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

7 December 2018

Further US state moves to secure electric reliability

Several options to secure reliable and affordable electricity in Pennsylvania are set out in a November report addressing nuclear power in particular. The bipartisan Pennsylvania Nuclear Energy Caucus (NEC) was set up early last year to give members of the Pennsylvania General Assembly an opportunity to become more informed about nuclear energy's importance to the state. It now has over 75 members and its Bicameral Nuclear Energy Caucus Report sets out the nuclear contribution to the state's energy portfolio, economy, and environment. It identifies options to determine the future of the state’s five nuclear plants, with nine reactors producing almost 40% of its electricity. The report also found the nuclear plants contribute over $2 billion annually to Pennsylvania's economy as well as moderating electricity prices, improving air quality and ensuring grid resilience.

The impending closure of three of the nine reactors would be a “devastating and permanent blow” to the state, according to the NEC chairman. The four options identified were: take no action and allow the early retirements to go ahead; modify the state's Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act or implement a zero-emission credits (ZEC) programme to put nuclear generation on equal footing with renewables; take measures to allow the state to buy power from other sources than the PJM capacity market; and establish a state carbon pricing program. The report calls upon the General Assembly to decide and act soon in the face of opposition by natural gas interests.

US nuclear plants, particularly those operating in deregulated markets, have found themselves disadvantaged by the short-term nature of the competitive market, coupled with competition from low-cost gas and federally subsidised wind power. A number of states, including New York, Connecticut, Illinois and New Jersey, have taken action to preserve values of nuclear energy for the medium- to long-term that are not recognised in the markets. In June 2017 MIT's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy research published a study which found that saving US nuclear "would cost of $4-7/MWh on average in these markets”, compared with the current Production Tax Credit level for renewables of $23/MWh. A higher estimate of ZEC support is for New Jersey at about $11/MWh.
WNN 4/12/18.  US NP

Climate change conference reminded of vital role of nuclear power

A side event at the UN COP24 climate change conference in Poland was reminded by the World Nuclear Association that “The future decarbonization of the electricity sector is central to tackling climate change. We have the solutions, but we are lacking the decisions. Those decision makers here at COP24 have the most immediate goal to achieve, to ensure the Paris Agreement rulebook encourages and enables all low carbon technologies, including nuclear energy.” The head of the OECD International Energy Agency affirmed that “nuclear has an important role to play." Other international bodies echoed this.
WNA 7/12/18.   Policy responses to climate change

30 November 2018

Taiwan referendum shows clear support for nuclear power

The votes in a referendum question on nuclear power in Taiwan showed a 59% support for maintaining the country’s significant dependence on nuclear power. A poll commissioned by pro-nuclear activists before the vote found that one of the strongest arguments for nuclear was, “Solar and wind are not stable, and are expensive,” attracting 71% agreement. The strongest argument was the high economic cost of phasing out nuclear, followed by fear of future blackouts and air pollution. The economy minister then announced that a new energy policy affirming the role of nuclear power would be published and he would ask the government-owned utility Taipower to postpone further nuclear decommissioning.

Overall in the elections the results were a strong repudiation of the policies of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and its President. The DPP elected in January 2016 had a policy of phasing out nuclear power by 2025, and two Chinshan reactors were shut down in October this year. Also, two 1350 MWe GE Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) were under construction at Lungmen, near Taipei. Due to political discord, in April 2014 the government mothballed the almost-complete unit 1 after all 126 systems of the unit had passed extensive pre-operational testing and examination, and halted construction of unit 2. This was after almost $10 billion had been spent on the project.
WNN 26 & 28/11/18.  Taiwan

World Energy Outlook flags need for increased nuclear capacity

In the 2018 edition of the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook, WEO-2018, electricity growth of between 14% and 50% over 2016-2040 is considered across its three scenarios. "The electricity sector is experiencing its most dramatic transformation since its creation more than a century ago," according to the IEA. "Electricity is increasingly the 'fuel' of choice in economies that are relying more on lighter industrial sectors, services and digital technologies. Its share in global final consumption is approaching 20% and is set to rise further."

Its projections for nuclear increase are less than in WEO-2017. In its central New Policies Scenario, nuclear generation increases by 1121 TWh (43%) to 2040, against 57% for total electricity, requiring about 100 GWe (25%) more nuclear capacity. In the Sustainable Development Scenario focused on decarbonisation, annual nuclear generation increases by 2355 TWh (90%) over the same period, requiring capacity growth of about 265 GWe, or 65%. This is still significantly less than the World Nuclear Association’s Harmony goal of building 1000 GWe of new capacity by 2050 to treble nuclear generation from its present level.

The WEO-2018 report warns that without further operating period extensions and the construction of new reactors, the share of nuclear in generation capacity will drop substantially. "Should such a situation materialise, the loss of large amounts of baseload zero-emissions supply would have major implications for the energy mix, for energy security and for the emissions trajectory." “Policy makers also need to ensure that all key elements of energy supply, including electricity networks, remain reliable and robust."
WNN 13 & 29/11/18.   World energy needs

23 November 2018

Poland spotlight on nuclear power potential

Two weeks ahead of the UN’s COP24 conference at Katowice in relation to the Framework Convention on Climate Change, another international gathering in Poland has focused on the country’s energy future. At present over 80% of its electricity is from burning coal, but especially as part of the EU, there are increasing constraints on this. The economy is growing and public attitudes are driving demand for low emissions. Wind and solar have little potential to replace coal. In the context of plans for 2030 the minister for energy said that “zero-emission nuclear energy is the option that guarantees to achieve the goals we set. Nuclear energy is also important for state-of-the-art technology” in the economy.

Following over ten years of fluctuating plans, Poland’s current projections are for a modest 1.5 GWe of nuclear capacity by 2030 at Lubiatowo-Kopalino or Zarnowiec in the north of the country. Zarnowiec is inland on a lake and is where construction of a nuclear plant started in 1980s, Lubiatowo-Kopalino is on the Baltic coast. Public opinion in Pomerania is positive. The entity PGE EJ1 has been set up as a subsidiary of the main state-owned utility PGE to build the first plant and it will be future operator and licensee.  Several international reactor vendors are keen to bid for the plant, but Rosatom is not under consideration.

Poland also expects to have access to nuclear power from Ukraine from next year through the first stage of an ‘energy bridge’, with Khmelnistki unit 2 then being disconnected from the Ukraine grid and synchronized with the EU grid to supply 950 MWe to Poland.
WNN 21/10/18.   Poland

UN Economic Commission for Europe puts nuclear power on agenda

The UN Economic Commission for Europe’s meeting in Kiev has put nuclear power firmly on the organisation’s sustainable development agenda for the first time, as an important energy option. The forum involves multiple UN bodies and is focused on energy policies required. It was made clear that policy support was vital for confident investment in nuclear power so that it can play its necessary role in achieving Sustainable Development Goals. The UNECE drew attention to the fact that the targets of SDG 7 - 'ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all' - will not be reached if present circumstances persist.  Energoatom in host country Ukraine said its focus was on SDG 1, 'no poverty', and SDG 8, 'decent work and economic growth', along with its aim to have 50% of electricity from nuclear power by 2035.

Meanwhile a report commissioned by the European nuclear trade association Foratom shows that nuclear power needs to contribute at least one quarter of the electricity if the EU’s anticipated emissions target to 2050 is to be met affordably, in context of growth in annual demand from 3100 to 4100 TWh.  It suggests that the power market should be designed to reward the "system value of dependable and flexible resources" to fit in with variable renewables. "The results demonstrate how nuclear can contribute to an ambitious decarbonisation of the European economy."
WNN 12, 16 & 22/11/18.   Europe

16 November 2018

China-Westinghouse embrace is revived

Fourteen years after China’s State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) chose Westinghouse’s AP1000 despite strong opposition from local developers, the successors to both companies have reaffirmed their commitment to one another.  SNPTC, set up to select a modern reactor design for China’s future, made the Westinghouse AP1000 the main basis of technology development in the immediate future. In 2014 SNPTC signed a further agreement with Westinghouse to deepen cooperation in relation to AP1000 and derivative technology globally and “establish a mutually beneficial and complementary partnership”.

Now the successors of the two companies – State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) and Westinghouse under new ownership – have signed a further major global cooperation agreement in Shanghai so that “SPIC and Westinghouse will jointly promote AP1000 technology in global market and promote their cooperative success in nuclear power projects to the third-party market.” The State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission pointed out in Shanghai that developing such third-party markets is integral to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
WNN 9/10/18.   China NP

Chinese reactor advances through UK design approval process

The UK HPR1000 version of China’s Hualong One reactor has cleared the first main assessment stage of the UK generic design approval (GDA) process after more than a year. The GDA now moves to deeper analysis in stage 3. The UK Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environmental Agency said that there was still a "considerable amount of work that will need to be undertaken by GNS going forward in the GDA process, requiring significant resource across all of the topic areas." They aim to complete the GDA in 2021. General Nuclear Services (GNS) - a subsidiary of France’s EDF and China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) - proposes to build two reactors at Bradwell in Essex, near London. The reference HPR1000 plant for Bradwell is being built at Fangchenggang near the Vietnam border, with the first unit expected to start up next year. Another two are being built at Karachi in Pakistan.
WNN 15/11/18.  UK

UK terminates oxide fuel reprocessing

The Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (Thorp) at Sellafield in the UK has ceased operation after 24 years. Built at a cost of £1.8 billion ($2.3 billion), the plant opened in 1994 and has since processed 9331 tonnes of used nuclear fuel from 30 customers. About 60% of this was from UK plants, the rest from Japan and eight EU countries, generating about £9 billion in revenue. It leaves Orano's La Hague plant in France as the world’s only commercial nuclear fuel reprocessing plant for normal oxide fuels. The decision to cease reprocessing at Thorp was taken in 2012 in response to a perceived downturn in demand. The fuel storage part of the plant will continue in operation. The adjacent Magnox reprocessing plant which opened in 1964 will continue in operation until about 2020 when all UK Magnox metal fuel is dealt with.
WNN 14/11/18.  UK

Signs of energy policy convergence in USA

A referendum in Arizona which threatened to shut down the large Palo Verde nuclear power plant showed a convergence of economic and environmental concerns as a particular proposition was rejected 70-30. If passed it would have resulted in massive deployment of wind and solar capacity. Rejection of the proposition was by both those concerned about climate change and those more concerned about the cost and reliability of electricity.

Also, in the wake of rising public support for nuclear energy, a longstanding and vocal critic of nuclear power, the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), has pulled back from its blanket opposition to the technology.  It has called for measures to help preserve US nuclear power plants that are at risk of premature closure to ensure their low-carbon energy is not replaced by fossil fuels. Its report, The Nuclear Power Dilemma: Declining Profits, Plant Closures, and the Threat of Rising Carbon Emissions, recommends strong polices at state and federal level to preserve the low-carbon electricity from US nuclear plants. In particular it proposes an escalating carbon emission price. The UCS is the first major environmental group to recognize that nuclear energy now and for the foreseeable future is a key climate mitigation technology. It is also the first to publicly and explicitly call for policies to support nuclear energy

Despite the relatively low cost per kilowatt hour of power generated from wind and solar PV today, it is now being more widely recognised that the cost of supplying reliable power to the consumer escalates dramatically as the proportion of these sources in the system increases. This is most clearly shown in Germany, with its ideological fixation on replacing nuclear power with renewables, and is now also evident in California, where electricity prices have risen five time more than in the rest of the USA since 2011. Its San Onofre plant was shut down from 2012, taking 2130 MWe net offline, and its Diablo Canyon plant is preparing to take another 2256 MWe offline by 2025. The closure of both has been highly contested and has already led to greater dependence on gas.
WNN 9/11/18.   USA NP

2 & 9 November 2018

New reactor in China connected to grid, another in commercial operation

The fourth and last Russian VVER-1000 reactor at Tianwan in Jiangsu province has commenced operation after 61 months construction. This is the seventh large new reactor to come on line in China this year, and brings the country’s nuclear total capacity to 42,976 MWe net.  Units 5 & 6 at Tianwan are Chinese ACPR1000 reactors under construction and units 7 & 8 will be Russian VVER-1200 reactors, for which contracts were signed this week.

WNN 29/10/18, 7/11/18.  China NP

Sanmen unit 2 has now entered commercial operation, having been connected to the grid in August. It is one of four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in China, and provides 1157 MWe net.
WNN 6/10/18.   China NP

First reactor on Russia’s floating nuclear power plant starts up

The first of two reactors on Russia’s floating nuclear power plant has started up on a trial basis at the Atomflot base at Murmansk.  Fuel loading was completed in October after it was towed there from St Petersburg.  It is being prepared for service at Pevek, over 4000 km east on the north coast of Siberia in the Chukotka Autonomous Region. It will replace the Bilibino nuclear power plant 250 km away inland and a 35 MWe thermal plant as a major component of the intended Chaun-Bilibino industrial hub. It will deliver about 65 MWe net plus 210 GJ/hour process heat.  Bilibino comprises four 11 MWe reactors commissioned 1974-77.

The 2x35 MWe plant, named Academician Lomonosov, was due to be commissioned in 2012, but the project was delayed due to shipyard insolvency.  The 21,500 tonne hull (144 metres long, 30 m wide) was launched in June 2010 at St Petersburg and the two KLT-40S reactors from OKBM Afrikantov were installed in October 2013. The KLT-40S is a version of a well-proven icebreaker reactor which runs on low-enriched uranium (<20%) and hence has a bigger core and shorter refueling interval.  Operational life is 40 years, with refueling on site.  Second-generation Russian floating nuclear power plants will use two RITM-200M reactors developed for the latest icebreakers.  These are more powerful than the KLT reactors, at 50-55 MWe each, have 20%-enriched fuel, and need refueling only every ten years at a service base.
WNN 5/11/18.   Russia NP

Toshiba winds up UK nuclear power project

Toshiba has announced that it will wind up its UK project company which planned to build three reactors at Moorside in Cumbria, adjacent to Sellafield. Originally its ownership of Westinghouse led to plans for three AP1000 reactors to be built by NuGeneration, in which Toshiba bought a 60% stake in 2014 and the balance last year. The AP1000 completed UK generic design acceptance in March 2017. With the sale of Westinghouse the project was offered to Korea Electric Power Co (Kepco), but they eventually declined and no other buyers have been found.

The UK now has only eight reactors planned – four EPR at two sites for EdF Energy, and four ABWR at two sites for a Hitachi subsidiary, total 12,200 MWe. Beyond these, China General Nuclear proposes two Hualong One reactors near London to supply 2300 MWe.
WNN 8/11/18.   UK


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