China’s first AP1000 reactor in still on track for completion in 2013 and other nuclear energy news

1. Construction of AP1000 units in China has seen three milestones this month: on-site, at a new module factory and in fuel fabrication.

* Building work on the first of the Westinghouse-designed units at Sanmen moved on with the lifting in of the fourth ring of the reactor’s containment vessel. Shandong Nuclear Power Company said the lift went well despite cold weather and took place 14 days ahead of schedule. This major part of the reactor building now stands about 40 metres high.

* In central Hubei province, China’s second factory for the modules that make AP1000 major structures was opened. This is owned by Hubei Nuclear Power Equipment Company Ltd, based in Wuhan. The factory will make the large components, such as containment vessel sections, for AP1000s as well as for later Chinese derivatives like the larger CAP-1400.

* Separately in the USA Westinghouse announced the manufacture of the first four fuel assemblies. They were made in the company’s Columbia facility in South Carolina and should go into action at Sanmen 1 when it begins operation in 2013.

2. In the USA, a federal advisory panel announced that the AP1000 is reasonably safe, a step forward for utility firms hoping to build a new wave of nuclear power plants. Officials at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will consider the advisory panel’s report before deciding whether to approve the latest design of the AP1000, a decision expected sometime next year. The findings were contingent on a mid-January review examining whether the reactor can safely withstand the crash of a large jetliner and an analysis of long-term cooling issues

3. Malaysia plans to build two nuclear power plants that will generate 1,000 megawatts each with the first plant ready for operation in 2021 and the second plant, a year later, as part of the overall long-term plan to balance energy supply.

4. Kansai Electric Power activated the No. 3 nuclear reactor at the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture on Wednesday. It is Japan’s fourth operation involving plutonium-uranium mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel.

5. The Wall Street Journal talks about what Areva (french nuclear company) needs in order to successfully compete and capture significant sales for new reactor construction

Areva will need given support to develop its smaller reactor designs to address the demand from countries with lower energy needs

Areva will need to be allowed to work along with EDF’s arch-rival GDF Suez

Areva will need to keep on developing alliances with foreign partners and bid freely, away from EDF’s tutoring

A new manager will need to be chosen for his or her professional abilities

The French government’s notorious infighting will need to be kept from interfering with Areva and let Areva embrace the world’s nuclear renaissance without adding unnecessary obstacles while competitors are running ahead on a bump-free track.

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