US' Duke Energy to trim nuclear power share to 28%; AP1000 builders gain contract extension

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Duke Energy to cut nuclear power to 28% of generation by 2030

U.S. utility Duke Energy plans to reduce its share of nuclear power generation from 34% in 2016 to 28% by 2030, the company said in its latest annual Sustainability Report.

The North Carolina-based company plans to spend $11 billion on gas-fired generation and renewable energy projects over the next 10 years, it said.

By 2030, Duke Energy estimates that 36% of its electricity will come from gas-fired generation and 9% from renewable energy sources, including hydro, wind and solar.

"These investments, coupled with the retirement of older coal units, will help reduce the company’s carbon dioxide emissions by 40% from the 2005 level by 2030. In addition to commercial renewables, Duke Energy also will invest in regulated renewable assets," the company said.

Duke Energy operates 11 GW of nuclear power capacity at six nuclear plant sites. In 2016, the company achieved a record average nuclear capacity factor of 95.7%, up from 94.2% in 2015.

        Duke Energy's nuclear power plants

Data source: Duke Energy

VC Summer, Vogtle owners extend construction agreements

The owners of the VC Summer 2 and 3 and Vogtle 3 and 4 nuclear plant construction projects have extended their interim agreements with Westinghouse to allow construction to continue while they complete cost-to-complete analysis of the projects, the owners said in a statement April 28.

Westinghouse has contracted Fluor to deliver two AP1000 units to SCANA (owner of South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCE&G)) and Santee Cooper at the VC Summer site in South Carolina, as well as two AP1000 units to Georgia Power at the Vogtle site near Waynesboro.

Following Westinghouse's bankruptcy filing on March 29, the project owners signed interim agreements to allow construction to continue for a further month while the owners carried out due diligence on the projects.

SCANA and Santee Cooper have now agreed to extend their interim agreements for VC Summer 2 and 3 to June 26 while Georgia Power extended the interim agreement for Vogtle 3 and 4 for a much shorter period, to May 12.

SCANA and Santee Cooper will continue to make weekly payments for work performed during the interim period, the companies said.

"The agreement extension allows the co-owners additional time to maintain all of their options by continuing construction on the project, while examining all of the relevant information for a thorough and accurate assessment to determine the most prudent path forward," SCANA and Santee Cooper said.

Georgia Power will continue to work on finalizing a new service agreement for Vogtle 3 and 4 "which would, if necessary, assure that Westinghouse continues to provide design, engineering and procurement services to Southern Nuclear [owner of Georgia Power] as a part of their assumption of control over construction management," the utility said in a statement.

Georgia Power will continue its full-scale schedule and cost-to-complete analysis and work with the Georgia Public Service Commission and the Co-owners (Oglethorpe Power, MEAG and Dalton Utilities) "to determine the best path forward for customers," Georgia Power said.

Westinghouse said March 29 it remained committed to its AP1000 technology and will continue its existing projects in China and pursue other potential projects going forward.

The group has obtained $800 million in debtor-in-possession (DIP) financing from a third-party lender to help fund and protect core businesses which include supporting operating plants, nuclear fuel and components manufacturing and engineering as well as decommissioning, decontamination, remediation and waste management, it said.

“We are focused on developing a plan of reorganization to emerge from Chapter 11 as a stronger company while continuing to be a global nuclear technology leader," Jose Emeterio Gutierrez, Westinghouse Interim President & CEO, said.

UK urged to end indecision on nuclear exports, SMRs

The UK House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has called on the government to clarify whether the UK should be a designer, manufacturer and operator of nuclear generation technology, or an importer of nuclear power equipment, in the context of the U.K.'s ongoing 'Brexit' negotiations to leave the European Union.

If the UK government decides to back the development of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), UK involvement should be a joint venture with a foreign partner due to the "limited size of the domestic market for SMRs and the potential for cost reduction," the Committee said in a report published May 1.

In March 2016 the UK government launched a competition for the most cost competitive SMR design. The government consulted competition participants in the summer of 2016 and was expected to announce an industry roadmap in the fall.

UK and international SMR developers have been building relationships with UK suppliers for several years and developers are now waiting for government direction on deployment timelines.

"The Government’s failure to make a decision on its strategy for SMRs is a prime example of its inaction in the civil nuclear arena," the Lords said.

"Not keeping to the stated timetable for the competition has had a negative effect on the nuclear sector in the UK and if the Government does not act soon the necessary high level of industrial interest will not be maintained," it said.

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