WNA Weekly Digest Archive 2018

World

Authoritative new report on the challenge of climate change

After more than two years’ work, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) under UN auspices has issued a report focused on the aim of limiting the global atmospheric temperature increase above pre-industrial levels to 1.5°C. More than half of this has already occurred. The report suggests that anthropogenic warming is now proceeding at about 0.2°C per decade due to past and ongoing emissions, though the rate varies greatly geographically. It puts present anthropogenic CO2 emissions at about 42 billion tonnes per year.

Moving from science to policy and projections, the report suggests pathways to achieve net zero anthropogenic CO2 emissions by 2050. All of these “would require rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy” and other systems. Though the nuclear role is generally played down, “In electricity generation, shares of nuclear and fossil fuels with carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) are modelled to increase in most 1.5°C pathways.” Nuclear generation increases, on average by around 2.5 times by 2050 in the 89 mitigation scenarios considered by the IPCC, and five times in some.

However the report projects increasing deployment of wind and solar capacity with scant qualification. The increasing recognition elsewhere of the high costs of delivering reliable power from systems with high levels of intermittent renewables is downplayed. Apart from and adjusting for this, the report makes it clear that substantially increased nuclear power is an essential part of any effective response in reducing CO2 emissions.

The report says that nuclear power economics are improved in countries where investment risks can be reduced, benefits from series build are realised, and with stable relations between regulators and industry. However, in some other countries the characteristics of the electricity market increase the investment risks of high-capital expenditure technologies, such as nuclear. The report also notes that the current deployment of nuclear energy is constrained by "social acceptability" in some countries, while at the same time public sentiment is firming against undue reliance on coal.

WNN 8/10/18.  Climate policy, IPCC Summary http://report.ipcc.ch/sr15/pdf/sr15_spm_final.pdf

World nuclear performance report 2018 published

The World Nuclear Association’s annual Nuclear Performance Report indicates good performance by nearly 400 GWe of reactors in 2017. Global nuclear electricity output was 2506 TWh, continuing a steady increase. The average capacity factor globally stood at 81%, maintaining the high availability of the last two decades. There were 59 reactors under construction at the end of 2017. The median average construction time for the reactors grid connected last year (in China and Pakistan) was 58 months. There are 25 reactors due for completion in 2018 and 2019, and six of these have already been grid-connected in 2018.  However, new projects are needed to maintain and accelerate nuclear build so that nuclear generation can meet the Harmony goal of supplying 25% of the world's global electricity by 2050.
WNN 16/8/18. 

Quiet year for nuclear power development in 2017

2017 saw four new reactors connected to grids for the first time, only four construction starts, and the retirement of three reactors. A net gain of 1012 MWe capacity on line plus two small uprates totalling 31 MWe. All the new grid connections were Chinese in one way or another: Chashma 4 in Pakistan, 315 MWe net built by China, Yangjiang 4 and Fuqing 4, each 1020 MWe, and then Tianwan 3 of 990 MWe net in China (see above).  Construction starts, with first major concrete, were Shin Kori 5 in South Korea, Kudankulam 3 a Russian unit, in India, Rooppur 1 a Russian unit in Bangladesh, and Xiapu fast reactor in China (see above). China continues to pause its new build program pending the start up of the first Generation 3+ Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at Sanmen and Haiyang, since these are basic to further plans. Their first Areva EPR is also due to start up soon, though with less forward relevance in China.

The three reactors finally shut down were Kori 1 in South Korea, after 40 years operation, Oskarshamn 1 in Sweden, after 45 years, and Gundremmingen B in Germany after only 33 years - by political edict.  These removed 2333 MWe net from world clean reliable capacity.
(amended 6/1/18 to include Rooppur & Shin Kori)

New reactor fuel gets corporate boost as Enfission is launched

Since the early days of nuclear power practically all nuclear reactor fuel has been as uranium oxide, a stable ceramic with high melting point. However, it has some features which are not ideal, and one stream of research has been returning to using metal fuels. The leader here has been Lightbridge, which has designed zirconium-uranium alloy 4-lobed fuel rods with much higher surface area than normal ones. The uranium has higher enrichment than usual to compensate for the alloy dilution which gives it a much higher melting point than pure uranium metal. However, because of the five times better thermal conductivity, the fuel actually functions at a much lower temperature than ceramic fuels. It is expected to give 17% more power in existing reactors with little modification, and 30% more in those designed for it. Its purpose is to improve both safety and economics.

In March 2016 Lightbridge entered into an exclusive joint development agreement with Areva NP (now Framatome) to set up a 50-50 US-based joint venture that would develop, fabricate and commercialize fuel assemblies based on the metallic fuel technology. This has now been launched as Enfission.  Framatome is a leading fuel manufacturer, with 27% of world capacity for light water reactor fuels. It is owned by EdF (75.5%), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (19.5%) and Assystem (5%). Several major US utilities - Exelon, Duke, Dominion and Southern Company - have been involved with Lightbridge’s development and the first use of the new fuel in a US commercial power reactor is expected about 2021, with commercial sales by 2026.
WNN 26/1/18  Fuel fabrication

International Energy Agency flags increased emissions

The OECD’s International Energy Agency (IEA) has reported for 2017 the first real increase in carbon dioxide emissions for four years, a 1.4% increase to reach 32.5 billion tonnes. It attributed this to “robust global economic growth of 3.7%, lower fossil fuel prices and weaker energy efficiency efforts”. Energy demand worldwide increased by 2.1% in 2017, according to IEA preliminary estimates, compared with 0.9% for several years prior.  Fossil fuels met 70% of the growth in demand.  "The growth in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 is a strong warning for global efforts to combat climate change, and demonstrates that current efforts are insufficient to meet the objectives of the Paris Agreement," the IEA said.  World electricity demand grew by 3.1% to 25,570 TWh last year, significantly higher than the overall increase in energy demand. China and India accounted for 70% of this increase. Nuclear generation accounted for 10% of global power production last year, up 3% relative to 2016.
WNN 22/3/18.   Climate change policy

US-France cooperation on fast reactors

Having abandoned that technology over thirty years ago when it led the field, the US government is reviving its interest in fast neutron reactors. An agreement this week between the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) is the latest manifestation of this.  Today Russia is well ahead in fast reactor technology, but France and China are active also. In the USA, five fast neutron reactors have operated, and several more designed.  GE-Hitachi is marketing its Prism reactor as a Generation IV design based on US experience. France has accumulated 45 reactor-years experience with two commercial-scale fast reactors and is well ahead in designing new models, notably CEA’s Astrid. In 2014 the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Mitsubishi FBR Systems concluded an agreement with the CEA and Areva NP (now Framatome) to progress cooperation on Astrid, and since then Japanese input has increased. The joint basic design is expected to be complete in 2019 and a prototype to be operating in 2025.

All seven operational fast reactors use sodium coolant, as do 10 of the 15 designs under active development (and all those decommissioned), and the new agreement relates to sodium-cooled designs. There is some 400 reactor-years experience with these over six decades in eight countries, and it is one of the main concepts being developed in the Generation IV International Forum, with some US participation. Fast reactors have a higher energy density in the core, can utilise virtually all the uranium that is mined (rather than only about one percent of it) and can burn long-lived actinides which currently make disposal of high-level nuclear wastes more expensive.
WNN 27/3/18.   Fast reactors, Generation IV reactors

MIT report emphasizes need for increased nuclear power to curb costs

A major two-year study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative underlines the pressing need to increase nuclear power generation worldwide if CO2 emissions are to be reduced significantly. “Without that contribution, the cost of achieving deep decarbonisation targets increases significantly," the study finds.  It outlines measures to achieve this, including moves to reduce the cost of building new nuclear capacity and creating a level playing field that would allow all low-carbon generation technologies to compete on their merits. "While a variety of low- or zero-carbon technologies can be employed in various combinations, our analysis shows the potential contribution nuclear can make as a dispatchable low-carbon technology”. The MIT study is designed to serve as a balanced, fact-based, and analysis-driven guide for stakeholders involved in nuclear energy, notably governments. http://energy.mit.edu/research/future-nuclear-energy-carbon-constrained-world/

The MIT study shows that with high carbon emission constraints the system cost of electricity without nuclear power is twice as high in US and four times as high in China. It uses a nominal overnight capital cost of nuclear of $5500/kW in USA and $2800/kW in China, possibly reducing to $4100 and $2100/kW. Scenarios envisage nuclear comprising over half of capacity in USA and over 60% in China if overall carbon emissions are reduced to 50 t/MWh.

In 2016 nuclear power provided 10.4% of world electricity production - 25,082 TWh.
WNN 3/9/18.  World Energy Needs

Australian engineers’ report models cost of high renewables share

Coincidentally with the MIT publication, an Australian study has modelled the costs of high reliance on variable renewable sources in the National Electricity Market (NEM), as called for by some state governments and projected by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO). The NEM covers eastern and South Australia, and supplies the major part of the country’s demand. At present it is 75% supplied by coal-fired plant. A publication sent to politicians and based on the modelling starts with the present cost of A$ 69/MWh and some 80t/MWh CO2 emission over 20 days in January 2017, based on 1720 data points for load and renewables output.  If all the coal is replaced by closed cycle gas turbines the cost rises to A$ 97/MWh and the CO2 emissions drop to just below 40t/MWh. However, if all the coal is replaced by nuclear power, the cost is A$ 90/MWh and total emissions drop to about 5t/MWh. All scenarios add $142/MWh base transmission & distribution cost to arrive at total delivered cost.

The telling comparison is between the 75% nuclear scenario and the projection to 2040 published by AEMO in July 2018, with high levels of variable renewables plus storage, and with complex implications for achieving reliability. In this modelling it results in a system levelised cost of $247/MWh and over 30 t/MWh CO2. Thus generation cost is 2.5 times that of the nuclear option and CO2 emissions remain significant. The authors call for the AEMO projection to be “examined for practicability and cost” and for subsidies for intermittent power generation to be removed.  And “For the longer-term, the existing ban on nuclear power development for Australia must be lifted.”
Electric Power Consulting Pty Ltd.  https://epc.com.au/index.php/nem-model/

China

First Westinghouse AP1000 reactor now in commercial operation

After seven weeks since grid connection, unit 1 of the Sanmen nuclear power plant in China's Zhejiang province has entered commercial operation – the first AP1000 reactor to do so.  Sanmen 2 is expected to enter commercial operation by the end of this year. Two further AP1000 units in China, at Haiyang in Shandong province, are following, with one grid connected and start-up of the other now due next year. Each reactor produces 1250 MWe gross.

The AP1000 was designed by Westinghouse and approved with design certification by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission in December 2005 – the first Generation 3+ type to do so. This represented the culmination of a 1300 person-year and $440 million design and testing program.  UK generic design assessment followed, supported by European utilities, and was granted in 2017.  Commercial operation of this first unit is thus a significant milestone in bringing new-generation advanced reactors into service worldwide.  Compared with the vast majority of reactors now in operation, there is greater simplicity, efficiency and passive safety resulting from 50 years’ experience with civil nuclear power.  Compared with the last large Westinghouse reactor built in the UK, the AP1000 has about one quarter the footprint and needs about one fifth as much concrete and rebar per unit of capacity. Also newer reactors are designed for longer operating lives – typically 60 years.
WNN 21/9/18.  China NP, Advanced reactors

Fourth Westinghouse reactor in China on line

Haiyang 2, the fourth Westinghouse AP1000 reactor built in China, has been connected to the grid. In the cooler waters of Shandong province it will deliver 1170 MWe net.  Haiyang was built by China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group for Shandong Nuclear Power Company, a 65% subsidiary of State Power Investment Corporation, the third largest nuclear power company in China. Haiyang will be a training base for it.

 The successful operation of these four reactors – the first in the world of what is generally seen as a leading design developed from over 200 predecessors which have operated reliably since the early 1970s – will have a strong bearing on China’s further construction plans. At the moment the leading contenders for new construction in China are two local versions of the AP1000, the Hualong One developed from French versions of a Westinghouse 1970 design, and the Russian VVER-1200. There is considerable internal politicking regarding the AP1000 variants and Hualong designs.  The first six 1150 MWe (gross) Hualong units are being built in China and Pakistan. Contracts have been signed for the first four VVER-1200 units in China (two are operating in Russia).
WNN 15/10/18.  China NP

Westinghouse takes stock at WNA Symposium

After emerging from 16 months of bankruptcy protection in USA, Westinghouse – now owned by Brookfield Business Partners - says that innovation in nuclear technology is now its focus. Its three operating AP1000 reactors in China represent “the world’s first true Gen-III+ nuclear power plant” with all first-of-a-kind design challenges having been solved. Last week a passive safety test was conducted on an operating reactor, with all cooling pumps shut down and decay heat being transferred to the used fuel pool. The Chairman of China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation, the main customer, reflected that “We appreciate very much the outstanding engineering design from Westinghouse.” The fourth AP1000 is due to be grid-connected next week.
WNN 7/9/18.  China NP

First new-generation reactors begin supplying power in China

At the end of June the first units of two leading new-generation reactors were connected to the grid in China.  One has European origins, the other is from USA. Both were built substantially by Chinese engineering firms for rival owners. This makes 41 reactors, total 38 GWe, in operation in China.  The World Nuclear Association commented that “Having two brand new advanced reactor designs connected to the grid is great news for nuclear innovation. It’s a major industry development which should lead to a brightening of global nuclear prospects.”

Taishan unit 1, a 1660 MWe net Framatome-designed EPR, is now supplying power in the south of Guangdong province. This is the world’s largest reactor – 1750 MWe gross - and is the first of this kind in the world to produce power. It is owned and operated by a joint venture of CGN Power (51%), Electricite de France (30%) and Guangdong Yuedian Group (19%). It was built by CGN Engineering and took 104 months from fist concrete, effectively as first-of-a-kind (though those in Finland and France still under construction commenced building before it).  Taishan 2 is about a year behind unit 1.

Sanmen unit 1, a 1157 MWe net Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, was grid-connected less than a day later in Zhejiang province. It was built for the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), and is also the first of this kind in the world. CNNC subsidiary CNNP has a 51% share in Sanmen, and major utility Huadian has 10%.  It took 110 months to build, after delays due in part to US suppliers of the main coolant pumps. Sanmen 2 is expected to begin operation later in the year, as is the first AP1000 at Haiyang in China. These are all being built by China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group (CNEC). Two other AP1000 units are under construction at Vogtle in USA, but have been delayed by the Westinghouse bankruptcy.
WNN & EDF 29/6/18, WNN 2/7/18.  China NP

Further new reactor on line in China

The third Westinghouse 1157 MWe AP1000 reactor in China has been connected to the grid.  Unit 2 at Sanmen in Zhejiang province had started up a week earlier. Construction time of over nine years was stretched due to some design changes and problems with US-supplied coolant pumps.  This is the third AP1000 reactor to come into operation, and a fourth is not far behind, at Haiyang in Shandong province. The first very large French-origin reactor, Taishan 1 EPR, started operation in June.

Five reactors totaling 6.15 GWe net have now been grid-connected in China since May. These five are expected to supply one third of the amount of clean energy annually (48.5 TWh at 90% capacity) as Germany’s entire wind and solar capacity of almost 99 GWe last year.
WNN 24/8/18.  China NP

Two new Westinghouse reactors in China start up

The first AP1000 unit at Haiyang in Shandong province has started up and been connected to the grid. Sanmen unit 2 in Zhejiang province has also started up. Haiyang unit 2 there is only about two months behind unit 1, with fuel loading having commenced.  The first AP1000 reactor at Sanmen in Zhejiang province was grid-connected in June and has now reached full power. Each of these reactors is 1157 MWe net.
WNN 9 & 17/8/18.  China NP

New Russian reactor in China starts up

Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation has started up the Tianwan 4 power reactor in China’s Jiangsu province. Russia’s Atomstroyexport provided the main nuclear equipment but the EPC contract was let to CNNC's China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group.  The turbine generator sets are from Dongfang Electric, using Alstom Arabelle low-speed technology.  Areva I&C systems are installed. Construction started in September 2013 and commercial operation is expected early 2019. This is the fourth and last of Russia’s 1000 MWe class of reactors to be built in China. Further Russian reactors at Tianwan (units 7&8) and Xudabao in Liaoning will be the new 1200 MWe class.
WNN 1/10/18.  China NP

First Westinghouse AP1000 reactor starts up in China

Unit 1 of the Sanmen nuclear power plant has started up in Zhejiang province in China.  It is the world’s first 1250 MWe AP1000, one of four being built in China, and is of particular significance there since it was established in 2007 as the country’s new standard reactor design, following a bidding process involving Westinghouse, Areva and Atomstroyexport. The agreement with Westinghouse involves substantial technology transfer, so that in China the AP1000 is also the basis of further reactor development. Two AP1000 are also under construction at Vogtle, in USA, but were significantly affected by Westinghouse chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Chinese units are being built with little US involvement.

First concrete at Sanmen was in April 2009 with expectation of less than six years construction. However, some design changes and problems with US-supplied coolant pumps stretched construction time to over nine years, eroding confidence in the design. The indigenous Hualong One reactor has displaced AP1000 in some plans.  Fuel loading at another AP1000, Haiyang 1 in Shandong province, began the same day as Sanmen 1 criticality.
Westinghouse 21/6/18.  China NP

New European reactor starts up in China

The first Areva (now Framatome) EPR has started up at Taishan in the south of Guangdong province. This is the world’s largest reactor – 1750 MWe gross - and the first of the type in the world to reach criticality. It has been under construction for eight and a half years, which is faster than two others in France and Finland. The company building the Taishan plant is a subsidiary of China General Nuclear (CGN), and has 30% EdF equity. Unit 2 is about a year behind it.
WNN 25/5/18.   China NP

New reactors connected to grid in China

The fifth reactor at Yangjiang nuclear power plant also in Guangdong province (and not far from Taishan) has been connected to the grid after 56 months construction. It is a 1080 MWe ACPR1000 reactor, the final design variant of a long series based on French technology.  It is also the first Chinese reactor to feature a domestically-developed digital control system. Its twin, unit 6, is less than a year behind it. Hong Kong-based utility China Light and Power (CLP) has a 17% share of the operating company, which is a CGN subsidiary.  This brings to 39 the operating nuclear power reactors in China, with 35,667 MWe net, while 17 large units are under construction (including Taishan, above, pending grid connection).
WNN 25/5/18.   China NP

Tianwan 3 has now been connected to the grid in Jiangsu province after 60 months construction.  This AES91 plant uses a Russian VVER-1000 reactor, producing 990 MWe net, with Areva instrument and control systems. The turbine generator sets are from China’s Dongfang Electric, using Alstom Arabelle low-speed technology. It started up in September.

Units 5 & 6 at Tianwan are Chinese ACPR1000 units under construction, but units 7 & 8 are planned as 1200 MWe Russian VVER reactors.
WNN 2/1/18.  China NP

New reactors start commercial operation in China

Tianwan 3 in Jiangsu province has been handed over to its owners by Russia’s Atomstroyexport.  It was connected to the grid at the end of December and its twin, unit 4, is about a year behind it.  Units 5 & 6 at Tianwan are Chinese ACPR1000 units under construction, but units 7 & 8 are planned as 1200 MWe Russian VVER reactors, and negotiations on these are proceeding. China has 38 operating reactors totalling 34.6 GWe net.
WNN 8/3/18.  China NP

Yangjiang unit 5 has commenced commercial operation, after being connected to the grid in Guangdong province in May.  It is an ACPR1000, a later model of the type widely built in China.  It is the first Chinese reactor to feature a domestically-developed digital control system. Its twin, unit 6, is less than a year behind it. Hong Kong-based utility China Light and Power (CLP) has a 17% share of the operating company, which is a CGN subsidiary.
WNN 13/7/18.  China NP

Fuel loading into first AP1000 reactor in China

After delayed approval from the National Nuclear Safety Administration, the first of four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in China, at Sanmen, is loading fuel. This is well ahead of the two AP1000 units in USA. The Sanmen project is 51% owned by China National Nuclear Co (CNNC). It is little affected by Westinghouse’s problems in USA.

Westinghouse itself in USA is still operating in bankruptcy reorganization brought about by the delays and cost overruns of two AP1000 construction projects in that country, one of which continues building. In March a US Bankruptcy Court approved Westinghouse’s exit from the process with a new owner taking over from Toshiba for about $4.6 billion.

Earlier this month fuel loading commenced into the first Taishan EPR reactor in China. That project is a joint venture of China General Nuclear (70%) and Electricite de France (30%), and has moved ahead of two European EPR projects which began construction earlier.
WNN 25/4/18 & 28/3/18.   China NP

China starts construction of large fast reactor

After several years’ uncertainty regarding technology options, construction has started on an essentially indigenous 600 MWe China demonstration fast reactor (CDFR).  The CFR600 is being built for China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) at Xiapu in Fujian province. It will run on mixed-oxide fuel and is expected on line in 2023. It is derived from the successful 65 MWt China Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) which has operated since July 2010 and is incidentally producing 20 MWe. It was built by Russia’s OKBM Afrikantov at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) near Beijing. CNNC expects fast reactors to be the main technology deployed in China by mid century and calls this “a landmark project for … China’s nuclear industry”. A 2016 projection has five CFR600 units being built by 2030, followed from there by the commercial-scale CFR1000, with over one hundred in service by 2050.

CDFR ‘project 2’ related to a high-level agreements with Russia in 2009 and 2012, which envisaged building a pair of BN-800 fast reactors such as unit 4 now operating at Beloyarsk. These were due to be built inland at Sanming in Fujian province from 2013. In the event the Beloyarsk BN-800 is more of a test bed for new fuels than a pioneer commercial plant, and Russian focus is now on preparing to build multiple BN1200 units as full-size fast reactors.
WNN 29/12/17.  China NP

USA

USA pushes forward on nuclear R&D and advanced reactors

Bipartisan legislation designed to drive US nuclear innovation including the commercialisation of advanced reactors has been signed into law by the President after approval by the House of Representatives. It was passed by the Senate in March. Congress has also approved a $121 million increase in funding for US nuclear R&D for fiscal 2019.

The Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act (NEICA) eliminates some of the financial and technological barriers standing in the way of nuclear innovation. It authorises the creation of a National Reactor Innovation Center that brings together the technical expertise of US national laboratories and the Department of Energy (DOE) to enable the construction of experimental reactors. It represents a commitment by the government to support the commercial nuclear sector in America where there are some transformative advanced nuclear technologies being developed, and hence to reclaim some US leadership in the field.

The provisions in NEICA build upon the private-public partnerships facilitated through the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN), which assists the development and deployment of advanced reactor technologies to revitalize the US nuclear industry, where the developmental edge by large companies has atrophied. The legislation also directs DOE to move forward with plans for a reactor-based fast neutron source to accelerate the development of advanced reactor fuels and materials.  The 400 MWt Fast Flux Test Facility was shut down by DOE in 1993 after ten years operation as a major national research asset, and the need for replacement is now obvious, with $65 million budgeted immediately.

The bills approved by Congress include $325 million for the DOE's Reactor Concepts R&D program, which includes advanced reactors and conventional reactor sustainability; $20 million for a High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) program to provide fuel enriched to near 20% for new small reactor designs; and $76 million for the Accident Tolerant Fuel program being advanced by Framatome, GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse. Its objective is to develop new fuel materials and cladding as well as design that can better tolerate the loss of active cooling in the core, while maintaining or improving fuel performance and economics during normal operations. Lead test assemblies are in Southern Nuclear’s Hatch-1 reactor and due to be loaded into Exelon’s Byron reactor in 2019. (Accident Tolerant Fuel produced by TVEL at Novosibirsk in Russia is due to be loaded into a Russian power reactor about 2020.)
WNN 19/9/18.  USA NP, US policy

US reactor construction on new schedule

Following the reorganization of construction due to the Westinghouse chapter 11 bankruptcy, Southern Nuclear has announced good progress on Vogtle 3 & 4 AP1000 reactors with no further slippage of schedule, but a significant $2.5 billion increase in cost to $18.4 billion, or more by some accounts.  The two reactors are expected in operation in November 2021 and November 2022.  Southern Nuclear is project manager, and Bechtel is now the main contractor. The finalizing of Bechtel contracts confirmed the cost increase. An immediate concern is shortage of qualified labour for the project, notably electricians. More than 7000 workers are on site.  However, the other partners in the project, notably Oglethorpe Power and MEAG Power, now need to confirm their commitment to proceeding in the light of increased cost.
WNN 9/8/18. US NP

US considers adjusting siting rules for small reactors

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has agreed that small reactors do not require the same extensive emergency planning zones (EPZs) around them as large units, and that today’s 16-km zones for large units could safely be scaled down. The safety features and small amount of fuel in small reactors mean they can occupy a small footprint, with the EPZ effectively the site boundary. This is consistent with the basis used to determine the EPZ for large reactors and has the potential to greatly simplify the licensing of these technologies and increase their cost competitiveness.

The preliminary finding was made public this week in the NRC staff evaluation of an early site permit application for a potential nuclear plant at TVA’s Clinch River site in Tennessee. The plant would comprise multiple small modular reactors (SMRs) such as BWXT’s mPower, Holtec SMR-160, NuScale’s SMR and Westinghouse SMR, ranging in size from 50 to 225 MWe. Detailed information was provided on the NuScale SMR, for which a 12,000-page design certification application has been under review by NRC for 18 months. A 12-module NuScale plant would produce 720 MWe gross, the first being planned at the Idaho National Laboratory for Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and operated by Energy Northwest.

In January the NRC released a safety evaluation report, finding that the NuScale SMR could operate without normally-required backup power supply due to its inherent safety features, notably convection cooling.
NEI 22/8/18, WNN 10/1/18.

Oldest US reactor finally closes

Exelon’s Oyster Creek nuclear power plant in. New Jersey has closed after 49 years’ service and production of almost 200 TWh of electricity – more than one third of France’s total annual generation. The 619 MWe reactor is a single unit that had become less economic alongside subsidised renewables and cheap gas, and it fell outside the state’s Zero Emissions Credit program. Also state environmental regulations required construction of $800 million cooling towers for it to run through to when its licence expires in 2029. In July, Exelon announced a sale of the plant to Holtec International, which will decommission it over about eight years.
WNN 18/9/18.  USA NP

US extends tax break for new nuclear capacity

A Bipartisan Budget Act passed by congress and signed into law includes nuclear production tax credits that were initially created under the Energy Policy Act 2005 to provide federal support for projects like Georgia Power’s Vogtle units 3 & 4. Previously new reactors had to be operating before 2021 to be eligible, but this deadline is now removed, so that tax credits of $18/MWh over eight years are available for up to 6000 MWe of new capacity.  So both Vogtle 3 & 4 as well as the NuScale Power’s small modular reactor (SMR) project at the Idaho National Laboratory could benefit.  At 90% capacity each new Vogtle reactor would produce 8.8 TWh/yr and hence receive $158 million per year.

The US Nuclear Energy Institute hailed the Act as “a vote for continued American leadership in nuclear energy, environmental stewardship and thousands of jobs.” Similar production tax credits have been paid for output from unlimited wind and solar PV capacity for many years, indexed to inflation and hence now $23/MWh, coupled with priority grid access for these unreliable sources. These arrangements severely handicap the competitiveness of power from the 99 US established nuclear reactors.
WNN 12/2/18.  US NP

USA drafts plans to secure power from nuclear plants

The US President has directed the Department of Energy to make plans to secure the future of nuclear and coal-fired plants at risk of closure. The plan would see DOE use authority under two existing laws - the Federal Power Act and the 1950 Defense Production Act - temporarily to delay retirements of fuel-secure electric generation resources, while it analyses and takes action to address the "resilience needs" of the electric generation system. This would involve directing system operators over a two-year period to purchase electricity or generation capacity from a designated list of facilities, to forestall any further retirements pending a fuller review of the electricity markets. The proposed order would also establish a Strategic Electric Generation Reserve. These measures replace a proposed rulemaking of September 2017 which would have recognised the attributes of generation sources able to store substantial fuel on site, such as nuclear plants.
WNN 4/6/18.   US NP

Licensing for new US nuclear power plant

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved the issuance of combined construction and operating licences (COLs) for two proposed AP1000 reactors at Florida Power and Light's (FPL's) Turkey Point plant in Florida. FPL applied in 2009 for a combined construction and operating licence for the two reactors adjacent to its units 3 & 4 there. Last month it filed an application for a second licence renewal for those units 3 & 4, which would take their operating lives out to 80 years, to 2052 and 2053. FPL will delay any final decision whether to proceed with the two new AP1000 reactors until towards the mid 2020s.
​WNN 6/4/18.  US NP

First of three US reactors with substantial uprates

Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry-3 is now operating following a 14.3% power uprate, giving it an extra 155 MWe and taking it to about 1260 MWe net. The other two units there will follow in the next 12 months. The uprates were proposed more than a decade ago, but were delayed pending agreement on the significant design changes required.
Platts 16/7/18.  USA NP

Silex abandons US plans for uranium enrichment

After two years of attempting to make a case for buying out GE-Hitachi (GEH), the main partner in its US licensee for the SILEX laser enrichment technology, Sydney-based Silex Systems Ltd has decided to pull out of negotiations. GEH owns 76% of GE-Hitachi Global Laser Enrichment LLC (GLE), with Cameco owning the rest.  During negotiations on the restructure of GLE, Silex has been funding 76% of GLE’s R&D at Wilmington, North Carolina. GLE is well advanced in commercialising the SILEX process, and has an agreement with the US Department of Energy to enrich about 300,000 tonnes of depleted uranium tails at Paducah, Kentucky to natural-grade uranium. “Unless circumstances change dramatically in the short-term, Silex also intends to give notice to GLE of termination of the SILEX technology license, …. signed in 2013.”

“The overarching factor which contributed to this decision is the worsening outlook for the global nuclear fuel markets, which have deteriorated steadily since 2011,” according to Silex. While significant expansion of nuclear power is occurring in several countries, “the fuel markets for these countries are generally less accessible.” The company lamented that as well as abandoning the Paducah project, “the opportunity to support the United States regain its leadership position in advanced nuclear technology has also been lost, and the unique ability to produce a highly flexible range of fuels for the next generation of advanced small modular reactors will now not be realised”. Silex will take “appropriate steps to repatriate the technology from the US to the Lucas Heights facility” near Sydney as well as “exploring commercialisation of the technology with third parties in other countries should opportunities arise and as market conditions improve.”
WNN 13/6/18, Silex 12/6/18.   U Enrichment

USA renews its resolve on used fuel disposal

The US House of Representatives has voted decisively (340 to 72) in favour of reversing former president Obama’s veto of 1982-legislated plans for disposal of the US inventory of used nuclear fuel and other high-level wastes. The Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act 2018 also provides for setting up privately-owned central interim storage facilities meanwhile, and increases the planned repository size from 70,000 to 110,000 tonnes. The bill was widely supported by industry and unions. Companion legislation is pending in the Senate, which is generally thought to favour interim storage more than restarting the Yucca Mountain repository project. Nevada senators, who brought about the presidential attempt to abort the project, remain opposed. However, attempts from that quarter to weaken the House bill failed (80 to 332).

The bipartisan Act “amends the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to direct the Department of Energy (DOE) to initiate a program to consolidate and temporarily store commercial used nuclear fuel during the development, construction, and operation of a permanent nuclear waste repository”. Under the original Act, Yucca Mountain in Nevada was designated (in 1987) as the site for a permanent deep geological repository, and January 1998 was set as the date when DOE should begin removing used fuel from nuclear power plant sites. Nuclear utilities have sued the federal government after DOE failed to begin collecting their spent fuel by then, and settlements have cost US taxpayers more than $7 billion. Utilities have been forced to build substantial dry storage capacity at power plant sites to cope.

Despite several delays to the program, in June 2008 a construction licence application for the Yucca Mountain repository was eventually submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) by the DOE.  In 2009 the application was withdrawn, the NRC terminated its review of the project, and DOE’s Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management was then closed down.  In 2013, NRC review of the licence application officially resumed after a court order. Over $35 billion remains in the Nuclear Waste Fund, levied from utilities (plus accumulated interest), though collections (@ 0.1 cent/kWh generated) have ceased.
WNN 11/5/18.   US fuel cycle

USA halts construction of MOX plant

After several years of uncertainty and reduced budgets, construction of an expensive US plant to incorporate surplus military-grade plutonium into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel for nuclear power plants has been halted. The Department of Energy (DOE) now intends to dilute the material and dispose of it in an underground New Mexico waste repository that is designed for such low-activity materials. Some may be “moved elsewhere for programmatic uses”, rather than wasted. The 70%-built MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) at the DOE's Savannah River Site in South Carolina will be converted for other uses, apparently related to US weapons.

The genesis of the project was the 2000 US-Russia Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement to dispose of 34 tonnes of military surplus plutonium in each country by 2014, incorporating it (with depleted uranium) into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel.  A 2010 protocol to the Agreement confirmed MOX for light water reactors as the sole disposal option for the USA, while Russia would dispose of the material as MOX in fast reactors. Construction of the US MFFF began in 2007 under a $2.7 billion contract to the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which will own the plant. It is based on Orano’s Melox plant in France, but is more complex, which has delayed progress. The timeline for operation had already gone out to 2019 and the cost estimate had blown out to $7.7 billion.  Russia’s counterpart MFFF at Zheleznogorsk started up in 2014 after four years construction costing RUR 9.3 billion ($142 million) according to Rosatom. In October 2016 President Putin cancelled the 2000 Agreement unilaterally.

Most MOX plants use fresh reactor-grade plutonium comprising about one-third non-fissile plutonium isotopes; the MFFF plants use weapons plutonium with more than 90% fissile isotopes to make MOX fuel very similar to normal enriched uranium fuel.
WNN 17/5/18.   US fuel cycle

Westinghouse emerges from bankruptcy protection

After 17 months under US ‘Chapter 11’ bankruptcy protection, the Canadian asset management company Brookfield and its partners have completed the purchase of the restructured company from Japan’s Toshiba Corporation for about $4 billion.  Westinghouse retains a high profile in the nuclear industry.  Its nuclear fuel and operating plant businesses have revenue of about $3 billion per year.

The company had encountered significant "financial and construction challenges" in its US AP1000 power plant projects. Beyond supplying the technology as reactor vendor, it took over construction functions in 2015 by purchasing CBI Stone & Webster. This led to a major write-down by parent company Toshiba for cost overruns on the four US reactors, which were due to start up in 2019 and 2020. Only two of these continue under construction, at the Vogtle plant in Georgia, with completion now expected late in 2021 and 2022.  Southern Nuclear Operating Company has taken over project management at Vogtle, leaving Westinghouse simply as vendor, though supporting the project and providing access to intellectual property. Bechtel has taken over from CBI as construction manager. All the heavy plant components were made in Japan and South Korea. The total project cost is now estimated at about $19 billion.

China is building four AP1000 reactors, albeit with little direct involvement by Westinghouse. The first of these, at Sanmen, in now operating. The cost of each pair is put at about CNY 50 billion ($7.3 billion).  For the fourth unit, about 70% of the heavy components were made by local supply chain companies, which now have capacity to produce 6-8 sets of equipment per year for AP1000 and other large nuclear plants. China has plans for many more reactors based on AP1000.
WNN 2/8/18.  US NP

Westinghouse sold to Canadian investment company

Westinghouse in the USA filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in March 2017, after struggling to fund growing cost overruns at its two US nuclear plant projects. The company listed assets of $4.3 billion and liabilities of $9.4 billion in the filing.  Since then, its parent Toshiba Corporation has had to pay billions of dollars in damages for two reactor construction projects in the USA - $8.9 billion was provided in its accounts in May, and it has been eager to sell the whole company. Westinghouse nuclear fuel business and its operating plant businesses remain profitable.  Now Brookfield Business Partners, together with institutional partners, has agreed to acquire the whole company from Toshiba for total of about $4.6 billion in equity and funded by long-term debt. The sale will be through the bankruptcy process.  Brookfield is "focused on owning and operating high-quality businesses that benefit from barriers to entry and/or low production costs." Other bidders have 30 days to make competing offers.

Westinghouse was arguably the premier nuclear reactor designer of the last century, with about half the world’s reactors based on its designs to some degree. Nevertheless, it has struggled commercially. In 1999 it was acquired by British Nuclear Fuels Ltd for $1.1 billion and promptly took over Sweden’s ABB for $0.5 billion. In 2006 BNFL sold it for $5.4 billion to Toshiba (77%) and Shaw Group (20%), “taking Toshiba Group's energy systems business to the global level”. Westinghouse then partnered with the Shaw Group for engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contracts, particularly the two AP1000 projects in USA. Shaw was taken over by CB&I in 2013 for about $3 billion. Then in 2015 Westinghouse effectively bought it for $229 million after CB&I had incurred major losses on the business which jeopardised the two US projects. Westinghouse announced that “This deal supports (our) strategic growth initiatives by expanding the company’s capacities across its global footprint,” notably by taking it into nuclear plant construction.

In China, Westinghouse and Shaw (now CB&I) have contracts with the State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) for the four AP1000 units being built there, the first two of which are expected on line early this year, but these extend only to oversight of construction.  The construction role in USA arising from Westinghouse’s disastrous purchase of CB&I Stone & Webster was the basis of Toshiba’s problems.

Toshiba also owns NuGeneration’s 3.4 GWe Moorside project in UK, and discussions are well advanced to sell this to Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO).
WNN 4 & 18/1/18  US NP

US merchant generator files for bankruptcy

FirstEnergy's merchant arm, FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), owner of its three nuclear power plants, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. The parent company said that this was a milestone in its "previously announced strategy to exit the competitive generation business and become a fully regulated utility company with a stronger balance sheet, solid cash flows and more predictable earnings." Included in the filing is 10,200 MWe of generating capacity largely comprising 5,400 MWe in three large coal-fired plants and 4,048 MWe in three nuclear plants with four reactors - Davis-Besse and Perry in Ohio and Beaver Valley in Pennsylvania, all operated by FES’s First Energy Nuclear Operating Co (FENOC).  FES said that it had sufficient liquidity to continue normal operations while its problems are sorted out.

FES earlier announced that it intended to close down its three nuclear generating stations in 2020 and 2021 because they were unprofitable in the current market with low-cost gas and subsidised wind power. The company called on “elected officials in Ohio and Pennsylvania to consider policy solutions that would recognize the importance of these facilities to the employees and local economies in which they operate, and the unique role they play in providing reliable, zero-emission electric power for consumers in both states [and so to] make it feasible to continue to operate these plants in the future.” In particular FirstEnergy proposed that on a plant-by-plant basis, coal-fired and nuclear generators should negotiate with the grid company for “just and reasonable cost-based rates that provide for full cost recovery”, similar to the arrangement in regulated markets.
WNN 3/4/18.  USA NP

US returns to fast reactor R&D

A bipartisan bill passed unanimously by the US House of Representatives has authorized the construction of a “versatile reactor-based fast neutron source, which shall operate as a national user facility” by 2026, and allocated almost $2 billion for it. This will be a research reactor for “development of advanced reactor designs, materials and nuclear fuels,” and is reported to be at least 300 MWt. There is a world shortage of fast reactor research capacity, especially for fast neutron materials testing for Generation IV reactor developments. At present the only fast neutron research reactor is BOR-60 in Russia, at Dimitrovgrad, which is also being used by French researchers. A new one – MBIR - with four times the irradiation capacity, is under construction there as the centrepiece of an International Research Centre.

Through to 1985 the US Department of Energy invested heavily in fast reactor R&D, and five fast neutron reactors were operated, with several more designed.  The flagship unit was the EBR-II, a 62.5 MW thermal demonstration reactor which typically operated at 19 MWe, providing heat and over 2 TWh of power to the Idaho laboratory over 1963-94.  Having demonstrated a complete sodium-cooled breeder reactor power plant with on-site reprocessing of metallic fuel, the emphasis then shifted to testing materials and fuels (metal and ceramic oxides, carbides and nitrides of U & Pu) for larger fast reactors.  Finally it became the prototype for an Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) using metallic alloy U-Pu-Zr fuels.  IFR program goals included demonstrating inherent safety apart from engineered controls, improved management of high-level nuclear wastes by recycling all actinides so that only fission products remained as high-level waste, and more fully using the energy potential of uranium. These were demonstrated, though the whole program was aborted in 1994 by the Clinton administration. IFR fuel first used in 1986 reached 19% burnup (compared with 3-4% for conventional reactors), and 22% was targeted.
WNN 16/2/18.   US NFC

New Westinghouse micro reactor to be evaluated in Canada

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission is to conduct a pre-licensing vendor design review (VDR) of Westinghouse’s eVinci micro reactor, along with other designs including NuScale’s small modular reactor. The eVinci is a radically new concept among the many small reactor designs now coming forward for commercial nuclear power. It is a heatpipe reactor, using a fluid in numerous sealed steel heatpipes to conduct heat from the hot fuel (where the fluid vapourises) to the external condenser (where the fluid releases its latent heat of vapourisation) with heat exchanger. No pumps are needed to effect continuous isothermal vapor/liquid internal flow at low pressure. The principle is well established on a small scale, but here a liquid metal is used as the fluid and reactor sizes up to several megawatts are envisaged. Experimental work on reactors for space has been with much smaller units (about 100 kWe), using sodium as the fluid. They have been developed since 1994 as a robust and low technical risk system for space exploration with an emphasis on high reliability and safety.

The eVinci reactors would be fully factory built and fuelled. As well as power generation, process heat to 600°C would be available. Units would have five- to ten-year life, with walk-away safety due to inherent feedback diminishing the nuclear reaction with excess heat, also effecting load-following.
WNN 20/2/18.  Small reactors

US states call for action on used fuel

On the 20th anniversary of the US Department of Energy’s default on its obligation to take over management and disposal of used nuclear fuel, the national organization of state public utility commissions has called on the Trump administration and Congress to appropriate funds needed to restart the Yucca Mountain repository program. "It has been 36 years since the Nuclear Waste Policy Act became law and 20 years since the government defaulted on its obligation," the president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners reminded the government. "We still have no nuclear repository, and worse yet, we don't even have the semblance of a nuclear waste program," he said. Under the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, DOE was to begin disposing of utility spent fuel by January 31, 1998. The nuclear utilities would fund that program with a 0.1 cent per kilowatt hour fee collected from customers in relation to nuclear-generated electricity sold. Today all the used fuel remains, albeit safely and securely, at reactor sites.

DOE suspended collection of the fee in 2014 under a federal court order after it dismantled the repository program at Yucca Mountain, Nevada four years earlier, due to political pressure under the Obama administration. "The Nuclear Waste Fund currently has a balance well in excess of $30 billion and continues to earn interest of more than $1 billion a year, yet any progress on the program is constrained by the Congressional failure to provide meaningful funding." New legislation to address the matter is currently stalled in congress.
WNN 1/2/18  US NFC

First US space reactor test for several decades

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has announced the successful testing of its KiloPower reactor – intended to provide power to missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Testing of a prototype was undertaken at NASA's Nevada National Security Site over November to March. KiloPower is a fast-neutron reactor to produce up to 10 kilowatts of electrical power continuously for ten years or more. The 1 kW prototype uses a solid, cast uranium-235 reactor core of 32 kg, hence low core power density, and relies on negative thermal feedback for control. Reactor heat is transferred via passive sodium-filled heat pipes, with the heat then converted to electricity by two Stirling engines. The final phase of testing simulated several failure modes. This is the first US nuclear-powered ground test on an in-space nuclear reactor for several decades.

Space missions require reliable, long-lasting power sources both for propulsion once they are in space and to power experiments and equipment. Radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) are widely used as power sources in satellites and other space vehicles such as the Mars rover Curiosity. However, virtually all RTGs are powered by the radioactive decay of plutonium-238, which is now in short supply, and for higher power requirements, fission power systems have a distinct cost advantage over RTGs. Experience of the KiloPower project will be fed to a MegaPower project, with 2 MWe units.
WNN 3/5/18.   Reactors for space

Europe

United Kingdom

Contractor locked in to build new UK nuclear plant

Horizon Nuclear Power, a subsidiary of Hitachi, has appointed Bechtel as project manager for its Wylfa Newydd project in Wales where two 1380 MWe ABWR reactors from Hitachi-GE are planned. Bechtel has been involved in more than 150 nuclear power plant projects, acting as architect engineer for 71 plants and constructing 42. Under the new contract, the company will have almost 200 employees embedded within Horizon, which said that this “will mirror the kind of client/contractor relationship that has been successful in delivering the previous four ABWR nuclear reactors on time and on budget" in Japan. Bechtel has also taken over responsibility for completing the Vogtle AP1000 project in USA.

In June, Hitachi and the UK government announced they had entered negotiations on public investment in the proposed Wylfa Newydd project focused on achieving lower cost electricity for consumers than is expected from EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant.  Hitachi plans to make a final investment decision on the Wylfa Newydd project next year and to start operation of the first unit by 2025.

The UK ABWR reactor design that will be used at Wylfa Newydd completed the UK's Generic Design Assessment approval process at the end of 2017. Horizon intends to build a second twin UK ABWR plant at Oldbury in Gloucestershire after it completes the Wylfa Newydd plant.
WNN 22/8/18.  UK

France

French nuclear industry restructuring completed

With two Japanese companies each taking up a 5% share in the fuel cycle company resulting from Areva’s commercial distress, the restructuring of the French nuclear industry over three years is complete.  The new company, Orano, is now owned by the French state (45.2%), the Commission of Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy (4.8%), Areva SA (40%), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (5%) and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (5%).  Each 5% Japanese share involved a €250 million investment.  Orano comprises the mining, conversion, enrichment, fuel fabrication, reprocessing and other back-end services of Areva.  JNFL is responsible for the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in Japan, the completion of which has been delayed many times, and its mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel fabrication plant.

Areva earlier saw the new fuel cycle company as “refocused on less-risky cash flow generating operations” compared with its disastrous reactor business and thus able to refinance on capital markets and “in a good position to grow.”  Orano intends to increase its Asian revenue from 20% to 30% of total by 2020 and achieve positive net cash flow this year. It plans to invest €1.8 billion in modernising its plants by 2025.

The other major company formed in the French restructuring is Framatome, taking over most of Areva NP, it is now largely owned by Electricite de France (EDF).  This comprises the reactor design and vendor side of Areva, with fuel design, supply and services to existing nuclear power plants. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, with a similar industry profile, also invested about €483 million in this company to hold 19.5% of it. The hugely delayed and greatly over-budget Olkiluoto 3 project in Finland was excluded, and stays with Areva SA.
WNN 27/2/18.   France

Name change: Areva’s subsidiary New NP, taken over largely by EDF at the end of December, has been renamed Framatome. This is the name of its French predecessor to 2006.
WNN 4/1/18.  France

Urenco to start enriching recycled uranium for EDF

Urenco has announced a contract with Electricite de France (EDF) to re-enrich recycled uranium (RepU) recovered from reprocessing its used nuclear fuel. This is linked to a contract signed in April under which Framatome is to design, fabricate and supply fuel assemblies using enriched RepU to EDF between 2023 and 2032. Most of the 1000 tonnes per year of uranium recovered from reprocessing used fuel in France is simply stored as a ‘strategic resource’, though a few hundred tonnes has been re-enriched at Seversk in Russia and used in EDF’s Cruas reactors.  RepU conversion and enrichment require dedicated facilities due to its specific isotopic composition - the presence of even isotopes created in the reactor – notably U-232 and U-236. The former gives rise to gamma radiation, so needing shielding, the latter means higher enrichment is required.
WNN 5/7/18.   France, Enrichment

Finland

Ten-year legal contest over Finnish reactor resolved

With the building of a large new reactor in Finland running ten years late and greatly over budget, the question of financial liability between supplier and customer has loomed large. As it may for other projects elsewhere in the world.

In December 2003 Teollisuuden Voima Oy (TVO) signed a €3.2 billion turnkey contract with Areva NP and Siemens for the first Areva 1650 MWe EPR unit, to be built at Olkiluoto alongside two existing reactors, with commercial operation expected in mid 2009. Construction started in May 2005 but delays were encountered, particularly on the reactor section.  Siemens and its subcontractor supplied the turbine section much quicker. Grid connection is now expected in December 2018 and commercial operation in May 2019. The cost overrun is considerable.

The parties turned to the International Chamber of Commerce in Stockholm in 2008 to arbitrate on the question of who should pay for additional costs arising. The Areva-Siemens consortium claimed €3.52 billion against TVO in relation to the delay and cost overruns of the project. TVO counterclaimed for 2.6 billion for costs and losses. The ICC arbiters favoured TVO in two partial rulings and “rejected the great majority of the supplier's contentions”, but did not rule on compensation. TVO has now announced that it has agreed with Areva for that company to pay €450 million in compensation for the project’s delay, €328 million immediately and the balance when the unit goes into service, or by the end of 2019 at the latest.  The agreement also provides a €150 million incentive payment to Areva if the unit is completed on time, to be in full operation by May 2019, and up to €400 million penalty to TVO if it isn’t.

Olkiluoto 3 was the world’s first EPR to start construction and it was followed by Flamanville 3 in France, then two Taishan units in China. This week fuel was being loaded into the first Taishan unit, and Flamanville was grappling with quality assurance questions on welding.
WNN 12/3/18.   Finland

Germany

Further German reactor shut down

As reported last week, RWE’s 1284 MWe Gundremmingen-B reactor was finally shut down at the end of December in line with German government policy, after 33 years operation at around 90% average capacity factor. This is the tenth unit to be closed post-2011 and leaves only seven power reactors in operation in Germany with a combined generating capacity of 9444 MWe, as the country’s CO2 emission reduction falls well short of target. The next scheduled closure of a German reactor is EnBW's 1392 MWe Phillipsburg 2 pressurised water reactor in 2019.
WNN 2/1/18.  Germany, Energiewende

Russia

New Russian reactors in operation

The fourth Rostov reactor in the Volga region has been connected to the grid, with Mr Putin there for the occasion.  The 1011 MWe (net) unit started up five weeks earlier.  It is Russia's 36th reactor in a fleet providing 18% of the country's electricity, and which will now meet more than half the demand in the southern region.  It is the last of the successful VVER-1000/V320 series of Russian reactors, and new construction is of 1200 MWe models.  From mid March, with the completion of a new grid link, it is reported that the Rostov power plant will supply Crimea, captured from Ukraine in 2014.
WNN 1/2/18.   Russia NP

The first of two new 1170 MWe (gross) reactors of the Leningrad power plant at Sosnovy Bor near St Petersburg has been connected to the grid, after starting up four weeks earlier. Construction has taken 113 months and net power is 1085 MWe. Early construction problems set back the schedule, and successful repair of the oldest two RBMK units at the plant removed any urgency. Eventually four of the new VVER-1200 reactors will replace the four operating RBMK-1000 units there, commissioned from 1974 to 1981, and now due to be shut down over the next decade. This is the first V491 version of the VVER-1200 to operate, and it is the model intended to be built at Tianwan in China.  Two are under construction in Belarus. It brings to 38 the number of nuclear power reactors operating in Russia, with total of about 29 GWe net.
WNN 9/3/18.  Russia NP

New Russian reactors in commercial operation

Russia’s Rostov 4 reactor near Volgodonsk has commenced commercial operation three months ahead of schedule and also under budget.  The V320 reactor was grid-connected in February and delivers 1011 MWe net. It is the last of this 1000 MWe class of reactors to be built in Russia, though others are still under construction in Belarus and India, and more are on order for Iran and Armenia. The V320 has been the flagship Russian power reactor since the first one came on line at Balakovo in 1986, so 13 of its 33 grid-connected reactors are essentially this type, and Ukraine has 13 of them operating. The new standard large Russian reactors are 1200 MWe class, with the first two operating in Russia and more being built there and abroad.
WNN 1/10/18.  Russia NP

Five months after grid connection, the Leningrad II-1 nuclear power plant is effectively in commercial operation for Rosenergoatom. This is the first of its version (V491) of the VVER-1200 reactor and delivers 1085 MWe net. Its full commissioning will mean that the original Leningrad 1 plant can close down on schedule at the end of this year.  It is an RBMK type which will have been operating for 44 years, after some major lifetime performance recovery work undertaken since 2012. The RBMK design was significantly modified following the Chernobyl accident and the only operating units are in Russia.  All are due to close by 2034.
WNN 16/10/8.   Russia NP

New Russian reactor starts up

The first of two 1170 MWe (gross) reactors comprising phase II of the Leningrad nuclear power plant has been started up at Sosnovy Bor, near St Petersburg. Eventually four of the new VVER-1200 reactors will replace the four operating RBMK units there, commissioned from 1974.  Construction of Leningrad II-1 started in October 2008, with unit 2 being 18 months behind. These are the first reactors of their particular type (V491).
WNN 6/2/18.   Russia NP

Construction start on new Russian reactor

First main concrete has been poured for the first unit of the Kursk II nuclear power plant, which will replace the present one there – four RBMK reactors which came on line over 1978 to 1986. The new reactor is the first of the VVER-TOI type, an upgrade of the 1200 MWe ones now operating and under construction as AES-2006 power plants. A construction licence was issued in June 2016 for unit 1 and in October 2016 for unit 2, and site works then commenced. The total investment in building unit 1 will exceed RUR 200 billion ($3.2 billion). A second phase of construction from 2028 will be for units 3 & 4.

The VVER-TOI of 1255 MWe gross has been developed from Moscow Atomenergoproekt’s version of the AES-2006 nuclear plant. Rosatom says that it intends this to be standard for new projects in Russia and worldwide, with minor variations. Initial service life is 60 years with high (70 GWd/t) fuel burn-up and 18 to 24-month fuel cycle.  Licence extensions to 80 years are envisaged. It is claimed to require only 130-135 tonnes of natural uranium per gigawatt year, compared with typical 190 tU now.  It can undertake daily load following down to 50% thermal power, and has significant frequency control capability compared with AES-2006 reactors.  It will use an Alstom-derived low-speed turbine-generator. Further VVER-TOI reactors are planned for Nizhny Novgorod, Smolensk II, Central, and Tatar power plants.
WNN 30/4/18.   Russia NP

Russian floating nuclear power plant arrives at Murmansk

Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant, Akademik Lomonosov, has arrived at Murmansk after being towed 4000 km around Scandinavia from its St Petersburg shipyard. It was then handed over to Rosenergoatom, its owner and future operator.  The twin 35 MWe reactors will be fuelled at the Atomflot base before the barge-mounted plant continues next year to its operational site at Pevek, on the northeast coast of Siberia in the Chukotka autonomous district, where preparatory works are under way. The RUR 21.5 billion ($350 million) plant will replace the small and old Bilibino nuclear power plant and a thermal power plant.

Its KLT-40S reactors are similar to those used for some years in Russian icebreakers, but run on low-enriched uranium. Rosatom is developing a second generation of floating nuclear power plants for other northern sites, using the new RITM-200M reactors of 50 MWe each. These are much lighter than the KLT units and very similar to the latest icebreaker power plants. They have a much longer refuelling cycle.
WNN 21/5/18.   Russia NP

Russia clears floating nuclear power plant for deployment

The Russian State Expert Examination Board (Glavgosexpertiza) for major infrastructure has approved the deployment of the floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov at Russia's northernmost city of Pevek. It will be operated by by Rosenergoatom, the nuclear power plant operator subsidiary of Rosatom. At present it is still at the Baltiysky Zavod shipyard in St Petersburg. In May it will be towed through the Baltic Sea and around Norway to the Atomflot base at Murmansk for fuel loading and start-up about October, before continuing to Pevek for commissioning in 2019 after licensing by the nuclear regulator Rostechnadzor. The 21,500 tonne hull - 144 metres long, 30 m wide - was launched in June 2010, and the two 35 MWe KLT-40S reactors, similar to those in icebreakers, were installed in October 2013. The plant is intended to replace the 44 MWe capacity of the 1970’s Bilibino nuclear power plant in the Chukotka district.
WNN 11/1/18.  Russia NP

Russia reports full order book for nuclear plants

Rosatom reports that it has orders exceeding US$ 133 billion for new nuclear plant exports.  "At the present day, we have 35 power units as signed contracts and intergovernmental agreements - this is 67% of the world market for [nuclear power plant] construction.”  There are currently six large nuclear reactors under construction in five foreign countries, and a further 13 contracted in seven countries. A further contract, for four large reactors in Egypt, is pending. Another seven units are credibly planned, some with intergovernmental agreements in place. Beyond those, the plans are less definite. An agreement to build two 1200 MWe units in Uzbekistan “is at the final stage". All foreign plants are VVER-type pressurised water reactors. This is in addition to six reactors under construction in Russia and many more planned, including some 1200 MWe fast reactors.
WNN 3/7/18.   Russia NP

Ukraine

Ukraine aims for scaled-down nuclear plans

Since 2006 Ukraine has had plans to more than double its already large nuclear power capacity to reduce its dependence on Russian gas. Currently more than half of Ukraine’s electricity is from its 15 operating reactors at four sites. A nuclear power strategy involving building and commissioning 11 new reactors with total capacity of 16.5 GWe (and nine replacement units totaling 10.5 GWe) to more than double nuclear capacity by 2030 was approved by the government in 2006 to enhance Ukraine's energy independence. The strategy is moot in the absence of finance. Meanwhile plans for Russia to complete Khmelnitski 3 & 4, both 1000 MWe and respectively 75% and 28% complete when work stopped in 1990, have been aborted politically. 

The two oldest units in Ukraine are VVER-440 reactors at Rovno which came on line in 1981 and 1982.  These have had licences extended to 2030-31 and together provide 760 MWe net. Their replacement was to be part of the above plans, but now Energoatom has signed an agreement with US-based Holtec International to replace them by 2030 with multiple Holtec SMR-160 units “as a pilot project”, and to set up a manufacturing hub for these reactors.  Holtec welcomed Ukraine becoming “the first mover in Holtec’s small modular reactor program”, so that it could “become a world leader in the emerging small modular reactor industry”.  The SMR-160 units are also envisaged as cogeneration industrial heat sources.

Holtec already has a well-established presence in Ukraine. The national Central Spent Fuel Storage Facility (CSFSF) for VVER fuel is being built by Holtec International near Chernobyl under a $460 million contract, and is due to accept the first used fuel next year.  Holtec is also building the $411 million Chernobyl Dry Storage (ISF-2) project, for RBMK fuel from Chernobyl, and due for completion this year. Ukraine’s Turboatom, a major source of steam turbines for nuclear and other plants, is building Holtec’s Hi-Storm 190 casks for the CSFSF, that agreement being celebrated as “the dawn of a new chapter in US-Ukraine cooperation.” (Ukrainian power plants employ 47 Turboatom-made turbines and 43 Russian ones, for which Turboatom is now making spare parts.)
WNN 2/3/18.  Ukraine, Small reactors

Ukraine proposes a role as Central Europe energy hub

For three years Ukraine has been moving towards supplying electricity to Poland and Hungary with its Ukraine-EU ‘energy bridge’ project. This will essentially draw on nuclear capacity disconnected from the national grid and synchronized with the EU. The energy bridge will initially link Khmelnitski 2 to Burshtyn Energy Island – a coal-fired plant constrained by interrupted coal supplies from Donetsk region in the east - and connect with powerlines to Rzeszów in Poland and Albertirsa in Hungary. 

At a meeting with the European parliament, Ukraine’s Energoatom and other representatives pointed to Ukraine’s 55 GWe of installed capacity and emphasised that more than half its electricity was from reliable nuclear plants. Its role could mean that Central Europe countries were less reliant on Russian gas. Domestically it will enable greater use of Ukraine’s nuclear capacity and also generate funds to pay for increasing that capacity at Khmelnitski by completing units 3 & 4. Energoatom said that the ‘energy bridge’ would start to function in 2019 with 1550 MWe as the "first step on the way to fully integrated strategic synchronisation of the Ukrainian and European energy systems". By 2025, some 2550 MWe is to be available to the EU.
WNN 16/7/18.  Ukraine

South Korea

Construction start on new South Korean reactor

Last month construction started on Shin Kori 6 in South Korea. This is an APR1400 reactor (1400 MWe gross) and will be the sixth such plant in the country. Four others are near completion or commissioning in United Arab Emirates, also built by Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power. Construction of Shin Kori 6 had been deferred due to the election of a new government in mid 2017, but in October a government-organised committee voted 59.5% in favour of resuming construction of unit 5 and commencing unit 6. The committee said that stability of power supply was a primary reason for the choice.  The two reactors were expected to cost $7.6 billion ($2700/kW). Nuclear power provides about one third of South Korea’s electricity.
KHNP.   South Korea

South Koreans affirm priority of nuclear power

A poll by the Korean Nuclear Society showed more than 71% of respondents supporting the use of nuclear energy in South Korea, with 26% against it. The survey also found that more than two thirds thought the government should expand or maintain the use of nuclear power plants, while less than 30% said the country should reduce its reliance on nuclear power, in line with government policy.
WNN 16/8/18.  South Korea

Early closure of oldest South Korean reactor announced

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power has announced that it will close its oldest reactor before its 2022 licence expiry, due to low utilization and “uncertain economic viability”. This is a CANDU 6 unit which commenced operation in 1983. It was refurbished a few years ago.

More significantly, the company also announced cancellation of plans for four new reactors at Cheonji, and said it would sell the land. These were to be a new 1500 MWe APR+ design, developed from the APR1400 now operating in South Korea and with four almost completed in UAE.  It is also planned for the Moorside plant in UK.  However, the APR+ was meant to succeed this design.  It gained design approval from the regulator in 2014 and was “developed with original domestic technology”, up to 100% localized, over the seven years prior, with export markets in view. It has significant design improvements and is more highly reinforced against aircraft impact than any earlier designs.
WNN 15/6/18.   South Korea

Japan

Further reactor restarts in Japan

Unit 3 of Kansai’s Ohi nuclear power plant in Japan's Fukui Prefecture has restarted. The reactor - the sixth to be restarted after clearing the country's revised safety regulations and local political sensitivities - is expected to resume commercial operation early next month. It last ran July 2012 to September 2013, following the Fukushima accident of March 2011.
WNN 15/3/18.  Japan NP

Kansai Electric Power Company has restarted unit 4 of its Ohi nuclear power plant in Japan's Fukui Prefecture and reconnected it to the grid. The 1180 MWe pressurised water reactor - which has been offline since September 2013 - should resume commercial operation in early June. As a result, Kansai is lowering retail prices by 4%.
WNN 9/5/18, Kansai 11/5/18.   Japan NP

Kyushu Electric Power Co. has restarted its 1180 MWe Genkai 3 reactor and reconnected it to the electricity grid. Commercial operation is expected in April. Unit 4 is expected to restart in May. Kyushu’s application to confirm both reactors’ conformity with new safety requirements following the Fukushima accident was filed in July 2013, and NRA commissioners approved the two units' safety in January 2017. Loading of fuel, including MOX, took place in February this year.  Kansai expects to start its Ohi 4 in May. This will bring to four the number of similar large PWR reactors back in service, additional to the five 870-890 MWe ones. No boiling water reactors have yet been restarted.  Applications have been made for 25 of the 40 operational reactors - 9 PWR, 2 ABWR and 7 BWR are pending.

Kyushu has restarted and grid-connected its Genkai 4 of 1180 MWe, joining unit 3 at the site which restarted in March.  This brings to nine and 8706 MWe net the total back on line so far in Japan.
WNN 19/6/18.   Japan NP

Shikoku has announced that it will decommission its Ikata 2 reactor rather than spend a lot of money upgrading it. To return it to service and extend its operating lifetime from 40 to 60 years would require a huge investment for the safety measures required to comply with Japan’s new regulatory standards. This brings forward its planned closure from 2022, and removes 538 MWe net from potential restarts. It will be the ninth old reactor decommissioned in the last four years, seven of them smaller ones.

Nuclear energy is expected to account for 20-22% of Japan's power generation in 2030, with a similar portion coming from renewable sources. The remainder of the country's power generation will be met by coal (26%), LNG (27%), hydro and other renewables (about 22%) and oil (3%), according to Japan's latest energy policy.
WNN 23 & 27/3/18.  Japan NP

India

Potential progress on large Indian nuclear plant

A new agreement between Electricite de France (EdF) and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) has been signed to advance the prospects of building six French reactors at Jaitapur. The saga started with a February 2009 general agreement with Areva and then a framework agreement 22 months later for the first two 1600 MWe EPR units with Alstom turbine-generators, along with 25 years supply of fuel.  Arrangements and negotiations have since proceeded, with French government finance in the form of a 25-year loan at 4.8% to cover the expected $21 billion cost of the first two reactors.

However, as with two other major nuclear projects in India involving western reactor vendors, progress stalled due to India’s unique third party liability laws passed in 2010. The international Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC) entered force for India in May 2016. Then in July 2016 EdF submitted a fresh proposal to NPCIL and the Ministry of External Affairs for six EPR units, but seeking further guarantee of “the same level of protection” in relation to liability that is available at the international level, and citing the Vienna convention on liability. It is not clear how this matter is addressed in the new agreement.  EdF will provide the main equipment for the plant, and NPCIL will build it. For the first two reactors, EdF will undertake all engineering studies and component procurement. Local content may reach 60% for the last two of the six reactors.
WNN 12/3/18.  India

Bangladesh 

Bangladesh starts building second large Rooppur nuclear power reactor

First concrete has been poured to commence the construction of Rooppur unit 2 in Bangladesh, 160 km north of Dhaka.  Russia’s Atomstroyexport started construction of its twin VVER-1200 reactor in November last year.  Novovoronezh II is the reference plant. Commercial operation of the two units is expected in 2023 and 2024.  All fuel for Rooppur is being provided by Rosatom, and all used fuel is to be repatriated to Russia, in line with standard Russian practice for such countries.

The $12.65 billion project is 90% financed by Russia’s Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs.  It is a turnkey project, and Rosatom will maintain the plant for the first year of operation before handing over to Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has a close involvement with the project, and India’s Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) is engaged as consultant for construction and operation of the project.
WNN 16/7/18.   Bangladesh

Middle East

Construction start for first Turkish nuclear power plant

Immediately following a construction licence from the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority, first concrete was poured for the first of four Russian VVER-1200 reactors at Akkuyu, on Turkey’s eastern Mediterranean coast.  The presidents of both Russia and Turkey participated in the ceremony by video link from Ankara, Mr Putin stressing that “the successful implementation of this project will be a symbol of the dynamic, progressive development of Russian-Turkish interaction and partnership, Russian-Turkish friendship." The $25 billion project is expected to provide about one tenth of Turkey’s electricity and reduce reliance on imports. The first unit is due on line in 2023 on the 100th anniversary of founding the Republic of Turkey.

Site works at Akkuyu have been underway since about 2014.  Russia’s Novovoronezh II is the reference design, with its first unit grid-connected 18 months ago. The project company, JSC Akkuyu Nuklear, is a subsidiary of Rosatom, and this is its first foreign nuclear plant on a build-own-operate (BOO) basis. Turkey’s state power company will buy 70% of the power from the first unit at US$ 123.50 per MWh for 15 years.  A consortium of three Turkish companies which were set to take a 49% share in the project pulled out early this year. Rosatom says that 35-40% of construction work will be localised.
​WNN 3/4/18.  Turkey

New reactor in UAE completed

Construction completion of the UAE’s first nuclear power reactor at Barakah has been marked ceremonially on site by the President of South Korea and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. It is the first of four APR-1400 units built by a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) for the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation.  Fuel loading is planned for May and an operating licence is expected mid-year. The other three units are 92%, 81% and 67% complete respectively.  Together they will provide about one quarter of UAE’s electricity, replacing imported gas.

The South Korean president said the UAE has agreed to cooperate with South Korea in efforts to win orders for nuclear power plant construction projects in Saudi Arabia.
WNN 26/3/18.  UAE

Namibia

Langer Heinrich mine prepares to suspend production

Paladin Energy is preparing to shut down production from its Langer Heinrich mine in Namibia until uranium prices improve.  The mine has remaining reserves of 35,000 tU.  Last year mining was curtailed and production from stockpiles was 1308 tU, the lowest output since 2009. The plant will be put on care and maintenance.  Paladin’s Kayelekera mine in Malawi is also on care and maintenance following shutdown in 2014.  Paladin said that “Being the lowest cost open-pit uranium mine in the world means [Langer Heinrich mine] will likely be one of the first mines to return to production as the uranium market normalises.”

The mine joins Cameco’s McArthur River in Canada – shut down for most of 2018 and removing about 8000 tU from supply. Also Kazatomprom is reducing Kazakh uranium production by 20% in 2018 for three years, removing about 2600 tU from the market. Other cutbacks are in Niger.
WNN 26/4/18, Paladin 25/5/18.   Namibia, Canada


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