Top stories of 201819 December 2018
As we enter 2019, we review some of the key developments of the past 12 months
Generation III+ reactors start up in China
Unit 1 of China’s Taishan nuclear plant in Guangdong province was connected to the on 29 June, becoming the world’s first EPR to achieve power generation. Taishan 1, which started construction in November 2009, entered commercial operation on 13 December 2018, after completing 168 hours of continuous full-power operation.
On 30 June, Sanmen 1 in Zhejiang Province was connected to the grid, making it the first Westinghouse AP1000 to achieve network connection and power generation. Construction of Sanmen 1 began in April 2009. The unit achieved first criticality on 21 June 2018 and began commercial operation on 21 September. Two further AP1000 units have now started up in China: Haiyang 1 and Sanmen 2, with Haiyang 2 expected to begin commercial operation in early 2019.
French firm New NP, the Areva NP subsidiary responsible for the Areva Group’s nuclear reactor operations, was renamed Framatome on 4 January following its sale to Électricité de France (EDF), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) and Assystem. Not included in the sale were contracts relating to the Olkiluoto 3 (OL3) EPR project in Finland and those relating to components forged in the Le Creusot plant. Further restructuring took place on 23 January when nuclear fuel company New Areva (formerly part of Areva) was rebranded as Orano.
Kansai Electric Power’s Ohi 3 in Japan’s Fukui Prefecture, was restarted on 14 March, followed by Kyushu Electric Power’s Genkai 3 in Saga Prefecture on 22 March.
By the end of 2018, nine Japanese reactors had cleared National Regulation Authority inspections confirming they meet the new post-Fukushima safety standards and have resumed operation. These are Kyushu’s Sendai 1&2 and Genkai 3&4; Shikoku’s Ikata 3; and Kansai’s Takahama 3&4 and Ohi 3&4. Another 16 reactors have applied to restart.
Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) on 18 April invited small modular reactor (SMR) project developers to take part in an evaluation process for the construction and operation of an SMR demonstration project at a CNL-managed site.
SMRs have been identified as one of seven key initiatives in the organisation’s long-term strategy. CNL is aiming to demonstrate the commercial viability of SMRs and hopes to become a global leader in SMR prototype testing and technology development support. Its goal is to deploy an SMR at its Chalk River site by 2026.
The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) is meanwhile carrying out pre-licensing vendor design reviews for ten small reactors with capacities of 3-300MWe. Canada has prepared a roadmap to explore the potential for on- and off-grid applications for SMR technology.
US President Donald Trump announced on 8 May that Washington would pull out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, negotiated by six major powers in 2015. He signed an executive order reimposing sanctions on any foreign company that continued to do business with Iran. The order gave companies 90-day or 180-day grace periods to extract themselves from existing Iranian contacts or face punitive US measures.
The US administration on 2 November imposed a second raft of sanctions, which also penalised third countries trading with Iran, but the deal will still be in place at the end of 2018.
French nuclear group Orano (formerly Areva) on 10 September inaugurated a €1.15 billion uranium conversion plant in Tricastin, southern France.
The Philippe Coste plant will account for a quarter of the world’s 60,000-tonne annual uranium hexafluoride production capacity when operating fully in 2021 and is set to have the industry’s lowest costs, the company said.
Unit 4 at Russia’s Rostov nuclear plant was put into commercial operation in late September three months ahead of schedule. Rostov 4 is the last nuclear unit to have a VVER-1000 reactor, although it had been upgraded to include some safety features of the new Generation 3+ VVER-1200 reactor design.
Japan’s Toshiba Corp confirmed on 8 November that it intended to cancel plans to build the Moorside nuclear in the UK, which faced difficulties after Toshiba’s nuclear arm, US-based Westinghouse went bankrupt in March 2017.
NuGen, set up in 2009 as the UK joint venture between Toshiba and France’s Engie, had planned to build a 3.8GWe NPP at the Moorside site using AP1000 reactor technology provided by Westinghouse. NuGen, now fully-owned by Toshiba, will be liquidated.
The two-unit Magnox nuclear power station at Bradwell in Essex has become the first UK power plant to enter care and maintenance following approval from UK regulators.
“Bradwell’s entry into care and maintenance represents a major milestone...It marks the first time a nuclear site in the UK is placed in a dormant state, after removing the major hazards from the site,” an Environment Agency spokesperson said.
During the C&M phase, the site will be monitored, maintained and inspected regularly until final site clearance begins in 65 years.
Poland’s Ministry of Energy on 23 November published its draft Polish Energy Policy until 2040 (PEP2040). The document will be subject to public consultations until 15 January 2019, which may result in some amendments. However, a key principle is a reduction in dependence on coal (by some 50%) in favour of nuclear. Poland's Ministry of Energy plans to launch the first 1-1.5GWe reactor in 2035 and five more by 2043.