South Korea set to enter UK new build market; UK to provide 56mn pounds to advanced reactors

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

The UK's nuclear new build program is set to create thousands of construction jobs. (Image credit: Shih-wei)

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South Korea’s Kepco set to buy UK nuclear plant developer

Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) has been named the preferred bidder for Toshiba’s NuGen, the company developing a new nuclear plant in Cumbria, North West England, according to media reports on December 5.

The proposed deal would give South Korea’s Kepco a foothold in the UK nuclear new build market and it would follow the entrance of Chinese state groups in EDF's 3.2 GW Hinkley point C project.

Moorside is one of several UK nuclear projects proposed for completion in the 2020s. EDF is planning to build another 3.2 GW nuclear plant at the Sizewell C site in Suffolk and Chinese state firms are planning to build a new plant at Bradwell in Essex. Hitachi-owned Horizon plans to build 2.7 GW of capacity at Wylfa Newydd, Wales and a further 2.7 GW at Oldbury in the west of England.

  UK nuclear jobs forecast under new build program
                           (Click image to enlarge)

Source: 2017 Nuclear Workforce Assessment by the Nuclear Skills Strategy Group (NSSG)

Toshiba is selling NuGen as part of a wider restructuring following the bankruptcy of its subsidiary, Westinghouse.

NuGen had planned to use Westinghouse’s AP1000 reactor design to build 3.8 GW of capacity at Moorside. In order to use its APR1400 design, Kepco will need to complete the U.K.'s generic design assessment (GDA), a process which can take around five years.

Kepco and Toshiba will discuss contract terms in the coming months and could sign an agreement early next year, according to reports.

UK pledges 56 million pounds to advanced reactor research

The UK government is to provide up to 56 million pounds ($74.7 million) in research and development funding for advanced modular reactors in 2018-2020, the government announced December 7.

Initially, the government will allocate 4 million pounds to advanced reactor feasibility studies-- amounting to 300,000 pounds per design-- and 7 million pounds to UK nuclear regulators to support and assess advanced technologies, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), said in a statement.

The government will then allocate 40 million pounds to projects deemed "clear value for money," and a further 5 million pounds will be allocated to regulators, BEIS said.

Developers had expected faster progress in the UK's small modular reactors (SMRs) support program.

In March 2016, the UK government launched an SMR design competition, pledging to invest at least 250 million pounds in nuclear R&D over five years.

The first phase of the SMR competition in the summer of 2016 saw the government receive design proposals and gauge market interest among technology developers, utilities and potential investors. Since then, the government has provided little information on the next steps and provided no information on preferred proposals.

Developers have until the end of March 2018 to apply for funding under the new R&D program. Contracts will be awarded in May.

UK fusion researchers to receive 86 million pounds

The UK government also announced it will provide 86 million pounds to the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) to establish a nuclear fusion research centre at UKAEA’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, England.

The National Fusion Technology Platform (NaFTeP) will bring together groups from across the supply chain to advance tritium and fusion research.

"NaFTeP will support UK industry in targeting major scientific and engineering contracts in nuclear fusion and safeguard the future of the Culham site and the world-class scientists and engineers that work there," BEIS said.

UK accelerates development of final waste repository

The UK government has brought forward its plans to develop a final waste repository for higher activity radioactive waste and plans to launch two public consultations in the New Year, energy minister Richard Harrington said in a speech December 7.

"We will be consulting on a framework for future planning decisions and separately, on our approach to working with local communities in the siting process," Harrington said.

The UK has been processing and storing all levels of nuclear waste at the Sellafield site for over 50 years, but the UK is yet to host a permanent facility for high-level waste.

The new waste facility would create up to 1,000 construction jobs and support 1,000 supply chain jobs, according to the government.

When completed, the facility will "sustain around 600 jobs a year for more than a century," it said.

Finland, Sweden and France have all made progress towards their first final waste repositories.

Posiva began construction of a 6,500-tonne repository on Olkiluoto island, Finland, in December 2016.

The facility will consist of an above-ground encapsulation plant, where spent fuel will be dried and packed into final disposal canisters made of copper and cast-iron, and a repository consisting of a network of tunnels deep inside the bedrock.

Posiva, which is jointly-owned by nuclear utilities Fortum and TVO, is to execute repository excavation work in a series of eight phases, which will allow investments to be broken down into portions over time and provide new site data to aid subsequent construction decisions.

Early construction deals for the project indicate costs meet expectations but commodity price rises remain a risk over the long term, Sami Hautakangas, Head of Spent Fuel & Disposal Services at Fortum, co-owner of repository developer Posiva, said in April 2017.

Andra, France’s National Radioactive Waste Agency, is developing a high and intermediate level waste repository in northeast France and aims to start operating the facility in 2025.

SKB, Sweden's radioactive waste management company, plans to start construction of a final repository and encapsulation facility in the 2020s and construction is expected to take around 10 years.

US DOE to allocate $30 million to advanced nuclear projects in 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is to provide up to $30 million of federal funding towards advanced nuclear technology projects in 2018, the DOE announced December 7.

In general, the DOE is seeking applications for "unique/new ideas that will improve the existing fleet, the potential for future U.S. nuclear power deployment, U.S. nuclear technology leadership, and U.S. industry competiveness," the DOE said in its funding opportunity announcement (FOA) paper.

The FOA will be open for a five-year period and will select projects through a quarterly process. According to the DOE, project proposals may focus on the below areas:

• Advanced nuclear reactor designs, including small modular reactors (SMRs) of various technology types.
• Engineering, analyses and experimentation to address first-of-a-kind reactor design, certification, and licensing issues.
• Advanced manufacturing, fabrication and construction techniques for nuclear components, full-scale plants, or integrated efforts that could positively impact the domestic nuclear manufacturing industry.
• Sensors, instrumentation and control systems.
• Plant auxiliary and support systems.
• Operational inspection and monitoring capabilities.
• Modeling and simulation of various elements of the plant life cycle.
• Procedures, processes, and methodologies that can impact operational efficiencies.
• Integration of nuclear energy into micro-grid, non-electric, and/or hybrid applications.
• Other components, systems, processes, or capabilities, including dynamic convection technologies, that could result in performance and economic improvements in advanced nuclear reactor designs.
• Efforts to address regulatory and licensing issues with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Nuclear Energy Insider