A year of construction
World survey part 1: the Americas25 June 2009
In 2008 the number of nuclear reactors starting construction hit double figures, with China and Russia leading the race. There has been much activity in India, too, after last year’s nuclear cooperation deals. Our World Survey covers recent developments in every country with operating commercial reactors.
In April, the first 188t low-pressure turbine rotor was installed at Atucha 2, a 745MWe CANDU reactor currently under construction. The final welds of the primary cooling system were completed in August 2008. At the time, there were 4600 people working on site, according to a report from operator Nucleoeléctrica Argentina.
Construction of Atucha 2 began in 1980, but was suspended in 1994.?Plant operator NA signed an agreement to restart construction in August 2006. The plant is expected to be completed and started up by 2011. The 357MWe Atucha 1 began operation in 1974.
Nucleoeléctrica Argentina is also working on a plant life extension at its 648MWe Embalse nuclear power plant, which began its commercial life in 1984.
And the Argentinian government has an eye toward the future; it is planning a fourth power plant at an undisclosed location, according to an April report in Argentinian newspaper La Razon.
Completion of the Angra 3 reactor, a twin of Angra 2 that started construction in 1983, but was never finished, now seems to depend on negotiations with Tuca Jordão, the mayor of the local municipality Angra dos Reis.
In March 2009, two Brazilian national agencies gave utility Eletronuclear go-ahead for the reactor, but the resumption of construction also depends on receiving a licence from the local municipality for the land. The Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Resources (IBAMA) granted a six-year licence. The Brazilian nuclear energy commission granted a licence for the reactor and auxiliary buildings.
In March, Jordão rejected Eletronuclear’s offer of BRL47 million ($22 million) as too low. He said the city wanted BRL330 million for sanitation, education and health projects. During a second meeting in April, Eletronuclear’s offer rose to BRL59.6 million, and the government’s requirement fell to BRL280 million, but no agreement was reached. Jordão said he supports the construction of Angra 3, and would be scheduling meetings with secretaries of the governing coalition and government to assess the situation. According to Eletronuclear, finishing the 1350MW plant construction, (halted since 1986) would take five years. The utility is required to report its plans to start construction 15 days in advance to the Brazilian nuclear energy commission (CNEN).
A study is also being prepared on the possibility of building a Brazilian national repository for low- and intermediate-level waste (LLW and ILW), which would be operational by 2018. Also, in 2009, CNEN issued a permit for Industriás Nucleares do Brasil to start commercial-scale operations at its centrifugal enrichment plant at Resende.
The disassembly phase of Bruce A units 1 and 2 restart programme ended in March 2009 when the last of 480 calandria tubes was removed. Later this year, the teams will work on restoring service water systems, heavy water systems, electrical systems and reactor regulating systems.
Roughly CAN$2.6 billion ($2.1 billion) had been invested in the restart programme by the end of 2008. The project is among the largest infrastructure projects in Canada. A workforce that peaked at over 2300 is performing more than 145,000 activities, including replacing 16 steam generators and all of the reactors’ internal components.
Bruce Power submitted the environmental impact statement (EIS) for building up to four reactors in a Bruce C development at the existing site on Lake Huron. Public hearings are expected to take place in September and October 2009. It also published a preliminary report about building a new plant in Saskatchewan.
The company is planning to conduct an environmental assessment of construction of a new twin-reactor plant in Nanticoke, Ontario. Further west, in Alberta, it is focusing on a 1400ha area for a new plant with up to four reactors. Bruce Power plans to publish an environmental assessment in 2010.
Later this year a final EIS from Ontario Power Generation for up to four new reactors at the existing Darlington site is expected, as is a construction licence.
In January 2009, the Nuclear Safety Commission published final guidelines for the EIS for a new Ontario Power Generation deep geological repository for LLW and ILW on the Bruce Power site in Tiverton, Ontario. The final EIS is expected in 2011 for analysis by a joint review panel to be appointed by the minister of the environment.
Atomic Energy of Canada is expecting to receive feedback from CNSC in August on its new 1200MWe ACL-1000 Generation III+ CANDU reactor design. The ACL-1000 is a light-water-cooled, heavy-water-moderated pressure tube reactor. In May, the company signed a deal to award CAN$15 million of contracts to help validate and finalise the design, with another CAN$10 million of contracts on the way.
AECL decided in 2008 to cease development work on MAPLE reactors for medical isotopes, after finding that they were “no longer feasible”.
Alstom and Spanish utility Iberdrola continue to work on a contract with the state-owned utility Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) to modernise the Laguna Verde nuclear power plant.
The plant is located in Alto Lucero, Veracruz. It consists of two units: the first went into operation in July 1990 and the second in April 1995. It has a total generating capacity of 1365MW.
Alstom’s scope of supply is for the full retrofit of two steam turbines, each with one high pressure and two low pressure cylinders, and the supply of new generators. Consortium leader Iberinco, the engineering and construction business of the Iberdrola Group, will supply the balance of plant.
The project will increase the current installed capacity of the country’s only nuclear plant by 20% to around 1634MW. Work began on 2 March 2007 and is scheduled for completion by 2010.
The total order value is estimated at EUR70 million, with Alstom’s share at around EUR150 million.
In April, Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) commissioner Kristine Svinicki said the NRC has been increasing staff to deal with extra work posed by planned reactors.
Half of the 104 operating reactors in the USA have already had their operating licences renewed by the NRC, and the regulator is reviewing another 13. In April, the longest operating reactor in the USA – Oyster Creek – had its licence renewed for 20 years to April 2029, 60 years after its first one was issued. NRC director of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, Eric Leeds, described the task as: “the most extensive licence renewal review to date.”
But, according to Svinicki, life extension alone will not meet the needs of predicted energy demand in the US, expected to double in the next 30 years. If nuclear power were to maintain its current share of the US energy mix (about 20%), the US would need a total fleet of 150 plants (1GW each), 46 more than are operating today.
To deal with the 17 applications for 26 new plants the NRC has received, the commission has been getting bigger.
The US industry is also gearing up, with two large factories planned: a joint Northrop Grumman-Areva factory in Newport News, Virginia, for the EPR, scheduled to break ground this year. Westinghouse and the Shaw Group have announced they are building a factory in Louisiana to support the AP-1000.
• Westinghouse Electric Company and Shaw Group’s nuclear division received full notice to proceed from operator Southern Nuclear on its engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract for two AP1000 units and related facilities intended for units 3 and 4 at the existing Vogtle plant near Augusta, Georgia. The project expects startup dates of 2016 and 2017 for the two units.
While the AP1000 design is certified, an amended design is currently under NRC review. The design changes include a redesign of the pressuriser, a revision to the seismic analysis, changes to the instrumentation and control systems, a redesign of the fuel racks, and a revision of the fuel design. The NRC’s final safety evaluation report is expected for the amendment in March 2010.
• Questions about GE-Hitachi’s 1560MWe ESBWR are emerging after two different utilities have suspended development of sites as they look for alternative reactor technology.
In November 2008, Exelon Nuclear Texas holdings wrote to the NRC saying that it had suspended the application process for its two-unit Victoria County (Texas) project after an internal enquiry “showed that technologies other than the ESBWR provide the project greater commercial and schedule certainty”.
Entergy halted development of its Grand Gulf and River Bend projects in January 2009. In its letter to the NRC, it said: “Based on recent information and lack of adequate progress with commercial discussions, Entergy finds it prudent to reconsider the technology decision for both applications.”
The most advanced project is North Anna. Dominion partnered with GE-Hitachi and Bechtel to submit the COL application for the North Anna ESBWR in November 2007. A final environmental impact statement is due in December 2009. The ESBWR standard design certification application was made in August 2005. A final safety evaluation report is expected in 2010.
• Unistar, an alliance of Constellation Energy and the EDF Group working on COL applications for the USEPR, submitted an application for the 1600MWe lead unit at Calvert Cliffs in July 2007. EDF
has proposed buying 49.99% of Constellation Nuclear, which owns the existing Calvert Cliffs plant. In April, EDF won the go-ahead from the New York State Public Service Commission for the New York State part of the deal, which include Nine Mile Point units 1 and 2 and the R.E. Ginna plant. Constellation also owns Calvert Cliffs in Maryland, so EDF also needs Maryland state approval to proceed with the deal. A report is due by 8 June. In a 2008 statement EDF chairman Pierre Gadonneix said that EDF’s “immediate focus is on breaking ground for Calvert Cliffs Unit 3 as soon as the regulatory process allows, perhaps as early as 2009”. Applications for eight more EPRs have since been docketed.
Areva submitted a design application for its USEPR design in December 2007. It is now undergoing certification review. The NRC issued a preliminary safety evaluation report in January 2009, and expects to produce the final one in June 2011.
• NRG Energy’s South Texas Project (STP) is for two ABWRs to be built alongside two existing PWRs. The COL was docketed in September 2007. This is also the reference COL for this reactor type, as well as the only ABWR COL either submitted or currently expected by the NRC. The 1356MWe ABWR design was developed by GE, Hitachi and Toshiba.
The COL application for the South Texas ABWRs references the certified GE-Hitachi design, even though Toshiba has been selected as the main EPC contractor to build the units. Both Toshiba and GE-Hitachi are investing in companies in the USA to support their ABWR marketing and construction activities.
In February 2009, the NRC established a final review schedule for the project. A draft environmental impact statement is due in March 2010 with the final version due a year later. The final safety review should be published in September 2011.
• Finally, a single COL application was filed in November 2008 for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ (MHI’s) USAPWR (two units at Comanche Peak). An application for standard design certification for the 1700MWe USAPWR was submitted on 31 December 2007. A preliminary safety evaluation report is expected in June, with the final version in September 2011.
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