Nuclear News Roundup for July 30, 2016

EDF makes final investment decision on new UK nuclear plant

(WNA) The EdF board has decided to proceed with building the 2-unit Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant in Somerset. The expected cost is £18 billion, with full construction to begin in 2019. So far some £2.5 billion has already been spent on it. 

However, soon after the EdF announcement, the UK government surprised everybody by saying that it expected to take until September for the new leadership to make a final decision on the project, and in particular to sign off on power purchase from it.
To underwrite the capital investment EDF has agreed to a 35-year power supply contract at about double the current wholesale price. Platts called it “a bold, expensive solution to the failure of the wholesale market to provide an investment signal for decarbonized power.” Similar contracts will be offered for subsequent nuclear projects.
Hinkley Point C will be the fifth and sixth EPR units built, with the company determined to apply the lessons from Finnish and French projects which are significantly over budget and schedule. The two EPR units being built in China by EDF and China General Nuclear Power (CGN) are closer to target, and due on line next year.

CGN will be a 33.5% partner in the UK’s Hinkley project. The Chinese investment is seen as a foothold in UK, with a view to Chinese reactors being built at Bradwell B.
The EPR is a large (1670 MWe) and complex design. Two difficult European EPR projects have resulted in Areva’s virtual demise, with the reactor division to be picked up and refloated largely by EDF, which is 85% owned by the French government.  Hinkley Point C will provide about 7% of UK electricity from its 3260 MWe net.

New Timetable Will See Hinkley Point Decision In ‘Early Autumn’

(NucNet) The UK government has agreed a new timetable with the French government for the Hinkley Point C project with a decision now expected during the autumn.

A spokesman for prime minister Theresa May said: “EDF made their announcement, and we have agreed a timetable with the French government, which means we will consider all the component parts of this project and make a decision in the early autumn.”

The plan to build the £18bn (€21bn, $19bn) nuclear station was hit with an unexpected new delay as the government decided to hold a new review hours after EDF, the project’s state-owned French developer, gave it the go-ahead. EDF’s approval is subject to approval from the UK and Chinese governments.

China General Nuclear Power Generation, which is planning to take a 33.5% stake in the project to build two EPR units, said in a statement that it respects the new government’s need to familiarize itself with a project and “we stand ready to help the government in this respect,”

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the London-based Nuclear Industry Association, said that the government’s decision to take longer to look at the contract does not change the fundamentals – that by 2030, two thirds of the UK’s electricity generation capacity will have retired and will need to be replaced with low-carbon and reliable power. 

“The most important thing is that the board of EDF and its investors have the finance in place to enable them to give the go ahead for the project and that is very good news,” he said. 

“We now need the new ministers to quickly endorse the decision to show they are serious about industrial strategy, building new infrastructure by securing inward investment to create our low-carbon energy supplies of the future.”

Japan Report Predicts 26 Reactor Restarts By March 2018

(NucNet) Seven nuclear power reactors will be restarted in the current fiscal year, by the end of March 2017, with another 19 in the following fiscal year to the end of March 2018, a report by Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics says.

However, the report points out numerous uncertainties surrounding nuclear reactors, including judicial judgments and local agreements. In addition to its standard scenario, the report outlines a low scenario in which 12 reactors would be restarted in the same period.

The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum said four reactors have been restarted in Japan after clearing examinations under the new regulatory standards imposed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. They are Sendai-1 and -2 and Takahama-3 and -4, although the Takahama units have since been taken offline after a court issued a temporary injunction following a protest lodged by anti-nuclear activists.

Applications for 22 additional reactor restarts have been filed.

All of Japan’s 48 commercial reactor units were shut down for safety checks and upgrades following the Fukushima-Daiichi accident. Five reactors have been earmarked for permanent shutdown, bringing the number of potentially operable commercial units to 43.

Westinghouse to load fuel at first Chinese AP1000 in November

(China Daily) US-based Westinghouse Electric Co expects to begin fuel loading at the world’s first AP1000 nuclear plant in November, as the facility in Sanmen, Zhejiang province, edges closer to becoming operational early next year, the company’s executives said on Wednesday.

Despite being several years behind schedule, Gavin Liu, president in Asia for Westinghouse, said the move will pay the way for more opportunities in a booming nuclear market with more than 100 new nuclear power plants planned in coming decades.

“We plan for further expansion and investment here, as we will play a strong role in the market,” he told China Daily during a four-day international nuclear event in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

He said that Asia accounts for less than 25 percent of the company’s overall business, but the figure is expected to rise to 35 percent to 40 percent in the next five to 10 years, driven by growth in countries such as China.

Prior to the fuel loading, the company has already completed cold hydro testing at the plant in Sanmen, and the hot functional test will be held in several days.

Turkey ‘Has Removed’ All Legal Obstacles To Akkuyu Construction

(NucNet) Turkey has removed all legal obstacles to the construction of the Akkuyu nuclear station, Russia’s deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich said, according to the government-owned Russian Tass news agency. Tass said Mr Dvorkovich made the comment after a meeting between Turkey’s economy minister Nihat Zeybekchi and Russian energy minister Alexander Novak.

Last May Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom told NucNet that amendments were needed to three Turkish laws before Russia could go ahead with plans to build Turkey’s first nuclear power station. Rosatom said one law prevented the cutting down of olive trees on the proposed site. Another meant the shape of the seafront could not be altered to allow for construction of intake and outlet channels, and a third law prevented foreign producers of electricity from selling it.

Akkuyu, near Mersin on the country’s southern Mediterranean coast, is to be built in cooperation with Rosatom under a contract signed in late 2010. The station will have four 1,200 MW VVER units and is scheduled to produce power by the end of 2022.

NPCIL Issues Tenders That Test The Waters On India’s Liability Laws

(The Hindu)(Nuclear Street) Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) has issued two tenders for domestic suppliers to contribute to a 1,400 MW nuclear power plant at Gorakhpur in Haryana under new rules that have been modified to encourage bidding activity that failed to develop two years ago.

What has changed in India’s nuclear power industry is the 2010 Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act that was passed in order to invite foreign companies to participate in nuclear power projects in India. Prior to 2010, builders of nuclear power plants were held responsible in the event of a serious accident.

Adhering closer to international standards, the 2010 law caps the liability now assigned to plant operators at $250,000 in most cases, with the government picking up the remainder. However, plant operators can sue suppliers if it is deemed that faulty equipment was to blame for the accident.

With that stipulation, tenders for the Gorakhpur plant failed to prompt much interest two years ago. A new clarification on what defines a supplier is expected to provoke greater interest in bidding this time around, according to a Bloomberg report.

A year ago, an addendum to the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Act defined a supplier as a company that designed, manufactured and provided quality assurance on a plant component. That effectively meant many local equipment makers were no longer considered suppliers.

However, it still did not ease the trepidations over the possibility that a local equipment maker could be held responsible for a nuclear power plant accident, effectively pouring cold water on the bidding process.

In November, India’s Atomic Energy Commissioner Sekhar Basu said that NPCIL will adopt changes in tenders that would take many equipment makers out of the line of fire in terms of liability for domestic nuclear power projects. Essentially, the rules would no longer define them as suppliers, since the work they did was according to “our supervision and according to our design specifications, right from design to construction and fabrication,” Basu said.

Equipment makers would make the component, but they would not be considered suppliers, because NPCIL was providing the design specifications and overseeing quality control.

NPCIL Executive Director for contracts and materials S.K. Mazumder, said in an interview that he had urged equipment makers to join a $250 million insurance pool. “If they do, they have the insurance policy to cover their risk. If they don’t fit into the definition, then they need not worry,” he said.

With India poised to become one of the fasted nuclear power growth countries and one of the fastest growing economies in the coming decades, the liability issue is a deal breaker with huge implications. The Gorakhpur project includes two 700 MW PHWRs as just the first phase of development with room for additional reactors in the future.

US nuclear firm Westinghouse has been negotiating with NPCIL for construction of six 1150 MW AP1000 reactors.  The plans have been repeatedly postponed due to concerns about the liability law. The new developments with NPCIL’s tender for the Gorakhpur project will be watched closely by the firm which hopes to close on the deal in the next six-to-twelve months.

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