Monday, October 5, 2009

Nuclear news roundup for 10/06/09

Siemens to sign off on Rosatom deal by December

SiemensLogoReuters reported Oct 1 that German industrial giant Siemens will seal the deal on its joint venture with Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear corporation, within the next two months. The move comes following the decision by Siemens last January to split with French state nuclear corporation Areva. Reuters quoted an Interfax report saying, “the probability of the agreement being signed [with Rosatom]this year is very high.”

Areva is currently negotiating the terms of the split which could result in a payoff to Siemens of two-to-three billion dollars by 2012. Even worse for Areva, Siemens is expected to invest the proceeds of payoff in the Rosatom deal to develop a new nuclear reactor that will compete head-to-head with the French firm’s 1,650 MW EPR design.

The expected deal with Rosatom, which will hold the majority stake in the joint venture, will also build new power plants with existing Russian designs and modernize units already in service. Siemens makes turbines which are very efficient and can installed to boost the electrical power output of power stations with older reactors.

As expected, Areva has complained that Siemens is disregarding the terms of its joint non-compete agreement. The Siemens / Rosatom joint venture would also represent a competitive challenge to Westinghouse and GE-Hitachi on the global market for new nuclear reactors.

Areva to spool up Georges Besse II by December; Eagle Rock licensed by 2011?

Areva logoDow Jones news wires reports that full testing of the new Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant in France is in its final phase and will be completed by next month. Full capacity at 7.5 million SWU/year is expected by 2016.

Areva’s design of the Georges Besse II plant is being copied for the firm’s planned Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility to be located in eastern Idaho in the U.S. Currently, the license application for the plant is under review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

At a meeting with NRC officials last week, Areva reportedly told the government regulators it wants its license by February 2011 to meet contract commitments due in 2014. The French firm said it has contracts in place representing more than half of the nuclear utilities in the U.S.

According to a report published by Ux Consulting on Oct 5, the NRC responded that they would try to meet the early 2011 date. However, the feds also said "their internal timing was dependent on the schedule set by the Licensing Board and various required hearings.” According to the UX report, the NRC said a the final decision will be issued no later than January 2012.

Meanwhile, Dale Klein, an NRC Commissioner, told a meeting of business and civic leaders in Idaho Falls, ID, two weeks ago, that he did not expect any unusual issues to arise which would prevent Areva from successfully completing the licensing process by 2011.

In New Mexico Louisiana Energy Services, which uses the same type of centrifuges, also is expected to spool up its plant by December with expected capacity by 2014 of over 6 million SWU.

Hyperion hypes new plant in the U.K.

Hyperion logoJohn Grizz Deal, the energetic CEO of Hyperion Power Generation, told Nuclear Engineering International (NEI) Oct 1that his firm plans to build a small reactor manufacturing plant in the U.K. Deal said the plant will be the “launch pad” for entry of its 27 MWe “pocket reactor” into the European market.

“This week we’ve made the decision to commit to building a manufacturing plant in the U.K.,” Deal said. He added that the plant’s supply chain will come from U.K. sources. NEI reported that Deal expects to locate the plant near the Sellafield site in Cumbria in northeast England. The plant would employ about 200 people when fully operational.

Deal said the first units would reach the commercial market in 2014 and that he has over 100 options for orders with scheduled deliveries in the 2018-2020 time frame.

The reactor is not yet licensed in the U.K. nor the U.S. Deal said his firm will submit applications for reactor design certification in both countries by 2011.

Italy signs nuclear pact with U.S.

ScajolaItaly and the U.S. have signed a five-year pact that will support construction of up to a dozen reactors at a cost of $3-4 billion each. U.S. firms will be able to compete for contracts to build the power stations. U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Italian Energy Minister Claudio Scajola (right) told reporters at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh Sept 29 . . .

“Italy is restarting its nuclear energy again. It has aggressive goals to decrease carbon emissions.”

A side agreement was signed between Italy’s Finmeccanica and Westinghouse to develop designs for Italian reactors. GE-Hitachi is also expected to bid on Italian jobs. However, the first agreement, already in place, takes a 12.5% stake by an Italian utility in a new Areva EPR being built in France. Scajola said it plans to have the first domestic unit in revenue service by 2018.

San Antonio CPS Energy to take 20% stake in STP

CPS energy logoSan Antonio, TX, municipal utility CPS Energy is reported to be near a formal decision to take a 20% stake in the construction of NRG’s South Texas Project Units 3 & 4. The initial commitment of $400 million, despite being itself a large figure, represents a commitment to just half of what was to have been a 40% stake in the two new ABWR 1,350 MW reactors.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro reportedly backed out of the plan to take a 40% stake because of fears of cost over runs in construction of the new reactors. Had he stayed with the original plan, CPS Energy would have kept rates low for San Antonio customers by using 20% of the power and re-selling the other 20% at at profit.

CPS General Manager Steve Barley told local newspapers the recession played a significant role in the decision to scale back to a 20% share. Rate increases associated with building the plant, in the current economic environment, have to be kept within 5% every other year. He said the utility couldn’t come up with a feasible plan to hit that number due to declining revenues from lower electricity usage due to the recession.

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