Nuclear News Roundup for July 5, 2016

Jordon May Scale Back Its Nuclear Energy Ambitions

Jordan’s Chairman of its Atomic Energy Commission, Khaled Toukan may be looking past the offer by Rosatom for twin 1000 MW VVER nuclear reactors. Issues the country faces in taking on the deal include the enormous cost including having adequate cooling water and upgrades to the grid to deliver electricity to customers.

Chief among his problems is finding investors for the 50% share in the project Jordan must provide. So far none have come forward. The country has tried to offer access to its spotty uranium deposits as an incentive, but explorations by Areva and Rio Tinto found that it was not economically feasible to develop them.

Now Toukan is working on developing a nuclear cooperation 123 agreement with the US as a means to acquire small modular reactors in the range of 50-300 MW. He thinks they could have uses for electricity and for sea water desalinization. The big plus for the country is that they would be a whole lot cheaper than two 1000 MW units.

In an interview with the Associated Press this week, Toukan said that the probability of closing the Rosatom deal was headed south. “It’s not 90%,” he said. It’s more like “70%.”

Another challenge Toukan faces is getting his own nuclear regulatory commission on board with the project. The nuclear project has been criticized as moving too fast and lacking public transparency and effective oversight.

A high level advisory panel summed up its misgivings calling for increased use of international nuclear engineering experts. It agreed with Toukan’s pessimistic outlook writing that financing of the Rosatom deal is “somewhat nebulous,” and that a plan to complete the project by 2025 is “overly optimistic.”

The Middle East Institute last month raised the issue of where the water will come from to be used to cool the Rosatom units and called on the country to cancel the entire effort.

Toukan’s quest for nuclear power and a 123 agreement with the US is complicated by his government’s insistence on the right to enrich its uranium to produce nuclear fuel. For its part the US embassy in Jordan has emphasized that one of the key purposes of a 123 Agreement is to limit such efforts.

Rosatom Still Looking for Investors for Turkey’s Akkuyu Nuclear Project

A Turkish construction firm is reported to be in talks with Rosatom to take up to a 49% equity stake in the construction of four 1200 MW VVER nuclear reactors at Akkuyu, Turkey, located on the country’s Mediterranean coast.

The firm Cengiz Insaat told English language news media in Istanbul that if the talks are successful, there is still time to break ground this year. The project is expected to cost $20 billion and take four-to-six years to complete the first two reactors.

The firm already has contracts for some of the construction activities. An equity deal would vastly increase its role in the project.

Roastom has been looking for some time for investors to take a 49% share in the project which is the first of three nuclear power station developments in Turkey. The Standard & Poors credit rating agency said on April 28 that it was downgrading Rosatom’s credit rating to “non-investment grade, speculative.” This announcement may complicate the negotiations with Cengiz.

Work on the project ground to a halt early in 2016 after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet based in Syria that strayed over its territory. The pilot was killed and relations between the two countries deteriorated as a result.

Since then the Turkish energy ministry has been able to restart site preparation activities aided by a statement from Rosatom chief Sergey Kiriyenko who echoed a comment from Russian President Vladimir Putin saying the project was “purely commercial” and would not be impacted by political processes between the two countries.

A second nuclear power station is slated to be built at Sinop on the Black Sea coast by a consortium of Japan’s Mitsubishi and French nuclear giant Areva. The $22 billion project is expected to complete four 1100 MW Atmea nuclear reactors at the site.

More recently, Turkey announced last October that a third nuclear power station will be built on the western coast of the Black Sea in the Igneada district. It is expected that Westinghouse will build the four 1150 MW units.

Westinghouse Enters Financial Negotiations to Build Four Reactors at Andhra Pradesh

The Economic Times reports that Westinghouse is working with an inter-agency committee of Indian government agencies to develop the financing package for construction of six 1150 MW AP1000 nuclear reactors at a site on India’s eastern coastline in Andhra Pradesh. A funding package must be worked out simultaneously with the NPCIL, the Indian nuclear development agency and the US Export Import bank.

On the US end Congress has to act to raise the limit on the bank’s loan authority from its current level of a mere $10M. The limit has been imposed by a partisan political issue unrelated to the reactor deal.

Indian government officials are hopeful that a new US congress will act swiftly so that financial negotiations can be completed by mid-2017.

In a separate development, French nuclear firm EDF said it was taking over the management of the effort to build six 1650 MW EPR nuclear reactors in Jaitapur on India’s west coast. EDF also noted that it will proceed with its agreement with India’s L&T to have that firm build some of the long lead time components for the units.

Duke closes in on NRC License for Florida Levy County Project

The NRC has issued the final Safety Evaluation Report (SER) on Duke Energy’s Levy County, FL, nuclear power plant which, if ever built, would consist of two Westinghouse 1150 MW AP1000 reactors. Later this year the NRC will vote on whether to issue a combined construction and operations license for each of the reactors.

In 2013 Duke cancelled the EPC contracts for the project, but according to a company spokesperson did not cancel the project itself.  In a statement, Rita Sipe said there are no plans to proceed with construction once the licenses are issued by the agency.

However, she also said that the firm continues to view the project “as a viable option” but hedged on how or when the firm might move ahead. She cited numerous factors including energy demand, the cost of the project, natural gas prices, and, most important, whether Florida will retain its policy of allowing the firm to recover the construction costs while the project is being built.

This has been a contentious issue with numerous attempts promoted by rate payers, so far unsuccessful, to overturn the policy by legislative action.

In addition to the cost of the two reactors, which would be at a minimum of $10 billion for them, there are significant costs to upgrade the regional electrical transmission grid to bring power from the plants to customers.

Duke has already spent a boatload of money on the project, which it inherited as part of its merger with Progress, and getting the license may be a prelude to selling the project to another utility or group of investors. The current costs to complete the license are not being passed on to ratepayers which is part of a larger settlement with the Florida PUC.

Duke has pursued a somewhat similar approach to the William States Lee III project in South Carolina which is to get the NRC license, good for 20 years once issued, but not to commit to building the reactors until economic and regulatory certainty prevail.

Likewise, in Michigan, DTE was issued a COL for the FERMI III reactor project, near Detroit , MI, for the new GEH ESBWR, but has no plans to proceed with the project until the manufacturing base in that rust belt state comes back to life.

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