Thursday, December 18, 2008

Did the nuclear renaissance bloom in 2008?

The answer is yes with some caveats

In 2008 the nuclear renaissance finally began to bloom. In a six week period spanning September and October of this year, six plants have filed COL applications with the NRC and seven filed in the preceding six months for a total of 13 applications and 19 reactors. Add to that the five applications and eight reactors that filed in 2007 and you don't just have a "renaissance. "

What you have, collectively, is a spectacular statement of confidence in the future of nuclear energy. There was a lot of other good news for the nuclear industry in 2008. Here are some highlights listed by the calendar month.


The U.K. announced projects for four new reactors worth at least $4 billion each at sites in southern England and longer range plans for as many as 18 new reactors to slow the rate of increase in greenhouse gases.

The first week of the year was a busy time at the NRC. Areva filed for design certification of the American version of its new 1,600 MW EPR reactor. Mitsubishi filed for design certification of its 1,700 MW APWR reactor. As many as four utilities are lined up to reference the EPR in their COL applications (Calvert Cliffs, Nine Mile, Blue Bend, and Ameren) and one utility in Texas, Luminant, will later in 2008 file its COL for two reactors using the Mitsubishi design.

Texas is turning out to be the U.S. leader when it comes to new nuclear builds rivaling China in total megawatts in the pipeline. NRG, Exelon, and Luminant are driving the effort to supply electricity from nuclear energy to the nation's fossil fuel capital.


Detroit Edison announced it will file a COL for FERMI III and will eventually succeed in convincing the Michigan legislature to protect the utility's rate base in order to secure funding the for the plant.

Books by authors Gwyneth Cravens,"The Power to Save the World" and William Turner "Terrestrial Energy," which explain the benefits of nuclear energy to the general reader, are well received by the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.


In a record breaking day two utilities file COL applications with the NRC for four reactors in Georgia and South Carolina. Southern and South Carolina Electric and Gas both reference the Westinghouse AP1000 reactor design.

Bruce Power rescues Energy Alberta's vision of twin nuclear reactors for the Alberta Tar Sands region but also has an eye on shipping electricity to U.S. markets in Montana. It references the as yet completed design of a new reactor from AECL.

Italy returns to nuclear energy after banning it and decommissioning its plants in the 1980s. While politicians are always more optimistic than engineers, utilities in Italy think the country will break ground for a new nuclear power plant within the next five-to-seven years.


Areva chooses Idaho for its new $2.4 billion uranium enrichment plant following a nearly year-long quest for a suitable site. Later in 2008 Louisiana Energy Services will announce it plans to double the size of its National Enrichment Plant which is already under construction in New Mexico.

GE-Hitachi's laser enrichment process, still in the R&D stage, got a boost from a $124 million, 24% stake by Cameco. The Canadian firm will also supply uranium to the project. A commercial facility equal in size to the Areva plant in Idaho is planned for Wilmington, NC.


Strathmore, a uranium junior mining firm from Riverton, WY, scores a deal with Japanese giant conglomerate Sumitomo to mine uranium at the Roca Honda mine in the Grants district of New Mexico and also build a mill there. The resulting yellowcake will be shipped to Sumitomo's utility customers in Japan.


Rolls Royce, which for decades has built nuclear reactor components for the U.K. naval submarine fleet, announced it would enter the commercial nuclear reactor business. Plans are in the works to partner with EDF on the U.K. nuclear build.


The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) revealed plans for revival of its nuclear destiny at the Bellefonte site in Alabama with two new AP1000 reactors. Completion of two partially built reactors at that site is also being considered. In November TVA also announced that its $1.8 billion investment in the restart of the Browns Ferry plant in 2007 had been paid off in just eight months. The payback period originally had been expected to take eight years.


India entered the nuclear renaissance when the Nuclear Suppliers Group lifted a three decades old ban on selling uranium to that country, The approval came after India pledged to keep its civilian reactors under IAEA inspection and to uphold a voluntary moratorium on testing atomic weapons. The U.S. Senate also ratified India's nuclear deal opening the way for U.S. firms to sell nuclear reactor technology and fuel to India.


China's Huaneng Group launched the commercial implementation of its pebble bed modular reactor nuclear power project at a plant in Shandong Province. It is expected to have an installed capacity of 200 MW. Designs for small reactors are coming off the drawing boards at firms like NuScale Power, Hyperion, and Toshiba. The NRC is paying attention. Last July Chairman Dale Klein gave a speech asking the nuclear industry for input on licensing issues.

The nuclear supply chain ramped up with twin announcements of major new manufacturing centers for long lead time components by Areva and Northrop Grumman at Newport News, VA, and by Westinghouse and Shaw Group at Batobn Rouge, LA. Both projects are worth over $300 million each in new factory facilities.

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1 comment:

Carl said...

I would add, in February: The National Academies of Science published their report, Review of DOE's Nuclear Energy Research and Development Program, and specifically Chapter 4, The Advanced Fuel Cycle Initiative and Global Nuclear Energy Partnership Programs,
My complaint with the report: The 4 industry GNEP teams were preparing to release the results of their exaustive reports to DOE with summaries to the Public. The above NAS report is critical of AFCI and GNEP without the benefit of first having read the industry reports. The negativity and cost scare of the NAS report spoiled Congress and AFCI/GNEP funding collapsed.
The industry teams have done such great work - I hope that someone will read and study these works.
Best regards,