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Recent developments with links to updated WNA Public Information Service Papers. For previous items from Weekly Digest see archive menu.
26 September 2014
Russia lines up major nuclear power project for South Africa
Following a similar agreement last November which made no mention of finance, Russia’s state corporation Rosatom has signed an agreement with South Africa’s energy minister to pave the way for building up to 9.6 GWe of nuclear capacity (eight 1200 MWe reactors) by 2030. The SA minister said that “This agreement opens up the door for South Africa to access Russian technologies, funding, infrastructure, and provides proper and solid platform for future extensive collaboration." It is expected to involve some $10 billion in local supply chain provision. The Nuclear Energy Corporation of SA later said that the new agreement "initiates a preparatory phase for the procurement process for the new nuclear build in South Africa” and that similar agreements are envisaged with other vendor countries – presumably dependent upon offers of finance. These agreements clearly put Russia as a front runner in providing a substantial part of South Africa’s program.
Russia has 14 reactors planned or under construction in export markets for each of which it is providing at least 80% (usually 85%) of the finance: in Belarus, Hungary, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Turkey.
WNN 23/9/14. South Africa
Construction start on third reactor in UAE
Following 12 months preparation and receiving a construction licence, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has poured the concrete base for the Unit 3 reactor containment building of the Barakah nuclear power plant. Unit 1 is already more than 57% complete and due to connect to the grid in 2017, unit 2 is year behind it.
WNN 25/9/14. UAE
European Commission set to approve UK plans
After nearly a year’s deliberation the European Commission seems set to approve the UK government’s plans to structure its electricity market so as to encourage new nuclear power plants, and in particular, Hinkley Point C, comprising two 1670 MWe Areva EPR units. Hinkley Point C is the flagship of Britain's energy policy, and along with other low-carbon options is to be financially supported by the country's new contract for difference (CfD) scheme, essentially a long-term electricity price. These CfD arrangements apply to all low-carbon technologies, but nuclear power attracts the attention of the EC: rules exist that allow state aid for renewables, but there is no such rule for nuclear power and so support for nuclear projects must be agreed on a case-by-case basis. The EU Competition Commissioner says he will recommend approval next month, but the Energy Commissioner says he will question the matter, which may need to be put to a vote.
The EU decision will have major implications for the Horizon and NuGen nuclear projects in UK and also more widely in Europe, as several countries, notably Poland and Czech Repiblic, are seeing the UK energy market reform as a model.
WNN 23/9/14. UK
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): China NP, India
19 September 2014
Large new reactor design gets approval in USA
GE Hitachi’s 1600 MWe Economic Simplified BWR (ESBWR) has been awarded design certification by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission nearly a decade after first application. It leverages proven technologies from the GE Hitachi Advanced BWR, which has been operating in Japan since mid 1990s, but simplifies the design and utilizes passive safety features and natural circulation principles for decay heat removal. It has lower building costs than the ABWR due to modular construction, lower operating costs, 24-month refueling cycle, and a 60-year life. There are plans to build it in USA and in India. It is the fourth large reactor design to gain generic NRC approval since new procedures in the early 1990s.
WNN 17/9/14. Advanced reactors
UAE approves construction of Barakah units 3 & 4
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) has approved an application to build two additional Korean-designed APR1400 pressurized water reactors at Barakah. After two years the first one is now 57% complete and is due on line in mid 2017. The new construction licence was granted following an 18-month regulatory review. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has stepped up efforts to develop a skilled Emirati workforce both for construction and to staff later operation of the four reactors. ENEC anticipates that it will need to employ over 2500 people by 2020, and aims for 60% of those to be Emiratis.
WNN 16/9/14. UAE
Correction: In the 12/9 item about UK, Sir David King said that the UK energy policy could ideally result in some 45-50% of UK electricity coming from nuclear power by 2050.
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): S.Korea, Japan, Fukushima, Australia, Economics, Nuclear liability insurance, Russia fuel cycle
12 September 2014
Australia-India bilateral safeguards agreement in place
After more than two years of negotiations the Australia-India bilateral safeguards agreement has been signed by both heads of state. This supplements India’s safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and like 22 other such Australian agreements is very much more restrictive than the normal IAEA ones. The complication with India has been that, like its neighbor China, it is a nuclear weapons state but cannot be recognized as such under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), because it attained that status after 1970 when the NPT came into effect. Accordingly, since 2006 the USA has led international efforts to bring India de facto under the NPT umbrella, since its non-proliferation credentials in relation to other countries are second to none. India’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA was approved in 2008, and is much more restrictive than those with the five recognised weapons states. India’s new government this year also ratified the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, giving the IAEA enhanced access to India’s civil power facilities, 20 being listed.
India has an ambitious nuclear power program which is constrained by lack of indigenous uranium resources. In the last few years India has been able to start importing uranium from Kazakhstan, Russia and Areva’s operations, and now Australia can be an additional source.
WNN 8/9/14. Australia, India
UK spells out key role of nuclear power
At the WNA Symposium in London, Sir David King the UK foreign secretary's special representative for climate change at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government, underlined the central role of nuclear power in the UK’s future. He said that climate change is a constraint on energy policy, and in particular "not enough has been said about what is happening in the oceans," where increasing CO2 concentrations have raised the acidity of seawater.
UK policy aims for an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions and removal of fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2050, as well as transferring the surface transport sector to the grid. It calls for some 45-50% of its electricity generation to come from nuclear energy by 2050 to ensure reliability, by when electricity demand is projected to be some 120 GWe. Renewable energy will have a major role if there is development of large-scale energy storage. King noted that 11 other countries have used the same model as the UK in drawing up their policies. He said nuclear power should be used more widely in helping to meet the world’s “enormous new energy demand”, though it will certainly not be appropriate in all countries.
WNN 11/9/14. UK
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Uranium & DU, Uranium supply, Thorium
5 September 2014
USA able to resume reactor licensing
After a 2-year hiatus brought about by legal challenge to a former policy on nuclear waste storage and disposal, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is soon able to resume licensing of new reactors and processing licence renewals for old ones. The NRC had adopted a new rule for spent fuel storage, replacing its 2010 ‘waste confidence’ decision which was challenged. The new rule and a supporting generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) mean that used fuel can in principle be stored indefinitely at reactor sites. Accordingly the NRC has lifted its suspension of licensing decisions, which can resume 30 days after the new rule is published.
A total of 24 licensing actions have been affected by the two-year suspension. These include applications for 12 combined construction and operating licences (COL) for new reactors, and eight reactor operating licence renewals. Only two of these - licence renewals for units 1 and 2 at Exelon's Limerick plant and the renewal of the licence for a used fuel storage facility at Calvert Cliffs – are actually held up awaiting final decisions.
The new continued spent storage rule reduces any sense of urgency to advance plans for one or two deep geological repositories in USA. About 70,000 tonnes of used fuel await disposal in USA, with annual increase of 2000 to 2400 tonnes. About one quarter of the total is in dry cask storage, the rest in pools. A number of utilities have sued the federal government for not meeting its obligation under the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act to begin taking their used fuel by 1998, and have been awarded damages by the courts to cover the cost of increased on-site storage. Total government liability for breach of contract is estimated by the Department of Energy to be $21.4 billion, assuming DOE starts to perform in 2021.
WNN 27/8/14. USA NP
Argentina confirms China to build Canadian reactor
Hot on the heels of a high-level agreement with Russia to provide the basis for building the Atucha 3 nuclear reactor, the Argentine and Chinese presidents signed a similar agreement in July. China wasted no time in following up this week with Nucleoelectrica Argentina SA and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) signing a commercial framework contract to build Atucha 3 as a Canadian-designed Candu-6 unit. CNNC runs two Candu-6 units at Qinshan in China. The Atucha 3 project will have $3.8 billion in local input and $2 billion from China and elsewhere under a long-term financing arrangement. Specific contracts for aspects of the deal are expected early next year.
WNN 4/9/14. Argentina
Algeria signs up for Russian reactors
Algeria has signed a high-level agreement with Rosatom, focused on construction of nuclear power plants and research reactors, and the use of nuclear reactors for desalination of seawater. Rosatom said the key aspect of it was construction of its VVER reactors, on the basis of its “vast experience of building nuclear power plants in countries with hot climates and high seismic activity”, and Algeria’s energy minister said that the timeline for this was “the next 12 years”.
WNN 4/9/14. Emerging countries
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Processing used fuel, China NP, Energy subsidies