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Recent developments with links to updated WNA Public Information Service Papers. For previous items from Weekly Digest see archive menu.
6 December 2013
Russia positions itself to energise South Africa
South Africa has had major plans for expanding its nuclear power component of electricity supply, but has been held back by shortage of capital. In 2008 Areva and Westinghouse were contenders for about 3.2 GWe of initial nuclear capacity, but the government aborted the plan due to lack of finance. The 2010 draft Integrated Electricity Resource Plan (IRP) presents a balanced and well-considered scenario for 2030, with 52 GWe of new generating capacity, including at least 9.6 GWe nuclear. In 2011 the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) was charged with progressing this plan, with six 1600 MWe units to come on line from 2023. In November 2012 the cabinet endorsed a "phased decision-making approach for implementation of the nuclear programme", along with the "designation of Eskom as the owner-operator”. Since then both Areva and Rosatom have been touting their interest.
Last week Necsa signed a broad agreement with Russia’s NIAEP-Atomstroyexport and its subsidiary Nukem Technologies, to develop a strategic partnership including nuclear power plants. Rosatom said that it “offers South Africa to build the entire process chain of [nuclear power plant] construction and operation.” The partnership implies construction of eight new 1200 MWe VVER nuclear units totaling 9.6 GWe, and cooperation in selling the Russian technology to other countries. “Besides, the parties intend to build a research reactor to the Russian technology, which would lay the basis for joint business in the area of isotope production and sales in the international market.”
Finance is not mentioned, but a proposal can be expected in the new year. Russia is undertaking several nuclear projects abroad with soft loans or on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis – unlikely here. Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape province appears to be a front runner as a coastal site.
WNN 23/8/13. South Africa
China-Japan-South Korea nuclear safety network
Japan, South Korea and China have agreed to form a network to cooperate on nuclear safety and quickly exchange information in nuclear emergencies, especially those rating at level 2 or above on the International Nuclear Event Scale. At a meeting in Guangdong this week of nuclear regulators and other experts a framework was agreed, despite present regional tensions. In addition to exchanging information on civil nuclear accidents, the three countries will share standard information such as safety plans. The agreement was signed by officials from Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), South Korea's Nuclear Safety and Security Commission (NSSC) and China's National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA).
WSJ 4/12/13. Cooperation in nuclear power
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Reactor table, Argentina, Japan, UK, China organisations
29 November 2013
New reactor on line in China
The second unit of Hongyanhe nuclear power plant has been connected to the grid, a month after starting up. Two further CPR-1000 units are under construction there, at Dalian in Liaoning province in northeastern China, about the same latitude as Beijing. A second phase of construction, for units 5 & 6, is expected to start soon. The project incorporates a 10,080 m3/day seawater desalination plant using waste heat to provide cooling water. This is the 18th power reactor operating in China, and 29 more are under construction.
WNN 26/11/13. China Nuclear power
Silex process selected for US application
The US Department of Energy has announced that it has selected the Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) process to enrich over 100,000 tonnes of high-assay depleted uranium stockpiled at its Paducah plant in Kentucky. It is commencing contract negotiations for construction of a $1 billion plant there, utilizing some existing infrastructure from the previous USEC operations. GLE comprises GE (51%), Hitachi (25%) and Cameco (24%), and will apply laser technology licensed by Australia’s Silex Systems. GLE already has a licence to build a laser enrichment plant at Wilmington, North Carolina, but has not yet decided to proceed with this commercially. The only other uranium enrichment plant operating in the USA is Urenco’s, in New Mexico, which is being rapidly expanded.
WNN 28/11/13. US fuel cycle
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Russia nuclear power, Russia fuel cycle, Bulgaria, Iran, US uranium mines
22 November 2013
New reactor construction starts in USA
Construction has started on Vogtle unit 4 in Georgia, the second of two new Westinghouse AP1000 reactors on the site. Construction of Southern Nuclear’s first unit started in March. This makes five new nuclear plants under construction in the USA, total over 6 GWe gross. A federal loan guarantee for the two Vogtle units is expected to be finalized in December.
WNN 22/11/13. US Nuclear power
US court suspends waste management levy
The latest development in the sparring between the nuclear industry and President Obama’s Administration is that a federal appeals court has ruled that the Department of Energy should cease collecting the $750 million per year in fees from utilities (at one tenth of a cent per kWh) for the nuclear waste disposal program, since there is no such program. "The Secretary [of Energy] is ordered to submit to Congress a proposal to change the fee to zero until such a time as either the Secretary chooses to comply with the [1982 Nuclear Waste Policy] Act as it is currently written, or until Congress enacts an alternative waste management plan." The President‘s 2010 action in attempting to abort progress on the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada to appease a local political constituency has been ruled as illegal, and in August the Nuclear Regulatory Commission was ordered to resume its assessment of the project. Some $7 billion had already been spent on it.
The Nuclear Energy Institute said that the new “decision confirms that the federal government cannot continue to defy Congress’ explicit direction to implement a viable program to manage reactor fuel from America’s nuclear power plants. The court’s ruling reinforces the fundamental principle that the federal government’s obligation is to carry out the law, whether or not the responsible agency or even the president agrees with the underlying policy. … The court's decision should prompt Congress to reform the government's nuclear waste disposal program. We strongly encourage Congress to establish a new waste management entity, and endow it with the powers and funding necessary to achieve the goals originally established in the Nuclear Waste Policy Act.”
WNN 20/11/13. US fuel cycle
Japan reduces CO2 abatement target
On the eve of the UN climate change meeting in Warsaw, Japan’s Minister of the Environment announced that his country was changing its CO2 emission reduction target from 25% lower than 1990 levels by 2020 to a 3.1% increase from 1990, or 3.8% reduction from 2005 levels. He cited the shutdown of Japan’s 50 nuclear power reactors, some possibly for an extended period, as a prime reason for this, forcing reliance on old fossil fuel plant. Nuclear power has provided about 30% of Japan’s electricity, and this was expected to increase to at least 40% by 2020. Following reactor shut-downs ordered after the Fukushima accident, carbon dioxide intensity from Japan's electricity industry climbed in FY2012, reaching levels 39% greater than when the country's nuclear plants were operating normally, and taking the sector far beyond climate targets.
Germany is having similar problems aiming to do without nuclear power, and a year ago the Bundesnetzagentur (federal network agency) said that 10.1 GWe of new coal-fired plants was under construction, adding to 55 GWe already operating, and most of it likely to be going strong beyond 2020. The effect is expected to be an extra 300 million tonnes of CO2 emissions to 2020 from increased fossil fuel use, which will virtually cancel out the 335 Mt savings intended to be achieved in the entire European Union by the 2011 Energy Efficiency Directive from the European Commission.
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Thorium, Nuclear power in the world today, India, China fuel cycle
15 November 2013
Babcock & Wilcox gets set for deploying first US small modular reactor
B&W has announced that it will seek to bring in further equity partners by mid 2014 to take forward the licensing and construction of an initial 180 MWe mPower nuclear plant. B&W said it had invested $360 million in Generation mPower (GmP) with Bechtel, and would sell up to 70% of its stake in the joint venture, leaving it with about 20% and Bechtel 10%. The US Department of Energy (DOE) has agreed to support accelerated development of the mPower design for early deployment, with up to $226 million. B&W plans to retain the rights to manufacture the reactor module and nuclear fuel for the mPower plant, which it is equipped to do in North America.
In July 2012 GmP signed a memorandum of understanding to study the potential deployment of B&W mPower reactors in FirstEnergy's service territory stretching from Ohio through West Virginia and Pennsylvania to New Jersey. In February 2013 B&W signed a contract with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to build up to four units at Clinch River, with design certification and construction permit application to be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2014 or 2015.
The mPower is one of four leading US small modular reactor designs, all pressurized water reactors, intended to be factory-made and railed to site, then installed below ground level. The mPower has integral steam generators, and the 180 MWe version is conventionally water-cooled, a 155 MWe version is air-cooled. It will have a four-year operating cycle between refuelling, which will involve replacing the entire core as a single cartridge. Overnight cost for a twin-unit plant is put by B&W at about $5000/kW.
WNN 14/11/13. Small nuclear power reactors
Last Russian ex-weapons uranium shipped to USA
The last of 500 tonnes of Russian high-enriched uranium from its surplus nuclear weapons was downblended in August 2013 by Russia’s ElectroChemical Plant (ECP) at Zelenogorsk and has been shipped to the USA. This completes a major project under a 1994 contract on behalf of the Russian and US governments. The whole deal is equivalent to 20,000 nuclear warheads and 89 million SWU of enrichment energy worth US$13 billion. The downblended (4.4% U-235) uranium has supplied about half US nuclear power needs over two decades, and hence provided about 10% of US electricity. According to Tenex, total revenue was US$17 billion, including hard currency gains and the cost of natural uranium component. Completion of the so-called ‘Megatons to Megawatts’ program will raise demand for uranium from mines.
WNN 29/8/13. Military warheads as fuel
Honeymoon mine closed
Early in November Uranium One based in Toronto reported that it had “impaired the Honeymoon project due to continuing difficulties in the production process and issues in attaining design capacity, combined with high mine operation costs. The carrying value of Honeymoon was therefore written down by $67.8 million.” This week the mine was closed and put on a care and maintenance basis pending improved uranium prices. Uranium One is now wholly owned by ARMZ, Russia’s uranium mining state corporation. Honeymoon production in 2012 was only 154.6 tonnes of U3O8, with 120.2 tonnes more to the end of September.
WNN 15/11/13. Australian uranium mines
Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): US nuclear power, Russia fuel cycle, Brazil, Germany, Fukushima, Environment & Health in electricity generation