World Nuclear Association Weekly Digest Archive 2019

World

International Energy Agency urges priority for nuclear power

The OECD’s International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a report, Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System, concluding that a failure to invest in existing and new nuclear plants in advanced economies would have profoundly adverse implications for emissions, costs and energy security. In particular, global efforts to transition to a cleaner energy system would become drastically harder and more costly. The report recommends that markets should value dispatchability, since the system costs of intermittent renewables is high. Electricity markets should properly reward nuclear power plants that provide the system services needed to maintain electricity security, including capacity availability and frequency control services.

The IEA report, its first addressing nuclear power for nearly 20 years, says that strong policy support is needed to secure investment in existing and new nuclear plants. The focus should be on designing electricity markets in a way that values the clean energy and energy security attributes of low-carbon technologies, particularly nuclear power. It warns that without a lot of positive action there will be electricity security concerns, and a global power mix that depends largely on natural gas-fired capacity. Any significant decline in world nuclear power would give rise to the need for $1,600 billion in additional investment over the next two decades to fill the clean energy shortfall “which would end up hurting consumers through higher electricity bills.”

The report notes that over 1971 to 2018 emissions from electricity generation would have been some 20% higher without the contribution of nuclear power. Nuclear power has provided around half of all low-carbon electricity in advanced economies - a total of 76,000 TWh, which is more than ten times the total output of wind and solar combined. For advanced economies - including the USA, Canada, the European Union and Japan - nuclear has been the biggest low-carbon source of electricity for more than 30 years and remains so today. Furthermore, any “drastic increase in renewable power generation would create serious challenges in integrating the new sources into the broader energy system.”

The World Nuclear Association commented that “much more will be needed to achieve the target of supplying at least 25% of global electricity demand with nuclear energy by 2050 as required by the nuclear industry's Harmony goal or even the near six-fold increase required by the IPCC ‘middle of the road’ scenario. We welcome the IEA report’s recommendation for more government interventions to secure investment in new nuclear plants.”
WNN & IEA 28/5/19.  

Positive year for nuclear power in 2018

Apart from important developments in integrating reliable nuclear power production into liberalised electricity markets, 2018 saw a significant increase in operable capacity – 6,957 MWe net, led by China.

Nine new reactors came into operation, with a total of 10,420 MWe net, and in USA four uprates added 350 MWe. There were four construction starts, for 5055 MWe gross, or five if UK’s Hinkley point C-1 is included, with another 1670 MWe, making 6725 MWe.  Six reactors were retired at end of their operational life, total 3,220 MWe net.*  (Corrected April 2019 to add Bilibino-1, 11 MWe in Russia and remove Chinshan 2, 604 MWe in Taiwan which was restored to operational status.) 

Hinkley Point C-1 is the first of two EPR reactors at that site, the third generation of reactors there. A major part of the reactor foundation for the first of the new reactors – about 2000 m3 - was poured in December, with the balance of 4500 m3 total due by mid 2019. In most projects the entire base would be in one pour, and this would then count as official start of construction. (At Vogtle in USA in 2013, 5350 m3 of concrete was poured in less than two days to initiate construction of each reactor.)

Hinkley Point B is two Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGR) of about 475 MWe net commissioned in 1976 and expected to run to 2023.  Hinkley Point A was a pair of 235 MWe net Magnox reactors, operating from 1965 to 2000.
WNN 11/12/18.  NP in world today

OECD report highlights cost of intermittent renewables

A new report from the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, The Costs of Decarbonization: System Costs with High Shares of Nuclear and Renewables, models different shares of nuclear power and renewables within a very tight 50g CO2 per kWh emission constraint. It quantifies the system costs - involved in delivering reliable power to meet demand - with different levels of variable renewable energy (VRE) input – solar and wind, and despite declining generation costs (and zero marginal costs) for those. The figures modelled are consistent with those now observable in some parts of the world. For instance, Germany has spent hundreds of billions on VRE over the last ten years while maintaining emissions at nearly ten times the above figure, but the delivered electricity cost has risen inexorably.

Since the load factor and the capacity credit of VRE sources is very much lower than that of conventional thermal or nuclear power plants, a significantly higher installed capacity is needed to produce the same amount of electricity. Modelling showed that installed capacity would need to more than double to achieve 50% VRE share, and more than triple for a 75% share, compared with fully-dispatchable base case, to meet the same demand. System costs rise accordingly, from less than $10/MWh for 10% VRE to more than $50/MWh at 75% VRE share. Of particular interest to countries such as Australia, without abundant hydro resources or interconnections to neighbouring countries, the system cost then approaches $50/MWh even at 50% VRE share. Hence at 75% VRE in the modelled case, or 50% in the case relevant to Australia, the delivered cost of electricity almost doubles from the fully-dispatchable base case with a large proportion of nuclear capacity. (In Germany, total installed capacity has more than doubled since 1990 to give only 19% more power with 24.6% share from wind+solar - which now represent half the total capacity – and electricity costs have risen about 50%.)

A striking effect of deploying a lot of wind and solar PV with low marginal generating cost is a substantial increase in the volatility of electricity prices, and at 30% VRE or above, zero prices sometimes occur, distressing financially to both VRE producers and the back-up reliable plants, and not compensated by the price peaks when VRE is insufficient. Since wind and solar PV output correlates with meteorological conditions across a wide area, increased VRE also means that the average price received by those producers – especially solar PV - declines significantly as their penetration increases. At a penetration level of 22.5%, the value of a megawatt-hour from wind is reduced by 25% in the model, and in Germany in 2018 the effect was even larger. Finally, and as strikingly shown in China in the last three years, high VRE means high curtailment rate on its output (up to 50% in some provinces in China).
OECD NEA http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/pubs/2019/7299-system-costs.pdf   Economics of NP, Renewable Energy & Electricity

International Energy Agency highlights CO2 concern

The OECD International Energy Agency (IEA) has published its Global Energy & CO2 Status Report, which documents both 2.3% increased energy demand in 2018, and much increased CO2 emissions. The main primary energy demand growth was for gas, but coal was also significant in India and China. Coal contributed 30% of global CO2 emissions.

Electricity generation rose 4% to over 26,700 TWh, with renewables and nuclear power meeting most of this increase. China’s electricity demand increased by 8.5%, India’s grew by 5.4%. Global emissions from power generation increased 2.5% and reached 13 Gt CO2, 38% of all energy-related CO2 emissions. Nuclear power accounted to 10% of electricity overall – 2,724 TWh, and coal remained the largest source of electricity generation at 38% of total, with 10,116 TWh. Gas had almost 240 TWh growth to over 6,091 TWh, and it overtook coal in USA.
WNN 27/3/19.  Climate change: policy responses

US nuclear utilities boost electric vehicle infrastructure

Several US electric power companies with a high proportion of zero-carbon nuclear generation are investing in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. Increased sales of EVs – whether pure battery or plug-in hybrid types - creates significant extra demand for electricity for charging, particularly at night if using typical 16 amp (2 or 4 kW) mode. If that electricity is from fossil fuels there is little advantage in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.

Duke Energy plans to help fund nearly 2,500 new charging stations as well as electric school buses in North Carolina. Xcel Energy is promoting expansion of EV use in Minnesota. Exelon, which operates 22 nuclear power reactors, is helping its customers transition to EVs and is also an investor in ChargePoint, said to be the world’s largest EV charging network. 

In 2017, 1.1 million electric cars were sold, taking the global fleet to 3.1 million. Electric buses have a significant role in China - Shenzhen's fleet of 16,400 buses of various sizes run by three companies are all electric. The buses cost more than three times the diesel equivalent, but purchases were significantly subsidised, and high capital costs are offset by lower operating costs. One million EV cars are expected to require 3-4 TWh per year worldwide, and Bloomberg expects that EVs including buses will need 1,900 TWh per year by 2040, about 6% of global electricity demand, though other projections are lower.
NEI Overview 11/4/19.   Electric vehicles

US reactor decommissioning confirms shorter time frame

With a new contract for an old plant, the trend in USA for more expeditious decommissioning of retired reactors appears to be strengthening. Until a few years ago most plants had the non-nuclear parts demolished while the reactor itself was left for 40 years or so that the radioactivity of structural components such as the pressure vessel decayed to harmless levels, a procedure known as Safstor. In some cases the owners undertook more immediate demolition, using remote handling. But now specialist companies are taking over shut-down plants and doing the demolition and clean-up.

In April the Omaha Public Power District in Nebraska contracted EnergySolutions to take over the decommissioning of its 482 MWe Fort Calhoun plant which was shut down in October 2016.  EnergySolutions has built up expertise in this area with a number of projects, and recently completed the accelerated decommissioning of Exelon’s Zion 1 & 2 reactors (2 x 1098 MWe) over eight years. EnergySolutions, dismantled the plant, shipped the radioactive waste to its disposal site in Utah, and returned the site to greenfield status.  To achieve this, in 2010 the plant’s licence and accumulated decommissioning funds were transferred from Exelon to EnergySolutions, which then became owner and licensee. The site will be returned to Exelon about 2020 with the used fuel which remains on site until taken to the future national repository. In 12 months to January 2015 EnergySolutions transferred all 2226 fuel assemblies from the spent fuel pool to 61 robust dry casks on site, each about 75 tonnes – an independent spent fuel storage installation.
WNN 30/4/19.  Decommissioning

UK step towards using americium for space power

The UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) has successfully separated americium-241 from old reactor-grade plutonium and used it in a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) to power a small light bulb. RTGs are used to power satellites, and most use plutonium-238 as their energy source to generate electric current. Pu-238 has high decay heat which is converted to electricity through static thermoelectric elements (solid-state thermocouples), with no moving parts. RTGs are safe, reliable and maintenance-free and can provide heat or electricity for decades under very harsh conditions, particularly where solar power is not feasible. Some plutonium powered RTGs can provide 2.7 kWh/day.

Am-241 is an alternative, with about one quarter the decay heat. This plus limited availability has hitherto favoured Pu-238 as energy source. An RTG with pure Am-241 needs about twice the isotope mass in it compared with Pu-238. The European Space Agency is pushing forward to employ Am-241 since Pu-238 is in short supply, and its Rosetta mission in 2014 showed up the limitations of solar power in space. NNL is aiming to produce usable power from americium in RTGs, and this has the added virtue of cleaning up UK’s civil plutonium stockpile which has progressively degraded due to the decay of Pu-241 (half-life 14 years) to the gamma-active Am-241, making it unsuitable for MOX fuel.
WNN 3/5/19.  Reactors and radioisotopes for space

Chernobyl drama stokes radiation concerns

A drama mini-series loosely based on the 1986 Chernobyl accident and broadcast by HBO has attracted large audiences. Exaggerated depiction of radiation effects accentuate the drama but are misleading and even suggest that radiation effects are contagious. It is far from being a documentary. While Chernobyl correctly shows the unprecedented steam explosion in the accident, it hints at worse being somehow just averted. As probably the most intensively-studied industrial accident in history with ample documentation of the radiological aspects, it is a pity that some asserted ‘facts’ have no basis. Anyway, the three countries involved with the accident – Ukraine, Russia and Belarus - are all continuing to expand their nuclear power capacity safely.
WNN 5/6/19.  Chernobyl accident

China

Strong increase in China’s nuclear generation in 2018

With seven new reactors coming on line in 2018, China’s electricity generation from nuclear power increased to 286 TWh – the 15.6% increase being at twice the rate for overall generation, which was 6791 TWh (compared with 4187 TWh total in USA). China’s nuclear power output is now slightly more than Australia’s total electricity generation. By the end of the year nuclear was contributing almost 5% of China’s electricity. The average load factor of nuclear plants was 85.6%.
National Bureau of Statistics January 2019.  China NP

Sanmen 2 and Haiyang 2 in commercial operation

All four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in China have now entered commercial operation.  Sanmen 2 was grid connected in August, and Haiyang 2 in October 2018.
WNN 9/1/19.  China NP

Large new French reactor starts up in China

The second Framatome EPR reactor at Taishan nuclear power plant has started up. Its twin unit was connected to the grid in June last year, and is providing 1660 MWe net for China General Nuclear Corporation in Guangdong province. These are the world’s largest nuclear power reactors.
WNN 29/5/19.  China NP

USA

US government affirms support for nuclear zero emission credits

The US Energy Secretary says that he and the Department of Energy (DOE) support US states that put in place provisions to support nuclear power on a similar basis to renewables. The need to assure reliable supply of electricity is becoming more obvious, especially in the northeast, despite pushback against nuclear support from fossil fuel and environmentalist lobbies. In Pennsylvania the legislature is debating new rules to include nuclear power to operate under its Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act with renewables. Nuclear power plants generate 42% of its electricity and 93% of its zero-carbon power. The DOE supports such programs run by states that do not rely on the federal government. 

New York state, Illinois, Connecticut, and New Jersey all have some kind of zero emission credit schemes applying to nuclear power, Pennsylvania and Ohio have legislation pending. These address the problem of several US nuclear plants being economically threatened by competition from low-cost natural gas from fracking, and subsidised wind capacity. In June 2017 MIT's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy research published a study showing that saving US nuclear "would come at a cost of $4-7/MWh on average in these markets, which is much lower than the cost of subsidizing wind power." The zero emission credits for New York are currently $17.54/MWh, those in Illinois $16.50/MWh, while the current US Production Tax Credit level for renewables is $23/MWh.
Platts 13/3/19.  USA NP

US states lead clean energy push for electricity

In the absence of federal initiatives, US states are pushing ahead with ambitious targets for clean energy, particularly for electricity generation. At present almost 20% of US electricity is from nuclear power, 7% from hydro and about 10% from other renewables. As the limitations of wind and solar become more evident, nuclear power comes into the discussion more strongly, along with carbon capture and storage (CCS) on fossil fuel plants, though this has yet to be demonstrated on any scale for power plants. The Energy Information Administration expects 31% of US electricity to be generated from renewables in 2050, which leaves a lot of room for other clean sources.

In March the governors of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont affirmed their commitment “to work together, in coordination with [regional grid operator] ISO New England and through the New England States Committee on Electricity, to evaluate market-based mechanisms that value the contribution that existing nuclear generation resources make to regional energy security and winter reliability.”

Meanwhile New York state, Illinois and New Jersey all have some form of zero emission credits (ZECs) legislated for nuclear power, to preserve reliability and clean energy benefits not recognized in the electricity markets. This week New Jersey approved awarding of ZECs of about $11/MWh for two nuclear plants, total 3.7 GWe. Connecticut has a corresponding arrangement. Ohio and Pennsylvania have similar legislation in process. The levels of state support per MWh are significantly less than the federal production tax credit of $23/MWh for wind, amounting to some $4.8 billion last year, though this provision will start to phase out from 2021.
WNN 18/3/19, 16/4/19.  US NP

US nuclear construction gets small boost

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has finalised further federal loan guarantees of $3.7 billion for Vogtle units 3 and 4, two AP1000 reactors under construction in Georgia. This brings to $12 billion the total of loan guarantees for five owners of the project which has been delayed by the Westinghouse bankruptcy, with increase in cost. Congress has also approved $800 million in tax credits for the project. The US Secretary of Energy said that "The Vogtle project is critically important to …. revitalize and expand the US nuclear industry. A strong nuclear industry supports a reliable and resilient grid, and strengthens our energy and national security." The announcement coincided with fitting of the top head of the unit 3 containment.

Under the 2005 Energy Policy Act there is provision for federal loan guarantees for advanced nuclear reactors or other emission-free technologies up to 80% of the project cost. The first round of guarantees went to renewable energy and advanced gas projects (eg IGCC). From 2008, up to $18.5 billion was then offered for nuclear power projects. The loan guarantees are ultimately funded by the borrowers through a fee, and they reduce financing cost by demonstrating government support for particular projects which have undergone thorough scrutiny by DOE and its outside advisers, without cost to the taxpayer.
WNN 22/3/19.  US NP

High-level report canvasses US energy policy options

A 229-page report commissioned by the Breakthrough Institute and led by two of America’s most credible energy figures, CEO of Energy Futures Initiative Ernest Moniz (President Obama’s Energy Secretary 2013-17) and Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Yergin, points to the need for “purposeful coordination among all the players involved” in achieving sustainable innovation in electricity provision. The report extends the discussion to process heat for “many industrial applications that are otherwise difficult to decarbonise.”

Its methodology addresses technical merit, market viability, compatibility with other elements of the energy system, and consumer value. In balancing these, real discipline rather than populist sentiment is needed in policymaking to overcome the inertia built in to the existing large and complex system. Advanced nuclear reactors are significant part of a "critical subset" of technologies with great potential for the USA to transition to a "clean energy ecosystem". In response to the populist Green New Deal floated in Congress, Dr Moniz said that the notion of a grid composed of 100% renewables by 2050 was not realistic, and risks slowing carbon abatement.
WNN 8/2/19, Advancing the Landscape of Clean Energy Innovation.  http://www.b-t.energy/reports/advancing-the-landscape/   US NP

US Nuclear Innovation Act

Bipartisan legislation modernising US nuclear regulation and supporting the establishment of a licensing framework for next-generation advanced reactors has been signed into effect, after being passed in the House by 361 to 10 votes and in the Senate on voices. The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernisation Act directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to establish a staged licensing process for commercial advanced nuclear reactors and to streamline uranium mine licensing. It also requires the NRC to report to Congress on its licensing process for accident tolerant fuels within one year.

On a broader front, the NRC is to complete a “technology-inclusive licensing framework” for optional use by advanced reactor designers by 2027, taking in the extraordinary diversity of new reactor technologies coming forward.  The Nuclear Energy Institute trade association said that the Act also “establishes a more equitable and transparent funding structure which will benefit all operating reactors and future licensees.”
WNN 17/1/19.  US NP

Further two US reactor licence renewals

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has renewed the operating licence of Entergy’s Waterford 3 nuclear power plant to 2044, and NextEra’s Seabrook plant to 2050. These reactors are PWRs of 1165 MWe and 1251 MWe net respectively. This brings to 94 the total of US power reactors granted 20-year licence extensions to take their operating lives to 60 years. Two more applications are expected.

Thus 92 of the 98 operating US power reactors are likely to have 60-year operating licences, with owners undertaking major capital works to upgrade them at around 30-40 years.  By 2017, 56 out of 65 US PWRs had replaced their original steam generators with more durable ones, involving a 3-month outage. About 45 PWRs have also replaced reactor pressure vessel heads, and BWRs may need to replace core shrouds. Upgrades of instrument and control systems are also a priority, with all US plants originally having analogue I&C systems. The owners of Davis-Besse invested almost $1 billion for its mid-life refurbishment to take it to 2037. The licence renewal review process itself typically costs $16-25 million, and takes several years for NRC to process.

NRC is now considering the first three of about 20 anticipated second licence renewal applications to extend operating lives from 60 to 80 years.
WNN 13/3/19.  USA NP

Substantial uprates for US reactors

Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry-1 is now operating following a 14.3% power uprate, giving it an extra 155 MWe and taking it to about 1260 MWe net. Unit 3 achieved the same in mid 2018. The uprates were proposed more than a decade ago, but were delayed pending agreement on the significant design changes required.
TVA 3/1/19, WNN 4/1/19.  US NP

Tennessee Valley Authority has confirmed that the 155 MWe uprate of its third Brown’s Ferry reactor - unit 2 - has been implemented, and it is in final testing and validation phase. The other two Browns Ferry units were uprated similarly by 14.3% last year, to 1310 MWe gross, with significant plant modifications. 

A recalibration uprate of Exelon’s Peach Bottom 2 was completed last year to add 22 MWe. Over 160 uprates for US reactors have been approved, mostly small ones, but totaling almost 8,000 MWe.
Platts 9/5/19.  US NP

US power reactor closed down

Entergy’s 728 MWe Pilgrim reactor in Massachusetts has been closed because it could no longer operate profitably in the New England electricity market. The plant commenced commercial operation in 1972 and was bought by Entergy in 1999.  It will sell Pilgrim to Holtec Decommissioning International and transfer the operating license to that company, which plans to complete decommissioning the plant by 2027.
WNN 3/6/19.  US NP

Cameco and Silex Systems to buy out GE-Hitachi share of laser enrichment project

Cameco and Australia’s Silex Systems have agreed to buy out the GE-Hitachi 76% share in the Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) project for $20 million, so that Cameco increases its share to 49% and Silex, the technology licensor of the SILEX process, holds 51%. Cameco has an option to purchase an additional 26% of GLE later. The agreement calls for Silex and Cameco to pay $300,000 per month to complete construction of the full-scale prototype enrichment facility, the Wilmington Test Loop, in North Carolina. The agreement is contingent upon US government approvals.

GLE is well advanced in commercialising the SILEX process, and has an agreement with the US Department of Energy to enrich about 300,000 tonnes of depleted uranium tails at Paducah, Kentucky to natural-grade uranium. Silex said that “the Paducah commercial opportunity represents and ideal path to market for our disruptive SILEX laser enrichment technology”. In April 2016 GE-Hitachi had notified its intention to exit GLE, offering the company to Silex, and plans for restructuring have been under negotiation since.
Silex 6/2/19, WNN 7/2/19.  Enrichment, US Fuel Cycle

Urenco USA to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium

In line with an earlier announcement of its capability, Urenco USA has announced that it plans to proceed with enrichment up to almost 20% U-235, and is considering construction of a dedicated HALEU plant for this, particularly to supply a new generation of small reactors.  The Urenco USA plant in New Mexico is the only operational US enrichment plant, and its current capacity of 4.8 million SWU per year meets about one third of US demand for commercial power generation.
WNN 6/2/19.  US Fuel Cycle

US plan to resurrect defunct uranium enrichment project

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced plans to award a $115 million contract to America Centrifuge Operating LLC, a subsidiary of Centrus Energy Corp, to demonstrate the production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), above 5% enrichment of U-235. The project would involve construction of a cascade of 16 of the very large AC-100M American centrifuges at Piketon, Ohio, where these machines were developed, to produce some 19.75% enriched uranium by October 2020. It is also to demonstrate the capability to produce HALEU with existing US-origin enrichment technology, providing the DOE with a "small quantity" of it for use in research and development "and other programmatic missions". In December Urenco USA made it clear that it can readily produce HALEU at its New Mexico plant, using its European technology. However, being foreign-owned and using non-US technology it would be ineligible to supply enrichment services for US defence purposes. A number of new small reactor designs require HALEU and their developers are anxious to see a supply chain for it established.

At the American Centrifuge demonstration uranium enrichment plant at Piketon an AC100 Lead Cascade started operation in 2010 and then a demonstration cascade took over in October 2013 as “the centerpiece of the RD&D program with DOE”. It was licensed for 7 million SWU/y enrichment up to 10% U-235, but operations ceased in February 2016. After investment of over $2.3 billion it was evident that the US-developed technology was uncompetitive, and commercial deployment was aborted. With the company (now Centrus) then unable to proceed, the intellectual property and the demonstration cascade reverted to DOE and its Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee took over management of the project. The equipment has been decommissioned and dismantled but the licence endures. The plant was on the site of the large 1940s Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion enrichment plant, originally for military purposes.

Meanwhile the DOE has reported that about ten tonnes of HALEU stored at its Idaho National Laboratory could now be used for fabricating advanced reactor fuel there. This material is from electrometallurgical reprocessing of used fuel from the experimental fast reactor EBR-II which operated to 1994.
WNN 8/1/19, Platts 17/1/19.   US NFC

USA launches new test reactor program

The US Department of Energy has launched its Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) program, set up under the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act 2017 and run by the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The program was funded, with bipartisan support, last year. The VTR, or versatile fast neutron source, will provide leading-edge capability for testing of advanced nuclear fuels, materials, instrumentation, and sensors, with accelerated neutron damage rates 20 times greater than current water-cooled test reactors.

GE-Hitachi is working with INL to adapt its PRISM as a test reactor under this program for R&D, though the PRISM design is currently as a 311 MWe power reactor, derived from earlier US designs. The VTR is to be operational at INL by the end of 2025, closing an extraordinary 30-year gap since EBR-II fast reactor closed in 1994 by political edict. This was a major setback to US nuclear research, and over this period the USA has been progressively overtaken in nuclear technology. The only other fast-neutron test reactor operating is BN-60 in Russia, to be replaced after 2020 by MBIR, now under construction there.
Research reactors, Fast reactors

United Kingdom

Hitachi suspends work on UK nuclear power project

Japan’s Hitachi has suspended work on its UK subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power’s plan to build two nuclear power plants in UK, at Wylfa Newydd in Wales and Oldbury in Gloucestershire, having failed to find a major partner for the projects. The two plants would use four GE-Hitachi Advanced Boiling Water Reactors such as have operated in Japan since 1996, and which are now approved for use in UK. The £20 billion, 2.7 GWe Wylfa plant was to be operating in mid 2020s.

The minister responsible for negotiations with Hitachi told parliament that the government was even willing to consider taking a one-third equity stake in the Wylfa project, alongside investment from Hitachi and Japan government agencies and other strategic partners. It was also willing to consider providing all the required debt financing to complete construction, and it would consider a Contract for Difference power purchase agreement to the project with a strike price of no more than £75 per megawatt-hour – somewhat less than that for EDF’s Hinkley Point C now under construction. Hitachi said that while it is suspending development at Wylfa, it wished to continue discussions with the government on both projects.
WNN 17/1/19.  UK

Romania

China to complete building Canadian reactors in Romania

Nearly five years after China General Nuclear (CGN) submitted the sole non-binding bid for a contract to build two new reactors at Cernavoda and was declared a "qualified investor" in the project, a preliminary investors' agreement has now been signed. This is between Romanian national nuclear company Nuclearelectrica and CGN for the completion of units 3 and 4 at the plant. A joint venture company with 51% CGN equity is to be set up to advance the project. The two operating Cernavoda reactors provide nearly 20% of the country’s electricity.

In the 1970s Cernavoda was intended to comprise five Canadian CANDU reactors, a rare western technology selection behind the iron curtain. In the event one was built from 1980 and came on line in 1996. A second one was completed by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) and Ansaldo Nucleare of Italy with the help of an EU loan and has been in operation since 2007. After plans involving several western companies were abandoned, the CGN engineering subsidiary in 2014 signed a "binding and exclusive" cooperation agreement with Candu Energy, AECL’s successor as technology vendor, for the construction of units 3 & 4 at Cernavoda as 700 MWe CANDU 6 reactors. In mid-2014 the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China agreed to finance the project, and this was followed by CGN’s 2014 bid to Nuclearelectrica. The two units are partly built with main concrete structures, but about €7.2 billion will be required to complete them. Meanwhile Cernavoda 1 is due for a full rebuild from 2026, which will likely take at least three years.
WNN 8/5/19.  Romania

Russia

New Russian reactor now on line

The second new reactor at Novovoronezh power plant in the southwest of Russia is now grid-connected, nearly three years after its twin. Rosenergoatom announced early last year that it would slow construction in response to low demand and pressure from power consumers to reduce rate increases. Construction, using new techniques, was already slow and took 118 months. Commercial operation is expected from December, adding 1114 MWe to the grid. These are the lead units of one variant of the VVER-1200 reactors, now the standard large Russian reactor for domestic use and export. Russia now has 36 power reactors operational, total 29 GWe.
WNN 2/5/19.   Russia NP

Unit 2 of the Novovoronezh II nuclear power plant has achieved criticality. This is the third VVER-1200 reactor in Russia, of two slightly different designs.
WNN 25/3/19.  Russia NP

Russia completes refurbishment of Smolensk plant

Refurbishment of the Smolensk nuclear power plant close to the Belarus border has been completed, and unit 3 has returned to service. The three RBMK reactors started up 1983-1990, licensed for 30 years. They are pressurised water-cooled reactors with individual fuel channels and they use graphite as moderator. Significant design modifications to units 1&2 were made after the Chernobyl accident, and unit 3 was built to revised design. Following a $1.5 billion program from 2012 involving extensive refurbishment including replacement of fuel channels, the 1000 MWe units now have 45-year lifetimes. They provide 13% of Russia’s nuclear power generation.
WNN 28/3/19, Russia NP

Russia starts construction of large new reactor

Main construction work for the second unit at Kursk II in Russia has begun two weeks ahead of schedule, with first concrete poured for the base plate. The site close to the Ukraine border is the first to use the 1255 MWe VVER-TOI (typical optimised, with enhanced information) reactor design incorporating a new steel alloy in its enlarged pressure vessel. It is the most advanced Russian PWR design and is capable of load-following. Eventually four units will replace four RBMK reactors which came on line over 1977 to 1986 as these each reach about 45 years operation.
WNN 15/4/19.   Russia NP

Small Russian reactor shut down

The first unit of the Bilibino nuclear power plant in the Chukotka Autonomous Region has finally shut down after providing reliable power to the remote part of northeastern Siberia since the 1970s. Units 2-4 will continue in operation for another three years until the new floating nuclear power plant Academician Lomonosov arrives at Pevek later this year and is established in the small local grid. It has two 35 MWe reactors. The Bilibino units each provide 11 MWe net plus some district heating. They are a unique type of EGP-6 light water graphite-moderated reactor, all of which have received 15-year operating licence extensions to give them 45 years in service.
WNN 24/1/19.  Russia NP

Russia launches third large nuclear icebreaker

The third large nuclear-powered icebreaker has been launched at St Petersburg. Ural and its sister ships Arktika and Sibir are third-generation 'universal' LK-60 icebreakers which are dual-draught (8.55 or 10.5 m) wide-beam (34 m) vessels of 25,450 dwt or 33,540 dwt with ballast, able to handle 3 metres thickness of ice. They are powered by the latest civil marine nuclear power plants - two RITM-200 reactors of 175 MWt each, delivering 60 MW at the propellers via twin turbine-generators and three electric motors. The first will be commissioned this year and operated by Atomflot. Two more LK-60 are planned. The goal is to achieve year-round navigability of the Northern Sea Route across the north of Siberia.

A larger LK-120 series of icebreakers is being developed also, of 55,600 dwt and with 120 MW power at the propellers, capable of breaking through ice 4.5 metres thick. The first will be Lider (Leader).
WNN 28/5/19.  Nuclear-powered ships

Belarus

Belarus prepares to fire up first nuclear power

Russian contractor AtomStroyExport has announced the start of commissioning for Belarus’ first nuclear power plant at Ostrovets in the Grodno region near the border with Lithuania. Two VVER-1200 reactors are being built, based on those at St Petersburg, to provide 1109 MWe net each, which together will meet almost half the country’s demand and reduce reliance on Russian natural gas. 

Economic assessment using methodology from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed that nuclear would be competitive, with overnight costs $1960/kW and levelized electricity cost 5.81 cent/kWh (compared with coal $1175/kW and 6.52 cent/kWh, and gas $805/kW and 6.76 cent/kWh). Russian finance covers 90% of the cost.
WNN 8/4/19.  Belarus

Baltic states

Estonia takes steps towards nuclear power

With the prospect of phasing out its oil shale power generation by 2030, a new Estonian company set up for the purpose has commissioned a feasibility study on deploying small modular reactors (SMRs). Fermi Energia Ltd was set up in February 2019 by a group of Estonian science and energy professionals including the former head of state energy company Eesti Energia. It then signed an agreement with UK-based Moltex Energy to undertake a feasibility study for the siting of SMRs and development of a suitable licensing regime. The Moltex technology is only one option, and Fermi Energia is also including NuScale SMR, Terrestrial Energy ISMR-400 and GE Hitachi BWRX-300 in its feasibility study. The company said that Estonia had "no other credible choice" than nuclear energy for security of power supply, but that it would need to be from SMRs. Viru-Nigula on the north coast has offered to host a nuclear plant. Eesti Energia was involved in plans for nuclear power ten years ago.
WNN 31/5/19.  Emerging nuclear countries

South Korea

New reactor in South Korea now operational

Unit 4 of the Shin Kori nuclear power plant is now grid-connected, making it the 24th reactor in operation in South Korea, total over 23 GWe. When fully ramped up to full power the new APR1400 reactor will deliver about 1380 MWe net. Its twin, unit 3, was grid-connected in January 2016.  While Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power has a reputation for meeting construction schedules, both these reactors were delayed by the need to replace suspect parts and cabling. Unit 3 thus took 87 months to construct and unit 4 took 115 months, due to further regulatory delays.

Construction of Shin Kori 5 & 6 commenced in April 2017 and September 2018 respectively, with about 60 months construction time anticipated, despite a political delay following election of a new government in 2017.

At the end of April the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the APR1400 for US design certification.
WNN 25/4/19.  S.Korea

South Korea starts up large new reactor

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power has started up its new Shin Kori 4 reactor and plans to connect it to the electricity grid at the end of this month. It will provide 1380 MWe alongside its twin, unit 3, which was connected to the grid in January 2016.  KHNP expects unit 4 to reach full commercial operation in September. Construction of two further APR1400 reactors there - units 5 and 6 - began in April 2017 and September 2018 respectively, and two others are under construction at Ulchin: Shin Hanul 1&2.  Four of these APR1400 reactors are nearly ready to operate at Barakah in the UAE, and other export initiatives are ongoing.
WNN 18/4/19. S.Korea

Taiwan

Taiwan rejects referendum vote on nuclear future

Despite the strong referendum support for maintaining nuclear power in Taiwan’s electricity mix, and the government’s agreement to honour this, a new national energy strategy from the Ministry of Economic Affairs maintains the earlier intention of the incumbent political party to phase it out. The ministry acknowledges that this will risk energy shortages from around 2021 as demand increases. However, the Chinshan reactors will not be restarted*, and those at Kuosheng and Maanshan are to be shut down when they reach 40 years of operation.  The part-built new plant at Lungmen (2 x 1350 MWe) is to remain mothballed.
WNN 1/2/19.  Taiwan

* Early in 2019 Chinshan 2 was restored to operationsl status.

Egypt

Egypt issues site approval for large nuclear plant

The Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority has issued a site approval permit for the El Dabaa site, near El Alamein, west of Alexandria. The permit, which is for four large nuclear power units, acknowledges that the site complies with national and international requirements, following a review mission by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It is the first milestone in the licensing process expected to take two years.  The site was selected in 1983 but plans for nuclear power have fluctuated along with the country’s political situation since. In mid 2015 Rosatom submitted a bid to build four 1200 MWe reactors on a turnkey basis and a contract was signed in December 2017. The cost of $25 billion will be 85% financed by a Russian state export loan.

The reactors will be a warm-water version of the V-491 at Leningrad II, but with significant desalination capacity taking about 13% of the heat from the secondary circuit, they are expected to provide 1050 MWe gross, 927 MWe net. Egypt has long been reliant on natural gas for power generation and the cost of electricity from the nuclear plant is expected to be very much less.

The state Nuclear Power Plants Authority has been assessing the El Nagila area 80km east of Port Said to identify a suitable site for a second 4-unit nuclear power plant. South Korea and China have indicated strong interest in such a project.
WNN 10/4/19.  Egypt

Australia

Australian uranium deposit approaches operation after 47 years development

Boss Resources has announced completion of the optimisation testwork program, the first phase of the restart strategy for its 100% owned Honeymoon uranium project in South Australia. While the deposit, 80 kilometres north west of Broken Hill, was mined briefly by a previous owner, it has been effectively under development since its discovery in 1972.  The orebody 70-130 metres deep and amenable to mining by in situ leaching, though the groundwater has high chloride levels, which is one of the reasons for the drawn-out development with a succession of about ten different equity holders – Australian, US, Russian and Japanese.  While well over $100 million has been spent on it, Boss Resources acquired it in 2015 for A$ 11.5 million and has made a fresh approach with process improvements. It is expected to ramp up to producing 1230 tU per year when it is commissioned.
WNN 28/2/19.  Australian min


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