South Africa ‘needs additional nuclear capacity’; NorthStar six months ahead of schedule at Vermont Yankee

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

South Africa ‘needs to plan for additional nuclear capacity’

South Africa’s Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has called for new nuclear power plants to be built despite President Cyril Ramaphosa saying such expansion is too expensive.

However, senior officials in Ramaphosa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) party have said South Africa could be open to building more nuclear capacity when the economy improves.

Currently, South Africa operates just one nuclear power plant, Koeberg, with a capacity of 1,900 MW.

“Given the long-term planning horizon for nuclear power plants, it is imperative that the planning work for the new nuclear power plants should commence now,” Mantashe told South Africa’s parliament.

“It is crucial for South Africa to plan for additional nuclear capacity beyond 2045.”

That date is significant as Koeberg is reaching the end of designed life in 2024 but a project is underway to extend that life by a further 20 years.

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed a nuclear deal at a meeting with Ramaphosa last year.

“Koeberg demonstrates the benefits of nuclear power and gives reason to South Africa continuing with the nuclear expansion programme,” said Mantashe.

Former South African President Jacob Zuma’s had proposed a nuclear expansion project adding an additional 9,600 MW of capacity, but concerns were raised over budget deficits and rising debt.

NorthStar six months ahead of decommissioning schedule at Vermont Yankee

A cooling tower at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in Vernon has been demolished as work by NorthStar Nuclear Decommissioning moves ahead of schedule.

NorthStar CEO Scott State says the company is six months ahead of schedule for the exterior work at the site, which stopped electricity production in 2014, but it is too soon to say whether the interior work, including cutting up the nuclear reactor, is ahead of schedule.

Entergy Corporation completed the sale of Vermont Yankee to NorthStar in January this year – a first in the nuclear power industry as it entailed permanent ownership and license transfer for decommissioning and site restoration.

NorthStar plans to decommission the plant by 2026, decades ahead of the timeline endorsed by Entergy.

US Senate committee passes advanced reactor bill

A bill supporting advanced nuclear reactors has been approved by the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The bill authorises the federal government to enter into 40-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) with nuclear power companies, as opposed to the current 10-year agreements.

"I’m excited to be moving legislation related to nuclear energy, mineral security, energy efficiency, and carbon capture, utilisation and sequestration out of committee," the committee’s chairwoman, Lisa Murkowski, said.

"These measures will help develop innovative technologies, responsibly reduce our energy and water consumption and protect our economy and national security."

Murkowski highlighted S. 903, her Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which aims to restore US leadership in the nuclear industry by developing "a range of advanced reactors technologies that are clean, safe and reliable".

78% of UAE residents back nuclear energy

Residents of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are strongly in favour of the country’s Peaceful Nuclear Energy programme, according to a national poll.

The poll, commissioned by the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) and conducted in 2018 by Nielsen, shows 78% of UAE residents believe that the benefits of nuclear energy outweigh its risks.

The construction of the Barakah Nuclear Energy Plant in the Al Dhafra region is progressing well, with overall construction said to be at more than 93% complete.

The poll also showed 93% of Al Dhafra residents consider nuclear to be a safe, clean, reliable and efficient method of electricity production, up from 82% in 2017.

The UAE’s approach to the development of a nuclear energy programme is seen as a benchmark for countries interested in exploring nuclear energy for the first time.

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