Nuclear Energy News Roundup for 12/05/15

These news briefs are based on wire services, NucNet, WNN, and other sources.

India Plans six more fast breeder reactors

India’s Department of Atomic Energy has announced ambitious plans for construction of the first two of a planned series of six fast breede reactors that will burn MOX fuel. The Chairman of the BHAVINI R&D complex told the Economic Times of India that its first unit will go critical in Spring 2016. The 500 MW prototype sodium cooled fast breeder reactor (PFBR) at Kalpakkam is expected to get clearance for fuel loading next March.

After a year of operations which will include generating power into the grid, if successful, the R&D center will seek approvel to build the next two units which will be designed to be 600 MW units. Their role will be to serve as platforms to optimize construction methods and to reduce costs from first-of-a-kind designs.  The sites for the next four units, which won’t be built until at least 2030, have not yet been selected by the center.

India’s development of fast breeder reactors is part of a very long-term three phase program to migrate from conventional light water reactors to advanced designs.

Progress cited at Kudankulam NPP power station

The second of two Russian built 1000 MW VVER light water reactors has passed all hydraulic tests as part of the process of commissioning it to send power to the grid. Full commercial operations are expected by the end of this month though that date could change. Start-up has been postponed four times so far as operators fix glitches in the equipment.

Meanwhile, NPCIL and Rosatom are making plans to build two more 1000 MW VVERs at the site. India and Russia have signed off on an agreement for construction of as many as 12 units though not all of them will be in Tamil Nadu. A second site in Andhra Pradesh is being considered for the seventh and eighth units. There a coastal site could host as many as six nuclear reactors.

Vietnam postpones construction of first two of four planned Rosatom VVERs

As part of a continuing effort not to start its commercial nuclear program before it is ready, Vietnam has again postponed breaking ground for the construction of four Rosatom nuclear reactors this time for another two years to 2020.

Hoang Anh Tuan, director general of the Vietnam Atomic Energy Agency, said it still doesn’t have the workforce needed to build or to safely operate the reactors. However, he said that the environmental assessment of the proposed site for them in Ninh Thuan province had been completed with the help of the IAEA.

The start date for the plants was originally set to be 2014 and will eventually be composed of four 1000 MW units at a cost of about $9 billion. The bulk of the financing would come in the form of a loan from Rosatom. The Russian firm is training Vietnamese engineers to operate the reactors. A Japanese consortium has an agreement with Vietnam to build four more reactors, but the designs for them have not yet been agreed to by the two countries.

Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy makes progress on UK GDA process

Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy said it has completed a regulatory milestone in the UK Generic Design Assessment (GSA) for its 1350 MW ABWR reactor. The milestone completes safety and security requirements. The next step is the environmental assessment and all work on the GDA is scheduled for completion by the end of 2017.

Completion of he GDA does not grant the vendor a license to build one of its reactors in the UK. That’s a separate process. The ABWR is a candidate design for two sites in the UK 19 GW new build – Wylfa and Oldbury.

Saskatchewan takes a look at SMRs

The electrical supply system in the central Canadian province of Saskatchwan is interested in small modular reactors (SMRs) for its widely scattered communities.

SasPower President Mike Marsh says the utility has no immediate plans to pursue an SMR, but is waiting to see if they are proven to be successful in the market. He thinks they could be good fit in the province’s electrical grid.

In 2009 the utility backed off of a plan to develop a 1000 MW reactor after a combination of poor economics and public opposition forced it to cancel the effort. Now Marsh thinks that the lower cost of an SMR might make sense.

The population of 1.13 million people is spread over a huge area. Its two largest cities, Saskatoon and Regina, have a combined population of about just under 600,000 or about half the total provincial population. Mining, agriculture / forestry make up about 21% of the economy.

The energy industry is very significant. Producing 487,000 barrels of oil a day in 2013, Saskatchewan is the second largest oil producer in Canada.

The province is the world’s leading supplier of uranium – almost 85% of this uranium is exported, with the remainder used to fuel nuclear reactors in Canada. Saskatchewan’s uranium is responsible for 5% of the electricity generated in the United States. Saskatchewan also has a vast supply of mineable lignite coal.

SMRs could support the energy industry and also serve to be a substitute for coal burning. The province’s lignite coal is inefficient as a fossil fuel and leaves behind a large waste ash heap.

Five Companies Interested In Poland Nuclear Project, Say Reports

(NucNet) Five companies have expressed an interest in supplying the reactor technology for Poland’s first nuclear power station, Jacek Cichosz, president of PGE EJ1, the company in charge of the project, told local media.

According to press reports, the companies are GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy Americas, Korea Electric Power Corporation, SNC-Lavalin Nuclear Inc, Westinghouse Electric Company and Areva. Mr Cichosz said preliminary discussions had been held with all five. He said the qualification phase is to be completed by the middle of 2016 while a final decision will be made in 2019.

Readers should not hold their breath on this news as the Polish government has repeatedly indicated it is not ready for prime time to commit to build full size nuclear reactors. While the country wants to close its dirty coal fired power plant, it hasn’t sufficiently organized itself to deploy new nuclear reactors to replace them.  Some firms have proposed swapping out the coal boilers for SMRs which would take advantage of existing grid infrastructure.

Japan’s government to support nuclear fuel recycling

(NucEngMag) Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has proposed revisions to the used nuclear fuel recycling program, calling for stronger government involvement to ensure more reliable management.

Currently, power companies that operate nuclear plants set aside funds for used fuel reprocessing and use them to pay Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd’s (JNFL’s), based at the village of Rokkasho in Aomori Prefecture. There is growing concern that power companies may withdraw from JNFL’s fuel recycling business if they confront financial difficulties.

Japan’s METI Motoo Hayashi gave assurances on 11/28 that the government will continue to pursue its policy of recycling nuclear fuel. He spoke to reporters after visiting the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. However, the plant has suffered a series of problems during test runs, and it is unclear when it will start operating.

Meanwhile, fuel storage pools at nulcear plant sites are becoming full and the problem will increase if more reactors are restarted while the Rokkasho plant remains offline.

The schedule of the Rokkasho’s completion has been postponed by more than two years because the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has not yet finished its safety screening. Hayashi said the postponement will allow the plant to meet new safety requirements introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident. He added that he had asked JNFL to make an all-out effort to complete the plant. The NRA has taken a tough stand on safety at the plant calling for JFNL to be replaced by another operator if it cannot meet its new regulatory requirements.

System Commissioning At Olkiluoto-3 Expected To Begin In Spring 2016

(NucNet) System commissioning at the Olkiluoto-3 EPR unit under construction in Finland is expected to begin in the spring of 2016 with regular electricity generation beginning in “more than three years”, operator Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) said.

TVO said the estimated schedule came from plant supplier Areva-Siemens and “the next steps towards commissioning are now more accurate”.

TVO said it expects to apply for an operating licence for the plant in spring 2016. The company said generation from the plant is needed urgently to reduce Finland’s electricity imports from neighbouring countries.

Decisions to close several power plants have decreased Finnish electricity self-sufficiency and the 1,600-megawatt Olkiluoto-3 will replace “a significant part” of the import requirement, TVO said. A report by the European Commission said Finland is reliant on electricity imports during peak demand periods and “will continue to be reliant” until Olkiluoto-3 is complete.

Separately, France’s Economy Minister Emmanuel Marcon will travel to Finland to try to settle the multiple disputes over costly delays between Areva, Siemans, and TVO.  Arbitration over nearly $6 billion in claims among the disputing parties has cast a shadow over efforts to recapitalize Areva’s nuclear reactor division, and to attract outside investors to it.

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