OECD calls for sector to adapt quickly to COVID-19, EDF withdraws targets

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

The OECD/NEA's headquarters in Paris (Source: OECD/NEA)

The global nuclear industry has been hit by the measures taken to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic and must adapt quickly to everchanging and unprecedented circumstances, the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency Director General William Magwood said in a statement April 8.

“The world’s nuclear power plants are operating safely and effectively and are contributing to the reliable grids needed to power the untold millions who are teleworking, the families sheltering at home, and essential medical facilities operating far beyond their intended capacity,” Magwood said. 

Normally, the nature of the nuclear industry dictates that it would only change processes and practices after deliberate analyses and with various viewpoints taken into account, but the crisis demanded a quicker response, he wrote. 

Among the changes needed within the industry, Magwood said that regulators must adjust their plans for inspections, operators must defer outages and modifications of their plants and technologies that allow people to work away form their normal workplaces must be applied in new ways.

NEA membership accounts for around 82% of the world’s installed nuclear capacity with 33 member countries in Europe, the Americas and the Asia-Pacific region.

“The NEA must support our members as they adjust to the environment created by the COVID-19 crisis. We are establishing a means for rapid exchange of ideas and best practices, information about what is working well and what is not,” he said.

With many experts expecting public health risks through May and June, with a potential second round in September and October, the NEA will serve both immediate necessities and prepare for the longer term, Magwood wrote.

The entire NEA has been working from home since March 12.

EDF Group withdraws 2020, 2021 financial targets over COVID-19

The French state-owned utility EDF Group has withdrawn its financial targets for this year and next on the back of the economic downturn following the COVID-19 pandemic, the company said in a brief statement April 14.

“The economic turmoil that follows from the current sanitary crisis results in a drop in power demand and significantly impacts many of the Group’s businesses, namely nuclear generation (which EDF indicates is currently under review and will be adjusted significantly below the initial assumption), new-build projects and services,” the company said.

Due to this, EDF Group has withdrawn all its financial targets for 2020 and 2021, including the lower end of the earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) range of €17.8 billion ($19.4 billion), it said.

The group said March 23 it would “review and adjust downwards” its outlook of 375-390 TWh of nuclear production in France though has not said by how much.

Darlington Unit 2 achieves first criticality in major milestone

The Darlington Refurbishment project has achieved its first criticality – the point at which a nuclear reactor maintains a sustained fission chain reaction – marking a major milestone, OPG said in a statement April 9.

“Achieving first criticality on the unit required an incredibly complex sequence of work that included ensuring that construction was complete, all documentation was in order, and multiple systems were returned to service,” said Mehri Molanaie, Key Evolution Manager.

The event has led to approval to proceed to the final steps of returning Unit 2 to service from the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the statement said.

“This is a historic moment for our station, at a time when essential services like ours are needed more than ever,” said Dietmar Reiner, Chief Project Officer and Senior Vice President, Enterprise Projects.

The Darlington Unit 2 is scheduled to return to service sometime this spring.

UK’s NNL signs accord with IAEA

The UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have signed a joint agreement to encourage closer cooperation between the two organizations, the NNL said in a statement early April.

The two groups will work more closely together in areas of increasing efficiency of operating nuclear power plants, good practices for stakeholder engagement and nuclear power reactor innovation, advanced nuclear technologies such as small modular reactors and decommissioning.

“Only through important collaborations of this kind, will we ensure nuclear can continue to play its vital role in the global low carbon economy,” NNL’s Chief Strategy Officer James Murphy said.

The NNL and the IAEA will be joint organizing bodies for the upcoming Global Nuclear Innovation Forum in London.

France’s Frametome signs service contract to support China’s Taishan operation

French nuclear reactor business Frametome has signed a long-term service contract with Taishan Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company Limited (TNPJVC), which runs a plant in the Chinese region of Guangdong, to support operations of two EPRs, Frametome said in a statement April 14.

The 8-year contract covers nuclear plants outage and maintenance work including spare parts supply and engineering services, it said.

“This contract marks an important step in our long-lasting collaboration with TNPJVC and illustrates the cooperation between France and China in the nuclear industry, using the lessons learned from our projects and from our experience in nuclear plant operations,” said Catherine Cornand, senior executive vice president of Framatome’s Installed Base Business Unit.

Taishan Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 is the first commercial and operational EPR in the world and operates together with Taishan Unit 2. Each unit has a generating capacity of 1,750 MW, making the plant one of the most powerful in the world.

TNPJVC is a joint venture between China General Nuclear Power Corporation (51%), EDF (30%) and Guangdong Energy Group (19%).

Nuclear Energy Insider