India Sets Course for Nuclear Energy with New Build of Ten 700 MW PHWR; Emphasis is on Domestic Suppliers

  • India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved construction of 10 700 MW PHWR reactors in what is being called “a big boost” for his “Make in India” program of local sourcing of the supply chain.
  • With almost a quarter of India’s 1.2 billion population lacking access to reliable electrical power, the government’s actions will add almost 8 GW of nuclear power to the grid.
  • The program will require a massive infusion of people and funding for NPCIL, the state-owned nuclear energy utility. It is estimated to cost over $11 billion and is expected to create over 33,000 jobs.
  • It’s clear the government has lost patience not only with cost overruns and schedule delays by western reactor vendors for their own projects, but also with self-initiated domestic stumbling blocks including a brazenly stupid supplier liability law, entrenched bureaucracy hindering approval of new projects, and a lack of funding to build them.

Indian-PHWR-Schematic-Layout-Diagram

Until now India sourced its PWR reactors from Russia which built and commissioned two 1000 MW VVER units at Kudankulam and has broken ground for two more. India and Russia are close to inking final terms and conditions for a 5th & 6th unit at the site in Tamil Nadu on India’s southern most coastal site.

The Indian government dithered for over six years with western nuclear reactor suppliers. Protracted negotiations with Westinghouse and Areva, which began almost a decade ago, have not resulted in projects breaking grounds with either vendor.

The government is keenly aware of massive cost over runs for Areva reactors under construction in Finland and France as well as problems with the financial collapse of Toshiba/Westinghouse.

Plans to build six EPR 1650 MW PWR type reactors at Jaitapur on India’s west coast have been clouded by cost overruns and schedule delays for EPRs under construction in Finland and France.

Plans to build six Westinghouse AP1000 1150 MW PWR type reactors on India’s west coast in Andhra Pradesh have recently crashed on the rocks of the bankruptcy filing in March and financial turmoil Japan’s Toshiba, its parent firm. Cost overruns and schedule delays in construction of four AP1000s in the U.S. have also served as caution lights for India’s energy policy makers.

Effects of Supplier Liability Law

But both Westinghouse and Areva also balked at committing to their respective projects because of the draconian supplier liability law enacted by PM Modi’s BJP parties.  The law hindered western firms from entering the Indian market and it crippled the domestic nuclear industry.

As part of the announcement this week to build 10 new PHWR reactors, which use natural uranium, India’s government also reclassified Indian heavy industry firms as “vendors” thus exempting them from the supplier liability law. The law, which was pushed by India’s coal mining interests, was passed under the guise of seeking to prevent another Bhopal industrial disaster. Another element of support for the law was a desire for preservation of the country’s “nonaligned” status which favored use of an indigenous design.

Role for India’s Heavy Industry

This move to exempt domestic industry opens the way for India to develop a domestic supply chain of large long lead time components such as steam generators, pumps, and turbines. Unlike PWR reactors, PHWRs, based on AECL’s CANDU technology, do not need the same kind of large forgings for reactor pressure vessels. The ten new reactor units are expected to produce manufacturing orders worth over $11 billion and produce over 33,000 jobs in India.

candu reactor

Conceptual drawing of a CANDU type nuclear reactor

The government believes that by relying on domestic manufacturing firms that it can produce economies of scale for all 10 reactors. Indian heavy industry firms such as Larsen & Toubro, Kirloskar Brothers, and Godrej & Boyce issued statements to the India news media welcoming the announcement.  (See this slide deck for a presentation on L&T’s heavy industry capabilities, and certifications, to build PHWRs)

In 2017 the first supplies of uranium from Australia will arrive in India. Since the PHWR CANDU type reactors don’t require enriched uranium, the fuel for them will be readily available.

Challenges Ahead

The major challenges for the huge program include;

  • Funding the projects at about $1 billion each and placing orders for long lead time components.
  • The government must provide a detailed roadmap to industry to set the wheels in motion. Industry may be wary of promises of orders for  manufacturing of components.
  • Streamlining the project approval process within NPCIL and for the government as a whole.
  • Ramping up its safety and regulatory oversight functions to cover 10 new reactors during their construction and commissioning periods and once they are in revenue service.
  • Training and deploying a construction workforce as well as future operators the plants

The 10 reactors are expected to be built at The 10 reactors will be installed in Kaiga in Karnataka (Unit 5 and 6), Chutka in Madhya Pradesh (Unit 1 and 2), Gorakhpur in Haryana (Unit 3 and 4) and Mahi Banswara in Rajasthan (Unit 1, 2, 3 and 4).

Future Domestic Reactor Designs

Separately, the Hindu reported on May 19th that reactor designers at Bhabha Atomic Research Center, working with NPCIL, have completed a design for a 900 MW PWR type reactor that uses enriched uranium fuel (3-5% U235). In 2015 the IAEA posted a slide deck with the technical details of the planned 900 MW PWR type reactors.

Overall, the Hindu reports the government’s longer term plans are to build 28 of these reactors with a total capacity of 25 GW over the next 15 years.

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Vogtle and V C Summer Seek 2nd Chances to Finish Reactors

  • 2nd chanceA new service agreement at the Vogtle site will remove Westinghouse as the EPC and slot the firm as a vendor. The utility is paying Fluor, a separate EPC, for ongoing work.
  • At SCANA the utility extended the interim agreement with Westinghouse to June 26 and retained Fluor as its EPC. The utility still may cancel the twin reactor construction project if Westinghouse / Toshiba does not make good on its commitments to cover multi-billion dollar cost overruns.
  • New cost estimates will be needed for completion of both projects and the public utility commissions in both Georgia and South Carolina will have to review and approve them for the projects to go to completion.
  • The stakes are enormous with four Westinghouse 1150 MW AP1000 reactors under construction – two in Georgia and two in South Carolina. While interim arrangements take the projects at both sites to the end of June, long-term commitments still depend on complex financial arrangements that have yet to be negotiated between the utilities and Westinghouse and Toshiba.

Update May 15, 2017

Power plant owners limit Toshiba’s Westinghouse liabilities

(Reuters) The owners of the unfinished Vogtle power plant in Georgia led by Southern Co has agreed to cap Toshiba Corp’s responsibility for its guarantees on the much-delayed nuclear project at $3.6 billion.

The agreement pegs Toshiba’s guarantees for the unfinished Vogtle plant at about $3.6 billion, payable over at least three years, but the deal was not yet final.

The deal is also contingent on the owners of the incomplete V.C. Summer power plant in South Carolina, including utility company SCANA Corp coming to a similar agreement with Toshiba.

It is more cost-effective for both the Vogtle and V.C. Summer nuclear power plants to be completed together. Southern is assessing the cost to complete the twin reactor project in Georgia and Scana is considering scrapping its reactor effort in South Carolina and building a natural gas plant instead.

Voglte Sets New Service Agreement with Westinghouse

Georgia Power and Westinghouse have, in principle, reached a new service agreement which allows for the transition of project management from Westinghouse to Southern Nuclear and Georgia Power once the current engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract is rejected in Westinghouse’s bankruptcy proceeding.

The interim assessment agreement will remain in place until June 3 while the new service agreement is final and all court-related approvals are obtained. During this time, work will continue at the site and a transition of project management will begin. As previously stated, the company will take all actions necessary to hold Westinghouse and Toshiba accountable for their financial obligations.

Georgia Power said in a statement it will continue work to complete its full-scale schedule and cost-to-complete analysis and work with the project Co-owners (Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities) and the Georgia Public Service Commission to determine the best path forward for customers.

Westinghouse Bankruptcy Throws Fate of Reactors into Question

(Bloomberg) What this means is that Southern Co. has agreed to take the lead on building two nuclear reactors at its Vogtle power plant in Georgia from bankrupt contractor Westinghouse Electric Co. as soon as next month.

According to news media reports Southern said in a statement that an interim contract and service agreement with Westinghouse will be in place on June 3.

This is good news because the looming bankruptcy of Toshiba, the parent firm of Westinghouse, scrambled the plans for completion of the two reactors at Southern’s Vogtle plant and another two being built at Scana Corp.’s V.C. Summer station in South Carolina.

Southern CEO Thomas Fanning told the media his company could take over the work at Vogtle if Toshiba provides $3.7 billion to finish it as promised. The deal is said to also depend in part on Scana agreeing to follow suit, so the two companies will be able to share resources.

The Westinghouse’s bankruptcy has moved slowly with Westinghouse recently asking for a two-week delay until May 26 to file a full schedule of its assets and debts.

The key reason is that Toshiba has not yet filed an audited financial statement. The problem for Westinghouse is that without an audited financial statement from the parent firm, it cannot value its assets and liabilities nor come to terms with creditors.

Reports of  Expected Toshiba bankruptcy Raises New Doubts About SCANA

(The Post and Courier) The utilities building new reactors at the V C Summer site aren’t saying what impact a potential Toshiba Corp. bankruptcy filing could have on the troubled construction project, even as more questions are being raised about the Japanese conglomerate’s financial health.

“We haven’t been informed about a Toshiba bankruptcy filing, and we won’t speculate about one,” Rhonda O’Banion, spokeswoman for South Carolina Electric & Gas parent SCANA Corp., said this week.

Toshiba’s business partners told The Wall Street Journal that they are anxious about a bankruptcy filing that could wipe out many of the Japanese firm’s commitments, including a guarantee to pay up to $1.7 billion in cost overruns at the V.C. Summer project.

Toshiba pledged to make those payments after its Westinghouse Electric subsidiary, the South Carolina power plant’s main contractor, filed for bankruptcy reorganization in March. The guarantee plays a key role in whether V.C. Summer partners SCANA and Santee Cooper finish the $14 billion project, which is already over budget and behind schedule.

SCANA Corp., Santee Cooper Extend Agreement on Summer Nuclear Station

(Palmetto Business Daily) SCANA Corp. and Santee Cooper have amended the Interim Assessment Agreement with Westinghouse concerning the construction project at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.  The main focus of the amendment was to extend the agreement through June 26.

This will allow for evaluations about the financial viability of the project, where South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. (SCE&G), principal subsidiary of SCANA, and V.C. Summer Nuclear Station project co-owner, Santee Cooper, can continue to make progress on the site. Additionally, Fluor will remain the project’s EPC.

The utilities must make a decision by June 26 whether to build one or both of the reactors or scrap the plan entirely. Santee Cooper’s board of directors met in a private session this week to get legal advice on the project but took no action.

If construction of the reactors is scrapped, SCANA officials have said the company would have to build a new facility powered by natural gas to meet its customers’ projected electricity demands.

Westinghouse To Complete Restructuring Plan By End Of June

(NucNet): Westinghouse plans to complete a restructuring plan by the end of June 2017 and a new business plan by the end of July 2017, the company’s interim president and CEO José Emeterio Gutiérrez said this week. He said the business plan, covering the next five years, will include implementation of the restructuring plan.

Mr Gutiérrez confirmed Westinghouse had received external financing of $800m (€730m) to protect the company’s core business during its reorganization.

“We are 100% sure that this will be sufficient to support the company throughout the bankruptcy proceedings”.

He said: “An important detail is that all the other company divisions are in good shape, continue to generate income and cash flow. That’s why we are convinced that the finances and the profit generated by the other companies, plus the $800m, will be enough while the bankruptcy claim is being reviewed.”

These funds are for operating divisions, like nuclear fuel, and cannot be used for the huge reactor projects in Georgia and South Carolina.

Westinghouse, the US-based nuclear unit of Japan’s Toshiba, filed for bankruptcy protection in the US in March 2017. Asked what had triggered the need to start bankruptcy proceedings Mr Gutiérrez said the problem was cost overruns for reactor construction in the US.

“By late 2016 we realized that the additional cost of completing the construction would be around $6.1bn. This means that the results of the fiscal year, which ended on 31 March, will show significant losses.”

South Africa to Sign New Nuclear Power Pacts After Court Ruling

(Reuters) South Africa plans to sign new, more transparent nuclear power agreements with five foreign countries after a high court blocked a deal with Russia due to a lack of oversight, the energy ministry said.

South Africa signed intergovernmental agreements with Russia, France, China, South Korea and the United States in 2014 as part of plans to build a fleet of nuclear power plants at a cost of between $30 billion and $70 billion.

Many investors view the scale of the nuclear plan as unaffordable and a major risk to South Africa’s financial stability, while opponents of President Jacob Zuma say the deal will be used as a conduit for corruption. Zuma denies allegations of wrongdoing.

The Western Cape High Court found last month that the agreement with Russia lacked transparency and offered Moscow favorable tax rules while placing heavy financial obligations on South Africa.

The energy ministry said it had “major concerns” about the court judgment but would not appeal the ruling. It will continue with nuclear energy plans adhering to stricter procedural guidelines, including consulting parliament.

“There is no intention to table the current agreements but (we) will embark to sign new agreements with all five countries and table them within reasonable time to parliament,” the ministry said in a statement.

Eskom on Friday reinstated its former chief executive Brian Molefe, a Zuma ally who has supported the nuclear power plan.

Molefe stepped down five months ago after being implicated in a report by the country’s anti-graft watchdog into alleged influence-peddling. He denied any wrongdoing.

His reappointment set off a new round of protests that he could not be trusted to run a transparent and fair procurement process.

Some analysts say former finance minister Pravin Gordhan was fired partly because he resisted pressures from a political faction allied to Zuma to back nuclear expansion.

New Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba has said nuclear expansion will only be pursued if it is affordable.

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All Good Ideas to Expand Nuclear Energy Deserve Attention

Getting the policy commitments from government and money from investors to make them a reality is an entirely different matter.

good ideasThere is no shortage of good ideas for improving the prospects of conventional light water reactors, small modular reactors using similar technologies, and advanced reactors which have multiple technological roadmaps.

The problem is that all of them are contending for investor funding, government R&D support, and licensing reform.

The cruel fact of the matter is that no reactor vendor is going to get an order for one of their units from a utility unless they can prove the design is safe and can be operated at a profit. Success factors also include having a reliable supply chain that can meet NQA-1 standards, a skilled workforce to build the units,  a common sense and cost sensitive regulatory environment, and trained operators to run the reactors once built.

One of the reasons the Westinghouse projects in Georgia and South Carolina are in so much trouble is that after 30 years of benign neglect by the Department of Energy, none of these success factors were in place when the projects broke ground. How many undergraduate engineering students are going to switch out of the nuclear field after learning about the financial disaster visited on these projects by mismanagement at Toshiba and Westinghouse?

There are multiple reasons for the decades  of neglect of the nuclear industry, but two of them are that the green wing of the Democratic party favors solar and wind power due to their “lifestyle” appeal to voters and the Republican party, which has long since been captured by the oil and gas industry, sees nuclear energy as a competitive threat.

However, now we are faced with scientific evidence that the earth is warming caused by increased CO2 emissions from fossil energy fuel combustion processes. To “decarbonize” the various energy using sectors of our economy will require a renewed commitment to nuclear energy. It makes no sense to put electric cars on the road if their power comes from coal-fired power plants.

The executive branch of the federal government is ill-prepared for this challenge with the Department of Energy headed by former Texas Governor Rick Perry who famously said he wanted to eliminate DOE in a 2011 presidential debate but couldn’t remember its name.  Unlike other recent secretaries of energy with PhDs, like Steven Chu, who held a Nobel Prize in physics, and Ernest Moniz, who led MIT nuclear energy programs, Perry has an undergraduate degree in animal husbandry.

Perry’s campaign position is consistent with the ‘search & destroy’ profiles of other Trump cabinet appointments like Scott Pruitt at EPA who has made no bones about his plans to tear the agency apart. At Interior Ryan Zinke has made clear he intends to promote coal mining and natural gas drilling in direct contradiction of things like national park boundaries. Finally, many key posts at DOE remain unfilled by Perry.

Taken together it is difficult if not impossible to see any hope of clarity regarding nuclear energy from the executive branch.  Congress may be a source of support, but without a viable agency to execute programs with their funding in place, it may be the U.S. nuclear energy industry is facing a dark and uncertain future at least where the federal government is concerned.

The problem is similarly acute in the UK where a precipitous drive to exit from relationships with the European Union is turning relationships with Euratom on its head.

That said people are speaking up. Here are a series of brief summary reports of industry views on what needs to be done to put the nuclear energy industry in the US and the UK in gear to address the challenge of decarbonization of our energy use.

US Must Expand Nuclear to Maintain Global Influence

  • America’s nuclear fleet key to maintaining geopolitical influence
  • Nuclear power is essential to addressing energy, security and climate challenges
  • Rise of China and Russia poses challenge to nuclear governance

A country’s nuclear energy expertise is a significant element of its geopolitical influence and, along with other clean energy technologies, is essential to meeting global clean energy demands and addressing climate challenges, the Global Nexus Initiative (GNI) says in its fourth and final policy memo.

The expansion of nuclear development outside the United States and Europe is shifting influence toward nations that have not been known as leaders in nuclear governance, like Russia and China. Traditional nuclear leaders like the United States and its allies must bolster their role as nuclear suppliers in order to continue influencing regulatory and security norms, the report states.

Kenneth Luongo, president of the Partnership for Global Security (PGS) discussed U.S. position at a press conference in Washington, D.C.

“The control of market share translates into the power to create nuclear governance rules and prevent commercial competition from eroding vital safety, security and nonproliferation standards.”

image

Source: IAEA

Chart Notes: For the US, the three planned nuclear reactors are far from done deals. They are DTE’s Fermi III, Dominion’s North Anna III, and Duke’s William States Lee plants. All have received NRC licenses. However, given the financial troubles faced by reactors now under construction in Georgia and South Carolina, it could be a long time before any other utility in the U.S. decides to proceed with a full size nuclear reactor regardless of the vendor.

India’s commitments are problematic since 12 of the 20 planned units are supposed to be supplied by Areva and Westinghouse, and neither vendor is anywhere near able to break ground.

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GNI also recommends that the current framework of governance evolve into one that is forward-looking and can handle the particular challenges that the next few decades will present, including effectively involving newcomer nations, guiding emerging suppliers and combating climate change.

The think tank said in its statement that traditional nuclear suppliers … have primarily written the current rules. But they are in the process of losing ground on nuclear commerce to Russia and soon China. These are very serious issues for the entire global community. Nuclear operation and supply are special responsibilities. And, radiation does not respect borders. Standards must be strong.

“An aggressive and effective response to these new realities—strengthening, unifying, and when necessary, expanding the nuclear governance system—is essential for nuclear power to continue to play a vital role in meeting the increasing global need for carbon-free energy in the 21st Century,” GNI says.

Part of this effort will involve not only developing and deploying advanced reactor technology, but also working to preserve the current nuclear plants.

“To increase its market share and thereby preserve its ability to shape the global use of nuclear technology, the United States must have both a strong domestic nuclear power program and an aggressive nuclear trade and export program,” NEI President and Chief Executive Officer Maria Korsnick said at the conference.

“However, preserving the existing fleet is also fundamental to achieve these goals. Without the existing fleet and the associated infrastructure it will be increasingly difficult for technological innovation to occur, or to maintain a robust supply chain for our nuclear navy.”

To achieve these goals, GNI recommends the development of diverse coalitions that include governments, international institutions, the industry, nonproliferation experts, environmental specialists and other stakeholders. As a joint project of the Nuclear Energy Institute and PGS that drew together a diverse range of experts, GNI is a positive example of what these innovative partnerships can do.

US Nuclear Industry Calls For Action On ‘Outdated And Costly’ Regulatory Regime

(NucNet) The US nuclear industry has called for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s “outdated and costly” regulatory regime to be updated. In testimony to the House appropriations committee’s energy and water development subcommittee on May 3, 2017.

Nuclear Energy Institute president and chief executive officer Maria Korsnick said the need for Congressional action on regulatory reform has become more urgent as utilities consider using accident tolerant fuel and NRC applications are being submitted for certification of small modular reactor designs, which will be deployed in the mid-2020s.

She said developers of advanced non-light-water reactors are beginning to deal with the NRC as they look to deploy their technologies around 2030. She said the industry wanted an urgent review of accident tolerant fuel and advanced reactor programs, and funding for federal research and development efforts that promote new technologies and innovation.

Ms Korsnick also called for licensing the proposed Yucca Mountain deep geologic repository and construction of a consolidated interim storage facility.  Ms Korsnick’s testimony is online: http://bit.ly/2qHz6PY

Engineering Association Calls For UK To Focus On SMR Development

(NucNet) The UK should focus on developing small modular reactors (SMRs) to secure the country’s nuclear industry post-Brexit, according to a report by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IME). The report says SMRs could present the UK with export opportunities and return the country to the international nuclear reactor supply arena.

The report outlines possible routes the government could take to leaving the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) regarding issues such as safeguards, nuclear cooperation agreements, research and development, and regulation.

The IME is calling for the UK to develop its own safeguarding office, to ensure the country conforms to international rules on safety and non-proliferation, but says the UK should remain an associate member of Euratom for the specific purpose of R&D.

Jenifer Baxter, head of energy and environment for the IME and lead author of the report, said in a May 5, 2017 statement that the UK’s departure from the EU and Euratom is likely to be “complicated and difficult”, but it also presents the country with an opportunity to “reshape its nuclear industry and once again become a world-leading innovator in nuclear technology”.

EDF Hopes For UK-Style Subsidies For New Nuclear Plants In France

(NucNet) French state-owned utility EDF hopes for UK-style subsidies for the construction of new nuclear plants in France and expects that president-elect Emmanuel Macron’s plan to reduce the share of nuclear in the French power mix is a “long-term” plan.

EDF chief financial officer Xavier Girre said EDF was hoping to convince the Macron government to introduce state subsidies for new nuclear plants, modelled on the contracts for difference (CfD) scheme under which EDF is planning to build two EPR nuclear units at Hinkley Point in England.

EDF has signed a CfD with the British government under which it can sell power at £92.5/MWh for 35 years. The Hinkley Point project will cost £18bn (€21bn, $23bn).

If the market price is above that level, EDF refunds the difference, if it is below that level it receives a top-up.

According to the World Nuclear Association, France has 58 nuclear reactors operated by Electricite de France (EdF), with a total capacity of 63.2 GWe, supplying 436 TWh of electricity in 2014, 77.5% of the total generated there (IEA data).

As a result of the 1974 decision, France now claims a substantial level of energy independence and almost the lowest cost electricity in Europe. It also has an extremely low level of CO2 emissions per capita from electricity generation, since over 90% of its electricity is nuclear or hydro.

The problem France faces is that starting in 2021 32 of its 58 operating reactors will begin to hit the 40 year mark. The end of the the 2020s, all of France’s older 900 MW units will be 40 years old. Planning an affordable succession for these units is a major challenge that must be met starting now.

WNA French Nuclear Power

Mr Girre said EDF also wanted to talk to the new government about the ARENH (‘Regulated Access to Incumbent Nuclear Electricity’) mechanism under which currently it is forced to sell up to 25% of its nuclear output to competitors as part of measures to improve competition in the retail power market.

“We consider that it is necessary and fair to reform the ARENH mechanism to prevent it from being as biased as it is today,” he said.

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Idaho Lab Plans New Uses for NuScale SMR

The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has a plan to conduct nuclear energy R&D using NuScale’s light water reactor technology.

In doing so it will create a test bed on an international scale for advanced reactor designs.

According to a report in the Idaho Falls Post Register for May4, 2017, 18 reactor design groups have expressed interest in using a proposed nuclear reactor test facility at the INL and two of them have indicated they are ready to move their test operations to the site as soon as one of the 12 planned NuScale 50 MW modules is available.

A spokesman for NuScale, which plans to build up to 12 50 MW small modular reactor units at the Idaho site, told the newspaper the first unit for its customer UAMPS, is slated to begin operation in 2026. Last December NuScale submitted their SMR design to the NRC for design certification, which is expected to take three-to-four years to complete.

nuscaleroadmap

NuScale Roadmap

The umbrella concept for the test platform is to use one or possibly two of the 12 units as part of the INL’s joint proposal with NuScale and UAMPS for a “Joint Use Modular Plant.”  The idea is that one or two of the 50 MW units, built after the first unit is in revenue service, would serve as a platform to test different applications of the SMR’s capabilities.

Some of the potential applications that have been discussed being tested including using grids of SMRs to support resilient power for communities so that if one unit is offline, the others keep churning out electricity. With large 1000 MW units, if they go offline, a lot of expensive replacement power has to be obtained right away. If it isn’t available because of demand, brownouts or blackouts can be the result.

Some SMRs might also have as one of their primary purposes providing steam for district heating replacing coal fired units or for desalinization of sea water.

The most intriguing idea is to apply the test SMRs to support development of advanced reactor designs. To that end Terrestrial Energy, a Canadian firm, is reported to be in discussions with the INL to do test work there to develop its molten salt reactor design.

The firm wants to take advantage of the INL’s site with its infrastructure and the fact that environmental reviews for this kind of project were completed for the NuScale project. Having access to the lab’s scientists and engineers is also a big plus.

This kind of work is usually done on a cost-reimbursable basis which means that Terrestrial Energy would have to pay for any costs associated with using the site and having access to a future SMR. To this end Terrestrial Energy has applied for a Department of Energy loan-guarantee.

However, to date the company is still working off of Series A financing packages and has yet to book an investor or a consortium in the $100M or greater range which would be needed to proceed with a prototype.  Nevertheless, the firm has said its time to market for its novel design would be sometime in the 2020s. It announced ambitious plans last January to submit its design to the NRC by 2019.

In July 2016 Transatomic, a developer of an advanced nuclear reactor design, told this blog it also has approached the INL for possible use of test facilities there and to explore the potential to build its first prototype at the site. Transatomic has received a grant from the GAIN program at the INL for work on the specialized fuel that would be needed for its reactor design.

The problem facing both Terrestrial Energy and Transatomic is that new reactor technologies must prove to utilities that they can be operated at a profit within the constraints of existing market realities or they will not be adopted. This requires extensive testing of designs and development of cost estimates that will attract equity investors and customers.

The Idaho test facility, if built, may be able to speed up the process. It will need help from the Department of Energy as will the developers in public / private partnerships to succeed.

SMR Policy Paper Calls for Strong Government Role

A consortium of SMR developers has spelled out the elements of a commercial deployment program needed to stimulate new SMR generation sufficient for self-sustaining deployment. The program should be available through a combination of the following investment mechanisms: (full details here)

  • Production Tax Credits
  • Power Purchase Agreements
  • Loan Guarantees
  • SMR investment tax credit
  • DOE research, development, and demonstration of innovative SMR capabilities
  • DOE and DOD programs to develop the requirements and specifications for SMR-Powered Secure and Reliable microgrids

SMR Trade Group Urges DOE to Use Their Reactors for Grid Stability

  • SMR Start asks DOE to level playing field for small, advanced reactors
  • Nuclear’s unique combination of benefits includes energy security, grid stability
  • SMRs can load-follow, acting in concert with intermittent renewables

smr logoThe indisputable fact is that the nation’s electrical grid cannot run 100% on renewable energy. Both solar and wind are intermittent, and in order to keep the electrical grid stable, there has to be baseload supply/generation.

So far this stability has been provided by large 1000 MW nuclear reactors, as well as gas and coal fired conventional power plants.

The industry consortium of small modular reactor (SMR) developers and customers has written to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry’to support his request for a departmental study on the nation’s energy security and grid reliability. Their main pitch is that if you want grid stabilty, and CO2 emission free baseload power, SMRs are the way to go. Plus they are a lot cheaper than the the full size reactors.

For instance, at $4,000/KW, a 50 MW SMR would cost only $200M. In a multi-unit facility, like the one planned by NuScale for its customer UAMPS, the revenue from the first unit pays for the second and so on. This means the customer is not in a “bet the company” profile waiting for a 1000 MW unit costing $4 billion to come online.

The challenge for SMR vendors is to get enough orders to shift production from a complex supply chain and one-at-a-time fabrication to a factory production line to achieve economies of scale.

These facts are most likely unknown to the new energy secretary who’s background as a career politician in Texas hasn’t instilled much confidence in the industry, although it won’t say that in public.

So starting with the obvious, the in May 2 letter the SMR Start consortium highlighted the role that nuclear energy plays in securing the nation’s baseload power diversity and grid stability.

“Nuclear energy is reliable baseload power that generates nearly 20 percent of U.S. electricity and is a major reason we benefit from affordable electricity prices today,” the letter said.

Perry’s memo to his staff expressed concerns about the potential erosion of the diversity of critical baseload resources, and asked for a 60-day study into how federal policy interventions may be distorting wholesale electricity markets.

He also asked whether some attributes of baseload power sources that strengthen grid reliability are being adequately valued and compensated in wholesale electricity markets, and the extent to which “market-distorting” federal subsidies may “boost one form of energy at the expense of others.”

This last item is clearly aimed at the need to value the zero carbon emissions profile of the nation’s nuclear fleet. A number of otherwise fully operational nucler reactors have closed due to market conditions that undercut their ability to operate at a profit. They include reactors in Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Vermont, among others.

SMR Start’s letter points out that with regard to nuclear energy, the markets are not fully valuing its unique combination of benefits, including “grid reliability, on-site fuel supply, technology diversity, carbon-free generation and long-term price stability.”

The letter recommends that the U.S. Department of Energy implement policy solutions to “level the playing field” for the deployment of new reactors, as well as to preserve existing nuclear facilities. This means rate structures have to be set up that will provide confidence for investors to put up the money to developa and deploy new SMRs for commercial use.

SMRs, which are expected to begin operating in the mid-2020s, will feature “the ability to better match new generation capacity with electric demand growth, enhance grid reliability through load following in areas with high penetration of intermittent renewables, and the ability to be deployed in diverse applications.”

“Federal support for SMRs will continue to be needed in 2018 and over the next several years in order to bring this technology to market in time to meet future energy demands.”

SMR Start’s policy paper further recommends that DOE and the U.S. Department of Defense establish programs to develop SMR-powered microgrids that can power remote locations independent of the main grid, making them “less vulnerable” to natural phenomena and intentional acts.

TVA Not Bullish on SMRs but Keeps Options Open

The Knoxville News reports on May 2 that while TVA has filed an application for an Early Site Permit (ESP) for a small modular reactor at its Clinch River site, it does not feel the technology nor the utility are ready to move ahead with one.

  • First, TVA says it doesn’t need new nuclear power generation capabilities.
  • Second, it thinks the cost per kilowatt still isn’t competitive with gas fired plants and the expected operational costs would be too high.
  • Third, the NRC has just started to evaluate NuScale’s design for safety, a process that could take three-to-four years.

The quasi-governmental utility also has a problem with debt ceiling that makes it wary of taking on new capital intensive projects with unknown costs.

According to the Knoxville News report, a TVA executive told the newspaper the utility is taking a wait-and-see attitude towards SMRs. He said that the utility has no commitment to build an SMR, but will seriously consider its options once it sees that there is a cost effective design available.

For that to happen, he said, the industry would have to have shifted from one-at-a-time unit by unit construction to the production of whole reactor systems in factories. The design would have “to be self-contained and not need much of the infrastructure of a site built reactor.”

TVA’s doesn’t specify what kind of SMR technology nor a preferred reactor vendor.  NRC spokesman Scott Burnell told the newspaper the agency only requires that the application shows that the site is capable of supporting a “generic set of nuclear power plant characteristics.”

China SMR Ready for Production

(China Daily) The first pilot project to use China National Nuclear Corporation’s 125 MWe ACP100 small modular nuclear reactor has completed its preliminary design stage and is qualified for construction in Hainan province.

The Linglong One is the first reactor of its kind in the world to have passed the safety review by the IAEA. ( October 2016 IAEA briefing slides PDF file on capabilities and expected uses)

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The company said that the ACP100, China’s first small modular reactor (SMR) developed by CNNC for practical use is expected to be built at the end of this year in the Changjiang Li autonomous county of Hainan.

Qian Tianlin, general manager of China Nuclear New Energy Investment, said that small-scale nuclear reactor technology has reached a stage at which it can be used on a pilot basis. It can be used to generate heat for a residential district replacing coal-fired boilers and for grid stability in a mesh network.

Qian said he expects mass production of the small modular reactors after the pilot project in Hainan is up and running, and for the technology to be exported globally.

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UK Nuclear Industry Wigged Out Over BREXIT

wigged outThere’s not enough time to get all the pieces of a new relationship with Euratom in place to meet the needs of the UK nuclear industry.

Parliament agrees with the industry that the government needs to have a strategic plan to assure reliable fuel deliveries to current and future nuclear power stations.

Nobody in the British nuclear industry is happy right now with the state of affairs regarding the UK exit from the European Union. The industry is unhappy with Prime Minister Teresa May’s lack of attention to its issues especially the relationship with Euratom.

The UK Parliament is similarly unhappy over the lack of strategic planning for the exit and the possible consequences of failing to plan for an orderly change in bilateral and multi-lateral relationships.

Both sets of stakeholders, who’s members undoubtedly voted to “stay,” are gearing up to influence the election called by PM May to buttress her standing with voters. While it is probably too late to put the Brexit horse back in the barn, the nuclear industry is telling the public that it still needs to be corralled if they want the lights to stay on.

UK Nuclear Industry ‘Blighted’ By Government Indecision

(NucNet): The UK’s civil nuclear sector has been blighted by the indecision of successive governments and with an election in June 2017 it is critical for the new government to set out a decisive future for this industry, a House of Lords report says.

The science and technology select committee report, published on May 2, 2017, also sets out the risks to the UK nuclear sector if membership to Euratom expires at the end of the two-year Brexit negotiating period without a replacement. The UK risks losing access to the markets and skills it needs to construct new nuclear power plants and existing power plants could be unable to acquire nuclear fuel.

The report notes that despite the additional £250m (€295m, $322m) over five years promised by the government in 2015, the amount of UK funding for nuclear research, development and innovation is much lower than public funding levels in other leading nuclear nations, including the US, France and Japan.

The report concludes: “The government has highlighted the importance of the nuclear sector . . . and must develop a clear, long-term vision and set of goals for civil nuclear strategy.” The report,’ Nuclear research and technology: Breaking the cycle of indecision’, is online: http://bit.ly/2p1hDQz

UK Should Consider Delaying Euratom Exit, Says Parliamentary Committee

(NucNet): Members of a British parliamentary committee share the nuclear industry’s concern that new arrangements for regulating nuclear trade, including reliable fuel deliveries for current and future reactors, will take longer than two years to set up and the government should consider delaying the country’s exit from the Euratom Treaty to be certain that new arrangements can be in place in time for Brexit.

Committee chairman Iain Wright said the impact of Brexit on Euratom has not been thought through.

“The government has failed to consider the potentially disastrous ramifications of its Brexit objectives for the nuclear industry. Ministers must act as urgently as possible. The repercussions of failing to do so are huge. The continued operations of the UK nuclear industry are at risk.”

In a position paper published on May 3, 2017, the London-based Nuclear Industry Association, which represents more than 260 member companies, said the government needs to work closely with industry to bring about replacement arrangements for Euratom to avoid “a cliff edge” for the nuclear industry.

The paper sets out priority areas for negotiations with the European Commission. The paper also sets out steps the UK government needs to take to avoid “serious disruption” to normal nuclear business in the UK and across the EU. The 1957 Euratom Treaty governs the peaceful use of nuclear energy within the EU. The NIA paper is online: http://bit.ly/2p51cmo

WNN notes that the government announced the UK intends to leave Euratom in explanatory notes to a bill it published in January authorizing Brexit. The bill empowers the prime minister to leave both the EU and Euratom. On March 29, Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50, marking the start of two years of negotiations to thrash out a deal for Brexit.

Earlier this month, May called a snap general election for 8 June, stating that divisions in Parliament risked hampering the talks. If she wins a clear majority of seats, she will have a stronger hand in negotiations with the European Union and less back biting at home.

NIA sets out six priorities for Euratom exit

(WNN) The UK government needs to work closely with industry to bring about replacement arrangements for the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) in a timely manner for the country’s nuclear industry, the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) says in a position paper.

The NIA said its paper sets out the priority areas for negotiations with the European Commission as the UK ceases to be a full member of the Euratom community alongside the process to leave the European Union. It also sets out the steps the government needs to take “to avoid serious disruption to normal nuclear business” in the UK and across the EU.

The NIA has listed six key steps it wants the government to take:

  • agreeing a replacement Voluntary Offer Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency for a new UK safeguards regime;
  • replacing the Nuclear Co-operation Agreements (NCA) with key nuclear markets – Australia, Canada, the Euratom Community, Kazakhstan, South Korea and the USA;
  • clarifying the validation of the UK’s current bilateral NCAs with Japan and other nuclear states; 
  • setting out the process for the movement of nuclear material, goods, people and services, and crucially, nuclear fuel and reactor components; 
  • agreeing a new funding arrangement for the UK’s involvement in wider EU nuclear R&D programs;  and,
  • maintaining confidence in the industry and securing crucial investment money for new reactors from European sources.

The London-based nuclear trade association said addressing these priority areas will enable the nuclear sector to continue its work with other countries, both within and outside the continuing EU, as the UK ceases to be a member of the EU. Given the amount of work to be concluded within the next 22 months, however, there is a risk that new arrangements will not be in place, the NIA said. It just isn’t enough time to get it all done.

Tom Greatrex, NIA chief executive, said: “The clock is ticking, and this is a priority of increasing urgency. This new report demonstrates that without new arrangements in place by the time the UK leaves the Euratom Community, there is scope for real and considerable disruption. The industry has not only set out the priority areas to be addressed, but also the steps we think the government needs to take to address those issues.”

“The government now needs to get down to the work of putting such arrangements in place, including a prudent approach to ensuring there are transitional arrangements in place, to avoid a gap in regulation. That would not be in the interests of the EU, the UK or the industry globally.”

The 1957 Euratom Treaty governs the peaceful use of nuclear energy within the EU. The Euratom Community is a separate legal entity from the EU, but it is governed by the bloc’s institutions. The Euratom framework also includes nuclear cooperation agreements with third party countries, including Canada, Japan and the USA.

It facilitates UK participation in long-term research and development (R&D) projects, and it also provides a framework for international nuclear safeguard compliance including access to uranium for nuclear fuel used by commercial nuclear reactors.

Nuclear Industry ‘Frustrated’ By Lack Of Progress On UK’s SMR Policy

(NucNet): The UK nuclear energy industry shares the frustration of a House of Lords committee that the first stage of the government’s small modular reactor (SMR) competition has been left hanging in the air, and that the roadmap industry was promised last autumn “seems to have got lost somewhere in Whitehall.”

Commenting on the House of Lords science and technology committee report, Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the London-based Nuclear Industry Association (NIA), said with a potential global market for SMRs valued at £250bn-£400bn, the government must provide clarity as soon as possible after the general election in June 2017 if the energy, industrial and export opportunities of a UK SMR are to be realized.

“Otherwise, that promising opportunity of recent years (SMRs) will be lost to others, including the US, Canada and China, who are progressing with SMR development programs,” he said.

The committee said it is disappointed that the government launched a competition for SMRs and has not kept to its timetable. This has had a negative effect on the nuclear sector in the UK and if the government does not act soon the necessary high level of industrial interest will not be maintained.

“It is particularly alarming that the results of phase one of the competition, which does not involve the selection of an SMR design, have yet to be announced by the government,” the committee said. The report,’ Nuclear research and technology: Breaking the cycle of indecision’, is online: http://bit.ly/2p1hDQz

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South Africa’s Tough Road to a Nuclear Tender

South Africa’s High Court Sets Aside Nuclear Deal With Russia

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(NucNet)(WNN): The High Court in South Africa has set aside a nuclear agreement between South Africa and Russia.  Earthlife Africa (ELA) and the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) argued before the court that the processes followed by the government and state-owned utility Eskom leading up to the decision to sign agreements with Russia were not in line with the constitution.

Court papers submitted by SAFCEI said a decision to give the procurement process to Eskom – which operates the country’s only existing nuclear station, the two-unit Koeberg – was unlawful and made without regard to public input.

The judges agreed and ruled that the failure to include a public participation process rendered the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (Nersa) approval of both determinations procedurally unfair and in breach of national regulatory legislation.

WNN reported that the High Court ruled that an intergovernmental nuclear cooperation agreement between South Africa and Russia, signed by the energy minister at the time, Tina Joemat-Petterson, and the then Rosatom director-general Sergey Kirienko in 2014 was unconstitutional and unlawful, and should be set aside.

Nothing in the court ruling addressed the issue of the use of nuclear energy as such compared to renewables or coal. The ruling rests entirely on procedural matters.

Earthlife said the procurement deal for new nuclear would be the largest in the country’s history at an estimated $77bn (€72bn).

The government, which has said it wants to generate 9,600 MW of energy from as many as eight reactors, has put the total cost at anything from $37bn (€34.8bn) to $100bn (€94bn). 

Eskom’s national grid would have to see substantial upgrades to get the electricity to customers. The main beneficiaries of the power would be South Africa’s heavy industry which has seen brownouts from the ability of current power stations to meet its needs.

South Africa’s Credit Rating Set to Junk Status

(AFP) South Africa’s ruling party said in response to the court ruling that the government will have to re-think its costly and contentious nuclear expansion program following last week’s change of of the country’s creditworthiness to junk status. Without a favorable credit rating, the question of financing the for entire nuclear program is more or less moot.

Within days of each other Fitch and Standard & Poor’s downgraded South African sovereign debt to junk status after President Jacob Zuma’s dramatic ministerial shake-up that saw respected finance minister Pravin Gordhan unceremoniously axed.

He’s the latest finance minister to run afoul of Zuma’s ambitions to execute the Rosatom deal which would put Russia in charge of the major elements of South Africa’s energy infrastructure and power generation capabilities for the next 60 years.

ANC’s head of economics Enoch Godongwana told reporters that “conditions have changed.”

“Surely in the light of the junk status we will have to … revise our expenditure patterns as government. If we do nuclear we must do it …at a scope and pace which is affordable.”

Currently, 90 percent of the country’s electricity is generated from coal-fired stations.

Whoops – Leading French Politician Needs to Rethink His Anti-Nuclear Stance

(Bloomberg) Macron May Have to Break His Campaign Promise on Nuclear Power.

French presidential favorite Emmanuel Macron may have to break a campaign pledge over the speed at which France reduces its dependence on nuclear power.

Macron, who topped the first round of voting in Sunday’s presidential election, has endorsed President Francois Hollande’s plan to reduce nuclear output from 72 percent of France’s total electricity generation last year to 50 percent by around 2025. There’s increasing speculation that goal may be unattainable.

Macron is backing a shift toward renewables, even as state-controlled utility Electricite de France SA pushes a 48 billion-euro ($52.2 billion) program to extend the lifespan of most of its 58 atomic reactors. Whoever wins will shape the pace of France’s energy transition, both through state incentives for renewables and financing for the next round of nuclear investment.

“The next president will soon have to decide on the long-term role of nuclear in France,” Ahmed Farman, an analyst at Jefferies International Ltd., wrote in a research note.

“The lack of a firm position on this issue may be because Mr. Macron is well aware that the 2025 target is highly ambitious.”

To achieve Macron’s energy goal by 2025, France would need to cut nuclear capacity by about 25 gigawatts, while adding about 75 gigawatts of renewables, according to Farman at Jefferies. That looks “quite challenging,” he said.

EDF, which has been forced to sell assets and new shares to bolster a balance sheet undermined by falling electricity prices, has said it will have to decide at the start of the next decade whether to build new atomic plants by 2030 to replace older ones.

That will further stretch the finances of the utility — 83 percent owned by the French state — and the government will need to provide more funding and incentives to underpin investment in new capacity, said Vincent Ayral, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co.

“It is not clear how the company will be able to keep the lights on over the long term,” Ayral wrote in a note on Monday. “Yet EDF is systemic to France and, to a certain extent, to Europe: we believe a regulatory intervention is needed.”

French Academy of Sciences Questions Wisdom of Macron’s Energy Policy

(WNN) The French Academy of Sciences has put a spotlight on a major contradiction in France’s energy policies. It said France cannot achieve a significant reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases from electricity production while also reducing the share of nuclear in its energy mix.

France’s National Assembly gave final approval in July 2016 of the country’s Energy Transition for Green Growth bill. The overall objectives of the bill include:

  • a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 
  • a 75% reduction by 2050, compared with 1990 levels
  • halving overall energy consumption by 2050 compared with 2012
  • increasing renewable energy’s share of final energy consumption to 32%; and
  • cutting the share of nuclear in electricity generation from almost 75% to 50% by 2025.

In an April 19th statement, the Academy of Sciences said the debate about France’s energy transition was incomplete.

“In reality, energy policy programs should take better account of physical, technological and economic constraints,” it said.

“In the current debate, our fellow citizens might be led to believe it would be possible to develop renewable energy as a way to decarbonise the system while removing both fossil fuels and nuclear.”

“Simple common sense leads one to conclude that production of electricity that can meet the country’s needs requires the availability of ‘on demand’ energies, which do not suffer from intermittency and which can be called upon at all times,” it said.

This means, in the absence of energy storage solutions, significant use will need to be made of thermal and nuclear power plants if France is to increase its use of renewable energy.

In other words, good luck with your delusions about renewable energy if you want to keep the lights on.

Westinghouse DIP Loan Seen as Intellectual-Property Grab

(Bloomberg) An $800 million loan proposed to keep Westinghouse Electric Co. alive in bankruptcy is drawing fire from utility owner Southern Co., which warned that lender Apollo Global Management LLC would gain the keys to intellectual property and the ultimate fate over stalled U.S. nuclear projects.

The loan, which has yet to win court approval, appears to use valuable intellectual property as collateral. That means New York-based Apollo, led by billionaire Leon Black, could disrupt or halt completion of four nuclear plants if it foreclosed on the debt, Southern’s Georgia Power Co. and the city of Dalton, Georgia, said in objections to the loan filed in Manhattan bankruptcy court Wednesday.

“The possibility would exist that the DIP lenders would later foreclose on the intellectual property, which could seriously disrupt or even potentially halt construction of the project,” the owners said.

IAEA Says $80 Billion Needed to Meet Climate Change Goals

(Reuters) Tackling climate change and achieving the Paris Agreement temperature rise target of 2 degrees Celsius by 2030 requires a hefty investment in nuclear power, Dohee Hahn, a senior official from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said at a conference.

Dohee Hahn told a nuclear industry conference that between 10 and 20 reactors will need to be built every year through 2030, if the global temperature rise is to be held within 2 degrees.

The agency estimates that total global nuclear capacity needs to reach 862 gigawatts by 2040, up from 376 gigawatts in 2014, in order to meet the goals set in the Paris agreement.

He said the nuclear energy industry needs an annual investment of $80 billion in order to meet climate change goals. At $4 billion a reactor, that would work out to 20 1000 MW units a year and over 50 years, 1000 reactors.

Bearing in mind the service life of a reactor is currently pegged at 40-60 years, the investment would have to be a continuing commitment. Along with it, reactors would need from being stick built one at a time to being fabricated in system units in factories to drive down costs. This level of investment would justify the developing of the factory production lines.

China nuclear firm urges more Hualong One Units built at home

(Reuters) A Chinese nuclear firm has urged the government to approve the large-scale construction of the country’s homegrown third-generation “Hualong One” reactor to help cut costs and boost its competitiveness.

China National Nuclear Power Co. Ltd (CNNP) warned nuclear’s competitiveness against coal is falling and nuclear power needs the benefits of economies of scale.

“We now have a Hualong One demonstration project, we have units under construction at Fuqing and Fangchenggang and we just hope that more can be built in order to reduce costs and make it more economic,” Luo Xiaowei, CNNP board secretary, told Reuters.

In China, which currently has 36 operational nuclear reactors, the Hualong One is competing with other third-generation technology reactors for a share of 100-150 new reactors planned to come into operation by 2030.

Third-generation reactor projects in China include the world’s first four AP1000s, designed by Westinghouse and expected to go into full operation later this year, and two European Pressurised Reactors, designed by France’s Areva, in the southeast province of Guangdong.

CNNP officials says the Hualong One, however, is the “most feasible option” for China as it tries to scale up its nuclear capacity and strengthen its position in the international reactor market.

China aims to raise nuclear installed capacity to 58 gigawatts by the end of 2020 and it has set a target of 200 gigawatts by the end of 2030.

Royal Academy Calls On UK Gov’t To Consider ‘Alternative Route’ Of SMRs

(NucNet) There is a serious risk that new nuclear reactors may not be built in time to even replace the existing capacity of nuclear generation in the UK. An alternative route could be offered by small modular reactors (SMRs), the UK engineering profession said in a report on 24 April 2017.

In its feedback on the government’s industrial strategy, which was published in January 2017, the Royal Academy of Engineering said the smaller size and modular design of SMRs could offer much lower capital hurdles and shorter delivery times, and small reactors have operated for years in certain applications such as nuclear submarines.

The academy said the commercial risks are high but the UK has expertise in this field and the potential rewards both in terms of the energy transition and financial returns are large.

According to the academy, the UK’s nuclear energy industry struggles with an ageing workforce and relies on imported reactor designs, which is a lost opportunity for the UK’s historically strong engineering and design capacity in this field.

In addition, the new-build program is also not progressing as expected, with few global vendors, most of whom are struggling to finance the extremely high capital costs of the latest generation of reactors. 

The academy said there is an opportunity for the UK supply chain to play a part in the development of SMRs. However, this will probably need some form of “catalytic activity” from government and a clearer focus from the industry on commercially viable solutions.

“The UK could use its history of reactor development and international reputation for safety and quality to develop and promulgate UK participation in technology for a worldwide market,” the academy said. The report is online: http://bit.ly/2p8UX2u

Mitsubishi Heavy doubling down on Areva with fresh investment

(Nikkei Asian Review) It takes a stake in struggling firm which signals commitment to nuclear operations.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries has reached a broad agreement to purchase about 15% of French nuclear energy giant Areva’s reactor unit, venturing deeper into a business with uncertain prospects that has sent others pulling out.

The Japanese engineering firm and Electricite de France (EDF), the state-backed utility that has agreed to acquire reactor maker Areva NP, have reached a deal that will have Mitsubishi Heavy increase its investment by $366 million for the stake.

China’s state-owned China General Nuclear Power, which is developing reactors based on French technology and runs 19 power plants, is also in talks to take around a 15% stake in Areva NP. Sources close to the matter say a basic agreement is targeted for May, and that other companies could join the effort.

Tepco contemplates 2019 restart for giant Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant

(Japan Times) Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is planning to restart operations at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture in stages from April 2019. This is the latest projection of a start date. Previous efforts have been thwarted by factors including intense local opposition.

Earlier effort have focused on the two newest units, but time time TEPCO is considering reopening four of the seven reactors at the plant over a roughly three-year period through May 2021. The utility will present the proposed schedule in a restructuring plan due to be submitted to the government, possibly by the end of the month.

According to the sources, TEPCO, which was effectively nationalized in the wake of the nuclear crisis, is likely to present two scenarios in the restructuring plan: One for rebooting four reactors and one for rebooting all seven.

Under the four-unit plan, Tepco intends to first restart reactors 6 and 7, which are being scrutinized by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Unit 7 would resume from April 2019 and unit 6 the following May.

Reactor 1 would be set for restart in April 2021, with unit 5 following the next month, the sources said.

Under the alternative scenario, the remaining three units would be brought back online, although a specific time frame for each reactor has yet to be fixed, the sources said.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex is the world’s largest nuclear plant by capacity when all seven BWR type units are in online.

Tepco hopes the restart will help stabilize its finances as it deals with up to $202 billion in decommissioning and compensation costs from the Fukushima disaster.

But it’s unclear whether Tepco will be able to go forward with the plan, because Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama is opposed to restarting the reactors. Local approval counts for a lot in Japan and the reactors cannot be restarted without it.

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Nuclear Energy Reactor Animations

Is a picture worth 1000 words? For people interested in how light water reactors work, the mix of GIF images available on the Internet sometimes falls short.  Here’s a link to a beautifully designed set of animation of how one works.

It is also a good basic educational item so feel free to link to this post or copy it as needed for your nonprofit or educational use. Be sure to use the credit line below when you do.

Hat tip to the folks at http://siegemedia.com for letting me know about their work that developed this content for their client  SaveOnEnergy in Plano, TX. 

The nucleus of the Uranium atom is bombarded with neutrons which causes it to split apart and collide with other atoms in a chain reaction.

How Nuclear Energy Works

This piece explains the process of how nuclear power works and outlines the process in a series of simple, easy-to-understand animations.

Why is nuclear power still such a heated point of debate? It may be due to the fact that people are unfamiliar with the inner workings of nuclear power.

Most don’t realize how similar a nuclear power plant actually is to any other type of power plant. The plant still heats water into steam which powers a turbine generator. This is the same way a coal plant works, for instance. The main difference is the radioactive fuel used to power the core of a nuclear plant.

Nuclear power’s source is uranium. This is a natural element found in the earth’s crust. It naturally undergoes spontaneous fission which gives off heat. A nuclear power plant’s core contains rods of uranium. These rods get submerged in a pool of water and produce an intense amount of heat. This heated water (now radioactive) never comes in touch with anything outside of the core. It moves through a pipe which heats another body of water. That body of water then produces the steam that powers a turbine which makes electricity.

This is the one of the three very cool animations at the SaveOnEnergy site. Click on this URL to see the others.

Image of containment structure showing enriched Uranium submerged into water in the reactor core. Then water heats to 570˚F then pressurizes. This pressurized water feeds into a steam generator and turns to steam. A second image of a turbine/generator shows steam generator powering turbine. The turbine powers the generator. Steam then condenses into water and pumps into the cooling tower. The third image is of the cooling tower which cools water. Fresh water pumps in to get cooled. Then cool water cycles back through.

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