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Recent developments with links to updated WNA Public Information Service Papers. For previous items from Weekly Digest see archive menu.
7 March 2014
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
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
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Indonesia (new), Finland, Iran, Germany, Japan
28 February 2014
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
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
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.
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Japan, US fuel cycle, US policy, Russia nuclear power, Decommissioning, Fukushima.
21 February 2014
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
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
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
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): China nuclear power, Germany
14 February 2014
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
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
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
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Nuclear radiation & health effects, Climate change policy, Economics of nuclear power, “Clean Coal” technologies, Nuclear process heat, Emerging nuclear countries