Saturday, December 19, 2009

GE Hitachi makes progress on new reactor

coolhandnukeAn exclusive post at CoolHandNuke

After high profile setbacks, and false starts, some bright spots point to potential for success for ESBWR

Tractor pull anyone?

Bringing a new nuclear reactor design to market is like competing in a county fair tractor pull. A lot of horsepower is applied in a very short period of time to move a huge weight over a measured, but very significant, distance.

The parallel process for a new reactor is that once the design comes off the drawing boards, or out of the CAD program, as much as 8,000 electronic pages of text and drawings must be hauled over to the Nuclear Regulator Commission for review. Once there, the applicant must answer hundreds of questions, often more than once, and pay for the privilege of getting the safety analysis done at rates approaching $300/hr.

GE Hitachi's ESBWR reactor has had a rough couple of years, but the firm is now making progress. It has a firm date from the NRC for completion of the safety evaluation report by 2011. The first orders may come in the U.K. by 2015. Detroit Edison is also moving ahead with plans for the FERMI III project in Michigan. Overall, it's longer term prospects are looking better.

Read the full story exclusively at CoolhandNuke, a web portal for jobs in the nuclear industry and a whole lot more.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Want to buy a used reactor company from Canada?

Harper government offers AECL to the highest bidder

AECL SymbolAfter a series of public setbacks, Atomic Energy Limited Canada (AECL) has come to the end of the road. This week the government of Canada put the crown corporation up for sale to the highest bidder. The question is whether anyone will buy it.

Lisa Raitt,, the natural resources minister in the Harper government, said that only the reactor division is being sold. The research division, which includes the troubled Chalk River medical isotope reactor, will be retained by the government.

For her part, Ms. Raitt chirped happily to the news media about AECL needing “strategic investors” while reducing the “financial risk” to Canada’s taxpayers. News media reports put the price of the sale at an estimated $300 million.

The government has characterized ACEL, metaphorically speaking, like a high mileage car with serious maintenance issues. By offering it for sale positioned as a "beater," the politicians in Otawa set up a self-fulfilling prophecy of "see I told you it wasn't worth anything." In fact, the government repeatedly undercut AECL by failing to pump for domestic deals, and the jobs that would come with them, and by not intervening early on in high profile projects that showed signs of heading south.

No go in Ontario

In 2009 AECL lost any shred of having a viable future when it could not close a deal on its home ground of Ontario for new reactors at Darlington. The provincial government dithered endlessly over cost issues of its own making, and then indefinitely postponed a decision on the $20 billion plus deal. AECL’s prospects did not improve as other provinces expressed a distinct lack of enthusiasm for new, large reactor projects.

What’s mind boggling about Canada’s mishandling the AECL is that it flies in the face of the nation’s need for carbon emission free energy technologies. In a conservative political rush to depend on the “free market” to supply solutions, the Harper government has simply signaled denial of its obligation to respond to the threat of global warming. The government has confused the necessity of resolving mismanagement at AECL with its accountability to deal with a much larger problem. Instead, it is literally throwing the baby out with the bath water.

Port Lepreau project still underwater

screwupAnother black eye for AECL, which falls in the “mismanagement” column, is the enormous cost overrun being racked up in New Brunswick at the Port Lepreau reactor project. AECL has reportedly told provincial energy officials the $1.4 billion (CDN) project, which was supposed to be done in October 2009, could increase in cost by as much as 50% and will be delayed by six months to a year.

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. New Brunswick provincial officials have repeatedly petitioned the federal government to make good on AECL’s cost overrun. Minister Raitt has not yet responded officially to their claim for compensation.

Discussions about a new reactor there have been put on hold. Once the Port Lepreau reactor refurbishment is done, New Brunswick will sell the power station to Hydro-Quebec for $4.4 billion (CDN). However, Hydro-Quebec will not assume the debt, or cost over runs, from the current AECL refurbishment. Instead, the plant will become a subsidiary and retain its own set of business books.

No play in the western provinces

Athabasca_Oil_Sands_mapSaskatchewan, which is a world leader in export of uranium, is also thinly populated, and said recently it would not be proceeding with a nuclear reactor project. Alberta, which has a looming energy deficit of over 9 GWe, said it could take or leave a new reactor project despite continuing interest by Bruce Power to build twin AECL 1,100 MW ACR1000 reactors in the tar sands region.

The idea of using a nuclear reactor to produce steam and electricity in the tar sands region (map right) has been batted about since the 1980s. In 2007 oil companies operating in northern Alberta dismissed proposals for a reactor there saying the time frame for building one was too far in the future to be meaningful.

End of the line for CANDU?

AECL’s CANDU reactor technology is unique, and is unlikely to be carried on by any firm purchasing the company. The potential bidders all have their own reactor technologies. Areva has a 1,600 MW EPR. GDE-Hitachi has both the 1,350 MW ABWR and the 1,520 MW ESBWR, and Westinghouse has the 1,150 MW AP1000.

end of the lineAny of these firms buying AECL would likely have the idea in mind of getting the CANDU technology off the market as a potential competitive in India, China, and other developing countries interested in new reactors.

On the other hand, nuclear engineers working for AECL might find new job opportunities if they are interested in reactor projects in China, India, Finland, and France.

It is a sad end for the reactor company and a sobering signal about the role of government in developing and sustaining the nuclear energy industry either on its own ground or for export.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

EPRI sponsors forum on small reactors

greenlightIs Nuclear Power Green Power?

Small Modular Reactors and the New Nuclear Era

It’s part of a series on clean technologies.

On Thursday, January 21, 2010, is the next installment of the Harvard Club of San Francisco's Cleantech Thought Leader Series, sponsored by Alston & Bird, LLP.

Eric Wesoff, Senior Analyst at Greentech Media Research, will present findings from his forthcoming report “Small Modular Nuclear Reactors: The Economies of Small” and will moderate the discussion and Q&A with industry leaders.

This time the group will meet at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in Palo Alto (EPRI web site map page) for an evening presentation and panel discussion on small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). Meet the leaders commercializing the next generation of nuclear-generated electricity through smaller, scalable nuclear reactor technology.

Online registration here: http://harvardclubsf.org/events/index.asp#781 ..

Cleantech Thought Leader Series
Harvard Club of San Francisco / Silicon Valley
January 21, 2010 | 6:00-8:30 pm
Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), Palo Alto

Confirmed panelists

Dr. Paul Lorenzini – Co-Founder & CEO of NuScale Power, an Oregon-based startup aiming to commercialize “small” 45 MWe multi-application nuclear reactors based on a light water reactor (LWR) concept developed out of a DOE-sponsored research collaboration. NuScale aims to replace economy of scale with “economy of replication,” offering combinable, modular reactors that are completely factory fabricated.

Michael Shepherd – VP Business Development – B&W Modular Nuclear Energy, LLC, The Babcock & Wilcox Company (B&W). B&W provides design, engineering, manufacturing, construction and facility management services to the nuclear, renewable and fossil power industries. B&W also makes the B&W mPowerTM, a scalable, modular 125 MWe reactor.

Maurice Gunderson – Venture capitalist with CMEA Capital and Senior Partner in the firm’s Energy & Materials group where he specializes in thermodynamics and energy technologies. Maurice also sits on the board of NuScale Power. Prior to joining CMEA, Maurice co-founded Nth Power, one of the country’s first VC firms devoted to energy technology.

Jeff Hamel – Senior Project Manager in the Advanced Nuclear Technology Program at the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). Jeff overseas research on deployment of advanced light water reactor (LWR) nuclear plants, development of the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP) GEN IV technology, and technical and commercial support for integrated spent fuel management strategy.

Meet with the pioneers and learn how Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) are making nuclear-generated electricity safe and affordable.

Online registration here: http://harvardclubsf.org/events/index.asp#781 .

Prior Coverage on this blog

  • Nov 21, 2009 – Will the nuclear renaissance start with small reactors

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Besnainou throws hat in ring for ANS president

Areva CEO brings his message about the facts of nuclear energy to the run

Jacques Besnainou2 Jacques Besnainou, CEO of Areva in the U.S., (left) is running for president of the American Nuclear Society (ANS). He brought his vision of what he would do if elected to Idaho Falls, ID, on Dec 15 where he spoke to the Idaho Section of ANS. It is the largest and most active section in the professional society.

Besnainou began with his view that the facts of nuclear energy are on the side of the renewal of the industry through the nuclear renaissance. Despite an emphasis on a technically complex subject, Besnainou is way too funny to be mistaken for just another corporate suit. He populates his talk with witty asides that, in the role reversal of the decade, nuclear engineers are now heroes and financial wizards are now bums. The French native also said that he suffers a “strong Brooklyn accent.”

In the serious side of his talk to the 60 people attending the ANS dinner meeting, Besnainou laid out his view of “energy security with nuclear power” as the theme of his tenure as CEO and what impels him to seek the leadership role at ANS. The key idea is that energy security for a sustainable world depends on nuclear energy.

He points out the 1973 oil embargo pushed France into massive commitment to nuclear energy. France country now has the cheapest electricity in Europe and very little of it comes from fossil sources. This history drives Areva’s operations.

“Areva’s entire business model is based on carbon emission free energy sources.”

Five stubborn facts about nuclear energy

Besnainou, who is an American citizen, is fond of quoting John Adams, the U.S. 2nd president, as part of a message emphasizing the facts about nuclear energy. Adams said,

In Congress July 4 1776“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

Taking the literal meaning from Adams, Besnainou says there are five “stubborn facts” about nuclear energy that need to be brought front-and-center to the attention of the American public.

  1. Nuclear power provides 20% of U.S. electricity 24 x 7 at 90% capacity
  2. Nuclear power provides 70% of carbon emission free electricity in U.S.
  3. Uranium is well distributed throughout the world. No one is going to war over uranium the way we do over oil
  4. Nuclear energy is competitive relative to natural gas and coal. Climate legislation, which will put a financial penalty on CO2 emissions, will make it even more competitive.
  5. 5. Nuclear energy supports jobs, Thousands of them are required to build a new reactor. Hundreds are required to run them.

Vision for ANS

televisionDuring the Q&A session Besnainou was asked to describe his leadership vision for ANS. He said the American Nuclear Society must be more vocal about the facts concerning nuclear energy. It must get engaged in dialog on television across America.

"There's lots of 'green stuff' on TV. Where is the TV coverage of the story about nuclear energy?"

Asked about the Obama administration’s ambivalent views on nuclear energy, Besnainou replied that is it is not enough to leave the industry to fend for itself. He added a note of urgency to his call for rapid and sustained investments in nuclear energy in the U.S.

"We must do this now or we will be losers relative to what China and India are doing with nuclear energy."

He also said that when it comes to making a case for nuclear energy, there is more to it than just carbon emission free energy. The nation’s national security interests are in the mix.

"If we want to control proliferation, we must be leaders in nuclear energy and players in the world export markets for these technologies."

Transparency at Areva as a corporate value

transparencyTwo decades ago, Besnainou says, the nuclear energy field was a closed world. Because of the cold war, and the threat of nuclear weapons, even civilian nuclear engineers didn't talk about their jobs in public. When Anne Lauvergeon became CEO 10 years ago, she sought to transform Areva into an open organization.

She went so far as to put web cams in the plant at La Hague. “It was boring,” Besnainou says, but it made the point. He said Areva’s commitment to transparency translates into how it operates in this country.

“That's why Areva in the U.S. has a blog. It is also why Areva has reached out to nuclear bloggers. Areva has a blog to tell the world about nuclear energy.”

An interesting side story told by Besnainou is that in 2009 Areva invited Greenpeace in France to visit La Hague and take a tour. Initially, the group accepted, but when word got out they were coming, the group cancelled saying it couldn't be seen by the public actually talking with Areva at the La Hague plant. He notes that another interesting fact is that the former heads of Greenpeace in the U.K. and U.S. now support nuclear energy.

“It is now cool to be a nuclear engineer. There are two reasons. The first is the industry's safety record. The second is the sustained rate at which nuclear reactors have generated electricity, usually above 90% on average in terms of uptime.”

Positive political change for nuclear energy

600px-US_Congressional_Seal_svgThese positive changes are not lost on the nation’s political leaders. He see the the mood about nuclear energy is changing in Washington, DC, especially in the Senate.

Besnainou said, "U.S. elected officials now recognize energy security in America must include nuclear power. The security of future generations depend on it."

In his view the Obama administration cannot get 60 votes for climate change legislation without Republican votes.

“We need bipartisan support for new nuclear reactors. The reason is there is a 10-year cycle from the initial commitment to build a reactor to having one operating. It takes four years just to get the license. The total period spans more than two presidential terms which creates political risk. There must be a sustained commitment in the U.S. for nuclear energy to address this issue.”

Besnainou praised the Idaho congressional delegation for their support for nuclear energy and the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility. He also highlighted the role of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) "which is re-inventing the future of nuclear energy" through its work on advanced nuclear reactor designs and nuclear fuel testing.

What comes after Yucca Mountain?

yucca_mountain_aerial_viewThe Q&A session then turned to the issue of what to do with spent nuclear fuel. With Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev) successfully spiking future funding for NRC’s license review of Yucca Mountain, Besnainou was asked what his vision is for recycling spent fuel. He said he is an advocate for nuclear fuel recycling.

"Failure to recycle spent nuclear fuel is like buying a six pack of beer, drinking half of one bottle, and then throwing the rest away."

His policy vision for spent nuclear fuel recycling rests on the premise the U.S. must have a clear policy not to continue the "once through" system for fuel.

[ See World Nuclear News "processing of used nuclear fuel" for more information on nuclear fuel recycling.]

Where will the money come from in an era of financial crisis? Besnainou says the U.S. must decide as a matter of policy that it will tap into the waste fund accumulated to pay for Yucca Mountain and use this money to build a recycling capacity to produce new fuel. The money is there to manage spent fuel so it just needs to be used in a different way.

"I am optimistic that it will happen. There is no other solution. Come to France to see for yourself. It works."

Besnainou should know. He headed up an Areva fuel recycling operation for four years.

Update on Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility

Uranium enrichmentIn his talk, Besnainou provided an update on the status of the $2.4 billion, 3 million SWU, uranium enrichment plant Areva plans to build 18 miles west of Idaho Falls.

The draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility expected to be released by the NRC in March 2010. Areva expects the license for facility will be issued in the second quarter 2011. The company has applied to NRC for exemption for early site work on non-safety related systems. The first cascade will spool up in 2014 with full capacity of 3 million SWU by 2017.

The plant will process uranium for U.S. utilities and also support product for exports. For instance, Areva expects to build reactors in the UAE, India, and China, and could supply them with nuclear fuel from the Idaho facility.

Preliminary site work is now underway. There will be 1,000 construction jobs starting in 2011 and 350 permanent jobs to run the plant which will begin supplying product to customers in 2014. A supplier day for vendors is being scheduled for March 2010. Contact Grow Idaho Falls for details and updates.

Sam-ShakirIn response to a question about nonproliferation and uranium enrichment technology, Sam Shakir, the executive in charge of enrichment services for Areva, (right) told the group . .

“Areva's centrifuge technology is owned by Enrichment Technology Corp ETC and is installed as a "black box" at our plants. Areva does not control the enrichment technology. The centrifuges are assembled by ETC employees. The result is that Areva can operate the enrichment plant, but not know how to build the centrifuges from scratch. This is a nonproliferation measure which comes to us from Urenco's European partners and it works.”

Update on Areva EPR reactor

Besnainou said the Areva EPR reactor design certification at NRC is on schedule for completion in 2011. He noted that, "Areva has answered every inquiry (RAIs) on time."

epr logoAreva is building the 1,600 MW EPRs in Finland, France, and China. Besnainou said EPRs are being built for 60 years of service. He says this is a source of competitive advantage.

“We will be able to predict their costs for the entire six decade period.”

A key challenge for nuclear energy in the U.S. is that it must revive its supply chain. Besnainou said Areva is building a factory at Newport News, VA, in partnership with Northrop Grumman for manufacturing of nuclear reactor components. It will be operational in four years and will create 500 jobs.

Areva is planning to supply an EPR reactor for the Calvert Cliffs site in Maryland and has predicted it will break ground in 2012.

Green projects

wind-turbine-flagBesnainou also mentioned some of Areva’s other projects in the U.S. He reported that Areva is building 12 biomass plants in the U.S. and has plans for offshore wind farms similar to one being built in Germany.

The towers will support 5 MW generators and have blades with lengths comparable to the wingspan of a huge jetliner. He said the U.S. great lakes are candidates for these kinds of wind farms.

& &

The image of the whirling blades of a wind farm are a suitable metaphorical image for Besnainou’s quick mind and rhetorical style. He deftly handles a lot of ideas and gets them out quickly to his audience. With a background in science, mathematics, engineering, and business, and being on the sunny side of 50, he’s a great candidate for ANS president.

Prior coverage on this blog

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Monday, December 14, 2009

A Blueprint for Nuclear Power Expansion

Nuclear power must be tripled globally to make a difference in reducing growth of greenhouse gases

Nuclear power may be a critical component in America’s energy future, but its capacity as a reliable energy source is dependent on both technical and institutional factors.

That is the assessment provided in a new research paper co-authored by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Matthew Bunn (right) and Martin B. Malin, executive director of the Managing the Atom Project at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

The article, titled “Enabling a Nuclear Revival—And Managing Its Risks,” appears in the Fall 2009 edition of Innovations, a quarterly journal published by MIT Press.

The authors argue that for nuclear power to make a significant contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, its global capacity will have to be tripled by 2050.

“To achieve this level of growth, nuclear energy must become dramatically more attractive to utilities, governments, and publics around the world,” Bunn and Malin write.

“This would require reducing costs, preventing any substantial accident, avoiding terrorist sabotage, finding politically sustainable solutions to nuclear-waste management, and ensuring that nuclear energy does not contribute (and is not seen as contributing) to the spread of nuclear weapons to proliferating states or terrorist groups.”

The article explores each of these challenges, and lays out a case for a potentially vibrant nuclear future.

“New steps to ensure safety, security, waste management, nonproliferation, and progress toward disarmament will be essential to success. All of these will require close international cooperation and stronger international institutions.

In particular, achieving the safe, secure, and peaceful growth of nuclear energy will require an IAEA with more money, more authority, more information, more technology, and more support from the U.N. Security Council,” the authors conclude.

A link to the complete article is provided in the citation below.

"Enabling a Nuclear Revival—and Managing Its Risks"

Journal Article, Innovations, volume 4, issue 4, pages 173-191 Fall 2009

Authors: Matthew Bunn, Associate Professor of Public Policy; Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom; Co-Principal Investigator, Energy Research, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment (ERD3) Policy Project, Martin B. Malin, Executive Director, Project on Managing the Atom

Matthew Bunn and Martin B. Malin examine the conditions needed for nuclear energy to grow on a scale large enough for it to be a significant part of the world’s response to climate change. They consider the safety, security, nonproliferation, and waste management risks associated with such growth and recommend approaches to managing these risks.

Bunn and Malin argue that although technological solutions may contribute to nuclear expansion in the coming decades, in the near term, creating the conditions for large-scale nuclear energy growth will require major international institutional innovation.

This essay appears in the special issue of the quarterly journal Innovations on energy and climate solutions titled "Energy for Change." Read the entire issue here.

Full Text of report here "Enabling a Nuclear Revival—and Managing Its Risks" (512K PDF)

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Idaho Falls energy advocacy group elects new board members

Greg Crockett named President for second term

Idaho Falls, ID. December 14, 2009 – At its December Board meeting, the Partnership for Science and Technology elected officers and board members for 2010.

Officers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Greg Crockett (right), a partner in the law firm, Hopkins, Roden, Crockett, Hansen and Hoopes was named president for a second term;

John Kotek, a partner in Gallatin Public Affairs was elected vice –president;

Robb Chiles, president of the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce, was elected to serve a second term as Secretary/Treasurer.

Board Members

New board members include; Amy Lientz, Director of Communications & Public Affairs at the INL, Phillip Gray, Manager of S.M. Stoller, Brad Frazee, D&D Manager at North Wind Inc. John Hoyrup, Business Manager of the Carpenters Local 808 was elected to a second three- year term.

Founding board member Cindy Smith-Putnam, Director of Business, Marketing & Community Relations at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center completed her three -year term.

About The Partnership for Science and Technology

The Partnership for Science and Technology is a non-profit, public interest organization advocating for advancement of science, energy and technology and providing accurate and timely information on related regional activities including those at the Idaho national laboratory.

For more information log on to the web site or on Facebook at

PST Goals

  • Enhance public awareness and understanding of science and technology.
  • Promote new missions at the Idaho National Laboratory and throughout the region that are in the public interest.
  • Promote nuclear and other clean energy research and development in support of national energy security.
  • Promote support and funding for Idaho National Laboratory clean up and research projects.
  • Raise awareness of the economic benefits of the science, energy and technology industries to the region.

For more information, contact Lane Allgood, Executive Director, at 208-313-4166





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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Who speaks for nuclear energy at COP15?

The climate change conference seems to be full of political fig leafs

Fig LeavesAs someone who has read as much of the coverage of the UN climate change conference as I can stand, I come away with a feeling that nuclear energy will get little positive attention this coming week. The agenda includes visits by President Obama and the heads of other nations to try to produce some political commitments from the meeting. A new international treaty on climate change seems out of the question.

What’s left is skepticism that COP15 will wind up no different than any other diplomatic conclave without binding agreements. Political commitments are only good until the next election and sometimes not even that long. Plus, there are so many voices at the conference that one wonders whether any of them will be heard. Then there are also a reported 5,000 journalists covering the meeting. The signal-to-noise ratio leaves much to be desired.

To give you an idea of how simplistic some of the thinking is at the conference, consider that the Washington Post reported Dec 11 that a 180 page conference document intended to guide the final lap of discussions was boiled down to just six pages. The words “nuclear energy” are nowhere to be found in that text. The newspaper also reported that “the current climate targets outlined by both the industrialized and major emerging economies fall short . . .”

Where is decarbonization?

greenhouse_gasesHere’s my logic. If you want to pursue a strategy of decarbonization, and you don’t want to sacrifice economic development goals, then the nations of the world have only one form of electricity generation for base load demand to use to make that switch in one generation. Nuclear energy is the answer. Need evidence? Take a look at what India and China are doing.

Climate change is a challenge to the survival of the human species. We created this mess and, if we don’t want to turn into crispy critters on the only planet we have, then we have also have to fix it. To use an analogy from the military, you don’t fight a war with the weapons you wish you had, you fight it with the ones you’ve got.

Al Gore can preach all he wants about renewables, but battery storage technologies to support solar and wind aren’t likely to change in the next decade or so. In short, his plan, however popular with the press and green groups, is a sure fire path to reducing economic growth if relied on as a sole strategy to achieve significant change from fossil fuels.

The nuclear energy industry has some serious challenges ahead to explain itself in these terms. On the other hand, the big U.S. utilities are realists who see uprates to nuclear reactors as being competitive responses to combined cycle natural gas plants. None of the nuclear utilities are going to commit to building a new nuclear reactor until the government stops its denial that it has an obligation to leverage the future of the industry with loan guarantees.

It will be interesting to hear what the U.S. delegation says this coming week about nuclear energy. We’re either going to get more political fig leafs or maybe some real straight talk about what it will take to reduce the growth of greenhouse gases. I’ll be listening. I hope you will too.

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Nuclear News Roundup for 12/13/09

UAE mega-nuclear deal gets put on on ice

ice_cubes The $40 billion deal for at least three and as many as five nuclear reactors to be built in the United Arab Emirates is on ice, and this time it is serious. According to a Dec 12 wire service report from Mumbai, India, an executive with a firm reportedly bidding on the project said the UAE has pushed back the award date from December 2009 to at least March 2010.

In a separate, but possibly related event, Dow Jones News Wires reported in the WSJ Nov 30 that plans by a US business trade mission to the UAE to discuss nuclear energy contracts have been pushed back by at least four months. Danny Sebright, president of the US-UAE business council also told Dow Jones the UAE has delayed picking a prime contractor for the project.

The WSJ reported that the UAE, which is composed of seven emirates, includes Dubai. That emirate turned the commercial real estate world on its head in November when the government owned firm Dubai World announced it was seeking to reschedule $60 billion in debt payments for at least six months. The major impact is on banks in the UK, but the US stock market also took a hit following the announcement.

While each emirate has a some degree of autonomy, the economic health of the nation as a whole is impacted by the financial crisis. The WSJ reported that the credit rating of the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank was placed on a 'credit watch' with negative implications due to the debt crisis at Dubai World.

Three large global consortiums are on the short list for the bid. They include a team from South Korea (KEPCO), one from France (Areva/EDF/GDF), one with US and Japanese firms (GE-Hitachi).

Reuters reports that the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation is unhappy with the price of the bids and has asked each team to sharpen their pencils. Reuters reported that the French team has “significantly reduced” its offer.

Turkey gives up on Russian nuclear deal

In what appeared to be a forgone outcome following an adverse court ruling, Turkey’s energy ministry announced Dec 9 that it is was abandoning its proposed deal with Russia for up to 4.8 GWe of nuclear power plants. The Turkish Electricity Trading Company said it was walking away from the deal with AtomStroyExport, the sole bidder on the project. Even Russian Premier Vladimir Putin’s efforts to personally seal the deal were thwarted despite a visit to Ankara earlier this year to offer incentives related to fossil fuel pipeline routes.

A lawsuit brought by an group of Turkish engineering contractors charged that the government energy ministry violated the terms of its own RFP by accepting a single bid on the project. While there had been expressions of interest by 13 firms when the tender was announced, all of them, except the Russians, back out when the energy ministry refused go grant an extension on the bid submission date to resolve legal and financial issues.

This is the latest in a series of failed attempts to build commercial nuclear reactors in Turkey. At least four separate projects have been started since 1970. All have stopped prior to award of contracts due to a combination of economic factors and environmental disputes. Turkey was still negotiating with the Russians over the price of electricity from the plant when the court ruling was issued last month.

US firms seeking deals with India

India US nuclear deal In a second trip in as many years, the US-India Business Council is headed for Mumbai for talks with the Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL). The trade mission, which is jointly headed up by Westinghouse, GE-Hitachi, the Nuclear Energy Institute and various agencies of the federal government, is bringing 50 nuclear energy executives to open up India’s nuclear market to American firms. The members of the trade mission are hoping for good results following the state visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the US last month.

GE-Hitachi (GEH) said it plans to source as much as 70% of its components from Indian firms according to a Dec 8 report by the Bloomberg wire service. GEH also hopes to capitalize on India’s lower costs to export nuclear power plant components to the US and Europe. A GEH executive told Bloomberg he thinks the cost to produce the parts by Indian firms could be half what they would cost elsewhere.

If successful, GEH would be going head-to-head with US nuclear manufacturing plants being built by Areva and Northrop Grumman at Newport News, VA; by Shaw/Westinghouse near Baton Rouge, LA; and, by Babcock & Wilcox at several locations in the Midwest. An Areva spokesman told a group of nuclear bloggers in a conference call Dec 11 that the firm plans to use the Virginia plant as a platform to support its global supply chain.

India has announced aggressive plans to add an estimated 20-30 GWe of nuclear energy to its electrical power grid by 2020 and double that number in the next two decades. The government has put out a series of statements containing its ambitious goals to produce new reactors. Whether it can meet them remains to be seen. Proposals for build an Indian factory to manufacture large forgings for nuclear power plants also contain ambitious goals, but some analysts think it could take up to a decade for the plant to be built and be able to reliably produce two-to-four reactor vessels a year.

A GEH executive told Bloomberg its best case scenario is to break ground for a US sourced reactor by 2012 with plans to enter revenue service by 2018. Russia and France have already inked deals for a combined total of six reactors.

India’s current nuclear reactor installed base is less than 5 GWe and is composed of aging CANDU and indigenous designs. A lack of uranium has put some of the reactors on half power.

India still has to develop a domestic legal infrastructure to allow commercial ownership of nuclear power plants and pass legislation related to indemnification, technology licensing, and guarantees for electricity rates for American firms to do business there.

Another issue that is hanging fire in relations with the US is a diplomatic wrangle over India’s right to reprocess fuel from commercial nuclear power plants. India has not signed the nuclear nonproliferation treaty.

Nuclear fuel news from Areva

Areva logoAreva said Dec 9 that the rotation of the first centrifuge cascade of its Georges Besse II uranium enrichment plant had taken place on the Tricastin site in southern France.

Georges Besse II will continue to operate while new centrifuge cascades are being installed and gradually brought online to supplement its production output, which is set to reach full capacity in 2016. The plant will comprise two enrichment units and produce 7.5 million separative work units (SWU) when it reaches full capacity.

The plant is the basis for design of the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility to be built near Idaho Falls, ID. The license application for that plant is now under review at the NRC and is expected to be approved sometime in 2011. The Idaho plant has an initial planned capacity of about 3.3 million SWU. It will spin its first centrifuges in 2014. Areva has filed an amendment to its license application requesting it be allowed to double the capacity of the plant in future years if market conditions justify it.

In other news for Areva’s nuclear fuel operations, Japan’s Genkai-3 reactor unit said it has been producing electricity using mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel since Dec 2. It is first unit in the country to use MOX fuel in commercial operation.

The MOX fuel for the unit was fabricated at the Melox plant in southern France using plutonium resulting from the treatment of Kyushu Electric’s spent fuel at Areva’s La Hague plant in France.

The MOX fuel was loaded over the summer following its shipment from France in May 2009.

Entergy plans uprate for Grand Gulf

entergylogoThe Public Service Commission of Mississippi OK’d a request by Entergy to uprate the power of its Grand Gulf Nuclear Power Station from 1,265 to 1,4423 MW. The work scope, worth $510 million, would take place in 2012 during a planned refueling operation.

Entergy told the PSC that the uprate would cost ratepayers less than building a combined cycle natural gas fueled plant. It cited per KW/Hr costs of 6.8 cents for nuclear energy compared to 11.27 cents for a new natural gas fueled plant.

The uprate will increase the amount of steam the plant can produce and the efficiency of the plant’s electricity generation equipment. The uprate will make the Grand Gulf plant the most powerful nuclear reactor in the US.

Last year Entergy set aside plans to build a second reactor at Grand Gulf based on the GE-Hitachi (GEH) ESBWER design. Entergy company officials told the PSC that it could not come to terms with GEH on costs of the reactor, which is still undergoing design certification at the NRC. Without fixed costs, Entergy said it could not make an economic case for the project with the PSC.

Unistar shelves new reactor for NIne Mile

stop signUnistar has asked the NRC to stop review of its COL to build a third reactor at the upstate New York site. In a Dec 1 letter Unistar said the reason is Nine Mile was not selected to be on the short-list for federal loan guarantees. The Unistar project would have been an Areva 1,650 MW EPR.

While Energy Sec. Chu has called for doubling of the amount of the $18.5 billion in loan guarantees currently authorized by Congress, his agency still hasn’t made any awards from the first round. Climate change legislation now pending in the Senate is sketchy on what support the government might offer to the nuclear industry as part of a comprehensive plan to slow the growth of greenhouse gases.

Unistar company officials said that without the loan guarantees they can’t afford to build the plant because the cost of funds would be too high. This is the second time Unistar has asked the NRC to stop the review process at Nine Mile, and this time it looks like it could be for good unless Congress acts.

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