Nuclear Insights Weekly - May 10, 2018
New Nuclear Builds
May 8, 2018 - The containment dome of unit 6 of the Tianwan nuclear power plant in China's Jiangsu province was installed on 5 May, marking the reactor's entry into the equipment installation phase of construction, China Nuclear Engineering and Construction Corporation (CNECC) announced today. CNECC is a subsidiary of China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).
Installation of the 148-tonne dome was completed at 3:49pm on 5 May and completes the civil construction phase of the project. The operation to lift the dome 60 meters above ground level and to lower it into place on top of the walls of the containment building took 53 minutes to complete, CNECC said.
Construction of Tianwan Phase III - units 5 and 6 - was originally scheduled to start in early 2011. However, following the March 2011 accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant, the Chinese government suspended the approval of new nuclear power projects, including those two units.
The latest Five-Year Plan called for construction of Phase III of the Tianwan plant to be accelerated. China's State Council gave its approval for Tianwan units 5 and 6 - both featuring 1080 MWe ACPR1000 reactors - on 16 December 2015. First safety-related concrete was poured for unit 5 on 27 December 2015, with that for unit 6 poured on 7 September 2016.
CNNC plans to put both units 5 and 6 into commercial operation by the end of 2021.
Tianwan Phase I - units 1 and 2 - was constructed under a 1992 cooperation agreement between China and Russia. First concrete was poured in October 1999, and the units were commissioned in June 2007 and September 2007 respectively. Tianwan Phase II - units 3 and 4 - are similar to the first stage of the Tianwan plant, comprising two Russian-designed 1060 MWe VVER-1000 pressurised water reactors. First concrete for unit 3 was poured in December 2012, while construction of the fourth unit began in September 2013. Unit 3 achieved first criticality on 29 September last year and was connected to the grid on 30 December. The unit completed demonstration operation at nominal capacity for 100 hours on 15 February and is scheduled to enter commercial operation later this year. Unit 4 is expected to begin operating in March 2019.
The Tianwan plant is owned and operated by Jiangsu Nuclear Power Corporation, a joint venture between CNNC (50%), China Power Investment Corporation (30%) and Jiangsu Guoxin Group (20%).
Nuclear Policy & Economics
May 9, 2018 - US president Donald Trump has sent to Congress for review a bilateral agreement for peaceful nuclear energy cooperation, known as a Section 123 agreement, between the US and the UK.
The Washington-based nuclear energy lobby group the Nuclear Energy Institute said if the new agreement is passed it will establish US-UK nuclear cooperation independent of the UK’s membership of the Euratom treaty.
The UK has said it will leave Euratom when it quits the EU on 29 March 2019. Euratom covers issues such as the transport of radioactive materials, including those used in medical treatments and in nuclear power stations.
The NEI said that because the UK has announced significant plans to develop new nuclear plants in the years ahead, including possibly small modular reactors, a new Section 123 agreement is critical for US nuclear exports and American jobs.
Dan Lipman, vice-president of suppliers, new reactors, and international programmes at the NEI, said the UK government’s decision to invest in new nuclear power generation is based on recognition that nuclear energy is a clean, reliable and emissions-free energy source that reduces the nation’s reliance on imported fossil fuels.
Mr Lipman said: “The UK government’s ambitious development plans have made it the most important nuclear technology export market after China, according to a US Department of Commerce report, making the Section 123 agreement welcome news for US firms.”
May 10, 2018 - US energy Secretary Rick Perry has urged Saudi Arabia to sign a nuclear energy agreement with the US, warning the oil-rich kingdom that it risks missing out on an opportunity to show its commitment to using nuclear power responsibly.
“If they don't, the message will be clear to the rest of the world that the kingdom is not as concerned about being leaders when it comes to nonproliferation in the Middle East,” Mr Perry said in testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
The Trump administration is considering allowing the Saudis to enrich and reprocess uranium as part of what’s known as a nuclear cooperation agreement, or a 123 Agreement.
In exchange, the US would allow Westinghouse and other US companies to bid for nuclear new-build projects in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia says it plans to build 16 nuclear power reactors over the next 20 to 25 years at a cost of more than $80bn.
US officials discussed a possible deal with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he recently visited the White House.
Democrats at the hearing said they want assurances that the nuclear energy agreement keeps strong measures in place, known as the “gold standard”, to ensure the reactors are not used to enrich uranium for weapons.
According to press reports in Washington, lawmakers are especially worried Saudi Arabia could look to pursue nuclear weapons after Mr Trump announced yesterday he is leaving the Iran nuclear agreement intended to curb Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Last month the US Nuclear Energy Institute led an industry delegation to Saudi Arabia aimed at clarifying Saudi nuclear energy development plans and identifying potential Saudi partners.
Russia and South Korea have already confirmed they are pitching for Saudi new-build contracts. China and France are also likely to be involved in the tender process.
Operations & Maintenance
May 10, 2018 - Japan’s Ohi-4 nuclear reactor unit in Fukui Prefecture, southwest Japan, is scheduled to be connected to the grid on 11 May 2018 with full commercial operation resuming on 14 May, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum said.
Jaif said the 1,127-MW pressurised water reactor unit had been restarted on 9 May and had reached criticality at 03:00 local time today, 10 May.
Ohi-4 will become the eighth nuclear plant at five sites to be restarted under new regulatory standards introduced following the March 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi accident, Jaif said.
In April 2018 Ohi-3 resumed commercial operation for the first time since the unit had been shut down in September 2013 following the accident.
Ohi-3 and -4 were the first two reactors to resume operation in Japan following the accident, but were both taken offline in September 2013 for scheduled refuelling and maintenance.
Their restarts where delayed when, in May 2014, the Fukui district court ruled that it would not allow Ohi-3 and -4 to return to operation.
The governor of Fukui Prefecture allowed the restart of Ohi-3 and -4 in November 2017 after courts rejected challenges by anti-nuclear groups.
The Ohi nuclear station has four nuclear units, but according to Jaif the two older units, Ohi-1 and -2, have both been permanently shut down. They began commercial operation in 1979. Ohi-3 began commercial operation in 1991 and Ohi-4 in 1993.
Small Modular Reactors
May 8, 2018 - The CAREM Project has reached a new milestone in the development of the 12 steam generators for the prototype CAREM-25 in Argentina. More than 700 tubes, each 35 meters long, have been delivered to the site, Combustibles Nucleares Argentinos (CONUAR), announced on 4 May.
CAREM - the name is taken from Central ARgentina de Elementos Modulares - is Argentina's first domestically-designed and developed 25 MWe nuclear power unit. The prototype of the small pressurised water reactor design is being built at a site adjacent to the Atucha nuclear power plant in Lima, 110 km northwest of Buenos Aires. First concrete was poured for the reactor in February 2014, marking the official start of its construction. At least 70% of the components and related services for CAREM-25 are to be sourced from Argentine companies.
CONUAR said it had developed the tubes jointly with the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA), mainly through the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Materials and Non Destructive Testing of the CAREM Area Management, and Fábrica de Aleaciones Especiales (FAE), which was in charge of the equipment's production. Manufacturing of the pipes required the construction and commissioning of the world's longest vacuum furnace for stress relief thermal treatment, CONUAR said.
The Alloy 690 tubes were manufactured according to EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) guidelines and a series of additional requirements established by the CNEA.
"As these pipes must be straight and seamless, FAE had to build a special furnace over 37m long, specially designed for the treatment of this kind of pipes at temperatures between 500 and 850 degrees Celsius," CONUAR said.
The stainless-steel chamber has a diameter of 1.27m and it is surrounded by a set of heating resistors divided into 18 zones, each with an independent control system that guarantees uniformity of temperature, it said. The entire set is managed through a complex computer system that monitors all variables and feeds a database with all records, it added.
Each of the CAREM-25 steam generators consists of 52 helical tubes grouped in six layers. CONUAR will oversee the qualification and development of the turns and welds for the manufacture of the first mock-up, the production of which will start this year.
The 32 MWe prototype will be capable of supplying electricity to, for example, a city with a population of 120,000 inhabitants. More powerful units of this design will have a capacity of about 120 MWe.
The CAREM Project aims to enable Argentina to compete in the global market for small modular reactors. It will not only be the first nuclear power plant designed and built by a Latin American country, but in the whole Southern Hemisphere, CONUAR said.
May 8, 2018 - Azarga Uranium Corp and URZ Energy Corp have announced they are to merge to form a new US-focused in-situ leach (ISL) uranium development company. The merger will allow the companies, which are both based in Vancouver, Canada, to consolidate their US uranium assets which together include measured and indicated resources of 30.7 million pounds U3O8 (11,809 tU) plus additional inferred resources of 8.7 million pounds U3O8.
This includes Azarga's Dewey-Burdock project in South Dakota, which has measured and indicated resources of 8.6 million pounds U3O8 at an average grade of 0.25% U3O8 and is at an advanced stage of permitting. A NI 43-101 preliminary economic assessment at Dewey Burdock completed in 2015 estimated annual ISL production of about 1 million pounds U3O8 per year.
URZ is a uranium exploration and development company that is primarily engaged in the evaluation, acquisition and development of prospective ISL uranium properties and owns the Gas Hills, Juniper Ridge and Shirley Basin properties in Wyoming as well as properties in Utah and Colorado.
Glenn Catchpole, CEO and director of URZ Energy, said the merger would create the USA's "preeminent" ISL uranium developer. "I believe the transaction is timely, with the worldwide growth in nuclear reactor construction and confidence returning to the uranium sector," he said.
Azarga will acquire all of the issued and outstanding shares of URZ Energy for consideration of 2.0 Azarga shares for each URZ Energy share held. The transaction is expected to be completed in July, at which time Catchpole will be appointed as chairman of the merged company, while Blake Steele will continue in his role as president and CEO of Azarga Uranium.
Waste Management & Decommissioning
May 10, 2018 - The UK government has launched an open consultation on the future regulation of nuclear sites in the final stages of decommissioning and clean-up. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the consultation seeks to enable a "more flexible approach that can optimise waste management, thereby realising environmental benefits and reducing costs".
There are 36 nuclear sites located across England, Wales and Scotland, each comprising one or more nuclear installations. The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is responsible for the decommissioning and clean-up of 17 of these sites. Other sites to be decommissioned in the future include the operational nuclear power stations owned by EDF Energy, and other nuclear sites in the nuclear fuel cycle, reprocessing, waste management, pharmaceutical and research sectors. A new nuclear power station is under construction at Hinkley Point C, and industry has set out plans to construct other new nuclear facilities in England and Wales which will need to be decommissioned at some future date.
In the UK, the Nuclear Installations Act 1965 (NIA65) provides the legal framework for nuclear safety and nuclear third-party liability and sets out a system of regulatory control based on a robust licensing process administered by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). Under this regime, a site operator is required to have a licence to use a site for specified activities such as the operation of nuclear power stations. In addition to the nuclear site licensing regime, the NIA65 requires that financial provision is in place to meet claims in the event of a nuclear incident, as required under international law on nuclear third-party liability.
The consultation proposals include changing the NIA65 to allow licensees to exit the licensing regime once the site has reached internationally agreed standards and nuclear safety and security matters have been fully resolved. After the licence has been ended, the site would be regulated by the relevant environment agency and the Health and Safety Executive, in the same way that non-nuclear industrial sites undergoing clean-up for radioactive or other contamination are regulated.
Proposals for further clean-up would be assessed by the relevant environment agency under the Radioactive Substances Regulations. BEIS said this process would enable the site operator to work with the community to establish the "most appropriate" end-state for the site and would result in improved waste management and other environmental benefits.
BEIS proposes to implement two recent decisions by the OECD Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy concerning the exclusion of certain sites from the nuclear third-party regime. It also proposes to tighten the licence surrender process to require a licensee to apply to ONR to surrender the licence, and to strengthen requirements for ONR to consult with HSE when the licence is surrendered or varied.
The consultation opened on 8 May and closes on 3 July.
UK businesses are being encouraged to attend an event next week to learn how oil and gas decommissioning expertise could be translated to meet the challenges faced at the Sellafield nuclear site in northwest England. The Game Changers Innovation Programme, in association with Subsea UK, is hosting an Innovation in Nuclear Post Operational Clean Out (POCO) event on 16 May at the University of Strathclyde's Technology and Innovation Centre in Glasgow, Scotland.
Since nuclear operations began at Sellafield in the 1940s, the main business focus at the site has been reprocessing, but over the next two years it will shift to POCO before decommissioning can begin.
Sellafield has set up a Game Changers programme to engage businesses, academics and individuals to find solutions to speed up the safe delivery of decommissioning, cut costs and uphold commitment to human and environmental safety.
Paul Knight, Game Changers Programme lead, said: "This is a hugely exciting opportunity for oil and gas decommissioning experts to bid for funding to translate their technology to the nuclear sector. We're looking for cutting edge solutions to this challenging task and would fully expect them to be applicable to other nuclear decommissioning challenges, both in the UK and overseas."
Keynote speakers have been confirmed as Steve Hepworth, technical lead (R&D) at Sellafield and David Connolly, head of site POCO at Sellafield.
The topics of interest Sellafield would like to explore at the event are access, characterisation, cleaning and transfer.
Access includes alternative cell and vessel access; remote handling and navigation techniques; and reduced human intervention, while characterisation encompasses deployment of innovative technologies for visual, physical and radiological characterisation; material identification - solids (which may be loose or adhered), solvents and engrained activity; and the location and assessment of radiation dose, or 'hot spots'.
Cleaning covers the use of new reagents to aid dissolution of insoluble materials and deposits contained in tanks, and alternative techniques to mobilise solids, solvents, adhered and engrained material. Transfer will cover the use of retrieval and disposal tools, and techniques; in-situ storage and grouting applications; and shielding and containment technologies.
Since April 2016, Sellafield Ltd has been a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NDA on behalf of the UK government, led by a CEO and senior executive team, and governed by a board of directors. The company has made a commitment to reduce spending by at least GBP1.4 billion (USD1.9 billion) by 2029 through cost efficiency and productivity gain. It has said it aims to do this by 2020 and is targeting a further GBP1.4 billion in savings by 2029. The company has said that it faces a "mission change" as reprocessing operations at Sellafield end by 2020.
Next week's event will include an innovation funding opportunity, whereby successful applicants may qualify for Proof of Concept funding of up to GBP50,000.