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

10 & 17 November 2017

Cameco to suspend uranium production from flagship mine

In the light of low uranium prices, Cameco has announced that it will suspend production from its McArthur River mine (and Key Lake mill 80 km south) for ten months from January, deferring about 8000 tonnes of production. The licensed capacity of the joint operation is 11,350 t/yr of uranium oxide concentrate. For the last decade this has been Cameco’s main source of production. Last year its output was nearly matched by the new Cigar Lake operation after its fraught development. Both mines have huge resources, of very high-grade. Cameco will meet sales commitments of around 13,000 t/yr from Cigar Lake, inventory, and other sources. The move follows a number of other significant cost-cutting measures.  Cameco owns 70% of McArthur River and Areva Resources Canada owns the balance.
WNN 9/11/17.  Canada uranium

US nuclear power plants extending licence renewals

At the end of September 2017 the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) renewed licences for South Texas Project-1 and -2 (each 1280 MWe net), extending the units’ operation by 20 years to 2047 and 2048, respectively. This took to 89 the number of US power reactors that have renewed their licences out to 60 years. The NRC is considering licence renewal applications for a further five units. These renewals usually involve major capital expenditure for upgrades.

The NRC is now preparing to consider extending operating licences beyond 60 out to 80 years, with its Subsequent Licence Renewal Program. Dominion has already advised NRC of its intention to apply for a second 20-year renewal for two Surry reactors in 2019, and for North Anna’s two reactors in 2020. Exelon earlier said it would apply in 2018 for second licence renewal for its two Peach Bottom reactors, taking them to 80 years.
WNN 13/11/17.  USA NP

UK starts main phase of assessing Chinese reactor for UK

The UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and the Environment Agency are progressing to the main technical phase of their Generic Design Assessment (GDA) of the HPR1000 reactor. This is the 1150 MWe Hualong One design that General Nuclear Services - a subsidiary of EDF and China General Nuclear - proposes to use for the Bradwell B nuclear power plant in England.  CGN’s Fangchenggang 3 now under construction in China is the reference plant. The GDA is due to be complete in 2021, by which time about four Chinese plants of that design are expected to be operational.
WNN 16/11/17.  UK

27 October & 3 November 2017

UN body blocks nuclear contribution to clean energy forum

The UN Environment Program (UNEP) has vetoed participation by the World Nuclear Association (WNA) in the two-day Sustainable Innovation Forum on the sidelines of the UN COP23 climate change conference this month. The WNA was originally a gold sponsor of the Forum, alongside BMW and Toyota as well as utilities owning coal-fired power plants. Its agenda is focused on reducing CO2 emissions, and the sponsorship was to ensure that nuclear power was on the agenda as a well-proven and readily-scalable means of this. In 2014 nuclear power provided 10.6% of world electricity, compared with wind plus solar 3.9%, and hydro 16.6%.  Having represented the nuclear industry at such events for 40 years, the WNA intended to showcase innovations in nuclear technology which would allow it to provide 25% of world electricity by 2050.

The International Energy Agency's (IEA) 2-degree scenario is arguably the most widely recognised official pathway by which the planet might avoid excessive warming. It requires that, by 2050, nuclear energy provides one of the largest contributions to electricity of any energy source. In June, the IEA noted that high-level support was essential for nuclear to grow and reach these targets. The WNA has now asked UNEP to acknowledge this, in line  with its claim to be respected as the "leading global environmental authority", implementing "the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system".  WNN 3/11/17.  Climate change - policy

Connecticut joins US states supporting nuclear power in energy market

Connecticut’s legislature has passed An Act Concerning Zero Carbon Procurement to support the continued operation of Dominion’s Millstone nuclear power plant which provides about half the state’s power and almost all of its zero-carbon power.  After a 23:8 senate vote, the lower house passed the bill 75:66, having previously rejected a similar measure. It will make Dominion eligible to bid for long-term supply contracts for up to half of Millstone's 2088 MWe net output as a clean-energy resource, at higher prices, subject to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Public Utilities Regulatory Authority determining that this is necessary and in the public interest. The plant is the largest in New England and its viability has been eroded by cheap natural gas. Its loss would jeopardize the state’s ability to meet its long-term goals for reducing carbon emissions. In signing the legislation into effect, the Governor (Democrat) said of Millstone that “The importance of this asset to both the state and the region cannot be overstated.”  WNN 1/11/17.  USA NP

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