China powers up world’s first EPR, AP1000; EDF signs up GE for giant India plant

Our pick of the latest nuclear power news you need to know.

China's nuclear new build projects have been completed faster and at lower cost than those in Europe and the U.S. (Image credit: Xijian).

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China connects to grid world's first EPR, AP1000 reactors

The 1.7 GW Taishan 1 reactor in China became the world's first commercial EPR reactor to be successfully connected to the grid on June 29, co-owner EDF said in a statement. A day later, Westinghouse announced that Sanmen 1, the world’s first AP1000 reactor, had also been successfully connected to the grid.

The Taishan 1 and 2 EPR reactors are owned by TNPJVC, a joint venture which is 51%-owned by China General Nuclear (CGN), 30%-owned by France's EDF, and 19%-owned by provincial Chinese electricity company Yuedian. The EPR technology was developed by EDF and Framatome.

Fuel loading at Taishan 1 started on April 10, and the first chain reaction took place on June 6. Main generator and grid connection tests were completed on June 29.

The reactor will now undergo a period of gradual power-up tests, followed by tests in steady-state conditions at full power.

Construction of Taishan 1 began in 2009 while the construction of Taishan 2 started in 2010. The construction of the Taishan 1 plant has overtaken that of the Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) EPR plant in Finland and the Flamanville 3 EPR project in France.

Last month, project developer Teollisuuden Voima Oyj (TVO) said the Olkiluoto 3 plant is currently scheduled to be connected to the grid in May 2019. Separately, EDF warned the start-up of the Flamanville 3 plant may be delayed by several months due to pipe welding issues, potentially pushing the start-up date well into 2019.

"A number of factors contributed to Taishan 1 being the world’s first EPR to go on line: it has benefited from a longstanding strategic partnership between EDF and CGN, from both partners’ experience in the construction and operation of nuclear power plants, and from the support of leading players in both countries’ nuclear sectors," EDF said in a statement.

"During the initial stage of the project, Taishan also benefited from the experience of the two European EPR projects (Flamanville 3 and Olkiluoto 3), which had started being built earlier on," the French company said.

AP1000 online

The 1.1 GW Sanmen 1 reactor is the first of four new AP1000 plants under construction in eastern China.

Westinghouse is also supplying two AP1000 to the Vogtle 3&4 project in Georgia, U.S. Vogtle 3&4 is the only ongoing U.S. nuclear construction project as U.S. AP1000 projects have suffered severe delays and cost overruns. Spiralling costs halted the V.C. Summer 2 & 3 project in South Carolina in July 2017. Vogtle 3 is currently expected online in November 2021, followed by Vogtle 4 in November 2022.

             Capital costs for historical and ongoing nuclear projects                  

                                                          (Click image to enlarge)

Note: Includes projects from Energy Technologies Institute Cost Drivers Project database.

Source: ETI's Nuclear Cost Drivers Project, Summary Report (April 2018). 

Soaring costs at the U.S. projects prompted Westinghouse to file for bankruptcy protection in March 2017. In January 2018, Westinghouse owner Toshiba agreed to sell Westinghouse to investment group Brookfield Business Partners for a price of $4.6 billion.

Sanmen 1 is owned by China State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and CNNC Sanmen Nuclear Power Company Limited (SMNPC).

The successful connection of the Sanmen 1 project "would not have been possible without the constant collaboration and partnership with our China customer,” Jose Emeterio Gutierrez, President and CEO of Westinghouse, said in a statement.

Asian learnings

Going forward, new nuclear plants could become competitive in Europe and North America if developers prioritize labor deployment, project governance and other drivers which have slashed costs in Asia, a recent report commissioned by the UK's Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), said.

By improving their performance rating against the eight key cost drivers, European and North American projects could reduce costs by over 35%, the report said.

Supply chain, labor, project governance and project development were cost drivers of “high importance” while construction execution, political and regulatory context, equipment and materials, and vendor plant design, were of “medium importance,” it said.

GE, EDF sign supply agreement for India's 9.9 GW Jaitapur plant

GE and EDF have signed a supply agreement for the planned construction of six EPR reactors at the Jaitapur site in Maharashtra India, GE announced June 26.

The 9.9 GW Jaitapur plant represents the world's largest nuclear construction project.

In March, EDF and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) signed an agreement under which EDF will supply technology and manage the construction of the Jaitapur plant. NPCIL will own and operate the facility.

Under the new deal signed by GE and EDF, GE Power will design the conventional island, supply its main components and provide operational support services. EDF is responsible for installing the plant, including the nuclear island, conventional island and auxiliary systems.

GE Power is a long-standing partner of EDF, having supplied conventional island components for a number of French plants as well as the UK's Hinkley Point C EPR project.

"EDF and GE Power will move forward with the work currently being performed to freeze the project’s technical options, fine-tune industrial arrangements between both companies and finalize the design-engineering and procurement schedule," GE said.

Rolls-Royce, China join forces to supply nuclear I&C

UK engineering group Rolls-Royce and CTEC, a technology subsidiary of China General Power (CGN), have signed a cooperation agreement to supply integrated Instrumentation and Control (I&C) solutions to the global nuclear market, Rolls-Royce announced June 26.

"This agreement will enable the future involvement of CTEC in international projects, as well as the future involvement of Rolls-Royce in upcoming projects in China," the UK group said.

Within this agreement, the Rolls-Royce and CTEC have committed to jointly release a new Distributed Control System (DCS) platform.

"This new integrated platform will provide both parties with extended flexibility to better adapt to stringent customer needs and requirements," Rolls-Royce said.

“Today is a new step of our cooperation, based on years of efforts in building understanding and trust between us," Jiang GUOJIN, General Manager of CTEC, said.

In January, Rolls-Royce signed a new four-year deal with U.S. utility PSEG to supply digital services to optimise reactor operations. Rolls-Royce and PSEG will use global and site-specific nuclear plant operating data to reduce preventive maintenance, improve equipment reliability and cut the consumption of material.

A six-month pilot scheme showed 40% of planned maintenance activities did not need to be conducted as regularly as planned, creating the potential for significant savings, Rolls-Royce and PSEG said.

In May 2017, Rolls-Royce entered into an agreement with Bruce Power to supply digital analytics tools to Bruce Power’s eight Canada deuterium uranium (Candu) reactors.

The companies would use models to "improve equipment reliability, reduce inventories and maintenance and materials costs, while improving operational and supply chain practices," they said.

"The end result is expected to be dramatic operating cost reductions as well as major reductions in capital tied up in parts inventories," the firms said.

Switzerland approves its first reactor decommissioning project

Swiss utility BKW has received government approval to decommission the 373 MW Muehleberg nuclear power plant in western Switzerland, the company announced June 21.

Muehleberg will be the first Swiss nuclear plant to close under a federal government plan to phase out the country's entire 3.3 GW nuclear fleet by 2035. The decommissioning of the plant will be one of the largest privately-funded projects in Switzerland.

BKW had intended to operate the plant until 2022, but in October 2013, the company announced it would close the plant in 2019, three years ahead of schedule, to avoid making long-term investments in the plant.

BKW concluded that a weak power price outlook- in particular impacted by continuing expansion in renewable power in neighbouring Germany- could not justify the significant investments required for longer-term operations.

                  Wholesale power prices in Central Western Europe

                                                          (Click image to enlarge)

Source: European Commission's Quarterly Report on Electricity Markets (Q1 2018). Data source: Platts.

Muehleberg dismantling and decontamination activities are expected to start in late 2020, once all the fuel has been transferred from the reactor to the spent fuel pool and it is cooled separately from other systems.

EDF, Veolia to jointly develop remote decommissioning technology

France's EDF and environmental services group Veolia have agreed to co-develop remote control solutions for dismantling gas-cooled reactors and for vitrifying radioactive waste, the companies announced June 26.

EDF is currently decommissioning six gas-cooled reactors in France, at the Bugey, Chinon and Saint-Laurent nuclear plant sites.

EDF and Veolia will jointly design and deliver innovative remote solutions to access the reactor cores and cut up and extract components.

In parallel, EDF and Veolia will develop a solution for the vitrification of low- and intermediate- level waste using Veolia's GeoMelt technology, the companies said. This technology "immobilises" waste in a glass matrix to allow simple transport and storage, according to the companies.

“We are proud to have signed this agreement with Veolia, which underscores EDF’s determination to become a key player in decommissioning and radioactive waste management," Jean-Bernard Levy, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of EDF, said.

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