- Poland / New Nuclear Could Cost €14Bn Over a Decade
- Poland / Utility PGE ‘Could Not Bear’ Investment in First Nuclear Plant
- Micro Reactors / Oklo’s Aurora Will Cost $10m to Build And $3m A Year To Operate
- Advanced Reactors / BN-600 Licensed to Operate Until 2025
- Small Modular Reactors / Finland’s VTT Develops an SMR for District Heating
Poland / New Nuclear Could Cost €14Bn Over A Decade
(NucNet) The country’s ambitions include building a minimum of six reactor units over 20 years with the equivalent of 9000 MW by the 2040s. Paying for them remains a supremely vexing problem for the Polish government which is conflicted about these plans and how to fund them.
Poland will have to spend €14 billion in the first 10 years of its planned nuclear power program, the Polish government secretary responsible for energy infrastructure Piotr Naimski said in media interviews
Mr Naimski said the country’s plans include building six nuclear reactor units over 20 years with a combined output of between 6 and 9 GW.
At $4,500/Kw, 6000 MW will cost $27 billion. The €14 billion will buy the country only half of its planned new electrical generation capacity of just 3000 MW. A new build of 9000 MW will come in at about $42 billion depending on what a Euro is worth a decade or two from now.
As of today this cost is the same for full size nuclear reactors, e.g., 1000 MW or small modular units. Marketing claims by two vendors of SMRs (GE-Hitachi 300 MW) and mid-size units, Rolls Royce 440MW) that they can cut this cost in half will need to be proven by building one.
(Note to readers: The exchange rate of dollars to euros as of April 1 is 1.00 USD equal 0.93 euro. For the purposes of this article, I am treating dollars and euros on a one -for-one basis.)
Poland is the only EU state that has not pledged to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The coal plants are significant sources of pollution and CO2 emissions. About 80% of Poland’s electricity comes from ageing coal plants, many of which will have to close in the coming decade. Poland wants to reduce that to 60% in the 2030s.
Facing pressure from the European Union to reduce emissions, it has issued plans to build significant nuclear capacity by 2040. Poland wants to invest in a new low-carbon energy source like nuclear to help it reduce its CO2 emissions in line with EU targets.
However, the country’s political leadership has repeatedly walked up to the line of committing to new nuclear energy projects, and then stepped back when it saw the price tag.
Poland launched a national nuclear power program in 2014 which included the construction of up to 6 GW of capacity by 2035, but the government delay a final decision on the program because it had doubts about its ability to finance the project and attract investors to it.
By November 2019, Mr. Naimski told reporters that officials were once again in the process of conducting a “very detailed review” of all available reactor technology options.
Mr Naimski said in a news media interview in March 2020 that the most difficult task will be to build a nuclear power station on schedule because it is a long-term undertaking which needs 10 to 12 years.
“The point is to stick to a perfect schedule all the time, without any delays, because delays are most expensive.”
He’s got that right, and with Poland having no experience building nuclear power plants, nor a work force or supply chain to support such projects, it will have to import all of these capabilities and resources which will add to the cost of the units.
Mr Naimski nevertheless remains confident about the future. He said the money to be spent on new nuclear is “a lot”, but “economically developing” Poland could afford it. The state owned utility isn’t so sure. More on this in the next story.
On the current status of Poland’s nuclear program, Mr Naimski said decisions to be taken over the course of 2020 will relate to the choice of a technology vendor and financing the news build.
He said the government has been discussing its nuclear plans with the US Department of Energy and is expecting an offer from the US side which will be reviewed. Such offers would likely come from Westinghouse and GE Hitachi. Last fall then Secretary of Energy Rick Perry made a trade mission trip to Poland to promote the possibility of U.S. firms getting the business.
Perry’s visit prompted a competitive response from Russia’s nuclear export agency Rosatom which regards eastern Europe as a captive market though so far it has not booked any new business in elsewhere including Romania, Czech Republic, and Estonia. Russia’s Gazprom, which derives significant revenues by supplying natural gas to Poland saw the trip as “bad news” for its long term prospects there.
Asked about potential partners from France or South Korea, Mr Naimski said he wants, “suppliers who have proven technology and are able to build on budget and schedule, and with whom we also want to have a strategic partnership for decades.”
With regard to France, EDF’s dismal record with building new 1600 MW EPRs in Finland and France take it out of the running for the competition based on cost effective delivery of new reactors. However, Poland might want to take a second look at South Korea which is well on its way towards completion of four 1400 MW reactors in the UAE.
Government sources have said Poland will be aiming at a possible 6% nuclear share for electricity generation in the early to mid-2030s and a 15-20% nuclear share by 2050, although this would depend on a final decision about the nuclear program and its financing.
Poland / Utility PGE ‘Could Not Bear’ Investment In First Nuclear Plant
(NucNet) The estimated amount would exceed the firm’s capabilities, says company’s president
While Poland’s energy ministry is confident about forging ahead with a nuclear energy new build, Poland’s state-controlled power company PGE (Polska Grupa Energetyczna) says not so fast.
The utility said this week it will most likely not be able to bear the burden of building the country’s first nuclear power station. Significantly, this assessment comes from the company’s recently appointed president Wojciech Dabrowski who gave a statement to the national press agency PAP.
“The size of this investment would exceed our capabilities,” Mr Dabrowski said during a press conference on PGE’s 2019 performance. However, he declined to be pinned down as to the actual numbers involved in this assessment.
The government secretary responsible for energy infrastructure, Piotr Naimski, has said Poland will have to spend €14bn in the first 10 years of its planned nuclear program.
In 2019 then energy minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski was quoted in media reports as saying Poland will probably need around €27 billion by 2040 from foreign investors to build its first nuclear power station, but this would be provided over 20 years.
He estimated the total investment at around €54 billion, but he did not specify how many units this would buy.
At $4500/Kw €27 billion buys 6000 MW of nuclear powered electrical generation capacity. Doubling the amount to €54 billion could buy 9000 MW of power plus grid upgrades to deliver the power to all parts of the country.
According to PAP, Mr Dabrowski said a political decision about nuclear power in Poland has not happened yet. However, the utility is reported to be working on site selection and environmental characterization of several sites.
Earlier reports in the Polish media had suggested PGE is probably not willing to fund the nuclear project on its own and would like to receive financial support from the state. It would also need outside investors, loan and rate guarantees, and much less to launch its nuclear program.
A number of vendors of small modular reactors, both those based on LWR technology and advanced designs, have proposed swapping out coal fired boilers in Poland for their units to take advantage of the existing local infrastructure and grid connections. So far Poland hasn’t ruled them in or out relative to building multiple SMRs at a lower cost per unit v. a few large LWR reactors in the range of 1000 MW.
Oklo’s Aurora Will Cost $10m To Build And $3m A Year To Operate
(NucNet) The company behind plans to build a compact fast reactor known as Aurora in the U.S. has budgeted “in the order of” $10 million for construction and $3m a year for operations.
In its combined operating licence application to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to build an Aurora plant at the federal Idaho National Laboratory (INL), California-based Oklo Power said the construction cost includes the small building required, including the power conversion system and a solar power facility.
The company said the application, which has now been made available online, was “a landmark milestone” in the development of advanced fission technologies. (Summary here: PDF file)
On fuel cycle costs Oklo said that because of the type of reactor and fuel cycle, only a single core load is required for the licence lifetime of 20 years.
Last month Oklo said it had reached an agreement with the INL to use recovered material from used nuclear fuel to develop and demonstrate the Aurora.
“Because the material is waste material which must otherwise be stored, there is not a price associated for use of the material,” Oklo said in its application.
“At the conclusion of the use of the fuel in the plant, it will be returned to the Department of Energy.”
The Aurora is an advanced fission power system that generates approximately 1.5 MW of power. It consists of a small reactor with integrated solar panels. The Aurora will generate both usable heat and electricity, run for at least 20 years on one load of fuel and operate without the need for water.
Oklo, which is funded by venture capital firms and backed primarily by US-based investors, announced last year that it had successfully demonstrated prototypes of a metallic fuel at INL for the Aurora reactor. It said it had fabricated prototypes with multiple fuel elements reaching production specification.
BN-600 licensed to operate until 2025
(WNN) Russian nuclear regulator Rostekhnadzor has extended the operating licence for unit 3 of the Beloyarsk nuclear power plant in the Sverdlovsk district by a further five years. The license for the BN-600 fast reactor, which began operating in 1981, was due to expire this year.
A large-scale modernization program has been under way at the unit since 2009, which has affected all areas operations. A large amount of work has been carried out on the inspection and replacement of equipment, including the replacement of the unit’s steam generators.
Investigations conducted since then by Russian nuclear engineering company OKBM Afrikantov, part of Atomenergomash, together with the Kurchatov Institute and FSUE CRI KM “Prometey” concluded that it is technically possible to continue operation of the reactor. Based on this, Rostekhnadzor has now extended the operating licence of the 560 MWe Beloyarsk 3 until 2025.
“We have completed work to extend the life of unit 3 until 2025,” said Ivan Sidorov, director of the Beloyarsk plant. “In the course of our research, we proved that the technical parameters of the BN-600 allow us to operate it until 2040.”
Briefing: GEN-IV Forum Briefing on Operating Performance of BN-600 and BN-800 (PDF file)
The sodium-cooled BN-series fast reactor plans are part of Rosatom’s Proryv, or ‘Breakthrough’, project to develop fast reactors with a closed fuel cycle whose mixed oxide (MOX) fuel. In addition to the BN-600 reactor, the 789 MWe BN-800 fast neutron reactor – constructed as Beloyarsk unit 4 – entered commercial operation in October 2016.
This is essentially a demonstration unit for fuel and design features for the larger BN-1200 being developed by OKBM Afrikantov. However, work on the BN-1200 has been pushed back to the 2030s with no specific time frame in place to start work on construction of the design.
Finland’s VTT Develops a Small Modular Reactor for District Heating
(English language wire services) VTT has launched the Finnish development of a Small Modular Reactor (SMR) intended for district heat production. The first phase of the project will involve the conceptual design of a nuclear power plant suited for the heating networks of Finnish cities.
The objective of the project is to create a new Finnish industrial sector around the technology that would be capable of manufacturing most of the components needed for the plant. Designing the district heating reactor will require expertise from a wide range of Finnish organizations.
In 2019, the emissions from district heat production using fossil fuels were more than four million tonnes of carbon dioxide. Decarbonizing the heat production system is one of the most significant climate challenges faced by many cities. Finland has decided to phase out of coal in energy production by 2029.
“The schedule is challenging, and the low-cost alternatives are few. To reach the target, new innovations and introduction of new technologies are required. Nuclear district heating could provide major emission reductions,” says Ville Tulkki, Research Team Leader at VTT.
Economic solution for heating Finnish homes
Internationally, many SMR projects have advanced to the licencing phase, but most of them are intended for power production or as energy sources for high-temperature industrial processes. This design is intended to provide as being the primary output of the reactor to be used to make steam for district heating to deal with Finland’s long cold winters.
VTT aims to develop a plant tailored for producing district heat. It would be a cost-effective solution for heating Finnish homes in cities and densely populated areas. District heating is also widely used in for example Central and Eastern Europe, which requires a low-emission energy source.
Many of the plans for replacing fossil fuels used for district heat production are largely based on bioenergy. However, in the future biomass may become a valuable raw material replacing oil in, for example, industry and production of transport fuels. Nuclear energy offers an alternative that liberates biomass from heat production to other uses.
Software tools aid the design effort
In the development of the SMR, VTT will rely on in-house calculation tools and use its strong multidisciplinary competence.
“For example, in the modelling of the reactor core, we are able to apply high-fidelity numerical simulation methods that have become feasible by the advances in high-performance parallel computing,” says Jaakko Leppanen, Research Professor for Reactor safety at VTT.
The Serpent software developed by Leppanen is being applied for reactor modelling and applications related to radiation transport in 250 universities and research organization in 44 countries.
VTT has about 200 research scientists working with nuclear energy and related applications. For the last five years, VTT has been continuously involved in projects examining the opportunities and introduction of SMRs.
At the European level, VTT is coordinating the ELSMOR (towards European Licencing of Small MOdular Reactors) project, launched last year. In addition, VTT is leading one of the work packages of the new McSAFER project, which is developing next generation calculation tools for the modelling of SMR physics.
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