EU confirms nuclear is sustainable; Vogtle 3 begins hot functional testing

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

Vogtle Unit 3 containment (Source: Georgia Power)

The European Commission (EC) plans to include nuclear under a complementary Delegated Act, consistent with the conclusions of an independent scientific research body which said nuclear fuel qualifies as sustainable, the EC said in a statement.

“This complementary Delegated Act will cover nuclear energy subject to and consistent with the results of the specific review process underway in accordance with the EU Taxonomy Regulation. This process is based on the independent and scientific technical report published in March 2021 by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s science and knowledge service,” the EC said.

The JRC, which acts as an advisor on European Union (EU) policy, said nuclear should be included in the EU taxonomy, a classification system that defines and establishes a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities which investors can use when choosing projects to finance.

Nuclear power was omitted from recommendations as part of the taxonomy rules in a report early last year by a commission expert group, prompting widespread criticism within the nuclear sector that its absence would leave the technology working on an uneven playing field.

The DA is a complement to the Taxonomy Regulation though the EC has not said when it would be made available.
“To ensure that taxonomy does not lead to market distortions the Commission must publish this complimentary DA as quickly as possible once the expert opinions become available,” Director General of Foratom Yves Desbazeille said in a statement.

“We believe that this could already be done in September 2021 and thus enable nuclear to be added to the second set of DA’s – relating to the Do No Significant Harm criteria – due at the end of this year”.

Nuclear’s final status within European law is subject to the evaluations of the JRC report of two other expert groups, including the Euratom Article 31 expert group and the Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER). Their decision will be finalized by June 2021.

Under the taxonomy, technologies are assessed on whether or not they cause significant harm to other EU environmental objectives, or the Do Not Significant Harm criteria.

Vogtle 3 begins hot functional testing

Hot functional testing, the last series of major tests for the new nuclear unit ahead of initial fuel load, has begun for Georgia Power’s Vogtle Unit 3, the utility said in a statement at the end of April.

The testing, which is expected to take six to eight weeks, is to verify reactor components and systems are running correctly before the initial fuel load and involves running the unit’s systems without fuel to reach normal operating pressure and temperature.

Once normal operating temperature and pressure levels are reached and sustained, the unit’s main turbine will be raised to normal operating speed using steam from the plant, Georgia Power said.

Construction of Vogtle 3 & 4 is the largest jobs-producing construction project in the state of Georgia, employing over 7,000 workers on site and producing more than 800 permanent jobs once the units are operating.

Meanwhile, all major modules for the Vogtle 3 & 4 project have been set after a 10 meter tall, over 350,000 kilo Passive Containment Cooling Water Storage Tank was lifted in to place on top of the Unit 4 containment vessel and shield building roof at the end of April, the utility said.

The unit, put in place with the last major crane lift at the site, will hold some 3.4 million liters or water which will be used to cool the reactor in the event of an accident.

The company says it is on schedule to meet the regulatory approved in-service dates for Units 3 and 4 in November 2021 and November 2022 respectively.

China clears five new reactors, report says

China has approved the construction of five new nuclear power units with an installed capacity of 4.9 GW, Reuters reported citing two unnamed sources familiar with matter.

The new capacity forms part of China’s efforts to bring down its carbon emissions and meet its climate goals of becoming ‘carbon neutral’ by 2060.

The power stations were approved by China’s state council and will be developed by China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC), the sources told Reuters.

The country previously pledged to be operating some 58 GW of nuclear power capacity by last year, though approvals for new projects slowed in the wake of the Fukushima accident in 2011.

Four of the reactors will use Russian-made VVER-1200 technology, each with a capacity of 1.2 GW, while the fifth will be a China-made ACP100 small modular reactor demonstration project with a 125-MW capacity, the sources said.

Czech Republic turns back on Russians in tender

The Czech Republic will not include Russian nuclear company Rosatom in a multi-billion dollar tender for a new unit at the Dukovany nuclear power plant, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Industry and Trade, Minister of Transport Karel Havlicek said.

The decision, which Havlicek said in a tweet was “for safety”, came just two days after the Czech government expelled 18 Russian embassy staff over claims Russian intelligence was involved in an ammunition depot explosion in 2014.

Moscow has denied it was involved in the blasts and responded to the Czech Republic’s actions by expelling 20 Czech embassy employees.

“The evaluation of bidders before the start of the tender for Dukovany II will be addressed to EDF, KHNP and Westinghouse, not Rosatom,” Havlicek tweeted.

Rosatom, meanwhile, said the decision was an “anti-market, politically motivated decision that does not encourage the development of mutually beneficial cooperation between our countries.”

“We are certain that nuclear energy relations should be outside of politics,” Rosatom said in a statement following Havlicek’s comments.

 By Reuters Events Nuclear