France announces nuclear push; EDF to buy part of GE Steam Power’s nuclear

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French President Emmanuel Macron announces nuclear plans at the GE Steam Power System in Belfort (Source: Reuters/Pool)

France will build at least six new nuclear reactors in the next few decades, President Emmanuel Macron said mid-February, cementing the country’s commitment to nuclear power within Europe.

The new plants would be built and operated by the state-controlled utility EDF and tens of billions of euros of public money would be mobilized to finance the plants, Macron said.

The French President announced the start of a program of EPR2 reactors following the construction of an EPR in Finland and in Flamanville, France.

Problems and underestimated construction costs in Finland and Flamanville prompted the French auditor last year to announce that construction of new EPRs in France must have clear financing methods and guarantees.

"I would like six EPR2s to be built and for us to launch studies on the construction of eight additional EPR2s," Macron said during a speech at GE Steam Power's manufacturing site at Belfort in eastern France.

Macron also said he aimed to extend the lifespan of older nuclear power plants to more than 50 years from the current limit of 40 years provided it is safe to do so.

EDF estimates six new nuclear reactors will cost around 50 billion euros ($56.7 billion), though this would depend on the conditions under which the projects are financed.

EDF to buy part of GE Steam Power’s nuclear

France’s EDF and General Electric have signed an exclusive agreement to the French utility to acquire part of GE Steam Power’s nuclear power activities, the companies said, though no financial details of the proposed transaction were disclosed.

GE Steam Power’s nuclear steam turbines are installed in half of the world's nuclear power plants, including in all of EDF’s nuclear plants in France.

The deal includes GE Steam Power’s conventional island equipment for new nuclear power plants as well as maintenance and upgrades for existing plants and would include steam turbine technology for future plants, such as the planned EPR2 and small modular reactors (SMR).

GE, meanwhile, would retain a services-focused Steam Power business for more than 100 GW of nuclear turbine islands in the Americas and GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy which is currently working on providing Canada’s first commercial, grid-scale SMR.

“This plan to acquire part of GE Steam Power’s nuclear activities, including the Arabelle turbine, will enable EDF to strengthen its key technologies and skills for the nuclear fleet in operation and for new nuclear projects in France and worldwide,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of EDF Jean-Bernard Lévy said following the announcement.

The transaction is expected to close in the first half of 2023.

Oklo, ANL sign accord on fuel recycling

Microreactor developer Oklo and Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) have signed an agreement to commercialize advanced fuel recycling as part of a project awarded by the Department of Energy (DOE), the company said in a statement.

The partnership arises from an almost $30 million cost-share project awarded by the DOE Technology Commercialization Fund (TFC) authorized in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

The funding opportunity leverages research and development funding in the applied energy programs to mature energy technologies with a potentially high impact.

“This partnership with Argonne will help reduce fuel costs for advanced reactors, and therefore overall costs for power from advanced fission,” said Jacob DeWitte, co-founder and CEO of Oklo.

“There are tremendous energy reserves in used fuel that can provide emission-free power for entire nations for centuries while reducing the volume and radiological lifetime of waste material.”

Oklo is matching DOE funding for commercializing electrorefining technology to recycle fuel for use in advanced fission power plants, Oklo said.

China, Argentina sign deal for HPR1000 unit

China’s National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), China’s Zhongyuan Engineering Corporation (CZEC), and Argentina’s Nucleoelectrica have signed an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract for a HPR1000 unit in the South American country.

The contract was signed by the director of Nucleoelectrica Argentina Jose Luis Antunez and CNNC President Y Jianfeng during an online event February 6.

The agreement forms part of a cooperation accord between China and Argentina signed in 2015.

“The signing (of the EPC) embodies the concrete steps taken by both sides to stay committed to green and low-carbon development, climate change mitigation, for the global carbon peak and carbon neutrality, and for the nuclear-energy-driven community of shared future for mankind,” CNNC said in a statement.

The plant will be built around 100 kilomters northwest of the Argentine capital Buenos Aires and will be only the second Hualong One reactor to be sited outside of China, after the first in Karachi in Pakistan.

The 800 MWe plant, Atucha III, will be the fourth at the site and the country’s fifth nuclear plant.

By Reuters Events Nuclear