EDF’s Hunterston B closes; China’s Hualong One connects to grid

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Wind turbines are seen behind Hunterston B Nuclear Power Station (Source: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)

Power generation at the Hunterston B nuclear power station in North Ayrshire, Scotland, has ended after almost 46 years in service, the plant’s operator and French state utility EDF said.

The plant’s Reactor 4 was shut down by Station Director Paul Forrest January 7, precisely 45 years and 11 months since it was first connected to the grid in 1976.

Since then it has produced enough electricity to power every home in Scotland, with a population of around 5.5 million, for nearly 31 years, EDF said in a statement.

“The contribution Hunterston B power station has made to this country cannot be underestimated. As well as providing stable, well paid employment for thousands of people in the North Ayrshire area, it has produced almost 300TWh of zero-carbon electricity,” said Forrest.

The plant was originally slated to run for 25 years.

The plant’s other unit, Reactor 3, was taken offline in November of last year and both units will undergo a statutory outage to make sure they are ready for defueling, which is expected to take about three years.

EDF will carry out defueling at all seven of Britain’s advanced gas-cooled reactor (AGR) stations before they are transferred to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) where the state-run Magnox will continue decommissioning, the company said.

China’s 3rd Hualong One connects

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) connected its HPR1000 unit, Unit 6 of the Fuqing Nuclear Power Plant (FQNP), to the grid on January 1, CNNC said in a statement.

The HPR1000 unit, or Hualong One, is the third of its kind worldwide – including Unit 3 of the Karachi Power Station in Pakistan – and the second in China, with the previous being Unit 5 of the FQNP, it said.

The K-3 unit of the Karachi plant finished first fuel loading at the end of last year.

Each of the Hualong One reactors has a capacity of 1,161 MW with annual power output of 10 billion KWh.

“HPR1000 unit is significant of importance in optimizing the energy mix of China, supporting green and low-carbon development, and achieving the goal of peak carbon dioxide emissions and carbon neutrality,” the CNNC said.    

Separately, the world’s first High-Temperature gas cooled Reactor of Pebble bed Module (HTR-PM), the Shidaowan Nuclear Power Plant, was connected to the grid in the Shandong province of east China at the end of December, the CNNC said.

USNC licenses 3D printing method

Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation (USNC) has licensed a new method developed by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to 3D print components for nuclear reactors.

The technology uses a sophisticated additive manufacturing technique to print refractory materials that are highly resistant to extreme heat and degradation, into complex shaped components needed for advanced reactor designs, ORNL said in a press release.

USNC is also planning to expand into East Tennessee to be closer to ORNL while scaling up production of specialty components for nuclear and industrial applications.

“It’s rewarding to see the transition from basic concept to a more mature technology that is actively being developed and deployed by our industry partners,” said Jeremy Busby, director of ORNL’s Nuclear Energy and Fuel Cycle division.

“This is exactly the sort of impact that ORNL strives to make for our energy portfolio.” 

USNC uses materials in its reactor cores that don’t degrade and can withstand very high temperatures, while engineering multiple redundant barriers against any potential release of radiation, the company’s Executive Vice President Kurt Terrani said.

The technology combines binder jet printing as the 3D printing technique and a ceramic production process called chemical vapor infiltration which will allow for the efficient creation of more complex components such as fluid channels in a heat exchanger.

Nuclear growth focused on Asia Pacific, says IEA

Nuclear generation is forecast to grow on average by 1% between 2022 and 2024, meeting 4% of global demand, mostly supported by nuclear generation in the Asia Pacific region, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said in Electricity Market Report in January.

The economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has cut electricity demand growth across much of the world, though the Asia Pacific region has seen demand continue to expand, driven by China and India, it said.

Around two-thirds of the net demand increase to 2024 in Asia Pacific region will be covered by renewables, then coal (27% of demand growth) and then nuclear (7%).

India in particular will see growth in nuclear boosted by seven reactors under construction, the IEA said, adding that it expected nuclear generation to see a sustained increase in the coming years, surpassing gas from 2022 as the third-largest power generator after coal and renewables.

In Japan, nuclear generation could increase more than renewables due to reactor restarts after temporary shutdowns following anti-terrorism safety measures, and units restarting for the first time since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

The United States, by comparison, is expected to have seen nuclear generation decline by 1.5% in 2021 as facilities are retired, while in Canada output will have dropped due to additional units undergoing refurbishment, it said.

Europe will also register an expected 4% fall in nuclear power generation to 2024 due to Germany’s nuclear phase out and closures in Belgium and Britain, the report said.

By Reuters Events Nuclear