Lithuanian project makes progress

30 March 2012 The contractual framework for the construction of Europe’s first advanced boiling water reactor has been laid down in an agreement signed by the Lithuanian government and strategic investor Hitachi. The Concession Agreement for the Visaginas power plant was signed by Lithuanian energy vice minister Žygimantas Vaičiūnas, who is also head of the country’s concession tender commission, and Hitachi vice president Masaharu Hanyu. It will now be reviewed and discussed by the Lithuanian government before being submitted to parliament for a formal vote. Final approval is expected to be reached during the current parliamentary session. Once parliamentary approval is received, the concession for power plant construction will be granted to a new project company to be set up by Hitachi, Visaginas project company VAE and other regional partners. The new project company will then conduct engineering, procurement and construction negotiations with the aim of concluding contracts “by around summer of 2012”, according to Hitachi. The agreement sets out the contractual framework for the project. It provides rights for the project company to design, construct, operate and eventually decommission the plant and host country and investor rights and obligations, as well as formalising and concluding the procurement for Hitachi investment and Hitachi-GE technology. It also includes an agreed timeline for delivery, and will enable further design, licensing and site preparation activities in the pre-construction phase to go ahead, including commercial investment by the strategic investor (Hitachi-GE) and the other investors. Lithuanian prime minister Andrius Kubilius described the agreement as a significant milestone for an important regional project. “The Visaginas Nuclear Power Plant presents Lithuania and the Baltic region with a once in a lifetime opportunity to diversify energy sources and enhance energy security and independence as well as continue our integration into Europe. The agreement with Hitachi is also a vote of confidence for what will be the largest foreign direct investment in the history of Lithuania,” he said. Visaginas is to be built on a site adjacent to two Soviet-era RBMK nuclear reactors at Ignalina which were forced to close as a condition of Lithuania’s accession to the European Union, leaving the region heavily dependent on imported electricity. The prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania recently reaffirmed their commitment to the joint project to build a new nuclear power plant serving the Baltic states, promising to work together to make sure progress is maintained. Poland withdrew...
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Agreement on Summer cost overruns

30 March 2012 South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) has signed a preliminary agreement with Westinghouse and the Shaw Group to settle a dispute over early cost overruns for the construction of two AP1000 units at its VC Summer plant. A delay in receiving a licence for the units has led to a rescheduling of their completion dates. The disputed costs primarily relate to delays in receipt of the combined construction and operating licence (COL) from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), according to SCE&G. The utility said that its share of these costs will be $138 million – some $50 million less than the upper bound of $188 million originally disclosed. SCE&G said that, after considering the impact of this preliminary agreement, together with current escalation rates, the projected cost of the project continues to be lower than the original $6 billion projection approved by the South Carolina Public Service Commission (PSC) in 2009. The company said that it will seek to update its capital cost schedule with the PSC to “reflect the impact of this preliminary agreement at the appropriate time.” SC&G submitted a COL application for VC Summer units 2 and 3 in March 2008 and the utility had hoped to be granted the licence last year. The EPC contract for two AP1000 reactors was signed in May 2008. SCE&G executed the EPC contract on behalf itself and its partner Santee Cooper, a South Carolina state-owned utility. SCE&G and Santee Cooper are joint owners and share operating costs and generating output of Summer Unit 1, which began commercial operation in 1984. SCE&G is the plant operator. A similar arrangement will apply to the two additional reactors, with SCE&G accounting for 55% of the cost and output and Santee Cooper the remaining 45%. With extensive site preparation work already completed, the units had been pencilled in for operation in 2016 and 2019. However, SCE&G said, “Under the provisions of the preliminary agreement, having taken into account the delay in receiving the COLs, the two new units are now expected to be completed in 2017 and 2018.” This essentially means that unit 2 would be completed a year later, while unit 3 would start operating a year earlier than previously planned. Kevin Marsh, CEO of SCE&G’s parent company Scana Corporation, said: “We are pleased that we were able to resolve these issues through negotiations. We remain firmly committed to...
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Digging deep at Ranger

30 March 2012 Work is set to commence on the construction of the boxcut and decline for an exploration project that could eventually see Energy Resources of Australia’s (ERA) Ranger uranium mine become an underground operation. ERA has awarded a A$50 million ($52 million) contract for the boxcut, portal establishment and 2.2 km decline in preparation for its own drilling program at Ranger 3 Deeps to Macmahon Holdings. The decline will reach a depth of 400-500 metres. Work on the project is due to begin in May 2012. Macmahon’s portion of the work is scheduled for completion in early 2014. Ranger 3 Deeps is an extension of the Ranger 3 orebody and contains an estimated resource of 34,000 tonnes U3O8 (29,000 tU), described by ERA as one of the most significant uranium discoveries in the world. The results of the exploration drilling will be used to further studies into the potential development of an underground mine for which ERA has allocated a further A$55 million ($57 million). In total the company plans to spend A$120 million ($127 million) on the decline project, which the Northern Territory government approved in September 2011. ERA CEO Rob Atkinson said the Ranger 3 Deeps exploration decline project formed a very important component of the company’s future plans, and was a significant step in determining the viability of an underground mine at Ranger where operations in in the present open pit are nearing completion. “In addition to investing in the Ranger 3 Deeps Exploration Decline Project, we have also invested in a three year drilling programme at a cost of $40 million to define and determine other resources at Ranger,” he said. Mining began at the first open pit at Ranger, some 230 km east of Darwin in the Northern Territory, in 1981. Mining of the present pit, Pit 3, began in 1997. Fuente:...
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Nuclear helped UK cut emissions in 2011

30 March 2012 An 8% drop in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the UK in 2011 was helped by an 11% increase in electricity output from the country’s nuclear power plants, provisional figures from the government indicate. According to statistics released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), UK CO2 emissions in 2011 totalled an estimated 456.3 million tonnes, compared with 495.8 million tonnes in 2010. This decrease “resulted primarily from a decrease in residential gas use, combined with a reduction in demand for electricity accompanied by lower use of gas and greater use of nuclear power for electricity generation,” DECC said. The energy supply sector, which includes power stations and emissions from the energy sector, accounted for some 40% of the UK’s CO2 emissions in 2011, while the transport sector was responsible for 26% and the business and residential sectors each contributed 15%. Emissions from the energy sector have provisionally been estimated to be 183.8 million tonnes in 2011, a 6% decrease from 2010. “The decrease in emissions from this sector since 2010 can almost entirely be attributed to power stations,” according to DECC. “Demand for electricity was 3% lower in 2011 than in 2010, and there was also a change in the fuel mix used at power stations for electricity generation. The technical problems which had been experienced at some nuclear power stations in 2010 were resolved, and there was therefore more nuclear power available for electricity generation in 2011.” A 17% drop in gas use for generation together with an 11% increase in the use of nuclear power led to a fall of about 7% in emissions from electricity generation. Meanwhile, CO2 emissions per unit of electricity supplied by major power producers from fossil fuels are estimated to have averaged 582 tonnes per GWh in 2011. Emissions from electricity generated from coal were around 887 tonnes/GWh, while those for electricity supplied by gas were 363 tonnes/GWh. A total of 365.3 TWh of electricity was generated in the UK in 2011, 4.2% less than produced in 2010. Gas-fuelled power plants produced 145.4 TWh of this, accounting for almost 40% of the 2011 total, with coal-fired plants producing 108.4 TWh (29.7%). The UK’s nuclear power plants generated 69.0 TWh of electricity in 2011 – 11.1% more than in 2010 – accounting for 39.8% of total output. Correspondingly, nuclear’s share of the UK’s electricity production rose from...
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Bulgarian government drops Belene

29 March 2012 Bulgaria will not go ahead with the completion of a new nuclear power plant at Belene and instead wants the Russian-supplied reactor that was to have been installed there to become the seventh unit at the existing Kozloduy site. The government’s repeal of three earlier decisions by its Council of Ministers on the construction of Belene comes as an already extended construction agreement between Russsian reactor builder AtomStroyExport (ASE) and Bulgaria’s National Electricity Company (NEK) was due to expire. AtomStroyExport was selected to build the first of two 1060 MWe AES-92 pressurised water reactor units at Belene in 2005. Preliminary site works began in 2008, and contracts for components including large forgings and instrumentation and control systems were signed with suppliers, but the project has been stymied by financing problems. Germany’s RWE Power, which was to have been a 49% strategic investor in the project, withdrew in 2009. The same year, a newly elected Bulgarian government decided that it would not take the full 51% stake originally envisaged. Under a 2010 memorandum of understanding NEK agreed to take an initial 51% stake, with Russia’s Rosatom undertaking a co-financing arrangement. However, the Bulgarian government has failed in its efforts to find its desired equity investor to replace RWE. Bulgarian economy and energy minister Delian Dobrev told the government that building a seventh nuclear unit at the existing Kozloduy site using the equipment already procured for Belene would be a “far more realistic” proposition, not only because of the site’s existing supporting infrastructure but also because it could be more attractive to strategic investors. The government has mooted the possibility of building a gas-fired power plant at Belene to help maintain the security and stability of regional energy supplies. Kozloduy is home to Bulgaria’s only operating units, two Russian-designed pressurised water reactors that have been in operation since 1987 and 1991 respectively. Four older units at the site were closed down by 2006 as a condition of Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union and are undergoing decommissioning. Russia’s reaction to the Bulgarian government decision remains unclear although litigation is not unlikely. In July 2011, ASE launched legal proceedings against NEK over non-payment of work already completed. Work on Belene’s reactor vessel is already in its final stages at OMZ Izhora’s St Petersburg site, and the component had been due to be shipped to NEK next month. Fuente:...
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