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Vogtle's reprieve: snatching defeat from the jaws of defeat

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#867
4753
15/10/2018
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

Last year, the V.C. Summer twin-reactor AP1000 project in South Carolina was abandoned after the expenditure of at least US$9 billion. The project was initially estimated to cost US$9.8 billion1; when it was abandoned, the estimate was around US$25 billion.2

Last month, the last remaining reactor project in the US ‒ the Vogtle twin-reactor AP1000 project in Georgia ‒ came close to being abandoned due to massive cost overruns. The construction cost blowout at Vogtle is just as bad as that in South Carolina:

  • c.2008: US$9.5 billion 'initial' budget for the twin-reactor Vogtle project according to electric power utility JEA.4
  • 2008: US$10.4 billion5
  • 2009: US$14‒14.3 billion6,7
  • 2013: US15.5 billion8
  • Aug. 2017: US$25‒30 billion. Total Vogtle cost likely to exceed US$25 billion and could exceed US$27 billion according to a Southern Co. filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.9 An analysis by the Augusta Chronicle found that total costs could approach US$30 billion.10
  • Aug.‒Sept. 2018: US$27‒30+ billion: In August, Southern Co. announced US$2.3 billion in additional cost overruns for Vogtle.4 S&P estimates the cost to be US$27‒28 billion including financing costs5 and states that "significant risks remain … and additional overruns or project delays are possible."11 JEA estimates total costs of "more than $30 billion" and notes that there is "no guarantee that this amount will not continue to increase".12 Morgan Stanley analysts say there is a "very high likelihood" of additional cost overruns.16

The current cost estimate for Vogtle reactors #3 and #4 is 10 times greater than Westinghouse's 2006 estimate of US$1.4‒$1.9 billion to build one AP1000 reactor.3 To find another blowout of that magnitude you'd need to go back to … Vogtle #1 and #2! Built in the 1970s and 1980s, the cost of the first Vogtle twin-reactor project skyrocketed 13-fold, from US$660 million to US$8.7 billion (around US$18 billion on today's money).13

The Vogtle project is 5.5 years behind schedule: planned startup dates of April 2016 and April 2017 have been pushed back to November 2021 and November 2022.

The project was 69.9% complete as of the end of July 2018, and construction 55.3% complete.14 Thus there is plenty of scope for further cost increases and delays.

Near-death experience

Vogtle's recent near-death experience began with the latest multi-billion-dollar cost increase: a US$2.3 billion increase announced in August. That automatically triggered a Project Adverse Event under the terms of the Vogtle Joint Ownership Agreement, requiring a vote by the four project owners ‒ Georgia Power (45.7%), Oglethorpe Power Corp. (30%), MEAG (22.7) and Dalton Utilities (1.6%) ‒ about whether to go ahead or to abandon the project.15 Georgia Power, MEAG and Dalton agreed to proceed. Oglethorpe held out for concessions but eventually agreed to proceed after several extensions to a deadline for a decision.

Under the revised agreement, Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power would pay an increased share (55.7% ‒ an additional 10%) of cost overruns up to US$1.6 billion beyond the current cost estimate and 65.7% of costs up to US$2.1 billion over the current estimate. Beyond that, minority owners would have the right to sell a portion of their stake in the project to Georgia Power, unless Georgia Power chose to abandon the project.15 Morgan Stanley analysts say there is a "very good chance" that future cost increases could exceed US$2.1 billion.16

Overall, the three smaller project partners (Oglethorpe, MEAG and Dalton) won minor risk reductions in relation to the inevitable future cost increases, but cost increases will no longer trigger a Project Adverse Event or another vote on the project.19 The minor partners were steamrolled according to the Energy and Policy Institute and "now only have one option for recourse; wait until costs go up by another $2.1 billion and forfeit their investment."19

The revised agreement also includes a provision to address a lawsuit from Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA), which is doing everything it can to exit a Vogtle power purchase agreement it signed with MEAG.6 If JEA succeeds in exiting its agreement, Georgia Power would provide MEAG with up to US$250 million in loans to finance the plant's completion.17

JEA's legal filing against MEAG bemoans its "unlimited obligation to fund the exorbitant and ever-ballooning cost of constructing units of a nuclear power plant that JEA does not own, over which it has no control and which will be owned and controlled by private enterprises."18 It goes on to say: "JEA must satisfy this open-ended obligation to pay for MEAG's yet unknown and uncapped debt service regardless of the amount, regardless of whether the Additional Units are ever built or ever become operational, and regardless of whether JEA ever receives any electricity, capacity, or benefit whatsoever from the Additional Units."12

Carrots and sticks from the federal government have been important. Federal tax credits will amount to a subsidy of around US$2 billion. In addition, the federal government has provided loan guarantees to Vogtle project partners of US$8.7 billion, and has offered additional loan guarantees of US$3.7 billion. Last month, the Department of Energy lobbied the project partners to go ahead with Vogtle and warned that: "If the owners decide to cancel the project, the Department is prepared to move swiftly to fully enforce its rights under the terms of the Loan Guarantee Agreements, including the repayment provisions."12

Snatching defeat from the jaws of defeat

US Department of Energy spokesperson Shaylyn Hynes said the revised Vogtle agreement "will reaffirm America's international leadership in nuclear technology and ... mark the beginning of a nuclear renaissance in America."15

Yeah, right.

Long before the latest multi-billion-dollar cost increase, in May 2017, Atlanta Journal-Constitution journalists wrote: "Years behind schedule, billions over budget, and with a key contractor's bankruptcy clouding its future, the troubled Vogtle project near Augusta is fast becoming Exhibit A for why no U.S. utility before Atlanta-based Southern had tried building a new reactor in 30-plus years."20

Exhibit B is the abandoned V.C. Summer project in South Carolina.

Bloomberg opinion columnist Liam Denning argued that Southern Co. "snatched defeat from the jaws of a different kind of defeat" with the revised project agreement.21 He continued:

"While Vogtle may well be completed due to sheer political doggedness, it won't be for any reasonable economic reason. Even assuming no further overruns, it will already cost more than $11,000 per kilowatt of capacity, multiples of what a new gas-fired plant or utility-scale solar array would cost. …

"Nuclear power proponents rightly point out that it provides vast quantities of carbon-free, uninterrupted energy. They also raise concerns about the U.S. falling behind on nuclear technology. That may be a valid concern, but does rather raise the question as to why the good ratepayers of Georgia should be saddled with the costs of maintaining national security.

"The problem, however, is that these plants are gigantic, one-off projects prone to cost overruns and requiring years of planning and construction before they generate a cent of revenue. This is just an unacceptable risk for most commercial operators, and why government assistance in the form of regulated cost recovery, price guarantees or finance is so often crucial to getting them built."

References:

1. World Nuclear Industry Status Report, 2 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba-Westinghouse: The End of New-build for the Largest Historic Nuclear Builder', www.worldnuclearreport.org/Toshiba-Westinghouse-The-End-of-New-build-for...

2. Brad Plumer, 31 July 2017, 'U.S. Nuclear Comeback Stalls as Two Reactors Are Abandoned', www.nytimes.com/2017/07/31/climate/nuclear-power-project-canceled-in-sou...

3. Jon Gertner, 16 July 2006, 'Atomic Balm?', www.nytimes.com/2006/07/16/magazine/16nuclear.html

4. Ross Williams, 19 Sept 2018, 'Vogtle fate rests in key vote, deadline Monday', www.mdjonline.com/news/vogtle-fate-rests-in-key-vote-deadline-monday/art...

5. Peter Maloney, 2 Oct 2018, 'S&P downgrades Georgia Power's partners in Vogtle nuclear project', www.utilitydive.com/news/sp-downgrades-georgia-powers-partners-in-vogtle...

6. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 20 Sept 2018, 'A Series of Unfortunate Events for Plant Vogtle – last new nuclear project in turmoil', http://blog.cleanenergy.org/2018/09/20/a-series-of-unfortunate-events-fo...

7. Ryan Alexander, 17 Aug 2017, 'Nuclear Waste for Taxpayers', https://www.usnews.com/opinion/economic-intelligence/articles/2017-08-17...

8. Sonal Patel, 24 Sept 2018, 'How the Vogtle Nuclear Expansion's Costs Escalated', www.powermag.com/how-the-vogtle-nuclear-expansions-costs-escalated/

9. Gavin Bade, 3 Aug 2017, 'Vogtle nuke cost could top $25B as decision time looms', www.utilitydive.com/news/vogtle-nuke-cost-could-top-25b-as-decision-time...

10. Tom Corwin, 2 Sept 2017, 'Subsidizing new nuclear power such as Vogtle reactors in nation's interest, says expert', http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/2017-09-02/subsidizing-new-nuclear-pow...

11. Will Robinson, 30 Sept 2018, 'Credit rater downgrades JEA over Plant Vogtle exposure', Jacksonville Business Journal, www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2018/09/30/credit-rater-downgrades...

12. Will Robinson, 26 Sept 2018, 'Plant Vogtle's fate finally decided in latest vote', www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2018/09/26/plant-vogtles-fate-fina...

13. David Schlissel, Michael Mullett, Robert Alvarez, March 2009, 'Nuclear Loan Guarantees Another Taxpayer Bailout Ahead?', Union of Concerned Scientists, www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/legacy/assets/documents/nuclear_power...

14. Georgia Power, 31 Aug 2018, 'Nineteenth Semi-annual Vogtle Construction Monitoring Report', https://assets.sourcemedia.com/a0/5b/de057dbb4d6dab264cfc857a7008/gpc-19...

15. World Nuclear Association, 27 Sept 2018, 'Vogtle owners vote to continue construction', www.world-nuclear-news.org/Articles/Vogtle-construction-to-continue

16. Matt Kempner and Anastaciah Ondieki, 28 Sept 2018, 'After wrangling over Georgia nuclear plant, cost concerns remain', The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, www.myajc.com/business/after-wrangling-over-georgia-nuclear-plant-cost-c...

17. Gavin Bade, 26 Sept 2018, 'Vogtle nuclear plant owners agree to continue construction', www.utilitydive.com/news/vogtle-nuclear-plant-owners-agree-to-continue-c...

18. Times-Union Editorial Board, 23 Sept 2018, 'Sunday Editorial: Grand jury must get to the bottom of JEA's terrible contract', www.jacksonville.com/opinion/20180923/sunday-editorial-grand-jury-must-g...

19. Daniel Tait, 4 Oct 2018, 'Georgia Power Steamrolls MEAG, Oglethorpe in New Vogtle Agreement', www.energyandpolicy.org/georgia-power-steamrolls-meag-oglethorpe-in-new-...

20. Russell Grantham and Johnny Edwards, 19 May 2017, 'Plant Vogtle: Georgia's nuclear 'renaissance' now a financial quagmire', The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, www.myajc.com/business/plant-vogtle-georgia-nuclear-renaissance-now-fina...

21. Liam Denning, 28 Sept 2018, 'Nuclear Power's Big Problem Isn't That It's Nuclear', www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2018-09-27/nuclear-power-s-big-problem-i...

About: 
Vogtle 3

New IAEA report sees "possible shrinking role" for nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#866
4749
24/09/2018
Article

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has released its latest projections for the future of nuclear power.1 For the first time in many years, perhaps ever, the IAEA is up-front about the grim prospects for nuclear power. The article promoting the new report is titled: 'New IAEA Energy Projections See Possible Shrinking Role for Nuclear Power'.2

Comparable IAEA reports in September 2016 and August 2017 were headlined 'IAEA Sees Global Nuclear Power Capacity Growing Through 2030'3 and 'Long-Term Potential of Nuclear Power Remains High'.4

The recent IAEA article states:2

"Nuclear power's electricity generating capacity risks shrinking in the coming decades as ageing reactors are retired and the industry struggles with reduced competitiveness …

"Over the short term, the low price of natural gas, the impact of renewable energy sources on electricity prices, and national nuclear policies in several countries following the accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011 are expected to continue weighing on nuclear power's growth prospects, according to the report. In addition, the nuclear power industry faces increased construction times and costs due to heightened safety requirements, challenges in deploying advanced technologies and other factors."

The IAEA report presents low and high projections. The high projection is best ignored: the IAEA has previously assessed its own performance and found that even its low projections tend to be too high!5,6

The IAEA report notes that in its latest low projection, nuclear generating capacity falls by more than 10% from 392 gigawatts (GW) at the end of 2017 to 352 GW in 2030. The high projection of 511 GW in 2030 is 45 GW less than that predicted by the IAEA just a year ago.

The IAEA has sharply reduced its low and high projections since the Fukushima disaster, so much so that its current high projection for 2030 is 35 GW lower than its 2010 low projection for 2030:

 

20107

20181

CHANGE

2010‒18

Low estimate 2030 nuclear capacity (GW)

546

352

‒36%

‒194 GW

High estimate 2030 nuclear capacity (GW)

803

511

‒36%

‒292 GW

Actual nuclear capacity (including idled reactors) (GW)

375

400

+7%

Actual nuclear capacity (excluding idled reactors) (GW)

375 (approx.)

3638

‒3%

According to the IAEA report, nuclear's share of global electricity generation in 2017 remained at about 10.3% while the share of renewables (including hydropower) was 25.1%.1 In the IAEA's low projection, nuclear's share will fall to 7.9% in 2030.1

The IAEA report notes the high degree of uncertainty about reactor retirements: in its low projection, 139 GW of nuclear capacity is retired by 2030 compared to 55 GW in the high projection.

The average age of the reactor fleet has been steadily rising and reached 30 years in mid-2018 according to the latest World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR).8

The WNISR doesn't make projections about the future of nuclear power, but it includes calculations based on assumptions about reactor lifespans. WNISR-2018 notes that if one assumes a 40-year reactor lifespan (and ignoring 81 reactors already past that lifespan, and also ignoring 32 reactors in long-term outage), 216 reactors will enter the post-operational phase by 2030.8

WNISR-2018 states: "If all currently operating reactors were shut down at the end of a 40-year lifetime ‒ with the exception of the 81 that are already operating for more than 40 years ‒ by 2020 the number of operating units would be 12 below the total at the end of 2017, even if all reactors currently under active construction were completed, with the installed capacity declining by 2 GW. In the following decade to 2030, 190 units (168.5 GW) would have to be replaced ‒ three and a half times the number of startups achieved over the past decade."8

Here are the IAEA's regional low projections:2

  • Northern America: Nuclear capacity decreases by almost one-third by 2030.
  • Latin America & the Caribbean: Increase by 2030 but nuclear's role will remain small.
  • Northern, Western and Southern Europe: Decrease by as much as 30%.
  • Eastern Europe: Maintain current levels.
  • Africa: Remain at current low levels.
  • Western Asia: Significant increase.
  • Southern Asia: Continued growth.
  • Central and Eastern Asia: Significant increase.

References:

1. International Atomic Energy Agency, 'Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050: 2018 Edition', www-pub.iaea.org/books/IAEABooks/13412/Energy-Electricity-and-Nuclear-Power-Estimates-for-the-Period-up-to-2050

2. IAEA, 10 Sept 2018, 'New IAEA Energy Projections See Possible Shrinking Role for Nuclear Power', www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/new-iaea-energy-projections-see-po...

3. IAEA, 23 Sept 2016, 'IAEA Sees Global Nuclear Power Capacity Growing Through 2030', www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/iaea-sees-global-nuclear-power-cap...

4. Irena Chatzis / IAEA, 7 Aug 2017, 'Long-Term Potential of Nuclear Power Remains High: IAEA Report', www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/long-term-potential-of-nuclear-power-remain...

5. IAEA, 2007, Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power: Developments and Projections − 25 Years Past and Future', tables 33 and 34, p.56, www-pub.iaea.org/mtcd/publications/pdf/pub1304_web.pdf

6. Nuclear Monitor #811, 23 Sept 2015, 'Fanciful growth projections from the World Nuclear Association and the IAEA', www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/811/fanciful-growth-projection...

7. IAEA series: 'Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates', iaea.org

8. Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al., Sept 2018, 'The World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2018', www.worldnuclearreport.org/Nuclear-Power-Strategic-Asset-Liability-or-In...

Nuclear power falls below 10%, overtaken by non-hydro renewables

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#863
4738
22/06/2018
Article

Nuclear power accounted for 9.8% of global electricity generation in 2017 (2,5031 / 25,5702 terawatt-hours). That's a big drop from nuclear's historic peak of 17.6% in 1996.3

Renewables accounted for 26.5% of global electricity generation in 2017.4 Thus renewables generated 2.7 times more electricity than nuclear power. Non-hydro renewables (10.1%) generated more electricity than nuclear (9.8%) for the first time in decades.

Global nuclear power capacity increased by 5.4% from Dec. 2007 to Dec. 2017 (from 372 GW to 392 GW) if including idled reactors (mostly in Japan).5 However, including those reactors in the count of 'operable' or 'operational' reactors is, as former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd states, "misleading" and "clearly ridiculous".6 If idled reactors are excluded, nuclear capacity as of Dec. 2017 was 353 GW7 and fell by 5.1% from 2007 to 2017.

Whether or not idled reactors are included in the count, nuclear capacity changed little from 2007 to 2017 (up or down by about 5%). Compare that to renewables: global renewable power capacity more than doubled in the decade 2007-2017, and the capacity of non-hydro renewables increased more than six-fold.4

Bloomberg NEF New Energy Outlook 2018

Bloomberg NEF has published the 2018 edition of its annual New Energy Outlook.8 The report focuses on electricity generation worldwide. Its long-term projections assume that existing energy policy settings around the world remain in place until their scheduled expiry, and that there are no additional government measures. The 150-page report draws on detailed research by a team of more than 65 analysts around the world, including modeling of power systems country-by-country, and of the evolving cost dynamics of different technologies.

Wind and solar are set to expand to almost 50% of worldwide electricity generation by 2050 on the back of cost reductions and the advent of cheaper batteries that will enable electricity to be stored and discharged to meet shifts in demand and supply. The report predicts a 17-fold increase in solar PV capacity worldwide, and a six-fold increase in wind power capacity, by 2050.

The levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) from new solar PV plants is forecast to fall a further 71% by 2050, while that for onshore wind drops by a further 58%. These two technologies have already seen LCOE reductions of 77% and 41% respectively between 2009 and 2018. Solar PV and wind are already cheaper than building new large-scale coal and gas plants.

Batteries are also dropping dramatically in cost. Bloomberg NEF predicts that lithium-ion battery prices, already down by nearly 80% per megawatt-hour since 2010, will continue to tumble as electric vehicle manufacturing builds up through the 2020s.

Seb Henbest, lead author of the New Energy Outlook report, said: "The arrival of cheap battery storage will mean that it becomes increasingly possible to finesse the delivery of electricity from wind and solar, so that these technologies can help meet demand even when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining. The result will be renewables eating up more and more of the existing market for coal, gas and nuclear."

Coal shrinks to just 11% of global electricity generation by 2050, from 38% currently. Elena Giannakopoulou, head of energy economics at Bloomberg NEF, said: "Coal emerges as the biggest loser in the long run. Beaten on cost by wind and PV for bulk electricity generation, and batteries and gas for flexibility, the future electricity system will reorganize around cheap renewables – coal gets squeezed out."

Gas consumption for power generation increases modestly out to 2050 despite growing capacity, as more and more gas-fired facilities are either dedicated peakers or run at lower capacity factors helping to balance variable renewables, rather than run flat-out around-the-clock. Gas-fired generation is seen rising 15% between 2017 and 2050, although its share of global electricity declines from 21% to 15%. 

Electric vehicles add around 3,461 TWh of new electricity demand globally by 2050, equal to 9% of total demand. Time-of-use tariffs and dynamic charging further support renewables integration: they allow vehicle owners to choose to charge during high-supply, low-cost periods, and so help to shift demand to periods when cheap renewables are running.

The New Energy Outlook report predicts US$11.5 trillion being invested globally in new power generation capacity between 2018 and 2050, with US$8.4 trillion (73%) of that going to wind and solar and a further US$1.5 trillion (13%) to other low-carbon technologies such as hydro and nuclear, with gas investments at US$1.3 trillion (11.3%) accounting for most of the remainder.

References:

1. IAEA, 2018, 'Nuclear Power Reactors in the World', www-pub.iaea.org/books/IAEABooks/13379/Nuclear-Power-Reactors-in-the-World

2. IEA, March 2018, 'Global Energy & CO2 Status Report 2017', www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/GECO2017.pdf

3. Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al., 12 Sept 2017, World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2017, www.worldnuclearreport.org/-2017-.html

4. REN21, June 2018, 'Renewables 2018 Global Status Report', p.40-41, www.ren21.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/17-8652_GSR2018_FullReport_web_...

5. www.iaea.org/PRIS/WorldStatistics/WorldTrendNuclearPowerCapacity.aspx

6. Steve Kidd, 13 Oct 2016, 'Nuclear power in the world – pessimism or optimism?', www.neimagazine.com/opinion/opinionnuclear-power-in-the-world-pessimism-...

7. Mycle Schneider / World Nuclear Industry Status Report, 9 Jan 2018, 'World Nuclear Industry Status as of 1 January 2018', www.worldnuclearreport.org/World-Nuclear-Industry-Status-as-of-1-January...

8. Bloomberg NEF, June 2018, 'New Energy Outlook 2018', https://about.bnef.com/new-energy-outlook/

Has India really scaled down its nuclear power ambitions?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#861
4723
28/05/2018
Kumar Sundaram ‒ Editor, DiaNuke.org
Article

Last month, it was reported that the Indian government plans to cut nuclear capacity additions by two-thirds.1 These reports quoted a statement by Jitendra Singh, the State Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, which directly presides over the country's Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). Most journalists and analysts highlighted a scaling down from the previous projection of India achieving nuclear capacity of 63,000 MW by the year 2030 to 22,480MW in the same period, or roughly two-thirds.2

A closer look at the Minister Jitendra Singh's statement, however, reveals a totally different story.3

The government's announcement actually does not talk about cutting back nuclear power or cancelling any projects that have been discussed. In fact, two projects that have essentially been rejected figure in the list provided by the minister to the Indian parliament, under the category 'Green field sites, accorded 'In-Principle' approval'.3 One is at Mithivirdi in Gujarat's Bhavnagar district where US corporation Westinghouse was allotted a project for six nuclear reactors. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) abandoned it last year after the project failed to acquire environmental clearance.4 Similarly, the Haripur Nuclear Power Project proposed in Bengal, for which the state government under Mamata Bannerjee has denied land ever since it came to power and continues to rule out the project5, is present in Jitendra Singh's list under 'Green field sites, accorded 'In-Principle' approval'.

The reality is the nuclear program has been delayed, not slashed as assumed. Such huge delays and under-performance have been the hallmark of India's Department of Atomic Energy. In the early 1950s, the DAE estimated that it would achieve nuclear capacity of 20,000 MW by the year 1980, whereas capacity was merely 540 MW when that year arrived. Again, DAE hoped that by 2000 it would have installed capacity of 10,000 MW, but it achieved only 2,720 MW.

After 2000, the DAE's capacity addition increased slightly, but again immensely exaggerated future projections were made. In 2007, the DAE thought capacity of 20,000 MW by the year 20206 was achievable and 30,000 MW by 20307 was an achievable target. These ambitions took a massive jump in 2008 after the culmination of the Indo-US deal under which India got an exemption from the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG) and re-entered global nuclear commerce. In 2008, projections were made for achieving 63,000MW by 20308 and a whopping 275,300 Gigawatts by 2052.9

However, despite the NSG exemption in 2008 and subsequent agreements with the US, France and other countries for the supply of nuclear reactors, not a single imported nuclear project has taken off. Construction is yet to begin in places like Jaitapur and Kovvada, despite the Indian government's rush to violently force local communities to give away their land and provide consent for environmental clearance. This has to do on the one hand with the terminal crisis of the global nuclear industry after Fukushima, leading to financial meltdowns and bankruptcies; as well as the reluctance of nuclear suppliers to accept India's nuclear liability law.10 The latter reveals much about the nature of multinational nuclear companies: the law caps the total liability in the case of a potential nuclear accident to an amount that is much less than the potential cost of an accident or the price tag of a nuclear power plant. The Modi government has tried every trick in the book to dilute even that.11

The Indian minister's statement should be viewed in this context. Since imported rectors have not progressed at the pace that the country's nuclear establishment hoped for, it is now focusing on expanding the fleet of "indigenously-designed" reactors to several existing and new nuclear power plant sites. These 700 MW Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors (PHWRs) are in essence scaled-up models of a reactor design called the CANDU imported from Canada.

The recent statement, in fact, envisages a 'realistic' and determined shift in the strategy to expand nuclear power in India, although at a slower pace than advertised before. The Minister's announcement includes setting up ten 10 'greenfield' PHWR/CANDUs of 700 MW each by 2024 (four each in Gorakhpur and Mahi-Banswara and two in Chutka) for which administrative approval and financial sanction have been granted already. These constructions will result in an additional electricity generation capacity of 13,460 MW (PHWRs plus Russian VVERs), besides the 500 MW Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR), which the DAE has been claiming to commission 'this year' for the past several years.

The statement also lists another category of new projects – greenfield sites for whom 'in-principle' approval has been obtained and the DAE doesn't see any external obstacle. By 2031, this category of planned projects would bring 22,480 MW of additional capacity online. These include – Jaitapur (6 x 1650 = 9,900 MW), Kovvada (6 x 1208 = 7,248 MW), Mithi Virdi (6 x 1,000 MW = 6,000 MW) and Haripur (6 x 1,000 = 6,000 MW), besides a newly included project at Bhimpur in Madhya Pradesh (4 x 700 = 2,800 MW). The Minister's statement also mentions that pre-project activities are underway at these sites.

This new focus on PHWRs has severe consequences for communities at sites that have so far not been directly subject to nuclear risks. This includes Gorakhpur in Haryana, Mahi-Banswara in Rajasthan, and Chutka in Madhya Pradesh. In Chutka, the local communities have waged an intense agitation against their second displacement.12 They were first displaced for the Bargi dam on Narmada river in 1990, and now they have been served eviction notices. The government agencies have again approached them with the same promises – jobs, electricity, development, rehabilitation and welfare measures, but they know the reality. In Gorakhpur, the NPCIL is constructing a 2,800 MW plant merely 150 km from the national capital New Delhi with a population of 24 million –the plant depends on a small canal for the supply of water for cooling the reactors in normal operation and even during potential accidents.13

Therefore, the much-touted 'cut-back' is far being a reflection of any rethink in the Indian nuclear establishment. Moreover, the zeal to trample all safety, environmental and democratic norms continues unabated as reflected in the recent police atrocities against peaceful anti-nuclear protests in Chutka14 and Jaitapur15. It will be ironic for the villagers who continue to face fabricated sedition charges for their peaceful protest to find their government winning praise internationally for the sanity of an illusory nuclear cut-back.

The author is thankful to Dr. M.V. Ramana and Peter M. for their insights.

References:

1. www.financialexpress.com/economy/modi-government-cuts-nuclear-power-capa...

2. www.theenergycollective.com/dan-yurman/2430864/india-slashes-plans-for-n...

3. http://164.100.47.190/loksabhaquestions/annex/14/AU6201.pdf

4. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/npcil-abandons-mithivirdi-nuclear...

5. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/nuclear-power-corp-seek...

6. www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-tamilnadu/NPCIL-planning-fo...

7. www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/-30-000-mw-of-nuclear-p...

8. http://pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx?relid=37122

9. www.barc.gov.in/publications/nl/2016/2016091002.pdf

10. www.catchnews.com/india-news/india-unprepared-what-happens-in-case-of-a-...

11. https://scroll.in/article/803229/the-dilution-of-nuclear-liability-by-mo...

12. www.dianuke.org/nuking-narmada-adivasis-india-facing-second-displacement...

13. www.dianuke.org/fatehabad-nuclear-project-fukushima-making/

14. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/bhopal/soil-satyagraha-against-...

15. www.theguardian.com/world/2018/may/05/thousands-protest-against-emmanuel...

Pro-nuclear perspectives on the nuclear industry crisis ‒ 'an unusually grim outlook'

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#838
4622
21/02/2017
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

The nuclear industry and its supporters have responded in varying ways to the crises facing nuclear utilities and the industry's broader problems. Some opt for head-in-the-sand delusion and denial. Others are extremely pessimistic about the industry's future. Others are more optimistic, painting a picture of serious but surmountable problems.

In broad terms, there is agreement that nuclear industries in the US, Japan and the EU ‒ in particular their nuclear export industries ‒ are in deep trouble. A February 2017 EnergyPostWeekly article says "the EU, the US and Japan are busy committing nuclear suicide."1 Michael Shellenberger, from the Breakthrough Institute and sundry other pro-nuclear lobby groups, notes that: "Nations are unlikely to buy nuclear from nations like the US, France and Japan that are closing (or not opening) their nuclear power plants."2

The Japanese government's plan to establish a major nuclear export industry is greatly weakened by Toshiba's demise. Hitachi isn't in nearly the same mess, but it has taken a hit on a failed laser enrichment venture and may struggle to fund projects such as the plan for two reactors at Wylfa in Anglesey, Wales.

Westinghouse, Toshiba's US-based subsidiary, hoped to build dozens of AP1000 reactors around the world but its prospects are greatly weakened by the disastrous AP1000 projects in Georgia and South Carolina.

French EPR reactors have been worse than AP1000s, with multi-year delays and multi-billion dollar overruns in both France and Finland. Bloomberg noted in April 2015 that Areva's EPR export ambitions are now in "tatters".3 That point still holds, and now Areva itself is in tatters.

Shellenberger said: "From now on, there are only three major players in the global nuclear power plant market: Korea, China and Russia. The US, the EU and Japan are just out of the game. France could get back in, but they are not competitive today."4

That's good news for the nuclear industries in South Korea, China and Russia. But they might end up squabbling over scraps ‒ there were just three reactor construction starts last year. South Korean companies have failed to win a single contract since the contract to build four reactors in the UAE.4 Likewise, China has made no inroads into export markets other than projects in Pakistan and Argentina.4

Russia's Rosatom has countless non-binding agreements to supply reactors ‒ and loan funding ‒ mostly in developing countries. But Russia can't afford the loan funding and most of the potential customer countries can't afford to pay the capital costs for reactors. Former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd says it is "highly unlikely that Russia will succeed in carrying out even half of the projects in which it claims to be closely involved".5

Pro-nuclear responses

There has been more than the usual amount of head-in-the-sand delusion and denial from the nuclear lobby in recent weeks. First prize for alternative facts goes to the Breakthrough Institute. Last year was "another record year" for nuclear power, according to the Institute's Jessica Lovering, with 10 reactors coming online around the world.6 But as many reactors came online in 2015, and 10 or more reactors came online in 20 years between 1967 and 1990.7 There will be many "exciting new additions" to the global reactor fleet in 2017, according to Lovering, and the UAE will be the first country to join the nuclear power club since China in 1991 (in fact the most recent newcomer countries were Romania in 1996 and Iran in 2011). Lovering has nothing to say about the crises facing nuclear utilities, or the aging of the global nuclear fleet and the hundreds of exciting reactor shutdowns expected over the next quarter-century, or any of the other problems facing the industry.

The Breakthrough Institute also offers alternative facts to its own alternative facts, with this cataclysmic assessment by Michael Shellenberger:8

"Nuclear energy is, simply, in a rapidly accelerating crisis:

  • Demand for nuclear energy globally is low, and the new reactors being built may not keep up with the closure of nuclear plants around the world. Half of all U.S. nuclear plants are at risk of closure over the next 13 years.
  • Japan has only opened two of its 42 shuttered nuclear reactors, six years after Fukushima. Most experts estimated it would have two-thirds open by now. The reason is simple: low public acceptance.
  • While some still see India as a sure-thing for nuclear, the nation has not resolved key obstacles to building new plants, and is likely to add just 16 GW of nuclear by 2030, not the 63 GW that was anticipated.
  • Vietnam had worked patiently for 20 years to build public support for a major nuclear build-out before abruptly scrapping those plans in response to rising public fears and costs last year. Vietnam now intends to build coal plants.
  • Last month Entergy, a major nuclear operator, announced it was getting out of the nuclear generation business in states where electricity has been de-regulated, including New York where it operates the highly lucrative Indian Point."

And more cataclysm from Shellenberger in another article on the "crisis that threatens the death of nuclear energy in the West":9

"The looming insolvency of Toshiba has set off a chain reaction of events that threatens the existence of nuclear power in the West:

  • Britain's plan to build six new nuclear plants ‒ based on four different plant designs ‒ in order to phase out coal by 2025 is now up in the air.
  • Britain's turmoil creates uncertainty for the French and Chinese nuclear industries ‒ as well as for another Japanese company, Hitachi ‒ that had won contracts to build other British plants.
  • In response to Toshiba's failings, one of India's leading nuclear policy experts is calling for the government to scrap existing plans with Areva, Westinghouse and Russia's Rosatom, and "Make Nuclear Indian Again" by scaling up the country's indigenous design.
  • On Wednesday [Feb.15] Mitsubishi's CEO told the Financial Times that the company is not considering a merger with Toshiba. The reason? Toshiba's nuclear design "is a totally different technology" from Mitsubishi's. 
  • A proposal by Southern Company to build a third nuclear plant based on Toshiba's Westinghouse AP1000 design in Georgia is increasingly unlikely."

Also at the ultra-gloomy end of the spectrum is this assessment by pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman in a February 5 post:10

"A sense of panic is emerging globally as Toshiba, troubled by extensive losses and fake financial reports, heads toward a complete exit from the commercial nuclear energy industry. The two countries that will be hardest hit by the expected actions will be the UK and India. Unlike the situation following the Fukushima crisis, in which the Japanese government in effect nationalized TEPCO, no bailout of Toshiba is expected to come to its rescue. ...

"After nine years of writing about the global nuclear industry, these developments make for an unusually grim outlook. It's a very big rock hitting the pond. Toshiba's self-inflicted wounds will result in long lasting challenges to the future of the global nuclear energy industry.

"Worse, it comes on top of the French government having to restructure and recapitalize Areva, its state-owned nuclear power corporation, so that it can complete two 1650 MW EPR reactors that are under construction in Europe and to begin work on the Hinkley project the UK. ...

"The risks that Westinghouse faces even if the reactor division is able to establish itself as an independent vendor to EPC [Engineering, Procurement, and Construction] firms and investors include keeping its work force intact during what could be a lengthy transition. Layoffs and cost cutting could reduce the core competencies of the firm and its ability to meet the service needs of existing customers much less be a vendor of nuclear technologies for new projects."

Will Davis, a consultant and writer for the American Nuclear Society, doesn't downplay the nuclear industry's problems but he sees them as surmountable teething problems, a "start-from-scratch scenario" for countries and companies that have largely lost the necessary expertise and infrastructure to build nuclear plants over the past generation.11

Davis notes that Toshiba will probably end its venture into nuclear power plant design and construction, that Toshiba/Westinghouse AP1000 projects in the US are "not going according to plan", that AREVA's construction of EPR plants in Finland and in France "is also not going well", and that "AREVA has collapsed, and a bailout is in progress" while "Toshiba is approaching that possibility."11

Davis offers this explanation for the troubled AP1000 and EPR projects:11

"All are FOAK or First Of A Kind Plants. Both the AP1000 and the EPR are overall new nuclear power plant designs which supposedly incorporate some previous experience and some new design features (such as modular unit construction, for example) meant to mitigate previously experienced delays in construction. Any "first ever" project ‒ even one intended to simplify things ‒ is likely to run into unforeseen delays and complications, which then should be translated as "lessons learned" to the later projects of the exact same design to fully achieve efficiencies. The first of either of these types of plants has not even been finished even though they've been under construction for years, so that what exactly the sum total of lessons learned is, is not yet even fully perceived.

"All are FOAG or First Of A Generation. By this I mean that both the AP1000 and the EPR are intended to be "Gen-III+" plants, in which certain design features, additions, or improvements deeply reduce the chances of a core damage accident when compared with previous light water reactors. This factor's full impact is not yet known or perhaps even fully analyzed, but it becomes quite significant when one realizes that the plain Gen-III plants being built by South Korea and by China are not experiencing any construction delays. It will only be after the Gen-III+ projects are completed that a full assessment can be made as to whether or not this particular point is a factor, but for historians it's already clear that this is a comparison that needs to be monitored, fully analyzed and recorded.

"All are being built by nations which have a multi-decade gap in the process of designing and constructing nuclear power plants. It only takes a generation to lose the base to successfully construct nuclear power plants, as was plainly put by Framatome in the 1970's (this was AREVA's predecessor) when it implored the French government to order a nuclear plant a year "or else lose the whole nuclear enterprise." This did not occur, and the enterprise was lost. By "enterprise" I mean the institutional knowledge gained from years of constant nuclear plant building, which really is a "design-construct-learn-design-construct-learn" process that requires constant work. The loss of institutional knowledge, industrial capability and construction capability is keenly felt now in both nations' projects. It should be noted that decades of continuous work have been going on in China and South Korea, and their projects are running vastly better than the US and French projects.

"The factors above are quite enough by themselves to lead any new nuclear project into distress if they're present, and as we see all of the US construction is in trouble to some degree as are the EPR projects. ... Finally it should be pointed out that none of this indicates that large, gigawatt-class light water reactor nuclear power plants are "dead." In fact, it points out that nations which think nuclear is important should make moves to never halt fully the construction of nuclear power stations. The Chinese, and South Koreans are, once again, delivering on time ‒ so it IS possible with large light water plants. The important thing is to realize that the skills and industry required will evaporate quickly once the last light goes out ‒ and wishing to return and turn the light back on, one will find the whole building missing. It almost is a start-from-scratch scenario."

Solutions

Many of the proposals from the nuclear industry and its supporters involve sacrificing safety in order to reduce costs. Such proposals include weakening safety regulations; abandoning Generation 3/3+ reactors in favour of Generation 2 reactor types (or redefining Generation 2 reactor types as Generation 3/3+); and overturning the established scientific position that even the smallest doses of ionizing radiation can cause morbidity and mortality.

How to convince the public to accept reduced nuclear safety standards? In a word: spin. The game-plan is to sell reduced safety standards dressed up in euphemisms like 'improving social acceptance' or overcoming the 'paradigm of fear'. Shellenberger, for example, wants "higher social acceptance" but he also wants weakened safety regulations such as the repeal of a US Nuclear Regulatory Commission rule designed to strengthen reactors against aircraft strikes.8 He squares the circle between higher social acceptance and weakened safety regulations with spin and sophistry, claiming (without evidence) that the NRC's Aircraft Impact Rule "would not improve safety" and claiming (without evidence) that the NRC "caved in to demands" from anti-nuclear groups to establish the rule.

Shellenberger rails against the "$500 million annual [anti-nuclear] lobby that does everything it can to deliberately make nuclear expensive."9 He argues that nuclear power "almost never harms anybody" so "it's simply not clear that making [nuclear] plants any safer is actually possible".9 So nuclear critics were wrong to call for strengthened regulation, and strengthened earthquake and tsunami protections, before the Fukushima disaster? Shellenberger claims that the "overwhelming amount of harm caused by accidents are due to fear and panic, not radiation exposure."9

The weak skills base is widely acknowledged to be a problem. Vast numbers of staff, skilled across a range of disciplines, need to be trained and employed if the nuclear power industry is to move ahead (or even survive). But utilities and companies are firing, not hiring, and making a perilous situation much worse ... possibly irretrievable. As we've seen over the past decade, a weak skills base leads to reactor project delays and cost overruns, and that in turn leads one after another country to abandon plans for new reactors.

Many of the proposals from nuclear advocates involve massive government / taxpayer subsidies to prop up ailing nuclear companies and reactor projects. Some advocate capitalism in its pure form (socializing losses and privatizing profits) with socialism (nationalization of troubled companies and direct government investment in nuclear projects) as a back-up plan.

A contrary view was expressed by Neil Collins in the Financial Times: "It's telling that after 60 years of mostly successful operation, commercial viability still eludes the nuclear power industry. ... Appealing for fresh state aid looks like a desperate last throw of the nuclear dice. If an industry cannot finance its own projects after half a century of development, it may be time to try another industry."12

References:

1. Karel Beckman, 10 Feb 2017, 'The OECD's nuclear suicide', http://energypostweekly.eu/february-10-2017-watch/#section_1

2. Michael Shellenberger, 13 Feb 2017, 'Why its Big Bet on Westinghouse Nuclear is Bankrupting Toshiba', www.environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2017/2/13/why-its-big-bet-on-west...

3. Carol Matlack, 17 April 2015, 'Areva Is Costing France Plenty', www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-04-16/france-s-areva-falters-in-rea...

4. Kana Inagaki, Leo Lewis and Ed Crooks, 15 Feb 2017, 'Downfall of Toshiba, a nuclear industry titan', www.ft.com/content/416a2c9c-f2d3-11e6-8758-6876151821a6
5. Steve Kidd, 6 Oct 2014, "The world nuclear industry – is it in terminal decline?", www.neimagazine.com/opinion/opinionthe-world-nuclear-industry-is-it-in-t...

6. Jessica Lovering, 7 Feb 2017, 'Another Record Year for Nuclear Power', http://thebreakthrough.org/index.php/voices/another-record-year-for-nucl...

7. www.iaea.org/pris/

8. Michael Shellenberger, 13 Feb 2017, 'Why its Big Bet on Westinghouse Nuclear is Bankrupting Toshiba', www.environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2017/2/13/why-its-big-bet-on-west...

9. Michael Shellenberger, 17 Feb 2017, 'Nuclear Industry Must Change ‒ Or Die', www.environmentalprogress.org/big-news/2017/2/16/nuclear-must-change-or-die

10. Dan Yurman, 5 Feb 2016, 'Toshiba's Nuclear Projects Falling Like a Row of Dominos', http://neutronbytes.com/2017/02/05/toshibas-nuclear-projects-falling-lik...

11. Will Davis, 5 Feb 2017, 'New Large Light Water Construction, USA and France', http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com.au/2017/02/new-large-light-water-c...

12. Neil Collins, 17 Feb 2017, 'Dash for gas ‒ and move on from nuclear power folly', www.ft.com/content/2a2d94a8-f461-11e6-95ee-f14e55513608

2016 in Review: The nuclear power renaissance ‒ blink and you'll miss it

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#837
4614
31/01/2017
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

Global nuclear power capacity increased by 9.2 gigawatts (GW) in 2016.1 By contrast, renewable electricity capacity growth was 153 GW in 20152 and almost certainly greater in 2016.

In broad terms, nuclear power has been stagnant for the past 20 years. Using figures from the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency, global nuclear capacity has grown 12.7% over the past 20 years and 5.7% over the past decade. But those figures include idle reactors in Japan and the inclusion of those reactors is, as former WNA executive Steve Kidd states, "misleading" and "clearly ridiculous".3 The World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) excludes 34 idle reactors in Japan (and one each in Taiwan and Sweden) from its calculations of current nuclear capacity. Using WNISR figures, nuclear capacity has grown 1.7% over the past 20 years and it has declined by 4.6% over the past decade.

YEAR

GLOBAL NUCLEAR POWER CAPACITY

Dec. 19964

347 GW

Dec. 20064

370 GW

Dec. 2016

391 GW (WNA ‒ including reactors in long-term outage)1

353 GW (WNISR ‒ excluding reactors in long-term outage)5

If we look more closely at recent figures, the picture is a little confusing. Global nuclear power capacity increased "slightly" in 2016 according to the pro-nuclear WNA1 while the anti-nuclear WNISR said that a "significant" number of new reactors came online.5 If there's some confusion now as to the trajectory of nuclear power, that confusion is likely to grow in the next few years. To explain, let's first look at WNA figures on reactor construction starts.

YEAR

Jan. 2007

Jan. 2008

Jan. 2009

Jan. 2010

Jan. 2011

Jan. 2012

Jan. 2013

Jan. 2014

Jan. 2015

Jan. 2016

Jan. 2017

REACTORS UNDER CONSTRUCTION

28

34

43

53

63

61

65

71

70

66

60

COMPARED TO PREVIOUS YEAR

 

+6

+9

+10

+10

-2

+4

+6

-1

-4

-6

The nuclear power 'renaissance' never materialized in the since that the number of 'operable' reactors has hovered between 430 and 450 for the past 20 years, with no clear trend in either direction.6 (The number of operating reactors is currently 406 according to the WNISR, which excludes reactors in long-term outage.5).

But we can see the 'renaissance' manifest in the sharp increase in construction starts in the few years preceding the March 2011 Fukushima disaster. Those reactors are starting to come online, and more will come online in the next few years. Thus 10 reactors came online in both 2015 and 2016 (a number not previously reached since 1990). And the number of grid connections over the past five years (32 from 2012‒2016) was considerably greater than during the five years before that (17 from 2007‒2011).

How will this play out in the coming years? Here are predicted start-up (grid connection) figures compiled by the World Nuclear Association:7

2016: 12 grid connections (only 10 reactors were grid connected)

2017: 18 grid connections anticipated

2018: 10 grid connections anticipated

2019: 8 grid connections anticipated

2020: 7 grid connections anticipated

We may have been premature in declaring the nuclear renaissance dead. Indeed we're right in the middle of the renaissance. It will likely span 2‒3 years and it will be a damp squib. Last year, 10 reactors were grid connected and four were permanently shut down. In 2017‒18, the World Nuclear Association anticipates 28 grid connections7; even if the number falls short of that figure (as it will), grid connections will exceed permanent shut-downs.

But that's as good as it gets for the nuclear industry. In truth, the industry is in a world of pain.

The reactor fleet is aging; most reactors are late middle-aged. The average age of the world's nuclear reactor fleet is 29 years, and more than half have operated for more than 30 years.8 Recent statistics on reactor shutdowns are heavily shaped by the 2011 Fukushima disaster ‒ there were 13 permanent shutdowns in that year alone. In the five years before 2011, there were 15 shutdowns; in the five years after 2011, 22 shutdowns. That trend is certain to continue:

  • The World Nuclear Association estimates 132 reactor shut-downs by 2035.9
  • The International Energy Agency anticipates a "wave of retirements of ageing nuclear reactors" and an "unprecedented rate of decommissioning" ‒ almost 200 reactor shut-downs between 2014 and 2040.10
  • According to a recent Nuclear Energy Insider article, up to 200 reactors are set to go offline in the next two decades.11

Thus 6‒10 reactors will need to be commissioned each year for the next 20‒25 years just to maintain current nuclear capacity.

The number of reactors under construction is slowly dropping. Using WNA figures, 71 reactors were under construction in January 2014 compared to 60 in January 2017. According to WNISR figures, the number is down from 67 to 55 over the same period. Again, that trend seems near-certain to continue because of a sharp drop in reactor construction starts: 50 from 2007‒2011 compared to 31 from 2012‒2016.12 Last year, there were just three construction starts.12

References:

1. World Nuclear Association, 3 Jan 2017, 'Worldwide nuclear capacity continues to grow in 2016', www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-Worldwide-nuclear-capacity-continues-to-gr...

2. IEA, 2016, 'Renewable Energy Medium-Term Market Report: Executive Summary', www.iea.org/Textbase/npsum/MTrenew2016sum.pdf

3. Steve Kidd, 13 Oct 2016, 'Nuclear power in the world – pessimism or optimism?', www.neimagazine.com/opinion/opinionnuclear-power-in-the-world-pessimism-...

4. https://www.iaea.org/PRIS/WorldStatistics/WorldTrendNuclearPowerCapacity...

5. Mycle Schneider, 9 Jan 2017, 'World Nuclear Industry Status as of 1 January 2017', www.worldnuclearreport.org/World-Nuclear-Industry-Status-as-of-1-January...

6. IAEA, 'Nuclear Power Capacity Trend', www.iaea.org/PRIS/WorldStatistics/WorldTrendNuclearPowerCapacity.aspx

7. World Nuclear Association, April 2016, 'Plans For New Reactors Worldwide', www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/...

8. Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al., 2016, 'World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016', www.worldnuclearreport.org/IMG/pdf/20160713MSC-WNISR2016V2-HR.pdf

9. World Nuclear Association, 'The Nuclear Fuel Report: Global Scenarios for Demand and Supply Availability 2015-2035', Table 2.4, www.world-nuclear.org/our-association/publications/publications-for-sale...

10. IEA, 2014, 'World Energy Outlook 2014 Factsheet, www.iea.org/media/news/2014/press/141112_WEO_FactSheet_Nuclear.pdf

11. Karen Thomas, 25 Jan 2017, 'OECD expands decommissioning cost benchmarks ahead of closure surge', http://analysis.nuclearenergyinsider.com/oecd-expands-decommissioning-co...

12. Data compiled from IAEA, www.iaea.org/pris/

Hinkley: A dramatic turn of events

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#828
4574
09/08/2016
Pete Roche
Article

On July 28 the UK Government stunned the energy industry when it announced a further review of the proposed Hinkley Point nuclear power station just a few hours after EDF's Board meeting in Paris agreed to approve the 'Final Investment Decision'. Executives at EDF had been expecting the Government to sign a subsidy deal for the £18 billion (US$23.4b) plant the following day. Greg Clark, the UK Business and Energy secretary, said that he needed until September to study the subsidy contract.

150 VIPs had been invited to Hinkley Point in Somerset in the West of England on Friday to celebrate the go-ahead for a third nuclear power station on the site. But on Friday morning the marquee was being packed away and the guests were nowhere to be seen. A delegation from the China General Nuclear Power Corporation (CGN) which had already flown into Britain expecting to sign the finalised documents to allow them to invest around one third of the project's cost, turned around and went straight back to China.

We may never know exactly what has gone on behind the scenes but it is clear that EDF had moved its final investment decision forward from September in order to bounce the new UK Government into giving its approval quickly before mounting problems become even more obvious to everyone.1

Stop Hinkley spokesperson Roy Pumfrey said: "Much of the media seems to think this is just a temporary pause and that Hinkley Point C will eventually go ahead, but if Theresa May gives this scheme just a cursory glance she will see that we are being asked to buy a pig in a poke."

According to the Financial Times2 the head of EDF, Jean-Bernard Lévy gave his fellow board members only two days to read 2,500 pages of contracts for a deal which one investment analyst described as "verging on insanity".3

The decision to review the project has been attributed by some to security concerns about Chinese involvement in the sector expressed by Mrs May's chief of staff, Nick Timothy. The Stop Hinkley Campaign has itself expressed concerns in the past about making nuclear deals with a country with such a poor health and safety record.4

Writing on the Conservative Home website last October, Timothy said the Hinkley deal could lead to the Chinese designing and constructing a third nuclear reactor at Bradwell in Essex. Security experts – reportedly inside as well as outside government – are worried that the Chinese could use their role to build weaknesses into computer systems which will allow them to shut down Britain's energy production at will.5 For those who believe that such an eventuality is unlikely, the Chinese National Nuclear Corporation – one of the state-owned companies involved in the plans for the British nuclear plants – says on its website that it is responsible not just for "increasing the value of state assets and developing the society" but the "building of national defence." MI5 believes that "the intelligence services of … China … continue to work against UK interests at home and abroad."

Mandiant, a US company that investigates computer security breaches around the world, looked into the operations of just one Chinese cyber espionage group, believed to be the Second Bureau of the People's Liberation Army of China, or 'Unit 61398'. Mandiant found that Unit 61398 has compromised 141 different companies in 20 major industries. There were 115 victims in the United States and five in the UK. The intellectual property stolen included technology blueprints, manufacturing processes, test results, business plans, pricing documents, partnership agreements, and emails and contact information.6

Timothy said "evidence like this makes it all the more baffling that the British Government has been so welcoming to Chinese state-owned companies in sensitive sectors. The Government, however, seems intent on ignoring the evidence and presumably the advice of the security and intelligence agencies. But no amount of trade and investment should justify allowing a hostile state easy access to the country's critical national infrastructure. Of course we should seek to trade with countries right across the world – but not when doing business comes at the expense of Britain's own national security."6

EDF's future threatened

Perhaps of more immediate concern is that a go-ahead for Hinkley could threaten the future of the company itself. EDF is a company in a very precarious financial situation. The ratings agency, S&P, postponed a decision to downgrade its credit rating when the UK Government announced the review.7 EDF has €37 billion (US$41b) of debt. The collapse in energy prices pushed earnings down 68% in 2015. The company needs to spend €50 billion (US$55.4b) upgrading its network of 58 aging reactors by 2025. It is scrambling to sell €4 billion (US$4.4b) of new shares and €10 billion (US$11.1b) of assets to strengthen its balance sheet. EDF is also expected to participate in the €5 billion (US$5.5b) bailout of Areva, the bankrupt developer of EPR technology, by taking a 75% stake.8 About the last thing it needs is a new €15 billion (US$16.6b) millstone around its neck.9

Roy Pumfrey said: "The EDF Board should take the opportunity presented by this pause to see that its Nuclear SatNav has taken the Company down a dead end; it's only a matter of time before we hear that voice saying "At the next opportunity, turn around!"'

He continues: "Perhaps most disappointing if not unexpected has been the reaction of the big UK Union leaders. Whilst confessing themselves 'baffled' by the government's 'bonkers' decision, they should ask why the French union leaders representing EDF's own workers were (and are) solidly and vocally opposed to HPC. This project involves a reactor which many of EDF's own staff regard as unconstructable, selling off the family silver to fund it and putting EDF and therefore their own livelihoods at risk."

Over recent months several different alternatives to building Hinkley Point C have been detailed.10 Most recently consultancy firm Utilitywise has described the proposed nuclear station as an "unnecessary expense". Energy efficiency measures could save the equivalent amount of electricity along with £12bn.11

Roy Pumfrey said: "This Government review of Hinkley Point C provides us with a wonderful opportunity to turn Somerset into a sustainable energy hub for England. The alternatives would be better for jobs, better for consumers, would reduce the mountain of dangerous waste we don't know how to deal with and save Somerset from a decade of disruption caused by one of the biggest construction projects in the world. The sooner EDF and the UK Government come to their senses the better."

Anti-Hinkley Tories

Perhaps most interesting amongst recent events has been the emergence of Conservative figures calling on the government to call time on the Hinkley proposals. The think-tank Bright Blue, whose advisory board includes former ministers Francis Maude and Nicky Morgan and former energy minister Greg Barker, has said the government needs a new "plan A". The group stresses that its position is not necessarily endorsed by all members of the organisation, which includes more than 100 parliamentarians. "The Government should abandon Hinkley C – pursuing it in light of all the evidence of cost reductions in other technologies would be deeply irresponsible," said Ben Caldecott, associate fellow, Bright Blue. "We need a new 'Plan A'. This must be focused on bringing forward sufficient renewables, electricity storage, and energy efficiency to more than close any gap left in the late 2020s by Hinkley not proceeding. This would be sensible, achievable, and cheap." Zac Goldsmith, also a Bright Blue member, has welcomed the government's rethink.12

Caldecott, writing on the Conservative Home website, said "we seem to be re-entering reality, there is an opportunity to develop a new 'Plan A' … A range of technologies can easily fill the envisioned capacity that Hinkley would have provided in the late 2020s had it been successfully delivered on the current (and already significantly delayed) construction schedule. They can also do this much more cheaply. Cancelling Hinkley would provide greater certainty for investors in other technologies thereby encouraging investment in new capacity today."13

He said the price of onshore wind is already much cheaper than nuclear (£85/MWh today and expected to fall to £60/MWh by 2020), with large-scale PV (expected to fall to £80/MWh by 2020) and offshore wind (expected to fall to £80/MWh by 2025) set to do the same – all well before Hinkley would start to receive its staggeringly high guaranteed and index-linked £92.50/MWh.

He goes on to say that Bright Blue will be publishing specific recommendations on energy efficiency soon, and that small modular nuclear reactors are very unlikely to be commercially available at all, let alone before the 2030s in any scalable, cost-competitive or politically acceptable way. They are too uncertain in terms of likelihood and cost for us to place too much faith in them yet, apart from perhaps investing in more R&D. "Blind faith in new nuclear and shale gas have yielded precisely zero for UK security of supply, despite constant rhetoric to the contrary, and yet more punts in high risk areas would not be prudent."

Take action

Friends of the Earth – Scotland is asking people to write to Theresa May to express opposition to Hinkley Point C going ahead: http://act.foe-scotland.org.uk/lobby/StopHinkley

Greenpeace UK is asking supporters to sign a petition to Chancellor Philip Hammond to help convince him to abandon the project and back renewable energy instead: https://secure.greenpeace.org.uk/page/s/osborne-dont-waste-billions-nuclear

This is an expanded version of an article published in nuClear News No.87, August 2016, www.no2nuclearpower.org.uk/nuclearnews/NuClearNewsNo87.pdf

References:

1. Times 30 July 2016 www.thetimes.co.uk/article/29a3176a-55c4-11e6-917c-b7a493d07de7

2. FT 1 Aug 2016 https://next.ft.com/content/5439a6d2-57fa-11e6-9f70-badea1b336d4

3. Guardian 7 March 2016 www.theguardian.com/business/2016/mar/07/hinkley-point-nuclear-plant-edf...

4. www.stophinkley.org/PressReleases/pr150922China_File.pdf

5. Times 16 October 2015 www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/politics/article4587446.ece

6. Conservative Home 20 October 2015 www.conservativehome.com/thecolumnists/2015/10/nick-timothy-the-governme...

7. Reuters 29 July 2016 http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL8N1AF6W0

8. Times 7 May 2016 www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/business/sparks-to-fly-as-edf-board-faces-cri...

9. The Street 25 April 2016 www.thestreet.com/story/13542318/1/edf-can-t-affordhinkley.html

10. Stop Hinkley 16 May 2016 www.stophinkley.org/PressReleases/pr160516.pdf See also Environmental Research Web 6 Aug 2016 http://blog.environmentalresearchweb.org/2016/08/06/nuclear-prospects/

11. Edie 1 August 2016 www.edie.net/news/6/Energy-efficiency-would-be-cheaper-than-Hinkley/30645/

12. Solar Portal 29 July 2016 www.solarpowerportal.co.uk/news/conservative_think_tank_turns_back_on_hi...

13. Conservative Home 30 July 2016 www.conservativehome.com/platform/2016/07/ben-caldecott-lets-seize-this-...

About: 
Hinkley Point-B2

Nuclear power down for the count

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#817
4527
27/01/2016
Author: Jim Green – Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

Ten new power reactors began supplying electricity last year (eight of them in China), and eight reactors were permanently shut down.1 Thus nuclear power's 20-year pattern of stagnation continues.

At the end of 1995, there were 434 operable reactors2; now there are 439. Moreover the 439 figure includes 41 reactors in Japan that have been shut-down for several years, and not all of them will be restarted. Current global nuclear capacity of 382 gigawatts (again including those 41 reactors in Japan) is 12% higher than the 1995 figure of 341 GW (an annual growth rate of 0.6%).

YEAR

1995

2005

2015

OPERABLE REACTORS

434

441

439

CAPACITY (GW)

341

368

382

Construction began on seven reactors last year, and a total of 67 power reactors are now under construction.1

The nuclear power industry's malaise was all too evident at the COP21 UN climate change conference in Paris in December. Former World Nuclear Association executive Steve Kidd noted:

"It was entirely predictable that the nuclear industry achieved precisely nothing at the recent Paris COP-21 talks and in the subsequent international agreement. ... Analysis of the submissions of the 196 governments that signed up to the Paris agreement, demonstrating their own individual schemes on how to reduce national carbon emissions, show that nearly all of them exclude nuclear power. The future is likely to repeat the experience of 2015 when 10 new reactors came into operation worldwide but 8 shut down. So as things stand, the industry is essentially running to stand still."3

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, only seven out of 196 countries mentioned nuclear power in their climate change mitigation plans prepared for the COP21 conference: China, India, Japan, Argentina, Turkey, Jordan and Niger.4

China's great leap forward

With 30 operable reactors, 24 under construction, and many more in the pipeline, China remains the only country with significant nuclear expansion plans.5 China is unlikely to meet any of its targets – 58 GW by 2020, 110 GW by 2030 and up to 250 GW by 2050 – but growth will be significant nonetheless. Growth could however be derailed by a serious accident, which is all the more likely because of China's inadequate nuclear safety standards, inadequate regulation, lack of transparency, repression of whistleblowers, world's worst insurance and liability arrangements, security risks, and widespread corruption.

Over the next 10–20 years, global nuclear capacity may increase marginally, with strong growth in China more than masking patterns of stagnation and decline elsewhere. Beyond that, the aging of the global fleet of power reactors will be sharply felt: the International Energy Agency anticipates almost 200 permanent shut-downs by 2040.6 Steve Kidd notes that the industry is running to stand still, and it will have to run faster to stand still as the annual number of shut-downs increases.

Growth elsewhere?

India is the only other country where there is a possibility of significant nuclear growth in the nearish-future. But nuclear growth in India has been modest – six reactor start-ups over the past decade7 – and may remain so. In early 2015, India claimed to have resolved one of the major obstacles to foreign investment by announcing measures to circumvent a liability law which does not completely absolve suppliers of responsibility for accidents.8 But those claims were met with scepticism and a capital strike by most foreign suppliers is still in effect. Strong public opposition – and the Indian state's brutal response to that opposition – will likely continue to slow nuclear expansion.9

In mid-January 2016, the latest auction of solar energy capacity in India achieved a new record low price of 4.34 rupees/kWh (US$0.064; €0.059). Energy minister Piyush Goyal said: "Through transparent auctions with a ready provision of land, transmission and the like, solar tariffs have come down below thermal power cost."10

Russia has 35 operating reactors and eight under construction (including two very low power floating reactors).11 Only six reactors have started up over the past 20 years, and only four over the past decade. The pattern of slow growth will continue.

As for Russia's ambitious nuclear export program, Steve Kidd noted in October 2014 that it "is reasonable to suggest that it is highly unlikely that Russia will succeed in carrying out even half of the projects in which it claims to be closely involved".12

South Korea has 25 operable reactors and three under construction.13 Six reactors have started up over the past decade.

South Africa plans 9.6 GW of new nuclear capacity to add to the two Koeberg reactors. But the nuclear program is more theatre than reality. Pro-nuclear commentator Dan Yurman states:

"South Africa's plans to build 9.6 GW of nuclear power will continue to be embroiled in political controversy and be hobbled by a lack of realistic financial plans to pay for the reactors. Claims by both Rosatom and Chinese state nuclear firms that they have won the business are not credible. Even if written down on paper, these claims of contracts cannot be guaranteed in the long term due to the political twists and turns by South African President Jacob Zuma. Most recently, he burned through three finance minister over differences about whether the country could afford the cost of the reactors said to be at as much as US$100 billion including upgrades to the electrical grid. Additionally, Zuma is distracted by political and personal scandals."14

Brazil's nuclear industry provided some theatre in 2015 with the arrest of Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva, the former CEO of Brazil's nuclear power utility Eletronuclear, for allegedly accepting bribes to fix the bidding process for the Angra 3 reactor under construction 100 km from Rio de Janeiro.15 Fourteen other people were also charged as a result of the federal police's Operation Radioactivity. "The arrest is a tragedy for the industry," said former Eletrobras' chief executive Luiz Pinguelli Rosa. "The industry was already in crisis, but now the corruption concerns are bound to delay Angra 3 further and cause costs to rise even more."

Newcomer countries: The World Nuclear Association claims that "over 45 countries are actively considering embarking upon nuclear power programmes."16 There's no truth to the claim. Only two 'newcomer' countries are actually building reactors − Belarus and the United Arab Emirates. Other countries might join the nuclear club but nuclear newcomers will be few and far between. Moreover, some countries are phasing out nuclear power. Countries with nuclear phase-out policies include Germany, Belgium, Taiwan, and Switzerland. Other countries – e.g. Sweden – may phase out nuclear power partly as a result of deliberate government policy and partly because of natural attrition: aging reactors are being shut down without replacement.

Stagnation and decline

Patterns of stagnation or slow decline in north America and western Europe can safely be predicted. In 2014, the European Commission forecast that EU nuclear generating capacity of 131 GW in 2010 will decline to 97 GW in 2025. The European Commission forecasts that nuclear's share of EU electricity generation will decline from 27% in 2010 to 21% in 2050, while the share from renewables will increase from 21% to 51.6%, and fossil fuels' share will decline from 52% to 27%.17

The most important nuclear power story of 2015 was legislation enacted in the French Parliament in July that will reduce nuclear's share of electricity generation to 50% by "around" 2025, and caps nuclear capacity at the current level of 63.2 GW. The legislation also establishes a target of 32% of electricity generation from renewables by 2030, a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and a 20% reduction in overall energy consumption by 2030.18,19,20

In April 2015, a report by ADEME, a French government agency under the Ministries of Ecology and Research, shows that 100% renewable electricity supply by 2050 in France is feasible and affordable.21

French EPR reactor projects in France and Finland are three times over budget and many years behind schedule. In April 2015 it was revealed that EPRs under construction in France and China may have cracked pressure vessels.22,23

A January 2016 update to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report discusses the miserable state of the French nuclear industry:

"The French state-controlled AREVA, having announced an outlook of a further "heavy loss" in 2015, was downgraded by credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's to B+ ("highly speculative"). On 29 December 2015, the company plunged to a new historic low on the stock market (€5.30 compared to €72.50 eight years ago). On 7 December 2015, Euronext ejected the French heavy weight Électricité de France (EDF), largest nuclear utility in the world and "pillar of the Paris Stock Exchange", from France's key stock market index, known as CAC40. One day later, EDF shares lost another four percent of their value, which led to a new low, a drop of over 85 percent from its 2007 level. ... The French nuclear industry's international competitors are not doing much better. AREVA's Russian counterpart Atomenergoprom as well as the Japanese controlled Toshiba-Westinghouse were both downgraded to "junk" ("speculative") by credit-rating agencies during the year."24

In the United States, utilities announced two more reactor shut-downs in 2015: the FitzPatrick reactor in New York will be shut down in 2016, and the Pilgrim reactor in Massachusetts will be closed between 2017 and 2019. Five reactors are under construction but a greater number have been shut down recently or will be shut down in the next few years. The last reactor to start up was in 1996. In August 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency released its final Clean Power Plan, which failed to give the nuclear industry the subsidies and handouts it was seeking.25

A decade ago, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission was flooded with applications for US$127 billion (€117b) worth of reactor projects. Now, obituaries for the US nuclear power renaissance are being written.26

The situation is broadly similar in the United Kingdom − the nuclear power industry there is scrambling just to stand still. It should be clear by the end of this year whether the extraordinarily expensive Hinkley C EPR project will go ahead. According to the World Nuclear Association, most of the UK's reactors are to be retired by 2023.27 If other projects prove to be as expensive and difficult as Hinkley C, it's unlikely that new nuclear capacity will match retirements.

In Japan, only two of the country's 43 operable reactors are actually operating. Perhaps half or two-thirds of the reactors will eventually restart. Five reactors were permanently shut down in 2015, and the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi have been written off. Before the Fukushima disaster, Tokyo planned to add another 15−20 reactors to the fleet of 55, giving a total of 70−75 reactors. Thus, Japan's nuclear power industry will be around half the size it might have been if not for the Fukushima disaster.

New reactor types to the rescue?

Rhetoric about super-safe, better-than-sliced-bread Generation IV reactors will likely continue unabated. That said, critical reports released by the US and French governments last year may signal a shift away from Generation IV reactor rhetoric.

The report by the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) − a government authority under the Ministries of Defense, the Environment, Industry, Research, and Health − states: "There is still much R&D to be done to develop the Generation IV nuclear reactors, as well as for the fuel cycle and the associated waste management which depends on the system chosen."28 IRSN is also sceptical about safety claims: "At the present stage of development, IRSN does not notice evidence that leads to conclude that the systems under review are likely to offer a significantly improved level of safety compared with Generation III reactors ... "

The US Government Accountability Office released a report in July 2015 on the status of small modular reactors (SMRs) and other 'advanced' reactor concepts in the US.29 The report concluded:

"While light water SMRs and advanced reactors may provide some benefits, their development and deployment face a number of challenges. Both SMRs and advanced reactors require additional technical and engineering work to demonstrate reactor safety and economics ... Depending on how they are resolved, these technical challenges may result in higher-cost reactors than anticipated, making them less competitive with large LWRs [light water reactors] or power plants using other fuels ... Both light water SMRs and advanced reactors face additional challenges related to the time, cost, and uncertainty associated with developing, certifying or licensing, and deploying new reactor technology, with advanced reactor designs generally facing greater challenges than light water SMR designs. It is a multi-decade process, with costs up to $1 billion to $2 billion, to design and certify or license the reactor design, and there is an additional construction cost of several billion dollars more per power plant."

According to a US think tank, 48 companies in north America, backed by more than US$1.6 billion (€1.48) in private capital, are developing plans for advanced nuclear reactors.30 Even if all that capital was invested in a single R&D project, it would not suffice to commercialize a new reactor type.

Dan Yurman notes in his review of nuclear developments in 2015: "Efforts by start-up type firms to build advanced reactors will continue to generate a lot of media hype, but questions are abundant as to whether this activity will result in prototypes. For venture capital firms that have invested in advanced designs, cashing out may mean licensing a design to an established reactor vendor rather than building a first-of-a-kind unit."14

References:

1. WNN, 4 Jan 2016, 'World starts up 10, shuts down eight, nuclear reactors in 2015', www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-World-starts-up-10-shuts-down-eight-nuclea...

2. www.iaea.org/PRIS/WorldStatistics/WorldTrendNuclearPowerCapacity.aspx

3. Steve Kidd, 8 Jan 2016, 'After COP-21 - where does nuclear stand?', www.neimagazine.com/opinion/opinionafter-cop-21---where-does-nuclear-sta...
4. Miklos Gaspar, 18 Dec 2015, 'Q&A: What's Next After COP21?', www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/qa-what%E2%80%99s-next-after-cop21?

5. Andrew Topf, 27 Dec 2015, 'China's $1 Trillion Nuclear Plan', http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/Chinas-1-Trillion-N...

6. International Energy Agency, 2014, 'World Economic Outlook 2014', www.worldenergyoutlook.org

7. www.iaea.org/PRIS/CountryStatistics/CountryDetails.aspx?current=IN

8. 30 Jan 2015, 'A breakthrough with India's nuclear liability law?', Nuclear Monitor #797, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/797/breakthrough-indias-nuclea...

9. Kumar Sundaram, 15 Oct 2015, 'Koodankulam nuclear plant in India is not working', Nuclear Monitor #812, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/812/koodankulam-nuclear-plant-...

10. Giles Parkinson, 21 Jan 2016, 'India energy minister says solar power now cheaper than coal', http://reneweconomy.com.au/2016/india-energy-minister-says-solar-power-n...

11. www.iaea.org/PRIS/CountryStatistics/CountryDetails.aspx?current=RU

12. Steve Kidd, 6 Oct 2014, "The world nuclear industry – is it in terminal decline?", www.neimagazine.com/opinion/opinionthe-world-nuclear-industry-is-it-in-t...

13. www.iaea.org/PRIS/CountryStatistics/CountryDetails.aspx?current=KR

14. Dan Yurman, 20 Dec 2015, '2016 Look Ahead for Nuclear Energy', http://neutronbytes.com/2015/12/20/2016-look-ahead-for-nuclear-energy/

15. 23 Sept 2015, 'Brazil's nuclear power program in crisis', Nuclear Monitor #811, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/811/brazils-nuclear-power-prog...

16. www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Others/Emerging-Nuclear-Ener...

17. WNN, 9 Jan 2014, 'Policies hold European nuclear steady', www.world-nuclear-news.org/EE-Politics-hold-European-nuclear-steady-0901...

18. Tara Patel, 23 July 2015, 'France Passes New Energy Law Quadruples Carbon Price', www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-07-23/france-passes-new-energy-law-...

19. WNN, 23 July 2015, 'French energy transition bill adopted', www.world-nuclear-news.org/NP-French-energy-transition-bill-adopted-2307...

20. Michael Stothard, 26 Nov 2015, 'France's nuclear industry on back foot over new energy law', www.ft.com/cms/s/0/489bea54-84a3-11e5-8095-ed1a37d1e096.html

21. Terje Osmundsen, 20 April 2015, www.energypost.eu/french-government-study-95-renewable-power-mix-cheaper...

L'Agence de l'Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l'Energie (ADEME), 2015, 'Vers un mix électrique 100% renouvelable en 2050',

www.ademe.fr/sites/default/files/assets/documents/rapport100enr_comite.pdf

http://fr.scribd.com/doc/261245927/le-rapport-100-energies-renouvelables

22. 15 Oct 2015, 'EPR fiasco unravelling in France and the UK', Nuclear Monitor #812, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/812/epr-fiasco-unravelling-fra...

23. 7 May 2015, 'European Pressurized Reactors − a negative learning curve on steroids', Nuclear Monitor #803, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/803/european-pressurized-react...

24. 4 Jan 2016, 'World Nuclear Industry Status as of 1 January 2016: Mind the China Effect', www.worldnuclearreport.org/UPDATE1-World-Nuclear-Industry-Status-as-of-1...

25. Tim Judson, 18 Aug 2015, 'US EPA takes nuclear out of the Clean Power Plan', Nuclear Monitor #808, www.wiseinternational.org/nuclear-monitor/808/us-epa-takes-nuclear-out-c...

26. Dan Yurman, 8 Jan 2016, 'What happened to the U.S. nuclear renaissance?', http://neutronbytes.com/2016/01/08/what-happened-to-the-u-s-nuclear-rena...

27. www.world-nuclear.org/info/Country-Profiles/Countries-T-Z/United-Kingdom/

28. IRSN, 2015, 'Review of Generation IV Nuclear Energy Systems', www.irsn.fr/EN/newsroom/News/Pages/20150427_Generation-IV-nuclear-energy...

Direct download: www.irsn.fr/EN/newsroom/News/Documents/IRSN_Report-GenIV_04-2015.pdf

29. U.S. Government Accountability Office, July 2015, 'Nuclear Reactors: Status and challenges in development and deployment of new commercial concepts', GAO-15-652, www.gao.gov/assets/680/671686.pdf

30. http://thirdway.org/events/advanced-nuclear-summit

Mainstreaming the nuclear exit

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#812
4504
15/10/2015
Michael Mariotte − President of the Nuclear Information & Resource Service
Article

It's no great revelation to say that the mainstream media, fractured though it may be these days, holds great power. It's not direct power; the media can't make actual decisions. Rather, the media grabs a theme − a meme if you want − and holds on to it, and repeats it, and provides slight twists to it so it can be repeated again, until it becomes accepted wisdom. While the media, especially the mainstream media, is often behind the curve, behind reality, once it catches up and snares and spreads that meme, it doesn't take long for it to establish itself. And once a concept becomes accepted wisdom, then the actual decisions tend to follow in unison. As a group, politicians rarely stray far from accepted wisdom.

For many years, from the 1950s through the '70s, the accepted wisdom was that nuclear power was safe, advanced, and a great asset to society. Then reality crashed the party with Three Mile Island and the nation's most trusted person Walter Cronkite's terrifying (although incorrect) statement that radiation was coming through the walls of the containment building, and the accepted wisdom began to turn away from nuclear power; Chernobyl was too distant in both distance and political structure to end the industry entirely, but it was icing on the cake. And thus nuclear power began a period of decline that reached a nadir in 2000 when there was not a single reactor under construction anywhere in the western world.

But then, the media − which loves a man bites dog story − latched onto the idea pitched by nuclear PR flacks and backed by a couple dozen (in retrospect, mostly bogus) construction application licenses, that a nuclear "renaissance" was in full swing. Once again, nuclear was not only acceptable, it was a preferred energy source, free of carbon emissions. That notion − and forced payment from ratepayers by Public Service Commissions more supportive of industry than those same ratepayers − was enough to get the construction cranes set up at Vogtle and Summer at least. Limited reactor construction also resumed in Europe, and China joined the pack too.

Reality showed its cruel face again, however, as costs for those reactors spiraled upward and construction schedules indicated that for each month of construction, the utilities gained nothing − they were still the same amount of months away from completion. Adding to the crush of the "renaissance" was Fukushima, which brought the legitimate fears of the nuclear age to a new generation.

While the "renaissance" fizzled, at least the industry could take comfort in the fact that it could continue to rely on, and make money from, its large number of paid-off reactors. Except as those reactors aged and as they confronted new costs from required Fukushima-related upgrades (although those have been extremely modest, especially in the U.S.), their operating and maintenance costs increased. Even more importantly, the costs of competing electricity generation sources plummeted at the same time. The result was an ever-increasing number of existing reactors are either now losing money or on the verge of doing so.

And the mainstream media has finally picked up on that reality: that it's not just that nuclear reactors have safety issues and radioactive waste problems and the like but that nuclear power can no longer compete with the alternatives. Moreover, the changes in energy costs that cause that reality are not only making nuclear power obsolete, they are making the entire utility system and its reliance on baseload power obsolete. And the more that reality is repeated and becomes accepted wisdom, the more real decisions reflect that.

Thus, you get the EPA's Clean Power Plan dropping its intent to prop up existing reactors. The EPA's Gina McCarthy may still be giving lip service to the nuclear industry1, but where it counted the EPA did what clean energy advocates wanted, not the nuclear industry.

That's one example of a real decision.

So was the Washington DC Public Service Commission's scuttling of the proposed Exelon takeover of Pepco. Behind that decision was sincere concern both about Exelon's reliance on a failing fleet of nuclear reactors and its hostility to renewables. Exelon is now trying to sweeten the deal2 but what it doesn't seem to understand is that its roadblock is Exelon itself − perhaps the epitome of the utility of the past.

Recently there have been a plethora of articles picking up the same theme: alternatives to nuclear are cheaper than existing reactors, and that means big changes ahead for the entire utility industry.

Consider this passage from an article in U.S. News, once the most staid and Republican of the three big weekly news-magazines: "Cheap natural gas, together with plummeting prices for wind and solar, has upended the energy sector – not only making nuclear plants' huge upfront costs, endless regulatory approvals and years-long construction especially prohibitive, but undercutting the very idea of a centralized power system."3

That's exactly the kind of sentence that sparks nightmares in utility suites, especially those most dependent on nuclear and coal power.

The previous accepted wisdom, that if nothing else nuclear reactors are "carbon-free" or nearly so, and that closing them would mean giving up on fighting climate change, is also beginning to bow to reality. Because while cheap and dirty gas is indeed a competitor today, in the longer run (and not much longer), the real competition is clean renewables.

A piece from Politico − about as mainstream as it gets − focused on the perspective of a UBS analyst on Entergy's troubled Fitzpatrick and Ginna reactors. Consider how this article ended:

"The loss of the Ginna plant alone could drive the state's air emissions up 7 percent, that earlier analysis found. Losing another plant, or possibly two, will make it harder to meet tough new federal pollution standards. However, to offset the loss of New York's nuclear facilities, the state could place increasing emphasis on growing the renewable industry. 'If retirements move forward as contemplated, we see a real corresponding uplift to the renewable industry as this becomes the growing source of 'plugging' for any further holes in meeting prospective carbon targets,' he wrote."4

In other words, we don't need to worry that carbon reduction goals can't be met if reactors like Ginna close. Renewables will take their place, and will do so quickly. Indeed, the shutdown of reactors actually opens up the market for a deluge of new renewables.

There were other articles with a similar bent − one from Motley Fool, for example. The mainstream media have finally caught on. It's not just GreenWorld and a few other clean energy blogs anymore. Nuclear power can't compete. Moreover, there is no downside to that. In fact, it's all upside. Closing reactors will hasten the clean energy future and the transformation of electric utilities generally.

The long-sought phase-out of nuclear power began in 2013. It's taken a short break since then, but it's about to resume (indeed it has resumed with Entergy's October 13 announcement that the single-reactor Pilgrim plant in Massachusetts will close by mid-2019). Over the next 18 months or so, state legislatures and regulatory bodies will be making decisions about bailing out a host of troubled reactors. But for the nuclear industry, those decisions are coming too late. Their timing couldn't be much worse. It's not just that bailing out big baseload reactors (and old coal plants for that matter) no longer makes economic sense, it's that the very existence of those obsolete reactors stands in the way of clean energy expansion. Understanding that, and for politicians knowing that it is accepted wisdom, makes the decisions very easy.

References:

1. www.nei.org/News-Media/News/News-Archives/EPA-Chief-Reiterates-Clean-Pow...

2. www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/news/2015/09/25/exelon-to-refile-bid-to-ac...

3. www.usnews.com/news/special-reports/the-manhattan-project/articles/2015/...

4. www.capitalnewyork.com/article/albany/2015/09/8577897/analyst-tighter-em...

Fanciful growth projections from the World Nuclear Association and the IAEA

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#811
4498
23/09/2015
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor
Article

The 17th edition of the World Nuclear Association's biennial 'Nuclear Fuel Report' has been released.1 According to the WNA, the report is "definitive reference source of the world industry" and is available for £870 (US$1340, €1200). Some would say the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report is the definitive source − and it's free!2

"Nuclear electricity output is set to increase at a faster rate over the next five years than we have seen for more than two decades," said WNA director general Agneta Rising.3 The claim is disingenuous given that growth over the past two decades has been negligible − there was 438 operational reactors at the end of 2014 compared to 434 in 1995.4

The WNA provides three scenarios for nuclear power from 2015 (379 gigawatts capacity) to 2035. In the 'reference' and 'upper' scenarios, nuclear reaches 552 GW and 720 GW respectively − growth of 46−90% over 20 years. In the 'lower' scenario, nuclear capacity stagnates until 2030 and then declines with "many" reactor closures in the period to 2035.

The middle 'reference' scenario in such reports is typically promoted as being the most credible − by industry bodies themselves and by the mainstream media. Thus Reuters reported: "The World Nuclear Association Nuclear Fuel report forecasts global nuclear capacity will grow to 552 gigawatts equivalent (GWe) by 2035 from 379 GWe currently, as many countries build new plants as a lower-carbon option and for energy security."3

However, based on long experience, a rule of thumb to apply to projections from nuclear promotional bodies is to ignore the upper and middle/reference scenarios but give some credence to the low scenario. Even the WNA's reference scenario of 46% nuclear capacity growth in 20 years − a compound annual growth rate of 1.9% − is modest and falls well short of matching industry rhetoric about a nuclear 'renaissance'.

The WNA states:

"In both established and potential markets, nuclear power faces an increased competitive challenge from other modes of generation especially in deregulated markets, while continuing to face regulatory and political hurdles. Electricity demand growth is low in most of the countries where nuclear power is well-established, but remains strong in many developing countries and it is in these countries that the great majority of nuclear capacity growth is to be expected."1

The WNA's wishful thinking is at odds with a recent assessment by Steve Kidd, an independent consultant and economist who worked for the WNA for 17 years. Kidd writes:

"Looking forward, despite the many forecasts that point to sustained growth of nuclear, there will be a substantial number of reactor closures. ... Closures for economic reasons are increasingly worrying. Electricity markets are changing rapidly and grids are getting integrated. The incursion of cheap shale gas and lots of renewable power is beginning to cause acute problems for today's operating nuclear units. Loadfollowing, which is economically sub-optimal, will become essential for some reactors to continue. Even where production costs are maintained at low levels, revenues become unstable and reactors can start losing money. Incentives for zero-carbon and reliable operation are found to be insufficient. It is almost certain that further units in the US will close for these reasons. In Europe, the same is likely to happen as the renewable power input surges upwards. ...

"We have learned one thing for certain: it's a lot easier to shut a reactor down than to build a new one. There are alternatives to nuclear for power generation and the competition is getting continuously stiffer. Hence well-researched and articulate critiques against the concept of any nuclear growth ... such as the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report, are becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. The combination of aging operating reactors, delayed construction plans combined with escalating costs of new units and competition from renewable power technologies is becoming a compelling story to any lay reader. ...
"Whether the number of reactor start-ups exceeds the number of closures depends on China. Over the next few years, the number of start-ups (five to six per annum) combined with Japanese reactors returning to service should certainly outweigh the number of closures. But in the 2020s things get more unpredictable for both closures and start-ups. Most people's expectations of Chinese growth in nuclear have been cut back substantially. ... Russia's domestic program has also slowed, while many of the claimed reactor export deals are little more than statements of intent. India remains something of an enigma, but it shows few signs of overcoming general problems in completing major infrastructure projects, including local land rights and volatile public opinion."

"The optimistic view that nuclear will eventually take up the substantial place allocated for it in energy scenarios that mitigate climate change (e.g. some of the scenarios in the International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook or the main case in the IEA/OECD-NEA Technology Roadmap − Nuclear Energy) holds increasingly little water."

IAEA report

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has produced the 35th edition of its publication, 'Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050'.5 The report provides estimates of energy, electricity and nuclear power trends up to the years 2030 and 2050. The IAEA has yet again downwardly revised its projections of nuclear power growth, and now projects capacity growth by between 2.4% and 68% from 2014 to 2030 (average annual capacity growth of 0.1−3.3%). Uncertainty related to energy policy, license renewals, shutdowns and future constructions accounts for the wide range, the IAEA states.

The IAEA notes numerous "challenges":

"Over the short term, several factors are weighing on the growth prospects of nuclear power, leading to temporary delays in deployment of some plants, according to the report. These factors include low prices for natural gas, subsidized renewable energy sources, and the global financial crisis, which presents hurdles for capital-intensive projects. Heightened safety requirements as a result of stress tests introduced in the wake of the Fukushima accident and the deployment of advanced technologies have also contributed to delays."6

Effects of the Fukushima accident include "earlier than anticipated retirements, delayed or possibly cancelled new construction, and increased costs owing to changing regulatory requirements".5

For many years the IAEA has indulged in the subterfuge of talking about 'operable' reactors, including those that are not operating but might one day be restarted. In its latest report the IAEA is even more disingenuous − all 'operable' reactors are now described as being 'in operation' even though a good number are not (in particular, 42 reactors in Japan).

The IAEA notes that more than half of the world's 438 power reactors 'in operation' are over 30 years old. Despite the need to replace "scores" of retiring reactors, the IAEA claims that nuclear power is still set to maintain − and possibly increase − its role in electricity generation. "In order to maintain such a role, each retiring reactor would need to be replaced," said David Shropshire, the mathematically-challenged head of the IAEA's Planning and Economic Studies Section.6

In fact, nuclear power accounted for 17.6% of world electricity generation in 1996 but just 11.1% in 2014, and it will not maintain that share unless fanciful growth projections are realized and/or total electricity generation and demand stagnate. According to the IAEA report, nuclear accounted for 11.1% of total world electricity generation in 2014 (in terrawatt-hours) and will account for 8.6−11.3% in 2030 and 4.2−10.8% in 2050.

The report provides regional projections:

  • Middle East and South Asia: current capacity of 6.9 GW projected to reach 25.9−43.8 GW by 2030.
  • Eastern Europe: current capacity of 49.7 GW projected to reach 64.1−93.5 GW by 2030.
  • 'Far East' (including China and South Korea): current capacity of 87.1 GW projected to reach 131.8−219 GW by 2030.
  • Western Europe: current capacity of 113.7 GW to fall to 62.7−112 GW by 2030.
  • North America: current capacity of 112.1 GW, projected capacity in 2030 of 92−139.7 GW.

The IAEA notes that its projections out to 2050 are all but meaningless given the high degree of uncertainty: "Given all the uncertainties, these estimates should be considered as suggestive of the potential outcomes."5

The report states that that nuclear power accounted for 4.6% of the world's total energy requirement in 2014, and estimates that nuclear's contribution will be 4.1−5.3% in 2030 and 2.3−4.8% in 2050.

The IAEA's 'low' scenario − negligible 2.4% growth of global nuclear capacity from 2014−2030 (0.1% annual growth) − is designed to produce "conservative but plausible" estimates, the IAEA states, and assumes a continuation of current market, technology and resource trends with few changes to policies affecting nuclear power.

To its credit, the IAEA has published data demonstrating its habit of overestimating nuclear power growth.7 The IAEA's 'high' forecasts have consistently proven to be ridiculous. For example:

  • In 1985, the IAEA's high estimate was 702 GW capacity in the year 2000, but actual capacity in 2000 was 350 GW (50% of the estimate).
  • In 1990, the IAEA's high estimate was 528 GW capacity in the year 2005, but actual capacity in 2005 was 368 GW (70% of the estimate).

Even the IAEA's 'low' forecasts are too high − by 13% on average. For example:

  • In 1985, the IAEA's 'low' estimate was 502 GW capacity in the year 2000, but actual capacity in 2000 was 350 GW (70% of the estimate).
  • In 1990, the IAEA's 'low' estimate was 450 GW capacity in the year 2005, but actual capacity in 2005 was 368 GW (82% of the estimate).

The data compiled by the IAEA shows that only one of the IAEA's forecasts has proven to be accurate − and that was just a five-year 'low' forecast of growth from 2000 to 2005.

The IAEA's forecasts have been sharply reduced since 2010 as the following table shows.

IAEA series: 'Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates' (iaea.org)

 

2010

2011

2013

2015

Low estimate 2030 nuclear capacity (GWe)

546

501

435

385

High estimate 2030 nuclear capacity (GWe)

803

746

722

632

Estimate 2030 nuclear share of elec. generation capacity (%)(6.2% in 2014)

8.5−10.4

5.2−6.2

4.5−6.2

3.8−5.1

Estimate 2050 nuclear share of elec. generation capacity (%)

5.0−11.9

2.7−6.0

2.2−5.6

1.8−4.8

The IAEA's current 'low' estimate for 2030 (385 GWe) is down 29.5% from the pre-Fukushima, 2010 'low' estimate of 546 GWe. The high estimate (632 GWe) is down 21% from the pre-Fukushima, 2010 high estimate of 803 GWe.

References:

1. WNA, 2015, 'The Nuclear Fuel Report: Global Scenarios for Demand and Supply Availability 2015-2035', 17th edition, http://world-nuclear.org/World-Nuclear-Association/Publications/Publicat...

2. www.worldnuclearreport.org/

3. Nina Chestney, 10 Sept 2015, 'World nuclear capacity set to grow by 45 percent by 2035', www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/10/us-energy-nuclear-idUSKCN0RA14220150910

4. IAEA, 'Nuclear Power Capacity Trend', https://www.iaea.org/PRIS/WorldStatistics/WorldTrendNuclearPowerCapacity...

5. IAEA, 2015, 'Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050', www-pub.iaea.org/books/IAEABooks/10939/Energy-Electricity-and-Nuclear-Power-Estimates-for-the-Period-up-to-2050-2015-Edition, www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/Publications/PDF/rds1-35web.pdf

6. Jeffrey Donovan / IAEA, 8 Sept 2015, 'IAEA Sees Global Nuclear Power Capacity Expanding in Decades to Come', www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/iaea-sees-global-nuclear-power-capacity-exp...

7. IAEA, 2007, Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power: Developments and Projections − 25 Years Past and Future', tables 33 and 34, p.56, www-pub.iaea.org/mtcd/publications/pdf/pub1304_web.pdf

New Swedish government aims for sustainability, nuclear energy in question

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#793
4422
30/10/2014
Charly Hultén, WISE Sweden
Article

On September 14, Swedish voters threw out a Right-centrist coalition that had been in power for eight years. The Social Democrats (31.0%) find themselves in a weak coalition with the Greens (6.9%), having chosen to exclude the Left (5.7%) from the government. Green Party leader Åsa Romson is Minister for Climate and the Environment and Deputy Prime Minister.

With less than 40% of the votes in Parliament, the new government faces the prospect of having to negotiate ad hoc majorities from issue to issue. The first hurdle, of course, was reaching agreement within the coalition. Non-socialist commentators touted energy policy as 'Mission Impossible' in this regard, even before the election. But to their – and perhaps even many Social Democrats' – surprise, on October 1 the parties announced that they had reached an agreement.

Up to then, the Greens were very clear on nuclear energy, urging a prompt phase-out – taking as many reactors off-line as possible, as soon as possible. The Social Democrats, however, have been of two minds regarding nuclear. For decades. Especially the party leader, now Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, who formerly headed up Sweden's most powerful union, IF Metall, has been hesitant about any move that might endanger investment in Swedish industry or Swedish jobs. Which, to his mind, a phase-out would do.

Meanwhile, the Social Democratic party congress has taken a stand for sustainability in the energy sector, favoring investment in renewable energy sources and aiming for a phase-out of nuclear when renewables and energy saving measures fill the gap nuclear would leave behind.

The new Social-Democratic Minister for Industry, Mikael Damberg, will head a red-green panel of ministers that will oversee the management of Vattenfall. Damberg has long spoken for the 'sustainability' wing of the party, but in recent weeks he has also characterised Vattenfall's demands on the German government as "reasonable".

The compromise reached between the two parties rests on the "as soon as possible" that unites all three groups, but does not specify either the number of reactors that can be taken off-line or when. Nor does it forbid future 'new build'. What it does contain is this:

  • Nuclear energy shall "assume a greater share of its costs to society".
  • Reactor safety shall be improved – e.g., cooling mechanisms that are independent of the reactor's status – lessons from Fukushima that are being acted out throughout the EU.
  • The surcharge on electricity use, levied to cover the costs of waste management and storage, will be increased (albeit not enough to actually cover costs).
  • State-owned Vattenfall has been instructed to suspend immediately all planning for new nuclear reactors − reputed to have cost well over 100 million SEK (US$13.7m; €10.8m) to date. Instead, the company shall focus on developing renewable energy sources.
  • Alongside energy savings, offshore wind and solar power will be stimulated.

There is no parliamentary majority for phasing out nuclear energy. The new government is using its prerogative as owner of Vattenfall to issue a directive to the company. Vattenfall was the only actor in Sweden that actually had plans for 'new build'. Does this mean The End for nuclear power?

It is the first point above that is open to widely ranging interpretations. Put another way, it means an end to at least some of the de facto subsidies that nuclear power enjoys. But how far-reaching is the goal? Does it mean, for example, that reactor operators will have to take out liability insurance, like any other risky business? At present they do not.

The compromise has been applauded for its political sophistication. Other than the directive to Vattenfall, there is no fiat, no explicit prohibition of either R&D or investment in nuclear reactors. The 'how many' and 'when' is left to two extraparliamentary insitutions: the market, on the one hand, and a new Energy Commission, to be composed of major energy users, providers, authorities and politicians, that will be asked to discuss Sweden's path toward sustainability in the energy sector after 2020.

The principal motive for convening the Energy Commission is the PM's desire to assure the long-term stability of the new energy policy. Uncertainty has been perceived to be the Number One threat to the health of the economy, and a major deterrent to investments in energy saving technologies and a shift to renewable sources.

The glut

The truth is that Swedish nuclear energy is no longer the 'cash cow' that it once was. Sweden produces more electricity that it can use, and the export market is not what it used to be. The glut has depressed prices. The expected expansion of renewables, in combination with energy saving technologies, has dampened enthusiasm for investment in nuclear energy. Just when an ageing reactor park requires massive investment.

Some weeks before the election, Mikael Odenberg, CEO for Svenska Kraftnät (the state-owned power distribution utility), published his view, that there is currently no rational basis for investing in new nuclear capacity. Then, only days before the election, Oskarshamns Kraftgrupp (OKG) reported an operating loss of 2.5 billion krona (US$343m; €271m) for their two oldest reactors over the past two years. (Two additional reactors at Ringhals are equally small and old, but their owner, Vattenfall, has not publicly discussed their profitability.)

As for the proposed Energy Commission, the Prime Minister has stated the government's "position at entry" into the discussions: "Nuclear power will be replaced by renewable energy sources and energy savings." The immediate reaction from the most pro-nuclear parties and organisations has been one of shock. Vattenfall's new CEO among them. Energy-intensive industry and IF Metall are up in arms − but will no doubt take part in the discussions once their shock subsides. The Liberal Party leader complains that the outcome of the talks has already been decided and seems disinclined to take part. But the smaller former coalition parties are still in 'campaign mode'. Hopefully, they will get back down to the business of Parliament soon.

So, the situation at present is not entirely clear. The new government has signalled a change of course in the energy sector. Sustainability is the goal. But how long it will take to get the ship on course remains to be seen. The composition of the Energy Commission and its members' willingness to think outside their accustomed boxes will be decisive.

Energy Commission

In connection with the publication of a comprehensive progress report on the attainment of Sweden's sustainability goals, Erik Brandsma, Director-General of the Swedish Energy Agency, urges broad participation in the planned Energy Commission. In Dagens Industri on October 2, Brandsma wrote:

"As for the attainment of our goals, here is where we will stand in 2020:

  • The goal of 50% renewable energy: We'll be at 55%.
  • The goal of 10% renewable energy in the transport sector: It will actually be 26%, thanks to the use of bio-fuel additives.
  • The goal of 20% lower energy intensity (energy efficiency measures) since 2008: 19%, but the figure is sensitive to GNP growth and the possible shutdown of a nuclear power reactor before 2020.
  • The goal of 40% less CO2-emissions (since 1990) – we'll reach this goal, too, with the help of emissions reductions of 40 million tons outside Sweden's borders. ...

"Energy is decisive for our competitive strength and quality of life. The challenges will come after 2020. But to ensure that we can meet these challenges we need, now, to engage in a constructuve dialogue on energy systems of the future. We need to move on from a for-or-against debate over individual energy sources [a reference to the bitter legacy of Sweden's referendum on nuclear energy in 1980] and instead consider the whole.

"'The whole' implies a program of action that tackles energy efficiency, energy production, storage and distribution (the grid). And all this in an international context. Different groups having an interest in energy – industry, interest groups and politicians – have a lot of ideas about "what others should do", and they voice these ideas in seminars, studies and articles in the media. Now it is time for a constructive dialogue, in which all the participants shoulder a responsibility.

"A new Energy Commission may be a good vehicle for such a discussion. We have the data, but facts and documentation mean nothing unless they are used in constructive dialogue. We all have a common goal: a sustainable energy system for Sweden. This means competitive strength, security and minimal impacts on human beings, the environment and the climate."

Swedish Radiation Safety Authority: Second-rate safety good enough for old reactors

After the multiple meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-ichi in 2011, nuclear safety authorities throughout Europe have reviewed nuclear power plants' ability to withstand "extreme external conditions". In Sweden, the Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) has focused particularly on the need to have independent core cooling systems, i.e., systems that can supply cooling water to the core when existing cooling systems fail and the electricity supply has been cut off. The systems shall have a capacity to operate at least 72 hours and be designed to operate under highly improbable, up to one-in-a-million, conditions. So far, so good.

A memorandum circulated to operators on October 9 requires fully functional independent systems to have been installed in every reactor by 2017. But the memorandum also notes that, in the interval to 2020, SSM will accept so-called "intermediate solutions" which, they admit, may not provide the same level of safety as mandated. They mention mobile on-site backup systemsequipment that can be moved between reactors as needed – as one such solution. (Advantage: they are cheaper. The main drawbacks are three: the time it takes to get them on-site and set up, whether they can be moved under emergency conditions; and they can only serve one reactor at a time.)

Ironically, SSM finds such second-rate solutions appropriate for reactors that have been in operation longer than they were designed to be and may be expected to be taken offline "shortly after 2020".

This assessment drew immediate fire from Greenpeace Sweden. The organisation has long studied the problems of over-age reactors, and the statistics clearly show aged reactors to be risky business. Sweden has four reactors that are 40+ − two at Oskarshamn, two at Ringhals.

Rather than trying to save reactor owners' money, Greenpeace argues, the regulator should focus on safety. If their owners don't think the old reactors are worth the expense, maybe it's time to shut them down. Moreover, Greenpeace continues, the determination violates the Environmental Code, which requires use of "best available technology" in all aspects of nuclear safety. It is this last point that may well force SSM to think again.

Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#785
24/04/2014
Article

From WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor #785, 24 April 2014

To subscribe to Nuclear Monitor, click here.

US NRC issues uranium license on Lakota Indian land

On April 8, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued an operating license to the Powertech Uranium Corp for its proposed in-situ leach (ISL) uranium mine in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. The move came four months ahead of a public hearing scheduled to hear from opponents of the project. The proposed mine still needs final approval from the South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment, the South Dakota Water Management Board, and the US Environmental Protection Agency before it can began operations.

At least eight other uranium companies are known to be targeting the Black Hills. Lilias Jarding of the Black Hills Clean Water Alliance told The Ecologist: "We're afraid that if this project goes through ... we'll end up with a ring of uranium mines around the Black Hills.

Activists say that Powertech is working to minimise oversight of its operations. In 2011, Powertech secured the passage of legislation effectively barring South Dakota's Department of Environment and Natural Resources from regulating ISL projects, leaving the state with direct oversight only of water-use and waste-disposal issues. The company has also defeated several measures aimed at increasing oversight, including, a bill that would have required Powertech to demonstrate its ability to restore groundwater quality before opening the new mine.

Over a period of two decades beginning in the early 1950s, about a thousand open-cut uranium mines were opened in and around the Black Hills region. The last mine closed in 1973, but the region remains littered with radioactive debris.

He Sapa, the Black Hills, is a sacred site to the Lakota and numerous other Western Tribes who have long gone to the area for ceremony, hunting game, harvesting medicines and for spiritual renewal. Despite the 1980 Supreme Court ruling in United States v. Sioux Nation, that ruled the US illegally stole the Black Hills from the Lakota, the government has refused to return the lands to the Lakota and it remains a continued central source of conflict between the Lakota and the U.S. government.

The proposed uranium mine is opposed by Indian groups, ranchers, environmentalists and the Rapid City Council. Debra White Plume, an Oglala Lakota activist, said: "We're all standing together. This ain't just a handful of little Indians out on the prairies that you can run over ... this is a broad array of resistance to uranium mining. If they close every door to us, then the only door open to us is direct action. You've got to walk through that door if you're serious about protecting yourself and Mother Earth."

Lakota activists fought off a similar uranium-mining project in 2007, and Debra White Plume says she's determined to see off Powertech.

http://lastrealindians.com/u-s-nuclear-regulatory-commission-issues-uran...

www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2299391/protect_our_sacred_water...

More information:
The Black Hills Clean Water Alliance www.sdcleanwateralliance.org/
Defenders of the Black Hills www.defendblackhills.org/
Dakota Rural Action http://dakotarural.org/

Protecting against insider nuclear threats

Matthew Bunn and Scott Sagan have written a useful paper on insider nuclear threats − 'A Worst Practices Guide to Insider Threats: Lessons from Past Mistakes'. The paper is part of a larger project on insider threats under the Global Nuclear Future project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

A recent example was the apparent insider sabotage of a diesel generator at the San Onofre nuclear plant in the United States in 2012; the most spectacular was a 1982 incident in which an insider placed explosives directly on the steel pressure vessel head of a nuclear reactor in South Africa and detonated them − thankfully the plant had yet to begin operating. All known thefts of plutonium or highly enriched uranium appear to have been perpetrated by insiders or with the help of insiders. Similarly, most of the sabotage incidents that have occurred at nuclear facilities were perpetrated by insiders.

Bunn and Sagan look at past disasters caused by insiders and draw from them 10 lessons about what not to do. The lessons are as follows:

#1: Don't assume that serious insider problems are NIMO (Not In My Organization)

#2: Don't assume that background checks will solve the insider problem

#3: Don't assume that red flags will be read properly

#4: Don't assume that insider conspiracies are impossible

#5: Don't rely on single protection measures

#6: Don't assume that organizational culture and employee disgruntlement don't matter

#7: Don't forget that insiders may know about security measures and how to work around them

#8: Don't assume that security rules are followed

#9: Don't assume that only consciously malicious insider actions matter

#10: Don't focus only on prevention and miss opportunities for mitigation

Matthew Bunn and Scott Sagan, April 2014, 'A Worst Practices Guide to Insider Threats: Lessons from Past Mistakes', Occasional Paper, American Academy of Arts & Sciences,

www.amacad.org/content/publications/publication.aspx?d=1425

Small reactor prospects diminishing

World Nuclear News reported on April 14 that Babcock & Wilcox will slash its spending on the 'mPower' small modular reactor project, having failed to find customers or investors. B&W's mPower design was prioritised for deployment under a five-year cost-matching agreement with the US Department of Energy (DoE), and with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) named as the lead customer. The three of them supplied a budget of US$150 million [€109m] per year to develop mPower, hoping to build the first unit by 2022. Six units had been pencilled in for TVA's Clinch River site at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

With the DoE arrangement now one year old, B&W hoped to have secured a number of utility customers for the small reactor as well as investors keen to take a majority share in its development. Spokesperson Aimee Mills said: "There was interest from customers and interest from investors, but none have signed on the dotted line." B&W President E. James Ferland said: "While we have made notable progress in developing a world-class technology, there is still significant work involved in bringing this climate-friendly technology to reality."

B&W has decided to reduce its spending on mPower to a maximum of US$15 million [€10.9m] per year and has begun negotiating with TVA and the DoE to find a workable way to restructure and continue the project.

POWER Magazine notes that "air seems to be leaking out of the SMR balloon lately." In February, Westinghouse announced it would end its 225 MWe Small Modular Reactor project, after a decade of development and many millions of dollars of investment. Westinghouse failed to secure R&D funding from the DoE. CEO Danny Roderick said" "The problem I have with SMRs is not the technology, it's not the deployment − it's that there's no customers."

In the US, DoE-subsidised R&D continues into the 45 MWe NuScale reactor concept. Elsewhere in the world, construction is underway on the 27 MWe CAREM reactor in Argentina, though claims that small reactors will reduce costs are looking increasingly fanciful − the CAREM reactor equates to US$17.84 billion (€13.0 billion) per 1000 MWe. Work continues on two 105 MWe HTR units at Shidaowan in China; and in Russia, plans are in train for a floating nuclear power plant with two 35 MWe reactors mounted on a barge.

www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-Funding-for-mPower-reduced-1404141.html

www.babcock.com/news-room/Pages/BW-Announces-Restructuring-of-Small-Modu...

www.powermag.com/worldwide-nuclear-commerce-good-news-and-bad-news/

Rio Tinto under fire

The Labour Resource and Research Institute and Earthlife Namibia have released a report on the health of workers at Rio Tinto's Rössing uranium mine in Namibia.1 The report was produced as part of the project Environmental Justice Organisations, Liabilities and Trade (www.ejolt.org). The study is based on 44 questionnaires carried out with current and former mine workers. The recommendations are:

* Rio Tinto should perform a large-scale epidemiology study with independent medical experts to examine those workers who started working in the 1970s or early 1980s.

* The Ministry of Health and Social Services must get unrestricted access to all medical reports of all workers employed by Rössing.

* All mine workers should be able to have access to their own medical reports.

Historically, the Rössing mine supplied uranium for US and UK nuclear weapons. Workers faced dangerous conditions, poor regulations, and high levels of dust. During the early years of operation, Rössing operated with a migrant labor system which the International Commission of Jurists declared illegal and said was similar to slavery.

The Rössing mine was in the news last year because of the December 3 collapse of one of the 12 leach tanks in the mine's processing plant. Just days later, a similar spill occurred at Rio Tinto's Ranger uranium mine in the Northern Territory of Australia.

The company is also being criticised for failing to guarantee the rehabilitation of Ranger unless its plans to expand operations at the site are approved. The latest annual report of Energy Resources of Australia (majority owned by Rio Tinto) states that "... if the Ranger 3 Deeps mine is not developed, in the absence of any other successful development, ERA may require an additional source of funding to fully fund the rehabilitation of the Ranger Project Area."2 And at Rio Tinto's London AGM on April 15, executive Sam Walsh distanced the parent company from responsibility for rehabilitation, saying: "This is a public Australian company and clearly that is an issue for them."

Justin O'Brien from the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, which represents the Mirarr Traditional Owners, said: "The attitude of Rio and ERA demonstrates little has changed in the more than three decades since Galarrwuy Yunupingu described talks over the Ranger mine as 'like negotiating with a gun to my head'. The mining giants have made enormous profits at the expense of Mirarr traditional lands and are now holding the Word Heritage listed area to ransom. It is inconceivably thoughtless and arrogant of any mining company to manage its corporate social responsibilities in this way and regrettably brings to mind the comment made by Mirarr Senior Traditional Owner Yvonne Margarula in 2003: 'The promises never last, but the problems always do'."2

Dave Sweeney from the Australian Conservation Foundation said: "Only hours after the complete collapse of the tank ERA − owned by the UK based mining giant Rio Tinto − released a statement high on bravado but low on evidence claiming all contaminants had been contained and that 'there is no impact to the environment'. This predictable and premature assurance highlighted ERA's desire to at least retain control over its perception, if not its pollution. A subsequent site review commissioned by ERA recently confirmed the long held concerns of many stakeholders that the aging plant is at full stretch and raised serious questions about the adequacy of both infrastructure and management systems at Ranger, finding that the mine had 35 other failed or at risk pieces of critical plant infrastructure or equipment with the potential for major human safety or environmental impacts in operation at the time of the tank collapse. The report recommended that processing not resume processing until these items have been repaired or retired while a further 48 critical assets were recommended to be serviced, repaired or retired within 6-12 months of any future plant restart."3

On the day of the London AGM, IndustriALL Global Union released a report, 'Unsustainable: The Ugly Truth about Rio Tinto', highlighting the multinational's global practices.4 The report exposes Rio Tinto's poor performance in relation to environmental, economic, social and governance issues. Workers from numerous countries staged a protest outside the AGM. Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL, said: "Rio Tinto's blind pursuit of profit at any cost has caused disputes with numerous unions as well as environmental, community and indigenous groups. IndustriALL has launched a campaign working with civil society organizations to defend against Rio Tinto's abuses. Through demonstrating that Rio Tinto does not operate in a sustainable manner, we aim to force the company to live by its own claims."4

1. Bertchen Kohrs and Patrick Kafuka, April 2014, 'Study on low-level radiation of Rio Tinto's Rössing Uranium mine workers',

www.criirad.org/mines-uranium/namibie/riotinto-rossing-workers-EARTHLIFE...

2. www.mirarr.net/media_releases/held-to-ransom-rio-tinto-s-radioactive-leg...

3. www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=16200&page=0

4. www.industriall-union.org/exposing-the-uggly-truth-about-rio-tinto

Eroding nuclear safeguards

The April 16 edition of Canada's 'Embassy' newspaper discusses the gradual erosion of safeguards requirements associated with uranium exports.1 Previously, Canada required that nuclear material exported to China could only be held in facilities in China named in a 'Voluntary Offer' list that Beijing had agreed to with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Such facilities can be inspected by the IAEA − albeit the case that IAEA inspections in nuclear weapons states are few and far between.

Under Canada's revised policy, uranium oxide can be (and has been) exported to a conversion plant in China that has not been placed on the Voluntary Offer list. Instead, if material is transferred to a facility that is not on the IAEA list, an "administrative arrangement" kicks in, requiring China to "provide additional reporting to Canada on the uranium." But the administrative arrangement, and others like it, "are considered protected documents and are not available publicly" according to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

Shawn-Patrick Stensil from Greenpeace Canada drew a parallel with Canada's nuclear exports to India: "We've now been moving to selling uranium to markets that have bomb programs, and our non-proliferation policy is dying a death by a thousand cuts. I think this will eventually come back to bite us."

Reuters reported on April 14 that the US, UK, Czech Republic and the Netherlands submitted a paper to a meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) calling on the NSG − a voluntary, 48-country group − to relax its rules to allow nuclear exports to countries such as Israel.2 The paper, seen by Reuters, is a masterpiece of obfuscation. Instead of talking about nuclear exports (to a nuclear weapons state outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), it talks about "facilitated export arrangements".

And this is the indecipherable rationale for weakening nuclear export norms: "With technology progressing at an ever increasing rate, globalised supply chains, and more and more countries developing nuclear and dual use capabilities, the possibility of trade in nuclear related goods between governments not participating in the NSG is becoming more and more likely. ... In order to stay ahead of the curve, the NSG's goals − to control the export of nuclear sensitive goods − might be best served by an open-minded approach aimed at cooperation with non-NSG members and promoting transparency of the NSG guidelines."

A former Israeli nuclear official told Reuters that Israel for years had tried to get the NSG to recognise it as a so-called adherent country "on the strength of the justified truth that Israel is a responsible state", but a number of NSG member states have objected.

There is an ongoing push from the US, UK and others to include India as a member of the NSG. India was granted a "clean waiver" by the NSG in 2008, an important step towards opening up nuclear trade despite India's status as a rogue nuclear weapons states that refuses to sign the NPT or the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and is expanding its nuclear weapons arsenal.

Islamabad is also lobbying to be included in the NSG and for an end to prohibitions on nuclear trade with Pakistan.3 China is already using the US−India precedent to expand nuclear exports to Pakistan.

1. www.embassynews.ca/news/2014/04/16/canada-knew-nuclear-deal-with-china-c...

2. www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/14/us-nuclear-trade-israel-idUSBREA3D0T3...

3. http://tribune.com.pk/story/686790/pakistan-looking-forward-to-cooperati...

Kazakhstan nuclear company head arrested for corruption

Valery Shevelyov, the executive director of Kazakhstan's major uranium producer and nuclear-fuel cycle operator KazAtomProm, was arrested on April 1 on corruption charges. An investigation regarding the construction of new KazAtomProm facilities named Shevelyov as a suspect in the embezzling US$710 million [€514m], according to Kazakh State Anti-corruption Agency. Shevelyov's predecessor Muhtar Dzhakishev has been in prison since 2009 on similar charges.

www.worldbulletin.net/world/132602/kazakhstan-nuclear-company-head-arres...

European Parliament calls for action on depleted uranium

The European Parliament has called on the EU's Council of Ministers to ensure that all member states support an upcoming UN General Assembly resolution on depleted uranium (DU). The resolution will be tabled in October. Each year the European Parliament provides recommendations to the EU's Council of Ministers on positions that EU member states should take during voting. This year the parliament has called on member states to develop a common EU position that better reflects the overwhelming and repeated calls by the parliament for a global moratorium on the weapons.

At present the EU is split on the topic, with DU users the UK and France opposed during UN votes − two of only four states worldwide to oppose the resolutions, along with the US and Israel − while the rest of the EU votes in favour or abstains. While the number of EU states abstaining each time has been decreasing, continued abstentions by the likes of Sweden and Denmark have been a source of frustration for national campaigns. Globally, 155 states supported the most recent UN resolution on DU in 2012, and the split position within the EU is something of an anomaly in the face of an emerging global consensus.

www.bandepleteduranium.org/en/european-parliament-unga-recommendations

www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2355834/european_parliament_dema...

Renewable energy potential in Europe

An analysis for Greenpeace suggests that it is possible to get 77% of Europe's electricity from renewable sources by 2030 with the help of smart grids, demand management, gas backup and big changes in how the power grid works. The model suggests that by taking a European approach (rather than planning by country) and using a (relatively) new type of power cable the cost of integrating new renewables into the grid can be significantly cut. The report suggests that by 2030 Europe's grid will be able to absorb a renewable share of 77% with some countries, such as Spain, getting all their power from renewable sources. The UK would be on 70%. Around half of Europe's power (53%) would come from wind and solar PV panels.

www.greenpeace.org.uk/newsdesk/energy/analysis/report-how-can-you-build-...

Nuclear-free Austria stops import of nuclear electricity

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#750
4240
01/06/2012
Reinhard Uhrig
Article

Austria’s people decided in a national referendum in 1978 against the start-up of the nuclear power plant in Zwentendorf, which resulted in a constitutional law (Bundesverfassungsgesetz Atomfreies Österreich, 1998). On the other hand, Austrian utilities recently imported large amounts of “dirty” electricity, in particular from the Czech Republic as well as from Germany – including at least 5 % of nuclear electricity.

Electricity in the EU can be traded separately from its guarantee of origin. On the first impression, this system sounds complicated as it makes the process of trading much more complex (issue of certificate, trading of certificate and cancellation of certificate as well as de-labelling the original source of the certificate). On second thoughts the system is simply not working – the general idea of electricity certificates was that by making certificates (guarantees of origin) tradeable separately from the electricity itself, extra revenue would be generated for renewable electricity and hence the investment in renewable energy sources would be supported. As the experiences with renewable electricity certificate systems show not just in the EU, but also in the US, there is no noticeable extra support for “new renewables” through this system, rather customers who are willing to pay a premium buy the renewable parts of the electricity mix, and in particular industry customers buy just anything they can get cheap, including nuclear electricity (as long as it is still heavily subsidized). Electricity certificates are mostly issued for renewable sources, but also for nuclear and fossil generation.

We started off from the position of thinking that electricity certificate systems in general are a stupid and not functioning system, but as there is no major overhaul to the system on the EU-level in sight, we thought it better to reform the system (on a national level) than to carry on lamenting, at the same time closing the worst loophole in the electricity certificate law for the import of nuclear electricity:

Legal aspects of (nuclear) electricity certificates
The Renewables Directive of the EU (2009/28/EC) defines in Article 15 that electricity certificates can be traded separately from the electricity itself. The Electricity Internal Market Directive (2009/28/EC) regulates in Chapter II, Article 9 consumers’ rights for fuel mix disclosure – it is the right of customers to know what sources of electricity they consume (and hence pay for / support).

There is, however, a major snag to this: as electricity can be traded separately from its certificate, electricity bought from an electricity exchange does not as such have a certificate / guarantee of origin with it. (The electricity exchanges account for small amounts of total trade, in the case of the German exchange 17 %, in the case of the Austrian exchange 7 % – most electricity is traded in direct, Over The Counter (OTC)-contracts.)

For electricity bought from the exchanges, the Electricity Internal Market Directive allows suppliers to use aggregated figures for the electricity exchange – an average value, an assumption about the average mix rather than precise figures. This of course contradicts the right of customers for full disclosure of fuel sources.

On the national level of the member states, it got worse: The Austrian Electricity law (Elektrizitätswirtschafts- und Organisationsgesetz 2010) provided in § 79.3 a major loophole for hiding unwanted amounts of electricity: If suppliers were unable (or unwilling) to purchase certificates for electricity, as is the case of electricity bought from the electricity exchanges without buying accompanying certificates, the suppliers could still sell this electricity and label it according to average European values, assumed from data for the previous year / statistics of the European Transmission System Operators (excluding electricity generated from renewable sources, as it was rightly assumed that this would not be sold at the electricity exchanges, but rather for a premium in direct Over The Counter-contracts).

The situation in Austria
With the advent of electricity market reform, Austrian utilities exported more and more “green” electricity (or green electricity certificates) to countries where consumers were willing to pay a premium for this – and selling electricity generated from fossil, nuclear or unknown sources to the Austrian industry (that consumes 57 % of electricity).

Most recent data (2010) show that 14,7 % of Austria's total electricity consumption was either bought from the electricity exchanges without any electricity certificate, or its certificate was sold separately (mostly hydro certificates to Germany). There was no legal requirement for suppliers to provide electricity certificates for all electricity, amounts without certificate were simply called "Strom unbekannter Herkunft" (electricity with unknown origin) in § 79.3 of the Electricity law.

This meant that traders could easily hide the fossil and nuclear parts of their fuel mix behind the smokescreen of "Strom unbekannter Herkunft" – they could even buy electricity from known (dirty) sources, sell it at the exchange and buy it back – whereby it lost its certificate.

The campaign
GLOBAL 2000 and Greenpeace CEE had been campaigning on this issue / “hidden” nuclear electricity in Austria for years. When the majority state-controlled utility “Verbund” started a massive advertising campaign in 2010 positioning itself as “100 % hydro”, GLOBAL 2000 started a campaign outlining that a 100 % subsidiary of Verbund sold almost entirely dirty electricity to the industry. After the Fukushima-events in March 2011, the campaign gained momentum and the Austrian government, eager to demonstrate change, agreed to ban nuclear electricity at a first summit with the two NGOs in June 2011. Quite predictably, some utilities opposed these moves, so the NGOs had to provide detailed legal and financial expertise that a) the proposed legal changes are sound on basis of European and WTO law and b) electricity prices would not skyrocket – the average price increase for labelling all electricity in Austria without nuclear certificates would be in a very modest range from € 0.13–1.95 per average household per year.

We were lobbying for a legally binding prohibition to import nuclear electricity or certificates, but this stalled as the ministry of economics was fiercely opposed to this: The minister argued this would be an infringement to Art 34 TFEU (Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union, Free movement of goods) – we argued: yes it would, but this can be justified by Art 194.2 TFEU – the right of member states of the EU to choose their energy sources, that came into force with the Lisbon treaties.

The NGO campaign was backed by Austrian anti-nuclear initiatives, the Austrian Chamber of Labour and the major tabloid in Austria, Kronenzeitung – this helped a lot. When finally even the Catholic Church (in the person of the Klagenfurt bishop) signalled that nuclear electricity imports should be stopped, on April 16th we finally managed to achieve at least a compromise as follows:

Results
1) Labelling: legally binding obligation for disclosure of all electricity that is consumed in Austria -- this includes households and industry as well as pumped-storage hydro (which consumes large amounts of electricity in Austria). The legal changes to the national electricity law will make it mandatory that the entire electricity supplied is labelled, i. e. that electricity can only be sold together with an electricity certificate, and “Strom unbekannter Herkunft” is not applicable any more for fuel disclosure. These changes to § 79.3 are to be drafted this year and come into force by 2015.

2) Nuclear certificates & electricity: Austrian utilities voluntarily exclude certificates and direct contracts from nuclear generation from their portfolio immediately (it would be economic suicide to market explicitly labelled nuclear electricity in Austria anyway). Österreichs Energie (representing the largest utilities in Austria) also agreed that on a voluntary basis they will already start labelling their entire electricity supply by 1.1.2013 for household consumers and the – much larger amounts – for industry by 1.1.2015.

3) Label: there will be a certification label by the (federal) Issuing Body E-Control, developed together with the NGOs, that guarantees that the utility does not use any nuclear electricity or nuclear electricity certificates.

4) Transit: as electricity labelling is consumer/disclosure-oriented, the proposed changes do not affect the transit of electricity through Austria.

Regarding electricity certificates: The Austrian issuing body only acknowledges four types of electricity certificates, three national certificates under RES-law and one international – the EECS-GO (European Energy Certificate System-Guarantee of Origin), where the issuing body is nominated by the state and conforms to fairly tight rules (to prevent double counting of certificates). This excludes systems (RECS, TÜV, ...) that are not as strict, are set up by market players or cannot exclude double counting, which of course immediately perverts the entire system.

The above is a compromise, but a reliable disclosure of all electricity sources is a big victory for the campaign. Lots of people were involved in this campaign, on the NGO-side Friends of the Earth Austria/GLOBAL 2000 & Greenpeace CEE as well as the ÖKOBÜRO legal experts.

If – as we hope – this campaign can be copied to other European countries, full disclosure can give consumers more power in choosing the clean electricity sources they want to consume – and avoiding the ones they do not wish to pay for any more, namely nuclear electricity.

Source and contact: Reinhard Uhrig, anti-nuclear campaigner, GLOBAL 2000 / Friends of the Earth Austria. Neustiftgasse 36, 1070 Wien, Austria
Tel: +43 699 14 2000 18
Mail: reinhard.uhrig[at]global2000.at

About: 
Global 2000

Stop import of nuclear electricity from Russia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#750
4241
31/05/2012
Green World
Article

Russian and Norwegian environmental NGOs oppose increased electricity trade between Russia and western countries, as long as common environmental and safety standards are absent. They urge the Finnish government to stop future import of nuclear electricity from the new Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant-2 (LNPP-2) in Russia. This import will be facilitated by the new power cable between Sosnovy Bor (St. Petersburg region, Russia) and Vyborg (Russia).

The Russian company JSC Edinaya Energeticheskaya Sistema (Unified Energy System of Russia), in cooperation with the State Corporation on Nuclear Energy (Rosatom), is laying an underwater 1000 MW power cable from the  new Leningrad nuclear reactor -2 (LNPP-2, under construction) on the south shore of the Gulf of Finland, to a point south of the city of Vyborg on the north shore. A public hearing of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the cable project was held in Sosnovy Bor in December 2011.

The cable will have a capacity of 1000 MW, and is capable of transporting electricity directly from 1 out of 4 units of VVER-1200 nuclear reactors of the New Leningrad NPP-2. The cable will bypass the limitations in the transmission lines around St Petersburg, and allow a more direct access to the international electricity market via Finland.  In the last years Russian-Finnish transfer of electricity has been about 10-11 TWh/year. This is about the equivalent of the electricity production of the 2 oldest Chernobyl type reactors of Leningrad NPP. These reactors have received a license for the prolonged operation after reaching their 30 years design limit. This political decision was adopted without public participation and EIA.

The High Voltage Direct Current power link-project will decrease environmental safety in the Baltic part of Russia by promoting the prolongation of old and unsafe nuclear reactors and the accumulation of nuclear and radioactive waste on the coastline of our common Baltic Sea. It will lead to environmental dumping, due to lower safety and environmental standards in Russia.

The transport of nuclear electricity is not solely a bilateral decision between Russia and Finland. Also other Nordic and EU countries will be influenced, as electricity imported to Finland will reach the common Nordic and EU market.

1. The new cable leads to environmental dumping

- Electricity import from Russia represents the dumping of cheaper electricity produced with lower environmental and safety standards, on the Nordic market.
Northwest Russia has excess electric generating capacity because of prolonged operation of the first generation nuclear reactors. The reactors have not only passed their 30 year of designed lifetime, but they are also built with serious safety design deficits that make it impossible to meet European safety standards. For instance, EU told Lithuania to close down Ignalina nuclear power plant for safety reasons, although its reactors were newer and better than the two oldest reactors at Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant.  

- A common market should have common standards.
EU’s position in the energy dialogue with Russia has been that a common EU and Russia electricity market should have common environmental standards. Therefore EU has shown reluctance to import Russian electricity before environmental and safety conditions are improved. As members of EU, Finland should not act in a way that contradicts this position. 

- Environmental dumping is bad both for the environment and for competition.
The prolonged operation of Russia’s first generation nuclear power reactors will decrease the level of environmental safety in the whole Baltic Region populated by more than 90 million people. In addition to harming the environment by decreasing the level of environmental safety, different standards in the same market is unfair competition.

2. The new cable helps prolongation of old and unsafe nuclear reactors

- Electricity import provides money for the Russian nuclear industry.
Russia’s nuclear operator RosEnergoAtom is one of the companies that will receive increased income from the electricity export. Earning money from electricity export, the operator of the old reactors will be more likely to continue operation. Even though there is surplus capacity of electricity generation in North West Russia, old nuclear reactors that have reached the end of their planned lifetime have received permission for prolongation of operations. This is done without public debate or necessary environmental impact assessments (EIA).

- Electricity import from Russia results in prolongation of old reactors.
Thus the proposed cable will decrease the level of environmental safety in the whole Baltic Region populated by more than 90 million people.

- Electricity import makes the work for decommissioning even more difficult.
Environmental NGOs in Russia work for decommissioning of old reactors, but face a tough challenge in today’s Russia, where organisational freedom is limited. The court system is also not working in our favour. Electricity import from Russia will counteract their efforts.

- The Russian courts have denied the right of NGOs to stop unlawful lifetime extension
Russian NGOs have attempted to use the legal system to stop the unlawful lifetime extension of the old reactors at the Leningrad nuclear power plant, but the effort has not been successful. The courts have so far blocked any discussion of this problem with Russian NPP operators and regulators of nuclear safety.

- Setting conditions for electricity import is a way to help decommissioning.
The Nordic countries, EBRD (The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development) and others have given financial and technical support for safety measures at the old reactors, on the condition that they close at the end of their designed lifetime. Nevertheless, RosEnergoAtom has chosen to prolong their operation. By unconditionally buying the power from RosEnergoAtom, the Nordic countries undermine their own possibilities for actual influence on Russian authorities on this issue. 

NGO's involved in this campaign are Green World, Sosnovy Bor, Kola Environmental Center, Murmansk, Za Priodu, Chelyabinsk and Norges Naturvernforbund / FOE Norway, Oslo.

Source and contact: Green World, Sosnovy Bor, St. Petersburg region, Russia
Tel: +7 921 74 52 631
Email: Bodrov[at]greenworld.org.ru

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