Japan restarts first reactor; Georgia state agrees Vogtle 3, 4 finance; Kazakhstan to host uranium bank

Nuclear news from the last fortnight.

The return of nuclear power should provide the Japanese economy with more stable energy prices and present numerous Operations and Maintenance opportunities. (Image credit: oneinchpunch)

Japan restarts its first reactor since Fukushima shutdowns

Kyushu Electric Power Company restarted August 10 the Sendai 1 pressurized water reactor (PWR) plant on Kyushu, Japan's third largest island.

The restart marked the first return to service of a Japanese reactor since the Fukushima disaster prompted the staggered closure of the national fleet.

According to the World Nuclear Association (WNA), most of the 43 operable Japanese nuclear reactors are expected to be restarted in the coming months and years.

"For almost two years now not a single nuclear power reactor in Japan has operated as the nation's fleet was progressively idled following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident," WNA said August 11.

"The process of regaining public trust takes a big step forward today. It is completely understandable that people's faith in nuclear technology was shaken by the events of 11 March 2011, but now the Japanese people need to see their reactors performing efficiently and reliably with operators fully committed to protecting public health and the environment," the group said.

"It is essential that the nuclear industry works harder at building better relationships with the public as well as improving our performance and future technology offerings."

US Vogtle 3, 4 build spend approved

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has approved the next six months construction spending for the Vogtle 3 and 4 nuclear power plants, allowing developer Plant Vogtle to press on towards its 2019 start-up goal.

The commission unanimously approved the spending of $169 million, which brings the cumulative construction and capital costs to $3.0 billion, it said in a statement August 18.

Plant Vogtle, the project developer, is 45.7% owned by Georgia Power, while Oglethorpe Power, MEAG Power and Dalton Utilities hold smaller stakes.

The plants will be the first nuclear reactors built in the USA for 30 years, but the project is several years behind original estimates.

"According to the Company’s latest filings with the Security and Exchange Commission, Unit 3 will begin commercial operation in late 2019, and Unit 4 will begin operation in late 2020," the Georgia PSC said.

The commission said it continues to support the project and said it has required the developer to provide "delay scenarios of 24, 36, and 48 months beyond the current forecasted in-service dates as part of its future Vogtle Construction Monitoring filings."

For each of these delay scenarios, the company must provide an estimate of total project cost and embedded cost revenue requirements which will impact consumers.

The developer must also implement a mechanism to track replacement fuel costs in all future reporting periods, the commission said.

Exelon nuclear plants miss out on PJM capacity payments

Exelon's Oyster Creek, Quad Cities and Three Mile Island nuclear power plants did not clear in the PJM capacity auction for the 2018-19 planning year.

This means these plants will not receive capacity revenue from the auction, which grid operator PJM holds annually to ensure enough power generation resources are available. The PJM's grid area spans 13 states, mostly in the north-east, and the District of Columbia.

The auction was the first held under new “capacity performance” reforms designed to spur investment in power plants that will improve their performance and strengthen electric grid reliability.

"Although capacity revenue in a single year is an important consideration in a plant’s long-term viability, it is just one of several factors Exelon will use to make decisions about its plants’ future operations," Exelon said in a reaction statement August 24.

"We will consider auction results, along with other data points, including EPA’s Clean Power Plan, as we make decisions about the future of these critical long-life assets," Chris Crane, CEO of Exelon, said in the statement.

The new capacity auction rules are designed to allocate appropriate reward to the generation fleet as more intermittent renewable and gas-fired generation comes online. The rules have been approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

NuGen to pursue UK Moorside site studies this autumn

NuGeneration Limited (NuGen) is to go ahead this autumn with the site characterisation process for its new 3.4 GW Moorside nuclear plant in north-west England.

The developer is currently analysing feedback from a first stage public consultation process, and a second stage public consultation will take place in around nine months time, the company said in a briefing to key stakeholders on August 27.

Site characterisation will provide further information on exact site layout and support the company's planning application by helping to secure necessary permits.

The site characterisation work will include further borehole drilling, ocean floor studies, meteorological studies, flooding and emergency planning assessments.

The company must also apply for permits to discharge wastewater arising from its previous drilling operations. NuGen has found that groundwater collected from an earlier drilling campaign was lightly contaminated with radionuclides.

"These readings are well within authorised levels and do not pose any risk to health or the environment. For example, the levels are within acceptable UK drinking water standards," the developer said.

In order to gain the discharge permit from the environment agency, an independent regulator will conduct a consultation on the matter.

NuGen cleared a key stage in July when it completed a land acquisition from the state-owned Nuclear Decommissioning Authority based at the nearby Sellafield site.
The company is aiming to make a Final Investment Decision on the Moorside project in 2018.

NuGen is a joint venture held by Japan's Toshiba and France's Engie (formerly GDF Suez).

Low Enriched Uranium Bank to be located in Kazakhstan

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has signed an agreement with the Kazakhstan government to locate the IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank in Oskemen, Kazakhstan.

The bank will be a physical reserve of up to 90 metric tons of LEU, sufficient to power a 1,000 MW light water reactor.
The facility will be operated by Kazakhstan and will act as a supply of last resort for member states which cannot obtain the material on the global market.

"As the world’s largest uranium producer, with expertise in peaceful nuclear technology, Kazakhstan is well suited to hosting the IAEA LEU Bank,” IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said August 27 at the signature of a Host State Agreement.

“A lot of work must still be done, but after the signing of the relevant documents today, the legal framework is fully in place and we can move ahead with full-scale implementation,” Amano said.

The IAEA LEU Bank will complement other operational supply mechanisms already established with IAEA, which include a physical reserve of LEU in Angarsk, Russia, a UK supply guarantee, and a separate US LEU reserve.