European Union Goes Green for Nuclear Energy

  • EU Goes Green for Nuclear Energy
  • Poland Selects Site for 1st New Nuclear Reactor
  • South Korean Presidential Candidate Calls for Nuclear Energy Exports
  • South Korea Announces New Plan on Nuclear Fusion R&D
  • Japanese Heavy Industries Sign On to Supply Chain for TerraPower

EU Goes Green for Nuclear Energy

eu logoDespite setbacks in Germany and Belgium, the European Union this week published a draft document that labels nuclear energy as being “green” because they are zero CO2 emission power plants.

It also applied this label to gas power plants which emit half the CO2 of coal fired units. Both designations are intended to facilitate financial support for new nuclear power plants in EU member countries. The EU Taxonomy guides and mobilizes private investment in activities that are needed to achieve climate neutrality in the next 30 years. (EU Fact Sheets on sustainable finance)

“Taking account of scientific advice and current technological progress as well as varying transition challenges across member states, the Commission considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future,” the European Commission said in its statement

A Majority of EU Members Support the Policy

EU states including the Czech Republic, Finland and France, which gets around 70% of its power from the fuel, see nuclear as crucial to phasing out CO2-emitting coal fuel power. The Czech Republics is expected to release a tender for a 1200 MWE PWR for Dukovany. Finland is expanding its nuclear fleet and is opening Europe’s first deep geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel.

In addition, Poland and Romania, also EU members, have ambitious plans, which are not yet funded, to swap out coal fired power plants with new nuclear reactors. Poland is looking at SMRs and Romania wants to complete two partially built 700 MWe CANDU type units.

AP reported that France has asked for nuclear power to be included in the so-called “taxonomy” by the end of the year, leading the charge with several other EU countries that operate nuclear power plants and want to make it eligible for green financing.

French Minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said the proposal is good on a technical level and insisted on Sunday that the bloc “cannot become carbon neutral by 2050 without nuclear energy.

Germany Stands Behind Its Renewable Energy Investors

windmillThe EU’s decision to release the draft with nuclear energy getting the “green” designation set off a political food fight with Germany. It issued a strongly worded protest to the publication of the draft document even as it took steps to close three of its remaining six nuclear reactors. Austria, Spain, and Luxemburg support Germany’s position.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck criticized the plan to classify investments in gas and nuclear power plants as climate facilitating each EU country meeting its climate goals.

AP reported he said that “the EU Commission’s proposals water down the good label for sustainability,” Habeck, who represents the Germany’s environmentalist Greens in the country’s coalition government, told German news agency dpa. “We don’t see how to approve the new proposals of the EU Commission.”

“In any case, it is questionable whether this greenwashing will even find acceptance on the financial market,” Habeck stressed, referring to the practice of painting investments as sustainable when they actually are not.

The German reactors are Brokdorf, Grohnde and Gundremmingen-C, run by E.ON and RWE, and began operation in the 1980s. The PWrs have a gross combined capacity of 4,254 MW. The last three nuclear power plants, Isar-2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim-2, will be turned off by the end of 2022, removing another 4,291 MWe (gross) of capacity from the grid.

This heart of the food fight over the”green”  label is that investors in renewables do not want to have to compete for EU financial support with nuclear power plants. The “green” classification will support access to capital as well as setting a reduction in financing costs. Germany has gone all in on the use of renewable energy technologies and, in effect, the government has been captured by investors in solar and wind energy industries.

The decision by Germany to phase out nuclear power and shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy was first taken by the center-left government of Gerhard Schroeder in 2002. In 2005, shortly after his term ended, Schröder joined the board of directors of the Nord Stream joint venture (Gazprom) which is intended to ship Russian natural gas to Germany. If the Nord II gas line is completed and turned on, it will tighten Russia’s grip on Germany’s energy security. Russia uses gas supplies as a tool of geopolitical influence.

The combination of reliance on renewable energy and Russian gas has backed Germany into a corner. Instead of figuring a way out of the hole its has dug itself into, apparently, its plan is to keep on digging.

US Newspaper Calls Germany’s Energy Policies “a Mistake”

In the US the Washington Post published an editorial which called Germany’s energy policy “a mistake.”

Mistakes_topbannerThe newspaper pointed out that the consequences of Germany’s decision to phase out its nuclear plant are that it now has the highest electricity rates in the EU due to its reliance on the intermittent nature of solar and wind power.

Also, Germany is now burning more lignite which is the dirtiest type of coal in terms of conventional pollutants and CO2 emitted per ton of the fossil fuel. In October of this year as gas prices rose, Germany stepped up its coal burning operations.

The Post praised France’s Emmanuel Macron for his renewed commitment to nuclear energy.

“Next door, French President Emmanuel Macron is moving in the opposite direction, announcing plans for new nuclear reactors. France relies more on nuclear power than any other nation, a major reason the country has about half the per capita greenhouse emissions Germany does. Mr. Macron rightly sees expanding the nation’s nuclear capacity as a better alternative than attempting to rely on renewables alone.”

EU Green Taxonomy Will Drive Energy Investments

fees_thumb.pngThe draft document defines the criteria for classifying investments in nuclear or gas-fired power plants for electricity generation as “sustainable,” with the objective of directing “green finance” towards activities that contribute to reducing greenhouse gases.

Reuters reported that by focusing the “green” label on climate-friendly projects, the system aims to make those investments more attractive to private capital, and stop “greenwashing , where companies or investors overstate their eco-friendly credentials.

The Brussels proposal sets conditions for the inclusion of nuclear and gas including a time limit. For the construction of new nuclear power plants, projects will have to have obtained a building permit before 2045. Work to extend the life of existing plants will have to be authorized before 2040.

It also required guarantees regarding waste treatment and the dismantling of nuclear installations at the end of their operational life.

The EU draft text, which has been under discussion for months, was sent to all member states on 12/31/21.  Member states have four months to decide whether to support the final document. Given the contentious nature of the debate within the EU so far, it is likely the decision will be postponed while the EU sorts things out.

& & &

Poland / Company Overseeing Nuclear Project Announces Preferred Site In Pomerania

(NucNet) Warsaw has ambitious new-build plans and is targeting commercial operation of first reactor in 2033. A site in the northern province of Pomerania near the Baltic coast has been selected as the preferred location for Poland’s first commercial nuclear power station, Polskie Elektrownie JDR (PEJ), the company charged with managing the project, said in a media statement monitored in Brussels. The largest city in the region is Gdansk.

The site, Lubiatowo-Kopalino, in the coastal province of Choczewo, was chosen on the basis of detailed site investigation and environmental surveys. According to PEJ, three of the key factors in choosing the site were the area’s lack of existing stable power generation, unlimited access to cooling water and the potential for transport of oversized loads by sea.

At the beginning of the site selection process, more than 90 potential locations were considered. Analysis took into account factors such as land features, availability of cooling water, nature conservation and infrastructure.

PEJ said it will now apply for administrative approvals and permits. “We are working as planned and the site selection has confirmed it,” said Anna Moskwa, minister of climate and environment.

Piotr Naimski, the government’s lead official for strategic energy infrastructure, said Poland aims to diversify its energy mix and the announcement of a preferred nuclear power station site is “tangible proof of that fact”.

Poland wants to build from 6,000 to 9,000 MWe of installed nuclear capacity based on proven, large-scale, pressurized water nuclear reactors of the Generation III and III+ design. Commercial operation of a first nuclear reactor unit in a proposed set of six is planned for 2033.

PEJ has not yet chosen the technology type for the project, but France’s EDF, US-based Westinghouse and South Korea have all expressed their formal interest in Warsaw’s nuclear plans.

In July 2021, EDF opened an office in Warsaw to support the preparation of a nuclear offer. At the time the company said the move confirmed its long-term commitment to support the Polish nuclear ambition by proposing the development of four to six EPR units in the country.

In September, Westinghouse opened a global shared services centre in Krakow, where about 160 staff will work to support the company’s global operations and to provide Poland with “the best technology to support its climate change goals and secure the energy needs of its economy.”

Separately, there is intense competion among US and UK vendors to sell small modular reactors (SMRs) to Polish industrial firms that want them for their ability to provide combined heat and power to their plants. GE Hitachi recently announced it has hired BWXT Canada to build the major components of 10 BWRX300 SMRs to be sold to Polish firms.

& & &

South Korean Presidential Candidate Calls for Nuclear Energy Exports

Main opposition presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol said last week that he will export 10 nuclear power plants by 2030 if elected, and he continued to slam the Moon Jae-in administration’s nuclear phase-out policy.

Yoon said he will deepen nuclear cooperation with the United States to create 100,000 jobs by winning orders for more than 10 nuclear power plants from eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Yoon said he will “form a pan-governmental organization for exports of nuclear power plants and build a process to push for exports of nuclear power plants.”

“By strengthening the foundation for exports of nuclear power plants, I will create decent jobs at home and abroad for future generations,” Yoon said.

Yoon also vowed to resume construction of two nuclear reactors — Shin-Hanul No. 3 and No. 4. Construction work for the two reactors has been suspended since 2017 under the nuclear phase-out policy.

He announced the campaign pledges on the nuclear industry as he visited the construction site of the two reactors in the coastal county of Uljin, 330 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

The nuclear phase-out scheme set by Moon’s government centers on refraining from building additional plants while retiring old ones. Under the roadmap, South Korea plans to decrease the number of nuclear plants in operation to 17 by 2034, from this year’s 24.

Voters go to the polls on March 9, 2022. There are multiple candidates who are on the ballot and nuclear energy isn’t a leading issue with voters. Moon has seen a significant drop in his ratings in the polls which accounts for the number of candidates who want his job.

& & &

South Korea Announces New Plan on Nuclear Fusion R&D

fusionSouth Korea’s National Fusion Research Institute is leading the development of its Superconducting Tokamak Advanced Research (KSTAR) project.

Minister of Science and ICT Lim Hye-sook visited the National Fusion Research Institute and attended a virtual fusion reactor demonstration on 12/30/21.

“The government is preparing an R&D roadmap regarding a demonstration reactor for nuclear fusion-based power generation,” she said, adding, “It is going to provide extensive support for the commercialization of nuclear fusion energy.”

She said the new plan of the government also focuses on commercial nuclear fusion. In order to be able to initiate nuclear fusion-based power generation in the 2050s, it is going to accelerate the development of eight key technologies and increase the domestic procurement of key components.

In terms of progress to date, the minister said the ultra-high temperature of 100 million degrees Celsius was maintained for 30 seconds, which is a world record. The institute is planning to continue to improve its technology so that the temperature can be maintained for 300 seconds in 2026, which is critical for commercial nuclear fusion.

At the same time, it is going to work more closely with other governments so that the development of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor can be accelerated and related construction plans can be improved.

& & &

Japanese Heavy Industries Sign On to Supply Chain for TerraPower’s Wyoming Nuclear Project

(Wire services) The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (7011.T) are set to cooperate with TerraPower to build an Advanced nulear reactor in Wyoming. The project is funded under a cost-sharing arrangement with the U.S. Department of Energy under its Advanced Reactors Demonstration Program. The 345 MWe sodium cooled reactor is intended to replace an existing operational coal fired power plant.  Natrium Reactor Fact Sheet

JAEA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) will provide technical support and data from their respective subject matter experts. MHI is also expected to be a supplier of some of the key components of the reactor.

The Japan Times reports while the specifics of the collaboration are still being discussed, the JAEA is also considering using its sodium experimental facility Athena in Ibaraki Prefecture to develop safety technology.

JAEA, which has a history of operating sodium-cooled fast reactors such as the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture and the Joyo experimental fast reactor in Ibaraki Prefecture, is considering providing operational data and designs to TerraPower.

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