Brazil revives nuclear power plant

Issue 3 and Volume 1.

The Brazilian government has authorized Electronuclear to go back to work on the nation’s third nuclear power plant. Work on the Angra 3 reactor near Rio de Janeiro has been stalled for 22 years because of money and political issues.

The administration of President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva is turning to nuclear power to meet electricity needs that are growing with the country’s booming economy.

The two operational nuclear power plants entered service in 1985 and 2000. They supply about half the electrical power used in the state of Rio de Janeiro, according to Electronuclear. The company plans to begin construction work on Angra 3 in February and hopes that it will generate electricity by 2014.

Angra 3 would be built adjacent to two existing power generating units.
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Indian firm could enter components market

Larsen & Toubro (L&T) was reported to be in talks with Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd. (NPCIL) over a possible $463 million venture in nuclear forgings.

The possible future entry of L&T into the international market for nuclear components would help ease what has been described as a bottleneck in the nuclear supply chain. While Japan Steel Works is still seen as the leading large forging manufacturer, several other firms also compete.

OMZ of Russia and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries of Japan are both doubling capacity to produce large components, while Sheffield Forgemasters of the United Kingdom is considering installing a nuclear-capable forge. In France, capabilities will expand at the Cruesot Forge, owned by an AREVA business unit. Doosan Heavy Industries of Korea can produce the parts and is supplying reactor pressure vessels to China for the two AP1000s beginning construction. Chinese companies are also expected to develop domestic capacity for their needs at least.

With India once isolated from trade, the country’s engineers had to design and produce nuclear power plant components alone. In that environment, L&T produced components for 17 pressurized heavy water reactors (PHWRs) at Rajastan, Madras, Kalpakkam, Narora, Kakrapar, Kaiga and Tarpur. It also secured contracts for 80 percent of the components for the forthcoming fast breeder reactor at Kalpakkam.

The company can produce control rod drive mechanisms, steam generators, valves and reactor pressure vessels. It can also undertake engineering, procurement and construction contracts on new nuclear power reactors.

In June 2007, L&T received authorization to use the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ N-stamp to fabricate nuclear-grade pressure vessels and core support structures. It may use the internationally recognized quality standard on products assembled at its Powai campus in Mumbai.

Plan calls for prototype SVBR at Obninsk

Rosatom and Russian Machines are reported ready to establish a joint venture to develop a nuclear power plant using a lead-bismuth-cooled fast neutron (SVBR) reactor. The company was reported ready to invest $400 million to $500 million in the project, which would see a 100 MWe nuclear power plant built at Obninsk. The plant could be completed by 2015. The SVBR is a modular reactor derived from a design used in submarines with 70 reactor-years operational experience. It can use different nuclear fuels, including mixed-oxide fuel.

Ontario bid deadline extended

Ontario Energy Minister George Smitherman extended the Oct. 1 deadline until the end of 2008 for reactor vendors Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), Westinghouse and AREVA to submit bids for two new reactors at the existing Darlington site. The deadline has been extended because of the complicated nature of the transaction. Smitherman said the extension was the result of a consensus among the companies and the team overseeing reactor procurement. The Canadian province hopes to have the new reactors operating at Darlington by 2018 as part of its C$26 billion nuclear program. Smitherson replaced Gerry Phillips as energy minister in June following a cabinet shuffle by Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Merger strengthens link to nuclear power

Gaz de France (GdF) and Suez shareholders agreed to merge in late July, creating an oil and gas giant with substantial links to nuclear energy. In a related move, Britain’s Centrica consolidated a controlling stake in Belgium’s second-largest power company.

The new company, GdF Suez, is known to have desires to engage directly in nuclear energy generation. Previous statements from Suez made clear a desire to own and operate nuclear power plants by 2015-20. Suez was quick to react to the latest announcement on new nuclear build from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, saying it would decide on taking part in new nuclear projects “by the start of 2009 at the latest.” Suez has established specialist nuclear departments and has agreement in place with AREVA and fellow oil company Total on a two-reactor nuclear desalination project in the United Arab Emirates.

GdF Suez links with AREVA go further. The nuclear company owns 1.2 percent of GdF Suez and its CEO, Anne Lauvergeon, sits on the GdF Suez board subcommittee on strategy and investment as well as another on sustainable development. GdF Suez also owns a 5 percent equity stake in AREVA’s forthcoming Georges Besse II uranium enrichment facility.

The French state remains the new company’s largest shareholder, with a stake of 35.7 percent, resulting from previous shares of 80 percent in GdF and 2 percent in Suez. The French state also owns 88 percent of AREVA.

In November 2006 the European Commission (EC) approved the merger of GdF and Suez subject to conditions that included GdF selling its 25.5 percent stake in Belgian power company SPE. Britain’s Centrica used a pre-emption right to take that stake and form a controlling share of 51 percent.

Small reactors may be overlooked by regulators

Small advanced reactors offer potential to extend the reach of nuclear power, but safety regulators in some leading nuclear nations may be too busy to approve the designs.

The class of “small” nuclear reactors with capacities of up to 300 MWe is seen as promising for deployment in remote locations and countries with smaller power demands.

Dale Klein of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) praised the design genre at the Global Nuclear Renaissance in late July. He said he believed the units could be used to provide process heat to industrial plants or to produce hydrogen. The smaller units could be especially valuable when used to provide power to people who currently live without it.

However, he said he was “not at all bothered by the fact that there is no current interest” in those reactors in the United States. Klein said the NRC has its “hands full” with applications to build new mainstream reactors. “The last thing I want to do is encourage submittal of additional new designs,” he said.

Toshiba’s 4S design, which can produce either 10 MWe or 50 MWe, has long been linked to the Alaskan town of Galena. An international consortium has been developing and promoting the 100 MWe to 300 MWe Iris design for years. Both of these are among the four designs about which NRC has been holding “pre-application” discussions with vendors.

The other two designs are the Pebble-Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) and NuScale, led by a company spun off from the University of Oregon. NuScale recently approached the NRC regarding its 45 MWe design, formerly known as the Multi-Application Small Light-Water Reactor. Besides these, 26 other designs exist at various stages of development, according to International Atomic Energy Agency documents.

The 165 MWe PBMR may see more NRC attention as it is also under consideration for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) project alongside General Atomic’s GT-MHR and AREVA’s Antares designs. South Africa’s National Nuclear Regulator is also beginning to consider the PBMR design for wide deployment in that country (see “Small Nuclear, Big Potential” on page 20).

Italy and Russia could cooperate on nuclear

Italy could begin a program of nuclear cooperation with Russia following a ministerial meeting in Moscow in late July. Italy’s economic minister, Claudio Scajola, held meetings with Energy Minister and former AtomStroyExport President Sergei Shmatko. The Russian ministry said their talks had set priorities for cooperation in gas, electricity and nuclear power generation.

Scajola then went to meetings with Sergei Kiriyenko, head of the Rosatom Corp. Kiriyenko said that a working group on nuclear energy would be set up and officially launched at an intergovernmental meeting in October.

Italy has reset its sights on nuclear energy after an 11-year hiatus. Although Italy was once among the technology’s pioneers, voters turned their backs on nuclear power in a referendum a year after the Chernobyl accident. Forced to import a large share of electricity at the highest prices in the developed world, Silvio Berlusconi made a return to nuclear power a policy before his recent re-election as president.

Work begins on Haiyang nuclear station

The Shandong Nuclear Power Co., along with Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC and its consortium partner The Shaw Group Inc., broke ground in late July on the Haiyang Nuclear Power Facility in Shandong Province. The Haiyang facility will house two nuclear plants, each deploying Westinghouse’s AP1000 technology.

The Westinghouse consortium is working in partnership with the State Nuclear Power Technology Corp. Ltd. (SNTPC) to build four nuclear power facilities in China, all using AP1000 technology. Excavation on the first of two other plants planned for development in Sanmen, in partnership with the Sanmen Nuclear Power Company Ltd., broke ground in February.

Alstom receives contract for EPR turbine island

Alstom’s nuclear China connection goes back 20 years to construction of Daya Bay.
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Alstom signed a contract worth more than €200 million ($300 million) with China Guang Dong Nuclear Power Co. (CGNPC) for the engineering and procurement of the complete turbine island for a nuclear power plant to be built in Taishan (southwestern province of Guangdong). Taishan will be China’s first EPR power plant. The turbine generator set comprises the steam turbine, generator, condenser, moisture separator reheaters and auxiliary equipment.

This contract follows the €300 million ($451 million) order (including around €100 million for Alstom) booked in February and won in partnership with the Chinese industrial group and Alstom’s long-standing partner, Dongfang Electric Co. This first order is for the supply of two 1,750 MW Arabelle turbine-generator packages for the Taishan nuclear plant.

Alstom is part of a consortium comprising two subsidiaries of CGNPC: China Nuclear Power Engineering Co. Ltd. (CNPEC) and China Nuclear Power Design Co. Ltd (CNPDC). The project will be led by Alstom’s Turbomachines group business, including its local engineering office Alstom Wuhan Engineering and Technology Co. (AWEC). Alstom will supply in-house designed components, as well as the basic engineering of the complete turbine island and pumping station, while AWEC will support the onshore portion of the design and procurement.

Alstom has also been CGNPC’s and Dong Fang’s industrial partner since the construction of Daya Bay, the first large Chinese nuclear power plant built 20 years ago.

Simulator provider receives$7 million worth of new orders

GSE Systems Inc., a provider of real-time simulation and training solutions to the energy, process, manufacturing and government sectors, announced the recent award of more than $7 million of new work in its nuclear simulation sector. Of major significance, a large utility company in the midwestern United States has awarded GSE a contract to build a new full scope nuclear simulator for one of its existing plants. The customer’s site currently has two reactors being serviced by one simulator GSE built and delivered in the 1980s.

The utility cited the need for more simulator time to train plant operators, engineers and other key personal as the primary driver for a second simulator. In this instance, GSE expects to build and deliver the simulator in approximately 15 months vs. the normal build and deliver time of approximately three to four years because certain components of the existing simulator can be replicated for the new one. GSE has also recently received contracts for routine upgrades and modifications to nuclear simulators in the United States, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Hungary considers uranium mining restart

Australia’s WildHorse Energy has joined state-owned Mecsekérc to assess the feasibility of restarting uranium mining in the Mecsek Hills near Pécs in southern Hungary.

A cooperation agreement the two have signed includes an area WildHorse explored, which has inferred resources of 11,600 tonnes of uranium (tU). The former Mecsek underground mine, which operated from 1956 to 1997, is adjacent.

Initially Mecsek’s uranium ore was shipped to Estonia for milling, but from 1963 it was milled on site and concentrate was exported to the Soviet Union. A total of about 21,000 tU was produced at an average recovery of 50 percent to 60 percent. Since 1997, the mine has been decommissioned and remediated at a cost of about $170 million. Some estimates suggest resources of 27,000 tU, while “Uranium 2007: Resources, Production and Demand”—also known as the Red Book—from the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency predicts 18,400 tU.

WildHorse aims to complete the initial technical and economic review under the cooperation agreement by the end of September. This will be discussed with relevant government agencies and community groups. The agreement will then extend to more detailed feasibility work.

Early last year WildHorse was granted a license to explore for uranium in the western Mecsek Mountains of southern Hungary. One of its four project areas is adjacent to the Mecsek mine; the others are within 25 kilometers. It also has exploration permits in the Sudetes Mountains of southwestern Poland where 12 underground uranium mines were developed during the Soviet era. The company is also actively investigating the recovery of uranium from coal ash in Europe.

World nuclear experts attend summit

The National Nuclear Laboratory’s Central Lab at Sellafield
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A group of experts from around the world who work with highly radioactive materials gathered in Cumbria, United Kingdom, where the newly created National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) hosted a two-day conference at Sellafield. More than 50 delegates were expected from Europe, the United States, Japan and South Africa.

The Hot Cells area of the NNL are recognized as being among the most advanced in the world with remote handling capability for all highly radioactive materials used in the nuclear fuel cycle.

The collaboration between the various countries involved is aimed at sustaining the growing high quality of skills in this area of the industry. The group was expected to exchange experience on analytical methods, share know-how on issues such as remote handling techniques, safety features, waste handling and quality matters, transport and licensing. Participants also were to discuss present and future demands of the industry and draw conclusions regarding further facility requirements.

Worldwide nuclear generation drops in 2007

According to a World Nuclear News report, figures from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) show that nuclear power generation worldwide was 50 TWh lower in 2007 than in 2006, mainly attributable to cutbacks in three countries. The nearly 2 percent drop, from 2,658 to 2,608 TWh, was the first significant decline in world nuclear output in four years.

In Japan, the closure of 8,000 MWe of capacity at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (Tepco’s) Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant in Niigata prefecture following the July 16, 2007, earthquake had a marked influence. The plant’s closure led to Japan’s nuclear electricity production dropping by almost 25 TWh to 267.3 TWh in 2007.

In the United Kingdom, the four oldest reactors—at Dungeness A and Sizewell A—were retired at the end of 2006. Two larger units—Hartlepool 2 and Heysham 1—were out of service with steam generator problems, leading to a drop in output of almost 12 TWh.

In Germany, a drop of 25 TWh was due to the Brunsbuttel and Krummel nuclear power plants being shut down in June 2007 due to short circuits in the electricity grid, removing about 2,000 MWe of capacity. In addition, the Biblis A and B nuclear plants, totalling 2,400 MWe, remained offline due to regulatory issues for part of the year.

Several countries reported increases in nuclear generation according to the report: Bulgaria (up 32 percent to 13.7 TWh); China (up 14.5 percent to 59.3 TWh); Russia (up 2.5 percent to 148.0 TWh); South Africa (up 24.7 percent to 12.6 TWh); and the United States (up 2.5 percent to 806.6 TWh, an increase of 19.4 TWh).

France remained the country most reliant on nuclear energy for its electricity, producing some 420 TWh, almost 77 percent of its total electricity output. Lithuania followed, with 9 TWh of nuclear electricity accounting for almost 65 percent of its total electricity output.

The World Nuclear News report also said the IAEA’s Power Reactor Information System (PRIS) database indicated that three new nuclear power reactors were connected to the grid in 2007: Kaiga 3 in India, Tianwan 2 in China and Cernavoda 2 in Romania. In addition, the Browns Ferry 1 reactor in the United States returned to service after a long-term shutdown.

Also in 2007, construction of five reactors began: Qinshan II-4 and Hongyanhe 1 in China; Shin Kori 2 and Shin Wolsong 1 in South Korea; and the Flamanville 3 unit in France. Construction of two floating reactors began in Russia. And work resumed on the Watts Bar Unit 2 in the United States, the report said.

Investment company signs small reactor letter of intent

Hyperion Power Generation announced that it has received its first letter of intent to purchase the Hyperion Power Module (HPM), a small, compact, transportable, nuclear power reactor.

The intention to purchase up to six units for various projects at approximately $25 million each was placed by TES Group, an investment company focusing on the energy sector in central eastern Europe. Each power module provides 27 MW of electricity when connected to a steam turbine.

“The Hyperion Power Module was originally conceived to provide clean, affordable power for remote industrial applications such as oil sands operations,” said Hyperion Power Generation’s CEO, John R. “Grizz” Deal. “Yet the initial enthusiasm has been from those needing reliable electricity for communities.” Deal said HPM also has potential for developing more remote communities off a major grid and provides consistent energy for clean water and modern infrastructure.

The HPM was conceived at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the United States and licensed to New Mexico-based Hyperion for commercialization under the laboratory’s technology transfer program. Considered safe and proliferation-resistant, the HPM uses low-enriched uranium fuel.

Entergy Nuclear to assist Taiwan Power project

U.S.-based Entergy Nuclear will assist in a project to extend the operating life of Taiwan Power Co.’s (Taipower’s) Kuosheng nuclear power plant. The Kuosheng plant comprises two boiling water reactors (BWRs) built in the early 1980s. The plant is considered a sister plant in age and design to Entergy’s Grand Gulf plant in Mississippi.

Taipower has contracted Taiwan’s Institute of Nuclear Energy Research (INER) to initiate a project to allow for the extended operation of Kuosheng. The project—called the Time-Limited Integrated Plant Assessment (TLIPA)—contains a scope of activities similar to license renewal projects in the United States.

Entergy said its license renewal team would provide on-site support for Taipower and INER staff. The team will also provide peer reviews of engineering documents required during the TLIPA.

Entergy supported a similar TLIPA for Taipower’s Chinshan nuclear power plant between 2005 and 2007. It has also applied for and received license renewals at three U.S. nuclear sites as well as supported similar work in Brazil, China, France, Hungary, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Spain.

Gentilly-2 nuclear plant set for $1.8 billion update

After refurbishment, Gentilly-2 will operate until 2040
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Hydro-Québec will invest C$1.9 billion (US$1.79 billion) to refurbish the 675 MW Gentilly-2 nuclear generating station in Quebec, Canada. Refurbishing the plant will extend its operation until about 2040.

The project has two components: refurbishment of Gentilly-2 nuclear generating station, commissioned in 1983, and construction of a solid radioactive waste management facility (SRWMF).

Engineering and procurement for the project’s refurbishment will start in 2008 and construction will begin in 2011. The plant is expected to return to service in 2012. Construction activities consist of refurbishing the reactor, turbo-generator unit, as well as control and support systems.

Construction work on the SRWMF is divided into four phases. Phase 1, already underway, will meet the plant’s immediate operating requirements with the building of storage units for low- and medium-level solid radioactive waste. Phase 2 will provide storage for radioactive waste arising from plant refurbishment work. The other phases will meet the plant’s needs until the end of its operating life.

The Gentilly 2 CANDU pressurized heavy water reactor (PHWR) is owned and operated by Hydro-Québec. It was designed by AECL and has a gross output of 675 MWe. Gentilly 2 was one of the first 700 MWe class CANDU 6 plants to be built. Its construction began in 1974 and it went into service in 1983.

CANDU 6 is Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s (AECL’s) 700 MWe class nuclear power reactor. The first CANDU 6 plants went into service in the early 1980s. At the time the technology was licensed in Canada, Argentina and the Republic of Korea. In 1996, Cernavoda Unit 1 was licensed in Romania and Wolsong Unit 2 was licensed in Korea. Wolsong Units 3 and 4 were licensed in Korea in 1997 and 1999, respectively. Qinshan Units 1 and 2 were licensed in China in 2002 and 2003. In 2007, Cernavoda Unit 2 was licensed in Romania. There are 11 CANDU 6 units in operation.

In 2005, two major refurbishment projects were authorized: Point Lepreau Refurbishment project in New Brunswick, Canada, and Bruce 1 and 2 Refurbishment project in Ontario, Canada. AECL is the general contractor and project manager for Point Lepreau and a major subcontractor for retubing for Bruce 1 and 2. In June 2006, AECL was awarded a significant contract for the retubing of the Wolsong 1 CANDU 6 nuclear reactor in South Korea.

The nuclear refurbishment in Quebec comes at a time of growth for Canada’s nuclear industry as governments expand their power grids with nuclear energy. In New Brunswick, NB Power is refurbishing the Point Lepreau nuclear plant to add another 25 years of operating life. The project will cost the utility about C$430 million.

In Ontario, the province is expanding its nuclear network with new reactors to be built at the Darlington nuclear generating station east of Toronto by 2018. The province has asked three companies—Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., AREVA NP of France and Westinghouse, a U.S.-Japanese joint venture—to submit bids by the end of the year to build the reactors.

In Alberta, the Bruce Power partnership, which operates North America’s largest nuclear plant in southwestern Ontario, is proposing to build a nuclear generating station in the Peace River region.

If approved, the project would be the first nuclear power station in western Canada.