WNA Weekly Digest Archive 2014
2013 shows ten reactor construction starts but capacity up little
During 2013 there were four new grid connections in China and India, and four closures – all in the USA. World capacity increased slightly to 375.3 GWe with 435 operable reactors, helped by some significant uprates. The main positive indicator was ten construction starts totaling 11,688 MWe gross, four of them in the USA and three in China. Two were in new nuclear countries: UAE and Belarus. 71 reactors are now under construction, totaling 75 GWe. The four new connections (in China and India) totaled 4077 MWe, the closures totaled 3576 MWe, and there were five significant uprates totaling 584 MWe, less some revisions in capacity. Though two units operated to September, Japan’s entire nuclear fleet remained shut down at year end pending regulatory review according to new criteria, and two units will be decommissioned at the end of January.
Westinghouse suspends development of small reactors
Westinghouse’s CEO has announced in an interview that the company is suspending work on its 225 MWe SMR design in the light of inadequate prospects for multiple deployment. He said that it could not justify the economics of its SMR without government subsidies, unless it could see its way to supplying 30 to 50 of them. The company missed out on grants awarded for small modular reactor development: both B&W and NuScale have each secured up to $226 million DOE support for their respective small reactor designs, the 150-180 MWe mPower and a 45 MWe unit.
US loan guarantees for new plant finalised
The US government has finalized loan guarantees totalling some $6.5 billion for the construction of two AP1000 units at the Vogtle site in Georgia, with a further $1.8 billion pending. The reactors are already under construction. Four years ago these were the first nuclear projects to be offered loan guarantees. The US Energy Secretary said that "the innovative technology used in this project represents a new generation of nuclear power with advanced safety features and demonstrates renewed leadership from the U.S. nuclear energy industry". He added that the deal shows the government's support for nuclear power and "the president wants to make clear that he sees nuclear energy as a part of his carbon-free portfolio." The federally-backed guarantees are intended to help would-be builders of new or improved energy technologies to raise private finance at no cost to the taxpayer; and the recipients are charged a fee for the guarantee. The loan guarantees cover up to 80% of the projected costs of financing the construction of new units. The two AP1000 units under construction at Summer in South Carolina have been short-listed for a loan guarantee, though the major shareholder has expressed skepticism about the benefit.
WNN 20/2/14. US nuclear power
USA proposes cutting off funds for plutonium disposition
In June 2000, the USA and Russia agreed to dispose of at least 34 tonnes each of weapons-grade plutonium in parallel projects, the USA making mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for its main reactor fleet and Russia making MOX fuel for fast neutron reactors. The resulting Russian MOX plant at Zheleznogorsk is believed to be coming on line this year (with a little US financial help), as its newest fast reactor starts up (using MOX fuel from a plant at Dimitrovgrad). The US MOX plant is 60% complete, behind schedule and way over budget, and now faces loss of funding altogether, having been excluded from the DOE budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) due to cost escalation. This would leave the USA in default on the 2000 bilateral agreement, while Russia has fulfilled its side. However the US Energy Secretary says the USA remains committed to the agreement, and over the next 18 months will assess alternatives to the project, including fast reactors.
The US MOX plant, at Savannah River in South Carolina, is substantially the same as Areva’s commercial Melox plant near Marcoule in France (though it uses reactor-grade plutonium), and Areva is a partner in its construction. However, it does include a facility for plutonium pits dismantlement and metallic plutonium conversion to oxide which is complex and has delayed progress. It also incorporates a waste storage facility.
WNN 5 & 6/3/14 Military warheads as fuel
US industry group launches “thought leadership” ad campaign
The Nuclear Energy Institute is embarking upon an advertising campaign using four energy experts to raise awareness of the role of nuclear energy. It appears to be targeted at a higher level than previous campaigns, as major US utilities threaten to shut down nuclear plants because of market conditions. NEI says “The benefits of our (US) nuclear plants - the contribution to fuel diversity, the environmental benefits and other attributes - are undervalued and, frankly, taken for granted.” The campaign looks beyond the nuclear plants to the implications for grid reliability, power markets and costs. It follows up the heightened interest and awareness generated by the documentary film Pandora’s Promise, which was released last year, with several well-known environmental leaders coming out in favour of nuclear power so as deeply to affect the debate on nuclear energy within that community.
NEI www.nei.org/futureofenergy US policy
EU 2030 energy framework allows for increased nuclear contribution
The European Commission’s 2030 energy and climate policy framework moves away from major reliance on renewables to achieve emission reduction targets and allows scope for nuclear power to play a larger role. The centerpiece is a binding 40% reduction in domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared with a 1990 baseline) which will require strong commitments from EU member states. Current policies and measures if followed through should deliver 32% reduction by then, so 40% “is achievable” and widely supported. It implies a 43% cut from 2005 for CO2 in sectors covered by the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS). There are to be no post-2020 national renewables targets, and individual states are free to use whatever technology they wish to achieve emission reductions in the longer term, though a 27% “headline target at European level for renewable energy” is included. The framework also proposes reform of the ETS to make it the principal driver of climate policy, and it drops a binding energy efficiency target and a directive for use of biofuels in transport.
Impetus for the profound change in emphasis from the 2008 policy framework appears to have come from EU member states which are winding back renewables programs due to escalating costs. The International Energy Agency has pointed out the huge difference in energy prices between USA and EU, with gas prices three times as high and electricity twice as high in the EU. The EU is evidently concerned about loss of international competitiveness and the increasingly chaotic retreat from subsidy schemes related to its 2020 renewables target. More generally, it acknowledges that “the rapid development of renewable energy sources now poses new challenges for the energy system”.
The key change from 2020 goals is “providing flexibility for Member States to define a low-carbon transition appropriate to their specific circumstances, preferred energy mix and needs in terms of energy security, and allowing them to keep costs to a minimum.” An early test of this will be approval for UK plans to set long-term electricity prices to enable investment in nuclear plants.
The WNA said that the “flexible” approach outlined allows nuclear power to play an expanded role in decarbonising electricity supply. The ambitious target “is a bare minimum if the EU wishes to achieve its objective of an 80% reduction by 2050, and do its part in averting a 2°C rise in global temperatures. Unfortunately the target of 27% for renewable energy continues to undermine the possibility for cost efficiency in meeting the carbon target. It also again demonstrates an unjustified preference in EU policy for renewable energy over other carbon reduction pathways – such as nuclear energy – regardless of cost, maturity and the preferences of individual Member States.”
WNN 22/1/14. http://ec.europa.eu/energy/doc/2030/com_2014_15_en.pdf
UK design acceptance progresses for Japanese reactor
UK regulators are ready to begin the second phase of the generic design assessment (GDA) process for Hitachi-GE's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). At the same time, the company is inviting public comments on the reactor design. This follows nine months of preparatory work by Hitachi-GE and the three regulatory bodies undertaking the GDA – the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Resources Wales. The whole GDA process should be completed about the end of 2017.
Horizon Nuclear Power plans to build two of the 1380 MWe ABWR units at Wylfa Newydd in Wales and then two at Oldbury in Gloucestershire. Hitachi Ltd bought Horizon in 2012. There are four operable ABWR units in Japan, while two more are under construction. Two more are being built in Taiwan and one is planned for Lithuania. The design, originally from GE, is already licensed in Japan and the USA. Hitachi-GE has a UK web site for the project.
WNN 6/1/14. UK
Toshiba takes further stake in UK nuclear development
GDF Suez has signed a partnership agreement with Toshiba for development of its nuclear programme in the UK. This gives new impetus to NuGeneration Ltd (NuGen), which was created to develop the new Moorside nuclear power plant on the West Cumbria coast in northwest England. The 3400 MWe plant will be built utilizing three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, which type is well advanced in the UK’s generic design assessment process. The terms of the agreement provide for Toshiba to own a majority of NuGen, with GDF Suez bringing its extensive nuclear plant operating experience. The choice of the AP1000 technology aligns with UK Government’s ambition to see a diversity of technologies in the new nuclear program, with EPR and ABWR. The acquisition of one fifth of GDF Suez’s share follows Toshiba buying out Iberdrola’s 50% in the project, making a total of £102 million for 60%. The first unit is expected on line in 2024.
WNN 15/1/14. UK
China General sets out policy for UK
At a UK Trade & Investment presentation in London, Guangdong-based China General Nuclear Power (CGN) outlined its plans for embarking upon nuclear projects in the UK. First, it will be a minority shareholder in EdF Energy’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant “to lay the foundation for further development in CGN-led projects in the UK.” It then plans to acquire a site, and along with local and Chinese partners, to build and operate nuclear power plants in the UK. No particular reactor technology was mentioned. In October 2103 the government announced that it approved in principle Chinese companies taking a stake - including potential future majority stakes - in the development of the next generation of British nuclear power.
European Commission skeptical of UK energy market provisions
The European Commission (EC) is reviewing the UK’s arrangements with EdF Energy for long-term electricity prices to underwrite the construction of Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. In a preliminary 70-page letter it has expressed concern about whether the price agreement breaches EU policy on state aid. The UK contends that it does not, but must now provide further justification for that. The EC said that the agreement “has the potential for distorting competitive conditions”, though it is in line with widely-accepted provisions for renewable power sources. It questions whether the deal addresses a genuine market failure in assuring a long-term supply of reliable electricity from low-carbon sources. It also questions whether it gives undue comfort and recompense to EdF at the expense of UK consumers. The size of the loan guarantee offered by the UK government was part of this.
EdF Energy will not commit to the Hinkley Point project until the EC has concluded its deliberations and given the all-clear, so this high-level EU review has the potential to delay or even abort the investment needed and agreed upon by the UK government. The situation has implications for further investment in UK nuclear capacity.
WNN 3/2/14. UK
Finnish companies commit to build new power plant
Fennovoima has government permission to build the Hanhikivi nuclear power plant in the north of Finalnd. It is owned by a consortium of industrial and energy companies. While numbers have shrunk from inception, 44 remaining local shareholders have committed to proceed with the project. The largest local stakeholder is Outokumpu, and together they are committed to 50.2% of the plant at this stage. They will take power at cost, in proportion to their equity. Fennovoima says that when the plant starts operating in 2024, that cost for shareholders will be less than EUR 50/MWh (5 cents/kWh), including all production costs, depreciation, finance costs and waste management. Building cost is estimated at EUR 6 billion.
Fennovoima in December signed a plant supply contract with Rusatom Overseas for an AES-2006 power plant with VVER-1200 reactor. Another agreement specified that Rosatom would take a 34% share in the plant, and help to arrange finance beyond that. It has recently said that it would like to take up to 49% equity, which would ease the challenge of providing full equity, though the parent company wants to build local equity to 66%. Fennovoima will confirm the investment in mid March.
With Rosatom’s subsidiary poised to build the plant, Finland and Russia have signed a new cooperation agreement to expedite this. A key feature of the new government-level agreement is that it clarifies liability for damages from nuclear accidents. Finland is party to the OECD-sponsored Paris Convention on nuclear liability as amended in 2004, while Russia adheres to the IAEA-sponsored Vienna Convention. The new accord stipulates that both international conventions are reciprocally applicable between Finland and Russia. In effect the agreement thus substitutes for the 1988 Joint Protocol relating to both Conventions, which Russia has not ratified, though it has a domestic nuclear insurance pool.
Under earlier cooperation between the two countries, two VVER-440 units were constructed at Fortum's Loviisa plant in southern Finland. These were, however, supplied with Western containment and control systems.
WNN 26 & 28/2/14. Finland
German court upholds illegality of plant closure
Following the government-ordered closure of its Biblis reactors in March 2011, RWE filed a lawsuit against the government and said that the phase-out had cost the company over EUR 1 billion in 2011 alone. In February 2013 the administrative court in Hesse found that the government had had acted illegally in ordering the closure of Biblis A & B in 2011. The German Supreme Administrative Court has now endorsed this by ruling that the forced closure of the Biblis plant by the state was "formally unlawful because [RWE] had not been consulted and this constituted a substantial procedural error." Biblis A and B, total 2407 MWe net, had been licensed to operate until 2019 and 2021 just two months before the shutdown order. Claims for damages will be decided subsequently.
WNN 14/1/14. Germany
Hungary signs for two new Russian reactors
The Hungarian government has signed an agreement with Rosatom to build two reactors at Paks, with Russia providing 80% of the finance under a 30-year loan which will not exceed EUR 10 billion. The government said that the EU had already approved a draft plan for building the 1200 MWe units, at a likely cost of around EUR 10-12 billion. The first unit is to be operational about 2023. This agreement cut across earlier intentions to call for tenders from Rosatom and four other reactor vendors, but apparently Rosatom was the only one offering major finance as part of the deal.
WNN 15/1/14. Hungary
Russia supports nuclear plant contract with Hungary
In support of its agreement to build two 1200 MWe reactors at Paks nuclear plant in Hungary, Russia has agreed a EUR 10 billion financing deal to cover 80% of the anticipated project cost, to be repaid over 21 years of operation. The interest rate is below 4% for 11 years then 4.5%, then 4.9%. In a 256-29 vote the Hungarian parliament approved the finance deal. This brings to well over 20 the number of large nuclear power reactors being built by Russia in other countries, mostly with substantial loans, and some on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis.
WNN 6/2/14. Hungary
Ukraine’s nuclear power plants undisturbed by hostilities
Ukraine relies on its four Russian-built nuclear power plants (15 reactors) for almost half its electricity. They also use Russian fuel, though Westinghouse is capable of supplying them. Their operation has been normal in recent weeks and fuel supplies do not appear to be threatened, though arrangements were being made to airfreight Russian fuel to Bulgaria and Slovakia in case transit through Ukraine is interrupted.
WNN 6/3/14. Ukraine
Two Chinese reactors start up, another starts construction
Unit 1 at Yangjiang nuclear power plant achieved criticality in December, and was grid connected at the end of the month. 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 item is also in 2013 Archive, though published on 3 January in Digest)
New Chinese reactor comes on line
Ningde 2 in Fujian province has been grid connected as China’s 20th operating reactor, adding some 1020 MWe to China General Nuclear Power’s supply. It is a CPR-1000 unit which has been under construction for 62 months. Two further Ningde units are due on line in the next two years.
WNN 7/1/14. China NP
New Chinese reactor in commercial operation
The second unit at the Hongyanhe plant in Liaoning province in northeast China has entered commercial operation, after being grid-connected in November. Two further CPR-1000 units at the site are scheduled to begin operating in the next two years.
WNN 28/2/14 China NP
China boosts uranium imports
With low prevailing uranium prices for the last two years, China has ramped up uranium imports to several times its annual requirements. Its domestic uranium production meets only a quarter of present demand, and imports supplement this. In 2012 imports were 12,908 tU, and in 2013 China imported 18,968 tonnes of uranium for $2.37 billion from five countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Australia, Namibia and Canada). Anticipated need in 2014 is 6250 tU. As well as buying product on world markets, the two main nuclear power companies are investing in overseas uranium mines.
China fuel cycle
South Korea green light for two new reactors
The government has authorised construction of Shin Kori 5 & 6, with construction of the 1455 MWe AP1400 reactors to start on schedule in September 2014. They are expected to cost $7.1 billion ($2450/kW). Shin Kori 3 & 4 are the reference units for the four AP1400 units being built at Barakah for the UAE, in a $20 billion project. They are expected on line this year, having had construction delayed due to the need to replace substandard cabling.
The last of South Korea’s 1000 MWe class OPR reactors is due to come on line this year, having also been delayed by cabling replacement.
WNN 29/1/14. South Korea
IAEA team positive re Fukushima return
The report from the IAEA team which visited the Fukushima evacuation area in October has urged Japanese authorities to be more realistic about permitting return of evacuees to areas where radiation levels have decreased to 20 mSv/yr or less and to "increase efforts to communicate that in remediation situations, any level of individual radiation dose in the range of 1 to 20 mSv per year is acceptable and in line with the international standards and with the recommendations from the relevant international organisations." This is also much less than experienced naturally in some parts of the world.
The team said that decontamination was proceeding well, and that engagement with people affected by the accident was good. However, the dose rate calculation for restricted areas was found to overestimate the dose rate unduly, and the IAEA team recommended much greater use of personal dosimeters to get accurate readings. This would support planning for resettlement, and also reassure people in the wider prefecture - particularly parents of small children.
WNN 24/1/14. Fukushima accident
Two Fukushima reactors retired
As announced several months ago, Fukushima Daiichi units 5 & 6 are being decommissioned at the end of January, though basically undamaged by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. This reduces Japan’s operable (but not currently operating) reactor fleet to 48 units.
WNN 31/1/14. Japan
Work to start on 2nd and 3rd UAE reactors
Substantial work to prepare for first structural concrete has been authorised for Barakah units 3 & 4 in the United Arab Emirates. The first two South Korean APR-1400 units are under construction already, and a full construction licence for these next two is expected late this year, the 10,000-page application having been submitted in March 2013.
WNN 12/2/14. UAE
Argentina starts construction of small power reactor
As the country prepares to start up its long-delayed German-designed Atucha 2 nuclear plant, the state-owned INVAP has started construction of one of the very few small reactors so far to make it from drawing board to steel and concrete. The 27 MWe CAREM25 is one of the oldest small power reactor designs around, from 1980s, with plan for building it announced in 2006. It has several modern attributes in cooling, and it has integral steam generators - inside the 3.5 metre diameter reactor pressure vessel. It was indigenously designed by INVAP and the Atomic Energy Commission, and some 70% of its components will be made in the country. This prototype is being built next to Atucha, about 100 km northwest of Buenos Aries, and the cost is expected to be about $446 million. There are plans to follow it with a larger version, possibly 200 MWe, in the northern Formosa province by 2021.
WNN 10/2/14. Small reactors, Argentina
Pakistan outlines nuclear power plans under China patronage
Pakistan has been constrained in its plans for nuclear power both by finance and its exclusion from world trade due to being outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or equivalent provision. It has 1.4 GWe nuclear capacity operating or under construction, mostly in northern Punjab, and last year it agreed with China to build two 1100 MWe power reactors near Karachi, with fuel for 60-year lifetime and 82% of the finance to be supplied by China.
In recent months there have been a number of reports of grander targets – four 1100 MWe units at each of eight sites, though the numbers indicate that this might be achieved over several decades. A start on this program appears to be in plans for a plant at Muzaffargarh, on the Taunsa-Panjnad canal near Multan in southwest Punjab, together with an agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to build another 1100 MWe unit and further discussions in that quarter. The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is reported to have selected six new sites for nuclear plants.
Paladin’s Malawi mine shut down
Due to production costs exceeding revenue, Paladin has announced that production will be suspended at it Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi and the operation put into care and maintenance from April due to low uranium prices. This is expected to cost about $12 million per year ongoing, compared with operating losses of double that after some long-term contracts were filled. The mine started production in 2009 and reached capacity last year. A 15% share is held by the government.
WNN 7/2/14. Africa
Indonesia scales back immediate nuclear plans
Since the 1980s Indonesia has had various plans for 2 GWe to 7 GWe of nuclear capacity to serve the Bali-Java grid, which supplies three quarters of the country’s electricity demand – 132 TWh in 2012. A number of sites have been considered, most recently on West Bangka Island off the north coast of southern Sumatra, for up to 10 GWe. PT PLN (Persero), the Indonesia Electricity Corporation, projects 55 GWe new capacity by 2021, most of this coal-fired. But for now, the immediate nuclear power plans have come back to a ‘non-commercial power reactor’ of about 30 MWe built at the site of the country’s main research reactor at Serpong, on the outskirts of Jakarta.
Indonesia’s National Atomic Energy Agency (BATAN) was established in 1958, and the country has a greater depth of experience and infrastructure in nuclear technology than any other southeast Asian country except Australia. During the 1980s many technical people were trained in anticipation of nuclear power development then, many of these are still available for new projects. The Research & Technology Ministry (RISTEK) is advancing the present plans, but no choice of technology has been announced. The choice under 100 MWe is very limited. Indonesia’s Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (BAPETEN) has been working with the International Atomic Energy Agency in reviewing at least three of the sites proposed for a larger plant. RISTEK reports public opinion late in 2013 showing 76.5% positive about nuclear science and technology, and 60.4% agreeing with building a nuclear power plant in the country.
Emerging nuclear countries
Contract for new Moly-99 facility at ANSTO for nuclear medicine
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has awarded an A$ 83 million contract (US$73 million) to design and construct a new facility to produce the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99 from uranium targets irradiated in the OPAL reactor. Mo-99 is used in hospitals as the source of technetium-99 (Tc-99) in about 45 million diagnostic procedures per year around the world. Most of the world's Mo-99 comes from just five reactors in Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, South Africa and Russia, which have been in operation since the 1950s and 1960s, and in recent years there have been global shortages of the isotope when several of them have been out of action at the same time. The main plants in Canada and Europe are set to close in the next few years anyway.
ANSTO's OPAL reactor, which came into operation in 2006, currently produces enough Mo-99 for some 550,000 doses per year – sufficient to meet Australian domestic requirements. The new Nuclear Medicine Molybdenum-99 (ANM Mo-99) processing facility complementing OPAL will enable ANSTO to significantly increase the output from OPAL, enabling it to make some 20 million doses per year, launching Australia as a major international supplier of the vital isotope.
WNN 21/1/14. Australian research reactors, Radioisotopes in medicine