From WNA Digest: December 2007
Third and fourth full licence applications for new reactors
Dominion with GE Hitachi and Bechtel Corporation has filed a combined construction and operating licence (COL) application for one 1520 MWe ESBWR unit at its North Anna, Virginia plant. This is the first COL for a site with Early Site Permit, which is expected to reduce approval time by eight months. If the COL is approved in 2010, construction could begin that year, with commercial operation in 2015.
Duke Energy then filed a COL application for twin nuclear reactor units at a greenfield site in South Carolina. This is the first COL for a fresh site and the second for the 1100 MWe AP1000 reactor type, which has full design certification already. Commercial operation of the new 2234 MWe Lee plant is envisaged about 2016-18. A dozen more COL applications are expected in 2008.
Dominion 28/11/07, Duke 13/12/07.
US enrichment market open to competition
The USA and Russia have agreed to relax US import restrictions to the extent of specified quantities of low-enriched uranium. These are trivial initially but jump to 485 tonnes enriched U in 2014 after the program importing blended-down Russian military material expires. This is enough to refuel nearly one fifth of present US nuclear plants. By defining uranium enrichment as a service, not a good, a US court last year opened the way to ending years of protection from Russian and EU imports.
US outlook for nuclear strengthens
The US Energy Information Administration's 2008 Outlook reference case expects 20 GWe of newly-built US nuclear capacity on line in 2030, almost half of it supported by production tax credits at the same level as for wind generation. This is 63% above previous estimates. In addition, there is 2700 MWe in nuclear plant uprates, offset by 4300 MWe retirements. Coal-fired capacity increases markedly, by 130 GWe.
AEO2008 Early Release Dec 07.
Congress increases nuclear energy funding
In December, US Congress passed an energy appropriations bill funding key nuclear energy programs totalling more than $970 million and implementing a clean-energy loan guarantee program for new plants. The latter provides $18.5 billion for new nuclear power plants, $2 billion for nuclear fuel cycle facilities, $8 billion for advanced coal-fired facilities and $10 billion for renewable technologies. Nuclear R&D for FY 2008 increased 46%, including two programs sharing costs with industry for development and deployment of new-generation technology.
Accelerated decommissioning in USA
Exelon's Zion 1 & 2 reactors (2 x 1098 MWe) which were closed down in 1998 are to have accelerated decommissioning. Exelon has contracted with a specialist company - EnergySolutions, to remove the plant and return the site to greenfield status. To achieve this, the plant's licence and decommissioning funds will be transferred to EnergySolutions, which will then be owner and licensee, and the site will be returned to Exelon about 2018. As at other plants, used fuel would remain on site until taken to the national repository. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is expected to approve the plan late in 2008.
Nuclear heritage in USA
A US National Parks Service advisory committee has recommended unanimously that the world's first full-scale nuclear reactor be designated a National Historic Landmark. The Hanford B reactor in Washington state produced the plutonium for the first nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II. The graphite-moderated and water-cooled 250 MWt plant was built in less than a year, starting up in September 1944, and operated until 1968. It is open for public tours.
Italy buys into new French nuclear plants
A long-delayed agreement will see ENEL, Italy's largest utility, take a 12.5% stake in Electricité de France's Flamanville-3 reactor. This is a 1650 MWe EPR scheduled to start up at the end of 2011 with commercial operation in May 2012. First concrete has been poured and total cost of the plant including first core is estimated at EUR 3.6 billion. The agreement fulfils a 2005 cooperation agreement and commits ENEL to pay its share of construction and operating costs, as well as decommissioning and waste disposal. ENEL has the option to take a similar share in five future EPRs in France - a total of another 1000 MWe, and gains the right to use EPR technology. In exchange, EdF can participate in construction and operation of future ENEL nuclear power plants in Italy or elsewhere in Europe and the Mediterranean. ENEL's subsidiary Slovenske Elektrarne is building two 1000 MWe VVER reactors at Mochovce in Slovakia.
EdF 30/11 & 4/12/07, ENEL 30/11/07.
Swiss collaboration on new nuclear capacity
Three Swiss energy companies, led by the main nuclear generator NOK, have announced a joint venture called Resun with the purpose of replacing the Beznau and Muhleberg nuclear power plants in 2020. These have three small reactors which started up 1969-71. Resun is to apply for permits late in 2008 to build two identical nuclear power units of up to 1600 MWe at the two sites.
Russia upgrades nuclear establishment
The Federal Council, the upper house of the Russian parliament, has approved the law concerning the formation of Rosatom as a high-level state corporation. The existing Federal Atomic Energy Agency, also called Rosatom, has been handicapped by its relatively low status in the political system. The new Rosatom company would assume many of the roles currently taken by the old agency and will hold shares in AtomEnergoProm and the state enterprises currently owned by the Rosatom agency, enabling much greater coordination of planning and funding. Its director general is appointed by the Russian president.
UK life extension for limping reactors
British Energy has announced a five-year life extension to 2016 for its four Hunterston and Hinkley Point nuclear power reactors, totaling 2435 MWe. In 2006 BE closed these AGRs on account of boiler degradation in the non-nuclear part of the plants. They were restarted in mid 2007 at about 60% capacity and BE intends to increase this to 70%. The life extension to 40 years involved a commitment to spend £90 million - beyond the current £150 million program - to achieve this. A further life extension will be considered in 2013, and is likely if electricity prices stay high.
Russian-Cameco U exploration agreement
Following from previous deals with Tenex, Cameco has signed an agreement with AtomRedMetZoloto (ARMZ), a subsidiary of AtomEnergoProm, which has taken over responsibility for all Russian uranium exploration and mining. ARMZ and Cameco are to create joint venture companies to explore for and mine uranium in both Russia and Canada, starting with identified deposits in northwestern Russia and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Nunavut.
Areva in major China deal
After more than a year of intense negotiation, an EUR 8 billion agreement has been signed with China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC). It involves the sale of two of Areva's 1600 MWe EPR reactors plus 12 years supply of fuel and other services. The reactors will be built as stage 1 of Taishan nuclear power plant, west of Hong Kong, and the first unit is expected in service in 2014. Steam turbines and generators will be purchased separately. In a separate agreement CGNPC will buy 20,000 tonnes of uranium from Areva's UraMin subsidiary in Africa. CGNPC and Areva are also to set up an engineering joint venture for future development of EPR plants in China and perhaps abroad.
At the same time CGNPC signed an agreement with Electricité de France (EdF) to take a 30% share in the customer company - Taishan Nuclear Power Co. which will own and operate the EPRs. EdF said that the two companies intend to study the prospects for further joint development projects in China and internationally.
Areva also signed a general agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to undertake a feasibility study for construction of a used fuel reprocessing plant and MOX plant in China.
Areva 26 & 29/11/07, EdF 26/11/07.
South Korea joins GNEP
South Korea has become the 19th member of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), as a leading country utilising nuclear power and with a strong nuclear research and development program. The only major nuclear nations left outside the scheme now are the UK, Germany, Sweden and India.
South Korean reactor life extension
Kori-1, a 570 MWe PWR and South Korea's first commercial nuclear power reactor, has been granted a ten-year life extension to 2017 (40 years operation) by the Ministry of Science and Technology. Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power requested this in June 2006. Wolsong-1, a 635 MWe Candu type reactor, is the next to be considered for life extension, but considerable refurbishment, including pressure tube replacement, is required.
Central & South Asia, Africa, S. America
Russia delivers fuel for Iran reactor
Atomstroyexport has delivered by air the first of 163 fuel assemblies (plus 17 reserve ones) for the initial core of Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is nearing completion. The fuel is enriched to 3.62% or less and is under full international safeguards. Russia will take it back for reprocessing after it is used. The Russian government had withheld supply as negotiations over Iran's uranium enrichment activities proceeded. Bushehr (1000 MWe) is expected to start up late in 2008.
Political showdown over old research reactor
In December the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) declined to allow a restart of Canada's 50-year old NRU research reactor, operated by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), which supplies much of the world's medical radioisotopes. A five-year licence renewal in mid 2006 had specified certain back-up modifications, which AECL had not fully implemented. Parliament then intervened and passed a bill authorizing the restart. Nevertheless, the government later made it clear that it was dissatisfied with both parties to the dispute, and the Chairman of AECL then resigned. The head of CNSC was relieved of her role soon afterwards, creating widespread concern about political interference in regulatory function.
In addressing the bill to overrule the CNSC for 16 weeks, the Prime Minister said that its inflexibility "will jeopardise the health and safety and lives of tens of thousands of Canadians. It is in the public interest to get this reactor back online and get these medical radioisotopes produced. There is no threat to nuclear safety at all. There is a threat to human life." AECL as owner and operator had told parliament that following substantial work in recent weeks, "NRU is safe to start up and operate in this mode." The remaining upgrade is to be undertaken by March.
WNN 12/12/07, 16/1/08.
Areva proceeds with mine projects
Areva Resources Canada has decided to proceed with developing its Midwest mine in northern Saskatchewan, and to undertake a feasibility study for its Kiggavik project in Nunavut. Subject to final regulatory approval, the $400 million Midwest mine will start production in 2011 at 2200 tU/yr. The Kiggavik project would access three low-grade deposits with the support of local indigenous Inuit people.
Areva RC 3/12/07.
Bruce Power buys into Alberta
The privatised Ontario nuclear utility Bruce Power has bought Energy Alberta, taking over its initiative in establishing a $6.2 billion 2200 MWe nuclear power plant in the north of that province. Bruce Power Alberta will now proceed with a full environmental study for the Peace River site eventually to take two twin-unit Canadian ACR-1000 reactors (1100 MWe each) with a view to start-up in 2017.
Bruce Power 29/11/07.
Canada joins GNEP
Canada has become the 18th member of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) which is developing new nuclear fuel cycle technologies to improve proliferation resistance while increasing recycling and reducing wastes. This brings all major uranium producers into the partnership.
Reactor and service providers prepare for demand
With demand for new nuclear capacity projected to almost double by 2030, reactor vendors and others are preparing to meet specific orders. Areva has said that it hoping to build one third of the new reactors required by then and has already taken on thousands of new employees to prepare for an enlarged role worldwide. Atomstroyexport has said that it is targeting a quarter of the world market for new reactors, while GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse are equally ambitious. GE-Hitachi and Areva have been active in placing orders for large reactor components over the last two years.
Russia and China share insurance
As a symbolic gesture related to historic links, China and Russia have agreed to share nuclear insurance risks at a token level. The Russian nuclear insurance pool is now ten years old and comprises 23 companies covering liability of some $350 million. However it has no reinsurance links apart from Ukraine, despite having ratified the Vienna Convention, while China has well-developed nuclear insurance and plays an active part in international pools.
World reactor changes in last month:
Canada: uprate 3 Bruce B units: 111 MWe net
Korea: Shin Wolsong 1 start const 12/07
From WNA Digest: October - November 2007
Low-profile reactor developments - the small to medium sized plant
With much of the limelight regarding new nuclear power plants being on large advanced reactors, with their economies of scale, the wide scope for smaller plants has received less attention. However, of the 30 or more countries that are moving towards implementing nuclear power programs, most are likely to be looking initially for units under 1000 MWe and some for units of less than half that.
Of course, there are many plants under 1000 MWe now in operation, even if their replacements tend to be larger. But some smaller ones are on offer now or likely to be available in the next few years.
In the 500-700 MWe category there are several, including Westinghouse AP600 with US Design Certification and the Canadian Candu-6, being built in Romania. China is building two CNP-600 units at Qinshan, but does not plan any more of them.
In the 250-500 MWe category (if all output is electric) there are a few designs pending, but nothing immediately on offer.
One that has received some publicity is IRIS, being developed by an international team led by Westinghouse in the USA. IRIS is an advanced 3rd generation modular 335 MWe pressurised water reactor (PWR) with integral steam generators and primary coolant system all within the pressure vessel. US design certification is at pre-application stage with a view to final Design Approval by 2012 and deployment by 2015-2017.
Russia's VBER-300 PWR is a 295-325 MWe unit designed by OKBM from naval power plants and now being developed as a land-based unit with Kazatomprom, with a view to exports. The first two units will be built in southwest Kazakhstan by a Russian-Kazakh joint venture.
Another Russian reactor in this class is the VK-300 boiling water reactor being developed specifically for cogeneration of both power and district heating or heat for desalination (150 MWe plus 1675 GJ/hr) by NIKIET. It has evolved from the VK-50 BWR at Dimitrovgrad, but uses standard components from larger reactors wherever possible. In September 2007 it was announced that six would be built at Kola and at Primorskaya in Russia's far east, to start operating 2017-20.
Technicatome (Areva) in France has developed the NP-300 PWR from submarine power plants and aimed it at export markets for power, heat and desalination. It has passive safety systems and can be built for applications of 100 to 300 MWe.
In the 100-300 MWe category there are a number of designs, both conventional PWR and also high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTR). None of these are being built yet.
Argentina's CAREM being developed by CNEA and INVAP in Argentina as a modular 27 MWe simplified PWR with integral steam generators designed to be used for electricity generation or for water desalination.
On a larger scale South Korea's SMART is a 100 MWe PWR with integral steam generators and advanced safety features. It is designed for generating electricity and/or thermal applications such as seawater desalination.
Then there are three high-temperature gas-cooled reactors capable of being used for power generation but with much of the development impetus being for thermochemical production of hydrogen. The first two have fuel as billiard ball-sized pebbles capable of withstanding very high temperatures, and aim for a step change in safety, economics and proliferation resistance.
China's 200 MWe HTR-PM is based on a well-tested small prototype and a two-module plant is due to start construction at Shidaowan in Shandong province in 2009. It will use the conventional steam cycle to generate power. Start-up is scheduled for 2013. After the demonstration plant a power station with 18 modules is envisaged.
Very similar to this is South Africa's Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) being developed by a consortium led by the utility Eskom. Production units will be 165 MWe. The PBMR will have a direct-cycle gas turbine generator driven by the hot helium. The PBMR Demonstration unit is expected to start construction at Koeberg in 2009 and achieve criticality in 2013.
A US design, the Modular Helium Reactor (GT-MHR), is being developed in Russia and in its electrical application each unit would directly drive a gas turbine giving 280 MWe.
The IRIS developers have outlined the economic case for modular construction of their design (about 330 MWe), and the argument applies similarly to other smaller units. They point out that IRIS with its size and simple design is ideally suited for modular construction. The economy of scale is replaced here with the economy of serial production of many small and simple components and prefabricated sections. They expect that construction of the first IRIS unit will be completed in three years, with subsequent reduction to only two years.
Site layouts have been developed with multiple single units or multiple twin units. In each case, units will be constructed so that there is physical separation sufficient to allow construction of the next unit while the previous one is operating and generating revenue. In spite of this separation, the plant footprint can be very compact so that a site with three IRIS single modules providing 1000 MWe is similar or smaller in size than one with a comparable total power single unit.
Eventually IRIS is expected to have a capital cost and production cost comparable with larger plants. But any small unit such as this will potentially have a funding profile and flexibility otherwise impossible with larger plants. As one module is finished and starts producing electricity, it will generate positive cash flow for the next module to be built. Westinghouse estimates that 1000 MWe delivered by three IRIS units built at three year intervals financed at 10% for ten years require a maximum negative cash flow less than $700 million (compared with about three times that for a single 1000 MWe unit). For developed countries small modular units offer the opportunity of building as necessary, for developing countries it may be the only option, because their electric grids cannot take 1000+ MWe single units.
One of the aspects of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership program is international deployment of appropriately sized reactors having desirable design and operational characteristics such as improved economics, greater safety margins, longer operating cycles with refueling intervals of up to three years, better proliferation resistance, and sustainability. Several of the above designs are likely to qualify.
IRIS itself is being developed by an international team of 20 organizations from ten countries (Brazil, Croatia, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Russia, Spain, UK, USA), on four continents. This is also an indication of how reactor development is proceeding.
First full US licence applications for new plants
NRG Energy and South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company have filed the first full application for a construction and operating licence (COL) for a new nuclear power plant. The application with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is for two 1358 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactors to come on line in 2014-15 at the South Texas site, which already has two operating reactors. The ABWR was given final design certification by NRC in 1997 and four of them have been operating in Japan. A partial COL application was lodged by Unistar Nuclear Energy for a 1600 MWe US EPR at Calvert Cliffs, Maryland, in July.
A month later Tennessee Valley Authority lodged a COL application for two new nuclear reactors at its Bellefonte site in Alabama. It has applied as part of the NuStart consortium and this will be the reference application for the 1100 MWe Westinghouse AP1000 design, which was given design certification by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2005 and is being built in China. NuStart is also helping Dominion prepare the reference COL application for the GE-Hitachi ESBWR design to be built at North Anna, Va.
Three more COL applications are expected by the end of the year, and many more in 2008.
NRG 24/9/07, WNN 26/7/07, TVA 30/10/07.
Third Early Site Permit in USA
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved an Early Site Permit for Dominion's North Anna site in Virginia. This confirms in principle that the site - with two large pressurised water reactors already - is suitable for new nuclear power construction. An application to build a GE-Hitachi ESBWR reactor of 1550 MWe there is expected by end of the year.
Utility support for laser enrichment
The two largest US nuclear utilities, Exelon and Entergy, have signed letters of intent to contract for uranium enrichment services from GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH). The utilities may also provide GEH with facility licensing and public acceptance support if needed for development of a commercial-scale Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) plant, which the NRC expects an application for by October 2008. GEH is developing the Australian SILEX technology, now known as GLE, in the USA and has begun preparing a GLE test loop at Global Nuclear Fuel's Wilmington, North Carolina fuel fabrication facility. GNF is a partnership of GE, Toshiba, and Hitachi. Before moving ahead with full-scale production plans, GEH will first evaluate results of the testing, select a location for the proposed commercial plant and obtain a license to build and operate it. Site selection and commercial licensing are now under way with a view to start-up date of 2012, with capacity of 3.5 to 6 million separative work units (SWU).
GEH 3/10/07, Silex 4/10/07.
GE reactor design gets green tick
General Electric's ESBWR advanced nuclear reactor design has received "ecomagination" certification, joining a broad range of products and services independently certified as ecologically and economically sound, including wind, solar, and coal gasification technologies. Each of the "green" energy technologies was assessed by GreenOrder, an environmental consulting firm based in New York specialising in sustainable business practices. The criteria were both environmental and technical, and the process took two years - to align with timing for final design submission to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. It corresponds to independently-certified Environmental Product Declarations in Sweden and product stewardship endeavours more widely as an industry initiative making the running in providing environmental solutions. GE launched "ecomagination" in 2005 to express its corporate commitment to cleaner energy technologies. The 1520 MWe ESBWR is the first nuclear product to be certified thus.
GE 12/11/07, Fortune 28/6/07.
US Academies urge moderation on GNEP The National Research Council of the National Academies has urged the US government to focus on building new third-generation reactors rather than being too ambitious in accelerating development of reprocessing and fast reactor facilities under the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). However, it does support the move to a closed fuel cycle. Their study was sponsored by the Department of Energy to evaluate and prioritise GNEP, near-term reactor deployment, Generation IV reactor development, the Nuclear Hydrogen program and the Idaho National Laboratory.
The report said that while R&D on reprocessing should continue, DOE should not commit to major demonstration or deployment of the technology until or unless there is clear reason to do so. Progress on the more immediate task of deploying new reactors in the USA has been slow, and this needs to be addressed with better funding. Generation IV reactors and the follow-on into nuclear hydrogen production also needed fuller funding.
National Academies 29/10/07.
Contract for new GNEP technology
The US Department of Energy has awarded $16 million to four industry consortia for studies to progress the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). The largest share of this, $5.6 million, went to the International Nuclear Recycling Alliance (INRA) led by Areva and including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI), Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL), Battelle, BWX Technologies and Washington Group International. INRA was contracted to provide three major studies: technology development roadmaps analyzing the technology needed to achieve GNEP goals, business plans for the development and commercialization of the advanced GNEP technologies and facilities, and conceptual design studies for the fuel recycling centre and advanced recycling reactor. Areva and JNFL will focus on the reprocessing plant which will not separate pure plutonium, and MHI on the fast reactor which will burn actinides. These are the two main technological innovations involved with GNEP. INRA appears to have materialized out of September agreement between Areva and JNFL to collaborate on reprocessing.
US loan guarantees approved
The US Department of Energy has announced that it will guarantee the full amount of loans covering up to 80% of the cost of new clean energy projects including advanced nuclear power plants under the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The first round of loan guarantees will go to renewable energy and advanced gas (eg IGCC) projects, those for nuclear still need to be authorised by Congress.
$45 billion Texas utility acquisition completed
The private equity buyout of TXU Corporation has been completed. TXU is now Energy Future Holdings Corp which will become three operations: TXU Energy for retail, Luminant for power generation and Oncor for transmission and distribution. Luminant will take over plans to build two new 1700 MWe Mitsubishi US-APWR reactors at Comanche Peak in Texas and possibly others as well. A construction and operating licence (COL) application is expected to be lodged for these in July. Plans for eight coal-fired plants were scrapped earlier in the year. Environment groups have supported the buyout with its changed policies, and a new director who is chairman of one such group "will lead the effort to make climate stewardship central to corporate policies".
US private equity proposal for nuclear plant
A new private equity group - Transition Power Developments - is proposing to spend $100 million obtaining a licence to build a 1500 MWe nuclear plant in Utah. It has contracted for 37 GL/yr water rights, comfortably more than necessary for cooling it, from Lake Powell.
US uranium mining developments
While many closed and abandoned US uranium mines are being reopened, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has received its first application since 1988 to open a new mine. Energy Metals Corp, now owned by Uranium One, plans to bring the small Moore Ranch ISL mine in Wyoming into production in 2009.
Texas-based Uranium Resources Inc has agreed to buy Rio Algom Mining, with uranium properties and a licensed mill site plus water rights at Ambrosia Lake in New Mexico, where it plans to construct a new hard rock mill to serve the Grants mineral belt. URI will have some 43,000 tU resources in New Mexico. Vendor BHP Billiton will be paid $110 million plus $16.5 million contingent upon regulatory approval.
Platts 4/10/07, WNN 15/10/07.
US oil-gas group urges nuclear development
The National Petroleum Council (which advises the US Secretary of Energy) has said that all economic forms of energy will be needed in the USA and in particular nuclear power will need to play an expanded role if constraints are applied to CO2 emissions. It called for $2 billion in funding over the next ten years for demonstration of advanced nuclear facilities and notes that "maintaining a viable nuclear energy option will increase policy choices in future carbon-constrained circumstances."
Nuclear energy agreed "indispensable" in EU
Members of the European Parliament have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a report stating that nuclear energy is indispensable if the EU is to meet its basic energy needs in the medium term. It is the Parliament's first explicit endorsement of nuclear power as Europe's largest carbon-free energy source, providing one third of the electricity. There were 509 votes for and only 153 against the resolution, in the context of Europe relying on imports for some two thirds of its total energy needs to 2030. Any "renunciation of nuclear power will make it impossible to achieve the objectives set regarding reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the combating of climate change".
In November a cross-party group of 56 Members of the European Parliament signed a declaration supporting the central role of nuclear power, complemented by other low-carbon technologies, in the EU's future energy economy. It called for "the optimal use of existing nuclear capacity and the building of new power plants to help meet future energy demand." Nuclear had a key role in meeting "the combined challenges of security of supply, CO2 reductions and delivery of electricity at competitive prices."
Earlier, the head of the European Commission's (EC) Transport and Energy directorate said that nuclear power will be a key part of the future energy mix if the EU's ambitious 2020 carbon dioxide reduction targets are to be met. Departing from the traditional EC reticence on nuclear power, he described nuclear as one of three legs - along with "clean" fossil fuels and eventually carbon sequestration and storage - supporting future CO2-free energy production in the EU. Renewable energy use alone would struggle to help reduce carbon emissions, while carbon capture and storage would not be viable in time to help meet emissions reduction targets, and would be very expensive. Other high-ranking EU commissioners have recently spoken out in favour of nuclear energy. The EU Emissions Trading Scheme for carbon dioxide is now trading December 2008 allowances at over EUR22 per tonne, which translates into a cost burden on coal-fired plant of more than 2 cents/kWh.
WNN 9 & 25/10/07, Foratom 22/11/07.
Russian nuclear-aluminium smelter plan
The world's biggest aluminium smelter is planned for Russia's Saratov region, complete with two new nuclear reactors to power it, in a $7 billion project. The existing Balakovo nuclear power plant of four 950 MWe reactors would be expanded with two more, serving a 1.05 million tonne per year aluminium smelter to be built nearby. This would require about 15 billion kWh/yr - a little over one third of the output of the expanded power plant. Aluminium smelting is energy-intensive and requires reliable low-cost electricity to be competitive. Increasingly it is also carbon-constrained - this smelter will emit about 1.7 million tonnes of CO2 per year just from anode consumption.
Rusal has announced an agreement with the regional government which will become effective when the nuclear plant expansion is approved by Rosatom. Balakovo units 5 & 6 have been listed as prospective for some time but were dropped off the latest Rosatom plan for completing 26 new power reactors by 2020 as they are low priority for UES grid supply. Balakovo is on the Volga River, 800 km SE of Moscow.
Russian plutonium disposition confirmed
New Romanian reactor in commercial operation
The USA and Russia have signed an agreement confirming plans for disposition of 34 tonnes of Russian weapons plutonium as mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for two fast reactors at Beloyarsk. Setting this project up, notably the fuel fabrication plant required, will be funded by $400 million from USA. Also the two countries will continue cooperation on a US high-temperature gas-cooled reactor design which has potential for burning plutonium.
Cernavoda unit 2 has entered commercial operation, being handed over by its multinational project team. Final bids for completing units 3 & 4 at the plant are due later in October.
Finnish industry clubs together in nuclear proposal
The ownership base of Fennovoima has expanded from five to over 60 as electricity consumers seek to insure against future energy cost blowouts. All co-owners will be entitled to a pro-rata share of output at cost from the proposed new nuclear power plant and will not have to buy in a wholesale market influenced by future gas prices.
Fennovoima shares are now held 66% by 62 industry, trade, service and regional energy companies, and 34% by EOn. Industry heavyweights Outokumpu and Boliden were among the founders of the joint venture which aims to construct a large nuclear plant to begin operation about 2016. Environmental impact assessments are being conducted at three possible sites.
Italy joins GNEP
Italy has become the 17th member of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) which is developing new nuclear fuel cycle technologies to improve proliferation resistance while increasing recycling and reducing wastes.
As the world's largest net importer of electricity, most of it nuclear power from France which contributes significantly to EdF's profit, Italy has had much incentive to reconsider its hasty decision in 1987 to phase out nuclear power. Its power is the most expensive in any industrialised country, at EUR 14c/kWh wholesale. Its main electric utility ENEL has meanwhile taken a major role in nuclear power development elsewhere in Europe, and an earlier agreement for it to take 200 MWe (12%) of the output from EdF's new Flamanville nuclear plant in France is being revived. A wide range of political opinion now supports rebuilding the country's domestic nuclear capacity.
WNN 30/10/07, DOE 13/11/07.
EU forum to develop nuclear role
Continuing a series of initiatives consolidating the central role of nuclear power in the EU, a new organization to focus and guide EU nuclear research and technology development has been launched by the European Commission with wide stakeholder representation. The Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNETP) will produce a strategic research agenda and a deployment strategy extending from current reactors to Generations IV types including fast reactors and advanced fuel cycles. High-temperature industrial heat applications such as hydrogen production are also included. Establishment of SNETP acknowledges the key role of nuclear energy in the EU's future, economically, environmentally and for energy security.
WNN 24/9/07, Foratom 24/9/07, www.snetp.eu
Japan to develop its own advanced reactors
Despite being a member of the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), Japan's government with industry and utilities is taking the initiative in developing new light water reactor designs for deployment about 2020. These will have at least 5% enriched fuel and an 80-year operating life. The project is expected to cost $520 million over eight years to develop one BWR and one PWR design, each of 1700-1800 MWe.
Japan starts up vitrification plant
Active testing has commenced at the new Rokkasho vitrification plant, with separated high-level wastes being combined with borosilicate glass. The plant takes wastes from the adjacent reprocessing plant, after uranium and plutonium are recovered from used fuel for recycle, leaving 3% of the used fuel as high-level radioactive waste. Hitherto, reprocessing and associated activities for Japanese utilities have been undertaken on contract in Europe.
INES rating for 'quaked Japan plants
Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has released its assessment of the safety significance of earthquake damage to the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant in July. The worst of the damage rated zero on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), having no safety significance. Other damage was deemed not relevant to nuclear safety. The seven main reactor units themselves are still being checked, but so far appear undamaged.
China signs for two more Russian reactors
Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation (50% owned by CNNC) has signed an agreement with Russia's Atomstroyexport for the construction of Tianwan units 3 & 4. These will be 1060 MWe AES-91 reactors (VVER-1000), the same as units 1 & 2 which are now in commercial operation. A preliminary agreement for them was in October 2006 as phase 2 at Tianwan (Lianyungang) in Jiangsu province.
China plan to boost new reactors
China expects large numbers of third-generation PWR reactors derived from foreign technology to be built from about 2016, after experience is gained with the initial Sanmen and Haiyang AP1000 plants. A report now suggests that the Westinghouse AP1000 will be boosted in power, as Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research & Design Institute (SNERDI) takes over much of the design work. The agreement with Westinghouse is for the company to transfer technology over the first four units so that the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) can build the following ones on its own. However, it would not be able to export the units unless the design was substantially modified by SNERDI.
Nucleonics Week 18/10/07.
East Asia summit affirms nuclear power
Leaders of 16 Asian nations including China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia have pledged firm action on climate change, supporting initiatives under UN auspices. They also agreed to cooperate on the "development of civilian nuclear power" in line with international safeguards and standards.
CENTRAL & SOUTH ASIA, AFRICA, S. AMERICA
China-Kazakh links strengthened
In September two agreements were signed in Beijing between Kazatomprom and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC) on Chinese participation in Kazakh uranium mining joint ventures and on Kazatomprom investment in China's nuclear power industry. These came in the context of an earlier strategic cooperation agreement and one on uranium supply and fuel fabrication. This is a major strategic arrangement for both companies, with Kazatomprom to become the main uranium and nuclear fuel supplier to CGNPC (accounting for a large share of the new reactors being built in China). A framework strategic cooperation agreement was then signed with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).
Kazakh acid problems impact production
A fire at a sulfuric acid production plant has led to shortages in Kazakhstan, and due to the delayed start-up of a new plant, rationing is expected to continue until at least mid 2008. Extra supplies are being sought from Uzbekistan now, and from Russia in 2008. KazAtomProm said the supply situation should be improved by the end of the year but uranium production forecasts into 2008 are affected. Uranium One has revised its 2008 production downwards by 1080 tU, which it says is "primarily due to the acid shortage" for its South Inkai and Kharasan projects (70% and 30% owned respectively) which are just starting up. It anticipates that the shortage may be resolved "in the latter half of 2008".
A new 1.2 million t/yr Canadian acid plant feeding from the Kazakhmys copper smelter in Balkhash is expected to start production in May 2008, financed by an EBRD loan to abate sulfur dioxide emissions from copper smelting. Another new acid plant of 0.5 million t/yr capacity is now to be built at Zhanakorgan, next to the Kharasan mines in the Western (#6) mining group region, to serve those mines. It will burn 170,000 t/yr of solid sulfur derived from oil and gas production by Tengizhevroil and will support 5000 tU/yr production from 2010. Due to relatively high levels of carbonate in the orebodies, Kazakh in situ leach (ISL) mining uses very much more acid per unit of production that that in Australia - 70-80 kg acid/kgU (comprising 15-20% of the operating expense), compared with Beverley at around 3 kg/kgU.
Uranium One 30/10/07, Kazatomprom 2, 13 & 15/11/07, WNN 2/11/07, UEL.
Japan embarks on Uzbek venture
Japan has secured a foothold in Uzbekistan with a view to obtaining supplies of its uranium. Uzbekistan has about 2% of the world's known uranium resources and currently markets its production (2260 tU in 2006, from ISL mining) through Nukem. In September 2006 a Japan-Uzbek intergovernmental agreement was aimed at financing Uzbek uranium development and now Itochu Corporation has agreed with Navoi Mining to develop technology to mine and mill the black shales, particularly the Rudnoye deposit, and to take about 300 tU/yr from 2007. A 50-50 joint venture is envisaged.
Ux weekly 21/10/07.
Indian trade deal revived
After blocking progress for some time, India's communist parties have approved the government starting talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on a specific comprehensive safeguards agreement to cover 14 reactors. This is necessary for the proposed civilian nuclear power deal with the USA to proceed. The move has revived hopes for the bilateral deal. The communist parties - one as coalition partner - have opposed the bilateral on the grounds that its conditions would give the USA influence over Indian foreign policy, and had threatened to withdraw support from the coalition government if it were to proceed. IAEA talks are now under way.
Failure to complete the civilian nuclear agreement between the USA and India, allowing India into the mainstream of global nuclear commerce, would dampen India's expansion of nuclear power and increase the reliance on coal to meet its 6.3% annual growth in electricity demand. Reaching the 2020 target of 20 GWe of nuclear capacity is likely unattainable, or at least unsustainable, without imported uranium. WNN 19/11/07, IAEA 21/11/07.
Olympic Dam uranium resource boost
In the course of identifying a 77% increase in mineral resources, BHP Billiton has defined a 27% increase in uranium resources, to 2.24 million tonnes of uranium oxide (1.9 MtU) at the Olympic Dam mine in South Australia. Known copper has increased 38% to 67 million tonnes. The new figures are based on 2095 km of drilling over the last two years and confirm the deposit as the world's largest for uranium. It covers an area of over 6 km by 3.5 km, is up to 2 km deep and remains open laterally and at depth as the drilling program continues. A preliminary feasibility study on tripling production is due for completion in 2008, giving 15,000 tonnes per year of uranium oxide (12,700 tU) - 2006-07 production was 3474 t U3O8 (2946 tU).
BHPB Annual Report 27/9/07.
Ranger mine life extended
Energy Resources of Australia has announced that the mine life of the Ranger pit will be extended to 2012 in a A$ 57 million project. Ore reserves will be increased slightly, by 4857 tonnes U3O8. Processing will extend to 2020, as before.
Australian uranium resources updated
Geoscience Australia has released its annual update of Australia's Identified Mineral Resources, confirming large increases for uranium above 2005 Red Book figures - 34% for the main economic resource categories. Australia's Economically Demonstrated Resources (EDR = Reasonably Assured Resources to $80/kgU) of uranium at the end of 2006 were 714,000 tonnes (tU), but during this year, exploration and development drilling resulted in increases at several locations to 953,000 tU total. If Inferred Resources are added, the total comes to 1.53 million tonnes recoverable at less than US$ 80/kgU, as of August 2007. This compares with the 2005 Red Book figure of 1.143 million tU at end of 2004.
Australia had 27% of the world's uranium (RAR to $80/kgU) at end of 2006. (No estimate is possible for August 2007 in the absence of corresponding data internationally.)
About 96% of Australia's EDR are within six deposits: Olympic Dam (the world's largest known uranium deposit), Ranger, Jabiluka, Koongarra, Kintyre and Yeelirrie.
The new report makes a distinction between EDR and Accessible EDR, to reflect the fact that state government policies in Queensland and Western Australia plus aboriginal policies in the Northern Territory currently make 21% of the EDR inaccessible for mining. Despite these restrictive policies and perhaps in anticipation of their disappearance, uranium exploration gathered pace during 2006, with more than 200 companies professing an interest, compared with 34 the previous year. Expenditure almost doubled, to A$ 80.7 million and has continued to increase since, to A$ 114 million in 2006-07.
Australia's Identified Mineral Resources 2007. (Red Book is: OECD NEA & IAEA, Uranium 2005: Resources, Production and Demand)
Election maintains positive uranium outlook
The change of government in Australia to the Australian Labor Party is not expected to change the country's uranium mining and exploration policies, or investment climate for uranium. Two states remain opposed to uranium mining, and the Labor Party in government, having made a very significant change in its stance on uranium mining, will now be under pressure to deliver the promises that are, in effect, contained in the new policy, ie uranium mining in all States.
Australia triples clean energy target
In a move that asserts politics over policy, the Australian government announced a new Clean Energy Target for power generation of 30,000 GWh from low-emission sources by 2020, effectively tripling the 9500 GWh Mandated Renewable Energy Target (MRET). MRET excludes large hydro and is now within reach, borne by consumer subsidy. This new policy would broaden the technology options to any that produce less than 200 grams of CO2 per kWh, including nuclear power and carbon capture & storage (CCS) from coal burning, though neither is likely to be contributing by 2020. The Labor Party then trumped this by increasing the MRET to 45,000 GWh per year by 2020, to effect its 20% from renewables by 2020 target. (Currently some 16,000 GWh is supplied by large hydro and about 4270 GWh by wind, solar and other means qualifying for certification under MRET.)
At present some 80% of electricity is from burning black coal and lignite, making Australians the world's worst polluters from power generation. A Washington thinktank, the Centre for Global Development, quoted Australian annual CO2 power sector emissions as 11 tonnes per head, followed by the USA on 9 tonnes.
However, the pre-election decisions are contrary to the recommendations of the government's Emissions Trading Taskforce, and the Business Council of Australia also pointed to the need for an effective economic instrument such as emissions trading, rather than more and ongoing subsidies. The Energy Supply Association said that a national emissions trading scheme was needed and the new target did nothing to address the critical question of reducing emissions from base-load power, and would simply promote more wind capacity which would raise costs for consumers.
PM 23/9/07, ESAA 23/9/07, Australian 29/9/07, ALP 30/10/07.
World Energy Outlook surges The OECD International Energy Agency's annual World Energy Outlook has highlighted the global challenge of energy demand growth in China and India through to 2030. In particular, "the resurgence of coal, driven primarily by power-sector demand in China and India" due to its price competitiveness, will boost world CO2 emissions. Four fifths of the increase in coal use to 2030 will be in those two countries. China needs to build 1300 GWe of generating capacity, which will absorb three quarters of the projected $3700 billion energy infrastructure outlay. India will nearly triple its coal use by 2030, mostly for electricity, as access to electricity rises from 62% to 96% of the population.
The report said that government action in line with policy rhetoric must focus on curbing the rapid growth in CO2 emissions from power generation, through energy efficiency and conservation plus a major contribution from nuclear power and also renewables. Carbon capture and storage is a longer term prospect. There needs to be much more IEA (OECD) policy cooperation with China and India, for mutual benefit.
The International Atomic Energy Agency has also released its electricity projections to 2030. The main scenario adds "reasonable and promising" nuclear power plans to what is extant or being built, less retirements, giving 691 GWe in 2030 (cf 372 GWe now), producing 5141 TWh then - almost twice present output.
IAEA 23/10/07, IEA 7/11/07.
Toshiba to push mini reactor
Using its Westinghouse subsidiary as liaison with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), Toshiba is pushing forward with plans to licence its small 4S nuclear power reactor. This is a 10 MWe unit designed for remote communities and is now likely to be submitted for design certification in 2009. This would allow a construction and operating licence application about 2012 from a town such as Galena in Alaska, which has been considering it for some time. The life of the reactor and its fuel is 30 years, and it requires virtually no operator input over this time. Further pre-application meetings with NRC are scheduled in the next few months.
The 4S is a fast reactor using sodium as coolant (with electromagnetic pumps) and has passive safety features, notably negative temperature and void reactivity. The whole unit would be factory-built, transported to site, installed below ground level, and would drive a steam cycle. Steady power output over the core lifetime is achieved by progressively moving upwards an annular reflector around the slender core (0.68m diameter, 2m high) at one millimetre per week.
Nucleonics Week 25/10/07.
UN climate change resolve increases
A UN meeting in New York of 150 nations, 80 of them represented by their head of state or government, has firmed the international resolve to work out practical measures to counter climate change. The summit was chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The Summary for Policy Makers from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes nuclear power as a currently available commercial climate change mitigation technology, and advanced nuclear power as an option before 2030. Overall, the IPCC reports greater confidence that the effects of global warming are evident and serious, and that action is needed to limit the consequences of future climate change. The component reports were published earlier in 2007.
A two-week meeting in Bali in December will address what measures are to apply post 2012 under the UNFCCC Kyoto Protocol.
Privatisation and Financial Collapse in the Nuclear Industry - the origins and causes of the British Energy crisis of 2002, by Simon Taylor, 2007, Routledge, 258pp, £80, ISBN 0-415-43175-1
Considering the task of collecting widely scattered background information, particularly that in peoples' memories, this book is a fine piece of research. It describes the evolution of nuclear power generation in the UK, from Calder Hall in the late 1940s and early 1950s to 2006. The lessons from the rise and fall of British Energy(BE) are of particular interest today as the UK considers a new programme of nuclear build.
The history of nuclear generation management in the UK I see in three stages:
1 - Bureaucratic, but coupled with technical understanding, under the CEGB
2 - Technically-knowledgeable and dedicated management, under John Collier, in Nuclear Electric and the early days of British Energy
3 - Non-technical management, seeing only the opportunity for short term profit, with no understanding of the need to technically maintain the assets and the skill base of the business, which consequently led to massive shareholder losses.
The fourth stage is here today, as BE's management struggles to maintain economic targets in the face of evolving ageing difficulties with the AGR reactor fleet, and at the same time seeks partnership with foreign companies in new nuclear build.
The book draws out many lessons to be learned from the UK nuclear story compared with those of other countries. Not the least of these is the need for capable engineers, who understand the nuclear technology, to have a strong voice at Board level in nuclear operating companies.
Bob Hawley, Vice-Chancellor, World Nuclear University and former CEO of British Energy.
Cooling nuclear plants
In Australia 80% of electricity is produced from coal-fired plants, mostly located on coalfields and cooled by evaporating water in cooling towers. About 12% is produced by burning gas. For evaporative cooling, 2.0 to 2.5 litres of fresh water per kWh is required.
An estimated 70% of Australia's 255 billion kWh per year is produced at a water cost of say 2.25 litres/kWh, which means that 400 gigalitres per year is transferred to the atmosphere. This is approximately Melbourne's current (restricted) water usage.
If that amount of power were produced instead by nuclear plants, which would be on the coast (or any other thermal plants using seawater cooling), then it would free up the equivalent of Melbourne's water supply for other uses.
World reactor changes in last two months:
Romania: Cernavoda 2 - 655 MWe commercial
Korea: Shin Kori 2 - 950 MWe construction start June 07
From WNA Digest: August - September 2007
Global Nuclear Energy Partnership spreads its wings
The Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) has expanded from its core five members - USA, China, France, Japan and Russia to take in 11 more countries including Australia and Kazakhstan. These have all signed the Statement of Principles which incorporates seven objectives touching on each element of GNEP and establishes broad guidelines for participation. This document is the foundation for all future involvement in the partnership - probably including Canada, South Africa, South Korea and UK. While it talks about "creating a viable alternative to acquisition of sensitive fuel cycle technologies" it does not preclude signatories building such facilities. The emphasis has shifted from requiring most countries to renounce sensitive technologies to simply dissuading them.
GNEP aims to improve the proliferation-resistance of the nuclear fuel cycle while providing some kind of guaranteed access to fuel supplies. It proposes that both uranium enrichment and reprocessing of used fuel be carried out in a limited number of "fuel cycle countries", with the long-lived 'waste' components recycled and the remainder disposed of in those fuel cycle countries or in the user countries.
This agenda involves both political and technological initiatives, the latter mainly in relation to reprocessing which does not separate plutonium and which enables all actinides (long-lived transuranic elements) to be burned in fast reactors, thereby reducing waste management demands. GNEP aims to work closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency and avoid duplication of effort.
GNEP creates a framework where states that currently employ reprocessing technologies can collaborate to design and deploy advanced separation and fuel fabrication techniques that do not result in any accumulation of separated pure plutonium. Variants of the traditional Purex process which keep the plutonium either with some uranium or with other transuranics (minor actinides) are well advanced in both the USA and France.
The second main technological development envisaged under GNEP is the advanced recycling reactor - basically a fast reactor capable of burning minor actinides. Thus used fuel from light water reactors would be reprocessed at a recycling centre and the transuranic product transferred to a fast reactor on site which both produces some 1000 MWe of power and incinerates the actinides.
Another issue addressed by GNEP is the cost to develop and expand nuclear power. For developing nations seeking to make use of nuclear power for electricity generation, costs for establishing nuclear technology initially, including high capital costs and inefficiencies in the fuel cycle, make it less attractive then more traditional technologies.
Finally, GNEP is concerned to foster the development of "grid-appropriate reactors", ie smaller units (perhaps 50-350 MWe) for electricity grids of up to 3 GWe. These should incorporate advanced features including safety, simplicity of operation, long-life fuel loads, intrinsic proliferation-resistance and security. The Westinghouse Iris design is instanced.
Under any scenario, the USA and others will require waste repositories, though recycling will substantially reduce the amount of waste destined for disposal. For the US Yucca Mountain repository, the reprocessing-recycling approach with burning of actinides and perhaps also some long-lived fission products means that the effective capacity of the repository is increased by a factor of 50 or more. This is due to decreased radiotoxicity and heat loads, as well as reducing greatly the ultimate volume of waste requiring disposal.
GNEP envisages the development of comprehensive fuel services, including such options as fuel leasing, to begin addressing the challenges of reliable fuel supply while maximizing non-proliferation benefits. The establishment of comprehensive and reliable fuel services, including spent fuel disposition options, will create an all-encompassing approach to nuclear power for nations seeking the benefits of it without the need to establish indigenous fuel cycle facilities. It is through enabling such a framework that GNEP makes its primary contribution to reducing proliferation risk.
As more countries consider nuclear power, it is important that they develop the infrastructure capabilities necessary for such an undertaking. The USA is working with the IAEA to provide guidance for assessing countries' infrastructure needs and for helping to meet those needs. It is ready to help countries interested in expanding the use of nuclear energy to achieve responsible implementation and management. For countries that have no existing nuclear power infrastructure, GNEP partners can share knowledge and experience to enable developing countries to make informed policy decisions on whether, when, and how to pursue nuclear power.
TVA decision to complete new reactor
Following a $20 million feasibility study, the Tennessee Valley Authority has decided to complete unit 2 of its Watts Bar nuclear power plant in Tennessee. The 1180 MWe reactor is expected to come on line in 2013 at a cost of $2.49 billion. Construction was suspended in 1985 and will resume next year under a still-valid permit. Its twin started operation in 1996. Completing Watts Bar 2 will be the fastest and cheapest way of bringing new capacity on line, and will provide power at 4.4 c/kWh, 20-25% less than coal-fired or new nuclear alternatives and 43% less than natural gas.
TVA 1/8/07, Bloomberg 1/8/07.
Construction start on new MOX plant
After some delays, construction of the US plant to turn weapons-grade plutonium into civil nuclear reactor fuel has commenced. The Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant is being built by Shaw Areva MOX Services for the National Nuclear Security Administration at Savannah River, South Carolina. From 2016 it will mix at least 34 tonnes of fairly pure plutonium-239 with depleted uranium to make MOX fuel, thereby removing the material for about 8500 nuclear warheads and fulfilling an obligation under a US-Russia accord signed in 2000. The plutonium will make about 1700 MOX fuel assemblies and be equivalent to about 6000 tonnes of natural uranium. (Most MOX is made from fresh reactor-grade plutonium comprising about one third non-fissile isotopes.)
The high cost of the plant - $3.5 billion plus $1.3 billion contingency and $183 million per year to operate - is justified on non-proliferation grounds. Annual cost will be offset by revenue. Russia is to proceed similarly with another 34 t of weapons-grade plutonium.
NNSA 1 & 7/8/07.
Texas utility signs for new reactors
NRG Energy and its 44% owned South Texas Project (STP) Nuclear Operating company have signed a project services agreement with Toshiba Corp. for support in preparing to build two new nuclear power reactors. STP 3 & 4 will be 1350 MWe GE-Hitachi Advanced Boiling Water Reactors such as have been operating in Japan for ten years. While Toshiba today owns a rival supplier, it has much experience with these and will contribute design, engineering, construction and procurement expertise. It is not yet clear what role GE-Hitachi will play in the project. NRG has also ordered heavy components for the plant, including the first reactor pressure vessel, and other heavy components will be ordered in 2008.
NRG Energy 9/7/07, Nucleonics Week 23/8/07.
US reactor development gets French boost
Constellation Energy and Electricité de France (EdF) have announced a major joint venture to progress plans for a fleet of the US version of Areva's EPR advanced reactor in the USA and Canada. UniStar Nuclear Energy (UNE) started in 2005 as a joint project of Areva (based in France) and Constellation Energy to develop a business framework for building at least four of Areva's advanced US-EPR nuclear units in North America. The US design certification process was commenced with Areva's help. Bechtel Power Corporation supported UniStar with engineering and construction expertise and in mid 2006 an agreement was signed with EdF for technical assistance. On the basis of the business framework developed over two years, EdF has now become the 50-50 partner with Constellation in the UNE holding company and has pledged $350 million cash upfront and up to $625 million total to the joint venture which aims to build, own and operate the US-EPR units.
UniStar, Constellation, EdF & Areva 20/7/07.
California heads for nuclear revival
The California Republican party has voted unanimously to work to remove the 31-year old prohibition on new nuclear power plant construction. This will become part of a mid 2008 state referendum, backed by over five million Republicans. The state has two nuclear power plants - total 4324 MWe, a small part of the capacity serving 35 million, and it imports about 20% of its power.
Business wire 10/9/07.
US enrichment plant milestone
US efforts to develop indigenous centrifuge enrichment technology have reached the stage of USEC operating a cascade producing uranium of the desired specification. A cascade is an arrangement of centrifuges which can achieve this. The lead cascade test program will continue so as to refine the design of the full plant. This is to begin operation in 2009, ramping up to 11,500 machines in 2012 delivering 3.8 million SWU/yr.
US releases weapons plutonium for fuel
The US Department of Energy has released a further nine tonnes of weapons-grade plutonium from dismantled warheads (pits) for use as civil nuclear fuel. This will be incorporated into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel by the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) at Savannah River and used in nuclear power plants. The amount is from over 1000 warheads and will make 200 tonnes of reactor fuel which would produce about 53 billion kWh of electricity. It is additional to the 52.5 tonnes of military plutonium declared surplus in 1994 (including 34 tonnes of weapons plutonium agreed in 2000 to be released by each of Russia and USA), and brings the US military inventory down to about 40% of its early 1990s level.
DOE 17/9/07, WNN 18/9/07, NTI 19/9/07.
Remote recovery for US uranium mines
Uranium One has announced an arrangement with Cameco for toll milling to recover uranium from its small Wyoming ISL mines, initially Moore Ranch in 2009. At each operation the leach solution will deposit uranium on an ion-exchange resin. The novelty is that instead of being stripped and precipitated there, the resin is trucked to a larger plant for stripping and uranium recovery - in this case to Cameco's Smith Ranch-Highland mill 80 km away. Production of up to 540 tU per year is expected. Moore Ranch has 2235 tU as measured resource (NI 43-101 compliant) plus indicated resources. In southern Texas, Uranium One is refurbishing its Hobson mill to recover uranium from loaded resin trucked similarly from its La Palangana ISL mine.
Uranium One 21/8/07.
Strong support from nuclear neighbours
A survey of 1150 people living within 16 km of nuclear power plants in the USA, but without any personal involvement with them, has shown very strong support for new nuclear plants. Over 90% thought nuclear energy was important for future supply, 82% favoured it now, 77% said that new plants should definitely be built and 71% said they would accept a new plant near them. There was an overwhelmingly favourable view of local nuclear plants, notably their safety. On nuclear waste, 71% said it was safe being stored at the plant and 78% said the federal government should get on with developing the Yucca Mountain repository. Regarding reliable sources of information about nuclear energy, various nuclear plant sources were rated 68-74% compared with environmental groups 45% and anti-nuclear groups 22%. The researcher concluded that "Nimby (not in my back yard) does not apply at existing plant sites because close neighbours have a positive view of nuclear energy, are familiar with the plant, and believe that the plant benefits the community."
Bisconti Research 8/07.
New Romanian reactor on line
Cernavoda-2 has been grid connected in Romania. The 700 MWe Candu-6 heavy water reactor was built by a Canadian-Italian-Romanian team. Loans of EUR 218 million from Canada and EUR 223.5 million from Euratom helped towards its EUR 777 million cost. Two Cernavoda units will supply about 18% of Romania's electricity.
Areva and EdF court British public
Launching a new web site setting forth the virtues of Areva's large EPR type reactor, Areva and EdF have appealed straight to the British public. The EPR is one of four designs, each supported by utilities, ready to undergo generic design assessment in UK. The assessments will be done by experts belonging to the nuclear regulators - the Health and Safety Executive (including its Office for Civil Nuclear Security) and the Environment Agency. Each full GDA will cost up to £10 million and take some three years, though not all the proffered designs are likely to proceed past initial selection early in 2008.
Russia plans deployment of small reactors
Atomenergoprom has announced its schedule for building new nuclear plants to 2020. Its basis is funding for seventeen 1200 MWe reactors to come on line 2013-17. More are proposed but as yet unfunded, including six of the new VK-300 boiling water reactors scheduled to begin operating from 2017-20 at Kola and Primorskaya in the far east. These are likely to be the smallest modern reactors on offer in the next decade, apart from the modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactors from China and S. Africa, and will be of interest to countries and regions with grids of around 2-3 GWe.
Shchedrovitsky paper at WNA Symposium 6/9/07.
Hungary uprates Paks reactors
Two units of Hungary's Paks nuclear power plant have been uprated by 8%, and preparatory work to do the same on the other two is under way, for completion in 2009. The four VVER-440 units started up 19892-87 and provide 40% of the country's power. Two new 1000 MWe units are proposed for the Paks site.
Chernobyl shelter contract
Ukraine has signed a EUR 430 million contract with a French-led consortium to build a new shelter for the destroyed Chernobyl-4 reactor, to enclose both it and the hastily-built 1986 structure over it. It will be a metal arch 105 metres high and spanning 257m, which will be built adjacent and then moved into place.
Nuclear power for motor vehicles
Electricité de France, the world's biggest nuclear power generator, has joined Toyota to advance plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) technology. They will test a small fleet of plug-in vehicles and new charging stations.
Chinese contracts signed for western reactors
Westinghouse, along with consortium partner Shaw, has now signed contracts to supply four of its AP1000 nuclear power reactors for Sanmen and Haiyang in China. These will be the first such units built, and major technology transfer is involved. The contracts are with the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC), Sanmen Nuclear Power Company, Shangdong Nuclear Power Company (for Haiyang) and China National Technical Import & Export Corporation. Specific terms were not disclosed. Full construction is to start in 2009 and the first power is expected at Sanmen late in 2013.
China's reactor developments move ahead
Tianwan-2, the second of two 1000 MWe reactors built by Atomstroyexport in China, has started commercial operation.
Due apparently to drawn-out negotiations with Areva and EdF over EPR units, China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co. has decided to build six of its well-proven CPR-1000 units at Yangjiang, instead of two EPRs, and to move the EPRs to Taishan where electricity demand is less pressing.
Construction of the first Hongyanhe nuclear reactor has commenced in Liaoning province - the first nuclear plant in the northeast of China and the first to build four units in one phase of construction. The cost of all four 1080 MWe CPR-1000 units in phase 1 is put at US$ 6.6 billion. Commercial operation is planned for 2012-14. Five units are now under construction in China, with 13 more due to start construction in the next 18 months.
Xinhua 19/8/07, WNN 20/8/07.
Toshiba buys into Kazakh uranium mine
In April several Japanese companies bought 40% of the Kharasan uranium mine project in Kazakhstan, entitling them to that share of production which is expected to reach 5000 tU/yr about 2014. When Toshiba recently agreed to sell part of Westinghouse to Kazatomprom, it agreed to buy 9% of Kharasan from Marubeni (ie 22.5% of the Japanese stake). Production is expected to commence in the first quarter of 2008. This deal will secure some 450 tU/yr for Toshiba and Westinghouse as well as linking both more closely with evolving Kazakh plans to move from supplying uranium alone to selling fabricated nuclear fuel.
Tepco aftershocks in Japan
The Ministry of Economy Trade & Industry has set up a 20-member Chuetsu Investigation and Countermeasures Committee to investigate the specific impact of the July 16 earthquake which closed Tepco's Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power plant, and in the light of this to identify what government and utilities must address to continue ensuring nuclear plant safety. It acknowledged that the government was responsible for approving construction of the first units in the 1970s very close to what is now perceived to be a geological fault line. The magnitude 6.8 earthquake significantly exceeded the required design criteria for the plant, though so did the actual conservative engineering of it.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) joined Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency in a review of the situation at Kashiwazaki Kariwa. While there was significant damage on site due to the earthquake, none of it threatened safety and the main reactor and turbine units were structurally unaffected. The initial IAEA expert report said that damage overall was "limited and less than expected", though detailed examination will continue for some months.
IAEA 17/8/07, JANTI 10/8/07, Tepco 24/7.
Indonesia opts for Korean reactors
Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. (KHNP) have signed a memorandum of understanding with Indonesia's PT Medco Energi Internasional to start implementing the country's nuclear plans. This will involve two standard 1000 MWe OPR-1000 units from KHNP at a cost of US$ 3 billion. The agreement was part of a wider energy collaboration. Earlier plans were to call for tenders for these Muria units in 2008.
Bloomberg 26/7/07, Korea Times 24/7/07.
CENTRAL & SOUTH ASIA, AFRICA, S. AMERICA
Plan for new Argentine reactor
Following a favourable feasibility study completed recently, Nucleoelectrica of Argentina has signed an agreement with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) to establish contract and project terms for construction of one and possibly two new 740 MWe Candu 6 nuclear power reactors. The agreement also calls for AECL to assist Nucleoelectrica to finish construction of the Siemens-designed Atucha 2 reactor, now 80% complete. A government decision to confirm this is expected in April 2008, though these are major elements of the $3.2 billion strategic plan announced in 2006.
South Africa embraces nuclear future
A draft nuclear energy policy for South Africa addresses growing electricity demand and the country's 87% reliance on coal for this. It builds upon 23 years of experience with nuclear power and outlines an extensive program to develop all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle. With uranium mining already well established, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication and also reprocessing of used fuel are envisaged as strategic priorities related to energy security. The principal reactor technology will be pressurized water reactors (PWR), while the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) is developed for both electricity and heat. By 2016 the local manufacturing of nuclear components and equipment should be under way and the PBMR commercialized, all with a view to exports as well as local use. Conversely, export of unprocessed uranium will be restricted and a strategic stockpile will be maintained.
The Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) earlier said that it expects nuclear capacity to increase to about 27 GWe, supplying 30% of electricity, by 2030, including 12 new large PWR units and an initial set of 24 small PBMRs. New plant would be run by state utility Eskom, which already supplies about 95% of South Africa's electricity (and more than 60% of all Africa's).
DME consultation draft July 2007.
Rio Tinto proposes Rossing mine extension
Rio Tinto is actively considering expanding the Rossing uranium mine in Namibia to 4500 t U3O8 (3800 tU) per year and extending its life beyond 2016. The first phase would extend mining in 2008 to a new small orebody, introduce radiometric ore sorting to beneficiate material from stockpiled coarse ore, and construct a new sulfur-burning acid plant. Phase 2 will be defined in 2008 and could include heap leaching of low-grade ore and development of other small satellite orebodies with different mineralisation and hence needing a new treatment plant for them. 2006 production was 3617 t U3O8.
Rio Tinto info doc 8/07.
Kazakhstan lifts production target
Kazatomprom expects to be the world's largest uranium producer by 2010 from 16 mines, and has projected 18,700 tU production in 2015.
Pakistan plans civil fuel complex
As talks have proceeded towards loosening trade restrictions on India for nuclear fuel and plant, Pakistan has stepped up its efforts to achieve something similar, despite firm rejections from the USA and others. In 2006 the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission announced that it was preparing to set up separate and purely civil conversion, enrichment and fuel fabrication plants as a new US$ 1.2 billion Pakistan Nuclear Power Fuel Complex which would be under international safeguards and managed separately from existing facilities. The enrichment plant would have a 150,000 SWU/yr capacity by about 2013, then be expanded in similar increments to be able to supply one third of the enrichment requirements for a planned 8800 MWe generating capacity by 2030.
However, this has had a double setback: Plans for China to build two 1000 MWe reactors at Karachi evaporated when China deferred development of its CNP-1000 type - the only large Chinese type able to be exported. Pakistan is now exploring the possibility of smaller units with higher local content. Furthermore, if Pakistan cannot obtain exemption for Nuclear Suppliers' Group trade sanctions in order to build more nuclear power capacity and obtain more uranium in the near future, there would be no point in proceeding with this civil Fuel Complex.
Ontario to spend $26.5 billion on nuclear plants
After extensive public consultation, the Ontario Power Authority has released its C$ 60 billion plan to meet power demand to 2027. In line with last year's government announcement, this will involve bringing on 14,000 MWe of new or refurbished nuclear plant costing $26.5 billion, and closing 6434 MWe of coal-fired capacity (except as emergency back-up) by 2014. Gas-fired power will increase from 22 to 28% of total at a cost of $3.6 billion. Energy conservation costing $10 billion is planned to reduce demand by 6300 MWe, and doubling of renewable energy capacity (adding 10,771 MWe hydro, 4685 MWe wind) will cost $15 billion. CO2 emissions will drop by 60% and electricity costs rise by 15-20%. Present Ontario generating capacity - much of it old - is about 30 GWe and projected 2027 need is for extra 8 GWe (or 1.7 GWe with conservation measures). Base-load provision rises from 138 billion kWh today to 170 billion kWh.
Alberta site for nuclear power plant
Energy Alberta Corp has picked a site near Peace River in the northwest of the province (500 km from Edmonton) for a new 2200 MWe nuclear power plant, using twin ACR-1000 Canadian reactors. It has applied to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for a site licence for the C$ 6.2 billion plant and aims at 2017 start-up. The site was selected because of expressed community support, but the company pointed out it was just the start of a long approval process. Most of the power would be supplied to the grid.
Canadian six-month uranium production
Uranium production from Canada's mines in the first six months of 2007 was slightly below 2006 levels. While McArthur River maintained full production (4284 t U3O8, 3633 tU), that from Rabbit Lake and McClean Lake was down slightly (961 t U3O8/ 815 tU and 355 t U3O8/ 301 tU respectively). Production at McClean Lake is expected to almost double in 2008 relative to 2007.
Cameco 30/7/07, Denison 31/7/07, Areva 8/8/07.
Australia joining global partnerships
The Australian government has joined the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) - see lead story. Australia has made it a condition that it is not obliged to accept any foreign nuclear wastes, and has reserved the right to enrich uranium in the future. In the lead up to this Australia and the USA finalized a joint action plan for civil nuclear energy cooperation including R&D and regulatory issues.
In connection with GNEP, the USA and Japan will support Australia's bid for membership in the Generation IV International Forum (GIF), involving the development of safer and better nuclear reactors for deployment from about 2025. The focus is on six designs.
PM media releases 5/9/07, Age 6/9/07, Aust 10/9/07.
Australian uranium possible for India
The Australian government has decided in principle to allow uranium sales to India. This would first require an Indian safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency, approval from the Nuclear Suppliers Group involving 47 nations and negotiation of a bilateral safeguards agreement with India. No sales to Pakistan are contemplated. Political discussion centres on whether the prospect of uranium sales and trade in nuclear plant with India under conditions such as those worked out with the USA enhances or detracts from the international non-proliferation regime.
PM media release 16/8/07.
Safeguards agreement with Russia
A bilateral safeguards agreement with Russia has been signed, which when ratified will allow Australian uranium exports to that country. Russia is one of five nuclear weapons states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but at present has only one reactor under (voluntary) international safeguards - these will need to be extended considerably to cover all facilities using Australian-obligated material. The agreement is much the same as that with China ratified earlier this year. Mr Putin said that increased uranium supplies were needed to support the scaling-up of Russia's nuclear power industry (a tripling of nuclear capacity) over the next 20 years.
News Ltd 7/9/07.
Australian uranium production
Uranium production for the 2006-07 year was 9576.5 tonnes U3O8 (8120.5 tU), slightly less than the previous FY but more than 2006 calendar year. Ranger produced 5256 t (4457 tU), Olympic Dam 3474 t (3491 t UOC, 2946 tU) - steadily increasing over the year - and Beverley 846.6 t (718 tU). Exports were 9518 tonnes U3O8 worth A$ 658 million.
BHPB, ERA, Heathgate 7/07.
Uranium exploration merger
A merger between Toro Energy and Nova Energy will create a significant Australian uranium exploration company with two mine projects and a spread of exploration leases. The enlarged and strengthened Toro Energy will also be active in Africa.
US-India agreement takes shape
The nuclear cooperation agreement finalized in July opens the way for India's participation in international commerce in nuclear fuel and equipment. The USA called it "the symbolic centerpiece of our new global strategic partnership with India". It would allow India to reprocess US-origin and other foreign-sourced nuclear fuel at a new national plant under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. This would be fuel which has been used in those 14 reactors designated as unambiguously civilian and under full IAEA safeguards. The IAEA has greeted the deal as being "a creative break with the past" - where India was excluded from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The agreement still has to gain international acceptance by the Nuclear Suppliers Group and India must set up a new and comprehensive safeguards agreement with the IAEA, plus an Additional Protocol. It will then go to US Congress for final approval. France has also made clear its intention to forge close commercial links with India in relation to nuclear power development.
WNN 30 & 31/7/07, US State Department 3 & 10/8/07.
Kazatomprom confirms Westinghouse purchase
Toshiba's $540 million sale of 10% of Westinghouse to Kazatomprom has been confirmed. Toshiba bought the company from BNFL for $5.4 billion early in 2006, and the Shaw Group then took 20% and IHI Corp. 3%. This sale reduces Toshiba's holding to 67%, still above the 51% originally envisaged, and spreads the ownership of this leading reactor supplier very widely. The Kazakh holding will strengthen the company's upstream links for fuel supplies, enhancing its marketing of nuclear reactors (the vendor usually supplies the first core for a new reactor, and ongoing fuel services may be offered in addition). It will also extend Kazatomprom's commercial reach and boost its move into fuel fabrication in particular - it aspires to sell most of its rapidly-expanding uranium production as finished fuel within ten years. A bilateral Kazakhstan - Japan nuclear cooperation agreement is under negotiation, following on from less formal agreements signed in April.
Areva and Mitsubishi flesh out new reactor plans
Areva NP and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have established the Paris-based Atmea 50-50 joint venture to develop an advanced third-generation pressurised water reactor of about 1100 MWe. This will have extended fuel cycles and high thermal efficiency. It is expected to be ready for licence application by 2010. The reactor is regarded as mid-sized - relative to the two companies' other Generation III units (1600-1700 MWe) - and will be marketed primarily to countries newly embarking upon nuclear power programs.
South Africa targets world process heat market
The long-delayed South African Pebble-Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) Demonstration Power Plant is now expected to start construction at Koeberg in 2009 and start up in 2013 - about the same time as the Chinese version. It will be for electricity production, and Eskom has said it expects to order 24 of them.
However, In 2006 the PBMR Board formalised the concept of a higher-temperature PBMR Process Heat Plant (PHP) with reactor output temperature of 950ºC. The first plants are envisaged for 2016 and the applications will be oil sands production and petrochemical industry (process steam), steam methane reforming of natural gas for hydrogen, and eventually thermochemical hydrogen production. This design is being submitted to the US Department of Energy as a candidate Next-Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP).
Paterson, Matzie et al paper at WNA Symposium 6/9/07.
Uranium companies in ethical investment index
Rio Tinto has joined BHP Billiton in the FTSE4Good index, having fulfilled its criteria for socially responsible mining of uranium. The FTSE4Good index series was launched in 2001 for investors that wanted to only invest in companies with good standards of corporate responsibility and that minimize social and environmental risk. The index initially excluded uranium mining and nuclear power companies, lumping them with tobacco and weapons, but FTSE has recently completed a review of the 'negative screen' that excluded them. For uranium mining companies there are now specific criteria in addition to the index's demanding requirements for any companies with potential to have high environmental and social impacts.
Areva bags UraMin and revs up U exploration
Areva NC has succeeded in its bid of over US$ 2.5 billion in cash for UraMin Inc, achieving 93% acceptance, with UraMn's board recommendation. It will integrate it into its mining business unit and expects to get 7000 t/yr of uranium from UraMin's three deposits in Africa after 2012.
As well as its energetic campaign of acquiring uranium exploration companies such as UraMin, Areva is to triple its own exploration budget to some EUR 90 million per year (cf EUR 30 million in 2006), focused on Africa and Central Asia.
Platts 30/7/07, Bloomberg 9/8/07.
Uranium from phosphate feasibility check
Nukem Inc and CF Industries in Florida are undertaking a feasibility study for a plant to recover 400 tonnes of uranium per year as by-product from the latter's phosphate fertiliser production plant. CF Industries recovered about 550 tones of uranium there in the 1980s but abandoned the project due to low prices. Potential world resources in such phosphate deposits are some 22 million tonnes of uranium.
Nucleonics Week 2/8/07.
APEC resolution on emission reduction
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum summit in Sydney reached agreement on climate, energy security and development. Leaders from 21 nations including the USA, Russia, Japan and China set a goal of 25% reduction of energy intensity by 2030, relative to economic development and with 2005 base. Progress towards the goal will be monitored and reported at a summit in 2010. The APEC parties called for a post-2012 international climate change agreement that would strengthen, broaden and deepen the current UNFCCC arrangements and would lead to reduced global emissions of greenhouse gases. The statement noted the importance of nuclear energy as a zero-emission energy source.
WNA releases biennial market report
The World Nuclear Association's (WNA) Market Report 2007 does not substantially revise its growth scenarios for nuclear energy, but says that the upper scenario has become rather more likely. The scenarios for uranium and enrichment requirements are also little-changed, but uranium demand is generally now slightly lower than two years ago and enrichment input higher. This is because buyers have taken the opportunity to substitute enrichment services for uranium, owing to rapid price escalation in the latter.
The report emphasises that secondary supplies such as downblended former military highly enriched uranium (HEU) will continue to play an important part in the market until 2020 and beyond. Primary uranium production is now set to increase rapidly, based on a firm reserves base and a greater stimulus from higher uranium prices to develop new mines. It appears that the nuclear fuel market will be adequately supplied to 2030, but more uranium mines, currently categorised as prospective, would be required to meet the upper demand scenario.
Wood, Janet, 2007, Nuclear Power, Institution of Engineering & Technology, UK, IET Power & Energy series 52, 239 pp.
This is an informative book with many interesting bits but its coverage is very detailed in places and cursory in others. About one quarter of it is focused on the UK. Its strengths are in talking about nuclear power generation and its challenges, including important but not newsworthy aspects such as plant ageing; the weak parts are the science and the rest of the fuel cycle, especially mining, coupled with an odd reliance on personal sources. It is occasionally let down by poor editing (rocks instead of minerals, curies as radioactive "effect", lack of SI units, etc). The two pages on uranium resources is shallow and reprocessing doesn't look beyond Purex. GNEP isn't mentioned. IHL
World reactor changes in last two months:
Argentina: planned 1 x 740 MWe
China: Hongyanhe-1 start construction 1080 MWe
China: Tianwan-2 commercial operation
From WNA Digest: June - July 2007
Russia sets course for major nuclear expansion
In September 2006 Russia's federal atomic energy agency Rosatom announced a target of nuclear power providing 23% of electricity by 2020, up from 16% now. This would mean commissioning some 31 GWe of new plant to give about 44,000 MWe of nuclear capacity then after shutting down a few old plants.
Then in October Russia formally adopted a US$ 55 billion nuclear energy development program, with $26 billion of this to 2015 coming from the federal budget. The Minister of Finance strongly supported the program to increase nuclear share to 18.6% of total by 2015, hence improving energy security as well as promoting exports of nuclear power technology. After 2015 all funding for the accelerated expansion will be from Rosatom revenues.
Apart from completing units under construction there would be three or four standard third-generation VVER reactors built: at Leningrad (two units as stage 2) and Novovoronezh (unit 6 & 7) to be commissioned 2012-13. The first pair of units at each site is expected to cost US$ 3.0 - 3.7 billion. This leads to an accelerating program of building from 2009 (apart from export plants) through to 2020. By 2015 ten new reactors totalling at least 9.8 GWe should be operating.
In April 2007 the government approved in principle a construction program to 2020 for all electricity-generating plants, including nuclear. It is designed to reduce dependence on gas and envisages starting up one nuclear unit per year from 2009, two from 2012, three from 2015 and four per year from 2016. Present nuclear capacity is to increase at least 2.3 times by 2020. In respect to units identified in the April announcement, the picture now is:
Major Power Reactors under Construction and Planned
||V-320 VVER 1000
||V-320 VVER 1000
|Novovoronezh II -1
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Novovoronezh II -2
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Leningrad II -1
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Leningrad II -2
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Kursk II -1
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Leningrad II -3
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Leningrad II -4
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Kursk II -2
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Smolensk II -1
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Kursk II -3
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Smolensk II -2
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Kursk II -4
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Smolensk II -3
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Kola II -1
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
|Smolensk II -4
||AES-2006 / VVER 1200
However, after 2015 this list is less than the target of four new units per year. South Urals, Kalinin and Tomsk were mentioned as being "among potential new sites." This may be clarified in September. On the basis of the above figures we have listed those units to Kursk II-2 and Leningrad II-4 as planned, and the balance of 18 units - total 21,600 MWe to 2020 - as proposed.
A construction contract for Novovoronezh phase II was signed with AtomEnergoProekt in June. Unit 1 of this (unit 6 at the site) is now under construction and is expected to be commissioned in 2012, with unit 2 following a year later at a total cost of US$ 5 billion for 2136 MWe net. These are the first of the new 1200 MWe class reactors which are to become standard. Novovoronezh is on one of the main hubs of the Russian grid.
UES, which controls Russia's electricity supply, is reported to support construction of new nuclear plants in the regions of Yaroslavl, Chelyabinsk (South Urals) and Vladimir, with two to four units at each.
A revised draft General Scheme of Power Generators Deployment until 2020 is to be available by September 2007 and submitted to the government for approval of US$ 21.6 billion involved.
At the same time as these plans were being firmed up, the creation of a single vertically-integrated state holding company for Russia's nuclear power sector has proceeded, separate from the military complex. The corporation - called AtomEnergoProm (AEP) - was formally established on 7 July. It will include uranium production, engineering, design, reactor construction, power generation and research institutes in its several branches, but not used fuel reprocessing or disposal facilities for the time being. The decree specifies nuclear materials which may be owned exclusively by the state, lists Russian legal entities allowed to possess nuclear materials and facilities, existing joint stock companies to be incorporated into the AEP, and federal unitary enterprises to be corporatized first and incorporated into the AEP at a later stage. The holding company is to be set up by the end of 2007. Exclusive state ownership of nuclear materials has been seen as a barrier to competitiveness and other Russian corporate entities will now be allowed to hold civil-grade nuclear materials, under state control.
Entities from AEP itself down to various third-level subsidiaries will be joint stock companies eventually. Public investment in the bottom level operations is envisaged, and the joint venture between Alstom and Atomenergomash to provide large turbines and generators is cited as an example. The general idea is to create a world-class corporate entity which will match any western vertically-integrated nuclear company.
US reactor returns to service
Tennessee Valley Authority's 1155 MWe. Browns Ferry-1 reactor, which started up again in May following a 5-year refurbishment program, has been connected to the grid and run at full power. It had been idle since 1985. TVA is now studying the possible completion its half-built 1167 MWe Watts Bar-2 reactor, suspended in 1985, which could be on line about 2013.
Areva plans new US enrichment plant
Areva NC has told the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it plans to build a 3 million SWU/year enrichment plant in the USA, to be fully operational in 2017. This $2 billion plant would have the same Urenco centrifuge technology as at Areva's new French plant, under similar licence arrangements from Enrichment Technology Company, the joint venture between Urenco and Areva. Site selection is expected later this year and a licence application in mid 2008, with a US partner. The USA's 104 operating reactors require 13.2 million SWU per year, almost half of which currently comes from Russian high-enriched uranium, the rest from an obsolete US plant. Two other new enrichment plants are under construction in the USA.
NRC 21/6/07, WNN 29/6/07.
US weapons uranium released for fuel bank
The US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration has awarded contracts to Wesdyne International and Nuclear Fuel Services to downblend 17.4 tonnes of high-enriched uranium from dismantled warheads. NFS will dilute the material in Tennessee to yield some 290 tonnes of low-enriched uranium (4.95% U-235) by 2010. Wesdyne, the prime contractor, will then store the LEU at the Westinghouse fuel fabrication plant in South Carolina to be available for the Reliable Fuel Supply program. The fuel will be available for use in civilian reactors by nations in good standing with the International Atomic Energy Agency that have good nonproliferation credentials and are not pursuing uranium enrichment and reprocessing technologies. The fuel - worth some $1 billion at current prices - would be sold at the current market price. To cover the cost of the project, Wesdyne will sell a small part of the LEU on the market over a three to four year period.
Areva and Mitsubishi lead US push
Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries are leading a consortium which has bid to construct major elements of the new technology for the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). Others involved are Japan Nuclear Fuels, Washington Group International, BWX Technologies and Batelle. Areva would focus on the Consolidated Fuel Treatment Centre - an advanced reprocessing plant, and Mitsubishi the fast neutron reactor which will burn actinides with the uranium and plutonium - the Advanced Recycling Reactor. In this connection the company has also set up Mitsubishi FBR Systems (MFBR).
Four applicants for UK reactor design approval.
As soon as the Energy white paper was published, Westinghouse applied to the UK's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate for generic design assessment (GDA, or pre-licensing) of its AP1000 reactor design, based on its 2005 US design certification.
Areva NP, in conjunction with EdF, then applied for GDA of its 1600 MWe EPR design by the UK regulator. Areva will also involve five other European utilities interested in building it in UK: British Energy, E.On, Iberdrola, RWE npower and Suez. This will mean that all six utilities will be up to speed and able to support any site licence application for EPR units, though only EdF will share costs of the GDA with Areva. EdF has said that it wants to build several EPR units in the UK. The EPR received French design approval in 2004.
GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy has also applied for GDA of its ESBWR type, supported by Iberdrola, RWE npower and BE. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd has also applied for GDA for its ACR1000 design.
The assessments will be done by experts belonging to three nuclear regulatory authorities - the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, the Office for Civil Nuclear Security, and the Environment Agency. Each GDA will cost up to £10 million and take some three years.
Separately, British Energy has said that it is conducting its own review of reactor designs from the four vendors which have submitted documentation to the regulator. It controls many of the likely sites for new plants.
Nucleonics Week 31/5/07, Areva 20/6/07, BE 19/6/07, Platts 21/6/07.
UK government sells down British Energy
The UK government has sold 25% of British Energy, reducing its share (acquired in the major restructuring 2003-5) from 64% to 39%. The £2.08 billion proceeds go into the Nuclear Liabilities Fund to be applied to future decommissioning of BE's eight nuclear plants. Further share sales down to about a 30% holding are envisaged.
DTI 30/5/07, FT, Guardian 31/5/07, FT 2/6/07.
UK contemplates using recycled resources
For some years the UK has had an ambivalent attitude to the plutonium resulting from reprocessing its own used fuel, not to mention the depleted uranium arising from enrichment and the reprocessed uranium. A new report for the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) focuses on the 100 tonnes of plutonium and 60,000 tonnes reprocessed and depleted uranium which will be available in 2012. Three options are considered: treating the materials as wastes destined for deep geological disposal, storing them long-term, or using them as fuel (or selling them to others for this purpose). In the last case, the energy content is enough to run 3 GWe of new PWR reactors for 60 years, or 12 GWe of fast reactors for 700 years.
Ten bidders for 49% stake in Bulgarian plant
Ten companies including most major European utilities bid for a 49% stake in the Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria. Six of these were shortlisted. Atomstroyexport is contracted to build two 1000 MWe AES-92 reactors there, to come on line in 2014-15.
WNN 7 & 20/6/07.
Third proposal for 6th Finland reactor
A consortium of industrial and energy companies has announced plans to establish a joint venture company, Fennovoima Oy, to construct a new nuclear power plant in Finland. The group consists of metals, mining and smelting companies, regional energy utilities and major utility E.On Suomi which is leading the project. Fennovoima aims to construct a new 1000-1800 MWe nuclear power plant, to start operating between 2016 and 2018, which will provide electricity for its owners at production cost. Fennovoima will immediately proceed with site selection, then an environmental impact assessment (EIA) which will prepare the way for government approval.
Sweden nuclear plant uprate
Vattenfall have announced a 40 MWe uprate, to 1006 MWe, of Ringhals unit 4, following replacement of its low pressure turbines.
Belgian and German phase-outs challenged
A major report commissioned by the Belgian government to guide energy policy to 2030 has backed retaining nuclear power as an economic and low-carbon source of base-load electricity. Belgium's Energy Challenges towards 2030 by the Commission on Energy said that continuing the current policy would lead to doubling of electricity prices, greatly diminish the country's potential for reducing carbon dioxide emissions and lead to import dependency. It said that Belgium must scrap its policy of phasing out nuclear power.
Earlier, the OECD International Energy Agency had warned that Germany's decision to phase out nuclear power would limit its full potential to reduce carbon emissions "without a doubt." The agency urged the German government to reconsider the policy in the light of "adverse consequences."
WNN 4/6/07, Foratom 25/6/07.
Central Europe uranium from coal ash
Australia's WildHorse Energy has signed an agreement with Sparton Resources Inc to investigate producing uranium from coal ash in Europe, starting with some prospective material containing 75-125 ppmU. The coal ash project is linked with WildHorse's exploration efforts in SW Poland, in the Sudetes Mountains bordering Czech Republic, where several Soviet uranium mines operated.
Wildhorse 22 & 25/5/07.
Japan earthquake shuts reactors
The Richter 6.8 earthquake near Niigata in northwest Japan on July 16 caused four Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear power reactors close to the epicentre automatically to shut down safely. This is as they are designed to do at a ground acceleration at less than half of the "keep operating" design basis for each reactor. Three other units at the plant were not operating at the time. All will be checked for damage before returning to service. Some 1.2 cubic metres of water containing radioactivity equivalent to three household smoke detectors (and well within regulatory limits) was spilled from a fuel storage pool and drained away. Oil from an electrical transformer at the plant caught fire and was not extinguished for two hours. In the city, ten people were killed and there was major damage to houses and infrastructure.
At this stage the most notable feature of the event has been the media attention implying significant radiation leaks and damage, of which there has been no evidence, and corresponding local government nervousness.
WNN 16 & 18/7/07, Nucleonics Week 19/7/07.
China weighs in on carbon emissions and raises nuclear target
China's authoritative National Development and Reform Commission in a policy report has targeted a 20% reduction in energy intensity per unit of GDP and said China will move to increased use of clean and low-carbon energy sources. However, the main priority remains economic development and NDRC says that the primary responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions lies with the developed nations which have been responsible for most of the historic emissions. One international report said that China had now overtaken the USA in carbon emissions.
China will intensify its promotion of nuclear power as well as focusing on renewable energy (including large hydro) and utilization of coal bed methane. Earlier NDRC announced that its target for nuclear generation capacity in 2030 is 120-160 GWe, up from 40 GWe target in 2020 (and 8.5 GWe today). Present world total is 370 GWe.
Kyodo News 27/5/07, NDRC June 07.
Thailand commits to nuclear power
Following a feasibility study, Thailand's Energy Minister has announced that to avoid undue reliance on gas, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand will proceed with plans to build a 4000 MWe nuclear power plant. Construction is to commence in 2015 and operation from 2020. The capital cost is expected to be US$ 6 billion and electricity cost about USD 6 cents/kWh, slightly less than from coal.
Xinhua 11/6/07, WNN 11/6/07.
North Korea shuts down Yongbyon reactor
Responding to a long series of negotiations and political pressure, North Korea has shut down its Yongbyon plutonium-producing reactor. After a four year absence, a UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team was able to verify the event and in addition that other nuclear facilities at the site are also closed, notably the reprocessing plant ("Radiochemical Laboratory") and fuel fabrication plant. These have been sealed and will be subject to ongoing monitoring by IAEA. The second phase of measures under the February agreement will involve establishing a full inventory of nuclear materials and actually disabling the offending plants. Phase 3 is when North Korea hands over fissile materials and weapons gear. There remains a question about uranium enrichment capacity.
The Yongbyon reactor is a 25 MWt Russian "experimental reactor" which started up about 1985 and has been used for producing weapons plutonium. North Korea had been largely uncooperative in relation to its international non-proliferation obligations since it was called to account in 1992. The recent developments are "an important step in the right direction but only the first in a long journey", according to IAEA.
Meanwhile the IAEA reached agreement with Iran about inspecting its 40 MWt heavy water reactor, under construction at Arak and due for completion about 2009. It also appears to be a plutonium production unit.
IAEA 13 & 18/7/07, Reuters 13/7/07.
CENTRAL/SOUTH ASIA, AFRICA, S. AMERICA
Cameco steps more fully into Kazakhstan
Canada's Cameco has signed an agreement with Kazatomprom to investigate setting up a uranium conversion plant, using its technology, and also increasing uranium production at its 60% owned Inkai mine.
India opens new mine and mill
A new uranium mine at Banduhurang in Jharkand state has been opened by Uranium Corporation of India Ltd, and also a new mill at Turamdih, which more than doubles processing capacity in the region.
South Africa moves to build new nuclear plants
The Eskom board has approved investigating construction of up to 20 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2027, starting with a firm plan for 4 GWe of conventional capacity to be built from 2009-10, with the first unit commissioned in 2016. The environmental assessment process is now under way, considering five sites, and selection of technology will follow - Areva and Westinghouse are likely favourites.
Brazil confirms renewed nuclear effort
Brazil's president has confirmed the earlier Energy Policy Council recommendation to complete the 1245 MWe Angra-3 nuclear power plant. However, at this stage it is only making available $540 million over eight years towards the $1.8 billion project. About 70% of the equipment is on site, but construction has not started.
Canada commits to waste plan
The Canadian government has accepted the 2005 recommendation of its Nuclear Waste Management Organisation (NWMO) that the country's used nuclear fuel should be disposed of in a deep geological repository, retrievably, after storage at reactor sites. Earlier this year NWMO said that the repository would probably be in a uranium mining or nuclear power province and host localities would need to volunteer for the role. The site selection process will now get under way. At this stage some 36,000 tonnes of used fuel has accumulated, mostly at reactor sites, along with funding of almost C$ 1 billion from utilities.
Nuclear Canada 18/6/07.
BHP Billiton floats alternative treatment strategy for Olympic Dam
BHP Billiton, in the process of evaluating a A$5 billion plus proposal to expand the Olympic Dam (OD) operation, has floated an alternative treatment strategy. This would involve exporting copper concentrate rather than refined copper, and hence some uranium contained in it.
Because the OD ore contains copper, uranium, silver and gold in close association, the common procedure of simply selling a copper concentrate with precious metals has not been viable, since some of the uranium would be in it, creating both processing and safeguards complications for the smelter operator. Most of the uranium is removed at the flotation stage when the copper sulfide is separated from the remainder of the ore, which is then tailings and the main uranium recovery is from acid leaching of these tailings. Secondary uranium recovery is from acid leaching the copper concentrate, which then goes on to be smelted, containing about 45% copper and 0.01 to 0.15% uranium. At present smelting is done at OD, followed by electro refining, and the further traces of uranium are recovered at these stages.
The new proposal being considered would export the copper concentrate with enough uranium still present to require the application of safeguards, so that it was all accounted for. Hence smelting could only be undertaken in one of 36 countries with which Australia has a bilateral safeguards agreement, plus the heavy industry infrastructure required. China has been mentioned, but Japan and South Korea might also be candidates.
If all the copper from the expanded OD operation were exported as concentrate, an average of 1.2 million tonnes per year would be involved, containing up to 2000 tonnes of uranium. The major part of the uranium - about 13,000 t/yr, would be recovered and processed as at present. The alternative strategy for the expanded production from OD would greatly diminish the investment cost of the expansion since smelting and refining for the copper increment would not be required. The infrastructure needed to operate it - notably electricity - would also be less.
Australian 12 & 13/7/07.
Australian proposal for enrichment plant
A new company, Nuclear Fuel Australia Limited (NFAL), has been set up to undertake a feasibility study for a multinational uranium enrichment plant in Australia. The proposal envisages a 3 million SWU per year plant using Urenco centrifuge technology, and an associated conversion plant. Urenco's National Enrichment Facility (NEF) under construction in New Mexico, USA, is the "reference model" for the plant. NFAL intends using all publicly-available information on the NEF, including environmental impact assessment and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission's own environmental report. Urenco supports the NFAL preliminary feasibility study over the next year, but without commitment. A detailed feasibility study involving site selection, environmental assessment and regulatory approval would follow. NFAL's final objective is to obtain government and technology suppliers' approvals to construct the project, including a conversion plant.
It is envisaged to start construction in 2010 and reach full capacity in 2015. NFAL is essentially repeating an exercise undertaken in 1982 by an industry consortium, the Uranium Enrichment Group of Australia which was aborted after a change in government.
The 2006 Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review identified opportunities but was sceptical of value-adding conversion and enrichment developments for Australia's exported uranium - about 20% of world supply. It referred to "the high barriers to entry and the large technological, economic and political investments required" and the need to remove legal and regulatory prohibitions "to enable normal commercial decision-making." The 2006 House of Representatives standing committee report supported the establishment of such facilities on a multinational basis.
NFAL 14/6/07 & May briefing paper.
Aboriginal council nominates land for wastes
Australia's Northern Land Council, an elected Aboriginal body in the Northern Territory, with the Ngapa clan who are the traditional owners, have nominated the Muckaty pastoral holding as a potential site for the national radioactive waste facility. If the site is suitable the traditional owners will sign over 1.5 square kilometres for a long lease and receive A$ 12 million in benefits. A low-level waste repository and an intermediate-level waste store are planned, to open in 2011.
Australian emissions trading policy announced
The recent emissions trading taskforce report said that Australia cannot afford to wait upon a global emissions trading regime and should devise its own so as to avoid the shortcomings of present schemes and also to articulate with other schemes internationally. Both emission reduction targets and carbon price should be low initially and ramp up. In endorsing the report the Prime Minister said that "Australia will move to implement a comprehensive cap and trade emissions trading scheme no later than 2012." This will be "more comprehensive, more rigorously grounded in economics and with better governance than anything in Europe" - and also designed to appeal to developing nations.
ETT Report 1/6/07, Australian 2 & 6/6/07, PM APEC speech 6/6/07.
G8 climate change resolution marks wider consensus
With stronger language than previous years and the prior support of the USA, the 2007 G8 Declaration appears to set a new course of action under the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC). This will prospectively involve countries currently outside the emission constraints under the Kyoto Protocol, and will build on national and regional agreements and policy initiatives in the lead up to December's UNFCCC gathering in Indonesia. See also attached supplement.
USA - Russian cooperation agreement
The USA and Russia, having each made strong explicit commitments to the future of nuclear power in their own economies, have signed a significant bilateral nuclear energy cooperation agreement which expresses a robust approach to leading global nuclear energy development. This builds on initiatives in each country over the last two years to strengthen non-proliferation measures while enhancing nuclear power developments in other countries, and takes further a preliminary agreement reached at the G8 summit last year. The list of objectives concludes with "Providing nuclear fuel services, including taking steps to ensure that the commercial nuclear fuel market remains stable and that states are assured of reliable access to nuclear fuel and fuel services for the lifetime of reactors, including through establishment of international nuclear fuel cycle centres …. including uranium enrichment, under IAEA safeguards; and: Supporting negotiation of long-term contracts for power reactors and research reactors, including assured supply of fuel and arrangements for management of spent fuel."
Rosatom's director said that the agreement when it enters into force would enable Russia to gain direct access not only to the US market but also to other countries under US influence and be able to trade equipment and fissile materials (under safeguards) more widely.
WNN 3/7/07, Nuclear.Ru 4/7/07.
IAEA pursues multilateral fuel vision
A new IAEA report on a multilateral framework for nuclear energy presents a range of options that seek to guarantee supplies of nuclear fuel while minimizing proliferation risks. It addresses proposals put forward over the past two years by various States and institutions. These include proposals for creation of an actual or virtual reserve fuel bank under IAEA auspices, for conversion of national facilities into international enrichment centres and for construction of new multinational enrichment facilities under IAEA control. All this would need to be approached gradually and without infringing the rights of member states, though with a view to limiting future enrichment and reprocessing to multilateral operations.
Hopes high for US-India agreement
After nearly two years of negotiation as well as US legislation on the issue, finalizing the agreement on US-India nuclear energy cooperation seems near. A key implementation agreement reached on 20 July now needs to be reviewed by both governments and then approved by the 45-nation Nuclear Suppliers Group. This could then give India de facto status equivalent to that of a nuclear weapons state under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, so on a similar basis to China. A major sticking point was India's insistence on being allowed to reprocess used fuel, which is fundamental to its nuclear energy strategy as it develops a fuel cycle to utilize thorium as a fuel.
Herald-Sun 21/7/07, FT 22/7/07
Kazatomprom to buy 10% of Westinghouse
Agreement on the sale of 10% of Westinghouse to Kazatomprom is reported to be close, with a price of $486 million being quoted. Toshiba bought the company from BNFL for $5.4 billion early in 2006, and the Shaw Group then took 20% and IHI Corp. 3%. Toshiba originally envisaged holding only 51%, and this deal would reduce its holding to 67%. The new ownership would strengthen the company's upstream links for fuel supplies, enhancing its marketing of nuclear reactors (the vendor usually supplies the first core for a new reactor, and ongoing fuel services may be offered in addition). It would also bring Kazatomprom more fully into the industry mainstream, with fuel fabrication in particular. A bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement between Kazakhstan and Japan is under negotiation, following on from less formal agreements signed in April.
AFP 7/7/07, Nucleonics Week 12/7/07.
Utilities swing towards nuclear
PricewaterhouseCoopers' latest annual survey of 114 utilities in 44 countries "reveals a complete shift in the extent to which energy efficiency, renewables and nuclear power are at the top of company agendas." Last year only 19% were looking towards nuclear power, but now 45% are. For wind, the change is from 17% to 48%. However, "economic signals and incentives will be critical for utility companies to make a big shift. An effective signalling of carbon prices will need to exist across all regions."
Increased nuclear power inevitable
The executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said that he had never seen a credible scenario for reducing emissions that did not include nuclear energy. A few days later the US Deputy Energy Secretary said that USA should work towards "a world where nuclear power becomes the primary global source of electricity." He added that "no person can be serious about climate change without being serious about greatly expanding nuclear power."
The chair of a World Energy Council (WEC) Study Group and President Emeritus of the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) said that there was no way the world would combat climate change without "a strong dose of nuclear power." He said that the technologies were available to address issues of waste management and proliferation, and governments must get on with the job of developing nuclear power so that future generations can make use of it.
The WEC Energy and Climate Change report concluded that "all governments should give serious consideration to the potential of nuclear power for reducing greenhouse gas emissions" since countries with high proportions of nuclear power had greenhouse gas emissions much lower than comparable nations with less or no nuclear contribution. As an emissions-free energy source capable of producing electricity on a large scale, the report considered nuclear energy a prime means of achieving CO2 emissions stabilisation.
WNN 21/6/07, Platts 26/6/07.
GE-Hitachi alliance implemented
The first and major part of the global realignment between GE Energy and Hitachi Power Systems came into effect in June with the launching of GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy. Led by GE's current nuclear executives, it is 60% owned by GE and 40% by Hitachi and will operate worldwide outside Japan.
The second half of the alliance, covering operations within Japan, commenced in July as Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy. It is 80% Hitachi and 20% GE and is led by Hitachi's nuclear team. GE and Hitachi have collaborated closely for 40 years and jointly developed the Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, the first Generation III design to come into operation.
WNN 5/6 & 20/7/07.
Uranium One buys Energy Metals
Continuing its acquisition momentum, Canada's sxr Uranium One has agreed with Energy Metals Corp of USA to take it over in a US$ 1.5 billion deal, giving it access to significant US uranium assets. In February Uranium One bought UrAsia for US$ 3.1 billion, opening up major Kazakh interests.
Uranium One 4/6/07.
Areva bids for Uramin
Areva NC has bid over US$ 2.5 billion in cash for UraMin Inc which it says has 92,000 tonnes of identified uranium resources at three deposits in Africa. It anticipates reaching 7000 tU/yr production from them by 2012. The UraMin board has recommended acceptance of the bid.
Emerging world consensus on countering climate change
Leaders of G8 developed countries meeting in Germany agreed in stronger language then previous years to address climate change as part of "resolute and concerted international action … urgently needed in order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy security." "We commit ourselves to … the further development of the international regime to combat climate change, especially in the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Indonesia at the end of this year."
In the light of recent IPCC reports, "We are … committed to taking strong and early action to tackle climate change in order to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Taking into account the scientific knowledge as represented in the recent IPCC reports, global greenhouse gas emissions must stop rising, followed by substantial global emission reductions. In setting a global goal for emissions reductions … involving all major emitters, we will consider seriously the decisions made by the European Union, Canada and Japan which include at least a halving of global emissions by 2050. We commit to achieving these goals and invite the major emerging economies to join us in this endeavour.
"We reaffirm, as G8 leaders, our responsibility to act." While developed economies should lead, their efforts "will not be sufficient" and the emerging economies with rapidly increasing emissions need to participate "by reducing the carbon intensity of their economic development."
"We acknowledge that the UN climate process is the appropriate forum for negotiating future global action on climate change. We are committed to moving forward in that forum and call on all parties to actively and constructively participate in the UN Climate Change Conference in Indonesia in December 2007 with a view to achieving a comprehensive post 2012 agreement (post Kyoto-agreement) that should include all major emitters. To address the urgent challenge of climate change, it is vital that major economies that use the most energy and generate the majority of greenhouse gas emissions agree on a detailed contribution for a new global framework by the end of 2008 which would contribute to a global agreement under the UNFCCC by 2009. We therefore reiterate the need to engage major emitting economies on how best to address the challenge of climate change" with "long term strategies."
Having stood back from the Kyoto process, this is the first time since inception of that process that the USA has credibly accepted an international priority on limiting carbon emissions. While no targets have been set, and US commitment is contingent upon China and probably India signing on to reductions, the resolution is a very positive preliminary to the December UNFCCC meeting which will attempt to craft a post-2012 successor to the Kyoto Protocol.
In a clear implicit nod to nuclear energy: "Technology is a key to mastering climate change as well as enhancing energy security. We have urgently to develop, deploy and foster the use of sustainable, less carbon intensive, clean energy and climate-friendly technologies in all areas of energy production and use" - including "in emerging and developing economies." Later paragraphs note various international fuel cycle and nuclear technology initiatives and reiterate the importance of "safety, security and non-proliferation in using nuclear power."
Almost coincident with the changed US attitude towards emission reduction, Australia - also not ratified Kyoto - announced that it would bring in a cap and trade emissions trading scheme no later than 2012, with low targets initially but ramping up in line with international targets - hence probably halving emissions by 2050. China has announced a policy of 20% reduction in energy intensity of GDP and a move to more clean and low-carbon energy sources. These three countries, with India, Japan and South Korea are members of the Asia-Pacific Partnership (AP6) set up in 2005 to address climate change, with an emphasis on technology rather than targets. Another international forum focusing on the issue is the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation grouping, with the next leaders' meeting hosted by Australia in September. This means that there is for the first time an emerging move from those countries outside of the Kyoto process to take serious action on climate change and join whatever post-2012 international arrangement is set up.
G8 Declaration 7/6/07.
World reactor changes in last two months:
US: Browns ferry-1 grid conn 1155 MWe gross
France: construction start Flamanville EPR 1630 MWe
Russia: Novovoronezh-6 1200 MWe start const
Sweden: Ringhals 4 uprate of 40 MWe
From WNA Digest: April - May 2007
Climate change comes to town
Reports from three of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working groups have been released this year, each following lengthy debate on scientific issues clouded by political agendas in international fora.
First, the IPCC scientific working group, having assessed the latest information on climate change, firmed up its view that climatic warming since 1950 "is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations," ie more than 90% likely. It said that the warming will continue and produce greater climate changes this century if even current levels of emissions continue. It did not project higher temperature and sea level rises than in the previous report five years ago, but instead brought increased certainty to earlier projections.
Then IPCC working group II report was released in April and deals with impacts, adaptation and vulnerabilities. It concludes that climate change will have significant impacts including increased stress on water supplies and a widening threat of species extinction.
IPCC Working Group III report in May deals with the mitigation of climate change, outlining the prospects and options for change, particularly in the energy sector, which accounts for 60% of emissions. It was signed off by over 100 countries which agree that major changes are required, to adopt low-carbon energy technologies. A key to achieving this is putting a price on carbon emissions, particularly from power generation. The report acknowledges that nuclear power is now and will remain a 'key mitigation technology'.
This new IPCC report says that the most cost-effective option for restricting the temperature rise to under 3°C will require an increase in non-carbon electricity generation from 34% (nuclear plus hydro) now to 48 - 53% by 2030, along with other measures. With a doubling of overall electricity demand by then, and a carbon emission cost of US$ 50 per tonne of CO2, nuclear's share of electricity generation is projected by IPCC to grow from 16% now to 18% of the increased demand. This would represent more than a doubling of the current nuclear output by 2030. The report projects other non-carbon sources apart from hydro contributing some 12-17% of global electricity generation by 2030.
These projected figures are estimates, and it is evident that if renewables fail to grow as much as hoped it means that other non-carbon sources will need to play a larger role. Thus nuclear power's contribution could triple or perhaps quadruple to more than 30% of the global generation mix in 2030.
The report also states that costs of achieving any overall target for atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations would increase if any generation options were excluded. Clearly, any country excluding or phasing out nuclear energy is raising the overall cost of meeting emission reduction targets. This runs counter to the economic objectives of sustainable development.
Indeed, the IPCC's projections of the increasing contribution of nuclear energy needed to restrain emissions contrasts sharply with the Kyoto Protocol's discrimination against nuclear projects in the Kyoto Mechanisms. These are the politically-agreed measures designed to implement the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This unreasonable discrimination should weigh heavily on those crafting a successor or extension to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. If the USA, China and perhaps India are included after 2012, that will help tilt the political balance to principled realism.
The next round of discussion on the subject will be the G8 meeting in Germany during June, and it is possible that some political impetus will emerge from that to boost effective, rather than token, action on climate change. Beyond that is the UNFCCC meeting in December, grappling with Kyoto successor.
WNN 10/4 & 4/5/07, IPCC summary reports.
Nuclear reactor restarts after 22 years
The Tennessee Valley Authority has restarted its Browns Ferry-1 reactor which was shut down in 1985. The 5-year refurbishment program also increased its power to 1155 MWe, similar to the newer units 2 & 3. It already has an operating licence and is expected back in full service later in 2007.
Licence for new enrichment plant
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has licensed construction and operation of USEC's American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio, costing $2.3 billion within existing infrastructure. The company expects to operate a lead cascade by midyear. The full plant is expected to commence commercial operation by the end of 2009 and ramp up to 3.8 million SWU annual capacity in 2012. It will use only 5% of the power of the old diffusion plant it replaces. The licence authorises 7 million SWU/yr enrichment up to 10% U-235, though normal levels today are only up to 5%. The American Centrifuge technology has been developed over many years by USEC, based on earlier work by the Department of Energy. In June 2006 NRC licensed Urenco's $1.5 billion National Enrichment Facility, a greenfields project in New Mexico with 3 million SWU/yr capacity, due to start up in 2008.
International consortium bids for GNEP projects
An international team led by Areva is preparing to bid on building a fast reactor and a reprocessing plant in the USA as part of the Department of Energy's Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., Washington Group International and BWX Technologies are the other members of the team. Technology development under GNEP is funded through the Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative, which is receiving $167.5 million this year and hopes for $395 million next year. The DOE is aiming to involve industry this year in designing and costing the new plants.
NuclearFuel 26/3/07, Platts 29/3/07.
Second US site permit for new reactors
Entergy has been awarded the second Early Site Permit, for its Grand Gulf plant in Mississippi, after consideration by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and public review. Grand Gulf has a 1300 MWe boiling water reactor which started commercial operation in 1985 but it was originally licensed for two units. Entergy is part of the NuStart consortium, which plans to submit a combined construction and operating licence (COL) application for a 1550 MWe GE Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) at the Grand Gulf site in November.
Nucleonics Week 22/3/07, WNN 28/3/07.
Russia creates corporate nuclear colossus
Following earlier strong votes in the Duma, President Putin has signed the decree to create a single vertically-integrated state holding company for Russia's full nuclear power sector, separate from the military complex. Atomenergoprom will incorporate joint stock companies such as Tenex, TVEL, Atomenergomash and Atomstroyexport as well as Rosenergoatom when it is corporatised. Entities from Atomenergoprom down to various third-level subsidiaries will be joint stock companies eventually. Public investment in the bottom level operations is envisaged - the joint venture between Alstom and Atomenergomash to provide large turbines and generators is cited as an example. The change is expected to be fully implemented within a year and to enable accelerated building of new nuclear power plants.
WNN 18 & 30/4/07.
UK White Papers advance energy policy
The UK Planning Review white paper has set out proposals for streamlining approval for major infrastructure projects, including energy. It detaches policy decisions from planning approvals and highlights both the energy security challenge and the need to minimise carbon emissions in building some 30 GWe of new capacity in the next two decades.
The Energy white paper which followed notes that security of supply is now a major challenge and that rising fossil fuel prices coupled with costs on carbon emissions had changed the economic picture for clean electricity generation. It proposes stronger international and UK constraints on carbon emissions, more efforts on energy conservation, and greater support for renewables - rising to £2 billion per year. Also, subject to the outcome of further consultation this year, it gives clear support for investment by the private sector in nuclear power capacity, so that nuclear power can play a significant role in UK's energy future. Excluding it from the 30-35 GWe of new generating capacity would incur high costs and major energy supply risks. Having wasted four years since the 2003 policy, the paper makes it clear that a decision is needed soon.
DTI 21 & 23/5/07.
Reactor vendors seek UK design approval
Four reactor vendors have sent letters of intention to apply for generic design assessment (pre-licensing) by the UK Health and Safety Executive's Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), and one of them - Westinghouse - has now lodged an application. Each assessment would cost up to £10 million and take some three years. Each vendor is in discussion with generating utilities who may be interested in building their units. EdF Energy is preparing to submit an application for Areva's 1650 MWe EPR. E.ON says it will support the pre-licensing of both Westinghouse AP1000 and Areva's EPR, and was in discussion with GE re the ESBWR. The fourth reactor vendor interested in UK pre-licensing is Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL).
Bloomberg 17 & 18/4/07, E.ON 22/5/07.
UK waste policy proceeds
The UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has established the Radioactive Waste Management Directorate (RWMD). The RWMD will set up a subsidiary of the NDA to devise "a safe, environmentally sound, publicly acceptable, geological disposal solution" for the UK's high-level wastes - civil and military. This could eventually develop into the site licence company and implement their geological disposal once a suitable repository site has been selected with public participation. Integration of the Nuclear Industry Radioactive Waste Management Executive (Nirex) skills and expertise is now complete so that the NDA has taken over its functions.
Nirex was formed in 1982 to develop an intermediate-level waste disposal facility, with shares held by British Energy, BNFL, the UKAEA and the government. It carried out detailed studies and in 1994 sought permission to construct an underground rock laboratory to investigate the suitability of a site near Sellafield for deep geological disposal. Permission was refused three years later and UK radioactive waste policy has been confused ever since.
New Romanian reactor starts up
The second Cernavoda power reactor has started up, seven years after the government decision to resume construction of it, using a multinational consortium. Cernavoda-2 is a 655 MWe Candu-6 reactor, and will join the ten-year old unit 1 to provide about 18% of Romania's electricity. Three units remain uncompleted at the site, and a tentative schedule is to commission unit 3 in 2013, unit 4 in 2014 and perhaps unit 5 in 2020.
France combines energy and environment portfolios
The new French cabinet combines energy with ecology and sustainable development in a senior ministerial role. In the past, energy and environment have sometimes been in tension at cabinet level. Nuclear energy will now come under a deputy prime minister in this portfolio, who says that while nuclear power isn't the government's only clean energy option, "there is no solution without nuclear energy."
IHT 19/5/07, Thomson 20/5/07.
New French conversion plant
Areva NC has announced plans for a new conversion project - Comurhex II - with facilities at Malvesi and Tricastin to strengthen its global position in the front end of the fuel cycle. The EUR 610 million facility will have a capacity of 15,000 tU/yr from 2012, with scope for increase to 21,000 tU/yr. The present 48-year-old Comurhex plant is 14,000 tU/yr.
50 years of Euratom
The Euratom Treaty notched up half a century of achievement on 26 March, along with the EU itself. The Treaty of the European Atomic Energy Community was signed at the same time as the Treaty of Rome, which led to the EU. It was intended to promote nuclear power in the six member states: France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg at a time when energy security was a prime concern. The Treaty originally envisaged common EU ownership of nuclear materials. Politically it was both a counter to US dominance and a means of cooperation with the USA by providing guarantees of peaceful use, being the basis of the first multilateral safeguards system.
The Treaty provided a stable legal framework that encouraged the growth and development of the nuclear industry while enhancing security of fuel supply for it and nuclear plant safety. Today Euratom in its own right is a member of the Generation IV International Forum and the ITER consortium building a fusion reactor. It has remained substantially unchanged and is largely independent of EU parliament's control - a major point of criticism of it.
Nucleonics Week 29/3/07, Foratom 26/3/07.
German court approves radioactive waste site
Germany's Federal Administrative Court has dismissed appeals against use of the Konrad site (a former iron ore mine) as an underground repository for low and intermediate-level radioactive wastes. Konrad was licensed in 2002 for such disposal, but legal challenges were mounted. These were dismissed in March 2006 and now again in April 2007, making the licence incontestable. Konrad will take about 300,000 cubic metres of wastes - 95% of the waste volume with 1% of the radioactivity from Germany's nuclear industry - and may be operational about 2010.
DBE April 2007.
Alstom forms joint venture with Atomenergomash
A joint venture company to manufacture the turbine and generator portions of new nuclear power plants will be created by French engineering group Alstom and Russia's Atomenergomash, a subsidiary of Atomenergoprom. The 49:51 partnership, in which both parties will invest EUR 200 million, includes the technology transfer of Alstom's state of the art Arabelle steam turbine and generator (available up to 1750 MWe). Alstom said the joint venture would build, on average, between two-and-a-half and three turbine and generator sets annually until 2030 as part of Russia's plan to double nuclear capacity by that date. A similar deal between Alstom and Bharat Heavy Electricals for new Indian plants is said to be envisaged.
Alstom 2/4/07, AFX 4/4/07.
Construction start on floating power plant
Russia's first floating nuclear power plant is now under construction at Severodvinsk in the Archangelisk region. The 70 MWe barge-mounted plant will have two OKBM KLT-40S nuclear reactors similar to those in large icebreakers. It is being built by Sevmash and will supply power to that locality after about mid 2010. Further such plants are planned for Russia's far east.
Russia to build new Armenia plant
Russia has agreed to build a new 1000 MWe nuclear power plant in Armenia in return for minority ownership of it. Armenia has one early Russian reactor of 376 MWe providing over 40% of its power. This is due to close down in 2016 after 30 years operation (interrupted 1989-95), and the EU is keen to see it close sooner.
Novosti 23/4/07, Nucleonics Week 3/5/07.
Russian mine development
Tenex has won its bid to develop eight uranium deposits in the Elkon area of southern Yakutia. Reported resources are 320,000 tU. First production is expected in 2010 ramping up to 5000 tU/yr by 2020, making it Russia's largest uranium mine complex.
Thorium-based fuel progress
Red Star, a Russian government-owned design bureau, and US company Thorium Power have agreed to collaborate on testing Thorium Power's seed and blanket fuel assemblies at the Kurchatov Institute with a view to using thorium-based fuel incorporating plutonium in Russian reactors. Red Star's involvement will enable deployment of test assemblies in a commercial VVER-1000 reactor.
Thorium Power 19/4/07.
Studies for sixth Finnish reactor
Two Finnish power companies - TVO and Fortum - have commenced environmental impact assessments for new nuclear power units at the Olkiluoto and Loviisa sites respectively. This would clear the way for either company to seek government approval for a new unit, though no investment decision has been made. However, TVO is also talking to potential suppliers. The country's fifth power reactor is under construction by Areva and Siemens at Olkiluoto, for commercial operation in 2011.
Nucleonics Week 24/5/07.
Italy's used fuel to be reprocessed in France
Areva has signed a contract with Italy's SOGIN to reprocess 235 tonnes of fuel from Italy's closed nuclear power plants. The separated wastes (vitrified) will be returned to a future repository in Italy by end of 2025. The contract is for over EUR 250 million and covers only the fuel from three light water reactors - Italy's Magnox fuel is being reprocessed in UK already. How the separated uranium and reactor-grade plutonium will be used has not been announced, but the plutonium should be readily saleable for fresh fuel in the EU.
New Chinese reactor on line
Unit 2 of the Tianwan nuclear power plant has been connected to the grid and unit 1 has entered commercial operation, finally being handed over by Atomstroyexport to Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation (CNNC 50%). Its completion was delayed due to corrosion in the steam generators which resulted in some tubes having to be plugged, with 2% net loss of capacity. Unit 1 has been running at average one third of its 1000 MWe output since its grid connection 12 months ago, unit 2 started up early May. Commercial operation for unit 2 is expected in December. The cost was earlier reported to be US$ 3.2 billion, with China contributing more than half of this.
Last year a preliminary agreement was signed with Atomstroyexport to build two more AES-91 nuclear units at Tianwan, Jiangsu province, though no timing has been announced. After that the site has space for four more.
New Indian reactor in commercial operation
India's small Kaiga-3 reactor has begun commercial operation, just over five years since construction began. It started up in February and is one of the last four 220 MWe (gross) pressurized heavy water reactors which comprise most of India's nuclear power capacity. It is the country's 17th nuclear power reactor. Unit 4 is about six months behind it.
The government has also given approval for the construction of four further 700 MWe indigenous PHWR reactors, two each at Kakrapar and Rawatbhata. These sites respectively have two and four existing units in operation.
NPCIL 16/4 & 7/5/07, Ux Weekly 16/4/07.
Sticking points in US-India talks
Negotiations towards the '123 Agreement' required for civil nuclear trade between the USA and India are moving slowly on reprocessing, uranium enrichment, heavy water reactors and weapons testing. The biggest problem is apparently US insistence that used fuel from any US-supplied reactor must not be reprocessed, which cuts across a major aspect of India's energy policy.
India has been excluded from international nuclear trade as it declined to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which would have required nuclear disarmament. The USA sought to end the isolation in 2005 and passed domestic legislation to allow trade, but that text must be agreed with India. The agreement will then need to be approved by the Nuclear Suppliers' Group before any opening of trade.
Reuters, 30/03/07, Nucleonics Week 12/4/07, FT 19/4/07.
China to accelerate technology transfer
The final contract for supply of four Westinghouse AP1000 third-generation reactors to China is expected to be signed soon. Meanwhile Westinghouse has signed a US$ 350 million contract with Doosan Heavy Industries in Korea for two pressure vessels and four steam generators for two of the plants. Those for the other two are likely to be made in China. Other components of the first four units will be imported, but by the fifth, local content is expected to be 100%.
Purchase of these reactors, the choice evidently driven by favourable technology transfer provisions, will give China a leading world position with late third-generation reactor technology and provide the main platform for China's further nuclear technology development. The State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC), directly under China's State Council, made the technology choice and is expected to become the licensee for the AP1000 units, the first of which are expected to be operating in 2013. Project control will be with China National Nuclear Corporation for Sanmen and China Power Investment Corporation for Haiyang.
Resource Investor 25/4/07, Nucleonics Week 26/4/07.
Japan increases Kazakh involvement
Three Japanese companies have bought 40% of the Kharasan uranium project, part of the Western mining group in the Syrdarya basin of Kazakhstan. They will take 2000 tU/yr when it is in full production at 5000 tU/yr. Of that share, Marubeni has 60%, Tepco 30% and Chubu 10%. Tohoku intends to buy into those shares. Project funding is expected from the Japan Bank for Intentional Cooperation.
As Japan seeks more access to Kazakhstan's uranium, a number of high-level agreements on energy cooperation have been signed. Japan has agreed to technological assistance for Kazakh ambitions to sell finished fuel, rather than just raw materials. This would fit with Kazakh participation in the first international uranium enrichment centre at Angarsk, in Russia. Toshiba has also agreed to discuss Kazakh nuclear power plant construction possibilities.
Tepco 24/4/07, AFP 30/4/07, WNN 1/5/07.
Japan selects lead company for fast reactors
The Japanese government has selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) as the core company to develop a new generation of fast breeder reactors (FBRs). FBRs are a central part of Japan's long-term energy policy in order to maximize uranium resource use and are promoted by government ministries, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan who are concerned to accelerate the development of a world-leading FBR by Japan. MHI has been actively engaged in FBR development since the 1960s as a significant part of its nuclear power business.
Japan gears up nuclear infrastructure
The main company producing the heavy forgings required for nuclear power plants is spending 40 billion Yen ($330 million) to increase capacity in advance of orders expected from both China and the USA. Japan Steel Works (JSW) has production and research bases in Hiroshima, Yokohama and Muroran. The Muroran centre, in Hokkaido, hosts the heavy steel works and research laboratory relevant to power generation. Muroran manufactures reactor pressure vessels, steam generator components, generator & turbine rotor shafts, clad steel plates and turbine casings for nuclear power plants. JSW has been manufacturing forgings for nuclear plant components to US Nuclear Regulatory Commission standards since 1974, and around 130 JSW reactor pressure vessels are used around the world - more than one third of the total.
Turkey passes nuclear legislation
Turkey has adopted legislation to prepare for construction of the first nuclear power plants. It authorizes the Energy Ministry to choose location and contractor for up to three reactors to provide 5000 MWe of electricity from 2012. It requires authorities to set purchase prices for the power, based on the companies' tenders and to arrange long-term power purchase agreements, which will enable financing for the new plants. The Turkish Atomic Energy Authority would determine tender specifications and evaluate bids. A provisional site is at Sinop, on the Black Sea, though Akkuyu on the Mediterranean coast is already licensed.
Meanwhile, near Istanbul, eight Organised Industrial Parks comprising 70,000 firms and using 1.5 billion kWh per year have set up a joint venture to construct the country's first nuclear power plant. One or two 1500 MWe units are proposed either at the designated Sinop site on the Black Sea, Gokova on the Mediterranean (west coast), or perhaps a smaller plant at a site near Istanbul.
WNN 10/5/07, Zaman 10/5/07, Energy in E Europe 11/5/07.
China's uranium from coal ash project
China plans to clean up coal
China National Nuclear Corp has commissioned Sparton Resources of Canada with the Beijing No.5 Testing Institute to undertake advanced trials on leaching uranium from coal ash out of the Xiaolongtang power station in Yunnan. The ash contains 160-180 ppm U - above the cut-off level for some uranium mines. The power station ash heap contains over 1000 tU, with annual arisings of 106 tU.
Sparton 23/4 & 17/5/07.
China's National Development and Reform Commission has made policies to shut down many small (less than 100 MWe) thermal power plants during the 11th five-year plan (2006-2011). A total of 50 GWe will be shut down, with 10 GWe in 2007 as the units are replaced by larger cleaner models. All newly built coal plants would be required to have desulfurisation scrubbers fitted - including the 65 GWe of new plant currently under construction - removing an estimated 2.2 million tonnes of sulfur dioxide from potential emissions. There would be fines for coal plants not employing the technology. Fossil-fired power plants comprise about 72% of China's 622 GWe capacity, with hydro at 25% and nuclear power around 3%. The nuclear component of the 11th five-year plan includes ten large new nuclear reactors.
In March the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution imposing further sanctions on Iran and reaffirming that Iran must take the steps required by the IAEA Board, notably to suspend its uranium enrichment activities. An IAEA report says that 1640 centrifuges in 10 cascades have been installed at Natanz and are operational in defiance of the UN. More are being installed. Separately, Iran is seeking bids to construct two large nuclear reactors - 1000 to 1600 MWe each - near Bushehr.
IAEA 24/3/07, Times 24/5/07.
AFRICA, S. AMERICA
Green light for Paladin's Malawi mine
Paladin Resources has been granted a mining licence for its Kayelekera Uranium Project in Malawi. With environmental approval already received, this now clears the way for the US$ 185 million construction to commence. First production is expected late in 2008, ramping up to full capacity of 1270 t U/yr in mid 2009.
Paladin 3 & 9/4/07.
Brazil contemplates major nuclear expansion
Brazil's Energy Ministry is proposing to build four to eight large new nuclear reactors to meet increasing electricity demand. The actual number will depend on whether two new hydroelectric projects on the Madiera and Xingu Rivers in the Amazon basin proceed against environmental objections. Brazil has two nuclear plants operating and a third - Angra-3 - which has been on the verge of construction for some years (70% of the equipment is on site). The president has now approved finishing it. Brazil has substantial uranium resources and a small enrichment plant at Resende.
Bloomberg 16/5/07, Xinhua 16 & 21/5/07.
Areva commits to Shea Creek exploration
Areva is spending C$ 100 million on drilling its Shea Creek uranium project in northern Saskatchewan, 15 kilometres south of its now closed Cluff Lake mine. A deep shaft will give better access to the mineralised area, which has already given some very high grade intersections. UEX Corporation has a 24.5% share in the venture with the prospect of increasing this to 49%
Australian uranium policy moves on
The Australian Labor Party has finally abandoned its "no new uranium mines" policy dating from 1982, which will encourage investors by the removal of some political risk. Uranium exploration expenditure is now running at A$ 100 million (US$ 83 million) per year, up tenfold in three years. However, mining is controlled by state governments, and the present West Australian Labor government is not expected to change its anti-uranium stance. Queensland may do so earlier.
The National Labor conference was upstaged by the Prime Minister's announcement that the government would proceed to open the way for nuclear power in Australia by setting up a nuclear regulatory regime and applying to join the Generation-IV International Forum. This is developing advanced reactor designs for deployment about 2025. Government would also take steps to remove impediments to uranium mining. "Policies or political platforms that seek to constrain the development of a safe and reliable Australian uranium industry - and which rule out the possibility of climate-friendly nuclear energy - are not really serious about addressing climate change in a practical way that does not strangle the Australian economy." The government is set to address carbon trading before mid year.
PM 28/4, AUA 28/4, AFR 30/4/07.
Summit accepts Paladin's takeover
In the light of political uncertainties it said were created by the Queensland premier before the Labor party's policy change, the board of Summit Resources accepted Paladin's A$ 1.23 billion takeover bid. This would give Paladin full control of the Valhalla uranium orebody and associated deposits in northwest Queensland - the Mount Isa project. The Valhalla deposit has 26,000 tonnes U3O8 as indicated and inferred resources, but it is open and likely to increase. Another 11,500 t of resources are nearby.
However, Paladin's takeover was complicated by Areva taking a 10.5% blocking stake in Summit, for A$ 126 million. Areva had negotiated a A$ 293 million agreement with Summit to buy 18% of the company and market much of its uranium. This was vetoed as the Paladin takeover proceeded. Paladin now has about 80% of Summit.
Paladin 12, 16 & 30/4/07, Summit 11 &30/4/07.
Global partnership takes shape
Senior energy officials from China, France, Japan, Russia and the USA have given clear international endorsement to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), which was initiated in 2006 by the USA. They issued a joint statement in support of GNEP's nuclear energy cooperation, which includes fast reactors and closing the fuel cycle to reprocess used fuel. A number of technical challenges must be met including "development of advanced, more proliferation-resistant fuel cycle approaches and reactor technologies that will preserve existing international market regulations." They concluded by emphasizing that "participants share a common view that a long-term vision of the global nuclear fuel cycle cannot be achieved without broader cooperation and partnerships involving nations that currently utilize, or are planning to develop, civilian nuclear energy." Countering nuclear weapons proliferation remains a major goal of GNEP. The UK - whose emerging nuclear policy now assumes no reprocessing - and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) participated as observers.
WNN 22/5/07, Nucleonics Week 24/5/07.
Analyses indicate nuclear futures
Widespread use of low-carbon electricity is the key to greenhouse gas abatement, and nuclear electricity in particular has the potential for major expansion in coming decades, according to two new reports. Eurelectric, the Brussels-based electricity industry union, said a scenario based on supply optimisation saw major increases in nuclear and coal with carbon capture & storage. Another scenario saw the role of electricity change to include uses traditionally dominated by combustion of oil and gas, such as in plug-in hybrid electric cars leading to a large increase in demand. A separate report by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), said that governments and businesses around the globe have moved from talking to taking real action to renew the development of nuclear power and have created good prospects for a major nuclear expansion over coming decades: "Governments and businesses are taking action. The 'nuclear renaissance' is real."
Eurelectric, 22/03/7, CERA 2/4/07
Questions have been raised regarding the amount of water used for cooling nuclear power plants, relative to coal-fired plants.
In fact there is no basic difference in water consumption or use between a nuclear and a coal plant. Apart from size, any differences between plants is due to thermal efficiency, ie how much heat has to be dumped into the environment. A nuclear or coal plant running at 32% efficiency will need to dump about 5% more heat than one at 35-36% efficiency. Nuclear plants currently being built have about 34-36% thermal efficiency, depending on site (especially water temperature). The relatively new Stanwell coal-fired plant in Queensland runs at 36%.
If cooling for either type of plant is by using evaporative cooling towers this will translate into water use. But if it is using a large volume of water (big river, lake or sea) run through the plant and discharged at a slightly higher temperature, there is no "use" in the sense of depletion. Cooling water is not polluted by use.
Most nuclear power plants are cooled in the latter fashion, since their location is not at all determined by the fuel source. In Australia, any nuclear plants would certainly be on coastal sites. Any coal plant not situated very close to its fuel source must have a lot of fuel brought to it, eg over 3 million tonnes of coal for a 1000 MWe plant (cf less than 30 tonnes of fuel for same-sized nuclear plant). This has logistic and aesthetic implications compared with a clean and uncluttered coastal nuclear plant.
World reactor changes in last two months:
India: Kaiga-3 grid connect April, 202 MWe
Russia: construction 2 x 35 MWe Severodvinsk
Sweden: Ringhals 1 uprate 15 MWe to 858
China: Tianwan 2 1000 MWe grid connect
From WNA Digest: February - March 2007
US utility strategy - a sign of the times?
What does a major US utility with 18,100 MWe of generating capacity do when new owners seek to maximise its assets and prospects for decades ahead from 2007?
Texas-based TXU Corporation's share price had sagged due to public disquiet with proposals to build 11 new coal-fired power plants and the company accepted a $45 billion private equity buyout. It then announced that plans for eight of the coal-fired plants would be scrapped due to their CO2 emissions, thus "preventing 56 million tons of annual carbon [dioxide] emissions." Some $400 million would be invested in demand-side management initiatives, and there would be increased attention on "exploring renewable energy sources." However, the main priority would remain: "addressing Texas' immediate and future energy and reliability needs."
However, plans for two to six large nuclear reactors at Comanche Peak (in addition to the two 1150 MWe reactors now operating there) and probably two other sites were affirmed, and two weeks later the technology choice for these was announced. Two environmental groups - Environmental Defence and Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) - were closely involved and endorsed the deal, along with the major change of company policy. It was also announced that William Reilly, Chairman Emeritus of World Wildlife Fund and former EPA Administrator, would join the TXU board "and lead effort in making climate stewardship central to corporate policies".
The head of the NRDC Climate Centre said that the group did not have a problem with more nuclear plants being built if the industry could finance them without government subsidies. However, he still saw downsides to nuclear power.
The company said that "The acquisition of TXU by the investor group will be accompanied by an environmental focus that will make TXU a leader in conservation and energy efficiency, creating a fundamental change in the Texas electric market. In addition, the company's new strategic direction will seek to achieve top environmental performance in the industry and greater involvement and dialogue with environmental, government and community leaders." In particular, TXU will join the US Climate Action Partnership lobbying for changed US policy and "TXU is also pledging to support the mandatory cap and trade program to regulate carbon emissions."
The investor group is led by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) and Texas Pacific Group (TPG), two of the nation's leading private equity firms, and involved Goldman Sachs & Co., a leading global investment bank. Rich Friedman, Global Head of Goldman Sachs' Merchant Banking Division, said: "This transaction serves as a model for long-term environmental stewardship. By investing in new technologies, encouraging conservation and reducing carbon emissions and pollutants, TXU is on the path to being a 21st century power company. We, together with KKR and TPG, are proud to have been able to play a constructive role in the development of the significant environmental elements that help set this transaction apart."
TXU has now withdrawn permit applications for the eight pulverised coal plants, cutting new coal capacity from 11 to 2 GWe, but said it needed to proceed with the other three to meet short-term demand. A week later TXU announced that it had started planning for two "clean coal" commercial demonstration plants for Texas. These will be Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) units with carbon dioxide capture and sequestration, one burning black coal and one brown coal (lignite). IGCC plants produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide which are then burned in a gas turbine with secondary steam turbine (ie combined cycle) to produce electricity. Depending on how much CO2 capture is envisaged, these will probably need to be oxygen-fed so as to give concentrated CO2 in the flue gas.
TXU expects to lodge the combined construction and operating licence (COL) application for the nuclear units including the greenfield sites by October 2008 - for the first two units at Comanche Peak probably earlier. This would bring the units on line 2015-2020. Design certification application for the Mitsubishi US-APWR reactors is expected in March 2008 with approval possibly in 2011. If all six US-APWR units are built this will total over 10 GWe - almost as much as the pre-takeover coal-fired plans.
TXU 26/2, 1/3 & 9/3/07, Nucleonics Week 1 & 15/3/07.
USA invests in nuclear prospects
As about 15 companies and consortia prepare to lodge combined construction and operation licence applications for up to 33 new reactors, the US Nuclear Energy Institute says that they will have invested at least $2 billion by the end of 2007. This money is being spent on design and engineering work for new reactor types, on preparation of licence applications and in procurement of long-lead equipment such as reactor vessels and steam generators. While not all the proposals are likely to go forward in the short term, some 40 GWe of new capacity is involved. Financing will be a major challenge.
In 2006 the 103 US nuclear plants in 31 states produced 787.6 billion kWh at a record low production cost of 1.66 c/kWh (excluding capital component). The industry is steadily building the value of its assets through license renewal - adding 20 years to the original 40-year operating term for nuclear plants, and 48 renewals have been granted so far.
NEI 20 & 22/2/07.
First US Early Site Permit
Exelon has been awarded the first Early Site Permit for its Clinton plant in Illinois, after 41 months processing by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and public review. The ESP is one of three strands of streamlined permitting for new nuclear plants. No particular technology is specified, but the site is declared suitable on safety, environmental and related grounds for new nuclear power plant up to a total of 2400 MWe. The Clinton site has a single 1026 MWe twenty year old boiling water reactor. Further ESP approvals are expected this year. With a reactor type that has US design certification, a utility then needs a combined construction and operating licence (COL). The first COL applications are expected to be lodged this year, with three years processing envisaged.
US utility chooses Japanese reactor for new plant
Rather than choosing one of the four main contenders for new nuclear plant construction in the USA, TXU has signed a memorandum of understanding for supply of two 1700 MWe Mitsubishi unis - the US-APWR - for Comanche Peak in the suburbs of Dallas. This is not yet in the queue for US Design Certification, but the design has evolved from Westinghouse pressurised water reactors which Mitsubishi has built under licence in Japan and which are common in the USA. They will be the first Japanese exports of full reactors. The Washington Group International will be involved in US developments with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
Nucleonics Week 15/3/07.
USA boosts nuclear budgets
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) expects to receive $217 million in FY-2008 (from October '07) to fund evaluation of proposals for new nuclear plants, up from $133 million in 2007, to cover the review of about 12-15 combined construction permit - operating licence (COL) applications expected to be lodged. Some 90% of NRC's overall budget is recovered from industry.
The Department of Energy seeks $24.3 billion for its FY-2008 budget, including $875 million for nuclear energy programs. The Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative for closing the fuel cycle and supporting the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership would receive $395 million of this (up from $167.5 million this year) and Generation-IV R&D would get $36 million (same as FY-07), chiefly for the very high temperature reactor. The Nuclear Power 2010 program aimed at early deployment of advanced reactors would get $114 million, up from $80 million this year. There is also $385 million for clean coal technologies, $1240 million for renewables and energy efficiency and $428 million for basic fusion research.
The DOE budget document says that the USA needs to construct 8 to 12 GWe of new generating capacity each year to 2030 - 345 GWe total. The NP2010 program aims to contribute to this by making it possible for utilities to have a real option of deciding on nuclear plants by FY-2010. In particular it will enable first-of-a-kind design activities to firm up costs and enable long lead-time procurement for GE's ESBWR and Westinghouse AP1000 reactor designs.
No funds were sought for university programs as enrollments in nuclear engineering have reached targeted levels to support the anticipated nuclear renaissance in USA.
DOE 5/2/07, Nucleonics Week 8/2 & 22/3/07.
US power forecasts grow
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) sees the need for 64 GWe of new nuclear generating capacity in the USA by 2030 - 24 GWe of it by 2020, with nuclear representing some 25.5% of output by 2030. EPRI assessed technologies with significant potential to reduce CO2 emissions from US power generation within the next 25-30 years while accommodating increased demand, endorsing nuclear power as one of seven options. EPRI recommends the continued operation of existing nuclear generating plants, with a substantial expansion to include new advanced light-water reactors.
In contrast, the US Energy Information Administration in its latest annual outlook projects only 12.5 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2030, plus 2.7 GWe from uprates and less 2.6 GWe of plant retirements in its reference case. A huge increase in coal use is projected. Nuclear would then contribute only 15% of US electricity. However, with increased fuel costs (eg gas 28% higher than reference case) new nuclear capacity would be 24 GWe.
EIA 20/2/07, EPRI 15/2/07.
New review of terrorist threat
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has updated its requirements for protection of nuclear power plants from terrorist attack from land or water. In respect to impact of a large aircraft the NRC relies on military intervention but points out that nuclear plants are "inherently robust structures that provide adequate protection in a hypothetical attack by an airplane."
US uranium production rising
US uranium production in 2006 was 1870 tonnes U3O8 (1586 tU), a 53% increase on 2005. This came from the White Mesa mill and five in situ leach (ISL) operations: Crow Butte, Smith Ranch-Highland, Alta Mesa, Kingsville Dome and Vasquez.
Fourth US utility compensated for government inaction on used fuel
Duke Energy has negotiated $56 million compensation plus ongoing costs from tax funds for the failure of the Department of Energy to start removing used fuel by its 1998 deadline.
EU commits to reduce CO2
The European Council has endorsed the European Commission's Strategic Energy Review and agreed on a unilateral cut of 20% in EU greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, relative to 1990 levels. The current commitment is 8% reduction by 2012. This will require strengthening and extending carbon trading arrangements as well as deploying low- or zero-carbon technology. If other countries at the expanded G8 meeting in June (G8 plus India, China and Brazil) join the EU in committing to a 20% reduction, the EU will increase its figure to 30% reduction. French President Chirac described the outcome as "one of the great moments of European history."
The Council also set a target of meeting 20% of EU energy needs from renewables, leaving individual countries to decide their own policies in such a way as to allow nuclear power as part of their energy mix to be taken into consideration in allocating individual country targets for renewables. The Council noted "the European Commission's assessment of the contribution of nuclear energy in meeting the growing concerns about safety of energy supply and CO2 emission reductions" and it acknowledged the role of nuclear energy "as a low CO2-emitting energy source".
WNN 9/3/07, Times 10/3/07, Foratom statement.
Poland and Baltic Sates to build reactor
The three Baltic states and Poland have agreed to build a new nuclear plant at Ignalina, initially with 3200 MWe. Lithuania as host will have 34% of the project and Poland, Latvia and Estonia 22% each.
Nucleonics Week 1/3/07.
Russia plans early reactor construction
Rosatom plans to begin construction of Russia's first two power plants using its advanced pressurised water reactor - AES-2006 - later this year, with first concrete in March 2008 and first power late in 2012. The 1200 MWe units will be built at Leningrad II and Novovoronezh, eventually with four and two new reactors respectively. The first pair of units at each site is expected to cost US$ 3.0 - 3.7 billion.
Nucleonics Week 8/2/07.
Russia joins OECD nuclear agency
Russia has signed a cooperation declaration with the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), bringing it much more into the mainstream of Western nuclear industry development. Russia has been participating for some years in the NEA's work on reactor safety and nuclear regulation and is hosting an NEA project on reactor vessel melt-through. Last year Russia joined the Generation-IV International Forum, for which NEA provides the secretariat. The NEA is expanding its scope in line with international interest, and expects to increase its involvement with China. Both Russia and China are members of the NEA's Multinational Design Evaluation Program which is increasingly important in rationalising reactor design criteria. This agreement will also progress Russia's integration into the OECD.
Nucleonics Week 22/3/07.
Switzerland affirms nuclear future
The Swiss government has announced that the existing five nuclear power reactors should be replaced in due course with new units. The new energy policy includes renewables, energy efficiency and gas-fired plants, but has nuclear continuing to carry the main load apart from hydro, which is not amenable to expansion. Without new investment a 20 billion kWh/yr shortfall is predicted by 2020 - 25% of demand. A 2003 public referendum affirmed nuclear power for the country's energy future.
Balkan states appeal to EU over Bulgarian reactor
Five Balkan states called for the EU to allow Bulgaria to restart its Kozloduy 3 and 4 nuclear power reactors. Bulgaria agreed to shut down the two Soviet-designed units by the end of 2006 as part of its EU accession treaty. However, Bulgaria, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Croatia said in a joint statement that they were "concerned about the current electricity supply problems in the region, which could result in higher economic and political instability." They said that electricity prices in the region had risen 80-100% in the past year. The EU is unlikely to relent, having compensated Bulgaria for the closures. Slovakia and Lithuania have also asked the European Commission for permission to restart Soviet-era reactors shut down as part of their accession commitments, pending replacement capacity being commissioned.
British Energy seeks cash for new nuclear plants
British Energy has called for private equity partners to help fund major investment in new nuclear plants in UK. Various major European utilities and also private equity groups are interested.
International report on UK energy policy
The OECD's International Energy Agency (IEA) has released an in-depth report on the UK. It supports the government's policy shift to encourage new nuclear construction and reduce reliance on gas, along with streamlining the planning process for new energy infrastructure to achieve greater security of supply. In launching the report the head of IEA said that while nuclear power was "absolutely needed" in UK, the government must not delay grappling with its nuclear waste problem, having put it off for years. “Nuclear will not be developed if there is not a credible, satisfactory answer to nuclear waste.” The UK needed to catch up with Finland and France in this area, which he said is critical for gaining public confidence in nuclear power.
Sweden uprates Ringhals reactor
Following approval from the Nuclear Power Inspectorate (SKI) the capacity of Ringhals unit 3 has been increased by 80 MWe - nearly 10% - to 1040 MWe. A further increment is in view by 2012.
Nucleonics Week 1/2/07.
UK-US research collaboration
Nexia Solutions, the lead company in establishing the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), has formed a partnership with the USA's Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to enable the two major centres of nuclear technology to "pool resources and expertise to benefit both countries as well as global initiatives such as the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP)." As INL managers help Nexia set up the NNL, Nexia will assist INL in the field of used nuclear fuel recycling and with advice on fuel acquisition for very high-temperature reactors.
Russian charm offensive
In recent months Rosatom has actively pursued cooperation deals in South Africa, Namibia, Chile and Morocco. It also signed a memorandum of understanding with Italy's Enel for cooperation on nuclear power projects in third countries, notably Eastern and Central Europe (where Enel has a major presence), using Russian technology. Tenex has also entered agreements to mine and explore for uranium in South Africa (with local companies) and in Canada (with Cameco).
WNN 15/3/07, Nuclear.Ru 20/3/07.
Powerful new Russian icebreaker
Russia's sixth and largest Arktika-class icebreaker - 50 Years of Victory - has started trials from St Petersburg. It is 25,000 dwt, powered by two 171 MW OK-900 reactors and is designed to break through ice up to 2.8 metres thick. It has been under construction since 1989 and was launched in 1993 as NS Ural.
RIA Novosti 13/9/06, Bellona 6/2/07.
France building new research reactor
The French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) has started construction of a 100 MWt materials test reactor at Cadarache. The Jules Horowitz reactor is the first such unit to be built for several decades, and has been identified by the EU as a key infrastructure facility to support nuclear power development, as well as producing radioisotopes and irradiating silicon for high-performance electronic use. The EUR 500 million cost is being financed by a consortium including CEA (50%), EdF (20%), Areva (10%) and EU research institutes (20%). Since the anticipated planned high-density U-Mo fuel will not be ready in time for 2013, it will start up on uranium silicide fuel enriched to 27%.
Nucleonics Week 22/3/07.
ASIA, AFRICA, S. AMERICA
China progress on new reactors
A framework agreement has been signed between Westinghouse + Shaw Group and China's State Nuclear Power Technology Co to supply four AP1000 third-generation nuclear power reactors, specifying Haiyang in Shandong province as the site of the second pair of the 1100 MWe units, with Sanmen. Final contracts will be signed in mid 2007, construction is to start in 2009 and the first power is expected in 2013. The second site previously specified for these, Yangjiang in Guangdong province, will now get a pair of 1650 MWe Areva EPR reactors. A final agreement with Areva is expected soon and a related agreement with EdF was signed in February. Guangdong has an established preference for French nuclear technology.
Westinghouse 1/3/07, IHT 5/3/07.
South Africa expanding nuclear reliance
The South African government has announced that further pressurised water reactor (PWR) nuclear plants will be built in the Western Cape province, with the first - of about 1 GWe - being on line by 2014. In addition the country plans to set up enrichment capacity particularly for its Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) program. International involvement by 'nuclear vendors', particularly France's Areva, would be sought for both conventional and PBMR development as well as the fuel cycle. Russia's Rosatom (soon to be Atomenergoprom) said it was keen to get involved in all aspects of this, having just contracted to supply fuel for the Koeberg plant to 2008, and hoping to do until 2020. The Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) expects nuclear capacity to increase to about 27 GWe, supplying 30% of electricity, by 2030, including 12 new large PWR units and an initial set of 24 small PBMRs.
WNN 12 & 16/2/07, Reuters 20 & 22/2/07, NuclearRu 23/2/07.
Russia aims for more reactors in India
Russian and Indian leaders have agreed in principle that Russia should build four more nuclear power reactors at Kudankulam and further units at other sites in India. A formal agreement is proposed, subject to Russia persuading the Nuclear Suppliers Group to approve the deal and lift its restraints on such trade. It is expected that India will choose the new AES-2006 nuclear plant which is about to be built in Russia. The first fuel for Kudankulam units 1 & 2 will be supplied by Russia in the middle of the year.
New Indian reactor starts up
Unit 3 of the Kaiga nuclear power plant has started up after five years construction. Grid connection is expected about the end of March. It is one of the last four 220 MWe (gross) reactors which form the bulk of India's nuclear power capacity. Unit 4 is abut six months behind it. Newer units of the similar pressurised heavy water (PHWR) design will be 490 or 700 MWe.
China boosts power capacity
Last year China added 102 GWe of new generating capacity, more than the total installed capacity in UK and Ireland and exactly twice Australia's total. Most of this was coal-fired, and only one 1000 MWe nuclear plant started up. The announcement said that Beijing would resist international pressure to slow its growth in energy demand and CO2 emissions. The 2006 power increment is likely to account for some 500 million extra tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
China Electric Power News in FT 7/2/07.
Namibian uranium prospect firms
UraMin Inc has announced an upgrade of uranium resources at its Trekkopje project in Namibia. A trial mine is planned for late 2007 and commercial production could begin a year later at higher levels than previously expected, possibly 3600 tonnes U3O8 (3000 tU) per year, with open-pit mine and a sodium carbonate/ bicarbonate heap leach process. There has been a substantial conversion of 'inferred' to 'indicated' resources. Measured and indicated resources are now estimated at 21,000 tonnes U3O8 at 0.0146% and inferred resources are 27,000 tonnes U3O8 at slightly lower grade. Over 9000 tonnes of vanadium pentoxide by-product is envisaged.
Chile to propose nuclear power
The Chilean Energy Ministry has announced that it is investigating the development of nuclear power to meet a need for 5 GWe of new generating capacity and secure a measure of energy security as Argentina cuts back gas exports. A major business group has already had discussions with Areva about building a nuclear power plant to connect Chile's northern and central power grids.
Santiago Times 28/2/07.
Japan digs out past reactor incidents
As part of an exercise ordered by Japan's Nuclear & Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), reactor owners have been combing records to divulge past incidents which were not reported at the time - mostly because they were not required to be. However, it has turned up some incidents which should have been reported, including a brief criticality during refuelling at Hokuriku's 540 MWe Shika-1 plant in 1999. A series of deficiencies and errors contributed to the incident, and clearly more should have been learned from it to benefit other operators of boiling water reactors such as Chubu and Tohoku, which have also had control rod anomalies over the last 20 years. NISA has ordered the reactor to be shut down for detailed checks.
Nucleonics Week 22/3/07, WNN.
Russia threatens Iran
The Russian government has told Iran that it will indefinitely withhold fuel for the almost-complete Bushehr nuclear power reactor unless Iran suspends its uranium enrichment program. Some Russian staff working on the project have returned home. Atomstroyexport has been building the 1000 MWe plant, and has agreed both to supply the fuel and take back the used fuel, so Iran does not need to get involved in any of that. Iran has failed to convince the international community that its enrichment program has any peaceful justification, and access to the Natanz enrichment plant by IAEA safeguards inspectors has recently been blocked. The UN Security Council is considering sanctions.
Australian, FT 21/3/07, NTI 20/3/07.
Canadian 2006 production drops
Half year results from Canada's three uranium mines show continued strong output from McArthur River but McClean Lake still grappling with low-grade ore. McArthur River produced 4628 tonnes U3O8 (3924 tU), Rabbit Lake 1148 t (973 tU) and McClean Lake 512 t (434 tU). Full 2006 figures are then 8492 t, 2326 t and 814 t U3O8 (7200, 1972 and 690 tU) respectively, total 11632 tonnes (9863 tU), a 15% drop in production from 2005.
Cameco, Areva Res.
Alberta prepares for nuclear power
Energy Alberta Corp. is planning for a two-unit Candu nuclear power plant to supply energy for oil sands extraction and processing. The C$ 5.5 billion project would probably be built near Fort McMurray and be primarily for electricity rather than steam production. The units would come on line in 2016 and 2017 and probably be followed by two more. Canadian natural gas is inadequate to supply the anticipated expansion in oil sands output and its use has major CO2 implications which are creating public concern. About 20% of the amount of energy in the oil is required to produce it.
Reuters 1/3/07, www.energyab.com
Canada-Russia exploration agreement
Cameco Corporation has further developed it arrangement with Russia's Technabexport (Tenex) jointly to explore for uranium in Russia and later Canada, with the prospect of joint mine developments. Financing of projects will be split equally. Cameco will provide the technology. In Russia Tenex will keep the mined ore and in Canada it will be split evenly.
Cameco 12/3/07, WNN 13/3/07.
Australian uranium production lags
Half year results from Australia's three uranium mines show improved output from Ranger after pit flooding and acid plant problems early in the year, but a modest total. Ranger produced 2760 tonnes U3O8 (2340 tU), Olympic Dam 1613 t (1620 t UOC, 1368 tU) and Beverley 462 t (392 tU). Full 2006 figures are then 4748 t, 3381.5 t and 824.6 t U3O8 (4026.1, 2867.4 and 699.2 tU) respectively, total 8954 tonnes (7592.7 tU) - 20 % down on 2005.
ERA, BHPB, Heathgate.
Australian uranium bid
Australia's Paladin Resources, which has just opened its first uranium mine in Namibia, has made a takeover bid for rival Summit Resources. Paladin owns the Manyingee and Oobagooma deposits in Western Australia as well as the new Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia. It has just decided to proceed with developing the Kayelekera uranium deposit in Malawi, to produce 1500 t U3O8 per year from 2009. Summit Resources controls the Valhalla uranium deposit in NW Queensland, with large and open indicated and inferred resources - part of the Isa Uranium Joint venture. The nearby Skal deposit is also part of it. Last year Paladin bought a 50% interest in the JV, so the takeover bid would bring several prospective properties under Paladin's full ownership. The offer values Summit at just over A$ 1 billion and provides a 34% premium on recent sharemarket transactions. Summit has rejected the bid.
Paladin 27/2/07, Summit 27/2 & 2/3/07.
Energy & Emissions study assesses nuclear power
The Energy Supply Association of Australia (ESAA) has completed a study on electricity supply options relative to CO2 emission constraints in meeting projected load in 2030. For a 67% increase in electricity load, greenhouse gas emission targets of 140%, 100% and 70% of 2000 levels were modeled, with three supply options: all credible technologies; without nuclear; and without both nuclear and fossil fuel (with carbon capture and storage). Constraining CO2 emissions results in nuclear contributing 20% of the power, with overall about 30% increase in costs, hence a need for costing carbon to cover this. ESAA concluded that "the widest possible range of generation technologies will be needed."
Veteran research reactor closed down
After 49 years operation ANSTO's HIFAR research reactor has been closed down and will be decommissioned over the next decade. The new OPAL research reactor, with twice the power and much greater sophistication and versatility has taken over, though it will not be fully operational until April. "OPAL will allow ANSTO to increase its production of radioisotopes using neutron beam techniques and expand its research … as well as continue supplying nuclear medicine to half a million Australians each year."
Scientific consensus firms on climate change
A meeting of the scientific working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has assessed the latest information on climate change and firmed up its view that climatic warming since 1950 "is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations," ie more than 90% likely. The warming will continue and produce greater climate changes this century if current or greater levels of emissions occur. The IPCC does not project higher temperature and sea level rises than in its previous report five years ago, but instead brings increased certainty to earlier projections. Its 1600-page section of the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report was published early in February and provides a substantial basis for government policies worldwide. The report's section on Adaptation will be finalised in April and that on Mitigation in May.
Major uranium company merger
SXR Uranium One Inc has agreed to acquire UrAsia Energy for some US$ 3.1 billion. The combined company, to be known as Uranium One, would have a market capitalisation of some $5 billion, making it the second largest pure uranium company, behind Cameco. It would have uranium production and assets in Australia, Canada, Kazakhstan, South Africa and the USA. Estimated production in 2008 would be over 3200 tonnes U3O8 from five small mines (Dominion, Akdala, South Inkai, Kharassan and Honeymoon), ranking it seventh in the world. Claimed production costs are $22-26/kg U3O8. Potential production about 2012 is 8500 t/yr U3O8. The company's proven and probable reserves would be 22,200 tonnes U3O8, indicated resources 46,300t and inferred resources 122,000t.
SXR Uranium One 12/2/07.
2006 a boom year for wind
In 2006 new wind turbine capacity of 15,197 MW was installed, taking the world total to 74,223 MWe, a 25% increase costing US$ 23 billion. The biggest increments were in USA, Germany, India, Spain and China - all with more than 1000 MWe. The largest capacities are now Germany (20,621 MWe), Spain (11,615 MWe) and the USA (11,603 MWe). The US capacity is claimed to produce 31 billion kWh/yr at 30.5% capacity factor, and is subsidized by a 1.8c/kWh production tax credit. In contrast, only 1490 MWe of new nuclear capacity started up in 2006.
GWEC 8/2/07, AWEA 23/1/07.
World reactor changes in last two months:
Sweden: Ringhals 3: 80 MWe uprate to 1040 MWe
From WNA Digest: January 2007
Getting to grips with Nuclear News
Regular Newsletter readers should already have noticed changes to the look of this edition, one being the inclusion of the WNN - World Nuclear News logo on the front page.
Apart from the fact that the Australian Uranium Association (AUA) now incorporates the Uranium Information Centre functions, the reason behind this rebranding is that internationally the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and the World Nuclear University (WNU) have pooled resources to support a new news service. This builds on existing information gathering and library capabilities, and draws on both international organisations' expertise and network of contacts to produce nuclear news on a daily basis. Where appropriate, WNN draws on other news providers, with acknowledgment.
This news can then be understood in the light of the material in 108 AUA briefing papers and several mines papers which are constantly updated (last year 80 of the briefing papers were updated, with 183 updates published overall - several were updated eight times during the year).
A new focus
The focus of the World Nuclear News initiative is the website: www.world-nuclear-news.org which contains all of its reporting. The website is free for all to access and will remain so. We suggest that you bookmark it.
Each day, supported and advised by the international staff of WNA and WNU, experienced nuclear journalists assess the events of the last 24 hours and write-up the most important stories. These are posted to the website immediately while summaries of those stories comprise the content of WNN Daily, an e-mail alert to new website content with links to the full stories online.
A second email notification is the WNN Weekly, which contains summaries of all the week's stories, sorted by category, and links to the full articles online. WNN Weekly replaces WNA News Briefing.
Thirdly, there is the AUA Weekly Digest (which internationally is WNN Overview). As before, this puts nuclear-related items into perspective for those outside the industry, as a one-pager on only the most significant news.
The Newsletter continues in the form you see it here, with both WNN and AUA branding. Some Newsletter readers will already be receiving WNN emails. Any that wish to sign up for the free daily or weekly service can do so at the WNN website.
The WNN mission is to address three audiences: those working in the nuclear industry who need to be kept up to date on their business; the general public that is interested in energy policy, climate change and how the challenges are being met; and also journalists, researchers, students, nuclear communicators and decision-makers who want access to credible details.
In order to meet the demands of these groups, WNN's writers and editors intend to present every story, no matter how specialised, in a way that is comprehensible to the lay person. As well as valuable background information and accurate facts and figures, each story includes links to relevant authoritative sources like the International Atomic Energy Agency, the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency, or AUA's own briefing papers.
The philosophy of thorough reporting is epitomised in WNN's Insight Briefings. When there is an important nuclear story which will garner wide interest, WNN writers will put together a full account complete with details of the context and significance of each aspect of it. Examples of this type of story would be the US-India nuclear cooperation deal, the ongoing tension over Iran's uranium enrichment programme or the Forsmark power supply event. Interested readers can sign up to receive notifications of Insight Briefings on the WNN website too.
Furthermore, when the various 'anomalies', 'events' and 'incidents' occur from time to time at nuclear plants worldwide, these will be reported in technical detail in a special section of the WNN web site. Headed by a nuclear physics professional, Nuclear Event Reports (NER) is a comprehensive database of safety- and regulatory-significant events worldwide, including events outside the nuclear power industry, making them readily understandable and comparable for everyone. The NER will explain the safety philosophies behind the design of nuclear power plants, give advice on how to interpret event reports and explain accepted standards, particularly the International Nuclear Event Scale.
Another innovative feature of Nuclear Event Reports is its Network of Independent Experts - a list of academic and professional nuclear experts who have volunteered to be available for comment should a significant event occur in their country or area of speciality. At present this totals 22 experts in 19 countries and the number will grow.
A service for the world
A guiding principle behind both WNN's main reporting and NER is that having more information accessible is good for everybody - the nuclear industry and the general public. In this spirit, WNN editors with the support of AUA have made the decision to employ a relaxed copyright policy, as with the hundred plus briefing papers on the UIC/AUA web site. Any outlet may reproduce WNN's output verbatim in company newsletters, email circulars, magazine articles, even full newspaper features, preferably with acknowledgment. In this way, WNA and WNU, with AUA, hope WNN will give the mainstream press and generalist journalists a better chance of being confident that they have their facts right on nuclear stories and will help put them into perspective.
Sometimes non-specialist reporters in the mainstream press make minor mistakes in reporting nuclear developments. In some situations that is simply an annoyance for the company or operation involved or for the reader confronted by accounts of "megawatts per year", etc. In other situations it could seriously mislead the public over their safety. By making its content freely accessible, easy to find on internet searches and free to reproduce, WNN intends to help the media achieve clarity and reliability in nuclear matters.
US steps out with global nuclear program
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced a new strategic plan for Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) initiatives, including preparation of an environmental impact statement. It will assess three facilities: a fuel recycling centre including reprocessing and fuel fabrication plants, an "advanced recycling reactor" - a fast reactor which will burn the actinide-based fuel and transmute transuranic elements, and an advanced fuel cycle research facility. DOE envisages the first two being industry-led initiatives. Thirteen sites are under consideration for one or more of these facilities.
The international component of GNEP means that the first two facilities need to be operating by about 2020 so that fuel services can commence as an inducement for other countries not to build enrichment and reprocessing plants. There is a mid 2008 target for proceeding with these. GNEP involves fresh fuel supply and used fuel take-back by the USA, as well as by Japan and Russia. The plan also involves developing and deploying advanced proliferation-resistant reactors appropriate for the power grids of developing countries, together with enhanced safeguards.
The USA and Japan have agreed to develop over three months a nuclear energy cooperation plan centered on GNEP and the construction of new nuclear power plants. Japan also intends to participate in DOE's FutureGen clean coal project.
Nucleonics Week 11/1/07, NuclearFuel 15/1/07, GNEP strategic plan.
Further nuclear plant licence renewal and sales
The operating licence for the Palisades nuclear power plant in Michigan, USA, has been renewed for an additional 20 years by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). It is now licensed to operate until 2031 and is the 48th US reactor to be granted a life extension. The 798 MWe pressurised water reactor is operated by Nuclear Management Co on behalf of Consumers Energy, which recently agreed to sell the plant to Entergy Corp for $242 million plus $138 million for fuel and other assets.
FPL Energy has agreed to buy the Point Beach nuclear power plant (1012 MWe net) for $998 million, its third such purchase. The actual plant accounts for $783 million - $773 per kilowatt. The two units were commissioned in 1970 and 1973 and last year had their licences extended to 2030 and 2033. Power uprates are planned. FPL will assume responsibility for decommissioning and at least $360 million in trust funds will transfer to FPL for this. All power will be sold back to the vendor, Wisconsin's We Energies.
Duke Energy Carolinas and North Carolina Electric Membership Corp. have agreed to buy 19% of the 1205 MWe Catawba-1 nuclear plant for $200 million - $874/kW, taking their ownership of the plant to 38% and 62% respectively.
Nucleonics Week 21/12/06, Platts 27/12/06, NRC 17/1/07.
American focus on energy security and efficiency
President Bush has called for a marked reduction in US oil usage through greater efficiency and for energy supply diversity through technology, including renewables and "clean, safe nuclear power" for electricity.
At the same time the Canadian Natural Resources Minister speaking on the country's recent energy policy said that more nuclear power will be necessary to enable any serious inroads to be made on greenhouse gas emissions, since it is clean, reliable and affordable.
Americanpresidency.org 23/1/07, National Post 24/1/07.
EU energy policy draft slashes carbon, affirms nuclear
The European Commission has called for the EU to take "global leadership in catalysing a new industrial revolution" based on clean, low-emission energy. It has published a proposed Strategic Energy Review for the March 2007 European Council. This proposes a unilateral cut of 20% in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, relative to 1990 levels. The current commitment is 8% reduction. The EU Emission Trading Scheme is seen as a key mechanism which needs to be strengthened and extended in scope and time.
While much of the EC rhetoric is about renewables, despite the EU being way short of its targets there, it notes that nuclear power already contributes significantly to EU energy security and CO2 emission reductions while being the least cost no-carbon option. In the 27 EU states, nuclear provides one third of the electricity from 152 reactors (2006) in 15 of them. Nuclear power is "the largest source of CO2-free energy in Europe" and is a vital part of the EC carbon reduction scenario. But the EC says member states need to decide whether or not to build more, though it warns that any reduction in nuclear capacity would compromise emission cuts and energy security and will also raise electricity prices. The EC sees carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a vital technology and wants to phase out all fossil fuel plants without it by 2050. However, there are not yet any commercial plants using CCS operating.
Foratom welcomed EC's recognition of "the key contribution that nuclear energy makes to the achievement of the EU's security of supply, climate change and competitiveness goals" while highlighting nuclear power's role "as an unavoidable component of the EU's present and future energy mix."
EC 10/1/07, Foratom 10/1/07, Nucleonics Week 11/1/07, EU Energy policy draft
German dispute as energy crunch approaches
Fuelling the dispute within Germany's grand coalition government, a report by Deutsche Bank warns that Germany will miss its carbon dioxide emission targets by a wide margin, face higher electricity prices, suffer more blackouts and dramatically increase its dependence on gas imports from Russia as a result of its nuclear phase-out policy, if it is followed through. Unless adjustments are made to the shutdown timetable which was passed into law, four large reactors (which started up 1975-77) totaling almost 4 GWe will be shut down by the end of 2009. The Economy Minister and utility owners have called for urgent review of the policy. The Bank estimates that 42 GWe of new generating capacity will need to be constructed by 2022 if shutdowns proceed. Meanwhile Germany spends some EUR 2.5 billion per year subsidising its coal mines to produce 55% of its electricity (cf nuclear 31% with no subsidy).
AFP 10/1/07, FT 22/1/07, The Times in Australian 25/1/07, Foratom web site.
French reactor ordered
Electricité de France has ordered the main nuclear part of the 1650 MWe Flamanville EPR reactor from Areva. The turbine section was ordered last year from Alstom. This means that 85% of the plant's projected EUR 3.3 billion cost is locked in. First concrete is expected to be poured at the end of the year and start-up is due in 2012 after a 54-month construction period.
Nucleonics Week 25/1/07.
Dutch reactor uprated
Following a mid 2006 extension of its operating life to 2033, the Borssele nuclear plant in Netherlands completed an EUR 43 million turbine replacement in December and has been uprated 7.3% from 452 to 485 MWe.
EPZ 24/1/07, 3/2/05.
Russia restructures nuclear industry
Russia is creating a single vertically-integrated state holding company for Russia's nuclear power sector, separate from the military complex. The corporation - possibly to be called Atomprom - would include uranium production, engineering, design, reactor construction, power generation and research institutes in its several branches, but not used fuel reprocessing or disposal facilities for the time being. The next step will be for nuclear fuel producer TVEL to become an Atomprom subsidiary before further firms such as enrichment entities, notably Tenex, join the holding company.
Exclusive state ownership of nuclear materials has been seen as a barrier to competitiveness and other Russian corporate entities will now be allowed to hold civil-grade nuclear materials, under state control. More broadly, the variety of joint stock companies and governmental entities will be replaced. The State Duma (lower house) voted to 372 to 43 on the second reading and 351 to 57 on the third reading to approve the law, which includes safety improvement measures and rules for nonproliferation compliance.
Novosti 6/12/06 & 19/1/07, Reuters 18/1/07, Nucleonics Week 25/1/07.
UK closes four old reactors
The UK's four oldest reactors, Sizewell A 1&2 and Dungeness A 1&2 were closed down on 31 December after 40-41 years operation, removing 870 MWe net from the grid. They bring the total of retired UK Magnox reactors to 22. The next units to close will be Oldbury 1&2 at the end of 2008. All these are first-generation Magnox units operated by BNFL's British Nuclear Group under contract to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.
Bulgaria closes two reactors prematurely
In line with its commitment in joining the EU, Bulgaria has closed its Soviet-era Kozloduy units 3 & 4, each 440 MWe. This is despite major upgrading of these two units through to 2002, including replacement of control systems. In 2003, after a two-week scrutiny by 18 international inspectors, the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) reported that the units met all necessary international standards for safe operation. This confirmed an earlier IAEA report. They would have reached their 30-year mark in 2008 and 2010 and were reported to be producing electricity at EUR 2 cents/kWh. Removing this 816 MWe (net) will curtail the country's electricity exports - 7.8 billion kWh per year. Kozloduy 5 & 6 are more modern 1000 MWe Russian plants. (Kozloduy units 1 & 2 were shut down at the end of 2002.)
Following the closure of Kozloduy units 3 & 4 on 31 December, the government is seeking higher compensation from the European Commission. The EC had promised EUR 550 million to cover the premature shutdown of units 1 & 2 in 2002 and units 3 & 4 recently. The government now says that if agreement cannot be reached on restarting units 3 & 4 to address electricity shortages in the Balkan region, a sum of EUR 1 billion would be reasonable to compensate for the lost electricity exports.
AFP 21/12/06 & 5/1/07, Nucleonics Week 21/12/06.
Slovakia closes reactor prematurely
As earlier agreed as a condition of joining the EU, Slovakia shut down one unit of its Bohunice V1 nuclear power plant at the end of December. It was an older Soviet era VVER-440 type. Closure of the 28 year old unit eliminated 408 MWe net, supplying about 9% of Slovakia's electricity. The twin second unit of the V1 plant is to be closed at the end of 2008. Both units have had major upgrades and international expert reviews have confirmed their safety. The Prime Minister said that he respected the decision to shut down the plant, but considered it as "energy treason" by the previous government, with Slovakia now becoming an electricity importer.
AFP 31/12/06, VUJE 2/1/07.
ASIA, AFRICA, S. AMERICA
Westinghouse wins China bid
After 22 months deliberation extending to high political levels, Westinghouse has been selected by the State Nuclear Power Technology Company to build four of its AP1000 nuclear power reactors in China. These are the pioneer 3rd generation plants for China, and major technology transfer is involved. Two of the 1100 MWe units will be built at Sanmen in Zhejiang province for China National Nuclear Corporation and two are designated for Yangjiang in Guangdong province for China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co. Areva was the losing bidder with its EPR, though it still expects to sell two of these for another site in China. Atomstroyexport (ASE) also bid but was eliminated earlier.
The deal is estimated to be worth some US$ 5 billion for the nuclear portion of the plants only (the turbines are subject to separate tender). They will have about 50% local content and the first are expected to be operating in 2013. The US Energy Secretary signed an agreement with the National Development and Reform Commission regarding transfer of nuclear technology to China. Contracts are expected to be signed early in 2007.
Meanwhile Tianwan unit 1 built by ASE is reported to have entered commercial production and unit 2 is preparing to load fuel.
Westinghouse 16/12/06, Nucleonics Week 21/12/06, Nuclear.Ru 17/1/07.
Asian summit focuses on energy
A 16-nation East Asia summit at Cebu in the Philippines has resulted in an accord to reduce dependence on traditional fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance regional energy security. The Chinese premier pledged to take an active part. The declaration said that "renewable energy and nuclear power will represent an increasing share" of supply. As well as ASEAN nations, China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia were involved.
AFP 15/1/07, http://www.aseansec.org/
Canada announces clean energy ambition
Having frozen a number of programs when it came to office, the Conservative government has announced C$ 230 million (US$ 200 million) investment over four years for researching clean energy technologies including next-generation nuclear power. It also flagged the possibility of using nuclear power for extracting oil from Alberta's oil sands, reducing the substantial demand for natural gas and cutting CO2 emissions from this.
Globe & Mail 18/1/07, CBC18/1/07.
Australian parliamentary report published
After 20 months work the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry & Resources has published a 732-page report Australia's Uranium: Greenhouse Friendly Fuel for an Energy Hungry World. Its Chairman said that the Committee had "reached a unanimous and bipartisan position on the need to remove all impediments to the further development of Australia's uranium resources. All members are agreed that present restrictions on uranium exploration and mining are illogical, inconsistent and anti-competitive". "Australia is uniquely placed to make a significant contribution to emissions reductions though increased production and supply of uranium." He said that "Australia should throw the world a climate lifeline through the expanded production and export of this greenhouse-friendly fuel" since renewables and energy efficiency "alone have no prospect whatsoever of meeting rapidly-growing demands for energy and abating greenhouse gas emissions to the degree required."
In respect to uranium exports to developing countries such as China: "As a matter of energy justice, Australia should not deny countries who wish to use nuclear power in a responsible manner the benefits from doing so." Parliament has now approved the bilateral treaty with China.
HOR SC report
Australian nuclear power report released
After six months work the report from the Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy Review was released by the Prime Minister in December. He said that in the context of meeting increased energy needs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions "if we are to have a sensible response we have to include nuclear power". "The report provides a thorough examination of all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle and the possible role of nuclear power in generating electricity in Australia in the longer term. It provides a clear and comprehensive analysis of the facts surrounding the nuclear industry and debunks a number of myths. I am certain that the report will make a significant contribution to informing public debate on these issues.
"The report demonstrates clearly that there are no sound reasons to prevent uranium mining in Australia and that the global growth in uranium demand provides a timely opportunity for Australia. I call upon state governments to end their bans on uranium mining and exploration, which stand in the way of investment, jobs and exports. The report's analysis of the relative greenhouse gas emissions and costs associated with different forms of electricity generation will be available for consideration by the Emissions Trading Taskforce, which is to report by the end of May 2007."
PM media release 29/12/06, UMPNER web site
Australia and China ratify agreements
The bilateral Nuclear Transfer Agreement and the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with China have now been ratified through an exchange of diplomatic notes in Beijing and will enter force in 30 days. Australian uranium can then be exported to China for power generation. A series of public hearings in Australia last year paved the way for a recommendation to Australian parliament in December.
Nuclear capacity up but reactor numbers down in 2006
During 2006 installed world nuclear capacity increased by about 475 MWe but operating reactor numbers dropped by six to 435 due to closure of eight older plants. China's new Tianwan-1 was connected to the grid in May and India's Tarapur-3 in June. Spain's Zorita closed in April, the UK's four oldest reactors closed in December, as did Bulgaria's two oldest units and Slovakia's oldest unit as a condition of EU entry. There were nine power uprates. Compared with January 2006, two more reactors were under construction, 25 more were planned and 45 more were proposed.
Uranium price finishes high
The spot price of uranium quoted by Ux Consulting finished 2006 at US$ 72/lb U3O8 ($187/kgU), almost double the level a year ago and ten times the price six years ago.
Rio Tinto rethinks uranium divestment
Rio Tinto Energy America has withdrawn its US uranium assets from sale due to "significant and unexpected changes" in world uranium market since it signed an agreement with SXR Uranium One in July 2006. The aborted $110 million deal involved the Sweetwater uranium mill and associated leases in Wyoming which Rio bought in the early 1990s but has never operated.
SXR Uranium One 8/1/07.
EU carbon emission allowances fall
The price of an allowance to emit one tonne of CO2 in 2007 fell below EUR 6 in the European Union Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) at the end of 2006 and below EUR 4 in January. This is the lowest level since trading began, and comes at the start of the last year of a three-year first phase of the ETS. Part of the reason is an oversupply of allowances granted earlier, and part is due to the price of gas falling significantly, improving the economics of burning gas instead of coal for electricity generation. CO2 emission allowances for December 2008, the first year of the second phase of the ETS, were trading at EUR 17.50/t at end of year, indicating a perception that allocations for the second phase will be tighter.
Earlier, the European Commission rejected all but one of the first batch of National Allocation Plans submitted for the second phase of the EU ETS, 2008-2012 and allocated emissions targets on average of 7% below those proposed by governments and 1% lower than the actual emissions from those Member States in 2005. Only the UK had its proposed target approved. Earlier in the year the EU ETS suffered a loss of credibility when it emerged that the emissions allocations for 2005-2007 were too generous. This triggered a collapse in the price of emissions allowances and was widely seen as damaging the ability of the ETS to signal a long term price for carbon to stimulate investment in lower emissions technologies. Governments have protested and Germany in particular claims the new targets will mean increases in power prices. The EU ETS covers around half of all emissions in the EU and excludes transport, where emissions are rising rapidly. Other national plans are being assessed.
The Age 4/1/07.
Momentum builds for wider carbon pricing
A number of large energy-using companies are becoming more vocal in several parts of the world, urging governments to put a price on the emission of greenhouse gases, notably CO2, so that they can make investment decisions with less uncertainty. A new Vattenfall study shows that the potential for reducing these emissions is quite evenly distributed among sectors and geographic regions, and is considerable. It suggests that emissions from the power sector (at present emitting 9.5 billion tonnes CO2 per year) can be reduced by about 6 billion tonnes by various means including greater use of nuclear power. It says that the cost of achieving this would be around EUR 15 (US$ 20) per tonne CO2, with much of it (40%) financed by increased efficiency.
World reactor changes in last two months:
UK: Dungeness A 1&2 reactors shut down 31/12 450 MWe
Sizewell A 1&2 reactors shut down 31/12, 420 MWe
Bulgaria: Kozloduy 3 & 4 shut down 31/12, 816 MWe
Slovakia: Bohunice-1 shut down 31/12, 408 MWe
Netherlands: Borssele 30 MWe uprate, Jan 07