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

5, 12 & 19 July 2019

Taiwan confirms closure of second Chinshan reactor

The Atomic Energy Council of Taiwan has approved decommissioning plans for both Chinshan BWR units following expiry of the 40-year licence for unit 2 there. The defueling and demolition of the 604 MWe (net) reactors will be over 25 years.
WNN 16/7/19.  Taiwan

Chernobyl to become tourist centre

The Ukrainian President has signed a decree that sets out plans to develop the Chernobyl exclusion zone as a site for tourism, including new walking trails, waterways and enhanced mobile phone reception. The decree represents the start of the 30 km radius exclusion zone's transformation "into one of the growth points of the new Ukraine", with active promotion of Chernobyl as a tourist destination. He said that "We must showcase this place to the world: to scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists." It is “a unique place on the planet where nature revives after a global man-made disaster.” This decree coincides with Ukrainian authorities taking over the new safe confinement built over unit 4 of the power plant, destroyed in the April 1986 accident. It was completed by the Novarka joint venture under the auspices of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The area has been open on a limited basis since 2011 when Chernobyl was declared a tourist attraction, and last year 63,000 people visited. There will be some access to the power plant where units 1-3 are undergoing decommissioning.  Except for a few hotspots and contaminated equipment, radiation levels are not much more than natural background levels. With the residential population of the exclusion zone still low, wildlife has flourished, providing a major attractive feature.

On the same day the decree was announced, a world-leading cancer specialist wrote an article for the The Sydney Morning Herald to counter the fearmongering about Chernobyl which "continues unabated". Gerry Thomas, professor of molecular pathology at Imperial College London, has researched the health effects of the Chernobyl accident for 27 years, and written reviews of the impact of radiation exposure following nuclear accidents. In her article she calls out misguided 'radiophobia' - exaggerated fear of exposure to radiation highlighted by a recent TV series on Chernobyl. She called for “our planet's future to be decided by scientific fact instead of urban myth.” Hence “it's time to ditch the fear campaigns and get behind nuclear power.”
WNN 12/7/19.  Ukraine, Chernobyl accident

Rio Tinto sells Namibian uranium mine to Chinese

Rio Tinto has completed the sale of its 68.6% stake in Rössing, the world's longest-running open pit uranium mine, to China National Uranium Corporation Ltd for an initial payment of $6.5 million plus a contingent payment of up to $100 million. The mine is 70 km inland from the coastal town of Swakopmund in Namibia’s Erongo region. It has been in operation since 1976 and has a nominal capacity of 4000 tU per year, though production since 2010 has averaged less than half that.  It is along strike from the larger Husab mine next door, 90% owned by China’s CGN-Uranium Resources Co and China-Africa Development Fund.
WNN 18/7/19.  Namibia

28 June 2019

New Chinese reactor connected to grid

The second Framatome EPR reactor at Taishan nuclear power plant has been grid-connected after starting up four weeks ago. Its twin unit was connected to the grid in June last year, and is providing 1660 MWe net for China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) in Guangdong province. These are the world’s largest nuclear power reactors, at 1750 MWe gross. Guangdong Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co Ltd is 51% CGN Power Corporation, 30% Electricte de France (EDF) and 19% Guangdong Yuedian Group Co Ltd.

Construction took 110 months, which is comparable with five other first-of-a-kind new-generation western reactors built in China. However it is much better than Finnish and French experience with building the complex French EPR, where construction has been under way for 14 years and 11.5 years respectively, so far. Another EPR commenced construction in UK in December and is due for completion in 2026, with its twin a year behind.
WNN 28/6/19.  China NP

Operating licence for first Russian floating nuclear power plant

Rosenergoatom has received an operating licence for its floating nuclear power plant, Akademik Lomonosov, from the regulator Rostechnadzor. The barge of 21,000 tonnes has two 35 MWe KLT-40S reactors, the version of an icebreaker power plant using low-enriched uranium, hence with a bigger core and shorter refueling interval: 3 to 4.5 years.  Operational life is 40 years. Fuel loading was in Murmansk. The vessel will be towed to Pevek on the north coast of eastern Siberia in August and grid-connected by the end of the year. It will replace the small Bilibino nuclear power plant and the Chaun coal-fired cogeneration plant in the Chukotka Autonomous District.  The plant was built at the Baltiyskiy Zavod shipyard in St Petersburg, with delays due to its insolvency about 2012.

The second generation of floating nuclear power plants, now called Optimised Floating Power Units, will use two RITM-200M reactors derived from those for the latest icebreakers.  These are more powerful, at 50 MWe each, and need refueling only every 10-12 years at a service base, so no onboard used fuel storage is required. The actual reactors are each 1500 tonnes lighter, so the barge is smaller and total displacement is reduced to about 12,000 tonnes. Operational life is 40 years, with possible extension to 60 years.
WNN 27/6/19.  Russia NP

Australian superannuation industry report on electricity future investment

Industry Super Australia, a body which represents union-backed industry superannuation funds, has published a report: Modernising Electricity Sectors - a guide to long-run investment decisions. The very thorough discussion paper demolishes claims that intermittent renewable energy sources are a realistic or affordable long-term option for reliable power, and makes a clear case for nuclear power. While “there is no simple solution to Australia’s energy trilemma right now, this also means there is no reason to exclude any of the major technological contenders considered below from the current or future energy mix,” with nuclear power being a strong option due to assumed CO2 emission constraints.

“It is difficult to see how [various] problems can be resolved without some nuclear in the mix and the principles of optimality, fairness and merit would suggest it should not be discounted.” Comparisons need to take “full costs and capacities into account.”  The limitations of intermittent wind and solar technologies are made clear, and “It is also doubtful whether they are the best means of providing all electricity at current levels of demand.” Also the government needs to design “the long-term investment instruments needed to modernise the energy sector,” including “long-term supply agreements which underpin [electricity] markets.”


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