One of the European Commission’s (EC’s) conditions for the merger of Belgian energy firms GDF and Suez was for the sale of power from the Tihange nuclear power plant from operator Electrobel, a daughter company of the firms, to rival energy firm SPE. In March 2008, the so-called Pax Electrica 2 was signed. According to the deal, a total of 635MW of power would be transferred. The first 100MW are exchanged with France’s Chooz nuclear power station, the next 250MW are sold to SPE, and the last 285MW is a long-term delivery contract until at least 2025.

The country’s other nuclear power plant, Doel, boasts of EUR165 million improvements in 2009, including LP turbine rotor replacement and a EUR73 million steam generator replacement programme scheduled for late in 2009. Research agency SCK-CEN pulled down the 60m-high brick chimney of decommissioned research reactor BR3 in late 2008.


Although the work on Bulgaria’s new plant, Belene, is moving forward, the credit crunch is said to be affecting construction, with rumours that if funding is not finalised soon, the project will suffer delays. The Bulgarian government and RWE signed a deal to build the plant by 2015 as part of Sofia’s efforts to recover its position as a major power exporter in the Balkans.

State utility NEK, which has 51% stake in Belene, struck a deal with Atomstroyexport to build the two 1000MW reactors in a EUR4.0 billion deal, but has yet to secure funding. A project engineer from WorleyParsons told the media that the scheme will need funding or delays will ensue by the end of the year. NEK had chosen French bank BNP Paribas to arrange finance but it has been suggested that no banks were interested due to the credit crunch and concerns about the viability of the project.

Meanwhile, a consortium comprising Empresarios Agrupados Internacinal, VT Nuclear Services and ENPRO Consult of Bulgaria has won a contract to manage the design of a new national disposal facility for LLW and ILW in Bulgaria.

The three-year contract is valued at EUR2.6 million ($3.5m) and will see the consortium work with the Bulgarian State Enterprise for Radioactive Waste to select a suitable site for the near-surface repository.

The Czech Republic's Dukovany power plant from above

The four-reactor Dukovany nuclear power plant from the air

Czech Republic

Czech utility CEZ asked the government to perform an environmental analysis on the possibility of adding two units to the Temelin nuclear power plant in July 2008. The site was originally designed for four 1000MW units, it argues, until two were dropped for political reasons. It has also applied to extend the life of the four Dukovany reactors to dates ranging from 2025-28. The reactors were all recently relicensed for their third decade.

The extension programme has about 230 particular actions and modifications that have to be implemented by 2015. Work includes environmental and seismic qualification, refurbishment of the physical protection system, refurbishment of the fire protection system, refurbishment of the radiation control system, exchange of high pressure heaters, modernisation of a safety feed-water supply system, a technological penetration refurbishment and modernisation of electric switching stations.

At the same time, the operator is up-rating all four units by 67MWe to 500MWe. The power uprate programme will include implementing a new, improved fuel, high- and low-pressure turbine part replacements and generator refurbishment.

Another large investment is an instrumentation and control refurbishment for safety and non-safety systems, also due to be finished by 2015.


In November, the Finnish government approved a new climate and energy strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions up to 2020, with carbon reduction goals to 2050. The strategy notes that in order to have enough electricity, a decision-in-principle on the additional construction of new nuclear will be necessary in the next few years. The decision will be based on the premise that new units will not be constructed for permanent export of electricity.

TVO, Fortum and Fennovoima Oy are vying to build Finland’s sixth unit. All three companies have submitted EIAs to the government and applied for a decision in principle on a new nuclear power plant.

Fortum plans to build a EUR4-6 billion third unit at Loviisa, but has yet to decide on the design for its proposed 1000-1800MWe plant. Fennovoima’s application is for a 1500-2500MWe power station at one of three possible locations. TVO’s application is for a fourth unit at Olkiluoto where the world’s first EPR is under construction.

On 13 January, the Areva/Siemens consortium confirmed TVO’s earlier estimate that Olkiluoto 3 will not be completed until June 2012. TVO said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ and rejected what it described as the consortium’s ‘accusations’ that TVO had any responsibility for the delay. TVO said the consortium ‘incorrectly’ claimed for delays in document-handling and approval, despite the fact that a large number of documents had still not been submitted for first inspection, even though the unit should almost be complete by now. TVO is though to be seeking compensation thought to total EUR2.4 billion. Meanwhile, the most important single component, the reactor pressure vessel, arrived in Olkiluoto on 4 January 2009. In March, Areva said the size of its potential loss on Olkiluoto 3 was EUR1.7 billion, half of the original contract figure of EUR3.3 billion, including initial fuel supply.

In April, the Finnish government decided that nuclear and hydro plants are to be taxed to reduce company profits that result from competitive operation in the carbon market.


EDF and GDF Suez are to build France’s second EPR at Penly. The companies will work jointly on the project, with EDF the major partner in the joint venture but with the intention that GDF Suez will ultimately take on project management and operation of 1600MWe plant.

Construction at Penly is expected to begin in 2012 with a target of 2017 for grid connection. The site, near Dieppe on France’s northern coast, is home to two 1350MWe PWRs and according to EDF has all the technical characteristics required for the reactor.

In 2008, nuclear generation at EDF’s 58 nuclear power plants was stable at 417.6TWh. A single point increase in load factor, to 95.2%, was offset by a point decline in availability factor, to 79.2%. To increase this availability factor (the goal being 85% by 2011), and to gear up for life-extension programmes, the company said it has launched an enhanced maintenance programme.

Work continues to schedule at EDF’s Flamanville EPR site. Ground preparation work ended in December 2008. As of February 2009, the reactor’s base slab was complete and the horizontal part of the liner had been laid. The first vertical elements that form a 7m-wide containment shell are being laid. In the conventional power plant, the turbogenerator table supports are complete. The sea discharge tunnel was excavated, although the concrete liner still needs to be poured. The first two simulators have been delivered to Lyon and Montrouge. Later this year, electrical and mechanical assembly in the nuclear island will begin.

Georges Besse II

Work on the Georges Besse II enrichment factory should culminate in first startup later in 2009

Scheduled for first startup later this year is Areva’s EUR3 billion Georges Besse II uranium enrichment factory in Tricastin. Civil and construction works began in 2006. The first of fifteen 500,000SWU production modules are said to be coming online in 2009, with more of the plant rolled out until full production capacity (7.5m SWUs) begins in 2017. Georges Besse II will ultimately replace its older gaseous diffusion sibling, Georges Besse I. Areva has licensed the centrifuge cascade technology from Urenco. GDF Suez has a 5% stake and Japanese firms Kansai and Sojitz have 2.5%.

Also in Tricastin is one of two wholly-owned subsidiary Comurhex conversion plants, which turn ore into uranium hexafluoride, the stage that precedes enrichment. (The other plant is in Malvési). Areva says it is investing EUR610 million in new facilities expected online by 2012.

Also, Areva has unveiled plans to further increase its heavy component production capacity in Chalon/Saint-Marcel, eastern France. The group said that over the coming years it will be investing in the plant to bring its annual production to an average equivalent of 2.7 EPRs, up from around 1.7.


Leipzig federal administrative court ruled in March 2009 that the nuclear power plants Biblis A and Brunsbüttel are not entitled to get a transfer of electricity from the shutdown Mülheim-Kärlich nuclear power plant to extend their working lives. At any rate both plants reach the next German legislative period due to prolonged repair work in the recent years.

In preparation for the next general election in September 2009 the anti-nuclear Social Democrats have said they will accelerate the nuclear phase-out, demanding that older nuclear power plants are all finally shut down by 2013. They also want to introduce a nuclear fuel tax.

Meanwhile the German federal ministry for commercial affairs under minister Michael Glos (Christian Socialist Union) has published a brochure calling for a 2030 energy mix of one third nuclear, one third fossil and one third renewable energy. Politicians from the Christian Democrats (CDU and CSU) as well as representatives of the Free Democrats support the idea of plant life extension and hope to gain a majority in the election. By the end of 2008 German nuclear power plants had used 53% of the 2623TWh quota fixed by the phase out agreement. On 5 June 2008 the German parliament agreed to increased liability sums according to the Paris nuclear liability protocol of 2004. Therefore the minimum liability for operators of nuclear facilities is now EUR700m, and for nuclear transports EUR80m.

As of January 2009, the nuclear waste repository Asse, is no longer a research repository but a nuclear facility under the responsibility of the federal office for radiation protection (BfS). Open areas in danger of breakdown will be filled with concrete for stabilisation, while plans for the final closure concept are evaluated. The costs of decommissioning Asse will be borne by the federal government.

BfS announced on 17 January 2008 that the plan for a waste repository in the former Konrad iron ore mine had been licensed. Construction and mining work to convert the mine into a repository for LLW and ILW from 2013 is underway. The waste will be deposited in 20t containers.

The capacity of the German uranium enrichment plant at Gronau has been increased by a factor of three to 1800tSW/year.


The Hungarian parliament voted in favour of plans to build a new nuclear plant at the Paks facility in March. In 2008 the four existing Russian-designed reactors at the site produced some 37% of the country’s electricity.

Repository construction

The Bataapati waste storage site in Hungary

Meanwhile construction work continues on the Bátaapáti LLW and ILW disposal site.

According to the plans, two parallel inclined shafts drilled into granite will be developed with 21m2 free cross-section, each 1700m long. The inclined shafts will be connected every 250m and several research chambers will be created to study geological and hydrogeological parameters.

The project is financed by the Radioactive Waste Managing Company of the country’s public utility and is subcontracted to mining company Mecsekérc.

Iran's Bushehr plant

The Bushehr nuclear power plant is nearing completion


An Iranian official said the country has full knowledge of nuclear fuel production and now seeks to expand its activities by exporting fuel, according to a report by Iran’s Islamic Republic News Agency in April. The Isfahan-based fuel manufacturing plant makes uranium oxide pellets that could be used to fuel its Arak IR-40 heavy water reactor and Darkhovin IR-360 reactor, the report said.

The Darkhovin reactor is a LWR scheduled to become operational in 2016, according to media reports.

Construction of the 40MWt Arak IR-40 research reactor in Isfahan will end in 2011, with criticality achieved in 2013, according to a report by the US-based Institute for Science and International Security.

Deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Abdallah Solat-Sana said that the best means to gain international trust for Iran’s nuclear products was to first use its own fuel in Iranian nuclear plants. (Iran is still planning to use Russian fuel for the Russian-built Bushehr nuclear power plant).


Visagino Atomine Elektrine (VAE), a subsidiary of the Lithuanian national electricity company Lietuvos Elektros Organizacja (LEO LT) will pursue its plans for a new plant at the Ignalina site even if its parent company is dissolved, according to the country’s energy ministry.

The government has approved guidelines for VAE, and amendments to Lithuania’s nuclear legislation to allow them to take effect. LEO LT was created in 2008 to look after state investment in a new plant. The guidelines and amendments must be held to a vote in the country’s parliament.

Lithuania’s constitutional court had ruled that LEO LT’s structure violates the country’s constitution. The Lithuanian environment ministry has responded to an EIA for the proposed new plant by saying that cooling towers will be needed if plant capacity is more than 1700MW.

In its final statement, the ministry also said that a site evaluation based on IAEA criteria would have to be carried out. It said that Generation III and Generation III+ units should meet its environmental requirements.

The proposed plant has a capacity of up to 3400MW and is intended to replace the two units at Ignalina, which supply some 70% of the country’s electricity.

Canada’s trade minister has visited the country to promote CANDU technology as the best way forward at the site, claiming such a reactor could be in place by 2016 if Lithuania chose the technology.

The Netherlands

The Borssele nuclear power plant

The Borssele plant is caught in a tug-of-war between owners

The only Dutch operating nuclear power station, Borssele, is at the centre of a tug of war between 50:50 owners Delta and Essent.

In January, German utility RWE offered EUR9.3 billion (before debt) to take over Dutch utility Essent; the partners formally signed the proposed deal in February after receiving the go-ahead from the Essent Central Works Council. However as of late April joint venture partner Delta was continuing to fight the deal, arguing that the plant should remain in public ownership. Delta also mentioned that work on submitting plans for a second reactor on the site were continuing.

In March, the Urenco uranium enrichment facility in Almelo, Netherlands reached 4 million SWU/year capacity when the sixth cascade of SP5 hall 5 came online. Just over 75% of Urenco’s enrichment capacity in Almelo is located in the SP5 plant, the rest in SP4. By summer, SP5’s capacity will be extended with two more cascades, followed by another eight cascades in hall 6 in the course of 2010.

The annual production of 4 million SWU is sufficient to make fuel rods for 40 large nuclear power plants.


The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) announced plans to build four new reactors at the KANUPP site in Karachi.

The four reactors would generate a total of 8800MWe of power by 2030, according to its chairman Ansar Parvez who took over the post in April, after having served as general manager of Chasma 2. He added that 585 acres of land had been acquired for the purpose, and PKR310 million ($3.77 million) was paid to the provincial Sindh government.

PAEC is planning to set up a desalination plant attached to the power station with a throughput of 1.5 million litres of water per day. PAEC would start work on the project by September, with help from the IAEA.

The KANUPP site’s operating life is currently 2012. Construction of a second unit at the site in Chashma, Mianwali began in 2005.


RWE Power, Romanian nuclear agency Societatea Nationala Nuclearelectrica and five other international partners gave the go-ahead for a joint venture company to construct Cernavoda 3 and 4 using CANDU technology. The project will proceed in two stages: development, scheduled to take 18 months, followed by implementation.

RWE said Romania is one of the firm’s key markets and, with a population of over 22 million and an annual economic growth forecast of over 5%, the country is among the most attractive growth markets in south-eastern Europe. RWE is said to have a 15% stake in the new venture.

The nuclear fuel factory in Pitesti will double its production in 2010/11 to ensure uranium supply for Cernavoda 3 and 4. The plant is supposed to escalate production to 20,000 fuel bundles a year by 2014.

Valica Gorea, former chairman of the nuclear agency, has been reported saying that the siting study for a second nuclear power station in Romania has been finalised, and the best four locations are in the counties of Brasov, Sibiu, Arad and Cluj. Latest estimates suggest that the plant could be commissioned in 2025.

In April, the government passed a law stating that it would no longer fund heavy water production.


Slovakia’s 408MW Russian-designed reactor, Bohunice 2, was shutdown at the end of 2008. This – together with the closure of Bohunice 1 in 2006 – was a condition of the country’s accession into the European Union.

Construction of the Mochovce 3 and 4 units began in November 2008.

The two new PWR reactor units will be phased into operation in 2012 and 2013 and will have a combined capacity of 880MW. Slovenské Elektrárne (SE) had to adapt the civil and technological parts of their design in order to bring them into line with best international practice and regulators. The design has also been approved by the EC.

When operational, the new units will be able to meet as much as 22% of Slovakia’s electricity demand, which now stands at around 30TWh/year.

The design of Mochovce units 3 and 4 was modified based on the experience of the construction, commissioning and operation of units of the same type in Slovakia and abroad. .

In June 2008, approved by the nuclear regulatory authority of the Slovak Republic (ÚJD), SE increased Mochovce 1 and 2 power output by 7% to 470MWe each. The uprate follows the conclusion of a 10-year court battle with Austrian Green party spokeswoman and parliamentarian Eva Glawischnig, who argued that the Mochovce nuclear power plant had inadequate safety technology and represented a threat to her and others living in Vienna, about 160km to the west. In February 2008 the plaintiffs agreed to ‘permanently suspend the proceedings,’ SE said at the time.


A coolant leak at Slovenia’s Krsko nuclear plant in June 2008 sparked diplomatic concern after the EC initially told member states about the incident, but added the message was just a drill.

The EC Urgent Radiological Information Exchange (ECURIE) nuclear alert system was informed the same day the accident happened. Unfortunately, when this body issued a general warning to all European governments, some were told the message was a training exercise. Slovene environment minister Janez Podobnik later said: “It was genuine human error. The nuclear safety agency has already apologised for using the wrong form.” But the environment minister of neighbouring Austria, Josef Proelle, was not happy. “It must be immediately clarified. Why were the directly affected neighbours confronted with a test announcement? This should not happen,” he said.

In any case, following the incident, the Krsko reactor was shutdown and “the relatively small leakage remained within the containment building. Slovenian authorities have confirmed that there has been no discharge to the environment,” said the EC later.

A recent development project at the plant saw its cooling tower system extended. The new system uses air and cooling agent R134A instead of water from the river Sava.

The owners have decided to embark on initial measures for plant life extension at the plant, which started commercial operation in 1983.

South Africa

In December 2008, South African state utility Eskom terminated the process of selecting a preferred bidder for the construction of the country’s second PWR due to “the magnitude of the investment”.

Despite Eskom’s decision, the South African government has said it remains “committed to exploring the use of nuclear energy.”

In order to continue the introduction of nuclear generating capacity in South Africa, a Department of Minerals and Energy led task team will work with Eskom to develop and implement a framework for procuring a nuclear technology partner to support the build and industrialisation process.

The country’s plans for a high-temperature reactor (HTR) have also been affected. PBMR (Pty) announced plans in February to look at markets other than energy.

Meanwhile, Alstom has won a contract to upgrade the low pressure turbines at the country’s only nuclear power plant, Koeberg, which will raise the 920MWe units by 65MWe. Aker has also won a contract for waste treatment and structural and operational improvements at the plant.


The spent fuel pond in Spain's Santa Maria Garona nuclear power station

The spent fuel pond in Spain’s Santa Maria Garona nuclear power station

In April, the plenary of Spain’s Nuclear Safety Council was analysing the licence renewal application of Santa Maria Garoña nuclear power plant, Spain’s oldest operating power station, which began commercial operation in May 1971. Nuclenor, owner of Santa Maria de Garoña, applied for life extension in July 2006. According to a report by Reuters UK, the plant will be the first of seven Spanish nuclear stations to be evaluated for life extension over the next two years.

Nuclenor says that it is planning to spend EUR50m per year in 2009, 2010 and 2011 for modernisations.

Spanish regulation requires nuclear plants to apply for renewal of operating permits every ten years, combined with improvements in security. The NSC has established extra procedures for cases in which the renewal application exceeds a 40-year design life.

A decision is due in June.


In January 2009, the Swedish government instructed the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority to request a special review by the IAEA. It is scheduled for 2012 and will take about two years to complete.

The previous year, the government closed the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute and the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate and replaced them with the new authority. The merger followed the widely publicised power cut at Forsmark in 2006, after which the role and effectiveness of the regulators was questioned.

Sweden’s recent change of government resulted in a U-turn in its nuclear phase-out policy. In early February 2009, the government released an energy and climate change policy, which said: “Climate change is now in focus and nuclear power will thus remain an important source of Swedish electricity production for the foreseeable future. To reduce vulnerability and increase security of electricity supply, a third pillar that reduces dependence on nuclear power and hydropower should be developed.”

The transitional period during which nuclear power will be used is to be extended by allowing new units at existing sites, within a maximum of ten reactors. Also, it will be possible to grant permits for replacing current reactors as they reach the end of their life.

The new policy states that central government support for nuclear power, direct or indirect subsidies, cannot be assumed. The inquiry that is looking into the removal of co-ownership of Swedish nuclear reactors, due to the possibility of it being anti-competitive, will continue.


Beznau as it might be

An artist’s impression of a new Beznau power station with reduced-height cooling tower in Switzerland

A total of three nuclear power plant applications have been filed over the past year in Switzerland. In June, electric and transmission utility Alpiq (then Atel) applied for a nuclear power plant to be situated next to, but independent from, the current Goesgen plant in Olten, Solothurn canton. Nuclear Power Plant Niederamt Ltd. (KKN) is responsible for project management and attaining required construction and operating licences for the plant.

In December, Axpo and BKW jointly filed two applications for replacements for Beznau and Muehleberg. The applications call for the same reactor type at both sites, and hybrid cooling towers.

The generic applications are for an as-yet unspecified third-generation BWR or PWR of 1100MW or 1600MW. In Switzerland, a general licence is issued by the Swiss Federal Council and approved by Parliament. The decision by Parliament is, in turn, subject to an optional referendum, according to KKN. Decisions are expected in about 2012.


In April, the UK government announced that eleven sites have been nominated for the next wave of new nuclear build in the country. The sites will now be reviewed as part of the strategic siting assessment, to ensure they meet the required criteria and a list of suitable sites will be published for consultation in the draft nuclear national policy statement in late 2009, to be finalised before Easter 2010.

Utilities have been gearing up, buying land for these potential nuclear developments. In April three auctions of nuclear-appropriate land generated GBP387 million to support the costs of decommissioning. A Germany consortium of E.ON UK and RWE npower won the auctions for land at two of the sites, Oldbury and Wylfa, while EdF was the winning bidder for land at Bradwell.

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority intends to sell off more of its land near Sellafield “as soon as practicably possible”.

Also, in May, French utility EDF started the process of selling land at either Dungeness or Heysham, a condition imposed on the company by the EC as part of its January acquisition of British Energy.

Meanwhile the Health and Safety Executive said it remains on schedule to finish the generic design assessment of reactors for the next nuclear plants by June 2011. The regulator is carrying out the assessment on two designs: the EPR and the AP1000.

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