Intelligence Brief 4 – 18 February 2015

NuScale helical coil tube testing starts in Italy

NuScale’s full-length HCSG was constructed in a fabrication shop near the SIET facility and then transported by truck to the SIET facility where it was installed by crane and is now on a testing rig.

By K. Steiner-Dicks

Companies mentioned: NuScale Power, SIET, Electrabel, Takahama NPP, Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Japan, Posiva, Areva, Waste Control Specialists, Exelon, Office for Nuclear Regulation, Sizewell B, Doel 1, EDF Energy

NuScale helical coil tube testing starts in Italy

NuScale Power has installed a full-length helical coil steam generator (HCSG) at the SIET S.p.A (SIET) facilities in Piacenza, Italy. The NuScale design includes a first-of-a-kind HCSG for conversion of nuclear heat into process steam.

Testing of the full-length HCSG will be conducted at prototypic fluid temperatures, pressures and flow rates to measure the steam generator’s thermal performance, said the US SMR designer.

The data will be used to validate NuScale’s state-of-the-art computer codes and help NuScale vendors optimize the performance of their steam turbines for a NuScale application. Flow induced vibration testing will also be performed as part of the assessment.

The company will need the input for its NuScale Design Certification Application planned for NRC submittal in the second half of 2016 and for the first planned Combined Operating License Application for the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems Carbon Free Power Project. The UAMPS COLA is planned for submittal in 2017 with the project commercially operational in late 2023.

"The fabrication, installation and subsequent testing of this full-length HCSG is an important step in the continued support of our reactor safety code development and validation, our reactor design, and our technology maturation to reduce first-of-a-kind risk,” said Jose Reyes, NuScale’s Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer. “This is another key milestone for the development of our innovative technology.”

NuScale’s full-length HCSG was constructed in a fabrication shop near the SIET facility and then transported by truck to the SIET facility where it was installed by crane.

EDF profit woes stall new-build plans for Britain

A 25% drop in operating profit in 2014 has slowed down the financial decision process for EDF’s plans to build new nuclear reactors in Britain.

Operating Profit (EBIT) for EDF Energy in 2014 was £649m, a 25% drop compared to 2013 (£863m) figures, reflecting what the power company says are “challenging market conditions”. The figure includes a one-off charge of £136m relating to the reduction in value of gas generating and storage assets, meaning underlying profitability was 10% lower.

This figure, according to EDF, was impacted by the “precautionary decision” in August 2014 to shut down Heysham 1 and Hartlepool nuclear power stations to allow a detailed programme of boiler inspections to take place. These stations have now been safely returned to service.

Performance of the rest of the nuclear stations was very strong, said EDF. Heysham 2 achieved over 10.4TWh output, a record for any advanced gas cooled reactor power station in a single year. And Hinkley Point B generated its highest output in 10 years with no unplanned stoppages in 2014. The company also reported an excellent safety performance with the “lowest ever number of ‘lost-time incidents’ recorded in the nuclear stations’ operational history.

While EDF had planned a final investment decision for the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset by March of this year, the goal posts have been moved to an indefinite period of “months”, according to a statement. EDF has yet to have finalised its discussions with Chinese financial backers, which will delay the decision process.

Doel 1 shuts down

Belgium’s Electrabel will start the first operations to stop operations of its Doel 1 nuclear plant. More specifically, the plant will be shut down safely this week.

The 121 fuel elements will be transferred from the reactor to the fuel pools under the permanent control of the operational teams, said Electrabel.

Doel 1 is the first Belgian nuclear plant to complete 40 years of operation. Commissioned on the February 15th 1975, the reactor together with 6 other units enabled economic and industrial development for Belgium. During the operational period, Doel 1 generated 127,000 GWh, corresponding to an annual consumption of 36 million households. Over the 40 years, the unit has had an average availability of 89%.

In Belgium, unlike other countries, the operating lifetime of a nuclear plant is currently limited to 40 years by law, except Tihange 1 for which a lifetime extension of 10 years was granted. The United States of America, the Netherlands and Sweden for their part already have chosen to extend the life time of some of their nuclear plants for a period of 20 years, explained the Belgian power company.

In accordance with the decision of the Federal Government of December 18th 2014, the Minister of Energy and Electrabel Group GDF SUEZ are still in discussions over the lifetime extension of Doel 1 & 2.

“Electrabel participates constructively in these discussions while recalling the need to define a clear legal and economic framework to consider investing locally EUR600m to EUR700m needed for the extension of the activity,” said the company.

Areva, WCS to apply for interim fuel storage facility

Areva has signed an agreement with Waste Control Specialists LLC (WCS) to assist with their license application and environmental report for the construction of an interim used nuclear fuel storage facility in Texas.

WCS filed a letter of intent on February 6, 2015 with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) stating their intention to seek a license to operate an offsite Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation at their 14,000-acre facility in Andrews, Texas, according to Areva.

David Jones, senior vice president, of AREVA’s Back End division, North America, said, "This initiative, which already has the consent of local stakeholders, will deliver an economically viable option for used fuel management while more permanent solutions are addressed."

Areva already holds a huge chunk of the US storage market. More than 40% of US utilities use the company’s NUHOMS® horizontal storage technology. The group has already sold 900 storage canisters in the US.

Japan regulator makes approval for Takahama re-start

Two units at the Takahama nuclear power plant have moved one step closer to restarting following final approval by the Japanese regulator of changes in the reactor installations. They become the third and fourth reactors in Japan to gain such permission, reported World nuclear News.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) granted preliminary permission to Kansai to make changes to the basic design of the reactor installations of Takahama units 3 and 4 in mid-December 2014. At that time, the NRA said that the applied design and safety features of the Takahama units - both 870 MWe pressurized water reactors - were deemed to meet its new regulatory requirements, announced in July 2013.

Finland’s Posiva gets green light on final disposal facility

The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK) has reported to the Finnish Ministry of Employment and the Economy that it deems Posiva's plans for a final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel as safe.

STUK concludes in its statement that the criteria set forth in the Nuclear Energy Act are fulfilled and the final disposal facility can be built to be safe. According to STUK, both STUK's own experts and other Finnish and international experts were used for the review of the construction licence application.

Posiva's research findings were that the spent nuclear fuel facility can be carried out in a safe manner in Olkiluoto, in the municipality of Eurajoki. The project can now be continued with detailed engineering on the basis of STUK's statement, and the development areas presented by STUK will be incorporated in the forward plans, said Posiva.

The Parliament approved the decision-in-principle on the final disposal project in 2001. Posiva submitted the construction licence application towards the end of 2012. The application has been since complemented on the basis of STUK's requests for further clarification.

Sizewell B awarded 10 year extension

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has approved the Periodic Safety Review of the safety case for Sizewell B. This allows the UK’s only Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) to operate for a further 10 years.

The industry regulator confirmed Sizewell B meets its safety case to continue delivering low carbon power to over 2million customers until 2025 and the station is already working on the case for the next ten years to ensure operation to at least 2035. This is the station’s current stated lifetime although two years ago EDF Energy expressed its aim to extend its life for 20 years beyond that to 2055.

A Periodic Safety Review (PSR) is carried out every 10 years at all nuclear power stations in the UK.

The PSR is a look back at the operation of the station over the last ten years and a look forward at processes to manage safe operations for the next ten years. The review also looks at the experiences of other nuclear stations around the world to see if lessons can be learned.

This is the second PSR to be carried out at Sizewell B. The PSR highlighted opportunities for improvement which will be programmed into the station’s enhancement plans. This work will be part of the maintenance tasks carried out every 18months when the station is brought offline to refuel.

Jim Crawford, Sizewell B Station Director said: "It takes five years of planning and 200 people from within and outside the business to scrutinise every area of Sizewell B to ensure it meets current standards of operation. The team working on the project include experts from around the world to check the processes and operations at the plant. No stone is left unturned. We are pleased that the station will continue to safely generate low carbon power for over 2million customers here at Sizewell B."

Exelon, Areva launch ‘cavitation peening’ to boost component life extensions

Areva and Exelon have signed a contract to implement a new component asset management process to significantly extend the life of nuclear reactor components.

The process, according to Areva is called cavitation peening. The process will be performed for the first time in the world on the reactor vessel closure heads of Exelon’s Byron and Braidwood nuclear power plants, located in the US state of Illinois.

Cavitation peening uses ultra-high-pressure water jets to work the surface of components to improve material properties and to enhance resistance to corrosion. Used preventatively, this process removes many causes of aging. It can be applied to components of both boiling water and pressurized water reactors.

“Developed as part of AREVA’s Forward Alliance programme, this technology offers utilities an economical and innovative solution to reinforce the safety of nuclear components and to extend the lifetime of their operations,” said Philippe Samama, executive vice-president of AREVA’s Reactors & Services Business Group.