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Milestones

Canada’s Cigar Lake Uranium Mine Begins Production

March 13, 2014—Cameco’s Cigar Lake mine in Saskatchewan, Canada, sent its first shipment of uranium ore to AREVA’s McClean Lake mill about 45 miles away.

Cameco said its $2.6 billion Cigar Lake project will employ more than 600 highly skilled workers, mostly from northern Saskatchewan. The mine relies on a high-pressure water jet boring system.

All the ore is expected to be processed at McClean Lake, which has a production capacity of 10,900 metric tons of uranium per year. Between 770 and 1,100 metric tons of uranium concentrate are expected to be produced from Cigar Lake ore in 2014.

Vogtle 3 Completes Installing 1,100 Ton Module

March 13, 2014—Georgia Power has successfully installed the five-story, 2.2-million pound CA20 module in the nuclear island of Vogtle 3, one of two AP1000 reactors the company is building in Georgia.

Georgia Power installed the five-story, 2.2-million pound CA20 module in the nuclear island of Vogtle 3.

The module houses various auxiliary plant components, including the storage area for used nuclear fuel. The module was assembled off-site, transported to the site by rail and truck and lifted into place by one of the largest cranes in the world.

Vogtle 3 and 4 are scheduled to begin commercial operation by the end of 2018.

Final Module for Haiyang AP1000 Installed

March 13, 2014—The containment water cooling tank has been installed at the top of the containment vessel of Haiyang 1, one of two AP1000 units being built in China's Shandong province.

The large and distinctive component, a major part of the AP1000's safety systems, will hold 3,000 cubic meters of water, meant to flow down the surface of the containment vessel and cool the reactor system by evaporation in the event of an emergency situation that would cause overheating.

Two other AP1000s are under construction at Sanmen in Zhejiang province, the first of which is expected to begin operating this year, just ahead of Haiyang 1. Sanmen 1’s cooling tank was installed in January (see Milestones, Jan. 23).

China’s Fuqing 2 Completes Pressure Tests

March 13, 2014—Containment pressure and leak-tightness tests have been completed at Fuqing 2, one of four Chinese-designed CPR-1000 pressurized water reactors being built at the site in southeast China’s Fujian province.

The reactor is scheduled to begin commercial operations in September. Two advanced ACP-1000 reactors are also planned for the Fuqing site, with construction to begin later this year.

According to International Atomic Energy Agency data, 28 nuclear reactors are under construction in China.

Southern Nuclear Installing Vogtle 3 Auxiliary Building Module

March 6, 2014—Southern Nuclear Operating Co. is ready to install a key structural module comprising the auxiliary building for the AP1000 reactor being built at Vogtle 3 in Georgia.

The five-story tall module includes all the rooms of the auxiliary building and is the reactor’s largest single component. The submodules were welded together at Chicago Bridge & Iron’s fabrication facility in Louisiana, and the structure is ready to be lifted into place next to the reactor containment structure.

Southern Nuclear officials said that completion and placement of the module was one of several “critical path” items on which the overall construction schedule depended. Southern subsidiary Georgia Power told the state Public Service Commission Feb. 28 that Vogtle 3’s construction is on track to support a commercial operation date of late 2017, with Vogtle 4 following a year later.

Westinghouse Installs Filtered Vent System for Slovenia’s Krško Plant

March 6, 2014—Westinghouse has completed installing a German-design passive containment filtered venting system at the Krško nuclear power plant in Slovenia. The system consists of five aerosol filters inside the containment building and an iodine filter and various auxiliary components inside the auxiliary building.

In the event of a severe containment over-pressurization such as occurred at Fukushima Daiichi in the March 2011 accident, the filtered vent would allow containment depressurization while minimizing radioactivity released into the environment. The metal fiber aerosol filters would retain airborne radioactive aerosols while a “molecular sieve” iodine filter containing silver bound to zeolites would retain radioactive iodine.

The venting system and a passive autocatalytic recombiner hydrogen-control system that was installed last October comprise the two post-Fukushima severe accident management systems required by Slovenia’s nuclear regulator.

The 696-megawatt Westinghouse PWR at Krško—the first western nuclear plant in eastern Europe—was connected to the grid in 1981 and is co-owned by Croatia and Slovenia. The plant is licensed to operate until 2023 but expects to be approved for a 20-year lifetime extension.

Hongyanhe 2 Begins Commercial Operation

March 6, 2014—A second 1,080-megawatt Chinese-designed CPR-1000 pressurized water reactor at the Hongyanhe site in Liaoning province officially entered commercial operation Feb. 25. The plant reached first criticality last October after a five-year construction period. Its sister plant Hongyanhe 1 has been in commercial operation since last June.

Two additional CPR-1000 reactors are being built at Hongyanhe and are expected to start up by the end of 2015. The site includes a seawater desalination plant that produces 10,080 cubic meters of potable water a day.

First MOX Delivered to Russian Fast Reactor

March 6, 2014—The first batch of 56 mixed oxide fuel assemblies has been delivered to Beloyarsk 4, Russia’s first-of-a-kind BN-800 fast neutron reactor that is expected to start up later this year.

In all 106 MOX assemblies have been fabricated for Beloyarsk 4 at the Research Institute of Atomic Reactors in Dmitrovgrad, using a vibropacking method that is purportedly more easily recycled. The second batch will be shipped by the end of March.

Fast reactors fueled by MOX are a big part of Russia’s long-term nuclear energy plans. When Beloyarsk 4 goes into operation it will be the world’s most powerful fast reactor.

The reactor is also part of Russia’s commitment to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus defense-origin plutonium under a bilateral agreement with the United States. The U.S. strategy, which also called for fabrication of MOX fuel for use in commercial reactors, is now in question with the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration deciding to place the partially built MOX fuel fabrication facility in South Carolina into “cold standby” mode while it evaluates alternative plutonium disposition options (see accompanying story in this week’s Nuclear Energy Overview).

NuScale Completes Small Reactor Steam Generator Tests

Feb. 27, 2014—Oregon-based NuScale Power has completed testing of the helical coil steam generator technology it intends to use in its 45-megawatt small reactor design. The full-scale tests, conducted at SIET laboratories in Italy, encompassed “the full expected range of reactor operating conditions.” The tests also provided benchmark data for the computer code design analysis models NuScale is developing to support NRC certification of its small reactor design.

The company last December was awarded the Department of Energy's second round of matching funds to support the accelerated development of its NuScale Power Module small reactor technology. NuScale’s majority investor is Fluor Corp.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission conducted a quality assurance inspection of the testing activities and concluded there were “no findings, observations, violations, recommendations or non-conformances.”

Spain’s Garoña Plant Allowed to Restart

Feb. 27, 2014—Spain's cabinet has approved a royal decree allowing recently shutdown nuclear energy facilities to apply for their operating permits to be renewed. The regulatory change could lead to the restart of the Garoña plant, which shut down in December 2012 after utility Nuclenor missed a deadline to apply for an extension of its operating license.

The main purpose of the decree was to lay out terms for the responsible and safe management of used nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. The decree’s reactor restart provision says any operating license renewal requests must be made within one year of a cessation order being received.

Since Garoña’s original license expired in July 2013, Nuclenor would have until this July to apply for a renewal. The reactor was deemed by Spain’s Nuclear Safety Council to be suitable for operation until 2019 if certain technical upgrades are completed.

Spain's nuclear trade association Foronuclear said, “With this decision, our country advances towards stable sources of energy that are abundant, reliable, clean and diversified, and to an increase of its own energy resources, which would consequently make us less dependent on outside sources.”

Finnish EPR Completes Pressure Integrity Tests

Feb. 20, 2014—Olkiluoto 3, Finland’s first EPR, has moved closer to commissioning with the completion of containment pressure and leak-tightness tests.

The first-of-a-kind EPR is being built by an AREVA-Siemens consortium under a $4-billion fixed-price turnkey contract. Plant owner Teollisuuden Voima Oyj has said the reactor, which has been under construction since 2005, could start operations by 2016 but AREVA has not yet provided a firm startup schedule.

EPRs are under construction at Flamanville in France and Taishan 1 and 2 in China. Flamanville 3 has been under construction since 2007 and is also expected to start up in 2016. Taishan 1, which has been under construction since 2009, is expected to start up this year, while Taishan 2 is scheduled to begin operating in 2015.

Nuclear Largest Share of EU’s Energy Production

Feb. 20, 2014—At 29 percent, nuclear energy in 2012 accounted for the largest share of gross domestic energy production in the 28-country European Union, the EU’s statistical office Eurostat said. Nuclear was followed by renewables at 22 percent, solid fuels (21 percent), gas (17 percent) and oil (10 percent).

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, there are currently 131 nuclear reactors in commercial operation in 14 EU member countries—Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The largest nuclear energy producers were France and Germany.

NRC Approves Uprates at Five Reactors

Feb. 13, 2014—The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved power uprates for five nuclear reactors at three sites that will add nearly 100 megawatts of capacity in total.

The uprates at Exelon’s Braidwood and Byron plants in Illlinois and DTE Electric’s Fermi plant in Michigan will be “measurement uncertainty recapture power uprates”— achieved by implementing devices to make more precise measurements of feedwater flow, which is in turn used to calculate reactor power.

Exelon plans to implement changes to the dual-unit pressurized water reactors at Byron and Braidwood this February, which will increase each plant’s generating capacity from 2,350 megawatts to 2,390 megawatts. Uprates at Fermi will take place during its current refueling outage, increasing its generating capacity from 1,179 megawatts to 1,198 megawatts.

Since 1977, the NRC has approved uprates totaling 7,036 megawatts, and applications are currently pending for 825 megawatts in uprates.

Civil Work Begins on Two More UAE Reactors

Feb. 13, 2014—Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp. (ENEC) is now allowed to begin civil construction for its third and fourth reactors at the Barakah site in the United Arab Emirates. ENEC may now work on “formwork, rebar, embedded anchor bolts, electrical conduits, steel plates and piping” for buildings that will house the reactor, steam turbines and auxiliary equipment.

ENEC is still awaiting a construction license from regulators before it can pour first nuclear concrete—the beginning of nuclear construction. The company submitted its construction license application for Barakah 3 and 4 in March 2012. ENEC expects the two reactors will begin generating electricity in 2019 and 2020.

Barakah 1 and 2 are currently under full nuclear construction. ENEC will apply for an operating license for both reactors next year and expects to have the plants on line by 2017 and 2018.

Construction of Argentine Small Reactor Begins

Feb. 13, 2014—First nuclear concrete has been poured at Argentina’s prototype CAREM-25 small reactor, marking the official start of construction with a Feb. 8 ceremony attended by the chair of the country’s nuclear regulator.

The domestically designed, 25-megawatt reactor—short for Central Argentina de Elementos Modulares—is being built at a site adjacent to the Atucha nuclear energy facility. The reactor’s primary coolant system is contained within the single self-pressurized vessel, eliminating the need for pumps within the primary circuit and reducing the possibility of a loss-of-coolant accident.

The reactor is currently scheduled to begin cold testing in 2016 and to receive its first fuel load in late 2017.

Reactor Pressure Vessel Delivered to Ningde Site

Feb. 13, 2014—The reactor pressure vessel for Ningde 4, a Chinese-designed CPR-1000 pressurized water reactor, was delivered by ship to the plant site in China’s Fujian province on Feb. 7.

Installation of the vessel and other main equipment is expected to take place soon. Work at the site began in September 2010, followed by the installation of the reactor building dome in May 2012.

Two CPR-1000 reactors at the Ningde site recently came on line, with reactor 3 scheduled to come on line later this year and reactor 4 in 2015.

US Uranium Production Up for Two Straight Years

Feb. 6, 2014—DOE’s Energy Information Administration reported that U.S. production of uranium concentrate in 2013 was 4.8 million pounds, a 21 percent increase since 2011.

EIA said the increase partially offsets the end of the Megatons-to-Megawatts program—which made its last delivery in December 2013. It also reflects the startup of three new production facilities, including most recently the Lost Creek in situ leach facility in Wyoming.

More than 80 percent of U.S. nuclear fuel demand (48 million pounds in 2014) is met from overseas sources, including Canada, Russia, Australia and Kazakhstan. EIA said that at the end of 2012, U.S. nuclear energy facility operators held 97 million pounds of uranium in inventory, or about two years’ worth. This inventory includes uranium in different stages of the fuel cycle (conversion, enrichment or fabrication) at domestic or overseas fuel facilities.

Deadline for Vogtle Loan Guarantee Extended Again

Feb. 6, 2014—The Department of Energy has extended to Feb. 28 the deadline for reaching a final agreement on the terms of a $3.4 billion loan guarantee for Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power’s share of the Vogtle project. The previous deadline was Jan. 31.

Southern Co. has two Westinghouse AP1000 pressurized water reactors under construction at Site Vogtle in Georgia. Subsidiary Georgia Power owns 45.7 percent of the project, while Oglethorpe Power has 30 percent, Municipal Energy Authority of Georgia 22.7 percent and a municipal utility in Dalton, Ga., has 1.6 percent.

In February 2010, DOE granted Georgia Power, Oglethorpe and MEAG conditional approval for up to $8.3 billion in federal loan guarantees for up to 70 percent of the cost of the project. Since then, the parties have been in negotiations with DOE on the terms of the deal.

Russian Fast Reactor Loads First Fuel

Feb. 6, 2014—Beloyarsk 4, a new sodium-cooled fast neutron reactor, achieved another step toward startup later this year with the loading of fuel into the reactor. The first-of-a-kind BN-800 reactor was filled with its sodium coolant in December 2013. Russia’s nuclear regulator Rostechnadzor has granted permission for pre-startup tests, and first criticality is expected in April.

Beloyarsk 3, a 560-megawatt BN-600 fast reactor, has been in commercial operation since 1981. Beloyarsk 4, at 789 megawatts, will be the world’s largest fast reactor when it begins operations—until the even bigger BN-1200 reactors that are planned for the Beloyarsk site.

Fast neutron reactors typically use mixed oxide (uranium and plutonium) fuel and can extract energy from uranium-238, unlike conventional nuclear reactors. They can also burn long-lived actinides found in high-level nuclear wastes.

Apart from the BN sodium-cooled reactors, Russia also is developing the lead-cooled BREST fast reactor, the lead-bismuth cooled SVBR and the MBIR fast research reactor.

SCE&G to Acquire Increased Ownership of New Summer Units

Jan. 30, 2014—South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. will acquire from Santee Cooper a 5 percent ownership interest in the new reactors under construction at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant. Santee Cooper’s board of directors approved the sale Jan. 27, giving SCE&G, the principal subsidiary of Santee Cooper and SCANA Corp., 60 percent of the new units. Santee Cooper will retain 40 percent.

SCE&G will acquire the ownership interest in three stages. One percent will be acquired at the commercial operation date of the first new reactors, planned for late 2017 or early 2018. The next two percent will be acquired within the first year of operation, with the final two percent to be acquired in the second year of operation.

Exelon Fleet Beats Its Generation Record

Jan. 30, 2014—Exelon’s nuclear fleet set a generation record in 2013, with the company’s 17 reactors generating 134 million net megawatt-hours, exceeding the previous record, set in 2007, by 1.6 million MWh.

The fleet, which includes 10 plants in Illinois, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, achieved a 94.1 percent capacity factor last year; the industry’s 2012 average capacity factor was 89.1 percent.

Flamanville 3 EPR Reactor Pressure Vessel Installed

Jan. 30, 2014—The reactor pressure vessel for Electricité de France’s Flamanville 3 European Pressurized Water Reactor was brought into the reactor building Jan. 22 and put into place Jan. 24. The placement operation was performed with the oversight of French nuclear safety authority ASN.

The reactor pressure vessel, the main component of the reactor coolant system that encloses the reactor core, required 50,000 hours of design and manufacturing work.

The reactor is expected to be completed and generating electricity by 2016.

NRC Pushes Back Waste Confidence Rule

Jan. 30, 2014—The NRC announced an Oct. 3 deadline for publishing the final versions of its waste confidence rule and generic environmental impact statement on extended used fuel storage at plant sites.

Last summer, the NRC gave staff a September 2014 deadline for the work, which follows the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to strike down the waste confidence rule issued by the NRC in 2010. The new schedule is due to lost time during the government shutdown in October 2013, during which several public meetings were rescheduled and the public comment period was extended.

NRC Denies Petitions Affecting Yucca Mountain Review Schedule

Jan. 30, 2014—The NRC denied several petitions that would have affected its review of the Department of Energy’s application for the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada.

The state of Nevada filed a petition last year to adjust the requirement that the NRC complete legal discovery—one part of the licensing adjudication—60 days after the staff’s safety evaluation report is issued. Work on the SER was resumed in November 2013 after being halted for three years.

Another petition filed by Yucca Mountain supporters asked the commission to set deadlines for the completion of each volume of the safety evaluation report, but the NRC said the order to resume the licensing process was not subject to deadlines.

Poland Adopts Nuclear Program, Expects First Reactor to Operate by 2024

Jan. 30, 2014—The Polish government has adopted a nuclear program that includes plans for the country’s first nuclear energy facility to be operating by the end of 2024.

The program outlines the objects for nuclear power implementation and develops a financing plan, a site selection process and a timetable. Site selection and tender is expected to be concluded by the end of 2016, with licensing expected by the end of 2018.

The program also calls for a second reactor to begin operating commercially by the end of 2035.

Swedish Vessel Transports First Used Fuel Shipment

Jan. 30, 2014—Swedish company SKB has made its first used fuel shipment with its new transport ship, the M/S Sigrid. The vessel transported used fuel from Sweden’s Ringhals nuclear energy facility to the CLAB interim storage facility in Oskarshamn.

The new ship replaces the smaller M/S Sigyn, which SKB has used to transport used fuel and other radioactive waste since 1982. In addition to used fuel, the ship will also transport low- and intermediate-level radioactive waste from the Studsvik research center.

Sanmen 1 AP1000 Gets Containment Cooling Tank

Jan. 23, 2014—The cylindrical containment cooling tank has been put into place atop the Westinghouse AP1000 being built at Sanmen in China's Zhejiang province.

The last major external module to be installed on the world’s first AP1000, the tank completes the reactor’s distinctive silhouette. It will hold a large amount of water meant to flow down the sides of the containment vessel in the event of an emergency condition and cool down the overall system by evaporative cooling. The water in the tank can also be used to top up the used fuel pool while the tank itself can be replenished from other sources.

Sanmen 1 is to be the first AP1000 to come into operation by the end of this year, slightly ahead of Haiyang 1 in Shandong province. Other reactors at both sites are to follow within another year.

The four AP1000s under construction at the Vogtle and Summer sites in the United States are expected to come on line by 2018.

DOE Removes Plutonium Test Reactor From Hanford Site

Jan. 23, 2014—The U.S. Department of Energy said its contractor Washington Closure Hanford met a significant cleanup milestone by removing a Cold War-era nuclear test reactor from DOE’s Hanford site in eastern Washington state.

The Plutonium Test Reactor operated from 1960 to 1969 and was the largest of Hanford’s experimental reactors used to develop and test alternate fuels for the commercial nuclear energy industry.

The 1,000-ton reactor will be transported on a high-payload trailer for disposal at the Environmental Restoration Disposal Facility for mixed low-level waste at the Hanford site.

Washington Closure is led by URS and partners Bechtel National and CH2M Hill. Its contract to clean up the Columbia River Corridor section of the Hanford site is 90 percent complete. 

Missouri SMR Consortium Funds Two Projects

Jan. 16, 2014—Missouri’s Small Modular Reactor Research and Education Consortium has selected its first two research initiatives to fund. The consortium, led by Missouri University of Science and Technology in collaboration with the University of Missouri–Columbia, is supported by a $250,000 grant from the Missouri Technology Corp.

The first initiative involves research to identify and establish a sustainable supply chain for small reactors. The second initiative, which involves computational fluid dynamics, will help provide software tools to evaluate small reactor design and operation.

The consortium was established in July 2013 with founding members Ameren Corp. and Westinghouse Electric Co.

India Inaugurates Gorakhpur Project

Jan. 16, 2014—Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh laid the foundation stone for the Gorakhpur nuclear power plant in Haryana on Jan. 13. The ceremony marking the start of construction for the site’s first two reactors was attended by local dignitaries and officials from Nuclear Power Corp. of India Ltd.

The Gorakhpur plant will be built in two phases, each with two Indian-designed 700-megawatt pressurized heavy water reactors. The design is the same as four other reactors currently under construction in India—two each at the Kakrapar and Rawatbhata sites.

First concrete for the first reactor is planned for June 2015, with milestones on the second reactor following six months later. The plants, which are expected to cost $3.4 billion, are scheduled to begin operating by 2021.

China Marks Several Nuclear Milestones

Jan. 9, 2014—China’s burgeoning nuclear build program marked several milestones around the turn of the new year.

The 1,020-megawatt Ningde 2 reactor was synchronized to the grid Jan. 4, after achieving first criticality Dec. 20. The Chinese-designed CPR-1000 pressurized water reactor is one of four being built at the site in Fujian province and is now China’s 20th operating nuclear energy facility.

The shield building domes for the world’s first Westinghouse AP1000 reactors were installed for Sanmen 1 on Nov. 23 and for Haiyang 1 on Dec. 15, marking the end of civil construction for both reactors. Both reactors will now complete component installation and begin commissioning procedures for grid connection by December.

The pouring of concrete for the basemat foundation of the advanced ACPR-1000 at Yangjiang 6 on Dec. 23 marked the start of nuclear construction for the project. Yangjiang 1 meanwhile achieved first criticality on the same day and was connected to the grid Dec. 31. Yangjiang 2 also is nearing startup. Yangjiang is the world’s largest nuclear construction site.

Initial hot testing of the nuclear island of Fuqing 1 was completed Dec. 24. The facility is scheduled to begin operating early this year, while Fuqing 2 is expected to start up in September.

Cold testing began Dec. 27 at Hongyanhe 3 in northern Liaoning province. The reactor also is scheduled to begin operating this year.

NRC, USACE Issue Final EIS for Proposed Lee Project

Jan. 9, 2014—The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff has concluded there are no environmental impediments to issuing a combined construction and operating license for Duke Energy Carolina’s proposal for two AP1000 reactors at the Lee site in Cherokee County, S.C. The NRC developed a final environmental impact statement to that effect jointly with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The staff continues to evaluate the project’s nuclear safety but will not issue any licensing decisions until the agency issues its final “waste confidence” rulemaking and generic environmental impact statement on the extended storage of used nuclear fuel after reactor shutdown, expected this September.

Duke Energy Carolinas submitted its combined license application to the NRC in December 2007.