Formal construction start on two new US nuclear plants
The concrete basemat for South Carolina’s Electric & Gas’ (SCE&G) Summer-2 reactor has been poured in a 51-hour operation. Three days later that for Vogtle-3 was undertaken in 41 hours. The pours had been delayed for months because of discrepancies between construction plans and the original design documents. The NRC approved license amendments earlier this month that allowed the concrete pour of the 1.8m thick foundations to proceed. These are the first such construction starts in the USA in three decades. SCE&G is building two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the Summer site, each 1117 MWe net. Southern Nuclear is building another two AP1000 units at its Vogtle site. Reactor pressure vessels and steam generators for all units will come from Doosan in South Korea. The four units are expected to enter commercial operation in 2017 and 2018 in each case.
There are also four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors under construction in China, at Sanmen and Haiyang, the first two of which are expected on line next year.
WNN 12 & 15/3/13. US Nuclear Power
Major US reactor uprates
Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point-4 reactor has returned to service after a substantial uprate in its capacity – about 15%, or up to 125 MWe on top of its previous 693 MWe net. Its twin, unit 3, completed a similar uprate last year to 802 MWe net. The company has now completed a five-year, $2.5 billion investment to upgrade its Turkey Point and St. Lucie nuclear power plants, adding more than 500 MWe of clean energy capacity. The project - the largest US nuclear uprate project in recent history – is expected to deliver nearly 30% more capacity for the company than the 399 MWe originally projected. The four PWR reactors came into operation over 1972-83, and all have had licences extended to 60 years.
WNN 19/4/13 (anticipated). US nuclear power
US utility gives up on nuclear plant
In February 2013 Duke Energy's 860 MWe Crystal River PWR in Florida was decommissioned due to damage to the containment structure sustained when new steam generators were fitted in 2009-10, a self-managed project under Progress Energy. Its 40-year operating licence was due to expire in 2016. Some $835 million in insurance is to be paid.
WNN 5/2/13. US Nuclear power
US president avoids mention of nuclear power in major address
US President Barack Obama clearly acknowledged the threat of climate change and the pressing need to do something about it in his annual state of the union address. He highlighted the potential for solar, wind and even natural gas - but not nuclear. However, the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) has welcomed the first benefits flowing to the industry from the creation last February of a senior administration role to expedite nuclear exports: Director of Nuclear Energy Policy at the National Security Council. The industry had pressed the federal government to improve the coordination among multiple agencies which have a role in permits for such exports, and approvals still take much longer in the USA than in other countries, according to NEI. The NEI also urged the government to complete nuclear cooperation agreements with countries such as Saudi Arabia.
WNN 13/2/13. USA Nuclear power
Laser enrichment proposal for historic site
As uranium enrichment using the old energy-intensive diffusion process winds down at Paducah in Kentucky, GE-led Global Laser Enrichment has tentatively proposed establishing a laser enrichment plant there. This would take advantage of the general infrastructure and workforce, as the old plant is decommissioned. Paducah is the last such plant operating anywhere, and started up in 1952 for military use. The US Department of Energy is soliciting ideas for using the site. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a licence for GLE to build a 6 million SWU/yr plant at Wilmington, North Carolina, using technology licensed from Silex Systems in Australia.
WNN 26/2/13. US Fuel cycle
New US energy secretary nominated
MIT's Ernest Moniz has been announced as the new Energy Secretary to replace Nobel laureate Stephen Chu. Moniz has been closely involved with the Department of Energy since the 1990s, and has spoken and written significantly on nuclear power. A major article in 2011 affirmed the benefits of nuclear power in terms of reliable, low-carbon generation, and listed some of the problems that should be overcome in the USA to allow nuclear to fulfil its potential. He said that in America, "the government and industry need to advance new designs that lower the financial risk of constructing nuclear power plants." Also stronger action was needed to fix the "dysfunctional" waste management system, exacerbated by President Obama's political decision to abandon the Yucca Mountain repository project. He contributed to the high-level inquiry on wastes, and has also called for government support for small modular reactors. He said that "The government's role should be to help provide the private sector with a well-understood set of options, including nuclear power - not to prescribe a desired market share for any specific technology." The US Nuclear Energy Institute welcomed the nomination.
WNN 5/3/13. US nuclear policy
Ted Rockwell dies
Over Easter, nuclear energy pioneer and tireless advocate Theodore Rockwell died. He started his professional career on the Manhattan project about 1944, and became Admiral Rickover’s technical director on the USS Nautilus project and the building of the first US nuclear power reactor at Shippingport. He played an active part in many aspects of the emerging nuclear power industry through an illustrious career, and never really retired, dying just short of his 91st birthday.
Quebec's Gentilly nuclear plant shuts down
At the end of December Hydro-Quebec shut down the 638 MWe (net) Gentilly-2 nuclear power reactor rather than embark upon an expensive refurbishment of it. The unit is a Candu-6 type and had been running since 1982. It is being defueled and the heavy water will be treated over 18 months to mid 2014. The main part of the reactor will then be closed up in safe storage configuration and left for 40 years to allow radioactivity to decay before demolition. The total cost of decommissioning over 50 years is put at C$ 1.8 billion.
WNN 2/1/13. Canada NP
EU countries assert importance of nuclear power
A forthright statement by the governments of Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain and the UK has called for 'neutrality of technology' in meeting future European Union (EU) decarbonisation targets. The one-page joint statement from the twelve countries affirms their belief that nuclear power can and should “play a part in the EU's future low carbon energy mix". It also noted the security of supply and economic benefits that the technology brings and called for an investment environment to be created within Europe that specifically takes into account "the long term nature of nuclear infrastructure projects." The Czech Republic will coordinate of this group, which asserts a much stronger line in support of nuclear power than anything from the European Commission.
WNN 13/3/13. Cooperation
EU Emissions Trading Scheme in doldrums
After the European parliament narrowly defeated a proposal to remove 900 million CO2 emission allowances from the market, the price of ETS allowances subsided to less than EUR 3/tonne. This means there is virtually no economic incentive to move to low-carbon sources of energy, and that was even the case last year with an average ETS price of EUR 7.10/t. In 2008 the price was near EUR 30/tonne. Coal consumption in the EU is reported to be rising. EU targets for 2020 are to have renewables as 20% of the energy mix and to cut carbon emissions by 20%.
WNN 17/4/13. Climate change policies
Planning permission for new UK nuclear plant
Planning consent to build a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset has been granted. This is the last major consent EdF Energy needs to build Britain's first new nuclear power plant in 25 years, it having already secured Generic Design Approval for the Areva EPR reactor design, three permits from the Environment Agency, and a nuclear site licence. It concludes a year-long consideration by the new Planning Inspectorate - the first major infrastructure project it has approved since being set up in 2008. The Secretary of State’s decision follows a three-year consultation by EdF Energy with local communities, involving 100 public meetings and 33,000 comments, in addition to a six-month examination by the Independent Planning Inspectorate. Pre-development expenditure at the site already totals more than £1 billion. Hinkley Point C will be the first new nuclear station to have a Funded Decommissioning Program, requiring the operator of a new nuclear plant to meet the full costs of decommissioning and its share of waste disposal.
Two Areva EPR units at Hinkley Point C would represent the biggest infrastructure project in the UK since the 1950s. At 1630 MWe each they would jointly meet 7% of UK current electricity demand and have a design life of 60 years. The Secretary of State said this contribution would be of "crucial national importance" to the UK's energy and climate change policy goals. However, intensive discussions between EdF Energy and the government are ongoing to set a long-term electricity price, and EdF will not proceed with the project unless this question is resolved favourably to justify investment. Newspapers have reported that EdF Energy is seeking a price of £96-97/MWh over 35-40 years from 2018. Horizon Nuclear Power, now owned by Hitachi, is in similar discussions regarding its plans to build two or three 1380 MWe ABWR units each at Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Wylfa in Wales.
WNN 19/3/13. UK
UK commences design assessment for new reactor
The UK energy minister has asked nuclear regulators to start Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for Hitachi-GE's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). The design has been proposed for new units for Horizon Nuclear Power at Wylfa in Anglesey and Oldbury in Gloucestershire. It has already been built in Japan with the first units coming into service in 1996-97, the next in 2005-06. Others are under construction. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) gave final certification for the design in May 1997, noting that it exceeded NRC "safety goals by several orders of magnitude". The ABWR also meets European utility requirements for advanced reactors. Both GE Hitachi and Toshiba in 2010 submitted separate applications to renew the US design certification for their respective versions of ABWR.
WNN 15/1/13. UK
Chinese interest in UK new nuclear plants
French-based EdF Energy, which runs most UK nuclear power plants, is proposing to build four large reactors at Sizewell in Suffolk and Hinkley Point. Its partner is Centrica, with a 20% stake but diminishing enthusiasm. EdF has now acknowledged it has proposed offering a stake in its Hinkley Point EPR project to China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holdings (CGNPC), apparently either buying out Centrica or as separate equity. The two companies are partners in the Taishan nuclear plant being built in China, using the same EPR technology.
UK progress towards waste repository stalls
After a 7-3 vote by Cumbria County Council to halt investigations into locating the UK's high-level waste repository there, the UK has no live options for it. Two Local Boroughs in Cumbria are strongly in favour of locating the repository there, but agreement at both regional and local government level is necessary. Four years progress has been stalled. The site selection process is based on a principle of voluntarism under which communities explore their options with the right to withdraw at any time. The same policy has been applied with success in Finland and Sweden to find suitable and welcoming places for radioactive waste disposal. The vast majority of UK high-level wastes are already in Cumbria, in interim storage. Despite the vote, the County Council hoped that "The nuclear industry is, and will continue to be, a key part of the Cumbrian economy."
WNN 30/1/13. UK
German nuclear fuel tax ruled unconstitutional
The Hamburg Tax Court has ruled that the German tax on nuclear fuel is simply "to siphon off the profits of the nuclear plant operators" and therefore unconstitutional. It has referred the question to the Constitutional Court. Since January 2011, each gram of fissile nuclear fuel loaded into a reactor has carried a levy of €145, which means that nuclear power plants have so far paid around €1.5 billion through the tax as well as bearing much greater costs with reduced revenue from the government's policy U-turn in March 2011.
WNN 30/1/13. Germany
Further delay expected in Finnish reactor construction
Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) said that it is "preparing for the possibility" that the third unit at Olkiluoto may not start operating until 2016. Last year it said that the reactor completion had been delayed beyond 2014. Construction of Olkiluoto 3 - the first-of-a-kind Areva EPR reactor - started in May 2005, with completion originally scheduled for 2009. Areva and Siemens are building the plant under a fixed-price turnkey contract.
WNN 11/2/13. Finland
Spain's Garona shutdown confirmed final
As reported three weeks ago, Nuclenor shut down Spain's oldest nuclear power plant, the 466 MWe Garona, in order to avoid paying substantial new taxes from 1 January. The government did not relent on those taxes in its energy reform bill, and the reactor was defueled by the end of December to avoid retrospective aspects. As well as the 7% tax on electricity generation, amounting to some EUR 1 c/kWh for nuclear power, a tax of EUR 2190 per kilogram on used nuclear fuel discharged came in - about EUR 315 million per year across the industry. In addition, utilities must make provision in their accounts for partially used fuel still in the reactor - this is expected to amount to over EUR 500 million per year.
WNN 2/1/13. Spain
Bulgarian energy crisis hits government
High electricity prices arising from a long-running failure to maintain generating capacity has led to resignation of the government in Bulgaria. The main low-cost electricity supply (33% of total) is from the two remaining units of Kozloduy nuclear power plant - four others having been shut down as a condition of EU accession, demolishing Bulgaria's status as a major electricity exporter. Plans since 2006 to build new nuclear capacity by the end of this year have been thwarted by lack of capital, as potential investors have turned away. As a result, Russia's Rosatom is suing the Bulgarian government for EUR 1 billion on account of the aborted Belene project. Public opinion remains in favour of new nuclear plants.
The State Energy and Water Regulatory Commission (SEWRC) has oversight of Bulgaria's wholesale power market, including authority to set prices. It raised them by 13% in July 2012, putting many people in distress with winter heating bills. The government then threatened to nationalise the distribution firms, including Czech-controlled CEZ Bulgaria. CEZ said that such a move would be a "gross violation of laws of Bulgaria as a member state of the European Union." It claimed to have fulfilled all its obligations, and had received no notice from SEWRC to the contrary. A general election is due by July.
WNN 20/2/13. Bulgaria
Turkey homes in on Franco-Japanese bid for second nuclear plant
A $22 billion bid by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Areva to build the Sinop nuclear power plant on the Black Sea coast has been broadly accepted and an agreement signed for “exclusive negotiating rights to build a nuclear power plant”. The plant would comprise four Atmea1 reactors of 1150 MWe, a model developed by the two companies since 2007. These would probably be the first Atmea ones built, with construction starting in 2017, and operation from 2023. The Atmea1 is designed for load-following and uses the same steam generators as Areva’s large EPR (but 3 instead of 4). GdF Suez, which operates seven nuclear reactors in Belgium, is to be the operator. State generation company Elektrik Uretim AS is expected to take a 25% share in the project company. However, sovereign guarantees regarding power offtake are not on offer, though these were a feature of the agreement with Rosatom to build the 4800 MWe Akkuyu nuclear plant on the Mediterranean coast.
WNN 3/5/13. Turkey
New Chinese reactor starts up
Unit 1 of the Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in Liaoning has started up. Construction of the CPR-1000 reactor began in August 2007 but was delayed following the Fukushima accident. This is the first nuclear power station receiving central government approval to build four units at the same time, and the first in northeast China. The operating company is a joint venture of two major nuclear utilities, China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGNPC) and China Power Investment Corp (CPI). Alstom is providing the four low-speed Arabelle turbine-generator sets, but localization is over 70%. When grid connected in a month or so it will be China's 17th power reactor. The project incorporates a modest (10,080 m3/day) desalination plant.
WNN 22/1/13. China NP
New Chinese reactor in operation
Unit 1 of the Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in Liaoning in now in operation. It is the first nuclear plant in northeast China. Construction of the CPR-1000 reactor began in August 2007 but was delayed following the Fukushima accident. This is the first nuclear power station receiving central government approval to build four units at the same time. Phase 2 of Hongyanhe has been approved and comprises two further reactors. The operating company is a joint venture of two major nuclear utilities, China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGNPC) and China Power Investment Corp (CPI). Alstom is providing the four low-speed Arabelle turbine-generator sets, but localization is over 70%. It is China's 17th power reactor. The project incorporates a seawater desalination plant to provide cooling water.
WNN 18/2/13. China Nuclear power
New Chinese reactor in commercial operation
After completing all tests, the first Ningde nuclear reactor in northeast Fujian province has been handed over to the owners. The CPR-1000 unit was connected to the grid in December after 58 months construction. Units 2-4 are under construction and due to be completed by 2015. Total cost for four units (4.1 GWe) was put at CNY 51 billion ($7.2 billion). They are a joint investment of China Guangdong Nuclear Power - CGNPC (46%), China Datang Corporation (44%) and Fujian Provincial Energy Group. Datang is one of the four major non-nuclear Chinese generators, and Ningde is its first nuclear investment.
WNN 24/4/13. China NP
China moves forward with fuel recycling plans
A new high-level agreement between China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and Areva sets out the technical specifications of a planned 800 t/yr reprocessing plant for used fuel, together with the project’s organization between the partners. The new agreement follows on from a November 2007 one. The reprocessing plant will feed a mixed oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant, and will be located north of Jiayuguan in Gansu province, to operate from 2025.
Also, on the back of 2007 and 2008 agreements among Areva, EdF and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group (CGNPC) for two Areva EPR reactors, which are nearing completion at Taishan, the three have signed a tripartite agreement for “deeper industrial and commercial cooperation” in building new nuclear power plants and improving all CGNPC units. The statement of cooperation cements relationships among two of the world's biggest generators of nuclear power and the provider of the technology on which their power plants are based. With 73 units in France, EdF remains the world's largest nuclear utility, while CGNPC has seven reactors in operation now, 17 under construction and more planned for the future. Most of these are pressurized water reactors with Areva origins.
WNN 26/4/13. China fuel cycle, China NP
China starts building plant for high-temperature gas-cooled reactor fuel
With its first high-temperature gas-cooled nuclear power plant, the HTR-PM, under construction at Shidaowan in Shandong province, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) with the other backers of that project have started construction of a fuel plant to make the 9% enriched fuel spheres for it. The new plant at Baotou, part of the North Branch of Nuclear Fuel Element Co Ltd., will have an output of 300,000 fuel pebbles per year.
The Shidaowan HTR-PM plant comprises twin pebble-bed reactors cooled by helium driving a single 210 MWe steam turbine, with the fuel as 520,000 spheres each 60 mm diameter – about the size of a billiard ball. It is a demonstration plant to pave the way for an 18-unit, 3780 MWe full-scale HTR plant at the same location. The HTR-PM is the only commercial-scale high-temperature reactor project in the world. It follows ten years of successful operation of a 10 MWe HTR unit at Tsinghua University near Beijing.
WNN 21/3/13. China fuel cycle
Fossil fuel imports scorch Japan trade balance
Increased volumes of LNG imports and increased prices for those have impacted Japan's trade balance for a second year. Total spending on LNG in 2012 increased by 25% to ¥6.0 trillion ($66 billion). This is about ¥2.5 trillion ($27 billion) more than levels before the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi, which preceded the progressive shutdown of nuclear generation. LNG now represents over 8% of all Japanese imports by value (compared with petroleum - 17%). Overall in 2012 Japan recorded a trade deficit of ¥6.9 trillion ($75 billion) after exports of ¥63.7 trillion ($699 billion). The country's emission targets are moot.
WNN 25/1/13. Japan
Japan’s utilities post losses due to continuing nuclear shutdown
Seven of Japan's regional utilities have posted combined losses of
¥1.6 trillion (US$ 16 billion) for the year ended March 31, marking the second consecutive year of such losses. The weaker yen (down 12% this year) has raised costs to import fossil fuels for electricity generation while most nuclear reactors remain shut down. The losses may lead to higher residential and business power rates or approaching the government for assistance, as the utilities look for ways to gain financial stability. Some utilities, including Tepco, Kansai and Kyushu have already responded with price increases for customers, which the government approved from May. Utilities are hopeful that reactors can be restarted by the end of September, following the publication of new safety regulations in July.
Reuters & TradeTech NMR 30/4/13. Japan
Japan PM pledges to restart nuclear reactors
In a speech to parliament, Japan's prime minister has pledged to restart idled nuclear power reactors which conform to new standards to be specified by the new Nuclear Regulatory Authority in July. He said that Japan needs stable and cheap electricity from nuclear power in order to compete economically, but that new safety standards would be enforced "without compromise". At present all but two reactors are shut down pending political and safety review.
NYT 28/2/13. Japan
World Health Organisation confirms low risks from Fukushima accident
An international team with the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed that radioactivity released by the Fukushima accident two years ago posed a low risk to the public. This is the first analysis of wider health effects from the accident, and the result of a two-year study.
For the general population in wider Fukushima prefecture, "the predicted risks are low and no observable increases in cancer rates above baseline rates are anticipated." The most exposed group was 22,000 resident of Namie who remained at home for four months after the accident. These received up to 50 mSv, which is the maximum allowable level for occupational exposure in one year, according to International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommendations and most national standards. There would be a small increase in cancer risk for these people, who should be monitored. Across Fukushima generally the doses were in the range 1-10 mSv. WHO said that about one third of the emergency workers in the actual power plant following the accident would have some increased cancer risk, the others not.
Late last year the UN adopted advice from the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) which considered that health issues could generally not be attributed to radiation for exposures of less than 100 mSv.
WNN 28/2/13. Fukushima accident
Further MOX shipment to Japan
This week a fifth shipment of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel incorporating recycled reactor-grade plutonium is scheduled to leave France. It is destined for Kansai Electric’s Takahama-3 reactor in Japan. Areva has produced 36 MOX fuel assemblies for Kansai, and these are likely to comprise the shipment. Two purpose-built ships are involved and will sail around Africa and Australia, arriving in mid June. The last MOX shipment was in 2010, with fuel for Takahama-4 and Genkai-3. The Takahama reactors are currently shut down along with most of Japan’s nuclear capacity, pending implementation of new safety rules.
Last year the shipper, UK-based International Nuclear Services obtained an injunction against Greenpeace for interfering with one of its ships transporting MOX to Germany. INS claimed that Greenpeace activists "jeopardised the safe operations of the Atlantic Osprey, put their own lives at risk and, we believe, acted in defiance of international maritime law and German law."
Platts 18/4/13, WNN 19/11/12. Japan
Plans dropped for new nuclear plant in Japan
Long-standing plans for the construction of a new nuclear power plant in Japan's Fukushima prefecture have been dropped by utility Tohoku Electric Power Company. The Namie-Odaka plant was first proposed some 45 years ago, close to the Fukushima plants. This leaves nine reactors planned for Japan, all deferred and two Tepco ones in some doubt.
WNN 28/3/13. Japan
Japanese utilities raise tariffs
Following two years of financial losses, Tohoku Electric Power, with four idled nuclear power reactors, has applied to raise its electricity prices by 11.4% for domestic users and 17.7 % for industry, its first increases in 33 years. This is mostly to cover increased fossil fuel (especially LNG) use pending resumption of nuclear generation. Tepco increased its domestic tariffs 8.5% last year, Kansai has applied to increase domestic tariffs 11.9% and industrial ones 19.2%, while Kyushu wants to 8.5% and 14.2% increases respectively. Other utilities with idled nuclear capacity are expected to follow suit soon.
WNN 14/2/13. Japan
South Korea and USA fail to agree on nuclear policy
Much of South Korea’s nuclear industry depends on a 1974 agreement with the USA, which is up for renewal in 2014. Discussion on this has been under way for about two years, with South Korea intent on having restrictions on uranium enrichment and used fuel reprocessing removed. The latter would allow some 30% more energy yield from imported uranium and greatly reduce the high-level waste disposal task. However, it appears that negotiations have stalled, so a two-year extension of the existing arrangements has been agreed. The US State Department referred to several complex technical issues being unresolved, but did not elaborate. Part of the US concern is to constrain North Korea’s nuclear activities and ambitions.
WNN 25/4/13. South Korea
India concludes bilateral safeguards agreement with Canada
After negotiations between the premiers of both countries, India and Canada have signed a bilateral safeguards agreement which will allow trade in nuclear materials and technology for facilities which are under IAEA safeguards. This builds on the broader nuclear cooperation agreement of 2010. In particular it will allow India to import Canadian uranium. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will oversee the implementation of the agreement. A similar agreement is being negotiated with Australia.
WNN 9/4/13. India
Kazakhstan retains world lead in uranium production
Kazatomprom has reported total Kazakh uranium production of 20,900 tU (24,647 t U3O8) in 2012, estimated to be about 37% of world total. This is an increase from 19,451 tU in 2011, more than twice Canada's production. Kazatomprom itself accounted for 11,900 tU in 2012.
Kazakh nuclear power prospects advance
Earlier this month Kazatomprom said it intended soon to submit a proposal to the government for building a nuclear power reactor in the country. This was assumed to be for a long-discussed VBER-300 unit at Aktau, in the west of the country. The VBER-300 is an advanced Russian design which would be developed in conjunction with Kazatomprom. A feasibility study has been done and environmental approval obtained for this project, but finance and disagreement about intellectual property rights have held it back. The Kazakh Atomic Energy Committee said it would call tenders for the first plant, to be built by 2020, and that the 2006 Atomniye Stantsii joint venture with Russia was the leading contender. An intergovernmental agreement in March 2011 appeared to progress this. The JSC Kazakhstani Russian Company Nuclear Power Stations, at Aktau, has been listed since 2006 as a 50% subsidiary of Kazatomprom.
Parallel to but following these developments, a series of agreements since 2007 between the country's National Nuclear Centre (NNC) and Japanese companies culminated this week in the signing of a further agreement between Japan Atomic Power Co with Marubini Utility Services Ltd and NNC. This is about technical cooperation towards building a nuclear power plant. This project is on the state program of nuclear industry development in Kazakhstan for 2010-20, developed by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, NNC and Kazatomprom, and also submitted for approval to the government. In 2011 NNC said the Japanese ABWR was preferred technology for this, and Lake Balkhash the favoured site. However, recently the Japan Atomic Energy Agency has said that a small high-temperature gas-cooled reactor was under consideration, for use in natural gas liquefaction and district heating at Kurchatov.
Last year the government reviewed a draft master plan of power generation development in the country until 2030, with nuclear electricity share then to be about 4.5% of projected 150 billion kWh, requiring about 900 MWe of nuclear capacity.
WNN 19/2/13. Kazakhstan
Major upgrade of Mexico's reactors
Spain's Iberdrola Ingenieria has completed a five-year project to upgrade both reactors at Mexico's only nuclear power plant, Laguna Verde. The $650 million project to upgrade equipment at the plant and increase its capacity by 20% has been described by the Iberdrola subsidiary as "one of the most complex and ambitious initiatives ever undertaken" within its field. The plant has formally remained in operation throughout, with all of the work completed during scheduled refuelling outages. Laguna Verde's two boiling water reactors (BWRs) have now been operating at the increased capacity of 820 MWe each for two years. The work will allow the two units, which started up in 1989 and 1994 respectively, to extend their operating lifetimes to 40 years, until 2029 and 2034.
WNN 21/2/13. Mexico
Australian uranium production
Australian production in 2012 was the highest for three years at 8244 tonnes U3O8 (6990.6 tU). Most of this came from Olympic Dam and Ranger, with Beverley about one tenth of each of those, and 155 tonnes (131 tU) from the commissioning of Honeymoon.
Western Australian uranium mine approved
After a long delay, Toro Energy has been granted federal environmental approval for the Wiluna uranium project in WA. State approval was given last year. Wiluna will be the first uranium mine in WA, and the first Australian mine to use alkaline leaching in the mill. Pending a final investment decision, production is expected to start late in 2015.
The mine comprises two shallow deposits, Lake Way and Centipede, and is designed to produce about 660 tU/yr over 14 years. The company expects capital costs of A$ 269 million (US$ 281 million) with unit production costs of $37 per pound of uranium oxide produced. Toro has three other deposits within trucking distance whose resources more than double potential utilisation of the mine plant.
WNN 2/4/13. Aust U deposits
Groundbreaking for Chinese uranium mine in Namibia
Work has formally begun on Namibia’s newest uranium mine, adjacent to Rio Tinto’s Rossing. The Husab mine is largely owned by a subsidiary of China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGNPC) after a $2.2 billion takeover. It is being developed by contractors for Swakop Uranium, in which Namibian state-owned mining company Epangelo acquired a 10% stake in November 2012. After construction through to the end of 2015, production is planned to ramp up to 5770 tonnes of uranium per year by 2017. The mine is expected to have a life of more than 20 years.
WNN 22/4/13. Namibia
2012 brings slightly increased nuclear capacity
With three large reactors coming on line and three smaller ones being retired, plus three refurbished Canadian reactors coming back into service and four US uprates, 2012 showed a world increase from 370.4 to 374.1 GWe nuclear capacity, and 435 power reactors operable. There were new grid connections for Shin Kori 1 and Shin Wolsong 1 in South Korea, and Ningde 1 in China, each over 1000 MWe. Also, Bruce A1 & A2 and Point Lepreau in Canada came back on line after major refurbishment, total 2135 MWe. In the UK, Oldbury 1 and Wylfa 2 were decommissioned, as were Gentilly 2 in Canada and Garona in Spain, removing 1811 MWe from service. Most of Japan's reactors remain shut down, but operable and with renewed prospect of restarting. In the USA, four uprates added about 300 MWe.
There were seven construction starts: Baltic 1 in Russia (Kaliningrad), Barakah 1 in UAE, Shin Ulchin 1 in South Korea, Tianwan 3, Yangjiang 4, Fuqing 4, and Shandong Shidaowan 1 all in China. The last is a demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled design with fuel as 'pebbles', actually twin small reactors driving a single 210 MWe turbine.
OECD study highlights real costs of electricity
A study by the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency has highlighted the increasing system costs incurred by government policies favouring renewable sources of electricity over dispatchable and especially base-load sources. The study found that mandating significant levels of wind and solar power into electricity markets could generate system cost of up to $80/MWh (8 cents/kWh), compared with those for dispatchable coal, nuclear and gas sources usually under $3. This is in addition to producer subsidies for the higher total costs of renewable generation, borne by the consumer. Grid companies in Europe are required to give priority to intermittent renewable sources regardless of need, and this compromises the economics of conventional, dispatchable sources upon which the whole system relies. Existing nuclear plants can survive moderate levels of intermittent renewable generation because their capital costs are amortized and their fuel cost is relatively lower than that of fossil-fired plants, but the market will not support construction of new nuclear capacity if load factors are not sufficient, which will be the case with higher levels of prioritised renewable generation, the study found. Hence when dispatchable plants – often capital-intensive - are retired, there will be little incentive to replace them, and a supply and reliability crisis looms later in this decade.
The increased renewables issue is being addressed to some extent by urgent expansion of grid capacity, but this doesn’t fix the economics. The NEA study is based on data from Finland, France, Germany, South Korea, the UK and the USA. The study claimed to be the first to attempt to quantify in monetary terms the system effects of different kinds of electricity generation. For most countries the most important system costs came from grid connection and backup power costs. In terms of total costs of electricity supply, introducing variable renewables up to 10% of total supply will increase per-MWh cost, depending on the country, between 5%
and 50%, the report said. Satisfying 30% of demand could increase per-MWh costs by between 16% and 180%, the latter relating to solar in Finland, it said.
The study recommended, first, that the magnitude of systems costs introduced by renewables must no longer be borne “in a diffuse and unacknowledged manner by operators of dispatchable technologies as an unspecific system service.” OECD countries should ensure “full transparency of power generation costs at the systems level when making policy decisions affecting their electricity markets.” Second, it advocated changing regulatory frame- works, with measures such as capacity markets, in which dispatchable generation is “adequately compensated through capacity payments;” requiring power generators to “feed stable hourly bands of electricity into the grid rather than random amounts of intermittent electricity.” “A combination of capacity markets, long-term supply contracts and carbon taxes would provide a market-based framework to ensure that nuclear energy and other dispatchable low-carbon technologies remain economically sustainable,” it said.
Nucleonics Week 21/3/13. Nuclear Energy and Renewables: System Effects
in Low-carbon Electricity Systems. Elect. Transmission Grids
US study gives estimates of prevented mortality
A forthcoming report co-authored by the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies has estimated that the use of nuclear power instead of coal and some gas has avoided emissions which would have caused air pollution and probably led the deaths of 1.84 million people between 1971 and 2009. The calculus is based on mortality estimates from fossil fuel emissions, though these mortality figures are uncertain, and the real number of deaths could be much higher.
WNN 3/4/13. http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/es3051197
Uranium from phosphate process gets cost down
An engineering study of last year's demonstration plant operation in Florida indicates that the PhosEnergy process is viable for extracting uranium as a by-product from phosphate fertilizer production. The study, commissioned by Uranium Equities Ltd and Cameco, estimated a capital cost of US$156 million for a base case PhosEnergy plant located at the site of a phosphate facility in the southeast USA, producing 340 tonnes per year of uranium at a cost of less than US$18 per pound U3O8, putting it in the lower cost quartile of world producers. Cameco now holds 73% equity in the process. The next step is to locate the portable demonstration plant at an actual production site and carry out a definitive feasibility study. The process is a substantial refinement of those used in Florida in the 1980s, which became uneconomic in the 1990s. The world potential for recovering uranium from phosphate production waste streams is over 11,000 tonnes U per year, with easing of regulatory requirements for disposal being a side-benefit.
UEQ 5/3/13. Uranium from phosphates
Amano remains at helm of IAEA
Yukiya Amano has been reappointed as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for a second four-year term by the agency's board of governors. He has presided over analysis of reactor safety worldwide following the Fukushima accident in his home country, and the ensuing developments from an international perspective, though final responsibility remains with national regulators. Also during his first term the role of IAEA in helping new nuclear countries establish regulatory and legal infrastructure has grown strongly. In all countries, governments need to create the environment for investment in nuclear power, including professional and independent regulatory regime, policies on nuclear waste management and decommissioning, and involvement with international non-proliferation measures and insurance arrangements for third-party damage. The IAEA has been very active in assisting in these matters, as well as in its traditional implementation of safeguards to prevent weapons proliferation.
WNN 7/3/13. International cooperation, Emerging nuclear countries
WNA group proposes involvement by plant designers in whole life of nuclear plants
A new study - entitled Aviation Licensing and Lifetime Management: What Can Nuclear Learn? - is from the Design Change Management Task Force of a major WNA working group. It compares the civil aviation industry's approach to managing changes to aircraft design with the nuclear industry's system of design change management. In the aviation industry, the original designer of a particular type of aircraft is always involved in the response to events and safety-relevant findings. In contrast, nuclear vendors do not have ongoing design responsibility for their reactors. This situation leads to differences between nuclear reactors of the same model. The WNA's working group on Cooperation in Reactor Design Evaluation and Licensing (CORDEL) promotes standardization of nuclear reactor designs on the merit of improved economics and safety. It suggests that stronger ongoing involvement of the original designers would bring widespread safety and economic benefits to the nuclear industry. The civil aviation industry's system of international cooperation could serve as a model in this area, the report suggests.