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Recent developments with links to updated WNA Public Information Service Papers. For previous items from Weekly Digest see archive menu.  

12 September 2014

 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

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

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Uranium & DU, Uranium supply, Thorium

5 September 2014

 USA able to resume reactor licensing
After a 2-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 and 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 NP

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

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

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Processing used fuel, China NP, Energy subsidies

29 August 2014

 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

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Molten salt reactors (new, now live), Lithium (new), Plutonium, US NP policy, Poland, S.Korea

22 August 2014

 New reactor on line in China, its 21st
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 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

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

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Molten salt reactors (new), Energy balances & CO2, Russia nuclear power