A new centre for developing technologies for remote handling in extreme conditions has opened at the Culham Science Centre in the UK. A £15.6 million ($26.2 million) purpose-built facility is to be constructed at the site by 2016.
The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA), which is leading the project, announced that the new Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) centre is open for business. It is currently undertaking projects in an existing laboratory at the site but construction of a new facility is scheduled to start next year. RACE has already won a contract with Assystem for developing remote handling equipment for the Iter fusion reactor in Cadarache, France.
|An artist’s impression of the new RACE facility at Culham (Image: UKAEA)|
The UK government is investing £7.8 million ($13.1 million) in the new facility, with industry matching funds. In addition to the UKAEA, the partners in the project include the National Nuclear Laboratory, research and technology group TWI, the National Physical Laboratory and the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
When fully operational, the RACE centre will conduct research and development into remote applications and will offer access to state-of-the art facilities, remote handling equipment and expertise to design, implement, train and operate complete systems. Such applications for the technology include nuclear, oil and gas, sub-sea, space and construction.
The UKAEA said that its own experience with remote handling has been “honed over twenty years developing systems to maintain and upgrade the interior of Europe’s JET nuclear fusion experiment at Culham.”
RACE director Bob Buckingham said, “RACE will offer its customers the technical support to use the world’s best robotics to solve problems in their challenging environments. I am excited about leading RACE and there is no better place for it than Culham, with its tremendous expertise in remote handling.”
The RACE centre has already been awarded its first significant contract. Through a five-years contract with a consortium led by Assystem, RACE will support design, development, testing and operation of the remote handling system for the international Iter fusion project’s divertor. The divertor acts as an exhaust system to extract waste and impurities from the fusion fuel in the vessel.
Source: World Nuclear News
UK nuclear power plant gets go-ahead
Energy Secretary Ed Davey: “Essential to power British business”
The government has given the go-ahead for the UK’s first new nuclear station in a generation.
France’s EDF Energy will lead a consortium, which includes Chinese investors, to build the Hinkley Point C plant in Somerset.
Ministers say the deal will help take the UK towards low-carbon power and lower generating costs in future.
Critics warn guaranteeing the group a price for electricity at twice the current level will raise bills.
“For the first time, a nuclear station in this country will not have been built with money from the British taxpayer,” said Secretary of State for Energy Edward Davey.
If the electricity price is below the strike price, then bills will probably go up. If it is above the strike price, then bills could go down.”
The two reactors planned for Hinkley, which will provide power for about 60 years, are a key part of the coalition’s drive to shift the UK away from fossil fuels towards low-carbon power.
Ministers and EDF have been in talks for more than a year about the minimum price the company will be paid for electricity produced at the site, which the government estimates will cost £16bn to build.
The two sides have now agreed the “strike price” of £92.50 for every megawatt hour of energy Hinkley C generates. This is almost twice the current wholesale cost of electricity.
This will fall to £89.50 for every megawatt hour of energy if EDF Group goes ahead with plans to develop a new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk. Doing both would allow EDF to share costs across both projects.
Mr Davey said the deal was “competitive” with other large-scale clean energy and gas projects.
“While consumers won’t pay anything up front, they’ll share directly in any gains made from the project coming in under budget,” he added.
John Cridland, director-general of business lobby group the CBI, welcomed what he said was a “landmark deal”.
“It’s important to remember this investment will help mitigate the impact of increasing costs. The fact is whatever we do, energy prices are going to have to go up to replace ageing infrastructure and meet climate change targets – unless we build new nuclear as part of a diverse energy mix.”
However, Dr Paul Dorfman, from the Energy Institute at University College London, said “what it equates to actually is a subsidy and the coalition said they would never subsidise nuclear”.
He added: “It is essentially a subsidy of between what we calculate to be £800m to £1bn a year that the UK taxpayer and energy consumer will be putting into the deep pockets of Chinese and French corporations, which are essentially their governments.”
Chinese companies China National Nuclear Corporation and China General Nuclear Power Corporation will be minority shareholders in the project.
The move follows Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement last week that Chinese firms would be allowed to invest in civil nuclear projects in the UK.
Prime Minister David Cameron said that the new Hinkley Point plant was “an excellent deal for Britain and British consumers”.
“This underlines the confidence there is in Britain and makes clear that we are very much open for business,” he added.
Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has pledged to freeze energy prices for 20 months if he wins the next election, said the party supported the development of new nuclear power stations, but would scrutinise the terms of the deal to ensure it delivered value for money for consumers.
“We’ve got the Prime Minister who says he can fix prices 35 years ahead for the energy companies but he can’t freeze prices now for the consumer. No wonder we’ve got a cost of living crisis in this country,” he added.
The existing plant at Hinkley currently produces about 1% of the UK’s total energy, but this is expected to rise to 7% once the expansion is complete in 2023.
The announcement is not legally binding and it will be 2014 before EDF makes a final investment decision on the project. The plans will also require state aid clearance from the European Commission.
But it comes as concerns about domestic energy bills move up the agenda, with SSE, British Gas and Npower, three of the UK’s “big six” gas and electricity suppliers, all having announced price increases.
The government estimates that with new nuclear power – including Hinkley – the average energy bill in 2030 will be £77 lower than it would have been without the new plants.
Energy UK, the trade body for the industry, said the agreement on Hinkley was “good news”.
“Building new power stations is never quick or cheap, but in the case of Hinkley development, nothing goes on the bill until 2020,” it said.
About 25,000 jobs are expected to be created during construction of the power plant, as well as 900 permanent jobs during its 60-year operation.
Source – BBC News
The chairman of Britain’s Olympic Delivery Authority has suggested that a similar body could be set up to construct nuclear power plants before selling them to the private sector.
The proposal for a new way to finance nuclear power plants as well as other kinds of key national infrastructure came from Sir John Armitt in an interview with Construction News. His ideas relate to his UK infrastructure experience, but would be equally applicable in other markets.
Armitt’s proposal aims to address a difficulty faced by many nuclear utilities that want nuclear power in their portfolio, that the economics of a new reactor are front-loaded by high construction costs as well as the cost of capital to pay for that. The costs of operation, fuel and decommissioning are low and predictable and this means operating nuclear power plants are among the most reliable and cost-effective generators of electricity – but barriers to new build remain high in many markets.
Armitt said, “Investors are more than happy to invest in things they can see a long, 30-year revenue stream, which clearly you’re going to get from a nuclear power plant… an alternative approach would be to create a body rather like the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), which would be responsible for getting the first, maybe second, maybe third nuclear power plants built.”
The ODA is a government body not affiliated to any department. It coordinated with several other large public bodies to manage the construction of the facilities for the London 2012 Olympic Games. This was seen as a success, and the ODA continues to manage the conversion and development of the Olympic sites for the long term. In the power sector a similar organisation could use a mix of public funds and business taxes to build a power plant, bring it to operation and then sell to a private company for profit.
Armitt pointed to the Crossrail scheme to create a major new rail line beneath London. With a nine-year construction schedule and a £14.8 billion budget of public funds sourced from local and business taxes, Crossrail represents the largest construction project in Europe.
The suggestion follows a trend across the global nuclear sector to find new ways to raise the funds for construction and share construction risk. Russia’s state corporation Rosatom is constructing a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu in Turkey on a build-own-operate basis and plans to do the same in Vietnam. More usual is government support in the form of a loan guarantee for part of the construction cost which enables a utility to borrow more easily from the private sector. Reactor vendors are also being asked to invest and share construction risk: Hitachi bought Horizon Nuclear Power and proposes to use its joint venture subsidiary Hitachi-GE to build ABWR reactors at Wylfa and perhaps at Oldbury. It also would take an equity stake in Lithuania’s Visaginas nuclear power plant, should that project go ahead.
Source – WNN
Public back cash support for reactor construction
More people back subsidies for new nuclear power plants – including one at Wylfa on Anglesey – in the UK than are opposed to them, a poll has revealed.
More than two-fifths (43%) think the Government should subsidise the construction of new reactors, compared to 28% who do not back the idea, the survey of more than 2,000 people showed.
Almost half of those questioned (46%) support the construction of a new generation of nuclear power plants in the UK, while 29% do not.
Among those who backed new nuclear reactors, almost three-quarters (72%) thought that the Government should subsidise their construction, the poll for the Institution of Mechanical Engineers found.
The coalition is backing the development of a new fleet of reactors as part of effort to cut carbon emissions and keep the lights on, but has said it would only support new nuclear power with no public subsidy.
Nuclear is one of a number of low-carbon technologies benefiting from reforms to the electricity market, under which they will get a guaranteed price for the electricity they generate under contracts drawn up with the Government.
The policy aims to overcome the high capital costs of projects and give certainty to investors, with the extra cost for the electricity met by consumer bills.
But ministers have faced criticism that they are distorting reforms of the electricity market by “hiding” nuclear subsidies in the one-size-fits-all design of the contracts which will pay a guaranteed price for different types of low-carbon power.
Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said: “For years now, the Government has been reluctant to offer nuclear power developers an overt subsidy, partly out of fear of the public backlash.
“These poll results show that these fears could be unwarranted.
“The future of the UK new nuclear build programme is currently on a knife-edge. Without an agreed guaranteed commercially attractive long-term price for the electricity from new nuclear plants, and a suitable source of investment finance, there can be no progress on building new UK reactors.
“Government needs to provide more leadership and help on financing nuclear power if they are serious about a new-build programme in the UK and we are to see the development of nuclear plants at sites like Hinkley Point, Sizewell and Wylfa.
“These poll results suggest that the public want Government to take decisive action to support nuclear power.”
He said all low-carbon technologies required high capital investment but have low operating costs, so the Government should provide incentives that appear to be a subsidy at the start but if structured correctly could be a good investment for the Government in the long run.
New nuclear projects could support thousands of jobs, secure low-carbon electricity supplies and provide billions of pounds of investment into the UK economy, he added.
The poll of 2,034 people by ICM also found that the main reason for backing nuclear power was because it ensured a secure supply of electricity, with 70% of those who supported new reactors citing it as a reason.
More than half (55%) said they supported nuclear because it was low carbon, while half said it was reliable and the same proportion said it provided jobs.
Almost three-quarters (73%) of those who oppose new nuclear power said they did so because it was dangerous, while almost as many (70%) cited issues relating to nuclear waste.
A recent report by the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee warned that the legacy of nuclear waste from previous generations of reactors had been allowed to build up, with the cost of decommissioning Sellafield’s nuclear waste site now running at £67.5 billion.
Source – Daily Post
UK – What’s a fair nuclear price?
Whenever I (Robert Peston) ask government officials and ministers why they are taking so long to reach a deal with EDF on building the promised vast new nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, they say “40 years” – and turn a whiter shade of pale.
What they mean is that the French energy giant says it needs a commitment of between 35 and 40 years on the price to be paid by consumers for the power generated by Hinkley, before it presses the button on £14bn of expenditure for the two new reactors.
For officials in particular, who in theory could still be employed by taxpayers in 10 years or so, when vast amounts of electricity would start to emanate from the plant, it is a pretty scary idea that they might be committing all of us to pay more for that electricity than is justified – and not just for a few weeks or months, but till 2060.
And what they then point out is that the price originally demanded by EDF of £100 per megawatt hour was 19% higher than another source of low-carbon power – onshore wind turbines – where there is a need to guarantee the tariff for “just” 15 years.
So the gap between the price the government is prepared to offer and what EDF desires has been huge, some 25% initially, and explains why these negotiations have been running many weeks and months longer than both sides hoped and wanted.
Where are we now?
Well the gap has narrowed, but not enough. And there is a risk, although I can’t scientifically quantify it, that the whole thing will collapse.
The prime minister is a bit concerned about the political fallout (no pun intended) if the project were scrapped.
Doubts would be exacerbated about the government’s ability and determination to deliver on important job-creating and wealth-creating infrastructure projects. And to be clear, this is about as chunky a bit of new British kit as it is possible to imagine – 25,000 people would work on the construction and the UK would acquire valuable and exportable skills and expertise in new-generation nuclear technology.
Also the credibility of the government long-trumpeted low-carbon energy policy would be undermined, perhaps fatally.
Which is why David Cameron asked Lord Deighton, the Treasury’s commercial secretary, and Stephen Lovegrove, the Energy Department’s permanent secretary, to sort this mess out.
They talk to EDF, led in the UK by Vincent de Rivaz, on a daily basis.
My reading of the mood of both sides is one of cautious pessimism.
If anything, it seems remarkable to me that de Rivaz has somehow prevented EDF’s board from pulling the plug, given that it is spending £1m every day to keep alive the possibility of an adventure whose starting date may seem from Paris to be somewhat elusive.
That said, the calculation being made in the Treasury and Downing Street is that EDF has more to lose from the deal’s collapse than the UK does – the company would have to write off more than £1bn it has already spent on the project, and its ambition to become the global player in nuclear development and operation would be damaged, and perhaps terminated.
What may concern supporters of the Hinkley project, and not just EdF, is that ministers – and especially George Osborne – seem to me to be less worried about EDF ultimately walking away than about being seen to pay too high a price for the Hinkley power.
This is how one official put it to me: “The chancellor doesn’t have an ideological problem with nuclear, but he won’t do a deal unless the price is right”.
Source – BBC News
UK starts ABWR design assessment
The generic design assessment (GDA) for Hitachi-GE’s Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) has officially begun with the signature of agreements by the company and UK nuclear regulators.
ONR and the Environment Agency will now begin formal preparatory work with Hitachi-GE on the timescales and resources needed for the assessment. Under the terms of the newly signed agreements, Hitachi-GE will assume all the costs for the design assessment.
Horizon chief operating officer Alan Raymant and Hitachi Europe general manager for licensing Ken Sato welcomed the agreements, which Raymant said would enable the companies to begin “meaningful” preparations for their first major submissions to the regulators, to be made later this year.
The GDA process allows regulators to assess the safety, security and environmental implications of new reactor designs, separately from applications to build them at specific sites. The UK’s first GDA process began in 2007, when four designs – Areva and EDF’s EPR, Westinghouse’s AP1000, GE-Hitachi’s ESBWR and AECL’s ACR-1000 – were submitted for initial consideration. The ESBWR and ACR-1000 were subsequently withdrawn or suspended from the process at the request of the vendors.
The EPR became the first reactor design to complete the UK GDA process and receive a Design Acceptance Confirmation and Statement of Design Acceptability in December 2012. The regulators have currently suspended work on the AP1000 GDA at Westinghouse’s request, as the company wishes to secure a UK customer before working to address issues raised in the assessment process.
The ABWR is a so-called Generation III reactor design, and is offered in slightly different versions by GE Hitachi, Hitachi-GE and Toshiba. Four ABWR units are already in operation in Japan, and the design is also licensed in the USA and in Taiwan, where two are under construction.
Horizon, which was acquired by Hitachi of Japan in November 2012, plans to build between four and six ABWRs in the UK at its sites at Wylfa and Oldbury. The units would be the first commercial boiling water reactors in the country.
Source: World Nuclear News
Mid-size option for Hanhikivi selected
Fennovoima has invited Rosatom to participate in “direct negotiations” on the supply of its mid-sized AES-2006 pressurized water reactor for its planned Hanhikivi plant in Finland. Toshiba’s larger EU-ABWR boiling water reactor is also under consideration.
The study comprises a preliminary assessment of different alternatives for a single-unit light water reactor of 1000-1300 MWe capacity and will include technical feasibility, licensability, economic and financial feasibility and project schedule. A second, bidding, phase in which the company will invite bids from the options it decides are suitable would follow, with a detailed schedule agreed on a case-by-case basis.
The initial phase of that assessment was completed at the end of March. In addition to Rosatom’s AES-2006, Fennovoima said that proposals for mid-sized reactor designs from Areva, Areva-Mitsubishi and Toshiba had also been under consideration.
While Rosatom is currently constructing eight AES-2006 units in Russia, it also has orders to build 19 such reactors outside of Russia.
Two commercial bids were submitted for the Hanhikivi plant in January 2012: Toshiba’s EU-ABWR and Areva’s EPR. Negotiations had been ongoing with both companies, who submitted final updates on their bids in January. As a result of its evaluations, Fennovoima’s board of directors decided to terminate the bidding process and instead to proceed with a new supplier selection process. The company accordingly elected to continue direct negotiations regarding the EU-ABWR.
Whether it decides to go for a large or mid-sized reactor, Fennovoima says it intends to select a plant supplier for Hanhikivi during 2013.
Source: World Nuclear News