Nuclear must be part of taxonomy, say unions; HPC delayed over COVID-19

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

EU flag outside the European headquarters in Brussels

Nuclear energy must be part of the European taxonomy within the action plan on financing sustainable growth, unions from Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, France, Hungary and Romania said in a joint letter to the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.

“Convinced that Nuclear Energy is essential for achieving Europe's climate goals, our organizations insist on the imperative to include Nuclear Energy in European taxonomy. This taxonomy should provide reliable information on activities and technologies contributing to sustainable goals,” the unions said in the letter.

The EU taxonomy is a classification system to clearly define and establish a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities which investors can use when considering financing projects.

“The EU taxonomy is an important enabler to scale up sustainable investment and to implement the European Green Deal,” the European Commission says.

A Commission has left nuclear power from its recommendations on the taxonomy rules as it said it could not conclude that the industry’s value chain does not cause significant harm to other environmental objectives.

Hinkley Point C start up delayed 6 mths due to Covid-19

The startup for EDF’s Hinkley Point C nuclear power station, two EPR reactors with a combined capacity of 3.2 GW in construction in Somerset, UK, will be around six months later than originally planned and will cost an extra £500 million ($687 million) due to COVID-19 pandemic, the company said in a statement at the end of January.

EDF, a French state-run utility, has come under fire for repeated project delays and cost over runs at the site, which will house Britain’s first EPR reactor when it begins operation, with its first unit expected to start electricity generation in June 2026.

That date compares to the original date of end-2025 as announced in 2016.

The project completion costs are now estimated in the range of £22 to £23 billion compared to £21.5 to £22.5 billion announced in a press release September 25, 2019, EDF said.

“The risk of COD (Commercial Operation Date) delay of Units 1 and 2 is maintained at respectively 15 and 9 months. The realisation of this risk would incur a potential additional cost in the order of £0.7 bn. In this case, the IRR (internal rate of return) for EDF would be reduced by 0.3%,” EDF said.

European Parliament calls for suspension of Belarus NPP

A European Parliament committee has called for the suspension of operations at the Astravets Nuclear Power Plant in the Grodno Region in Belarus until all EU safety recommendations have been implemented.

The parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy voted 66 in favour, 2 against and 7 abstentions on a resolution which expressed its concern at the “urgent” start up and lack of implementation and transparency of recommendations of the EU and other international organizations, it said in a press release at the end of January.

According to the members of the EP committee, the power plant "is being implemented as a geopolitical project between Belarus and Russia, which poses a threat to the EU and its countries in the areas of security, health and environmental protection".

The EP said the plant was built despite protests from Belarusian citizens and NGOs, incidents during the construction and commissioning of the plant and without early warning systems for radiation hazards in countries adjacent to the plant, including Poland, Latvia, and Estonia.

Unit 1 of the plant started supplying electricity on Nov. 3 and was officially connected to the grid on Nov. 7, 2020.

The European Parliament will vote on the resolution on Feb. 8-11, the EP said.

OPG’s Unit 1 takes break after world record

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) took its Darlington Nuclear Generating Station Unit 1 offline Feb. 5 for a final inspection and maintenance outage ahead of its refurbishment next year and just months after it set a world record for continuous operation of a nuclear reactor.

In September, the reactor set a record for continuous operation of a nuclear reactor at 963 days. The unit has generated power for 1,106 days without fail since going online Jan. 26, 2018.

“Work completed during the last outage as well as maintenance work performed while the unit was online both contributed to Unit 1’s record run,” said Charlie Qaqish, Section Manager for Outages at Darlington. “This extraordinary performance is a positive reflection of the planning and teamwork by both employees and contract staff.”

During the outage, the OPG team will inspect the unit’s equipment and fuel channels and carry out maintenance in areas not reachable during normal operation while also upgrading Unit 1’s reactivity systems and completing preparatory work necessary ahead of the refurbishment, the company said.   

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