South Africa picks two new-build sites; Global nuclear growth to outpace energy demand

Nuclear power news you need to know.

South Africa plans to reduce its reliance on coal-fired power generation. (Image credit: AVTG)

Eskom submits two new build site licenses

South Africa's power utility Eskom has submitted two Nuclear Installation Site Licence (NISL) applications, at Thyspunt in the Eastern Cape and Duynefontein in the Western Cape.

"Both applications mentioned the applicant’s intention to construct and operate multiple nuclear installations (power reactors) and associated auxiliary nuclear installations of a plant type and technology not yet identified," the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR) said March 10.

The NNR will now initiate a review of the application to determine the level of compliance with relevant regulations and whether it should be accepted for further technical assessments and public comment, it said.

South Africa currently operates two 900 MW reactors at the Koeberg nuclear plant complex near Cape Town, commissioned in 1984-85.

South Africa’s government has backed a plan to build up to 9.6 GW of nuclear power capacity, although in the latest budget announced last month the Treasury said nuclear power capacity would only be expanded at a scale and pace that is affordable.

Nuclear output to grow 50% by 2035

Global nuclear power output is forecast to rise by 50% by 2035, increasing at an annual rate of 1.9% per annum mainly due to rising output in China, BP said in its Energy Outlook 2016.

Nuclear power will see its share of primary energy production rise by one percentage point over the next 20 years, to 5%, the report said.

China’s nuclear output is forecast to rise as much as 11.2% per year while nuclear output in the European Union is forecast to fall by 29% by 2035 and output in US and Canada is forecast to drop by 13%.

The decline in Europe and North America will come as ageing plants are gradually decommissioned and economic and political challenges stunt new investments, BP said.

           Nuclear generation by region

Source: BP's Energy Outlook, 2016 

US gives highest performance status to 96 of 99 reactors

All but 3 of the 99 U.S. operational nuclear power plants achieved the highest performance categories in 2015, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said March 4.

Arkansas Nuclear One units 1 and 2 and the single-unit Pilgrim plant will require additional inspections and increased NRC management attention to confirm performance issues are being addressed.

Of the 96 highest-performing reactors, 85 fully met all safety and security performance objectives while eleven reactors need to resolve "one or two items of low safety significance," NRC said.

To this end, additional inspections and follow-up actions are needed at Clinton (Illinois), Davis Besse (Ohio), Dresden 2 (Illinois), Duane Arnold (Iowa), Indian Point 3 (New York), Millstone 3 (Connecticut), Prairie Island 2 (Minnesota), River Bend (Louisiana), Sequoyah 1 (Tennessee), and Susquehanna 1 and 2 (Pennsylvania).

French state backs Hinkley Point C investment

France’s government wants EDF to go ahead with the UK Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant project and is ready to give it the financial support it needs, economy minister Emmanuel Macron said March 17.

EDF has yet to make a Financial Investment Decision on the 18 billion pounds ($25.8 billion) project to build two 3.2 GW EPRs in south-west England. The French state owns 85% of EDF, which has a reported net debt of 37 billion euros ($41.7 billion).

Thomas Piquemal resigned from his position as EDF’s Chief Financial Officer on March 7, reportedly because he feared the Hinkley Point C project could jeopardize EDF's financial position. Within days, EDF had issued a statement to its staff, pledging to further de-risk the project.

In the statement, EDF Chairman Jean-Bernard Levy said the company would implement recommendations made by Yannick d'Escatha, a nuclear expert the company commissioned to analyze the risk of the project.

Escatha told EDF staff the project risks "had been accurately identified and they can be overcome as long as all the safety measures that we recommend are implemented. So from the viewpoint of the risks and under these conditions – the project can be launched."

Macron told Reuters there were several ways the state could help, including a repeat of its deal to accept dividend rights in shares instead of cash this year.

"Not doing Hinkley Point would be a mistake," he said.

China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGNPC) has agreed in principle to buy a 33.5% stake in the Hinkley Point C project, under a strategic agreement signed with EDF in October 2015.