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

31 October 2014

 EU decides on conditional energy and CO2 targets for 2030
The European Council of member states leaders has agreed on the EU climate and energy policy framework for 2030. This is by way of taking a lead in relation to the UN climate conference in Paris next year, and sets collective targets to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, raise efficiency and deploy more renewables. A new ‘binding’ goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% compared with 1990 levels by 2030, while an ‘indicative’ and non-binding target should raise energy efficiency by 27% against “projections of future energy consumption based on current criteria” and “delivered in a cost-effective manner”. Renewables should be deployed to make up a total of 27% of EU energy by 2030 under another ‘binding’ target (in 2013 including hydro they comprised about 22%). However, these are evidently conditional upon the UN climate conference achieving comparable and legally-binding outcomes. A ‘flexibility clause’ was added to the final text, so that the Council “will revert to this issue after the Paris conference” and “will keep all elements of the framework under review”.

The targets have a measure of technology neutrality in that they are for the EU as a whole rather than applying to each individual state, and the contribution of each of the 28 member states will be different according to financial circumstances and its right to determine its own energy mix. Poland for instance will continue to rely heavily on coal and strenuously opposes any 40% CO2 reduction. The UK opposes the 27% renewables target while Germany embraces it, at the same time as building over 10 GWe of new coal-fired capacity (10.7 GWe 2011-15). How the collective targets influence national policies remains to be seen. The reformed EU Emission Trading System (ETS) with a new instrument to stabilise the market is to remain the principal mechanism driving emission reductions. It will ratchet down the maximum covered emissions from the EU by 2.2% per year from 2021 onwards, an increased rate of decarbonisation compared with the 1.74% per year currently. The reduction in emissions covered by the ETS is to be 43% by 2030 compared with 2005.

Regarding grid and gas pipes, "The integration of rising levels of intermittent renewable energy requires a more interconnected internal energy market and appropriate back up, which should be coordinated as necessary at regional level." The Baltic States, Portugal, Spain, and also Greece are priorities of electricity interconnection and integration. Achieving a "fully functioning and connected internal energy market" is a priority, and "all efforts must be mobilised to achieve this objective as a matter of urgency."

On energy security, the Council “recognised that the EU's energy security can be increased by having recourse to indigenous resources as well as safe and sustainable low-carbon technologies”, nuclear power being the major one of these in EU (though it is not mentioned). It agreed on priority gas storage and interconnection projects to increase the EU’s resilience and bargaining power vis a vis Russia (not mentioned by name).
WNN 24/10/14. EU

New Chinese reactor starts up
The third unit of Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in northeast Liaoning province has started up. Construction of the 1024 MWe (net) CPR-1000 reactor for China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) and China Guangdong Nuclear Power (CGN) (45% each) commenced in March 2009, and it is expected to be on line about the end of the year. It was built by CGN’s engineering subsidiary, based in the south. Chinese local content is over 80%. The cost of all four units in the first construction phase is put at CNY 50 billion (US$ 6.6 billion)
WNN 30/10/14. China NP

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Climate change science, China fuel cycle, Germany, Mongolia, Russia NP, Fast reactors

17 & 24 October 2014

New Chinese reactor starts up
The first unit of Fangjiashan nuclear power plant in Zhejiang province has started up. Construction of the 1080 MWe CPR-1000 reactor for China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) commenced at the end of 2008, and it is expected to be on line by the end of the year. It is adjacent to the Qinshan nuclear plant, near Shanghai.
WNN 21/10/14. China NP

New South Korean reactor design approved
Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power’s 1500 MWe APR+ gained design approval from the regulator, the Nuclear Safety & Security Commission (NSSC), in August. It was “developed with original domestic technology”, up to 100% localized. The APR1400 design, with two units being built in South Korea and three in United Arab Emirates, retains significant Westinghouse intellectual property rights. Hence the $200 million, 7-year program to develop the new design, with export markets in view. The APR+ has modular construction which is expected to give 36-month construction time instead of 52 months for APR1400. It is more highly reinforced against aircraft impact than any earlier designs.

Two more US reactors get life extension
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has renewed the operating licences for Limerick 1 & 2 reactors for 20 years, taking them to 2044 and 2049. Exelon has invested more than $500 million in the two units over the last five years to prepare them for 60-year operating lives. This brings the total of US reactors with life extensions to 75, and NRC is considering 17 further applications.
WNN 22/10/14. USA NP

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Russia fuel cycle, Desalination, Nuclear fusion, Advanced reactors, Emerging countries, Romania, Finland, Radioisotopes in medicine

10 October 2014

 EU Commission agrees to UK plans for new nuclear capacity
After 12 months investigation, the European Commission has set an important precedent in finding that revised UK plans to support the construction and operation of a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset are in line with EU state aid rules. The price support for electricity from the plant over 35 years, a key part of the UK electricity market reform, was found to address a genuine market failure. Similar provisions already apply automatically to renewables.

In the process of the investigation the UK agreed to modify significantly the terms of the project financing, by raising the fee to be paid by the developer to the UK Treasury in relation to a guarantee on its commercial debt. Also as soon as the operator's overall return on equity exceeds the rate estimated at the time of the decision, any gain will be shared with the public entity supporting the long-term wholesale electricity price. This support is through a contract for difference (CfD). This gain-share mechanism will be in place not only for the 35-year support duration as initially envisaged, but for the entire 60-year lifetime of the project. Moreover, if the construction costs turn out to be lower than expected, the gains will also be shared. Consumers will simply pay the prevailing deregulated market price in any case.

The UK Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) said the EC decision showed that the agreement between EdF and the government was "a fair deal and a fair price." "Put simply - the government has designed a market framework to transform the energy supply towards a low carbon and affordable system. This means all low-carbon projects have a CfD and a strike price. The Hinkley price of £92.50/MWh should be compared with the offshore wind farm price of £155/MWh, and £120/MWh for a large solar farm," the NIA said.

The WNA said that "The Electricity Market Reform is an innovative approach to encourage the decarbonisation of the electricity supply system in a deregulated market. The decision will be welcome by all those planning new nuclear build projects in the EU and similar markets." Several EU countries are very interested in adopting elements of the UK policy.

EdF Energy now needs to make a final decision on proceeding with the £16 billion Hinkley Point C project. (Including financing, the EC put the cost at £24.5 billion.) Two Areva 1600 MWe EPR reactors are planned. EdF announced in October 2013 that while it would retain 45-50% of the project, two Chinese companies, CGN and CNNC, would take 30-40% of it between them, Areva would take 10%, and other interested parties might take up to 15%. The French government holds 85% of EdF and 80% of Areva, the Chinese companies are wholly government-owned.
WNN 8/10/14. UK

Spanish reactor gets 10-year life extension
The Trillo nuclear power reactor has been given a 10-year life extension to November 2024 by Spain’s regulator. It is owned 51% by Iberdrola and 23% by Endesa, and operated by a joint operating company, CNAT. All of Spain’s operating reactors are now licensed to 2020 or beyond.
WNN 10/10/14. Spain

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Energy analysis of power systems, Conversion, Cooperation in nuclear power, Russia NP, Russia fuel cycle, Sweden, Australian U, World U mining production 2013.