Nuclear News Roundup for Jan 5, 2015

reporter2In case you were unplugged over the holiday season, here are some global nuclear news items that crossed the wires.

UAE to complete all four of its reactors by 2020

The United Arab Emirates will be getting 25% of its electricity from four new nuclear reactors starting in 2020, if all goes well. The units, being built by a South Korean consortium, are each rated to provide about 1400 MW of electrical power. The reactors are being built at Baraka, a remote coastal site on the Persian Gulf.

CEO of the Emirates Nuclear Corp.,Mohammed Al Hammadi, told UAE English language media on 12/22/14 that the first unit will be complete in 2017 and the other three will each complete in sequence a year apart. 

The electrical power from the reactors will have three important uses. Desalinization plants will provide fresh water to the desert country. It will support the growth of a finished aluminum goods manufacturing industry exploiting the nation’s bauxite deposits, and it will power the country’s growing urban centers at Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Saudi Arabia taps Finland for nuclear safety expertise

With plans to build as many as 16 nuclear reactors, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has developed a cooperative agreement with the Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK).. The Finnish agency is helping to set up a nuclear regulatory agency at the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA CARE), which is the name of the organization based in Riyadh.

STUK has brought in a firm which has previously advised the KSA on its nuclear energy plans. Poyry, a Finnish consulting engineering firm, will help KSA harmonize the time frames for its development of the reactors and the regulatory safety operation.

Finnish government representatives, including the head of the Ministry of Education, and Finland’s Ambassador to KSA, participated in the announcement of the agreement with their KSA counterparts.

KSA officials said that the country was also working with the Gulf Cooperation Council, composed of six countries, to broaden the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

India’s Kudankulam site plans two new reactors

With Units 1 & 2, both Russian built 1000 MW VVERs, now in revenue service, India’s Department of Atomic Energy announced that work would begin on Units 3 & 4 also to be built by Rosatom. Construction is expected to start this year with both units expected to be in revenue service by 2021. 

The announcement of the project follows a state visit to India by Russian PM Vladimir Putin who promised to build a dozen or more nuclear reactors. However, unless India relaxes its nuclear liability law, the two new units at KKNPP are likely to be the last ones supplied by a foreign vendor for a long time.

U.S. and India talks stalled over nuclear liability law

Although Indian PM Modi has put forward proposals to mitigate the toughest liability issues for U.S. firms, by themselves they are unlikely to open the market. U.S. diplomats who reviewed the ideas called them “vague” since U.S. firms still be sued for failures of components long after they were installed and operating at NPCIL facilities. In the U.S. plant operators are liable for losses from accident, not suppliers.

The so-called insurance pool offered as a part of Modi’s ideas would only amount to $200-300 million which is insufficient in the event of a major nuclear accident. Opponents of Modi’s plan called it a a illegal side arrangement that would be a violation of the liability law.

Also, critics of the insurance plan ramped up the visibility of their drive for an India only nuclear construction program built around an indigenous design of a 700 MW PHWR. The former head of India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory board, A. Gopalakrishnan, said that GE-Hitachi’s new 1500 MW ESBWR was an untried design which has not been built elsewhere. According to the Hindu newspaper, he is an outspoken opponent of any foreign nuclear technology being acquired by Indian.

U.S. President Obama will travel to India this month for a state visit. He’d like to come home with a nuclear technology trade agreement with India, but right now prospects do not appear to be bright for that outcome.

Czech and South Africa to try again with new tenders for nuclear reactors

The perpetual motion machines that appear to drive the respective procurement offices in the governments of the Czech Republic and in South Africa are grinding out new mountains of paper for nuclear reactor vendors. Both nations have tried and failed to complete previous attempts at rather large buys. It remains to be seen whether all concerned are just wasting there time or if there really is money to be made in either country.

At one time CEZ, the state owned Czech electric utility, was set to offer a tender for up to five reactors worth a whopping $25 billion. It later scaled down that offer to one worth $10 billion for just two units, and then cancelled it altogether when the government finance agency refused to go along with plans for rate guarantees.

In South Africa Eskom, the state owned electric utility, offered a tender worth $27 billion for new reactors only to cancel it when it became clear the country had no financial means to pay for the power stations.

Both countries announced in December they will try again.

In the Czech Republic the government has finally realized that new reactors will only be viable, financially for investors, if there are government rate guarantees behind them for their operational lifetime. 

That said the plans for a new tender for two new units at Temelin has attracted the attention of the Chinese government which has established an investment fund of $3 billion for use in eastern and central Europe. Chinese reactor technology vendors are also interested in exploring options to export the new ACP1000 to the Czech as their first customer for it.

Competition for the Czech tender will also likely include Rosatom, Areva, and Westinghouse.

In South Africa the government is holding a series of what might be called pre-procurement consultations with most of the world’s reactor vendors. The meetings follow a political and media uproar over what has turned out to be a premature announcement by South African President Jacob Zuma and Russia’s Rostratom that a $50 billion deal had been inked for about 10 Gwe of nuclear power.

South Africa continues to suffer electricity problems with major outages experienced in December. According to a Reuters wire service report for 12/17/14 the outages are causing decreases in economic output and have put the value of the South African currency, the Rand, at risk.  It’s still unclear, given the state of finances in the country, how it plans to pay for the new reactors.

Kazakhstan to buy AP1000 from Westinghouse

Japan’s Toshiba Corp, doing business via its U.S. based Westinghouse business unit, could be on tap to deliver a first-ever non-Soviet nuclear power plant to be constructed in Kazakhstan. The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported in late December that Westinghouse would supply an 1100 MW AP-1000 reactor.

Kazakhstan originally planned to use nuclear reactors produced in Russia, with which it has maintained a close relationship. However, according to wire service reports, Kazakhstan “has become more cautious toward excessive dependence on Russia for energy,” which apparently helped Toshiba win the order, the Yomiuri Shimbun wrote.

The reactor is likely to be built in the city of Kurchatov which was to have been the site of a Rosatom built reactor complex based on an earlier, and now cancelled deal, with Rosatom. It is already a “nuclear city” being the center of the closed Semipalatinsk atmospheric and underground nuclear testing site. A Russian built nuclear reactor operated there generating electricity from 1972-1999.

Delivery of large components such as the reactor pressure vessel, steam generators, and turbines could be a problem. The region is land locked with no access to seaports. However, new rail lines now connect Kazakhstan to China which might mitigate the risk of interference with deliveries by Russia.

In 2007 Toshiba Corp sold a 10% stake in its Westinghouse Electric Co unit to Kazakhstan’s state uranium-mining company, gaining access to the world’s second-largest uranium reserves. Toshiba, which bought 77% of Westinghouse for about US$ 4.16 billion, sold the 10% stake to Kazatomprom, the state-owned uranium mining company, for US $540 million. In return Toshiba says the sale will give it access to Kazakhstan’s uranium for a fleet of Westinghouse AP1000s that are planned for numerous customers globally. 

According to the World Nuclear Association, Kazakhstan has 12% of the world’s uranium resources producing about 22,550 tonnes in 2013.

  • In 2009 it became the world’s leading uranium producer, with almost 28% of world production, then 33% in 2010, 36% in 2011, 36.5% in 2012, and 38% in 2013.
  • Kazakhstan has a major plant making nuclear fuel pellets and aims eventually to sell value-added fuel rather than just uranium. It aims to supply 30% of the world fuel fabrication market by 2015.

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