of
¥1.6 trillion (US$ 16 billion) for the year ended March 31, marking the second consecutive year of such losses. The weaker yen (down 12% this year) has raised costs to import fossil fuels for electricity generation while most nuclear reactors remain shut down. The losses may lead to higher residential and business power rates or approaching the government for assistance, as the utilities look for ways to gain financial stability. Some utilities, including Tepco, Kansai and Kyushu have already responded with price increases for customers, which the government approved from May. Utilities are hopeful that reactors can be restarted by the end of September, following the publication of new safety regulations in July.
Reuters & TradeTech NMR 30/4/13. Japan
Japan PM pledges to restart nuclear reactors
In a speech to parliament, Japan's prime minister has pledged to restart idled nuclear power reactors which conform to new standards to be specified by the new Nuclear Regulatory Authority in July. He said that Japan needs stable and cheap electricity from nuclear power in order to compete economically, but that new safety standards would be enforced "without compromise". At present all but two reactors are shut down pending political and safety review.
NYT 28/2/13. Japan
IAEA mission to Fukushima contaminated areas reports
A 16-member International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission has reported on remediation in the contaminated areas northwest of the Fukushima power plant. It said that decontamination efforts were commendable but driven by unrealistic targets. If annual radiation dose would be below 20 mSv, this level was “acceptable and in line with the international standards and with the recommendations from the relevant international organisations, e.g. ICRP, IAEA, UNSCEAR and WHO.” The clear implication is that people should be allowed to return home in such areas. Furthermore, the report said, the government should increase efforts to communicate this to the public, and should explain that its long-term goal of achieving an additional individual dose of 1 mSv/yr is unrealistic and unnecessary in the short term. Also, there is potential to produce more food safely in contaminated areas.
WNN 21/10/13. Fukushima accident
Expert UN body reports on Fukushima radiation effects
The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has reported on Fukushima, following a detailed study by 80 international experts over two years. It concluded that "Radiation exposure following the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi did not cause any immediate health effects. It is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers." The only exception is the 146 emergency workers that received radiation doses of over 100 mSv during the crisis. They will be monitored closely for "potential late radiation-related health effects at an individual level.” By contrast, the public was exposed to 10-50 times less radiation than the hundreds of workers grappling with the problems at the plant, due to the evacuations in the first few days after the accident. The only observable health effects from the accident stem from the stresses of evacuation, accounting for over one thousand deaths according to the government Reconstruction Agency, and the unwarranted fear of radiation – “it is these issues that will be the long-lasting fallout of the accident." Most Japanese people were exposed to additional radiation amounting to less than their typical natural background level of 2.1 mSv per year.
WNN 31/5/13. Fukushima accident
World Health Organisation confirms low risks from Fukushima accident
An international team with the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that radioactivity released by the Fukushima accident two years ago posed a low risk to the public. This is the first analysis of wider health effects from the accident, and the result of a two-year study.
For the general population in wider Fukushima prefecture, "the predicted risks are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated." The most exposed group was 22,000 resident of Namie who remained at home for four months after the accident. These received up to 50 mSv, which is the maximum allowable level for occupational exposure in one year, according to International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommendations and most national standards. There would be a small increase in cancer risk for these people, who should be monitored. Across Fukushima generally the doses were in the range 1-10 mSv. WHO said that about one third of the emergency workers in the actual power plant following the accident would have some increased cancer risk, the others not.
Late last year the UN adopted advice from the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) which considered that health issues could generally not be attributed to radiation for exposures of less than 100 mSv.
WNN 28/2/13. Fukushima accident
Tepco announces decommissioning of two undamaged Fukushima reactors
Units 5 & 6 at Fukushima Daiichi are some 200 metres from the damaged units 1-4, and while there was some drama following the tsunami in March 2011, they are undamaged. However, since September Tepco has been removing fuel from them and has now announced that they will be decommissioned. Unit 5 is a 760 MWe BWR the same as units 2-4, and unit 6 is larger – 1067 MWe. They entered commercial operation in 1978 and 1979 respectively. The decision followed urging by Prime Minister Abe, and is evidently to appease public opinion.
WNN 18/12/13. Fukushima accident
Plans dropped for new nuclear plant in Japan
Long-standing plans for the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Japan's Fukushima prefecture have been dropped by utility Tohoku Electric Power Company. The Namie-Odaka plant was first proposed some 45 years ago, close to the Fukushima plants. This leaves nine reactors planned for Japan, all deferred and two Tepco ones in some doubt.
WNN 28/3/13. Japan
Japanese utilities raise tariffs
Following two years of financial losses, Tohoku Electric Power, with four idled nuclear power reactors, has applied to raise its electricity prices by 11.4% for domestic users and 17.7 % for industry, its first increases in 33 years. This is mostly to cover increased fossil fuel (especially LNG) use pending resumption of nuclear generation. Tepco increased its domestic tariffs 8.5% last year, Kansai has applied to increase domestic tariffs 11.9% and industrial ones 19.2%, while Kyushu wants to 8.5% and 14.2% increases respectively. Other utilities with idled nuclear capacity are expected to follow suit soon.
WNN 14/2/13. Japan
Japan carbon emissions blow out
Carbon dioxide intensity from Japan's electricity industry climbed again in FY2012, reaching levels 39% greater than when the country's nuclear reactors were operating normally, and taking the sector far beyond climate targets. Up to March 2011 the CO2 intensity of all Japan’s power generation was 350 g/kWh. Over the next two years, with progressive reactor shut-downs, it rose to 487 g/kWh in FY 2012. A climate change goal was for the electricity sector to reduce carbon intensity by 20% from 1990 levels, to 334 g/kWh CO2 on average.
WNN 1/8/13. Japan
Japan reduces CO2 abatement target
On the eve of the UN climate change meeting in Warsaw, Japan’s Minister of the Environment announced that his country was changing its CO2 emission reduction target from 25% lower than 1990 levels by 2020 to a 3.1% increase from 1990, or 3.8% reduction from 2005 levels. He cited the shutdown of Japan’s 50 nuclear power reactors, some possibly for an extended period, as a prime reason for this, forcing reliance on old fossil fuel plant. Nuclear power has provided about 30% of Japan’s electricity, and this was expected to increase to at least 40% by 2020. Following reactor shut-downs ordered after the Fukushima accident, carbon dioxide intensity from Japan's electricity industry climbed in FY2012, reaching levels 39% greater than when the country's nuclear plants were operating normally, and taking the sector far beyond climate targets.
Germany is having similar problems aiming to do without nuclear power, and a year ago the Bundesnetzagentur (federal network agency) said that 10.1 GWe of new coal-fired plants was under construction, adding to 55 GWe already operating, and most of it likely to be going strong beyond 2020. The effect is expected to be an extra 300 million tonnes of CO2 emissions to 2020 from increased fossil fuel use, which will virtually cancel out the 335 Mt savings intended to be achieved in the entire European Union by the 2011 Energy Efficiency Directive from the European Commission.
New Japanese regulator flexes muscles over polluted water leak
Japan’s new nuclear regulator, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), set up less than a year ago, has taken public issue with Tepco, both in July and this week, over contaminated groundwater and a leak which is contributing to this. In the course of establishing its profile and authority within Japan it is making strong and negative statements about Tepco’s management of the Fukushima aftermath.
A well-publicised leak this week is of partly-treated water which has been used to cool the destroyed reactors at Fukushima. It is from one of about 300 steel tanks (with rubber seams) set up hurriedly from 2011. Each tank can hold about 1000 m3. This water has about 80 MBq/L activity – less than one percent of that before treatment in the SARRY plant which was built by Tepco in mid 2011, but much higher than its eventual level after further treatment in the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), developed by EnergySolutions and Toshiba and commissioned this year. It is thought that about 300 m3 of this water may have leaked, which would amount to 24 TBq of activity. Tepco acknowledged that it was the most serious event at the plant since the March 2011 accident, and that "we cannot rule out the possibility that part of the contaminated water flowed into the sea." However, any hazard to humans or the environment is not evident. Tepco pumped away all the contaminated water that had accumulated on the surface, and is removing affected soil from the area and placing large sandbags in its place, as well as undertaking other remedial measures. It also drained the leaky tank and is investigating how far the water may have spread.
Tepco reported the leak to NRA on 19 August and on 20th the NRA classified the incident as Level 1 ‘Anomaly’ on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), designed ‘for prompt communication of safety significance’. Then the following day it speculated that it maybe should be Level 3 – a ‘Serious Incident’ comparable with seven significant reactor problems in the past 25 years. It is concerned that further leaks may occur from these tanks. But also the NRA is unsure whether the leak should be given its own INES rating, or simply treated as part of the overall Fukushima accident, already rated at Level 7 - a Major Accident. The confused pronouncements from NRA have done nothing to enlighten the public, and Tepco shares dropped 16% on the Tokyo stock exchange. The NRA’s regulatory competence is not in question, but its communications raise concerns.
Earlier in August Tepco identified a problem with groundwater movement from inland of the plant picking up contamination in the plant site (0.9 MBq/L was measured) and carrying it to the ocean. Several means of dealing with this were outlined. The NRA considered establishing a 10-member sea monitoring advisory team in July, and that was approved this week. Since July 2011 an international survey assessing radiological pollution of the marine environment near the plant has been underway, under IAEA auspices and led by Australia, South Korea and Indonesia. Early in April 2011, with government approval, Tepco released to the sea about 10,400 cubic metres of slightly contaminated water (0.15 TBq total) in order to free up storage for more highly-contaminated water from unit 2 reactor and turbine buildings. The regulator confirmed that there was no significant change in radioactivity levels in the sea as a result of this.
WNN 15 & 20/8/13. Fukushima accident
Industry highlights issues with Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority
“In Japan we have seen a nuclear incident turn into a communication disaster,” said Agneta Rising, Director General of the World Nuclear Association. “Mistakes in applying and interpreting the INES scale have given it an exaggerated central role in coverage of nuclear safety.” WNA noted that the leakage from a storage tank “was cleared up in a matter of days without evidence of any pollution reaching the sea.” “However, news of the event has been badly confused due to poor application and interpretation of the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), which has led to enormous international concern as well as real economic impact.” The regulator’s misuse of the International Nuclear Event Scale ratings “cannot continue: if it is to have any role in public communication, INES must only be used in conjunction with plain-language explanations of the public implications – if any – of an incident,” said Rising.
WNA urged Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority to listen to the advice it has received from the International Atomic Energy Agency: “Frequent changes of rating will not help communicate the actual situation in a clear manner,” said the IAEA in a document released by the NRA. The IAEA questioned why the leak of radioactive water was rated as Level 3 on the INES scale: "The Japanese Authorities may wish to prepare an explanation for the media and the public on why they want to rate this event, while previous similar events have not been rated." Since then the NRA has admitted that the leak could have been much smaller than it said, and also it transpires that the water in the tank was 400 times less radioactive than reported (0.2 MBq/L, not 80 MBq). The maximum credible leakage was thus minor, and the Japan Times 29/8 reports the NRA Chairman saying "the NRA may reconsider its INES ranking should further studies show different amounts of water loss than those provided by Tepco." The last three words are disingenuous, in that Tepco had said that up to 300 m3 might have leaked, it was NRA which allowed this to become a ‘fact’. Maybe back to INES level 1 or less for the incident.
Since the leak was discovered, each announcement has been a new media event that implied a worsening situation. “This is a sad repeat of communication mistakes made during the Fukushima accident, when INES ratings were revised several times,” said Rising. “This hurt the credibility of INES, the Japanese government and the entire nuclear sector - all while demoralising the Japanese people needlessly.” “INES will continue to be used ….. but it represents only one technical dimension of communication and that has now been debased.”
WNA 29/8/13. Fukushima accident
Construction start on new South Korean reactor
First concrete has been poured a couple of months ahead of schedule for unit 2 of the Shin Hanul (formerly Shin Ulchin) nuclear power plant. The 1400 MWe Shin Hanul units are the first South Korean designs to be virtually free of Westinghouse IP content. Unit 2 is expected to be in commercial operation in April 2018. Four of the same sort of APR1400 reactors are being built at Barakah on the Gulf coast in United Arab Emirates. South Korea now has five reactors under construction, total 6780 MWe, and five more planned.
WNN 26/6/13. S.Korea
South Korea and USA fail to agree on nuclear policy
Much of South Korea’s nuclear industry depends on a 1974 agreement with the USA, which is up for renewal in 2014. Discussion on this has been under way for about two years, with South Korea intent on having restrictions on uranium enrichment and used fuel reprocessing removed. The latter would allow some 30% more energy yield from imported uranium and greatly reduce the high-level waste disposal task. However, it appears that negotiations have stalled, so a two-year extension of the existing arrangements has been agreed. The US State Department referred to several complex technical issues being unresolved, but did not elaborate. Part of the US concern is to constrain North Korea’s nuclear activities and ambitions.
WNN 25/4/13. South Korea
South Korean reactors shut down
Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) has reported that safety-related control cabling with forged documentation has been installed at four reactors. The NSSC has ordered KHNP immediately to stop operation of its Shin Kori 2 and Shin Wolsong 1 units and to keep Shin Kori 1, which has been offline for scheduled maintenance, shut down. In addition, the newly-constructed Shin Wolsong 2, which is awaiting approval to start commercial operation, cannot start up yet. All will remain closed until the cabling has been replaced, which is expected to take about four months, causing major concerns regarding electricity supply over summer, with 4000 MWe less capacity than expected being available.
WNN 28/5/13. South Korea
India’s 21st power reactor adds 21% to nuclear capacity
After a long drawn-out commissioning, the first unit of India’s Kudankulam nuclear power plant in Tamil Nadu state is on line and supplying power. Unit 2 is expected to be only months behind it. Construction of the Russian AES-92 plant started in March 2002, using the well-proven VVER-1000 reactor units. The plant was built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) and also commissioned and operated by NPCIL under IAEA safeguards. Only about 80 Russian supervisory staff participated. Russia is supplying all the enriched fuel through the life of the plant, though India will reprocess it and keep the plutonium for its fast reactor program. The reactor started up in July and is expected in commercial operation about year end.
WNN 22/10/13. India
New Russian reactor in India starts up
After many delays, the first unit of Kudankulam nuclear power station at the southern tip of the country in Tamil Nadu state has started up and is expected to be connected to the grid within six weeks. Russia's Atomstroyexport is supplying this, the country's first large nuclear power plant, comprising two VVER-1000 reactors, under a Russian-financed contract - a long-term credit facility covers about half the cost of the plant. Construction started in 2002 with the AES-92 units being built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, and also commissioned and operated by NPCIL under IAEA safeguards. The turbines are made by Leningrad Metal Works. Unlike other Atomstroyexport projects such as in Iran, there have been only about 80 Russian supervisory staff on the job. NPCIL required the vendor to rework some of the control system documentation. Russia is supplying all the enriched fuel through the life of the plant, though India will reprocess it and keep the plutonium under IAEA safeguards. These are the first foreign-sourced reactors in India since 1969, the first pressurised (light) water reactors, and the country’s largest, at 917 MWe net.
WNN 12/7/13. India
India concludes bilateral safeguards agreement with Canada
After negotiations between the premiers of both countries, India and Canada have signed a bilateral safeguards agreement which will allow trade in nuclear materials and technology for facilities which are under IAEA safeguards. This builds on the broader nuclear cooperation agreement of 2010. In particular it will allow India to import Canadian uranium. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will oversee the implementation of the agreement. A similar agreement is being negotiated with Australia.
WNN 9/4/13. India
China presses ahead with major Pakistan nuclear project
At the end of August contracts were signed in Shanghai for the Karachi Coastal Nuclear Power Project, with two Chinese ACP1000 reactors to be built on turnkey basis by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). The main contractor is China Zhongyuan Engineering Co. Ltd. (CZEC), but other Chinese firms which have been building the Chashma reactors in the Punjab are also involved. Construction start is envisaged late 2014. Net capacity is 2117 MWe and cost is put at $9.6 billion. The ACP1000 has French origins but CNNC claims full Chinese intellectual property rights, and these will be the first export units, following about a year behind the first ones at Fuqing 5 & 6 in Fujian province. Pakistan is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but has its power reactors under item-specific international safeguards.
WNN 10/9/13. Pakistan
Pakistan commits to major nuclear energy project
After several years of ambitious rhetoric on expanding power generation in the light of chronic shortages, Pakistan’s top-level Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) has approved 3.5 GWe of new power projects totalling Rs 1303 billion, including 2200 MWe nuclear capacity, 425 MWe gas combined cycle, and 969 MWe hydro. These will increase generating capacity by one sixth, or effectively more, and are designed to reduce the high reliance on oil and to reduce escalating power costs. The Karachi Coastal Power Project will involve building two 1100 MWe Chinese reactors near Karachi at a cost of Rs 959 billion ($9.6 billion).
At present Pakistan has a very small 40-year old Canadian reactor near Karachi and another nuclear power plant at Chashma in Punjab province, in the north. This has two 300 MWe Chinese reactors operating and two more under construction. Pakistan is outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and excluded from world trade in nuclear materials and technology, though China is more accommodating. The country’s nuclear power reactors are under item-specific international safeguards. China has argued that Chashma units 3 & 4 under construction are "grandfathered" from arrangements before it joined the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2004, and arrangements are consistent with those for units 1 & 2. The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission signed a preliminary agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) for a large new reactor earlier this year.
WNN 12/7/13. Pakistan
Kazakhstan retains world lead in uranium production
Kazatomprom has reported total Kazakh uranium production of 20,900 tU (24,647 t U3O8) in 2012, estimated to be about 37% of world total. This is an increase from 19,451 tU in 2011, more than twice Canada's production. Kazatomprom itself accounted for 11,900 tU in 2012.
Kazakh nuclear power prospects advance
Earlier this month Kazatomprom said it intended soon to submit a proposal to the government for building a nuclear power reactor in the country. This was assumed to be for a long-discussed VBER-300 unit at Aktau, in the west of the country. The VBER-300 is an advanced Russian design which would be developed in conjunction with Kazatomprom. A feasibility study has been done and environmental approval obtained for this project, but finance and disagreement about intellectual property rights have held it back. The Kazakh Atomic Energy Committee said it would call tenders for the first plant, to be built by 2020, and that the 2006 Atomniye Stantsii joint venture with Russia was the leading contender. An intergovernmental agreement in March 2011 appeared to progress this. The JSC Kazakhstani Russian Company Nuclear Power Stations, at Aktau, has been listed since 2006 as a 50% subsidiary of Kazatomprom.
Parallel to but following these developments, a series of agreements since 2007 between the country's National Nuclear Centre (NNC) and Japanese companies culminated this week in the signing of a further agreement between Japan Atomic Power Co with Marubini Utility Services Ltd and NNC. This is about technical cooperation towards building a nuclear power plant. This project is on the state program of nuclear industry development in Kazakhstan for 2010-20, developed by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, NNC and Kazatomprom, and also submitted for approval to the government. In 2011 NNC said the Japanese ABWR was preferred technology for this, and Lake Balkhash the favoured site. However, recently the Japan Atomic Energy Agency has said that a small high-temperature gas-cooled reactor was under consideration, for use in natural gas liquefaction and district heating at Kurchatov.
Last year the government reviewed a draft master plan of power generation development in the country until 2030, with nuclear electricity share then to be about 4.5% of projected 150 billion kWh, requiring about 900 MWe of nuclear capacity.
WNN 19/2/13. Kazakhstan
Major upgrade of Mexico's reactors
Spain's Iberdrola Ingenieria has completed a five-year project to upgrade both reactors at Mexico's only nuclear power plant, Laguna Verde. The $650 million project to upgrade equipment at the plant and increase its capacity by 20% has been described by the Iberdrola subsidiary as "one of the most complex and ambitious initiatives ever undertaken" within its field. The plant has formally remained in operation throughout, with all of the work completed during scheduled refuelling outages. Laguna Verde's two boiling water reactors (BWRs) have now been operating at the increased capacity of 820 MWe each for two years. The work will allow the two units, which started up in 1989 and 1994 respectively, to extend their operating lifetimes to 40 years, until 2029 and 2034.
WNN 21/2/13. Mexico
Brazil and Argentina plan new research reactors
Argentina’s INVAP company has been awarded contracts to build a new research reactor in Argentina and the Brazil Multipurpose Reactor (RMB) there. Australia’s OPAL reactor, built to an INVAP design, is the reference design for both. The two reactors will be used for the production of medical radioisotopes, as well as irradiation tests of advanced nuclear fuel and materials, and neutron beam research. Under a related contract signed last year, Brazil's Intertechne is developing the conceptual and basic design of buildings, systems and infrastructure for the RMB. It will be built in the municipality of Iperó in São Paulo state and is due to start operating in 2018. The location and schedule of the Argentine RA-10 unit has not been announced. The double research reactor project is part of the growing bilateral cooperation in nuclear energy between Argentina and Brazil.
WNN 9/5/13. Brazil, Argentina
Chilean desalination project to boost power demand
BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto plan a $3.43 billion, 216,000 m3/day seawater desalination plant with pipes and pumps for their Escondida copper mine in Chile’s northern Atacama Desert, which is 3100 m above sea level and 150 km inland. It will require over 1000 MWe from the grid for desalination plus another 100 MWe or so to get the water to the mine, and is to be commissioned in 2017. This will boost northern Chile electricity demand which is already stretched.
Chile is heavily dependent on gas imports from Argentina, which are being scaled back. The country's mining industry has called for the establishment of nuclear power by about 2025 to counter escalating energy costs and an impending electricity deficit. Early in 2010 the Energy Minister said that the first nuclear plant of 1100 MWe should be operating in 2024, joined by four more by 2035 to replace coal capacity. Chile currently has about 16 GWe of generating plant. A public-private partnership is proposed to build the first plant, with a tender being called in 2016. A 2011 agreement between Chilean and French Atomic Energy Commissions on "institutional cooperation in nuclear energy" provides for training. A high-level group, co-chaired by senior executives of GdF Suez and Chile's Quinenco, promotes French nuclear industry collaboration with Chile. In October 2012 the Energy Minister said that said that two studies would be launched in 2013, one to examine technological options for a nuclear power plant, and a second into locations for it.
BHPB 25/7/13. Emerging nuclear countries, Desalination
Australian nuclear power prospects show up positively
The communiqué from a July conference on Nuclear Energy for Australia? says that the question needs to remain on the table in considering future electricity options. “For Australia nuclear is a viable candidate to replace ageing coal power stations despite recognised challenges. Exhaustive discussion found no supportable reason to omit consideration of nuclear from the generation mix.” The accompanying Report form the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering says that “Recent independent modelling by the Bureau of Resource and Energy Economics of the levelised cost of electricity (the Australian Energy Technology Assessment - AETA) suggests that nuclear energy is already competitive with other forms of generation. CSIRO’s eFuture model using AETA data suggests there are significant advantages, both economic and to the environment, through including nuclear power in Australia’s future generation mix.”
The AETA study evaluated 40 utility-scale generation technologies including large nuclear plants and small modular reactors. These two were among the six lowest cost options ($/MWh) by 2040. The CSIRO study showed that the inclusion of nuclear power as an option caused wholesale prices to be 34-37% lower than without it, and led to a 53% nuclear share in 2050. However, both studies factored in high carbon prices, which now seem unlikely. Another paper on grid implications of increased renewables showed the importance of dispatchable base-load in curbing power prices and said that adding nuclear power, especially 300 MWe class units, would greatly ease the situation in next few decades.
ATSE 10/9/13. Australia
Australian projections affirm nuclear potential
A high-level conference in Sydney has considered a range of issues concerned with the country’s electricity future, and in particular the prospect of nuclear power. Two studies in particular have received attention: one showing that nuclear power is among the lowest-cost options out to 2050, and another projected over 50% nuclear contribution to electricity in 2050 as being a cost-effective scenario. The first study was the 2012 Australian Energy Technology Assessment by the Bureau of Resource & Energy Economics (BREE), which evaluated 40 utility-scale generation technologies including large nuclear plants and small modular reactors. These two were among the six lowest cost options ($/MWh). The second was the eFuture study by the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). It showed that the inclusion of nuclear power as an option caused wholesale prices to be 34-37% lower, and led to a 53% nuclear share in 2050. Assumptions in both studies took into account carbon emission costs. The conference was put on by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences & Engineering.
Burst slurry tanks at Ranger and Rossing
A large leaching tank at ERA’s Ranger uranium mine in Northern Territory has burst, releasing a large volume of acidic ore slurry into the mill area. The tank capacity was about 1450 cubic metres. The material was contained without any environmental effect, but the operation has been closed for clean-up and checking the rest of the plant.
Six days earlier, one of twelve leach tanks at the Rossing uranium mine in Namibia failed similarly, causing the operation to be shut down pending repairs and clean-up. The material was contained in the immediate area.
Rossing 5/12/13, WNN 9/12/13. Australian uranium
Australian uranium production
Australian production in 2012 was the highest for three years at 8244 tonnes U3O8 (6990.6 tU). Most of this came from Olympic Dam and Ranger, with Beverley about one tenth of each of those, and 155 tonnes (131 tU) from the commissioning of Honeymoon.
Western Australian uranium mine approved
After a long delay, Toro Energy has been granted federal environmental approval for the Wiluna uranium project in WA. State approval was given last year. Wiluna will be the first uranium mine in WA, and the first Australian mine to use alkaline leaching in the mill. Pending a final investment decision, production is expected to start late in 2015.
The mine comprises two shallow deposits, Lake Way and Centipede, and is designed to produce about 660 tU/yr over 14 years. The company expects capital costs of A$ 269 million (US$ 281 million) with unit production costs of $37 per pound of uranium oxide produced. Toro has three other deposits within trucking distance whose resources more than double potential utilisation of the mine plant.
WNN 2/4/13. Aust U deposits
Toro takes over Lake Maitland uranium deposit
In Western Australia, Toro Energy has agreed to take over the Lake Maitland uranium deposit, 90 km away from its Wiluna mine which is under development, with first production envisaged in 2016. The shallow orebodies are similar, and some higher-grade material will blend helpfully with Wiluna ore. The agreement brings in several Japanese partners – Itochu, Kansai, Kyushu and Shikoku. Toro will issue shares worth A$ 37 million for the deal.
WNN 12/8/13. Australian U deposits
Honeymoon mine closed
Early in November Uranium One based in Toronto reported that it had “impaired the Honeymoon project due to continuing difficulties in the production process and issues in attaining design capacity, combined with high mine operation costs. The carrying value of Honeymoon was therefore written down by $67.8 million.” This week the mine was closed and put on a care and maintenance basis pending improved uranium prices. Uranium One is now wholly owned by ARMZ, Russia’s uranium mining state corporation. Honeymoon production in 2012 was only 154.6 tonnes of U3O8, with 120.2 tonnes more to the end of September.
WNN 15/11/13. Australian uranium mines
Russia positions itself to energise South Africa
South Africa has had major plans for expanding its nuclear power component of electricity supply, but has been held back by shortage of capital. In 2008 Areva and Westinghouse were contenders for about 3.2 GWe of initial nuclear capacity, but the government aborted the plan due to lack of finance. The 2010 draft Integrated Electricity Resource Plan (IRP) presents a balanced and well-considered scenario for 2030, with 52 GWe of new generating capacity, including at least 9.6 GWe nuclear. In 2011 the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) was charged with progressing this plan, with six 1600 MWe units to come on line from 2023. In November 2012 the cabinet endorsed a "phased decision-making approach for implementation of the nuclear programme", along with the "designation of Eskom as the owner-operator”. Since then both Areva and Rosatom have been touting their interest.
Last week Necsa signed a broad agreement with Russia’s NIAEP-Atomstroyexport and its subsidiary Nukem Technologies, to develop a strategic partnership including nuclear power plants. Rosatom said that it “offers South Africa to build the entire process chain of [nuclear power plant] construction and operation.” The partnership implies construction of eight new 1200 MWe VVER nuclear units totaling 9.6 GWe, and cooperation in selling the Russian technology to other countries. “Besides, the parties intend to build a research reactor to the Russian technology, which would lay the basis for joint business in the area of isotope production and sales in the international market.”
Finance is not mentioned, but a proposal can be expected in the new year. Russia is undertaking several nuclear projects abroad with soft loans or on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis – unlikely here. Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape province appears to be a front runner as a coastal site.
WNN 23/8/13. South Africa
Groundbreaking for Chinese uranium mine in Namibia
Work has formally begun on Namibia’s newest uranium mine, adjacent to Rio Tinto’s Rossing. The Husab mine is largely owned by a subsidiary of China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGNPC) after a $2.2 billion takeover. It is being developed by contractors for Swakop Uranium, in which Namibian state-owned mining company Epangelo acquired a 10% stake in November 2012. After construction through to the end of 2015, production is planned to ramp up to 5770 tonnes of uranium per year by 2017. The mine is expected to have a life of more than 20 years.
WNN 22/4/13. Namibia
Burst slurry tanks at Ranger and Rossing
A large leaching tank at ERA’s Ranger uranium mine in Northern Territory has burst, releasing a large volume of acidic ore slurry into the mill area. The tank capacity was about 1450 cubic metres. The material was contained without any environmental effect, but the operation has been closed for clean-up and checking the rest of the plant.
Six days earlier, one of twelve leach tanks at the Rossing uranium mine in Namibia failed similarly, causing the operation to be shut down pending repairs and clean-up. The material was contained in the immediate area.
Rossing 5/12/13, WNN 9/12/13.
Terrorists target Niger uranium mine
Areva’s uranium mine at Arlit in northern Niger has been attacked with a 4WD car bomb as employees reported for work early on 23 May, damaging the plant as well as killing one and injuring about 14 people. The SOMAIR operation is 64% owned by Areva and 36% by the Niger government. It has operated since 1971, and it produced 3065 tonnes of uranium last year from several deposits. The jihadist MUJAO group claimed responsibility for the attack, in retaliation for military involvement in neighbouring Mali. Another target attacked shortly before was a military barracks in the main northern town of Agadez, where 18 soldiers and a civilian were killed. Rebel groups have previously targeted overseas uranium workers in Niger. Four French workers were kidnapped and later released in 2008, while four French nationals including an Areva employee among a group of seven who were kidnapped from Arlit in 2010 remain in captivity. The SOMAIR mine operation is 250 km north of Agadez.
WNN 23/5/13. Niger
US funding application revives South African Pebble Bed Modular Reactor design
A late application ‘from left field’ for $226 million government funding for small reactor designs is from National Project Management Corporation (NPMC), including a cluster of regional partners in the state of New York, South Africa’s PBMR company, and National Grid, the UK-based grid operator with 3.3 million customers in and around New York state. The project proposal is for a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTR) of 165 MWe, apparently the direct-cycle version of the shelved South African pebble-bed modular reactor (PBMR), emphasising its ‘deep burn’ attributes in destroying actinides and achieving high burn-up at high temperatures. The PBMR design was a contender with Westinghouse backing for the US Next-Generation Nuclear Power (NGNP) project, which has stalled since about 2010.
NPMC 23/7/13, WNN 13/8/13. Small Reactors
Solar PV milestone reached in 2012
At the end of 2012, world total operating capacity of solar photovoltaic (PV) generation reached 100 GWe, with 30.5 GWe installed that year as prices fell and subsidies continued at high levels. In Germany, solar PV capacity reached 32.4 GWe at end of 2012 (7.6 GWe was installed during the year) and it generated 28 billion kWh, increasing 45% over 2011, but apparently still only 11% capacity factor (compared with typically about 90% and in 2012, 71.5% world average for nuclear). In the World Energy Outlook 2011 New Policies Scenario, 553 GWe of new solar PV capacity would be added by 2035. There is only about 2.55 GWe of concentrating solar power (CSP) capacity worldwide, three quarters of this in Spain. CSP future appears to lie with 2-3 hours heat storage in molten salt to serve evening high-value peak loads .
REN21 Renewables Global Status Report, 2013. Renewable energy
OECD study highlights real costs of electricity
A study by the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency has highlighted the increasing system costs incurred by government policies favouring renewable sources of electricity over dispatchable and especially base-load sources. The study found that mandating significant levels of wind and solar power into electricity markets could generate system cost of up to $80/MWh (8 cents/kWh), compared with those for dispatchable coal, nuclear and gas sources usually under $3. This is in addition to producer subsidies for the higher total costs of renewable generation, borne by the consumer. Grid companies in Europe are required to give priority to intermittent renewable sources regardless of need, and this compromises the economics of conventional, dispatchable sources upon which the whole system relies. Existing nuclear plants can survive moderate levels of intermittent renewable generation because their capital costs are amortized and their fuel cost is relatively lower than that of fossil-fired plants, but the market will not support construction of new nuclear capacity if load factors are not sufficient, which will be the case with higher levels of prioritised renewable generation, the study found. Hence when dispatchable plants – often capital-intensive - are retired, there will be little incentive to replace them, and a supply and reliability crisis looms later in this decade.
The increased renewables issue is being addressed to some extent by urgent expansion of grid capacity, but this doesn’t fix the economics. The NEA study is based on data from Finland, France, Germany, South Korea, the UK and the USA. The study claimed to be the first to attempt to quantify in monetary terms the system effects of different kinds of electricity generation. For most countries the most important system costs came from grid connection and backup power costs. In terms of total costs of electricity supply, introducing variable renewables up to 10% of total supply will increase per-MWh cost, depending on the country, between 5%
and 50%, the report said. Satisfying 30% of demand could increase per-MWh costs by between 16% and 180%, the latter relating to solar in Finland, it said.
The study recommended, first, that the magnitude of systems costs introduced by renewables must no longer be borne “in a diffuse and unacknowledged manner by operators of dispatchable technologies as an unspecific system service.” OECD countries should ensure “full transparency of power generation costs at the systems level when making policy decisions affecting their electricity markets.” Second, it advocated changing regulatory frame- works, with measures such as capacity markets, in which dispatchable generation is “adequately compensated through capacity payments;” requiring power generators to “feed stable hourly bands of electricity into the grid rather than random amounts of intermittent electricity.” “A combination of capacity markets, long-term supply contracts and carbon taxes would provide a market-based framework to ensure that nuclear energy and other dispatchable low-carbon technologies remain economically sustainable,” it said.
Nucleonics Week 21/3/13. Nuclear Energy and Renewables: System Effects
in Low-carbon Electricity Systems. Elect. Transmission Grids
US study gives estimates of prevented mortality
A forthcoming report co-authored by the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has estimated that the use of nuclear power instead of coal and some gas has avoided emissions which would have caused air pollution and probably led the deaths of 1.84 million people between 1971 and 2009. The calculus is based on mortality estimates from fossil fuel emissions, though these mortality figures are uncertain, and the real number of deaths could be much higher.
WNN 3/4/13. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/es3051197
Uranium from phosphate process gets cost down
An engineering study of last year's demonstration plant operation in Florida indicates that the PhosEnergy process is viable for extracting uranium as a by-product from phosphate fertilizer production. The study, commissioned by Uranium Equities Ltd and Cameco, estimated a capital cost of US$156 million for a base case PhosEnergy plant located at the site of a phosphate facility in the southeast USA, producing 340 tonnes per year of uranium at a cost of less than US$18 per pound U3O8, putting it in the lower cost quartile of world producers. Cameco now holds 73% equity in the process. The next step is to locate the portable demonstration plant at an actual production site and carry out a definitive feasibility study. The process is a substantial refinement of those used in Florida in the 1980s, which became uneconomic in the 1990s. The world potential for recovering uranium from phosphate production waste streams is over 11,000 tonnes U per year, with easing of regulatory requirements for disposal being a side-benefit.
UEQ 5/3/13. Uranium from phosphates
Amano remains at helm of IAEA
Yukiya Amano has been reappointed as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for a second four-year term by the agency's board of governors. He has presided over analysis of reactor safety worldwide following the Fukushima accident in his home country, and the ensuing developments from an international perspective, though final responsibility remains with national regulators. Also during his first term the role of IAEA in helping new nuclear countries establish regulatory and legal infrastructure has grown strongly. In all countries, governments need to create the environment for investment in nuclear power, including professional and independent regulatory regime, policies on nuclear waste management and decommissioning, and involvement with international non-proliferation measures and insurance arrangements for third-party damage. The IAEA has been very active in assisting in these matters, as well as in its traditional implementation of safeguards to prevent weapons proliferation.
WNN 7/3/13. International cooperation, Emerging nuclear countries
WNA group proposes involvement by plant designers in whole life of nuclear plants
A new study - entitled Aviation Licensing and Lifetime Management: What Can Nuclear Learn? - is from the Design Change Management Task Force of a major WNA working group. It compares the civil aviation industry's approach to managing changes to aircraft design with the nuclear industry's system of design change management. In the aviation industry, the original designer of a particular type of aircraft is always involved in the response to events and safety-relevant findings. In contrast, nuclear vendors do not have ongoing design responsibility for their reactors. This situation leads to differences between nuclear reactors of the same model. The WNA's working group on Cooperation in Reactor Design Evaluation and Licensing (CORDEL) promotes standardization of nuclear reactor designs on the merit of improved economics and safety. It suggests that stronger ongoing involvement of the original designers would bring widespread safety and economic benefits to the nuclear industry. The civil aviation industry's system of international cooperation could serve as a model in this area, the report suggests.