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

20 November 2020

UK 10-point green plan relies heavily on nuclear power

Among eight technology-based energy possibilities, the UK’s Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution relies substantially on a commitment to develop nuclear power capacity, from large-scale units to small and advanced modular reactors. This is the only component of the plan which is well-proven commercially and capable of scaling up without incurring high costs to overcome intermittent energy supply. Hence nuclear power has a “key role” in deep decarbonisation of electricity. The Plan aims overall to transform the UK economy, deliver jobs and growth and “sets the firm foundations to do just that. The plan brings together ambitious policies and significant new public investment, while seeking to mobilise private investment” to the extent of £42 billion. It “demonstrates the UK’s significant and continuing commitment to tackling greenhouse gas emissions.” An Energy White Paper in December will start to “bring forward ambitious proposals across the economy to cut emissions and secure long-term growth for the whole country.” The UK has committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the Plan is a first attempt to say how this might be achieved, though whether “firm foundations” is a fair description remains to be seen.

Anyway, among £12 billion of government investment to advance the green vision, only $525 million is allocated for nuclear initiatives, beyond the promise to provide development funding for large projects. Up to £385 million will support both small modular reactors and advanced high-temperature reactors for “efficient production of hydrogen and synthetic fuels”.  This modest commitment is despite noting that “83% of the $13.3 trillion of global investment in electricity systems by 2050 could be in zero-carbon technologies” (citing Bloomberg). A big increase in offshore wind power and £500 million for 5 GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 (using CCS) have less obvious merit economically, and several measures express bold hopes for progress on worthwhile fronts. Some £2.8 billion is for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, and up to £1 billion is to develop carbon capture, usage and storage (CCS) for 10 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030, to be stored under the North Sea.
WNN 18 & 19/11/20.      UK

Ontario Power plans small reactor at major site, New Brunswick plans take shape

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has announced it is resuming planning activities for building new nuclear generating capacity at its Darlington site in Ontario, which already has four 881 MWe reactors. However, it is now considering the construction of a small modular reactor (SMR) rather than a large conventional reactor, as previously envisaged and licensed. Darlington is the only site in Canada currently licensed for new nuclear. In 2012, following the acceptance of a thorough environmental assessment, OPG was granted a site preparation licence by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). It was considering either a Westinghouse AP1000 or an Enhanced Candu 6 reactor. OPG has now applied to renew that licence with a view to building a small modular reactor there by 2028 instead. OPG is currently working with three SMR developers – X-energy, Terrestrial Energy, and GE-Hitachi – to select a preferred technology for the site.

In New Brunswick, with provincial government support, Moltex Energy, Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC) and New Brunswick Power have agreed to set up small modular reactor vendor cluster at NB Power’s Point Lepreau site, where a 660 MWe Candu reactor is operating. Moltex is developing Stable Salt Reactor (SSR) technology and plans to build its first 300 MWe SSR-Wasteburner reactor at Point Lepreau. A Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission pre-licensing vendor design review has commenced for this. ARC Canada is developing the ARC-100 small modular reactor, a sodium-cooled 100 MWe fast reactor, and in October 2019 the CNSC completed phase 1 pre-licensing vendor design review of it with a view to building the first one at Point Lepreau.
WNN 16 & 18/11/20.   Canada NP, Small Reactors

13 November 2020

US energy policy under new Administration

US president-elect Joe Biden has published an outline of policies on climate change, including investment in the power sector and innovation. His future administration would "move ambitiously to generate clean, American-made electricity to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035" and "drive dramatic cost reductions in critical clean energy technologies, including battery storage, negative emissions technologies, the next generation of building materials, renewable hydrogen, and advanced nuclear - and rapidly commercialise them, ensuring that those new technologies are made in America".

The 2020 Democratic Party Platform included: “Recognizing the urgent need to decarbonize the power sector, our technology-neutral approach is inclusive of all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.” Also that the U.S. should continue “to leverage the carbon-pollution free energy provided by existing sources like nuclear and hydropower.”  This marked the first time since 1972 that the Party had anything positive about nuclear power in its platform. The previous platform in 2016 was heavily influenced by anti-nuclear ‘environmental’ groups. The change followed two years of bipartisan support for legislation in Congress which aims to restore the USA to a high profile in world nuclear technology and nuclear exports which it had lost since the 1970s.
WNN 9/11/20.   US NP

Construction start for new Chinese reactor

China General Nuclear Power has started construction of Huizhou Taipingling unit 2 in Guangdong province, near Daya Bay.  It is a Hualong One reactor of 1116 MWe net. Unit 1 construction started late in December.
IAEA PRIS &      China NP

Second Leningrad reactor retired

Leningrad unit 2, a first-generation RBMK reactor at Sosnovy Bor in Russia, has been finally shut down after 45 years operation and following the start-up of its new successor, which is now in pilot operation for electricity supply and this week was connected also to the district heat system of Sosnovy Bor.  Nine RBMKs remain in operation at three plants.
WNN 10/11/20.   Russia NP

New IEA report on renewables

The OECD’s International Energy Agency has published a new report on renewable energy sources, with forecasts to 2025. In terms of installed capacity, it shows a steady rise for natural gas, predictably complementing that for wind and solar, though at lower rate. Hydro remains the largest source of renewables supply to 2025, though intermittent wind plus solar are closing the gap by then at just over 400 TWh/yr.  “In most advanced economies, renewables replace coal generation as aging fleets retire” over 2020 to 2025 according to IEA forecast, but without mention of the system costs involved.
World Energy Needs

6 November 2020

First Belarus nuclear power reactor starts operation, Lithuania protests

The first of two reactors at Belarus’ Ostrovets nuclear power plant has been connected to the grid. This is a Russian VVER-1200 unit, the same as that at Leningrad II in Russia. Unit 2 at Ostrovets is about a year behind it. The plant is close to the Lithuanian border, and is to reduce Belarus’ dependence on imported Russian gas. The Ostrovets plant is financed by a state-to-state $10 billion loan from the Russian government.

Lithuania responded to the grid connection by ceasing electricity import from Belarus, in line with its law sanctioning Ostrovets, which is only 55km from Vilnius. It has been importing about 5% of its electricity from Belarus and 45% from Sweden, and exporting some to Poland. Until 2009 Lithuania hosted two Russian RBMK reactors, similar to but larger than those at Chernobyl. The country’s 2012 energy policy involves rebuilding its grid to disengage from the Russian/Belarus system and to work in with the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO) synchronous system, as well as strengthening interconnection with Latvia and Estonia. The three Baltic states are expected to synchronise with the Western European system in 2025.
WNN 4/11/20.   Belarus

Slovakia reactor power uprate

Four Russian VVER 440 reactors operate in Slovakia – at Bohunice and Mochovce. The two at Bohunice, in operation from 1984 & 1985, have been substantially upgraded with gross capacity increasing nearly 15% to 505 MWe. The two at Mochovce were grid connected in 1998 and 1999 and were upgraded in 2008. Now unit 2 has had turbines overhauled and partly replaced to uprate it to over 500 MWe gross and about 470 MWe net. Unit 1 will follow next year.
WNN 18/8/20.      Slovakia

Polish interest in small and micro reactors for industrial heat and power

Synthos Green Energy (SGE) in Poland is a subsidiary of a major European chemical company, and is set up to achieve “deep decarbonisation of the Polish industry and energy sector”. Apart from wind energy, its main focus is on small US nuclear reactors. In August it signed a strategic cooperation agreement with GE Hitachi with a view to using its BWRX-300 reactor in Poland, primarily for electricity in the late 2020s. This has been followed by an agreement with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) for its Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) to generate hydrogen, heat, and power for use in SGE’s chemical plants, replacing coal and natural gas. The MMR is a 15 MWt/ 5 MWe high-temperature gas-cooled reactor at an earlier stage of development than the BWRX-300, which is based on a well-established design.

USNC and SGE have already jointly applied to the Polish Ministry of Development for financing. The goal of the joint project is the development of an economically efficient, zero-emission, high-temperature heat and power source for the carbon-free production of hydrogen on an industrial scale. The efficiency of the cogeneration involved in this process would greatly exceed that of renewable energy sources in low-temperature electrolysis – so-called “green hydrogen”.

USNC’s MMR is planned for full demonstration at the Chalk River site of the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, with the support of Canada's largest nuclear operator, Ontario Power Generation. In Canada, the MMR is intended for off-grid and industrial applications, supplying heat and power for clean and reliable energy at a lower cost than fossil fuels. Hyundai Engineering and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute are partners in development and deployment of the MMR.
WNN 4/11/20.   Poland

30 October 2020

USA strengthens geopolitical nuclear links

Following the lifting of its prohibition on funding nuclear power plants overseas, the US government has announced three significant nuclear cooperation agreements, with Poland, Romania and Bulgaria in eastern Europe, and also extending one with India. Each of these, according to the State Department, “strengthens and expands strategic ties between the United States and a partner country by providing a framework for cooperation on civil nuclear issues and for engagement between experts from government, industry, national laboratories, and academic institutions.” In addition, they are “helping partner countries prepare to take advantage of the advanced nuclear technologies and coming innovations in reactor design and other areas that are being pioneered in the United States” - after three decades of declining US interest. Last year nuclear-related legislation enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress for the first time since the 1970s, and for the first time since 1972 the Democratic Party platform includes positive mention of “existing and advanced nuclear” power.

The July change to US Development and Finance Corporation policy marked a "significant step forward" in US efforts to support the “vast” energy needs of its allies around the world, and to accelerate growth in developing economies that have limited energy resources. It also represents a geopolitical step up to offer at least some competition to Russia, which has numerous nuclear cooperation agreements around the world driven by Rosatom and the Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs (Vnesheconombank). For countries embarking upon nuclear power Rosatom promotes its ability to make an integrated offer for its nuclear power plants abroad, involving not only turnkey construction and fuel, but also training, services, infrastructure development, legal and regulatory structures, etc. in a single package. Such links are very long-term. Russia is preeminent in exporting large reactors, with projects in Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Egypt, Finland, India, Iran, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Hungary either under construction or with planning well advanced.
WNN 24/7/20, 12/10/20, 20/10/20, 29/10/20      US policy

New Russian reactor connected to grid

Leningrad II, unit 2 has been connected to the grid at Sosnovy Bor, joining unit 1 which came on line in March 2018. These represent one of the two similar types of VVER-1200 current-generation Russian reactors. Construction of unit 2 started in April 2010 but several major delays occurred, mostly due to low power demand in the region, but also involving change of main contractors. Gross power is 1170 MWe, net 1085 MWe, and each reactor will also provide 1.05 TJ/h (9.17 PJ/yr) of district heating. Two further reactors are planned for the site so that all four RBMK reactors there, commissioned through to 1981, can be retired. The old unit 2 is due to close next year when this new one is in full commercial operation.

Only two new power reactors are currently under construction in Russia, at Kursk, but Russian contractors are deployed building nine new reactors in Bangladesh, Belarus, India, Iran and Turkey, with all the main plant components coming from Russian factories. Four large new Russian reactors in China will soon start construction with some imported parts but local workforce.
WNN 23/10/20.   Russia NP

Further US reactor power uprates

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a 1.4% power uprate Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 2 reactor. That will add about 16 MWe to it, bringing it to about 1180 MWe net. It is the USA’s newest operating reactor, having come on line in 2016.
WNN 28/10/20.      US NP


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