Spain regulator blocks uranium mine; GE Steam Power, OPG sign Darlington installation project

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A member of the "Stop Uranium" group, poses by graffiti on the road that reads "No mine" in the village of Retortillo. (Source: Reuters/Susana Vera)

Spain’s nuclear regulator (CSN) has blocked Berkeley Energia’s plan to exploit a uranium mine in the western town of Retortillo in Salamanca, saying that there were high levels of uncertainty surrounding the mine and how radioactive material would be stored there.

The decision was made due to low reliability and high uncertainties in the installation’s security analysis in geotechnic and hydrogeological terms, the CSN said in a statement.  

“The technical deficiencies detected in the evaluation refer mainly to the storage of very low-level radioactive residues that forms part of the main installation,” the CSN said.

Berkeley Energia, which lists on the Madrid stock exchange and has the inactive mine as its only asset, saw its shares slump over 12% on the announcement in mid-July. It said it would appeal the decision.

The project represents an investment of some 400 million euros ($470 million) and would create more than 1,000 jobs, the company has said.

The project received preliminary approval in early 2013 but has since faced opposition from locals and environmental groups.

GE Steam Power, OPG sign turnkey project at Darlington

Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has signed a $120 million turnkey installation project with GE Steam Power as part of its refurbishment of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station in Canada, the company said.

“The agreement between OPG and GE Steam Power includes the turnkey installation and commissioning of steam turbine and excitation control system upgrades as well as generator and auxiliaries refurbishment for three units,” GE said in statement.

The four-unit Darlington refurbishment, which is ahead of schedule and on budget, is forecast for completion in 2026.  The defueling of Unit 3 was completed ahead of schedule and, after the successful islanding of the reactor vault, it is currently disassembling the reactor and is on track for feeder removal to commence this quarter.

GE Steam Power has been working with OPG since the long-term refurbishment strategy began in 2013, including the supply of a 400-ton generator stator in 2019, ongoing support with steam turbine/generator maintenance outages, and resident engineer service.

“We’re proud to support OPG as a single-service provider for the entire steam turbine and generator refurbishment scope at Darlington to help them continue to deliver reliable, carbon-free power generation for Canada for the next 30 years or more,” said Lance Hall, General Manager at GE Steam Power Americas in the GE statement.

Euroatom nuclear program receives 300m euros

The Euroatom Research and Training Programme for 2021-2022 has received 300 million euros in funding for fusion research and to improve nuclear safety, radiation protection and training, the European Commission said early July.

“These investments will support fusion research and help to foster progress in a wide range of areas, from further improving nuclear safety and radiation protection, to boosting non-power applications of nuclear technology,” the EC said.

The Euroatom Work Programme 2021-2022 is part of the Euroatom Research and Training Programme 2021-2025 which covers nuclear research and innovation and has a total budget of 1.38 billion euros.

That includes 583 million euros for indirect actions in fusion research and development, 266 million euros for indirect actions in nuclear fission, safety and radiation protection and 532 million euros for direct actions undertaken by the Joint Research Centre, the EC said.

Under the 2021-2022 work program, the 300 million euros will help set a clear strategy for the success of the international nuclear fusion research and engineering megaproject, ITER, while in fission, the cash will go toward ensuring high standards of safety at nuclear power plants, research reactors, materials and fuels, and education and training.

Illinois plants hit milestone ahead of closure

The four Illinois nuclear plants Dresden, Byron, Braidwood and LaSalle, all at risk of permanent closure, reached a milestone of a combined uninterrupted 15,000 consecutive days and a combined 41 years of continuous service mid-July, Exelon said in a statement.

Low power prices and market rules that give fossil fuel power plants an unfair advantage prompted Exelon to announce in 2019 the closure of the two-unit Byron and Dresden plants later this year while Braidwood and LaSalle are also at risk of premature retirement, according to the utility.

Some lawmakers are pushing clean energy legislation that would keep the plants running as the state’s energy grid struggles from extreme heat and storms, though final legislation is yet to be passed.

Byron reached 5,000 consecutive days online mid-July while Dresden hit 4,260 days over the same period, with Braidwood Station reaching 3,975 days and LaSalle Station another 1,603 days, Exelon said.

Including Exelon Generation’s Clinton and Quad Cities nuclear plants, Illinois's six nuclear stations provide 90% of the state’s carbon-zero energy.  

“These nuclear plants provide everything residents have asked for: jobs, reliable and environmentally friendly power generation and a solid tax base for local communities. Other states wish they had this much baseload, carbon-free energy to power their businesses and homes,” executive director of the Byron Area Chamber of Commerce Sarah Downs said.

By Reuters Events Nuclear