Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Israel seeks commercial reactor from France

Start-Up of first commercial nuclear plant by 2025

Uzi_Landau(NucNet) Israel is proposing that its first commercial nuclear power plant  start operations within the next 10 to 15 years, the country’s infrastructure minister told NucNet March 5th.

Uzi Landau, Israsel’s Infrastructure Minister, (right) who addressed the International Conference on Access to Civil Nuclear Energy in Paris, told NucNet that his country was ideally seeking Generation III+ nuclear technology.  According to the interview, Israel will turn to France for this technology. [See prior coverage on this blog: Areva peers into the future of nuclear technology Feb 2, 2010.]

Mr Landau said that Israel would prefer to “go one step further” than Generation III technology, but a final decision could not be taken at this time.

Reuters reported that Landau had discussed with French Energy Minister Jean-Louis Borloo the possibility of cooperating on building a nuclear plant, together with neighboring Jordan, his ministry said. The project would be overseen by France and use French technology. “The issue is of course when it would be suitable to start this project. We believe that in about 10 to 15 years from today, we would already like this power plant to be operational. Of course we would like to have the most advanced technology. We have the will, the know-how and the scientific and engineering infrastructure. We just want to build it.”

Solar now, nuclear later

Mr Landau told the Paris conference that Israel was “an energy island” that had to rely on imports to meet virtually all of its domestic energy needs.

“We are in fact in the final stages of a large tender for the construction of two big thermal solar-powered plants in the northern parts of the Negev (desert region). But even with the most ambitious solar energy plant, we will contribute just a fraction of our energy needs.

For the purpose of the diversification of resources and to ensure energy security and energy independence, Israel has always considered nuclear power to partially replace its dependence on coal.”

Regional cooperation means regional grids if nuclear energy plant is built

powerlinesMr Landau said that a nuclear power program could also be “an area for regional cooperation with the objective of promoting peace”. There are no existing grid connections between Israel and neighboring Arab countries, he added.

The New York Times reported that Jordon said there would be conditions for regional cooperation. It said cooperation was premature before a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Jordan has been talking about building a civilian nuclear power plant, and has discussed it with France. 

In Israel previous feasibility studies have been conducted and a potential nuclear plant site identified at Shivta in the Negev.

Mr Landau said Israel has “kept the site and the necessary scientific and technical infrastructures in place for the safe and reliable operation of a possible nuclear plant.”

“Naturally, all nuclear power reactors to be built in Israel will be subject to international safeguards as well as appropriate physical protection measures,” he added.  Israel also hopes to take part in international collaborative program such as Generation IV.

The Israel Atomic Energy Commission currently operates two research reactors, one each at the Soreq Nuclear Research Center and the Nuclear Research Center Negev.

What about Israel’s nuclear weapons?

Israel, a close ally of the U.S., has long been thought to have nuclear weapons, but has never made a public statement to that effect. 

If the country decided to proceed with commercial nuclear power, the U.S. might ask it to follow the UAE example by forgoing new uranium enrichment and fuel reprocessing. It might also ask Israel to declare its current weapons capabilities and put them under IAEA inspection.  The path forward is littered with diplomatic and national security issues.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman addressed the plenary session of the same conference on nonproliferation issues.  He said:

“President Obama has called for a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation to ensure that countries have access to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes while minimizing the risks of proliferation.”

Development of regional cooperation, and a regional electricity grid with Israel and its Arab neighbors, will undoubtedly create linkage to the question about the future of its purported nuclear weapons and the facilities that support them.

AREVA not a fan of small reactors

Areva logoIf Israel asks for help from Areva for work on advanced reactors, it had better not ask for a small one.  Dow Jones News Wires reports March 10 that French nuclear Chief Executive Anne Lauvergeon warned March 8 against a “two-speed nuclear power industry” with low-cost solutions pitched against products with a high standard of safety.

One "can't see develop" a situation in which "low-cost" nuclear reactors emerge as an alternative to "high-standard" units, Lauvergeon told delegates at a nuclear conference.

Areva’s EPR pressurized water reactor, at 1,650 MWe, is a one of the largest commercial offerings in the global industry.

Areva may be reacting to the development of small reactors in the range of 50-300 MW for electricity generation and process heat.  At least four such reactor designs are being developed in the U.S. with targeted time to market in the range of 2015-2020.  [See prior coverage on this blog – Will the future of nuclear energy start with small reactors – 11/25/09.]

Reuters has additional details on the speech suggesting the Areva CEO was referring to KEPCO's win of a $20 billion reactor contract with the UAE in December.

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kejad said...

I think Anne's referring to KEPCO when she says she wants to avoid low-cost reactors. It was a reaction to the Koreans winning the UAE bid. She's worried about price-based competition from ASE and KEPCO and, later on, from China (CNNC?) and India (NPCIL). Areva and the other Western firms are much better positioned to compete on delivered value (quality, services, relationships) than on low price, and price-based competition will just transfer profit from vendors to customers.

djysrv said...

This is an interesting comment. Would you be willing to have your comment published with your real name and included in the main body of the blog post?

Luke_UK said...

Seconding kejad's comment, Areva are collaborating with Mitsubishi on a somewhat smaller PWR and are looking at mid-sized BWRs ar well, see http://us.arevablog.com/tag/site-news/

Anne Lauvergeon's comments refer to the fact that western regulators are insisting on severe accidfent mitigation systems (core catchers or equivalents) and improved aircraft impact protection, which add costs. If these standards are not applied elsewhere, western vendors cannot compete.