World Nuclear Association Weekly Digest Archive 2019

World

New agreements for small reactors start to fill out prospects for 2020s

In recent weeks GE Hitachi has signed agreements with Fermi Energia in Estonia and with Synthos SA in Poland to investigate building a single BWRX-300 reactor in each country. The 300 MWe design is developed from the company’s well-proven BWRs.

Also X-energy has signed an agreement with the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission to build its Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled reactor there, following on from an earlier agreement two years ago. The Jordan plant would comprise four 75 MWe modules with pebble-bed TRISO fuel.

In Russia, Rosatom plans to have its first land-based RITM-200M reactors operating in remote parts of Siberia by 2027. It is an integral PWR based on and similar to the latest icebreaker power plants, the first of which started up this month, and a pair would produce up to 114 MWe. It would have an operating life of up to 60 years and would require refueling only once every six or seven years.

At Chiangjiang on Hainan in China construction of the first ACP100 Linglong One reactor, an integral PWR, is expected to begin in a few months with completion within four years. It was a ‘key project’ in China’s 12th 5-year plan and is a multi-purpose small modular reactor of 125 MWe. Power plants comprising two to six of these are envisaged, mostly inland. Or each module can supply 1000 GJ/hr industrial heat. The pilot plant is a joint venture of CNNC as owner and operator, the Nuclear Power Institute of China (NPIC) as the reactor designer and China Nuclear Engineering Group being responsible for construction at a factory in Bashan, Jilin province.

The leading Western small reactor design in terms of regulatory approval and build plan is NuScale, a 60 MWe integral PWR from NuScale and Fluor in USA. It will be factory-built by BWX Technologies and the demonstration unit is expected in operation in Idaho in mid 2020s. Eleven more will be added there to comprise the Carbon-Free Power Project of Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems and Energy Northwest.

In addition, three small fast reactor designs and one molten salt reactor design are well advanced.

Meanwhile the 210 MWe HTR-PM plant at Shidaowan in China approaches completion, with twin 105 MWe pebble-bed reactors driving a single turbine generator, and the twin KLT-40S floating nuclear power plant in Siberia (2 x 35 MWe PWR) is expected on line next month. Already five 300 MWe Chinese PWR reactors are operating in China and Pakistan, and multiple 220 MWe PHWR units operate in India, based on Canadian technology.
WNN 3/10/19.    Small reactors

Molten salt reactor design selected for US-Canada review

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) have selected Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR) for the first joint technical review of an advanced, non-light water nuclear reactor technology. The 195 MWe IMSR employs Generation IV molten salt technology. It is currently the subject of regulatory engagement in both Canada and the USA and is the only advanced reactor in Phase 2 of CNSC’s vendor design review process. The US Department of Energy has supported the project, among several other innovative designs.  The company hopes to commission its first commercial IMSR unit in the 2020s. The total levelized cost of electricity is projected to be competitive with natural gas.

The IMSR integrates the primary reactor components, including primary heat exchangers to secondary clean salt circuit, in a sealed and replaceable core vessel that has a projected life of seven years.  It will operate at 600-700°C, which can support many industrial process heat applications.  The moderator is graphite.  The fuel-salt is a eutectic fluoride with low-enriched uranium fuel (UF4) at atmospheric pressure. Emergency cooling and residual heat removal are passive. Each plant would have space for two reactors, allowing 7-year changeover, with the used unit removed for off-site reprocessing when it has cooled and fission products have decayed. Compared with other MSR designs, the company deliberately avoids using thorium-based fuels or any form of breeding, due to “their additional technical and regulatory complexities.”

The NRC has been formally notified by six reactor designers of their intention to seek design approval for new small types hitherto not licensed anywhere. These included three MSRs, one high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, one fast reactor, and the Westinghouse eVinci heatpipe reactor. They range from less than 2 MWe to 75 MWe.
WNN 28/11/19, 6/12/19.   Small reactors

International Energy Agency urges priority for nuclear power

The OECD’s International Energy Agency (IEA) has published a report, Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System, concluding that a failure to invest in existing and new nuclear plants in advanced economies would have profoundly adverse implications for emissions, costs and energy security. In particular, global efforts to transition to a cleaner energy system would become drastically harder and more costly. The report recommends that markets should value dispatchability, since the system costs of intermittent renewables is high. Electricity markets should properly reward nuclear power plants that provide the system services needed to maintain electricity security, including capacity availability and frequency control services.

The IEA report, its first addressing nuclear power for nearly 20 years, says that strong policy support is needed to secure investment in existing and new nuclear plants. The focus should be on designing electricity markets in a way that values the clean energy and energy security attributes of low-carbon technologies, particularly nuclear power. It warns that without a lot of positive action there will be electricity security concerns, and a global power mix that depends largely on natural gas-fired capacity. Any significant decline in world nuclear power would give rise to the need for $1,600 billion in additional investment over the next two decades to fill the clean energy shortfall “which would end up hurting consumers through higher electricity bills.”

The report notes that over 1971 to 2018 emissions from electricity generation would have been some 20% higher without the contribution of nuclear power. Nuclear power has provided around half of all low-carbon electricity in advanced economies - a total of 76,000 TWh, which is more than ten times the total output of wind and solar combined. For advanced economies - including the USA, Canada, the European Union and Japan - nuclear has been the biggest low-carbon source of electricity for more than 30 years and remains so today. Furthermore, any “drastic increase in renewable power generation would create serious challenges in integrating the new sources into the broader energy system.”

The World Nuclear Association commented that “much more will be needed to achieve the target of supplying at least 25% of global electricity demand with nuclear energy by 2050 as required by the nuclear industry's Harmony goal or even the near six-fold increase required by the IPCC ‘middle of the road’ scenario. We welcome the IEA report’s recommendation for more government interventions to secure investment in new nuclear plants.”
WNN & IEA 28/5/19.  

Latest World Energy Outlook report downplays nuclear role

The OECD International Energy Agency, in its annual World Energy Outlook 2019 report, says that under its base case Stated Policies scenario, the amount of nuclear power generated globally will increase only 28% from 2018 to 2040, boosted by the growing electrification of the global economy.  However, the nuclear share of total generation shrinks. In the contrasting Sustainable Development scenario, which “maps out a way to meet sustainable energy goals in full, requiring rapid and widespread changes across all parts of the energy system,” total nuclear power generation would be 62% higher in 2040, with an average of 15 GWe being added annually.  This is only half of what the World Nuclear Association considers necessary.

WEO2019 envisages most of the increased electricity demand by 2040 being met by renewables, with little actual change in coal use.  It notes that “hurdles to investment in new nuclear projects are daunting, as cost overruns and delays raise doubts of future development, although advanced nuclear technologies, such as small modular reactors, could offer new opportunities.” The IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said: "The world urgently needs to put a laser-like focus on bringing down global emissions. This calls for a grand coalition encompassing governments, investors, companies and everyone else who is committed to tackling climate change,” as in the WEO2019 Sustainable Development Scenario.

The IEA’s report on Nuclear Power in a Clean Energy System in May, its first on the subject for almost two decades, was more positive and said that without more nuclear power, “global efforts to transition to a cleaner energy system will become drastically harder and more costly. Wind and solar energy need to play a much greater role in order for countries to meet sustainability goals, but it is extremely difficult to envisage them doing so without help from nuclear power.”
WNN 13/11/19.    World energy needs

Positive year for nuclear power in 2018

Apart from important developments in integrating reliable nuclear power production into liberalised electricity markets, 2018 saw a significant increase in operable capacity – 6,957 MWe net, led by China.

Nine new reactors came into operation, with a total of 10,420 MWe net, and in USA four uprates added 350 MWe. There were four construction starts, for 5055 MWe gross, or five if UK’s Hinkley point C-1 is included, with another 1670 MWe, making 6725 MWe.  Six reactors were retired at end of their operational life, total 3,220 MWe net.*  (Corrected April 2019 to add Bilibino-1, 11 MWe in Russia and remove Chinshan 2, 604 MWe in Taiwan which was restored to operational status.) 

Hinkley Point C-1 is the first of two EPR reactors at that site, the third generation of reactors there. A major part of the reactor foundation for the first of the new reactors – about 2000 m3 - was poured in December, with the balance of 4500 m3 total due by mid 2019. In most projects the entire base would be in one pour, and this would then count as official start of construction. (At Vogtle in USA in 2013, 5350 m3 of concrete was poured in less than two days to initiate construction of each reactor.)

Hinkley Point B is two Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGR) of about 475 MWe net commissioned in 1976 and expected to run to 2023.  Hinkley Point A was a pair of 235 MWe net Magnox reactors, operating from 1965 to 2000.
WNN 11/12/18.  NP in world today

World Nuclear Performance Report published

The WNA has published the World Nuclear Performance Report 2019. It notes that nuclear power plants continue to perform to a high standard and growth is strong, with more than 20 new reactors scheduled to be connected before the end of 2020. But for the industry to reach the Harmony goal of supplying at least 25% of electricity before 2050, much greater commitment from policymakers is required. At the end of 2018 the capacity of the world’s 449 operable reactors was 397 GWe, up 4 GWe on the previous year. One "remarkable characteristic" of 2018, the report notes, was the prevalence of new reactor designs amongst the reactor start-ups.

WNN 29/8/19.  https://www.world-nuclear.org/our-association/publications/online-reports/world-nuclear-performance-report.aspx

OECD report highlights cost of intermittent renewables

A new report from the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency, The Costs of Decarbonization: System Costs with High Shares of Nuclear and Renewables, models different shares of nuclear power and renewables within a very tight 50g CO2 per kWh emission constraint. It quantifies the system costs - involved in delivering reliable power to meet demand - with different levels of variable renewable energy (VRE) input – solar and wind, and despite declining generation costs (and zero marginal costs) for those. The figures modelled are consistent with those now observable in some parts of the world. For instance, Germany has spent hundreds of billions on VRE over the last ten years while maintaining emissions at nearly ten times the above figure, but the delivered electricity cost has risen inexorably.

Since the load factor and the capacity credit of VRE sources is very much lower than that of conventional thermal or nuclear power plants, a significantly higher installed capacity is needed to produce the same amount of electricity. Modelling showed that installed capacity would need to more than double to achieve 50% VRE share, and more than triple for a 75% share, compared with fully-dispatchable base case, to meet the same demand. System costs rise accordingly, from less than $10/MWh for 10% VRE to more than $50/MWh at 75% VRE share. Of particular interest to countries such as Australia, without abundant hydro resources or interconnections to neighbouring countries, the system cost then approaches $50/MWh even at 50% VRE share. Hence at 75% VRE in the modelled case, or 50% in the case relevant to Australia, the delivered cost of electricity almost doubles from the fully-dispatchable base case with a large proportion of nuclear capacity. (In Germany, total installed capacity has more than doubled since 1990 to give only 19% more power with 24.6% share from wind+solar - which now represent half the total capacity – and electricity costs have risen about 50%.)

A striking effect of deploying a lot of wind and solar PV with low marginal generating cost is a substantial increase in the volatility of electricity prices, and at 30% VRE or above, zero prices sometimes occur, distressing financially to both VRE producers and the back-up reliable plants, and not compensated by the price peaks when VRE is insufficient. Since wind and solar PV output correlates with meteorological conditions across a wide area, increased VRE also means that the average price received by those producers – especially solar PV - declines significantly as their penetration increases. At a penetration level of 22.5%, the value of a megawatt-hour from wind is reduced by 25% in the model, and in Germany in 2018 the effect was even larger. Finally, and as strikingly shown in China in the last three years, high VRE means high curtailment rate on its output (up to 50% in some provinces in China).
OECD NEA http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/pubs/2019/7299-system-costs.pdf   Economics of NP, Renewable Energy & Electricity

Australian superannuation industry report on electricity future investment

Industry Super Australia, a body which represents union-backed industry superannuation funds, has published a report: Modernising Electricity Sectors - a guide to long-run investment decisions. The very thorough discussion paper demolishes claims that intermittent renewable energy sources are a realistic or affordable long-term option for reliable power, and makes a clear case for nuclear power. While “there is no simple solution to Australia’s energy trilemma right now, this also means there is no reason to exclude any of the major technological contenders considered below from the current or future energy mix,” with nuclear power being a strong option due to assumed CO2 emission constraints.

“It is difficult to see how [various] problems can be resolved without some nuclear in the mix and the principles of optimality, fairness and merit would suggest it should not be discounted.” Comparisons need to take “full costs and capacities into account.”  The limitations of intermittent wind and solar technologies are made clear, and “It is also doubtful whether they are the best means of providing all electricity at current levels of demand.” Also the government needs to design “the long-term investment instruments needed to modernise the energy sector,” including “long-term supply agreements which underpin [electricity] markets.”
https://www.industrysuper.com/assets/FileDownloadCTA/deb18ac10c/Modernising-Electricity-Sectors.pdf

International Energy Agency highlights CO2 concern

The OECD International Energy Agency (IEA) has published its Global Energy & CO2 Status Report, which documents both 2.3% increased energy demand in 2018, and much increased CO2 emissions. The main primary energy demand growth was for gas, but coal was also significant in India and China. Coal contributed 30% of global CO2 emissions.

Electricity generation rose 4% to over 26,700 TWh, with renewables and nuclear power meeting most of this increase. China’s electricity demand increased by 8.5%, India’s grew by 5.4%. Global emissions from power generation increased 2.5% and reached 13 Gt CO2, 38% of all energy-related CO2 emissions. Nuclear power accounted to 10% of electricity overall – 2,724 TWh, and coal remained the largest source of electricity generation at 38% of total, with 10,116 TWh. Gas had almost 240 TWh growth to over 6,091 TWh, and it overtook coal in USA.
WNN 27/3/19.  Climate change: policy responses

Climate change talks inconclusive

Two weeks of talks in Madrid aimed at strengthening national measures to tackle climate change ended without any new agreement. Establishing carbon markets internationally had been an objective of COP25. About 80 countries, accounting for about one tenth of global emissions, expressed intention to upgrade their emission reduction pledges next year for ‘net zero emission’ targets by 2050. A side event promoted the unique role of nuclear power in emission reduction, as now highlighted by all major international energy bodies and the IPCC. Also the EU has agreed that nuclear energy should be part of the European “Green Deal” to make EU ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050.
WNN 6 & 16/12/19.  Climate change policies

US nuclear utilities boost electric vehicle infrastructure

Several US electric power companies with a high proportion of zero-carbon nuclear generation are investing in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. Increased sales of EVs – whether pure battery or plug-in hybrid types - creates significant extra demand for electricity for charging, particularly at night if using typical 16 amp (2 or 4 kW) mode. If that electricity is from fossil fuels there is little advantage in terms of carbon dioxide emissions.

Duke Energy plans to help fund nearly 2,500 new charging stations as well as electric school buses in North Carolina. Xcel Energy is promoting expansion of EV use in Minnesota. Exelon, which operates 22 nuclear power reactors, is helping its customers transition to EVs and is also an investor in ChargePoint, said to be the world’s largest EV charging network. 

In 2017, 1.1 million electric cars were sold, taking the global fleet to 3.1 million. Electric buses have a significant role in China - Shenzhen's fleet of 16,400 buses of various sizes run by three companies are all electric. The buses cost more than three times the diesel equivalent, but purchases were significantly subsidised, and high capital costs are offset by lower operating costs. One million EV cars are expected to require 3-4 TWh per year worldwide, and Bloomberg expects that EVs including buses will need 1,900 TWh per year by 2040, about 6% of global electricity demand, though other projections are lower.
NEI Overview 11/4/19.   Electric vehicles

US reactor decommissioning confirms shorter time frame

With a new contract for an old plant, the trend in USA for more expeditious decommissioning of retired reactors appears to be strengthening. Until a few years ago most plants had the non-nuclear parts demolished while the reactor itself was left for 40 years or so that the radioactivity of structural components such as the pressure vessel decayed to harmless levels, a procedure known as Safstor. In some cases the owners undertook more immediate demolition, using remote handling. But now specialist companies are taking over shut-down plants and doing the demolition and clean-up.

In April the Omaha Public Power District in Nebraska contracted EnergySolutions to take over the decommissioning of its 482 MWe Fort Calhoun plant which was shut down in October 2016.  EnergySolutions has built up expertise in this area with a number of projects, and recently completed the accelerated decommissioning of Exelon’s Zion 1 & 2 reactors (2 x 1098 MWe) over eight years. EnergySolutions, dismantled the plant, shipped the radioactive waste to its disposal site in Utah, and returned the site to greenfield status.  To achieve this, in 2010 the plant’s licence and accumulated decommissioning funds were transferred from Exelon to EnergySolutions, which then became owner and licensee. The site will be returned to Exelon about 2020 with the used fuel which remains on site until taken to the future national repository. In 12 months to January 2015 EnergySolutions transferred all 2226 fuel assemblies from the spent fuel pool to 61 robust dry casks on site, each about 75 tonnes – an independent spent fuel storage installation.
WNN 30/4/19.  Decommissioning

UK step towards using americium for space power

The UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) has successfully separated americium-241 from old reactor-grade plutonium and used it in a radioisotope thermoelectric generator (RTG) to power a small light bulb. RTGs are used to power satellites, and most use plutonium-238 as their energy source to generate electric current. Pu-238 has high decay heat which is converted to electricity through static thermoelectric elements (solid-state thermocouples), with no moving parts. RTGs are safe, reliable and maintenance-free and can provide heat or electricity for decades under very harsh conditions, particularly where solar power is not feasible. Some plutonium powered RTGs can provide 2.7 kWh/day.

Am-241 is an alternative, with about one quarter the decay heat. This plus limited availability has hitherto favoured Pu-238 as energy source. An RTG with pure Am-241 needs about twice the isotope mass in it compared with Pu-238. The European Space Agency is pushing forward to employ Am-241 since Pu-238 is in short supply, and its Rosetta mission in 2014 showed up the limitations of solar power in space. NNL is aiming to produce usable power from americium in RTGs, and this has the added virtue of cleaning up UK’s civil plutonium stockpile which has progressively degraded due to the decay of Pu-241 (half-life 14 years) to the gamma-active Am-241, making it unsuitable for MOX fuel.
WNN 3/5/19.  Reactors and radioisotopes for space

Chernobyl drama stokes radiation concerns

A drama mini-series loosely based on the 1986 Chernobyl accident and broadcast by HBO has attracted large audiences. Exaggerated depiction of radiation effects accentuate the drama but are misleading and even suggest that radiation effects are contagious. It is far from being a documentary. While Chernobyl correctly shows the unprecedented steam explosion in the accident, it hints at worse being somehow just averted. As probably the most intensively-studied industrial accident in history with ample documentation of the radiological aspects, it is a pity that some asserted ‘facts’ have no basis. Anyway, the three countries involved with the accident – Ukraine, Russia and Belarus - are all continuing to expand their nuclear power capacity safely.
WNN 5/6/19.  Chernobyl accident

Hidden costs of nuclear accidents and government responses

While some lessons were learned from the Chernobyl accident about not exacerbating the radiological effects of an accident, they were not applied at Fukushima in 2011. A new report builds on what was already disclosed by government sources, and magnifies the death toll arising from government decisions and actions. There were no fatalities from the accident itself - most radionuclides from the three meltdowns due to the tsunami were contained. The significant releases that did occur were exacerbated by Prime Ministerial interference with plant procedures. The tsunami directly killed over 18,000, most in neighbouring prefectures.

In 2014 the government of Fukushima prefecture reported a death toll from the evacuation as 1656, as determined by municipal panels.  About 90% of these indirect deaths were people over age 66. The figure is greater than for Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, though they had much higher loss of life in the ‘quake and tsunami. As of March 2019, the Fukushima prefecture government reported 2268 "disaster-related” indirect deaths in the prefecture. Causes of indirect deaths include physical and mental stress stemming from long stays at shelters, a lack of initial care due to hospitals being disabled by the disaster, and suicides.

The new report is published by Germany-based IZA Institute of Labor Economics and addresses wider impacts from the government’s over-reaction in shutting down Japan’s nuclear reactors to placate public anxiety. In particular, it suggests that increased electricity prices and greater use of fossil fuels have led to more deaths following the March 2011 accident than the prolonged evacuation from the area surrounding the nuclear power plant. “Our estimated increase in mortality from higher electricity prices significantly outweighs the mortality from the accident itself [ie evacuation], suggesting the decision to cease nuclear production caused more harm than good.” The study estimated 1280 deaths over 2011-2014, and did not quantify the air quality impacts of replacing nuclear with fossil fuel generation. The study’s data covered less than one third of Japan’s population, so the estimate is low.

The findings of the IZA study concur with those of medical and environmental experts, who have stressed the lethal consequences of evacuation that is unnecessary or unduly prolonged. The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has published reports on Fukushima suggesting safe radiation dose criteria and pointing out that government policies were unrealistic and broadly harmful. The precautionary principle in such situations relates to “perceived risk, which is often based more on emotions and instincts than on reason and rationality,” according to IZA. Well-established science is marginalised.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) is currently revising its guidance for people affected by large nuclear accidents, and the World Nuclear Association has strongly submitted that it should properly draw “upon the vast literature and efforts post-Fukushima.” In particular, “Putting radiation risks in proper context and perspective against other hazards and any socio-psychological impacts is essential, and would be fully in line with the principle of justification and ensuring that actions do more good than harm.”
WNN 29/10/19.    Fukushima accident

New accident-tolerant fuel loaded

Westinghouse and Exelon have completed installation of Westinghouse's new accident-tolerant fuel, EnCore, into a commercial nuclear power plant. The initial EnCore fuel comprises high-density uranium silicide fuel pellets inside zirconium cladding with a thin coating of chromium making it more robust chemically. The uranium silicide offers up to 20% higher density of uranium and much higher thermal conductivity which does not degrade with irradiation like uranium dioxide. Another kind of fuel pellet with traces of alumina and chromia, which have been used in European reactors for about ten years, was also involved.

The two lead test assemblies were installed at Exelon's Byron unit 2 PWR during a scheduled refuelling outage. EnCore Fuel aims to increase safety with the new materials, while at the same time improving the economics of plant operation through longer fuel cycles and more flexible power operation capability. After trials of lead test assemblies for the new fuels from 2019, Westinghouse intends to make full reload quantities available from 2027.

The first test fuel assemblies of Framatome’s accident-tolerant Gaia fuel were loaded into Southern Nuclear’s Vogtle 2 in March 2019.  It also involves a chromium-coated zirconium alloy cladding combined with chromia-doped fuel pellets. Lead test assemblies from GE-Hitachi’s Global Nuclear Fuels were loaded into Southern Nuclear’s Hatch 1 nuclear plant in March 2018. They use an iron-chromium-aluminium fuel cladding material, known as IronClad, giving better mechanical strength at high temperatures, with conventional fuel pellets.  All three fuels were developed as part of the US Department of Energy’s Accident Tolerant Fuel Program.
WNN 6/9/19, 7/3/18.  Fuel fabrication

China

China’s first new nuclear plant construction start for almost three years

Construction of the first Hualong One unit at the Zhangzhou nuclear power plant in China's Fujian province has started, for the CNNC-Guodian Zhangzhou Energy Company.  This is the first construction start on a mainstream power reactor since December 2016. Four Hualong One reactors are already under construction in China, and due to come on line next year. Two more are being built in Pakistan, near Karachi.

As well as the five Hualong reactors of 1150 or 1180 MWe gross, there are the last four ACPR1000 units plus a small high-temperature reactor twin unit in Shandong province and China’s first commercial-scale fast reactor, CFR600, in Fujian province all under construction. A second Zhangzhou reactor will follow within about one year.
WNN 17/10/19.  China NP

Strong increase in China’s nuclear generation in 2018

With seven new reactors coming on line in 2018, China’s electricity generation from nuclear power increased to 286 TWh – the 15.6% increase being at twice the rate for overall generation, which was 6791 TWh (compared with 4187 TWh total in USA). China’s nuclear power output is now slightly more than Australia’s total electricity generation. By the end of the year nuclear was contributing almost 5% of China’s electricity. The average load factor of nuclear plants was 85.6%.
National Bureau of Statistics January 2019.  China NP

Sanmen 2 and Haiyang 2 in commercial operation

All four Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in China have now entered commercial operation.  Sanmen 2 was grid connected in August, and Haiyang 2 in October 2018.
WNN 9/1/19.  China NP

New Chinese reactor connected to grid

The second Framatome EPR reactor at Taishan nuclear power plant has been grid-connected after starting up four weeks ago. Its twin unit was connected to the grid in June last year, and is providing 1660 MWe net for China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) in Guangdong province. These are the world’s largest nuclear power reactors, at 1750 MWe gross. Guangdong Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Co Ltd is 51% CGN Power Corporation, 30% Electricte de France (EDF) and 19% Guangdong Yuedian Group Co Ltd.

Construction took 110 months, which is comparable with five other first-of-a-kind new-generation western reactors built in China. However it is much better than Finnish and French experience with building the complex French EPR, where construction has been under way for 14 years and 11.5 years respectively, so far. Another EPR commenced construction in UK in December and is due for completion in 2026, with its twin a year behind.
WNN 28/6/19.  China NP

New Chinese reactor in commercial operation

The Taishan 2 reactor is now in commercial operation, after grid connection in June. It is a 1750 MWe (gross) EPR, from France’s EDF and its subsidiary Framatome, supplying 1660 MWe net. The main components for unit 2 were manufactured in China, mainly by Dongfang Electric Co. The Taishan project is owned by the Guangdong Taishan Nuclear Power Company Ltd (TNPC), a joint venture between CGN Power (51%), EDF (30%) and Guangdong Yuedian Group (19%).

Two other EPRs are under construction, in Finland and France, both involving EDF, but these have had major construction problems and delays. EDF and CGN are starting construction of two others at Hinkley Point in UK, determined to at least match the Chinese success in building them.
WNN 9/9/19    China NP

New Chinese reactor in operation

The sixth reactor at Yangjiang nuclear power plant in southern Guangdong province has been connected to the grid and has now entered commercial operation. The ACPR-1000 unit was grid-connected at the end of June, after 66 months construction. The full plant will generate about 48 TWh per year. While majority-owned by China General Nuclear subsidiaries, a 17% share was bought by Hong-Kong’s CLP Holdings in 2016 for CNY 5 billion.  It brings China’s total nuclear power reactor numbers to 47, with 45,668 MWe capacity.  Up to four more reactors are expected to come on line this year.
WNN 8/8/19.  China NP

USA

US initiative to support new reactor designs

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has launched the National Reactor Innovation Centre, located at the Idaho National Laboratory, where many new designs emerged up to the 1990s. The new facility will give private sector developers access to US national laboratory assets and infrastructure to support the testing and demonstration of reactor concepts and to assess their performance. The Centre is set up under a 2018 Act which directs DOE to facilitate the siting of advanced reactor research demonstration facilities through partnerships between the department and private industry. 

The Centre’s purpose is to help accelerate licensing and commercialisation of new designs that “will define the future of nuclear energy.”  After decades of US government indifference to nuclear power technology and the cancellation of several very promising programs, the declared aim is now to “enhance our energy independence and position the US as a global leader in advanced nuclear innovation." Today, China and Russia are well ahead, but several promising small reactor designs are backed by private equity in USA and they should benefit from the new approach.

The 2018 Act also directed the DOE to develop a reactor-based fast neutron source for testing advanced reactor fuels and materials. The DOE formally launched the Versatile Test Reactor project earlier this year, and is proposing to build a reactor using GE Hitachi’s PRISM technology for an integral sodium-cooled fast reactor. This is the best-developed new Western fast reactor design, and seems likely to be built at Idaho.
WNN 19/8/19.  US NFC, US policy

South Korean reactor gains design certification in USA

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has certified the Korean-designed Advanced Power Reactor 1400, finding that the APR-1400 design fully meets US safety requirements. Korea Electric Power Corporation and its subsidiary Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power submitted the design to the NRC in December 2014. The design certification approval is independent of any specific site or plan to build. The APR-1400 is a pressurised water reactor evolved from a US design which gained design certification in 1997.

The APR-1400 supercedes Korea’s standardised OPR-1000 design, of which South Korea built 12. It features improvements based on accumulated experience as well as technological development. Korean design certification was awarded in May 2003. An EU version was given EUR approval in October 2017. The first AP-1400 units are operating in South Korea - Shin-Kori-3 & 4, with Shin Hanul 1 & 2 under construction. It was chosen as the basis of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) nuclear program on the basis of cost and reliable building schedule. Four units are under construction there, with the first expected on line next year.
WNN 27/8/19.  Advanced reactors, South Korea

US nuclear generation cost drops significantly

The US Nuclear Energy Institute reports that the average total generating cost for nuclear energy in 2018 was $32.88/MWh, 7.1% lower than in 2017 and almost 25% lower than in 2012.  According to the US Energy Information Administration, the average cost of electricity from all sources rose 7.5% over the same seven years.  The 25% reduction for nuclear comprised 46% in capital expenditure, 25% in fuel and 14% in operation and maintenance. At the same time, in 2018 the 99 US nuclear plants achieved their highest average capacity factor ever, 92.3%, producing 807 TWh – 19.3% of the US total.

NEI 3/10/19.  US NP https://www.nei.org/resources/reports-briefs/nuclear-costs-in-context

US government affirms support for nuclear zero emission credits

The US Energy Secretary says that he and the Department of Energy (DOE) support US states that put in place provisions to support nuclear power on a similar basis to renewables. The need to assure reliable supply of electricity is becoming more obvious, especially in the northeast, despite pushback against nuclear support from fossil fuel and environmentalist lobbies. In Pennsylvania the legislature is debating new rules to include nuclear power to operate under its Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act with renewables. Nuclear power plants generate 42% of its electricity and 93% of its zero-carbon power. The DOE supports such programs run by states that do not rely on the federal government. 

New York state, Illinois, Connecticut, and New Jersey all have some kind of zero emission credit schemes applying to nuclear power, Pennsylvania and Ohio have legislation pending. These address the problem of several US nuclear plants being economically threatened by competition from low-cost natural gas from fracking, and subsidised wind capacity. In June 2017 MIT's Center for Energy and Environmental Policy research published a study showing that saving US nuclear "would come at a cost of $4-7/MWh on average in these markets, which is much lower than the cost of subsidizing wind power." The zero emission credits for New York are currently $17.54/MWh, those in Illinois $16.50/MWh, while the current US Production Tax Credit level for renewables is $23/MWh.
Platts 13/3/19.  USA NP

US states lead clean energy push for electricity

In the absence of federal initiatives, US states are pushing ahead with ambitious targets for clean energy, particularly for electricity generation. At present almost 20% of US electricity is from nuclear power, 7% from hydro and about 10% from other renewables. As the limitations of wind and solar become more evident, nuclear power comes into the discussion more strongly, along with carbon capture and storage (CCS) on fossil fuel plants, though this has yet to be demonstrated on any scale for power plants. The Energy Information Administration expects 31% of US electricity to be generated from renewables in 2050, which leaves a lot of room for other clean sources.

In March the governors of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont affirmed their commitment “to work together, in coordination with [regional grid operator] ISO New England and through the New England States Committee on Electricity, to evaluate market-based mechanisms that value the contribution that existing nuclear generation resources make to regional energy security and winter reliability.”

Meanwhile New York state, Illinois and New Jersey all have some form of zero emission credits (ZECs) legislated for nuclear power, to preserve reliability and clean energy benefits not recognized in the electricity markets. This week New Jersey approved awarding of ZECs of about $11/MWh for two nuclear plants, total 3.7 GWe. Connecticut has a corresponding arrangement. Ohio and Pennsylvania have similar legislation in process. The levels of state support per MWh are significantly less than the federal production tax credit of $23/MWh for wind, amounting to some $4.8 billion last year, though this provision will start to phase out from 2021.
WNN 18/3/19, 16/4/19.  US NP

Ohio joins US states supporting continued nuclear power

A state energy bill to create the Ohio Clean Air Program will support FirstEnergy Solutions' Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear plants and scale back the existing alternative energy portfolio standard.  It will enable the 894 MWe Davis-Besse nuclear unit as well as the 1,240 MWe Perry nuclear plant to continue operating despite competition from low-priced gas and subsidised wind in the deregulated market. The company said last year that it would close the plants in 2020 and 2021 unless they receive financial support.

The new bill creates a nuclear generation fund that provides a $9/MWh clean energy credit for nuclear generation, the total capped at $150 million per year. Under the bill, Ohio's electric distribution utilities will collect a monthly charge from retail electric customers from 2021 to fund payments to generators. The cost is offset by a reduction in subsidies for wind energy. The measure was strenuously opposed by environmental groups, renewable energy advocates and the natural gas industry which is always the main beneficiary of nuclear plant closures. Ohio joins other US states with similar measures: Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York state, but Ohio is the first to bring in ratepayer-funded nuclear assistance balanced by cutting renewable energy subsidies and energy efficiency standards which have raised costs.
WNN 24/7/19.  US NP

US nuclear construction gets small boost

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has finalised further federal loan guarantees of $3.7 billion for Vogtle units 3 and 4, two AP1000 reactors under construction in Georgia. This brings to $12 billion the total of loan guarantees for five owners of the project which has been delayed by the Westinghouse bankruptcy, with increase in cost. Congress has also approved $800 million in tax credits for the project. The US Secretary of Energy said that "The Vogtle project is critically important to …. revitalize and expand the US nuclear industry. A strong nuclear industry supports a reliable and resilient grid, and strengthens our energy and national security." The announcement coincided with fitting of the top head of the unit 3 containment.

Under the 2005 Energy Policy Act there is provision for federal loan guarantees for advanced nuclear reactors or other emission-free technologies up to 80% of the project cost. The first round of guarantees went to renewable energy and advanced gas projects (eg IGCC). From 2008, up to $18.5 billion was then offered for nuclear power projects. The loan guarantees are ultimately funded by the borrowers through a fee, and they reduce financing cost by demonstrating government support for particular projects which have undergone thorough scrutiny by DOE and its outside advisers, without cost to the taxpayer.
WNN 22/3/19.  US NP

High-level report canvasses US energy policy options

A 229-page report commissioned by the Breakthrough Institute and led by two of America’s most credible energy figures, CEO of Energy Futures Initiative Ernest Moniz (President Obama’s Energy Secretary 2013-17) and Pulitzer Prize winner Daniel Yergin, points to the need for “purposeful coordination among all the players involved” in achieving sustainable innovation in electricity provision. The report extends the discussion to process heat for “many industrial applications that are otherwise difficult to decarbonise.”

Its methodology addresses technical merit, market viability, compatibility with other elements of the energy system, and consumer value. In balancing these, real discipline rather than populist sentiment is needed in policymaking to overcome the inertia built in to the existing large and complex system. Advanced nuclear reactors are significant part of a "critical subset" of technologies with great potential for the USA to transition to a "clean energy ecosystem". In response to the populist Green New Deal floated in Congress, Dr Moniz said that the notion of a grid composed of 100% renewables by 2050 was not realistic, and risks slowing carbon abatement.
WNN 8/2/19, Advancing the Landscape of Clean Energy Innovation.  http://www.b-t.energy/reports/advancing-the-landscape/   US NP

US Nuclear Innovation Act

Bipartisan legislation modernising US nuclear regulation and supporting the establishment of a licensing framework for next-generation advanced reactors has been signed into effect, after being passed in the House by 361 to 10 votes and in the Senate on voices. The Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernisation Act directs the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to establish a staged licensing process for commercial advanced nuclear reactors and to streamline uranium mine licensing. It also requires the NRC to report to Congress on its licensing process for accident tolerant fuels within one year.

On a broader front, the NRC is to complete a “technology-inclusive licensing framework” for optional use by advanced reactor designers by 2027, taking in the extraordinary diversity of new reactor technologies coming forward.  The Nuclear Energy Institute trade association said that the Act also “establishes a more equitable and transparent funding structure which will benefit all operating reactors and future licensees.”
WNN 17/1/19.  US NP

First US reactors licensed for 80 years

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a second licence extension for Florida Power & Light’s Turkey Point 3 & 4 nuclear reactors of 885 MWe each.  This is the first time a second 20-year licence extension has been granted.  US reactors were originally licensed for 40 years, but 94 have had an extension to 60 years, and in the case of Turkey Point this was in 2002. Following further upgrades, the Turkey Point units are now licensed to 2052 and 2053.
​WNN 6/12/19.    US NP

Further two US reactor licence renewals

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has renewed the operating licence of Entergy’s Waterford 3 nuclear power plant to 2044, and NextEra’s Seabrook plant to 2050. These reactors are PWRs of 1165 MWe and 1251 MWe net respectively. This brings to 94 the total of US power reactors granted 20-year licence extensions to take their operating lives to 60 years. Two more applications are expected.

Thus 92 of the 98 operating US power reactors are likely to have 60-year operating licences, with owners undertaking major capital works to upgrade them at around 30-40 years.  By 2017, 56 out of 65 US PWRs had replaced their original steam generators with more durable ones, involving a 3-month outage. About 45 PWRs have also replaced reactor pressure vessel heads, and BWRs may need to replace core shrouds. Upgrades of instrument and control systems are also a priority, with all US plants originally having analogue I&C systems. The owners of Davis-Besse invested almost $1 billion for its mid-life refurbishment to take it to 2037. The licence renewal review process itself typically costs $16-25 million, and takes several years for NRC to process.

NRC is now considering the first three of about 20 anticipated second licence renewal applications to extend operating lives from 60 to 80 years.
WNN 13/3/19.  USA NP

Substantial uprates for US reactors

Tennessee Valley Authority’s Browns Ferry-1 is now operating following a 14.3% power uprate, giving it an extra 155 MWe and taking it to about 1260 MWe net. Unit 3 achieved the same in mid 2018. The uprates were proposed more than a decade ago, but were delayed pending agreement on the significant design changes required.
TVA 3/1/19, WNN 4/1/19.  US NP

Tennessee Valley Authority has confirmed that the 155 MWe uprate of its third Brown’s Ferry reactor - unit 2 - has been implemented, and it is in final testing and validation phase. The other two Browns Ferry units were uprated similarly by 14.3% last year, to 1310 MWe gross, with significant plant modifications. 

A recalibration uprate of Exelon’s Peach Bottom 2 was completed last year to add 22 MWe. Over 160 uprates for US reactors have been approved, mostly small ones, but totaling almost 8,000 MWe.
Platts 9/5/19.  US NP

US firms push to extend reactor operating lives to 80 years

Duke Energy has announced it will seek second 20-year renewals of the operating licences for all of its nuclear reactors, starting with the three-unit Oconee plant for which it expects to submit a renewal application in 2021. The company says the units are key to it achieving its carbon emissions goals.  Duke operates 11 nuclear reactors with a combined generating capacity of over 10,700 MWe at six sites in North and South Carolina.  Most are PWRs.

US reactors were initially licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to operate for up to 40 years - a period based on economic, rather than technology, considerations - and may then apply for subsequent 20-year licence renewals. Overall 94 US reactors have received such renewals to 60 years, including all of Duke’s eleven, but these will approach the end of their current operating licences in the early 2030s.  The NRC is already processing second licence renewals for three units. Duke Energy's nuclear fleet in 2018 marked its 20th consecutive year with a fleet capacity factor greater than 90%, which the company attributed to "rigorous" ongoing preventive maintenance programmes as well as technology upgrades.
WNN 20/9/19.  US NP

Final shutdown of US reactors

The Three Mile Island 1 nuclear power plant has finally shut down after generating over 240 TWh over 45 years, the last five years running at a loss. A draft law updating the Pennsylvania Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act to include nuclear energy was introduced to the state's legislature in March 2019 but had made little progress in the face of opposition from gas interests by the time Exelon needed to decide on the 819 MWe plant’s future.  It was licensed to 2034.

Nuclear power plants generate 42% of Pennsylvania’s electricity and 93% of its zero-carbon power but are excluded from the Alternative Energy Portfolio program. The Keep Powering Pennsylvania Act offered subsidies to nuclear plants and was put forward as costing $500 million per year, significantly less than the cost to consumers if economically-challenged nuclear plants closed. Four two-unit nuclear plants remain in operation.

Three Mile Island unit 2 suffered a major accident in 1979 which wrote it off and demonstrated the safety of large US nuclear plants, in that barely any radiation was released and no-one was affected by radiation. The 880 MWe reactor operated for less than a year.
WNN 20/9/19.    US NP

Entergy’s 728 MWe Pilgrim reactor in Massachusetts has been closed because it could no longer operate profitably in the New England electricity market. The plant commenced commercial operation in 1972 and was bought by Entergy in 1999.  It will sell Pilgrim to Holtec Decommissioning International and transfer the operating license to that company, which plans to complete decommissioning the plant by 2027.
WNN 3/6/19.  US NP

Cameco and Silex Systems to buy out GE-Hitachi share of laser enrichment project

Cameco and Australia’s Silex Systems have agreed to buy out the GE-Hitachi 76% share in the Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) project for $20 million, so that Cameco increases its share to 49% and Silex, the technology licensor of the SILEX process, holds 51%. Cameco has an option to purchase an additional 26% of GLE later. The agreement calls for Silex and Cameco to pay $300,000 per month to complete construction of the full-scale prototype enrichment facility, the Wilmington Test Loop, in North Carolina. The agreement is contingent upon US government approvals.

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. Silex said that “the Paducah commercial opportunity represents and ideal path to market for our disruptive SILEX laser enrichment technology”. In April 2016 GE-Hitachi had notified its intention to exit GLE, offering the company to Silex, and plans for restructuring have been under negotiation since.
Silex 6/2/19, WNN 7/2/19.  Enrichment, US Fuel Cycle

Urenco USA to produce high-assay low-enriched uranium

In line with an earlier announcement of its capability, Urenco USA has announced that it plans to proceed with enrichment up to almost 20% U-235, and is considering construction of a dedicated HALEU plant for this, particularly to supply a new generation of small reactors.  The Urenco USA plant in New Mexico is the only operational US enrichment plant, and its current capacity of 4.8 million SWU per year meets about one third of US demand for commercial power generation.
WNN 6/2/19.  US Fuel Cycle

USA initiates high-assay uranium enrichment program with civil application

Centrus Energy Corp has signed a three-year contract with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to deploy a cascade of large centrifuges to produce of high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel for advanced reactors. The contract includes licensing, constructing, assembling and operating 16 AC100M centrifuges at the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio. The HALEU fuel, enriched to between 5% and 20% U-235, will be required by many advanced reactor designs that are under development in USA, especially small ones. Centrus cited a 2017 survey indicating that 67% of "leading US advanced reactor companies" said that an assured supply of HALEU was either "urgent" or "important" to their company.

The new contract is to demonstrate the capability for HALEU production with existing US-origin enrichment technology for domestic commercial use, also providing the DOE with a "small quantity" of it for use in research and development "and other programmatic missions". The USA can only use uranium for national security (defence) purposes that has been enriched by US-origin technology, hence excluding Urenco and SILEX, though Urenco USA has announced it readiness to supply HALEU from a dedicated production line at its New Mexico plant. However, being foreign-owned and using non-US technology, the plant would be ineligible to supply enrichment services for US defence purposes, even if much less expensive.

Centrus (formerly USEC) developed the very large AC100 American centrifuge design over many years from the 1970s, with the prototype lead cascade starting operation in 2007 then a test program to April 2010 refining the design. To 2015 USEC had spent $2.6 billion and still required a lot of additional capital, which was not forthcoming. With no commercial prospect in sight, the program was closed down in 2016 and the intellectual property reverted to the DOE. Centrus retained its regulatory licence and now anticipates US government demand in the mid-2020s, followed by demand from advanced reactors and for accident-tolerant fuels thereafter. The project is expected to be operational in 2021, followed by HALEU production for DOE use early in 2022.
WNN 6/11/19.    US fuel cycle

US plan to resurrect defunct uranium enrichment project

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced plans to award a $115 million contract to America Centrifuge Operating LLC, a subsidiary of Centrus Energy Corp, to demonstrate the production of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), above 5% enrichment of U-235. The project would involve construction of a cascade of 16 of the very large AC-100M American centrifuges at Piketon, Ohio, where these machines were developed, to produce some 19.75% enriched uranium by October 2020. It is also to demonstrate the capability to produce HALEU with existing US-origin enrichment technology, providing the DOE with a "small quantity" of it for use in research and development "and other programmatic missions". In December Urenco USA made it clear that it can readily produce HALEU at its New Mexico plant, using its European technology. However, being foreign-owned and using non-US technology it would be ineligible to supply enrichment services for US defence purposes. A number of new small reactor designs require HALEU and their developers are anxious to see a supply chain for it established.

At the American Centrifuge demonstration uranium enrichment plant at Piketon an AC100 Lead Cascade started operation in 2010 and then a demonstration cascade took over in October 2013 as “the centerpiece of the RD&D program with DOE”. It was licensed for 7 million SWU/y enrichment up to 10% U-235, but operations ceased in February 2016. After investment of over $2.3 billion it was evident that the US-developed technology was uncompetitive, and commercial deployment was aborted. With the company (now Centrus) then unable to proceed, the intellectual property and the demonstration cascade reverted to DOE and its Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee took over management of the project. The equipment has been decommissioned and dismantled but the licence endures. The plant was on the site of the large 1940s Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion enrichment plant, originally for military purposes.

Meanwhile the DOE has reported that about ten tonnes of HALEU stored at its Idaho National Laboratory could now be used for fabricating advanced reactor fuel there. This material is from electrometallurgical reprocessing of used fuel from the experimental fast reactor EBR-II which operated to 1994.
WNN 8/1/19, Platts 17/1/19.   US NFC

US initiatives to produce fuel for high-temperature gas-cooled reactors

BWX Technologies at Lynchburg in Virginia has announced an expansion to commercial-scale production of high-assay low-enriched (HALEU) oxycarbide TRISO fuel within three years. It has been making this on an engineering scale for specialist applications, and funded by the Department of Energy (DOE). BWXT said the expansion of its existing TRISO fuel production capability "will position the company to meet emergent client interests in Department of Defence microreactors, space reactors, and civil advanced reactors", notably high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTRs). TRISO fuel comprises particles less than a millimetre diameter with uranium core surrounded by layers of carbon and silicon carbide, giving a containment for fission products which is stable to very high temperatures.

X-energy which is developing a small modular HTR of 75 MWe, has an agreement with Centrus Energy in USA to develop TRISO fabrication technology and to proceed with designing a TRISO-X plant at Oak Ridge, part funded by DOE.  X-energy is applying for a loan guarantee from the government and expects to submit a licence application for a commercial plant by mid-2021.
WNN 15/3/19, 2/10/19.  Fuel fabrication

TRISO fuel fabrication moves to mainstream in USA

X-energy, which is developing a 75 MWe high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTR), has agreed with GE-Hitachi’s Global Nuclear Fuel to set up commercial TRISO production using HALEU at GNF’s Wilmington plant in North Carolina. Hitherto, X-energy has had a pilot fuel fabrication facility for TRISO at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Tennessee. TRISO (tristructural-isotropic) fuel particles of less than a millimetre diameter have a kernel of uranium oxycarbide with the uranium enriched up to 20% U-235 and surrounded by layers of carbon and silicon carbide, giving a containment for fission products which is stable to very high temperatures. The TRISO particles are incorporated into billiard ball-sized pebbles of graphite encased in silicon carbide, each with about 15,000 fuel particles containing 9 grams of uranium. The principal plant producing such fuel is at Baotou in China, making 300,000 fuel pebbles per year for the HTR-PM reactor almost completed construction at Shidaowan.
WNN 7/11/19.  Fuel fabrication

USA launches new test reactor program

The US Department of Energy has launched its Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) program, set up under the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act 2017 and run by the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The program was funded, with bipartisan support, last year. The VTR, or versatile fast neutron source, will provide leading-edge capability for testing of advanced nuclear fuels, materials, instrumentation, and sensors, with accelerated neutron damage rates 20 times greater than current water-cooled test reactors.

GE-Hitachi is working with INL to adapt its PRISM as a test reactor under this program for R&D, though the PRISM design is currently as a 311 MWe power reactor, derived from earlier US designs. The VTR is to be operational at INL by the end of 2025, closing an extraordinary 30-year gap since EBR-II fast reactor closed in 1994 by political edict. This was a major setback to US nuclear research, and over this period the USA has been progressively overtaken in nuclear technology. The only other fast-neutron test reactor operating is BN-60 in Russia, to be replaced after 2020 by MBIR, now under construction there.
Research reactors, Fast reactors

Europe

EU Parliament adopts language of “climate emergency”

By almost two thirds majority the European parliament has declared a global “climate and environmental emergency” and warned that current EU emission reduction targets were less than required under the 2015 Paris agreement.  However, many MEPs across the political spectrum warned against symbolic gestures, and a clause asserting “that nuclear power is neither safe, nor environmentally or economically sustainable” was radically changed to state the obvious “that nuclear energy can play a role in meeting climate objectives because it does not emit greenhouse gases while at the same time ensuring a significant share of European electricity production.” In 2018, 26% of EU electricity was from nuclear power.
Forbes & Foratom 28/11/19.  Europe

Three European reactors finally shut down

In Switzerland, BKW’s Mühleberg reactor, an early BWR, has shut down for decommissioning.  It began operating in 1971 near Bern, has been uprated by over 20% in several stages to 372 MWe net, and has supplied about 130 billion kWh to the Swiss grid – about 5% of demand.  Dismantling and clean-up is expected to take 15 years, and 80% of the cost is in hand.  Four reactors totalling 2960 MWe continue to operate in the country.

As a further step in the progressive shutting down Germany’s fleet of serviceable reactors, mandated by the government, Energie Baden-Württemberg (EnBW) is closing down Phillipsburg 2 at the end of December. The 1392 MWe PWR entered commercial operation in 1985. Dismantling is expected to take 15 years, with the funds for this largely in hand according to a 2015 federal government review. This leaves six large reactors operating, total 8052 MWe. In 2018 nuclear power provided 11.7% of Germany’s electricity production, reliably. Intermittent solar and wind now provide about 25%.

In Sweden, Vattenfall is closing down Ringhals 2, a 807 MWe PWR on the west coast, at the end of December, after 44 years of operation. Unit 1 at the site, a 878 MWe BWR, will close in 2020. The operational life of these two units was curtailed due to low wholesale prices compounding the unique Swedish tax burden on them (which reached about €7.50/MWh), and in 2015 Vattenfall decided to close them. They have produced about 12 billion kWh/yr, some 8% of Sweden’s total. The larger Ringhals 3 & 4 will remain operating until 2041 and 2043. The nuclear capacity tax is now removed. A government levy of SEK 0.05 /kWh (US$ 0.0053) covers both waste management and decommissioning costs.
WNN 20/12/19.    Switzerland, Germany, Sweden

United Kingdom

UK proposes new funding model for nuclear plant construction

The UK government has proposed use of a regulated asset base (RAB) model to finance nuclear construction, as an alternative to contracts for difference (CfD). Under the RAB model, power sector regulator Ofgem would estimate a value of new nuclear projects and arrive at a fixed rate of return for investors. The revenues, from all UK consumers paying upfront through electricity bills, would enable a project company to recover approved costs and generate a return on capital to finance them. Payments would increase over the construction period in line with project spending and then decline over the operating life of the asset, for up to 60 years. It is similar to the US rate base model in states with regulated utilities (hosting a majority of US nuclear power capacity) but with greater flexibility on the part of Ofgem to determine what is ‘reasonable’ as the basis of a feed-in tariff.

The RAB model has been used in the UK to fund other large infrastructure projects, including the £4.2 billion Thames Tideway sewer and stormwater tunnel. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said that "Our assessment has concluded that, by providing regulated returns to investors, a RAB model has the potential to reduce the cost of raising private finance for new nuclear projects, thereby reducing consumer bills and maximising value for money for consumers and taxpayers."  It could also “reduce … the risk for developers while limiting the impact on consumers' bills in the long term." The government would offer “protection to investors for specified low-probability but high-impact risks.”

The new RAB proposal could revive the prospects of Hitachi subsidiary Horizon and Toshiba subsidiary NuGen building new nuclear plants at Wylfa in Wales, Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Moorside in Cumbria. The contract for difference (CfD) funding model used to finance the 3,400 MW Hinkley Point C plant now under construction, and for Sizewell C in Suffolk, did not attract them. A further two reactors (2,300 MWe) are planned at Bradwell by China General Nuclear.  The five projects beyond Hinkley Point C amount to 14.5 GWe capacity, almost one fifth of UK total. The UK government places a high priority on building 16 GWe of new nuclear capacity to supply reliable power beyond the operational span of existing units and to reduce CO2 emissions.
WNN 23/7/19.  UK

Hitachi suspends work on UK nuclear power project

Japan’s Hitachi has suspended work on its UK subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power’s plan to build two nuclear power plants in UK, at Wylfa Newydd in Wales and Oldbury in Gloucestershire, having failed to find a major partner for the projects. The two plants would use four GE-Hitachi Advanced Boiling Water Reactors such as have operated in Japan since 1996, and which are now approved for use in UK. The £20 billion, 2.7 GWe Wylfa plant was to be operating in mid 2020s.

The minister responsible for negotiations with Hitachi told parliament that the government was even willing to consider taking a one-third equity stake in the Wylfa project, alongside investment from Hitachi and Japan government agencies and other strategic partners. It was also willing to consider providing all the required debt financing to complete construction, and it would consider a Contract for Difference power purchase agreement to the project with a strike price of no more than £75 per megawatt-hour – somewhat less than that for EDF’s Hinkley Point C now under construction. Hitachi said that while it is suspending development at Wylfa, it wished to continue discussions with the government on both projects.
WNN 17/1/19.  UK

UK commits funds to Rolls Royce for small reactor

Having failed to progress earlier intentions regarding small reactor development, the UK government has pledged £18 million towards development of a small modular reactor by a large consortium led by Rolls Royce. It is understood that a 220 MWe PWR unit is envisaged. Rolls Royce has designed three generations of naval reactors for submarine propulsion since the 1950s and also operates a small test reactor.
WNN 23/7/19.  Small reactors

UK blackout highlights system deficiencies

A widespread UK blackout on 9 August cut off power and caused travel disruption across England and Wales. The National Grid said it was triggered by disconnections at a gas-fired power station in Bedfordshire and the Hornsea offshore wind farm in Yorkshire. An inquiry is investigating root causes including the question of frequency control and will make recommendations for essential service resilience to power disruptions as intermittent renewables take a greater share of UK supply and coal-fired generation is almost phased out. Last year gas provided 39% of UK electricity, and nuclear 18%.
WNN 14/8/19.  UK

France

France to consider six new reactors

France’s Environment and Economy ministers have asked EdF to study the potential for building three pairs of EPR2 reactors at three existing nuclear sites in France. The government is wanting information to enable a decision by mid-2021 on a possible program for building such capacity, in line with its current energy plan. The ministers require a set of action plans from EdF by March 2020. The possible new reactor program relates to a submission to the government by the French Nuclear Energy Society (SFEN), urging such a program and saying that construction costs of new reactors could be reduced by 30% and their financing cost by 50% from present levels.

Construction of an original-design EPR at Flamanville is vastly over budget and many years late, but two built at Taishan in China with EdF involvement were completed in 104 and 110 months, much the same as the four Westinghouse AP1000 units there, also first-of-a-kind. Framatome and EdF have developed the EPR2 design, “offering the same characteristics” as the original complex EPR but with simplified construction and significant cost reduction. The French regulator ASN has said that it is happy with most aspects of the design. EdF intends that EPR2 will be the model to replace the French fleet from the late 2020s. In September EdF called for civil engineering bids for a pair of EPR2 at an unspecified existing site, and involving 800,000 cubic metres of concrete overall.
WNN 15/10/19.    France

France halts development of new fast reactor

The French government has confirmed suspension of plans to construct the ASTRID fast neutron reactor, its main Generation IV technology, which was being developed with Japan. The Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration (ASTRID) was to have been built at Marcoule and initially had a planned capacity of 600 MW, though this was reduced last year. A preliminary long-term energy plan released by the government in January indicated that because of ample availability of uranium, a series of fast reactors would not be needed until the second half of the century at the earliest.

ASTRID was designed as a fast reactor that could run on plutonium and burn minor actinides to reduce the amount and longevity of nuclear waste, potentially breeding its own fuel to reduce uranium consumption.  France has abundant reactor-grade plutonium from its reprocessing of used fuel, and will have about half a million tonnes of depleted uranium by 2050 – both comprising mixed oxide ASTRID fuel.  ASTRID is designed to meet the stringent criteria of the Generation IV International Forum in terms of safety, economy and proliferation resistance. 

The cancellation leaves Russia and China in the lead for developing fast neutron reactors in state-supported programs, though Russia has slowed its planned rollout of commercial BN-1200 units while it works on developing the fuel for it, using the operating BN-800 reactor at Beloyarsk.
WNN 30/8/19, 13/8/19.  France

Romania

China to complete building Canadian reactors in Romania

Nearly five years after China General Nuclear (CGN) submitted the sole non-binding bid for a contract to build two new reactors at Cernavoda and was declared a "qualified investor" in the project, a preliminary investors' agreement has now been signed. This is between Romanian national nuclear company Nuclearelectrica and CGN for the completion of units 3 and 4 at the plant. A joint venture company with 51% CGN equity is to be set up to advance the project. The two operating Cernavoda reactors provide nearly 20% of the country’s electricity.

In the 1970s Cernavoda was intended to comprise five Canadian CANDU reactors, a rare western technology selection behind the iron curtain. In the event one was built from 1980 and came on line in 1996. A second one was completed by Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (AECL) and Ansaldo Nucleare of Italy with the help of an EU loan and has been in operation since 2007. After plans involving several western companies were abandoned, the CGN engineering subsidiary in 2014 signed a "binding and exclusive" cooperation agreement with Candu Energy, AECL’s successor as technology vendor, for the construction of units 3 & 4 at Cernavoda as 700 MWe CANDU 6 reactors. In mid-2014 the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China agreed to finance the project, and this was followed by CGN’s 2014 bid to Nuclearelectrica. The two units are partly built with main concrete structures, but about €7.2 billion will be required to complete them. Meanwhile Cernavoda 1 is due for a full rebuild from 2026, which will likely take at least three years.
WNN 8/5/19.  Romania

Bulgaria

Bulgaria uprates reactor, with licence extension

Bulgaria’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA) has granted a 10-year extension to the operating licence of unit 6 at the Kozloduy nuclear power unit. The Russian VVER-1000 in northern Bulgaria started operation in 1991 and can now run until October 2029, when a further licence extension is likely. Its twin, unit 5, had a 10-year licence extension in 2017.  An initial upgrade of the two reactors was undertaken to 2006, though the safety of these V-320 units was not in question, as they conform well to international standards. The Kozloduy plant provides more than 34% of Bulgaria's electricity.

Further plans to upgrade them by 2019 and extend operating lifetimes from 30 out to 60 years were implemented under a €360 million contract between Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant and a consortium of Rosenergoatom and EDF from April 2012. The most recent work on unit 6 over 30 months was undertaken by a consortium of Rusatom Services and a Bulgarian company, and involved upgrading the turbine generator to give 4% more power.
WNN 2/10/19.  Bulgaria

Russia

New Russian reactor now on line

The second new reactor at Novovoronezh power plant in the southwest of Russia is now grid-connected, nearly three years after its twin. Rosenergoatom announced early last year that it would slow construction in response to low demand and pressure from power consumers to reduce rate increases. Construction, using new techniques, was already slow and took 118 months. Commercial operation is expected from December, adding 1114 MWe to the grid. These are the lead units of one variant of the VVER-1200 reactors, now the standard large Russian reactor for domestic use and export. Russia now has 36 power reactors operational, total 29 GWe.
WNN 2/5/19.   Russia NP

Unit 2 of the Novovoronezh II nuclear power plant has achieved criticality. This is the third VVER-1200 reactor in Russia, of two slightly different designs.
WNN 25/3/19.  Russia NP

New Russian reactor in commercial operation

Unit 2 of the Novovoronezh II nuclear power plant in southwest Russia has entered commercial operation, after being connected to the grid in May. This is the country’s third VVER-1200, which is the main type Rosatom is now building in other countries as the spearhead of its exports. Current VVER-1200 construction projects are in Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Egypt, Finland, Hungary and Uzbekistan, with total value over $130 billion.
WNN 1/11/19.    Russia NP

First Russian floating nuclear power plant comes on line

Power is now being supplied to Pevek in the Chukotka region of northeast Siberia from Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant. Two 32 MWe net KLT-40S reactors are installed on a 21,500 tonne floating hull. They are derived from well-proven icebreaker power plants but use low-enriched uranium fuel. The pilot plant itself cost Rosenergoatom RUR 21.5 billion ($344 million). Refuelling interval is 3-4 years on site, and at the end of a 12-year operating cycle the whole plant is towed to a shipyard for overhaul and storage of used fuel, before being returned to service.  The new plant will replace three 11 MWe Bilibino reactors nearby. Future floating power plants will use RITM-200 units of 50 MWe now in service in the newest icebreaker.  These are physically smaller and much lighter – hence small modular reactors.
WNN 19/12/19.  Russia NP

Russia’s floating nuclear power plant heads for operating location

The Akademik Lomonosov, the world's first purpose-built floating nuclear power plant, is on its way to become the world's northernmost nuclear power installation. The huge barge is under tow en route from Murmansk to its final destination of Pevek, 4700 km away.  It will become a central part of the Chukotka region's power supply, replacing the small 1970s Bilibino nuclear power plant and the Chaun coal-fired plant nearby.

The plant was built at St Petersburg and towed to Murmansk last year for fuelling and trial start-up of the two 35 MWe KLT-40S reactors, derived from those in icebreakers. Commissioning is expected in December. The onshore infrastructure at Pevek has been built over the last there years. Refuelling interval is 3-4 years on site, and at the end of a 12-year operating cycle the whole plant is returned to a shipyard for overhaul and unloading of stored used fuel, before being returned to service.

Second-generation Russian floating nuclear power plants will have two 50 MWe RITM-200M reactor units, each more powerful than KLT-40S but about 1500 tonnes lighter, and thus on a much smaller barge – about 12,000 rather than 21,000 tonnes displacement.
WNN 23/8/19.  Russia NP

Operating licence for first Russian floating nuclear power plant

Rosenergoatom has received an operating licence for its floating nuclear power plant, Akademik Lomonosov, from the regulator Rostechnadzor. The barge of 21,000 tonnes has two 35 MWe KLT-40S reactors, the version of an icebreaker power plant using low-enriched uranium, hence with a bigger core and shorter refueling interval: 3 to 4.5 years.  Operational life is 40 years. Fuel loading was in Murmansk. The vessel will be towed to Pevek on the north coast of eastern Siberia in August and grid-connected by the end of the year. It will replace the small Bilibino nuclear power plant and the Chaun coal-fired cogeneration plant in the Chukotka Autonomous District.  The plant was built at the Baltiyskiy Zavod shipyard in St Petersburg, with delays due to its insolvency about 2012.

The second generation of floating nuclear power plants, now called Optimised Floating Power Units, will use two RITM-200M reactors derived from those for the latest icebreakers.  These are more powerful, at 50 MWe each, and need refueling only every 10-12 years at a service base, so no onboard used fuel storage is required. The actual reactors are each 1500 tonnes lighter, so the barge is smaller and total displacement is reduced to about 12,000 tonnes. Operational life is 40 years, with possible extension to 60 years.
WNN 27/6/19.  Russia NP

Russia plans deployment of small reactors in far northeast

Rosatom has signed an agreement with the Yakutia regional government to investigate building a number of small reactors in Yakutia’s remote areas. The small modular reactors would be 50 MWe RITM-200M units, similar to those now being commissioned in the latest LK-60 Russian icebreakers.  They are adapted for land-based or floating power plants and use fuel enriched to less than 20% U-235. These have a ten-year refuelling cycle and are significantly smaller but more powerful than earlier icebreaker and floating NPP reactors. Rosatom said that serial production of these reactors could start within six years.

There is corresponding interest in Canada for building small modular reactors in remote off-grid northern areas where the cost and logistics of diesel fuel are a major challenge. A range of designs are undergoing pre-licensing vendor design reviews there. Canadian Nuclear Laboratories is undertaking siting evaluation of several designs, and in November 2018 the Canadian government released its “SMR Roadmap”, a 10-month nationwide study of small modular reactor technology.
Platts 5/9/19    Russia NP

Russia renews operating licence for Smolensk reactor

After major engineering work, Russian regulator Rostechnadzor has issued a 15-year operating licence extension to 2034 for unit 3 of the Smolensk nuclear power plant, the newest of three RBMK-1000 reactors at the site in western Russia, taking all units to 45 years. Russia has ten RBMK reactors in service, and Smolensk provides 13% of the country’s power.
WNN 17/12/19. Russia NP

Russia completes refurbishment of Smolensk plant

Refurbishment of the Smolensk nuclear power plant close to the Belarus border has been completed, and unit 3 has returned to service. The three RBMK reactors started up 1983-1990, licensed for 30 years. They are pressurised water-cooled reactors with individual fuel channels and they use graphite as moderator. Significant design modifications to units 1&2 were made after the Chernobyl accident, and unit 3 was built to revised design. Following a $1.5 billion program from 2012 involving extensive refurbishment including replacement of fuel channels, the 1000 MWe units now have 45-year lifetimes. They provide 13% of Russia’s nuclear power generation.
WNN 28/3/19, Russia NP

Russia renews operating licence for Kola reactor

Russia’s Rostechnadzor has issued a 15-year licence extension for Kola 2 near Murmansk, taking it to 2034. All four VVER-440 units at Kola have now had licence extensions, the older ones to 60 years and the newer ones to 45 years so far. The plant generates about 60% of the electricity in this northern region.
WNN 23/12/19. Russia NP

Russia starts construction of large new reactor

Main construction work for the second unit at Kursk II in Russia has begun two weeks ahead of schedule, with first concrete poured for the base plate. The site close to the Ukraine border is the first to use the 1255 MWe VVER-TOI (typical optimised, with enhanced information) reactor design incorporating a new steel alloy in its enlarged pressure vessel. It is the most advanced Russian PWR design and is capable of load-following. Eventually four units will replace four RBMK reactors which came on line over 1977 to 1986 as these each reach about 45 years operation.
WNN 15/4/19.   Russia NP

Small Russian reactor shut down

The first unit of the Bilibino nuclear power plant in the Chukotka Autonomous Region has finally shut down after providing reliable power to the remote part of northeastern Siberia since the 1970s. Units 2-4 will continue in operation for another three years until the new floating nuclear power plant Academician Lomonosov arrives at Pevek later this year and is established in the small local grid. It has two 35 MWe reactors. The Bilibino units each provide 11 MWe net plus some district heating. They are a unique type of EGP-6 light water graphite-moderated reactor, all of which have received 15-year operating licence extensions to give them 45 years in service.
WNN 24/1/19.  Russia NP

Russia launches third large nuclear icebreaker

The third large nuclear-powered icebreaker has been launched at St Petersburg. Ural and its sister ships Arktika and Sibir are third-generation 'universal' LK-60 icebreakers which are dual-draught (8.55 or 10.5 m) wide-beam (34 m) vessels of 25,450 dwt or 33,540 dwt with ballast, able to handle 3 metres thickness of ice. They are powered by the latest civil marine nuclear power plants - two RITM-200 reactors of 175 MWt each, delivering 60 MW at the propellers via twin turbine-generators and three electric motors. The first will be commissioned this year and operated by Atomflot. Two more LK-60 are planned. The goal is to achieve year-round navigability of the Northern Sea Route across the north of Siberia.

A larger LK-120 series of icebreakers is being developed also, of 55,600 dwt and with 120 MW power at the propellers, capable of breaking through ice 4.5 metres thick. The first will be Lider (Leader).
WNN 28/5/19.  Nuclear-powered ships

Russia commits to two more large nuclear icebreakers

Rosatom has three of its very large LK-60 icebreakers under construction, with the first to be commissioned next year. It has now committed to two more.  The LK-60 vessels are ‘universal’ dual-draught, displacing up to 33,540 t (25,450 t without ballast), for use in Arctic waters. They are 173 m long, 34 m wide, and designed to break through 2.8 metre thick ice at up to 2 knots.  They are powered by two of the new RITM-200 reactors of 175 MWt each which together deliver 60 MW at the three propellers via twin turbine-generators and three electric motors. The RITM-200 also has use as a small modular reactor on land or as floating nuclear plant, with each reactor providing 55 MWe, and there are plans for deploying them in Siberia.
WNN 30/10/19.    Russia NP

Construction contract for new Russian fast reactor

A major part of Russia’s Proryv (Breakthrough) Project to create new nuclear power technologies on the basis of closed nuclear fuel cycle using fast neutron reactors is finally getting under way with Siberian Chemical Combine letting a construction contract to Titan-2 to build the first BREST-300 lead-cooled fast reactor at Seversk. Rostechnadzor issued a licence in 2014 and the construction permit is expected next month. This is a new-generation fast reactor which supersedes the BN designs to give enhanced proliferation resistance. Atomproekt is the general designer and Rosatom expects commercial operation about 2026. Associated fuel cycle facilities including a dense nitride fuel fabrication module is already being built on site, and a used nuclear fuel reprocessing module will follow to enable repeated recycling. The nitride fuel has been tested in the BN-600 reactor at Beloyarsk since 2013. If the 300 MWe BREST unit is successful, a 1200 MWe (2800 MWt) version will follow.
NEI Magazine 26/11/19.    Russia NP

Ukraine

Chernobyl to become tourist centre

The Ukrainian President has signed a decree that sets out plans to develop the Chernobyl exclusion zone as a site for tourism, including new walking trails, waterways and enhanced mobile phone reception. The decree represents the start of the 30 km radius exclusion zone's transformation "into one of the growth points of the new Ukraine", with active promotion of Chernobyl as a tourist destination. He said that "We must showcase this place to the world: to scientists, ecologists, historians, tourists." It is “a unique place on the planet where nature revives after a global man-made disaster.” This decree coincides with Ukrainian authorities taking over the new safe confinement built over unit 4 of the power plant, destroyed in the April 1986 accident. It was completed by the Novarka joint venture under the auspices of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The area has been open on a limited basis since 2011 when Chernobyl was declared a tourist attraction, and last year 63,000 people visited. There will be some access to the power plant where units 1-3 are undergoing decommissioning.  Except for a few hotspots and contaminated equipment, radiation levels are not much more than natural background levels. With the residential population of the exclusion zone still low, wildlife has flourished, providing a major attractive feature.

On the same day the decree was announced, a world-leading cancer specialist wrote an article for the The Sydney Morning Herald to counter the fearmongering about Chernobyl which "continues unabated". Gerry Thomas, professor of molecular pathology at Imperial College London, has researched the health effects of the Chernobyl accident for 27 years, and written reviews of the impact of radiation exposure following nuclear accidents. In her article she calls out misguided 'radiophobia' - exaggerated fear of exposure to radiation highlighted by a recent TV series on Chernobyl. She called for “our planet's future to be decided by scientific fact instead of urban myth.” Hence “it's time to ditch the fear campaigns and get behind nuclear power.”
WNN 12/7/19.  Ukraine, Chernobyl accident

Belarus

Belarus prepares to fire up first nuclear power

Russian contractor AtomStroyExport has announced the start of commissioning for Belarus’ first nuclear power plant at Ostrovets in the Grodno region near the border with Lithuania. Two VVER-1200 reactors are being built, based on those at St Petersburg, to provide 1109 MWe net each, which together will meet almost half the country’s demand and reduce reliance on Russian natural gas. 

Economic assessment using methodology from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) showed that nuclear would be competitive, with overnight costs $1960/kW and levelized electricity cost 5.81 cent/kWh (compared with coal $1175/kW and 6.52 cent/kWh, and gas $805/kW and 6.76 cent/kWh). Russian finance covers 90% of the cost.
WNN 8/4/19.  Belarus

Baltic states

Estonia takes steps towards nuclear power

With the prospect of phasing out its oil shale power generation by 2030, a new Estonian company set up for the purpose has commissioned a feasibility study on deploying small modular reactors (SMRs). Fermi Energia Ltd was set up in February 2019 by a group of Estonian science and energy professionals including the former head of state energy company Eesti Energia. It then signed an agreement with UK-based Moltex Energy to undertake a feasibility study for the siting of SMRs and development of a suitable licensing regime. The Moltex technology is only one option, and Fermi Energia is also including NuScale SMR, Terrestrial Energy ISMR-400 and GE Hitachi BWRX-300 in its feasibility study. The company said that Estonia had "no other credible choice" than nuclear energy for security of power supply, but that it would need to be from SMRs. Viru-Nigula on the north coast has offered to host a nuclear plant. Eesti Energia was involved in plans for nuclear power ten years ago.
WNN 31/5/19.  Emerging nuclear countries

South Korea

New reactor in South Korea now operational

Unit 4 of the Shin Kori nuclear power plant is now grid-connected, making it the 24th reactor in operation in South Korea, total over 23 GWe. When fully ramped up to full power the new APR1400 reactor will deliver about 1380 MWe net. Its twin, unit 3, was grid-connected in January 2016.  While Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power has a reputation for meeting construction schedules, both these reactors were delayed by the need to replace suspect parts and cabling. Unit 3 thus took 87 months to construct and unit 4 took 115 months, due to further regulatory delays.

Construction of Shin Kori 5 & 6 commenced in April 2017 and September 2018 respectively, with about 60 months construction time anticipated, despite a political delay following election of a new government in 2017.

At the end of April the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved the APR1400 for US design certification.
WNN 25/4/19.  S.Korea

South Korea starts up large new reactor

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power has started up its new Shin Kori 4 reactor and plans to connect it to the electricity grid at the end of this month. It will provide 1380 MWe alongside its twin, unit 3, which was connected to the grid in January 2016.  KHNP expects unit 4 to reach full commercial operation in September. Construction of two further APR1400 reactors there - units 5 and 6 - began in April 2017 and September 2018 respectively, and two others are under construction at Ulchin: Shin Hanul 1&2.  Four of these APR1400 reactors are nearly ready to operate at Barakah in the UAE, and other export initiatives are ongoing.
WNN 18/4/19. S.Korea

New South Korean reactor in commercial operation

After start-up and grid connection in April, the new Shin Kori 4 reactor is now in commercial operation. It is the country’s second APR-1400 unit of 1383 MWe net, and four others are under construction there, as well as four in United Arab Emirates.  South Korea has a total of 24 operating reactors with a combined net generating capacity of 23.3 GWe, providing about 30% of the country’s electricity. In recent years the capacity factor for South Korean power reactors has averaged up to 96.5% – some of the highest figures in the world.
WNN 2/9/19.  South Korea

Decommissioning confirmed for early South Korean reactor

After being idle since May 2018 due to its “uncertain economic viability” and being excluded from the government’s 2018 electricity supply framework plan, the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission has confirmed decommissioning of the 661 MWe Wolsong 1. This was the country’s first CANDU 6 unit, which began commercial operation in April 1983.  It had a major refurbishment ten years ago, and was licensed to 2022.
WNN 15/6/18.  South Korea

Taiwan

Taiwan rejects referendum vote on nuclear future

Despite the strong referendum support for maintaining nuclear power in Taiwan’s electricity mix, and the government’s agreement to honour this, a new national energy strategy from the Ministry of Economic Affairs maintains the earlier intention of the incumbent political party to phase it out. The ministry acknowledges that this will risk energy shortages from around 2021 as demand increases. However, the Chinshan reactors will not be restarted*, and those at Kuosheng and Maanshan are to be shut down when they reach 40 years of operation.  The part-built new plant at Lungmen (2 x 1350 MWe) is to remain mothballed.
WNN 1/2/19.  Taiwan

* Early in 2019 Chinshan 2 was restored to operationsl status.

Taiwan confirms closure of second Chinshan reactor

The Atomic Energy Council of Taiwan has approved decommissioning plans for both Chinshan BWR units following expiry of the 40-year licence for unit 2 there. The defueling and demolition of the 604 MWe (net) reactors will be over 25 years.
WNN 16/7/19.  Taiwan

Taiwan referendum to revive hopes for new nuclear plant

Taiwan's Central Election Commission has approved a petition from over 300,000 citizens to hold a referendum on reviving the Lungmen nuclear power plant project, comprising two 1300 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR). The completed unit 1 of Lungmen was mothballed in July 2015, while construction of unit 2 was suspended in 2014.  Construction of the plant began in 1999, but it has been subject to political stops and starts. Around $2 billion is required to complete and commission the two units. The government ignored the positive outcome of a 2018 referendum on maintaining nuclear power generation from Taiwan’s six existing reactors.
WNN 16/12/19.   Taiwan

Indonesia

Indonesia advances plans for small reactor

In April 2015 a consortium of Russian and Indonesian companies led by NUKEM Technologies won a contract to design a small multi-purpose high temperature reactor in Indonesia, which would be “a flagship project in the future of Indonesia’s nuclear program.” This would be a 10 MWt pebble-bed HTR at Serpong. NUKEM is already involved with fuel for the research reactors there, and it has considerable expertise in HTRs from Germany and South Africa. The reason for deciding on an HTR is that there is more potential for process heat and hydrogen for fertilisers. The basic design was completed by Russia’s OKBM Afrikantov in December 2015. The National Atomic Energy Agency BATAN plans to call for bids to construct the reactor, for both electricity and process heat in 2019-2020.  It signed an agreement with Indonesia Power (PLN) for a further feasibility study in August.

Independently of these HTR plans, Martingale from the USA has agreements with several Indonesian companies to build a ThorCon thorium molten salt reactor to generate electricity. Martingale is developing the ThorCon 250 MWe design, and aimed to commission a 500 MWe ThorConIsle plant there in the 2020s, built in a shipyard and mounted on a barge.
WNN 16/8/19.    Indonesia

Pakistan

First modern Chinese reactor in Pakistan ready for commissioning

The first of two Hualong One nuclear power reactors at Karachi has commenced system commissioning. Construction began in August 2015, and it is due on line in 2021. These are the first exports of the type, and will provide 1090 MWe each, net.  The announced cost for both was $9.6 billion, with two thirds vendor finance. Four Hualong One units are under construction in China, and due on line in the next two years. The design is partly derived from the French 900 MWe reactors, over 20 of which have been built as CPR1000 units in China. Four 300-315 MWe Chinese reactors are operating at Chashma in Pakistan.

The Karachi nuclear power plant agreement predates the $51 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects, though some $33 billion of the CPEC total is for energy infrastructure, notably 10 GWe of generating capacity by 2020, mostly coal-fired. CPEC projects are a significant element in China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) and are unprecedented in scale in Pakistan.
​WNN 5/12/19.  Pakistan

Middle East

Egypt issues site approval for large nuclear plant

The Egyptian Nuclear and Radiological Regulatory Authority has issued a site approval permit for the El Dabaa site, near El Alamein, west of Alexandria. The permit, which is for four large nuclear power units, acknowledges that the site complies with national and international requirements, following a review mission by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It is the first milestone in the licensing process expected to take two years.  The site was selected in 1983 but plans for nuclear power have fluctuated along with the country’s political situation since. In mid 2015 Rosatom submitted a bid to build four 1200 MWe reactors on a turnkey basis and a contract was signed in December 2017. The cost of $25 billion will be 85% financed by a Russian state export loan.

The reactors will be a warm-water version of the V-491 at Leningrad II, but with significant desalination capacity taking about 13% of the heat from the secondary circuit, they are expected to provide 1050 MWe gross, 927 MWe net. Egypt has long been reliant on natural gas for power generation and the cost of electricity from the nuclear plant is expected to be very much less.

The state Nuclear Power Plants Authority has been assessing the El Nagila area 80km east of Port Said to identify a suitable site for a second 4-unit nuclear power plant. South Korea and China have indicated strong interest in such a project.
WNN 10/4/19.  Egypt

Construction start on new Russian reactor in Iran

Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation (AEOI) has started construction of its second reactor at Bushehr nuclear power plant.  This is a late-model Russian VVER-1000 of 1057 MWe gross capacity, and is expected in commercial operation about 2026.  The Russian-built unit 1 was connected to the grid in September 2011 after lengthy construction due to utilising partly-completed German engineering. A third reactor is planned for the site.  Two desalination plants are part of the unit 2&3 project. AEOI says that each reactor saves 11 million barrels of oil per year, export of which considerably offsets the capital cost.
WNN 11/11/19.    Iran

Saudi Arabia agreement with Korea for small reactors

Following an earlier agreement in 2015, South Korea and Saudi Arabia have agreed to collaborate on the commercialisation of the Korean-designed SMART small modular reactor. Under the agreement, they will work together to license and construct the first such unit in Saudi Arabia, using the services of South Korean companies Kepco Engineering & Construction and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power. They will also promote the SMART design to other Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries considering the use of small reactors.

SMART is a 330 MWt pressurised water reactor with integral steam generators and advanced safety features and a 60-year design life. The unit is designed for electricity generation (up to 100 MWe) as well as thermal applications, such as seawater desalination. The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute design has been finalised with Saudi support since 2015, pending this new agreement to build an initial reference unit.
WNN 20/9/19.  Saudi Arabia

Namibia

Rio Tinto sells Namibian uranium mine to Chinese

Rio Tinto has completed the sale of its 68.6% stake in Rössing, the world's longest-running open pit uranium mine, to China National Uranium Corporation Ltd for an initial payment of $6.5 million plus a contingent payment of up to $100 million. The mine is 70 km inland from the coastal town of Swakopmund in Namibia’s Erongo region. It has been in operation since 1976 and has a nominal capacity of 4000 tU per year, though production since 2010 has averaged less than half that.  It is along strike from the larger Husab mine next door, 90% owned by China’s CGN-Uranium Resources Co and China-Africa Development Fund.
WNN 18/7/19.  Namibia

Ghana

Ghana moves towards using nuclear power

Ghana’s cabinet has approved the setting up of an organisation to oversee the construction and operation of the country's first nuclear power plant. The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) was set up in 1963, and the country has taken a leading role in regional promotion of nuclear power.  In 2015 legislation was passed to set up an independent nuclear regulator, the Ghana Nuclear Regulatory Authority - a prerequisite for embarking upon nuclear power.  About half of the country’s electricity is produced from fossil fuels, and half from hydro. 

In 2015 a nuclear cooperation agreement with Rosatom was signed, to enable the development of contractual and legal frameworks for cooperation between the two countries in the nuclear sector. It also enables the promotion of Russian technology in West African markets and the practical start of joint nuclear projects. Nigeria is open to the possibility of a foreign build-own-and-operate (BOO) project for nuclear power, in line with Russian policy.

Ghana’s 30 kW Chinese research reactor, operated since 1994 by GAEC’s National Nuclear Research Institute, was converted by the China Institute of Atomic Energy to run on low-enriched uranium in 2017, the first Chinese-designed Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) outside China to be converted.
WNN 2/8/19.  Emerging countries

Australia

Australian parliamentary report opens way for nuclear power

The House Standing Committee on the Environment & Energy’s inquiry into the nuclear fuel cycle and Australia's potential future use of nuclear energy has considered over 300 submissions and held hearings, resulting in its 54-page report Not without your approval: A way forward for nuclear technology in Australia - in which it summarises its findings. Its three recommendations are:
1. the government should consider the prospect of nuclear power, using proven technology, as part of Australia's future energy mix in order to deliver affordable and reliable energy while fulfilling its international emissions reduction obligations.

2. the government should gain a deeper understanding of nuclear technology in the Australian context, involving technology assessment on different generations of nuclear reactors and their suitability for Australia. A thorough economic assessment based on 'whole system costs' for meeting base-load and peak demand without government interventions should also be carried out (vis a vis alternatives such as intermittent renewables).

3. the government should consider a partial lifting of the current moratorium on nuclear energy for new and emerging technologies by "thinking discerningly about what types of nuclear technology should be considered" following the technology assessment and subject to the informed consent of host communities.

In a setback for any bipartisan approach, the Labor members of the Standing Committee issued a 20-page dissenting report based largely on negative and speculative inputs and which ignored the system costs of intermittent renewables and therefore the practicality of reliable supply at affordable cost. It said that there was no basis for considering a role for nuclear power, and further investigating the question “would be a costly and wasteful distraction.”
WNN 13/12/19.    Australia

Australian government move to clarify nuclear potential

The federal government minister for energy and emissions reduction has asked the House Standing Committee on the Environment and Energy to investigate the nuclear fuel cycle and report by the end of the year. The bipartisan inquiry will consider the implications of nuclear power in a system that is predominantly (61%) dependent on coal and to report on "the circumstances and prerequisites necessary for any future government's consideration of nuclear energy generation including small modular reactor technologies in Australia".

The inquiry is commissioned as the country faces an acute shortfall in reliable generation capacity coupled with considerable stigmatising of coal-fired generation, state government obstruction of gas resource development, and runaway construction of wind farms – “intermittent low emissions generation technologies” - with subsidised market access. While there is a competently run national electricity market, a large part of the responsibility for supply rests with state governments. The result has been a doubling of retail prices in less than a decade and policy paralysis in respect to forward planning.

The inquiry will have regard to previous inquiries into the nuclear fuel cycle, including South Australia's 2016 Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission and the 2006 Review of Uranium Mining, Processing and Nuclear Energy in Australia, also known as the Switkowski report. In contrast particularly to the 2006 team, the eight members of this inquiry are essentially lay people – none has any evident background with energy. The terms of reference include: waste management, transport and storage; health and safety; environmental impacts; energy affordability and reliability; economic feasibility; community engagement; workforce capability; security implications; national consensus; and "any other relevant matter". With a short time frame and limited resources the inquiry will need to lean heavily on the two preceding reports.
WNN 2/8/19.  Australia

Australian declaration on nuclear energy need

After several years of energy policy confusion partly due to divided responsibility for electricity supply between federal and state governments, the May federal election has given rise to hopes for some resolution. In particular, investment in new reliable generation capacity is a pressing need, with too much attention having been on the proliferation of subsidised wind farms, with no real consideration of the system costs incurred.

In the last few weeks there has been considerable discussion among people connected with a variety of energy-related organisations and as a result a one-page declaration has been issued by the Australian Nuclear Association, but more widely based. It notes that nuclear power is “Used by 30 nations, over half the world’s population, [but] it remains illegal in Australia, although Australia’s uranium exports contribute to international power generation and Australia is a world leader in nuclear medicines and technologies.” Nuclear power “would enrich Australia. Its addition to the nation’s generation mix alongside renewables (solar, wind and hydro) with the shared goal of decarbonisation” would achieve several goals.

Notably, it would “Deliver large amounts of dispatchable low-carbon electricity to the National Electricity Market to meet base-load demand reliably; replace over time Australia’s ageing coal fired fleet of power stations; and meet and exceed Australia’s internationally-committed emission reduction targets.”

However, to achieve all the benefits listed “Australia needs to repeal long-outdated federal and state legislation preventing its proper consideration; initiate informed public debate towards achieving social licence while acknowledging concerns of safe waste disposal and radiation protection; commit to a genuinely technology-neutral long-term energy policy; and focus on affordability, reliability and sustainability, accounting for total system costs in establishing the optimal mix of low-emission technologies.”
WNN 20/6/19.  Australia

New Australian isotope production plant fully licensed

ANSTO Nuclear Medicine’s (ANM) new molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) plant has received a licence from the independent regulator ARPANSA and can now move into full production. ANM has undertaken limited manufacturing of Mo-99 from the new facility since April, using low-enriched uranium targets which have had neutron irradiation in the Opal research reactor.  Mo-99 is the parent isotope of technetium-99m (Tc-99m), which is used in approximately 85% of all Australian nuclear medicine procedures. The plant can produce up to 15 million Tc-99m doses per year. Depending on local demand, ANM has the ability to meet up to one quarter of global needs, alleviating concerns due to old plants in Canada and Europe closing down. ANSTO claims that “This is the most advanced and safest manufacturing facility for nuclear medicine on the planet today.”

From about 2021 the intermediate-level waste produced by the facility will be treated on site using ANSTO’s Synroc technology at the SyMo facility, which is under construction. It will be the world’s first full-scale plant of this kind, beyond the small demonstration plant, and has export potential for other types of nuclear waste streams.

In Australia there are at least 650,000 nuclear medicine procedures per year, 550,000 of these using Tc-99m derived from Mo-99.  On average, one in two Australians can expect at some stage in their life to have a procedure that uses ANM’s radioisotopes for the diagnosis or treatment of illness, reflecting a major role of the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation (ANSTO).
ANSTO 13/6/19.  Radioisotopes in medicine

Australian uranium deposit approaches operation after 47 years development

Boss Resources has announced completion of the optimisation testwork program, the first phase of the restart strategy for its 100% owned Honeymoon uranium project in South Australia. While the deposit, 80 kilometres north west of Broken Hill, was mined briefly by a previous owner, it has been effectively under development since its discovery in 1972.  The orebody 70-130 metres deep and amenable to mining by in situ leaching, though the groundwater has high chloride levels, which is one of the reasons for the drawn-out development with a succession of about ten different equity holders – Australian, US, Russian and Japanese.  While well over $100 million has been spent on it, Boss Resources acquired it in 2015 for A$ 11.5 million and has made a fresh approach with process improvements. It is expected to ramp up to producing 1230 tU per year when it is commissioned.
WNN 28/2/19.  Australian mines


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