Rolls Royce plans new nuclear plants with EDF
Nuclear engineering firm Rolls Royce will enter into joint ventures with EDF to build four new Areva EPR nuclear power plants in the U.K. The firms have set a goal of having the first unit enter revenue service by 2017 and have all four generating power by 2025. At 1,650 MW each the plan represents over 6 GWe of nuclear powered electricity.
The deal is part of an ongoing shift from manufacturing nuclear reactors for the U.K. nuclear submarine fleet to targeting the civilian reactor market. Rolls Royce set up its commercial nuclear division in July 2008.
The firm will focus on development and supervision of the reactor component supply chain. In a statement, Rolls Royce said, “The agreement covers engineering and technical support during pre-and-post construction phases.”
Rolls Royce also announced it will build a manufacturing center to make components for new nuclear reactors. It will get support from the U.K. government’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Center.
The U.K. is committed to building as many as 11 new reactors to replace units that will close over the next two decades. Also, as part of its response to global warming, the U.K. government is shifting resources to pay for the new nuclear plants from commitments for new coal fired power plants.
Russia and France plan fast reactors
Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear energy corporation, and the French Commission on Atomic Energy have drafted an agreement to increase their joint work on fast reactor technologies. Rosatom made the announcement following a Sept 16 meeting between Rosatom CEO Sergei Kiriyenko (right) and French Commission Chair Bernard Bigot.
The scientific agreement adds to a number of relationships between the two agencies. The work scope includes developing new reactor technologies, nuclear fuel, and related aspects, such as safety. Bigot said the French government has an objective of launching its fast breeder reactor program in 2012 with a demonstration plant being operational by 2020. Both countries have indicated their so-called Generation IV reactors will be fast reactors.
In the U.S. GE-Hitachi is pursuing development of a fast reactor code named ‘Prism.” It is based on the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR), a sodium-cooled system, developed at Argonne West at the Idaho National Laboratory in the 1990s. At the Brave New Climate blog, authors Barry Brook and Steve Kirsch have a briefing on fast reactors that explains the technology (large graphic), history, and prospects for development.
In the category of "my oh my how things have changed," some analyst point out that, ironically, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, who endorsed nuclear energy in an NYT OP ED a few weeks ago, was one of the leading critics of the IFR speaking out against it in a 1994 speech on the Senate floor.
Turkey’s nuclear deal with Russia still on hold
The nuclear contract to develop Turkey’s first nuclear reactor in Mersin’s Akkuyu district on the country’s southern Mediterranean coast is still in limbo. Energy Minister Taner Yildz (left) said in late September a decision could be made in late November. He said the government is continuing to hold talks with the only bidder which is Russia’s Rosatom.
Initially, the deal was held up because Rosatom proposed to sell electricity from the plant at $0.21/KwHr. Electricity from natural gas sells in Turkey for $0.08/KwHr. After some arm twisting, and a visit by Russian Premier Vladimir Putin earlier this year, the price was dropped to about $0.15/KwHr. However, another issue has emerged which could further delay the deal.
Talks between the two nations are now focused on how Russia will be a reliable supplier of fuel for Turkey’s nuclear program. Turkey wants to develop 4-5 GWe of nuclear powered electricity not only to reduce dependence on natural gas, but also to be a regional supplier of electricity. The operational lifetime for as many as three reactors could be a minimum of 40 years.
Turkey’s cabinet is said to be concerned whether the Russians will be capable and willing to supply fuel for a program that could last a lot longer. The revenue stream is of particular interest to the cabinet. It estimates that while the reactors could cost $15-20 billion, if all three are built, the revenue from them over 40 years could be in the range of $100 billion.
Not only does Turkey want to make sure it can get all the nuclear fuel it needs for the Russian built reactors, it also wants to make sure the Russians don’t try to dip their buckets in the revenue stream. The initial agreement with the Russians for sale of nuclear power only covers the first 15 years of operation. After that contract expires, a new round of negotiations will be required to set prices. Some give-and-take is expected between Turkey and Rosatom regarding the huge revenues that will be associated with the new reactors.
Port Lepreau refurbishment delayed
The turbines that fell off a barge into to brine of the harbor at St. John, N.B. last year have been dried out, sent back to Siemens in the U.K., cleaned up, and safely delivered to the Port Lepreau plant. They will add 25 MW of power to the plant’s output. However, Atomic Energy Canada (AECL) new problems.
A spokesman for the nuclear agency said that replacement of all 380 fuel channels, feeder tubes, and other components was taking longer than expected due to custom tool and die work needed to make parts. The $1.4 billion refurbishment is expected to extend operations of the single reactor by 25 to 30 years.
The delays have generated lots of political heat. New Brunswick province Premier Shawn Graham said in late September he is pressing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper for answers. AECL has reportedly told provincial energy officials the project, which was supposed to be done in October 2009, will be delayed until February 2011.
Utility spokesman Jack Keir told the Canadian Press Sept 27, AECL was “unprepared for the complexity of the job.” He also said it is costing the utility $1 million (CDN)/day to buy replacement power while the reactor is offline.
Germany’s nuclear plants get a new lease on life
The victory of Chancellor Andrea Merkel’s new coalition in the elections held in September saved the nation’s 17 nuclear reactors from extinction. However, the plan to save them has threatened to re-ignite the anti-nuclear movement in Germany and also set off a round of sometimes contentious negotiations about taxes on profits from the plants.
Despite having lost at the polls, German anti-nuclear activists vowed to demonstrate outside the offices of Merkel’s Christian Democrats. They also vowed to make the nuclear issue the centerpiece of provincial elections next May. Like the main character in the ‘Terminator’ movie, anti-nuclear greens said they’d be back.
The biggest problem is actually inside the pro-nuclear government. It is how much to tax profits from the completely depreciated nuclear plants. In short, they are cash cows and some in the German government want to milk them.
A key goal is to redirect what is seen as a corporate windfall into renewable energy. Merkel proposed such a plan in Sept 2008 and now is in a position to execute it.
According to an analysis by a German think tank, the plants could earn as much as (euro)1 million a day in profits for every year their operation life is extended as a result of the change in government policy. Had Merkel lost, seven of the 17 plants would have been shut down next year and the remainder by 2020.
German utilities are divided over how much new tax to accept. The reason is it isn’t clear how many of the 17 reactors will stay in service beyond 2020. Two may cease operation as soon as 2013. The utilities don’t want a “one size fits all” tax plan from the government.
Germany has to build new reactors
Also, keeping the current reactors could be a barrier to building new ones. Work would have to begin now to build replacement reactors to be in service by 2020. Otherwise, Germany would face the same threat of dependence on Russian natural gas it avoided in the recent election-based rescue of its nuclear fleet. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar will not be able to power Germany’s export driven manufacturing sector. Sooner or later Germany will have to face the prospect of building new reactors. It cannot revert to coal given the increasing emphasis on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
In any case, Chancellor Merkel is reportedly in no hurry to resolve these issues. She wants to put off any decisions on taxes or reactor decommissioning and replacements until after a May 2010 election in North Rhine-Wstphalia. According to media analyses, she has to retain seats in parliament from that state to maintain her majority in the upper house.
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