Nuclear power in China, France, India, Russia and Uranium in Canada

1. Business Week reports Cameco Corp., the world’s second- largest uranium producer, crews safely re-entered the main working level of the Cigar Lake mine in Canada’s Saskatchewan province yesterday after the site was fully drained of water.

Cigar Lake, which sits atop the world’s richest untapped uranium deposit, flooded in October 2006 and again in August 2008. Work to secure the underground is expected to be completed before October and an update on the project will be included in Cameco’s earnings release on Feb. 24, the company said.

2. China Daily reports that construction of two or three inland nuclear power plants is expected to start by the end of 2010

The new plants will use the AP1000 technology developed by US-based nuclear equipment firm Westinghouse. Indications are that the projects would be Taohuajiang power plant in Hunan province, Xianning in Hubei province and Pengze in Jiangxi province, said industry insiders. The three projects are the first batch of inland nuclear power plants in the country. The Hubei project is expected to generate electricity four years later.

3. Bloomberg reports on increased profits at EDF, France’s nuclear utility company

Electricite de France SA, Europe’s biggest power generator, expects “significant” profit growth this year as international expansion adds to earnings and nuclear plants at home boost output. Reactor availability must increase by 1.5 to 2 percentage points this year, Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio told reporters today in Paris. Profit will also be helped by recent acquisitions in the U.K., the U.S. and Belgium. Expansion also helped offset the impact of strikes and storms, which reduced French output last year (2009) to the lowest level in a decade.

EDF ran its reactors at an availability rate of 78 percent over the year, compared with 79.2 percent in 2008 and 80.2 percent in 2007. The utility had targeted an 85 percent rate by 2011, and now expects to achieve that level in the “medium term,” after 18 months and within 10 years, Proglio said.

EDF’s 59th domestic reactor, being built in Normandy at a cost of about 4 billion euros, will be connected to the grid at the end of 2012 and will be operational the following year, Proglio said. The company also plans atomic plants in China, Britain and the U.S.

4. Indian nuclear scientists have planned for the design of a 1,000 MW fast breeder reactor that will compensate for the heavy demands of electricity in the country.

India has already planned a three-step procedure to design this fast breed reactor by 2018. In the first step, there will be a new 120 MW test reactor which would be powered by metallic fuel. In the second step, a 500 MW fast breeder reactor would be set up and in the last phase, the existing fast breeder test reactor’s (FBTR) core will be modified to a metallic core.

As part of this three-stage nuclear reactor programme in the designing the 1,000 MW fast reactor, there would be initiation to get the right ratio of Plutonium to Uranium, which is to be kept as 20:80 in the new metallic fuel.

The mixed plutonium-uranium oxide (MOX) fuel has some technical challenges that is to be studied in detail.

The MOX fuel has the advantage in powering India’s first seven fast reactors including the upcoming 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR). And, shortly one of them will have the capability to convert to metallic fuel.

The first step in realising that is to test the metallic fuel pins and sub-assemblies in the FBTR located at Kalpakkam. This will be followed by replacing FBTR’s entire carbide fuel with metallic fuel”. The target is 2013 for all metallic fuel in the 150 MW test reactor.

5. Only 3 out of India’s 17 nuclear reactors are operating at maximum capacity because of uranium fuel supply issues The three are getting imported fuel after a ban on supplying india with fuel was lifted. The international Nuclear Suppliers’ Group (NSG) lifted its three-decade-old sanctions on India’s nuclear commerce in 2008. After that the first consignment of 60 tonnes of imported uranium from France landed on Indian shores in April 2009. The current installed capacity of nuclear power stands at 4,120 MW with an overall CF of around 60%.

India just started up its 19th reactor. Two reactors were started in 2010 (January and February).

The efficiency of nuclear power reactors is measured in terms of ‘capacity utilisation factor (CF). Any plant that achieves a CF of 68.5% is said to be functioning to its potential. If the CF falls below this figure — as is the case with the 11 reactors in India — then the plant starts losing out on the amount of electricity it was built to produce.

Only the three nuclear reactors, which are getting imported uranium and are not dependent on local supplies, are working at their maximum capacity. Two of these reactors are in Mumbai and one of them achieved an impressive CF of 99% in 2009. The third is at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan

6. India’s plan to scale up nuclear power by ten times has gotten underway

Imported Light Water Reactor units ranging from 1,000 MWe to 1,650 MWe from Russia, France and the US would make for over 80 per cent of the envisaged capacity, with indigenous Pressurised Heavy Water Reactors of 700MWe accounting for the rest.

“The units are planned to be constructed with a gestation period of about six years from the first pour of concrete to commercial operation. The plan is to start work on the first set of twin units at these sites by 2012,” a Government official said.

Site clearances, including primary environmental clearance, have been received for the second phase of the Koodankulam project (four additional Russian ‘VVER’ series of reactors) and the Jaitapur site (in Maharashtra), where French nuclear major Areva NP would set up its ‘EPR’ reactor units.

State-owned Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd had initially set itself a target of achieving a total installed capacity of 20,000 MWe by 2020.

This, according to officials, could go up to 40,000 MW if the LWR programme gains momentum, with Toshiba-Westinghouse’s AP1000 series of reactors, GE-Hitachi’s ABWR reactor series, Areva’s 1,650 MWe European Pressurised Reactors and the Russian ‘VVER’ reactors set to be deployed at the earmarked sites. The current installed nuclear capacity is 4,120 MWe.

7. With uranium supplies perking up, Indian nuclear power generation surged 39 per cent in December 2009 and 19 per cent for the April-December period this fiscal

During April-December, Kaiga’s PLF (plant load factor) rose to 56.10 per cent from 49.91 per cent last year, MAPS’s was up 52.06 per cent (39.29 per cent) and Tarapur’s rose to 64.31 per cent (49.84 per cent).

In the case of the fuel starved nuclear power stations, efficiency levels have gone up considerably following the doubling of uranium supplies from the Turamdih mill in Jharkhand.

8. Russian President Medvedev repeated the statement that nuclear energy is a Russian national priority

Tomsk Region Governor Viktor Kress, who attended the meeting, recalled government plans to build a nuclear power plant in Tomsk in 2015-2017, but said the project had been delayed.

“Anyway, once it is mentioned in our program, we will certainly build it, because our power sector has no future without nuclear energy,” Medvedev said.

Soon after his appointment as head of Russia’s state-run nuclear power corporation Rosatom in 2005, Sergei Kiriyenko announced an ambitious program to increase the country’s share of nuclear energy generation to 25% by 2030 from the then 16%-17%. He also said Rosatom planned to build up to 40 new reactors at a cost of $60 billion to achieve the goal.

Kiriyenko said last spring that Rosatom’s subsidiary, Atomstroyexport, was building 14 NPPs in various countries around the world with plans to sign a number of new contracts in the near future.

9. Rossing South Mine is being developed to start operation in 2013 and should reach about 7000 tons per year of uranium.