Jacques Besnainou says the Calvert Cliffs III reactor project is alive and well
Areva U.S. CEO Jacques Besnainou (left) told a conference call of nuclear bloggers on Friday Jan 7 that the Calvert Cliffs III reactor project is still moving forward. He said that Unistar and EDF, which now own the project, are proceeding with the application for a combined construction and operating license from the NRC.
Also, he said that Areva is continuing its effort to attain design certification for the 1,600 MW US EPR reactor. According to a published NRC calendar, that milestone will be achieved in mid-2012. It is the design reference for the Calvert Cliffs license application.
After Constellation (NYSE:CEG) walked away from the Calvert Cliffs III reactor project in Maryland in 2010, many thought a new Areva 1,600 MW EPR reactor might never be built there. The reason the utility quit is that it could not get commercially viable terms from the federal government for a loan guarantee for 80% of the cost of the $8 billion project. Constellation’s CEO pointedly blamed the feds for an “unworkable” set of terms.
A challenge for the project is to find another U.S. partner since Electricite de France (EDF) is a French state-owned corporation. U.S. law prohibits foreign entities from having a majority stake in a nuclear energy project.
The immediate impact of Constellation’s departure is that plans to break ground in 2012 may have been set back. It is unclear whether EDF and Unistar can recover the lost time.
Besnainou said he is “optimistic these efforts will bear fruit.”
“It will take longer to get the project to a point where it can break ground. We must find another American partner.”
U.S. capital construction projects
There is much better news about Areva’s plans to build a three million SWU uranium enrichment plant in Idaho. Besnainou said the firm is hoping to break ground this summer for the Eagle Rock Enrichment Facility on a 4,500 acre site 18 miles west of Idaho Falls, ID.
The NRC license is expected in this time frame. A parallel effort is to complete and sign off on the $2 billion loan guarantee from the Department of Energy and then line up the financing to pay for construction of the plant.
Elsewhere, Areva said it is “adapting to the market” in its stretch out of the construction schedule for the nuclear component manufacturing factory at Newport News, VA. The plant broke ground in 2009 and now expects to start operations in 2013. Once that happens, it will make pumps and parts for Areva’s EPR at Calvert Cliffs and also for other nuclear reactor new builds. The slowdown in the U.S. nuclear renaissance is the reason for the stretched out schedule to complete the factory.
Waiting for the Blue Ribbon Commission
Like the rest of the nuclear industry, Areva is waiting for the draft report of the Department of Energy’s Blue Ribbon Commission (BRC) which is due by mid-2011. Besnainou said Areva executives have testified before the BRC that the U.S. must reinstitute spent fuel recycling.
Areva has said previously that if U.S. policy permits it, the firm will make plans to build a $15 billion, 800 tonne/year factory in this country. One development that may support such a project is a legislative proposal to pull the nuclear waste fund out of the Department of Energy.
First proposed by now retired Ohio Senator George Voinovitch, the FEDCORP would be a quasi-government corporation that would be funded by ratepayers and decoupled from the appropriation cycle. Legislation would be needed to set up the organization, establish its charter, and move the waste fund over to it. In some ways, it would function the same way as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). While TVA generates power, FEDCORP would finance, build, and operate nuclear waste storage and reprocessing facilities.
Asked about the prospects for these developments, Besnainou punted saying, “it is too early to predict what Congress will do.”
Clean Energy Parks advances
One of Areva’s U.S. marketing thrusts is to establish clean energy parks around new reactor sites. In the U.S. there are proposals, still in the paper stage, for these types of multi-energy source solutions at Piketon, OH, and in Fresno, CA.
Actual construction could be a decade or more in the future, but the firm seems to have the tenacity to pursue these efforts. Each park would be anchored by a nuclear reactor and support clean energy technologies such as wind, solar, and biomass.
A similar effort is being developed in the eastern Canadian province of New Brunswick. There Areva is talking with utilities and the provincial government about a scaled-down reactor design, possibly having a 1,000 MW profile. This might be the first place Areva proposes to build its mid-sized generation III ATMEA reactor.
Besnainou said the reason for thinking about the smaller reactor is that it is much easier for the grid in the province to take the output from the ATMEA than from the much larger EPR. According to Areva, the ATMEA is the answer to market demands for a mid-sized PWR .
Areva is in discussions about the financial feasibility of building a new reactor at Point Lepreau. However, Beasnainou said Areva is not interested in owning and operating the reactor.
“We do not want to be in the business of our customers,” he said.
Final Safety Evaluation Report for MOX plant
In a separate development, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued a Final Safety Evaluation Report (FSER) for review of the license application for the Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility (MFFF) under construction at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site near Aiken, SC.
Areva said in a statement the release of the NRC report proves that the technology currently in use at AREVA’s MELOX and La Hague facilities in France has been successfully adapted to meet rigorous NRC safety requirements.
“With the issuance of this report, the NRC is formally acknowledging that AREVA’s proven technology which has been in use for nearly 30 years meets U.S. regulatory requirements. This is a significant licensing milestone for the project,” said David Jones, Senior Vice President, Back-end Business Group, at AREVA Inc.
The MOX facility will be a major component in the United States’ program to dispose of surplus weapon-grade plutonium. The facility will take surplus weapon-grade plutonium, remove impurities, and then mix it with uranium oxide to form MOX fuel pellets for reactor fuel assemblies to be used in U.S. nuclear power plants.
The facility is expected to begin operations in 2016 and is being built by Shaw AREVA MOX Services, LLC, which is comprised of AREVA and Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of The Shaw Group.
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Areva reads blogs
Areva’s interest in social media is way ahead of the rest of the industry. Besnainou said he reads some of the nuclear blogs to find out what they are thinking. It is a nice compliment. Thanks Jacques.
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