Nuclear News Roundup for August 27, 2016

Climate Scientists Urge California To Reconsider Diablo Canyon Closure Plans

(NucNet) Climate scientists have written to the governor of California asking for a proposal to close the two-unit Diablo Canyon nuclear station to be reconsidered because there are “serious questions” about whether the planned closure is good for ratepayers, the environment and the climate.

In their letter, the scientists urged Gov. Edmund Brown to ask the California Public Utility Commission to delay consideration of any proposal to close Diablo Canyon until the legislature and the public, who will have to foot the bill, can openly debate how California can most quickly and cost-effectively stop the damage to the climate from electrical system emissions.

Utility Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has agreed in a joint proposal with Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defence Council, the Alliance for Nuclear Responsibility and other groups to close the station in 2025.

The scientists said: “Retirement of the plant will make a mockery of California’s decarbonization efforts.

Diablo Canyon’s yearly output of 17,600 gigawatt-hours supplies 9% of California’s total in-state electricity generation and 21 percent of its low-carbon generation. If Diablo Canyon closes it will be replaced mainly by natural gas, and California’s carbon dioxide emissions will rise.”

They said the joint proposal does not come close to replacing this lost low-carbon power. It only mandates 4,000 GW/hrs per year of energy efficiency and, optionally, new renewable generation, to replace four times as much lost nuclear output.

“And much of the demand reduction PG&E forecasts to replace Diablo will come about simply from customers switching from PG&E to alternate electricity providers, with no guarantee that their new electricity supply will come from low-carbon sources,” the scientists said.

Under the proposal, Diablo Canyon would be retired by PG&E after its current operating licences expire in November 2024 and August 2025. There are several contributing factors, PG&E said, including California’s plans to increase renewables to 50 percent by 2030. The Diablo Canyon units began commercial operation in 1985 and 1986.

The letter is online:

China Sets Sights on New Global Export: Nuclear Energy

(AP) In Shanghai, workers are constructing a nuclear reactor that is the flagship for Beijing’s ambition to compete with the United States, France and Russia as an exporter of atomic power technology.

The Hualong One, developed by two state-owned companies, is one multibillion-dollar facet of the country’s aspirations to transform China into a creator of profitable technology from mobile phones to genetics.

In the case of nuclear reactors, industry experts say China is underestimating how tough it will be for its novice exporters to compete with the foreign companies that helped create its industry, given the political hurdles, safety concerns and uncertain global demand following Japan’s Fukushima disaster.

China’s nuclear industry is growing fast, with 32 reactors in operation, 22 being built and more planned, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Mycle Schneider, a nuclear energy consultant in Paris, told AP Beijing is “seriously underestimating” how hard global sales will be. Obstacles include strict quality controls, regulations that differ from country to country and competition from the falling cost of wind and solar, he said.

The Hualong One under construction in Fuqing, near the southeastern city of Fuzhou, is a hybrid created by CGN and its main rival, China National Nuclear Corp. after they were ordered in 2011 to merge two competing reactors into a single export product.

Based on French systems of the 1970s and ’80s, it belongs to the industry’s third generation of reactors, with more advanced safety features and working life of 60 years instead of the previous generation’s 40.

CNNC is installing two Hualong One reactors at the Fuqing Nuclear Power Plant, due to go online in 2019 and 2020.

CGN is building its own version in Fangchenggang on the southern coast near Vietnam and says it wants to seek regulatory approval of the Hualong One design for possible use in a power plant in Bradwell on Britain’s east coast. That project is based on success with the Hinkley Point effort which is on hold mired in controversy over costs and the participation of the Chinese firms.

China has signed an agreement in principle with Argentina for construction of one or two Hualong One reactors, but that country’s economy may not be able to support the project. A separate deal with Romania will likely result in construction of two new CANDU 6 type reactors matching two similar units that are already in revenue service.

China’s nuclear industry has yet to report a major accident but reflexive official secrecy makes it hard for outsiders to assess its safety. It remains unclear whether China can develop the technical workforce to meet its domestic ambitions, mount an effective regulatory effort, and support its export ambitions.

Jordan Seeks Financing for its First Nuclear Power Plant

(NucEngIntl) Jordan’s first nuclear power plant, a two 1,000MWe unit plant to be built by Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, could be operational by 2025, if sufficient financing is secured, the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) said.

“Jordan is currently in talks with German, Czech, Chinese and Japanese companies among others to supply turbines and electrical systems for the power plant and things are going well,” said JAEC Chairman Khaled Toukan.

Some 30% of the $10bn project will be financed equally by Jordan and Russia, who are partners in the project. JAEC is engaged in discussions with companies to secure the remaining 70% to pay for turbines and electrical systems, Toukan said.

“If we secure finance by the end of 2017, we will be able to operate the first reactor by 2025,” he told a press conference called to announce the results of a report on the program by the International Advisory Group (IAG).

Jordan has not had success, so far, in attracting investors for its project in the politically volatile Middle East.

Russian Progress with Fast Reactor Technology

(WNN) Russia has reached two more milestones in its effort to close the nuclear fuel cycle. TVEL has completed acceptance tests of components for its experimental fuel assemblies with mixed nitride fuel for the BN fast neutron reactors.

Russia plans to construct 11 new nuclear power reactors by 2030 – including two BN-1200 sodium-cooled fast neutron reactors. The BN-1200 units are to be built at the Beloyarsk and South Urals nuclear power plants.

Russia also plans to build a facility to produce high-density U-Pu nitride fuel to enable a closed nuclear fuel cycle. The ultimate aim is to eliminate production of radioactive waste from nuclear power generation.

The project comprises a fuel production / refabrication module for production of dense uranium plutonium (nitride) fuel for fast reactors. The fuel will use spent fuel assemblies from commercial reactors as a feedstock.

The planned Beloyarsk 5 BN-1200 will use larger fuel elements than the BN-600 and BN-800 and have a simplified refuelling procedure. Russian nuclear engineering company OKBM Afrikantov is developing the BN-1200 as a next step towards future reactor designs, commonly known as Generation IV.

Russia’s Beloyarsk-4 BN-800 Begins Operating At Full Power

(NucNet) Unit 4 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power station near Yekaterinburg in Sverdlovsk Oblast has started operating at 100% power for the first time. The BN-800 fast neutron reactor is scheduled to enter commercial operation later this year.

Plant operator Rosenergoatom said there would be a 15-day comprehensive test during which operators will confirm that the unit is able to consistently run at the rated power load in accordance with the design parameters, without deviation.

Beloyarsk-4 is Russia’s first reactor of the BN-800 design, burning mixed uranium-plutonium fuel. There is one commercially operational reactor at the Beloyarsk station, the Beloyarsk-3 BN-600 fast neutron unit, a smaller version of the BN-800.

Russia is considering further expansion of the Beloyarsk station with the construction of Unit 5, an even larger 1200-MW reactor, but according to recent reports a decision depends on the operational results of Beloyarsk-4.

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