WNA Weekly Digest Archive 2016

World

Paris climate agreement to enter force
The agreement struck at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference in Paris last November to control emissions has passed its second threshold for entering into force. Following EU ratification, it has now been ratified by countries responsible for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and by over 55 of the 197 signatories.  It will come into force on 4 November. The USA and China - together representing 40% of global emissions - ratified the agreement together in early September.

"The entry into force of the Paris Agreement …. is an extraordinary political achievement which has opened the door to a fundamental shift in the way the world sees, prepares for and acts on climate change through stronger action at all levels of government, business, investment and civil society," according to the UNFCCC. "The ratification of the Paris Agreement commits governments to making significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to limit the effects of climate change. This can only happen if we use all sources of low-carbon electricity, including nuclear energy," Agneta Rising, director general of the World Nuclear Association, said.
WNN 6/10/16.  Climate change policies

World Nuclear Performance Report published
The first issue of an annual report on nuclear performance has been published by the World Nuclear Association. The report says that if the world is to meet its climate change targets then the rate of new build will need to accelerate. The report provides key metrics on nuclear power plant performance, and reviews recent developments in the global nuclear industry.

Despite challenging market conditions, the global nuclear industry delivered a strong operating performance and improvements in construction times of new reactors in 2015. "Nuclear power plants were again among the world's best performing generating stations in 2015. The global fleet regularly performs to its highest technical capability," the report said. It noted that the average capacity factor of the world's reactors (excluding those in Japan, which have largely remained idle) was 81.7% in 2015. It has been over 80% since the start of this century. Operating lives of 60 years are becoming the norm, with no significant age-related decline in performance.  "The years since 2011 have been some of the most challenging for the global nuclear power plant fleet, [but] despite this, industry prospects seem brighter than they have been for a while, with the Japanese restarts, a range of new technologies (especially small modular reactors) advancing in development, several major nuclear build programs about to get underway, and a positive shift in public support for nuclear energy in many Western countries." "Policy direction and market conditions will be crucial to operator decisions on long-term operation of existing reactors, and therefore the ability to sustain the current contribution of nuclear power."

At the end of 2015, there were 66 power reactors under construction around the world - half of these in East Asia, particularly in mainland China - and another 158 planned. The report noted that more reactors are under construction and more reactors came on line last year than at any time in the last 25 years. The previous tendency for construction times to lengthen has started to reverse, and the average construction period for new reactors starting up in 2015 was 73 months.

The report warns that although new build levels are at a 25-year high, they are insufficient if the world is to meet the climate targets agreed at the COP21 meeting in Paris last year. "The rate of new grid connections will have to increase significantly to support global economic growth, alleviate energy poverty and provide enough clean energy to meet agreed climate change targets." The World Nuclear Association considers that, in order to meet the goals, there should be 1000 GWe of new nuclear build by 2050, with nuclear generation supplying 25% of global electricity demand.

WNN 22/6/15.   http://world-nuclear.org/our-association/publications/online-reports/world-nuclear-performance-report-2016.aspx

2015 marked by ten new reactors coming on line
China set the pace in 2015 with eight new reactors connected to the grid, along with six construction starts.  South Korea and Russia each registered one grid connection, and the fourth reactor in UAE started construction. The new plants were balanced by five retirements in Japan of the smallest and oldest plants already shut down by post-Fukushima concerns, plus three others in Germany, Sweden and UK.  Three US reactors had major uprates (including that reported below), along with one in Sweden. 
 
In terms of capacity, 9497 MWe came on line, plus 502 MWe net in uprates, balanced by 4572 MWe finally shut down.  At the end of the year there were 439 reactors on line providing 382.5 GWe net, and 66 under construction (70.3 GWe gross).
WNN 4/1/16.   Reactor table

2015 world uranium production edges up
Production from world uranium mines increased slightly last year from the 2013 level to 60,474 tonnes of uranium (71,317 t U3O8) - 2014 was lower.  Canada has regained its prominence with 22% of the total, due to Cigar Lake production.  Kazakhstan continues to lead, with 39% of world production. Australia provided 9%.
World uranium mining production

Areva steps forward to develop new metallic fuel
For some years Lightbridge Corporation has been developing a new type of metal fuel for both existing and future nuclear power reactors. It has now entered into an exclusive joint development agreement with Areva NP to assess establishing a joint venture this year for manufacturing and commercializing the fuel. Previously Lightbridge had been open to a variety of cooperation agreements, but is keen to use Areva’s “resources and expertise to enable global deployment” of the fuel.  A high-level US utilities’ Nuclear Utility Fuel Advisory Board has requested that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission prepare to receive initial regulatory licensing documentation for this fuel in 2017.

Virtually all reactor fuels today are ceramic oxide. Metal fuels were used in some earlier reactors such as the UK Magnox design, and also in two US fast reactors, but the higher melting point of uranium oxide has made it the preferred fuel in all reactors for half a century. However, metal has much better thermal conductivity than ceramic oxide, and recent research has turned back to metal fuel forms.  Lightbridge fuel is 50:50 zirconium-uranium alloy with uranium enriched to almost 20%, and it has a multi-lobed and helically twisted rod geometry. Melting point of the alloy is about 1600°C, higher than just uranium, and average operating temperature in the fuel is up to 370°C, much less than in oxide fuel, the thermal conductivity being five times better than oxide according to Lightbridge. 

Each Lightbridge fuel rod consists of a central displacer of zirconium surrounded by a 4-lobed fuel core with the cladding metallurgically bonded to it, the shape of the rod providing increased surface area for heat transfer. The twist of 180° over about a metre means that the rods are self-spacing while designed to give good flow characteristics.  The fuel operates at a higher power density than oxide fuels and the target burn-up is about three times that of oxide fuels.  It is suitable for all light water reactors, and is expected to give a power uprate of about 17% in existing PWRs, and up to 30% in new ones designed for the higher power density, with longer fuel cycle, according to Lightbridge.
WNN 16/3/16.  Nuclear fuel fabrication

Russian proposal for nuclear fuel leasing and recycling
At the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference in Abu Dhabi, a new concept of nuclear fuel leasing was highlighted. For several years the Khlopin Institute in Russia has been developing for Tenex a new fuel recycling model.  REMIX (from Regenerated Mixture) fuel is produced directly from a non-separated mix of recycled uranium and plutonium from reprocessing used fuel, with a low-enriched uranium (LEU, up to 17% U-235) make-up comprising about 20% of the mix. This gives fuel initially with about 1% Pu-239 and 4% U-235. Over four years it can achieve burn-up of 50 GWd/t. 

The used REMIX fuel is then reprocessed and recycled again, after low-enriched uranium top up.  The wastes (fission products and probably minor actinides) are vitrified, as today from reprocessing for MOX, and stored for geological disposal.  REMIX-fuel can be repeatedly recycled with 100% core load in current VVER-1000 reactors, and correspondingly reprocessed many times – up to five times according to Tenex, so that with less than three fuel loads in circulation a reactor could run for 60 years using the same fuel, with LEU recharge and waste removal on each cycle. As with MOX, the use of REMIX-fuel reduces consumption of natural uranium in reactors by about 20% at each recycle as compared with open fuel cycle. REMIX can serve as a replacement for existing reactor fuel.

Tenex suggests this as a form of fuel leasing from a supplier to a utility, with repeated recycle between them.  It has the virtue of not creating any accumulation of reprocessed uranium or (especially) separated plutonium. The increasing concentrations of even isotopes of both elements is compensated by the fresh uranium-235 top-up, presumably at increasing enrichment levels.  Rosatom plans to load experimental REMIX fuel assemblies into Balakovo unit 3 in June 2016, subject to Rostechnadzor licence.

While the concept is initially for both power plant and fuel cycle set-up in Russia, it can be applied to a power plant in another country, with the utility paying for both enriched uranium top-up and disposal of vitrified waste in Russia as well as the processing. A further extension of the model could be in line with tentative findings of the South Australian Royal Commission on the Nuclear Fuel Cycle: if that utility wanted to acquire uranium from Australia with the benefit of being able to send its high-level wastes for disposal in Australia, an Australian entity would own the uranium throughout the whole REMIX cycle and also the eventual vitrified high-level wastes.  In this case Russia (or France, UK or Japan) simply handles reprocessing, enrichment of fresh uranium, and fuel fabrication, all on some toll basis. 
WNN forthcoming.   Russia fuel cycle

Cameco cutting back 2016 production
Canada’s Cameco has announced that it will scale back uranium production this year by 9.5% from 2015, or 14% from original target, due to market conditions.  It will suspend production at Rabbit Lake underground mine – an old and small operation, cut back gradually at its two ISL operations in Nebraska and Wyoming, and also reduce production at McArthur River, where this will enable it to undertake work to increase capacity at the Key Lake mill.

The company produced 10,926 tU in 2015, and now aims for 9,890 tU in 2016, instead of 11,540 tU. “With today’s oversupplied market and uncertainty as to how long these market conditions will persist, we need to focus our resources on our lowest cost assets and maintain a strong balance sheet," the company said.  Production at Cigar Lake continues to ramp up however, with plans to produce 6156 tU this year subject to Areva's McClean Lake mill receiving the necessary regulatory approvals to increase its annual capacity to treat Cigar Lake ore.
WNN f22/4/16.   Canada uranium

Russia pulls out of nonproliferation agreement with USA
Russia’s President Putin has unilaterally announced cancellation of the 2000 Russia-US Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement to reduce each country’s weapons-grade plutonium by 34 tonnes. He cited US proposals to dispose of the US plutonium in other ways than by completing the Savannah River MOX plant, which is behind schedule and over budget. A draft bill was introduced to Russia’s parliament, with an explanatory note saying that there were both political and technical reasons to cancel the deal, even thought it could be renewed under certain conditions related to relaxing sanctions and reducing US military presence in eastern Europe. The presidential decree said the main reason for cancellation is "the emergence of a threat to strategic stability as a result of U.S. hostile actions against Russia."

The US Nuclear Energy Institute has called on Congress to provide money for completing the Savannah River plant, since "Allowing Russia to forgo its international obligation has significant national security implications for the United States and its allies.”

At the opening ceremony for Russia’s MOX plant at MCC Zheleznogorsk in September 2015, Rosatom had compared its achievement in building its plant for military plutonium in four years for RUR 9.3 billion ($142 million), with the US Savannah River plant costing $7.7 billion over eight years up to then, and still only 70% complete. Rosatom says that so far its MOX plant and the BN-800 reactor running on fuel from it have been "working with civil[ian] materials only," but if the agreement were renewed, Rosatom "can begin to fulfill Russia's international obligations under the deal" with weapons plutonium which has higher fissile content.

Subsequently the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has terminated a 2010 implementing agreement between Rosatom and US DOE’s National Nuclear Safety Administration "concerning cooperation on feasibility studies of the conversion of Russian research reactors to use low-enriched uranium fuel.” The NNSA said that under this agreement “NNSA and Rosatom successfully completed conversion of one reactor and confirmed that it was technically and economically feasible to convert the remaining five.” However, the USA had already suspended that agreement in 2014 on account of military activities in Ukraine.  Russia also announced that it was suspending a 2013 bilateral agreement on Cooperation in Nuclear- and Energy-Related Scientific Research and Development because of the continuation of US sanctions imposed in 2014.
WNN 4/10/16.   US fuel cycle, Research reactors

China

China leads new used fuel recycling project
China has operated two Canadian CANDU 6 reactors at Qinshan since 2003, and these have been used over the last few years to trial a new way of recycling used fuel from China’s main reactor fleet. In particular, uranium recovered from used PWR fuel is blended with a little depleted uranium to make natural uranium equivalent (NUE, about 0.7% U-235). This has been shown to behave the same as the natural uranium fuel normally used in those CANDU reactors.

This trial led to a 2012 agreement between Canada’s Candu Energy, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and two other Chinese companies to develop a detailed conceptual design of an Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor (AFCR) based on the Enhanced CANDU 6 (EC6), which would run entirely on such fuel. One 700 MWe AFCR could be fully fuelled by the recycled uranium from four 1000 MWe PWRs’ used fuel.  Hence deployment of AFCRs in China among its increasing fleet of PWRs would greatly reduce the task of managing used fuel and disposing of high-level wastes, as well as significantly reducing China’s fresh uranium requirements.

Now a new agreement among Candu Energy’s parent company SNC-Lavalin, CNNC and the major engineering company Shanghai Electric Group (SEC) has been signed, to set up a joint venture in mid 2017 to develop, market and build the AFCR. CNNC will have a majority share in the JV. Two design centres are envisaged, in China and Canada, to complete the AFCR technology, with a view to construction of two AFCR units in China.
WNN 23/9/16.  China fuel cycle

Private Hong Kong investment in new Chinese nuclear plant
The long-established (1901) and vertically-integrated private company which provides 80% of Hong Kong’s electricity has tendered for a 17% share in one of China’s largest nuclear power plants, in western Guangdong province.  CLP Holdings Ltd (China Light & Power) bid through the Beijing Equity Exchange in response to CGN Power Co Ltd public invitation to take a share of subsidiary Yangjiang Nuclear Power Co Ltd (YJNPC).  YJNPC is building a CNY 73 billion ($10.8 billion) 6-unit nuclear power plant to deliver 6120 MWe net to the southern grid. Three of the units are in operation now, and three are under construction.

CLP already owns 25% of CGN Power’s Daya Bay nuclear power plant (1888 MWe net), the oldest in the country and close to Hong Kong.  It was earlier attempting to acquire the 17% of Yangjiang, equivalent to one 1020 MWe reactor, but three years ago negotiations broke off following delays due to China’s review of nuclear safety. Since 1994 Hong Kong has been getting up to one third of its power from Daya Bay, about 9 TWh per year (70% of Daya Bay output), and this contract now runs to 2034. A similar contract is expected in relation to CLP’s yet to be confirmed Yangjiang equity.
WNN 1/11/16.   China NP  

Update: Hong Kong’s CLP Holdings is confirmed as successful in its tender for 17% of Yangjiang Nuclear Power Co Ltd in China. Another investor with 17% is Guangdong YuDian Group Co. while CGN Group and small subsidiaries retain 66% equity.

China proceeding with floating nuclear power plant
China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) has announced that following approval by the National Development & Reform Commission (NDRC) it is accelerating development of its small ACPR50s nuclear reactor for installation on a barge as a floating nuclear power plant (FNPP). The reactor is a marine version of its smallest design, of about 60 MWe. Construction of the demonstration unit is expected to start next year, for operation in 2020. CGN then signed an agreement with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) to provide power for offshore oil and gas exploration and production, and to “push forward the organic integration of the offshore oil industry and the nuclear power industry,” according to CNOOC.
 
The FNPP announcement appears to bring CGN plans up with those of national rivals for small reactors.  In October 2015 the Nuclear Power Institute of China (NPIC) - a subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) - signed an agreement with UK-based Lloyds Register to support the development of a floating nuclear power plant using the ACP100s integral reactor, a marine version of its small reactor. NPIC formerly specialized in nuclear submarine power plant design.  Following NDRC approval, CNNC is planning to start building its ACP100s demonstration floating nuclear plant this year, for 2019 operation.
WNN 13 &15/1/16.  China NP

New Chinese reactors in commercial operation
Ningde unit 4 in Fujian province has commenced commercial operation on schedule, after grid connection at the end of March. It has been handed over by China Nuclear Industry 23 Construction Co Ltd to co-owners: CGN (46%), China Datang Corp (44%) and Fujian Energy Group (10%). Phase II of the Ningde plant will be Hualong One reactors.
WNN 18 & 21/7/16.   

Changjiang 2, on Hainan Island, has entered commercial operation after starting up in June.  It is a 650 MWe CNP-600 reactor, with 82% local content. The Hainan nuclear power plant is 51% owned by CNNC and 49% by Huaneng group.
12/8/16

Hongyanhe unit 4 in Liaoning province has commenced commercial operation, after being grid-connected in April. Its completion was delayed due to low electricity demand in the northeast. It will be one of the last CPR-1000 reactors to enter service. Units 5 & 6 under construction at the site are later versions.
WNN 20/9/15   

Fangchenggang 2 in Guangxi province, a CPR 1000 reactor, has commenced commercial operation, after being grid-connected in mid July. Units 3 & 4 following at the site are Hualong One.  The plant is 61% owned by CGN and 39% by Guangxi Investment Group.
WNN 3/10/16   China NP 

Fuqing 3 in Fujian province has entered commercial operation a month after its grid connection. Construction of the CPR-1000 unit took 70 months including the post-Fukushima delay. Unit 4 is due on line early next year and after that the next two units under construction at the site are the new Hualong One types.
WNN 25/10/16.   China NP

New Chinese reactors start supplying power
Unit 4 of the Ningde nuclear power station in Fujian province has been connected to the grid.  The 1018 MWe net CPR-1000 reactor started construction in October 2010.  This largely completes phase 1 of the plant.  Two further reactors to be built at Ningde will be Hualong One designs. Ningde Nuclear Power Co Ltd was set up in 2006 as a joint investment of China general Nuclear power (46%), China Datang Corporation (44%) and a provincial company.  There are now 31 reactors supplying power in China.
WNN 31/3/16.   China NP

Unit 4 of the Hongyanhe nuclear power station in Liaoning province has been connected to the grid.  The 1060 MWe net CPR-1000 reactor started construction in 2009, and delivers more power than similar southern units due to the very cold seawater in the condenser circuit. Two further reactors are under construction at the site.  Liaoning Hongyanhe Nuclear Power Co Ltd is a joint venture of China General Nuclear Power and the State Power Investment Corporation (45% each), with a provincial energy company.  There are now 32 reactors supplying power in China and 22 under construction.
WNN 1/4/16.   China NP

Changjiang 2 in China's Hainan province has been connected to the grid after starting up two weeks ago. It will supply 610 MWe net and with its twin, provide almost one third of the island’s electricity. Hainan Nuclear Power Co Ltd is a joint venture 51% owned by CNNC and 49% by China Huaneng Group. Two more units are planned from 2018. Total cost of the first pair is put at about CNY 20 billion ($3.05 billion), and they achieved 82% local content.

This brings China’s operating total to 33 reactors and 29,577 MWe – more nuclear capacity than Russia. Project starts on several more reactors are expected this year to take the total above the present 21 under construction.
WNN 20/6/16.  China NP

Unit 2 of Fangchenggang nuclear power station in the far southwest of China, has been connected to the grid, the CPR-1000 unit adding 1020 MWe net. Units 3 & 4 there are China Guangdong Nuclear Power’s (CGN) inaugural or at least transitional “Hualong HPR1000” units, the first now under construction. This makes 34 reactors grid-connected in China, total 30,597 MWe.
WNN 18 & 21/7/16.   China NP

Fuqing 3 in Fujian province has been connected to the grid and is expected in commercial operation by the end of the year. It is the 35th operational nuclear power reactor in China and adds 1020 MWe net. It is a CPR-1000 unit, owned by CNNC subsidiary China Nuclear Power Company (51%); Huadian Fuxin Energy Company (39%); and Fujian Investment and Development Group (10%). Unit 4 is expected on line early next year.  Units 5 & 6 are CNNC’s first Hualong One reactors, now under construction.
WNN 7/9/15   China NP

New Chinese reactors start up
The fourth reactor at Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in northeast China’s Liaoning province has started up. The plant is a joint venture of China General Nuclear Power (CGN) and the State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC).  The cost of all four 1119 MWe CPR-1000 units in the first construction phase is put at CNY 50 billion (US$ 6.6 billion), with localization about 80%. The project incorporates a 10,080 m3/day seawater desalination plant using waste heat to provide cooling water. Two further reactors are being built at the site.

Changjiang 2 in China's southern island province of Hainan has started up. Like its twin which achieved commercial operation last year, it is an indigenous CNP-600 PWR with a capacity of 650 MWe. Hainan Nuclear Power Co Ltd is a joint venture 51% owned by CNNC and 49% by China Huaneng Group. Two more units are planned from 2018. Total cost of the first pair is put at about CNY 20 billion ($3.05 billion).  - Digest 10/6/16

Unit 2 of Fangchenggang nuclear power station has started up in the far southwest of China, eight months after its twin. Units 3 & 4 following them there are China Guangdong Nuclear Power’s inaugural Hualong HPR1000 units, the first now under construction. - Digest 1/7/16

Unit 3 of Fuqing nuclear power station has started up in Fujian, a year after unit 2 there. Unit 4 is expected on line early next year. They are CPR-1000 reactors, like many commissioned recently.  Units 5 & 6 at the site are China National Nuclear Power’s inaugural Hualong One units, both now under construction.
WNN 4/7/16.  China NP

China’s electricity generation in 2015 increased only 0.3%, to 5810 TWh, with 73% of the total from fossil fuels, mainly coal. Nuclear was the fastest-growing electricity source in 2015 (29% growth), while generation from fossil fuels dropped 2.7%, due to weak economic conditions more than the ongoing energy transformation and the proliferation of renewable capacity. 
WNN 7/3/16.   China NP

Construction start on new Chinese reactors
At Tianwan in Jiangsu province, construction started on unit 6 with a major concrete pour.  This is an ACPR-1000 type, the last of that series of Chinese development of French M-310 design.  Construction of units 5 & 6 with this design was authorised due to the need to meet local power demand more quickly than negotiations with Russia would permit. Units 1-4 at Tianwan are Russian VVER-1000 reactors, two in operation and two under construction.  Units 7 & 8 are to be newer Russian VVER-1200 types, though plans for them are not yet firm. The Tianwan plant is owned and operated by Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation, a joint venture between CNNC (50%), State Power Investment Corporation (30%) and Jiangsu Guoxin Group (20%).
WNN 7/9/15   China NP

China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) has started construction of its second Hualong One reactor on schedule at Fangchenggang - unit 4 at the site in Guanxi autonomous region close to the Vietnam border. The first two Fangchenggang CPR-1000 units are operating. 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, with the company now ready to start the UK generic design review process for the Hualong One HPR1000 reactor. There are now 21 reactors under construction in China, total 24,106 MWe.
​WNN 29/12/16.     China NP

New Chinese reactor export company inaugurated
Hualong International Nuclear Power Technology - the 50-50 joint venture between China General Nuclear (CGN) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to promote the Hualong One reactor design in export markets as China nuclear industry’s ‘flagship brand’ - was officially inaugurated this week.  The Hualong One is derived from 1000 MW-class designs from both companies, with many of those from CGN – the CPR-1000 - now operating.  However these retain some French intellectual provenance, and the Hualong One has no IP restrictions on its worldwide sale in competition with Western models.  Three are under construction in China and the first export build is likely to be in Pakistan.
WNN 17/3/16.   China NP

China starts pebble fuel production for high-temperature reactor
A new fuel production line to make the 9% enriched fuel spheres for the Shidaowan HTR-PM high temperature reactors in Shandong province has started production at Baotou, Inner Mongolia. This is the site of China North Nuclear Fuel’s plant which produces most other kinds of nuclear fuel including that for new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, and is a major R&D base.  The new fuel plant was completed in May 2015 at a cost of almost CNY 300 million and has a capacity of 300,000 spherical fuel elements per year, each about 60mm diameter. The HTR-PM, a pebble-bed design, will use 520,000 of them cycling through the reactor units several times before they are expended after a few years and replaced.

The HTR-PM rationale is both eventually to replace conventional reactor technology for power, and also to provide for future hydrogen production. The new production line is based on a pilot one developed by the Institute for Nuclear and New Energy Technology (INET) at Tsinghua University producing 100,000 fuel elements per year, and INET is involved in the new plant.  Qualification irradiation tests of fuel elements were completed at the end of 2014 at the High Flux Reactor at Petten in the Netherlands.
WNN 29/3/16.  China fuel cycle

North America

North American clean power pledge
The leaders of Canada, Mexico and the USA have pledged to generate half of their electricity using clean power sources by 2025, using technology including nuclear power as well as renewables. They announced that North America has the "capacity, resources and moral imperative" to show leadership in acting on the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change and promoting its early entry into force.  Nuclear power currently accounts for about 20% of the electricity generated in the USA, 17% in Canada and 6% in Mexico. Overall about 37% of North America's 2015 energy came from zero-carbon sources - about 18% nuclear and 13% hydro.  The US Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) warned that premature closure of nuclear plants due to "unintended consequences of federal or state energy policies or flawed electricity markets" would make the 50% clean energy target impossible to achieve by 2025. The three leaders also pledged to develop and implement national methane reduction strategies, with Mexico joining Canada and the USA in committing to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

WNN 30/6/16

USA 

New US reactor connected to grid
Tennessee Valley Authority has grid-connected its Watts Bar unit 2, an 1165 MWe net PWR, though a turbine problem later caused it to shut down. A 40-year operating licence was issued last October, and commercial operation is expected from July. It joins its twin which has been providing power for 20 years.  This returns US operating reactor numbers to 100, with total 100.3 GWe.
WNN 6/6/15.   US NP

In the USA, Watts Bar unit 2, an 1165 MWe PWR, started up three days later than Novovoronezh, with grid connection expected in about two weeks. Construction by the Tennessee Valley Authority resumed in 2007, having been suspended in 1985 when it was more than half completed – the 44 year construction timeline possibly sets a record.  It is fundamentally a 1970s reactor with much upgrading. Its twin started operation in 1996.
WNN 23/5/16.   Russia NP, USA NP

New US reactor in commercial operation, licence renewal for others
The 1165 MWe Watts Bar unit 2, which was grid-connected in June, is now in commercial operation for the Tennessee Valley Authority.

After 22 months review, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licences of Exelon’s LaSalle 1 & 2 reactors, taking them to 2042 and 2043.  As with other such renewals beyond 40 years, this will justify expenditure on upgrading the 1207 MWe units.  Planned 335 MWe uprates were deferred in 2013. A total of 85 US reactors have now had licence renewals beyond 40 years.
WNN 20/10/16.   US NP

Entergy’s Grand Gulf nuclear reactor of 1409 MWe net, the largest in USA, has been granted a 20-year licence renewal, taking it to 2044.  It is the 86th US power reactor to have its operational life extended to 60 years.
WNN 5/12/16.    US NP

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licence for DTE Energy’s 1205 MWe Fermi 2 reactor in Michigan, taking its operating life to 2045.  This is the 87th licence renewal beyond the initial 40 years.
​WNN 19/12/16.   US NP

US nuclear plant closes
Omaha Public Power District has shut its single-unit Fort Calhoun nuclear power plant, ending the 479 MWe (net) reactor's 43-year operation. With low demand, its operating costs made the small unit uneconomic in the context of low gas prices and subsidized wind with priority grid access. The utility will replace its output with purchased power.  Decommissioning is planned after fuel removal.
WNN 25/10/16.  US NP

Exelon to buy nuclear plant in New York state
Exelon is to take over ownership and operation of Entergy's Fitzpatrick nuclear power plant in upstate New York after the two companies reached an agreement worth $110 million following the state's adoption of a Clean Energy Standard (CES) supporting the continued operation of nuclear capacity.  The single-unit, 838 MWe plant was otherwise scheduled to close in January for economic reasons, though it is licensed to 2034.  It will now join Exelon’s Ginna and Nine Mile point plants as subject to support under the state’s CES and Exelon will “invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Fitzpatrick in January to refuel the plant and upgrade systems needed to reverse the shutdown decision”.  Entergy is retreating to regulated rather than merchant power markets.
WNN 9/8/15   US NP

New York state approves clean energy standard with support for nuclear power
After a proposal from the governor and a period of public consultation the New York Public Service Commission has approved the state’s Clean Energy Standard (CES). The majority vote was reported to be on three main criteria: grid reliability, reducing carbon emissions, and maintaining jobs. As well as requiring half of the state’s electricity to come from renewables sources by 2030, it requires the distribution utilities (and hence eventually ratepayers) “to pay for the intrinsic value of carbon-free emissions from nuclear power plants by purchasing Zero-Emission Credits”. These are in some respects similar to the federal Production Tax Credits applying to renewables since 1993 on inflation-adjusted basis, though at a lower rate. The CES thus provides a 13-year reprieve for economically-challenged nuclear plants in the state. Legal challenges from competing utilities are possible.

The governor’s announcement said that “A growing number of climate scientists have warned that if these nuclear plants were to abruptly close, carbon emissions in New York will increase by more than 31 million metric tons during the next two years, resulting in public health and other societal costs of at least $1.4 billion.” http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/About/Newsroom/2016-Announcements/2016-08-01-Governor-Cuomo-Announces-Establishment-of-Clean-Energy-Standard

The Zero-Emission Credits program would be implemented in six tranches over a period of 12 years starting April 2017. For the first two-year period nuclear generators would receive ZECs of $17.48/MWh, somewhat less than the production tax credit of $23/MWh for wind. ZECs would escalate to $29.15/MWh over subsequent years.  The state’s electricity currently comes from gas 40%, nuclear 32%, hydro 19%, and wind 3%. The CES also requires distribution utilities to obtain a targeted number of Renewable Energy Credits each year for new wind developments on a similar basis, at about $22/MWh.

The ZECs will apply to three upstate nuclear plants under threat of closure - Fitzpatrick, Ginna and Nine Mile Point (four reactors, total 3371 MWe) from next year. Entergy’s Indian Point plant will come into the arrangement after two years, adding 2061 MWe. Exelon has confirmed that it will now proceed with investing about $200 million in Nine Mile Point and Ginna plants early next year and will continue to operate them. Also it will continue negotiations to buy Entergy’s Fitzpatrick plant, as the CES “will give us the confidence to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Fitzpatrick in January to refuel the plant and upgrade systems needed to reverse the shutdown decision." Entergy plans “to move away from merchant power markets and toward a company operating exclusively as a utility in regulated markets”.
WNN 2/8/15   US NP

New York state proposals for retaining nuclear power
After developing a Clean Energy Standard (CES) in December calling for 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, the New York Department of Public Service has put forward a proposal to help preserve New York's upstate nuclear power plants.  It would work in parallel with the tax credits that renewable sources receive, and value their zero-emissions attributes based on the social cost of carbon. The department says that there is a "public necessity" for subsidies for the Fitzpatrick, Ginna and Nine Mile Point plants (four reactors, total 3371 MWe). The benefits of paying such subsidies would far outweigh the costs, the Department said. During the first two years of the program, the state’s economic and environmental benefits associated with carbon reductions, supply cost savings and property tax benefits are estimated to be about $5 billion, against total payments of up to $965 million - a net benefit of $4 billion.  Earlier, the governor had said that closing nuclear facilities “would eviscerate the emission reductions achieved through the state’s renewable energy programs, diminish fuel diversity, increase price volatility, and financially harm host communities.”

Earlier this year the state’s Public Service Commission ruled that non-carbon-emitting generation resources including nuclear power plants must be included in the state's Clean Energy Standard portfolio. It also directed that the CES must include a support mechanism for upstate nuclear power plants at risk of closure for economic reasons due to low gas prices and the effects of subsidised wind power, and this proposal sets out such a support mechanism. The Public Service Commission has invited public comment. The program would be implemented in six tranches over a period of 12 years starting April 2017. It draws upon a report which estimated that replacing at-risk nuclear capacity with fossil fuel generation would incur a societal cost of $1.4 billion over two years.
WNN 12/7/15   USA NP

Illinois approves zero emission standard supporting nuclear power
The state legislature has passed the Future Energy Jobs Bill with measures to support the continued operation of nuclear power plants as part of a package to support clean and reliable electricity in the region.  In particular, it will ensure continued operation of the Quad Cities and Clinton nuclear plants which were under threat of premature closure due to competition with cheap gas and subsidized wind generation. A core feature of the legislation is the establishment of a Zero Emission Standard that will preserve the state’s at-risk nuclear plants, saving 4,200 jobs, retaining $1.2 billion economic activity annually and avoiding increases in energy costs. The bill will provide zero emission credits (ZEC) similar to those in New York - "a tradable credit that represents the environmental attributes of one megawatt hour of energy produced from a zero emission facility" such as the nuclear power plants which now supply 90% of the state’s zero-carbon energy.  As with the New York state legislation three months earlier, three prominent environmental organisations supported the initiative, while one, along with the coal lobby, opposed it.  The bill is to take effect in June 2017.
WNN 2/12/16.  US NP   http://futureenergyjobsbill.com/

US congress gives strong support to nuclear power
The US Senate has voted by a wide margin (90-8) to make a significant investment in nuclear energy. A strong bipartisan vote passed the $37.5 billion Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill for fiscal 2017. In particular, the bill provides $94.5 million (well above the Obama administration's budget request) for advanced reactor technologies at the Department of Energy and another $95 million to support small modular reactor (SMR) development. Two other bills supporting nuclear energy are making their way through congress with strong bipartisan support: the Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016 (H.R. 4979), and the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernization Act (S. 2795).
US nuclear power policy

Major US reactor uprate completed
Exelon has announced that its Peach Bottom 3 reactor has completed an extended power uprate of 135 MWe, following replacement of the high-pressure turbine and other components. This will take it to 1355 MWe net (beyond the approx 1283 MWe net reported in October).  Both Peach Bottom units have now been uprated, with most components upgraded or replaced after more than 40 years service.
WNN 15/1/16.  USA NP 
http://www.exeloncorp.com/newsroom/peach-bottom-epu-project-completion

US reactor uprate
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a 1.7% capacity uprate for Duke Energy's Catawba 1 nuclear power reactor in North Carolina, increasing its generating capacity by 20 MWe to 1187 MWe. Duke intends to implement the uprate this month.
US nuclear power

Further US licence extensions to 60 years
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licences for Exelon’s Braidwood 1 & 2 reactors for 20 years, to 2046 and 2047.  This makes a total of 83 US units thus extended to 60 years, with 11 more applications under review.
WNN 28/1/16.  USA NP

Exelon announces closure of two US plants
Exelon has announced that it will move forward with the early retirements of two nuclear power plants in Illinois - Clinton and Quad Cities - due to continued financial losses totaling $800 million over the past seven years, despite them being two of the utility’s best-performing plants. Clinton is a single 1065 MWe reactor, Quad Cities twin 940 MWe units, total 2945 MWe. The state’s Next Generation Energy Plan was before the state General Assembly, but failed to pass by the end of May.

The Plan would promote zero-carbon electricity, create and preserve clean-energy jobs, and establish a more equitable utility rate structure. It would make Illinois one of the first states to recognize the zero-carbon benefits of nuclear energy as well as boosting energy efficiency programs and the development of solar power in the state. A state report earlier concluded that closing the Clinton and Quad Cities plants will increase wholesale energy costs for the region by $439 million to $645 million annually. That report also said keeping the plants operating would avoid $10 billion in economic damages associated with higher carbon emissions over ten years.

Exelon said it would submit permanent shutdown notifications to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission within the next 30 days. It will also terminate capital investment projects required for the long-term operation of both plants. It will immediately take one-time charges of $150 million to $200 million for 2016, and accelerate some $2 billion in depreciation and amortization through to the announced shutdown dates of June 2017 and June 2018.

The NEI said that "The loss of Clinton and Quad Cities is a tragedy. Pending legislation would have advanced the state's clean air goals while making it possible for Clinton and Quad Cities to continue operating. This can be prevented for other nuclear power plants and the Illinois legislature should act quickly to pass legislation that best serves the people of Illinois.”

The short-term nature of deregulated electricity markets with heavily subsidised solar and wind inputs coupled with low gas prices have left other US nuclear power plants at risk of premature closure for economic reasons, despite their long-term future potential and their contribution to achieving greenhouse gas emissions targets. In April, Entergy announced that its Pilgrim plant in Massachusetts will close permanently in May 2019, while its FitzPatrick plant in New York State is to close in January 2017.
WNN 2/6/16.  US nuclear NP

USA funds two small innovative reactor designs
The US Department of Energy (DOE) is offering $80 million over several years as Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) grants to fund the development of two small innovative reactor designs, from X-energy and Southern Co. In 2012 the DOE allocated over $100 million to B&W with Bechtel for its small reactor project, the 180 MWe mPower integral PWR design, but the company then shelved it. Then in 2013 DOE granted up to $217 million to NuScale with Fluor for its 50 MWe integral PWR, which currently seems the most active US small reactor project. NuScale also has its sights on establishing the design in the UK, with confirmation that it can run on mixed oxide (MOX) fuel adding to its credentials there. The British government is trying to work out what to do with over 100 tonnes of plutonium recovered from used fuel over several decades. A 12-module NuScale plant (600 MWe) would burn it in about 40 years.
 
X-energy is designing the Xe-100 pebble bed high-temperature gas-cooled reactor of 48 MWe, and plans to apply for US design certification next year. A 1000-MW X-Energy plant would consist of five 200-MWe “four-packs” of reactor modules, with each four-pack costing about $1 billion.  The company has been in discussion with several utilities, including South Carolina Electricity & Gas (SCEG), regarding replacing coal-fired capacity with the “four pack” installations.  X-energy is working in partnership with others including BWX Technology, Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) on the design.
 
The established utility Southern Co is developing a Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR) with TerraPower, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Vanderbilt University. No details are available except that fuel is in the salt, and as a fast reactor it can burn U-238, actinides and thorium as well as used light water reactor fuel, requiring no enrichment apart from initial fuel load. Only one other reactor design is using chloride salts, most molten salt reactor designs use fluorides but are not fast neutron reactors. This design, and to a lesser extent the Xe-100, are further from demonstration than anything DOE has previously supported.
WNN 18 & 21/1/16.  Small reactors

Application for major US waste facility
US plans for disposal of high-level nuclear wastes have been in disarray since President Obama derailed and attempted to abort plans approved by Congress for a major repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada. Two proposals for long-term storage of the nation’s inventory of high-level wastes, mostly used reactor fuel, have since taken shape, one in New Mexico and one in Texas.

Waste Control Specialists (WCS), with support from Areva and NAC International as well as local government, have now applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for a licence to construct a Consolidated Interim Storage Facility (CISF) in Texas.  The company already operates a low-level waste repository there on a 60 square kilometre site. The CISF would provide engineered storage facilities for used fuel that has already been placed in dry storage casks at the nuclear plant site. The first fuel to arrive at the facility would be from Texas reactors and those that have been permanently shut down across the USA. WCS is applying for an initial 40-year storage licence for 40,000 tonnes of used fuel, developed in 5000 tonne increments. The proposal includes opportunities for 20-year licence renewals after the initial licence period. The regulatory review process is expected to take about three years.

Areva and NAC between them represent 62% of existing dry storage systems in the USA, including 78% of the used nuclear fuel stored at sites where there is no longer an operating reactor. The two companies also have considerable expertise in transport of used fuel by road and rail. Areva’s NUHOMS storage modules will be used for the CISF. These comprise banks of horizontal concrete cylinders 5 m long and 2 m diameter into which sealed metal canisters are put.  Each canister holds over 30 PWR fuel assemblies or over 60 BWR ones.
WNN 29/4/16.   US fuel cycle

GE-Hitachi pulls out of laser enrichment project
Due to a change of business priorities, GE-Hitachi has announced its intention to withdraw from Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), the US company it set up in 2006 to progress the SILEX laser enrichment technology licensed from Australia’s Silex Systems.  Silex Systems is considering taking an equity position itself in GLE alongside Cameco, which took a 24% share in 2008. While GLE’s technology development has proceeded well, to economic and engineering validation for the initial commercial production module, demand for new enrichment capacity is limited.

In 2012, GLE received a construction and operation licence for a full-scale laser enrichment facility - the first ever granted anywhere for such a plant - from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Then GLE was selected by the US Department of Energy (DOE) to enter contract negotiations on the construction of a laser enrichment plant at the DOE's former gaseous enrichment site at Paducah, Kentucky to re-enrich its inventory of high-assay depleted uranium tails, and those negotiations are continuing.
WNN 19/4/16.   Enrichment

Silex laser enrichment prospects advance
After three years negotiation, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has agreed to sell about 300,000 tonnes of high-assay enrichment tails to Global Laser Enrichment (GLE), the company set up by GE-Hitachi to commercialise the SILEX laser enrichment technology. This agreement will justify construction of the Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility (PLEF) which would be a commercial uranium enrichment production plant under US NRC licence, producing about 100,000 tonnes of natural-grade uranium over 40 years or more. DOE would dispose of the reduced-assay balance. Output would be limited to about 2000 t/yr natural uranium equivalent. The PLEF would become a new source of secondary supply and in the long term it would compete with new mines, rather than other enrichment plants.  The technology is licensed from Silex Systems Ltd in Australia.  A 6 million SWU/yr GLE plant is licenced for Wilmington, North Carolina, but will not be built until market conditions improve.
WNN 11/11/16.     US fuel cycle

Russian-designed fuel for US reactors
While uranium oxide from mines, and to a large extent also enriched uranium, are fungible commodities, fuel fabrication is a fairly sophisticated process putting that material into tubes and then fuel assemblies for particular reactor designs. Western and Russian fuel fabricators have largely served different markets, though recently Westinghouse has made inroads into Ukraine, for its VVER reactors, as that country has sought to minimise dependence on Russia.

Now the US-Japanese fabricator Global Nuclear Fuel – America has agreed with Russia’s TVEL to produce its TVS-K fuel design in USA for Westinghouse PWRs.  GNF is a joint venture between General Electric, Toshiba and Hitachi.  TVEL manages Russia’s conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication, and is at the cutting edge of nuclear fuel R&D.
WNN 24/5/16. US nuclear NFC

Europe

EU electricity market: disincentive to investment
The head of French utility EDF has said that it is urgent to modify the EU’s and France’s electricity market structure to allow for future investments in generating capacity, calling for the implementation of capacity mechanisms for all EU countries as well as a carbon emissions price floor. All investments in electricity generation are currently driven only by regulation and not by the market, he said. "The market design guidelines that are expected from the EU by the end of the year are an essential part of what should be the energy industry in the future." A fundamental objective of EDF “is to be positioned as the world’s leading low-carbon electricity producer.”

He noted that wholesale electricity prices had dropped 30% in EU markets over the last twelve months. “With electricity prices as low as they are today, overcapacity related to sluggish growth [and] renewable energy development, operators today can barely cover their variable costs with this market model. Energy supply is secured, but no operator is able to invest in building new means of production without public subsidies to support them,” he said. “It is now urgent to reform the current market model and to adapt it to the energy transition. [This should be] by quickly implementing capacity mechanisms in order to secure energy supply, by setting a European carbon price which will be in line with the commitments made by Europe at COP 21, and by introducing a new and enhanced regulation,” he said.  “The current ETS market is at a level which is not meaningful to the energy mix”. He also suggested that a floor price of €30 to €40 per tonne of CO2 – €30 being a level briefly touched in 2006 - is necessary to have an impact on the electricity mix. The European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) price is now just over €5 per tonne CO2.
WNN 24/2/16.  Europe

France

Areva restructuring takes shape with Mitsubishi
Following Areva’s announcement about the different ways forward for its two parts, the fuel cycle entities and Areva NP, the new shape is being fleshed out.  EdF is to take over Areva NP in 2017, and now Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has signed a memorandum of understanding with EDF which may lead to “the potential participation of MHI as a partner in the French nuclear landscape reorganization with the acquisition of a minority equity interest in Areva NP”. This was expected, and arises from the Areva-MHI joint venture in designing and marketing the Atmea1 nuclear reactor, which is to be built at Turkey’s second nuclear power plant site at Sinop on the Black Sea, then probably in Vietnam.  MHI and EDF called the agreement a "strategic move to strengthen the links between the Japanese and French nuclear power industries," with an immediate focus on the 1100 MWe Atmea1.

The EDF-MHI collaboration in Areva NP will make for an influential player in the reactor vendor market at a time when Areva’s flagship EPR is suffering a major image problem.  EDF has unparalleled experience in building and operating PWRs. MHI is one of Japan’s big three reactor vendors, and has built all 24 of Japan’s PWRs, in a range of sizes. In collaboration with four Japanese utilities MHI has developed the 1500 MWe class APWR which it is ready to start building at Tsuruga. It is simpler than present PWRs, combines active and passive cooling systems to greater effect, and has high fuel burn-up.  It was to be the basis for the next generation of Japanese PWRs. In 2007 the government selected MHI as the core company to develop a new generation of fast reactors for Japan. The Atmea1, jointly developed since 2007 with Areva NP, is newer and smaller, with full-core MOX and load-following capability.
WNN 28/6/15   France

Areva announces major restructuring
Areva SA has been the largest nuclear company in the Western world. After its losses of €4.8 billion in 2014 and €2 billion last year, with similar expected this year, Electricite de France (EDF) is set to take over the ailing reactor business, Areva NP, while the more profitable fuel cycle business is floated off.  Last July EdF agreed to take at least 51% of Areva NP, the reactor and services business, based on a €2.5 billion valuation for that portion of the whole. This would allow major participation by other partners, such Kuwait Investment Authority which already owns almost 5% of Areva SA. The French government owns 86.52% of the company through three entities.  Areva SA has now announced plans for the sale of a majority stake of Areva NP to EDF, and corporate restructuring through creation of a new company focused on the nuclear fuel cycle.

The new company is initially to be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Areva SA and set up this year, combining Areva Mines, Areva NC, and other entities. Part of Areva SA’s debt would be transferred to the new company. At the beginning of 2017, a total of €5 billion recapitalisation would be divided between Areva SA and the new fuel cycle company. Following the transaction and capital injection the French state would hold, either directly or indirectly, at least two-thirds of the new company’s capital, with the remainder held by strategic investors. Since November 2015 China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has been interested in taking 10% or 15% of Areva NC for about €2 billion.  Areva sees the new fuel cycle company as “refocused on less-risky cash flow generating operations” and thus able to refinance on capital markets and “in a good position to grow”.

Then, over the course of 2017, the major share of Areva NP's operations will be sold to EDF, which may then sell a portion – it was earlier noted that Mitsubishi Heavy Industries was interested on account of its role in the Atmea reactor joint venture. However, the toxic contract for the Olkiluoto 3 EPR under construction in Finland will remain with Areva SA to “ensure its successful completion, with the necessary resources and in compliance with contractual obligations".
WNN 15/6/15.   France

Germany

German court upholds utilities’ compensation claims
Germany's Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that, although the country's 2011 phase-out legislation is essentially in compliance with the constitution, its implementation was unreasonable, and the power utilities are entitled to some compensation for the early shut down of their nuclear reactors. Collectively the utilities lost 8336 MWe of nuclear generating capacity. Three of the four energy company operating those plants - EOn, RWE and Vattenfall - launched legal actions seeking compensation for the early shut down of their reactors, claiming the the change to the law constituted expropriation. EnBW, which is 45% owned by the Green-governed state of Baden-Wurttemburg, did not contest the shutdown.

The companies had undertaken significant investment based on a 2009 plan to extend reactor lifetimes. EOn has said it lost €8.0 billion as a result of the early shut down of its reactors, whilst Vattenfall claims to have lost €4.7 billion. Analysts have estimated RWE's losses at €6.0 billion. EOn said the ruling "acknowledges above all the importance of trust when it comes to investments made on the basis of political decision." The amount of compensation remains to be determined.
WNN 6/12/16.     Germany     Energiewende

Sweden

Sweden plans to abolish nuclear tax
An escalating tax on nuclear power capacity has progressively made Sweden’s nuclear output uncompetitive, as it comprises about one quarter of the operating cost.  Last year the government resolved to increase it further, to about €0.75 cents/kWh, which Vattenfall said would take its operating cost to €3.4 cents/kWh. Its CEO expressed the industry view that "Abolishment of the nuclear tax is needed in order to secure continued operation of our nuclear power plants".

This week a framework agreement was announced by a broad alliance of the Social Democrats, the Green Party, the Moderate Party, the Centre Party and the Christian Democrats, which will see the tax phased out over two years from 2017. It also allows for the construction of up to ten new nuclear reactors at existing sites, to replace plants as they retire. Since 2014 the government is a coalition of Social Democrats and Greens.
WNN 10/6/16.  Sweden

Vattenfall to invest in Swedish reactor upgrades
Following the promised removal of Sweden’s nuclear tax, Vattenfall has decided to invest in major upgrades of the three Forsmark reactors in which it has a majority stake. Installation of independent core cooling is a requirement for operation beyond 2020, and this will take them potentially to 2040.
WNN 15/6/15.   Sweden

Switzerland

Switzerland rejects rapid phase-out of nuclear power
A Swiss referendum has rejected a strongly publicized push to accelerate closure of five nuclear plants providing more than one third of the country’s electricity. These plants can now operate according to their owners' commercial plans, subject to approval from safety regulators. This will typically mean operating for around 60 years, subject to upgrades, with most closing in the 2030s-2040s. They are expected to generate an extra 320 TWh of electricity in the longer operating period, equivalent to the UK’s annual consumption. Nuclear plus hydro in 2015 contributed 93% of Switzerland’s power, giving it one of the cleanest and most reliable electricity systems in the world. Germany’s difficulties next door in phasing out nuclear power, despite massive investment in intermittent wind and solar generation, provided a case study for the Swiss decision.
WNN 27/11/16.     Switzerland

United Kingdom

UK government approves new reactor project, new policy for future
After seven weeks of uncertainty, the UK government has announced its approval for the construction of two large (1670 MWe) EPR reactors at the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset, after reaching a new agreement in principle with Electricite de France (EDF), the main proponent.  Hinkley Point C received a long-awaited and positive final investment decision from the EDF board on 28 July, whereupon the UK government immediately postponed signing its supporting agreements while it reconsidered the project. It can now proceed, with the previously agreed long-term pricing agreement unchanged, and a restraint on EDF reducing its equity.

The project will have two thirds Electricite de France (EDF) equity, and one third China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) – both companies essentially owned by respective governments. However the UK government has now imposed what it calls "significant new safeguards for future foreign investment in critical infrastructure", which will affect foreign investment in future British nuclear power projects. In relation to Hinkley Point, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said that "The government will be able to prevent the sale of EDF’s controlling stake prior to the completion of construction”, and also intervene in any sale of equity once the plant is operational (as before).

Then the new legal framework will mean that the UK government will take a ‘special share’ in all future nuclear power projects. The government said that this will bring the UK's policy framework for ownership and control of all critical infrastructure "into line with other major economies".  This is not expected to affect the planned the Bradwell nuclear plant in Essex, where two Chinese Hualong One nuclear reactors are envisaged with CGN having two thirds equity in the project. CGN said it was “very happy” with the government statement. The ‘special share’ initiative was also welcomed by NuGen, which has 60% Toshiba equity in its Moorside AP1000 project, and by Horizon, a full Hitachi subsidiary, planning the Wylfa Newydd plant with ABWRs. EDF said it would now move forward with its Sizewell project.

Coincidentally, UK regulator Ofgem approved a 2000 MWe undersea link between Hampshire and Normandy, enabling the import of French nuclear power from 2022. This will be privately-funded and operated, and is expected to reduce electricity prices in southern England as coal plants retire.
WNN 15/9/16.  UK

EdF makes final investment decision on new UK nuclear plant
Capping off more than 40 years of muddle and indecision, during which only one new nuclear plant departing from earlier designs has been built in the UK, the EdF board has decided to proceed with building the 2-unit Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset. The expected cost is £18 billion, with full construction to begin in 2019 – some £2.5 billion has already been spent on it.  However, soon after the EdF announcement, the UK government surprised everybody by saying that it expected to take until September for the new leadership to make a final decision on the project, and in particular to sign off on power purchase from it.

To underwrite the capital investment EdF has agreed to a 35-year power supply contract at about double the current wholesale price. Platts called it “a bold, expensive solution to the failure of the wholesale market to provide an investment signal for decarbonized power”. Similar contracts will be offered for subsequent nuclear projects.

Hinkley Point C will be the fifth and sixth EPR units built, with the company determined to apply the lessons from Finnish and French projects which are vastly over budget and schedule. The two EPR units being built in China by EdF and China General Nuclear Power (CGN) are closer to target, and due on line next year. CGN will be a 33.5% partner in the project. The Chinese investment is seen as a foothold in UK, with a view to Chinese reactors being built at Bradwell B.

The EPR is a large (1670 MWe) and complex design which has evolved from the best and well-proven French and German designs. Areva has been responsible for finalising the EPR design and promoting it, but two difficult European EPR projects have resulted in that company’s virtual demise, with the reactor division to be picked up and refloated largely by EdF, which is 85% owned by the French government.  An EdF subsidiary owns and operates all eight UK nuclear power stations (15 reactors, 8883 MWe net). Hinkley Point C will provide about 7% of UK electricity from its 3260 MWe net.
WNN 29/7/15   UK

Four UK nuclear plants gain extended operational life
EDF Energy has announced new closure dates for four of its twin-AGR nuclear power plants in UK, taking them to just over 40 years.  Heysham A and Hartlepool plants have been extended by five years to 2024, while Heysham B and Torness plants have been extended by seven years to 2030. This follows extensive technical and safety reviews of the plants, which have been shared with the UK Office for Nuclear Regulation. The company’s three other Advanced Gas-cooled Reactor plants have had life extensions to over 40 years. EDF Energy spends about £600 million per year on upgrades to eight plants (15 reactors) to enable ongoing operation, this investment being supported by the new capacity market operating from 2014.
WNN 16/2/16.  UK

Ukraine

South Korea to rescue Ukraine reactors
Ukraine’s Energoatom has signed an agreement with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), one objective of which is to cooperate in completion of Khmelnitski 3 & 4. An associated objective is to cooperate in the Ukraine-EU "energy bridge" project, exporting power from Khmelnitski 2 to Poland. The agreement is a further step away from Russian dependence.

Khmelnitski units 3 & 4 have been under construction, on and off, since the mid 1980s. They are Russian VVER-1000 reactors and were respectively 75% and 28% complete when work stopped in 1990.  In March 2008 Areva, Westinghouse and South Korean suppliers were invited to bid on completing or replacing them, along with Atomstroyexport and Skoda. In the event only Atomstroyexport and KHNP submitted bids, with the former being chosen, to complete the partially-built AES-92 units, helped by Russian financing for 85% of the $4.9 billion estimated cost. After the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014, the government revoked the agreement with Russia and Atomstroyexport (now NIAEP-ASE) and wanted Czech-based but Russian-owned Skoda JS to take over the project. Chinese interest was rebuffed. Now KHNP is back in the frame with a view to completing the two reactors.

For many years the Khmelnitski nuclear power plant in the west of the country has been constrained by inadequate grid connections. In March 2015 an agreement was signed by Ukraine’s Ukrenergo distribution company and Polenergia, a Polish counterpart, to export electricity as part of a Ukraine- European Union ‘energy bridge’, and related to the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan. This would enable greater use of Ukraine’s nuclear capacity and generate funds to pay for completing Khmelnitski units 3 & 4.  Khmelnistki unit 2 would be disconnected from the Ukraine grid and synchronized with the EU grid.  A 750 kV transmission connection from Khmelnistki to Rzeszow in Poland is planned, taking in also Ukraine’s 2300 MWe Burshtyn coal-fired plant in the far west of the country. This plant is already disconnected from the national grid since 2002 to form the Burshtyn Energy Island, and synchronized with the EU grid (ENTSO-E), with 400 kV connection to Hungary, Slovakia and Romania. In June 2015 the government approved the new EU ‘energy bridge’ project.
WNN 31/8/16.  Ukraine

Chernobyl structure moved into place
Thirty years after the nuclear accident and four years after starting its construction, the New Safe Confinement (NSC) structure has been moved into place over the destroyed unit 4 reactor at Chernobyl.  The NSC is the largest moveable land-based structure ever built, weighting 36,000 tonnes complete with cranes and remote handling equipment installed last year.  The new hermetically sealed building will allow engineers to remotely dismantle the hastily-built 1986 structure that has shielded the remains of the reactor from the weather since the weeks after the accident, and then remove the fuel-containing materials in the bottom of the reactor building.  The NSC is the major part of a €2.15 billion plan for Chernobyl administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
WNN 29/11/16.   Chernobyl accident

Russia

Russia connects first large new reactor to the grid
Rosenergoatom has connected its first VVER-1200 reactor to the grid.  Novovoronezh 6 is a V-392M version of the reactor in AES-2006 plants, from Moscow Atomenergoproekt, with net capacity 1114 MWe.  It is an evolutionary development of the well-proven VVER-1000/V-320 and V-392 types. Construction began in June 2008. The plant is on one of the main hubs of the Russian grid, and construction was slowed last year due to low power demand.  A second new unit is about two years behind it. This takes Russia’s operating reactors to 36, total 27,167 MWe.
WNN 5/8/16.  Russia NP

In Russia, the first unit of Novovoronezh phase II has started up.  It is the first of a new generation of Russian VVER-1200 pressurised water reactors, and its construction started in June 2008. Grid connection is expected soon, providing 1114 MWe net.
WNN 23/5/16.   Russia NP

New Russian fast reactor in commercial operation
Russia’s second large-scale fast neutron reactor, Beloyarsk 4, has started commercial operation.  Earlier envisaged as the first of several, the BN-800 unit is essentially a demonstration unit for fuel and design features for the BN-1200, or as Rosatom said last year: BN-800 has been created for testing elements of closing the nuclear fuel cycle rather than electricity generation.  It is nevertheless supplying 789 MWe net to the grid, having been connected in December. Rosenergoatom’s focus is now on the BN-1200, with design completion expected next year. Rosatom sees this as a “Generation IV design with natural security”, and the first ones will be built at Beloyarsk and South Urals sites.
WNN 1/11/16.  Russia NP

Russia confirms reactor plans to 2030
The Russian government has issued an order to update 2013 plans for new electric generating capacity in its Unified Energy System, taking it to 2030 on a firmer basis than previously. It covers all technologies, and lists 11 nuclear plants beyond those under construction or imminently so. Most of them were already planned in that time frame.  As well as seven of the advanced VVER-TOI reactors at four sites, two BN-1200 fast reactors at two sites and one VVER-600 at the northern Kola site near Murmansk were listed. Another was the most advanced technology: a BREST-300 fast reactor at Seversk, already a high priority in the country’s Proryv (breakthrough) program to use fast reactors in closing the fuel cycle.  All the reactors listed are newer designs than any currently under construction. The 1250 MWe VVER-TOI design has evolved from the type recently grid-connected at Novovoronezh, and represents an endorsement of the Moscow Atomenergoproekt design bureau over Saint Petersburg, with more passive safety incorporated.
WNN 10/8/16.  Russia NP

Russia closes oldest reactor at pioneering site
Rosenergoatom has closed down unit 3 of Novovoronezh nuclear power station after 45 years operation.  This is a prototype VVER-440, of 385 MWe net. Its twin unit 4, originally intended to be shut down in 2018, will be kept running with cannibalised parts from unit 3 for up to another 15 years, according to Rosatom.  Following these prototypes, four other VVER-440 units have been built at Kola in Russia, and 29 internationally. Novovoronezh hosted these prototype VVER-440 reactors and a VVER-1000 prototype – unit 5. Recently the first of a new design, the VVER-1200, was grid connected there – unit 6.
WNN 28/12/16.    Russia NP

Russian lawsuit against Bulgaria settled
Due to government changes and financial challenges for the $10.5 billion project, Bulgaria cancelled a contract with Russia’s Atomstroyexport (ASE) to build a pair of VVER-1000 reactors at Belene.  Construction was under way and equipment ordered. ASE referred the matter to the International Court of Arbitration in Geneva, claiming a total of €1.2 billion, and the Court has now ruled in favour of ASE, so that Bulgaria needs to pay $620 million for work performed and equipment supplied. Both sides are reported to be happy with the ruling.  Bulgaria’s NEK will consult ASE regarding settlement which may involve handing over some equipment to Bulgaria, though much of it has already been used to build unit 4 of the Kalinin plant in Russia, which came on line in 2012 about 10% under budget.
WNN 16/6/16.  Bulgaria

South Korea

New South Korean reactor on line
The first of South Korea’s flagship APR1400 reactors, Shin Kori 3, of 1340 MWe net, has been connected to the grid.  Construction started in October 2008 but was delayed by the need to replace faulty parts, so took three years longer than planned. Unit 4 at the site is some months behind it, and two others are also under construction in the country.  Meanwhile, the $20 billion construction project for four of these units in United Arab Emirates is on schedule.
WNN 19/1/16.   S.Korea

New South Korean reactor in commercial operation
The first of the new APR1400 nuclear power reactors is now in commercial operation in South Korea. Its twin at Shin Kori is almost ready to start up, and two more are under construction at Shin Hanul in Ulchin, plus four more at Barakah in United Arab Emirates. While Shin Kori 3 & 4 encountered delays during construction, the others are proceeding closer to schedule.

The APR1400 has US provenance, and the basic design was complete in 1999, but it has evolved to be free of Westinghouse intellectual property rights.  The original technology licence agreement was replaced by a business cooperation agreement, whereby KHNP would join with Westinghouse in marketing jointly-developed technology while KHNP completed the development of its own components to replace those dependent on the licensing. The two Shin Hanul units will be the first to use locally-made coolant pumps and man-machine interface systems, and be virtually free of Westinghouse IP content.
WNN 20/12/16.    S.Korea

South Korea strengthens research ties with Russia on fast reactors
A new wide-ranging agreement has been signed by Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and Russia’s Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (RIAR) to advance South Korea’s plans to have a Korean Prototype Generation IV sodium-cooled fast reactor (PGSFR) operating about 2028.  Several decades of cooperation culminated in a formal agreement with the US Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) in August 2014 to progress plans towards licensing approval of a 150 MWe prototype by 2020. Meanwhile KAERI has contracted RIAR to irradiate prototype metal PGSFR fuel rods in Russia’s BOR-60 fast research reactor at Dimitrovgrad.
WNN 6/6/16.  South Korea

Japan

Japan restarts reactors
Following regulatory and local government approval, Kansai Electric Power Co has restarted its Takahama 3 reactor and reconnected the 870 MWe unit to the grid.  The 157 fuel assemblies include 24 with mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. Fuel is being loaded into unit 4 at the site.
WNN 29/1/16, 1/2/16.   Japan NP

Kansai Electric Power Co has restarted its 870 MWe Takahama 4 nuclear power reactor, and expects to have it grid-connected on Monday. It is the fourth Japanese unit to be restarted after the post-Fukushima review. Unit 3 at the plant was restarted four weeks ago and has returned to normal commercial operation.
WNN 25/2/16.   Japan NP

Shikoku Electric Power Co has restarted its Ikata 3 reactor, an 846 MWe PWR, making it the fifth reactor restarted since post-Fukushima shutdowns.  It is due on line in a few days. The fuel was loaded in June, with 56 fresh fuel assemblies and 101 already-used assemblies (including 16 MOX ones).
WNN 12/8/16.  Japan NP

Court injunction shuts down Japanese reactors
After restarting Takahama units 3 & 4, a district court injunction has forced Kansai to shut them down.  Both reactors have been upgraded since post-Fukushima shut-down, thoroughly checked and the operational safety plans approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Unit 4 had in fact shut down soon after restarting due to a transformer malfunction.  A district court judge ruled that the safety of the units could not be guaranteed - despite Japan's nuclear regulator saying they fully met revised safety standards. The decision calls into question how the safety of any industrial facility is determined if local prejudice can prevent its operation. Kansai is appealing the injunction, but its shares dropped 15% in one day, and the Prime Minister reminded his people that “Our resource-poor country cannot do without nuclear power to secure the stability of energy supply while considering what makes economic sense and the issue of climate change.” He said nuclear power was indispensible.
WNN 9/3/16.  Japan NP

Sixth small, old Japanese reactor decommissioned
Shikoku Electric Power has decided to decommission its 39-year old, 538 MWe Ikata 1 power reactor rather than spend some JPY 170 billion upgrading it with a view to a further 20 years licensed operation. It joins five other old and small units decommissioned last year. The total net reduction in operational capacity is 2627 MWe.  Meanwhile the regulator has approved safety upgrades for Ikata unit 3.
WNN 29/3/16.   Japan NP

Japan confirms Monju fast reactor decommissioning, future with Astrid
The Japanese government has finally confirmed that the Monju fast reactor will be decommissioned rather than restarted after six years of long-term shutdown. The 280 MWe Monju prototype fast breeder reactor reactor started up in April 1994 and was connected to the grid in August 1995, but a sodium leakage in its secondary heat transfer system during performance tests in December 1995 meant that it was shut down after only 205 days actual operation. In 2010 it operated briefly but then a mishap with refuelling equipment caused it to shut down again. Since then the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), the two ministries involved, and the regulator have contested the plant’s future. Monju is reported to have cost more than JPY 1 trillion ($8.5 billion) to build and operate. The government cited the need to spend about half this much again to meet new regulatory standards as its reason for the decision. Fukui local government is adamantly opposed to decommissioning, though it is likely that future fast reactor projects will be there. The prefecture hosts ten other reactors, owned by Kansai Electric Power Co. and Japan Atomic Power Co.

The government said the incidents at Monju had led to a "stagnation" in the country's fast reactor development, but it affirmed that the development of such reactors will continue. In 2016 the government’s Conference on Fast Reactor Development has met several times to formulate policy. It reiterated the need to promote the nuclear fuel cycle based on the government’s Strategic Energy Plan, as well as R&D on fast reactors to develop world-class technology. Further aims are to commercialize and establish fast reactors as the international standard, while achieving high levels of safety and economy at the same time.

In 2014 Japan committed to support the development of the French Astrid fast reactor project, and JAEA, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi FBR Systems concluded an agreement with the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and Areva NP to progress cooperation on it. Astrid is to be a 600 MWe prototype of a commercial series of 1500 MWe sodium-cooled fast reactors likely to be deployed from about 2050 to utilise the abundant depleted uranium available by then and also burn the plutonium in used MOX fuel. Astrid arises from a 2006 French government commission to the CEA to develop a fast neutron reactor which is essentially a Generation IV version of the sodium-cooled type which already has 45 reactor-years operational experience in France. A final decision on construction of the Astrid prototype is envisaged in 2019.
WNN 22/12/16.     Japan NP, Japan fuel cycle

India

New Russian reactor enters service in India
Kudankulam unit 2 in Tamil Nadu state has finally been connected to the southern grid. This is a 917 MWe net Russian AES-92 power plant which has been under construction since 2002, financed by Russia, and under international non-proliferation safeguards.  It brings to 22 the number of nuclear power reactors operating in India, with total of 6219 MWe. Kudankulam 1 & 2, along with Tianwan 1 & 2 in China, and Bushehr in Iran, were the first post-Soviet Russian exports of nuclear power plants.  In India, Kudankulam represented a major step, both in size and technology. Apart from two old 150 MWe GE reactors at Tarapur commissioned in 1969 (pre-NPT), these were the first departure from 220 MWe Canadian-type pressurized heavy water reactors, but were nevertheless constructed by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India. Russia is supplying all the enriched fuel through the life of the plant, though unusually for Russian exports, India will reprocess it and keep the plutonium. 

Works are under way preparing for the construction of the next two AES-92 units at Kudankulam, out of six or eight more planned for that site. After units 3 & 4, costing about Rs 40,000 crore ($6 billion), the new units are expected to be the larger 1200 MWe AES-2006 designs.  Construction of unit 3 is due to start before the end of March.
WNN 30/8/15   India

New Indian reactor starts up
The second Russian nuclear reactor at Kudankulam has started up after prolonged delays.  Construction of the 917 MWe (net) unit started in 2002 and construction was declared complete a year ago.  Its twin was grid-connected in October 2013 and entered commercial operation at the end of 2014 but then required major turbine repairs.  They are AES-92 plants using VVER-1000 reactors, financed by Russia but largely built by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Led (NPCIL). The reactors are from Atomstroyexport and the turbines were made by Silmash in St Petersburg.
WNN 11/7/16   India

India and Japan nuclear cooperation agreement
After six years negotiation, India and Japan have signed a full nuclear cooperation agreement, allowing India to import Japanese reactor technology. Japan also agreed to help India become a member of the international Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), from which it has been excluded due to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) rules. However, its willingness and ability to promote NPT objectives is well recognized.

In 2008 the NSG agreed to allow India to import both uranium and technology, and this opened the way for bilateral civil nuclear cooperation agreements with the USA, Russia, France, UK, South Korea, Czech Republic and Canada, as well as Australia, Argentina, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and Namibia. Bilateral safeguards agreements have been signed with Australia and Canada.
WNN 11/11/16.  India

India amends Atomic Energy Act to extend nuclear power
The Indian government has amended its 1962 Atomic Energy Act to allow the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) to form joint venture companies with other public sector undertakings for involvement in nuclear power generation and possibly other aspects of the fuel cycle. This is expected to help NPCIL, hitherto virtually a nuclear power monopoly, secure funding for new projects. India's largest power company, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) prepared a joint venture with NPCIL in 2010 (NPCIL 51%), with the prospect of multiple projects utilising local and imported reactor technology. Other NPCIL joint venture arrangements in anticipation of the amended Act include those with the National Aluminium Company (Nalco), Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOC), and Indian Railways. The legislative change does not extend to private sector companies, and nor does it allow direct foreign investment in nuclear power, apart from the supply chain. 
WNN 25/2/16.  India

Pakistan

Pakistan reactor in commercial operation
Unit 3 at the Chashma nuclear power plant in Punjab has started commercial operation after completing final acceptance tests. It is a 315 MWe net CNP-300 reactor built by China Zhongyuan Engineering Corp (CZEC).  It was grid connected in October. Unit 4 is expected on line by mid 2017. These are largely financed by China, and China is providing the fuel.
WNN 28/12/16.   Pakistan

New Chinese reactor on line in Pakistan
Unit 3 of Pakistan’s Chashma nuclear power plant in Punjab has been grid-connected ahead of schedule after 65 months construction.  It and unit 4 were built together, each a 315 MWe net CNP-300 PWR, and unit 4 is expected on line next year. The $2.37 billion cost for both was largely financed by China.  China Zhongyuan Engineering Corp (CZEC) was the general contractor.  China will provide the fuel for 40 years. They are under international safeguards.
WNN 17/10/16.  Pakistan

Confirmation of construction start for large new Chinese reactors
It has now been confirmed that full construction of Karachi Coastal nuclear power plant commenced in August 2015 for Karachi unit 2, with construction expected to take six years and cost $9.6 billion for two reactors. CNNC subsidiary China Zhongyuan Engineering Corporation (CZEC) is general contractor for the plant, building the first export units of Hualong One reactors, each 1161 MWe gross. Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission earlier said that 82% of the total cost would be financed by China. CNNC is to provide lifetime fuel supply for the reactors, this being specified as 60 years. 

CZEC is also building two small reactors, Chashma 3&4 in Punjab, each 340 MWe gross, expected on line in the next year or two. These are also largely financed by China, and CNNC is providing the fuel. Pakistan remains outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which disqualifies it from international assistance in nuclear energy, but China has argued that Chashma 3&4 are grandfathered under the exemption that allowed it to build the first two units at Chashma, which have been operational since 2000 and 2011.
WNN 21/8/15.   Pakistan

The main focus now in Pakistan is construction of two much larger Hualong One reactors on the coast near Karachi, each 1161 MWe gross, and also being built by CZEC.  Construction of Karachi 2 started in August 2015 with no publicity, and according to IAEA sources, construction of unit 3 started in May 2016.  The project is low profile on account of sanctions by the international Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).  The total cost of the Karachi Coastal project was estimated in 2013 at PKR 959 billion ($9.15 billion), with more than two thirds being vendor finance.  Despite NSG guidelines, China National Nuclear Corporation is contracted to provide lifetime fuel supply for the reactors, this being specified as 60 years.

Other bilateral cooperation involves the $51 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects to link Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang region to Pakistan’s deep-water port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. CPEC includes roads and railways running much of the length of Pakistan and funded by three Chinese banks. By 2030 a direct rail link is planned over the 4,693-metre (15,390 ft) high Khunjerab Pass on the border 870 km from Islamabad. The first CPEC road convoy from China arrived at Gwadar in November, with 250 containers. Some $33 billion of the CPEC total is for energy infrastructure, notably 10 GWe of generating capacity by 2020, mostly coal-fired.
WNN 28/12/16.   Pakistan

Vietnam

Vietnam cancels nuclear power plans
Vietnam’s National Assembly has passed a resolution to cancel its 2009 plans for two initial nuclear power stations “due to economic conditions in our country today” and lower demand projections.  They were initially to provide about 5 GWe capacity and eventually 12 GWe.  They will be replaced with 6 GWe of LNG- and coal-fired generation by 2030, based on short-term cost considerations relating to those fuels.  Imports of power especially from Laos and also wind and solar PV will supplement this. The country now gets 42% of its power from hydro, 33% from gas and 25% from coal.

Ninh Thuan 1 phase 1 was to be two Russian AES-2006 units at Phuoc Dinh. Russia was to finance at least 85% of this plant, and an agreement for up to $9 billion finance was signed in November 2011 with the Russian government's state export credit bureau.  Ninh Thuan 2 phase 1 was to be two advanced Japanese reactors at Vinh Hai.  Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) was working with Japan Atomic Power Co. and others on the project, which would involve financing and insurance of up to 85% of the total cost. Details of technology and finance were unresolved.
WNN 23/11/16.  Vietnam

Kazakhstan

Kazakh uranium production increases further
Preliminary figures indicate that Kazakhstan produced 23,800 tU in 2015, a 4% increase on its record 2014 output.

China invests in Kazakh fuel fabrication
Construction has started on a $147 million, 200 t/yr fabrication plant for nuclear fuel assemblies at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP) in Kazakhstan. Areva has licensed the technology, and the plant is owned 51% by UMP and 49% by a China General Nuclear Corp (CGN) subsidiary. The Ulba plant is already a major world supplier of ceramic fuel pellets.
WNN 8/12/16.   Kazakhstan

Mongolia

Mongolia settles long-running dispute with Canadian uranium company
In 2009 Canada-based Khan Resources Inc. had the major share in Mongolia’s Dornod uranium project, together with Russian and Mongolian government entities as minor partners. Uranium was previously mined at Dornod over 1988-95, with the ore railed 480 km to Krasnokamensk in Siberia for treatment by Priargunsky.  Only about 535 tU was produced in total.  Khan’s subsidiary claimed to have the only uranium mining licence in Mongolia in 2009, and a feasibility study then showed that the Dornod project was sound, on the basis of good resources and envisaged annual production of 1150 tU over 15 years.  However, after Khan recommended a full takeover by a Chinese government entity, the government suspended and then cancelled Khan’s licences in favour of a Russian joint venture arrangement.

In 2011 Khan sued the Mongolian government "for its expropriatory and unlawful treatment of Khan in relation to the Dornod uranium deposit" and sought $200 million damages plus over $126 million interest and costs. In March 2015 the international tribunal in the Netherlands awarded $100 million to Khan as compensation for its Dornod licences being cancelled. Mongolia then tried to annul the award, but the Finance Minister has now announced that “The Government of Mongolia and Khan Resources Inc. successfully reached an agreement that effectively resolves all outstanding issues in regards to the international arbitration awards.” Khan said that it had settled for $70 million, to be paid by mid May. The company does not have any other significant assets or activities, and Mongolia still has no uranium mining for the last 20 years. Mongolia’s international profile regarding sovereign risk is expected to improve as a result of the settlement.
WNN 9/3/16.  Mongolia

Middle East

UAE and Korea form joint venture for operation of new power plant
The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) have signed a joint venture agreement for "long-term partnership and cooperation in the UAE's peaceful nuclear energy program". The two companies also announced establishment of Barakah One PJSC, an independent subsidiary they jointly own (KEPCO 18%), to be a long-term partnership enhancing the operation of the nuclear power plant and to "represent the commercial and financial interests" of the 5600 MWe Barakah project.  KEPCO also has an 18% interest in Nawah Energy Co, established in May to operate and maintain the plant. The four reactors, being built by a consortium led by KEPCO, are expected to provide about 25% of the UAE's electricity, with the first coming on line in 2017.

Barakah One PJSC will also take over management of the $24.4 billion project finances, comprising direct loan agreements of about $19.6 billion and $4.7 billion in equity commitments. The contract for construction, commissioning and fuel loads for four units was $20.4 billion.
WNN 20/10/16   UAE 

Egypt announces Russian finance for reactors
Last November an intergovernmental agreement was signed with Russia to build and operate four 1200 MWe reactors, including fuel supply, used fuel, training and development of regulatory infrastructure. A financing agreement for a Russian state export loan was also signed, and the government has now announced that the loan is for $25 billion, to cover 85% of the cost of four reactors, with repayments to start upon commissioning. In November a cooperation agreement was signed between Russia’s Rostechnadzor and the Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority.
WNN 9/5/16  Emerging countries 

Canada

Cigar Lake lifts Canadian uranium production to record level
With substantial production from the new Cigar Lake mine, coupled with that from McArthur River – the world’s two largest producing mines, Canada’s 2015 uranium production is the highest ever, at 13,320 tonnes of uranium.  This comprised 7354 tU from McArthur River, 4345 tU from Cigar Lake (63% of planned capacity) and 1621 tU from Rabbit Lake which is approaching depletion. Both major mines have massive resources of very high-grade ore.  All three mines are operated by Cameco, though Cigar Lake ore is treated at Areva’s McClean Lake mill.
Canada Uranium

Australia

South Australia responds to Royal Commission report
The South Australian government will support nine of the 12 recommendations of its Royal Commission on the nuclear fuel cycle. Five accepted recommendations relate to uranium mining and exploration, and include the expansion of uranium mining. The government also supported the commission’s recommendations to collaborate at the national level on the development of a comprehensive national energy policy that enables all technologies, including nuclear, to contribute to a low-carbon energy system, and to monitor the development of new nuclear reactor designs. It also supported a recommendation to promote and increase the use of nuclear medicine at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute. However, it did not support the Commission's recommendation that it should pursue the removal of existing prohibitions on nuclear power generation in the state, "recognising that in the short-to-medium term, nuclear power is not a cost-effective source of low-carbon electricity for South Australia." Nor did it support removal of restrictions on nuclear fuel cycle activities.

The major Royal Commission recommendation was to set up an international high-level waste storage facility and repository in the state, but the government will not "pursue policy or legislative change" relating to this but would "continue to encourage" discussion on the issue and "remain open to pursuing this opportunity for South Australia" eventually. This would be by restoration of bipartisanship and broad social consent secured through a state-wide referendum as "the only path forward." Former bipartisan support for the recommendation has recently faltered.
WNN 15/11/16.   Australia

Australian royal commission recommends international waste repository
As foreshadowed in its tentative findings in March, the South Australian Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle has recommended that a facility for the interim storage and then disposal of international used nuclear fuel and intermediate-level waste should be established.  It found that the state "has the necessary attributes and capabilities to develop a world-class waste disposal facility, and to do so safely". Based on a "cautious and conservative approach", from assessments of used fuel inventories and potential global interest the commission determined that such a facility could generate more than A$ 100 billion in income in excess of expenditure (including a reserve fund of A$ 32 billion for facility closure and ongoing monitoring) over the 120-year life of the project. The World Nuclear Association said that the report had "fundamentally changed the nature of the global nuclear waste discourse".

The full report is 344 pages. The chapter on wastes has 351 endnotes supporting the narrative, and three substantial appendices.  The endnotes exclude the dross submitted. Our detailed account of this chapter is in the linked information paper.
WNN 9/5/16.   International waste disposal concepts

Australian fuel cycle inquiry focuses on wastes
The Royal Commission investigating South Australia’s potential participation in the nuclear fuel cycle beyond uranium mining reports that the storage and disposal of used nuclear fuel from abroad could “deliver substantial economic benefits” to the state.  This "would meet a global need and is likely to deliver substantial economic benefits to the community". An integrated storage and disposal facility would be commercially viable and the storage component could be operational in the late 2020s.  "Financial assessments suggest such integrated facilities with the capacity to store and dispose of 138,000 tonnes heavy metal of used fuel and 390,000 cubic meters of intermediate-level waste operating over about 100 years would be highly profitable in a range of scenarios," the commission said. "Those volumes represent about 13% of the projected global fuel inventory, based on a very conservative waste assumption that restricts the number of operational reactors to the current number planned to be in operation in 2030, with no additions.” The profit from such a storage and disposal facility would have net present value of A$51 billion and add 5% to the state’s GDP by 2030.

The commission concluded that it would not be commercially viable to introduce nuclear power in South Australia in the short term. However, it noted that it "is presently, and will remain in the foreseeable future, a low-carbon energy generation technology" which should be included in energy policy formulation. "There is value in having nuclear as an option that can be readily implemented", it said.  It saw no scope for the state embarking upon uranium enrichment due to the oversupplied market, but uranium mining could be expanded.
WNN 15/2/16.   Australia

South Australian royal commission recommends clearing way for nuclear power
The Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle found that it would not be commercially viable to develop a nuclear power plant in South Australia under current market rules, but noted that as "a low-carbon energy source comparable with other renewable technologies" nuclear may be required in the future. It therefore recommended that the state government should "pursue removal at the federal level of existing prohibitions on nuclear power generation to allow it to contribute to a low-carbon electricity system, if required".  It also called for the removal at the federal level of prohibitions on the licensing of fuel cycle facilities. Meanwhile, “the South Australian Government [should] promote and collaborate on the development of a comprehensive national energy policy that enables all technologies, including nuclear, to contribute to a reliable, low-carbon electricity network at the lowest possible system cost.”
WNN 9/5/16.   Australia

Australia becomes 14th member of Gen IV International Forum
Australia has been unanimously accepted as the 14th member of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF). GIF is working on advanced nuclear technologies, focused on six or seven power reactor designs expected to be commercially viable from about 2030, though several precursors have already operated experimentally. The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) will be the means of contributing to the GIF’s goals.  The GIF was set up in 2001, and the technical secretariat is with the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris, alongside two other major international programs.  One of these is the International Framework for Nuclear Energy Cooperation, the predecessor of which Australia joined in 2007.
WNN 3/5/16.   GIF

Australian uranium production up from 2014 low
In 2015 Australian uranium production recovered 13% from its lowest point since 1998. A total of 5672 tU came from three mines: Olympic Dam 3179 tU, Ranger 1700 tU, and Four Mile, now owned and operated by Heathgate, 793 tU.
Australian Uranium

 
 

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