You are here

export

China's nuclear exports may struggle to find a market

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#824
4561
01/06/2016
Steve Thomas ‒ professor of energy studies, University of Greenwich, London.
Article

China's nuclear power industry has eyed up a big push to export its technologies as countries around the world consider low-carbon alternatives to coal.1 But despite an increasingly clearer field for Chinese nuclear exports – mainly because of the woes dragging down French and Russian competitors – selling reactors abroad is likely to prove to a much tougher task than had first been thought. Perhaps the biggest uncertainty is whether there will be much of a nuclear export market at all.

Since 2008, reactors built in China have accounted for the majority of the world's new reactor construction. In 2015, seven new construction projects were launched, six of which were for China. While there are a large number of countries talking about buying reactors, many of which would be their first nuclear projects, the history of these types of exports suggests only a small number of these will be translated into real orders.

Moreover, many countries have major concerns about relying on China for the supply of such a strategically important piece of infrastructure. In particular, their concerns centre on the quality of components, the rigour of the Chinese regulatory system, the risk of dependence on China and the potential leakage of technologies that have hugely strategic geopolitical use.

There is little hard evidence on the precise impact of these issues on decision-making but it is clear that they warrant serious questions from any country wanting to buy reactors from China.

For example, Philippe Jamet, a French nuclear safety commissioner, said in 2014: "Unfortunately, collaboration [with China] isn't at a level [where] we would wish it to be".2 He added: "One of the explanations for the difficulties in our relations is that the Chinese safety authorities lack means. They are overwhelmed."

China's great strengths in nuclear are its well-oiled component supply chain and the ability of its vendors to call on Chinese government finance. For example, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has agreed to offer loans of 74 billion yuan (€10.1b; US$11.2b) to support CGN's nuclear project in Romania.

There is also a presumption that Chinese reactors will be cheap, although until China competes in open markets, we don't know this for sure.

An advantage to China is that its competitors in the nuclear export market are in various states of disarray. Of the two historic market leaders, France's Areva is mired in debt, while Westinghouse isn't in much better shape. US-headquartered Westinghouse was bought by Toshiba in 2006 and the Japanese company's reactor division has made losses from 2012 onwards. The Toshiba group as a whole is expected to lose US$4.5 billion (€4b) for 2015. In July last year, Toshiba admitted it had overstated its profits for the previous six years, resulting in a record fine from the Japanese authorities and its credit rating being reduced to junk.

Progress with construction of the eight reactors using the AP1000 design is no better than with the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), developed by France's Areva. Four reactors in China are now at least three-to-four years late while the four in the US suffered further delays and are also several years late after only two years of construction.

Russia's woes

The real competitor appears to be Russia, which claims a formidable book of about 20 firm orders in Bangladesh, Egypt, Finland, Hungary, India, Iran, Jordan, Turkey and Vietnam ‒ far more than the rest of the nuclear vendors put together. It also claims to be in advanced negotiations in Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Nigeria.

Like China, there has always been a presumption that Russia would be able to supply the finance and that Russian reactors would be cheap. The combination of sanctions against Russia and the collapse of the world oil price has left Russia with depleted financial reserves. Since the Chernobyl disaster, it has supplied only about a dozen new orders and its ability to provide the five or six reactors per year, which are be needed to fulfil its order book, must be in serious doubt.

China ramps up

To examine the Chinese nuclear export industry in more detail, it's worth going back over the last decade to chart the development of the country's domestic developments

In 2008, China began to build new nuclear reactors for its home market at a rate of six to eight per year, not seen since the French nuclear programme of the 1970s. This programme was based on technology similar to that used by the French then, and was built under a technology licence with the French company Areva.

The Fukushima disaster of March 2011 brought this programme largely to a halt for the next four years, until reactor construction on a wider scale restarted in 2015 with six new construction starts.

By 2015, China was looking to export markets for reactors. The Chinese vendors claimed these new designs were their own intellectual property and so were able to offer them for export without requiring the permission of their foreign partner. The three companies do not compete in the same countries.

The first major Chinese export success was in 2013, when China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) announced it had sold an ACP-1000 reactor to Pakistan.

In November 2015, Argentina announced an agreement with CNNC to build two reactors.3 The first would use Canadian 'CANDU' technology, a technology that CNNC was familiar with from the two CANDU plants it operates in China.

The second would be an HPR1000. Given that Argentina's previous reactor took 33 years to build, mainly because of financial problems, it is not clear when and how quickly the CNNC projects will proceed.

China General Nuclear Corporation (CGN) has a focus centred mostly on Europe. In 2013, the French utility, EDF, announced that CGN and CNNC would be part of the consortium that would build the two EPR reactors at Hinkley Point C in the UK, taking up to a 40% stake between them.

In October 2015, when more details of the Hinkley deal were announced, CNNC had disappeared from the picture, for reasons not explained, and CGN was expecting to take a 33.5% stake.

It said it would also take a 20% stake in a follow-up station, Sizewell C. However, more significant was that EDF would release land at one of its sites, Bradwell, for CGN to build HPR1000 technology.

The plans are at an early stage and CGN has not announced how many reactors it plans to build there, or what the timescale is.

Nevertheless, if it was able to build in UK, it would be a huge fillip to its export plans because of the prestige that winning an order in such a long-established nuclear power as UK would bring.

China's other main opportunity is in Romania where it is bidding to build two CANDU reactors. But, in common with Argentina, Romania appears a high risk, low probability market without much to gain from success.

In November 2014, Turkey announced a deal to buy four reactors from China's State Power Investment Corporation (SPI), two using the Toshiba AP1000 design and two using the CAP1400, with construction start forecast for 2018/19.

It remains to be seen whether any of Turkey's four orders will go ahead. SPI is one of five vendors competing in South Africa for an order for six to eight reactors, but it does not appear to be a front-runner. As is the case for so many nuclear markets, there is a large risk that no orders will be placed.

Areva (owned by the French state and a potential target for takeover by Chinese companies) is essentially bankrupt and in the process of a government rescue. A potential takeover would give Chinese companies an apparently golden opportunity to gain access to markets and to technologies, such as uranium enrichment and spent fuel reprocessing, that it has long wished for.4

Reprinted from China Dialogue, www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/8911-Why-China-s-nuclear-ex...

References:

1. http://globalriskinsights.com/2016/02/forecasting-chinas-nuclear-industr...

2. www.nti.org/gsn/article/french-official-says-china-atomic-regulators-are...

3. http://dialogochino.net/new-chinese-funded-nuclear-plants-in-argentina-n...

4. www.reuters.com/article/us-areva-m-a-cnnc-idUSKCN0SR1F020151102

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#742
17/02/2012
Shorts

Germany exporting electricity to France.
Germany has shut down many nuclear power plants after Fukushima. France, in contrast, has still a very large nuclear capacity. So one might expect (and that was highlighted by nuclear proponents in Germany and elsewhere many times) that Germany needs "to pull some power from the reliable French nuclear plants" to make up for the fact that German solar power is not contributing anything in this season. But that's not exactly what happened during the cold winter days in western-Europe early February. Though the day is short, PV power production is still peaking at an impressive level during the current cold spell in Germany.

Because France has so much nuclear power, the country has an inordinate number of electric heating systems (but what is cause and effect?). And because France has not added on enough additional capacity over the past decade, the country's current nuclear plants are starting to have trouble meeting demand, especially when it gets very cold in the winter. With each drop of 1 degree in the temperature, the demand for electricity rises with 2,300 MW. In the French Brittany, citizens were asked by EDF to reduce their consumption.

As a result, power exports from Germany to France reached 4 to 5 gigawatts – the equivalent of around four nuclear power plants – early February according to German journalist Bernward Janzing in a Taz article. And it was not exactly a time of low consumption in Germany either at 70 gigawatts around noon on February 3, but Janzing nonetheless reports that the grid operators said everything was under control, and the country's emergency reserves were not being tapped. On the contrary, he reports that a spokesperson for transit grid operator Amprion told him that "photovoltaics in southern Germany is currently helping us a lot."
die tageszeitung, 3 February 2012


UK: the powers that be.
Newly appointed Energy Secretary Ed Davey performed a spectacular U-turn on nuclear power, February 5, as he declared he would not block plans for a new generation of nuclear reactors. Liberal Democrat Davey was appointed to the Cabinet post on February 3,  after Chris Huhne resigned to fight criminal charges. In the past, Davey has condemned nuclear power as dangerous and expensive. As Lib Dem trade and industry spokesman in 2006 Mr Davey was the architect of the party's anti-nuclear policy. He launched the policy with a press release entitled "Say no to nuclear", which warned a new generation of nuclear power stations would cost taxpayers tens of billions of pounds. What's that with being in power and changing positions?

Ed Davey used his first day as Energy Secretary to send a warning to more than 100 Conservative MPs that he is not prepared to back down over the issue of onshore wind farms. He insisted he was a 'lifelong supporter' of wind power.
Daily Mail, 6 February 2012 / The Times, 7 February 2012


Australia: Ferguson's Dumping Ground Fights Back.
The Gillard Government is pushing ahead with plans to host a nuclear waste dump at Muckaty in the Northern Territory (NT), despite local opposition. Traditional Owners have vowed to fight on, according to Natalie Wasley. In February 2010, Resources Minister Martin Ferguson introduced the National Radioactive Waste Management Bill into the House of Representatives, saying it represented "a responsible and long overdue approach for an issue that impacts on all Australian communities". The legislation names Muckaty, 120 kilometers north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, as the only site to remain under active consideration for a national nuclear waste dump. The proposal is highly contested by the NT Government and is also being challenged in the Federal Court by Traditional Owners. Despite this, the Bill is currently being debated in the Senate — and will likely pass.

Ferguson’s law is a crude cut and paste of the Howard government’s Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act that it purports to replace. It limits the application of federal environmental protection legislation and it curtails appeal rights. The draft legislation overrides the Aboriginal Heritage Protection Act and it sidesteps the Aboriginal Land Rights Act. It allows for the imposition of a dump on Aboriginal land with no consultation with or consent from Traditional Owners. In fact, the Minister can now override any state or territory law that gets in the way of the dump plan.

Before it won government, Labor promised to address radioactive waste management issues in a manner that would "ensure full community consultation in radioactive waste decision-making processes", and to adopt a "consensual process of site selection". Yet despite many invitations, Martin Ferguson refuses to meet with Traditional Owners opposed the dump.

Medical professionals have called for federal politicians to stop using nuclear medicine as justification for the Muckaty proposal. Nuclear radiologist Dr Peter Karamoskos wrote in the NT News:

"…the contention that is most in error is that the radioactive waste to be disposed of there is largely nuclear medicine waste. Nearly all such waste is actually short-lived and decays in local storage and is subsequently disposed of safely in the normal waste systems without need for a repository. The vast bulk of the waste… is Lucas Heights nuclear reactor operational waste, and contaminated soil (10 thousand drums) from CSIRO research on ore processing in the 1950s and 1960s."
Natalie Wasley in NewMatilda.com,  13 February 2012


US: Watts Bar 2 schedule pushed back.
The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has said that it is ‘experiencing challenges’ with the cost and schedule for completion of its Watts Bar 2 nuclear power plant. The revised completion date for the plant may extend beyond 2013 and the costs are expected to ‘significantly exceed’ TVA’s previous estimate of US$2.5 billion. TVA, which operates three nuclear power plants: Browns Ferry, Sequoyah and Watts Bar, decided to restart construction at Watts Bar 2 in 2007. It originally planned to finish the plant, which was 55% complete, within a five year window. Now, the completion date has been put back to 2013 and TVA says it is performing a root cause analysis to better understand the factors contributing to the project's extended schedule and cost. According to TVA the delays to the completion of Watts Bar unit 2 may also affect the timing of the Bellefonte 1 completion. Construction is set to resume at Bellefonte 1 after initial fuel loading at Watts Bar 2. (More in Nuclear Monitor 732, 9 September 2011).
Nuclear Engineering International, 7 February 2012


Russia: Fire at nuclear sub at Murmansk
Russia’s deputy prime minister in charge of the defense industry Dmitry Rogozin has indirectly admitted that the Yekaterinburg – one of the Northern Fleet’s strategic nuclear submarines – which caught fire on December 29 while in dry dock for repairs near Murmansk had “armaments” on board when the 20-hour-long blaze broke out, injuring 9. The deputy prime minister had previously vociferously denied this in both Russian and international media – even though evidence discovered by Bellona at the time suggested otherwise. Evidence that has emerged since the fire, however, suggests that the burning vessel was loaded not only with nuclear missiles but torpedoes as well.

The Yekaterinburg Delta IV class submarine – capable of carrying 16 intercontinental ballistic missiles with up to ten nuclear warheads apiece and 12 torpedoes – caught fire in Roslyakovo when welding works reportedly went awry, though the real cause of the fire remains unknown. The fire was concentrated in the bow area of the vessel.

Had Russia’s Emergency Services Ministry –which was primarily responsible for handling the crisis– not extinguished the flames in time, the torpedoes in the front chamber of the submarine would have detonated first. Many Russian fire and resuce workers would have been killed and the blaze’s intesity would have increased. The fire would have spread to the missile compartment, which also would have detonated as a result of the high temperatures. An explosion would have then damaged the Yekaterinburg’s two nuclear reactors, resulting in a release of radiation into the atmosphere.

Murmansk (300,000-strong population, just 6 kilometers away) should have been evacuated along with other towns in the surrounding area. The fire occurred just prior to Russia’s New Year’s holidays, and an evacuation would have causes panic and chaos. Yet had things gone as they very possibly could have, even more explosions releasing more radioactivity could have resulted, making – as shown in Fukushima – efforts to extinguish the fire even more arduous, as radioactivity continued to spread.
Bellona, Charles Digges, 14 February 2012


No More 'hot' waste in WIPP.
On January 31, the New Mexico Environment Department denied a federal Department of Energy's  request for permission to use new lead-lined drums for some of the more highly radioactive waste being shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) (see Nuclear Monitor 739, 23 December 2011). DOE applied to the New Mexico Environment Department for a modification of the hazardous waste permit in order to dispose of "shielded containers" of remote-handled (RH) waste. The shielded containers, which have never been used before, are lead-lined in order to contain the high gamma emissions from the RH waste. DOE was proposing to bring more "remote-handled" plutonium-contaminated waste to WIPP than will fit in the remaining designated space. It is another attempt by DOE to expand the mission of WIPP beyond its original purpose.

But the NMED denied the request. The denial does not close the door on the possibility, but the Environment Department said a more detailed review, likely including the possibility of public hearings, would be required before any change is permitted.
ABQ Journal, 31 January 2012, / Nuclear Monitor 739, 23 December 2011


UK report: "A corruption of Governance?".
Parliament was kept in the dark and fed false information that boosted the case for nuclear power, campaigners claimed in a newly released report "A Corruption of Governance?" on February 3, 2012. MPs were handed a dossier which suggests that evidence given to ministers and Parliament promoting the use of nuclear power was "a false summary" of the analysis carried out by governmental departments. Specifically the report claims that on the basis of the government's own evidence there is no need for the controversial new generation of nuclear power stations if Britain is to achieve 80 per cent reductions in carbon dioxide by 2050. The report also alleges that government statements claiming that electricity supply will need to double or even triple in order to achieve a low-carbon economy are disproved by its own evidence. Katy Attwater, Stop Hinkley Point's spokesperson, said: "This scrupulously researched report shows that two of the National Policy Statements, EN-1 and EN-62, approved by Parliament, are based on false information and the public has no alternative but to deem them invalid. MPs have, likewise, no alternative but to consider them fraudulent, re-open the debate and bring those responsible for this corruption to account."
Press release Stop Hinkley Point, 6 February 2012


The EPR nuclear reactor: A dangerous waste of time and money.
The French EPR (European Pressurised Reactor, sometimes marketed as an ‘Evolutionary Power Reactor’) is a nuclear reactor design that is aggressively marketed by the French companies Areva and EDF. Despite the companies’ marketing spin, not only is the reactor hazardous, it is also more costly and takes longer to build than renewable-energy alternatives. While no EPR is currently operating anywhere in the world, four reactors are under construction in Finland (Olkiluoto 3, construction started in 2005), France (Flamanville 3, 2007) and China  (Taishan 1 and 2, 2009-10). The projects have failed to meet nuclear safety standards in design and  construction, with recurring construction defects and subsequent cover-ups, as well as ballooning costs and timelines that have already slipped significantly.

'The EPR nuclear reactor: A dangerous waste of time and money' is an update of the 2008 Greenpeace International briefing on this reactor. Added are some of the many new design and construction errors and the economic setbacks the EPR has run into. Greenpeace included more information on the tremendous gains in the cost performance of renewable energy and the increase level of investment.

The report is available at: www.laka.org/temp/2012gp-epr-report.pdf


Austrian NGOs: Ban on import nuclear electricty!
At a February 3, meeting with German, Czech and Austrian anti-nuclear activists in Passau, Germany, including members of The Left Party (Die Linke) faction in the German Bundestag and from the Ecological Democratic Party (ÖDP), support for an Austrian import ban on nuclear electricity was clearly signalled. Spokeswoman for the Left Party Eva Bulling-Schröter: "It is absurd that Austria, which for very good reasons abandoned nuclear energy, is exporting clean hydropower to Germany for instance and then imports nuclear power for its own use. The planned and very controversial new Czech Temelin reactors would loose important custumors if Austria and Germany woud ban the import and not buy its electricity. The campaign of the Austrian antinuclear groups is welcome and could be a model for a similar campaign in Germany."

"It is a ridiculous idea of the federal government when it says that Austria could not do without nuclear power before 2015", says Roland Egger of  Atomstopp upper-Austria.
Press release atomstopp_oberoesterreich, (stop nuclear, upper-austria), 9 December 2011 & 3 February 2012

ALP export policy: dollar signs over danger signs

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#739
6205
23/12/2011
Dave Sweeny, Australian Conservation Foundation
Article

With around 40% of the world’s uranium and currently supplying around 20% of the global market from three commercial mines, the issues of safety, radioactive waste management and the proliferation of nuclear weapons underpin Australia’s uranium mining and export debate. At its National Conference in December 2011 the Australian Labor Party (ALP) took a big step down a dangerous and divisive path with its decision to clear the way for uranium sales to India.

A cornerstone of the governing Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) uranium policy has been a pre-condition to only supply nations that have signed the UN’s nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT).

In operation since 1970 and with 190 nations signed on, the NPT is one of the worlds most subscribed to Treaty’s. Only India, Pakistan and Israel have never signed the NPT while North Korea withdrew in 2003. Although imperfect, the NPT remains one of the world’s best ways to restrict the spread of its worst weapons.

In November 2011 Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard abruptly announced she would seek to weaken Labor’s commitment to the NPT by exempting India and freeing up uranium sales. This move led to a high profile and close fought debate at the ALP’s National Conference in early December.

Selling uranium to India would breach Australia’s clear obligations under the South Pacific Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty – the Treaty of Rarotonga – which requires treaty partners to only supply nuclear materials, including uranium, to nations that accept comprehensive ‘full-scope’ international safeguards. India does not and has stated it will not. Around 50% of Indian nuclear facilities remain exempt from international inspection and review. Any move to sell Australian uranium to India would put further pressure on the already stressed, under-resourced and under-performing international nuclear safeguards regime.

Proponents of the policy change relied on internal ALP political machinations and enforced crude factional bloc voting rather than assessment or analysis to advance their position.

There was no clear and compelling case made to justify dropping such a long standing and prudent policy position or to address the fact that the sale of uranium to India is inconsistent with the ALP’s view that Australia can make a significant contribution to promoting nuclear disarmament and the reduction of nuclear stockpiles.

Critics of the plan highlighted India’s active weapons development program, the deep and continuing hostility between India and its nuclear armed rival and neighbour Pakistan and the increasing tension with China. Adding Australian uranium into this volatile context would further these divisions and risks, free up domestic Indian uranium supplies for use in India’s military nuclear program and lead to calls for future uranium sales to Pakistan.

Pro-nuclear and conservative commentators with strong nuclear industry links joined the chorus of concern ahead of Conference to call for a halt to the rushed and ill-conceived sales plan. Australian NGO’s and anti-nuclear groups like the Australian Conservation Foundation, Friends of the Earth, the Beyond Nuclear Initiative and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons joined with other civil society groups to highlight the issue.

Many of the 400 Conference delegates received letters, briefing materials, phone calls and visits. The corridors of Canberra were walked and talked. Opinion and commentary pieces were written, media comment and briefings provided and there was an active presence at the Conference itself.

Sadly, the potential dollar signs shone brighter than the very real danger signs. Debate over Australia’s obligations under international law and role and responsibility as a provider of a dual use mineral was deliberately clouded by unrelated issues including the Prime Minister’s ability to ‘deliver’, absurdly optimistic economic projections and the fact that India is ‘friendly’.

The one credible argument raised by proponents of sales was India’s pressing need for increased energy and electricity.

The provision of Australian uranium to India is not a responsible or effective response to India’s aspiration to increase access to electricity to address widespread poverty.

Instead of using the cumbersome, costly and contaminating 20th Century technologies of coal and nuclear India could leapfrog into the rapid and widespread utilisation of clean and contemporary renewable systems.

These would cause the lights to work across India while ensuring the alarms stayed silent across Pakistan and would provide a lasting and local solution to India’s growing power needs.

The continuing Fukushima nuclear emergency highlights the vulnerability of nuclear power – even in a technically sophisticated country as Japan. Nuclear reactors in India, like nuclear missiles on the India – Pakistan border, would be ticking time bombs.

But such arguments did not carry the day amid the glare of the TV cameras and the shallow mantra of jobs and safeguards. On Sunday December 4, 2011 the ALP National Conference narrowly voted (206 to 185) for Australia to undermine the NPT, reject its treaty obligations and abandon any pretence of nuclear responsibility.

It has been said that opponents of the deal won the debate but lost the vote. The issue was fiercely contested within the Labor Party, including by senior Cabinet Ministers and around 45% of delegates. Many in Labor are angry with the content and process of the decision and the issue remains unfinished business both within the Labor Party and the wider community.

It is a long way from policy on the run to uranium on a ship and Australian activists are increasing their call for an independent assessment of the impacts, costs and consequences of Australia’s involvement in the uranium and nuclear trade.

In the shadow of Fukushima it is time to stop cutting corners and start raising standards.

Source and contact: Dave Sweeny (Dave is the national nuclear campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation.) Floor 1, 60 Leicester St, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia.
Tel: +61 3 9345 1130
Mail: [email protected]
Web: www.acfonline.org.au

China: US - India deal justification for selling reactors to Pakistan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#709
6050
12/05/2010
The GovMonitor.com and Carnegie Endowment For International Peace
Article

Contrary to guidelines adopted in 1992 by nuclear equipment supplier states in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), China is poised to export two power reactors to Pakistan. In April, Chinese officials said that export of the reactors to Pakistan would be justified in consideration of political developments in South Asia, including the entry into force of the U.S.–India deal and the Nuclear Suppliers Groups exemption for India. This transaction is about to happen at a time when China's increasingly ambitious nuclear energy program is becoming more autonomous.

Guidelines of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), representing 46 Non-Proliferation Treaty states, call on parties to the NPT not to supply nuclear equipment to non-nuclear-weapon states without comprehensive IAEA safeguards, including Pakistan. China joined the NSG in 2004.

The United States and other NSG states may object to the pending transaction but they cannot prevent China from exporting the reactors. Senior officials in NSG states friendly to the United States said in April they expect that President Barack Obama will not openly criticize the Chinese export because Washington, in the context of a bilateral security dialogue with Islamabad, may be sensitive to Pakistan's desire for civilian nuclear cooperation in the wake of the sweeping U.S.-India nuclear deal which entered into force in 2008 after considerable arm-twisting of NSG states by the United States, France, and Russia. The United States may also tolerate China's new nuclear deal with Pakistan because Obama wants China's support for United Nations Security Council sanctions against Iran this spring.

After years of bilateral disputes over nonproliferation issues, in 1998 the U.S. Congress allowed a 1985 Sino-U.S. nuclear cooperation agreement to enter into force. After that, U.S. nuclear cooperation with China dramatically increased, culminating in China's 2006 selection of a consortium of companies led by Westinghouse to build four AP1000 power reactors in China. Westinghouse bested bidders from France and Russia in a competition set up by China to determine which of the three would provide the technology blueprint for the future standardized development of China's nuclear power industry.

China chose Westinghouse after it agreed to transfer to China ownership of the technology for the new and untried 1,000-MW reactor. China then awarded contracts to Westinghouse and its partners to build four AP1000s in China. The first two are scheduled to be finished in 2013. Westinghouse scored another coup when in 2008 China selected AP1000 for China's first raft of inland power reactors.

Westinghouse's apparent emergence as first among foreign reactor vendors in China in 2006 was linked to the fortunes of the State Nuclear Power Technology Co. (Snptc). It was set up by China's State Council of Ministers to take charge of technology selection and transfer for China's future nuclear power program, after two decades during which China organized a handful of "boutique" reactor projects in cooperation with Canada, France, Japan, and Russia.

Shortly after China selected Westinghouse to shape its nuclear future, rival Areva made a separate deal with China to build two of its new EPR reactors in Guangdong Province in China's southeast, where French nuclear firms have been engaged since the late 1980s. Unlike Westinghouse, Areva also offered China a suite of fuel cycle technology options, and French officials hoped that a mammoth fuel cycle deal would coax China to continue building the EPR.

In the meantime, the ambitious construction schedule for the U.S.-designed reactors in China has come under heavy pressure. In part out of Chinese concern to keep construction on track, China's nuclear regulator, the National Nuclear Safety Administration (NNSA), will not agree to a proposal, favored by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and Westinghouse, to modify the design of the containment structure of the AP1000 to provide improved protection against an air crash. In the United States, NRC, after a design review prompted by post-9/11 concernsabout terrorist threats, asked Westinghouse to change the design of a shield building which is part of the containment and to use stronger materials. Westinghouse then urged China to also follow that advice.

China will not do that, Beijing officials said after consultations with Westinghouse and U.S. regulators. "China will build Revision 15," the AP1000 design version originally approved for construction in both the United States and in China, one official said. "It will not approve Revision 17," which incorporates the changes sought by NRC and Westinghouse, he said.

Changing the AP1000 design now would require construction in China to be halted and delayed. China also does not share NRC's view that a terrorist attack on reactors, using a hijacked passenger aircraft as a weapon, is a realistic enough scenario to warrant modifying the design.

The Westinghouse project has encountered other challenges which, so far, have not caused schedule delays. Last year, a key firm which is part of the technology transfer program, China First Heavy Industries (CFHI), failed to produce forgings to the required quality standard for the AP1000. Project executives said CFHI had difficulty handling the demanding steel material called for in critical components. The schedule was not set back because a Westinghouse partner in Korea, Doosan, had a stock of prototype forgings it had made earlier. The AP1000 has also encountered problems in main coolant pumps, which are of a unique design. Chinese officials said last year that further deployment of the AP1000 would depend on successful demonstration of these pumps, which were a critical feature of the passive cooling system billed as one of the key advantages of this reactor model. According to diplomats there have also been some Chinese bureaucratic delays for certain AP1000 project approvals.

Snptc also wants Westinghouse to increase the power of the reactor to 1,400 MW and then to 1,700 MW, matching the EPR. According to Snptc the 1,400-MW design will be ready for construction by 2013. Many foreign executives are skeptical that schedule will hold up.

Two years ago, China set up a brand new organization to take command of China's energy policy, including nuclear policy, the National Energy Administration (NEA). It is headed by Zhang Guobao, who strongly favors nuclear power development and who is also Vice-Chairman of China's leading planning agency, the National Development and Reform Council (NDRC).

NEA-which is staffed by about 170 experts, including fewer than 20 responsible for nuclear matters--cooperates with NDRC on setting planning targets, but NEA decides which reactors will be built, at what sites, and which state-owned enterprises will get contracts. It, Chinese officials said last month, will favor construction of more CPRs, and will also support China's biggest nuclear SOE, the China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) with a total payroll of over 100,000, in exporting more reactors to Pakistan.

China has long assisted Pakistan's nuclear energy program. In 1991 CNNC contracted with the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) to build Chashma-1, a 325 MW power reactor. It was finished and began operating in 2000.

In 2004, China joined the NSG. China then explained to the NSG that a longstanding framework agreement with Pakistan committed China to provide a second reactor, Chashma-2, more research reactors, plus supply of all the fuel in perpetuity for these units. Chashma-2 construction began in 2005. Chashma-2 is scheduled to be finished in 2011. To keep CNNC at work in Pakistan thereafter, CNNC and PAEC negotiated terms for two 650-MW reactors, Chashma-3 and -4.

In 2006 Pakistan urged China to approve the new project but China was not keen to do so. Pakistan diplomats said then China was holding back because it was not clear that the U.S.-India nuclear cooperation deal would be approved by both governments and by the NSG.

After the U.S.-India deal was approved and India's NSG exemption entered into force without any Chinese objections in 2008, China's policy evolved to support demands by Pakistan for compensation, but China did not expressly advocate awarding Pakistan a broad exemption from NSG trade sanctions matching India's.

NSG country representatives said in late April they expect that the Obama administration will accept a limited amount of additional Chinese nuclear commerce with Pakistan as a price for getting Chinese support on UN Security Council sanctions against Iran in weeks ahead. Some suggested that the United States would also enlist China in this regard to persuade Pakistan to drop its opposition to negotiation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty, which Pakistan has said it could not accept because the U.S.-India deal had tilted the nuclear balance in South Asia in India's favor.

As long as Pakistan resists outside initiatives which would limit the autonomy of its strategic nuclear program, and because China is believed to be hiding behind Pakistan in avoiding making a firm FMCT commitment in light of China's strategic dilemmas with the United States, it is doubtful whether China would have effective influence on Pakistani decisions to halt fissile material production.

Senior NSG diplomats said this month that they expect that soon after China has completed political and contractual arrangements for the reactor sale to Pakistan, China will inform the NSG of its planned transaction. The matter could then be taken up by the NSG as an agenda item or point of business at a future NSG meeting. So far no NSG meetings are scheduled in 2010 prior to an annual plenary meeting in New Zealand in late June.

The U.S. State Department, in line with its response to a 1998 reactor export from Russia to India, continues to hold that a new reactor export by China to Pakistan would be contrary to both NSG and U.S. policy, but whether the United States would record an objection at the NSG or encourage other NSG states to do so would be up to President Obama following interagency discussions and consultation with foreign governments including Pakistan and China.

Chinese officials said in April that export of the reactors to Pakistan would be justified in consideration of political developments in South Asia, including the entry into force of the U.S.-India deal and the NSG exemption for India.

Source: The GovMonitor.com and Carnegie Endowment For International Peace

About: 
Chashma-1Chashma-2Chashma-3Chashma-4

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#708
29/04/2010
Shorts

Finland: building nukes for electricity export?
On April 21, the Finnish government proposed two new nuclear power plants. The parliament will make the final decision on the issue earliest in the summer, but most likely in the autumn. On both reactors will be voted separately - there are possibilities to have 2, 1 or 0 new nuclear plants. Building twe nuclear power units would lock Finland's energy consumption to unrealistic, artificially high levels, and are clearly aimed for electricity export. However, Parliament has taken the line that it opposes the construction of generating capacity for export purposes.

Minister of Economic Affairs Mauri Pekkarinen (Centre Party) insisted on April 21, that Finland would adhere to this principle of opposing the construction for export. But the Greens are accusing Pekkarinen of turning his coat on the matter by endorsing two new reactors just a year after saying that Finland’s need for new nuclear energy units was “zero, or one at the most”. “Now he is proposing two units on the basis of the same electricity consumption estimates. This certainly shows how poorly founded Pekkarinen’s proposal is”, Sinnemäki says. The Greens also point out that the forest company UPM, a part owner of TVO, has put forward the idea of electricity exports. “Nobody in Finland -not even the forest industry- has proposed such a fantasy in electricity production that this proposal would not mean export. It becomes clear even in all of the most daring consumption estimates. We simply cannot consume this much electricity.”

Environmental organisations are organizing a large anti-nuclear demonstration in Helsinki on May 8.
Helsingin Sanomat (Int. edition) 22 and 24 April 2010


Japan: Restart Monju expected in May.
The Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor, which was shut down in December 1995 after sodium leaked from the cooling system, is set to resume operations in May.  Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa signaled his willingness to approve reactivation of the experimental reactor, located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, during a meeting with science and technology minister Tatsuo Kawabata and industry minister Masayuki Naoshima on April 26. In the 1995 incident, the reactor operator was heavily criticized after it was found to have concealed information about the accident. During the past 14 years or so that Monju has been in limbo, the operator has come under fire for delaying reports on alarm activation incidents and flawed maintenance work.

Under the government's plan, the next stage in the fast-breeder project will be the construction of a demonstration reactor, which is larger than Monju, around 2025. It would be followed by the development of a commercial reactor around 2050. But the outlook for the plan is bleak, to say the least.

Some 900 billion yen (US$ 9.6 billion or 7.3 billion euro) of taxpayer money has already been spent on the construction and operation of the Monju reactor. It will require additional annual spending of about 20 billion yen (US$ 215 million / 162 million euro).

More on the history and current status of Monju and Japan's fast breeder programm: Nuclear Monitor 702, 15 January 2010: "Restarting Monju – Like playing Russian roulette"
The Asahi Shimbun (Japan), 27 April 2010


Belene contruction halted until investors are found.
Belene construction was halted in search for Western strategic investors after Bulgaria dismissed an offer from Russia to finance the coming two years of construction with an option for a complete Russian take-over of the project. The Bulgarian government has opened a tender for a financial consultant to work out a new financial model for the project. This consultant is expected to be chosen in June 2010. On the basis of this new financial model, strategic investors will be invited for participation. After EU Energy Commissioner Günther Öttinger warned Bulgaria for the dependency that a fully Russian Belene project would create, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borrisov made it clear that Belene only will be continued if it can pay for itself and if it is developed under participation of European and/or US partners. Russia was not to expect more than a 25% participation, if any at all. In his straightforward way, Borissov characterised Belene as either a  European project or no project.

On 16 April, it was also announced that the Bulgarian Energy Holding, which was set up in 2008 to create a pool of assets that could lure possible lenders to the Belene project, will be dismantled before summer. Deputy Minister for Economy, Energy and Tourism Maya Hristova said that BEH was set up to the secure the construction of Belene by the assets generated in the holding, "but this is no longer feasible." She told the Bulgarian press agency BTA that the assets of all state-owned energy companies are of lower value than the estimated value of  Belene. Daily Dnevnik announced that there is currently a discussion to bring the electricity  assets of BEH, including the Kozloduy nuclear power plant and the Maritsa East power station under in state utility NEK and the gas assets in a seperate holding.
Email Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU Unit, 26 April 2010


U-price low: "explosive growth in nuclear power hasn't yet happened". 
The spot price of uranium has dropped below US$42/lb (1 lb = 453.59 grams) through in April, down almost US$4 from the 2009 average of US$46 as, according to Purchasing.com, weakening demand has depressed transaction pricing. Lyndon Fagan, an analyst at RBS in Sydney Australia, tells Bloomberg that spot prices indeed have weakened in recent months because the explosive growth in nuclear power hasn't yet happened. Current uranium prices are well down from the levels reached in 2007, when the prices spiked to nearly US$140. Supply concerns drove the price up at that time, and while there's no guarantee that prices could once again reach those levels, such past performance does imply that the potential for such dramatic price moves is possible.

Meanwhile, Admir Adnani, CEO of US-based UraniumEnergy, tells Reuters that a renewed focus on nuclear energy and current mining shortfalls are likely to drive prices of uranium, higher in the coming years. "In the next two to three years, we will see a period of rising uranium prices," Adnani says. "There is absolutely no doubt that the nuclear renaissance and the construction of new reactors plus the existing reactor requirements will bring growing demand... and we need uranium prices to be higher for new mines to be built." But in the Canadian province of New Brunswick, for instance, only two companies have done exploration work over the past couple years, a notable drop from the 10 or so firms that were searching for uranium back in 2007, according to the Canadian Department of 

Natural Resources. www.purchasing.com, 14 April 2010 / Telegraph Journal (Canada), 21 April 2010


Regulators investigating Olkiluoto piping.
Nuclear safety authorities in Finland, France, the UK and US are assessing the significance of undocumented welding on primary circuit piping for the EPR reactor under construction at Olkiluoto, Finland. However, Petteri Tiippana, director of the nuclear reactor regulation department at the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority STUK, told Platts in an interview on April 8, that regulators from those four countries are not preparing a joint statement on the piping quality issue. He reacted on a statement made by a commissioner of French nuclear safety authority ASN,

The piping was manufactured by Nordon, a subcontractor to Areva, the French vendor which is supplying the nuclear part of the Olkiluoto-3 unit under a turnkey contract to utility Teollisuuden Voima Oy. Nordon, based in Nancy in eastern France, is a unit of the Fives group and has long been a major supplier of piping for nuclear power plants. In October 2009, STUK found that small cracks in piping made for the main coolant lines of Olkiluoto-3 had been repaired with welding procedures that were not documented. Tiippana said the piping is still in France and that analysis of the significance of the undocumented welding could be finished within several weeks. STUK will then do final inspections, probably before summer, he said. Until the piping is approved by STUK, it cannot be transported to Olkiluoto.The design of Areva's EPR reactor is under regulatory review for construction in the UK and the US.
Platts, 8 April 2010


Australian uranium for India?
Not that long ago, Australia took a firm stand against selling uranium to India (or any Non-Nuclear proliefration Treaty signatory for that matter): in January 2008, Australia’s new Labor government outlawed uranium sales to India. Stephen Smith, Australian foreign minister emphasizes that in saying in October 2009: “We have had a long-standing principal position which is not aimed at India, it is the long-standing position that we do not export uranium to a country that is not a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty,”

Now, just over a half year later, Australia is planning to change its domestic rules to allow India to import uranium from the country.

India is signing the Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement and many other civil nuclear agreements with different countries. The 46-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has also granted a waiver to India in September 2008 allowing nuclear fuel from other nations. However, Australia being a member in that group, didn’t allow India to import nuclear fuel from the country. Now, South Australia’s Department of trade & economic development director Damian Papps said Australia would like to amend the current regulations to enable uranium export to India.
Press TV, 14 October 2009 / Spectrum, April 26, 2010


Further increase heavy forging capacity.
Known as a leader in the ultra-heavy forgings required for the highest capacity nuclear reactors, Japan Steel Works set about tripling its capacity and has completed its second press for ultra-large nuclear forgings. It has now completed the ¥50 billion (US$530 million, 390 million euro) first phase of the expansion with the installation of a new forging shop complete with heavy cranes, heat treatment facilities and the necessary 14,000 ton press.

JSW told World Nuclear News that the new shop was the core of the first investment phase and that the second ¥30 billion (US$320 million, 235 million euro) investment round should be completed in 2011. At that point, JSW said, it would have tripled the nuclear capability that it had in 2007 - enough for about 12 reactor pressure vessels and main component sets per year. The increase in capacity should be felt by mid-2012 as new components are planned to emerge from the factories. Muroran also manufactures generator and steam turbine rotor shafts, clad steel plates and turbine casings for nuclear power plants.

While JSW may be the current leader in the global market for large nuclear components, there are several other (Russian, Chinese and South-Korean) manufacturers tooling up to the same levels for domestic supply. Britain's Sheffield Forgemasters and India's Bharat Forge will join JSW as global ultra-heavy suppliers around 2014.
World Nuclear News, 1 April 2010


Switzerland: Canton slams radioactive waste plans.
Plans for a radioactive waste disposal unit in the canton of Schaffhausen has come under fire in a study published by the local government. The National Cooperative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste outlined two possible sites for the unit: one in Zurich Weinland and one near Sudranden in the canton of Schaffhasusen. That’s just a few kilometers from the city of Schaffhausen, where 80 percent of the canton’s population live and work. The report published on April 21 says a disposal centre would have a detrimental effect on the town of Schaffhausen, and on the development of both the canton’s economy and population. The report estimates it would lose between 15 and 33 million francs in tax revenue a year and the population would drop by up to 5,000 people.
World Radio Switzerland, 21 April 2010


U.K.: Low-level radwaste in a landfill.
Five bags of radioactive waste from the Sellafield nuclear processing facility were dumped in a landfill site after a faulty scanner wrongly passed them as safe. Environment Agency inspectors have found one of the bags but is still searching for the other four at the Lillyhall landfill site near Workington, Cumbria. The bags contained waste collected in restricted areas of Sellafield where disposal of all items, including protective clothing, is strictly controlled because of the risk of radioactive contamination. The error was discovered by a member of staff who became suspicious when a scanning machine declared as safe a bag that had come from the restricted area. Staff checked the machine's records and found that five other contaminated bags had been passed as safe and sent to the nearby landfill site, which handles a mixture of household and industrial waste. A Sellafield spokeswoman was unable to say for how long the machine had been malfunctioning. The waste should have been sent for storage in concrete vaults at the Low Level Waste Repository near Drigg in Cumbria.

The incident may undermine the nuclear industry's plan to save billions of pounds by adopting lower safety standards for thousands of tonnes of low-level radioactive waste from decommissioned reactor sites. Several landfill sites have applied for permits to handle low-level waste.
Times online (U.K.), 26 April 2010


U.K. political parties and nukes.
The political party manifestos for the General Election show no surprises concerning nuclear policies - and they reveal the fundamental difference on nuclear issues between the Liberal Democrats and both the other two main parties. These difference will make for some tough bargaining in the event of a hung Parliament in which no political party has an outright majority of seats.

The Conservatives commit themselves to "clearing the way for new nuclear power stations - provided they receive no public subsidy". The party is also committed to the new Trident nuclear submarine system.

Under the heading 'Clean Energy' the Labour manifesto says "We have taken the decisions to enable a new generation of nuclear power stations" and the party is also committed to the Trident replacement.

The Scottish National Party wants Trident scrapped, rejects nuclear energy and the deep geological disposal of radioactive wastes.

The Liberal Democrats don't want a "like-for-like" replacement for Trident and promise a review of the proposals. They also reject new reactors "based on the evidence nuclear is a far more expensive way of reducing carbon emissions" than renewable energy and energy conservationAccording to the LibDem spokesperson on energy and climate issues, Simon Hughes, the curent government plans for a new fleet of nuclear reactors are based on a "completely foolish delusion". And he added; "they are too costly, wil take too long to build, will require government subsidy and will drain investment away from the renewable energy sector".  He says the party will not soften anti-nuclear stance.

General elections in the UK will be held on May 6.
N-Base Briefing 649, 21 April 2010 / BusinessGreen.com, 26 April 2010


Rand Uranium: no super dump tailings in Poortjie area.
South-Africa: following a successful protest march on April 23 by emerging black farmers and the Mhatammoho Agricultural Union, and the potentially affected landowners against the proposed super dump (centralized tailings storage facility -TSF) Rand Uranium decided to abandon the project. The protest march, the second in a few weeks, took place at the offices of Rand Uranium in Randfontein. Soon after the protest, Rand Uranium, which had proposed to establish the TSF within the Poortjie area on high agricultural land, issued a statement. The last paragraph of the document reads:  "Through the assessments, and in consideration of planning requirements of the City of Johannesburg, Area 45 is not considered appropriate for the long term TSF." The protest was against Site 45 (Poortjie area).  This means, Rand Uranium has abandoned its intention to establish a super dump in the Poortjie area. 

The proposed super dump would contain 350 million tons of uraniferous tailings and will be established on 1 200 hectares of land. The farmers and landowners claim that the public participation process was fatally flawed and that they were not consulted. It would have impacted the Vaal Barrage Catchment, a highly compromised Catchment. In terms of the Water Research Report No 1297/1/07 (2007) only 21% of the Vaal Barrage showed no evidence of cytotoxicy (i.e. toxic to human cells).  The Report suggests that the underlying problems of this catchment are largely due to heavy metals.  It furthermore states:  "It is clear that mining operations, even after they have been discontinued, are still having a major impact on water quality in the Vaal Barrage catchment, to the extent that it can no longer be compared with other natural water systems."
Emails Mariette Liefferink, 21 and 24 April 2010


U.A.E.: First nuclear site named. Braka has been named as the site for the United Arab Emirate's first nuclear power plant. Limited construction licence applications and environmental assessments for four reactors have been submitted.
The Braka site is in a very sparsely populated area 53 kilometers from Ruwais and very close to the border with Saudi Arabia. It is closer to Doha, the capital of Qatar, than to Abu Dhabi about 240 kilometers to the east. Dubai is another 150 kilometers along the coast. The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (Enec) said Braka was selected from ten shortlisted sites, all of which were suitable for nuclear build, on the basis of its environmental, technical and business qualities.

Two requests have been made to the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR). One is for a site preparation licence for the four-reactor power plant to allow Enec to conduct non-safety related groundwork at Braka such as constructing breakwaters and a jetty. The other is for a limited licence to "manufacture and assemble nuclear safety related equipment."  In addition, a strategic environmental assessment for the project has been submitted to the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) addressing environmental impacts and mitigation including for construction work.

But since there is no civil society whatsoever, there will be no independent scrutiny of those documents.
World Nuclear News, 23 April 2010


Contract for ITER buldings.
The Engage consortium has been awarded the architect engineer contract for the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) buildings and civil infrastructures. The contract, worth some €150 million (US$200 million), was signed by the Engage consortium and Fusion for Energy (F4E) on 13 April. F4E is the European Union's (EU's) organization for Europe's contribution to ITER. The Engage consortium comprises Atkins of the UK, French companies Assystem and Iosis, and Empresarios Agrupados of Spain. The architect engineer will assist F4E during the entire construction process, from the elaboration of the detailed design to the final acceptance of the works. The contract covers the construction of the entire ITER complex, including 29 out of a total of 39 buildings, site infrastructure and power supplies.

Seven parties - China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea and the EU - are cooperating to build ITER, a 500 MWt tokamak, at Cadarache. The partners agreed in mid 2005 to site Iter at Cadarache. The deal involved major concessions to Japan, which had put forward Rokkasho as a preferred site. The EU and France will contribute half of the €12.8 billion (US$18.7 billion) total cost, with the other partners - Japan, China, South Korea, USA and Russia - putting in 10% each. Site preparation at Cadarache began in January 2007. The facility is expected to be in operation around 2018. As part of the reactor's phased commissioning, it will initially be tested using hydrogen. Experiments using tritium and deuterium as fuel will begin in 2026. Much later than expected a few years ago.
World Nuclear News, 15 April 2010