UK considers public finance for new reactor; Saudi Arabia to pick first reactor developer in 2019

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

The use of UK government funds to build nuclear plants would be a departure from the Hinkley Point C model, for which costs have risen to 20 billion pounds. (Image credit: mtcurado)

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UK, Japan mull public finance for Wylfa plant construction

The UK and Japanese governments have agreed to explore options for joint-financing the 2.7 GW Wylfa nuclear construction project in Wales, the Financial Times (FT) reported January 16.

Through letters exchanged between London and Tokyo, the governments have agreed to consider contributing to financing the Wylfa project, the FT reported. The project is being developed by Hitachi subsidiary Horizon.

The Wylfa project could be the next UK nuclear plant to be built following EDF's 3.2 GW Hinkley point C project, expected online in 2025.

Partial public financing for the Wylfa plant would be a new approach by the UK government and would provide access to cheap debt to reduce capital costs.

The Hinkley Point C project has suffered significant cost overruns. The UK National Audit Office and the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts have both told the government it should have done more to minimize the cost to UK taxpayers.

The government failed to sufficiently analyze alternative ways to finance the deal, including sharing the early stage project risk between the government and the developer rather than requiring the developer to bear all construction risks, the commons committee said in November.

EDF is looking at alternative financing structures for subsequent UK power plant projects. The company is aiming to attract pension funds and other institutional investors to help finance a 3.2 GW project planned at Sizewell C, England, Simone Rossi, the new CEO of EDF Energy, EDF's UK subsidiary, said January 17.

The French state-controlled company is also in early-stage talks about potential UK government backing for the project.

EDF aims to use efficiency gains to cut the construction cost of the Sizewell plant by 20% compared with Hinkley Point C, Rossi said.

Last month, the UK Nuclear Industry Council (NIC) pledged to reduce nuclear new build costs by 30% by 2030, as part of a nuclear Sector Deal within the UK government's new Industrial Strategy.

To meet this aim, industry and government must work together to maximize economies of scale and series, adopt advanced construction technologies to increase productivity, streamline development and regulation, and lower the cost of capital, the NIC said in a report.

      UK nuclear cost reduction drivers in proposed Sector Deal
                                                    (Click image to enlarge)

Source: Nuclear Industry Council's report on the UK nuclear Sector Deal. (December 2017)

Toshiba-owned Nugen has also been developing a new 3.8 GW nuclear plant at Moorside in Cumbria, England. Toshiba is selling NuGen as part of a wider restructuring and Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) has been named the preferred bidder, according to reports.

In addition, Chinese state firms plan to build a new nuclear plant at Bradwell in Essex, England.

Saudi Arabia to select first nuclear developer in 2019

Saudi Arabia is expected to select the developer of its first nuclear power plant in 2019, a consultant involved in the process said January 15, Reuters reported.

The plant will have two reactors with a total capacity of between 2 GW and 3.2 GW and is expected to be online by 2027.

“Currently we are in the evaluation process for RFI (request for information) and we will hold discussions with [companies] next month,” Abdul Malik al-Sabery, a consultant at the King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

Saudi Arabia will decide a shortlist of developers by the end of this year, he said. The kingdom has shortlisted two sites near the UAE and Qatari borders for its first plant, according to Middle East Business Intelligence (MEED).

Saudi Arabia is looking to build as much as 17.6 GW of nuclear power capacity by 2032. The kingdom is considering building small modular reactors (SMRs) as well as conventional large reactor designs.

Saudi Arabia is restructuring its power sector as part of its Vision 2030 plan to diversify its economy away from hydrocarbon resources. The kingdom hopes to attract up to $50 billion of investments in solar and wind projects.

EDF's Framatome buys Schneider's nuclear automation business

French nuclear group Framatome is to buy Schneider Electric's nuclear automation division to expand its instrumentation and control (I&C) business, Framatome said in a statement January 18. The agreement also creates a long-term manufacturing partnership between the companies, it said.

Controlled by France's EDF, Framatome designs and manufactures nuclear power plant (NPP) equipment and systems. Previously called "New NP," the company was renamed at the start of 2018.

Framatome has installed over 80 safety I&C systems on 44 reactors in 17 countries. Schneider Electric has to date installed around 250 automation systems.

"The acquisition and partnership with Schneider Electric build on our long history of providing nuclear operators with both digital and analog I&C solutions,” Gary Mignogna, president and CEO of Framatome, said in a statement.

"With this acquisition, we will provide long-term support for our customers’ systems and serve as the original equipment manufacturer for their I&C upgrades and modernizations,” he said.

EDF owns 75.5% of Framatome while Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) owns 19.5% and Assystem 5%.

MHI completed the acquisition of its 19.5% stake earlier this month, based on an agreement signed in July 2017. MHI, Framatome and EDF will collaborate on a wide range of nuclear power plant projects including sales of the ATMEA1 reactor, a joint venture project between MHI and Areva.

Rolls-Royce to install digital analytics at New Jersey reactors

Rolls-Royce is to supply digital services to U.S. utility PSEG under a new four-year reactor optimization contract.

The project will focus on "efficiency savings and optimized maintenance activities" at PSEG’s Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plants in New Jersey, the companies said in a statement January 16.

Rolls-Royce and PSEG will use global and site-specific nuclear plant operating data to reduce preventive maintenance, improve equipment reliability and cut the consumption of material.

A six-month pilot scheme showed 40% of planned maintenance activities did not need to be conducted as regularly as planned, creating the potential for significant savings, the firms said.

"This agreement represents a continuation of PSEG’s efforts to focus our resources on efficiently maintaining high levels of equipment reliability by performing the right work at the right time," Paul Davison, PSEG Engineering Vice President, said.

"We are looking to build on the success of our pilot with Rolls-Royce to make even further equipment reliability improvements," he said.

In May 2017, Rolls-Royce entered into an agreement with Bruce Power to supply digital analytics tools to Bruce Power’s eight Canada deuterium uranium (Candu) reactors.

The companies would use models to "improve equipment reliability, reduce inventories and maintenance and materials costs, while improving operational and supply chain practices," they said.

"The end result is expected to be dramatic operating cost reductions as well as major reductions in capital tied up in parts inventories," the firms said.

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