Thursday, May 31, 2012

Japan Appears Ready to Restart 2 Reactors

 TOKYO—Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda appears set to order two of Japan's 50 closed reactors to return online in time for the summer energy crunch—the first reactors to be restarted since the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011.

Bloomberg News
 
Japan has had all of its 50 reactors offline as the country runs safety tests following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi atomic disaster. Above, the reactor buildings at Fukushima as seen in May 2012.
The move, which could take effect as soon as next week, comes after local leaders from western Japan backed away from their opposition, giving provisional support to a restart of the two reactors, located at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s 9503.TO +3.18% Oi plant.
"I effectively accept" a restart of the reactors, provided it is on a temporary basis, to help deal with expected power shortages in the peak summer period, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said at a city-office news conference Thursday. "It's time to stop superficial arguments."
Without the restart of the two powerful reactors, the government said, the area covered by the Oi complex, which includes the city of Osaka, would face power shortages of up to 15%. The two reactors are expected to largely eliminate that shortfall, but don't guarantee a swift return of other idled plants. Opinion polls continue to show the public is looking for a long-term exit from nuclear power.
The threat of power shortages and a possible exodus of businesses from the region—now a hub of electronics makers such as Panasonic Corp. and Sharp Corp.—helped fracture the unity of the local opposition.
The government's nuclear minister, Goshi Hosono, won agreement from local leaders in a meeting Wednesday by promising that no other reactor will be restarted until an independent nuclear regulator is created—likely after summer. All of Japan's nuclear reactors were eventually shut down after the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
The local leaders issued a statement Wednesday that any restart should be a temporary measure.
The abrupt about-face of Mayor Hashimoto, a tough critic of the Noda administration and a man seen as the voice of growing political dissatisfaction in Japan, deprived the local leaders' group of a rallying point in their opposition, resulting in their rapid climb-down.
"We have put across our concerns to the government. We have fulfilled our responsibility as local government leaders," Katsunori Ishida, spokesman for the local leaders' group, said.
The government must now get the approval of the governor of Fukui prefecture, where the Oi plant is located, and the local assembly. Gov. Issei Nishikawa, a past proponent of nuclear energy, is expected to endorse the move.
Mr. Hosono is set to be dispatched to the prefecture to explain a plan to create stronger safety oversight of the plant—including the temporary stationing of a deputy minister there and the permanent assignment of plant engineers.
"I will make a final decision on the restart at my own responsibility," Mr. Noda said in a news conference Wednesday.
On May 5, the last operating reactor went offline, depriving the country of an energy source that used to account for over 30% of its power supply. The government has since been warning of serious power shortage, especially in western Japan where reliance on nuclear power is much greater than in the eastern half.
On May 18, the government announced a plan to ask households and businesses in the service area of Kansai Electric to reduce power usage by at least 15% during summer, compared with peak levels in 2010.
Gov. Yukiko Kada, who leads Shiga prefecture next to Fukui, where the Oi plant is located, stressed Wednesday that she will still press the government to proceed cautiously with a restart. Her office also said the governor hasn't dropped her tough demands, including a clear road map for Japan exiting nuclear power.
 

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INPO AP-928 Report Template Meeting (June 11 - Atlanta)

Knowledge Relay is hosting their second meeting to share the report templates created for INPO AP-928.  The goal is to save the nuclear power industry hundreds of hours per plant in manual tasks previously required to create the INPO AP-928 reports.  The attendees from:  Florida Power & Light, First Energy, Bechtel, Westinghouse, Entergy, Pacific Gas & Electric, Arizona Public Service, PSEG, Energy Northwest, and WNS offered input on what they would like focused on and how the reports could meet industry needs.

These report templates will be part of a fully automated solution.  The automation includes:

  • data pulls from Project, ERP, and other sources to populate the reports
  • report creation
  • report distribution

The first set of report templates to be shared are:
  • Scope Stability
  • Schedule Adherence
  • Resource Loading
  • Weekly Resource Adherence
  • Scope Survivability
The reports presented have hyperlink drill down features and data from multiple sources.

Another focus of the meeting will be what the next reports to be focused on will be and the delivery of the reports.

If you are interested in attending in person, or receiving an invite for the concurrent web meeting, please contact:  Mary.Owings@KnowledgeRelay.com

Nuclear Energy Standards Coordination Collaborative to Convene July 17

The Nuclear Energy Standards Coordination Collaborative (NESCC) - a joint initiative of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) - will hold its next meeting on July 17, 2012. Open to all interested stakeholders, NESCC meetings focus on identifying and responding to the current needs of the nuclear industry, and the standards that can facilitate its growth and development.

To be held at ANSI headquarters in Washington, DC, the July 17 NESCC meeting is open to all interested U.S. and international stakeholders, including government legislative and regulatory bodies, industry, standards developing organizations, and certification organizations.

The Nation's Nuclear Need

The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) estimates that the nation's electricity demand will rise 24 percent by 2035, creating an increased need for clean, emission-free energy. In the push for building America's clean energy future, the NESCC works to identify the standards needed for the design, operation, development, licensing, and deployment of nuclear power plants and other nuclear technologies.

The nuclear energy industry can also play an important role in job creation and economic growth. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the 104 nuclear units in the U.S. generate substantial domestic economic value in electricity sales and revenue - $40 to $50 billion each year - with more than 100,000 workers contributing to production.

Visit the event webpage for more information; the meeting agenda will be provided as soon as it is available. Attendance is free of charge, but due to space limitations advance registration is required for both in-person and teleconference participants. 




Register for the July 17 NESCC meeting. Registration closes July 10, 2012.

 

LINK FOR REGISTRATION

Nuclear Energy to Dominate UAE Power Sector Expansion Process

Rising electricity demand to drive development of nuclear energy sector in UAE.

Delhi, India, May 31, 2012 --(PR.com)-- Nuclear energy has emerged as the best option for UAE to fulfill its growing electricity demand according to a recent research report "UAE Power Sector Analysis" published by KuicK Research. The traditional non-renewable sources of power are insufficient to fulfill the rising electricity demand which is projected to surpass 30000 MW by 2020. While renewable energy sources like solar and wind based power are being explored, it is projected that these will only be able to meet less than 10% of electricity demand by 2020. Therefore, the need for a long term policy framework for evaluating and exploring nuclear energy potential has emerged in UAE.

The policy makers in UAE are committed towards the development of the nuclear energy sector to cater its growing demand of electricity and have put in place the requisite regulatory and policy framework in the country. Nuclear safety and protection of the public has emerged as an imperative choice where maintaining the highest of standards of safety has been the foremost preference for the policy makers in UAE. The country has been developing a programme where it is using high technology along with highest of international standards for performance as well as safety of the public.

The country plans to construct three to four nuclear plants, where the first plant is expected to be connected to the Abu Dhabi grid by 2017. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation ENEC ensures the design, construction and operation of the UAE nuclear energy plants. UAE is planning to have provisions of joint-venture for future nuclear power plants rather than establishing indigenous expertise.

UAE Power Sector Analysis report gives detailed overview on the power sector in UAE. It helps to get familiar with the ongoing trend, critical performance indicators related to power sector, government plans, policy & regulatory framework, key regulatory authorities and initiatives related to renewable energy in UAE.


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Japan Panel Keeps Nuclear Power Among Options For Future Energy Mix

By Mari Iwata, Dow Jones Newswires

TOKYO (Dow Jones)--A Japanese government panel studying the country's long-term energy alternatives following the Fukushima nuclear accident has come up with four options in its final recommendations--from a total phase-out of nuclear power to maintaining a reliance on the controversial energy source for the foreseeable future.
The panel, which wound up its deliberations late Monday, is expected to submit its report to an umbrella panel soon. The panel has discussed the country's energy options since last year's accident raised doubts across the nation about Japan's long-term plan to increase dependence on nuclear power.
The four options are:

-- A complete phase-out of nuclear power while raising renewable energy sources to 35% of energy supply by 2030
-- Significantly reducing nuclear power to 15% of the total supply by 2030, while increasing renewable energy to 30%, then deciding what the future energy mix should be
-- Agreeing on a lower level of nuclear power generation capacity of about 20%-25% of total energy supply
-- Letting the free market determine what the appropriate energy mix should be

The government has said a national discussion should take place before deciding on the best course.
The panel dropped a fifth option--maintaining nuclear power at its previous level of around 35% of all output estimated for 2030--since that was seen by many panel members as not viable, given widespread opposition.
The 25-member panel cautioned that there are potentially serious consequences for the economy with some of the options. It said that under the most drastic scenerio--phasing out all nuclear power by 2030--real gross domestic product would be cut by as much as 5% compared with a full restoration of nuclear power.
All of the options mean the country would need to restart some currently idled nuclear plants while capacity is built up in areas such as renewable and conventional power.
Some panel members said there needs to be a clear focus on the costs of each option, especially that of increasing the use of more expensive renewable energy.
"We haven't discussed how much each of us must invest in promoting renewable energy, but it will be an issue," said panel member Yoshitsugu Kanemoto, an economics professor at Tokyo Kezai Unversity.
Since the No. 3 unit at the Tomari nuclear power plant on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido was closed May 5 for a regular inspection, no nuclear reactors have been online in the country.

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Pakistan - Budget: Govt looking to charge up nuclear power plants

 
 
ISLAMABAD: The atomic energy commission budget has been increased by a whopping 78% to Rs39.2 billion in the upcoming financial year in a bid to up the ante on nuclear power plants for cheaper electricity.

The allocation for Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) is almost 11% of the total federal development budget estimated at Rs360 billion for the financial year 2012-13.
A major chunk of the PAEC budget has been allocated to two nuclear power plants, according to the budget documents. An amount of Rs34.6 billion has been set aside for Chashma Nuclear Power Plants, C3 and C4. The total cost of these two projects is Rs190 billion which will be partially funded by Rs136 billion Chinese loan.
The government has so far spent Rs62.4 billion on the mega project having 660 megawatts generation capacity. With Rs34.6 billion additional spending, the government will be able to complete almost half of the work by June 2013.
To meet the growing energy deficit, the PAEC has been assigned an ambitious target of 8,800 megawatts nuclear power generation by 2030. Pakistan is keen to seek assistance from China and France to meet the goal, according to a senior government official. Due to inconsistency of policies, the country’s energy mix has drastically changed with hydel generation declining to a third and thermal generation increasing to two-thirds, resulting to expensive power generation.
Both nuclear power plants C3 and C4 had been planned in accordance with the safeguard agreements with IAEA.
Currently, PAEC is carrying out 28 projects and studies having an estimated cost of Rs237 billion. According to the documents, an amount of Rs35.5 million has also been sanctioned to carry out survey and feasibility studies of six additional nuclear power plants sites. The total cost of the feasibility studies is Rs150 million.
An amount of Rs790 million has been set aside for a joint pre-project feasibility and design study of a 1,000 megawatts nuclear power plant in Karachi. Similarly, for the development of project team for site development and installation of 300 megawatts and 1,000 megawatts nuclear power plants in Karachi, another sum of Rs100 million has been sanctioned.

For Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority, the government has sanctioned Rs400 million.
Bringing an end to uncertainty hanging over Thar Coal Gasification project, the government has eventually set aside Rs900 million for the all important scheme that could develop another source of cheap electricity generation. The project has been opposed by tooth and nail by planning commission, allegedly on behalf of the oil lobby.
The total cost of the project is Rs8.9 billion including Rs5.84 billion foreign loan. So far, the government has not spent a single penny on this project.
The government has also increased defense production ministry budget by 37.5% to Rs2 billion, almost the entire amount or Rs1.9 billion has been allocated to the project of installation of ship lift and transfer system for providing docking and repair facilities to submarines and commercial vehicles. The total cost of this project is Rs5.6 billion of which Rs2.4 billion have been so far spent on the project.
The development budget of defence ministry has been reduced to Rs3.2 billion, lower by Rs640 million or 16.6% over the current fiscal year. Out of that an amount of Rs2.5 billion has been sanctioned for defence ministry and Rs717 million for the national space agency namely Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission.

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Pennsylvania - Nuclear reactor shut down for inspection



PPL Corp. shut down Unit 2 at its Susquehanna nuclear power plant near Berwick on Wednesday to inspect the unit's turbine blades for cracking following the discovery in April of cracks in Unit 1 at the plant.
"We are prepared to perform the inspection and any turbine blade replacements that may be needed for the continued safe operation of the unit," said Timothy S. Rausch, PPL Susquehanna senior vice president and chief nuclear officer.

The Unit 1 cracks were similar to, though less extensive than, those found and repaired on both turbines in 2011. Unit I remains out of service, although, the company says it is preparing to restart Unit 1 in the near future.

Workers also will install additional diagnostic equipment on the Unit 2 turbine to complement the equipment installed in 2011.

PPL will use data from the equipment to validate the suspected causes of the turbine blade cracking currently under engineering review, the company said.

Last year, it cost PPL between $82 million and $100 million to repair the turbine cracks, but cracks in Unit 1 this year should be less expensive to repair because fewer blades are affected and the unit was already scheduled to be shut down, Joe Scopelliti, a PPL spokesman has said. On Wednesday, Scopelliti said he does not know yet the cost of this year's repairs.

PPL previously announced that the financial impact of the additional turbine work on both Unit 1 and 2 is not expected to be "material," and that the company is maintaining its 2012 forecast of $2.15 to $2.45 per share in earnings from on going operations.

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South Africa - Energy minister pushes nuclear

Johannesburg - Nuclear energy would help Africa realise its energy security goals, the energy minister said in Johannesburg on Thursday.

"We cannot, because we are black, end up having a dark continent," Dipuo Peters said at a business breakfast hosted by The New Age.

South Africa was rich in uranium reserves that could be used to create an abundance of energy.

"God gave us these resources and we must use them," she said.

Africa needed to take a proactive role and would not be bystanders in the energy revolution.



Waste management institute

Earlier in the week, Greenpeace activists protested against the expansion of the nuclear energy on the continent and claimed Peters had not adequately responded to their concerns. Peters said she believed further engagement was needed, but felt the environmental group was not prepared to compromise.

"[Greenpeace] don't want nuclear, you don't want hydro, coal. It's important they understand we are an energy intense economy."

Peters said President Jacob Zuma had given her the mandate to "demystify" nuclear power to overcome public concerns. Aspects of nuclear technology were already used in hospitals, desalination plants, and in agriculture.

The government was also in the final stages of establishing a nuclear waste management institute, which would keep the public informed of measures to deal with nuclear by-products.

Concerns about fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, to extract shale gas reserves needed to be overcome through research and technology.

"We cannot allow a blessing to lie fallow... If shale gas is one of the blessings, we are going to go for it," Peters said.

It was essential, however, that the process was not rushed. The technology involved in fracking was established in other countries, such as Australia and the US, and similar to that used in processing gold. Means of extracting the shale gas safely would benefit the people of the Karoo, she said.

Asked about the tender processes associated with the expansion of the nuclear industry, Peters appeared amused at South Africa's preoccupation with tenders.

China cabinet approves nuclear safety plan


May 31 (Reuters) - China has approved a nuclear safety plan and says its nuclear power plants meet the latest international safety standards, though some plants need to improve their ability to cope with flooding and earthquakes, state media said on Thursday.

China suspended approvals of new nuclear power plants in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis in March 2011 following a devastating tsunami, and ordered nationwide safety checks on existing plants and construction sites. It also pledged to review its nuclear power development plan.

The State Council, China's Cabinet, approved a nuclear safety plan for 2011-2015 in a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao on Thursday, state television said.

China also aims to enhance nuclear safety standards and lower the risks of nuclear radiation by 2020, the report said.

A nine-month safety inspection of China's 41 nuclear power plants, which are either operating or under construction, showed that most of China's nuclear power stations meet both Chinese and International Atomic Energy Agency standards, according to the report.

However, some individual power plants need to improve their ability to prevent damage from serious accidents such as earthquakes, flooding or tsunami, it said.

State media have said China will likely scale down its 2020 nuclear power generation capacity target to 60-70 gigawatts (GW) compared with earlier expectations of around 80 GW.

The government has not made any decision on when to start approving new nuclear plant projects. (Reporting by Judy Hua and Terril Yue Jones; Editing by Will Waterman)

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German Plan to Abandon Its Nuclear Energy Lags



BERLIN — More than a year after pledging to drop nuclear power, Chancellor Angela Merkel has acknowledged that her ambition for a Germany that runs on renewable energy is falling behind schedule and faces a range of obstacles, not least the revamping of the energy grid at a cost of billions of euros.

In recent weeks, Ms. Merkel has redoubled her efforts to push Germany’s troubled energy transformation, replacing her environment minister and declaring that she would make a new priority of the project, which foresees replacing nuclear power with renewable energy sources within a decade. 

Since passing the legislation last year, in the aftermath of the tsunami and nuclear meltdown in Japan, Ms. Merkel’s own energies have been absorbed by the euro crisis and a series of regional elections. Last weekend she conceded that “we are behind on several projects.” 

“Time is pressing, because we are completely transforming our energy supply,” Ms. Merkel said Saturday in her weekly podcast. “That means we need a completely different network than previously.” 

Indeed, just producing the power is not enough, it requires the infrastructure to distribute it — much of it from new parks of wind turbines off the northern coast — to southern states, which are home to many of Germany’s leading industrial companies. 

Ms. Merkel, her new environment minister, Peter Altmaier, and her economy minister, Philipp Rösler held talks Tuesday with the main network operators, who have estimated the cost of the planned expansion of the energy grid at €20 billion, or nearly $25 billion, over the course of the next decade. 

On Wednesday, the main operators proposed a roadmap of how to get there. But with budget crises across Europe, money is not the only problem. To build the series of new power lines required, approval is needed from the authorities in each of the various states, and the operators say the paperwork is slowing them down. 

Even before construction has begun in many places, farmers are demanding increased compensation for the land they will lose when power lines are strung across their fields. “We do not want to prevent the expansion of infrastructure,” said Michael Lohse, a spokesman for the German Farmers Federation. “But land is not limited.” 

Germany drew some 20 percent of its total power from wind, water, solar and thermal energy sources in 2011. By 2030, the government hopes, Germany will more than double that to 50 percent. But on very windy days, the authorities in the north have had to switch some wind turbines off because the current network cannot cope with the high amount of power they produce. 

Over the course of the next six weeks, the network operators will be reaching out to citizens over the Internet and through gatherings in communities, in an effort to ease the level of resistance to the new power masts. 

Generally, however, Germans have shown a tolerance for the proliferating number of power lines and white wind turbines that now dot the countryside, allowing for wind energy to become the nation’s leading green power source. Wind turbines generated 37.5 billion kilowatt hours, or enough power for more than 11 million consumers, last year. 

Their numbers are poised to grow as the new wind turbine projects off the northern coast expand, alongside the creation of the new north-south corridor of power lines needed to carry the electricity they generate to industrial areas. 

The operators — 50Hertz, Amprion, TenneT and TransnetBW — said that Germany will need to upgrade about 4,400 kilometers, or 2,700 miles, of power lines and build an additional 3,800 kilometers of power lines by 2022 for Ms. Merkel’s plan to work. 

In 2011, Germany was still a net exporter of electricity. If that is to remain the case, and if the chancellor’s plan is to be realized, industry experts say, it will take sustained effort. “The energy transformation is a generational project, it will not happen in one year or two, but over the very long term,” Ronny Meyer of the Wind Energy Agency said. “For that reason it must be a priority for the chancellor and the governors.” 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

GE Hitachi signs MOU with University of Manchester for Work on PRISM Reactor

GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) announced today that it signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with The University of Manchester, according to a Tuesday release. The university will provide GEH with expert technical knowledge and input to the potential deployment of GEH’s innovative PRISM reactor, designed to disposition the U.K.’s growing plutonium stockpile while at the same time generating 600 megawatts of low-carbon electricity.

The MOU follows the announcement last month at a nuclear industry conference that GEH and the National Nuclear Laboratory intend to collaborate. With more than 100 attendees, the conference was held in West Cumbria on April 4 for the purpose of exploring the support of potential U.K. business partners to deploy PRISM technology at Sellafield. Read More>>>> 

EDF Puts Hinkley Point Contract Award on Hold


According to a report by The Guardian, EDF Energy has put the award of a £1.2 billion ($1.9 billion) civil engineering contract for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset on hold.

Two consortiums led by Balfour Beatty and Laing O'Rourke expected to have heard about the huge deal last week, but now expect no decision until 2013 at the earliest. The move is a blow to employment prospects in the area and comes weeks after £100 million ($160 million) worth of site preparation was postponed.

The UK is planning 16GW of new plants to replace the current fleet of reactors that are scheduled to come offline over the coming decade. E.On, RWE and SSE have all pulled out of building new projects, leaving the new nuclear program almost entirely dependent on EDF.   Read More>>>> 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

IAEA Begins Two-Week Inspection Of S Korea's 2nd-Oldest Nuclear Reactor

 The International Atomic Energy Agency Tuesday started a two-week inspection of South Korea's second-oldest nuclear power reactor, Wolseong's No. 1 reactor, in response to increased anxiety over nuclear safety following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan last year.
A team of experts led by an IAEA official will inspect the reactor from May 29 to June 7 at the invitation of operator Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., the company said in a statement.
KHNP is the nuclear power unit of state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. (015760.SE), the country's electricity provider.
The Wolseong No. 1 reactor's design life expires in November and the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission is set to decide whether to permit the reactor to operate for another 10 years, a KHNP spokesman said.
However, the IAEA inspection is "separate" from the commission's evaluation, the spokesman said.
The reactor began commercial operations in 1983, according to the company's website.

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Areas with nuclear plants may be exempt from rolling blackouts

The government and four electric companies are discussing the possibility of exempting areas around nuclear power plants from rolling blackouts that may be implemented this summer if power shortages become serious, sources said Tuesday.
The idea is to ensure that people living near nuclear power stations can evacuate quickly in case of problems at the plants, according to the sources.
The four utilities that may carry out rolling blackouts are Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Kansai Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co.
Even though all of Japan's nuclear reactors are currently idle, spent fuel and other radioactive materials are stored inside the facilities, and work to cool the fuel continues.
In the event of a nuclear accident, it could be necessary to evacuate nearby residents, and it would be important to maintain communications around the plants so technicians and emergency responders would not be hindered, the sources said.
On the other hand, excluding areas around nuclear facilities from the rolling blackouts could trigger criticism. The government will thus carefully choose areas that would be exempted, the sources said.
Hospitals, water and wastewater service operators, and railroad operators will be exempt from the rotational power outages.
Last summer, rolling blackouts were conducted only in the Tokyo area, where there are no nuclear plants. Therefore, preparations for nuclear accidents were not necessary.
For this summer, the government has announced voluntary power-conserving targets in the areas served by the four power suppliers plus three other utilities — Chubu Electric Power Co., Hokuriku Electric Power Co. and Chugoku Electric Power Co.
If the rolling blackouts are used, power supply will be cut district by district, with each outage lasting two hours.
Power shortages are expected to be particularly serious in the Kansai region, where Kepco has relied heavily on nuclear energy.
The government is trying to win local support for the restart of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at Kepco's Oi power station in Fukui Prefecture.

Progress Energy's Levy County nuclear project carries on despite setbacks

By Ivan Penn, Times Staff Writer

Arguably, Progress Energy has a gambling problem.
For years, it has made high-stakes, high-risk bets on its Levy County nuclear power project — and steadily lost.
Unfortunately for its customers, the utility has been playing with their money.
In charge of safeguarding those dollars is the state Public Service Commission. And in 2009, and every year since, it has had a chance to pull Progress away from the gambling table.
Instead, it has rejected warnings from businessmen, scientists and academics that the utility's plan for the Levy project has little chance of success.
Had the PSC heeded the warnings, it might have limited customer losses to about $150 million. Instead, the PSC rejected the warnings and has allowed Progress to double down on Levy.
Now, customers must pay off a debt of $1.1 billion — for a plant that keeps getting delayed and may never get built.
For customers, the question now is: Why has the utility kept betting on Levy County? And why did the PSC allow it?
Risk management expert Russell Walker of the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University has an answer.
"When the stakes get higher, it gets harder for organizations to walk away," Walker said. "This happens a lot. It's the same problem a gambler has: If I play a little longer, it'll come around."
Cindy Muir, a spokeswoman for the PSC, defends the process and the commission's rulings.
"Commission decisions are based on sworn testimony, exhibits, studies and reports provided by industry experts during weeks of formal … hearings," Muir said.
Progress continues to review the economic feasibility of the project, which now has a price tag of up to $24 billion. The utility insists that nuclear power remains an "integral part of our current and future plans for meeting the region's energy needs safely and reliably," said Suzanne Grant, a spokeswoman for Progress.
"Conditions change continuously," she said. "We will continue to evaluate the project and its potential schedule in light of changes in customer demand, the general economy, energy policy and numerous other factors."
• • •
Progress applied for a nuclear license to operate the Levy plant in 2008. Over the next 15 months, the financial landscape drastically shifted.
• The stock market collapsed, which erased any immediate possibility of attracting investors or co-owners.
• The Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied Progress' request to begin work on the Levy site before the operating license was approved, a decision that slowed the project and increased costs.
• The utility failed to win a federal loan guarantee — a powerful tool to gain lenders and investors for risky projects — and decided not to continue pursuing one.
• Natural gas prices began a historic decline that basically eliminated nuclear's presumptive long-term cost advantage.
As all of this happened, Progress was busy spending. By the fall of 2009, its wager on Levy had reached $150 million.


At hearings before the commission in late September and early October 2009, experts warned the PSC to stop Progress from spending more.
It was not just the expected antinuclear activists that lined up against the plant. Buttoned-down business types told the PSC that Levy would be an expensive failure. They urged the PSC to stop Progress from continuing to bet its customers' money on the project.
Failing to "seriously examine the economics of moving forward in this economy, with the uncertainty now associated with the Levy project," James Brew, a lawyer for PCS Phosphate, told the commission in fall 2009, "would defy common sense."
Peter Bradford, a former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, warned that because of the changed landscape "the economic feasibility of the project may now be nonexistent."
"Whether the Levy project is to become a major burden on the economy in the (Progress Energy) service area depends on decisions the commission will make in this proceeding," he said.
• • •
Arguably, what became a high-stakes game of nuclear roulette began as a prudent attempt at protecting Florida's energy future.
Florida relies on natural gas to create more than 60 percent of its electricity.
"Overdependence on any one fuel source can expose customers to potential fuel-cost spikes and supply disruptions," Grant, the Progress spokeswoman, told the Tampa Bay Times in response to questions for this story.
Progress and the state wanted more nuclear reactors for Florida's energy mix. They acted during economic boom times, when electricity demand was rising rapidly and strict greenhouse-gas rules seemed imminent, two things a new nuclear plant could help alleviate.
The same happened around the country, and the Bush and Obama administrations backed loan guarantees to speed up construction. Investors, focused strictly on the bottom line, did not share the enthusiasm.
In July 2009, Moody's, the financial rating service, threatened to downgrade utilities planning atomic power plants.
"We view new nuclear generation plans as a 'bet the farm' endeavor for most companies, due to the size of the investment and length of time needed to build a nuclear power facility," Moody's stated. "As a result, it has become increasingly likely that the pursuit of new nuclear power projects will lead to some near-term rating actions or outlook changes."
• • •
Despite the setbacks, Progress still held a financial trump card: The advance fee it collects from its customers.
The Florida Legislature passed the law in 2006 to allow Florida utilities to charge customers in advance for construction of nuclear plants. The so-called "nuclear cost recovery" fee helped pay development, engineering, preconstruction and some financing costs.
Proponents said the law would help spread the risk, creating a more favorable environment for attracting outside investors to help build nuclear plants.
But Progress has not secured outside funding to build the plant, even though it is spending customers money on preliminaries like engineering reports and plans.
"What the (advance fee) does not do is pay for construction costs," said Charles Rehwinkel, deputy public counsel who represents consumers before the Public Service Commission.
The advance fee law does not change how much a nuclear plant will cost, Brew, the phosphate industry lawyer, warned the commission in 2009.
The advance fee, he said, "promotes nuclear development in Florida by shifting financial risk to Florida consumers."
So far, Progress Energy's 1.6 million Florida customers are on the hook for $1.1 billion even if Levy never gets built. No refund required.
• • •
At the 2009 hearings, the PSC was reviewing Progress' latest expenses related to the Levy project and whether customers would have to pick up more of the tab. By then, the estimated cost for the project had climbed from a high of $6 billion to $17 billion.
The commission had the authority to stop Progress from collecting in advance any more customer money, effectively shutting down the project. That would have capped customer losses at about $150 million.
Progress told the commission it planned to push forward — and spend more on the project.
"The fact that this total project cost number may change and likely will change does not affect our determination that the (project) is still feasible," Garry Miller, Progress Energy's general manager of nuclear plant development, told the PSC.
The commission voted 4-1 to approve Progress' request to collect a second installment on the Levy project, almost $300 million or twice the first payment to keep the utility in the game.
The commissioners stated that denying Progress' request to collect money it had already spent would be an "extreme measure that is not warranted."
"We recognize the unique economic times that are influencing short-term trends," the commissioners stated.
A few months later, analysts at Stanford University's Institute for Economic Policy Research released a score card that looked at the feasibility of 27 proposed reactors nationwide. The scale ranged from a low score of zero to a perfect six, based on the resources available to each nuclear project.
Only Georgia Southern's Vogtle plant received a six. It recently became the first U.S. plant to receive a new operating license in 30 years.
Three other projects scored a four — among them, the Summer nuclear project in South Carolina, which was the second to receive a license. So far, there hasn't been a third license handed out. The two other projects that like Summer received scores of four have been abandoned.
The Levy plant? It scored a two.
• • •
Not much has changed since the 2009 hearings.
Every year since, the commission has okayed more spending on the Levy plant. The estimated cost now stands at $24 billion, with a completion date of 2024 for the first reactor and 18 months later for the second.
Muir, the commission's spokeswoman, says the PSC still believes the Levy project makes financial sense.
"The commission has not decided against the economic viability of Progress Energy Florida's Levy project," Muir said.
Progress continues to seek an operating license for the Levy plant, though work on the project has slowed to a trickle.
"The Levy County nuclear project remains in the long-term best interest of Progress Energy's customers," Progress' Grant said.
Critics wonder whether Progress and the PSC don't know when to fold a bad hand. Natural gas prices remain low and many forecasts keep them low for years to come. And Progress Energy still has not secured financing or outside investors for the Levy nuclear project.
"From a strict dollars-and-cents standpoint, one's got to take note of the changing cost of various sources of electricity," said Dan Reicher, executive director of the Center for Energy Policy and Finance at Stanford University.
Walker, the Northwestern University professor, said managers eventually have to make a decision or risk losing even more money.
"Some executive probably doesn't get a promotion in saying, 'I'm the guy who pulled the plug,' " he said.

LINK

Germany counts cost of nuclear-to-renewables shift


(Reuters) - Germany must invest tens of billions of euros in its power grid over the coming decade to avoid an electricity shortfall as it switches from nuclear to renewable energy, grid operators said on Tuesday.
Germany's government, the federal energy network regulator and grid firms unveiled joint plans to build thousands of kilometers of new electricity lines by 2022, to help distribute volatile renewable energy.
Martin Fuchs, whose company TenneT TSO operates the grid to carry offshore wind power from the North Sea to mainland destinations, said that on top of 20 billion euros that must be invested onshore, there would also be a bill of perhaps 12 billion euros to connect future wind parks.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that, despite the cost, there was no going back on the country's decision to stop using nuclear power, describing her "Energiewende", or energy revolution, as "demanding but exciting".
"The process is gathering speed, so that we can catch up on a backlog and transmit renewable energy in a sensible fashion," Merkel said at a news conference with the grid operators.
She added that that she wanted to establish the legal foundation for expanding the power grid by the end of the year.
Since Merkel's abrupt policy reversal last year to shut more than half a dozen nuclear plants and accelerate a full nuclear phase-out following Japan's Fukushima disaster, her government has struggled to come up with a clear plan to manage the shift.
Industry has warned of power shortages and companies are experiencing problems with plans for offshore wind power due partly to an inadequate grid.
Fuchs of TenneT said Germany needed to build 2,100 km of direct current lines and 1,700 km of alternating current lines, while 4,000 km of existing power lines needed modernizing.
"These will be the first direct current lines," he said at the joint news conference at the Bonn-based federal energy network regulator.
Such lines are for long distance point-to-point power transmission, where alternating current lines have traditionally been used.
TenneT is one of the four transmission grid firms due to present more detailed plans at a news conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

RENEWABLE HURDLES

Separately, transmission grid firm Amprion said at a news conference that it could invest nearly 10 billion euros in expanding the power network by 2025, although this would require "sustainable and reliable investment conditions".
The task of agreeing on new infrastructure projects with affected citizens will not be easy for the power sector.
"We want to speed up the switch to renewable energy and include as much of the whole of society as possible in this process," said Jochen Homann, head of the network regulator.
Merkel said her cabinet supported the push for a network expansion. New Environment Minister Peter Altmaier and Economy Minister Philipp Roesler would coordinate efforts, she said.
Inadequate transportation and distribution networks are among the main hurdles in boosting renewable sources.
Questions about the liability for delays or damage and over who should bear the burden of the up-front financing are deterring potential investors.
A meeting by Merkel and state premiers last week brought agreement to hold twice-yearly meetings to evaluate progress and speed things up where necessary.
The next meeting will be on June 14, Merkel said.
"The energy shift can and will work if we succeed in the next weeks and months to make intelligent decisions," said Altmaier.

LINK

Finland: Nuclear power: Pragmatic citizens are unfazed by Fukushima


Finland was the first western European nation to decide to build more nuclear energy plants after the Chernobyl accident in 1986, and it has been equally unfazed by the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year.
While Germany responded by bringing forward the phase-out of nuclear power from 2034 to 2020, with Belgium and Switzerland quickly following suit, Finland is pressing ahead with its fifth nuclear reactor and has plans to build two more.

This is partly, the government says, for environmental reasons. The Kyoto treaty discourages it from building fossil fuel plants and it cannot build many more hydro­electric plants without destroying tracts of precious wilderness. Given the climate, solar power is hardly an option, while biomass is insufficient, so the country has settled on nuclear.
A more significant factor is the desire to reduce its dependence on foreign energy, particularly from Russia, which is seen by many as an unstable supplier. The proud Nordic nation, which often describes itself as a “lone wolf”, derives about two-thirds of its energy from foreign sources at present.
Independence from Russia is driving a nuclear push across the region. Lithuania, which is entirely reliant on Gazprom, Russia’s state-controlled producer, for natural gas, is in the process of finalising a 1350 megawatt reactor in Visaginas, which will eventually supply power across the Baltics. “We will be independent,” says Andrius Kubilius, Lithuania’s prime minister.
Foreign energy imports are a drain on the economy, says the government. The Finns have one of the highest levels of energy consumption per head after Iceland and Norway. This is because of the cold winters, energy-intensive industries such as forestry and about 3m very hot saunas for just 5.2m people.
There is a strong political consensus in favour of nuclear power, but implementation has not always been easy. The flagship EPR reactor in the west of the country, which is the world’s first third-generation model and a test case for the industry, has been beset by embarrassing cost overruns and substantial delays.
It is being built by a consortium led by France’s Areva, but is now five years late and more than €2.6bn over budget.
Areva had said the flagship plant would come online in 2013, after an initial service date of 2009 was abandoned, but it is now unlikely to be finished until August 2014, according to the company.
The main problem has been the under-developed supply chain – no reactor had been built in Europe for 20 years when construction started.
The amount of documentation that had to be produced for the tough Finnish nuclear safety regulator was another problem, according to Virginie Moucquot-Laiho, a spokesperson for Areva at the Olkiluoto power plant where the ERP is being built.
The project has become a symbol of the enormous cost, complexity and risk of new atomic projects and has raised questions about similar plants planned in the UK.
It has also resulted in an acrimonious legal dispute between Areva and TVO, the Finnish utility that will eventually own and run the reactor, about who should pay the costs of the delays.
But regardless of overruns and the disaster in Japan, the Finns are reluctant to abandon their nuclear plans. About half are in favour of more nuclear power, only slightly down from before Fukushima, according to a poll commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat, a newspaper, and conducted by TNS Gallup.
The Finns could also have a big market to sell any excess power, if plans to connect the Nordic and the Baltic regional energy grids go ahead as proposed.
“This could provide another argument for the pro-nuclear camp in Finland,” says Georg Zachmann, a fellow at Bruegel, a Brussels think-tank.
There is still opposition from the influential green party and a debate about whether Fortum, the local utility company, should be allowed to build two more plants to replace the reactors at Loviisa, which are scheduled for decommissioning in 2027 and 2030.
Only slightly more than a third of Finns think Fortum should be granted a licence, according to a recent poll, and the government has said that it is not going to make a decision during this parliament.
“We are happy to wait,” says Peter Tuominen, a manager in the nuclear division of Fortum.
But broadly the pro-nuclear camp is still winning the argument, in contrast with much of the rest of the world following the Fukushima accident.
Last year, the International Energy Agency cut its forecast for nuclear power’s share of the world’s total primary energy demand for 2035 from 8 per cent to 7 per cent as a result of the disaster.
The agency also warned of higher construction costs.

LINK


Monday, May 28, 2012

EDF puts planned Somerset nuclear plant on hold

The award of a £1.2bn civil engineering contract for a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset has been put on ice by EDF Energy, triggering more uncertainty over the nuclear renaissance.
Two consortiums led by Balfour Beatty and Laing O'Rourke were hoping to have heard about the huge deal in recent days but now expect no decision until 2013 at the earliest. The move is a blow to employment prospects in the area and comes weeks after £100m worth of site preparation was postponed.
The soonest a new reactor will be built in Somerset could now be 2021, around four years later than originally hoped. EDF declined to comment on the latest setback, with a spokesman for the 83% state-owned French power company saying: "I am afraid it is not our practice to comment on open tenders."
The group insisted that its wider plans remained intact and it aimed to start work on the £100m contract, which was awarded last year to construction partner Kier Bam, "as soon as practicable, and all necessary steps are being taken to ensure that work can start in good time".
EDF says it still plans to go ahead with new reactors in Britain but industry experts say uncertainty over the government's planned support mechanism through "contracts for difference" and the election of President François Hollande, who is sceptical about nuclear power, have encouraged EDF to slam on the brakes.
John Stanion, chief executive and chairman of construction firm Vinci, a partner to Balfour Beatty, told the industry newspaper Construction News that the £1.2bn contract was unlikely to be awarded until next year. "I think EDF is totally committed to Hinkley Point subject to them having a clear investment case, but I don't think it is in a position to make a decision until [the contracts are] legally brought into force, so some time next year will be the earliest they will commit."
The use of contracts for difference to ensure investment in low-carbon technology through guaranteeing a certain power price was confirmed in the energy bill published by the government last week.
But energy companies have made clear they will need to see the exact scale of the financial support before they can commit themselves to new plants, especially nuclear ones. Other power companies such as E.ON, RWE and SSE have already dropped plans for new reactors in Britain.
There has already been speculation that EDF's original price of building new stations has risen from £4bn to £7bn. The French company will not confirm that.
EDF said it was making "good progress" on site preparation at Hinkley Point after winning approval from West Somerset council in February. Meanwhile, investment in wind and other renewable energy is also stuttering. Spending during the first quarter of the year dropped to its lowest since 2009, according to Ernst & Young's latest quarterly global renewable energy Country Attractiveness Indices report.
Britain dropped from fifth to sixth place in the global rankings due to new uncertainties surrounding government policies.

LINK

S. Korea, Finland initial nuclear energy pact

South Korea and Finland have initialed a nuclear energy pact aimed at ensuring the peaceful use of atomic power and boosting bilateral cooperation in the field, Seoul's trade ministry said Monday.

The agreement was reached at a bilateral meeting in Helsinki Friday between senior officials from South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Finland's Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the South Korean ministry said in a news release.

The two countries agreed to push for the pact's signing at an early date, the statement said, adding that the deal is expected to ensure the peaceful use of nuclear energy and strengthen cooperation in the field.

The agreement is also expected to help South Korean businesses gain easier access to the Finnish atomic power industry, which is technologically advanced in terms of nuclear waste disposal and nuclear safety.

Finland currently has four nuclear power plants in operation, with one under construction and two more planned for the future.

If signed, the nuclear energy accord with Finland will become South Korea's 28th, following similar agreements with the United States, Canada, Australia, and other nations. (Yonhap News)

LINK

Slovak SE shuts down Bohunice N-plant reactor for repairs.

Slovak power generating company Slovenske Elektrarne (SE) has shut down the fourth block at its Jaslovske Bohunice 2 nuclear power plant for general maintenance and a partial fuel exchange as of May 26, 2012, energia.sk reported. The duration of the shutdown of the 505MW unit will depend on the progress of the planned maintenance work to be done on systems and equipment, including a replacement of the control systems of the two turbo-generators. It is the 27th general overhaul in the power plant's history. Shutdowns for repairs and maintenance are a standard part of the life cycle of each nuclear power plant and are part of a long-term planning process. SE, the biggest electricity producer in Slovakia and the second biggest in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, is 66% owned by Italy's energy group Enel, while the remaining 34% is owned by the Slovak government. SE operates an installed capacity of 5,737MW at two nuclear power plants, two thermal power plants and 34 hydropower plants. Last year SE supplied 20.4TWh of electricity to the electricity distribution network.

LINK

Entergy Gets Nuclear License Extended

Wayne Barber | May 28, 2012
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has authorized Entergy’s (NYSE: ETR) 660-MW Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth, Mass., to continue operating for an additional 20 years, until mid-2032.

It’s all part of the bigger debate as to whether nuclear energy will grow its market share in this current climate or whether it will maintain it, or even shrink. The debate also highlights the current dissension among the NRC’s commissioners, and who might replace the exiting NRC chair.

Outgoing NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko was the lone vote against the license extension among the five-member commission. The controversial Jaczko, who announced his resignation May 21, was also the lone member of the panel to vote against issuance of new nuclear plant licenses in Georgia and South Carolina earlier this year – which were NRC’s first such approvals in more than 30 years.

The current 40-year operating license at Pilgrim was set to expire June 8. With the long-sought-after license extension now in hand, Entergy can perhaps focus more attention on negotiating a new labor agreement for the plant with Utility Workers Union of America Local 369.

The labor contract expired earlier this month, and Entergy hopes to reach a new four-year agreement. A federal mediator has been called in to help the parties overcome their differences.

Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., blasted the NRC’s decision to approve the license renewal while many opposition groups were still trying to raise concerns about the plant before NRC.

“The NRC shouldn’t be short circuiting the process and short-changing residents by moving forward with license approval before all the efforts to improve nuclear and environmental safety at Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station have been resolved,” Markey said in a May 25 news release.

Entergy Nuclear filed Pilgrim’s license renewal application on Jan. 25, 2006, making this the longest license review on record, which would appear to contradict the claims that the review process had been ‘short circuited.’

“During the NRC’s more than six years of review, people were afforded multiple chances to attend public meetings so regulators could get their input and hear their concerns,” said Entergy Nuclear CEO and Chief Nuclear Officer John Herron. “The public also had almost unlimited access to the NRC’s record of its extensive inspections of the plant."

Entergy said the plant produces enough power to supply 10% of the electric demand in Massachusetts.

Wayne Barber is chief of power generation for Generation Hub, a unit of Energy Central.


South Korea Has 17,032 MW of Nuclear Capacity Online

South Korea has 18 nuclear reactors in operation, producing 17,032 megawatts of power, or about 88 percent of capacity, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The following table shows the status of the nation’s 21 reactors with a combined regular capacity of 19,259 megawatts operated by state-run Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. as of today.

COMPANY   CAPACITY
UNIT ONLINE STATUS
----------------------------------------------------------------
----------------------------------------------------------------

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power
Kori
No. 1 0 Shut for safety inspection since March 13
No. 2 680 Running
No. 3 1,046 Running
No. 4 1,047 Running
Shin No. 1 1,053 Running

Yonggwang
No. 1 1,000 Running
No. 2 997 Running
No. 3 1,052 Running
No. 4 1,050 Running
No. 5 0 Shut for maintenance. May resume May 29
No. 6 1,049 Running

Wolsong
No. 1 692 Running
No. 2 720 Running
No. 3 735 Running
No. 4 737 Running

Uljin
No. 1 1,006 Running
No. 2 1,012 Running
No. 3 1,050 Running
No. 4 0 Shut for maintenance and safety inspections
No. 5 1,053 Running
No. 6 1,053 Running
-------------------------------------------------------------
Source: Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Duncan Hawthorne: Fukushima Explanation



(Synopsis:  The tanks for the diesel generators that back up the cooling system were swept away by the Tsunami.  Locating them so close to sea level was a known and documented issue, but the plant management did not take action.  The plants needed to vent off over pressure with Hydrogen build up.  Combustion happened and the Hydrogen ignited.  Fukushima had the capability to vent off the pressure and Hydrogen, but the politicians put in regulations that forced the plant to receive approval to do so.  The approval did not happen 14 hours after the request and the Hydrogen ignited blowing the tops off the reactors buildings and exposing the fuel.)

Duncan Hawthorne is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Bruce Power, the largest
independent power generator in Ontario.

With roughly 30 years in the power generation business, Duncan began his career as a craft
apprentice in the Scottish electricity industry and advanced to hold senior positions in power
companies in the United Kingdom, United States and Canada.

As the executive lead during the acquisition of several power plants in North America, Duncan
was responsible for the acquisition of the Bruce nuclear facility and the formation of Bruce
Power.

Duncan is an active advocate for the nuclear industry and is the Past Chairman of the
Canadian Nuclear Association and current Chairman of the prestigious Board of Governors of
the World Association of Nuclear Operators - Atlanta Centre.

Duncan’s leadership has been recognized by his peers through a series of awards such as
the Ontario Electricity Association Leader of the Year and the Ian McCrae award for
leadership in the Canadian nuclear industry. He has also been honoured by the Association of
Power Producers of Ontario with their 2004 Hedley Palmer Award for outstanding
contributions to Ontario’s electricity generation industry and by the Energy Council of Canada
as their 2005 Canadian Energy Person of the Year.

Duncan is a chartered engineer with an honours degree in control engineering and an MBA
from Strathclyde University in Scotland. He is a Fellow of both the Institution of Electrical
Engineers and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Needless alarmist views on low dose radiation

K.S. PARTHASARATHY
Former Secretary, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board