'Balanced partnership' for Areva and Niger

27 May 2014 The Nigerien government and Areva have signed a new partnership that provides Niger with higher sovereign royalty payments from mining operations led by the French state-controlled firm. The two companies that mine uranium in Niger are Somair and Cominak which both have major portions of equity held by Areva and the Nigerien National Office of Mineral Resources. Their mutual approval for new terms was sealed by a signing with Areva CEO Luc Oursel in the capital Niamey yesterday. Signing for Niger were Omar Hamidou Tchania, minister of mines, and Gilles Baillet, minister of finance. Areva said the new deal “enshrines” the renewal of mining contracts under Niger’s 2006 mining law, which raised Niger’s royalty taxes from the 5.5% of previous agreements to 12-15% dependent on profits. This had proven a sticking point in negotiations, particularly as low uranium prices have reduced profit from uranium mining to such an extent that Areva suspended operations by Somair and Cominak in December 2013. However, the deal was agreed in “a spirit of mutual respect and complete understanding,” according to Tchania, who noted that it “finally marks the establishment of a ‘balanced partnership’ as desired by President of Niger Issoufou Mahamadou.” The deal includes for the first time that the firms’ boards will include Nigerien managing directors – appointed this year for Somair, and in 2016 for Cominak. Areva will provide €90 million ($122 million) to support constructing a road from Tahoua to Arlit, near the uranium developments, as well as a further €17 million ($23.1 million) for development in the surrounding Irhazer Valley. Niger will also receive a new headquarters building for Somair and Cominak, which will be built by Areva at a cost of €10 million ($13.6 million). Oursel said the deal would “affirm the major place held by Niger in the global uranium industry.” The country is the world’s third biggest supplier of uranium, meeting 7.5% of demand. Ownership Somair is 63.6% owned by Areva and 36.4% by Niger through the state mining assets company Sopamin. Cominak is 34% owned by Areva, 31% by Sopamin, 25% by Japan’s Overseas Uranium Resources Development Co, and 10% by Enusa. The future Imouraren mine is 56.65% owned by Areva, 33.35% by Sopamin and 10% by South Korea’s Kepco. Imouraren Uranium prices are currently too low to allow profitable operation of the new mine at Imouraren, said Areva. Excavation started on Imouraren’s first pit in 2012...
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Ansaldo moves for international markets

27 May 2014 Ansaldo Nucleare has bought the UK’s Nuclear Engineering Services (NES), hoping to grow its business through exposure the Britain’s growing nuclear market. The €36 million ($49 million) purchase was supported by Fondo Strategico Italiano (FSI), an investment fund intended to increase the competitiveness of Italian companies. It owns 84.55% of Ansaldo Energia, which in turn owns Ansaldo Nucleare. NES says that it “specialises in the design, manufacture, assembly, test, installation and commissioning of bespoke solutions for the nuclear decommissioning, defence, and nuclear new build markets.” By adding NES’s 400 staff, three sites, and UK connections, Ansaldo Nucleare hopes to gain “wider expertise in decommissioning and nuclear plant sectors” and go on to offer a broader range of services in other international markets. It said this would be helped by “starting from the UK market, characterized by a highly positive outlook.” NES is a contractor supporting complex projects at Sellafield, including the £1.2 billion ($2.0 billion) removal and direct encapsulation of Magnox swarf from silos. This kind of work “represents a source of potential development opportunities,” said Ansaldo Nucleare. FSI states that it “primarily acquires minority interests in financially sound companies of ‘significant national interest with adequate profit potential and significant development prospects.” Talking Italian   The purchase follows another major deal for Ansaldo Energia, also spurred on by the involvement of FSI. Earlier this month a long-term strategic partnership was signed that envisages Shanghai Electric taking a 40% stake in Ansaldo Energia for some €400 million ($545 million). This is subject to an anti-trust process, but should enable the companies to develop joint gas turbine technology and result in expansion for Ansaldo Energia’s Italian facilities....
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First base for US emergency response

23 May 2014 The first of America’s regional response centres is now in operation, ready to supply equipment to any of the country’s nuclear power plants facing an emergency situation. The base at Tolleson on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona, houses five complete sets of portable backup equipment – pumps, generators, hoses and floodlights. These have standardized connections so that they can be used at any of the country’s 100 nuclear power reactors to supplement the plant’s own safety equipment to help maintain the safety of reactor systems and used fuel pools. Equipment will be kept ready for use anywhere in the country within 24 hours. Coming in addition to each nuclear power plant’s normal systems and the spares kept at each site, the extra kit at the Phoenix centre represents an “extra layer of public protection,” said US nuclear industry body the Nuclear Energy Institute. They should “help facilities respond safely to extreme events no matter what causes them.” Had such a support facility been available to Tokyo Electric Power Company during the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi, “the outcome would have been different,” according to Arizona Public Service Company’s (APS’s) CEO, Don Brandt, who spoke at the centre’s opening ceremony. APS owns and operates America’s largest nuclear power plant, Palo Verde – about 40 kilometres to the west of Phoenix – where three pressurized water reactors generate 3937 MWe. The Phoenix centre cost $40 million to set up, and will need $4 million per year in operating costs. Similar costs will apply to the other regional centre, which is to open next month in Memphis, Tennessee. All funding will come from the US nuclear industry. Both centres will be operated by the Strategic Alliance for FLEX Emergency Response (SAFER) team, which brings together Areva and the Pooled Equipment Inventory Co (PEICo), which has operated from Memphis for over 30 years. Base building   Other countries have taken a similar approach to reinforcing nuclear power plant safety systems in emergency situations. EDF has established four bases and a central response team to supplement France’s 58 power reactors. China has recently announced it will create a 300-strong nuclear response team to complement regional emergency forces....
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Investigation into Kudankulam spillage

23 May 2014 Six workers were injured by a hot water spillage in the turbine hall of India’s Kudankulam 1 during a recent maintenance outage. The regulator attributed the incident on procedural errors rather than faulty equipment. The accident occurred on 14 May during maintenance of a three-way hot water inlet valve to a heater loop in the turbine building of Kudankulam unit 1. Hot water spilled from the valve injuring six workers: three from plant owner Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) and three contractors. The workers were given first aid at the plant site before being taken to a local hospital, and later transferred to another hospital for specialist treatment. The most injured workers are still receiving hospital treatment. India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has now completed a preliminary investigation into the incident and said that it resulted from inadequate draining of the hot water before dismantling of the valve began. It concluded that there was no design deficiency in the construction of the valve involved. The incident happened during a maintenance outage at the unit which began on 12 May. Following completion of the work, the unit was restarted on 17 May. Commissioning continues Kudankulam 1 is one of two VVER-1000 pressurized water reactors built as part of a bilateral agreement between India and Russia signed back in 1988. Construction began in 2002 and the unit was completed in March 2011. However, its commissioning was delayed by over two years due to protests and legal action following the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The unit eventually achieved first criticality last July and was connected to the grid in October. Power output of the reactor has gradually increased and it has been running at 75% power since late January. Earlier this month, the AERB gave approval for Kudankulam 1 to be temporarily operated at 100% power during commissioning tests. NPCIL says it expects the unit to enter commercial operation next month. The start of commercial operation of the second Kudankulam unit, which has entered the commissioning phase, is now expected in March 2015....
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Fuel cycle roundup #26

23 May 2014 Millennium on hold Cameco has formally withdrawn its construction and operating licence application for the proposed Millennium uranium mine in Canada’s Athabasca Basin, citing unfavourable economic conditions. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission cancelled a public hearing on the application that had been scheduled for June. The company says it will continue to do “some limited work related to Millennium” to enable it to be ready to resubmit an application “should market signals indicate new uranium mine projects are required.” Expansion for Nichols Ranch Uranerz Energy has submitted an application to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to add the Jane Dough permit area to the licence for its existing Nichols Ranch in-situ leach (ISL) uranium project in Wyoming. Jane Dough is the combination of three properties – Doughstick, South Doughstick and North Jane – and is contiguous to Nichols Ranch, which started up in April. Uranerz plans to install only wellfields at Jane Dough, using pipelines to transfer mining solutions to Nichols Ranch for processing rather than building a satellite plant at Jane Dough, an arrangement the company expects to result in both capital and time savings while enhancing the project economics of the Nichols Ranch facility. The Jane Dough unit contains measured and indicated resources of 2.735 million pounds U3O8 (1052 tU) at an average grade of 0.108%. Westinghouse fuels Vattenfall units Westinghouse is to supply replacement nuclear fuel and related engineering services for Forsmark 3, Ringhals 3 and Ringhals 4 under a contract awarded by Vattenfall. The contract covers yearly deliveries during a four-year period from 2016 to 2019. Fuel for the Forsmark boiling water reactor and the two pressurised water reactors at Ringhals will be produced by Westinghouse at its Västerås facility in Sweden. Slovakia bans uranium mining Slovakia’s government has approved a draft amendment to the country’s geological law that would ban future uranium mining unless approved by a local referendum. The ban on the mining of radioactive material must be approved by Slovakia’s National Council and could come into effect in June, according to environment minister Peter Ziga. Slovakia has several known uranium deposits, and its 2008 Energy Security Strategy identified an assessment of the viability of uranium mining as a priority. Australian company Forte Energy is currently investigating the Kuriskova and Novoveska Huta uranium deposits and other uranium exploration targets which it purchased from European Uranium Resources earlier this year. Dewey-Burdock stay lifted The NRC’s Atomic...
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