WNA Weekly Digest Archive 2017

World

2016 marked by ten new reactors coming on line

China again set the pace in 2016 with five new reactors connected to the grid, along with two construction starts on major power plants and one as a small floating nuclear power plant.  South Korea, USA, India, Pakistan and Russia each registered one grid connection. The ten new plants were balanced by three retirements in Japan, USA and Russia of small and old plants. Two US reactors had significant uprates.  As well as the two China construction starts, we record two in Pakistan, at the Karachi coastal plant, being built by Chinese companies. One of these was in 2015 but not announced then, and the second was in May 2016 according to IAEA data, and satellite images appear to confirm this. Also the retirement of Japan’s Monju prototype fast reactor was announced, but this has not been listed as operating for many years.

In terms of capacity, 9579 MWe came on line (much the same as 2015), plus at least 104 MWe net in uprates, balanced by 1402 MWe net finally shut down.  At the end of the year there were 447 reactors operable totalling 391.4 GWe net, and 60 under construction (64.5 GWe gross).  The International Atomic Energy Agency notes that 16,966 reactor years of civil operation had been accumulated to the end of 2016.
WNN 3/1/16.   Reactor table

Small modular reactors push forward on US and UK fronts

One of the more advanced designs of small modular reactors (SMRs) is NuScale’s 50 MWe Power Module developed with Fluor in USA. This is a factory-built integral PWR with natural circulation in the primary circuit.  A standard power plant would have 12 modules together giving about 600 MWe. It has been supported by US government grants.

NuScale lodged an application for US design certification in January, and for a US loan guarantee this month. In 2013 NuScale launched the Western Initiative for Nuclear (WIN) - a broad, multi-state collaboration to demonstrate and deploy of a full NuScale plant in the western USA. WIN includes Energy Northwest (ENW) in Washington and Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS), and is now known as the Carbon-Free Power Project.  A demonstration NuScale SMR unit built as part of it is projected to be operational in mid 2020s, at the DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory, with UAMPS as the owner and ENW the operator. This would be followed by a full-scale 12-module plant (600 MWe).

Since October 2015 NuScale has aimed to deploy its 50 MWe SMR in the UK by the mid-2020s, and has sought partners for this. It announced in March 2016 that it would put its SMR forward as part of the UK government’s competition to identify the best value design for the UK.  NuScale has now launched an action plan in UK for near-term deployment of its reactors. This aims to put pressure on the UK government to deliver on some of its rhetoric regarding SMRs and work together with NuScale to develop "game-changing technology for the global energy system". The company already has well-established links with UK industry including Sheffield Forgemasters, and said that the UK supply chain could provide 85% of the UK reactor components, as well as being a base for world exports. Envisaged uses include desalination and industrial heat.

The UK's SMR consortium led by Rolls Royce subsequently released a report UK SMR: A National Endeavour, claiming that a UK SMR program could create 40,000 skilled jobs, contribute £100 billion to the UK economy and open up a potential £400 billion global export market.  It “would not only complement existing plans for large new build reactors in supporting the future energy mix, but would allow the UK nuclear industry to embark on a long-term sustainable program of international export.”  Rolls Royce itself has a 440 MWe SMR ready for licensing in UK. It is a conventional PWR but each of the major components can be trucked to site.
WNN 6 & 12/9/17.  US NP, UK

WNA 2017 Fuel Report launched

The World Nuclear Association’s biennial Nuclear Fuel Report was launched at the annual symposium in London.  While projecting significant growth in its reference scenario, notably in China, it has decreased forecasts of capacity compared with the 2015 edition. The several reasons for this are expounded. The report is compiled from a wide industry base and represents well-informed consensus.  Uranium production shows a surplus to 2023, and major inventories overhang the market.  174pp, £850.
WNN 14/9/17.  

WNA publishes World Nuclear Performance Report 2017

Further to 2016 figures published in January by WNN and WNA Weekly Digest showing the largest annual increase in nuclear plant coming on line for 25 years, the new WNA Performance Report fills out the picture regarding established plant. Steady performance is a feature of nuclear power plants, and this continued across the fleet with a global average capacity factor of 80.5%.  The report states that "there is no significant age-related trend in nuclear reactor performance" with older units achieving the same level of reliability as newer ones.

The 2015 and 2016 new grid connections are in line with WNA’s Harmony goal for nuclear power to generate 25% of electricity with 1000 GWe of new capacity in 2050. The path to achieving this needs an average of 10 GWe per year of new build now, then a doubling to 25 GWe on average from 2021-2025 and a construction rate of 33 GWe per year on average from 2026. This represents a return to the build rates the industry achieved in the 1980s. Rosatom's deputy director-general for international business last week at the annual AtomExpo in Moscow with 6500 attendees described the WNA Harmony goal as fully achievable and "perhaps modest". The IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2017 says that an average of 23 GWe per year of nuclear capacity additions are needed over 2017 to 2060 to achieve best projected emission reductions.
WNN 28/6/17.  http://www.world-nuclear.org/our-association/publications/online-reports/world-nuclear-performance-report.aspx

UN body blocks nuclear contribution to clean energy forum

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) has vetoed participation by the World Nuclear Association (WNA) in the two-day Sustainable Innovation Forum on the sidelines of the UN COP23 climate change conference this month. The WNA was originally a gold sponsor of the Forum, alongside BMW and Toyota as well as utilities owning coal-fired power plants. Its agenda is focused on reducing CO2 emissions, and the sponsorship was to ensure that nuclear power was on the agenda as a well-proven and readily-scalable means of this. In 2014 nuclear power provided 10.6% of world electricity, compared with wind plus solar 3.9%, and hydro 16.6%.  Having represented the nuclear industry at such events for 40 years, the WNA intended to showcase innovations in nuclear technology which would allow it to provide 25% of world electricity by 2050.

The International Energy Agency's (IEA) 2-degree scenario is arguably the most widely recognised official pathway by which the planet might avoid excessive warming. It requires that, by 2050, nuclear energy provides one of the largest contributions to electricity of any energy source. In June, the IEA noted that high-level support was essential for nuclear to grow and reach these targets. The WNA has now asked UNEP to acknowledge this, in line  with its claim to be respected as the "leading global environmental authority", implementing "the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system".
WNN 3/11/17.  Climate change - policy

Climate change conference in Bonn adjusts to US exit

The 23rd annual conference of parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change grappled with how to proceed following US notice of withdrawal from the 2015 Paris Accord.  Several countries indicated less firm intentions of lowering carbon dioxide emissions, especially by maintaining commitment to high levels of coal use, though others are resolute with targets. The host country, Germany, was conspicuous in its lack of progress reducing emissions, coupled with its long-term commitment to a high level of coal dependence while persisting with cutting back the role of nuclear power. A forest near the Belgian border is to be removed to make way for a large new lignite mine. The Spanish government, with over 20% of electricity from nuclear power, has halted plans to phase out coal there, and Poland has long resisted EU encouragement to reduce coal use. However, France has deferred indefinitely any move to reduce nuclear dependence from 75% to 50%, allowing it to phase out coal by about 2021.
WNN 13/11/17.  Climate change policies

Impending decline of Western nuclear power and related political influence

An essay from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has expounded some matters which have come to the fore this year, especially in USA. While established nuclear power programs in Western countries stagnate or flounder, the Chinese and Russian nuclear industries "appear immune to and poised to capitalise on the problems that have beset Western firms". Both countries are well advanced with ambitious plans to export their nuclear power technology around the world, and to do so in ways which consolidate trade and political advantage at a high level.

The Russian and Chinese companies involved are state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which puts them at a competitive advantage. "The US nuclear industry is a strategic industry, but Westinghouse and GE are privately owned companies, not SOEs," and "The polarised political culture in Washington will prevent other, constructive partial solutions, such as the imposition of a carbon tax that would make nuclear power more cost competitive with other sources of energy."

Furthermore, China and Russia also have "strategic trade penetration". Both Beijing and Moscow have signed memoranda of understanding and other bilateral agreements with potential customer countries. These will provide them "access to strategic decision-making in these countries concerning technology, energy, and foreign policy for decades to come".

The governments of China and Russia are also committed to their nuclear power technology, the essay continues. "Countries that import nuclear power plants commit to managing this technology over a project life cycle of a hundred years. They will be less inclined to buy turnkey wares from partners that do not inspire confidence that they will be using nuclear power for more than one or two decades." During the last 20 years, while China and Russia built dozens of reactors at home, leading Western vendors virtually stopped constructing new units. "Western firms' long-term loss of domestic expertise and political support will negatively ripple across their entire supply chain, and both the economics and the safety of installations operating in these countries may in coming years be threatened."

Commenting on this essay (by Mark Hibbs) - Does the US Nuclear Industry have a Future? the US Nuclear Energy Institute, said: "The US nuclear industry has been competing not just against foreign companies but also against their governments - which seek the unique strategic benefits of a nuclear energy supplier. For our nation, much more is at stake than billions in US nuclear exports and tens of thousands of American jobs.”
WNN 15/8/17.  

Toshiba losses create concerns in nuclear industry

Toshiba has announced impending major losses, notably on its US nuclear business which comprises essentially Westinghouse Electric Company and its struggling subsidiary CB&I Stone & Webster. It has announced its withdrawal from new nuclear construction projects outside Japan, which were until 2015 beyond the scope of its activities anyway. In the last ten years it has partnered with Shaw Group for engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contracts. Shaw was bought by CB&I in 2013 for about $3 billion.

Toshiba bought Westinghouse in 2006 as “a global leader in the nuclear industry” - its technology is the basis for half of the world’s operating nuclear plants. Since the mid 1950s Westinghouse has been an eminent reactor designer and vendor, but not builder. Then in 2015 Westinghouse bought CB&I Stone & Webster Inc, the US-based nuclear construction and integrated services businesses of CB&I for $229 million after CB&I had incurred major losses on the business.  Westinghouse announced that “This deal supports Westinghouse’s strategic growth initiatives by expanding the company’s capacities across its global footprint,” notably by taking it into nuclear plant construction.

CB&I Stone & Webster was already engaged with building four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in USA, the first of which is expected on line in 2019. The cost blowout to complete these US projects is $6.1 billion, Toshiba said. Of that, $3.7 billion is for underestimated direct and indirect labour costs, and $1.8 billion related to increased equipment prices and procurement costs. In China, Westinghouse and Shaw (now CB&I) have contracts with the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) for the four AP1000 units being built there, the first two of which are expected on line later this year, but these extend only to oversight of construction.  The construction role in USA arising from Westinghouse’s disastrous purchase of CB&I Stone & Webster is the basis of Toshiba’s problems.

The immediate concern with Toshiba’s and Westinghouse’s change of fortunes is the UK NuGeneration project at Moorside in West Cumbria, which plans to use three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors.  NuGen is 60% owned by Toshiba (since 2014) and 40% by France’s Engie. NuGen says that Toshiba remains committed to developing Moorside “without taking on any risk from carrying out actual construction work". The Toshiba investment in NuGen was originally intended to secure the sale of Westinghouse reactors for the project, and it has always aimed to “sell its shares to interested parties.” UK Generic Design Approval of AP1000 is expected next month, allowing licence application for the plant.

Toshiba says that it will "analyse strategic alternatives" overseas. In new plant projects, it will "exclude the risk inherent in construction work" and focus on equipment supply and engineering, as it did before 2015. It will also "reduce risk" at the AP1000 plants Westinghouse is building in the USA through "comprehensive cost reduction measures". The risk profile with the China AP1000 projects appears minimal.
WNN 14/2/17.     UK

US – Japan operator joint venture

Exelon Generation in USA and Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPC) have formed a joint venture company "to leverage Exelon's expertise in operational excellence and safety among international operators using Japanese reactor technologies". The new company, JExel Nuclear, is expected to sign an "advisory services" contract with Horizon Nuclear Power – Hitachi-GE's UK subsidiary that is planning to build two of its Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWRs) at Wylfa Newydd in Wales. The three companies had signed a technical services contract last July, and in February Horizon announced an operating partnership with Exelon, which has 19,460 MWe of nuclear capacity in 22 units, including eight BWRs. JAPC has long operating experience and 2170 MWe of nuclear capacity in two units, and two 1500 MWe units planned. The 50:50 JExel Nuclear joint venture widens the present cooperative base internationally, and will be based in Japan.  It will strengthen Horizon’s credentials in UK for prospective operation of the new Wylfa Newydd plant.
WNN 29/3/17.   

Farewell Cassini

After a remarkable 20 years of reliable service exploring the far reaches of our solar system, Cassini has met its end. The Cassini spacecraft carried three radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) providing 870 watts of power from 33 kilograms of plutonium oxide as it explored Saturn.  It was launched in 1997, entered Saturn’s orbit in 2004, and functioned very well until it was retired in September after its propellant was expended, and it was plunged into Saturn. The Cassini-Huygens mission was a joint project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency.

So far 45 RTGs have powered 25 US space vehicles including Apollo, Pioneer, Viking, Voyager, Galileo, Ulysses and New Horizons space missions as well as many civil and military satellites. RTGs have been the main power source for US space work for over 50 years, since 1961.  The high decay heat of Plutonium-238 (0.56 W/g) makes it very valuable as an energy source for electricity in spacecraft, satellites, navigation beacons, etc and its intense alpha decay process with negligible gamma radiation calls for minimal shielding for sensitive instruments. 

Reactors and Radioisotopes for space.

China

New Chinese reactors start operation

China General Nuclear Power’s (CGN) Yangjiang unit 4 in Guangdong province has been connected to the grid after 50 months construction time. This is CGN’s last CPR-1000 unit – the next two Yangjiang reactors are the more advanced ACPR1000 types. The plant is operated by Yangjiang Nuclear Power Co Ltd, in which Hong Kong-based power utility China Light and Power has a 17% stake.
WNN 9/1/17.     China NP

Unit 4 of Fuqing nuclear power plant in Fujian province commenced operation, with grid connection to deliver 1020 MWe net.  It is China’s 37th operating nuclear power reactor, taking total nuclear capacity to 33.7 GWe net, and it was the last of the CPR-1000 reactors. This leaves 20 reactors under construction in China, total 22 GWe. Units 5 & 6 under construction at Fuqing are Hualong One, a largely indigenous design.
WNN 31/7/17.   China NP

New Chinese reactors in commercial operation

China General Nuclear Power’s (CGN) Yangjiang 4 CPR-1000 in Guangdong province has entered commercial operation, after grid connection in January. The plant is operated by Yangjiang Nuclear Power Co Ltd, in which Hong Kong-based China Light and Power has a 17% stake.
WNN 16/3/17.     China NP

Fuqing unit 4 in Fujian province has now commenced commercial operation, delivering 1020 MWe net.  It is China’s 37th operating nuclear power reactor, taking total nuclear capacity to 33.7 GWe net, and it was the last of the French-origin CPR-1000 reactors. It took 55 months to build, from first concrete to grid connection.
WNN 18/9/17.  China NP

New Chinese reactors start up

Unit 4 of Fuqing nuclear power plant has started up in Fujian province.  It is the last of the CPR-1000 reactors under construction, based closely on a French PWR design pioneered in China at Daya Bay in 1987 and in commercial operation from 1994. When grid connected Fuqing 4 will deliver 1020 MWe.  Units 5 & 6 under construction at Fuqing are Hualong One, a largely indigenous design. Fuqing is a China National Nuclear Power Co site, with 39% held by Huadian.
WNN 20/7/17.   China NP

The first of a pair of Russian VVER-1000 reactors as phase 2 at Tianwan in Jiangsu province has started up.  These are much the same as units 1&2 there, with the main nuclear equipment from Russia, but with Areva instrument and control systems. The turbine generator sets are from Dongfang Electric, using Alstom Arabelle low-speed technology. Construction started in December 2012, and grid connection is expected soon.
WNN 29/9/17.  China NP

USA

US government moves to support reliable power generation

The US Department of Energy has told the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that it should ensure reliable power input to grids by making rules to reward plants which produce that. In effect, it aims to boost dispatchable capacity from coal and nuclear power plants so that base-load demand is met reliably and cost-effectively, countering the economic effects and uncertainty of intermittent wind and low-cost gas-fired inputs.  In particular, “the continued loss of base-load generation with on-site fuel supplies, such as coal and nuclear, must be stopped." One of the criteria for rewarding reliability is that plants should have three months reserves of fuel on site, clearly favouring nuclear power. 

This is the first such government intervention in the US electricity market since 1979, when FERC was encouraged to diminish reliance on oil. In many states, the electricity market is deregulated, and subsidized renewables with low-cost gas (around $3/GJ) make nuclear power barely economic in the open market. The DOE wants FERC to reward the reliability of coal and nuclear power, rather than solely relying on the market favouring cost per kWh sent to the grid regardless of whether the supply is occasional or dependable. This will mean allowing them to operate efficiently without curtailment due to wind generation in particular.

DOE directed FERC to take final action on the proposed rulemaking within 60 days of its publication in the Federal Register. The US Nuclear Energy Institute said DOE action addressed the failure of markets based on short-term prices to value electricity system benefits. It also addressed the problem of electricity being "taken for granted" by policymakers. “This remarkable action …. will help ensure that America’s base-load nuclear fleet will remain a strategic asset that contributes to energy security, reliability, economic growth and environmental protection, while advancing American influence abroad.”
WNN 2/10/17.  US NP

Georgia Power decides to press on and complete new Vogtle nuclear plant

After a review of options and contingencies, Georgia Power, supported by the co-owners, has recommended to the state Public Services Commission (PSC) that construction of both Vogtle units should be completed, this being the most economic choice for customers. The total rate impact of the project remains less than originally estimated, it said. The recommendation will be reviewed by the PSC, which may approve, modify or reject it by the end of February 2018.

At the same time Georgia Power announced that had contracted with Bechtel to manage construction under the direction of Southern Nuclear Operating Company, which will be the operator. Bechtel has been involved with the project since January, correlated with “a marked increase in productivity” providing “every indication that we can do a better job than Westinghouse alone as we move forward to complete the project". Vogtle 3 and 4 would begin commercial operation late in 2021 and 2022 respectively, under a new construction schedule. 

Georgia Power (45.7% owner) said it had invested about $4.3 billion in capital costs in the project to June 2017 and now estimates its cost to complete to be about $4.5 billion, bringing the company's total capital cost forecast to $8.8 billion. The PSC has already approved $5.68 billion in capital costs for Georgia Power's share of the project. With payments of $1.7 billion under guarantees anticipated from Westinghouse parent company Toshiba, Georgia Power's potential additional capital costs are about $1.4 billion. Based on these new assessments, the total estimated capital cost forecast for the entire project is about $19 billion.  If the US senate extends the deadline to qualify for production tax credits of $23 per MWh for eight years, that will improve the economics of the project by over $400 million per year.
WNN 31/8/17.  US NP

US government increases loan guarantees for Vogtle plant

In connection with their decision to continue construction of the two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Vogtle plant, despite Westinghouse baling out of its contract to build them, the main owners - Georgia Power, Oglethorpe Power and the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia (MEAG) - sought further loan guarantees from the government to help them complete the project. The Department of Energy has now announced conditional commitments for further loan guarantees of up to $3.7 billion: $1.67 billion to Georgia Power, $1.6 billion to Oglethorpe Power, and $415 million to three subsidiaries of MEAG Power. This brings total loan guarantees for the project to $12 billion. It will enable 2234 MWe (net) to come on line for Southern Nuclear Operating Company about 2022.  The Department of Energy said that "Advanced nuclear energy projects like Vogtle are the kind of important energy infrastructure projects that support a reliable and resilient grid, promote economic growth, and strengthen our energy and national security.”
WNN 2/10/17.  US NP

US utilities abandon construction of two large reactors

South Carolina Electricity & Gas (a SCANA subsidiary) and Santee Cooper in 2008 committed to building a pair of Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the VC Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina at a total expected cost of $9.8 billion. With the project two thirds complete and more than that sum spent, they decided to abandon construction at the end of July and have applied to the state Public Services Commission to permit this. SCEG seeks to recover from ratepayers about $4.9 billion it has spent.

There are several reasons which together have contributed. Westinghouse was originally the technology vendor, but effectively became also the main contractor. As costs escalated towards $20 billion, it declared bankruptcy, and opted out with payment of $2.168 billion in compensation. Completing the units would cost very much more than that. The cost increases are due to significant design changes required by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after commencement and inefficient project management, coupled with uncertain availability of $18/MWh production tax credits amounting to $300 million per year (due to slow progress) and no carbon emission price in prospect. In addition, natural gas prices are about 30% of those in 2008, making nuclear less competitive now.

The head of the US Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) said Santee Cooper and SCE&G's decisions were disappointing, but applauded the two companies for their "valiant and visionary" efforts to embark on a new US nuclear construction program for the first time in over 30 years. "As a first-of-a-kind nuclear construction project of this size and scope, the project understandably encountered many economic, regulatory and other challenges along the way. SCE&G and Santee Cooper, however, have always managed those challenges impressively.”

The South Carolina economy will feel the negative impact of losing over five thousand jobs, many of them high-paying and long-term ones.  The hitherto very positive image of the AP1000 technology will be diminished, though the likely start-up of two AP1000 units in China by the end of the year will counter that.  In the USA, the industry hopes of revival with new-generation plants now hangs on the two Vogtle AP1000s under construction in Georgia. That project is subject to the same main challenges, but with significant differences in commercial terms which give it a better chance of proceeding.  However, Georgia Power with the plant’s other owners and the state Public Services Commission have yet to decide on Vogtle’s future.
WNN 1 & 3/8/17.  USA NP

Political endeavours to salvage US nuclear project

The South Carolina government is trying to sell its state-owned utility Santee Cooper, whose decision precipitated the shutdown three weeks ago of construction on the V.C.Summer nuclear power plant.  Santee Cooper has a 45% stake in the project, and its decision forced the hand of majority shareholder South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G).  Santee Cooper itself is trying to sell its share in the unfinished project, with two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. To allow for potential developments, SCE&G has withdrawn its petition seeking permission from state regulators to abandon the Summer nuclear project, which is about two thirds complete, and to recover $4.9 billion from ratepayers. Any resumption of the project – probably for only one unit - with new partners would likely take a year to arrange, according to SCE&G parent company Scana.

Meanwhile work continues uninterrupted at the Vogtle AP1000 project in Georgia, with the first of four 635-tonne steam generators being installed this week.
WNN 16 & 17/8/17.  USA NP

US report on electricity markets and reliability

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has published a new study on Electricity Markets and Reliability, identifying several issues critical for maintaining reliable electricity supply. Specifically, the study was to examine the evolution of wholesale electricity markets, whether they adequately compensate all energy forms on their merits, and regulatory burdens on the energy industry. The report notes that accommodating variable renewable energy (VRE) sources such as wind and solar has led to imposed flexible operation of plants best suited, economically and technically, to continuous operation. The other main impact on coal and nuclear generation has been competition from low-priced gas. Resilience here depends on adequate gas supplies at times of high demand due to cold weather.

"Hydropower, nuclear, coal and natural gas power plants provide essential reliability services and fuel assurance critical to system resilience," so policy needs to focus on maintaining these, along with affordability. The report recommends that the DOE and other federal agencies accelerate and reduce costs for the licensing, relicensing and permitting of grid infrastructure such as nuclear, hydro, coal, advanced generation technologies and transmission. For nuclear power, the report says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission should be "encouraged to ensure the safety of existing and new nuclear facilities without unnecessarily adding to the operating costs and economic uncertainty of nuclear energy". It suggests that nuclear safety rules should be reviewed under a risk-based approach. The report recognises the importance of zero-emission credits put in place in New York and Illinois last year, valuing the carbon-free attributes of nuclear power.

The Nuclear Energy Institute welcomed the report’s focus on “the attributes of reliability, resilience, fuel diversity and affordability”, and confirmation “that nuclear energy is a key and necessary contributor to a clean, reliable and resilient electric grid," with fuel on-site.
WNN 24/8/17.  USA NP

US report addresses nuclear competitiveness

A bipartisan organization supporting US state legislatures has published a new report providing an overview of state action and policy options for legislators who are interested in preserving nuclear assets in their state. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) report, State options to keep nuclear in the mix, addresses the current problems of nuclear plants in deregulated markets. It focuses on “the high reliability of nuclear power, its carbon-free emissions profile, and nuclear's economic contribution to states," and suggests a number of policy options such as zero-emissions credits, tax incentives, the creation of state-wide nuclear mandates, and clean energy subsidy payments. Case studies include recent legislation in New York and Illinois.
WNN 27/1/17, http://www.ncsl.org/ .    USA NP

US review of grid reliability and electricity markets

US Energy Secretary Rick Perry has instructed the Department of Energy to prepare a 60-day review of critical issues central to the stability of the country's electricity grid, including policy recommendations to ensure the preservation of generation sources to meet base-load demand reliably. He referred to questions of how such generation sources are “dispatched and compensated”, and “the diminishing diversity of our nation’s generation mix, and what that could mean for base-load power and grid resilience”. The study is to include an exploration of "the extent to which continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of base-load power plants". Evidently referring to intermittent renewables, he said “Those subsidies create acute and chronic problems for maintaining adequate base-load generation and have impacted reliable generation of all types.”

The report is also to assess whether wholesale electricity markets are adequately compensating attributes such as on-site fuel supply and other factors enhancing grid reliability. The administration intends to review policies against “the principles of reliability, resiliency, affordability and fuel assurance – principles that underpin a thriving economy.”
WNN 24/4/17.   US NP

Bipartisan US moves to unclog the nuclear regulatory system

A significant bipartisan bill, first floated last year, has been introduced to congress. The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernisation Act (S 512) aims to modernise the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) “and bring increased efficiency and fiscal accountability” at a time when a new generation of advanced reactor designs have begun to need the NRC’s regulatory attention. It directs the NRC to develop the regulatory framework necessary to enable the licensing of advanced nuclear reactors and to review its fee structure. “The bill ... affirms Congress’ view that this country can and should be a leader in advanced reactor technology. [It] effectively directs the NRC to think differently about reactor licensing” and accommodate new designs, according to the Nuclear Energy Institute. The NRC needs to change its “untimely, somewhat outdated, and unnecessarily costly regulatory processes."  While Russia and China are proceeding expeditiously, the USA “cannot forgo advancements in reactor technology or we forgo our economic competitiveness and worldwide influence on nuclear non-proliferation,” Senator Inhofe said in promoting the bill.

The last three decades have seen little US nuclear innovation, and the one project set up by a 2005 Act – the Next Generation Nuclear Plant, a prototype high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTR) – was denied funding by the Obama administration and is dormant. China now leads the field with HTRs. The NRC has one design certification application under review for a small modular reactor – the Nuscale 50 MWe design. Its application comprised 12,000 pages.

Meanwhile several developers of small modular power plants are turning to Canada for design certification. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is conducting a pre-licensing Vendor Design Review for Ontario-based Terrestrial Energy Inc’s molten salt reactor and for Sweden-based LeadCold Reactors for its micro-fast reactor.  StarCore Nuclear from Quebec and the Urenco-led European U-Battery consortium have applied for the same for their small HTRs. GE Hitachi and Advanced Reactor Concepts who are collaborating on fast reactor designs in the USA are preparing to seek a pre-licensing Vendor Design Review from CNSC.  See below.
US NP, Small Reactors

US nuclear power plants extending licence renewals

At the end of September 2017 the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) renewed licences for South Texas Project-1 and -2 (each 1280 MWe net), extending the units’ operation by 20 years to 2047 and 2048, respectively. This took to 89 the number of US power reactors that have renewed their licences out to 60 years. The NRC is considering licence renewal applications for a further five units. These renewals usually involve major capital expenditure for upgrades.

The NRC is now preparing to consider extending operating licences beyond 60 out to 80 years, with its Subsequent Licence Renewal Program. Dominion has already advised NRC of its intention to apply for a second 20-year renewal for two Surry reactors in 2019, and for North Anna’s two reactors in 2020. Exelon earlier said it would apply in 2018 for second licence renewal for its two Peach Bottom reactors, taking them to 80 years.
WNN 13/11/17.  USA NP

US fast reactor designers get together

In 1994, US Congress under the Clinton administration shut down EBR-II, a sodium-cooled fast-neutron demonstration reactor with 30 years valuable operating experience. This delivered a major setback to US advanced fuel cycle developments and opened the way for Russia’s ascendancy in fast reactors today.  The EBR-II was the basis of the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) program, considered by the US National Academy of Sciences to be the nation's highest priority research for future reactor types.  The IFR was also aborted in 1994, three years before its commissioning.  IFR program goals were demonstrating inherent safety apart from engineered controls, improved management of high-level nuclear wastes by recycling all actinides (so that only fission products remain as high-level wastes). 

Two US developers have picked up the pieces from 1994 and are well ahead with reactors based on those designs, also using some of the EBR-II staff.  Well-established GE-Hitachi (GEH) has the PRISM design, a compact pool-type fast reactor of 311 MWe with metal fuel, and integrated with sophisticated reprocessing to close the fuel cycle.  Advanced Reactor Concepts LLC (ARC), set up in 2006, is developing a much smaller 100 MWe pool-type fast reactor which will be factory-produced. The ARC-100 has a uranium alloy metal core as a cartridge which is changed after 20 years. Both operate at over 500°C, can load-follow, and have passive cooling for decay heat removal. 

GEH and ARC have now signed an agreement to collaborate on licensing a small modular reactor design based on the ARC-100, but drawing on the extensive intellectual property and licensing experience of the GEH PRISM program. Initial deployment is envisaged in Canada, where they will seek a preliminary regulatory review through CNSC.
WNN 13/3/17.     US NP http://www.arcnuclear.com/   http://gehitachiprism.com/

US legislation to boost nuclear innovation

Meanwhile the US House of Representatives has passed the Advanced Nuclear Technology Act of 2017 'To foster civilian research and development of advanced nuclear energy technologies and enhance the licensing and commercial deployment of such technologies'. The US Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) said that "This legislation is critical in developing the licensing framework that will allow the United States to develop the next generation of nuclear reactors”. A second bill which was passed unanimously, the Department of Energy Innovation Act, supports R&D including creation of a “National Reactor Innovation Center” devoted to enabling the demonstration of nuclear reactor concepts to be funded in whole or in part by the private sector. A third bill, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act was also passed unanimously and the senate is moving to introduce a companion bill.
WNN 25/1/17.    USA NP

Entergy announces early closure of New York plant

Entergy Corporation has announced that it has reached an agreement with New York state to prematurely close the two nuclear reactors at the Indian Point plant in 2020 and 2021.  While a major reason for the closure is economic, due to “sustained low current and projected wholesale energy prices” in the deregulated market, Entergy has spent nine years seeking licence renewal for the two reactors, totalling 2061 MWe net. It said that this “will complete the company’s exit from its merchant power business because of sustained low wholesale energy prices.” The capacity will be mainly replaced by gas.

Entergy has invested over $1.3 billion in the two reactors over the 15 years it has owned them, and will now request that the NRC shorten the term of renewed operating licences for them to 2024 and 2025 respectively. Indian Point supplies about one quarter of New York city’s electricity. The plant was not included in state initiatives to implement a zero emission standard for upstate nuclear plants last year.
WNN 9/1/17.    USA NP

A third US state considers provisions for ongoing nuclear generation

The US states of New York and Illinois last year enacted measures providing zero emission credits (ZEC) for non-emitters of carbon dioxide, enabling at-risk nuclear power plants to avoid premature closure. New York's Clean Energy Standard was approved by the state's public service commission in August, helping to ensure the continued operation of Exelon's Nine Mile Point and RE Ginna nuclear power plants and prompting the acquisition by Exelon of Entergy's Fitzpatrick plant, which would otherwise have faced closure early in 2017. In Illinois, following the passage by state legislators of its Future Energy Jobs Bill in November, Exelon announced plans to continue operating the Clinton and Quad Cities plants - both of which had faced closure.

Now FirstEnergy is in dialogue with the sate government to secure the future of its two Ohio nuclear plants: Davis-Besse and Perry, owned by its subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions, a 894 MWe PWR and a 1256 MWe BWR respectively. They produce about 90% of the state’s carbon-free electricity, and 11% of total in Ohio. Proposed legislation would give state lawmakers greater control and flexibility to preserve nuclear generation. "We believe this legislation would preserve not only zero emission assets but jobs, economic growth, fuel diversity, price stability and reliability, and grid security for the region."

FirstEnergy has 13,000 MWe of generating capacity including these and another nuclear plant of 1825 MWe which are in operating in deregulated markets. It has decided to relinquish all these assets by mid 2018, and withdraw from competitive generation altogether, maintaining only its generation assets in regulated markets (essentially cost-plus). This means that if Ohio does not proceed with legislation to provide ZECs so that the plants can be sold, they will be closed. The company recorded a $9.2 billion impairment charge for the fourth quarter of 2016, resulting from its intention to exit competitive operations significantly before the end of the useful lives of generation assets, including the nuclear and coal-fired plants. The drastic decision is indicative of the economic effect of competition from low-cost gas, particularly from shale gas developments with fracking, and subsidized wind power.
WNN 24/2/17.     US NP

Another US state moves to support continued nuclear viability

Connecticut’s Energy & Technology Committee has approved a bill supporting the continued operation of Dominion’s Millstone plant in that deregulated market by introducing long-term wholesale contracts for power producers. The bill "would expand the state's existing renewable electricity procurements to nuclear power by directing state regulators to solicit up to half of the facility's annual generation (ie 8.33 TWh) for five-year power purchase agreements”. A figure of 950 MWe was also mentioned. A similar bill was unanimously approved by the state Senate last year but did not receive a vote in the House of Representatives before the legislature adjourned.  Millstone 2 & 3 are licensed to 2035 and 2045 respectively.

Also, Pennsylvania has set up a bipartisan, bicameral nuclear energy caucus to secure the role of nuclear energy in the state, where it provides 37% of the electricity and contributes $2.3 billion to the state GDP.
WNN 23/3/17.   US NP

Connecticut joins US states supporting nuclear power in energy market

Connecticut’s legislature has passed An Act Concerning Zero Carbon Procurement to support the continued operation of Dominion’s Millstone nuclear power plant which provides about half the state’s power and almost all of its zero-carbon power.  After a 23:8 senate vote, the lower house passed the bill 75:66, having previously rejected a similar measure. It will make Dominion eligible to bid for long-term supply contracts for up to half of Millstone's 2088 MWe net output as a clean-energy resource, at higher prices, subject to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority determining that this is necessary and in the public interest. The plant is the largest in New England and its viability has been eroded by cheap natural gas. Its loss would jeopardize the state’s ability to meet its long-term goals for reducing carbon emissions. In signing the legislation into effect, the Governor (Democrat) said of Millstone that “The importance of this asset to both the state and the region cannot be overstated.”
WNN 1/11/17.  USA NP

US presidential executive order on energy independence

President Trump has signed an Energy Independence Policy executive order which aims to roll back the 2015 EPA Clean Power Plan and calls for the EPA to review the Plan to remove what may “unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources”. The impact of this will not be immediate, and may be more in tone than substance. The review will take several years under notice and comment rulemaking processes, and the main timeline under the Plan was 2029 in any case. Nuclear energy is likely to be unaffected directly. US electricity should be "affordable, reliable, safe, secure, and clean,” evidently in that order of priority. The executive order rescinded several climate change measures but did not mention the 2016 Paris climate change agreement, which the new Administration considers to be essentially a treaty that needs to be ratified by the Senate.
WNN 29/3/17.     US NP

US moves to pull out of Paris accord

President Trump has confirmed his intention to withdraw the USA from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change among 195 countries which came into force in November 2016, but said that he was open to some renegotiation. Under President Obama the USA pledged to reduce CO2 emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. In contrast China does not intend to reduce emissions before 2030.  Withdrawal procedures mean that the USA is committed until November 2020, but since the Agreement is non-binding and with no enforcement, the announcement is essentially tokenism and signals a reduced top-level emphasis on CO2 emissions reduction domestically. However, several US states and cities along with many business leaders have said they would continue to pursue the Paris goals - California and New York in particular.  The USA will make no further contributions to the UNFCC’s Green Climate Fund – it had pledged $3 billion and paid $1 billion.
WNN 2/6/17.  US NP

Westinghouse files for US bankruptcy protection

Westinghouse has sought ‘Chapter 11’ protection from creditors in USA to enable strategic restructuring amid "financial and construction challenges" in its US AP1000 power plant projects.  Beyond supplying the technology as reactor vendor, it took over construction functions in 2015 by purchasing CBI Stone & Webster. This led to $6.1 billion write-down by parent company Toshiba for cost overruns on the four US reactors, which were due to start up in 2019 and 2020. The owners are negotiating means of completing the units.
WNN 29/3/17.  US NP

Westinghouse upbeat about its future

The interim President and CEO of Westinghouse, speaking at an industry conference in USA, said that the company’s core business remains strong, and he expects it to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy stronger, better and more competitive.  He said that the US bankruptcy filing was a strategic move to "reset the financial footprint" of the company to address construction issues at two US projects with four AP1000 reactors under construction, while protecting the company's core business. 

The original US contracts were signed in 2008 and the company subsequently had to significantly redesign the reactors in response to new requirements from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission arising from the September 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2011 Fukushima accident. Also the company did not anticipate the challenges and issues associated with a resumption of nuclear new-build in the USA 30 years after the country's last reactor construction project. "A lack of appropriate infrastructure, knowledge and experience became a reality," he said, citing the challenges of rebuilding the supply chain.  This was exacerbated by the EPC contract relationship with Stone & Webster, which led to the 2015 strategic decision to buy that company from Chicago Bridge & Iron Company. Westinghouse parent Toshiba announced in December 2016 that it may have to write off "several billion" dollars because of Westinghouse's purchase of the construction firm. Westinghouse was now working with the owners of Vogtle and VC Summer plants to find a long-term solution to complete the reactors.

Westinghouse remains committed to its reactor design business and will pursue future sales, with a "more achievable delivery model" to reduce risk. Future projects would adopt an approach more like that used in China, where four AP1000s are under construction at Sanmen and Haiyang by China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group (CNEC). Fuel loading is imminent on the first two of these.
WNN 25/5/17.   US NP

Westinghouse looks towards new ownership

The new president of Westinghouse hopes that the company will exit US Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization under a new owner by next March. It is preparing documentation for potential bidders. However, as well as approval of the bankruptcy court, agreement by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Treasury’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) will be required for the transfer of licences. The Westinghouse fuel and reactor services divisions are profitable, but construction of four AP1000 reactors in Georgia and South Carolina has crippled the company, and it has largely walked away from those projects, with parent Toshiba providing up to $8.9 billion for the liability involved. The owners have taken over project management and appointed other contractors. Westinghouse will focus on engineering and procurement on new nuclear plants rather than construction. The first two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in China are expected to start up this year. These are not affected by the US bankruptcy protection.
WNN 7/7/17, Nucleonics Week 6/7/17.   US NP

Toshiba reaches liability agreement with Vogtle owners in USA

Following the Chapter 11 bankruptcy of its subsidiary Westinghouse, Toshiba has been engaged with the owners of both US projects where Westinghouse was building four AP1000 reactors. By way of ‘parental guarantees’ which are part of the 2008 contracts, it has provided $8.9 billion in its accounts to cover liabilities. Toshiba has now announced agreement with the owners of the Vogtle plant that its liability will be capped at $3.68 billion – approximately the amount they expect to need to complete both Vogtle units. Southern Nuclear Operating Company will take over project management to complete the reactors, leaving Westinghouse simply as vendor, though supporting EPC and licensing as well as providing access to intellectual property. Fluor is doing the main work. Negotiations continue on the other project.
WNN 12/6/17.    US NP

Westinghouse launches radical new fuel

As part of an international Accident-Tolerant Fuel (ATF) program sponsored by the US Department of Energy (DOE), Westinghouse has launched its EnCore Fuel. It plans to manufacture the first EnCore Fuel test rods in 2018, with lead test assembly insertion of these starting in 2019, with Exelon’s Byron power plant being mentioned in media. The initial EnCore fuel comprises high-density uranium silicide pellets inside zirconium cladding with a thin coating of chromium making it more robust chemically. In the second phase, the uranium silicide fuel pellets will be in silicon carbide cladding with melting point of 2800°C, and these test assemblies could be loaded in a reactor by 2022.  The EnCore ATF fuel development has been supported by DOE and partners including General Atomics, several DOE national laboratories, Southern Nuclear Operating Co. and Exelon.

As part of the same international ATF program, Areva is developing fuel also with a chromium-coated zirconium alloy cladding, but combined with chromia-doped fuel pellets. GE Hitachi is developing a ferritic/martensitic steel alloy cladding (eg Fe-Cr-Al) for conventional UO2 fuel.
WNN 14/6/17,  Fuel fabrication

Two more US reactors licensed to 60-year operation

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed to operating licenses of South Texas 1 & 2 for an additional 20 years, to 2047 & 2048, after nearly seven years consideration. This brings to 89 the total of such US renewals to 60-year operation.  Three of these have since shut down for various reasons, and applications are under review for five more renewals beyond the initial 40 years.
WNN 25/9/17.  US NP

US approval for reactor uprates

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved the uprating of Exelon’s two Peach Bottom reactors by 1.66%, about 22 MWe for each unit, taking them to about 1330 MWe net. This will be effective in the next couple of months, and arises from more accurate measurement of feedwater flow.  Such measurement uprates have added over 500 MWe in the USA so far, at minimal cost.
WNN 20/11/17.  USA NP

Europe

UK

UK begins design assessment of Chinese reactor

The UK government has approved its Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) undertaking a generic design assessment (GDA) of the 1150 MWe Chinese Hualong One reactor in response to an application by General Nuclear System Ltd (GNS).  GNS is a 2:1 joint venture of EDF and China General Nuclear Power (CGN) which aims to build two reactors at Bradwell in Essex.  The assessment is expected to take five years. The reference unit is Fangchenggang 3 in China, which under construction and on schedule for 2019 operation.
WNN 10/1/17.    UK

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency are progressing to the main technical phase of their Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of the HPR1000 reactor. This is the 1150 MWe Hualong One design that General Nuclear Services - a subsidiary of EDF and China General Nuclear - proposes to use for the Bradwell B nuclear power plant in England.  CGN’s Fangchenggang 3 now under construction in China is the reference plant. The GDA is due to be complete in 2021, by which time about four Chinese plants of that design are expected to be operational.
WNN 16/11/17.  UK

Korean equity and technology for UK nuclear power

Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO) has been named as the preferred bidder to acquire 100% of the shares in NuGeneration (NuGen), the UK nuclear power development company owned by Toshiba.  NuGen is set up to build a nuclear power plant of 3.4 GWe at a site in West Cumbria, and had planned on using Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors which completed the UK generic design assessment (GDA) process in March.  However, KEPCO ownership will probably mean that its APR1400 reactor design replaces the AP1000, requiring a new 4-year GDA process for that, though one AP1400 is operating in South Korea with three more under  construction, and the first of four AP1400 reactors is close to completion at Barakah in UAE.

The prospect for UK’s nuclear future is thus for French, Japanese, Chinese and South Korean technology.
WNN 7/12/17.  UK

Progress towards UK reactor construction

After several years review, the Office of Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency have issued Design Acceptance Confirmation and Statement of Design Acceptability for the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, three of which are planned to be built at Moorside by NuGeneration. Westinghouse said that this "expands the global regulatory pedigree of the AP1000 plant design and further confirms Westinghouse's innovative safety technology”.

The UK Office of Nuclear Regulation has issued a licence for placement of the first structural concrete for the 'technical galleries' of the Hinkley Point C plant. These are a series of underground reinforced concrete structures, and some above-ground structures, but not the main basemat, which is due mid 2019, and will mark proper construction start.
WNN 28 & 30/3/17.   UK

UK completes design review of GE-Hitachi reactor

The UK Environment Agency, Office for Nuclear Regulation and Natural Resources Wales have announced the successful completion of their four-year Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of Hitachi-GE’s 1350 MWe UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). Horizon Nuclear Power is proposing to build and operate two of these reactors at each of Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey and later at Oldbury in South Gloucestershire. If constructed, each of these power stations would be capable of supplying around 5% of UK electricity. The basic design is well-proven internationally, with the first two in Japan having commenced operation twenty years ago. Horizon expects to make a final decision on the Wylfa Newydd project in 2018.

The GDA process is now under way on China’s Hualong One reactor planned for Bradwell in Essex. It is likely that Korea’s APR1400 may also enter the process next year, for NuGen’s Moorside plant in Cumbria. It is operating in South Korea and four are being built in UAE.
WNN 7/12/17.  UK

UK plans for new nuclear plants proceeding

EdF Energy has so far awarded about £9 billion of supply chain contracts for its planned 3200 MWe Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant – almost half of the value of the project. Full construction of the two EPR units is due to begin in 2019, by which time three of the four EPRs now under construction are expected to be in operation, in China and Finland.

At Wylfa in Wales, Horizon Nuclear Power has applied for a site licence and expects to apply for a development consent order for its planned 2700 MWe plant, with two ABWR reactors, well-proven in Japan. UK design approval for the ABWR is expected in December, after a four-year process. Horizon hopes to begin construction in 2019.
WNN 23/11/17.  UK

Rolls Royce announces small reactor design

After two years of public reticence and despite having submitted the design to the UK government, Rolls Royce has provided some details of its small modular reactor. This is a 220 MWe pressurized water reactor of fairly conventional design, factory-built and with 60-year design life.  Rolls Royce nuclear division has designed three generations of naval reactors since the 1950s and also operates a small test reactor.
WNN 13/6/17.  Small reactors

UK parliamentary vote raises questions for UK nuclear industry

The UK House of Commons has voted clearly in favour of leaving the European Union. Explanatory notes published with the EU Withdrawal Bill to authorize Brexit says that the bill empowers the government also to leave the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom).  This is a separate legal entity from the EU and governed by the 1957 Euratom Treaty, preceding the EU, but it is closely linked to its institutions. Nuclear power generates almost 30% of the EU’s electricity, and Euratom establishes a common market in nuclear goods, services, capital and people within Europe. The Euratom Treaty was originally both a counter to US dominance and a means of cooperation with the USA by providing guarantees of peaceful use, being the basis of the first multilateral safeguards system. 

The nuclear industry and the major trade union GMB are very concerned about the prospect of UK detaching from Euratom. The UK Nuclear Industry Association said that "If the UK ceases to be part of Euratom, then it is vital the Government agree transitional arrangements, to give the UK time to negotiate and complete new agreements with EU member states and third countries including the US, Japan and Canada who have Nuclear Co-operation Agreements within the Euratom framework. The UK should remain a member of Euratom until these arrangements are put in place." GMB said that the UK must stay in Euratom “until a viable alternative can be found which protects Britain’s nuclear interests.”
WNN 27/1/17, 2/2/17.     UK, Europe

France

Areva’s reactor division restructure moves ahead

The European Commission (EC) has approved EDF's takeover of Areva's nuclear reactor business under EU merger regulations as being "unlikely to raise competition concerns". French utility EDF agreed in July 2015 to take a stake of between 51% and 75% in Areva's reactor unit in a government-backed plan to revitalise France's nuclear industry. The reactor operations to be sold have been transferred to a subsidiary, 'New NP'. Contracts for the Olkiluoto 3 EPR project in Finland and for resources required to complete that project, and some contracts relating to components from Le Creusot Forge for the Flamanville 3 EPR project, are not included in the sale and remain with Areva parent company.

The equity in New [Areva] NP is now set to be: 65% EDF, 15% Areva NewCo, 15% Mitubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), 5% Assystem, a French engineering company. New NP will no longer be tied to a particular reactor design, and long-term operation of all types of reactors will be major service objective.  MHI is already involved with Areva/ New NP in the Atmea reactor joint venture, but it has made it clear that it would share Atmea technology only with EDF and not with any other partners in the New NP company .

Areva’s fuel cycle and related operations have been set up in Areva NewCo, with €2.5 billion of the Areva recapitalisation from the government approved by the EC last year.  It is majority owned by Areva SA and will have 5% equity from Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) and 5% MHI. Prior to this, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) had been interested to take 10% or 15%. 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”. A major project pending is a reprocessing plant in China.
WNN 30/5/17.    France

Areva reorganisation proceeds

After huge losses over 2014 to 2016 Areva is well advanced in selling or reducing equity in its two main operating entities: New NP and NewCo.  

New NP incorporates all the reactor and services business, engineering and projects of Areva NP apart from the Olkiluoto project in Finalnd. Valued at €2.5 billion, it is being merged with EdF, but with 15% taken by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and 5% by French engineering company Assystem. 

NewCo incorporates all the fuel cycle operations and some parent company equity is retained, though much diminished due to €2.5 billion capital raising which will give the French State 55.6%.  MHI and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) take 5% each as strategic investors.

This leaves Areva NP (effectively the parent company) to complete the Olkiluoto project, funded by a €2 billion capital raising from the French State, so it now owns 92% of Areva SA.  Earlier this year Areva’s 83.5% stake in Areva TA, the propulsion and research reactor unit, was sold to a consortium comprising the French State, the CEA, and French naval defence group DCNS.
WNN 13/7/17.  France

French Academy challenges national energy policy

The French Academy of Sciences has issued a report questioning national energy policy, and pointing out that contrary to a July 2016 law, the country cannot reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also reducing its reliance on nuclear power. The belief that it might “be possible to massively develop renewable energies as a means of decarbonizing the system by ridding it of both fossil fuels and nuclear energy” is challenged. Some basic facts are presented, the obvious need for dispatchable capacity is underlined, and the country’s CO2 emissions are compared with Germany’s, which are over six times as much per kilowatt-hour. “Nuclear energy is objectively the most effective way to reduce the share of fossil fuels in the production of electricity.” Furthermore, “many studies show that the total share of renewable energies in the electricity mix cannot go beyond 30-40% without leading to an exorbitant cost of electricity and increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.” France already gets 10.5% of its electericity from hydro, which is dispatchable, so the issue is with intermittent wind and solar possibly providing 20-30%.
WNN 21/4/17.   France

Environmentalists appeal to President Macron to maintain nuclear capacity

A strong letter from 45 environmentalists, many of them high-profile, warned him that closing any French nuclear power plants would be retrograde and unhelpful environmentally. The appeal was spearheaded by climate scientist James Hansen and Francois-Marie Breon, the lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment report. “Few nations have done more than France to demonstrate the humanitarian and environmental benefits of creating a high-energy, nuclear-powered, and electrified society.” In fact “The French nuclear program has historically been the envy of the world. It demonstrated in the 1970s and 80s that the decarbonization of an industrialized country's electricity sector is in fact possible.” Germany is detailed as an example of going backwards due to delusional policies, despite massive expenditure.

Any wind and solar investment in France “should add to France's share of clean energy, not inadvertently reduce it. …. The further electrification of the transportation sector, which France has already done with its trains … should continue … with personal vehicles.” Furthermore, “Shifting from nuclear to fossil fuels and renewables would grievously harm the French economy in three ways: higher electricity prices for consumers and industry, an end to France's lucrative electricity exports, and - perhaps most importantly - the destruction of France's nuclear export sector.” A review of long-term energy policy is expected in 2018.
WNN 4/7/17.  France

Germany

German government loses case on nuclear fuel tax

After several years of lawsuits and appeals in German and EU courts, the Federal Constitutional Court has ruled that a nuclear fuel tax imposed by the government is “formally unconstitutional and void”. The tax was imposed at the start of 2011 as part of a deal to extend the operating lives of German reactors. It was €145 per gram of fissile uranium or plutonium fuel, yielding €2.3 billion per year (costing about 1.6 c/kWh), for six years. But the government then reneged on the arrangement by closing down eight reactors and limiting operation of the others, but without removing the tax. Three utilities appealed. This ruling now means that the three utilities stand to be reimbursed some €6.3 billion paid between 2011 and 2016 - €2.8 billion by E.On, €1.7 billion by RWE and €1.44 billion by EnBW, plus interest.
WNN 7/6/17,  Germany

Spain

Oman funds for new uranium mine in Spain

Berkeley Energia has arranged finance to bring its Salamanca project in Spain into production through a US$120 million convertible loan and option package with Oman’s sovereign wealth fund. This will see Oman become a substantial shareholder in the company, with opportunity to become an offtake partner for uranium production.  The company has commenced development of its mine, and production ramping up to 1700 tU per year is expected from next year. There are several deposits, some in areas previously-mined (to 2000) near the Portuguese border.
WNN 16/8/17.  Spain

Switzerland

Swiss referendum endorses energy policy with nuclear phase-out

The Swiss government’s Energy Strategy 2050, drafted following elections in December 2011 and much debated since, has been voted on in a national referendum. It was approved by a 58% majority, with voter turnout of 42%. It includes provision for a gradual withdrawal from nuclear power and a greater reliance on hydro and intermittent renewables.  Hydro currently supplies 60% of the country’s electricity, and generation from solar, wind, biomass and geothermal sources is to increase fourfold, from 2.8 TWh (4% of total) to at least 11.4 TWh by 2035. The policy allows subsidies for this expansion, and proposes building some gas-fired plants also with subsidies, and raising electricity tariffs.

No construction licences will be issued for new nuclear power reactors and no "basic changes" to existing nuclear power plants will be permitted. However, the country's five existing reactors, now providing one third of the country’s power, will be allowed to remain in operation as long as the federal nuclear safety inspectorate considers them safe. Following developments over 2011-15, in October 2016 the three utilities withdrew their applications for building new nuclear power plants.

In November 2016 a referendum brought by the Green party, proposed that nuclear plants be closed after a maximum 45 years in operation. This would have meant three of the five reactors closing in 2017 and the other two in 2024 and 2029.  It failed by about 54:46, with voters expressing confidence in both operators and the safety authority, despite a major anti-nuclear campaign. Opinion polls focused on nuclear power have shown more than 60% majority support in the last 15 years.
WNN 22/5/17.    Switzerland

Sweden

Sweden closes oldest reactor

The 473 MWe Oskarshamn 1 reactor is Sweden has been closed down after 45 years operation and three refurbishments. Fuel will be removed by the end of 2018, and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy will dismantle it from 2019.
WNN 20/6/17.  Sweden

Russia

Commercial operation for first of new-generation Russian reactors

After connecting to the grid in August, Novovoronezh 6 has entered commercial operation, the first advanced Russian reactor to do so. The 1200 MWe class VVER unit (1114 MWe net) is the first of many under construction and planned, both domestically and for export.
WNN 2/3/17.     Russia NP

New Russian reactor starts up

Rostov unit 4 near Volgodonsk has achieved criticality. The 1100 MWe (gross) VVER-1000 from Gidropress is the last of that series of reactors, and the 13th built in Russia itself. Construction actually started in 1983 but then lapsed, and first new concrete was in mid 2010, after Rosatom decided to continue building the original design but with improved steam generators, rather than switching to the VVER-1200 which is the current model.  The plant was built by Atomstroyexport, with the pressure vessel from OMZ Izhora near St Petersburg. The steam generators were made locally at Atommash, and the low-speed turbine generator was made by Turboatom at Kharkov in northeast Ukraine.
WNN 7/12/17.  Russia NP

Russian milestone for large new fast reactor

OKBM Afrikantov has announced completion of design work on Russia’s BN-1200 fast reactor.  Rosatom has described it as “the first commercial fast neutron reactor” and is expected to commit to building it once the fuel is proven. It is a “Generation IV design with natural security” – an element of the Proryv (Breakthrough) Project, with closed fuel cycle. The BN-1200 will produce 1220 MWe gross, has a 60-year design life, simplified refuelling, burn-up of up to 120 GWd/t with positive breeding ratio, and use oxide or nitride fuels. Initial units are planned for Beloyarsk and South Urals nuclear power plants – at Beloyarsk alongside the BN-800 which is essentially a test-bed for it.  Multiple units are envisaged thereafter.
​Russia NP

New Russian icebreaker launched

Sibir, the second of the powerful new LK-60 Russian icebreakers, has been launched at the Baltic Shipyard in St Petersburg.  It is due for delivery in 2019.  The LK-60 vessels are ‘universal’ dual-draught (10.5m with full ballast tanks, minimum 8.55m), displacing up to 33,540 t (25,450 t without ballast), 173 m long, 34 m wide, and designed to break through 2.8 metre thick ice at up to 2 knots.  The wide 33 m beam at waterline is to match the 70,000 tonne ships they are designed to clear a path for, though a few ships with reinforced hulls are already using Russia’s Northern Sea Route. 

Each LK-60 vessel is powered by two RITM-200 reactors of 175 MWt each using low-enriched fuel (<20%), which together deliver 60 MW at the three propellers via twin turbine-generators and three electric motors.  At 65% capacity factor, refuelling is every 7-10 years, overhaul at 20 years, service life 40 years.
Nuclear-powered ships.  

South Korea

South Korea turnaround in nuclear sentiment

After the new president announced in June that he wanted to phase out nuclear power in South Korea over several decades, he said he would seek a "social consensus" as soon as possible on whether units 5 and 6 of the Shin Kori plant would proceed. He had campaigned on a promise to abort the project, though site works are well advanced with about $1.4 billion invested. These are the same design as four reactors Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP) is building in UAE.  The question was referred to a state commission which has now finally voted 59.5% to proceed with construction after surveying 471 citizens. Support among young voters was particularly strong, despite a vigorous campaign by Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth. Four other reactors are under construction in South Korea, along with 24 operating, providing one third of the country’s electricity.
WNN, AFP & Yonhap 20/10/17.  South Korea

South Korea closes oldest reactor, declares 45-year phase-out

The small Kori 1 reactor (576 MWe net) in South Korea has closed down after the operating licence expired. The reactor obtained a 10-year licence renewal to 40 years in 2007. It is the first South Korean power reactor to be retired.

At the closing ceremony for Kori 1, the new South Korean president said he would “review the policy on nuclear power plants entirely. We will abandon the development policy centred on nuclear power plants and exit the era of nuclear energy." He said plans for new power reactors would be cancelled and the operating periods of existing units will not be extended beyond their design life. He said he would reach a "social consensus" as soon as possible on whether two planned reactors with construction licence would proceed - site works are well advanced. Apparently Shin Kori 4, now ready for fuel loading, and Shin Hanul 1 & 2, now 94% complete, will proceed to operation.

Coal-fired plants are also being closed, and the new policy will make the country largely dependent on imported LNG for electricity, supplemented by wind.
WNN 19/6/17.   S.Korea

Japan

Report on Fukushima 2 reactor

Media reports on Tepco’s recent investigation of the situation in Fukushima unit 2, have raised questions. Unit 2 is thought to be responsible for much of the airborne radioactivity released in the accident, though without suffering a hydrogen explosion in its superstructure. Tepco has now inserted a camera and instruments about eight metres through the reactor containment vessel into the area directly below the pressure vessel and showed something of the melted fuel. Radiation levels are as expected. Sweden’s Analysis Group has published a helpful commentary. http://www.analys.se/engelska/publications/fukushima-the-first-observations-inside-reactor-2/
Tepco report: http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170130_02-e.pdf
Fukushima accident

Japan’s Takahama reactors restart

Kansai Electric Power Co has restarted its Takahama 4 reactor after more than a year idle due to a court injunction, and unit 3 is due to restart soon. Pending resolution of the district court injunction on both reactors, Kansai had removed the fuel from them. The Osaka High Court then lifted the injunction in March. The two 830 MWe (net) Takahama units were re-loaded in the last few weeks, unit 4 with four MOX fuel assemblies among its 157, and unit 3 including 24 MOX assemblies. Grid connection is expected in a few days.
WNN 17/5/17.   Japan NP

Takahama 3 has now been restarted and grid-connected, making five reactors now on line in Japan, out of 42 operable.  It has been offline since March last year and defueled, due to a vexatious court injunction which was lifted in March. Unit 4 restarted in May.
WNN 6/6/17.    Japan NP

Taiwan

Taiwan blackout highlights energy security risk

After running for several months with very low reserve margin, which fell below 2% a week earlier, a problem at a large gas-fired power plant plunged half of Taiwan into darkness for about five hours this week. Four of the country’s six nuclear reactors are offline due to political obstruction. The National Association of Industry and Commerce has called on the government to reconsider its reliance on natural gas and neglect of nuclear power, and to “entertain the possibility” of completing the 2700 MWe Lungmen nuclear project, where the first unit is almost complete.
WNN 16/8/17.  Taiwan

India

India reorients nuclear ambitions

The Indian Cabinet has announced approval of ten 700 MWe indigenous PHWR nuclear reactors, without locations or timeline, but as a “fully homegrown initiative” with likely manufacturing orders to Indian industry of about INR 700 billion ($11 billion). The Prime Minister said it would help transform the domestic nuclear industry, which appears to suggest deferred expectations of establishing new nuclear plants with Western technology from Areva, GEH, and Westinghouse. The announcement echoes the country’s XII plan for 2012-2017 which envisaged construction starts on eight 700 MWe indigenous PHWRs, as well as completion by now of five reactors under construction since 2011 or before. It also had construction starts on eight larger imported reactors, only the Russian two of which are nearly ready to go.  In the announcement no mention was made of the other elements of the XII plan – the Western reactors, and three indigenous advanced units. 

Disincentives arising from the 2010 Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act account for Western suppliers holding back their projects, Russian reactors being under grandfathered provisions predating the law. But there is also a slowdown in construction generally, apparently due both to financial constraints and to the reluctance of Indian supply chain companies to provide equipment without the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd giving indemnity under the 2010 law.
WNN 18/5/17.    India

Construction start on Indian reactor

Construction of the third Russian AES-92 power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu state has commenced. This has a 1050 MWe VVER-1000 reactor, like its two predecessors there. A 72-month construction period is expected, by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), under Russian supervision. Cost of this plus unit 4 was estimated at $6.25 billion, with generation cost about Rs 3.9/kWh (5.8 cents/kWh), competitive with coal. In April 2014 NPCIL signed a Rs 33,000 crore ($ 5.47 billion) agreement with Rosatom for units 3&4, having apparently resolved the liability question arising from India’s 2010 law. OMZ-Spetsstal completed the pressure vessel forgings for unit 3 in June 2016 and sent them to OMZ Izhorskiye Zavody for fabrication, with internals.  
​WNN 30/6/17.   India

Second Russian reactor in India starts commercial operation

Kudankulam 2, a 917 MWe (net) Russian VVER reactor, has started commercial operation. It was grid-connected in August, after long drawn-out construction. It was built by the National Power Corporation of India, and unlike other Atomstroyexport projects such as in Iran, there was only a maximum of 80 Russian supervisory staff on the project.  This resulted in a slow learning curve as Indian engineers adapted to the PWR design from Canadian-type PHWR experience. Russia is supplying all the enriched fuel through the life of the plant, though India will reprocess it and keep the plutonium for civil use. The plant is under international safeguards.  The project to build units 3 & 4 at the site was officially launched last October, but they are not yet under construction. They will be substantially the same as units 1 & 2.
WNN 3/4/17.   India

Pakistan

New Pakistan reactor in operation

Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission’s fourth small reactor at the Chashma nuclear power plant in Punjab has been connected to the grid after 67 months construction. With unit 3 which started operation last year, the 315 MWe (net) plant was built by China Zhongyuan Engineering Corporation and China Nuclear Industry No.5 Construction Company. The two reactors were largely financed by Chinese low-interest loans, have a design life of 40 years, and are under IAEA safeguards. 

Two modern Chinese reactors are under construction near Karachi. These are the CNNC version of Hualong One, 1161 MWe gross, being built by China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group Co with China Zhongyuan Engineering Corporation, and 82% financed by China. They are expected on line in 2021 and 2022. Electricity infrastructure is a significant element in the $51 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, part of China’s wider Belt & Road Initiative.
WNN 3/7/17.   Pakistan

New Pakistan reactor starts up

Chashma 4 in the Punjab achieved first criticality ahead of schedule in March, and the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission chairman says it will be grid-connected by May. Its twin started commercial operation last year – they are 340 MWe CNP-300 reactors. Both have been built by China Zhongyuan Engineering Corp (CZEC), a subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corporation. China provided 82% of the total US$ 1.912 billion financing as three 20-year low-interest loans.  It is also providing fuel for the reactors’ lifetime, nominally of 40 years. An IAEA safeguards agreement for the two reactors came into force in 2011.

China to build a further large new reactor in Pakistan

Following on from the two Hualong One reactors under construction near Karachi, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission has signed an agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation to build a further such 1100 MWe unit at Chashma in Punjab.  There are four small CNP-300 Chinese reactors operating there already.
WNN 23/11/17.  Pakistan

Bangladesh

Construction of Bangladesh nuclear power plant starts

First concrete for the first main reactor basemat of the Rooppur nuclear power plant has been poured. Two 1200 MWe AES-2006 units are being built by Atomstroyexport. The main contract signed two years ago amounts to $12.65 billion, including the first few year’s fuel, with Russia financing 90% of the cost. India’s Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) has been appointed as consultant for construction and operation of the Rooppur project. India has also agreed to a loan of about $1 billion to fund infrastructure development, notably transmission lines connecting the plant to the grid. The two reactors are expected on line in 2023 and 2024.
WNN 30/11/17.  Bangladesh

India lends $1 billion for Bangladesh nuclear power plant

As the largest item among 17 Bangladesh projects to be funded by India, a loan of about $1 billion will fund infrastructure development for the Rooppur nuclear power plant, notably transmission lines connecting the 2400 MWe plant to the grid. Bangladesh will have 20 years to pay back the loans with an interest rate of 1% pa, and a grace period of five years.  Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) earlier announced that it would appoint India’s Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) to act as a consultant for the construction and operation of the planned Rooppur project.  GCNEP is an Indian Department of Atomic Energy R&D facility strongly supported by Russia and designed to strengthen India’s collaboration internationally. In March 2017 the IAEA agreed to provide staff for the centre and use it for training professionals throughout the region. There is also close cooperation between Indian and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Regulatory authorities.

Construction of the first AES-2006 1200 MWe unit at Rooppur by an Atomstroyexport subsidiary is due to start soon.  The 2015 contract amounts to $12.65 billion, including the first few years fuel, with Russia financing 90% of the cost at an interest rate of Libor plus 1.75%, capped at 4%, repayable in 28 years with 10 years grace period.
Nucleonics Week 19/10/17.  Bangladesh

Central Asia

Kazakh uranium production cutback

Following Cameco’s announcement of major production cutback in 2018, Kazatomprom has announced that it will reduce uranium production by 20% for three years to match reduced demand.  Last year Kazakhstan produced 24,575 tonnes of uranium - 39% of world supply, and Kazatomprom accounted for almost 13,000 tonnes of this.  Its cutback will thus amount to about 2600 tU per year.  Cameco’s cut from its McArthur River mine in 2018 will be about 8200 tU relative to earlier plans, or 5700 tU relative to 2016 production.  World production last year was 62,366 tU.

The cutbacks, in 2018 being together about 13% of world production, are expected to have a significant effect on world prices. Impending producers from new mines have welcomed the announcements.
WNN 4 & 7/12/17.  Kazakhstan, World U production

Kazakhstan to reduce uranium production in 2017

Kazatomprom has announced that it will reduce uranium production this year from some 20 operations, mostly joint ventures, by about 10%.  Estimated production last year was about 24,000 tonnes of uranium (tU), and in 2015 a similar level accounted for 39% of world total. The reduction is due to “the realities of the near-term uranium market remain(ing) in oversupply”.
WNN 10/1/17.   Kazakhstan

Middle East

Middle East nuclear power projects move forward

In Turkey, the government has formally launched the Akkuyu nuclear power plant project on its eastern Mediterranean coast. JSC Akkuyu Nuklear, the company responsible for the project, expects to receive a construction licence in March, after which first main concrete for the plant will be poured, marking the actual start of construction of the four VVER-1200 reactors.  Akkuyu will be Russia’s first foreign plant on a build-own-operate basis. Rusatom Overseas owns 51% of the project company and a consortium of three Turkish companies holds 49%. Russia will largely finance the project, to about $22 billion, and Atomstroyexport is general contractor for construction, with Novovronezh II as reference.  (The same design as being built at Rooppur in Bangladesh.) The first unit, probably about 1100 MWe net, is due to be commissioned in 2023. The Turkish Electricity Trade & Contract Corporation (TETAS) will buy a defined proportion of the power at a fixed price of US$ 12.35 cents/kWh for 15 years, by which time the plant is expected to be paid off. 

In Egypt, Russian President Putin witnessed the signing of notices to proceed with contracts for the construction of four VVER-1200 units at the El Dabaa nuclear power plant on the Mediterranean coast near Alexandria. The first unit is due to be commissioned in 2026. They will be warm-water versions of the Leningrad II reference plant, and the El Dabaa units will have significant desalination capacity, reducing their electrical output to 927 MWe net.  Russia is financing 85% of the $30 billion project cost.  The site has been under consideration for a nuclear power plant since 1983.

For both plants, and in line with Russian standard practice, all fuel will be supplied by Russia for the life of the plants and all used fuel returned to Russia for recycling. Local content for the initial units is expected to be about 35% in Turkey and 20% in Egypt.

Turkey has plans for two further nuclear power plants, one at Sinop on the Black Sea coast, 4.6 GWe using Mitsubishi and Areva technology, and one at Igneada near the Bulgarian border, 5.3 GWe using Chinese technology.
WNN 11 & 12/12/17.  Turkey, Egypt

Turkish consortium signs for 49% share of Akkuyu nuclear project

A consortium of three Turkish companies has agreed to take 49% equity in the project company set up to build and operate the 4800 MWe Akkuyu nuclear power plant on the Mediterranean coast. In 2010 the Turkish and Russian parliaments agreed to set up JSC Akkuyu Nuclear with full Russian equity, and Rosatom sought a non-Russian strategic investor for the project. This week an agreement was signed with Cengiz Holding, Kolin İnşaat and Kalyon İnşaat, each to hold 16.33%, subject to approval by the Turkish government. The financial details and shareholder agreement are expected to be finalised by the end of the year. The three Turkish companies have all been involved in other energy projects and are prominent in the Turkish electricity market. "The combination of such strong shareholders will lead to a great synergetic effect in the implementation of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant project," Rosatom said. Cengiz Holding is already involved as a contractor for the project. Full construction is due to begin next year.

The $22 billion Akkuyu plant will comprise four VVER-1200 reactors and will be financed to about $20 billion by Russia on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis. The Turkish Electricity Trade & Contract Corporation (TETAS) will buy half of the power at a fixed price of US$ 123.50 /MWh for 15 years.  The remainder will be sold by the project company on the open market.  After 15 years, when the plant is expected to be paid off, the project company will pay 20% of the profits to the Turkish government.
WNN 20/6/17,  Turkey

International joint venture synchrotron commissioned in Jordan

The new Synchrotron for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) has been commissioned at Allan in Jordan. This is the first synchrotron in the Middle East and will be used for advanced research projects by scientists from across the region. It is closely linked to the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) and uses some components from the decommissioned BESSY I synchrotron in Germany. It was developed under the auspices of UNESCO with support from the IAEA, and is funded by $6 million annual contributions, from the joint venture's members of Cyprus, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Pakistan, the Palestinian Authority and Turkey. Construction began in 2004 with capital provided by the governments of Jordan, Israel, and Turkey, and by the European Union (through CERN and directly) and Italy.  Cost so far is $90 million, and further beamlines will be added progressively.

The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) has also commissioned its 5 MW Jordan research and training reactor (JRTR) at the Jordan University for Science & Technology. This started up last year and was subject to an IAEA peer review in December.  Its uses include production of medical radioisotopes and neutron activation analysis.
WNN 17/5/17.   Jordan

Canada

Cameco to suspend uranium production from flagship mine

In the light of low uranium prices, Cameco has announced that it will suspend production from its McArthur River mine (and Key Lake mill 80 km south) for ten months from January, deferring about 8000 tonnes of production. The licensed capacity of the joint operation is 11,350 t/yr of uranium oxide concentrate. For the last decade this has been Cameco’s main source of production. Last year its output was nearly matched by the new Cigar Lake operation after its fraught development. Both mines have huge resources, of very high-grade. Cameco will meet sales commitments of around 13,000 t/yr from Cigar Lake, inventory, and other sources. The move follows a number of other significant cost-cutting measures.  Cameco owns 70% of McArthur River and Areva Resources Canada owns the balance.
WNN 9/11/17.  Canada uranium

Canada taps strong interest in small reactors

In response to a request for expressions of interest on its small modular reactor (SMR) program, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) received a strong response. It included 19 expressions of interest for building a prototype or demonstration reactor at a CNL site. These represented a wide range of designs. Other responses were from potential host communities, the supply chain, and academic institutions, suggesting widespread positive interest.

There was consensus “that the establishment of an SMR industry in Canada” would be beneficial economically, and project Canada as a world leader in such technology. Also the deployment of SMRs would help fulfil Canada’s climate change commitment. Thirdly, SMR concepts were considered an attractive solution for remote off-grid communities and industries such as mining, operating in remote locations. In particular, replacing diesel generators with SMRs, possibly “along with other renewables”, would establish energy independence and enable growth in remote communities. Finally, respondents believe that SMRs have the potential to offer enhanced safety, noting that passive and inherent safety are key components of next-generation nuclear energy systems.

The challenges identified by every stakeholder group included funding for technology development and demonstration, social acceptability, the business case, and government and regulatory support, along with consistent long-term political support.  The CNL report was released on 17 October.
WNN 20/10/17.  Canada NP, Small reactors

Australia

Australian energy market review reports

A review led by Australia’s Chief Scientist of the National Electricity Market (NEM) covering eastern and South Australia has reported its findings to government in the light of concerns about reliability of supply, lack of investment in new dispatchable plant to supply base-load, and escalating retail prices. The matters addressed in the comprehensive 212-page report are not unique to Australia. “Security and reliability have been compromised by poorly integrated variable renewable electricity generators, including wind and solar” - security being about frequency control and other ancillary services, reliability about meeting demand. Furthermore, “existing wholesale and contract market investment signals alone are no longer a suitably dependable mechanism to ensure the reliability of the NEM.” (p83) A major recommendation is to “develop and implement a Generator Reliability Obligation … [for all] new generators to ensure that adequate dispatchable capacity is present in each region” (3.3), though it is not clear how any realistic reliability might be achieved by variable renewables. A capacity market was rejected, but “government intervention to facilitate specific transmission investments” was entertained (5.2.). New generators should have fast frequency response capability and transmission operators should “maintain a sufficient level of inertia” for reliability (2.1). “All governments need to agree to an emissions reduction trajectory
to give the electricity sector clarity about how we will meet our international commitments. This requires a credible and durable mechanism for driving clean energy investments to support a reliable electricity supply.” A Clean Energy Target concept is recommended (3.2).

The report makes no recommendation concerning generation technology (though a final chapter canvasses options, including nuclear), nor does it show credible back-up for the increasing share of wind and solar in its modeling. The Clean Energy Target (CET) is calibrated to 28% emission reduction from 2005 by 2030 in modeling, giving 15% wind + solar in 2020, 24% in 2030, and 53% in 2050 (all excluding rooftop solar PV) and strangely little new dispatchable capacity. (8% hydro remains constant.) Even the 2030 figures involve some heroic assumptions in the modeling, and see coal reduced to 53% of supply by then. The NEM now has 47 GWe installed capacity, including 4.34 GWe (9.2%) wind and solar, with maximum demand almost 33 GWe, and it serves 9.6 million metered customers.
Australia   http://www.environment.gov.au/energy/publications/electricity-market-final-report

Australian electricity market review prioritises reliability

A review of Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) covering eastern and South Australia has reported its findings to government in the light of concerns about reliability of supply, lack of investment in new dispatchable plant to supply base-load demand, and escalating retail prices. The matters addressed in the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s comprehensive 212-page report are not unique to Australia. It confirms experience elsewhere that integrating high levels of variable renewables into electricity supply while maintaining reliability and keeping costs down is a daunting challenge, compounded by the need to reduce CO2 emissions. It stops short of recommending nuclear power as a resolution of these goals.

“Security and reliability have been compromised by poorly integrated variable renewable electricity generators, including wind and solar”. Furthermore, “existing wholesale and contract market investment signals alone are no longer a suitably dependable mechanism to ensure the reliability of the NEM.” (p83) In other words, subsidized renewables have are compromisinged reliability as well as raising raisinged prices. Arising from these observations is a major and likely game-changing recommendation is to “develop and implement a Generator Reliability Obligation … [for all] new generators to ensure that adequate dispatchable capacity is present in each region” (3.3).  This means that demand must be fully covered by coal or gas capacity, with a little help from hydro, or some other source with no carbon dioxide emissions. It remains to be seen how this will be worked in with policy trajectories which continue to subsidise new renewables capacity.
​WNN 19/6/17, 26/6/17.  Australia

Western Australian government approves three uranium mine projects

With a state election looming in March, the Western Australian government has approved three new uranium mine projects recently. This week, Cameco’s Yeelirrie project was approved, despite Environment Protection Authority recommendation to the contrary last year due to concern about certain underground crustacean fauna.  Earlier, the government approved Toro Energy’s Wiluna project, and in December it approved Vimy Resources’ Mulga Rock project. The state Labor opposition has a policy of not approving new uranium mines but says it will allow any projects already approved to proceed if it gains office.
WNN 17/1/17.   Australian U deposits & prospective mines

 

 


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