World Nuclear Association Weekly Digest Archive 2020

World

Update on world generation costs

Every five years the OECD’s International Energy Agency (IEA) and Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) publish Projected Costs of Generating Electricity, reporting on electricity generating costs by the major power generation technologies in 24 countries. As previously, the 2020 edition uses the levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) as its main metric, indicating costs at the actual generating plant, but it also presents a complementary metric, the “value-adjusted” LCOE (VALCOE) to account for the impacts of increasing shares of intermittent renewables, notably wind and solar in a system. It acknowledges that LCOE becomes of limited use when comparing dispatchable sources with unreliable ones.

The report notes that low-carbon electricity systems with renewables are characterised by increasingly complex interactions of different technologies with different functions in order to ensure reliable supply at all times. The system costs become increasingly significant. VALCOE is similar to System LCOE. VALCOE integrates energy value, flexibility value and capacity value by technology.  It “necessarily depends on the system in which a technology is deployed. Currently, estimates exist (only) for China, Europe, India and North America.” A refinement of the system analysis approach is to be published in 2021.

On LCOE basis new nuclear power is competitive with other low-carbon options, and its value adjustments are less than for intermittent renewables. On VALCOE basis nuclear power will increasingly be the lowest cost option in systems with a high proportion of wind and solar PV. New nuclear power is expected to have the lowest costs of any dispatchable low-carbon technology in 2025. The report notes that extending the operation of existing nuclear power plants, ie long-term operation (LTO), is the most cost-effective source of low-carbon electricity. A chapter on carbon pricing includes a section on US zero-emission credits for nuclear.  

One of five "boundary chapters" included in the report notes that the rate of adding nuclear capacity needs to at least double for countries to meet Paris obligations under IEA or IPCC scenarios. Without significant LTO, some 20 GWe per year needs to be added from 2021. But a disincentive is that “in several countries the existing nuclear fleet is impacted by current electricity market designs that that do not appropriately value the attributes of capital-intensive low-carbon technologies [that are] dispatchable such as nuclear and hydro power plants.” This is clearly a policy matter that needs resolving urgently in many countries.
WNN 9/12/20.      World energy needs

Nuclear power vital for ‘net-zero emissions by 2050’ scenario - WEO

The 2020 edition of the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook – WEO 2020 – has a chapter on what is required by 2030 towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, an objective with increasing political consensus. In this NZE2050 scenario primary energy demand falls by 17% between 2019 and 2030, to about 2006 level, even though the global economy is twice as large. CO2 emissions decline by about 60% by 2030, double the reduction in the Sustainable Development Scenario (SDS), but there is only modest increase in nuclear contribution above that in SDS – 40 GWe on top of 140 GWe increase in SDS to 2030, where the need for much increased nuclear contribution is clear.

The main NZE2050 measures on top of those in the SDS are evenly split among electricity generation, energy end use, and behaviour or lifestyle constraints especially in transport sector, but also more working from home. Electrification based on low-emission electricity is one of the key means of reducing emissions in end-use sectors, but the scenario depends heavily on increased solar PV, which has “an outsized role to play”. System costs and issues arising from intermittent renewables are glossed over, and the scenario “places much higher demands on technology innovation than even the SDS.”
WNN 13/10/20.   World energy needs

OECD affirms nuclear energy role in recovery

The OECD Nuclear Energy Agency has launched four policy briefs that examine nuclear energy's role in the post-COVID economic recovery. These address building resilience; job creation; cost-effective decarbonisation; and unlocking finance.  The pandemic has “underlined the importance of electricity reliability and resilience during major disruptions. With governments considering a broad range of options for economic recovery and job creation, it is becoming increasingly clear that stimulus packages have the opportunity to support energy systems that both fulfil these criteria while meeting long-term environmental goals and energy security." The World Nuclear Association contributed to the policy briefs.

The four policy briefs are: Nuclear power and the cost-effective decarbonisation of electricity systems, which says that plans to reconcile climate objectives with economic goals need to put system costs at the heart of energy policy, along with structural reform of the electricity market; Creating high-value jobs in the post-COVID-19 recovery with nuclear energy projects – highlights that investment in nuclear energy is proven to create many highly skilled jobs; Unlocking financing for nuclear energy infrastructure in the COVID-19 economic recovery – Several financing models would be well-suited to support near-term nuclear new build projects and could in turn significantly reduce the final cost of nuclear energy; and Building low-carbon resilient electricity infrastructures with nuclear energy in the post-COVID-19 era - nuclear energy can boost economic growth in the short term, while supporting development of a low-carbon resilient electricity infrastructure in the long term.

The nuclear industry, led by World Nuclear Association, has set the Harmony goal for nuclear energy to provide at least 25% of global electricity by 2050. This requires trebling nuclear generation from its present level. Some 1000 GWe of new nuclear generating capacity will need to be constructed by 2050 to achieve that goal.
WNN 24/6/20.  World energy needs and nuclear power

In 2019 more nuclear capacity shut down than was coming on line

Last year six new reactors came on line in China, Russia and South Korea. These totalled 5241 MWe. Uprates mostly in USA totalled 212 MWe, and there were three construction starts, in China, Russia and Iran, total 3462 MWe. However, eleven reactors totalling 8216 MWe were finally closed down, or were confirmed as finally closed, in nine countries. At the end of 2019 there were 442 operable reactors totalling 392,445 MWe in 30 countries plus Taiwan, according to WNA data.  Over 50 reactors in 18 countries were under construction. In 2020 at least eight new reactors are expected on line, including an innovative Chinese high-temperature gas-cooled reactor.

Most of the new grid connections in 2019 were of large reactors: 1020 MWe net ACPR1000 at Yangjiang in China, 1114 MWe net VVER at Novovoronezh in Russia, 1383 MWe net APR1400 at Shin Kori in S.Korea, and 1660 MWe net French EPR at Taishan in China – the largest single reactor anywhere. Two new connections were noteworthy due to their smallness: a pair of 32 MWe Russian reactors on a floating nuclear power plant were connected to the remote Siberian town of Pevek.

Reactor retirements included several old units but also a first-class 1392 MWe German reactor shut in that country’s pursuit of an ideological energy transition to replace reliable coal and nuclear plants with intermittent renewables. Retired units ranged from 35 to 48 years of operation. Most were under 1000 MWe.
WNN 3/1/20,  NP in world today,

Nuclear power expansion in 2020s

Large advanced third-generation reactors are now operating in China, Russia, South Korea and Japan. They represent a significant, though incremental, advance on the units comprising the bulk of world nuclear capacity. Many more such reactors are under construction in those four countries plus nine others including UK and USA.

The focus of attention today is shifting to fourth-generation designs, including small modular reactors (SMRs), ‘small’ being under 300 MWe. These can either comprise multiple units of a large power plant or be deployed singly or in pairs (as at Pevek in Siberia). An astonishing variety of technologies are being promoted. Most have experimental antecedents from 1970s and 1980s.

Russia is the leading supplier of exported nuclear power plants, and Rosatom subsidiary Atomenergomash at its Atommash plant in Volgodonsk has raised its production capacity to five reactors per year. Its order book totals 29 reactors, some now under construction, with 27 of those being exports to ten countries. They are both 1000 and 1200 MWe VVER types. The Atommash plant was established in 1973 as a centrepiece of Russian nuclear ambition, but was a disaster in Soviet times. It had a 20-year break from nuclear equipment to 2012 when Rosatom took it over and invested RUR 3 billion to revive it with focus simply on reactor pressure vessels and steam generators. Rosatom’s other main nuclear reactor plant is at Petrozavodsk, and it also has 51% of ZiO-Podolsk with production capacity of four reactor sets per year.

Vital role of reliable electricity emphasised
The International Energy Agency says that “The coronavirus crisis reminds us of electricity’s indispensable role in our lives,” with increasing “reliance on digital technology to get on with day-to-day life, whose energy use is increasingly in the form of electricity.” With reliance on wind and solar power increasingly problematical as their share increases, “Firm capacity, including nuclear power …. is a crucial element in ensuring a secure electricity supply.” Governments and policy makers need “to remain vigilant on electricity security.” The IEA sees nuclear energy being vital in maintaining reliable power supply in the current emergency.

The Director-General of World Nuclear Association emphasised: “At this time more than ever we need to be able to rely on electricity supply. It goes without saying that the huge efforts of medical staff worldwide depend on the ventilators, the monitors and all the other vital equipment that is proving so vital to giving people the chance to recover from this disease."
WNN 23 & 27/3/20. 

International central bank network publishes energy scenarios

The Network for Greening the Financial System (NGFS) has published a set of climate scenarios to help assessment of financial risks, with a guide for central banks. The NGFS, comprising 66 central banks and supervisors on five continents, aims to “mobilize mainstream finance to support the transition toward a sustainable economy”, on the basis that assessing the future risks enables better decision making now. Its three energy scenarios, developed with several international organisations, are Orderly, Disorderly and Hothouse. In the Orderly scenario, for low physical and transition risks, renewables and nuclear power increase their share in the total energy mix to more than 50% by 2050. In particular, in modelling done for NGFS by IIASA, nuclear power increases about six times from present levels to provide 60.8 EJ (16,900 TWh) in 2050. These figures are similar to the IPCC 1.5°C Special Report in 2018 which showed a six-fold increase in nuclear from 2010 to 15,918 TWh in 2050 for the P3 middle scenario, giving 25% of electricity supplied, in line with WNA Harmony goal.
    World Energy needs & NP, Harmony

https://www.world-nuclear.org/our-association/what-we-do/the-harmony-programme.aspx
https://www.ngfs.net/en/communique-de-presse/ngfs-publishes-first-set-climate-scenarios-forward-looking-climate-risks-assessment-alongside-user

International Energy Agency highlights Covid-19 impact
The OECD’s International Energy Agency (IEA) has published its Global Energy Review 2020 which describes the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on energy consumption. It reports that electricity consumption in particular has fallen by more than 25% in those countries most impacted. It goes on to highlight the greenhouse gas implications of the anticipated rebound, and raise the question of how to mitigate these.

However, the report says that “demand” for power from intermittent renewables has increased while acknowledging that this actually means that because those sources often have priority dispatch, the reliable other sources are curtailed. World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising said, “Current market structures are unfair and unsustainable. Other forms of generation, including nuclear, are having to bear the burden of the system costs created by renewable intermittency. And ultimately it is the end consumer who pays for all the additional system costs and subsidies, directly through their bills or indirectly through taxes.”

Agneta Rising went on to point out that, “The IEA report is right to conclude that a coordinated policy effort will be needed to harvest opportunities including moving towards a more modern, cleaner and resilient energy sector for all. Nuclear is cost-effective and will help deliver a faster and better clean energy transition that will provide high-value jobs now and for a sustainable future. Governments need to take urgent action to invest in nuclear energy as a major part of a global low-carbon energy mix. This will protect the planet by cutting greenhouse gas emissions, make our energy systems more resilient, generate thousands of high-skill jobs and save lives by reducing air pollution.”
WNN 30/4/20.  World energy needs

New IEA report on renewables

The OECD’s International Energy Agency has published a new report on renewable energy sources, with forecasts to 2025. In terms of installed capacity, it shows a steady rise for natural gas, predictably complementing that for wind and solar, though at lower rate. Hydro remains the largest source of renewables supply to 2025, though intermittent wind plus solar are closing the gap by then at just over 400 TWh/yr.  “In most advanced economies, renewables replace coal generation as aging fleets retire” over 2020 to 2025 according to IEA forecast, but without mention of the system costs involved.
World Energy Needs

Progress in accident-tolerant fuels

Three companies in the USA and Rosatom in Russia are developing accident-tolerant fuel (ATF). The term covers new technologies that enhance the performance of fuels in conventional reactors, both routinely and in accident conditions. ATFs may incorporate the use of new materials and designs for fuel cladding and for the actual fuel pellets. Since 2012 the US Department of Energy has supported Framatome, GE and Westinghouse ATF developments, and the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency’s Expert Group on ATFs for Light Water Reactors enables international collaboration.

This month test assemblies of GE’s new ATF were loaded into Exelon’s Clinton reactor, following some earlier ones loaded into Southern Nuclear’s Hatch plant in 2018.  In March 2019 test assemblies of Framatome’s ATF were loaded into Southern Nuclear’s Vogtle 2. In September 2019 lead test assemblies of Westinghouse’s ATF were loaded into Exelon’s Byron plant. Test assemblies from Rosatom’s fuel company TVEL are due to be loaded into a Rostov reactor soon.
​WNN 15/6/19.    Fuel fabrication

Regulators from nine countries address SMRs

Some specific safety recommendations for small modular reactors (SMRs) are now available, following a meeting in Vienna in March of the SMR Regulators' Forum, a group of experts working on the development of national standards specific to SMRs. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) hosts the forum and has long set safety standards which serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment from possible harmful effects of ionising radiation. These standards can generally be applied to SMRs, but the Forum is addressing particular questions that national authorities will need to take into account, especially where the whole reactor is made in a factory and shipped largely complete.

The small size of SMRs makes them suitable for small electric grids and locations that cannot support large reactors, while offering the flexibility to install units individually or as modules in a larger plant, with more modules being added incrementally as required. As well as using a simpler reactor design, SMRs can incorporate a high level of passive or inherent safety in the event of malfunction.
WNN 23/4/20.  Small reactors

Plan for flexible heat storage with small nuclear reactor

As an alternative to developing intrinsic load-following capabilities in small reactors, a new proposal is to use heat storage enabling variable output from a small nuclear power plant. GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy and TerraPower have announced the Natrium concept, featuring a 345 MWe reactor coupled to a molten salt energy storage, allowing the plant to peak up to 500 MWe for several hours. The power source envisaged is a sodium-cooled fast reactor apparently based on GEH’s Prism reactor, which is ready for deployment.

TerraPower said that the heat storage and release “allows for a nuclear design that follows daily electric load changes and helps customers capitalise on peaking opportunities driven by renewable energy fluctuations." The Natrium set-up is expected “to be available in the late 2020s.” Several US utilities have expressed interest. Natrium is part of the US Department of Energy's (DOE's) Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, which aims to speed the demonstration of advanced reactors through cost-shared partnerships with US industry.
WNN 1/9/20.   Small reactors

Fuel report summary available

The World Nuclear Association has published a biennial Nuclear Fuel Report since 1970, as a comprehensive view of the subject compiled by experts in the industry. This year a free summary version is available for the first time. It covers the factors affecting the growth of nuclear power and what developments the industry may require between now and 2040. It describes the major conclusions of the Report, in particular, the supply/demand projections in different stages of the nuclear fuel cycle and the nuclear generation projections for the next 20 years. It explains the increased projections for future nuclear generation capacity, the first time in eight years such an increase has occurred.
WNN 25/6/20.  Expanded summary.

Russian export reactor projects proceed

For the Akkuyu nuclear power plant under construction in Turkey, and the Rooppur nuclear power plant in Bangladesh, Atommash has completed hydraulic tests on the first 334-tonne reactor pressure vessels. Both plants will comprise 1200 MWe reactors with Novovronezh as the reference units in Russia. Atomenergomash’s AEM Technology has revived the Atommash plant in the Volga region since taking it over in 2012. It was originally established in 1973 but struggled for some years. It is now a more substantial operation than any such heavy engineering plant in Europe or North America.

Paks II in Hungary, Hanhikivi in Finland and El Dabaa in Egypt will be based on the new 1200 MWe Leningrad units, and similar to those in Belarus. Atommash is set to produce their main components.
WNN 14 & 17/7/20.  Turkey, Bangladesh, Heavy Manufacturing

China

China forges ahead with nuclear power supply

In 2019 China’s nuclear generation grew 18% to 348 TWh, nearly 5% of China’s total and slightly more than UK total. Nuclear generating capacity increased to 48.7 GWe, and a further 12 GWe is under construction. Coal still provides 72% of China’s electricity.
WNN 24/2/20.  China NP

Milestone for China’s nuclear industry

The first Hualong One nuclear power reactor has been connected to the grid, 66 months after start of construction. The 1090 MWe (net) Fuqing 5 represents a significant step for China as Hualong One is the first large reactor entirely designed there, though substantially evolved and improved from French designs whose provenance goes back to Westinghouse. Several other Hualong are under construction in China, plus two in Pakistan. The twin unit Fuqing 6 is due on line in 2021.

All but 18 of China’s 49 operating power reactors are essentially French 1000 MWe-class reactors built by China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) or China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN). From 2011, negotiations between CNNC and CGN grappled with the task of "merging" the French design with a variant from CNNC, as ordered by the National Energy Administration, with impetus given by the regulator. The Hualong One resulted, with a quite different core to the French-origin predecessors, and conforming to best international standards. Minor differences remain between CNNC and CGN versions. The CGN version of Hualong One will be the reference plant for the UK’s planned Bradwell B and also other projects abroad, while the CNNC version is being built in Pakistan. Both are in line with China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The first export Hualong One reactor is in Pakistan – Karachi 2.  Fuel loading is under way there and it is expected to start operation early next year, with a second one a year later. Pakistan has four Chinese reactors of about 300 MWe in operation at Chashma, 200 km from Islamabad, and a 49-year old Canadian reactor of 90 MWe at Karachi.
WNN 27/11/20 & 2/12/20.      China NP

Construction start for new reactors in China

China General Nuclear has started construction of Unit 1 of Huizhou Taipingling nuclear power plant in Guangdong province, close to Daya Bay plant. According to China Nuclear Energy Association and other sources, first concrete was poured for the HPR-1000 (Hualong One) just before the end of December. Unit 2 construction start is expected later this year.

China's nuclear electricity generation rose by 18.1% last year, to 348 TWh, according to its National Energy Administration. Nuclear share of total electricity production was 4.88% last year, up from 4.22% in 2018. China aims to have 200 GWe of nuclear generating capacity in place by 2035, out of a total generating capacity of 2600 GWe.
WNN 24/2/20.  China NP

Construction has started of the second Hualong One reactor at Zhangzhou nuclear power plant in Fujian province, eleven months after the first 1212 MWe unit. The two are expected in operation in 2024 and 2025, and will be followed by four more units there.  The plant is being built by CNNC-Guodian Zhangzhou Energy Company, which is 49% owned by China Guodian Corporation, one of the four large power companies unable to build nuclear plants on their own.

There are now seven Hualong One reactors under construction in China and two in Pakistan. Two are planned for Bradwell in UK. Fuel loading has commenced at the first of the Chinese units - Fuqing 5.  State Council has approved construction start on four more Hualong One reactors, at Cangnan/ San’ao in Zhejiang and Changjiang in Hainan.
WNN 4/9/20.      China NP

China General Nuclear Power has started construction of Huizhou Taipingling unit 2 in Guangdong province, near Daya Bay.  It is a Hualong One reactor of 1116 MWe net. Unit 1 construction started late in December.
IAEA PRIS & DY.163.com      China NP

China progresses new reactor projects

Construction on two significant reactor projects in China is proceeding while awaiting official authorisation in certain respects for installation of main components. In both projects there is significant equity from major generating companies which do not have authority to build and operate nuclear power plants on their own.

At Shidaowan in Shandong province the first of two CAP1400, or Guohe, reactors has been under construction for more than a year. This is a local development of the Westinghouse AP1000, four of which are now operating at Sanmen and Haiyang (and two more are under construction at Vogtle in USA). In 2009 the State Nuclear Plant Demonstration Company – a 55-45% joint venture company by State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and China Huaneng Group – was set up to build and operate an initial demonstration unit of the CAP1400, at Huaneng's Shidaowan site near Rongcheng. The 1500 MWe design was completed in 2012 and approved by the National Energy Administration in 2014. Most major components were ordered then and have been delivered. SNPTC has full intellectual property rights for the CAP1400 and hence sees export potential. The site is where the innovative small high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, HTR-PM, is being built.

At Changjiang on Hainan Island, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), in joint venture with China Guodian Corporation (49%), is building its first multi-purpose small modular reactor, the ACP100, or Linglong One. The basic design was completed early in 2016, with integral steam generators so that the whole reactor can be shipped from the factory in Bashan, Jilin province, as a single module. It produces about 125 MWe or 1000 GJ/hr process heat. It involves a joint venture of three companies for the demonstration plant: CNNC New Energy Corporation as owner and operator, the Nuclear Power Institute of China as the reactor designer, and China Nuclear Engineering Group being responsible for plant construction. More ACP100 units are planned at two sites in Jianxi province and then in Zhejiang and Heilongjiang provinces. At Changjiang there are two 600 MWe reactors operated by Hainan Nuclear Power Co Ltd, a CNNC joint venture with 49% Huaneng share.
WNN 22/7/19.   China NP

China starts building second demonstration fast reactor

Construction work has started on a second CFR-600 fast-neutron reactor at Xiapu in Fujian province. These comprise China’s demonstration fast reactor (CDFR) project, part of a plan to achieve a closed nuclear fuel cycle. Construction of unit 1 started in late 2017. They are sodium-cooled, pool-type reactors, with fuel from TVEL, a subsidiary of Russia's Rosatom,

China's research and development on fast neutron reactors started early, and a 65 MWt fast neutron reactor - the Chinese Experimental Fast Reactor (CEFR) - was designed by 2003 and built near Beijing by Russia's OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with OKB Gidropress, NIKIET and the Kurchatov Institute. It achieved first criticality in July 2010 and was grid-connected a year later to supply 20 MWe. Ongoing fuel is mixed-oxide (MOX). The two CDFR units are the next step in China Institute of Atomic Energy's (CIAE) program. Xiapu 1 is expected to be grid-connected in 2023. The reactors will be 1500 MWt, 600 MWe, with high thermal efficiency, using mixed oxide (MOX) fuel with 100 GWd/t burn-up. Later fuel will be metal with higher burn-up. Breeding ratio is about 1.1, design operational lifetime 40 years.

Russia is the world’s leader in fast-neutron reactor technology and has helped China considerably in this. However, the CDFR project represents a distinct Chinese step forward independent of established Russian designs though it still draws on Russian assistance. When the CDFR is proven, a CFR-1000 is envisaged as a full commercial design with almost twice the power. CIAE projections show a rapid expansion of fast reactors from mid-century, taking over from conventional reactors, but this is not official policy.
WNN 29/12/20.      China NP, China FC

New reactors start up in China

Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation has announced the start-up of Tianwan 5, a 1118 MWe Chinese ACPR1000 reactor, alongside four Russian VVER-1000 units. The ACPR1000 is rated at 1000 MWe net. The next two reactors at Lianyungang, Tianwan 7&8, will be Russian VVER-1200 types, with construction start expected at the end of this year.

Tianwan 5 is the third of six ACPR1000 reactors which represent the culmination of Chinese development of the 900 MWe French design, over 30 of which make up most of that country’s nuclear capacity. China has built and now operates 24 CPR-1000 reactors upgraded from the French design, and the ACPR1000, launched in 2011, has evolved from those with full Chinese intellectual property rights claimed. The six are: Yangjiang 5&6 now operating, with Tianwan 5&6 and Hongyanhe 5&6 approaching completion. Beyond these, the Hualong One reactor is being built, merging the proven CPR/ACPR with another paper design, the rationalisation being by political edict.
WNN 30/7/20.  China NP

China’s first Hualong One reactor has started up – unit 5 at Fuqing nuclear power plant in Fujian province. Construction started in May 2015. Hualong is the result of a government-ordered rationalization of two rival 1000 MWe class designs, with very different cores.
WNN 22/10/20.     China NP

New reactor in China connected to grid

Tianwan 5, a 1118 MWe (gross) Chinese ACPR1000 reactor, has been connected to the grid after 55 months construction. Unit 6 alongside it started construction about nine months behind it. Unit 5 becomes the 48th commercial reactor in operation and takes China’s nuclear power capacity to 46.5 GWe.  Tianwan 5&6 (phase III of the plant) were built as Chinese-designed reactors instead of continuing the line of four Russian VVER-1000s, as negotiations on pricing for units 3&4 had become drawn out. Due to urgency in meeting power demands, it appeared likely that Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation might build units 5&6 ahead of 3&4, using the ACPR1000 local technology with French provenance. The phase IV reactors, Tianwan 7&8, will be Russian VVER-1200 types, with construction start expected in December.

For units 5&6 ACPR1000, an EPC contract between Jiangsu NP and China Nuclear Power Engineering Corporation was signed in 2011, making CNPE the project manager. It contracted for both nuclear islands in June 2016 with China Nuclear Industry Huaxing Construction Co.  Dongfang Electric is supplying turbine generators using Arabelle low-speed technology, built under an agreement with GE Alstom. These are being supplied to most large new nuclear plants in China.
WNN 10/8/20.  China NP

New Chinese reactor starts commercial operation

Unit 5 of the Tianwan nuclear power plant, which was grid connected in August, has now transitioned to commercial operation.  Tianwan 5 & 6 are domestically-designed ACPR-1000 reactors of 1080 MWe (net), following on from four Russian VVER-1000s at the site. Units 7 & 8 will be larger and newer Russian VVER-1200 types.
WNN 9/9/20.   China NP

Major China generating company raises its nuclear profile

China Huaneng, one of the four essentially non-nuclear large electricity generators created in 2002, has announced its intention to increase its profile in the country’s expanding nuclear industry alongside China General Nuclear, with which it has a close relationship, CNNC’s China Nuclear Power, and the State Power Investment Corporation. During China's 14th five-year plan it proposes to consolidate three nuclear power bases: Shidaowan, Changjiang and Xiapu, and by 2035 build 15% of China’s new nuclear generating capacity and also achieve 15% of its power production from nuclear. The other three big generating companies - Huadian, Guodian and Datang - have only minor nuclear involvement, apart from Guodian 49% of Zhangzhou nuclear power plant and Huadian 39% of other projects. (Guodian has merged with Shenhua to form China Energy Investment Corporation.)

Huaneng already has 49% of the Changjiang nuclear power plant and is set to have 51% of phase 2 there, with two Hualong one units planned. It also has 45% of the major Shidaowan CAP-1400 project under construction and is the lead organisation with 47.5% of the innovative Shidaowan HTR project set to start operation soon. It has 10% share in the Xiapu fast reactor project under construction, and with CGN it founded the CNPRI China Nuclear Power Research Institute. It is an independent state-owned but incorporated business entity focused on power generation. Its total installed capacity is about 150 GWe (five times UK total) and turnover about CNY 300 billion ($44 billion). However, it has no major nuclear engineering subsidiary so will rely on CNNC’s China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Corporation (CNEC) and CGN which has pledged support in project management.
WNN 4/9/20, 23/4/19, 25/3/19, China NP

China approves first reactor operating licence extension, with uprate

China National Nuclear Power’s Qinshan 1 in Zhejiang province 100 km southwest of Shanghai is China’s first indigenously-designed and constructed nuclear power plant. Design of the 300 MWe PWR was by the Shanghai Nuclear Engineering Research & Design Institute (SNERDI). Construction work spanned 6.5 years from March 1985, with first grid connection in December 1991. In 2007 the CNP-300 reactor was substantially upgraded.  Areva NP (now Framatome) supervised the work, with a view to life extension beyond the default 30 years. As the end of its initial 30-year licence approached, in January 2020 the regulator NNSA concluded a safety review which said it was safe to uprate and extend the operating life by 20 years, to 2041. In April 2019, an upgrade to the turbine had increased net capacity, and in March 2020 the National Energy Administration approved a licence amendment to increase gross capacity from 310 to 330 MWe.

While no other CNP-300 units were built in China, four very similar CNP-300 reactors designed by SNERDI were built at Chashma in Pakistan, and in China the CNP-600, based on it but twice the size, was built: four at Qinshan and two at Changjiang on Hainan Island.
WNN 30/3/20.  China NP

Europe

EU climate action financing excludes nuclear power

The European Commission’s plan for at least EUR 1000 billion investment in ‘sustainable’ energy projects over the next decade excludes nuclear power from its main financial component, though nuclear already provides more than half of the EU’s low-carbon electricity output. The use of nuclear energy in the EU, from 126 reactors, avoids the emission of 700 million tonnes of CO2 each year. The European Green Deal Investment Plan (EGDIP), also known as the Sustainable Europe Investment Plan, is designed to mobilise public investment from the EU and the national public sector and help to unlock private funds through EU financial instruments, notably InvestEU.

EU industry association Foratom notes that a number of reports published over the last 18 months - such as by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the International Energy Agency (IEA) and even the European Commission itself - had highlighted that nuclear power is an essential component of a low-carbon economy. In addition, at the end of last year, several EU Member States made it clear that in order to commit to the 2050 decarbonisation targets then they must be allowed to invest in nuclear power. "The benefits of transitioning workers from the coal into the nuclear industry have already been demonstrated in both France and the UK", Foratom noted. "We therefore find it hard to justify such a proposal by the Commission. At the end of the day, the EU should be focusing on helping people in these regions to transition into low-carbon industries. Limiting the low-carbon sectors which will be eligible for such funds will make achieving our low-carbon targets without leaving anyone behind a lot more difficult - if not impossible".

In the light of EU failure to strongly endorse nuclear power, the Visegrad group comprising Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary, which are all keen to reduce reliance on Russian gas imports and cooperate closely on nuclear power issues, have reiterated their support for increased nuclear supply despite neighbouring Austria’s antipathy.
WNN 15 & 17/1/20.  Europe

France to base hydrogen strategy on present nuclear capacity

France’s national hydrogen strategy for zero-carbon hydrogen will depend substantially on the country’s nuclear power.  At present, making France’s 0.9 million tonnes of hydrogen per year from fossil fuels results in 9 Mt of CO2 emissions. France’s hydrogen plan announced in 2018 has been fleshed out with over 150 projects, and EdF has bought into an electrolyser manufacturer Hynamics. The new strategy focuses on three objectives with a €7 billion budget: install enough electrolysers to make a significant contribution to decarbonising the economy – 6.5 GW by 2030, develop clean mobility particularly for heavy vehicles, and build an industrial sector creating jobs and technological mastery.

The strategy is to integrate with that of the EU. France also aims to partner with Germany, which has budgeted €9 billion for its hydrogen strategy and aims for 5 GW electrolyser capacity by 2030, supposedly run with renewable energy. Hynamics points out that "Electrolysers have an optimal viability when they run for 5,000 hours a year”, ie 57% capacity factor, so surplus power from intermittent renewables is not a good match.  Using off-peak nuclear power for hydrogen will enable greater efficiency in France’s nuclear fleet and obviate the need for the load-following which is now routine due to the high proportion of nuclear power providing France’s electricity – about 75%.

According to a new report from energy research and consultancy firm LucidCatalyst, Missing link to a livable climate: How hydrogen-enabled synthetic fuels can help deliver the Paris goals, any major step will require far more clean hydrogen than can be produced with renewables. Hence a new generation of advanced modular reactors will be required to produce enough zero-carbon fuel to displace the 100 million barrels of oil that are currently consumed around the world each day. Using advanced modular reactors for electrolysis initially and then for high-temperature steam electrolysis, the projected cost would be dramatically less than trying to rely on renewables alone.

https://www.economie.gouv.fr/presentation-strategie-nationale-developpement-hydrogene-decarbone-france#    https://www.lucidcatalyst.com
WNN 17/9/20.      France, Hydrogen production and uses

UK

UK 10-point green plan relies heavily on nuclear power

Among eight technology-based energy possibilities, the UK’s Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution relies substantially on a commitment to develop nuclear power capacity, from large-scale units to small and advanced modular reactors. This is the only component of the plan which is well-proven commercially and capable of scaling up without incurring high costs to overcome intermittent energy supply. Hence nuclear power has a “key role” in deep decarbonisation of electricity. The Plan aims overall to transform the UK economy, deliver jobs and growth and “sets the firm foundations to do just that. The plan brings together ambitious policies and significant new public investment, while seeking to mobilise private investment” to the extent of £42 billion. It “demonstrates the UK’s significant and continuing commitment to tackling greenhouse gas emissions.” An Energy White Paper in December will start to “bring forward ambitious proposals across the economy to cut emissions and secure long-term growth for the whole country.” The UK has committed to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and the Plan is a first attempt to say how this might be achieved, though whether “firm foundations” is a fair description remains to be seen.

Anyway, among £12 billion of government investment to advance the green vision, only $525 million is allocated for nuclear initiatives, beyond the promise to provide development funding for large projects. Up to £385 million will support both small modular reactors and advanced high-temperature reactors for “efficient production of hydrogen and synthetic fuels”.  This modest commitment is despite noting that “83% of the $13.3 trillion of global investment in electricity systems by 2050 could be in zero-carbon technologies” (citing Bloomberg). A big increase in offshore wind power and £500 million for 5 GW of low-carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030 (using CCS) have less obvious merit economically, and several measures express bold hopes for progress on worthwhile fronts. Some £2.8 billion is for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, and up to £1 billion is to develop carbon capture, usage and storage (CCS) for 10 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030, to be stored under the North Sea.
WNN 18 & 19/11/20.      UK

UK leaves the European Union but maintains nuclear cooperation

Brexit on 31 December was preceded by signing a nuclear cooperation agreement between the United Kingdom and the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). This has been approved by all EU member states and takes effect on 1 January.  The agreement provides a framework for continuing trade in nuclear materials and technology, facilitates research and development, and enables exchange of information and expertise including on medical radioisotopes. It includes continuing involvement with the ITER fusion project.

Though the 1957 Euratom Treaty precedes the founding of the EU, it governs the peaceful use of nuclear energy within the EU. Euratom is a separate legal entity from the EU, but it is governed by the bloc's institutions.
WNN 29 & 30/12/20.   UK, EU

Hitachi withdraws from UK nuclear power projects

Having suspended developments last year, Hitachi has now announced that it is withdrawing from two planned nuclear power projects in UK: Wylfa and (later) Oldbury. Both were to have a pair of GE-Hitachi ABWR units built, 2760 MWe at each site, but attempts to establish a financing structure for Wylfa have failed.  The ABWR has been through the whole UK generic design assessment process since Hitachi bid for the project in 2012. A site licence had not been issued by the time work was suspended in January 2019.  By late 2016 Hitachi had spent £1.5 billion on engineering and preliminary site work for the project and for FY 2018 it posted a JPY 294.6 billion (£2.17 billion) impairment charge for the project.  Hitachi will now wind up its UK business operations related to the project but will “keep the lines of communication open” with government and other key stakeholders regarding future options at both its sites.

Two large French EPR reactors are under construction at Hinkley Point in UK by EdF and two more are planned at Sizewell. After that two Chinese Hualong One reactors are planned by China General Nuclear with EdF at Bradwell, but political considerations now make these uncertain. In case commercial financing arrangements for such major projects cannot be agreed and set up, the possible provision of government funding for large generating plants like Wylfa and Sizewell, hitherto firmly ruled out in government policy, is now being discussed. Electricity generation in UK was privatised in the 1990s and the wholesale market was liberalised.
​WNN 16/9/20.   UK

UK government funds advanced modular reactor and fusion designs

Under its Advanced Modular Reactor Feasibility & Development program, the UK Department of Business Energy & Industrial Strategy has awarded £10 million to each of three companies: Westinghouse, for its lead-cooled fast reactor; Urenco’s U-Battery consortium for its 4 MWe high temperature reactor; and Tokamak Energy for its compact fusion reactor project. A further £5 million will be for British companies and start-ups to develop new ways of manufacturing advanced nuclear parts for modular reactor projects both at home and abroad. Another £5 million is to strengthen the country’s nuclear regulatory regime as it engages with advanced nuclear technologies such as these.

The awards arise from a competition announced four years ago which resulted in 20 bids. From among these, eight contracts were awarded to produce feasibility studies. The UK government support is now for three innovative designs which are at an early stage of development. Other, more conventional designs are further ahead, including Rolls Royce’ PWR which is a small step from the naval reactors they have been building since 1960s.

The Westinghouse LFR arose from considering what technology might be most suitable for global deployment of nuclear plants for heat and power. It is scalable and with passive safety. It will have flexible output to complement intermittent renewable feed to the grid. Its high temperature – eventually 650°C – capabilities at atmospheric pressure will allow industrial heat applications. It is being developed with Italian and British partners, and initial licensing is envisaged in UK for a 300 MWe prototype operating at 500°C.

The Urenco U-Battery arises from a UK-Dutch study which called for European development of a very small 'plug and play' inherently-safe design, based on graphite-moderated, helium-cooled high temperature reactors. It will use TRISO fuel with 17-20% enriched uranium and possibly thorium. The 10 MWt design can produce 750°C process heat or up to 4 MWe back-up and off-grid power. Up to six small U-Batteries might comprise a plant and each would run for five years before refuelling and servicing. The company hopes to achieve first power by 2028.

Unlike the ambitious multi-billion euro ITER fusion project, not to mention the fusion reactor at the hub of our solar system, the Tokamak Energy compact spherical fusion reactor concept in UK is tiny – about three metres diameter. The ST40 tokamak is commissioned and has achieved impressive results already. The company is aiming for 100 million degrees Celsius to achieve deuterium-tritium fusion, and to have a prototype delivering electricity to the grid by 2030.
WNN 13/7/20.   UK

UK raises emissions reduction profile, heads for increased nuclear role

The British Prime Minister has officially launched the next UN climate summit, joined by Italian Prime Minister. The UK and Italy are co-hosts of COP26, which will be held in Glasgow in November. He called on all nations to follow the lead the UK took last year in becoming the first country to make a legal commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, albeit without corresponding policies to achieve that.

The UK Nuclear Industry Association said that to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, along with increased demand from electric vehicles and heating, the UK needed to quadruple its production of clean power. "Nuclear currently provides almost half of all our zero-carbon electricity, and to make progress we need to replace our retiring fleet, and then do more. The good news is we have nuclear projects waiting in the wings, ready to deliver clean power, jobs and investment and we have the means to do this at a dramatically reduced cost.” The launch also kicks off a Year of Climate Action, with events to take place in all four subsidiary nations of the UK.

Meanwhile, with UK nuclear expansion dependent on imported reactor designs, the UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency have completed Step 3 - "overall design, safety case and security arguments review" - in their scrutiny of the leading Chinese export model. They will now start the fourth and final stage in the Generic Design Assessment process of the HPR1000 reactor design - "detailed design, safety case, and security evidence assessment". This is the 1150 MWe Hualong One design that General Nuclear Services - a subsidiary of EDF and China General Nuclear - proposes to build at Bradwell, near London.
WNN 4 & 13/2/20.  UK

UK Royal Society promotes nuclear cogeneration

A report from the Royal Society, the UK’s independent scientific academy, suggests that nuclear plants should be able to switch output between electricity and heat so as to fit in better with increasing proportion of power from intermittent renewables. Its main focus is heat rather than surplus electricity (as with so-called ‘green’ hydrogen), and it outlines a number of cogeneration options for either low or high-temperature heat. For low temperatures (100-200°C), district heating is already well established in other countries using what is otherwise waste heat, and 50 conurbations in UK have potential. For high temperatures (over 400°C, and representing 26% of total industrial heat demand in EU), hydrogen /ammonia production and desalination are both options where the product can be stored, so need not be continuous in the same way as meeting base-load electricity demand. Coal to liquids processes can also use heat in this range. In the UK 14 of its nuclear fleet are Advanced Gas-cooled Reactors (AGR of 480 to 620 MWe each) which operate at over 600°C, as do a few of the advanced small modular reactors under development. An Appendix considers nuclear steelmaking.
https://royalsociety.org/-/media/policy/projects/nuclear-cogeneration/2020-10-7-nuclear-cogeneration-policy-briefing.pdf
WNN 8/10/20.   Process heat

France

Oldest French reactors finish operation

EdF has retired its 880 MWe Fessenheim 1 nuclear reactor after 42 years service. This is largely brought about by a 2015 law which aims to limit nuclear capacity. Its output will be replaced in the short term by a new combined-cycle gas plant and eventually by the Flamanville 3 nuclear reactor which is long overdue for completion. Nuclear power supplies about 75% of France’s electricity.
WNN 24/2/20.  France

EdF’s second Fessenheim reactor has finally been closed down for decommissioning. Unit 1 was closed in February. The two 880 MWe reactors have operated since 1977 and 1978. A French law requires old plants to be shut down before new ones are brought on line. EdF has been building a 1650 MWe EPR reactor at Flamanville since 2007. It is dramatically over budget and late but may start up in 2023. Fessenheim will be replaced by gas-fired capacity.
WNN 30/6/20.  France

EdF reduces 2020 output forecast by nearly one quarter

Electricité de France estimates that the coronavirus pandemic will reduce its nuclear output in France to about 300 billion kilowatt hours this year, down from an expectation of 375-390 TWh before the outbreak. It then expects to supply 330-360 TWh each year in 2021 and 2022. EdF has extended outages on several reactors and notes that electricity consumption in France is expected to drop by about 20% due to the economic slowdown.
WNN 16/4/20.  France

France suffers effect of nuclear maintenance slowdown,

Electricité de France has reported that more than one quarter of its nuclear generating capacity was not available, and grid operator RTE has announced that demand is down 15% on the same time in 2019.  Electricité de France has revised its nuclear generation target for 2020 due to coronavirus-related disruption of its plant maintenance schedules, due to workers being confined to home. Plans are being revised to maximise winter 2020-21 capacity after Fessenheim 2 closes in mid-year, leaving EdF with only 56 nuclear units totalling 61.3 GWe. Orano has suspended operation of the La Hague reprocessing plant. France's nuclear safety regulator ASN said it was working closely with the nuclear licensees and activity managers "to analyse the nuclear safety and radiation protection consequences of the measures taken to deal with the ongoing health emergency".
WNN 24/3/20, Platts 23/3/20.  France

Netherlands

Netherlands revives nuclear power prospects

After years of official indifference and the closure of a 55 MWe demonstration reactor after 29 years operation, the Dutch government is reconsidering the virtues of nuclear power.  The Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Policy has submitted a commissioned report by consultants Enco to the Dutch parliament, pointing out that “nuclear energy is no more expensive than wind and solar if the system costs are included” as they ultimately need to be. He said that nuclear is one of the most cost-effective options for reliable CO2-free electricity after 2030, and also "the safest way of producing energy per terawatt hour". The Enco report says that "the main hurdle nowadays remains the economics of new nuclear power", but that experience in China shows that plants can be built on time and to budget. Small and medium-sized reactors "allow a more incremental" investment than do large-scale plants.

The country’s 482 MWe Borssele reactor continues to provide reliable power, as it has since 1973. A second and larger unit at the site has been proposed.
WNN 28/9/20.      Netherlands

Slovakia

Slovakia reactor power uprate

Four Russian VVER 440 reactors operate in Slovakia – at Bohunice and Mochovce. The two at Bohunice, in operation from 1984 & 1985, have been substantially upgraded with gross capacity increasing nearly 15% to 505 MWe. The two at Mochovce were grid connected in 1998 and 1999 and were upgraded in 2008. Now unit 2 has had turbines overhauled and partly replaced to uprate it to over 500 MWe gross and about 470 MWe net. Unit 1 will follow next year.
WNN 18/8/20.      

Germany

German study identifies half the country suitable for waste repository

Germany’s nuclear waste management organisation BGE has identified 90 areas covering 54% of the country as likely to be geologically suitable for a deep geological repository for high-level wastes, giving credible security for a million years as the radioactivity decays to backgrounds levels. They are in clay, salt and igneous rock. A decision is planned in 2031.
WNN 29/9/20.   Germany

Sweden

Sweden’s Ringhals 1 reactor closes down

After 44 years’ service, the Ringhals 1 nuclear power reactor on Sweden’s west coast, an 881 MWe boiling water reactor, has closed down. The owners, Vattenfall (70.4%) and Sydkraft (29.6%) cite commercial reasons. Unit 2 at the site was closed a year ago, but Ringhals 3 & 4 are expected to operate for at least 60 years, through to the 2040s.  Nuclear power provides about 40% of Sweden’s electricity, now from six reactors, the others being three at Forsmark and one at Oskarshamn. Hydro provides a similar amount, depending on annual precipitation. Sweden uniquely levied a capacity tax on nuclear power until 2019, which added about EUR 7.50/MWh to costs and made routine upgrading especially of Ringhals 1 & 2 uneconomic.

There is some prospect of building replacement nuclear power capacity in Sweden, at Ringhals, though there are no firm plans and energy policy is hostage to political alliances. Public support for nuclear is strong.
WNN 31/12/20.   Sweden

Finland

Finland licenses by-product uranium recovery

While there have been no uranium mines in Finland, in 2010 Talvivaara Mining Company announced that it planned to recover 350 tU/yr as a by-product of nickel and zinc production from suphidic black shales (schists) through its subsidiary Talvivaara Sotkamo Ltd. The process would use bacterial heap leaching at Sotkamo in northeastern Finland, over 46 years. The company then signed an agreement with Cameco to build a €45 million plant for uranium recovery, using solvent extraction. Cameco would take all the uranium production to 2027. In 2014 Talvivaara Sotkamo became bankrupt and operations ceased, with the uranium plant almost complete.

A subsidiary of state-owned Terrafame Oy then took over, and applied for a permit to recover uranium as a by-product. The company said that about €75 million had already been invested in the uranium plant and only another €10 million was required. In 2017 the company received permission to conduct laboratory-scale solvent extraction of rare earth elements and uranium. The government has now granted a permit for commercial uranium recovery.

There is an enormous amount of uranium in black shale deposits in Scandinavia, Central Asia, China and USA – 50 million tonnes is estimated. Apart from 200 tonnes produced in Sweden in 1960s, this will be the first commercial production from such deposits.
WNN 6/1/20.  Finland

Poland

Poland firms up nuclear power plans to diminish coal

In a new draft energy policy to 2040, coal will be phased out more rapidly than earlier intended.  The policy is expected to be adopted later this year. Today coal provides three quarters of the country’s electricity.  The plan envisages 23% from renewables, mainly wind, but identifies the need for zero-emission power that is not weather-dependent as fundamental. The government aims to commission the country’s first nuclear power unit in 2033, with more reactors joining it every 2-3 years, up to six units in total. This would be 6 to 9 GWe, capable of supplying one quarter to one third of the country’s electricity. Offshore wind energy capacity is to increase to 8-11 GWe by 2040, at much lower capacity factors.

The Climate Minister said that the transformation of the Polish energy sector would be fair and that European funds of €13.49 billion would help finance this transition. He explained to EU leadership that “Poland, following good example and experience from other Member States, intends to develop nuclear power to replace the base-load capacity provided by coal with a zero-emission, stable generation at a cost affordable for Polish citizens and economy."

Five western and South Korean reactor vendors have expressed interest in Polish plans. Russian technology is not under consideration. Construction of the first large nuclear power reactor is envisaged from 2026. Meanwhile there is close cooperation with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency on high-temperature gas-cooled reactors with a view to hydrogen production.
WNN 9/9/20.    Poland

US-Poland agreement to supply nuclear power plants

Poland firmed up its intention to build six nuclear power reactors by 2040 for about $40 billion. The USA has now provisionally agreed to support Poland on the basis of it spending $18 billion on US nuclear technology and services from companies such as Westinghouse, Bechtel and Southern Company. Poland's Secretary of State for Strategic Energy Infrastruct-ure said that this strategic cooperation “is about geopolitical security, long-term economic growth, technological advancement, and development of a new industrial sector in Poland.”
WNN 20/10/20.   Poland

Polish interest in small and micro reactors for industrial heat and power

Synthos Green Energy (SGE) in Poland is a subsidiary of a major European chemical company, and is set up to achieve “deep decarbonisation of the Polish industry and energy sector”. Apart from wind energy, its main focus is on small US nuclear reactors. In August it signed a strategic cooperation agreement with GE Hitachi with a view to using its BWRX-300 reactor in Poland, primarily for electricity in the late 2020s. This has been followed by an agreement with Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) for its Micro Modular Reactor (MMR) to generate hydrogen, heat, and power for use in SGE’s chemical plants, replacing coal and natural gas. The MMR is a 15 MWt/ 5 MWe high-temperature gas-cooled reactor at an earlier stage of development than the BWRX-300, which is based on a well-established design.

USNC and SGE have already jointly applied to the Polish Ministry of Development for financing. The goal of the joint project is the development of an economically efficient, zero-emission, high-temperature heat and power source for the carbon-free production of hydrogen on an industrial scale. The efficiency of the cogeneration involved in this process would greatly exceed that of renewable energy sources in low-temperature electrolysis – so-called “green hydrogen”.

USNC’s MMR is planned for full demonstration at the Chalk River site of the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, with the support of Canada's largest nuclear operator, Ontario Power Generation. In Canada, the MMR is intended for off-grid and industrial applications, supplying heat and power for clean and reliable energy at a lower cost than fossil fuels. Hyundai Engineering and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute are partners in development and deployment of the MMR.
WNN 4/11/20.   Poland

Baltic states & Belarus

Estonia beefs up feasibility study on deploying small modular reactors

Sweden’s Vattenfall has joined Finland’s Fortum and Belgium’s Tractebel in a feasibility study for Fermi Energia which is expected to report early in 2021. Fermi Energia was set up early in 2019 by a group of Estonian science and energy professionals, including the former head of state energy company Eesti Energia, to deploy SMRs in the country. Fermi Energia is including NuScale SMR, Terrestrial Energy ISMR-400, GE Hitachi BWRX-300 and Moltex SSR-W300 in its feasibility study. The company said that Estonia had "no other credible choice" than nuclear energy for security of power supply, with most of its electricity now coming from a diminishing and CO2-intensive resource of shale oil, which has significant environmental impact. About 1500 MWe of nuclear capacity comprising six or more small reactors would meet demand.
WNN 19/3/20.  Emerging countries, Small reactors

First Belarus nuclear power reactor starts operation, Lithuania protests

The first of two reactors at Belarus’ Ostrovets nuclear power plant has been connected to the grid. This is a Russian VVER-1200 unit, the same as that at Leningrad II in Russia. Unit 2 at Ostrovets is about a year behind it. The plant is close to the Lithuanian border, and is to reduce Belarus’ dependence on imported Russian gas. The Ostrovets plant is financed by a state-to-state $10 billion loan from the Russian government.

Lithuania responded to the grid connection by ceasing electricity import from Belarus, in line with its law sanctioning Ostrovets, which is only 55km from Vilnius. It has been importing about 5% of its electricity from Belarus and 45% from Sweden, and exporting some to Poland. Until 2009 Lithuania hosted two Russian RBMK reactors, similar to but larger than those at Chernobyl. The country’s 2012 energy policy involves rebuilding its grid to disengage from the Russian/Belarus system and to work in with the European Network of Transmission System Operators (ENTSO) synchronous system, as well as strengthening interconnection with Latvia and Estonia. The three Baltic states are expected to synchronise with the Western European system in 2025.
WNN 4/11/20.   Belarus

USA

Record US nuclear power performance

The USA has 98 nuclear power reactors in 30 states, operated by 30 different power companies. Last year these generated 809 TWh despite the retirement of two units, accounting for about 20% of total US electricity generated. The average US capacity factor has risen from 50% in the early 1970s, to 70% in 1991, and it passed 90% in 2002, remaining at around that level since.  Last year it was a record 93.5%, compared with wind 34.8% and solar PV 24.5% (EIA data). The industry invests about $7.5 billion per year in maintenance and upgrades of the plants.
WNN 3/7/20.   US NP

US energy policy under new Administration

US president-elect Joe Biden has published an outline of policies on climate change, including investment in the power sector and innovation. His future administration would "move ambitiously to generate clean, American-made electricity to achieve a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035" and "drive dramatic cost reductions in critical clean energy technologies, including battery storage, negative emissions technologies, the next generation of building materials, renewable hydrogen, and advanced nuclear - and rapidly commercialise them, ensuring that those new technologies are made in America".

The 2020 Democratic Party Platform included: “Recognizing the urgent need to decarbonize the power sector, our technology-neutral approach is inclusive of all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.” Also that the U.S. should continue “to leverage the carbon-pollution free energy provided by existing sources like nuclear and hydropower.”  This marked the first time since 1972 that the Party had anything positive about nuclear power in its platform. The previous platform in 2016 was heavily influenced by anti-nuclear ‘environmental’ groups. The change followed two years of bipartisan support for legislation in Congress which aims to restore the USA to a high profile in world nuclear technology and nuclear exports which it had lost since the 1970s.
WNN 9/11/20.   US NP

US Democratic Party adopts positive stance on nuclear power

In the 2020 Democratic Party Platform: “Recognizing the urgent need to decarbonize the power sector, our technology-neutral approach is inclusive of all zero-carbon technologies, including hydroelectric power, geothermal, existing and advanced nuclear, and carbon capture and storage.” Also “We will build a modern electric grid by investing in interstate transmission projects and advanced, 21st century grid technologies.” This marks the first time since 1972 that the Party has had anything positive about nuclear power in its platform. The previous platform in 2016 was heavily influenced by anti-nuclear ‘environmental’ groups.

The change follows two years of bipartisan support for legislation in Congress which aims to restore the USA to a high profile in world nuclear technology and nuclear exports which it had lost since the 1970s. In September 2018 bipartisan legislation designed to drive US nuclear innovation including the commercialisation of advanced reactors was signed into law after approval by Congress - the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act removed some of the financial and technological barriers standing in the way of nuclear innovation. Early last year the Nuclear Energy Innovation and Modernisation Act, streamlining US nuclear regulation and supporting the establishment of a licensing framework for next-generation advanced reactors was signed into effect, after being passed in the House by 361 to 10 votes and in the Senate on voices. In July 2020 the legacy prohibition on US funding for nuclear energy projects overseas was lifted as the US International Development Finance Corporation found overwhelming support for the change.
WNN 19/9/18, 17/1/19, 24/8/20.   USA NP

USA strengthens geopolitical nuclear links

Following the lifting of its prohibition on funding nuclear power plants overseas, the US government has announced three significant nuclear cooperation agreements, with Poland, Romania and Bulgaria in eastern Europe, and also extending one with India. Each of these, according to the State Department, “strengthens and expands strategic ties between the United States and a partner country by providing a framework for cooperation on civil nuclear issues and for engagement between experts from government, industry, national laboratories, and academic institutions.” In addition, they are “helping partner countries prepare to take advantage of the advanced nuclear technologies and coming innovations in reactor design and other areas that are being pioneered in the United States” - after three decades of declining US interest. Last year nuclear-related legislation enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress for the first time since the 1970s, and for the first time since 1972 the Democratic Party platform includes positive mention of “existing and advanced nuclear” power.

The July change to US Development and Finance Corporation policy marked a "significant step forward" in US efforts to support the “vast” energy needs of its allies around the world, and to accelerate growth in developing economies that have limited energy resources. It also represents a geopolitical step up to offer at least some competition to Russia, which has numerous nuclear cooperation agreements around the world driven by Rosatom and the Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs (Vnesheconombank). For countries embarking upon nuclear power Rosatom promotes its ability to make an integrated offer for its nuclear power plants abroad, involving not only turnkey construction and fuel, but also training, services, infrastructure development, legal and regulatory structures, etc. in a single package. Such links are very long-term. Russia is preeminent in exporting large reactors, with projects in Bangladesh, Belarus, China, Egypt, Finland, India, Iran, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Hungary either under construction or with planning well advanced.
WNN 24/7/20, 12/10/20, 20/10/20, 29/10/20      US policy

USA to finance overseas nuclear power projects

The USA has lifted its legacy prohibition on funding nuclear energy projects overseas. The US International Development Finance Corporation changed its Environmental and Social Policy and Procedures following a 30-day public consultation period which showed overwhelming support for the revision. The DFC policy change was driven both by US stakeholders and international concerns about waning US influence in nuclear security.

It marks a "significant step forward" in US efforts to support the “vast” energy needs of its allies around the world, and to accelerate growth in developing economies that have limited energy resources. The update recognises the strategic opportunity of new and advanced technologies including small modular reactors that could be particularly relevant to these markets. The US Energy Secretary added that "Reversing this ban is a commonsense action that will increase global energy security and help other countries meet their own emissions reduction goals while providing their citizens with reliable base-load generation."

The DFC - the USA's development bank - works in partnership with the private sector to finance projects in developing countries, and invests across a range of sectors to a limit of $60 billion. Its Procedures, inherited from progenitor organisations and formalised in 2010, had previously prohibited investment in nuclear power projects, leaving the field to Russian and Chinese technology with state financing on favourable terms, and imposing a major hindrance to the export of US reactors and nuclear technology.

The Center for Strategic & International Studies notes that Russia and China are beginning to shape the future of the global nuclear industry.  The USA, “which had supplied about 90 percent of the reactors in the Western world until early 1970s, has no nuclear power project under construction overseas, while Russia accounts for two-thirds of the globally exported nuclear power projects under construction today”.
​WNN 24/7/20.  USA, Emerging countries, Safeguards

Further US reactor given licence renewal to 80 years

After substantially upgrading the Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Pennsylvania over the last seven years, including a 12% uprate in capacity of each reactor to 1330 MWe net, Exelon has been granted a licence renewal for units 2 & 3 which could take them to 2054. They are boiling water reactors which came on line in 1973 and 1974, and had an initial 20-year licence renewal in 2003. These bring to four the number of operating licences to 80 years, and four more are under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
WNN 28/1/20, 9/3/20.  USA NP

US regulator issues first small modular reactor design approval

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued a standard design approval to NuScale Power, LLC for the NuScale small modular reactor (SMR). This allows the design to be referenced in applications for construction, operating and manufacturing licences and permits in the USA. This completes the NRC technical review of the design after three and a half years. Some funding for the development has been provided by the government. Under the design approval, up to 12 modules of 50 MWe each will comprise a nuclear power station. However, NuScale has subsequently increased the unit output, and will apply in 2022 for the same approval for the 60 MWe version. The condenser circuit may be air-cooled, with about 5% loss of power.

The Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) is working with NuScale to build a 12-unit plant at a site at the Idaho National Laboratory. However some of the UAMPS members have pulled out of the project, testing the financial flexibility of such an enterprise which is to a large extent progressively constructed. The first module is expected to operate from 2029.
WNN 30/9/20.   Small reactors, US NP

US approves $1.355 billion award for first major SMR project

The US Department of Energy has approved a $1.355 billion cost-share award over ten years to build a 720 MWe power plant comprising twelve NuScale small modular reactors. The NuScale design has almost completed regulatory design certification. The plant in Idaho will be owned by Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) and operated by Energy Northwest. Nuscale expects the first unit to be operating in mid 2029 to supply 33 member utilities in five states.  The estimated full cost of the project is over $6.1 billion. Projected LCOE is $55/MWh for reliable power complementing UAMPS supply from renewables.

Meanwhile, the US International Development Finance Corporation is supporting NuScale Power in contributing to South Africa’s nuclear energy roadmap for up to 2500 MWe of new nuclear power capacity. The 2019 Integrated Resource Plan called for construction of two small modular reactors by 2030.
WNN 19/10/20.   US Nuclear power policy

US micro-reactor developer applies for licence

After pre-application talks since 2016, Oklo Inc has submitted a combined construction and operating licence (COL) application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its 1.5 MWe Aurora micro-reactor. This is the first COL application using a new procedure for advanced reactor technologies. Oklo said that "We are excited to show that an application for a fundamentally different fission technology can meet and exceed existing regulations while not being impeded by guidance based on nuclear plants of decades ago." 

Oklo aims to build the first Aurora heatpipe reactor at the Idaho National Laboratory which is providing Oklo with high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) fuel from a decommissioned experimental reactor there. The fast neutron reactor will use U-Zr metallic fuel, and features sealed heat pipes containing a fluid for passive cooling. It will be installed below grade and is designed to operate for 20 years before refuelling. The US Department of Energy in December issued a site use permit for the reactor to be built at Idaho National Laboratory. Oklo has received some funding from the DOE cost-shared Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative.
WNN 18/3/20.  USA NP

US Defence Department funds development of microreactors

After announcing its Project Pele in January 2019 and calling for expressions of interest, the US Department of Defense (DOD) has shortlisted three companies to develop a "small mobile reactor" design which could address electrical power needs in rapid response scenarios. These would change the logistics of forward operating bases, both by making more energy available and by simplifying fuel logistics needed for existing, mostly diesel-powered, generators. They would also enable a more rapid response during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

DOD wanted each reactor to be a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor (HTR) with high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) TRISO fuel and produce a threshold power of 1-10 MWe for at least three years without refuelling. It must be inherently safe, weigh less than 40 tonnes and be sized for transportability by truck, ship, and C-17 aircraft. The reactor must be capable of being installed to the point of "adding heat" within 72 hours of set-up, and of completing a planned shutdown, cool down, disconnect and removal in under seven days. (TRISO fuel is millimetre-sized particles of uranium oxycarbide with carbon moderator and silicon carbide, stable to about 1800°C.)

DOD has now awarded contracts to BWX Technologies, X-energy and Westinghouse for design work over two years, after which a design would be selected.  X-energy has larger pebble-bed HTR designs at present, and eVinci is a heatpipe reactor. Westinghouse said it would develop the “defense-eVinci mobile design,” evidently now ‘DeVinci’ using TRISO fuel. A prototype microreactor would be built at Idaho or Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

And DOE’s innovative microreactor is suddenly in the news:
At the same time the Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a contract to BWXT to fabricate HALEU TRISO fuel to support development of DOE's Transformational Challenge Reactor (TCR) project. The small HTR, reported to be 3 MWt, is to be built at Oak Ridge to demonstrate reduced deployment costs “using a rapid advanced manufacturing approach.” DOE intends the reactor to be designed and built using 3D printing, and achieve criticality by 2023. “An agile approach to design, manufacturing, and testing is employed to meet this schedule and to deliver a new paradigm to designing and deploying nuclear systems.” The TCR reactor core consists of uranium nitride TRISO fuel particles within an advanced manufactured silicon carbide structure (rather than pebbles). These fuel blocks will be interspersed with yttrium hydride moderator elements.
WNN 10/3/20, 12/3/20.  Small reactors

US small modular reactor design submitted for licensing

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) has begun the regulatory licensing process for its BWRX-300 small modular reactor, with the company submitting documentation to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) at the end of December. The NRC is already well advanced with licensing the 50 MWe NuScale SMR which will be deployed as power stations of up to 12 modules.

The BWRX-300 is a 300 MWe water-cooled, natural circulation SMR with passive safety systems that leverages the design and licensing basis of the company’s large ESBWR, which has US design certification. Through design simplification, GEH expects the BWRX-300 to cost significantly less per MW compared with other water-cooled SMR designs or existing large nuclear reactor designs. The company says that as the tenth evolution of GE’s first Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) design, the BWRX-300 represents the simplest, yet most innovative BWR design since GE began commercializing nuclear reactors in 1955. It is envisaged as single unit power stations, possibly replacing coal-fired plants and using their established infrastructure.
WNN 31/1/20.  USA NP

US launches Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program

The US Department of Energy has offered funds, initially $160 million, on a cost-share basis for the construction of two advanced reactors that can be operational within seven years. The Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program will concentrate resources on designs that are "affordable" to build and operate. The Program will extend also to risk reduction for future demonstrations, and Advanced Reactor Concepts 2020 to support innovative and diverse designs with the potential to be commercial in the mid-2030s.  It articulates with the National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) to test and assess advanced technologies. NRIC, at the Idaho National Laboratory, was launched last year to develop the DOE's Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative, connecting industry with the US national laboratories to accelerate the development and commercialisation of advanced nuclear technologies.

The USA is notable for the number and diversity of small reactor designs being brought forward in the last 15 years, mostly by private enterprise. There are about 30 different US designs, with the NuScale 60 MWe reactor and GE-Hitachi BWRX 300 MWe reactors apparently in the lead.
WNN 14/5/20.  US nuclear power policy, Small Reactors

Initial grants under US Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program

In May the US Department of Energy set up a $3.2 billion cost-share program for the construction of advanced reactors that can be operational within seven years. Two initial grants have now been announced: $80 million each to TerraPower and X-energy to build demonstration plants.  X-energy will build four units of its Xe-100, a 75 MWe high-temperature gas-cooled small modular reactor, and a TRISO fuel plant for them. TerraPower will build the Natrium fast neutron reactor developed with GE Hitachi and based on its 345 MWe PRISM reactor, with added heat storage. The secondary coolant is molten salt which can be stored hot or used to make steam in a heat exchanger, switching between the two as required so that plant output can vary between 30% and 150% of reactor power.

The DOE program is designed to claw back some of the technological status in nuclear power that the USA enjoyed four decades ago. Key criteria for selecting applicants included innovative reactor design and credible management team able to supply the required 50-50 match in resources and deliver the projects within seven years. DOE worked closely with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission since licensing will be required.  Funding awards for up to five further projects with longer time horizons are expected in December.
WNN 14/10/20.   US Nuclear power policy

Innovative small US reactor design launched with French support

General Atomics, which has pioneered high-temperature gas-cooled reactor technology in the USA since the 1970s, has teamed up with Framatome to launch a fast neutron HTR version – the 50 MWe Fast Modular Reactor (FMR). This corresponds with one of the six designs promoted by the Generation IV International Forum (GIF) and the only one without operating antecedents. It will be helium-cooled, using the Brayton cycle at 45% thermal efficiency and is likely to use GA’s proprietary SiGA silicon-carbide composite fuel with high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), changed over at nine years. The FMR will have fast-response load-following capability of about 20% per minute ramping up or down to fit in with intermittent renewables, though it will also provide process heat, probably over 700°C. It will be factory-built and assembled on site. A demonstration unit is expected to operate in early 2030s. The French involvement may relate to the Allegro concept of gas-cooled fast reactor developed there from 2006 but taken over by an Eastern European consortium V4G4 in 2015 and now central to that GIF technology program.
WNN 14/10/20.   Small reactors

Further US reactor power uprates

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved thermal power uprates to Southern Nuclear Operating Company’s Farley 1 & 2 reactors in Alabama. With other plant upgrades that will add 34 MWe to unit 1 and 43 MWe to unit 2, to bring them to 944 and 953 MWe respectively. They have operated since 1977 and 1981.
WNN 22/10/20.      US NP

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a 1.4% power uprate Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 2 reactor. That will add about 16 MWe to it, bringing it to about 1180 MWe net. It is the USA’s newest operating reactor, having come on line in 2016.
WNN 28/10/20.      US NP

Large US reactor retired

Unit 2 of Entergy's Indian Point nuclear power plant has been finally shut down after more than 45 years of operation, taking 998 MWe of emission-free and reliable capacity offline close to New York city. Unit 3 of the plant in New York state is scheduled to be permanently shut down by this time next year, pursuant to a settlement agreement with the State government. Entergy last year announced the proposed post-shutdown sale of the subsidiaries that own the three Indian Point units - including Indian Point 1, which operated from 1962 until 1974 - to a subsidiary of Holtec International for accelerated decommissioning.
WNN 30/4/20.  USA NP

Decommissioning of retired US nuclear plants gathers pace at reduced cost

After 34 years operation, in 2009 Progress Energy closed its 860 MWe Crystal River 3 nuclear reactor to replace a steam generator. This involved cutting a large hole in the containment structure, the satisfactory repair of which was later deemed to be impractical.  After a corporate merger, Duke Energy in 2013 decided to decommission the plant. It faced a cost for this of $1.18 billion (2013 dollars), with the process stretching out to 2074. Most of the work would be done near the end of that period, when the decommissioning trust funds, of about $800 million in 2013, would have accumulated plenty of interest. More rapid dismantling was expected to cost $994 million, but the shortfall would then need to be picked up by ratepayers. Either way, the used fuel would remain in the plant’s pool storage until 2019 and then progressively be transferred to an independent spent fuel storage installation (ISFSI) on site, in dry storage casks.

In the last few years several specialist decommissioning enterprises have sprung up in USA to address this kind of issue. Now the Florida Public Service commission has approved Accelerated Decommissioning Partners, a Northstar-Orano joint venture, completing demolition of the whole plant by 2027 and managing the ISFSI to 2038. This is for a firm price of $540 million, fully covered by the existing trust funds of over $700 million. The balance, plus any money recovered from suing the Department of Energy, would be returned to ratepayers.  Every US nuclear plant builds up its decommissioning trust fund as it operates.

Duke Energy, along with most other nuclear utilities, have had to build dry storage ISFSI facilities at their plants due to the failure of the federal government to take their used fuel. The 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act required used fuel to be moved to a central national repository by 1998. Establishment of such a repository has been derailed by politics. Collectively, utilities had paid over $20 billion for this service, but each then had to expand on-site storage capacity. Settlement of such lawsuits is expected to total over $30 billion.
WNN 19/8/20.   Decommissioning, US fuel cycle

California electricity emergency

California has experienced power shortages with rolling blackouts. Due to a severe, but not extraordinary, heatwave coinciding with little wind, day-ahead electricity prices spiked at above $1000/MWh. Demand climbed to 49 GWe, close to record peak. CAISO, the independent system operator, declared a high-level emergency for the first time in 20 years and ordered consumers to reduce electricity demand to avoid worse blackouts. The state normally relies on importing nearly one third of its power, but high demand interstate has constrained imports.

The state has some 12.7 GWe of solar on grid, which fades out as each evening peak arrives, and about 7 GWe of wind capacity which depends on the weather. About 12 GWe of reliable gas-fired capacity has been retired in the last eight years. The state’s renewable portfolio standard mandates that 60% of its electricity must come from renewable energy (mainly wind and solar power) by 2030.

Until mid 2013 California had two nuclear power plants: Diablo Canyon and San Onofre – with four PWR reactors totalling 4.4 GWe capacity. However, San Onofre was closed down in 2013, taking 2150 MWe offline, and the continued operation of Diablo Canyon is in question. In June 2016, retirement of the two reactors in 2024 & 2025 after only 40 years of service was announced, taking out 2256 MWe. This decision resulted from a complex political deal, and the output will be replaced largely by natural gas generation.
California

Proposal for small reactors to power Puerto Rico

Phase 1 of a feasibility study funded by the US Department of Energy has concluded that small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors could be cost competitive with natural gas to complement intermittent renewable sources in Puerto Rico (population 3.2 million). The report proposes a set of legislative amendments to maximise the competitiveness of electricity production by SMRs and microreactors which can withstand severe natural events such as hurricanes and earthquakes.  “Advanced nuclear reactors provide a combination of reduced electricity costs, zero-emission baseload electricity and minimal dependency on fuel imports that can lead to a strong degree of energy security and reliability [which is] much needed.”

Puerto Rico’s legislature in 2018 passed a bill calling for an investigation into the prospect of building nuclear power plants on the island, which suffered widespread and prolonged outages following Hurricane Maria in 2017. There was severe damage to the grid, along with destruction of some wind and solar PV capacity. The new study found high public interest in the deployment of nuclear reactors. Over 3000 residents were surveyed, with 94% saying they favoured exploring the option of nuclear energy for the island.  Phase two of the study will focus on the viability of constructing small reactors at particular locations and an education campaign for the people of Puerto Rico. The suitability of sites for advanced nuclear reactors will be assessed in accordance with US Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations.
WNN 21/5/20.   Small Reactors

Mars Rover launched by USA

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover has been launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida on an Atlas rocket. The 1050 kg rover, powered by a Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator (RTG) developed at the US Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory, will land on Mars to begin exploration in February 2021. It will join the similar Curiosity rover which has been exploring Mars since 2012, with the same power source.

The INL-developed Multi-Mission RTG comprises eight heat source units with total 4.8 kg of plutonium-238 oxide producing 2 kW thermal from decay heat, which can be used to generate some 110 watts of electric power, 2.7 kWh/day. It will supply the vehicle with heat and power, providing electricity for the rover's basic operations and also keeping its tools and systems at optimal temperatures. A new laser will enable detailed study of the composition of rocks and soils up to six metres away. The mission marks the first time that samples will be collected to bring back to Earth - on a future mission. Attached to the belly of the rover and weighing about 1.8 kg is NASA’s Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, designed for the thin atmosphere and extreme cold. The twin-rotor, solar-powered helicopter will hopefully become the first aircraft to fly on another planet.

So far, some 50 RTGs have powered over 25 US space vehicles including Apollo, Pioneer, Viking, Voyager, Galileo, Ulysses, Cassini and New Horizons space missions as well as many civil and military satellites.  Pu-238 has a half-life of 88 years and is not fissile. Perseverance is expected to have at least 15 year’s operating life.

The Idaho National Laboratory is also interested in small fission reactors for the moon, and is seeking ideas and partnerships to develop those for NASA, through its Nuclear Fission Power Project. This would “provide reliable, durable energy for an installation on the Moon,” and later, on Mars after lunar demonstration. It also needs to be deliverable to both.
WNN 27 & 30/7/20.  Reactors for space

Canada

Refurbished Canadian reactor restarts, back on line

Unit 2 at Ontario Power Generation's Darlington nuclear power plant has achieved first criticality after a refurbishment that has taken 42 months to complete, including largely rebuilding the reactor. The 881 MWe (net) unit is expected to return to full service soon. This is the first of four large CANDU reactors at Darlington – Canada’s newest - to undergo refurbishment in a US$9 billion project that will enable another 30 years of operation for each at about half the cost of building new reactors.  The work involves replacing fuel channels and upgrading ancillary systems to current standards as well as overhauling the turbine generators.  Darlington’s refurbishment is being undertaken sequentially so that no more than two units are out of action at the same time. The price of power from the rebuilt plant is expected to be between USD 5.0 and 5.7 c/kWh.
WNN 14/4/20.  Canada NP

Ontario Power Generation's Darlington-2 nuclear power reactor has resumed operation at full power after a refurbishment that began in October 2016. The 881 MWe (net) unit was largely rebuilt. This is the first of four large CANDU reactors at Darlington – Canada’s newest nuclear power plant - to undergo refurbishment in a US$9 billion project that will enable another 30 years of operation for each at about half the cost of building new reactors. The rebuilding of the station's three other units is to be completed by the end of 2026. Darlington’s refurbishment is being undertaken sequentially so that no more than two units are out of action at the same time. Darlington has generated about 20% of Ontario's electricity since unit 2 – the first of the units - was brought online in 1990.
WNN 5/6/20.  Canada NP

Ontario short lists three small reactor developers

After lending strong support to provincial Canadian initiatives focused on small reactors, Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has selected three developers of grid-scale small reactors - broadly 25 to 300 MWe - for further evaluation in its program to deploy these.  OPG operates six large reactors at Pickering and four at Darlington, total 6.6 GWe to produce about half of the province’s electricity. It will now take forward engineering and design work with three developers of grid-scale small reactors: GE Hitachi (GEH), Terrestrial Energy and X-energy. This is to support remote area energy needs and demonstrate “OPG's unique position to become a world leader in SMRs”. This then focuses on GEH’s 300 MWe BWRX-300, evolved from 60 years of boiling water reactor development, and also Terrestrial’s 192 MWe Integral Molten Salt Reactor and X-energy’s 80 MWe Xe-100 high-temperature gas-cooled reactor. Both the latter are more novel technologically and operate at much higher temperatures than normal power reactors, so have potential industrial application. OPG plans to decide on which of the three designs to proceed with at the end of 2021.

Since 2016 the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has offered pre-licensing vendor design reviews for small reactors, and all three of the designs selected by OPG are in phase 2 of such reviews. CNSC is also reviewing four other grid-scale small designs.
WNN 6/10/20.      Small Reactors

Ontario Power plans small reactor at major site, New Brunswick plans take shape

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has announced it is resuming planning activities for building new nuclear generating capacity at its Darlington site in Ontario, which already has four 881 MWe reactors. However, it is now considering the construction of a small modular reactor (SMR) rather than a large conventional reactor, as previously envisaged and licensed. Darlington is the only site in Canada currently licensed for new nuclear. In 2012, following the acceptance of a thorough environmental assessment, OPG was granted a site preparation licence by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). It was considering either a Westinghouse AP1000 or an Enhanced Candu 6 reactor. OPG has now applied to renew that licence with a view to building a small modular reactor there by 2028 instead. OPG is currently working with three SMR developers – X-energy, Terrestrial Energy, and GE-Hitachi – to select a preferred technology for the site.

In New Brunswick, with provincial government support, Moltex Energy, Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC) and New Brunswick Power have agreed to set up small modular reactor vendor cluster at NB Power’s Point Lepreau site, where a 660 MWe Candu reactor is operating. Moltex is developing Stable Salt Reactor (SSR) technology and plans to build its first 300 MWe SSR-Wasteburner reactor at Point Lepreau. A Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission pre-licensing vendor design review has commenced for this. ARC Canada is developing the ARC-100 small modular reactor, a sodium-cooled 100 MWe fast reactor, and in October 2019 the CNSC completed phase 1 pre-licensing vendor design review of it with a view to building the first one at Point Lepreau.
WNN 16 & 18/11/20.   Canada NP, Small Reacto

Micro reactor project proceeds in Canada

A joint venture has been set up between a US-based reactor developer and the major Canadian nuclear power utility, with a Canadian project company, to build one of the small US reactors at a Canadian Nuclear Laboratory site. The joint venture - Global First Power Limited Partnership - is owned equally by Ontario Power Generation and USNC-Power, the Canadian subsidiary of Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation which designed the reactor.

The micro-modular reactor (MMR) is a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor with the TRISO fuel in prismatic graphite blocks in a sealed transportable core. The demonstration unit would provide 15 MW of process heat via molten salt, and have an operating life of 20 years. The Canadian project company Global First Power will "provide project development, licensing, construction and operation" services for the project. The MMR is designed to eventually provide power in remote areas as a viable alternative to diesel and other fossil fuels.

The reactor design has been undergoing pre-licensing vendor design review by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, and also a review over two years by the Canadian Nuclear Laboratory with three other small modular reactor designs. The MMR is based on experience with previous small high-temperature reactors in Germany, Japan, China and the USA.
WNN 10/6/20.  Small Reactors

Czech Republic

Major reactor life extensions and new reactors planned for Czech plant

Czech utility CEZ operates four Russian VVER-440 reactors at Dukovany, commissioned 1985-87 and since upgraded and uprated to 510 MWe each over 2005-12. This has enabled operation at least ten years beyond their nominal 30-year lifetimes. The two units of the same model in Russia have had 15-year licence extensions. CEZ now proposes extensive further upgrades of the four Dukovany units to extend their operating lives by a further 20 years to 60 years. The work would focus on reactor management and control systems, cabling in the core reactor areas, and safety systems. It will cost a total of some $2.3 billion.

In March, CEZ applied to the State Office for Nuclear safety to build two larger new reactors at Dukovany. This followed government approval for plans, and expression of strong local support.  A reactor vendor is to be selected by the end of 2022 from among worldwide contenders, and a construction licence issued by 2029, with commissioning expected in 2036.
​WNN 8/4/20 & 12/6/20.   Czech Republic

Russia

New large Russian reactor starts up, connected to grid

The second new-generation large reactor at Leningrad power plant has started up.  This is a VVER-1200 and will replace unit 2 of the old plant after 45 years’ service. It is an RBMK type made infamous at Chernobyl (but since much modified). The first of the two new units was grid connected in March 2018. These are 1085 MWe net, and represent the main current Russian export offerings, and are being built now in Belarus, Turkey and Bangladesh, and soon in China, Finland, Egypt, Hungary and Uzbekistan.
WNN 1/9/20.    Russia NP

Leningrad II, unit 2 has been connected to the grid at Sosnovy Bor, joining unit 1 which came on line in March 2018. These represent one of the two similar types of VVER-1200 current-generation Russian reactors. Construction of unit 2 started in April 2010 but several major delays occurred, mostly due to low power demand in the region, but also involving change of main contractors. Gross power is 1170 MWe, net 1085 MWe, and each reactor will also provide 1.05 TJ/h (9.17 PJ/yr) of district heating. Two further reactors are planned for the site so that all four RBMK reactors there, commissioned through to 1981, can be retired. The old unit 2 is due to close next year when this new one is in full commercial operation.

Only two new power reactors are currently under construction in Russia, at Kursk, but Russian contractors are deployed building nine new reactors in Bangladesh, Belarus, India, Iran and Turkey, with all the main plant components coming from Russian factories. Four large new Russian reactors in China will soon start construction with some imported parts but local workforce.
WNN 23/10/20.   Russia NP

Russia embarks on load-following trial with large new reactor

Rosenergoatom is commencing trial operation of Novovoronezh II-1 in load-following mode, cycling down to 75% capacity and subsequently down to 46%, with a view to running it thus on a daily basis according to grid demand. A concern with routine load-following by PWR/VVER reactors is that fuel burns evenly, and in older reactors this can be a constraint. In France the load-following ability of such reactors equipped with ‘grey’ control rods relates to the stage of the fuel cycle, with greatest flexibility early on. 

Novovoronezh II-1, unit 6 at the site, was commissioned in 2016, and like most large modern reactors is designed for load-following. These trials aim to establish the practicality of load-following for the new generation of large Russian plants being built domestically and abroad.
Rosenergoatom 19/3/20.  Russia NP

Milestone in Russian fuel recycling

Russia’s newest and largest fast neutron reactor, the BN-800 at Beloyarsk, is now operating with mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel incorporating recycled (reactor-grade) plutonium. Its first prototype assemblies used weapons-grade plutonium. The reactor now has 18 MOX fuel assemblies which were produced at Zheleznogorsk, with plutonium recycled from conventional fuel, mixed with depleted uranium left over from enrichment plants.  During this year, Rosenergoatom and TVEL plan to load a further 180 MOX fuel elements into the core of BN-800, and by the end of 2021 it will have a full MOX core, replacing the largely uranium one. The BN-800 each year will require 1.84 tonnes of reactor-grade plutonium recovered from 190 tonnes of used fuel from conventional VVER reactors. 

About 40 European and Japanese reactors have had similar MOX fuel comprising one third to half their cores since the 1980s, the plutonium being recovered from civil used fuel at the La Hague reprocessing plant in France. In the West, MOX provides almost 5% of new fuel used today, and it fuels about 10% of France’s fleet. Russia has been slow to commence civil reprocessing, and has not so far used MOX in conventional reactors, but closing the fuel cycle by 2030 is a priority. The Zheleznogorsk MOX plant near Krasnoyarsk was commissioned in 2015 as part of Rosatom’s Proryv, or “Breakthrough”, project, to develop fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle whose MOX fuel will be reprocessed and recycled.  It represents the first industrial-scale use of plutonium in the Russian civil fuel cycle. The plant is operated by the Mining & Chemical Combine. Reactor-grade plutonium has about one third non-fissile isotopes and is quite different from weapons-grade plutonium, which is made is special reactors built for that purpose.

In 2000 Russia and the USA agreed to reduce their military plutonium stockpiles by 34 tonnes each, using the material in MOX fuel for power plants. Subsequently, Russia built the commercial Zheleznogorsk MOX plant with capacity of 400 fuel assemblies per year for RUR 9.6 billion ($153 million), while the USA embarked upon a corresponding project at Savannah River, South Carolina, to produce 150 fuel assemblies per year. After spending about $5 billion over ten years it was suspended. Russia also has two small MOX plants, one of which produced the initial MOX fuel assemblies for Beloyarsk 4 BN-800.
WNN 28/1/20,  Russia NP

Russia to produce new recycled nuclear fuel

Rosatom is setting up a new small-scale production line at the Siberian Chemical Plant for an innovative way of recycling used fuel from nuclear power reactors. Instead of the mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel used for several decades, which combines recycled plutonium with depleted uranium, the new REMIX fuel comprises recycled uranium and plutonium together mixed with fresh low-enriched uranium. This gives fuel with about 1% Pu-239 and 4% U-235 which can sustain burn-up of 50 GWd/t over four years and has similar characteristics to normal reactor fuel. Pilot REMIX fuel rods have been tested in Balakovo unit 3 over four years.
WNN 27/8/20.      Russia FC

Russia’s floating nuclear power plant in commercial operation
Rosenergoatom’s 70 MWe Akademic Lomonosov at Pevek on the Siberian coast is now in full commercial operation.  The two 32 MWe (net) KLT-40S reactors were grid connected in December, and have since supplied over 47 GWh of electricity to the Chaun-Bilibino area. The plant also supplies 210 GJ/h of heat. It is set to become the main supply source for Chukotka region. The nearby small Bilibino nuclear power plant is being progressively decommissioned.

The new floating plant was built at the Baltic shipyard in St Petersburg, then towed to Murmansk where it was crewed and fuelled, then towed to Pevek and installed last year. It is the lead project in Russia’s plans for several floating nuclear power plants in remote locations, though future ones will use twin RITM-200M reactors and require a much smaller barge.
WNN 22/5/20.  Russia NP

New nuclear icebreaker completes sea trials

Russia’s new Arktika icebreaker has finally departed from the Baltic Shipyard at St Petersburg after completing sea trials in the Gulf of Finland. It will be based at Murmansk and is expected to enter full operation this year. Arktika is the first of five LK-60 series icebreakers, the next two of which, Sibir and Ural, are due to be delivered next year and in 2022, with two more in 2024 and 2026. Their two RITM-200 reactors of 175 MWt each together deliver 60 MW at the propellers via twin turbine generators and three motors. They are dual-draught (10.5 m with full ballast tanks, minimum 8.55 m), displacing up to 33,540 t (25,450 t without ballast), for use in the Western Arctic year-round and in the eastern Arctic in summer and autumn. They are 173 m long and designed to break through 2.8 metre thick ice at up to 2 knots. The wide 33 m beam at waterline is to match the 70,000 tonne ships they are designed to clear a path for.

A version of the RITM-200 integral PWR reactors from OKBM will be Russia’s main small reactor for civil use, deployed in pairs on land, generating about 50 MWe each, and also on floating nuclear power plants such as that now operating at Pevek in Siberia. Seven more of these floating plants are planned, providing about 100 MWe each.
WNN 18/9/20.   Nuclear powered ships

Second Leningrad reactor retired

Leningrad unit 2, a first-generation RBMK reactor at Sosnovy Bor in Russia, has been finally shut down after 45 years operation and following the start-up of its new successor, which is now in pilot operation for electricity supply and this week was connected also to the district heat system of Sosnovy Bor.  Nine RBMKs remain in operation at three plants.
WNN 10/11/20.   Russia NP

Middle East

Construction start on second large Russian reactor in Turkey

The concrete foundation of the second Akkuyu reactor is reported to have been completed, marking the start of full construction. Construction of the first VVER-1200 unit started in April 2018, and it is expected on line in 2023. Site preparation for the third unit is under way. Atomstroyexport is general contractor for construction, though Turkish companies are expected to undertake one third of the work.

The 4800 MWe plant near Mersin on the Mediterranean coast will comprise four VVER-1200 reactors based on those at Novovoronezh and is expected to provide about 10% of Turkey’s electricity. The US$ 20 billion project being developed by Akkuyu Nuklear JSC, a subsidiary of Russia's Rosatom, is based on an inter-governmental agreement signed in May 2010. It is Rosatom’s first build-own-operate venture. Three Turkish companies were to provide 49% equity but could not reach agreement with Rosatom so pulled out in 2018. The Turkish Electricity Trade & Contract Corporation (TETAS) will buy 70% of the output of the first two units and 30% of that from units 3&4 at a fixed price of US$ 12.35 cents/kWh over 15 years from commercial operation of each. The remainder of the power will be sold by the project company on the open market.
WNN 29/6/20.   Turkey

New Korean reactor in UAE receives operating licence

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation subsidiary Nawah Energy Company is loading fuel into Barakah unit 1 after it received a 60-year operating licence from the United Arab Emirates Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). A consortium led by Korea Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) and involving Samsung, Hyundai, and Doosan, as well as Westinghouse, whose System 80+ design (certified in the USA) is the basis of design, commenced construction in July 2012 and the APR1400 unit was completed in March 2018. Nawah did a comprehensive Operational Readiness Review early in 2018, but FANR made findings which postponed start up to allow for Nawah to take corrective actions on a wide range of technical, organisational and management issues.

An underlying problem contributing to some of the Review findings on safety was the need to develop competence in English as a bridging language between Arabic and Korean. Nevertheless, the UAE has demonstrated that it is possible to proceed rapidly in implementing its nuclear power program from inception in 2008 by doing a number of things in parallel, by using experienced expatriates initially and transitioning to local expertise over time, and by committing to an experienced reactor and power plant builder with a track record of on-time and on-budget performance.

Three other Barakah units are under construction, and the 5.6 GWe plant – now overall 93% complete - will supply about one quarter of UAE’s power.
WNN 17 & 19/2/20, UAE

New reactor starts up in United Arab Emirates

Barakah-1, the United Arab Emirates' first nuclear power reactor, has started up. The 1,345 MWe (net) South Korean APR1400 unit is the first of four reactors built at Barakah as part of the UAE's efforts to diversify energy supplies away from gas. It was built by a consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) and is located between Abu Dhabi city and Qatar. Barakah 1 was originally scheduled for operation by 2018, but was delayed after an operational readiness review by plant operator Nawah Energy Company found that additional staff training and procedural development was required, including the need to develop competence in English as a bridging language between Arabic and Korean. Nawah is the nuclear operations and maintenance subsidiary of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), set up in joint venture with KEPCO in 2016.

Barakah 2 is complete and awaiting an operating licence, units 3 & 4 are 92% and 85% complete respectively. Construction began in 2012.  The UAE is the first country in the Arab world, and the 33rd nation globally, to develop a civil nuclear power program. It will supply about one quarter of the country’s electricity.

ENEC was set up in 2009 and has drawn heavily on international expertise in mounting the project. It has worked closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and has joined the World Association of Nuclear Operators to benefit from its peer review processes. Nawah has ongoing agreements with France’s EdF for fuel cycle management, operational safety and radiation protection, and with KEPCO for maintenance. The UAE is widely seen to have benchmarked the process for establishing nuclear power in a new country, starting from scratch in 2008.

A nuclear professional who moved to the project from a senior role in GE, Robert Bergqvist, said: “When I worked at ENEC ….. I was so impressed by the high standards set for ‘doing this the right way’ as the UAE was embarking on building not just four power plants, but a nuclear ecosystem supporting the Arab World. I'm convinced that a hundred years from now this project will have been absolutely critical for peace and prosperity in the region.”
WNN 3/8/20.  UAE

New reactor in UAE connected to grid

Unit 1 of the Barakah nuclear power plant in the western region of Abu Dhabi has been connected to the grid and has begun supplying electricity to the UAE, marking 97-month construction time, though the reactor has actually been complete for about two years. The South Korean-supplied and -built APR1400 is expected to enter full commercial operation later this year. Following an operating licence in February and the completion of fuel loading in March, the reactor was started up at the end of July by Nawah Energy Company, the operations and maintenance subsidiary of Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation. The Abu Dhabi Transmission and Despatch Company (Transco) has built 950 km of transmission lines to connect Barakah with Abu Dhabi city. Unit 2 at the site is expected to start up soon, with units 3 & 4 likely next year.
WNN 19/8/20.  UAE

South Korea

South Korea weighs in on micro reactor project

Soon after negotiating a joint venture with Ontario Power Generation to build a prototype in Canada, Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation of the USA has signed a five-year agreement with South Korea's Hyundai Engineering and the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute. It outlines goals for development of technologies that enhance the ability of USNC’s Micro Modular Reactor to produce and deliver clean power and process heat. The MMR is an advanced design for a versatile 15 MW thermal/ 5 MWe high temperature gas-cooled reactor based on operational experience in several countries.  The three companies will make equal contributions to the project.
​WNN 5/8/20.  Small reactors

South Korea to develop floating nuclear power plants

Following Russia’s pioneering work and based on South Korea’s shipbuilding reputation, KEPCO’s Engineering & Construction company signed an agreement with Daewoo Shipbuilding & Engineering to develop offshore nuclear power plants. KEPCO is developing the BANDI-60S as a 200 MWt/ 60 MWe reactor particularly for floating nuclear power plants. The BANDI-60S has been under development since 2016, for niche markets rather than mainstream power generation, though it operates at normal temperatures for a pressurised water reactor. It has several advanced features, and a 60-year design life.   
WNN 6/10/20.   Nuclear powered ships, Small reactors

India

First large indigenous reactor starts up in India

Kakrapar 3, the first of four 700 MWe gross (640 MWe net) Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors under construction, has started up in Gujarat state. It will be India’s 23rd reactor to operate and the largest one of indigenous design and construction.

India has 16 PHWRs of 220 MWe commissioned over 1972-2010, based on Canada’s CANDU technology, and two 540 MWe versions commissioned at Tarapur in 2005-06. In 2007 the government gave approval for the first four of eight planned large PHWR units: Kakrapar 3&4 and Rajasthan 7&8, to be built by Hindustan Construction Co. using indigenous technology, including turbine generators from a Bharat Heavy Electricals – Alstom consortium. At 700 MWe these reactors are much the same size as commercial Canadian units. Construction of Kakrapar 3 started in November 2010. The other three large units are expected on line by 2023. In 2017 the cabinet approved ten more 700 MWe PHWRs at four sites – Gorakhpur, Chutka, Kaiga, and Mahi Banswara (4 units). The timeline was not specified, but as a “fully homegrown initiative” the likely manufacturing orders to Indian industry would be about INR 700 billion ($9.6 billion). These all have planned 60-year operating lives (probably with mid-life rebuild).

Their estimated cost was to be INR 123 billion ($1.7 billion) each pair. Both projects were delayed by the reluctance of supply chain companies to provide equipment without Nuclear Power Corporation of India giving indemnity under the contentious 2010 Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act.  Delay was also attributed to financial constraints.
WNN 22/7/20.   India

Note: By year end no grid connection had been confirmed, but commercial operation was expected on 31 March 2021.

Africa

Ghana progresses nuclear power plans

After more than a decade of tentative plans, Ghana has completed the first stage of establishing internationally-credible infrastructure for building its first nuclear power plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency has set out a three-phase approach for countries embarking upon nuclear power programs, and Ghana has achieved the first, pre-project phase, of this. The Ghana Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA), was set up by parliament in 2015. In 2017 Ghana hosted an IAEA Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) mission to evaluate the country’s preparation against the IAEA 'milestones approach'. It reported later that year, and in October 2019 a follow-up mission reported good progress. In 2015 a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia’s Rosatom was signed, to enable the development of contractual and legal frameworks for cooperation in the nuclear sector.
The final third phase will involve building a power plant of 700-1200 MWe, intended by 2030.
WNN 23/6/20.  Emerging countries

Australia

Victorian report avoids nuclear endorsement

Following a national inquiry and one in New South Wales both of which reported positively on nuclear power prospects for Australia, the report of a Victorian inquiry affirms the priority of reducing carbon dioxide emissions while achieving energy security and stability but dodges the implication of this. Victoria has based its development on cheap electricity from brown coal, but this era is ending due to climate change concerns. A political decision in 1983 prohibited nuclear power, and that was the focus of the state inquiry. Clear evidence was presented on the importance of reliable nuclear power rescuing the state from the consequences of relying on ever-increasing wind capacity, but deep-seated antipathy prevailed, despite dramatically increased electricity prices.

"In this report, the Committee makes no recommendations and does not take a strong position on nuclear power as an alternative energy source in Australia, and particularly in Victoria," the Chairman said. However, (according to a demonstrably baseless report) "traditional nuclear energy generation is currently expensive and unlikely to be taken up in Australia”. He went on to say that small modular reactors might “change the costing of nuclear energy over time." A substantial minority report recommended repealing the 1983 Act, monitoring nuclear developments, and ensuring that modelling of energy futures included nuclear power.
​WNN 26/11/20.   Australia


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