Flagship reactor projects delayed in U.S. and China

delaysCommercial operation dates for Vogtle Units 3 & 4 in Georgia (1150 MW Westinghouse AP1000s) have been pushed back again this time to December 2019 and September 2020 respectively. The units are now over three years late

Completion of two Areva 1660 MW EPR reactors under construction in Taishan, China have been delayed at least six months the China Generation Nuclear (CGN) said in a statement this week.

Southern Company Announces New Delays at Vogtle

The effort to build the first two entirely new nuclear reactors in the U.S. is coming in later than anyone expected according to an announcement this week by Southern Company. CEO Thomas Fanning said in posting 4Q2016 and year end financial results that the firm was proceeding according to a cost plan approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) in December 2016.

That plan calls for both reactors be be done by the end of 2020. Fanning reminded stockholders and Wall Street analysts that the firm has a fixed price contract with Westinghouse for the reactors. Southern also has an $8.3 billion loan guarantee from the federal government.

Unit 3 was previously scheduled to enter revenue service in mid-2019 and Unit 4 in mid-2020. The new delays add six months to the start date for Unit 3 and another three months for Unit 4. These delays are now skating close to the edge of the deadline set by the Georgia PSC.  This high resolution photo (below) dated February 2017 shows the project has a long way to go.

Vogtle Feb 2017 OQ4A7182

For an analysis of why some of these cost increases and schedule delays occur, see a recent paper by the Third Way think tank titled, “Is Nuclear Too Innovative? by Josh Freed, Todd Allen, Ted Nordhaus, and Jessica Lovering. They have three key findings related to costs.

  1. The AP1000 represents a fairly straightforward evolution in light-water reactor design, not a radical departure.
  2. Standardization is important but is not a panacea.
  3. Most of the proximate causes of rising cost and construction delays associated with new nuclear builds in the United States are attributable to the thirty-year hiatus in US nuclear construction, not the novelty of the AP1000 design.

Toshiba finances add to doubts about the projects

Last month Toshiba, the parent company of Westinghouse, suffered a collapse of its finances as part of an announcement of an estimated, and unaudited, loss of $6.4 billion. The firm has until March 14th to complete a financial report. At that time it will be determined whether it is is a “going concern” or essentially bankrupt.

CB&I Costs and Losses Undervalued?

New uncertainties about the ability of Westinghouse to complete the reactors in the U.S. surfaced on February 17 with numerous reports in the Japanese news media that executives at Westinghouse pressured subordinates to understate losses related to nuclear plant construction.

Toshiba Chairman Shigenori Shiga, an ex-president of Westinghouse, and U.S. CEO Danny Roderick stepped down from their positions to take responsibility for the losses. According to these reports, Roderick and other executives pressured the employees over the asset value of CB&I.

The New York Times reported that Westinghouse executives have come under intense scrutiny because of the financial calamity and related flawed business decisions that led to it. The company said it was examining whether managers had acted inappropriately when they inked a deal to buy a company (CB&I) at the center of the problems.

The newspaper said that Toshiba’s auditors determined that Westinghouse had overpaid for CB&I. Delays and cost overruns at the Vogtle and V C Summer  projects, they said, meant that the construction company, CB&I Stone & Webster, was saddled with potential liabilities for which Westinghouse had failed to account.

Separately, two AP1000s under construction at the V. C. Summer site in South Carolina are expected to start operations in 2020.  All four AP1000s under construction in China. Sanmen and Haiyang  are expected to start before the end of 2017.

China Slips Dates to Commission Areva EPRs at Taishan

The two EPR units under construction at the Taishan nuclear power station in China’s Guangdong Province have seen their schedules to complete all construction activities and formally commission the units slip by at least six months.  The new dates arte the second half of 2017 and the first half of 2018. The two reactors at Taishan (below) are the first EPRs to be build in China.

taisahn eprs

China General Nuclear (CGN) said in a February 20th statement on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that “engineering verification” was taking longer than expected, but did not provide details.

World Nuclear News reported on February 22nd that Taishan Unit 1 is in the commissioning phase and passed several important tests in 2016.  It reportedly entered the hot functional test phase, with fuel loaded, in November last year.

NuGen Boss Acknowledges ‘Funding Gap’ For UK’s Moorside Nuclear Project

(NucNet) The NuGen project to build three Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear power reactors in Cumbria, northwest England, has a “significant funding gap,” the company’s CEO, Tom Samson, has told a House of Lords committee

The economic affairs committee in its report ‘The Price of Power: Reforming the Electricity Market’ said the Moorside project is “facing difficulties.”

NuGen has said the first of the three AP1000 reactors at Moorside is targeted to come online in the mid-2020s and the station will provide 7% of Britain’s electricity.

Earlier this month Toshiba Corporation of Japan said in a statement that it remained committed to the construction of Moorside, despite the company’s plans to scale down its overseas nuclear power business.

NuGen is a joint venture between Toshiba and France’s Engie. Toshiba had committed to a 60% equity stake in the project. Its reported losses have raised concerns about where the financing will come from since Toshiba is no longer in a position to provide that capital for the project.

The House of Lords report said: “There are ongoing concerns about the Hinkley Point deal and other planned new nuclear power stations. It is imperative that the government publishes it contingency plans for how it will make up the capacity due to be provided by these plants in the event one or more does not succeed or is delayed.”

Toshiba Ends Involvement for Twin ABWRs at South Texas Project

The Nikkei Asian Review reported February 20 that Toshiba is pulling out of its plan to complete two ABWR reactors at the South Texas Plant (STP) project (Units #3 & 4). The project was touted back in 2007 as the “first mover” in what was then described as a “nuclear renaissance” in the U.S.  The reactors in Texas were to debut as early as 2016.

Delays on the STP project have brought enormous costs for Toshiba, including write-downs totaling $638 million logged in fiscal 2013 and fiscal 2014. Ground has not been broken on the units. Efforts by NRG, the utility that organized the project, to get investors for it collapsed on fears by local governments that they would be saddled with cost overruns.

The City of San Antonio, TX, pulled out when it realized the scope of the rate increases its municipal power agency would have to pass on to customers to pay for the original estimate of $7 billion for each reactor. Austin, TX, pulled out because it is still paying off bonds from the excessive costs of STP Unit 1 & 2.

NRG had long since suspended the bulk of work toward construction on the South Texas Project due to heightened nuclear safety regulations, and the company said it some time ago it would end further investment.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings (TEPCO) was initially to take part in the project, but later pulled out. Japanese export credits would have paid for the investment.  The Fukushima crisis that destroyed six reactors in 2011 removed all prospects for TEPCO to support investment in Toshiba’s export efforts.

Toshiba also withdrew an application in July 2016 to renew the certification of its reactor design with the NRC, a necessary step toward construction. That step effectively ends the firm’s involvement in the U.S with that design.

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An Up & Down Week for Developers of Advanced Reactors

twsumlogoIn Washington, DC, the Third Way, a think tank, hosted a meeting of some of the country’s best thinkers, leaders, funders, and doers in the field of development advanced reactors. Cheerleading is helpful, but the proof will be in federal funding for reactor R&D and regulatory reform at the NRC.

transatomic logoIn Cambridge, MA, Transatomic, a startup, is now making a list of lessons learned following publication of a critical review of the firm’s reactor design. One of the lessons is that other start-ups with audacious claims are likely to receive similar levels of scrutiny.

Third Way Showcases Year of Progress on Advanced Reactors

Every year the Third Way, a multi-faceted think tank in Washington, DC, holds an annual showcase on advanced nuclear reactors. It draws a national who’s who of people working in this area including technology leaders, national lab scientists, elected officials, and investors. The entire event is live streamed end-to-end and the individuals sessions are also archived, along with a complete video of the proceedings, on YouTube.

While a lot of cheerleading goes on at the meeting, it is also a serious conference with a lot of different points of view that range from how to innovate to why the nuclear industry is doing it wrong in promoting its value to the American people.  One of the best sessions is about what’s next in terms of collaboration between developers, investors, and the government. One session was ominously titled “Innovate or Die.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), an inside the beltway trade association for the commercial nuclear industry, is a participant in the meeting and its public affairs team posted some highlights of the discussions on their website. Here are a few of them.

>> Third Way board member Rachel Pritzker identified three main strands in favor of moving the nuclear industry into a technological future: global competitiveness and jobs; regaining the United States’ global leadership for security; and the need to meet the planet’s burgeoning future energy demand.

>> The U.S. Department of Energy’s Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative gives private entrepreneurs access to the expertise in DOE’s system of national laboratories.

“GAIN’s mission is to make sure innovative nuclear technologies get to market faster,” GAIN Director Rita Baranwal said. “GAIN is already making a difference in bringing the national labs’ capabilities to innovators. We have awarded $2 million in vouchers to small companies, and have just announced the availability of a second round of awards, opening March 13.”

>> NuScale Power LLC, the furthest ahead of several companies working in advanced reactor innovation, on Dec. 31 last year submitted its application asking the NRC to certify its small modular reactor (SMR) design.

>> Caroline Cochran, founder and chief operating officer of advanced reactor startup Oklo Inc., said her company has had a good experience working with GAIN, having been one of the first recipients of the initiative’s small business vouchers.

Oklo is a Silicon Valley-based company that is developing a two-megawatt “micro-reactor” that could bring electricity to remote, rural native communities or military bases. The company is now working with Argonne and Idaho national laboratories on different aspects of their development process.

>> Micah Hackett, manager of materials development at TerraPower LLC, noted that even a much larger company like his, with wealthy investors and 150 full-time employees, does not have the full set of skills needed in-house. TerraPower has leveraged the knowledge base of a group of vendors and suppliers with which it has partnered—including the federal government.

>> INL Director Mark Peters said that GAIN was established not only for early-stage R&D and as a demonstration platform for first-of-a-kind innovators like NuScale, but also to push for progressive deployment.

“Right now we’re at a tipping point. Advanced reactors have an opportunity to leapfrog our overseas competitors, using the advantage of our national labs and universities, which are still the best in the world,” Peters said.

What is unclear is whether the new Trump Administration, and the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, will support advanced nuclear energy R&D.  Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, the nominee to head the Department of Energy, once called for it to be abolished.

It also became painfully clear, at least initially, that he had no idea what the agency does. It is going to take more than a few 3-ring binders of briefing books to close that gap.

In a riveting and frightening appraisal of his shortcomings for doing the job, a piece by Huffington Post writer Dominique Mosbergen lists eight compelling reasons to worry about his abilities to meet the challenges of the position.

Meanwhile, the priorities of the Trump White House appears to be to conduct a running war with the national news media over issues large and small, but which have nothing to do with energy policy and climate change.  It is not a hopeful outlook, at least for now.

Transatomic Revises Technology Statements About Its Advanced Reactor Design

mit tech rev logoMIT Technology Review has published an article which calls into question the technology claims of Transatomic, an advanced reactor startup based in Cambridge, MA

In a February 24 article by energy editor James Temple, the publication said, “Nuclear energy startup Transatomic Power has backed away from bold claims for its advanced reactor technology after an informal review by MIT professors highlighted serious errors in the company’s calculations”

The firm, which has been widely cited as being part of the bow wave of nuclear energy entrepreneurs, got its start in 2011 when two MIT PhDs said they could design a nuclear reactor, based on a molten salt fuel, that could run on spent nuclear fuel from conventional reactors.

The firm also said in white papers and other technical publications that its reactor “can generate up to 75 times more electricity per ton of mined uranium than a light-water reactor.”

These audacious claims helped the firm raise millions in venture capital and gain top drawer technical advisers as well as glowing media profiles. However, audacious claims require similar levels of proof.

In November 2016 the firm posted a new white paper that company downgraded performance levels from “75 times” to “more than twice.”

It says that the design “does not reduce existing stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel,” nor use them as its fuel source. MIT Technology Review’s article makes the point that the promise of recycling nuclear waste “was a key initial promise of the company that captured considerable attention.”

It is a major retreat from the firm’s initial published findings. The MIT Technology Review article will also have industry-wide impacts. It may have the the effect of putting other nuclear energy entrepreneurs on notice that they too may get the same enhanced levels of analysis of their claims.

For its part Transatomic said it realized there was a problem in 2016, which is five years after its work got underway.

According to MIT Technology Review, the changes in 2016 by Transatomics to its claims about performance of its reactor design followed an analysis in late 2015 by Kord Smith, a nuclear science and engineering professor at MIT and an expert in the physics of nuclear reactors.

His review was prompted by concerns about the validity and credibility of Transatomic’s claims since the firm had an R&D relationship with the university.

His starting point uses an analogy which says that promising to increase the reactor’s fuel efficiency by 75 times is the rough equivalent of saying that a firm had developed a car that could get 2,500 miles per gallon.

“I said this is obviously incorrect based on basic physics,” Smith told MIT Technology Review. He asked the company to run a test, which ended up confirming that “their claims were completely untrue,” Smith said.

One positive note is that the new white paper claims the reactor could reduce waste by 53 percent compared to light-water reactors. The viability of the latter finding was recently verified by Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

But the analysis found the reactor couldn’t sustain a fission chain reaction long enough using spent fuel for it to be a feasible option, as previously hoped, Dewan said in a subsequent phone interview with the magazine.

This is a very tough experience for Transatomic’s young, idealistic, and ambitious principals. Transatomic has now pushed back its plans to build a prototype reactor by at least a year.

“We certainly have a long road ahead of us,” she said, noting technical, engineering, supply chain, and regulatory challenges. “But I think that momentum is on our side.”

Lessons Learned

Transatomic’s mistake is not that it sought to deceive its backers with false claims, but that it got ahead of its own headlights in terms of validating the technical results of its research.

With a “rock star” technical advisory committee, as it is described by the magazine, maybe Transatomic’s principals should have gotten them more engaged much earlier in looking at the products of their R&D work.

Inexperience and overconfidence are common faults of many startups, and being called out for these missteps is not necessarily fatal to the enterprise.

MIT Technology Review points out in its article that the company has raised at least $4.5 million from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, Acadia Woods Partners, and Daniel Aegerter of Armada Investment AG. Venture capital veteran Ray Rothrock serves as chairman of the company. For now they are sticking with Transatomic.

“We invested in Transatomic because of their reactor’s passively safe design and dramatically reduced costs and waste,” Scott Nolan, partner at Founders Fund, said in a statement.

Rothrock said in an e-mail response to the magazine: “I remain committed to Transatomic’s mission and plan. The world needs more nuclear power. And while we are still early days for [Transatomic Power], I’m encouraged [by the] results so far.”

Dewan acknowledged in an email to the magazine it should have sought peer review or other forms of hard feedback earlier.

“In retrospect, that was a mistake of mine,” she said during the phone interview. “We should have open-published more of our information at a far earlier stage.”

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US Industry Consortium Calls For SMR Investments

smr logo(NucNet) Private companies have invested over $1bn in the development of small modular reactors (SMRs), but more investment through public-private partnerships is needed to assure that SMRs are a viable option in the mid-2020s, the US-based SMR Start industry consortium said in a policy statement.

SMR Start is urging Congress to authorize sufficient funds for an SMR commercial deployment program and called for the continuation and expansion of the existing licensing technical support program to include the design and engineering, regulatory review and approval of SMR technologies and facilities.

The statement said that in addition to accomplishing the public benefit from SMR deployment, the federal government would receive a return on investment through taxes associated with investment, job creation and economic output over the lifetime of the SMR facilities that would otherwise not exist without federal investment.

It also called for continuation of the loan guarantee program to support financing for the design and construction of SMR facilities and SMR component manufacturing facilities. The policy statement is online: http://bit.ly/2kQM1vG

The group listed its objectives.

  • Establish industry’s strategy for commercialization of SMRs and coordinate with stakeholders on achieving the established goals.
  • Serve as a trusted resource for inquiries by legislators, administrative offices, and regulators related to SMRs.
  • Develop information that is needed to enable industry, governmental entities and others to establish policies and reach decisions related to SMR development and deployment.
  • Identify the potential need for and benefits of government support and public-private partnerships for SMRs.
  • Promote development of U.S. SMR designs and supportive domestic supply chains for deployment of U.S. technologies both domestic and abroad.
  • Apply “lessons learned” from recent new plant development to SMR designs and projects.

Members of the consortium include AREVA, Bechtel, BWXT, Dominion, Duke Energy, Energy Northwest, Fluor, Holtec International, NuScale Power, Ontario Power Generation, PSEG Nuclear, Southern Nuclear, TVA, and UAMPS

Plant Vogtle could use new fuel when MOX is complete

(Augusta Chronicle) Proponents of the Savannah River Site’s mixed-oxide (MOX)  fuel fabrication facility are touting the possibility that once in production, its output, PWR type fuel assemblies in the form of MOX fuel, could be used at Units 3 and 4 at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle.

According to Areva Nuclear Materials LLC, one of the companies involved in MOX design and construction, the Energy Department planned for a subsidized cost structure to make the MOX fuel more attractive.

Plant Vogtle, which could have four operating reactor units when the MOX plant is finished, could make the switch to the mixed-oxide fuel. Up to one-third of the reactor’s fuel assemblies could be MOX fuel. The advantage of the fuel is that there are longer periods between fuel outages during which time the reactor is not generating electricity nor making any money for its investors.

Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins objected to idea.

“In order to accommodate the potential use of MOX fuel, modifications would be required for the plant’s physical structure, as well as the processes and procedures used to operate the facility.”

He might have also added that the plant would have to modify the NRC license for each reactor based on the change in fuel type. The agency has no experience with this kind of modification of a license.

4th Circuit ruling affirms Virginia uranium mining ban

(AP) A federal appeals court has rejected a Virginia company’s bid to end the state’s decades-long ban on uranium mining.

A panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond has upheld the ruling of a district judge who threw out a lawsuit from Virginia Uranium Inc. challenging the ban.

The Pittsylvania County company wants to mine a 119-million-pound deposit of the radioactive ore. It argued that a federal law should pre-empt state regulations, but the courts disagreed.

Does India still want the Westinghouse reactors despite Toshiba meltdown?

(Reuters)(PTI) In a burst of what can charitably be characterized as wishful thinking, an Indian government official said he does not expect fallout from the financial meltdown at Toshiba Corp to halt plans to buy six nuclear reactors from the Japanese company’s U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse.

Indian wire services added details to the report. This statement was not made by NPCIL which is the main actor in all matters related to building new nuclear power plants. This raises a question of how credible the statement is as an expression of the Indian’s government’s views on Toshiba’s financial troubles.

India has been in talks for years to build six Westinghouse AP1000 reactors in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh under its drive to expand nuclear generation and to move the economy off polluting fuels like coal.

“As for the technical execution of the project, I do not see many problems,” Sekhar Basu, secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy that reports directly to Modi, told Reuters in a short telephone interview.

The wire service reported that negotiations on the technical and commercial terms of the reactor deal have reached an advanced stage. Not mentioned in the report is any measure of relief from the terms of the supplier liability law that has kept U.S. firms out of the Indian market.

Industry experts said that, if the project is still at all viable, the main logistical challenge would be to locate civil engineering  contractors since Westinghouse would only provide the reactors.

India has not yet signed a contract with Westinghouse, nor has cash changed hands. Basu said that talks on financing had not yet begun in earnest. Significantly, he also said the state-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) had yet to be updated by Westinghouse on recent developments. Westinghouse and NPCIL did not respond to requests for comment from wire service reporters.

Separately, there is considerable pressure within India’s nuclear industdry to abandon the Westinghouse reactor project and build 700 MW PHWR reactors based on an Indian adaptation of the CANDU technology.

Further, an amendment to the enabling legislation for NPCIL allows it to do joint development efforts with heavy industry such as steel and petrochemicals and even provide electricity for India’s vast electrified rail network. This is seen as an advantage and would build domestic capabilities, supply chains, and not have India relying on western technology.

WIPP to resume taking waste shipments

(Albuquerque Journal) WIPP said it expects to begin accepting shipments of nuclear waste from storage sites around the country in April. Feb 14th marked three years since a radiation accident contaminated the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad. After struggling to clean up the deep underground repository, WIPP commenced waste emplacement last month.

WIPP has been moving waste drums underground from an above-ground warehouse, where waste was being temporarily held when a drum of radioactive material burst underground on Feb. 14, 2014, and WIPP was shut down.

WIPP has started off slowly, making just two emplacements per week from the waste handling building, according to a spokesman. When shipments begin, the facility is aiming to make about four emplacements per week by the end of the year compared with an average of 17 per week before the accident.

Los Alamos National Laboratory is on the list of those sites expected to begin shipping in April, along with Department of Energy facilities at Idaho, Oak Ridge and Savannah River. LANL faced its own issues after investigators discovered that the drum that burst at WIPP had been improperly packed by a LANL subcontractor.

The Idaho Falls Post Register reported that the Idaho Cleanup Project will send an estimated 61 shipments of radioactive waste to New Mexico’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant over the next year, more than any other site, U.S. Department of Energy officials said.

While Idaho cleanup contractor Fluor Idaho will send more than twice the number of shipments of any other site, it will not be nearly enough to make the necessary progress toward meeting a Dec. 31, 1995, Settlement Agreement deadline with the state of Idaho.

Idaho has more than 900 shipments — or more than 20,000 individual containers — of transuranic waste that are supposed to leave by the end of next year.

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Fate of Toshiba’s Nuclear Projects Remains Uncertain

The company’s self-inflicted troubles, caused by cooking the books and mismanagement of its major acquisitions in the nuclear sector, have impacted projects in the U.S., the U.K., and India. The firm said it would exit the nuclear business worldwide.

barn 2 burningAfter weeks of media speculation, Japan’s Toshiba said on 2/14/17 it would book a barn burner of a loss estimated to be $6.3 billion related to its Westinghouse business unit which is building four nuclear reactors in the U.S. and four more in China.

Conflicting statements about the firm’s 60% equity stake in NuGen’s Moorside power station, for three reactors, raised doubts with investors and the U.K. government about the future of the project.

A plan to build six new reactors in India, which has been in the works for years, was thrown into limbo.

The write down that wipes out its shareholder equity and leaves the conglomerate with virtually no cash.

Toshiba’s chief executive officer and chairman Shigenori Shiga resigned from his post, assuming “management responsibility” for the company’s loss related to Westinghouse’s acquisition of CB&I Stone and Webster.

Risks to Nuclear Projects Worldwide

Toshiba said it now plans to focus on its nuclear fuel and equipment supply businesses and will not provide engineering, procurement and construction contractor services for overseas projects, including ones in the UK, China and India. Toshiba also said it intends to “reduce risk” at eight overseas plants currently in progress by implementing “comprehensive cost reduction measures.”

It did not provide details nor is it clear what it could do given that the U.S. projects are now several years late and over budget rattling state regulatory agencies which have to approve cost recovery charges to consumers.


Prior coverage on this blog
Toshiba’s Financial Meltdown Puts Its Nuclear Projects at Risk Worldwide
Posted on January 1, 2017

  • The company overpaid for Westinghouse in 2007 paying %5.4 billion for it and within a year sold off a 10% stake to Kazakhstan in return for access to uranium for use in fabricating commercial nuclear fuel. It wrote down half of the remaining value in 2014.
  • It is mired in court suits over the value of its acquisition of CB&I which was intended to resolve problems with the supply chain for construction of four AP1000 reactors in the U.S.

Financial controls are an issue

In July 2015 it was revealed that Toshiba raised $8 billion in capital based on false accounting statements that overstated earnings by $1.6 billion.

Financial wire services including CNBC and Bloomberg reported that Toshiba spooked investors by not releasing its earnings on schedule, saying initially it was ‘not ready’ citing problems completing an internal audit. For their part, the auditors said they could not certify that Toshiba was a “going concern” which is accounting terminology for ‘not bankrupt.”

The firm asked for a delay of 30 days to March 14 to revise its financial report. The numbers in the preliminary report could undergo a “major revision” according to wire services.

To recover Toshiba headlined its financial announcement on 2/14 by saying it would consider selling Westinghouse. The firm also said it would consider selling a 20% equity stake in its computer chip business.

Toshiba also said that a whistleblower had made allegations that it was investigating that there were problems with how the Westinghouse acquisition was handled but did not provide details.

Internal reports, Toshiba said, indicated financial controls at Westinghouse had been “insufficient” and it needed to look actions by senior managers at Westinghouse involving the purchase of CB&I which is a major supplier of nuclear components to the U.S. reactor projects. There is an ongoing dispute between the two companies over the pricing of elements of the deal.

According to the company statement, and as reported by NucNet, a wire service, the expected write-down was caused by a recalculation of the book value of CB&I Stone & Webster, the US construction-service firm  purchased Westinghouse.

Westinghouse said in January 2016 that it had completed the acquisition of CB&I Stone & Webster from Chicago Bridge & Iron, a Netherlands-based engineering and construction company.

In July 2016, Chicago Bridge & Iron filed a lawsuit against Westinghouse as part of a dispute over the value of the acquired unit’s assets. The deal included the possibility of adjustments to the purchase price depending on the evaluation of the assets. The differences are reported to be at least $300 million.

In separate statements in Japan Hitachi and Mitsubishi told the Financial Times, London, that they had no plans to acquire Toshiba’s nuclear business. This may impact the firm’s support for restart of some of Japan’s reactors that were shut down following the Fukushima crisis in 2011.

The situation is uncertain in the U.S.

In the U.S. Westinghouse told Southern Nuclear, which is building two AP1000s at a site in Georgia that it would finish the job.  New completion dates were set for 2020 for both units. That firm has an $8.3 billion loan guarantee from the federal government which is a plus for its investors.

However, in South Carolina, where Westinghouse offered a similar message of reassurance, SCANA said that if Westinghouse could not finish the job, it would find someone who would. The firm’s CEO reminded Toshiba, and the utility’s investors, that in 2016 it renegotiated the fixed price contract to complete the two reactors. Like the plants in Georgia, the state public utility commission has to approve rate increases to cover costs as the reactors are being built.

Future of the Moorside Project in the U.K.

In the U.K. there were conflicting reports about the commitment of Westinghouse to the NuGen project where three AP1000s are planned for the Moorside project.  Toshiba has committed to a 60% equity stake in the project which is estimated, at $6,500/Kw, to be worth at least $20 billion. The firm has, for now, lost the financial ability to fulfill that role.

The company said it “will consider” participating in the Moorside new-build project in Cumbria, northwest England, but “without taking on any risk from carrying out actual construction work.”

The project owner NuGen, a joint venture between Toshiba and France’s Engie, said it “acknowledges” Toshiba’s announcement that the review of its overseas nuclear business is complete and that it “remains committed” to the “development” of the proposed three-unit Moorside power station.

A NuGen representative said the company “had not yet secured an EPC structure to build at the site, but did not intend to utilize Toshiba’s services. It was always NuGen’s plan to identify an independent constructor,” he said.

The Financial Times reported that senior ministers in the UK government were “wrangling over how to support” nuclear power plant projects, with some senior Treasury officials “hostile to” direct state subsidy or investment.

India projects remain a distant goal

As for the six AP1000 reactors slated for a site on India’s east coast, aside from the usual contingent memorandum of understanding, no financial commitment was ever made nor did India waive the draconian requirements of its supplier liability law which kept U.S. firms like GE-Hitachi and Westinghouse out of the market.

India had explored getting financing for the project from the U.S Export/Import bank, but Congress slammed the lid on its lending authority two years ago in an unrelated dispute over aircraft jobs in the U.S.

China projects near completion

Toshiba’s troubles are unlikely to significantly impact the four AP1000 reactors being built in China. All four are much closer to completion than their U.S. counterparts. Also, the state owned nuclear firms for which the units are being built are backed by the deep pockets of the central government which has a political stake in seeing the units enter revenue service.

Horizon forms operating partnership with Exelon

(WNN) Horizon Nuclear Power, the UK subsidiary of Hitachi Ltd, said it was joining forces with Exelon Generation as Horizon develops its “expertise and capability” to operate a new nuclear power plant at Wylfa Newydd on the Isle of Anglesey. Exelon Generation operates the biggest fleet of nuclear power plants in the USA, with 19,460 megawatts of capacity from 22 units, eight of which are boiling water reactors. The Wylfa Newydd project will deploy two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR).

Under the partnership, four Exelon specialists will work alongside Horizon’s growing team, providing expertise in engineering, maintenance, operations and training, Gloucester, England-headquartered Horizon said. The Exelon team will support Horizon’s Safety and Generation Director Greg Evans as Horizon develops its own nuclear operating model.

The deployment of the UK ABWR at Wylfa Newydd is seen as paving the way for the wider deployment of the technology in the UK and potentially globally. The UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation has said the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) for the UK ABWR is on track to be completed by the end of this year. Horizon has said the GDA is seen worldwide as a ‘gold standard’ in reactor design assessment, enabling further new build projects involving the technology elsewhere.

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Third Way Advanced Nuclear Showcase Feb 21

  • Third Way is hosting the second annual Advanced Nuclear Summit on
    February 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. 
  • The entire event will be live streamed and feature opportunities to hear directly from leaders in nuclear innovation and industry, and participate in the discussions online. 

twsumlogo

  • When: Tuesday, February 21, 2017; 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM
  • Where; The Newseum, 555 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC – 20001
  • Connections;  Live Video Stream — AgendaSpeaker Bios – Twitter
  • The live stream starts at 8:00 AM eastern time.
  • The entire session will be video taped and posted on YouTube. Individual video segments will be available for viewing.

This year the meeting will highlight the enormous benefits that advanced nuclear commercialization can offer the U.S. With some help from Washington, our advanced nuclear industry can deliver substantial economic growth and competitiveness, job creation, and global leadership for America on issues like security and climate change.

The session will explore these unique opportunities with domestic and international leaders in industry, government, and foreign affairs. Meanwhile , if you want to learn more about the advanced nuclear industry, check out below the latest reports and infographics: Contact Matt Coglianese with questions at: nuclearsummit@thirdway.org

  • E-BINDER: Everything You Need to Know About America’s Advanced Nuclear Resurgence – We’ve pulled together a quick and easy backgrounder, including key facts about the advanced nuclear industry in the United States, explainers about the financial and regulatory obstacles for the newest generation of advanced reactors, and policy ideas to resolve them.
  • INFOGRAPHIC: The Advanced Nuclear Industry: 2016 Update – Third Way has identified a new generation of engineers, entrepreneurs, and investors, along with several established nuclear companies, who are working to commercialize innovative and advanced nuclear reactors in North America.
  • REPORT: Introducing the Advanced Nuclear Industry – A new generation of engineers, entrepreneurs and investors are working to commercialize innovative and advanced nuclear reactors.
  • REPORT: Getting Back in the Game: A Strategy to Boost American Nuclear Exports – The U.S. has been the leading supplier of civilian nuclear technologies to companies around the globe since the dawn of nuclear power in the 1950s. But we’ve lost the top exporter spot in recent years and risk falling further behind as state-owned foreign actors are increasingly pushing America out of the global market. Three actions can help us reestablish American nuclear exports as a domestic and foreign policy priority.
  • REPORT: Nuclear Energy Renaissance Set to Move Ahead Without U.S. – Our analysis shows that the U.S. under-spends on advanced nuclear R&D. Worse, other countries outspend the U.S. in nuclear R&D, meaning the U.S. risks losing its international leadership on nuclear energy and mitigating climate change, as well as a slice of the $1 trillion in nuclear infrastructure the world needs by 2035.
  • REPORT: A Step-by-Step Guide to Nuclear Innovation Policy – To see how policies proposed by the Administration and Congress (and advocates like us) help nuclear innovators move from a good idea to a demonstration reactor, we follow Carla, a hypothetical nuclear innovator, brings an idea to commercialization.

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Campaigning for Clean Air & Nuclear Energy

Your voice in the energy debates: Learn how to support nuclear power.

angwin book coverAward-winning author Meredith Joan Angwin guides you in your pro-nuclear advocacy, from a day when you are quietly typing at your computer to the day when you might take the microphone in front of a legislative committee.

The book contains anecdotes, examples and insights, both from the author and from many other nuclear advocates. It will inspire and support your work toward a clean energy future.

People who appreciate the environmental, financial and reliability advantages of nuclear power are often unsure about they can show their support.

In this book, you will learn:

  • How you can support nuclear energy, simply sitting at your computer
  • How to support nuclear energy in public, using the same techniques as professional speakers and communicators
  • How to speak at a public hearing, or be invited to speak to a legislative committee
  • How to deal with your own emotions, in a world saturated with anti-nuclear messages
  • How you can find other nuclear supporters, and have fun together

Campaigning for Clean Air: The book is available!

Pro-nuclear people can make important contributions to the energy debate. This book will help you make your voice heard.  Advocates appreciate the importance of nuclear power for clean air and for our planet’s future.

In this book, award-winning author Meredith Angwin guides you in your advocacy:

  • Support nuclear energy in public, using the same techniques as professional speakers and communicators
  • Speak at a public hearing or be invited to speak to a legislative committee
  • Learn how to deal with your own emotions in a world saturated with anti-nuclear messages
  • Find other nuclear supporters and have fun together.

Campaigning for Clean Air features anecdotes, examples and insights from many pro-nuclear advocates. This book will inspire your work for a clean energy future. Nuclear energy is the cleanest, safest and most compact way to make electricity.

In her book, Campaigning for Clean Air, Meredith Angwin presents clear and well-referenced reasons for supporting nuclear energy. These sections of the book are based on her years of experience in energy research and on-site problem solving.

The book includes five easy-to-read, well-referenced “white papers” on nuclear power. These papers cover:

  • Nuclear power for clean air
  • Nuclear safety (normal operations)
  • Analysis of the big accidents
  • Nuclear energy for efficient land use
  • Nuclear energy around the world

Why this book?

This book is a little different.  Campaigning for Clean Air has the subtitle: Strategies for Pro-Nuclear Advocacy. It’s about getting the pro-nuclear word out to the world.

Angwin’s fear is that with all the pro-nuclear books, pro-nuclear people will read the books and enjoy the books and then….Then what? We pro-nuclear people have to raise our voices to support nuclear power.

That is why Angwin wrote Campaigning for Clean Air.  This book is about how to support nuclear energy, with some discussion (of course) about why to support it.

As one of Angwin’s friends said: “Your book is a guidebook, a sort of how-to.”  Exactly right.  How to write a letter to the editor.  How to organize a rally.  And everything in between.

Meredith’s Technical Background

meredithangwin_photoMeredith Angwin (right) has an undergraduate (special honors) and a graduate degree in chemistry from the University of Chicago.

In her chemistry career, Meredith led research to improve power plants and energy infrastructures.  Her work included improvements and evaluations of nuclear plants, gas-fired plants, gas pipelines, geothermal power plants, hydro penstocks, coal plants, and geothermal energy.

She is inventor on several patents. Her consulting company worked with clients on corrosion control for the power industry.

What Others Are Saying

Nuclear is now gaining recognition as not only desirable but necessary in the effort to provide needed energy for the world in an environmentally responsible manner. Meredith’s book provides practical tools for nuclear advocates to ensure that our existing nuclear assets are preserved and that new nuclear power facilities are licensed. This book is a must read for anyone engaging with the public on
nuclear power issues.  — Eugene S. Grecheck, Past President, American Nuclear Society

At last—a practical, clearly voiced guidebook to approaching nuclear power. I heartily endorse Meredith Angwin’s important guidebook about how to talk about the cleanest and safest source of base-load power we have. A scientist and a communications expert, her writing is direct and natural, fl ows well, and speaks directly to how people wishing to better support nuclear power can learn to spread the word.  — Gwyneth Cravens, author of Power to Save the World: The Truth About Nuclear Energy

So many would-be pro-nuclear advocates stop before they even start, daunted by the success of the anti-nuclear movement and overwhelmed by the seemingly endless negative press about nuclear energy. Meredith’s book is the antidote to the “why bother?” mindset that has ossified the nuclear industry for decades. Her book demystifi es the advocacy process with no-nonsense advice, practical strategies, and step-by-step instructions for building an advocacy practice and achieving success. And don’t forget to share some brownies! — Andrea Jennetta, Publisher, Fuel Cycle Week

Turning enthusiasm into organized, responsible advocacy, Meredith Angwin has been on the forefront of nuclear advocacy for years and she shares her experiences and lessons learned. This is far more than a “how-to manual”; it is a life’s journey into greater understanding of how to responsibly address public concerns over nuclear power or any technically complex issue. — Dr. Dale E. Klein, Former Chairman, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Meredith Angwin’s Campaigning for Clean Air: Strategies for Pro Nuclear Advocacy brings me back to my own emergence as a nuclear advocate during the Vermont Yankee era. This book is a primer for nuclear advocacy, and a fascinating guidebook and educational tool.— Thomas P. Salmon, Governor of Vermont (1972–1977)

Meredith Angwin’s book  Campaigning for Clean Air: Strategies for Pro-Nuclear Advocacy, is now available on Amazon!  You can buy it as a Kindle, or you can buy it as a paperback.  

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India Goes Large in Plans to Build Next Round of Reactors

All future foreign nuclear reactors to be 1200 MW or more

India US nuclear deal(Press Trust India) The government has decided that all future foreign atomic reactors in India will have a capacity to generate 1200 MW and above, in a bid to augment nuclear power generation.

“We already have foreign power plants with a capacity of 1000 MWs (Kudankulam). The technology too has advanced that we have reactors with such a capacity.

If we are installing them, then might as well have reactors that can generate more power and make optimum use of it,” a senior government official said.  The comment stirred immediate interest in the fate and future of plans for Westinghouse to build six AP1000 reactors for NPCIL.

The Indian government recently agreed to increase the capacity of six AP-1000 reactors, to be built by USA’s Westinghouse Co in Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh, to 1208 MW each. The six proposed nuclear power reactors to be built by Areva in Jaitapur in Maharashtra will have capacity of 1650 MW each.

According to sources, the second site to be allocated to the Russians at Kavali in Andhra Pradesh for its proposed nuclear power park will also have atomic reactors with an enhanced capacity of 1200 MW.

The existing VVER reactors built by Russians at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu have a capacity of 1000 MW each. The first two units have been commissioned and Russia will build four more units at the site.  Rostom is supply its 1200 MW models to Turkey where there are plans to build four of them at a coastal site.

India’s plans for 1200 MW units will be little less than twice the capacity of indigenously developed Pressurized Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) in the country. The current PHWRs in operation have capacity to generate between 220 MW to 540 MW. The Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is already constructing its indigenous PHRWs with a capacity of 700 MW.

There could be political resistance to this decision. Some interests want India to only build indigenous designs and to keep foreign vendors out of the market. India’s coal mining interests have successfully blocked U.S. vendors from entering the market by supporting the supplier liability law.

India faces a shortage of nuclear engineers and does not have a plant to make the large forgings needed to build reactor pressure vessels.

Financing is going to be a problem. NPCIL does not have the funding and there are limits to financing from vendors like Westinghouse and Areva. The former is hobbled by the financial troubles of Toshiba, its parent firm. Areva has just been recapitalized by the French government, but is not in a position to finance six new reactors for India.

India has explored getting financial support for the Westinghouse reactors from the U.S. Export-Import bank, but Congress is unlikely to raise the bank’s lending authority to cover the the estimated 20 billion, or more, in costs while faced with demands for investments for infrastructure in the nation’s roads and bridges at home.

For Westinghouse to proceed with the project it will have to emerge from under the shadow of Toshiba’s financial troubles and settle its disputes with Chicago Bridge & Iron. The firm could thrive if it returns to a role of being a vendor of reactor technology rather than an integrated supplier and EPC firm.  That process could take a year or two.

India’s Kalpakkam plant to add prototype fast breeder reactors

(Economic Times) The Department of Atomic Energy will construct two Prototype Fast Breeder Reactors (PFBR) of 600 MW each at Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, besides the present one of 500 MW capacity which is expected to go fully functional by October.

“All the construction activities of PFBR have been completed and the integrated commissioning activities have started. PFBR is expected to go fully functional by October 2017.

The 500 MW PFBR, which is to be functional by October, will be the first PFBR in the world for commercial use.

China’s First Haixang AP1000 To Begin Operation In 2020

(NucNet) The state-run China Daily reports that first nuclear reactor unit at the Haixang nuclear station in Hebei province, northeastern China, is expected to come online by 2020 and will use Westinghouse AP1000 reactor technology. The wire service said construction work began at Haixang last year, although the station is not yet listed in the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Power Reactor Information System (Pris) database.

In 2014 the project company, China Nuclear Huadian Hebei Nuclear Power Company, said the proposed site has the capacity for six reactor units. The company said it is planning to build Westinghouse AP1000 units, but Westinghouse has not confirmed this or released any information about the project.

Westinghouse is supplying eight of its AP1000 reactor units for new-build projects, four in the US and four in China – two at Sanmen and two at Haiyang – and says “dozens more” AP1000 plants are planned around the world. These plans may be disrupted by the financial collapses of Toshiba, its parent corporation.

Westinghouse Parent Toshiba’s Decision Could Shock Markets

(Pittsburgh Post Gazette) Toshiba Corp., told shareholders to expect a multibillion-dollar impairment in Westinghouse’s value. The write-down is expected to be close to $6 billion and it stems from Westinghouse’s acquisition of a nuclear construction company in 2015.

Late last month, Toshiba’s president and CEO, Satoshi Tsunakawa, told reporters that Toshiba is likely to exit the nuclear construction business outside of Japan, which would return Westinghouse to its role as a technology designer and service provider.

The firm is expected to make a formal announcement in Tokyo on Feb 14.

China’s Five-Year Plan Reveals Ambitious Nuclear Targets

(NucNet) More than 30 GW of nuclear energy facilities will be under construction in China through the next five years with installed capacity of 58 GW by 2020, up 16.5% year on year, according to the country’s 13th Five-Year Plan for energy development, which the National Development and Reform Commission and the National Energy Administration have officially issued. For the targets to be reached China will have to build 7-10 reactors a year.

China has 37 reactors in commercial operation, 20 under construction and four that have been approved. Its nuclear share of energy generation was 3.03% in 2015, with a target of 6% by 2020 and 9% by 2030. The country is racing to get rid of its coal fired power plants which are responsible, along with industrial pollution, for significant air quality problems in its major cities.

China is also planning to build 30 reactors overseas by 2030. According to statistics quoted by Forbes magazine, Chinese construction costs per MW are about one-third of the Flamanville-3 EPR under construction in northern France.

The Yangjiang-1 to Yangjiang-6 reactors in China’s southern province of Guangdong are costing about $1.9bn (€1.7bn) each.

NEI CEO Korsnick: Nuclear Provides ‘critical infrastructure’

(WNN) US policymakers understand the potential impact of losing nuclear plants and states are increasingly recognizing the benefits of nuclear power to consumers, the economy and the environment, Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) CEO Maria Korsnick said at its annual briefing to Wall Street analysts

Nuclear power is the “backbone” of the USA’s electricity system, providing sustained economic benefits, assuring grid reliability and supplying the country’s largest source of low-carbon energy, Korsnick said. The US nuclear fleet provides about 475,000 jobs and produces more than $12 billion annually in federal and state tax revenues, she added.

Korsnick identified two challenges of immediate concern to the US nuclear industry: preserving its existing nuclear fleet, and creating policy conditions under which companies will build and develop new nuclear capacity.

NRC Completes Safety Evaluation of Proposed Nuclear Reactor in Virginia

Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) staff has completed their safety evaluation for a combined license for a proposed nuclear reactor at the North Anna site near Mineral, Virginia.

The Final Safety Evaluation Report found no safety aspects that would preclude the issuance of the requested license.

The NRC staff will provide the report and the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement to the Commission for the mandatory hearing phase of the licensing process, which will take place later this year. In the hearing, the Commission will determine if the staff’s review supports the findings required to issue a license. The Commission will then vote on whether to approve the license.

Dominion Virginia Power submitted the license application on Nov. 26, 2007 to build an Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactor (ESBWR) at the North Anna site. The NRC certified the design in 2014.

The NRC’s Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards independently evaluated the safety aspects of the North Anna application. On Nov. 15, 2016, the committee provided the results of its review to the Commission. The NRC issued an Early Site Permit for North Anna in November 2007, and the agency supplemented the permit’s environmental review for the proposed North Anna reactor in March 2010.

However, the utility has not announced plans to actually build the reactors. It joins DTE which also got an NRC license for an ESBWR for its FERMI III reactor near Detroit. The licenses are good for 20 years.

Acceptance Testing Complete For NuScale SMR

(NucNet) UK-based Ultra Electronics has successfully completed acceptance testing of the NuScale power module protection system it is developing for US small modular reactor (SMR) developer NuScale Power. The UK-developed system is a critical safety component and will be fundamental to the operation of NuScale’s SMR technology.

Factory acceptance tests were carried out at Ultra’s facility in Dorset, southern England, earlier this month. The tests – witnessed by representatives from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) – successfully demonstrated the systems’ ability to handle safety-critical scenarios associated with the operation of NuScale’s SMR technology. The results of the tests will now form part of the NRC’s review of NuScale’s design certification application. In December 2016, NuScale asked the NRC to review and approve its commercial SMR plant design – the first SMR technology developer to do so.

NuScale said the unit will be ready for manufacture and deployment in the US and the UK by the mid-2020s. The first plant has been earmarked for a site at the US Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory.

Molten salt Reactor R&D Develops Class of Alloys

(WNN) Australian and Chinese researchers have made progress in understanding the mechanical properties of a new class of materials for use in molten salt reactors (MSRs).

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (Ansto) said that NiMo-SiC alloys – prepared from nickel molybdenum metal powders with added silicon carbide particles – have superior corrosion resistance and radiation damage resistance.

Although there are no commercial MSRs in operation, there is an MSR and thorium energy research and development program at the Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics (Sinap), with which Antso has a partnership agreement. A number of Ni-MoSiC alloy specimens containing varying amounts of silicon carbide were prepared in Sinap laboratories before being characterized at Antso.

“Structural materials for MSRs must demonstrate strength at high temperatures, be radiation resistant and also withstand corrosion,” Antso said.

In a paper published in Materials and Design, researchers from the two organizations reported that NiMo-SiC alloys “possess superior mechanical properties owing to the precipitation, dispersion and solid-solution strengthening of the NiMo matrix.”

Melted Fuel Debris Possibly Located at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant

(IEEE Spectrum) An ongoing operation to learn more about the melted nuclear fuel at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan may have helped the decommissioning project—estimated to take up to 40 years—reach an important milestone.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant operator, said that a complicated maneuver employing a 10.5-meter-long telescopic rod with a pan-tilt camera attached has yielded images of a dark mass of rubble inside the containment vessel and under the reactor vessel that houses the nuclear fuel. The images are now being analyzed in an effort to ascertain what the material might be.

“If the mass captured on camera is melted nuclear fuel, it would be a big step in helping the decommissioning work,” Yoshiyuki Ishizaki, executive vice president of TEPCO, said on 30 January, following the discovery.

Should the presence of nuclear fuel be confirmed, nuclear engineers could then work up a strategy for removing the highly radioactive rubble. However, if the material proves to be part of the damaged pressure vessel, or remains of cables or pipes, then more robot-aided searches of the surrounding area—including the concrete base supporting the containment vessel—will be required.

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