Slowly, but perhaps not so surely, the nuclear power industry is moving forward. This last year has not been without its setbacks but, on balance, the positive events outweigh the negative ones. By now, even nuclear supporters are probably tired of being told just how important the contract to build an EPR in Finland is. (And maybe by this time next year, such praise will be directed towards France for following suit, as seems likely to be the case.) However, there are other signals that the industry is beginning to pick itself up in the industrialised countries. In the meantime, in several Asian countries – notably China – nuclear continues to grow.

In Japan, Tepco is making progress in regaining public trust in the aftermath of the crack inspection scandal. However, a more recent setback came at the end of 2003 when Tohuku abandoned plans for its 825MWe BWR at Maki.

Weapons proliferation concerns are continuing to get widespread coverage in the international media, hampering attempts to persuade the general public of the advantages of nuclear power. Along with this media coverage, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has remained very much in the limelight due to its role as the world’s nuclear watchdog.

A significant milestone will be reached later this month with the 50th anniversary of the world’s first nuclear power reactor – the 5MWe unit at Obninsk in Russia (see page 14 of this issue). Elsewhere in Europe, ten countries joined the European Union (EU) on 1 May, bringing 19 reactors into the EU.

Radioactive waste management continues to move up the agenda, as both the industry and opposition groups realise how important it is for the nuclear industry to prove it can deal with its waste. Some countries, notably Sweden and Finland, are progressing well with their plans for deep repositories. Others have suffered setbacks in the past year, in particular the Czech Republic, South Korea and, in spectacular fashion, Italy.


Bruce A units 3 and 4 and Pickering A unit 4 have returned to service within the last year. Cost and schedule overruns in the case of Ontario Power Generation’s (OPG’s) Pickering A4 restart have provoked a number of critical studies. The Pickering A Review Panel said “a catalogue of problems” resulted in the unit’s return to service being more than two years late at almost treble the initial cost estimates. Despite the panel’s claim that “failure was pervasive, from board, management and shareholder levels,” the OPG Review Committee, chaired by the former deputy prime minister of Canada, John Manley, recommended proceeding with the restart of Pickering A1. The committee stressed the need for dramatic investment in infrastructure to head off a generation shortfall that could leave Ontario importing as much as half its electricity by 2015. Restart work on units 2 and 3 at Pickering A was suspended earlier this year.

The restart of OPG’s Pickering unit 4 in September 2003 came under fierce criticism for being more than two years late at almost treble the initial cost estimates

On 9 January this year, the Electricity Conservation & Supply Task Force published its report on recommendations to avoid a shortfall in electricity in Ontario. The main concern is that coal-fired plants, representing 23% of generation, are set to be closed by 2007. The task force recommended a three plank strategy, suggesting that the embrace of conservation, development of hydro and other renewables, and expansion in either nuclear or gas generation could fill the gap.

Other discouraging news for the Canadian nuclear industry came when NB Power’s Point Lepreau plant did not get the go-ahead to carry out a $830 million maintenance and upgrade programme to allow the plant to operate until 2032, instead of the pending 2006 closure date. A report looking into the alternatives was recently released.


Closer ties with the USA have been forged over the last year. China Atomic Energy Authority chairman, Zhang Huazhu, signed a statement of intent on the exchange of nuclear technology with US energy secretary, Spencer Abraham, establishing a broad process for collaboration between the USA, China and the IAEA on a range of nuclear non-proliferation and security activities. Zhang and Abraham also signed a statement of intent to enable US firms to provide technology and services to the Chinese nuclear power programme. When nuclear technology proposed for transfer is determined to require non-proliferation assurances, the government of the recipient country will pledge that the technology will be used exclusively for peaceful purposes.

The second 600MWe unit of Qinshan Phase II began generating power on 11 March 2004 and was formally put into commercial operation on 3 May. This is the country’s ninth unit to commence operations, with the two VVER-1000 units at Tianwan still under construction (the first of which is scheduled for completion soon). Regarding the next steps in the Chinese nuclear power programme, two new projects have got internal approval from the central government: two more 600MWe PWR units at the Qinshan Phase II site and two 1000MWe at the Ling Ao site, which is also referred to as the Ling Dong project. These four units are modelled on the units at the sites respectively with the addition of some modifications for enhancing safety performance.

A strategic plan for developing nuclear power in China up to 2020 was set up last September. As per this plan, 32,000-40,000MWe of nuclear capacity is to be built, and tentative sites have been selected. Apart from for the four units mentioned above, the new projects will be of the so-called third generation of nuclear power technology.

The Guangdong Nuclear Power Group Corporation is currently working on the construction preparation for the two units at Ling Ao and the site preparation for six third-generation units at Yangjiang which is located in the west of Guangdong. The China Nuclear Industry Company is working on the two units at Qinshan II and the site preparations for six third generation units at Jiangmen, Zhejiang province.


The ‘nuclear package’, originally intended to harmonise European safety and radioactive waste disposal standards, has taken quite a battering this last year. The proposals have faced an uphill struggle since November 2002 when the EC’s Directorate-General for Transport and Energy issued the draft directives.

Laurence Williams, chairman of the IAEA Commission on Safety Standards and head of the UK nuclear regulator, has argued against the introduction of EU-wide safety standards. He told a press conference: “We believe nuclear safety should be a national responsibility. I think a European directive would be counterproductive.” He pointed out that the IAEA has a comprehensive set of safety standards, so a set of European standards would only serve to complicate matters. This point was also made by Finnish member of European Parliament Esko Olavi Seppänen in a report to the European Parliament.

UK prime minister Tony Blair and German chancellor Gerhard Schröder also criticised the proposals in a letter to the then EC president Romano Prodi. Other countries opposed to the proposals are Sweden and Finland. Faced with such a ‘blocking minority’ the EC decided to redraft the draft directives earlier this year. With an expanded EU membership, these four countries alone would no longer represent a blocking minority. However, it would appear that the new EU members are not as supportive of the proposals as the EC had hoped. The 13 May 2004 Coreper (Committee of Permanent EU Representatives) failed to make any progress and proposals were not voted on. Apart from France and Spain, all member states were against binding legislation.

Last year, the EC adopted a directive for the liberalisation of gas and energy supplies in the EU, which should enter into force on 1 July 2004 for business customers and in 2007 for households and others.


We all know the story, but here it is in brief for posterity. Finnish utility Teollisuuden Voima Oy (TVO) signed a contract on 18 December 2003 with Framatome ANP to construct Finland’s fifth nuclear reactor at the Olkiluoto site in Eurajoki. Framatome ANP will be responsible for the nuclear island, and Siemens will provide the turbine components. The €3 billion deal should result in a 1600MWe European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) in early 2009.


The Phenix prototype fast breeder reactor recommenced operation a year ago, after being offline for five years. The cost of the upgrade work carried out during the extended outage came to €250 million.

Following a nationwide public energy debate, the then junior minister for industry Nicole Fontaine issued a ‘white book’ containing proposals for an ‘orientation law’ on energy strategies for France for the next 30 years. It recommended that a new nuclear reactor be built by 2012, and Fontaine called for the construction of a demonstration EPR. Last month, the Council of Ministers adopted an energy strategy bill, which proposes construction of a demonstration EPR. The bill was being debated in parliament as this issue of NEI went to press. Later this month the board of directors of Electricité de France (EdF) are due to be selecting a possible site (or sites) to build a demonstration EPR.


The industry continues to be plagued by the minority ruling Greens, with environment minister Jürgen Trittin making the most out of every opportunity to score points. This year two reactors received special attention from Trittin. Following routine inspection and repair work at Biblis A, it was discovered that the sump in the emergency coolant pumps had a lower cross-sectional area than was allowed by German reactor safety codes. Although the enlargement of the sump strainer was a relatively simple operation, Trittin interrupted the licensing procedure, arguing that the safety examination carried out by the Hesse Ministry of Environmental, Rural and Consumer Affairs was ‘entirely insufficient’. Operators RWE did not receive approval to restart the reactor until 30 December 2003, some nine months after it was taken offline.

Germany’s 662MWe Stade nuclear plant, commissioned in 1972, was shut down on 14 November 2003

On 14 November 2003, Trittin literally had a party as he made the most of the closure of E.ON’s Stade plant. Whereas E.ON claimed that the decision to close Stade was taken in 2000 for economic reasons alone, Trittin chose to see the shutdown as the first step in Germany’s nuclear power phase-out programme. Under this programme, Stade would have exhausted its quota for electricity around the end of this year. The remainder of its generation quota is transferable to another nuclear plant.

More recently, Trittin’s plan to build a single repository for radioactive waste – which involves scrapping the Gorleben salt dome excavations and halting the conversion of the former iron mine at Konrad into a low- and intermediate-level repository – is causing more dismay for the industry. The national general accounting office has projected a €10 billion bill for the plan.


Inquiries into the 10 April 2003 fuel cleaning incident at Paks 2 left all parties involved with egg on their faces. The Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (HAEA) criticised a Paks investigation for passing most of the blame onto Framatome ANP staff, and was particularly scathing of the Paks safety culture. Later, an IAEA mission said that, though the HAEA and Paks were committed to improving the safety of the plant, they did not use conservative decision-making in safety assessments for the “unproven fuel cleaning system” designed by Framatome ANP. Paks struck a compensation deal with Framatome ANP, rumoured to be of the order of $48 million.


There were two big recurring news stories in the international press that helped the nuclear industry’s cause, even though they are not directly related to the industry. Firstly, whether global warming and carbon dioxide emissions are connected or not, many people have come to believe the link between the two is obvious and proven. The hot summer in much of Europe and elsewhere, with stories of thousands of people dying from the heat – for once the nuclear industry was glad of sensational media reporting! – has done much to focus policymakers’ minds on reducing carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, the Kyoto Protocol has still not come into force, and now depends on whether Russia ratifies it. The treaty requires backing by nations accounting for 55% of the Earth’s carbon dioxide emissions. The 44% mark has been reached, and so it is critical that Russia’s 17% be included. The COP9 (Conference of the Parties) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change ended inconclusively in December as a result of Russia continually shifting its position, along with a dispute over aid to OPEC states.

Also to many people’s detriment, but to the nuclear industry’s advantage, were a number of blackouts. The most dramatic of these occurred in the USA and Canada on 14 August 2003 when three high-voltage transmission lines operated by FirstEnergy short-circuited and went out of service. FirstEnergy’s control room alarm system was not working properly, so the control room operators were unaware of the problem and consequently took no action. At the same time, there were problems at the Midwest Independent System Operator, which coordinates power transmission in that region. US and Canadian nuclear plants were cleared of any blame whatsoever, and were found to have responded as anticipated. The 14 August blackout, and other blackouts in the UK, Sweden and Italy all helped to focus the thoughts of policymakers worldwide on how to strengthen their national grids – a situation that does no harm to the nuclear industry.


For those who believed that Iran was secretly developing nuclear weapons, 2003 was a watershed year. Taking the lead from the National Council of Resistance of Iran, an opposition group who exposed new construction sites in Iran, inspectors from the IAEA made several visits to suspected Iranian facilities and discovered that there was, in fact, more going on than Iran had disclosed in its safeguards declarations. Although progress has been made, inspectors are still investigating new facilities and finding information that will help to piece together the Iranian nuclear puzzle.

The construction of a VVER-1000 reactor at Bushehr is proceeding to the 2005 schedule. There is still uncertainty surrounding an agreement reached between Russia and Tehran requiring that all spent fuel from the first decade of the reactor’s operation be returned to Russia. In June 2003, Alexander Rumyantsev, head of the Russian atomic energy agency, stated that Russia would withhold fresh fuel from Iran until such an agreement is formalised.


The Italian government performed a spectacular U-turn over its announcement of the site of the country’s national repository for radioactive waste, almost certainly setting a new ‘decide-announce-defend’ record. On 13 November 2003, in an emergency decree on waste storage, the centre-right coalition government named the small town of Scanzano Jonico in the southern region of Basilicata as the country’s final radwaste repository, effective immediately. Following two weeks of protests, on 27 November, the cabinet removed the name of the town from the decree and asked a 14-member ‘scientific-technical’ panel to investigate all possible sites. Under the amended decree the panel has 12 months to find an appropriate site. The original decree stated the country’s waste – some 55,000m3 of very low-, low- and intermediate-level waste, and around 8500m3 of high-level waste – was to be brought, along with around 350t spent fuel from the country’s four shutdown reactors, to Scanzano Jonico immediately.


Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has gradually been restarting its reactors over the last year, after the scandal over the falsification of inspection records prompted the company to take its 17 units offline for safety checks. By April this year, eight units were back online. The move has made a huge dent in worldwide generation figures for BWRs, with this type of reactor achieving an annual load factor of 68.5% in 2003, down from 79.5% the previous year. Nine of the 29 BWRs operating in Japan were not online during 2003, and all but eight had load factors under 50%.

A few of the country’s programmes have also progressed. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has approved modifications to the Monju prototype fast reactor, which has been offline following a sodium leak four months after it first supplied electricity in August 1995; the national government is expected to seek intervention from the supreme court to overturn a high court ruling against the restart of the reactor.

A new reactor started up: Chubu Electric Power’s Hamaoka 5, a 1380MWe Japanese Advanced Boiling Water Reactor, achieved criticality on 23 March. Meanwhile, Tohuku Electric Power abandoned its plans to build a 825MWe BWR at Maki.

Plans to load mixed oxide (MOX) fuel at Kansai Electric Power’s Takahama plant, which were abandoned in 1999 following BNFL’s inspection data falsification scandal, were back on track after receiving approval from the governor of Fukui prefecture. Kansai is expected to sign a new contract with Cogema to fabricate the fuel, which is now set to be loaded in 2007. In addition, Kyushu Electric Power has announced plans to use MOX fuel by 2010, most probably at its Genkai plant in Saga prefecture.


The new Dutch government has confirmed that it would allow the country’s 449MWe PWR at Borssele to operate until it reaches the end of its 40-year design life in 2013. The previous government had threatened to shut down the unit by 2003.


Once again, the future of the Korean Peninsular Energy Development Organization (KEDO) project to build two nuclear power reactors in North Korea is uncertain. It looked like the US would pull out of the programme following the North Korean announcement last year that it had a nuclear weapons programme – a blatant breach of the agreement under which the two PWRs are being built. However, the KEDO consortium decided to suspend the project for a year. KEDO spokesman Roland Tricot said: “The executive board of KEDO, given that the conditions necessary for continuing the light water reactor project have not been met by North Korea, has decided to suspend the project for one year, beginning 1 December 2003.”


The European Commission has approved a €223.5 million Euratom loan to the Romanian National Nuclear Power Company (SNN) for the completion and safety upgrade of the Cernavoda 2 reactor. Construction of the Candu 6 reactor is over 50% complete and it is due to start commercial operation in 2007.


No more Minatom! The Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency was formally established in March this year, and later confirmed as the successor to the former Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom) by a government decree. The decree states that the new agency – which is reportedly to be known as Rosatom – will be responsible for the “development and safe operation of the nuclear power industry, nuclear defence complex, nuclear fuel cycle, atomic science and engineering, and for international cooperation in this area.” Rosatom is headed by former Minatom minister Alexander Rumyantsev and four deputies, and will continue to operate from the former Minatom headquarters.

The Russian federal nuclear safety inspectorate said construction of a $70 million nuclear waste storage facility on the island of Novaya Zemlya in the Arctic Ocean should not proceed. Analysis of potential climate change in the region led scientists and geologists to conclude that rising temperatures over the next 150 to 200 years are threatening to thaw the region’s permafrost, which could lead to leakage of radioactive materials. The project had been approved by experts from Finland, France, Germany, Norway and the UK and had undergone a government environmental analysis. The Russian Research Institute of Industrial Technology spent 10 years and $2 million to develop the design of the future storage facility. Attention has now turned to the Kola Peninsula as an alternative site.


The city of Cape Town council, amongst others, has appealed against the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism decision to issue a positive record of decision (RoD) for a demonstration Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR) at Koeberg near Cape Town. The RoD for the PBMR, along with a RoD for an associated fuel plant at Pelindaba, was awarded following the environmental impact assessments for the projects. The appeals are still being reviewed by the department.

Funding for the PBMR project has been a cause for concern since Exelon’s withdrawal from the consortium in 2002. A delegation was sent to France earlier this year in an attempt to persuade Areva to take a shareholding in the PBMR company, but no announcement has yet been made. In addition, although the PBMR board of directors has requested ‘unconditional commitment’ from the government to fund the next phase of the project, no such commitment has been forthcoming. Moreover, towards the end of last year, the South African Cape Chamber of Commerce called for a re-evaluation of the economics of the PBMR, due to different economic circumstances resulting from a large gas discovery off the west coast.


The 1000MWe Ulchin 5 (Korean Standard Nuclear Plant design) reached criticality in December 2003, was connected to the grid in January and is expected to commence commercial operation this month. But while South Korea’s reactor programme advances, its radioactive waste disposal programme suffered a big setback.

The island of Wido, with a population of around 1470 and situated in the county of Buan, was chosen as the site for the country’s permanent repository. The majority of the islanders had approved the facility in return for a huge financial aid package, but faced protests from Buan county residents. Commerce, industry and energy minister Yoon Jin-Shik has resigned over the affair, conceding mistakes were made in the initial decision to choose the site. He said: “When Wido was designated as the prospective site for the nuclear waste facility, the opinions of residents of Buan county were not truly reflected.” He said that a couple of regions were interested in submitting applications to host the repository, and that he expected a decision by September this year. The expansion of the selection process did not mean that the Wido site had been ruled out, Yoon said, but rather it was “an attempt to make the process democratic.”


On 14 March 2004, the Socialist party unexpectedly came to power, after the electorate judged the previous government to have used the 11 March bombings in Madrid to its political advantage. The new government, led by prime minister Jose Luis Zapetero, had pledged to phase out nuclear power “at any cost.” So far, it seems that it will be a case of ‘business as usual’ as the government has only announced a gradual replacement of nuclear capacity with alternative generation. Of more concern is the coalition agreement made by the new regional government in Catalonia to close down the regions three units.


Although the government had decided to not pursue its apparent mission to halt the construction of two ABWR units at Lungmen, it began turning its attention back to the issue in the last year. In mid-2003, president Chen Shui-bian promised to hold a referendum before the next presidential elections on whether to scrap the project. The referendum never took place, but since his re-election on 20 March 2004 Chen said he would conduct referendums on a number of topics. Uncertainty over the project has been causing delays, as contractors are reluctant to commit to a project that could face disruption.


The Ukrainian government and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) continued to disagree over loan conditions for the completion of the Khmelnitski 2 and Rovno 4 (K2R4) reactors. After the Ukrainian government decided to go it alone (not for the first time during these drawn-out negotiations), the national nuclear power utility Energoatom raised over $70 million from a Eurobond issue and claimed it would sell another $22 million soon. Projected dates for completion are 14 August (K2) and 16 September (R4) this year – hardly believable, considering the reactors have been the best part of 20 years under construction!


The UK nuclear industry continues to adapt to the consequences of three major events highlighted in last year’s news review: the July 2002 white paper on radioactive waste management; the February 2003 energy white paper, which effectively ruled out nuclear power for the foreseeable future; and the restructuring (to put it mildly) of British Energy (BE). However, it could be reasonably argued that the root cause for the nuclear industry’s problems (in fact, just about any generator’s problems) was the introduction of the New Electricity Trading Arrangements (NETA) in England and Wales in 2001.

Whatever the cause, the past year has been quite tough for BE and BNFL. The latter reported a pre-tax loss of almost £1.1 billion in the year to 31 March 2003. Chairman Hugh Collum (who was due to be replaced at the beginning of this month by Gordon Campbell) saw the bright side, saying: “The last year was certainly demanding for BNFL, but it was one in which further progress was made in laying the ground for the company’s future development.”

Speculation continues over what form that ‘future development’ would take, but some important questions have apparently been settled. The UK government announced that it would not proceed with its planned part privatisation of the state-owned company. In addition, plans for the restructuring of BNFL have been laid out over the course of the year. At the beginning of May 2004, BNFL announced the setting up of a stand-alone clean-up business under the name British Nuclear Group. The new business is now operating as a business unit of BNFL, and will have separate legal status when the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) is established, due to be 1 April 2005.

With reference to BNFL subsidiary Westinghouse, on 11 December 2003, secretary of state for trade and industry Patricia Hewitt told parliament: “Steps will be taken to enable the business to operate with greater financial independence from its parent, so that possibilities for private sector participation are opened up.” This led to much speculation that Westinghouse would be sold, but this has since died down.

Moving on to BE, the company paid off some of its controversial government loan, following the sale of its 50% stake in AmerGen. The European Commission has been looking into whether the restructuring plan – which was formally approved by BE’s major creditors in October 2003 – constitutes illegal state aid, and is expected to announce its findings shortly. When the state aid inquiry began, the EC appeared to have major concerns over the legality of the plan, but recent reports indicate that the EC is set to give its approval.

At the end of last year, BE announced pre-tax losses of £71 million between April-September 2003, much of which was due to outages at Sizewell B and Heysham 1. Lost output for the year to 31 March 2004 from these reactors was estimated to come to around 3.2TWh with an aggregate gross cash cost of around £95 million. Since April 2004, Sizewell B has been experiencing problems again: one of its two generating units is undergoing repair work and the reactor is therefore currently operating at 50% capacity; it is expected to return to full service early this month.

Replacement of seawater cooling pipework at Heysham 1 contributed to larger than expected losses at British Energy

To add insult to injury, a report by the UK’s National Audit Office (NAO) on the events leading up to the restructuring found that the risks had been highlighted but not closely monitored. BE had not responded effectively to changes in the market, the report said, terming its attempts to enter the domestic supply market ‘too little, too late’. Sir John Bourn, head of the NAO, said: “It is regrettable that risks identified in my report of 1998 have materialised. BE’s actions contributed significantly to its difficulties and the Department of Trade and Industry was constrained in what it could do. But this case highlights the importance of monitoring and managing previously identified risks to ensure that the taxpayer is well protected.”

The UK energy bill, published in early December 2003, and being debated in parliament as this issue of NEI goes to press, outlines plans for nuclear decommissioning and energy market regulation. UK minister responsible for energy, Stephen Timms, said the bill contains “measures which will help us ensure that 10% of our electricity comes from renewable sources by the year 2010. The establishment of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will ensure that we effectively deal with our nuclear legacy. For the first time, one public body will have complete responsibility for the decommissioning and clean-up of the UK’s civil nuclear sites, and for the safe and effective management of our nuclear waste.”


Despite the best efforts of Energy & Natural Resources Committee chairman Pete Domenici – who chaired the conference committee to resolve differences in the bills passed in the Senate and House – last year’s attempt to pass the $31 billion energy bill failed. The sections in the bill promoting the domestic nuclear power industry were not contentious: to reaffirm the Price-Andersen Act; to provide tax incentives for next generation commercial nuclear facilities; to support domestic uranium mining technologies; to improve nuclear security; and to support the design of advanced nuclear reactor systems to produce hydrogen.

The bill ultimately failed because Congress was not able to reach an agreement on the gasoline additive methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE). Intensive lobbying from the Bush administration could not persuade House Republican leader Tom DeLay, of Texas, to delete the provision that would shield oil companies from lawsuits for water contamination by MBTE. It was just two votes short of the issue going through, but the additional votes could not be found before the Senate’s Thanksgiving recess.

This year, Domenici presented a trimmed down $14 billion bill, which contains the original provisions to extend the Price-Andersen Act for an additional 20 years, and to authorise $1 billion over five years for an advanced reactor to produce both electricity and hydrogen at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. While this bill does allot $2 billion for nuclear energy research programmes, production tax credits for new nuclear power plants will not be available. However, there is still continuing dispute over the MTBE liability waiver. It is now almost certain that an energy bill will not be passed in this election year.

Although the energy bill was seen as key component to kick-start a new build programme, the first steps towards new plant construction have nevertheless been taken. The DoE announced late last year that it was inviting utilities to share the costs for licensing activities enabling a new plant to be ordered and licensed for deployment. To date, three consortia have applied to test the combined construction and operating licence (COL) process. The largest of these consortia is made up of ten companies; seven of these have formed NuStart Energy Development and each has pledged $1 million a year plus in-kind services for seven years; federal power agency Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will be providing in-kind services only; and two reactor vendors, GE and Westinghouse, will be contractors to NuStart Energy. The consortium members selected GE’s ESBWR and Westinghouse’s AP1000 as the reactor designs for the project. The two reactor vendors would pay the largest share of the industry costs, about $400 million. If approved, the amount matched by DoE research and development funds would average about $57 million a year for seven years.

A consortium has applied to test the combined construction and oeprating licence process at Tenessee Valley Authority’s Bellefonte site – where construction of two PWRs was cancelled

TVA is also leading one of the other consortia, whose other members include GE, Toshiba, USEC, Global Nuclear Fuel-Americas and Bechtel – to evaluate GE’s ABWR design to build at TVA’s Bellefonte site in northern Alabama. The third consortium is made up of Dominion, AECL Technology, Hitachi America and Bechtel – to evaluate AECL’s ACR-700.

Three electric power companies – Exelon, Dominion and Entergy – submitted early site permit (ESP) applications to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for Exelon’s Clinton plant in Illinois, Dominion’s North Anna station in Virginia and Entergy’s Grand Gulf station in Massachusetts. An approval of the ESP does not automatically authorise construction of a new plant.

In the meantime, several reactors have changed ownership over the last year. Constellation Energy announced it would buy the 517MWe R E Ginna plant from Rochester Gas and Electric for $401 million. British Energy’s (BE’s) 50% stake in AmerGen was also sold, following the financial meltdown of BE. Originally Florida Power & Light had offered $276.5 million, but Exelon exercised its right to buy the share by matching the offer. Exelon is now the sole owner of the AmerGen plants – Clinton, Three Mile Island 1 and Oyster Creek, representing approximately 2480MWe. The Kewaunee plant also came under the hammer, after Wisconsin Public Service and Wisconsin Power & Light agreed to sell the 545MWe unit to Dominion for $220 million. And earlier this year, Cameco announced it would purchase a 25.2% share of South Texas Project’s two 1315MWe PWRs for $332.6 million from a subsidiary of American Electric Power.

After buying British Energy’s 50% stake in AmerGen, Exelon is now the sole owner of the AmerGen plants – Clinton, Three Mile Island 1 and Oyster Creek (pictured)

Finally, and hopefully drawing a line under a recent low point, FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Company began the restart its Davis-Besse reactor in Ohio on 8 March 2004. The plant had been out of action since 16 February 2002, when boric acid corrosion of the reactor vessel head was discovered.

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