New reactor empowers Argentina

30 June 2014 First power has flowed from Argentina’s newest nuclear power reactor, the government said, supporting its goals for power generation diversity, fuel import reduction and ‘energy sovereignty’. Having achieved criticality early this month, the new reactor at the Atucha nuclear power plant began sending 5% of its rated power to the Argentine electricity grid on 27 June. The reactor is to ramp up its production in stages, reaching 30% this week and approaching full power within two to three months. Atucha 2’s rated power is 745 MWe gross and together with Atucha 1 it establishes Argentina’s total nuclear generating capacity at around 1680 MWe. The Carem small reactor project should add a further 27 MWe by 2018. Speaking at the plant to celebrate the achievement of first power, Julio de Vido, the minister of planning, public investment and services, said the new reactor would diversify Argentina’s energy mix and generate clean affordable energy with nuclear power. Its contribution to diversity was in line with President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s goals to ‘recover energy sovereignty,’ said De Vido. As an oil exporter, Argentina also burns the fuel to generate about 15% of its electricity. Atucha 2’s electricity would avoid the burning of oil worth some $1.5 billion per year, said De Vido: “This clearly supports self-sufficiency, aims to improve the balance of foreign exchange, replaces fuel imports and fundamentally consolidates technological knowledge within Argentina.” What’s in a name    Both the reactors at Atucha nuclear power plant now feature new official names celebrating past Argentinian leaders. Unit 1 is officially known as ‘Atucha 1 – President Juan Domingo Perón’; while unit 2 is known as ‘Atucha 2 – President Dr Néstor Carlos Kirchner’....
read more

UK partnership for AP1000 confirmed

30 June 2014 Toshiba has increased its commitment to building three AP1000 units at Moorside in the UK. It has taken an extra 10% in project company NuGen, while its option to buy the required land has been extended. Toshiba, Westinghouse and GDF Suez jointly announced the completion of the deal that sees Toshiba add the 10% share of NuGen purchased from GDF Suez to the 50% interest in the company it bought from Iberdrola in late 2013. GDF Suez retains a 40% interest in NuGen. Toshiba president and CEO Hisao Tanaka said that the contract reconfirmed the commitment of the companies to the construction of the three AP1000s at Moorside. As part of the deal, the NuGen management team is to be reformed under the leadership of former Westinghouse vice president for nuclear power plant business development Sandy Rupprecht who described Moorside as “the most exciting new nuclear build project in Europe.” At the same time, the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Agency (NDA) also confirmed that an extension to a land option agreement for the Moorside site has been concluded. The agreement, worth around £200 million ($340 million), extends an original 2009 option to purchase the land to the north and west of the historic Sellafield nuclear complex in north-western England which would otherwise have expired in October of this year. NuGen plans to build by 2024 three AP1000 pressurized water reactors at Moorside with a total capacity of 3.4 GWe. A final investment decision is expected to be taken by the end of 2018, and immediate plans for NuGen’s management focus on site investigations, preliminary studies for site layouts, stakeholder engagement and preparations for public consultations due to begin in 2015. Engineering services for the plants from feasibility studies through construction and operation to decommissioning will be provided by GDF Suez subsidiary Tractebel Engineering, while fuel for the Moorside reactors is to be manufactured at Westinghouse’s existing Springfields facility in the UK. Moorside would be the first site in Europe to host the AP1000, eight of which are currently under construction in the USA and China. Already licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the reactor must complete the final parts of generic design assessment by the UK’s regulatory bodies. On 14 June the Office for Nuclear Regulation said it had held “preliminary talks” with Westinghouse to explore what is required to re-start this process....
read more

Russia celebrates two industry 'firsts' at Beloyarsk and Obninsk

27 June 2014 Russia celebrated two stand-out achievements for the world’s nuclear industry today – the launch of the most powerful fast reactor and the 60th anniversary of the first civilian nuclear power plant. Rosenergoatom engineers brought to criticality Beloyarsk 4 – a 789 MWe fast-neutron reactor of the BN-800 design – while its parent Rosatom honoured the operators who commissioned the 5 MWe Obinsk reactor on the same day in 1954. The startup of the Obninsk reactor “was a step into the future” and its value cannot be overstated,” said Alexander Kharichev, Rosatom head of department on work with the regions. Kharichev spoke during the anniversary celebrations held in Obninsk. Guests at the event included representatives from closed administrative-territorial formations, or ZATO according to their Russian acronym, of which Obninsk was one. The city was founded in 1946 following a decree by Josef Stalin that a secret laboratory to carry out research in nuclear physics should be built on the left bank of the Protva River. Alexey Golubev, chairman of the association of ZATO, said there was “an unbreakable historical link” between the new generation of nuclear scientists and those who were at the start of the country’s nuclear power industry. Golubev spoke of the economic and social sacrifices residents of the closed cities had had to make. “The launch of the first nuclear power plant was a significant event for all ZATO residents, but we are well aware of the cost of this technological breakthrough,” he said. A prototype design using a graphite moderator and water coolant, the Obninsk reactor was a forerunner of the RBMK, or high power channel-type reactor. It remained active until 29 April, 2002, when it was finally shut down. Beloyarsk 4 is fuelled by a mix of uranium and plutonium oxides arranged to produce new fuel material as it burns. Its capacity exceeds that of the world’s second most powerful fast reactor – 560 Mwe Beloyarsk 3. Russia plans to build a BN-1200 fast reactor power unit at Beloyarsk to start up by 2020. Rosenergoatom said on 23 June that it was preparing for first criticality of its BN-800 and Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that controlled nuclear fission had been started on 27 June....
read more

Swedish utilities face sharp hike in waste fee

27 June 2014 Sweden’s nuclear regulator proposes to almost double the fees paid by utilities in 2015 into the country’s nuclear waste fund. The increase follows a recalculation of decommissioning and waste disposal costs. The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (Strålsäkerhetsmyndigheten, or SSM) assesses the amount Sweden’s nuclear generators pay into the fund every three years. It bases its assessment partly on estimates from the Swedish spent fuel management company Svensk Karnbranslehantering AB (SKB). According to SKB’s latest cost calculations, total decommissioning and waste disposal costs are about SEK 136 billion ($20 billion). SKB says that some SEK 50 billion ($7.4 billion) has already paid into the waste fund. However, SSM said SKB may have underestimated the cost of decommissioning and disposal from Sweden’s nuclear power industry by at least SEK 11 billion ($1.6 billion). It said its own estimate is based on an analysis of future cost trends by the National Institute of Economic Research (NIER). SSM’s estimate takes into account the low return anticipated for the waste fund and cost increases reported by SKB. Fee increase The regulator has recommended to the government that the fee for 2015 should be set at 3.8 öre (0.56 US cents) per kWh of nuclear electricity produced. The current level is 2.2 öre (0.33 US cents) per kWh. It said that SKB must implement a revised cost estimate, based on data produced by NIER, in order for a new fee calculation for 2016-17. SKB president Christopher Eckerberg said that it will “carefully review the proposal in all its parts, and come back with our more developed vision in our consultation response.” However, he noted that SKB “can already say that we would have preferred a longer term view of the rate used in the calculations.” Eckerberg said that, as SKB’s facilities would be in operation for another 70 years, short-term changes in interest rates should not lead to large changes in the waste fee paid. SSM has requested feedback on the proposed new fee from industry by 1 September before it submits its formal recommendation to the government in October. The government is expected to make a final decision on the fee by the end of the year....
read more

Delay in Finnish repository licence review

26 June 2014 The Finnish nuclear regulator needs another six months to review Posiva’s application to build a waste encapsulation plant and a final repository at Olkiluoto. Posiva – a waste management joint venture of utilities Fortum and TVO – submitted its application to the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (Stuk) in December 2012. At that time, Stuk expected to complete its review of the application by the end of this month. Posiva has not yet provided all the information required, Stuk said. New safety requirements published last December have also delayed the review. Assuming it completes its review in December, Stuk said it would submit its report to the Ministry of Employment and the Economy in January. The ministry will then forward the licence application and related materials for consideration by the government. The application also covers facilities for the final disposal of waste created during the operation and decommissioning of the encapsulation plant. The site for Posiva’s repository at Eurajoki near Olkiluoto was selected in 2000. The encapsulation plant will encase used fuel assemblies in steel and copper canisters ready to be embedded in clay within the repository’s network of tunnels. Built at a depth of 400-450 metres, the repository will dispose of 9000 tonnes of used fuel from the country’s four existing reactors – Olkiluoto 1 and 2 and Loviisa 1 and 2 – as well as the first-of-a-kind EPR under construction at Olkiluoto 3 and the planned fourth unit at Olkiluoto. Final disposal operations at Olkiluoto are expected to begin around 2020 and to last for some 100 years before the repository is sealed....
read more