Nuclear Energy Insider Intelligence Brief 22 January - 4 February 2015

US-India statement of “understandings” not enough to put suppliers at ease over liabilities

President Barack Obama toasts Prime Minister Naredra Modi during a State Dinner hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi, India. January 25, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

By K. Steiner-Dicks

Companies mentioned: Westinghouse Electric, IEA, Nuclear Energy Agency, Nagra, Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate, Amec Foster Wheeler, EDF Energy, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Arizona Public Service Company

US-India statement of “understandings” not enough to put suppliers at ease over liabilities

The US President Barack Obama has announced a series of additional steps that will generate more than $4bn in trade and investment with India while supporting thousands of jobs in both countries.

One of those areas of supposed investment included a US-India joint statement that relayed that President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the "understandings reached" on the issues of civil nuclear liability and "administrative arrangements for civil nuclear cooperation."

According to media reports, no specific document was signed. However, the Indian government reportedly announced its plan to set up a $122m insurance fund to cover operators and suppliers from liabilities in case of an accident. Senior US nuclear industry officials stated they need to understand the "fine print" of the insurance.

Equipment suppliers are not likely to jump the gun if they feel they are too exposed should human error or standard operating procedures not be seen through with their products.

As per the 2010 India passed legislation that protected foreign nuclear suppliers from compensation claims of direct victims in case of an accident, however, suppliers are still exposed whereby the Nuclear Power Corporation of India has the power to sue suppliers for compensation and recover payments.

Westinghouse Electric Company’s President and CEO, Danny Roderick, was among a select group of CEOs representing U.S. businesses who met with the U.S. delegation to India.

“The nuclear energy market in India is among the largest in the world, and Westinghouse looks forward to supporting it with our AP1000 nuclear plant,” said Roderick.

“We are already in discussions with potential partners within India as part of our effort to provide nuclear energy plants in a manner that is mutually beneficial, creating jobs and building infrastructure in the United States and in the countries and regions in which we do business.

Westinghouse and Nuclear Power Company of India Limited signed an Early Works Agreement in 2013 to support construction of AP1000 nuclear power plants at the Mithivirdi site in Gujarat. The agreement represents the ongoing progress toward the realization of the India – U.S. Civil Nuclear Agreement signed in 2008.

Under President Obama, trade between the US and India increased by about 60 percent to nearly $100bn a year. But that is still hundreds of billions less than the trade the US does with China.

"We've got to do better," the President said, speaking at a U.S.-India Business Council Summit in New Delhi.

Nuclear energy capacity must double says report

A new publication suggests that to lower global warming nuclear energy capacity must double by 2050.

A new Technology Roadmap co-authored by the IEA and the Nuclear Energy Agency has reported that global capacity must more than double, with nuclear supplying 17% of global electricity generation in 2050, to meet the IEA 2 Degree Scenario (2DS) for the most effective and efficient means of limiting global temperature rise to the internationally agreed maximum.

“Nuclear energy’s attractiveness lies in how it allows countries to build scalable, efficient and long-term power sources that can serve as a base to underpin other forms of low-carbon generation,” said the report.

Even if a limited number of countries have decided to phase out nuclear power, many more have set ambitious development programmes. For example, China plans to have a net 58 gigawatt (GW) in nuclear capacity by 2020, up from 17 GW in 2014, with a further 30 GW under construction then.

“But under the 2DS, total nuclear capacity should be 250 GW in 2050,” said the report.

Switzerland step closer on geological sites

Nagra presented its proposals for the geological waste siting regions for further investigation in Stage 3 of the Sectoral Plan for Deep Geological Repositories.

The proposed siting regions are Zürich Nordost and Jura Ost. The regions Südranden, Nördlich Lägern, Jura-Südfuss and Wellenberg will be placed in reserve. These proposals represent the result of the safety-based comparison of the siting regions carried out by Nagra in line with the requirements specified by the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI).

Nagra is required by federal guidelines to make siting proposals that will provide the basis for the decision to be made by the Federal Council – expected for 2017 – on Stage 2 of the Sectoral Plan process. Of the six geological siting regions that were adopted into the Sectoral Plan process with the decision of the Federal Council on Stage 1 in November 2011, Nagra has to propose at least two regions each for a high-level waste (HLW) repository and a low- and intermediate-level waste (L/ILW) repository for further investigation in Stage 3 of the process.

Thomas Ernst, Nagra’s Chief Executive Officer, explained that the safety-based comparison has confirmed that all six geological siting regions fulfil the strict safety requirements specified at a federal level and are therefore suitable for the construction of deep geological repositories. However, a detailed comparison of the siting regions reveals decisive differences.

Ernst further explained that Zürich Nordost and Jura Ost best fulfil the safety requirements for both a high-level waste and a low- and intermediate-level waste repository.

Amec Foster Wheeler bags fleet extension contract

Amec Foster Wheeler announces today that it has signed to become a founding partner in the EDF Energy Strategic Partnership for Lifetime Interface Agreement. The contract positions it among a select group of key suppliers working with EDF Energy to extend the life of its UK Advanced Gas Cooled Reactor (AGR) nuclear power stations.

Dawn James, Vice President of Amec Foster’s Wheeler's Nuclear Generation and Defence business, said: "We are delighted to be part of this agreement which will call upon our industry-renowned nuclear expertise and unique position of knowledge of the UK AGR and PWR stations.

"This agreement confirms us as a key supplier to EDF Energy and enables us, together with our key partners, to help create and deliver a world-class capability for our customer that ensures continued safe generation of their nuclear power stations."

In addition to being a founding partner of the Energy Strategic Partnership, Amec Foster Wheeler is also part of EDF’s Technical Support Alliance and Projects Division Alliance.

NRC completes SER on proposed repository

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has completed its safety evaluation report (SER) on the proposed nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada, with the publication of Volume 2 and 5. This is an important milestone – however, completion of the SER neither finishes the review process nor represents a licensing decision, says David McIntyre, NRC Public Affairs Officer.

The SER recommends that the Commission should not issue a construction authorization until DOE secures those land and water rights, and a supplement to DOE’s environmental impact statement (EIS) is completed.

McIntyre explained that the land DOE still needs to acquire is owned by three federal agencies: DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Defense. Legislation was introduced in Congress in 2007 to appropriate the land for the repository, but it did not pass. The water rights DOE needs are owned by the state of Nevada, which refused to appropriate the water in 1997. Litigation challenging that refusal is stayed.

“When the NRC resumed its licensing review in response to the appeals court, the agency asked DOE to supplement the EIS to cover certain groundwater-related issues. DOE declined to do so. The NRC staff is prepared to develop the supplement if the Commission tells it to,” he says.

Even if the EIS is completed, two more steps are needed before a licensing decision can be made, he explains: The adjudication of nearly 300 contentions filed by Nevada and other parties challenging the repository was also suspended in 2011; and reviving and completing this hearing will require more funding from Congress.

There is also the issue of having the Commission review issues outside of the adjudicatory context. Only then would the Commission decide whether to authorise construction.

Westinghouse signs $250m fuel contract

Westinghouse Electric Company today announced that Arizona Public Service Company signed a $250m contract with Westinghouse for fabricating and delivering its newest fuel product for the Combustion Engineering pressurized water reactor fleet.

The contract is an extension with Westinghouse to continue fabricating and delivering fuel to three reactors that APS operates at its Palo Verde site in Wintersburg, Arizona. A new component to the contract includes the transition engineering and licensing required to deploy the new fuel design.

Westinghouse provides nuclear fuel to 145 plants globally, 55 of which are in the United States.