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Significant nuclear-related news items in perspective. For previous items, see the Archive.

14 & 21 July 2017

Areva reorganisation proceeds

After huge losses over 2014 to 2016 Areva is well advanced in selling or reducing equity in its two main operating entities: New NP and NewCo.  

New NP incorporates all the reactor and services business, engineering and projects of Areva NP apart from the Olkiluoto project in Finalnd. Valued at €2.5 billion, it is being merged with EdF, but with 15% taken by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and 5% by French engineering company Assystem. 

NewCo incorporates all the fuel cycle operations and some parent company equity is retained, though much diminished due to €2.5 billion capital raising which will give the French State 55.6%.  MHI and Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) take 5% each as strategic investors.

This leaves Areva NP (effectively the parent company) to complete the Olkiluoto project, funded by a €2 billion capital raising from the French State, so it now owns 92% of Areva SA.  Earlier this year Areva’s 83.5% stake in Areva TA, the propulsion and research reactor unit, was sold to a consortium comprising the French State, the CEA, and French naval defence group DCNS.
WNN 13/7/17.  France

New Chinese reactor starts up

Unit 4 of Fuqing nuclear power plant has started up in Fujian province.  It is the last of the CPR-1000 reactors under construction, based closely on a French PWR design pioneered in China at Daya Bay in 1987 and in commercial operation from 1994. When grid connected Fuqing 4 will deliver 1020 MWe.  Units 5 & 6 under construction at Fuqing are Hualong One, a largely indigenous design. Fuqing is a China National Nuclear Power Co site, with 39% held by Huadian.
WNN 20/7/17.   China NP

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Reactors for space, Waste storage and disposal, China fuel cycle

7 July 2017

Environmentalists appeal to President Macron to maintain nuclear capacity

A strong letter from 45 environmentalists, many of them high-profile, warned him that closing any French nuclear power plants would be retrograde and unhelpful environmentally. The appeal was spearheaded by climate scientist James Hansen and Francois-Marie Breon, the lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment report. “Few nations have done more than France to demonstrate the humanitarian and environmental benefits of creating a high-energy, nuclear-powered, and electrified society.” In fact “The French nuclear program has historically been the envy of the world. It demonstrated in the 1970s and 80s that the decarbonization of an industrialized country's electricity sector is in fact possible.” Germany is detailed as an example of going backwards due to delusional policies, despite massive expenditure.

Any wind and solar investment in France “should add to France's share of clean energy, not inadvertently reduce it. …. The further electrification of the transportation sector, which France has already done with its trains … should continue … with personal vehicles.” Furthermore, “Shifting from nuclear to fossil fuels and renewables would grievously harm the French economy in three ways: higher electricity prices for consumers and industry, an end to France's lucrative electricity exports, and - perhaps most importantly - the destruction of France's nuclear export sector.” A review of long-term energy policy is expected in 2018.
WNN 4/7/17.  France

New Pakistan reactor in operation

Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission’s fourth small reactor at the Chashma nuclear power plant in Punjab has been connected to the grid after 67 months construction. With unit 3 which started operation last year, the 315 MWe (net) plant was built by China Zhongyuan Engineering Corporation and China Nuclear Industry No.5 Construction Company. The two reactors were largely financed by Chinese low-interest loans, have a design life of 40 years, and are under IAEA safeguards. 

Two modern Chinese reactors are under construction near Karachi. These are the CNNC version of Hualong One, 1161 MWe gross, being built by China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group Co with China Zhongyuan Engineering Corporation, and 82% financed by China. They are expected on line in 2021 and 2022. Electricity infrastructure is a significant element in the $51 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, part of China’s wider Belt & Road Initiative.
WNN 3/7/17.   Pakistan

Westinghouse looks towards new ownership

The new president of Westinghouse hopes that the company will exit US Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization under a new owner by next March. It is preparing documentation for potential bidders. However, as well as approval of the bankruptcy court, agreement by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Treasury’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) will be required for the transfer of licences. The Westinghouse fuel and reactor services divisions are profitable, but construction of four AP1000 reactors in Georgia and South Carolina has crippled the company, and it has largely walked away from those projects, with parent Toshiba providing up to $8.9 billion for the liability involved. The owners have taken over project management and appointed other contractors. Westinghouse will focus on engineering and procurement on new nuclear plants rather than construction. The first two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in China are expected to start up this year. These are not affected by the US bankruptcy protection.
WNN 7/7/17, Nucleonics Week 6/7/17.   US NP

Other papers significantly updated in the WNA Information Library (see WNA web site): Reactor table, Uranium markets, Fuel fabrication

30 June 2017

WNA publishes World Nuclear Performance Report 2017

Further to 2016 figures published in January by WNN and WNA Weekly Digest showing the largest annual increase in nuclear plant coming on line for 25 years, the new WNA Performance Report fills out the picture regarding established plant. Steady performance is a feature of nuclear power plants, and this continued across the fleet with a global average capacity factor of 80.5%.  The report states that "there is no significant age-related trend in nuclear reactor performance" with older units achieving the same level of reliability as newer ones.

The 2015 and 2016 new grid connections are in line with WNA’s Harmony goal for nuclear power to generate 25% of electricity with 1000 GWe of new capacity in 2050. The path to achieving this needs an average of 10 GWe per year of new build now, then a doubling to 25 GWe on average from 2021-2025 and a construction rate of 33 GWe per year on average from 2026. This represents a return to the build rates the industry achieved in the 1980s. Rosatom's deputy director-general for international business last week at the annual AtomExpo in Moscow with 6500 attendees described the WNA Harmony goal as fully achievable and "perhaps modest". The IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2017 says that an average of 23 GWe per year of nuclear capacity additions are needed over 2017 to 2060 to achieve best projected emission reductions.
WNN 28/6/17.

Construction start on Indian reactor

Construction of the third Russian AES-92 power plant at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu state has commenced. This has a 1050 MWe VVER-1000 reactor, like its two predecessors there. A 72-month construction period is expected, by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL), under Russian supervision. Cost of this plus unit 4 was estimated at $6.25 billion, with generation cost about Rs 3.9/kWh (5.8 cents/kWh), competitive with coal. In April 2014 NPCIL signed a Rs 33,000 crore ($ 5.47 billion) agreement with Rosatom for units 3&4, having apparently resolved the liability question arising from India’s 2010 law. OMZ-Spetsstal completed the pressure vessel forgings for unit 3 in June 2016 and sent them to OMZ Izhorskiye Zavody for fabrication, with internals.  
WNN 30/6/17.   India

Australian electricity market review prioritises reliability

A review of Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) covering eastern and South Australia has reported its findings to government in the light of concerns about reliability of supply, lack of investment in new dispatchable plant to supply base-load demand, and escalating retail prices. The matters addressed in the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel’s comprehensive 212-page report are not unique to Australia. It confirms experience elsewhere that integrating high levels of variable renewables into electricity supply while maintaining reliability and keeping costs down is a daunting challenge, compounded by the need to reduce CO2 emissions. It stops short of recommending nuclear power as a resolution of these goals.

“Security and reliability have been compromised by poorly integrated variable renewable electricity generators, including wind and solar”. Furthermore, “existing wholesale and contract market investment signals alone are no longer a suitably dependable mechanism to ensure the reliability of the NEM.” (p83) In other words, subsidized renewables have are compromisinged reliability as well as raising raisinged prices. Arising from these observations is a major and likely game-changing recommendation is to “develop and implement a Generator Reliability Obligation … [for all] new generators to ensure that adequate dispatchable capacity is present in each region” (3.3).  This means that demand must be fully covered by coal or gas capacity, with a little help from hydro, or some other source with no carbon dioxide emissions. It remains to be seen how this will be worked in with policy trajectories which continue to subsidise new renewables capacity.
WNN 19/6/17, 26/6/17.  Australia

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