Political risks prompt early closure of Swiss plant

30 October 2013 Switzerland’s Mühleberg nuclear power plant will be permanently shut down in 2019 instead of the earlier planned 2022 because of “uncertainty surrounding political and regulatory trends,” operator BKW FMB Energy has announced. Although referring to Mühleberg as “an important pillar” in its electricity generating facilities, BKW said that it could only justify making investments in the plant’s continued operation for the next six years, instead of until its earlier proposed shutdown in 2022. The  single 372 MWe boiling water reactor began operating in 1972 and has an unlimited-duration operating licence. Investing in Mühleberg’s longer term operation would have “entailed high costs,” the company said, “the amortisation of which would have been too uncertain given the prevailing economic, regulatory and political conditions.” BKW added that “further (as yet indefinable and unquantifiable) technical, economic and political uncertainties” in the medium term could increase the economic risks of long-term operation. However, BKW said that it will invest some CHF 200 million ($223 million) in various projects to 2019. Around CHF 15 million ($17 million) of this will be for “extraordinary upgrade measures,” including measures to improve the cooling water supply and the cooling systems of the used fuel storage pools. The company said that, by implementing these measures, it will exceed the safety margin stipulated by the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI). BKW chairman Urs Gasche said that the main factors behind the decision to close Mühleberg in 2019 were “the current market conditions as well as the uncertainty surrounding political and regulatory trends.” He called the 2019 shutdown “the best and most robust option” for the company. BKW had based its business plan up to 2030 on the 2022 closure of Mühleberg. Switzerland will face a deficit of 3 TWh of electricity by 2019 which cannot immediately be offset by BKW’s Swiss plants, despite its planned investment in renewable energy, noted BKW CEO Suzanne Thoma. The country will therefore “become more dependent on imports from abroad, and electricity from foreign nuclear power facilities and fossil-fuelled plants will play an important role.” In 2009, the Swiss environment ministry issued an unlimited-duration operating licence to the Mühleberg plant. This decision was overturned in March 2012 by the country’s Federal Administrative Court (FAC), which said the plant could only operate until June 2013. BKW subsequently lodged an appeal with the Federal Court in Lausanne against the FAC’s ruling, winning its case this March...
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Premiers agree on Sinop nuclear plant

30 October 2013 The Turkish and Japanese prime ministers have signed a framework agreement for the Sinop nuclear power plant and cooperation between the countries. It is the final stage before a commercial contract. The future nuclear power plant at Sinop on Turkey’s Black Sea Coast would feature four Atmea1 pressurized water reactor units, a product of a joint venture between Areva and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Other members of the project consortium are Itochu and Gdf Suez, which will operate the power plant. Site preparation is already underway. Construction is expected to start in 2017, and power generation in 2023. Turkish power company EUAS has said it intends to take a 25% stake in the plant. The framework agreement sets out its structure and the scope of cooperation between the countries. Once this host government agreement is ratified by the Turkish parliament, the terms and conditions of a final commercial contract to build can be drawn up. Leader of the consortium Mitsubishi Heavy Industries said negotiations have not concluded on the specifics of power sales contracts and finance. The meeting of leaders yesterday coincided with celebrations of the Turkish nation’s 90th year of independence as well as the opening of the Marmaray tunnel, built by Japanese consortium to connect the east and west parts of Istanbul – and Europe to Asia. Erdogan acknowledged that nuclear power brings risks as well as benefits, pointing out that no technology could be guaranteed 100% safe. He praised the strong strategic relationship between Turkey and Japan, noting his partners had a responsibility to share the lessons learned from the accident at Fukushima Daiichi two years ago. The leaders signed a joint declaration on cooperation in science and technology. The Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (ETKB) takes responsibility for meeting Turkey’s growing energy needs. Nuclear power is foreseen as taking an increasing role, reducing dependence on the gas imports from Russia and Iran that currently fuel 45% of power generation....
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Hostage relief for Areva

30 October 2013 French nationals from Areva and contractor Vinci have been released after three years in captivity. They were kidnapped by Islamic militants near the Arlit uranium deposit in Niger. Confirming freedom for Daniel Larribe, Pierre Legrand, Marc Feret and Thierry Dol, Areva CEO Luc Oursel said “This liberation is an immense joy for the families and for all the employees of Areva. These men have shown extraordinary courage. I would like to thank very warmly all who have contributed to their liberation.” Areva’s Daniel Larribe and his wife Francoise were taken by armed men in the night of 15 September 2010 along with five workers from Vinci’s Satom subsidiary. They were held by what has been described as the Islamic Mahgreb Al-Qaida group. Three of the hostages, Francoise Larribe, Jean-Claude Rakotorilalao and Alex Awando, were released in February 2011. Freedom for the remaining four was announced yesterday by French President Francois Hollande. Areva is the primary shareholder in the companies that manage two uranium mines in Niger’s Arlit region and is also working to start operations at the Imouraren mine in 2015. Most of its employees in the country are Nigerien. In May 2013 a terrorist car bomb damaged the mine plant at the Arlit deposit and killed one employee, also injuring 14....
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Jordan selects its nuclear technology

29 October 2013 Russia has been selected as the preferred bidder to supply Jordan with its first nuclear power plant. The initial reactor of the two-unit plant is expected to start operating in 2020. Khaled Toukan, chairman of the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC), told the country’s official news agency Petra that Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom will build the plant. Under Russia’s offer, Rosatom’s reactor export subsidiary AtomStroyExport (ASE) will be the supplier of the nuclear technology while Rusatom Overseas will be strategic partner and operator of the plant. According to Toukan, Russia will contribute 49% of the project’s cost, reportedly to be $10 billion, with the Jordanian government providing the remaining 51%. However, he said that financing of the plant has yet to be finalized and noted that Russian could supply the plant on a build-own-operate basis. Three vendors were shortlisted by JAEC in May 2010: an Areva-Mitubishi Heavy Industries consortium, Russia’s AtomStroyExport and Canada’s SNC-Lavalin International. The designs under consideration were the Atmea1 pressurized water reactor, the AES-92 model VVER-1000, and the Enhanced Candu-6 pressurized heavy-water reactor. The vendors were subsequently invited to tender for the turnkey plant and submitted their technical offers to JAEC in July 2011. In April 2012, JAEC announced that it had narrowed down the list of offers to those from ASE and Areva-MHI. Areva acknowledged JAEC’s decision to select the VVER-1000 instead of the Atmea1 design, noting that its design “met the needs and requirements of the Kingdom in terms of safety and competitiveness.” The new plant will comprise two reactors and be built in Jordan’s Amra region, some 60 kilometres east of the city of Zarqa. Jordan has previously said it intends to start building a 750-1000 MWe reactor in 2013 with a view to operation by 2020, followed by a second unit coming on line around 2025. In addition to providing electricity, the plant will also be used for desalinating water. In January 2012, ASE submitted a separate proposal to build four reactors for the country’s second nuclear power plant. At the time, the JAEC stressed that its decision on the constructor of its first nuclear power plant would not be influenced by that proposal....
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Chinese plants make headway

29 October 2013 Two more nuclear power plants in China are progressing towards commissioning. Hongyanhe’s second unit has achieved first criticality, while fuel loading has begun at Yangjiang unit 1. China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN) announced that Hongyanhe 2 reached criticality on 24 October. Work began on the 1080 MWe Chinese-designed CPR-1000 reactor in Liaoning province in 2008. Hongyanhe 1, also a 1080 MWe CPR-1000, began commercial operation earlier this year. Work is also under way on two further CPR-1000s at the site. Meanwhile, work has begun to load nuclear fuel into the first of four CPR-1000s under construction at Yangjiang in Guangdong province. The unit has been undergoing pressure tests since construction work was completed in June. Systems including diesel back-up generators have also been tested, and safety exercises including emergency drills were completed at the plant prior to it receiving regulatory permission to commence fuel loading. Work began on Yangjiang 1 in 2008, with units 2-4 following in in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Work began earlier this year on Yangjiang 5, the first of two CPR-1000+ units – a more advanced version of the CPR-1000 design – planned for the site, making Yangjiang the largest nuclear construction site in the world. Unit number 6 is slated to start construction in 2014, and all six reactors should be in operation by 2018....
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