WNA Weekly Digest Archive 2015

World

Ecomodernist Manifesto launched
An Ecomodernist Manifesto has been published over the names of 18 individuals known for their environmental stance and writings. Mark Lynas has spoken at WNA Symposium, and Robert Stone is known for the Pandora’s Promise documentary. “We call ourselves ecopragmatists and ecomodernists.” “As scholars, scientists, campaigners, and citizens, we write with the conviction that knowledge and technology, applied with wisdom, might allow for a good, or even great, Anthropocene [where] humans use their growing social, economic, and technological powers to make life better for people, stabilize the climate, and protect the natural world.” Greater use of nuclear power is central to its recommendations. “Transitioning to a world powered by zero-carbon energy sources will require energy technologies that are power dense and capable of scaling to many tens of terawatts to power a growing human economy.” Since most forms of renewable energy don’t fill the bill, “nuclear fission today represents the only present-day zero-carbon technology with the demonstrated ability to meet most, if not all, of the energy demands of a modern economy.”
The Nuclear Debate. www.ecomodernism.org

Paris climate change agreement very positive for nuclear power
The major emphasis of the COP21 process has been on producing a global, binding agreement to cut carbon emissions. At the Paris meeting there was clear international agreement that reducing carbon dioxide emissions was a global priority built on a groundswell of public opinion in many countries, albeit with a range of different timelines involved. It was agreed to aim for a temperature increase below 2°C and with the aim of moving to 1.5 degrees, which suggests that governments will have to introduce additional mitigation actions to move more rapidly to low-carbon technologies, especially in electricity generation. The main and widely recognised implication (which fuelled some extravagant hype stigmatising coal) is that more use must be made of low- or zero-carbon energy sources, including nuclear power.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) described it as "nothing less than a historic milestone for the global energy sector" that would "speed up the transformation of the energy sector by accelerating investments in cleaner technologies and energy efficiency." With wide support, a clean energy innovation fund is being set up to develop cleaner, more affordable and more reliable energy sources. Whatever the advances in electricity storage associated with intermittent renewables, there is now more clearly an inexorable logic for low-cost continuous reliable supply from expanded nuclear power. The IEA had already made it plain that achieving the 2°C goal would require a significant contribution from nuclear energy.

Agneta Rising, Director General of the World Nuclear Association said: "We welcome the commitments that governments have made, and the nuclear industry stands ready to help achieve the goals of the Paris agreement. This agreement should lead to a more positive outlook for nuclear investments, as nuclear is an important part of the response to climate change in countries across the world. What governments need to do now is convert the global agreement they have reached in Paris into national policies, including a progressive decarbonisation of the electricity generation sector. We have proposed that there should be 1000 GWe of nuclear new build by 2050 as part of a balanced low-carbon future energy mix. To achieve this, we need to see the introduction of energy markets with level playing fields which recognise the value of low carbon and reliable generation. We need to see the adoption of harmonised nuclear regulatory processes internationally. We also need to ensure that actions do not lead to clean nuclear power plants being closed prematurely and replaced with more polluting alternatives. Ongoing investment is also needed to help develop the next generation of nuclear technology, along with a clear and achievable pathway for deployment.”

Ahead of the COP21 meeting, 188 nations had submitted their individual climate action plans, including how much they were intending to cut emissions. There is a wide range of targets in these Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), from ambitious cuts by 2030 to almost doubling emissions by 2030, according to individual national circumstances. Collectively the INDCs are projected to result in a global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels of 2.7°C, which is considered insufficient constraint. National targets are not binding, there are no defined sanctions for failing to meet them, and they need verification anyway as well as five-yearly reviews ratcheting up the good intentions. The EU October 2014 commitment to reduction targets was conditional upon other countries’ binding commitments, so may be in doubt. The US commitment is in doubt for political reasons. For China and India, the first and third largest sources of CO2, reducing poverty is a higher priority than reducing CO2 emissions.
WNA 15/12/15. Policy Responses to Climate Change

Paris climate change talks
Among the predictable political currents in the COP21 climate change talks in Paris was a contrast between those who asserted the obvious need for nuclear power to play a major role in abating carbon dioxide emissions while meeting increased energy demand and those who denied the need to greatly expand nuclear power. The negotiated text does not address specific technologies, only targets, but some determination to pursue energy innovation is evident, in line with making clean energy cheaper.

Agneta Rising, Director General of the World Nuclear Association, speaking in Paris said: “The nuclear industry stands ready to deliver more to help tackle climate change. Nuclear generation could provide 25% of the world’s electricity with low carbon generation by having 1000 gigawatts of new build by 2050.” Speaking at the same event Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA), said that if governments are serious about nuclear power they should find the right frameworks for investors, because of the challenges of any large investments in liberalised electricity markets.

At an associated forum, Agneta Rising said: "The vital role of nuclear energy in combating climate change is being taken for granted by too many governments and energy experts. This silence on nuclear energy in discussions on climate change is misleading the public... Nuclear generation is by far the largest single source of low carbon generation in Europe, supplying around 27% percent of its electricity, providing affordable and secure supplies... France, the COP 21 host country, has demonstrated that decarbonisation of electricity can be achieved... In less than 20 years France transitioned from fossil fuel dependence in generation to primarily nuclear energy... The International Energy Agency’s Two Degree Scenario requires a major shift to low carbon generation by 2050 [so that] nuclear generation supplies around 18% of global electricity, achieved by more than doubling the current global nuclear capacity... Governments need to communicate clearly about all the climate change mitigation options, to give the public the full facts on which to base its opinions.
WNA 8 & 9/12/15. Policy Responses to Climate Change

World Nuclear Association challenges industry to change energy scene by 2050
Opening the World Nuclear Association’s (WNA's) 2015 Symposium in London, the WNA Director General outlined what was needed to achieve the International Energy Agency’s main scenario to address climate change concerns, limiting warming to 2°C by 2050. Allowing for 150 GWe nuclear retirements by 2050, it would require 680 GWe new build by then to achieve 17% of electricity from nuclear power – about 8000 TWh/yr. But this assumes that energy and process-related emissions could actually be cut by 60% in that timeframe by using renewables and CCS, which is at best optimistic. Therefore a more reasonable target is to build 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2050 and achieve 25% electricity contribution then from about 1250 GWe of nuclear power capacity – about 10,700 TWh/yr. Such a rate of construction is far from unprecedented, and involves cranking up to emulate the industry’s new build performance achieved in the 1980s, from about 2025.

To achieve this there needs to be a level playing field for all low-carbon technologies, valuing not only environmental qualities, but also reliability and grid system costs. Electricity markets must recognize and reward the benefits of nuclear base-load. In relation to regulatory processes, we need to enhance standardisation, and harmonise and update global codes and standards. Finally, an effective safety paradigm must involve confidence in management of nuclear technology and operations, achieving stakeholder trust.
WNN 10/9/15. World Energy Needs & Nuclear Power

New OECD report confirms nuclear power economics
The 2015 edition of the OECD study on Projected Costs of Generating Electricity showed that the range for levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) varied much more for nuclear than coal or CCGT with different discount rates, due to it being capital-intensive. The nuclear LCOE is largely driven by capital costs. At 3%, nuclear was substantially cheaper than the alternatives in all countries, at 7% it was comparable with coal and still cheaper than gas, at 10% it was mostly comparable with both. At low discount rates it was much cheaper than wind and PV.

Overnight capital costs for nuclear technologies in OECD countries ranged from $2021 per kWe of capacity (in South Korea) to $6125 per kWe (in Hungary) in the 2015 report. In China, two comparable figures were US$ 1807/kWe and US$ 2615/kWe. The equivalent 2010 report had noted a significant increase in costs of building base-load plants over the previous five years. The 2015 report shows that this increase has stopped, and that this is particularly significant for nuclear technologies, "undermining the growing narrative that nuclear costs continue to increase globally."
WNN 1/9/15. Economics of Nuclear Power

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 and Nuclear Power

OECD calls for more than doubling nuclear capacity by 2050
Global nuclear power capacity must more than double by 2050 if global warming is to be limited, according to the 2015 Nuclear Technology Roadmap from the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency and International Energy Agency. It 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 still apply” (from the 2010 edition). 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. Annual nuclear plant connection rates would need to increase from 5 GWe in 2014 to more than 20 GWe.
WNN 29/1/15. World Energy Needs and Nuclear Power

IEA call for energy policy action
The International Energy Agency has published its Energy Technology Perspectives 2015 looking to 2050. In the main scenario, the share of fossil fuels in global primary energy supply drops by almost half – from 80% in 2011 to just over 40% in 2050. While energy efficiency, renewables and CCS make the largest contributions to global emissions reductions under the scenario, the IEA says that nuclear power is one of the "essential" measures to reach the emissions reduction target cost-efficiently. Under this scenario, some 22 GWe of new nuclear generating capacity must be added annually to 2050.

Launching the report, the IEA said that the shift to clean energy is progressing at a rate well short of what is needed to limit the global increase in temperature to no more than 2°C. It called for policymakers to step up efforts to support the development and deployment of "new, ground-breaking energy technologies". “Today's annual government spending on energy research and development is estimated to be $17 billion. Tripling this level, as we recommend, requires governments and the private sector to work closely together and shift their focus to low-carbon technologies."
WNN 5/5/15. World Energy Needs and Nuclear Power. Energy Technology Perspectives 2015

New OECD report acknowledges future nuclear role
The OECD’s International Energy Agency (IEA) published in June 2015 a new study, World Energy Outlook Special Report 2015: Energy and Climate Change, which “has the pragmatic purpose of arming COP21 negotiators with the energy sector material they need to achieve success in Paris in December 2015.” It is very much focused on renewables, with little more than incidental mention of nuclear power.

The IEA recommends a series of measures including increasing energy efficiency, reducing the use of inefficient coal-fired power plants, increasing investment in renewables, reducing methane emissions, and phasing out fossil fuels subsidies. Half of the additional emissions reductions in its '450' scenario come from decarbonisation efforts in 
power supply, driven by high carbon price incentives. In this scenario, an additional
 245 GWe of nuclear capacity is built by 2040 compared with a moderate ‘Bridge’ option. The IEA acknowledges that nuclear power is the second-biggest source of low-carbon electricity worldwide after hydropower and that the use of nuclear energy has avoided the release of 56 Gt of CO2 since 1971, equivalent to almost two years of global emissions at current rates. The report suggests that intended nationally determined contributions (INDCs) submitted by countries in advance of COP21 will have trivial effect, and its purpose is clearly to suggest more ambitious emission reduction targets in its ‘Bridge’ scenario.

While the report confirms that nuclear energy will play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, it projects nuclear capacity of only 542 GWe (38% increase) producing 4005 TWh in 2030 in its main ‘Bridge’ scenario, with the share of nuclear energy in power generation increasing to 13% then, compared with about 11% today. Most of the new nuclear plants are expected to be built in countries with price-regulated markets or where government-owned entities build, own and operate the plants, or where governments act to facilitate private investment.
World Energy Needs

39 world nuclear associations sign climate declaration
Thirty-nine societies for nuclear professionals around the world have signed the Nuclear for Climate declaration, calling for nuclear energy to be recognized for its contribution towards combatting climate change. The declaration is a major component of the Nuclear for Climate global initiative, launched last year to raise awareness among decision-makers and the general public of the undeniable climate change benefits of nuclear energy. The signatories "recognize that nuclear energy is one of a handful of options available at scale which can help to reduce energy related greenhouse gas emissions." They say that "each country needs access to the widest possible portfolio of low-carbon technologies available, including nuclear energy, in order to reduce CO2 emissions and meet other energy goals."
WNN 6/5/15.

International nuclear liability convention enters into force
Though conceived and adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency 18 years ago, the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) has now come into effect. Until now there have been two conventions covering international liability for nuclear damage: the IAEA Vienna Convention, since 1977, and the OECD Paris Convention, since 1968. Both have been amended and also linked, but in 1997 the CSC was adopted as a broader instrument to which all countries can subscribe and which increases the amount of compensation for nuclear damage. It establishes an international fund, to which Contracting Parties will be expected to contribute in the event of a nuclear accident.

In order to come into force the CSC had to be ratified by countries with at least 400 GW thermal of installed nuclear capacity. Until early this year the only ratifying party with significant nuclear generating capacity was the USA, where the first-tier insurance would be provided under the Price Anderson Act. Now Japan has joined it. Other countries with significant nuclear capacity have signed but not yet ratified the CSC.
WNN 15/4/15. Liability for Nuclear Damage. Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage

Canada nuclear accident study gives perspective
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has released its Study of Consequences of a Hypothetical Severe Nuclear Accident and Effectiveness of Mitigation Measures. This was the result of research and analysis undertaken to address concerns raised during public hearings in 2012 on the environmental assessment for the refurbishment of Ontario Power Generation's (OPG's) Darlington nuclear power plant. The study involved identifying and modelling a large atmospheric release of radionuclides from a hypothetical severe nuclear accident at the four-unit Darlington power plant; estimating the doses to individuals at various distances from the plant, after factoring in protective actions such as evacuation that would be undertaken in response to such an emergency; and, finally, determining human health and environmental consequences due to the resulting radiation exposure. It concluded that there would be no detectable health effects or increase in cancer risk.
WNN 26/8/15. Safety of Nuclear Power Plants

Agreement on international ‘fuel bank’
The Kazakh government has approved a draft agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on establishing a low-enriched uranium (LEU) 'fuel bank' apparently at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan. It will be a potential supply of 90 tonnes LEU (as UF6) for the production of fuel assemblies for nuclear power plants. Any state wishing to develop nuclear energy will be able to apply to Kazakhstan for the uranium fuel needed for its nuclear power plants if other sources become problematical. The IAEA shall bear the costs of the purchase and delivery (import-export) of the uranium, the purchase of equipment and its operation, technical resources and other goods and services required for the functioning of the LEU ‘fuel bank’. Kazakhstan will meet the costs of LEU storage. The agreement has a ten-year duration with automatic renewal at the end of this period.
WNN 14/5/15. Kazakhstan

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 Carem-25 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. 

Westinghouse announces new reactor technology frontier
Westinghouse has announced its submission of a lead-cooled fast reactor (LFR) project proposal to the US Department of Energy. The Westinghouse-led project team includes US national laboratories, universities and the private sector. The company says that it believes an LFR plant will be the next advanced reactor technology to be deployed. Along with the company’s latest advanced fuel, the lead coolant will enhance reactor safety and optimize the plant’s economic value through lower construction costs and higher operating efficiency than other technologies. Beyond electricity generation, applications could include hydrogen production and water desalination. Also, the plant’s load-following capabilities will work with the increased use of intermittent renewable energy sources such as solar and wind.

Two of Russia’s foremost new reactor plans are for the 300 MWe BREST fast reactor, also lead-cooled, and the 100 MWe SVBR, cooled by lead-bismuth eutectic. Demonstration units of both are almost ready to start construction. In Europe, the 120 MWe ALFRED is being developed, and a consortium was set up in 2013 for its construction which may be from 2017. Lead-cooled fast reactors are one of six technology streams being pursued under the Generation IV International Forum. Hitherto, US LFR concepts have been limited to STAR, designed by DOE's Argonne National Laboratory but not proceeding.

The Westinghouse announcement is significant in that it is from a major reactor vendor with no previous involvement in fourth-generation reactor designs, but now aiming to match GE-Hitachi, Areva and Rosatom, and it is from the USA where innovative reactor designs have struggled since President Carter killed most nuclear R&D in the 1970s. More than half the naval and power reactors operating today are derived from Westinghouse, and its AP1000 design was adopted as the new technology standard in China.
Westinghouse 8/10/15. Fast Neutron Reactors

USA

New US reactor gets operating licence
The Tennessee Valley Authority has received a 40-year operating licence from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its Watts Bar 2 nuclear reactor. There was a gap of over 20 years in its construction, and TVA decided in 2007 to complete it. The cost since then has been about $4.2 billion. Fuel will now be loaded and it is expected to start up by the end of the year, delivering 1165 MWe net in 2016. It is the first US reactor to receive an operating licence since its twin in 1996, and means that 100 power reactors are now licensed in the USA.
WNN 22/10/15 Nuclear Power in the USA

US reactor completes major uprate
Exelon’s Peach Bottom 3 reactor has completed the major part of an extended power uprate, following replacement of the high-pressure turbine and other components after 41 years' service. This will add 145 MWe, taking it to about 1283 MWe net. Similar work on unit 2 was completed last year.
WNN 26/10/15. Nuclear Power in the USA

Life extensions for several US reactors
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licence for Ameren Missouri’s Callaway reactor, giving the 1275 MWe unit an extra 20 years to 2044. This is the 76th reactor to have its licence extended from 40 to 60 years. Applications are under review for another 18.
WNN 9/3/15. Nuclear Power in the USA

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licences of Tennessee Valley Authority’s Sequoyah 1&2 reactors, taking them from 2020-21 to 2040-41. This brings the US total of 20-year licence extensions to 78, with 16 further units under review. Original licences for US reactors were for a nominal 40 years. Consideration is now turning to possible further 20-year extensions, to 80 years.
WNN 29/9/15. Nuclear Power in the USA

Exelon’s twin-unit Byron nuclear plant has had the licences of both reactors extended from 40 to 60 years – to 2044 and 2046. However, Exelon has the future of this plant under review and its continued operation is not assured. Renewal of Byron's operating licences brings the number of renewals granted by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to 80, while applications for a further 14 renewals are currently under review.
WNN 2011/15. Nuclear Power in the USA

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licence for the 908 MWe Davis-Besse nuclear reactor, taking it to 2037. This is the 81st US unit to have such a licence extension to 60 years. The owners had spent almost $1 billion in refurbishment, including new steam generators, to justify the licence. Applications for second 20-year extensions in the USA, taking operating lives to 80 years, are expected in the next few years.
WNN 9/12/15. Nuclear Power in the USA

US government pushes for small reactors
Clean energy sources, including small modular nuclear reactors, must make up at least 25% of the energy consumed by US federal agencies by 2025 under an executive order on federal sustainability issued by the President. As the federal government is the single largest consumer of energy in the USA, the order – Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade – aims to promote federal leadership in reducing greenhouse gas emissions while fostering innovation and reducing spending. Federal agencies are instructed to cut their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% over the decade. Initial priority will be given to reducing energy use and cost, followed by "finding renewable or alternative energy solutions".

The order defines energy from new small modular reactor (SMR) technologies as an alternative energy source, alongside renewables and CCS. The US Department of Energy is supporting the accelerated development and deployment of NuScale's 50 MWe self-contained pressurized water reactor, with a five-year funding package of $217 million signed in May 2014.
WNN 23/3/15. Nuclear Power in the USA

US reactor closure contested
As several generating companies announce proposed reactor closures in northeastern USA, questions are being raised on a wider front than before as the implications become clearer. One plant, which may become a focus for these concerns, is Entergy’s 852 MWe Fitzparick single-unit merchant plant in upstate New York. It has been supplying power for 40 years, and despite being licensed to 2034, it is likely to close at the end of next year, due to sustained low wholesale electricity prices, with competition from cheap gas and subsidised wind.

This situation is not unique, but the outcry from politicians, and other stakeholders has been unusual. Entergy says the closure will save it $250 million over several years; the state says the closure will cost it $500 million and devastate the community. Local government sees a major economic impact, where the average Fitzpatrick worker earns about $120,000 a year, and the median household income is well under half that. Entergy last month announced the impending closure of the single-unit Pilgrim plant in Massachusetts, for similar reasons.
WNN 2/11/15. Nuclear Power in the USA

Urenco’s US enrichment plant licensed to expand
Urenco USA (UUSA) has been granted a licence by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to expand its Eunice, New Mexico uranium enrichment plant to 10 million SWU/yr, able to supply about 60% of US needs in the 2020s. This will cramp the potential market for intending competitors, including Areva, Centrus (USEC) and Global Laser Enrichment. However, for the time being UUSA is expanding only to just under half this figure. The NRC also amended UUSA’s licence to allow it to use high-assay depleted uranium (DU) tails from early military enrichment as feed for the new improved centrifuges it has been using since 2012.

The UUSA licence amendment also has implications for construction of a proposed deconversion plant in New Mexico by International Isotopes (INIS) to treat depleted uranium (DU) fluoride. In 2012 it received a NRC licence to build and operate a 6,500 t/yr deconversion plant and fluorine extraction facility near Hobbes, 50 km from the UUSA plant at Eunice. It then put the project on hold until “additional uranium enrichment capacity comes on line that can provide us with additional opportunities to contract for deconversion service of that material.” The newly-amended UUSA licence allows it to store 25,000 cylinders of depleted uranium fluoride on site (210,000 tonnes DU), which will accumulate at about 1000 cylinders per year there when the plant is running at full licensed capacity. Worldwide, about 8000 cylinders of DU fluoride (with 67,000 t contained DU) commence indefinite storage each year at enrichment plants, and there is now over 1.5 million tonnes DU awaiting use in future fast reactors. The INIS plant would take about 575 of these cylinders per year from UUSA, producing hydrofluoric acid for sale and depleted uranium oxide for storage in stable form.
WNN 31/3/15. US Fuel Cycle

New fuel on the horizon for US utilities
A group of electric utilities representing about half of the US nuclear generating capacity has written to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission formally expressing interest in Lightbridge’s metal fuel, saying that they believe the fuel provides opportunities to improve safety and fuel cycle economics significantly. The utilities’ Nuclear Utility Fuel Advisory Board (NUFAB) expects to apply to the NRC in 2017 to test the fuel in an operating PWR about 2020.

Metal fuels were used in some earlier reactors such as the UK Magnox design and also two US fast reactors. But the higher melting point of uranium oxide has made it the preferred fuel material in all reactors for half a century. But metal has much better thermal conductivity than ceramic oxide, and recent research has turned back to metal fuel forms. Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Energy is working with Lightbridge to set up a pilot plant for metal fuel which is 50:50 Zr-U alloy, with uranium enriched to almost 20% and having a 4-lobed and helically twisted rod geometry. The cladding is metallurgically bonded to the fuel. Lightbridge has also agreed with AECL for fabrication of such metal fuel at Chalk River in Canada and testing of it there in the NRU reactor. The agreement is expected to see fabrication and characterization of prototype fuel rods using depleted uranium early next year, with irradiation fuel samples using enriched uranium made later in 2016. Lightbridge is also aiming to test the fuel under prototypical PWR conditions in a pressurized water loop of Norway's 25 MW Halden research reactor, starting in 2017.
WNN 19/5/15. Fuel fabrication

Major uprate for 40-year old US plant
Exelon is now operating its Peach Bottom 2 reactor in Pennsylvania at 12.4% higher power level than before following works last year to enable an extended power uprate from 1182 MWe gross. After a 730-day run it was taken off line in October for refuelling and upgrading including replacement of high and low-pressure turbines, steam dryers and main power transformers, plus overhauling the generators. With an extra 138 MWe the BWR is now contributing about 1286 MWe net to the grid. The twin, unit 3, will undergo similar works later this year. Both started up in 1974.
WNN 20/5/15. Nuclear Power in the USA

Final loan guarantee issued for US nuclear plant
The final $1.8 billion of loan guarantees has been issued to three subsidiaries of the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG), which owns 22.7% of the Vogtle project, building two AP1000 reactors in Georgia. Georgia Power (45.7%), Oglethorpe Power (30%) and Dalton Utilities (1.6%) are the other equity partners. The plant will be licensed and operated by Southern Nuclear Operating Company. Loan guarantees totalling $6.5 billion were issued to Georgia Power and Oglethorpe Power in 2014 (Dalton has not applied).

The US Department of Energy offers loan guarantees for projects that avoid, reduce or sequester greenhouse gas emissions and employ "new or significantly improved" technologies. Federal loan guarantees do not fund projects directly but help enable projects to secure private finance. The Vogtle project is about half built. Relative to coal, Vogtle’s new 2234 MWe net will avoid about 17 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
WNN 25/6/15. USA Nuclear Power

Further proposal for US high-level waste storage
Following local government’s unanimous approval for Waste Control Specialists (WCS) to develop a consolidated interim storage facility (CISF) for used nuclear fuel at its Andrews County site in Texas, WCS has signed an agreement with Areva for design, development, construction, operation and maintenance of the facility. Areva would also support the transport of used fuel from individual nuclear plant sites to it. NAC International then joined Areva in supporting the proposal and helping to licence it. The CISF would provide above-ground storage for used fuel which has already been placed in dry storage casks at the nuclear plant site. The storage casks would be encased in an additional NRC-certified transportation cask and moved primarily by rail to the facility, where it would be removed from the transportation cask and placed in storage, in horizontal vaults. The CISF would have 40,000 tonne capacity, developed in 5000-tonne increments. (The stalled Yucca Mountain repository was designed for 70,000 tonnes.)
WNN 21/5/15. US Fuel Cycle

US agreement for consent-based consolidated high-level waste storage
The New Mexico governor has proposed to the US Department of Energy that some land between Carlsbad and Hobbs in the southeast of the state should be used for an interim national used fuel storage facility. The Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance, a consortium of Eddy and Lea counties and Carlsbad and Hobbs cities, strongly supports the proposal. Holtec has now signed an agreement with the Eddy-Lea Energy Alliance LLC to establish a consolidated interim storage facility there. This is very much in line with consent-based approach to siting waste facilities pioneered in Sweden.

The project includes the design, licensing, construction and operation of an interim storage facility using an enlarged version of Holtec’s Hi-Storm UMAX storage system, already deployed at two US nuclear power plant sites. Used reactor fuel is stored in ventilated vertical steel and concrete containers with massive lids, below ground level. A number of containers are set up in an excavation and the ground is backfilled around them. Holtec expects to apply for Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing in 2016 and then have the facility operational in five years. Holtec says that a 13-hectare site could store 75,000 tonnes of used fuel, the amount envisaged for the suspended Yucca Mountain repository. A similar Holtec Hi-Storm 190 system is being constructed in Ukraine as its Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility (CSFSF), to hold over 16,500 fuel assemblies above ground.
WNN 30/4/15. US Fuel Cycle

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

USA Clean Power Plan announced
A Clean Power Plan has been issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This is to curb greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act and aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. It is heavily biased to wind and solar renewables, but allows credit for new nuclear power plants and uprates to existing units, but does not credit the role of existing nuclear capacity, some of which is marginal economically in present market conditions. Nor does it credit licence extensions on the same basis as new capacity. States are charged with making plans to achieve the national plan’s goals by September 2016. Nuclear power produces 63% of US carbon-free electricity, and last year avoided the emission of 595 million tonnes of CO2, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute.
WNN 5/8/15. Nuclear Power in the USA

Europe

UK

UK signals new energy policy priorities
The UK government has articulated new policy priorities for energy, involving possibly phasing out coal-fired power plants without CO2 abatement in 2025, building new gas-fired plants, and much greater reliance on nuclear power and offshore wind to grapple with “a legacy of ageing, often unreliable plant” and undue reliance on coal. The energy secretary said: "Opponents of nuclear misread the science. It is safe and reliable. The challenge, as with other low carbon technologies, is to deliver nuclear power which is low cost as well. Green energy must be cheap energy.

“We are dealing with a legacy of under-investment and with Hinkley Point C planning to start generating in the mid-2020s, this is already changing. It is imperative we do not make the mistakes of the past and just build one nuclear power station. There are plans for a new fleet of nuclear power stations, including at Wylfa and Moorside. It also means exploring new opportunities like small modular reactors, which hold the promise of low cost, low carbon energy." She mentioned 10 GWe of offshore wind capacity by 2020, with government support conditional on reduction in cost, and nuclear plans amount to 6.68 GWe with a further 11.22 GWe proposed but uncommitted.
WNN 19/11/15, Bloomberg Business 18/11/15. Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom

UK set to revive nuclear energy innovation
Although the UK was a pioneer of nuclear power development, since the 1980s there has been no significant fuel cycle R&D or reactor design undertaken in the country. This neglect seems set to change with the announcement of a £250 million nuclear R&D programme to "revive the UK's nuclear expertise" especially through developing small modular reactors (SMRs) and position the country as "a global leader in innovative nuclear technologies." Funding will be through the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), whose other functions are being trimmed, including scrapping of a £1 billion carbon capture and storage (CCS) programme.

"The government's doubling of investment in DECC's innovation programme will help position the UK as an international leader in small modular nuclear reactors, and deliver commitments on seed funding for promising new renewable energy technologies and smart grids, and is part of government plans to "prioritize energy security, whilst making reforms to meet our climate goals at lower cost," with nuclear power considered to have more potential than CCS. A competition is planned to identify the best-value SMR design for the UK, paving the way for building one of the world's first new-generation SMRs in the country in the 2020s. This follows a December 2014 feasibility report by a consortium led by the National Nuclear Laboratory into the potential impact of SMR technology on the UK energy sector and the UK nuclear supply chain.

The UK has plans for 18 GWe of new nuclear power capacity by about 2030, sourced from France, USA and China. On SMRs, there are proposals for UK collaboration on two leading US designs, and there is one British design.
WNN 26/11/15. Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom

China General Nuclear commits to one third of UK nuclear power project
After two years negotiation, a Strategic Investment Agreement has been signed committing China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) to take 33.5% of EDF’s Hinkley Point C project, building two 1670 MWe French EPR reactors in Somerset. This is a £18 billion project (overnight capital cost), the first UK nuclear plant to be built without state funding, and for which there is a long-term power price agreement. EDF will initially be responsible for 66.5% equity, with a view to selling this down to near 50%. CGN’s holding will be through its new company, General Nuclear International. EDF Energy said that the agreement “sets the steps for a final investment decision” expected by the end of the year, and that about 60% of the value of the project will go to UK companies. In China, EDF is in joint venture with CGN building two EPR units at Taishan, where construction started exactly six years ago. In contrast to two EPR units being built in Finland and France, the project is relatively close to schedule and budget.

In connection with the Hinkley Point agreement, EDF and CGN also signed heads of agreement for a wider UK partnership in developing new power plants at Sizewell and Bradwell. They agreed to develop the Sizewell C project in Suffolk to the point where a final investment decision can be made, with a view to building and operating two EPR reactors there. During the development phase, EDF will take an 80% share and CGN a 20% share. For Bradwell in Essex, not hitherto a firm project, EDF and CGN agreed to form a joint venture company to advance plans for a new plant there and seek regulatory approval - through the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process for a UK version of the Chinese-designed Hualong One reactor. CGN is expected to take a 66.5% share and EDF 33.5% in the project. CGN had earlier said it intended to apply in 2016 for GDA of the 1150 MWe Hualong One reactor, with a view to building it at Bradwell.

Nuclear power is in the forefront of the UK government’s policies to provide reliable electricity without increasing the use of coal. The British Prime Minister David Cameron said, "We are signing an historic deal to build the Hinkley nuclear power station, providing reliable, affordable energy for nearly six million homes and creating more than 25,000 jobs, all while working together to build a low-carbon future." China's President Xi added, "This is a flagship project of cooperation between our countries in recent years, and it will lead to more practical cooperation of this kind." The World Nuclear Association said the financing mechanisms that are enabling Hinkley Point C and other low-carbon projects in the UK are "one way of addressing weakness in deregulated electricity markets" since they “fail to correctly value longer-term benefits such as carbon avoidance, price certainty and reliability of supply."
WNN 21 & 22/10/15 Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom

UK government provides £2 billion loan guarantee for new nuclear plant
As EDF Energy approaches a final decision to commit to building two Areva EPR reactors at Hinkley Point, the UK government has announced the provision of £2 billion in loan guarantees for the plant. This is partly to encourage Chinese investment in the plant, EDF having earlier lined up Chinese equity of up to 40%. The government guarantee "is also expected to open the door to unprecedented collaboration in the UK and China on the construction of new nuclear power stations."

In addition, the government announced that the UK and China will co-fund a £50 million "cutting-edge" nuclear research centre in the UK. This Joint Research and Innovation Centre (JRIC) will be run by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) in conjunction with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). NNL said: “The work of the centre will help to optimise the nuclear power generations systems we have operating today, as well as working to develop the reactors and fuel cycles which we will deploy in future, and better ways of dealing safely with nuclear waste.”
WNN 21/9/15. Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom

UK-Canada agreement advances Candu technology prospect
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and the UK Department of Energy & Climate Change have signed a memorandum of understanding on enhancing cooperation in civil nuclear energy. It calls for increased cooperation throughout the nuclear fuel cycle, including: uranium supply; reactor design, construction, operation and decommissioning; and adaptation of designs to use alternative and advanced fuel cycles that support the safe and proper disposition of legacy material. NRCan said: "The MOU will reinforce work already under way on feasibility studies related to the disposal of UK plutonium, and it will provide a framework to assess the development of power generation based on alternative nuclear fuels."

The UK government is examining options for using more than 100 tonnes of separated plutonium that have accumulated over some 60 years. Some has already been used as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel in European reactors, but much remains, and the default solution is to make more MOX for conventional reactors. However, Candu Energy has proposed building two or four of its EC6 reactors (a 740 MWe modern version of its Candu-6) to burn MOX fuel with about 2% plutonium (CANMOX). At about 100 t fuel each per year, this would use 4 t/yr Pu in twin units. Four units would draw down the initial inventory in 15 years. The company notes that the reactors could be fully built in the UK domestically. Candu Energy said that the signing of the new MOU "establishes the means and processes by which such a project could be adopted." The MOU “has the potential to unlock a powerful energy source for UK electricity consumers." GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy Canada, which is working with Candu Energy to develop the CANMOX approach, said that the MOU "is a very positive step in bringing heavy water reactor technology back to the UK."
WNN 29/6/15 Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom

Austria acts to impede UK nuclear plans
Austria has filed a lawsuit with the European Court against the European Commission's approval of state aid for the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in the UK. The ‘aid’ involves guaranteed long-term power prices. Two Areva EPR reactors are planned for the Hinkley Point brownfield site. EDF Energy has yet to make a final investment decision on the project, but has invested significantly in preparatory activities at the site. Last month the Austrian chancellor declared that the action against Hinkley Point C would be intended as a "deterrent to investors, not only in Britain but throughout Europe" and "a further step in [Austria's] anti-nuclear policy, whose long-term objective is a nuclear-free Europe." The UK is vulnerable to such action as an EU member which has outsourced aspects of its energy policy to Brussels.

The World Nuclear Association said that Austria's opposition to the EC's approval of the Hinkley Point project does not respect the right of any country to choose nuclear power to meet their energy needs and to help address climate concerns. In fact, the action is profoundly misinformed and damaging to global efforts to address climate change. "The countries that are leading on decarbonisation are using nuclear energy. Not all countries are in Austria's position – lucky enough to be able to count on hydro power built decades ago to provide roughly 65% of their electricity today. Most others have to make pragmatic choices."
WNN 6/715. Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom

Final shutdown of veteran UK reactor
Wylfa 1, the UK’s oldest nuclear reactor and the last of the original series of Magnox units, has shut down for decommissioning, reducing the UK’s nuclear fleet to 15 more modern reactors, all owned and operated by Electricite de France (EdF) subsidiary EdF Energy. Wylfa 1 & 2 in Wales of 490 MWe net were connected to the grid in 1971, the last and largest of 26 Magnox reactors built in UK. Partly to avoid the need for enriching the fuel, Magnox reactors used natural uranium metal fuel and used graphite as moderator. They were cooled with carbon dioxide, like the later AGRs. Two were sold to Japan and Italy, and several similar units were built in France, running for about 20 years. They represented a high point in the history of British engineering, and the "ground-breaking" Magnox design "gave the nation's scientists a global lead in the race to develop nuclear energy for homes and businesses," according to their owner. The first Magnox plant was opened by the Queen in 1956, and most of them ran for about 40 years.

A new nuclear power plant, Wylfa Newydd, is planned there, with two 1380 MWe Japanese ABWR reactors built by Horizon Nuclear Power, owned by Hitachi.
WNN 31/12/15. UK

Belgium

Stand-off continues in Belgium
GDF Suez remains locked in earnest negotiation with the Belgian government over whether its two oldest Doel reactors will continue in service for another decade. While the government has agreed in principle to a ten-year licence extension for them, the company is unwilling to invest up to €700 million in the necessary upgrades unless the government gives some ground to provide a “clear legal and economic framework” to justify this. Negotiations include removal of the nuclear generation tax introduced by a previous government, which cost the company €397 million last year. Doel 1 was shut down precisely when its 40-year licence expired in mid-February. The company says that it has ordered new fuel for Doel 1 and it could be restarted by the end of the year if agreement is reached with the government on a viable economic future for it.

At present unit 3 of Doel and unit 2 of Tihange are shut down pending resolution of uncertainties about the significance of flaws in their metal structure. The country depends on its seven nuclear reactors for about half its power. The plants are all operated by Electrabel, a GDF Suez subsidiary. The future of nuclear power in Belgium has been a political football for 15 years, despite reasonably high public support.
WNN 12, 17 & 27/2/15. Belgium

Reprieve for Belgian reactors, with tax relief
Through most of this year Electrabel and its parent Engie have been negotiating with the Belgian government regarding the future of the company’s Doel and Tihange nuclear reactors and the special nuclear tax they incur. The government is keen to secure reliable electricity rather than be bound by an inherited 2003 phase-out law. The company has been crippled by a 2009 nuclear tax which added about 25% to production costs and wiped out Electrabel’s profits, so it sought relief from this.

Legislation to enable 10-year life extensions for two of the oldest units, Doel 1&2, to 2025 was passed by parliament in June, thus overturning a major provision of the 2003 law. Now the government has reached agreement with Electrabel on the financial implications for these two and the other five Belgian reactors. The company has agreed to pay a €20 million per year fee for life extension of Doel 1 & 2, and also €200 million in 2015 and €130 million in 2016 as the federal nuclear power ‘contribution’ or tax, substantially less than previously required (and less than €479 million last year). From 2017 a formula will apply. The revised tax and the annual fee will need to be approved by parliament. Electrabel still has to reach agreement with the regulator AFCN on upgrades to the two Doel units possibly costing €800 million before reactivating the licences.

The other 40-year old unit is Tihange 1, jointly owned by EdF and Electrabel. In January 2014 the companies agreed to invest €600 million in upgrading and life extension for it to 2025, but with the government taking €1.25 billion in resulting windfall profits over ten years.
WNN 30/7/15. Belgium

Germany

Closure of large reactor in Bavaria creates German anxiety
On 27 June one of southern Germany’s largest and most safe and efficient reactors finally closes down in line with government policy of May 2011, after 33 years service. E.ON’s Grafenrheinfeld PWR takes 1275 MWe net off the grid, accentuating concerns by grid operator TenneT TSO that it may not be able to keep the grid stable in Bavaria, where much industrial load is. The 190 km Thuringer Bridge transmission link from northern wind farms will be completed next year, but its effectiveness will be limited by the intermittent wind inputs, and grid authority Bundesnetzagentur earlier warned that grid security will be compromised anyway if it trailed the Grafenrheinfeld shut-down. TenneT says that 12 years ago it had to cope with two or three ‘special incidents’ each year, now it is two or three each day, with the costs borne by consumers. Transmission line construction is hampered by classic NIMBYism.
WNN 29/6/15 (planned). Germany

EU court rules on German nuclear fuel tax
As a condition of approving the 8- and 14-year extensions of nuclear power plant licences in Germany in 2010, the government introduced a heavy tax on nuclear fuel – €145 million per tonne of fissile material. This was said to be for funding rehabilitation at the Asse salt mine waste repository, but was seen as a discriminatory tax on the profitable operation of the country’s nuclear plants. The major utilities, E.ON, RWE and EnBW, challenged it successfully, but the case was referred to the Federal Constitutional Court and the EU Court of Justice (ECJ). The latter has now ruled “that EU law does not preclude a duty such as the German duty on nuclear fuel." The court also said the duty on nuclear fuel did not constitute illegal state aid to non-nuclear sources. The three utilities are now awaiting the outcome of their lawsuit filed with the Federal Constitutional Court, which could still rule the tax illegal and possibly unconstitutional.

Since January 2011 the three utilities have paid €5 billion in the nuclear fuel taxes, as well as bearing much greater costs and suffering reduced revenue due to the government’s Energiewende policy U-turn in March 2011 which closed down eight reactors, curtailed the others, and distorted the energy market in favour of renewables. This has effectively destroyed the country’s three main energy companies. Vattenfall Europe, owned by the Swedish government, is also affected and is seeking €4.7 billion compensation through the autonomous International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington, based on the Energy Charter Treaty which provides security to corporate investments against political risks.
WNN 5/6/15. Germany

German wholesale power prices drop to €30/MWh
In the face of strong input from some 80 GWe of solar and wind capacity, averaging 13.5 GWe through April (9.7 TWh), heavily subsidised and with preferential grid access, the wholesale price for electricity has dropped to about €0.03/kWh, making much conventional capacity barely economic at best. A lot of gas-fired capacity has been closed and cheaper coal-fired plants are being built, disregarding the CO2 emission implications. In 2014 the grid companies paid €21.5 billion in feed-in tariffs and marketing premiums for electricity from renewables which was then sold for €1.6 billion on the wholesale market, the difference being funded by the €0.0624/kWh Umlage surcharge on consumers’ bills, totalling €22.4 billion for 2014.
Power in Europe 11/5/15, German Energy Blog 9/1/15 quoting www.netztransparenz.de  

France

EDF to take over Areva’s reactor business
The French government has backed a plan for EDF to take a majority stake in Areva's reactor business as part of a revitalization of the country's nuclear power industry. Both companies are largely state-owned – Areva is 87%-owned by government. Its two EPR reactor construction projects – in Finland and France – are well behind schedule and greatly over budget. Areva’s loss in 2014 was €4.83 billion. EDF will become the major shareholder in Areva NP, which will operate as a separate company. Areva will continue as a fuel cycle company.
WNN 4/6/15. France

Sweden

Swedish utilities warn government
Following announcements that four reactors would close by 2020 due to declining profitability, representatives of E.On, Vattenfall and Fortum met with the energy minister on 6 November and warned that the operating environment for energy production in Sweden is "troubling" and in the medium term nuclear generation should not be taken for granted. Fortum said that while "nuclear safety is always our first priority, …. heavy safety investments together with Sweden's unique capacity tax pose a negative, totally unreasonable burden on nuclear power." The nuclear tax is equal to over half the staff cost and makes up about one-third of the operating cost of nuclear power in Sweden, about SEK 4.5 billion (US$ 518 million) per year.
WNN 10/11/15. Sweden

Swedish tax setback may seal fate of two reactors
A European Court of Justice decision that Sweden’s discriminatory capacity tax on nuclear power does in fact comply with EU laws is likely to mean that E.ON Sweden shuts down two older Oskarshamn reactors in which it has a majority interest. The minority shareholder, Fortum, dissents, and a meeting on 14 October is to resolve the question. Sweden has a tax on nuclear power which now amounts to about €7.50/MWh – about 20% of the revenue for Oskarshamn, and about one-third of the operating cost for the industry generally. Oskarshamn units 1&2 date from 1970s and are 473 and 638 MWe net respectively. Unit 3 was commissioned in 1985, and in 2009 was upgraded by 250 MWe, so that it is now 1400 MWe net.

Finland’s Fortum, which owns 45.5% of the three Oskarshamn units, said: "Contrary to E.ON's view, we believe that it is possible to continue production from Oskarshamn units 1 and 2 until the end of their planned operational lifetimes.” Furthermore, "the recent modernization investments in Oskarshamn 2 have been carried out with a target to continue production until the end of the unit's lifetime and with increased capacity. Considering the investments made, as well as our strong expertise as a nuclear operator and a global service provider, we see that there are other measures [that could be] taken to ensure safe and reliable production at Oskarshamn 2 until the end of its planned lifetime.” Fortum anticipates a €700 million write-down if the two reactors are closed prematurely.

German-based E.ON is facing heavy losses due to Germany’s policy on nuclear power, and is seeking €8 billion in compensation from the government.
WNN 1/10/15. Sweden

Two further reactor closures in Sweden confirmed
Vattenfall - owner of a 70.4% stake in the Ringhals plant - announced earlier this year that it intended to bring forward the closure of units 1 & 2 by five years, due to declining profitability and increased costs including Sweden’s capacity tax on nuclear reactors. An extraordinary general meeting of plant operator Ringhals AB Ringhals has confirmed that unit 2 is to be decommissioned in 2019 and unit 1 in 2020, each after 44 years of operation. This will remove 1685 MWe net from the Nordic grid.
WNN 16/10/15. Sweden

Finland

Finland licences waste repository construction
After more than ten years' research to verify the characteristics of the two billion-year-old igneous rock below Eurajoki near Olkiluoto in western Finland, the government has licensed construction of a geological repository for disposal of the country’s used fuel, and an encapsulation plant for it. The project managed by Posiva has strong support from the local community and almost unanimous parliamentary support. Disposal will be based on a multi-barrier system, developed by the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company (SKB). Encapsulation will involve putting 12 fuel assemblies into a boron steel canister and enclosing this in a copper capsule. Each capsule will be placed in its own hole in the 450-metre deep repository and backfilled with bentonite clay. The used fuel will be retrievable at every stage of the process.

The minister of economic affairs said: "The construction licence granted now is the first in the world for a used nuclear fuel disposal facility. Finland is an international pioneer in nuclear waste management, which also obliges us to take care of matters responsibly and safely in future. Finnish expertise also provides us with commercial opportunities in developing nuclear waste management in other countries."
WNN 12/11/15. Finland

Russia

New Russian fast reactor comes on line
After a few starts and stops Russia’s Beloyarsk 4 fast neutron reactor has been connected to the grid, alongside its 24-year old reliable BN-600 predecessor. Since construction start in 2006 the 789 MWe net BN-800 has been delayed by lack of funds. It is essentially a demonstration unit for fuel and design features for the BN-1200, which will be the first full commercial fast reactor. Russia plans to have three of them on line by 2035.
WNN 11/12/15. Nuclear Power in Russia

Russian nuclear desalination commercial initiative
Rusatom Overseas, the international marketing subsidiary of Russian state nuclear power company Rosatom, is aiming to ramp up export sales of desalination facilities integrated with large Russian nuclear power plants. These have significant potential in Middle East and North African markets especially, where a lot of large desalination plants are being built. This announcement follows the signing of a project development agreement last month for a nuclear power plant with desalination complex in Egypt.

Rosatom said its desalination facility could produce 170,000 cubic metres per day of water from a single large reactor. It would employ multi-effect distillation (MED) technology involving cogeneration using waste heat. As well as relatively incidental use of waste heat from large reactors, Rosatom is intending “expansion of the product range, including desalination facilities integrated with small modular reactor plants and floating nuclear power plants."
WNN 4/3/15. Nuclear Desalination

Turkey

Turkish-US merger to fast-track Turkish uranium mine
Australian-based Anatolia Energy has been moving towards opening the Temrezli ISL uranium mine in Turkey on one of its several tenements. A merger with US-based Uranium Resources Inc (URI) has been announced. URI has ISL uranium interests in Texas and New Mexico. A pre-feasibility study completed earlier this year revealed strong economic prospects for the Temrezli project, and Anatolia has a production licence from the government with a view to starting in 2016. URI will contribute experienced staff and possibly a treatment plant from Texas for Temrezli. The Turkish government strongly supports the mine plans, as a corollary of building four large Russian nuclear reactors at Akkuyu from next year.
WNN 4/6/15. Nuclear Power in Turkey. US Uranium Mining and Exploration

Iran

Iran agrees to international constraints
After protracted negotiations, an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the UK, and the USA – plus Germany and the EU) concerned to constrain Iran’s nuclear weapons potential has been signed. It follows the framework agreement struck in April. Under this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, Iran has agreed that over the next 15 years it will not enrich uranium above 3.67% and will not stockpile more than 300 kg of enriched uranium. Uranium research and development activities will only take place at its main site, Natanz, with a much reduced number of centrifuges, while no enrichment will be carried out at the underground Fordow site. In addition, Iran has agreed indefinitely not to build any new heavy water reactors or stockpile heavy water, and that the Arak reactor will be redesigned, and all used fuel will be shipped out of the country.

A separate agreement with the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sets out a path for “the clarification of past and present outstanding issues” regarding suspected nuclear weapons activities. Explanations and interactions are scheduled to mid-October so that the IAEA Board can receive a full report in December. Once the IAEA confirms that Iran has complied with its obligations under the international agreement, economic sanctions will progressively be lifted. The IAEA welcomed Iran's decision to implement the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA, allowing the intrusive monitoring required under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
WNN 15/7/15 Iran

Iran makes progress on dismantling enrichment capacity
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, agreed with China, France, Germany, Russia, the UK, and the USA, as well as the EU, and designed to roll back Iran’s progress in enriching uranium apparently for nuclear weapons, came into effect on 18 October. All participants then started to prepare for implementing their respective commitments, which will include lifting sanctions once the IAEA has verified that Iran has completed all its steps.

The IAEA reported in November that a total of 4,112 centrifuges and related infrastructure have been removed from service at the main Natanz fuel enrichment plant along with 160 more advanced centrifuges not yet in use, and related infrastructure. This equipment is being stored at the site, under IAEA verification and monitoring. At the same time a total of 258 centrifuges and related infrastructure were removed from the underground Fordow plant.

The IAEA report suggests that Iran has a total inventory of low-enriched uranium equivalent to 12.64 tonnes of 3.5% uranium hexafluoride. Of this, 8.30 tonnes is in that form, with the remainder in various chemical forms at the Isfahan complex.
WNN 19/11/15. Nuclear Power in Iran

Iran ships enriched uranium abroad
Most of Iran’s enriched uranium has been shipped to Russia, in line with requirements under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of action agreed in July with major countries, in line with UN Security Council concerns. This is a significant step towards lifting of international sanctions on Iran.
WNN 29/12/15. Iran

China

New Chinese reactors connected to grid
Unit 2 of the Fangjiashan plant in Zhejiang province has been connected to the grid this month (January), 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.

Unit 3 of the Hongyanhe plant in Liaoning province has been connected to the grid, five months after start-up and 72 months after construction start, with construction delay due to post Fukushima safety reviews. The plant, using CPR-1000 reactors, is a joint venture of China General Nuclear Power (CGN) and China Power Investment Corporation (CPI). Alstom is providing the four low-speed Arabelle turbine-generator sets, though localization is over 80%. A fourth unit is expected to be in operation late in the year, and two more are under construction. The project incorporates a 10,080 m3/day seawater desalination plant using waste heat to provide cooling water.

Unit 3 of the Ningde plant in Fujian province has been connected to the grid, only two weeks after start-up and 62 months after construction start. The four-unit plant is a joint project of China General Nuclear Power (CGN) and China Datang Corporation. The reactor pressure vessel and steam generators for the CPR-1000 reactor are from China First Heavy Industries. This brings the China nuclear total to 26 reactors and 23,176 MWe net.

Unit 2 of CGN's Yangjiang plant was grid connected in March after 67 months' construction.
Platts. WNN 24/3/15. Nuclear Power in China

Unit 3 of the Yangjiang plant has been connected to the grid, 59 months after construction start. It is a transitional model – CPR-1000+, a little more advanced than units 1&2 at the site. It brings the operating total in China to 28 reactors, 25.2 GWe net.
WNN 20/10/15. Nuclear Power in China

Unit 2 of Fuqing nuclear power station in Fujian province has been connected to China’s grid, the 27th reactor on line, and the fifth to commence operation this year so far. Construction of the CPR-1000 reactor, including a pause for checking post-Fukushima, took 74 months.
WNN 6/8/15. Nuclear Power in China

Unit 1 of Fangchenggang, a CPR-1000 reactor, has been connected to the southern China grid near the Vietnam border, 63 months after construction start. The plant is 61% owned by China General Nuclear and 39% by Guangxi Investment Group. It is China’s 29th operational reactor.
WNN 26/10/15. Nuclear Power in China

The first unit of the Changjiang nuclear power plant on the southern island province of Hainan has been connected to the electricity grid, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has announced. It is a 610 MWe net CNP-600 reactor, built as a joint venture between CNNC and China Huaneng Group (49%). Construction took 66 months, including the delay for safety review post-Fukushima. Unit 2 is expected to start up next year.
WNN 9/11/15. Nuclear Power in China

New Chinese reactors enter commercial operation
Yangjiang unit 2 has commenced commercial operation in Guangdong province. It is the second of four CPR-1000 reactors there for China General Nuclear Group (CGN). Units 5&6, now under construction, are a later version. A few days later, Ningde 3 in Fujian province became the 25th reactor in China to enter commercial operation. It is the third of four CPR-1000 units at the site near Fuqing city. Ningde power plant is co-owned by CGN (46%) and China Datang Corporation (44%), this being Datang’s first nuclear venture. CGN now has 13 reactors in full operation with one more expected to achieve that soon, and 11 under construction.

CNNC's Fuqing 2 entered commercial operation in October.
WNN 11 & 16/6/15. Nuclear Power in China

CNNC and Huaneng Power have announced that the 650 MWe Changjiang 1 on Hainan Island has started commercial operation, after grid connection last month.
WNN 22 & 30/12/15. China NP

New Chinese reactor fires up
Unit 2 of Fuqing nuclear power plant in Fujian province has started up, a year behind its twin, and six years from construction start. Fuqing units 1-4 are 1020 MWe indigenous CPR-1000 types, with units 5&6 on the site being the newer Hualong One. Grid connection is expected next month. The project is run by China National Nuclear Corporation, with China Huadian holding 39%.

WNN 23&24/7/15. Nuclear Power in China

Three new south Chinese reactors start up
CGN’s Yangjiang 3 in western Guangdong province, a CPR-1000 unit, has achieved criticality. Construction start was November 2010. Six Yangjiang reactors will comprise the second major nuclear power base for China General Nuclear, at a total cost of CNY 73 billion ($11.5 billion) for about 6100 MWe. Unit 2 was grid-connected earlier this year and is now in commercial operation. Hong Kong-based China Light and Power has been interested in taking equity in the plant.

Changjang 1, on Hainan Island, has also achieved criticality, and is expected to be delivering power by the end of the year. Construction of the 650 MWe unit began in April 2010. It is essentially a joint venture of China National Nuclear Corporation (51%) and Huaneng Power International. A second unit is about a year behind it. Total cost of the first pair of CNP-600 units is put at about CNY 20 billion ($3.15 billion). Units 3&4, probably ACP600, will be built as phase II from 2018.

Also this week, Fangchenggang unit 1 achieved first criticality in Guangxi province, close to the Vietnam border. It is the first of six CPR-1000 reactors at the site. Construction for China General Nuclear began in July 2010, at a cost of CNY 26 billion ($4.1 billion) for the first two. In 2011, power exports to Vietnam were envisaged. Construction of units 3 & 4 is expected to begin any day. These will be CGN’s first Hualong One reactors.
WNN 12&15/10/15. Nuclear Power in China

First of China’s new indigenous large reactors starts construction
Fuqing 5, the first Hualong One nuclear power reactor is now under construction in China for China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC). The 1150 MWe reactor is an indigenous design with full intellectual property rights, though it is similar – except for its core – to about 25 others operating and under construction. As well as being a standardised design in its class for China, it is emerging as the focus of a major export push – CNNC says it has signed two export contracts for the design. The Argentina Ambassador and Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission officials were present to witness the first concrete. It has about 85% local components. China General Nuclear Group (CGN) is proposing to seek UK generic design approval for the Hualong One next year, with a view to building it at Bradwell in Essex.
WNN 7/5/15. Nuclear Power in China

China starts construction of new reactors

First concrete has been poured for Hongyanhe unit 6 in Liaoning province, an ACPR-1000 type. The plant is a joint venture of China General Nuclear Power (CGN) and the State Power Investment Corporation (SPI, newly merged CPI with SNPTC).
WNN 23&24/7/15. Nuclear Power in China

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has commenced construction of its second Hualong One reactor at Fuqing – unit 6 at the site in Fujian province, 1161 MWe gross. The first two Fuqing units are operating, the second pair and unit 5 are under construction.

CNNC has also started construction of Tianwan 5, in Jiangsu province and alongside four Russian VVER-1000 units – two operating and two under construction. Units 5 & 6 are ACPR1000 reactors of 1080 MWe gross, the last ones based on French M-310 design and developed in China. Units 7 & 8 at Tianwan will revert to Russian provenance, probably the AES-2006 plant with 1200 MWe reactors similar to those being built at Leningrad NPP.

China General Nuclear (CGN) has started construction of its first Hualong One reactor on schedule at Fangchenggang, unit 3 at the site in Guanxi autonomous region close to the Vietnam border. The first Fangchenggang CPR-1000 unit is operating, the second is under construction. Fangchenggang-3 and -4 of 1150 MWe gross will be reference units for the Bradwell B nuclear power plant, a CGN-led project in the UK involving EdF.
WNN 22 & 30/12/15. China NP

Thai equity in south China plant
CGN and Guangxi Investment Group Co. have signed an agreement with the Chinese subsidiary of Thailand's Ratchaburi Electricity Generating Holding Public Company, a subsidiary of the state-owned Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, to establish a joint venture to construct and operate the next stage of the Fangchenggang plant, expected to be Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. Thai equity is 10%.
WNN 22 & 30/12/15. China NP

Chinese nuclear power IPO vastly oversubscribed
At a time when there is some anxiety about financing of new nuclear power plants, China is countering this. In its initial public offering on the Shanghai stock market, China National Nuclear Power (CNNP) attracted bids of CNY 1.69 trillion ($273 billion) and was listed on the basis of shares at CNY 3.39 raising CNY 13.19 billion ($2.12 billion). The strong public interest meant that only 1.6% of the registered purchase requests were fulfilled, and the shares jumped by 44% on the first day they were traded. Total market value of CNNP was then CNY 78 billion. Its rival, CGN Power, undertook a $3.16 billion IPO in Hong Kong in November 2014 to raise funds for nuclear plant construction and to increase to 51% its share in the Taishan nuclear power plant.
WNN 4/6/15. China Organisations

China National Nuclear Corp spreads wings to Europe
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) says it plans to bid for Enel’s 66% share of Slovak Electric, which owns and operates both Slovakia’s nuclear power plants. Italy’s electric utility Enel bought the share in 2006, but has found construction of two new reactors at one of the plants a protracted and expensive exercise. They have evolved to be the most modern units of an early (but EU-approved) Russian design.

CNNC, along with China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN), plans to take significant equity in new UK nuclear power developments, and they aspire to build Chinese Hualong One reactors at Bradwell in UK.

Also CNNC has signed three major agreements with Areva in France regarding nuclear energy cooperation in the full fuel cycle, including developing large reactors as well as implementing several earlier agreements from 2008 to build a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in China’s Gansu province.
WNN 30/6/15. Slovakia, UK

China planning larger high-temperature reactor plants
China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group (CNEC) is promoting commercial high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTRs) domestically and abroad. Its proposal for two 600 MWe HTR units at Ruijin city in Jiangxi province has passed an initial feasibility review. The design is based on the HTR-PM or HTR-200 being built at Shidaowan, backed by Tsinghua University, with CNEC and China Huaneng utility. That is a pebble-bed unit with twin 105 MWe reactors driving a common 210 MWe turbine, and this will be the module for Ruijin. CNEC and the provincial government will apply to National Development & Reform Commission for approval, and hope to start construction in 2017 for grid connection in 2021. No major utility has yet been named in connection with this project. CNEC is emerging as the main proponent and investor in HTR commercial development.
WNN 27/4/15. China Nuclear Power

China agreement with Lloyd's Register for floating power plants
The Nuclear Power Institute of China (NPIC), under China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has signed an agreement with UK-based Lloyd's Register to support the development of a floating nuclear power plant using a marine version of the ACP100 reactor. Lloyd's Register will develop safety guidelines and regulations as well as nuclear standards consistent with offshore and international marine regulations. The 100 MWe integral PWR is already undergoing IAEA generic safety review, and is intended as a land-based small modular reactor.
WNN 26/10/15. Nuclear Power in China

Taiwan

Taiwan seeks bids for reprocessing used fuel
With used fuel pools at its two oldest nuclear power plants almost full, and construction of dry storage facilities obstructed by local government and legal challenge, Taipower has announced a tender for reprocessing 1200 BWR fuel assemblies from Chinshan (480) and Kuosheng (720) to test the feasibility of this as a general policy. Each plant has two reactors. The tender scope includes transport. A contract for the work is expected to cost up to $356 million. The USA has agreed to the used fuel being transported overseas for reprocessing, though the agreement specifies that all fissionable material will remain with the reprocessor with a view to being sold rather than repatriated. The separated high-level wastes would be returned, vitrified, within 20 years for disposal in Taiwan.

The only established reprocessing plant likely to bid is Areva’s La Hague plant in France, though Japan’s much-delayed Rokkasho plant is now expected to start operation early in 2016, albeit with a backlog of local demand. China’s commercial-scale reprocessing plant is not even under construction yet. The UK appears not to be soliciting further contracts for THORP at Sellafield.
WNN 19/2/15. Taiwan

South Korea

New South Korean reactor comes on line
The last of South Korea’s 1000-MWe class reactors, Shin Wolsong 2, has been connected to the grid. It is expected to be in commercial operation in July. Construction started in 2008, but its completion was delayed by the need to replace sub-standard cabling.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) has built ten of these OPR-1000 reactors, which have come on line since 1998. They are based on Westinghouse technology, and eight similar predecessors have been running since 1985-96. The other four Wolsong units are Canadian Candu types. The four reactors remaining under construction are APR-1400 types, the same as KHNP’s parent company is building in United Arab Emirates at the Barakah plant. In South Korea, four planned units are the same, then the next four are to be more advanced APR+ types of 1500 MWe.
WNN 26/2/15. South Korea

New South Korean reactor in commercial operation
Shin Wolsong 2, the last of ten of South Korea’s ‘standard nuclear power plants’ rebranded as OPR-1000 and starting service over 17 years, has entered commercial operation. All Korean reactors under construction, both domestic and in UAE, are the APR1400.
WNN 24/7/15. South Korea

Old South Korean reactor gets life extension
After more than two years of deliberation and tests, the South Korean Nuclear Safety & Security Commission (NSSC) approved a ten-year life extension for the country’s second-oldest nuclear reactor. It is now clear to operate for another seven years to November 2022.

Wolsong 1 is a Canadian Candu 6 PHWR, built as a turnkey project to evaluate the type, and entering commercial operation in 1983. Ten years later, three more Wolsong Candu 6 units were built with substantial local input and were commissioned 1997-99. On unit 1 considerable refurbishment was undertaken in a long outage from April 2009 to July 2011, including replacement of all 380 calandria tubes, to enable a further 25 years operational life. Some KRW 560 billion ($520 million) was spent. The refurbishment restored it to design level of 691 MWe gross, 657 MWe net. However, it was then shut down in November 2012 when its 30-year licence expired, and spent 28 months awaiting licence renewal by the NSSC. In October 2014 the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety, the technical support arm of NSSC, said that the unit could operate to 2022, and in February NSSC renewed the licence to 2022. KHNP expects to restart it in April.
WNN 28/2/15. South Korea

USA and South Korea update nuclear relationship
After more than four years of intense discussion, a provisional 20-year South Korea nuclear agreement with the USA has been announced, which is worded more in terms of a partnership than the 1974 one it is to replace. However, regarding the main points of contention, it contains no provision to allow South Korea itself to enrich uranium or to recycle used nuclear fuel through reprocessing, apart from allowing US consent for some research on electrometallurgical reprocessing. Some assurance of stable supply of nuclear fuel for South Korea is included. A joint commission is established for ongoing high-level discussion which will include enrichment and reprocessing, holding out the possibility of future concessions on both. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, South Korea achieved three goals in the agreement: the right to deal with used nuclear fuel; a stable supply of nuclear fuel; and promoting the export of nuclear power plants. The new agreement brings South Korea closer to what the USA allows for Japan, and requires approval from both presidents and the US Congress.
WNN 22/4/15. South Korea

Japan

First Japanese reactor back on line after country’s 2-year shutdown
Unit 1 of the Sendai nuclear power plant has restarted and been grid-connected, ending a two-year hiatus in nuclear generation following the Fukushima accident four years ago. It is the first reactor to operate since September 2013, when the last one – Ohi 1 - was shut down for upgrade under new regulations and operating standards. Kyushu Electric Power Co expects to restart unit 2 at the Sendai plant within a couple of months. The Japanese government envisages a return to using nuclear power for 20-22% of its electricity needs by 2030 as part of a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26% compared with fiscal year 2013.

The nuclear shutdown has resulted in increased fossil fuel imports of about $40 billion per year and a trade deficit of $134 billion in FY 2013 according to the Ministry of Finance. Generation costs are up about 60%, and the electric utilities have been losing about $10 billion per year. Kyushu alone has spent over $21 billion on extra fossil fuels over the last four years, and having Sendai 1 & 2 on line will save it $121 million per month. Last year the three major business lobbies urged early restart of nuclear capacity, saying that “The top priority in energy policy is a quick return to inexpensive and stable supplies of electricity”.
WNN 11/8/15. Japan NP

Second Japanese reactor returns to service
Kyushu’s Sendai unit 2 has restarted and is expected to be grid connected in a few days, having been shut down for post-Fukushima inspections and upgrades in September 2011. Unit 1 was restarted in August. Twenty more reactors are progressing through the restart procedures, which are expected to speed up after the first few units are back in normal operation. In addition to the two Sendai units, three other reactors have cleared the regulator's safety inspections: Takahama units 3 & 4 and Ikata unit 3.
WNN 15/10/15. Japan NP

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 uncomfortable 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

Japan takes first step to rationalise power transmission and distribution
Spurred by electricity supply problems since the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima accident, the Japanese government has set up an Organization for Cross-Regional Coordination of Transmission Operators (OCCTO) to function as a national transmission system operator (TSO). All power companies are required to join OCCTO. It will ensure greater interconnection among the present geographical utility networks, and increase the frequency converter capacity across the 50-60 Hz east-west divide. The next step will be deregulation of the electricity market next year, then legal separation among generation, transmission, and distribution, which is targeted for April 2020.
Japan NP

Japan electricity mix and emission reductions under review
The government has announced that it wants base-load electricity sources to return to providing 60% of the power by 2030, with about one-third of this being nuclear. Analysis by the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth estimated that energy costs would then be reduced by JPY 2.4 trillion (USD 20.0 billion) per year compared with the present 40% base-load scenario. At the same time, it was reported that 43 coal-fired power projects were planned or under construction, totalling 21.2 GWe, to take over from some of the expensive gas-fired generation run on imported LNG. Present coal-fired capacity is about 36 GWe. The new plants are expected to emit 127 million tonnes of CO2 per year, adding 34% to the 2010 pre-Fukushima emission levels from power generation. The government is considering a target of 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 level by 2030, which might be achieved with 45% of electricity generation being nuclear and renewables. However, energy mix and greenhouse gas targets are still not firmly decided.
Japan 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&2, 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 mid-year.
Press reports. Japan NP

Japanese power utilities decide to retire five older reactors
As Japan’s power utilities grapple with getting their 48 reactors back on line with more stringent and expensive safety provisions, they have also looked at the economic implications of heavy investment in older and smaller units. As foreshadowed in January, and following approval of cost recovery provisions for decommissioning, four utilities have announced that they will retire five reactors, all of which would be over 40 years in service by October.

Kansai announced that Mihama 1&2 PWRs would be retired, and JAPC said it would decommission its Tsuruga 1 BWR, all in Fukui prefecture. The following day Chugoku Electric Power Co. said it would decommission its Shimane 1 BWR in Shimane prefecture, and the Kyushu Electric Power Co. did the same for its Genkai 1 PWR in Saga prefecture. These five old reactors range in size from 320 to 529 MWe net. The total reduction in operational capacity is 2089 MWe, leaving 40,480 MWe net operable.

Meanwhile the first four reactors among 23 progressing through restart applications and checks are getting closer to resuming operation. Having obtained final approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) and agreement from local governments, Kyushu expects to restart Sendai 1 in July, after final NRA inspections are completed. Sendai 2 then Kansai’s Takahama 1&2 are expected to follow soon after.
WNN 17 & 18/3/15. Japan NP

Japanese court injunction against reactor re-starts
A district court has granted a provisional injunction against restarting Kansai’s Takahama 3&4 reactors, despite approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) after 18 months of exhaustive checks and upgrades. The presiding judge has form in this regard, second-guessing the NRA on technical issues: last year he ruled against the restart of Kansai’s Ohi 3&4 reactors (which do not yet have NRA final approval). Kansai is appealing both rulings. The chairman of NRA responded to the injunction saying that since the NRA’s regulatory standards are based on the lessons learned from the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi, he did not see any need to review them. The government agrees.
WNN 14/4/15. Japan NP

India

GE shelves Indian nuclear plans
One of India’s five new nuclear energy parks is planned to be at Kovvada in Andra Pradesh. This was eventually to have six GE Hitachi ESBWR units of 1600 MWe each, but GE has now said that with no change to the 2010 Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act it will not proceed with any nuclear investment in India until the country’s liability regime is brought into line with the rest of the world.

One of the other nuclear energy parks is Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu, which already has two Russian VVER-1000 reactors built, and plans are proceeding for six more. Russian finance is organized for units 3&4 and construction is due to start in 2016. Another nuclear park is Jaitapur in Maharashtra where six Areva EPR units are planned, and discussions continue. Another is Mithi Virdi in Gujarat, earmarked for six Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, but this is suffering land acquisition delays. The fifth is Gorakhpur in Haryana, with four indigenous 700 MWe PHWR units, and construction due to begin. In mid-2015 it was reported that an additional site could be assigned for a Japanese multi-unit plant.

India has two pairs of indigenous 700 MWe reactors and one 500 MWe fast breeder reactor under construction, along with 21 operating reactors, mostly small ones.
WNN 23/9/15. India

Kazakhstan

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

Mongolia

Canadian company awarded damages for Mongolian expropriation
After several years of complex negotiations and legal uncertainty, Khan Resources based in Canada has been awarded $100 million by an international tribunal as compensation for the Mongolian government cancelling its mining licences over the Dornod uranium deposit. Khan had sought $326 million but the tribunal based its calculation of $100 million, including interest and costs, on previous offers made for the Dornod asset. After cancelling the licences in 2009, the government set up a joint venture with Russia’s ARMZ to develop the mine, but not much has happened since. Dornod is second only to Areva’s Sainshand project in known uranium resources in Mongolia. It was mined to a small extent by Russia’s Priargunsky Industrial Mining & Chemical Union over 1988 to 1995, with total 535 tU produced from an open pit.
WNN 3/3/15. Mongolia

Middle East

UAE’s fourth reactor now under construction
The first main concrete has been poured on schedule for the fourth reactor at Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation’s (ENEC) Barakah nuclear power plant in United Arab Emirates, marking the start of full construction. It is due on line in 2020. Four South Korean APR-1400 reactors are now under construction there, with 18,000 people working on site. From 2020 the four units will provide about one-quarter of the UAE’s expanding electricity needs and free up hydrocarbons for export.

The UAE has demonstrated that it is possible to proceed rapidly in a nuclear power programme by doing a number of things in parallel, by using experienced expatriates initially while transitioning to local expertise over time, and by committing to an experienced reactor and power plant builder with a track record of on-time and on-budget performance. It is on track to have its first reactor operational within nine years from inception of the nuclear power programme in 2008 – unit 1 is 75% complete and due to start up early in 2017. ENEC will use KEPCO expertise in running it.
WNN 2/9/15. UAE

Egypt moves ahead with nuclear power plans
After more than 30 years of deliberations and false starts, the last ten years being focused on Russian proposals, Rusatom Overseas and Egypt’s Nuclear Power Plant Authority (NPPA) have signed a project development agreement for a two-unit Russian power plant and desalination plant. Two intergovernmental agreements are now pending – one for nuclear power plant construction and one for financing. WorleyParsons has been advising the government on site selection and technology since mid-2009 under a $160 million contract. In October 2013 the Minister for Electricity & Energy reactivated earlier plans for El Dabaa on the Mediterranean coast 250 km west of Alexandria, and announced a site office there for the NPPA. As well as addressing power supplies, the NPPA earlier expected to have four nuclear desalination plants operating by 2025.
WNN 10/2/15. Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries

China to modify contentious Iran reactor
China is one of the P5+1 group which negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran earlier in the month. Its Foreign Minister has now announced that China had a particular focus on one aspect of the deal, and that it has undertaken to modify the Arak IR-40 heavy water research reactor which is nearly complete. To effect this “a joint working group consisting of the six parties and co-chaired by China and the United States will be set up.”

The UN Security Council had demanded that construction of IR-40 cease due to its plutonium production potential (it is very similar to those used by India and Israel to make plutonium for nuclear weapons). Early last year the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) protested that the reactor was not primarily for plutonium production, that its 9 kg/yr of Pu would not be weapons grade, and anyway AEOI might redesign it to meet western concerns. China has now stepped forward for this task. The Plan of Action specifies that the Arak reactor will be redesigned and its present natural uranium core, capable of producing significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium, will be removed and destroyed. No other heavy water reactor is to be built for 15 years.

This week the AEOI announced that China will build two of the next four nuclear power plants in Iran, on the southeastern Makran coast of Gulf of Oman, starting about 2018.
Iran

Argentina

Argentina signs up for Chinese reactor
Last year, Argentina’s Nuclearelectrica signed an agreement for China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to build a Canadian-designed Candu 6 reactor as unit 3 of the Atucha nuclear power plant. Now a further agreement is for CNNC to build a Chinese 1000 MWe class PWR reactor in Argentina. This will evidently be a Hualong One type, and envisages the parties "establishing a joint strategic partnership for the purpose of developing and building nuclear reactors in Latin America," so that Argentina becomes a Latin American technology platform, supplying countries with nuclear technology incorporating Chinese goods and services. The new agreement aims for the signing of a framework contract for the project between CNNC and Nuclearelectrica by the end of 2015, for a commercial contract to be signed by the end of 2016, and a financing agreement also before the end of 2016. The Argentine President suggested that the reactor cost was likely to be $7 billion.
WNN 5/2/15. Argentina

Russia initiative to counter China’s lead in Argentina
After China last year secured a contract to build Argentina’s fourth large nuclear power reactor, Atucha 3, with Canadian technology and Chinese finance, and also prepare to build a Hualong One reactor after that, Russia has come back into the picture with a new agreement. The government has signed an agreement with Russia establishing a framework for cooperation in construction of a 1200 MWe VVER power plant, with Russian financing. Rusatom Overseas and Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA (NASA) also signed a preliminary project development agreement on construction of the reactor. The government agreement calls for the two countries to work together to sell VVER reactors in South America and Africa.
WNN 23&24/4/15. Argentina

Indonesia

Indonesia steps forward towards nuclear power
After some 20 years of plans and policies designed to serve the Java-Bali grid, two years ago the National Atomic Energy Agency (BATAN) changed tack and started exploring options for small power reactors serving other areas. In particular, BATAN announced that it was planning to build a test and demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTR) of up to 10 MWe. This is with a view to a number of 100 MWe units following in Kalimantan, Sulawesi and islands.

Now Rusatom has announced that a consortium of Russian and Indonesian companies led by Rosatom subsidiary NUKEM Technologies has won a contract for the preliminary design of a multi-purpose 10 MWe HTR in Indonesia, which would be “a flagship project in the future of Indonesia’s nuclear program.” It will be a pebble-bed HTR at Serpong, BATAN’s main base near Jakarta. NUKEM Technologies is already involved with fuel for the research reactors there, and it has considerable expertise in HTRs from Germany and South Africa. The contract covers a feasibility study on the conceptual design, as well as the basic design documentation. These are expected to be completed by January 2016, according to Rusatom, leading to a tender for construction of the reactor. The reason for deciding on an HTR is that there is more potential for process heat.
WNN 21/4/15. Indonesia

Vietnam

Vietnam signs up for first nuclear power plant
After six years of intensive preparation, Vietnam Electricity Holding Co. (EVN) has signed a general framework agreement with Russia’s NIAEP-Atomstroyexport for construction of its first nuclear power plant, with the actual 1200 MWe V-491 reactors to be supplied by Atomproekt based in St Petersburg. Construction is expected to start in 2019 or 2020. Russia's Ministry of Finance will finance at least 85% of this first plant.  Russia will supply the fuel and take back the used fuel for the life of the plant, as is its normal policy for non-nuclear-weapons states. US Energy Information Administration figures show Vietnam’s generating capacity expanding from 42 GWe in 2015 to about 135 GWe in 2030, including 8% nuclear then.
WNN 3/8/15. Vietnam

Australia

Australia finalises India and UAE bilateral safeguards agreements
The administrative arrangements for bilateral treaties with India and the United Arab Emirates have been finalised so that they become operational, enabling Australia to export uranium to both countries under safeguards arrangements which are significantly stricter than the general International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ones applying generally. The Indian agreement was signed in September 2014 and came into force this month after the government responded to matters raised during the treaty’s lengthy scrutiny by the parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. The UAE one was signed in 2012 and came into force last year. Australia now has 24 such treaties in place, covering 42 countries plus Taiwan.

Amid controversy concerning planned major Australian coal exports to India, the latest OECD/IEA World Energy Outlook projects a seven-fold increase in nuclear power generation in India by 2040, and a target of 25% of electricity from nuclear by 2050. India’s domestic uranium resources are very small, and most uranium will need to be imported. UAE has a target of nearly one-quarter of electricity from nuclear by 2021.
WNN 25/11/15. Safeguards to Prevent Nuclear Proliferation; Australia's Uranium;
Minerals Council of Australia, Timely Completion of Australia India Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (25 November 2015)

Australia-India bilateral treaty: approval with caution is urged
The bipartisan Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT), after marathon hearings and deliberations on the proposed treaty tabled in parliament last October, has urged caution regarding Australian uranium sales to India. The problem arises because India is nuclear-armed but is unable to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as a weapons state. Hence international provisions have been made since 2007 to get around this and enable civil trade.

JSCOT recommends tightening of concessions granted under the 2007 US nuclear cooperation agreement with India and the 2009 Indian safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In particular it recommends full separation of civil and military facilities (as verified by the IAEA), and setting up an independent nuclear regulator – an initiative which has been stalled since the Indian government announced in 2011 a new independent and autonomous Nuclear Regulatory Authority of India that was to subsume the present regulator. While JSCOT recommended ratifying the bilateral treaty, it said that uranium sales should begin only after these and other conditions concerning routine inspections and reactor decommissioning plans are fulfilled. In addition it recommends publication of legal advice on provisions in the treaty regarding consent to reprocessing used fuel.

If the Australian government accepts most of the recommendations and ratifies the treaty, it will put significant pressure on the Indian government to move forward on undertakings given over the last eight years.
WNN 9/9/15. Australia's Uranium. Nuclear Power in India

South Australia considers nuclear industry potential
The Labor government in South Australia is setting up a royal commission into the potential for nuclear power in the state, which already produces two-thirds of Australia’s uranium – all for export. The terms of reference are likely to include fuel cycle and high-level waste disposal. The inquiry is supported by the state Liberal opposition and the federal Liberal coalition government, but not by the federal Labor party (though it supports uranium mining). However a former Labor Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, has been vocal in support: “I’ve always said that ignorance is the enemy of good policy and a royal commission will establish discussion free of prejudice,’’ he said. The commission is to be headed by former governor of South Australia Kevin Scarce, who said that he had an open mind on the issue. Draft terms of reference are due to be released in March.

A previous Liberal coalition federal government commissioned a high-level inquiry into nuclear power and it reported positively in 2006. Its chairman, Dr Ziggy Switowski, said that the new inquiry was “timely for a number of reasons” and that “nuclear power still offers the greatest option in providing cost-effective, clean, base-load energy”.
WNN 9/2/15. Australia

South Australian royal commission gets under way
After considering over 1000 submissions on its terms of reference, the royal commission headed by former state governor, Rear Admiral the Hon. Kevin Scarce AC CSC RANR, has been launched. It is due to report by May 2016. It will consider the feasibility and viability as well as the risks and opportunities associated with four broad areas of nuclear fuel cycle activities. It will assess their future impact upon the South Australian economy, environment and community, as well as any measures required to facilitate and regulate them.
WNN 19/3/15. Australia, www.nuclearrc.sa.gov.au

Australian proposal for advanced fuel cycle’s benefits
In the context of the announced royal commission in South Australia on nuclear energy prospects for the state, an opposition senator has put forward a proposal for boldly leaping ahead of present nuclear power technology and utilising some of the world’s spent fuel from present reactors to fuel Generation IV fast reactors, via an electrometallurgical reprocessing plant. The whole venture would be supported by relieving overseas governments of their used fuel, effectively high-level waste, which they would pay SA to take, to use for fuel in the new-generation reactors. Low-cost electricity as continuous, reliable supply would transform the state’s economy following the demise of motor manufacturing there. After processing and use, very little and relatively short-lived waste (basically just fission products) would remain.

This proposal, which has been put together and researched over the last year or more, will be put to the royal commission. Other proposals are likely to include straightforward deep geological disposal of overseas high-level radioactive wastes in the state’s geologically stable, dry and relatively unpopulated north. This would be similar to such projects for direct disposal of used fuel in Finland and Sweden, and advanced proposals in USA and (for vitrified high-level wastes) in France. Also no doubt the building of large and/or small conventional nuclear reactors will be considered, the former probably requiring increased grid capacity with Victoria.
WNN 12/3/15. Australia, International Waste Disposal Concepts

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

ERA halts Ranger Deeps mine project
Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) has announced that it will defer proceeding further with development of an underground mine to access 27,650 tonnes of uranium, after spending A$ 177 million on the project. This is due both to slow recovery in the uranium market and the requirement to cease operations under the present Ranger Authority, which expires in 2021. Negotiations are exploring the potential to extend the deadline. Majority owner Rio Tinto said it “does not support any further study or future development of Ranger 3 Deeps due to the project’s economic challenges.”
WNN 11/6/15. Australian Uranium Mines

Ranger mine extension vetoed by traditional owners
The Aboriginal traditional owners of the Ranger uranium mine site have vetoed an extension to the operating life of the Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) mine beyond January 2021. The company is faced with a decision on mining the Ranger 3 Deeps, a higher-grade orebody than its present production and with total known resources of 43,858 tonnes U3O8. ERA announced in June that it would not proceed to a final feasibility study for the project, due to uncertainties in the uranium market and project economics which would require operations beyond the 2021 expiry of the current authority, 40 years after mining started. At the same time, ERA's major shareholder Rio Tinto announced that it would not support any further study on future development at Ranger 3 Deeps. The decision also puts any future development of ERA’s nearby Jabiluka deposit in jeopardy, involving 141,640 tonnes U3O8 total resources. It would also require traditional owner approval.

In response to the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation's announcement, ERA said that it respected the views of the traditional Mirrar landowners and would undertake a review of its business in the light of that decision. Whatever happens with Ranger 3 deeps, the company is obliged to rehabilitate the whole site to a standard where it can be incorporated into the surrounding Kakadu National Park, and work on this is under way, with funding in place.

Meanwhile on the eve of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change gathering in Paris, uranium with the potential to avoid over seven billion tonnes of CO2 emissions is politically sterilised, and sparring continues regarding action to marginally reduce Australia’s annual emissions totalling 7% of that.
WNN 15/10/15 Australian U mines

Heathgate buys out Alliance in Four Mile project
One of Australia’s main low-cost uranium resources is now set to be wholly-owned by its partner and neighbour Heathgate Resources, which is part of US-based General Atomics. Four Mile was originally owned by Alliance, but Heathgate (through a subsidiary, Quasar) farmed in to own 75% and control the project. As exploration has proceeded, that share is now greater, since Alliance’s liquidity was constrained by Heathgate’s decision to stockpile product rather than sell in the present market. Uranium from Four Mile ISL liquor is recovered in a satellite plant, and the loaded resin is trucked to Heathgate’s central plant 10 km away.

Four Mile has confirmed resources of 27,000 tonnes of uranium, and for a further deposit close by, Alliance announced an exploration target of 27,000 to 31,000 tU. If confirmed, this makes it one of Australia’s prime resources. In February, Alliance received an offer to purchase all of its interest in the Four Mile Project, including its share of uranium oxide concentrates already mined (worth over $20 million), for A$57.6 million. This has now been raised to $74 million, which Alliance has accepted.
WNN 13/7/15. Australian Uranium Mines

Australia’s Honeymoon mine bought back from Russia
In September Boss Resources Ltd based in Perth announced that it had agreed to buy Uranium One Australia which owns the Honeymoon ISL uranium mine in South Australia. It will pay A$ 11.5 million in staged payments plus up to $3 million from operating cash flow. Parent company Uranium One Holding NV is based in Europe and owned by Russia’s ARMZ.

Honeymoon, 75 km northwest of Broken Hill, has a varied history of ownership since its 1972 discovery, and was brought into production in 2011 at a cost of over $100 million, then closed down at the end of 2013. Production cost was more than twice that of the parent company’s Kazakh output. The sale also includes Billeroo and Gould Dam prospects in the area.
WNN 1/9/15. Australia's Uranium Mines

Australia moves forward on radioactive waste storage
In March 2015 the federal government called for nominations of sites from any landholder “to store Australia’s intermediate-level radioactive waste and dispose of low-level waste.” In response, 28 sites were nominated by landholders and these have now been reduced to a shortlist of six, in three states and the Northern Territory. After public consultation in each area, involving Geoscience Australia and ANSTO, a decision is expected by the end of 2016, for an area of about 100 ha. The new 'storage facility' is expected to be ready by 2021. The owners of the land will sell on generous terms and the local community will receive about $10 million for projects. This is the latest development in a process which originated formally in 1992, and has become a political football and farce.
WNN 13/11/15. Appendix to Australia's Uranium paper: Radioactive Waste Repository & Store for Australia

First shipment of Australian wastes repatriated
A shipment of 25 tonnes of intermediate-level wastes arising from reprocessing Australian research reactor fuel has been received home, and stored at Lucas Heights near Sydney, the site of the country’s research reactors. When the site for a national radioactive waste repository is decided and a storage facility built there, it will be relocated.
WNN 7/12/15. Australian wastes
 


You may also be interested in