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

26 November 2021

Ukraine commits to new reactors from Westinghouse

Energoatom and Westinghouse have followed through on a September agreement and signed a contract to build two AP1000 reactors at Khmelnitsky. These are to cost $5 billion each and have 60% Ukrainian content. Financing will be from US Eximbank. Khmelnitsky units 4 and 5 will use AP1000 components sourced from the aborted VC Summer 2 & 3 project in USA. Components for unit 4 will be almost entirely from there. Energoatom said it expected to complete unit 3, a Russian VVER-1000, before 2025. It plans to build further AP1000 units at Zaporozhe, Rovno and South Ukraine, and beyond that: four AP1000 at Chehyryn in Cherkasy region and four at a new site in western Ukraine.

The goal is to have 24 GWe of nuclear plants operating by 2040, nearly double the present capacity, which comprises Russian reactors, mostly VVER-1000 commissioned in the 1980s. Just over half of Ukraine’s electricity is supplied by these. The planned increase in nuclear capacity is partly with a view to export to Poland and Hungary and partly due to the eastern Donbass coalfields adjacent to Russia being in contested territory.

For fifteen years Energoatom has increasingly sourced fuel assemblies for the Russian reactors from Westinghouse in Sweden and about six of the 15 reactors are now supplied from there. There has been a series of plans for a fuel fabrication plant in Ukraine, the latest involving Westinghouse.
WNN 22/11/21.  Ukraine

US public opinion firms in favour of nuclear

Generally US public opinion regarding nuclear power has been positive for many years, and has firmed up as security of energy supplies became newsworthy. According to the latest study of US attitudes to energy carried out by environmental non-profit ecoAmerica, support for nuclear power has grown 10 percentage points from 2018 to 2021, with 59% overall now saying they are strongly or somewhat in support. The highest levels of support were amongst males (72%) and adults over the age of 60 (69%). Those aged 18-29 were 57% supportive. Less than half of the females surveyed were found to support nuclear energy. The proportion of respondents who think the USA should spend more on nuclear energy R&D has increased since 2018 to 57%.
WNN 25/11/21.    US NP policy

19 November 2021

COP26 resolves to try harder

The UN climate conference in Glasgow for the first time identified fossil fuels as a specific problem, with countries called on to make efforts to “phase down” unabated coal and “phase out” inefficient fossil fuel subsidies. Some new measures to reduce emissions were pledged. On the margins of COP, nuclear technology had a more positive profile than ever before, especially in the context of acute UK and EU energy problems. With nuclear generation already providing one quarter of the world’s low-carbon electricity, Rosatom’s director general suggested that “COP26 was a watershed moment for nuclear power”, establishing its vital future role.

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2021, this year pitched for COP26, identifies electricity as having the greatest potential for emissions reduction. The electricity sector emitted 12.3 billion tonnes of CO2 in 2020, more than any other sector, largely from coal. In 2020, coal provided 35% of world electricity and all projections have this dropping significantly, with some countries pledged to phase it out. Nuclear power is a key means of replacing coal reliably, accompanying an increase of intermittent renewables which WEO2021 optimistically says “are set to become the foundation of electricity systems around the world.” This involves heroic assumptions about solar PV and wind and the means of matching them to demand, while nuclear potential is played down in the publication.
WNN 12/11/21.  Climate change policies

US infrastructure bill boosts nuclear power prospects

The $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, a major part of President Biden's domestic agenda, has been passed by Congress and signed into law. It promotes major investments in nuclear energy. It includes $2.5 billion to fund innovative reactor technology including small modular reactors, microreactors and advanced nuclear demonstration projects. It also provides a $6 billion Civilian Nuclear Credit program to support nuclear facilities under threat of closure due to market factors, preserving their carbon-free service. It has provisions for the US government to fund a clean hydrogen production initiative by deploying hydrogen electrolysers at US nuclear power plants, part of $8 billion earmarked for clean hydrogen. Many billions are allocated to improving and extending the transmission grids. In the related Build Back Better Act still pending in Congress is a nuclear production tax credit (PTC) plan to support nuclear facilities, equivalent to PTC support provided over many years for renewables.
WNN 9 &16/11/21, E&E 11/11/21.  US NP

Ukraine commissions central spent fuel facility

Ukraine has joined the ranks of countries having implemented plans for managing spent nuclear fuel at central facilities rather than simply storage at reactor sites. Its Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility (CSFSF) near Chernobyl is in the final stages of commissioning. The CSFSF was built and equipped by US-based Holtec International. It is a dry storage facility in which the used fuel will be stored in double-walled stainless steel canisters. It has a total storage capacity of 16,530 used fuel assemblies, from nine of the country’s 15 reactors, located at Rovno, South Ukraine and Khmelnitsky. All these are VVER types, similar to most Western reactors. Holtec transport casks are used to ship the used fuel. The Zaporozhe nuclear power plant operates its own on-site used fuel storage facility that was commissioned in 2001. The new CSFSF will mean that Ukraine will no longer have to pay Russia $200 million annually to transport and reprocess this used nuclear fuel.

The different kind of used fuel from the decommissioned RBMK reactors at Chernobyl will be stored in a new dry storage facility not far from CSFSF. This ISF-2 was designed by Areva but completed by Holtec International. The fuel will be progressively transferred from wet storage into Holtec canisters for long-term storage in inert gas.
WNN 18/11/21.  Ukraine

12 November 2021

Rolls Royce ‘small’ reactor gets UK government backing in new venture

The UK government will contribute £210 million in grant funding to Rolls Royce SMR Ltd to match private investment in this new venture. Rolls-Royce Group, BNF Resources UK Ltd and Exelon Generation Ltd will invest £195 million over about three years in it. Rolls-Royce Group will own approximately 80% of the new company on completion of this equity raise. Rolls-Royce said the SMR business, which will continue to seek further investment, will now "proceed rapidly with a range of parallel delivery activities, including entry to the UK Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process and identifying sites for the factories which will manufacture the modules that enable on-site assembly of the power plants." The reactor is designed for hydrogen and synthetic fuel manufacturing as well as low-cost reliable electricity generation.

Announcing the government funding, the Business and Energy Secretary said: "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the UK to deploy more low-carbon energy than ever before and ensure greater energy independence." He added, "In working with Rolls-Royce, we are proud to back the largest engineering collaboration the UK has ever seen - uniting some of the most respected and innovating organisations on the planet. Not only can we maximise British content, create new intellectual property and reinvigorate supply chains, but also position our country as a global leader in innovative nuclear technologies we can potentially export elsewhere." The new funding follows £18 million in November 2019.

The Rolls Royce SMR consortium, involving many of the major UK engineering firms, aims to build 16 reactors, each a pressurised water type of 470 MWe. The design is fully modularised to enable major components to be transported from the factory by road or rail and assembled in less than 18 months. The first unit is envisaged at Trawsfynydd in Wales, the site of a former Magnox nuclear power station. Projected cost is £2.2 billion for the demonstration unit decreasing to £1.8 billion each by the fifth one, so $5100/kW, and LCOE of £35 to £50/MWh.
WNN 9/11/21.  UK, Small reactors

France announces plans to build more nuclear capacity

Though already having over 70% of its electricity from nuclear power, President Macron has announced that “to guarantee France's energy independence, to guarantee our country's electricity supply and achieve our objectives, in particular carbon neutrality in 2050, we are going, for the first time in decades, to relaunch the construction of nuclear reactors in our country”. An official plan to build six large EPR2 units at a cost of about EUR 50 billion is expected soon, before the single EPR under construction at Flamanville is commissioned. “These investments will allow us to live up to our commitments. As we conclude the COP26 in Glasgow, this is a strong message from France” to the world.

This reverses a 2014 decision and 2015 legislation to cap nuclear power provision at 50% by 2025, then deferred to 2035. The President's France 2030 plan for re-industrialisation, announced last month, includes a programme to demonstrate small reactor technology and mass production of hydrogen using nuclear electricity in this decade. It will also provide a backstop for Germany’s increasingly fraught electricity supply.
WNN 10/11/21.  France

Rosatom sells US uranium operations to Texas company

Since Russia’s uranium mining enterprise took over Toronto-based Uranium One with its US operations and prospects, there has been some political discomfort due to US perception of uranium as a strategic mineral. This is now resolved by Uranium Energy Corp agreeing to buy Uranium One Americas from the parent Russian company. The total purchase price comprises $112 million in cash and the replacement of $19 million in rehabilitation bonds. This will make the Irigaray plant in Wyoming a hub for several in situ leaching operations in the Powder River Basin alongside two Cameco ISL mines.
WNN 9/11/21.  US U mines

5 November 2021

International Energy Agency calls for much increased role for nuclear power

The head of the OECD International Energy Agency (IEA) at the Glasgow COP26 gathering has said that "nuclear power generation needs to double if we are to reach our energy and climate goals." It has “an integral part to play if we are serious about the climate challenge.” As well as securing the long-term operation of existing nuclear power plants, the nuclear sector also needs to "renew itself", through innovation such as bringing small reactors to market. And “we have to increase the pace of new build of nuclear power plants by a factor of five,” he said.

The IEA’s annual World Energy Outlook for 2021 presents electricity generation growth of between 75% and 116% to 2050 across its three main scenarios. In its Sustainable Development Scenario the proportion of final energy consumption that is in the form of electricity doubles to 40%. In that scenario nuclear generation increases by 75% to 2022 TWh/yr to 2050, requiring capacity growth of about 61% (254 GWe), a slightly lower rate than in the previous WEO report.
WNN 4/11/21.  World energy needs & nuclear power

COP26 energised by nuclear power as UK wind power fails

While south Scotland including Glasgow was largely nuclear-powered, in the middle of the first week of COP26 the British grid system had minimum wind power coinciding with maximum demand, and Drax power station was paid £4,000/MWh, nearly 100 times the norm before the current UK crisis, for running two coal-fired units. Other fossil fuel generators received similar sums as the UK’s extensive wind power capacity was becalmed. A record daily cost of stabilising the grid was also achieved: £44.7 million. The UK’s increasing dependence on intermittent renewables undermining its energy security is very relevant to COP26 agenda, as is Glasgow’s dependence on nuclear power.
ANS 4/11/21, NetZeroWatch 3/11/21.   UK.

International Energy Agency confirms nuclear cost-effective for hydrogen

IEA modelling has made it clear that with natural gas prices above about $6/GJ, nuclear and renewables become more cost-effective than steam-reforming of methane for making hydrogen. This is currently the way almost all hydrogen is made. The difference above $20/GJ gas price is marked.
WNN 29/10/21.  Hydrogen

Ghana steps forward to nuclear power

Ghana plans to start producing nuclear electricity by 2030, according to the head of Nuclear Power Ghana (NPG) in August. By about 2025 NPG expects to have identified the vendor, selected a site and be ready to conclude a contract arrangement. First power is envisaged in 2030 at $50 to 80/MWh. The country has had a small research reactor operating since 1994.

For more than ten years Ghana has been proactive regionally on nuclear power and following the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) milestones program. The IAEA undertook an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review in the country in 2017, and NPG was set up in 2018 to manage the country’s first nuclear power project. Two nuclear cooperation agreements with Rosatom suggest Russia as a likely source of technology, and Ghana is understood to be open to the possibility of a foreign build-own-and-operate project for nuclear power, as now in Turkey.
WNN 1/9/21.  Emerging countries


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