France orders new steam generators to extend nuclear plants from 40 to 60 years of operation and Fukushima nears cold shutdown

1. French utility EDF has placed an order worth €1.5 billion ($2 billion) for the supply of 44 replacement steam generators. The replacement steam generations will all be installed at its 1300 MWe series of nuclear power plants. EDF said that the order “constitutes part of the programme for the gradual replacement of major plant components.” In July 2010, EDF said that it was assessing the prospect of 60-year lifetimes for all its existing reactors. This would involve replacement of all steam generators (three in each 900 MWe reactor and four in each 1300 MWe unit) and other refurbishment, costing €400-600 million ($545-815 million) per unit to take them beyond 40 years. The company is currently replacing steam generators at a rate of two units per year, and plans to increase this to three units in 2016.

2. Fukushima units near cold shutdown

The temperatures at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi units 1, 2 and 3 have all been recorded as being below 100°C for the first time since the accident triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, according to Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). At 5.00pm on 28 September, the temperature of the bottom of the RPV of unit 2 was 99.4°C. The temperature of unit 1 has been below 100°C – the boiling point of water – since late July, while that of unit 3 dropped below 100°C in early September. The temperatures of units 1 and 3 are currently around 78°C and 79°C, respectively. Cold shutdown at all three reactors – when the heat from radioactive decay has been removed effectively enough for coolant water to be below 100ºC – is the goal of the second phase of Tepco’s roadmap for stabilisation. It aims to achieve this by the end of 2011. However, Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said “Although the temperature (of unit 2) has been showing a falling tendency overall, the temperature of the bottom of the pressure vessel has gone up and down, so it is still too early to (make a definitive conclusion).”

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