World Nuclear Association Weekly Digest Archive 2021


Small increase in world nuclear capacity in 2020

Last year five new reactors came on line in China, Russia, Belarus and UAE. These totalled 5631 MWe net. A further reactor in India, 630 MWe, is in the process of coming on line. Uprates mostly in USA totalled 188 MWe, and there were seven construction starts, in China and Turkey, total 6875 MWe. These include a fast neutron reactor and small modular reactor in China. However, six reactors totalling 5165 MWe were finally closed down in four countries; each had operated 43 to 46 years. At the end of 2020 there were 441 operable reactors totalling 392,434 MWe in 31 countries plus Taiwan, according to WNA data. Over 50 reactors in 19 countries were under construction. In 2021 about 15 new reactors are expected on line, including an innovative Chinese high-temperature gas-cooled reactor.
NP in World today

G7 leaders reaffirm decarbon goals

Leaders of the G7 countries meeting in UK have committed to “an overwhelmingly decarbonised power system in the 2030s and to actions to accelerate this.” Hence they have pledged to accelerate deployment of ‘zero emissions energy’ including nuclear power. World Nuclear Association commented that “The G7 nations must turn their ambitions into actions and take all the steps necessary to maximise the contribution of nuclear power plants in operation today and ensure a rapid and substantial increase in nuclear new build.”
WNN 14/6/21.  

Industry plea for rational risk assessment

World Nuclear Association has published a new White Paper on Recalibrating Risk, calling upon policymakers and regulators to review their perceptions of risk. They need to adopt a science-based, all-hazards risk assessment that holistically evaluates the contributions of different energy sources and sets a level playing field. Different risks associated with energy producing technologies must be put in context and perspective then weighed in line with proper scientific evidence. Policymakers and regulators must ensure that their prejudices and decisions regarding radiation protection do not create greater risks elsewhere. The perception of nuclear power as being uniquely dangerous endures, despite its safety record being unmatched by any other energy source.

Disproportionately focusing on the risks posed by radiation is likely to result in the acceptance of other, more significant, risks such as air pollution from fossil fuels. This is reflected in the regulatory burden placed on the nuclear industry, which is geared towards an “as low as possible” approach, demanding radiation levels to be far below the levels where health effects have been observed, and in many cases below natural background radiation. This has resulted in higher costs, without delivering any additional health benefits and policymakers have tended to choose other energy sources. If those alternatives have been fossil fuels, there are air pollution and climate change implications. If they are intermittent renewables, reliability is compromised and cost increased at high levels of contribution.

Nuclear power’s demonstrated contribution to global decarbonization is often disregarded, with any advance towards Paris Agreement goals and Sustainable Development goals thereby being downgraded.

WNN 27/5/21.   Safety of NP, Viewpoint

International Energy Agency Net Zero by 2050 report disappoints

The IEA’s new Net Zero by 2050 report acknowledges that nuclear energy will make a “significant contribution” to the Net Zero Emissions scenario and will provide an “essential foundation” in the transition to a sustainable energy system. The report also notes that failure to take timely decisions on nuclear power would “raise the costs of a net‐zero emissions pathway and add to the risk of not meeting the goal.” World Nuclear Association applauded the IEA setting “a target that we must achieve” but deplored its sidelining of actual nuclear potential while making heroic assumptions on other fronts. The projected tripling of electricity supply costs by 2050 makes the omission all the more remarkable.

WNA pointed out that the Zero Emissions scenario puts too much faith in technologies that are uncertain, untested, or unreliable and fails to reflect both the size and scope of the contribution nuclear technologies need to make. “Nuclear energy can contribute much more than what is projected in the report” and needs to do so. The report does not consider nuclear power as a source of industrial heat, so fails to properly identify potential decarbonization far beyond electricity generation. It also relies greatly on human behaviour in reducing energy use, introducing a further dimension of uncertainty. WNA said that a more ambitious scenario for nuclear energy than the token recognition in the IEA report would do much more to meet both the UN Sustainable Development Goals and global climate goals. The WNA Harmony goal where nuclear energy would provide at least 25% of the world’s electricity by 2050 provides a more realistic scenario.
WNN 18/5/21.   Nuclear Power in world today

UK report on nuclear power for hydrogen

A new report published by the UK's Nuclear Sector Deal’s Innovation Group presents a series of recommendations for realising the opportunity of zero-carbon hydrogen from nuclear energy. The report is pitched to inform the government’s Hydrogen Strategy and suggests that nuclear power needs to be at the heart of zero-carbon hydrogen production, starting with today’s technologies. A strong framework for a nuclear-derived hydrogen economy is needed. Policy should be enabled to embrace the potential for nuclear to decarbonise sectors such as heavy industry, transport (including through synthetic fuels) and direct heat. A low (and zero) carbon hydrogen standard should be defined, to ensure consistent access to finance and market mechanisms for all relevant technologies as they come to commercialisation.
WNN 14/6/21.   Hydrogen

Annual nuclear conference takes stock

The World Nuclear Fuel Cycle Conference in April emphasised the need for the industry to communicate better its vital role in future energy provision. UxC summed up: the industry continues to fight the ever-present headwinds posed by cheap natural gas, subsidized renewables, an ageing global nuclear fleet, and a lack of universal recognition as a clean energy source under global Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) guidelines. Its ESG attributes, especially regarding climate change, though widely recognised are politically contested and disparaged in some countries.
WNN 16/4/21. Nuclear power today, NP & Sustianable Development

International Energy Agency call for “decisive action”

The head of the IEA has called for decisive action over the next decade to achieve world energy transformation of “unprecedented speed and scale”. This would mean, by 2030: increasing electric cars’ share of annual sales from 3% to over 50%; expanding the production of low-carbon hydrogen from 450,000 tonnes to 40 million tonnes; and boosting investment in clean electricity four-fold from $380 billion to $1.6 trillion.

Following this, the head of the World Nuclear Association at an Atlantic Council meeting has pointed out that based on a recent IEA report, "Nuclear energy is currently the most cost-effective way to provide low-carbon dispatchable electricity, that is 24/7 electricity." It can be deployed on large or small scale.  Furthermore, nuclear energy is the only energy source able to provide low-carbon heat directly through heat production or indirectly through provision of clean hydrogen.
WNN 18 & 20/1/21.   World Energy Needs

Nuclear applications beyond electricity supply hold key to future

Using nuclear plants to generate heat as well as electricity for non-grid industrial applications could be central to deep decarbonisation efforts beyond being a source of zero-carbon electricity, according to speakers at the fifth Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum. Both today’s conventional reactors and high-temperature gas-cooled reactors can support the heat and electricity demands of industrial processes, hydrogen production for transport fuels, and the increasing need for desalination to produce potable water.

Hydrogen is becoming a focus of attention in using intermittent renewable sources to produce “green hydrogen” and there are numerous substantial investments aiming to demonstrate this. Off-peak use of nuclear electricity could do the same. However, in both cases, low capacity factor of electrolysers makes the economics dubious. Applying high-temperature nuclear reactors specifically to hydrogen production promises much better economics. Along with the direct supply of process heat, this is likely to be most effective by deploying relatively small reactors, up to 400 MW thermal, for industrial applications.
WNN 26/1/21.   Hydrogen, Process heat, Desalination

French report points to nuclear power for hydrogen

A new report from the French Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Assessment (OPECST) said that only nuclear and hydro power could realistically produce low-carbon hydrogen, since the cost of green hydrogen from renewables would be four times as great. Due to their high capital cost, “electrolysers must be made profitable by lengthening the duration of their use (a minimum threshold of 5000 hours per year and an optimal threshold of up to 8000 h/year), which the intermittency of renewables does not allow (2000-4000 h/year). In this regard, only nuclear energy and hydroelectricity present the double advantage of being controllable and carbon-free," the report says. 

Worldwide, 70 million tonnes per year of hydrogen could be supplied by 400 GWe of nuclear capacity, it said. There is also a question of whether electrolysers fed by intermittent renewables take all the electricity from those sources, or only the surplus over grid requirements, resulting in much lower usage.
WNN 21/5/21.  Hydrogen

New initiatives for marine nuclear propulsion

The Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) and shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries have announced plans to work together on the development of a molten salt reactor (MSR) for marine propulsion and floating nuclear power plants. Samsung Heavy is also carrying out R&D into using ammonia and hydrogen to power ships in efforts to find alternative, low-emission propulsion options. Nuclear power is likely to be a key to producing these. The company’s president said that the "MSR is a carbon-free energy source that can efficiently respond to climate change issues and is a next-generation technology that meets the vision of Samsung Heavy Industries." It could put South Korea in a leading position globally for such technology.

Shipping is seen as a 'hard-to-abate' sector for decarbonisation. The UN’s International Maritime Organisation aims to halve greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by 2050 from 2008 level, and eventually to eliminate them completely. IMO already has a code of safety for nuclear-propelled merchant ships and Lloyd's Register maintains a set of provisional rules for them. Lloyds earlier led a major study on the practical maritime applications of small modular reactors. This resulted in a preliminary concept design study for a 155,000 dwt Suezmax tanker based on a conventional hull with a 70 MWt nuclear propulsion plant delivering up to 23.5 MW shaft power and average: 9.75 MW. Since then, modular molten salt reactors of about 100 MWt have been seen as particularly suitable for marine propulsion due to ambient operating pressure and low-enriched fuel. The large shipping company X-Press Feeders is investing in Core Power (UK) Ltd, which is promoting for marine propulsion Southern Company and TerraPower’s molten chloride fast reactor as a modular MSR which would never require refuelling during its operational life.
WNN 11/6/21.  Nuclear powered ships

US university plans microreactor on campus

There are about 25 small research reactors operating on university campuses around the world, providing neutrons rather than heat, and a new proposal is for a small power reactor on the Urbana campus of University of Illinois.  The university has told the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that it intends to apply for a licence to install a USNC MMR of 15 MWt as both a power source and research and training reactor. The high-temperature gas-cooled reactor will provide a zero-carbon demonstration of district heat and power to campus buildings as part of its green campus initiative. The US Department of Energy has offered funding on cost-share basis for such demonstration advanced reactors. Another MMR is planned in Canada at the Chalk River Laboratories campus.
WNN 29/6/21.   Small reactors

International Energy Agency quantifies material requirements for energy

A mismatch between the world's climate ambitions and the availability of critical minerals could mean a slower and more expensive energy transition, according to a new report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The Role of Critical Minerals in Clean Energy Transitions, explores the implications of energy policies driven by reducing CO2 emissions for the materials requirements in generating capacity and also some applications such as electric vehicles. ‘Critical minerals’ exclude concrete, iron and aluminium. “Today’s supply and investment plans for many critical minerals fall well short of what is needed to support an accelerated deployment of solar panels, wind turbines and electric vehicles.” Geopolitical considerations are included.

Considering only capacity rather than output, “An energy system powered by clean energy technologies differs profoundly from one fuelled by traditional hydrocarbon resources. Building solar photovoltaic (PV) plants, wind farms and electric vehicles (EVs) generally requires more minerals than their fossil fuel- based counterparts. … Since 2010, the average amount of minerals needed for a new unit of power generation capacity has increased by 50% as the share of renewables has risen.” This is set for a further sixfold increase if renewables and EVs remain the focus of investment. An offshore wind plant needs 13 times more critical minerals per unit of capacity than a gas-fired plant, and if the comparison is on MWh output, that would be up to 40 times more.

“The types of mineral resources used vary by technology. Lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and graphite are crucial to battery performance, longevity and energy density. Rare earth elements are essential for permanent magnets that are vital for wind turbines and EV motors. … The shift to a clean energy system is set to drive a huge increase in the requirements for these minerals, meaning that the energy sector is emerging as a major force in mineral markets.” Nuclear power is shown to need mainly copper, nickel and chromium.

“The rise of low-carbon power generation to meet climate goals also means a tripling of mineral demand from this sector by 2040. Wind takes the lead, bolstered by material-intensive offshore wind. Solar PV follows closely, due to the sheer volume of capacity that is added.” Of the low-carbon technologies, nuclear power is shown as having the lowest intensity for critical minerals, though advanced technology may increase the level slightly. In terms of kg/MW capacity, nuclear is shown as half the critical minerals intensity of onshore wind and one third of offshore wind. In terms of MWh output that would become one sixth of onshore and about 12% of offshore wind. Hydro is also low, but with limited growth potential.

WNN 5/5/21.   Nuclear Energy & Sustainable Development

NASA announces nuclear propulsion reactor concepts for space

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Department of Energy (DOE) have selected three reactor design concept proposals for a nuclear thermal propulsion (NTP) system.  DOE’s Idaho National Laboratory (INL) will award 12-month contracts to BWX Technologies (with Lockheed Martin), General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (with X-energy and Aerojet Rocketdyne) and Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies (with USNC, GE Hitachi, GE Research, Framatome and Materion).  INL in 2022 will review the extent to which each has progressed towards building a prototype and will advise NASA.

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has also awarded contracts to General Atomics and Ultra Safe Nuclear Technologies for a NTP system, to be demonstrated above low Earth orbit by 2025.

The US Administration in December 2020 announced a national strategy to ensure the development and use of space nuclear power and propulsion systems, including NTP systems, which can power spacecraft for missions where alternative power sources are inadequate. This would include NASA missions to Mars and deep space exploration beyond. They would utilise high-assay low-enriched uranium fuel. USNC said that NTP systems offer a thrust-to-weight ratio around 10,000 times greater than electric propulsion and a propellant efficiency that is two-to-five times greater than chemical propulsion.

NASA is well advanced in developing the KiloPower nuclear fission power source for use on the moon or Mars, delivering 10 kilowatts from a heatpipe reactor.
WNN 14/7/21.   Reactors for space

Plutonium power doubled on Mars

NASA’s Mars Perseverance Rover has landed on the planet as the second mobile science laboratory to explore it.  At 1025 kg it is a little heavier than its Curiosity predecessor, which has travelled some 24 km since it landed in 2012. Both are powered by multi-mission radioisotope thermoelectric generators fuelled by 4.8 kg of plutonium-238. The radioactive decay of this produces 2 kW thermal which is used to generate about 110 watts of electric power, 2.7 kWh per day. The half-life of Pu-238 is 88 years, potentially giving several decades of function.
WNN 19/2/21.  Reactors & Radioisotopes in space

Major US uranium company diversifies into rare earths

Energy Fuels Resources Corp (EFRC) owns and operates the White Mesa mill in Utah, primarily producing uranium from ores and other materials from several states and also vanadium. Its own mines are mostly on standby. In March 2020, EFRC joined Canadian-based Neo Performance Materials to launch a US-European rare earth elements (REE) initiative producing value-added REE products from natural monazite sands, a phosphate by-product of heavy mineral sands mined in the southeastern United States, especially Georgia.

In March 2021 EFRC commenced production of a mixed rare earth carbonate extracted from monazite at the White Mesa mill. Most of this REE carbonate production is shipped to Neo's REE separation facility in Sillamae, Estonia (Silmet), with a first 20 tonne shipment recently. Neo then processes the REE carbonate into separated rare earths for use in permanent magnets and other REE-based advanced materials. EFRC is looking at the feasibility of setting up REE separation capability at White Mesa. EFRC retains the small amount of uranium recovered from the monazite sands.

In the light of increasing anxiety about world supplies of REE (58% come from China), EFRC is aiming to source 15,000 tonnes of monazite per year, which would utilise 2% of White Mesa’s capacity and supply half of US demand for REE. US monazite contains about 55% REE, and about 22% of this is neodymium and praseodymium (light REE) and 8% the more valuable heavy REE including dysprosium and terbium.
WNN 8/7/21.   US mines


US budget application includes strong provision for nuclear energy

The Administration’s budget request for the Department of Energy in FY22 totals $46.2 billion, with a "record" $1.85 billion for the Office of Nuclear Energy. This includes over $370 million for the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Programme which aims to build advanced reactors within the next six years, cost-shared with developers. Two thirds of this is to demonstrate two advanced reactor technologies, one developed by X-energy and the second by TerraPower. The two companies received $80 million each from DOE last year, as part of a multi-year $3.2 billion program to build two advanced reactors that can be operational by about 2026. TerraPower has just announced plans to build a 345 MWe demonstration Natrium fast reactor unit with heat storage in Wyoming. This is essentially a GE Hitachi PRISM design based on substantial US experience. X-energy’s 80 MWe Xe-100 high-temperature pebble bed reactor, also with significant antecedents, is the other type.

The budget request also includes $145 million for the Versatile Test Reactor Project, which aims to provide fast neutron testing capability to aid US development of advanced nuclear reactor technology. Both these represent very large increases from FY21. The Fuel Cycle Research and Development program includes $368.5 million for advanced fuel cycle technologies including “high-assay low-enriched uranium for civilian domestic use”. It also aims to lay the groundwork for the development of a consent-based siting process to support consolidated interim storage for used nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste.

In addition to the civil nuclear energy programs, the Pentagon has requested $60 million to fund Project Pele, a program for building a transportable nuclear microreactor (under 5 MWe) to deliver high-output, resilient electric power for Defense Department missions.
WNN 2/6/21.   US NP

US Defense Department progresses plans for small mobile reactor

The US Department of Defense's (DOD) project to develop a mobile reactor - Project Pele - is proceeding well. Three companies were awarded contracts in 2020 to develop preliminary designs. BWXT Advanced Technologies and X-energy have now been selected to develop a final engineering design by March 2022. Westinghouse with a particularly novel design dropped out and one of the two companies may be commissioned next year to build a prototype reactor. Thus Project Pele is on track for full power testing of a mobile reactor in 2023, with outdoor mobile testing in 2024 at Oak Ridge or Idaho National Laboratories. While the US Army operated a number of small reactors over 1954-1977 at remote sites, these were fairly primitive by today’s standards. Advances in nuclear technology have made possible a largely autonomous reactor which can be safely moved.

Under the DOD’s Strategic Capabilities Office, the project is driven by concerns about the reliability of electrical grids and vulnerability of fuel supply logistics abroad. The small reactors – up to 5 MWe - are to be portable by truck or large aircraft and operate for at least three years on full power. They would load-follow and run on high-assay low-enriched uranium (<20%), as TRISO (tristructural-isotropic) fuel in high-temperature gas-cooled reactors. Designs must be "inherently safe", ensuring that a meltdown is "physically impossible" in various complete failure scenarios such as loss of power or cooling, and must use ambient air as their ultimate heat sink, as well as being capable of passive cooling. Set up is to be in three days, and removal in under seven days. The DOD uses about 30 TWh of electricity per year and some 40 million litres of fuel per day.
WNN 19 & 24/3/21.  Small reactors

US move to small reactors for military

The US Administration prior to inauguration of the new president issued an Executive Order on Promoting Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration, which it says will further revitalise the US nuclear energy sector and reinvigorate its space exploration program. The Order includes directives to demonstrate the use of civil-licensed microreactors on military bases and also to ensure a viable US-origin supply of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU).  Micro-reactors - less than 10 MWe - have the potential to enhance energy flexibility and energy security at military installations in remote locations.

In the 1960s the US Army built eight nuclear reactors, five of them portable or mobile. A 2018 report from the Army analysed the potential benefits and challenges of mobile nuclear power plants with very small modular reactor technology. The purpose is to reduce supply vulnerabilities and operating costs while providing a sustainable option for reducing petroleum demand and consequent supply challenges. The reactors would be portable by truck or large aircraft and if abroad, returned to the USA for refuelling after several years. The Department of Defense has since solicited proposals and has awarded contracts to three developers: Westinghouse, X-energy and BWX Technologies.
​WNN 13/1/21.   Small reactors

President Biden sets out climate action plan

President Biden has signed executive orders to take aggressive action on climate change, including re-joining the Paris Agreement and “empowering American workers and businesses to lead a clean energy revolution that achieves a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035 and puts the United States on an irreversible path to a net-zero economy by 2050." He has directed his administration to make the climate crisis central in US foreign policy and national security considerations and rebuild US infrastructure for a sustainable economy. It remains to be seen what all this means for electricity generation. The order includes an immediate review of "harmful rollbacks" of environmental standards under his predecessor.

Meanwhile, a UN survey claims to have found that almost two-thirds of people around the world now view climate change as a global emergency. Poll questions were distributed through advertisements in mobile gaming apps across 50 countries last year. With 1.2 million respondents, the survey used a new and unconventional approach to polling. Almost half the participants in the survey were aged 14 to 18. Oxford University weighted the data to create what it said were representative estimates of public opinion.
WNN 28/1/21.   US NP

Global Laser Enrichment project in USA restructured

After approval from the US government, Global Laser Enrichment (GLE) in USA has detached from GE-Hitachi and is now owned by Australia’s Silex Systems (51%) which developed the technology and owns the intellectual property, and Cameco Corporation (49%), both foreign companies.  GLE has exclusive rights to commercially develop the SILEX laser isotope separation process technology under an agreement reached between GE (now GE-Hitachi) and Silex in 2006. Cameco joined the project in mid-2008. Silex and Cameco in December 2019 agreed to jointly purchase GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy's 76% interest for a total of $20 million, and the three parties executed an agreement for the restructure of GLE. Cameco has an option to increase its share in GLE to 75% in two years.

Silex Systems and GLE jointly continue to focus on the SILEX uranium enrichment technology demonstration project in Wilmington, North Carolina, and anticipate completion of a full-scale pilot plant by the mid 2020s. GLE also plans to commercialise the technology by enriching depleted uranium tails to natural-grade uranium at a SILEX plant to be built at Paducah, Kentucky. This is underpinned by a 2016 agreement with the US Department of Energy to sell hundreds of thousands of tonnes of DU material from its inventory to GLE for re-enrichment at the Paducah Laser Enrichment Facility over several decades. Annual production is to be about 2300 tonnes natural U3O8 equivalent. GLE will evaluate commercial opportunities for enriching to higher levels at Paducah to produce low-enriched uranium (LEU) for conventional nuclear plants and high-assay fuel (HALEU) for new generation small modular reactors (SMRs).

All world enrichment of uranium today uses centrifuges which are vastly more efficient than earlier technology. SILEX is a third-generation technology.
WNN 19/1/21 & 1/2/21.   US Fuel Cycle, Enrichment

Texas shivers in the dark

Unusually cold conditions in Texas and contiguous US states – more typical of Alaska - have boosted electricity (and gas) demand while limiting supply from wind and solar PV sources due to snow and ice, and also from gas. More reliable sources of power, notably several nuclear power plants, proved insufficient after some 15 years of subsidised investment in unreliable sources coupled with undue reliance on natural gas. Texas wind and solar farms get $2.4 billion a year in direct regulatory support which provides some 44% of their revenues, skewing investment away from reliable sources. Government policies have also favoured using electricity for heating. Natural gas spot prices peaked at 200 times normal, and electricity prices at 360 times the seasonal average. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) presided over blackouts to shed up to 10.5 GWe of load as demand reached 69 GWe.
WNN 18/2/21.  US NP

Another US reactor retired

Two reactors at Indian Point, close to New York city, have each provided electricity for about 45 years. In April last year the 998 MWe unit 2 was closed down, and at the end of April this year unit 3 – 1030 MWe - also ends its service life. The two reactors provided about one quarter of the power used by New York City and the lower Hudson Valley region. They are replaced by gas-fired generation.

Entergy in January 2017 announced that it would permanently close Unit 2 and Unit 3 as part of a settlement agreement with New York State. Key considerations in the shutdown decision were sustained low current and projected wholesale energy prices, increased operating costs and continuing costs for license renewal. New York State in 2016 adopted legislation explicitly recognising the zero-carbon contribution of nuclear power plants and protecting the continued operation of three other plants, located in the "upstate" region.

Ownership will now pass to Holtec Decommissioning International and the work will be undertaken over 12-15 years by a Holtec - SNC-Lavalin joint venture. The site will then be clear except for a small storage for used fuel, pending its removal by the federal government which is responsible for it. Decommissioning and dismantling of these two reactors, plus the small unit 1 which ran for only 12 years, will cost about $2.3 billion which is fully funded from trust funds accumulated during their operation.
WNN 29/4/21.   US NP

Further US reactors licensed to 80 years operation

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved an application by Dominion Energy's Virginia subsidiary for a 20-year extension to the operating licences of the twin-unit Surry nuclear power plant. This will enable the two 838 MWe pressurised water reactors to operate until 2052 and 2053, respectively. Surry is the third nuclear power station to receive a subsequent licence renewal from 60 to 80 years from the NRC, following Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point units 3 and 4 and Exelon Generation's Peach Bottom units 2 and 3. The NRC is reviewing a similar application for Dominion’s two North Anna units and for NextEra’s Point Beach 1&2. Before all these, the NRC had renewed the licences for 94 reactors, taking them to 60 years of operational life.
WNN 5/5/21.   US NP

US government to support SMR exports

The US State Department has launched the Foundational Infrastructure for Responsible Use of Small Modular Reactor Technology (FIRST) programme. After three decades of government indifference to development and export of US nuclear technology, this is to build “on more than 60 years of US innovation and expertise in nuclear energy”. FIRST provides capacity-building support to partner countries developing nuclear energy programmes to support clean energy goals “under the highest international standards for nuclear safety, security, and non-proliferation”. It envisages support for small modular reactors in particular.
WNN 29/4/21.   US NP

High-level US discussion on nuclear subsidies

The Biden Administration is considering support for tax credits for nuclear power nationwide, the same as those subsidising wind and solar power – currently $18/MWh. Since it started in 1992 the PTC has ranged up to $23/MWh, applied for the first ten years of a plant’s operation. Unusually compared with other subsidies for renewables, it is borne by taxpayers rather than electricity consumers. The Energy Secretary says that “We are not going to be able to achieve our climate goals if nuclear power plants shut down. We have to find ways to keep them operating.” Levelling the playing field in an era of cheap natural gas will help. The proposed support for nuclear is tied to the $2.3 trillion climate infrastructure legislation being considered in Congress, which has some problematic aspects.

The question is not resolved, nor any wide subsidy assured, but it is remarkable that this discussion is occurring at high level and it is encouraging that it is in a Democrat Administration. Any support for nuclear power will be opposed both ideologically from the left and by natural gas interests.

US state votes to extend nuclear subsidies

The New Jersey Board of Public Utilities has unanimously voted to extend subsidies of about $100 million per year for two nuclear power plants operated by Public Service Enterprise Group Inc (PSEG). They provide about 40% of the state’s electricity from 3587 MWe. "If the nuclear power plants were to be retired today, that retirement would significantly and negatively impact New Jersey's ability to comply with state air emissions reductions," it said. The subsidies now extend to May 2025. Three PSEG units - two at Salem and the single-unit Hope Creek plant were awarded zero emission certificates (ZECs) in 2019 under a new law which enabled the state to recognise and compensate eligible nuclear power plants for their zero-carbon attributes and contribution to fuel diversity. The program is funded by a tariff of 0.4 cents/kWh imposed on retail distribution customers.  The subsidy is much less than that for wind power. Cheap natural gas and subsidised renewables make these plants uneconomic without some support.  Similar provisions apply in New York, Illinois and Connecticut.
WNN 28/4/21.   US NP

Further US power plant uprate

The Tennessee Valley Authority has completed a 7 MWe uprate of its Browns Ferry 2 nuclear power unit by replacing major components on all three low-pressure turbines, the first major work on these since the plant was commissioned in 1974. It is licensed to 2034.
WNN 27/4/21. US NP


Canadian study sets scene for small reactor deployment

A new feasibility report carried out by four major electric utilities at the request of provincial governments has outlined three streams of project proposals, two of which are already under way. It broadly concludes that deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs) will support domestic energy needs, curb greenhouse gas emissions and position Canada as a global leader in this emerging technology.

Stream 1 proposes a first grid-scale SMR project of about 300 MWe, to be built at the Darlington nuclear power station in Ontario by 2028. Up to four subsequent units in Saskatchewan would follow, with the first SMR projected to be in service in 2032. The particular technology will be selected later this year and is likely to be a design from GE Hitachi, X-Energy or Terrestrial Energy. The Darlington site is already licensed.
Stream 2 would see two fourth-generation advanced SMRs in New Brunswick, with an initial ARC Clean Energy 100 MWe fast reactor at the Point Lepreau nuclear plant site operational by 2030, and a Moltex Energy waste recycling SSR-W 300 MWe stable salt reactor by the early 2030s. The first draws on US experience with its EBR-II reactor over 1963-94 and more recent GE-Hitachi technology. The second also involves a plant to recycle used Canadian fuel for it.
Stream 3 proposes a new class of micro-SMRs designed primarily to replace the use of diesel fuel in remote communities and mines. A project with a 5 MWe Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation gas-cooled reactor - MMR-5 - is under way at the Chalk River site in Ontario and is expected to be in service by 2026.

A joint strategic plan, to be drafted in collaboration by the four provincial governments of Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, is next. This will identify the steps required within each stream to achieve project commitments while identifying key risks and how they can be mitigated, as well as the policy analysis required to clearly set out the requirements for government support at both federal and provincial level. The strategic plan is to be completed soon.

"We will only meet climate change goals through a swift transition to clean energy sources. This will require the adoption of existing and emerging low-carbon technologies, including small modular reactors. In fact, for a successful clean energy transition, new nuclear must play a lead role.” according to the Canadian Nuclear Association.
WNN 15/4/21.   Canada NP,

Canada looks to small reactors for remote sites

Very small modular reactors of less than 10 MWe could provide clean, economic and reliable power and heat to remote northern mines and surrounding communities, reducing or eliminating reliance on diesel, according to a new study. Ontario Power Generation (OPG), Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, and Mining Innovation, Rehabilitation & Applied Research Corporation (MIRARCO) combined in the project. The study found that the most economical energy mix would be for vSMRs to provide 90% of the base-load power required for mining operations and associated uses, which it said could reduce emissions by 85%. OPG is involved with development of the 15 MWt/ 5 MWe Micro Modular Reactor, a high-temperature gas-cooled design. It is also promoting three grid-scale SMRs of 80-300 MWe.
WNN 24/6/21.   Canada NP

Canadian prospects for GE Hitachi small reactor

PwC Canada has produced a major report on the substantial economic benefits of manufacturing, building and operating GE Hitachi BWRX-300 small modular reactors in Canada for the local market and for export. GEH commissioned the report and claims that "As the tenth evolution of the boiling water reactor, the BWRX-300 represents the simplest, yet most innovative BWR design since GE began developing nuclear reactors in 1955."

GEH aims to commercialise and manufacture the BWRX-300 in partnership with Ontario Power Generation (OPG). This would involve a local supply chain and possibly the first commercial deployment of a grid-scale SMR in Canada. The collaboration would provide a base for future SMR deployment in Canada and internationally. OPG has been considering the BWRX-300 and two other designs - Terrestrial’s 192 MWe Integral Molten Salt Reactor, and X-energy’s 80 MWe Xe-100 high-temperature reactor - as possible SMRs for its Darlington site.
WNN 3/6/21.  Small reactors, Canada NP


EU grapples with defining what generating technologies it wants to support

The European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) has reported on its technical assessment of nuclear energy generation in the EU, regarding the “do no significant harm” criteria. It considered the effects of the whole nuclear energy lifecycle in terms of existing and potential environmental impacts across all objectives, with emphasis on the management of wastes. It said that its analysis, based on recent ISO Life Cycle Analyses, showed no more harm to human health or the environment than other technologies already approved “as activities supporting climate change mitigation”. “The impacts of nuclear energy are mostly comparable with hydropower and the renewables, with regard to non-radiological effects”.

The EU Taxonomy on Sustainable Finance has become highly politicised, so that nuclear power has so far been neither included nor excluded. Subject its review by two expert groups, this JRC report should enable its inclusion, allowing better access to low-cost financing. The World Nuclear Association urged the European Commission to “not delay in setting out the process and the timeline for the inclusion of nuclear energy within the Taxonomy, to safeguard the transparency of the process.”

Nuclear energy is the largest (26.7% in 2019) single source of low-carbon energy in the EU, ahead of hydro (12.3%), wind (13.3%), and solar (4.4%). Last week seven leaders of EU countries urged the European Commission to recognise nuclear energy’s “indispensable contribution to fighting climate change” on several fronts. Also a group of 46 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from 18 countries has written to the president of the European Commission, calling for the inclusion of nuclear energy in the EU taxonomy.
WNN 29/3/21, 7/4/21.   Europe

International waste repository organisation launched in Europe

The European Repository Development Organisation (ERDO) has been launched by Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands, with other countries, notably Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Austria, expected to join soon. It aims for member countries to collaborate in safely managing long-lived radioactive wastes, including establishing shared multinational geological repositories. All have small individual requirements. Previously the national organisations had worked together for ten years in the ERDO Working Group. This was founded with support of 10 EU Member States in 2009. It followed comprehensive feasibility studies (the SAPIERR projects) into multinational disposal in Europe, organised by the Arius Association and funded by the European Commission. Fourteen European countries were involved in SAPIERR and 13 are, or have been, involved with ERDO work over the past decade. SAPIERR was based on a recognition in the EU that implementing 25 national repositories would not be optimal economically or for safety and security.

While there is clear and unequivocal understanding that each country is ethically and legally responsible for its own waste, there have been several proposals for regional and international repositories for disposal of high-level nuclear waste, and in 2003 the concept received strong endorsement from the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency. The default position is that all nuclear waste will be disposed of in each of the 50 or so countries concerned. The main ingredients of high-level nuclear waste are created in the nuclear reactors which make the electricity in 31 countries and function as neutron factories in many more. They are not simply left-overs from imported uranium. There is thus no obligation on uranium suppliers in respect to the waste, other than that involved in safeguards procedures.

Apart from ERDO which is focused on small volumes of waste, there have been proposals for large-scale international repositories, most recently from the South Australian Royal Commission into the Nuclear Fuel Cycle in 2016.
WNN 8/1/21.   International repositories

Study calls for European nuclear renaissance

The European Union should embark on a "nuclear renaissance" programme if it is to achieve its climate objectives, a new study on the EU climate policy has concluded. Commissioned by ECR Group and Renew Europe, the report says it is practically impossible to generate sufficient energy with wind and solar energy. The study focused on the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. As well as limitations on land required, it concluded that nuclear energy was more cost-effective than intermittent renewables, but needed a level playing field. The European Commission needed to do “a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of alternative policy options available to pursue the EU's climate neutrality objective.” The authors said that “It's time for all policy makers to live up to the EU principle of technological neutrality.”
​WNN 5/2/21.  Europe

United Kingdom

UK climate watchdog emphasises need for more nuclear capacity

The UK Climate Change Committee, an independent statutory body established under the 2008 Climate Change Act, has reported to parliament that the country needs at least two more large nuclear power stations after the 3400 MWe Hinkley Point C, to be operational by 2035. The report envisages a “Final Investment Decision for at least one new nuclear power plant by the end of this parliament”, hence 3400 MWe Sizewell C next year and another large-scale project to follow. "That requires urgent action from government to introduce a new financing model for large and small nuclear this year”, according to the UK Nuclear Industry Association. The report addresses “the necessary scale-up of policy action in all sectors” actually to deliver outcomes rather than rhetoric. It recognises recent government commitment to funding a Small Modular Reactor design and to build an Advanced Modular Reactor demonstrator.

Another new report, from the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory, calls for advanced nuclear fuel cycle developments. This would include improving the economic performance of advanced technology fuels for current light water reactors while also delivering R&D on revolutionary coated particle (TRISO) fuels and fast reactor fuels for advanced reactors. “Recycle technology is at the heart of the programme, evolving world-leading science and technology to reuse precious resources,” particularly uranium, plutonium and minor actinides in fast reactors. Several scenarios for UK are expounded and require government support.
WNN 24/6/21.   UK

UK bipartisan parliamentary group urges urgent nuclear investment

The UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Nuclear Energy has called for urgent decisions to maintain at least 10 GWe of nuclear capacity. "The most critical step now is for government to begin legislating for a financing model for new nuclear in 2021.” It outlined a 10-point roadmap free of EU constraints.
WNN 30/6/21.   UK

UK publishes Hydrogen Roadmap

The UK Nuclear Industry Council, a joint industry-government body, has published a Hydrogen Roadmap for the UK showing how the country might achieve 225 TWh (6.76 million tonnes) of low-carbon hydrogen each year by 2050. It outlines how large-scale and small modular reactors (SMRs) can produce both the power and the heat necessary to produce clean hydrogen. It proposes 12-13 GW of nuclear reactors of all types using high-temperature steam electrolysis and thermochemical means to produce 75 TWh/yr (2.25 Mt) of clean hydrogen by 2050. This would complement some ‘green hydrogen’ from intermittent renewables but with higher load factors for expensive electrolysers reducing cost to that of today’s ‘grey’ hydrogen production which has large CO2 emissions. A “robust policy framework” will be required.

This is complementary to an October 2020 policy briefing by The Royal Society in UK on Nuclear Cogeneration. It examines how the use of nuclear power could be expanded to improve the overall efficiency and energy system resilience to meet the UK net-zero 2050 goal. It considers particularly cogeneration, where the heat from a nuclear power station is used to address some of the ‘difficult to decarbonise’ energy demand, as well as providing electricity. Hydrogen production is a prime focus, and small reactors could match their thermal output to the requirements of a single plant or cluster of co-located industrial processes.
WNN 17/2/19.   UK, Hydrogen

UK flags commitment to High-Temperature Gas-cooled Reactors

In line with its November 2020 Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution the UK government has published for consultation its plans for investing in high-temperature gas-cooled reactors to enable a research and development program resulting in a demonstration unit by the early 2030s. The high temperature heat is for clean hydrogen production, industrial processes and electricity generation. The UK already has considerable experience operating gas-cooled reactors. The government said that this initiative is separate from its interest in small modular reactors and is part of its £385 million support for more flexible nuclear technologies.
WNN 29/7/21.   UK

Over 2015 to 2019 a number of well-supported proposals were put forward for small modular reactors in UK and in mid 2020 the government attempted to prioritise some of these. Now the Dalton Nuclear Institute at Manchester University has published a Strategy for Action that aims to cut through the confusion. It set out eight actions required to assess objectively the role of nuclear power in achieving the government’s aim of net zero CO2 emissions by 2050. These focused on early commissioning of a demonstration high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, with major consideration also paid to demonstrating hydrogen generation using nuclear heat. Then an ongoing review of all kinds of small modular reactors should be maintained and led by a body that is not conflicted by claims and lobbying by any particular proposer. R&D into closed fuel cycles should continue.
WNN 15/6/21.   UK

UK nuclear plant closed down

Due to costs and complications in refurbishment, EDF Energy has decided to defuel and finally retire the two advanced gas-cooled reactors at the Dungeness B nuclear plant in Kent.  The 1090 MWe (net) plant has not operated since September 2018, having started generation in 1983. This is one of three AGR plants which have experienced problems with age cracking in the graphite moderator. The company has already announced plans for early closure this year of the 965 MWe Hinkley Point B and 985 MWe Hunterston B plants for this reason. Each has twin AGR reactors. Thus 3040 MWe of AGR capacity – six reactors - will retire for decommissioning this year, leaving four twin AGR plants and one PWR operating, total 5883 MWe. The UK's fleet of seven AGRs have met around 20% of the country’s electricity needs over the last four decades. They are unique to UK and have a high thermal efficiency.

At Hinkley Point in Somerset EDF Energy is building two new French EPR units of 1720 MWe each, the ‘C’ plant, due online in 2026 and 2027. China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) has a one-third share in this project. EDF has plans to build more: twin EPRs at Sizewell, with 20% share by CGN, and then with CGN being the major partner and EDF 33.5%, twin Chinese 1150 MWe Hualong One reactors at Bradwell, near London. CGN built and operates the only two completed EPR units, at Taishan in Guangdong province.
WNN 8/6/21.  UK


Proposal for six large new French reactors

Electricite de France has submitted to the French government a plan to construct six EPR2 reactors at several nuclear power plant sites across the country. The €46 billion proposal is intended to stimulate government thinking about the country’s power mix from the mid 2030s. A preliminary safety report has been submitted to the Nuclear Safety Authority detailing how the simplified 1750 MWe EPR2 design differs from the EPR already under construction at Flamanville - vastly over both budget and schedule. Sites proposed are Penly, Gravelines and another in Rhone-Alpes region, with two units each.  EDF is also supporting plans for small modular reactors, and "To give this product every chance in its target markets outside France, we propose that the next multi-year energy programme will include the construction of the first SMR in France."
LaTribune 6/5/21.   France


German government agrees compensation for nuclear phaseout

The German government has reached an agreement with EOn, EnBW, RWE and Vattenfall on compensation for the forced premature closure of their nuclear power reactors. The utilities are set to receive a total of almost EUR 2.5 billion ($3.0 billion) in compensation after agreeing to drop all legal actions against the government related to the nuclear phaseout. The final regulation related to the compensation will be made into law by the end of this year.

In August 2011 legislation came into effect to close down eight reactors immediately and the rest by the end of 2022, despite these being among the best and safest reactors in the world. At that stage Germany was obtaining around a quarter of its electricity from 17 nuclear reactors operated by the four utilities. Since then, legal engagement has pursued proper compensation both for loss of electricity sales (paying off the plants) and for fresh investments made to extend the lives of plants just before the phaseout decision.
WNN 5/3/21.  Germany, Energiewende


USA takes lead in Poland nuclear plans

After a decade of slow progress towards building nuclear capacity, frustrated by financing challenges, the state treasury took over the specialist state-owned company dealing with the matter and set up a new state-owned company, Polish Nuclear Power Plants (Polskie Elektrownie Jadrowe, PEJ) to lead the investment. It will hold 51% of the construction company and nuclear power project, with a partner for 49% being sought. At least 6 GWe and possibly 9 GWe is envisaged, with the first reactor on line in 2033 and a further unit being added every two years to reduce the country’s heavy reliance on coal. The first units are to be built in Lubiatowo and Zarnowiec in Pomerania, northern Poland.

In March this year, the government ratified an intergovernmental nuclear cooperation agreement that gives the USA 18 months to prepare a technology and financing offer for these nuclear power plants. Now the US Trade & Development Agency has provided a grant to PEJ to assist front-end engineering and design studies by Westinghouse and Bechtel with a view to possibly building an AP1000 reactor as the country’s first nuclear power plant. Further US government funding is anticipated.  The studies will be reviewed in mid 2022 by the Polish government to help it select a partner for PEJ. (Earlier, GE Hitachi, Kepco, SNC-Lavalin, Westinghouse and EdF/Areva were considered.)

This is in addition to plans for deployment of high-temperature gas-cooled reactors (HTR) for industrial process heat included in the government’s 2016 draft strategy for development. Poland has 13 large chemical plants that need 6500 MWt at 400-550°C. The government plans to build a cogeneration HTR of 200-350 MWt for process heat, and before this a 10 MWt experimental HTR at Swierk. The energy minister has nominated the Nuclear Energy Department in the Ministry of Climate & Environment as responsible for proceeding with the experimental HTR. There is close cooperation with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency on HTRs, with a view to hydrogen production.
WNN 1/7/21, 25/6/21.   Poland

Poland set to draw on US nuclear power support

An intergovernmental agreement signed last year has now come into force, giving the USA 18 months to prepare both technology and finance offers to build nuclear power plants in Poland. The country plans to commission six nuclear units from 2033 to 2043, providing 6 to 9 GWe of new reliable capacity to supply at least one third of the country’s demand. They are expected to be built near the Baltic Sea coast and at Belchatow in central Poland.

The USA envisaged that Poland would spend $18 billion on US nuclear technology and services from companies such as Westinghouse, Bechtel and Southern Company, though the total bill for six units was estimated to be $40 billion.  Poland wants to choose a partner to provide the reactor technology and to finance a 49% stake in the project by the end of this year, leaving a controlling share with Poland. 

Coal provided 74% of Poland’s electricity in 2019, and the government plans to reduce this to less than one third by 2040. Nuclear power is seen to be essential to achieve this. Poland also aims to become independent of Russian gas supplies, replacing them from Norway and the USA.

Deployment of high-temperature reactors (HTRs) for industrial heat production was included in the government’s July 2016 draft strategy for development and has been pursued since. Poland has 13 large chemical plants that need 6500 MWt at 400-550°C. The government plans to build a cogeneration HTR of 200-350 MWt for process heat, and before this a 10 MWt experimental HTR. There has been close cooperation with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency on HTRs, partly with a view to hydrogen production.
WNN 3 & 5/3/21.  Poland


Russia starts building innovative demonstration reactor

Rosatom’s fuel cycle company TVEL has started construction of the demonstration BREST-300 reactor at the Siberian Chemical Combine (SCC) in Seversk. This is a new-generation fast neutron reactor which supersedes the sodium-cooled BN designs now operating at Beloyarsk. Lead cooling enables more efficient use of the dense mixed nitride uranium-plutonium (MNUP) fuel derived from recycled plutonium and depleted uranium. In a fast reactor the depleted uranium is transformed to fissile plutonium. The fuel has been extensively tested in the BN-600 reactor at Beloyarsk since 2015, and by the end of last year more than 1000 MNUP fuel assemblies had been produced in SCC’s pilot plant.

The BREST project is remarkable because it is an integral part of the Pilot Demonstration Energy Complex (PDEC) which comprises three elements: a mixed uranium-plutonium nitride fuel fabrication/re-fabrication module; a nuclear power plant with BREST-300 reactor; and a used nuclear fuel reprocessing module (for 2024 operation). The combination enables a fully closed fuel cycle on one site. In November 2019 SCC awarded a contract to Titan-2 to build the first BREST unit and in February 2021 Rostechnadzor issued a construction licence for it.

If BREST is successful as a 300 MWe unit, a 1200 MWe (2800 MWt) version will follow. Rosatom's long-term strategy up to 2050 involves moving to inherently safe nuclear plants using fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle and MOX or nitride fuel.
WNN 8/6/21.   Russia NP

New Russian reactor in commercial operation

Rosatom has started commercial operation of the second VVER-1200 reactor at the Leningrad nuclear power plant in western Russia, after receiving regulatory approval. The existing Leningrad plant site at Sosnovy Bor has four RBMK-1000 units, while Leningrad II will have four VVER-1200 units progressively replacing them to provide more than half the electricity in the St Petersburg region.
WNN 15 & 22/3/21.  Russia NP

Construction licence for first new-generation Russian fast reactor

Russian regulator Rostechnadzor has issued a construction licence to Siberian Chemical Combine at Seversk for a lead-cooled fast neutron reactor, the BREST OD-300. This is a new-generation fast reactor which supersedes Russia’s established sodium-cooled BN fast reactor designs and represents a major step forward in nuclear power technology. Lead cooling enables greater utilisation of minor actinides from recycled fuel than in BN reactors.

Plans have evolved since 2010 and in 2012 Rosatom announced that a pilot demonstration BREST-300 fast reactor with associated fuel cycle facilities would be built at the Siberian Chemical Combine at Seversk, near Tomsk, 3500 km east of Moscow. The SCC is a subsidiary of TVEL, the nuclear fuel manufacturing subsidiary of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom. The whole project comprises three phases: a mixed uranium-plutonium nitride fuel fabrication/re-fabrication module; a nuclear power plant with BREST OD-300 reactor; and a used nuclear fuel reprocessing module. It is known as the pilot demonstration energy complex (PDEC) and is a key part of Rosatom's high-priority 'Proryv' (Breakthrough) project to create a new generation of nuclear power technologies on the basis of a closed nuclear fuel cycle using fast neutron reactors. On this basis Rosatom envisages nuclear power providing 45-50% of Russia’s electricity by 2050, rising to 70-80% by the end of the century.

Rostechnadzor issued a licence in 2014 for the fuel fabrication module for dense mixed uranium-plutonium nitride nuclear fuel. The government then in 2016 ordered construction of the reactor by 2025, but Rosatom has since announced that it would not begin commercial operation before 2026. It will be built by Titan-2 engineering. Proceeding with the project depended on successful testing of the nitride fuel in the BN-600 reactor from the end of 2013. If BREST is successful as a 300 MWe unit, a 1200 MWe version will follow.

A related facility is the multi-purpose fast neutron research reactor, MBIR. This is a 150 MWt multi-loop reactor under construction since 2015 at the Research Institute for Atomic Reactors at Dimitrovgrad, about 800 km east of Moscow. It will be capable of testing lead or lead-bismuth and gas coolants as well as sodium, simultaneously in three parallel outside loops. Initially it will have sodium coolant and will run on MOX fuel with high plutonium content. Completion was expected in 2020, but the project was paused after starting construction and commissioning is now expected in 2028. It is to be part of an international research centre at RIAR’s site, with the project open to foreign participation in connection with the International Atomic Energy Agency's International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO). MBIR will replace the old BOR-60 fast reactor at the site which has been widely used by international researchers since 1969.
WNN 16/1/19, 11/2/21.   Russia NP

Russia commits to further floating nuclear power plants for remote mine

Rosatom and a subsidiary of Kaz Minerals have signed for power supply to the new Baimskaya copper mining project in the Chukotka region of eastern Siberia. Rosatom proposes to use three floating nuclear power plants each employing a pair of the new 55 MWe RITM-200M reactors, a version of which is in service powering icebreakers. A fourth unit would be held in reserve for use during repair or refueling. The first reactors are already under construction by Atomenergomash. The companies said that they would conclude a long-term take-or-pay contract for the electricity by April 2022.

The mine is expected in operation about 2027, contingent on the regional government agreeing to share infrastructure development costs, in particular to finance and construct the power lines to the mine. The overall project is expected to cost $8 billion. In the first few years it is expected to produce 320,000 t/yr copper as well as gold and other minerals providing one third of revenue.

The first two nuclear vessels are expected to be delivered to their working location at the project’s port, Cape Nagloynyn, Chaunskaya Bay and connected to 110 kV transmission lines leading about 200 km to Bilibino and then another 200 km inland to the Baimskaya mine at the end of 2026. The third unit is due to be connected at the end of 2027, increasing power supply to about 330 MWe. Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant is in service at Pevek at the entry to Chaunskaya Bay, using two older model 35 MWe reactors. It, with the Bilibino nuclear power plant, is supplying 20 MWe to the Baimskaya project during the construction phase until 2027. The old nuclear capacity of 33 MWe at Bilibino is due to be retired by then.

Meanwhile, 1200 km west, but still in a remote part of Siberia, Rosatom plans a land-based RITM-200M plant at Ust-Kuyga in Yakutia and has signed an electricity supply agreement with the government of Sakha (Yakutia). A site licence is expected to be issued in 2023, with construction from 2024 and operation in 2028. It will replace coal and diesel capacity in the Ust-Yansky district and also supply the Kyuchus gold mine project in the Verkoyansky district. It is expected to halve the local cost of electricity.
WNN 26/7/21.  Russia NP

Russia announces plans for first onshore small reactor

The first SMR onshore nuclear power plant in Russia will be built in Yakutia from 2024, with operation scheduled for 2027. It will have two RITM-200M modules. These are derived from those now operating in the LK-60 icebreakers and are integral 175 MWt/50 MWe pressurised water reactors. Operational lifetime is 60 years, with 5-7 year refuelling cycle. This will be a reference plant for export sales. It will provide power for mining operations in the remote region. Several floating nuclear power plants with these reactors are planned for the northern Siberian coast, to service mining and oil production.
WNN 11/11/20.  Russia NP

Russian proposal for fleet of floating nuclear power plants

The Baimskaya copper-gold mining project in the remote Chukotka Autonomous District is expected to need 350 MWe of reliable power. Rosatom has offered to supply this using five floating nuclear power plants of 100 MWe each – four in service and one rotating backup, for RUR 169 billion ($2.29 billion). These would use the new RITM-200M reactors of 50 MWe each, with pairs on much smaller barges than that used for the plant at Pevek. The alternative is a natural gas fired plant built by Novatek, producing at RUR 6.45/kWh (9 cents/kWh), but with limited lifetime.  The cost of the whole mining project is RUR 570 billion.
NW 20/5/21.  Russia NP


First Belarus reactor in commercial operation

Belarusian regulator Gosatomnadzor has issued the full operating licence for Ostrovets 1 so that the country’s first nuclear power station is now cleared for commercial operation. The VVER-1200 reactor of 1109 MWe was connected to the grid in December. A second unit is about a year behind it.
WNN 3/6/21.   Belarus

International review confirms safety of Belarus plant

The European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) has undertaken a peer review of the new Ostrovets. nuclear power plant in Belarus and confirmed its safety in the face of concerns expressed by neighbouring Lithuania. A preliminary report assesses progress against seven criteria arising from EU stress tests following the Fukushima accident. Belarus is engaging voluntarily with the full EU process. Rosatom, which supplied the plant, describes the VVER-1200 as the backbone of its export portfolio comprising 36 units across 12 markets.
WNN 5/3/21.  Belarus


First Chinese Hualong reactor in commercial operation

China National Nuclear Corporation has put its first Hualong One reactor, Fuqing 5, into commercial operation.  The 1090 MWe (net) unit was connected to the grid in November after 66 months construction (despite delay due to primary coolant pumps).  Unit 6 at the site is about a year behind it. China now has 49 nuclear reactors in commercial operation, total 47.5 GWe.

The design and construction of the Hualong One as a third-generation large reactor is a flagship project for China, so achieving commercial operation of the first unit is celebrated. It “marks a milestone for the development of China’s nuclear power, making China the fourth country to master its indigenous Generation III nuclear power technology following the USA, France and Russia," CNNC said. It intends to promote the design in export markets.
WNN 1/2/21.   China NP

New Chinese reactors connected to grid

Tianwan 6, a 1118 MWe (gross) Chinese ACPR1000 reactor, has been connected to the grid after 56 months construction. Its twin, unit 5, started operation last year. Tianwan 5&6 (phase III of the plant) were built as Chinese-designed reactors instead of continuing the line of four Russian VVER-1000s at Tianwan. 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 very soon.

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. China Nuclear Industry Huaxing Construction Co built both nuclear islands. Dongfang Electric supplied turbine generators using Arabelle low-speed technology, built under an agreement with GE Alstom. These are in most large new nuclear plants in China.

Tianwan 6 is the fourth 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 has evolved from those with full Chinese intellectual property rights claimed. Beyond these, the Hualong One reactor is being built, merging the proven ACPR with another design, the rationalisation being by political edict.
WNN 12/5/21.   China NP

Unit 5 of the Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in China's Liaoning province has been connected the grid as the country’s 51st commercial nuclear power reactor. The nuclear total is now about 50 GWe. Construction of the 1080 MWe domestically-designed ACPR1000 unit started in March 2015 and took about 57 months, but commissioning was delayed. Its twin, unit 6 at the site, will be the last second-generation reactor built in China.
WNN 25/6/21.   China NP

New Chinese reactor in commercial operation

After connecting to the grid in May, Tianwan 6 has completed tests and in now in commercial operation. Units 5 & 6 are locally-designed ACPR1000 reactors of 1080 MWe net.  Units 7 & 8 at the site will be Russian VVER-1200 units, and the first is under construction.
WNN 3/6/21.  China NP

New Chinese reactor starts up

Unit 5 of the Hongyanhe nuclear power plant in China's Liaoning province has attained a sustained chain reaction for the first time. Construction of the 1080 MWe domestically-designed ACPR1000 pressurised water reactor started in March 2015 and was largely completed in 2019, but commissioning has been delayed.
WNN 17/6/21.   China NP

China starts building new nuclear power plants

On new year’s eve China General Nuclear Corp (CGN) commenced construction of the first unit at San’ao Cangnan nuclear power plant in Zhejiang province.  This is a Hualong One reactor of 1150 MWe gross, the first of six planned there. Two units of phase 1 are expected to cost $5.54 billion, partly from private capital – 2% from Geely Technology Group.
WNN 4/1/21.      China NP

Construction of Changjiang unit 3 on Hainan island has commenced. It is the first of a pair of Hualong One reactors alongside two smaller CNP-600 units. The China Huaneng Group holds a 51% share of the project, with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).  Construction will be managed by Huaneng and is expected to take 60 months.

Huaneng is a very active newcomer to China’s nuclear power scene.  It has a 49% share in the smaller reactors at Changjiang, 45% of the Shidaowan project building two CAP-1400 reactors in Shandong, it is the lead organisation in building the HTR-PM demonstration reactor at Shidaowan and has a 10% stake in the demonstration CFR600 project at Xiapu where two commercial-scale fast neutron reactors are being built. Huaneng also has further nuclear plans at those sites and elsewhere.

CNNC is building the first ACP-100 small modular reactor at the Changjiang site. This Linglong One Demonstration Project envisages the design being a standard SMR widely used by 2030. The whole 125 MWe reactor with integral steam generators will be factory-made.

In 2019 Hainan Province Development and Reform Commission published energy policies specifying that nuclear power will become the primary source of electricity for the island, with gas power mainly used for peaking management.
​WNN 31/3/21.  China NP

Two closely related major projects to build four Russian nuclear power reactors in China have been launched jointly by the Presidents of China and Russia via video link. Hailed as “a truly iconic flagship joint project”, there was simultaneous concrete pouring at two sites, for Tianwan 7 and Xudabao 3. There are to be two VVER-1200 units at each site.  They will be the same as two now operating at Leningrad NPP.  Tianwan in Jiangsu province already has four Russian VVER-1000 reactors, and two Chinese reactors.  Xudabao in Liaoning province is a greenfield site with two CAP-1000 reactors – derived from Westinghouse AP1000 – due to start construction this year. Construction start for Tianwan 8 and Xudabao 4 is expected later this year.

China is on track to commence building eight large new reactors this year, total nearly 10 GWe.
WNN 19/5/21.   China NP

China starts construction of new small power reactor

Construction of a small modular reactor (SMR) demonstration project at the Changjiang nuclear power plant on China's island province of Hainan has officially started. China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said the project will be the world's first land-based commercial SMR. It is expected to take 58 months to build.

The multi-purpose ACP100 or Linglong One integral pressurised water reactor is designed for electricity production, heating, steam production or seawater desalination. It can deliver 125 MWe or 1000 GJ/hr process heat. It has integral steam generators so that the whole reactor can be shipped from the factory in Bashan, Jilin province, as a single module about 5.5 m diameter and weighing 256 tonnes. The ACP100 was identified as a 'key project' in China's 12th Five-Year Plan, and is developed from the 1150 MWe Hualong One, two of which are being built at the same site. More ACP100 units are planned at two sites in Jianxi province and then in Zhejiang and Heilongjiang provinces. A marine version – ACP100S – is planned for floating nuclear power plants.
WNN 13/7/21, 25/6/21.  China NP

New Chinese mini electric vehicle heads for mass market

At the end of 2020 some ten million electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, were on the road worldwide. The move to greater electromobility depending on reliable electricity is led by Tesla but boosted by a new Chinese car.  SAIC-GM-Wuling released the Wuling HongGuang mini EV in mid 2020 at a price of $4200. It immediately became very popular, with sales of 119,000 in six months. The concept is for a small and affordable 2-door, 4-seat car, with 665 kg kerb weight which exploits the inherent simplicity of an EV. It has a 13 kW motor and a 9.2 kWh battery, giving 120 km range. It is sold only in China.
Electric vehicles


Taiwan reactor retired

Unit 1 of Kuosheng nuclear power plant has closed down a few months prematurely due to constraints on used fuel storage imposed by local government. The 40-year operating licence for the 985 MWe reactor expires in December. Taipower’s decommissioning plan for the reactor was approved last year. Three nuclear power reactors remain in service.
WNN 1/7/21.  Taiwan


Japan’s energy minister underlines necessity of nuclear power

In the light of winter power shortages, Japan's energy minister has said he considers nuclear energy "indispensable" if the country is to meet its target of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 while maintaining reliable supply. In 2019, nuclear energy provided only 7.5% of the country's electricity, compared with 30% ten years ago. Much of Japan’s nuclear power capacity remains off line due to post-Fukushima modifications being required. Japan's 2018 Basic Energy Plan, due for revision this year, targets 20-22% from nuclear power by 2030 with a similar amount from renewables and 56% from fossil fuels. Political rhetoric calls for much more from renewables, but industry points to the practical need for more nuclear.
WNN 3/2/21.  Japan NP

Japanese reactors slowly return to service

Ten years after the Fukushima accident most of Japan’s nuclear power reactors remain offline. Kansai’s Mihama 3 has just returned to full power operation after completion of safety upgrade work. The 780 MWe (net) reactor started commercial operation in 1976 and is licensed to 2036.  Of 33 operable reactors, only ten are now online, all pressurised water types. Five others, including four boiling water reactors, are in final stages of approval. The new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) took over from the discredited Nuclear & Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) in 2012, 18 months after the accident, and has insisted on safety provisions and procedures unique to Japan.

Early in 2011 nuclear energy accounted for almost 30% of the country's total electricity production from 47.5 GWe of capacity (net). There were plans to increase this to 41% by 2017, and to 50% by 2030. Current nuclear contribution is about 6%. This month the latest draft version of Japan’s Basic Energy Plan maintains a target of 20-22% nuclear contribution to supply by 2030. This assumes that 30 reactors will be operating then.
WNN 28/7/21.   Japan NP

Tenth anniversary of Fukushima accident

The strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan ten years ago caused a tsunami which resulted in the meltdown of three operating reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and the release of much airborne radioactive material. While the reactors shut down automatically from the earthquake, the tsunami about an hour later disabled their cooling which was required to remove decay heat from the fuel. Following hydrogen explosions, failure of containment resulted in radioactive material – mainly iodine and caesium – being released and carried downwind. The iodine rapidly decayed to innocuous levels, while some contamination from caesium remains.

Some 20,000 people were killed by the tsunami, but there were no deaths or serious ill effects from the radioactivity. However, the precautionary evacuation of many people up to 20 km downwind was prolonged indefinitely by the government (instead of for a couple of weeks) and resulted in over two thousand deaths, according to official figures. The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has published an updated report of the accident, confirming its 2013 view that “future health effects directly related to radiation exposure are unlikely to be discernible.”

The March edition of the IAEA Bulletin covers safety issues focused on Fukushima lessons.
WNN 9/31/20.  Fukushima accident, Effects of nuclear accidents 

Fukushima plant to discharge contaminated water

After years of indecision and the accumulation of 1.37 million cubic metres of treated water in tanks since the accident ten years ago, the Japanese government has approved the progressive release of the water into the ocean after dilution. All of it has been treated in an Advanced Liquid Processing System to remove all contaminants except tritium (as H2O). The level of tritium in the released water – under 1500 Bq/L - will be one seventh of World Health Organisation drinking water standards, and the annual amount will be well below the licensed level for the plant before the accident of 22 TBq/yr.  Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years and is considered one of the least harmful radionuclides. Controlled discharge of water containing tritium into the sea is routine worldwide. The radiological impact of the discharges will be many orders of magnitude less than from natural background radiation.
WNN 13/4/21.  Fukushima accident


India connects new reactor to grid

Unit 3 of the Kakrapar nuclear power plant in India's Gujarat state has been connected to the electricity grid after 122 months construction. The reactor - the country's first indigenously designed 700 MWe pressurised heavy water reactor - achieved criticality in July last year. A second one is under construction at Kakrapar, and two more at Rajasthan. India plans to put 21 new nuclear power reactors - including 10 indigenously designed PHWRs - with a combined generating capacity of 15,700 MWe into operation by 2031, the Department of Atomic Energy announced two years ago. It has 23 reactors operating, total almost 7000 MWe.
WNN 11/1/21.      India

Construction start on new Russian reactor in India

Full construction of unit 5 at Kudankulam nuclear power plant has commenced with pouring of the massive concrete base of the plant. This and unit 6 are VVER-1000 Russian reactors like units 1-4. Kudankulam 1 & 2 have been operating since 2013 and 2016. Units 3 & 4 have been under construction since 2017 and are about half complete.
WNN 29/6/21.   India


Large Chinese reactor in Pakistan in commercial operation

The 1100 MWe Karachi unit 2 has commenced commercial operation in Pakistan. It is the first in a pair of Hualong One (HPR1000) reactors at the site, and was built in 67 months by China Nuclear Engineering & Construction Group Co.
WNN 21/5/21.   Pakistan

Grid connection for large new reactor in Pakistan

The 1100 MWe Karachi unit 2 has now been put into operation in Pakistan.  It is the first in a pair of Chinese Hualong One (HPR1000) reactors at the site, and on its own almost doubles the country’s nuclear power capacity.
WNN 19/3/19.   Pakistan

New large Chinese reactor in Pakistan starts up

The 1100 MWe Karachi unit 2 is the first in a pair of Chinese Hualong One reactors to be completed and to start up in Pakistan.  The country has four smaller Chinese reactors inland at Chashma and a very small 50-year old Canadian reactor at Karachi. Pakistan is the first export country to build the new Hualong reactor.  When it is grid-connected about the end of March it will almost double Pakistan’s nuclear power capacity.
WNN 3/3/19.   Pakistan


UAE’s first Barakah reactor in commercial operation

After seven months of checking and testing since first supplying power to the grid, the 1400 MWe Barakah unit 1 is now in full commercial operation.  Unit 2 is expected to start up later this year, with units 3 & 4 to follow.
​WNN 6/4/21.  UAE


Construction start for third new reactor in Turkey

Three years after construction started on the initial unit, first concrete has been poured for the third of four Russian VVER-1200 reactors at Akkuyu. The complete power station will provide 4800 MWe capacity and supply up to 37 TWh per year – about one tenth of Turkey’s anticipated needs. The onsite workforce of 8000 is mainly Turkish, and the first 186 graduates in nuclear engineering and related disciplines have returned after 6.5 years study in Russian universities. This is a Russian build-own-operate project with offtake ageements.

Russia is now building nine large reactors in five export countries. Twelve more are under contract.
WNN 10/3/19.   Turkey


Australia’s Ranger Uranium mine closes down

After almost 40 years of operation and the production of 132,000 tonnes of uranium oxide (112,000 tU), Energy Resources of Australia (ERA) Ranger mine 230 km east of Darwin has closed down due to expiry of its operating licence and refusal of traditional owners of the land to extend it. Substantial resources remain – about 37,000 tU in an orebody extending to 500 m deep.  Production since 2012 has been from stockpiled ore, as a massive rehabilitation project ramped up. This is to return the site to something like its original condition by 2026, with tailings in mine pits. It will then be incorporated into the surrounding Kakadu National Park. The mine closure plan is here:  Some A$ 642 million has been spent on rehabilitation and water management since 2012. The town of Jabiru 8 km away will become simply a tourist centre. For the last 20 years ERA has been a subsidiary of Rio Tinto.
WNN 8/1/21.   Australia


Iran stokes Western world fears with step towards weapons material

Since 1970 the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) has curbed the aspirations of countries wanting to develop nuclear weapons by promoting cooperation on peaceful nuclear energy and dissuading activities which are potentially weapons-related. With very few exceptions (eg North Korea, Pakistan) this has restricted nuclear weapons to six countries. 

Iran has been the focus of attention since a major clandestine uranium enrichment program became evident in 2002. In 2006 the UN Security Council called on Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment. This was ignored. Quite independently of this, since 2011 Iran has had a large Russian nuclear power reactor operating, providing about 3% of its electricity. All the fuel is provided by Russia. A second such reactor is under construction.

Following considerable international expressions of concern about the uranium enrichment program, and related sanctions, Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (P5+1) with the European Union signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) in July 2015. Under its terms, Iran agreed to limit its uranium enrichment to 3.67% U-235. The UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency has now informed its Member States that this week Iran began feeding uranium already enriched up to 4.1% U-235 into six centrifuge cascades at one of its three enrichment plants for further enrichment up to 20%. While enriching from 4% up to 20% U-235 is quite a major step, less energy is required to upgrade 20% enriched uranium to weapons grade.

The UK, French and German foreign ministers have now said "We are deeply concerned by the commencement by Iran on the 4th of January of uranium enrichment up to 20% at the underground facility of the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant. This action, which has no credible civil justification and carries very significant proliferation-related risks, is in clear violation of Iran’s commitments under the JCPoA and further hollows out the Agreement." It added: "This is a serious negative development which ….. risks compromising the important opportunity for a return to diplomacy with the incoming US Administration. We strongly urge Iran to stop enriching uranium to up to 20% without delay, reverse its enrichment programme to the limits agreed in the JCPoA and to refrain from any further escalatory steps which would further reduce the space for effective diplomacy."
WNN 7/1/21.   Iran, Safeguards, Enrichment

Further European concern about Iran’s uranium enrichment

Following Iran’s announcement that it intends to proceed with enriching uranium to 20% U-235, France, Germany and UK (E3) have raised objections to other aspects of the December law which repudiates the internationally-agreed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA). The law also stipulates that Iran will no longer be bound by the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol it had signed with the International Atomic Energy Agency, meaning that access to its nuclear sites by international inspectors would cease. A particular issue for the E3 is production of enriched uranium as metal, which has no civil use, but “potentially grave military implications.” So "We strongly urge Iran to halt this activity and return to compliance with its JCPoA commitments without further delay.”
WNN 19/1/21.      Iran



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