4 August 2011
UK nuclear reactor plans move forward
In July the UK parliament approved the six National Policy Statements (NPS) for energy infrastructure, including the draft Nuclear NPS, confirming selection of eight nuclear sites and introducing planning reforms to allow plant construction to be expedited. Then NNB Generation (EDF Energy 80%, Centrica 20%) submitted an application to the UK Health and Safety Executive's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) for a nuclear site license for two Areva EPRs at Hinkley Point C. ONR said it expects to spend about 18 months assessing the company's "suitability, capability and competence to install, operate and decommission a nuclear facility." Local government simultaneously gave permission to prepare the site.
WNN 29/7/11. UK
US nuclear waste Commission draft recommendations
The high-level Blue Ribbon Commission on nuclear waste set up by President Obama following his political veto of the Yucca Mountain project has issued a draft report which recommends a substantial revision of how the USA manages commercial used fuel. Despite the failure of the US political system to deliver a timely high-level waste repository and the resulting shortage of storage space at US nuclear plants, the Commission says that nuclear waste management is not an insurmountable problem: "We know what we have to do, we know we have to do it, and we even know how to do it." A major recommendation was that the nuclear waste program be moved out of the Department of Energy to an independent, government-chartered organization subject to financial, technical and regulatory oversight by Congress and appropriate government agencies. The $24 billion in the Nuclear Waste Fund would be transferred to the new outfit, and future waste fee payments by nuclear utility customers would be protected from being treated as a federal slush fund. Congress created the Fund to rationalise the disposal of utility spent fuel, and it is built up at 0.1 c/kWh of nuclear-generated power, about $700 million per year.
Implementing Commission recommendations will require changes to the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act (amended in 1987 to designate Yucca Mountain as the sole repository site) and to other legislation. The Commission highlights several areas for prompt action to "get the waste management program back on track" even before legislative action. These include "efforts to develop one or more geologic disposal facilities” and “prompt efforts to develop one or more consolidated interim storage facilities” to give some flexibility in addressing the country’s used nuclear fuel storage issue. It suggests encouraging expressions of interest from potentially suitable host communities - a consent-based approach to repositories and interim storage facilities. It was uncertain about the merits of technologies to reprocess and recycle used fuel, and suggests deferring commitment to that. However, there does need to be sustained public- and private-sector support for R&D of advanced reactor and fuel cycle technologies. Finally, the USA should take an active role in international efforts to address safety, waste management, non-proliferation and security. The final report is due in January, after public feedback.
WNN 1/8/11. US policy, http://www.brc.gov/
UK to close MOX plant
Following the Fukushima accident, the UK's Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has reassessed the prospects for the Sellafield MOX Plant and decided to close it as soon as practicable. This leaves about 15 tonnes of reactor-grade plutonium owned by the Japanese utilities at Sellafield awaiting incorporation into about 270 tonnes of MOX fuel, which may now be done in France or Japan.
WNN 3/8/11 UK
Second UK waste shipment to Japan
From 1970, some 7000 tonnes of Japan's used fuel has been reprocessed in France and UK. All the vitrified high-level wastes from this are being returned to Japan for disposal. Twelve shipments from France over 1995-2007 are being followed by about eleven from UK under the Vitrified Residue Returns program. The second shipment was dispatched this week, comprising three 130-tonne casks holding 76 canisters, each about 500kg, in a special-purpose ship.
WNN 2/8/11. Japanese waste and MOX shipments
Other papers updated on the WNA Public Information Service (see WNA web site):
Reactor Table, Fukushima accident, India, South Korea, US fuel cycle
28 July 2011
Reactor pressure vessel arrives at Sanmen in China
The reactor pressure vessel has been delivered for unit 1 of the Sanmen AP1000 nuclear power plant in eastern China, the world's first of the third-generation Westinghouse plants under construction. It was made by Doosan Heavy Industries in South Korea, using some forgings from China First Heavy Industries, which will be making the full pressure vessel for unit 2 under progressive localisation plans. Doosan will also make the first pressure vessel for the Haiyang power plant, while that for unit 2 will be made in China by Shanghai Electric Group Corporation. Doosan will complete the vessel head for Sanmen 1 next month, and that for unit 2 will be made by Shandong Nuclear Power Equipment Manufacturing Co. China's heavy engineering manufacturing capacity is emerging as the largest in the world.
WNN 27/7/11. China NP
Japan faces prospect of electricity shortages
With government indecision on what safety checks are required on which reactors and when, Japan is facing significant constraints on electricity supplies as reactors shut down for refueling or annual checks are prevented from restarting. Looking ahead to 2012 the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has estimated that power generation costs would rise by over JPY 3 trillion ($37 billion) per year, an equivalent of about 0.7 percent of gross domestic product, if utilities had to replace nuclear energy with thermal power generation. METI's 2010 electricity supply plan showed nuclear capacity growing by 13 GWe by 2019, and the share of supply growing from 2007's depressed 262 TWh (25.4%) to about 455 TWh (41%) in 2019. This is now in some doubt with government equivocation and public fears.
WNN 25/7/11. Japan
European Union radioactive waste rationalised
After a decade of dissent, the European Union has adopted a directive for the disposal of used nuclear fuel and radioactive wastes which requires member countries to develop national waste management plans for European Commission review by 2015. The plans must include firm timetables for the construction of disposal facilities, descriptions of needed implementation activities, cost assessments, and financing schemes. Safety standards promulgated by the IAEA will become legally binding within the EU policy framework.
The directive allows two or more member nations to develop joint waste disposal facilities and allows transport of used fuel and radioactive wastes within the EU. Exports outside the EU will only be possible to countries that already have a repository in operation that meets IAEA standards. For overseas reprocessing, ultimate wastes must be returned to the originating EU country. The directive acknowledges that no country currently operates such a repository and projects that a minimum of 40 years would be required procedurally to develop one. Plans are expected to use a stepped approach to geologic disposal based on the voluntary involvement of potential host communities. Two routes are acknowledged: one to dispose of used nuclear fuel as waste; the other to reprocess the fuel and recycle the uranium and plutonium while disposing of the remaining 3% or so as high-level waste.
The directive is expected to become effective in August 2011, and national governments, which retain ultimate responsibility for wastes, will have two years to bring their own nuclear waste legislation into line with it. There are 143 nuclear plants generating used fuel in 14 of the EU’s 27 member nations. The remaining countries have radioactive waste requiring disposal that has been produced by research, medicine and industry.
WNN 19/7/11. Radioactive waste management
Other papers updated on the WNA Public Information Service (see WNA web site):
Africa, China FC, France, India, Namibia, Nuclear radiation
21 July 2011
EdF's Flamanville schedule slips further
Electricite de France (EdF) has again revised the completion time of the Flamanville EPR nuclear plant from early 2014 to 2016 due to re-evaluation of civil engineering works and to take into account interruptions during the first half of the year. It was originally expected on line in mid 2012. EdF is architect engineer of the project, and Areva is supplying the actual reactor. There have been problem coordinating the nine main subcontractors, and EdF hopes the new schedule will progress "the construction of the Flamanville EPR continues under optimized conditions." The cost is now put at EUR 6 billion, compared with EUR 4 billion overnight cost at the end of 2008 and EUR 5 billion estimated a year ago.
WNN 21/7/11. France
India starts construction of new reactor
First concrete has been poured for unit 7 at Rajasthan nuclear power plant at Rawatbhata. This will be an indigenous 700 MWe unit, the third of four authorised in 2009.
WNN 18/7/11. India
China's fast reactor connected to grid
On schedule, the China Experimental Fast Reactor (65 MWt) has been connected to the grid at 40% of power (8 MWe net). It will ramp up to full 20 MWe power in December. It started up at the China Institute of Atomic Energy (CIAE) near Beijing in July 2010, having been built by Russia's OKBM Afrikantov in collaboration with other Russian entities.
WNN 21/7/11. China fuel cycle
Tepco meets initial goal in controlling Fukushima reactors
With ongoing nitrogen injection in all three reactors, and cooling by recycled water from the new treatment plant, Tepco by mid July had achieved its initial targets. The treatment plant is operating at 80% of capacity, and steadily reducing the build-up of contaminated water, some of it being the original tsunami inflow. Installing new atmospheric heat exchangers on those cooling circuits is the next goal, which will bring them to 'cold shutdown'. These heat exchangers have already been installed on two of the spent fuel pond circuits.
WNN 13 & 20/7/11. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/11071905-e.html
Further US reactor licence extension
PSEG Nuclear's Hope Creek reactor (1210 MWe net) in New Jersey has received a 20-year licence extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, taking it to 2046. The unit is a similar BWR design to Fukushima Daiichi unit 6 and the four Daini reactors. This takes the total US life extensions to 71, out of 104 power reactors.
WNN 21/7/11. USA
Russia adopts radioactive waste legislation
After 19 months consideration and many amendments, Russia's new Radioactive Waste Management law is in place. It establishes a legal framework for radioactive waste management, provides for a national radwaste management system meeting the requirements of the Joint Convention on the Safe Management of Spent Nuclear Fuel and on the Safe Management of Radioactive Waste ratified by Russia in 2006. Rosatom and the national operator for management of radwaste - RosRAO - will be responsible for coordination and execution of works associated with radwaste management, notably its disposal. The law establishes time limits for interim radwaste storage and volume limits for waste generators, and defines how they should bring wastes in condition suitable for disposal and transfer it to the national operator along with payment of disposal charges. Import and export of radwaste is prohibited, and the law bans building new facilities for disposal of liquid radioactive waste in geological formations. Russia has used deep-well injection for low- and intermediate-level wastes for many years, Seversk being the main site of such. Further legislation on used fuel and high-level wastes is envisaged.
WNN 15/7/11. Russia fuel cycle
Other papers updated on the WNA Public Information Service (see WNA web site):
14 July 2011
Lithuania chooses investment and technology partner
After inviting both GE Hitachi and Westinghouse to make proposals, the Lithuanian government has selected GE Hitachi as strategic investor in its Visaginas nuclear power project. Lithuania's partners in the project, Estonia, Latvia and Poland participated in the evaluation to determine which of the two proposals was "most economically advantageous." Visaginas will replace the power lost by closure of the next-door Ignalina plant due to EU accession requirements. GE Hitachi expects to build a single 1300 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, several of which are operating and under construction in Japan and Taiwan. This is expected to operate from 2020, by which time several major new transmission links should be complete, supplementing those east to Russia. The main one is to Poland, another is to Sweden, though both Lithuania and Russia (building its Baltic plant in Kaliningrad) see Germany as the major power market.
WNN 14/7/11. Lithuania
US task force submits 90-day report on Fukushima implications
The senior task force appointed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to conduct "a methodical and systematic review" of the NRC's processes and regulations has submitted its first report, suggesting how both plant safety and the regulatory system might be improved in the light of lessons from Fukushima. The Task Force developed a comprehensive set of 12 recommendations for improving nuclear power plant safety, through improving preparedness for major accidents and ensuring that back-up power was more reliable. It noted that US plants are less vulnerable in these respects, "therefore, continued operation and continued licensing activities do not pose an imminent risk to public health and safety." The report pointed to the "patchwork of regulatory requirements and other safety initiatives" which had evolved over the decades and which could be improved and made more consistent. Enhancing power and cooling back-up provisions was recommended, along with hardened vents for older reactors similar to those at Fukushima.
WNN 14/7/11. USA
UK sets out low-carbon power incentives
The UK government has issued a new Energy Market Reform white paper with profound implications for directing the estimated £110 billion investment in electricity infrastructure required by 2020. Its four main proposals are: a carbon floor price; feed-in-tariffs with a 'contract for difference' to stabilise financial returns from low-carbon generation; an Emissions Performance Standard to prohibit the construction of high-carbon generation; and mechanisms to ensure the provision of sufficient generating capacity nationwide. The carbon floor price has long been seen as fundamental to the economics of new UK nuclear power, with the EU's Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) not producing high enough prices to steer markets towards low-carbon power. The UK government will ensure the price is a minimum of £16 per tonne CO2 from 2013, with this set to rise steadily to £30 per tonne in 2020 and accelerating to £70 per tonne in 2030.
Feed-in tariffs (FIT) are now relatively common in several countries, giving large low-carbon producers a predictable return per kWh over a set period regardless of market prices. The contract for difference means that if the market price is lower that the agreed strike price, the government pays that difference per kWh, if the market is above the strike price the generator pays the government. They are long-term contracts which can be capped regarding quantity of power, but normally aren't. The idea is that the carbon floor price will drive the market towards any FIT or strike price level applied to clean sources, while removing exposure to gas price volatility. The Emissions Performance Standard is a 'regulatory backstop' to the other measures, setting 450 g/kWh CO2 as a limit under which new fossil-fuel plants must operate. This will allow gas but not coal without carbon capture & storage. Measures to ensure sufficient generating capacity remain to be worked out later in the year, but are likely to involve payments for dispatchable capacity. The FIT will replace the UK Renewables Obligation which requires retailers to buy a certain proportion of power from renewable sources, excluding nuclear.
WNN 13/7/11. UK