US nuclear support seen as crucial to security; China to build 20 floating reactors

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

The U.S. must support new build nuclear projects to retain industry expertise and support U.S. defence policy, according to former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. (Image credit: Typhoonski)

Related Articles

US nuclear power support needed to ensure national security: Moniz

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must provide greater support to the U.S. nuclear power supply chain as it plays an important role in national security, according to a new report by Energy Futures Initiative (EFI), a new think tank established by former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Low wholesale power prices have forced the early closure of several U.S. nuclear power plants and construction delays have hiked new build project costs.

The government should provide additional resources and capabilities to support nuclear new build projects, including credit support, tax incentives, federal siting agreements and power purchase agreements (PPAs), EFI said.

Last month, SCANA's South Carolina Electric & Gas Company halted construction of the VC Summer 2 and 3 plant in South Carolina. In addition, Southern Nuclear subsidiary Georgia Power is reportedly seeking additional aid from the federal government to complete its Vogtle 3 and 4 plant. Georgia Power's latest estimates show capital costs could increase from the $5.7 billion estimate previously approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission, to between $6.7 billion and $7.4 billion.

Estimated cost of energy by generation type
                                (Click image to enlarge)

Source: Lazard's 'Levelized cost of energy analysis' (December 2016).

A robust U.S. nuclear supply chain in equipment, services and skilled personnel is necessary for U.S. leadership in global nuclear non-proliferation policy, EFI said in its report.

The U.S. Navy will depend on highly enriched uranium (HEU) to fuel reactors and this will require the entire supply chain from uranium feed to enrichment technology to be of U.S. origin, it said.

Russia's dominance in Middle East nuclear power projects is a risk to U.S. national security objectives and the U.S. is also facing a declining nuclear industry workforce, the think tank said.

"Domestic university programs are likely to tip more towards international students coming from countries with expanding nuclear prospects, which will further dilute the pool of American nationals who can fill national security roles. Retirements are also a significant concern, as the nuclear power sector will soon lose 25,000 skilled workers to retirement," EFI said.

Holtec completes Vermont Yankee storage pad work ahead of schedule

Holtec has completed all major civil construction work for the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation (ISFSI) expansion project at Entergy's 620 MW Vermont Yankee plant ahead of schedule, Holtec announced August 11.

Entergy aims to transfer all of Vermont Yankee's spent nuclear fuel to on-site dry cask storage by 2018.

The ISFSI civil construction work included the decommissioning of several existing site structures, such as the North Warehouse and Auxiliary Diesel Generator, and upgrading of electrical, service air, and potable water supply systems, Holtec said in a statement. Work also included the installation of a new diesel generator and blast protection structures around the generator.

Thus far, Holtec has loaded six of its HI-STORM 100 casks with steadily declining crew dose, the company said.

"The technologies being developed at [Vermont Yankee] to minimize crew dose will be valuable in decommissioning other [boiling water reactors] in the future," it said.

Entergy announced the closure of the Vermont Yankee plant in 2013 and submitted the plant for deferred decommissioning (SAFSTOR).

In November 2016, Entergy agreed to sell the plant and transfer plant licences to the NorthStar specialist decommissioning group.

The deal would "accelerate decommissioning and site restoration by decades," Entergy said.

In addition, Entergy agreed to transfer all of Vermont Yankee's spent nuclear fuel to on-site dry cask storage by 2018, two years earlier than previously planned.

China to build 20 floating nuclear power plants

China National Nuclear Power plans to build 20 floating nuclear power plants in a joint venture with four other Chinese firms including Shanghai Electric Power, Chinese media reported August 11.

The fleet of floating plants will reinforce China's presence in the South China Sea and support its Belt and Road Initiative, a huge infrastructure spending plan aimed at boosting trade routes and international relations in Asia and beyond, according to reports.

The vessels will use small modular reactors (SMRs) to supply electricity, heat and desalination to islands and coastal areas, or to offshore oil and gas facilities. The cost of electricity generation from the floating power plants is estimated at 0.9 yuan/kWh ($135/MWh), around half the cost of diesel-fired generation on offshore oil platforms, China Daily reported.

China National Nuclear Power will create the new joint venture with Zhejiang Zheneng Electric Power, Shanghai Guosheng Group, Shanghai-based Jiangnan Shipyard Group and Shanghai Electric Group, the paper said. The vessels will be mass-produced in Shanghai shipyards.

Last November, China General Nuclear announced it had started construction of its first floating nuclear power plant after signing a reactor pressure vessel supply agreement with Dongfang Electric.

Development of the 200 MWt (60 MWe) ACPR50S reactor design was approved by China's National Development and Reform Commission in late December 2015 as part of the 13th Five-Year Plan.

In parallel, CGN has developed the ACPR100 small modular reactor for use on land. The ACPR100 reactor will have a capacity of 450 MWt (140 MWe).

Japan's MHI agrees to buy 19.5% of EDF-Areva reactor business

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has formally agreed to acquire a 19.5% equity stake in New NP, a new company launched by France's EDF following its takeover of Areva group assets, MHI said July 31.

The newly-launched New NP business will specialize in "profit-making after-sale servicing and fuel supply for existing NPPs, as well as engineering and equipment manufacturing of nuclear reactors," MHI said in a statement.

Cooperation between MHI and Areva began in the 1990s in the fuel cycle business.

Following an agreement of more broad-based cooperation in 2006, MHI and Areva created a joint venture to develop the 1.2 GW Atmea1 pressurised water reactor (PWR) design. The companies have been marketing the Atmea1 in emerging economies such as Turkey.

In June 2016, EDF and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) signed a strategic cooperation agreement which increased EDF's involvement in the deployment of Atmea plants and paved the way for MHI to acquire a minority stake in Areva.

EDF is the world's largest operator of nuclear power plants. The Paris-based group built and operates France's 58 nuclear power reactors and operates the UK's 15 nuclear reactors.

MHI has built 24 Pressurised Water Reactors (PWRs) in Japan and has exported nuclear equipment to 14 countries. To date, MHI has received orders for 15 replacement steam generators for EDF's plants.

Nuclear Energy Insider