Bulgaria Bids Bye Bye to Belene Again
- Jan 31, 2021 6:46 pm GMT
- Bulgaria PM Switches Horses from Belene to Kozloduy
- China’s 1st Hualong One Goes into Revenue Service
- Czech Republic / China Will Be Left Out of €6B Dukovany Tender
- Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Plant Cost Soars £500M due to Effects of UK’s Second COVID 19 Lockdown
- Think Tank Explores Timing of Development of a Hydrogen Economy
Bulgaria Says Bye Bye to Belene Again /
Prime Minister Blinks over Completion Costs of €10B
Borissov added that two new units could be built at the Kozloduv power station, rather than the single unit previously discussed, using a combination of €600M worth of equipment previously purchased to build two 1000 MW VVERs and new components from other reactor vendors.
This latest development may be the final straw for the Belene nuclear power project, which has been pronounced to be dead as a doornail more than once only to be revived by new possibilities for it to be completed, but this time it really looks like it is the end of the road.
It was originally planned to be a replacement for the Kozloduy plant’s four reactors that were decommissioned as a condition for the country to join the EU.
PM Borissov was then also the prime minister who cut the cord in 2012 over concerns as to whether it was financially viable.
That decision led to an expensive outcome as Bulgaria was ordered to reimburse over €600mn to Atomstroyexport, a unit of Russia’s Rosatom, which had won the contract to build the power plant and had already started work. The money was needed to pay for long lead time components like the reactor pressure vessel, steam system, turbines, and switch gear.
The prospect of paying for the equipment without a project in which it could be used resulted in a reversal of Borissov’s plans. However, getting western reactor vendors to complete the project turned out to be a tough sell. Westinghouse declined to bid on Belene due to uncertainties over the government’s long-term commitment to the project.
Bulgaria was behind Russia’s iron curtain until 1991 when the then Communist government collapsed in response to a general strike. Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007. Historically, Russia has regarded Bulgaria’s nuclear energy plants as a captive market and has thwarted efforts by western firms to bid on projects there.
In 2012 Westinghouse signed a contract to prepare a proposal for a third reactor at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy site. Efforts by the firm to take over construction of the plant came to an end when Russia said has no intention of sharing information with Westinghouse regarding a feasibility study. That project is designed to scope out the potential for a seventh unit at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant.
In 2010 Westinghouse reportedly told the US Embassy in Sofia that the 1st unit was “a lemon” according to a US State Department Cable as reported by the UK Guardian newspaper. The embassy cable, dated February 17, 2009, also complained about endemic corruption in Bulgaria associated with the project.
In 2016 the former Bulgarian energy minister and two executives of the state owned national electric utility were indicted over alleged illegal activities involving the disputed sale of equipment ordered for the original construction of the plant. The defendants denied the charges and said they were brought by state prosecutors for “political reasons.”
Conceptual diagram of Belene VVER. Image: Rosatom
In 2018 the project was revived, and work on a tender was started to pick a strategic investor for Belene. It has attracted interest from Russia, China, France and the US. Financing remains an issue as the government has not committed to an taking an equity stake in the project nor to establishing rate guarantees for the production of electricity.
According to English language media reports from Bulgaria, in 2019, the government said was thinking aboutt launching a tender for a new unit for either Belene or at the Kozloduy site. Borissov then said that the equipment purchased for Belene could be used for that project instead of completing Belene.
Borissov’s sudden mercurial decision to consider switching horses has been criticized by opposition members in the Bulgarian parliament. Calling the decision as being influenced by election year politics, critics cited the lack of a financial plan to address the estimated €10B for the two units.
US efforts to spike Russia’s growing market share of energy equipment sales to EU countries also may be playing a role. In the waning days of the Trump administration, US Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources Francis Fannon said that his country is maintaining its position against the construction of the Bulgarian section of the Turkish Stream (TurkStream) pipeline and of the Belene NPP, as it considers they will not help Bulgaria achieve energy diversification and security.
He added that the US would consider supporting completion of the Belene project. He added that the existing equipment supplied by Rosatom in 2012 was “outdated technology.”
This political stance flies in the face of the fact that Russian companies would have been in a strong position to complete Belene as the existing equipment was supplied by Atomstroyexport.
Only one other nation has successfully completed a commercial, full size, nuclear reactor by integrating VVER components with those of other vendors. Iran’s Buscher nuclear plant was begun in 1975 by a consortium of German firms, but a ruinous war with Iraq and other delays prevented substantial progress until 1995 when Russia took over the effort completing it in 2007.
Initially, Bulgaria claimed that Belene would replace the two existing units at Kozloduy once their lifespan ends, but as the two reactors have now been upgraded, and had their licenses extended, that’s no longer a viable business case.
Fannon is now out of office and the policy priorities of President Biden have not yet been articulated with regard to nuclear energy exports and financial support from the government for them.
China’s Hualong One Nuclear Reactor in Revenue Service
- China now is a country that has mastered independent third-generation nuclear power technology’, CNNC party chief says
- Almost 90% of the equipment used in Hualong One, including all elements of its core, was made in China, the company says
(South China Morning Post) The first of China’s Hualong One third-generation pressurized water nuclear reactors went into commercial operation on Saturday, according to its developer China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).
Construction of the home-grown reactor in Fuqing in the southeastern province of Fujian began in 2015 and it was connected to the grid in November last year following more than five years of construction work.
The Hualong One units, designed to have a 60-year lifespan, have an installed capacity of 1,161 MWe each, CNNC said.
Chinese nuclear officials took a victory lap over completing the project
“This marks that China has mastered independent third-generation nuclear power technology following the United States, France, Russia and others,” the company said in a statement on its official WeChat account.
“China has become a country that has truly mastered independent third-generation nuclear power technology after the United States, France and Russia,” Yu Jianfeng, CNNC’s Communist Party secretary, said in a statement.
“We must not only export our own nuclear power but also build it according to our own standards, so that we can’t be controlled by others,” chief designer Xing Ji said.
CNNC said the Hualong One project in Fuqing, where construction of a second unit is set to be completed this year, would help China improve its energy mix and reach carbon neutrality. Both units are designed to have a 60-year lifespan. Construction of a second Hualong One unit at the Fuqing site is due to be completed this year.
China is the world’s third-largest producer of nuclear power, with its 49 operational reactors boasting 51 gigawatts of capacity last year. A further 19 reactors are under construction, which once completed will add 20.9GW of capacity, according to the China Nuclear Energy Association (CNEA).
Czech Republic /
China Will Be Left Out of €6B Dukovany Tender
(NucNet) The parties remain divided over whether to also exclude Russia.
The planned €6B tender to choose a supplier for a new nuclear unit at the Dukovany nuclear power station will probably go ahead without a Chinese bidder, the Czech government and leaders of the opposition parties agreed in late January which slammed the door on the prospects for a Hulalong One export deal by a Chinese state owned enterprise.
According to trade and industry minister Karel Havlicek, China is an “unimaginable” main supplier for all political parties. At the same time, he said, the parties are divided about proposals by some politicians to exclude Russia from the tender.
“We have come closer on one issue, we nearly all agree that China at this point is not realistic, now the discussion is whether to allow Russia in some form or not,” Mr Havlicek said. The main issue for China, and Russia, he said, are “security concerns.”
Six companies have announced their intention to bid for the contract. The companies are Westinghouse of the US, Rosatom, CGN, France’s EDF, South Korea’s KHNP, and joint French-Japanese company Mitsubishi Atmea.
CEZ has said one Generation III+ reactor is planned for the site, with a maximum installed capacity of 1,200 MW. However, the company has filed for permission to build up to two new units.
The Czech state has long been in talks with CEZ about expanding its nuclear fleet, but costs and financing have been sticking points. The utility has balked at providing the financing for the project on the grounds that it is a “bet the company” effort and has demanded that the government provide the financing including guarantees to cover cost overruns.
Hinkley Point C Nuclear Power Station Cost Soars £500M
According to multiple UK news media reports, France’s EDF has once again revised the expected cost of Hinkley Point C, the nuclear power station.
It said that that delays arising from the COVID19 pandemic government mandated “lockdowns”will add about £500M and push back the station’s estimated start-up date to 2026.
EDF, which is financing the construction of the plant along with its partner CGN of China, which has a one-third equity stake in the effort, said it expected the project to cost up to £23B compared with a 2019 estimate of a maximum of £22.5B. Once inflation is taken into account, the final price tag undoubtedly will be higher.
The UK is now in its second and tougher ‘lockdown’ to try to stem the growing number of fatalities from the virus. EDF said that it has not been able to catch up with work that was delayed from the first lockdown last year.
“Ten months after it began, we are still facing the full force of the pandemic,” Stuart Crooks, managing director of Hinkley Point C, said.
“Even though experience has allowed us to increase numbers on site during the pandemic from below 2,000 to more than 5,000, social distancing requirements still limit the number of people we can safely have on site at any one time,” he said.
Mr Crooks added that “a longer construction period also adds some cost — as does the reduced efficiency of operating a site for a long period under Covid-19 conditions”.
Hinkley Point C is one of three EDF projects in Europe where the French company is using next-generation European Pressurized Reactor technology. The other two, the Flamanville power plant in France and Olkiluoto in Finland, have both been affected by long delays and cost overruns and their problems occurred long before the COVID19 virus appeared on the scene.
In 2013 the UK government struck a deal with EDF that guaranteed a price of £92.50/MWh for the electricity produced at Hinkley Point C in exchange for the French company financing its construction. At the time, the estimated construction cost was £16bn.
The French company is in talks with the UK government to build another plant, Sizewell C in Suffolk, although executives have made clear that a different financing model will be required for construction.
Ministers are examining taking a direct stake in Sizewell C as well as using a “regulated asset base” model that would involve consumers paying upfront through their energy bills.
Think Tank Explores Timing of Development of
a Hydrogen Economy
Using nuclear plants to generate heat as well as electricity for non-grid industrial applications could be central to deep decarbonization efforts that go beyond being a source of zero-carbon electricity.
Speakers at the fifth Atlantic Council Global Energy Forum this month looked at how hydrogen, and how using nuclear energy to produce it, can reduce CO2 emissions for industries which have been tough nuts to crack in terms of decarbonization.
The Day 2 session on Nuclear Beyond Power: Hydrogen, Heat, and Desalination focused on the opportunities for light-water-cooled and high temperature gas-cooled reactor designs to support the heat and electricity demands of industrial processes, hydrogen production and desalination to produce potable water.
The session was moderated by Shannon Bragg-Sitton, Ph.D., lead for Integrated Energy Systems at the Idaho National Laboratory.
In the presentation Briggs pointed out that without nuclear energy the costs associated with achieving the ambitious decarbonization targets embedded in the 2015 Paris Agreement will make it difficult to achieve them.
She said that for periods of low electricity demand, or when renewables like solar and wind are generating electricity, the heat from nuclear reactors can be used to supply steam to industry, to produce hydrogen, or to make synthetic fuels.
As a result, using heat directly and leveraging energy at a time when it may not be needed to meet grid demands could also provide nuclear plants with an additional revenue stream, supporting their long-term economic viability.
The fact that the world is not on track to meet the Paris 2015 goals was highlighted by Kristy Gogan, managing partner of research and consultancy firm Lucid Catalyst which last year published a report setting out how producing hydrogen can help various industries reduce their carbon footprint. See Missing Link to a Livable Climate: How Hydrogen-Enabled Synthetic Fuels Can Help Deliver the Paris Goals (PDF file)
“Our report shows that it’s not too late to still meet the Paris goals – but only if we are prepared to make major investments in clean hydrogen production. There is simply no other way to make the numbers add up – this truly is the missing link we need to maintain a liveable climate on this planet,” Gogan said.
Gogan focused her remarks on markets for hydrogen and making the cost of producing competitively priced.
“Large-scale, low-cost hydrogen is the key ingredient that can enable the production of clean substitute fuels that can enable decarbonization of those really tough-to-abate sectors like aviation, shipping, cement production, and industry.”
However, to achieve this hydrogen needs to be cheap and competitive. “We estimate that the target price for hydrogen is around 90 [US] cents per kg. Current projections for renewables-generated hydrogen don’t expect to achieve those costs until around 2050.”
According to Gogan existing nuclear technology could already produce hydrogen at below $2.00/kg, and a new generation of advanced small modular reactors could achieve the $0.90/kg target price potentially by 2030
According to the Lucid report, nuclear energy’s attributes – its production of low-cost power and heat combined with high capacity factors and a small land use footprint – make it well suited to enable the highly efficient and low-cost production of hydrogen, at a scale large enough to be relevant to global oil supply, which is currently around 100 million barrels per day.
Gogan cautioned that it won’t be easy to make the transition to leveraging hydrogen as a means to achieve climate goals. She said that a fundamental shift to using the volatile gas will require significant investments in infrastructure to produce, distribute, and use it.
One way to speed things up, she said, is to focus on production of substitute fuels that could enable a new business model for oil and gas sectors, opening an entirely new business opportunity, with the oil sector continuing to leverage its existing industrial capabilities.
It is not Easy to Be Green Hydrogen
Some of the challenges facing Gogan’s strategy include the fact that energy density of hydrogen at atmospheric pressure isn’t sufficient to position it as an alternative fuel.
As a practical matter DOE notes that early uses of hydrogen as an alternative fuel will be in fuel cells that will make electricity. Future cars and trucks would operate in a similar way today’s gasoline / electric hybrids operate. The car starts using electricity stored in a battery and once moving uses hydrogen in the fuel cell to make electricity to power the car.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas is about the same as the energy in 1 gallon (6.2 pounds, 2.8 kilograms) of gasoline.
Because hydrogen has a low volumetric energy density, it needs to be stored onboard a vehicle as a compressed gas to achieve the driving range of conventional vehicles. Most current applications use high-pressure tanks capable of storing hydrogen at either 5,000 or 10,000 pounds per square inch (psi).
For example, the fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) in production by automotive manufacturers and available at dealerships have 10,000 psi tanks. Retail dispensers, which are mostly co-located at gasoline stations, can fill these tanks in about 5 minutes. Other storage technologies are under development, including bonding hydrogen chemically with a material such as metal hydride or low-temperature sorbent materials.
Conceptual Design of a fuel cell powering an electric vehicle. Image: US DOE
Even so Gogan says it will take time to move the world’s fossil fuel burning industrial and transport sectors to hydrogen.
“We could really accelerate deep decarbonization across parts of our economy which frankly right now we do not have good answers for. By 2050 we could see low-cost clean hydrogen help to avoid really substantial global cumulative future carbon emissions from a very large fraction of otherwise locked-in fossil fuels.”
Other Non-traditional Uses of Nuclear Power
Three critical factors must be addressed for advanced nuclear reactors to deliver their maximum contribution to non-traditional applications of nuclear power, said Simon Irish, CEO of Terrestrial Energy, which is developing the Integral Molten Salt Reactor power plant. These are right-sizing, cost and power.
“For example, for industrial applications requiring thermal power and heat, that must be supplied in situ or close to where it is required,” he said, but “even the largest industrial applications rarely have a thermal load above 500-1000 MWt.”
IMSR Conceptual Design. Image: Terrestrial Power
Irish said that a small reactor generating 200-400 MWt is “in the right spot” to provide a significant source of both heat and power to an industrial facility, he said, and advanced reactors are able to be sized to meet that demand.
- First, this provides a means of generating power at a higher thermal efficiency, leading to an increase in capital efficiency and the ability to deliver cost-competitive power.
- Second, it provides a heat quality that is relevant to the thermal load of the industrial facility.
“That is the exciting opportunity for advanced nuclear, and why it gives it the ability to cover a much greater range of industrial applications and not just on-grid power applications.”
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