Nuclear power: 2017 in review

2 January 2018

We take a look back at some of the main developments in the nuclear industry in 2017

UK starts assessment of China's Hualong One

The UK government in January 2017 requested nuclear regulators to begin the generic design assessment (GDA) process for a UK version of China’s indigenous HPR1000 (Hualong One), a 1000MWe pressurised water reactor. 

In November 2017, UK's Office for Nuclear Regulation and the Environment Agency started the second stage of the assessment process – technical assessment of the HPR1000 design, which is expected to is expected to take about 12 months. The targeted timescale for the entire design licensing process is about five years.  

EDF subsidiary General Nuclear Services (GNS) and CGN propose to use the Hualong One design at the proposed Bradwell project, which is in an early pre-planning stage.

Taiwan to end nuclear generation by 2025

Taiwan's legislature in January 2017 amended the Electricity Act, ending nuclear power generation in the country by 2025 and liberalising the local electricity market. Taiwan has three operational nuclear plants, which account for about 14% of the country's electricity output.

First VVER-1200 goes commercial

The world’s first VVER-1200 nuclear reactor began commercial operation on 27 February at unit 1 of Russia’s Novovoronezh II NPP (also known as Novovoronezh 6). The 1114MWe VVER 1200/392M pressurised water reactor, which started construction in June 2008, was connected to the national grid on 5 August 2016. 

Sellafield cleanup milestone

Drums of legacy radioactive sludge from Sellafield's Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP), the world's oldest nuclear storage pond, were processed in the site's encapsulation plant for the first time in 2017. Sellafield Ltd said the sludge removal project is being delivered 10 years ahead of schedule and for half the predicted GBP200m ($249m) cost.

Switzerland agrees to nuclear phaseout

Switzerland has voted to start phasing out nuclear power, which provides around one-third of its electricity, as part of a revised energy strategy. Some 58.2% of voters in a binding 21 May referendum backed the ban on new nuclear plants.

Swiss voters also supported government plans to provide billions of dollars in subsidies for renewable energy, to ban new nuclear plants and to help bail out struggling utilities. The strategy includes plans to decommission Switzerland’s five reactors as they reach the end of their operational lifespans. Switzerland’s stations include two units at Beznau and one each at Mühleberg, Gösgen and Leibstadt.

IAEA fuel bank inaugurated

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) storage facility for a low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel bank was inaugurated on 29 August at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant (UMP) in Ust-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan. It will act as a supplier of last resort to any country using nuclear power, with good non-proliferation credentials, which for some reason is unable to obtain supplies of uranium from the normal commercial market.

Works starts on Bushehr 2

Excavation work for Iran’s second nuclear plant, Bushehr 2, started on 31 October. Russia is building two additional VVER-1000 reactors with a combined capacity of 2100MW as part of Bushehr Phase II, under a contract signed in November 2014.

Egypt signs contract for El Dabaa

Egypt and Russia in December finally signed notices to proceed with contracts for the construction of four Russian-designed VVER-1200 reactors at Egypt’s El Dabaa NPP on the Mediterranean coast. El Dabba 1 is scheduled to be commissioned in 2026, according to Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom.

Areva and EDF complete sale of New NP

Electricite de France (EDF) has bought Areva NP's nuclear reactor operations (New NP) division from Areva SA, following the signature of definitive binding agreements on 22nd December. 

UK design approval for ABWR

UK regulators in December approved Hitachi-GE's UK Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (UK ABWR) as suitable for construction in the UK, following a five-year Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process. Hitachi’s UK subsidiary Horizon Nuclear Power hopes to build two ABWR units with a capacity of 2.7GWe at Wylfa Newydd on the island of Anglesey in Wales for startup by 2025.

Sludge was transferred from Sellafield's Pile Fuel Storage Pond (PFSP)
Russia and Egypt sign a contract for construction of El Dabba in December 2017
The reference plant for the UK HPR1000 design is CGN’s Fangchenggang 3 in China which is under construction and on schedule.
The first VVER-1200 started commercial operation at Novovoronezh in February
The Design Acceptance Certificate (DAC) for the UK ABWR is signed by ONR's Mark Foy

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