Finland moves ahead with Hanhikivi construction license
~ It faces questions about an investor
In what looks like a cliff hanger move, at the last minute Fennovoima submitted a construction license application to the Finnish government for a new nuclear power plant. At issue is the requirement that the project’s equity investors must be from European Union countries and hold 60% of the plant’s ownership. The government will now audit the application the utility’s application, which includes the listing of the equity partners. The application was submitted on the last day that it was eligible for consideration.
According to the application, as reported by World Nuclear News, Croatia’s Migrit Solarna Energija put the application over the top for the right flavor of equity investors. Russia’s Rosatom owns a 34% stake in the project. The listing of latest investor immediately raised red flags with the government.
According to a Newsweek report for July 2, Finnish government authorities are questioning whether the last minute equity investor has close ties to Russia. Newsweek reports that Finnish news media have dug up details about the Croatian firm that raise questions about where the money came from that it pledged to the project.
Update 7/13/15 : Politico Europe has a detailed analysis of this evolving mystery.
For its part Fennovoima said through a spokesman that the utility is confident that the application will hold water. The new reactor is scheduled to come online in 2024.
Finland’s TVO pulls the plug on plans for a fourth nuclear reactor
Finnish nuclear utility TVO said in late June that it will not apply for a construction license for a new and fourth reactor. The firm cited schedule delays and cost overruns occurring at the third reactor at Olkiluoto which is being built by a consortium of French nuclear giant Areva and Germany’s Siemens.
Both firms are in arbitration with each other over accountability for the costs associated with the delays, and with TVO for its management of the project.
The reactor was scheduled to come online in 2009 and now has an estimate start date of 2018. TVO said that it would consider a fourth unit only after the third unit has entered revenue service.
Areva signs multiple nuclear energy agreements with China
With signoff by top government officials of both nations, Areva is now partnering with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to build a spent fuel reprocessing center estimated to cost at least $15 billion. The agreement also expands Areva’s work with CNNC on the other elements of the nuclear fuel cycle including fuel fabrication.
A separate agreement with China General Nuclear Corp (CGN) calls for joint efforts to develop “medium and high power reactors.” It will leverage the completion of the first of two 1600 MW EPRs now under construction at Taishan. The first unit is expected to be completed in 2016 and a second unit to follow a year later. The successful completion of both units may serve as a foundation to built two more similar units at the same site.
EDF is also a partner to the agreement with CGN and Areva. Separately, EDF is planning to provide a capital infusion to Areva for a reported amount of 2 billion euros. However, Areva has told potential investors it needs at least three times that amount to meet commitments in China and also for the two EPRs to be supplied to the UK’s Hinkley Point project which will be managed by EDF.
Areva has indicated it is in discussions with several Chinese state owned nuclear firms to make up the difference in its capital needs. However, the talks are still in the preliminary stage. EDF said it could be some time before it decides how much capital it will provide to take over Areva’s reactor division.
Since both firms are more than 80% owned by the French government, the decision is more likely one that will wind up on the desk of French President Hollande which is less than enthusiastic about France’s nuclear future.
However, Segolene Royal, the French energy minister, is interested in seeing Areva get the capital it needs not only for its export deals, but also to insure that its technology will be available to be used to replace reactors in the French nuclear fleet. Some of the older and smaller units start to hit their 40 year mark in the 2020 time frame.
NuScale sets schedule for SMR design certification application to the NRC
The vendor and its first customer of a US developed design for a 50 MW small modular reactor (SMR) told World Nuclear News July 2 that it will submit an application for design certification to the NRC by the end of 2016. The announcement officially confirms what the vendor has been saying informally at nuclear energy trade conference since October last year.
NuScale Power and the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems (UAMPS) also said that they plan to submit a COL application to the NRC by late 2017 or early 2018. The COL would be for a single plant composed of up to 12 50 MW units.
Both firms have been evaluating a potential site in Idaho, but have not confirmed that it will be the actual construction site that will be listed in the COL. NuScale told WNN that while it is not pursuing an Early Site Permit for a site, it is keeping that option in mind if the outlook for the project changes.
The Idaho site, said to be located within the boundaries of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), would provide access to regional power grids, isolation in terms of plant security, and the potential for continued support from the Department of Energy. The INL’s nuclear test facilities are located approximately 50 miles west of the Idaho Falls, ID, on the Arco Desert.
If the plant is built, it could come online as early as 2022. It would be operated by Energy Northwest.
The project is benefitting from $217 million in cost sharing money from the US Department of Energy for engineering design and licensing work. Fluor Engineering is NuScale’s lead investor which so far, according to WNN, has put $170 million into the project.
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