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

30 January 2015

 OECD: nuclear power essential in carbon-constrained future
The 2015 edition of the OECD’s joint NEA-IEA Nuclear Technology Roadmap asserts that “current trends in energy supply and use are unsustainable,” and “the fundamental advantages provided by nuclear energy in terms of reduction of GHG emissions, competitiveness of electricity production and security of supply” remain salient. It puts forward a 2050 carbon-limited energy mix scenario providing about 40,000 TWh in which 930 GWe of nuclear capacity supplies 17% of electricity but plays an important role beyond that. Hence Governments should "review arrangements in the electricity market so as to... allow nuclear power plants to operate effectively."

Also, "Clearer policies are needed to encourage operators to invest in both long-term operation and new build so as to replace retiring units," so that there is “investment in large capital-intensive and long-lived base-load power.” This is particularly important to OECD countries, where nuclear power is the largest source of low-carbon electricity, providing 18% of their total supply.

In the near term, small modular reactors "could extend the market for nuclear energy" and even replace coal boilers forced into closure in order to improve air quality. "Governments and industry should work together to accelerate the development of SMR prototypes and the launch of construction projects (about five projects per design) needed to demonstrate the benefits of modular design and factory assembly." In the longer term the IEA wants Generation-IV reactor and fuel cycle designs to be ready for deployment in 2030-40.
WNN 29/1/15. World energy needs

Japan examines options for electricity in 2030
The Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ) has released a report looking at four electricity scenarios in 2030 and their implications, for producing about 1150 TWh per year (less than 10% increase on 2013). They ranged from zero nuclear up to 30% nuclear contribution, with power costs for ‘zero-nuclear’ being 42% higher than the ‘30% nuclear’ scenario (21.0 versus 14.8 JPY/kWh), and GDP being JPY 10 trillion less. The other metric of obvious significance is energy self-sufficiency, which had dropped to an uncomforable 7% in 2013. It ranges from 19% in ‘zero-nuclear’ scenario to 28% in the ‘30% nuclear’ one (considering nuclear as quasi-indigenous, as it has been). LNG imports in the ‘zero nuclear’ scenario are almost as high as in 2013, but reduce 20% from 2013 level in the ‘30% nuclear’ one. Reliance on renewables is 35% in ‘zero-nuclear’ but only 20% in high-nuclear scenario, compared with 13.5% in 2013. The IEEJ favours its third scenario, with 25% nuclear contribution from 42 GWe of capacity and 25% from renewables.
WNN 27/1/15. Japan NP

Kazakh uranium production record
Kazakhstan remains the world's largest uranium producer with 2014 total production of 22,829 tU, according to state nuclear company KazAtomProm. The company's own share of production accounted for 13,156 tU of the total. The figure is slightly up from the 22,548 tU recorded for 2013, and Kazatomprom says it is in line with its expectations for the year.
WNN 27/1/15. Kazakhstan

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Geology of U deposits, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, US NP, US NFC, Electricity and cars

23 January 2015

 US study on low-dose ionising radiation
The US Department of Energy (DOE) and National Academy of Sciences have been directed to work together to assess the current status of US and international research on low-dose radiation and to formulate a long-term research agenda under a bill approved by the US House of Representatives. The Low Dose Radiation Research Act of 2015 directs the two organisations to carry out a research program "to enhance the scientific understanding of and reduce uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low dose radiation in order to inform improved risk management methods." The study is to be completed within 18 months.

The Act arises from a letter from a group of health physicists who pointed out that the limited understanding of low-dose health risks impairs the nation’s decision-making capabilities, whether in responding to radiological events involving large populations such as the 2011 Fukushima accident or in areas such as the rapid increase in radiation-based medical procedures, the cleanup of radioactive contamination from legacy sites and the expansion of civilian nuclear energy. The aftermath of the Fukushima accident has boosted concern that unduly conservative standards may have large adverse health and welfare costs.
WNN 20/1/15. Radiation health effects

Lowest Australian uranium production for 16 years
Due to the shutdown of ERA’s Ranger plant to June, and despite the rich Four-Mile deposit coming on line, Australia’s uranium production in 2014 at 5897 tonnes U3O8 (5000 tU) was the lowest since 1998. Two thirds of it was from Olympic Dam, where uranium is a by-product of copper. Production from Four Mile is recovered at the Beverley plant, replacing output from that mine at about double the level.
Australia’s uranium

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Molten salt reactors, US reactors list, Aust U mines

9 & 16 January 2015

Slight increase in nuclear capacity in 2014
During 2014 five new reactors were connected to grids, and one was retired – Vermont Yankee in USA. In addition, the relatively undamaged Fukushima units 5 & 6 were officially decommissioned. This gave a net gain of two units to 437, and 2.4 GWe to 377.7 GWe. In China, Ningde 2, Fuqing 1 and Fangjiashan 1 were all grid-connected, along with Rostov 3 in Russia and Atucha 2 in Argentina. In the USA, Fermi 2 was uprated 15-20 MWe.

Construction starts (first concrete) were recorded for Ostrovets 2 in Belarus, Barakah 3 in UAE, Yangjiang 6 in China (actually Dec 2013) and the small Carem25 in Argentina, bringing the world total under construction to 70 units. Japan’s 48 reactors remained closed, though there is progress on restarting several, with approvals for four, and another 17 under review.
WNN 5/1/15.

New Chinese reactor connected to grid
Unit 2 of the Fangjiashan plant in Zhejiang province has been connected to the grid this month, only three weeks after start-up and 66 months after construction start, with construction delay due to post Fukushima safety reviews. This brings the China nuclear total to 23 reactors and 20,115 MWe net.
Platts. China NP

Five old and small Japanese reactors likely to decommission
It appears that the five oldest and smallest of Japan’s nuclear power reactors may be closed down permanently and decommissioned. Kyushu’s Mihama 1 and 2 reactors, Japan Atomic Power's Tsuruga 1, Chugoku’s Shimane 1, and Kyushu’s Genkai 1 will not be restarted, subject to agreement by prefecture authorities in Fukui, Shimane and Saga and approval by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). All are relatively small (320 to 529 MWe net) and by October this year all will be more than 40 years old, so that major expenditure on upgrades is hard to justify even though all of them already have life extension approvals. Two larger units, Kansai’s Takahama 1 & 2 also reach the 40-year mark in 2015 but these have had significant work done already and the costs of upgrading will be more readily recoverable, though Kansai is uncertain about their future. METI has approved draft provisions for cost recovery of decommissioning all seven units. Final approval for decommissioning and allocation of costs is expected by midyear.
Press reports. Japan NP

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Reactor table, South Korea, Russia NP, Desalination