Nuclear News Digest
November - December 2013
- While presenting in November 2013 the EC guidelines that national governments
should follow when intervening in electricity markets,
the EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger declared
that the European Commission would need a few weeks
to decide whether the UK government’s plan
to support nuclear power in relation to the Hinkley Point C planned NPP
meets European competition rules.
The deal, formally notified to the EC by the UK government, involves an agreement in principle
that the UK will pay a consortium a minimum guaranteed price of GBP92.50/MWh for electricity produced over 35 years from the new NPP to be built in southwest England.
A full investigation lasting between six and 18 months, including a 28-day consultation period, would be initiated by the European Commission's competition and energy departments,
as it should be decided whether such a state-aid case complies with the EU state-aid and internal energy market laws.
- In December the Council adopted two regulations on Union
support for the nuclear decommissioning assistance programmes in
Bulgaria and Slovakia; and in Lithuania covering the period
2014-2020. The first regulation establishes a programme for the
implementation of Union financial support for measures linked to
the decommissioning of units 1 and 2 of the Ignalina nuclear
power plant in Lithuania.
The financial envelope for the
implementation of the Ignalina programme for the period
2014-2020 is set at EUR 450 818 000 at current prices. The
second regulation establishes a programme for the implementation
of Union financial support for measures connected with the
decommissioning of units 1 to 4 of the Kozloduy nuclear power
plant in Bulgaria and units 1 and 2 of the Bohunice V1 nuclear
power plant in Slovakia. A total of EUR 293 032 000 has been set
aside for the period 2014-2020 for the implementation of the
Kozloduy programme, while a total of EUR 225 410 000 has been
set aside for the Bohunice programme at current prices.
- IAEA's designated International Peer Review of Japan's
Mid-and-Long-Term Roadmap towards the Decommissioning of TEPCO's
Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units 1-4 completed on 4
December 2013 its expert review of Japan's plans to achieve
decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi NPP. The 19-member team
looked into a wide range of decommissioning-related issues, from
removal of fuel assemblies from Reactor Unit 4's Spent Fuel Pool
and management of the contaminated water, to Japan's attempts to
monitor radiation conditions in the marine environment.
The proactive strategy adopted by the Japanese authorities
received a positive assessment; however, the safe
decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi remains a very complex
issue which will require considerable efforts so that
sustainable solutions may be implemented and the Plant's
long-term viability ensured.
- The recent assurances uttered by France’s Industry Minister,
that no additional reactors would be shut down apart from the
2-unit NPP at Fessenheim, scheduled for closure in 2016, stem
mainly from the acknowledgement of the competitive advantage
that nuclear power provides French industry. Another important
criterion supporting the government's statement is the enhanced
pollution generated in Germany by the reopening of coal plants
as a result of the nuclear phase-out decision. A new energy law,
destined to shed some light into France's future policies is
expected to be adopted by the end of 2014.
- The Megatons to Megawatts agreement between US and Russia
reached its end in November 2013, as the last shipment of LEU
obtained from down-blending HEU from dismantled nuclear warheads
was sent from Tenex to USEC under the 1994 corresponding
implementing contract. Over 20 years of execution of the
agreement, 500 MTU of HEU have been down blended and provided to
USEC as LEU.
September - October 2013
On 17 September, the European Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Nuclear Safety,
establishing a framework for cooperation to help improve nuclear safety in Europe.
The Memorandum, signed by IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano and the European Commissioner for Energy, Günther Oettinger,
is the first concrete result of an enhanced dialogue between the IAEA and the EU, launched in January 2013 at their first Senior Officials Meeting in Brussels.
Cooperation has been rapidly growing in recent years between the IAEA and the EU, which, together with its Member States,
is one of the biggest donors to the IAEA, both in financial terms and in provision of technical expertise.
Cooperation in the field of nuclear safeguards is already well-established and formalised, but in other areas it is less structured.
Mr. Oettinger highlighted that such intensified cooperation is important to ensure that nuclear energy is produced safely all over the world.
He added that the EU nuclear stress tests set a global benchmark and contribute to the IAEA's Action Plan on Nuclear Safety,
which was endorsed unanimously by the IAEA's Member States in September 2011.
"Under the new Memorandum, all this experience will be made available to the international community.
I hope that the European safety approach leads to a global initiative," said the Commissioner.
The Memorandum creates an enhanced framework for planning and reviewing various forms of cooperation in nuclear safety,
such as expert peer reviews and strengthening emergency preparedness and response capabilities.
It will allow both organisations to coordinate and avoid duplication of effort, benefit from each other's work,
and further contribute to strengthening nuclear safety worldwide, while enhancing IAEA-EU cooperation in general.
In a statement released on 9 October, the EU competition
Commissioner Joaquin Almunia announced that nuclear power will
not be included in the forthcoming update of the EU state aid
guidelines for environmental protection and energy, meant to
establish the criteria based on which national state aid plans
for energy will be evaluated and approved during 2014-2020.
Nuclear state aid proposals will therefore continue to be
decided upon on a case-by-case basis, pursuant to the relevant
EU treaty provisions. Following completion of a public
consultation of the official version of the draft updated
guidelines, the document is expected to be adopted in the first
Recent statements from the Saskatchewan province's prime
minister indicated that relaxing the existing rules capping
foreign ownership of Canadian uranium mines at 49% could
immensely benefit both the province's and the entire Canadian
uranium industry in terms of major investments over the next few
years. In case the recently announced new Canada-European Union
free trade agreement provided that this requirement be no longer
imposed on European companies, the main beneficiaries therefrom
would be companies like AREVA and Rio Tinto. The latter, owner
of a junior Canadian uranium exploration company since January
2012, plans to develop the Roughrider uranium deposit in
On 24 October, Greenland’s parliament voted in favour of
allowing uranium and rare earths deposits mining in the country,
thus putting an end to a decades-long ban. The measure is
intended to help boost Greenland's economy and alleviate the
burdens generated by unemployment and increased costs of living.
Although a self-governed state, the island remains part of the
Kingdom of Denmark, which might oppose such individual decisions
on mining and export of uranium.
With a view to developing a generic design of VVER-type reactors
for the UK and to assessing the feasibility of licensing,
building and adapting such reactors to the UK market,
Rolls-Royce signed in September a cooperation agreement with the
Russian nuclear firm Rosatom and the Finnish utility Fortum. The
cooperation covers various fields, including potential plant
sites evaluation, engineering and safety work, as well as
providing expertise in areas such as spent fuel management and
Also in September 2013, the UK Department for Energy
and Climate Change signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with
July - August 2013
On 1 July, the Euratom Supply Agency published its Annual Report.
Following thorough analyses of the information gathered from the EU utilities via the annual survey conducted at the end of 2012,
ESA concluded that, in the short and medium term,
the needs of EU utilities for both natural uranium and enrichment services are well covered.
However, in the long term, planned reactor deployment in Asian countries could affect the security of supply of the EU nuclear market.
ESA continues to monitor the market, especially supplies of natural and enriched uranium to the EU,
in order to ensure that EU utilities have diverse sources of supply and do not become over-dependent on any single source.
It does this by exercising its rights to sign contracts and by compiling comprehensive statistical reports on the nuclear market trends.
One key goal for the long-term security of supply is to maintain the viability of the EU industry at every stage of the fuel cycle.
To consult the full report, go to:
According to recent official statements, DOE plans to sell or
transfer 2,705 metric tons/year of natural uranium equivalent
from its own inventories (mainly held as UF6 of various
enrichment levels) over the 2013-2017 period, a 52% increase
from the quantities released onto the market in 2012. Initially,
DOE's 2008 uranium disposition plan provided for an annual
transfer of no more than 10% of the US power reactor uranium
requirements, cap which will be set now to approximately 14% (of
the 50 million lb annual US power reactor fuel requirements). In
2018, the final year of a six-year schedule, it is expected that
1,691 metric tons uranium equivalent will be made available from
The project jointly coordinated by Rosatom Overseas and Ukraine
for the construction of a nuclear fuel fabrication plant in the
Kirovograd region (Ukraine) received the necessary site
preparation regulatory approval. Most of the construction work
for the plant, the cost of which was estimated at 51.9 million
hryvna ($6.38 million) will be carried out by Ukrainian
contractors, based on a design made by Ukrainian NIPII
Industrial Technology. According to the latest Rosatom Overseas
estimates, the construction should be finalized in
six-and-a-half months and the plant should be operational in
In July, Honeywell restarted full production of UF6 at the
Metropolis conversion plant, following approval granted by the
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Offline since May
2012, when it was closed for annual maintenance, the Metropolis
Works uranium conversion plant has undergone extensive safety
upgrades to meet NRC requirements, i.e. achieve increased
ability to withstand earthquakes and tornadoes.
In July, EDF officially stated that the reactor dome had been
installed at the Flamanville NPP, thus confirming that the
building of France’s EPR, the first reactor to be built in
France in the last 15 years, is almost finalized. As the civil
engineering work is about to be completed, the heavy components
of the nuclear steam supply system will be installed during the
next months. Scheduled to start operating in 2016, the 1,650 MW
EPR should provide electricity to 1.5 million people.
According to IAEA's latest annual report, world nuclear safety
has been gradually improving over the recent years, but it
continues to be faced with challenges relating to the long-term
operation and aging of power reactors, and waste management.
Despite some unplanned reactor shutdowns in 2012, most of the
437 nuclear power reactors operational in 2012 experienced no
significant safety-related problems. The fact remains, however,
that 162 nuclear units have been in operation for more than 30
years, and 22 for more than 40 years.
Drawing on the lessons learned from the negative outcome of the
flaws discovered in 2012 in the reactor vessels of the Doel-3
and Tihange-2 reactors in Belgium, the Western European Nuclear
Regulators Association released on 29 August a recommendation,
that all of the EU's operating NPPs should undergo standardized
inspections of their pressure vessels, regardless of the vessel
manufacturer. The safety reviews conducted at national level
should be harmonized, and Wenra recommended a two-step process,
to be implemented by the national regulators of the respective
May - June 2013
Latest data released by the International Atomic Energy Agency
(IAEA) indicate that, in 2012, total nuclear power generated
worldwide amounted to 2,346 TWh. Apart from the shutdown of
several reactors in Germany and problems affecting some reactors
in Belgium and the U.S., the fact that almost all of Japan’s
nuclear fleet was taken off the grid contributed also to a great
extent to the decrease, of almost 7% as compared to the 2011
According to official statements from the UK's Department of
Energy and Climate Change, EDF Energy’s project for a new NPP at
Hinkley Point C might benefit from a government guarantee,
whereby the state assumes financial responsibility for the loans
contracted by the developer in relation to the project. The
amount of the government infrastructure guarantee has not been
disclosed. In the meanwhile, NNB Genco (a subsidiary of EDF) is
pursuing negotiations with UK's Government on the terms of an
investment contract for Hinkley Point C.
In June, Japan signed an agreement with Poland, the Czech
Republic, Slovakia and Hungary for enhanced cooperation in the
field of energy, including with regard to nuclear power. The
agreement might pave the way to exports of nuclear reactors from
Japan, within the scope of the Agreement for Cooperation in the
Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy which already exists between
Japan and the Euratom Community.
According to the Japanese utility Kansai Electric Power Co., in
June, Takahama NPP received from Areva 20 mixed-oxide fuel
assemblies, the first MOX fuel shipped to Japan since mid-2010.
The company aims at resuming MOX fuel usage in the core of the
870-MW Takahama-3 and plans to submit applications to Japan’s
Nuclear Regulation Authority for the restart of Takahama-3 and
-4, and Ohi-3 and -4.
Second quarter reports from USEC pointed out a 95% completion
rate of the program for down blending Russian HEU to low
enriched uranium, scheduled to end this year. The final delivery
under the " Megatons to Megawatts" program is going to take
place in November, but the long-term supply relationship between
USEC and Russia will continue through a transitional supply
agreement, due to start in late 2013.
During a 25 June policy address, the US president Barack Obama
publicly announced the main points of a climate-change plan,
which requires lower levels of pollution generated by the
domestic coal industry, less governmental financing of overseas
coal plants, and enhanced energy production on federal lands.
The plan also encourages the Environmental Protection Agency to
develop greenhouse-gas emissions standards for all US power
plants, in operation or newly buit. According to financial
analysts, the plan could benefit nuclear power plants operators.
CNSC, Canada's Nuclear Safety Commission, has granted a
construction and operating licence, valid from 1 July 2013 - 30
June 2021, to the Cigar Lake uranium mining project in northern
Saskatchewan. This represents a step forward for the project,
ongoing since 2005, but put on hold for a long time due to
flooding. The mine operator, Cameco, expects to have the first
pounds of uranium packaged before the end of 2013.
March - April 2013
- In a statement released to the European Parliament in March,
the EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger declared that,
later this year, the Commission would present legislative
proposal to update the 2009 Nuclear Safety Directive. The
Commission’s nuclear safety proposal would try to ensure that
nuclear safety regulators all around the EU abide by the same
standards of “independence and competence.” He said the
Commission also plans to propose EU rules on nuclear liability
and insurance obligations for operators before the end of the
- The European Commission has approved the plan submitted by
Bulgaria on 16th February 2012 regarding disposal of the
radioactive waste arising from the decommissioning of units 1
and 2 of the Kozloduy NPP. According to the EC's opinion,
Bulgaria’s plan “is not liable to result in a radioactive
contamination significant from the point of view of health of
the water, soil or airspace of another EU Member State,” e.g.
Romania, the border of which is situated only 4 km from the
- A recent report issued by the UK Parliament’s Energy and
Climate Change Committee highlights the challenges with which
the British nuclear industry is faced regarding new domestic
nuclear build. Based on the findings of the report, only through
a timely and cost-effective delivery of new NPPs will the UK be
able to meet its commitments for reducing greenhouse gas
- According to official statements released on 22nd April, the
UK government's plan to sell partly or entirely the one-third
share it holds in the uranium enrichment company Urenco is going
forward, with further details regarding the scale and timing of
the transaction to be decided later this year. The sale has been
envisaged following the January 2013 transfer of policy and
ownership responsibility with regard to Urenco from the
Department of Energy and Climate Change to the Department for
Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and has been agreed upon
with the other stakeholders, i.e. the Dutch government and the
German utilities E.On and RWE.
- The Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA),
France’s main centre for nuclear research, has been granted
governmental approval to start the second phase of the
preliminary design of a 600-MW (electric) sodium fast reactor
(SFR). Named Astrid, this prototype for a fleet of 1,500-MW SFRs
could serve starting 2050 as a fissile material inventories
stabilizer. The French authorities also approved that CEA should
publish the results of its research on fuel cycle developments
for “sustainable” fissile material and waste management,
required under France’s 2006 fissile materials and waste
management program act.
- AREVA's first fabrication campaign of EPR reactor type fuel
assemblies was successfully carried out at the company's
facility in Romans, France. The fuel assemblies are scheduled
for the first reload of Taishan NPP's Unit 1 (China) in 2014.
Unit 2 of the Chinese NPP is expected to begin operation in
- Recent statements from the German Ministry of the
Environment indicate that the federal government and the federal
states have approved the guidelines for drafting a law, before
mid-2013, on selecting a permanent site for the storage of
high-level nuclear waste and spent fuel. As a reaction to the
government's decision, Germany’s NPP owners have stated their
refusal to pay an estimated Eur2 billion for new studies, as
they have already invested almost as much into development as a
potential repository of the current interim storage location,
the controversial Gorleben salt mine. Pending a permanent site
selection, it has been officially agreed that new transports of
spent nuclear fuel may be sent to Gorleben.
- According to official statements from the canton of Bern,
the closure of the Mühleberg 372 MW Swiss BWR should not take
place before 2022 and should be agreed upon together with the
plant's operator, BKW FMB Energy. The latter appealed already in
2012 against the Swiss Federal Administrative court's ruling to
close Mühleberg by end of June 2013, and is currently awaiting a
decision on the plant's future operation.
January - February 2013
- In January, the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee endorsed by a net majority of votes the findings from the stress tests carried out at the request of the European Commission, following the Fukushima accident, at 45 nuclear power plants in Europe and 20 outside the EU.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released the results of
a first two-year analysis carried out in order to assess the
larger scale health effects of the March 2011 Fukushima
accident. According to the report, the radioactivity released by
the nuclear accident posed a low risk to the public, with a
slightly higher cancer risk incidence for the general population
in wider Fukushima prefecture.
As reported by the press in January 2013, the Finnish radwaste
management company Posiva Oy has confirmed the launch by 14
nuclear waste management organizations and research institutes
from eight European countries of a project to develop sealing
technologies for radioactive waste repositories. Known as Dopas,
short for “full-scale demonstration of plugs and seals”, the
project began in autumn 2012, and comprises a set of full-scale
underground demonstrations, laboratory experiments, and
performance assessment studies.
According to the 2012 annual report on the electricity system
published by the French grid operator RTE, nuclear power plants
generated only 74.8% of France’s 2012 electricity output. The
report underlines that base load nuclear power plants,
traditionally France’s cheapest electricity source after
hydropower, were heavily impacted by higher production from
subsidized renewables and cheap coal-generated electricity. The
negative effect of unscheduled periods of inactivity and of
higher price volatility was also stressed. Contrary to what had
been previously expected, not only did Germany not import
electricity from its neighbouring country, but all throughout
the year it was a net exporter of electricity to France, in the
amount of 8.7 terawatt hours.
In a statement released in January, Cameco confirmed it
finalized the acquisition of Nukem Energy GmbH, a German trader
and broker of nuclear fuel products and services. Under the
terms of the agreement signed with the US equity firm Advent
International and other shareholders, Cameco also assumed
Nukem's net debt and might be called to pay additional amounts
based on Nukem's 2012, 2013 and 2014 audited financial turnover.
Recent estimates from mining market analysts indicate that
Kazatomprom’s decision to put on hold uranium mining in the
south of the country due to storm damage to company high-voltage
transmission lines might result in a decrease of 15 to 19
million lbs U3O8 of world production, i.e. up to 12% of annual
world uranium supply. According to the state-owned uranium
producer, the uncertainty surrounding future mining resumption
might positively influence the spot uranium price, hence uranium
mining companies' earnings.
November - December 2012
An industry group working under the auspices of the European Nuclear Energy Forum has asked the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group (ENSREG) to review its proposal,
“Roadmap towards European Reactor Design Acceptance”.
The document suggests ways to achieve standardization of reactor designs in the EU in order to avoid potential delays in new nuclear build
due to lack of consistency in terms of nuclear safety requirements.
- With a view to attracting additional investors in the
project for the construction of units 3 and 4 at the Cernavoda
NPP, the Romanian government has approved a six-month extension
and possible amendments of the current investment agreement,
initially due to expire at the end of 2012. Presently, ENEL and
ArcelorMittal are the only remaining shareholders in the
EnergoNuclear project, besides the Romanian nuclear power
- NNB Generation Company, EDF Energy’s subsidiary in charge of
the new nuclear build project at the Hinkley Point NPP (UK), was
granted a site preparation licence from the UK's Office for
Nuclear Regulation (ONR). The first of its kind granted in the
last 25 years, the licence ensures ONR's regulatory control over
the project's activities. In order to move ahead with the
project, EDF Energy needs further regulatory approvals, such as
a construction licence from the ONR, permits from the
Environment Agency and planning consent from the Secretary of
- In December 2012, Hungary's national radioactive waste
agency inaugurated underground disposal of waste drums at a
near-surface repository for low- and intermediate-level
radioactive waste, located in the southwest part of Hungary.
Already accommodating, at a temporary surface unit, 3,000 waste
drums from the 2-GWe Paks NPP, the facility has been equipped
with an underground vault which can contain 4,600 waste drums.
It is expected that two additional vaults will be built starting
- Hitachi Ltd. has purchased E.ON and RWE's joint venture,
Horizon Nuclear Power, which holds grid connection agreements in
the UK, at the Wylfa and Oldbury NPP sites. Horizon plans to
build 1,300 MWe ABWRs at these two locations, where potentially
1 to 3 reactors could be added to the grid, with at least one
unit completed within 10 years.
- According to official statements, Rusatom Overseas became
member of the Czech Chamber of Commerce and of the Czech Nuclear
Society in December 2012. The company's Prague-based office will
strive to enhance the relations between Czech companies and the
Rosatom group, with a view to carrying out projects in Russia
and the Czech Republic, as well as other countries.
- The Australian research and development company, Silex
Systems Ltd, has started a preliminary evaluation of a project
for the construction of a new enrichment plant using Silex-based
laser enrichment technology. Licensed by GE-Hitachi in May 2006,
this technology would be used at the site of an existing gaseous
diffusion enrichment plant in Paducah, KY.
- According to official statements, BHP Billiton has been
granted governmental approval to continue its expansion project
at Olympic Dam during four more years. Committed to investing
A$650 million in South Australia over the 4-year additional
period, BHP plans to allocate most of the funds into mining and
processing techniques, which are expected to be more
cost-effective than previously envisaged.
- Open pit mining at the Ranger mine in Australia has ceased,
after 14 years of exploration (1997-2011) and around 67,000
tonnes of uranium oxide produced for export worldwide. Work on
backfilling the pit has already begun. In 2013, Energy Resources
of Australia (ERA) plans to start exploration drilling at Ranger
3 Deeps underground mine, after having received all necessary
- An agreement was signed between China and Russia at the
beginning of December 2012 for the construction of additional
units at the Tianwan NPP, namely two VVER 1000 expected to
become operational in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The
possibility of adding up to four more units at Tianwan, as well
as building floating nuclear power plants, has also been
- In November 2012, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC)
publicly announced its plans to increase the pace of its uranium
mining exploration activities overseas. The company expects to
meet its growing demand both through domestic resources, as well
as resources from abroad, enhanced exploration being foreseen
mainly in Australia, Africa, and Central Asia. In 2011, China's
imports amounted to 16,126 tonnes of uranium, and originated for
the most part from Kazakhstan, Namibia, Australia, and
September - October 2012
The International Atomic Energy Agency has decreased its 2012 projections of future nuclear generating capacity, as compared to 2011 estimations.
In the low projection, the world's installed nuclear power capacity grows from 370 GWe today to 456 GWe in 2030, which is a decrease by 9% from the level projected last year.
In the high projection, it grows to 740 GWe in 2030, diminishing about 1% as compared to 2011 projections.
According to IAEA officials, the financial crisis of 2007-2008 and the Fukushima NPP accident in 2011 had contributed equally to a “lateral shift” outward in time in the agency’s annual projections of future nuclear capacity.
Nuclear power's share in the world electricity is expected to rise by 2030, from the 2011 level of 12.3% to a maximum level of 13.6%,
under the high scenario, but that is well below the 16.6% share in 2030 that the 2010 scenario foresaw.
Nuclear stress tests: confirmation of high safety standards
but need for further improvement. "The stress tests have
revealed where we are good at and where we need to improve.
The tests were serious, and they were a success. Generally,
the situation is satisfactory but there is no room for
complacency. All authorities involved must work to ensure
that the highest safety standards are in force in every
single NPP in Europe. For the safety of our citizens" said
Commissioner Günther Oettinger in a press release published
on 4th October. The main message of the EC communication on
the results of the nuclear stress tests is that the
standards of safety of NPPs in Europe are generally high but
further improvements in the safety features of almost all
European NPPs are recommended. Nevertheless national safety
authorities came to the conclusion that no closure of NPP
Global Laser Enrichment, a subsidiary of GE-Hitachi, has
received a construction and operation licence from the US
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the first of its kind, for
the construction of a full scale laser enrichment facility.
The licence allows the company to build a plant able to
produce six million SWU annually and to reach a uranium
enrichment level of up to 8%. Subsequent commercialisation
of this new nuclear technology is expected.
France’s Nuclear Policy Council confirmed the government’s
commitment to reduce nuclear power’s share in the country's
electricity production from about 75% currently to 50% by
2025. A first step in this process will be the shutdown of
the two Fessenheim units, foreseen to take place by the end
of 2016. Nevertheless, the Council reaffirmed the
government’s confidence in the state-owned nuclear industry
and its aim to develop nuclear technology for export.
According to official statements, developing a long-lasting
and balanced partnership with China with priority given to
safety is considered as strategic for France.
A team entrusted to continue reviewing the Fukushima nuclear
accident, as well as a nuclear power monitoring committee
have been established by Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) in
September. Recommendations from the two new advisory groups
will be implemented by a nuclear power reform task force,
currently being set up. The task force will be chaired by
the president of TEPCO, assisted by an executive vice
president and about 10 staff members. According to official
company statement, all these initiatives are intended to
shed new light on nuclear power safety.
The South Australian government was asked by BHP Billiton to
put off to October 2016 the deadline set for the company to
approve expansion of its Olympic Dam copper and uranium
mine. BHP is going to conduct studies on new processing
technologies and a less capital-intensive design for the
open-pit expansion, as its initial project was deemed to be
According to Kazakh officials, the country plans to continue
expanding its uranium production. In 2011, Kazakhstan
produced more than 30% of the global uranium, which
accounted for 19,451 metric tons.
In Australia, the state of Queensland has decided to lift
the uranium mining ban which had been in effect since 1989,
a decision which paves the way for exports of the material
It is expected that production at Talvivaara mine in
Sotkamo, eastern Finland, will be delayed since the permit
to extract uranium will not be granted sooner than February
2013, a few months later than previously expected. According
to a news agency, the approval process has been slowed down
by 150 appeals from citizens and non-governmental
organizations. The estimated annual uranium production in
Sotkamo is approximately 350 tU. The company has committed
itself to selling the uranium to Canada’s Cameco
According to India's Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) uranium
deposits have been discovered at Rohil in Rajasthan’s Sikar
district. It has been estimated that the deposits contain
5,185 t U3O8 at a low grade. The neighbouring Rohil North
region has 381 t U3O8. As reported by Chairman of AEC, it is
only an initial find.
July - August 2012
ESA's 2011 Annual Report was released in the first days of July.
Based on a comprehensive analysis of the previous year's nuclear market developments, the report states that in 2011,
2 583 tU of fresh fuel were loaded in EU reactors, produced by using 17 465 tU of natural uranium and 1 195 tU of reprocessed uranium as feed.
During the year, EU utilities purchased a total of 17 832 tU, and, as in the past,
deliveries under long-term contracts accounted for the major part (96 %) of total deliveries.
The long-term average price was €83.45/kgU (or US$ 44.68/lb U3O8)
whereas the average spot price was €107.43/kgU (or US$ 57.52/lb U3O8),
and MAC-3 (with AM) was € 100.02/kgU (or US$ 53.55/lbs U3O8).
According to IAEA's 2011 Annual Report, released in August,
expansion of nuclear power continued in the aftermath of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, but at a slower pace.
Worldwide, at the end of 2011 there were 435 commercial nuclear reactors connected to the grid with a net generating capacity of 369 GW,
2% less than at the beginning of the year. The decrease was due to the permanent shut down of 13 reactors.
On 26th July, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and the IAEA announced the release of their biennial report, commonly known as the Red Book,
"Uranium 2011: Resources, Production and Demand". According to the report, world nuclear capacity will grow, by 2035,
to between 540 GW in the low projection and 746 GW in the high projection.
The different scenarios take into account the effects of policies introduced by some countries following the Fukushima accident.
In July, the uranium spot price published by major consulting companies fell below the level of $50.00/lb U3O8.
According to economic analysts, in the post-Fukushima period, the uranium market has returned to low liquidity and low volatility.
In Belgium, Electrabel's Doel-3 reactor, taken off the grid on 2nd June for a scheduled maintenance,
was ordered to remain shut for further inspections and analyses. According to official statements,
unit 2 at the Tihange plant will also remain off the grid for one month for similar safety inspections,
carried out by both Belgian and international experts. The Government had previously approved to allow Tihange-1 to operate until 2025,
but not Doel-1 and -2, which are supposed to be shut down in 2015.
In July, the European Commission published its views on EDF Energy's plan for constructing two power reactors at the Hinkley Point C site in the UK,
concluding that "the investment fulfils the objectives of the Euratom Treaty and contributes to develop a sustainable national energy mix".
The report recalls that safety and security matters are to be addressed jointly by the Investor and the national regulator,
and underlines the importance of adequate measures for the management of long-term spent fuel and radioactive waste.
Lithuania will hold in October a non-binding referendum on whether the country should move forward with the planned construction of a NPP at Visaginas.
Westinghouse Electric Company has been selected to carry out, by March 2013,
a feasibility study on a project for the construction of an additional unit at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy NPP.
The Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) of the United Arab Emirates has authorized
the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC) to start building two Korean-design APR1400 units at Barakah, in the Western region of Abu Dhabi.
The company intends to build four reactors at the site, with Unit 1 expected to become operational in 2017.
In related news, Areva announced it would supply enriched uranium over eight years to ENEC, under a contract worth more than € 400 million.
According to official statements released on 22nd August, approval of the huge expansion of BHP Billiton's Olympic Dam mine in South Australia
has been postponed indefinitely. Considering the current market conditions, the company is looking for less capital-intensive development options.
May - June 2012
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has recently
issued its "Annual Energy Outlook 2012" (AEO2012). According to
the updated reference case, in the USA "electricity generation
from nuclear power in 2035 is 10% above the 2010 total. The
nuclear share of overall generation, however, declines from 20 %
in 2010 to 18% in 2035, reflecting increased shares for natural
gas and renewables". AEO2012 includes also 29 alternative cases.
At the end of June, the Lithuanian President signed two laws
allowing construction of the Visaginas nuclear power plant and a
concession agreement with Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy consortium.
The project had received approval from the European Commission,
provided that safety and financial issues raised up had been
met. However, a final investment decision is supposed to be
taken in 2015.
EURODIF’s Georges Besse uranium enrichment plant, located at the
Tricastin site in France’s Drôme department, was permanently
shut down on 7th June, after 33 years of uninterrupted service.
Operated by AREVA, GB has been replaced by the new Georges Besse
II site, in production since April 2011, which uses the more
efficient centrifugation enrichment technology.
On 6th May, the Socialist Francois Hollande became France's new
president. Following the legislative elections held in June, the
Socialist party and its allies also won the majority of the
seats in the National Assembly, the country's main legislative
body. Delphine Batho has been appointed minister for
environment, sustainable development, and energy.
On 28th June, the French nuclear safety authority ASN made
public a first list of measures which the country's nuclear
facility operators are required to implement in the aftermath of
the 2011 Fukushima accident. Broken down into several
categories, these measures will require huge investments and are
to be completed between 2012 and 2018.
The tender for choosing a technology supplier for Poland's first
nuclear power plant, which was scheduled to be issued by the end
of June, has been delayed by the Polish utility PGE, as the
company is still considering financial options for the project.
After taking its last domestic operating reactor, Unit 3 at
Hokkaido Electric Power NPP, off the grid on 5th May, Japan’s
government granted approval, in June, to Kansai Electric Power
to restart two of its units, Ohi Units 3 and 4. Both units could
be operating at full capacity by the end of July 2012.
China’s State Council has approved the proposed plan on nuclear
safety for the period 2011-2015 and long-term targets for 2020.
The plan is one of the prerequisites to lift the moratorium on
approvals of new nuclear projects put in place after the
Fukushima nuclear accident. However, the government has not made
any decision on when to start approving new nuclear plant
projects. State media have said China will likely lower its
ambitious 2020 target of 80GW of nuclear energy down to 60-70GW.
On 4th May 2012, work began on two new reactors at the Uljin
nuclear power plant in South Korea, facing the Sea of Japan. The
1,400 MW APR-1400 reactors are expected to be completed by 2018.
There are currently 21 reactors operating in the country.
According to Energy Ministry official Marcio Zimmermann,
Brazil's current energy plan does not envisage building any new
nuclear power plant at least until 2020, because the government
expects that power demand for the coming years can be met by
The U.S. 2011 end of the year uranium production totalled
4,114,000 lb U3O8, 3% less than the 2010 production, U.S. Energy
Information Administration reported. This output was produced
from five in-situ leach plants and one conventional uranium
Canadian uranium producer Cameco has agreed to acquire NUKEM
Energy GmbH (NUKEM), one of the world’s leading traders and
brokers of nuclear fuel products and services, for US$136
million and assuming US$164 million in net debt. Nukem will
continue to operate as an independent company after the
acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approvals and should
be finalized by the end of 2012.
In June, AREVA announced the signature of a series of agreements
with China National Nuclear Corporation, which notably include
the supply of natural uranium from 2012 to 2025.
March - April 2012
According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, global nuclear electricity production amounted to 2518 TWh in 2011, down 4% from the previous year, mainly due to the shut-down of several Japanese reactors, as well as of Germany's older ones.
At the World Nuclear Fuel Cycle conference held in Helsinki on
17-19 April, the nuclear industry reaffirmed it believed in
nuclear power growth in the long run, while confirming the
near-term uncertainty. The meeting was organized by the World
Nuclear Association (WNA), in partnership with the Nuclear
Energy Institute (NEI), and was opened by Tim Gitzel, CEO of
Cameco Corporation, new chairman of the board of the WNA.
On 26th April, the EU Commission and ENSREG, the European
Nuclear Safety Regulators Group, released a joint report on the
Stress Tests and Peer Review Process, which will be sent to the
June European Council for information. The report is the result
of phase three of the stress tests, when multinational teams
have analysed the country reports presented by national
authorities and visited 38 nuclear reactors in March 2012. As
additional steps, ENSREG and the EU Commission agreed to
continue with safety improvements of nuclear power plants,
including action plans at national level, as well as additional
visits of NPPs. The next ENSREG meeting on 3rd July should agree
on the action plan.
On 17th April, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) started the
construction of a covered structure over the damaged reactors at
Fukushima NPP, 53 meters high, 69 meters long and 31 meters
wide. The aim is to remove, by 2014, spent fuel from the
Fukushima I-4 pool, one of the first steps in the
decommissioning process of the damaged units at Fukushima I,
expected to span over several decades. In the same period, TEPCO
submitted a turnaround plan to the Japanese government, as it is
trying to recover from the 2011's disaster.
In March, EDF announced it had begun organizing a Nuclear Rapid
Action Force, a special unit able to provide, starting 2013, an
immediate support to any NPP in the country within 24 hours
after a major nuclear accident. The measure is part of the set
of measures agreed upon by EDF with the French Nuclear Safety
Authority in the aftermath of the Fukushima 2011 accident.
According to a statement released in March by the Bulgarian
Council of Ministers, Bulgaria decided to abandon the planned
construction of a 2000 MW Russian-designed nuclear power plant
at Belene. The components of the reactor destined for Belene are
now likely to be used for the setting-up of a new unit at the
Kozloduy nuclear plant site, for which a first approval has
already been given by the Bulgarian government.
On 25th April, Unit 2 at the Wylfa nuclear plant in Wales was
permanently shut down, after around 41 years of service. The
closure of Wylfa 2 leaves its twin, Unit 1, as the sole
operational representative of the Magnox-type reactors in the
UK. Magnox Ltd has requested regulatory approval to transfer
fuel from Unit 2 to Unit 1, which would allow it to operate
until 2014, at the latest, as Magnox fuel is no longer being
In March, Germany-based utilities E.On and RWE announced their
decision to exit from the Horizon Nuclear Power joint venture,
not proceeding with their plans to build new nuclear plants in
the UK, at the Wylfa and the Oldbury sites. According to market
analysts, the decision had been influenced by a planned
government fuel price intervention, but E.On and RWE ensured
they would look for new investors interested in taking up the
The Slovak utility Slovenske Elektrarne, part of the ENEL group,
announced in March that the completion of Mochovce station's
units 3 and 4 will be delayed. Unit 3 will be put into
commercial operation at the end of 2013, while Unit 4 in the
late 2014. According to Fulvio Conti, CEO of the Enel Group, the
delay is due to several factors, such as the obligation to carry
out the post-Fukushima EU-imposed stress tests.
TVO has started the bidding process for the construction of a
4th unit at the Olkiluoto NPP. Bids are expected in early 2013
and TVO aims to submit the formal application for the necessary
construction licence in mid-2015 at the latest.
On 8th April, Unit 4 at China’s Qinshan Phase II started
commercial operations. Based on Chinese design, the new 650 MW
unit was completed in approximately five years. Connected to the
grid on 25th November 2011, it has become China's 15th currently
operating nuclear power reactor.
Switzerland's Federal Administrative Court (FAC) ruled on 1st
March that the Mühleberg NPP, run by NPP BKW FMB Energy Ltd. and
on line since 1972, can operate until 28th June 2013 at the
latest, due to its lack of resistance to earthquakes and various
other technical shortcomings. On 20th April 2012, BKW appealed
to the Federal Supreme Court against the judgement of the FAC,
applying for their complaint to have suspensive effect.
According to official statements, Kazakhstan's uranium
production rose by 5% in the first quarter of 2012 compared to
the same period last year, totalling 4,666 tU (~12.1 million
pounds U3O8) in the period January – March 2012.
After having analysed the latest feasibility study presented by
Berkeley S.A, as part of the latter's plan to operate the
Salamanca uranium project, Spain’s Enusa Industrias Avanzadas,
S.A. concluded that the mining project is not feasible.
January - February 2012
- On 29th February, the UK's oldest operating nuclear power
station was closed. The Magnox Oldbury power station, which had
been in service since 1967, ceased operations after it was
decided in November 2011 that the plant was no longer
economically viable. Construction of a new plant is planned at
- The early release of EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2012 has
been published. It includes data tables for the reference case
only, showing that US nuclear electricity generation capacity is
expected to increase by 11% (from 807 TWh in 2010 to 894 TWh in
2035), reaching a share of about 18% of total generation in
2035, compared with 20% in 2010. The full report is scheduled to
be released in April.
- A team of experts from the IAEA formulated a positive
conclusion after the assessment of Japan’s nuclear stress tests.
According to the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency
(NISA), "the Japanese stress test is a transplant of the EU
version". In February, the country had only two of its 54
reactors online, which amounts to a total nuclear capacity
factor of only 4.6%.
- Spain’s Nuclear Safety Council established that, under
certain conditions, pertaining mainly to increased security,
Garona NPP is safe to operate for another six years past July
2013, the closure date decided by the previous government.
Garona has a capacity of approximately 450 MW and is the oldest
reactor in Spain.
- On 21st February, TVO reported progress on the construction
of the EPR-unit 3 at the Olkiluoto nuclear plant in Finland.
According to the utility, mechanical installation work in the
turbine island is almost complete and about 90% of final
inspections have been carried out. The reactor should be
operational by August 2014.
- In February, new agreements for nuclear cooperation were
signed between the UK and France. The project of construction of
new nuclear plants at Hinkley Point C in the UK is advancing
quite well, as several other agreements have already been signed
by Areva/EDF with various contractors involved. As regards the
waste disposal plan of the project, the European Commission has
concluded that the planned EPRs will not have a negative impact
on the environment of another EU MS.
- Polish utility PGE recently adopted a strategy plan in the
energy field, covering the period 2012-2035. The plan envisages
the start-up, before 2030, of two new NPPs in Poland, each with
a capacity of approximately 3000 MWe. As part of its new
strategy, PGE aims to increase its generating capacity and to
diversify its sources of generating technology.
- The Czech Republic is likely to scale back its ambitious
nuclear expansion plan. According to a statement released in
January by the Prime Minister's cabinet, at present the
government considers as realistic the building of "only" three
nuclear reactors in the country in the next 20 to 25 years, two
units at the Temelin NPP and one at the Dukovany NPP.
- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission issued the first new
nuclear built permits in the US after more than 30 years,
allowing for the construction of two additional units at the
Vogtle site in Georgia. It is the first-ever combined
construction permit-operating licenses. The two units are
expected to begin commercial operation in 2016 and 2017,
respectively and will each have a generation capacity of 1,100
- Construction on the Baltic NPP, in Kaliningrad started
officially in February 2012. Earlier that month, the
Russian-French joint venture Alstom-Atomenergomash had won a
contract worth more than € 875 million for the supply of turbine
island equipment to the planned NPP.
- The US Department of Energy has released a draft funding
opportunity announcement, which will support the design and
licensing of small modular nuclear reactors in the USA through
cost-shared agreements with the private industry.
- An Areva Generation IV steam-cycle high-temperature
gas-cooled reactor (SC-HTGR) concept has been selected by the
NGNP (the Next Generation Nuclear Plant) Industry Alliance as
the "optimum design for next generation nuclear power plants".
In addition to generating electricity, these modular plants
could produce process heat to be used in industry.
- Kazakhstan remained the world's largest uranium producer in
2011, with a total production of about 19,450 tU (50.6 million
pounds U3O8). This represents a rise of 9% over 2010 figures and
about 35 % of global uranium supply in 2011. According to
official statements, Kazatomprom representatives estimate that
global uranium demand will decrease by 7-10% in the short term.
In light of this forecast, the price of $70-75 per pound is seen
as the “fair price” necessary to ensure the appropriate level of
global uranium production.
- Tournigan Energy Ltd. has recently changed its name to
European Uranium Resources Ltd. aiming to increase its presence
in the European uranium industry. The company formed a strategic
alliance with AREVA and is investing in outstanding projects in
Slovakia, Sweden and Finland.
ESA Nuclear Observatory