First US loan guarantees
The US President and Energy Secretary have jointly announced the first loan guarantees for building new nuclear power reactors in the USA. They cover 70% of the eligible projected cost of building two large new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Georgia Power's Vogtle site in Georgia which are expected to come on line in 2016 and 2017. The guarantees total $8.3 billion out of $18.5 billion available (and $54.5 billion proposed). Borrowings will be secured by each company's assets. Final approval and issuance of the loan guarantees are subject to a Construction & Operating License (COL) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, due late in 2011, and other approvals. An engineering, procurement & construction contract was let in April 2008 to Westinghouse and Shaw Group.
One $3.46 billion loan guarantee is for Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, which has a 45.7% interest in the two reactors, a second one of $3.07 billion covers Oglethorpe Power's share of the Vogtle 3&4 project, and a third, of $1.8 billion, covers Georgia's municipal Electric Authority share. Total cost of the new 2234 MWe plant including financing is expected to be $14 billion, with secure cost recovery in a regulated market. WNN 17/2/10.
In the light of the interest shown and the fact that the scheme is borrower-funded, the US nuclear industry had called for the amount available as loan guarantees for nuclear plants under the 2005 Energy Policy Act to be increased from $18.5 to $100 billion. The Administration has now added $36 billion to its budget proposal to expand the reactor part of the scheme to $54.5 billion, covering 7 to 10 reactors of several different designs. The budget needs to be passed by Congress. WNN 2/2/10.
US loan guarantee program "unworkable"
American plans for new nuclear construction were hit by uncertainty after UniStar partner Constellation declared the terms of loan guarantees flawed, unrealistic and unworkable. The company does not see a path "to reaching a workable set of terms and conditions" for the guarantee of about $7.5 billion in private loans. The money is required to build a1700 MWe Areva EPR unit at the existing Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant, and UniStar would raise this from private financiers. However, the US government's conditional offer to guarantee the loans is pivotal to securing the finance package. But the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has set fees of 11.6% of the loan amount - in this case some $880 million, on the basis of assumed likely default. The charge would come in addition to interest on loans and "would clearly destroy the project's economics, or the economics of any nuclear project for that matter." OMB said that a revised offer was pending when Constellation pulled out.
Nuclear Energy Institute CEO Marvin Fertel said that Constellation’s rejection of the loan guarantee on these terms “is further recognition that the federal government’s loan guarantee program for clean energy sources is in serious need of reform.” In particular the government’s method for calculating costs is “seriously flawed” and overstates them. The Director-General of WNA, John Ritch, said the OMB recalcitrance was "a classic governmental perversity, with the left hand thwarting what the right hand set out to do."
EdF to take over Unistar in USA
Early in 2009 Unistar was set up as a joint venture between France's EdF and Constellation Energy to build Areva EPR reactors in the USA, starting at Constellation's Calvert Cliffs site. This plan received a setback when the loan guarantee application to build that first unit resulted in an unrealistic offer from the government. Constellation then decided to quit the project and has agreed to sell its half share in Unistar to EdF for $140 million. Some $817 million has been invested by both companies in Calvert Cliffs 3 to this point. Unistar will now own the site for Calvert Cliffs 3 as well as a potential fourth reactor there, and other sites at the Nine Mile Point and RE Ginna nuclear power plants. While EdF through Unistar may pursue the construction of Calvert Cliffs 3, it would still need to find a US-based partner before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could grant a licence, since in relation to the US Atomic Energy Act, Unistar would be 'owned, controlled or dominated' by a foreign company or government. EdF will still own 49.9% of Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, though the deal involves transferring some parent company shares back to the company.
USEC resubmits application for loan guarantee
Having been rebuffed by the US Department of Energy a year ago, USEC has made a "comprehensive upgrade" to its application for a $2 billion loan guarantee and resubmitted it. The company has so far spent $1.8 billion on its American Centrifuge Plant, and expects it to cost a further $2.8 billion. During the 12-month hiatus, USEC continued to manufacture a limited number of its very large centrifuges and has a cascade of about 40 now in operation at the Piketon, Ohio site. It expects to have about 65 of them in operation by the end of 2010.
WNN 5/8/10. US Nuclear Fuel Cycle
US loan guarantee for deconversion plant
The first part of a $65 million loan guarantee application by International Isotopes Inc (INIS) for a 6500 t/yr uranium deconversion and fluorine extraction plant has been approved by the US Department of Energy, and the company has been invited to submit the second part of its application. INIS wants to build the plant near Hobbs, New Mexico, to convert depleted uranium hexafluoride (the so-called 'tails' from the uranium enrichment process) into stable uranium oxide (U3O8) and fluorine feedstock for the manufacture of high-purity fluoride products. The company has an agreement to treat the HF6 tails from the nearby Urenco USA enrichment plant which began operation recently.
WNN 5/8/10. US Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Big potential for US reactor uprates
An increasing number of US utilities are opting to increase the generating capacities of their existing nuclear power reactors, creating a potential $25 billion market, according to the Shaw Group. Shaw has undertaken about half of the US uprates so far, helping to add over 3000 MWe to US capacity. It says that companies are now planning more uprate projects and aiming for bigger increases than in the past. A further 67 US reactor uprate projects are in sight, with many being $250 to $500 million each. Exelon proposes to add up to 1500 MWe to its fleet by 2017 with a series of uprate projects at a cost of about $3.5 billion, and Shaw is well placed to bid on these. WNN 7/1/10.
Further US licence renewals
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licence for the Cooper power plant to 2034. This is the 60th US licence renewal adding 20 years to plant life.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has extended the operating licence of NextEra Energy's Duane Arnold nuclear plant by 20 years to 2034, making it the 61st unit thus approved.
US nuclear plans dampened
Plans for new nuclear power plants in the USA are likely to be delayed due to low electricity demand growth and low gas prices. The prospect of low natural gas prices continuing for several years has dampened plans for new nuclear capacity. However, a strategic plan for the Tennessee Valley Authority favours initial new nuclear capacity 2018-22 and more by 2030, with significant reduction in coal-fired capacity, so that nuclear becomes its main source of power. TVA is currently completing its 1180 MWe Watts Bar 2 reactor, due to start up in 2012.
US Congress affirms nuclear-heavy budget
The House of Representatives has approved legislation that authorises nearly $1.3 billion through fiscal 2013 for the Department of Energy's advanced nuclear research and development programs. With strong bipartisan support it promotes the demonstration and commercial application of small reactors up to 300 MWe, investigation of moving to a closed fuel cycle to minimize radiotoxicity, the amount of high-level wastes, and its decay heat. It also directs DOE to take forward the selection and siting of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant, a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor concept capable of thermochemical hydrogen production. The Senate has yet to schedule consideration of the bill. However, a new report by a presidentially appointed panel of scientists and energy experts says increased coordination among federal agencies, a restructured DOE and a sharp boost in federal funding for energy technology innovation—from about $5 billion currently to $16 billion—is needed to transition the nation away from unsustainable sources.
Japanese reactor selected for US plant
Dominion has selected Mitsubishi Heavy Industries' (MHI's) Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (APWR) for the potential third unit at its North Anna nuclear power plant in Virginia. The company had previously been considering building the latest GE Hitachi reactor (the ESBWR) there. Luminant has also selected the 1700 MWe US-APWR for its Comanche Peak plant in Texas. US Nuclear Regulatory Commission design certification for the APWR is expected in about 18 months.
WNN 10/5/10. Nuclear Power in the USA.
Further Japanese equity in Texas nuclear plant
Japanese utility Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has agreed to take a 9% stake in the project to construct two new reactors at the South Texas Project (STP), with an option to increase this stake to some 18%. Toshiba, which will supply the two 1350 MWe Advanced boiling water reactors, holds 10% and NRG Energy 73% of the venture. NRG has signed long-term (20-40 year) agreements to buy more than half of the power from the merchant plant, which will assist financing it.
WNN 10/5/10. Nuclear Power in the USA Appendix 3: COL Applications
First parts for new US reactor arrive on site
Steel components for a new Vogtle reactor arrived on site in Georgia in September. They were manufactured by IHI at Yokohama in Japan and will form part of a 65 metre high, 4000-tonne containment structure. Site works are well advanced and unit 3 appears ready for first concrete. Southern Nuclear is applying for an NRC license to build and operate two Westinghouse AP1000 units as Vogtle-3 and -4 at the site of the two existing reactors.
Urenco's US enrichment plant starts up
After waiting for Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval, Urenco USA's $2 billion enrichment plant has been cleared to start operation. This is the first centrifuge plant in the USA, the first plant licensed since 1954, and the first civil plant licensed there - all indigenous enrichment has hitherto been done in inefficient diffusion plants from the Cold War era. Its initial capacity is 3 million SWU/yr, but a planned increase would take it to 5.7 million SWU/yr by 2017.
WNN 14/6/10. US Nuclear Fuel Cycle
US government pushes ahead with new reactor concept
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded grants for conceptual design and planning for its Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP). This is to be a small advanced high-temperature gas-cooled reactor usable for electricity or hydrogen production. A $2 billion pilot plant demonstrating technical feasibility is envisaged by 2021 at Idaho National Laboratory but with international collaboration. Three companies were awarded DOE contracts for preconceptual NGNP design: General Atomics, Areva, and Westinghouse (with PBMR). DOE has now awarded $40 million to two teams for conceptual designs in six months: Westinghouse, with South Africa's Pebble Bed Modular Reactor Ltd, Shaw, Toshiba, Doosan and others; and General Atomics with General Dynamics, URS Washington, Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, and Fuji.
US regulator to focus on small modular reactors
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has released a paper outlining how in 2011-12 it will get to grips with licensing small modular reactors, hitherto consigned to its too-hard (or too-busy) basket. Key issues include: expanding the defense-in-depth philosophy to non-LWR designs; revising calculations of radiation releases from different accident scenarios; in-house staffing; and setting security and safeguards standards. NRC expects pre-application applications soon. The units will mostly be installed below ground level. The US Energy Secretary has pledged some of the planned increase in loan guarantees for small modular reactors of what he calls the "plug and play" variety. Small modular reactors are "one of the most promising areas" in the nuclear industry, he said. Though slightly more expensive per kilowatt, they will be much easier to finance and can fit easily into sites and gird connections vacated by retired coal-fired plants.
NRC 9/4/10, WSJ 23/3/10. Small Nuclear Power Reactors
US moves towards building small modular reactor
The Hyperion Power Module is one of a number of advanced designs for small simple reactors which have been promoted in recent years, without any actually being built. The Hyperion design is for a 25 MWe power plant based on a fast-neutron reactor cooled by lead-bismuth eutectic. The reactor module is sealed and easily portable so that it would be factory-made, work for ten years at site, and then be replaced, with the used module returned to the factory. Hyperion has now signed an agreement with Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) with a view to building a demonstration plant there by 2018, overcoming the developmental hiatus for civil reactors of around this size. (From 1951 a total of 50 small reactors were built and operated at the Idaho National Laboratory, but this momentum abated in the early 1970s, and at Savannah River in South Carolina the government focus to 1991 was on plutonium production.) SRNS now aspires to make Savannah River a multi-reactor energy park featuring small modular designs. Hyperion earlier notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it proposed to submit a design certification application in 2012, but the new agreement could hasten construction of a prototype.
Further US plan for small demonstration reactor
The concept of a US centre of demonstration models of small advanced power reactors has taken a step forward with an agreement to explore the possibility of building a GE Hitachi Prism reactor at the Department of Energy's Savannah River site. This follows a similar agreement regarding the Hyperion reactor. Prism has been under development since the 1980s, and today's version is put forward by GE Hitachi as its Generation IV solution to closing the fuel cycle in the USA. Each Prism power block consists of two 299 MWe fast reactor modules installed below ground level and containing the complete primary system with sodium coolant. A key attribute of Prism technology is that it generates additional electricity from recycling used nuclear fuel. The reactor's fuel - uranium and actinides including plutonium - is recycled used fuel from light water reactors, with fission products removed. Used Prism fuel is recycled similarly. Fuel stays in the Prism reactor for about six years, with one third removed every two years.
USEC progresses with large new centrifuges
Pilot operations towards building USEC's new American Centrifuge plant at Piketon, Ohio are progressing. USEC has decommissioned its prototype lead cascade after 30 months operation, and has started up an AC100 Lead Cascade with "approximately two dozen" machines which it plans to increase to 40-50 in operation later in the year. Last year the Department of Energy declined to offer a $2 billion loan guarantee until the technology was better proven. Against a $3.5 billion budget, USEC has spent $1.8 billion on the venture so far and requires "additional capital beyond the (hoped-for) $2 billion loan guarantee program funding and internally generated cash flow".
WNN 5/5/10, USEC 4/5/10.
Industry lifeline for USEC enrichment plant
Toshiba and Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) have offered to invest $200 million equity in USEC to support the embattled American Centrifuge plant (ACP). Market capitalization of USEC is $600 million, and it has spent $1.8 billion so far on the ACP, about half of the total initial budget. The offer is contingent upon regulatory approval for the project and USEC securing a $2 billion government loan guarantee. Toshiba wants to complement its Westinghouse conversion and fuel fabrication activities to give a more comprehensive fuel supply chain for reactor customers, and B&W aims to secure its investment in the joint venture set up a year ago with USEC to make the large American centrifuges. B&W took over manufacturing these from Boeing in mid 2007. WNN 25/5/10. US Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Bechtel joins Babcock & Wilcox in new reactor venture
A year after Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) announced plans for a dramatically scaled-down, but otherwise fairly conventional new reactor, Bechtel has made a significant investment to join the project. The reactor is the 125 MWe mPower unit, which is expected to be built in modules together comprising a larger plant of 500-750 MWe and using 250 MWe turbine generators. It is an integral PWR designed to be factory-made and railed to site. The reactor pressure vessel containing core and steam generator is thus only a few metres in diameter. It will have a "conventional core and standard fuel" enriched to 5%, presumably with burnable poisons, to give a five-year operating cycle between refuelings.
Under the new alliance - to be known as Generation mPower - B&W will focus on designing, testing and eventually producing the nuclear steam supply system and nuclear island, including the design certification application. Bechtel will complement all this with integrated engineering, construction and project management leadership. Bechtel claimed that the new alliance represents "a turning point in the nuclear power plant industry - it has the potential to be a real game changer." Certainly there has been considerable interest in small nuclear power reactors (300 MWe and under) in recent years, both as modules in large plants (small modular reactors - SMRs) and as stand-alone units in isolated or small grid systems.
WNN 14/7/10. Small Nuclear Power Reactors.
US appoints panel to suggest waste compromise
The US Energy Secretary has announced the formation of a 15-member waste commission which is to evaluate alternatives to the previously-planned Yucca Mountain geological repository in Nevada and to suggest how the country should proceed with management of used fuel. He said that the commission would "look at a full range of scientific and technical options, and that it would be focused on a solution rather than ideology." On that basis Yucca Mountain would not be ruled out, since it was a blatant political decision by the new administration to reject it. However, the commission's mandate is strategy, not siting. The review will "include an evaluation of advanced fuel cycle technologies that would optimize energy recovery, resource utilization and the minimization of materials" - i.e. reprocessing used fuel and recycling as undertaken in Europe, Japan and prospectively in China. The commission is to submit an interim report within 18 months and a final report within two years. WNN 1/2/10.
Strong industry advocacy for US fuel recycling
Senior figures from both Areva and GE Hitachi have made a strong case for recycling used nuclear fuel in the USA. Appearing before the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, which was appointed to review US policy on used fuel, they outlined the significant benefits of embracing reprocessing and recycling technology under a new waste management strategy. The present US policy dates from 1977 and treats all used fuel as high-level waste, which requires storage and finally deep geological disposal. Reprocessing so that 96% of the used fuel is recycled extends the resource by about 25%, reduces the final high-level waste volume by 75%, and the toxicity of this waste by about 90%.
Areva pointed out that "Through its deployments internationally, the recycling process invented in the US has benefited from decades of lessons-learned and continuous improvements in technology. A new recycling facility in the US would not simply replicate facilities from France, the UK or Japan, but rather would employ state-of-the-art technologies and processes." GE Hitachi "strongly believes that recycling is the best policy and technology option for the US to pursue," and said that funds for developing it were already on hand in the $21 billion Nuclear Waste Fund.
US authority disallows political veto of waste disposal site
As part of his political pitch in Nevada before the presidential elections, Mr Obama promised to abort the Yucca Mountain waste repository project. Accordingly, the Administration's Department of Energy (DoE) has sought to terminate the project since, slashing its budget and trying to withdraw its 8600-page licence application. However, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) has now ruled that the DoE had no right to substitute its own ideas in place of those legislated by Congress. The DoE and the NRC are bound by law to complete their work at Yucca Mountain unless Congress acts to supercede the previous (1982) legislation. The DoE move to withdraw the application was rejected by the ASLB. "Unless Congress directs otherwise, the DoE may not single-handedly derail the legislated decision-making process by withdrawing the application. The DoE's motion must therefore be denied." The ALSB noted that the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act had deliberately put ultimate siting authority with Congress and not with the President or the DoE. Furthermore: "When Congress selected the Yucca Mountain site over Nevada's objection in 2002, it reinforced the expectation in the 1982 act that the project would be removed from the political process and that the NRC would complete an evaluation of [its] technical merits."
WNN 30/6/10. US Nuclear Power Policy.
Strong pushback on US waste program, utilities challenge waste levy
In February, Dale Klein of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) challenged the US government's political decision to revoke the license application for the Yucca Mountain waste repository project in Nevada. "The administration's stated rationale for changing course does not seem to rest on factual findings, and thus does not bolster the credibility of our government to handle this matter competently," he said. "Those who would distort the science of Yucca Mountain for political purposes should be reminded that it was a year ago today that the president issued his memorandum on scientific integrity, in which he stated that ‘The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions'. Under the law, that licensing determination - and the technical evaluation of the science - is the NRC’s responsibility."
The Foundry blog 1/3/10.
During March the US Energy Secretary and Department of Energy came under strong pressure to maintain some work on the Yucca Mountain waste repository rather than just close it down. The House energy and water appropriations committee has strongly criticized DOE's plans to shut down the project and keep it off the agenda of the new panel appointed to reconsider nuclear waste policies. The legality of DOE’s plans to abolish the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management (OCRWM), which has long overseen the project, has been called into question, and a bipartisan group, including the chairman of the House budget committee, has introduced a resolution of disapproval to "compel the Department of Energy…to cease its efforts to pull the license application for a nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain." Also a group of state utility regulators has filed a motion with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to oppose the DOE move to abort the project and walk away from the investment of some $10 billion in utility customers' money to settle a political debt.
Energy Daily, Reuters 25/3/10.
Then in April 16 utilities and the main US industry association have filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Energy to suspend the government’s collection of nuclear waste disposal fees, on the basis that the country no longer has a disposal plan after ruling out Yucca Mountain, Nevada, as a repository site. The utilities jointly pay about $750 million a year - at 0.1 cent per kilowatt hour - into the fund which now stands at about $24 billion and earns about $1 billion annually in interest. The DOE has pointed out that the fee is legally mandated and will be applied eventually to the purpose intended. Meanwhile the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future is under way, charged with developing a new strategy for nuclear waste management in the USA. This is likely to include reprocessing and recycling of used fuel, which will greatly reduce but not eliminate the need for a deep geological repository. According to a recent Areva estimate, a 2500 t/yr US reprocessing plant and associated 300 t/yr mixed-oxide fuel fabrication plant could cost $25 billion, which would work out at less than the present 0.1 c/kWh levy.
WNN 6/4/10. US Nuclear Fuel Cycle
Exelon defers reactor plan but seeks site approval
Exelon has withdrawn its 2008 application for a construction and operating licence (COL) for a new 2700 MWe nuclear power plant in Victoria county, Texas, and has applied instead for an early site permit (ESP). It had announced this general intention in mid 2009, along with plans to uprate operating reactors. The ESP would reserve the site for nuclear construction for 20 years.
WNN 26/3/10. Nuclear Power in the USA
New York state thwarts reactor relicensing
A draft policy in New York state would outlaw direct cooling from rivers or sea and require the construction of recirculating cooling towers on about 25 large power plants, including several nuclear ones. This would cost an estimated $8.5 billion across the state, and slightly diminish net capacity, in order to reduce fish kills. In January Exelon said that it might have to close its Oyster Creek nuclear power plant after New Jersey officials issued a draft order requiring cooling towers to be constructed, the cost of which would be comparable to the value of the plant according to Exelon. For any new plant the cost increment for cooling towers is manageable, but retrofitting old plants has major economic implications for owners and utility customers.
Energy Roundup 19/3/10, WNN 8/1/10.
New York state's Environment Department then told Entergy that its Indian Point nuclear power plant can no longer use water from the Hudson River for direct (once-through) cooling, whereby a relatively large volume of water is drawn from the river and discharged back into it, a few degrees warmer. The Indian Point plant withdraws 9.5 gigalitres per day through screens, which kills some aquatic life. Last month the Environment Department introduced a draft policy requiring certain industrial facilities - including nuclear and other power plants - to recycle and reuse cooling water through "closed cycle cooling" technology with large evaporative cooling towers. Water use from the river is then much lower, to replace that evaporated (3-5% per cycle) and allow some discharge (c 2% per cycle "blowdown") to maintain quality.
Entergy has applied to renew the operating licences for the two reactors for 20 years from 2013 and 2015. It estimates that building new cooling towers would cost some $1.1 billion and involve shutting down the reactors for 42 weeks. It has proposed a new $100 million screening system for the water intake which it says would be more effective than cooling towers (which still need some water input). Currently, of the USA's 104 nuclear power reactors, 60 use once-through cooling from large rivers, lakes or the sea, while 35 use wet cooling towers. Nine units use dual systems, switching according to environmental conditions. Cooling towers reportedly reduce the overall efficiency of a power plant by 3-5% compared with once-through use of water from sea, lake or large stream. A 2009 US DOE study says they are about 40% more expensive than a direct, once-through cooling system.
Oldest US nuclear plant to shut down due to new cooling requirements
Exelon has announced its intention to shut down its 619 MWe Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in New Jersey in 2019, rather than spend $800 million to build cooling towers for it, as required by new regulations. It now produces the lowest-cost electricity in the state, but in any case requires some capital expenditure to take it to 2029 when its licence expires. The North American Electric Reliability Corp. has warned that about 41,200 MWe of US generating capacity could potentially be lost due to early closures of plants where building cooling towers is uneconomic. Two thirds of US nuclear plants now use direct cooling from rivers, lakes or the sea.
WNN 9/12/10 Cooling Power Plants
Gulf of Mexico challenge
Recent news reports have speculated about a nuclear explosion being used to seal the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Certainly in 1966, a special 30-kiloton nuclear charge was detonated 1500 m underground at Urtabulak gas field in Southern Uzbekistan to extinguish a gas well fire that had been burning for almost three years despite numerous attempts at control. The details are in the WNA information paper on Peaceful Nuclear Explosions, along with mention that there is a bilateral US-Russian treaty on Peaceful Nuclear Explosions . No such tests or operations have been undertaken since 1989, and they will be banned under the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty when it comes into force.
USA considers call for oil industry regulation modeled on nuclear's
The White House oil spill commission is probing US offshore drilling policies and is considering pushing the oil industry to accept a self-governing body to help oversee tough safety standards. The US nuclear industry's Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) came into being after the Three Mile Island reactor accident in 1979. Although that event caused no deaths or injuries, it severely affected the reputation of nuclear power. INPO has as its members all US utilities with nuclear power plants in operation or under construction. Its aim is self-regulation and safety enhancement through plant evaluation by peer review, and it provided the model for development of WANO internationally. It is funded by the utilities. The panel is looking at proposing a regulatory structure for the oil industry modeled on INPO. Such a system would aim at ensuring much higher safety standards, possibly through project evaluations that would be scrutinised by insurance companies and government regulators. The Gulf oil spill highlighted the need for mutual concern for high standards among drillers, since as in the nuclear industry, one accident has implications for the entire sector.
Canada's uranium production back on track
After a couple of lean years due to low ore grades at McClean Lake and various equipment and process problems at the Key Lake mill, Canada's uranium production is returning towards previous levels last seen in 2005, with a total of 11,997 tonnes U3O8 (10,173 tU) for 2009. This is about 22% of world production and makes Canada second to Kazakhstan's 16,400 t U3O8 (13,900 tU) production, but ahead of Australia's 9413 t (7982 tU).
At McArthur River, a change in the licence allowed greater output, and 8654 tonnes U3O8 (7339 tU) was produced. At McClean Lake production recovered to 1637 t (1388 tU), and at Rabbit Lake 1706 t (1447 tU) was produced. However, the McClean Lake mill is due to close in mid 2010 and go on to care and maintenance until about a year before it starts to receive ore from Cigar Lake, now expected in mid 2013. Areva has applied to divert its proportion of McArthur River ore to McClean Lake in that year, so as to commission the upgraded mill with high-grade ore. Rabbit Lake is due to finish production in 2015. Canada's uranium
Paladin to acquire major Canadian uranium deposits
Ontario decides on future of two plants
Paladin Energy has agreed to buy the uranium assets of Aurora Energy Resources Inc in Canada, principally the Michelin project and adjacent Jacques Lake deposit in Labrador, but with other uranium assets there and in Newfoundland. The deal is valued at $260 million. Michelin has 26,000 tU measured and indicated resources. However, a Nunatsiavut government moratorium is in place until March 2011, and expiry of this will coincide with completion of a land use planning assessment being undertaken jointly by the Nunatsiavut and Newfoundland-Labrador governments.
Ontario Power Generation has decided upon full refurbishment of it newest plant, at Darlington, and to extend for only ten years the operation of its Pickering B plant. Darlington is 4 x 881 MWe and came on line 1990-93. It major refurbishment will start about 2016 and give it a further 30 years life. Pickering B is 4 x 516 MWe and came on line 1982-86. Full refurbishment of similar units at Bruce has proved expensive, so OPG will invest only C$ 300 million to take them to 2020 when they will be decommissioned. CANDU reactors generally require major work after 30 years. WNN 17/2/10.
Nuclear power consolidation agreed then cancelled
Most nuclear power generation in Canada is in Ontario, though Quebec and New Brunswick have one reactor each, operated by Hydro Quebec and NB Power. In January the two provinces concluded a C$ 3.2 billion energy agreement that would see Hydro-Quebec acquire most of NB Power's generation assets. NB Power would retain its distribution grid and buy most power from Quebec. The deal included the Point Lepreau nuclear power station, for C$ 1.4 billion ($1.3 billion), to be paid once the current refurbishment is complete early in 2011.
Point Lepreau's single 680 MWe Candu 6 pressurized heavy water reactor provides up to 30% of New Brunswick's electricity, but was shut down in March 2008 for an extensive refurbishment outage that will extend its operation by an additional 25 to 30 years. Work includes the replacement of all 380 fuel channels, calandria tubes and feeder tubes. The initial target completion date was July 2009, but it has slipped to October 2010.
The Hydro Quebec deal included C$1.8 billion ($1.7 billion) for NB Power's non-nuclear generation assets and also transmission rights, including those to northeastern USA through a 1300+ MWe interconnector which supplies up to 12 TWh annually to New England. This was significant in the light of tentative plans to build a new ACR-1000 nuclear plant at Point Lepreau, and possibly a third plant largely for the US power market. WNN 21/1/09.
However, in March the deal was cancelled. According to the NB premier, a number of issues had emerged during the process to move to a legal contract that had resulted in Hydro-Quebec proposing further changes, meaning that the deal would no longer be in the best interests of New Brunswick. "The reality is that, when Hydro-Quebec did its due diligence, it found that there were more risks than it was willing to take on," he said. This led to a change in position from Hydro Quebec. "Our government could not accept that," he said. WNN 26/3/10.
Canada returns old research reactor to service
Canada's National Research Universal (NRU) reactor at Chalk River, which has been offline for repairs for the past 15 months following the discovery of a heavy water leak, has finally resumed the production of vital medical isotopes. The complexity of repairing the 53-year old reactor (at a cost of $70 million) led to several delays in bringing it back into operation. NRU normally produces 40% of the world's molybdenum-99, used for producing technetium-99m. The extended outage has had a significant impact on the world's supply of radioisotopes, and has forced suppliers such as MDS Nordion to find alternative sources while the number of medical procedures using isotopes has been cut back. AECL hopes to run the reactor to 2016, though no replacement is yet planned.
WNN 18/8/10. Nuclear power in Canada
Europeans mostly positive about nuclear power
The 2009 Eurobarometer survey of 26,470 people across 27 EU countries showed a significantly more positive outlook on nuclear power than three years previously. Public opinion in the countries with nuclear power was generally more positive than in the others. A majority recognised the value of nuclear power for energy security and ensuring more stable and competitive energy prices, but only 46% thought it helped to limit climate change. Overall, 17% felt that nuclear's share of electricity generation should be increased, on top of the 39% who felt that its current share should be maintained. However, 34% preferred the share to be reduced. While 59% felt that nuclear plants can be operated safely, most believed that the risks related to nuclear energy are underestimated. A lack of security against terrorist attacks on power plants, and the disposal and management of radioactive wastes were identified as the major concerns. It followed that 82% thought nuclear waste management should be regulated at the EU level.
Mass media was found to be the main source of information on nuclear issues for the survey's respondents, with television, at 72%, the dominant source ahead of newspapers (40%) and the internet (27%). However, scientists and national nuclear safety authorities, and international organisations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were identified as the most trusted source of information on nuclear energy, particularly nuclear safety, ahead of journalists. Non-government organisations were less trusted than journalists for information.
UK proposes new policies for electricity
The UK government has published a discussion document on policies to ensure reliable power supply while minimizing CO2 emissions. Some £110 billion investment in power stations and grid upgrades is required by 2020, and much more beyond that. The current policy situation is not conducive to achieving that, let alone with low-carbon technology. "Four interlocking policy instruments" are proposed to enable low-carbon technologies "to become the dominant component of our electricity mix," while minimising energy bills in the long run. The plans include taxes or "support" through reform of the climate change levy to maintain a minimum 'floor' price for CO2 emissions. Scenarios for the short term are based on £20, £30 and £40 per tonne CO2, but the real figure would be set in March 2011 as part of the country's budget. In the longer term all the scenarios see prices rise to £70 ($109) per tonne by 2030.
Long-term feed-in tariffs would provide certainty of income for companies building low-carbon power plants. Under a 'contract for difference' arrangement the government could top up revenues if the wholesale power price dips below the tariff level. It would also have a right to 'claw back' the money if prices are high. Capacity payments are proposed to offset short-term power price and intermittent supply fluctuations. Finally, an emission limit would be put on new plants to "reinforce the existing requirement that no new coal is built without demonstrating carbon capture and storage technology." WNN 16/12/10
UK nuclear commitment firms up
A revised draft UK energy policy statement continued to pave the way for new nuclear power plants in the UK. The energy minister, who has consistently stated his support for new build but without taxpayer subsidy, showed firmer resolve in his recent announcement to parliament. He mentioned regulatory "justification" of the reactor designs currently undergoing evaluation (the AP1000 and EPR) according to EU law, due to their potential for increasing energy security and decreasing CO2 emissions outweighing any possible radiological detriment. At least one quarter of current UK generation capacity needs to be replaced by 2020.
Regarding subsidy: "To be clear, this means that there will be no levy, direct payment or market support for electricity supplied or capacity provided by a private sector new nuclear operator, unless similar support is also made available more widely to other types of generation." Other remarks set out government willingness to take financial risks which would help to achieve policy goals, and made it clear that the concept of no subsidy was not entirely meaningful in the light of such goals and international treaty obligations.
The government will consult later in the year as to whether the UK will support amendments to an international nuclear liability treaty. Currently, UK nuclear operator liability is capped at £140 million. Operators will also receive greater clarity on what their waste and decommissioning liabilities will be.
The statement confirmed eight existing nuclear sites have been made available for future construction: Bradwell, Hartlepool, Heysham, Hinkley Point, Oldbury, Sellafield, Sizewell and Wylfa. Two greenfield sites near Sellafield were dropped.
UK nuclear proponents await market reform
The three firms preparing to build new nuclear power plants in the UK have said in unison that energy market reform is necessary for them to proceed. EdF Energy, Horizon Nuclear and NuGeneration all spoke with one voice at the Nuclear Industry Associations' annual conference in London. EdF Energy said that electricity market reform is "absolutely critical to underpinning the investment case for any nuclear project". It wants to see a floor price for carbon dioxide emissions, "so fossil fuel generators pay a price for their pollution just as nuclear power pays for its waste." This is a stated aim of the UK government, but its proposals on this have not yet seen the light of day. EdF Energy would also like to see the introduction of low-carbon capacity payments among the government's new measures, to ensure enough capacity is built. EdF also called for "clear limits to the level and duration of subsidies for other energy sources to avoid distorting the market in the long term."
Reactor licence extensions
In the UK, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate had earlier approved licence extensions from 30 to 35 years for four reactors at Hartlepool and Heysham 1. All started up in 1983-84, and EdF has confirmed that they will now run to 2019. EdF is aiming to extend the operation of all its 14 advanced gas-cooled reactors by five years, and of its Sizewell B PWR by 20 years, in line with US practice.
UK waste funding remains intact
Despite average departmental budget cuts of 19%, the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has escaped relatively unscathed from government austerity measures with sufficient funding to preserve current NDA spend levels of around £3 billion per year. This will allow it to continue to pay for legacy decommissioning activities for which it is responsible. NDA spending allocated for high hazard sites, such as the nuclear reprocessing and waste facility at Sellafield, has been protected.
The NDA’s existing nuclear liabilities include waste from some 20 civilian and military nuclear facilities. A 2008-2009 estimate of undiscounted NDA liabilities amounted to £76.5 billion, £39 billion of which was attributed to Sellafield.
New lease of life for Sellafield MOX plant (SMP)
Britain's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has announced agreement with Japanese utilities "on an overall framework for future fabrication of MOX fuel in SMP". NDA had urged the ten Japanese utilities owning about 11 tonnes of reactor-grade plutonium parked in the UK to convert it all into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel at SMP. This was recovered from reprocessing 2600 tonnes of their fuel at Sellafield's THORP plant. The NDA asked the Sellafield owners, Nuclear Management Partners (a consortium of URS Corporation, Amec and Areva), to make improvements to SMP performance as soon as possible so as to begin a new Japanese job soon. Chubu will be the first Japanese customer.
Last year NDA reported that the SMP had produced only 8 tonnes of fuel (24 assemblies) in eight years, after costing £637 million to build and £626 million to operate, making it UK's least successful nuclear enterprise. It was built with 120 t/yr design capacity, but then downrated to 40 t/yr. The stored plutonium will make about 130 tonnes of MOX.
WNN 13/5/10. Nuclear Power in the United Kingdom
New UK dash for gas to balance wind
The UK government has approved a huge increase in gas-fired generation capacity as back-up for increased wind power in UK. However, January's cold period with typical calm winter anticyclone conditions has highlighted supply vulnerability. Wind farms, which comprise 5% of UK generating capacity, were providing only 0.2% of electricity at the same time as gas supplies to 96 large industrial users were restricted due to supply constraints.
The government has granted rights to the seabed in nine zones to encourage £75 billion investment in a further 32 GWe of new offshore wind farms (to total 40 GWe), and this "biggest expansion of wind energy ever seen in the world" will exacerbate the problem. The National Grid has highlighted the risk, and the UK Carbon Trust has questioned the practicality and cost of the program, which will require generous subsidies. The Energy Intensive Users Group warned that UK reliance on wind backed up by gas raised serious concerns and risked a crisis. DECC 8/1/10, FT 5 & 10/1/10, Telegraph 12/1/10.
UK government prodded to resolve carbon price
Two of the three proponents of building new nuclear power reactors in the UK have told the government that it needs to give clearer incentives to low-carbon generation before there will be investment. They called the current price under the EU emissions trading scheme unsustainably weak, and suggested that the government introduce a UK floor price for carbon emissions. The government's own utterances and the market regulator Ofgem were quoted in support of radical action. For EdF Energy, that needs to be soon. The government much earlier ruled out any subsidies for nuclear, and the Conservative opposition agrees with this, but the Climate Change Levy, meant to dissuade generators from using fossil fuels, currently penalises nuclear energy as if it were as carbon-intensive as fossil fuels.
Sheffield Forgemasters funds new plant
After nearly two years trying to line up £170 million, Sheffield Forgemasters International now has the means to build a new 15,000 tonne forging press capable of using 600 tonne ingots. This will enable the company to produce the largest single forgings required for reactor pressure vessels and steam generators in large new reactors such as EPR and AP1000, both likely to be built in UK. The UK government has agreed to lend £80 million, and Westinghouse has agreed to provide some £50 million in advances for products. Further funds have come from banks. The government is keen to make the UK a significant producer in the nuclear hardware supply chain.
Sheffield Forgemasters, founded in the 1750s and subject to a management buyout in 2005, is the only UK company with international N-stamp accreditation. In 2013 it will become one of only a few companies with this forging capability - with Japan Steelworks, Doosan Heavy Industries, China First Heavy Industries, Bharat Forge, OMZ Izhora and possibly Larsen & Toubro. It already supplies reactor coolant pump casings for all the Chinese AP1000 units under construction, and is contracted for more there and in USA. Last year it entered a ten-year £30 million technology transfer agreement with Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) in India for large power plant components.
SFIL, FT, WNN 17/3/10.
Difficulties for both EDF and Areva prompt strategic rethink
Nuclear policy in France may be set for a rethink after president Sarkozy met with a top level council to review a report written by ex-EDF chief Francois Roussely. The report called for a strategic partnership between national energy supplier EDF and national reactor vendor Areva in order to ensure uranium supplies and to improve the competitiveness of French reactor designs for export. The current Areva reactor flagship, the EPR, has encountered delays in construction and escalating costs in both Olkiluoto and Flamanville,
The Roussely report called for EDF to lead the partnership due to its experience as both operator and architect-engineer. It further recommended that EDF establish a program so that experience on EPR construction is consolidated before construction begins on the next EPR in France (Penly unit 3), and later in the UK. Current plans are for the design of the EPR to be optimised in order to simplify its construction. Roussely also recommended that France expand its nuclear product range, boosting it with smaller units such as the joint Areva-Mitsubishi ATMEA design.
In further French news, EDF announced a slump in net income after the provision of US $1.38 billion to cover the risks of the Unistar joint venture with US utility Constellation. A revision of the outlook for the US energy price has also led to a downgrade on the expected return of Constellation Energy assets and the prospect for new US nuclear build going forward. On a positive note, EDF has a $8.9 billion offer from Hong Kong-based Cheung Kong group for EDF distribution networks in the UK. These went on sale in October 2009
WNN 30/7/10. Nuclear Power in France
German parliament confirms nuclear future
Germany's Bundestag has confirmed measures announced in September to extend the operating lives of the country's nuclear power plants by 8 or 14 years. The measures include a tax of EUR 145 per gram of uranium or plutonium fuel for six years, yielding EUR 2.3 billion per year, payment of EUR 200-300 million per to subsidise renewables, and a tax of 0.9 c/kWh for the same purpose after 2016. However, utilities may reduce their contribution to renewables if safety upgrades to particular individual nuclear plants cost more than EUR 500 million. This rolls back a reactor life limit imposed in 2001 by a coalition of the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party, and represents a success for the centre-right coalition which won power in September 2009, and it is a reprieve for German electricity consumers. However, an unrealistic aim of achieving a 2050 generation mix with 80% renewables remains official policy.
German government milks nuclear cash cows
The new Christian Democrat (CDU) and Liberal Democrat (FDP) coalition government elected a year ago has been committed to rescinding the nuclear power phase-out policy it inherited from the former red-green coalition, but the financial terms have taken until now to negotiate. A new agreement has been reached, to give 8-year licence extensions for reactors built before 1980, and 14-year extensions for later ones. The price exacted for this is several new measures: a tax of EUR 145 per gram of uranium or plutonium fuel for six years, yielding EUR 2.3 billion per year, payment of EUR 300 million per year in 2011 and 2012, and EUR 200 million 2013-16, to support renewables, and a tax of 0.9 c/kWh for the same purpose after 2016. While this is an economic reprieve ensuring that the country is not deprived of its main clean electricity source, the life extensions from average 32 years may not be sufficient to justify the level of investment in upgrading the plants that longer life extensions in the USA have brought about. The high government take beyond present tax levels also works against such investment.
Germany proposes new nuclear tax
The German Finance ministry has proposed a major "windfall" tax on nuclear energy if the country's 17 nuclear power reactors are allowed to continue beyond their average 34-year politically-limited lifetimes, and towards the 60 years proposed by the industry. The tax, nominally applied to the nuclear fuel, is justified on the basis that the plants will have been written down and running costs are low. The tax would amount to €1.6 cents/kWh, totaling €2.3 billion per year over 2011 to 2014. The current 2011 forward electricity price is 5.4 c/kWh. Meanwhile, unless utilities are able to have clear licence prospects at least a decade ahead they will not be in a position to justify major capital improvements such as those now routine in the USA, with its 20-year licence extensions being granted at the 30-35-year mark.
While nuclear generation confronts fees deliberately designed to reduce its competitiveness, other forms of energy are heavily subsidised. German coal production has been supported by the government since the 1980s by between €2.5 billion and €7.9 billion per year while renewables receive inflated feed-in tariffs amounting to €5 billion per year from consumers.
WNN 15/6/10. Nuclear Power in Germany
Germany junks waste repository
Germany's Radiation Protection Office (BfS) has decided to abandon the Asse radioactive waste repository in an old salt mine. This was licensed by federal and state agencies in the 1960s and 1970s, and received wastes from 1967 to 1978. It is in poor condition and is seen to represent a failure of proper licensing process. It has been closed for several years. The 126,000 drums of mostly low-level wastes will need to be moved from it. An alternative proposal to fill it with concrete to provide a stable matrix was rejected. WNN 18/1/10.
Italy lines up with France for nuclear futureThe French and Italian heads of state have agreed to work hand-in-hand to develop Italy's nuclear power, with cooperation covering all fields of the nuclear sector. Eight agreements for various kinds of nuclear cooperation have been signed between French and Italian entities. These include a major one between Areva and Ansaldo Energia to increase the role of its subsidiary Ansaldo Nucleare in construction EPR units in Italy and other countries as "a progressive industrial partnership". Another is between Ansaldo parent Finmeccania and the Enel - EdF joint venture which has committed to build at least four EPRs in Italy. Enel and EdF will act as investors and architect engineers, with overall responsibility for project management, design, construction and commissioning of the EPRs. Ansaldo will help in the study, design, planning and commissioning of nuclear systems and provide support to the licensing process. Ansaldo Nucleare will participate in the qualification and tender processes carried out by Enel and EdF for the supply of equipment, installation, and engineering systems. And the French Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) will give technical support in safety analysis for Italy's new Nuclear Safety Agency. WNN 12/4/10. Nuclear Power in Italy
Spain extends operating lives of two reactors
Despite its policy when elected of phasing out nuclear power, the government has extended by ten years the operating licences of Spain's second- and third-oldest oldest reactors, Almaraz 1 & 2. This followed a recommendation in April from the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN), and gives them a 40-year life with possibility of further renewal. The CSN compiled 61 'specialized technical reports' on the status of the plant and carried out 297 inspections, as well as evaluating about 100 operational reports from plant staff. In July last year the older Garoña nuclear power plant had its operating license extended to only 2013 rather than 2019, despite CSN recommendation.
WNN 9/6/10. Nuclear Power in Spain
Spain's Salamanca resources increase
Berkeley Resources has announced that its known uranium resources in Spain's Salamanca province have doubled to about 16,700 tU. This includes its rights to ENUSA's Aguila Area (adjacent to the Quercus mill serving the previous Mina Fe operation) and also its own leases in the Retortillo Area 25 km away. Significant JORC-compliant figures for Alameda, near Aguila, are expected in mid year.
Kepco to buy 35% of Spanish uranium project
As part of a wider push to acquire uranium supplies, Korea Electric Power Co. has agreed to buy 35% of Berkeley Resources' Salamanca uranium project in Spain for $70 million. Australian-based Berkeley owns or has the rights to uranium resources of 30,900 tU in Salamanca province, with an option to acquire an 800 tU/yr mill which operated to 2003. WNN 11/8/10. (NB this acquisition was aborted in November)
Sweden formally repeals nuclear phase-out
By a narrow margin, Sweden's parliament has repealed its 1980 ban on construction of new nuclear power plants. However, such construction will only be to replace the present ten units, which provide nearly half the country's power. Two reactors were closed for political reasons in 1999 and 2005, but this capacity has been replaced by uprating the other ten units. Parliament also agreed to amend the country's Nuclear Liability Act which has required operators to be insured for at least SEK 3300 million (EUR 345 million), beyond which the state would cover to SEK 6 billion per incident. Operators are now to have unlimited liability. However, Sweden had earlier ratified the Joint Protocol relating to Paris and Vienna conventions which set new limits of liability for nuclear damage: Operators (insured) € 700 million, Installation State (public funds) € 500 million, Collective state contribution (international) € 300 million => total € 1.5 billion. WNN 18/6/10 Nuclear Power in Sweden
Scandinavian uranium production
Sweden and Finland have been importing their uranium, but now Talvivaara Mining has announced that it plans to recover 350 t/yr U3O8 as a by-product of nickel and zinc production in eastern Finland. WNN 9/2/10.
Finland approves two new reactors
After two days of intense debate, Finland's parliament has approved construction of the country's sixth and seventh nuclear power reactors, by substantial majority votes. One will be built at Olkiluoto by TVO (which already has an Areva EPR under construction there) and one will be built by Fennovoima at Simo or Pyhajoki in northern Finland. These will add 2650 to 3400 MWe to the country's total, depending on reactor types selected. Fennovoima is a wide consortium led by E.On, and including major industrial companies and regional energy companies. Parliament also voted to increase the capacity of Posiva's high-level waste repository at Eurajoki near Olkiluoto.
WNN 1/7/10. Nuclear Power in Finland
Finns warm to nuclear power
A TNS Gallup survey (N=1000) commissioned by Finnish Energy Industries (Energiateollisuus, ET) has showed that 48% of Finns have a positive view of nuclear power, and only 17% are negative. The gap between the two is the widest since polling began 28 years ago. Among women, 33% are positive and 23% negative. Among Green League supporters, 37% are negative, down from 57% five years before, and 21% are positive. The survey also found the highest ever proportion of young people aged 15-24 in favour of nuclear power, at 30%. The percentage of 15-24 year olds registering negative attitudes was likewise the lowest the surveys have ever recorded, at 10%. WNN 15/2/10.
Greenland government relaxes on uranium
The Greenland government, increasing its independence from Denmark, has relaxed inherited restrictions on exploration and assessment of mineral deposits containing uranium. Australian-based Greenland Minerals & Energy now has a clear path to assess the possibility of mining its large Kvanefjeld rare earths, uranium and zinc deposit. A bankable feasibility study in conjunction with the government can now proceed over 2011-12. The near-surface deposit has 4.9 million tonnes of rare earth elements (REE) plus yttrium at 1.07%, 0.99 Mt zinc at 0.22%, and 108,700 tU at 0.024%U, all JORC-compliant and 79% as indicated resources. Significant metallurgical work is needed on REE to improve recoveries. The REE include 14% heavy rare earths, which the company says are in high demand. Production is envisaged as 3300 tU/yr and over 40,000 t/yr REE, starting 2015, which would make it the largest REE producer outside China, if approval to mine is eventually obtained. The mine would be a massive boost to economic independence for Greenland.
Belgian research reactor to be EU research focus
Belgium's planned Myrrha research reactor at Mol is one of three major new European energy research projects. Myrrha (Multipurpose Hybrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications) will be a 57 MWt accelerator-driven system relying on protons hitting a lead-bismuth target to generate neutrons and achieve criticality in a low-enriched sub-critical uranium core. Myrrha's research functions would be particularly well suited to investigating transmutation. Later on it is intended to be run as a critical fast neutron facility, so that it can be used for fuel research, for materials research for Generation IV reactors, and for the production of radioisotopes and doped silicon (an essential component of high-grade electronic circuits).
Myrrha is envisaged as a partnership of Belgium, the EU, the European Investment Bank and other partners, with 70% of the funding from EU countries. Belgium approved its 40% share of the funding in March, which puts the €960 million project on course for construction start in 2015 and operation about 2023. A reduced-power model, Guinevere, became operational at Mol in March. In October an agreement with the China Academy of Sciences supported the project. In addition to Myrrha, a wind research facility is planned in Denmark, and a concentrated solar power installation in Spain have been announced by the European Commission. The overall investment in the three projects will be some €1.2 billion.
Belgium to fund new research reactor
The Belgian government has approved its 40% share of funding for the country's Nuclear Research Centre's (SCK/CEN) new Multipurpose Hybrid Research Reactor for High-tech Applications (MYRRHA) at Mol. It is envisaged as a partnership of Belgium, the EU, the European Investment Bank, and others. Initially it will be a 57 MWt accelerator-driven system (ADS), with proton accelerator coupled to a subcritical fast core, and lead-bismuth cooled. As an ADS, it will be used to prove that technology and to study transmutation of long-lived radionuclides in nuclear waste. Later on it is intended to be run as a critical fast neutron facility, after decoupling the accelerator and removing the spallation loop from the reactor core. Then MYRRHA will be used for fuel research, for materials research for Generation IV reactors, and for the production of radioisotopes and doped silicon, a
component of high-grade electronic circuits. The release of about EUR 384 million funding followed an independent international evaluation and puts the project on course for construction start in 2015 and operation about 2023. Nuclear power in Belgium
Proposal for new Dutch reactor
A company owned by Dutch provincial and municipal authorities has applied to build one or two new nuclear power reactors at the Borssele site in Netherlands, where it has a half share in the 485 MWe reactor there which started up in 1973. One 50% owner, Delta Energie, last year applied to build 1600-2500 MWe of capacity at the site. Now the other half-owner - Energy Resources Holding (ERH) - has independently done likewise, proposing up to 2500 MWe of capacity using two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors or an Areva EPR or BWR. ERH came into being last year when German utility RWE agreed to buy Dutch energy company Essent for EUR 8.35 billion, but ran foul of a Dutch law which did not allow Essent's half share in Borssele to be included, so that share stayed with the original owners as ERH. RWE intended to build new nuclear capacity in Netherlands through Essent, so it is still waiting in the wings. The Dutch government is still nominally opposed to building new nuclear plants, but having abandoned its close-down policy for Borssele, all advice suggests that its climate policy cannot be implemented without new clean base-load plants such as now proposed.
EdF invited to share in new Dutch plant
Delta Energy, a half-owner of the Borssele nuclear power plant in Netherlands, has signed an agreement with EdF to advance its plans of building a large new nuclear power plant at Borssele. The partnership will now explore incorporation of a joint development company. EdF said it was prepared to invest EUR 2 billion in a minority share of a new plant there. Should the project go ahead, it may include third parties as investors and to contract for the plant's output.
Swiss move towards building three new reactors
The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) has made definitive appraisals for the Federal Office of Energy saying that the Niederamt, Beznau and Müheleberg sites are suitable for the purpose of building proposed new reactors of 1100-1600 MWe. These would replace four small reactors due to close over 2019 to 2029. ENSI's findings on the applications will be open to review as part of a public enquiry next year. A federal decision on authorising construction of the plants could follow about mid-2012.
Refurbishment program on Slovakian reactors completed
A major upgrading and uprating program on Slovakia's two oldest reactors, the Bohunice V2 plant, has been completed, at a cost of about EUR 500 million. They started up in 1984-85. This project increases both units to 505 MWe gross, adding 56 MWe to the plant's output, and extends the operating lives to 2025. (Two earlier model VVER-440 reactors at the site were shut down in 2006 and 2008 as a condition of EU accession.) Slovakia's two Mochovce reactors are 14 years newer than Bohunice V2, and were upgraded during construction. Two further units of the same design are being built at Mochovce, and are expected on line in 2012-13.
Lithuania shuts down RBMK reactor
As negotiated with the EU some ten years ago, Lithuania has closed down the second 1185 MWe unit of its Ignalina nuclear power plant, since this was a Soviet RBMK design of Chernobyl infamy, and despite significant modifications sine 1986, considered not safe enough for indefinite operation. Ignalina unit 1 was closed at the end of 2004. The EU has agreed to pay decommissioning costs and some compensation through to 2013, though this is unlikely to offset steep increases in power prices and dependence on Russian imports. This leaves 11 operating RBMK reactors in Russia and none outside it. Plans for new nuclear reactors at the site - Visaginas - involve Latvia, Estonia and Poland, and have been stalled by political factors. Meanwhile Russia plans to replace the lost capacity in the Baltic region by building two modern VVER-1200 reactors in its Kaliningrad enclave. FT 1/1/10. Lithuania
Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Bulgaria
New Russian reactor - Rostov 2 - in operation
The second 1000 MWe reactor at Russia's Rostov (Volgodonsk) nuclear power plant has been connected to the regional electricity grid. It is one of the last V-320 types of the well-proven VVER-1000 reactors which have been the mainstay of Russian and more recent export power plants. Two more are planned for the site, and site works have started for these, but most plans and the most recent new construction involve the larger VVER-1200 types. Rostov 2 is set to start commercial operation later this year. This brings to 32 the total operating nuclear power rectors in Russia, with 22.8 GWe net. Nuclear.Ru 21/1/10, WNN 18/3/10.
Construction start on new Russian reactors
It is confirmed that Rostov unit 3 is fully under construction, resumed from 1983-86. This is a similar V-320 type as units 1 & 2 but with improved steam generators and capacity of 1100 MWe. It is due to start up at the end of 2013 and be commissioned in 2014. Nizhniy Novgorod Atomenergoproekt is principal contractor for both units 3 & 4, expected to cost RUR 146 billion (US$ 5 billion).
Rostov unit 4 construction re-started in June, with first new concrete.
In mid April first concrete was poured for the second reactor of Leningrad phase 2 power plant, the fourth of the new 1200 MWe Russian VVER type. However, this unit is not scheduled to be on line until 2016. Each Leningrad unit will also provide 1.05 TJ/hr (9.17 PJ/yr) of district heating.
WNN 19/4/10. Nuclear Power in Russia
Ukraine extends operating life of oldest reactors
After more than US$ 300 million has been invested in upgrading the two Russian units since 2004 in collaboration with IAEA, the State Nuclear Regulatory Committee of Ukraine (SNRC) has granted a 20-year life extension for Rovno 1 & 2 reactors. These are 440 MWe Russian V-213 units which commenced operation in 1980 and 1981. Russia has granted 15-year life extensions to three of its similar reactors so far. Ukraine's Energoatom says that Rovno 1 & 2 are pilot projects, and that it plans to extend lifetimes of all 15 reactors, as well as completing construction of 1000 MWe Khmelnitsky units 3 & 4 by 2016 - financed through a Russian loan.
Rostov contract for Ukraine
Majority state-owned Ukrainian company Turboatom has won a $23 million contract from Nizhniy Novgorod AtomEnergoProekt (NN-AEP) to supply the condenser for Russian reactor Rostov unit 3. As with many other Russian reactors, construction work was suspended on Rostov 3 during the late 1980s but re-initiated last year. The condenser will be made from titanium instead of copper nickel alloys, a first for Turboatom. It is scheduled for delivery in May 2011. Turboatom had previously provided the turbines for the reactor before the suspension of construction around 1990, but they will likely be refurbished and uprated from 1000MWe to 1160MWe. WNN 21/7/10. Nuclear Power in Russia, Nuclear Power in Ukraine
Russia mid way through major reactor uprate program
Rosenergoatom has announced progress with its program to uprate most of its 27 main power reactors by 4% or 5%. So far an extra 311 MWe has been added to eight rectors for about US$ 200 per kilowatt (compared with $2400/kW to build Rostov 2). The uprating by 4% of all but one of the VVER-1000 reactors will be accomplished by the end of the year, and the uprating of all but one of the RBMK reactors will be done by 2013. In each case the oldest unit will not be uprated.
Balakovo-4 will be used as a pilot plant to assess the feasibility of uprating VVER-1000 units further to 107% or 110% of original capacity. This could then be extended to other Balakovo units, then Rostov and Kalinin. The cost of further uprates is expected to be up to $570/kW, depending on what needs to be replaced - the turbine generators being the main items.
Nuclear.Ru 26/5/10, 17/2/10. Nuclear Power in Russia
Enel opts in to Russian power plant project
An agreement between Italy's Enel and Russia's Inter RAO has positioned Enel to take up to a 49% share in Rosenergoatom's Baltic nuclear power project in Kaliningrad. The 2340 MWe Baltic plant is to comprise two modern 1200 MWe VVER reactors at Neman on the Lithuanian border, the first planned to be on line in 2016. Rosenergoatom has said that the plant is deliberately placed "essentially within the EU" and is designed to be integrated with the EU grid. Inter RAO intends to export some two thirds of the power to Germany, Poland and Baltic states. It will be the first Russian nuclear plant with private or international equity. The Enel agreement is wide-ranging in relation to nuclear power and electricity. Inter RAO UES is essentially an electricity utility and trader, 57.3% owned by Rosatom and Rosenergoatom.
WNN 27/4/10. Nuclear Power in Russia
Russia commits to suite of fast reactor technologies
The Russian government has confirmed a multi-track development to embrace fast neutron reactors as a technological priority in the next decade. The existing sodium-cooled fast reactor program with units of about 800 MWe will continue, a lead-bismuth-cooled SVBR fast reactor of 100 MWe will be built by 2015, and then a lead-cooled BREST fast reactor of 300 MWe will be built by 2020. In addition, a 150 MWt multi-purpose fast research reactor (MBIR) is to be built by 2020. The total fast reactor budget to 2020 is about RUR 60 billion, largely from the federal budget. The program is intended to result in a 70% growth in exports of high technology equipment, works and services rendered by the Russian nuclear industry by 2020.
Russia boosts nuclear exports
Russia's Rosatom is set to have foreign contracts for the supply of nuclear fuel and uranium enrichment services worth $20 billion by the end of 2010. This is because it has entered into markets where it previously had little or no representation. A 15-year supply contract has been signed with a Swiss company for the supply of enriched uranium, a ten-year contract was signed with Eskom of South African for a significant part of its fuel needs, and most recently a contract for supply of enriched uranium to meet the full needs of Mexico's sole nuclear power plant (Laguna Verde) has come into force. Russia has also broken into the American market for the first time by signing long-term contracts worth $3 billion with utilities for the supply of enriched uranium (beyond that already being supplied to 2013 from Russian weapons stockpiles). By the end of 2010, the value of contracts with US companies could rise to $4 billion.
In eastern Europe, a more traditional market for Russia, TVEL recently won a tender to construct a fuel manufacturing plant, against competition from US company Westinghouse. Russia's long-term contract to supply fuel to the Ukrainian market will run until the end of the useful life of existing Ukrainian reactors, perhaps up to 35 years.
In China, an EUR 1.3 billion contract to supply the main nuclear reactor components for Tianwan 3 & 4 is pending, but meanwhile OMZ's Iskorskiye Zavody plant has started making the major components covered by the Russian contract. It will manufacture two VVER-1000 reactor pressure vessels with internals and upper units. Delivery is expected in 2014.
Rusal head urges nuclear power source
The head of Rusal, which accounts for about one tenth of global aluminium, told a Melbourne mining audience that carbon pricing poses a major threat to the aluminium smelting industry which should therefore turn to nuclear power to fuel growth. Rusal is involved in three proposals in Russia to build new nuclear capacity for aluminium smelting. A $10 billion proposal for Primorye in Russia's far east involves 4000 MWe of nuclear plant and a 0.6 Mt/yr smelter, and an $8 billion one at Balakovo southeast of Moscow involves adding 2000 MWe to that nuclear plant and a 1.05 Mt/yr smelter. An earlier Rusal proposal was for Kola, north of St Petersburg.
PM Putin shoots the breeze
The Russian prime minister has said that nuclear energy is the only alternative to traditional energy sources. As energy demand increases, energy consumption patterns will only undergo minor changes, he said. "You couldn't transfer large electric power stations to wind energy, however much you wanted to. In the next few decades, it will be impossible." Nuclear energy is the only "real and powerful alternative" he asserted, calling other approaches to meeting future electricity demand simply "claptrap."
Russia relies on gas for half of its electricity and has a policy of replacing gas-fired generating plant with nuclear as fast as possible so as to be able to export more gas to Europe. Its latest projection is to increase nuclear capacity from 24 to 43 GWe by 2020, and is on track for that.
Nuclear icebreakers open northern sea route for tanker
A 100,000 dwt tanker, the Baltika, has left Murmansk with a 70,000 tonne cargo for China via the northern sea route. Two large Russian icebreakers will clear the way next week over 5000 km of the route. This is the first such voyage for a large tanker, and Sovcomflot said that the main purpose of the trial journey was to determine the possibilities of delivering oil and gas safely and economically to Asia on a regular basis via the Northern Sea Route, which is 8000 km shorter than that through the Suez canal. The icebreakers used are powerful 23,500 dwt Arkitika-class, each of which has twin 171 MWt OK-900 reactors delivering 54 MW at the propellers.
WNN 17/8/10. Nuclear-powered ships
Improved relations between Russia and Ukraine
Following on from Ukrainian company Turboatom winning the turbine contract for Rostov unit 3 and further signalling the improved nuclear relations between the two countries; at a July meeting in Karkov, plans were put forward for a joint venture between Russian and Ukrainian companies to supply a standardised reactor to former Soviet countries. Specifically, the nuclear island would be based on Russian VVER technology while the turbine island would be provided by Turboatom. The reactor, known as VVER-1100/392, is currently at the conceptual stage.
WNN 21/7/10. Nuclear Power in Russia, Nuclear Power in Ukraine
Russia increases uranium reserves
Russia has announced a 15% increase in uranium reserves during 2009. This appears to be mainly as a result of exploration activity in the Urals and Kalmykia Republic, north of the Caspian Sea, but 2010 the focus of attention will be in the Eastern Siberian Sakha Republic (Yakutia) where the massive Elkon project is being developed. As of January 2007, Russia had known uranium resources (reasonably assured plus inferred resources up to $130/kg) of 546,000 tonnes, more than half of this in the Elkon project.
WNN 7/4/10. Nuclear Power in Russia
Russia moves to supply medical isotopes internationally
Following its establishment of a joint venture with Russia's Research Institute of Atomic Reactors (NIIAR) to produce molybdenum-99 at Dimitrovgrad, JSC Izotop has signed a framework agreement with Canada-based MDS Nordion to explore commercial opportunities outside Russia. The Izotop-NIIAR JV is aiming to capture 20% of the world market for Mo-99 by 2012, and MDS Nordion already supplies 40% of that market.
Mo-99 forms technetium-99m which is extracted from generating pots at hospitals. Tc-99 is employed in over three quarters of all nuclear medicine procedures, for diagnosis. Most of the world's supply of Mo-99 comes from only five reactors, all of them 43 to 52 years old. Two of them required major repairs over 2009-10 and were out of action for some time, and a third is due to shut down in 2015. A major and increasing supply shortfall of Tc-99 is forecast from 2010. Australia's new Opal reactor has the capacity to produce half the world supply of it, but a much larger Mo-99 production facility would be required.
Belarus resettlement proceeds in area affected by Chernobyl
In July the Belarus government announced that it had decided to settle back thousands of people in the “contaminated areas” covered by the Chernobyl fallout, from which 24 years ago they and their forbears were hastily relocated. Compared with the list of contaminated areas in 2005, some 211 villages and hamlets have been reclassified with less restrictions on resettlement. The decision by the Belarus Council of Ministers resulted in a new national program over 2011-15 and up to 2020 to alleviate the Chernobyl impact and return the areas to normal use with minimal restrictions. Some $2.2 billion has been budgeted to restore services and infrastructure. The focus of the project is on the development of economic and industrial potential of the Brest, Gomel, and Mogilev regions. The main priority will be agriculture and forestry, together with attracting qualified people and housing them.
The Belarus government decision is an important political landmark in an ongoing process. Studies reviewed by UNSCEAR show that the Chernobyl disaster caused little risk for the general population. A UN Development Program report in 2002 said that much of the aid and effort applied to mitigate the effects of the Chernobyl accident did more harm than good, and it seems that this finally persuaded the Belarus authorities. Two years later President Lukashenko announced a priority to repopulate much of the Chernobyl-affected regions. Then in 2009 he said that he “wants to repopulate Chernobyl’s zone quickly”, and to abolish the division in the country's population into “chernobylets” (people affected by the disaster and cleanup veterans) and “non-chernobylets”. The post-1986 relocations seem to have been a mistake in most cases. According to the most up to date estimate of UNSCEAR the average radiation dose received by inhabitants of strict radiation control areas (cesium-137 levels in soil greater than 555 kBq/m2) in the years 1986 to 2005 was 3.2 mSv/yr, and in “contaminated areas” (Cs-137 level in soil greater than 37 kBq/m2) it was 0.47 mSv/yr. These are much lower than natural radiation exposures in many regions of the world. Average human dose from natural background is about 2.5 mSv/yr.
Hope revived for Bulgaria's Belene project
After many months of inconclusive discussion following a change of government, a new arrangement appear to offer hope for progressing the project to build two 1060 MWe Russian reactors at Belene, on the Danube River. The National Electricity Co (NEK) has now agreed with Russia's Rosatom to set up a new project company - Belene Power Company, with initially 51% being held by NEK and 49% by Rosatom. Both parties are then required to arrange debt and equity finance in proportion to their share, and attract other investors. NEK's stake is far beyond the 20% it hoped to have under previous finance schemes. Construction is now due to start by the end of September 2011, so that the two reactors are brought into operation in 2016 and 2017.
Some of the NEK equity may be taken by electricity customers such as Serbia, which is keen to have 5%. The new agreement allows in-kind contributions to equity. NEK has contributed the site and work to date, valued at EUR 450 million (7% share), Finland's Fortum has agreed to supply expertise which can earn it 1%, and French Altran Technologies will contribute engineering services for the same equity. Siemens in Bavaria is likely to supply Belene's two large steam turbines and generators, as well as control equipment, for a larger share.
Russia to build, own and operate Turkish nuclear plant
Russian and Turkish heads of state have signed an intergovernmental agreement for Rosatom to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant of four 1200 MWe VVER reactors, at Akkuyu, on the eastern Mediterranean coast. Rosatom, through Atomstroyexport and Inter RAO UES, will finance the project and start off with 100% equity. Longer-term they intend to retain at least 51% of the company which will build, own and operate the plant. This will be Russia's first foreign plant built on that basis. The Turkish firm Park Teknik and state generation company Elektrik Uretim AS (EUAS) are expected to take up significant shares in the US$ 20 billion project. Meanwhile, EUAS will provide the site. In earlier bids for the plant, Atomstroyexport was the only one conforming to a requirement that the vendor take back the used fuel.
Earlier plans faltered on guaranteeing the cost of power. Under the agreement the Turkish Electricity Trade & Contract Corporation (TETAS) will buy a fixed proportion of the power at US$ 12.35 cents/kWh for 15 years, or to 2030. The remainder of the power will be sold by the project company on the open market. After 15 years, when the plant is expected to be paid off, the project company will pay 20% of the profits to the Turkish government. The first reactor is to be on line within seven years of receiving a construction licence, with the others to follow at one-year intervals. The agreement also provides for setting up a fuel fabrication plant in Turkey.
In March EUAS signed an agreement with Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) to prepare a bid to build a nuclear power plant at Sinop on the Black Sea coast, with four APR-1400 reactors. The bid, in conjunction with local construction group Enka Insaat ve Sanayi, is due in August. If it is accepted, an intergovernmental agreement would follow and EUAS would take a 25% share in the plant. An EUR 1.7 billion nuclear technology centre is also planned at Sinop.
FT, Moscow Times, Nuclear.Ru 13/5/10, WNN 13/5/10.
Rosatom announces timeline for Turkish plant
Following the ratification of intergovernmental agreements, Russia's Rosatom has announced that it expects to start building the $20 billion Akkuyu nuclear power plant on the eastern Mediterranean coast near the port of Mersin in 2013. The first of four 1200 MWe AES-2006 units is planned to be operational in 2018, followed by the others to 2021. Rosatom, through Atomstroyexport and Inter RAO UES, will finance the project and start off with 100% equity in the Turkish project company set up to build, own and operate the plant. Longer-term they intend to retain at least 51% of the company. The Turkish firm Park Teknik and state generation company Elektrik Uretim AS (EUAS) are expected to take up significant shares. Meanwhile, EUAS will provide the site, which was licensed for a nuclear plant in 1976. This is Rosatom's first build-own-operate (BOO) export project. The Turkish Electricity Trade & Contract Corporation (TETAS) is to buy a fixed proportion of the power at a fixed price for 15 years, the balance being sold on the open market.
Nuclear power in Turkey
Iran starts to load fuel into new power reactor
After many delays, Iran has begun loading the fuel it received from Russia early in 2008 into its new 1000 MWe Bushehr reactor. This is fully under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards, and is quite separate from the uranium enrichment activities which have caused international concern. All the fuel for Bushehr is provided by Russia and the used fuel is to be repatriated to Russia. Plant construction began in 1975 under the previous regime but was abandoned in 1979. In 1994 Russia's Minatom agreed to complete it, using all new VVER equipment. There have been a number of political and organizational delays since, but the plant is now expected to start up by year end. It will be operated for the first few years by a 50-50 Russian-Iranian joint venture. The anticipated 7 billion kWh/yr from the new reactor will free up about 1.6 million tonnes of oil (11 million barrels) or 1800 million cubic metres of gas per year, which can be exported for hard currency.
UAE construction licence application
UAE's Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation lodged a 9000-page construction licence application with the Federal Authority of Nuclear Regulation at the end of December for units 1 & 2 of the Braka nuclear power plant. This is to undertake full site works, and start construction of unit 1 late in 2012, and unit 2 a year later. Commercial operation is envisaged in 2017 and 2018 respectively, followed by 2019 and 2020 for units 3 & 4. A South Korean consortium led by KEPCO is supplying the four APR-1400 reactors, for about US$ 20.4 billion. They will be largely financed by the UAE state.
UAE selects nuclear power plant site
The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) has lodged licence applications and an environmental assessment for its preferred nuclear power site at Braka, on the coast 53 km west of Ruwais, well west of Abu Dhabi city. The site evaluation process for the four reactors considered ten potential sites and was based on guidance from the UAE nuclear regulator as well as the US Electric Power Research Institute, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the IAEA.
ENEC expects to lodge a full construction licence application for units 1 & 2 building the South Korean APR1400 reactors later in 2010, and start construction late in 2012. Commercial operation is envisaged in 2017 and 2018, followed by 2019-20 for units 3 & 4.
WNN 23/4/10. Nuclear Power in United Arab Emirates
Jordan shortlists reactor designs
The Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) has drawn up a shortlist of three preferred bidders to supply reactors for the country's first nuclear power plant. The three reactor designs are: Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd's Enhanced Candu-6 pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR); AtomStroyExport's AES-92 model of its VVER-1000; and the new Atmea-1 pressurized water reactor design proposed by a joint venture between Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The next stage of evaluation will be technical, followed by the financing and organization support that the vendor will provide for future operation of the plant. JAEC plans to have a nuclear power plant for electricity and desalination in operation by 2015, the likely site being some 25 km south of Al Aqabah and 12 km east of the Gulf of Aqaba coastline. Discussion of environmental aspects has taken place with Israel and Egypt. The plant will have a closed loop cooling system, with cooling tower.
Jordan's Committee for Nuclear Strategy has set out a program for nuclear power to provide 30% of electricity by 2030 or 2040, and to provide for exports. It now imports about 95% of its energy needs.
South Korea to fund Jordan's first research reactor
The project to develop Jordan's first nuclear reactor, the Jordan Research and Training Reactor (JRTR), has started after South Korea signed a $70 million loan agreement at a ceremony in the Jordanian capital. The remainder of the $130 million required will be provided by the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). The JAEC chairman described the ceremony as a signal that Jordan is entering the nuclear age. Construction on the 5MW thermal reactor is set to begin in August and is scheduled to finish by the end of 2015. It will be built by a Korean consortium at the Jordan University for Science and Technology, and will represent an important first order for South Korea's overseas nuclear industry. It will produce radioisotopes and serve as a centre for nuclear research and training. Jordan currently has plans to begin construction of a mid-size nuclear power plant by 2013, with a short list of offers currently under consideration from Canadian, Russian and French-Japanese consortia. A JAEC spokesman has indicated that the final choice of supplier will be made by April 2011.
WNN 27/7/10. Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries
Areva secures uranium rights in Jordan
Areva has been granted exclusive rights to mine for uranium in the central region of Jordan under an agreement signed with the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). This follows an agreement 18 months ago which led to setting up a joint venture company, Nabataean Energy, which will now conduct a feasibility study on mining the central phosphate deposits. Areva said that the "agreement paves the way for a long-term partnership between Areva and JAEC in the development of Jordan's nuclear power generation program." Jordan plans to have a large reactor in operation for power and desalination by 2020, and several reactor designs are under consideration. WNN 22/2/10.
Kazakhstan now top uranium producer
Preliminary figures put Kazakh uranium production in 2009 at 13,900 tonnes of uranium (16,400 t U3O8), a 63% increase on 2008's 8521 tU. Canadian production is expected to be about 10,000 tU, and Australia's about 9000 tU. All Kazakh production is from in situ leaching (ISL) at 21 mines. WNN 5/1/10.
Japan contends for Kazakh reactor project
Japan Atomic Power Co, Toshiba and Marubeni have signed a technical cooperation agreement with Kazakhstan's National Nuclear Centre (NNC) to study the feasibility of building nuclear power capacity there. Toshiba said that the Japan Atomic Power Co would manage the project, and bring proposals such as construction cost estimates, advice on law and regulation, scheduling, and establishment of an operating body. Toshiba would focus on the plant concept, and Marubeni Utility Services would assess economic feasibility including financial evaluation and financing. The new agreement fleshes out a September 2009 agreement between NNC and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) to build a medium-sized reactor in Kazakhstan.
The Japanese initiative appears to compete with a July 2006 Kazakh joint venture with Russia's Atomstroyexport to develop and market innovative small and medium-sized reactors, starting with OKBM Afrikantov's VBER-300 PWR (300 MWe) as baseline for Kazakh units. Atomstroyexport expected to build the initial pair, and Kazatomprom planned for construction start in 2011 at Aktau, on the Caspian Sea. The plant would then be marketed internationally. However, the project stalled over funding, and alleged Russian reluctance to transfer intellectual property rights on the VBER reactor. An intergovernmental agreement in November 2010 may revive the project.
Areva confirms plans for fuel fabrication in Kazakhstan
Confirming 2008 and 2009 agreements, Areva and Kazatomprom are setting up a joint venture to build a 400 t/yr fuel fabrication line at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant in Kazakhstan. The output from this will be marketed from 2014 by another JV company Ifastar, as integrated fuel supply for Asian customers (ie selling the enriched and fabricated fuel, not simply Kazakh uranium or Areva front-end services).
Canadians make way for Chinese in Mongolia
Hot on the heels of Khan Resources announcing a joint venture with Mongolian state agency Monatom, and Monatom agreeing to buy 20% of Khan, the Khan directors have recommended a full $51.8 million takeover by a China-based CNNC Overseas Uranium Holding Ltd. The price is 18% higher than before Russian ARMZ's unsolicited bid last year, and almost twice what they offered. The Khan CEO said: "We look forward to working with CNNC to build upon the progress we have made in Mongolia towards establishing a stable platform for developing the Dornod uranium project and bringing it into operation." ARMZ responded to the news by extending its bid and suggesting that the Khan-Monatom agreement was legally dubious. However, in mid April the Mongolian government cancelled Khan's mining and exploration leases.
After an unsuccessful takeover bid by Khan, Western Prospector Group, another Canadian-based company with marginal Mongolian prospects, last year agreed to a US$ 25 million takeover by a subsidiary of CNNC Overseas Uranium Holding Ltd. That corporate amalgamation was completed in August 2009. Khan 1/2/10, Western Prospector 14/9/09, WNN 2/2/10, 14/4/10.
Mongolian mine machinations
Mongolia's state uranium holding company Monatom has abandoned what appeared to be a heavy-handed attempt to gazump Canadian company Khan Resources' title to the Dornod uranium deposit. In August 2009 MonAtom set up a joint venture with Russia's ARMZ to take over and develop the deposit, though Khan claimed a 69% equity in it and had undertaken a bankable feasibility study. However, Khan has now agreed to set up a joint venture with MonAtom and resolve the ownership question, giving it 48% of the project after a complex series of transactions. MonAtom acquires up to 20% of Khan. Mongolia's new nuclear energy law requires the state to hold 51% of uranium projects. ARMZ's new equity is not known, but was 21% in the project. WNN 26/1/09.
Korea aims high
Following its sale of four modern nuclear power reactors to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the South Korean Ministry of Knowledge Economy has declared that it aims to achieve exports of 80 nuclear power reactors worth $400 billion by 2030, in the course of becoming the world's third largest supplier of such technology, with a 20% share of the world market, behind the USA and France or Russia. "Nuclear power-related business will be the most profitable market after automobiles, semiconductors and shipbuilding," It said, adding that: "We will promote the industry as a major export business."
The Korean industry aims to be 100% self-sufficient by 2012, with no residual intellectual property constraints. Following the UAE sale, it is marketing to Turkey, Jordan, Romania and Ukraine, as well as South East Asian countries. In addition to exporting reactors, it also plans to enter the $78 billion market for the operation, maintenance and repair of reactors. MKE 13/1/10, WNN 13/1/10.
South Korea firms up nuclear plans
On the basis of 1.9% per year increase in electricity demand, South Korea is planning to spend $39 billion building new generating capacity by 2024, including 14 more nuclear power reactors, six of which are already under construction. Nuclear will then provide almost half of the country's power, up from one third now, from 20 units. Six more are due to start construction in the next six years. In addition, South Korea is contracted to build four APR-1400 nuclear reactors in the United Arab Emirates by 2020.
New South Korean reactor starts operation
Shin Kori 1 has been connected to the grid, in August. The 960 MWe (net) OPR-1000 unit is due to enter commercial operation in December. Its twin, unit 4, is a year behind it.
South Korea opens waste repository
A long-awaited repository for low- and intermediate-level radioactive wastes has opened at Gyeongju in South Korea. The Korea Radioactive Waste Management Co. Ltd (KRWM) has accepted the first shipment of 1000 drums of wastes from Ulchin nuclear power plant, and expects nine such shipments each year. In 2008 construction of underground silos at the site commenced, and these will be commissioned in 2012.
The Gyeongju location, 370 km southeast of Seoul and close to the Wolsong nuclear power plant, was decided in 2005 after votes in four provincial cities. Almost 90% of its voters approved, compared with 67 to 84% in the other contender locations. As well as a US$ 260 million initial grant, the local community will receive annual fees for hosting the facility. Earlier attempts over 1988-96 to find a repository site failed.
China evolves basic reactor design for export markets
The main type of power reactor being built in large numbers in China is the CPR-1000, based on the French 900 MWe design imported for Daya Bay in the 1980s. Known as the 'improved Chinese PWR', it features digital instrumentation and control and a design life of 60 years. Standard construction time is 52 months, and the unit cost is under CNY 10,000 (US$ 1500) per kilowatt. China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) led the development of the CPR-1000 and has established a nearly complete domestic supply chain. However, at present Areva retains intellectual property rights. CGNPC is continuing to develop the design and its evolution to Advanced CPR-1000 as a third-generation reactor design with full Chinese intellectual property rights. At the China International Nuclear Symposium ion November, CGNPC said it expects to make the ACPR-1000 available for local build and overseas markets in 2013.
First CPR-1000 reactor is grid connected
China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co's Ling Ao II unit 1 was grid connected 15 July. Construction on the reactor began in December 2005. Officially the first of the Chinese-developed CPR-1000 type, Ling Ao II-1 is an evolution of the Daya Bay reactors which are in turn based upon French three loop technology. Equipment localisation for the reactor reached 50%, greater than any of its predecessors. Localisation for Ling Ao II-2 is expected to reach 70% and will include the first Chinese-made pressure vessel. Ling Ao II-1 is rated at 1037 MWe net (1080 MWe gross). WNN 16/7/10. Nuclear Power in China
New Chinese reactor connected to grid
The third reactor of Qinshan phase II power plant has been grid connected, some 53 months after start of construction and three months ahead of schedule. It is a 610 MWe (net) Chinese pressurized water reactor based on French designs and similar to the other phase II units there and to those being built at Chanjiang on Hainan Island. Commercial operation is expected next year.
13th Chinese reactor in commercial operation
The third unit of Qinshan phase II nuclear power plant in eastern China has entered commercial service, 12 weeks after its grid connection, following 53 months construction. Qinshan Phase II units are locally-designed and constructed 2-loop PWR reactors, scaled up from an earlier model half the size, and designated CNP-600. Local content for these was 55%, but for units 3 & 4 it is 77%. China National Nuclear Corporation claims that Qinshan phase II "is the first independently-designed, built, managed and operated large commercial nuclear power station in China."
New Chinese reactors start construction
First concrete was poured for Ningde 3 power station in the northeast of China's Fujian province in January. The first construction phase of the US$ 7.2 billion project comprises four CPR-1000 units. Local content will be about 75% for units 1&2 and 85% for units 3&4. The first reactor is due on line at the end of 2012. WNN 11/1/10.
The first concrete was poured ahead of schedule at the Taishan 2 nuclear power plant in Guangdong province, marking the official start of construction for the site's second 1700 MWe EPR unit. Electricité de France (EdF) and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Co. (CGNPC) have created a joint venture - Guangdong Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co Ltd - to co-own and operate the two Taishan reactors, with EdF holding 30% of it.
First concrete was poured for the first of two new reactors for the Changjiang nuclear power plant on Hainan Island, south China. These are largely indigenous 650 MWe units which are due on line in 2014 and 2015. Total cost of the first pair is put at about CNY 19 billion ($2.8 billion). Units 3 & 4 will be built as phase II. China National Nuclear Corporation is 51% shareholder, with China Huaneng group holding 49% in Hainan Nuclear Power Co Ltd.
First concrete was poured for Haiyang 2, the fourth 1250 MWe Westinghouse AP1000 reactor being built in China, making a total of 24 under construction. It is expected in operation in 2015.
First concrete has been poured for unit 1 of Fangchenggang nuclear power plant in Guangxi province, close to the Vietnam border. The plant will eventually have six 1000 MWe CPR-1000 reactors, and is the first in an ethnic minority area of China. The first phase to built two reactors involves an investment of CNY 26 billion ($3.87 billion) and will promote regional development including creation of 965,000 jobs, according to Guangxi Fangchenggang Nuclear Power Co. The units are expected on line in 2015-16.
China Guangdong Nuclear Power started construction late September on Ningde 4 in northern Fujian province. This is a Chinese CPR-1000 type of 1080 MWe and local content is to be 85%. The first unit at the site is more than half built and is expected to be on line at the end of 2012. Total cost for the four units is put at CNY 51 billion ($7.2 billion). Dongfang Electric has a contract to supply turbine generators, using Alstom Arabelle low-speed technology.
Closely following the issuing of a construction permit, first concrete was poured for Yangjiang 3 nuclear power plant. The six-unit plant is being built by China Guangdong Nuclear Power in two phases, with local CPR-1000 reactors. It will be operated under regional Daya Bay management. In July, Hong Kong-based power utility China Light and Power (CLP) agreed to take a 17% stake in Yangjiang - the equivalent of one reactor. The first unit is expected in operation in 2013, this one in 2015. As of today, there are 25 power reactors under construction in China, total 28,060 MWe, and at least 38 planned.
China National Nuclear Corporation and China Huaneng Group started building the 650 MWe Changjiang 2 unit on Hainan island, due to be operational in mid 2015. The first reactor started construction in April. This makes 26 reactors under construction in China, total 28.7 GWe.
At the end of December construction of Fuqing 3 started, with some fanfare. This is a 1080 MWe CPR-1000 unit, which is due to come on line in July 2015. The site will eventually host six. China National Nuclear Corporation is the major shareholder in Fujian Fuqing Nuclear Co Ltd which was set up in May 2006 with 49% held by China Huadian Corp, one of the major Chinese generators. This was the ninth Chinese construction start in 2010, and brings the total under construction there to 27.
Nuclear Power in China.
Areva embeds China role
China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) has signed a $3.5 billion, ten-year contract with Areva for supply of 20,000 tonnes of uranium. This is in the context of earlier agreements for 40,000 tonnes uranium supply to 2022 from Areva Resources Southern Africa, in which it - with Chinese sovereign wealth funds - holds 49% equity. Also, Areva with EdF is building two EPR reactors at Taishan for CGNPC, under an EUR 8 billion contract.
At the same time Areva announced the prospect of a joint venture with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to produce and market zirconium alloy tubes for nuclear fuel assemblies. The joint venture, CNNC Areva Shanghai Tubing Co. (CAST), could start production at a plant in Shanghai at the end of 2012. Also, a three-year old agreement with CNNC to set up an 800 t/yr reprocessing plant in China has taken what Areva calls "the final step towards a commercial contract" for the EUR 15 billion project, to be run by Areva.
Hong Kong plans major nuclear commitment
The Hong Kong government plans to close down its coal-fired plants, and by 2020 to get 50% of its power from mainland nuclear power plants, 40% from gas locally and 3% from renewables. HK utility China Light & Power has equity in China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation's Daya Bay and Yangjiang nuclear power plants, and may take equity in a further nuclear plant. About 70% of the output from Daya Bay's 1888 MWe net nuclear capacity is sent to Hong Kong.
Experimental fast reactor achieves criticality An experimental sodium cooled fast reactor achieved criticality for the first time on 21 July 2010 according to owner, the China Instituted of Atomic Energy (CIAE). The Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) was built by Russia's OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with OKB Gidropress, Nikiet and Kurchatov Institute. It is expected to produce 60MWth and about 20MWe. However, the import of ready developed Russian fast reactors is likely to preclude further development of the design. In October last year, an agreement was signed between CIAE and China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation (CNEIC) with AtomStroyExport to start pre-project work on a plant with two BN-800 reactors.WNN 22/7/10. Nuclear Power in China, China Nuclear Fuel Cycle
China demonstrates fuel recycling
The world's first commercial demonstration of directly recycling uranium recovered from used PWR fuel is under way in Qinshan III unit 1, using fuel bundles with recycled uranium blended with depleted uranium to give natural uranium equivalent, similar to normal CANDU fuel. Subject to supply from reprocessing plants, a full core of such natural U equivalent is envisaged. This is a collaborative project among Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), the Nuclear Power Institute of China, Third Qinshan Nuclear Power Company and China North Nuclear Fuel Corporation. It means that CANDU reactors can effectively be fuelled by what amounts to waste products from the conventional fuel cycle, and in fact one CANDU reactor can be run on the recycled uranium from three light water reactors, using present technology.
J Hopwood, WNA Symposium 17/9/10, WNN 24/3/10.
China starts recycling uranium
China National Nuclear Corporation has started using the first fuel fabricated from recycled uranium recovered from light water reactors. The used fuel from overseas reactors has been reprocessed and the imported uranium - with enrichment level less than 1.6% U-235 - has been blended with depleted uranium to make Natural Uranium Equivalent (NUE) fuel. This is being used in one of the Qinshan CANDU heavy water reactors at the commencement of a 12-month trial. The recycled uranium is significantly radioactive due to the presence of U-232, so the fuel bundles have to be handled accordingly. To make this first batch of NUE fuel, CNNC managers at Qinshan collaborated with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd, the Nuclear Power Institute of China, and China North Nuclear Fuel Corporation. This is a world first innovation culminating two years work which "establishes CANDU's ability to utilize alternative fuel cycles and demonstrates the strong synergy between CANDU technology and light water reactor technology" according to AECL.
WNN 24/3/10. Nuclear Power in China
China sets up nuclear production line
A nuclear technology base is to be established near Nanjing in eastern China featuring as its centrepiece a $146 million factory for pre-assembled structural and equipment modules for CPR-1000 and Westinghouse AP1000 reactors. China Huaxing Nuclear Construction Company (HXCC) will build this on the banks of the Yangtze River in Jiangsu province. The modules, weighting up to nearly 1000 tonnes each in the case of AP1000, can then be taken by barge to construction sites. Nanjing is a transport hub, and the overall 51 square kilometre development zone will be served by a new river port including a bulk cargo terminal and 12 deep-water piers. Currently AP1000 modules are made by Shandong Nuclear Power Equipment Manufacturing Co which has the capacity to support construction of two reactors per year. HXCC is the main civil engineering contractor for China Guangdong Group.
WNN 10/6/10. Nuclear Power in China.
New Chinese nuclear industrial park
Following announcement of the major nuclear technology base near Nanjing in Jiangsu province, being built by China Huaxing Nuclear Construction Company, the China Nuclear Power City has been inaugurated by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) at Haiyan, Zhejiang province. This is on the Yangtze delta about 120 km southwest of Shanghai and close to the cities of Hangzhou, Suzhou and Ningbo. As well as having the nuclear power plants in the Qinshan complex nearby, Haiyan hosts the headquarters of 18 leading Chinese nuclear equipment suppliers, and branch offices of all the major Chinese nuclear design institutes and construction companies. The new China Nuclear Power City will cover 130 square kilometers and has a 10-year budget of $175 billion, according to reports. It is expected to have four main areas of work: development of the nuclear power equipment manufacturing industry; nuclear training and education; applied nuclear science industries (medical, agricultural, radiation detection and tracing); and promotion of the nuclear industry.
The Haiyan Nuclear Power City is entitled to all the preferential benefits granted to national economic and technological zones and national hi-tech industrial zones. Enterprises in the industrial park will enjoy priority for bidding quota, bidding training, qualification guidance and specific purchasing with CNNC. The concept is based on the French equivalent in the Burgundy area, and French suppliers will be involved at Haiyan, as will CGNPC.
WNN 16/8/10. China Nuclear Fuel Cycle
World's largest cooling tower for new Chinese plant
Germany's GEA Group is to construct the world's largest evaporative cooling tower for unit 1 of CNNC's Taohuajiang nuclear power plant: a natural draft unit some 200 metres high and 160 m in diameter, with 15,000 square metres drenching area. There will eventually be four of them. Taohuajiang is one of four initial inland power plants, each to have four or six Westinghouse AP1000 reactors of 1250 MWe each. At least three of these will use cooling towers to eliminate thermal impact on the adjacent Zi River.
IAEA reviews China's nuclear safety
The International Atomic Energy Agency has completed a thorough review of China's regulatory framework for nuclear safety. The peer review over two weeks in July was carried out at the request of Chinese authorities, and was conducted by a 22-strong team of experts from 15 different countries. The team conducted an Integrated Regulatory Review Service mission, based on the IAEA safety standards. The scope of the mission included the regulation of nuclear and radiation safety of facilities. The team said that leadership of the regulatory system expressed high-level commitment to nuclear safety and its regulation, and that the cultural environment turns such commitments into practical activities. It noted the extensive use of IAEA safety standards in the development of China's legislative framework, and said that China had in place a system "for registering a cadre of high level nuclear safety engineers." It made recommendations for improvement, and concluded that the review had provided "confidence in the effectiveness of the Chinese safety regulatory system and the future safety of the vast expanding nuclear industry" there.
Japan restarts Monju fast reactor
More than 14 years after it was shut down due to a sodium leak from the cooling circuit, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency has restarted the 280 MWe Monju fast neutron reactor. Getting approval for this from safety authorities and local government has taken a long time, and involved some 1000 meetings with local citizens and prefecture. It is expected to start supplying power - 246 MWe net - to the grid after a couple of days, though it is primarily an experimental reactor designed to pave the way for Japan's major use of fast reactors by mid century. Monju started up in 1994 and was grid-connected in August 1995. It followed the Joyo experimental fast breeder reactor which has operated since 1977. However, Monju was shut down four months later after more than a tonne of liquid sodium leaked from the secondary cooling loop. Although there were no injuries, and no radioactivity escaped plant buildings, the incident was compounded by operator attempts to cover up the scale of the damage. Significant changes have been made to plant and systems.
WNN 6/5/10. Nuclear Power in Japan
First Japanese reactor life extension
JAPC's 341 MWe Tsuruga-1 reactor, which started commercial operation in March 1970, has been given a 6-year life extension by local government. It is Japan's oldest operating nuclear power reactor, and the first to get a life extension. Last year JAPC issued a technical evaluation of the reactor with a plan for its ongoing maintenance. The government approved this, so that JAPC then applied for life extension to 2016 in order to bridge the gap until units 3 & 4 at Tsuruga come on line. They will be the first Mitsubishi APWR types, of 1538 MWe, and costing some JPY 770 billion (US$ 8.65 billion). Their construction is now due to start later in 2010 and commissioning of the first is due in March 2016. They have been delayed by revision of seismic safety standards.
Japan confirms new reactor construction
Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) in its 2010 electricity supply plan has J-Power's 1383 MWe Ohma 1 reactor as under construction and (as before) expected on line in November 2014.
Tepco share issue to pay for new nuclear plants
Japanese utility Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) aims to raise up to ¥555 billion ($6.6 billion) through a domestic and international share issue for investment in zero- and low-carbon power plants. About half the funds will be used to build the first unit of Tepco's Higashidori nuclear power plant, due to commence construction at the end of this year (¥220 billion - $2.6 billion), and for Tepco's share in the twin-reactor South Texas Project in the USA.
Japanese association sets electric vehicle charging standards
Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota, with Tepco and Fuji Heavy Industries have announced an association to establish a standardised technology in Japan for charging electric vehicles, with a view to making this global. The CHAdeMO Association expects to have 158 members including government bodies, and "20 foreign companies ….. such as automakers, electric utilities, charger manufacturers, charging service providers, and other supporting groups". Nissan has already selected AeroVironment to supply electric vehicle home charging stations in the USA for its Leaf EV from December 2010. These will fully recharge the battery from 220 volts in eight hours.
Energy Daily 19/3/10. Electricity and Cars
APEC energy ministers support nuclear power
Energy ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum have agreed that the deployment of clean energy sources - including nuclear power- should be promoted in the region. The ministers instructed their Energy Working Group to "explore mechanisms to encourage economies to set individual goals and action plans for introducing low-emission power sources - renewable, nuclear and fossil-fuels with carbon capture and storage - [which] can allow electricity generation to expand in a sustainable fashion." The energy ministers note that "a growing number of interested economies are using nuclear power to diversify their energy mix and limit carbon emissions. These economies are reaffirming their international commitment to safety, security and non-proliferation as the fundamental elements for the peaceful use of nuclear energy." They add: "We therefore need to assess the emissions reduction potential of nuclear power in APEC."
WNN 21/6/10. Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries
Russia signs up to build first Vietnam nuclear power plant
A long-anticipated intergovernmental agreement has been signed for Atomstroyexport to build the Ninh Thuan 1 nuclear power plant in Vietnam, using two VVER-1000 or -1200 reactors. Rosatom has confirmed that it is prepared to finance this first plant, though terms have not yet been agreed. It will supply the fuel and take back the used fuel for the life of the plant, as is normal Russian policy for non-nuclear-weapons states. Construction at Phuoc Dinh in the southern Ninh Thuan province is envisaged from 2014, with commissioning by 2020. A further 2000 MWe is planned at Vinh Hai in the north-central Ha Tinh province, and then a further 6000 MWe is envisaged by 2030. The plants will be state-owned, under EVN.
Vietnam firms up plans for major nuclear capacity
The Vietnam government has outlined plans for 14 nuclear power reactors providing 15,000 MWe by 2030 (10% of total). The first units are to be two at Phuoc Dinh in the southern Ninh Thuan province, constructed from 2014, and two at Vinh Hai in the north-central Ha Tinh province. Then four more units will be added at those two sites and then six more at three sites in central Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh and Phu Yen provinces. The anticipated cost of the first two plants is not less than $11.3 billion, and some 85% of this would need to be found from overseas loans. It appears that Russia's Atomstroyexport is the leading contender to build the plants, though other bidders are active and technology transfer is an aim of government, leading to 30-40% local content by 2030. The first reactor is expected on line in 2020. WNN 24/6/10. Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries
Thailand identifies nuclear plant sites
After a 20-month study by the engineering firm Burns & Roe to recommend siting, technology and reactor size for the first plant, the Thai government has announced that three of the short-listed possibilities on the southern peninsula near Surat Thani and Nakhon Si Thammarat would be ruled out due to local opposition. This leaves Ubon Ratchathani in the east near Laos and Nakhon Sawan 200 km north of Bangkok as sites, subject to cabinet approval early in 2011. There were significant difficulties in assessing potential sites due to local opposition based on past experience with industrial developments, compounded by the political situation in the country.
In the new Power Development Plan 2010-30 which was approved this year, there is 5000 MWe nuclear capacity envisaged, with 1000 MWe units starting up over 2020-28. The first power plant will be internally financed. The government plans to have full safety and regulatory infrastructure in place by 2014, when construction of the first reactor is due to begin.
India's new reactor starts operation
Rajasthan unit 6 at Rawatbhata, one of the last three 220 MWe reactors being built in India, has started up and been grid-connected. Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) has been building two 220 MWe indigenously-designed PHWR reactors at Rajasthan, but their completion was delayed about 18 months due to shortage of fuel. These two new units use imported fuel, as they were placed under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards in October 2009 through an agreement between India and the IAEA.
Another similar reactor at Kaiga continued to be delayed well beyond planned commissioning date, apparently by fuel shortages, but it is now expected on line soon. Four 700 MWe versions of the same type are due on line by 2017, and work on them has started. The first Russian-engineered 1000 MWe Kudankulam reactor is due on line in September. WNN 25/1/10, NPCIL 28/3/10. Nuclear Power in India
New Indian reactor starts up
Unit 4 of the Kaiga nuclear power plant in Karnataka state started up on 27 November, and is likely to be connected to the grid in January. This is the last of the original 220 MWe largely indigenously-designed reactors, and the Nuclear Power Corporation is now building 700 MWe versions, as well as imported designs. Its twin is nine months ahead of it, but both have been delayed due to shortage of uranium. The Kaiga units are not under UN safeguards so cannot use imported uranium.
Two more Indian reactors under construction
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India has started building Kakrapar units 3 & 4 in Gujarat state. These are the first two 700 MWe class pressurized heavy water reactors, scaled up from India's original 220 MWe class. They are expected to take 60 months to start-up, and a further six months to commercial operation.
India breaks ground on new reactors
A ceremony has marked the groundbreaking for units 7 and 8 of the Rajasthan Atomic Power Project in India. First concrete is scheduled to be poured at the site before the end of the year. These will be indigenous 700 MWe pressurized heavy water reactors scheduled to begin commercial operation in June and December 2016, respectively. The estimated cost the two units is US$ 2.6 billion. Two other 700 MWe PHWRs are being built at Kakrapar in Gujarat state as units 3 & 4 of that power station, on a similar schedule. The first of six smaller Rajasthan units began operating in 1973. Two large Russian reactors at Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu state, are expected to start up in the next 12 months.
French agreements for Indian reactors
France's Areva has signed an EUR 7 billion framework agreement with Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) for the construction of two EPR reactors at Jaitapur in Maharashtra state, to be commissioned in 2017-18, along with fuel of 25 years. Alstom will supply the turbine- generators separately. Site work will begin next year with a view to construction from 2013. Jaitapur is to be a 9600 MWe energy park with six EPR units. Areva promises "maximum localisation" of component production, and points to its 2009 agreement with Bharat Forge to set up by 2012 a new casting and forging facility in India for heavy nuclear components, to supply both domestic and export markets.
India and Canada resume nuclear cooperation
Some 36 years after it was broken off, Canada has signed an agreement to resume full nuclear power cooperation with India. Canada had placed sanctions following India's nuclear weapon test in 1974, the plutonium for which had been made in a Canadian-supplied heavy water reactor. Any new dealings will be under full international safeguards. The agreement makes Canada the ninth civil nuclear energy partner for India following removal of trade restrictions last year. It covers uranium supply, design, construction and maintenance of power plants, sharing of reactor operating and decommissioning experience, projects in third countries, and nuclear waste management.
India's weapons material initially came from the Canadian-designed 40 MWt CIRUS "research" reactor which started up in 1960 (well before the NPT), using local uranium. CIRUS was supplied with heavy water from the USA and it was probably only after the 1962 war with China that it was employed largely to make weapons-grade plutonium, in contravention of the 1956 India-Canada nuclear cooperation agreement. Development of nuclear weapons apparently began in earnest in 1967. The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) was formed in response to the 1974 test, and closure of CIRUS at the end of this year was a condition of NSG's 2008 change of policy on India.
WNN 28/6/10. Nuclear Power in India
India introduces nuclear liability bill
After earlier withdrawing it due to political opposition, the Indian government has introduced a bill which will bring the country's nuclear liability provisions into line internationally. It would make operators liable for any nuclear accident, and protect third party suppliers. Operators need to take out insurance up to the liability cap of $110 million, and other provisions are related to the IAEA's Vienna Convention (1997 amendment). Without the legislation, overseas reactor vendors will be unwilling to supply plants for India.
WNN 7/5/10. Nuclear Power in India
India passes nuclear liability legislation
The Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill 2010 was passed on 30 August. It sets operators' liability for nuclear damage to 15 trillion rupees (about US$320 million) but contains two clauses that are incompatible with international conventions on nuclear liability. While the bill channels liability for nuclear damage initially to the operator, after any compensation is paid it allows the operator recourse against a supplier for defective parts or services, thus absolving the national regulator from any responsibility. However, Russian, French and US expectations are that India's liability regime will be compatible with international conventions, and the US agreement says that India "shall take all steps necessary to adhere to the Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC)", which is not yet in force. However, the new legislation is incompatible with the CSC, due to the recourse against supplier provision (whether the supplier is domestic or foreign).
John Ritch, Director-General of WNA, has warned "that the Nuclear Liability Bill, if not amended, may inflict tremendous harm on the prospects for the successful development of nuclear power in India" by making access to modern technology from overseas suppliers legally fraught. He continued: "Suppliers cannot purchase nuclear liability insurance for the fundamental reason that the world’s nuclear insurance pools have concentrated their resources on providing coverage only to operators, who have been made liable under the channeling principle of the international Conventions and the domestic laws of every other country with a nuclear power program. Against this reality, it is simply inconceivable that any supplier would be able to obtain coverage against such a vague claim concept as 'patent or latent defects or sub-standard services'. Of course, every plant operator needs insurance, with the amount determined by national arrangements as guided by international conventions. The amounts specified the Indian Parliament’s amended bill seem to be in line with those that apply elsewhere."
Russia's state corporation Rosatom and its subsidiary Atomstroyexport has built Kudankulam 1&2 reactors in India with explicit contractual provision for liability remaining with the operator once the plant is fully handed over. Whether such contractual provision in line with international conventions could in future override the new statutory liability remains to be seen. A supplier stand-off could lead to an amendment to the Bill, perhaps next year.
India and Russia firm up nuclear agreements
The Russian prime minister's visit to India provided the occasion to sign a number of agreements taking forward plans to build further Russian nuclear power capacity in India. As well as a nuclear power cooperation agreement, a 'roadmap' for building six more reactors at Kudankulam by 2017 (where two are almost complete) and four more at Haripur after 2017 was agreed, bringing the total to 12. The number may be increased after 2017, in India's 13th 5-year plan. A Russian fuel fabrication plant is also under consideration.
Chinese uranium mine starts production in Niger
Niger's newest uranium mine is essentially a Chinese operation, though with mandatory 33% Niger government equity. It started production in December and will ramp up to 700 tU/yr. Main owner is China Nuclear International Uranium Corporation (SinoU), a subsidiary of the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), with a 37.2% share in the joint venture company Societe des Mines d'Azelik SA. Two other Chinese entities hold 29.8%.
Strong increase in Rossing South resources
Extract Resources has announced a major increase in resources for the main part of its Rossing South deposit, part of its Husab uranium project. Some 99,000 tonnes of uranium at 0.0415%U indicated resources, plus 42,000 tonnes of inferred resources make the deposit one of the world's largest, and five times the size of Rio Tinto's adjacent Rossing. The company hopes to start mining in 2014, producing 5700 tU/yr.
Paladin announces major upgrade of Langer Heinrich resources
As a result of infill drilling so far this year, Paladin Energy has substantially upgraded its mineral resources at the Langer Heinrich palaeochannel uranium deposit in Namibia. Most of the 2008 inferred resources have been converted to measured and indicated resources, which now total 57,500 tU in 0.055% ore with 0.021%U cut-off. Economic reserves have doubled to 51,600 tU within this.
Stage 3 mining development will produce about 2000 tU/yr, and the new resource figures will support a move towards stage 4 production at 3850 tU/yr, including about one tenth of this from a heap leach operation for low-grade material.
Itochu homes in on Namibian project
The major Japanese trading house Itochu has made a second share purchase to bring its stake in Namibia's Husab (Rossing South) project up to 16.43%. After buying an indirect stake in March (14.94% of Kalahari Minerals, which owns 41.06 % of Extract Resources) it has bought a 10.3% direct stake in Extract for US$ 153 million. This appears to be the first major Japanese investment in Namibia's uranium, though there is 25% Japanese equity in one of Niger's two main uranium mines. Rio Tinto has 19.8% of Extract, directly and indirectly. The company, headed by a former Rio Tinto executive, plans to produce at a rate of 5700 tU/yr from an open pit by 2014, making it one of the world's larger uranium mines (the second largest on 2009 figures). Uranium resources known so far are 103,000 tU averaging 0.41%U, in hard rock.
WNN 12/7/10. Uranium in Namibia
New Namibian mine solely to heap leach low grade ore
Marenica Energy has announced new resource figures for its Namibian uranium deposit, taking in lower-grade material which would be amenable to upgrading through screening and scrubbing, followed by heap leaching of the remaining half. The company then announced that a scoping study focused on a $260 million heap leach operation showed production of 1350 tU/yr over 13 years looked feasible, from 2014. The project is 30 km north of Areva's Trekkopje, and early this year Areva bought a 10.4% stake in it. Marenica now has indicated and inferred resources of 62,000 tU in 0.008%U ore, split between palaeochannel and granite-alaskite basement rock down to 60 metres. It will possibly be the first uranium mine on this scale designed solely for heap leaching of broken ore on surface pads.
Russian takeover of Australian uranium project in Tanzania
Russia's uranium mining giant ARMZ has made a $1.16 billion takeover offer for Australia's Mantra Resources Ltd, which is moving towards mining its Mkuju River uranium project in southern Tanzania. Government environmental and other approvals are well advanced and the company expects to receive a Mining Licence soon and to start mining in 2013, eventually producing 1400 tU/yr. JORC-compliant measured and indicated resources of 25,250 tU and inferred resources of 13,800 tU are quoted. Capital costs are estimated at US$ 298 million for the treatment plant and infrastructure, mining will be contracted. Pending approvals, the ownership will be transferred to ARMZ's Canadian-based subsidiary, Uranium One.
USA rewards South Africa for molybdenum production effort
The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa) and its subsidiary NTP Radioisotopes (Pty) Ltd have been awarded a $25 million contract by the US Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to supply molybdenum-99 to north America, whose normal sources (for producing technetium-99 for medical uses) are precarious. The commercial-scale production of the medical isotope from low-enriched uranium will be in collaboration with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO), whose new 20 MWt Opal reactor also uses low-enriched uranium fuel and targets for Mo-99 production. Necsa said that "ANSTO will assist in providing valuable capacity in a South Africa – Australia joint venture."
Necsa operates the 20 MWt Safari-1 reactor at its Pelindaba nuclear research centre. The 45-year old Safari-1 is the main producer of medical radioisotopes in Africa and can supply up to 25% of the world's Mo-99 needs. In line with US initiatives and policy, the reactor has recently been converted from using high-enriched uranium fuel to low-enriched uranium fuel, and the irradiation targets used for radioisotope production have also been changed from HEU to LEU this year. NNSA said that its "Global Threat Reduction Initiative works with our partners around the world to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium in civilian nuclear applications. This award is part of NNSA’s commitment to developing a sustainable means of producing Mo-99 as part of a global supply network that avoids a single point of failure and does not use HEU” for fuel or targets.
South Africa cuts PBMR funding
The South African government and Eskom have announced drastic cuts to the funding for development of the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR). "Directors are contemplating a large-scale restructuring … to reduce costs and extend the operating life of the company." This is likely to involve a 75% cut in employee numbers, to about 200. Talks continue to seek further investment, and recently the company signed an agreement with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for collaboration in developing the high-temperature reactor design. China is about to build a very similar demonstration plant. PBMR Pty 18/2/10, WNN 18/2/10.
Mitsubishi gets into South African Pebble Bed
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has signed an agreement with South Africa's PBMR Pty to take forward the R&D on a 200 MW (thermal) pebble bed unit for process heat applications at 720°C. The main objective of the agreement is to explore cooperation to enable construction of the first PBMR reactor for a customer in either South Africa or abroad. When collaborative projects have been agreed, MHI will conduct part of the R&D activities for the 200 MWt plant design. Further possibilities will then be explored, including construction of the first plant. Government funding for the project is in doubt beyond this year. Meanwhile construction of the first full-scale 2x105 MWe Chinese pebble bed unit is expected soon. PBMR, WNN 4/2/10.
Morocco offers nuclear CO2 abatement
The Morocco government has announced plans for two 1000 MWe nuclear reactors to start operation after 2020 as part of its submission to the Copenhagen Accord, agreed late in 2009. Under the terms of the Accord, developing countries were invited to submit proposed Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions - NAMAs - demonstrating how they planned to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through specified projects. This is expected to reduce annual CO2 emissions by 15 million tonnes. WNN 2/2/10.
Brazil starts construction of third reactor
First concrete has been poured for Brazil's Angra 3 nuclear power reactor, after a 24-year delay. Work originally started on the project, a twin of Angra 2, in 1984 but did not proceed. About 70% of its equipment has been stored on site since plans were abandoned in 1986. Its twin, unit 2, took from 1976 to 2000 to build and commission. Eletronuclear has a contract with Areva to build the reactor and is confident that the 1270 MWe (net) German PWR will be completed in 66 months and come into operation by the end of 2015, at a cost of US$ 4.94 billion.
CNEN 31/5/10, WNN 2/6/10. Nuclear Power in Brazil
Australian uranium production down
Australia's uranium production in 2009 was depressed due mainly to the shaft haulage problems at Olympic Dam. Production from all three mines was 9413 tonnes U3O8 (7982 tU) in 2009, 5% lower than 2008. ERA's Ranger mine produced 5240 tonnes (4443 tU), BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam 3485 tonnes (3515 t UOC, 2955 tU) and Heathgate's Beverley 688 tonnes (583 tU).
Alliance activates 'plan B' for South Australian project
As culmination of an ongoing disagreement, partly relating to native title, Alliance Resources has taken its joint venture partner - Heathgate Resources and affiliate Quasar - to the Federal Court to seek damages and restitution from Quasar of the 75% interest in the exploration licence over Alliance's substantial Four Mile deposit. This appears to end the prospect of Four Mile working in with Heathgate's adjacent Beverley plant - the proposal was to load resin from in situ leaching (ISL) at Four Mile and truck it to the main Beverley plant for elution and recovery. Alliance is now commencing an optimization study on setting up its own full treatment plant to produce 1900 tU/yr. A scoping study suggests that this would economically be very competitive with the proposed Heathgate toll treatment. In January, Alliance announced a 16% increase to its mineral resource estimate for the Four Mile project, to 27,100 tU at an average grade of 0.28%U. This seems larger and richer than Beverley, which is producing at only 60% of its licensed and envisaged rate.
WNN 12/7/10. Aust U deposits and Prospective Mines
New nuclear ships initiative
The British Maritime classification society Lloyd's Register has embarked upon a two-year study with US-based Hyperion Power Generation, British vessel designer BMT Group, and Greek ship operator Enterprises Shipping and Trading SA "to investigate the practical maritime applications for small modular reactors. The research is intended to produce a concept tanker-ship design," based on a 70 MW (thermal) reactor such as Hyperion's. Lloyds expects to "see nuclear ships on specific trade routes sooner than many people currently anticipate," and plans to have the tanker design certified in as many countries as possible. The project includes research on a comprehensive regulatory framework led by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and regulators in countries involved. Nuclear ships are currently the responsibility of their own countries, but none are involved in international trade.
2009 another year of construction starts
During 2009 only two reactors were connected to a grid: Tomari-3 in Japan and Rajastan-5 in India, and two were permanently shut down: Ignalina-2 in Lithuania as a condition of EU entry, and France's old Phenix fast reactor. There were a number of power uprates, which helped take the total operating capacity up to 372,600 MWe, a net 673 MWe increase despite the shutdowns. But there were 12 construction starts, boosting the construction total to 53 (51,114 MWe), compared with 43 (37,668 MWe) a year earlier. About eight new reactors and two refurbished ones are expected to come on line in 2010.
2009 Red Book signals century of uranium resource
The 23rd biennial publication of the Red Book reports that the total identified uranium resource of 6,306,300 tonnes is sufficient for over 100 years of supply at 2008 rates of consumption. Compared to the 2007 figure the total inferred resources have jumped by 15.5%, however the 2009 value includes a new high cost category of <$100/lbU compared to 2007 maximum price category <$50/lbU. In the 2009 <$50/lbU category, the resource had fallen by 1.2%, and in lower price categories the reduction has been significant due to a general increase in mining costs. Worldwide exploration and mine development expenditures in 2008 totalled over $1.6 billion, up 133% compared to 2006 figures despite declining market prices since mid-2007. This is expected to level off during 2009. Given the challenges of establishing new production, the book predicts that secondary supplies of uranium will continue to be required. WNN 20/7/10. Supply of Uranium
Latest World Energy Outlook from OECD laments policy inaction
The 2010 World Energy Outlook says the lack of effective commitments at last year's Copenhagen climate change conference creates a dilemma in energy policy and increases the cost of limiting atmospheric CO2 levels by $1000 billion. The 700-page report is centred on a New Policies scenario, which takes account of the broad policy commitments already announced by governments, and cautiously assumes that they will indeed implement reductions of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and even start to eliminate an estimated $312 billion in annual fossil fuel consumption subsidies, mostly outside the OECD. This figure includes $96 billion per year for power generation, of which $6 billion was for coal. Fossil fuel production subsides are estimated at about $100 billion per year, and renewables production subsidies $57 billion. The central New Policies scenario sees coal's share dropping to come third behind gas and nuclear as a generation source in the OECD by 2035.
Russia's ARMZ consolidates world position
In a complex deal, Russia's state-owned ARMZ relinquishes its half share in two Kazakh uranium mines - Akbastau and Zarechnoye, pays US$ 610 million, and becomes the majority shareholder in Canada's Uranium One. ARMZ is already the world's fifth-ranking uranium producer with mines in Russia and Kazakhstan. The deal gives it a controlling share of Uranium One, which will now have a half share in three significant Kazakh uranium mines, 30% in another and 70% in another. These have total designed production capacity of some 12,500 tU/yr. Uranium One also has significant US holdings in Utah and Wyoming likely to come on line in 2011, and is bringing the Honeymoon mine in South Australia into production at the end of this year in joint venture with Mitsui. Three Japanese companies (Tepco, Toshiba and a bank) as Japan Uranium Management Inc hold a 20% share in Uranium One, and it is not yet clear how they are affected. ARMZ has announced its intention to spend up to US$ 1 billion acquiring uranium production capacity in Namibia, and is taking over former Canadian interests in Mongolia. After four years consideration, it has pulled out of Uzbekistan.
Uranium One 8/6/10, WNN 9/6/10. Uranium and Nuclear Power in Kazakhstan
Power uprates in USA and Finland
Equipment and system upgrades at PPL's Susquehanna-1 reactor in Pennsylvania have added 70 MWe to give it 1280 MWe net summer output, as part of a four-year program begun in 2008. Unit 2 will be uprated similarly next year. In Finland, replacement of low-pressure turbines at Olkiluoto-1 has added 25 MWe to give 885 MWe, with the same planned for unit 2 next year. Both Finnish units started 30 years ago at 658 MWe net and have been upgraded since, with life extension to 60 years. Nuclear Power in Finland Nuclear Power in the USA.
Toyota leaps into electric vehicles
Having stood back from electric vehicle (EV) developments while enjoying the huge success of its hybrid Prius, Toyota has announced that it will invest $50 million in US-based Tesla and jointly develop a new low-priced EV - basically a small Toyota with a Tesla powertrain. Tesla has bought the NUMMI car plant at Fremont in California as a base for all its manufacturing. This has a capacity of half a million vehicles per year and uses the Toyota Production System which will now be focused on the new Toyota-Tesla model and its own Tesla S, development of which is being financed by a $465 million federal loan. Tesla planned to mass-produce the model S from 2011. The target price for the new model EV with Toyota is less than $30,000.
More than 1000 of the high-priced, high performance Tesla Roadster EVs have now been sold, proving Tesla's leading-edge powertrain concept. The Tesla S is 40% heavier but half the price ($57,000, delivered in 2012). Its specifications are not public, except that like the Roadster it has a single-speed gearbox, and will offer three lithium-ion battery pack options of 42, 65 or 85 kWh, giving 250, 360 or 480 km range. Charging is from domestic power, 45 minute quick charge from 3-phase 480-volt/ 100 amp supply, or 5-minute under-floor battery pack swap.
WNA analyses reactor decommissioning numbers
The WNA has tabulated 127 power reactors which have been closed for decommissioning. Most were shut down because there was no longer any economic justification for running them. Practically all are relatively early-model designs, and about 45 are experimental or prototype power reactors. Three categories:
1. Experimental and early commercial types whose continued operation was no longer justified, usually for economic reasons. Most of these started up before 1980 and their short life is not surprising for the first couple of decades of a major new technology. About 35 of this 95 ran relatively full-term, for a design life of 25-30 years or so (design lives today are 40-60 years).
2. Seven units which closed following an accident or serious incident (not necessarily to the reactor itself) which meant that repair was not economically justified.
3. Units which were closed prematurely by political decision or due to regulatory impediment without clear or significant economic or technical justification. The total here is 25, 17 of these being early Soviet designs. Decommissioning Nuclear Facilities
Industry pledges effort towards reactor standardisation
Many of the major companies in the nuclear industry have pledged support for a cooperative effort between the industry and regulatory authorities to achieve greater standardization of reactor design requirements across the world. The pledge, contained in a WNA letter signed by heads of reactor vendors and major utilities, was transmitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and other international bodies. Advanced Nuclear Power Reactors
Silex enrichment concept validated
Silex Systems has announced the successful completion of the initial test loop program being run by Global Laser Enrichment (set up by GE-Hitachi and Cameco) in the USA. The test loop has met performance criteria in uranium enrichment, and as it continues through 2010 to verify the economic feasibility of a commercial-scale plant, work will focus increasingly on the engineering design of that plant, though there is not yet any commitment to build to it. A Nuclear Regulatory Commission licence for he commercial plant is anticipated at the end of 2011. WNN 12/4/10. Uranium Enrichment
New OECD study on electric competitiveness
The 2010 edition of Projected Costs of Generating Electricity has been published, and shows nuclear power as being very competitive at $30 per tonne CO2 cost, despite the well-publicised increases in plant costs. However, at 10% discount rate the advantage moves to coal and gas in some EU countries but not in USA or East Asia. Renewables are more expensive in most scenarios, except for wind in USA.
This is the latest in a series from the International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency of OECD, the previous one being in 2005. It brings together data for 190 power plants from 17 OECD countries as well as some from Brazil, China, Russia and South Africa on the costs of electricity generation for a wide variety of fuels and technologies, including coal (with and without carbon capture), natural gas, nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar. The analysis was closely overseen by an international expert group on generating costs. The head of IEA commented: "To bolster competitiveness of low-carbon technologies such as nuclear, renewables and CCS, we need strong government action to lower the cost of financing and a significant CO2 price signal to be internalised in power markets." WNN 25/3/10, OECD report. Economics of Nuclear Power
Major WANO milestone
A major focus of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) is its voluntary international peer review program. By the end of 2009 a significant milestone was reached, with every one of the world's commercial nuclear power plants having been peer-reviewed at least once. A key goal has been to establish a system whereby every plant hosts an outside review of its performance every three years, and a full WANO peer review at least every six years. WNN 4/2/10.
Emerging nuclear countries meet
Delegates from 47 countries have met at the International Atomic Energy Agency's headquarters in Vienna for a 3-day workshop on developing national infrastructure for nuclear power - the fourth such program since 2006. The agenda included establishing a professional regulatory regime, policies on nuclear waste management and decommissioning, and international non-proliferation and insurance arrangements. Issues such as planning, financing and plant operation are more obvious, even if reactors are built and initially operated in conjunction with foreign companies. But any countries embarking on nuclear energy ventures need to develop their own domestic resources of nuclear engineers and scientists, and take responsibility for regulation. The IAEA emphasized that all elements are needed for the effectiveness of any nuclear power or desalination program, and to ensure that obligations for safety, security and safeguards are met. WNN 11/2/10.
NPT 5-yearly review does little to advance non-proliferation
While many saw the fact of a consensus statement as a positive outcome from the 4-week gathering of NPT parties, it did not say very much. A positive feature was that it affirmed the IAEA Additional Protocol as a "significant confidence-building measure" and encouraged countries to adopt it (about 100 already have), but there was no call to make it mandatory to supplement traditional safeguards, which are unlikely to detect undeclared nuclear activities. Developing countries did not register their own national security interest in having a strong non-proliferation regime internationally, but tended to see that as simply a preoccupation of the "north". Much of the discussion concerned disarmament by the five recognized weapons states, and the final statement called upon Israel to disarm, while being soft on Iran's continued defiance of the UN. There was no language to discourage the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies such as enrichment and reprocessing, nor curtailing the use of high-enriched uranium in research reactors, rather the contrary - regardless even of whether countries concerned had an Additional Protocol is in place. There was no progress on specifying penalties for withdrawing from the NPT, as North Korea has done. Safeguards to Prevent Nuclear Proliferation
Nuclear security summit includes civil scope
As well as the more publicised resolutions regarding military materials and vulnerable materials such as high-enriched uranium from research reactors, the nuclear security summit in Washington addressed security in the civil nuclear sector. The 47 countries involved acknowledged the importance of international cooperation in the area, and decided to strengthen existing international treaties rather than create new ones. The European Commission, IAEA and the UN also participated in the two-day discussions, and all concerned committed to maximize security for nuclear materials and go forward with the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
The work plan can be summarized as achieving universality of two key conventions: the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. States promised to meet their requirements, to ratify them if they had not done so already, to help each other overcome obstacles to ratification, and then to help each other implement them. A further summit is to be held in South Korea in 2012.
General Atomics announces radical new reactor design
More than ten years ago General Atomics (GA) launched a high-temperature reactor design which has yet to materialize but stretched the limits of thinking and design. It has now announced a new design which is just as radical and at the limits of present concepts, even for 2030 implementation. This is a high-temperature helium-cooled fast neutron reactor, the EM2. It is designed to deliver 240 MWe, yet the pressure vessel will fit on a truck. Its fuel is chiefly 25 tonnes of used fuel from conventional reactors, leavened with some low-enriched uranium as 'starter'. It operates at 850°C and is intended for process heat as well as power. In power applications it will drive a direct cycle gas turbine at 48% thermal efficiency. Generically it is a gas-cooled fast reactor (GFR), one of six designs being developed in the Generation IV international program, in this case by the French Atomic Energy Commission as an 80 MW demonstration plant - Allegro - which could operate about 2020. GA anticipates a 12-year development and licensing period for its EM2. WNN 24/2/10.
Climate change discussions progress in Mexico
The 16th Conference of the Parties to the UN's Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Cancun made more progress than last year's in Copenhagen. The Cancun agreement officially adopts a target of keeping warming to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and agrees that world carbon emissions must soon peak and be reduced. It re-establishes the international FCCC process, whereas agreement could not be reached at Copenhagen and it was left to individual nations to register their support for actions. One new development was agreement to monitor each country's emissions, which had previously been opposed by some of the major developing countries such as China. Another was provisional agreement to include carbon capture and storage (CCS) in the Clean Development Mechanism.
Strong growth in wind capacity in 2009
Global wind generation capacity grew 37.5 GWe (31%) in 2009 to reach 158 GWe, which the Global Wind Energy Council claims will produce 340 TWh per year (ie 24.6% capacity factor) - about 13% of nuclear power's total output from what has grown to 42% of world nuclear capacity. The global wind market for turbine installations in 2008 was reported as about EUR 45 billion or US$ 63 billion.
In the USA 9922 MWe of new wind generation capacity was installed in 2009, thanks to the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA) incentives in mid year. This expanded the nation’s wind plant fleet by 39% and brought total wind generating capacity in the USA to 35,159 MWe, 9410 MWe of this in Texas. However, "the continuing lack of a long-term policy and market signal" caused turbine manufacturing to drop. No production estimate was provided, though it was claimed that 62 Mt of CO2 would be avoided annually, equivalent to about 60 TWh from coal and suggesting a 20% capacity factor, though other figures give about 34% for the USA. A Production Tax Credit of 2.1 cents/kWh applies to all US wind power generated, though under the ARRA, an investment tax credit of 30% may be claimed instead.
In Europe, eight new offshore wind farms with 199 turbines and generating capacity of 577 MWe were connected to the grid in 2009, bringing the offshore total to 2056 MWe in 38 farms. In 2010, addition of a further 1000 MWe is expected. Currently, 17 offshore wind farms with over 3500 MWe are under construction in Europe - just under half in UK waters. In addition, a further 52 offshore wind farms have won full consent in European waters, totaling more than 16,000 MWe, with just over half of this planned in Germany.
China was the world’s largest market in 2009, doubling its wind generation capacity to 25.1 GWe, towards a target of 150 GWe by 2020. Australia added 406 MWe to reach 1712 MWe. GWEC 5/2/10, AWEA 26/1/10, EWEA 18/1/10.
New edition of WNA-WNU nuclear book
The second edition of Nuclear Energy in 21st Century has been published by the World Nuclear University as its primer. It is effectively the 9th edition of what was originally Nuclear Electricity, written by Ian Hore-Lacy. The new edition has similar scope to the old, and in 140 pages covers not only nuclear power but also other applications of nuclear energy. It is updated by four years and much better illustrated than previous editions. Available through the WNU web site at £20. ISBN: 978-0-9550784-1-5
World reactor changes during 2010
China: Qinshan II-3 (610 MWe net), Lingao II-1 (1000 MWe net) grid connected
Russia: Rostov-2 (990 MWe net) grid connected
Monju restarted: May 2010
India: Rajasthan-6 (202 MWe net) grid connected
S. Korea: Shin Kori 1 (960 MWe net) grid connected
China: Ningde 3 & 4, Chanjiang 1 & 2, Haiyang 2, Yangjiang 3, Fangchengang 1, Fuqing 3 & Taishan 2 start construction
Russia: Rostov 4 and Leningrad 2-2 start construction (Rostov-3 confirmed under construction since Sept 2009)
India: Kakrapar 3 & 4 start construction
Brazil: Angra 3 starts construction
Japan: Ohma-1 starts construction
Belgium uprates of 182 MWe total to March 2010
Canada Bruce 8 uprate 27 MWe March
Finland: Olkiluoto-1 uprate 25 MWe
USA: Susquehanna-1 uprate 75 MWe