NRC) will meet Feb 9 to vote on the licenses for two Westinghouse 1100 MW AP1000 PWR type nuclear reactors for Southern's Vogtle site. The agency is expected to approve the combined construction and operating licenses for the units which will be built at a site in Georgia. Assuming this is the outcome, the actions will be the first of their kind in more than three decades.
A spokesman for Southern said the utility feels the agency has all the information it needs to complete the action. Marvin Fertel, CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, told wire services he expects the approval process to go smoothly. Also, he predicted that a similar action for two similar nuclear reactors will follow soon for Scana's V.C Summer Station in South Carolina.
In both cases approval of the licenses for both utilities will set off construction work worth about $25 billion and produce tens of thousands of construction jobs. All four units are expected to be completed between 2016 and 2018. The rest of the U.S. nuclear industry will be watching their progress carefully to see if the EPC firms doing the work can bring them in on time and within budget.
Renewables not a viable alternative
As a side note on these items, the NRC told the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Jan 27 that in the case of Calvert Cliffs III, a proposed 1,600 MW Areva EPR for a site in Maryland, that renewable energy technologies cannot replace that amount of power.
It is not a viable alternative says Andy Kugler, a program director for the agency. He said that at best renewable sources could provide intermittent power of about 400 MW and that the rest, another 1200 MW, would have to come from natural gas plants. Critics of the Calvert Cliffs project contended that opposite is the case. One wonders why if the laws of physics work in Maryland, people in Germany think they won't over there?
Iowa looks ahead to a new reactor?
According to a wire service report, Sen. Matt McCoy, a Democrat, said the measure has enough support to become law. If passed it might offer Iowa another source of power, and one not based on whims from Washington for ethanol subsidies.
MidAmerican may not want to build a standard size nuclear reactor. The utility is on an advisory committee to NuScale, a developer of a 45 MW LWR small modular reactor (SMR). According to a company spokesman, MidAmerican is doing due diligence on all the LWR SMR options that are out there to see if that lower cost option makes more sense for its markets.
NuScale benefited in October from a $30 million infusion of equity capital from Fluor. It is believed by market analysts the engineering giant took the action as a competitive response to Bechtel's partnership with B&W. That enterprise has a letter of intent with TVA to license and build a 180 MW SMR at the utility's Clinch River site.
Start of construction work at Bellefonte could be pushed back
TVA) disclosed in a financial document that work to complete the second nuclear reactor at Watts Bar may take a year longer and cost more when done. The utility blamed delays in getting the equipment installed and resolving safety issues including work stoppages. TVA managers said that the utility is committed to completing the reactor and that it will emphasize safety and quality in the work.
The implications for Bellefonte, a 1200 MW partially complete unit, is that TVA's board will not authorize construction work to begin on that reactor until work is complete on Watts Bar. In 2011 TVA awarded a contract to Areva worth just over $1 billion to proceed with engineering and construction work on Bellefonte. Bellefonte 1 is one of two reactors started in the 1980s and then mothballed when the expected electricity demand didn't grow as expected.
Fast reactors might have a future in the UK but not in Japan
The Guardian newspaper, which published a negative report two weeks ago on a proposal by General Electric's to use a fast reactor to burn surplus plutonium, now reports it is an idea that is enthusiastically being investigated by the UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). It turns out the original report was incomplete in its coverage of the views of agency managers and other experts.
DECC Science Adviser
DECC's chief science adviser David MacKay called the GE PRISM reactor "a very elegant idea." A spokesman for the NDA is quoted as saying that the earlier report that the agency had rejected the PRISM proposal "is completely without foundation." It appears the the Guardian's report of the death of the PRISM proposal was premature.
Your humble blogger is shocked, absolutely shocked, that the Guardian would pursue an anti-nuclear agenda and then unabashedly reverse itself only after it was subjected to what is essentially a "pants on fire" analysis from an expert reporter like David Stellfox, late of Platts in Europe, and now on his own with a blog called i-Nuclear. Well done.
Not so much in Japan
The government has slashed the budget and many assume it may shut down the project completely in the post-Fukushima era.
On the other hand, proponents of the project have long held that having advanced reactor technologies will be a key to energy security. For now, in the swirling tides of pro-and-anti-nuclear politics in Japan, the project may wind up on a back burner for some time until cooler heads prevail.
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