WNA Weekly Digest Archive 2014
2013 shows ten reactor construction starts but capacity up little
During 2013 there were four new grid connections in China and India, and four closures – all in the USA. World capacity increased slightly to 375.3 GWe with 435 operable reactors, helped by some significant uprates. The main positive indicator was ten construction starts totaling 11,688 MWe gross, four of them in the USA and three in China. Two were in new nuclear countries: UAE and Belarus. 71 reactors are now under construction, totaling 75 GWe. The four new connections (in China and India) totaled 4077 MWe, the closures totaled 3576 MWe, and there were five significant uprates totaling 584 MWe, less some revisions in capacity. Though two units operated to September, Japan’s entire nuclear fleet remained shut down at year end pending regulatory review according to new criteria, and two units will be decommissioned at the end of January.
Westinghouse suspends development of small reactors
Westinghouse’s CEO has announced in an interview that the company is suspending work on its 225 MWe SMR design in the light of inadequate prospects for multiple deployment. He said that it could not justify the economics of its SMR without government subsidies, unless it could see its way to supplying 30 to 50 of them. The company missed out on grants awarded for small modular reactor development: both B&W and NuScale have each secured up to $226 million DOE support for their respective small reactor designs, the 150-180 MWe mPower and a 45 MWe unit.
Lloyd's Register leads fresh look at nuclear power for large commercial ships
In 2010 the British maritime classification society Lloyd's Register embarked upon a two-year study with US-based Hyperion Power Generation (now Gen4 Energy), and a ship designer and an operator to investigate the practical maritime applications for small modular reactors. The project included research on a comprehensive regulatory framework led by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and supported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and regulators in countries involved. Two resulting papers describe a preliminary concept design for a 155,000 dwt Suezmax tanker that is based on a conventional hull form but with a nuclear propulsion plant – the 70 MWt Gen4Energy power module – delivering up to 23.5 MW shaft power. This is a small fast-neutron reactor using lead-bismuth eutectic cooling and able to operate for ten full-power years before refueling, and in service last for a 25-year operational life of the vessel. The study concludes that the concept is feasible, but further maturity of nuclear technology and harmonisation of the regulatory framework would be necessary before it would be viable.
France and Japan affirm nuclear cooperation
Leaders of France and Japan have affirmed the importance of nuclear power in their countries and endorsed technical cooperation on research on fast neutron reactors. This R&D is focused on the EU Astrid project led by France, but also involves testing Astrid fuel in Japan’s Monju fast reactor. Astrid is a fourth generation prototype of 600 MWe, expected to operate from about 2025. It is an improved version of the sodium-cooled type which already has 45 reactor-years operational experience in France. The two countries are also collaborating in the Areva-Mitsubishi Atmea1 reactor program, with the first units to be built at Sinop in Turkey. The Sinop plant is to be operated by GDF Suez with equity from Itochu.
WNN 6/5/14. France, Japan, Fast reactors
G7 focus on low-carbon base-load power
The G7 group of industrialised nations has affirmed a focus on energy security, prioritising low-carbon sources including nuclear power for deployment in an effort to establish resilient low-carbon power systems. The energy ministers said that "We are committed to initiate a systematic and enduring step change to improve energy security at national, regional and global levels." This involves promoting the deployment of clean and sustainable energy technologies, "reducing greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy." In particular the focus is on low-carbon sources "which work as a base-load energy source" for electricity. Overall, nuclear power plants generate about 18% of the G7 countries’ electricity, with much scope to increase the supply of zero-carbon base-load power.
WNN 7/5/14. World Energy Needs
US loan guarantees for new plant finalised
The US government has finalized loan guarantees totalling some $6.5 billion for the construction of two AP1000 units at the Vogtle site in Georgia, with a further $1.8 billion pending. The reactors are already under construction. Four years ago these were the first nuclear projects to be offered loan guarantees. The US Energy Secretary said that "the innovative technology used in this project represents a new generation of nuclear power with advanced safety features and demonstrates renewed leadership from the U.S. nuclear energy industry". He added that the deal shows the government's support for nuclear power and "the president wants to make clear that he sees nuclear energy as a part of his carbon-free portfolio." The federally-backed guarantees are intended to help would-be builders of new or improved energy technologies to raise private finance at no cost to the taxpayer; and the recipients are charged a fee for the guarantee. The loan guarantees cover up to 80% of the projected costs of financing the construction of new units. The two AP1000 units under construction at Summer in South Carolina have been short-listed for a loan guarantee, though the major shareholder has expressed skepticism about the benefit.
WNN 20/2/14. US nuclear power
USA proposes cutting off funds for plutonium disposition
In June 2000, the USA and Russia agreed to dispose of at least 34 tonnes each of weapons-grade plutonium in parallel projects, the USA making mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for its main reactor fleet and Russia making MOX fuel for fast neutron reactors. The resulting Russian MOX plant at Zheleznogorsk is believed to be coming on line this year (with a little US financial help), as its newest fast reactor starts up (using MOX fuel from a plant at Dimitrovgrad). The US MOX plant is 60% complete, behind schedule and way over budget, and now faces loss of funding altogether, having been excluded from the DOE budget request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) due to cost escalation. This would leave the USA in default on the 2000 bilateral agreement, while Russia has fulfilled its side. However the US Energy Secretary says the USA remains committed to the agreement, and over the next 18 months will assess alternatives to the project, including fast reactors.
The US MOX plant, at Savannah River in South Carolina, is substantially the same as Areva’s commercial Melox plant near Marcoule in France (though it uses reactor-grade plutonium), and Areva is a partner in its construction. However, it does include a facility for plutonium pits dismantlement and metallic plutonium conversion to oxide which is complex and has delayed progress. It also incorporates a waste storage facility.
WNN 5 & 6/3/14 Military warheads as fuel
Collection of fee for nuclear wastes suspended in USA
The US Department of Energy (DOE) has agreed to abide by a court ruling last year and cease collecting fees from nuclear power utilities for waste management. It has been collecting 0.1 cent/kWh, and this has accumulated over $41 billion (including interest), which is to pay for a geological repository for all the nation’s high-level nuclear waste, principally used fuel. However, in the light of a political decision by the Obama administration in 2009 to abort the Yucca Mountain repository project, the court ruled that payment of the fees – some $750 million per year – should cease also.
In the context of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 which established federal responsibility for all civil used fuel, the industry has called for policymakers to implement an "effective and efficient" nuclear waste management and disposal program. Plans for a consolidated storage facility need to be pursued while work is under way towards either licensing Yucca Mountain or siting a new geological repository. With the DOE’s failure to start taking over used fuel in 1998, as required by law, utilities have had to build extensive dry storage capacity at each reactor site and sue the government to recover costs of this.
WNN 16/5/14. US fuel cycle
USA able to resume reactor licensing
After a two-year hiatus brought about by legal challenge to a former policy on nuclear waste storage and disposal, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission is soon able to resume licensing of new reactors and processing licence renewals for old ones. The NRC had adopted a new rule for spent fuel storage, replacing its 2010 ‘waste confidence’ decision which was challenged. The new rule and a supporting generic environmental impact statement (GEIS) mean that used fuel can in principle be stored indefinitely at reactor sites. Accordingly the NRC has lifted its suspension of licensing decisions, which can resume 30 days after the new rule is published.
A total of 24 licensing actions have been affected by the two-year suspension. These include applications for 12 combined construction and operating licences (COL) for new reactors, and eight reactor operating licence renewals. Only two of these – licence renewals for units 1&2 at Exelon's Limerick plant and the renewal of the licence for a used fuel storage facility at Calvert Cliffs – are actually held up awaiting final decisions.
The new continued spent storage rule reduces any sense of urgency to advance plans for one or two deep geological repositories in USA. About 70,000 tonnes of used fuel await disposal in USA, with annual increase of 2000 to 2400 tonnes. About one-quarter of the total is in dry cask storage, the rest in pools. A number of utilities have sued the federal government for not meeting its obligation under the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act to begin taking their used fuel by 1998, and have been awarded damages by the courts to cover the cost of increased on-site storage. Total government liability for breach of contract is estimated by the Department of Energy to be $21.4 billion, assuming DOE starts to perform in 2021.
WNN 27/8/14. USA
Nuclear plants unsuccessful in major US capacity auction
Five Exelon reactors at three plants for the first time failed to clear the PJM Interconnection capacity auction for three years ahead, 2017-2018, so will not have an assured market for 12 months then, or receive capacity payments. The PJM area takes in 61 million people in the east of USA. These plants have been a reliable basis of supply in New Jersey and Illinois for decades, and are zero-carbon sources. The clearing price was $120/MWe per day (except for part of New Jersey: $215/MWe/day). The auction was for 167 GWe, which included a 20% reserve margin. About 4.8 GWe of new combined cycle gas plant was successful in the auction, along with almost 11 GWe of demand-side response. PJM said that capacity prices account for about 10 to 15% of retail bills – the above price nominally being 0.5c/kWh.
Following this, and after some prompting from NEI, Edison Electric Institute and the Electric Power Supply Association, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said it was actively considering ways it can ensure that base-load power sources, such as nuclear plants, are appropriately valued and their viability maintained in wholesale electricity markets. Early this year during a cold snap due to the polar vortex, grid operators found that problems in bringing coal and gas capacity online had brought the North Atlantic grid close to breakdown. The situation was saved by a very high level of nuclear availability.
WNN 28/5/14, PJM 23/5/14. US nuclear power
US EPA announces carbon emission reduction targets
The US Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) has announced that it will use its authority under the Clean Air Act to require
a reduction in carbon emissions from US power plants of 25% below 2005 levels by 2020, and a 30% reduction by 2030, with states to be responsible for achieving this. There has already been a 16% drop since 2005. The EPA’s rules are expected to be finalized in June 2015, and states will then have at least one year to submit their plans to comply with
the emission reductions, using various means including increased energy efficiency, greater proportion of nuclear power and renewables, and carbon capture and storage. Nuclear plants are already the main carbon-free generation source for over half of US states, and avoid the emission of over 750 million tonnes of CO2 per year relative to coal.
WNN 3/6/14. US nuclear power
US industry group launches “thought leadership” ad campaign
The Nuclear Energy Institute is embarking upon an advertising campaign using four energy experts to raise awareness of the role of nuclear energy. It appears to be targeted at a higher level than previous campaigns, as major US utilities threaten to shut down nuclear plants because of market conditions. NEI says “The benefits of our (US) nuclear plants – the contribution to fuel diversity, the environmental benefits and other attributes – are undervalued and, frankly, taken for granted.” The campaign looks beyond the nuclear plants to the implications for grid reliability, power markets and costs. It follows up the heightened interest and awareness generated by the documentary film Pandora’s Promise, which was released last year, with several well-known environmental leaders coming out in favour of nuclear power so as deeply to affect the debate on nuclear energy within that community.
NEI www.nei.org/futureofenergy US policy
EU 2030 energy framework allows for increased nuclear contribution
The European Commission’s 2030 energy and climate policy framework moves away from major reliance on renewables to achieve emission reduction targets and allows scope for nuclear power to play a larger role. The centerpiece is a binding 40% reduction in domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared with a 1990 baseline) which will require strong commitments from EU member states. Current policies and measures if followed through should deliver 32% reduction by then, so 40% “is achievable” and widely supported. It implies a 43% cut from 2005 for CO2 in sectors covered by the EU emissions trading scheme (ETS). There are to be no post-2020 national renewables targets, and individual states are free to use whatever technology they wish to achieve emission reductions in the longer term, though a 27% “headline target at European level for renewable energy” is included. The framework also proposes reform of the ETS to make it the principal driver of climate policy, and it drops a binding energy efficiency target and a directive for use of biofuels in transport.
Impetus for the profound change in emphasis from the 2008 policy framework appears to have come from EU member states which are winding back renewables programs due to escalating costs. The International Energy Agency has pointed out the huge difference in energy prices between USA and EU, with gas prices three times as high and electricity twice as high in the EU. The EU is evidently concerned about loss of international competitiveness and the increasingly chaotic retreat from subsidy schemes related to its 2020 renewables target. More generally, it acknowledges that “the rapid development of renewable energy sources now poses new challenges for the energy system”.
The key change from 2020 goals is “providing flexibility for Member States to define a low-carbon transition appropriate to their specific circumstances, preferred energy mix and needs in terms of energy security, and allowing them to keep costs to a minimum.” An early test of this will be approval for UK plans to set long-term electricity prices to enable investment in nuclear plants.
The WNA said that the “flexible” approach outlined allows nuclear power to play an expanded role in decarbonising electricity supply. The ambitious target “is a bare minimum if the EU wishes to achieve its objective of an 80% reduction by 2050, and do its part in averting a 2°C rise in global temperatures. Unfortunately the target of 27% for renewable energy continues to undermine the possibility for cost efficiency in meeting the carbon target. It also again demonstrates an unjustified preference in EU policy for renewable energy over other carbon reduction pathways – such as nuclear energy – regardless of cost, maturity and the preferences of individual Member States.”
WNN 22/1/14. http://ec.europa.eu/energy/doc/2030/com_2014_15_en.pdf
European Commission study affirms nuclear role
Nuclear power enhances energy security and should be expanded, according to a European Commission (EC) study in the wake of heightened concerns about disruptions in Russian gas supplies. Among other measures, increasing the use of nuclear power in the European Union was recommended. Some 131 nuclear power reactors operate in 16 EU countries providing a reliable source of 27% of EU electricity, more widely than just to those host countries.
The study noted that fuel for Russian reactors in EU countries came mainly from Russia, and highlighted the need for a variety of fuel suppliers. It suggested that "the possibility of fuel diversification needs to be a condition for any new investment" in nuclear plants.
EU publishes new rules for funding renewable energy
The European Commission has published new guidelines for EU funding of renewable energy sources. They are designed to replace subsidies with market-based measures, and take effect from July. From 2017 all EU countries will have to call tenders for new renewables plants. The intention is to replace feed-in tariffs, which have severely distorted the market, with auctions or bidding processes open to all eligible renewables generators competing for subsidies. There is scope for exempting energy-intensive industries from contributing to the cost of subsidies.
The guidelines are connected to reforms of Germany’s Energiewende, the policy of turning away from nuclear power, which will slow the expansion of renewables by forcing investors in it to take some risk, while protecting households from bearing all the cost – currently they pay a EUR 6.24 c/kWh surcharge to fund renewables subsidies. The number of industries exempted from this surcharge will be reduced. The reforms will be put to parliament in August.
WNN 9/4/14, Reuters 8 & 9/4/14
UK spells out key role of nuclear power
At the WNA Symposium in London, Sir David King the UK foreign secretary's special representative for climate change at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government, underlined the central role of nuclear power in the UK’s future. He said that climate change is a constraint on energy policy, and in particular "not enough has been said about what is happening in the oceans," where increasing CO2 concentrations have raised the acidity of seawater.
UK policy aims for an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions and removal of fossil fuels from electricity generation by 2050, as well as transferring the surface transport sector to the grid. It calls for some 45-50% of its electricity generation to come from nuclear energy by 2050 to ensure reliability, by when electricity demand is projected to be some 120 GWe. Renewable energy will have a major role if there is development of large-scale energy storage. King noted that 11 other countries have used the same model as the UK in drawing up their policies. He said nuclear power should be used more widely in helping to meet the world’s “enormous new energy demand”, though it will certainly not be appropriate in all countries.
WNN 11/9/14. UK
UK design acceptance progresses for Japanese reactor
UK regulators are ready to begin the second phase of the generic design assessment (GDA) process for Hitachi-GE's Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). At the same time, the company is inviting public comments on the reactor design. This follows nine months of preparatory work by Hitachi-GE and the three regulatory bodies undertaking the GDA – the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), Environment Agency (EA) and Natural Resources Wales. The whole GDA process should be completed about the end of 2017.
Horizon Nuclear Power plans to build two of the 1380 MWe ABWR units at Wylfa Newydd in Wales and then two at Oldbury in Gloucestershire. Hitachi Ltd bought Horizon in 2012. There are four operable ABWR units in Japan, while two more are under construction. Two more are being built in Taiwan and one is planned for Lithuania. The design, originally from GE, is already licensed in Japan and the USA. Hitachi-GE has a UK web site for the project.
WNN 6/1/14. UK
UK opens door to Chinese nuclear investment
The UK and China governments have signed two agreements enabling state-owned Chinese companies not only to invest in nuclear power plant projects but also to build Chinese nuclear reactors in the UK. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said that the civil nuclear agreement "paves the way" for Chinese companies to invest in EDF Energy's project to build two 1670 MWe Areva EPR units at Hinkley Point on the Somerset coast, taking 30-40% equity in them. Power price agreements necessary for the project to proceed are under sceptical scrutiny by the European Commission.
The second agreement is a four-way memorandum of understanding among DECC, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA), and International Nuclear Services - the commercial arm of the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. DECC said this "landmark agreement" would enable Chinese companies to own and operate a Chinese-designed nuclear power plant in the UK, subject to UK regulatory requirements. Engineering company Rolls-Royce announced separately that it had signed identical agreements with Chinese nuclear reactor vendors State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and China General Nuclear Power Co (CGN), aimed at provision of components and systems, supply chain management and instrumentation & control technology.
WNN 18/6/14. UK
Toshiba takes further stake in UK nuclear development
GDF Suez has signed a partnership agreement with Toshiba for development of its nuclear programme in the UK. This gives new impetus to NuGeneration Ltd (NuGen), which was created to develop the new Moorside nuclear power plant on the West Cumbria coast in northwest England. The 3400 MWe plant will be built utilizing three Westinghouse AP1000 reactors, which type is well advanced in the UK’s generic design assessment process. The terms of the agreement provide for Toshiba to own a majority of NuGen, with GDF Suez bringing its extensive nuclear plant operating experience. The choice of the AP1000 technology aligns with UK Government’s ambition to see a diversity of technologies in the new nuclear program, with EPR and ABWR. The acquisition of one fifth of GDF Suez’s share follows Toshiba buying out Iberdrola’s 50% in the project, making a total of £102 million for 60%. The first unit is expected on line in 2024.
WNN 15/1/14. UK
China General sets out policy for UK
At a UK Trade & Investment presentation in London, Guangdong-based China General Nuclear Power (CGN) outlined its plans for embarking upon nuclear projects in the UK. First, it will be a minority shareholder in EdF Energy’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant “to lay the foundation for further development in CGN-led projects in the UK.” It then plans to acquire a site, and along with local and Chinese partners, to build and operate nuclear power plants in the UK. No particular reactor technology was mentioned. In October 2103 the government announced that it approved in principle Chinese companies taking a stake - including potential future majority stakes - in the development of the next generation of British nuclear power.
European Commission skeptical of UK energy market provisions
The European Commission (EC) is reviewing the UK’s arrangements with EdF Energy for long-term electricity prices to underwrite the construction of Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. In a preliminary 70-page letter it has expressed concern about whether the price agreement breaches EU policy on state aid. The UK contends that it does not, but must now provide further justification for that. The EC said that the agreement “has the potential for distorting competitive conditions”, though it is in line with widely-accepted provisions for renewable power sources. It questions whether the deal addresses a genuine market failure in assuring a long-term supply of reliable electricity from low-carbon sources. It also questions whether it gives undue comfort and recompense to EdF at the expense of UK consumers. The size of the loan guarantee offered by the UK government was part of this.
EdF Energy will not commit to the Hinkley Point project until the EC has concluded its deliberations and given the all-clear, so this high-level EU review has the potential to delay or even abort the investment needed and agreed upon by the UK government. The situation has implications for further investment in UK nuclear capacity.
WNN 3/2/14. UK
UK homes in on decommissioning early power reactors
In response to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) invitation in 2012, four consortia have bid to take over the decommissioning of ten Magnox power plants with 22 reactors, and two nuclear research facilities at Harwell and Winfrith, as the private sector ‘parent body organistion’ for the £7 billion, 14-year task. At Wylfa one of the Magnox reactors still operates, 43 years from its start-up. NDA commenced dialogue with them in January 2013 and has now announced the selection of a joint venture between Cavendish Nuclear and Fluor Corporation as preferred bidder. Currently NDA-owned companies Magnox Ltd and Research Sites Restoration Ltd (RSRL) manage all the sites as licensees. Magnox and RSRL are owned by EnergySolutions (USA) and UKAEA Ltd/ Babcock International (UK) respectively. Cavendish Nuclear is also a subsidiary of Babcock International. Fluor is based in Texas.
WNN 31/3/14. UK
UK announces design of capacity market
The UK government has announced the design of the electricity capacity market to provide security of supply from 2018. This is complementary to fixing long-term prices in the wholesale electricity market and the imposition of a carbon emission floor price. Capacity agreements for new dispatchable capacity will be for 15 years, and agreements for existing capacity will be for one or three years. Penalties for failure to meet commitments which have been paid for will be capped at 200% of a provider’s monthly income and 100% of their annual income. The capacity auction each year will be capped at £75/kW – the first is due in December 2014 for 2018 delivery, subject to EU state aid clearance. Some interim arrangements including demand side will apply to cover the period to 2018. The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) estimates that the operation of the capacity market will add about £15 per year to domestic bills to 2030.
UK reaffirms nuclear construction target
In its report on delivering energy investment, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change has confirmed its commitment to encouraging some 16 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2030, enabled by the government’s electricity market reforms. Current nuclear capacity is 10 GWe, supplying almost 20% of electricity.
DECC July 2014. UK
Finnish companies commit to build new power plant
Fennovoima has government permission to build the Hanhikivi nuclear power plant in the north of Finalnd. It is owned by a consortium of industrial and energy companies. While numbers have shrunk from inception, 44 remaining local shareholders have committed to proceed with the project. The largest local stakeholder is Outokumpu, and together they are committed to 50.2% of the plant at this stage. They will take power at cost, in proportion to their equity. Fennovoima says that when the plant starts operating in 2024, that cost for shareholders will be less than EUR 50/MWh (5 cents/kWh), including all production costs, depreciation, finance costs and waste management. Building cost is estimated at EUR 6 billion.
Fennovoima in December signed a plant supply contract with Rusatom Overseas for an AES-2006 power plant with VVER-1200 reactor. Another agreement specified that Rosatom would take a 34% share in the plant, and help to arrange finance beyond that. It has recently said that it would like to take up to 49% equity, which would ease the challenge of providing full equity, though the parent company wants to build local equity to 66%. Fennovoima will confirm the investment in mid March.
With Rosatom’s subsidiary poised to build the plant, Finland and Russia have signed a new cooperation agreement to expedite this. A key feature of the new government-level agreement is that it clarifies liability for damages from nuclear accidents. Finland is party to the OECD-sponsored Paris Convention on nuclear liability as amended in 2004, while Russia adheres to the IAEA-sponsored Vienna Convention. The new accord stipulates that both international conventions are reciprocally applicable between Finland and Russia. In effect the agreement thus substitutes for the 1988 Joint Protocol relating to both Conventions, which Russia has not ratified, though it has a domestic nuclear insurance pool.
Under earlier cooperation between the two countries, two VVER-440 units were constructed at Fortum's Loviisa plant in southern Finland. These were, however, supplied with Western containment and control systems.
WNN 26 & 28/2/14. Finland
Rosatom takes up 34% share of Finland’s Fennovoima
A new Finnish subsidiary of Russia’s state corporation Rosatom, RAOS Voima Oy, has acquired a 34% share in Fennovoima, the company planning to build the Hanhikivi nuclear power plant on the northwest coast. The shareholding is related to the December 2013 agreement with Rusatom Overseas to build an AES-2006 nuclear power plant with 1200 MWe reactor. There are 44 indigenous shareholders, the largest being Outokumpu, with 12.5%.
Fennovoima, with a new board, will confirm the investment in April, and says that when the plant starts operating in 2024, the price of electricity for shareholders will be less than EUR 50/MWh (5 cents/kWh), including all production costs, depreciation, finance costs and waste management. Building cost is estimated at EUR 6 billion.
The head of Rosatom is reported this week as saying that he expects some of its international contracts – for building reactors as well as supplying fabricated fuel - could be affected by sanctions arising from Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
WNN 28/3/14. Finland
Two Belgian reactors taken off line for tests
In 2012 Doel 3 and Tihange 2 were shut down due to concern about flaws in the reactor pressure vessels. After thorough investigations, the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) approved restarting the units in May 2013. However, further metallurgical testing has now led to Electrabel bringing forward maintenance outages for both plants until uncertainties regarding the effect of neutrons on mechanical strength of the pressure vessel steel are resolved. Results are expected in June from first-of-its-kind testing procedures at the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre.
WNN 26/3/14. Belgium
South Korean consortium to refurbish Dutch research reactor
A consortium of the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) with Hyundai has won a €19 million contract against European competition to refurbish and upgrade the small Dutch HOR research reactor at Delft University of Technology for Academic Research. The reactor has been running for 51 years and was fully converted to use low-enriched uranium in 2005. It is used for isotope production, neutron scattering and activation analysis, and the work will add a cold neutron facility as well as upgrading it to 3 MW. KAERI is leading a consortium bidding to build a large new Dutch research reactor at Petten, to replace a 54-year old one which produces about 60% of Europe’s medical radioisotopes. Its cost is likely to be about €580 million.
Bid to resurrect closed Spanish nuclear plant
Eighteen months after being shut down to avoid new taxes, the owners of Spain's Garoña nuclear power plant have applied to government to bring the plant back into operation on a longer operating licence. The plant was abruptly shut down at the end of 2012 to avoid paying substantial taxes – about €150 million per year - which would have made operation uneconomic when coupled with upgrading. The government had limited the prospective licence renewal period which meant that the capital expenditure was not justified.
However, in February this year the government approved a royal decree which opened the possibility of a reprieve, and Nuclenor has applied for a new operating licence to 2031, a long enough period to justify both a €120 million upgrade and payment of the tax.
WNN 28/5/14. Spain
German court upholds illegality of plant closure
Following the government-ordered closure of its Biblis reactors in March 2011, RWE filed a lawsuit against the government and said that the phase-out had cost the company over EUR 1 billion in 2011 alone. In February 2013 the administrative court in Hesse found that the government had had acted illegally in ordering the closure of Biblis A & B in 2011. The German Supreme Administrative Court has now endorsed this by ruling that the forced closure of the Biblis plant by the state was "formally unlawful because [RWE] had not been consulted and this constituted a substantial procedural error." Biblis A and B, total 2407 MWe net, had been licensed to operate until 2019 and 2021 just two months before the shutdown order. Claims for damages will be decided subsequently.
WNN 14/1/14. Germany
German court orders state to repay EUR 2.2 billion
The German government has been ordered to refund about €2.2 billion in fuel taxes collected from RWE and E.On, pending final decisions from either the Federal Constitutional Court or the European Court of Justice. This latest ruling in the court battle over nuclear fuel taxes in Germany has come from the Hamburg Tax Court, underlining successive decisions since power plant operators were required to pay €145 per gram of fissile uranium or plutonium loaded into German power reactors. The tax is intended to take about half of the profit from the nuclear power plants.
The tax arrangement had been agreed between utilities and the government in 2010 as an amendment to the 2002 Atomic Energy Act as a trade-off to allow longer operating lives for German reactors. But the government reneged on the deal in reaction to the 2011 Fukushima accident in Japan by cancelling the longer lives and forcing closures of older units - all while keeping the tax.
WNN 15/4/14. Germany
Hungary signs for two new Russian reactors
The Hungarian government has signed an agreement with Rosatom to build two reactors at Paks, with Russia providing 80% of the finance under a 30-year loan which will not exceed EUR 10 billion. The government said that the EU had already approved a draft plan for building the 1200 MWe units, at a likely cost of around EUR 10-12 billion. The first unit is to be operational about 2023. This agreement cut across earlier intentions to call for tenders from Rosatom and four other reactor vendors, but apparently Rosatom was the only one offering major finance as part of the deal.
WNN 15/1/14. Hungary
Russia supports nuclear plant contract with Hungary
In support of its agreement to build two 1200 MWe reactors at Paks nuclear plant in Hungary, Russia has agreed a EUR 10 billion financing deal to cover 80% of the anticipated project cost, to be repaid over 21 years of operation. The interest rate is below 4% for 11 years then 4.5%, then 4.9%. In a 256-29 vote the Hungarian parliament approved the finance deal. This brings to well over 20 the number of large nuclear power reactors being built by Russia in other countries, mostly with substantial loans, and some on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis.
WNN 6/2/14. Hungary
Turbulent electricity market scuttles Czech power plant plans
CEZ, the Czech utility 70% owned by the government, has cancelled its tender for building two further nuclear reactors at the Temelin power plant due to uncertain electricity market conditions. The public tender process had been kicked off in 2009, and attracted three bids, from Areva, Westinghouse and a Russian-Skoda consortium.
The previous government was planning to legislate for a cost-difference guarantee for electricity from Temelin 3 & 4 to ensure that investment was viable. This would cover the difference between wholesale electricity prices and price levels needed to cover construction costs. The Ministry of Industry and Trade wanted it written into a new long-term Czech energy framework, but this was opposed by the Ministry of Finance. Estimates of its impact varied up to 10% additional on retail power bills. The Industry Ministry was working on €60/MWh, others suggested that €90 would be needed, indexed. CEZ required €70/MWh for the new units to be profitable, compared with mid 2013 forward prices of under €40. The prime minister of the new coalition government said it was not open to providing price guarantees that would “dramatically burden” consumers, after its experience in support of renewable sources, notably solar PV, which add EUR 1.7 billion per year to consumer bills.
Following government confirmation this week that it would not provide any future price guarantees, CEZ informed the bidders that it had cancelled the procurement process. The Minister of Finance and the Minister of Trade and Industry are to prepare a plan by the end the year on the development of nuclear power in the country, which is supported in principle by the government in its new draft energy policy.
WNN 10/4/14. Czech Rep
Poland sets out electricity options for low-carbon future
A long-awaited draft energy policy for Poland has two scenarios, both with nuclear power playing a key role. One has nuclear power supplying 50 TWh/yr by 2035, with renewables 60 TWh. The other has stronger growth in nuclear to 74 TWh/yr, and 49 TWh renewables. Both involve a major shift from lignite and black coal which currently provide 84% of the electricity and most of the air pollution. Consultation on the draft runs to 1 September.
In 2012 Poland generated 162 TWh from its huge lignite and black coal resources plus gas imported from Russia (6 TWh) and some renewables. In 2011 final consumption was 122 billion kWh, or 3160 kWh/yr per capita, one of the lowest levels in Europe. Poland's electricity consumption is forecast to grow by 54% to 2030, but under the EU's strict climate policy targets the country must diversify away from coal. A government report has compared electricity costs, and nuclear power was least-cost at both 85% and 90% capacity factors. Plans are advancing to build 6 GWe of nuclear capacity at two sites by 2035.
WNN 21/8/14. Poland
Ukraine’s nuclear power plants undisturbed by hostilities
Ukraine relies on its four Russian-built nuclear power plants (15 reactors) for almost half its electricity. They also use Russian fuel, though Westinghouse is capable of supplying them. Their operation has been normal in recent weeks and fuel supplies do not appear to be threatened, though arrangements were being made to airfreight Russian fuel to Bulgaria and Slovakia in case transit through Ukraine is interrupted.
WNN 6/3/14. Ukraine
First half of new Chernobyl cover completed
The first half of Chernobyl’s new safe confinement, an arch 108 metres high, spanning 257 metres and weighing 12,800 tonnes, has been moved 112 metres to a holding area in front of the wrecked unit 4 and its hastily-built 1986 cover. The second half is expected to be completed and joined to the first at the end of this year. Cladding, cranes and remote handling equipment will be fitted in 2015. The EUR 740 million project is being funded through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
WNN 1/4/14. Chernobyl
New Russian fast reactor starts up: Beloyarsk 4
After 32 years of successful operation of Beloyarsk unit 3, a 560 MWe fast reactor, its intended successor has been started up. The 789 MWe BN-800 is a very similar sodium-cooled design. Construction from 2006 has been delayed due to lack of funds. Grid connection is expected in October. Its initial fuel is about 75% uranium with some mixed U-Pu oxide (MOX) fuel assemblies, but in 2017 it will change over fully to pelletised MOX fuel when a new fuel plant is completed. This first BN-800 unit is intended to demonstrate the use of MOX fuel at industrial scale in Russia, including that made from weapons plutonium, and justify the closed fuel cycle technology.
There is an agreement to sell two BN-800 reactors to China, for the Sanming power plant, but this deal has not progressed. Meanwhile the designer, OKBM-Afrikantov, is completing work on the BN-1200. Rosatom sees this as a “Generation IV design with natural security” – an element of the Proryv (breakthrough) Project, for large fast reactors with closed fuel cycle, and plans to submit it to the Gen IV International Forum. The first BN-1200 will be unit 5 at Beloyarsk, operational from about 2020, and environmental assessment for this has been under way for two years. The next BN-1200 units will be built at the South Urals plant. The BN series reactors represent one of four designs in the Federal Target Program Funding for Fast Neutron Reactors to 2020.
First criticality on Beloyarsk 4 was on the same day that the 60th anniversary of starting the world’s first nuclear power plant at Obninsk was celebrated. That 5 MWe reactor was in operation for 48 years, from 1954 to 2002, at the Russian Institute for Physics & Power Engineering.
WNN 27/6/14. Russia NP
Russia pushes forward on innovative small reactors
In 2010 the Russian government approved the federal target program (FTP) "New-generation nuclear energy technologies for the period 2010-2015 and up to 2020" designed to bring a new technology platform for the nuclear power industry based on fast neutron reactors. Four designs were selected, including the BN-800 commercial unit now almost complete at Beloyarsk. The FTP is also to commercialise three new fast neutron reactors for Russia to build over 2020-2030, including the 300 MWe lead-cooled BREST. Rosatom's long-term strategy up to 2050 involves moving to inherently safe nuclear plants using fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle and MOX or nitride fuel.
Recently the two smaller designs have been in the news, both to be built at or next to the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors in Dimitrovgrad. Following a June 2013 agreement with France and the USA, design of the 150 MWt MBIR multi-purpose fast reactor was finalised this year and a contract let to AEM-Technology, with the cost estimated at RUR 16.4 billion ($454 million) and completion expected in 2020. For power generation, a pilot 100 MWe SVBR-100 unit is to be built by AKME-Engineering by 2019. This is a modular lead-bismuth cooled fast neutron reactor design from OKB Gidropress and the Institute for Physics and Power Engineering, based on naval technology. It is intended to meet regional needs in Russia and abroad with plants comprising multiple factory-built modules. A company associated with Rusal was to be a major investor, and Rosatom is now looking for another commercial partner to enable the project to proceed.
WNN 18/6/13, 1/5/14. Russia nuclear power
New reactor construction starts in Belarus
Unit 2 of Ostrovets nuclear power plant is now under construction, several months ahead of schedule. Russia’s Atomstroyexport is building the plant, with two 1200 MWe VVER reactors, on a turnkey basis. It is financed by a Russian export credit facility of up to US$ 10 billion, for 25 years. All fuel will be supplied by Russia, and used fuel will be returned there for recycling.
Russia is now the world’s top exporter of nuclear power plants, and Rosatom’s order book for building new plants abroad stands at almost $100 billion, including units in Finland and Hungary. Many of these export orders are related to attractive financing packages, including loans of up to 90% of the value, and build-own-operate contracts with guaranteed sales.
WNN 3/6/14. Belarus
Two Chinese reactors start up, another starts construction
Unit 1 at Yangjiang nuclear power plant achieved criticality in December, and was grid connected at the end of the month. Ningde unit 2 has achieved criticality and grid connection is expected in January. Also, unit 6 at Yangjiang started full construction, with first structural concrete being poured for the reactor. This means that Yangjiang had six reactors under construction simultaneously – some 6480 MWe gross, near the end of 2013. It includes (units 5 & 6) the first two ACPR1000 reactors developed from French origins by China General Nuclear Power (CGN) with a view to export, and having full Chinese intellectual property rights.
WNN 31/12/13. China NP
(NB this item is also in 2013 Archive, though published on 3 January in Digest)
New Chinese reactors come on line
Ningde 2 in Fujian province has been grid connected as China’s 20th operating reactor, adding some 1020 MWe to China General Nuclear Power’s supply. It is a CPR-1000 unit which has been under construction for 62 months. Two further Ningde units are due on line in the next two years.
WNN 7/1/14. China NP
The first unit of six at Fuqing nuclear power plant in Fujian province has been connected to the grid, becoming the 21st operating power reactor in China. Construction of the 1020 MWe net CPR-1000 reactor for China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and China Huadian Corp (with 45% share) took 69 months, due to delays following the Fukushima accident. Unit 1 started up last month and is expected in commercial operation in November. Three more CPR-1000 reactors are under construction on the site. Fuqing is CNNC’s first plant using its competitor’s (CGN’s) technology.
Fuqing is also China Huadian’s first venture into nuclear power, it being the third of the big five generating companies formed in 2002 to make this move with significant equity. China Power Investment Corp is a major player in building already. China Datang Corp has a 44% share of Ningde nuclear power plant. China Huaneng Group has a 49% stake in Changjiang nuclear plant under construction, and plays a leading role in both the Shidaowan high-temperature reactor project under construction and has six large PWRs planned there, including the first CAP1400 evolved from Westinghouse design. China Guodian Corp is the fifth, so far trailing the field with nuclear development apart from very minor stakes, but set to catch up in the 2020s. The engagement of all five major state corporations, together responsible for over 1100 GWe of generation capacity (similar to US total, 20% more than EU), underlines the importance of nuclear power in China’s future.
WNN 21/8/14. China NP
New Chinese reactor starts up
The first unit of Fuqing nuclear power plant has started up. Construction of the 1087 MWe (gross) reactor for CNNC started in November 2008. It is CNNC’s first CPR-1000, though China General Nuclear Corp (CGN) has five now operating at three sites. After the 15 currently under construction, the model will be replaced by the Hualong 1000, which brings together design features from both major operators.
WNN 24/7/14. China NP
New Chinese reactors in commercial operation
The second unit at the Hongyanhe plant in Liaoning province in northeast China has entered commercial operation, after being grid-connected in November. Two further CPR-1000 units at the site are scheduled to begin operating in the next two years.
WNN 28/2/14 China NP
The first of six units at Yangjiang nuclear power plant in western Guangdong province has been handed over to the owner, a subsidiary of China General Nuclear Power (CGN), becoming the 19th Chinese reactor in commercial operation. The second unit is expected to start up in a few months, with 83% local content. Units 3-6 are under construction, with the last due on line in 2018. The first two reactors are CGN’s CPR-1000, the most widely-built design in recent years, the second two are a development of this, and the last two are the advanced ACPR1000, soon to be superseded by a standardised Chinese design in the 1000 MWe class.
WNN 27/3/14. China nuclear power
Ningde unit 2 in Fujian province has commenced commercial operation, having been grid-connected in January after 62 months construction. The plant is co-owned by China General Nuclear (CGN) and China Datang Corporation, with minor local equity. Two further CPR-1000 units are under construction there. Ningde is the first nuclear project of Datang - one of the five large generating companies formed from splitting up the State Power Corporation in 2002.
WNN 8/5/14. China nuclear power
The second reactor at Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in northeastern Liaoning province entered commercial operation in mid May. The CPR-1000 unit started up last October and was grid connected in November. Unit 3 there is expected to start up in the next couple of months, and construction start on units 5 & 6 is expected later in the year.
WNN 28/4/14. China nuclear power
China signs up for Russian floating nuclear plant cooperation
The China Atomic Energy Authority (CAEA) has signed an agreement with Rosatom to cooperate in construction of floating nuclear cogeneration plants for China offshore islands. These would be built in China but be based on Russian technology, such as the 70 MWe plant now under construction in St Petersburg, and possibly using the same Russian KLT-40S reactors. They can be used for power and desalination.
China boosts uranium imports
With low prevailing uranium prices for the last two years, China has ramped up uranium imports to several times its annual requirements. Its domestic uranium production meets only a quarter of present demand, and imports supplement this. In 2012 imports were 12,908 tU, and in 2013 China imported 18,968 tonnes of uranium for $2.37 billion from five countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Australia, Namibia and Canada). Anticipated need in 2014 is 6250 tU. As well as buying product on world markets, the two main nuclear power companies are investing in overseas uranium mines.
China fuel cycle
China’s major hydropower company joins nuclear wave
China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and China Three Gorges Group (CTG) have signed a strategic cooperation agreement to invest in domestic nuclear power projects, and to promote the inland Taohuajiang nuclear power plant in Hunan province. CTG developed the huge Three Gorges hydropower project, now operated by its subsidiary China Yangtze Power (CYPC). CTG already holds 20% of the CNNC project company set up in 2007: CNNC Hunan Taohuajiang Nuclear Power Co Ltd (CNNC 50%), which is ready to build one of the first big inland nuclear power plants – four AP1000 reactors. However, the new agreement signals CTG’s substantial entry into nuclear power. Collaboration domestically will be between subsidiaries CNNP and CYPC, while international nuclear and hydropower goals would be pursued at higher level.
In addition to new reactor projects, CTG has agreed to invest in China’s nuclear power supply chain, including participating in CNNC's nuclear fuel operations, and on the R&D front promote development and construction of the demonstration fast reactor project. This is evidently the twin Russian BN-800 plant planned for Sanming, in Fujian province, where CNNC has the major stake in the project company. Russia’s NIAEP-Atomstroyexport expects contracts for the actual plant to be in place about the end of this year.
There is another interesting angle on the new China hydro-nuclear agreement. In September 2010 CYPC invested in EuroSibEnergo, a large private Russian hydropower company, and is exploring the potential for importing Siberian hydro power. The main assets of EuroSibEnergo are close to China’s border and the company is negotiating to export power to the northern and northeastern provinces of China where prices are higher. This is within the terms of a 2006 Russian-Chinese Intergovernmental Agreement which provides for export to China of up to 20 billion kWh per year by 2020. Eurosibenergo supplies RUSAL, the world’s largest aluminium smelting company - both companies are in the En+ group.
WNN 26/8/14. China NP, China organisations
Taiwan backs off on completion of new plant
In response to ongoing political discord, the Taiwan government has ordered unit 1 of the new Lungmen nuclear power plant near Taipei to be ‘sealed’ once safety checks are complete and before loading fuel, and construction of unit 2 – now 90% complete – to be halted. A referendum on the future of the plant will be held. Lungmen comprises two GE-Hitachi Advanced Boiling Water Reactors of 1350 MWe each. Construction began in 1999 with intention of 2004 completion, but political interference from an early stage has delayed construction and greatly increased costs. In addition, the Atomic Energy Council of Taiwan has been scathing concerning management of the project. Some $9.9 billion has been spent on the plant so far.
Taiwan imports 97% of its energy and depends on nuclear power from six reactors for a quarter of its base-load power and 16% of electricity overall. Its oldest reactors are due to start closing from 2017. Nuclear power is by far the lowest cost source of Taiwan’s electricity, and the Minister for Economic Affairs has warned that power prices will rise substantially without the new nuclear capacity. In marked contrast to mainland China, there has been significant opposition to nuclear power in Taiwan for more than a decade.
WNN 28/4/14. Taiwan
South Korea green light for two new reactors
The government has authorised construction of Shin Kori 5 & 6, with construction of the 1455 MWe AP1400 reactors to start on schedule in September 2014. They are expected to cost $7.1 billion ($2450/kW). Shin Kori 3 & 4 are the reference units for the four AP1400 units being built at Barakah for the UAE, in a $20 billion project. They are expected on line this year, having had construction delayed due to the need to replace substandard cabling.
The last of South Korea’s 1000 MWe class OPR reactors is due to come on line this year, having also been delayed by cabling replacement.
WNN 29/1/14. South Korea
Japanese regulator clears first nuclear plant for restart
Kyushu’s Sendai nuclear power plant has been given draft approval to restart by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), having met the greatly upgraded safety requirements published in July last year. This is a major step towards actually returning to service. The NRA’s 400-page report is open for public comment for 30 days, then informal local government agreement to the restart will be sought. October appears likely for retuning to the grid. Sendai 1&2 are PWR reactors, each 846 MWe net, which were commissioned in 1984-85.
Kyushu has committed some $3 billion on post-Fukushima upgrades for its nuclear plants. At Sendai this has involved improving seismic tolerance from 400 to 620 Gal, building a 10-metre high seawall around pumps, enhanced back-up provisions and generally ‘hardening’ the site. The shutdown of Japan’s entire nuclear fleet has had profound economic consequences for the country due to the $134 billion trade deficit in 2013 brought about by increased fossil fuel imports and lower productivity. Higher electricity prices and increased CO2 emissions are also concerns. In June 2014 the three major business lobbies urged the Industry Minister to expedite restart of the nuclear reactors. “The top priority in energy policy is a quick return to inexpensive and stable supplies of electricity”, they said.
Kansai’s Takahama 3&4 are next in line to be cleared for restart, and assessment is well advanced. So far ten more PWRs are queued for approval by NRA, the reconstituted safety regulator, plus seven BWRs which required more major upgrading and also need formal approval from local government.
In recent months, global leaders in nuclear regulation have advised the NRA on its strategy for restarts, emergency response and decommissioning at Fukushima Daiichi. They included Richard Meserve, former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Mike Weightman, former chief nuclear regulator in the UK, and André-Claude Lacoste, former head of France's Autorité de Sureté Nucléaire (Nuclear Safety Authority). They are official international advisors to NRA. http://www.nsr.go.jp/committee/kisei/h26fy/data/0017_02.pdf
WNN 16/7/14. Japan
Japan bleeds as nuclear capacity remains shut down
Japan's ongoing reliance on imported fossil fuels while its nuclear reactors await permission to restart continues to impact on the country's trade deficit and greenhouse gas emissions. The 2014 Annual Report on Energy, published by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), shows that Japan depended on imported fossil fuels for 88% of its electricity in fiscal year 2013, compared with 62% in fiscal 2010, the last full year before the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The additional fuel costs that Japan faced in fiscal 2013 to compensate for its nuclear reactors being idled was ¥3.6 trillion ($35.2 billion). Japan reported a trade deficit of ¥11.5 trillion ($112 billion) for the year, largely due directly and indirectly to these additional fuel costs. This is much more than the 2012 trade deficit, and follows a ¥6.6 trillion ($65 billion) surplus in 2010. Electricity consumption has decreased since 2010 and tariffs for industrial users have increased 28%.
Emissions from electricity generation accounted for 486 Mt CO2 (36.2%) of the country's total in fiscal 2012, compared with 377 Mt (30% of total) in 2010.
WNN 17/6/14. Japan
IAEA team positive re Fukushima return
The report from the IAEA team which visited the Fukushima evacuation area in October has urged Japanese authorities to be more realistic about permitting return of evacuees to areas where radiation levels have decreased to 20 mSv/yr or less and to "increase efforts to communicate that in remediation situations, any level of individual radiation dose in the range of 1 to 20 mSv per year is acceptable and in line with the international standards and with the recommendations from the relevant international organisations." This is also much less than experienced naturally in some parts of the world.
The team said that decontamination was proceeding well, and that engagement with people affected by the accident was good. However, the dose rate calculation for restricted areas was found to overestimate the dose rate unduly, and the IAEA team recommended much greater use of personal dosimeters to get accurate readings. This would support planning for resettlement, and also reassure people in the wider prefecture – particularly parents of small children.
WNN 24/1/14. Fukushima accident
Two Fukushima reactors retired
As announced several months ago, Fukushima Daiichi units 5 & 6 are being decommissioned at the end of January, though basically undamaged by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. This reduces Japan’s operable (but not currently operating) reactor fleet to 48 units.
WNN 31/1/14. Japan
Fukushima used fuel removal at half-way point
Removal of used fuel assemblies from the elevated pool at Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 has reached the half-way mark, with 682 out of 1331 now moved to the central fuel storage on site without incident. There are also 180 new assemblies remaining in the pool.
Tepco http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/decommision/index-e.html Fukushima accident
Middle East & N.Africa
Work to start on 2nd and 3rd UAE reactors
Substantial work to prepare for first structural concrete has been authorised for Barakah units 3 & 4 in the United Arab Emirates. The first two South Korean APR-1400 units are under construction already, and a full construction licence for these next two is expected late this year, the 10,000-page application having been submitted in March 2013.
WNN 12/2/14. UAE
Iran moves forward on plans for new nuclear power plants
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) has announced an agreement with Rosatom to build at least two more nuclear reactors at Bushehr, near the head of the Persian Gulf. Two desalination plants would be part of the overall project. The reactors are to be at least 1000 MWe each. AEOI said that the agreement is part of a 1992 deal between the two countries on nuclear cooperation under which Bushehr unit 1 was built. It is being operated by Russian personnel employed by Atomtechexport, a Rosatom subsidiary.
Technical and commercial issues relating to the new reactors will now be worked out, but Iran’s ambassador in Moscow earlier said that the plant, along with other goods, would be bartered for Iran’s oil (which is subject to UN trade sanctions). The electricity from the Bushehr reactor frees 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. Last year Iran’s Energy Minister said that it saved some $2 billion per year in oil and gas.
WNN 14/3/14. Iran
Algeria signs up for Russian reactors
Algeria has signed a high-level agreement with Rosatom, focused on construction of nuclear power plants and research reactors, and the use of nuclear reactors for desalination of seawater. Rosatom said the key aspect of it was construction of its VVER reactors, on the basis of its “vast experience of building nuclear power plants in countries with hot climates and high seismic activity”, and Algeria’s energy minister said that the timeline for this was “the next 12 years”.
WNN 4/9/14. Emerging countries
Australia-India bilateral safeguards agreement in place
After more than two years of negotiations the Australia-India bilateral safeguards agreement has been signed by both heads of state. This supplements India’s safeguards agreements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, and like 22 other such Australian agreements is very much more restrictive than the normal IAEA ones. The complication with India has been that, like its neighbor China, it is a nuclear weapons state but cannot be recognized as such under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), because it attained that status after 1970 when the NPT came into effect. Accordingly, since 2006 the USA has led international efforts to bring India de facto under the NPT umbrella, since its non-proliferation credentials in relation to other countries are second to none. India’s safeguards agreement with the IAEA was approved in 2008, and is much more restrictive than those with the five recognised weapons states. India’s new government this year also ratified the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, giving the IAEA enhanced access to India’s civil power facilities, 20 being listed.
India has an ambitious nuclear power program which is constrained by lack of indigenous uranium resources. In the last few years India has been able to start importing uranium from Kazakhstan, Russia and Areva’s operations, and now Australia can be an additional source.
WNN 8/9/14. Australia, India
India ratifying international transparency protocol
Beyond the normal international safeguards regime which accounts for nuclear materials, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since 1997 has a model Additional Protocol to allow much more intrusive monitoring of materials and activities in each country which has ratified it. So far, 123 countries plus Taiwan, Greenland and Euratom have done so. However, for the five nuclear weapons states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it is more a token than real constraint. For the rest under the NPT, it is very significant.
An Additional Protocol for India was agreed by the IAEA Board in March 2009 and then signed, but India has delayed ratifying it until now. Twenty nuclear facilities are listed so far, http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/2014/infcirc754a5.pdf excluding those involved in any way with the country’s weapons program. The arrangement is thus similar to that pertaining for the five NPT nuclear weapons states, though India remains outside the NPT, since it is unable to join as a weapons state. However, the announcement this week that it is ratifying the Additional Protocol is a major step forward in transparency and will clear the way for India to seek membership of four international arms control regimes, and also for the bilateral safeguards agreement with Australia to progress, opening up uranium supply. The main two arms control regimes are the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and the Missile Technology Control Regime, where it already conforms to their guidelines "as a country with the ability and willingness to promote global non-proliferation objectives.” Indian membership of the NSG is likely to be politically contentious due to China’s links with Pakistan.
Pakistan outlines nuclear power plans under China patronage
Pakistan has been constrained in its plans for nuclear power both by finance and its exclusion from world trade due to being outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or equivalent provision. It has 1.4 GWe nuclear capacity operating or under construction, mostly in northern Punjab, and last year it agreed with China to build two 1100 MWe power reactors near Karachi, with fuel for 60-year lifetime and 82% of the finance to be supplied by China.
In recent months there have been a number of reports of grander targets – four 1100 MWe units at each of eight sites, though the numbers indicate that this might be achieved over several decades. A start on this program appears to be in plans for a plant at Muzaffargarh, on the Taunsa-Panjnad canal near Multan in southwest Punjab, together with an agreement with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to build another 1100 MWe unit and further discussions in that quarter. The Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is reported to have selected six new sites for nuclear plants.
New Argentine reactor starts up
Atucha unit 2 in Argentina has started up, 34 years after construction commenced. It is a Siemens design of pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR), unique to Argentina, and after construction was suspended for some years the government decided to complete it. The project was revived in 2006 as part of a $3.5 billion strategic plan for the country's nuclear power sector. The 745 MWe Atucha 2 is the country’s third nuclear power reactor, joining the 335 MWe Atucha 1 PHWR which has been in operation since 1974, and the 660 MWe Embalse PHWR, operating since 1983. Grid connection is expected in weeks, and full power by year end. It is also now known as the Kirchner reactor.
WNN 4/6/14. Argentina
New Argentine reactor comes on line
Atucha 2, also known as Kirchner nuclear reactor, has been connected to the grid in Argentina, adding 692 MWe net – 74% – to the country’s nuclear capacity. The reactor is an unusual German heavy-water design, similar to Atucha 1 but twice the size. Construction started in 1981 then ceased in 1994 due to lack of funds. In 2006 the government announced a $3.5 billion strategic plan for the nuclear power sector, and construction resumed. Its operation will avoid the burning of $1.5 billion worth of oil annually (the country has used oil for 15% of its electricity).
WNN 30/6/14. Argentina
Argentina starts construction of small power reactor
As the country prepares to start up its long-delayed German-designed Atucha 2 nuclear plant, the state-owned INVAP has started construction of one of the very few small reactors so far to make it from drawing board to steel and concrete. The 27 MWe CAREM25 is one of the oldest small power reactor designs around, from 1980s, with plans for building it announced in 2006. It has several modern attributes in cooling, and it has integral steam generators – inside the 3.5 metre diameter reactor pressure vessel. It was indigenously designed by INVAP and the Atomic Energy Commission, and some 70% of its components will be made in the country. This prototype is being built next to Atucha, about 100 km northwest of Buenos Aries, and the cost is expected to be about $446 million. There are plans to follow it with a larger version, possibly 200 MWe, in the northern Formosa province by 2021.
WNN 10/2/14. Small reactors, Argentina
Argentina confirms China to build Canadian reactor
Hot on the heels of a high-level agreement with Russia to provide the basis for building the Atucha 3 nuclear reactor, the Argentine and Chinese presidents signed a similar agreement in July. China wasted no time in following up this week with Nucleoelectrica Argentina SA and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) signing a commercial framework contract to build Atucha 3 as a Canadian-designed Candu-6 unit. CNNC runs two Candu-6 units at Qinshan in China. The Atucha 3 project will have $3.8 billion in local input and $2 billion from China and elsewhere under a long-term financing arrangement. Specific contracts for aspects of the deal are expected early next year.
WNN 4/9/14. Argentina
Russian agreement with Argentina
A high-level and wide-ranging nuclear cooperation agreement has been signed with Russia. This has special significance in the light of Rosatom’s proposal to help build Argentina’s next large reactor, Atucha 3, and an expressed intention to provide funding for that. Russia’s President Putin said that the new agreement "will become a strong foundation for close cooperation" with Argentina in nuclear power.
Russia is supplying three nuclear power plants which are under construction at the moment in China, India and Belarus, and four more are confirmed in India, Bangladesh, Turkey and Vietnam with Russia providing the bulk of the finance. Another in Finland will have 34% Rosatom equity. Exports of 16 more are planned.
WNN 14/7/14. Argentina
Chinese agreement with Argentina to build new reactor
China and Argentina have signed a new high-level agreement towards construction of a third Atucha reactor in northern Argentina. In June 2012 the government had signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with China, involving studies for a fourth nuclear power unit, financed by China. The new PHWR unit would be different from the first two Atucha reactors of German design and similar to the Canadian designs such as Argentina’s Embalse or China’s Qinshan Phase III. The new agreement provides for Nucleoeléctrica Argentina – which has rights to the CANDU technology – to be designer, architect-engineer, builder and operator of the new reactor. China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) would assist by providing goods and services under long-term financing (it operates similar units at Qinshan). Another bilateral agreement covered Chinese cooperation in PWR construction in Argentina.
Planning Ministry 18/7/14, WNN 25/7/14. Argentina
Africa – central and south
South African budget affirms nuclear power priority, BRICS help?
Over one-tenth of the South African energy budget is for nuclear energy R&D. This ZAR 850 million ($81 million) allocation is to support plans for building 9600 MWe of new nuclear capacity, in the country’s Integrated Energy Resource Plan. The nuclear expansion is a central feature of that plan. Two French reactors with 1830 MWe total capacity have operated since 1984 at Koeberg, providing 5% of the country’s electricity (92% is from coal). A major part of the new energy budget – 69% – is to extend electrification programs.
Earlier plans for new nuclear plants have lapsed for lack of finance, but that may now be addressed though the BRICS New Development Bank based in Shanghai. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) are determined to provide an alternative to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (where BRICS countries have insignificant voting power) for financing large-scale development programs. Allied to this is the Russian plan for a BRICS Energy Association led by it, with focus on nuclear – two-thirds of nuclear plants under construction are in BRICS countries. In addition, South Africa’s 2013 strategic partnership with Russia led to Rosatom offering to build the country’s new nuclear capacity with some financial assistance. Since then, China has also offered tangible support, and a nuclear skills development and training agreement was signed in February.
WNN 21 & 23/7/14. South Africa
Paladin’s Malawi mine shut down
Due to production costs exceeding revenue, Paladin has announced that production will be suspended at it Kayelekera uranium mine in Malawi and the operation put into care and maintenance from April due to low uranium prices. This is expected to cost about $12 million per year ongoing, compared with operating losses of double that after some long-term contracts were filled. The mine started production in 2009 and reached capacity last year. A 15% share is held by the government.
WNN 7/2/14. Africa
Indonesia’s next step towards nuclear power, with Japan
Indonesia’s plans to introduce nuclear power to serve the Java-Bali grid, accounting for three quarters of the country’s electricity demand, have not progressed in the last 20 years. Plans for a small power reactor at Serpong near Jakarta, at the site of the largest research reactor, were announced in December. But now the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) has agreed to extend a 2007 cooperation agreement with Indonesia’s National Atomic Energy Agency (BATAN) to include research and development of high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTRs). Prior to the introduction of commercial reactors in Indonesia, BATAN plans to build a test and demonstration HTR of about 3-10 MWe. This is with a view to a number of 100 MWe units following in Kalimantan, Sulawesi and islands. Construction of the demonstration unit is expected to take four years, with the start of operation scheduled for 2020. An HTR would have industrial applications as well as power generation.
Since 1998 JAEA has had a prototype gas-cooled reactor, the 30 MWt High Temperature Engineering Test Reactor (HTTR) running at the Oarai Nuclear Hydrogen and Heat Application Research Centre. It is the largest and highest-temperature HTR operating in the world. This year the Japanese government included HTR research in its draft basic energy plan. JAEA has a major agreement with Kazakhstan’s National Nuclear Centre relating to the design, construction and operation of an HTR of about 50 MW at Kurchatov city. It also has HTR research agreements with South Korea and China, and is proposing to build a 100 MW demonstration HTR at Abu Dhabi in the UAE, with Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC), and expedited by the Japan Engineers Federation (JEF).
China is currently leading the world in building a demonstration commercial HTR at Shidaowan, Shandong province, a 210 MWe twin reactor unit. In the USA the Energy Policy Act of 2005 established the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project to develop, construct and operate a prototype HTR and associated electricity or hydrogen production facilities by 2021. This stalled due to funding cuts, though an NGNP Industry Alliance has selected an Areva HTR design and is trying to take this forward with international sponsorship despite US Administration disinterest.
WNN 5/8/14. Indonesia
Indonesia scales back immediate nuclear plans
Since the 1980s Indonesia has had various plans for 2 GWe to 7 GWe of nuclear capacity to serve the Bali-Java grid, which supplies three quarters of the country’s electricity demand – 132 TWh in 2012. A number of sites have been considered, most recently on West Bangka Island off the north coast of southern Sumatra, for up to 10 GWe. PT PLN (Persero), the Indonesia Electricity Corporation, projects 55 GWe new capacity by 2021, most of this coal-fired. But for now, the immediate nuclear power plans have come back to a ‘non-commercial power reactor’ of about 30 MWe built at the site of the country’s main research reactor at Serpong, on the outskirts of Jakarta.
Indonesia’s National Atomic Energy Agency (BATAN) was established in 1958, and the country has a greater depth of experience and infrastructure in nuclear technology than any other southeast Asian country except Australia. During the 1980s many technical people were trained in anticipation of nuclear power development then, many of these are still available for new projects. The Research & Technology Ministry (RISTEK) is advancing the present plans, but no choice of technology has been announced. The choice under 100 MWe is very limited. Indonesia’s Nuclear Energy Regulatory Agency (BAPETEN) has been working with the International Atomic Energy Agency in reviewing at least three of the sites proposed for a larger plant. RISTEK reports public opinion late in 2013 showing 76.5% positive about nuclear science and technology, and 60.4% agreeing with building a nuclear power plant in the country.
Emerging nuclear countries
Canada’s Cigar Lake mine starts production
The first shipment of ore slurry from Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine has been trucked to the refurbished mill at McClean Lake, 70 km away. Processing will commence by mid year. The mine will ramp up to design capacity of almost 7000 tonnes of uranium per year by 2018. Cigar Lake is the world's second largest high-grade uranium deposit, after McArthur River, with average feed grade over 20%. Cameco, with 50% ownership, is managing the joint venture, with Areva holding 37%, Idemitsu 8% and TEPCO 5%. The McClean Lake mill is 70% owned by Areva Resources.
The 480-metre-deep underground mine is in very poor ground conditions – the orebody is actually in the soft Athabasca sandstone. Hence it uses ground freezing and high-pressure water jets at this level to excavate the ore. Construction on the project began in 2005 with production originally scheduled to start in 2011. However, underground floods in 2006 and 2008 set the start date back and tripled the overall cost of the project to more than C$1.9 billion. There are extra requirements for pumping capacity – now 2500 cubic metres per hour, and ground refrigeration. In February 2010 dewatering was complete and remediation proceeded. The 425-metre level was backfilled and new workings developed in more competent rock 55 metres lower.
WNN 13/3/14. Canada uranium
Australian uranium production down in 2013, new mine coming on
Uranium production from Australia’s four mines dropped 9% in 2013 to 7488 tonnes U3O8 (6350 tU). Production ceased at Honeymoon late in the year. Alliance Resources’ Four Mile project is being commissioned now, using a satellite plant to load resin from the in situ leach mining. The uranium is then recovered at the main Beverley plant next door. The new project is in partnership with Heathgate Resources which operates the Beverley ISL mine. Four Mile has substantial resources, 32,000 t U3O8 being proved up so far.
WNN 4/2/14. Australia
Australian uranium agreement with UAE
A bilateral safeguards agreement signed in July 2012 between Australia and the United Arab Emirates has come into force following a formal exchange of letters. This is the 22nd such bilateral agreement for Australia. They are more rigorous supplements to normal IAEA safeguards arrangements covering the supply of uranium.
Aust government, http://trademinister.gov.au/releases/Pages/2014/ar_mr_140415.aspx?ministerid=3 Safeguards
BHP Billiton lateral thinking on ore processing for Olympic Dam
Having baulked at the $28 billion cost of a major development of the mine two years ago, BHP Billiton has applied for government approval to build and operate a demonstration-scale heap leaching plant at its Olympic Dam mine, as the company looks for more economical ways of expanding the South Australian project. Heap leaching has not previously been used for uranium ore in Australia (that at Rum Jungle over 1965-71 was for copper), though it is increasingly favoured for low-grade hard-rock uranium ores overseas. Laboratory and pilot scale trials of the technique using run of mill ore from the existing operations have shown promising results to date. The company expects to start construction of the demonstration plant in the second half of 2015, with a three-year trial period starting in late 2016.
Some 36,000 tonnes of ore - about one day's current mine production - will be used in the trial. The ore will be crushed, placed on an impermeable leach pad and treated with sulphuric acid for 300 days. This is expected to recover most of the uranium, and with the help of bacteria, around half of the copper. The uranium would then be removed from the pregnant liquor by solvent extraction, after which the copper would be removed electrolytically. This essentially reverses the present sequence where most of the uranium is recovered by acid leaching the mill tailings after copper sulphide flotation. Following the heap leaching, the depleted ore remaining will be further crushed, ground and put through the flotation plant on site to recover the rest of the copper as sulphide, which would then be smelted as at present for all production.
WNN 31/7/14. Australian U mining
Year of change for Australian uranium production
Olympic Dam provided the only stability in Australia’s uranium mining picture over 2013-14. At ERA’s Ranger mine, a failed leaching tank resulted in no production for the last six months, late in 2013 Uranium One’s Honeymoon ISL mine shut down to await improved uranium prices, and at ISL operations controlled by Heathgate there were other changes. First, production at the main Beverley field, which had been declining markedly, was suspended in December. Then production from Beverley North was suspended in January, to enable concentration on bringing the adjacent Four Mile ISL mine into production, which occurred from the east orebody in April. Heathgate, through a subsidiary Quasar, has farmed in to Alliance Resources’ Four Mile project, leaving it as a minor partner. Uranium recovery is through a satellite plant on the Beverley North lease 2.5 km away, with loaded resin being trucked 10 km to the main Beverly plant for elution and drumming.
Production of U3O8 for the 2013-14 year was 3988 t from Olympic Dam, 1113 t from Ranger, 188 t from Beverley (and N. Beverley), 186 t from Four Mile, and 37 t from Honeymoon, total 5512 t (4674 tU).
New Australian uranium mine
Mining of Alliance Resources’ Four Mile East orebody has commenced under a joint venture agreement with Quasar Resources, a subsidiary of next-door Heathgate Resources, and using Heathgate’s Pannikin satellite plant at Beverley North. Loaded resin will be trucked to the main Beverley plant about 10 km away for elution and recovery of product. Quasar holds 75% of the project and manages it.
WNN 16/4/14. Australia
Contract for new Moly-99 facility at ANSTO for nuclear medicine
The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) has awarded an A$ 83 million contract (US$73 million) to design and construct a new facility to produce the medical radioisotope molybdenum-99 from uranium targets irradiated in the OPAL reactor. Mo-99 is used in hospitals as the source of technetium-99 (Tc-99) in about 45 million diagnostic procedures per year around the world. Most of the world's Mo-99 comes from just five reactors in Belgium, the Netherlands, Canada, South Africa and Russia, which have been in operation since the 1950s and 1960s, and in recent years there have been global shortages of the isotope when several of them have been out of action at the same time. The main plants in Canada and Europe are set to close in the next few years anyway.
ANSTO's OPAL reactor, which came into operation in 2006, currently produces enough Mo-99 for some 550,000 doses per year – sufficient to meet Australian domestic requirements. The new Nuclear Medicine Molybdenum-99 (ANM Mo-99) processing facility complementing OPAL will enable ANSTO to significantly increase the output from OPAL, enabling it to make some 20 million doses per year, launching Australia as a major international supplier of the vital isotope.
WNN 21/1/14. Australian research reactors, Radioisotopes in medicine
Australian low-level waste repository plan stalled again
After 22 years of laborious due process with site selection repeatedly thwarted by political point scoring, plans for a low-level radioactive waste repository and small intermediate-level waste store are again stalled. In 2007 the Aboriginal traditional owners nominated their Muckaty pastoral holding in the Northern Territory as a potential site for the national radioactive waste facility. Recently some of the traditional owners dissented and launched legal action to derail the process. The site application has now been withdrawn due to “divisions within the aboriginal community” exacerbated by “outside pressures”.
WNN 19/6/14 Australian waste repository