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Nuclear power could generate 25 percent of global electricity by 2050

Issue 3 and Volume 3.

Nuclear power could generate 25 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050, according to a joint study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).

The Nuclear Energy Technology Roadmap said such an expansion would require nuclear generating capacity to more than triple over the next 40 years, a target described as “ambitious” but “achievable.” It said the designs would need to be fully established over the next few years if they were to help nuclear energy be competitive after 2020.

Nuclear generating capacity worldwide is currently at 370 GW electrical, providing 14 percent of global electricity. It could grow to 1,200 GW to cut energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 50 percent by 2050, providing 24 percent of global electricity at that time.

The roadmap called nuclear power a mature, low-carbon technology that was ready to expand over the next few decades. Financing the construction of new nuclear power plants is expected to be a challenge in some countries, and governments may have to support the nuclear programs through loan guarantees and other incentives until the programs are well established.

No major technological breakthroughs would be needed to achieve the level of nuclear expansion predicted, the roadmap document said. However, policy-related, industrial, financial and public acceptance barriers to the rapid growth of nuclear power remained a challenge.

Further, the study noted that progress in implementing plans for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste would also be vital and that the international system of safeguards to prevent proliferation of nuclear technology and materials must be maintained and strengthened where necessary.

Yucca Mountain application cannot be withdrawn: Panel

A panel of administrative judges at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) ruled on June 29th that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) cannot withdraw its application to open a nuclear waste facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Yucca Mountain in Nevada

The three-member panel said DOE’s decision to drop the application violated the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. The Act said that unless Congress directs otherwise DOE cannot unilaterally change or end the decision-making process.

The decision to overturn DOE’s withdrawal could be overruled by the NRC itself, but the effect of the panel’s decision is unknown. Congress would have to appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars annually for DOE to move forward with the application but President Obama’s budget for next year did not appropriate any money at all. To date, some $10 billion has been spent, money mostly contributed by electricity consumers who are paying into a nuclear waste fund.

The president said he would drop plans for Yucca Mountain. But Washington state and South Carolina petitioned to prevent the Energy Department from withdrawing the application.

President Obama said he would establish a commission to find solutions to nuclear waste. The commission is looking for ways to recycle and reuse some of the waste.

Canada, India sign nuclear cooperation agreement

Under an agreement signed by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Canada’s nuclear industry will be able to access India’s nuclear market.

Announced in November 2009 and with the final signatures now in place, the countries are moving forward to complete all of the remaining steps needed to ensure its early implementation.

The agreement aims to create an enabling environment that will permit members of Canada’s nuclear industry to cooperate with designated civilian nuclear installations under International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards in India. These agreements provide international treaty level assurances that the nuclear material, equipment and technology involved will only be used for civilian, peaceful and non-explosive purposes. As well as providing access to each other’s markets, they also open the door to the possibility of joint ventures.

India has a growing nuclear power program with plans for 20,000 MWe of nuclear capacity on line by 2020 and 63,000 MWe by 2032, although it has limited domestic uranium resources.

Finland’s government approves two new reactors

Finland’s parliament has approved construction of the country’s sixth and seventh nuclear power reactors. One will be built at Olkiluoto by TVO. A second will be built by Fennovoima at Simo or Pyhajoki in northern Finland. These reactors will add between 2,650 to 3,400 MWe to the country’s total, depending on reactor types selected. Parliament also voted to increase the capacity of Posiva’s high-level waste repository at Eurajoki near Olkiluoto.

Finland generates roughly 82 billion kWh per year while 22.6 billion kWh (27.8 percent in 2009) comes from nuclear.

UAE, Russia plan to sign nuclear agreement

Russia and the United Arab Emirates plan to sign an agreement to work together on nuclear energy. Russia’s Energy Minister said the signing will give Russia the potential to work on research reactors and to take part in the Emirates’ program with the Koreans.

In December, the U.A.E. awarded an $18.6 billion contract to Korean Electric Power Corp. to build four nuclear reactors by 2020 on the western coast of Abu Dhabi. Each plant will have a capacity of 1,400 MW.

U.A.E. Minister of Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said power demand will reach 40,000 MW by 2020 and the nation prohibits the enrichment of uranium on its soil.

By 2030, U.A.E. plans to generate as much nuclear power to meet one-third of the nation’s energy consumption.

Vietnam announces nuclear development plans

The Vietnamese government plans to have 13 nuclear reactors online by 2030, with a combined capacity of 15 GW. According to a nuclear power development plan recently approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, nuclear power will account for 10 percent of the country’s total generation capacity.

Under the plan, the reactors will be built in eight locations in the central provinces of Ninh Thuan, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Ha Tinh and Quang Ngai. The first reactor, with a capacity of 1,000 MW, is scheduled to be operational by 2020 and the second by 2021.

The government said that between 30 percent and 40 percent of the construction work will be undertaken by domestic companies. Newspaper reports said that the government had chosen Russian technology for the construction of its first nuclear power plant in Ninh Thuan province.

State-run Vietnam Electricity Group signed a nuclear-power cooperation agreement with Russian energy group Rosatom during Prime Minister Dung’s visit to Russia in December last year.

Foundation in place for fourth Rostov reactor

Around 300 meters of concrete has been poured for the foundation of the fourth unit at the Rostov Nuclear Power Plant in Russia. With the start of construction of Rostov unit 4, the total number of new reactors under construction in Russia is now up to 10.

Construction of Unit 1, a V-320 type VVER, began in 1978 and operations began in March 2001. Construction started on unit 2 in 1983, but was halted in the late 1990s, resuming in 2002. The project was started again in 2007 as part of a Russian initiative to maximize domestic nuclear power production to maximize the value of its natural gas reserves.

Rostov 3 and 4 were both ordered in 1983 and both units will be larger VVER-1200 types, similar to Units 1 and 2. Construction of Unit 3 began again in late 2009 and Units 3 and 4 are set to be completed by 2014 and 2016.

Japanese group to support nuclear development

A consortium of six Japanese companies has established a new office to set the stage for the foundation of a new company to develop nuclear power stations abroad.

Tentatively named International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan, Tokyo Electric Power, Chubu Electric Power, Kansai Electric Power, Toshiba, Hitachi, and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will be engaged in the activities to establish proposals for nuclear power plants projects in emerging economies.

The office will be comprised of three separate divisions: a Vietnam division, a Business (BWR/PWR) division and a General Affairs division. A “planning committee” established by the designated Japanese entities having an interest in nuclear power (METI) electric power companies (Tokyo, Chubu and Kansai) and plant manufacturers (Toshiba, Hitachi and MHI) in June has been considering a public-private proposal that will aim to receive nuclear power plants project orders in Vietnam. The decision to set up the aforementioned office prior to the launch of the new corporate entity was made to ensure the swift execution of the promotion activities.

The launch of “International Nuclear Energy Development of Japan” is scheduled for autumn of 2010 to be followed by the proposal of a comprehensive package that will allow the dissemination of Japanese technologies and know-how that have been cultivated over many years. In accordance with the needs and expectations of Vietnam and other emerging nations, these will include actual power plant construction, O&M and human resource development, all to be bolstered by legislative and financing support from the Japanese Government.

Nuclear power plant simulation work awarded to GSE Systems

GSE Systems Inc. received over $8 million of new work in its nuclear simulation sector. Included in the awards are contracts to provide various simulator upgrades for customers in the United States, Korea and Europe and to provide engineering services and simulation technology for waste treatment cleanup facilities under construction at the Hanford site in Richland, Wash.

In addition, the company received a contract to develop simulator models for Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Company Ltd. in China that will allow validation and verification of GNPC’s CPR-1000 instrumentation and controls design as well as for use in control room human factors studies.

NRG Energy cuts spending on South Texas nuclear power plant project

NRG Energy Inc. said it would cut spending on two new reactors planned at the South Texas Project from $7.5 million a month in July to $1.5 million a month. The company said it is still awaiting a decision from the federal government on a loan guarantee for the multibillion-dollar project.

Since the U.S. Department of Energy awarded Southern Co. a roughly $8 billion guarantee in February for a project in Georgia, NRG Energy, Constellation and Scana Corp. have been competing for the remaining guarantee available under the federal program.

NRG’s total capital spending on the nuclear power plant project for the year is being cut to $186 million from $302 million, the company said during a conference call.

Westinghouse to dismantle Spanish reactor

Westinghouse Electric Co. was awarded a contract by Enresa to dismantle the internals of the 142 MW Zorita nuclear reactor at the Jose Cabrera Nuclear Power Station in Spain.

The contract covers dismantling and segmentation of the reactor vessel internals, including the up-front engineering studies. It also includes plant modifications, equipment supply, and loading of primary and secondary waste into multipurpose canisters for the activated material, and into dedicated containers for low- and intermediate-level waste. The project began in June 2010 and is expected to take 31 months to complete.

Zorita is a Westinghouse pressurized water reactor operated by Gas Natural Fenosa that was closed by ministerial order in April 2006 after 38 years in operation. In February 2010, Gas Natural Fenosa transferred the plant’s ownership to Enresa, the Spanish agency responsible for radioactive waste management and nuclear plant decommissioning.

In March 2010, Westinghouse announced that it had been awarded a contract by EDF-CIDEN to provide reactor vessel dismantling services for the Chooz A nuclear reactor, the first pressurized water reactor (PWR) in France to be fully dismantled.

Areva finds a third site to combine nuclear and renewable electric power

Areva, the province of New Brunswick and New Brunswick Power signed a letter of intent to develop a “clean energy park” near the Point Lepreau nuclear station in Canada. The project represents the third such project that would be developed by Areva.

The site would feature a mid-sized Generation III+ nuclear plant and renewable energy sources all built by Areva. Power would be used in the province and exported to the Canadian Maritime region and to New England.

Areva said the agreement further validates the clean energy park concept to build new CO2-free energy facilities. Areva is working on similar developments near Piketon, Ohio with Duke Energy and Fresno, Calif. with FNEG.

Saudi Arabia agrees on nuclear energy pact with France

Saudi Arabia signed a nuclear cooperation accord with France, which could open the way for French help in developing nuclear power in the oil-rich kingdom.

The pact was first proposed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in talks with King Abdullah in June 2007 in Paris, and the French side submitted a draft when Sarkozy visited Riyadh in January 2008.

Saudi agreement was delayed while Riyadh undertook last year a formal review of its nuclear policy, which resulted in the April 2010 announcement that the kingdom would establish a new research center on nuclear and renewable energy. That was seen as the strongest signal yet that the country, which burns large amounts of oil and natural gas to generate electricity and desalinate sea water for domestic consumption, could develop nuclear power.

Trio to pursue nuclear power plants in Saudi

The Shaw Group Inc., Toshiba Corp. and Exelon Nuclear Partners plan to design, engineer, construct and operate new nuclear electric generating plants in Saudi Arabia.

The group jointly would pursue engineering, procurement, construction and operations of nuclear power plants using Toshiba’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). The group also is capable of utilizing Westinghouse AP1000 technology.

Toshiba and Shaw would provide design, engineering, procurement and construction while Exelon would provide operations and related services for the projects.

The Saudi government recently stated its commitment to the research and funding of commercial nuclear power. Shaw currently is working in Saudi Arabia, performing a three-phase study to define and recommend operational improvements at 53 power plants throughout the Kingdom.

For any U.S. company to engage in civilian nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia, the U.S. and Saudi Arabian governments must negotiate a framework agreement that meets specific requirements under Section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act, followed by U.S. congressional review of the agreement. Execution of any business arrangements for a Japanese company with a Saudi Arabian entity is also subject to the future conclusion of an Agreement for Cooperation between Japanese and Saudi Arabian governments concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy.

First nuclear power generator started in China since 2007

One of China’s two leading nuclear power developers started generating power from a new unit that is expected to be commercially operational by October. China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group said that after a ramp-up the reactor with a generating capacity of 1.08 GW will be the first unit to be brought online since 2007.

One of two reactors making up the second phase of Ling’ao in southern Guandong province, it will use CPR1000 pressurized water reactor technology that is based on European technology with Chinese improvements.

China now has more than 20 reactors under construction with a total capacity of 25.4 GW.

Davis-Besse nuclear power plant up and running again

The 908 MW Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Ohio returned to service on June 29 following a scheduled refueling outage that began in February.

Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio. Photo courtesy of NRC

Work included repairing several control rod drive nozzles in the reactor head after cracks were found in them. Outage work also included exchanging 76 fuel assemblies, replacing underground cables and valves and performing inspections and testing.

The plant’s next planned outage is for the fall of 2011 to install a new reactor head manufactured by Areva.

Canadian plant ordered to stop killing fish

The Canadian government has ordered the Ontario Power Generation (OPG), operator of Pickering nuclear power plant, to reduce fish mortality by 80 percent or risk losing its license.

Pickering Nuclear Power Plant on Lake Ontario. Photo courtesy Ontario Power Generation

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has ordered annual reports on fish mortality and the effectiveness of steps OPG is taking to reduce rates. This comes after reports found that nearly 1 million fish and 62 million fish eggs and larvae die each year after being sucked into the water intake channel that is part of the cooling system of the power plant.

OPG has installed a 610-meter barrier net in front of the channel to reduce the amount of fish pulled in but grassroots charity Lake Ontario Waterkeeper has said the net is insufficient since it is removed in the winter and does nothing about thermal pollution and nothing about larvae and eggs.

OPG denies plant operations are having an adverse effect on aquatic life or habitat and said there is not evidence that thermal emissions are killing fish.

The net, installed last October, was removed during the winter for divers to perform maintenance and OPG also said that fish are less likely to enter the channel in cold water. With OPG spending more than $1 million a year on habitat projects in the province, the operator will consider stocking the lake with fish to replace those killed.

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