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Significant nuclear-related news items in perspective. For previous items, see the Archive.

12 October 2018

Authoritative new report on the challenge of climate change

After more than two years’ work, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) under UN auspices has issued a report focused on the aim of limiting the global atmospheric temperature increase above pre-industrial levels to 1.5°C. More than half of this has already occurred. The report suggests that anthropogenic warming is now proceeding at about 0.2°C per decade due to past and ongoing emissions, though the rate varies greatly geographically. It puts present anthropogenic CO2 emissions at about 42 billion tonnes per year.

Moving from science to policy and projections, the report suggests pathways to achieve net zero anthropogenic CO2 emissions by 2050. All of these “would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy” and other systems. Though the nuclear role is generally played down, “In electricity generation, shares of nuclear and fossil fuels with carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) are modelled to increase in most 1.5°C pathways.” Nuclear generation increases, on average by around 2.5 times by 2050 in the 89 mitigation scenarios considered by the IPCC, and five times in some

However the report projects increasing deployment of wind and solar capacity with scant qualification. The increasing recognition elsewhere of the high costs of delivering reliable power from systems with high levels of intermittent renewables is downplayed. Apart from and adjusting for this, the report makes it clear that substantially increased nuclear power is an essential part of any effective response in reducing CO2 emissions.

The report says that nuclear power economics are improved in countries where investment risks can be reduced, benefits from series build are realised, and with stable relations between regulators and industry. However, in some other countries the characteristics of the electricity market increase the investment risks of high-capital expenditure technologies, such as nuclear. The report also notes that the current deployment of nuclear energy is constrained by "social acceptability" in some countries, while at the same time public sentiment is firming against undue reliance on coal.

WNN 8/10/18.  Climate policy, IPCC Summary http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf

28 September & 5 October 2018

USA pushes forward on nuclear R&D and advanced reactors

Bipartisan legislation designed to drive US nuclear innovation including the commercialisation of advanced reactors has been signed into law by the President after approval by the House of Representatives. It was passed by the Senate in March. Congress has also approved a $121 million increase in funding for US nuclear R&D for fiscal 2019.

The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA) eliminates some of the financial and technological barriers standing in the way of nuclear innovation. It authorises the creation of a National Reactor Innovation Center that brings together the technical expertise of US national laboratories and the Department of Energy (DOE) to enable the construction of experimental reactors. It represents a commitment by the government to support the commercial nuclear sector in America where there are some transformative advanced nuclear technologies being developed, and hence to reclaim some US leadership in the field.

The provisions in NEICA build upon the private-public partnerships facilitated through the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN), which assists the development and deployment of advanced reactor technologies to revitalize the US nuclear industry, where the developmental edge by large companies has atrophied. The legislation also directs DOE to move forward with plans for a reactor-based fast neutron source to accelerate the development of advanced reactor fuels and materials.  The 400 MWt Fast Flux Test Facility was shut down by DOE in 1993 after ten years operation as a major national research asset, and the need for replacement is now obvious, with $65 million budgeted immediately.

The bills approved by Congress include $325 million for the DOE's Reactor Concepts R&D program, which includes advanced reactors and conventional reactor sustainability; $20 million for a High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) program to provide fuel enriched to near 20% for new small reactor designs; and $76 million for the Accident Tolerant Fuel program being advanced by Framatome, GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse. Its objective is to develop new fuel materials and cladding as well as design that can better tolerate the loss of active cooling in the core, while maintaining or improving fuel performance and economics during normal operations. Lead test assemblies are in Southern Nuclear’s Hatch-1 reactor and due to be loaded into Exelon’s Byron reactor in 2019. (Accident Tolerant Fuel produced by TVEL at Novosibirsk in Russia is due to be loaded into a Russian power reactor about 2020.)
WNN 19/9/18.  USA NP, US policy

New Russian reactor in commercial operation

Russia’s Rostov 4 reactor near Volgodonsk has commenced commercial operation three months ahead of schedule and also under budget.  The V320 reactor was grid-connected in February and delivers 1011 MWe net. It is the last of this 1000 MWe class of reactors to be built in Russia, though others are still under construction in Belarus and India, and more are on order for Iran and Armenia. The V320 has been the flagship Russian power reactor since the first one came on line at Balakovo in 1986, so 13 of its 33 grid-connected reactors are essentially this type, and Ukraine has 13 of them operating. The new standard large Russian reactors are 1200 MWe class, with the first two operating in Russia and more being built there and abroad.
WNN 1/10/18.  Russia NP

New Russian reactor in China starts up

Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation has started up the Tianwan 4 power reactor in China’s Jiangsu province. Russia’s Atomstroyexport provided the main nuclear equipment but the EPC contract was let to CNNC's China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group.  The turbine generator sets are from Dongfang Electric, using Alstom Arabelle low-speed technology.  Areva I&C systems are installed. Construction started in September 2013 and commercial operation is expected early 2019. This is the fourth and last of Russia’s 1000 MWe class of reactors to be built in China. Further Russian reactors at Tianwan (units 7&8) and Xudabao in Liaoning will be the new 1200 MWe class.
WNN 1/10/18.  China NP

14 & 21 September

Oldest US reactor finally closes

Exelon’s Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in. New Jersey has closed after 49 years’ service and production of almost 200 TWh of electricity – more than one third of France’s total annual generation. The 619 MWe reactor is a single unit that had become less economic alongside subsidised renewables and cheap gas, and it fell outside the state’s Zero Emissions Credit program. Also state environmental regulations required construction of $800 million cooling towers for it to run through to when its licence expires in 2029. In July, Exelon announced a sale of the plant to Holtec International, which will decommission it over about eight years.
WNN 18/9/18.  USA NP

First Westinghouse AP1000 reactor now in commercial operation

After seven weeks since grid connection, unit 1 of the Sanmen nuclear power plant in China's Zhejiang province has entered commercial operation – the first AP1000 reactor to do so.  Sanmen 2 is expected to enter commercial operation by the end of this year. Two further AP1000 units in China, at Haiyang in Shandong province, are following, with one grid connected and start-up of the other now due next year. Each reactor produces 1250 MWe gross.

The AP1000 was designed by Westinghouse and approved with design certification by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in December 2005 – the first Generation 3+ type to do so. This represented the culmination of a 1300 person-year and $440 million design and testing program.  UK generic design assessment followed, supported by European utilities, and was granted in 2017.  Commercial operation of this first unit is thus a significant milestone in bringing new-generation advanced reactors into service worldwide.  Compared with the vast majority of reactors now in operation, there is greater simplicity, efficiency and passive safety resulting from 50 years’ experience with civil nuclear power.  Compared with the last large Westinghouse reactor built in the UK, the AP1000 has about one quarter the footprint and needs about one fifth as much concrete and rebar per unit of capacity. Also newer reactors are designed for longer operating lives – typically 60 years.
WNN 21/9/18.  China NP, Advanced reactors

 


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