Tag Archives: areva

One Player, Many Pawns: the thirst for nuclear technology

The Hanhikivi plant in Finland will use Russian nuclear technology. model of the plant from wikipedia

The nuclear power industry, which had been in the doldrums since the 1980s, suffered a devastating blow in 2011 when a tsunami engulfed the Fukushima power plant in Japan, ultimately causing a meltdown. The amount of electricity generated by nuclear power worldwide plunged 11% in two years, and has not recovered since. Within this declining industry, one country now dominates the market for design and export of nuclear plants: Russia.

Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear-power company,  is focused on what some call the “great grand middle”: countries that are close allies of neither the United States nor Russia. In April Russia started building Turkey’s first nuclear plant, worth $20bn. Its first reactor is due for completion in 2023. Rosatom says it has 33 new plants on its order book, worth some $130bn. A dozen are under construction, including in Bangladesh, India and Hungary…. Once completed the plants offer an obvious diplomatic lever in the form of sway over a large portion of a country’s electricty generation… The relationship betweeen exporter and customer is particularly close in a nuclear plant’s early years, when local employees are still being trained and the exporting country is direclty involved in the plant’s operation….

Russia’s nuclear programme has endured for two main reasons. Its designs are cheap, and Rosatom enjoys the backing of the state, which helps it absorb hard-to-insure risks like nuclear meltdowns. Its competitors trail hopelessly: France’s Areva (now Orano) has started building only two plants in the past ten years, in Finland and China; both are delayed and over budget. KEPCO, South Korea’s energy company, is facing a domestic backlash against nuclear power, while Westinghouse, in America, is only now emerging from bankruptcy.

Russia’s only real competitor is China..Yet although China will surely catch up, for now Russia has no serious rivals in the export of nuclear technology. In a world that needs to generate much more electricity from nuclear power if it is to take decarbonisation seriously, that is a sobering though

Excerpts from  Atoms for Peace: Russia and Nuclear Power, Economist, Aug. 4, 2018, at 43

Who is Relishing Nuclear Power

Daya Bay nuclear power plant in Longgang District, Shenzhen, China

On February 23, 2016, China General Nuclear Power Group, hosted dozens of business executives from Kenya, Russia, Indonesia and elsewhere, as well as diplomats and journalists, at its Daya Bay nuclear-power station to promote the Hualong One for export.  Asked how much of the global market share for new nuclear reactors CGN wants Hualong One to win, Zheng Dongshan, CGN’s deputy general manager in charge of international business, said: “The more the better.”

The move marks a turnaround for China and the nuclear-power industry. For three decades, China served as a big market for nuclear giants including U.S.-based, Japanese-owned Westinghouse Electric Co. and France’s Areva SA. More than 30 reactors have been built across China since the 1990s with reliance on foreign design and technology.

China’s push into nuclear power comes as many nations have been re-examining the risks of nuclear energy and its costs compared with natural gas and other fuels. Two dozen reactors are under construction across China today, representing more than one-third of all reactors being built globally, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The scale and pace of building has given CGN and other Chinese companies opportunities to bulk up on experience in the home market and gain skills in developing reactor parts, technologies and systems. That experience, combined with China’s lower costs of labor and capital, makes the new Chinese reactor potentially attractive to international customers, industry experts said…

[T]he first of Hualong One model reactor won’t enter service in China for several more years.  But the Hualong One reactor marks a big leap by China’s national nuclear champions to move up the export value chain. Jointly designed by CGN and China National Nuclear Corp., the reactor, also known as the HPR1000, has similar specifications to other so-called Generation 3 reactors such as Westinghouse’s AP1000, like advanced so-called passive safety systems.

China Inc’s Nuclear Power Push, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 24, 2016

The Inevitability of Nuclear Power

Hinkley Point B nuclear power station, UK

[A third nuclear reactor is to be built in Flamanville, France  by Electricité de France (EDF)]…Called Flamanville 3, is likely to become the focus of international attention because it is the model for an imminent expansion across the channel…EDF has agreed on October 21st agreed with China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN), a state-owned entity, to build two reactors of the same design in south-west England called Hinkley Point C. EDF will own two-thirds of the project and CGN a third. The plant in Somerset is supposed to open by 2025, after construction that is forecast to cost £24.5 billion ($37.8 billion)…

The history of Flamanville 3, where work began in 2007, indicates how difficult that might be. It was planned as a five-year scheme, but this month EDF, which is mostly state-owned, formally asked officials to extend the deadline to 2020. Its original budget of €3.3 billion has more than tripled, to €10.5 billion ($11.9 billion). Getting its new European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) into service is proving harder than expected. One problem is the troubled condition of Areva, another mostly state-owned French firm, which supplies reactor components. It reported losses of nearly €5 billion in March, because of soaring costs and long delays at the only other EPR being built in Europe, Olkiluoto 3, in Finland. Work began in 2005 but it will not open before 2018 at the earliest.

The main technical problem at Flamanville 3 concerns suspicions of high levels of carbon in the steel of a crucial component, the vessel, already installed under the dome of the new reactor. Replacing it now, if inspectors conclude it is too brittle, would be costly. In June the company also said it was double-checking the working of safety valves.

Meanwhile EDF’s financial burden grows. It boasts of €73 billion in global revenues, but faces a threefold strain. Demand for electricity is stalling in France, its main market—and, as problematic, the country plans to cut nuclear’s share of electricity generation to half of the total, by 2025, from 75%. Next, though details are not finalised, EDF will absorb the nuclear unit of troubled Areva. Last, it has to upgrade, or at least maintain, France’s stock of ageing reactors. Mr Lévy told French radio on October 18th that capital expenditure for that alone would be around €50 billion.

No wonder ratings agencies judge that EDF’s financial prospects are secure only because of its state backing.

EDF’s prospects, indeed those of any nuclear company, depend on the backing of politicians who want to preserve nuclear expertise and jobs at home. 

EDF’s Nuclear Ambitions: French Lessons, Economist,Oct. 24, 2015, at 63

Nuclear Industry: France, Russia and China

Olkiluoto-3 under construction in 2009. It is scheduled to start electricity production in 2018, a delay of nine years. image from wikipedia

[Regarding the French nuclear company Areva] its newest product, the expensive European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), has encountered more than the teething problems common to all big industrial projects. A plant in Finland is almost ten years behind schedule and almost three times over budget: Areva has had to write off billions as a result….Two reactors in China and the only new-build in France, at Flamanville, are also running late. EDF played an important role in managing the Chinese and French projects.

Besides criticism for slack project management, Areva and EDF (Electricite de France) have been questioned over technical standards. The steel in the main reactor vessel at Flamanville is faulty, the Nuclear Safety Authority said in April 2015. EDF disputes the finding and, with Areva, has started new tests. The news added to growing disenchantment in Britain with an agreement, not yet firm, that expensively entrusts the construction of a power station incorporating two Areva EPRs to a consortium led by EDF.  It seems unlikely that Areva will find many more foreign takers for its existing reactor…

[S]ome of Areva’s rivals are racing ahead. Rosatom, a Russian nuclear firm, has built up a fat order-book. Keen pricing, generous financing and relaxed technology transfer help, though Western sanctions do not. China’s two reactor-builders, CNNC and CGN, are peddling their own new design, Hualong One; in February CNNC signed a preliminary agreement to supply a reactor to Argentina.

Areva has little reason to hope for a surge of new orders at home. France’s 58 reactors are elderly but EDF, which operates them, plans to revamp rather than replace them…A new law set to come into force this summer, pledging somehow to cut France’s dependence on nuclear power from 75% to 50% of its electricity needs by 2025, will make Areva’s prospects even bleaker.

Excerpts from France’s nuclear industry: Arevaderci, Economist, May 23, 2015, at 53.

United Arab Emirates Push Ahead with Nuclear Energy Plans

The Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC) announced today the results of the nuclear fuel procurement competition launched in July 2011. The goal of the fuel competition is to create a strategy to cover supply for the first 15 years of operations.  A portfolio of leading international nuclear fuel suppliers have been contracted to provide a series of nuclear fuel services to cover ENEC’s requirements. The resulting fuel strategy guarantees security of supply, quality assurance of fuel-related materials and competitive commercial terms to protect the interests of the UAE peaceful nuclear energy program by providing volume flexibilities and the ability to adapt to changing market conditions.

The following services have been contracted by ENEC:

• Purchase of natural uranium concentrates

• Conversion services (in which uranium concentrates are converted to material ready for enrichment)

• Enrichment services (in which the converted material is enriched to a level that is used in the fuel for nuclear energy plants)

• Purchase of enriched uranium product

The enriched uranium will be supplied to KEPCO Nuclear Fuels (KNF), which will manufacture the fuel assemblies for use in the four planned UAE units. KNF is a member of ENEC’s Prime Contract consortium, led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

Starting in 2014 – 2015, a total of six leading companies in the nuclear fuel supply industry will participate in the ENEC fuel supply program. ConverDyn (U.S.) will provide conversion services; Uranium One, Inc. (Canada) will provide natural uranium, URENCO (headquartered in the U.K) will provide enrichment services; and Rio Tinto (headquartered in the U.K) will provide natural uranium. TENEX (Russia) will supply uranium concentrates, conversion services and enrichment services. AREVA (France) will provide uranium concentrates, conversion services and enrichment services.

The six contracts are valued at approximately US$3 billion according to ENEC forecasts. The contracted fuel will enable the Barakah plant to generate up to 450 million MWh for a period of 15 years starting in 2017, when the first nuclear energy unit is scheduled to begin providing safe, clean, reliable and efficient electricity to the UAE.

“The completion of the fuel supply strategy is a key achievement to ENEC’s program and a clear example of how the UAE continues to set the gold standard for implementing a peaceful nuclear energy program,” said ENEC’s Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Al Hammadi. “These contracts will provide ENEC with long-term security of supply, high quality fuel and favorable pricing and commercial terms. We are also pleased that this marks the start of long-term commercial relationships with companies that have earned excellent reputations in the industry.”

The ENEC fuel procurement strategy is guided by the Government of the United Arab Emirates’ support for international non-proliferation efforts. That support was detailed in a nuclear energy policy document released by the government in April 2008 that outlined a series of commitments, including the decision to forgo domestic enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear fuel. That commitment was ratified by UAE Federal Law in 2009.

The procurement competition was the result of an extensive year-long process that included initial discussions between ENEC and international nuclear fuel suppliers. It was conducted in line with the industry’s best practices, under which companies contract for the various aspects of the fuel cycle as a means to ensure security of supply, high quality fuel and commercial advantage. In addition, this process will enable ENEC to build a strategic commercial capability in nuclear fuel procurement. The comprehensive analysis performed by ENEC included a peer review system to ensure that the procurement process was performed according to global standards.

ENEC expects to return to the market at various times to take advantage of favorable market conditions and to strengthen its security of supply position.  ENEC is planning to build four 1,400-MW nuclear energy units at the recently approved site, Barakah, in the Western Region of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, in order to provide the electricity needed to fuel the economic growth of the UAE. In July, ENEC received regulatory approval from both the Environment Agency of Abu Dhabi and the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation for the construction of the first two nuclear energy units in Barakah.  Pending further regulatory approvals, the first unit is scheduled to begin delivering electricity to the grid in 2017. The remaining three units are scheduled to come on line in 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation Awards Nuclear Fuel Supply Contracts, Nuclear Street News, Aug 15 2012

See also UAE goes Forward with its Nuclear Energy Program

The Quiet Nuclearization of the Middle East, UAE