China General Nuclear Offers to Speed Up Bradwell

bradwell logoWith Toshiba’s decision to abandon the Moorside project (three Westinghouse 1150 MW AP1000s) and no clear successor in place, the new UK based CEO of the CGN operation is offering to close the gap in the UK nuclear new build by speeding up work at Bradwell.

Robert Davies, CEO of CGN UK, speaking at the Nuclear Industry Association’s Nuclear 2018 conference in London this week, said that with the withdrawal of Toshiba’s NuGeneration effort, China General Nuclear is ready to ramp-up its plans for a new plant at Bradwell.

It would do so based on its HPR1000 (Hualong One) design. The revised, and faster, schedule would have the objective of keeping the UK’s nuclear power program on track.

Davies said CGN UK could close the gap in the UK’s nuclear program following Toshiba’s decision last month to withdraw from its nuclear new-build project in the UK.

World Nuclear News (WNN) reported the highlights of his statement.

“The expected sequence of reactors coming online has been interrupted,” Davies said.

“We will bring forward significantly the date at which we expect the first UK HPR1000 to enter commercial operation. We are confident we can close that gap by bringing Bradwell into operation much sooner. Rescheduling the project, bringing forward COD [commercial operation date], bringing forward FID [final investment decision] and focusing on a target COD of circa 2030.”

WNN noted that the basis for CGNUK’s engagement with the Bradwell project is a strategic investment agreement signed in October 2016. CGN agreed to take a 33.5% stake in EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C project in Somerset, and to jointly develop new nuclear power plants at Sizewell in Suffolk and Bradwell in Essex.

The Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C plants will be based on France’s EPR reactor technology, while the new plant at Bradwell in Essex will feature the Hualong One design.

As part of that agreement, CGN formed a joint venture company with EDF Energy to seek regulatory approval for a UK version of the Hualong One design.

Last month the UK’s Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency completed “initial high-level scrutiny” of the UK HPR1000 reactor design. The design now moves onto the third of four stages in the Generic Design Assessment process.

CGNUK Cites firm’s Success with Areva’s Taishan-11650 MW EPR

Davies said CGN’s confidence in ramping up its plans in the UK stems from its experience in delivering new nuclear projects in China. Earlier this year CGN brought the world’s first EPR – Taishan 1 – into commercial operation.

“Taishan is bringing confidence and certainty to Hinkley Point C, with CGN bringing to HPC not just money, but also engineering and project expertise,” he said.

CGN also said it can be counted on because it is building two demonstration HPR1000 reactors at the Fangchenggang site in China’s Guangxi Autonomous Region.

Risks of Doing Nothing About the Loss of Moorside

Davies also said there are risks if the UK doesn’t revamp its nuclear energy program.

“If we as a nation do not commit, then we will see none of the benefits of scale, prices will remain high; and, UK energy policy will fail to deliver the reliable, secure and clean energy that we will need more and more for the world’s electric vehicles, artificial intelligence and cloud computing.

“We must go low-carbon now – we cannot wait. Our children, let alone our grandchildren, will not forgive us the dithering while the world warms. We are to make and keep to decisions today that will deliver what we need tomorrow or the UK will never catch up with what it needs. We collectively – and that includes our policymakers – must be bold and confident.”

Horizon Funding Still a Question

(Reuters)  – Britain may invest directly in a new nuclear power plant it wants built in northern Wales, the country’s business minister said, as it battles to find a cost-effective way to keep its nuclear ambitions alive.

Private investors have proved reluctant to take on the huge costs of new nuclear plants, and the government has come under fire for agreeing to pay a price for electricity from Hinkley Point C that is way above rival power projects.

“For this project, the government will be considering direct investment alongside Hitachi and the Japanese government agencies and other partners,” Greg Clark told parliament.

Hitachi’s Horizon Nuclear Power plans to construct at least four 1300 MW ABWR nuclear reactors at two sites in Britain – the first at Wylfa Newydd in Wales.

Nikkei, a Japanese business wire service, reports that Hitachi CEO Toshiaki Higashihara is asking the UK government to take a 50% direct stake in the Horizon nuclear power project. The firm’s CEO would like to see is a consortium of UK firms and the government take half of the risk of financing the project.

Hitachi will also ask the UK government to provide loan guarantees for the 50% share its does take in the project to lower the interest rate and thus the financial costs of the loans.

Another key issue, as Hitachi sees it, is for the UK government to guarantee the rates the plants will charge for electricity which also is seen as a confidence builder for investors.

Hitachi has already spent near $3 billion on development of the project including the licensing of the ABWR design in the UK via the GDR process which was successfully completed in December 2017.

If Horizon is successful with Wylfa, it hopes to build a second 2.7 GWe nuclear power station at Oldbury in Gloucestershire. The plants will also use Hitachi’s advanced boiling water reactor (ABWR).

Update 12/10/18: Reuters reports that Hitachi is considering pulling out of both projects if it cannot come to acceptable terms with the UK government over costs and rates.

Other Nuclear News

Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project
to Close Next Year

The Idaho Falls Post Register reports that the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Project (AMWTP) at the Idaho Cleanup site is expected to close next year. The closure plan follows a Department of Energy (DOE) decision not to bring transuranic waste from Hanford for processing in Idaho and then be sent to WIPP.

amwtf DOE photo

Workers Retrieve Transuranic Waste at the AMWTF. Image: DOE file photo.

The Associated Press reported that workers are wrapping up processing of 85,000 cubic yards of radioactive waste at DOE’s 890-square-mile site that includes the Idaho National Laboratory which also operates a separate nuclear energy program in unrelated facilities.

The treatment plant, which reportedly cost $500M, handles transuranic waste that includes work clothing, machine parts, metal parts, and tools that have been contaminated with plutonium, uranium and other radioactive materials.

nuclear-dump-in-idaho

Uncontrolled dumping of radioactive waste in an open pit on the Arco desert in the 1960s.  Image: Idaho Cleanup Project file photo.

The Idaho treatment plant retrieves the waste from open pits and trenches where it was dumped in the 1950s and 60s. Some of the waste came from the Rocky Flats nuclear bomb components factory located near Denver.

It was thought at the time that no one would care about radioactive waste being dumped in open pits and trenches on the Arco Desert 50 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID.  The government falsified records about the nature of the waste as a security measure to prevent foreign powers from learning about the bomb making processes at the Rocky Flats plant.

However, long after the waste was shipped to Idaho, it was discovered that the plutonium from the waste was moving underground and had penetrated to over 200 feet below the surface.  Far below that point the Snake River Aquifer flowed through interlaced lenses of lava rock and sediment. The enormous river of underground water is  a primary source for pump irrigation used to grow the the state’s famous potatoes.

A Settlement Agreement in 1995 ordered the Department of Energy to get the waste out of Idaho which is how the AMWTP eventually came to be built.  The AMWTF repackages the waste and places it in new shipping containers which are then sent for permanent disposal in geologically stable underground salt formations at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in southeastern New Mexico.

Federal officials this year explored the idea of keeping the AMWTF running in Idaho by transporting waste from other states. The first site considered was the former nuclear weapons production area in Hanford.

With the Idaho treatment plant scheduled to shut down, AP reported that it’s not clear how the transuranic waste at Hanford and other sites will be dealt with. Disposing of the waste in place at that site is not an option. It’s entirely possible that DOE will have to build a facility similar to the one in Idaho to package the transuranic waste at Hanford so it can be shipped for disposal at WIPP.

“The Department of Energy analyzed the feasibility of extending the AMWTP mission to treat waste from other DOE sites, and concluded it would not be cost-effective,” DOE spokesman Tim Jackson told the Post Register.

About 700 people work at the site. A press spokesman for the cleanup contractor said the firm would offer voluntary separation opportunities and also try to find jobs for workers at other DOE cleanup sites.

The closure decision drew a response from U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, who is chairman of the House Energy and Water subcommittee. He told the Post Register; “It is a difficult thing to know that you are working yourself out of a job every day, but that is the unfortunate nature of cleanup work.”

NEI Sends Letter to Congress
on Management of Spent Nuclear Fuel

Fifteen leading industry groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Nuclear Energy Institute, sent a letter this week to Congressional leaders urging “immediate congressional action to revitalize the federal used nuclear fuel program.”

In the letter, the groups write: “Another year without progress on the Yucca Mountain repository license application and consolidated interim storage is untenable.”

They point out that electricity customers have already paid more than $40 billion into the Nuclear Waste Fund, but there has been no progress by the federal government to meet its “statutory and contractual obligations.”

Read the full text of the letter here.

Russia To Help Argentina Explore
Option Of Floating Nuclear Power Plant

(NucNet) Russia and Argentina have signed an agreement to explore the possibility of the construction of nuclear plants and floating nuclear plants.

According to the agreement, the two countries will also consider the joint operation of a fleet of Russian-designed floating nuclear power plants.

Argentina has three operating commercial power reactors – a Candu unit at the Embalse nuclear station and two KWU (Kraftwerk Union) pressurized heavy water reactor units (PHWR) at Atucha. They provide about 10% of the country’s electricity.

A prototype domestically designed and developed 25-MW small pressurized water reactor known as Carem is under construction at a site next to the Atucha station.

In 2017 Argentina said it planned to start construction of the first of two new nuclear reactor units in the second half of 2018, but so far this has not happened. Argentina was said to be in the process of finalizing negotiation of the commercial and financial contracts to build the two plants after signing a $12.5bn agreement with China for the construction and financing.

According to the agreement, China’s National Nuclear Corporation and Nucleoeléctrica Argentina were to begin construction of Atucha-3, a 700-MW Candu-6 PHWR, in 2018 and will start building a 1,000-MW Hualong One, or HPR1000, PWR unit in 2020.

The Russians at one time offered a 1000 MW VVER to Argentina, but so far nothing has developed to advance that deal.

Bulgaria Eyes Belene Completion
in 10 Years And For €10Bn

According to a report by NucNet Bulgaria wants to build the two-unit Belene nuclear power station within 10 years and at a cost of up to €10bn, Bulgarian energy minister Temenuzhka Petkova told a parliamentary hearing according to Bulgarian National Television.

Ms Petkova said she believes that building the two-unit station is “realistic.”

The government’s policy to attract private investment for the project, subject to there being no state guarantees or long-term electricity purchase contracts, remains unchanged, Ms Petkova said.

In short, the country wants any vendor to self-finance the project, which is an enormous and essentially untenable risk.  Burgaria may eventually realize it has to put up some of the cash to pay for the project if it expects investors to come to the table.

Ms Petkova said the procedure to select an investor for Belene is ready and will start in early 2019, with the aim of completing it by the year’s end. Earlier reports quoted the minister as saying that the procedure was to start by the end of 2018.

In 2008, Bulgaria ordered the design, construction and commissioning of two Russian VVER-1000 pressurized water reactor units for Belene. The project was cancelled in 2012 because of financial and political considerations. It was revived again in June 2018 after a series of arbitration procedures which took about four years to conclude.

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