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

12 December 2014

 New Russian reactor starts up
Unit 3 at the Rostov nuclear power plant has started up. Original construction (as Volgodonsk) started in 1983 but it then lapsed. With a new construction licence for an upgraded V-320 design, building of unit 3 resumed in September 2009, followed by its twin in June 2010. Ukraine's Turboatom provided the low-speed turbine generators for both units. They will be 1011 MWe net.
WNN 8/12/14. Russia NP

US government renews loan guarantee offer
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has made a second-round offer to award $10.5 billion loan guarantees for new nuclear power projects, and $2 billion for fuel cycle projects. This is essentially for the unallocated portion of its initial solicitation in 2008. While that attracted 19 applications from 17 utilities totalling $122 billion, only $6.5 billion was granted, with $1.8 billion still pending, all of that just for the Vogtle plant.

The program, set up in the Energy Policy Act 2005, has been criticised for being too focused on project-based finance rather than corporate finance, and DOE has faced opposition from other federal agencies, including the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Labor, and the Federal Financing Bank which have brought the program for nuclear capacity to an effective standstill. However, the industry considers the loan guarantee program is “an essential and indispensable financing platform,” since new nuclear plants—at $7 billion to $8 billion per gigawatt—are enormous undertakings relative to the size of even the largest electric companies. The Nuclear Energy Institute says that the loan guarantee program should be a permanent financing platform endowed with substantial permanent loan authority.

The $10.5 billion offer is for advanced nuclear energy projects, notably advanced nuclear reactors; small modular reactors; uprates and upgrades at existing facilities; and $2 billion is for advanced nuclear facilities for the front-end of the nuclear fuel cycle, notably enrichment. Applications are due by 18 March 2015. This is the fourth currently open solicitation from the DOE loan program office, alongside solicitations for projects for advanced fossil energy, renewable and efficient energy, and advanced technology vehicle manufacturing.
WNN 11/12/14. US policy

Russia keen to help India with nuclear power expansion
Russia is offering to help India build more than 20 new nuclear power reactors, according to a strategic nuclear cooperation agreement signed this week. It also envisages cooperation in building Russian-designed nuclear power plants in third countries, in uranium mining, production of nuclear fuel, and waste management. India has agreed to confirm a second site for a Russian nuclear power plant, beyond the expansion of Kudankulam. According to Rosatom, "the foundation had been laid for at least 12 units to be put into operation within 20 years."
WNN 11/12/14. India

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Chernobyl accident, Safety of nuclear plants, Radioisotopes in industry, China NP, Russia fuel cycle, Fast reactors, MOX.

5 December 2014

Finland’s parliament approves new nuclear plant
Plans for a sixth nuclear reactor in Finland have been approved in a 115 to 74 vote of Finland’s parliament. The Hanhikivi project involves a Russian AES-2006 power plant with 1200 MWe reactor from Atomproekt in St Petersburg. Rosatom is committed to 34% equity in Fennovoima, the project company, and is to arrange finance for the whole project. At present 55.5% of Fennovoima is spoken for by over 40 Finnish companies, and Fortum, with majority state ownership, has put up its hand to fill out the Finnish share to 66%.
WNN 5/12/14. Finland

Major German utility bales out of conventional generation
E.On, with revenues of €122 billion in 2013, has announced that it will spin off all its conventional generation assets in nuclear, coal- and gas-fired power generation so as to concentrate on renewables, which currently contribute only 6.6% of revenues and 11% of production (almost half of this being hydro). In its European context it perceives the need to focus separately on intermittent renewables nurtured by subsidies, along with distribution networks and “customer solutions”, and in the divested New Company on high-CO2 but profitable coal, very unprofitable gas, and nuclear power. The New Company will incorporate most of its assets, but with lower growth potential than becoming an agent of German government ideology. “These two missions are so fundamentally different that two separate, distinctly focused companies offer the best prospects for the future.”

The slimmed-down E.On “will tap the growth potential created by the transformation of the energy world” in “a bold new beginning” and will place “particular emphasis on expanding its wind business in Europe and other selected target markets” from its present 5700 MWe. The new company will inherit 8.2 GWe of nuclear capacity in Germany and Sweden, 14 GWe of coal-fired capacity throughout Europe and 25 GWe of gas-fired plant throughout Europe which is underutilised. It will be “a solid, independent company that will safeguard security of supply for the [energy] transformation” bandwagon which E.On is joining, with the implication that governments will need to allow its profitable functioning.

In Germany, E.On has significant equity in eleven of the 17 nuclear units, including four that are already shut down. In Sweden, E.On Sverige has equity in all the plants, ranging from 54.5% down to 8.5%, and despite some rhetoric these appear set to run for many years.
E.ON 30/11/14. EU, Germany, Sweden

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Clean coal, Advanced reactors, China NP, Russia NP

28 November 2014

 Japan joins international liability convention
In line with a 2013 undertaking by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and confirmed in the 4th Basic Energy Plan adopted in April 2014, a bill to ratify the IAEA’s Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) has been passed by both houses of parliament, along with amended domestic compensation laws. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs can now file a formal document with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency so that Japan becomes the sixth member country of CSC, enabling it to enter force globally (having been set up in 1997). Hitherto Japan has relied on domestic laws, which are broadly in line with international conventions. The focus will now be on wider adoption of the CSC.
WNN 20/11/14. Japan, Liability for nuclear damage

Turkey turns to China for third nuclear plant
Turkey’s state generation company Elektrik Uretim AS (EUAS) has signed an agreement with the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) of China and Westinghouse to begin exclusive negotiations to develop and construct a four-unit nuclear power plant in Turkey. No site was specified. As well as Westinghouse-based passive reactor technology, either AP1000 or CAP1400, the agreement also covers all life cycle activities including operations, nuclear fuel, maintenance, engineering, plant services and decommissioning. SNPTC was responsible for introducing Westinghouse technology into China, and has developed it further. Eight AP1000 units are under construction in China and USA.

This will be the third 4-unit nuclear power plant in Turkey, after Akkuyu being built by Russia on the Mediterranean coast, and Sinop on the Black Sea to be built by a Japanese-French consortium.
WNN 24/11/14. Turkey

Plans for four more South Korean reactors
The government has announced plans for two more APR1400 reactors for the Shin Hanul plant at Ulchin, and two at a new site, Yeongdeok. These are likely to be be the new 1500 MWe APR+. In respect to the Shin Hanul units, the Prime Minister said that “This deal will serve as a new landmark for resolving energy supplies and regional problems together. Nuclear power is an unavoidable choice for the country given its poor natural resources, manufacture-focused economic structure and duty to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “This is why the government has decided to maintain the nuclear share of the country’s energy mix at 29%.”
WNN 21/11/14. South Korea

BHP flags new expansion for Olympic Dam
In a general announcement about productivity, BHP Billiton has flagged a 27% increase in copper production at Olympic Dam from 2018, and a doubling from that level subsequently by “a low-risk underground expansion with significantly lower capital intensity than the previous open cut design. This has the potential to deliver over 450,000 tonnes of copper production a year at first quartile C1 costs by the middle of next decade”. The uranium implications are not mentioned, but assuming the same ore as today, it would mean 4200 tU from 2018 and some 8000 tU in mid 2020s – equivalent to Canada’s McArthur River.
WNN 26/11/14. Australian U mines

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): USA nuclear power, France, Finland, China NP, Pakistan, Transmission grids

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