Westinghouse welcomes revised AP1000 design certification
While the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor received design certification from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the end of 2005, it was resubmitted with changes in 2007. The amended US design certification has now been granted. The NRC chairman said that the revised AP1000 design is one "that seems to most fully meet the expectations of the commission’s policy statement on advanced reactors." "The design provides enhanced safety margins through use of simplified, inherent, passive or other innovative safety and security functions, and also has been assessed to ensure it could withstand damage from an aircraft impact without significant release of radioactive materials." The NRC is now able to issue construction and operation licences for four units at two US sites. The 1250 MWe AP1000 is also being built in China, and has received interim design acceptance for the UK.
WNN 23/12/11 Advanced reactors
First new-generation US plant proceeds cost effectively
Site works are largely complete in preparation for two 1200 MWe Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Vogtle in Georgia. Southern Nuclear has been awarded government loan guarantees, the COL review by NRC is due to be complete late in 2011, and a licence is expected mid 2012. The project remains on schedule and under budget, and the units are expected on line in 2016 and 2017. It is a regulated plant, with guaranteed cost recovery.
Southern Nuclear's subsidiary Georgia Power is 45.7% owner and has reduced its earlier cost estimate for building its share of the new plant from $6.4 billion to $6.1 billion as a result of being able to recover financing costs from customers during construction. Over the life of the plant, the utility's customers will save about $1 billion through federal loan guarantees, production tax credits, and the early recovery of financing costs in the rate base. In its August report Georgia Power says that "completion of Units 3 and 4 at Plant Vogtle is significantly less expensive than any of the available alternatives."
Georgia Power 31/8/11. US NP
Exelon downbeat on US nuclear prospects
The Chairman and CEO of Exelon, the largest nuclear generator in USA, has reviewed the US situation against four conditions he had much earlier set to assess the near-term prospects of expanded nuclear power in the country. Only one of the conditions - new reactor designs - has been met. The other three - political solution for nuclear waste, increased power demand and higher gas prices, have not. Natural gas seems likely to be the most affordable fuel option for at least a decade. He said that the USA needs nuclear power to control climate change, improve energy security and maintain reliability, but nuclear power "is a business and not a religion", and currently it is "extremely challenged by economics", though the technology is fine.
WNN 16/8/11. USA NP
TVA decides on new reactor
Rather than building a new Westinghouse AP1000 unit at Bellefonte, the Tennessee Valley Authority has decided to complete the B&W 1260 MWe unit 1 on the site. Construction was suspended in 1988 when it was 90% complete. It is now considered half complete, due to the removal of many components and the need to upgrade or replace others. The project to complete Unit 1 is estimated to cost US$ 4.9 billion, and TVA will fund this by selling its Watts Bar 2 reactor when it is completed in 2013, and then leasing it back. Bellefonte heavy construction will get under way when Watts Bar 2 is completed. The capital cost of $3888/kW is less than replacing fossil fuel plants, according to TVA.
WNN 19/8/11. USA NP
Florida utility to add 450 MWe in nuclear plant uprates
Florida Light & Power is about to start a rolling program of extended uprates at four reactors which will add about 450 MWe over 18 months at a cost of about $2.48 billion. It is expected to save $4.8 billion in fossil fuel costs over the project's lifetime. The Florida Public Service Commission has approved FP&L's request to recover $172 million from customers next year for the uprate costs at St Lucie and Turkey Point, as well as $24 million towards developing two new reactors at Turkey Point expected to begin service in 2022-23.
Subject to final approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the four reactors will each close for 3-4 months to add 12% for St Lucie 1 & 2, and 15% for Turkey Point 3 & 4, making a total of 450 MWe by February 2013. The four PWR reactors came into operation over 1972-83, and all have had licences extended to 60 years.
Reuters 26/10/11, FP&L, NRC. US nuclear power
Further US plant uprate
NextEra Energy's Point Beach 1 reactor is ramping up to its new capacity after work to implement a 17% increase in licensed power, from 512 MWe to about 600 MWe net. A similar uprate was implemented on unit 2 earlier in the year.
WNN 20/12/11 US Nuclear Power
US earthquake shuts plant, no drama
A magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia automatically shut down the two reactors at Dominion's North Anna nuclear plant, near Richmond, Va. Electricity supply to the plant was interrupted due to a problem in the switchyard, but four onsite diesel generators cut in to enable cooling until that was rectified after a few hours. The company's two-unit Surry plant, in southern Virginia, was unaffected.
WNN 24/8/11. USA NP
First US ex-weapons uranium becomes generally available for power generation
The USA has formally announced the availability of a reserve stockpile of uranium for use in nuclear fuel, derived from downblended surplus military material. The US National Nuclear Security Administration has contracted with Nuclear Fuel Services and Wesdyne to downblend 17.4 tonnes on high-enriched uranium in Tennessee to yield some 290 tonnes of low-enriched uranium (4.95% U-235) for use in power reactors and this is almost complete. The new American Assured Fuel Supply (AFS) program will make 230 tonnes of this available internationally as well as domestically.
WNN 16/8/11. Military warheads as source of fuel
Licence for new enrichment plant
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a construction and operation licence for Areva's Eagle Rock centrifuge plant near Idaho Falls. Areva applied for the licence in December 2008, and resubmitted it with a doubling of capacity in April 2009. Construction will commence in 2012 and operation is envisaged early in 2014, ramping up to full capacity in 2018. Areva Enrichment Services LLC, the owner and operator, signed a procurement & construction contract with URS Corporation in February 2011. Eagle Rock will be similar to Areva's new French plant (Georges Besse II). Planned capacity is 6.6 million SWU/yr, with half of that in the first stage. In May 2010, DOE granted it a $2 billion loan guarantee.
NRC 12/10/11. US fuel cycle
USEC seeks to extend Paducah enrichment plant operation
American enrichment plant operator USEC is negotiating to extend its electricity supply for the Paducah plant beyond mid 2012, when it originally expected to shut down the old and very inefficient diffusion plant. However, construction of its new American Centrifuge Plant (3.8 million SWU/yr) was suspended in 2009 when it failed to get a $2 billion loan guarantee from the government. Meanwhile Urenco's New Mexico plant is ramping up towards its phase 1 capacity of 3.3 million SWU/yr without any government support, and Areva has a $2 billion loan guarantee for its planned 6.6 million SWU/yr Eagle Rock plant in Idaho.
USEC 11/1/11,WNN 12/1/11. US fuel cycle
US enrichment developments with Russia
Since 1994 about half of US uranium enrichment needs have been met through the supply of blended-down Russian weapons-grade uranium. This program finishes in 2013, and to follow it USEC Inc in March 2011 signed a further contract with Techsnabexport (Tenex) for supply of low-enriched uranium from 2013 to 2022, ramping up to about half of present levels from Russia, with option to match present levels. It will involve about 21 million SWU (less than a quarter of that in the 20-year program to 2013), worth $2.8 billion. The new supplies will come from mined uranium enriched in Russia, rather than recycled weapons. Since 2009 Tenex also has contracts with individual US utilities to supply both enrichment services and low-enriched uranium product.
This 2011 contract also gave effect to a memorandum of January 2010 on the establishment of a joint venture in the USA to build a uranium enrichment plant based on Russian centrifuge technology. Tenex and USEC are now reported to be undertaking a feasibility study on this, as a possible alternative to the delayed USEC American Centrifuge project.
USEC 23/3/11, WNN 24/3/11, Nuclear Fuel 26/12/11 US Nuclear Fuel Cycle
USEC contracts for substantial Russian uranium supply to USA
Currently USEC is the agent for supply to USA of blended-down Russian uranium from weapons stockpiles. This arrangement, supplying about half US demand, finishes in 2013. USEC has now signed a further contact with Tenex for supply of low-enriched uranium from 2013 to 2022, ramping up to about half of present levels from Russia, with option to match present levels. The new supplies will come from mined uranium enriched in Russia, rather than recycled weapons. A renewed supply of Russian uranium to USA is not unexpected, but the particular arrangement suggests a fallback plan in the event that USEC's new American Centrifuge Plant does not come up to expectations, though most of the new supply is directed at USEC customers outside the USA. USEC says the contract is complementary to its "ongoing efforts to deploy the American Centrifuge Plant". However, when approved, it will lead to a feasibility study on deploying Russian centrifuge enrichment technology in the USA.
WNN 24/3/11, USEC 23/3/11.
US budget request for small reactor development
The US Department of Energy has lodged a budget request including funds for developing two types of small nuclear power reactors, under 300 MWe. A new $67 million program would involve obtaining design certification and combined construction and operating licences for two light-water small modular reactors (SMR) on a cost-share basis with industry, to accelerate the commercial deployment of these. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also requested $11 million for pre-application work on SMR licensing with two developers, leading to filing the design certification applications and undertaking some initial review for one such application. Three or four US companies have eligible designs: B&W, Westinghouse, NuScale and possibly Holtec.
More advanced designs such as metal- or gas-cooled SMRs could get some funds from DOE's separate Reactor Concepts Research Development and Demonstration program, $30 million of which is envisaged for SMR concepts.
Plans advance for new small reactor in USA
Generation mPower (GmP) - a partnership between Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) and Bechtel - has signed a letter of intent with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) which defines a project for constructing up to six small modular reactors at Clinch River in Tennessee. The 125 MWe mPower design is an integral PWR designed to be factory-made and railed to site. TVA plans to submit a construction permit application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2012, while GmP plans to submit a design certification application in 2013. B&W said that "GmP remains on track to deploy the first B&W mPower reactor by 2020 at TVA's Clinch River site."
WNN 17/6/11. Small nuclear power reactors
New US reactor design approved
GE Hitachi has announced that the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has given design approval to its new Generation III+ 1600 MWe ESBWR design. It now expects full design certification later in the year. Compared with GEH's well-accepted ABWR now operating in Japan, ESBWR is more innovative, with lower building and operating costs and a 60-year life.
WNN 10/3/11. Advanced reactors
Further US reactor life extensions
The Nuclear Regulator Commission has renewed the operating licence of Dominion's Kewaunee nuclear power plant in Wisconsin, taking it to 2033. This is the 62nd such 20-year licence extension, out of 104 reactors.
WNN 25/2/11. US nuclear power
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the licence of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant for 20 years, to 2032. It is a 620 MWe BWR. This is the 63rd such extension. However, the renewal also requires approval of the state legislature, which is uncertain.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licences of three Palo Verde reactors in Arizona. The 20-year renewals mean the licenses for the Arizona Public Service Co. units will expire in 2045, 2046 and 2047, respectively, enabling the utility to plan capital expenditure accordingly. The three units supply nearly 4000 MWe, about one third of Arizona's base load.
Xcel Energy's Prairie Island 1 & 2 reactors (551 & 545 MWe net) have received a 20-year licence extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, taking them to 2033-34. Xcel will now spend at least $500 million by 2015 to upgrade them, include a possible 73 MWe uprate for each. This takes the total life extensions to 68, out of 104 units.
PSEG Nuclear's Salem 1 & 2 reactors (each 1175 MWe net) have received a 20-year licence extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, taking them to 2036 and 2040 respectively. This follows investment of $525 million in upgrades to the two units over five years, and takes the total US life extensions to 70, out of 104 units.
PSEG Nuclear's Hope Creek reactor (1210 MWe net) in New Jersey has received a 20-year licence extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, taking it to 2046. The unit is a similar BWR design to Fukushima Daiichi unit 6 and the four Daini reactors. This takes the total US life extensions to 71, out of 104 power reactors.
WNN 21/7/11. USA
US plant uprated
Dominion's Surry 2 PWR reactor in Virginia has had a major uprate following the replacement of three turbines. At least 50 MWe increase has been achieved, possibly the target 56 MWe, above the previous 812 MWe net.
US task force submits 90-day report on Fukushima implications
The senior task force appointed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to conduct "a methodical and systematic review" of the NRC's processes and regulations has submitted its first report, suggesting how both plant safety and the regulatory system might be improved in the light of lessons from Fukushima. The Task Force developed a comprehensive set of 12 recommendations for improving nuclear power plant safety, through improving preparedness for major accidents and ensuring that back-up power was more reliable. It noted that US plants are less vulnerable in these respects, "therefore, continued operation and continued licensing activities do not pose an imminent risk to public health and safety." The report pointed to the "patchwork of regulatory requirements and other safety initiatives" which had evolved over the decades and which could be improved and made more consistent. Enhancing power and cooling back-up provisions was recommended, along with hardened vents for older reactors similar to those at Fukushima.
WNN 14/7/11. USA
Major US utility merger
Exelon and Constellation Energy have announced a $7.9 billion merger. Under the name Exelon, the resulting firm will be the USA's largest generator of nuclear power by an even greater margin. It will have a generation portfolio of over 34,000 MWe, of which almost 19,000 MWe is nuclear, providing about 55% of delivered electricity. Exelon has had 17 reactors at ten plants, Constellation brings five reactors at three sites to the merger, making a total of 18,490 MWe net from 22 units at 13 sites.
Exelon earlier proposed building two new reactors at Victoria County in Texas as a merchant plant, but has put this project on hold. Constellation was formerly a partner in Unistar, a French initiative to build a fleet of EPR units in USA. A planned EPR merchant plant at Calvert Cliffs is the leading possibility, but Constellation pulled out of this, leaving it to EdF, which will require a new US equity partner in order to proceed and receive a licence.
US reactor partnership founders
Last month NRG Energy, which operates two reactors at the South Texas site, announced that it would pull out of the project to build two new reactors there, and would write off its $331 million investment. Low natural gas prices were the main factor, though NRG said that the Fukushima accident "has introduced multiple uncertainties around new nuclear development in the United States which have had the effect of dramatically reducing the probability that South Texas 3 and 4 can be successfully developed in a timely fashion." NRG offered to help reconfigure the partnership. An engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract was awarded to Shaw Group and Toshiba America Nuclear Energy in October 2010. Toshiba has invested $150 million and has agreed to persevere with the project to pursue licensing. Tepco had agreed to buy 10% of the project subject to it receiving a federal loan guarantee, but it is now unlikely to take up any equity.
WNN 20/4/11 US nuclear power
US plant on horns of refurbishing dilemma
Progress Energy has been engaged in upgrading its Crystal River nuclear power plant in Florida, but has run into some unforeseen hurdles. The 860 MWe PWR reactor is 34 years old and the company has applied for a licence extension to take it to 2036. From 2008 to 2010, it invested some $284 million in an extended power uprate project, which is intended to increase the gross output by 180 MWe, or 20%, upon its completion. In September 2009, the plant was shut down for a routine maintenance and refueling outage that also included the installation of two new steam generators and a new turbine generator. However, when the reinforced concrete containment structure (1.07 m thick) was cut open to replace the steam generators, delamination of the concrete was discovered. This led to a major and prolonged repair task costing $150 million, plus $290 million for replacement power to December 2010.
Then in March, as the repaired structure was being retensioned, another delamination was discovered. The company has hired an engineering consultant to assess its options, mainly focused on repairing and restarting the plant, though including the possibility of writing off the upgrade and decommissioning it. The company expects to provide a status update to the state Public Service Commission at the end of June. If the plant is decommissioned, replacement capacity will be needed. The company has plans for two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Levy County in Florida, but these are not expected on line before about 2021. A combined construction and operation licence (COL) for these is scheduled to be issued late 2012, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Progress Energy plans to fix Crystal River containment
Progress Energy plans a major repair of its containment at Crystal River-3, which will keep the unit offline until 2014, costing $900 to $1300 million for the works. However, it could mean that the reactor will operate to 2036. The company said it has spent $214 million on repairing the concrete and $375 million in replacement power costs, both to May 31. It said it has collected $265 million from its insurer. The insurance is limited to $490 million for replacement power and $2.25 billion in property damage. The initial damage was caused by redistribution of stresses when the company cut an opening into the containment to replace steam generators in 2009. A second delamination occurred in March during the final stages of repairing the first one and retensioning the structure.
WNN 28/6/11. USA
US nuclear waste Commission draft recommendations
The high-level Blue Ribbon Commission on nuclear waste set up by President Obama following his political veto of the Yucca Mountain project has issued a draft report which recommends a substantial revision of how the USA manages commercial used fuel. Despite the failure of the US political system to deliver a timely high-level waste repository and the resulting shortage of storage space at US nuclear plants, the Commission says that nuclear waste management is not an insurmountable problem: "We know what we have to do, we know we have to do it, and we even know how to do it." A major recommendation was that the nuclear waste program be moved out of the Department of Energy to an independent, government-chartered organization subject to financial, technical and regulatory oversight by Congress and appropriate government agencies. The $24 billion in the Nuclear Waste Fund would be transferred to the new outfit, and future waste fee payments by nuclear utility customers would be protected from being treated as a federal slush fund. Congress created the Fund to rationalise the disposal of utility spent fuel, and it is built up at 0.1 c/kWh of nuclear-generated power, about $700 million per year.
Implementing Commission recommendations will require changes to the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act (amended in 1987 to designate Yucca Mountain as the sole repository site) and to other legislation. The Commission highlights several areas for prompt action to "get the waste management program back on track" even before legislative action. These include "efforts to develop one or more geologic disposal facilities” and “prompt efforts to develop one or more consolidated interim storage facilities” to give some flexibility in addressing the country’s used nuclear fuel storage issue. It suggests encouraging expressions of interest from potentially suitable host communities - a consent-based approach to repositories and interim storage facilities. It was uncertain about the merits of technologies to reprocess and recycle used fuel, and suggests deferring commitment to that. However, there does need to be sustained public- and private-sector support for R&D of advanced reactor and fuel cycle technologies. Finally, the USA should take an active role in international efforts to address safety, waste management, non-proliferation and security. The final report is due in January, after public feedback.
US utility sues to keep plant open
Entergy has filed a federal lawsuit to keep its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant operating after its original 40-year licence expires in 2012. The plant was recently granted a 20-year renewal after thorough appraisal by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but Vermont in 2006 passed legislation removing discretion from a quasi-judicial expert body as agreed in 2002 and consigning it to politicians. Despite multiple endeavours by Entergy to meet state concerns, the governor has made it clear that the state is intent on shutting the plant down. Entergy says this violates federal authority over nuclear power.
WNN 19/4/11. USA
US nuclear plant shut by tornado
Both units at the Surry nuclear plant in Virginia shut down automatically as designed when a tornado touched down at the plant's switchyard, cutting off external electricity connection. Backup diesel generators started up immediately to provide the necessary power to keep the two pressurised water reactors in a safe and stable condition. Off-site power was subsequently restored.
US oil industry told to adopt nuclear standards
American oil and gas companies should bring in a self-regulation regime akin to that in nuclear power if they are to prevent safety lapses like the Deepwater Horizon blowout, according to a Presidential report. Drilling for oil in deep water carries inherent risks that need to be managed properly by government through regulation and by operators through proper practices and safety culture. Both of these need to be seriously strengthened and supplemented by a peer-led safety organisation for the oil and gas industry. The report lists several potentially dangerous industries that have transformed levels of safety through peer organisations, including the chemical and aviation industries as well as the US nuclear navy and nuclear power. Public and government acceptance based on strong safety record is an essential component of the business model of each.
But it is the nuclear power example that is expanded at length as a lesson for oil. Central to this in the USA is the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), set up after a similar investigation into the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 to share operating experience and safety knowledge among US nuclear companies. INPO spawned an international counterpart - the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) - after the 1986 Chernobyl accident. Together, these play a major part in today's safe and efficient use of nuclear energy.
WNN 17/1/11. Deep Water, The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling
B&W gets major naval power contract
Babcock & Wilcox (B&W) Nuclear Operations Group has been awarded a $2 billion, ten-year contract by the US government for the manufacture of naval nuclear power systems for submarines and aircraft carriers, and other components. B&W is actively developing small nuclear reactors for civil use on the basis of its well-established defence business. Its 125 MWe mPower reactor will be transportable by rail to the installation site. TVA is considering building two lead units at Clinch River, Tennessee.
WNN 18/1/11. Small reactors
USA costs cooling retrofits for power plants
A new study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has found that the total cost of retrofitting US power plants with cooling towers would exceed $95 billion. The cost for 39 nuclear power plants (63 reactors) alone would be almost $32 billion. EPRI’s study encompasses 428 US power plants with once‐through cooling systems which are potentially subject to revised US Environmental Protection Agency regulations ostensibly to protect aquatic life from being caught up in the cooling water intake structures. Under proposed revisions to the Clean Water Act, EPA could mandate that closed‐cycle cooling is the "best available technology" to minimise adverse environmental impact to aquatic life.
EPRI’s study considered capital costs, revenue losses from extended outages required to change the systems, and costs associated with losses in plant efficiency including increases in energy use for fans and pumps in closed‐cycle cooling systems. Such a change would cost $305 per head for 311 million US citizens to retrofit all once‐through cooling system power plants "in order to remedy a virtually nonexistent environmental impact, according to scientific studies of aquatic life populations at these plants,” according to the Nuclear Energy Institute, the US industry association.
US conflict on planned waste repository continues
While an independent review has found that the chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission did in fact have authority to terminate the licensing review of the planned Yucca Mountain high-level waste repository last year, another report confirms that there was no scientific basis for the president to order aborting the project. His decision is widely seen as simply a political reaction and amounted to defying a congressional decision, as pointed out by the NRC's Atomic Safety & Licensing Board in June 2010. Now a committee of the House of Representatives has detailed the "complete absence of scientific information and analysis" used to support the Administration's decision to terminate the Yucca Mountain project. Meanwhile a draft report from the presidential commission responsible for charting a way forward from the imbroglio is due in July.
WNN 9/6/11 US policy
AECL sells CANDU reactor division
Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL), a Crown corporation, has sold its reactor division to SNC-Lavalin's Candu Energy subsidiary for C$ 15 million, with the Canadian government retaining intellectual property rights for the CANDU reactors, in the hope of future royalties "while reducing taxpayers' exposure to nuclear commercial risks". Candu Energy will pursue new business opportunities in connection with existing CANDU reactors worldwide and new build opportunities with updated CANDU-6 (EC6) models and the third-generation ACR-1000 design. The government will contribute $75 million towards completing the EC6 development program. Candu Energy will complete the refurbishment projects at Bruce, Point Lepreau, Wolsong and Gentilly through subcontract service agreements with the Canadian government. About 1200 employees will transfer with the privatization to Candu Energy. All Canada's 20 reactors are CANDU PHWR types, and they also operate in six other countries. SNC-Lavalin has been closely associated with AECL, and the sale will clear the air in relation to plans for new capacity in Ontario and New Brunswick.
WNN 30/6/11. Canada
Canadian reactors load fuel for return to service
Bruce Power is loading fuel into its 750 MWe unit 1 CANDU reactor after an extensive refurbishment. Fuel was loaded into unit 2 in mid year. Both are expected to be operating in 2012. The Bruce A refurbishment, initiated in 2007, has been described as Canada's largest infrastructure project, with the two reactors essentially being completely rebuilt . The C$4.8 billion project involved the replacement of steam generators, all calandria tubes and associated parts, as well as upgrades of ancillary systems. Both units originally began operation in 1977 but were laid up in 1995 and 1997. They are now expected to operate for another 25 years.
WNN 23/11/11. Canada NP
Rio Tinto bids for Canadian explorer
Trumping an unsolicited bid by neighbouring Cameco, Rio Tinto has made a $570 million cash offer for junior Hathor Exploration, which the board had supported. Hathor's Roughrider deposit in Northern Saskatchewan, only 25 km from Cameco's depleted Rabbit Lake, is the main focus on interest, with over 22,000 tU resources so far defined.
WNN 20/10/11. Canada uranium
Canada's uranium production steady
Production from Canada's three uranium mines maintained the average of the last four years, at 11,540 t U3O8 (9786 tU). Cameco's McArthur River mine produced 9029 t U3O8 (7656 tU) and Rabbit Lake 1726 t U3O8 (1464 tU), while Areva Resources' McClean Lake output was only 785 t U3O8 (666 tU) due to shutting down its mill in mid year. Areva has applied for permission to haul its 30% share of McArthur River ore 950 km to McClean Lake for three years so as to provide enough feed to restart it. Eventually the McClean Lake mill will process high-grade Cigar Lake ore when that mine starts. Cameco supports the proposal. Canada U
Mexican nuclear plant uprated 20%
Mexico's Laguna Verde nuclear power plant has completed a four-year project to uprate its two reactors by 20%. Spain's Iberdrola Engineering undertook the work with Alstom Mexico to fit new turbines and generators to the plant at a cost of US$ 605 million. Units 1 and 2 are each now operating at 820 MWe gross, about 800 MWe net - up from 682 MWe gross earlier. The plant is owned and operated by Mexico's state-owned Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), which is considering adding two 1400 MWe class units at Laguna Verde by 2024.
Platts 4/2/11. Mexico
EU agrees "stress tests" for reactors
European Union (EU) ministers have agreed to launch an assessment of the safety margins of Europe's 143 nuclear power reactors. This is expected to be underway before the end of the year, and may cover countries neighbouring the EU. The EC and the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) will define the scope of the tests in the light of analysis of the Fukushima accident. The EC for some time has had an agenda to improve cooperation among EU nuclear safety regulators. The Western European Nuclear Regulators Association (WENRA) has drawn up draft proposal for the scope, methodology and schedule of "stress tests" which could cover initiating events (earthquakes, flooding), consequential prolonged loss of safety functions (electrical power, ultimate heat sink), and accident management issues such as core-melt accidents and hydrogen accumulation and "degraded conditions" in spent fuel storage. ENSREG is a senior EU body formed in 2007 to advise the EC, WENRA is a network of Chief Regulators including Switzerland, formed in 1999 and focused on East Europe.
European "stress tests" follow Fukushima accident
In response to EU energy ministers agreeing on their need, the Western European Nuclear Regulators' Association (WENRA) has proposed “stress tests” for European nuclear plants - targeted reassessment of the safety margins of those plants in the light of the events at Fukushima. For a given plant, the reassessment will report on the most probable behaviour of the plant for each of the situations considered. The results may indicate a need for additional technical or organisational safety provisions.
The scope of the assessment will take into account: Earthquake and/or flooding exceeding the design basis, other extreme external conditions leading to loss of safety functions, prolonged total loss of electrical power, prolonged loss of the ultimate heat sink.
Accident management issues will include core melt accident, including consequential effects such as hydrogen accumulation, and degraded conditions in the spent fuel storage.
Consideration should be given to: automatic actions, operators' actions specified in emergency operating procedures, and any other planned measures of prevention, recovery and mitigation of accidents. The situation outside the plant and the possibility of several units being affected at the same time will be taken into account. Clear guidance for each scenario will be developed by WENRA. Since the licensee has the prime responsibility for safety, it is up to the licensees to perform the reassessments, and the regulatory bodies can then independently review them expeditiously and publish them.
WNN 23/3/11. Safety of NPP
Europe nuclear plant "stress test" milestone
The so-called "stress tests" on EU nuclear power plants agreed to in May involve targeted reassessment of each power reactor’s safety margins in the light of extreme natural events, such as earthquake and tsunami, carried out by licensees. Progress reports are now done, and the national safety regulators are assessing them. Final reports from licensees are due at the end of October and final national reports are due at the end of the year. In the case of UK and France at least, none has indicated any fundamental weaknesses in design and resilience of the plants.
European Union radioactive waste rationalised
After a decade of dissent, the European Union has adopted a directive for the disposal of used nuclear fuel and radioactive wastes which requires member countries to develop national waste management plans for European Commission review by 2015. The plans must include firm timetables for the construction of disposal facilities, descriptions of needed implementation activities, cost assessments, and financing schemes. Safety standards promulgated by the IAEA will become legally binding within the EU policy framework.
The directive allows two or more member nations to develop joint waste disposal facilities and allows transport of used fuel and radioactive wastes within the EU. Exports outside the EU will only be possible to countries that already have a repository in operation that meets IAEA standards. For overseas reprocessing, ultimate wastes must be returned to the originating EU country. The directive acknowledges that no country currently operates such a repository and projects that a minimum of 40 years would be required procedurally to develop one. Plans are expected to use a stepped approach to geologic disposal based on the voluntary involvement of potential host communities. Two routes are acknowledged: one to dispose of used nuclear fuel as waste; the other to reprocess the fuel and recycle the uranium and plutonium while disposing of the remaining 3% or so as high-level waste.
The directive is expected to become effective in August 2011, and national governments, which retain ultimate responsibility for wastes, will have two years to bring their own nuclear waste legislation into line with it. There are 143 nuclear plants generating used fuel in 14 of the EU’s 27 member nations. The remaining countries have radioactive waste requiring disposal that has been produced by research, medicine and industry.
WNN 19/7/11. Radioactive waste management
Price agreed for Areva to buy out Siemens
Areva has announced that subject to negotiation around a EUR 1.62 billion valuation, it will buy out Siemens' 34% share in Areva NP. This will allow Siemens to pursue its future with Rosatom and for Areva to bring in EUR 900 million equity from Kuwait, which will eventually hold 10.2% of Areva.
UK approves new reactor designs
British nuclear safety regulators have granted interim approval of the Areva EPR and Westinghouse AP1000 reactor designs. The Generic Design Acceptance process, started in 2007, has another year to run before new build can start in UK, though both models are under construction elsewhere. The process is run by the Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency. Site licensing is separate and involves both bodies. EdF Energy plans to build two EPRs at Hinkley point and two at Sizewell. Horizon plans units at Wylfa and Oldbury, these may be either type.
WNN 14/12/11 UK
UK nuclear reactor plans move forward
In July the UK parliament approved the six National Policy Statements (NPS) for energy infrastructure, including the draft Nuclear NPS, confirming selection of eight nuclear sites and introducing planning reforms to allow plant construction to be expedited. Then NNB Generation (EDF Energy 80%, Centrica 20%) submitted an application to the UK Health and Safety Executive's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) for a nuclear site license for two Areva EPRs at Hinkley Point C. ONR said it expects to spend about 18 months assessing the company's "suitability, capability and competence to install, operate and decommission a nuclear facility." Local government simultaneously gave permission to prepare the site.
WNN 29/7/11. UK
UK to close MOX plant
Following the Fukushima accident, the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has reassessed the prospects for the Sellafield MOX Plant and decided to close it as soon as practicable. This leaves about 15 tonnes of reactor-grade plutonium owned by the Japanese utilities at Sellafield awaiting incorporation into about 270 tonnes of MOX fuel, which may now be done in France or Japan.
WNN 3/8/11 UK
UK extends life of one reactor, closes its twin
The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has extended the operating life of its Oldbury-1 Magnox unit to the end of 2012, four years past its earlier scheduled closure, following a review by regulators. This will enable using up all the available fuel produced for the plant. Oldbury-2 closes on schedule on June 30. Oldbury started operation in 1967 and though originally intended to shut in late 2008, it has twice received life extensions. It and Wylfa 1 & 2, due to close at the end of 2012, are the only remaining first-generation reactors in operation worldwide. The income from the extended production will be used to support the NDA's cleanup mission. Both sites are operated under contract by Magnox Ltd., which is owned by EnergySolutions.
WNN 22/6/11. UK
UK plutonium options canvassed
A new UK report outlines options for using or otherwise dealing with the UK's civil plutonium. This comprises some 100 tonnes of separated reactor-grade material and also that in 6000 tonnes of used AGR fuel from UK reactors - about half as much again if separated. Three of four options involve using the separated plutonium in mixed-oxide fuel, the main question is what to do with the AGR fuel - treat as waste, or reprocess at UK's THORP facility. The report suggests none of the options will be profitable, but some will have more economic and resource benefit than others. In essence, the report shows that it makes sense to produce MOX fuel from the plutonium. The question for the UK is whether it wants to offset this with extra savings and revenues from the potentially expensive return to the full nuclear fuel cycle that would come with a refurbishment of THORP. The public consultation ends on May 11. WNN 29/3/11. UK
GE-Hitachi proposes win-win solution for UK plutonium stockpile
The UK government called for submissions on what to do with its 100-tonne plutonium stockpile. Though it is reactor-grade material (unsuitable for weapons) it still requires expensive security measures. GE-Hitachi have proposed building two 311 MWe units of their PRISM fast reactor at Sellafield and operating them initially so as to bring the material up to the highly-radioactive 'spent fuel standard' of self-protection and proliferation resistance. The two PRISM units would irradiate fuel made from this plutonium for 45-90 days, after which is would be stored in air-cooled silos. The whole stockpile could be irradiated thus in five years, with some by-product electricity (but frequent interruptions for fuel changing) and the plant would then proceed to re-use it over perhaps 55 years solely for 600 MWe of electricity generation. The cost of the plant including fuel preparation would be comparable to a large conventional reactor, according to GE-H, which is starting to develop a supply chain in the UK with Costain, Arup & Poyry to support the proposal and prepare for UK design certification. The reactor design has evolved over some 30 years, and is based on the US EBR-II which operated 1963-94.
WNN 1/12/11, GE-H 30/11/11 Fast reactors
UK caps waste levy for new plants
After long public consultation, and in the context of firm policy to ensure that nuclear power generators fully pay for waste management, the UK government has announced its probable and maximum rates for this as a charge on each kilowatt-hour generated, as is standard in most parts of the world. If the eventual waste repository is built to current cost estimates, utilities will pay 0.02 p/kWh (0.031 c/kWh), but with a cap of 0.07 p/kWh (0.111 cents/kWh) - less than 1% of the current power price for large industrial users.
The UK has a legacy of unfunded nuclear wastes, from a wide variety of sources. Both the present and previous governments have made it clear that while they wish to facilitate private companies in building new nuclear power plants, they will not subsidise the technology. A key aspect of this is fairness in paying for a single waste disposal facility to hold the new privately-produced radioactive waste, as well as similar wastes from the former national program and everything from research and weapons programs. Another aspect is having a funded decommissioning program in place for each plant, and the government has also set out guidelines for these, so that "operators must have insolvency-proof funds set aside". This too is in line with international norms.
WNN 9/12/11 UK
UK sets out low-carbon power incentives
The UK government has issued a new Energy Market Reform white paper with profound implications for directing the estimated £110 billion investment in electricity infrastructure required by 2020. Its four main proposals are: a carbon floor price; feed-in-tariffs with a 'contract for difference' to stabilise financial returns from low-carbon generation; an Emissions Performance Standard to prohibit the construction of high-carbon generation; and mechanisms to ensure the provision of sufficient generating capacity nationwide. The carbon floor price has long been seen as fundamental to the economics of new UK nuclear power, with the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) not producing high enough prices to steer markets towards low-carbon power. The UK government will ensure the price is a minimum of £16 per tonne CO2 from 2013, with this set to rise steadily to £30 per tonne in 2020 and accelerating to £70 per tonne in 2030.
Feed-in tariffs (FIT) are now relatively common in several countries, giving large low-carbon producers a predictable return per kWh over a set period regardless of market prices. The contract for difference means that if the market price is lower that the agreed strike price, the government pays that difference per kWh, if the market is above the strike price the generator pays the government. They are long-term contracts which can be capped regarding quantity of power, but normally aren't. The idea is that the carbon floor price will drive the market towards any FIT or strike price level applied to clean sources, while removing exposure to gas price volatility. The Emissions Performance Standard is a 'regulatory backstop' to the other measures, setting 450 g/kWh CO2 as a limit under which new fossil-fuel plants must operate. This will allow gas but not coal without carbon capture & storage. Measures to ensure sufficient generating capacity remain to be worked out later in the year, but are likely to involve payments for dispatchable capacity. The FIT will replace the UK Renewables Obligation which requires retailers to buy a certain proportion of power from renewable sources, excluding nuclear.
WNN 13/7/11. UK
EdF's Flamanville schedule slips further
Electricite de France (EdF) has again revised the completion time of the Flamanville EPR nuclear plant from early 2014 to 2016 due to re-evaluation of civil engineering works and to take into account interruptions during the first half of the year. It was originally expected on line in mid 2012. EdF is architect engineer of the project, and Areva is supplying the actual reactor. There have been problem coordinating the nine main subcontractors, and EdF hopes the new schedule will progress "the construction of the Flamanville EPR continues under optimized conditions." The cost is now put at EUR 6 billion, compared with EUR 4 billion overnight cost at the end of 2008 and EUR 5 billion estimated a year ago.
WNN 21/7/11. France
French President tells Gallic giants to work together
France's Nuclear Policy Council, chaired by the President, has addressed the past disagreements between Areva (over 90% government-owned) and Electricite de France (EdF, 85% government-owned). These are presumed to have been a factor in losing an important Middle Eastern nuclear power plant contract 14 months ago. Areva is the world's largest nuclear company, EdF is the largest nuclear electric utility, and set to build new Areva EPR plants in France, UK, China and possibly USA.
The Council has directed Areva and EdF to put in place a technical and commercial agreement by mid-year for a strategic partnership to improve the design for the European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) and work together more closely on several fronts domestically. EdF appears to have the leading role in this, and in export efforts. The Council told Areva to spin off its uranium mining into a subsidiary company "as a preliminary step to study strategic and financial scenarios to ensure its development." It also called on Areva, EdF, GdF-Suez and "other stakeholders" to strengthen their collaboration on the Atmea1 power reactor. This is a medium-sized (1100 MWe) Generation III design being developed under a 2006 joint venture by Areva NP and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The reactor is intended for marketing primarily to countries embarking upon nuclear power programs, although the Council says that construction of an initial Atmea1 in France, as proposed by GdF Suez, will be considered. In addition, the Ministry of Energy will lead a working group to look into the technical, legal and economic aspects of small (100-300 MWe) reactor designs.
The Council has told the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) to negotiate with Chinese authorities to establish a comprehensive partnership between the two countries on all aspects of the civil nuclear power sector, including safety. This could include development of a new 1000 MWe Generation III reactor with China, probably with China Guangdong Nuclear Power group (CGNPC) and based on the successful CPR-1000 in which Areva retains some intellectual property rights. CGNPC refers to this as Generation II+, and has said that it is on a development trajectory with this which will eliminate those rights by 2013 and make it exportable Generation III standard. The French nuclear safety authority (ASN) is adamant that there should be no French involvement with any nuclear power project using a reactor design that is not licensable in France. EdF's China involvement is in holding 30% of the Guangdong Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company Limited (TNPC), which is building the twin EPR power plant at Taishan - CGNPC holds the balance.
WNN 22/2/11. France
EdF aims to become world's biggest nuclear generator
EDF has announced to its shareholders that it will emphasize its "core expertise and industrial knowhow" in nuclear energy as part of its goal to operate 200 GWe of generating capacity worldwide by 2020. It aims at a generating mix of 50% nuclear power, 25% fossil, and 25% hydro and other renewable energy source capacity by then. Nuclear power currently accounts for more than 85% of the company's electricity generation, and its worldwide installed capacity is about 134 GWe (55% nuclear, 18% fossil fuel, 26% hydro/ renewables), half of it in France. In addition to its "strong European foothold" and expanding presence in China, Russia and the USA, the company says it is aiming to increase its presence in rapidly growing markets such as Poland, Brazil and Turkey.
France's oldest reactor gets 10-year life extension
In July 2009 the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) approved EDF's safety case for 40-year operation of its 900 MWe units, based on generic assessment of the 34 reactors. Each individual unit is then assessed during its 30-year outage. ASN has approved a ten-year licence extension for Fessenheim 1, the oldest operating reactor (1977 start-up), subject to making its 1.5 m thick basemat more robust and resistant to possible corium assault (probably doubling its thickness), as well provision for fuel decay heat removal in the event of losing the external heat exchanger. The government will consider the cost-benefit situation following the outcome of EU stress tests later in the year, and decide whether EDF should proceed or not.
WNN 5/7/11. France
France's DCNS proposal for underwater reactor
DCNS has announced the Flexblue seabed nuclear power plant concept, developed in collaboration with Areva, EdF and CEA. A 50 to 250 MWe nuclear power system (reactor, steam generators and turbine-generator) would be housed in a submerged 12,000 tonne cylinder about 100 metres long and 12-15 metres diameter, offshore at about 60-100 m depth. DCNS is a state-owned naval defence group formed in 2007 from the merger of DCN shipyard and Thales SA, and makes nuclear submarines and surface ships. Areva TA makes the K15 naval power plants of 150 MW, running on low-enriched fuel, and has developed the NP-300 reactor based on these, able to be built in sizes up to about 300 MWe. In 2009 DCNS was awarded EUR 1 billion contracts to service France's 6 attack submarines and 4 ballistic missile submarines for five years. Subject to market evaluation, DCNS could start building a prototype Flexblue unit in 2013 in its shipyard at Cherbourg for launch and deployment in 2016. The concept eliminates the need for civil engineering, and refueling or major service can be undertaken by refloating it and returning to the shipyard.
German nuclear fuel tax in doubt, costs rise
The German government's plans to impose a tax on nuclear fuel have been rejected by the Hamburg Tax Court as dubious in terms of the country's constitution. One utility is to be refunded and nuclear fuel tax collections are to be suspended. The tax was meant to raise about €2.3 billion per year for the German treasury, and came as part of the 2010 reprieve of nuclear power plant phase-out. While the government reneged on this after the Fukushima accident, the fuel tax remained. EOn, EnBW, RWE and Vattenfall were told they would still have to pay €145 for each gram of fissile uranium or plutonium loaded into a reactor after 1 January. At the same time, eight reactors were ordered to close down immediately.
The first lawsuit was from EnBW, which paid the tax when it refuelled a reactor in July and quickly launched legal action, claiming the tax was unconstitutional and contrary to EU law. Now, the Hamburg Tax Court has expressed "serious doubt" that the nuclear fuel tax is compatible with the German constitution. It granted a request from an unnamed utility to return some €96 million, and suspended the collection of any more money. The court's judgement said that the tax does not qualify under the constitution as a consumption tax, and anyway those should not be applied to single-purpose supplies like nuclear fuel. The court took its decision based on these constitutional points and did not consider other areas the utility had contested: whether the tax violated equality laws or EU directives on taxation. Apart from contesting the fuel tax, all the nuclear generators are seeking compensation for the effective confiscation of generating rights from the eight reactors ordered shut after Fukushima, despite safety assurances from the regulator.
Meanwhile, a study from KfW Bankegruppe, which supports domestic developments, says that about €25 billion per year will be required to meet the government's nuclear phase-out goals. It puts the total investment at €239-262 by 2020. This includes up to €10 billion on fossil fuel plant, €144 billion on renewables plant and up to €29 billion on 3600 km of high-voltage transmission lines. The bank noted that large capital-intensive projects have a tendency to go over budget.
WNN 20 & 22/9/11, Germany
Germany comes to terms with cost of nuclear backflip
A study commissioned by the Economy Ministry has reportedly put an EUR 32 billion household and industry price tag on Germany's post-Fukushima nuclear backflip. The main utilities, RWE, EOn, Vattenfall and EnBW, have announced major losses and writedowns totaling EUR 4.3 billion for the current reporting period. It was on 15 March, just four days into the Fukushima accident, that Chancellor Angela Merkel asked the utilities to shut eight nuclear power reactors for a three month period. The government has since decided that none of these may restart, while the remaining reactors will close progressively to 2022. EOn spoke of up to 11,000 jobs being threatened.
WNN 10/8/11, Bloomberg 10/8/11. Germany
German parliament confirms nuclear U-turn
On 30 June Germany's Bundestag voted 513-79 to revert to the country's earlier phase-out policy for nuclear power. On 8 July the upper house, the Bundesrat, confirmed this. This will leave the eight oldest reactors closed, and result in the remaining nine closing progressively by the end of 2022. Nuclear power provided 28.4% of Germany's electricity in 2010 (133 billion kWh net), and the intention is to replace this substantially from renewable sources - in 2009, wind and solar together contributed 7.4% of supply. Both houses of parliament also approved building new coal and gas-fired plants. France, Poland and Russia (Kaliningrad) are expecting to increase electricity exports to Germany, mostly from nuclear sources, and Russia is set to export more gas. The country's four nuclear power utilities are preparing to press claims for compensation. E.On is preparing to take legal action on the nuclear fuel tax, which the government plans to leave in place despite the massive capital writedowns by nuclear operators.
WNN 30/6/11. Germany
Germany to rely on coal back-up, not nuclear
Germany's Bundesnetzagentur has decided to rely on a 2000 MWe coal-fired plant as reserve capacity rather than one of the closed-down nuclear plants. The government decisions in March and July have left Germany with "only just adequate" power generation capacity, very little in reserve for times of high demand, and a deficit of about 1000 MWe in the south west - as well as strained north-south and also east-west transmission connections. The country is now a substantial net power importer. The agency has identified various "extreme but not so unlikely" scenarios of instability. It said that the loss of low-carbon nuclear power, the consequent move to rely more on fossil fuel and the forced return to central planning is "dubious in terms of energy economics, economically inefficient, and ecologically harmful, but must be accepted for a transitional period and is unavoidable at the moment." One "urgent need" for the near term is a 100 km high-voltage line from Hamburg to Schwerin, presumably detouring around the 470 sq km national park that lies between. Another is the on-schedule start-up of four new fossil-fuel units by the end of 2012 to secure power for national railway operator Deutsche Bahn. Not completing these units on time would mean more stress on overburdened north-south connectors.
The French Prime Minister has reaffirmed his country's commitment to nuclear power as "irreplaceable," but has also said that France will not increase its capacity just to supply Germany. However, since April France has been a net power exporter to Germany.
WNN 31/8/11. Germany
Germany shuts down older nuclear plants
The German government has declared a three-month moratorium on nuclear power, in which eight reactors will stay offline, checks will take place and nuclear policy may be reconsidered. Chancellor Angela Merkel decreed that the country's nuclear power reactors which began operation in 1980 or earlier should be immediately shut down. Those units then closed and were joined by another unit already in long-term shutdown, making a total of 8336 MWe offline under her direction, about 6.4% of the country's generating capacity.
The reactors affected are Biblis-A, Neckarwestheim 1, Brunsbuttel, Biblis-B, Isar 1, Unterweser, Phillipsburg 1. Already in a long-term shutdown is Krummel and this will be included despite starting in 1984. Over the three months the impact on the German government from loss of income via its unique nuclear fuel tax could be around €235 million.
German government reverts to phase-out view
Having amended the Atomic Energy Act in October to allow lifetime extensions for nuclear power reactors, the Chancellor has now swung to a position of wanting to phase out nuclear power as soon as possible. This follows a meeting with heads of the federal states in mid April. At present there is a 3-month shutdown of the eight oldest reactors, pending safety review following the Fukushima accident. Any formal change in policy will be considered by the Bundestag in mid June. The government is proposing an EUR 5 billion investment in offshore wind power, which will require considerable transmission investment also. The German Energy Agency says that a shutdown of nuclear power between 2020 and 2025 would be possible, but replacement plant would increase electricity prices by 4 to 5 c/kWh.
Nucleonics Week 28/4/11.
Germany counts cost of nuclear U-turn
Early this week Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a reborn nuclear phase-out based on an "ethics report" that seems to have disregarded practical aspects of power supply and said it was possible for Germany to avoid restarting the seven reactors shut during the recent moratorium and to close the rest by 2022. The Chancellor plans to use renewables to replace nuclear, which she says is politically unacceptable after the "unimaginable disaster" that German citizens think the Fukushima accident represents.
The 2022 end date for nuclear generation is much the same as planned by previous governments, making this a total reversal of the 2010 agreement to allow a further 12 years of nuclear operation, as well as being contrary to legislation effecting that and cutting across capital expenditure programs by major utilities. New legislation being sent to the Federal Council of Germany's 16 states needs to gain a two-thirds majority there to become law, but evidently need not go to parliament. Major generating companies affected by the policy flip are assessing the likely costs of it, with a view to claiming full compensation.
WNN 31/5 & 1/6/11. Germany
Potential Belgian government to double nuclear taxes
A proposed doubling of Belgium's already high tax on nuclear power production threatens the viability of nuclear generator Electrabel. The tax policy has emerged from discussions among six parties intended to result in a coalition cabinet. It follows a record 353-day post-election period during which the country has had no government. Over 2010-14 the Belgian nuclear industry, which provides half the country's electricity, has been required to pay a special tax, but the size of this is set to double from € 0.5 c/kWh (€215-245 million, $290-331 million annually). The company is also paying EUR 500 million to subsidise renewables and demand-side management.
Two years ago the government reversed a previous policy to phase out nuclear power, and gave nuclear plants a 50-year lifespan into the 2020s. On that basis Electrabel had started to invest some € 800 million to upgrade the plants, including new turbines and instrumentation. The new policy now will require three reactors at Doel and Tihange to shut down in 2014-15. Electrabel's parent, GDF Suez, reacted strongly to the moves, asserting that the nuclear agreement negotiated with government in 2009 was binding on both sides. The company said it had kept its side of the bargain and would contest the new coalition's proposals using "all legal means at its disposal."
WNN 16/11/11. Belgium
Italy decisively rejects return to nuclear power
In a referendum considering four pieces of legislation promoted by Mr Berlusconi, voters strongly rejected the 2009 legislation setting up arrangements to generate 25% of the country's electricity from nuclear power by 2030. Italy is the only G8 country without its own nuclear power plants, having closed its last reactors in 1990 following a 1987 referendum on the question, soon after the Chernobyl accident. The country is the world's largest net importer of electricity, mostly from French nuclear power stations. Most new domestic capacity since 1990 has been combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) plants, and the referendum decision will mean much more of that. Due to high reliance on oil and gas, as well as imports, Italy's electricity prices are well above the European Union average. In 2008, the price averaged 20.9 Euro cents/kWh for households, over 9 cents more than in France. The Minister of Economic Development in October 2008 put the figure for the "terrible mistake" of the 1980s nuclear phase-out at some €50 billion. Italy's multinational utility Enel had been planning to build 6400 MWe of nuclear capacity in partnership with France's EdF.
WNN 14/6/11. Italy
Swiss cabinet proposes nuclear phase-out
The Swiss Federal Council has recommended to parliament that the country's five nuclear power reactors not be replaced, which if no new plants are built would result in a phase-out by 2034. The units, at four sites, have a total capacity of 3252 MWe and supply 40% of the country's electricity. The proposal will be submitted to parliament and any decision is subject to referendum. The decision came despite a February referendum that supported replacement reactors, and a report this month from Switzerland's Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) that found no immediate danger for Swiss nuclear plants in light of the Fukushima accident. The move would be a total reversal of a 2007 energy policy that not only focused on nuclear, energy efficiency and renewable sources but also called for the operating nuclear units to be replaced in due course with new ones. The country is anticipating an annual energy shortfall of 25-30 billion kWh by 2035 - around half the country's current generation - thanks to rising consumption and the retirement of older power plants. Swiss utilities have been planning in recent years to build replacements for two plants as well as a new one.
WNN 25/5/11. Switzerland
Swiss senate to consider new reactor designs for country
Following the May Swiss cabinet decision to ban construction of any new nuclear power reactors, a Senate committee has drafted three new texts on nuclear power policy, all of them explicitly keeping the technology available and banning only 'current generation' designs. The three texts originated with the National Council in June, and passed on to the Senate, where a committee modified them to ban only construction of reactors like those currently in use - and not the Generation III reactor designs which have been proposed for Switzerland. These are significantly improved and include more robust safety features than the current Generation II designs that make up the bulk of the global reactor fleet.
The three new wordings will face a Senate vote, expected on 28 September, and then be sent back to the National Council for a new debate and vote there. Whatever policy the two houses eventually decide on for new nuclear power units, the cabinet would then draft enacting legislation that will again have to survive debate and votes in both houses. The overall process may also require a public referendum as a constitutional matter.
WNN 8/9/11. Switzerland
Spain more positive about nuclear power
The present Socialist government came to power on an anti-nuclear platform, but apart from some equivocation regarding licence renewal for an old plant in 2009, it has been increasingly positive about nuclear power. Recently the responsible minister said that nuclear plants are "essential for the supply of electricity in Spain" and that almost all nuclear power units "will be open, operating and even repowering" until 2021. Also he said that "nuclear energy will be useful as a source of electricity for cars," which the government is promoting, hoping to have one million electric vehicles on the road by 2014. However, the government is still opposed to new nuclear plant construction.
WNN 28/2/11 Spain
Berkeley to develop Spanish uranium project
Australian-based Berkeley Resources has decided to proceed with developing the Salamanca uranium deposits in Spain, having rejected overtures from Kepco and Russia's Severstal. The project will use the Quercus mill, which has been on care and maintenance sine 2003. Berkeley has raised A$ 55 million through a share issue and will pay EUR 20 million to state-owned ENUSA Industrias Avanzadas SA for the mill and its adjacent uranium properties to be transferred into a new joint venture company. This will have 90% Berkeley and 10% ENUSA equity, and will proceed to bring the project into production on the basis of 39,000 tU resources. The deposits were previously mined by ENUSA to 2000, as Mina Fe. Spain
Site decided for new Finnish reactor
Fennovoima Oy has decided upon a northern Finland site for the country's seventh nuclear power reactor. The government's approval in principle was granted in May 2010. Fennovoima has been considering two prospective northern sites and has now selected Pyhäjoki, rather than Simo. Both are government-defined development areas on the west coast. The Environment Ministry has approved land-use plans, and the plant will be built on the Hanhikivi peninsula on the coast of Bothnian Bay. It will be up to 1700 MWe and utilize one of three designs: Areva's EPR, Toshiba's larger version of the 1380 MWe ABWR, or Areva's 1290 MWe Kerena - formerly the SWR-1000, a boiling water reactor. The first two are quoted by Fennovoima as up to 1700 MWe and about 1600 MWe. A technology decision is due in 2012 or 2013. District heating is to be a by-product. After receiving a construction licence, site work could start in 2012, and full operation is envisaged by 2020. Fennovoima is a consortium of 69 industrial and energy companies in a joint venture company, led by E.On.
WNN 5/10/11. Finland
TVO completes upgrades of Olkiluoto reactors
As it waits for the completion of the new unit 3 EPR at Olkiluoto, TVO has completed a major upgrade of its twin BWR units, replacing low pressure turbines and adding 20 MWe capacity to each. The work on unit 2 has just been completed, that on unit 1 was last year.
WNN 10/6/11. Finland
Lithuania chooses investment and technology partner
After inviting both GE Hitachi and Westinghouse to make proposals, the Lithuanian government has selected GE Hitachi as strategic investor in its Visaginas nuclear power project. Lithuania's partners in the project, Estonia, Latvia and Poland participated in the evaluation to determine which of the two proposals was "most economically advantageous." Visaginas will replace the power lost by closure of the next-door Ignalina plant due to EU accession requirements. GE Hitachi expects to build a single 1300 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, several of which are operating and under construction in Japan and Taiwan. This is expected to operate from 2020, by which time several major new transmission links should be complete, supplementing those east to Russia. The main one is to Poland, another is to Sweden, though both Lithuania and Russia (building its Baltic plant in Kaliningrad) see Germany as the major power market.
WNN 14/7/11. Lithuania
Poland pulls out of Lithuanian nuclear plant project
After being involved with Lithuania's plans to build a new nuclear plant to replace the Ignalina plant which was closed at EU insistence, Poland's PGE has pulled out and left it to the three Baltic states, with Hitachi GE as both supplier of the plant and 51% strategic investor. Poland had sought a larger role than was realistic once the plans shrunk to just a single 1350 MWe reactor, and also its own nuclear power developments warrant PGE's full attention. The new Lithuanian project is envisaged as the cornerstone of the new Baltic Energy Market Interconnector Plan linking Baltic states with Poland, Finland and Sweden, so the withdrawal leaves open the prospect of trading power.
In contrast, PGE told Russia's InterRao that it was not interested in buying power from its new Baltic nuclear power plant in Kaliningrad, which is envisaged as a major supplier to Germany.
WNN 12/12/11 Lithuania
Chinese utility signs up for Romanian nuclear plant
China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGNPC) has signed a preliminary agreement to investigate taking a stake in Cernavoda units 3 & 4 in Romania - two new Candu-6 reactors. The confidentiality agreement with Romania's state-owned Nuclearelectrica will allow it to access documentation related to investing in the project. In 2008 a new project company, EnergoNuclear SA, was set up by Nuclearelectrica, with 51% share, and a wide spread of partners: Enel, CEZ, GDF Suez, RWE Power (each 9.15%), Iberdrola (6.2%) and ArcelorMittal Galati (6.2%). However, in 2010 CEZ withdrew, followed by GdF Suez, RWE and Iberdrola - all for commercial reasons. This left Nuclearlectrica with an 84.65% share which it cannot afford to fund, and it is seeking a new investor to take about half that share. Italy's Enel holds 9.15% and steelmaker ArcelorMittal Galati 6.2%. A South Korean consortium has also expressed interest.
WNN 21/10/11. Romania
Czech utility calls for bids
Czech utility CEZ has formally invited its three short-listed reactor vendors - Areva, a Škoda JS-Atomstroyexport-OKB Gidropress consortium, and Westinghouse – to submit their bids for the project. Areva is putting forward its EPR design, Westinghouse proposes its AP1000. The Atomstroyexport consortium bid involves the MIR-1200 third generation VVER model based on those under construction at Leningrad Phase II and Novovoronezh Phase II. The bids will be for supply of two complete nuclear power plant units on a "full turnkey basis, including nuclear fuel supply for nine years of operation." The designs proposed must be licensed in the vendors' home countries or in an EU member state, and must comply with Czech, EU, IAEA and the Western European Nuclear Regulators Association requiements. Bids are due in July 2012, and the contract is to be signed in 2013. The 6000 pages of tender documentation has taken a 400-strong team over three years to prepare.
WNN 1/11/11. Czech Rep
Russia, Ukraine, Belarus
Belarus signs construction contract for first nuclear plant
A turnkey construction contract with Atomstroyexport for a 2400 MWe plant (2 x 1200 MWe AES-2006 units) has been signed by Belarus state-owned Directorate for Construction of Nuclear Power Plants. The site is Ostrovets in the Grodno region, close to Lithuania, and the cost with infrastructure is put at $9.4 billion. Russia has pledged financing, but discussions continue on the amount and terms.
Nuclear.Ru 11 & 12/10/11. Belarus
New Russian reactor in operation
Russia's Kalinin 4 has been connected to the state grid. It is expected to enter full commercial operation in April 2012. This brings the Russian total to 33 reactors on line, with a total of over 24 GWe, including a wide range of sizes and technologies. Nine more are under construction, including two small ones in the first floating nuclear power plant.
WNN 13/12/11 Russia NP
New Russian reactor starts up: Unit 4 at Kalinin nuclear power plant has achieved first criticality on schedule. This is a 1000 MWe (950 MWe net) V-320 unit which has been built by Nizhny-Novgorod Atomenergopoekt. It is expected to be grid-connected in weeks, making it Russia's 33rd power reactor on line. It uses major components originally supplied for the Belene plant in Bulgaria (which will now be built as a later V-466 type).
WNN 9/11/11. Russia NP
Fuel loading at new Russian reactor: Fuel is being loaded into Russia's newest reactor, Kalinin 4, in the Tver region. Once all 163 VVER fuel assemblies are loaded, first power is expected next month. It is a V-320, 1000 MWe reactor, the same as unit 3, though using components originally supplied for the Belene plant in Bulgaria. Full construction resumed in 2007 after a 16-year pause.
WNN 21/10/11. Russia NP
Russia adopts radioactive waste legislation
After 19 months consideration and many amendments, Russia's new Radioactive Waste Management law is in place. It establishes a legal framework for radioactive waste management, provides for a national radwaste management system meeting the requirements of the Joint Convention on the Safe Management of Spent Nuclear Fuel and on the Safe Management of Radioactive Waste ratified by Russia in 2006. Rosatom and the national operator for management of radwaste - RosRAO - will be responsible for coordination and execution of works associated with radwaste management, notably its disposal. The law establishes time limits for interim radwaste storage and volume limits for waste generators, and defines how they should bring wastes in condition suitable for disposal and transfer it to the national operator along with payment of disposal charges. Import and export of radwaste is prohibited, and the law bans building new facilities for disposal of liquid radioactive waste in geological formations. Russia has used deep-well injection for low- and intermediate-level wastes for many years, Seversk being the main site of such. Further legislation on used fuel and high-level wastes is envisaged.
WNN 15/7/11. Russia fuel cycle
Floating nuclear plant caught in bankruptcy proceedings
The world's first floating nuclear power plant, currently under construction, has been seized by the Court of Arbitration of Saint Petersburg on behalf of Rosenergoatom (which has largely paid for it), as the Baltiysky Zavod shipyard building the plant faces bankruptcy proceedings. The two turbines were installed recently, and the vessel is due to be delivered next year, then towed to Vilyuchinsk in Kamchatka region and commissioned there early in 2013.
WNN 15/8/11. Russia NP
Kazakh uranium production increases 27%
Kazakhstan's 2010 uranium production from 19 in situ leach mines (18 in the south) and one hard-rock region in the north totaled 17,803 tonnes U, a 27% increase from 2009. It is double the 2008 level, probably near one third of world total, and is more than three times Australia's 2009 output. The Areva-Kazakh Tortkuduk mine in the east of Chu-Sarysu province produced 2439 tU, three Inkai blocks controlled by Cameco produced 1637 tU, Uranium One's South Inkai 1701 tU, and its 50%-owned Budenovskoye 2 1708 tU, with all the rest under 1250 tU each.
In 2011, Kazatomprom expects production of 19,600 tU. In extending its role in the nuclear fuel cycle, Kazatomprom says it plans to implement several investment projects costing some US$ 2.3 billion over the next five years. Kazakhstan
China's electricity demand soars
Over seven months to July, China's electricity demand rose 12.2% above that in the same period last year, to 2687 billion kWh, according to National Energy Bureau figures. New capacity over the seven months totaled 41.2 GWe, mostly coal. Electricity consumption in 2010 was 4190 billion kWh.
Goldman Sachs 15/8/11. China NP
Commercial operation for new Chinese reactor
China Guangdong Nuclear Power has brought its new Lingao phase II nuclear power reactor into commercial operation on schedule. With 1037 MWe net capacity it has the first Chinese-made reactor pressure vessel for a 1000 MWe class reactor. It is the fourth unit at the site (or 6th including Daya Bay adjacent) and was grid connected in May, 60 months after construction start.
WNN 8/8/11 China NP
New Chinese reactors connected to grid: The Lingao II-2 reactor has been grid connected and is expected in commercial operation in mid June. It is China's 14th power reactor, a largely-indigenous CPR-1000 unit of 1037 MWe net, which started construction in May 2006. China Guangdong Nuclear Power is constructing 12 other such units, and CNNC is building 5 of them.
WNN 9/5/11. China NP
Qinshan phase II unit 4 has been connected to the grid in Zhejiang province, China, making a total of 15 reactors in service. Construction of CNNC's 610 MWe (net) unit started in January 2007.
WNN 30/11/11 China NP
Chinese complete post-Fukushima safety audit
Chinese safety authorities have completed an initial survey of nuclear safety at the country's power plants. Details on the results and proposed improvements are to be made public in the middle of next year, following further research. Teams composed of senior figures from the National Nuclear Safety Administration, the National Energy Board, the China Seismological Bureau and the Academy of Sciences visited each of the plants. They interviewed managers and technical experts, and had full access to the site and documentation.
Of immediate relevance are the country's five operating nuclear power plants (Daya Bay; Tianwan; Qinshan Phases I, II and III; and Ling Ao Phases I and II), which together host 14 operating reactors. These were designed and sited much more recently than the Fukushima Daiichi units, the oldest having started up in 1994. China also has another 26 large reactors under construction and 52 more firmly planned. For the Chinese nuclear industry as a whole, authorities will focus attention on a handful of key areas: ensuring proper quality control in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants; ensuring that the full scope of external events such as natural disasters has been taken into account; and ensuring that plants can deal with multiple extreme incidents and floods in particular. No further approvals for construction are being given for the time being.
WNN 11/8/11. China NP
China nuclear plant construction proceeding
Construction of the third reactor at China's Ningde nuclear power plant has reached a milestone with the dome of the reactor building being lowered into place. Plant constructor China Nuclear Engineering and Construction Corporation (CNECC) said this was 80 days ahead of schedule, after 19 months construction. Four Chinese-designed CPR-1000 reactors are currently under construction at Ningde, near Fuding city in Fujian province. All four are scheduled to come online between late 2012 and 2015. The CPR-1000, along with Westinghouse's AP1000, is a mainstay of China's planned near-term nuclear capacity expansion, and 18 CPR-1000s are currently under construction.
Following the Fukushima accident, the State Council, announced that it would suspend approvals for new nuclear power stations and conduct comprehensive safety checks of all nuclear projects, including those under construction. About 34 reactors were already approved by the central government of which 26 were being built. After three months the inspections of operating plants had been completed and those on plants under construction will be completed in the next few weeks (though construction has continued on most plants). In May some supplementary safety measures were announced. A new China National Plan for Nuclear Safety is now being formulated, and approval for new plants will remain suspended until it is approved.
WNN 7/9/11. China NP
China Guangdong $1.2 billion bid for Namibian uranium
While Rio Tinto makes overtures to Extract Resources next door about combining their operations, China Guangdong Nuclear Power has notified a possible $1.22 billion cash offer for the whole of Kalahari Minerals PLC, Extract's major (42.8%) shareholder. Some 22% of Kalahari was bought last year by Itochu Corp and a Hong Kong company for $136.6 million, valuing the company then at $621 million. The focus of interest is Extract's Husab uranium project, with 150,000 tU resources defined so far, and more in prospect.
WNN 8/3/11. Namibia
Construction imminent for Chinese high-temperature reactor?
Platts Nucleonics Week reports that high-level approval has finally been given to start construction of China's demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, the HTR-PM. In 2006, the State Council announced that this was the second of two high-priority projects for the next 15 years. The situation is complex, because not only will this be the first modern commercial-scale plant of this type, but also the Huaneng Group which is leading the Huaneng Shidaowan Nuclear Power Company Ltd (HSNPC) joint venture has not hitherto been approved to build nuclear plants. It is the largest of the five major electric utilities formed in 2002, but so far only one of these - China Power Investment Corporation - has had nuclear accreditation. China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group (CNEC) and Tsinghua University's INET, which is the R&D leader, are also part of HSNPC.
The Shidaowan HTR-PM project was initially approved in 2005 and received environmental clearance in 2008 to be built at Shidao Bay in Weihai city, Shandong province. It will be part of the Rongcheng Nuclear Power Industrial Park project. The latest (unconfirmed) reports suggest that National Development & Reform Commission approval has been given for construction start at the end of March. The EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) contract was let in October 2008, a simulator contract was signed in May 2010, and after three years of negotiation, this month a contract was signed with SGL Group in Germany for supply of 500,000 machined graphite spheres for HTR-PM fuel by the end of 2013. In November 2010 the Huaneng Group signed an agreement with US-based Duke Energy to train nuclear plant staff.
Originally the HTR-PM was a 200 MWe reactor similar to South Africa's PBMR, but in order to retain the same core configuration as China's proven and successful 10 MWe prototype, this was changed to twin 105 MWe reactors driving a single steam turbine. The fuel is low-enriched uranium in 'pebbles' about the size of billiard balls. A 50-month construction period is envisaged, with 75% local content. The initial demonstration HTR-PM will pave the way for 18 further 210 MWe units at the same site - total 3800 MWe.
WNN 7/3/11 China NP
China announces small modular reactor project
CNNC New Energy Corporation, a joint venture of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC, 51%) and China Guodian Corp, is planning to build two small modular integrated PWR-type reactors (SMRs) at Zhangzhou city, at the south of Fujian province, near Xiamen. This will be the CNY 5 billion ($787 million) phase 1 of a multi-unit project. Two large AP1000 reactors have been listed for there, and while the precise SMR technology is not annpounced, CNNC has been developing an ACP100 modular design with passive safety, for multiple applications.
WNN 17/11/11. China NP
China's fast reactor connected to grid
On schedule, the China Experimental Fast Reactor (65 MWt) has been connected to the grid at 40% of power (8 MWe net). It will ramp up to full 20 MWe power in December. It started up at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) near Beijing in July 2010, having been built by Russia's OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with other Russian entities.
WNN 21/7/11. China fuel cycle
China launches new reactor design
In mid November China Guangdong Nuclear Power launched with some fanfare an evolutionary development of its main CPR-1000 nuclear reactor which is currently being built in large numbers. The ACPR-1000 has enhanced safety attributes which it says comply with international requirements, and full Chinese intellectual property rights. CGNPC has been working with Dongfang Electric, Shanghai Electric, Harbin Electric, China First Heavy Industries, China Erzhong and other companies since 2009 to develop the ACPR-1000. It expects to make it available for local build and overseas markets on schedule from 2013.
Xinhua 17/11/11 China NP
China sets up recycling company
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) has set up CNNC Ruineng Technology Co Ltd to industrialise used fuel reprocessing technology and mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel production to close the nuclear fuel cycle in China. It will also be responsible for storage and management of used fuel. At present CNNC presides over various small operations in this area, and a major 2007 agreement with Areva envisages an 800 t/yr reprocessing plant at Jiayuguan in Gansu province, employing advanced French technology and operated by Areva. In November 2010 an industrial agreement was signed, which Areva said was "the final step towards a commercial contract" for the project. In October 2010 the GDF Suez Belgian subsidiary Tractabel, with Belgonucleaire and the nuclear research centre SCK-CEN, signed an agreement with CNNC to build a pilot MOX fuel fabrication plant in China. The China Institute for Atomic Energy expects two 40t/yr MOX plants to be operating by about 2018.
CNNC 18/11/11 China fuel cycle
Reactor pressure vessel arrives at Sanmen in China
The reactor pressure vessel has been delivered for unit 1 of the Sanmen AP1000 nuclear power plant in eastern China, the world's first of the third-generation Westinghouse plants under construction. It was made by Doosan Heavy Industries in South Korea, using some forgings from China First Heavy Industries, which will be making the full pressure vessel for unit 2 under progressive localisation plans. Doosan will also make the first pressure vessel for the Haiyang power plant, while that for unit 2 will be made in China by Shanghai Electric Group Corporation. Doosan will complete the vessel head for Sanmen 1 next month, and that for unit 2 will be made by Shandong Nuclear Power Equipment Manufacturing Co. China's heavy engineering manufacturing capacity is emerging as the largest in the world.
WNN 27/7/11. China NP
China publishes frank policy document
A report on nuclear power from the State Council Research Office (SCRO), which makes independent policy recommendations to the State Council on strategic matters, has been published. While approving the enormous progress made on many fronts, it cautioned concerning provincial and corporate enthusiasm for new nuclear power plants and said that the 2020 target should be restricted to 100 GWe of new plant operating so as to avoid placing undue demand on quality control issues in the supply chain. It emphasised that the priority needed to be resolutely on Generation-III technology, notably the Westinghouse AP1000 and derivatives, rather than the 54 largely-indigenous CPR-1000 which are being built to accelerate China's nuclear power program. The SCRO calculated that nuclear development would require new investment of some RMB 1 trillion ($151 billion) by 2020, not counting 25 units under construction. These projects rely mainly on debt, funds are tight, and 'investment risks cannot be discounted'.
WNN 11/1/11. China NP
New Japan PM more positive
Japan's new Prime Minister Noda wants Japan's halted nuclear reactors to be restarted and while calling for improved regulation of nuclear plants to "regain public trust in atomic power generation,” he has not backed his predecessor's call for substantial reduction in reliance on nuclear power.
WNN 30/8/11. Japan
Japan to reorganize nuclear regulation
The Japanese government has announced plans to establish a new and more independent nuclear regulator associated with the Environment Ministry and detached from the Ministry of Economy Trade and Industry (METI). This will combine the roles of the regulator, the Nuclear & Industrial Safety Agency - now within METI, the Nuclear Safety Council - a more senior policy-making body within the Cabinet Office, and also the monitoring functions of the Education & Science Ministry. The Environment Ministry already handles disposal of radiation-contaminated debris around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The government plans to submit related bills to the Diet early next year and launch the new Nuclear Safety Agency in April 2012. Key issues will then be addressed toward creating a stronger and more effective safety regulatory organization, with a plan to be issued by year end.
WNN 16/8/11. Japan
Tepco meets initial goal in controlling Fukushima reactors
With ongoing nitrogen injection in all three reactors, and cooling by recycled water from the new treatment plant, Tepco by mid July had achieved its initial targets. The treatment plant is operating at 80% of capacity, and steadily reducing the build-up of contaminated water, some of it being the original tsunami inflow. Installing new atmospheric heat exchangers on those cooling circuits is the next goal, which will bring them to 'cold shutdown'. These heat exchangers have already been installed on two of the spent fuel pond circuits.
WNN 13 & 20/7/11. Tepco 19/7
All four Fukushima reactors now with fuel pond cooling
With the connection of unit 1's spent fuel pond, all four damaged Fukushima reactors now have circulating cooling water for their spent fuel pools, using new external heat exchangers, and temperatures are normal in all. While most of the used fuel on site is held in a central facility, the amount in one of the ponds is much more than usual, due partly to the full core being unloaded to it a couple of months before the accident, creating a large heat load - about 3 MW. Also in three of the buildings the upper service floors with the ponds (level with the tops of the reactors) were severely damaged by hydrogen explosions. The focus is now on getting three reactors to cold shutdown, using treated recycled water.
WNN 11/8/11. Fukushima accident
IAEA preliminary report on Fukushima accident
Focusing on what was done at the actual power plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has reported that the handling of the crisis was exemplary. A team of 18 experts from 12 countries spent a week at the plant. However, the report makes it clear that the 1960s decision to site the plant so close to sea level was extremely unwise, making it inevitably vulnerable to tsunamis, and the "hazard for several sites was underestimated." "Defence in depth, physical separation, diversity and redundancy requirements should be applied for extreme external events, particularly those with common mode implications such as extreme floods." The "accident demonstrates the value of hardened on-site emergency response centres with adequate provisions for communications, essential plant parameters, control and resources. They should be provided for all major nuclear facilities with severe accident potential.” The response of Tepco by "dedicated, determined and expert staff under extremely arduous conditions has been exemplary, and resulted in the best approach to securing safety given the exceptional circumstances." While the team was there Tepco managed to access instruments in control rooms which confirmed that the cores of units 1-3 largely melted in the first three days of the accident.
Though the government had not heeded earlier IAEA advice to ensure the independence of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency by separating it from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, the report said that the government's protection of the public "has been impressive and extremely well organised." Future monitoring of the health of the public as well as workers "would be beneficial," although "to date, no health effects have been reported in any person as a result of radiation exposure." The areas near the Fukushima Daiichi plant could return to normal, given "remediation of the areas off site affected by radioactive releases to allow people evacuated to resume their normal lives." The report did not comment on the government's long time scale for this, nor the somewhat arbitrary criteria for maintaining the evacuation zone.
WNN 1/6/11. Japan http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/fukushima/missionsummary010611.pdf
NB The final IAEA Fukushima mission report was published in June.
Japanese government report on Fukushima accident
On 7 June the government submitted a 750-page report to IAEA compiled by the nuclear emergency taskforce, acknowledging reactor design inadequacies and systemic shortcomings. The government said that it is "taking very seriously" the fact that the natural disaster of an earthquake and tsunami triggered a severe accident "due to such causes as the losses of power and cooling functions, and that consistent preparation for severe accidents were insufficient. In light of the lessons learned from the accident, Japan has recognized that a fundamental revision of its nuclear safety preparedness and response is inevitable." First, the Nuclear & Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) will be separated from the ministry and made more independent. In addition, government will "review regulatory and administrative frameworks on nuclear safety," and improve "the legal structures on nuclear safety and nuclear emergency preparedness and related criteria and guidelines."
"This nuclear accident has turned to be a major challenge for Japan, and Japan is now responding to the situation, with the relevant domestic organisations working together, and with support from many countries around the world," the report said. "Japan also takes it very seriously and with remorse that this accident has raised concerns around the world about the safety of nuclear power generation. And above all, Japan feels sincere regret for causing anxiety among the people all over the world about the safety of nuclear power facilities and the release of radioactive materials." However, "We are prepared to confront much difficulty towards restoration from the accident, and also confident that we will be able to overcome this accident by uniting the wisdom and efforts of not only Japan, but also the world."
Earlier, the independent panel of ten experts, mostly academics, appointed by the Japanese government began meeting. It has two technological advisers. An initial report is due at the end of 2011 and a final report in mid 2012. Its terms of reference include NISA's status and role. The panel has set up four teams to pursue investigations, but not to pursue the question of responsibility for the accident.
WNN 8/6/11. Japan, Fukushima
Compensation for Fukushima dislocation
Tepco has promised to start work immediately on providing "compensation with empathy and consideration" under the terms of its special business plan, approved by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). Some JPY 900 billion ($11.5 billion) will be released to the company through bonds issued to the Nuclear Damage Compensation Fund to cover compensation payments to March 2012. The plan also involves Tepco reducing its own costs by JPY 2545 billion ($32.6 billion) over the next ten years, including shedding 7400 jobs. This special business plan will be superseded by a more comprehensive business plan early next year.
Meanwhile Tepco has reported losses of JPY 1976 billion ($25.5 billion) for April to September, including costs and losses of JPY 185 billion ($2.4 billion) from restoration costs to properties damaged by the March earthquake, and nuclear damage compensation of JPY 891 billion ($11.4 billion). Operating revenue from the company's 29 million customers was down 7%, and Tepco wanted to include an electricity rate increase of about 15% in the special plan, saying it is necessary to cover about JPY 830 billion ($10.7 billion) in additional annual fuel costs for thermal power generation to make up for lost capacity at nuclear power plants which await permission to restart.
WNN 7/11/11. Fukushima accident
Japanese nuclear accident ongoing
The magnitude 9.0 Miyagiken-Oki earthquake at 2.46 pm on 11 March did considerable damage, and the tsunami it created caused even more. It was centred 130 km offshore of the city of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture on the eastern cost of Honshu Island. Eleven reactors at four nuclear power plants in the region were operating at the time and all shut down automatically when the quake hit. Power was available to run the cooling pumps at most of the units, and they have since achieved cold shutdown. However, at Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi plant, where three reactors were shut down by the earthquake, the emergency diesel generators started as expected but then shut down an hour later when submerged by the tsunami. This sealed the fate of those reactors and led the authorities to order, and subsequently extend, an evacuation while engineers worked to restore power. About nine hours later mobile power supply units had reached the plant and were being connected. Meanwhile units 1-3 had only battery power, insufficient to drive the cooling pumps.
The operating units which shut down were Tepco's Fukushima Daiichi 1, 2, 3, Fukushima Daini 1, 2, 3, 4, Tohoku's Onagawa 1, 2, 3, and Japco's Tokai. Onogawa 1 briefly suffered a fire in the non-nuclear turbine building, but the main problem centred on Fukushima Daiichi units 1-3. First, pressure inside the containment structures increased steadily and led to this being vented to the atmosphere on an ongoing basis. Vented gases and vapour included hydrogen, produced by the exothermic interaction of the fuel's very hot zirconium cladding with water. Later on 12th, there was a hydrogen explosion in the building above unit 1 reactor containment, and another one two days later in unit 3, from the venting as hydrogen mixed with air. Then on 15th, unit 2 ruptured its pressure suppression chamber under the actual reactor, releasing some radioactivity. Inside, water levels had dropped, exposing fuel, and this was addressed by pumping seawater into the reactor pressure vessels. The heat from the fuel is now about 3 MW thermal in unit 1 and 4.5 MW in units 2 & 3.
Then a separate set of problems arose as the spent fuel ponds in the upper part of the reactor structures were found to be depleted in water. In unit 4, the fuel there got hot enough to form hydrogen, and another hydrogen explosion destroyed the top of the building and damaged unit 3's superstructure further. The focus since has been on replenishing the water in the ponds of units 3 and 4, with some success, through the gaps in the roof and cladding. Unit 4 is undergoing maintenance, and all its 548 fuel assemblies are in that pond, along with other new and used fuel, total 1535 assemblies, giving it a heat load of about 3 MW thermal, according to France's ISRN. Unit 3's pool contains 566 fuel assemblies. (There are also 6375 assemblies in undamaged central pool storage on site and 408 in dry cask storage.)
Japan's Nuclear & Industrial Safety Agency eventually declared the accident as Level 5 on INES scale - an accident with wider consequences, the same level as Three Mile Island in 1979. As of early 18 March, no radiation casualties were reported, and few other injuries, though higher than normal doses were being accumulated by several hundred workers on site.
Tepco staff, reinforced by others, continue work towards bringing the three damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactors towards cold shutdown. The fuel pools of two reactors continue to be a concern, though both are now being replenished using built-in plumbing. Radioactive fallout beyond the plant boundary is being assessed, but so far appears to be no immediate threat to anyone. Iodine-131 is the main concern, though three quarters of it will have decayed in two weeks.
WNN to 24/3/11.
Some 400 Tepco staff and contractors continue work to re-establish full cooling to three reactors and four spent fuel ponds at Fukushima Daiichi. They are hindered by radioactively-contaminated water which was originally knee-deep in the buildings - this is being removed and stored for treatment. Meanwhile Tepco has indicated that units 1-4 will be written off and decommissioned. WNA data will now reflect that.
WNN to 31/3/11.
Summary: All three units have fuel damage and low water levels, units 2 & 3 have lost pressure and are suspected to have pressure vessel or containment damage (only unit 1 is still above atmospheric pressure). While the extent of reactor pressure vessel and containment damage is unknown, all the fuel remains contained except for some volatile fission products vented early on and some soluble ones which are leaking with the water. Cooling still needs to be provided from external sources, using fresh water and pump trucks, while work continues to establish a stable heat removal path to external heat sinks.
Spent fuel ponds in units 3 & 4 still need to be topped up repeatedly, with some use of internal plumbing for units 2 & 3 and by concrete pump with boom for unit 4. Tepco has said that it is inevitable that unit 4, with 1-3, will be written off and decommissioned. The pond heat exchangers for units 1, 3 & 4 are very damaged. Radiation levels from monitoring outside the plant boundary continue their steady decline.
WNN to 8/4/11.
There is little change since last week, though the INES rating of the accident was lifted to 7 - 'a serious accident' on the basis of re-evaluating radioactive releases, especially those around 15 March. NISA estimated that 130 PBq of iodine-131 was released, and in 32 days since that would have diminished to one sixteenth of its original activity. NISA estimates that the much smaller amount of caesium-137 released is now about one tenth of the iodine activity - it is longer lasting. The occupational exposure of the 250 people working at the plant continues to be limited to safe levels. Radioactive water in the turbine buildings is hampering efforts to restore cooling operations at the plant, its removal is a priority. Consortia led by both Hitachi-GE and Toshiba have submitted proposals to Tepco for decommissioning units 1-4.
Tepco is preparing compensation options for people affected by the accident, and its president said that: "My biggest responsibility is to resolve the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, fully support people who have been evacuated and make sure we provide electricity by overcoming the supply shortage as soon as possible."
WNN to 14/4/11.
Work continues on the Fukushima Daiichi site towards replacing the makeshift cooling arrangements with proper heat removal circuits. Outside the buildings, removal of radioactive rubble is proceeding and full-scale spraying of polymer resin binding agent is starting. Remote-control equipment is being used for several functions. Nearly 250 people are working on site and no excessive radiation doses have been recorded.
In order to regain access to the main reactor buildings ambient air filtration units are being installed to lower the airborne radioactivity to about 5% of existing levels, starting in unit 1. This is to enable a new heat exchanger to be fitted, to treat 100 m3/hr of cooling water and achieve much better heat removal than at present.
WNN to 4/5/11. Fukushima accident
Now that workers have gained access to the main areas of unit 1 and calibrated gauges it appears that the water level inside is lower than previously thought and that significant fuel melting occurred early in the accident sequence. However, it is evident that the melted material at the bottom of the reactor vessel is under water and being adequately cooled. Work on cleaning up rubble, dealing with contaminated water and developing means to cool the three reactors more effectively is being undertaken by more than 200 Tepco staff at the plant.
New remediation plan for Fukushima
WNN to 12/5/11
Tepco has published a 6- to 9-month plan for dealing with its disabled Fukushima reactors.
Cooling reactors: In units 1 & 3 the containment vessels will be flooded up to the level of the top of the fuel, and nitrogen injection will be continued. In unit 2 the damaged containment will be sealed with grout, before similarly flooding. New heat exchanger circuits will be built for all three units. Cold shutdown target in 6-9 months. The plan does not mention removal of fuel from the reactors.
Cooling and removing spent fuel: For all four units water injection will be improved to the spent fuel ponds in each reactor building and cooling circulation for heat removal restored, with new or repaired heat exchangers. A support structure will be built under unit 4 pond. Fuel will then be removed to central storage on site - a significant task for the three units with damaged superstructure.
Managing contaminated water: Further storage capacity will be installed, along with treatment plant to enable recycling. Reactor 2 is a particular focus. Slightly-contaminated water will be treated. A "full-fledged" treatment plant will follow.
Minimising release of radioactive materials to atmosphere: Dust-suppressing polymer resin will continue to be applied around the site, and debris removed to improve working conditions on site. A light temporary structure will then be built over reactor buildings 1, 3 & 4, followed by a more substantial structure.
Preparing for return of evacuees: Monitoring will be expanded, and the evacuation zone will be decontaminated where required so that evacuees can return as soon as possible.
WNN to 20/4/11.
Fukushima compensation arrangements
TEPCO has accepted terms established by the Japanese government for state support to compensate those affected by the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The scheme includes a new state-backed institution to expedite payments to those affected by the Fukushima accident. The body would receive financial contributions from electric power companies with nuclear power plants in Japan, and from the government through special bonds that can be cashed whenever necessary. The government bonds total JPY 5 trillion ($62 billion). Tepco accepted the conditions imposed on the company as part of the package. That included not setting an upper limit on compensation payments to those affected, a vow to make the maximum efforts to reduce costs, and an agreement to cooperate with an independent panel set up to investigate its management. The new institution will also operate as an insurer and be responsibility to have plans in place for any future nuclear accidents. The government estimates that Tepco will be able to complete its repayments in 10 to 13 years, after which it will revert to a fully private company with no government involvement. Meanwhile it will pay an annual fee for the government support, maintain adequate power supplies and ensure plant safety. Tepco has estimated its extra costs for fossil fuels in 2011-12 (April-March) will be about JPY 1 trillion ($12.4 billion). It currently has 4.912 GWe of nuclear power generation capacity operating, 35% of its total installed nuclear capacity of 14.060 GWe net remaining at three plants after writing off four Fukushima Daiichi units (2.719 GWe).
WNN to 12/5/11 Fukushima
Fukushima flurry of concern
Since a sophisticated gas control system was commissioned in October, the monitoring of gases in unit 2 has been much enhanced. The system extracts and cleans the gas from the containment vessel to avoid leakage of caesium to air. Similar units are envisaged for units 1 and 3 by year end. An initial result of operating this was the detection of traces of xenon, a short-lived fission product, which prompted the suggestion that some criticality might be occurring in the melted fuel. Consequently boron was added to the water, but when this did not diminish the xenon level it was decided that the minute amounts of xenon originated in normal spontaneous fission, probably of Pu-240 or curium, not any chain reaction. The temperature in the reactor vessel has been declining steadily and is now about 76°C.
WNN 3/11/11. Fukushima
Earthquake fear shuts down further Japan nuclear plant
The prime minister has asked Chubu Electric Power to shut down reactors 4 & 5, and not to restart unit 3 of its Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka prefecture. Total capacity is 3473 MWe net, serving manufacturing industries. (Units 1 & 2 have been decommissioned.) Hamaoka is on the Pacific coast of Honshu, half way between Tokyo and Osaka, and in the area serviced by 60 Hz grid. Since 2007, units 3-5 have been upgraded to Japan's new Ss standard of 1000 Gal ground acceleration, nearly twice the maximum experienced at Fukushima.
The Tokai region has experienced very major earthquakes about every 150 years, and it is more than that since the last big one in 1854. The government accepts an 87% probability of a major 'quake within 30 years, coupled with the risk of a major tsunami. The Hamaoka plant sits directly above the likely focus of this. While the reactors are close to sea level - at about the elevation of the 1854 tsunami, they are protected by a 10-15m sand dune and have waterproof doors on the buildings. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has requested an upgrade the protection measures, including installation of additional air-cooled emergency diesel generators and enhancing the residual heat removal systems. Carrying out this work and satisfying NISA of the plant's fitness to restart will take some months. There is no legal precedent in Japan for a politician to order the closure of a nuclear power plant that complies with NISA's independently-set regulations.
WNN 6 & 9/5/11 Japan
Japan power shortages threatened
The chairman of Japan's Federation of Electric Power Companies (FEPC) has warned that the supply-demand balance in coming summer months will be very tight in the east coast areas served by Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), Tohoku Electric Power Co (both 50 Hz) and Chubu Electric Power Co (60 Hz). While all the utilities on the west coast will cooperate to transfer electricity to the east coast, he said that it is essential that the government allows those reactors currently shut down for periodic inspections to be able to return to service as soon as possible. He said that the government must help local authorities and residents understand the importance of restarting those reactors currently shut for periodic inspections, which are mandated much more frequently and for longer than in other countries. He emphasised the significant role of nuclear energy in ensuring a stable power supply.
In mid May only 17 out of Japan's 50 remaining nuclear power reactors (apart from Monju and written-off Fukushima Daiichi 1-4) were in operation. This represents 15,493 MWe, or 35% of the total remaining nuclear generating capacity of 44,396 MWe. Twenty units, with a combined capacity of 17,705 MWe (40% of total nuclear capacity) were not operating as they had been shut for periodic inspections, while another two units (1700 MWe) had been shut for unplanned inspections or equipment replacement.
WNN 20/5/11. Japan
Japan faces prospect of electricity shortages
With government indecision on what safety checks are required on which reactors and when, Japan is facing significant constraints on electricity supplies as reactors shut down for refueling or annual checks are prevented from restarting. Looking ahead to 2012 the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has estimated that power generation costs would rise by over JPY 3 trillion ($37 billion) per year, an equivalent of about 0.7 percent of gross domestic product, if utilities had to replace nuclear energy with thermal power generation. METI's 2010 electricity supply plan showed nuclear capacity growing by 13 GWe by 2019, and the share of supply growing from 2007's depressed 262 TWh (25.4%) to about 455 TWh (41%) in 2019. This is now in some doubt with government equivocation and public fears.
WNN 25/7/11. Japan
Second UK waste shipment to Japan
From 1970, some 7000 tonnes of Japan's used fuel has been reprocessed in France and UK. All the vitrified high-level wastes from this are being returned to Japan for disposal. Twelve shipments from France over 1995-2007 are being followed by about eleven from UK under the Vitrified Residue Returns program. The second shipment was dispatched this week, comprising three 130-tonne casks holding 76 canisters, each about 500kg, in a special-purpose ship.
WNN 2/8/11. Japanese waste and MOX shipments
Japanese agreement for second Vietnam nuclear plant
Electricity of Vietnam (EVN) has signed an agreement with the International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan Co. Ltd. (JINED) to progress the design, construction and operation of EVN's second nuclear power plant in Ninh Thuan province, with two reactors coming on line in 2021 and 2022. EVN listed six criteria to apply, including late-model reactors, stable supply of fuel, support for local industry and education of staff, and financial support. JINED is a consortium of Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, nine utilities (led by Chubu, Kansai & Tepco) and three manufacturers (Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Toshiba and Hitachi). The day before, Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC) signed a contract with EVN to provide consulting services to help with site selection and an 18-month, $26 million feasibility study including technology selection with economic and financial analysis, funded by the Japanese government. The JINED arrangements will involve financing and insurance of 75% to 85% of the total plant cost.
The first nuclear power plant in Ninh Thuan is to be built by Russia's Atomstroyexport using two VVER-1000 or -1200 reactors. It is to be constructed from 2014 as a turnkey project and come into operation from 2020. Rosatom has confirmed that Russia's Ministry of Finance is prepared to finance at least 85% of this first plant, and 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.
WNN 28/9/11. Vietnam
South Korea offers to build Vietnam's third nuclear plant
The Vietnam and South Korean presidents have approved a jointly-prepared plan on nuclear power plant construction, and agreed to "use the plan as a basis for future cooperation projects to be undertaken in accordance with agreement between the two countries." "The two sides took a special note of South Korea's proposals on developing a nuclear power plant in Vietnam based on South Korean technologies," according to a joint statement.
Yonhap 8/11/11. Vietnam
India's 20th power reactor comes on line
Unit 4 of Kaiga nuclear power station has been grid connected, adding 202 MWe net to the supply in Karnataka and other southern states. It brings the Indian total to 20 operating reactors, 4385 MWe net. This is the last of India's small indigenous reactors, future ones of the same general design will be 700 MWe gross. Both it and its twin which started up last year are well behind schedule due to shortage of uranium - no Kaiga units are under UN safeguards, so they cannot use imported uranium.
WNN 19/1/11. India
Imported uranium eases Indian generation constraint
The availability of imported uranium has helped India boost the operating performance of its nuclear fleet to a six year high of almost 80%. Over April to October, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) reported a total nuclear capacity factor of 78%. In contrast, India’s total nuclear capacity factor in the 2010-11 fiscal year was 71%, and in 2009-10 it was 61%. In previous years before India was able to obtain imported uranium, its nuclear capacity factor was only around 50%. Uranium has been supplied by AREVA, Russia, and Kazakhstan.
Ux Weekly 28/11/11. India
India starts construction of new reactor
First concrete has been poured for unit 7 at Rajasthan nuclear power plant at Rawatbhata. This will be an indigenous 700 MWe unit, the third of four authorised in 2009.
India opens new reprocessing plant
The Indian prime minister has opened the country's fourth reprocessing plant for used fuel, reminding listeners that "The recycling and optimal utilization of uranium is essential to meet our current and future energy security needs." The new 100 t/yr plant is at Tarapur in Maharashtra state, and like the others there and at Kalpakkam and Trombay, will be run by Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). Total Indian capacity is understood to be about 330 t/yr now, all related to the indigenous PHWR program and not under international safeguards. Two further plants are envisaged to reprocess the fuel from imported light water reactors, and these will be under safeguards.
Nuclear regulation bill in Indian parliament
A bill to set up new stronger and more independent national nuclear regulatory authorities to oversee radiation and nuclear safety has been introduced to India's lower house, the Lok Sabha. The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill was drawn up in response to events at Fukushima and aims to establish several new regulatory bodies. A new senior Council of Nuclear Safety (CNS) chaired by the prime minister will oversee and review policies on radiation safety, nuclear safety and other connected matters. It will include various government ministers, with the cabinet secretary and head of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission, plus government-nominated "eminent experts". The second major body to be established is the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority (NSRA) and will be responsible for ensuring radiation safety and nuclear safety in all civilian sector activities. The NSRA will take over the functions of the existing Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which is currently responsible for the regulation and licensing of all India's nuclear facilities.
WNN 9/9/11. India
India to establish new nuclear regulator
The Indian government has announced that it will legislate to set up a new independent and autonomous Nuclear Regulatory Authority of India that will subsume the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), which currently comes under the Atomic Energy Commission and has been criticized for lack of independence. It is responsible for the regulation and licensing of all nuclear facilities and their safety, and carries authority conferred by the Atomic Energy Act for radiation safety and by the Factories Act for industrial safety in nuclear plants. However, it is not an independent statutory authority, and its major 1995 report on a safety assessment of DAE's plants and facilities was reportedly shelved by the AEC. The government has now said that that previous safety assessments of Indian plants would be made public. While NPCIL is an active participant in the programs of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), the government has affirmed its desire for IAEA's operational safety review team (OSART) to help with future nuclear industry safety reviews and audits.
India caps nuclear liability for plant vendors
Last year India passed a Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act - the aim of which is to provide for prompt payment to victims of any nuclear accident that takes place within the country. The act broadly conforms to the usual principles of nuclear civil liability, although it departed from international norms which vest exclusive liability with nuclear plant operators by allowing operator recourse to plant vendors in certain circumstances. The government has now published Rules which cap that liability to the actual compensation amount paid by the operator "or the value of the contract itself, whichever is the less." They also limit it to the duration of the initial plant licence "or the product liability period, whichever is longer." Russian and western reactor vendors that are in line to supply nuclear plants to India - Atomstroyexport, GE-Hitachi, Westinghouse and Areva - have been seeking changes to the 2010 law regarding vendor liability. Westinghouse says it will await India's ratification of the international (IAEA) Convention on Supplementary Compensation (CSC) before offering to supply equipment.
Meanwhile Australia's prime minister has notified an intention to change Labor party policy to allow uranium sales to India, in line with international arrangements negotiated in 2008 relevant to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
WNN 18/11/11. India
India's Nalco to invest in nuclear plant
The 87% state-owned National Aluminium Company (Nalco) has announced that it will take 49% equity in Kakrapar 3 & 4 (1300 MWe net) under construction in Gujarat for Rs 1700 crore ($384 million). The Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) retains a majority stake. Nalco is also seeking to buy uranium assets in Africa and elsewhere.
The Hindu 8/7/11. India
India extends life of fast reactor
The Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) has extended the operating life of the 40 MWt fast breeder test reactor (FBTR) for another 20 years. It has been operating at Kalpakkam since 1985 and has provided the basis for India embarking upon construction of commercial-scale fast reactors. In about 2013 it will be converted to metal fuel, and its major task in future will be to prove this for the next generation of Indian fast neutron reactors.
India shuts down contentious reactor
On 31 December India finally closed down its 40 MWt CIRUS research reactor, which had operated at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre near Mumbai for 50 years and was the basis of India's nuclear program. The Canada-India-US-Research reactor was built under the Colombo Plan and was the same design as Canada's veteran NRX. Apart from military uses in the 1960s to make weapons-grade plutonium for India's weapons program, it undertook significant research functions. Closure was a condition in the deal in 2008 to bring India into the world civil nuclear trade, and to put most of its reactors under international safeguards.
Pakistan connects third nuclear power reactor
In mid March Pakistan's 300 MWe Chashma 2 reactor was connected to the grid. This is a small Chinese unit based on Qinshan 1, and a twin of Chashma 1 which started up in 2005. It is covered by a 2006 site-specific safeguards agreement with IAEA. Plans include at least two more of the same reactors at Chashma, largely financed by China.
Construction start on new Pakistan reactor
At the end of May construction officially started on unit 3 of the Chashma nuclear power plant in Pakistan, a 340 MWe Chinese PWR. Its twin is expected to be about a year behind it. The government approved the project in 2009 at a cost of $2.37 billion, with $1.75 billion of this involving "a foreign exchange component". In 2010 Pakistan announced that it had agreed for China to provide 82% of US$ 1.912 billion financing as three 20-year low-interest loans. CNNC's China Zhongyuan Engineering is the general contractor and China Nuclear Industry No.5 Construction Company is installer, as with the similar units 1 & 2 at Chashma. These have operated since 2000 and early 2011 respectively.
WNN 15/6/11. Pakistan
Bangladesh nuclear plant contracted
Since 1999 the Bangladesh government has had plans to build a nuclear power plant at Rooppur, about 200 km north of Dhaka, on a site acquired for the purpose much earlier, in 1963. Following several previous agreements, a contract has now been signed for Russia's Atomstroyexport to build two 1000 MWe reactors for the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission. Construction of the first is expected to start by 2013 for operation about 2018. The turnkey contract includes fuel supply and return of used fuel to Russia. A further agreement will be for Russian finance.
WNN 2/11/11. Emerging countries
Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant connected to grid
After starting up in May, Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant has been connected to the grid at low power and is expected to ramp up to full power by the end of the year. Begun by Siemens KWU in 1975 and then halted, it was completed as a Russian VVER-1000 unit by Atomstroyexport, using a few of the original components and much of the onsite infrastructure. All the fuel is being supplied by Russia, and used fuel will be retuned there.
WNN 5/9/11. Iran
Iran's first power reactor starts up
Iran's Bushehr nuclear power reactor has started up, after repeated delays. It was built by Atomstroyexport, which is providing all the fuel from Russia. It will be operated by a 50-50 Russian-Iranian joint venture for up to three years before Atomstroyexport gradually withdraws. The anticipated 7 TWh/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. Unlike the controversial parts of Iran's nuclear program such as uranium enrichment and a heavy-water reactor, the Bushehr plant has been entirely built and will operate under full International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. It will produce 915 MWe net for the Iranian grid, providing about 3% of the country's power supply.
WNN 10/5/11. Iran
Iran delays Bushehr commissioning
Iran's new 950 MWe Bushehr nuclear power reactor being built by Atomstroyexport was due to start up in February to "reach first power" in April, and fuel had been loaded by the start of December. However, it has been found that a pump failure has possibly shed metal particles into the primary cooling system, which could damage the fuel elements. The fuel therefore is being unloaded, to be checked and cleaned, and any debris removed from the pressure vessel. The pump concerned was one supplied in the 1970s under the original contract with Siemens KWU, and was part of the old equipment required to be used under the terms of the 1994 Russian contract. A delay of two to three months is expected by Rosatom.
WNN 28/2/11. Iran
Ground breaking for new UAE nuclear power plant
A groundbreaking ceremony has been held for the United Arab Emirates' first nuclear power plant at Braka, up the coast towards Qatar. The ceremony was attended by the South Korean president and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Four AP-1400 pressurised water reactors, built by a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Co (Kepco), are planned for the site. Full construction is expected to begin in mid-2012. Unit 1 is scheduled to start up in 2017 and unit 2 in 2018.
Application made to build first Turkish reactors
The project company set up to build, own and operate the Akkuyu nuclear power plant on Turkey's eastern Mediterranean coast has applied for licences to construct and operate the plant. This will be Russia's first foreign plant on a build-own-operate basis and will comprise four 1200 MWe AES-2006 units as a US$ 20 billion project. At this stage Atomstroyexport and Inter RAO UES each has 33.33% of the Akkuyu Nukleer Santral Elektrik Uretim project company, Rosenergoatom has 31.34%, and two other Russian entities hold 1% each. The Turkish firm Park Teknik and state generation company Elektrik Uretim AS (EUAS) are expected to take up significant shares, with Russian equity diminishing to 51%. The Turkish Electricity Trade & Contract Corporation (TETAS) will buy about half of the power at a fixed price of US$ 12.35 cents/kWh for 15 years, or to 2030, the remainder being sold 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.
Energy in E Europe 16/12/11 Turkey
Saudi Arabia firms up plans
Saudi Arabia plans to construct 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 years at a cost of more than 300 billion riyals ($80 billion), according to the coordinator of scientific collaboration at King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, which was set up in Riyadh last year to advance plans for both electricity and desalination from nuclear power. The first two are planned to be on line in ten years and then two more per year to 2030. These would generate about 20% of Saudi Arabia's electricity. Peak demand is expected to be 60 GWe by 2020. The project will be open for international bidding.
WNN 2/6/11. Emerging countries
Jordan receives final reactor proposals
The three reactor suppliers shortlisted last year have submitted technical and financial proposals to the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC). Russia's Atomstroyexport, the Areva-Mitsubishi consortium, and Canada's SNC-Lavalin (nee AECL) are bidding to build a single plant of about 1000 MWe at Majdal, 40 km north of Amman, with cooling from a wastewater treatment plant. Worley Parsons is retained to assist selecting actual reactor design and also "on the financing and organization support that the vendor will be providing for future operation of the plant." JAEC expects to sign an engineering and construction contract early in 2012. The IAEA has conducted an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission to assess Jordan's plans.
WNN 16/8/11. Emerging countries
Husab project in Namibia targeted for Chinese takeover
Extract Resources' Husab project in Namibia is the target of a takeover offer for its major shareholder - Kalahari Minerals. China Guangdong Nuclear Power Corporation - Uranium Resources Company (CGNPC-URC) is bidding for Kalahari, and since that company holds 42.74% of Australian-based Extract, a successful bid (for more than 20% of Extract) will trigger a requirement for a the offer to be extended to Extract's shareholders. Meanwhile talks are under way with Rio Tinto which operates the next-door Rossing mine "with a view to capturing the significant potential synergies that could be generated from a joint development of the two projects". Rio holds 14.2% of Extract and 11.5% of Kalahari (19% overall in Husab).
WNN 10/10/11. Namibia
Rio Tinto renews efforts to buy into Husab
Extract Resources has confirmed that it is holding discussions with Rio Tinto about combining its world-class Husab Uranium Project in Namibia with Rio's adjacent Rössing Uranium mine, "with a view to capturing the significant potential synergies that could be generated from a joint development of the two projects". Rio Tinto has 19.8% equity in the project already, and was earlier rebuffed by Extract when proposing joint development. Husab now has resources of 141,000 tU - six times Rössing's, at twice the grade. Rössing has operated since 1976 and anticipated mine life is to 2016.
WNN 21/2/11. Namibia
Namibia's Husab project viability supported
Extract Resources Ltd based in Perth has completed a definitive feasibility study demonstrating the technical and economic viability of its Husab project, potentially one of the world's largest uranium mines. Last year its indicated resource for Zones 1 & 2 of the Rossing South orebody had increased to 99,000 tU and total resources are 141,000 tU averaging about 0.05%U proven so far over 1.7 km of the overall deposit, still open along strike and dip. It is evidently the highest grade granite-hosted uranium deposit in Namibia, and it is an extension of the Rossing stratigraphy. The company envisages producing 5770 tU per year from 2014 after a total investment of around $1.66 billion.
WNN 6/4/11. Namibia
Namibia asserts control over uranium
The Namibian government has announced that it will introduce legislation later in the year to give its state-owned mineral exploration company, Epangelo Mining Ltd, assured participation in new strategic minerals developments, including uranium, copper, zinc, gold and coal. However, the president's office is reported to have said that this does not apply retrospectively or amount to nationalisation of existing mines or leases. Paladin and Kalahari have both expressed confidence that their assets are not at risk of expropriation. A task force was formed in May last year by Epangelo and Russia's ARMZ, which briefly seemed to threaten developments, but the government gave strong reassurance then.
Nucleonics Week 5/5/11. Namibia
Australian uranium production lowest since 1998
For a variety of reasons all three Australian uranium producers had a disappointing year in 2010. ERA's Ranger mine produced 3793 t U3O8 (3216 tU), BHP-Billiton's Olympic Dam produced 2747.3 t U3O8 (2329.6 tU), and Heathgate's Beverley dropped to 417.5 t (354 tU), giving a national total of only 6957.8 t U3O8 (5899.9 tU), the lowest since 1998. Uranium One's Honeymoon mine is expected to begin operation this year.
WNN 25/1/11. Australia U
Australian governments approve Olympic Dam expansion
The proposed expansion of BHP Billiton’s Olympic Dam mine in South Australia has received environmental approval from the federal and state governments, with many conditions attached. The South Australian government has also signed the new 70-year Indenture Agreement, which is expected to be passed by parliament next week. BHP-B is expected to make a final decision on the $30 billion project in mid 2012, and is now committed to spending $1.2 billion meanwhile. Copper production would increase from about 180,000 to 750,000 tonnes per year, and uranium from about 3500 to 16,000 tU/yr. The new open pit will eventually be 4.1 x 3.5 km, and 1000 m deep, and the waste rock storage about 67 square km to a height of 150 m. Tailings storage would extend the existing facility to about 40 sq km and 65 m high to take 58 Mt/yr. The present underground mining will continue in the narrow northern part of the orebody.
Uranium is a by-product at the mine, and is recovered from leaching the copper tailings and then the copper concentrate in a secondary process. A small amount of uranium then remains in the copper concentrate, which has hitherto been smelted and electro-refined at site. The new approvals include a major port facility at Darwin for export of some of the copper concentrates - two thirds was envisaged. This will diminish the investment cost of the expansion, since smelting and refining for most of the copper increment will not be required, and 1.6 million tonnes will be exported to be smelted in China or Japan. This lower-grade portion will have about 1700 t of uranium in it (10.5% of total U) to be recovered overseas in a dedicated smelter which is operated under International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards. This marks a significant departure from present practice.
WNN 10/10/11. Australia, Australian U mines
Wet season cuts Ranger uranium production
A wetter than average rainy season has prompted Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) to extend a temporary suspension of processing operations at the Ranger uranium mine through to the end of July. Processing operations were suspended in late January as a precaution to ensure that levels in the tailings storage facility remained below authorised limits throughout the wet season. The company is buying uranium on the spot market to meet contracts.
First uranium production from Honeymoon
Uranium One has reported Q3 production from its Honeymoon in situ leaching (ISL) mine in South Australia of 20 tonnes U3O8 (17 tU) to the end of September. The long-awaited mine is still in commissioning, which will be complete "when a pre-defined operating level, based on the design of the plant, is maintained." In 2012 production is expected to be 275 tonnes U3O8, at $47/lb - apparently three times the average cost of production in Kazakhstan. The owners received government approval to proceed with ISL mine development in 2001 but reassessed its ore reserves and finally moved to development in 2007. In 2008 Mitsui agreed to join the project as 49% joint venture partner, and a construction contract was then let. Mitsui's A$ 104 million is largely funding the commissioning.
WNN 8/11/11. Australia
Argentina marks construction completion of new reactor
Argentina's president has launched the final test phase of completing the 745 MWe Atucha 2 nuclear reactor. Construction originally began on it in June 1981, before a lack of funds eventually caused the project to stall in 1994 with the plant 81% complete. It was revived after a 2006 government decision to complete the plant as part of a $3.5 billion strategic plan for the country's nuclear power sector. The Siemens design of the Atucha pressurised heavy-water reactor units is unique to Argentina, and Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA sought help from Germany, Spain and Brazil to complete unit 2. Atucha 2 is expected to start up early in 2012 and enter commercial operation later in the year, providing 692 MWe net.
WNN 29/9/11. Argentina
Argentina contracts nuclear plant refurbishment
Candu Energy Inc - a subsidiary of Canada's SNC-Lavalin - has signed a series of contracts for the refurbishment of the Embalse nuclear power reactor in Argentina, a Canadian unit which came on line in 1983. The project will extend the plant's life by up to 30 years and increase its 600 MWe capacity by about 35 MWe. Seven contracts worth $444 million were signed by the Argentine government, state-run utility Nucleoelectrica Argentina and Candu Energy (formerly the reactor division of AECL). The contracts call for the transfer of Canadian technology and assistance in developing the local manufacture of reactor components. The main work will commence in November 2013, and the reactor is due to be offline for about 20 months then, though the whole project will take five years. Total cost is put at $1.37 billion, with some $800 million of contracts to Argentinean companies. At about 30 years Candu reactors need major overhaul including replacement of calandria tubes.
WNN 25/8/11. Argentina
Chile seeks French support for nuclear program
A new agreement between the Chilean and French Atomic Energy Commissions (CCHEN and CEA) on "institutional cooperation in nuclear energy" has been signed, and a high-level group has been set up, co-chaired by senior executives of GdF Suez and Chile's Quinenco to promote French nuclear industry collaboration with CCHEN. Last year the Energy Commission of the Professional Association of Engineers of Chile, proposed building four 1100 MWe nuclear reactors for the grid. These could be sited in three sections of the coastline: Angofasta region, 1400 km north of Santiago, with a dense population as well as extensive mining activity; the Coquimbo region, 300 km north of Santiago, serving the north of the capital's metropolitan area; and El Liberatador, 200 km south of Santiago, to serve the city as well as insuring against possible reduction in hydroelectric generation there. With the first unit starting construction in 2015 and operational in 2020, all four could be operating by 2030, providing 26% of the country's 140 billion kWh of electricity demand then. This scheme is broadly in line with government projections and plans in anticipation of Argentina cutting its gas exports. The government intends to create the necessary infrastructure, including developing a regulatory framework, safety and waste management provisions, geological studies and building public consensus. A later application of nuclear power could be desalination.
WNN 1/3/11. Emerging countries
New 2011 WNA Market Report
WNA has published its biennial Global Nuclear Fuel Market: Supply and Demand 2011-2030 report. While it is still too early to assess the full impact of the Fukushima accident on the world nuclear fuel market, it appears to be minor apart from in Germany. Most countries have reaffirmed their commitment to nuclear power. One clear message is that more mines will be needed by about 2015.
New study suggests why low-dose radiation is evidently not harmful
A study involving time-lapse photography of irradiated cells repairing themselves may help explain why epidemiological evidence shows no harm from low doses of ionizing radiation. While high radiation doses are known to be harmful - the 28 deaths among clean-up workers at Chernobyl being the most salient example - low doses have not shown evidence of harm statistically, and in fact many people are exposed to natural levels far higher than allowed by today's radiation health regulations, without evident harm. However, decades ago, radiation protection standards were set on the assumption that low doses would have proportionately less effect than high ones, rather than zero effect (let alone being beneficial). Those regulations persist, though time has shown that the assumption (below at least 100 mSv) lacks credible scientific support, and any risk is too low to be detected.
The new study data from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in USA and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that at lower doses of ionizing radiation, DNA repair mechanisms work much better than at higher doses. The researchers used time-lapse images of cells as they responded to various radiation doses. They were able to see the repair proteins concentrate around parts of DNA that had suffered a double strand break in what are effectively DNA 'repair centres'. At high dose rates the multiple repairs taking place simultaneously appeared to lead to more errors in the repaired DNA, and hence potential cancers. Conversely, at low levels of radiation - up to the higher natural levels humans experienced throughout their evolution - it was unlikely that any cell would have to repair more than one double strand break at once, so repair was routine. The study was the first to use time-lapse imagery, which helped it record more repair centres as well as the clustering effect, which begins even before they are formed. The study has implications for nuclear medicine procedures as well as radiation exposure standards.
WNN 21/11/11 Radiation & Nuclear energy
WANO expands scope of activities
Members of the World Association of Nuclear Operators have unanimously approved a series of recommendations from its post-Fukushima Commission, endorsed by its Board. These include changes to WANO's core peer reviews, establishment of a worldwide integrated event response strategy, and extending the scope of reviews from operational safety to include plant design upgrades. They represent a shift from just accident prevention to prevention and mitigation. Peer reviews will now be every four years, with follow-up visits in between, and sanctions to apply for non-compliance. The extended role for WANO will require a near-tripling of staff for the organization’s four regional centres and the London coordinating centre, from 0.3 person per reactor unit to 0.8 person/unit, and a corresponding funding increase (though WANO fees are still only about 5% of what a typical utility pays for insurance).
A new centre in Shenzen, southern China, would be established as a world centre for pre-startup reviews. These have become an important activity in recent years, since serious accidents before Fukushima had tended to occur at fairly new plants where the transition from a “construction mentality” to an “operations mentality” was incomplete. WANO said that Fukushima “was not a failure of WANO” but that the accident had identified “gaps” in its activities, and that the new measures “will close these gaps.” WANO membership involves all of the world's nuclear power plant operators, as well as reactor vendors and other organisations involved with nuclear safety.
WANO 25/10/11, Platts 27/10/11. Safety
International cooperation on nuclear safety to be boosted
At the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) high-level conference on the Fukushima accident several proposals were put forward for enhanced international cooperation on nuclear plant safety. At present safety is a national responsibility, with operators strongly supported internationally by the activities and peer reviews of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). One proposal is for the universal government-level application of IAEA safety standards as internationally agreed benchmarks, with those relating to multiple severe hazards like earthquakes and tsunami being reviewed within one year. Attention should be focused also on standards relating to back-up power supplies, cooling water supplies, used fuel cooling and special protection for plants with more than one reactor. WANO has already asked the operators of every nuclear power plant in the world to take "specific actions to verify their ability to deal with a station blackout or a beyond-design-basis event like fire or flood." The responses on that are being analysed at WANO's London coordinating centre. "Procedure revision is needed for about one third of the units, and more than ten per cent need to improve equipment availability," according to WANO. It is also gearing up to ensure more attention on storage of used fuel at reactors.
WNN 21/6/11. Cooperation in the nuclear industry
IAEA conference adopts safety plan
The IAEA General Conference unanimously endorsed the Action Plan on Nuclear Safety that Ministers requested in June. The plan arises from intensive consultations with Member States but not with industry, and is described as both a rallying point and a blueprint for strengthening nuclear safety worldwide. It contains suggestions to make nuclear safety more robust and effective than before, without removing the responsibility from national bodies and governments. It aims to ensure "adequate responses based on scientific knowledge and full transparency". Apart from strengthened and more frequent IAEA peer reviews (including those of regulatory systems), most of the 12 recommended actions are to be undertaken by individual countries and are likely to be well in hand already.
Also the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) has launched a new secure web-based communications platform to unify and simplify information exchange during nuclear or radiological emergencies. The Unified System for Information Exchange on Incidents and Emergencies (USIE) has been under development since 2009 but was actually launched in June during the emergency response to the accident at Fukushima.
WNN 22/9/11. Safety
New code for nuclear reactor vendors
The world's reactor vendors have come together to set up a code of conduct to ensure best practice in the export of nuclear power plants, especially to countries that are embarking on their nuclear power programs. Nine companies, embracing all current exporters of nuclear reactors, have signed up to the Nuclear Power Plant Exporters' Principles of Conduct expressing the expected standards for corporate self-management in that business. The six principles, which incorporate recommended best practices in safety, security, environmental protection and spent fuel management, non-proliferation, business ethics and internationally recognized systems for compensation, are the culmination of a three-year-long drafting process. This has been completed under the leadership of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. While conforming with the guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the principles have been drawn up as a fully private enterprise initiative, without governmental or IAEA oversight.
WNN 16/9/11. Cooperation
OECD report on carbon pricing highlights nuclear role
A new report from the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) on Carbon Pricing, Power Markets and the Competitiveness of Nuclear Power says that nuclear and gas will compete to provide future base-load power generation in Europe, as standard coal-fired power plants will no longer be profitable. In arriving at this conclusion the NEA analysed daily data from European power and carbon markets between 2005 and 2010 to find the most profitable base-load power generation technology within liberalized markets. During this period, existing nuclear power plants in Europe proved to be highly profitable, and are likely to be even more so after 2012, when coal and gas electricity generators will no longer be allocated free carbon emission permits under the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS).
New nuclear plants will also be competitive, although under some scenarios new nuclear might be less attractive to an investor than gas – but coal continues to be uncompetitive in all likely scenarios. In particular, new nuclear plants will be competitive with natural gas for base-load power generation where their capital costs decrease with the number of plants being built; or prices for coal, gas, and electricity increase; or carbon capture and storage (CCS) deployment falters. Though the report refers to nuclear's large upfront costs as "an inconvenience rather than a decisive competitive handicap," it acknowledges that it is an investment disincentive.
Three countries report on Fukushima implications
Safety authorities of three European countries have said that there is no reason to shut down nuclear plants as a response to the Fukushima accident, despite widely different political views on the technology.
The UK nuclear industry and regulatory regime appears in good shape, according to the country's Office for Nuclear Regulation. Analysis of Fukushima "has not revealed any gaps in the scope or depth of the Safety Assessment Principles" on which UK regulation is based, or any weaknesses in the licensing regime. However, one recommendation was for the regulator to undertake a formal review of these Principles, "to determine whether any additional guidance is needed, particularly for 'cliff-edge' effects" after which it may be impossible to prevent an accident situation worsening.
The UK regulator expects industry to take the "prime responsibility" for learning lessons as well as "ultimate responsibility for the safety of its designs and operations." The regulator's role is to "ensure safety provisions are robust and that they minimise any residual risks." As well as re-confirming the design basis for flooding and extreme weather events, industry should review its dependency on off-site infrastructure and enhance self-sufficiency in accident scenarios. The layouts of new and proposed plants may need revision. Operators will also have to ensure they can cope in the face of severe and long-lasting disruption off-site.
In Scandinavia, the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Agency (Stuk) found "no new threat factors or deficiencies that would require immediate safety improvements" at that country's two nuclear power plants. Nevertheless, Finnish firms will have to satisfy the regulator that they have taken proper consideration of potential serious flooding, the need for sustained emergency power provision, and improved self-sufficiency.
Germany has now received a report by chairman of the regulator, covering similar ground to the UK and Finnish reports - but with the notable inclusion of aircraft impact as another category of extraordinary event for which nuclear power plants should be prepared. A statement from the Environment Ministry stressed that there is no indication that nuclear power should be shut down immediately, though it supported "leaving nuclear energy as quickly as possible and replacing it with renewables and energy efficiency." About 14% of the price German citizens pay for power goes to subsidise renewables, while energy-intensive industry largely avoids this tax. Separately an ethics commission is to report on the nuclear issue, and the moral rights and wrongs of operating nuclear plants in Germany as well as importing nuclear power from its neighbours.
Economist comment on nuclear prospects
The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) sees a decade of growth for nuclear power with only a marginal impact from the Fukushima accident, according to a new report The Future of Nuclear Energy. Some of the accident's policy effects have been large and far-reaching - such as the radical abandonment of nuclear power in Germany and Italy - but other nations will pursue nuclear technology essentially as before. While Germany's early closure of eight reactors, with the rest likely to follow before 2022, makes a dent in capacity, this is offset by equivalent new build in France and the USA. Furthermore, far larger new build programs are coming from Russia, India and China, which on its own will add almost five times the capacity that Germany plans to shut by 2020. The reasons for this are that "Nuclear energy is a response to long-term trends, and hence not easily abandoned or replaced. The need for new sources of electricity to power economic growth persists, and the promise of nuclear in bolstering energy security and reducing carbon emissions makes it an appealing option."
Westinghouse offers emergency fuel pond cooling system
Westinghouse has announced a system "to keep spent fuel cool in emergency situations, including the loss of all plant power." It includes a permanent primary cooling loop inside the reactor building or spent fuel building, and a mobile secondary cooling loop. The secondary loop would be "stored offsite and then located outside the reactor building for either emergency or pre-planned use." The system "includes mobile diesel generators, air compressors, switchgear and other support equipment required to operate this stand-alone system."
Westinghouse 25/5/11, WNN 26/5/11.
2010 a year of accelerated construction starts
During 2010 five reactors were grid connected, and none were permanently shut down except France's Phenix (which WNA reported thus in 2009 when it finished generating power). The newly-operating reactors are Rostov 2 (950 MWe) in Russia, Rajasthan 6 (202 MWe) in India, Lingao II-1 (1000 MWe) and Qinshan II-3 (610 MWe) in China, and Shin Kori -1 (960 MWe) in South Korea, giving total 3722 MWe net and 442 reactors. There were a number of power uprates, which helped take the total operating capacity up to 377,222 MWe, a net 4622 MWe increase on 372,600 MWe a year ago. Also there were 15 construction starts, boosting the construction total to 63 reactors (64,576 MWe), compared with 53 (51,114 MWe) a year earlier.
World wind power capacity up 22% in 2010
Global wind power capacity increased by 36 GWe (22%) in 2010, to 194 GWe, representing EUR 47 billion investment. Nearly half the additional capacity was in China, which now has 42 GWe installed, according to the Global Wind Energy Council. In the USA and Europe, 2010 additions were down from 2009, prompting a call for more EU financing.
New solar boost project for conventional power station
The Australian government has committed about $35 million to the Kogan Creek Solar Boost Project, which will be the largest solar integration with a coal-fired power station in the world when it is operational in 2013. A 30-hectare field of Areva Solar’s compact linear fresnel reflectors at the existing 750 MWe coal-fired Kogan Creek power station will produce steam to be fed to it, helping to drive the intermediate pressure turbine. The solar boost at 44 MW (peak) will add 44 million kWh annually, about 0.75% of output, for $105 million - equivalent to $19,000/kW of base-load capacity.
CS Energy 13/4/11.
New approach to using electricity from renewables
One approach to mitigate intermittency is to make hydrogen by electrolysis and feed this into the gas grid. E.On is building a pilot plant to produce up to 360 m3/hr of hydrogen at Falkenhagen, Germany, to feed into the Ontras gas grid, which can function with 5% hydrogen. It has been suggested that all electricity from wind might be used thus, greatly simplifying electrical grid management.
E.On 11/11/11. Renewable energy & electricity
Measures to assure supply of medical radioisotopes
Following major supply disruptions in 2009, a 2-year study under OECD Nuclear Energy Agency auspices has made several recommendations to avoid a recurrence of molybdenum-99 shortages. The NEA has formally endorsed a policy approach to restructure aspects of the market for the isotope that are currently functioning unsustainably, and to promote international consistency. Mo-99 produces (by decay) technetium-99, and this is used in over 80% of nuclear medicine procedures. The Mo-99 half-life is less than 3 days, so it cannot be stockpiled. The NEA notes that considerable progress has been made in countering supply shortages, but it warns that the underlying problem of an unsustainable economic structure remains, and unless this is addressed, supply shortages were likely over the next decade.
The suggested policy approach is based on market principles. First, all supply chain participants should implement full cost-recovery, ensuring continued investment in the industry. Secondly, reserve capacity to cope with unexpected supply shortages should be built and paid for by those in the supply chain. Hitherto, the research reactors producing the isotope have been largely funded by governments, effectively subsidising the Mo-99 supply chain. The third principle calls for governments to establish regulatory environments under which the market can operate efficiently without interventions. In the fourth principle, relevant to nuclear non-proliferation concerns, the NEA calls on governments to support the conversion of research reactors to use low-enriched uranium targets for Mo-99 production.
WNN 4/5/11. Research reactors, Radioisotopes in medicine
World reactor changes during 2011(all MWe net unless indicated)
China: Lingao II-2 grid connected May, 1037 MWe
Qinshan II-4 grid connected November 610 MWe
CEFR grid connected 20 MWe (not counted in WNA reactor table)
India: Kaiga 4 grid connected 202 MWe
Iran: Bushehr grid-connected 915 MWe
Pakistan: Chashma 2 grid connected 300 MWe
Russia: Kalinin 4 grid-connected 950 MWeTotal
(apart from CEFR) 6 units, 4014 MWe
Czech: Dukovany 1 & 4 uprated c 38 MWe each
Mexico: Laguna Verde uprated 2 x 138 MWe
Sweden: Olkiluoto 1 & 2, uprated 20 MWe each
USA: Surry 2 uprated 50-56 MWe
USA: Point Beach 1 & 2, uprated 2 x 87 MWeTotal:
619-622 MWe net
Germany: Biblis A & B, Neckarwestheim 1, Brunsbuttel, Isar 1, Unterweser, Phillipsburg 1, Krummel (8) closed by political edict, 8336 MWe net
Japan: Fukushima Daiichi 1-4 written off from accident, 2719 MWe net
UK: Oldbury 2 closed on schedule 30 June, 217 MWe netTotal
13 units, 11,272 MWe net
Canada: Pt Lepreau 635 MWe was moved from operational to under construction in WNA's reactor table, joining Bruce A 1 & 2 there due to major refurbishing.
Construction starts on China's Shidaowan HTR-PM, 210 MWe gross, India's Rajasthan 7, 700 MWe gross, and Pakistan's Chashma 3, 340 MWe gross.