Nuclear News Roundup for June 26, 2017

Terrestrial Energy to Evaluate Canadian Lab Site for its Molten Salt Reactor

Terrestrial Energy has commenced a feasibility study to explore siting the world’s first commercial Integral Molten Salt Reactor (IMSR®) power plant at Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL). The study is being conducted by CNL. A key piece of their vision is to create a technology hub at CNL to support the commercialization of small modular reactors, a potentially transformative technology.

“This is an important milestone for Terrestrial Energy. It maintains our momentum for 2020s deployment of IMSR® power plants” said Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy.

“We are pleased to be working with CNL to begin the process to identify a suitable location on the CNL site to build the first commercial IMSR® power plant.”

“Supporting the research, licensing and siting of Canada’s first advanced reactors is an important part of CNL’s long-term plan” said Mark Lesinski, President and CEO at CNL. “We are excited to begin these efforts by supporting these studies for Terrestrial Energy’s IMSR® commercial power plant.”

The work is being carried out in parallel with an industry wide Request For Expression Of Interest (RFEOI) recently launched by CNL. The responses to the RFEOI will inform a roadmap that takes in account the considerations of reactor developers, the supply chain, end users and other stakeholders.

terrestrial energy points

The parties are cooperating under a business framework set out in a 2016 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed between Terrestrial Energy and CNL. It facilitates a collaborative working relationship to conduct testing and validation activities to support Terrestrial Energy’s engineering program for IMSR® deployment. It covers a broad set of CNL’s nuclear services including reactor.

South Korean President Pushes Plans To End Role of Nuclear Energy

(NucNet): South Korea will abandon plans to build new nuclear power plants and will not extend the lifetime of existing reactor units, the country’s new president Moon Jae-in was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Mr Moon, who spoke at a ceremony marking the closure of the Kori-1 nuclear unit near Busan, said the government will “end the nuclear-oriented power generation plan and pave the way for a nuclear-free era.”

Mr Moon also said the government will “soon” reach a consensus on the future of the part-completed Shin-Kori-5 and -6 nuclear units after fully considering their construction costs, safety and potential compensation costs.

Reuters reported that Mr Moon vowed also to shut  down Wolsung-1, South Korea’s oldest reactor unit, “as soon as possible”, but subject to an assessment of the country’s power supply needs.

Mr Moon had campaigned on a program of cutting South Korea’s reliance on coal and nuclear in its energy mix. In May 2017, Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) suspended the design process for the planned two-unit expansion of the Shin-Hanul nuclear power station because of uncertainty around the new government’s energy policy.

South Korea has 25 reactor units in commercial operation. In 2016, they generated 30% of the country’s electricity according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

It is believed that Moon plans to import natural gas from Russia via an undersea pipeline from Sakhalin Island. This action would tie South Korea’s energy security to the potential for political influence and meddling in that nation’s affairs by Russia.

What does it mean for South Korea?

For an excellent and comprehensive analysis of Moon’s decision and what it means for energy security for South Korea, readers are referred to an article by Mark Hibbs at Arms Control Wonk titled, “Moon’s Phase-Out: What Does it Imply.” 

Hibbs is a Germany-based senior fellow in Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program. His areas of expertise are nuclear verification and safeguards, multilateral nuclear trade policy, international nuclear cooperation, and nonproliferation arrangements. Prior to this role he worked for Platts as a reporter and analyst of the global nuclear industry.

KEPCO CEO Expected to Pitch NuGen for Equity Stake

(The Investor) A top Korea Electric Power Corp. executive is expected to meet NuGen’s chief on the sidelines of a London energy conference later this month, to discuss stake acquisition in a nuclear plant, according to industry sources. NuGen, owned by Japan’s Toshiba, is planning to sell substantial stake in a nuclear plant.

KEPCO Chief Nuclear Officer Park Jong-hyuck and NuGen CEO Tom Samson will be giving presentations at the Nuclear New Build 2017 scheduled for June 27-28. Industry watchers say that the two are expected to have a one-on-one meeting during the conference.

Park played a key role in KEPCO’s nuclear project in the United Arab Emirates, considered as one of the state-run firm’s biggest deals. In October 2016, KEPCO signed an agreement to operate nuclear power plants in the UAE, a project he headed as vice president.

NuGen was formed in 2009 as a joint venture between France’s ENGIE, Spain’s Iberdrola and the Scottish and Southern Energy to build a new nuclear reactor in Northwest England with a capacity of up to 3.6 gigawatts. SSE and Iberdrola have since withdrawn from the project. Japan’s Toshiba now holds 100 percent stake. Neither Toshiba nor KEPCO have stated the size of stake on the block.

Meanwhile, KEPCO’s plans to pursue the deal are facing concerns due to President Moon Jae-in’s policies to reduce Korea’s reliance on nuclear power.

“As a state-owned company, it’s a dilemma for KEPCO,” an industry source told The Investor on the condition of anonymity.

“KEPCO wants another major deal like the one with the UAE, but at the same time, it’s afraid it may appear ironic to export nuclear technology when the country is busy shutting down its own facilities.”

US District Court Blocks Sale Of Waste Control Specialists To Energy Solutions

(NucNet) A US District Court in Delaware has blocked the sale of Texas-based Waste Control Specialists (WCS) to Energy Solutions, a Utah-based nuclear fuel cycle services provider. The district court’s decision to bar the acquisition came after a two-week trial.

In November 2016, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against the proposed $367m (€328m) acquisition on anti-trust grounds. DOJ said at the time that the transaction would combine the two most significant competitors for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste available to commercial customers in the US.

In separate statements, both Energy Solutions and Valhi Inc., WCS’s owner, expressed their disappointment with the court’s decision. WCS’s president Rod Baltzer was quoted by Valhi as saying that litigation took over 18 months and brought “great” expenses to WCS and the company must now decide if it will appeal the court’s decision.

WCS operates the only centralized low-level waste disposal facility in the US, licensed to receive all types of low-level waste from 36 states. It is located in Andrews County, western Texas.

WCS has suspended its license application with the NRC for an interim storage site for spent nuclear fuel citing the anti-trust suit. Separately, WCS said that expenses for preparing the license application and the NRC review have been far greater than expected. The NRC rejected the first application as not containing sufficient technical detail prompting an expensive do over.

Key Schedule & Cost Documents Missing from Westinghouse at V C Summer

(Post & Courier) SCANA got a rude shock to the system this week when it discovered that the detailed construction schedules for the twin Westinghouse A 1150 MW AP1000 nuclear reactors at the V C Summer site does not exist.

The failure of Westinghouse and its subcontractors to produce the schedule, and related cost documentation, has created a crisis of confidence for rate payers and regulatory agencies who have been given assurances by the utility that the two new units can completed by 2020 and for a cost of $14 billion.

The missing data has added new uncertainty to the utility’s efforts to decide whether to continue construction or stop the project.

The Post & Courier newspaper reported that the news about the missing data went down hard with the utility.

“Westinghouse has clearly failed to perform according to our contract for the V.C. Summer project,” Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore said, adding that the utility “is participating in a comprehensive review of data and documents that will help us clarify some of the details. Once that evaluation is complete, we can talk more completely about the situation and our plan for the next step.”

And critics of the project, some with a long history of opposition to it, were equally surprised.

The lack of the needed documentation was called a “stunning admission” by environmental groups opposed to the V.C. Summer expansion.

“I’m just floored that they haven’t been able to produce a schedule for their own project,” said Tom Clements with Friends of the Earth, a network of environmental groups and activists.

“That violates a basic tenet of sound construction management, and I think it reveals that there are more problems to be encountered if the project continues.”

Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club filed a complaint with state regulators, calling for a hearing on whether construction should be allowed to move forward and whether the utilities should be forced to pay back money customers have already spent through higher rates to build the reactors.

The S.C. Public Service Commission has approved the request and a hearing date is set for Aug. 14 in Columbia.

The state’s Office of Regulatory Staff, which represents the public’s interests in utility regulations, said it supports the hearing but stopped short of endorsing the environmentalists’ complaint.

South Africa to Review Nuclear Plans in Response to Recession

(Reuters) South Africa will review its nuclear plans as part of its response to the economic recession in the country, Energy Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi said last week.

South Africa is planning to build 9,600 megawatts (MW) of nuclear capacity, a project that could be one of the world’s biggest nuclear contracts in decades. Numerous questions have been raised whether the country can afford it or even pay for it.

Kubayi said she was a member of a cabinet committee chaired by President Jacob Zuma which was drawing up responses to recession and that the committee would study the nuclear plans.

The country has technically entered recession after two quarters of economic contraction, and the procurement process for the nuclear project has been disrupted by a court ruling which declared a nuclear pact between South Africa and Russia unlawful.  Additionally, several finance ministers have been cycled through the government each one apparently fired for concluding that the project was unsustainable as currently envisioned by President Zuma.

Taking a cue from that experience, the Energy Ministry offered a caution flag about what can be done.

“We will do the nuclear project at a scale and pace that we can afford. So we will look at that completely, if we need to review the scale we have obviously to go back,” Kubayi told a news conference.

In response to a question on the firm that South Africa could choose to build new nuclear reactors, Kubayi said it was important to go for “the most experienced people who have a track record”.

Russian state firm Rosatom is a contender to build the nuclear reactors and has been talking up its chances of winning the contract, given delays and cost overruns at French competitor Areva and Japanese-owned Westinghouse being embroiled in backruptcy.

India’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency Give OK for First Concrete for Unit 3 & 4 Of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project

(Business Standard) The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has granted clearance to the ‘First Pour of Concrete (FPC)’ for the third and fourth units of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP).

In a meeting held on June 19, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) has been granted clearance for the FPC, said AERB in an announcement. The clearance for FPC implies commencement of first pour of structural concrete and continuation of construction works of the safety related structures.

The KKNPP-3 and 4 are Water-Water Energetic Reactor (VVER) designed by Russian. These pressurized water reactors are to be constructed in Kudankulam, Tamil Nadu. These reactors will take a design cue from KKNPP-1 and 2, but with improvements based on commissioning and operational experience feedback.

Units 1 & 2 were commissioned and entered revenue service in July 2013 and in Juky 2016 respectively.  Plans for Units 5 & 6 are in final negotiations between Rosatom and NPCIL.

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