Thursday, January 13, 2011

U.S / Russia sign nuclear trade agreement

American firms can now sell nuclear technologies to and team with Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy export projects

russia11 Jan (NucNet) The US and Russia have taken “a major step forward” in civil nuclear energy cooperation by bringing into force an agreement that will open up new possibilities for the joint development of new technologies.

The US government has confirmed that US ambassador to Russia John Beyrle and Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Ryabkov exchanged diplomatic notes to bring into force the accord, known as the 123 Agreement.

Mr Beyrle said the agreement will enable two of the world’s leading nuclear powers to work together to find solutions to global problems.

“It opens up new possibilities for the joint development of new technologies – technologies that will help us combat the global threat of nuclear proliferation, as well as to create new commercial opportunities for US and Russian companies to produce cleaner, safer, and more secure nuclear energy.”

The Russian export agency has signed reactor deals with China, India, Turkey, and Vietnam. It rivals Japan's Toshiba and Mitsubishi for nuclear business. In the U.S. Russia supplies a significant portion of the uranium used to fuel commercial nuclear reactors through the Megatons-to-Megawatts program.

The agreement was originally signed in May 2008, but was withdrawn by former president George Bush in September 2008. At the time, the US did not say the decision was directly linked to international tension over relations between Russia and neighbouring Georgia, but a White House spokesman said there had been “a number of different occurrences” over a period of time and the US had “some deep concerns about Russian behavior”.

The agreement was resubmitted by President Barack Obama and passed through Congress last month.

The US said in a statement today that the agreement offers significant benefits to both Russia and the US, including a solid legal foundation for long-term civil nuclear cooperation, expanded commercial opportunities for both Russian and US industry, and enhanced cooperation on important global nonproliferation goals.

The agreement will allow cooperative work on reactor designs that result in reduced proliferation risk. The US said the accord creates the conditions for advanced research and development projects that will see US national laboratories and industry teaming up with with Russian partners to explore areas including fuel fabrication, innovative fuel types, and advanced reactor design.

According to the US statement, the agreement will also result in expanded commercial opportunities by allowing companies from both countries to team up more easily in joint ventures, and by permitting sales of US nuclear material and equipment to Russia.

Rosatom CEO promotes 1-2-3 agreement

The Russian-American 123 Agreement on civil nuclear cooperation brought into force this week has opened up the “key nuclear market” of the US, said Sergei Kiriyenko, director-general of Russian state-owned nuclear corporation Rosatom.

During a meeting with Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, Mr Kiriyenko said the situation before the agreement was “absurd” .

“Two countries in the nuclear industry had no direct agreements with each other, so we could not deliver anything directly to the Americans. This was done through intermediaries, through third countries,” he said.

The agreement, which came into force on Tuesday when US ambassador to Russia John Beyrle and Russian deputy foreign minister Sergey Rybakov exchanged diplomatic notes, will also allow the two countries to jointly develop new technologies. It could lead to joint collaboration on advanced research and development projects and also on nonproliferation goals.

However, Mr Medvedev warned that the agreement should not be politicised, as has sometimes happened in the history of Russian-American relations. “This should be treated like business,” he said.

Russia supplies more than 40% of fuel for US nuclear power stations, Mr Kiriyenko said during the meeting at the Kremlin.

Mr Kiriyenko also said key markets for the export of Russian reactor models would be India, Vietnam and Turkey.

“The most important thing is the package of contracts for the construction of nuclear plants,” he said. “We estimate the potential market for us abroad to be 30 units.”

He added that there was interest from a number of countries in the ownership contract which Rosatom has negotiated with Turkey. The proposed power plant site near Akkuyu on Turkey's Mediterranean coast is set to host up to four VVER-1200 reactors, but Mr Kiriyenko said the ownership contract foresees Russian nuclear cooperation with Turkey for “100 years”.

“This facility (will also have) 60 to 70 years of operation, and (the contract) involves fuel supply. This increases the scale of the contract several times,” Mr Kiriyenko said.

Mr Kiriyenko told Mr Medvedev that new partner countries would be willing to offer Russia the opportunity to build their nuclear power plants and co-own or own the facilities.

He also said Russia’s domestic construction programme for 28 units would be subject to slight delays because of the economic crisis. But no reactor projects had been cancelled, he said.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reactors rising globally outside of Asia

New builds advance in UAE, Brazil, and Switzerland

Aluminum smelterIn December it became abundantly clear that the nuclear renaissance does exist outside of Asia. Progress was reported in the Middle East, South America, and Europe. There was even some movement of sorts in the U.S.

The UAE and Brazil have in common the need for electricity to power their aluminum industries. The smelters use enormous amounts of electricity. Brazil is a leading producer and the UAE wants to build a manufacturing complex to export finished products moving up the value chain from simply mining ore.

UAE files construction license for first two of four planned reactors

(NucNet) The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced it filed the construction license application for Braka-1 and Braka-2 – the first nuclear units planned in the UAE – with the United Arab Emirates Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). The action lays to rest industry rumors that the UAE was dissatisfied with progress on the project.

According to a tentative schedule published by ENEC, Braka-1 will start commercial operation in 2017 and unit 2 in 2018. The reactors will supply electricity to develop its aluminum deposits,for desalination plants using reverse osmosis technology, and to keep the lights on in the UAE’s bustling economy. he country will phase out the use of natural gas for these purposes once the reactors are online.

The submittal of the 9,000-page document follows a year-long process in which ENEC and the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), the prime contractor for the proposed units, documented the safety case for the plant, as well as the proposed site, Braka, in the western region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.

The application is based substantially on the safety analysis done for Shin-Kori units 3 and 4 in South Korea, the “reference plant” for the UAE’s new build program.

ENEC said the “reference plant” concept is a fundamental part of its procurement, construction and operations strategy. It ensures that KEPCO will build a plant that is essentially the same as the reference plant. It will be supplemented with changes required to adapt to the UAE climatic conditions.

ENEC said this philosophy had enabled it to prepare and submit the license application only one year after the contract to build the two units was awarded to KEPCO. The submittal starts FANR’s review process, which ENEC expects will involve requests for additional information.

The license application development process was also examined by ENEC’s nuclear safety review board, a group of industry experts appointed earlier this year to review the safety and effectiveness of the construction, startup and operations of the new build program. The board is chaired by Dale Klein, a former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

ENEC also said it planned to submit a construction license application for Braka-3 and Braka-4 in 2012, with those units expected to begin commercial operation in 2019 and 2020.

The value of the KEPCO contract to build all four units has been put at $40 billion (about 27 billion euro). According to the deal, KEPCO will build four 1,400 MW nuclear reactors in the UAE by 2020.

Brazil plans four new nuclear sites, funds it’s third

Angra3_impression (Eletronuclear)World Nuclear News reported Jan 10 that Brazil's new minister of mines and energy, Edison Lobao, said the government plans to give approval by the end of 2011 for the construction of four new nuclear power plants in the country.

However, he didn't say how much generating capacity would be built or which reactor designs would be selected for the project. Previous energy plans have called for up to six 1,000 MW reactors at several locations. A preliminary schedule calls for two new nuclear power stations to enter revenue service by 2021 and another two by 2025.

Two Brazilian government agencies are reported to looking at sites to host the nuclear power stations. It is likely one or more of the reactors will be built to supply electricity to the nation’s aluminum plants. Brazil is the sixth largest primary aluminum producer, preceded by China, Russia, Canada, United States and Australia. It leads the world in recycling aluminum products.

By the time Brazil is ready to commit to building the new reactors, China could be exporting 1,000 MW reactors that it claims it will be able to build in 52-months for a fourth of the price of new units elsewhere. Brazil will have an incentive to look for cost savings given the escalating costs of completing its third reactor.

NucNet reports the Brazilian national development bank BNDES has approved 6.1 billion Brazilian reais (3.6 billion US dollars, 2.7 billion euro) of financing for the construction of the country’s third nuclear unit, Angra-3.

The 20-year loan will cover about 60% of the total costs of the project, estimated at $5.9 billion, BNDES said in a statement. The reactor will generate 1,200 MW of electricity bringing the cost in at a pricey $4,800/Kw. The reactor is expected to have a 60-year service life.

Eletronuclear, the nuclear unit of state-controlled utility Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras, is building the unit in the municipality of Angra dos Reis, close to the city of Rio de Janeiro.

In its own statement confirming the funding, Eletronuclear said the loan will be supplemented by $2.13 billion in loans from banks outside Brazil.

Construction of the Angra-3 unit was started in 1984 and halted in 1986 because of a lack of financing. In 2007, a government energy policy committee authorized completion of the unit. The country's nuclear regulator granted a construction permit in May 2010. Angra-3 is expected to begin commercial operation in December 2015.

Switzerland to build new reactors

Swiss Matterhorn(NucNet) Swiss utilities Axpo, Alpiq and BKW have agreed to join forces in a bid to plan and build two new nuclear units to replace nuclear generating facilities in Switzerland which are nearing the end of their useful lives.

The three companies said the agreement represents a milestone in the bid to ensure security of supply in Switzerland. Some of Switzerland’s electricity comes from France and the power agreements are coming to an end.

A final decision is likely to be made in mid-2012 and will be based on the final selection of three sites as well as political and economic aspects and reviews, in particular the results of an official review of the three general license applications.

The three general licensee applications being reviewed are: Alpiq’s application for one unit for the Niederamt nuclear site, which is near the existing Gösgen site; Axpo’s application for one unit to replace existing units at the two-unit Beznau nuclear power plant; and BKW’s application for one unit at Mühleberg, where there is one existing operational unit. Axpo, Alpiq and BKW each have a one-third stake in the joint planning and project company.

The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) has evaluated all three projects and last November confirmed that all three sites are suited for new nuclear power plants from a safety point of view.

The Swiss Nuclear Forum told NucNet a new unit could begin commercial operation around 2020 to 2022.

Axpo chief executive officer Heinz Karrer said the agreement will allow Switzerland to continue guaranteeing a virtually CO2-free mix of electricity from hydroelectric power, nuclear energy and new renewable energies well into the future.

Dominion and Mitsubishi keep options open for North Anna

Keep options open(NucNet) Mitsubishi Nuclear Energy Systems and US utility Dominion Virginia Electric & Power have agreed to continue pre-construction, engineering, and planning work in preparation for a third unit at Dominion’s North Anna nuclear power plant in the state of Virginia.

The engineering and planning work will continue while awaiting Dominion’s decision on a construction start date, along with the NRC’s review of a combined construction and operating license (COL) for the new North Anna unit. Dominion said the company expects to receive the COL in early 2013.

In May 2010 Dominion chose Mitsubishi Heavy Industry’s advanced pressurized water reactor design for the North Anna-3 unit, making it the second US company to choose that design.

Luminant has chosen the design for two new units it plans to build at its Comanche Peak nuclear plant in Texas. Luminant could be in line for a Department of Energy loan guarantee if Congress approves an expansion of the program.

Dominion's original application at the NRC for a COL referenced GE Hitachi’s economic simplified boiling water (ESBWR) reactor design, In May 2010 the company switched to MHI’s design after being unable to reach an engineering, procurement and construction contract with GE Hitachi.

North Anna has two 900 MW reactors. The first began commercial operation in 1978 and the second in 1980.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

NY Times offers online course about nuclear energy

Reporter Matt Wald will cover recent advances in nuclear technology and the future of the industry

Matt Wald 2008America is looking for electricity that is clean, safe, and cheap. Where does nuclear power fit in? For those who want to explore the history and prospects of nuclear technology, The New York Times presents “Nuclear Energy,” an interactive two-week course led by Matt Wald, a Times correspondent (right) who has covered the industry’s ups and downs for 30 years.

Wald’s work is linked at the Times Topic about nuclear energy which lists the newspaper’s coverage and links to organizations with additional information. He contributes to the newspaper’s Green Blog. A recent piece (12/27/10) covered way utilities and reactor vendors are keeping their options open despite soft demand for electricity. Wald also maintains a “mini-blog” about nuclear energy where he posts several pointers a week to online news about nuclear energy.

Course topics

The course includes extensive background materials and opportunities for Q&A with Matt Wald. The course “Nuclear Energy” will cover a variety of topics and issues, including:

  • The history of the nuclear industry
  • Recent advances in nuclear technology and the future of nuclear power
  • Financial incentives for transitioning to nuclear energy
  • Implications for the coal industry

“Nuclear Energy” will run from February 15-28, 2011. The cost of the online class is $90. To register for the online course or for more information, please visit: http://www.nytimesknownow.com/index.php/nuclear-power/

Times Knowledge Network

Knowledge Network logoThis Program of Study course is part of the New York Times Knowledge Network, which is open to consumers nationwide. All class are online. See FAQ for details.

Programs of Study courses, developed and taught by New York Times journalists or professional staff, cover a variety of topics and are delivered online. Students can select any number of these courses: to stand alone, or be taken as a sequence.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

Duke deal with Progress would create $14 billion utility

The two firms have a combined total of six Westinghouse AP1000 reactor license applications pending with the NRC

Duke Energy announced Jan 10 it plans to buy Progress Energy for $13.7 billion in a deal that will create America’s largest utility with the largest fleet of commercially operational nuclear reactors in the country.

The new company, to be called Duke Energy, will have a combined value of $65 billion and about 57 GWe of domestic generating capacity from a diversified mix of coal, nuclear, natural gas, oil and renewable resources. About 16% of the generating capacity of the combined firm would come from nuclear energy. It would become the largest regulated single fleet of nuclear reactors in the U.S.

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The NRC lists six Westinghouse AP1000 reactors with pending license applications for the two companies. At Progress they are Levy County, FL, 1 & 2; and Shearon Harris, NC, 2 & 3. At Duke it is the William States Lee III plant in SC.

The pace on all six combined construction and operating license applications has ground to a halt while the two firms grapple with the implications of diminished electricity demand due to the ongoing deep recession in the U.S.

The combined company would serve over seven million customers. The combined rate base could make the difference in obtaining funding for the new reactor projects planned by both companies.

Both firms, but especially Progress, have worried about the "bet the company" costs associated with new reactors. Recent unofficial estimates for the twin reactors at Levy County put the combined cost, plus infrastructure improvements to the Florida grid, as $14 billion.

Read the full details at CoolHandNuke, a nuclear energy jobs portal and a whole lot more.

coolhandnuke

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