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

27 July & 3 August 2018

Westinghouse emerges from bankruptcy protection

After 17 months under US ‘Chapter 11’ bankruptcy protection, the Canadian asset management company Brookfield and its partners have completed the purchase of the restructured company from Japan’s Toshiba Corporation for about $4 billion.  Westinghouse retains a high profile in the nuclear industry.  Its nuclear fuel and operating plant businesses have revenue of about $3 billion per year.

The company had encountered significant "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 a major write-down by parent company Toshiba for cost overruns on the four US reactors, which were due to start up in 2019 and 2020. Only two of these continue under construction, at the Vogtle plant in Georgia, with completion now expected late in 2021 and 2022.  Southern Nuclear Operating Company has taken over project management at Vogtle, leaving Westinghouse simply as vendor, though supporting the project and providing access to intellectual property. Bechtel has taken over from CBI as construction manager. All the heavy plant components were made in Japan and South Korea. The total project cost is now estimated at about $19 billion.

China is building four AP1000 reactors, albeit with little direct involvement by Westinghouse. The first of these, at Sanmen, in now operating. The cost of each pair is put at about CNY 50 billion ($7.3 billion).  For the fourth unit, about 70% of the heavy components were made by local supply chain companies, which now have capacity to produce 6-8 sets of equipment per year for AP1000 and other large nuclear plants. China has plans for many more reactors based on AP1000.
WNN 2/8/18.  US NP

13 & 20 July 2018

New Chinese reactor enters commercial operation

Yangjiang unit 5 has commenced commercial operation, after being connected to the grid in Guangdong province in May.  It is an ACPR1000, a later model of the type widely built in China.  It is the first Chinese reactor to feature a domestically-developed digital control system. Its twin, unit 6, is less than a year behind it. Hong Kong-based utility China Light and Power (CLP) has a 17% share of the operating company, which is a CGN subsidiary.
WNN 13/7/18.  China NP

Bangladesh starts building second large Rooppur nuclear power reactor

First concrete has been poured to commence the construction of Rooppur unit 2 in Bangladesh, 160 km north of Dhaka.  Russia’s Atomstroyexport started construction of its twin VVER-1200 reactor in November last year.  Novovoronezh II is the reference plant. Commercial operation of the two units is expected in 2023 and 2024.  All fuel for Rooppur is being provided by Rosatom, and all used fuel is to be repatriated to Russia, in line with standard Russian practice for such countries.

The $12.65 billion project is 90% financed by Russia’s Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs.  It is a turnkey project, and Rosatom will maintain the plant for the first year of operation before handing over to Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has a close involvement with the project, and India’s Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) is engaged as consultant for construction and operation of the project.
WNN 16/7/18.   Bangladesh

First of three US reactors with substantial uprates

Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry-3 is now operating following a 14.3% power uprate, giving it an extra 155 MWe and taking it to about 1260 MWe net. The other two units there will follow in the next 12 months. The uprates were proposed more than a decade ago, but were delayed pending agreement on the significant design changes required.
Platts 16/7/18.  USA NP

Ukraine proposes a role as Central Europe energy hub

For three years Ukraine has been moving towards supplying electricity to Poland and Hungary with its Ukraine-EU ‘energy bridge’ project. This will essentially draw on nuclear capacity disconnected from the national grid and synchronized with the EU. The energy bridge will initially link Khmelnitski 2 to Burshtyn Energy Island – a coal-fired plant constrained by interrupted coal supplies from Donetsk region in the east - and connect with powerlines to Rzesz√≥w in Poland and Albertirsa in Hungary. 

At a meeting with the European parliament, Ukraine’s Energoatom and other representatives pointed to Ukraine’s 55 GWe of installed capacity and emphasised that more than half its electricity was from reliable nuclear plants. Its role could mean that Central Europe countries were less reliant on Russian gas. Domestically it will enable greater use of Ukraine’s nuclear capacity and also generate funds to pay for increasing that capacity at Khmelnitski by completing units 3 & 4. Energoatom said that the ‘energy bridge’ would start to function in 2019 with 1550 MWe as the "first step on the way to fully integrated strategic synchronisation of the Ukrainian and European energy systems". By 2025, some 2550 MWe is to be available to the EU.
WNN 16/7/18.  Ukraine

29 June & 6 July 2018

First new-generation reactors begin supplying power in China

At the end of June the first units of two leading new-generation reactors were connected to the grid in China.  One has European origins, the other is from USA. Both were built substantially by Chinese engineering firms for rival owners. This makes 41 reactors, total 38 GWe, in operation in China.  The World Nuclear Association commented that “Having two brand new advanced reactor designs connected to the grid is great news for nuclear innovation. It’s a major industry development which should lead to a brightening of global nuclear prospects.”

Taishan unit 1, a 1660 MWe net Framatome-designed EPR, is now supplying power in the south of Guangdong province. This is the world’s largest reactor – 1750 MWe gross - and is the first of this kind in the world to produce power. It is owned and operated by a joint venture of CGN Power (51%), Electricite de France (30%) and Guangdong Yuedian Group (19%). It was built by CGN Engineering and took 104 months from fist concrete, effectively as first-of-a-kind (though those in Finland and France still under construction commenced building before it).  Taishan 2 is about a year behind unit 1.

Sanmen unit 1, a 1157 MWe net Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, was grid-connected less than a day later in Zhejiang province. It was built for the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), and is also the first of this kind in the world. CNNC subsidiary CNNP has a 51% share in Sanmen, and major utility Huadian has 10%.  It took 110 months to build, after delays due in part to US suppliers of the main coolant pumps. Sanmen 2 is expected to begin operation later in the year, as is the first AP1000 at Haiyang in China. These are all being built by China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group (CNEC). Two other AP1000 units are under construction at Vogtle in USA, but have been delayed by the Westinghouse bankruptcy.
WNN & EDF 29/6/18, WNN 2/7/18.  China NP

Russia reports full order book for nuclear plants

Rosatom reports that it has orders exceeding US$ 133 billion for new nuclear plant exports.  "At the present day, we have 35 power units as signed contracts and intergovernmental agreements - this is 67% of the world market for [nuclear power plant] construction.”  There are currently six large nuclear reactors under construction in five foreign countries, and a further 13 contracted in seven countries. A further contract, for four large reactors in Egypt, is pending. Another seven units are credibly planned, some with intergovernmental agreements in place. Beyond those, the plans are less definite. An agreement to build two 1200 MWe units in Uzbekistan “is at the final stage". All foreign plants are VVER-type pressurised water reactors. This is in addition to six reactors under construction in Russia and many more planned, including some 1200 MWe fast reactors.
WNN 3/7/18.   Russia NP

Urenco to start enriching recycled uranium for EDF

Urenco has announced a contract with Electricite de France (EDF) to re-enrich recycled uranium (RepU) recovered from reprocessing its used nuclear fuel. This is linked to a contract signed in April under which Framatome is to design, fabricate and supply fuel assemblies using enriched RepU to EDF between 2023 and 2032. Most of the 1000 tonnes per year of uranium recovered from reprocessing used fuel in France is simply stored as a ‘strategic resource’, though a few hundred tonnes has been re-enriched at Seversk in Russia and used in EDF’s Cruas reactors.  RepU conversion and enrichment require dedicated facilities due to its specific isotopic composition - the presence of even isotopes created in the reactor – notably U-232 and U-236. The former gives rise to gamma radiation, so needing shielding, the latter means higher enrichment is required.
WNN 5/7/18.   France, Enrichment


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