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Recent developments with links to updated WNA Public Information Service Papers. For previous items from Weekly Digest see archive menu.  

21 November 2014

 World Energy Outlook: major role for nuclear power
The IEA’s World Energy Outlook 2014 report analyses medium- and long-term energy trends out to 2040, with a special focus on nuclear energy this year. In its New Policies Scenario, installed capacity growth is 60% to 624 GWe in 2040 (of total 10,700 GWe), with the increase concentrated heavily in China (46% of it), plus India, Korea and Russia (30% of it together) and the USA (16%), countered by a 10% drop in the EU. Despite this, the percentage share of nuclear power in the global power mix increases to only 12%, well below its historic peak. Low-Nuclear and High-Nuclear cases give 366 and 767 GWe respectively in 2040. The 450 Scenario gives a cost-effective transition to limiting global warming assuming an effective international agreement in 2015, and this brings about more than doubling nuclear capacity to 862 GWe in 2040, while energy-related CO2 emissions peak before 2020 and then decline. In this scenario, almost all new generating capacity built after 2030 needs to be low-carbon.

"Despite the challenges it currently faces, nuclear power has specific characteristics that underpin the commitment of some countries to maintain it as a future option," the report said. "Nuclear plants can contribute to the reliability of the power system where they increase the diversity of power generation technologies in the system. For countries that import energy, it can reduce their dependence on foreign supplies and limit their exposure to fuel price movements in international markets."

CO2 emissions from coal use level off after 2020 in New Policies Scenario, though CCS is expected to be negligible before 2030. CO2 emissions from gas grow strongly to 2040.

The report expresses concern about subsidies to fossil fuels, “which encourage wasteful consumption” and totalled $548 billion in 2013, over half of this for oil. Ten countries account for almost three-quarters of the world total for fossil-fuel subsidies, five of them in Middle East (notably Iran and Saudi Arabia) or North Africa where much electricity is generated from oil, and where nuclear power plants and even renewables would be competitive, but for those subsidies. The report advocates ensuring “that energy prices reflect their full economic value by introducing market pricing and removing price controls.” Renewables subsides in 2013 are put at $121 billion and rising, $45 billion of this being solar PV. Geographically this is $69 billion for EU and $27 billion in USA. The report was unable to assign a figure for nuclear subsidies, which at present don’t exist. The difficulty of reducing subsidies is discussed.
WNN 12/11/14. World energy needs

USA and China emission reductions: symbolism to shape the debate
The US and Chinese Presidents have jointly resolved to lead the world in carbon emission reduction, and have announced goals for their respective countries. President Obama said that the USA aims to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. This will involve annual reductions of 2.3%-2.8% per year between 2020 and 2025. "This ambitious target is grounded in intensive analysis of cost-effective carbon pollution (sic) reductions achievable under existing law and will keep the United States on the right trajectory to achieve deep economy-wide reductions … by 2050.” While Congress support for the target is unlikely, environmental regulations set to come into effect will support the aim. Mr Obama plans to submit a 2025 target to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as an "intended nationally determined contribution" in the next few months.

President Xi said that China intends to increase the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption from 8% now to about 20% by 2030, but will let its CO2 emissions grow so that they peak around 2030 (in line with World Energy Outlook projection). The non-fossil target will apparently require an extra 800 GWe of nuclear, wind and solar capacity by then. Together, the USA and China account for 45% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the IEA.

China and the USA will "work together, and with other countries, to adopt a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all parties at the United Nations Climate Conference in Paris in 2015," the joint statement said. They are "committed to reaching an ambitious 2015 agreement that reflects the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities, in light of different national circumstances."
WNN 12/11/14. Climate change policies

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Russia nuclear power, Vietnam

14 November 2014 

 Canadian technology to innovate China fuel cycle
A Framework Joint Venture Agreement has been signed between China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Candu Energy to build Advanced Fuel Cycle CANDU Reactor (AFCR) projects domestically and develop opportunities for that technology internationally. While the basic technology is Canadian, R&D at Qinshan in China since 2008 has turned a simple concept into technology which can now be utilised, so that the used fuel from four conventional reactors can fully supply one AFCR unit (as well as providing recycled plutonium for MOX). This means greatly reducing the task of managing used fuel and disposing of high-level wastes, and also significantly reducing China’s fresh uranium requirements.

The AFCR is described as “a 700 MW Class Generation III reactor based on the highly successful CANDU 6 and Enhanced CANDU 6 (EC6) reactors with a number of adaptations … [allowing] it to use recycled uranium or thorium as fuel.” The present focus is on uranium recycled from conventional used fuel (RU) blended with depleted uranium (DU) to give natural uranium equivalent. Trials of this in one of the CANDU-6 units at Qinshan have been successful, and next year both those reactors will be modified to become full AFCRs. Then the joint venture plans to build new AFCR units in China and beyond.

Setting the scene for the latest JV agreement, an expert panel hosted by the China Nuclear Energy Association praised the AFCR's safety characteristics and said that it forms a synergy with China’s existing PWRs and that it is positioned to “promote the development of closed fuel cycle technologies and industrial development” in China.
WNN 10/11/14. China FC

Iran steps forward with new plans for Russian reactors
Invoking the 1992 intergovernmental agreement leading to construction of the Bushehr nuclear power plant, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) and Rosatom have agreed to build eight more large nuclear reactors in Iran on a turnkey basis, four at Bushehr and four elsewhere. These are all to involve maximum local engineering content, and will be fully under IAEA safeguards. As usual with its foreign projects (and for Bushehr 1), Rosatom will supply all the fabricated nuclear fuel for the eight units “for the whole period of the nuclear power plant operation” and will take all used fuel back to Russia for reprocessing and storage, so prima facie no Iran-enriched uranium will evidently be required. However, Rosatom and AEOI also signed an agreement to “work on necessary arrangements for the fabrication in Iran of the nuclear fuel or its elements to be used in Russian design Units.”

At the same time a contract for construction of the first two reactors as Bushehr phase II was signed by Russia’s NIAEP-ASE and the Nuclear Power Production and Development Company of Iran, which is responsible for Bushehr. Most Russian export sales of reactors are financed by Moscow, but according to the Iranian ambassador in Moscow the Bushehr units will be bartered for oil (which is subject to UN trade sanctions).
WNN 11/11/14. Iran

The first of Japan’s idled reactors approach re-start
With approval from the provincial governor, the first two nuclear power reactors – at Sendai - seem close to resuming operation. Before this, the Kyushu Electric Power Company's July 2013 application under new (post Fukushima) safety requirements had been processed and approved. The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which replaced the pre Fukushima accident safety body, now simply needs to do a final check on both the plant itself and the operational routines and emergency procedures. The reactors are likely to restart early in 2015. UxC uranium spot prices have risen 13.6% in the last month.

Restart applications have been lodged for 20 of the country’s 48 reactors so far. The reactor restarts are facing significant implementation costs ranging from US$700 million to US$1 billion per unit, regardless of reactor size or age. To March 2014 the cost was put at $12.3 billion so far.
WNN 7/11/14. Japan

7 November 2014

 UN climate change report calls for world action on carbon emissions
The Synthesis Report, completing the set comprising the fifth assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has been issued. It has no new information since the earlier parts, but is pitched to focus the attention of world leaders on what needs to be done and the likely implications of inaction. The report notes that multiple mitigation pathways are available that could limit predicted warming to below 2°C relative to pre-industrial levels. All of them would require substantial emissions reductions over the next few decades and near-zero emissions of CO2 and other long-lived greenhouse gases by the end of the century.

Most of the scenarios require the global share of low-carbon options for electricity supply – nuclear power, renewables, bioenergy and carbon capture and storage (CCS) from fossil fuels – collectively to increase from current levels of 30% to reach 80% by 2050, hence effectively quadrupling them. The report notes that excluding particular mitigation technologies from the mix would lead to substantially increased costs. However, CCS is unproven and its economic practicality is simply a hope, bioenergy to replace fossil fuels raises questions of scale, wind and solar renewables are well-proven along with their intrinsic limitations, leaving nuclear power as the only mature source providing power on demand regardless of weather or time of day. Bioenergy and CCS options have very much greater CO2 emissions than nuclear, wind and solar power. The report notes that limiting emissions over the next few decades will increase the prospects for effective adaptation to predicted climate change, and reduce the costs and challenges of mitigation in the longer term.
WNN 3/11/14. Climate change - politics

New reactor on line in China
The first Fangjiashan nuclear reactor has been connected to the grid in Zhejiang province for China National Nuclear Corporation, effectively as an extension of the 7-unit Qinshan nuclear plant. The CPR-1000 unit is the 22nd in China. Its construction over nearly six years was delayed by post-Fukushima safety checks.
WNN 5/11/14. China NP

Last used fuel removed from Fukushima 4 reactor building
The last of 1331 used fuel assemblies from the spent fuel pond in the damaged reactor building of Fukushima unit 4 has been removed. The whole process has been uneventful. A few (non radioactive) fresh fuel assemblies remain to be moved over the next few weeks. The high heat load in the spent fuel pond of unit 4 caused some concern following the Fukushima accident, though this reactor had no fuel in it at the time. Its building was damaged due to ignition of a hydrogen leak through vent system from unit 3. The used fuel has been moved to the central storage pond on site, from which older assemblies are transferred to dry cask storage – 1004 had been moved since the accident by mid 2014 to make way for new inputs from unit 4. Fuel from the unit 3 pond will be moved next year.
WNN 5/11/14. Fukushima accident

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Japan, Nuclear powered ships, Energy subsidies, Ukraine

31 October 2014

 EU decides on conditional energy and CO2 targets for 2030
The European Council of member states leaders has agreed on the EU climate and energy policy framework for 2030. This is by way of taking a lead in relation to the UN climate conference in Paris next year, and sets collective targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, raise efficiency and deploy more renewables. A new ‘binding’ goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% compared with 1990 levels by 2030, while an ‘indicative’ and non-binding target should raise energy efficiency by 27% against “projections of future energy consumption based on current criteria” and “delivered in a cost-effective manner”. Renewables should be deployed to make up a total of 27% of EU energy by 2030 under another ‘binding’ target (in 2013 including hydro they comprised about 22%). However, these are evidently conditional upon the UN climate conference achieving comparable and legally-binding outcomes. A ‘flexibility clause’ was added to the final text, so that the Council “will revert to this issue after the Paris conference” and “will keep all elements of the framework under review”.

The targets have a measure of technology neutrality in that they are for the EU as a whole rather than applying to each individual state, and the contribution of each of the 28 member states will be different according to financial circumstances and its right to determine its own energy mix. Poland for instance will continue to rely heavily on coal and strenuously opposes any 40% CO2 reduction. The UK opposes the 27% renewables target while Germany embraces it, at the same time as building over 10 GWe of new coal-fired capacity (10.7 GWe 2011-15). How the collective targets influence national policies remains to be seen. The reformed EU Emission Trading System (ETS) with a new instrument to stabilise the market is to remain the principal mechanism driving emission reductions. It will ratchet down the maximum covered emissions from the EU by 2.2% per year from 2021 onwards, an increased rate of decarbonisation compared with the 1.74% per year currently. The reduction in emissions covered by the ETS is to be 43% by 2030 compared with 2005.

Regarding grid and gas pipes, "The integration of rising levels of intermittent renewable energy requires a more interconnected internal energy market and appropriate back up, which should be coordinated as necessary at regional level." The Baltic States, Portugal, Spain, and also Greece are priorities of electricity interconnection and integration. Achieving a "fully functioning and connected internal energy market" is a priority, and "all efforts must be mobilised to achieve this objective as a matter of urgency."

On energy security, the Council “recognised that the EU's energy security can be increased by having recourse to indigenous resources as well as safe and sustainable low-carbon technologies”, nuclear power being the major one of these in EU (though it is not mentioned). It agreed on priority gas storage and interconnection projects to increase the EU’s resilience and bargaining power vis a vis Russia (not mentioned by name).
WNN 24/10/14. EU

New Chinese reactor starts up
The third unit of Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in northeast Liaoning province has started up. Construction of the 1024 MWe (net) CPR-1000 reactor for China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) and China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGN) (45% each) commenced in March 2009, and it is expected to be on line about the end of the year. It was built by CGN’s engineering subsidiary, based in the south. Chinese local content is over 80%. The cost of all four units in the first construction phase is put at CNY 50 billion (US$ 6.6 billion)
WNN 30/10/14. China NP

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Climate change science, China fuel cycle, Germany, Mongolia, Russia NP, Fast reactors